Day two of the Valentine’s Day “Sinners and Saints” baking binge is here. This is a bender of epic proportions, growing ever fiercer by the minute, consuming my kitchen with leaps and bounds. Powder sugar dusts my counters, butter coats the spoons. My lips taste of sweetness and yet the belie the acrid sugar tang left in my mouth from bite after bite of my (t)rampant inspiration. Today I present to you an enticing sainthood worthy treat, the Proper Tart.
The proper tart is sweet and innocent on the outside with the sugar sweet frosting and red sugar sprinkles… while secretly harboring a spicy, overheated, surprisingly mature peach filling beneath. This is your Lolita of pastries, you are its Mary Kay LeTourneau.
Anyways, before I get all Chester The Molester on this one, this spin on the pop tart is good. Real good. Like offer to drive the babysitter home good. Quit looking at me like that.
-2 cups flour, sifted
-1 Tablespoon kosher salt
-i Tablespoon sugar
-2 sticks butter, chopped into small pieces, VERY COLD
-4-6 Tablespoons ice water
-5 1/2 ounces dried peaches
-3 Tablespoons clover honey
-Zest of one lemon, grated
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-1 cup confectioner’s sugar
-1 tablespoon cornstarch
-Juice of 1/2 lemon
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-Red sanding sugar
1. Chop the peaches into small bits and submerge them completely in warm water. Set aside.
2. Begin by making a pie crust. First, sift the flour, salt and sugar together. Then add in the butter.
3. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the sifted flour until completely incorporated. Work fast, the butter should not have time to soften much.
4. Start incorporating the ice water, one tablespoon at a time, while still cutting the dough with the pastry cutter. Keep adding the water until the dough is small pea size.
5. Gather the dough together, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 15 minutes (but preferably an hour).
6. Next, begin the filling. Drain the peaches and add them to a food processor.
7. Add the honey, lemon zest and cinnamon to the bowl as well. Puree the contents until mostly smooth.
8. Transfer the filling to a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
9. Begin rolling out the dough to 3/16″ on a well floured surface. Go thinner on the dough, as otherwise the tarts will get a little bulky and unattractive.
10. Cut the dough into your desired shape using a cookie cutter. It’s okay to re-roll the dough and recut it, but try to minimize waste as the dough may shrink slightly if rerolled.
11. Try to end up with an even number of cut dough shapes. Divide that number in half and set them out on a couple of cookie sheets. Preheat the oven to 375.
12. Get a little basin of water handy as well as the filling from the fridge. Place a tablespoon of the filling in the center of each shape on the cookie sheet.
13. Use the basin of water to dip your finger in and trace around the outer edge of all those dough shapes with filling on them. Then place the remaining shapes on top of those ones on the cookie sheets.
14. Crimp the edges of each shape securely with a fork. Then poke holes in the center of each filled shape to vent steam.
15. These tarts freeze VERY well. If you would like to bake these later, freeze the cookie sheets until the tarts are solid, then take them out to bake as needed. (Frozen tarts take 30 minutes to bake.) Otherwise, line cookie sheets with parchment and set out the tarts to be baked on them.
16. Bake the tarts 15-20 minutes, until solid.
17. While the tarts are baking, mix up the glaze. Combine the confectioner’s sugar, cornstarch, lemon and vanilla in a bowl. Stir until everything is incorporated. It will be thick.
18. Remove the tarts from the oven and cool them slightly. When they are warm to the touch, hold the tarts by the outer edge and dip the tops into the glaze.
19. Flip the tarts over, clean off the edge and sprinkle with the red sanding sugar. Put the tarts on a plate and allow them to cool completely.
20. Eat them with guilty pleasure and reckless abandon, but it is not recommended to toast them prior to eating if made ahead and glazed.
So before you think that I’m a completely culturally insensitive jerk and I just launch into my musings on food for the day, let me just clarify that I got the inspiration for the title of this post from the Broadway play named Chinglish. I may say jerky things from time to time (okay, most of the time) but I’m not that much of a complete douchebag.
Anyways! That being said..
Today marks the beginning of Chinese New Year. I no longer have any connection to the holiday now that I don’t work in the fashion industry anymore… outside of my fond memories. I have long surpassed my days of frantically placing sample orders late into the frigid January night so that we might (might!) see those urgently needed flouncy tops a month from now. I haven’t purchased a bag of oranges or a tray of pastries as a somewhat hopeful bribe (and general good will gesture) to local seamstresses so that we might get bumped a little higher in the ranking over Ralph’s or Calvin’s samples du jour. Occasionally I would get a red envelope with a dollar in it. Consistently our samples never did come before those ones for Mr. Lauren or Mr. Klein.
As I was saying, it’s Chinese New Year. So I thought it might be nice to pay homage to the most important traditional Chinese holiday by cooking something for it. Something that signified prosperity,abundance and above all, party food. I did some research for recipe inspiration and decided to add all of the ingredients for specific reasons. The mushrooms, although not the traditional Fa Cai eaten at this time of year, is symbolic of wealth. Toasted seeds are associated with abundance (and fertility, which I was not going for). Onions have no significance, but they taste good. Also the shape of the package evokes the red envelopes containing money in them that are passed out this time of year.
So celebrate the lunar New Year with some M-80′s and these puppies. Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái!
-1 package of phyllo dough, defrosted
-1 cup crimini or shiitake mushrooms, sliced razor thin
-1/2 yellow onion, fine dice
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1/4 cup raw sunflower kernels
-1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
-1 tablespoon soy sauce
-1 teaspoon ground grains of paradise, Sichuan peppercorn or green peppercorn (try to find grains of paradise)
-1 teaspoon (or less) of sugar
A Note On Making Phyllo Triangles:
Making phyllo triangles is easy once you get the hang of it, but it may seem confusing at first. If you’ve ever been to a flag ceremony and watched it being folded into a neat, triangular package, then you’ve got the idea on how to do this. If you’re not particularly patriotic (or fond of wartime films), here’s how you fold a phyllo triangle.
1. Lay five sheets of phyllo out on top of each other. BUT, make sure to brush each sheet with oil generously before placing the next sheet on top. Then brush the top sheet with oil.
2. Spoon out teaspoons of your filling onto your oiled phyllo sheet. I could get four on my sheets, you may get more or less. Then cut long rows using a chef’s knife or a pizza cutter from the bottom to the top of you sheets.
3. Once you have your strips going, fold the corner over to the side, covering your filling, like this. Then take that corner and flip it upwards, forming a straight line. Repeat all the way up the strip, until there is no more phyllo to flip. As you will see, you’ve formed a nice little triangle phyllo package.
4. When you get to the top, you will want to put the seam side down on the baking sheet. If there is any excess phyllo laying out, you may trim that down as well using your knife or pizza cutter.
5. Brush the top of the package immediately with oil as the phyllo dries out QUICKLY. Then continue to make triangles to your heart’s content.
1. Put a dry pan on the stove and turn the heat to high. Add the sunflower seeds and stir constantly. Soon they will become fragrant and pick up some color. When they are golden tan, turn the heat down to medium low and transfer those seeds to a dish. Set aside.
2. Add in some canola oil to the pan and allow it to warm up. Add in the onion and garlic. Sweat the vegetables, but do not allow them to pick up color.
3. When they are soft, add in the mushrooms. Cook for about a minute, then add the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and grains of paradise. Add in the sugar, but sprinkle and taste it as you go. The idea is not to sweeten the dish per se, but to mellow the saltiness of the soy sauce with a slightly sweet taste.
4. Cook the vegetables down until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Turn off the heat and stir in the sunflower seeds. Transfer everything to a dish.
5. In a separate dish, combine 3 parts canola oil to one part sesame oil. This will be the oil to coat the phyllo sheets.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a baking sheet with some of the canola and sesame oil blend.
7. Using the note on the phyllo sheets above, start assembling the coinpurses.
8. Bake the coinpurses for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.
preferably, serve these warm, but they’re not shabby cold either.
So I went out of town for Christmas and whatnot (as you may have already guessed) and I needed thank you gifts for my dogsitters upon my return. Keep in mind that it’s a bit late in the game, but I was determined to get both of them something for their efforts as I sincerely appreciated the kindness. I wanted to give them something unique, something personal. Of course that meant that I would be baking whatever that was. (I’m sure they would have probably preferred the unique and personal green paper gift, but I digress.)
When I came back from eastern Washington I had carefully packed a bag of those graham cracker cookies in my carry on luggage, taking great care to not crush them into tiny bits as they went through the X-Ray machines and over thousands of miles of transfers. Success. All twelve of them made it back to my little enclave in Brooklyn.. where they sat… in my refrigerator… for a while. Much longer than a cookie should sit for.
It took a bit of wrangling to pin down when I would see one of my dogsitters with both of our schedules, but finally I got my act together and figured out a time to meet my friend. Which presented a problem, considering that I made those cookies on Christmas Eve. Failure. Nobody wants to get stale, cold cookies from halfway across the world that were made on Christmas Eve. It was time to up the ante.
I made this carrot bread for her instead, which I gave to her with some coffee I bought from the Pike Place Market. This cake was the perfect accoutrement to the dark and bitter blend. I had wanted to do something a little bit different from the average carrot bread, something that stuck out in the crowd but not offensively. It worked! I had an extra loaf, so I divvied that up amongst friends and the resounding comments were that the spice combination on this recipe left a very pleasant aftertaste.
“A very pleasant aftertaste.” Just what you were looking for in a carrot bread, right? Either way, it is pretty good and a good thank you gift. Try it out yourself!
-2 cups grated carrots
-1 cup pecans, chopped
-3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped (don’t get the sweetened ones)
-1 1/2 cups flour
-1 1/4 cup sugar
-3/4 cup canola oil
-1/4 cup molasses
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
-1 teaspoon ground ginger
-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
-1/2 teaspoon cloves
-zest from one orange, grated
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease two 8 inch loaf pans.
2. In a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, add things in IN THIS ORDER USING THE SAME MEASURING CUP FOR THE LAST TWO INGREDIENTS. (Trust me, you will thank me later.) Add the sugar, eggs, canola oil and then the molasses. See how it just slips out of the measuring cup without having to scrape it out? Genius. Whisk everything together.
4. Add in the carrots, nuts, cherries and zest. Stir to incorporate.
5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir everything together until homogeneous.
6. Divide the batter between the two pans equally.
7. Bake the loaves 1 hour, or until a cake tester comes out clean from the center.
8. Allow the bread to cool and remove from the pans.
When I was back home for Christmas this year, I had this grand idea that I was going to feature local foods from mom and pop type shops. Although in my mind the Pacific Northwest isn’t the frontrunner in unique regional foodstuffs, there’s a few places that stick out in my mind when I think of back home. One of those places was the Spudnut Shop.
The Spudnut Shop is located in a tiny strip mall called the Uptown Shopping Center and is conveniently located by my parents house. The shop opened in 1948, shortly after a population boom in the area. The Spudnut Shop has been open ever since, serving doughnuts, breakfast and lunch to the hungry masses day in and day out.
I had some memories of the place, but I was never a regular. Being just a wee food junkie back then, I remember The Spudnut Shop being an okay place, a spot to get a doughnut and maybe some coffee in thick white mugs. Nothing that special. However, as a full-fledged adult food junkie, I knew that we had a unique product sitting in the Uptown Shopping Center and I figured that of course they would be interested in fielding questions from a bona fide New Yorkah so that I could write a sparkling and wistful article about these artisanal doughnuts. OF COURSE. They’re from Eastern Washington! That’s practically like Canada South on the politeness scale. Without hesitation, I called.
Who I got was Jolene.
When I called, I mentioned that I was from Richland, I had grown up eating Spudnuts religiously (a lie) and that now I was a writer who wanted to feature The Spudnut Shop on my blog. I had more pluck than a chicken factory and oozed honey from my lips.
Jolene was not impressed.
She gruffly took my name and curtly informed me that the owner was out of town that week. Instantly, the back home charm snapped off and I reverted back into my “I need to get shit done” New Yorker mode. With my take no prisoner edge, I lobbed back my information to her. I knew the owner would probably never see the invisible ink on the paper that didn’t exist on Jolene’s notepad.
I was not deterred by my less than stellar doughnut receptionist. Everyone has a bad day, I figured. This year was hers.
When I got home, I decided to just go down to the shop and see if I could just wrangle an article out of my own experience there. So I went down at about four in the afternoon one day. One way or another, I was getting this article and I figured that the Jolene experience must have been a fluke.
Nope. I met Jolene II when I went in. She looked about 16. The entire staff of the Spudnut Shop appeared to be a crew of surly, nonplussed teenagers, just working here long enough until they went to college or married their sweetheart who was enlisting.
I sat down at a table (which hadn’t been updated since somewhere in the early seventies) in the empty shop where J2 informed us that they had shut the grill off two hours before closing. I quietly noted to myself that shutting down a kitchen two hours prior to your posted closing time would have never flown anywhere else, but I hid that behind my smile and piercing stare. I wasn’t about to get intimidated or shooed by someone half my age. I told her that it was fine, all I wanted was a doughnut.
“We’re out of those too.” J2 countered, blankly. Not even a smile or a half hearted apology.
So what she was telling me is although they were technically still open, they didn’t have any food to serve or any doughnuts to sell. This, countered with her stellar attitude, was not looking good in terms of an article. I’ve lived in New York for 15 years and even I thought these people were assholes. I left, more irritated than before but with a resolve that I would get one of these stupid doughnuts to write about if it was the last thing I did.
A couple of days later, I went back in the morning to the shop. This time I found it was slightly more busy than my afternoon venture and the doughnuts were piled up on sheet trays. Thank the lord. I bought four and encountered Jolene III. She was easily confused and had obviously been trained by J2 and O.G. Jolene in regards to customer service.
I told her that I would like one plain Spudnut, one white glazed one and two maple nut. She tried to give me two maple nut, a white one (which she matter of factly informed me was “Oh, you mean coconut”) and couldn’t figure out what the one I wanted aside from that, even with me pointing at the pastry directly. At this point, with my patience running thin for this local institution, I just didn’t care. I didn’t even want to eat a Spudnut anymore. It was the hardest $2.82 that I ever wanted to spend but I finally got the little effers in my hand and I was out of there for good.
FINALLY I got home with my precious potato doughnuts. This was so going to be worth it after all that work, I knew that I was going to be eating a bit of manna from my youth. These doughnuts were going to be succulent and pillowy, like a bit of heaven with sugar glaze. I knew it! I was finally happy and excited to be eating one of these generic looking pastries! I bit into one before photographing them, anticipating greatness.
WHAT! They were nothing special. In fact, I wouldn’t even bother going out of my way to get them.. even if I lived next door to the place. Spudnuts were just average doughnuts, no better than from a grocery store. Way too cakey and springy, not like a pillow of sweetness. I can’t believe I wasted all that time just trying to get something that I could have had in five minutes at any Dunkin Doughnuts or Winchell’s. I was so not pleased.
So, long story short, The Spudnut Shop in the Uptown Shopping Center somehow manages to continue open its doors day after day, SOMEHOW, but the doughnuts aren’t anything to write home to mother about. So rather than make you, the dear reader, have to encounter the jerks behind the counter, I’m just going to give you the recipe that I found after doing some research.
Take that, Jolene(s). Might have helped you if you learned to be polite.
-1 cup shortening
-2 cups cool mashed potatoes
-4 cups lukewarm milk
-5 eggs, beaten
-1 cup sugar
-2 tablespoons of yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
-1 1/2 teaspoons salt
-12-15 cups all purpose flour
-1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
-Oil for frying
-1 cup powdered sugar
-2 tablespoons water
1. Scald the milk and add the shortening, sugar and salt. Stir until melted.
2. Add in enough flour to make a thin batter, like a cake batter. Then add in the mashed potatoes and beaten eggs and stir to incorporate. The batter should not be warm but not hot.
3. Add in the yeast and stir well. Continue to add flour until a soft dough is achieved. Put the dough in a bowl and cover it.
4. When the dough has risen, punch it down and let it rise again.
5. Roll out the dough and cut it into doughnut shapes. Let the dough rise a third time.
6. Heat your oil to 375. Drop each doughnut, raised side down into the hot oil.
7. Allow the doughnuts to cook for a short while, then turn them once to fry the underside.
8. Remove the doughnuts from the fryer and drain. If desired, glaze the doughnuts by dipping each when warm.
Makes 12-15 dozen doughnuts.
Question: “It’s been a hard holiday season on Mr. Liver. Is there anything I can eat or drink to cure a hangover that ACTUALLY works?” -Rupert J Brooklyn
Answer: Honestly, not really. The only guaranteed hangover cure is time. There are, however, things that will perhaps shorten the time spent recovering a bit.
But first, it helps to know what exactly a hangover is and how it’s caused in order to lessen the effects before one happens. In a nutshell, hangovers are disincentives to alcohol abuse. That being said, there are three widely recognized factors in the cause of a hangover: dehydration, hypoglycemia and acetaldehyde intoxication.
Dehydration in a hangover is caused because ethanol acts a diuretic. You drink more, you pee more. You pee too much, you get dehydrated and an electrolyte imbalance. Simple. So if you’re planning on hitting it frat boy in Cancun style, if you try to remember to alternate between an alcoholic beverage and water it may save your stupid behind in the long run.
The second factor in a hangover is hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This happens because of the metabolic changes of the liver (as well as other organs) in response to the presence of alcohol in the system. With prolonged heavy drinking, the liver will accumulate triglycerides as well as lactic acid which can inhibit glucose production. With the inhibition of glucose production, your liver will resort to using its reserve glycogen, which is when hypoglycemia occurs. Also to note, alcoholic hypoglycemia is more common with prolonged binge drinking over days, as alcohol also irritates the stomach and intestines that leads to all the wonderful gastrointestinal problems and leads the drinker to poor nutritional choices. Again, it serves to play it safe and drink less, or perhaps to make sure to eat the garnishes from your glass while drinking.
The last factor in a hangover is acetaldehyde intoxication. Ethanol is converted to acetaldehyde by the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, and then from acetaldehyde to acetic acid by the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. That’s just a mouthful to say that your body converts all the alcohol to waste products, which you then have to flush out of your system.. with (say it with me) time. the acetaldehyde intoxication is what gives you the lethargy, the confusion and the general malaise of a hangover. As an added bonus, acetaldehyde is between 10 and 30 times more toxic than alcohol itself and is a probable carcinogen. So, the more you drink, the more your body has to convert all that alcohol.. and if you keep it up, you might end up with cancer. Great!
Now that I’ve lectured you left, right and backwards, you probably want to just know what you can eat or drink to feel better. There’s a few things that may help you feel an iota better after a bender.
One, potassium rich foods and drinks. Foods like avocado, bananas and dried apricots are chock full of potassium and shouldn’t irritate your stomach too much. If even chewing is too much to handle, you can also feebly sip Gatorade, Pedialyte or any coconut water.
Two, grease. This isn’t a licence to go hog wild, but a meal with a higher fat content may help coat your stomach. Eggs are a good call as they’re not seriously unhealthy, as would be bread dipped in olive oil. Cheese pizza or fondue might also be suitable.
Three, sugar. Honey or fruit may help do the trick as they can help rapidly restore your glucose levels.
Four: B Vitamins and complex carbohydrates. Try Vegemite or sautéed mushrooms (the non hallucinatory type, obviously) and onions on whole grain toast. Studies show that in large doses, vitamin B6 may reduce the symptoms of a hangover. Vegemite is loaded with B vitamins, as are mushrooms and onions.
Try any of those foods and it might make you feel better. Still, the key to preventing a hangover is not to get one. So next holiday season, don’t double fist your drinks at Christmas dinner or offer to show those interns how its done on the kegstands.
By Richard Nordgren, chemist
You know it happens. Every year, someone gives you that one gift. The one gift that you hate more than socks as a kid, as ugly sweater as a teenager, that post holiday credit card bill as an adult. A gift so horrid, so vile, so despised that it strikes fear into the most courageous of men and stoic of women. And yet the only thing that one can do is try not to shriek in terror and say thank you to the elderly aunt who bestowed the darkness upon your doorstep.
You know which one I’m talking about. I’m talking about that dried fruit on a basket plate that you get every year, probably from the Hickory Farms kiosk in the mall. The one with the disgusting strawberry bonbon candies on it.
Anyways, so now you have this plate of fruit rocks on your hands you’re stuck with something to do with all that… regularity. Throw it away? No, that’s wasteful. Feed it to the dog? Don’t want to chance sudden death. It’ll just sit there on the table for days, weeks, even months before someone (in a moment of desperation) fishes out the apricots to use in breakfast oatmeal one morning.
Been in this situation?
Fear not, dear reader. I have your solution to the conundrum of what to do with all that dried fruit. A solution so grand, so beautiful, it could make the angels weep. This year, I made all of that into a pie masked heavily with cranberries. Maybe you should too, and then really mean those thanks to Aunt Bessie next year.
For the dough:
-2 cups all purpose flour
-1 1/3 stick butter, very cold, chopped
-Pinch of salt
For the filling:
-1 bag fresh cranberries
-2 granny smith apples, peeled and chopped into a small dice
-2 fuyu persimmons, peeled and chopped into a fine dice
-1 orange, juiced
-Zest of half of that orange, julienned into 1/2″strips
-2 cups chopped walnuts
-1 cup dried apricots, chopped fine
-1 cup mission figs, halved
-1 cup smyrna figs, halved
-1/2 cup raisins, plumped in water
-1/2 cup currants, also plumped in water
-7 whole cloves
-1 thumb sized knob ginger, peeled
-1 star anise pod
-1 stick cinnamon
-1 cup sugar
-3/4 cup water
-1/8 cup cider vinegar
-1 tablespoon kosher salt
1. start the filling. Put all ingredients (except the spices and ginger) into a heavy bottomed saucepot. Tie the spices and ginger into a cheesecloth bag and drop that in the pot too. Turn the heat on low.
2.Start with your pie dough. In a large bowl, combine the flour and the salt. Add the butter and cut it into the flour until it is well incorporated.
3. Add the ice water to the flour and butter one tablespoon at a time and continue to blend everything. You should use about 5-6 tablespoons.
4. When the dough holds together well, combine it all in a ball and wrap it in plastic film. Set it in the fridge and let it rest at least 15 minutes, but about an hour should be fine if you have the time.
5. Stir the filling. Cook it down slowly, stirring occasionally, until it thickens on its own. It will take seventeen forevers to do this.
6. When the filling is thickened, turn off the heat. Then roll out your pie dough. Also, preheat the oven to 450 degrees now.
7. When you have the pie crust in the dish, brush the inside of the crust with egg white. This will prevent the pie filling from making the crust soggy.
8. Pour in the filling. Cover the top with the second pie crust and secure the edges.
9. Wash the top crust with more egg white and poke a few decorative vent holes in the top of the crust.
10. Cover the edges of the pan with foil to prevent burning. Put the pie in the oven.
11. Bake the pie for 10 minutes at 450, then turn the heat down to 350 and bake for 35-45 minutes more.
12. In the last few minutes of baking, remove the foil from the crust edges to allow them to brown.
13. When the pie is finished (the top will be firm and golden), remove it from the oven to cool.
Ah, holiday candy. How fleeting you will be come January first, when I and 99.5% of the nation scales it back a bit.. or buys bigger pants. BUT! I still have a few days left where I can cram in all the candy and carbohydrates in that my butter soaked heart desires in reckless abandon.
One of those things that I’ve been hoovering is homemade fudge. I make it every year for my father as a gift. He loves it. And I love it because he shares it with me if I ask (or just happen to be standing at the right place at the right time).
At any rate, I’m just going to blow up my spot here and admit that I usually just cheat and make the marshmallow no-fail fudge rather than the real McCoy. I mean, have you really ever read a traditional fudge recipe? It’s hard work! It looks like it takes about 20 hours to make and you have to stir it from now until it’s the consistency of creamy concrete. As much as I love my dad, he definitely didn’t raise a fool. If I can get away with making cheater fudge, I’ll take it by a country mile. Who’s going to know the difference?
But.. is there a difference? (You know where I’m going with this already, right?)
I got to thinking about this while I was hurriedly whipping up a batch of the no-fail variety on Christmas Eve. I was under the gun and I didn’t have the luxury of time to practice my driveway mixing skills. The fudge lived up to its name and in just minutes I had a box of candy ready to go (which seemed to be well received). But then on Christmas day we had some time to kill and we decided to make some of the old fashioned type to compare. It was interesting what we discovered.
The no-fail fudge was lighter and sweeter, and in some ways just better. It was admittedly chalkier than the old fashioned variety, but I could look past that because it didn’t have the intensity. The no-fail fudge was the type of fudge that you could just sit down and devour without thinking. The old fashioned fudge was smoother, but it was an intense burst of chocolate all at once. Not a bad choice either, but you wouldn’t want to eat much of it all at once either.
Still, you be the judge! Here’s both the recipes.
-1, 12-ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
-7 ounces marshmallows
-1 stick butter
-2 1/2 cups white sugar
-3/4 cup evaporated milk
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-1 cup walnuts (optional)
1. line an 8″x 8″pan with foil. Butter the foil.
2. In a heavy bottomed saucepot, combine all but the chocolate chips. Turn the heat on low.
3. Stir the contents of the pot until everything melts and comes to a boil.
4. Continue to stir everything while the contents are boiling for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
5. Stir in the chocolate chips until they melt. If desired, add the nuts at this point.
6. Pour the fudge into the buttered pan.
7. Allow the fudge to cool and cut into 1 inch squares.
Old Fashioned Fudge
-2 cups sugar
-1/4 cup light corn syrup
-1/2 cup half and half
-1/2 cup heavy cream
-1/8 teaspoon salt
-6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-1 cup walnuts (optional)
1. Coat an 8″x 8″pan with foil and then proceed to grease it liberally.
2. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, half and half, cream and salt in a heavy bottomed saucepot. Turn the heat on low.
3. Stir until the contents come to a boil, then stop stirring and allow the contents to boil for 1 minute.
4. Wipe down the sugar from the sides of the pan and add in the chocolate. Stir all to incorporate and allow the chocolate to melt.
5. Turn the heat up slightly and allow the mixture to reach the soft ball stage (238 degrees) without stirring. It will take a while.
6. When the candy reaches the soft ball stage, turn off the heat and allow it to cool to 110 degrees. The fun is just around the corner!
7. Start stirring the chocolate until it starts to snap and lose its sheen. It will take 7 forevers, and the candy will harden as you go.
8. When everything is dull, stir in the nuts if you’re going to use them. Then scrape the entire contents into the pan.
9. Allow the fudge to cool and set for 24 hours before cutting into 1 inch squares and serving in candy cups.
My mother’s family is unusual. I mean they’re unique in their own way, but how she grew up is unusual. She grew up Molokan.
No, she’s not Hawaiian. That’s Moloka’i. The Friendly Island.
My mother’s family at one time belonged to the Molokan church, which is a group of Russian sectarian Christians that evolved from “Spiritual Christian” peasants that refused to obey the Russian Orthodox Church back in the 17th century. The Molokan name literally means “Milk Drinkers” but it’s not because they enjoy copious amounts of dairy products (which they do) but because they drank milk on the 200 fasting days and especially during lent. The way my mother describes it, they were basically like Russian Shakers and they kept a pretty tight knit community. You were born in, you married within and you died Molokan.
At any rate, when she left home and married my father she left the Molokan church as my father is Presbyterian. (Scandal!) Her siblings and parents also drifted from the church over the years, finding more in common with other less insular denominations. There’s still a community of Molokans in southern California and Arizona though, some of which are more conservative and some of which are less.
I’ve heard many interesting stories from my mother about growing up Molokan, but there’s a couple of themes that stuck out to me with all of them. One, Molokans will sing about just about anything at the drop of a hat. Two, they drink tea in special bowls like most people drink water. And three, they can cook their pious kosher asses off. (Keeping kosher is just one of the quirks of the Molokans.)
Anyways, at some point along the way, someone in my mother’s church organized a cookbook called “The Molokan Cookbook”. As far as anyone knows only two editions exist, the first being in 1963 and the latter in 1965. Both my mother and I have copies of the 1963 cookbook and its chock-a-block with really interesting things from a Russian peasant kitchen. They cover everything from how to drink tea to how to cure olives with just about every traditional Russian soup, dairy product and meat preparation in between. Fascinating stuff.
So every time I visit my parents I make my mother some blintzes- or as we call them “blintzei” from the book. I make them because I love her and they’re a memory from her youth, but I also make them because they’re particularly good. The only difference between the traditional Molokan blintzei is that I soup up mine with some lemon, vanilla and sugar, but they can easily be made without those things and they’ll taste just as good. They’re pretty easy to make ahead as well and freeze well too.
-One dozen eggs
-2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
- 1/2 gallon plus 2 cups whole milk
-1 lemon (optional)
-1/4 cup white sugar (optional)
-2 teaspoons vanilla (optional)
-Pinch of salt
-Half and half
-Oil or clarified butter.
1. Make the ricotta. I follow this recipe on Serious Eats except I triple the recipe and use lemon juice for the acid. Do not skip this step if you want sweet blintzei, it really makes all the difference. (If you’re making plain blintzei, you can use premade ricotta if you like.)
2. Zest the lemon rind if you’re making sweet blintzei, set aside.
3. Warm 4 cups of milk to lukewarm. Set aside.
4. Whisk 8 of the eggs in a large bowl. Beat in the milk. Add the salt and 2 tablespoons of sugar. (If you’re making plain blintzei, omit the sugar.)
5. Incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Beat until everything is blended and smooth, no lumps. Set aside.
6. Thoroughly whisk the remaining 4 eggs in a separate bowl. When the eggs are beaten, add in the ricotta, the lemon zest, vanilla and the remaining sugar and mix everything until smooth. (Again, if making plain blintzei… you get the idea.) Set aside.
7. Find something that will cover your griddle pan completely. I like to use a pizza pan. Then oil the griddle and turn it on to medium heat.
8. When the pan is hot, pour half cup measures onto the pan and spread it around as if you were making a crepe. Then take your cover, set it over the top of your griddle and leave it covered until the center is set.
9. Using a spatula, remove the blintzei wrap from the griddle and put on a plate. Put a layer of wax paper on top of the wrap.
10. Repeat steps 8 and 9 until all the batter is cooked. Be sure to sandwich each wrap between wax paper.
11. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and turn off the stovetop.
12. take one of your wraps and remove the wax paper. In the center of each wrap, spoon a couple of spoonfuls of the filling in a line.
13. Fold the sides of the wrap towards the middle and then roll each like a burrito. (You want to keep the filling in the center of the wrapper.)
14. Place each blintzei, seam side down, in a baking pan. they should touch sides.
15. When you have the pan filled, pour some half and half over the top of the rolled blintzei. You want to cover all of them, but don’t have the half and half pooling under the blintzei.
16. Bake the blintzei for 25 minutes. Serve hot with a sprinkle of sugar on top.
Anyways, I got to thinking about things that I could write about for a Christmas article and I thought about WHY we have Christmas.. which lead to communion wafers. (Or, as I thought to myself “What better way to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus than by eating him?”) Before you even think it, yes, I know it’s of questionable taste. However, I was curious about what communion wafers were, so whatever.
Communion wafers, or sacramental bread, is used in the Christian ritual of the Eucharist (aka Holy Communion). The bread comes in a variety of forms- mostly based on what church its being used for. Most of the recipes for communion bread and wafers are unleavened, but some churches (such as the Eastern Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and some Protestant churches) use leavened bread.
The recipe for unleavened sacramental bread is very simple, actually. It consists of wheat flour and water- no more, no less. The prosphora (leavened bread) used by the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox recipe consists only of flour, water, yeast and salt. Most of the time, either the leavened or unleavened sacramental breads will be baked by congregants of the church in good standing or by nuns in the church (if you’re Catholic) but in less strict churches the breads can be baked by anyone or even consist of things such as baked pie dough, matzohs, or regular old wonder bread.
Still, if you’re curious as to making them yourself, consider this my gift to you.
-2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
-1/2 cup all purpose flour
-1 1/2 cup warm water
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Sift the flours together in a bowl.
3. Add the water and knead the dough for 6-8 minutes, until pliable and smooth.
4. Roll out your dough 1/4 thick into a 9″ circle. (You will have two from this recipe.) Prick it all over with a fork. There is no need to pre-score this bread.
5. Transfer the dough to a cookie sheet and bake it for 16-18 minutes.
6. Allow to cool, wrap and store (or freeze) until ready to use.