There was a time—the year after leaving, even five years after when this homely street, with its old-fashioned high crown, its sidewalk blocks tugged up and down by maple roots, its retaining walls of sandstone and railings of painted iron and two-family brickfront houses whose siding imitates gray rocks, excited Rabbit with the magic of his own existence. These mundane surfaces had given witness to his life; this cup had held his blood; here the universe had centered, each downtwirling maple seed of more account than galaxies. No more. Jackson Road seems an ordinary street anywhere. Millions of such American streets hold millions of lives, and let them sift through, and neither notice nor mourn, and fall into decay, and do not even mourn their own passing but instead grimace at the wrecking ball with the same gaunt facades that have outweathered all their winters. However steadily Mom communes with these maples—the branches’ misty snake-shapes as inflexibly fixed in these two windows as the leading of stained glass—they will not hold back her fate by the space of a breath; nor, if they are cut down tomorrow to widen Jackson Road at last, will her staring, that planted them within herself, halt their vanishing. And the wash of new light will extinguish even her memory of them. Time is our element, not a mistaken invader. How stupid, it has taken him thirty-six years to begin to believe that.
― John Updike, Rabbit Redux
I was reminded this month, as I am every December, that time inches closer to another birthday. The moment when one shifts from one age to another is much like roof hopping, hurtling yourself over a wide expanse hoping that you’ll make it to the other side. Praying that your body won’t tumble to the ground, mid-flight. And soon the years become like starfish, binding to one another, blurring, and you wonder why one celebrates the date when one is born because it’s just another year, another day in passing. Instead of the fanfare and confetti of another year put out to pasture, I’m celebrating something else. Not what was, but what will become. A year that I absolve to be debt-free. A year I resolve to change the way I’ve been living my life.
A year where I inch closer and closer to my passion…food.
Every since I found this recipe on the very lovely Alice Gao’s site, I HAD to make it. It combines all of my loves — bread, chocolate, nuts and sugary butter. As I’m laying off the dairy, I made some virtuous replacements and the result is no less extraordinary.
INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from This is a Cookbook by Max and Eli Sussman. Discovered via Alice Gao’s Lingered Upon.
For the dough
1 package (2 1/4 tsp) dry yeast
1 tsp cane sugar, plus 1/4 cup (2oz|40g)
1/2 cup (4oz|125ml) whole milk*
4 tbsp (2oz|60g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp kosher salt
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 cups (20oz|625g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
vegetable spray for bowl
*I used almond milk, which yields a slightly drier bun, but it’s delicious nonetheless. You could also substitute vegan butter — Earth Balance makes a great buttery version — for the butter.
For the filling
5 tbsp (2 1/2oz|70g) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (6oz|185g) packed brown sugar
2/3 cup (3 1/2oz|105g) roughly chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2oz|235g) Nutella or other chocolate spread
1 large egg beaten, for egg wash
To make the dough, pour 1/2 cup (4oz|125ml) warm water (110F|43C) into a small bowl. Add the yeast + 1 tbsp sugar and stir to dissolve. Let stand until frothy, 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the milk until it bubbles. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup sugar, 4 tbsp butter, salt, and set aside until cool.
In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, stir the yeast mixture, milk mixture, eggs, vanilla and half the flour mixture on low until the ingredients start to combine. Stir in the remaining flour, a little at a time, and turn up the mixer to medium speed. Let the dough mix for 5-8 minutes until it slaps away from the bowl, is elastic, smooth and not sticky. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the dough doubles in size (approximately 1 hour).
Pre-heat the oven to 375F|190C. Melt the 5 tbsp of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar until smooth. Pour the brown sugar mixture into a greased 9x13in (23x33cm) pan/baking dish. Scatter the nuts on top.
On a well-floured work surface (also, flour your rolling pin), roll out the dough to a rectangle about 15x20in (38x50cm). Spread the Nutella over the dough in a thin layer, leaving a 1/2 inch (12mm) border uncovered on one long side. Brush the border with the beaten egg. Starting with the covered long side, roll the dough gently into a log (or cylinder), pressing to seal the seam with the egg. Sprinkle all over with cinnamon. Cut crosswise into 12 rounds and place in baking dish on top of the pecans. Bake until golden brown (20-25minutes). Let cool slightly and then invert onto a large platter. Serve!