In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a huge fan of cake as we know it. I’m pretty thrilled when I pull off a layer cake, and I swoon at Molly Yeh’s gorgeous creations, but I’ll almost never go into a bakery, look at the cake options, and say, “ooh, I’ll take a slice of that, please.” In fact, for our wedding we had a rustic and delicious pie station with three sweet and tart options to sample and devour (apple, pumpkin, and cranberry pear, of course) in lieu of the traditional, schmancy multi-tier wedding cake, and our guests didn’t even miss it. But — combine a cake with a brownie, flavor it with almond and orange, and call it a torte, and I will throw my hat back in the cake ring with relish. Continue reading →
I’m baking a lot of bread these days. Holding the ImaginariYUM to its name and experimenting several days a week — with different kinds and percentages of flours, with hydration levels, with folding techniques and bulk fermentation times. Even the not-so-great loaves are a thrill — the deductions of what went wrong, why perhaps this baking temperature isn’t great for that particular formula in this particular oven. It makes me remember that despite giving up in chemistry in high school, I’m a scientist at heart. I want to know how things work, why things are they way they are. Making naturally leavened bread is the perfect juxtaposition of science and my other love, art. Know thy formulas, deduce, experiment, test again, but feel it and express it with your heart and soul. Continue reading →
When people ask me what my favorite dessert is, I usually say, without hesitation, apple pie. Please don’t make me a cake for my birthday — in fact, for our wedding we cut into a small pumpkin cake just for tradition’s sake but had a table of fall fruit pies for all our guests (and us, of course). But guys, I’m at that point in the year when I’m kind of over fruit and I want everything to be chocolate. I want all cookies, all the time. ‘Tis the season, right? And while I am definitely shoving many peanut butter blossoms in my face each day, I also have been craving the more refined variety. There’s nothing better on a cold winter’s day than an afternoon coffee or hot cocoa and a crunchy biscotti — unless it’s these Mexican Hot Chocolate Biscotti. These are biscotti on an even higher plane.
This one goes out to all you marathoners out there. All you celiacs. All you vegans. This is the back-pocket recipe I wish I had over the last two years, when I was training my ass off, hungry all the time and only half-heartedly fooling myself into thinking I could eat whatever I wanted. These vegan, gluten-free chocolate peanut butter banana energy bites have everything I want in a sweet, satisfying treat, and nothing I don’t need. Continue reading →
For years, it seems, Ray has been asking me to make a French silk pie, and every single time I’ve balked. It just never appealed to me. I’m not a fan of most whipped frostings and most whipped mousses — unless they’re drenched with flavor. Flipping through Cindy Mushet’s The Art and Soul of Baking a few weeks ago, though, I stumbled upon a chocolate silk pie that sounded leagues more sophisticated than anything I ever imagined French silk pie to be — it looked, in essence, like a chocolate truffle pie. It sounded decadent, dense, and rich — and quite a bit less cool-whippy than I always thought it traditionally was. And, to make it even more enticing, the crust was to be made from Oreos. Now this was the sort of silk pie I could get behind. This would be his birthday surprise. Continue reading →
Do you remember when life was simple and all you needed for a delicious, well-earned, just-baked dessert was a Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie? Cream the butter and sugars, add the eggs and vanilla, add the flour mixture in three portions, stir in chocolate chips, bake at 375 degrees. In our quest for always better, always different, always new, I wonder if we’ve sort of lost sight of the basics. I’ve seen gorgeous recipes for dishes and desserts with 4,000 ingredients that you never thought to put together. I, myself, proudly brown my butter and whisk it with sugar and eggs in four different stages, because, yes, I really, really like these cookies. These are the ones I want in my life every single damn day. And last week, I finally replenished my tahini supply and made these lovely Salted Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies from Danielle Oron’s book Modern Israeli Cooking, reprinted earlier this year in the New York Times. Like the brown butter chocolate chip cookies, they straddle the classic and the different, yet are still entirely simple to make — you even cream the butter and sugar, like the olden days! Continue reading →
What do you picture when you imagine a perfect vacation? Is there an ocean? Good food? Beautiful running paths? Amazing music? Your favorite person? For me, it is all of the above. We (re)discovered Asbury Park, NJ — a short train ride from NYC — a few years ago, and it quickly became our go-to destination for summer holidays and birthdays and I-just-want-to-go-to-the-beach-days. Two years ago, we treated ourselves for our anniversary with a stay at the Asbury Park Inn, a lovely bed and breakfast just three short blocks from our favorite part of the beach. To say that Kate, the co-proprietor with husband Joe, is a genius in the kitchen, would be an understatement. Each of our two mornings she cooked us a feast: amazingly creamy eggs with mozzarella, avocado, and tomato; peach and thyme breakfast cobbler; coconut chocolate chunk scones. That first morning, when Kate obliged me after I couldn’t make up my mind about which one thing to order, I think I waddled to the beach, with zero regrets. Continue reading →
It’s amazing what happens when one piece of a seemingly complex puzzle falls into place, and you realize it was never complex at all. Simply different, maybe a little foreign, and rare — for the time being. That’s how it was with chouquettes, but they’re merely a template — a very simple template — for all the wonderful things you can fill choux pastry with. I’m riding that French pastry train through the woods, past pristine rivers and pines, and into Paris. Next stop: Éclairs. All aboard! Choux-choux! Continue reading →
There is no better expression of love than a good episode of The Simpsons. Watched together, on the couch, with two big bowls of pasta and maybe a furry kitty between you. It’s what we did the first night we moved into our very own apartment together, just the two of us, four years ago, taking those tiny but bold steps towards something bigger and lasting. Whenever we’re blue, or distraught, or maybe just watched something too intensely depressing, we turn to The Simpsons — together. We re-watch scenes over and over, noticing tiny details that we hadn’t caught the first 38 times around. We double over in laughter. We quote Mr. Burns, Grampa, Marge, Homer, Ralph Wiggum, everyone. And it never, ever gets old. That’s love, right?
Love is also made of pastry. Candies and chocolates are great. So are brownies, and cookies, and cakes. But sometimes — like maybe on Valentine’s Day — you want to do something extra special. Something that maybe doesn’t take a whole lot of work, but is French, and is, as such, fancy, and instantly impressive. I’m talking about choux pastry — pâte à choux. That gorgeously crisp pastry dough that puffs up in the oven, leaving a just barely custardy space inside for pastry cream, or whipped cream, or ice cream, or nothing at all. I’m talking profiteroles, I’m talking eclairs. But first, I’m talking chouquettes. Continue reading →
I have a confession to make: I absolutely, positively can’t stand Mariah Carey’s silly, saccharine “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Earth-shattering, I know. But there are few songs that fill me with rage deep enough to make me threaten to leave a party. I don’t know what it is. It’s just so — happy. And catchy. It’s in my head as I type this, threatening to overpower my vocabulary with generic, candy-coated truths. I mean, the sentiment is nice. The sentiment of the lyrics I generally agree with. I don’t need Santa to bring me toys either. I just want the love of my life. And cookies. Lots and lots of cookies. But I’ll be singing the praises of these deliciously perfect mint mocha crinkle cookies in the deliciously dark key of F minor.