Salted Caramel Apple Rugelach

Rosh Hashanah is coming soon, and luckily it is a bit late this year.  I always appreciate the years that I don’t have to pull my kids out of school on the 1st or 2nd day of the school year.  So, since I have a bit of free time on my hands (ha!), here is a little recipe that I created as a mash-up of my 2 favorite recipes from The Great Holiday Baking Show last year- my Rugelach and my Salted Bourbon Raisin Caramel Apple Pie.  I will be teaching a group of women this recipe in Massachussetts next week and can’t wait to share this one!

Many people are intimidated by making rugelach from scratch, and it really needn’t be daunting.  I like making this simple, quick dough in the food processor.  It really only takes a minute to throw together.  First, add your flour, powdered sugar, and salt to the processor and pulse to combine.  Then add cubed cold butter and cream cheese to the mixture.  Process and pulse until a coarse consistency dough forms, and starts to pull away from the edges of the bowl (3rd photo).  Divide dough into 2 balls.  Roll out each dough ball into a thin, 9 inch circle.  I like to do this between 2 well floured pieces of wax paper or parchment.  Stash discs in the fridge for at least 15-20 minutes, but even overnight is fine.

Now, the filling:  You can definitely make your own caramel, like I did on the show.  This Bourbon caramel was Mary Berry’s favorite thing I made (I think).  She kept coming back between shots and grabbing a spoonful of it!

So, the alternative to making caramel is buying a good quality salted caramel from a jar.  That is what I did today.  Smuckers makes a nice, affordable one.

In a small food processor, combine nuts (optional), caramel, and apple butter.  Add a tablespoon of bourbon.  Process well until smooth and spreadable.  You will see fine bits of nuts, and that is okay.  Spread 1/2 filling in a very thin layer with an offset spatula, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edge.  Repeat with other dough disc and the rest of the filling.

Now, I like to divide this into 12 wedges.  You could do 16, if you would rather have smaller cookies, or 8 if you want to have large ones.  Here is how I cut my rugelach, using a pizza wheel.

Then, I roll each wedge up as if it were a crescent roll.  Place on parchment lined baking sheets and bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown at edges.

image

Now you have some options.  You could just sprinkle these with powdered sugar and call it a day.  Or you could make a caramel drizzle.  Here’s how you do it:

Combine powdered sugar, a bit of your caramel (homemade or store bought), some salt, and thin it with milk or cream until it is a thick drizzling consistency.  If too thin, add more sugar.  If too thick, add more cream.  Easy peasy!  Now, transfer the mixture to a ziptop bag, snip the very edge of cone corner, and drizzle over the cooled rugelach.

Voila!  At this point, you could sprinkle with a little sea salt (very sparingly) or even sprinkle a bit more chopped nuts.  Really, whatever you want works.  Enjoy!

Salted Caramel Apple Rugelach

For the dough:

1 cup flour, plus additional for dusting
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces cream cheese, cold
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cubed
honey-bourbon caramel (optional, or buy salted caramel from a jar):
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons water
6 tablespoons butter, sliced
1/4 cup heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons bourbon
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

For filling (per 2 rounds):
1 tablespoon bourbon
1/2 cup toasted pecans or walnuts, finely ground
1/2 cup apple butter
1/4 cup of prepared caramel (from recipe above or jar)

For icing drizzle:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup caramel (from recipe above or jar)
1-2 tablespoons milk or cream to thin to desired consistency

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To make the dough, combine flour, powdered sugar, and salt in a large food processor. Pulse to combine. Add cold butter and cream cheese to processor, and pulse until dough begins to form a ball and pull away from sides. Divide into 2 equal pieces. Sprinkle parchment paper and top of dough with approximately 1 tablespoon of flour each, to prevent sticking. Roll out both dough balls to 9 inch diameter circles. Leave on parchment and place in fridge until firm. Can be done ahead.

To make the caramel sauce, in a medium-sized saucepan, bring sugar, water, and honey to a simmer without stirring. Let mixture boil until it becomes caramel in color. Immediately turn off heat and whisk in butter, vigorously. Add cream, bourbon, and salt. Whisk well until smooth. Set aside in clean bowl. Can be done ahead and refrigerated. Prepared salted caramel sundae topping can also be used, if desired. Just add 1-2 tablespoons of bourbon if using jarred caramel.

To make the filling: Combine all filling ingredients, mixing in a small bowl with whisk or spoon or process in a small food processor.  Divide, using half to spread on top of each dough round.

To assemble: Spread chilled dough with a thin layer of the filling, leaving a 1/4 inch border around the edge. Using a pizza wheel or knife, cut dough in quarters. Then, cut each quarter into thirds. Starting at the outer edge, roll each triangle into the center to form the rugelach. Place on parchment lined baking sheet at least 2 inches apart.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden at edges. Let cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the icing drizzle ingredients, adding milk until desired consistency is achieved. Place in a piping bag or plastic zippered bag and snip one corner with scissors. Drizzle in back and forth motion across cooled rugelach.
Let dry for 10-15 minutes to set icing.

Mayan Spiced Chocolate Chewies (for Passover and beyond)

I have a strict rule about Passover desserts:  One should never try to make cakes or cookies with matzo meal or any of it’s derivatives.  They always taste like matzo and the bondage of my people, rather than dessert.  I am only partly kidding, people, so please don’t try to convince me that you made a delicious Passover cake with matzo cake meal.  You didn’t.  So, my approach to Passover baking is to instead choose desserts that are flourless by nature, like pavlovas, flourless chocolate torte, and macarons/macaroons.  These Mayan Spiced Chocolate Chewies are a spicy variation on the popular gluten-free favorite that can be found at Whole Foods.  The spices were inspired by another old favorite of mine the “Mayan Mystery Cookie,”  which is a well-known recipe that has been circulating for a while.  My version is a bit more interesting with warm spices and lots of ginger.  Of course, if you like the original or are serving kids, feel free to omit all the spices and the crystallized ginger.  These cookies are made in one bowl, quick, easy, gluten-free, can be dairy free, Parve, nut-free, and very low in fat.  Enjoy!

First you want to sift your powdered sugar and cocoa into the bowl of your mixer (you can definitely use an electric hand mixer).  Add your dry spices at this point, if using.  Give it a mix on low, just to combine.  Then, just add your egg whites and vanilla.  Mix on medium speed for ablout a minute.  Fold in chocolate chips and minced ginger by hand, if using.

This is the crystallized ginger that I minced.  It is optional, and only suggested if you are a ginger lover or hosting adults only.  Kids tend to think it is too spicy.  I like to cut it with kitchen shears.image

Drop by tablespoonful onto parchment or silpat lined baking sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until set and shiny on top and still a bit soft in the center.

Let cool completely and peel off of parchment.  Happy baking and Happy Pesach!

Mayan Spiced Chocolate Chewies

Parve, perfect for Passover, gluten-free/dairy-free/nut-free diets, and for all year round.

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (find the Kosher for Passover variety)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Small pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 cup egg whites (approximately 3 large eggs)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (parve and K for P variety)
2 tablespoons crystallized or candied ginger, finely minced (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine powdered sugar, cocoa, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne. Mix on low to combine.
Add in egg whites and vanilla, mixing well for 1 minute on medium speed, scraping down sides of bowl. Fold in chocolate chips and minced ginger (if using). Spoon by the tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 2 inches between cookies. Bake for 12-14 minutes until tops are set and shiny. Let cool for 10 minutes on parchment. Peel cookies off parchment and serve or store in airtight container.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Hamantaschen…and Bonus Hot Cocoa Variation

I am pretty much a purist when it comes to Hamantaschen, which are definitely near the top of my list of favorite Jewish holiday treats.  The flavor I crave is very specific- Poppyseed filling (mohn) with a buttery-lemony flavored dough that is both crisp and tender.  However, I am seeing a whole bunch of fancy, non-traditional flavors popping up all over lately.  I started dreaming up ideas, only to discover that they had been done already.  Apple pie…done.  Cheese Danish….done.  The following Chocolate-covered Cherry Hamantaschen was my brain child, and after a pretty thorough search, I don’t think they exist yet: )  Here’s to trying something new!

For those of you new to the world of Hamantaschen, they are triangular shaped cookies traditionally eaten on Purim.  Purim is a fun holiday where Jews dress up in costume and retell the story of Mordechai, Haman, Queen Esther, and King Ahashueros (Ahashveros).  There are good guys, bad guys, a bit of drinking, near death for all, and a happy ending.  It is a great time.  Please look up the holiday for better details, as I didn’t mean to get into that here…  However, the cookies are meant to represent Haman’s (the bad guy’s) hat or more literally and disturbingly…his ears.  Hmmm, yum?  But they are good, really!

First cream the butter, sugar, vanilla, salt, and baking powder together in your mixer.  A hand mixer will work fine, as well.  Add in your egg, and beat until well combined.

Hamantaschen dough

Then add your flour and cocoa powder.  Mix until a thick dough forms.  Do not over mix.

Hamantaschen dough with Cocoa

Form dough into a disk and cover in plastic.  Stash in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Hamantaschen dough in a disk

In the meantime, line your pans with parchment.  I love these new “cookie sheets” by Reynold’s.  So easy!

Raynold's cookie sheets

Get your fillings en place.  Although I am making chocolate covered cherry flavor, I can’t just leave it at one, so I have other accoutrements at the ready.

Hamantaschen filling material

I dust the counters lightly with powdered sugar when making any type of roll out sugar cookie.  I find that it makes re-rolls work out better, and doesn’t add a heavy over-floured feel.

Hamantaschen dough rolled out

Roll out dough to 1/8 inch.

Hamantaschen dough 1/8 inch thick

Cut out circles or fluted circles, approximately 2 1/2″, but can be made smaller or larger as desired.

cutting the Hamantaschen dough

Line up circles on parchment.

Hamantaschen circles on parchment

Fill each circle with 3 cherries, no more, no less.  A couple of years ago, I learned that there is an actual proper way to fold Hamantaschen, which involves folding each edge over the edge next to it, instead of pinching together.  Check it out at the bottom of Tori Avey’s genius post here.

a perfectly folded Hamantaschen

Here is a triple chocolate version I am making for my daughter who is not a fan of cherries…or cooked fruit in general.  But that is a story for another day.

triple chocolate hamantaschen

After filling and folding all the cuties, bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes.  You can see how well most of my cookies stayed together, but I did have one renegade.  There is always one….

baked hamantaschen

This is what you are going for!

the finished hamantaschen

Let cool completely.  Melt chocolate chips in microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between.  Drizzle, dunk, or dollop cookies with chocolate.  I tried all three methods, and I settled on dollops.

chocolate sauce for the hamantaschen

Here is a finished cookie.  I feel that it would be lovely with chopped walnuts sprinkled on top, but we are nut-free, so that is a no-go.

hamantaschen with Chocolate sauce

My hot chocolate version was adorable, if I do say so, though!  They are filled with mini-mallow bits (the kind in a canister that don’t puff when heated), then topped with more chocolate and marshmallows.  You could totally fill these with anything you want- Peanut Butter, caramel, jams, white chocolate, etc….

hot chocolate hamantaschen

Have fun!

Chocolate Covered Cherry Hamantaschen

For the dough:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (or margarine, if pareve is desired)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

For filling and topping:

  • 1 can cherry pie filling (or make your own, like I did)
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter, sugar, vanilla, salt, and baking powder until fluffy.  Add in egg, mixing well to combine.  Mix flour and cocoa powder, and add to mixer.  Starting on lowest speed, mix just until stiff dough comes together.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 15 minutes or up to 1 day.  Let dough come back to room temperature before rolling.

Sprinkle work surface with powdered sugar.  Roll out dough to 1/8 inch.  Using round cookie cutters, cut out as many rounds as possible.  Can re-roll scraps once, if necessary.  Place rounds onto parchment.

Place three cherries in the center of each round.  Fold dough into a triangle around the filling, pinching points together gently.  If dough is a tad crumbly (from being cold or too much powdered sugar), just pinch together and it will still work when baked.  Bake for 12-15 minutes (mine took 14).  Cookies will still be slightly soft when hot, but will firm up as they cool.  Cool completely.

Melt chocolate in microwave safe bowl by 30 second intervals, stirring in between.  Dollop approximately 1 teaspoon melted chocolate over top of filling triangle in center. Sprinkle with nuts, if desired.  Let chocolate set up at room temperature or in fridge, and serve.

* for hot cocoa variation, stuff each cookie circle with chocolate chips and mallow bits.  Do not use mini-marshmallows, as they will puff when baked!  Bake and top with melted chocolate and more mallow bits.  Enjoy!

Snow Day Soup!

Here in Northern Virginia, today is a snow day.  The kids are home from school, it is super chilly (even inside), and all I want is my favorite Snow Day Soup and some crusty bread for dinner.  There is some backstory to this soup.

It is not chef-inspired, it has some fresh and some frozen and pre-packaged ingredients, and I am not going to apologize for that.  This is basically a streamlined version of the soup my mom made throughout my childhood.  It is especially memorable, because it was one of the few dishes that she made that was truly delightful.  That alone made it stand out, but it also always followed a trip to the kosher meat market, which was my favorite thing to do…ever.  While I would stand at the meat counter, gazing at the giant beef tongues wagging at me from inside the chilled case, my mom would ask the butcher for the “flanken.”  I am not really sure what the literal translation of this is, but I am pretty sure the Yiddish means the scraps from the better cuts of meat or more probably the meat from the flank of the animal…. The tough cuts that you have to cook for a very long time, so that they will magically transform into fall-apart tender chunks of savory goodness.  Anyway, we always called this soup “Flanken soup,” and it was an event that everyone looked forward to after our monthly pilgrimage to Maryland to buy our kosher meat.  The gigantic poppyseed Hamentaschen from the bakery was my other favorite, but I digress.

The other reason I wanted to share this recipe, is that I wanted to create kind of a tribute to Manischewitz.  You see, I was just lucky enough to win a contest that they offered for one of their products…a do-it-yourself Channukah House Kit.  Thank you so much to Manischewitz!  I am so honored.  Here is my Chanukah House:

Lauren Katz Manischewitz gingerbread house

Anyway, while I was writing back and forth to the company, I realized that many of my early food memories involved their products.  Which brought me to my favorite memory of all…”Flanken Soup”.  It features Manischewitz’s Split Pea soup mix, and sometimes the vegetable soup mix, or both!  You see, this recipe is fluid and flexible, and you can play with it to make it your own.

First, you cube your meat into large but kind-of bite sized pieces.  I used a chuck roast here, but shortribs or stew meat works well.  Note that the fattier the meat, the better.  You don’t want to use lean stew meat…. Do trim any large pieces of fat, however.

Snow Day Soup Ingredients

Here are the soup mixes:  This is for a HUGE pot of snow day soup. If you want to make a smaller amount, just use one split pea soup mix.  These are easily found in the kosher section of almost every grocery store.

Snow Day Soup Mixes

Another gratuitous meat shot!  Approximately 2 lbs, but you could use more or less, depending on how many people you are feeding.

Snow Day Soup Meat

Brown the meat in your soup pot in a little oil on high heat.  If you are in a rush, you can skip this step, but I highly recommend it.

Snow Day Soup Meat Cooked

Cut up your potato (1 large), mushroom (about 10 ounces), and carrot (about 1-2 cups).  I like the mushrooms diced, but sliced works as well.  Baby carrots are fine- sometimes I leave them whole, sometimes not.  Waxy potatoes work well, but I only had a russet today.

Snow Day Soup Veggies

Put them all in the pot, with a couple of bay leaves, a small bag of frozen cut green beans (use fresh if you want, but it will all come out the same in the end…), the split pea soup mix (with the seasoning packet, and the veggie soup mix (I did not add the small pouch of noodles, but everything else).  I added a bit of leftover Lima beans that I had kicking around, but that is optional.

Snow Day Soup Veggies cooked

Now, fill her up with water.  You want it to cover all the meat and veggies plus an extra 2 inches or so.  It will seem watery, but when the peas cook, it will thicken quite a bit.  This is almost more of a stew or porridge consistency when done.

Snow Day Soup In the pot

Once it come up to a simmer, cover for about an hour.  Stir, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Keep pot uncovered and at a low simmer for about 3-4 hours, or as long as possible!  Stir it occasionally.  Season with a ton of black pepper and salt, to taste.  The soup mix has salt in it, so you usually don’t need much (if any at all).

Snow Day Soup ready to serve

Okay, so this is kind of a homey/homely rustic looking stew, but take my word for it.  It is delicious!  Better the second day, if there are leftovers.  It is a full dinner and very hearty, so enjoy with some crusty bread or biscuits and you are done.  Enjoy!

Snow Day Soup. Yum!

P.s.  You could make this in a large crockpot on high, if you put it in early in the morning, and cook it uncovered for the second half of the day.

 

 

Latke Trials: My Search For the Ultimate Latke

I have decided to run latke experiments this Chanukah, for the betterment of mankind.  Out of the goodness of my heart, I will suffer through plate after plate of latkes this week.  I know, it’s a tough job but somebody has to do it.  I will take one for the team here.

UPDATE: After just finishing this post, I really want to stress to you the importance of trying my third latke recipe at the end.  It was the best, IMHO…and my family agreed.

Latke Trial 1:

I normally make the shredded latke, so I opted to do something a tad different here.  I wanted to make the creamy centered, crisp lacey edged variety of latke that some of my friends make.  I opted to try to bind them with my usual eggs and to try rice flour in lieu of my usual all-purpose flour or matzo meal.  I really enjoyed the results, but I will add a bit of baking powder just to lighten them a bit on my next trial.

Pro: gluten free, easy to make, no annoying grating, quick clean up, crisp Lacey texture, creamy center, perfect round shape.

Cons:  my family missed their usual shreds, slightly dense center texture when not perfectly fresh out of the oil.

Latke Trials Latke 1 in the mixing bowl

Latke Trials Latke 1 in the pan

Latke Trials Latke 1 ready to serve

Lacey Latkes (Gluten Free)

  • 2 medium-large Russet potatoes
  • 1 medium onion (white or yellow, non-sweet variety)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup rice flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Vegetable or canola oil for frying

Cut potatoes and onion into small pieces.  Pulse many times in a food processor until the texture of thick applesauce.  Add the eggs, rice flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.  Pulse to combine.

Heat a large skillet (or 2, like I do) over medium heat with about 1/4 inch of oil.  When oil is hot, add spoonfuls of the batter to the hot oil, leaving about an inch between latkes.  Wait until edges are a deep golden brown to flip.  Flip and remove to drain on paper towels when browned on both sides.  Keep warm in a 250 degree oven until ready to serve.  Serve with sour cream and/or applesauce.

Latke Trial 2:

Okay, night two, and all the surfaces in my kitchen have the subtle, sticky sheen of oil upon them. Oy vey! Time to recap my second experiment. I thought these were pretty delicious, but my daughter was appalled that I put a little bit of scallion in them, because G-d forbid she consume anything green. So help me.

The idea behind these latkes was to combine the first latke for the creamy center, but to add some shreds for texture. I became consumed with the idea that the shreds would not cook in the center, so I opted to make them very fine shreds. This might have been a mistake, because they were not much different than the first ones, though definitely a slight improvement.

I shredded one potato on a microplane style fine grater.

Latke Trial 2 Micro Shredded potatoes

Then I made my purée of potato, onion, egg, rice flour, baking powder and salt.  I added about 1/2 tablespoon of A-P flour, because I just can’t leave well enough alone….

Latke Trial 2 Ingredients

I dropped in some pepper and sliced scallions this time, but never again…It lead to what I now call “Scallion-gate”.  We will never speak of it hence forth.

Mixed the shreds with the puree and fried the babies up.  Eureka!

Latke Trial 2 ready to serve

I really loved these!  My son was totally into them.  My hubby is totally over the latke experiment, as it is ruining his low-carb diet.  Oops!  Finally, my daughter took one bite, saw green, and freaked the hell out.  So, mixed reviews…

Crisp and Creamy Latkes

  • 2 russet potatoes
  • 1 large cooking onion
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup rice flour or AP flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon All Purpose flour (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (if you dare)
  • oil for frying- I used vegetable oil

Cut 1 potato and onion into smaller pieces.  Place pieces in blender (if you have a vitamix) or food processor.  Blend into puree with egg, salt, baking powder, flours.  Pour into a bowl and fold in pepper and scallions.

Grate remaining potato with a medium microplane grater.  It will take a while-sorry! Next, mix potato shreds into the puree mixture.

Heat oil over medium to medium-high heat in a large skillet.  Drop around a tablespoon into the hot oil to form latkes, being careful not to crowd the pan.  Flip when edges become a deep golden brown.  When both sides are completely brown, remove latkes to drain on paper towels.  Keep warm in a 250 degree oven, if not serving immediately.  Serve with sour cream and/or applesauce.

On deck is my classic shredded recipe, but I think I want to play with a small amount of the puree still.  I can’t give up the idea of mixing…

Latke Trial 3:

The shredded, but with a twist.  These are a tad more involved than my usual shredded potato latke.  I am trying to combine both types of latkes, plus add some bread crumbs (because I don’t happen to have matzo meal on hand). I read an article yesterday about how using flour creates a gummy texture, and how matzo meal is the way to go.  It supposedly binds without becoming mush.  I am deciding to substitute bread crumbs, because A. I am not a fan of matzo meal and B. I think it should have the same effect.

I decided to split the difference with the shreds vs. puree.  I am puree-ing 1/2 of one potato and 1/2 of the onion with the regular blade in my food processor for these.  Then, I switched the blade and shredded the rest of the potatoes (1 1/2).  I then decided to chop the remaining 1/2 onion for texture and more of an onion hit.

Latke Trial 3 shredded potaotes

Then I added 1/4 cup bread crumbs,1/2 teaspoon baking powder,  1 tablespoon potato starch, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1 whole egg, plus 1 egg white.

Latke Trial 3 in the frying pan

I decided to do three things differently during frying.  1.  I used about double the oil to ensure complete 360 degree crispness.  2. I made them a bit thicker than usual.  3. I resisted the urge to press them down.

Perfection In Latke Form

Perfection In Latke Form

Ingredients

  • 2 medium-large russet potatoes, do not peel
  • 1 large cooking onion
  • 1 whole egg and 1 egg white
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs, matzo meal, or cracker meal
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch
  • Canola or vegetable oil for frying

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, puree 1/2 of 1 potato and 1/2 onion until the texture of thick apple sauce.  
  2. Switch blades to the shredder disk.  
  3. Shred remaining 1 1/2 potatoes.  
  4. Chop remaining onion.  
  5. Put everything into a large mixing bowl.  
  6. Add egg and egg white, salt, pepper, baking powder, bread crumbs, and potato starch.  
  7. Stir well.  
  8. As mixture sits, liquid will collect. Just stir liquid back into mixture before scooping for latkes.
  9. Heat 1/2 inch oil to 360-375 degrees in a large skillet.  
  10. Scoop about 3 tablespoons latke mixture into oil.  
  11. Do not press down (can gently flatten just the top a bit).  
  12. Let cook until the edges turn a deep golden brown.  
  13. Flip and cook on the other side until browned and crisp all around.  
  14. Drain on paper towels.
  15. Serve immediately with apple sauce and/or sour cream.
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*Just finished eating these, and they were literally the best latkes ever!  I am pretty sure I just revolutionized my latke technique for life.  Try them and let me know what you think.

P.S.  I know some of you like to hand grate, but I actually think that the food processor does a better job and comes out crispier with less damage to the potato shreds’ cellular integrity (that sounds so scientific- not even sure if it is a thing).  Feel free to do this recipe with a hand grater, if desired.

P.P.S.  I also realized that the latke style you grew up with will always be your favorite.  There is a certain comfort food nostalgia that latkes bring about in people.  I am pretty sure that there are as many perfect latkes as there are Jewish people in the world, and that is just the way it should be.  Happy frying!

Brisket of The World

I just assumed that everyone had a “go-to” brisket recipe, until the other day when one of my Facebook friends was looking for an easy recipe.  I put my two cents in, since I really just can’t help myself.  I guess my recipe isn’t super simple for brisket novices, but she told me I lost her when I got to “sear the meat.”  However, for those of you who have made brisket once or twice, I thought I would break down my recipe with lots of photos, to make it less daunting.  It is really easy, though it is a bit time consuming.  However, it can be done a day in advance, sliced, and reheated right before serving, and it is truly delicious.  This is for those of you that want something extra special, or for when you just can’t face that old barbecue brisket one more time.

All our food for Rosh Hashanah 2014
Part of my Rosh Hashanah table for 5 adults and 3 kids. Think we had leftovers?

I used two small brisket for this recipe, but it would work with one larger brisket as well (or a single smaller brisket, just reduce everything by half).

First, salt and pepper your meat liberally. Heat a large pan on the stove over medium-high heat. (I use my turkey roaster)

Searing the brisket on the stove, fat side down
Searing on the fat side

After about 5 minutes in the smoking hot pan, flip your meat.  Use tongs, if possible.

The seared brisket

Then cut up some mushrooms, celery, carrots (or just use the baby carrots in a bag!), garlic and shallot (onion can be substituted).

The carrots, mushroom and celery prepped for the brisket

The shallots and garlic for the brisket

Put all of the veggies in the pan and let them cook a bit on the stove top.  They do not have to be done all the way through.  This baby is going to be cooking in the oven for a LONG time.

cooking brisket and veggies in the pan on the stove top

Add your tomato paste, wine and beef stock, a couple of bay leaves, salt and pepper (not too much at this point!), a couple of pinches of sugar to cut the acidity, and thyme.  The liquid should come almost all the way up to the top of the meat without covering it.  Fat side should be facing up.

brisket in pan with liquid and veggies

Cover the whole shebang tightly with some aluminum foil.  Pop this whole thing into a 300 degree oven for 3-4 hours.

Cover your brisket with aluminum foil

After the long braise, remove meat to a cutting board and let cool for about 15-20 minutes.  Slice against the grain.

the sliced brisket

Remove 1/2 vegetables to a separate bowl.  Make sure to discard the bay leaves at this point.

all the cooked ingredients for the brisket

Now, I pour half the braising liquid from the pan and the remaining veggies into a big pot.  Leave the other half of the braising liquid in the roasting pan.  I then blend it as smooth as possible with my immersion blender.  If you don’t have one (run to the store and buy one!) blend in batches in your regular blender.  Seriously, the immersion blender is right up there with sliced bread IMHO.

Blending the braising liquid with an immersion blender

Next, arrange the sliced brisket in the pan with the braising liquid.  Return to a 300 degree oven for about 1-2 hours or until ready to serve.  The meat will be falling apart tender at this point!  Serve with the blended gravy and vegetables the side.  Your guests will go on and on about how wonderful you are.  Be prepared for fawning.

the finished brisket

a perfect rosh hashanah plate

Savory Wine Braised Brisket with Mushroom Gravy

Savory Wine Braised Brisket with Mushroom Gravy

Ingredients

  • 1 large or 2 small beef briskets (about 5-7 lbs total)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 ounces mushrooms, whole or halved
  • 8 ounces baby carrots
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 large shallots or 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 bottle dry red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 1 box beef stock (might be a little left over)
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Heat a large roasting pan on the stove (might take two burners) over medium-high heat with the olive oil.
  3. Season brisket(s) with salt and pepper liberally.
  4. Sear fat side down for 5-7 minutes or until a deep brown crust forms.
  5. Flip and sear for 5 more minutes.
  6. Add the mushrooms, carrots, celery, shallots, and garlic.
  7. Brown the vegetables for an additional 3-5 minutes.
  8. Add the bay leaves, thyme, tomato paste, wine and beef stock until liquid comes about 1/2 inch from the top of the brisket.
  9. Season sparingly with sugar and additional salt and pepper (about 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper).
  10. Cover tightly with foil.
  11. Braise in oven for 3-4 hours.
  12. Remove meat to cutting board.
  13. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  14. Slice against the grain, about 1/4 inch slices or thinner.
  15. Remove half the vegetables and braising liquid to a large pot.
  16. Blend well until smooth with an immersion blender to make the gravy.
  17. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.
  18. If gravy is too thick (is this possible?), thin with a little beef stock.
  19. Set aside.
  20. Remove remaining vegetables to a serving bowl and set aside.
  21. Place brisket slices side by side in remaining braising liquid in the roasting pan. (If doing a day ahead, cover and refrigerate all components at this point).
    The next day or when finishing-
  1. Cover tightly with foil and braise for 1 1/2- 2 additional hours at 300 degrees.
  2. Serve hot brisket slices with reheated gravy and vegetables on the side.
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For the Love of All Things Dairy (Kugel!)

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I have been wracking my brain, trying to invent a reason to share my Ultimate Dairy Kugel recipe with you, and this week I actually have a pretty good one.  It is Shavuot, a Jewish holiday that is lesser known to some people(we have a lot of those).  I don’t really understand why we don’t talk more about it, because it definitely tops my list of favorite holidays due to the custom of consuming delicious dairy-laden foods such as Blintzes, cheesecakes, and such. The holiday actually commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai and the counting of weeks from Passover until that event. Shavuot means “Weeks”, and there are some interesting ideas about why we eat dairy, but let’s just say it is “Tradition, tradition!” And sing it in your loudest ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ voice while baking my favorite food in the world.

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enjoy the ultimate dairy kugel

Seriously, this would be a side dish to my last meal on Earth if possible. It is kind of like an upside down cheesecake but with buttered noodles in it. There are non-dairy versions, savory versions, matzah versions for Passover, but none hold a candle to the dairy kind (in my humble opinion). This is the best one I have ever made. I have tweaked a few other recipes to create this one. It is very forgiving- you can take out the raisins, you can take out the pineapple, you can do a cornflake crust on top if you wish, but please don’t go fat free dairy on me! It is a special treat, especially cold for breakfast the next day! Enjoy.

Lauren’s Shavuot Ultimate Dairy Kugel

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

First, boil the noodles according to the package directions. Drain and coat with 1/2 stick of butter.  Pour it all into a 9×13 inch baking dish.

Butter Noodles
Buttery noodle goodness

This is optional, but I like to soak my raisins a bit in hot liquid (water, rum, bourbon, or in this case I used the pineapple juice that I drained from the crushed pineapple).

Next, in a blender, combine the cottage cheese and the cream cheese (room temperature, please). If you have a vitamix or a large blender, feel free to add the sour cream, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. If you have a small blender, add the rest by hand, whisking or blending to get a smooth texture.

Ultimate Dairy Kugel mixture in a blender
This is the whole shebang in my Vitamix- best invention ever!

Then mix the drained pineapple, drained soaked raisins, and the cream cheese mixture into the noodles, straight into the pan. Stir everything around gently to evenly distribute the good stuff.

ultimate dairy kugel before cooking
Almost there, baby!

To make the crumb topping, just mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter until it resembles sand.

ultimate dairy kugel topping

Then, just sprinkle the goodness on top of the kugel.  This is a large amount of crumb topping, because I like it that way.  You can cut the amount in half if you wish.

ultimate dairy kugel before the oven

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 35-45 minutes or until golden brown on top and firm to the touch.

ultimate dairy kugel all cooked

Let cool for at least 30 minutes. I love this slightly warm, at room temperature or cold in the morning for breakfast- Don’t judge.

Ultimate Dairy Kugel Recipe

Ultimate Dairy Kugel Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 (12 ounce) package wide egg noodles, cooked
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 8 ounces cottage cheese
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
  • 16 ounces sour cream
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar (can reduce by 1/4 cup if desired)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained well
  • 1/2 cup raisins (I prefer Golden raisins)
    For the Topping:
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (or gingersnap crumbs!)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Boil noodles according to package, drain.
  3. Return to pot with the butter and stir until butter melts and coats noodles.
  4. Pour into a 9x13" baking pan prepared with non-stick cooking spray.
  5. Blend cottage cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, vanilla and sugar until smooth (either in a large blender or by hand).
  6. Add in drained pineapple and raisins.
  7. Stir and pour over the buttered noodles.
  8. Combine all topping ingredients until mixture resembles coarse sand.
  9. Sprinkle evenly over top of kugel.
  10. Bake for 15 minutes,
  11. reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for 35-45 minutes more until golden brown and firm to the touch in center.
  12. Let cool for at least 30 minutes.
  13. Serve slightly warm, room temperature, or cold the next day.
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