Well, the Times agrees: babka is worth the effort, just like I wrote
about the other day. The crumbs from my efforts have long since been swept away, but the memory lingers; I think I’ll be baking another few loaves in the coming weeks.
For oh, delicious holidays, you are here at last! I know I moan and groan a bit about the stress of the season, but really I should stop. There are pretty white lights in the trees all along Fillmore Street and Divis, and it’s not even the Solstice yet; they make me inexplicably happy, even as I’m still a bit wistful for summer’s long, slow afternoons.
The other night because of the rain it got dark before 5p and I winced. But we need the rain — the high mountains need the snow (all the better for ski trips in January, you know), my beloved West County hills need to lose their unfashionable brown attire, and the reservoirs need to be filled up again. So I will bite my tongue and try not to complain too much about winter, and the wet.
Also needed at this time of year are pretty poinsettia plants, dinners by candle light, potato pancakes, and matzo ball soup (which — come on now — is always in season). The favorite Jewish holiday for this very non-Jewish girl is Chanukah, of course, and if you know anything at all about me you’ll know why: Latkes. I dearly love potatoes, and I love them even better when they’re fried into crisp little morsels that are the perfect vehicle for a blend of ketchup, apple sauce, and sour cream.
Last year I made sufganiot, or “Chanukah donuts;” this year time and inclination did not allow, but I thought about them all the same and, alas, wish I’d made them after all. So it goes. Luckily, I have a delicious slice of pumpkin-walnut bread to tide me over and make up for what will be an admittedly lackluster lunch. I call it ‘lackluster’ because I’m dreaming of latkes, and nothing else will suffice.
Can you feel the yummy latke-love? I’m sending a little bit your way.
Potato latkes, adapted from allrecipes.com
3 large baking potatoes, peeled
3 Tbs. grated onion
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup cilantro
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
1. In a food processor or on a box grater, coarsely shred the potato and onion. Transfer to a colander and squeeze dry. Let stand a few minutes, then squeeze dry again. Transfer the potato mixture to a large bowl. Add the flour, egg, salt and pepper, and cilantro and stir to combine.
2. In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil until shimmering. Drop packed teaspoons of the potato mixture into the skillet and flatten them with the back of a spoon. Cook the latkes over moderately high heat until the edges are golden, about 1 1/2 minutes; flip and cook until golden on the bottom, about 1 minute. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture, adding more oil to the skillet as needed.
Serve hot, with lots of sour cream, apple sauce, and ketchup.
Sufganiot (Jelly Donuts), from A Mighty Appetite
2 tablespoons active dry yeast (or 2 envelopes)
4 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus sugar for rolling
¾ cup water or milk, warmed to 105-110 degrees
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1 /2 tablespoons unsalted butter (Margarine for Kosher; I may also try soy shortening here)
About 1 quart vegetable oil
About ½ cup seedless jam – plum, apicot, raspberry, blueberry
1. Sprinkle yeast and 2 tablespoons of the sugar over the warmed water or milk and with a fork, mix to dissolve. Allow to get foamy, at least five minutes.
2. In a large mixing bowl, make a well in the center with flour. Add yeast mixture, yolks, salt, cinnamon, butter and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. With hands, mix to combine and turn out onto lightly floured work susrface. Knead about 5 minutes, ensuring that butter is integrated, and dough is elastic.
3. Put dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic and place in refrigerator, allowing it to rise overnight.
4. Dust work surface with flour. Remove dough from refrigerator and allow to warm up slightly. With hands, press dough and rotate in circular fashion, until you arrive at 1/8 inch thickness. Using a 2-inch cookie cutter, cut out circles. Cover with a cloth towel and allow dough circles to rise for an additional 15 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, pour oil into a heavy-bottomed pot and heat until very hot, about 375 degrees (check this with a food thermometer).
6. With your hand, form dough circles into balls. Gently drop dough into oil, 4 or 5 at a time, using a slotted spoon. When golden brown, turn dough on other side. Doughnuts will cook in under five minutes. Drain on paper towels.
7. With a paring knife, make a slit on the side of each doughnut. Using a pastry bag fitted with a “800 series” tip, add a teaspoon of jam at a time, and fill slit with jam. Roll doughnut into a bowl of granulated sugar.
Note: I served the donuts with a little bowl of jam and a large bowl of whipped cream alongside, rather than attempting to insert the jam as earlier attempts to do so had, um, failed.