Jewish Archive

Thursday, October 9, 2014

better chocolate babka

new chocolate babkas + impatient kindergartener feet

Inadvertently, this has become Festivus week on Smitten Kitchen, wherein I air my grievances at past recipes and exhibit what I hope can be passed off as “feats of strength” in reformulating them for modern times. Still, nobody could more surprised than I am that of all the recipes in the archives, it’s Martha Stewart’s decadent chocolate babkas from seven years ago that have ended up in this queue, because at the time we found them beyond reproach: rich, buttery, crumbly and intensely chocolaty. They were precisely what we’d remembered getting from the store growing up, but better, I mean, I’d hope they’d be. Clocking in at 3/4 pound of semisweet chocolate and almost a cup of butter per loaf, the recipe in fact uses triple this (2.25 pounds of chocolate! 1.25 pounds of butter!) for three loaves. And not unlike the chicken pot pies, this, along with the messy, complicated prep, became the problem. Despite repeated requests from our families every holiday, I’ve probably only made it once since, if that. It’s all too much.

the dough, after overnighting in the fridge
rolling out chilled dough is easier

This high holiday season, however, I decided to audition a different chocolate babka — the stunning, twisty, glossy chocolate krantz cakes that I imagine have tempted anyone that’s opened Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook. Although I was curious, I knew there was no way they could be as good. How could they be, what with only 2 1/4 ounces of dark chocolate and just over 1/2 cup of butter per loaf? It was going to taste abstemious, and wrong. Abstemious chocolate babka is wrong, wrong on a moral-ethical level, as far as I’m concerned.

melted chocolate to make paste

Continued after the jump »

Monday, September 22, 2014

sunken apple and honey cake

sunken apple and honey cake

There are recipes on my Cook This list that I’ve been plotting for years but take forever to jump from that place where they’re a rough idea of how I think something might taste good and how I’ll make that happen. There are items on the list which are just the names of dishes I haven’t tried yet and want to learn more about. And there are recipes that make me kick myself every time I see them because how have we not made a good hearty tortilla soup here yet? And where is that Russian napoleon I’ve been promising you? But this here is none of the above. Exactly one month ago, someone emailed me (hi Angela!) and asked if I had ever made a German Sunken Apple Cake [which sounds even cooler in its native language: Versunkener Apfelkuchen] and I had barely finished reading the email before I had a new tab open because I had to immediately know what it was.

four deceptively tiny apples
peeled, halved, cored

What it was is adorable. Seriously, it’s relentlessly cute. Small apples are peeled, halved, cored and then scored and arranged rump-up on a buttery cake base and in the oven, the cake begins to creep up around them and the apples fan out like accordions and the whole thing is so golden, dimpled and lovely that I abandoned all hopes, plans to do anything else until I could make this happen. (Perhaps predictably, this still took three weeks.)

many slices, but don't cut through

Continued after the jump »

Monday, January 27, 2014

cheese blintz

cheese blintz with loose strawberry jam

Today, it’s time to correct one of the greatest oversights of the last 7.5 years on this website — sorry, no, not the grammar or excesses of commas and em-dashes, oops, there I did it again — we’re going to talk about cheese blintzes. I mean, really, what have I been waiting for? I’ve got all of the bases covered that would prequalify me for a cheese blintz proclivity: I love crêpes and Eastern European food, I’m Jewish, married to a Russian, had a deep cheese blintz addiction* when I was pregnant, and our little half-Russkie predictably cut his teeth on grandma’s homemade cheese blintzes (and Salad Olivier). And with this, I think we can isolate the real reason I’ve never made cheese blintzes for you: I don’t have to, because my mother-in-law makes them for us.

blending the crepe batter
my crepes always have funny moon shapes

But, I had an excess of farmers cheese in the fridge after I ran out of time to make these (unbearably good) Crescent Jam and Cheese Cookies before the end of the year, an intense hankering for a dessert crêpe to drizzle last week’s Dulce Manna over, it’s late in the coldest January I can remember and I’ve had it just about up-to-here with kale-tinged resolutions — cheese blintzes didn’t just make sense, the situation demanded them.

crepe don't stick to each other, so stack 'em up

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

fig, olive oil and sea salt challah + book tour!

fig, olive oil and sea salt challah

Last week, this little url turned six years old, though I am absolutely, unequivocally certain that the day I started typo-ing typing away here was a lifetime ago. I’d been married for almost a year. I was terrified to cook most things without a recipe. I kind of hated my day job (but loved my coworkers — still!). And this little guy — more on him next week — well, he wasn’t even a glimmer in our (still well-rested) eyes yet. While some things haven’t changed (for example, I have no idea what the buttons on my camera do, still), 801 recipes and over 151,000 comments later, I am fairly certain that what comes next is the last place I’d imagined this conversation going back then. And yet:

eggs, olive oil, honey, sea salt, yeast

Over the years, I have occasionally written about cooking too much of something and have invited you to come over and help us with the feast, because wouldn’t it be fun if we could all cram in my tiny kitchen together and hang out? I realize you’ve probably thought I was joking. Obviously, throwing a huge party in a kitchen that barely fits me and the toddler-mounted trike that’s always in there anyway would be a disaster. But the thing is, I wasn’t. I just didn’t let the logistical implausibility in any way diminish my insistence that, given the chance, I think we’d all get along famously.

dough hook, kneading away

Which brings me to The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook Book Tour: As it turns out, we can hang out and cook and chat, even if we can’t do it in my pathetically tiny kitchen. I am so excited about this part; I have joked more than once that it’s the entire reason I wrote a book. Plus, it’s important that you see before your own eyes what a complete and total normal person super-professional grown-up dork I am.

So, without further ado, let me direct you over to the Events & Book Tour Page, and then, I do hope you’ll hurry right back because this bread, it’s kind of a big deal.

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, March 15, 2012

potato knish, two ways

potato knish, two ways

Where have I been, you ask? Did I fly off to a small Caribbean island again, only to return to rub it in? Did my book project or adorable distraction eat me alive again? For once, no. I have actually been out climbing another (slightly smaller) culinary Mount Everest for you, and I have returned bearing not one, but two recipes.

both get peeled
onion, leek

I’ve been wanting to make potato knish almost as long as I’ve had this site. I thought I’d finally tackle it this winter, when carbs-for-warmth are the order of the day but New York up and decided to not have a winter this year and so it was a 60 degree day or never. I’m glad I went with it as knish are quintessentially old New York, brought to the Lower East Side tenements by Jewish Eastern European immigrants who knew, like most of our forefathers did, how to stretch staples into belly-filling delights.

russet potatoes and caramelized onions

Continued after the jump »