Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Maamoul: Stuffed Date-Orange Cookies

How do you pronounce “maamoul”? I have absolutely no idea. I figure that’s as good a reason to bake a cookie as any. I’m sure no one would notice if you just produce an “m” sound and then casually trail off. (Cultural ignorance!)

Still, it must sound pretty fancy when you introduce these cookies to acquaintances at social gatherings. I can see it now…

‘Jan made chocolate chip cookies – let’s give Jan a hand, shall we! Come on mutual acquaintances!’ your friend Bruce says because he talks like that. He also calls people dears. He’s that guy.

‘Three cheers for Jan!’ Susan adds.

But you hate Susan and you hate chocolate chip cookies. And you really hate Jan. And Bruce. Whose acquaintances are these anyways?
That’s when you step forward, Tupperware chock full of Ma..m…l, with a frightening grin.

‘I made stuffed Date-Orange cookies.”

The room goes silent. Chewed chocolate chip cookies are spit into napkins. Acquaintances, mid pat-on-the-backs for Jan, stop abruptly. Someone slaps Jan. AND SCENE.

At least that’s how I imagine it. You probably should just call them Stuffed Date-Orange cookies is what I’m saying.

On to the baking!!
First off, find the recipe HERE and follow my every move.

This recipe uses a food processor and food processor only. I thought that was odd but hey, I can’t even pronounce the name of the cookie so who am I to judge? I put my judging cap on anyways – of course I am to judge, I’m captain judgment – and stuffed the dates and crap into the mixer. Hey PS dates are super sticky. These dates are sticky like if I got sticky date goo (i.e. this filling) stuck in my hair, well I’d probably have to use bubble gum to get it out. It’s that serious.

The greatest part about the food processing (it had so many great parts) was that the dates were so sticky that the food processor started making this purring sound. It purred hard then it purred soft then it stopped purring all together. And pureeing. After much persuading, it tried again and succeeded. Yay!

It looked like toxic waste sludge. Yum!

The other greatest part about the food processing (see, so many parts!) was that my food processor is only a 4-cup food processor. I’m not some fat cat fluent in corporate mumbo jumbo who goes out buying ritzy food processors that can fit more than a softball. Because the economy.

This mainly came into play in the second part of the recipe when I was supposed to combine all the dough ingredients into the 4-cup food processor. Hilarious! It didn’t work.

I wish some lady who claims she's been around the block a few times was around to give a helpful suggestion...

My mom, after telling me she’s been around the block a few times (mooOOOOoooom) suggested I take my newfound cutting in butter skill (life’s a learning rollercoaster kids) and there was success.

I like the no dough chilling time about this dough. I found that it even helped to keep handling this dough after I made the little balls so I could make it a little softer and less likely to crack when it was time to pinch around the filling and seal the cookie. I still had a bit of trouble when it came to this part, however, because the filling was just so sticky. I felt like the recipe called for me to be part octopus and use my eight clean and tentacled hands to craft the little balls. It was seriously hard with my two, pathetic human hands. It just one of those times when you wish you had a helper monkey. You know, like every second of every day.

While not picture perfect, these cookies still came out super yummy. They crumble really nicely in your mouth and are just buttery enough without being overpowering. The filling is almost a little spicy in its fruitiness thanks to the crystallized ginger. And thank heaven for powdered sugar clumping – I mean dusting.
Plus, these cookies make it okay to slap your acquaintance Jan in the face. Amateur.


TASTE: 4.5/5 > really yummy but could have used a little something still. Not sure what that something is.

EASE: 4/5 > not too hard to make really. The only thing that was hard to deal with was the stickiness of the dates. SO STICKY.

FILTH OF KITCHEN: 2/5 > I managed to keep it somewhat clean with this recipe. I think not having to roll out dough helps immensely. I’m pretty sure there’s a good amount of powdered sugar in my hair, however.

DID THE DOG EAT IT: He came. He saw. He was genuinely uninterested and stared at me with a puzzled look. I guess his palate just really isn’t up to snuff. (I’ll have you know, the IMPRESS-O-METER just tipped its hat to me, said ‘Good day, madam,’ and skyrocketed through the roof.)

IMPRESS-O-METER: 5/5 > Jan got slapped in the face.

"what's a palate?"

Thursday, October 22, 2009


After the Orange Cookie Sandwich disaster that will now be known forever as "October 21st, 2009: Worse Than the Hypothetical Horrors Awaiting Us All in 2012, Theoretically of Course", I needed a pick me up. I woke up this morning shaking my fist out of anger. It was weird. After a cold shower, a few slaps in the face, and some tears (there was something in my eye - get off my case) I was ready to face the world.

It has always been a dream of mine since starting this blog 2 days ago to make Hamantashen. What can I say, I'm a dreamer. Little triangles filled with gooey goodness promising outrageous difficulty all for the sake of a little hat. That's an idea I can get behind! Little hats! Adorable!

I was immediately impressed when I read this recipe in my Betty Crocker Cookie Book (pg 274 if you're into that sort of thing). In two sentences, this recipe managed to teach me more about Purim than I retained from literally years of Hebrew and Sunday School.

So gather round children and I'll tell you the story of Purim,
These rich, filled cookies, celebrate the holiday of Purim, which honors the victory of the Jews of ancient Persia over Haman's plot to destroy them. Haman was an advisor to King Ahasuerus, and Hamantaschen are "Haman's pockets."

Thanks Betty Crocker! I mean, I refuse to go along with the pockets thing - no one would make a cookie shaped like a pocket. I don't care about translations. That's just ridiculous. Julie and Julia ridiculous. (sorry but she thought 90 year old Julia Child knew how to use the internet circa 2002. Unbelievable, Julie! Unbelievable!) Anyways, I digress.

I got to making the dough for this little labor of Purim love, wearing my favorite 3-cornered hat and a smile that could light the world. But my heart was heavy. I was scared. Was I going to be able to make these as adorable as the millions (literally millions) of professionally assembled Hamantashen I have consumed in my 22 years?

I had another reason to be nervous. The recipe called for plain bread crumbs to thicken up Apricot goo and this was the only package my neighborhood Giant had to offer:

Um those have been on the shelf since 1972, right? Are they kidding with that packaging?

I tentatively "cut in butter" to my flour/sugar/baking powder mix for the first time ever. "Tentatively" turned into all out dough groping. I think it was as I was manhandling the crumby dough that I gained a little Purim courage. I made that dough my Haman bitch - for my people of course. If I had a noise maker at the time, I would have ring-a-linged it with one hand while I abused the dough with my other hand. (Get it? Purim!)

I set the greatly anticipated dough in my fridge and promptly forgot about it for 4 hours longer than I had intended. Yay for priorities!

Upon returning to the rock hard dough, I was nervous all over again. This was probably due from my baking inexperience. I have this constant feeling that the first second I do something just slightly off what the recipe says, my entire kitchen will explode and someone will end up poisoned. Pots and pans all over the places. Kids crying. Adults combusting. It's not good. This is something I need to work on. Yay for blogs on helping me become a better me! High fives all around!

No one exploded. In fact, the dough rolled out easily once I let it hang out and enjoy the counter for a few minutes. Then I went along my merry way making the delicious gooey filling for the Hamantashen.

I chose poppy seed and apricot fillings because they are the best and I won't discuss this any further. Get over yourself Prunes.

Really the rest was rather simple. All it took was cutting out 3" circles from the dough, putting a leveled teaspoon of goo in the center and folding up the edges of the circle to make the triangle. I could have accomplished this all even with a noisemaker in my hands. That should probably be one of my rating categories instead of "ease". Ease is so basic and boring. Can this cookie be made while holding a noisemaker? I like it.

They baked for 15ish minutes probably and then...well then, it was love at first sight. Seriously, these are amazing Hamantashen. They were literally perfect. The cookie part itself was absurdly yummy and a little biscuit-y. Not at all dry. The apricot filling I made with little bits of pecans is the kind of stuff I imagine Unicorns munching on in between giggle fits and bathing in sunshine and happiness. And the poppy seed, even though I bought it pre-made, was a delight.


TASTE: 4.75/5 > Incredibly yummy but I'm uncomfortable giving a perfect score for taste right this moment. Sorry Hamantashen, it's not you, it's me.
FILTH OF KITCHEN: 5/5 > Again, rolling out dough creates cleanliness issues. Plus, now I have an ant infestation. Gross.
DID THE DOG EAT IT THE DOUGH: Better yet, he spoke for the first time ever and told me I was doing a "bang up job, champ."
IMPRESS-O-METER: 5/5 > Not only is this cookie appropriate for the most fun (only fun?) Jewish holiday ever, anything you have to make into a tiny adorable package like object is bound to impress. I mean, you don't have to tell people it was ridiculously easy to make. And you can share your 2 sentences about Purim! Learning!

SHOULD YOU MAKE THIS COOKIE? Only if you can handle being the most popular person at Purim.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Italian Chocolate Sandwich Cookie

Hey Giada De Laurentiis from Food Network, I get it. You're Italian. Every recipe in the world with some derivation of the word "Italy" in the title is clearly yours and yours alone. Great job with the whole Italian empire, Giada. You really stuck it to the man when you shaped the country like a boot. What's that? You claim an Italian cookie recipe? Oh Giada. You're so silly. Surely you jest. Well, I'll humor you.

I'm going to hit on a few key ingredients and steps but you can find the full recipe for Giada's Italian Chocolate Sandwich Cookie on Food Network: The "I'm from ITALY Cookie"

Before I get into the cookie making I must make this public service announcement. Dear Cookie recipe creators: I know you live in a make believe world of sunshine and gumdrops but I do not. Would it be so difficult for you to mention the necessity of a specific cookie cutter BEFORE I make the dough? Like in the first sentence? I, unlike you, do not have an arsenal of various cookie cutters of all adorable shapes and sizes. I know what you're thinking Giada, how absurd! You don't have peons from Food Network HQ to get you that in 35 seconds or they're fired? No Giada (and every other cookie recipe sage ever), I don't. Thanks for all your not help. Please just do me a solid and tell me about 1 3/4 inch round cookie cutter I'll need in the ingredients or something. Or the title. 1 3/4 inch Round Cookie Cuttered Italian Chocolate Sandwich Cookie. That sounds nice.

Now, on to baking!

This cookie sounded not only delicious but also interesting. If completed successfully, it could rank very high on the Impress-Your-Friends-O-Meter. Sandwich cookies are, by nature, the best things ever invented. With every bite of delicious cookies you also get a mouthful of either creamyness, chocolateyness, or ice cream(ness). There are so many other things in this world that would benefit from being sandwiched with the aforementioned fillings (ahem, ECONOMY, where's your delicious inside?).

So immediately I was interested. Plus, this recipe has some wonky ingredients. Orange zest? In the cookies and the cream? Cornmeal in the cookies? Giada! You're playing with fire, girl!

I set off making the dough and it seemed easy enough. The recipe basically asks you to dive right in with your hands and go nuts. I did. And honestly, I thought I was doing an excellent job. But the cornmeal worried me. Right from the start. I like cornmeal. I like polenta. I do not understand where they fit in cookies. It made the dough look grimy...almost like the grit in red clay (hey Art School, thanks for all the jobs you got me!) and that made me uncomfortable. Sure, gritty clay has always looked delicious but I wasn't positive that today would be the day I'd want to eat a fistful of it.

I soldiered on and refrigerated the dough for a couple hours even though it still didn't look quite right. I was supposed to form it into a a round shape and plastic wrap it before refrigerating and, while I did do this, it was a rather crumbly creation. In hindsight, I probably should have added a bit of water or something. But what's that they say about hindsight? Hindsight is Italian Chocolate Sandwich Cookies?

The next step in the recipe was clearly my downfall (ps this cookie takes a turn for the worse FYI). Rolling out the dough proved to be ridiculous. Not only do I hate rolling out dough (hey peons from Food Network, I bet yall do this for Giada, don't you...suckers) but this dough simply did not roll out. I tried. Really. I made a mess. Really! But no dice. I decided then and there to be bold. I was going to beat the crap out of the dough with my cold dead hands.

Here's the problem with this solution: Giada wonderfully suggested that the dough be 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. That's all well and good when you are using your trusting rolling pin. These hands of mine not only don't do eyeball measurements (they're hands, silly!) but they also do not pound out dough (giggle) in an even and/or flat manner. I got some lumpy, gritty dough out of this. Some parts were thick, some were thin...it was a mess.

I'm super smart (duh) and great at problem solving (double duh) so I got out my trusty 1/3 cup thinger to use for my cookie cutter. It was swell! I gave myself a solid pat on the back, managed to cut out an odd amount of cookies (super smart!) and went on baking them.

Things got weird. Half of the cookies looked like this:

Yum! A perfect Sandwich Cookie!

While the other half looked like this:

What the hell is that?

I was not amused.

After the whole some-cookies-too-thick-some-cookies-too-thin debacle of 2009, I set to work on the happy creamy filling. Surly this would be successful!

It was. The cream was delightful tasting (you can't go wrong with cream). Except one thing. Clearly not enough creamy crap. Which is odd too because the recipe says it makes "28 cookies." 28 sandwich cookies? 14 sandwich cookies? GIADA GET WITH IT. ALL OF ITALY IS DEPENDING ON YOU! Anyways, there simply wasn't enough goo which was honestly, really too bad. Here's why...

The cookies themselves are just not any good. They taste exactly like I imagined: a child's "I <3 MOM" coffee mug made in 6th grade art class for the holidays. It tasted like gritty red clay! How is this even possible! Did no peons taste these cookies, Giada? Well, they needed all the orange cream in the world and Giada only provided enough ingredients for a ridiculously little amount of cream. Not nearly enough to save these monstrosities. I should have known something was up when my dog helped himself to some wayward pieces of dough and started gagging. That animal will eat raw pasta. AND HE LIKES IT.

Here's my classy camera phone picture of the end result:

And the final verdict:
TASTE: 2.5/5 > Delicious cream. World's worst cornmealy cookies.
EASE: 2/5 > remember that time rolling out dough was impossible? I do!
FILTH OF KITCHEN: 5/5 > Anytime rolling out dough is involved, my kitchen takes a beating. Also, there was cornmeal from here to ya-ya.
DID THE DOG EAT IT THE DOUGH: yes and no. He did willingly approach it. It also made him gag.
IMPRESS-O-METER: 4/5 > The impressive factor is still there in the completed cookie just because of the flavors (mmm orange cream excites my palate is what they'll all say to sound smart) and the overall cookie sandwich promise.

SHOULD YOU MAKE THIS COOKIE? Not unless you hate yourself

My name is Molly and I'm a Cookie Monster

Let's get this awkward first date out of the way as soon as possible. You're looking at me thinking, gosh what a deadbeat. I bet she doesn't even have a job, you say. And I'm looking at you with leering eyes that say, oh man this could be the one...this could be the one! I'm considering calling my mother and telling her the good news. I'm an inch away from telling you that my dream cake is shaped like Olmec from Legends of the Hidden Temple with real red glowing eyes. But that's awkward and I want this to be special. So let's get to it. I mean, you could very well be the one.

I like baking cookies. I have no job so I have a lot of time to bake cookies. No, no don't up and leave! Hear me out. I plan use this time to accomplish something really special. I'm going to bake a whole bunch of different cookies. And rate them. And you will pretend that you are eating them and enjoying them with me.

I know what you're saying. You're thinking this sounds a lot like that terrible movie Julie and Julia. Here are some key differences:

1. I am not nearly as annoying as that Julie. She was the worst. Ever.
2. Julia Child is not my muse. Yes, she was a cool giantess. One of epic proportions. But I'm awfully short and a woman of her stature could very well make me pee my pants.
3. Why am I even going into this? No one saw Julie and Julia. It was a horrible movie. I won't even waste your time or insult your intelligence by suggesting you've seen that movie. No one has. I'm going to pretend I haven't either.

That was awkward. First dates are weird. But now that that's out of the way I feel better. Should we get down to the nitty gritty?

I am not a trained baker. I confuse parchment paper and wax paper. I set fire to dish rags. But I make a mean cookie. And I plan to make dozens of mean cookies. Cookies so mean that their mothers are constantly telling them to stop making that face because it will stick that way but they don't listen because they are that mean and SURPRISE! Their faces stick that way and whenever they walk down the street people go MAN! What a mean cookie! That's the kind of cookie I make.

I'm also going to maybe attempt making my own cookie recipes. I may even send you a cookie care package if you A) ask nice enough and B) have gone so far as to contemplate eating your own hand because my cookies sound so scrumptious. Well, one or the other.

I'm starting with various individual recipes as well as two cookie books as some structure for this blog:

Betty Crocker Cookie Book: The Most Delicious Collection of Cookies Ever (what a hefty statement that book makes. Jeez)

Big Fat Cookies by Elinor Klivans

I shall rate my cookies on various levels: taste, ease, filth of kitchen, whether or not my dog eats what drops on the floor, and whether or not they impress folks. Everyone knows that people only make cookies to impress others. I can't even believe I have to mention that.

So let's get started!
I'm making some cookies tonight and I'll report back sometime soon.