Holly’s Babka

baked and cut babka

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.

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Julia Child’s Chocolate Mousse, And A Simple, Stinky Valentine’s Day Menu For Two

Julia Child's Perfect Chocolate Mousse

There was a period last summer when I was obsessed with making parfait, not the layered fruit-and-yogurt parfait, but the French parfait, which is like ice cream. The parfait-making technique calls for heating a sugar syrup to 230ºF, then pouring it into beating egg yolks. The hot syrup cooks the yolks as they whip, then whipped cream is folded into the mixture once it has cooled. The parfait is then frozen until serving.

I was intrigued by the method, which I had read about in the Tartine Cookbook, for a number of reasons but mostly because it allowed for making ice cream without an ice cream machine, which many people appreciate. And while I loved the taste and texture of the finished parfait, I never posted the recipe because parfait, despite not requiring an ice cream machine, isn’t necessarily a piece of cake to make. As I noted, it requires heating syrup to a precise temperature, pouring the syrup, which tends to get tangled in the whisk, into the whipping yolks, setting up an ice bath, folding in whipped cream, etc. — I don’t find these to be easy tasks. That said, parfait, which is French for “perfect,” is just about that, and I will certainly be revisiting the process this summer.

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Vanilla Bean Pots de Crème

bite of vanilla bean pots de creme

A few weeks ago, I snuck up to see my auntie in VT, where I spent most of the time on the couch in front of the fire, dogs at my feet, cookbook in my lap.

I was in a baking sort of mood and found myself engrossed in the dessert chapter of Bouchon, drooling over images of bouchon au chocolat (cork-shaped, brownie-like cakes) and dreaming of crème anglaise-soaked French toast. As I flipped through the pages, I drafted an ambitious grocery list, along with a mental wishlist of gadgets, including pots de crème vessels, flexi-timbale pans, and this Bouchon Mold, which I can’t stop thinking about.

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Garlic and Thyme Monkey Bread with Spicy Tomato Sauce

just-baked monkey bread

This past fall, a friend who was traveling, cooking and eating her way through Italy, sent me the loveliest book: Pasta, a collection of recipes from the kitchen of The American Academy in Rome. She had learned about the book and the story of the Rome Sustainable Food Project during her travels, and found the recipes in the book, many of which she made during her stay, matched the food she was eating out and about on a daily basis. [Read more…]

Hot Crab Dip & A Few Ideas for New Year’s Eve

hot crab dip

Shortly after volunteering to bring baked fontina to a casual New Year’s Eve gathering with the neighbors, fear of becoming a one-trick pony sent me back to the drawing board.

So I scoured my favorite hors d’oeuvres cookbooks and files and pulled out a recipe — Martha Stewart’s hot crab dip — I have been meaning to make since last February when I read The Wednesday Chef describe it as the “number one most delicious thing [she] made over the holidays.” Sounded like a winner.

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Limoncello and A Few Other Homemade Gift Ideas

limoncello and cream

When my grandmother was alive, I learned to be careful with my words, especially when paying any compliments.

If I told her I liked her raincoat, five minutes later she would have snuck it into the trunk of my car. If I admired her olive bowl, I would later find it wrapped in paper tucked in my suitcase. If I spent too long thumbing through one of her cookbooks, it soon would be mine.

I was reminded of this feeling earlier this month when Ben and I spent the morning at our friend Jim’s mother’s house learning how to make prosciutto. Before we began, Antonietta showed us the cold room of her basement, where prosciutto, capicola and week-old sausages hung from the ceiling, homemade wine aging in carboys lined the perimeter, and mason jars of homemade tomato sauce, roasted peppers and pickled vegetables filled a closet floor to ceiling.

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Holly’s Challah

round challah

This fall, a quest to make apple cider challah had me reducing cider by the gallon, watching video after video on youtube, making French toast every other morning.

I had a post nearly ready to publish, but in the end, I just wasn’t satisfied. The loaves looked pretty and tasted good, too, but the final product didn’t warrant the work or cost involved in reducing the cider. So I took a break from all of my challah making, stashed the loaves in the freezer, and returned to eating my apple cider donuts without thinking about any other apple cider offspring.

But about a month ago, the subject of challah came up with my friend Holly, who told me she had a great recipe, one she learned from her friend, (a wife of a rabbi), and she offered to show me how if I were interested. Umm, yes, please.

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Grand Marnier Chocolate Truffles

grand marnier chocolate truffles

After serving a delectable Thanksgiving Eve dinner of cedar-plank grilled arctic char and roasted Brussels sprouts, my mother and aunt poured coffee and passed around plates of these Grand Marnier chocolate truffles, a party trick they learned from their mother, something they always have on hand this time of year.

A cup of coffee, a boozy bite of chocolate — is there a better way to end (start?) the day? This time of year especially, when there never seems to be enough time, having a stash of truffles in the cupboard has been known, in our family at least, to save the day. Truffles make a simple dessert, an elegant homemade gift, a festive treat to break out at impromptu gatherings. One batch, which yields at least 3 dozen, can be made days in advance and stored in the fridge. Just be sure to bring them to room temperature before serving.

Easy to make and pretty to boot, what’s not to love? My gramma taught her daughters well. [Read more…]

Butternut Squash Lasagna | Thanksgiving in VT

slice of lasagna

Snow, dogs, a constant fire — I couldn’t have asked for anything more of Thanksgiving in Vermont.

But, as always, all of the VT treats — the Jasper Hill Farm cheeses, the Dakin Farm ham (with the ham sauce!), Uncle Wade’s waffles with Vermont maple syrup, Shed beer — did make we want to pack up and stay forever. I left dreaming about all of my aunt and mother’s cooking, from biscotti and koulourakia to grilled artic char and coconut-milk marinated cauliflower steaks.

Punch and paté (following this recipe to a T) were a hit but hands down, the hit of all hits was this butternut squash lasagna, a dish brought to Thanksgiving dinner by a vegetarian friend of my aunt and uncle’s. Having taken a peak inside the insulated carry tote (which is the coolest thing…Santa, take note), I had to ask for some details immediately. Kris, the friend, kindly obliged and described the basic process, brushing it all off as an old recipe from Gourmet, just something she and her mother had been making for years.

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A Few Gift Ideas From Food52’s Provisions // Plus A Giveaway: Hedley & Bennett Apron

Hedley and Bennet Apron

Hi Friends,

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I write today with a few gift ideas from the beautiful kitchen and home shop, Provisions by Food52. If any of you have visited the Provisions shop you’ve likely struggled to pull yourself away, to stay focused, to resist buying just a teensy tiny something.

From vintage pie servers to letterpress coasters to fluted stoneware tart pans, every item is striking in both form and function, screaming: You need me in your kitchen. Immediately.

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