Just as Lahey’s pizza dough can be dimpled into pissaladiere and Holly’s challah twisted into babka and Nigella’s Danish pastry spiraled into croissants, Molly Wizenberg’s cinnamon buns can be rolled into hot cross buns.
Last week, a flat-rate box arrived at my door filled with the most amazing sight: dozens of Meyer lemons. Could anything be more heart warming for a Northeasterner this time of year? When the high for the day is 21ºF? With snow in the forecast for Friday? Maybe only that the box came from one of you — thank you, Ellen! You are a dear.
Last week, I visited my friend Holly — yes, Holly of challah lore — for coffee, conversation, and of course, a little snack, a slice of babka from a loaf she had made the previous day. Upon serving it to me, she, as if she were any of the women in my family, instantly began critiquing it.
It’s very lovely, she acknowledged, but noted it was kind of fussy to make, so much work for what it was. I, content as ever, tucked in but was happy to hear I was in good company. The dough was denser than she had hoped, and she wondered if she could just use her challah dough recipe as a base, spread it with a chocolate filling or Nutella, and shape it like babka.
Thanks to an amazing co-op in Albany, I’ve discovered the joys of bulk food shopping. A quarter (wild guess) of the 31,000 square feet that is the Honest Weight Food Co-op is lined with tubes, bins, and barrels holding every nut, seed, grain, flour, pasta, oil, butter, extract, paste you could imagine. It’s an astonishing site — really, I’ve never seen anything like it: whole aisles dedicated to unpackaged food, which you can cart home in your own vessels or in an array of glass jugs and jars sold at the store.
I had never found myself drawn to bulk food shopping until I started making this toasted muesli (granola, really), which everyone in my family adores. It’s truly the only thing I make that instantly silences my children, that keeps them sitting at the table focused on what’s before them, that they invariably ask for seconds of. When I found myself making double batches of it twice a week, I started paying more attention to the prices of the teensy bags of almonds and flaked coconut and large jugs of maple syrup I was ripping through.
There’s nothing like a good stomach bug to make you appreciate health, to inspire an outing in sub-zero weather, to revive an appetite nourished by ginger ale and dry toast for too many hours.
Last Friday morning, after a day spent on my deathbed, my aunt, Wren and I drove to Vergennes Laundry, a wood-fired bakery located in a former laundromat in Vergennes, VT. Run by a husband and wife, this gem of a café is the kind of place you could lounge in all day, beginning with a latté and croissant, moving onto fresh-squeezed orange juice and cheddar-and-tarragon gougères, finishing with an espresso and chocolate crème fraîche truffle. Every bite will make you wish you lived two doors down and kindle dreams of opening up your own Vergennes Laundry, which your town (that you love dearly) so desperately needs.
Nigella Lawson’s recipe for dense chocolate loaf cafe, well traversed in the blogosphere, needs no tinkering. Moist, rich, tender, chocolatey — what’s to improve?
Well, when my box of Fair Trade treats arrived, and I saw the bag of coffee and chocolate nestled together, I couldn’t help think that coffee, known to heighten the flavor of chocolate without imparting much coffee flavor at all, might make a subtle difference. And because a splash of booze is often a nice addition to quick breads/loaf cakes, what would be the harm in replacing the final two tablespoons of water with brandy? And because every cake needs a pinch of salt, a pinch of salt would be added, too.
The result? Intense chocolate, subtle coffee and booze, perfect sweetness, complete deliciousness. This cake gets better by the day and is as impossible to resist with morning coffee as with postprandial cordials. Coffee, booze, salt — somehow I think you (and Nigella) would approve. [Read more…]
Last month I traveled to a wedding in Boston via a Greyhound bus, which dropped me off with hours to spare before the big event (so considerately deciding not to break down till the trip home), affording me the chance to have lunch at Flour Bakery.
I arrived just as the last sticky bun got snatched up, which in hindsight was a blessing, because had it still been around, I never would have discovered the best BLT in the world — seriously, the best — and I most likely wouldn’t have grabbed a brown butter rice krispie treat (also incredibly delicious) on the way out the door. I’ve read about Joanne Chang in blogs and magazines for years, watched her beat Bobby Flay in a sticky bun throwdown, drooled over both of her cookbooks at the library, but for reasons I can’t explain had never made any of her recipes until a few days ago.
The recipe, buttermilk biscuits with maple and black pepper, is in Dana Cowin’s new cookbook, Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen. Many of you likely know Dana as the Editor in Chief of Food and Wine magazine, as someone who knows food better than anyone, as someone who wouldn’t make too many mistakes in the kitchen, or who would be an unlikely person to admit to them.
Well, the secret’s out: [Read more…]
It took 32 years for me to start listening to my mother. I’m only just beginning to understand how annoying this must have been, only just appreciating how many gray hairs I may have caused, only just accepting how many wrinkles I may have induced.
The other day I asked Ella (my four-year old) to help me pick up a mess she created, and she said: “Um, you can just do it all by yourself.” I’ve read enough self-help parenting books to know that freaking out is not the appropriate reaction to this response, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to strangle her.
I have it in for me. Every time Ella yells: “No Mom, I’m telling you a question!” I think of my poor mother and all the times she offered advice only to receive pushback.
Why was it so hard for me to just say, “Yes! Of course! That’s a great idea!” every time my mother told me to “Enunciate!” or to “Eat [my] greens!” or to “Put [my] shoulders back!”?
Why couldn’t I have just said, “You’re right,” when she told me the best chickens come from her kosher market, the best lamb from Australia?
Why couldn’t I have just smiled when she told me not to frown?
Bon Appetit began running a column this month called The Project, in which they detail how to make involved dishes, ones that require ambition, energy, thought, dishes such as cassoulet or ramen or their debut project: kouign-amann, a buttery pastry from Brittany, France.
I love this idea. So often these days I am too focused on what’s easy, what’s familiar, what’s going to get dinner on the table fastest. I miss the days when I would come home with a rabbit — oh to be young! — and open up my favorite Sally Schneider cookbook to find an impossibly involved recipe for ragù, which I would make and then serve over homemade pappardelle — oh to be young! — even if it meant serving dinner at 10pm.
Today if I see more than five ingredients in a recipe, my eyes glaze over, I file it into the “perhaps-one-day” folder, and I move on to the “fast, easy, fresh” recipe.
I love the spirit of this BA column so much that I almost didn’t write this post. Because the thing is that I cheated. One glimpse of those flaky, buttery, caramelized kouign-amann, and I thought: I need those in my belly. Immediately.
And so I cheated. Because Nigella Lawson, with her food processor Danish pastry dough, has made me a cheater. I fell for her dough when I made cheese danishes with lemon-ricotta filling last spring; I fell in love with her dough when I used it to make cronuts last fall. Twenty years from now, I might just learn to laminate dough properly, but until then, whenever I see recipes calling for that butter block and that folded pastry dough and that laborious process, I will cheat. And I will not look back.
I just spent a week eating cheese, making butter, growing sprouts, baking bread, snuggling with Golden Retrievers, visiting farms, driving through covered bridges, admiring snow-capped mountains and frozen lakes, and sampling microbrews while eating wood-fired pizzas. Could I have been anywhere in the world but Vermont?
Perhaps, but short of meeting a few friends for a morning snowshoe, my week couldn’t have been filled with more quintessential Green Mountain State activities. My siblings and I grew up traveling to Charlotte many times a year to visit my mother’s sister Marcy, master of pies, soup, and delectably melty appetizers. The five-hour drive always felt interminable, knowing what we had awaiting us: our cousins, a zipline, Uncle Wade’s waffles, Lake Champlain, dogs and endless outdoor fun.
For my parents, the drive was a breeze, the nature scenes providing endless distraction. I never quite understood the enthusiasm for the birds perched on the highway light poles or the first glimpse of Mount Mansfield, but on my drive north this past Sunday, I realized I had officially become my parents. “Children!” I would shout at every turn. “Look at the cows! The silos! The mountains! The sugar houses!”