Full of helpful advice for families starting to think about their child's bat or bar mitzvah, Bar & Bat Mitzvah For The Interfaith Family will be a helpful primer to all families (not just interfaith!).
This booklet explains the history of Hanukkah, the symbolism and significance of lighting candles for eight nights, the blessings that accompany the lighting of the candles, the holiday's foods, the game of dreidels, and more!
Connecting Interfaith Families to Jewish Life in Greater Cleveland by providing programs and opportunities for interfaith families to experience Judaism in a variety of venues, meet other interfaith families, and to connect to other Jewish organizations that may serve their needs.
A great way for Jewish professionals and volunteers who work with and provide programming for people in interfaith relationships to locate resources and trainings to build more welcome into their Jewish communities; connect with and learn from each other; and publicize and enhance their programs and services.
There are two stories associated with Hanukkah: One tells how the vial of oil that was supposed to last for one day lasted for eight, and the other is the story of Judith and how she saved her town from annihilation at the hands of General Holefernes by getting him drunk on salty cheese and wine until he passed out and was killed. The latter story is not often told in Hebrew school (for good reason!), but the holiday’s culinary tradition of eating foods prepared with cheese is widespread throughout Mediterranean Jewish communities.
Doughnuts, or sufganiot as they are called in Israel, are a Sephardi treat. Ponchiki, however, are traditionally made in Poland and Eastern Europe, the area where Ashkenazi Jews came from. So this recipe not only combines two culinary traditions and two cultural areas of Judaism, it also fulfills the holiday traditions of consuming fried foods and cheese.
1. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a one-quart bowl. Set aside.
2. Whisk the egg in a two-quart bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla, continuing to whisk until foamy and well combined.
3. Add the cheese and whisk vigorously to break it down into small particles, thoroughly combining it with the egg mixture.
4. Add the flour mixture and stir with the whisk or a spatula until no particles of flour are visible.
5. Heat the oil in a small, deep fryer or in a two-quart saucepan to a temperature of 375ºF. If necessary, add enough oil to come to a depth of about two inches. If you don’t have a deep-fry thermometer, you’ll know the oil is ready when a little bit of dough rolls in the oil and begins to brown.
6. Using a small spring ice-cream scoop or a tablespoon and rubber spatula, scoop up some dough and drop it into the hot oil. Don’t fry more than six balls at a time so the oil temperature remains constant. Turn doughnut holes over, if necessary, to brown on all sides. Doughnuts will be done after about three minutes. If holes are browning too fast, lower the heat slightly.
7. Crumple paper towels on a plate to drain the holes of excess oil. While still warm, toss them in confectioner’s sugar or in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.
They are best eaten warm but will stay crisp for a few hours.
Homemade Farmer’s Cheese
Makes about two to three cups.
½ gallon whole or 2 percent milk
1 quart buttermilk
½ tsp. salt
1. Bring milk and buttermilk to a simmer. Add the salt and continue to cook until the ingredients separate into curds and whey.
2. Scoop up the cheese with a skimmer or small strainer and place in a large double-mesh strainer or colander lined with three layers of cheesecloth. Let the cheese sit so any excess moisture can drip out, then bring the edges of the cloth together and twist them to force out any leftover moisture.
3. Refrigerate the cheese until ready to use in a recipe, or eat with jam on toast.
As Hanukkah and Christmas overlap this year, it’s a fine time to share my beloved recipe for rugelach. Before I became Jewish, I had always loved the Christmas cookie baking traditions—from the aromas that filled the house to all the flavors and textures of the different cookies. And all the sampling, of course. Celebrating my first Hanukkah made me yearn for a sweet little bite to bake for the holiday. Hanukkah-themed sugar cookies fell way short, as did a few other strategies. Then I came upon rugelach (the name for which likely comes from the Yiddish word for “royal”). These American-Jewish delicacies that are part cookie and part pastry captured my baking heart, and I’ve made this recipe every year since. It beautifully combines a delicate texture with the comforting flavors of cinnamon, pecans and a kiss of apricot. Rugelach would go well on any cookie tray and a tin full of these makes a wonderful gift.
Cream Cheese Rugelach with Cinnamon and Brown Sugar
1. Cream the cheese and butter in a large bowl until smooth and light. Add ¼ cup granulated sugar, salt and vanilla. Stir in the flour until just combined. The dough will be very sticky. Add a little additional flour if needed to make it cohesive.
2. Divide it into four equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Place one ball on a large piece of plastic wrap, gently press into a disk shape, and then enclose in the plastic. Repeat with the other three balls. Refrigerate for 1 hour or freeze for 20 minutes.
3. Make the filling by combining 6 Tbsp. of granulated sugar, the brown sugar, ¾ tsp. cinnamon and the pecans. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
4. Remove one disk from the refrigerator; unwrap and place dough on a floured surface. Gently roll into an approximate 9-inch circle. Spread a generous ½ Tbsp. of the apricot preserves over the dough to about ¼ inch from the edge. Sprinkle evenly with a scant ½ cup of brown-sugar filling and gently press. Cut the circle into 12 wedges. Starting at the wide edge, roll up each triangle. Place the formed pastries seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes or freeze for about 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
6. Make the topping by combining the 1½ Tbsp. granulated sugar and the ½ tsp. cinnamon.
7. Brush each pastry with the egg and milk mixture, and sprinkle lightly with sugar-cinnamon topping. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until well browned. Remove from oven, and let rest on the cookie sheet for 2 to 3 minutes before transferring rugelach to a wire rack. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Yield: 48 rugelach
Note: Assembled pastries can be frozen and baked at a later time. Defrost partially before placing in oven, and allow extra time for baking.
Ahhhh, summer. The days are long and hot and Shabbat is even longer and hotter. When it comes to prepping for Shabbat in the summer, it’s always nice to have more hours in the day on Fridays. I love having those extra hours to work on a special main course or to enjoy a refreshing homemade margarita (compliments of my sous chef, who also happens to be my husband). But the toss up, of course, is that havdalah doesn’t come in until as late as 9 pm and with a preschooler who wants snacks every 20 minutes and a husband who eats everything in sight, I’ve gotta be prepared with tons of food options on Shabbat. Since I try to curb too much sugar eating, I’ve started having these homemade popsicles on hand for a late afternoon Shabbat treat. They are a BIG hit with the little and big members of my family. They are not overly sweet but lean more to the cool and refreshing genre of popsicles.
Feel free to add a little bit of maple syrup in with your honey if you’re wanting them a bit sweeter. Either way, you’ll feel a lot better for giving your family a tasty, cool treat that is free of refined sugar and food coloring and packed full of healthy goodness. Enjoy!
1 1/2 cups mixture of raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 1/2 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. plus 2 Tbsp. honey
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup canned coconut milk
1/2 cup almond milk
1. In a small sauce pot, combine berries, water and 3 tablespoons honey. Bring to a boil until liquid is syrupy and thick. Remove from heat. Stir in the lemon juice. Do not mash the blueberries, keep them as is (it’s prettier).
2. In a small bowl, whisk in 2 tablespoons of honey, the vanilla, coconut and almond milk.
3. Fill popsicle molds a little over half full of coconut-almond milk. Spoon in berry mixture to fill the popsicle mold.
4. Place mold in freezer for 1 hour. Remove molds and insert wooden sticks into each popsicle cavity. Place mold back in the freezer for at least another 4 hours until ice pops are solid.
For summer, we are taking inspiration from the layers of an Italian lasagna as well as the sweetness of kugel. Lasagna is of course a classic Italian dish. Its creamy, rich filling is a perfect comfort food for the chilly days of fall and winter. In Jewish kitchens, noodle kugel (Lokshen Kugel) makes an appearance several times a year. It is a great dairy option for a Yom Kippur break fast and a favorite for Shavuot when we eat dairy.
These mini sweet summer lasagna-kugels let you take the in-season fruits of summer and layer them between a delicious ricotta filling and pasta. They are great served warm with some grilled fruit for a sweet and light meal at breakfast, lunch or dinner, or they can be enjoyed straight from the fridge for a little after-camp snack or picnic treat. This can be made as a single dish in a large pan or as individual minis in a muffin tin.
Sweet Summer Mini Kugels
8-10 lasagna noodles or 6 oz. of wide egg noodles
1 cup of whole milk ricotta
2 oz. of cream cheese
1 lemon, zested
1 tsp. of vanilla
4 Tbsp. of sugar, divided
1 1/2 cups of fruit preserves or a bowl of cherries, a bowl of raspberries and a bowl of apricots (about 2 cups of stewed fruit)
1/2 cup of sour cream
1. Begin by cooking and straining the pasta so it has time to cool. Add 1 Tbsp. of sugar and the vanilla into the pasta water and bring it to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (as noted on the box). If you are using muffin tins for individual kugels, I recommend using the egg noodles because they fit more easily into the cups. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
2. You can use preserves if time is an issue, but this is a perfect way to use up fruit that is becoming a bit overripe or isn’t so pretty anymore and you want to cook with it. In a small saucepan, add the fruit (peel and all is OK) and a tablespoon of water. Cover the pot and cook on medium-low until the fruit softens. Then take the lid off and cook on low until the fruit breaks down into the consistency of a compote or apple sauce.
Fruits with skins like apricots will separate from the skins and you can just pull out the skins from the pot. If you like your kugel to be a bit sweeter, then add some sugar to the mixture a teaspoon at a time to taste.
3. Set the preserves aside in a bowl to cool.
4. In a bowl, mix the ricotta, egg, lemon zest and 2 Tbsp. of sugar. If you are using the egg noodles, once the pasta has cooled, add 1 Tbsp. of the ricotta mixture to the pasta and toss to coat.
5. Now you layer your kugel (like a traditional lasagna). If you are using lasagna noodles, add 1 Tbsp. of the ricotta mixture to the bottom of a 9×9 inch glass baking dish. Then add a layer of noodles, a layer of the ricotta mixture, a layer of fruit, a layer of lasagna noodles and a thin layer of the ricotta on top.
If you are using egg noodles and a muffin tin, put cupcake liners in each spot. Take the noodles that have been tossed with a little of the ricotta mixture and put a thin layer of them on the bottom. Add a layer of ricotta and a layer of fruit. The advantage of muffin tins is that you can do a variety of flavors. I did cherry, raspberry and apricot. Top the fruit with a layer of the egg noodles.
6. Bake at 350°F for 35 minutes for the individual kugels until the top is lightly golden brown. For the larger kugel, cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Cook time depends on how juicy your fruit is. The top will be golden brown and the fruit will bubble up a little when done.
7. For the topping which can be drizzled on top, mix 1/2 cup of sour cream with 1 Tbsp. of sugar. Drizzle over slices at the table.
Serve with a fruit salad or some grilled fruit for a full, fruity, sweet meal.
Shavuot. The “Festival of Weeks.” If ever there was a confusing holiday (Shmini Atzeret aside), Shavuot is it. The definition of “Shavuot” alone is confusing enough. Festival of Weeks? Who wants to celebrate a festival of weeks!? That said, if ever there was an example of why one should never judge anything by its name alone, Shavuot is such an example.
So what are we celebrating, exactly? First, there is the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai (kind of a big deal). Then there is the completion of the counting of the Omer (the weeks between Passover and Shavuot, thus, “Festival of WEEKS”). The counting of the Omer reminds us of the important connection between Passover and Shavuot: Passover freed the Jews physically from bondage, but the giving of the Torah on Shavuot redeemed the Jews spiritually from bondage to idolatry and immorality. But I always wonder, have we really been “freed” from our bondage to idolatry? I’m gonna go with a hard, “NO” on that one.
In my role as a high school counselor, I am often meeting and talking with students about their personal expectations. Too often, adolescents (and their parents, for that matter) have expectations for themselves that are not remotely attainable. Whether it’s trying to fit their body or personal image to that of a celebrity or the pursuit of academic perfection, I would argue that we are still very much bound to worshiping of idols. As a society, we have given so much power to fame and perfection, it is worshiped as truth. Adolescents “follow” celebrities and try in vain to emulate their lifestyle in such a way that they are willing to risk their financial status and physical, mental and emotional health. If that’s not worshiping of an idol, I don’t know what is.
Speaking of worship, Shavuot has recently become of my most favorite holidays due to the foods that are traditionally eaten on this day: dairy foods and spring/summer veggies and fruit. I’m talking foods such as cheesecakes and fresh green salads and gorgeous, ripe fruit. It’s a time of newness and of a re-commitment to learning and spirituality. I dream of hosting a huge picnic in a kibbutz sometime, the sun shining down upon my family and friends and eating salads and cakes until we feel we’re about to burst! One of the cakes I’ll be offering up during a meal this Shavuot is this gorgeous Semolina Cara Cara Orange Cake. Not only does it lend itself to a beautiful presentation, it just so happens to taste good as well. A double threat, if you will.
Semolina Cara Cara Orange Cake
Candied Orange Peel with Syrup Topping:
3/4cuporange blossom honey
3 Tbsp. green cardamom pods, crushed
1 Cara Cara orange, thinly sliced
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bring sugar, honey, cardamom and 3 cups water to a boil in a medium heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add orange slices.
2. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, turning orange slices occasionally until tender and syrup is reduced to 3 1/4 cups, about 40 minutes.
3. Arrange orange slices in a single layer on prepared baking sheet; remove cardamom pods and seeds. Strain syrup.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover syrup and orange slices separately; chill. Return orange slices to room temperature and rewarm syrup slightly before using.
Ingredients for Cake
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup plain yogurt (I used coconut milk yogurt, which was completely fine and delicious)
1 cup fine semolina PLUS 1 cup coarse semolina (or 2 cups coarse semolina)
⅓ cup milk or almond milk
1 tsp. baking powder
Directions for Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
2. Place the butter in a small bowl and melt in the microwave. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine together the sugar and yogurt. Now add in the semolina, baking powder and milk. Finally stir in the melted butter and let the mixture sit briefly so that the butter is absorbed.
4. Transfer the semolina mixture into a lightly greased 9″-round cake pan or baking dish. Bake for about 40-45 minutes.
5. Pierce the hot cake all over with a metal skewer. Slowly drizzle 3/4 cup warm syrup all over. When syrup is absorbed, slowly pour 3/4 cup more syrup over the top. Reserve remaining syrup for serving. Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack. Once cool, run a thin knife around edge of pan to release cake. Remove pan sides. Arrange candied orange slices over top.
Missing morning carb treats like doughnuts? No need to stress if you are following the culinary traditions for Passover. Burmolikos are light, soft puffs of egg and matzah that are fried in oil (and bear no resemblance to heavy matzah fritters). They are a wonderful treat eaten by Bulgarian Jews during Passover and year-round because they are so delicious! Be sure to roll them with cinnamon and sugar while they’re still warm, or eat them with jam or honey.
Burmolikos (Bulgarian Matzah Puffs) Makes 10-12 puffs
2 sheets plain matzah
1 egg yolk
1/8 tsp. salt
Canola or cottonseed oil
½ cup sugar mixed with ½ tsp. cinnamon
Jam or honey (optional)
1. Break the matzah into large pieces and soak in a bowl of warm water until soft, about 15 minutes.
2. Drain the matzah and squeeze handfuls until almost all of the water is removed. Place in a 2-quart bowl.
3. Add the eggs, egg yolk and salt to the clumps of matzah and combine well with a fork.
4. Heat the oil in a small saucepan or deep fryer to a depth of 2 inches—if you use a 1-quart saucepan you will use only about 1 cup oil and will only be able to make 2 puffs at a time. However, they cook quickly so it is up to you.
5. When the oil is hot, drop the mixture by oval soup spoon or ice cream scoop into the oil and fry on one side until golden, about 1-2 minutes. Turn over puff and fry on the other side until golden—another minute. Drain on crumpled paper towels (you use fewer towels and have more surface area to absorb the oil).
Coat with the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Burmolikos can also be served with jam or honey.
Some “Tina’s Tidbits”
This recipe is classically European since there is no sugar in the batter. Before you add some sugar, you might try adding 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract or a pinch of nutmeg to the batter to create a taste similar to a cake doughnut.
The puffs don’t need to be fried in a deep fryer. I used a 1-quart saucepan. This allows me to use less oil while still keeping the depth I need to make the Burmolikos initially submerge. I can only make 2 or 3 at a time, but they cook in less than 2 minutes and stay warm for at least 10-15 minutes.
Try using an ice cream scoop with a release wire for your batter. This will give you more rounded puffs.
This mixture puffs so well because the water in the soaked matzos turns to steam when it cooks in the hot oil.
If you use gluten-free matzos, this recipe is then gluten-free and dairy-free!
Hamentaschen or “Haman’s Pockets” are the traditional dessert of Ashkenazi Jews on the holiday of Purim. Originally containing poppy seed filling in medieval Germany, it later became popular to fill the Hamentashen with prune filling. This tradition was started in 1731 to honor a Jewish prune jam merchant named David Brandeis. David was acquitted after being charged erroneously with trying to poison the magistrate of Jungbunzlau in northeastern Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic). To celebrate his acquittal the people in his community filled Hamantashen with his plum jam and called it Poivadl (plum/prune) Purim. Today Hamentaschen are filled with many different flavors of fruit jams, nuts and even chocolate.
It is difficult for people suffering from Celiac Disease and others whose bodies are sensitive to gluten to participate in many food customs when one’s diet is restricted in this way. Creating recipes that allow people on restricted diets to participate fully in the enjoyment of Jewish culinary traditions is a very important goal of mine. The following two recipes can be made dairy free as well as gluten-free if you so choose and it is delicious either way. Choose either to make chocolate cookie dough or traditional sugar cookie dough, both with delicious chocolate filling. Enjoy!
For your chocolate filling, you can either follow the instructions below, or use Nutella or Israeli chocolate spread Hashachar H’aole.
¾ stick of unsalted butter
3 oz. chocolate chips + 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate OR 3.5 oz. bar of 78% cacao
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. almond extract
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon rice flour
1. Place butter and chocolate in a 1 ½ quart glass mixing bowl and microwave on 80 percent power for 45 seconds; if butter is not completely melted then heat on high for 15 more seconds. Stir contents of bowl until smooth.
2. Whisk the sugar, extracts and salt into the chocolate mixture. Combine well to dissolve some of the sugar.
3. Add eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition.
4. Add the rice flour and whisk until a smooth, shiny mass is formed and pulls away from the side of the bowl.
5. Place mixture in a sealed container and refrigerate until needed. Filling will become firm but not too firm to scoop into little mounds for filling Hamentaschen.
Note: Chocolate often retains it shape when melted, so don’t over heat or it will burn. One tablespoon rice flour is equivalent to two tablespoons flour if gluten is not a concern and you don’t have rice flour at home.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Hamentaschen
Makes about 2 dozen hamentaschen
2 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. pure almond extract
2 cups Gluten-free flour (Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 to regular flour)
1 stick unsalted butter, Crisco or coconut oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
½ tsp. xanthan powder
filling of your choice
* For chocolate cookie dough, do not use almond extract, but instead use 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract. Instead of 2 cups flour, use 1 3/4 cup Gluten-free flour and 1/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa.
1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until thoroughly combined.
3. Add the eggs, vanilla and almond extracts, and beat until lighter in color and fluffy.
4. Combine the 2 cups flour, baking powder, salt and xanthan in a 1 quart bowl. Add to mixer bowl and mix on medium speed just until the dough starts to hold together.
5. Very gently knead the dough on a surface lightly floured with additional flour about ten strokes or until the dough is smooth and holds together. Cover with plastic wrap, flatten into a disc and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
6. Place dough between two sheets of parchment paper or waxed paper that have been lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Roll the dough out to about ¼ inch thickness.
Carefully remove one sheet of paper (you might have to scrape some of the dough off if it sticks) and then place dough side down on a board that is heavily covered with confectioner’s sugar. Carefully remove the paper on top and, if necessary dust with additional confectioner’s sugar and lightly roll to make the surface uniform in thickness. (NOTE: This is only necessary if dough was very sticky and pulled apart when removing paper.)
7. Cut the dough into 2 ½ inch circles using the mouth of a glass. Place 1 scant teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle. Using your thumbs and forefingers shape the hamentaschen. Imagine the circle is a clock; place your two thumbs at 6 o’clock and your forefingers at 2 and 10. Gently bring your fingers together and you will have formed a perfect hamantashen triangle! Pinch the dough together so that the filling is exposed only at the top of the cookie.
8. Bake hamentaschen in the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes or until golden. Can be stored in a plastic bag or airtight container when cool or freeze for later use. Share with friends! Happy Purim!
I’m in the throes of what I’ve dubbed the “Summer of Love.” I’ve hit the age where my Facebook feed is dominated by photos of engagements and newborns, and the only snail mail I get is wedding invitations and baby announcements. In the next three months, I’m slated to go to six weddings—and that’s after I found a way to weasel my way out of three. Oy!
But I’m not complaining! Quite the opposite. I’m actually really looking forward to meeting these new baby-friends and attending these open bars—um, I mean, celebrations of love. In fact, one wedding I’m especially excited for is in just a few weeks, when my dear friend Rachel marries Pascal, a guy she met and fell for while the two were in grad school together at Brandeis. But it’s not quite your typical Brandeis love story: Rachel is American Jewish, and Pascal is Haitian Catholic.
Their wedding will celebrate both of their cultures. They’re going to have some of the Jewish prayers also recited in French. We’re going to dance the hora, then get down to some Carimi (Pascal’s favorite Haitian band). And then there’s my favorite culture clash: the food. In addition to chopped liver, knishes and a latke bar (!), they’ll be offering fried plantains, mango chicken and du riz a pois (rice and beans). And for a familial touch, Rachel’s asked some of her food-minded friends—myself included—to bring a small plate of sweets to add to the dessert table.
The timing is perfect to be thinking about weddings: Judaism’s very own holiday of love, Tu B’av, begins at sundown on July 21. Historically, Tu B’av was a matchmaking day on which unmarried women were paired with spouses. But it’s morphed into a more general day of love. Kind of like a less acknowledged, summertime Valentine’s Day—minus the Hallmark domination. And, like the more popular day in February, Tu B’av is considered a lucky date on which to get engaged and married. Rachel and Pascal’s wedding is only a couple weeks later, so I’m thinking some of that luck will carry over (not that they need it).
While thinking about Tu B’av, I was struck with an idea for my dessert recipe’s base: halvah, the dense, nutty confection popular among Jews all over the world. I love its mellow sweetness and chewy tackiness, which feels a bit like astronaut food (in a good way!). Halvah is great eaten straight from supermarket shelves, but I plan to give it a little flair by dipping it in chocolate and topping it with nuts and sesame seeds. I think I’ve found a cross-cultural recipe that everyone can enjoy.
Chocolate-Coated Halvah with Nuts
Makes about 16 pieces
1 pound halvah (flavor of your choice)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
¼ cup almonds, roughly chopped and toasted (I used shelled and blanched)
¼ cup pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped
½ teaspoon salt
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
1. Line a plate with parchment paper. Holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, slice halvah in half height-wise, making two planks. Cut each plank into 8 equal pieces.
2. Heat small, dry pan over medium heat. Add sesame seeds and toast until slightly darkened in color, about 4 minutes. Transfer to small bowl.
3. Heat now-empty pan over medium heat and add almonds. Toast until slightly darkened in color, about 3 minutes. Transfer to small bowl with sesame seeds. Add pistachios and salt to bowl and stir until well-mixed.
4. Using microwave or double-boiler method, melt half of chocolate. Working piece by piece, dip half of halvah pieces in chocolate until fully coated, allow excess to drain off, and transfer to parchment-lined dish.
5. While chocolate is still warm, generously sprinkle nut mixture over tops of chocolate-coated halvah. Repeat chocolate dipping and sprinkling steps with remaining halvah pieces.
6. Transfer plate to refrigerator until chocolate has firmed up. Chocolate-coated halvah can be kept in the refrigerator for one week.
Reprinted with permission from JewishBoston.com. Chosen Eats appears every Thursday on JewishBoston.com.
I’ve run the gamut of Valentine’s Day experiences. And while I’m rather indifferent to the general idea of the holiday, no celebration I’ve had as an adult has ever matched the ones from when I was a kid. I remember the excitement of picking out the perfect cards (in my case, always Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-themed), choosing which type of candy to attach to them, and then matching the message on the card to each of my classmates’ personalities.
This year, I was thinking about the adult equivalent of those childhood valentines. Now, instead of a classroom, most of us spend our days in an office. Instead of classmates, we have coworkers. And while I’m all for injecting a bit of youthful fun into the workplace, I draw the line at giving my colleagues cartoon cards that call them “dudette” and asking them to be my “mondo Valentine.” (That’s Ninja Turtle speak for “I like you.”) I wanted to bring back the Valentine’s Day tradition of bringing in treats for everyone, but this year I didn’t have time to make any quintessential adult sweets, such as homemade truffles or caramels.
Enter chocolate bark. This sweet can get pigeonholed as a December treat, but it’s easy to make (only four ingredients!), attractive to wrap and appealing to eat all year round. My coworkers will be noshing on this version, with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and coconut, but the toppings are easy to change based on your recipients’ tastes.
Chocolate Bark with Pepitas and Coconut
Makes eight 1-ounce portions
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Maldon sea salt
1. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. Stirring frequently, toast coconut in small skillet over medium heat. Once coconut turns the color of straw, transfer to small bowl to cool.
3. Add chocolate to medium, heatproof bowl and set over pot of simmering water. (Do not let water touch bottom of bowl.) Stirring frequently, heat chocolate until fully melted. Quickly pour onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet and tilt pan until distributed evenly, but not covering entire pan. (Otherwise your bark will be too thin.)
4. Sprinkle coconut, pepitas and salt, to taste, evenly over chocolate. Transfer to refrigerator until firm, about 1 hour. Remove from refrigerator and break into 1-ounce portions.
Reprinted with permission from JewishBoston.com. Chosen Eats appears every Thursday on JewishBoston.com.
Food pathways show the influence on recipes from region to region and neighbor to neighbor. In Germany, a recipe for gingerbread men was adapted and adopted by Eastern European Jews to make Zimsterne, or “star” cookies to be served at the end of Shabbat after Havdalah services. Containing the spices found in the Bisomim box used during the close of Shabbat service, the symbolism was to take the sweetness of Shabbat with you into the coming week.
With the holiday season coming up and relatives visiting, this cookie is the perfect bridge between Jewish tradition and Christmas cookie baking. Everyone will enjoy the treat and you can share two celebrations with all family members at one time. Best of all, everyone can help make these soft spice cookies or, you can make them in advance. They keep very well in an airtight container and their flavor gets better, as all spice cookies do, with age.
Makes 4 or more dozen depending on size of cookie
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup honey
5 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. ground ginger
Confectioner’s sugar for rolling out dough
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla
1-2 Tbsp. milk
1. Cream the butter and the sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until mixture gets lighter in color. Beat in the honey.
2. Combine the baking soda and spices with 1 cup of the flour. Set aside.
3. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the remaining 4 cups of flour, mixing well to form a thick dough. If your mixer is powerful, use it to add the reserved cup of flour and spices until well combined. If not, stir the remaining flour into the dough by hand. Make sure that the mixture is thoroughly combined.
4. Pat dough into a flat round and place in a plastic storage bag or airtight container. Seal and store in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until firm and easy to handle.
5. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly dust a pastry board with some confectioner’s sugar. Roll the dough out on the board to ¼ inch thickness.
6. Cut the dough into star shapes using a cookie cutter, and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool for 5-10 minutes while you make the icing.
To make the icing:
1. Place the cup of confectioner’s sugar in a 1-quart mixing bowl. Whisk in the vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the milk until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, whisk in some more milk until the mixture resembles mayonnaise in consistency.
2. Using a pastry brush, brush the icing over the tops of the warm cookies and let sit at room temperature until the cookies are cool and the icing is dry and no longer sticky. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, or freeze until later use.
Children love to cut out cookies and transfer them to the cookie sheet. A trick to prevent the dough from dragging on the spatula and losing its shape is to rub a scrap of dough on the spatula and then dip the spatula in some of the confectioner’s sugar before you transfer the cookie onto the baking sheet.
Using a rolling pin is often challenging for young hands. However, rolling pin bands of varying thickness are sold that fit on the ends of the rolling pin to ensure the dough isn’t rolled unevenly.