May 20.15

May 21, 2015

To begin, to begin.  Again and again, is there ever a point where we stop beginning and we simply continue?

A more heady question/situation than I was going for (thus is always the case, when in doubt start a blog entry)…

I gripe each time but it’s always so difficult to start these.  The past few I’ve had a recipe to bring it up and keep it going…but a few days ago, I saw on my wordpress stats that someone happened upon (or intently clicked on) Things.   And so I re-read it along with every other long-winded weird post I’d written last summer and was a bit shocked into a feeling I really can’t describe.  I’m happy to have moved on from the baker/yoga/wine/cat-lady routine, and yet, and yet.  That bizarre and creative stranger who published the background of my life is…strangely, sadly(?), a stranger.

I don’t keep this blog with a fever of recipes or photos to share, anymore.  Each post is more a stamp of what’s what on a given day.  And sometimes the tweed cake you made for your birthday party three summers ago isn’t as good as what you made today, today!, despite years of professional baking and then running your own department.  Is this shareable?  No…not if I had lost perspective.

And that is what this blog is.  It’s perspective.  It’s a half-look backward, a self-judgement now, and a hope later.  I’ll flesh those ideas out a bit more once I can share proper material, but for now, it is simply striking to remember, but also to plan.  Simultaneously.

I might have over-served myself last night (good beer in the northeast-) and, that’s putting it lightly because I retreated into T.S. Eliot.  Which means I was past the present and future.  …  I retreated.  And I delved into the Four Quartets starting with Burnt Norton.  That ‘Quartet’ has never been my favorite but last night it was captivating.  It was as if I were Mr. Betteredge from Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone; he is the initial narrator and steward of the house who always turns to Robinson Crusoe in times of emotional or intellectual need.  And just like old Betteredge I flipped open my verse and the random structure of words meeting my eye is what I sought.  Eerily, my affection for The Moonstone is also supported by Eliot, who claimed it as “the first and greatest of English detective novels.” !!!

I might’ve also read the underside of a Magic Hat beer cap and taken that quite seriously…last night my first one read, ‘buff you inner shine.’  …hence the reading spree.

Anyway.  Burnt Norton. Is what I’d suggest should you ever feel as though you’re at crossroads; possibly what’s behind you will be behind you forever and is that okay?  Is that healthy?  What do you take and what do you leave, when you’re starting a real life.

Ughghghghgh so dear-diary but whatever.  Writing somehow replaces, replenishes, the demands you make of yourself–things that used to be gives. Keeping a level head during a stressful day at work (kind of/whoops), cuddling a cat that your boyfriend is extremely allergic to, writing a blog post because you won’t stop but should join the bedtime agenda.  Being as loving and as loveable as you can be.  Were?

But it’s all good.  In measures and in time.  And I think I’ve shared bits of Burnt Norton before, actually.  Though previously always glossed over the beginning–it’s a trip of tenses and conditions and possibilities.  But what isn’t?  I love a section of the last bit, which is abstract but ensnares details toward the end: ‘Time past and time future / Allow but a little consciousness. / To be conscious is not to be in time / But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden…’

But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden.  But only in time can the moment in the rose garden.  But only in time can the moment in the rose garden do what?  It is so endless and so fascinating.  And beautiful.  And it is as universal in the rose garden as it is in a pro-kitchen’s walk-in refrigerator, as a Paris metro, as a quiet home in Maine.  It is all endless and connected, bound by the same entity that forever drives and detracts.

sweet girl

I had a few records that Mack had never heard of when we first met.  Youth Lagoon was for sure a stretch…and he not only agrees that Year of Hibernation is…inexplicably good, but he discovered a bonus two-track mini-album that was hidden with the paperwork.  Here’s to that and to Youth Lagoon fitting the indescribable bill–

Bread Pudding!!!

April 21, 2015

You know what’s the worst? Leftover pastries at the end of a day.  You know what’s the best?  Bread pudding that incorporates those leftovers and sells…well, sometimes better than the original product/pastry.

I developed this recipe specifically for that scenario; because leftover muffins (etc.) have more sugar and overall moisture than bread, the quantity of sugar in the custard is reduced, thus the flavors stay in tact and balanced.  At Salt Water Farm, I always have a morning “buckle” (muffin) loaded with some sort of berry (fresh raspberries or blueberries when they’re available, frozen blackberries in the off season), and actually now that I’m thinking about it.. I can’t believe I haven’t posted them on here.  They’re bestselling as they are, but in the off-season “best selling” is a tricky statement, because everything and everyone is generally tricky and finicky and pars are impossible to plot.  SO, with the odd two or three leftovers, I wrap, label and date them and then toss them into the pastry freezer…until the time comes when I’ll pull them out and chop them into bread-pudding to-be.  Since they’re so moist to begin with, even leftover, I toast them into croutons in a low oven, let them cool, and then soak them overnight in the reduced-sugar/egg/cream custard…with salt, vanilla, and a touch of spice or almond, depending on the flavor palate of the leftovers.

I’ll set it out on the counter as soon as the late morning, and also serve it for lunch and dinner dessert.  It sells at all times of day, and is equally wonderful (and popular) as a cool grab-to-go item, or decadently served warm with ice cream.  My photos that follow are split between two batches; the first few were taken last year when I had leftover rhubarb muffins, the later few are from this week and incorporate sticky buns.  No matter the flavor profile, I add the same streusel, and either a dollop of whipped mascarpone (pictured) or ice cream to finish.

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DSC_0373Bread Pudding

10 c cubed leftovers (muffins, cakes–icing and all, scones, biscuits, cookies…)

3 eggs

7 egg yolks

1 c sugar

6 c cream

1 t salt

1 t vanilla

1 t cinnamon

Streusel

Caramel recipe to-follow!!

1) Heat oven to 300 F.  Spread all leftover cubes onto cookie sheets, and toast until golden and dry, 10-15 minutes.  Remove and let cool completely.

2) Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar together into a large bowl.  Whisk in the cream until well combined, and finally add the salt, vanilla, and cinnamon.

3) Set the leftovers croutons into a 9×23 baking dish.  Pour the egg/cream mixture over and let soak overnight or at least 8 hours.

4) When ready to bake, heat oven to 325 F.  Sprinkle the bread pudding with turbanado sugar or streusel and bake for 1-1.5 hours.  Test the doneness of the bread pudding by inserting a knife in the middle of the pan and pulling the pudding aside a little bit to see if it has set up. If liquid fills the hole that you have made with your knife, the pudding needs more time.   Remove from oven and let rest for several hours at room temperature before cutting. Enjoy chilled, or warm pieces individually to serve (which is what I do at SWF–re-caramel/sea salt it and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream).

Happy Spring!! (finally feeling like it up here!!)

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Pistachio^3!

March 13, 2015

I feel a little weird posting a pistachio-paste based recipe after rolling my eyes about its (un-)availability in my previous post, but, a few days and dollars after visiting this website, I had some at my disposal and got to work.

At first I didn’t know which of many pistachio cake recipes I wanted to make–Le Cordon Bleu’s dacquoise, the Baked guys’ Aunt Sassy cake, another layered brick from Momofoku, etc.  I decided on none of the above, as my baking window before dinnertime drew shorter and shorter, despite the extra hour of sunlight pouring in, and I needed to get something into the oven fast and easily.  Plus, as with most things, less is more when it comes to genuinely wonderful baked goods; flavor and texture are undemanding elements, yielding best results with efficient, minimal handling.  So I decided to bang out a pound cake that’s purely, densely, 100% pistachio; a stand alone creation from the À la Mère de Famille cookbook with a buttery crumb, nutty flavor, and addicting crackly top crust.

It stood alone long enough, but it also whetted my appetite for more pistachio…  I started thinking in work mode, wondering how it could be elevated from breakfast pastry to dinner dessert.  The wheels in my head spun me toward the Momofoku book, my usual go-to for adding a bit of spunk here and there, and landed on their pistachio crunch.  It’s not a brittle/toffee so much as a spread, which I decided was a perfect starting point for a frosting or mousse.  I ended up adding some mascarpone for creaminess in taste/texture, and finished it with a generous fold of whipped cream.  The result was a wonderfully light mousse, with an interesting texture thanks to the nuts/feuilletine.  I split the loaf of cake into three even layers, spread them with the mousse, and had an absolutely delicious, absolutely pistachio, layer cake.

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I also had leftover mousse.  So.  I got out the vanilla ice cream I made last week, let it soften, and then folded the mousse into it.  Voila, pistachio ice cream.  It actually worked out better than I could have imagined–the ice cream I make is quite soft to begin with (more like semifreddo, so it’s always easy to scoop during service), so there was plenty of leeway for the additional ingredients to mesh and not change its freezing quality for the worse (make it too firm, too dense, etc.).

Long story short, I got some pistachio paste and went absolutely crazy with it.  And I’m laughing at how hopelessly I often fail at ‘less is more’ when it comes to dessert; hopefully I’ll still be laughing when the restaurant is at full volume and I’m endlessly tinkering away with components for three separate menus…

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Pistachio Pound Cake

– Ingredients –

  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/3 c heavy cream, room temperature
  • 3 1/2 T pistachio paste
  • 1 3/4 c flour
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 6 T butter, melted and cooled slightly

– Directions –

1) Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Line two 6×4″ or one 9×5″ loaf pan(s) with parchment paper.  Whisk together the eggs and sugar until the mixture is pale and thick (about 5 minutes on high speed if using an electric mixer).  Add the cream and pistachio paste and whisk until combined.  Sift the flour and baking powder together, add to the mixture.  Finally, stir in the butter. The batter should be smooth and shiny!

2) Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s).  Bake for 5 minutes, then make a lengthwise incision in the top of the cake with a sharp knife.  Lower the oven temperature to 300 F, then return the cake to the oven for about 35 minutes, if baking the 6×4 size, or about 1 hour if baking the 9×5, or until the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn the cake out of the pan.  Will keep at room temp in an airtight container for up to 3 days!

Pistachio Crunch Mousse

– Ingredients –

  • 1/2 c pistachios, shelled
  • 1/2 c pistachio paste
  • 3/4 c feuilletine
  • 1/4 c confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 1/2 c mascarpone
  • 1/2 c heavy cream

– Directions –

1) Heat the oven to 325 F.  Put the pistachios on a sheet pan and toast in the oven for 15 minutes.  Cool to room temperature.

2) Put the toasted pistachios in a clean kitchen towel and, with a saute pan or a rolling pin, bash them into smaller pieces, ideally halving the pistachios, or breaking them down to no smaller than 1/8th their original size.

3) Combine the broken pistachios with the pistachio paste, feuilletine, confectioners’ sugar, and salt in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and paddle on on medium-low speed for about 1 minute, until homogenous.  Add the mascarpone and mix just until combined.  Unless you have two mixer bowls, transfer the pistachio mixture to another similarly sized bowl, and give the mixer bowl a thorough rinse.  Whip the cream on medium-high speed to medium-stiff peaks, and gently fold into the pistachio mixture with a spatula.  The mousse-crunch can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a week.

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It happened, I didn’t think it would but it happened.  I’ve gotten somewhat hooked on snowboard youtube videos.  But unlike Mack I’m not planning my next park run(!), I’m getting sucked into the music…and excitement for next year already!

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(this guy!!!^)

When’s the last time I posted a recipe?  I don’t know either.  So I’m starting back up with this 2-in-1…situation, ordeal, monstrosity?, you decide, involving a frightening number of steps and ingredients.  I’ve had the Momofoku Milkbar cookbook for some time now, but I’ve typically just picked it up for a quick garnish/accent.  But! This was not the case two weeks ago!  I got back to Maine after a nice visit to KC, and despite blizzard after blizzard it dawned on me with a tinge of sadness that winter was going to be on its way out soon.  Which incurred an internal blizzard of sorts, and all the motivation I’d been missing in previous weeks finally kicked back up to the normal level.

So. I decided it was time to tackle a cake, any cake, from that book.  I kind of randomly settled on this one, it seemed…most accessible.  Homemade funfetti might not be my thing; passion fruit curd with chocolate? no thank you.; pistachio cake requires pistachio paste, definitely not a staple at any grocery in mid-coast Maine.  Apple pie though, absolutely!  So one morning I was up early, got the pie crumbs in the oven and the next few items seemed to almost make themselves!  I got into that zone–the rhythmic process of rinsing and rotating bowls and spatulas and whisks, juggling oven space and temperatures.  And suddenly the more you do the easier it is to do EVEN MORE!  I’d missed it, a lot.  Baking that is.

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So there we have it.  A cake that truly does taste like pie.  Those pie crumbs are ridiculous, tasting more like pie crust than pie crust, and that frosting has me wondering why I haven’t already made frosting from Girl Scout cookies.  The things you can do that I haven’t done with my blender!!  Yet!

A few notes!  At Momofoku the cakes are assembled in round triple-layer 6″ form, but I decided it’d be easier to make as a rectangular cake, using a 9×5″ loaf pan for structure.  I’ve adjusted the directions accordingly, and no worries, the recipe quantities transition smoothly into those dimensions.  Another plus for the loaf pan is that you can just line it with plastic wrap to cleanly build the layers, instead of going out of your way to find acetate strips.  Though if you already have acetate strips, by all means use them.  I used a combination–lined the pan with foil so I could lift the cake out, but used the strips on the sides so the layers were clean and defined.  Lining with plastic wrap would have a similar effect, but also use a layer of foil underneath since this cake is heavy(!) and it provides more substantial lifting power.

Also, in the book, the ingredients for each component’s recipe are listed together with their directions, however, I prefer to list ingredients all together so as to better understand how much of each one you’re using, total.  Makes for more organized grocery shopping/pantry stocking.  And as for which part to do first, it’s totally up to you.  It just depends on what you have time for and how much you want to do in advance; all of the components save for up to a few days.

Mostly, just do it!  Each part of this cake is as easy as…pie.

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Oh and! I subbed half of the apple quantity with pear.  I love pears and next time would use just them; save those apples for peanut butter!

APPLE PEAR PIE CAKE a la Momofoku Milkbar

– Ingredients –

“Barely brown butter” cake:

  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick, 55g) butter
  • 2 tablespoons (40g) brown butter
  • 1 ¼ cups (250g) granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup (60g) light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup (110g) buttermilk
  • ⅓ cup (65g) grapeseed oil [used canola]
  • ½ teaspoon (2g) vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups (180g) cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) kosher salt

Apple Cider Soak:

  • ¼ cup (55g) apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • pinch (0.25g) ground cinnamon

Liquid Cheesecake:

  • 8 ounces (225g) cream cheese
  • ¾ cup (150g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (6g) cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon (2g) kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons (25g) milk
  • 1 egg

Apple (-Pear) Filling:

  • 1 lemon
  • 2 medium (300g) Granny Smith apples, or 1 GS apple + 1 ripe Bosc pear
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) butter
  • ⅔ cup (150g) light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • ½ teaspoon (1g) ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon (1g) kosher salt

Pie Crumb Frosting:

  • ½ recipe Pie Crumb
  • ½ cup (110g) milk
  • ½ teaspoon (2g) kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons (40g) butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (40g) confectioners’ sugar

Pie Crumb:

  • 1½ cups (240g) flour
  • 2 tablespoons (18g) sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon (3g) kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick, 115g) butter, melted
  • 1 ½ tablespoons (20g) water

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– Directions –

1) Make the cake!: Heat oven to 350 F.  Combine butters and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs, and mix on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl of the bowl once more.

Stream in the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla while the paddle swirls on low speed. Increase the speed to medium-high and paddle 5 to 6 minutes, until the mixture is practically white, twice the size of your original fluffy butter-and-sugar mixture, and completely homogenous. You’re basically forcing too much liquid into an already fatty mixture that doesn’t want to make room for it, so if it doesn’t look right after 6 minutes, keep mixing. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

On very low speed, add the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix for 45 to 60 seconds, just until your batter comes together an any remnants of dry ingredients have been incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix on low speed for another 45 seconds to ensure that any lumps of cake flour are incorporated.

Pam-spray a quarter sheet pan (I used a 9×13″) and line it with parchment,  or just line the pan with a Silpat. Using a spatula, spread the cake batter in an even layer in the pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The cake will rise and puff, doubling in size, but will remain slightly buttery and dense. At 30 minutes, gently poke the edge of the cake with your finger: the cake should bounce back slightly and the center should no longer be jiggly. Leave the cake in the oven for an extra 3 to 5 minutes if it doesn’t pass these tests. Take the cake out of the oven and cool on a wire rack. The cooled cake can be stored in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 5 days.

2) Make the apple cider soak: Whisk together the cider, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl until the sugar is completely dissolved.

3) Make the liquid cheesecake: Heat the oven to 300 F.  Put the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the sugar and mix for 1 to 2 minutes, until the sugar has been completely incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Whisk together the cornstarch and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the milk in a slow, steady stream, then whisk in the egg until the slurry is homogenous.  With the mixer on medium-low speed, stream in the egg slurry. Paddle for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and loose. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Line the bottom and sides of a 6×6 inch baking pan (8×8 is fine) with aluminum foil. Pour the cheesecake batter into the pan, put the pan in the oven, and bake for 15 minutes. Gently shake the pan. The cheesecake should be firmer and more set toward the outer boundaries of the baking pan but still be jiggly and loose in the dead center. If the cheesecake is jiggly all over, give it 5 minutes more. And 5 minutes more if it needs it…if the cheesecake rises more than a ¼ inch or begins to brown, take it out of the oven immediately.

Cool the cheesecake completely, to finish the baking process and allow the cheesecake to set. The final product will resemble a cheesecake, but it will be pipeable and pliable enough to easily spread or smear, while still having body and volume. Once cool, the cheesecake can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

4) Make the apple pie filling: Fill a medium bowl halfway with cold tap water. Juice the lemon into it. Fish out and discard any seeds. You will use this lemon water to keep your apple/pear pieces looking fresh and pert. Peel the apple(s)/pear, then halve and quarter them. Put each apple quarter on its side and cut a small slice down the length of the apple to remove the seeds and core. Cut each apple quarter lengthwise into thirds and then crosswise into fourths, leaving you with 12 small pieces from every apple quarter. Transfer these pieces to the lemon water as you go.

When you’re ready to cook, drain the apples (discard the lemon water) and combine them in a medium pot with the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Slowly bring a boil over medium heat, using a spoon to gently stir the mixture as it heats up and the apples begin to release liquid. Reduce the heat and simmer the apples gently for 3 to 5 minutes. Be careful not to cook the apples so much that they turn into applesauce. If you have a lot of liquid left, fish out the apples and reduce the remaining liquid by half for about 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a container and put in the fridge to cool down. Once completely cooled, the filling can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 1 week; do not freeze.

5) Make the pie crumbs: Heat the oven to 350 F. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and paddle on low speed until well mixed. Add the butter and water and paddle on low speed until the mixture starts to come together in small clusters. Spread the clusters on a parchment or Silpat lined sheet pan.

Bake for 25 minutes, breaking them up occasionally. The crumbs should be golden brown and still slightly moist to the touch at that point; they will dry and harden as they cool. Let the crumbs cool completely before using in a recipe or eating. Stored in an airtight container, the crumbs will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature or 1 month in the fridge or freezer.

6) Make the pie crumb frosting: Combine the pie crumbs, milk, and salt in a blender, turn the speed to medium-high, and puree until smooth and homogenous. It will take 1 to 5 minutes (depending on the awesomeness of your blender). If the mixture does not catch on your blender blade, turn off the blender, take a small teaspoon, and scrape down the sides of the canister, remembering to scrape under the blade, then try again. Truly just blend it and keep blending it until it’s completely smooth, like peanut butter.

Combine the butter and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes, until fluffy and pale yellow. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. On low speed, paddle in the contents of the blender, After 1 minute, crank the speed up to medium-high and mix for another 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. If the mixture is not a uniform, very pale, barely tan color, give the bowl another scrape-down and another minute of high-speed paddling. Use the frosting immediately, or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

7) ASSEMBLY!: Put a piece of parchment paper or a Silpat on the counter. Invert the cake onto it and peel off the parchment or Silpat from the bottom of the cake. Use a 9×5″ loaf pan to trace the cake into three equal rectangular pieces, then cut them accordingly. Line the loaf pan with a sheet of aluminum foil, so that the overhang is on the long sides (to make it easier to lift out). Next, you’ll want to use acetate liners cut to the dimensions of the pan to line the sides. I found it easier to place the initial cake layer into the pan before adding the acetate liners, as it helps them to stay propped up and in place. (or line with plastic wrap)

Once the initial layer is nestled into the pan, dunk a pastry brush in the apple cider soak and give the layer of cake a good healthy bath of half of the soak; then use the back of a spoon to spread half of the liquid cheesecake in an even layer over the cake.  Sprinkle 1/3 of the pie crumbs evenly over the liquid cheesecake, using the back of your hand to anchor them in place. Use the back of a spoon to spread 1/2 of the pie filling as evenly as possible over the crumbs, draining as much of the liquid as possible.

Set another cake rectangle on top of the filling and repeat the process for layer 1. Nestle the remaining cake layer into the pie filling, and cover the top of the cake with all of the pie crumb frosting, and garnish the frosting with the remaining pie crumbs.

Transfer the sheet pan to the freezer and freeze for a minimum of 12 hours to set the cake and filling. (or, the cake will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks!)  At least three hours before you are ready to serve the cake, pull the loaf pan out of the freezer and, using the overhanging aluminum foil, lift the cake out of the pan. Gently peel off the acetate (or plastic wrap) and transfer the cake to a platter or cake stand. Let it defrost in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours (wrapped well in plastic, it can be refrigerated for up to 5 days). …..slice the cake into wedges and serve!

Now that that nonsense is over…what else?

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Snowboarding!, at the Camden Snowbowl (that’s the Atlantic!),

…and further north at Sunday River, with multi-purpose gloves!,

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annnnd yoga with Mazzy.

And lots of instrumentals on repeat.  Old rap!  The one love I haven’t shared here.  Figured this is a way to start…

2015(!)

January 15, 2015

…Happy New Year!

As usual, as with each hiatus, I don’t know how to get back in.

I looked back at my posts celebrating the beginning of 2014, and despite being put off with their wordiness, for lack of a better word, I was excited all over again by the energy and how 2014 just was–through and through and start to finish.

I’m not going to play catch-up with the undocumented second half.  The favorite songs, the pretty weather, the photogenic recipes and the personal episodes that I’d let spill into a public space, all these things might recycle themselves.  But I’m not going to make it a conscious effort.

Right now!, I’m still in Maine.  Salt Water Farm wrapped up a wonderful year and is now closed for winter break until A pril 1st.  I’ve been hit with considerable work-withdrawal, quite unexpectedly.  I was so excited at the prospect of free time until like day 2 when it dawned on me that having nothing to do meant, to some degree, having everything to do.

(There should be a technical term for the type of paralysis rooted in overwhelming freedom.)

So, here I am–two weeks in and I’ve gotten the proverbial ball rolling in a few different directions.  A course at Maine Media Workshops; a pile of savory, actual meal(!) recipes/ideas to tackle; a stack of books to read and re-read (as if nothing could be better than Moby Dick in the middle of a Maine winter); and an ebay bid on a pair of snowboarding boots.

Traveling is of course never far from my mind, and I’m anxious to see more of this beautiful state, dart down to Boston, and to dip south and west home to Kansas City.   However, today I’m in the Camden coffee shop that I first visited on a sunny morning last April.  It’s no exaggeration to say that my love affair with this whole area began then, over toast and coffee in the still-wintry ghost town that it was.  And 9 months later there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

I’m still painting, though I’ve strayed from oil and acrylic to using food.  Yep.  I decided to quite literally do something with my interest in the abstract/aesthetic qualities of raw ingredients.  Feedback has been mixed–my boyfriend(!) was startled I think when he opened the refrigerator and found yogurt splashed on canvas where the beer usually is; I texted some images to far-away friends who offered support and emoticons suggesting amusement; and finally, my photos of said “paintings” were…decidedly different from the dramatic black and white images put forth by my workshop peers.

I’m not going to drone on about it, though, because there are other things (photos) I want to cover today.  I’ve already let approximately 2.5 days be consumed with food art insanity, and I’m not going to let it usurp my post!

Going to let pictures wrap it up, with all their 1,000+ words worth, hopefully before my computer dies.

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(yolk)

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(peanut butter and jelly)

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(my girl!)

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(winter I)

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(winter II)

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(winter III)

When indecision strikes and computer is at 3% battery, recent download playlist saves the day:

(Brown-Butter) Honey Pie!

August 24, 2014

It’s been such a long time since I’ve posted a recipe!  This pie, a lunch dessert staple, has garnered a fan base at Salt Water Farm, and I’ve just emailed it to two inquiring guests.  One woman said to me on her way out, “oh, but aren’t you young to have such a stash of recipes up your sleeve! email this one to me asap!” and the other called me tonight at the restaurant.

(work goes, is going, has gone, very well)

It’s deceptively simple looking, no colors besides caramel, tan and brown.  Texturally and taste-wise though, it’s a bit more involved.  Start with a basic all-butter pie crust that becomes crisp, dark and almost fried in the pan.  Then a brown butter custard that’s salty and deeply sweet.  All kinds of science drama goes on when fat, sugar, protein, and liquid get together in the oven.  Essentially, density gets real and sugar shows its true colors.  The filling will end up being two layers, with a flan-like base and a sweeter, chewier top.  It’s not chewy per se, just chewier (sugar heavy) than the creamy base.  I’d pretend like I knew the molecular situation, but I’m a horrible liar.  I’m a person who often prefers the gist of things, especially when it comes to splitting hairs in science class.  (which is why I majored in English and learned how to bake by trial and error)

I serve it with a swoosh of caramel, sprinkle of sea salt, and dollop of whipped cream.  This pie! basically took over from day 1, back in June, when someone told me it was the best pie they’d ever had.  Plus the name is so catchy, and there’s that terrible Beatles song to prove it.

My adaptations to the original recipe are centered on taste; I use a vanilla bean instead of extract, I omit citrus and increase salt for balance, and…I use half Lyle’s Golden Syrup for the full honey quantity (if I have it! it slightly tames the honey, which can be a bit strong, without altering the product texturally.  actually, come to think of it, my first run through included some molasses too.  I’ll try that again and get back to this tangent–)

Enjoy!!

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Brown-Butter Honey Pie

– Ingredients –

Crust:

1 3/4 c (245 g) AP flour

1 T sugar

1 1/4 t salt

1 c (2 sticks, 228 g) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2″ cubes

3 cold egg yolks

3 T cold milk

2 egg yolks + 2 T milk for egg wash

Filling:

3/4 c (170 g) unsalted butter

3/4 c (255 g) honey (or…swap in up to 1/2 c Lyle’s Golden Syrup and round out the rest of the 3/4ths with honey)

1 vanilla bean’s seeds

1 c (200 g) sugar

2 T (15 g) AP flour

3/4 t salt (I use about 1 full t)

5 eggs

1 c (235 ml) heavy cream

Flaky sea salt for topping

– Directions –

1) Make the crust: Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, paddle together the flour, sugar, and salt; add the cubed butter.  Work it in on low speed until the flour holds together when you clump it, and there are still lumps of butter the size of a pecan throughout, (about 2 minutes).  Meanwhile, whisk together the yolks and milk, then add to the flour-butter mix.  Paddle briefly, until the dough just starts to come together (about 30 seconds).  It’ll look like a shaggy mess!

2) Dump the dough onto an unfloured surface, the form it into a mound. Using your palm and starting on one side of the mount, smear the dough bit by bit, starting at the top of the mound and then sliding your palm down the side and along the work surface, until most of the butter chunks are smeared into the dough and the dough comes together. Do this once or twice on each part of the dough, moving throughout the mound until the whole mess has been smeared into a cohesive dough with streaks of butter.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and press down to flatten into a disk about 1 inch thick. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using. The dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

3)  When ready, roll dough into a circle large enough to line a 9″ pie pan.  Press the dough gently into the bottom and up the sides of the pan and cut the overhanging edges so that there is a 1/4 to 1/2 lip, and crimp.  Refrigerate the pie shell for at least 30 minutes (or tightly wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 day or freeze for up to 2 weeks–bake directly from the refrigerator or freezer).

4) Finally bake the shell: heat the oven to 350°F.  Line the pie shell with parchment paper or several overlapping coffee filters and fill with pie weights. Blind bake for about 20 minutes, bring it out, and brush the base with egg wash.  Return to the oven and bake until the entire shell is light brown, about 7-10 minutes.  Take out and let cool completely before filling.

5) Make the filling: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat; allow to simmer and foam.  As the foam subsides, stir the butter constantly and watch for it to turn golden and then brown, about 10 minutes.  Once it turns brown, it’s moments away from black–so, quickly take off the heat, add the honey and vanilla seeds, and stir until it’s dissolved.  Let cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

6) Whisk together the sugar, flour, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.  Stir in the brown butter and whisk until thoroughly combined.  Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition.  Whisk in the heavy cream.  Pour into the prepared pie crust.  Bake for 60-75 minutes, rotating the pie halfway through baking.  It’s done when it turns deep golden brown on top; it’ll be puffed up and set around the edges but still shake slightly in the center.  Let rest and cool to room temperature before cutting into it!  And then top it with flaky sea salt and cream.  Maybe some fresh fruit.  Caramel!

Man oh man.  How I used to type all of those recipes out, all the time, is beyond me.  That was rough!

I’m going to refrain from a full update tonight–I’ve realized how unbelievably undisciplined I’ve been this summer in regards to post content!  Not to say that I’ll stop myself from rambling here and there, but I’m definitely going to try and keep it a little more food oriented…

Which brings me to work.  Work!  Has been my summer.  Salt Water Farm is a busy, busy place!!  I went in early this morning to bake off for breakfast, worked through lunch, left to run and clean and do laundry, and went back for dinner service.  We’re open every day besides Tuesday, which has become my favorite day of the week.  Well, I say that, but really…all the other days are great too.  I love what I do!  There’s something to be said for balance, moderation, sleep, all that–but.  If you’re going to do a thing, say, run a pastry department, do it.  Be there as much as it takes, push it and yourself further than you think you can.  Set absurd, totally absurd expectations for yourself.

Most importantly though, look beyond the task.  While in summer survival mode, which was particularly acute in July, it was easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.  I started to get preoccupied with all that I wasn’t doing, because of all that I was literally doing at work.  And so rather than feeling creatively in tune with my job, I was a little restless and semi-stir crazy–mostly exhausted.  All it takes though, all that it took, was an exciting new menu change here and there, and the increasing realization that the rhythms and systems I’d gotten into place were actually something.  By “actually something,” I mean, wheels in motion.  I’ve become–or have I always been?–all about wheels in motion.

I like that phrase became it seems vaguely out of control, limitless, but maintains a grip on some kind of focus.  It’s like an unbound train on an upward track, perpetually on a brink.

Right so!  Here is where my stint as a motivational speech writer gets interrupted by the reality of a very fat cat, my new sidekick!  I’m sitting on the floor with my legs stretched out and my computer in my lap, so she’s been curled up on my shins this whole time.  And, it’s time for me to follow my foot to sleep.

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I almost named her Athena, because her Homeric epithet would no doubt also be “owl-eyed,” but then…she’s not very bright and irony isn’t something I’m craving in a cat name. So she’s Mazzy.

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I left early last Sunday, and stumbled upon this. Maine!!

I’ve recently been turning this on and up, up up up, every morning; fairly up up up for the Pixies–

Hello August–

August 3, 2014

I wrote poetry in the airport yesterday, well actually I felt quite passive throughout the whole affair, it just started happening–when the woman sitting next to me began noisily consuming a sucker, and it was like, okay so, I’m either going to literally and absolutely freak out or here why don’t I just start a word document.

It was ridiculous and constructive–a good combination.

Since I got home from work tonight, I’m afraid that I’ve only succeeded in being ridiculous and destructive.  You see, I mentally organized a beautiful post in the shower last night.  It was perfect.  But before I could sit down and write, my clarity got swept up into a quick night’s sleep, and then got trampled by a long active day.  I’ve been sitting here trying to recover some kind of coherence, but I truly can’t remember a single thing I wanted to say.  That’s not true.  I just don’t know how to say a single thing.

I had points!  Unlike now apparently.  That’s not true.  The point is this.  My grandmother died last weekend.  And since then I’ve been on a bit of a creative/destructive merri-go-round.  And I can’t make out whether I’m riding, or if I’m literally, the animal going up and down in a circle.

Regardless-I’ve wondered how I’d approach writing about this…obviously contingent on timing.  During my eloquent shower hour, I focused on the life part of death.  You know, how it underscores what has been, or is, instead of what is not.  A different mindset from last weekend, when I drove after work for awhile despite the late hour, stopping to fill up my car at a rural gas station and weeping with total abandonment.  I briefly wondered, is this even safe?  And then decided that my tears were a definite social repellant.  I was feeling everything bad that I’d ever felt and was dealing with it very badly–I’m fairly positive that no one in their right or wrong mind would have approached me.

I’ve been afraid of this kind of thing happening, this clusterf*ck of articulation.  Especially the other day at the funeral.  I was sitting there in the pew, my focus alternating obsessively between a Pepsi Cola floral arrangement and the words spoken by a few family members.  Then suddenly my inner consciousness attacked and said wait! wait everyone. there’s more to say. I have more to say.

I didn’t say anything.  I thought too much about my thoughts and my heart began to race and my mind short-circuited; stage fright descended prematurely, as if to nip the inevitable awkwardness in the bud.  I would have gone to the podium in a surprise move and what?  Seen a packed church before me, and my spontaneous expressions of love might’ve fallen flat into the microphone, and maybe I’d have repeated a main good point and finally felt absurd and returned to my seat.

Fear–that worst of feelings, of concepts, kept me from effectively opening and offering myself in that moment.  It’s strange to me, that public speaking on so lovely a subject as my grandmother should scare me more than a deserted road at night.

A matter of justice, I suppose, the worry that one’s outward devotion is meager compared with what is merited; that justice is ill-served by an expression not fully encompassing the love intended, and yet, and yet. to be fair, love so often outstrips what is communicable.  But it is in the act of trying–the million differing ways in which people show their affections, great and small–it is in the trying to express so great a thing.  So great a thing should trump fear, and yet–it is by nature intimidating.  Intimidating to feel, much less show…

I’m getting off track.

The thing is, my grandmother was just so much fun.  She had a timelessness about her that connected her with everyone and everything; quite randomly I can’t help but keep thinking about the ladies at the place in Norfolk where she got her hair done, and how they’ll undoubtedly feel a pang when they learn (/learned) that she’ll not be back.  She wasn’t just good company and she wasn’t just the best story teller, but she made you feel like you were good company, too, and she made you feel like you were part of something very particularly special with every laugh or wide eyed look you’d make when she told and retold you about that one time.  Her pauses and the nuances of her accent were highly dramatic and so demonstrative of a feeling; and that is what she did.  She demonstrated feelings, and never had a shortage of them…  I’m amused now, remembering her fascination with people.  Everyone.  Literally everyone–whether they were here or hereafter, a friend or a stranger, real or a character in a novel she couldn’t put down.

Books.  And driving.  Like my mom and like me.  Books and driving.  She was still driving up until the end, which was questionable because her eye-sight was questionable.  In retrospect, because there was never any incident, it’s fantastically funny to me that she would secretly zip off to Norfolk on her own.  Or not so secretly, as is the nature of Elizabeth City.

My road trip last spring was productive in a number of ways.  Quite obviously it changed the course of my life plans, but it’s also drastically alleviated my current grief.  I hate and will always hate that I don’t know my mom as an adult, that we haven’t had, and won’t have, the fun to be had after childish restlessness plateaus.  It’s emotionally searing.  This past March, though.  I spent a full week having that kind of fun with my grandmother; rambling the Outer Banks and opening wine way too late at night, and baking an outrageous amount of pie (Lemon Buttermilk Chess! Butternut Squash!)–while talking inexhaustibly about simply everything.  Best week of the trip.

And on that note it is most certainly time to go to bed; a better mood is a good stopping point.

This song reminds me of a dog released after having been cooped up, or when seized suddenly and randomly by an insane amount of uncontrollable excitement, and it sprints itself stupid and happily.  How I felt on Wednesday night, driving the hour from the airport to my cousin’s house, jumping from bad radio station to bad radio station and loving it completely.

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Photography!: I’m going to do a Maine/food related post soon.  I just didn’t really take many pictures during my trip this week–thanks to a nighttime arrival on Wednesday, and Thursday, well, it’s much more delightful to hold a 2-year old’s hand than a camera!

The clouds out the plane windows were fascinating though–sleek vague Rothko divisions of atmosphere, or else chunky like over-whipped cream (decidedly not my preference).  Then there was a sunset that almost killed me while landing in Portland, the lines were so clean and it was so perfectly eye-level and colorful.  And not on my side of the plane.  But if there’s one thing I won’t do it’s wake someone up so I can take a picture on a plane.

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