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.

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flour bakery’s chocolate chunk cookies

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considering I don’t really post that much, it seems gratuitous that this is the third chocolate chip cookie recipe to make it onto the blog. (see: chocolate chip cookies from “not without salt” and tahini chocolate chip cookies.) but I promise, there is a story behind it:

last weekend, I promised to make banana bread (using my favorite recipe from joanne chang’s famous flour bakery) for a picnic hangout. I scrambled to make it the night before, having come back in d.c. later than planned after changing my travel plans last-minute. around 2am, after waiting 1 hour and 10 minutes for the freaking bread to finish baking, I finally went to sleep.

it was a beautifully misty morning when we we set out on an unexpectedly taxing hike the following day. heavy rains had blocked our planned hiking path with a fast-flowing and deceptively deep stream. in our efforts to find a different point to ford the stream, two members of our party got lost in the dense foliage of the george washington national forest. we didn’t locate them until an hour later – one was sitting, almost hidden in dead leaves, legs bloodied and left ankle sprained after multiple falls, while the other, in a panic, had torn through branches and brambles, covering his arms in scratches. it was altogether one of the scarier hiking experiences I’ve had.

after finding the two lost hikers, we were in no mood to continue the hike, especially not with one hiker left hobbling, so we set out for a winery in the area. thankfully, no one’s injuries were very serious, and the mood quickly became more jovial as people unpacked bags of chips, deli meats, tabbouleh, naan, and spreads. after our taxing day, I was glad to have made the banana bread after all.

food is like that. good eats, shared with good people, can completely change the mood. it got me thinking about a possible fun project for this summer and beyond: baking (and maybe cooking) my way through joanne chang’s cookbooks, and sharing the results with friends. first up: these chocolate chunk cookies, shared with my fellow summer associates. I can usually tell if I’ll love a chocolate chip cookie by the way it bakes in the oven – these start as slightly flattened balls, then melt outwards as they bake, forming those coveted ripples of crisp, buttery, brown rings on the outside of the cookie, while the middle of the cookie remains soft and chewy. and my fellow associates certainly agree with me – after 10 minutes, all 36 cookies were gone!


makes ~24 bakery-sized cookies or ~42 standard-sized cookies

228g (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
165g (3/4 cup) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
140g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
150g (1 cup) bread flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
255g (~1 1/2 cups) bittersweet (60%) chocolate, chopped
70g (~1/2 cups) milk chocolate, chopped*

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

1 using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or a wooden spoon), cream together the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy (~5 minutes with stand mixer, ~10 minutes with spoon). scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to release any clinging butter or sugar, then mix again.
2 beat in the eggs and vanilla on medium speed until thoroughly combined (2-3 minutes). scrape the bowl and paddle again to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.
3 in a medium bowl, stir together the flours, baking soda, and salt until well mixed. add the chocolates and toss to combine. on low speed (or with the wooden spoon), slowly add the flour-choclate mixture to the butter-sugar mixture, then mix just until the flour mixture is totally incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed. (don’t over-mix!)
4 cover the dough and refrigerate overnight (at least 12 hours and up to 36) before baking. when you are ready to bake, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350ºF.
5 drop the dough into 1/4-cup balls (for bakery size) or rounded 2-tbsp balls (for standard size), spacing them ~2 inches apart. using the palm of your hand, flatten each ball slightly. (optional: sprinkle cookies lightly with flaky salt.)
6 bake for 15-18 minutes (for bakery size) or 11-13 minutes (for standard size), until cookies are golden brown on the edges and slightly soft in the center. do not let them get brown throughout. let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.
7 cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. the unbaked dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week (and can be frozen for up to 1 month; just defrost while the oven preheats so you can flatten each ball, then add 1-2 extra minutes of bake time).

 
*I used ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate discs and milk chocolate chips because I didn’t have any chocolate bars to chop, but taking the time to chop the chocolate will add more variation in texture to your cookies.

danish dream cake + copenhagen

crazy it’s been just about a year since I visited denmark. though I spent only a week there, it was enough time to fall in love with scandinavian food and architecture, and their hygge way of life.

now of course, I visited during the summer. talking to residents of copenhagen, I heard mostly about the unusually cold summer they’d been having, a complaint especially heartfelt because their summers are only two or so months long, with even shorter autumns and springs and long, long winters. perhaps because their time to enjoy the relative warmth was so short, copenhagen was bursting with life and laughter – one evening, a hostel buddy and I found a raucous bar with a hilarious fake beach on a small river barge, then grabbed platters of food from all sorts of different stalls in a food hall and watched the sun set while sitting with what felt like every other 20-something in copenhagen on the pier.

a view of copenhagen from atop vor frelsers kirke

I also miss mornings in copenhagen. at many of the coffee shops around me, most people are wearing headphones while on their laptops or in their textbooks, and conversation is subdued or nonexistent. at coffee shops in denmark, families and friends were chatting and places were particularly busy early the morning as people met up for a solid breakfast before work (with the tourists usually appearing around 10am or so). unfortunately, I don’t have the equipment or the expertise to recreate the fantastic cups of coffee I had in denmark – however, I have been slowly working my way through the delicious pastries I had. here’s a recipe for a cake so decadent, just one small slice would satisfy my sweets cravings for the rest of the day. it tastes great with coffee, and for children, I imagine it would go perfect with a tall glass of cold milk.

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a beautiful morning at frederiksborg castle

places i loved
la cabra coffee roasters | best cup of coffee I had in europe. very popular with the locals in arhaus, so you may have to wait a bit for a table to clear.
original coffee, bredgade | coffee shop with multiple locations across copenhagen. this location is small with limited seating, but isn’t too busy and has great pastries and really fantastic coffee.
meyers bageri, st. kongensgade | popular copenhagen bakery with locations across the city. try to go before 9:00am – after that, the bakery quickly runs out of its most popular pastries.
torvehallerne | so many great vendors in this glass-windowed food hall. the tapas at tapa del toro took me straight back to spain, and at another stall, we found fresh oysters and fish galore. the florists had incredibly beautiful arrangements featuring flowers I’ve never seen before.
restaurant pluto | trendy restaurant popular for group dinners among the tall, young and beautiful residents of copenhagen. they make a showstopper of a steak (probably the best steak I’ve ever had), and the staff is super friendly.
kodbyens fiskebar | incredibly fresh seafood prepared impeccably and served in a trendy, industrial former meat market. if it’s warm, share an outdoor picnic table with some copenhagen locals! (and grab a beer afterwards at nearby warpigs brewpub.)
geranium | with three well-deserved michelin stars, geranium is the most expensive meal you’ll ever eat, and the best. there’s no other dining experience like eating edible pieces of art full of flavors you never even knew were possible, while seated in a panoramic dining room on the top floor of a soccer stadium. all diners also get a tour of the extensive wine room and spotless kitchens.
restaurant domestic | a two michelin star gourmet gastronomique experience. the restaurant atmosphere is industrial yet cozy, and the food is delicious and whimsical – it’s as if the farm came to your table in the form of food made by woodland fairies. easily the best meal we had in arhaus (and the second-best meal we had in denmark).

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rainbow panorama at aros aarhus kunstmuseum

aros aarhus kunstmuseum | a really, really modern art museum in arhus. when we went, there were some cool textile exhibits, and the rainbow walkway on top of the museum was 100% worth it.
frederiksborg castle | the most beautiful castle we visited. built in the renaissance style, it’s surrounded by a serene moat among rolling hills and has a beautiful english-style garden. the rooms are lavishly furnished. it’s about an hour train ride from copenhagen, and was totally worth the visit.
kronborg castle | supposedly the castle that hamlet is based on. it’s more imposing than attractive and the rooms are mostly empty, but during the summer, the castle hosts fun and well-acted interactive “hamlet” performances where the audience follows the actors from room to room in the castle. it’s about an hour train ride from copenhagen (and can be done in the same day as frederiksborg if you wake up early enough!).
tivoli gardens | if you like amusement parks, tivoli is worth a visit. the park is beautifully executed and there are some legitimately fun rides. however, the ticket prices are quite high (and if you pay per ride, it can really add up) and lines can be quite long. if you don’t mind getting split up and riding with strangers, always opt for the singles line, which moves significantly faster.


makes one 8•8-in pan

cake
245g (1 3/4 cup) ap flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
110g (1/2 cup) salted butter, at room temperature
300g (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
1 tbsp vanilla paste
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup (175 mL) heavy cream
topping
200g (1 stick + 6 tbsp) salted butter
1/2 cup (100mL) whole milk
300g (1 1/2 cups) light brown sugar, packed
200g (1 cup) granulated sugar
200g (2 cups) unsweetened desiccated coconut flakes

nadine redzepi. downtime. new york: pam krauss books/avery, 2017.

cake|1 preheat oven to 350ºF. lightly butter an 8×8-in pan.
2 whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. put butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer* fitted with a paddle attachment. beat at medium-high speed until pale, ~3 minutes. add the vanilla paste and beat for another minute, until incorporated.
3 add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until light and fluffy. with the mixture on low speed, add flour mixture in thirds, alternating with two additions of heavy cream. beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
4 spread the batter evenly in the pan. bake until top is browned and center is almost, but not quite set when pressed with a fingertip, 30-35 minutes.
topping|1 10 minutes before the cake finishes its first bake, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. add milk and heat until it is simmering. stir in the brown and granulated sugars and bring to a boil, stirring often. stir in the coconut. reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring almost constantly, until sugar has dissolved, ~2 minutes. the mixture should still be quite liquidy.
assembly|1 remove cake from oven and immediately poke holes all over the surface using a wooden skewer (or a chopstick). pour topping evenly over the cake, using the back of a spoon to spread it into the corners. return cake to the oven and bake until the topping is set and has turned a shade or two darker, ~15 minutes.
2 place pan on a wire rack and let cake cool completely. cut into squares and serve.

*you can make this cake by hand as well; use a wooden spoon to mix together the butter, sugar, and vanilla paste until pale and smooth. beat the eggs in a separate bowl, then mix them into the butter-sugar mixture until light and fluffy. follow the rest of the recipe as directed.

quick cinnamon buns

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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

filling
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.

world peace cookies

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a few days ago, a friend and I were grabbing ramen on a 60ºF rainy evening. and today, it’s the first snow. a few years ago, these wild swings in temperature were among the most concerning issues for me.

but lately, it seems that the world is careening into a new forms of chaos each day. I remember discussing the impending brexit vote with european friends back in the summer of 2015. we lightheartedly talked about how with the high barriers to leaving the eurozone, no country would actually ever do it.

but britain did vote to leave, and in november 2016, the nationalist, nativist movements that had captured the government of hungary, almost taken france, and driven brexit reared its head and placed in power president trump and his band of breitbart neo-conservatives.

since then, it seems that every day, there is new turmoil. currently, palestine has declared three days of rage following trump’s decision to recognize jerusalem as the capital of israel. north korea has made increasingly brazen strides in its military capabilities, catalonia’s independence referendum spurred a spanish government crackdown on the self-governed province, and germany’s government is at a standstill following failed coalition talks. in the meanwhile, southern california is literally in flames and the us senate may soon count a pedophile in its ranks, a man supported by the republican party despite highly credible allegations about his crimes against teenage girls.

it is exhausting to follow world events these days because each seems so significant, and yet the deluge is so quick and vicious, it is impossible to give each adequate attention. my fellow classmates and I often discuss our frustration about having to take a step back and observe for the next three years, and hope that the reasons that we chose to go back to school are not irreparably damaged by the time we graduate.

washington d.c. feels unusually quiet today. the falling snow, the muted sounds and colors of winter seem more calming than ever before. this morning, I rolled out some quick chocolate sablés, aptly named “world peace cookies” by dorie greenspan, for an upcoming christmas cookie exchange. and I took a walk through the admittedly wet snow (d.c. is still too warm for any snow to stick) and hoped for more peaceful days ahead.

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makes 28-36 cookies

170g (1 1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
28g (1/3 cup) unsweeted cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
155g (1 stick + 3 tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
134g (2/3 cups) packed light brown sugar
50g (1/4) white sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
142 (5oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into irregular bits (I usually just use bittersweet chocolate chips because I’m lazy)

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

1 sift the flour, cocoa, and baking soda together.
2 working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars together on medium speed until soft, creamy, and homogenous (~3 minutes).*
3 beat in the salt and vanilla. turn off the mixer, add all the dry ingredients and pulse a few times to start the blending. when the risk of flying flour has passed, turn the mixer to low and beat until the dough forms big, moist curds. toss in the chocolate pieces and mix to incorporate.
4 turn the dough out onto a work surface and gather it together, kneading it if necessary to bring it together. (sometimes it comes together easily, and other times it’s a bit more crumbly – this is fine! just knead until it comes together.) divide the dough in half.
5 shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. wrap the logs in plastic wrap and freeze for at 2 hours, or refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
6 center a rack in the oven and preheat to 325ºF. line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
7 using a long, sharp knife, slice the dough into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. (if the dough cracks, just press back together.) arrange the rounds on baking sheets, leaving ~2 inches between them.
8 bake for 12 minutes (do not open the oven during baking). transfer baking sheet to a cooling rack and let cookies rest until they are just warm/room temperature. cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days, or can be frozen, well-wrapped, for up to 2 months.

*I’ve made this recipe with a hand mixer and stand mixer and both turned out well, though the stand mixer consistently results in a smoother, less grainy cookie.

zucchini bread

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baking has always been my stress reliever, and it’s much needed this week. I’ve had two zucchinis languishing in my fridge for a while, and figured I’d kill two birds with one stone and bake them into something. I have to say, zucchini bread does not fill me with the same joy that banana bread does (which may be why it’s taken me a while to get around to baking this loaf), but this recipe by tartine bakery, made with apricot preserves, is delightful, a lighter loaf that pairs wonderfully with black tea.

I will also say I did find that I had used a lot of kitchen gear at the end of this recipe – three bowls, one box grater, wooden spoon, whisk, and liquid measuring cup, and all of my cup, tablespoon and teaspoon measurements. normally, doing dishes is also a relaxing activity, and late last night, I suppose it was…relaxing…mostly tiring. anyways, I did sleep better than I have in a while last night!


makes one 9•5-in loaf

270g (1 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp vegetable oil
150g (3/4 cup) sugar
115g (1/2 cup) apricot preserves (or orange marmalade)
285g (2 1/2 cup) grated zucchini
1/2 tsp salt
115g (1 cup) walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp sugar for dusting

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

1 preheat oven to 350ºF. lightly grease a 9x5in loaf pan and line with parchment paper.
2 in a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. set aside.
3 in another mixing bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and fluffy (~5 minutes). (if using a handheld mixer, the same step will take ~8 minutes.)
4 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. add the marmalade, grated zucchini, and salt, and beat on low until just combined.
5 using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture and nuts into the egg mixture until thoroughly combined. no flour streaks should be visible, and the nuts should be evenly distributed. pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. sprinkle evenly with sugar.
6 bake for 60-70 minutes, until golden brown on top and center springs back when pressed. let cool on the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes, then remove it from the pan to finish cooling.
7 the zucchini bread can be stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

*the batter must be baked immediately after mixing. otherwise, the sugar with macerate with the zucchini, pull out all the moisture, and make the batter very watery.

banana bread

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at home, taped to the inside of the spice cupboard are old, yellowed magazine pages and memo notes holding the baked recipes of my childhood. I have often read through the one for popovers and one for banana bread. the banana bread recipe is particularly dear to my family – it comes from my mother’s old college friend, aunt phuong.

when I was younger, we used to visit aunt phuong often for dinner parties and holiday get-togethers. I always looked forward to the loaves of banana bread, sometimes studded with chocolate chips, sometimes laced with shredded carrots, always perfectly moist and suffused with strong banana flavor. for some reason, we could never make it as well as my aunt did, so it remained a treat enjoyed only at her house, and over time, it faded into a cherished childhood memory.

years later, while in college, I saw my aunt again and had a slice of her banana bread. it was delicious, a simple, kitchen sink kind of banana bread stuffed with walnuts and chocolate chips, shredded carrots and coconut flakes. as I ate, I felt a pang of nostalgia, but was reminded again how much my tastes had changed since I was a child.

I once thought that nothing would ever be too sweet for me. but these days, I find myself gravitating towards lighter recipes, searching for ones where a splash of salt or a swirl of sour cream cuts through the sweetness. my aunt’s banana bread was still perfect – still so ridiculously easy to make, still a huge crowdpleaser over a decade later, but I could no longer devour half a loaf as I did when I was young.

I never thought I’d find a banana bread to rival the one my aunt made. but one day, while in my favorite boston bakery, flour, I ended up sampling a little square of banana bread. it had just a bit of a tang, which I later found out comes from crème fraîche, the perfect reconciliation between my grown-up tastes and childhood memories. with an hour-long baking time, it’s a bit of a long project, but absolutely worth it in the end, perfect for late night baking and lazy sunday brunches.

makes one 9•5-in  loaf

210 g (1 1/2 cups) flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
230 g sugar (1 cup plus 2 tbsp) sugar
2 eggs
100 g (1/2 cup) canola oil
3 1/2 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (1 1/3 cups mashed or ~340 g)
2 tbsp crème fraîche or sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
75 g (3/4 cup) walnut halves, chopped

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

1 position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325ºF. butter a 9×5 loaf pan and line with parchment paper.
2 in a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. set aside.
3 using a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment, beat together the sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and fluffy (~5 minutes). (if using a handheld mixer, the same step will take ~8 minutes.)
4 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. add the bananas, crème fraîche, and vanilla and continue to mix on low speed until just combined.
5 using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture and nuts into the egg mixture until thoroughly combined. no flour streaks should be visible, and the nuts should be evenly distributed. pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.
6 bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, until golden brown on top and the center springs back when pressed. let cool on the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes, then remove it from the pan to finish cooling.
7 the banana bread can be stored tightly wrapped at room temperature for up to 3 days, and can be stored frozen for up to 2 weeks.