As far as reentry* points to on-a-whim cooking go, these cookies aren’t the most obvious choice. I might have gone with something from the market, or something from a new fall cookbook or maybe just something practical that would feed us for the next few days, like a hearty stew.
This month has came and has now almost gone and I’ve missed it entirely. It’s a shame, because September is my second favorite but less of a shame than it would be if I am still saying the same about October, which is my actual favorite. Nevertheless, I put my foot down and decided I absolutely, unequivocally would not let this month go without at least making you an apple honey challah. Due to my innate gift for impeccable timing (ha), I got the idea for this about two days after the High Holidays ended last year. So, for the better part of 12 months, I’ve plotted this spin on traditional challah and am still about six hours late on it. Typical.
My brain is currently in Paris, idling in a cafe after a bike ride along the Seine. It may not come home. It started a few weeks ago, when an obsession with getting to the bottom of a baked spinach dish mentioned in a letter by Julia Child allowed me to, once again, dive deeply into the pages of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. What I didn’t have was an exit strategy, which is especially dangerous when day to day life lately has been a bit more about
double ear infections, sleep deprivation, cookbooking in a tiny, overheated kitchen, oh, and then we paid taxes things nobody needs to hear me complain about. In short: I choose Paris, instead. So the last few weeks have brought to our table weeknight roasted chicken, tiny gold potatoes, simple green salads, skinny green beans, white wine, weepingly delicious onion soup and a spate of apple tarte tatins.
A couple years ago, I became determined to make apple latkes. I mean, why not carry the deliciousness of latkes over to dessert? Why should potatoes have all of pan-fried-until-crunchy fun? Not confident in my ability to shred apples and stir in eggs and flour without an established recipe’s guidance, I found about 75 matching recipes online, each attributed to some other place, and all parading under the title “apple latkes”. I made them (and peace with my cast-iron skillet at the same time, hooray) and declared them pancakes, not latkes. They were not what I was looking for, but at least they were tasty.
This is pretty much October on a parchment-lined baking sheet. They want to be packed in a basket so they can go apple picking with you and to sneak in the car to join you for a leaf-peeping drive. They want to come to brunch with you and deserve to be served with warm apple cider, whether getting lost in a corn maze or searching for the best pumpkin to carve.
Early fall is a ridiculous time to get cooking block. Inspiration is everywhere as nearly everything that could possibly be in season currently is. The markets are flooded with great stuff; summer tomatoes, eggplant, corn and peppers fight for space on tables with apples, pears, greens and winter squash. But somehow — when I’m not playing SuperMom or Good Football Wife or gushing over tiny fall outfits — I’ve been at an impasse. The summer stuff is waning; the last tomatoes I brought home were… rough, to put it nicely. And given that the butternut squash and collards are the last bits of fresh produce we’ll see until asparagus spears pop up in May 2011, seven very long months from now, I’m sure you understand why I put off cooking with them for as long as possible.
A few people have asked me what I thought of the food on the cruise we took and I admit, I’ve been dodging the question. If there could be a tiny, unfortunate thing at making a craft of getting food to taste the exact way you wish it to in your own kitchen, it would definitely be that the food outside it never tastes as good as it once did — especially food at a week long all-you-can-eat-buffet. Given, understandably, that nobody wants to eat their spaghetti while you espouse on all of the techniques the kitchen could have employed to avoid gumminess, like I said, I mostly shut up.