Break With Tradition

Purim is technically over, but around these parts you might find fresh hamantaschen at any time of year. Tradition is nice, but cookies are nicer.

hamantaschen

(Art by RowKreamArt. Recipe from my mother-in-law. Both bake a mean cookie.)

Hamantaschen

Preheat oven to 350.

1 cup vegetable oil

1 1/4 cups sugar

4 eggs

1/4 cup orange juice

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 cups flour

pie filling – apricot for me, strawberry if you must

Combine sugar and oil.

Add eggs, juice, and vanilla and mix well.

Add dry ingredients.

Roll into a ball, then divide that ball in four.

On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece fairly thin.

Cut into circles with the rim of a glass.

Place 2/3 teaspoon filling in middle of each. You may be tempted to add extra, but I assure you this will end in heartache. While we’re discussing heartache, I should mention that you also do not want to substitute jam or jelly for the pie filling. Disaster in the making.

Pinch sides to form a triangle.

Bake 15-20 minutes. We prefer them on the 15 minute side. You do you.

Easy Does It

I like to do things, but only in the simplest, most efficient way.

IMG_9813Essentially I’m lazy. If you are too, here’s your tip for the day: Next time you’re making a recipe that says, ‘on a floured surface’, use a pastry board. Sounds fancy, yes? No. All we’re looking for is something to contain your mess. Something you can pick up and throw in the sink or dishwasher. A cutting board, a tray, whatever you’ve got. No sticky counter, no gross sponge covered in flour paste, no excuse not to get cooking.

Ready, Set, Go

I don’t know whether we’ll get the 12″ of snow and power outages predicted for our area tomorrow, but I do know we’ll be eating well.

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I did my usual storm-prep cooking marathon today, making everything I could think of that can be eaten as is or warmed on our propane stove. Dishes are done, laundry is clean, firewood is in the house. Throw it at us, mother nature, we’re as ready as we’re going to get.

This recipe makes 24 muffins. If you’re fairly sure you’ll have power over the next few days, you can bake half, stick the rest of the batter in the fridge, then bake the other half when you run out.

Blueberry Muffins

Preaheat oven to 400.

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

8 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

4 cups flour

2 cups milk

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

Cream the butter.

Add the sugar.

Add the eggs.

Add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk, stirring til everything is well-combined.

Fold in the blueberries.

Pour into lined muffin tin and bake for 22 minutes.

Health Food

You know when people say, oh, just a small piece for me, it’s so rich! And you think, rich = delicious; I’ll take a slab, thanks.

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Or is that just me?

This cake has no flour in it, so it’s naturally gluten-free, which I gather means it is just as healthy as apples or marshmallow fluff. How you’ve managed to stay alive without it I do not know.

Fudge Cake

1 cup butter + 3 Tablespoons butter, separately

8 oz bittersweet chocolate + 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, separately

1 1/4 cups sugar

6 eggs

1 cup cocoa powder

1 Tablespoon honey

1 Tablespoon milk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375.

Line the bottom of a springform pan with parchment paper. Spray the paper with cooking oil.

Melt 1 cup butter with 8 oz bittersweet chocolate.

Pour that into a bowl, then add the sugar.

Add the eggs, stirring well.

Sift cocoa powder into the mixture and stir til blended.

Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 35 minutes.

Let it cool for 15 minutes, run a butter knife around the edges, release the spring, and remove the sides.

Leave it on the counter til it’s cool to the touch, then cover with a sheet of waxed paper, wrap in tin foil, and stick it in the fridge. Overnight is ideal, but as long as it’s cool through you’re good to go.

About an hour before you want to eat it, pull it from the fridge, remove it from the bottom of the pan, set in on your serving plate (upside down if you prefer a flat top) and prepare your glaze:

Melt 3 Tablespoons butter with 4 oz bittersweet chocolate.

Remove from heat and add milk, honey, and vanilla.

Pour onto center of cooled cake, then spread with the back of a spoon. I like to cover the top and let it drip down the sides a bit, but you do you.

Once it’s glazed, store it at room temperature in something airtight.

Two of a Kind

Let’s get back to bread, because what’s better than bread, really?

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This is a traditional challah, comfort and family and warmth braided in dough. The recipe makes two loaves, because you will need to eat it plain, and with butter, and in sandwiches, and as french toast with strawberries and cream cheese, and let’s face it, one loaf simply will not do.

Challah

1 1/2 cups very warm water

1 Tablespoon active dry yeast

5 egg yolks, + 1 for glaze

1 1/8 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup + a generous Tablespoon sugar

5 1/4-6 cups flour

Combine everything but the flour.

Add 5 cups of flour, stirring with a spoon after each cup is added, until eventually you need to get in there with your hands.

Knead the dough, adding more flour as necessary until you have a dough that is not sticky and is easy to work with.

Continue kneading for a few minutes.

Set the dough back in your bowl, cover it with a towel, and leave it to rise in a warm spot for 1 hour.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces.

Divide each of those pieces into three parts and roll each into a snake about 18 inches long. Keep the middles of the snakes a bit wider than the ends.

Line 2 baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper.

Lay 3 pieces of dough on each baking sheet, side by side, almost touching.

On each sheet, begin in the middle and braid towards yourself, then turn the baking sheet and braid from the middle towards yourself again, this time moving the outside snakes under the center one rather than over. At each end tuck the dough under. This will give you a neat braid.

Cover the loaves with a towel and put them back in your warm spot to rise for an hour.

About 45 minutes into that hour, preheat your oven to 350.

When the hour’s up, mix up one egg yolk with just a little bit of its white and brush that over both loaves.

Bake for 25-30 minutes – no longer. I find 28 minutes to be perfect, but it will depend on your oven. The crust should be soft and golden, the middle airy and not dry.

Alternatively, you can bake this in loaf pans, braided just as above.

Slice of Life

I picked myself a bouquet today.

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What’s that, you’re more interested in the slice of pie in the background? Can’t blame you. It’s been a pie kind of week around here, for sure.

Pumpkin Pie

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine:

16 oz pumpkin puree

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

Break up 3 eggs, then lightly beat them into the mixture.

Add 1 cup of milk.

Prepare your pie crust and pour in the pumpkin filling. (Need a crust recipe? Try the one I used with the apple pie. You’ll only need half.)

Cover the edges of the pie with tin foil.

Bake 25 minutes.

Remove the tin foil and bake an additional 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Easy as Pie

Is it possible to make a pie without your kitchen ending up looking like a flour bomb went off?

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I think not.

If I’m going to go through all that work, there had best be cheese on my apple pie.

Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust

Preheat oven to 425.

Combine the following ingredients and set aside:

7 cups peeled, chopped apples (7-8 apples)

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

In a small bowl, beat an egg to use later as an egg wash and set that aside as well.

Cut a sharp cheddar cheese into very thin slices, enough to go all the way around the edge of your pie.

Shred a little pile of the cheddar as well – somewhere around a cup.

Now for the crust.

2 1/2 cups flour

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 sticks butter

6 Tablespoons cold water (approximately)

Combine dry ingredients, then cut the butter into them. You’re going for a cornmeal texture.

Add the water and work with your hands until the dough comes together. If you need more water, add it a very little bit at a time. It’s more likely you need to work it longer than that you need more water.

Roll out half of the dough on a floured surface for your bottom crust and lay it in your pie pan.

Pour the filling on top.

Roll out the second half of the dough on a floured surface for your top crust, and lay it over the filling.

Cut any excess off the edges and press the top and bottom layers of dough together firmly, then work a design around the edge with your fingers or a fork.

Cut vent holes in the top crust and brush with the beaten egg.

Put tin foil over the edges of the pie.

Bake for 15 minutes at 425, then turn heat down to 350 and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

Take the pie out of the oven and remove the tin foil. Place your cheese slices around the edge of the pie, just in from the outer crust, and sprinkle the grated cheese in the space that’s left in the middle of the pie.

Return to oven and bake 20 minutes.