I am currently quite extremely busy studying away for exams, but I’m taking a study break to let you in on a little secret. Its name is spekuloos and it’s keeping me alive.
If you live within a million mile radius of New York, you need to make a pilgrimage to Wafels and Dinges, the best food truck in the universe. No exaggeration – A million miles, Best in the universe. The truck travels with their waffles and dinges (which I believe loosely translates to “thingies” but for our purposes means toppings) around the city every day, and they can be found by their twitter feed. If you can go, order a lièges Waffle, made with dough, not batter. But even if you can’t go, because you live more than a million miles away, you absolutely must try their spekuloos spread, which you can, and should, order from their website. It’s a spread with the texture of a less sticky peanut butter, but made with “de Belgian Gingerbread Cookies.” Essentially it tastes like gingerbread without the unnecessary extra spices. It’s so much better than peanut butter. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is the next Nutella (remember, you heard it here first). It’s perfect on bread, crepes, matzah, bananas and waffles, and I spekulate (sorry) it would be a fantastic glue for a gingerbread house.
Some might say this is not helping me study for my impending French and Bio exams. But as I eat the above spekuloos with a spoon, my digestive system is breaking the sugars in it down into glucose monomers (yeah, that’s right), which are giving me energy through the rather complicated cell respiration system I’m about to memorize. And hey, they speak French in Belgium, right?
*”Prête à étudier” means “ready to study.” I’m practicing my prepositions and everything!
I love everything about college, but I’ve spent a lot of time missing home. And it’s probably horrible to admit, but I miss my kitchen almost as much as my family. I miss the tiny white hexagonal tiles on the floor, and the shelves stuffed with cookbooks, from Giada to Thomas Keller. I miss the overflowing glass jars of cooking equipment for when mom teaches, and the pots and pans hanging from the farm table-turned-island in the middle. My kitchen has ambient lighting and a sturdy, old kitchenaid mixer. It has plates, silverware and an oven. I have been truly spoiled for the past few years. I have none of those things here. I have no glass backsplash, no chalkboard to write the day’s menu on, and no fancy pepper grinders. I do have tile countertops, a dingy, two-burner electric stove, and a microwave. The end. But despite all this, in recent days I’ve come to love my 5th floor substitute.
It all started the day I first realized the dining hall was killing me, in body and in spirit. I was so distracted by classes and awkward social encounters that I didn’t notice it for a few weeks. The warning came, rather suddenly, when I stepped on the scale, for the first time in a month. To my shock and horror, I was losing my Freshman 15.
“You’re crazy, Gabrielle,” you are undoubtedly saying. “Isn’t that a good thing?”
Yes. It is. But it turned me on to a much more serious problem: dining hall food is disgusting. Like, the other day, they were serving a tofu meatloaf… and it was orange. Bright orange..
It was the color of this pumpkin. But it was tofuloaf.
I tried to estimate the number of cucumbers I had eaten instead of dinner over the preceding weeks, and when I’d finished calculating (about a bazillion), I realized I had take matters into my own hands. Fortunately, the shelves on my desk are furnished with almost as many sauté pans as books. So I grabbed my cooking friends, put my eaters on standby, and ran like a madwoman towards the kitchen.
In the spirit of fall, I made caramelized apples. In the spirit of needing somewhere to put the apples, I made crepes. And in the spirit of crepes, I made a Nutella cream sauce. Because one of life’s little known secrets is that there is nothing better than caramelized apples and chocolate. And, as everyone knows, there is nothing better than Nutella with anything.
This recipe is simple, but spectacular, and is best made with lots and lots of friends. As people came and went, Chelsea, Theresa and I flipped the crepes, Gaby and Soyeon assembled the fillings, Hila entertained us, and we all took turns eating our creations as they came off the stove. We had no fancy equipment, but it was just like being back in the Test Kitchen.
So grab some apples and nutella, and enjoy! This recipe can be made without a blender or even mixing bowl, and eaten without forks, knives and plates. It makes 15-20 crepes, so invite lots of people. It’s simple, cheap, vegetarian, kosher, and delicious. They, whoever they are, say the best ideas are born out of necessity. So when you make these fall treats and love them more than anything you’ve ever tasted… don’t thank me, thank my college and its terrible dining hall.
Note- we had a lot of extra heavy cream (and so will you) so we made homemade butter. By hand! It’s a classic fall activity. We most certainly did it on purpose. We were not trying to make whipped cream.
3 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled, plus extra for greasing pan
Whisk ingredients together in a mixing bowl (or, if you’re me, 2 large tupperwares) until smooth and lump-free
Cover, and allow to sit at room temperature while you make apples and nutella sauce
When apples and nutella are made, heat an 8-inch skillet over medium to medium-high heat (depending on your stove) and melt just enough butter to lightly grease bottom
Pour 1/4 cup of batter and tilt to evenly coat bottom of pan. Your first crepe will be a disaster, so don’t despair over it. It has nothing to do with your crepe making abilities. Just discard it (preferably in your tummy).
Cook for 1.5-2 minutes, until bottom begins to lightly brown, and flip. Feel free to do this with a spatula or chopsticks or whatever moves you, but I recommend you try doing in the air. It’s not hard, and you’ll feel much more accomplished if you do it the fun way.
Cook for 30 seconds-1 minute, until second side begins to brown, and glide onto plate. Repeat process with remaining batter. Eat immediately.
From: Gabrielle Siegel
3-4 tbsp heavy cream
3-4 tbsp nutella
In small saucepan, heat cream and nutella over low heat until blended and heated.