Chanukah Party

First semester is over! How crazy is that? Today was my last day of classes and I’m going home to Raleigh tomorrow before I come back to New York to take a ridiculously late final on the 23rd. It’s hard to believe we’ve already competed 1/8th of our college experience. I would say it has good and bad connotations. Good – closer to the end of college in general. Bad – closer to the end of college in general. Ha! Everyone is going home and I won’t see them all for up almost a month! Crazy. We’ve been at school for almost four months now and it really is starting to feel like we are a little family. I’m excited to hear about everyone’s adventures when they get back. Half the suite is going to California, Charlotte to France, another just home to New Haven and I’m going to Israel. Very exciting destinations!

Anyway, last night in honor of the end of schools, start of finals and the holidays, we decided to throw our last dinner party of the semester. Now we are a very split household – 3 Jews and 3 non-Jews. So while this technically was a nondenominational holiday party, let’s get it real – it was the fourth night of Chanukah and we had latkes, so in my book, I categorize is as a full fledged Chanukah party. My friend Emily from Cornell, who had ALREADY! finished school was able to come, as well as a friend from Barnard and Jessica’s boyfriend was here, so  we were a packed house!

Emily and I made a colossal amount of latkes and we had many more desserts than main courses. We also had some delicious lasagna that came a little late, but was mouth watering none the less. It was a perfect end to our first semester and I will miss everyone very much! We all handed out our Secret Santa gifts. Charlotte was mine – I had an idea it was her as she was not very stealth as hiding her wrapping supplies – but she got me a gift-card to Crumbs, one of my favorite cupcake places in NYC. I can’t wait to come back in January and go buy some delicious cupcakes.

LATKES

(Adapated from epicuorous.com and my own personal knowledge of latke making)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 pound russet potatoes (I used about 8 potatoes, which is more than 3 pounds, but still okay)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • About 1 cup vegetable oil for frying (I just used oil as needed within the pan)
  • A pinch of baking powder

DIRECTIONS:

1) Cut onion lengthwise to fit feed tube of a food processor, then grate with medium shredding disk. Transfer to a large bowl (do not clean processor).

2) Peel potatoes and put in a bowl of cold water.

3) Cut potatoes lengthwise to fit feed tube, then grate and add to onions.

4) Toss with lemon juice, then with flour, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.

5) Add eggs and stir to coat. Transfer to a colander set over a bowl (potatoes will release juices).

6) Heat 1/4 inch oil to 360°F in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat.

7) Using a 1/4-cup measure, scoop 4 or 5 mounds of potato mixture into skillet. Flatten with a fork to form 3 1/2-to 4-inch pancakes. Cook until golden brown, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes per side. (I never use a measuring cup, but just j

8 ) Transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet and keep warm in oven while making more latkes.

Chanukah Sugar Cookies

The festival of lights is upon us! Friday night marked the first night of Chanukah. I love Chanukah for many reasons. Obviously for the gifts, but mostly because of the yummy yummy food you get to eat. Latkes, apple sauce, and sour cream if one of my favorite combinations ever. So far, it is only the third night and I have eaten god knows how many latkes. They’re just so delicious all fried up in oil. I think for the remaining 5 nights, I’m going to have to eat a more balanced diet if I ever plan on fitting back into my jeans.

So for the first night this past Friday, Charlotte and I ventured uptown to have a celebration with my entire family – aunts, uncles, cousins, etc… It was all very fun. It was the first time I had spent Chanukah in New York with my extended family in a long time.  It was also Charlottes’ first Chanukah celebration, so we explained to her all about lighting the candles, and even she got some presents! We had a yummy dinner, although the latkas did get a slightly bit scorched, and by slightly I mean then were mostly black.

Anyway, the rest of the meal was great and I decided to make some sugar cookies for dessert. I got a set of Chanukah cookie cutters from my secret santa the other day. So there were dreidels, Jewish stars, menorahs, and even little Judah Maccabee cut outs that really just looked like ginger bread to me. They were super easy to make. I did the dough the night before and just rolled them out Friday morning and popped them into the oven. I debated for a very long time whether I wanted to make icing or not, but after much contemplation and realizations that I was far to lazy, I decided to leave them plain. I think icing would have been nice, but they were perfectly fine by themselves. This will definitely be my go to sugar cookie recipe from now on when ever I need to make some.

CHANUKAH SUGAR COOKIES

(Adapted from The Splendid Table)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

1) Whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together.

2) Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for a minute or so, until smooth. Beat in the sugar and continue to beat for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is light and pale.

3) Add the egg and yolk and beat for another minute or two; beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and steadily add the flour mixture, mixing only until it has been incorporated — because this dough is best when worked least, you might want to stop the mixer before all the flour is thoroughly blended into the dough and finish the job with a rubber spatula. When mixed, the dough will be soft, creamy and malleable.

4)  Turn the dough out onto a counter and divide it in half. If you want to make roll-out cookies, shape each half into a disk and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least two hours.

5)  Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

6) Working with one packet of dough at a time, roll out the dough between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper to a thickness of 1/4 inch, lifting the plastic or paper and turning the dough over often so that it rolls evenly. Lift off the top sheet of plastic or paper and cut out the cookies  Pull away the excess dough, saving the scraps for rerolling, and carefully lift the cookies onto the baking sheets with a spatula, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between the cookies.

7) Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the sheet at the midpoint. The cookies should feel firm, but they should not color much, if at all. Remove pans from oven. Let them rest for 1 minute before carefully lifting them onto a rack to cool to room temperature.

8 )  Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies

Sunday night. What a night. I always feel like the world is converging on me on Sunday evenings. All the work that I have procrastinated on over the weekend finally must be done and the impending doom on Monday morning looms near. This is my final week coming up. I can’t believe it. Time has flown by. I guess in a sense that is good, but I also love being here so much and all the people that I have met that I don’t ever want it to end. I’m definitely looking forward to a nice big break though. I don’t think much sleeping will be happening this week given the amount of writing and reading that has to take place before Friday (which is case you forget is also the first night of Chanukah! woot woot!) This all being said, I thought this evening would be a perfect time to take a break, well kind of since there was still some work going on, and bake!

I have a group project due in one of my classes tomorrow and instead of making it a strictly study session, my lovely friends and I decided to join the prospect of baking and learning altogether to create a quite enjoyable evening. As we worked and discussed on our project – which I’ll have you know has clips of an almost naked Brad Pitt – we whipped together some peanut butter whoopie pies.

The first batch of cookies I took out of the oven was a complete disaster – tasteless, cakey, sticky – all parts of a horrible cookie. I almost threw the batter out, but instead forged on and decided to bake the next batch a little longer. It was a good idea, because even just two more minutes of baking and they turned out so much better. With two huge whoopie cakes enveloping peanut butter frosting, it was almost impossible to finish a whole one. The last time a I made whoopie pies, they were much denser whereas these were light, but “satisfying knowing that you only have to eat half of it to get a good dose of dessert.” (Charlotte)

I would definitely make these again and now plan on having all my future study session combined with baking parties!

PEANUT BUTTER WHOOPIE PIES

(Adapted from Marth Stewart’s Cookies)

INGREDIENTS:

  • For the Cookies:
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, not Dutch-process
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg
  • 2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • For the Filling:
  • 1 1/3 cups natural, creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar (I added a bit more to finish the box)

DIRECTIONS:

1) Make cookies: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl; set aside.

2) Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.

3) Add eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla; mix until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

4) Slowly add dry ingredients until well combined.

5) Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies spring back when lightly touched, about 10 minutes.

6) Let cool on sheets on wire racks 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks using a spatula; let cool completely.

7) Make filling: Put peanut butter and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on high speed until smooth. Reduce mixer speed to low.

8 ) Add confectioners’ sugar; mix until combined. Raise speed to high, and mix until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes.

9) Assemble cookies: Spread 1 tablespoon (I’d say more) filling on the bottom of 1 cookie. Sandwich with another cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling. Cookies can be refrigerated in single layers in airtight containers up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.