BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Love Triangle

Don your silliest costumes and rattle your noise-makers; Purim is around the corner! As one of the most joyous events on the Jewish calendar, games of chance, dancing, and parades are just the beginning of the fun festivities. Marked by vibrant color and a celebratory cacophony, it should only follow suit that the iconic food of the day, the hamantaschen, should follow suit. While the multi-colored fruit fillings contribute that particular visual impression, the uproar can often be attributed to the baker’s wailing over the fickle, uncooperative dough. Even the most experienced kitchen wizards sometimes get tripped up on this buttery pastry shell.

While everyone has their favorite flavors, from classic poppy seed to nouveau yuzu marmalade, the very same base is essential for hamantaschen mastery. Rather than leave you simply with a tried-and-true formula, I thought I might share a few tips to improve the end results, no matter what recipe makes the cut.

  • Start with shortening. It’s not the most flavorful fat on the shelf, but you can make up for that with citrus zest, spices, or concentrated baking extracts if that really bothers you. Nothing else works quite as well for this very rich dough. Vegetable shortening has less water than vegan butter and a higher melting point, which means your cookies are less liable to spread or, worst case scenario, liquefy in the oven.
  • Chill out. Keep all of your components as cold as possible, including the filling and even the rolling pin. The structure of the cookies becomes increasingly unstable with every passing minute once dough begins to warm up, so work quickly and handle it as little as possible.
  • Keep on rolling. Roll out the dough as thinly as possible, to about an 1/8th of an inch at most, so that the corners won’t crack when you begin to fold. Denser dough will also affect the rate of baking, causing the cookies to open up while still soft and impressionable.
  • Portion control. Apply the filling sparingly (no more than a teaspoon for a 2 1/2-inch round of dough) to prevent overflow. It may seem stingy at a glance, but a little bit really does go a long way.
  • Get the seal of approval. Pinch those corners very firmly to ensure that they adhere, and if they’re giving you trouble, add a tiny dab of water to act as glue.
  • Time to shine. For a very subtle finishing gloss, lightly paint the exposed dough with an even coat of equal parts agave and aquafaba and a tiny pinch of salt. The combination of sugar and protein will help add just a touch of added glamour and enhance browning.

Do you have any hamantaschen secrets of your own? Favorite recipes for dough or fillings? Don’t forget to share, and keep the noise in the kitchen just as jubilant as in the party!


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The Good Bean

Hodo Soy – The Good Bean from Hannah Kaminsky on Vimeo.

Rarely does one have the opportunity to see first-hand just how one of their favorite foods are made, from raw material to comfortingly familiar final product, which is why my visit to the Hodo Soy factory was so extraordinary. It didn’t hurt that my guide, Henry Hsu, was so generous with his time, allowing me to poke my camera into every step of the process. For the first time ever, I took this opportunity to experiment into the realm of motion pictures, so what you see above is still fairly rough. Regardless, I couldn’t wait to share this peek behind the scenes.

You may have heard the name before, or perhaps you’ve eaten their tofu without even realizing it. Hodo Soy provides the soy base for Chipotle‘s famous tofu sofritas, but their commitment to creating innovative foods that remain true to ancient art of soybean wrangling doesn’t end there. Increasing demand has brought their firm blocks, nuggets, and yuba noodles farther across the country than ever before, turning this homegrown company into a national brand in the blink of an eye.

Consider this just a small taste to whet your appetite; Coming soon, I’ll have a more typical recipe and photo post to share, using some of those incredible soybean savories I watched come to fruition before my eyes. Stay tuned, and stay hungry!


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Oregon’s Got Talent

Nestled into the mountainous terrain of southern Oregon resides a town often praised for its close proximity to other cities. Ashland, home of quite possibly the longest running and most prolific Shakespeare festival in the US, is a mere ten-minute drive away, and Medford, large enough to support its very own Airport, is another bustling metropolis within easy reach. Talent, Oregon may not have one particular claim to fame nor pop up on most travel guides of the Pacific North West, but after spending a few days in the 1.33 square miles that over 6,000 residents call home, it seems a shame to overlook this hidden gem.

If for nothing else, it’s worth stopping in for some rest and relaxation on Shady Grove Farm. Established by Husband and Wife Lynn and Lin, it’s a sanctuary for animals and humans alike. Make no mistake, it’s not just a place to stay, but a full vacation in and of itself. Stay in one of the many rooms available, from a studio with a complete kitchen, to a cozy tent by the fire for “glamping,” and you’ll immediately realize that you’re truly a guest in the Bernhardts’ home.

Tempting as it may be to sleep in every morning, the promise of Lin’s breakfast is a good reason to greet the day. As a vegan and talented cook, I’ve never eaten so well or so richly for the first meal of the day; tofu scramble enchiladas, smothered in a mild green hatch chile sauce. Cooking intuitively, when plied for a recipe, she offered that the real secret to success for this dish was a light veneer of Vegenaise lavished across the tortillas, providing moisture and flavor in one fell swipe.

Even when I professed my love for plain old oatmeal, Lin managed to create a bowlful fit for a king. Lavished with fresh strawberries and complimented by brown sugar, peach chutney, and sweet oat milk, each of the homemade condiments elevated the steel-cut grains to a new level. After that experience, it would be impossible to go back to instant.

If you’re really lucky, before you go off gallivanting around the farm to explore the organic garden or help feed the chickens, Lin just might gift you with a handful of her homemade chocolate chip cookies. No matter how stuffed you are after breakfast, when faced with these soft and chewy treats, it always seems perfectly reasonable to follow it up with a sweet morning snack.

Though it feels like an oasis in the countryside, you’re far from stranded when staying at the farm. Main Street is a short walk away, and while it may boast only a dozen businesses or so, there’s a surprising wealth of fine dining to be found. Even on Sunday evening when all other eateries were closed, The Grotto turned out to be a lucky find. Happy to accommodate hungry vegans, it was no problem to forgo the cheese on any of their myriad pizza offerings, and the promise of an unlimited salad bar is always music to my ears. Don’t overlook the beers and tap, either- A crisp glass of pear cider made this meal into something truly special.

If there’s only one opportunity to eat out, however, I would insist that you pay a visit to Harvest Restaurant. Don’t bother consulting the menu, but call ahead and alert the kitchen that you would like a vegan entree. State your budget, and be prepared for an unforgettable meal. Working with whatever fresh, local, and organic produce is on hand, the chef works magic to craft incredible meatless mains right on the spot. I was amazed at the tower of caramelized onion farro, grilled squash, beets, and chanterelle mushrooms, and crisp fried potatoes that greeted me at the table. Rather than finding dietary restrictions an imposition, the chef gamely takes on any requests, claiming that it’s like a real-life version of Iron Chef that he genuinely relishes. For dessert, sorbet was already on the menu, and the bright, honey-like cantaloupe flavor made for an idea finish to this impeccable dinner.

I had always seen myself more as a city gal, drawn to the daily hustle and bustle like a moth to the light, but this trip had me reconsidering that notion… This beautiful slice of country life seems like the perfect antidote to the common urban commotion.


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Silent Saturday: Leftovers from Austin

(As I begin packing my bags for the next great adventure, it’s becoming clear that if I don’t share the last roundup of photos from my time in Texas now, I probably never will. There are still many more photos from my time in the “friendship state”- If you’re interested in seeing the full set, browse on over to my Flickr album.)

Vegan Breakfast Platter with Vanilla-Pecan Pancakes from Kerbey Lane Cafe

Garden Breakfast with Tofu Scramble from Bouldin Creek Cafe

Vegan ‘Harvey P’ Rueben from Shhmaltz

Beet Mushroom Walnut Burger from Counter Culture

Avocado Carpaccio and Black Bean Taco from Tyson’s Tacos

Vegan Crab Cakes with Smoked Vegetables from Lady Luck

The Classic Vegan Cheese Detroit-Style Pizza from Via 311

Spicy Veggie Prawns with Collard Greens from Nice-N-Ful

Cauliflower Steak with Curried Lentils and Caramelized Onions from Hyde Park Bar & Grill

Jackfruit BBQ Plate from Unity Vegan Kitchen