Sunday, March 24, 2013

Passover Cookies that Don't Taste Like Passover

Every Passover, Jews around the world are faced with the challenge of making dessert that doesn't taste like matzo. Most of us resort to the usual:  macaroons, sponge cake, and chocolate covered matzo.

Last year, however, my mom hit upon a new recipe for chocolate chip cookies that would be good enough to eat any time of year. The cookies have a soft, cakey texture, warm and sweet with brown sugar, and then punctuated with a nice hit of chocolate. I think the key to the recipe is the use of potato starch, which has a softening effect on baked goods, but that's just my theory.

In any case, here's the recipe. You'll find them really easy to make and hard to resist.

Kosher for Passover Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield:  4 dozen

1 cup butter/margarine
¾ cup sugar
¾ brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 ¾ cup cake meal
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup potato starch
1 tsp salt
2 cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375.  Cream butter, sugars, and vanilla, then add eggs to incorporate.  Whisk together dry ingredients and slowly stir into the mixture.  Finally, fold in chocolate chips.

2. Spoon heaping teaspoons of batter onto parchment-lined or greased baking sheets.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until very light golden brown at the edges.  Remove onto racks and cool on baking sheets.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Chocolate Hamantaschen--Who Knew?

I've been making hamantaschen, three-cornered cookies filled with jam and served during the Jewish holiday of Purim, for years now. The dough is simple to make, and fun to stuff with your favorite fillings.

Traditionally, the cookies are filled with poppy seeds or apricot jam, though a few heretics have added cherry filling as well. My mom preferred cinnamon-flecked apples or chocolate chips. As for me, my innovation was to mix mini-chocolate chips throughout the dough, so that you get a bit of chocolate in every bite.  (You can find the recipe here.)

This year, however, I thought, why not go for broke and make the dough chocolate as well? I found the following recipe created by Victoria Sutton for My Jewish Learning, which super-gilded the lily by creating a chocolate ganache filling to go inside. Since I had some filling left over, I made a batch of my regular hamantaschen and used the ganache with that as well. I also experimented with various fillings I had on hand, jams, a lemon curd (great!), and a banana curd (I won't go there again).

Just be careful not to overbake these hamantaschen or let them linger too long on hot baking sheets while they're cooling. Also, don't overstuff the hamantaschen or the shapes will warp in the oven.

Too bad I have to wait another year for the next Purim!

Chocolate Hamantaschen
adapted from Victoria Sutton


Chocolate Dough:

3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 oz butter, softened
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional, but you're crazy not to use it)
1 egg
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 Tablespoons heavy cream 

1 egg for egg wash

Chocolate Ganache Filling:

8 1/2 oz dark chocolate, chopped
8 oz heavy cream
dash of salt
liqueur to taste (the original recipe called for rum, but I used
Grand Marnier, about 1 tsp)

(optional) dried cranberries or cherries


For dough:
1.  Cream butter, sugar, salt, and almond extract until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix until incorporated. Combine flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder. Add to butter mixture in two stages, alternating with the heavy cream. Turn dough out onto plastic wrap, and form a flattened disc. Chill for at least one hour.

For Ganache
1.  In a small saucepan, bring cream to a simmer, then pour over chopped chocolate and let sit for two minutes. Lightly whisk until ganache is smooth and shiny. Whisk in rum and salt. Chill for several hours.

To form hamantaschen: 
1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2.  Roll chilled chocolate dough to slightly more than 1/8 inch thick. Using a round cutter or glass rim dipped in flour, cut circles of about 3 inches in diameter. If adding dried fruit or nuts, sprinkle a small amount in the center of the cut discs.

3.  Beat one egg with a tablespoon of water to make an egg wash.  Remove ganache from fridge, and using either a small ice-cream scoop or by hand, form about 1 inch round balls and place in center of sucree circles. LIGHTLY brush edges of circle with egg wash.  Then carefully fold in the edges to form a triangular shape, and pinch the corners to seal. Ensure there are no gaps or tears in the dough, to prevent filling from oozing out during baking. (My advice is to let as little of the filling show as possible to preserve the triangular shape.)

4.  Bake hamantaschen for about 15 minutes, until crust is baked through. Ganache will liquify during baking, but will set as hamantaschen cool. Let hamantaschen cool on sheets for a few minutes, then remove cookies onto metal racks and let them continue to cool.