Monday, December 23, 2013

A Tale of Two Cakes, or I Probably Shouldn't Admit This

I want it, I want it, I want it...

Dear Marg,

It's the holiday season. I guess you know that. But none the less, it means holiday dinners. In our case, two back to back with no overlapping guests. For the first one I made a chocolate cake from Nigella. I know, but I like her. I think she's funny and her recipes work out for me. She's not uptight about things like measuring or how the cakes look. And she uses words like squidgy. She is the opposite of Miette.

The cake was flourless, so basically eggs, butter and chocolate. It was supposed to rise and then fall in the center creating a volcano-like crater for the cook to fill with whipped cream, which it did. It was okay. People liked it, or said they did, but no one wanted to take the leftovers home. It was light and sort of gentle, in a soft way. Pretty but vapid. I prefer a chocolate cake with more fortza. Maybe the fact that it was called Chocolate Cloud Cake should have tipped me off. I resolved to do better and thought wistfully of the chocolate cakes I hadn't made - especially the Chocolate Cherry FruitCake from Ready for Dessert.

The next night I was behind before I began. Amos offered to go to the store which was sweet but since his day was full he didn't get there until late so I couldn't start on the Chocolate Cherry Cake because we didn't have the cherries. Since time was short, the book was out and chocolate cake was clearly on my mind, I quickly settled on Racine Cake and began cracking eggs and melting chocolate. It was only when I was folding the eggs into the chocolate that I realized I was making basically the same cake. A little more chocolate, a lot more eggs, but the same general idea. No flour in sight - where was Alison?

It was better than Nigella's with more body and presence, but still in the same cloud-like camp.

I think I'm gearing up for a bout of OMG brownies, or the chocolate sour cream layer cake from Rosie's All Sugar, Fresh Cream, Butter Packed, etc etc etc...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Jet Lag Dinner

Hi Marg,

I meant to post about this a month ago, literally. When we got home from Bhutan I went on a jet-lag-fueled-bonding-with-my-kitchen extravaganza. This dinner was the one of the results.

First, turkey meatballs with zucchini and the most delightful sauce made of yogurt, garlic, lemon juice and sumac. It's a spice made from sumac berries. I bought it for the cookbook Jerusalem and have used it quite a bit. The spice and the book both.

The meatballs have mint in them and green onions and italian parsley which I use instead of the cilantro called for. I don't like cilantro. According to Harold McGee and the NY Times I am not alone. Apparently Julia Child said that if she found it in her food at a restaurant she would take it out and throw it on the floor. I'm with her.

Regardless, the meatballs, or little patties really, are delicious and you can eat the entire recipe which is supposed to serve 4-6 with just two people easily. They are fresh and light and satisfying all at the same time. And the sauce is fabulous even if you get all healthy and leave out the sourcream. Unlike the meatballs, there will definitely be sauce left over which is good because you can dip carrots in it, or smear it on leftover roast chicken, or just eat it off your fingers.

Second, for desert I made a great polenta cake with almonds, I think. I honestly can't remember what recipe I used but the pictures look like it's polenta and almonds. Although the recipe could have called for pecans, or pine nuts for all I can remember. There was a 19 hour time change remember. I have a feeling it was from David Lebovitz' Ready for Dessert because honestly that book has to be part of any bonding-with-your-kitchen extravaganza.

 Now it's a month later and I've had a cold for 2 weeks and would give anything for a measure of the energy that fueled this meal. The halls are decked but the cupboards are not far from bare and there is nary a christmas cooky in sight. I wish we lived closer so I could ride on your baking coattails.

love, Elise

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Some of what I have been baking


I've been baking. The consequence of all that time spent on Yumprint.

         Salted butter chocolate chip cookies from David Lebowitz, baked as a Blondie. I made some caramel and drizzled that over the top before baking. Terrific!

           Hungarian Shortbread from Dorie Greenspan's Baking with Julia. You make the shortbread dough, freeze it, and then grate it into the pan. I used raspberry jam in the center. Next time I'll try apricot jam and tart it up with some lemon juice, the jam, not the shortbread. This keeps and gets better each day. You could bake it on Wednesday and add it to a Christmas Cookie tray on Saturday.

           Oatmeal Cookie Cream Bar and Pecan Praline Bar. That jar in the back is Cookie Cream, something that has the consistency of Skippy peanut better and the flavor of those Biscoff Biscuits. If you are right now thinking to yourself that you aren't familiar with Biscoff Biscuits, one taste would take you right back to any European airport. These are good and if you can get past the whole European airport association, they are very good. I can't get past it.
          The pecan praline bar is just what it looks like, pecan shortbread crust, chopped pecans and a topping of mostly brown sugar and butter poured over it. Then you bake it. These are really good and with a little tweaking, could be great.

So maybe it isn't me, maybe I haven't lost the baking magic. I wish you were here to taste test.

Love, Margaret