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Chocolate Chip Hamantaschen Dough with Chocolate Truffle Filling

15 Mar

Have you tried to use chocolate chips to fill a hamantaschen? Of course you have! And did it turn into a chalky dry disappointing mess? Of course it did! And since any kind of negative feelings on Purim are just plain and simple against the rules, I am here to help.

What you want to do is think outside the box, or bag, in this case, and add your chocolate chips to the dough. Then, not only do you get speckled, freckled happiness, but these pied beauties will bring joy to any chocolate lover you choose to bestow them upon.

side view

freckled speckled hapiness

You will need to finely chop the chocolate and add some fresh orange zest as a nod to the land of Israel and Golda Meir’s famous chocolate chip cookie recipe. But the rest is pretty straightforward and mostly foolproof. The wow factor here is the orange zest so be sure not to skip it.

finely chopped

finely chopped chocolate

You can make the dough and truffle filling up to 3 days ahead and then assemble when you are ready.

Chocolate Chip Hamantaschen Dough

  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 sticks butter at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest from one large orange
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, finely chopped
  1. Put the sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and whip for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides as needed.
  2. Add the vanilla extract and orange zest and stir.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring after each.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Add flour mixture to the batter and mix well.
  6. Add the finely chopped chocolate chips and mix until well combined.
sugar

sugar

and butter

and butter

mix it up

mix it up

for 3 minutes

for 3 minutes

until fluffy

until fluffy

whisk together dry ingredients

whisk together dry ingredients

add dry to wet

add dry to wet

mix

mix

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup chocolate chips

finely chopped

finely chopped

add to batter and mix

add to batter and mix

chocolate chip dough

chocolate chip dough

Truffle Filling

  • 8 ounces of chocolate
  • 6 ounces of heavy cream
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  1. Put the chocolate chips, heavy cream, and pinch of salt into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for one minute and stir. Then heat in 20 second increments and stir until melted and smooth.
  2. Place in fridge until firm.

To assemble:

  1. Rip off a hunk of dough and form into a ball. Roll out with a rolling pin until about ¼ of an inch thick. Cut out a circle using a 3” cookie cutter or cup. Repeat.
  2. Put a dollop of the truffle filling in the center of each round (you can use Nutella if you don’t want to make the filling).
  3. Lift sides of dough toward center to form a triangle and pinch seams together to seal. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. Bake at 350° F for 12 minutes. Let cool before eating to give the filling a chance to firm up.
grab a handful and make a ball

grab a handful and make a ball

roll it out

roll it out

cut

cut

fill

fill

fold

fold

like this

like this

and this

and this

perfection

perfection

Pizza Hamantashen

11 Mar

Folks are doing amazing things with hamantaschen nowadays and are creative as can be. Lately I’ve seen rainbow hamantaschen as well as challah hamantaschen and even cupcake hamantaschen, which are all in good fun. If you are looking for a traditional hamantashen recipe (this one has a feminist spin), then there is no shortage of those as well.

But while you are branching out, why not make pizza hamantaschen, since the only thing that kids like as much as cookies is pizza? And you want to make them happy. After all, it’s Purim!

Pizza Hamantaschen--Be Happy!

Pizza Hamantaschen–Be Happy!

Pizza Hamantaschen  (Pictures follow)

  • ·         1 package biscuit dough, such as Pillsbury or Trader Joe’s,  preferably one that has flaky layers
  • ·         1-14 ounce can pizza sauce (you will use about 6 ounces)
  • ·         Shredded mozzarella cheese (about a cup)

 

1.       Preheat oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.      Open biscuit package and separate the dough into 8 rounds.

3.      Peel each biscuit in half horizontally so you have 2 rounds of dough.

4.      Lay them out on a work surface, and top with a dollop of pizza sauce. Do not spread the sauce, and be careful not to put too much or you won’t be able to seal your hamantaschen.

5.      Top with a pinch of cheese.

6.      Fold into the traditional hamantaschen shape by folding up one side and pinching the dough closed, and then lifting up the other side and pinching the other two corners closed. You should be able to see a little bit of the filling peeking through.

7.      Place on the baking sheet and cook for about 9 minutes until the edges of the dough are golden brown and the pizza hamantaschen is puffed. Eat while hot, and don’t forget to be happy!

Biscuit dough

Biscuit dough

Peel apart horizontally

Peel apart horizontally

Lay flat on work surface

Lay flat on work surface

Put a dollop of sauce on each

Put a dollop of sauce on each

Top with a sprinkle of cheese

Top with a sprinkle of cheese

Fold one side up and pinch to seal

Fold one side up and pinch to seal

It will look like this

It will look like this

Then do the second side

Then do the second side

And the third side

And the third side

Voila

Voila

Repeat

Repeat

Ready to bake

Ready to bake

Bake at 350 F for about 9 minutes or until golden

Bake at 350 F for about 9 minutes or until golden

Pizza Hamantashen 16 Pizza Hamantashen 17 Pizza Hamantashen 18

Pizza Hamantaschen--Be Happy!

Pizza Hamantaschen–Be Happy!

Almond Macaroon Cookies, Two Ways

29 Mar

Chocolate Almond Macaroon Cookies

Chocolate Almond Macaroons

Chocolate Almond Macaroons

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup ground almonds (I use Trader Joe’s Almond Meal but you can grind your own using blanched almonds)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 egg whites

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325° F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Mix together the almonds and the sugar, then mix in the egg whites.  Next, gradually add the cooled chocolate, stirring until mixture is smooth.
  3. Make twelve 1-inch balls of batter and place them on the baking sheet. Or you can use a medium cookie scoop and drop them onto the baking sheet if you prefer.  Flatten them slightly, so they have a smooth round shape.
  4. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Remove macaroons from the oven and cool on a rack. When completely cool gently peel them from the parchment paper and enjoy!

Simple Almond Macaroon Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups ground almonds (Trader Joe’s Almond Meal works great or you can grind your own using blanched almonds)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 egg whites

Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 425°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
    2. Mix the almonds with the sugar and extract.
    3. Add the egg white and and work the mixture very well holds together in a stiff paste.
    4. Make twelve 1 1/2-inch balls of dough and flatten them slightly, or you can use a medium cookie scoop and drop the batter onto the parchment paper.
    5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until very lightly colored.  They will be soft, but they will harden as they cool.  Leave on tray until firm before removing from parchment paper.
Ground almonds and sugar

Ground almonds and sugar

add egg whites and vanilla

add egg whites and vanilla

mix into a paste

mix into a paste

roll into balls

roll into balls

flatten

flatten

bake

bake

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart with Almond Macaroon Crust

28 Mar

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart with Almond Macaroon Crust

 

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart

 

For the crust:

  • 2 cups almond meal ( I get it at Trader Joe’s but you can grind your own)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg white

 

To make the crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Generously butter a 9-inch tart pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the almond meal, sugar, vanilla, and egg white.
  3. Spoon it into the prepared pan and gently press it into the bottom and up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool on a rack. While crust is cooling, make the caramel.
Butter the tart pan

Butter the tart pan

Mix the almonds, egg white, and vanilla

Mix the almonds, egg white, and vanilla

Into the pan

Into the pan

Press it into the pan

Press it into the pan

Baked

Baked and cooled

 

 

For the caramel:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt

 

To make the caramel:

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the sugar on medium-high heat. Stir constantly with a heat-proof rubber spatula until the sugar melts. Caution: melted sugar is very hot! Once you have started to melt the sugar do not stick your finger in or lick the spoon to taste—you will get burned!
  2. Heat the sugar until it turns a golden caramel color. If you have an insta-read or candy thermometer it will be ready at 350F. If you don’t have one, just go by the color. But be careful—the caramel will go past that point very quickly and burn fast. Remove it from the heat as soon as it turns to caramel—it will continue to cook even after removed from the heat.
  3. Add the butter and whisk until butter is fully incorporated. The caramel may bubble up as you to do this.
  4. Add the cream and whisk until the caramel becomes smooth. Add the vanilla and salt and whisk again.
  5. Let cool slightly and pour into the macaroon crust to completely coat the bottom. Now you are ready to make the chocolate glaze.
I'm melting

I’m melting

Melting

Melting

still melting

still melting

melting

caramel!

Butter

Butter

add cream and whisk until smooth

add cream then whisk until smooth

Pour into crust

Pour into crust

 

 

For the chocolate:

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling on top

 

 

To make the chocolate glaze:

  1. Put all chocolate glaze ingredients into a bowl and microwave for one minute. Let stand for a minute or two and then stir until smooth.
  2. Pour the chocolate glaze over the caramel filling and lightly sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Let chill in the fridge until firm about two hours.
In the bowl

In the bowl

into the microwave

into the microwave

stir

stir

pour

pour

a sprinkle of salt

a sprinkle of salt

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart

 

 

Lemon Tart with Coconut Macaroon Crust

25 Mar

This one speaks for itself:

Lemon Tart for Passover

Lemon Tart for Passover

Lemon Tart with Coconut Macaroon Crust

For the crust:

  • 3 ½ cups sweetened coconut
  • 3 large egg whites
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large lemons, juiced (1/2 cup) and zested

To make the crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter a 9-inch tart pan. In a medium bowl mix together the coconut, egg whites, and vanilla extract. Lightly press mixture against the bottom and sides of the tart pan to form the walls of the crust.
  2. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust is lightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack while you make the filling. Lower oven temp to 325°F.

To make the filling:

  1. In a medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Pour the filling into the cooled shell and bake until just set 15-20 minutes. Set on a rack to cool, then refrigerate until chilled.
Mix the coconut, egg whites, vanilla

Mix the coconut, egg whites, vanilla

Butter the pan

Butter the pan

Into the prepared pan

Into the prepared pan

Form the crust

Form the crust and bake

While the crust cools make the filling--egg yolks

While the crust cools make the filling–egg yolks

Sweetened condensed milk

Sweetened condensed milk

Add vanilla

Add vanilla

and lemon zest

and lemon zest

Fresh squeezed lemon juice

Fresh squeezed lemon juice

Whisk it together

Whisk it together

Crust is ready to be filled

Crust is ready to be filled

Bake it

Bake it

All set

All set

Glistening gorgeousness

Glistening gorgeousness

Chill it

Chill it

Lemon Tart for Passover

Lemon Tart for Passover

The Real Deal Matzah Ball Soup

20 Mar

“Of soup and love, the first is best.” ~Old Spanish proverb

I have to confess, I don’t have a family recipe for chicken soup. Nothing has been handed down from generation to generation. No one carried a recipe over to Ellis Island sown into the lining of their coat.

Not my actual family

Not my actual family

There wasn’t a magic formula with my name on it either. Until now.

Matzah ball soup with the works

Matzah ball soup with the works

I did have my grandma Esther’s knedelaich recipe, in her handwriting too! But one day I was reading the recipe and measuring the matzah meal from the box, and noticed that her recipe was THE SAME EXACT ONE AS ON THE BOX!!! Well, either she was a trendsetter, or she got it from there as well. So much for my family recipe!

Grandma's recipe on the back

Grandma’s recipe on the back

There are many different permutations for matzah balls, light and fluffy, egg white only, ginger and almond, baking soda and seltzer. Well my friends, you could use ol’reliable on the side of the box of matzah meal, or you can use this recipe for matzah balls seasoned with Herbes de Provence which I make for special occasions. If you aren’t keen on something so adventurous (it is pretty subtle, really), then just leave out the herbs and you will have a light yolk-free matzah ball.

Herbs de Provence

Herbs de Provence

As a child, I would do anything for soup. It didn’t matter if it had noodles or rice or kneidelach (Yiddish for matzah balls). I would eat it from a package or pot or can.

My childhood comfort food

My childhood comfort food

Almost everyone in my family made soup, and thanks to some sort of wonderful mutant food related super-power, I can remember the taste of them all.

I come from a long line of cooks that cook by eye, throwing in this or that, although all had a signature style.

My dad would overload his with root vegetables and fresh dill, while my mom showed restraint–except when it came to green peppers.  My grandmother Esther’s was simple and straightforward, just like her. My aunt Becca would add spoonfuls of turmeric to turn her soup golden.  I loved them all, the people and the soup. Their style said a lot about them, and I think about them every time I make my own soup.

I’ve been making chicken soup ever since college, when I would occasionally put aside the ramen noodle.

College staple

College staple

I don’t think, in the years since, that I’ve made two soups that were the same. Sure they all had similarities—it is soup of course—but they varied greatly. I’ve ranged from following in the footsteps of my parents to spanning the world to my exotic aunt’s golden soup, and I even have tried a few vegetarian versions. Most were good, some even great, all dependent on the quality of the chicken and the veggies.

Kosher chicken is the best for soup

Kosher chicken is the best for soup

I vary the recipe slightly depending on what in the fridge needs to go. Sometimes I will save up leek greens, or parsley stems, or celery leaves. I vary the ingredients slightly in amount—more carrots and parsnips for a sweeter soup, russet potatoes or yams for a heartier one.

Sometimes at the end I will snip fresh dill and sprinkle it on, especially in the spring (my Dad would approve).

Dill-icious!

Dill-icious!

But good news, folks—I’ve finally found myself. And this is the soup I will pass down to my grandchildren.  More or less.

Aura’s Chicken Soup

  • 12-16 cups water (note: less if it is just for my family, more if company is coming)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt now, plus more later
  • 4 to 6 chicken thighs and legs (quarters), preferably Kosher, with skin and bones (see note above)
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 6 green onions or 1 large leek, washed well and chopped
  • 4 to 6 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (on the diagonal is pretty), preferably organic

    Carrots on the bias

    Carrots cut on the bias

  • 1 or 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 turnip, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, cut into chunks (to add a little umami)
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks (optional)
  • 10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup tiny noodles (alphabet, stelline, orzo, or for Passover Manischewitz KFP noodles, cooked separately

    With alphabet noodles

    With alphabet noodles

  • Double batch of yolk-free matzah balls (recipe follows)
  • Fresh dill, optional, but not to my dad
  • More kosher salt, up to 1 tablespoon, to taste depending on size of soup
  1. Fill a large soup pot with the water. Put in the chicken and 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Bring to a simmer and let it cook for 20 minutes without stirring. After 20 minutes, skim off any foam that rises to the top.
  2. Add all of the other veggies: onion, green onions or leek, carrots, turnip, sweet potato, celery, tomato, parsley, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and turn down heat to medium-low and simmer. Cook uncovered for 1 ½ hours, until the soup has reduced a bit and become more concentrated.
  3. Taste and add more kosher salt.
  4. If you like clear soup (we do on holidays or for company), then let soup cool a bit and strain the soup through a large fine mesh colander into another large pot or bowl. If you like carrots or chicken in the soup, then pick those out of the colander and add them back to the soup. In my house we eat it chunky-style with everything in the bowl (except for the chicken skin and bones).
  5. At this point you can refrigerate it (it will keep for a few days, just bring it back to a simmer for 5 minutes before serving. You can also freeze it.
  6. And as for that bay leaf, in my house, whoever gets it in their bowl has good luck. But who needs luck when you have someone to make you soup. 🙂

Herbes de Provence Mini-Matzah Balls

  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Herbes de Provence (sold in the spice aisle)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup cold water
  • 1 ½ cups matzah meal
  1. In a medium-sized bowl, using a fork, mix together the oil and egg whites.   Then add the herbs de Provence, salt and pepper, and mix well. Stir in the water, and then the matzah meal, mixing well. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it against the surface of the mixture, and let chill in the fridge for an hour or more.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and then add a tablespoon of salt. Wet your hands and a small spoon, and make balls of the mixture about 2 inches in diameter. Roll them until they are smooth and then drop them gently into the boiling water. Repeat until all of the batter is used up.
  3. Cover with the lid partially vented and simmer for 30 minutes. With a slotted spoon transfer the matzah balls to a pot of your favorite chicken soup or store in the fridge, covered for up to 2 days. Makes about 30 mini-matzah balls or 6 servings. Feel free to double the recipe or even double the size of the matzah ball.
Matzah balls cooking

Matzah balls cooking

Keen on Quinoa

19 Mar

Before quinoa became popular, my mother had it in her pantry when I was growing up. Back in the ‘70’s, it was hippie dippy health food and had a picture of a Native American on the box to show how natural it was. I am sure my mother made it once, and it was either tolerated at one weeknight dinner, or rejected entirely, and then left for dead on the shelf, in memory of mom’s attempt to try something new.

But now it has made a re-appearance in grocery stores, and healthful minded people are turning to it for a low-carb, gluten-free substitute for other grains. Understanding what it is and how to cook it can keep its popularity stats up at your dinner table.

First thing you should know is that it is not a grain, although it looks a lot like couscous.

Uncooked quinoa

Uncooked quinoa

My husband thinks it looks a lot like bird seed and jokes that we are sharing dinner with our pet parakeet.

Bird seed

Bird seed

Our parakeet, Happy Love

Our parakeet, Happy Love

 

Quinoa is related to beets and spinach and is high in protein and iron. It is the seed of its plant, and, if you look closely at it after it is cooked, has a lot of personality—it is curly, just like me!

Curly when cooked!

Curly when cooked!

It is also accepted as kosher for Passover—just think, it is the only kosher food that has a curly tail!

Curly close-up

Curly close-up

During Passover I leave a big bowl of it in the fridge, and it will save me from sobbing into my matzah on day 3 of the holiday because I can’t go one more day without my beloved couscous, rice, or pasta (carboholic in the house, yo).

I recommend the Ancient Harvest brand, which is pre-rinsed to remove the bitter coating on each grain of quinoa, which is called saponin.

Ancient Harvest Quinoa

Ancient Harvest Quinoa

Other brands, such as Trader Joe’s still have the coating, and personally I will do anything to save a step, even one as simple as this. If you do buy a brand that you need to rinse, then do so with a fine mesh colander or you will wind up washing a heck of a lot of it down the drain.

I recommend cooking it in broth, not water, no matter how the instructions on the box insist either way will be fine. The broth will give it some flavor, and anything this healthy needs every bit of flavor on its side to make sure it will always have a place at your dinner table.

Cook it in an uncovered pot for about 15-18 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed and there are some “holes” in the top of the quinoa.

Broth and quinoa

Broth and quinoa

Cook uncovered

Cook uncovered

 

Done

Done

See the holes

See the holes

 

Many recipes will tell you to put the cover on the pot, but I find that then you will have to drain it, and you already know how I feel about saving a step. Since you are not cooking rice, you do not need the cover.

Once it is cooked you will notice that it has changed a little bit—it will now have the cutest little curlicue shape to it. And when you taste it, it will not be mush, but will have a bit of bite to it and a pleasant texture.

Let it stand for about 5 more minutes off of the heat, then, using a fork, gently fluff it out onto a large platter or wide serving bowl, and let it cool a bit. At this point you can add in any mix-ins to help it along and win over your family.

Mix-ins

Mix-ins

Chopped and ready to go

Chopped and ready to go

Pretty

Pretty

Mixed

Mixed

Add feta and eat!

Add feta and eat!

 

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad and other ideas

  • 1 cup quinoa (I recommend the Ancient Harvest brand so you can skip step 1)
  • 2 cups broth
  • 15 pitted Kalamata olives
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil
  • ½ red bell pepper

    Israeli Feta

    Israeli Feta

  • 2 green onions
  • ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled (I love the Israeli feta from Trader Joe’s)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place quinoa in a mesh colander and rinse to remove bitterness (see note above).
  2. Place the quinoa and the broth into a pot, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. If there is any liquid remaining, drain in the colander and let quinoa cool to room temp.
  3. Chop olives, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, red pepper, green onions, and feta cheese. Mix into the quinoa and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Qunioa Mix-in Ideas:

  • Sautéed chopped onion, sliced grilled chicken, chopped fresh spinach, squeeze of lemon and drizzled of olive oil
  • Diced cooked asparagus, goat cheese, quartered cherry tomatoes, fresh chopped thyme
  • Sliced green onions, dried cherries, apricots or dates, chopped pistachios, almonds, or cashews, chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Thinly sliced red onion, crumbled feta, diced cucumbers, and halved grape tomatoes, chopped fresh mint
  • Eat any of these quinoa salads as is or in a lettuce wrap.
  • Stuff any of the quinoa salads into a hollowed out Roma tomato, portabella mushroom, zucchini, or eggplant, and baked in the oven at 350° F until the veggies are tender.

Perfect Potato Pancakes: A Latke Tutorial

6 Dec

Now come on, don’t be shy, raise your hand if you have never attempted to make your own latkes. That’s better.  It feels good to share, doesn’t it.

 
Or more likely, you have made latkes, and year after year you wonder why they are not turning out crispy outside and melt in your mouth creamy inside. And why, oh why, don’t they taste like Grandma’s???

 
Don’t worry, help is here!

 
I have a foolproof latke recipe for you, and it is low-fat!  Okay… I am totally lying about the low-fat part.

 
You can read this blog, or you can watch me make them live on TV here, or both:

 
Aura Makes Latkes on KMOV’s Great Day St. Louis

 
Tis the season to make latkes, so either way, get out your food processor, your frying pan, and let’s go!

 
Latke 101

 
The goods:

 
Potatoes. You can make these with any kind of potato and any kind of vegetable, really. Cooks are always throwing in everything from zucchini and carrots to sweet potatoes and curry. But for traditional latkes, I recommend using Russet potatoes because of their high starch content.

 
Onions. You can’t make a good latke without a good onion. Use a 2 potato to 1 onion ratio here folks.

 
Eggs. Keep it together folks. I know the onions made you cry, but in this case I mean the latke. It will help hold it together.

 
Salt. Yes, mmm… good. You can’t make a decent latke without the proper amount of salt. Besides, the right amount will help the water drain from the potatoes and onions. I’m a fan of kosher salt.

 
Flour vs. Matzo Meal vs. Potato Starch. Ok, sit down for this one: I don’t add any flour or matzo meal to my batter. I find it makes the batter gummy and heavy and you will still have liquid in the bottom of the bowl as the potatoes and onions will continually give off water. Instead, I use the potato starch that naturally comes out of the potatoes in my bowl (instructions and photos follow). And the liquid, well, you just keep mixing it back in. If you find you absolutely must add flour and can’t accept the concept of a flour-less potato pancake, then go ahead and add a little, you have my blessing. But don’t keep adding when you see liquid in the bowl, just mix it back in.

 
And oil. This is the most important part here. You want to use peanut oil. It is the best. Its high smoke point allows you to get through the whole batch of lakes without setting off the smoke alarm. You can also use canola or vegetable oil, but it won’t have the same results. Peanut will give you the crispiest texture. See below for more on oil.

 
Helpful tips:

 
Skin the potatoes. But someone I know leaves them on and boy does that save a lot of work, not to mention keep some extra nutrients in. But I haven’t tried it myself, so for now I say skin ’em.

 
Use a food processor. I know plenty of people swear by hand-grating. But the people I know who usually do this, well, the latkes are the only thing they will cook all year so they have energy to spare. You grandmother grated by hand. She suffered so you don’t have to.

 
You can double or triple this recipe. But if you do I recommend crushing a vitamin C tablet and adding it to your mixture to keep the batter from turning brown.

 
Make sure your oil is hot, hot, hot, like the Buster Poindexter song. You can put in a wooden chopstick as the oil heats, and when bubbles form around it and are moving rapidly you will know your oil is ready. Pretty cool, huh? And I def don’t advise throwing droplets of water into your oil to see if it spatters–it will, and you will have a mess and could possibly get burned.

 
Flip once, not twice, unless you want to give you latke a bath in the oil. Yuck.

 
Don’t press down with the spatula. You want it to have a little body, not be an oily potato chip. And the expression “flat as a pancake,” well don’t press down on those either.

 
Feel free to make these ahead and freeze. They are extra crispy when reheated. Try 375 degrees F for 6-8 minutes per side.

 

 

Need more help? Ask me!

 

 

Aura’s Traditional Potato Latkes

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup peanut oil

1. Using the grating disc of your food processor, grate the potatoes and the onion.

2. Remove the shredded potatoes and onions and put them into a mesh colander sitting over a large bowl.

3. Change the blade of the food processor to the chopping blade. Put most, but not all of the shredded potatoes and onions into the work bowl of the food processor and pulse until you have a smoother texture.

4. Put the mixture back into the colander over the bowl and press down to help the potatoes release their liquid.

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5. Remove the colander from the bowl and you will see the liquid from the potatoes with the white starch settled at the bottom. Pour off the water being careful to save the potato starch.

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6. Put the potato-onion mixture into the bowl with the potato starch, add the egg, salt and pepper, and mix well.

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7. Pour the oil into a large frying pan and heat to medium high. Place a wooden chopstick into the oil and when bubbles form around it you know the oil is the right temperature for frying.

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8. Carefully drop spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil. Let the latkes cook for about 3 minutes until golden and then carefully flip and cook on the other side.

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9. Remove them from the pan and place on paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining batter.

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10. Serve with applesauce or sour cream.  Makes 18 latkes.

Aura is interviewed about Chanukah Traditions and cooking in the Ladue News

Sriracha Challah

3 Nov


Yep, in fact I am doing a little dance right now.  The Sri-ra-cha-cha!

 
We had always seen the bottle in stores, at restaurants, at friend’s houses, but somehow, never thought to try Sriracha Sauce. I am not sure how we overlooked it, but the important thing is that we have it now..

 


And we will always be together.

 
I’d heard mention of “rooster sauce” but never before had we heard anyone openly gush about it, until we professed our new found love on Facebook—since then, friends have been coming out of the woodwork to tell us how much they love it too!

 
Now, we have had hot chili sauces before, many kinds, many times. In fact I would go as far as to say that my father-in-law is a connoisseur of hot sauce and he has probably never missed an opportunity to try a new kind, no matter the hotness—it doesn’t scare him.

 
Well, I have to confess, that I guess I was a little intimidated by the fiery red color, the thick viscous texture, and the size of the bottle–Tabasco is tiny in comparison!  The rooster looked a little suspicious to me, as if to warn me: danger, danger ahead, danger of ruining your already spicy food with more spice.

 

Maybe size does matter…

But I am a gal who can admit a mistake. And I was wrong.

Oh, Sriracha, how I misunderstood you!

 
Now my whole family is addicted to it, with no end of things to try it on! As a dip for fresh spring rolls, on chicken quesadillas, in vegetable soups, and now baked into bread. Instead of having a meal and thinking we can add Sriracha to it, we have been planning our meals around what we can put the sauce on.

 
Our world revolves around Sriracha. Here is our new philosophy:

 

My husband, is in a rock band called The Mack Daddyz.  He is very particular about the T-shirts he will wear at a performance and bought a Sriracha shirt to proudly display his new obsession. He is rockin’ that T, let me tell you, and he has as many fans compliment the shirt as they do his guitar shredding, 80’s rock style of course!

 


So, as a cook, and a creative-type at that, I think like this: how many things can I do with this that maybe no one has thought of before! And the carb-a-holic in me, well, my mind goes straight to bread.

 
And what a bread it was!

 
Soft, fluffy, warm, orange, like a summer sunset, flavorful, reminiscent of Thai chilies, deep, and complex, and then, the slow pleasant burn begins. It will leave you wondering: is it bread, or is it a miracle?

 
And now I bring you….drumroll please…my recipe for Sriracha Challah!!!

 

 

Sriracha (Bread Machine) Challah

 

  • 2 cups bread flour (King Arthur is the best!)
  • 1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour (Ditto)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon active-dry yeast
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha Sauce
  • 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, set aside

1. Place all ingredients into your bread machine in the order that your manufacturer specifies. Set to dough cycle and press start. For the first five minutes or so, stand there with a rubber spatula helping to incorporate the ingredients. If it is too dry, add a little more warm water. If it is too wet and sticky, add a little more flour. Stop when the dough is nice and smooth, not too sticky and no longer clunking around hitting the sides, then shut the door and walk away.


2. When the dough is finished rising in the bread machine it will be a little smaller than regular challah dough, but no worries, just let it sit in the machine another 15 minutes or so, until it almost fills the pan. Remove the dough from the bread machine and transfer it to a lightly floured board.


3. Fold it over a few times, pat it into a rectangle and flour it lightly. Using a scissors, a sharp knife, or a bench knife, cut it into 6 even pieces. Braid 3 strands together, tucking the ends underneath. Then repeat with the other 3 strands. It is okay of the strands aren’t smooth ropes–it will all work out perfectly after the next rise, so braid away.


4. Using a baking stone or baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place the loaves onto the parchment paper and then lightly brush the tops of the challot with the egg wash.


5. This part is a little different but it really works! Preheat oven to 170 degrees F for exactly one minute to warm it, and then shut the oven off immediately. Place the baking tray into the middle of the oven and shut the door. Let it rise for about 40 minutes and DONT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR!


6. After the 4o minutes, turn the oven back on to 350 F and set the timer for 30 minutes. The challah will continue to rise a little more and then bake into the golden-orange beauties you see in the photos. Check them after the 30 minutes (you may open the oven door now) and if you like them a little more golden, continue to cook for 5 more minutes.
7. Remove from the oven and let them cool on a rack. Eat now or later, or freeze for another time. Enjoy!

My son loves this bread with all of his “heart!”

From Aura’s Passover Test Kitchen: Heavenly Chocolate Ganache Cake Balls and Chocolate Meringue Almond Bark

27 Mar

Here it is folks, up to the minute breaking news from right here in Aura’s Test Kitchen and pomegranatesandhoney.blogspot.com. I’ve been in the kitchen trying to reinvent Passover. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it can be done. No more matzo flavored chocolate cake. No more weird tasting egg-puffed chiffon cakes. No more getting dessert out of a can.

We are free, so let’s eat like it! No need to be enslaved to your grandmother’s fruit compote recipe forever.
Every year I consider it my personal mission to come up with one or two never seen before Passover recipes. I have fond memories of my mom’s Passover desserts from childhood. But let’s face it, Passover desserts taste odd. Maybe some of you look forward to that matzo cake meal flavor, but I say let’s leave matzo where it belongs—on the seder table. On your dessert table, put these, because, well, why not?
I bring to you my latest creations…
Heavenly Chocolate Ganache Cake Balls
·          One and half 8 ounce packages pre-made Passover cake, such as Osem marble cake or pound cake (12 ounces total)
·         ¼ cup cream (dairy-free creamer is ok too)
·         ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
·         ½ teaspoon almond extract
·         10 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate  plus 1/2 cup cream for the coating, or if you want a hard chocolate shell use 10 ounces of chocolate almond bark candy coating
·         1 ½  tablespoon finely chopped almonds
1.      Crumble the cake into a large bowl. You will get about 4 cups of cake crumbs.
2.      Put the cream and chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and cook for 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Add almond extract and stir again.
3.      Pour the chocolate mixture into the cake crumbs and stir until well combined.
4.      Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Using a small cookie scoop (will make 36 truffle sized balls) or a medium cookie scoop (will make 18-2 ½ inch cake balls) scoop out the batter and roll into balls. Place on tray and place tray into freezer. Note: it is quicker to make the balls larger, but it is cuter to make them smaller. It’s your choice, and may it be the toughest decision you’ll make all day.
5.      Melt the 10 ounces of chocolate and the half cup cream in a dish in the microwave; let stand for a few minutes then whisk together until smooth, or for a hard chocolate shell melt 10 ounces of chocolate almond bark or chocolate candy coating.
6.      Dip each ball in the melted chocolate using 2 forks, and give them a gentle shake before removing from the bowl to remove excess chocolate.
7.      Place on wax paper and sprinkle each with a pinch of chopped almonds as you go along, so the almonds stick to the still-wet chocolate. If you wait too long the chocolate will harden and the almonds won’t stick.
8.      Let the chocolate harden or stick them in the freezer and remove 30 minutes before serving. Feel free to double the recipe—I would if I were you. These are over-the-top delicious and you won’t taste any matzo in this dessert.

Aaaaahhh, heaven!!!

 Chocolate Meringue Almond Bark

·         ½ cup blanched almonds
·         ¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
·         4 fresh egg whites (none of that stuff in a carton—it won’t work)
·         Pinch of salt
·         1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
·         1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1.      Preheat oven to 250°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.      Place ¼ cup of the almonds and 1 teaspoon sugar into a food processor and pulse until it resembles crumbs. Finely chop the remaining almonds.
3.      Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites and salt until very soft peaks have formed and it looks like whipped cream (but it won’t taste like it, so get your finger out of the bowl!). With the mixer running, slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and the cocoa powder a little at a time.  Whip until stiff peaks form, taking care not to over beat. With a rubber spatula gently fold in the reserved sugar-almond mixture.
4.      Spread the mixture onto the parchment paper in an even layer, about ½ inch thick. Sprinkle with the chopped almonds and the mini-chocolate chips. Bake for one hour, turn off oven, and leave it oven the oven another hour to dry out further. Remove from oven and cool for an additional hour (yes, that is 3 hours total so plan ahead).
5.      To serve, break into pieces, and be prepared to be completely blissed out.
6.      Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days if you are cooking ahead, which I hope you are.

Yum!

Hamantaschen, The Ultimate Purim Schpiel, De-Mystified

4 Mar
Hamantaschen are classic Purim cookies.  Tradition says, large ones represent Haman’s hat; small ones represent his ear or his pocket, literally translating to “Haman’s pocket.”  Another story tells us that the three corners represent Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the founding fathers of Judiasm.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

If you ask me, I will tell you that hamantaschen represent the thing that really saved the Jews from destruction, and that my friends is this–Queen Esther’s, um, er, how to put this delicately, please tell me you know what I am going to say.
My very smart husband has cautioned me against using any overly-specific words in this blog, although I want to. If I write the word, my name will be forever linked to it, thanks to Google algorithms. My heart is pounding as I type this—I have waited years in which to come out with this and go public with such a shocking statement.
oprfuHH Hopefully by now you have figured out that I am referring to Queen Esther’s special pocket and not Haman’s.
Queen Esther!
The day I realized this, was the day my life as a Jewish girl ended and my time as a Jewish woman began. Stories are told to us as children are glossed-over versions of the real thing, packaged prettily to keep us innocent, and this is a good thing. Sometimes, a person has to come to their own conclusions when the time is right. And then they never look at things the same way again.
I am not alone in my belief–there are feminist Jewish writings on what the hamantaschen really means at websites such as lilith.org. The more you think about it, the more you know I am right. As shock wears off, acceptance sets in.
Sure, in medieval times it was the custom to make a pastry in the shape of your enemy and then to eat it to make the enemy disappear. And yes, this is what I will swear to publicly at any of my Purim-themed cooking classes, and anyone within earshot will be amazed at this fact because it is very interesting. But this is not the only reason we eat them.
It is un-Jewish to focus on war, violence, killing when it comes to holidays. Instead, we focus on food, playful traditions, and fun-filled folklore for children. No, the story of Hanukkah is not really about the miracle of the oil. It is a story about war and oppression, and one has to wait until adulthood to realize that the atrocities that go with any war also happened there. Same with the story of Purim—there are secrets within secrets as the plot unravels, some not to be revealed until we are ready to hear them.
The joke goes, “They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat.” Does this sound like a reason to make pastry in the shape of a triangle hat—he wasn’t a Colonial American, or a pirate, and not a wizard either. Pointed ears? Come on, Spock, Vampires, Elves of the Woodland Realm, yes, but a person working for the King of Persia, nope, don’t think so.
Try this recipe, my favorite, and as you are making your 10th hamantashen and filling it with poppy seeds or raspberry jam, you will start to have a moment of enlightenment. And by the time your 40th is done, you too will know my words ring true.
Here is to Queen Esther, who did what any good queen would do to save her people. The greatest power she had saved us all, and to celebrate, we eat it.
I completely understand if you can’t bear to look me in the eye after reading this one. Don’t worry, you’ll come around. So have that celebratory Purim drink, and be happy for goodness sakes, it’s Purim!
Queen Esther’s Hamantaschen
        ·       1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
·         1 cup margarine or unsalted butter, very soft
·         4 large eggs
·         1 tablespoon juice and all of the zest of one  orange
·         1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
·         4 cups unbleached flour
·         2 teaspoons baking powder
·         Pinch of salt
·         Filling suggestions: seedless blackberry or raspberry jam, lemon curd, strawberry, apricot or blueberry preserves,  Israeli chocolate spread or Nutella, pie filling, pastry filling, any flavor you’d like, even poppy seed or prune if you are a traditionalist, which I am not.
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl and cream together with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each one is added. Add vanilla extract, orange juice and zest, mixing well. Add flour, baking powder and salt, and mix until a soft dough forms and all ingredients are incorporated, making the softest, most beautiful dough you have even seen.

3.  On a floured board, using a rolling pin, roll out a portion of the dough to approximately ¼ inch thick. If dough is too soft or too sticky sprinkle a little extra flour on the board and on the rolling pin. With a three-inch cookie cutter, cut out circles. Place a teaspoon of filling in center of each circle. 

5. To shape, fold up the left and right sides and pinch it together into a corner.  Fold up the third side and pinch the last two corners to make a complete triangle.

6. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Let cool before eating if you can.

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