11 November 2012

Simple as that

Dear Reader -- I'm back, and if there is a question here about what I've been up to (and against), here is what: I got married (first and hopefully the one and only time), made a ton of rugelach cookies (first and surely not the last time), went to Brussels (for two and a half days), and fought the worst strep throat/tonsillitis I ever had a misfortune to know (for more than two weeks). In between all that, I hung out with my in-laws who'd stayed with us for a month, daily making them watch BBC's Antiques Road Trip and Eggheads, and cooking spicy potatoes and chickpeas to burn their gentle palates.

So, yes, I got married and can officially call Anthony my spouse, and unofficially, my ex-boyfriend. The wedding day had two highlights: first being the civil ceremony itself, an event compounded of a registrar's joke-filled speech about us, some of it borrowed from my last post -- I choked when I heard the butterfly-and-snail bit -- and an act of uncorking a massive bottle of champagne right there in the marriage hall, a move usually allowed only outside of the civil building, to bookend our marital registration; and second being an expeditious chase after a tram where Anthony's mother had left her purse on our way downtown for dinner. Owing to my lovely witnesses who successfully executed the tram interception, the purse in question was recovered -- as was everybody's pulse. It was a good day, warm, sunny, and free-flowing, and the fact that it was a Monday just added to the nonchalance of this whole marriage enterprise.

How does it feel to be married? I've been asked that dozens of times by now, and the thing is, I still don't know what to answer. Despite a certain anxiety I had days prior to the event, being married for me doesn't feel any different than before, and I mean it in a good, in fact, the best way possible. Now when I look at Anthony I don't see a HUSBAND looping over his forehead; I look at Anthony and I see Anthony, a big-hearted and smart goofball with a penchant for socks and a taste for cakes leavened with chocolate and buttercream, my best and dear friend, the man I love. People marry for different reasons; I got married because I didn't have any reason not to, simple as that. Again, I mean it in the best way imaginable, so please don't get me wrong.

Anthony and I, we got the first hold of each other a good three years ago through a dating website, 'dating', may I add, referring only to the site, not to our, at least not for me, intentions. I was looking for somebody to help me eat the surplus of food I made regularly, so I thought to post a little profile telling as much. There were a few responses, each of them leading to a date which I would invariably flee from, because, as I said, I wasn't looking to date but merely to eat in a good company. Anthony was the single one to comprehend it. Our first get-together was anything but romantic, which I so liked. We had a delicious meal at a restaurant (where three years later we would come back to have our wedding dinner), talking with our mouths full -- that cloud-like sardine mousse on rye bread was really something else -- and unceremoniously interrupting each other all the time. We became solid friends before we became anything else, and by the time it felt right to be more there was nothing unknown about one another left to be unmasked later on the way, which is why, I'm sure, when I look at Anthony now after we have married, I see Anthony I've known all this time, no alteration. So, how does it feel to be married? The same, I'd say, as it feels to love somebody day in, day out.

Next, cookies. You see that part about a ton of rugelach? I made them as favors for our guests (thirty, give or take) at the post-wedding drink we had at a pub a few weeks after the ceremony. Wait, did I just say I made them? I am a liar: Anthony did. Wait, I started: I mixed flour with butter and cream cheese to make the dough; then I kneaded and divided it in numerous pieces to chill; then I rolled each piece into a feather-thin circle and cut it like a pie into wedges; then I filled the wedges with a mixture of cinnamon, sugar, prunes, and walnuts; then I rolled the wedges up; then I baked them. It's after the sixtieth cookie that I lost my cool and Anthony had to finish the other thirty, bringing the tally up to ninety to make sure everybody gets enough (three cookies a pop or something) and, by extension, living up to the old adage that any New Yorker worth his salt should know how to make rugelach, a traditional Jewish sweet, part cookie and part pastry, a staple in New York -- and Russia. It's the only confection my mother, never a home-baker, made when the inspiration to fire up the oven hit her. It happened a mere few times, when she was a decade or so younger, and although she is certain now she couldn't have possibly made rugelach, I'm positive she did because I remember being infatuated with it -- an irregular heartbeat, a Cheshire cat smile, all at the thought about one buttery, flaky, cinnamon-y, crescent-shaped rugelach. I thought it would make sense to make a wedding favor that would in one way or another relate to both Anthony (see a part about being a New Yorker and such) and me. Besides, turning out not overly sweet, it appeared to be a proper pair for a beer as much as for a coffee, a right pull for a party in a pub, don't you know.

Adapted from Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich
Yield: 48 cookies

I had a trouble with larger pieces of walnuts and prunes spilling out of the rugelach during assembling, so instead of finely chopping those two I briefly pulse the whole filling in a blender to break up its any larger bits. I stick with prunes here, but any dried fruit can be called forth for the business (the original recipe uses currants, for example). 

Ideally, you are supposed to roll out the dough to a circle of 30 centimeters (12 inches) in diameter here, but frankly, it's somewhat bothersome in that the dough gets way too thin and sticky (even after some more time in the fridge). I stop at 25 centimeters (10 inches).

For the dough

315 g (11.25 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt, plus more for sprinkling
225 g (8 oz) unsalted butter, cold
225 g (8 oz) cream cheese, cold

For the filling
2 Tbsp white sugar
100 g (3.5 oz) brown sugar
100 g (3.5 oz) walnuts, chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
70 g (2.5 oz) pitted prunes, chopped

For the glaze

1 small egg, beaten

To make the dough: Combine the flour, sugar, and 1/4 salt in a mixing bowl; whisk briefly to distribute the ingredients. Cut the butter into chunks and add them to the bowl. Using a hand-held or stand mixer, mix on low speed until most of the mixture looks like very coarse bread crumbs with a few larger pieces of butter the size of hazelnuts. Cut the cream cheese into small cubes and add them to the bowl. Mix on medium-low speed till the whole lot is damp and shaggy looking and holds together when pressed with your fingers, 30-60 seconds. Turn the dough onto the clean work surface, scraping the bowl. Lightly knead two or three times to incorporate any stray pieces. There should be large streaks of cream cheese.

Divide the dough into four pieces. Flatten each piece into a patty about 10 centimeters (4 inches) in diameter. Wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least two hours and up to three days.

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 175 C (350 F).

To make the filling: Combine the sugars, cinnamon, walnuts, and prunes and briefly pulse in a blender or food processor to a fine consistency. Working with one round at a time, remove the dough from the fridge and, if necessary, let it stand at room temperature until pliable but not too soft. Roll into a 25-cm (10-inch) circle between sheets of wax paper. Peel the top sheet of wax paper from the dough and place it on the counter or a cutting board. Flip the dough over onto the paper and carefully peel off the second sheet. Sprinkle a quarter of the filling over the dough, pat down gently with your fingers, and then sprinkle with a tiny pinch of salt. Cut the dough like a pie into twelve equal wedges, and roll each wedge into a crescent shape. Place the crescents on a lined baking sheet 3 1/2 centimeters (1 1/2 inches) apart. If at any time the dough becomes too soft to work with, place it back in the fridge to firm up.

To bake: Brush the tops and the sides of the rugelach with the beaten egg (optional). Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the cookies are light golden brown at the edges. Cool the rugelach completely before storing. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. Best on the day they are baked, rugelach remain delicious, kept in an airtight container, for up to five days.


Anonymous said...

Dear Anya,

such a good news to hear! I'm really happy for both of you.
I wish you the best!


Alice from the bakery :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Anya,

Congratulations on your communion with Anthony, wish I could seen the ceremony.
You sound very happy in this post, I'm really pleased for you guys and still enjoy reading you Anya.
Wish you both a long and happy life together.
I understood you are still working at the bakery ? Say hello from me and that everything is going well. I will send a card soon.

Cheers from New Zealand.

anya said...

Hi Arnaud, thank you so very much! And look at you, in New Zealand. :) We need to talk; I'll write you an e-mail shortly.

Alice -- hello and thank you, too! An e-mail to you is also long overdue. Soon, soon. :)

J said...

Don't forget to see the world before the babies start coming ;)

anya said...

I shall not, J. The world is my priority. :)