edible gifts

Banana Bread with Dates and Figs


Every Purim I try new hamantaschen from different bakeries. I've also made my own hamantaschen using a variety of recipes.

But so far, after years and years of buying this one and that one, my favorites are the (parve) ones I get at The Bakery, in Plainview, NY. For me, they are the enduring treats of childhood, never failing to please, never changing, even in a world where innovation is honored.

And so -- I will buy my hamantaschen this year. Old fashioned flavors: prune and apricot. At The Bakery.

Which means that for Purim, instead of creating a completely new hamantaschen recipe or even trying a new pastry recipe with old fashioned filling, I am going to bake banana bread as mishloach manot gifts.

I have a zillion recipes for banana bread. Some with streusel. Some dairy-free. Some loaded with chocolate chips, some with coconut. Some all chocolate-y. Some spicy. And on and on.

This is my most recent banana bread recipe, one I came up with while revising my mother's date-nut bread recipe. 


Banana Bread with Figs, Dates and Nuts

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan. Mix the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda together in a bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the shortening and sugar until well blended. Add the bananas and beat them in thoroughly. Add the eggs and beat them in thoroughly. Add the flour mixture and beat for a minute or so until the batter is well blended. Fold in the figs, dates and nuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about one hour or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a cake rack to cool completely.

Makes one bread, serving 16-18


Rich Tangerine-Chili Chocolate Truffles

I love the tradition of mishloach manot -- giving away food to family, friends and even strangers during Purim. Besides the actual mitzvah of giving, it is an opportunity to do what I love: cook a lot and give the food away. It's like having the thrill of eating -- without the calories.

If you make edible gifts for Purim or as a host/hostess gift when you are invited to someone's house or for any other occasion, you might want to try truffles. They take some time but are actually quite easy to make and I guarantee they're rich and tasty and anyone would be thrilled to get them.

Check out the photo and you'll notice that I don't make my truffles perfectly rounded. Candy truffles get their name because they look like the the underground fungi, the ones that are highly fragrant and are dark, small and irregularly shaped. So the sloppy look is actually more authentic.

I made this recipe using tangerine juice and cayenne pepper. I had once tasted tangerine-chili chocolates and thought they were amazingly wonderful. The extra bit of heat pops the citrus and chocolate into one harmonious whole.

Yes, orange juice and peel are fine, though not as flavorful. And you can leave out the cayenne pepper, though I think the truffles are better with the heat.

Pack these in small cardboard or wooden boxes or small cellophane bags (you can get them at most craft stores) and you have a beautiful homemade gift for any occasion.

Or treat yourself and your family. They'll be happy.

Tangerine-Chili Chocolate Truffles

  • 12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons tangerine juice
  • 6 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh tangerine peel
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, approximately
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sprinkles, toasted coconut, ground nuts, etc. (approximately)

Chop the chocolate in a food processor. Heat the cream over medium heat until it is hot and bubbles form around the edges of the pan. With the processor on, pour in the cream through the feed tube and process until smooth and well blended with the chocolate (you may have to scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice). Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes (in the processor bowl). Add the juice, butter, tangerine peel and cayenne pepper and blend them in thoroughly. Spoon the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate for at least one hour or until the mixture has firmed enough to form a soft “dough.” Take small pieces of the dough and shape into small balls (they don’t have to be perfectly rounded) (I do this wearing disposable gloves). Place the balls on waxed paper or aluminum foil on cookie sheets. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes. Roll the balls in cocoa, sprinkles, etc.

 Makes about 3 dozen.