Hamantaschen Cookies

These delectable little pastry “hats” are traditionally eaten during the Jewish holiday of Purim, but they are so good, they really should be eaten year round. Buttery pastry filled with a dried fruit and nut jam, they are a special treat. This slight twist on the traditional filling contains apricots, prunes and walnuts. Serve them warm or at room temperature.

From Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies

Makes about 27

Pastry

2 cups sifted all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sugar

1 stick unsalted cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 egg

Finely grated zest of 1 orange

1-1/2 Tablespoon orange juice

Sift together dry ingredients and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and pulse until it resembles coarse meal. With a fork, lightly mix egg, orange juice and zest in a small bowl. Pour into food tube and pulse until dough begins to come together. Cover in plastic wrap, flatten dough slightly and refrigerate overnight.

Filling

12 oz. (2 cups) dried pitted prunes

6 oz. (1 cup) dried apricots

1 cup water

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup honey

3/4 cup walnuts , cut into medium size pieces

Cut the dried fruit into small pieces. The prunes can be cut in half but the apricots should be diced. Place in a small saucepan with the water and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook until fruit is very soft, 10-15 minutes. Check occasionally and add a little water as needed. Once fruit is soft, add lemon juice and honey. Cook, stirring constantly for about 5 more minutes. Allow to cool, then stir in the nuts. Set aside.

Shaping and Baking

Preheat oven to 400F

Line 2 cookie sheets with Silpat or parchment paper. Work with half the pastry at a time; refrigerate the other half. Flour your surface and rolling pin and roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Work quickly or the dough will become sticky.

Turn it over to keep both sides floured. With a 3 inch cookie cutter or the rim of a glass, cut the dough into rounds. Do not make them smaller than 3 inches.

Holding one disc in your hand, place a rounded teaspoon of the filling onto the center.

Fold up 2 sides of the dough and pinch together at the top where they meet. Fold up the third side and pinch together to form a triangle.

Place cookies 1-1/2 to 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets and bake 12-15 minutes until lightly colored. Cool on a rack or serve them warm.

Leftover filling makes an excellent conserve for morning toast. It will keep refrigerated for at over 2 weeks.

 
 

Black & White Chambord Truffles

Bittersweet chocolate infused with Chambord, a black raspberry liqueur produced in the Loire Valley of France, coated in velvety white chocolate and sprinkled with colored sugar crystals. Need I say more?
Happy Valentine’s Day!
 
For the dark chocolate ganache center, you will need:
 
1 lb. bittersweet chocolate (use high quality chocolate, not chocolate chips)
1 cup heavy cream
2 T. light corn syrup
2 T. unsalted butter, softened
2 T. Chambord liqueur
 
Makes about 50 truffles
 
Chop bittersweet chocolate and place in a shallow bowl with the softened butter.
 
In a saucepan, bring the cream and corn syrup to the boiling point, but do not boil. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate and butter.

Allow to sit for a minute, then stir gently to melt without incorporating too much air. Cool slightly before adding the Chambord.
Allow to firm up covered in the refridgerator for about 2 hours. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat and using a small ice cream scoop or melon ball slicer, scoop the ganache onto the cookie sheet.

Coating for ganache-
1lb. tempered white chocolate
Tempering is necessary for the chocolate to harden at room temperature and maintain it’s luster. It will give your coating that snap.If you prefer to skip this process, simply roll the ganache in sweetened cocoa powder and store the truffles in the refridgerator.
 
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Dip truffles in tempered white chocolate and place on the lined cookie sheet.
 
Sprinkle with colored sugar and set aside. Tempered chocolate sets up quickly.
Store covered at room temperature.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tiramisu

Sometimes the simplest desserts can be the most challenging to make. Take for instance, Tiramisu. It’s assembled rather than baked, and consists of only a few ingredients. Yet so much can go wrong. It can be soggy, dry, sweet, tasteless, dense or hot with alcohol. Getting it right is in the proportions and the technique. After much trial and error, this recipe suits my taste. And an added bonus is there are no raw eggs in this recipe to be concerned about.

Ingredients
1 package of 30 Savardi or ladyfingers
1-1/2 cups brewed espresso
1-1/2 cups marscapone cheese

8- egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup sweet Marsala wine

1 cup heavy cream

2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate

Equipment
9 x 12 serving dish
Small dish for dipping ladyfingers
Spatula
Stand mixer with beaters
Double boiler

Procedure
Make the cream- Fill the bottom of a double boiler with 1- 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer. In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, Marsala, and a pinch of salt. Set the bowl over the simmering water. It’s important that the bottom of the bowl not touch the water as it is easy to scramble the eggs. With a heatproof spatula, stir and scrape while cooking until mixture thickens, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl with electric beaters, whip the marscapone and cream together until the mixture holds a soft peak. Fold into the cooled egg yolk mixture.

Assembly
Pour espresso into small rectangular dish. Dip ladyfingers one at a time in espresso. Dip, do not submerge each side for no more than 2 seconds and place in a serving dish. They should be neither soggy nor dry. Continue until you have 1 layer. Spread with 1/3 of the mousse and grate chocolate on top.

Repeat with 2 more layers finishing with the cream as your top layer. Grate chocolate over the cream and refrigerate for several hours, or overnight to allow the ladyfingers time to soften and the flavors to meld.

Serves 10 happy people.

Chocolate Peppermint Snowflakes

What a fun and festive variation on traditional Peppermint Bark. I found this silicone Wilton Snowflake mold on Amazon.

Recipe: adapted from Baked by Rachel

10 oz. dark chocolate

10 oz. white chocolate

6 peppermint candy canes

1/2 t. peppermint flavor

Yield: 24 Snowflakes

Place candy canes in a zip lock bag. Using a hammer or mallet and a cutting board, smash the canes into small pieces, but do not pulverize.

Melt dark chocolate using the tempering method (see video below).

Stir 1/4 teaspoon peppermint flavor into the tempered chocolate. Using a small spoon, fill the silicone molds. I found it helpful to pour the chocolate into the center of the snowflake and with the aid of a toothpick, spread the chocolate into the cavities. Work quickly before the chocolate hardens.

Repeat this process using the white chocolate and adding 1/4 t. peppermint flavor after tempering. Pour the white chocolate over the dark and sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top.

Tempered chocolate hardens quickly without refrigeration. Pop the snowflakes out of the mold and store at room temperature.

How to Temper Chocolate

Pâté de Fruit

Pâté de Fruit or French fruit jellies, are jewel like confections bursting with Intense fruit flavor. My first taste was in Paris and I was immediately smitten. Although expensive to buy, they are fairly easy to reproduce at home. And when packaged in a pretty box, make a luxurious and unexpected homemade gift for the holidays.  

 

Ingredients:

 
2 cups Fruit puree – You can make your own, but I prefer to use frozen purée for the ease and selection of flavors. Sicoly, imported from Lyon, France, offers 38 flavors of 90% all natural fruit purée and 10% sugar. They are shipped in 2.2 lb tubs, and can be purchased online here. A favorite with professional bakers and bartenders, these purees are also an easy way to make sorbets and exotic cocktails.  
 
3 cups Granulated sugar  
2 oz. Sanding sugar (available at Williams-Sonoma or baking supply stores)  
2T. Fresh lemon juice  
2- 3 oz. pkgs. Liquid pectin such as Certo or Ball (available in grocery stores.)  

 

Equipment :

 
8″ square baking pan  
Heatproof spatula  
Candy thermometer  
2 qt. Saucepan  
Parchment paper  

 

 

Procedure :

 
Cut 2 strips of parchment paper to line the bottom and sides of a 8″ square pan. It’s helpful to clamp the paper in place.  

 

 

In a medium saucepan, mix 2 cups of fruit purée with 3 cups of granulated sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar over medium heat. Attach thermometer and bring to a slow boil stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Continue boiling and stirring until mixture reaches 235F on the thermometer, 15-20 minutes.  

 

Once mixture reaches 235F, add the pectin and return to a boil.

 

Boil for 1 minute while continuing to stir, add lemon juice and remove from heat.

 

Pour into prepared pan.

 

Sprinkle the top lightly with sanding sugar and allow to set at room temperature for several hours, or overnight.  

 

 

Invert the pan onto a board that has been sprinkled with sugar.  

Peel off the parchment paper. 

 

Cut into squares or whatever shape you like, and roll each piece in sanding sugar.  

Yield- 35 one inch squares  

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Candied Orange Peel

 

 

Growing up, chocolate covered orange peel was my favorite confection. There was something about the pairing of chocolate with orange that tasted so special. With the abundance of oranges in December, this is a great time to make your own. Perfect for gift giving or holiday baking, fruitcake, panettone, cakes and muffins get their zing from candied orange peel.

 

 

5 navel oranges

3 cups sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

2 cups water

Cut the top and bottom off the orange. Score the peel in quarters and remove. Julienne into 1/4″ slices.

Put them in a 4 quart saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and drain. Repeat two more times. This process helps to remove any bitterness in the skins.

 

In another saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup and water. Bring to a boil and allow the temperature to reach 230F on a candy thermometer. Add the blanched peels. Simmer gently, do not boil, in the syrup for about 30 minutes or until the skins become translucent.

Cool to room temperature in the syrup, drain, and toss with granulated sugar.

 

Dry on a rack for several hours.

For a truly delicious treat, dip the peels in tempered chocolate. Instructions for tempering are on my “Bark if you love Halloween” post.

Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

That is if they last that long!