Updated 2019. My grandmother, Nova Metzger Jacobs, routinely made Merveilles at Christmastime, and I, as a child, routinely ate too many of them! Can you blame me? Merveilles (French for “miracle)” are crisply puffed, orange scented strips of fried dough. Here’s how to make these insanely delicious treats:
Memory snapshot. Nova, along with my grandfather, Frederick, lived in a rambling 1920s house in Washington State. One closed-off room in the house held an enormous upright piano. As a toddler, I liked to sneak into that room, and tickle the ivories to my heart’s content. This music-making eventually lead to piano lessons with some of the most gifted teachers in the world, including Yvonne Kovacevich in Spokane, and German Diez in New York City.
Of course, the piano is indirectly responsible for my brief career as a punk-rocker. I performed not once, not twice, but seven times at CGBGs in New York. There were other dates at other hip venues as well. Like S.N.A.F.U. in the East Village, and The Other End in the West Village.
I don’t think my grandmother would have appreciated my punk rock days, nor my punkish appearance. My hair was spiky. I wore a spider-earring.
But grandmama would be glad to know that my piano-passion continues even to this day, as evidenced by the three grands in my home. Two pianos — a Steinway and a Yamaha — are located before a window garden. The plants seem particularly fond of Bach, Mozart, and Chopin. I have not tested their capacity for 1980s punk rock.
Enough memoir. Let’s hit the cookie-trail, okay?
I hope you have a micro-zester. If not, add it to your Christmas list. It is not an expensive gadget.
No brandy in your purse? Reach for the dark rum!
No pictures of the following 2 steps: Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap, and generously flour a work surface. My work surface is a piece of canvas.
Note: I rolled my pastry into a free-form shape. If you’d prefer a neat, 4-inch wide rectangle, go for it.
No picture here, because I forgot to take one: In a large, heavy pot (or a deep-fat fryer, if you have one), heat 4 inches of oil to 350°F. Don’t guess here — use a candy thermometer to make sure the temperature is correct.
Think you’ll try these cookies of my youth? You can let me know by leaving a comment.
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Here’s the printable:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- The grated zest of 1 orange
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons brandy or dark rum
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Flavorless vegetable oil for deep frying
- Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- Tip the granulated sugar and orange zest into a medium bowl, and rub them together with fingertips until the sugar is fragrant. Add the butter, and blend it into the sugar with a spatula. Stir in the egg, brandy, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture, and stir until a soft, sticky dough develops. Scoop the dough onto a sheet of plastic, and wrap it up. Chill for 2 hours or overnight. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with plastic wrap.
- Cut the dough in half, and return one half to the refrigerator. Put the first half on a lightly floured surface. Lightly sprinkle the top of the dough with more flour, and then roll it out, flipping it over frequently and adding more flour to keep it from sticking, until it is paper thin. (You can roll the dough into a neat rectangle or a free-form shape.) Use a pastry cutter, a fluted ravioli cutter, or a knife to cut the dough into strips that are approximately 1-inch-wide and 4 inches long. Roll out and cut the remaining dough into strips. Transfer the strips to the prepared baking sheet, and cover with another piece of plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour.
- Line a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels. In a heavy pot, heat 4 inches of oil to 350°F as determined by a candy thermometer. Fry 4 or 5 strips at a time just until golden brown on one side. Then flip the strips with chopsticks or a heat proof spatula, and brown the other side. Transfer to the paper towel-lined baking sheet, let drain for 1 minute, then coat both sides with confectioners' sugar. Merveilles are best when served on the day you fry them.