Category Archives: Jewish Holidays

Maple Pecan Hamentashen

Hamentashen are the traditional treat baked for the Jewish holiday of Purim, which, this year,  falls on Thursday March 1. The Festival of Purim commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in ancient (4th century BCE) Persia were saved from extermination.

The celebration of Purim will be bitter-sweet for me this year. Sweet because, well…. Hamentashen! Bitter because this will be my first Purim without my Aunt Carol. She passed away, suddenly, a few weeks ago. She is actually my husband’s aunt, but from the very first time I met her, over 36 years ago, she always made me feel like a part of the family. I miss her very much.

It was from Aunt Carol that I learned that all hamentashen didn’t come from a bakery. (I also learned that it is rude to stack dishes at the table when clearing.) Until I met her, I’d never had a homemade hamentashen. My reaction was not that dissimilar to when I found out, from my big sister Faith, that babies don’t come from the stork.

Every year, Aunt Carol and her sister-in-law, Aunt Jen, went into factory mode and produced vast quantities of tiny little triangles of dough filled with a prune and raisin filling, dipped in honey and walnuts. They shipped these hamantashen off to all their children, nieces and nephews across the universe. Sadly, Aunt Jen died about 26 years ago, but Aunt Carol soldiered on alone, continuing the tradition of making hamentashen for everyone in the family. We all looked forward to our little parcels in the mail. It’s possible that my addiction to online shopping is her fault. She conditioned me to get happy when boxes arrived in the mail.

I spent some very happy afternoons in Aunt Carol’s kitchen learning how to master hamentashen. The dough for this recipe is hers. The filling recipe for these hamentashen is my creation. While I love the traditional flavours of poppyseed and prune, I like to play with different flavour combos.A few years ago year I made Cinnamon Bun Hamentashen. Last year I baked Salted Caramel Apple Hamentashen, Poppy Seed Hamentashen and Dried Cherry and Pecan Hamentashen. 

I love the combo of maple and pecans. I blitzed some toasted pecans, maple butter and some cream cheese together to make this delicious filling. If you can’t find maple butter, a combo of brown sugar and maple syrup would be a good substitute. In the recipe link below, I give proportions. 

Once cooled, the baked hamentashen get a dip in a maple glaze and some finely chopped pecans.

Click here to print recipe for Maple Pecan Hamentashen.

Click here to print recipe for Aunt Carol’s Hamentashen.

 

Malted Chocolate Brownies

stacked upmenorah 4 The first night of Chanukah is this week, on Tuesday night.  Flushed with the success of my Beehive challahs at Rosh Hashanah, I. wanted to create something special for Chanukah. A crazy thought floated into my head. What about building a menorah out of brownies? I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I wasn’t really sure how to go about creating it. I wasn’t one of those kids that played with building blocks, Leggo or puzzles. Barbie was more my thing.

I started with my favourite brownie recipe from Chef Michael Smith. I decided to switch out the cocoa powder with malted milk powder and added in some chopped malted milk balls for extra crunch. ingredientssiftingready to bakeI chilled the brownies until firm and then I cut out an oval for the base. Using a small round cookie cutter I cut out little circles for the candle holders. I did a slightly larger circle for the shamash (helper) candle. ready to assembleI finally got a chance to use my food stylist tweezers! I mixed up some blue royal icing and glued on some edible blue pearls.  using tweezers like a real food stylistmenorah baseTo hold the candles I glued each one to a malted milk ball. I figured out that I needed to trim the bottom and top of the balls flat before gluing with royal icing.candles-2Even if you decide not to make a menorah, these malted chocolate brownies would make a delicious addition to your Chanukah party.cutting browniesdusting with cocoa powder

 

Click here to print recipe for Malted Chocolate Brownies.

 

with milk

 

Bee Hive Challah

drizzle 1Tonight is the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Last week I created an apple beehive. It was adorable and very delicious. At around 4 am this morning, a vision of a challah beehive popped into my head. If I could build a beehive made out of apples, why not challah dough? apples and honey and challahI made my regular challah dough and pressed some raisins into it. It’s not a holiday challah without raisins. All you raisin haters can leave them out. poke in the raisins The dough needs to rise to double in size. it will take about 90 minutes. before proofingafter proofing

I decided to make mini beehives so I divided my dough into 3 and then made 6 ropes, each slightly shorter than the one before it, from each piece of dough. ropesThey looked quite pretty before baking, although they were leaning slightly. I let them rise for about an hour and then I gave them a gentle brushing with egg. I decided to leave them plain, without any topping so you could see the definition of the beehive.before bakingI’m not quite sure what happened in the oven, perhaps a hurricane blew through here, but they weren’t quite so beehive shaped after baking. bee hive 2One of them was a bit straighter, but not quite a perfect beehive. Perhaps we shouldn’t mess with Mother Nature.bee hive 1With a drizzle of honey, they were delicious. Wishing you all a Shana Tova. Sweet, Healthy and Happy New Year!challah 1 with honey

 

 

 

 

Apple Beehive

buzzing with anticipation 4I’m not sure what Elisabeth Prueitt had in mind when she created the Apple Beehive, but my mind immediately went to Rosh Hashanah. For the Jewish New Year, it is customary to dip apples in honey to symbolize our wishes for a sweet year for family, friends and all the Jewish people. There are quite a few sweet options available for us to choose from. Why specifically apples and honey?look at those layers

In researching this question, the interpretation I discovered on the website torah.org, resonated quite strongly with me. Their insight regarding the apple part of the equation, is explained this way:
“On most fruit trees the leaves appear before the fruit, thus providing a protective cover for the young fruit. The apple, however, makes a preemptive move by appearing before the leaves. The Jewish people are compared to an apple because we are willing to live out our Jewish lives even if this seems to leave us unprotected. “

The choice of honey was brilliantly explained with this insight:
“A bee can inflict pain by its sting, yet it also produces delicious honey. Life has this same duality of potential. We pray that our choices will result in a sweet year.”

This dessert is gorgeous in its purity. Gossamer thin slices of apples are shingled with butter, cinnamon and sugar. That’s it. Nothing else. When baked, the apple slices fuse together into a sweet-tart conglomeration that belie its simplicity. This is one of those cases where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The flavours are surprisingly complex for so few ingredients.

A mandoline makes slicing the apples easy. If you have stellar knife skills, you can just use a sharp knife. Granny Smith apples are the perfect choice for this as they are tart and hold their shape when baked.slicing applesBrushing with melted butterIt really looks like a beehive before it goes into the oven.before bakingDuring baking, the apples shrink and caramelize, losing the lofty height it once had. It doesn’t quite resemble a beehive as much after baking, but this is so delicious, no one will complain. Just remember to take a before picture to show everyone!after bakingOnce the beehive comes out of the oven, brush it with some melted apricot jam to give it a glossy coat. glossy from apricot jamDelicious warm or at room temperature, it can be served plain.a naked sliceOr gild the lily and add some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.with some whipped creamOr do as I did and drizzle it with salted caramel sauce.everything's better with salted caramelWishing you all a happy, healthy and very sweet new year.

Click here to print recipe for Apple Beehive.

 

Almond Pistachio Lime Cookies

on wire rackAfter my last debacle with almond flour and citrus, you would think I’d be reluctant to go down that road again, but I guess I’m just a natural born gambler. Well, a gambler in the culinary sense, at least. I have never understood the appeal of real gambling. If I’m going to throw money away, I’d at least like to have a pair of shoes to show for it.on wire rack 625 sq3 stacks 625 sqWhen I saw this recipe for Flourless Almond Cookies with Cardamom, Orange Zest and Pistachios, I thought it would be a perfect addition to our Passover dessert table. I changed it up and used lime instead of orange and deleted the cardamom. It’s one of those flavours I want to like, but haven’t yet acquired a taste for.  I used to hate cilantro and now I love it, so there’s still  hope for cardamom.Raw ingredientsThese are a slice and bake cookie. They’re fast to make. You do need to allow time for chilling the logs before slicing, so plan ahead. The logs get rolled in finely chopped pistachios. When slicing, make sure you rotate the log 90° (a quarter turn) after each slice to keep from getting one flat side.chopping pistachiosslicing logsready to bakeI decided to glam up these cookies by adding a sweet-tart glaze. I finished them off with a sprinkling of lime zest and more chopped pistachios.glaze ingredientsglazing cookiesThese cookies are the perfect little bite to end the Passover seder with. Chewy in the center, crispy on the edges and an ideal sweet-tart balance. I also made a batch with lemon and they were fantastic.cookies with tea

Click here to print recipe for Almond Pistachio Lime Cookies.