Women’s March / Black Chocolate Bundt Cake with Whiskey Glaze

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This week’s recipe: Chocolate Bundt Cake with Whiskey Glaze

The 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. What a surreal thing to type. What a surreal world to live in. People who are smarter and more eloquent than I am have written about what it feels like to be living in a world where the person who got the most votes didn’t win; a world where it seems like the only qualification for being a cabinet member is a complete lack of qualifications; a world where a man who literally praised Darth Vader and Satan as his role models penned the inaugural address; a world of “alternative facts,” in Kellyanne “The Crypt Keeper” Conway’s instantly immortal coinage. But darkness – in every sense – is Steve Bannon’s friend, not mine, so I’m going to focus on the wonderful thing that happened yesterday.

I got up in the morning and started working on my sign, which read, “Better Feminazis Than Neo-Nazis.” Mark and I made our way over to my synagogue, which was serving as the meeting place for a number of synagogues on the Upper West Side, but as we approached it we saw that there were hundreds of people hanging out on the sidewalk. I asked someone what was going on and he explained that the synagogue was over capacity and fire marshal wouldn’t let anyone else in. That basically set the tone for the rest of the day, which had a bigger turnout nationwide than any of us could have hoped for, especially considering that it started off as a random, disorganized Facebook event. The Upper West Side contingent – over a thousand of us – began marching downtown, with plans to turn east on 52nd Street, but the message came down that we’d have to go all the way down to 42nd Street and turn there because there were so many people. Everyone took the news with excellent cheer, knowing that it meant that turnout was bigger than anyone had planned.

We turned on 42nd Street and marched through Times Square, singing “This Land is Your Land,” as people on the sidewalk and in stores cheered us. The police (who could not have been more courteous and professional, by the way) escorted us and made sure we stopped for traffic every once in a while, but I’ve certainly never seem Times Square that empty. At 5th Avenue, we joined up with the main march, which had started at the UN. I’ve never seen anything like it. Every inch of the street and sidewalk teemed with women and men of all ages, sizes, and colors, cheering and chanting and holding up signs. Although it was extremely crowded and verrrrry slow progress as we made our way towards Trump Tower (seriously, doesn’t it seem like an evil dictator in a not-very-original movie would live atop a giant black glass monolith?), the sun was shining and everyone was in a great mood.

I knew what they were feeling. The inauguration was so depressing. The last several months have been so depressing. This was one of the first times I’ve felt hopeful again. They have the power, for now, but we have the numbers. There are so many women (and men) out there who are strong and funny and clearheaded, and we’ll need people with those qualities more than ever in the years ahead. We’ll need people who won’t be fooled by an administration whose members lie every time they open their mouths, even about crap as trivial and easily disproven as the size of the crowds or the weather at the inauguration. We’ll need men to stand up for women, for straight people to stand up for queer people, for white people to stand up for racial minorities, for Christians to stand up for religious minorities, for the rich to stand up for the poor, and for the able-bodied to stand up for the disabled. There is a ton of work ahead but yesterday was a heartening start. It was a reminder, after an election that was practically and symbolically crushing for women, that we are powerful. I can’t remember the exact wording now, but I once read something to the effect of, “Why is ‘pussy’ a synonym for weak? Vaginas are made of pure muscle and, despite being a small hole, can push another human being out of themselves. You know what’s actually weak and sensitive? Balls.” Trump and his buddies think they’re such strong men for pushing women around. They’d better get used to what they saw yesterday, because we’re not going away and we’re not going back.

So anyway, here’s a cake (I finally got to use the title of the blog!) For this cake’s gorgeousness, much credit must be given to my boyfriend Mark. This is our busiest time of year at work, and after having finally been released from jury duty, I’ve had to stay late most nights to catch up. In between, I searched many stores for the black cocoa powder that the recipe calls for, to no avail. Mark finally found some Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder at Morton Williams, of all places, thereby saving me from having to use (gasp) regular cocoa powder. I was overwhelmed at how beautiful the effect was. You can’t see it that well from the picture but the cake was so rich and chocolate-y looking. It was totally worth it, even though, like all Baked recipes, this one required at least three bowls. I then slathered it with a glaze that perfectly cut the sweetness with whiskey, and I have to say that, three days after I first baked it, it’s still incredibly moist and delicious, and Mark and I are eating it for breakfast like champs.

Black Chocolate Bundt Cake with Whiskey Glaze

From Baked Occasions

Black Cocoa Bundt:
  • ½ cup (40 g) unsweetened dark cocoa powder, such as Valrhona
  • ¼ cup (20 g) unsweetened black cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup (240 ml) hot coffee
  • 2¼ cups (285 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2¼ cups (495 g) firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (210 ml) canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1½ cups (360 ml) heavy cream
Butter Whiskey Glaze:
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2½ to 3 cups (280 to 340 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons good-quality whiskey
For Décor:
  • Chocolate sprinkles (optional)
Instructions
  1. Make the Black Cocoa Bundt: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter the inside of a 12-cup Bundt pan, dust with cocoa powder, and knock out the excess. Alternatively, liberally apply a nonstick cooking spray, dust with cocoa, and knock out the excess. Either way, make sure the pan’s nooks and crannies are all thoroughly coated.
  2. Place both cocoa powders and the instant espresso powder in a medium heatproof bowl. Pour the hot coffee directly over the powders and whisk until combined. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
  4. In another large bowl, whisk the brown sugar, oil, and vanilla until combined. Add the eggs and egg yolks and whisk again until just combined. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the chocolate mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Whisk each addition gently to combine.
  5. Whip the cream (either by hand or with a standing mixer) just until medium peaks form. Fold one-third of the whipped cream into the batter to lighten it. Fold in half of the remaining whipped cream until just incorporated, then fold in the rest until no streaks remain.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the middle of the oven until a small sharp knife or toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs, 50 to 55 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Then gently loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and turn it out onto the rack so that the crown is facing up. Place a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper, if you like, for ease of cleaning) underneath the wire rack.
  7. Make the Butter Whiskey Glaze: In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream. In three parts, add 2½ cups (280 g) confectioners’ sugar, whisking to combine after each addition. Add the whiskey and whisk until uniform. The glaze should be thick and ropy, but pourable—not runny and thin. If the glaze looks too thin, add the remaining ½ cup (60 g) confectioners’ sugar and whisk to combine.
  8. Assemble the Black Cocoa Bundt: Pour the glaze over the room-temperature cake in thick ribbons; it will slowly drip down the sides. Add a few sprinkles to the top, if you like. Let set for about 15 minutes before serving.
  9. How to store: The cake will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
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Jury Duty / Balsamic Chicken and Brussels Sprouts

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This week’s recipe: Balsamic Chicken with Brussels Sprouts

Dear readers–of whom there are none–I am on jury duty. I was called for grand and petit jury at the same time, which is of course impossible, so I contacted the court and they told me I only had to go to petit. I was feeling pretty good about myself, but here we are, a week into it, and I see no progress in getting myself dismissed from a boring-ass, three-week-long case about asbestos and mesothelioma. Readers, I present to you:

THE MANY INDIGNITIES OF JURY DUTY

  1. Trying to get into the freaking building: Jury duty calls you for a certain time, but you absolutely have to factor in the amount of time it takes to get into the building. I understand why there needs to be security in a government building, but I don’t understand why they should only have two lines for hundreds of jurors, all trying to get in at the same time. If you want to know how state-of-the-art the security is, there are icons on the scanner indicating that it’s okay to scan your VHS tapes and floppy disks.
  2. Boredom: I am in a jury pool of 60 people. Thus far, voir dire has entailed questioning 20 of us 60, during which time the rest of us just have to sit there and listen. We’re not allowed to read or use electronic devices. Luckily we were not forbidden from falling asleep, which I, among many of my colleagues, have done. I know it’s hard to believe that I wasn’t on the edge of my seat while both the plaintiff’s and defense attorneys asked Potential Juror #1 about the sorts of self-help books she likes to read.
  3. Stupid, repetitive questions: The defense attorney, who was significantly more efficient than the plaintiff’s attorney, literally asked every potential juror if they had preconceived notions about asbestos. Had I been one of the people he was questioning, I would have said, “I know that this is a controversial stance, but I think asbestos is bad.”
  4. Questions clearly targeted for a certain audience: There is one potential juror who has got to be in her late 80s, if not older. The plaintiff’s attorney asked everyone else in the pool, “If I don’t make my case, are you comfortable not awarding my client any money?” But for this woman, who has spent the last 50 years doing childcare and missionary work, he asked “If you see my sick client, who is definitely going to die, and you are not convinced by my case, are you comfortable sending him home with nothing, knowing that he is sick and going to die?” Subtle. Almost as subtle as the defense attorney, who was clearly trying to strike this one guy off the jury because his wife had died of cancer a few months earlier. He said, “Considering that your wife recently passed, for which I am SO SORRY, is this case too raw for you?” The man said it was not. So he then tried, “Mr. ____, you’re a hardworking man, aren’t you? You were a cab driver, and now you drive an Uber. How much do you work?” He did NOT look pleased when the guy said that he worked five days a week, for seven, maybe eight, hours a day. So he said, “You’re the primary caregiver for your children. What time do you usually pick them up from school?” When the guy said 5:00, the attorney said, “But court often goes until 4:30. Won’t that be a burden for you?” The man said that it was not. I have to say, as boring as the proceedings were, watching this man deny the defense attorney the answers he wanted was quite entertaining.

I know it’s important to be tried by a jury of your peers, and I don’t think I’m too special to do jury duty or anything like that, but seriously, there are so many ways I can think of to streamline the process. It’s really not right to keep people away from their jobs and their lives when 60 percent of them won’t even end up serving. And if the President-to-be doesn’t have to pay taxes, why do I have to do jury duty? Hmmm?

So anyway, here’s some chicken and Brussels sprouts. When my sisters and I were young and we’d ask our father what was for dessert, he’d reply “Kumquats and Brussels sprouts!” Because of that, I avoided both of those foods like the plague for years. I’ve still never had a kumquat, oddly enough, but Brussels sprouts, when cooked properly, are amazing, thought they always smell like ass. Still, this was a super-tasty and easy dinner that I highly recommend to all.

Sheet Pan Chicken and Brussels Sprouts with Reduced Balsamic // Serves 4 to 6

From Food52

  • to 2pounds Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, halved or quartered, if small (see comments and notes above)
  • 4bone-in, skin-on chicken legs
  • 2tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/2cups balsamic vinegar
  1. Position an oven rack in the upper third of your oven and preheat it to 425ºF. Place the Brussels sprouts and chicken on a rimmed sheet pan. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Season the chicken and sprouts all over generously with salt and pepper to taste. (I used about 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt.) Drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat evenly. Spread everything out into an even layer, placing the chicken skin side up. Place pan in oven and roast for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway.
  2. Remove sheet pan from oven and preheat the broiler. Transfer Brussels sprouts to a bowl. Return sheet pan to the broiler, and cook until the chicken skin is evenly golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer chicken to a serving platter.
  3. Pour the 2 tablespoons of reduced balsamic over the sheet pan and scrape up any bits from the pan. Pour this mixture over the Brussels sprouts and toss to coat. Pour the Brussels sprouts mixture over the resting chicken. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Moana / Thai Soba Noodle Bowl

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This week’s recipe: Thai Soba Noodle Bowl

I don’t go to the movies often. This is partly because my boyfriend Mark and I have Netflix, Hulu Plus, and HBO, plus a binder full of bitchin’ DVDs, but it’s mostly because the last movie that I saw ran me $43 for two tickets. Mind you, this was at the AMC theater at 84th and Broadway, which is widely considered to be the best theater in the city because of its big, comfy red recliner seats, and which therefore charges a few dollars more per ticket than average (plus the service fee from Fandango). But 84th Street theater or no 84th Street theater, the fact remains that there are many places in New York City where live performances cost less than a movie ticket. Still, Mark and I really wanted to see Moana in theaters, so I dutifully ponied up the $43.

And I’m glad I did! I had expected an excellent movie, considering the quality of Disney’s output lately and the involvement of Lin Manuel Miranda, who can do no wrong. It was funny and touching and beautifully animated and the music is catchy as hell (Mark and I have been bursting out “Consider the COCONUT!” at random intervals since we saw it), but my favorite part of it was Moana herself. She is a teenage Polynesian “not-princess”—although her father is the village chief, she defiantly insists that she isn’t a princess—who has always felt a connection with the ocean, despite her father’s insistence that she stay on their island. When an ecological disaster brought on by an ancient curse threatens her home, she takes to the sea to break the curse. Tt’s more complicated than that but whatever, go read the Wikipedia summary if you want more information about the plot. But now it’s time for

A LENGTHY DIGRESSION:

Now it’s common knowledge that early Disney princesses were not much in the way of feminist role models, and due in large part to their lack of personality and agency, the movies that they anchored don’t really hold up on viewing today. Cinderella? More like Snorerella! Sleeping Beauty? More like Snoring Beauty! Snow White? More like Snore White! (But for real, Snow White is the worst. I understand that it’s a classic of the animation genre, but not only does its title character have an incredibly annoying voice, it’s barely even her movie—the whole film would be about ten minutes long if the seven dwarves weren’t in it.)  Of course, this is 2017, when as everyone knows, misogyny no longer exists, and we expect more of our Disney princesses. Here are my thoughts on the current lineup as per the official Disney Princesses media franchise:

-Snow White/Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty: I believe my feelings have been made abundantly clear
-Ariel: This one is controversial. I believe that she has an admirably strong sense of self and should get credit for saving the Prince’s life instead of the other way around, as is usual. I have heard a theory that makes a lot of sense to me, which is that the whole thing is a metaphor for being trans; i.e. that Ariel has always felt that she was born to be someone else, and even though it will require a lot of painful sacrifices to become that person, up to and including the loss of her home and family, those sacrifices are worth it to her. But I definitely get why giving up your voice to be with a guy is, to use one of my least favorite words, problematic.
-Belle: Like all bookish brunettes, I love Belle. Her story is also controversial because of the Stockholm Syndrome aspect, but I see it less as “Stockholm Syndrome” and more as “making the best of a bad situation.” The common line is that the story encourages girls to think that they can change the personalities of abusive men through love, but Belle doesn’t start to fall in love with the Beast until he begins to change his personality of his own accord (with some helpful encouragement from his sentient household objects). In fact, she kind of hates him at first, but if she’s going to be his prisoner, why hold onto that hate forever instead of giving him a second chance? She recognizes that the Beast has suffered his own significant trauma, and so can cut him a little slack that he got angry when she locked herself in her room instead of coming to dinner, or when she went to the one place in his castle that he told her was off-limits. Can’t we? And can you tell that I’ve spent a lot of time defending this movie to skeptics and haters?
-Jasmine: for whatever reason, I’ve never liked her, even though she’s voiced by Lea Salonga. She just seemed kind of bratty and self-centered. Also, her hair is wider than her waist. What’s up with that.
-Pocahontas: She’s okay, I give her about a B. She’s fierce and independent, which is cool, and she’s a total babe, but then you realize that in real life she was 11 when she met John Smith, and that he and the rest of the settlers were the start of a brutal, genocidal program of colonization , and that she died of syphilis at 21 (events not portrayed in Pocahontas 2: Journey to a New World), and then it’s like…wow, bummer. At least she has a funny raccoon friend!
-Mulan: The absolute best. She is not technically a princess but she has a hotter love interest than any of those lame-os. Also voiced by Lea Salonga!
-Tiana: I have to admit that I’ve only seen The Princess and the Frog once, on a plane, so I don’t feel very qualified to make a definitive judgment on Tiana. I liked that she was a smart, savvy, ambitious small businesswoman. That is a quality you don’t often get to see in Disney princesses! That movie also has a great villain, which is immaterial to Princess Tiana but I felt should be noted.
-Rapunzel: This is a lady who knows her way around a frying pan. A Disney princess who wants much more than this provincial life/to be part of that world/to see what’s around the river bend isn’t that original but Rapunzel’s spunk and adventurous spirit are charming nonetheless. This is another movie with a great villain, who gets a level of complexity and depth rarely seen in wicked stepmothers. However, Tangled gets some points off for its not-so-subtle implication that blond hair is special and magical and brown hair is…not.
-Merida: Honestly, I barely remember this movie. Great hair.

But here’s the truth about Disney princesses. It may be too early to call this, but I would say that by far the most culturally and commercially successful Disney princess of the last fifty years has been Elsa from Frozen. (That is why she is not included in the official “Disney Princesses” lineup—her merchandising potential is strong enough on its own.) If Disney’s customers wanted their princesses to exhibit positive qualities like kindness, intelligence, perseverance, and selflessness, they would have been drawn to Anna, who on top of all that is also the sister with the romantic storyline, while Elsa is practically the villain. So my conclusion is: really, what the viewers want is blond hair, pretty dresses, and power ballads. ‘Twas ever thus.

END OF DIGRESSION

So right, Moana. She wants much more than this provincial life/to be part of that world/to see what’s around the river bend (or in her case, to know how far she’ll go), but she also feels real responsibility and affection towards her family, her people, and her traditions. She knows what she wants but she isn’t perversely willful or sullen; her motivations are understandable and grounded in the reality of her situation. She’s endlessly resourceful, and I think it shows how low the bar has been set that I was like, “Wow, how refreshing! A movie about a teenager that didn’t end in her wedding!” But most of all, she is authentically strong.

What does it mean to be strong? Too often a “strong” female character has to be infallible, or whatever the male writers’ version of infallible is. Hotness is, of course, at the top of the list, combined with the ability to do violence to others with complete sangfroid. One of my least-favorite tropes in action movies is a very slender woman, often dressed in a binding outfit and stiletto boots, who can beat up much larger, more muscular men without making a rip in her skintight leather pants. There are areas where women typically have the advantage—agility, flexibility, pain thresholds, not to mention things like emotional intelligence—but in these movies, to be strong means to be like a “man.” It means to be able to physically dominate, to be tough and stoical, to not care about “girly” stuff (until, inevitably, the strong female character falls in love with the male protagonist and appears in makeup and a slinky dress and it turns out SHE WAS SECRETLY FEMININE AND BEAUTIFUL THE WHOLE TIME).

I’m hardly the first to make these observations but that’s what made it so heartening to me that Moana really was a strong female character. She is both physically strong—it helps that unlike certain Elsas, she has the physique of a normal teenage girl—and emotionally strong—although she is sometimes tempted to give up, she draws on her resilience and self-knowledge to get through trials and challenges. She reminds me of Chihiro, the main character from Spirited Away, who like Moana is courageous even when she’s afraid, adaptable to new situations, kind and respectful to everyone she comes across, and able to look past exteriors to see what’s really important. There are so many young girls in my life that I love: all of the girls from synagogue I’ve had in my kids’ service or babysat, some of whom are three years old and some of whom are applying to college; my sweet and smart former bat mitzvah tutoring students; my Little Sister, who is unfailingly polite and curious and who, at twelve years old, still calls sex “the S-E-X word”; my old mentee from college who has blossomed into the most incredible young woman I’ve ever met; and most of all my two-year-old niece, who I had hoped would grow up with only memories of a female president, but who instead will become aware of the world for the first time in Donald Trump’s America. Moana and Chihiro are the role models I want for all of those girls.

So anyway, here’s a Thai soba noodle bowl. I made it on a freezing cold night and it was wonderfully hot in all senses of the word—I only used a tiny bit of jalapeno but they’re powerful little bastards. I also left out the mushrooms because I hate mushrooms but I’m sure they’d add a nice flavor if you’re into that sort of thing. It was a little hard to eat with a spoon but once I got forks involved, the situation improved markedly (although I had to thoroughly wipe down the table from all of the noodle-splatter). With the peanut butter, lime, coconut, and lemongrass, it will bring a little taste of Thailand right to your noodle-splattered table!

Thai Soba Noodle Bowl

Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen

THAI SOBA NOODLE BOWL // Serves 4

Adapted from Food and Wine via Harold Dieterle of Kin Shop, New York

1 14 oz. pkg. Extra Firm Tofu

2 Tbsp. Tamari or Low Sodium Soy Sauce

2 tsp. Sesame or Olive Oil

2 Thai Chiles or half of one VERY Small Habanero, seeded and chopped

3 Stalks Fresh Lemongrass, inner bulbs, finely chopped

4 Cloves Garlic

1 Large Shallot

1/4 Cup Peeled and Chopped Fresh Ginger

1 Tbsp. Coconut Oil

2 1/2 Cups Coconut Milk (about a can and a half)

1 heaping Tbsp. Muscavado or Brown Sugar

1 Tbsp. Tamari or Low Sodium Soy Sauce

3 Tbsp. Natural Smooth Peanut Butter

Zest of Two Limes

Juice of One Lime

Salt and Pepper

2 Cups Roughly Chopped Mushrooms (I didn’t use these cause I hate mushrooms)

Around 9oz. Soba Noodles

 

Wrap the tofu in a few paper towels and set it on a plate to drain with another plate on top. Leave it for an hour or up to six. Preheat the oven to 400′. Cut the tofu into 2” cubes, spread them on a baking sheet, drizzle with the tamari and oil and bake for about 25 minutes until the edges are browned.

In a blender or food processor, combine the chiles, lemongrass*, garlic, ginger, shallot and 1/4 cup water and puree until smooth.

In a large saucepan, heat the coconut oil. Add the lemongrass puree and cook over medium high heat, stirring, until fragrant. About two minutes. Whisk in the coconut milk, muscavado, tamari, peanut butter, lime zest and a cup of water. Simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes.

While the broth simmers, cook your soba noodles.

To the broth, ddd the sliced mushrooms (ewww no don’t), stir in the lime juice, taste for salt and pepper and let it sit another 5 minutes. Divide the noodles and tofu between your bowls and ladle the broth on top.

Introduction / Sufganiyot

This week’s recipe: Sufganiyot (jelly donuts)

Welcome to my blog, nobody, and happy New Year! It’s extremely cliché to be starting an endeavor like this on New Year’s Day, but at least I’m not trying to lose weight, which is lucky, because as you will soon find out from reading this blog, cooking, baking, and eating are some of my life’s greatest joys. But Sarah, you might be asking yourself, why does the world need another cooking/baking blog? The answer is: it doesn’t. This is really just for me because I love to write but I’ve gotten a little rusty in recent years and I wanted the formal discipline of having to write something every week. But if you find some interesting thoughts or recipes that you like, so much the better!

The other thing is that this isn’t going to be just any cooking/baking blog. You’re going to go on a date with this blog and hold its hand across the table and say, “You know why I love you? You’re not like other blogs. Other blogs are so oversensitive and high-maintenance and they take forever to do their makeup.” And then the blog will smile and reply, “I know. That’s why I’m only friends with boys, other blogs are too much drama.” And then…okay I think I got off-topic here. But yeah, this will be sort of incidentally about cooking, but will mostly just be my rambly thoughts. If you’ve read this far, you may like that style. If not, you are welcome to click the link at the top, which will take you straight to the recipe.

I was inspired to set up my blog this way for two main reasons. One is because there are so many amazing cooking blogs out there today, but one of the things that always bothers me is the proliferation of pictures. Many of the photos are beautifully styled and shot, and there’s nothing wrong with making your food look appealing, but do we really need to scroll through a dozen versions of what is essentially the same image except for a half-inch difference in the angle? I find it annoying when you have to scroll down through for a full sixty seconds just to get to the goddamned recipe. I promise that on this blog, pictures will be kept to a minimum. Another reason is that I’m simply bad at food writing. I don’t find it interesting to write or to read. I don’t have a very subtle palate so I can’t write convincingly about flavors and textures for any length of time. Therefore I promise that on this blog, my atrocious attempts at food writing will also be kept to a minimum.

There’s also an element of guilt at play here. It seems frivolous to be talking about donuts or whatever as the world hurtles towards madness. It’s hard to celebrate the end of one terrible year when you have a strong feeling that the coming one is going to be even worse. It’s hard to face the new year with hope when my version of an optimistic scenario for 2017 is along the lines of, “Well, if Trump does something stupid and China decides to nuke the U.S., they’d probably pick Trump Tower as the epicenter, and I live pretty near Trump Tower so at least I’d die quickly.” But until that blessed day arrives and I’m vaporized off the face of the earth, I can’t stop living my life and doing the things I love—cooking, eating, and writing. And judging other people, in this case for putting too many photos on their blogs. Cooking/eating/writing/judging soothe me, and I have a feeling we’re all going to need our nerves soothed a little in the coming year.

So anyway, here are some sufganiyot. Sufganiyot, for those of you not in the sufgani-know, are jelly donuts that are traditionally eaten on Hanukkah, the festival of fried foods lights. This recipe comes from the phenomenal Breads Bakery. The fact that there was a Breads Bakery near my current apartment may or may not have informed my decision to move here. The owner, Uri Scheft, is Israeli, so the bakery makes lots of Jewish treats, including challah, babka, and, during this time of year, sufganiyot. Last night my whole family came over for the last night of Hanukkah, and we had a blast filling these little beauties with jam using this badass gun, the only kind of gun you’ll ever need. But you can definitely use a regular piping bag, and, if you’re more competent than I am, you can also fill the donuts with all kinds of exciting fillings (my attempts to make lemon and vanilla creams both ended with soupy mess on my refrigerator shelf, whoops!) You don’t need a deep fryer – I made mine in a high-sided skillet using a candy thermometer. That said, they definitely take some work, but there is really nothing like fresh homemade donuts. I recently tried my hand at homemade baguettes. They came out okay, but there are so many good bakeries (like Breads!) in my neighborhood that I decided that baguettes are one of those things that are best bought instead of made. A lot of people feel that way about donuts too, and they can be kind of a pain, but to my mind at least, they are so worth it.

Strawberry Sufganiyot

From Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft

Dough

  • 1 1/4-oz. envelope active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp.)
  • 3-4 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for surface
  • 1 tablespoon plus ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup warm whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces, plus more

Frying And Assembly

  • Vegetable oil (for frying; about 8 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups strawberry jam
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting)

Preparation

MAKE the DOUGH

Combine yeast, 1 Tbsp. flour, 1 Tbsp. sugar, and 2 Tbsp. warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer*; let stand until yeast starts to foam, about 5 minutes.

Whisk in egg yolks, whole egg, milk, orange zest, orange juice, brandy, if using, salt, vanilla, 2 cups flour, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Mix on low speed with dough hook until combined, about 2 minutes.

Add 6 Tbsp. butter 1 piece at a time, mixing well between additions. (Any small lumps of butter will get worked into dough when more flour is added.) Gradually add remaining 2 cups flour (you may not need all of it), mixing until mostly combined between additions, until dough is soft, smooth, and shiny—the dough will begin to pull away from the sides of bowl and climb up dough hook.

*Don’t have a stand mixer? You can get the same results by mixing the dough with a sturdy wooden spoon and kneading on a lightly floured surface.

KNEAD AND PROOF THE DOUGH

Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and knead, adding more flour as needed, until no longer sticky, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a buttered bowl, turn to coat, and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

CUT the DOUGH

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until 3/4″ thick. Using a floured cutter, cut out rounds of dough, twisting cutter to release the dough (this strengthens the edges so the dough puffs when frying). Reroll scraps once.

Transfer rounds of dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover loosely with another kitchen towel. Let rise until not quite doubled in size, 40–50 minutes.

If you are not ready to fry dough, refrigerate rounds up to 3 hours.

FRY the DOUGH

Fit a large heavy saucepan with thermometer; pour in vegetable oil to measure 4″ and heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 350°. Working in batches, fry dough until golden, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a paper towel–lined baking sheet and let cool slightly before filling.

FILL AND FINISH THE SUFGANIYOT

Pulse jam in a food processor until smooth (this will make it easier to pipe). Scrape jam into piping bag fitted with 1/4″ tip*. Insert tip into top of sufganiyot and gently fill until jam just pokes out of hole. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

*Don’t have a piping bag? With a toothpick, make a shallow hole in the doughnut, then use a plastic bag with a 1/4″ opening cut diagonally from 1 corner.