Jewish Archive

Friday, March 18, 2011

tiny poppy seed 'taschen

tiny poppy seed hamantaschen

My track record with hamantaschen — those three-cornered filled cookies traditionally limited to Purim, but shouldn’t be, because did I mention that they’re cookies? And you can fill them with whatever you want? — is abysmal. I can’t seem to find a recipe that allows them to be as fragrant, buttery, delicate and delicious as I believe they were meant to be that does not completely fall apart once baked. I suspect my insistence on finding my hamantaschen nirvana in a cream cheese-based dough — cream cheese, although tangy and delicious, seems to just flop down and laze about like a kitten in the sun once it hits the oven — plays a part although, given, my sealing technique also “leaves a lot to be desired”. The first year I attempted a recipe on this site, they puffed and pancaked open in the oven. The second year was no better. The third and fourth year, I didn’t even bother.

poppy seeds
zest an orange

But this year, I spied a recipe in Wednesday’s New York Times that although cream cheese-free, gave me hope. Plus, I’ve head so much about traditional poppy seed fillings, but confess that I have no experience with them. The fact that this called for one from scratch (as in, not “open a can of poppy seed filling”) delighted me and the cookie, with its egg yolks and butter, seemed to carry all the marks of a great sweet tart crust-ish/sable-like cookie dough.

poppy seed filling

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

apple latkes

apple latkes with yogurt

A couple years ago, I became determined to make apple latkes. I mean, why not carry the deliciousness of latkes over to dessert? Why should potatoes have all of pan-fried-until-crunchy fun? Not confident in my ability to shred apples and stir in eggs and flour without an established recipe’s guidance, I found about 75 matching recipes online, each attributed to some other place, and all parading under the title “apple latkes”. I made them (and peace with my cast-iron skillet at the same time, hooray) and declared them pancakes, not latkes. They were not what I was looking for, but at least they were tasty.

green apple haulready for the shreddershredded applesready to fry

Fortunately, I’m over my need for other people to tell me how to cook (and just in time!) and set about making some real, proper apple latkes this week. What’s the difference? A true latke is more of a fritter, with only enough egg and flour to hold it together in the pan. A pancake is, well, a puddle with stuff inside. I think about this stuff, I really do. I take latkes, and the proper classification thereof, very seriously.

frying the latkes

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Monday, May 4, 2009

cinnamon raisin bagels

cinnamon bagel, home on the range

There are a whole lot of foods that I’m not sure are even worth the trouble of making at home, though I suspect this list varies by what you have accessible in your neighborhood. I feel fairly certain I won’t be making any falafel sandwiches in our new kitchen, especially now that I’ve discovered our proximity to the $2.50 perfection at Mamouns. I’m not even sure I’ll ever make pirogi again, after finding my fluffy, light pirogi nirvana this weekend at the Ukranian National Home. And in general, I’ve never seen a whole lot of purpose in making bagels from scratch in New York City — save a one-time baking frenzy — and certainly not when we lived less than two blocks from our bagel ideal, Murrays. (I’m a little lost for a decent bagel in the East Village — anyone? I think we’ve been spoiled.)

making the spongerinsed raisinsmalt syrup16 bagels

But all bets are off when you’re at a cattle ranch 90 minutes from the nearest city in Northeastern Oklahoma, where I’m pretty sure your best bet to land a decent handmade, water-boiled bagel is to tackle them in your own kitchen. Plus, when you’re visiting someone who had just recently discovered her fervent passion for bagels with cream cheese and lox, it is your New Yorker duty to come armed with fresh, delicious cream cheese and lox from Russ & Daughters. And so we did. But then we demanded she make her own bagels.

bagels, proofing

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

bialys

bialys

Growing up, I never gave bialys much thought. The bagel shop where I briefly worked in high school had us front-end people take bagels off the machine rollers, pinch together the centers, schmear them with the onion filling and leave them on a tray for the professionals to bake, and that was about far as I’d considered them — a bagel variant. Oh, and that they were excellent toasted with salted butter.

It was reading The Bialy Eaters, Mimi Sheraton’s pursuit of the chewy, onion-topped kuchen from Bialystok, Poland to Paris, Argentina and Miami Beach, Florida, that was a turning point for me. Although though the book is true to the subject at hand — bialys — the subtext is really about the narratives from the scattered remnants of Bialystok — only a handful survived the pogroms and Holocaust — recalling what they can about the rolls they used to make and eat. I hadn’t realized exactly how scarce they were, and became a little obsessed.

pinching the rollsbialys, second risesauteeing onion-poppy toppingstretching the bialyspooning the onion toppingbialys, ready to bake

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

potato pancakes, even better

potato pancake, flipped

It wouldn’t be Hanukah if I didn’t refresh my favorite, dead-simple potato pancake recipe. But it wouldn’t make for a very interesting story if I told the same one every year; in fact, I think they get better with each try because I continue to tweak them ever so much.

this is what latke mise looks like

This year, after finally making peace with my cast frying pan (coincidentally, over an “apple latke”) I cooked them in there, and will use no other pan for them as long as I live. It is a browning genius, and even small amounts of oil resulted in no sticking whatsoever. I also realized that I found them a bit on the salty side — something I noted last year and entirely forgot in the 12 months since — I hope to remember that next year.

cheesecloth squeeze

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