Good morning. I hope everyone is hanging in there. As someone on twitter wrote yesterday, Next week has been the longest week. I thought if you are feeling similarly, you might like a few culinary prescriptions for how to get through it without spiraling to dark places. If you are not phone-banking or helping out at the polls, I think the best bet at this point for your mental health is to distracticook. (Google: Did you mean procrastibake?) Translation: Find the most complicated recipe you can, preferably with tons of obscure ingredients that require some time-sucking road trips, then spend the next 48 hours focusing exclusively, singularly on making that happen. Here are five things that might fit the bill, including my cousin Ronnie’s challah, above (and which I made last week, still working on my braiding technique!), but I really really want to hear suggestions from you guys, too….
Anything From Ottolenghi
Ottolenghi gets a lot of flack for his recipes with miles-long instructions and ingredient lists calling for black limes, mango pickles, and hibiscus, and, unlike most regular old Tuesday nights, that might be just the thing we need right now! This is his brand new book, Flavor (cowritten with Ixta Belfrage) which we’ve already cooked from and love, but if you have Plenty or Plenty More, I’m guessing you will find something deliciously distractingly complicated. (P.S. Related: Big Fall 2020 Cookbooks.)
We made this last week, and as I wrote the first time around: “It is messy and demanding and complicated. It involves forethought — you must soak the beans overnight. It involves rinsing and draining and mincing and chopping. It involves immersion blenders and strainers and Dutch Ovens and saucepans. And it involves time. A lot of time.”
Coconut Cream Pie
Abby made this once for her grandfather, who is a Coconut Cream Pie aficionado of the highest order. I remember two things about it: 1) That her grandfather said it was the best thing he’d ever eaten and 2) That the entire time she was making it she kept declaring OH MY GOD, THIS IS SO COMPLICATED. Sold!
There are 25 ingredients on Bricia Lopez’s ingredient list for Black Mole, including three kinds of dried chiles and also…animal crackers! It’s my favorite thing about making authentic mole — the recipes are so regional and so hard to predict. You can make them with the enmoladas (Oaxacan enchildas) that she suggests, or you can use them with your own enchilada recipe.
This recipe is actually from Ronnie’s grandmother, and I wrote extensively about it in How to Celebrate Everything. I mix golden raisins into the dough because it reminds me of the way I ate it as a kid—and also because it’s delicious. This makes 1 large challah. You can cut the dough in half to make 2 smaller loaves (bake for 22 to 25 minutes) or halve the recipe. Last week, I made two loaves and dropped one off with my father, who might be the only one who loves it more than me. Lastly: Here are some braiding tips from Ronnie.
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (about 105°F; feels slightly warm to the touch), divided
1⁄2 cup sugar, divided
8 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed for the dough and for the work surface
1 tablespoon salt (maybe a half teaspoon more)
5 large eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1⁄2 cup golden raisins (optional)
• In a small bowl, mix the yeast, 1⁄2 cup of the warm water, 1⁄2 teaspoon of the sugar, and a pinch of the flour. Stir and set aside for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly.
• While the yeast is activating, place 71⁄2 cups of the flour with the remaining sugar and the salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 4 of the eggs, the vegetable oil, and the remaining 1 1⁄2 cups warm water. Mix, using the dough hook, until well combined. Add the yeast mixture and the raisins (if using) and blend in thoroughly. Knead for 3 to 4 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add the remaining flour as needed to make the dough smooth and soft, but not overly sticky.
• Place the dough in a large bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place for about 1 1⁄2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down, cover the bowl, and let rise again for about 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Remove the dough to a floured surface.
• Cut the dough into 3 or 6 pieces, depending on whether you are going to make a 3- or 6-strand braid. Make long strands out of each piece. Braid the strands and seal the ends together by pressing on the dough. Place the bread on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Beat the last egg and brush the surface with it. (You won’t need all of it.) Let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
• While the dough is in the last rise, preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the challah for about 30 minutes or until firm and golden brown.