You don’t need the tagline on the newly released Sweet Noshings to know that it’s all about Jewish food—just look at the dedication. Author Amy Kritzer dedicated it to her brother “Andy pooh, who loves cookies. And to Bubbe, who is already bragging to her friends at the JCC.”
A marketing professional turned professional food writer and chef, Kritzer is the woman behind What Jew Wanna Eat. Her blog puts a modern, personal twist on Jewish food favorites. Kritzer describes herself as an “optimistic, fun person” who likes her food in the same mode.
Sprinkling “oy” and “nosh” in her posts, she uses recipe names like “Manischewitz Red Wine Slushies” and calls her beet tahini smoothie a “Jewthie.” After explaining how she was a breakfast-taco virgin until moving to the South, she came up with avocado latkes breakfast tacos, an adaptation that, she claims, has “the perfect amount of grease to fuel you for eight crazy days of dreidel games.”
Kritzer began baking with her Bubbe Eleanor as a young girl, and when she decided to start a food blog as a creative sideline to her marketing day job, it seemed only natural that the focus be on Jewish food. Of course, it helped that her Bubbe sent her reams of recipes to start off with, from brisket and latkes to rugelach.
After starting What Jew Wanna Eat, Kritzer attended Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, her adopted hometown. She says that culinary school helped her to understand how to adapt, or even discard, recipes by teaching her basic cooking and baking techniques. With that firm grounding, Kritzer’s confidence in adapting existing recipes and creating new ones grew—and so did the popularity of What Jew Wanna Eat.
Although her blog includes all kinds of food from appetizers to decadent cakes and breakfast dishes to soups and sides for holidays, Kritzer’s “heart has always been with baking.” And so it makes sense that her first cookbook is about sweet food. Mostly desserts (cookies, cakes, sweet yeasted breads and fruit desserts), it does include a few other sweet versions of dishes that might not always come to mind when you think of sweets: kugel, latkes, matzah brei and fondue.
I did the unthinkable and asked Kritzer which of the recipes in Sweet Noshings is her favorite. Would she choose one or demur, I wondered? Of course, the answer was that she did neither. Like a kid asked to name her favorite grandparent, she didn’t hesitate at all and rattled off four: Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Babka (because of the flavor combination), the Black and Pink Cookies and the Chocolate Ombré Layer Cookies (because they are new twists on childhood favorite cookies) and Drunken Honey Pomegranate Cake (because it’s so easy to make).
When I asked her about her favorite Jewish holiday, the answer was simpler and even more direct: Passover. Her enthusiasm wafted over the phone line as we talked, and she said “love” at least three times: she loves the holiday itself, loves the challenge of creating Passover recipes and loves hosting the Seder, which she has done for a number of years.
What comes through loudly and clearly from her blog, book and conversation is how much people matter to Kritzer. Whether it’s her own family, her readers, fellow bloggers or friends, connecting to people is clearly emotional nourishment to her. It’s integral to the satisfaction she gets from blogging and is part of why she enjoyed writing the book, using longtime readers to test some of the recipes.
When asked what she did with all the extra desserts created during the recipe-testing phase of Sweet Noshings, Kritzer laughed. She “shared the love,” giving sweet gifts to friends and neighbors. Plus she kept a refrigerator full of goodies that she encouraged visitors to enjoy—“Eat, you’ll like it.” She may not be her Bubbe, but I’ll bet that when she comes at you with a plate of sliced babka and urges you to take a slice, she’s channeling Bubbe Eleanor big time.
Amy Kritzer’s book, Sweet Noshings: New Twists on Traditional Jewish Desserts is available through Modern Tribe, a source for fun Jewish gifts operated by Amy and her brother Andrew, as well as through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Waterstones and the Book Depository.