Friday, April 15, 2011
A Yiddish Kiddush
That burst of energy I experienced on Wednesday came and went so fast, I had to read my own blog to remember it. Sad. I had a trial Thursday morning, and bless all of my witnesses for showing up and being prepared. Very professional, and very much appreciated. We were able to wrap everything up well before the lunch break.
Me and Joe Biden both took a nap, and that seemed to help, and so at some point Thursday evening I felt up to preparing the dough for more hamantaschen. I ate the last one for breakfast that morning and it was either prepare another batch or suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous hamantaschen deprivation.
It occurred to me that since I was already messing up the food processor, I could prepare the dough for rugelach. I'm not really speaking a foreign language here - rugelach and hamantaschen are well known Jewish baked goods eaten by people of many different religious and ethnic backgrounds, at least in New York. You can buy them here in Florida as well, at any of the big warehouse stores like Costco or B.J.s, and they're not bad. But their rugelach are not terribly authentic, and if you want authentic, you are going to have to make them yourself. Same thing with mandelbrot - okay, so I am speaking a foreign language here, sorry. Mandelbrot is Yiddish for "almond bread" and is very similar to Italian biscotti. Like biscotti, it is twice-baked, but it is neither as dry nor hard as biscotti. Homemade is best, and I have a recipe that includes candied fruit and is exceptional. I have other recipes as well, some for Passover and some not. Mandelbrot is a very versatile recipe, and anyone with a Jewish bubbe (grandma) was probably treated to the family recipe at one time or another. Many of those recipes do not include almonds, but the name stuck.
Very authentic-looking rugelach
Another peek at my last batch of hamantaschen
One very traditional version of mandelbrot
Above: the Happy Trinity of Jewish Baking
I have been making rugelach from the same recipe for over thirty years, and have never felt the need to stray from my roots. I did not get this recipe from my mother, because she did not like to bake. Neither does Rachael Ray, so it's not a character flaw, although my mother had plenty of those. Baking involves careful measuring, and my mother never measured anything. I can remember two or three times during my entire life that she baked cookies, specifically her recipe for Moon Cookies, which I loved and did manage to get her recipe. But that's another blog post.
My rugelach recipe comes from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies, possibly my favorite baking cookbook of all time. Speaking of time, this is unfortunately long out of print, although there is a collection called Maida Heatter's Cookies currently available which includes cookie recipes from all of her earlier books. I have no idea if it includes the rugelach recipe or some of my other favorites like the fudge delices, Danish Coffeehouse Slices and Viennese Almond Walnut Bars. I do know that the original book is so fantastic, I wanted to take a year's sabbatical from my job to work through every recipe.
The New York Times printed the rugelach recipe in 1988 and my only changes involved using the food processor instead of a mixer, and dividing the dough into 4 pieces instead of three. I still like Ms. Heatter's filling the best - melted butter, cinnamon sugar, nuts and currants. Some people like to use apricot preserves instead of the melted butter, but that seems too sweet to me, and not at all authentic, but your mileage may vary.
So right now, there are eight neat little circles of dough wrapped in waxed paper, chilling in my refrigerator. Four are for the hamentaschen, and the others are for the rugelach. The rugelach dough is a traditional cream cheese dough , a half a pound of butter, a half a pound of cream cheese, and a half a pound of flour. Very sticky to work with unless refrigerated, and you have to work really fast once you start rolling the dough into a circle, but really well worth the effort. Stick around, and I'll be posting the recipes and pictures on the recipe blog sometime this weekend. Until then -
Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.