Apple Pie and Salted Caramel Hamantashen

It’s that time of year again! That time when kids set off fireworks non-stop, that time when every girl is a princess and every boy is a ninja, that time when something cool and awesome better make its way to me wrapped up in a bow. That’s right! It’s my birthday! Oh yeah, and Purim, that too. I guess that’s what everyone else is celebrating. Me? I have my priorities.

The cast of characters.
The cast of characters.

It’s the time of year when we can get most creative with our religious food – hamantashen for the masses y’all! In previous years I have made lemon meringue hamantashen which were a big hit. I have also made your run of the mill jam-filled hamantashen – Rocker Dude will not have Purim without them. And last year I tried a brownie-speculoos version – needed work so when I have it down I will post it here. But this year we are doing something a little different. We are combining two of my favorite foods – apple pie and hamantashen.

The process.
The process.

At first it may seem like an obvious pairing, delicious fillings in dough always are, and yet, it’s not too common. And just to dress it up, caramel shards on top.

Apple Pie and Salted Caramel Hamantashen
Apple Pie and Salted Caramel Hamantashen

I am always looking for something different to do with my hamantashen and while I know that tradition has its place, so does deliciousness. So let the baking begin! (Pesach is in a little over a month and here I am bulk buying flour for Purim – #ridiculoustiming – but there you have it. We have to have cinnamon rolls for mishloach manot!)

Nom nom nom nom.
Nom nom nom nom.

For the first time ever, we decided (read: I agreed) to dress up for Purim as a family, with themed costumes and everything. But not for us some Disney Princess with the rest of us as supporting characters, no, we do it properly. Superheroes all the way. The Little Rocker will be defending the city as Batgirl, with Squeaker as her loyal sidekick Robin from Rocker Dude and I as The Joker and Harley Quinn. It took a bit of planning but we got the costumes together and we are all set. I don’t know if we will do this every year, but it is fun to do once in a while. Also as Purim falls out on my birthday this year, we have to do something special. (Pictures to come soon!)

Recipe:

Cookie:
I used a double batch of this recipe from our sugar cookie adventures in December

Filling (based on this recipe from King Arthur):
3 cups peeled, cored, finely chopped apples – I prefer Gala, Pink Crispy or Pink Lady
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup apple juice concentrate

Caramel Shards (based on this recipe from Epicurious):
1 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. salt

Make your filling first. You can make it a few days in advance and leave it in the fridge until you are ready to make your cookies. Mix all of the ingredients and stir until the filling begins to bubble and thickens considerably. You want to make sure that the filling bubbles so that you don’t taste the flour afterwards. Continue cooking until the apples reach your desired tenderness. It’s nice to have a little crunch still in the apples for texture. Set aside and cool. You can refrigerate for up to four days.

Follow the directions to make the sugar cookie dough until the refrigeration stage. You can keep the dough for a week in the fridge and for two months in the freezer.

When you are ready to make your cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and roll out the cookie dough to a 1/8 inch thickness. Using a drinking glass or a circle cookie cutter, cut out as many circles as you can. Place 1 tsp. of filling in the center of each one. Pinch each side together to make a triangle. (See here for instructions). Place cookies two inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cookies are very lightly browned. Let cool.

To make the caramel shards, lightly oil a 12-inch square of foil. In a heavy saucepan boil sugar, water and salt over moderate heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Boil syrup without stirring, washing down sugar crystals on side of pan with a brush dipped in cold water, until pale golden. Continue cooking syrup without stirring, swirling pan, until deep golden. Immediately pour caramel onto foil and cool completely, about 20 minutes. Break caramel into shards. Place a few small pieces into the center of the cooled hamantashen. Serve immediately or soon after. (Shards keep, layered between sheets of wax paper, in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 day.)

These are best served slightly warm – like real apple pie, but are also good at room temperature.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

 

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Baking with the Girlies

Every once in a while it’s fun to bake with the kids. I say once in a while because if I had to do it all the time, my kitchen would be a mess and nothing would ever get baked. But it was Chanukah and after our trip up north, I decided that it was finally time to take the plunge and bake cookies with the Little Rocker (now 6) and Squeaker (who should probably be renamed the Independent Minded Troublemaker but I wouldn’t want to give her a label 😉 ).

6th night of Chanukah
6th night of Chanukah

We had left early in the morning to go to the Hula Valley. It’s about a 2 hour car ride, but no traffic all the way :). Squeaker has been in a bit of a bird craze, where every site of a bird sparks an insistent “Birlie birlie!!” Conveniently, we pass a park every morning where an old lady brings bread scraps for the pigeons and we get to watch the birds eat bread every morning. Always an exciting moment.

Squeaker Looks Out
Squeaker Looks Out
The ladies enjoy.
The ladies enjoy.

The Little Rocker has been learning about the fall/winter in science class, and one of the major topics that kids learn about in Israel is the migration of the birds. They focus a lot on the Hula Nature Reserve and the kinds of birds that migrate through there every season. So it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take a trip.

Rocker Dude teaches the Little Rocker
Rocker Dude teaches the Little Rocker

The trip was a success, Squeaker was in an absolute “birlie-birlie” frenzy and the Little Rocker got to use her new binoculars that she received as a Chanukah present from the grandparents and Rocker Dude got to drive a golf cart – so fun all around!

Practicing with her new binoculars.
Practicing with her new binoculars.

When we got home, I decided that after such a fun day, I had the patience to make sugar cookies – complete with sprinkles (no icing, let’s not get ahead of ourselves). Also all the Christmas cookie pictures were making me envious.

You can kind of see the flocks of cranes behind the family.
You can kind of see the flocks of cranes behind the family.

I had made the sugar cookie dough a few days before and it was sitting in the fridge just waiting for us. I pulled out my box of 100 cookie cutters and set the girls to work picking out which ones they would use.

After cutting out the first batch the girls got to the sprinkles, which may have been a mistake.  All of a sudden I noticed that instead of putting colored sugar on the cookies, Squeaker was just putting it in her mouth.  Let’s just say that bedtime was rough that night and complete with a lot of jumping on the bed. So after the first batch, complete with sprinkles all over the floor, I decided that the girls had enough of sprinkles and the second batch was left plain. Patience only goes so far.

Cookies galore!
Cookies galore!

The cookies came out perfectly.  They kept their shape wonderfully and the flavor was just right. The girls could not get enough of them. The Little Rocker wanted to bring in the whole batch for her classmates. That wasn’t going to happen – I wanted cookies too!

The end result.
The end result.

By the time dinner and bath time were over, we had two batches of letters, dogs, bats, flowers and bone cookies to eat for dessert. Yum!

Recipe (From Martha Stewart):
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat until combined. Divide dough in half; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to a week. The dough keeps well in the freezer for up to three months.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment. Remove one dough disk; let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Roll out 1/8 inch thick, dusting dough with flour as needed. Cut shapes with cookie cutters and transfer to prepared baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake, rotating halfway through, until edges are golden, 10 to 18 minutes (depending on size). Cool completely on wire racks. Decorate as desired.

Lemon Meringue Hamantashen

It is Purim!  My favorite time of the year.  Now, it may have something to do with the fact that my birthday is always around Purim, but I think it is similar to how people think about Christmas.  Everyone is happier around Christmas time, and it makes for a general cheer all around. In fact that is what many American ex-pats miss when they move out.  Here in Israel, now is the general happy time.  Everything is silly and people really try to step outside their comfort zone in order to get into the holiday spirit.  Everyday for the past couple of weeks, the Little Rocker has come home from kindergarten dressed as something else.  One day it was a ladybug, another day, masks they drew themselves, on other days her face was painted with various animals.  It’s really a fun time. I love seeing people dressed up, though I am not such a fan of dressing up myself.

Lemon Meringue Hamantashen.
Lemon Meringue Hamantashen.

So I am finally getting around to making something that I have been thinking about for over a year.  Lemon-meringue hamantashen.  Hamantashen are my favorite holiday-related food – even more than honey cake for Rosh Hashana and matza brei for Pesach. In Israel hamantashen season starts right after Chanuka, so already in December, the stores started stocking freshly made hamantashen.  The one issue I have with it is that in Israel, they are not so creative with the fillings.  They always have the traditional poppy seed filled ones (eew), date filled ones (quite good), walnut filled ones (eh), and chocolate filled ones (eh). None of the usual strawberry, apricot or other fruit filled ones.  This actually led to a long discussion at work between the Americans and the Israelis.  All the Americans were deploring the lack of fruity hamantashen that we are used to, while all the Israelis were shocked that anyone would put jelly in a hamantashen. Just another culture clash that may never be resolved.

The Little Rocker and her friend making hamantashen together.
The Little Rocker and her friend making hamantashen together.
The fillings they chose.  The Little Rocker chose raspberry jam and chocolate and her friend chose plain chocolate.
The fillings they chose. The Little Rocker chose raspberry jam and chocolate and her friend chose plain chocolate.

So every year I make the usual hamantashen, strawberry, blueberry, apple, etc. and last year, I though about trying something new – lemon-meringue. Last year I started planning it, and it was going to be really awesome as Purim fell out on my birthday, but then Rocker Dude had to leave me on my birthday and go do his army reserve service.  Apparently the army doesn’t accept “Sorry, it’s my wife’s birthday” as an excuse. So as I was alone with the Little Rocker and not in the mood to put effort into anything (my usual hubby-in-the-army situation), so I shelved the idea.

This year, I am on maternity leave, so I have tons of time (sort-of) and free hands (mostly) so this is the year that we make lemon-meringue hamantashen.

I usually use my sugar cookie recipe for the base of the dough, but I feel like the end product always comes out a bit too sweet. In Israel, the cookie recipe is less sweet and I think complements the filling more. So I looked around on Israeli sites to see what people were using.  To give you an idea of what the difference is between the recipes, my sugar cookie recipe calls for two cups of sugar to three cups of flour.  The one I ended up using from Aviva Pibko (a contestant on Master Chef here) has one and a quarter cups of sugar to four cups of flour.

Ready circles of dough
Ready circles of dough
Filled circles.
Filled circles.
Ready to bake hamantashen.
Ready to bake hamantashen.

I made a lemon curd as the filling and with the leftover egg whites, made  a meringue that I toasted in the oven. The end result is a tart cookie with a pillow of sweetness on top.

Hamantashen just after toasting.
Hamantashen just after toasting.

Of course Rocker Dude tasted the cookie and said, “What’s that in the dough?” When I said “Lemon,” I got a sour face in response. Now he will deny that he said that, but we all know that he wanted regular sugar dough instead ;).

Don't you want to try a bite?
Don’t you want to try a bite?

If you are looking for some more interesting hamantashen ideas, check out this link.

Here is the recipe for the hamantashen.

P.S. I also used regular raspberry preserves as a filling and they came out great. There was a nice contrast between the lemon in the dough and the sweet jam.

Recipe:
Dough (based on this recipe from Aviva Pibko):

250 g butter or margarine
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract or paste
4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
grated zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp. salt

Cream the butter or margarine with the sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture for a full minute between each egg. Add the vanilla and the zest. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and slowly add them to the wet ingredients, mixing only until the dough is combined.  Put the dough into a plastic bag and refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.

Filling (from The Art and Soul of Baking):

3 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 cup minus 1 tbsp. sugar
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tbsp. cold butter or margarine

Meringue:

3 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar

Prepare a double boiler, or a pot with a heat-safe bowl on top.  In the bowl (off the heat), mix the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and lemon juice until well blended. Place the bowl over the boiling pot and heat the lemon mixture.  Make sure to keep whisking the mixture, and scrape the sides of the bowl to keep the mixture from curdling.  After about 7 minutes, the curd should thicken (it will hit 180 degrees).  Pour the curd through a strainer.  Then add the butter or margarine, making sure that it is completely melted.  Press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface of the curd and refrigerate the curd until it is needed.

To assemble the hamantashen: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out the chilled the dough to about a 1/4 inch thickness.  Use a round cookie cutter (four-inch diameter) to make circles.  Place a scant teaspoonful of the curd in the center of each circle and pinch the ends together to form a triangle.

Place the finished cookies on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and bake for about 12 minutes until the cookies are lightly browned.  If you notice that the triangles are opening while baking, refrigerate the formed hamantashen for 20 minutes before putting them in the oven.

While the cookies are cooling, beat the egg whites on high speed while slowly adding in the sugar.  Whip the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Place a heaping teaspoonful on the center of each hamantashen and either toast the meringue with a butane torch or set the oven to broil and toast the cookies for a minute in the oven. Watch them carefully because they burn quickly.

The cookies will keep (without the meringue) for 4 days in a sealed container.  Once you add the meringue, eat the cookies within the day.

Fig Newtons – For Tu B’Shvat

Many years ago I bought Desserts by the Yard by Sherry Yard.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to make much from the cookbook because every recipe usually has a lot of steps, and often requires ingredients that are difficult to get here, such as fresh berries, etc.  There was one recipe that has always stood out and begged me to make it.  Fig bars.  Or as we children of the nineties call them, Fig Newtons.

Fig Newtons
Fig Newtons

Another note on Sherry Yard, she was on Top Chef: Just Desserts and that was super cool.  She also works for Wolfgang Puck and he is a recurring judge on this season of Top Chef, so now that I have heard him speak, I re-read the forward to her book in his voice.  It was really cool.  I love Top Chef.

I have always loved Fig Newtons, and when you are stopping in the Hudson News in the train station, it was often one of the only kosher snack options, definitely the only pareve one.  High school was better with Fig Newtons.  Over the years there have been many Fig Newton knock-offs, such as strawberry or blueberry, but nothing compares to the original.

Cutting up the figs for the filling.
Cutting up the figs for the filling.

You would think that the recipe would be easy to make as Israel grows fresh figs and are readily available when they are in season.  But interestingly enough, these cookies need dried figs, something that is very hard to find in Israel.  I am not sure why this is the case, but for whatever reason, while you can get dried dates all the time, it is almost impossible to find dried figs.

So I gave up on making these cookies until Tu B’Shvat.  Around Tu B’Shvat, the dried fruit market expands and you can find a wide variety of dried fruits.  With all that, when I went to the supermarket on Thursday, there were no figs!! I went to a different store on Monday, and I finally found some.

In order for me to be able to have this post ready for Tu B’Shvat (yes, actually posting about a holiday before it happens), I made the filling a couple days before assembling the cookies.  Conveniently, Squeaker cooperated and let me cook while she slept in the stroller.  Thank you Squeaker!

Filling the cookies.
Filling the cookies.

The filling comes together really easily, and just needs to be boiled for a couple of hours – essentially making a jam. The dough is similarly easy to make.  I ended up making this over three days,  one day the filling, one day the dough, and the last assembly and baking.

Finished cookies.
Finished cookies.

While rolling out the dough, I did have some trouble because it was quite sticky, so I floured it up again and started rolling it out all over again.  Second time’s the charm!  I did not get as many cookies as Sherry says you are supposed to get (she says 40 – I got around 30), but they really do taste kike Fig Newtons, only better.

Fig Newtons
Fig Newtons

Happy Birthday trees!

Recipe (From Desserts by the Yard):

Filling:
1 cup dried figs, chopped
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup apple juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. orange zest

Dough:
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup vanilla sugar
1/2 tsp. grated orange zest
1 large egg white
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour

Combine the chopped figs, water, apple juice and sugar into a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low  and cook at a simmer for 1 to 2 hours until the figs are so soft that they are spreadable. Transfer to a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Add the orange zest and process until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

Cream the butter, vanilla sugar and orange zest for 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the egg white and vanilla and beat in. Add the flour and beat on low until the dough comes together.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface into a 12 by 16 inch rectangle.  Cut into 4 equal strips, each 12 by 4 inches.  Spoon a line of filling down the center of each strip.  Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the edges together.  Place on the parchment paper, seam side down.  The bars can be frozen at this point for up to 2 weeks.

Using a serrated knife, slice each log on the diagonal into ten cookies. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cook on a rack.  The cookies will keep, stored airtight, for 2 days.

The Best Checkerboard Cookies Ever!

The Little Rocker’s Birthday was this week and as a devoted mother I thought it my duty to make her a little party with the requisite birthday cake, etc.  She actually had a party in preschool for which I brought a cake and goody bags, but we also decided to make a small thing at home for my friends (duh!).  For this party, we decided to make cupcakes and checkerboard cookies.

The inspiration for the cookies came to me on Shabbat when I was browsing through the CIA cookbook Baking and Pastry with the Little Rocker.  I saw the recipe for the checkerboard cookies and suddenly, the spirit moved me (a phrase my parents used to use when I wanted to bake).  As the Little Rocker’s birthday party was coming up, it seemed an ideal opportunity to use the recipe.

Checkerboard Cookies

Let me tell you straight from the start – this recipe is a potchke- (Yiddish for a pain in the tuchus [Yiddish for behind]). Do not start it at 9 pm and expect to go to bed early! (I know this from personal experience.)  But after tasting these cookies when they were done (at 12:30 at night) it was so worth it.  This is basically a chocolate and vanilla sable cookie that melts in your mouth and could only be improved if I had used real butter instead of margarine.

The first thing I had to do was reduce the amounts in the recipe.  This cookbook is really made for the professional pastry chef and the amounts correspond to that need.  I don’t need 10 dozen cookies.  All my hard work would go down the drain if all those cookies were lying around the house.  I decided to cut the recipe in half to make life easier.  Another fun difference in the cookbook is that all the amounts are listed in weights and not cups to make the measurements more precise (how many egg yolk is 227 grams?).  So I decided that if the recipe would be professional then I would be professional and organize everything ahead of time – get my mise en place together before starting.

Here are the ingredients for the vanilla cookie dough:

Here are the ingredients for the chocolate cookie dough:

My mise was placed.

Notice that there is no leavening agent in either dough – no baking powder or baking soda – these cookies do not rise and that helps them stay together during baking.

Then you have to chill the dough until it is firm enough to roll out and not be sticky.  I froze the divided dough to save time and went to shower and put the Little Rocker to bed – all hail multi-tasking!

Two dough squares, one vanilla and one chocolate.

The next step is to roll out the two chocolate rounds of dough and two of the vanilla rounds.  Then brush water between the layers and gently press them together (vanilla, chocolate, vanilla, chocolate).  And chill the dough again.

Brushing on the water,
and stacking the layers.

The next step is to slide the square of stacked doughs into thin long strips, cutting down through the layers.  Then (I told you this was a potchke) stack the slices one on top of the other, flipping every other strip around so that the vanilla is on top of the chocolate, etc. (This is a lot clearer to see than to explain).  I did three layers of strips, but I think you are supposed to be able to do four.

Stacks of alternating layers. Because the width of my layers was uneven, they colors were not 100% lined up.

Then (I’m telling you, these instructions just go on) chill the dough again.  Meanwhile help your husband organize his comic books into the new comic book boxes that your brother almost violated by trying to pack up your parent’s house into them.  These are also the same boxes that certain redheads that will remain unnamed, refused to take in her suitcase as she did not see the point of bringing empty boxes on a plane – see Certain Redhead, they are important!

After organizing a few hundred comics and opening up shelf space for hubbie’s new schoolbooks, go back to your chillin’ cookies (see how I made them cool there?)

Roll out the remaining frozen vanilla doughs into a thin rectangle.  Lay one stack of layered strips on the vanilla dough and carefully roll it over so that the vanilla cookie dough covers the entire stack.  Trim the excess and repeat with the other stacks of dough strips.  I had extra vanilla dough (mostly because I did not divide the dough evenly into four sections – I probably should have done three sections?  Not sure about that.  Either way, I made a batch of regualr square vanilla sables with the leftover dough.

Now that your stacks are nicely stacked and wrapped and you are so proud of yourself for getting this far, you need to chill the dough again! By chance I happened to bake the scraps of the dough before the rest of it and I noticed that the dough melted into the pan and lost all its shape.  It being already 11:15 or so, I was really hyper and started dancing around the kitchen before a weirded-out Rocker Dude trying to figure out what to do.  Then it hit me – chill the dough! And with a fist pump and half-spin, I proceeded to put the cookies back in the refrigerator (my freezer was way too overpacked for this).

Ready to be baked.

After about 20 minutes, I took out the first stack and sliced it into cookies to be placed on the cookie sheet – another trick here – wipe off the knife after every slice to reduce the chocolate smearing into the vanilla – it’s not perfect but it helps a lot. Bake cookies for 15 minutes while preparing goody bags and washing the dinner dishes.  Place on a cooling rack to chill again, and taste the most awesome cookies ever!  The CIA sure does know how to bake!

Recipe (from Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft):

Vanilla Dough:

501 g cake flour

400 g butter, cold, cut into small cubes

190 g confectioner’s sugar

pinch of salt

3 g orange zest, grated ( I used lemon)

113 g egg yolks (about 5)

5 mL vanilla extract

Chocolate Dough:

210 g cake flour

43 g cocoa powder

150 g butter, cold, cut into cubes

95 g confectioners’ sugar

1.5 g orange zest, grated ( I used lemon)

pinch of salt

55 g egg yolks (about 3)

2.5 mL vanilla extract

To make the vanilla dough, sift the flour.  Cream together the butter, sugar, salt and orange zest in a mixer, about 8 minutes.  Gradually add the egg yolks and vanilla, mixing until fully incorporated after each addition and scraping down as needed.  Mix in the sifted flour until just incorporated.

Divide the vanilla dough into four pieces.  Form each piece into a square and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate the dough until firm enough to roll (or freeze if you are in rush).

To make the chocolate dough, Sift the flour and cocoa powder together.  Cream the butter, sugar, orange zest and salt together, about 6-8 minutes.  Gradually add the egg yolks and vanilla, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Mix in the dry ingredients until just incorporated.

Divide the chocolate dough into two parts, form each into a square and refrigerate until firm enough to roll (or freeze).

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of vanilla dough into a 6×4 inch rectangle that is about 1/4 inch thick.  Set aside.  Roll out a piece of the chocolate dough to the same dimensions.  Brush the vanilla dough lightly with water and gently press the chocolate layer on top of the vanilla square.  Repeat with another vanilla piece and another chocolate piece.  You should have four layers all together.

Wrap the layered dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until firm.

Trim the edges of the layered dough to even them out.  Cut the square into stacks about 1/4 inch thick.  Then 4 layers on top of each other (I did only three), alternating them so that the doughs form a checkerboard.

Roll out one piece on vanilla dough to about 1/8 inch thickness.  Brush the vanilla dough with water and place one of the slacks on the dough.  Gently roll up the vanilla dough around the stack, pressing lightly on each side so that the doughs stick together.  Smooth the overlap and cut off the excess dough.  Repeat with the remaining stacks.

Refrigerate all the stacks until firm.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F or 177 degrees C.

Slice each stack into cookies, about 1/4 inch thick, wiping down the knife between each slice.  Place the cookies on a parchment paper lined cookies sheet and bake for about 15 minutes until lightly browned.  Transfer to racks and cool completely.

Back to Baking – Maple Tuiles

I know everyone, it has been quite a while since I last posted.  Blame it all on the companies who have to report their third quarter earnings.  Hey, it’s not my choice to work 11 hours a day!  Why does every company in the world have to do it all at the same time??? Oh wait, I think there is some international law about that.  Oh well.  Either way, the month of November has been a bit crazy and I haven’t had time to bake, let alone blog about it.  I hope that you loyal readers have not yet given up on me, I will provide sweetness and happiness for all!

But in order to get back on the wagon, I have made this week’s TWD recipe.  I know that I am doing this at the very last minute (I even prepared a lot of this post ahead of time so that I could do the baking all the way until the end).  We are in the middle of Hannuka, the Festival of Lights and Fried Foods (okay the second part is not the official name, but it might as well be). In the span of a week, I have made two kinds of doughnuts (overcoming my fear of deep-frying), fried potato latkes, and eaten about five different varieties of sufganiyot (originally jelly doughnuts, but today, they fill them with all sorts of things like pastry cream, mango cream, almond cream – cool stuff).  So yeah, fried foods.  I actually read an article that says that the average Israeli gains about 5 lbs. during the holiday of Hannuka.  So I’m average, big whoop.

Since the holiday started on November 30th, we have had two parties at our house and other related celebrations.  Rocker Dude has been off from work as the public schools have vacation for the whole week of the holiday.  The Little Rocker has off on Thursday, so we will all be home and spend quality family time together.  Rocker Dude will be sleeping late (as he has done all week, the Little Rocker will be coloring on any surface her crayon can get to and I will be wiping up after her in between cooking for Shabbat.  And then we will go to the park if it doesn’t rain (please let it rain!!!  We need it really badly!!!!).

So back to the whole baking thing, remember that?  This week’s recipe was chosen by Hindy of Bubie’s Little Baker.  She chose Translucent Maple Tuiles and I am very excited to make them.

I have never made cookies like this before and since I am all about trying new things, hey why not?

The batter keeps in the refrigerator for a week, so I made the dough after our party on Monday night and then made the cookies on Tuesday night after work (hence the late posting).  It was really easy to mix up.  I just used a spatula and mixed everything in a bowl.

Ingredients for the batter.

After reading the comments that other people made, I knew to space the little balls of dough really far apart.  These cookies really spread, as much as I spaced them, they still ran together.

 

Spaced cookies

 

And this is what they looked like after 7 minutes in the oven:

 

Cookies baked and ready to shape

 

Dorie says to wait only about a minute before removing these cookies from the cookie sheet to shape them.  I found that it was too soon, and the cookies completely smushed and I couldn’t get them back to their previous glory.  So I waited a little longer, and then I could get them off the sheet and over the rolling pin.  Though perhaps because I used margarine instead of butter (like I always do) or maybe because I used imitation maple syrup and not the real stuff (which is prohibitively expensive as it has to be imported from the US and Canada) they stayed soft and did not hold their curved shape.  So we have flat tuiles.

 

Maple Tuiles

 

I tried some of the mess-ups and they were absolutely delicious, I can’t wait to eat these with a nice bowl of ice cream – yum!

You can find the recipe on Hindy’s site here, and see what other TWD bakers did here.

P.S. sorry for the late posting, due to our internet upgrade, we had no internet last night, so I had to wait until I got to work to post it.  But yay for faster internet for the same price!

 

Daring Bakers do Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies!  I haven’t made these in a long time, not since this post in March.  I have a recipe that I like a lot, but I have never iced them.  Icing and frosting or whatever you want to call it, is just not my forte – it’s a bit intimidating.  So I decided that I had to do this month’s Daring Baker’s challenge so that I would force myself to learn how to use it.

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

In preparation for this big feat, I emailed my friend S. of The Cookie Cutters fame as she is an expert in the cookie decorating field.  I know that the challenge was to use royal icing, but I wanted to try using fondant, something that I have never used before.

Fondant
The necessary tools - 100 cookie cutters!

Conveniently the Little Rocker’s birthday was on September 15th, sheturned two years old!  So I decided to make these cookies for the birthday party that we were hosting over the Sukkoth holiday.  As we were at the grandparents’ we are doing the party in their Sukkah.  Check it out:

Sukkah entrance
Inside the Sukkah - the Little Rocker helped me make some of the chains that are hanging from the roof.

So I spent a three nights making these cookies – one night to bake, one night to cover in fondant and one night to add the details.  My darling daughter is obsessed with Elmo and Sesame Street, so I made Elmo and Big Bird cookies (if you use your imagination a little – but isn’t that what Sesame Street is all about – oh wait, that’s Barney).

The Little Rocker helps roll out the dough.

I got the Elmo one more or less down, until I realized that I didn’t have anything to make his fur look fluffy.  It was already 11:30 at night, and I just did not have the energy to make another batch of royal icing to make little tufts of “fur”, so Elmo has lost someof his hair.  The Big Birds were okay until I remembered that Big Bird has a yellow beak and not an orange one…

Rolling out the fondant

I ended up using fondant for the eyes, noses and Big Bird’s mouth, because I thought it would be easier, and I only used the royal icing for Elmo’s mouth and the pupils in the eyes – it definitely added.

Eyes on the cookies

Oh well,  the Little Rocker knew right away that they were supposed to be and as soon as she saw them she said “Elmo!” Okay that was after she said “Cookie!!”

Royal Icing
Don't they look just like Elmo and Big Bird? 😉

We are having a bunch of people over this afternoon to celebrate – pizza, Elmo cake, the whole kit and kaboodle.  Hope she enjoys!

Elmo! (Sorry the picture is a bit blurry, bad lighting!)

Here is the recipe from the Daring Baker’s site:

Basic Sugar Cookies:
Makes Approximately 36x 10cm / 4″ Cookies

200g / 7oz / ½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g / 14oz / 3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose / Plain Flour
200g / 7oz / 1 cup Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
5ml / 1 tsp Vanilla Extract / Or seeds from 1 vanilla bean

Directions
• Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming
creamy in texture.
Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during
baking, losing their shape.

• Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
Tip: I don’t have a stand mixer so I find it easier to switch to dough hooks at this stage to avoid
flour flying everywhere.

• Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
• Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)
• Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.
Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an
hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and
then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.

• Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.
• Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.
• Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour.
Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
• Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
• Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C Fan Assisted) / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
• Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.
Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in
some cookies being baked before others are done.

Tip: Rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.
• Leave to cool on cooling racks.
• Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.
Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated
cookies can last up to a month.

Royal Icing:

315g – 375g / 11oz – 13oz / 2½ – 3 cups Icing / Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar, unsifted
2 Large Egg Whites
10ml / 2 tsp Lemon Juice
5ml / 1 tsp Almond Extract, optional

Directions

• Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.
Tip: It’s important that the bowls/spoons/spatulas and beaters you use are thoroughly cleaned and
grease free.

• Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.
Tip: I’ve listed 2 amounts of icing sugar, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency, add very small amounts of water, a few drops at a time, until you reach the consistency you need.
• Beat on low until combined and smooth.
• Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.
Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.