In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a huge fan of cake as we know it. I’m pretty thrilled when I pull off a layer cake, and I swoon at Molly Yeh’s gorgeous creations, but I’ll almost never go into a bakery, look at the cake options, and say, “ooh, I’ll take a slice of that, please.” In fact, for our wedding we had a rustic and delicious pie station with three sweet and tart options to sample and devour (apple, pumpkin, and cranberry pear, of course) in lieu of the traditional, schmancy multi-tier wedding cake, and our guests didn’t even miss it. But — combine a cake with a brownie, flavor it with almond and orange, and call it a torte, and I will throw my hat back in the cake ring with relish. Continue reading →
I’ve been feeling extra Jewy lately. When Nazis and white nationalists come out of the woodwork, you see, my instinct grows strong to pull out the gold Star of David my great-great-uncle made for my grandmother and wear it proudly, unabashedly around my neck — just like I did when I visited Auschwitz and a little nearby Polish town called Bedzin, where my grandfather’s parents were from, once so bustling with Jews but now containing only an overgrown Jewish cemetery in the middle of a forest and one sole Jewish family. It’s my middle finger to those who wish us gone. Great-Great-Uncle Adrian, the jeweler who made that beautiful star, came here, with his parents and brother and sisters — including my great-grandmother — from Bucharest, like so many Jews, like my other great-grandparents, to escape persecution. Lucky they left when they did. So many others could not. So many others never would. So many others were trapped.
Which is why this week I decided to make some challah. A braided, enriched, eggy bread, challah, to me, is comforting in its tenderness. And braiding challah is, in essence, a meditation on humanity: many separate strands woven together to create a whole. I’m no Jewish scholar. I’m not sure if that ever was what was intended in the weekly preparation of this special bread, eaten on the Sabbath and all holidays (besides Passover). But today, I feel more than ever that it’s what it’s meant to be. Continue reading →
I’m baking a lot of bread these days. Holding the ImaginariYUM to its name and experimenting several days a week — with different kinds and percentages of flours, with hydration levels, with folding techniques and bulk fermentation times. Even the not-so-great loaves are a thrill — the deductions of what went wrong, why perhaps this baking temperature isn’t great for that particular formula in this particular oven. It makes me remember that despite giving up in chemistry in high school, I’m a scientist at heart. I want to know how things work, why things are they way they are. Making naturally leavened bread is the perfect juxtaposition of science and my other love, art. Know thy formulas, deduce, experiment, test again, but feel it and express it with your heart and soul. Continue reading →
During the holidays, it’s hard to stray from the old classics. Besides the Mexican hot chocolate biscotti I fiddled around with, I mostly made the tried and true last year: dark chocolate peanut butter blossoms; mint mocha crinkle cookies; speculoos breakfast buns. But the new year is ripe for experimentation. Gone are the stresses of upholding the traditions of not only your own nostalgia but everyone else’s. You can make the people you love happy not only by helping them relive their childhoods, but engaging them with something new and delicious. “How about some pumpkin walnut ravioli in a brown butter sage sauce for dinner?” I asked the husbo last weekend. He could do nothing but nod soundlessly and enthusiastically in eager anticipation.
Well folks, we made it. 2016 is over and gone, and 2017 is here — of course, as we knew it would be. On the eve of a new year we always proclaim the previous to be “the worst year ever,” willing the next to be better and brighter, because it just has to be, right? Seriously, we do it every year. And while 2016 might have been an exception in crappiness, even in our current era, on the grand scale of politics and the like I’m not betting 2017 will be much better. But a friend posted a thread on Facebook encouraging people to post the good things that happened in 2016 — because on a personal level, I’ll bet there were as many for you as there were for me. I spent much of the year trying to regain my footing, find my place in the world — a miasmic endeavor that left me, often, in tears. And yet, 2016 was the year my sweet nephew Charlie was born, and it was the year I married the love of my life on the most gorgeous day of the year — two huge events that also left me in tears, but happy ones. Watching videos of Charlie laughing over and over again and just looking into the eyes of my new husbo have been a salve to my soul. And as 2016 came to a close and 2017 dawned cold and sunny, I’m stepping closer and more firmly to where I want to be, where I need to be, where I belong. And so, in honor of this awakening, I’m sharing with you these Orange Cranberry Streusel Muffins — as bright and glorious as the cold winter sun, and like a warm hug to welcome you in from the chill of last year.
When people ask me what my favorite dessert is, I usually say, without hesitation, apple pie. Please don’t make me a cake for my birthday — in fact, for our wedding we cut into a small pumpkin cake just for tradition’s sake but had a table of fall fruit pies for all our guests (and us, of course). But guys, I’m at that point in the year when I’m kind of over fruit and I want everything to be chocolate. I want all cookies, all the time. ‘Tis the season, right? And while I am definitely shoving many peanut butter blossoms in my face each day, I also have been craving the more refined variety. There’s nothing better on a cold winter’s day than an afternoon coffee or hot cocoa and a crunchy biscotti — unless it’s these Mexican Hot Chocolate Biscotti. These are biscotti on an even higher plane.
I am firmly of the belief that cinnamon is an anytime-of-the-year spice. But fall and winter, truly, is where it shines. Cinnamon warms you from the inside out. The scent alone feels like a cozy night in front of a fireplace — it’s the culinary equivalent of a firm hug. Last year, with temperatures hovering in the 60s and 70s here in NYC, it hardly seemed necessary. But in 2016, December feels like December, it’s cold and windy and cloudy, and along with all the cheese I want to put on everything, and all the chocolate I want to consume, I want to add cinnamon to every single thing I touch. These cinnamon apple oatmeal scones hit that craving perfectly. Continue reading →
I’m a little new to the pumpkin party, in the grand scheme of things. I knew nothing of pumpkin pies growing up — in my family, it was all apple, all the time. I’m not so sure I’d truly eaten a whole lot of pumpkin before I met the fella, but now, like so many of you, I’m addicted. I would not say obsessed. I don’t drink pumpkin lattes (I take mine straight, thank you very much), and I don’t even have a jar of pumpkin spice in my cabinet. But we did insist on a pumpkin cake with maple cream cheese frosting for our wedding, and when those little orange cans are on sale, hoo boy, I stock up, I make haste, and I make use. And while pumpkin pie is tops in the Thanksgiving dessert department (I love this one), sometimes you just want to rip into a baguette, drench it in a rich, decadent pumpkin custard, and call it a day. This year I’m foregoing pies and making this pumpkin bread pudding with maple cream cheese sauce, and I’m not apologizing — and once you taste it, I think you’ll agree I don’t have to. Continue reading →
When my friend Melanie called wedding planning “traumatic” earlier this fall, I thought she was joking. I must have just been overreacting to the overwhelming pressures of decision-making, I thought, after I had complained about wanting this part of the whole deal to be over. No, she was, indeed, quite serious. And she was right. Don’t get me wrong — our wedding day, the most gorgeous day of October in the New York-metro area, replete with frost on the grass in the morning and abundant, warming sunshine throughout the afternoon and so very much love from so many of our closest and favorite people, was better than I ever could have dreamed. On that day, all the meticulous planning, all the decisions, all the trust that ultimately went into our amazing vendors and our incredible family and bridal party to keep us calm and ensure that everything went smoothly, were worth it. But of course, in the weeks leading up to it, I had given myself an onerous task that I should have known better than to leave ‘til the last minute. There was, of course, no way I was going to bake desserts for my own wedding, but I still wanted to share the love with our friends and family in the form of food made from my own kitchen. I would make our wedding favors. I would learn to make — and preserve — apple butter. Continue reading →
This one goes out to all you marathoners out there. All you celiacs. All you vegans. This is the back-pocket recipe I wish I had over the last two years, when I was training my ass off, hungry all the time and only half-heartedly fooling myself into thinking I could eat whatever I wanted. These vegan, gluten-free chocolate peanut butter banana energy bites have everything I want in a sweet, satisfying treat, and nothing I don’t need. Continue reading →