Sunday, March 20
Today is Purim. It is a custom to give friends and family fun gifts of food and snacks on Purim. Something like a small bag of oreo's and a bottle of milk, or a bag of chips and a juice box would be completely acceptable. But because I have a bit of a sweet problem, I always go a little nuts with my Mishloach Manot (purim packages). Sometimes I get all cutesie-tootsie and come up with some kind of theme; like 3 different kinds of cookies delivered in a cookie jar with an iced coffee attached to the side. This year's theme is Simply Sweets; glorious, terrible-for-your-teeth, blow-your-healthy-eating-regime- sweets.
On wednesday night I stirred up a couple of batches of cream caramels. I added another layer of flava by using some good French salt from Williams Sonoma, and then finished them off by sprinkling some Australian pink salt (also from WS) across the top. They are kinda awesome. The making of the caramels were somewhat time consuming and labor intensive but not overly difficult. However wrapping them all in wax paper was literally a pain in the neck.
Thursday/night: I continued with my sugar mad science experimentation. I made around 8 different types of hamantaschen dough; cream cheese half a bar, cream cheese whole bar, chocolate with buttermilk, traditional with coconut milk and vegan buttery spread. The results were interesting, and at times surprising, and almost all were very sticky. In the end I conclude that the dairy-free doughs kept it 's shape the best, and that the cream cheese doughs were the tastiest.
For fillings I made a tart cherry lekvar, which is an eastern european method for making fruit jam and butters. Dark dried cherries stewed in a combination of lemon juice, water, a little sugar, and a split vanilla bean. Still feeling the sugar rush that came with the salt caramels, I made a caramel nut filling which was too runny to use. There was a batch of blueberry cream cheese hamantaschen, I utilized the cream cheese dough for it, and because it had a creamy tartness to it I sprinkled the tops with coarse sugar which makes the cookie sparkle like Queen Esther (the heroine of the Purim story). Then I went into peanut butter territory. I spooned 1 tiny teaspoon of peanut butter which was melted with a little cream and brown sugar to make a sturdy and sweet filling. Next to it a tiny teaspoon of red raspberry jelly- so that's my PB& J Hamantaschen. I also spooned peanut butter alongside chocolate ganache for a Reese's style hamantaschen.
As I was getting later and later into the dark chocolate night, my experiments started getting wackier and more sugar-crazed. Partially melted dark chocolate chips mixed into condensed milk result in a not-unpleasant tootsie roll flavor and texture when baked.
And then there were the barks in the night. An orange infused dark chocolate bark topped with dried cherries (featured ingredient of Purim '11) and pine nuts. Next I made a milk chocolate bark topped with chopped cocktail peanuts, and rice krispies. And then for the white-lovers I made a vanilla bean flecked white chocolate slab with dried blueberries and slivered almonds. At Hub's suggestion I made a combo bark: equal parts dark and semi sweet chocolate bar topped with slivered almonds and tart dried cherries.
I had a sweet raindrop of an idea as I was falling asleep on thursday night: Semi sweet bark with chopped marshmallows, dried cherries, and chopped walnuts. 'Cos life can sometimes be a Rocky Road, and the world seems to be falling apart, and sometimes it just feels good to is sit back, close your eyes, and eat sweets.
Last night I stayed up until 3 wrapping those blasted, utterly swoon-worthy, cream caramels. And packing up the variety of barks, and hamantaschen. And then whimsically assembling it all in paper bags, popcorn boxes, and chinese food cartons. Now I think I'm ready to take the cure to sweets overdose: Salt. Real food. Water.
Sour Cherry Lekvar
2 c. dried cherries
1/2 lemon juice
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
1 split vanilla bean
Put dried cherries, lemon juice, water, and stir in sugar. Add vanilla bean. Heat over medium-high heat until it begins to bubble, lower to a simmer and let simmer for 15-20 minutes or until most of liquid is reduced. Remove from heat, and transfer cherry mixture to a food processor and coarsely chop (pulse for a few seconds). Makes enough lekvar to fill 3 dozen hamantaschen