May 2, 2013
As you may know, I’ve been hopping around a lot. My friends in Paris have a tendency to travel, and when they do, I’ve been raising my hand to volunteer to cat-sit/house-sit/whatever-sit for them. It’s a win-win: their pet gets fed, their house looks lived-in so it doesn’t get robbed, I get to see lots of different parts of Paris, and I leave freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies when I leave.
Chocolate chip cookies are my favorite thing to bake, so naturally I’ve gone through lots of recipes. But no matter how much I might mess around with ground oatmeal or brown butter or pumpkin purée or what-have-you, this is the recipe I go back to. Good ol’ Alton‘s got it right, as he so often has.
These cookies, like all chocolate chip cookies, are fantastic straight out of the oven. But the special thing about them is that they continue to be good, nay, I would even say better, for days after they’ve been baked. If you like a toothsome chew in your cookie, this is where it’s at.
I’ve recently learned that there are people in this world who will wake up in the middle of the night, hungry, and actually get out of bed searching for a snack. I have it on good authority that these cookies are excellent for those kinds of people, too.
December 5, 2012
You know how I can tell I’m an adult? I wanted carrot cake for my birthday.
Not just any carrot cake. That Carrot Cake. I received the recipe for That Carrot Cake from a friend during college. He’d gotten it from his mom, who’d gotten it from a neighbor, who’d gotten it from her aunt, etc. etc. etc. I ended up passing it on to HR Director at work a year or so ago, and now I’m passing it on to you.
It’s That Carrot Cake because I’ve been fiddling with the ratios in this recipe for years and years, and I’ve got the balance of moisture level and cinnamon batter flavor and carrot/walnut/coconut bits just right; that is, exactly how I like it. The original recipe came from a friend, but now it’s mine.
That Carrot Cake is so moist that it’s hard to ice; little moist chunks and crumbs keep wanting to fall off, and I used to need to ice it with an inordinate amount of cream cheese frosting that never actually got eaten. Now I don’t even try to ice the whole thing — just a slip of frosting between each layer will do.
That Carrot Cake has so much walnut in it that it might as well be called a walnut cake. The carrots aren’t shredded or puréed, but shaved with a vegetable peeler then diced, so that some smaller pieces melt into the batter while other, larger pieces hang around like flakes of carrot confetti. A good amount of coconut provides more chewy texture. Oh, and there’s pineapple in there. You don’t taste it, and I have no idea how it works, but that pineapple might be the secret ingredient that brings it all together, with just enough batter to hold everything in one piece.
November 24, 2012
I’ll let you in on a little secret. I wrote a blog post about tarte tatin a long time ago, before I started this blog. It was when I was in LA and considering the whole blogging thing, and I opened a free WordPress account, set the visibility to “private,” and wrote a little post about this French apple tart.
I guess it must not have been the right time. The writing felt stilted, and my photos were from my phone, and there wasn’t enough light in my kitchen, and the apples stuck to the pan. That one post hung there on the internet, lonely and unread, for a year or so until I deleted that account.
I thought it was time to revisit this recipe since this blog now seems to be alive and well. There are good reasons why I thought it would be a good idea to start with this dish on that long-ago blog — it’s fancy-sounding and pretty-looking, but ultimately simple to make, and most of all, it’s one of those desserts that I just crave. Sticky-sweet caramel encasing soft, warm apple pieces that collapse into sauce under your fork, all on top of buttery puff pastry.
Then there’s the flipping of the hot hot pan onto a plate since this is, in essence, and upside-down tart. Some apples will probably stick, but just scrape them off with a spoon and stick ‘em back on the tart. No one will care.
For an extra bit of decadence (and because the foie gras from that party was still around), I shaved a bit of the cold foie gras on top of the slices of tart. If the tart is still a little warm and the foie is very cold, the foie stands up in pretty curls for a few minutes before melting into a rich puddle on the apples. Heaven.
November 15, 2012
We are creatures of habit in this apartment. As soon as we wake up, I walk over to the stove and make scrambled eggs for the gentleman: two eggs, a swirl of cream, seven grinds of pepper, a scattering of allumettes of crispy bacon. Quickly broken up with a spatula and stirred over the lowest possible heat until they’re just cooked but still a bit wet, served with a mug of iced tea. We both catch up on the news and emails that have accumulated in the night, we get ready for the day, and when the gent leaves for the office, I make myself some oatmeal.
For a long time, my oatmeal was a variation of the gentleman’s preferred breakfast. I scattered a little cooked bacon into my oatmeal with seven grinds of pepper and a good amount of salt and cooked an egg over-easy and let the yolk run all over and into the oatmeal. But lately I’ve been wanting something sweet with my coffee, and to keep myself from eating cookies for breakfast, I’ve turned to this: oatmeal with homemade apple butter.
I originally made this apple butter for that party last weekend, to pair with salty cheeses and buttery foie gras, but it works equally well here. It’s like a grown-up version of that instant apple-cinnamon oatmeal that I’m sure lots of us relied upon in college for non-ramen sustenance. For me, the nuts and cream are crucial for texture and mouthfeel, but feel free to leave them out if you’re into pure unadulterated apple-cinnamon oatiness.
November 2, 2012
You guys. It’s hot chocolate season, and now that I’ve made it this way, I don’t think I can ever go back to powdered cocoa again.
I first had this style of hot chocolate when I visited Paris last Christmas. Tim and I shared a waffle and a cup of the thickest hot chocolate I had ever had, dipping the waffle pieces in the chocolate and generally being deliriously happy.
(Sorry for the blurry pictures. Part camera wobble, part steam.)
This treat is more lot warm, thick ganache than the cocoa I’m used to back home. It’s thick enough that you can dip a piece of baguette in it, and the chocolate doesn’t completely soak into the bread. Crazy good as an afternoon snack.
October 30, 2012
The other day, I was waiting outside a restaurant in the Marais when I started to feel something I’d never felt before in Paris. My fingers and toes were starting to go numb.
I know I talk about the weather a lot here, and I know that must get incredibly boring, but there’s just so much weather here that I’ve never experienced before: grey, rainy springs, summer that lasts about two weeks, the first cold snap of fall. That last one is something we’re in this week. When we finally got inside the restaurant a few days ago, I kept my jacket on the whole time and my toes didn’t warm up until we got home and I put them up on one of the heaters for a few minutes.
The cold also drove me into my warm cozy kitchen to try something that’s been on my mind: what I’ve been thinking of as sweet risotto, but what the internet tells me is rice pudding. Short-grained arborio rice, toasted to a nutty brown with butter, enriched with vanilla-speckled milk until it’s creamy and soft.
October 6, 2012
Since finding pumpkin purée at one of the expat stores here, I have made this recipe at least three times. I hadn’t posted them yet because they were always gone so quickly after I baked them that I never got a chance to take pictures.
I think this may be the gentleman’s favorite dessert that I bake. Partly, I think, because it reminds him of home and a certain grocery store‘s soft and cakey pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Not that I was endeavoring to replicate said grocery store cookies, but darn if these aren’t a close match. I just load them up with way more chocolate than seems decent.
These cookies are excellent for a mixer-less person like me. There is no creaming of butter or whipping of egg whites. Just mix the wet ingredients, mix in the dry ingredients, add chocolate, bake. Done.
These cookies have that banana bread quality of fooling you into thinking they can be breakfast. Because pumpkins are a vegetable, right? There’s an entire cup of the stuff in there! I often find myself with a huge pot of coffee, munching on these while checking my email in the morning.