I know for the last days of Hanukkah I should probably be making jelly doughnuts. Or a jelly doughnut cake. But sufganiyot, the traditional treat served during the Festival of Lights, was never high on my mother’s dessert agenda, and I’m not sure we ever tried convincing her otherwise. Once, as an adult, I fried up some apple cider doughnuts for our Hanukkah feast, but have since realized they’re much better baked. And although I’ve had no problem stopping at Dunkin Donuts for some chocolate honey glazed (which, I think in this day and age, is no longer glazed with honey, but rather some other sugary concoction) to share around the menorah, rugelach is more in line with my family tradition. And unlike fried doughnuts (but not fried cookies), they’ll last for more than one sitting. I’m also gearing up to try my hand at croissants, so I may as well work on my crescent-rolling technique now, right?
This year I set out to do something a bit different from the traditional. At least, traditional in my family. My mom’s recipe, which comes from my grandma’s Romanian side of the family, is filled with sugar, cinnamon, and chopped walnuts. Actually pretty perfect for this time of year. But I must be stuck in some other dimension because my December treats have been suspiciously lacking in chocolate, and this must be amended immediately. This year we’re going to make rugelach of the babka variety: chocolate and cinnamon; tender and bittersweet. Sort of like 2014. But that’s a whole other story.
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We are less than nine days away from the Philadelphia Marathon start line, and along with the nightly marathon-based dreams (some of the nightmare variety) comes the depressive restlessness, the feeling of helplessness in the face of the marathon taper. We curtail our miles and our intensity in the last few weeks to rest and repair our micro-torn muscles, catch up on sleep, and get our twitchy legs itching to go on race day. It’s a necessary evil; evil only because the nerves that we baste with long tempo runs are dried out and frayed by the forced hiatus of intensity. When something stressful completely unrelated to running creeps into my comfort zone, I’m now thrown into disarray, reduced to tears by the tiniest infraction (like, say, a torn pie crust). When they say that running is a drug they’re really not joking.
Enter the candy monster. Or, more specifically, these chocolate pumpkin spice clusters. Truth be told, I spent a good many hours the other day/night working on what I hoped would be the perfect apple pie, and just couldn’t get myself to do it all over again the very next day when I realized it still needed modifications. Well, that, and there’s still one more slice of pie that needs to be eaten before I can use the pie plate again. That’s where simplicity comes into play. Continue reading →
My brother got married over the weekend. The setting was a picturesque country club and golf course in the mountainous northeast corner of New Jersey, just over the New York border. Just outside the lodge, next to the gazebo where he and his lady would say their vows, was a gorgeous maple tree nearing its peak: bright red against what was, at the beginning, a cloudy October sky. It was brisk after pouring all day, and we froze in our dresses as we stood waiting for the photographer to get everything he wanted. But the scent out there was pure autumn. There’s always something about grass and trees after the rain, but it takes on even more fullness in fall. When I got home, I wanted that in my kitchen. I wanted apple cider doughnuts.
When I lived in Jersey City, we had an amazing farmer’s market just outside the PATH station, with several farmers and orchards from around my hometown, in the heart of northwestern New Jersey. I picked up cider doughnuts every week, sometimes more, for the duration of the apple season. Now, don’t get me wrong, Grow NYC – the organization that brings us the sprawling Union Square Greenmarket – is incredible and a boon to the community, and I would be utterly miserable without it. But in Astoria the markets are still small, with only two orchards, and to my spoiled taste buds the cider doughnuts sold by one of them are lacking. If you’ve ever fried doughnuts and eaten them the second day, you know how foul that soaked-in oil tastes. Fried doughnuts should be fresh every day, and – in my humble opinion – shouldn’t be bagged or boxed. They should be sold one at a time from a container that keeps the cinnamon-sugar topping fresh and crunchy. But that’s a discussion for another day.
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A video went viral recently in which an explorer and documentarian, clad in a heat-protective suit, climbed down into the crater of Manu, an active volcano on the island archipelago of Vanuatu, later describing it as a “window into hell,” like looking into the center of the earth. The churning, bubbling, exploding sea of lava before him sent chills down my spine, in utter awe of the life within our world. But in those crashing waves I also saw something else: I saw a pot of sweet, spicy, boiling, churning oatmeal.
It’s one of my favorite sounds: milk and oats, rising and colliding and becoming more than they were alone. Expanding, creating. I have my method: milk, brown sugar, a healthy dose of cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Bananas folded in off the stove, topped with sliced almonds and another sprinkling of cinnamon. Toss in some blueberries and it’s heaven on a cool morning. Delicious, filling, and – time consuming. It got me thinking: can I make this in muffin form, for an easy, grab-and-go breakfast treat?
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