Apple and Honey and Marzipan Rolls

My concept of time right now is all thrown off, I’ve just gotten home from celebrating Hanukkah* (and I have the dreidels on my nails to show it), summer has decided to come back for a weird unwelcome encore (get away!!), and I spent all last week testing Christmas cookie recipes. And the tomatoes have finally decided to turn red. Have you ever had a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich for lunch followed by a piece of stollen for dessert? It’s so weird. I mean, ok, I can’t complain, it’s all good things except for the gross 80 degree heat but I am ready to truly immerse myself in the upcoming high holidays because I think Rosh Hashanah is my preferred new year out of the three new years that we do. I just feel like the fact that it happens at the beginning of the school year and the start of sweater weather makes it feel way more like the dawn of something exciting than the Gregorian New Year (which hasn’t really been fun since I was 22 and could drink a Red Bull and vodka together) and the Chinese New Year (which is delicious and great but January as a month is kinda a drag. And I’m too old to get envelopes of money now 🤷🏻‍♀️). 

*We just filmed the Hanukkah Cooking Championship for Food Network! It was a dream. I even got kinda emotional over the fact that there is actually going to be a Hanukkah show on Food Network!! The food was so delicious and the other people on it were the bee’s knees. Whether or not you celebrate Hanukkah, you guys are going to lurrrv this show. 

Speaking of celebrating Jewish holidays on the TV (!), this weekend is the Rosh Hashanah brunch episode of Girl Meets Farm! Both Stoopie and my silly Aunt Cathy came to town to film this episode and it was a blast. I cooked brisket with my mom, made a celery cocktail with Aunt Cathy, and introduced Bernie to her crazy family. The recipe I’m most excited about is these apple butter rolls, which look just like cinnamon rolls, but they’re better because they’re topped with honey marzipan frosting. If you’ve ever thought omg challah baking in the oven is the best smell evarrr, try filling little swirly rolls of challah with a very cinnamony apple butter and grated almond paste and, wow, your pumpkin spice candle didn’t stand a chance. And then they get topped with a frosting made of marzipan butter and honey which is thick, glossy, luxurious, parve, and perfect. So you’re checking all of the Rosh Hashanah boxes with these rolls: Round challah? Check. Apples? Check. Honey? Check. A make-ahead situation? Check check. And marzipan, because a few years back I started including marzipan with the apples and honey tradition since almonds go so well with both apples and honey, and it just decided to stick around. They are so soft and fluffy and decadent and good. Exactly the ticket for a sweet New Year!


Apple and Honey and Marzipan Rolls

Makes 12 rolls

ingredients

1 c (236ml) almond milk, warm (105-110ºf)

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

1 tsp + 1/4 c (50g) sugar

4 1/2 c (585g) all-purpose flour

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp cinnamon

a pinch of cardamom

2 large eggs

1/2 c (100g) flavorless oil

1/4 c (84g) honey

1 tsp vanilla

 

filling

3/4 c (204g) apple butter, store-bought or homemade

1 tsp cinnamon

6 oz (170g) almond paste, grated on the big holes of a box grater or finely chopped

Eggwash: 1 large egg beaten with a splash of water

 

frosting

1 1/2 c (192g) blanched almonds

1/4 c (84g) honey

Zest from 1/2 a lemon

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp almond extract

6 tb (89ml) almond milk

Toasted sliced almonds, for topping

clues

Combine the milk, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of sugar and swirl together. Let sit for 5 minutes, or until foamy on top.

In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, remaining sugar, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, honey, and vanilla. Stir the yeast mixture and the oil mixture into the dry mixture and then knead, either on a work surface or with the dough hook, adding more flour as needed, until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky, 7-10 minutes. Place in an oil bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 1/2-2 hours, or until doubled in size. 

Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and roll it out into a large 18” x 12” rectangle. Spread it with the apple butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon and almond paste. Roll it up tightly the long way, and pinch the edges to seal. Cut into 12 rolls and place evenly spaced in a 9” x 13” baking dish (3 rows of 4). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or let rise at room temperature for another hour and then go directly to the baking step.

When ready to bake, remove the rolls from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours, until puffy. Preheat the oven to 350ºf. Remove the plastic wrap and brush with the egg wash. Bake until the rolls are lightly browned; begin checking for doneness at 35 minutes. 

To make the frosting: Blend the almonds in a food processor, scraping the sides occasionally, until creamy and spreadable, about 5-10 minutes. Add the honey, lemon zest, salt, and almond extract and continue to blend (it may clump together at this point up that’s ok) as you drizzle in the milk. Blend until creamy. This can be made the day before and stored in the fridge.

When the rolls come out of the oven, spread them with the frosting, sprinkle with the almonds and serve.


Sesame Pretzels with Za’atar Mozzarella Sauce

We’ve done it, we’ve achieved peak coziness: Bernie and I live in our matching fuzzy fleeces, soothing whispery folk tunes play on repeat, and in between nap times we pick squash and apples from the garden. I never thought I could love the fall more, but of course now it’s one thousand million times better with a giggling Bern strapped on to me. I try not to think about the fact that in a few short years, this time of year will mean that it’s time for her to start school, but what I do love thinking about is all of the school supplies and the after school snacks that we’re going to enjoy. (I know, I’ve just made my first batch of baby food and I’m already thinking about after school snacks?! Listen, I already know her full Bat Mitzvah menu, ok? Just let me have this.) I’m just so excited because the snack time that I engaged in regularly after school growing up was probably my favorite meal of the day. I mean, I loved my little breakfast sandwiches that I would eat on the ride to school, and lunches in my frog lunchbox were always great especially when they involved baloney sandwiches, but nothing ever compared to sitting at the kitchen counter, feasting on snacks with a big glass of milk, and hanging out with my mom while D.W. got sassy at Arthur on the TV in the background. After school snack food was always the best food: dumplings, pizza pockets, miniature bagel dogs, cheese on toast, and the crown jewel, hot pretzels. I’d have the frozen kind that came with a packet of extra coarse salt and I’d microwave them with a slice of cheese that got bubbly around the edges. I was never patient enough to allow them to cool so that they wouldn’t burn my mouth, but they were delicious all the same (and nothing that a sip of cold milk wouldn’t fix). It was the best tastiest little break between school and marimba practice and I can’t wait to have that break with Bern.

So today I’ve got a new and improved version of my old fave, one that I’ll make as soon as Bernie starts school, and one that I make these days just to have around for noshing. It uses a kitchen hack that I love which is that you can make pretzels from pretty much any fluffy bread dough, store-bought or homemade. In a world where I am an octopus and can hold Bernie with one set of arms while kneading dough with the other set of arms, I would use challah with this. Challah pretzels forever. But these days I’ve been using store-bought bread dough which works like a charm. In a nod to Jerusalem bagels, these are oval shaped and covered in enough sesame seeds to make any basic dough a little bit more interesting. You can make a big batch of pretzels and keep them in the freezer and reheat them so that they’re hot and ready at a moments notice. And they get dipped in a creamy, rich, and surprisingly easy to make cheese sauce that’s topped with earthy za’atar and includes protein thanks to the real milk and cheese within. It’s soo good and filled with nutrients that will keep Bernie going through her after school orchestra rehearsal/dance class/hockey practice/horticulture club (?) etc. It’s just a simple milk-based sauce that comes together in a snap and then melts with mozzarella. I love mild mozzarella with a pop of za’atar but, yes, you can use any melty cheese that’s in your fridge!


Sesame Pretzels with Za’atar Mozzarella Sauce

Makes 8 pretzels 

Pretzel Ingredients

1 c (230g) baking soda

2 (11 oz) cans store bought french bread dough (or a batch of homemade yeasted bread dough, might I suggest challah dough!)

2 c (472g) water

Egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with a splash of water

Sesame seeds and flaky salt, for topping

Mozzarella Sauce Ingredients

2 tb unsalted butter

2 tb all-purpose flour

1 c (240g) whole milk

1 c (125g) shredded mozzarella

Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Crushed red pepper or hot sauce, optional

2 tsp za’atar

Clues

First, bake the baking soda. Preheat the oven to 250ºf, spread the baking soda out in an 8” x 8” baking dish and bake for 1 hour. Let it cool and set it aside. This can be prepped ahead and stored in an airtight container for several weeks. (Even though the baked baking soda isn't as strong as lye, which is traditionally used for making pretzels, it could still potentially irritate your skin, so avoid touching it with bare hands once it's out of the oven.)

To form the pretzels, line two baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350ºf. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and then roll into snakes, about 3/4-1” thick. Smoosh the ends together to form big ovals and transfer to the baking sheets, one inch apart. 

(If using homemade dough, complete the recipe through the first rising, shape into ovals as described above, place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and then give them their second rise.)

Make the baking soda bath: Add the water to the dish with the baking soda and whisk gently to dissolve the baking soda (it likely won’t all dissolve, a few baking soda chunks are totally ok as long as you remove any that stick to the dough). Using gloved hands, tongs, or a slotted spoon, and working in batches, immerse the pretzels into the mixture for 2-3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate or pan lined with a paper towel and pat them dry and then place them back on the baking sheet. Brush with the egg wash, sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds and a few pinches of flaky salt, and bake until deep golden brown; begin checking at 16 minutes. Let cool slightly and then enjoy warm with cheese sauce! 

These freeze well! Let them cool fully and store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to a few months. Reheat in the microwave or thaw at room temp.

For the za’atar mozzarella sauce: In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for another minute. Add half of the milk and whisk until thickened and then add the other half, continuing to whisk until thickened. Add the mozzarella and whisk until melted. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and spicy stuff, if using. Transfer to a serving bowl, top with za’atar and serve. 

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge and then reheated in a saucepan or microwave. Stir in an extra splash of milk, if desired, to thin it out. 


-yeh!

I’m so pleased to have partnered with milk life, on this recipe! Dairy milk always played a starring role in my favorite back to school moments! Bernie and I already obviously have a special bond when it comes to food (we just started introducing solids and she loves watching me cook!) – and I know as she gets older and goes to school, the role that food plays in how we connect together will only continue to grow.

photos by chantell and brett quernemoen.

halva magic bars

Hello from my first week back to blogging life after seven weeks of filming and three months of maternity leave! Season 4 is officially in the bag (and scheduled to premiere on September 8th!), and after a one-day trip to New York earlier this week to make turkey on the Today Show, I am home and ready to figure out this whole test-noodle-kugel-recipes-while-Bernie-is-singing-Baby-Beluga-with-Grandma-in-the-living-room thing. It’s gonna be great! I’m gonna squish her cheeks anytime I want!

The Season 4 shoot was so much fun. It really was like summer camp: we had movie night under the stars, a wiener-fueled bonfire, bourekas in a wheat field, and a dance party with backstreet boys and a disco ball and everything. On the weekends we sat on the beach and invented new uses for the word gourmet. (“Are you wearing a Juicy velour robe? That is so gourmet!” “Did you just get very extravagant nail art? How gourmet!” Basically: fancy but not trendy, and nothing at all to do with food.) On the last day, I got Iced and that was that. I miss the crew so much already.

One of my faaaaavorite recipes from this season were the Halva magic bars that I made for an episode that’s an ode to Midwestern potlucks. Every potluck around here has to have a bar- a brownie, blondie, lemon square, cookie bar, etc. I grew up calling these desserts by their specific names but here they’re all just lumped into one big geometrically pleasing category that is the centerpiece for my go-to sample of a Midwest accent (“Are you going to bring the bars, Marge?” where the “ar” sounds a little pirate-y… aim for the back of your mouth and you’ll see what I mean.)

Magic bars, or 7-layer bars (tomato/tomahto), are one of the top three bars of all time. They are dangerously delicious and they’re magic because you make them by just piling everything into a pan. You don’t have to mix anything in a bowl or soften butter or commit any real effort, they’re so easy and the return is so great that it honestly feels like you’re cheating the world. 

The classic magic bar has butter, graham cracker crumbs, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, pecans, sweetened condensed milk and shredded coconut, but in a painfully predictable move, I’ve subbed out the butterscotch for crumbled halva and the pecans for pistachios. And of course the condensed milk was just begging for some rosewater (it gets topped with coconut, can you blame me?!). Listen, one day I’ll make something that doesn’t feature the holy combination of coconut + rosewater + pistachio + halvah but, like, today’s not that day. And neither is tomorrow. 

The result is a bar that’s just as chewy and gooey and amazing as the original, but with a little more color: nuttiness and flakiness from the halvah, greenery and saltiness from the pistachios, floral notes from the rosewater, and pretty pops of pink from the optional rose petals on top. It’s a Midwestern/Middle Eastern mashup that was bound to happen at some point because all of these flavors work so darn well together. Proceed with caution because you will want to eat the whole batch immediately. Luckily storing them in the fridge makes them even better because it makes them chewier, so hide them in the back behind the carrots and just eat a carrot every time you go in for a bar. They’ll cancel each other out.


Halva Magic Bars

makes 20

ingredients

1/2 c (113g) unsalted butter

9 graham cracker rectangles (1 package)

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 c (175g) chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips

1 1/2 c (226g) crumbled halva

1 c (120g) roasted pistachios

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk or sweetened condensed coconut milk

1 tsp rosewater

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/3 c (160g) sweetened shredded coconut

2 tb dried rose petals, optional

clues

Preheat oven to 350ºf. Grease a 9 x 13 pan and line the bottom with parchment. Add the butter and stick it in the oven for a few minutes so the butter melts. Meanwhile, crush the graham crackers by putting them in a large ziploc bag and smashing with a rolling pin or blending in a food processor. When the butter’s melted, swirl it around the bottom of the pan and scatter the graham cracker crumbs evenly all over (you’re not actually making a full on graham cracker crust, don’t worry about packing it down or anything).  Sprinkle with salt, then sprinkle the chocolate chips, halva, and pistachios all over. Pour a little of the condensed milk on top and then add the rosewater and vanilla to the remaining condensed milk and mix it in. Pour it evenly all over the pan. Sprinkle the coconut on top and rose petals, if using. Bake until edges are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool fully (ideally overnight or for a few hours in the fridge) before cutting into bars. Enjoy!

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a good few days.


Crispy Chickpea Salad Kit with Butter Fried Croutons

When they said that everything changes when you have children, I didn’t realize that this would extend to my tastebuds! In my postpartum life, I am suddenly obsessed with two opposites: sugar and salad. (But Molly, you’ve always been obsessed with sugar? I mean, I’ve always been obsessed with making things with sugar, but until 18 weeks ago I would have chosen a pile of cheese fries over ice cream any day. Now... not so much.) We can argue about the sugar thing later but today’s post is about my new heightened love of ~salad~. It started literally from the day after Bernie was born. I had my token I’m-not-pregnant-anymore Jimmy John’s Italian Nightclub on white bread and then my excellent friend Heather texted that she would like to deliver a gigantic salad to me at the hospital. She brought me a big container of greens with chopped apple and cheddar and a bunch of colorful veggies and held my one-day-old Bernie while I gobbled up every last leaf. It was the tastiest thing in the world. Not just because Heather is one of my favorite chefs in the world but also because something had changed in my tastebuds that made me love raw vegetables and forkfuls of greens like never before. So that salad was the first salad of the rest of my postpartum salad-obsessed life and what happened after that was Eggboy and I proceeded to live on salads. Friends and Eggmom delivered tons of salads and I got mediumly good at balancing a salad bowl on the arm of the recliner while I nursed Bernie. And then after we ate all of the salad deliveries, we cobbled together as many salads as we could. I’d put Bernie in her sling and try to assemble a salad without having to chop anything because I didn’t want to use a knife while she was on me, or I’d try to direct Eggboy in making a salad but salad making requires serious multitasking skills and, erm, they don’t not call him Multitaskingboy for nothing (sorry!!!), so what we found was that salad kits are a great invention!!! Wow, they are so good at getting crunchy greens into my mouth. They make salads achievable in 30 seconds. They come with cute bags of crunchy things and tiny bags of seasoning that look like dime bags! The dressings are fatty and ok tasting! My first few journeys out of the house with Bernie were to the Hugo’s salad section, where I’d get a dozen salad kits at a time. We’d gobble them up multiple times a day. I know what you’re thinking though, and I absolutely agree: salad kits are flawed. There aren’t enough crunchies, the nuts are too brittle, the dressing is probably loaded with crazy ingredients I’ve never heard of, and where is the protein! I never said they were perfect, but they got me dreaming...

In the produce section of my grocery store dreams, salad kits are way more luxurious. They come with fluffy butter-fried pita croutons, crispy salty chickpeas, a small bag of za’atar, feta (!), and creamy tahini dressing. And you know what they say about dreams, make them come true! So now that Bernie has gotten pretty good at sitting in her bouncy chair, playing with her toys, listening to Raffi, and keeping me company in the kitchen, my hands have been free enough to do some salad prep at the beginning of the week, eliminating my need to clear out the salad kit section. It’s so fun. We sing Down By The Bay and squeeze lemons into tahini and whenever something smells particularly good I stick it under Bernie’s nose so she can take a whiff. So far the only thing that’s yielded a huge smile is the freshly baked pita that I was about to turn into croutons. Same, Bern, same.

So here’s a little non-recipe to get your juices flowing so that you can create your own salad kits with whatever’s looking good in your garden, your favorite cheeses and dressings, and whatever forgotten chunk of bread you have lying around that’s waiting to be crouton’d. I usually just pile all of the prepped veggies in a container or bag and then make separate containers of cheese, dressing, croutons, and a protein so that everything is ready to dump and go, easy peasy. Make a few at a time! Make one to deliver to a friend! Go wild!


Crispy Chickpea Salad Kit with Butter Fried Croutons

Veggies: In a big container, pile in fresh spinach or other greens, halved grape tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, chopped red onion, thinly sliced radishes, and chopped fresh mint. Store in the fridge for up to three days.

Chickpeas: Drain, rinse, and dry a can of chickpeas and dump them onto a rimmed baking sheet. Toss with a good drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast at 350ºf for 50 minutes, tossing occasionally. Let cool and transfer to a container. Store at room temp for up to four days.

Feta: Put a big handful in a cute container 🤷🏻‍♀️Store in the fridge.

Za’atar: Put a teaspoon or so in a tiny bag. Seal with a cute piece of washi tape.

Tahini dressing: Mix 1/4 c tahini with a squeeze of lemon juice and 3-4 tb water until creamy and pourable. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a cute jar and store in the fridge for up to four or five days. If it gets too thick to pour while it’s in the fridge, mix in a little more water before serving.

Butter fried croutons: Heat a good layer of butter in a pan over medium and tear up two thick fluffy pitas into the pan. Fry until golden and crispy on the outside but still a little chewy on the inside (I like em best this way!) transfer to a plate, sprinkle with salt, and let cool. Store in a container at room temperature for four or five days.

-yeh!