Hamantaschen Bake Off….

Posted on March 24th, 2014 by

It all started with a lunch time conversation between Esther, Jobi, Sylvia (one of our volunteers), and myself. It was two or three weeks before Purim, and we were discussing all the different types of hamantaschen and debating their merits. Should one use cake dough or cookie dough? Is chocolate an acceptable filling? (the consensus on that last one was “no.”) And most importantly, of our own individual recipes for hamantaschen, whose was the best?

Then Sylvia said the fateful words: “You know there is only way to decide this, right? You have to have a hamantaschen bake off!”

We immediately knew that she was right. Esther, Jobi, and I quickly drew up some rules and guidelines for the contest and sent out an email to the staff, encouraging them and their volunteers to participate. The date was set for the Thursday following Purim to allow ample time for preparation.

Over the weekend of Purim, I camped out at my parents’ house so my mother could help me recreate her mother’s recipe. All Friday and Saturday, we bent over circles upon circles of dough, spooning lekvar or apricot jam into them and folding them into little triangles. (Funny story: having only ever heard my Bubby, who had a very strong Newark accent, say the word “lekvar,” I could never tell—until just now—if the word was supposed to be pronounced “lekvah” or “lekvar.” Fortunately, that’s what Google is for.) The process was a bittersweet one for us this year.  My Bubby died a year last Sunday, and for the last ten or more years of her life, she’d always come down to Baltimore to stay with us over Purim, and we’d make hamantaschen together. It felt very appropriate to commemorate the anniversary by making hamantaschen together.

The author making hamantaschen

The author making hamantaschen

Last Thursday, the day of the contest, four very different plates of hamantaschen made by two staff members and two volunteers entered the doors of the JMM. We had decided to make everything anonymous: nobody except for the competitors knew who had made the hamantaschen, and judging was open to anyone who wanted to participate. We were surprised by just how different each batch was: besides my very traditional lekvar (prune and raisin) and apricot hamantaschen, there were blueberry hamantaschen with dough that had a texture similar to scones, a batch that had a prune and mun (poppy seed) filling that tasted a bit like fig, and a very experimental batch with crispy chocolate dough filled with cream cheese and chocolate chips! All were delicious in their own way.

taste testing1 taste testing2 taste testing3

At first, it seemed that the chocolate/cream cheese hamantaschen were in the lead because we couldn’t stop talking about them. But when the judging had finished, and we tallied the votes, the dark horse blueberry hamantaschen came in first! The chocolate ones came in as a close second, and the prune/mun and the lekvar/apricot ones tied for third.

At this point, we revealed the bakers:

The  winning blueberry hamantaschen were made by none other than docent Robyn Hughes!

The winning blueberry hamantaschen were made by none other than docent Robyn Hughes!

The chocolate and cream cheese hamantaschen were made by our Marketing and Development Manager, Rachel Kassman.

The chocolate and cream cheese hamantaschen were made by our Marketing and Development Manager, Rachel Kassman.

The prune and mun hamantaschen were made by archives volunteer Dana Willan.

The prune and mun hamantaschen were made by archives volunteer Dana Willan.

And, of course, the lekvar and apricot hamantaschen were made by me.

And, of course, the lekvar and apricot hamantaschen were made by me.

Congratulations and Mazel Tov to Robyn Hughes, who gets the glory and bragging rights for making the best hamantaschen…until next year!

Thank you to everyone who participated, both has bakers and judges!

abby krolikA blog post by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts by Abby, click HERE.

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Nothing “Beets” Borsch!…No, really, on a cold November day, nothing does beat warm borsch.

Posted on November 5th, 2012 by

A blog post by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik.

As Hurricane Sandy finally left us, we welcomed in the cold weather with D.C. food blogger, Olga Berman, who showed us how to make her family’s recipe for warm borsch (beet soup).  Her recipe can be found if you search “borsch” on her blog at www.mangotomato.com.

Olga Berman tells us the importance of adaptability and improvisation in cooking (note her improvised pot lid!)

Potatoes and beets cooking side by side.

Olga tastes each one to make sure the seasoning is just right.

The best part—we get to eat it!

Be sure not to miss our next LATE NIGHT ON LLOYD STREET program: ESTHERFEST! on December 6th, 6-9pm.

ESTHERFEST is also the second program in this year’s Brews & Schmooze Young Adult Series.

 

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Iron Chef: Sukkot

Posted on October 15th, 2012 by

A blog post by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik.

Sukkot may have been over for the rest of the world last Thursday night, but at the JMM, it was still in full swing! As part of our Brooze & Schmooze event series for young adults, we held the second of what I hope will be many more Iron Chef competitions. The first Iron Chef competition here was held during Passover and featured horseradish as the secret ingredient; this time around, our secret ingredient was whatever seasonal produce Kayam Farms had on hand, which I thought fit nicely with the Sukkot, the harvest festival, theme.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the food channel competition show “Iron Chef,” a little explanation is in order. The original series involves two teams, each headed by a celebrity chef, who compete for the ultimate title of “Iron Chef” by cooking a three course meal in one hour that utilizes, in each course, a surprise ingredient that is only revealed at the last minute.

In our version, we had four teams: Team “BIYA” (B’nai Israel Young Adult); Team “Kayam” (they swear they didn’t know the secret ingredient beforehand!); Team “Honey Jew Jew”; and, the defending champions from Iron Chef: Passover, Team “The Still Very Last Minute Goyim.”  We provided all of them with all the equipment and food materials they were allowed to use (which included a very heavy pumpkin), and we required that they cook only two dishes–one savory, one sweet–with the secret ingredient.

One minute before their time began, Elena announced the secret ingredient of the night: Winter Greens! (Collard green, kale, mustard greens, etc.)  And the race was on!

All four teams came up with some very creative dishes–though a couple of them were more creative than tasty. These dishes ran the gamut of mustard greens falafel (one of my personal favorites from the night); a mixed vegetables salad served on large kale leaves; and sweet “dolma” made with nuts, date syrup, and wrapped in collard leaves.

By the time our three judges were ready to make their rounds to all the teams’ tables, there was a lot of built up suspense, anticipation, and hunger! The teams were judged according to creativity, aesthetics, and, of course, taste. Once the judges had each had their tastes, all of the spectators were allowed to try the dishes as well.

In the end, though it was a close call, Team “Kayam” won first place, with Team “The Still Very Last Minute Goyim” in second; Team “Honey Jew Jew” in third, and Team “BIYA” in fourth.

We all had a great time putting on this event, and it looked like our participants had as much fun as we did!

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