Quick Chocolate Wafers

Preheat oven to 350 F convection.

Sift together (through a strainer) 1 cup + 2 TBL flour, 2/3 cup cocoa and 1/2 tsp baking soda. In a medium saucepan, melt 11/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter. When thoroughly melted, add 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup corn syrup. Stir and remove from heat. Stir for one minute to help some of the heat dissipate. Add 1 beaten egg. When incorporated, add the dry ingredients. Add 11/2 tsp vanilla.

Form into 11/4” diameter balls (I have a 11/2 tsp scoop that does this), and place onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake for 11 minutes. Cookies will fall after they come out of oven and form chewy chocolate wafer. Baking them a little longer will produce crisper cookies. Let rest for 2-3 minutes before removing to a rack to cool. Makes about 5 dozen small cookies.

NOTE: the dough will get stiffer the longer it sits and this will change the way the cookies come out. I prefer to work quickly but the cookies are great either way.

Hamentaschen Sugar Dough

Combine and set aside

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

In mixer, blend

  • 1 cup unsalted margarine

When softened, add

  • 3/4 cup sugar

When fully blended, add

  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 TBL water

Depending on the humidity, size of the egg, etc., you may have to adjust the flour by 1/4 cup or water by 1TBL  to get the dough to hold together or not be sticky. Refrigerate dough overnight before using.

Working with about 1/4 of the dough at a time, roll to desired thickness (about 1/8 ” inch), cut into 3″ circles, top with 1 tsp filling (see Poppy Seed Filling or Prune Filling or buy commercial fillings), moisten outer ring of dough and form into triangles. Transfer to greased cookie sheet and brush with beaten egg. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 325 F convection; they should turn a golden color from the egg wash, but sometimes it doesn’t happen.

Depending on how thick you roll the dough and how large you cut the rounds, the yield will vary. This made about 5 dozen hamentaschen. If you go for thicker cookies (3/16 “), you’ll get about 3 dozen hamentaschen.

ATTN Because of the leavening, the cookies have a tendency to burst apart at the corners if they are not securely held together.

See Hamentaschen Honey Dough for an alternate recipe.

Poppy Seed Filling

Making this requires a special grinder and a lot of cranking, but the results are stupendous.
Makes 3 cups, for maybe 60 hamentaschen
Shopping List
8 ounces poppy seeds
1 cup milk
4 TBL butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs

Poppy seeds are difficult to grind unless you have a specialty grinder. It’s kind of like a manual coffee mill, but you really can’t use a coffee grinder. I have tried. ATTNIf you don’t have such a grinder, look for another recipe that soaks and cooks the poppy seeds as the following will not work.

My poppy seed grinder
My poppy seed mill, resting after a long workout.

In a poppy-seed mill, grind

  •  8 ounces (about 11/2 cups poppy seeds)

Heat the following ingredients to dissolve sugar without boiling the milk.

  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 TBL butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar (or more to taste)
  • pinch of salt

Remove the mixture from the heat. In a large bowl, beat

  • 2 eggs

In small amounts, add more and more of the milk mixture to the eggs, but ATTNnot too much at once or the eggs will cook. The idea is to gradually warm up the eggs and combine them with the milk. Once you have added half the milk to the eggs, pour it all back into the pan on the heat and let it cook until thickened into a smooth custard, but ATTNdon’t let it approach a boil!  Remove from the heat, stir in the ground poppy seeds and let the mixture cool. It can keep a couple days in the refrigerator.

Note that sometimes I’ve just added sugar and milk to the ground poppy seeds to make a filling. It’s not as satisfying but in a pinch it works. If you need a non-dairy filling you can use corn syrup and mix it with the ground poppy seeds and skip the custard/milk process completely.

Adapted from a recipe from Olga’s Flavor Factory.

Spinach-Feta-Egg Bake

Defrost 30 ounces chopped frozen spinach, and squeeze by handfuls to remove all moisture. Add the following: 3 beaten eggs, 1 cup chopped scallion, 8 ounces cottage cheese, 8 ounces crumbled feta, 2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1 TBL fresh chopped dill and 4 TBL butter.

In blender jar, place 3 eggs (out of the shell, of course), 11/2 cups water, 11/2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 2 TBL oil. Process long enough to make a smooth batter. In a greased and floured 9×13-inch pan, pour half the batter, spread evenly. Drop small bits of the spinach mixture until it is evenly distributed; cover with remaining batter. Bake at 350 F 1 hour.

Cut into 24-30 pieces and serve warm. It’s also not bad served at room temperature.

Coffee Cake

Combine 41/2 cups flour, 21/4 cups brown sugar, 11/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp cinnamon and a generous 1/4 tsp nutmeg. Cut in 11/2 cups butter. Measure out 3 cups of the mixture and add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts. In the rest of the mixture, add 11/2 tsp baking soda. When mixed, stir in 11/2 cups sour cream and 3 beaten eggs. Mix until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour into greased 9×13-inch pan. Sprinkle topping mixture over batter and press down gently. Bake at 350 F for 60 to 65 minutes.

Hamentaschen Honey Dough

In a mixer, combine: 4 cups flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking powder in bowl of mixer. Add 1/2 cup softened shortening, 4 eggs and 1 cup honey. Combine until smooth. You may need to add up to 3/4 cup additional flour to get the dough to a good consistency: think cookie dough… that’s what it is.

You can use this to make Hamentaschen: Roll dough to 1/8-inch thick, cut into 21/2 inch circles, fill (see Poppy Seed Filling or Prune Filling or buy commercial fillings), form into triangles, brush with beaten egg and bake for 15-18 minutes at 350 F convection). It’s also the dough for making Fluden. See Hamentaschen Sugar Dough for an alternate recipe.

Fluden

Make Hamentaschen Honey Dough. Roll into a 1/8-inch layer large enough to cover bottom and go up sides of pan; trim off all but 3/8 inch that hangs beyond edge of pan. (You can use a 13×9 or 9×9 pan, depending on how much you want to make.) Spread a layer of filling on the bottom. Roll a layer of dough, a bit thinner than the outside layer. It needs to be big enough to cover the bottom and just fit in side the pan without going up the sides (or just a bit).

Alternate layers of filling and dough, ending when the last layer is near the top of the pan. You want to use many different kinds of fillings, such as Poppy Seed Filling, Prune Filling, preserves, chopped nuts, chocolate bits, etc. Commercial pastry filling should give you a broad range of choices.

When you get to the last layer, fold outer layer that you first placed in the pan back over the top layer of dough and try to seal it. Brush top with a beaten egg, sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. Bake in oven at 325 F convection for 45-50 minutes. It will be a fairly dark brown on top.

Let cool and store covered. Cut into small squares. Fluden can also be frozen in chunks.

Prune Filling

Combine 24 ounces dried prunes, 12 ounces dried apricots, 1/2 lemon, 1 orange (cut into 8 pieces) and water to just cover in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until water is almost gone and fruits are soft. Let cool. Grind with 11/2 to 2 cups walnuts. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar to taste.

An alternate approach I’ve used is to simmer 20 ounces of prunes with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water. I cooked them for 8 minutes in the microwave until they were fully rehydrated. I ground them in the meat grinder, added the grated peel from one large orange and 1/4 cup almond meal. I added no sugar.

Extra filling can be frozen and will easily keep for a year in the freezer. If you’re not making a big batch of Hamentaschen or Fluden, you might want to cut the quantities back. See the recipes for Hamentaschen Sugar DoughHamentaschen Honey Dough or Non-Dairy Hamentaschen Dough (our favorite).

Polenta with Fried Egg

Place 1/2 cup Quaker corn meal (I prefer this because of the way it’s ground), 2 cups water and 1/2 tsp salt in a saucepan. Stir continuously until it comes to a boil. Lower heat to lowest setting and cover; let cook for 5 minutes. Add 1/2 TBL butter and 1/4 cup grated cheese, such as Grano Padano or Manchego. Add salt and pepper to taste — I like it peppery.

Place in each of two broad serving bowls or on plates. Top each with an egg cooked over easy.

Andouille Sausage with Black-Eyed Peas

In a 6-quart (or larger) pressure cooker, heat 1+ TBL oil. (Don’t use less, as it keeps the beans from foaming and causing problems later on.) Saute 1 medium onion, diced, until soft. Add 1 cup dry, rinsed black-eyed peas, 1 minced stalk celery, 1 diced large red pepper, 1 minced jalapeno pepper, 1 minced carrot, 5 andouille sausage cut diagonally into thirds, a chunk of smoked turkey meat, 3 cups canned diced tomatoes with liquid, 1/2 cup water, 1 bay leaf and 1/2 tsp dried oregano.

Cover pressure cooker and bring to high pressure following directions for your model. Cook at high pressure for 11 minutes. I let the pressure come down naturally, but if you’re in a hurry to serve it right away, you may need to cook it for a few minutes longer after you open the cooker. Once it’s done cooking, check the salt level and add salt after cooking, if necessary.

Serve with rice.

Note: I used a 12-ounce package of Bilinski’s chicken-meat sausage.

Root Soup

This started out as potato soup originally, and it’s morphed into a much more interesting dish.

Peel and cut up 2-4 potatoes, 4-5 parsley roots, 3 carrots and 2 leeks. place in pot and cover with water. Add 2 tsp salt and bring to a boil; reduce to a strong simmer. Skim any starchy foam that accumulates on the surface. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Turn off heat.

In a skillet, melt 3 TBL butter over medium heat. When it starts to foam, add 11/2 to 2 TBL flour. Stir to make a smooth mixture and keep stirring until it’s a nut-brown color, but be sure you don’t let it burn. Add it to the soup, keeping it mind it will splatter. When the mixture is thoroughly combined, bring the soup back to a simmer for another 20-30 minutes.

If you want the soup less chunky, use a potato masher to break some if up. Let cool and reheat the next day; it will be much thicker. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Mascarpone Rice Pudding

Leftovers with leftovers.

Combine 2 cups of cooked rice and about 1 cup of milk. Heat in high-power microwave for 5 minutes: the rice will be softened and the milk will have come to a boil. Put it in the refrigerator until it’s cooled. (I was impatient and I transferred the mixture to a metal mixing bowl and chilled it in an ice-water bath; it took 5 minutes.) Combine 1 cup of Mascarpone Cream, the cooled milk-rice mixture and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Return to refrigerator to chill before serving.

It’s not low in calories, but it sure tastes good.

Candied Pomelo Peel

This is sweet from the honey, but retains a nice bitter edge. It’s simple and delicious. And it’s really fast to make.

Pomelos usually show up in the market at the height of winter. They look like really big grapefruit, sometimes having a slight pear-like shape. Skins range from yellow to yellow-green. Find a pomelo that has no blemishes on the skin.

Cut the fruit into quarters, through the stem end. For each quarter, make a small cut between the fruit and the pith nearest one end, and then running your thumbnail around the fruit, separate the peel and fruit. You should be able to remove the peel on each quarter in a single piece. Reserve the fruit for eating.

Cut the peel into strips about 5/8 of an inch wide, but the size and shape is up to you. Turn each strip on its side and trim the pith down so the thickness of the peel is about 3/8-inch.

Put the peels into a pot full of water. Bring it to a strong boil, let it boil for one minute and drain off all the water. Add cold water and in under a minute the peels should be cool enough for you to squeeze out the water without burning yourself. ATTN Repeat the process of boiling, draining and squeezing the peel three more times. Each time you do this it removes some of the bitterness, so you can adjust the bitterness to your taste according to how many times you boil the peel. If you really like a bitter flavor, only boil it a total of three times, not four.

Set up a cake rack and place a sheet of wax paper or foil underneath it.

After the last boiling, put the drained peel back in the pot with 1 to 11/4 cups of honey. (You don’t have to measure it precisely because if it’s too dry you can add more and if there’s a little extra it will boil down or drain off.) Bring to a simmer and move the peel pieces around with tongs or chopsticks. The honey level may seem low, but you will need to get all the sides of the peel covered, so turn them as necessary. Add a little more honey as it cooks down, if needed. When the honey is disappearing and  ATTN the peel is translucent, transfer the pieces to the rack. Make sure the pieces aren’t touching. I find some pieces are done faster (they become translucent as they absorb the honey) and I remove them and let the rest keep cooking.

Preserved Lemons

Cut 6 Meyer lemons as follows: quarter them (almost) going from just below one end almost down to the other. The lemon will remain intact, but if you squeeze it by pressing the two ends towards each other, some juice will ooze out and the segments will be accessible. Using 1/4 cup kosher salt total, press a generous teaspoon of salt into the open segments of each lemon. Squeeze the lemons into a wide-mouth quart canning jar, along with the rest of the salt. Be sure any juice that comes out the lemons as you squeeze them makes its way into the jar. Add juice of 2-3 more lemons (Meyer or otherwise). Add water if necessary, or more lemon juice, to fill jar.

Seal jar with lid. Invert several times to mix contents and help salt dissolve. For the next 7 days, leave jar on counter, inverting each morning. Place in refrigerator after 7th day.

You can make these with any kind of lemon, but Meyer lemons work well, and they are only available in the wintertime.

Fruit Crumble

Combine 1/3 cup walnuts, 1/3 cup flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 cup oatmeal, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 tsp baking powder and 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter. Mix until it’s crumbly.

Peel and cut up 4 cups of fresh fruit (peaches, apples, pears or whatever you like). Mix with 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 to 2 TBL cornstarch, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp nutmeg. Place fruit mixture in buttered casserole. Cover with crumb topping.

Bake at 375 degrees F until bubbly, about 30 to 45 minutes.