apricot-walnut rugelach

I recently met up with a friend in the new bookshop in town, shakespeare and co. the shop itself is beautiful, with a well-curated book collection housed on floor-to-ceiling bookshelves straight out of beauty and the beast, a small cafe and ample upstairs seating, and what looks like a printing press, where the store will “rewrite” any children’s book and rename the main characters the names of your choosing (for a fee, of course). I thought it was a fun new local joint, but actually comes to philadelphia by way of new york.

anyways, my friend is a classical musician, which may explain her penchant for places with an old world vibe. before she went sober, we used to meet up in monk’s cafe, a low-ceilinged warren of dark, ornamented wood. back when we worked together, we’d hop in her mini cooper (sadly lost to a flash flood) on some evenings and go to the opera. every summer, she teaches at a music festival in portugal, where the buildings have beautiful tiles and massive iron-framed windows, but no air conditioning. this past summer was particularly brutal and she ended up cutting all her hair off just to make the heat slightly more tolerable, but she keeps going back because she loves the friendly small town feel of porto.

I share some of her admiration of tradition – though I enjoy the viral recipe as much as the next person, I really love a dish with history. part of what motivated me to start cooking was the realization that I could not name, much less cook, many of the chinese dishes my parents made. when I read cookbooks, I love the little asides about baking in the kitchen with grandmothers and aunts. similarly, a friend of mine, before he went vegan, used to make rugelach around rosh hashanah every year. the crescent shape is beautiful, and though the cookies look a bit rustic, with bits of caramelized apricot jam oozing out of the folds, they have that special nostalgia factor that makes them a winner at any gathering. this is not his family’s recipe, but it is from an acquaintance of ottolenghi’s, so you can trust it (!), and it’s quite close to what I remember.

makes 24 rugelach

pastry
160g all-purpose flour
1/8tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
finely grated zest of 1 small lemon (~3/4 tsp)
scraped seeds of 1/4 vanilla pod
125g cold unsalted butter, cut roughly into 3cm cubes
125g cold cream cheese
filling
40g walnut halves
100g soft light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
150g apricot marmalade
1 tsp lemon juice
glaze
1 large egg, lightly beaten
25g demarara sugar

yotam ottolenghi and helen goh. sweet. london: ebury press, 2017.

pastry|1 in a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking powder, lemon zest, and vanilla seeds. add butter cubes and use a pastry blender to cut butter until mixture has texute of fresh breadcrumbs. add cream cheese and cut until dough comes together and can be rolled into a ball. (be careful not to over-mix or pastry will become tough!)
2 divide pastry into two parts, wrap each half loosely in plastic wrap, and press to flatten into discs. transfer to fridge to chill for at least 1 hour.
3 preheat oven to 350ºF. line two baking sheets with parchment.
filling|1 spread walnuts on baking tray and roast at 350ºF for 5 minutes. remove from oven, set aside to cool, then chop finely and place in small bowl with brown sugar and cinnamon. mix together and set aside.
2 in separate small bowl, combine apricot marmalade and lemon juice to form smooth paste. if marmalade is too firm, microwave at 10-second increments until soft and spreadable.
assembly+glaze|1 on a lightly floured work surface, roll 1 disc of chilled dough into a 9-inch circle. use a small spatula or back of spoon to spread half of marmalade evenly over surface, then sprinkle with half of sugar and nut mixture. use pizza wheel to cut dough into 12 equal triangles. one at a time, roll each wedge tightly, starting from the wide outside edge towards the center, so that the filling is enclosed.
2 place rugelachs on lined baking trays, seam side down, spaced ~1 1/2-in apart. repeat rolling process with remaining disc of dough and filling ingredients, then chill rugelachs in fridge for at least 30 minutes before baking.
3 when ready to bake, lightly brush tops of rugelachs with egg wash and sprinkle with demerara sugar. bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating trays halfway through, until golden brown. remove from oven and allow to rest on trays for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.
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french vanilla sablés

I recently went to the cheesecake factory in the first time in forever. it was certainly a walk down memory lane – when I was in middle school, the cheesecake factory was so popular that every location I went to had a 30 minute wait. my friends and I loved eating a slice of cheesecake after shopping so we’d stop in to pick up a buzzer, then kill another 30 minutes wandering around the mall. I wonder if they still have those buzzers somewhere in the back, gathering dust.

I can distinctly remember the last time I went to the cheesecake factory. it was the spring of my senior year of high school and I was down in baltimore for a former friend’s senior piano recital (mine had been earlier that month). my piano teacher took us out to the cheesecake factory at inner harbor and told us we could order anything. j and I knew that our teacher was a huge health fiend and we wanted to impress her, so we ended up with lettuce wraps and two kinds of salads! I can’t even recall if we ended up ordering cheesecake – my lasting memory is of feeling very silly and dissatisfied with what amounted to three gigantic plates of lettuce.

despite our poor food decisions, I look back on that night with happiness. to share a meal with my mentor, a woman I admired so much, I’d written part of my college essay about her, and with my best friend at the time felt like the perfect bookend to four difficult years in the competitive classical music world.

since then, much has changed. I thought j and I would be lifelong friends, but turns out life had other plans. I also kind of thought I’d walk away from piano forever – at that point, I was just so done with the competitive classical music world and it hadn’t really entered my mind that I could keep playing just for pleasure. (I’m glad I eventually came around.) my tastes in desserts have changed as well – I remember thinking the cheesecake factory had the best pastas and that nothing was more delicious than their oreo cheesecake. I used to be able to eat two slices all on my own and still want another!

these days, my tongue – and my metabolism – prefer desserts that are not overwhelmingly rich. lately, I’ve been really enjoying these vanilla sablés, buttery one-biters with a bit of sanding sugar crunch sprinkled on top like a layer of freshly fallen snow. they’re simple yet beautiful, especially as they catch the light nestled in the gift box of cookies.

makes ~30 cookies

226 g (16 tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, room temperature
100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
30g (1/4 cup) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
280g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
sanding sugar, for sprinkling

dorie greenspan. dorie’s cookies. new york: houghton mifflin harcourt publishing company, 2016.

1 in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together butter, both sugars, and salt on medium speed until smooth but not fluffy, ~3 minutes. reduce mixer speed to low and one by one, beat in yolks, followed by vanilla extract. (I used a rubber spatula and mixed by hand in a large bowl.)
2 turn off mixer and add flour all at once. pulse mixer until risk of flying flour has passed. with machine on low, mix just until flour disappears into dough. give dough a few turns with a sturdy flexible spatula to make sure there are no flour streaks. (again, I mixed by hand with a rubber spatula.)
3 turn dough out onto counter and divide in half. shape each half into 9-in log, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze for at least 3 hours and up to 2 months.
4 when ready to bake, preheat oven to 350ºF.
5 slice logs ~1/3-in thick. place rounds ~2 in apart on parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with sanding sugar. bake one sheet at a time on a center rack for 17-20 minutes. let rest for ~10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.


*cookies can also be baked in muffin tins: 1 instead of rolling dough into logs, roll each piece 1/4-in thick between pieces of parchment. slide parchment-sandwiched dough on baking sheet and freeze for at least 1 hour, or refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
2 grease a regular muffin tin, cut out dough rounds with a 2-in diameter cookie cutter, and drop rounds into muffin tin. save dough scraps, gather, re-roll, chill, and cut. sprinkle tops of cookies with sanding sugar.
3 bake at 350ºF for 16-19 minutes, let rest for 10 minutes, then carefully lift cookies out of tins onto wire rack. let cool to room temperature.

double-chocolate cookies

so I was chilling in my apartment, popping an ibuprofen while peering at my computer screen. (I know, I know, that’s probably not the best solution for eye strain, but that’s what finals will do to you.) I then got a super random text from one of my friends saying “okay so I texted you and then I realized I texted the wrong person! now I’m stuck hanging out with someone else!”

I was, of course, super confused because this message came out of nowhere. turns out she had tried to text me but had texted someone with the same name as me! I guess that person really wanted to see a movie, because though they’re not close at all, she agreed to go to the movies with my friend, who did not realize she’d invited the wrong person until she was at the theatre. haha! I got some fun texts from her, but I think she managed to enjoy herself despite the mix-up.

my friend made a silly mistake, but it got me thinking about how at one point in my life, if I had made a mistake like that, I probably would have taken it quite seriously. in general, I’ve always taken mistakes and criticisms more personally than I should. it’s an insecurity I’m constantly working on, and the older I get, the more I’ve come to terms with the fact that there will always be external challenges that seem overwhelming and all I can change is my confidence in my own ability to overcome them. in the words of another friend, “apparently our 30s are like the 2L of life. just as hard as our 20s, but we are more equipped to handle what’s thrown at us.”

it’s been a difficult past few weeks, and I really do appreciate the messages I’ve received from friends checking in on me and offering to hang out if I need a break, though they know full well I’ll be deliriously incoherent and probably not too much fun. (in other words, r, though you ended up hanging out with the wrong person, I appreciate the thought!)

anyways, here’s what you came for: a quick cookie recipe from joanne chang, my favorite baker. she once said this was her favorite cookie recipe, and if you love chocolate and gooey centers and chewy, crispy exteriors, this could be your favorite cookie recipe too. as for me, I had all the ingredients and all the insomnia and this is what came out of it.

makes 15 cookies

113g (4oz) unsweetened chocolate, chopped + 56g (2oz) unsweetened chocolate, finely shaved
140g (5oz) bittersweet chocolate (~60% cacao), chopped + 113g (4oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-in pieces
113g (8 tbsp) unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
300g (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
4 eggs
70g (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp instant coffee powder
75g (3/4 cup) walnuts, toasted, chopped, and cooled

joanne chang. flour: spectacular recipes from boston’s flour bakery + cafe. san francisco: chronicle books, 2010.

1 in a heatproof bowl, combine the 113g unsweetened chocolate, 140g bittersweet chocolate, and butter. place over barely simmering water in a saucepan, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and smooth (make sure the bowl is not touching the water!). remove from heat and whisk in vanilla extract. refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
2 using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat sugar and eggs on medium speed until light, thick and pale yellow, ~5 minutes. (I did this by hand and it took me ~12 minutes.) on low speed, slowly add chocolate mixture and mix for ~ 15 seconds; the mixture will not be well-mixed at this point.
3 in a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, expresso powder, and remaining 56g unsweetened chocolate, 113g bittersweet chocolate, and walnuts.
4 using a rubber spatula, fold flour mixture into sugar-chocolate mixture until flour is completely incorporated and dough is evenly mixed.
5 scrape dough into airtight container and let rest overnight in fridge (or at least for 3-4 hours) before baking.
6 preheat oven to 350ºF. drop dough in 1/4-cup balls onto parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them 2-in apart.
7 bake until cookies are cracked on top and soft but not liquid when pressed in the middle, ~15 minutes. let cool on baking sheet for ~15 minutes, then transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.
8 cookies can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, and unbaked dough can be stored in airtight container in fridge for up to 1 week.

chicken, preserved lemon & olive tagine

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at long last, here’s a recipe my sister requested probably at least a month ago. though now she’s on a business trip in germany, so this really won’t do her much good. to be fair, many of the tagine ingredients (e.g. preserved lemons, canned olives, sad onions at the back of my crisper drawer) are fairly non-perishable – at least, I hope they are! – so I’ve been just letting them sit around, but late last week, the thanksgiving leftovers finally ran out and it was time to cook something new.

“tagine” refers to both the dish and the earthenware pot in which it is cooked. it originated in north africa and supposedly, its large, lidded structure was meant to create a mini-oven on top of a stove since most households did not have ovens and its conical shape returned condensation to the stew while it slow-cooked over a low fire so that less water (a prized commodity in the desert climate) would be required to make the stew. it’s fascinating to me that this flavorful stew (which often features ambrosial dried fruits, another non-perishable ingredient) emerged from innovation in the face of necessity.

reading up on tagines reminded me of a conversation I once had with a friend who did her peace corps assignment in tanzania. if her host family wanted bread, they made the dough at their home then carried it through the village to the one house that had an oven. sometimes, they would have to wait for it to be available and that one loaf of bread could consume the whole day.

a avid baker like me could not imagine living in a home without an oven, and in fact, even the dingiest tiny studios I’ve lived in have had at least a tiny oven. but while living and serving in a non-westernized, developing part of the world, my friend learned to live with not only no oven, but also weak and often unreliable refrigeration and unreliable electricity in general. much of the world still lives without the modern luxuries that we in the u.s. take for granted, and they still have rich and happy lives. she was reminded daily of how grateful she was for the things she had grown up with – but also that she ultimately did not need all these things.

anyways, right now life is hectic and a little miserable as the first semester of 2L grinds to a close, but there is much to be grateful for – I was lucky enough to spend thanksgiving with twenty loving and supportive family members, now have a really nice tagine to enjoy for the next few days, and I know that in two weeks, I’ll have come out on the other side.

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makes 4-6 servings

olive oil
50g (~4 tbsp) butter
2 large onions, roughly diced
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground ginger
6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
pinch of saffron threads
2 tsp boiling water
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
170g (~3/4 cup) green olives, pitted
3 preserved lemons, halved or sliced
flat leaf parsley, for garnish

sabrina ghayour. persiana: recipes from the middle east and beyond. london: mitchell beazley. 2014.

1 in a large tagine, dutch oven, or lidded heavy-bottomed pot, heat a generous drizzle of olive oil with butter in a large saucepan set of medium heat. add onions and fry until translucent but not brown (3-4 minutes), then mix in garlic slices and dry spices and cook until fragrant (~1 minute).
2 lightly season chicken thighs with salt and pepper, then add to tagine skin side-down, and cook until lightly browned (~5 minutes on each side).
3 while chicken cooks, crumble saffron threads between your fingers into a small bowl, then add boiling water. infuse for a few minutes, then pour over the chicken.
4 pour in just enough water to almost cover thighs, cover pan with a lid, and simmer for 2 hours.
5 after 2 hours, stir in olives and preserved lemon slices. simmer – partially covered for a more concentrated stew or completely covered for a more soupy stew – for another 15 minutes, stirring once or twice to prevent bottom from burning.
6 remove tagine from heat, garnish with roughly chopped parsley, and serve. (suggested: accompaniments: couscous, rice, potatoes, or bread)

brazilian carrot cake

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funny how a change in weather can affect the perception of time. I first had this brazilian carrot cake at a friend’s place back when the weather was still warm enough that I was comfortably in short sleeves late at night. we’re now fully into sweater season and already, my leather jackets, which I never feel like I get to wear enough, have been hung up in favor of wool-blended coats, puffy jackets, and faux fur-lined boots.

anyways, I am a huge carrot cake fan – I used to tell people it was my favorite cake, though really, I love just about all cakes and really can’t choose. some days are chocolate cake days, others call for a good slice of carrot cake, you know? I think unconsciously, because I knew the amount of sugar I was consuming was probably unhealthy, I thought carrot cakes were “healthier” because they featured a vegetable and often contained raisins and nuts.

brazilian carrot cake is a totally different animal. when my friend, e, told us she was serving carrot cake, I was expecting a moist, almost treacly cake stuffed with shredded carrots. instead, we were treated to a light, smooth cake where the sweet, slightly earthy flavor of carrot took center stage. stunned that this light orange-colored cake could share the same name as the carrot cake of my childhood, I asked e for the recipe and she was kind enough to share it with me.

now that it’s cold and all I want to do is wear chunky socks and sweaters that swallow my body, slurp up bowls of hot udon, and stand in front of my oven while baking cakes (it’s so warm!), I suppose it’ll be good to have this “healthier” cake in rotation – covered in chocolate ganache, of course.

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makes one 9•13-in pan

carrot cake
270g (~3 medium) raw carrots, chopped*
215g (1 cup) granulated sugar
150g (3/4 cup) canola oil
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
280g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
chocolate ganache**
60g (1/3 cup) bittersweet (60%) chocolate, chopped
25g (2 tbsp) granulated sugar
25g (1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp) corn syrup (not high-fructose)
3 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
28g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
chocolate sprinkles, sliced almonds, or desiccated coconut (optional)

recipe courtesy of my friend e, with a few tweaks and adapted to a 9×13-in pan

cake|1 preheat oven to 375ºF. lightly grease a 9×13-in pan and line with parchment paper.
2 in a blender, blitz together carrots and sugar until carrots have broken down and completely mixed with the sugar. add the oil and eggs and blitz again, pulsing blender until ingredients are just combined (2-3 pulses).
3 in a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. add carrot mixture to bowl and fold with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until just combined (being careful not to over-mix).
4 bake for 20-25 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. let cool in pan for 30 minutes, then remove cake to wire rack to cool completely.
ganache|1 after cake has cooled, start making glaze: place chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside. add sugar and corn syrup to a small saucepan over medium-low heat. stir to combine, then when the sugar has melted, increase heat the medium and bring to a boil. continue to boil, stirring gently from time to time, until color is pale amber (~7 minutes).
2 remove from heat and carefully pour in water. (if mixture seizes, return pan to heat and stir gently and continuously until it returns to boil and sugar has melted again.) stir in vanilla extract.
3 remove from heat and wait for 1 minute before pouring water-caramel over chocolate. allow to stand for 3 minutes, then whisk to combine. add butter, a few cubes at a time, whisking after each addition. continue until all butter has been added, whisking until mixture has consistency of honey.
4 poke a few holes in the cake, then spread glaze over top of cake, letting a little run down the sides. cake can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

* carrots do not have to be peeled, but they should be cleaned; if you’re baking by volume, there should be ~2 cups after chopping them.
**the chocolate ganache recipe makes just barely enough to cover the cake with a thin layer; if you want to generously cover the cake, double the recipe.

pumpkin spice cheesecake

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here’s a bit of a twist on an old favorite. the last time I made pumpkin cheesecake was at least two years ago, so for this year’s friendsgiving, I decided to dust off an old favorite.

one of my friends had never celebrated thanksgiving before(!), and what a first thanksgiving it was for him: a group of good friends cozied up against each other in the living room, eating way too much food and playing a few too many rounds of cards against humanity.

compared to last year’s friendsgiving, when the guy who brought the turkey totally undercooked it and we all had to pretend we were eating it while surreptitiously dumping it in the trash, this year, the food was all incredible. personally, I was happy because I got to do a test run of the recipes I plan to make for my family’s thanksgiving (something I should have done last year, when I tried to bake pie for the first time in a year, totally screwed up the first time, and had just, just barely enough ingredients and not at all enough time to do it all over.) we were all totally stuffed by the end of the evening and it took an immense amount of effort to finally lift ourselves off the couches and make our way out the door.

I’m still trying to capture that perfect graham cracker crust, but for me, honey & co‘s comes a bit closer to my ideal – a thick crust made with toasted, finely chopped hazelnuts instead of pecans. compared with the crust of the pumpkin cheesecake I made before, it’s a bit crumblier, a bit softer, and there’s just something ~fancy~ about hazelnuts that appeals to the bougie foodie in me. this year, I’m particularly thankful to have found a really kind group of friends who love making tasty food and sharing in special dining experiences as much as I do.

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makes one 9-inch cheesecake

hazelnut base
100g (3/4 cup) whole hazelnuts
30g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
25g (2 tbsp) light brown sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
150g (1 3/4 cups) graham cracker crumbs from 9-10 crackers
pumpkin filling
360g (12 3/4 oz) mashed butternut squash from 1 roasted butternut*
375g (13 1/4 oz) full fat cream cheese, room temperature
265g (1 1/3 cups) granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
3 eggs
2 tbsp plain flour
150g (1/2 cup + 2 tbsp) sour cream
topping
300g (1 1/4 cup) sour cream
50g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod

sarit packer and itamar srulovich. honey & co: the baking book. london: saltyard books. 2015.

base|1 preheat oven to 350ºF. grease a 9-in cake tin with a removable base and line with baking parchment.
2 roast hazelnuts for 8 minutes, then rub with a clean towel to remove as much of the papery brown skins as you can. finely chop with a knife or in a food processor.
3 put chopped hazelnuts, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and crumbs in a medium bowl, then pour in melted butter and stir to combine. tip mixture into pan and spread to cover the base. flatten a bit, but don’t compress too much. bake for 10 minutes, then allow to cool.
filling|1 place cream cheese, sugar, and spices in mixture with paddle attachment on medium speed and mix until well-combined. (I used a wooden spoon and mixed by hand.) while continuing to mix, add eggs one at a time. add butternut purée, flour, and sour cream and mix well.
2 pour over base and bake for 25-30 minutes, until sides are just set but center is still jiggly. remove from oven to rest and cool for 10 minutes.
topping|1 mix sour cream with sugar and vanilla seeds until mixture forms a smooth paste. pour slowly over top of baked cheesecake (make sure you do not pour it all in one spot, otherwise it will sink in!) use back of spoon or small spatula to spread evenly over the top, then return to oven for another 10-15 minutes.
2 cool in fridge for at least 6 hours (or overnight) before cutting and serving.
 
*I used 1 15-oz can of pumpkin purée, reduced in a small saucepan over medium-high heat for ~20 minutes until it weighed ~360lb.
** this recipe baked up surprisingly well in a cupcake tin; it made ~24 (with just a bit of crumbs and filling left over). I used ~1 tbsp crust pressed into a cupcake liner, then filled 2/3 of the way with cheesecake filling, then baked for 13-15 minutes.

coconut pound cake + moab

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in the past few years, I’ve done a fair amount of traveling around the world, from hiking the eastern coast of tasmania to biking through the graffiti-ed streets of berlin. I treasure all of these experiences, each memorable in their own right. and yet, nothing has inspired as much awe as the almost alien red rock landscapes of southwestern america.

when I was younger, my parents took my sister and me on a road trip across arizona. we drove down part of historic route 66, marveled at the unfathomable massiveness of the grand canyon, and fell in love with the red, red rocks of sedona. having grown up in the relatively tame rolling hills of the mid-atlantic, I had never seen such deep gashes in the earth or such a scarlet landscape. the scenery seared itself in my family’s mind, imbuing all of us with a lasting fascination with the region.

north of the grand canyon lies the western state in which I’ve spent the most time: utah. it’s incredible how many landscapes exist within a 4 hour drive: the great salt flats around salt lake city give way to the mountainous pine and birch forests of the wasatch range to the east. the southeast corner of utah holds red sandstone arches, hoodoos, and desolate canyonlands. though I’ve been to utah at least ten times, this october marked my first trip to moab and the arches national park.

compared to other more famous national parks of the american west, arches national park is tiny. so tiny, you could probably hit all the highlights and popular hikes in one day if you woke up early enough and hiked fast enough. we had a good day and a half to explore the park, giving us more than ample time to stand in awe beneath many massive natural arches, many of which apparently started as puddles of water that slowly deepened and eventually hollowed out the rock.

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the trails are generally very well-marked, but the park has its secrets and roads less traveled as well. though I did not have the chance to make it out to tower arch, which a friend from the area had recommended, I did manage to find the secret petroglyphs out by dark angel, which might have been the highlight of my day just because of how difficult they were to find and how close I was to giving up. (as much as I’d love to share where they are, I witnessed the vandalism at publicly known petroglyph sites and I understand and respect why this site has been kept a secret.)

though I’ve technically seen just about all the sights there are to see in arches national park, it’s a place I’d love to return to one day. in the short time we were there, we witnessed how the light could completely change the landscape,as we sat out a rainstorm beneath one of the arches, then soaked in the golden hour at a different arch later that day. I’d love to night hike beneath the stars and stargaze through an arch, or watch the sun rise and set the red rocks aflame.

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beyond the jaw-dropping sights, the trip featured surprisingly delicious food. this coconut pound cake is based on the coconut bread I had at sweet cravings bakery in moab, the closest town to arches national park. I had never encountered a coconut bread before, and after a long day of hiking, nothing tasted better than their velvety, intensely coconut-y bread. this recipe took two tries to get right – I knew that since the bakery had multiple pound cakes with different flavors but similar textures, the base had to be adaptable to different ingredient combinations. the first time, I added the desiccated coconut with the butter and heavy cream and it just soaked the moisture right out of the cake! I think the second time turned out pretty great though, if I do say so myself.

places I loved
sweet cravings bakery + bistro | located on the northern edge of moab, sweet cravings won us over with their incredible baked treats (the coconut bread is a must try!) and delicious sandwiches. if you’re in moab around halloween, definitely stop by to check out their adorable monster- and ghost-themed desserts – they’re beyond adorable.
desert bistro | a fancy dining oasis in moab, desert bistro’s menu is certainly very pricey, but every menu item was enticing and many featured unique southwestern flair. the smoked tofu gyozas with chipotle-maple sauce were the sleeper hit; the lamb osso bucco in ancho-tomato broth was one of the best osso buccos I’ve had.
woody’s tavern | a moab dive bar featuring pool tables and cheap beers. head for the concession window in the back, where you can find incredibly smoky barbecued brisket, pulled pork, sausages, and more.
moab brewery | this place was packed – and with good reason! we tried their pale ale and belgian tripel and both were excellent, especially the tripel, which had a lovely sweetness.
la pasadita | located in a former shell gas station, la pasadita was our best discovery on our drive down from salt lake city to moab. the cabeza (cow head) tacos are meltingly tender and flavorful, and the al pastor and barbacoa tacos are just as delicious. the vampiro tacos (basically a mini quesadilla – meat and melted cheese sandwiched between two fried soft taco shells) are decadent and worth trying as well.
tangerine eatery | another great find on our drive down from salt lake city, tangerine eatery is a modern, clean diner with amazing sandwiches. the cubano was the best we’ve ever had, and the soups we tried were wonderful as well. shout-out to the friendly staff member who made us feel incredibly welcome.

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makes one 9•5-in loaf

coconut cake
180g (1 1/2 cups) cake flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
156g (1/2 cup + 3 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
60g (1/4 cup) heavy cream, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
250g(1 1/4 cups) granulated sugar
80g (2 3/4 oz) desiccated coconut, unsweetened
chocolate glaze
60g (1/3 cup) bittersweet (60%) chocolate, chopped
25g (2 tbsp) granulated sugar
25g (1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp) corn syrup (not high-fructose)
3 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
28g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed

joanne chang. flour: spectacular recipes from boston’s flour bakery + cafe. san francisco: chronicle books, 2010.
yotam ottolenghi and helen goh. sweet. london: ebury press, 2017.

cake|1 preheat oven to 325ºF. lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9×5-in loaf pan and line with parchment paper.
2 in a medium bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt. set aside.
3 in a large bowl, whisk together butter, heavy cream, and vanilla extract until the mixture has the consistency of a thick liquid.
4 using a stand mixture fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together eggs and granulated sugar until light, fluffy, and lemon colored, 4-5 minutes (7-9 minutes with electric beater).
5 using a rubber spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture until just combined. gently fold 1/4 of the egg-flour mixture into the butter-heavy cream mixture, then fold in the remaining egg-flour mixture and desiccated coconut just until combined. pour batter into prepared pan.
6 bake until top of cake is golden brown and springs back when pressed in the middle, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. let cool in pan for at least 30 minutes.
glaze|1 after cake has cooled, start making glaze: place chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside. add sugar and corn syrup to a small saucepan over medium-low heat. stir to combine, then when the sugar has melted, increase heat the medium and bring to a boil. continue to boil, stirring gently from time to time, until color is pale amber (~7 minutes).
2 remove from heat and carefully pour in water. (if mixture seizes, return pan to heat and stir gently and continuously until it returns to boil and sugar has melted again.) stir in vanilla extract.
3 remove from heat and wait for 1 minute before pouring water-caramel over chocolate. allow to stand for 3 minutes, then whisk to combine. add butter, a few cubes at a time, whisking after each addition. continue until all butter has been added, whisking until mixture has consistency of honey.
4 spread glaze over top of cake, letting a little run down the sides. cake can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.