Queen Esther’s Crown Purim Bread with Samosa Filling

  

samosa crown

Stuffed breads, like dumplings, exist across many cultures. There are the babkas; the Kurdish Jewish stuffed bread known as kadeh; there are Polish kolaches; and Indian parathas. This year, instead of the usual Haman’s hat (Hamantaschen) for Purim, I wanted to try making Queen Esther’s crown. The pastry ring is supposed to look like a queen’s crown and with the inspiration of Indian parathas, this one is stuffed with a samosa-like filling. I hope those of you with Jewish and Indian influences in your home will especially enjoy this recipe!

Queen Esther’s Crown Stuffed Bread

cook veggiesIngredients:

  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 1/2 cup of peas
  • 2 cups diced potatoes
    (8 new potatoes or 2 large)
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. garam masala
  • 1/8 tsp. fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup of chopped dried apricot
  • 1 pre-made uncooked pizza dough
  • 1 egg
  • yogurt, optional

 

Directions:

1.  Remove pizza dough from the fridge to let it come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400° F.

2.  Peel the potatoes and the carrots and dice them into pea-sized cubes.

Filling3.  Add 3/4 cup of water into a small pot with a lid. Heat the water to just before a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Add in the diced carrots, diced potatoes and peas. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Once the vegetables are soft and cooked through but not mushy, take them out of the pan. The water may or may not be completely absorbed.

4.  Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the mustard seed and cook until you start to hear a popping sound. Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent. Then, add the steamed vegetables and sauté for 5 minutes. Add all the spices: salt, mustard seed, turmeric, garam masala and fresh ginger. Stir to combine.

5.  Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside in a bowl to cool. With scissors or a knife, cut the dried apricots into little ¼-inch strips and add them to the vegetables.

6.  Prepare a pan with a sheet of parchment paper.

7.  Grease your hands with a little oil and stretch out your pizza dough into a long thin rectangle. I like to hold the dough up high and let gravity help me stretch it. Keep turning the dough so that you get an even stretch.

samosa

8.  Put the edges together and make a wide crown of dough. It may seem impossible, but stick with it and keep tweaking it. It doesn’t have to be perfectly round and you can adjust it later.

9.  Spoon the filling onto the dough, leaving a small seam at the center of the circle and a larger space on the outer part of the circle. Pull the outside of the crown over the filling and pinch the dough together in the inner circle.

10.  Brush the crown with a beaten egg. Cook for 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.

11.  Serve slices with a spoonful of cool, creamy plain yogurt.

Cooked samosa crown

Double Chocolate Mint Hamentaschen

  

Hamentaschen recipe

Purim is one of the most accessible Jewish holidays to celebrate. Like Halloween, a big part of it is dressing up and being silly. (All-night reading of The Scroll of Esther and lots of drinking are the other parts.) Unlike Halloween, there’s a beautiful part of Purim that involves the giving of gifts to friends and tzedakah (charity) to the poor. If you’re just dipping your toes in the holiday for the first time, a great way to celebrate is with delicious food. Hamentaschen, symbolizing Haman’s hat, from the story of Purim (which has an interfaith story line), are cookies traditionally made with jam or poppy seed filling, but who doesn’t love chocolate?

I was inspired to do a hamantaschen based on my favorite Girl Scout cookie, the Thin Mint. It focuses on that sweet, decadent chocolate and the mint is brought in via a subtle peppermint glaze. And, if peppermint isn’t your thing, just leave it out and you have yourself a delicious chocolate hamantaschen that will please all your friends and family and maybe just introduce the holiday of Purim to a newcomer.

unbaked hamentaschen

Ingredients:

Makes 2 dozen (give or take a couple)

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 6 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon strong coffee
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup large chocolate chips (semi sweet or milk will work. I used milk chocolate)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint oil
  • 3 tablespoons milk

Instructions:

1. Preheat Oven: 350°F

2. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla.

3. Next, add baking powder and flour to the bowl and mix well to combine. Finally, add the cocoa and strong coffee and give it one more good stir (dough should be thick, almost like bread dough).

4. Knead the dough until smooth.

5. Flour a rolling pin and roll out to roughly 1/8 inch thin on a floured board.

6. Using a round cookie cutter or a drinking glass with a wide opening, cut out circles (use the scraps to make cookies as well, just keep forming into a large ball and rolling out thin and repeat process until dough is done).

7. Drop a handful of chocolate chips (should be roughly 10 chips or more) into the center of each circle.

8. Have a glass or small bowl of a little bit of cold water near by so that you can dip your fingers in to help fold the dough into three sides over the filling forming a triangle (water acts as a glue to the dough and will help edges stick).

9. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes on a lined cookie sheet.

10. Once fully cooked, let cool for at least 5 – 10 minutes. While cooling, place the powdered sugar, peppermint oil and milk into a small bowl and stir until milky consistency.

11. Once the cookies are cool, brush the sugar/oil mixture over the tops.

Hamentaschen ready to bake

Glaze the hamentaschen

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Four Cream Cheese Schmears for Shavuot

  

Bagels and schmear for Shavuot

A bagel is naked without a good schmear. The word schmear comes from the Yiddish word “to spread.” In the world of bagels and brunch a schmear has come to mean cream cheese or other, usually cream cheese-based, spreads for bagels.

Schmears-33

This quartet of schmears has something for everyone: There’s a vegetarian, smoked salmon, egg & arugula and a sweet schmear. They are perfect to bring to a Shavuot brunch for a crowd or make one or two for a family meal. Dairy plays a central role on Shavuot because the holiday commemorates the revelation of the Torah. The Torah brings with it the rules of Kashrut  (Kosher laws) and since it was given on Shabbat there could be no cattle slaughtered, so it would have been a dairy day. The Torah is also a symbol of nourishment like milk for a baby. Although dairy is the base for all four of these schmears, they are each very different, easy to whip up and full of flavor.

There are four schmears because each schmear is made with 1/2 block of cream cheese. You can also make three schmears and leave 1/2 a block of cream cheese plain for the picky eaters at the table.

Smoked salmon schmear

Salted Lemon and Smoked Salmon Schmear

Ingredients:

  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 slices of smoked salmon, minced
  • 1/2 block of cream cheese, 4 oz., room temperature

Directions:

Chop your smoked salmon1.  Zest one lemon onto a paper towel. Leave the lemon zest on the paper towel to dry a bit while you prepare the rest of the schmear.

2.  In a small bowl, put the room temperature cream cheese.

3.  Slice the smoked salmon into long, thin strips and then slice them again into little cubes.

4.  Add the lemon zest and salt to the cream cheese and mash it together with a fork.

5.  Once the zest is thoroughly mixed into the cream cheese, carefully mix in the minced smoked salmon. Serve immediately or chill and serve.

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Schmears-15

Vegetarian Tomato Schmear

This can be made vegan with vegan mayonnaise and vegan cream cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 1 plum tomato
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. of mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 small white onion, minced
  • 1/2 block of cream cheese, 4 oz., room temperature

1.  Take the seeds and core out of the plum tomato. Cut the tomato in half and mince it into small cubes. Schmears-13

2.  Sprinkle Kosher salt over the minced tomato.

3.  In a small bowl, add mayonnaise and with a rasp or smallest side of a box grater, grate garlic into the mayonnaise. You can also use a garlic press. Mix garlic into the mayonnaise.

4.  Add the room temperature cream cheese into the garlic mayonnaise. Mash it all together with a fork until it is uniformly mixed.

5.  Mince white onion, about the same size as the tomato. Mix the onion into the cream cheese and then carefully stir in the minced tomato and black pepper. Serve immediately or chill and serve.

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Schmears-30

Eggs and Arugula Schmear

Ingredients:

  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup of sour cream
  • 1/2 block of cream cheese, 4 oz, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. of Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 3/4 cup of baby arugula

 

Egg schmear1. Hard boil two eggs. I like to use the J. Kenji Lopez-Alt method.

2.  With a cheese grater, grate the 2 hard boiled eggs into a bowl. Add in salt, sour cream and mustard and mix together. With a fork, mash in the cream cheese. Toss in black pepper (freshly ground if possible).

3.  Chop about 1 cup of baby arugula, for 3/4 cup of chopped arugula. I like to hold a small bunch of leaves and with kitchen shears, snip the arugula into the egg and cream cheese mixture. Stir together gently until combined. Serve immediately or chill and serve.

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Sweet Schmear with Ginger & Blueberries

The last 1/2 block of cream cheese can be left plain or you can play a little with it for something sweet. I chose to add sugar and ginger.

Schmears-20.

Blueberry schmear on bagelIngredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 block of cream cheese, 4 oz, room temperature
  • 1/4 inch slice of ginger
  • 1/2 cup of blueberries

Mash the sugar into the cream cheese with a fork. Grate the ginger into the mixture and serve with a bowl of fresh blueberries.

Bagel schmears for Shavuot

Semolina Cara Cara Orange Cake

  

Semolina cara cara orange cake shavuot

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.

Semolina cara cara orange cake shavuot

IMG_4027Semolina cara cara orange cake shavuot

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.

Happy eating!

Cara Cara Cake

Top down Cara Cara cake

Finished Cara Cara cake

Semolina Cara Cara Orange Cake

Candied Orange Peel with Syrup Topping:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup orange blossom honey
  • 3 Tbsp. green cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 Cara Cara orange, thinly sliced

 

Directions:

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.