LUCY BURDETTE: Hallie Ephron, one of my favorite authors, (also a fabulous foodie friend,) has a new book out in 3 weeks. Today she's visiting MLK to talk food--and she'll give away a copy of THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN to a lucky commenter. Welcome Hallie!
HALLIE EPHRON: Savoring my favorite foods is one of the guilty pleasures of writing. So in THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN, Evie Ferrante has my passion for Chinese soup dumplings. When we go to the aptly named Gourmet Chinese Dumpling House in Boston's Chinatown, I order rack of those succulent babies just for me. Anyone who encroaches on my share gets stabbed with a chopstick.
Evie's boyfriend (aka Mr. Wrong) is all about steak. Which, by the way, I also love, but given a choice between soup dumplings and steak? No contest.
Often I find myself writing about fondly remembered foods -- the ones I can no longer get. In THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN, it's jelly donuts. When Evie returns to the little the grocery store near the house in the Bronx where she grew up, she discovers that the kind she remembers are still there...along with a man who could easily learn to love soup dumplings.
Sadly, my favorite jelly donuts have gone the way of the dodo. They came from Van de Kamps -- back when Van de Kamps was just a bakery. In my memory, those jelly donuts were light, puffy, powdered sugar-coated cakes. Literally jam-packed, front to back, every bite risked spurting some of the filling out the other end. The filling was in a league of its own, thick and tangy and intensely raspberry -- not that pallid, sugary-sweet, gelatinous stuff that finds its way into jelly donuts these days. And there was none of that palate-coating greasy finish that today's donuts deliver.
Though I love to cook, I'd never attempt to make my own jelly donuts. I'm not good with yeast or deep fat. And forget soup dumplings.
Fortunately, I've discovered a great recipe for another gone-but-not-forgotten treat -- chewy, caramel-colored hazelnut biscotti that were once, but sadly no longer, available at my local Italian bakery. This recipe is a close approximation.
3 c. whole hazelnuts (or almonds) (skin on)
1 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 c. flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp cinnamon
3 T soft unsalted butter
2 beaten eggs
2 T vanilla
1 beaten egg mixed with 1T water for egg wash
Preheat oven 350
1. Roast nuts
-In a single layer on a cookie tray in the oven - check after about 8 minutes but keep roasting until lightly browned and (if you are using hazelnuts) the skins are coming loose.
- Dump them onto a dish towel and roll them around to rub off most of the skins (if using almonds, leave the skins on).
2. Prepare dough
- Cream the butter with the white sugar in large mixing bowl.
- Add brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking powder and blend.
- Add beaten eggs and vanilla and BEAT with mixer on low speed until dough holds together.
- This makes a VERY STICKY DOUGH. Fold in the nuts.
3. Make 2 logs of the dough
- Put dough on floured surface. Cut in half. Roll each piece into a log.
- Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet and flatten slightly.
- Brush each log lightly with egg wash.
4. Bake 30 minutes OR until ***firm*** to the touch. (Go by touch, not time)
5. Remove from oven. Cut diagonally into biscotti. Turn each piece sideways (cut side up) and return to 300 degree oven to dry out and crisp--about five minutes.
My question: What are your "lost" food favorites, and have you been able to recreate them?
THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN is the story of a young woman, Evie Ferrante, who reluctantly returns the house where she grew up on the waterfront in the Bronx in order to deal with the chaos left behind by her gravely ill, alcoholic mother. She renews a friendship with Mina Yetner, the 91-year-old woman who lives next door. Mina helps Evie figure out the meaning of her mother's last message: Don't let him in until I'm gone. And Evie helps Mina figure out whether she's losing her mind.
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