Saturday, May 13, 2017

May Memory



I hope you won't mind me sharing another holiday story rather than a recipe. This one is very precious to me...

I remember lining up with other parents who were waiting for our children to be released from preschool, quite a number of years ago now, when my son was only 4 years old. I heard a lot of kids' voices through the door, all of them sounding eager to see their parents. The teacher was trying to settle them down. At some point I overheard my son saying to the teacher that his mom's birthday was coming up in May, and the teacher told him that her birthday would be in May as well. I and the other parents were surprised, since I did not think that he knew when my birthday was. When he came out, I asked him how he knew when my birthday was, and he said that he saw it written on the calendar in the classroom. Now I was really surprised, and puzzled! And so I went to take a look, and saw what he had seen: the words "Mother's Day," which he assumed meant his mother's birthday, and not a day celebrating all mothers!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Donuts


This recipie is a mix of Romanian and American approaches to making donuts. Romanian donuts are called 'gogosi'. They are spherical and empty inside made from yeast dough. I like the shape of American donuts better, since frying them evenly is easier. And in case you didn't know, that was why that donut shape was invented in the first place!

Here are the ingredients: 

500 g all purpose flour
1 package dry yeast (10 g)
50 g melted butter
2 eggs
250 lukewarm milk 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1teaspoon sugar 
1 spoonful yogurt
Vegetable oil (for frying)

Mix together yeast, milk, sugar and a third of the flour. Let it stay covered in a warm place for 15 minutes or until it becomes foamy. Then add all the other ingredients and start the kneading. I mixed mine for around 10 minutes (at speed 2 if you are using a KitchenAid stand mixer). 


Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place for an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. Then take it from the mixing bowl (as a whole big lump all at once) and stretch it on a wooden board that had been greased in advance with vegetable oil.


Cut the donuts as shown in the picture above. If you do not have a donut cutter, you can use a glass and a thimble (or better, a one-inch plastic container of the kind used for rolls of film) to create the shape. Remove the dough from the donut holes and in between the donuts. Make that extra dough into a ball, place it back in the mixing bowl, and let it rise again for half an hour, and at that time repeat the above steps with that dough. Also leave the now-separated donuts to rise for half an hour.

In the meantime, heat oil to medium-high - in a small saucepan if you want to make them one at a time, in a Dutch oven or frying pan if you want to fry more than one at a time.


Place the unfried donut in the oil, being careful not to splash. Use a fork to turn and then flip the donut. A minute or at most two should be enough time for it to fry on a given side. Then take it out and put it in a glass or ceramic dish so that any excess oil can drip off from it. Repeat these steps until all the donuts are fried.

When they are cold, you can roll them in powdered sugar (to make them really good, add a little vanilla to the sugar). Or you can make icing. Here are the recipes:

Maple icing:

Ingredients:
1 cup confectionary sugar (with cornstarch)
a drop of maple flavor
1 dessertspoonful of milk

Mix them together to make a paste.


Place it in the microwave for 10 seconds, then spread it on the donuts.

For chocolate icing, use the above recipe but substitute a level teaspoon of cocoa powder in place of the maple flavoring.

Let the icing cool if you can bear to wait...








Sunday, March 26, 2017

Homemade hummus



Here is a very simple recipe for a very tasty snack or appetizer. I had it even for breakfast in Israel and Jordan last summer. Here is a picture of the ingredients I used for my hummus:



You need  2 cups of boiled and cooled chick peas (canned ones are good too)
                 4 tablespoons of tahini
                 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
                 Juice from one lemon
                 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
                 1 piece of garlic (crushed)
                 Salt
                 A half cup of water (not in picture)

All the ingredients will be pureed in a food processor. If you like it creamier, you can add a little more water. You can find all the ingredients in most supermarkets and grocery stores, with the exception of tahini, which may require a trip to an international food store, or even a specifically Middle-Eastern or Mediterranean one. But even large supermarkets may have it in their ethnic food section, and it really is worth getting some - you can make hummus without tahini, but it will not have that distinctive sesame taste that is characteristics of hummus made in the Middle East.

Chick peas are better if you buy them dried in a bag. If you start with dried chick peas, to end up with 2 cups of chick peas, soak 1 cup for at least 5 hours in a large bowl with enough water to cover them even as they expand. Strain the water and boil them in enough fresh water to cover them, for half an hour in a pressure cooker. If this sounds like too much hassle, then just buy canned chick peas! 

Strain the chick peas and measure two cups (or adjust the other ingredient amounts to correspond to the amount of chick peas you have). Place them in a food processor and puree fhem. Next add the tahini and puree again, then olive oil, then lemon juice, then cumin and garlic, pureeing again after each new ingredient is added to combine them. Add a little water between steps if the consistency is too hard. Finally add salt to taste and stir.

To serve, sprinkle paprika and olive oil on the finished product, as shown. 

Enjoy with pita bread, crackers, fresh vegetables, or anything else you'd like. In the Middle East, they add this alongside everything!

 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Cats' Eyes Cookies


This recipe is, as far as its ingredients and initial procedures are concerned, the same as for Harlequin. And so it is sometimes convenient to make both kinds of cookies at the same time. These work well for children (and grown ups) who would enjoy apricot layer cookies, but without the walnuts that are in Harlequins.

Dough:

150 g sugar (5 1/2 oz)
300 g butter (10 1/2 oz)
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
400 g all purpose flour (14 oz; plus some additional flour for dusting the workspace)

Mix together the butter and sugar until fluffy, then add the egg, baking powder, and flour. 


Make the dough into a big ball, then divide it in 4. 


Put it in the refrigerator, covered with a paper towel, for 30 minutes or until it is cooled, but not crumbly. Take 1 ball out and stretch it on a floured work top with a rolling pin and make a rectangle 5mm (about 1/5 of an inch) thick. Try not to use a lot of flour, since that will change the consistency and the taste


Using a cookie cutter, cut the dough into circles. Place them all evenly on a lightly greased baking tray.





After they are on the baking tray, use a thimble to cut holes in the center of half of the circles.

Gather up the dough left behind from cutting around the large circles as well as the holes, and combine it back into a ball. Place that ball in the fridge and take an already-cooled ball from the fridge to work with next. Keep going like this until you are done with all the dough, including the leftovers.


Bake them at 350° F/180° C for 10 minutes or until they are lightly brown. Let them cool for just a minute, and then pushing them gently with your finger, transfer them to a cooling rack. Once one batch is cooled, you can stack them to make room for the next batch. 


Using a spoon, place apricot jam on the cookie circles without holes.



Then place a cookie circle with a hole on top.


You'll probably end up with around 50 assembled cookies, more or less, depending on the thickness of the dough.

Dust the assembled cookies with powdered sugar.


Enjoy! These cookies should stay fresh if kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator, even for a couple of weeks. But if you like them crunchy, eat them sooner rather than later, since the jam will soak into the cookies over time.




















Saturday, December 10, 2016

Vanilla Walnut Crescents



From all the cookies I have tried making, these are among the best from a variety of perspectives: they are loved by everyone, the favorite of many, and relatively easy to make. The recipe is based on one that I found in a Romanian cookbook by Silvia Jurcovan, Carte de Bucate (Bucuresti: Editura Tehnica, 1983, p.437).

The quantities and temperatures given must be followed precisely - they are not "more or less." For that reason (and not just because the metric system is more widely used) I will give the quantities in grams. 

Ingredients:
250g All-purpose flour
200g unsalted butter
100g finely-ground walnuts
 70g powdered sugar 
   1 packet vanilla sugar
Plus roughly another 100-150g of powdered sugar to coat the cookies in after they are baked.

Vanilla sugar is not widely used in the United States, but most international stores sell it. If you don't have it, you can substitute by adding 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence in the dough. 

Procedure
In a large bowl combine the butter, 70g sugar, and vanilla sugar together until the mixture is fluffy. Then add the flour and walnuts and mix them by hand until the dough sticks together.



Place the bowl with the resulting ball of dough in the refrigerator, covered with a sheet of wax paper. It should stay in the fridge for half an hour or until it is hardened. Then remove the dough from the fridge. Break off pieces and shape them into golf ball sized balls. Then put most of them back in the fridge to stay cold, taking just a couple at a time to work with.

On the wax paper, roll each ball with your hands until they are lengthened into long sticks.


Cut the sticks into pieces 2" in length.


Curve the pieces into crescent shapes and place them on a baking tray (in most cases you will need to lightly grease the baking tray with butter).


Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C). Place one baking tray with the crescents in the oven for 10-12 minutes. They should be lightly brown, as seen in the picture below.


After removing them from the oven, do not let them cool for more than 2-3 minutes. Then move them gently with your finger to ensure they do not stick to the baking tray. They are very fragile while warm! 

Roll each cookie through powdered sugar until it is evenly coated and place it on a serving tray.


They taste better after they have cooled, but once you know how good they are, it can be hard to be patient!








Monday, November 14, 2016

Harlequin (Apricot and Walnut Bars)


This is a recipe from Romania, which everyone loved every time I made it. In the United States, the reaction has been the same. In 2004, the recipe was a finalist in the Indianapolis Star cookie contest. You are going to enjoy it too, I am certain!


Harlequin recipe

 

Dough for the layers:

150 g sugar (5 1/2 oz)
300 g butter (10 1/2 oz)
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
400 g all purpose flour (14 oz; plus some additional flour for dusting the workspace)


Mix together the butter and sugar until fluffy, then add the egg, baking powder, and flour. 



Make the dough into a big ball, then divide it in 4. 



Put it in the refrigerator, covered with a paper towel, for 30 minutes or until it is cooled. Take 1 ball out and stretch it on a floured working top with a rolling pin and make a rectangle of 9 x12 inches. The dough should be cold but not hard before stretching it. Try not to use a lot of flour, since that will change the consistency and the taste



Roll it up on the rolling pin and transfer it onto the baking tray. 





Bake it at 350° F (180° C) for 10-12 minutes. It is ready when it is slightly brown at the edges, as in the picture below. Carefully remove it from the tray while it is still warm, and place it on a rack to cool. You may need to gently slide a knife or spatula between the cake layer and the pan to get it to slide off easily.


Repeat the steps above with the rest of the dough. When the baked sheets are cold, spread apricot jam on one, then place another cake layer on top and repeat, except on the top layer, which will be covered with icing.




Icing:

150 g (5 1/2 oz) chopped walnuts  
4 egg yolks
150 g (5 1/2 oz)  powdered sugar
vanilla essence 


In a pan mix together 4 egg yolks with 150 g (5 1/2 oz) powdered sugar (preferably granulated sugar ground at home into powdered sugar, not sugar bought in powdered form from the store, as it should not have cornstarch in its composition). Place this pan on top of/into another pan with boiling water, and keep stirring until the composition is hot and looks creamy (see picture below.) Then add a few drops of vanilla essence and stir.




When it is done, pour the icing onto the top layer of the cake and immediately scatter the walnuts on it, pressing them down with your palm. 





After a few hours, you can cut it into small bars. 




Note: Making the layers can be really hard and frustrating the first time you try, but don't be discouraged! With practice, this is going to become a favorite recipe that everyone will ask you to make over and over again. 


 





Saturday, August 27, 2016

Plum dumplings



For this recipe you need prune plums, which should be hard, small (not much larger than the size of a walnut) and ripe (the colour shoud be purple-blue). Here is a picture of what I used for this recipe.

Ingredients:

1 lb prune plums (500g) 12-15 pieces
1 1/2 lb potatoes (700 g)
10 oz (250 g) all purpose flour (plus extra flour to coat the work surface when making the dumplings) 
2 eggs
4 Tbs. vegetable oil
4 oz (100 g) butter
6 oz (150 g) plain breadcrumbs
6 oz sugar (150 g)
Salt
Vanilla sugar or vanilla essence

Instructions:
Wash and boil the potatoes for 25-30 minutes. The best potatoes are red ones, but any that are sticky rather than fluffy after boiling will work. Drain them and allow them to cool. After that, peel and mash them, adding salt. Then add the vegetable oil. Beat the 2 eggs, then add them to the potatoes as well. Next add the 10 oz of flour. Stir the mixture until all ingredients are incorporated. The dough should be sticky, as it is in the picture below. 

In the meantime, wash and dry the plums. Then open them by squeezing the ends together in order to remove the pits. If you cannot remove the pits in this way, cutting them part way is also an acceptable method of removing the pits from the plums. But ideally the two halves of the plum should not be separated from one another.

With a spoon, take a portion of the dough and place it on a floured surface. Flatten it into a circle as you see in the photo below.


Place a plum in the center of the dough circle and then pull up the dough around it to cover it.




Do likewise with all the plums.


It takes skill and practice to finish the dough and the plums at the same time! The first time you try the recipe, there is a good chance that you will have plums or dough left over.

While you are making the dumplings, put a large (6-8 quart) pot of water to boil. Once the dumplings are prepared, and the water is boiling, place a batch of dumplings in the water. Gently keep them moving with a slotted spoon to ensure that they do not stick to the bottom. Boil for 15 at medium-high temperature. 



After they have been boiled, they need to be rolled in a mixture of breadcrumbs and sugar. And so either before you start making the dumplings, or while you are waiting for the dumplings to boil, melt the butter in a pan on low heat, and add to it the breadcrumbs, sugar, and vanilla. These ingredients are just being toasted lightly, so be careful not to burn them! When the dumplings are ready, place one or two at a time in the breadcrumb mixture and roll them through it. Continue until all the dumplings have been coated. Don't worry if you have breadcrumb mixture left over - it is good to spoon more of the mixture over dumplings when you eat them.



Serve them warm. We just had them basically as dinner and dessert all rolled into one!