Honey Cake

honey cake!
honey cake!

I’ve had a cold for the past few days (probably picked up some gunk on the plane ride back), so we pushed our Rosh Hashanah celebratory meal to tonight. A little Braisin’ History—I made honey cake for the first time in 2012, from a recipe on smitten kitchen. It tuned out well that year, but I had moved by the time Rosh Hashanah rolled around in 2013, and I was not yet familiar with how my new oven worked—or rather, how it didn’t. That apartment had a terrible oven. It was at least 75 degrees off, and it would shut off whenever it felt it was approaching a workable temperature. So I baked the cake for the specified amount of time, and then it was raw. As I attempted to get it to a less-gooey state, I managed to burn the edges. I took the failure into work the next day in the hopes that someone would eat it. I ended up throwing most of it away at lunch.

This is not that honey cake, however! This turned out lovely! This is a new recipe I got from the New York Times. It calls for a lot of red wine, olive oil, and (of course) honey. The plum and thyme garnish is really something. I altered a couple things slightly from Melissa Clark’s recipe.

2 1/2 cups AP flour (300 grams)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp ground ginger
3 large eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cups olive oil
1 cup honey
3/4 cup red wine
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
Baker’s Joy or nonstick spray+flour, to prep the bundt pan

3 plums
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
pinch lemon zest

Heat oven to 350, and prep the bundt pan with Baker’s Joy or grease+flour combo.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.

In another large bowl, whisk eggs until frothy. Whisk in sugar, oil, honey, wine, and the fresh ginger until well combined. Stir in dry ingredients and mix until just combined (no pockets of flour remaining, but don’t overwork the batter).

Pour batter into pan and bake until springy to the touch and a cake tester comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes, then unmold the cake (be brave!) and let cool completely.

While the cake is cooling, make the garnish. Chop up the plums and mix with the honey, thyme, and lemon zest. Macerate for at least 30 minutes.

Slice cake, top with garnish.

Chipotle-Maple Sweet Potatoes with Spiced Pecans

This is what I ended up putting together as our sweet potato dish for Thanksgiving. One word of advice: if you have leftovers, I wouldn’t recommend keeping the pecans on top. They get soft and sad. Scrape them off and just eat them. Then the next time you serve them, chop up some more and re-top.

between 3 and 3.5 pounds sweet potatoes/garnet yams, peeled and cubed
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup cream
1 Tbsp maple syrup, grade B
1 tsp chipotle powder (or 1 canned chipotle pepper, minced + 1 tsp adobo sauce from the can)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 to 1 cup Spiced Pecans, chopped (depends on the surface area on top of your serving dish how much you’ll need to cover it)

First, make the Spiced Pecans (it says you can use any mixture of nuts in that recipe—for this application, just use pecans).

Steam sweet potatoes in a steamer basket over simmering water for 20 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. (This took me two rounds, but you might be better at fitting in all the sweet potato cubes.)

Empty into a bowl and add the butter and cream. Mash with a potato masher. With a large spatula or spoon, fold in the maple syrup, chipotle, and salt. Taste and adjust for seasonings (not just salt, but the chipotle as well—these aren’t super-spicy, so you can totally add more).

Transfer the sweet potatoes to a serving dish and sprinkle an even layer of pecans on top.

Roasted Creamed Onions

[image: creamed onions]
[image: creamed onions]

This may be my family’s greatest Thanksgiving dish. It is annoying to make but so great to eat. Do not wimp out and use frozen pearl onions. No good. Those bags of pearl onions you see in the store? Don’t use those, either. They are too small and it’ll take forever to prep enough to make a full dish. Cipollini onions are an okay-ish option, but they don’t roll properly and therefore won’t brown evenly. What you really want, and what are increasingly difficult to find (at least in our area), are “boiling” onions, which are white, round, and about 1″-1.5″ in diameter. Good luck.

My parents got the casserole dish we’re serving this in back in the 70s. It’s beautifully retro. C is not for Cookie. It is for Casserole!

[image: casserole dish]
[image: casserole dish]

2 lbs. whole white boiling onions (1-1.5″ in diameter)
Olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup water
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 Tbsp butter
like a quart of heavy cream

Drop the onions into rapidly boiling water for 1 minute. Shallowly trim the root end, squeeze the onion out the root end (they’ll pop out once you apply enough pressure, be quick catching them!), then trim the top and cut an X 1/4″ deep into the root (this keeps them from bursting throughout the rest of the cooking).

Heat the oven to 350. Toss the peeled onions in olive oil to coat and sprinkle with salt. Put them in a roasting pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Roast onions until they are tender, 30–45 minutes (really depends on the size of the onions, though). Check for doneness with a sharp paring knife. Every 10–15 minutes, roll onions around so they get browned evenly.

Place the cooked onions in a frying pan or saute pan large enough to hold them in one layer. Add sugar, white wine, water, and butter. Reduce this to a syrupy state, rolling the onions around to glaze. When reduced, add the cream and thyme. The cream should come halfway up the sides of the onions (this usually takes about a quart for us, it may be more or less depending on the size of the onions and the size of the pan). Simmer until the cream reduces to a sauce-like consistency. Discard the thyme and adjust seasoning (it will definitely need more salt by this point).

Note: can be made a day ahead and gently rewarmed. If the cream sauce becomes too thick, add a little more cream to thin it out (probably could use milk or half and half by this point if you’re out of cream).

Thanksgiving Prep

Like many Americans, I have spent the past few days shopping for Thanksgiving ingredients. My dad’s trying out a new preparation for the turkey (the house is already awash in the smell of roasting turkey bits for stock and gravy—he’s got it in the oven overnight), my mom has exhausted every single store in the region trying to find the perfect size and shape onions, and I’m girding myself to try out a new sweet potato dish this year.

I really like sweet potatoes (garnet yams, whatever), as long as you keep them away from that goddamn marshmallow topping. I like my sweet potatoes spiced up with chipotle peppers! You may recall that for several years I attempted to make a perfect version of this Bobby Flay recipe, which my parents ate at his Vegas restaurant. At the restaurant, they received a perfect pie-like slice with perfect layers that stayed together beautifully. My version… oof. Time and time again I tried, and time and time again I ended up with a goopy broken sauce, oceans of oil sitting on top, and an upset stomach. Slices? Layers? Ha! It still tastes pretty good, but the presentation is seriously awful.

Last year I gave up and made Alton Brown’s chipotle smashed sweet potatoes. It was fine but not particularly revelatory. It was just fine.

This year, I’m going to try something weird—maybe. I’m going to do a dry run of a recipe tomorrow morning, and if it turns out well, I’ll do a full version for Thanksgiving. If not, well, my brother wants me to give the Bobby Flay version another go, but I don’t know if my digestion can handle it. Seriously we just have way too much heavy cream in everything, and I will give up my sweet potato recipe long, long before I say goodbye to my mom’s creamed onions. Those are my #1 Thanksgiving Must-Eat Dish.

(My other Thanksgiving prep today was putting a basecoat on my fingernails and picking out all the most harvest-y colors in my nail polish collection. Holiday manicure!)

Zingerman’s Peppered Pecans

12 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper (or more)
1 1/4 tsp fine sea salt (I used 2 tsp kosher salt)
2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of ground cardamom
2 large egg whites
2 pounds raw pecan halves

Heat the oven to 325. In a large bowl, stir together the butter, sugar, pepper, salt, and spice (a pastry blender works well for this if your butter’s not quite at room temperature). Add the egg white and mix well. Add the pecans and mix thoroughly to coat well.

Spread the spice-coated nuts in a large roasting pan (or deep jelly-roll pan). Roast for 18 to 25 minutes, or until they are toasted through, turning every 5 minutes or so with a spatula.

Remove from the oven and continue turning every five minutes until the nuts reach room temperature. Will keep in airtight containers for 4 to 6 weeks.

Death By Broccoli

A recipe from Karen F.

6-7 heads of broccoli, florets only, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb. Velveeta
8 oz. Ritz crackers, crushed
2 sticks butter, melted and separated

Unwrap the Velveeta and freeze. This is the most important step. Once frozen, shred.

Blanch the broccoli for 60-90 seconds in boiling water, then plunge into ice water. Dry thoroughly. This is the second most important step.

Heat the oven to 350. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the broccoli, Velveeta, and half of the butter (it’s a little tricky stirring it in the baking dish, but if you don’t want to dirty another bowl, go ahead). Empty the broccoli mixture into the baking dish. In the same bowl, mix the crushed Ritz crackers with the other half of the butter. Spread evenly over the top of the broccoli.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until brown and bubbly. You’ll hate yourself by loving it.