Reviewing: Sweet Noshings (What Jew Wanna Eat), by Amy Kritzer. Published by Rock Point/Quartoknows.com. Hardcover (also available as an ebook), 128 pages, 2016.
Amy Kritzer has reinvented and shaken up traditional Jewish baking with her new cookbook, “Sweet Noshings.” Debunking the phrase “don’t fix what ain’t broke,” Kritzer revolutionized dishes already standard in all kosher homes, “taking traditional recipes and modernizing them with current ingredients and techniques.” Although born in New York City, Ms. Kritzer established herself and her recipe blog “What Jew Wanna Eat—This Aint Yo Bubbe’s Blog,” in Texas. In addition to running her blog, What Jew Wanna Eat, she runs a modern online Jewish gift store too, ModernTribe.com.
“I was a conference producer in NYC and then did event planning at a consultancy in Austin, Texas. I learned so many skills in these jobs that help in running my own businesses now!” Kritzer unearthed her creativity from under the office-brushed carpet and “quit [her] consultancy job in 2011 to attend Le Cordon Bleu [culinary school] in Austin…one of the best experiences of my life! It really helped me think in terms of techniques and why ingredients work together.”
Organized by category, “Sweet Noshings” adds a little spice, both metaphorically and literally, with recreated classics ranging from cookies, cakes, breads and holiday go-tos. Anticipating mishaps or mix-ups, Kritzer first includes yeast disclaimers and tips for beginner bakers and double-boiler-first-timers. Kritzer explained, “I knew there were some classic recipes I needed to include—babka, rugelach, hamantaschen. Then I just had to test my favorite ideas and, of course, have lots of friends test too to determine the winners,” And win she did, jazzing up cocoa with a generous dollop of peanut butte, in order to “Reese’s Pieces-efy” her kokosh. Kritzer then baked halva into a purim cookie whose single nod to hamantaschen is in maintaining its shape as an equilateral triangle.
Perfecting pumpkin pecan cinnamon roll strudel and pistachio chocolate combos “took about a year between thinking of the recipes, testing, retesting, photographing, photographing more, editing and printing.” Proving that Kafka isn’t the only expert in metamorphism, Kritzer drastically transformed the pedestrian carrot and sweet potato kugel into a moist raisin tzimmes and spice cake. Wand in motion, the magic continued with a maple apple chai cake crowned with a creamy dream drizzle.
With the oven preset for “simple to scrumptious,” Kritzer also revamped Shabbat and Yom Tov classics with her “been-there-tasted-that” palate. Charoset, doughnuts and potato pancakes will no longer be limited to Pesach and Chanukah consumption if apple cubes can now be a brown butter caramel atlantis, and sufganiyot, a chocolate and lime fried culinary experience. As far as Shabbos leftovers are concerned, the birds aren’t getting Sunday challah anymore, with cranberry-walnut and white chocolate thyme bread pudding in the picture, or, rather, on the table. No need to deprive the animals of their post-Shabbos Shabbos party, though: crumbs from mid-morning’s snickerdoodle unicorn bagels are a great alternative.
Instead of password lists, Kritzer keeps safer, more delicious content in her phone notes. “I get ideas from all over. Magazines, cookbooks, restaurants, food shopping, traveling,” she noted.
“I love putting my own spin on things and adding modern ingredients, so it just made sense to put a little whiskey in a classic honey cake!” Add to that her Tex-mex chocolate rugelach, lemon lavender blintzes, and espresso cherry mandel breads, which can only be a direct result of growing up “baking with my mom and bubbe. Rugelach, blintzes, mandel bread, the works.”
For all your recipe makeovers, visit https://whatjewwannaeat.com.
By Rachel Liebling
Rachel Liebling is a freshman at Stern College for Women.