coffee-braised brisket


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.


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.


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.

quick cinnamon buns


back in college, I used to use baking as a stress reliever, and law school has marked the return to late-night/really-early-morning baking. in the last few years, I’ve found enjoyment in a good weekend baking project, but as a law student, I’ve lately been on the hunt for recipes for pastries that require less time.

unfortunately, this means I’m still am mystified by pastries made with yeast (a project I’m hoping to tackle this summer). but fortunately, this search turned up violet bakery’s baking powder-leavened cinnamon buns, which has all the sugary, intense cinnamon flavor and enjoyable flaky dough without the hours of rising. these cinnamon buns also freeze great, and with my new gas oven (which preheats in only 5 minutes!!!), I’m always 30 minutes away from a tasty, fresh-baked pastry.

law school has marked the return of another habit that perhaps is in tandem with late-night bakes: late night snacking. unfortunately, I no longer have my college-age metabolism, which leads me to another project I’m hoping to tackle after finals: some of the beautiful hiking trails around d.c! I’m definitely looking forward to packing some of these highly-portable buns and scrambling up some rocks this summer.

makes 12 buns

75g unsalted butter
250g light brown sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
cinnamon buns
560g all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp ground cardamom
240g cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
300g cold milk
2 tbsp sugar, for dipping
optional: butter, for greasing the tin, or muffin tin liners

claire ptak. the violet bakery cookbook. new york: ten speed press, 2015.

filling|1 melt the butter and leave in a warm place so that it remains liquid.
2 in a small bowl, mix together the light brown sugar and cinnamon until no lumps remain, then set aside.
buns|1 preheat oven to 400ºF. butter a 12-cup muffin tray, or line with paper liners.
2 in a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, then using a pastry cutter, mix in the cubes of butter until you have a coarse meal.
3 slowly add in the cold milk while mixing, and continue mixing until the dough forms into a balls and comes away from the bowl.
4 turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and leave to rest for 5 minutes. fold the dough gently over itself once or twice to pull it all together. let the dough rest a second time, for 10 minutes.
5 clear a large surface and dust lightly with flour. roll out the dough into a large rectangle until about 5mm (1/4in) thick. (I roll it out to 24in x 12in rectangle.) brush the surface of the dough with melted butter and before the butter hardens, sprinkle the cinnamon sugar onto the butter. use it all up!
6 roll the dough up, starting at the long side, keeping it neat and tight. (start with the long side facing you, then gently tug the dough towards you while rolling to get a tight spiral.) once it’s rolled, gently squeeze the roll to ensure the same thickness throughout. use a sharp knife or pastry cutter to cut the roll cross-ways into 12 even slices (mine were each 2in thick). take a slice of the cinnamon roll, peel back ~5cm (~2in) of the loose end of the pastry and fold it back under the roll to loosely cover the bottom. place in the muffin tray, flap-side down. repeat with the remaining slices.
7 bake the buns for 20-25 minutes. as soon as they’re done, flip them onto a wire cooling rack and allow them to cool for 5 minutes. dip each cinnamon bun to a bowl of sugar and serve straight away.

*if you want to freeze the buns, you can freeze the unbaked dough in the muffin tins. after they’re frozen, they can be un-molded and stored until needed. when you bake them, add a few minutes to the bake time.

cinnamon cardamom buns

IMG_0458 copy

this past summer, I spent a few days in copenhagen. right down the street from our airbnb was one of copenhagen’s famous bakeries, meyers bageri. each morning, there would be a queue out the door and if we came after 10am, they’d be sold out of just about everything! (so much for sleeping in on vacation.) I loved their fluffy, buttery kanelsnurrer, especially the blueberry version.

spiral spire at vor frelsers kirke in christianhavn.

since then, I’ve tried a few times now to recreate those pastries. most recipes I’ve found have a denser bread base that is then twisted into a beautiful, chewy cinnamon cardamom cookie-bread hybrid. (I think it might be based on the swedish version of the pastry.) they were good, but not quite what I was looking for.

while “leafing through” the ebook version of steffi knowles-dellner’s lagom, I saw that she included both a kanelsnurre and a blueberry kanelsnurre recipe (called kanel & kardamummabullar in her book) and was instantly reminded of meyers bageri. I’m happy to report that her recipe is definitely the closest I’ve found to what I experienced in copenhagen. the recipe itself was relatively painless, requiring two rise times but very little in the way of complex pastry skills, and the result is so, so good. I loved them so much, I ate three straight out of the oven!

the other pastry I loved in copenhagen was the tebirke, but my last attempt was so time-consuming and traumatic, I’m not sure I’ll tackle it for the next year. in the meanwhile, I guess I’ll just have content myself with these excellent kanelsnurrer.

makes 24 buns

150g (2/3 cup) butter
500ml (generous 2 cups) milk
50g fresh yeast (or 1 tbsp + 2 tsp active dry yeast)
125g (scant 3/4 cup) granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cardamom
635g (5 cups) bread flour (all-purpose will do in a pinch)
1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
55g (4 tbsp) butter, softened
37.5g (3 tbsp) granulated sugar
2 tsp cardamom
1 tbsp cinnamon
sugar glaze
75g (6 tbsp)granulated sugar
100ml (7 tbsp) water

steffi knowles-dellner. lagom: the swedish art of eating harmoniously. london: quadrille publishing limited, 2017.

dough|1 in a small saucepan, melt the butter. pour in the milk and heat until just warm to touch. slowly add and stir in the yeast until dissolved.
2 in a large bowl, combine the sugar, cardamom, 1/2 tsp salt, and flour. add the butter-milk mixture and mix until you have a wet dough.
3 tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it comes together. add a bit more flour if the flour is too sticky to knead.
4 return to a clean bowl and sprinkle with flour. cover with a tea towel (or plastic wrap) and let rise in in a warm place for 1 hour, until doubled in size.
5 gently press the dough down a bit, then tip onto a lightly floured surface. knead for a few minutes, adding more flour if the dough is too sticky to knead. when the dough releases from the surface easily, it is ready. cut the dough in half (another way to check if the dough is ready: you should see evenly distributed air bubbles). roll each half out to form a 12×16-in rectangle with the longest side facing you.
filling & assembly|1 in a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom.
2 spread the softened butter over each rectangle, then sprinkle with the sugar-cinnamon mixture.
3 preheat the oven to 450ºF and line several baking sheets with parchment. starting from the left, roll each rectangle tightly and slice into even pieces, about 1 inch thick. pinch or tuck in the ends and place, generously spaced, on the prepared sheets. cover with tea towels or plastic wrap and proof for about 40 minutes, until doubled in size.
4 brush with beaten egg and bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden. allow to cool on a wire rack.
glaze|1 while the buns bake, combine granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan. without stirring, bring to a simmer. continue to simmer for a few more minutes, then allow to cool slightly before brushing them over the buns as soon as they come out of the oven.