Entries tagged with “Breakfast”.
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Tue 24 Nov 2009
I’m not sure why I decided cinnamon rolls would be my Everest during the three weeks between graduating from college and starting my first real job, but I did. It was one of several projects I took on when faced with twenty empty days (the others being unpacking, sleeping in, and adopting a kitten previously rejected by Satan as being “too evil”). I wanted to find a recipe for really excellent cinnamon rolls. It had to deliver reliable, wonderful rolls every time, the kind of baked treasure that stops people in their tracks, wide-eyed and momentarily overwhelmed, before they exclaim WOW.
The first three recipes were unremarkable. They were too tough, too sweet, too boring. Something was fatally wrong with each one, and I began to get discouraged. I came upon a fourth recipe. Despite my skepticism, I dove in, pausing to figure out what it meant to scald the milk. The dough was smooth and satiny. It filled my tiny kitchen with a sweet, yeasty penumbra that sent little jolts of hopeful electricity into my dwindling expectations. I briefly lamented my lack of a rolling pin as I coaxed the dough into a large rectangle with a wine bottle covered in plastic wrap. It scarcely mattered that I couldn’t get it very even. The dough welcomed its thick mat of butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon with aplomb. I rolled it into a drippy, burgeoning tube, slicing it into a dozen syrupy disks that made their way into a cake pan.
After the second rise, I was astounded to see that the rolls had truly doubled in size. What had once come close to loosely filling the pan was now threatening to rise up and leave altogether. Surely, this was a sign of good things to come.
At the risk of sounding hopelessly twee, I will admit that I cried when I took my first bite of one of the rolls. Piping hot, silky, and feather-soft, it was like biting into a cloud in the version of heaven where everything is made of pastry (don’t tell me I’m the only one who has had that awesome dream, right?). After regaining my composure, I loaded up a plate with a few more rolls and settled down on my futon to watch an old favorite, Green Card. It occurred to me, as Andie McDowell and Gerard Depardieu acted out the lighter side of immigration fraud to the sounds of Enya, that I had something truly wonderful in my possession. It remains among my very favorite recipes, both to make and to share.
I have made these rolls in good times and bad. I have made them for coworkers, for friends, for family, and for strangers. I have made them with the full arsenal of a commercial kitchen and, most humbly, with a wooden spoon and a large pot. Because they are a sure-fire crowd pleaser and require absolutely minimal equipment, I highly recommend taking the recipe with you when you travel. You will be the houseguest who always gets invited back.
(Keep reading Cinnamon Rolls…)
Wed 30 Sep 2009
I lost my mind while studying for the bar. Sort of. For the uninitiated, bar study is a long, lonely process that readies you, in part, for the actual exam by making you so vomitously tired of the studying that you arrive on test day with a head so swimming with “let’s just do this thing” that you forget to be nervous.
One of the few unscripted days in our agenda that summer was July 4. Overwhelmed by the promise of an utterly free day, I decided to make things. Two things, to be exact. I made the chuppah for my wedding, and I made a fruit buckle. The former took about 14 hours that day, and another 20 hours the week before the wedding; the latter took about an hour and made for a lovely breakfast.
Even today, I can’t quite explain why I found it important, nay, necessary to make the canopy for our chuppah. Nor can I explain why I thought it would be a good way to learn to quilt. And, even when pressed, I come up completely empty-handed when it comes to explaining how my calculations that day resulted in a chuppah canopy that is substantially larger than a king-sized bed. Apparently, I wanted to make sure we had room to both get married and do the Highland Fling underneath its gentle, convex arc.
The ladies at the quilt shop were not particularly convinced that this project was going to be a success. I think I explained the whole venture about 8 times, though several of those iterations were spent describing How a Jewish Wedding Works to these septuagenarian Protestant women. In the end, we figured it out. They sent me on my way with a bag full of quilting tools, a bundle of gorgeous fabric, and good wishes underscored by a Germanic skepticism that’s undetectable to those who haven’t spent quality time in the Midwest. I still owe them a picture.
I think the fact that I stuck with the quilting until the end really illustrates the insanity that flourishes during bar study; when faced with a free day, I shunned the temptation of naps and television in order to work my fingers to the bone and give myself a neck cramp that lasted for the ensuing two months. Still, 14 episodes of Law & Order later (I studied for evidence by shouting out objections throughout the trial scenes), I had made enough progress in piecing together the quilt squares that turning back was impossible. It was a devil’s bargain, bound up in fat quarters of gold calico.
The buckle, on the other hand, was a no-brainer. As I have mentioned here before, my mom is an excellent cook. So when she calls me and says “I’m sending you a recipe; I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten,” I listen.
A buckle is characterized by a rich cake batter mixed with fruit, topped by more fruit and a crunchy streusel topping. Some variations involve spreading the cake batter over a layer of fruit at the bottom of the pan, but I prefer to fold the fruit into the cake. Blueberries are the classic buckle accompaniment, but wonderful things can come from using raspberries, huckleberries, blackberries - whatever suits you that happens to be fresh and in season. Somewhere, between the jammy layers of berries and the brown sugar splendor of the crumb topping, you’ll find a moment where you can’t help but furrow your brow and exclaim “Mmm! That is good.”
(Keep reading Berry Buckle…)
Sun 14 Jun 2009
Happiness. adj. The occasional combination of (i) a pot of coffee, (ii) a plate of simple muffins, and (iii) a Saturday morning.
Lovelies, I have just revealed to you my inner sloth. Left to my own devices and otherwise unencumbered by other obligations, I can stretch a batch of muffins and a pot of coffee well into early afternoon as I faff about watching Bravo. But I’m persnickety. Not just any muffin will do. It has to be fresh, and it has to be simple. No overdressed Starbucks monstrosities or cupcakes slumming it without their frosting; a triple-chocolate, wrapper-wearing something or other is not my Saturday style.
You’ll find a ziptillion muffin mixes in the baking aisle of your grocery store. Please walk on by. Two bowls, a muffin tin, and a few ingredients are all that separate you from one of breakfast’s basic beauties. They are tremendously simple and very much worth the modicum of extra effort.
If chocolate chips aren’t your thing, add a handful of chopped pecans or dried cherries. If you really want to get snazzy, spoon a large dollop into each well of your muffin tin, add a small spoonful of jam to the center of each dollop, and top with the rest of the batter. The jam will stay put and make for tasty centers.
The underlying recipe comes from Michael Ruhlman’s excellent book, Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking (see link in the sidebar). You’ll notice that the quantities for the flour, sugar, milk, and butter are listed first by weight. If you have a food scale, use it. Volume measurements are listed in the parentheses and will also work.
(Keep reading Simple Chocolate Chip Muffins…)
Sun 12 Apr 2009
Ah, the Passover diet. No bread? No pasta? No rice? Sweet! It’s like Atkins, the holy way! Just think of all the weight I’ll lose!
Wrong. The sneaky thing about Passover food is two-fold. First, many favorite recipes outside a Seder menu are variations on the theme of What Can We Do With Matzo Today? For the uninitiated, matzo is flour and water that has been shaped and baked very quickly to prevent leavening (rabbinic law states that there cannot be more than 18 minutes from the time the water hits the flour to the time the matzo comes out of the oven). Leavened or not, flour is flour and has between 400-500 calories per cup. Second, in order to hide the fact that matzo is essentially a giant, flavorless, unsalted Saltine, most variations on the WCWDWMT? theme involve great quantities of eggs, butter, cheese, or some combination thereof.
I love Passover. It’s a wonderful holiday with truly excellent traditions to savor. And though it can be kind of a pain, I actually really enjoy keeping Kosher for Passover. It’s just one of those things you do, with purpose, that helps you express your faith physically as well as spiritually. As a Jew by Choice (the modern, touchy-feely longhand for “convert”), there is extra significance to me in adopting a ritual that is older than dirt, but very new to me. It helps remind me why I made this choice, and how it is a part of my identity from here on out.
Constructing multiple, filling meals a day without the benefit of a normal complement of starches and grains can be tough. You cannot eat matzo pizza for 24 meals, no matter how easy they are to throw together in the microwave. Well, I guess you can, but I can’t.
So here you are, too far from your family to eat mom’s Greatest Passover Hits every day. Or maybe you’re like me, all grown up and newly Jewish. Or maybe you’ve decided to keep K-for-P for the first time in your life, much to your family’s confusion. Whatever reason brings you to the internet in search of Passover-friendly recipes, you may have already discovered that Seder menus are easy to find, and that what you’re supposed to eat for the rest of the week can be a bit of a mystery. Particularly breakfast.
Yes, yes, I know you can put together a satisfactory breakfast that doesn’t involve bread. On weekdays during Passover, I stick with fruit and a hard-boiled egg. But weekends for us usually involve indulging in biscuits and jam while we watch reruns of any Law & Order flavor we can find. I’ve always liked making something nice and carby for weekend breakfasts, and Passover doesn’t seem like a reason to stop.
Enter matzo brei. There are about a zillion ways to make this, and it’s one of those dishes about which people can have bizarrely strong feelings. It’s only good if you make it with onions! You have to make it sweet! The matzo should be soaked before you break it! Break the matzo before you soak it! Frittata-style! Scrambled eggs-style! It’s exhausting, really.
I like to stir mine constantly, so it comes out as a heap of little egg-covered pieces of matzo. And I add a little cinnamon and sugar at the end to make it sweet. There are dozens of recipes and techniques out there, but this is mine.