coffee-braised brisket

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it’s rare that I sleep uninterrupted through the night. perhaps it stems from my childhood – since my bedroom was located over the garage, I would wake up anytime the door was opened. as a doctor, my father worked long, irregular hours, often coming home after midnight. it was never an annoyance to be awakened – rather, I’d be happy to hear the chinese pop music blasted so loud, the sound muscled through his metal car frame, through the cement garage wall, and into my bedroom. I’d sneak out of my room and down the dimly lit staircase. sometimes, we’d sit up late together and he’d make me a sandwich or we would eat leftovers from dinner. sometimes, he’d be so tired, he’d just walk me back upstairs and I’d go back to my room and listen as his snores began down the hall.

later on, as my father’s field went digital, he no longer had to come home so late, but he still had to work night shifts from home. though he had to be awake in case anyone from the hospital needed him, there were nights when things were pretty quiet, giving him a lot of downtime. he began to take on nightly cooking projects: slow-braised cassoulets and oxtails, racks of ribs and marinated hunks of meats that baked all night then filled the house with mouthwatering aromas by morning.

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unfortunately, I did not have the same excellent time management skills as my father. as I got older and schoolwork got more demanding, I was forced to stay awake further into the night. sometimes, I’d go to sleep for a few hours, then wake up again around 3 or 4am to wrap up a paper. though the words always seemed to flow easier, as if in the stillness of early, early morning, with all the distractions of daytime out of the way, I could finally focus, I ultimately realized this was not a healthy way to manage my time. last year, my first time back to school in 4 years, I had to come to terms with the fact I’m no longer a spry college student and all-nighters do really take their toll.

this brisket is one of the better results of my strange sleeping schedule. after coming home late friday, I popped the brisket in the oven, cooked the vegetables while the brisket browned, dropped the oven temperature, and set the cook time for 3 hours. sometime around 3am, I woke up and removed the brisket to cool. this recipe does take some planning, but because I was able to spread out the timeline, it felt almost effortless (except when I had to haul 4 pounds of brisket 20 minutes from the supermarket to my place).

it’s been a while since I’ve wanted to be awake at 3am – these days, I usually feel regret that I didn’t manage my time a little better. but waking up to the rich aroma of this brisket and stealing a few nibbles by the dim light of my oven reminded me of how I used to love those moments, when in the silence of our sleeping household, I’d share what felt like stolen time with my father, sitting beside him in the warm pools of light at our kitchen counter, and feel safe and at peace for at least that hour.

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makes 6-8 servings

2 tbsp finely ground coffee (I used instant coffee granules and it still tasted great)
1 1/2 tbsp ground cardamom
1 1/2 tbsp black cardamom pods, ground
1 tbsp + 1 tsp kosher salt
~4lb brisket, flat/first cut
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large onions, sliced
4 carrots, peeled, cut into thirds crosswise, then sliced lengthwise
10 garlic cloves, sliced
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 cups dried apricots
2 cups coffee (again, I used instant coffee and it worked fine)
6 large eggs in their shells

michael solomonov and steven cook. zahav: a world of israeli cooking. new york: houghton mifflin harcourt, 2015.

1 mix ground coffee, cardamom, black cardamom, and salt in small bowl and rub onto brisket. cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
2 preheat oven to 475ºF. set rack inside roasting pan. place brisket on rack and roast until exterior has browned, ~20 minutes. lower oven temperature to 300ºF.
3 while brisket is browning, warm oil in large skillet over medium heat and add onions, carrots, and garlic. cook,stirring occasionally, until vegetables have softened but not browned, ~8 minutes. add tomato paste and cooks until it reduces slightly, ~2 minutes.
4 after lowering oven temperature, remove rack from pan, add vegetables, dried apricots, brewed coffee, and eggs in their shells to roasting pan with brisket.
5 cover pan tightly with two layers of foil, return to oven, and braise for 1 hour. after 1 hour, gently tap eggs with a spoon to make a network of small cracks. re-cover with foil and continue cooking until brisket shreds easily with fork, ~3 hours. let brisket cool in braising liquid, then refrigerate overnight.
6 to serve, preheat oven to 350ºF. slice cold brisket, return to braising liquid, and bake until warmed through, ~30 minutes. spoon broth over meat. serve with peeled eggs.
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salted maple pie

at the end of last week, a friend had a couple of us over. while sipping wine and hard cider, we decided after what had been an emotionally trying couple of days, we really didn’t want to go anywhere. so we stayed in and watched waitress. it’s a movie starring a pie-making waitress, which is a concept I can get behind. she’s a lovely female protagonist who is undeniably strong. these days, “strong” female protagonists are often portrayed as physically strong, like katniss or captain marvel. but waitress reminds us that a woman can stand on her own without the muscles, she can love to bake and be domestic and a good mother, can recognize that she does not need achieve a relationship with a man and instead can choose to create her own happiness. the main character also opens up her own pie shop at the end of the movie, which is totally my wish fulfillment.

the movie really resonated with me because strength is a concept I’ve often struggled with – growing up with an asian face in a predominantly white area, I often felt so nonexistent, I wasn’t even worth being bullied. as a short, weak, not particularly coordinated person in a middle school that valued sports above all else, I rarely felt strong. even our current administration advocates for and celebrates shows of military might as the state department, essential for advancing american interests abroad through diplomacy, has hollowed out as career foreign service employees depart. it took me a long time to realize that my insecurities about weakness came not from some failure in personality on my part, but rather in the ridiculous concept of hard power that my teachers and peers bought into, oftentimes subconsciously, and preached it to me as truth.

so anyways, here’s a pie recipe, a sweet treat tempered by salt flakes, sure to win hearts and minds. soft power takes place in many forms, and food is undeniably one. it is long past time to do away with the problematic concept that physical might equals strength, and that those who lack it must therefore be helpless. in the words of jenna from waitress, “I don’t want you to save me. I don’t need to be saved.”


makes one 9-inch pie

all-butter pie dough
350g (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
227g (1 cup) unsalted european-style butter (I used kerrygold), straight from the fridge
1/2 cup ice-cold water-vinegar mixture
filling
142g (1/2 cup + 2 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
322g (1 cup) grade b maple syrup
165g (3/4 cup) packed light brown sugar
30g (1/4 cup) fine yellow cornmeal
heaping 1/4 tsp kosher salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
85g (3/4 cup) heavy cream, room temperature
1 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
finishes
1 large egg, beaten
flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

lisa ludwinski. sister pie: recipes and stories from a detroit bakery. new york: lorena jones books, 2018.

dough|1 to make the water-vinegar mixture, add 1/4 cup water to a measuring cup at least 1 hour before starting pie dough, then freeze until completely frozen. just after mixing dry ingredients for dough, fill measuring cup with water plus 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar. let chill while mixing other ingredients for dough.
2 in a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt and stir to mix well.
3 place sticks of butter in bowl and coat on all sides with flour mixture. using a bench scraper, cut butter into 1/2-in cubes. work quickly to separate cubes with hands until they are lightly coated in flour. with bench scraper, cut each cube roughly in half.
4 using pastry blender, begin to cut into butter with one hand while turning bowl with the other. (I like to slice from top to bottom of bowl while rotating the bowl.) when pastry blender clogs up, use butter knife to clean it out, then use hands to toss ingredients a bit. continue to blend and turn until largest pieces are size and shape of peas and remainder of mixture looks and feels like canned Parmesan cheese (sandy texture).
5 add water-vinegar mixture all at once, then using bench scraper, scrape as much of mixture as you can from one side of bowl to the other, until you can’t see visible pools of liquid anymore.
6 using hands, scoop up as much of mixture as you can, then use tips of fingers to firmly press it back down into the rest of the ingredients. rotate bowl a quarter-turn and repeat: scoop, press, turn. as you rotate, incorporate any dry, floury bits that remain at the bottom of the bowl.
7 remove dough from bowl, place on lightly floured counter, use bench scraper to divide into two equal pieces (~350g each). gently pat each into a 2-in-thick disc, then wrap in plastic wrap. refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours (ideally overnight). pie dough will keep in fridge for up to 3 days or in freezer for up to 1 year. if frozen, move dough to refrigerator to thaw 1 full day before using it.
8 on lightly floured surface, roll out disk of dough until it is 12-13 inches in diameter, rolling from the center toward the edge in all directions. lift and rotate dough every few rolls, sprinkling with flour when necessary to prevent sticking, and work quickly before dough becomes warm and sticky. carefully transfer to pie tin/dish, pressing gently into the bottom and sides. trim the dough so there is a 2-3 inch overhang, then roll overhang towards center of pie, creating a ring of dough. crimp in whatever style you prefer.
9 chill shell for 30 minutes to 1 hour (or freeze for up to 2 weeks).
10 preheat oven to 450ºF.
11 line pie dish with parchment paper, then fill with pie weights, rice, or beans right up to the bottom of the crimps. place dish on a baking sheet. transfer baking sheet to oven and bake for 25-27 minutes, until crimps are light golden brown. remove baking sheet from oven and place on cooling rack. after 6 minutes, remove foil and weights.
filling|1 preheat oven to 350ºF.
2 in large bowl, combine melted butter and maple syrup. whisk in brown sugar, cornmeal, and kosher salt.
3 crack eggs and yolk into medium bowl. add cream and vanilla and whisk until combined.
4 slowly pour egg mixture into maple mixture and whisk until just combined.
finishes|1 place blind-baked shell on parchment-lined baking sheet. brush crimped edge with beaten egg. pour maple filling into pie shell until it reaches the bottom of the crimps (you may have some filling left over).
2 transfer baking sheet with pie on it to oven and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, until edges are puffed and center jiggles slightly when shaken.
3 remove baking sheet from oven and transfer pie to wire rack to cool for 4-6 hours. once fully cooled and at room temperature, sprinkle generously with flaky salt, slice, and serve.
4 store leftover pie, well-wrapped in plastic wrap or under pie dome, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

 

pita bread from honey & co.

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until quite recently, I religiously avoided working with yeast. it seemed that every recipe I tried would end with flat, dense pucks or over-proofed, unpleasantly soft, and almost sour-tasting loaves.

I can still remember last fall, stressed from the travails of adjusting to 1L life, I decided to take on a really complex recipe for tebirkes, which are basically scandinavian croissants coated in poppy seeds. after two days of laborious lamination, the product was deeply unsatisfactory, crumbly and hard as a rock with an unappetizing wet flavor, filled with poorly homemade marzipan that overworked and ultimately broke my little food processor. though this incident still haunts me, I now make baked goods with yeast so often, I stopped buying the dried yeast packets and graduated to dried yeast in a jar. I owe thanks largely to a friend of mine, who introduced me to jim lahey’s foolproof no-knead bread. he’s since moved on to sourdough – I’m not there yet, but maybe one day!

anyways, I’ve dabbled with pita before, with resulting in surprisingly successful, fluffy pitas. however, that recipe really works best with a stand mixer, which I did not have space for in my first little d.c. apartment. I’ve been flipping instead to honey and co.’s recipe for pita bread, which has a sturdier structure thanks to the use of bread instead of all-purpose flour, and is therefore a bit more forgiving.

the other night, after returning from a party, I was craving a late night snack. unfortunately, my fridge is basically empty, so after a few unsatisfying bites of banana and kimchi, I decided to whip together the pita dough so I’d at least have something to eat the next day. the dough comes together wonderfully fast, and you get a pretty good arm workout out of it. I woke up the next morning to perfectly proofed dough and had 10 pitas with perfect pockets within the hour – and I’m happy to report it took very little effort, and no tears were shed.

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makes 10 pitas

500g (4 cups) bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water (just warmer than your fingertips)
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil

sarit packer and itamar srulovich. honey & co: the cookbook. new york: little brown and co. 2015.

1 in a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, salt, and dried yeast.
2 start adding the warm water to the flour mixture, a little at a time, mixing in circular motions (with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula) until the dough starts to clump together. if there is still some flour residue in the bottom of the bowl, add a little more water, a tbsp at a time, until the dough just comes together. (don’t worry if there are some lumps at this stage.)
3 on a clean, flat surface, knead the dough, throwing it around a bit, then smoothing it out, working it again and again until the dough looks smooth and tight. (try not to add any flour!)
4 add oil and knead to combine. at first, the dough will be very slippery, but keep kneading to incorporate the oil. the final texture should be silky smooth.
5 cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 8-12 hours, until dough has at least doubled in size. (if baking on the same day, allow dough to rise at room temperature for at least 1 hour.)
6 place heavy baking tray upside-down on a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to the highest setting. (if you have a convection oven, use convection.)
7 cut dough into 10 evenly-sized balls (~80g each). roll each between your palm and counter until dough starts to resist pressure and forms a tight ball. (again, don’t add any flour!) place each ball on a lightly floured tray, leaving a little space between each one. allow to rest, uncovered, until balls are the size of a small orange, 10-15 minutes.
8 dust work surface with flour and, using a rolling pin, roll out each pita to 1/4-in thick discs. once pitas are rolled out, carefully place on the hot baking sheet in the oven.* (if you have a bread/pizza paddle, feel free to use it, otherwise you can carefully drop them on the baking sheet, being careful not to burn yourself.) do not take the tray out of the oven – it will lose heat. quickly shut oven door.
9 monitor pita breads – once they have puffed up, which takes 2-3 minutes, remove them.
10 allow to cool slightly before stacking, then covering with plastic wrap or placing in a sealed bag to prevent them from drying out. pitas can be frozen once cooled.
 
*to achieve even pockets: I flip the dough ball so that the side that was resting on the counter is now facing up. I then roll out the dough without flipping it over. (you can rotate the disc; you just want to make sure the proofed side of the dough ball remains facing down since the dough is thinner on that side.) place the disc, rolled side facing up, in the oven.

pumpkin tea cake

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I often use baking as a stress reliever, a way to create something good out of something bad. however, there are days when the bad seems so overwhelming, it’s near-impossible to find the motivation to create.

I don’t have classes until the afternoon on thursdays, so I planned to make an easy pumpkin tea cake in the morning to mark the start of fall. I started listening to the supreme court confirmation hearings as I pulled out the ingredients I would need. I got as far as mixing together the dry ingredients. but as dr. blasey ford’s testimony continued, utterly compelling in its searing, honest tone, I had to turn my full attention to her words, and felt to my core that she was telling the truth.

her hearing went on so long that even as I walked to class, it was still going on. in the lecture hall, I saw a few of my fellow classmates wearing wireless earbuds in one ear, clearly still tuning into her testimony. even my professor seemed a bit distracted – and understandably so. while he was teaching us about legal precedents, we were in the midst of a hearing that bucked all formerly standard norms and would inevitably shape our future.

between classes, we tuned back in in fits and spurts, reading up on the live tweets of our favorite pundits (s/o to 538) and watching clips. as we discussed, the conversation took on mainly humanistic rather than legal tones because ultimately, though there was a judgeship on the line, we viewed this hearing as a testing of human decency and ethics. many of us unfortunately know someone who is a sexual assault survivor or are one ourselves. in that lens, we knew whose testimony rang more true.

we’ll never know exactly what happened in 1982. but i believe that if you hear dr. blasey ford and you believe her, even just a little, you must err on the side of caution. we must believe women. we must believe survivors of sexual assault.

and now, a hard swing back to this pumpkin loaf. I did finally get around to making it after a day of hard discussions and tearful truths, and the growing sense that despite all the progress that has been made in women’s rights, and to a larger degree, the protections of the vulnerable in society, we are about to witness yet another reminder of the limits of that progress and the beginning of a strong push back. after my last teacake, a friend had requested a pumpkin bread, and despite not really being in the mood to bake, I figured they would need it now more than ever. this recipe is moist, spiced and almost spicy, and not too sweet. happy fall.

makes one 9•5-in loaf

225g (1 2/3 cup) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp + 2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
255g (1 cup + 2 tbsp) pumpkin purée
200g (1 cup) canola oil
270g (1 1/3 cup) granulated sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
2 tbsp turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

elisabeth m. prueitt and chad robertson. tartine. san francisco: chronicle books, 2006.

1 preheat oven to 325ºF. lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9×5-in loaf pan and line with parchment paper.
2 sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a mixing bowl and set aside.
3 using either a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or a mixing bowl and a whisk, beat together pumpkin purée, oil, sugar, and salt on medium speed or by hand until well-mixed. add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition until incorporated before adding the next egg. scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then on low speed, add flour mixture and beat until just combined. (if mixing by hand, fold in flour using rubber spatula.) scrape down sides of bowl, then beat on medium speed for 5-10 seconds to make a smooth batter, which should have the consistency of a thick purée.
4 transfer batter to prepared loaf pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula (or just use the rubber spatula). sprinkle evenly with turbinado sugar. bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, ~1 hour.
5 let cool in pan on a wire rack for ~20 minutes, then invert onto rack, turn right side up, and let cool completely. serve at room temperature. cake will keep, well-wrapped, at room temperature for up to 4 days and in the fridge for up to 1 week (and can be frozen for up to 1 month).

sesame swirl tea cake

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sesame is one of my favorite flavors. growing up, sesame made an appearance in the form of toasted sesame oil on vegetables, dumplings, noodles, and chicken, and even in desserts in the form of tender, black sesame-filled tangyuan. one of my favorite snacks/dim sum items, jian dui, is comprised of a crispy, deep-fried glutinous rice ball filled with red bean or white lotus paste and coated in crunchy sesame seeds. every texture, captured in a sweet-savory, airy dessert.

my early love of sesame perhaps explains my instant affinity to middle eastern cuisine. I can’t remember the first time I experienced middle eastern food, though as a native philadelphian, I would have to assume that michael solomonov of zahav/dizengoff fame played a role.

my first two years of college, my late nights were fueled largely by domino’s pizza (I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I actually had the ordering app on my phone for a good two years) and greasy mexican food. as you can imagine, this “diet” was not particularly kind to my waistline. thankfully, my junior year, amsterdam falafelshop opened up and though I guess falafel balls are also deep fried, I did lose most of my freshman 15 after switching over to late nights at amsterdam falafel. when I moved back to philly after school, solomonov’s hummus spot, dizengoff, and his falafel and tahini shake spot, goldie, became regulars in my lunch rotation. funnily enough, down here in d.c., amsterdam falafelshop, which actually started in this city, is a late night favorite among my friends. perhaps the reason it’s so difficult to remember the first time I had middle eastern food is because at this point, it feels like it’s become such a large part of my culinary life.

as I said in the beginning, as much as I love sesame in savory foods, I love it even more in desserts. one of my most treasured childhood memories is eating hot tangyuan at a hole in the wall underneath one of the massive highway bridges of hong kong. it turns out that sesame in cookies tastes amazing, and sesame with the texture of fudge, or halva, is delicious (and a great addition to brownies). when I spotted this sesame swirl cake on bon appetit’s website, I knew I had to give it a try – and I can attest that sesame is delightful in cake as well!

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makes one 9•5-in loaf

white sesame seeds (for sprinkling)
2 tbsp black sesame seeds, plus more for sprinkling
210g (1 1/2 cup) flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp baking soda
125g (1/2 cup) plain whole-milk yogurt
120g (1/2 cup) tahini
200g (1 cup) sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g (1/2 cup) canola oil
1 1/2tsp toasted sesame oil

claire saffitz. swirled tahini tea cake. bon appetit. 20 march 2018. accessed 14 september 2018.

1 preheat oven to 350ºF. lightly grease a 9×5 loaf pan and line with parchment paper, then lightly grease the parchment paper. sprinkle the sides and bottom of pan with white and black sesame seeds and shake around in the pan to coat, then tap out the excess.
2 finely grind 2 tbsp black sesame seeds in a spice mill or food processor and set aside.
3 whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom, and baking soda in a medium bowl. in a small bowl, whisk together yogurt and tahini until smooth (mixture may seize and stiffen at first; just keep mixing).
4 in a large bowl, beat together eggs, vanilla, and sugar until eggs are pale and thick, ~2 min with electric mixer or paddle attachment of stand mixer, 5-6 minutes by hand.
5 on low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil. don’t pour the oil in all at once; add it slowly so that it incorporates into the eggs and doesn’t deflate the air beaten into the batter. keeping speed on low, add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the yogurt mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.
6 scrape half of the batter (~375g) into the bowl that held the dry ingredients. add reserved black sesame seeds and mix until evenly distributed, creating the batter for the black swirl.
7 alternating between batters, spoon large dollops into prepared pan. after dolloping batter into pan, insert a skewer or chopstick all the way to the bottom of the pan, then with confident strokes, make four figure-eight patterns throughout the loaf to create the swirl.
8 sprinkle with more white and black sesame seeds. bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 55-65 minutes. transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove it from the pan to finish cooling.
9 the sesame bread can be stored tightly wrapped at room temperature for up to 3 days, and can be stored frozen for up to 2 weeks.

alison roman’s chocolate chunk shortbread cookies

I know, I know. another variation on chocolate chip cookies.

between me visiting family, some people crashing with me in d.c., and the wrap-up of my summer associateship, the last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind. one of the fun parts about visitors is it gives me the excuse to do all the fun touristy things, like the burning man exhibit at the renwick gallery and some commercial therapy in georgetown. but on the flip side, I usually meal prep on the weekend, and with my weekends otherwise occupied, it’s been a lot of ramen and frozen dumplings (and piles of dirty laundry washed at 11pm on a weekday) the last few weeks.

color-changing psychedelic mushrooms at the renwick gallery.

we’re also in the midst of peach season down here, so there’s basically a fire sale on peaches at the local farmers markets. I did have a beautiful peach buttermilk cake planned, but alas, I forgot that my baking powder had aluminum, and it turns out aluminum and the acid in peaches produce blue streaks that made my delicious baked effort look like the cake version of blue cheese. one of these days, I’ll get back to the peach cake. not to brag, but I packed some out for an outing to a virginia winery this past weekend, and it was a huge hit once I promised my friends it was not, in fact, laced with mold.

in the meanwhile, I just love a good cookie recipe, and this recipe by alison roman combines my two favorite things to bake: shortbread and chocolate chip cookies. this is a recipe that benefits from really good dark chocolate, so I whipped out my fancy artisan 70% cacao chocolate bar, with a flavor so dark and concentrated, it tastes almost fruity. and with that lovely, buttery, crumbly texture that defines a good shortbread, these cookies gave my favorite chocolate chip cookie variation a serious run for its money.


makes 24 cookies

255g (1 cup + 2 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp kosher salt + more for sprinkling
100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
50g (1/4 cup, packed) light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
325g (2 1/2 cup) all-purpose flour*
170g (6oz) bittersweet dark chocolate, roughly chopped*
demerara sugar, for rolling

alison roman. salted chocolate chunk shortbread cookies. new york times. 19 january 2018. accessed 8 august 2018.

1 line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2 using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer, beat butter, both sugars, and vanilla on medium-high until super light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes for stand mixer, 6-8 minutes for hand mixer. (you can also beat by hand, using a wooden spoon; it’ll just take a little longer.) using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and with mixer on low, slowly add flour, followed by chocolate chunks, and mix until just blended. knead dough with hands to make sure flour is fully incorporated. the dough should be smooth and feel like play-doh, with no pockets of flour.
3 divide dough in half, placing each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. loosely wrap the dough, then roll the dough into a 6-inch-long log, ~2-in in diameter. chill in fridge until totally firm, ~2 hours.
4 heat oven to 350ºF. roll logs in demerara sugar, then using a serrated knife, slowly and carefully slice each log into 1/2-in rounds. if the cookies break or fall apart, just press them back together. place rounds on prepared baking sheets ~1-in apart. sprinkle with flaky salt.
5 bake until the edges are just beginning to brown, 12-15 minutes. let cool slightly, then serve immediately.
 
* shortbread walks a thin line between too buttery (which will cause the cookie to spread) and too crumbly (which will cause the cookie to fall apart) – this recipe works much more reliably if ingredients are measured by weight, not volume.
* irregularly chopped chocolate chunks are a bit of a pain to prep, but really help add moisture to the dough and give the cookie a more varied texture.

vegetarian moussaka

so it’s been a second. since my post in may about cooking my way through joanne chang’s cookbooks, I have actually made some progress, but unfortunately, none of it has been documented. part of it is because I’ve been baking for office breakfasts and hiking snacks, which means I tend to bake late at night then pack everything up for quick and easy transport in the morning. the other, bigger reason is that I accidentally vacuumed my camera charger, shredding the charger’s electrical cord and splitting my vacuum head in two.

unfortunately, my digital camera is apparently so old that the charger is no longer manufactured. so it’s been a wild ride through the cheap, poorly-made camera charging products sold on amazon. I’ve discovered that these shady sellers often does not allow returns (which is not made clear at time of purchase), so I’m just stuck with a bunch of useless plastic. anyways, I finally found a universal charger that worked, though my battery looks ridiculous, barely hanging on at a perpendicular angle, attached to the charger by only its charging part.

rant about my camera aside, in the past two months, I’ve also fallen completely in love with a british cookbook, honey & co: the cookbook. I generally enjoy the personable, yet methodically competent tone of british cookbooks: some other favorites include nigel slater’s books and claire ptak’s violet bakery cookbook. I’ve had friends over and cooked entire meals using only honey & co’s cookbook, because the recipes are so simple, delicious, and perfect for groups. I’ve emailed recipes from this book to friends and family, I’ve made and consumed much too much pita bread because honey & co’s recipe makes it so easy.

here’s just one of my recent favorites, a homey, hearty moussaka perfect for potluck dinners, or for meal-prepping and stretching out over a busy week. I never tire of its umami tomato taste mixed with the textures of creamy goat cheese and silky soft eggplant.

makes 8•8-in pan

moussaka
3-4 large eggplants, trimmed
olive oil, for brushing and drizzling
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
100g (4oz) goat cheese
25g (2 tbsp) pecorino cheese, grated (or kashkaval, if you can find it!)
tomato sauce
1 large red onion, peeled and diced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 thick slices of lemon
4 sprigs fresh oregano, picked (1 tsp dried oregano will do in a pinch)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 lb large plum tomatoes, diced (6-8 tomatoes)
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup water

sarit packer and itamar srulovich. honey & co: the cookbook. new york: little brown and co. 2015.

moussaka|1 preheat oven to 425ºF.
2 slice each eggplant into 4-5 thick slices lengthwise. brush a foil-lined baking tray with olive oil and place the slices flat on it. brush the eggplants with more oil and season with salt and pepper.
3 roast in oven for 12 minutes, then rotate the tray to cook eggplant slices evently. roast for another 8-12 minutes, until golden and soft. set aside to cool.
sauce|1 saute the onion, cinnamon stick, lemon slices, and oregano with oil and salt in a frying pan over medium heat until the onion and garlic start to soften, 5-6 minutes. add half the diced tomatoes and sugar, increase the heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes become very soft, 8-10 minutes.
2 add the remaining tomatoes and tomato paste, black pepper, and water, and continue cooking over high heat for another 6-8 minutes.
3 remove the cinnamon stick; you can leave the lemon slices if you’d like.
assembly|1 cover the base of an 8×8-in casserole dish or pan with a layer of eggplant, then spoon 1/3 of the tomato sauce on top. smooth it out and crumble half the goat cheese all over.
2 repeat the process with a second layer of eggplant slices, another 1/3 of the tomato sauce, and the rest of the goat cheese. cover with another layer of eggplants and the remaining 1/3 sauce, then sprinkle with the pecorino.*
3 bake in the center of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese topping is melted and golden. place a sheet pan on the shelf underneath to catch any drippings.
 
*at this point, the moussaka can be chilled overnight; just take the moussaka to defrost for at least 30 minutes, then bake at 425ºF for 30-35 minutes.