these days my life is about:
hallmark movies, the hamilton mixtape, this is us, only wearing very soft very warm clothes, and taking in as much holiday cheer as i can possibly fit into my person. so much that i have to wear stretchy pants. there are two feet of snow outside, our chrismukkah bush is up, and i've eaten sugar cookies for more than a few meals this past week. oh! that's why i'm wearing stretchy pants.
this holiday season has been so swell so far! unlike last year's holiday season, i don't have a book manuscript to freak out about, and unlike the year before that i don't have a wedding to plan. so it's the first time in a while that i can throw myself into this thing like the north pole 5' 7" elf that i am. you should see this snow though, it's so fluffy and white and it just keeps coming down. every time i look outside i'm all this is why i came here!!!!!!!!!!!!!
and in my head i do this face 😛 😛 😛 😛 and this dance 💃🏼 💃🏼 💃🏼 💃🏼
last night i went to michaels to buy tins to make my first annual holiday cookie tins, inspired by the craftsman and wolves cookie tins. i can't wait to turn my kitchen into a cookie factory later this week, and to make this into an annual tradition! yesterday my kitchen was a loaf cake factory though, to make this ras el hanout cake! it's in the same family as gingerbread but slightly closer to the savory end of the spectrum. it comes from the london cookbook and it is absolutely delicious. ras el hanout is a spice blend that's common in moroccan cooking and typically might contain cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, ginger... many things that you typically find in a pumpkin spice mixture or gingerbread cake, but i've only ever used it in savory dishes because it often has cumin and cayenne as well. so i was a nervous nelly about this cake! the book has a recipe for a saffron-y ras el hanout that doesn't have cumin (see below), but i have a small cumin-heavy jar of it that i brought back from tel aviv that i tossed in. i also took way more liberties than i should have (subbed out golden syrup for more molasses, muscovado sugar for brown sugar, buttermilk for coconut milk mixed with a bit of lemon juice) because it was -6º and i couldn't be bothered to go muscovado hunting in the morning, but guess what! it turns out this cake is impossible to fuck up. it's moist, well-balanced, and kind of a modern take on gingerbread.
rather than going the glaze or frosting route, i hopped on the #caketoast train* and had a slice of it crisped up in a skillet with a slathering of yogurt, sesame seeds, and sprinkles in a fairy toast-inspired move. the yogurt here is a nice cooling contrast to the toasty cake, almost like a healthier whipped cream, and the sesames add their nuttiness and charm. cake toast, you guys. it's officially the best way to reheat a slice of loaf cake.
*it's an imaginary train that steph, michelle, alana, lily, and i have just made up. but hop on and it make it happen! check out their cake toast!
steph: angel food cake toast
michelle: yellow cake toast
ras el hanout loaf cake toast with yogurt and sesame sprinkles
makes one loaf
1 c unsalted butter
1/4 c treacle or blackstrap molasses
1/4 c golden syrup, preferably Lyle's
1/2 c dark muscovado sugar
2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp ras el hanout (recipe follows), or 1 tsp ras el hanout and 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sel de Guérande or other fleur de sel
2/3 c buttermilk, preferably full-fat and artisanal
2 eggs, lightly beaten
for the glacé:
3/4 c confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tsp ginger syrup from a jar of stem ginger, or bottled ginger syrup
stemmed ginger, for garnish (optional)
toasted sesame seeds
preheat the oven to 350ºf. if using a convection oven, preheat the oven to 325ºf. butter an 8 by 4 by 3-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
in a small pot, warm the butter, treacle, golden syrup, and muscovado sugar over low heat until the butter is just melted. stir to combine.
sift the flour, ras el hanout, ginger, baking soda, and sel de guérande into a large bowl.
stir the molasses mixture into the flour mixture until just combined.
fold in the buttermilk and eggs. the ingredients must be well combined, but don't overwork the batter. a light touch is best.
pour the batter into the prepared pan. bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the center is set and springs back when pressed gently.
let the loaf cool to room temperature and wrap tightly in parchment paper for 2 days. this will make it nice and sticky. or give way to temptation and eat it straightaway. the flavors will be less concentrated, but the smell of it cooking makes waiting hard.
to make the cake toast, skip to the next step! if not making cake toast, use the glacé. to make the glacé, place the confectioners' sugar in a bowl and whisk the boiling water into the sugar, using just enough to get your desired consistency. stir in the ginger syrup. pour the glacé over the cake. if you have stemmed ginger, chop some and use as a garnish with a light shower of ras el hanout. candied or crystallized ginger would also be a lovely option.
for the cake toast, slice thick slices of the cake and toast it in a skillet over medium high heat with a little oil until browned and slightly crispy. top with yogurt, sesame seeds, and sprinkles.
ras el hanout
from the london cookbook
makes 1/4 cup
2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
10 saffron threads (optional), rubbed between your fingers until powdery
1 tsp ground mace
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
combine all ingredients.
leftover ras el hanout keeps in a tightly sealed jar for two months.