The Actual Best Challah

Much as it pains my snobby little heart to admit it, there are some foods that are better purchased than made from scratch. Pumpkin purée, for instance, is a huge pain in the ass to make yourself, and the stringy, wet pulp you end up with likely won’t match the best canned stuff in taste or texture. I’ve never had great success with homemade pickles, which I can’t seem to get quite as snappy or deeply flavored as the best full-sours from Shelsky’s or Katz’s. And though I’ve baked billions (rough estimate) of loaves of bread over the past few years, I’ve never quite managed to craft a sandwich loaf that perfectly apes the best store-bought stuff—springy and tender and sturdy enough to stand up to a mountain of toppings, all at once.

But challah? As someone who’s made, purchased, and eaten countless versions over the course of the past nearly 30 (gulp) years, I can say with great confidence that the recipe I’m about to describe actually is the best one out there—better than your mom’s, better than your bakery’s, and certainly better than the sad, shrink-wrapped kind they serve at your local oneg. Continue reading

Popovers

There are a few things I remember vividly about the colleges I visited with my dad when I was a junior in high school—the half-appealing, half-terrifying isolation of remote, gorgeous Cornell; the oppressive tininess of Williamstown, Massachusetts (“Some of our students live off campus,” our tour guide told us. Then: “This is the street where they live”); the awe I felt the first time I saw Low Library, a pagan temple plucked out of ancient Greece and plunked into the upper reaches of Manhattan.

I don’t recall much about the food we ate along the way, with one major exception: after touring quaint, bucolic Amherst, we stopped at a charming little restaurant that was famous for its popovers. (Turns out it’s called Judie’s, and it’s still there.) I had never had a popover before; I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know what a popover was. But I fell in love as soon as I bit into my first one—still warm from the oven, perfectly golden brown, crisp on the outside with an interior that felt lighter than air. Continue reading

French Toast, 3 Ways

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[This week’s post is brought to you by Leslie Mann in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.]

What do you do when you’ve got a week off between jobs, a battered old cookbook that holds three separate recipes for French toast, a schedule that’s completely sapped your ability to sleep in, and a type-A personality that makes you slightly nuts because, again, you’ve got a week off between jobs?

You make French toast, my friends. You make it aaaallll the different ways. Continue reading

Monkey Bread

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This, my friends, is how you end Passover with a bang.

I didn’t grow up on monkey bread. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of it until the first time I read Nonnie’s cookbook cover to cover. According to my mom, it was one of Nonnie’s specialties, a party trick she’d break out for special occasions — and one of the recipes Mom only made herself once or twice, since it allegedly never turned out to be as good as her own mother’s.

So: What the hell is monkey bread? The answer depends on who you ask. Continue reading