It’s holiday hodgepodge time! TBT, this is very much a free-association post, and for careful readers there might be brain mapping—watching my brain bounce arounds—and baking opportunities.
Let’s start with Hanukkah aka Chanukah, etc. (Joe Maller offers Sixteen Ways to Spell Hanukkah.) It starts at Sundown on Tuesday. The holiday has limited significance in the Jewish religion. It’s a historical holiday, coming after the Torah was written, and definitely matters in the USA because of Christmas.
Robert Siegel offered up a report on Hanukkah on Friday, December 12. Hanukkah’s Real (And Imagined) History features Simon Schama, author of The Story of the Jews, with important reporting on the Hanukkah story. Say it ain’t so, Simon!
The holiday season is about food. (Candidly, with no big holiday party this year, I’m not missing catering for 100+, although I will miss seeing my peeps and sharing the holiday festivities.) I bought potatoes today. Latkes—potato pancakes, fried in oil to commemorate—or not—an everlasting lamp—are de riguer. (Here, from the kitchn and courtesy of my sister aka Aunt Pam, is The Unexpected Trick That Makes the Crispiest, Tastiest Latkes Ever.) Brisket too, probably.
Then there is fruitcake. I love fruitcake. Even the fruitcake that has never been eaten, because it gets re-gifted year after year. (Johnny Carson’s riff on the fruitcake were amazing!) Sure it’s full of chemicals and electric green “fruit-stuff,” but you’ve surely heard of “better living through chemistry.” My gosh, there’s even a movie!
So I’ve run across several fruitcakes—we’re talking cakes here, not people I know—which deserve mention. From SeriousEats.com here’s The Trick to Easy Homemade Panettone? It’s All in the Buttermilk from Max Bernstein on December 11. Bernstein, the expert on Italian fruitcake? Then there’s Stollen, a Norwegian treat. Also from SeriousEats.com, here’s The Better Fruitcake: Baking Stollen at NYC’s Bien Cuit Bakery by Max Falkowitz. (Again with then nice Jewish boy expert on cake from elsewhere.) By the by, I was at Bien Cuit in 2013 when it still had a Manhattan location. (Only in Brooklyn now.) Amazing bakery! (Bien cuit means “well done.)
In addition to the Panettone and Stollen, there’s Robert Lambert’s Vintage Rare Citrus Fruitcake from Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, MI. Hard to resist, although $90 for a fruitcake is rich for my blood. Zingerman’s is way cool, though! Here’s the skinny-not by Jennifer Conlin for the New York Times on July 5: At Zingerman’s, Pastrami and Partnership to Go.
Finally, and not about fruit cakes, I was taken with the Chocolate Whisky Cake, shared recently on the New York Times website by Melissa Clark. One heck of a cake, and I’ll report on results just as soon as I bake it.
For gifts, it’ll be a modest year, and there’s shopping to be done, but I did pick up the 70th Anniversary Edition of Casablanca at Costco. A movie for the ages, for sure, and for romantics, here’s the New York Times report on the marriage of Stephen Bogart—Betty and Bogie’s boy—and Carla Soviero. Yes, Casablanca predated the hookup, but we’re about romance right now. When Bogie and Bacall made To Have and Have Not, sparks led to fire in before Bacall could start saying “you know how to whistle … .” For their only child, the embers were barely warm for decades.
Finally, the holidays include family and food. Tonight it was Ms. J’s sister and mother, and pizza. Here they are: