Saturday, January 06, 2007

Cinnamon Puffs

Last night I went to bed virtuously planning to arise at a reasonable hour, gently wake my children, feed them a nutritious breakfast, and bundle them off to Shabbat services at our synagogue. The younger two actually wanted to go. But it didn't work out that way at all. The Spouse is still sick and slept fitfully which affected my own sleep. I awoke rather bleary and not at all motivated to drag sleeping tots from their cozy beds. So I turned on the computer, began the day at Radical Torah in honor of Shabbat and then caught up on some other reading. I was delighted to find new visitors to my blog--thanks for stopping by and leaving comments!

Somewhere between health care reform and The Yarn Harlot my stomach began to rumble. French toast made from Friday night challah is pretty standard on Saturday mornings when we're home. Yesterday's challah was absolutely delicious, the best I've made in months. I don't know why this is, I use exactly the same recipe week after week but there are always variations in the final product. Yesterday's challah was soft, sweet, golden, and perfectly cooked. The Dark Lord and I did some quick calculations and figured I'd probably made close to 800 challahs in the last 10 years, so declaring yesterday's loaves in the top 40 was pretty good, I thought. But I don't much like French toast. I wanted something sweet, but with a little kick. Something to go with coffee. Clearly I needed French Cinnamon Puffs, a rich, eggy muffin-like thing rolled in butter and cinnamon sugar. If you haven't yet figured this out, we are a butter positive family!

These are actually full of wonderful associations for me. As a teen I spent an inordinate amount of time hanging out with friends downtown at the Coffee Ritz. This was way before Starbucks came to Portland, before lattes, before there was a coffee shop on every corner. We would take the bus into town after school and hang out for hours drinking black coffee and people watching. Most of my babysitting money went for coffee but when I was flush I could splurge on a French Cinnamon Puff, with its buttery, sugar-crunchy topping. Absolute heaven.

And then I forgot all about them for many years. Around the time MonkeyBoy was born I began craving these things like a madwoman, which how my cravings always come on. If I had had a computer with internet access in those days no doubt I could have found a recipe in no time. But this was during the Dark Ages, so to speak, so if it wasn't at the library or Powell's, it wasn't available and with infant MonkeyBoy and toddler Dark Lord, my browsing time was severely limited. One day, lo and behold, my marvelous Aunt Nancy sent one of her always appreciated packages. This contained, among other things, a cookbook entitled Breakfast in Bed. If cookbook addiction is hereditary, I blame Aunt Nancy for she surely passed it on to me, along with many wonderful cookbooks. Within this small book I found a recipe for the puffs of my youth.

I have since made them many times. Recently they were on the menu for a Sunday brunch with friends, one of whom grew up here and knew exactly what I was putting on the table. It was a wonderful moment of connection. We didn't know each other as teens but had shared this experience though she actually worked at the Coffee Ritz and apparently suffered mightily whereas I was merely a customer.

The original recipe was stupid in that it only made about 8 good sized puffs. I'm sorry--who has an 8 cup muffin tin? Ridiculous! So I've upped the quantities just slightly in order to fill a normal person's muffin tin.

Even though they are called Cinnamon Puffs, the hint of nutmeg in the batter is crucial. I have not been a huge lover of nutmeg over the years, but it's growing on me. One of the very few actually cool places I've discovered in mid-county is the wonderfully exotic Anoush Deli which is full of all kinds of goodies from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. For pennies, one can buy a handful of whole nutmegs for grating at the Anoush. When you run them over your Microplane grater, not only are you rewarded with a heavenly aroma, but they are beautiful to look at as well. I think so anyway. So try the Puffs. Let me know what you think.


beth h said...

Melisa -- can you make some more?

Melisa said...

I can make some more. But so can you since I posted the recipe :-)

beth h said...

Trust me. You don't want me anywhere near an oven.