Wednesday, March 15, 2017

SF Chinatown Bakery Sign

Painted on the closed gate of a venerable bakery in San Francisco's Chinatown, this is the first of what I hope will be a series of food-related signage photographs featured on Blog Appetit. These food signs have always fascinated me and I look forward to sharing them and their stories with you.

The Eastern Bakery at 720 Grant Avenue had been a Chinatown institution well before I arrived in the Bay area in 1979.  They are known for their moon cakes, but also, as the gate advises, serve breakfast, lunch and food to go. Try their custard tarts and steamed savory buns, as well.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Savory Bites and California Mandelbrot for Purim

Pepper jelly makes these more of an appetizer than a dessert.
Purim has many food traditions associated with it.  Among them is the custom of giving friends and relatives a gift basket of food known as mishloach manot.  The giver is ensuring the recipient has enough food for a Purim feast.  Another Purim tradition is to donate to the poor, and some have combined the two traditions into food drives and donations to food banks.

The recipes below were designed to be made for a Purim basket, or even just made ahead for a Purim party.  The crispy Lemon-Olive Oil Mandelbrot cookies stand up to a dunking in tea or even a bit of sweet wine. Be sure to label the Spicy Hamantaschen Bites, an appetizer twist on the traditional Purim cookie, so your recipient knows this treat has some heat.

Hamantaschen are said to resemble the evil Haman's hat and are usually filled with jam, prune butter or poppy seeds. Filled or "hidden" foods are also a  Purim tradition since there is so many secrets in the Purim story. For more on the Purim story and a recipe for the sweeter, traditional hamantaschen, see my post here.

California Mandelbrot with Lemon and Olive Oil
Makes about 24

Oil spray
2 eggs
2/3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. lemon oil
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 Tbs. grated, minced lemon zest
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 2/3 cup flour, plus extra
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup blanched, sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Use spray to grease two baking sheets.   In a mixer bowl, combine eggs and sugar on high speed until pale yellow and thickened.  Stir in lemon oil, almond extract, lemon zest and olive oil.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt.  With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the egg and sugar mixture in three batches, making sure each batch is combined before adding the next.  Beat at medium speed until smooth, stir in the almonds (dough will be stiff).  Sprinkle flour on work surface.  Dough will be sticky so oil or wet hands.  Shape dough into two loaves, each about 10” long, 1 ½” wide and 1” tall.  Using spatula if needed, transfer to center of prepared pans.  Pat back into shape.

Bake 25 minutes or until golden and top crust has small cracks.  Let cool slightly.  Transfer loaves to cutting board and cut into 3/4" slices.  Lay slices flat side down on pans, return to hot oven and bake 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on rack.  Mandelbrot will crisp as it cools.

Spicy Hamantaschen Bites
Makes 22-24

2 cups flour, plus extra
2 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 lb. margarine or butter (1 stick), at room temperature and cut in small pieces
2 eggs, beaten
About 1/4 cup strained jalapeƱo or other pepper jelly

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and pepper in large bowl.  With a pastry blender or two forks, cut in margarine until about the size of lentils.  Mix in eggs. Mix until it forms a ball, using hands to knead together if needed. Sprinkle flour on work surface and roll out dough 1/4“ thick.  Cut into circles with a round cookie cutter or small glass about 2 ½” to 2 ¾” in diameter.  Gather scraps and reroll them and cut out additional circles.

Fill the center of each circle with 1/2 tsp. jelly.  (Do not overfill.) Push up 3 sides to form triangles, firmly pinching so the cookies will maintain their shape during baking.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Remove cookies and cool on rack.

This article first appeared in a slightly different form in the J, the Jewish News of Northern California.