Olive Oil Cake: On Weddings and Wonderful Weekends

Olive Oil Cake for a backyard wedding

Olive Oil Cake for a backyard wedding

This past weekend I was back in CT with (most of – we missed you Oop!) my fam for the wedding reception of one of our nearest and dearest. We have known the family for more than 30 years, when the moms met on the Guilford Green because their similarly aged children were being similarly age-appropriately annoying, I think. They have a beautiful house on gorgeous property just one town over from where I grew up, so we all, except for the littlest, all the way out there in Denver, converged on the homestead for the weekend. It was really lovely. The party was gorgeous, the food was delicious and the dancing was most excellent. The fam represented on the dance floor, it was a very impressive performance, actually. They can really cut a rug. It was really lovely to be home.

A couple months ago, the bride asked if I would be willing to make an olive oil cake for the reception. The menu was tapas and paella, and it fit nicely, plus they are particularly fond of them. I said I would love to. I was thrilled to be able to do something for them, and I figured it definitely had to be easier than the fondant craziness I have made for other weddings. I tested a couple of options, this one was really delicious, but I wasn’t sure how it would work in larger format. So I found another one and it is a winner. It is really great, and even better, it is a dream to put together.

Olive Oil Cake sounds a little confusing perhaps. Like maybe it’s savory instead of sweet, or a side dish like cornbread, rather than dessert. It looks like cornbread too, so that doesn’t help clarify things. But make no mistake, this is definitely cake. It’s sweet – quite sweet, actually. It doesn’t need any kind of glaze or frosting, though I could probably get behind a nice glaze. It’s dense, but not heavy. It’s really moist, but not at all greasy, and the olive oil gives the edges a really nice crispness. It has a really great olive oil flavor. It is a perfect dessert, but isn’t too sweet for breakfast (I know, cuz I tried it) or for a tea time snack. Best of all, it comes together like a dream and there is a really good chance you have everything right in your kitchen already. It is so very easy. Two bowls, some measuring cups and spoons and a whisk. No electricity needed. Also, ALSO, it multiplied really easily and well with no negative effects. Delightful! (It calls for a 10″ round pan. For a 16″ square pan, I multiplied times three and it was just right. A 16″ pan cut in wedding cake slices easily served  the 80 guests. I had made two. Luckily I think it is going to freeze really well.)

Basically, if I haven’t been clear, MAKE THIS. Fo realz. It is perfect. For a party or for brunch or for a shower or for your office or just because you’re bored.

Just make it.

For tea

For tea

Of note…

Today, on THIS day, SCOTUS, I am happy and proud and thankful. Love Is Love. Keep Calm and Marry On.

Aaron Hernandez, you are the worst. Tim Tebow, how good are you at catching stuff?

It’s the summer, which means 4th of the July, which means the best holiday ever. Hot weather? Check. Lots of outdoor picnic foods? Check. Beer? Check. FIREWORKS? Yesssssssssss.

Still reading Strong Poison. I have not had lots of time for reading.

Olive Oil Cake (makes one 10″ cake)

From Food & Wine

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 cup olive oil (I used extra-virgin, the Whole Foods brand)

1 cup whole milk

3 large eggs

1/4 cup Grand Marnier

zest of one orange

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10″ cake pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and kosher salt. In a second bowl, whisk together olive oil, milk, eggs, Grand Marnier and orange zest. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and mix until just combined.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for one hour, until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar if you want. Or don’t! Serve with your choice of accoutrements, whipped cream, sweetened mascarpone, berries, ice cream. Enjoy!

A Soufflé for Julia

for one…

I am, as always, behind the eight ball on this one. Julia Child would have been 100 last month. She was remarkable and funny and talented and tall. And she seemed like a joy to be around. She came to the cooking game “late” in life, after spending time over seas as a SPY. That is awesome. I always wanted to be a spy. Or a fighter pilot, or an astronaut. I didn’t quite get there. I do real estate now though, so…close. But maybe I can still follow in Julia’s footsteps someday. Have a second career in food. That seems more manageable (says the girl that can’t even maintain a blog with any regularity. Or figure out how to add an accent to an “e” on a Mac.)

At any rate, I made a soufflé for Julia’s birthday. I also made one a couple days later, just for the hell of it, when Meredith and Baby M came to visit me on M’s first big city adventure, because they are delicious. The good thing about that is I made an individual one, AND a full size one, so I can share the recipes for both of them with you. So if you are chillin by yourself and craving soufflé, as one does, don’t despair! It can be done.

For the full-sized soufflé I turned, of course, to Mastering the Art of French Cooking because where else would you turn? That book is perfect. For the single serving, I turned to Judith Jones, and her book The Pleasure of Cooking for One. Judith, as you might know, was Julia’s editor for MTAOFC, so it was an appropriate birthday tribute.

The way people speak about soufflés, you would think they were these super sensitive explosive devices that detonate the moment you don’t fold egg whites correctly or look at them the wrong way while they are cooking. They are not. They are actually mostly hot air. Since air pressure increases when it is hot and decreases when it is cold (science!!!) soufflés love to puff up really beautifully when they are in the oven, and then deflate pretty much immediately when it is removed from the oven, so you want to make sure you get the most puff for your buck when it is cooking, and have the table set and your guests sitting down and ready to eat by the time it’s finished.

for a crowd

This is also the reason you will have to excuse the photographs, the more I took and the more time I took to set each one up, the more the soufflé deflated, so they are not looking super puffy. I also think in the case of the big one, I could have cooked it for 4-5 more minutes so it set up a little firmer, which would have helped it keep its puff, but since there was a 6-week old baby to hang out with, I got distracted and forgot how many minutes I had put on the timer and didn’t want to overcook it. (I would have made a really terrible spy. Foiled at every turn by babies and kitchen timers.)

But really, soufflés are actually pretty easy, especially after you’ve done it once or twice. And there is a good chance you have everything you need in the house at any given time. Eggs, milk, butter, flour, cheese. That’s it. A standing or hand held mixer is certainly helpful, but I whipped the egg whites by hand for one of these and it worked out just fine! Soufflés for everyone! Go forth and impress yourself and your guests!

So many thoughts…

It’s the fall guys! I love the fall! The cooking is so good, and the weather is so great. What should I make? And football! And new tv is back. Have you guys watched Homeland? It is so very good. You should watch it.

This is terrible news…Ry! How could you? No, jk jk. Good luck you crazy kids.

This made me inappropriately sad, considering I have never met them.

Bought my ticket to the west coast for Thanksgiving and I cannot wait. It’s been too long.

What I’m reading: Zone One by Colson Whitehead. It’s a post-apocalyptic zombie book. Post-apocalyptic books might actually be last on my list of genres I’m interested in but the writing is pretty much perfect. I am very glad I gave it a try.

What I am listening to: Miles Away from Sam McCarthy – Short and sweet, and fantastic; and The Wheeler Brothers – my sister studied in Spain with one of the guys in the group, and they are great.

Craftiness of the week: I’m working on pillow covers for my living room pillows. Pictures to follow.

If you get a minute, this is pretty amazing and heartbreaking.

Other things I’ve been eating:

zucchini linguine

You will see that one again, the recipe is a work in progress…I’ll keep you posted.

mexican corn

This you will be seeing again. Probably like tomorrow, because it is JUST SO GOOD. You need to make it. I will share post haste.

fideos with aioli

I just found my new comfort food people. Fideos are kind of like a pasta version of paella.

Be good to each other.

I am just going to go ahead and get to the recipes, because if I don’t this post might sit around another month and that would be the worst…

Cheese Soufflé according to Julia

For Four:

1 tbl butter, softened (for preparing the mold)

1-2 tbl grated parmesan cheese (for preparing the mold)

3 tbl butter

3 tbl flour

1 cup milk, brought to a boil

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

A pinch of cayenne pepper

5 eggs, separated (you will need four yolks and all five whites)

3/4 cup grated swiss cheese (or gruyere if you’re fancy)

For One:

1 tsp butter, softened for preparing the mold

1 tbl grated parmesan for preparing the mold

2 tsp butter

1 tbl flour

1/3 cup milk brought to a boil

pinch of salt

small pinch of cayenne

2 eggs, separated (you will need one yolk and both whites)

1/3 cup grated swiss cheese (another option is to use “an aged mountain cheese.” I…have no idea what that is, but if you find it, feel free to give it a whirl!)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. For the large soufflé, prepare a six or eight cup soufflé dish with the melted butter and sprinkle with the parmesan, for an individual soufflé, prepare a 1.5 cup ramekin with the butter and parmesan. (The butter keeps the soufflé from sticking, the cheese gives the batter something to climb as it rises.)

Set aside. Melt the rest of the butter in a saucepan, and stir in the flour. Stir for a minute or two until it foams. Remove from heat and whisk in the boiling milk. Return the pan to the heat and stir over medium heat until the sauce thickens. Season with the salt, pepper and cayenne. Remove from the heat and whisk in the egg yolks.

Beat the egg whites with a mixer or a wire whisk until stiff peaks form. Add about a quarter of the beaten egg whites to the egg yolk mixture with the grated cheese, and mix. Fold in the rest of the egg whites gently, and transfer the mixture to the prepared mold.

Put the soufflé in on the middle rack of the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 375 degrees. Bake the small soufflé for 18-20 minutes and large soufflé for 25-30 minutes until the soufflé has puffed up an inch or two over the top of the dish. The top will be golden brown. Cook for another 3-5 minutes until the soufflé is firm, remove from the oven and serve immediately.

B&G Classic: Banana Bread

A classic...

It boggles the mind that I have yet to write about Banana Bread, as it is currently one of the most frequent products of time spent in my kitchen. It is so mind-boggling, in fact, that I had to go back through all my old posts to confirm I hadn’t written a post already and forgotten about it.

For some reason, this banana bread is a huge hit. I don’t know why, since it seems pretty basic, but people LOVE it. It is oft requested by my work peeps and since we get groceries and produce delivered to the office, over-ripe bananas are pretty easy come by. I have everything else on hand most of the time, and it takes maybe 20 minutes of active time to get this recipe together. Regular banana bread making is a no-brainer.

This recipe is mostly Martha’s, with a few B&G adjustments. I like to sub in some brown sugar for some of the white sugar in her recipe because, why not? Brown sugar is delicious and it adds some nice depth.  I also leave out nuts, but sometimes add in chocolate instead because chocolate is delicious.

This is just great, I am not sure if there is more to say about it, because I am pretty sure most of us have had banana bread. If you haven’t had banana bread because you don’t like bananas, I urge you to try it, or get someone else to make it and then try it, because while it is totally banana-y, it is also one of those things that people who hate bananas manage to love anyway, because it’s a different kind of banana-ness. Or if you don’t like it because you’ve only had bad ones, I recommend you try it because this is a good one, and I suspect it will change your mind. It’s very sweet, which I like, but could easily be adjusted if you preferred otherwise. The addtion of sour cream or greek yogurt makes it very moist, and it has great banana flavor. It is a delight when it is still warm, it is a delight when it is cooled the next day, it is a delight when it is toasted, it is a delight as a bed for an ice cream sundae, and I am pretty sure it would be a delight as the basis for a bread pudding, which, now that you mention it, I am TOTALLY going to try pretty much immediately. I am going to leave some of this out to get stale.

Next time you have bananas that got a little too ripe, don’t despair, make banana bread! You will be very popular.

breakfast of champions.

Classic Banana Bread (makes 2 standard loaves or one large tube cake – recipe can easily be halved)

Adapted from The Martha Stewart Cookbook

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar (not packed)

4 eggs

3 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp salt

2 cups mashed very-ripe bananas (about 6)

1 cup sour cream or greek yogurt

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup chocolate chunks (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350. Prep two loaf pans or a tube pan with butter or cooking spray, set aside.

Cream the butter and both sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. (A handheld mixer or by hand would work too!) Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well between each addition. Sift together dry ingredients in a medium bowl and add to the butter mixture, mixing until just combined. Add the banana, the sour cream and the vanilla and mix until combined. Fold in chocolate (or nuts if they float your boat) and pour into prepared pans.

Bake the banana bread in the center of the oven for at least an hour until golden and a cake tester insterted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Loaf pans will likely take an hour or an hour and five minutes, tube pan will take about an hour and fifteen minutes.

Enjoy!!

In which I make (finally) something sweet…

Great Gatsby’s Ghost! I just realized I have not posted anything sweet on here since LAST AUGUST! That’s crazy! I have certainly made sweet things, and I have most definitely eaten sweet things, but apparently, I showed them no love here. I’m aghast. That changes today.

Well, hello there!

I made Hello Mollys and I actually made them incorrectly, though it appears that no one but me was the wiser. Hello Mollys are better known as Seven-Layer bars, Congo Bars or Hello Dolly Bars, but they happen to be the specialty of one of my favorite relations, whose name happens to be Molly, and as a result, in our family, these are called Hello Mollys. She makes them at Christmastime, so I always think of them as a Christmas treat, but that is actually not the case at all. There is nothing seasonal about them, and even if there is, I made them a couple weeks ago (I know! Why can’t I stay on top of this?!?) and everybody at work loved them in spite of the time of year. When I made these, I promptly sent an e-mail to Molly telling her I had done so, and I had followed her recipe, and that I liked hers better. I think I have since figured out why that was the case…

If you look these up on the webs, there are definitely some variations, but there are more similarities than differences. The name Seven-Layer Bars comes from the cookies having –you guessed it – seven layers. Each of the layers is an ingredient, so I suppose they could also be called Seven-Ingredient Bars. I don’t know where the name Congo Bars or Hello Dolly Bars came from. Irrelevant to the discussion at hand… The layers/ingredients are: butter, graham cracker, chocolate chips, walnuts, coconut, condensed milk and almonds. Is that seven? Yep! That’s it. That’s what you need. You might even already have all that stuff in your kitchen! The recipe is super easy to remember too, since all the amounts, except for the butter, are the same (though you can feel free to play with them and adjust proportions to your liking.)

getting layered

It goes something like this – melt a stick of butter in a 9×13 baking pan (this is where I went wrong, I am not sure exactly what size mine was, but it was bigger, and I didn’t have a 9×13  – I have remedied that situation.) Once the butter has melted and you’ve swirled it around the pan, you add 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs and spread it around to make an even layer. Then add two cups of chocolate chips and spread it around to make an even layer. Then add two cups of lightly chopped walnuts, and spread them around to make an even layer. Then add two cups of shredded coconut and spread it around to make an even layer. Then it gets crazy! (and also, this is the other place I went wrong.) Open two cans of sweetened condensed milk and pour it over the top. Last but not least, sprinkle two cups of sliced almonds over the top, spread around to make an even layer, and then bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. When I made them, I sprinkled the almonds on first and THEN poured the condensed milk over, so they got coated too and got kind of shellacked on to the cookies. When Molly does it, the almonds stay flaky on the top and some of them end up falling off and they so they are not quite as almond-y or something. I don’t know, I just know I like hers better…I am not a huge nut fan, so that might be why. As I mentioned, no one at work thought that anything was amiss, so they work either way. I want to make these again, but I want to sub in some butterscotch chips for some of the chocolate, and I want to use salted peanuts instead of walnuts. And I would also like to perhaps sub in fancier chocolate instead of just regular chocolate chips, and then use pistachios? I don’t know about that one, but I’d be tempted to try it. Probably in a smaller pan since that would mean a lot of pistachios, and they are ‘spensive.

So there you go, if you have a potluck coming up, or you feel like bringing something when you go to someone’s house, or you just feel like making yourself a delightful treat, these truly couldn’t be easier. And so quick! You have to leave in 45 minutes? No worries! Make some Hello Mollys and slice ‘em when you get where you’re going. Just don’t burn yourself on the walk or ride over there. Wear your oven mitts. (But don’t leave them behind, because then you won’t have them anymore.)

yum

Phew! Something sweet! Balance has been restored…now on to more pressing matters.

1. The Olsen twins: Am I supposed to be able to tell them apart? Please advise.

2. I had to have an emergency root canal on Monday afternoon. I sort of suspected I might, when I spent all of Sunday trying to figure out if I could mainline Advil, or if I had any connections to unsavory characters that specialize in pills. I was really hungry that night so I made myself an egg and not very toasted toast, hoping it would be soft enough to get down my gullet without causing pain, but a wayward crumb crept over to the left side of my mouth, resulting in 20 minutes of tears until the feeling that someone was pounding nails into my tooth roots subsided. Monday afternoon in the dentist chair also saw 20 minutes of tears when I realized that the last root canal I had was under the blissful influence of Valium, and this one was going to have to be Valium free, and also, did you know how expensive root canals are when you’ve already used most of your dental benefits this year getting a beautiful shiny crown that is also about to be defaced? I felt really sorry for the dentist, who had never met me, because he had to deal with a grown-ass stranger lady falling apart in his chair on a Monday afternoon when he probably thought he’d get to go home early. And then, apparently, it was a really difficult tooth to deal with. Sorry guy. I am afraid of dental work and I have difficult teeth. I am not proud of either.

3. Have I told you about the Honey Badgers? I don’t think I have, and that makes me remiss. The HBs are a group of fantastic, hilarious, loyal, gorgeous ladies that I am lucky enough to keep company with. The name Honey Badgers does not, in fact, come from creepy coyotes, but from this. (Gram, don’t even bother, you won’t enjoy that…) HBs 4 dash eva.

4. I read a  lot of blogs and websites and there are a couple in particular I’d like to share with you…Gifts that Give is a blog by my friend Meg with fantastic daily ideas about gifts that give back. She has excellent taste and I want pretty much everything on there. The Hairpin makes me laugh every single day. Tastespotting is inspirational. Gilt Taste is just trouble. That is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m not gonna lie, I love the internet.

5. I also read a lot of more traditional reading material like books and magazines. (Do books on Kindle count as traditional?) Right now I am reading “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin” by Erik Larson. It is great. Erik Larson is really good. He also wrote “The Devil in the White City” which I could not recommend more highly. He writes non-fiction in the most enjoyable, readable way imaginable, and he writes about major events with a focus on one or two players, and the books are great. I also read The New Yorker on my Kindle, and I am very excited for my upcoming vacation, so I can catch up on the back issues that I have gotten half way through that are still languishing on there waiting to be finished. A couple of issues of Vanity Fair will also be accompanying me to the North Carolina shores in a week and a half. I hope no one in my extended family is hoping to like chat with me or anything while I am there.

6. I will be on vacation in about 10 days with 46 other people. That is not a typo. There will 46 walking around humans in two large houses on the beach. 46 of my favorite humans in existence. I CAN NOT WAIT.

7. Bruins. Game 7. Up by one. Nervous. Also, I love the name Peverley. I could say it all the time. I want it to be my name. I wonder if he’s single? (Related: playoff beards are G-R-O-S-S. Not a fan.) UPDATE: 2-0, I’m less nervous.

Hello Mollys (makes 18-24 cookies)

1 stick butter

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

2 cups chocolate chips

2 cups lightly chopped walnuts

2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

2 cans sweetened condensed milk

2 cups sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in the baking pan (you can do this on top of the stove, but even easier to stick the pan and the butter in the oven as it heats up.) When the butter is melted, swirl the pan around so it coats the entire bottom as evenly as possible. Add the graham cracker crumbs to the pan and spread over the bottom in an even layer. Add the chocolate chips to the pan and spread them in an even layer. Do the same with the walnuts and then the coconut. Pour the cans of condensed milk evenly over the layers, and top with the sliced almonds. Bake for 30 mins. Cool, cut into bars and enjoy!

In which I make bagels…

So here’s what I did last weekend…

I made those!!

Bagels! I made them! I also had brunch with my Gram and my aunt (the bagels joined us as well) and finally watched The Town. (My apartment is in it! For reals! You have to look quick, but the prettiest blue door in all of the North End is in it! Famous.) It was a low key weekend that was much needed (do you see how few things on that list involve leaving the house…jackpot!)

The bagels, I’ll admit, were stressful. Not, as it turns out, because they were difficult to make, but because I was very afraid that they were going to be difficult, and it wasn’t until they were cooling on the rack that I realized that they actually were not at all, and that I will happily make them again…maybe for Easter (I didn’t do this…oops.)

I also made gravlax to go with them.

brunch

I wanted to make cream cheese too, and really bring this home, but I couldn’t get rennet aside from mail order and I didn’t have time to mail order. Next time.

Anyway, gravlax are cured salmon (note: I do not like smoked salmon. Not. At. All. Why would you take delicious salmon and make it taste like campfire? It boggles the mind. Instead, gravlax are my preferred bagel topping.) I have made them before, so I was not nervous about that. There really is nothing easier. You buy a salmon filet and cut it into two equal sized pieces, mix yourself up a paste of kosher salt, sugar, pepper and vodka (just a splash) and sandwich the paste between the two pieces of salmon with some dill, and then wrap it and stick it in the fridge with some weights on it. (At the Hargraves homestead in CT, you know there are gravlax in the works when there is a large patio rock hanging out in the fridge…not weird at all.) Every twelve hours or so, you take the salmon out, unwrap it and baste it with the liquid that is being pulled out of the salmon by the salt, and in four days you have a two beautifully cured gravlax filets. Sounds like a lot, but trust me, writing about it took more work than making it.

I started the bagels Saturday evening, mix the dough, knead for 5-7 minutes, throw it in the fridge and do something else. (In my case, watch The Town very closely to pick out all of the reasons that Ben Affleck and co. took over my neighborhood for what felt like years two summers ago.) After at least one hour in the fridge, take the dough out, portion it, shape it and stick it back in the fridge overnight. Next morning take the dough out of the fridge, boil those suckers for a minute and a half each, top with the toppings of your choice (onion! sesame seeds! poppy seeds! salt! asiago cheese! whatever you want! except for cinnamon sugar! that one waits until after the bagels are baked!) and then bake them for 20 minutes. That’s it. Voila. Bagels. Good bagels. Bagels that will make you (and hopefully others) smile. Bagels that will impress your friends. Bagels that you will want to make again. Bagels! BAGELS!!

Bagels!

So go forth, make bagels!

Things…

1. Last week, I was suffering from a terrible hormone imbalance that made me at once want to burst into tears, put my fist through my monitor, and eat my own weight in bar food. How this particular hormone imbalance is able to sneak up on me on a fairly regular basis is a testament to something -what I am not sure, but I suspect it is not to my brilliance, I have often spent a good portion of days like this trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with me. Eventually it dawns on me… – but at any rate I went home and made batter fried chicken fingers, honey mustard sauce and french fries (and sat on my couch and ate them by myself while I watched the Celts and cursed the cheerleaders) so I will be talking about that one of these days.

2. Remember how I said I needed more hours in the day? That would actually still be helpful, but what I ACTUALLY discovered is almost as helpful is having less TV in my hours. I miss it though. I had the wrong channel on to watch the Celts last night for a minute (YES, the Celtics were on TV and I watched…I really have been good, but I have bent the rules for an occasional sporting event. It’s the playoffs, I think Jesus will be ok with this?) and I heard the opening of Law & Order SVU and practically had a Pavlovian response. I think TV was an excellent choice for a Lenten sacrifice.

3. Another thing that happened last week: I had to go to the dentist for a temporary crown to replace the giant silver filling that I have had in a tooth pretty much since this particular tooth entered my mouthspace when I was approximately eight. I was thinking, hey, no biggie, I have had a root canal and crown before, I don’t remember it being a big deal (even though I am PETRIFIED of dental procedures, unfortunate, since I don’t exactly have the luxury of strong naturally perfect teeth) until I realized that I was actually so paralyzed with fear before this was to occur the last time that at a visit just prior to the procedure my dentist gave me a prescription for Valium to chill me the heck out, which I was very conspicuously without this time. It may have been pretty apparent when I got there, because he kept assuring me that there was actually nothing to worry about (except for that drill, you mean? Right.) But then he gave me head phones and my choice of like 500 videos and I got to watch Bruce and the E Street Band live in Hyde Park, which was actually totally awesome and helpful even thought I could still hear the drill. Since then my mouth has tasted like metallic potpourri and nothing has helped all day, so I decided that lots of garlic may be the only fix. I made Garlic Scampi for dinner. I will also be talking about this soon.

4. I need to find a British noble family to be a part of so I can be part of society. Not this fake American new money society, REAL society. My new name will be Flossy (not my real name, that will be Beatrice or Florence or something, but my nickname that might as well be my real name because everyone forgets what my real name is – also, fun fact: my French class name in high school was Brigitte but my teacher couldn’t remember and always, ALWAYS, called me Beatrice…) and my last name will be something with a hyphen. And I will wear fascinators on the reg and will have an invite to the Royal Wedding. Actually, Hargraves is a British name, if anybody out there has a spare five minutes, do you mind checking if I may actually be descended from nobility? That could help me out. Also, Hargraves used to be spelled Hargreaves, so you may want to start there. Thanks bunches! Love you, mean it!

5. I just read “Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later.” IT WAS AWFUL. I mean, it was awesome with a capital A. But I’m not sure who wrote it or who allowed it to be published. I loved every minute of reading it, but I am devastated that professionals in the literary world allowed it to happen.

OK, this is going to take me another eight days if I don’t just get to it…make bagels. Thank me later.

Peter Reinhart’s Bagels (makes 6-8 bagels)

3 1/2 cups (1 pound) unbleached flour (bread or all-purpose)

3 tsp salt, divided

3/4 tsp instant yeast

1 tbl honey or barley malt syrup

1 cup plus 2 tbl water

1 tsp baking soda

Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dehydrated onion, and other toppings of your choice.

1. By hand, mix the flour, 2 teaspoons salt, the yeast, honey and the water until the ingredients form a stiff, coarse ball of dough (about 3 minutes). If necessary, add a little more water. Let the dough rest 5 minutes.

2. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until the dough feels stiff yet supple, with a satiny, slightly tacky feel, 2 to 3 minutes. If the dough seems too soft or too tacky, sprinkle over just enough flour as needed.

3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to several hours. Keep in mind that the bagels must be shaped before proofing overnight.

4. When ready to shape the bagels, line a baking sheet with lightly greased parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 6 to 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a loose, round ball by rolling it on a clean, dry work surface with a cupped hand; do not use any flour on the surface. If the dough slides around and won’t ball up, wipe the work surface with a damp paper towel and try again – the slight amount of moisture will provide enough “bite” for the dough to form a ball. When each piece has been formed into a ball, you are ready to shape the bagels.

6. Using your hands and a fair amount of pressure, roll each dough ball into a “rope” 8 to 10 inches long. (Moisten the work surface with a damp paper towel, if necessary, to get the necessary bite or friction). Slightly taper the rope at the ends so that they are thinner than the middle. Place one end of the dough between your thumb and forefinger and wrap it around your hand until the ends overlap in your palm; they should overlap by about 2 inches. Squeeze the overlapping ends together and then press the joined ends into the work surface, rolling them back and forth a few times until they are completely sealed.

7. Remove the dough from your hand and squeeze as necessary to even out the thickness so that there is a 2-inch hole in the center. Place the bagel on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the other pieces. Lightly wipe the bagels with oil, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

8. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator 90 minutes before you plan to bake them. Fill a large stockpot with 3 quarts of water (be sure the water is at least 4 inches deep), cover with a lid, and slowly bring the water to a boil. When it comes to a boil, add the remaining teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda, reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on.

9. Thirty minutes before baking, heat the oven to 500 degrees.

10. Test the bagels by placing one in a bowl of cold water. If it sinks and doesn’t float to the surface, return it to the sheet, wait 15 minutes and then test it again. When one bagel passes the float test, they are ready for the pot.

11. Gently lift each bagel and drop it into the simmering water. Add as many as will comfortably fit in the pot. After 1 minute, use a slotted spoon to flip each bagel over. Poach for an extra 30 seconds. Using the slotted spoon, remove each bagel and return it to the lined baking sheet. Continue until all the bagels have been poached. Generously sprinkle each bagel with a topping.

12. Place the baking sheet in the oven and reduce the heat to 450 degrees. Bake for 8 minutes and then rotate the sheet (if using two sheets, also switch their positions). Check the underside of the bagels. If they are getting too dark, place another sheet under the baking sheet. Bake until the bagels are golden brown, an additional 8 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the bagels to a rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.

brunch


In which I am so behind the times and there will be some changes around here…

don't actually eat your cupcakes with a fork...

Cupcakes are the new black. Or maybe they were the new black, and now they’re the old black. Or perhaps they are still the current black. I am not sure, but I know they are quite the food trend, what with the cupcake shops popping up all the over the place. I like cupcakes, there’s not much to dislike, really, they are cute, and often gorgeous to look at, and oh so portable, but to be honest, mostly I find them, much like my as yet unrequited love for Seth Meyers, enjoyable, but ultimately unsatisfying. Either the cupcake is too dry, or the frosting is too cloyingly sweet, or it’s just not right.

So all this to say I am behind in the cupcake love, but I have found myself thinking quite a bit about them of late, as B&G is making two wedding cakes this fall, one of which will actually be a small cake and lots of cupcakes. I did a cake tasting for these lovely folks, and had to come up with all sorts of interesting combinations, so it was cupcakes all over the place for a couple of days. They had two specific requests: that one of the cupcakes be red velvet with cream cheese frosting, and that one have some sort of caramel frosting involved. I had never been much for red velvet cupcakes. I didn’t really understand the point. They aren’t yellow cake, they aren’t chocolate, but they don’t really have any other discernible flavor, plus they’re so red. But I soldiered on, and as it turns out, I love this recipe. I am not exactly sure how to describe it, but I really really enjoyed it. The frosting? Not so much. It was fine, and passable, and cream-cheesy, but I think I will keep working on it. I know there is fantastic potential for cream cheese frosting, and I will find it.

As for the chocolate and caramel combo, I have found my new love.

come to mama

I still have not found the perfect chocolate cupcake, I am working on that, but the caramel buttercream, based on a recipe from Martha, is sweet manna from heaven. I never want to be without it for all the rest of my days. There is no way to describe it other than perfection. Truly. Make this. Put it on stuff. Thank me. Repeat. But you don’t have to thank me every time. That’d be excessive.

And now for the big changes. Perhaps you have picked up on the subtle clues: the extended stay in Florida in February and March, the week on the Cape, all the gorgeous day time natural light photos, and determined that there has been a dearth of regular 9-5 employment around here. And you would have been correct. I am not going to lie, it has been a pretty fantastic couple of months, but it’s time to get back to the grind. I am back to office employment in about 10 days, and I have so many things to cram in to that time. First on my list is beach time. I went today. Tip: monitor your application of spray-on sunscreen closely, just because you spray in the vicinity of the back of your legs, you are not guaranteed a burn free afternoon at the beach. Keep it in mind. Also in the next 10 days, I have some sewing projects to attend to, a refrigerator to clean, and some exciting things to cook, a new language to learn, a couch to steam clean, a business plan to write, a shower to scrub, a half marathon to train for, and several books to read. Imma be busy. I best get some rest.

And so I leave you with these: Two great halves of some delightful cupcakes.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Adapted from Pinchmysalt.com

2 1/2 cups cake flour

2 tbl cocoa powder (unsweetened)

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup buttermilk, divided, at room temperature

2 oz. red food coloring liquid, or 1 oz. food color gels

2 eggs, at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 and line two twelve cup cupcake tins with paper liners.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda into the bowl of a standing mixer. Mix on low speed with the whisk attachment for 30 seconds or so until the dry ingredients are well combined. In a measuring cup or small bowl, mix together 3/4 cup of the buttermilk with the food coloring. With the mixer still on low, add the buttermilk mixture, and then the butter, mix on slow to combine and then turn the mixer up to medium high speed and beat until light and fluffy.

In a small bowl or measuring cup whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup of buttermilk, the eggs, the vanilla and the vinegar, then add to the batter in three additions, folding in until just combined each time.

Pour the batter in to the prepared cupcake tins and bake for 20-22 minutes until a tester inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Let cool completely, and top with your favorite frosting, cream cheese or otherwise, and enjoy!

Caramel Buttercream (makes 4-5 cups)

Adapted from marthastewart.com

1 1/2 plus 2 tbl sugar, divided

1/4 cup heavy cream

4 egg whites

3 sticks plus 2 tbl unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla extract

In a heavy bottom saucepan, stir 1/2 cup plus 2 tbl of sugar with 1/4 cup of water just to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, without stirring, brushing down the sides of the pan with a clean wet pastry brush to avoid crystallization. Cook until the sugar is a deep amber color. Remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream. Set the caramel aside until cool.

Whisk together the egg whites and the remaining cup of sugar in a mixing bowl, preferably of a standing mixer, and rest it over a pan of simmering water. Heat for a couple of minutes, whisking occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Whip the egg whites and sugar together on high speed until the mixture forms medium-firm peaks. Add the vanilla and the butter one at a time and whip like crazy until the buttercream comes together. This may take some time, do not fear, just let the mixer do its work until the frosting is the texture of mayonnaise. Change to the paddle attachment on the standing mixer, and add the caramel to the buttercream. Mix until the frosting and the caramel come together, and use to frost your favorite cake or cupcakes.

In which I look back…

Umm, this post should have gone up yesterday…or several days ago perhaps, or maybe even last year, but as it goes, I am appalled, but never surprised, at the singular focus and dedication with which I can attack the most asinine and irrelevant goals at the expense of all things productive and useful. I won’t even tell you what I have spent the last couple of days doing, I want you to think well of me.

So without further ado, I give you this post.

What a long strange year it’s been. Last year at this time I was recovering from the execution of my largest kitchen project ever. Bigger than the prep for the Christmas parties for 50 (with food for 100) I have every year, bigger than the plated engagement lunch I did for 25 in my college apartment. Big. And of the utmost importance. And it was a success. And as I was basking in the glow of my new found skill, I started brainstorming the beginnings of this little spot. And since I am spending this week in the sweltering heat brainstorming flavor combinations for a cake tasting I am doing next week for a wedding in October, I thought I would look back at the experience.

It all started with this:

my first attempt.

It doesn’t look like much, but it was just the beginning. My cousin and his gorgeous fiance were planning their wedding.

my favorites

It was going to be pretty big and I was appalled at the thought of paying more than $5 a slice for a wedding cake, which is the minimum as far as I can tell. I figured I liked to cook, and Deb from Smitten Kitchen had made a wedding cake and went through all the steps, and really, how hard could it be (she said as the “just wait and see how this plays out” music of doom played in the background) so I said I would like to make their wedding cake. For 200. As one does.

So anyway, the bride and groom were receptive to this idea, and a project was born. We decided on square, and fondant icing, and I did some research about size requirements and the fun began.

First I had to practice fondant. I wanted to make it, because traditionally fondant doesn’t taste very good, and I hoped if I made it, it would remove some of that chemical flavor. I found a recipe in Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible. I figured with a title like that, it was a trustworthy source, no?

Fondant is lots of sugar and some binders to hold it together.

a lot of sugar, a little bit of everything else (including, liquid sugar, actually)

You have to mix it with a greased wooden spoon until it starts to come together and then you knead knead knead….

getting there

until it gets really smooth like a polished rock.

And, voila...

It is lots of fun to play with, but it can be temperamental. If you roll it too thin it can tear. If the frosting underneath is too thick, it will look lumpy. It shows any imperfection in color, including a tiny little piece of lint. However, I have discovered, that the less I stress about it, and the larger quantities I make, the nicer it comes out.

The next skill to work on was baking large cakes in my regular-sized, pain-in-the-a oven. Like 16″ square large. The pan just barely fit, but it was a success.

Hooray!

Until it wasn’t…

Got a little cocky...

The baking went fine, it was the removal from the pan that caused problems. Luckily, this was just a tester for the work crowd. They loved this time in my life. The trick to baking a cake this size (or, really, any size) is to make sure the edges don’t set up before the middle does. Baking evenly means that the edges won’t be dry and overcooked, and also means the cake will rise evenly and stay flat, rather than rising higher in the middle as cakes are wont to do. This is achieved with cake strips, or something, I actually don’t know what their real name is, but they are fabric strips that you soak in water and pin around the outside of the cake pan so the edges don’t get too hot, too quickly. Worked like a charm. Keeping the oven temp low and extending the cooking time helps too.

Next up? The stacking. Though I didn’t really practice this very well, since I didn’t even use the dowels and stuff that you need to make sure the cake doesn’t collapse on itself, but I did get in some more fondant practice, and buttercream dot practice, and the bride got to practice cutting the cake, so it was totally worth it.

getting better, but not great.

And then, apparently, I decided I was an expert, and no more practice was required, because the next step was the real deal. I spent the weekend before the wedding baking the cakes. They were going to spend several days in my freezer, both for preservation purposes, and to aid in transport. One thing I will never figure out is how all the bakers on those wedding cake shows lift their cake layers and throw them around without the layers crumbling immediately. I definitely have to be more careful, and by careful I mean I only touch them once they are frozen.

Prep, assembly line style.

chillin'

This was a three-tier cake, and each tier had three layers. The bottom layer was chocolate with chocolate buttercream filling, the top two were vanilla cake (the best recipe I’ve ever had, actually) with lemon curd and blueberry filling. It was a lot of cake. And a lot of ingredients.

The frozen layers drove on down to my parents’ casa for assembly. There I filled, layered and coated the tiers with buttercream.

awaiting buttercream

awaiting fondant.

At this point I was feeling goooood. No breakdowns, no excessive stress, no real hitches in the plan. There was, however, a lot of Toots & the Maytals on repeat. It was fantastic. And then apparently I stopped taking pictures, because I don’t have another one until the cake was on display at the wedding. But in between, each tier got covered with white fondant and stuck with dowels. I covered them with plastic wrap and drove them down (actually, my parents drove them down. I followed behind them and tried not to have a panic attack that they weren’t under my control. Sharing the car with siblings and cousins helped take my mind off it. Here’s the proof…

calm, cool, collected, unshowered...)

Then the morning of the wedding, I went to the bride’s house, where the wedding was taking place, with a massive hangover, and tried to tame my DTs (from one of the better rehearsal dinners I have ever been to) long enough to stack and decorate a wedding cake for 200. And my doubts set in. I couldn’t believe they had agreed to let me do this. The entire time I decorated the cake I was convinced I was going to ruin the wedding. But you know what? I will admit that I was in love with this cake when I finished it. I was prouder of myself when the bride and her mom saw this for the first time than I have been at any other point in my life, ever. Maybe you are not supposed to ever admit that you are proud of yourself, but damn it, I was. I had made the bride happy, which is all that mattered. And I had a new skill. Bonus!

ta da

And then I left. I couldn’t watch it being transported out to the wedding tent, I was too nervous. But it made it, and word has it, it was delicious. I didn’t have any appetite for it at that point. But I felt good about it.

The cutting (find the nervous baker for bonus points!)

So that, my friends, is the sordid tale of the cake. And as part of the Bread & Ginger wedding cake package, I just made this little guy, a first anniversary cake. Because cake frozen for a year is just gross.

One year later.

Happy Anniversary S & J. Thanks for making a really crazy decision and letting me do this for you!!

Recipes another day, I promise. I’m tired.

In which I may be melting…

A treat for a hot day

I love the summer.

And I love living in the city.

But I do not love living in the city in the summer. There is something indecorous and undignified about the city in the summer. The residents are crankier, the stains on the sidewalk are more visible, the streets are sootier, and the smells are so much more vile. I saw some shirtless men almost come to fisticuffs yesterday because one of them was idling in their car and blocking traffic. Annoying, to be sure, but middle of the street idling is pretty standard around here. But I understand where they are coming from. If I didn’t live on the ground floor in the middle of the city, I would wear significantly fewer articles of clothing in this heat, but I can’t, because I have neighbors. And sometimes I would like to punch them in my own version of shirtless fisticuffs when they are hanging out outside my open window yelling at 2 am. PEOPLE, we are trying to have a civilization here, PLEASE take it elsewhere. The other day when I woke up at 6:30 am it was hotter in Boston than it was in DALLAS. and then I had to the suffer the injustice of putting on pants. I live in an non-air conditioned apartment and my favorite hobby is cooking. And I am officially in training for a half marathon.* I am cranky. But I don’t want to complain, because like I said, I love the summer. I would just love it more if I had a summer house, or at least central air.

*This is no joke, I actually am in training for a half marathon, and the littles are as well if they haven’t forgotten. I am sharing so that I have some accountability. Feel free to keep on top of me for this...

At any rate, that explains some of my absence here. And I have had some company, and I have had some disappointments in the kitchen. I made a blueberry pie. I was so excited about it. It looked gorgeous, but I used tapioca starch as the thickener and it made the texture weird.

disappointing

I also made some mussels in curry broth. They were good, but not perfect either time, so I am not sharing yet. And I made a carbonara but the egg whites scrambled…another disappointment. Sometimes you  just don’t have the Force with you. But it’s all coming back to me now folks, because I made summer rolls with rice noodles, avocado, mango and shrimp, and they rolled beautifully and didn’t fall apart. And then I made, quite possibly, my favorite new treat: chocolate covered macaroons.

easy breezy perfection

My gut reaction to coconut is to say I don’t like it at all. You: “Coconut,” me: “Blech.” It’s like a reflex. But as it turns out, not a very good one. I do like coconut. I actually can’t think of anything with coconut in it that I don’t like (This, by the way, is happening a lot for me these days, I apparently was kind of a closeted picky eater, and I am learning how lost I was without these things in my life. Curry powder? Are you kidding? It now goes in EVERYTHING) and these macaroons just make me love it more. They are perfectly almost-too-sweet-but-just-barely-not, and the bittersweet chocolate on top provides a lovely counter balance to all that sugar. I couldn’t stop eating them as soon as they were finished, and then I discovered I love them even more when they are frozen-they help beat the heat-or I pretend they do, at any rate. And I can’t wait to make them again and modify them a bit. Maybe add some orange zest, or add mini chocolate chips right to the batter. Stay tuned. And in the meantime, enjoy these exactly the way they are now. You don’t even have to turn your oven on very high!

attempted jail break...ultimately cost it its life.

Chocolate Drizzled Macaroons (makes 16-18)

From A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

3 cups lightly packed sweetened shredded coconut

3/4 cup egg whites (this required 6 eggs for me)

3/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (or use chips)

1/2 cup heavy cream

Place the coconut, sugar and egg whites in a large, heavy saucepan, and stir to combine well. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring regularly, about 10-12 minutes, until the mixture is pasty but not dry. (The uncooked mixture will look creamy at first, and then it will slowly get drier and drier. You want to stop cooking when it no longer looks creamy but before it gets dry.) Remove from heat. Mix in vanilla. Spread out the coconut mixture in a pie plate or on a cookie sheet. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat. Using your hands or a small ice cream scoop, scoop and pack the coconut mixture into domes, and place them on the baking sheet-about two tablespoons per macaroon. You should wind up with about sixteen. Bake the macaroons until golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool.

Set cookies on rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until it is very hot and steamy (not boiling), remove from the heat, and pour it over the chocolate. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate is thoroughly melted. Spoon the glaze over the macaroons, covering them almost completely and allowing the chocolate to drip down the sides. Refrigerate the macaroons until the glaze sets, at least 2 hours. Transfer the macaroons to an airtight container, and refrigerate or freeze.

perfectly perfect in every way

In which there’s a little birdhouse in my soul…

Will induce random happiness

There are lots of things that make me happy. It doesn’t usually take much. It also doesn’t take much to make me cry. I did it twice today, which makes me sound like a crazy person, but I’m really really not. I am not talking about soul shaking purging all your feelings crying, it actually takes a lot (of emotion or of alcohol-those of you that went to high school with me, and good old Mary know to what I refer) to make me do that, I’m talking about the tears right at the surface ready to spring forth at the merest encouragement kind of crying. In this case brought about first by a very heartwarming story on ESPN.com (go ahead a read it and try to tell me it doesn’t give you a catch in your throat) and second by the season finale of Parenthood that I watched on TiVo. Man oh man, that one got me more than once.

But this is about things that make me happy, and today they are many and varied.

Gimlets. I know I have talked about my gimlets before, and I am still working on the measurements to share with you, so you can enjoy this fantastic refreshing beverage as well, sit tight.

The summer. I love when it’s warm. Warm holidays are my favorite. 4th of July is my most favorite because of the fireworks, but Memorial Day comes close because there is always outdoor food cookery and daytime drinking parties.

These:

please, let me explain

I honestly think crocs are the ugliest shoes ever created and are appropriate in public only for small children, but I broke down and got some because I absolutely abhor being barefoot. Unless I am at the beach or under my covers, there are shoes on my feet. I do not like to have dirty feet, and the idea of cooking barefoot gives me the icks. You could lose a toe. So I need to be wearing shoes. Except that the very first thing I like to do when I come in from outside is take whatever shoes I am wearing off. I needed a solution for this. Slippers don’t work because I cook a lot and they get spilled on and gross, and I couldn’t think of another option, so I got some crocs. And I have worn them every single moment I have spent in my apartment since. I don’t have to drag in the city filth on the bottom of my shoes, and I don’t have to risk toe decapitation. And so now they make me happy. And they have NEVER seen the out of doors. And they never will. Not only are they crocs, they are bright yellow crocs, so I will never be tempted. They have never even gotten the paper. Think slippers, but more sanitary.

The fact that my legs don’t look totally glow in the dark in that picture.

Professional sports championship match ups. Go Celts. ’57, ’59, ’60-’66, ’68, ’69, ’74, ’76, ’81, ’84, ’86, ’08…’10!

They Might Be Giants.

The kindness of strangers. A stranger did me a solid, and ended up shooting herself in the foot as a result of her totally unnecessary good deed. All is right with the world now, but it took a couple of extra steps for it to get there, and to show my gratitude, I decided to bake so I could give her a treat when we met today. I made homemade Oreos. It made me really happy to make them, and I hope it makes her happy to eat them.

So much better for you...

I actually regret making these. They are way too easy to put together, and they really are good. They may be habit forming. I have to get the rest out of the house ASAP. The cookies are crispy and a little salty and perfectly not totally sweet, and the filling is upscale Oreo. I have eaten two of these dipped in milk. And two before I thought of pouring myself a glass of milk. Again, I have to get these out of here.

They really are easy. The cookie dough is done in the food processor.

Combine dry ingredients:

flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt

Then add butter and an egg and pulse until it looks like this.

dough

Then rounded teaspoons onto parchment lined cookie sheets. And then they get smooshed a little into disks.

smooshed

And then baked for nine minutes. They puff up a little and then deflate and crisp up as they cool.

the crunchy exterior

The filling is butter, shortening, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract. It comes together in five minutes and then you pipe it onto the cookies and match them up.

the creamy interior

I had cookies put together and boxed up from start to finish in less than an hour. These really do come together quickly. Make them soon.

gifted

This recipe came from Smitten Kitchen. I am going to have to pay Deb royalties. This is getting silly.

Homemade Oreos (Makes 25 to 30 sandwich cookies)

From Smitten Kitchen

For the cookies:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup sugar (apparently the original recipe says you can use 1 1/2 cups sugar. I’m ignoring that because they would be too sweet. Delicious, but not Oreos.)

1/2 cup plus 2 tbls (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter

1 large egg

For the filling:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter

1/4 cup vegetable shortening

2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.

In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.

Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.

To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.

In which I do a week in review…sort of…

I have quite a bit to say about the last couple of weeks, so I shall provide a quick rundown, both in food and life:

First, I have made several things recently, both from the Great Recipe Rescue of Aught Ten and otherwise, which, for whatever reason, don’t really merit their own blog post, but I think I would like to share them with you anyway.

For instance, Sticky Rice with Mango.

yum.

This was something I was introduced to at work. During one of my late nights at the office with my comrades in arms, we ordered Thai food, and my friend Mark ordered this for dessert. He let me try it and I swooned. I immediately ran out and bought a giant bag of glutinous rice and a can of coconut milk, but since I thought it was going to be difficult and since the rice requires a significant soaking before it is cooked (24 hours is preferable) I hadn’t gotten around to making this until recently. I am very sorry I waited. It does require a fair amount of soaking time, but other than that, this really couldn’t be easier. So easy, I never bothered posting about it. If you want to make it, search for a recipe online, get yourself some glutinous rice and have at it. Apparently, it is traditionally cooked in a pot and basket like this, but I don’t have one of those (I will someday though, because I am sort of in love with it) so my cooking vessel looked like this:

a large pot, a strainer, and some cheesecloth. Homemade sticky rice basket.

Worked just fine…be creative, you’ll figure something out.

Also? I made this butter cake. This was from the recipe rescue. It was tasty, but I thought it odd that they suggested serving it on its own, since it is essentially one layer of a yellow layer cake, but a bit more delicate, so it would difficult to use as a layer cake. I served it with strawberries and whipped cream and it was really good, but really, just a cake.

butter cake avec fraises

I also made these crackers one night when my family came over for dinner. They are like Cheez-Its for adults, but way better, because I don’t really like Cheez-Its (fake orange cheese in a snack that I don’t like? What?) They are really great, and easy and a crowd pleaser. And consist of ingredients that I pretty much always have on hand. I am quite sure they will be made over and over and over again.

Dignified snack food

And now? For my first life observation? The LOST finale. I can’t help it. I have been a fan since the beginning. It might be the only show I have ever watched every single episode IN ORDER. I was hooked from the start. And the further I get from the finale on Sunday night, the more I actually like it. Here’s why. I wanted Jack and Kate to be together. I have always wanted Jack and Kate to be together. I am a romantic, and they are supposed to be together in my romantic world. I know there are those that disagree, but just because two people (looking at you Kate and Sawyer) hook up one time in a sex cage, it doesn’t mean they are destined to spend eternity together. (I can’t believe I just typed that sentence in a forum Grammie reads…blame the LOST writers.) I mean it wasn’t flawless, poor Sayid. I understand that the idea is that the time these people spent on the island was the most important time in their lives, and therefore the throw away relationship between Sayid and Shannon comes to represent that in the finale. Fine. But instead of spending eternity with the love of his life, Sayid has to suffer through infinity with the single most annoying character in the series? No fair. At least she was looking fantastic, I guess. Those are my thoughts. I liked the throw down on the cliffs, I hated the hokey Christian Shephard speech, even though it technically defined the whole final season, and I am curious…the sideways world? It was purgatory for all the characters even though they died at different times? Did they all have to be ready to move forward together before any of them did? Was that just Jack’s sideways world? I don’t think so. Confusing. Also, apparently the MIB’s name in the scripts was Samuel. My research told me that. Word. That is simplistic. I have more thoughts, but I know there are not all that many LOST fans amongst my faithful readership, so I will move on.

Back to the food.

There was a roasted tomato risotto that I made with the slow roasted tomatoes I have been making quite a bit of lately.

Risotto with Roasted Tomatoes

I used the leftovers for more fried stuff with cheese. And it was good.

And there was a chicken curry. First I had to make curry powder:

one of my new favorite things.

And then I made my chicken curry. It is a recipe from Epicurious.com, and I think it is the one that my Florida friend Megan made for me one night when I was down there, when I took a deep breath and steeled myself to eat some curry that I wasn’t entirely sure I would love, and I cleaned my plate.

Curried chicken, with accoutrements

And there were more tarts…and look at the pans I used! Huzzah! I made these for the Kentucky Derby, and three of us did a number on them.

spicy shrimp with leeks, fig jam with gorgonzola and coppa, ricotta and roasted tomato, ricotta and olive with orange zest, sweet onions with gorgonzola, olives and rosemary to name a few

And there were these little guys:

frik and frak

I made ramp MAYONNAISE to go with it. Mayonnaise. All by myself. With a wooden spoon. It was fun. And there WILL be a post about it. Because it was that fun.

ramp mayo. by hand.

Alright, I think that’s that. A little week(s) in review if you will. I still have lots of other fun things to talk about though, so don’t worry, I haven’t totally cleaned out my photo files.

And now, to end on a serious note, because I have some great recent food memories from that part of the world…there are MILLIONS of gallons of oil in Gulf and no one seems to be doing anything about it. WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?? I am not sure if I care at this point whose fault it is. There is plenty of time for finger-pointing and punishment after someone fixes it, but it has been over a month, and for some reason, we can not get the oil to stop? And now it is being relegated to second page news. Time to step up. FIX IT.

PS: Umm, this might be awesome, could you imagine if it malfunctioned like the soda machines sometimes do and spit out two?