Tu B’Shevat. The 15th day of Shevat. When I was growing up it was the day they gave you smelly buckser (dried carob) in a bag, together with dried dates and raisins that no kid wanted to eat. We sang “Hashkediya Porachat,” (the almond tree blooms) and that was it. We knew it as the birthday of the trees, and the day the trees started to bloom again. In Israel. Because in New York, it was pretty darn cold. And nothing was blooming.
Fast forward 20 years (give or take), with kids of my own in school, and now a Tu B’Shevat “seder” is de rigueur. What in the world is that? Are we now going to sit down together to eat the dried fruit and smelly buckser? Why didn’t I know anything about it?
The first formal Tu B’Shevat seder I attended was a beautiful evening in a friend’s home. The table was set with finery and a glorious spread of fruits, dried and fresh, nuts and wine. I didn’t know what to expect. Similar to a Passover Seder, there was an “order” and a Haggadah, of sorts—a printed book with blessings and significance given for everything we ate and drank. It was truly a beautiful evening, physically and spiritually. And luckily, I have been able to participate in such a seder, with good friends, every year since.
When thinking about something special to prepare in honor of Tu B’Shevat this year, I came across a Chabad website that gave a list of instructions about how to host a Tu B’Shevat seder. In addition to preparing things to say, and gathering as many fruits as possible, it said: “Bake (or purchase) cake or cookies, or anything tasty that is made primarily from wheat flour.” And later: “Begin by serving the cake and saying the blessing for it.” Let me repeat: “Begin by serving the cake”! Whaaat? That one was new to me, but, that’s what it said. I promise. And I can definitely do cake!
So, in honor of Tu B’Shevat this year, I will leave the sheva minim salads, stews, dried fruit and dried buckser for someone else to bring. I, obviously, will be the one bringing the cake to the seder!
These delicious pinwheel cookies are filled with dried dates and apricots, and will certainly enhance your Tu B’Shevat seder with both the wheat flour and dried fruit well represented! See, I’ve got you covered! Enjoy!
Fruit and Nut-Filled Pinwheel Cookies
- 1 cup margarine or butter
- 2 cups brown sugar, packed
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
- 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- Prepared date spread, prune butter (lekvar), apricot butter
- 1-2 cups finely chopped pecans or walnuts
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add eggs and vanilla and combine well. Add flour, salt and baking soda and mix well, just until combined. Gather dough and divide into four. Wrap each portion in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, 2-4 hours. Take out one piece of dough at a time, and roll out between 2 sheets of floured parchment paper, into a rectangle about ¼-inch thick. Spread with an even layer of date filling and sprinkle with nuts. Roll up carefully, jelly-roll style, into a tight spiral, using the paper to help. Wrap the dough log in the paper and place in the freezer while you roll out the rest of the dough. This dough is very soft and must stay cold to work with. If it gets too soft as you are working, return to the refrigerator or freezer.
When the logs are semi-frozen, or even frozen solid, slice into ¼-inch rounds and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 12-13 minutes, or until cookies are golden.
By Rachel Berger