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Posts Tagged ‘traditions’

Every March 9, in some regions within Romania, folks celebrate the day by making măcinici. The măcinici are different depending on the region… they vary from a pasta-like dough to a bread-like dough. Growing up, my family always made the pasta-like dough (read more about the tradition in an old post).

Since having Julia, exposing her to my childhood traditions have been important and fun. We have also exposed her to the Jewish traditions, which I also love. Julia is curious and seems to enjoy them all, which makes it even more fun.

March 9 fell on a Friday this year. Making anything on a weeknight is challenging, but my mom and I decided to still make them… we could not break the tradition. My mom made the dough and I took a half a day vacation so we can get an early start. Making măcinici is time consuming.

As soon as we rolled the dough into a sheet, Julia insisted that she wanted to use the punch. The punch is not an easy tool… you really have to press it into the dough, wiggle it a bit to release the dough from the rest, and then lift and press the top to release the cutout. She tried a couple of times and got frustrated. My mom and I told her that it was even hard for us to do, but I am not sure if that made her feel better.

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My mom had an idea… she tasked Julia with moving the măcinici from our working area to the towel so that they can dry. Julia thought that it was the best idea! She was even counting them.

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At one point I looked over and Julia was arranging the măcinici in rows… it looked so pretty so we continued the pattern.

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As with any 5 year old kids, she eventually got tired of moving the măcinici over so she abandoned her post. My mom and I continued for a while. After about 2 hours and a few breaks, we were ready to boil them.

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The măcinici are pretty much considered fresh pasta, so just like fresh pasta, once they come to the surface, they are done. To finish them off, we added finely ground and chopped walnuts, lemon zest, cinnamon, vanilla and rum extract, sugar, and a pinch of salt. We boiled it a bit more until the sugar dissolved and then we were done.

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We truly enjoyed our hard work… the măcinici were delicious.

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Ever since I met Joel, we have celebrated the Jewish holidays… Rosh Hashanah, Passover, Chanukah. But of course there are many more, including Purim. A traditional dish for Purim is hamantaschen cookies, which are triangular shaped cookies, that resemble a hat, and are filled with poppy seeds as well as fruit jams. I was surprised to learn about the poppy seed filling tradition… poppy seeds are used in traditional Romanian cooking and baking too, especially for Christmas. I love all the similarities that I discover about the Romanian and Jewish traditions. There are more than I have ever imagined.

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My favorite hamantaschen cookies have always been the fruit filled ones, specifically the prune filled. I must admit that I have not seen any poppy seed filled cookies at the local Jewish bakery or the grocery store. Not sure why that is. Also, I have always wanted to make them, but the recipes that I have found did not appeal to me, since most of them require a ton of dairy… butter, cream cheese, and/or sour cream.

My friend Mark and I were chatting the other day and he asked me if I was planning on making the cookies since Purim is this week. I explained my recipe dilemma to him. But then I got inspired and decided to search for a non-dairy recipe. After reading through the search results on Food52, I found the perfect recipe! I also thought that it would be fun to make the cookies with Julia, since she loves to help me bake.

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The dough recipe is super simple… it requires flour, baking powder, salt, a bit of water, vegetable oil, eggs, and sugar. You mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, then you mix the wet ingredients in another bowl, and then you mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until a thick dough forms. Lastly, you knead the dough a bit to bring it together into a ball, cut it in half, and then form two disks. The caveat was that you had to let the dough chill for at least 3 hours or overnight, so Julia and I made the dough first thing in the morning and then continued with the rest 3 hours later.

Although the recipe included the chocolate poppy seed filling, I really wanted to use prune jam and apricot jam, since I love both flavors. Also, my mom gave me a few jars of her home-made prune jam, so I thought that it was the perfect opportunity to use some of it. As I was grabbing the prune jam, I realized that I forgot to buy the apricot jam. But then I remembered that my mom also gave me a jar of her home-made peach jam, so I decided to use that instead. The cookies came out delicious!

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I do have a few things to share about the recipe…

I, of course, cut the sugar… I cut it from 1/2 a cup to a 1/3 of a cup and the cookies were plenty sweet. I also added a teaspoon of vanilla since I like the flavor. I did not have to add any extra water since the dough seemed good.

The recipe suggests rolling the dough to an 1/8 inch thickness. I found this to be too thin when shaping the cookies. Having the dough slightly thicker made shaping them much easier. Also, the folding technique explained did not make any sense to me, so I just pinched the circle in 3 spots, which still resembled the traditional cookie shape.

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A few of my cookies did loose their shape during baking. After talking to my sister, I found out that she had the same issue when she baked some and she used a different recipe/dough. I do not feel too terrible about it, since they still taste good. I wonder how the cookies that are sold at the grocery store come out so perfectly-shaped… they must have a bunch of discards. I am picturing the bakers enjoying them.. I hope. Ha!

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I am glad that I finally gave these cookies a try. I would definitely make them again, even though they were a bit time consuming. It is also a nice tradition to start with Julia. Happy Purim!!

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