December 2, 2013
Every year. Every single year!
Thanksgiving comes and goes in a distracting flush of the general “everything” that happens at once. Long-lost friends in town; crunch-time at work in the restaurant world; thoughts of family near and far…inevitable comparisons of what is with what used to be. Typical holiday cocktail of crazy!
So once again I find myself posting after the annual November hiatus. My Thanksgiving contributions last Thursday were curtailed by the wildly scheduled and sleepless proceeding days, so! Nothing major to post there, unfortunately. At least I was able to whisk away a few pies from work on Wednesday night, so I didn’t show up to Thanksgiving dinner compleeeeeetely empty-handed.
What I do have to show for myself is a fun birthday cake. My oldest niece turned four about a week and a half ago, so naturally it was time to compose my vision of a cake befitting a sweet pink-enthusiast!
- Directions -
1) Choose your favorite vanilla cake recipe; whip it up and pour into a 12×17″ rimmed cookie pan until it’s about 1/2-1/4″ shy of the top. (or use a 9×13″ pan, in which case you can halve the thicker cakes into thinner layers). Bake until evenly golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean (I recommend checking as soon as you can smell it to gauge the additional timing).
2) Choose your favorite vanilla buttercream recipe; make it up to a few days in advance, store in the fridge until a few hours before assembly. When ready to use, beat with paddle attachment until smooth and silky.
2) Choose a small-ish ring mold to trace circles over the top of the baked cake–I used a 5″ tartlet ring. Cut out the circles (if 9×13″, slice the resulting cakes in half horizontally so you end up with two equal layers from each cut).
3) Line the ring mold with a tall, clear acetate liner. Put a layer of cake in the bottom; add about 1/2 cup of frosting (or however much will render a layer the same thickness as the cake layers) and spread evenly with the back of a spoon; add another layer of cake and repeat until your cake is as tall as you desire (you can add an additional acetate liner to increase the height!).
4) Cut out a smaller circle and place atop the top layer of frosting. Using sprinkles or another kind of crumb (in my case, rose cookie crumbs), line the edges of the circle with a generous layer. Refrigerate until the buttercream is firm before removing the center circle guide, doing so carefully so as not to scatter crumbs/sprinkles into the smooth center. Finally, place the cake onto whatever platter you want to serve it on; remove the ring mold and peel off the acetate; finish with luster pearls, piping, etc., and enjoy!
December has caught me uncharacteristically in the middle of a full-fledged pop fest…Passion Pit, Phantogram, Crystal Castles, Animal Collective, and a smattering of recent stand-alone hits.
Clean like cold weather; beats avalanche but stay tight; lyrics not so much sung but slung–
Also Grimes. Some of my favorite weirdest music; all the excitable beauty of snow flurries–
November 11, 2013
My favvvvvvorite ice cream. Truly the very best.
My fondness for cinnamon is well established, in my psyche and throughout this blog. Honey is a different story. I’ve historically kept it pretty limited to its relationship with peanut butter…but! This ice cream proves that it’s actually really wonderful as a dominate flavor. Here its sweetness is tempered by cinnamon and grounded by the pure luxuriousness of cream…the latter being especially important, since I’m of the mind that sugar/super sweet ingredients need a healthy amount of fat in order to work (which is why you’ll never catch me eating candy that doesn’t involve caramel or chocolate!). And taste aside, the honey gives the ice cream a smooth, thick, and extremely creamy texture…I want to say buttery, but that sounds kind of gross. Long story somewhat short, this is a fantastic recipe, and unlike most ice creams that are sans add-ins, you won’t get bored after the third bite. Quite the contrary, actually; I find that it only grows more appealing as your senses develop to fully appreciate the interplay of opposing temperatures; your mouth tastes warm flavors but feels textured coldness. Complex but straightforward.
I’ve made it before, so this time I decided to kick it up a notch with some of the leftover crushed pepita brittle that was sitting in my freezer. The brittle has a fair amount of cinnamon and honey in it, matching seamlessly with the ice cream, but adds defined tastes of caramel and salt…and crunch! Perfection, really. Often but not always the result of marrying two individually brilliant products. So, high recommendations all around!
Honey-Cinnamon Ice Cream
- Ingredients -
2 c whole milk
2 c heavy cream
1 2″ long cinnamon stick
8 egg yolks
3/4 c honey
2 T sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
- Directions -
1) In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Break the cinnamon stick into several pieces and toss them into the pan. Scald the milk mixture over medium-high heat (bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan, but the liquid is not boiling). Remove from the heat and let the cinnamon steep in the milk mixture for about 1 hour.
2) In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended, and then slowly whisk in the honey, sugar, and ground cinnamon until combined. Return the milk mixture to medium-high heat and scald again. Slowly add the hot milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly. When all of the hot milk mixture has been incorporated, return the contents of the bowl to the saucepan, and return the saucepan to medium heat. Cook, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, for 6-8 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon. The mixture will seem watery at first, then it will start to steam, and then it will develop a little body and get thicker. Remove from the heat and immediately strain through a fine-mesh sieve into an airtight container. Whisk in the salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until cold, or up to overnight.
3) Churn in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. When the ice cream has finished churning, freeze it for at least 2 hours to allow it to ripen. During the ripening process, the ice cream becomes harder and smoother and the flavors more fully develop. The ice cream can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 1 week.
(adapted from the Flour cookbook; like every other of my favorite recipes)
Indulgence. To me, ice cream has always seemed more decadent a luxury than other sweets. Possibly because of its sheer creaminess, and probably because there’s such a limited time one has with it. There’s no “saving it for later.” If you’re going to eat it, you’d better just get it done. So much enjoyment to fill such a finite window of time! And so, when you undertake the endeavor, it’s a deliberate ordeal. You go out for ice cream. You sit down to a bowl of ice cream. And you do nothing else but eat that ice cream before it melts.
Of course I realize that one can always have a pint to chip away at, spoonful by spoonful, in the freezer at home. But I’ve never been one of those people, so for me, ice cream has always presented an immediate, hold everything, situation. Such a high maintenance treat is therefore not a matter of pure taste, but also of time. Demanding your indulgence on not just one, but two levels.
Why am I up late writing too much about ice cream? Probably so I can keep listening to this song.
This one too! (where was it during my paper-writing years?!?! precisely what I needed to tackle the theology of Julian of Norwich. decidedly different from ice cream.)
November 5, 2013
These blondies incorporate two of my favorite things–ginger and pear–so I really don’t know what took me so long to make them. I’d always skipped over their page in my beloved copy of Martha’s Cookies cookbook (…where it all started, fall of 2008), but for whatever reason I woke up thinking about them the other day and then had to make them. And to great effect.
I’ll admit I never was all that excited about the pistachio aspect. I like pistachios, but I like pecans, walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts better…and I was about to swap until I remembered the bag of pistachios in my pantry. And at that point, I just felt like I had to…resulting in my full endorsement of them in this recipe! They have a unique flavor profile that’s earthy, semi-sweet and nutty, and beyond that, provide a nice toothsome crunch. So there we go. Plus they’re green, which looks nice alongside the neutral shades of a blondie. Blondies–something I love but rarely, like never, eat. Definitely overlooked among comfort food desserts. Yes, brownies have the chocolate-y advantage of adjectives like ‘fudgy’ and ‘intense.’ But blondies have the thick chewiness that exists in the ideal cookie but are somewhat more pronounced, somehow both thicker and chewier than the best cookie in the world.
And the recipe is so easy! I recommend adding about 1-2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger, and about 1-1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon.
Recently I’ve wondered about the concept of inclination. What inherent designs propel a person toward another, a profession, a hobby, etc. And, on a more vague/personal scale, what within pushes and pulls against various objectives without…subconscious decisions that don’t seem terribly important, and then make great impact.
The blondies fall on the shallow end of a wide range of examples from my life this week. Situations like…driving to the grocery store and taking a left instead of a right, ultimately to my family’s old church for an unrealized need to light a candle for mom. Or the way an old, un-sleeved and forgotten VHS tape of Breakfast at Tiffany’s suddenly makes its presence known, rendering me face-to-screen with an emaciated, apparently job-less version of myself.
That movie hit me like a freight train! It was hardly 15 minutes in when I discovered a major affinity for Holly Golightly. I laughed when Paul, taking in the semi-organized chaos of her apartment, asks how long she’s lived there. A month’s time is what he no doubt expects, and raises his eyebrows when she casually answers “about a year.” I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had that exact conversation with newcomers to my apartment. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The thing is, throughout the whole movie you just want so badly for her to see what’s right in front of her; to let life happen instead of adhering to a confused, stubborn will. It might also make you wonder if you have a Paul Varjak. ….
The movie brought to mind several songs (besides Moon River). Suzanne by Leonard Cohen, for sure, and these two, especially in conjunction with fall and restlessness–
(I’m actually just finishing up a minor Death Cab fling. Hadn’t heard them for awhile….probably because I never really got on board. He’s a brilliant lyricist but something about the songs never grabbed my attention. UNTIL a few days ago, and I’ve been listening to Plans in its entirety ever since. That song is my favorite.)
October 30, 2013
I got home from work tonight with every intention of going to bed straight away, something I’m generally not prone towards doing despite late hours, and…on this occasion my head even hit the pillow before I was thwarted. Apparently my thoughts were still in limbo between action and in-action; rush rush rushing to clean a kitchen, getting to the end of go go going all night, and then…stopping. Picture a body sprinting, halting abruptly, while a silent, transparent multitude of thoughts, ideas, and emotions keep flowing forward. Painting has been my recent go-to in this state, but, I’m already in bed so I figured this should probably happen instead.
Because! This is a good coffee cake recipe, and a good coffee cake recipe is always important to have on hand, something that struck me the other morning while deciding what to bake for a coffee/picture hanging date with my dad. I feel like when the cake-for-breakfast mindset hits, you’ve just got to be all in. So if you’re doing anything with streusel, make that a lot of streusel. With glaze, be overzealous. With portions, be generous. And, since it’s breakfast, be fast. SO! This limits the cake options to, well, really just coffee cake. Bundt cakes, what with their thick shape, end up taking what feels like ages to bake for an empty stomach!
I was scrolling through my recipe index and existing category options, and truly couldn’t believe how few coffee cakes I’ve shared, and then I realized how few coffee cakes I’ve made. No excuses, and no good reasons! Getting on that one. I also want to tackle doughnuts…have made a few recipes at work that’ve been delightful. And I can’t deny that part of me misses rising particularly early on Sunday mornings to be the fry queen at Flour…talk about a lifetime ago!
Anyway–this coffee cake is really straightforward, really simple, and fits the cake-for-breakfast niche perfectly. I added some orange zest to the batter, because recently I’ve just not been able to have vanilla without orange. Or cinnamon, for that matter, so there we go–with the addition of cinnamon-y, buttery crumb/streusel this coffee cake offers a trifecta of goodness. And yes, there’s a lot of butter crumb/streusel here.
Butter-Crumb Coffee Cake
- Ingredients -
2/3 c (10 2/3 T) unsalted butter
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
3/4 c sugar
3/4 t cinnamon
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 c pecans or walnuts, toasted and finely chopped (optional)
2 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
zest of 1 orange
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes, at room temperature
2/3 c milk
1 t vanilla
- Directions -
1) Make the streusel: Place the butter in a 3-qt heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat until melted (I browned mine–); remove from the heat and cool to tepid. Whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and nuts if using. Add to the butter and stir with a fork until blended and mixture begins to form crumbs. Gently squeeze the mixture with your hand to form larger lumps, then break them apart with your fingertips. Set aside while making the cake.
2) Heat the oven to 350 F. Generously butter a 10″ springform pan (I just used a regular 10″ cake tin! I’d just use whatever you have on hand and adjust the baking time accordingly), line the bottom with baking parchment, then butter the parchment. Set aside.
3) In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, orange zest, and salt. Add the butter and work with your fingertips until fine crumbs are formed. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the liquid. Using a wooden spoon, gradually push the crumbs into the liquid, beginning with the crumbs in the center of the bowl and gradually working toward the edge of the bowl. Beat for about 1 minute, or until the batter is smooth. (it’ll be thick!)
4) Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Take a handful of the streusel crumbs and squeeze gently to form a large clump. Then break the clump apart, and sprinkle the crumbs onto the batter. Repeat until all of the streusel mixture has been used. Lightly press the streusel onto the batter.
5) If using a springform pan, set the pan on a 12″ strip of aluminum foil while baking. Bake the cake for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and firm to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and let stand on a cooling rack for 20-25 minutes, then remove the outer ring. Place a 12″ piece of aluminum foil directly on top of the cake, cupping it around the side to hold the topping in place. Cover with a cooling rack, invert the cake, and carefully lift off the bottom of the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Cover with another rack, invert again, remove the aluminum foil, and cool right side up. Just before serving, dust with powdered sugar.
(adapted from Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More, by Carole Walter)
I’m still in the trip-hop phase at the moment, but, I heard this song on the radio the other day and it got stuck somewhere in my wavelengths. I love it–
and, it’s Halloween! Should my plans tomorrow evening entail dressing up at any point, today’s Velvet Underground listening (RIP, Lou Reed) will have proved quite helpful. Dressed in leather and fur, I’ll just be the title of one of my favorites–
That song makes me think of Wes Anderson’s movie soundtracks. I think it’s Lou’s pleasantly prosaic vocal approach to poetic lyrics–a surreal juxtaposition, very Wes Anderson. Part of me (possibly all of me) is still in high school, wanting to be a soundtrack producer when I grow up…am more grown up. I remember one evening I even almost wrote a letter directly TO Mr. Anderson!, begging and pleading for an intern position; qualified by eager love for his movies and the music in them. Especially the Stones, David Bowie, the Kinks, and the random classical pieces scattered throughout.
Actually, listening again to that White Stripes song, and it too, I think, belongs in one of his movies.
Oh gosh and I haven’t even MENTIONED that Anderson is coming out with another movie…The Grand Budapest Hotel. Check it out! The trailer looked slapstick ridiculous as usual, and well done. Plus it stars Ralph Fiennes, whom I love because of my love for The English Patient…but I know you’re probably thinking primarily of Voldemort.
…and now to sleep, for real this time now that this wordy randomness is out of me!
October 26, 2013
Aside from the way they taste and look, what I love about these dumplings is that they’re a process. The kind of endeavor you can enjoy throughout the afternoon, along with a few favorite albums and several cups of tea.
There’s nothing I enjoy more than zoning out and rolling/shaping dough these days; and it’s particularly nice if the end product involves quality snacking material, like date butter and apples. Date butter. Not to be restricted to the context of these dumplings! Great on bread, fruit, or a spoon. And it’s easy to make!
(finally…a post that lives up to the short part of short&sweet–!)
Date-Butter Apple Dumplings
- Ingredients -
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 T sugar
1 t kosher salt
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, freezer cold, cut into 1/2″ dice
8-10 T ice-cold water or as needed
10 Medjool dates (about 6 oz./170 g), pitted & chopped
6 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 c packed brown sugar
1 t ground cinnamon
4 medium apples (about 7 oz each), peeled and halved lengthwise
1 large egg yolk
2 T heavy cream
1/4 c sugar
2 t cinnamon
- Directions -
1) Make the pastry dough: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix. Add the cold butter all at once and pulse several times, until the butter and flour form crumbs slightly smaller than pea size. In a steady stream, gradually add 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) of ice-cold water through the feed tube while pulsing. Remove the lid from the processor and see if you can form a clump by pressing some dough with your fingers. (Note: the dough will not form a ball in the processor, but you should be able to press the dough to form a clump.) If the dough seems too dry, add one more tablespoon water, pulse a few times, and check the dough again. Add another tablespoon water if needed and pulse a few more times.
2) Take the lid off the processor, dump the dough out onto a work surface, and gather it together with your hands, forcing it into a flattened round. Wrap in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for about an hour or longer before rolling it out.
3) Meanwhile, make the date butter: combine the dates, butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor or in an electric mixer with the paddle. Process until smooth. Transfer the date butter to a small bowl and refrigerate until somewhat firm.
4) Make the dumplings: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Set out a small bowl of water and a pastry brush. Divide the pastry dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half the dough to a rough square shape about 1/8″ thick. Trim the dough with a knife to make a 12″ square, saving all the pastry trimmings for decorating the dumplings later. Cut the 12″ square into quarters. You will have four 6″ squares of dough. Repeat with the second half of the dough. You will now have eight 6″ squares of dough. Repeat with the second half of the dough. You will now have eight 6″ squares of dough. Keep the pastry squares chilled until you are ready to shape the dumplings.
5) Use a melon baller to remove the core of each apple half and create a cavity. Fill the cavity of each apple half with a mound of the date butter. Put a dough square on the work surface and use a small knife to make a cut from each corner to about halfway to the center of the square. (These cuts will allow you to fold the dough up pinwheel fashion over the apple half later.) Place an apple half, core side down, on the center of the dough square. Brush the corners of the dough lightly with water. Fold the corners of the dough up over the apple on each pastry square in an alternating pinwheel fashion, pressing to seal. The apple is now completely sealed within the dough. Repeat with the remaining apples and dough squares.
6) Place the dumplings on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Re-roll the pastry trimmings and cut out 8 decorative leaf shapes using a small knife or a leaf-shaped cookie cutter. Place one leaf on each dumpling, fixing it on with a pastry brush dipped in a little water.
7) In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk lightly with the cream. Brush each dumpling with egg wash. In another small bowl, mix the sugar with the cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over each dumpling. Bake the dumplings in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden (including the creases) and the apples feel tender when pierced with a knife, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. Remove the pan from the oven and cool briefly on a wire rack. Serve the dumplings warm with a scoop of ice cream or dollop of whipped cream!
In the middle of a major (major.) trip-hop phase; Massive Attack is forever and always my favorite in this genre but. Portishead isn’t far behind and I LOVE this song by Tricky.
October 8, 2013
As promised, pumpkin seed brittle!
I gave it (and everything else on my mind) quite the write-up in this pumpkin pie post, where I used it as a garnish. I’m tempted to rave at length all over again. So…while I truly believe that redundancy is appropriate in this particular case, I’ll keep it short.
It’s sweet, nutty and salty all at once. And consistently crunchy. A must in the world of brittle. Brittle isn’t worth eating unless it’s…brittle. Duh.
The addition of honey and cinnamon to the caramel base takes it above and beyond, into the autumnal realm of transcendant perfection.
Think of it as the best snack during the best season. The best garnish for the best baked goods. The best item yet to become an annual tradition. Perhaps one of the best things you could do this fall. The best; the end.
Pumpkin Seed Brittle
- Ingredients -
2 T olive oil
2 c raw, hulled pumpkin seeds
2 1/2 t salt, divided
2 c sugar
1/4 c light corn syrup
2 T honey
3 oz. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
3/4 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
- Directions -
1) Line a baking sheet with two layers of paper towels, and heat the oven to 350 F. Toss the seeds with the oil and spread them in an even layer in a baking pan. Bake for 10 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly toasted (starting to turn golden). Transfer the seeds to the lined baking sheet, and sprinkle with 1 t of the salt. Let cool.
2) Place the cooled pumpkin seeds in a small bowl. Remove the paper towels and line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly coat the parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray. In a medium saucepan over very low heat, gently stir together 1/4 c water, the sugar, corn syrup, and honey until the mixture is almost clear. Stir in the butter. Increase the heat to medium-high and continue gently stirring the mixture until it just begins to boil. Stop stirring and cook until the mixture is golden brown, 8-10 more minutes.
3) Remove from heat and gently stir in the baking soda, then the cinnamon and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. After the mixture has stopped bubbling vigorously (light bubbling is fine), stir in the pumpkin seeds. Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and use a lightly greased offset spatula to spread it out in an even layer. Allow the brittle to cool completely, at least 3 hours.
4) Break the brittle into pieces with a sharp knife or your hands. It can be stored at room temperature, between layers of parchment in an airtight container, for up to 1 week.
(adapted from Baked Elements)
Music! Despite Neil Young’s rapport with Eddie Vedder, I personally think that his influence on 90′s grunge matches up with Shannon Hoon/Blind Melon more than any other artist/band of the period. In a mad rush before work the other day, I threw together a ‘fall’13′ playlist. I spastically went though my entire library, dragging random inclinations into one category. I put it on today for the first time and was tremendously pleased. A perfect stylistic mesh of old and older favorites; and as usual I was surprised by the surpassing power of a song that had historically flown under the radar.
There was a time last year when I listened to little else besides Blind Melon. Roughly five weeks, the duration of which I was cooped up with burnt feet in a small apartment in Boston. Attended by a Saint and Shannon Hoon. It was my second full-blown phase of enjoying this music–the first blissfully reported alongside mocha pumpkin brown-butter muffins–and I now cannot hear it without missing Boston and all that that entails.
This post, detailing said phase, offers 2x serious goodness: some chocolate-hazelnut banana bread and my very favorite of Blind Melon…
…besides this song, the epitome of what I love about skillful grunge. It’s melodically captivating, spiked with a charismatic voice, and dabbles with dissonance and instruments ‘beyond’ the genre. I used to sometimes skip it once the spiral started around 1:45, and now…there’s just nothing that could keep me from hearing the resolution, the strings, that start around 2:45.
(Yes, as a matter of fact I do lose sleep in the wee hours to analyze songs by late musicians.)
October 6, 2013
I’ve been thinking a lot this weekend, about what I’m doing and where. What are you doing and where are you doing it? And depending on how content you are with the answer you work your way into having (if you’re not yet where you want to be, but…it’s okay for now because excuses excuses excuses…) are you being wisely patient or stupidly stubborn? Stubbornness, such a bad trait, rooted in pride. Pride in being right vs. wrong when a situation may be based in neither…except for the way it makes you feel. In which case, I’ve come to believe, you can’t ignore the nagging feeling that occurs while towing the wrong line, and should you carry on in stubbornness, that line is will sink you in the end.
So, no matter how “‘arrived” you feel at the moment…stay rooted in motives. Are they stemming from stubborn pride or patient humility? Also recognize the large scale necessities–the intangible concepts that stealthily, powerfully affect the daily human psyche: challenges, stimulation, growth, opportunities. The degree to which these things are present or not present, at hand or in dreams, is monumental. It’s all fine and well to keep your nose to the grindstone, until heroic logic steps in to save what hasn’t yet been chipped away. It starts a series of thoughts that not only refuse to go away, but steadily avalanche.
Then you find an all-out war breaking out between what you physically, stubbornly do, in the name of patience, when maybe patience is logically past its prime. Considering that we ostensibly have just this brief amount of time in the world, perhaps the best we can do is act according to personal strengths. To recognize them in confidence without pride, to endure humility patiently as they are developed. And, finally, have these strengths define our character instead of fear. Fear cripples a person into a state of their weakest, smallest self–for it is the absence of trust in something greater than ourselves. It is what happens when faith and logic are stubbornly dismissed, deliberately ignored, totally forgotten. It undermines our true capabilities as defined by logic, it kills our confidence to reach faithfully beyond ourselves, and ultimately destroys potential.
So. Best to be patient but be active; be humble but be confident; be doggedly committed until logic and faith dictate otherwise. And forget fear entirely.
Ugh, why is writing so easy. I didn’t know how I was feeling today until I haphazardly started this post, and welp here we are.
I watched Midnight in Paris the other night and I think that’s to blame. Paris. PARIS!
(What am I doing and where am I doing it? It’s always interesting to follow that sort of self-interrogation with whys and why nots. Dear God I must stop dear Diarying!)
Pie! Pie has become a motivating factor, inspiration, and, unofficially, a necessity in my life. You might even call it somewhat of a strength…ha. I more than like it; in fact right now I’d say that I’m crazy about it. Similar to the Neil Young phase that’s hit me as October’s begun. Fall is so earthy. So is pie. So is Neil, so is Nick Drake, so are Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Can’t get enough right now.
Apparently I can’t get enough of pie, either, because prepping and serving a pie-oriented dessert menu defines my life these days, and yet I decided to bake pie on my own this week. And have a long, long, really long list of others to get to.
(I even put the remainders of a pie we’re phasing off the menu into brunch bread pudding this weekend. Too far? I don’t think so. It’s like a custard within a custard…chess + sugar cream pie chunks + parker house rolls, toasted pecans, cranberries, cinnamon, orange zest, and streusel. What’s not to like?)
So! I made pumpkin pie. And I’ve decided that one of the best things about pumpkin is that…there are just so many nice things about it. Flavor, for sure, and the way it augments and is augmented by other VIP ingredients (brown sugar, cinnamon to name names). But also texture. Whether it be cake, pie, a cookie…whatever. Whatever it is will be a little softer, and will hit you over the head with the way that it doesn’t hit you over the head with an aggressive flavor. It’s mellow, laid back, and is all the more addicting.
I think that if someone were to tell me my personality was like pumpkin, I’d be actually really pleased.
So there we go; pumpkin to start. This recipe takes all that pureed goodness and fixes it up with a spiced creme anglaise, which results in a soft, smooth (downright velvety) filling. Which is especially nice against the crisp crust + layer of ground gingersnap crumble resting on the base.
I topped it off with a crushed pumpkin seed (pepita!!!) brittle, which I formed an instant and serious addiction to. I’ve always steered away from brittles and the like for obvious reasons, namely that most of them are poorly made and seem to have serious vendetta against human tooth enamel. Gross. Just. Ughhhhh but! This brittle is not like that. It’s crunchy the whole time you’re crunching it–none of that gradually chewy business that some brittles/toffee linger into. And the pepitas!! Oh goodness! They’re so salty, so nutty, and so nice to bite into. I’m probably going to make this brittle every October for the rest of my life, and if there’s ever a gap it’ll probably be for some heartbreaking reason. Which I’ll add insult to injury to by not just freaking making brittle. It’s easy too!
Pumpkin Creme Pie
- Ingredients -
1 1/3 c pastry or cake flour
1/3 c all-purpose flour
1 T sugar
1 1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 c unsalted butter, freezer-cold, cut into 1/2″ dice
2 T vegetable shortening, freezer cold
1/4 c ice-cold water, or more as needed
1 t distilled white vinegar
3 oz. (85 g) store-bought gingersnaps, such as Anna’s
2 T unsalted butter, melted
14 oz. pumpkin puree (about 1 3/4 c)
3/4 c whole milk
1/2 c heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
3 large egg yolks
1 t ground ginger
3/4 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 t ground cloves
1/2 t kosher salt
1 c packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 T pure vanilla extract
- Directions -
1) Make the crust: In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle, combine the flours, sugar, and salt. Add the cold butter and shortening, mixing on low speed until the mixture looks shaggy and the pieces of butter are slightly smaller than peas. Stop the mixer and check the size of the butter, sifting through the mixture with your hands. If you find a few bigger chunks, quickly smear them between your fingers. Put the ice-cold water and vinegar into a measuring cup or small container and stir to combine.
2) Add the water-vinegar mixture to the flour-fat mixture in the electric mixer on low speed and mix briefly with a few rotations of the paddle, but do not let the dough come together. Turn off the mixer and scrape around the sides and the bottom of the mixer bowl to make sure there are no pockets of dry ingredients, rotating the paddle a few more times if needed, then squeeze a small amount of dough in your hand. The dough should come together as a clump. If the dough seems too dry, add a little more water a few teaspoons at a time and rotate the paddle a few more times. Remove the dough from the mixer and form into a flattened circle, and chill for at least 2 hours.
3) Unwrap the dough and place it on a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a round about 12″ in diameter and about 1/8″ thick. Transfer the dough to a 9″ pie pan. Pick up the folded dough and place it in the pan, then unfold gently, easing (not stretching) it into the pan. Use your fingers to press the dough lightly against the sides of the pan all the way around so the dough won’t slide down. Trim the excess dough to a 3/4-1″ overhang. Fold the overhang up and over (toward the inside of the pan) and use your hands to press gently on the dough all around the circumference to form a neat pastry rim 1/4 to 1/2″ thick. (The pastry rim should be flush with the edge of the pie pan and not overhanging it.) Then use either a tool or your fingers to crimp and seal the edges! Chill the pastry-lined pie pan for 15-30 minutes before blind baking.
4) Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line the pastry-lined pie shell with a square of parchment (or tin foil) and fill it with dried beans. Bake until the bottom of the dough is baked through but not browned, 55-60 minutes. When you lift a corner of the paper and beans to look at the dough on the bottom of the pan, the dough should be evenly whitish and matte. But don’t lift the paper toooooo soon or you may tear the dough! When the dough on the bottom of the pan is set and cooked, remove the pie pan from the oven and remove the parchment and beans. Return the pie pan to the oven and bake until the pastry shell is evenly golden brown, about 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack to cool completely before filling the pastry shell.
5) Make the crushed gingersnaps: put cookies in a food processor and pulse to make fine crumbs (you should have about 3/4 c crumbs). Transfer the crumbs to a bowl and pour the melted butter over them. Mix together well with a fork or your fingers. Press the crumb mixture evenly over the bottom surface of the baked and cooled pie shell. Set the prepared shell aside.
6) Make the filling: Combine the milk and cream in a heavy saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean, place the scrapings in a bowl, add the yolks, spices, salt, and 1/2 c of the brown sugar, and set the bowl aside. Put the scraped-out vanilla pod in the saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat and scald (just below the boiling point until it begins to steam and little bubbles appear around the edges). Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and allow to steep for 5-10 minutes.
7) Whisk the yolk-sugar mixture vigorously until well combined and lighter in color. Remove the lid from the saucepan and remove the vanilla pod. Return the saucepan to medium heat and bring the milk mixture back to a scald. Add a ladle of the scalded milk mixture to the yolk mixture and whisk briefly, to temper the yolks and keep them from scrambling, then add the warmed yolk mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 2-3 minutes. Immediately pour the creme anglaise through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl.
8 ) Put the pumpkin puree into a blender. Pour the creme anglaise into the blender container; add the remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, the eggs, and the vanilla extract. Blend on high speed for 1 full minute. Turn off the blender and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the container, going all the way to the bottom of the container with your spatula to make sure everything is well mixed. Blend again for a few seconds if necessary.
9) Leave the pumpkin custard in the blender container and allow the mixture to rest and any bubbles to rise to the top, about 15 minutes. Use a small ladle to skim off and discard as many of the bubbles as you easily can. (You’ll lose a little of the custard mixture, which is okay. The point of this is to keep the top of your pie as smooth and bubble-free as possible; but don’t obsess over getting every little one.)
10) Pour the pumpkin filling into the pastry shell, transfer it to the oven, and bake until the custard is set, about 1 hour. When the pie is done, the custard should jiggle just slightly in the center when you shake the pan gently. (Don’t bake this pie so long that the filling does not move at all.) Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before slicing and serving. !!! Stay tuned for brittle.
(adapted from the Dahlia Bakery Cookbook)
This song reigned not only among, but as THE favorite of favorites when I was in high school. Then I got to college, got a little more in line with people my age, and found that it’d lost its automatic appeal. That always makes me so sad, the way a once beloved song wanes, and then is gone with a quick click of Next. Not that you can really control what genuinely appeals at a given moment, but. Anyway; it’s back. This song is back back back for now.
‘And who’s all hung-up on that happiness thing? / Who’s trying to tune all the bells that he rings? / And who’s in the corner and down on the floor / With pencil and paper just counting the score? / And who’s trying to act like he’s just in between? / The line isn’t black, if you know that it’s green. / Don’t bother looking, you’re too blind to see / Who’s coming on like he wanted to be.’
Love this one too. I really should start a music blog.. But then I literally just might not do anything else. At least here I’m held accountable by pictures and recipes. Kind of… Here we go: