shabbos dinner and some very problematic hamentaschen

you know how most people dream about the weekend because they can see their friends/boyfriend/girlfriend/family and party their hours away?

i am not one of those people.

i dream about the weekend because come friday, i know i have two glorious days of no salary-oriented obligation coming my way. two days of absolute freedom, to do with as i will.

there are, in fact, two versions of this friday dream. the first kind is really a version of the 'party my hours away' scenario--when i have really interesting or exciting weekend plans: a really good photography class, a trip out of town, a weekend in new york city with my nearest and dearest and our favorite restaurant. these weekends are anxiously anticipated, stressed over, packed for, planned for, with a flurry of phone calls and emails as the date draws near. outfits are planned, bars are selected, meeting times added to my google calendar. (in the class scenario, negatives are chosen, equipment is packed, and film is purchased, obviously.)

the second version of this friday dream is more elemental. it's the kind of friday night where i have no plans at all except to stop at the whole foods on my way out of the office and make an ambitious sort of friday dinner. these fridays are savored: new recipes are tried, movies are selected, and, if it is cold out, a fire is most definitely lit in the fireplace. i rarely have company on these fridays. i prefer the more solitary experience of working in my kitchen. which, incidentally, has been almost completely dark for over a month now, since my ceiling lightbulbs burnt out and i can't figure out how to change them. but that's a different problem.

tonight was my first friday night home in several weeks and i wanted to celebrate it accordingly: with a version of what i tend to call "jewish dinner," or shabbos dinner. that is to say, roast chicken with some kind of starch. it's usually rice, or at least it was when i was growing up, but i was armed with nigel slater's kitchen diaries and decided to appropriate his roast chicken with cheese mashed potatoes and gravy. it sounds like a modest meal, and it was, but it was heightened by the fact that this would mark the first time i'd ever attempted to roast an entire chicken.

i found a small young chicken, and enhanced it with a smattering of olive oil, some salt, pepper and garlic powder, and a few cloves of garlic tucked strategically around the bird. i halved some baby yukon gold potatoes and stuck those in the roasting pan to catch the juices. the bird went in upside down for half and hour, then turned properly to finish off. and yes, the breasts were dry--but they were tender, and the dark meat was perfect. (next time i will brine it a bit the day before to seal in some moisture) mashed potatoes got a smattering of cream, butter and jack cheese and i steamed some green beans, just for balance.

but the fun didn't end there. while the chicken was roasting, i decided to make my yearly attempt at jewish cookie baking with some hamentaschen, in honor of purim. hamentaschen are cookie-like pastries in the shape of a triangle and filled with some kind of fruit filling (prune, traditionally, or apricot, but who cares about tradition?) or perhaps some chocolate. i threw it all out the window, including the recipe i've used in past years (and good thing, too, because it never worked, resulting in seriously spread out cookies and burned jam) and turned to my treasury of jewish holiday baking. within these pages i have found many good ideas, and tonight was no exception: a simple cookie dough for hamentaschen, with a chocolate variation. perfect. now i had an excuse for that container of scharffen-berger cocoa powder i bought last weekend on a whim...

my (non-existent) cookie-folding skills notwithstanding, and discounting the serious error in judgement i made by using the last of the blood orange marmalade i found at the cowgirl creamery, these were pretty damn tasty with a glass of milk.


(adapted from a treasury of jewish holiday baking. for more info about hamentaschen, check out this great blog entry, including much more photogenic pastries than mine, over at baking and books)

Note: If you want to make nondairy hamantaschen you can replace the butter with shortening or with nondairy margarine.

Ingredients: Makes about 3 dozen cookies

  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar + a pinch for the egg wash
  • 3 eggs + 1 for the egg wash
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Approximately 4 to 4 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Fruit preserves. (Not jam.) You can also use Nutella. (i used raspberry, cherry, blood orange and nutella. why discriminate??)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, cream the shortening, butter and sugar together. Add the eggs and blend until smooth.

Stir in the the vanilla. Fold in 4 cups of flour, salt, cocoa powder and baking powder. Mix to make a firm but soft dough. Cover and let the dough rest for 20 minutes to give the flour time to absorb all the moisture.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 2 or 3 flattened discs and work with one portion at a time. Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured board to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Use a 3-inch cookie or biscuit cutter and cut as many rounds as you can.

In a small bowl mix 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of water and a pinch of sugar to make an egg glaze. Brush the rounds with the wash, then fill each with a generous 1/2 teaspoonful of your desired filling. Fold 3 sides of each circle together, creating triangles.

Brush the cookies with additional egg wash. If desired, sprinkle with regular or coarse sugar, and bake in the center of the preheated oven until golden brown, 18 to 25 minutes. Cool on the baking sheets.

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