cheese borek

What a delightful birthday month this has been so far! I can’t really say I’ve done too much out of the ordinary other than receive a Jason Brown hug and tell all of my favorite figure skaters to their beautiful glowing faces that I love them. (Stars on Ice was sooo good!!!) I picked rhubarb with Sven, made cake after cake, ate cheesy pickles with my homies, and listened to a lot of Live from Here and Little Fires Everywhere on tape. I also treated myself to funfetti pillowcases and socks. Nothing too wild, yet everything I love. And now this week I am heading to Paris for the first time ever, with Lily and Sarah and Bonne Maman, and I am so excited!!! I am bringing some new disposable cameras I just discovered, don’t those look fun?? More on Paris later...

Right now I am enacting a new birthday month tradition which includes reflecting back on all of the best things I ate this year during my travels and cooking one of them. There was an amazing crispy rice salad at Hai Hai, in Minneapolis, that was like eating a bowl of fried chicken breading and tons of fresh herbs, my favorite doughy breakfast burrito at Los Favoritos, in Arizona, an avocado toast to end all avocado toasts at Lodge Bread Co, in LA, a lobster in Maine, salmon in Alaska, and Bulgogi in Korea. One thing that haunts me particularly regularly though is the borek that I ate at Sofra, in Cambridge, with Zach and Jeff. It was October, it was unseasonably warm so we sat outside, we ordered one of almost everything, and I was sick as a pup! So I was mainly focused on navigating my utensils and bites in such a way that wouldn’t spread my cooties to anyone else. But then I tasted the borek and, goodness gosh geez, I could have died after that first bite. 

It’s… illegally good. It’s kind of like a slice of mac and cheese that’s been crisped up in a skillet, but it’s milder and doughier than that. On the sweet/savory spectrum it's about halfway between a lasagna and a kugel. Structurally it's layered like a lasagna, with Yufka, which is a Turkish flatbread that's thicker than phyllo dough and thinner than a tortilla, and it has fresh mozzarella in it, so it’s very creamy and doesn’t have any sharpness. It's also yogurty, so it has some subtle sourness, and there’s an egg custard situation swimming into the layers, holding everything together, ohmygahhh it’s good. 

After tracking down the recipe in Sofra's book, I’ve decided that It’s actually insane that such a simple set of ingredients can make something this delicious. Basically what you do, or rather what I did since I didn’t plan ahead far enough to order Yufka dough online, is you knead together a simple flour/water/olive oil dough and then roll it out until it's very very thin (I used my pasta roller). Then you layer it with yogurty milk and grated fresh mozzarella. I’d never grated fresh mozzarella before but it turns out you can do that! Unlike lasagna, the layers don’t get boiled or cooked at all before layering up with the yogurt and cheese which makes them soak everything up and stay soft and doughy in the oven.

Then after it's baked, you brown slices on both sides and eat them with grated tomato. Then you die!!!

If you don’t have yufka dough and choose to make your own, use a double batch of this recipe. Roll it out to the second thinnest setting on your pasta roller and cut out enough rectangles to make eight layers (it's ok if there's some overlap). You can either roll them all out at once and keep them separated with a dusting of flour and layers of parchment until the rest of your borek ingredients are ready, or you can roll them out as you assemble the borek. Doing this will make this process long but it will be 100% worth it. And a great thing about this borek is that you can make it a day or two in advance and reheat slices in a pan before serving.


cheese borek

serves 10 to 12

from soframiz by ana sortun and maura kilpatrick of sofra

ingredients

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

1 1/2 c whole milk 

3/4 c (164g) plain whole milk Greek yogurt

1 tsp kosher salt

2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks

4 sheets store-bought yufka pastry, weighing about 2 pounds (907g) (many brands of yufka are available online)

4 (4-oz) balls buffalo milk mozzarella, grated

3 tb all-purpose flour

2 tb nigella seeds (note: I used poppy seeds!)

tomatoes, grated with the big holes of a box grater, for serving

clues

preheat the oven to 425ºf. butter an 8-inch square baking dish or an 11 by 7-inch baking pan with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter.

in a small mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, yogurt, salt, and whole eggs until very smooth. whisk in the remaining 7 tablespoons of melted butter.

cut the yufka so that you have about eight large pieces that cover the bottom of the pan. it's okay if they don't fit the pan perfectly or if the edges hang over; you can fold everything over the top at the end of assembling.

place one layer of yufka on the bottom of the pan and brush lavishly with the milk mixture. repeat until you have four layers of brushed pastry. distribute the mozzarella over the top of the four soaked yufka layers. place another four layers of yufka over the cheese filling, brushing with the milk mixture between every layer. 

using a small knife, cut the borek, scoring the pastry so that the custard seeps into the cuts. make 10 to 12 cuts. it doesn't matter if it breaks the pastry: you can press it back down with your hands. you don't need to worry about doing it neatly; the cuts will disappear while the borek bakes.

mix the remaining milk mixture with the egg yolks and flour. pour over the top and let soak for 20 minutes. eventually, the liquid soaks into the pie, so don't worry if it seems like a lot. sprinkle the top with the nigella seeds.

place the borek in the oven and lower the heat to 350ºf. bale for about 50 minutes, until golden on top and puffy. let rest for 15 minutes before slicing. either serve as is or heat a skillet and brown on both sides.

serve with grated tomato.


-yeh!

photos by chantell and brett quernemoen!

and this apron is part of enrich and endure's new line! i'm hosting a giveaway with them right this way!

carrot steamed buns

A long time ago, during my bangs and eyeliner phase, I had the steamed carrot buns at Dirt Candy, and I still think about them regularly because they were so good and clever! I don’t remember too many specifics other than loving that the texture of the carrots held their own against the squishy buns, and that the slight sweetness of both the buns and the carrots just went well together. And then a squirrel ran into the restaurant and everybody stayed very cool about it. These days, whenever I get the urge to throw bun parties, I like making sure to include a vegetarian option and always consider the carrot. There is a recipe for Dirt Candy’s buns online but every time I look at it I get a little stressed out because it has some ingredients that I just don’t keep on hand regularly, and whenever I make steamed buns I like to err on the side of keeping my fillings simple since making a dough and shaping buns, while extremely satisfying, is time consuming. (See: the shamelessness that is American Cheese Steamed Buns in Molly on the Range.

So when Soy Vay sent over some of their sauces I got really excited because, well, first of all, it’s basically *me* in sauce form. It was created by an Asian person and a Jewish person! And I remember seeing it in our fridge growing up. And also I saw that their Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce contained a lot of the same ingredients that I’d want to put into a carrot bun, like garlic, ginger, soy, and sesame, and immediately thought, yes, I am four steps closer now to carrot buns. So I got to work and came up with some of the most delicious pillow-y soft buns that explode with flavor! They are salty, sweet, and nutty and I love them. They’re not too difficult to make at all, and they are vegan! They’re great hot or at room temp (take them to a picnic!) or reheated from the freezer. 

I have nice buns and, look, now you can have nice buns too. 

Carrot Steamed Buns

Makes 16 buns

Steamed bun dough

1 c (236g) warm water

2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast

1 tsp + 6 tb (75g) sugar

2 c (260g) all purpose flour, plus more for dusting 

1 c (128g) cake flour*

3/4 tsp kosher salt

2 tb canola oil

*highly recommended for a fluffier texture but if you don’t have it, subbing in the same amount of ap flour is ok.

 

Filling

1 1/4 lbs. (about 5-7 large carrots), chopped into 1/2” pieces

1 tb canola or olive oil

1/2 tsp Kosher salt

6 tb Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce, plus more for serving

1 tb rice vinegar

1/4 c (34g) crushed roasted salted peanuts, plus more for topping

6 scallions, minced, plus more for topping

Sriracha

Clues

First, make the dough: In a small bowl, swirl together the water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar and let it sit until it becomes foamy on top, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together the flours, salt, and remaining 6 tablespoons sugar. Pour in the yeast mixture and oil and mix to form a dough. Turn onto a surface and knead for 5 minutes, dusting with flour as needed, until dough is smooth and slightly sticky. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, turning to coat, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rise for 2 hours, or until doubled in size. 

While the dough is rising, make the filling: Preheat the oven to 425ºf. Place the carrots in a baking dish and toss with oil and salt. (I like baking them in a high sided dish like a casserole so that I have room to add the other filling ingredients and then there’s no need to transfer to a bowl.) Bake for 30-35 minutes, until tender, and then let cool for 5 minutes. Add the teriyaki sauce, rice vinegar, peanuts, scallions, and a drizzle of sriracha and stir together. Set aside to continue to cool. It’s ok if it’s still a little warm when it’s time to fill the buns. This filling can be made a day in advance and kept covered in the fridge.

Once the dough has completed its rising time, turn it out onto a clean work surface and divide it into 16 balls. Keep the dough covered when you’re not working with it. Working with 1 ball at a time, roll them out to 4 1/2-5” circles, fill with about 2 heaping tablespoons of filling, and pinch the edges shut to seal well. Now is a good time to youtube steamed bun pleating videos! Place on individual squares of parchment paper, about 3” by 3”, and space them out in a steamer basket a 1 1/2-2” inches apart. (If your steamer doesn’t fit all of the buns at once, steam them in batches.) Cover and let rise 30 more minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Place the steamer over it and steam the buns for 20 minutes, until light and fluffy. To serve, top with another little drizzle of sriracha, and some sprinkles of peanuts and scallions. Dip in teriyaki sauce and enjoy!

Leftovers can be cooled and kept in the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer for a few months. To reheat, wrap them in a damp paper towel and microwave until heated through.

thank you, soy vay, for sponsoring this post! shop here with discount code SOYVAY10 for 10% off!

photos by chantell and brett quernemoen

pistachio nutter butters + a giveaway!

Hello to my birthday month, the month where I get to chill a little more, eat a little more, and spend a little more, at least at Sephora, so I can get my free birthday lip gloss. Every day feels like pizza friday during birthday month! And this month I’m going to Stars on Ice so like, wow, if you thought I freaked out at the Olympics, just wait until Meryl and Charlie take the ice. I cannot wait.

Here are some photos from over the weekend when I met Nile’s Beethoven dog puppy, Frida, and then went to the Empire gala! We danced our butts off, wore big dresses, sang, it was the perfect eve to birthday month. 

Now I’m kicking off May with two recent objects of my obsession: pistachio nutter butters and jewelry that reminds me of rainbow sprinkles. Pistachio nutter butters felt like such an obvious thing to do, given my love of pistachio butter (see: pistachio buttercream and pistachio pudding pops). So I replaced the peanut butter in my favorite peanut butter cookie recipe for pistachio butter and they came out chewy and amazing. And then when sandwiched with creamy pistachio frosting, they just got better. They are thick nutty wonders of the cookie world. And, yes, they deserve to be rolled in sprinkles.

Speaking of sprinkles, I have the most fun giveaway happening over on Instagram for the colorful ring that I’m wearing in these photos! I have been a fan of Elisa Solomon’s jewelry for years, ever since finding her rings at Catbird. (I sometimes just go onto the Catbird site just to look at this ring). Her jewelry is right up my alley, it’s colorful and whimsical and dainty and every time I look at my ring I think of rainbow sprinkles!! So I could not be more excited to partner with her on this giveaway. To enter, head over to Instagram (but if you don’t have Instagram, you can leave a comment here)! And be sure to check out her other jewelry, like this Sven cat ring!!! 
 


Pistachio Nutter Butters

Makes 8 large cookies

Ingredients

Cookies

1 1/4 c (160g) raw pistachios
1 1/4 c (160g) raw almonds
1/4 tsp kosher salt
zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 c (200g) sugar, plus a couple more tablespoons for rolling
1 large egg

Filling

6 tb (85g) unsalted butter, softened
1 c (120g) powdered sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
a pinch of lemon zest
Optional: splash of rosewater

Sprinkles
 

Clues

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

To make the cookies, in a high powered food processor, blend the pistachios and almonds for 10-15 minutes until spreadable. Remove 1/4 c (or 64g) of the mixture and set aside for the filling. To the food processor, add the salt, lemon zest, almond extract, and sugar to the food processor and blend together. Add the egg and blend to combine. Scoop out 16 tablespoon sized balls and roll in sugar. Place on baking sheets 1 inch apart and flatten with two presses of a fork to get a crisscross pattern. Bake for 12 minutes (they’ll still be very soft but they’ll firm up as they cool). Let cool on the pans for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the filling, in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, blend together the butter and reserved pistachio butter. Add the powdered sugar and blend to combine. Add the salt, vanilla, almond, lemon zest, and rosewater, if using. 

Fill a piping bag with the filling and pipe in the centers of half of the cooled cookies, sandwich them with the other half of the cookies and then roll in sprinkles. Enjoy!


-yeh!

photos by chantell and brett quernemoen!

apron from enrich and endure, cookie plate from le creuset