tahdig shakshuka

With the way that people talk about making tahdig, you’d think that they were talking about reading Ulysses or something. Not that I would really know for sure since I am about 100% positive that I will die without having read Ulysses but I’ve felt the size of it and I’ve heard Eggboy talk about it and at this moment in time that is the best comparison I can think of because both require time and patience, and 30% of the time, you fail. 

When you do succeed though you’re rewarded, of course. Not necessarily with fireworks and instagrammability, but with satisfaction and maybe some street cred?? They’re beasts. One would take me 10 years to finish, another, it turns out, you can do in an evening so long as you focus and have the right tools.

Tahdig is a Persian dish that consists of the crispy layer of rice that forms at the bottom of the pot. It’s often flavored with saffron and can also be made with vegetables or bread. It is so good and I can’t believe it took me until 2017 to make it for the first time. I think I first heard about it from Naz at the Saveur awards back in 2014. I remember her talking about how much patience you need to make it and how exciting it is when it works. I love her post about Tahdig, where she compares it to a coy lover. Ok maybe that’s better than Ulysses. A while back in New York, a few friends attempted it for our Shabbat potluck but I remember them not being so satisfied with how it turned out. It’s just so hard to tell when the crispiness forms and then once you flip it out, I don’t think you can crisp it up anymore. In Berlin, Sophie and Xenia turned out like 12 perfect Tahdigs in a row, it was super human and they all looked like gorgeous yellow cakes destined to sop up short rib juices. Shortly thereafter I had a miniature tahdig at Zahav with their legendary braised lamb, and then finally it was time to make it at home. 

It was not a total failure but, you’ve seen my little stove coils, they can only heat so much and tahdig requires a very even heating element. So I tried it out in my mini cocottes and it worked for a few but then got fussy when I tried to make 30 of them for a dinner party. It was actually really traumatizing and I didn’t make tahdig for a long time after that. I kind of came to the conclusion that my go-to cast iron pots weren’t necessarily the right option for tahdig and started creeping around the internet for alternatives. Anytime tahdig would come up on my IG feed, I’d kind of stalk the account to see if they posted the pot they made it in…

And then a few months ago Alana started raving about her GreenPans and how nonsticky and easy to clean they were (I think she has become my new kitchenware curator btw), so when GreenPan got in touch to work on this post I figured I’d better at least try a Tahdig in one before making any decisions, so I did and guess what! I nailed it the first time. And the second, third, etc., etc. The coating on the pans is not only so nonsticky that the tahdig practically slides out of the pan and into my mouth, but it also heats so evenly that I can use their 12” pan on my 8” coil and still get an evenly yellow saffrony ghee-y crust. And it doesn’t contain the crusty nonstick stuff that peels off and kills u. I am hella sold. (the pan i'm using is part of their 10th anniversary set and it's on sale rn!) I know Alana likes making eggs in them and now that it’s fall I’d like to try making caramel for my apples in them but for now I’m just really glad to have filled the void in my life that was a perfect Tahdig pan.

Let’s talk about why this Tahdig is different from all other Tahdigs: In a shakshuka-inspired move, it’s got poached eggs all up in it. “Just because it has poached eggs doesn’t make it a shakshuka” wrote Jeff after I IG-ed it. It spurred a long argument that is still not over. He thinks it is more similar to Maqluba and that shakshuka requires a sauce. My argument was that even though most shakshukas have tomato sauce, shakshuka isn't required to have tomatoes or even a sauce (see: green shakshuka). darya said it might be similar to mirza ghasemi! which i've never had but sounds delicious. What do you think? I love shakshuka and I also love this dish and definitely feel like shakshuka doesn’t really need to have tomato sauce… but… tomato tomahto? 

This dish is crispy rice, eggs, and a party full of toppings. I basically just pulled a bunch of pretty things from my garden and threw them on top. I would def recommend topping this with at least pickled onions, fresh lemon juice, herbs, and tomatoes if you have them. Feta was also great! But you can really go wild and use whatever toppings you have on hand. This recipe makes a big batch and is perfect for a brunch party. And seriously with an even nonstick pan like this one, you can go confidently in the direction of tahdig, even on your first try.


tahdig shakshuka

makes 6 servings

ingredients

540g basmati rice

kosher salt

1/8 tsp saffron

3 tb ghee

6 eggs

for topping: black pepper, crushed red pepper, fresh basil and mint, pickled onions, lemon wedges, feta, chopped scallions, chopped tomatoes, other herbs/cheeses/sauces as desired

Clues

In a large bowl, cover the rice with enough water so that it comes up a couple inches above the rice and soak for 30 minutes. Drain the rice and then rinse it well. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Boil the rice until it’s soft on the outside but still has a bite on the inside, about 4-5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking. 

Crush the saffron using a mortar and pestle and then dissolve it in 3 tablespoons boiling water. 

Heat a 12” lidded nonstick Greenpan over medium high heat and add the ghee and the saffron water and swirl it around so it coats the pan evenly. Add the rice and pack it down firmly with the back of a spatula, making a pyramid shape in the center. Use the handle of a spatula to poke a few holes in the rice, stopping right before you get to the very bottom of the rice. Carefully cover the skillet with a clean dish towel and then the lid, folding the corners of the towel up around the lid so they don’t touch the stove (if you’re working with a gas range, you may want to fold the towel up around the lid before putting it on the skillet to be extra careful that your towel doesn’t get in the flame). Cook on medium high for 30 minutes and then reduce the heat to medium low. Carefully uncover the pot, keeping the cover level so that any moisture collected under the towel doesn’t spill out and burn you or fall back into the rice. Using a spoon or spatula, create 6 egg-sized divots about an inch apart and crack in your eggies. Cover (you don’t need the towel for this step) and cook until the whites are cooked but the yolks are still runny. Top with black pepper, crushed red pepper, fresh basil and mint, pickled onions, a few squeezes of lemon juice, feta, chopped scallions, chopped tomatoes, and/or other herbs/cheeses/sauces as desired, and serve immediately. Enjoy! 


Thank you GreenPan for these pans and for sponsoring this post and for making the perfect Tahdig pan! the lidded one pictured is part of their limited edition 10th anniversary 5-piece set ($59.99) which includes a smaller 10” pan, a bamboo spatula, and a recipe book, and all greenpans are 20% off from 9/15-9/24. greenpans have a ceramic nonstick coating, thermolon, that is made from a sand derivative. it is high heat resistant and won’t ever peel off or emit harmful fumes. 

All photos are by Chantell and Brett Quernemoen! 

potato challah

Around this time two years ago I began begging Eggboy for a pet pig for my birthday. I’ve always loved pigs (it goes hand in hand with my marzipan obsession since when I was little I collected marzipan pigs) and after living on a farm for a few years, it seemed like the time was right to get one. 

Ok, but we’re going to name him Potato, said Eggboy.

That’s a cute name!! But why?

So that when we eat him we can just say we’re eating Potato and confuse all of our friends.

😒😒😒😒😒😒

That kind of ended that.

And that’s all I have to say about potatoes at the moment other than that there are real actual potatoes in this challah dough, not pigs. And there are potatoes of an unknown variety growing in our garden! And idk why it took me this long to put mashed potatoes in challah. I loved potato sandwich bread and potato bagels from Einstein growing up because, well you know me, I've always been one for soft doughy bread over a crusty baguette. So this year for Rosh Hashanah when I was having my routine challah brainstorm, my mind went to the humble potato.

If you thought that a perfectly baked loaf of doughy eggy challah could not get any better, well just add a cup of mashed potatoes to your dough and watch it get even softer. And richer! It’s a subtle difference, you can’t really taste potato *flavor*, but eating it is a similar sensation to hugging a friend who you haven’t seen in a while and feeling a stronger, more robust embrace, the kind of arms that make you step back, do a once over, and ask, you been workin out?  

Potato challah is regular challah that has been going to the gym all summer. 

So, you know, the recipe here is not very different from the challah that you were going to make next week. Just do all of us two favors: add mashed potato to the dough, and when proofing the yeast, use the water that you used to boil the potato instead of regular plain jane water. Works like a charm! Sounds like we’re all going to have fabulous New Years. 

Ok so to shape it, you can either just make one huge long snake and coil it up into a round swirly shape, as I’ve done in past years. Or you can make four strands and make a circular braid. It looks a lot more complicated than it really is. I have all of the faith in the world that you can do it. Here is a slower version of the braiding video that I posted on IG the other day. Plz forgive the background banter between chantell, brett, and me. Or just don't turn the sound on haha. My non-existent video editing skills are exactly non-existent: 


potato challah

makes 2 loaves

ingredients

8 oz peeled potatoes, cut into 1” cubes
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp + 2 tb sugar
4 c (504g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp kosher salt
2 large eggs
1/3 c (66g) flavorless oil, like canola or vegetable
2 tb (42g) honey

egg wash + topping:

1 beaten egg
poppy seeds, sesame seeds, other seeds, optional
 

clues

Place the chopped potato in a large pot and cover it with water. Bring to a simmer and cook until a fork pokes easily into the potato, begin checking for doneness at about 10 minutes. Drain the potato, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Let the potato cool, mash it, and set it aside. Once the cooking water has cooled to be warm (about 105º-110ºf), add the yeast and the 1 teaspoon of sugar. Give it a little swirl and let it sit for about 5 minutes, until foamy on top. Meanwhile, in a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, salt, and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, and honey. When the yeast mixture is foamy, add it to the dry mixture, followed by the egg mixture and mashed potatoes. Stir to form a shaggy dough and then either knead it on a clean surface or in the stand mixer, adding flour if it gets too sticky to handle. Knead until the dough is smooth and just slightly sticky, 7-10 minutes. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 1-2 hours. 

Preheat the oven to 375ºf and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Turn the dough out onto a clean surface, divide it into two equal parts, and shape according to the notes and video above. Transfer the loaves to the baking sheets. Cover and let rise for another 30 minutes. Brush the loaves with a light coating of egg wash and sprinkle with seeds, if using. Bake until the loaves are golden brown and have an internal temp of about 190ºf. Begin checking for doneness at 25 minutes. 

Let cool until it is jusssst cool enough that it won’t burn your mouth, then smother it with butter and hope that there will be some left for dinner that night. Hehe. 



oh here are some more challah recipes!! 


-yeh!!!

funfetti amerikaner + molly on the range is out in german!!!!

Heute ist ein fantastischer Tag! Die Deutsche ausgabe von Molly on the Range, “Molly’s Kitchen” wurde heute geboren! Ich bin sehr glüklich! Kauf es hier!

Ok, that’s just about all I got. The other German that remains in my brain is reserved for ordering schnitzel and deciphering what bass drum sticks I’m supposed to use in German music. At one point I definitely could have told you how my day was, what I enjoy doing in my free time, and if I enjoy spaghetti or pizza more, and that point was 10 years ago. But! That doesn’t make me any less excited that Molly on the Range is out in German this week!!!! I would try to say in German that I’m really excited but I seem to remember that if you translate it literally, you actually end up saying that you’re aroused. Or something. Is this true? I don’t want to get into a naughty Ich bin ein Berliner situation. 

If you’ve read the spätzle section in Molly on the Range, you know that my love for German things runs deep. It began with a textbook teenage obsession with Mahler symphonies and a desire to understand all of the schwammschlägelns and langsamers in his music, and led to enrolling in four years of high school German class. It was so fun! I went by the name Ursula. And one schnitzel led to another, and one trip to Berlin with pops led to another with Blue Lake, and even after the excitement of the lower drinking age faded, I kept wanting to go back. I love the accents and the appreciation for opera and that the people I've met there have been so genuine and warm. 

Side note: I’m totally in possession of 10 pounds of haribo gummy bears right now. 

(it is so wild to see Lisel's illos auf Deutsch!!!) 

The first time I traveled to Germany, I got to miss a few days of eighth grade and hang out back stage at the Berlin Philharmonie during my dad’s rehearsals. I remember thinking it was so cool that they sold open faced sandwiches in the lobby and got as many butter and salami ones as I could eat in between movements of Bruckner. The other cool discoveries of this trip were: bienenstich (honey cake), pflaumenkuchen (plum cake-- make this right now before plums go out of season), and Amerikaners. Amerikaners are really similar to black and white cookies in that they’re essentially little flat cakes. They’re very soft, often flavored with a bit of lemon, and rather than having both chocolate and vanilla icing on them, most of the ones I had at bakeries around Berlin just had vanilla. I found a few that had just chocolate and, if my memory serves me correctly, I think I also had some pink ones. I basically lived on Amerikaners, salami sandwiches, and Haribo gummy things during that trip. 

Then the weirdest thing happened this last time that I went to Berlin, back in March, I could not find a single Amerikaner!!! I wouldn’t shut up about them the whole way there and then I dragged Eggboy into every bakery that we passed to try and find one but they were nowhere to be seen and Eggboy thought I was making the whole thing up. WTF!!! So I came home and made a bunch. And funfetti'ed them to celebrate the release of German Molly on the Range (which is actually called Molly's Kitchen since I guess "Range" doesn't really translate into both a farm and a stove...)!! So these are for you, dear German friends!! They are the child of two of my favorite childhood sweets, Amerikaners and Funfetti cake and I am pleased as pflaume to share them with you!!! 

Ooh and stay tuned for a couple more German-American recipe mashups :) 

Here is the link to order Molly’s Kitchen! And if you live in Germany and are like was ist clear imitation vanilla?! here!


funfetti amerikaners

makes 18

ingredients

2 c (254g) all-purpose flour

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 c (113g) unsalted butter, softened

1 c (200g) sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 tsp clear imitation vanilla (or vanilla extract)

1/4 tsp almond extract

1/2 c (113g) whole milk yogurt

1/3 c (64g) rainbow sprinkles, plus more for decorating

 

for the glaze:

2 c (240g) powdered sugar

2 1/2-3 tb whole milk

1/2 tsp clear imitation vanilla (or vanilla extract)

pinch of kosher salt

clues

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder and set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then add the vanilla and almond extracts. Add the yogurt and dry ingredients in 2 or 3 alternating additions and mix until just combined. Fold in the sprinkles by hand. Scoop out 2” blobs of the batter onto the baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake until the bottoms are just beginning to brown, begin checking for doneness at 18 minutes. Let cool on the pans for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the glaze, in a medium bowl, mix together the powdered sugar, 2 1/2 tablespoons milk, vanilla extract, and salt. If it’s too thick to spread, add additional milk a few drops at a time until it's spreadable. Spread the glaze onto the flat side of the Amerikaners and sprinkle with sprinkles. Enjoy!


-yeh!

vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream

(psst... it's a video ☝🏼)

I have formed this dumb awful habit of allowing myself to stay awake in bed. It happens either late at night when I should be falling asleep or at 3am when I wake up and suddenly everything of minor importance appears to be super urgent. The smart thing to do of course is to try to fall asleep just by brute force or by reading one of Eggboy’s books about economics but the thing about having an amorphous work schedule is that at 3am if I suddenly happen upon the need to do some bridesmaid up-do research I can push my alarm back by 30 minutes and dive right down into Instagram. The problem with all of this is that a) I’m exhausted the next day and b) my brain is so mushy at 3am that all of my decisions made at that hour are just bad. Last month I ordered $400 worth of raincoats from my phone just in case the one that Alana got me for Alaska didn’t fit around my thicker than average arms. They were returnable, I reasoned. And in the end it didn’t rain at all on our trip. Last week I made a hair appointment, saved a dozen inspirational photos of ombré balayage, and made a vocabulary list of hair styles to tell my stylist at my appointment, but then woke up and decided to just go full on brunette and then cancelled my appointment. And of course, 100% of my buttercream flower video watching was also in bed when I should have been asleep. 

I am going to get better at this as soon as I understand everything there is to know about butter based cake. 

That’s what keeps me up the most at night lately.

With the exception of funfetti cake, pretty much all of my go-to cakes have been oil-based. They’re very easy, reliable, adaptable, and most importantly, moist. I had no reason to stray from them other than that I woke up a few months ago feeling funny that I wasn’t very familiar with butter cakes, and I also just wanted butter. And some change. So I put my stand mixer to work and tinkered with ratios and different ingredients and sat in the parking lot of the gym googling things that i thought of on the way there like “is there a reason that you shouldn’t use heavy cream in cakes” and made a spreadsheet of every single vanilla cake that I could find. I thought about acidity of sour cream and wrangled with our new oven heating elements that took a few days to even out… It was like being back in music school again, trying to learn a new excerpt. I felt like Rob with his spreadsheets which he used to track every single tempo of every single recording of every single important percussion excerpt.

And I went so crazy that I had to finally download that app where you grow trees if you avoid using your phone for long portions of time. 

You know how you’re not supposed to change a door knob? (Because if you change your door knob you’ll soon feel like you’ll have to re-paint your door and if you re-paint your door you’ll have to paint the room and if you paint the room you’ll have to paint the rest of your house, pretty soon you’re demolishing and building a new home? Or something.) That’s what I feel like I’ve just done. I’ve switched from oil to butter and now because I’ve done that I’ve needed to adjust moisture levels and because I’ve adjusted moisture levels I’ve needed to adjust dry ingredients and eggs and cooking time and approach and vision and values, etc. 

I’m aware that about ten thousand vanilla cupcake recipes exist.

But I also have this hunch that my ideal moisture level of a cake is on the very high side, and that’s what’s shaping my every move. I want a moist cake that has been lifting some weights. Moist, dense, soft cake. Like if these slipper socks were a cake. Not some airy light dainty pantyhose situation. There’s a time and a place for pantyhose cake, and in my life, that’s Passover in the 90s. 

So the name of the game became cramming fat into every possible orifice of this thing, without it deflating. Too much fat will destroy a cake’s structure, it will deflate. Too much liquid will also make it deflate. But of course not enough fat will make it dry. So I drew the conclusion that a moist enough cake will deflate just slightly when it comes out of the oven, making it have a flat top or just a slight divot when it’s cooled. It does not need to have a nice dome. It does not need to be pretty, it just needs to be moist. 

So I collected all of the fats:

butter (for flavor, duh)

and it’s european style butter (which has 2% more fat than traditional butter, cha-ching)

refined coconut oil (for additional moisture)*

heavy cream (fat and liquid)**

sour cream (for more richness)***

*since the coconut oil is solid at room temperature, it gives it slightly more structure than canola oil. You can use unrefined if you like a hint of coconut flavor. And if you don’t have coconut oil, using canola oil will indeed work.

**heavy cream adds tons of fat and richness, which is what we’re going for. But it adds so much fat that it makes the structure a little on the edge of stability. There’s enough stability in this batter for cupcakes, but not so much for full layer cakes. We’re going to talk about layered butter cakes in a later post. This recipe will also work with whole milk! Using heavy cream will make it richer, but if whole milk is what you have, that's ok. 

***I wouldn’t make you clear out the dairy aisle if it weren’t for a good reason. The difference that sour cream makes in this cake is like the difference between the flannel-lined duck boots and the shearling-lined duck boots. You are reading the blog of a shearling-lined duck boot owner. (You could sub this for plain whole milk yogurt. It will be just slightly less rich than using sour cream.)

And put them in with some flour (all-purpose, not cake flour because I prefer the denser texture of all-purpose), sugar, eggies (I didn’t go down the road of adding single yolks, which, yes, will add richness, but I just have this thing right now where I'm trying to avoid using only part of the egg), vanilla, and for some of the tests, almond extract, which I sometimes enjoy in a vanilla world. 

I went through dozens of tests (most of which were right before the Eggsis wedding which provided 320 taste testers and some of which are still in my deep freeze… would you like some cupcakes?) and came up with a cupcake recipe that I am so very happy with!! It has all of the moist/dense qualities that I was going for, and even after all of this taste testing, I still make audible “mmmmm” sounds when I have a bite. 

I have one major takeaway that doesn’t have to do with ingredients at all though, and that’s that you cannot let these over bake. Over-baking, even by like 30 seconds, will dry these out. So use an oven thermometer, begin checking them when I say, and when your cakes are thinking about starting to brown, and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs on it, take em out. 

Let them cool.

And then frost them with a good American buttercream that uses a good European style butter. Because, again, we want more fat.

Sprinkles ad infinitum.

Ok I’m done. 

For now. Because part two of this saga is that we make a layer cake.

Thank you so much, Land O' Lakes, for sponsoring this post and for providing all of the butter for the endless test batches that were required for this recipe! Land O' Lakes® European Style Butter has a fat content of 82%, 2% more than traditional butter in the states, so it has more flavor and a creamier texture. It makes a great moist cake and a delicious buttercream frosting!!


vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream

makes 18 cupcakes

Ingredients

Cupcakes:

1 3/4 c (222g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 c (180g) heavy cream, room temperature
6 tb (90g) sour cream, room temperature
1/2 c (113g) land o' lakes® european style unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 c (50g) refined coconut oil, soft but not melted
1 c (200g) sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract

Buttercream:

1 c (225g) land o' lakes® european style unsalted butter, room temperature
3 c (360g) powdered sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
1/4 tsp almond extract, optional
3 tb (45g) heavy cream

Clues

To make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350ºf. Line two cupcake pans with 18 cupcake liners, spacing them out evenly between the two pans.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder, and then lightly stir in the salt and set aside. In a large measuring cup, whisk together the heavy cream and sour cream and set aside. 

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, coconut oil, and sugar on medium high for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add the vanilla. Reduce the mixer to medium low and add the dry mixture and cream mixture in 3 alternating additions, mixing until just combined. Using an ice cream scoop, distribute the batter evenly between the 18 cupcake liners. 

Bake for 10 minutes and then rotate the pans and continue to bake until the cupcakes are thinking about starting to turn brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs on it; begin checking for doneness 6 minutes after you rotate the pans. If the cupcakes need more time, continue to bake and check them frequently (like every 30-45 seconds). Let them cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

To make the buttercream: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter, powdered sugar, salt, vanilla, and almond extract, if using. Once combined, beat in the heavy cream. 

Frost cupcakes as desired and enjoy. These are best enjoyed within a day or two. 


This post was sponsored by Land O' Lakes! I'm very excited to be partnering with this minnesota-based farmer owner company this year!

All photos and video by Celeste Noche