July 22, 2024
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Mustachudos and Linzer Tarts for Vayigash and Vayechi

Parshat Vayigash inspiration:

“And they took their livestock and their possessions that they had acquired in the Land of Canaan and they came to Egypt, Jacob and all his descendants with him. His sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters and his sons’ daughters and all his descendants he brought with him to Egypt.”… “He sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph, to direct him to Goshen, and they came to the land of Goshen.”… “Joseph settled his father and his brothers, and he gave them property in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had mandated.”

I imagine that Jacob and his family traversed through a landscape graced by pyramids on their way to Goshen. So I made some.

Mustachudos are a traditional Sephardic spiced nut cookie, often made for Passover, so I think it is especially appropriate for this parsha. I come from an Ashkenazic background and don’t have a nonna to teach me our family recipe, so I looked at perhaps a dozen variations and came up with this one that seemed representative. As I was making them, I felt like I was making little pyramids out of charoset.

 

Mustachudos

  • 1 cup of hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup of walnuts, toasted
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of an orange

1. If not yet toasted, toast the nuts by spreading them out on a sheet pan and baking for about 8 minutes at 350F. Shake the tray a couple of times while they are baking so they don’t burn on one side. They should be releasing an aroma, but not burnt, by the time they come out of the oven. After they have cooled for just a minute of two, layer them inside a clean dish towel and rub to remove the dark skins from the hazelnuts.

2. Chop and crush the nuts, or pulse them in a food processor, to a small but coarse grind.

3. Add the chopped nuts to a mixing bowl, then add the sugar, cinnamon and cloves, and mix.

4. Add the beaten egg, vanilla and orange zest to the mixture and mix well until it forms a thick paste. Cover the mixture and chill it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

5. While the mixture is in the fridge, cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and heat the oven to 250F.

6. Remove the mixture from the fridge and scoop out 2-tablespoon balls at a time (some recipes stop here, so if the pyramids are giving you trouble, just bake them as balls). Shape them into pyramids. Dip your clean fingers in water so the mixture doesn’t stick too much. Make one side flat, then form it into a triangle. Turn it to the side and gently pinch the top side into an edge, then slowly turn and repeat, flattening the sides against parchment paper, until you get a pyramid (three or four sides and a bottom).

7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until almost dry on the outside and just barely starting to toast along the edges. Cool on the pan for a couple of minutes before loosening each cookie from the parchment with a spatula.

This recipe makes 13 two-tablespoons-sized cookies and can easily be doubled.

Parshat Vayechi inspiration:

After recognizing Joseph’s two sons as his own, Jacob, on his deathbed, gathers his sons and gives them each blessings according to their individual characters.

“All these are the 12 tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them and blessed them; each man, according to his blessing, he blessed them.”

I made Linzer tarts, the favorite cookie of my own father, Stephen Book, z”l, whose birthday we would have celebrated this past week. Just like our patriarch Jacob, my father blessed his children and recognized our individuality with unusual acumen. The center of each cookie represents the name of each tribe, including Ephraim and Menashe in place of Joseph.

 

Linzer Tarts

  • 1 cup margarine, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Raspberry jam (preferably seedless), for filling

1. Beat the margarine, sugar, confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as needed, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.

2. Whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond flour and baking powder to distribute evenly. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix until just combined. Don’t over-beat.

3. Divide the dough into two parts and pat each half into a disc approximately 1” thick. The dough is very tender, so this preparation will make it much easier to handle and roll out successfully. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

4. Prepare two baking trays with parchment paper. Also flour a work surface.

5. Remove a dough disc from the refrigerator and when it is soft enough to roll out (about 5-10 minutes; it should still be quite cold but not crumble when you pinch it), roll it out on the floured surface to about ⅛” thick.

6. Using a cookie cutter of any not-too-intricate shape (I used scalloped rounds of about 2” diameter), cut out the cookies. Transfer the cookies to the parchment-lined baking tray. Gather the dough and repeat until you have used all the dough from both discs. If at any time the dough becomes too sticky to work with, pat it into a disc again and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.

7. Refrigerate the cookies for 20-30 minutes. Heat the oven to 350F.

8. Take one tray out and use mini cookie cutters to create a peekaboo cutout in the center of each cookie. I used letters to represent the names of each of Jacob’s sons. Only make cut-outs in the cookies on one tray; half of your cookies should remain whole.

9. Bake each tray for 8-12 minutes, until the cookies are just beginning to brown. Let them cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack until completely cooled.

10. When cool, return the cookies with cutouts to a tray and sift confectioner’s sugar over the top.

11. Turn the remaining, whole cookies to flat side up, and spoon ½-1 teaspoon of jam into the center. Don’t overfill, and use a butter knife or small off-set spatula to spread the jam toward the edges.

12. Top each with a sugar-dusted cookie and let the cookies sit for several minutes to set up.


Follow me @EdibleParsha on Facebook to see each recipe on the Monday of each parsha week for plenty of time to prepare it for Shabbat!

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