Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dipping Is Not Just for Erev Shabbos - Chummus (Hummus)

For better or for worse, we have made dips into a course bifnei atzmon.  I don't know how this happened. When I was growing up we were lucky to have horseradish (man, I am getting old). The first signs of this new dip phenomenon came in the form of adding mayo to the horseradish and it didn't take long from there. Now we have olive dip, spicy olive dip, mushroom dip, spicy mushroom dip, avocado dip, spicy avocado dip....I think you get the point. Seriously, are we incapable of just buying the regular one and adding some hot sauce to it?

Anyway, my favorite dip has always been chummus (or hummus, if you prefer). But if, like me, you spent years loving that stuff that rhymes with shmabra, you really don't know what you're missing because that stuff is really just nasty. It tastes like someone spilled a science experiment into my chummus (a la Reese's peanut butter cups). And if you have actually moved on to real chummus (at places like Pomegranate), then you have to decide whether you can afford the stuff. Seriously, you get like half a cup for five bucks. But if you don't mind expending a small amount of effort you can make your own chummus that is cheaper (about two cups ends up costing like $1.50 max) and better than that pricey stuff anyway! This is really like ten minutes of actual work. The rest is just waiting for the beans and garlic to cook. 

And speaking of the beans, it is NOT OK to use canned chickpeas for this. Trust me on this one. The first time I made this, I used the canned and it tasted pretty bad. You can't use junk for the main ingredient and expect it to taste good. I don't know what I was thinking. So do yourself a favor and cook the chickpeas. Also, I found that there are differences in quality and salt content between varying brands of tahini. Find one you like and stick with it. Finally, use a fresh lemon instead of the bottled stuff. It'll be worth it.

1 cup dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans (2 cups cooked), cooking liquid reserved
1/3 cup tahini paste
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika or to taste
1 head garlic
olive oil, salt and pepper to taste (for the garlic)
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (for the chummus)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Kiddush Classic - Homemade Cream Puffs Recipe

OK. So you show up to a Kiddush or a vort and you see these amazing looking cream puffs. The chocolate glaze looks shiny and amazing and you run to grab a bite. But that mouthful is a massive disappointment. The pastry tastes like cardboard, the freezer taste of the custard makes you think that it's from a few Pesachs ago and the shattered chocolate has (thankfully) fallen off the cream puff and onto the floor. So all Shabbos you are waiting to get to the bakery to feed your craving but when you finally get there, you realize that each one costs like $2.00 and you wonder whether it was worth the wait.

Thankfully, it is extremely easy and relatively inexpensive to make cream puffs at home. And the ones you make will look professional but taste far better than the ones you saw at the Kiddush. There are three components to these cream puffs and you can even break up the tasks over a few sessions to make it even easier. If you really want, you can skip the chocolate glaze and just dust on some powdered sugar. And the best part is that you know what went into these things and in which century they were made. I made them pareve (and I think I even said "milk" once when I meant pareve milk) but you can make them either dairy or pareve. You can even substitute whipped cream for the pastry cream or make a crème legere by folding whipped cream into your pastry cream. Oh, by the way, I almost always give flour measurements for baked goods in weight (grams or ounces). It is way more accurate since when you use volume measurements you aren't sure how packed the flour is. Get a digital scale. They're like $10-$15 and are very helpful in the kitchen. I use mine all the time.

So please try challenging yourself a bit with these little desserts. You will see how truly easy they are.

Here are the ingredients:
For the pastry:
  • 1/2 cup milk (or pareve milk)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick (4 oz) butter or margarine
  • 130 grams flour (about 1 cup unpacked)
  • 3-5 eggs
For the custard:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 2 cups milk (or pareve milk)
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 
For the chocolate glaze:
  • 2 Tbsp. heavy cream or pareve whip
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 160 grams bittersweet chocolate, chopped

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