Every semester I promise myself that this is the semester I’m going to take it easy and every semester I don’t do that even a little. This semester, for example, I was supposed to accomodate 35 work hours a week by taking easy classes, but that was before I showed up to day 1 of the most amazing and demanding classes I’ve ever taken in my life. The unexpected final addition to the schedule was a positively life changing class on Shari’a, Islamic law. I decided to indulge my inner nerd, and last night I ended up making baklava at 1:30 in the morning.
While it might be ever so totally true that this wasn’t even kind of a class assignment, we WERE assigned a mock divorce court last week (complete with costumes and props) as an in-class exercise and – what do you know? –the mock plaintiff just so happened to own a baklava company! Unfortunately we were representing her mock husband and bringing in baklava for the other side was too time consuming to be justified. But I didn’t have homework last night and so for class tomorrow I will be setting the mood in style.
Besides, baklava is secretly a perfect fall food. With walnuts, honey, cinnamon and thin sheets of phyllo that could easily represent falling leaves, you could not possibly get more seasonally appropriate. I can’t lie, phyllo is a pain in everyone’s butt to work with, but I can promise the results will be well worth it. I may or may have nibbled on a store bought substitute while I waited for this to be ready and I can assure you, there’s truly nothing like homemade.
Do you have any unexpected fall recipes? Or stories of classwork-turned-recipe? Let me know in the comments below!
The last article I posted was all about forgetting about time. It was about leaving that sauce on the stove until it was good and ready. This post, however, is the complete opposite. Making torrone is one of the rare moments where I can be seen moving quickly, almost rushing. It’s such a rare event, that my family doesn’t know what to do with me. They laugh as I buzz around the kitchen, impatient while the sugar is melting and having a mild-panic attack as the hot candy hardens while I cut it, little stands of sugar freezing mid-air.
This kind of torrone is not the typical variety that most people are accustomed to. It is not the white, nougaty candy that comes packaged in a pretty box. For years, I didn’t even know that type existed. All I knew was the dark, honey- colored, almond candy topped with “dottie sprinkles” that my great Aunt Mary made every year for Christmas. Maybe, like me, Aunt Mary got a kick out of the hustle and ‘danger’ of making torrone and that is how it became a family tradition that hasn’t been skipped in what I can imagine is well over 50 years. Torrone di mandorle e miele (as it is formally known) is a sweet adventure in what toasted almonds, honey, and sugar can be capable of doing. An adventure in how three ingredients can transform into cheerful, little bites of holiday bliss and memory.
Almond and Honey Torrone
From: Christina Esposito
2 cups toasted, slivered almonds
2 cups sugar
1 tbs honey
Dottie sprinkles (rainbow non-pareils)
Greased (buttered) glass/marble/pyrex cutting board (a non-wooden surface that can withstand high temperatures without breaking)
A wooden or metal mold
Before you begin, make sure that everything is ready to go. Grease your cutting surface and candy mold, get out the dottie sprinkles and orange, and pour your glass of drinking wine (optional). In French, gathering all of your cooking materials and ingredients before you actually start cooking is known as having your “mise en place”. Most of us don’t cook at home with everything carefully thought out and prepared ahead of time, but for torrone, having your mise en place is essential.
Now, put the two cups of sugar in a medium to large sized pot over medium-low heat. Be sure to stir the sugar even at this beginning stage. Keep stirring until the sugar is melted. This might take a little while. First, the sugar will start to clump together. Then, it will darken in color and melt.
When all of the sugar is melted and there aren’t any clumps, add the honey. The honey will make the sugar bubble and fizz a little- this is normal.
Next, take the sugar and honey off the heat and quickly stir in the almonds. This will be a bit messy, but that’s okay. This is also the point where mild chaos might ensue because you need to work quickly from here on out!
Pour the mixture into the greased candy mold. Being VERY careful, use the orange (which acts like a greased spatula) and roll it over the mixture to flatten it out. The candy will be super, super, hot.
Once the mixture is flattened, liberally shake on the sprinkles. Use the orange once again to push the sprinkles into the candy.
Continue to work quickly and carefully and begin to cut the candy into little squares. This must be done with haste because as you will find out, the candy is fast to harden and might even freeze in little strands in mid-air. Also be sure to eat a few pieces while the torrone is still kind of hot. You’ll regret it if you don’t!
Once all the candy is cut and cooled, store in an air-tight container. Torrone lasts for a good three or four weeks so you can enjoy it during the entire holiday season!
Note: cleaning the pot that you melted the sugar in will look impossible and menacing. I promise it isn’t. Just fill the pot back up the water and heat on the stove. The hard sugar and almonds will melt off into the water.
Last night, my Sharia class had the most depressing movie party a class could ever have. I had briefly mentioned I might make Baklava, to lift the mood but (spoiler alert) Baklava takes like a year make, and I had literally no time. Cookies, on the other hand, take 10 minutes and de-stress like none other. I can’t write a real post because I still have no time. So, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, speak for yourselves.
Do you have no time? Do you make cookies? Tell me all about it in the briefest comments you possibly can 😉
2 tsp vanilla extract (optional because I forgot to buy it and it turned out fine) (not really optional though) (also, I suspect Jack Daniels or Jameson would make a great substitute – somebody should try it out)
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 cups dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350
In a medium-large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and soda and spices.
In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix butter and sugar on high, until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
Mix in egg, vanilla and pumpkin also for about 3-4 minutes, until blended. Don’t freak out if it looks curdled, it will do that, and it will be ok.
Slowly add the dry ingredients until just mixed. Then slowly mix in chocolate chips.
Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoons onto cookie sheet.
Bake until edges are golden brown. The recipe I was working off said 10 minutes, mine took like 25. Start checking at 10 – you’ll know.
Cool on sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to baking rack and eat them all!
There is nothing like finding a dessert that’s beautiful, easy and unbelievably delicious. We all know that it isn’t always so easy. There are a lot of desserts that fit only one or two of those stipulations. A genoise cake, for example is beautiful and delicious but certainly NOT simple.
That’s why this dessert is so special. Did I mention that it’s fairly low-calorie as well? I used to make roasted pears with pomegranate juice and red wine, which was very good but it just didn’t quite have the depth a great autumn dessert should have. I tinkered with apple cider and port wine instead and added ginger, cinnamon and cardamom to create this gem of a fall treat. I honestly haven’t met anyone in any of my classes who hasn’t gone crazy over this one. You may also want to prepare this if you are having an open house as well. The combination of pears, port, cider and spices says cozy autumn like nothing else. I bet it will sell your house in a flash!
The best thing about it is that your friends and family will not only love it but they will be so honored you spent so much time making them a special dessert. The truth (note, I am whispering) is that it will take you about 15 minutes to get in oven. Don’t worry. Your secret will be safe. Who am I going to tell?
Oh, and be sure to save any extra sauce to pour over French toast, pancakes or waffles over the weekend. The recipe purposefully makes more sauce than you will need for the pears alone so you can have leftovers. Who could ask for more?
Do you have any easy winner dessert recipes like this one? Let us know in the comments, below!
There’s something oddly comforting about peaches. Peaches have been a part of my family for years, starting with my father’s allergy to peach fuzz. My mother refused to eat peaches when carrying me, swearing by the old midwives’ tale that consuming peach fuzz during pregnancy causes fuzzy stomach hair on babies. For summers, my mother stored peaches in a plastic bag in a plastic bag in the crisper, tragically excluded from all the other fruits.
Since moving to New York City, peach fuzz has been the least of my problems. Peaches are beginning to end its season, and before it officially puts up its annual “Gone Pitting” sign, they deserve a grand last hurrah. Eating a peach whole sounds terribly drab, so I was excited to learn on Kitchy Kitchen last summer that you can combine peaches and s’mores, the combination dubbed “s’meaches”. S’meaches replace chocolate with caramelized peaches.
S’meaches is not only a great way to celebrate the final wave of peaches, but also great for fall housewarming parties and September kids parties. S’meaches also make an ideal midnight snack, so put down that Tupperware of leftovers and make yourself a s’meach!
From: Soyeon Kim, based on Kitchy Kitchen
2 ripe peach (halved or quartered)
handful brown sugar
pinch cayenne pepper
Pit and halve or quarter the peaches. Skin if you desire, but not necessary.
In a small bowl, mix a handful of brown sugar and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Heat a saute pan on medium stove. Place the peaches, flesh down, on the saute pan. After 2 minutes, sprinkle half the brown sugar-cayenne pepper mix over the peaches and pan. Let the sugar and peaches begin to caramelize for 2 minutes.
Flip the peaches and pour the rest of the sugar mix over the peaches. Let caramelize for 2-4 minutes. Repeatedly pour the caramel over the peaches. Flip once or twice if desired.
Turn the heat off and allow the peaches to sit in the caramel.
Skewer one marshmallow to a bamboo stick and roast the marshmallows over a fire. (If you do not have a fireplace or a barbecue, you can roast marshmallows over a lit, uncovered gas stove on medium heat with the fan on. If you fear marshmallow combustion or gas poisoning, you can roast it over a candle.)
On one half of the graham cracker, place the roasted marshmallow.
On the other half of the graham cracker, place one half of a peach (or two quarters).
Squish the marshmallow-graham cracker half onto the peach-graham cracker half.
I know everyone always says their grandmother is the best baker, but mine really is. Really. I think I might actually have a case here because my Oma’s baking isn’t even similar to anybody else’s. Her recipes all come from some undetermined german-hungarian-romanian-austrian place. They’re never too sweet and they always contain a twist ingredient that makes the other ones come alive. The only problem was that up until recently she had a monopoly on her recipes because silly Oma is from the “old country” and Europeans have magical skills and don’t need recipes. But we’ve realized recently that she’s no longer 35 (or 75) and while she shows zero signs of going senile… you never know, and this is not a risk worth taking. So yesterday we had her over for our first Baking with Oma session, where she wrote down the steps as best as she could and we translated them into recipes we (and you) could actually follow.
We started with two recipes, or Oma cautioned that we would be up until 3am. Mom made an apple tart which went… um… I’ll let her tell you the story. But I made Oma’s So Superbly Perfect We Can Only Have It Twice A Year Because Otherwise We’d Eat It Three Meals A Day And Get Superbly Fat Bittersweet Chocolate Yeast Cake. Which is superbly perfect, no lie. We only get it on Christmas and Easter and it’s more or less the highlight of both holidays. It’s fluffy yet dense, and not at all too sweet – which is why we can get away with eating it for breakfast even though it’s totally cake. It peels apart in flaky, chocolatey layers and shimmers with subtle underlying notes of anise. And mine came out! I think I just got lucky but I’m still bragging like I got skills because I’m really excited and I’m super proud. I urge you to make it for yourself – it’s an amazing flavor, and not one you’ve ever had before. The only thing about it is it’s neither quick nor particularly easy – I would recommend having some experience with yeast before you try this one out (I think they made it challenging so we wouldn’t make it too often). But I promise it will be worth all your time and effort – there’s no doubt it will rock your world.
Do you have any special recipes handed down through the generations in your family? Let us know in the comments below!
German Chocolate Chip Yeast Cake
From: Oma (Edith Lang), recorded by Gabrielle Siegel
4 – 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar (you can add 2-3 tbsp more if you like it a little sweeter)
3/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks butter
5 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 packet yeast (I think active dry, but I actually need to get back to you on that)
1/2 tsp anise seed
1 package of Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips (or same amount of whatever kind you want)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together 2 1/2 cups of the flour with all of the sugar, yeast and salt.
Place the butter and milk together in a small saucepan and heat until the butter is just melted. The temperature should be about 130° F, or lukewarm to the touch, but if it’s not, heat or cool accordingly.
Add this to the bowl with the flour, and mix on low with the paddle attachment until just blended.
Add the eggs, yolks, vanilla and anise to the mixing bowl, and blend with a paddle attachment on speed 4 for about 10 minutes, and then on speed 6 for about 30 seconds – 1 minute, until a soft dough has formed.
Take off the paddle attachment and replace with a dough hook, and add 1 1/2 cups more flour. Blend on speed 2, until flour is incorporated, and a stiff dough has formed, about 5 minutes. Feel dough – it should be moist, but not too sticky, workable, but not too dry. If you need to, add up to 1/2 a cup more flour, a little at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
Turn out the dough onto a floured surface, and kneed vigorously for 2-3 minutes, to make sure the texture is correct.
Place the dough in a large oiled or buttered bowl, and place in a warm, moist area to rise, until doubled in size. Be patient – this could take anywhere from 1 1/2 to 2 hours. For best results, cover the bowl in a moist tea towel.
When the dough has risen, punch it down, and turn it out onto a floured surface.
Using a piece of string, measure about how big around your bundt pan is. Roll out the dough to about that width, and as long as it takes to make it about 1/3-inch thick.
Evenly distribute the chocolate chips over the dough, and tightly roll up the dough.
Butter the bundt pan, and place the dough inside, and set it to rise in the same warm place, covered with a moist towel, until doubled in size. Heat the oven to 350° F while you’re doing this.
If desired, brush the top of the dough with an egg-wash made of a beaten egg with about a tablespoon of water (does not need to be precise at all) and bake in the oven for about 50 minutes to an hour, until cake is a deep brown, and not too squishy when you poke it (not scientific I know, but it’s the best litmus test Oma could give me).
Cool for about 15 minutes in the pan and turn out onto a cooling rack until completely cool. Eat immediately, or cover very tightly until you’re ready. Try to eat it within 1-2 days, though if you cover it tightly it will keep a little longer. It’s a really good excuse to have people for tea.
Enjoy the heck out of this cake – eat it for breakfast, etc. You worked hard for this, so make it worth it!