Currently viewing the tag: "dessert"

Somehow we are already on the front steps of 2018. The door is open, and another January welcomes us in with a glorious smile, reassuring those waiting out in the cold that right inside, just through that open door, things will be better. The new year will bring hope, and change. So we resolve to evolve, and put our faith in the dropping of a ball, a countdown from ten, and then number one. Two weeks in, however, we realize it’s still all the same, January is December, minus the Christmas tree. The list of resolutions gets shoved in a drawer, we turn on the news and are still groaning, trying to find our voice. There was no wizardry to wash away the sins of the previous year. We remember about the importance of time, and hard work, and continuing to keep at something even though no one is watching.

But although the New Year doesn’t contain magic, it’s a good idea to make a cake at the end of it all anyway. We can still celebrate the previous twelve months: observe how far we’ve come, make plans for the coming days, or just share time, enjoying ice cream, with those we spend our days. And while I walk into this next month knowing everything is not new and fresh, I will still look around for hope, and change, and progress, and help propel those things forward as best I can.

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I’ve teamed up with Land O’Lakes for a few posts over the rest of the year. I’ve been a big fan of their butter for years; I love how my baked goods turn out with it, and as they are a Minnesota-based company, it seemed like a natural fit. I’m happy to report that the Land O Lakes® Heavy Whipping Cream is delicious, too – here it’s used in the chocolate no-churn ice cream, but I also use it in whipped cream, cheesecake, and any other application, both sweet and savory, where I need heavy cream.

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

-Neil Gaiman

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(The text for this post is taken from an old post with no recipe. I was feeling similar this year, and decided to share it again, along with a recipe.)

I spent ten Christmas Eves in a row working various retail jobs, everything from barista to Barnes and Noble. The holiday season started the day after Thanksgiving, with mile long lines continuing to Christmas Eve at 4pm, when the store gates finally clanged shut and stayed that way for one whole day. Work shifts in December were spent answering the constantly ringing phone, running around the store trying to find would-be presents, standing at the cash register hour upon hour swiping credit cards, dreading every 30 minutes when Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime would come on again, and cleaning up gigantic messes left by frantic customers. Then, at last, the night before Christmas, when the store gate was shut (although often people were begging outside it: please, can I buy just 1 pound of coffee? I just need one more book for my sister-in-law, will you let me in?) all the employees would feel that smack of exhaustion, the same one that comes at the end of finals week, when you are finally driving home for spring break. It would take hours to clean the store, and almost everyone could feel a serious cold coming on. Someone would order a pizza, and we’d munch in silence before taking off to our various celebrations, usually arriving sneezing and crazy-eyed, just wanting to crash into a bed.

I’ve now had ten years off on Christmas Eve. It is spent at home, quietly listening to holiday music, baking a batch of cookies, snuggling with my little ones watching White Christmas, and heading to my parent’s house early for festivities. I have a no-shopping on Christmas Eve rule for myself, but I must admit I feel something lacking each year without the craziness. The month of December doesn’t feel as sparkly and exciting to me without all the noise, the crowds of people, Mariah Carey singing Christmas songs through loud speakers all day long, racing up and down stairs trying to find books for exasperated customers. The thing I didn’t want to make the holiday about has now ended up defining the holiday to me. Those formative years of my teens and twenties, working hard all December long now shape how I need Christmas to feel to me as an adult. I can’t escape that, somehow.

I remind myself each year that just because something feels a certain way, it doesn’t mean that’s how it actually is. This is usually easier said than done. As a parent, I now determine how the holiday will look for my children. I start traditions and routine both for enjoyment and for recognition. I see my kids feeling so many things, and getting swept up in what makes Christmas so exciting. But my mission as a caretaker is more than that. It’s to teach what the reason behind this month long, money-spending, jingle-belling really is. At the very core, it’s to look to others, to give with no expectation of getting anything in return, and to remember that we all belong to each other, all of us, across this spinning round snow globe that’s so easily shaken. No matter how the actual days of December end up shaping my two little ones, I want them to still always be able reach past how they feel, and know, deep down, the joy and hope of Christmas, and their capacity to bring it everywhere they go. “If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it.” —Lucy Larcom

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If you follow along on Instagram, you know I’ve been working on a ginger-molasses version of my pan-banging cookies. I finally have the recipe for you, although I’m going to be completely honest – I’m so nervous to share it! I’m terrified you won’t love them as much as the chocolate chip version, so I’ve been obsessively  making them trying to get everything just right. I also know that most everyone has a strong opinion on how they want their molasses cookie to be (soft! hard! chewy! dense! coated in sugar! no sugar! fresh ginger! just ground spices!) and this cookie will not appeal to everyone. I did make my dear friend Zoë test them out and she gave them her approval, so I’m going to go ahead and put the recipe out into the world.

Some good news: this particular version doesn’t need to be refrigerated. The molasses and butter in this cookie helps them to spread just fine without the added chill. I also make these a little bit smaller – 2 ounces, instead of 3 ounces. A few things to note: these taste best when the centers are under baked, just like the chocolate chip cookies. Because they are smaller, I bang the pan only 3-4 times instead of 5-6. If you do cook the centers, the outside will be slightly tough when they cool, and they don’t taste as good on the second day. If you get things just right, the outside will be crispy, the centers soft and slightly chewy, and they will still taste great the next day. If you try them, let me know how they turn out for you!

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It’s my favorite time of year: THE HOLIDAYS! The snow is snowing, the bells are jingling, and there is a constant buzz of excitement everywhere. The 10 year old in me still tends to get caught up in all the buzz; often forgetting to focus on the present, and enjoying each moment with gratitude. Often the Christmas season is about what we get, instead of what we give. The older I get, the more I let go of the getting aspect, and am working on teaching my littles the same. It’s a work in progress.

One thing that helps me in this regard is baking. I look for pastries with multiple steps that require some focus, and I find that the act of concentrating on a specific task not only helps me slow everything down, but also opens up an important door – the door that cares about the quality of my soul. I find myself thinking through things that often get pushed aside in the rush of life. Pie is one of these solaces; while it is a slice of self-care, it also is the best way to share. My family alone can’t (well, shouldn’t) eat an entire pie, so sharing some is a great way to interact with family, friends, and neighbors. It’s the perfect way to give.

I’ve teamed up with Land O’Lakes for a few posts over the rest of the year. I’ve been a big fan of their butter for years; I love how my baked goods turn out with it, and as they are a Minnesota-based company, it seemed like a natural fit. I often use their butter in my baking, and find the flavor to be heads and shoulders above other grocery store brands. The pie crust for this apple crème fraîche pie was made with Land O Lakes® Unsalted Butter, and as usual, it was a hit. The crust was tender and flaky, and held up well to the gigantic pile of apples placed upon it. My children declared it their favorite pie, ever, which is saying something.

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” – Epicurus

Sources: Copper Sauce Pan by Mauviel || Fine Mesh Strainer by Rösle

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(This is another recipe lost in the archives I’m bringing back to life – it’s a great cake to make around the holidays. I’ve kept the original text.)

Early Monday morning I found myself in the kitchen, baking this pound cake. It was almost as if I didn’t have a choice; my mind and heart had been there all night, anyway, stirring and sifting flour, breaking eggs and pouring cream. The evening before our hearts had been broken: the lovely and dear Michele passed from this world. It is one of those tragic stories, the kind that you can never come to terms with, the kind that make you wrestle for answers. She was in her early 40’s, a mother to eight children, and had suffered the past 18 months from an inoperable brain tumor [glioblastoma]. Now she is gone, resting at last, but we are here, here on the other side of the door. Here letting our tears fall into cake batter.

Several years ago Michele asked me for this cake recipe.  She smiled her sweet smile, asking for a recipe with cardamom to celebrate her daughter’s birthday. I had been making this pound cake for years at the Blue Heron Coffeehouse, where the recipe had been snagged off the back of a spice container. I emailed it to her, and soon it got sent around from one friend to another; everyone was falling in love with cardamom. When I saw her months later, she came up to me and gave me a small bag, a gift. I was instantly aware that the tiny sack was full of ground cardamom – the smell wandered to my nose and overtook me. Ever since she placed the spice in my hands, whenever I add cardamom to anything, there is a moment where Michele comes to mind. Michele, with her dark, thick hair, Michele with her honest and sincere smile, Michele with her steadfast heart. Michele, in the kitchen, baking cakes for her children.

Baking this cake, so early Monday morning, brought me some comfort. The cardamom filled my kitchen and washed over my senses. I talked to my little ones about her as we creamed the butter, as we added the eggs one at a time; remembering her as we moved  hands and arms to bring things together; all of this easing my heart for a moment, silencing the questions. In those few scattered hours making cake in her memory, I was acutely aware of the significance of food, of caring about food. There is an importance to what specific ingredients we put in our bodies, but there is also such value to what we are actually making. The dishes and meals we make for loved ones, and the act of preparing them: to cook and bake and eat them together connects us beyond the physical. It’s not about eating or creating just for the sake of doing so. There is something deeper, something soul-ful that happens when we slice the cake, when we break the bread. There is taste and smell that draws out memories, binding us to those present, those past. There is purpose in our food: both the physical and the unconscious, the labor of our hands, the labor of our heart. This, to me, is real communion: the act of sharing, the act of receiving.

I know
Not these my  hands
And yet I think there was
A woman like me once had hands
like these.
-Adelaide Crapsey

(Pretty blush pink Bundt pan from Nordic Ware/Amazon Kitchen)

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I know, I know, it’s Wednesday night, and you’ve probably already made your Thanksgiving pies, or have your recipe all set. I apologize for posting this so late. Several people asked for this recipe after I posted a photo of the pie on Instagram, so I thought better late than never? This is the pumpkin pie I’ve made at the last couple Thanksgivings, and it’s gone over quite well my family gathering. It is dreamy-creamy, and boasting of pumpkin flavor.

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We entered September with a bang: school for everyone except me, birthday celebrations, anniversary dinner (we ate here, it was incredible), and then we splurged on U2 tickets and saw the Joshua Tree tour (and they did play the Joshua Tree from start to finish and it was amazing) (also the poems they scrolled on giant screens before the show are worth reading) and then saw Maria Bamford the very next night (along with Jackie Kashian who was also hilarious) and then family visiting and then meet-the-teacher night and then scrubbing my house from top to bottom because summer made it embarrassingly dirty. There is still so much packed into the rest of this month I am actually looking forward to October, along with some cool fall breezes and falling leaves, long walks and even longer books.

September started out rather chilly, but this past week we found ourselves in a major heat wave, so naturally I found myself in the kitchen making pies, puff pastry, and Danish dough. I have this odd desire to bake on extremely hot days, which doesn’t make much sense to me, but then again, I have the same desire on icy cold days, so maybe it’s just that I’m obsessed with baking. Whatever the reason, this Danish braid was made, and I’ve declared it my new favorite. The braid itself was inspired by Zoe Francois – she made this beautiful Raspberry braid with Bread in 5’s no-knead dough, and the second I saw it, I knew I had to try one with my Easy Danish Dough. It worked wonderfully, and I have a feeling any guests I have for the next 6 months will be served some variation of this.

I’ve teamed up with Land O’Lakes for a few posts over the rest of the year. I’ve been a big fan of their butter for years; I love how my baked goods turn out with it, and as they are a Minnesota-based company, it seemed like a natural fit. I use their butter in my baking, and find the flavor to be heads and shoulders above other grocery store brands. This Danish braid was made Land O Lakes® European Style Butter, and it turned out *fantastic*. The layers were perfectly flaky and each bite rang out with pure butter flavor.

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My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp North, without declining West?
Whatever dies was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike that none do slacken, none can die.
-John Donne, The Good-Morrow

This past week I found volumes A-F of the Norton Anthology of English Literature at my local thrift store, and I gleefully tucked them into my cart and took them home to read. I had a gigantic hardcover anthology that I carried around all through college, but since graduating the books have been updated tremendously (YAY), and I’m happy to find better translations, women authors, and helpful commentary. I’m a sucker for sixteenth century literature; I fell in love with Shakespeare in high school and enjoy reading the poetry from that time period (as you can see in the above poem). However, I’m starting at the Middle Ages and working my way through. It’s always a good sign when you pick up a book before an iphone; I haven’t enjoyed reading this much in quite awhile.

I also received a new cookbook recently – Hello, My Name is Ice Cream, by Dana Cree. This worked out perfectly, because Williams-Sonoma was very kind and sent me a Breville Ice Cream Compressor in August, and I have been making waaaaay too much ice cream with it. (Side note: I LOVE the ice cream compressor. It’s dreamy and quiet and so fun to use.) I decided to make my chocolate chip cookies into ice cream, and the results were, as you can imagine, delicious.

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One must know
how to be quiet in all
the languages
and everywhere,
always
allowing
the leaves to fall,
fall,
allowing them to fall,
fall. *

The house is quiet again. The constant laughter, pitter-patter of feet, splashing of pool water, and occasional bickering has been replaced with the sound of measuring cups scooping out flour, rolling pins on cold stone, and the mixer paddle clunking against stainless steel. For most of my life autumn was a loud month – filled with nervous thoughts and new classrooms, espresso machines hissing and cash registers ringing. Now it is still and silent, like red and yellow leaves slowly making their way onto city streets. I appreciate the time to collect my thoughts and work uninterrupted, but I miss the noise and chaos with my whole aching heart.

But the commotion returns, at 4 pm each afternoon. Two little people burst through the door and throw their backpacks and lunch boxes here and there, telling me stories of what happened in class and what so-and-so said on the bus, and I hardly remember I was ever feeling lonely. It’s a slow adjustment, from autumn to winter, winter to spring, and then on to summer again, but somehow each year we cycle through.

It’s difficult
to
be autumn,
easy to be spring.
To ignite everything
that is born
to be ignited.
But to turn the world off,
sliding it
as if it were a hoop
of yellow things,
until colors are melted
– *from Ode to Autumn, Pablo Neruda

***If you are able to give to help Houston, Wit & Delight has a post highlighting several charities and organizations.***

The copper measuring cups pictured here are from the Martha Stewart Collection, and were sent to me to use. You can find them exclusively at Macy’s.

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We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half heard, in the stillness
Between the two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Little Gidding V,
Four Quartets.
— T.S. Eliot (1943)

Somehow I am turning 40 this week. I’ve gotten over the freaking-out part of things (that happened at 39) and I’ve moved into some ‘next phase of life’ business. I’ve found I like myself better the older I get (although I will give a nod to my therapist here – her help is part of why aging has been going so well!), and almost-forty has given me confidence I didn’t know I possessed. Often when I am afraid to do something, or stand up for myself, a simple reminder that ‘you’re forty years old. You can totally do this,’ has been very helpful. I guess I’m officially an adult or something now.

My husband turns forty right around this time as well, and we also celebrate our 15-year wedding anniversary, so it’s sort of an epic end of summer for us. I try not to remember the signs hanging up at my parents’ ‘over-the-hill’ parties: halfway to heaven isn’t something I want to focus on quite yet. Although I’ll admit there are moments each month, as the year quickly passes yet again, that the unknown, whatever is after all of this, is a more present, lurking thought. Sometimes it’s joyful, and hopeful, other times I quickly shove it away, not ready to deal with my fear. Either way, it’s a reminder to not waste time, to speak up for what is right, and to enjoy all the days I have this side of the hill. Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new. -Ursula K. Le Guin

I made a small birthday cake for myself this year. The chocolate cake is a scaled down version of the chocolate cake from my cookbook, with sour cream instead of buttermilk, and butter added in place of some of the canola oil. I really liked how it turned out. I’ve teamed up with Land O’Lakes for a few posts over the rest of the year. I’ve been a big fan of their butter for years; I love how my baked goods turn out with it, and as they are a Minnesota-based company, it seemed like a natural fit. I use their unsalted butter in my baking, and find the flavor to be heads and shoulders above other grocery store brands.

The seven minute frosting is a nod to my Grandma Ethel, who used to make a version of  this quite frequently (though she never toasted the top of hers), and as a child I thought it was the worst thing ever – I didn’t understand how anyone could ruin a perfectly good cake with it. My opinion has changed drastically over the years (another positive of aging, I guess), and I thought it would be a good accompaniment to the chocolate cake. I did share some with my family, and they liked it, too.

This post is sponsored by Land O Lakes. As always, all opinions are my own.

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