Tuesday, April 27, 2010

100 Posts and Counting!

I just realized that I reached my 100th post - must be some kind of a milestone! To celebrate, I will... ummm...I don't know what I'll do, but definitely do a little happy dance or something. Thanks to all of you who have been reading faithfully, and to those who just stumbled onto this blog, I hope you enjoyed. Please consider becoming a follower so I know who you are and can properly appreciate you! And if you have not become a Dvora's Cookie Creations fan (or "liker," as they now call it - weird!) on Facebook, please join the party - we are going for 100 there, too!

Here's to a hundred more, but with pretty pictures and interesting text!


Sharing a recipe

Since I started making challah just a few months ago, I have really been enjoying the process of making, shaping, baking, and enjoying the challah. Recently, my friend Arica has been on a quest to find a good challah recipe and she requested from her readers to send in their recipes for her to try. Last week, she tried my recipe, and she liked it! I thought if she did, you might too, so I am posting the recipe. To give credit where it's due, this is an adaptation of Lori's recipe for the bread machine, which uses all egg yolks, no whites. In turn an adaptation of another recipe, hers is an absolutely delicious challah, which is rich and yellow in color and very cake-like. Thoroughly addictive. My version is whiter and slightly lighter in texture, and more suited to spreading chummus or chatzilim on top, which is important in this house. One more caveat: I use fresh granulated yeast and dough conditioner in the dough, but you can do just fine with dry yeast.


1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
50 gram bag of fresh granulated yeast (Shimrit in Israel or equivalent in fresh compressed yeast) or 4 teaspoons dry yeast
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon oil
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
about 7 cups flour
50 gram bag meshaper afiyah משפר אפייה(dough conditioner - optional)
1 whole egg +1 tablespoon water, beaten together, to glaze
Combine the water, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and yeast in the mixer bowl. Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes, until it is foamy. If this doesn't happen, your yeast may be past its prime. Then add in the remaining sugar, oil, salt, eggs and yolk, and about 4 cups of flour, and the dough conditioner, if you are using it. Use the dough hook to mix it all together. Add the remaining flour, mix in well, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and let the machine knead for several minutes. At this point, I knead the dough by hand on a floured surface, because I think it is good for the texture and for my mental health. Add flour as needed. When the dough has a smooth, elastic texture, and when you poke it with a finger and the indentation bounces back, it is ready to rise. Place the dough in a greased bowl - make sure it is large enough to accomodate the rising - and turn it to get all sides greased. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise (you can turn the oven on for a minute until it is just warm inside, then turn it off and leave the bowl in there, but don't forget it's there and preheat the oven for something else. That will just make an ugly mess and a waste of your effort. I speak from experience.) When it has doubled in size, divide the dough as desired - I find that this recipe makes three good size challahs - and shape. If you are ambitious, the purple Lubavitch cookbook (Spice and Spirit) has a relatively easy to follow set of instructions and diagrams for braiding with six strands. There are also a plethora of instructional videos on line - take your pick. I like the shape that results, so that is the way I braid. Place the shaped dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, if you choose, and let them rise for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush the loaves with the egg beaten with water and bake for about 30 minutes, until golden on top and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a cooling rack, so it does not get soggy.
One note: I use a double insulated cookie sheet, and bake the loaves in the bottom third of the oven. You may have to work out this part of the art and science of baking challah all on your own.

Most important, enjoy the process - it doesn't matter what they look like, as long as you have a good time (funny advice from a compulsive perfectionist!).
Good luck, and enjoy!


Please keep him in mind

Today is Gilad Shalit day. People all over Israel (and, I hope, around the world) are wearing white shirts as a reminder that Gilad has been a prisoner for almost four years now. Even if you can't wear white today, please keep him and his family in mind. It is impossible to imagine what they have been going through all this time. May Hashem bring him home soon.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Oops, I did it again

So I am still not leaving well enough alone. This week I included two new flavors in the platters, increasing the menu even more. My apologies to customers who already had a hard time choosing. The first was outstanding, even though David did not like them, which is just weird. Other than him, I had unsolicited excellent feedback. The flavor is peanut butter oatmeal sandwiches, which is made of two chewy, oat-ie peanut butter cookies - delicious on their own - sandwiched with a creamy peanut butter filling.
Here is an alternate view; be sure to note the irony of the writing on the plate, and many thanks to my sister Aviva for the adorable dishes!The second flavor was a white chocolate cherry sugar cookie - a soft vanilla cookie with white chocolate chips and tart dried cherries. Very tasty, and a nice change from chocolate.

The weekly platters looked something like this:with thin mint sandwiches, peanut butter oatmeal sandwiches, chocolate chip brownies, white chocolate cherry cookies, and chocolate thumbprints, this time done correctly, with the chocolate chunks mixed into the dough.

Shabbat was nice one. Ayelet had a Shabbat Kitah in the neighborhood, so she had two classmates sleeping here, but the three of them did not join us for meals. We were home for dinner, but went to Lori and Seth's for lunch, where, as usual, we had yummy food and a great time. Jamie and Jeff were there too, which was really nice, and then Ariella went home with them to play with Noa, while Dani stayed to hang out with Elisha. After resting, we had Seuda Shlishit in the breezy backyard, and that was it for Shabbat.

Have a wonderful week!


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Independence Day!!!

Well, it ain't July 4th yet, so I must be referring to Yom HaAtzmaut!! Happy 62nd to Medinat Yisrael! We are truly a nation that appreciates our independence, and we show it by grilling as much food as we possibly can... Also fireworks, block partying, and daglanut - Ayelet and friends were GREAT!!!

Baking wise, I had some fun this year. Royal icing and I are becoming good friends, which I hope will lead to a productive relationship - readers, if things work out between us, you will be the first to know. I made decorated sugar cookies to celebrate the big event.

Here they are again, a little more mesudar, one of each design:I had an absolute blast making them, so I hope there will be more in my future!

I also made vanilla mini cupcakes, frosted two ways: chocolate fudge frosting with blue and white sprinkles, and blue and white swirled vanilla buttercream.

With some of the leftover blue royal icing, I made stars, let them dry, and perched them atop some of the blue and white cupcakes.It was a good learning experience, and don't they look precious - and kind of modern art-sy?!

Now that the holiday has passed, we are in the midst of the important period of time in the Jewish calendar called "the very few days of education before L'ag B'omer which are mostly consumed by the obsessive collecting of firewood." That will be followed in short order by "The close your windows up tight so the smoke smell doesn't get inside evening," "The day of laundry to wash out the stink of smoke," and then"The day of all haircuts," along with its sub-holiday, "Thank G-d he can finally shave day." Now I just have to find cookie flavors and designs to go along with these auspicious days.

Mazal tov to the millions of us living here, and to all of you who do not know what you are missing (y'know, besides the cookies)!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Reinventing the wheel

You would think that I would be satisfied with a flavor menu of more than 70 items, enough would be enough. But no, I keep trying new things, new flavor combinations, new recipe ideas. Sometimes they actually work! To wit: remember my rosemary lemon palmiers? I wanted a cookie with the same flavors, so after some searching and tweaking, I made these, Lemon Rosemary shortbread.

Same great flavors as the palmiers, with the same crunch from an edging of coarse sugar. I also made Ginger Cherry Sugar Cookies - spicy ginger melds with the sweetness of cherry preserves.When I put together the chocolate thumbprints, I was deep in conversation with David, and didn't notice that I had forgotten to add in the chopped chocolate. Thankfully, they were still yummy without. They are like Swiss Fudge Cookies of Stella D'oro fame, but better. Don't confuse them with "Chinese cookies," either. The texture is better, and the puddle of fudge has the perfect consistency - it's not just a pile of melted chocolate chips.Yes, they would be even better with the chocolate chunks, but it will have to wait for next time.

A special order for Shabbat was a gift for a twin bar mitzvah Shabbat. I made these Sefer Torah sugar cookies with the b'nai mitzvahs names, decorated with fondant and royal icing.

They were not fabulous, but they were cute and got the point across. (Plus, they led to something even better for Yom HaAtzmaut - stay tuned for the next posting!) Here they are on the platter.And here is said platter before the enhancements.Thin mint sandwiches, ginger cherry sugar cookies, chocolate thumbprints, Mexican brownies, lemon rosemary shortbread, red velvet sandwiches, and sugar cookie ganache sandwiches.

And that's last Shabbos - coming next, Happy 62nd Birthday to the Medina!


Monday, April 12, 2010

And did I forget to mention?

Here is a quick end of Pesach, back to school round-up. Shabbat Chol HaMoed was nice. Saba and Savta joined us, and the Hausdorfs were our Shabbat lunch guests. I think everyone had a good time catching up. On Motzaei Shabbat Ariella had her first out of the house sleepover, at Sarena's. She had a blast, and can not wait for another vacation for another sleepover.

Sunday was yet another prep day, as we got ready for the last day of Chag. Aviva and Josh and family joined us, as did former students Mindy and Rivi. Everyone had a good time - especially Ariella and Shalem, who had a sleepover and played really nicely. Josh and Arica and kids, along with their chayal boded Robert, joined us for lunch. It was a full house, and we really enjoyed it. Putting away Pesach was not too painful and took very little time. And after all that fuss, and all that work, and all that preparation, and all that effort, zip, seven days and Pesach was out of here...

Isru chag brought our traditional trip to town and the shuk, but not before the kids collected on their afikomen IOU. They desperately wanted a pet (at least some of them did), so David took them to the pet store, where they fell in love with the parakeets. Deeming them the least objectionable possibilty, and distinctly not rodent-like, David acceded. They brought home two, which are currently named Penelope and Sam, and so far, I have not strangled them or any of their owners, though the night is still young.

After the birds got settled in, we headed to town. We enjoyed falafel in soft, fresh, pitas and lafas, as well as seeing people holding second day chag walking around town jealously. But, not my problem. Then we went to the shuk, where Dani spent some of his hard-earned bag-boy money on a kilo of gummies for his Shabbat Kitah. He promised to share with his friends, or pay the dentist bill... We rounded out the day with Katzefet, then returning home to get ready for the return to school!

Without Dani, Shabbat was certainly not the same, but we muddled through. As I mentioned, Adina and Rivky joined us for Shabbat, and we were out for lunch, which was a pleasure. Dani returned home exhausted after Shabbat. Luckily, he did not have to be in school until 9, which he turned into 10. In the meantime, David and I went out with Lori and Seth to a cafe, and had a very nice time, returning quite late. The next morning, I went to book club/Laura's birthday breakfast in another restaurant (yeah, it's a hard-knock life for me) and had a good time, though we did not discuss the book, which I managed to read, in its entirety, the day before. Oh well. Sunday afternoon brought Ariella's final swimming class and their "recital," which was absolutely adorable - synchronized swim for the junior set. She worked unbelievably hard at learning to dive, and she was fantastic! Though I will not miss the carpool, we will surely miss the chug. Sunday night was the yishuv's Tekes Yom HaShoah, and that brings us up to today.

Have a great week!


Feeling Wonderful - and a little bit icky

Tonight, I gave blood. It was the first time that I was able to donate since we made Aliyah, making this a pretty momentous day- and a girl can face only so much rejection, so I am glad it finally happened. I felt like it was a good way to end Yom HaShoah - helping preserve life on a day that memorializes so much loss. It was pretty amazing to see all the people who turned out to donate, literally giving a little bit of themselves for an unknown someone else. I was very glad to be a part of that.

Now, life is finally getting back to normal after Pesach, at least for a minute. I am back to baking and back to work. Last week functioned as a bit of a bridge between the chofesh and the real world. I tried a few baking things, just as an experiment. One such attempt was to make graham crackers. It sounds like a silly thing to make, but they are not readily available here at the store. Petit beurres (tea biscuits) can be a reasonable substitute in some recipes, but they do not have the same flavor. So I decided to make my own, mostly because I had another recipe that required them. They were delicious! Such an elevation of the humble boxed cracker!

One of our Shabbat guests, Adina, (who BTW is a friend of Shanie's who had been here before, thus making us miss Shanie very much! Lola could not understand why she didn't come here with her friends Rivky and Adina, and really didn't know why she would go to school in America!) said,"You make your own graham crackers?!...Of course you make your own graham crackers," understanding something deep and primal about me - I don't like taking help, not even from a box of cookies. And homemade is (almost) always better than bought, and books are (almost) always better than the movie.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled baking...


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Chag Sameach v'Kasher

Pesach is a funny time. We celebrate the Exodus, our escape from slavery, and our increased commitment to Hashem by cleaning, cooking, eating, and drinking. And somehow, we are supposed to morph all that into seeing ourselves as having been part of Yetziat Mitzrayim. And somehow, it works. Our preparations this year went really well. We were ready with a minimum of stress, and were even able to nap on erev Chag. (I don't think we sacrificed the sameach part of the chag for the kasher part. Maybe we even managed to balance the two!)We had a wonderful seder - just the immediate family. The kids were great, having prepared a number of divrei Torah, and participated beautifully. Ariella was the newest member of the reading group, with everyone taking turns reading from the Hagaddah. The afikomen was well and truly stolen and hidden, and the kids will deserve their presents. No matter how hard he tried and what bribes he offered, David could not break the (perceived) weakest link, Lola. After the soup, we needed to take an eating break, so we played Peasach Jeopardy, which was prepared and circulated by a member of our community. The seder was over by 12:38 (Dani checked) with all of the participants still fully involved. Of course, some were more tired than others, leading to the youngest family member to repeat many of the numbers of Echad mi yodea, since she was too punch drunk to be able to follow the lines of the song. Her fingers sort of landed wherever, and she kept singing. All in all, a fun, meaningful night.

The next day we hosted Yocheved and Jon and family for lunch. We had a great time, and will really, really miss them when they return to the U.S. We also have to thank them for getting up and out of the house to join us for lunch; it's not easy the morning after seder.

The first day of Chol HaMoed found us in the Old City, after much debate and back and forth about where to go. In the end, the Old City worked because we had it on reliable authority that it was not overly crowded, and a few other choices had been stricken because we were too tired to get moving early. We visited the Kotel, tried to get into the Churva Shul but were unsuccessful, visited the Burnt House and Herodian Quarter museums, had lunch and ice cream (the sign said "כשר לפח" instead of "כשר לפסח" which gave us all a good laugh, but if it's kosher for the can, it's good for us.), and returned home. A good time had by all.

The second day was a trip to Ma'arat Hanetifim - the Stalactite cave near Beit Shemesh. It was a nice ride (for those of us who don't experience motion sickness; sadly I cannot count myself among their numbers) and a nice tour. We got extra exercise from having to park relativly far away and walking to and from the car, and the signs there let you know how many calories you have burned from walking up the steps, all 175 after you emerge from the cave. How thoughtful. We capped the day off with a visit to the gourmet ice cream store in Modiin (if the calorie burning wasn't appreciated, we squandered its effects) and the neighboring fruit and vegetable store. Tomorrow will bring Shabbat preparations, and the cycle of cook, clean, eat, will begin anew.

Moadim L'simcha

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