Spiced cinnamon sugar breakfast puffs

December 20, 2011 § 24 Comments

On the off chance that your holiday breakfast plan is not yet inscribed in stone; in case you aren’t already bound and determined to have a strata, or frittata, or sticky buns, or perhaps puffy pancakes or spoon bread; or maybe you’d like to just add some icing to your giant, decadent, multi-course holiday brunch cake; well then dear friends, may I venture a suggestion.

I actually feel a bit ashamed that I’ve been holding this recipe from you for so long.  It’s a recipe that may, in fact, deserve a little shouting from the rooftops.  And, it’s a recipe with a history, which means stories.

I didn’t know any of the stories when I first started baking the original version (this is a wholly different iteration, but we’ll get to that later), I just knew that I had the recipe copied down on an index card from my friend, and I had labeled it “breakfast puffs.”

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Cardamom-currant snickerdoodles

November 29, 2010 § 9 Comments

It will come as a surprise to no one when I say that marriage, it turns out, involves negotiations.  Not the least of which is where to spend holidays.  We are lucky in that both of us really like both our parents and our in-laws, but in a way it makes it almost harder because both of us would love to spend the holidays with the others’ family while at the same time we’re each devastated by the thought of missing a holiday with our own.  It’s a win-win-lose-lose situation!  This year the solution is to spend Thanksgiving with Joel’s family and Christmas with mine (which does mean we’ll be missing the Chanukah party with the painfully inept magician.  Sigh.).  And we discovered this weekend that this also translates into getting to participate in the sparkles and lights of Christmas festivities twice!

I swear, we had no sooner wiped the crumbs of turkey and cranberry sauce from our lips and tossed our napkins onto the table with little groans of satisfaction, when a faint ring of jingle-bells began to tingle-lingle in the air.  And the soundtrack (yes, this would be the soundtrack in my mind) crescendoed until the strains of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” burst onto the scene.  The weather in Washington cooperated with gusto, dropping a foot and a half of snow over a couple of days, turning the city into a giant snow globe, and enabling us to cross-country ski through the streets, waving at the cheery red-cheeked neighbors and the children out sledding.  (Seriously, it was like someone decided we should spend the weekend in a Holiday greeting card.)  There were presents to be selected and given.  A chimeric Christmas-tree-Chanukah-bush to be cut down and trimmed.  Carols to be sung.  White Christmas to be watched.  And, of course, cookies to be baked.

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Boller med rosiner (cardamom raisin buns)

March 22, 2010 § 49 Comments

You know how some foods, with one bite or even sniff, can plunge you instantly into a different time and place, immersing you in memories and a flood of sensations beyond just the surface sensory experience of eating that food?  More than any other food, boller do that for me.  The spicy smell of cardamom as I break one open, the pillowy soft texture, the mild sweetness and the bursts of plump raisins as  I eat one, conjures up granite rocks warm from the sun under foot and the salty cold north sea splashing up into my face.  I’m a little girl, scrambling in the mountains of Norway and playing on the beach, swimming and fishing for crabs.  My mom, sitting with an ever present cup of coffee, has just called to us that she has brought boller with her, and we can have a snack if we’re hungry.

Boller are one of the most common and beloved snacks in Norway.  Kind of as chocolate chip cookies are to Americans, boller are to Norwegians.  But, given the choice between a bolle and a chocolate cookie, I’d take the bolle any day!  They are a milk based bread, so they are very soft and chewy.  They’re slightly sweet, but not overly sweet like so many American baked goods are.  And, they are lightly scented with cardamom, the most delicious spice in the whole world, so how can you go wrong?  You can find them fresh baked daily in any bakery and even any gas station.  You can also buy bags of them in the grocery store, which is very convenient for taking to the beach. (Yes, there are beaches in Norway, and as soon as it’s sunny and above 65F it’s a national duty to start tanning!)

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Productive Procrastination – Bagels

March 15, 2010 § 6 Comments

On Friday I sat staring at my computer, willing my work to do itself.  To no avail, unfortunately.  I was working on the final edits to a scientific paper that I had to resubmit to a journal.  The deadline?  Saturday.  I had been given three months to finish the edits.  When had I finally sat down to work on it?  Friday.  Of course.  Such is the life of a procrastinator.  I was even excited by the stuff the paper was about (though the fastest way to turn a fascinating subject into an eye-glazing snooze fest is to write it in scientific paper form!).  It’s just that every time I set aside time to work on it, I somehow found something else to do.

Some of my best friends are amazing non-procrastinators, but my overall impression is that at least 87-93% (my randomly generated estimate) of the population are perennial procrastinators.  I think there’s simply something about human nature that gravitates in that direction.  Maybe we follow the same physical laws as enzymes, that is, the energy it takes to start something is huge, and usually disproportionate in comparison with the task itself.  I’ve heard (and even expounded) theories about how creative/perfectionistic types of people tend to procrastinate more because we are daunted by our own vision and high expectations.  Hmmmm.  I’d like to flatter myself that this is the case with me, but who knows.  At least I can say, however, that my procrastination often takes a productive form.  It turns out I would rather mop the floor and clean the sink (though not do laundry!) than certain parts of my work (usually involving statistics).  Most often though, when I really ought to be working, I find that I have a sudden uncontrollable desire to cook something.  How handy.

On Friday, as I looked through the editor’s comments, the only thing I could think about was bagels.  I’m not even usually a bagel kind of gal.  But, visions of fresh, chewy, raisin studded rings kept rolling through my imagination until I couldn’t take it any more.  On went the apron.  Out came the flour and the yeast.

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Spicy gingerbread cake for rainy day baking

October 4, 2009 § Leave a comment

Like most (though not all) of the known universe, I am a sucker for baked goods, and I have a definite sweet tooth.  This is the main reason I don’t bake very much at all – if I don’t bake it, I won’t have it around to eat.  If I do bake it, I try to wrap up at least half of it in tinfoil and a ziplock and put it in the freezer immediately, so it’s not readily available.  (But it defrosts quite nicely if I need it)  Doing this, like getting half of your restaurant meal wrapped up before you even start eating, is one of those obnoxious health-fanatic pieces of advice that we hear over and over again and that can turn out to be surprisingly difficult to put into practice (not to mention kind of annoying, I mean, who wants to be that person).  But, study after study shows that if a food is right there you’re far more likely to eat it, even if you’re not hungry.  And, the more food you have around you the more you’ll eat.  Interestingly, willpower has almost nothing to do with it!  This is because willpower comes from the conscious control part of our brain, while our response to the sight and smell of food in front of us happens in the part of our brain we have no control over.  Our biology is set up so that if there is more food and a greater variety around, we actually physically have to eat more in order to feel satisfied!  This means that the claim food companies make that eating should be only about personal responsibility, so they shouldn’t be regulated, is a bunch of hooey.  But, in places where we do have control, for example what foods we keep around in our house, it makes it all the more important to focus on good, real foods. « Read the rest of this entry »

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