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Roasted Balsamic-Strawberry Shortcakes with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream

Roasted Balsamic-Strawberry Shortcakes with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream


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  • Prep 30min
  • Total1hr15min
  • Servings12

A fun twist on a classic American dessert!MORE+LESS-

BySimply Scratch

Updated October 5, 2017

Ingredients

For the Strawberries

2 1/2

tablespoons granulated sugar

2

tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1

teaspoon real vanilla extract

For the vanilla bean whipped cream

1

cup cold heavy whipping cream

Steps

Hide Images

  • 1

    To Make the Strawberries: Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the tops of the strawberries and discard. Slice the strawberries and place them into a oven safe baking dish.

  • 2

    To the sliced strawberries measure and add 2 1/2 tablespoons of granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of real vanilla extract. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Place the strawberries in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Watch carefully so they do not burn.

  • 3

    Remove the strawberries from the oven to cool.

  • 4

    To Make the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream: Chill a large bowl and the mixer beaters in the freezer for 30 minutes.

  • 5

    Run a knife down the length of the vanilla bean to split it open. With the back of the knife, scrape the vanilla caviar away from the pod. Add the vanilla caviar to the chilled bowl along with 1/4 cup of sugar and a cup of cold heavy whipping cream.

  • 6

    Mix on low speed until blended. Increase the speed, mixing until thick and fluffy.

  • 7

    To assemble; simply split the shortcakes in half, top with a few roasted balsamic strawberries, a little of the strawberry-balsamic syrup and a dollop of the vanilla bean whipped cream. Replace the top to the shortcake and repeat.

  • 8

    Keep the shortcakes chilled until ready to serve.

Nutrition Information

No nutrition information available for this recipe

More About This Recipe

  • Strawberry Shortcakes are pretty much the quintessential summertime dessert.They are my go-to dessert of choice. Whether it’s for an after dinner treat or if we plan to have guests over, mainly because they are so simple to throw together. I’m also pretty sure there isn’t a soul around that doesn’t love fresh strawberries and whipped cream sandwiched together by shortcake.While I’m a big fan of the standard macerated strawberries piled high on delicate shortcake with a dollop of whipped cream, I couldn’t help make the beloved summer treat a little smaller and with a big punch of flavor.Balsamic vinegar and strawberries are pretty much a match made in heaven, especially when they are roasted together. That’s exactly what I did to turn these shortcakes up a notch. I also made homemade whipped cream speckled with vanilla bean straight from the pod. You'll love these Balsamic Strawberry Shortcakes with Vanilla Cream.So let’s recap; mini shortcakes halved and topped with roasted balsamic strawberries with homemade vanilla bean whipped cream.Life really doesn’t get much better. So go on and get all your ingredients together and get baking!These make a fun and delicious dessert for any occasion. The strawberries are sweet with a subtle tang from the balsamic vinegar and the vanilla really shines through. I recommend eating these in one big bite… otherwise I can’t be held responsible for those of you not wearing a bib.

Strawberry Shortcake

Layered white cake with a hint of lemon filled with strawberry whipped cream and strawberry jam.

Is it finally spring? There are days I wake up and walk outside and it feels as though winter is still lingering. But today, today was 80 degrees, and tomorrow and the next day. I think we have finally jumped over the hump and spring is in the air. Trees are filled with buds, leaves and flowers. The cherry blossoms are coming to an end, sometimes it looks as though it’s raining flowers. But lilacs are budding, roses are beginning to emerge and sweet fragrant flowers fill the air all around.

Layers of delicate white cake and strawberry whipped cream.

That spring air definitely puts some pep in your step and makes you want to be outside to take walks, start the garden and head to the Farmer’s Market. Strawberries are just starting to pop up, not quite locally for me in Portland but some beautiful ones from California. This is the big kickoff and hopes that summer is just around the corner. I’m ready to start planting my garden, long days, BBQs and endless time with friends and family.

Sometimes bloggers like to get together, virtually and put together quite the party. Like our last one that highlighted carrots. Today I’m joined by over 90 bloggers sharing all things strawberry…because #straweberriesarethejam , follow that hashtag on Instagram for the most beautiful feed you’ll ever see!

Layers of delicate white cake and strawberry whipped cream.

I could eat strawberries by the bucket, I will sit and pick them all summer long from my garden. The sweetest, and most delectable strawberries in all the world! When I think about strawberries, I immediately think of strawberries and cream, a natural and perfect combination that is classic and never disappoints. I took one of my favorite cake recipes, made some tweaks and filled it with the simplest strawberry whipped cream and homemade strawberry jam. Easy enough for a backyard BBQ or elegant enough for a formal dinner party. Not fussy, just a perfect simple cake. I hope you give it a try! I love seeing your creations be sure to tag me on Instagram @CosettesKitchen or post on my Facebook Page. You can find a list of the bloggers and links to their amazing recipes below and be sure to follow the hashtag #strawberriesarethejam for loads of inspiration!

A list of the amazing bloggers contributing to our fabulous strawberry party:


Roasted Balsamic-Strawberry Shortcakes with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream - Recipes

Nothing says spring like strawberries and rhubarb. After a long season of winter, the bright pop of color and tart acidity of this fruit combination is more than welcome. It's time for our annual spring pies, galettes and shortcakes!

This is a pretty simple cake but one that really delivers on the promise of spring. It starts with a basic white cake. I've tried lots of white cake recipes but they always seem to fall just short of what I'm looking for. Sometimes they're too dry or too sweet or too dense or crumbly. I set to work on a basic white cake formula and with just a few little tweaks and a couple of test runs, I'm pleased with these results. The cake has a soft and tender texture with an open crumb. The flavor is subtle and wonderful, just the sort of backdrop for all your favorite fillings and frostings.

The rhubarb in this recipe is cooked briefly on the stovetop with some sugar, orange zest and vanilla, flavors that really complement both fruits. The strawberries are sliced and folded in fresh to brighten the mix. It's an easy compote to layer in the middle of the cake. Then the whole thing is slathered in whipped cream. Light, fresh and simply delectable.

Bench notes:
- It's important to use cake flour for this recipe to produce a lighter and more tender cake. I buy it at my local bulk grocer where it's much less expensive than the box at the supermarket. You can also make your own cake flour using regular flour and cornstarch, which inhibits the formation of gluten. Here is the basic formula: 1 cup of cake flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch. For the 1 1/2 cups of cake flour in this recipe, measure 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour and remove 3 tablespoons. Add 3 tablespoons of cornstarch and sift a couple of times to be sure it's completely blended.
- This technique for mixing cake batter is called the "two-stage" method made popular by Rose Levy Beranbaum in The Cake Bible. It's different from the creaming method in that all the dry ingredients are mixed with the butter and some of the liquid. This mixture gets beaten for 1 1/2 minutes and then the eggs, vanilla and remaining liquid are added in three stages and mixed for 20 seconds after each addition. The creaming method results in more aeration of ingredients and therefore cakes made using that method usually have a stronger structure and turn out with a higher rise. This two-stage method results in less gluten development and yields a more tender cake with a delicate crumb, exactly what we're looking for in a basic white cake.
- For those who don't own a scale, I base my metrics on the "dip and sweep" method of measuring flour with the following important condition: Flour gets very compacted as it sits in our cupboards. So when measuring flour by volume, it's important to first take a fork or a whisk and fluff the flour thoroughly to aerate it before each dip of your measuring cup. Overfill it just a bit and then use a spatula to level the cup. So to measure by weight, my 1 cup of all-purpose flour = 5 oz (142 grams). My 1 cup of cake flour = 4 oz (113 grams).
- "Room temperature" butter means the chill has been take off and it's pliable but not soft to the touch.
- The cooked rhubarb will taste sweet but the added strawberries don't have any additional sugar. You may want to use less sugar if your strawberries are sweet.
- I recycle a 3" piece of dried vanilla bean from my vanilla sugar jar to use for this compote. If you don't have a vanilla bean, substitute 1/4 teaspoons vanilla.
- If you don't have creme fraiche, just use an additional 2 tablespoons of heavy cream.
- What's the difference between heavy cream and whipping cream? Heavy cream contains 36% milk fat whipping cream has 30%. For finishing a cake like this, use heavy cream because it whips up with a stronger loft and will hold its shape longer than whipping cream without weeping. Cream whips best when it's very cold.
- Use a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to cut the cake into two layers. Start by making a small 1" cut into the side of the cake all the way around. Then bring your knife around again, sawing a little deeper. The cake will be cut in half very quickly. If you try to cut straight across in one fell swoop, you'll wind up with a lot more crumbs. Once the cake has been cut into two layers, I use a removable tart pan bottom to lift off the top half layer and set it aside.
- The cake can be made a day ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
- For a simpler presentation, dollop the cream on top of the cake and serve the compote on the side. Or prepare individual servings by layering cake, fruit and cream in parfait glasses.
- For a larger cake, double the recipe and use two 9" cake pans. These will bake for a bit shorter time, about 25 - 28 minutes. You'll probably need about 1/3 C more whipped cream and a few more strawberries.
- Another very delicious cake along the same lines: Angel Food Cake Roll with Strawberries & Cream. Or if you prefer chocolate: Chocolate & Balsamic Strawberry Cream Cake.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cream Cake
Serves 8

White Cake
3 large (3 oz) egg whites @ room temperature
1/2 cup (4 oz) whole milk @ room temperature, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 oz (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter @ room temperature
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (6 1/4 oz) sugar

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
4 stalks (about 9 oz) rhubarb, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (2 3/4 oz) sugar
zest of 1/2 orange
1/3 vanilla bean or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 oz fresh strawberries

1 cup (8 oz) cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons (1 oz) cold creme fraiche
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8" x 2 1/2" cake pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment.

Whisk together egg whites, 1/4 cup milk and vanilla and set aside.

Combine cake flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Cut the butter into 1/2" pieces and add to the flour mixture with the 1/4 cup remaining milk. Mix on low speed until moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Gradually add the egg white and milk mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly to level it.

Bake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 - 32 minutes. Place on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen. Invert the cake. Carefully remove the parchment and invert again. Cool completely.

For the compote, place the sliced rhubarb in a saucepan with the sugar, orange zest and vanilla bean. Cook over medium low heat for about 10 minutes or until the fruit softens but still holds its shape. Take off the heat and remove the vanilla pod. Slice the strawberries into bite-sized pieces and toss with the rhubarb.

To assemble, whip the cold cream, creme fraiche, sugar and vanilla to a medium stiff peak. Chill until ready to use.

Place the cake on a cake board, removable tart pan bottom or a serving platter. Slice the cake in half horizontally and set the top half aside. Spread the fruit compote on the bottom half to within 1/2" of the border. Place the top of the cake over the fruit and press gently to secure. Slather the cake with the whipped cream and chill until ready to serve.


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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2021, I’ll still participate, but the two daughters are going to do more posting from here on out.

We participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) if you purchase any books recommended (below), or buy products occasionally mentioned on the blog with an amazon link.

BOOK READING:

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. The book IS a novel, but the event is true. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. On the voyage the ship encounters a hurricane and several giraffes are lost, but two young ones survive. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission. A young boy (barely an adult) becomes the driver (his only goal is his desire to go to California), with the zoo’s delegate (a middle-aged man with a past), and it’s the story about these two misfits and their caring for the giraffes, feeding them (that’s a laugh – onions play a big part). No freeways existed back then, and the mental picture of the vehicle they used (basically a small truck) with the two giraffes confined within two tall boxes precariously strapped to the truck, and their driving and carrying-on getting under bridges and over rivers is just a hoot. I so wanted this story to be true – parts of it ARE true. Worth reading if you enjoy such animal stories. The giraffes survive, thankfully, and they both lived to a ripe old age at the zoo!

Also a kind of quirky book by Beth Miller, The Missing Letters of Mrs. Bright. Picture a middle-aged woman, slogging through life with a not-very-attentive husband, grown children, and one day she decides to leave. Completely. Maybe she had a bucket list of sorts, and she knew none of those places would ever happen in her life if she stayed put. She sets off to find a long-lost girlfriend. The book is about her journey. Her travels. Friendships, and lost friendships. Everyone can probably empathize with Kay Bright as she examines her life. And yes, there are letters and chapters with her daughter, Stella. Cute book.

Katherine Center’s book, Things You Save in a Fire: A Novel is certainly vivid. There aren’t very many women firefighters out there in the world – this is about one. A novel, however. About her work life and the harrassment she endures (some of it’s with love, some not) and about her relationships. The pros and cons of transferring to a different fire station (just like any job move, not always smooth). Good read.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman. Such relationships were fraught with problems from the very strict Japanese families who resented the American presence in their country, to the American military higher-ups who made it impossible for the servicemen to marry Japanese nationals. Could hardly put it down. Yes, it’s a romance of sorts, but not in the typical sense of today’s novel-romance-writing. There aren’t always happy beginnings, middles or endings, but the in between made for very interesting reading.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s. Wow. What an eye-opener. Of their small but loyal family enclaves, the hard-scrabble lives they led, the near poverty level of farming. I’d never heard that any Indian migrants were a part of farming here in California. Obviously they made up a very small percentage of the immigrants who settled there.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war. Fascinating glimpse into the hardships not only for patients (the war-wounded) but for the underappreciated and hardworking staff at various hospitals (even a tent one in Normandy where she worked for many months after D-Day). She meets her to-be husband and even that is fraught with difficulty from many angles.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. My friend Ann recommended it. I was gripped with the story within the first paragraph, and it never stopped until I turned the last page. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. Some very ugly things happen at that school. Eventually they escape, and they are “on the run.” With a few others with them. If you loved Huckleberry Finn, you’ll have a great appreciation for this story as they use a canoe to get themselves down river. Never having very much to eat and getting into trouble way too often, and authorities on their tail. Well, you just have to read the book to find out what happens.

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children. The book is heartbreaking, but one of those that everyone should read. The hardship, the hunger, the dirt and dust, the failed crops, the lack of rain, then the story picks up again in central California, back in the day when the wealthy growers just used up the migrants. I don’t want to spoil the story. So worth reading. Hannah really knows how to weave a story.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks. The father was very dark, but he plays no part, really, in this story. Growing up, the girls leave home at 18 to find their way in New Orleans. Suddenly, one twin disappears (her clothes and suitcase all gone in the wink of an eye). Her twin left behind has no idea what’s happened to her. As the story reveals, with divided paths, one twin continues her life as a black woman, and the other twin, the one who left, is able to pass as a white woman. She marries well, has a daughter. Well, let’s just say that there are lots of wicked webs woven throughout the story, starting from the girls’ mother who never wants to speak again of her lost daughter. But you know where this is going, don’t you? Things are found out. The author does a great job of weaving the story apart and then back together.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress. She was a brilliant mind, and a beautiful woman. It tells the story of her coming of age, how she navigated the world of acting back in that time period (she was Austrian, and Hitler was in power). The writing was very well done – to tell Hedy’s story with detail and poignancy. Eventually Hedy made it to the U.S. and her life story changed, but still had its difficulties. I loved the book, beginning to end. She should have become an engineer as she invented several war related bomb tools. Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, when aristocrats were chased and killed, guillotined in many cases. There is a young couple (part of the royal court) who escape to a remote small castle owned by his family, located on the edge of France and Italy, hoping to wait out the revolution and hoping the villagers love and care about them. Then jump to current day as a small English group of close friends decide to retire somewhere on the continent, and settle on a small abandoned castle in the remote hills of France along the Italian border. Got the picture? The historian in the group is quite interested in the history of the home, and clues are revealed (in the tower) that lead her and the group on a quest to discover what happened to the couple who used to live there. There was a fire once upon a time. There’s an pesky ghost. There’s also a very old child’s doll/playhouse on the grounds. Plus there’s a small graveyard. It is VERY intriguing. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. The story is all about Mary, her growing up, her scholarly pursuits, and then from the moment she meets Jesus as a young man. The story follows along to and beyond his death on the cross. In the time of Christ it was extremely uncommon for a man not to marry. It was almost unseemly. Fraught with suspicions, I’d suppose. Although scripture, as scripture, does not play a very strong part here, if you’ve read the Bible you’ll see many of the stories of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. Her husband was a journalist, and his life was always in danger because he wrote the truth, and that was taking a risk. The story is about her escape, with harrowing chapters as she makes her way north from Acapulco, with various major detours, one step, or sometimes nothing more than a hair’s width ahead of the cartel minions trying to find her. I could NOT put this book down. The author is not Hispanic, and some have criticized her for that, but she did her research, and many authors write about places and people they are not. I have nothing but respect for her having told this story. You need to read this.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice, living in an English home which lacks much, leaps to agree to marry a visiting American. It was an escape for her. He is a man of some family wealth, and she travels from England to Kentucky, during the 1920s. Once settled into the family home, she discovers married life is not what she had expected. Affection is lacking, and she must share the home with her tyrannical father-in-law, the owner of mines in the deep mountains. And with the ghost of the deceased mother-in-law. The family cook won’t tolerate Alice’s help in the kitchen. Alice is terribly lonely and unhappy. The town doesn’t much like this English woman with her funny way of speaking. But then, she meets a woman who encourages her to join the Horseback Librarians. With trepidation, she begins traversing the remote hills, through unbelievable weather, to deliver old, battered and tattered books to the remote inhabitants of the area. She makes friends, wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There is tremendous tension from the danger of the mines, the unions trying to get a foothold, plus the unraveling of her marriage, including the dreaded father-in-law who feels she should answer to him, behave as he wants. Uh, no. Alice goes her own route. Her new friends become her family, and, oh, what love. There has been much criticism of Moyes’ possible plagiarism of another book regarding the Horseback Librarians. I read the other book – but I didn’t feel remotely as intrigued by that story as I was by Moyes’ version. A feel good story, but it takes some while getting to that “feel good” part, nearly to the end.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat. It’s about Ellen. Her early years, under much hardship. About her teens, some of it as an orphan. Then a young adult, which includes marriage, a marriage blanc, which I didn’t understand until you learn the meaning. Then a child enters the picture, a child that will become a focus for the remainder of the book. Through the war, and beyond. I cried several times, as will you, I suspect. What’s a constant is the descriptions of the place, a town called Upton, near Southampton. About the hills and dales, the flora and fauna, the rain, the mud sometimes, the flooding sometimes. But throughout, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors, and about love. A must read. Would make a really good book club read.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.


Roasted Balsamic-Strawberry Shortcakes with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream - Recipes

bake along with Joanne, the founder/pastry chef of flour bakery! the ingredients for each flour love recipe are available as a baking kit from our own FLOUR PANTRY which you can purchase for delivery or pick up.

the kits include almost all the ingredients needed to bake the perfect treat! perishable ingredients needed are listed in the “at home” section of each recipe.

STEP 1: BUY THE KIT BELOW

STEP 2: WEEK 25 RECIPE

Melting Snowman Sugar Cookies
makes 8-10 cookies

included in your kit:
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
1 1/2 cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pint white royal icing
small container of black royal icing
small container of orange royal icing
small container of blue royal icing
3 mini piping bags
10 large marshmallows
1 piece of parchment paper

from home:
1 stick (115 grams) unsalted butter
1 large egg

If you’re baking the cookies the same day you prepare the dough, heat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center of the oven.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or mixing by hand with a wooden spoon), beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle itself a few times the sugar and butter love to collect here and stay unmixed. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract on medium speed until thoroughly combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Again scrape the bowl and the paddle to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.

Mix together the all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt and toss to combine. Turn the mixer to low speed (or continue to use a wooden spoon if mixing by hand) and slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture. Stir until the dough is completely mixed, about 30 seconds.

Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap the dough entirely in plastic, pressing down to form a disk about 8 inches in diameter and 1 inch high. Refrigerate the dough for about 1 hour, until it firms up enough to roll out. (You can also store the dough in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month at this point. If frozen, pull the dough out of the freezer the day before you want to use it and let it defrost overnight in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator about 1 hour before using and let it sit at room temperature and then proceed as directed.)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the center of the oven. Lightly flour both your work surface and the dough. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick. Keep both the work surface and the dough floured—if at any point your dough is sticking, sprinkle on a little more flour and keep rolling. Use round cookie cutters or the rim of a water glass (about 2 1/2-inch in diameter) to cut out cookies. Place on a baking sheet. Cut out as many cookies as you can and then re-roll any scraps and cut out more cookies. If the dough is soft and warm and difficult to roll, wrap the scraps in plastic and refrigerate the dough until it firms up enough to roll again. Bake in the preheated 350 degree oven for 15 to 17 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown on the edges and pale to light brown in the centers. Let them cool on the sheet until cool enough to pick up with a spatula, around 30 minutes, and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Place the cookies on a work surface and using a small spoon mound a spoonful of the white icing onto the cookies and let it spread naturally towards the edge of the cookie. Let some of it fall off the cookie and don’t worry about spreading the frosting all the way to the edge. Let it pool and drip organically so it mimics melted snow.

Fill the piping bags with the blue and orange and black icing. Snip off the very tips of the piping bag so you are able to pipe a thin line. Use the blue bag and pipe a large loop on the white icing to mimic a scarf- make sure the loop of the scarf is larger than the base of a marshmallow. Use the black frosting to make buttons down the front of the snowman. Use the black frosting to make two eyes on the marshmallow. Use the orange frosting to make a nose on the marshmallow. Put a little orange frosting on the bottom of the marshmallow so it acts like glue and adhere the marshmallow to the cookie by placing it within the blue scarf loop. Repeat with the rest of the cookies and frosting. Be creative! Have fun with the faces and colors. Let the frosting dry completely. The cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

STEP 3: BAKE YOUR KIT AT HOME

STEP 4: SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE & DELICIOUS TREAT

Tag @joannechang and @flourbakeryandcafe using the hashtag #FLOURLOVE

WEEK 24 RECIPE

Cranberry Pecan Bread
makes two loaves

included in your kit:
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups (260 grams) high-gluten bread flour
1/4 cup (85 grams) honey
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup (100 grams) pecan halves, toasted
3/4 cup (90 grams) dried cranberries
1/2 cup cornmeal

from home:
1 cup (100 grams) fresh whole cranberries, roughly chopped
1 cup (240 grams) water at body temperature (when you put your finger in it, it should feel neither hot nor cold)

Make the Bread Sponge (recipe follows) the day before and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment (or by hand in a large bowl), mix together the water, all-purpose flour, bread flour, and Bread Sponge for about 2 minutes until all of the ingredients are combined and you have a shaggy stiff dough. To prevent the flour from flying out of the bowl turn mixer on and off several times until the flour is mixed into the liquid and then keep it on low speed. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and let sit for about 10 minutes. This is called an autolyse, and it allows the water to hydrate the flour, which makes for better mixing down the road.

Add the honey, salt, and yeast to the dough and mix for 6 to 8 minutes on medium-low speed until the dough is smooth. If it does not come together, let it sit for a few minutes to allow the flour to absorb into the dough and then mix again for a few minutes. The dough should be somewhat sticky but still smooth, and have the consistency of an earlobe (as strange as that sounds). If it’s stiffer than this add a few tablespoons of water and if it’s looser than this add a few tablespoons of all-purpose flour and mix until incorporated. Don’t add more flour unless it’s really soupy.

Add the pecan halves, dried cranberries, and fresh cranberries and mix on low speed for another 3 to 4 minutes until the nuts and cranberries are all completely and evenly distributed within the dough. You may need to stop the mixer a few times to pull off any dough that has gathered around the hook or on the sides of the bowl.

Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and place it in a lightly oiled bowl cover it with an oiled piece of plastic wrap or a lint-free damp cloth. Place it in a draft-free warm place (78 to 82°F is ideal an area near the stove or an oven with only the pilot light on is good) for 2 to 3 hours. The dough will rise up a little bit (but not a lot) and it will feel a little loose and relaxed and somewhat sticky.

Flour your hands and your work surface generously and turn the dough out of the bowl. Divide the dough in half with a knife or a bench scraper. Shape each half into a rough square and bring the top right and top left corners of the dough down to the center of the square and then bring the top of the dough to the center. Push the center where the seams of the dough meet away from you with your thumbs to create a taut surface at the outside of the dough. Now cup the outer part of the dough in your fingers and bring your thumbs against the seam again as you nudge the dough away from you. Roll your hands towards you to create more surface tension on the dough as you roll it down to the bottom of the square. Continue nudging and rolling until you have a long loaf that is fat in the middle and tapered at the ends. It will look a bit like a football. (At this point you may store the shaped loaves in the fridge overnight. Remove the next day and proceed as directed below.)

Place the shaped loaves seam-side down at least 3 inches apart on a baking sheet sprinkled generously with cornmeal to keep the loaves from sticking to the sheet. Cover them loosely and completely with plastic wrap and let them sit at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, until the bread has loosened up and seems relaxed and wobbly. It won’t poof up too much but it will seem much softer.

Heat the oven to 400°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. (It’s very important to make sure the oven comes to temperature before you place the bread inside! The heat from the oven ensures that your loaves will get enough oomph to rise and grow.) Sprinkle the tops of the loaves with 2 to 3 tablespoons of flour. Slash the bread on top with a knife in three long diagonal strokes and place the baking sheet in the oven. Place a shallow pan filled with about 2 cups of water on a shelf underneath the bread. The steam from the water will create a nice moist atmosphere allowing your bread to grow. Bake in the 400°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until the bread is dark golden brown on top and makes a hollow sound when you thump it on the bottom.

Let cool for at least 1 hour on a wire rack. The bread keeps for 2 to 3 days at room temperature in a paper bag (plastic seals the air out and keeps the bread from breathing and it can get too soft).

BREAD SPONGE

included in your kit:
1 cup (140 grams) all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast

from home:
1 cup (240 grams) water, at room temperature

Stir together the flour, water, and yeast until well mixed and sloshy. Place in a covered container and leave out at room temperature for at least 4 and up to 8 hours. Stir the sponge, cover, and leave in the refrigerator overnight. Pull out of the fridge 2 hours before using to bring back to room temperature.

WEEK 23 RECIPE

Pumpkin Pie
makes one 9″ pie (serves 8)

Please note that this recipe will make more custard than you need for the aluminum pie tin provided. If you are baking a 9-inch pie in a deeper ceramic or glass pie plate the custard should be enough for the full pie.

included in your kit:
one 16 oz can (455 grams) pumpkin puree
2/3 cup (150 grams) packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
one 12 oz can (340 grams) evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste

from home:
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2/3 cup (160 grams) heavy cream

Make the Pate Brisee (recipe follows) at least an hour in advance.

Roll out the pate brisee into a large circle. Line a 9-inch aluminum or glass pie plate with the brisee. Either pleat the overhanging dough with your fingers evenly all around for a more dramatic edge, or use scissors to trim the overhang, leaving a 1/4-inch lip around the edge of the pie plate (to allow for shrinkage in the oven). Refrigerate the pie shell for at least 30 minutes (or up to 1 day in the refrigerator or 2 weeks in the freezer).

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Blind bake the pie shell by lining it with parchment and weighing it down with pie weights. Place in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes, until the shell is light brown all the way through (you will have to lift up the beans or pie weights to peek at the bottom part of the shell).

Meanwhile, scrape the pumpkin puree into a large bowl and whisk in the brown sugar. Whisk in the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Whisk in the evaporated milk and set aside.

Whisk together eggs and yolk in a large bowl and slowly whisk in the cream and vanilla. Gradually add the pumpkin mixture and whisk until thoroughly mixed.

Remove the beans or pie weights from the baked shell and pour the pumpkin custard into the shell. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until the custard is just set. The edges of the custard will puff up a little and the center should still have a little wiggle in it. Remove the pie from the oven and let cool at room temperature for at least 1 hour. The pie may be served at room temperature or chilled. The pie keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

PATE BRISEE
makes crust for 1 single-crust 9-inch pie

included in your kit:
1 cup (140 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

from home:
9 tablespoons (1 1/8 stick, 125 grams) cold unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons (30 grams) cold milk

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer, paddle together the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut the butter into about 12 pieces and add it to the flour. Paddle slowly until the flour is no longer bright white and holds together when you clump it, and there are still lumps of butter the size of a pecan throughout, about 45 seconds. Whisk together the yolk and milk in a small bowl and add all at once to the flour-butter mix. Paddle very briefly, just until it barely comes together, about 30 seconds. It will look really shaggy and more like a mess than a dough.

Dump the dough out onto a clean surface and gather it together into a tight mound. Using the palm of your hand, smear the dough piece by piece until most of the butter chunks are smeared into the dough and the whole thing comes together. Wrap the dough tightly with plastic and press down to make a flattened disk about 1 inch thick. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before using. The dough may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days (wrapped in another layer of plastic if storing for more than 1 day) and for up to 4 weeks in the freezer.

WEEK 22 RECIPE

Oatmeal Maple Scone
makes 8 scones

included in your kit:
1 1/2 cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups (125 grams) rolled oats
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (50 grams) pecan halves, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup (80 grams) golden raisins
1/2 cup (160 grams) maple syrup
1 sheet parchment paper

from home:
1/2 cup (1 stick 115 grams) cold unsalted butter
1/3 cup (80 grams) cold heavy cream
1 cold large egg (about 50 grams)

Heat oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, briefly mix the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, chopped pecans, and golden raisins on low speed until combined. Cut the butter into 8 to 10 pieces and add it to the flour mixture paddle for about 30 seconds on low speed until the butter is somewhat broken down but there are still pieces about the size of a grape. (If mixing by hand, mix the dry ingredients together. Cut the butter into 8 to 10 pieces and add it to the flour mixture using a fork or two knives or a pastry cutter cut butter into the flour until the butter is somewhat broken down but there are still pieces about the size of a grape.)

In a separate bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, maple syrup, and egg until thoroughly combined. With the mixer on low speed, pour in the liquid, and then paddle on medium speed for 20 to 30 seconds until the dough just comes together. It will be fairly wet.

Remove the bowl from the mixer. With a rubber spatula, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure that all of the dry ingredients are mixed into the dough. Using a 1/3-cup measuring cup, drop mounded scoops of dough onto the prepared baking sheet. (At this point the unbaked scones can be frozen, tightly wrapped in plastic, for up to 1 week. Add 5 to 10 minutes to baking time and proceed as directed.)

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the scones are golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes and evenly brush the tops of the scones with maple glaze (recipe follows).

Scones are best enjoyed the same day you bake them, but they can be stored in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days. If you keep them for longer than 1 day, refresh them in a 300 degree oven for 4 to 5 minutes. Or you can freeze them, wrapped tightly in plastic, for up to 1 week and reheat them in a 300 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

MAPLE GLAZE
makes about 1/2 cup (enough to glaze 8 scones)

included in your kit:
1 cup (140 grams) confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup

In a small bowl whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, maple syrup, and enough water (1 to 2 tablespoons) to make a pourable glaze until smooth. The glaze can be made ahead and stored for up to 1 week at room temperature.

WEEK 21 RECIPE

Cranberry Maple Pecan Cake
makes one 9″ loaf

included in your kit:
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
1 1/3 cup (160 grams) cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
1/3 cup (115 grams) maple syrup
1 sheet of parchment

from home:
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick or 85 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup (80 grams) nonfat buttermilk
2 large eggs (about 100 grams)
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped

Make the Maple Pecans (recipe follows) and set aside.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9࡫-inch loaf pan, or line the pan with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the sugar, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and butter and paddle on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes until the butter is completely worked into the dough. The mixture will look like coarse meal. (Or combine the ingredients by hand with an electric hand mixer for 5 to 6 minutes.)

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and maple syrup. Add about half of this wet mixture to batter in the mixing bowl. Mix on medium- high speed for 1 minute, until the mixture is light and fluffy and pale.

Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Turn the mixer on low speed and add the second half of the wet ingredients. Mix for about 30 seconds, then stop the mixer and scrape again. Turn the mixer to medium speed and mix for another 30 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the cranberries and Maple Pecans.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 70 to 80 minutes, until the top of the loaf is golden brown and springs back when you poke it in the middle. Test with toothpick by poking the cake in the center and removing the toothpick- when it comes out dry the cake is done. Let cool for at least 30 minutes and then pop the cake out of the pan. Spread the Cake Glaze (recipe follows) over the entire top of loaf while the loaf is still warm. The cake keeps for 2 to 3 days, tightly wrapped at room temperature.

Maple Pecans
makes about 1/2 cup

included in your kit:
3 tablespoons (65 grams) maple syrup
1/2 cup (50 grams) pecan halves, toasted and chopped

In the small saucepan combine the maple syrup and pecans. Stir over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until the syrup is completely absorbed by the pecans. Remove the pecans from the heat, take them out of the saucepan onto a plate or piece of parchment, and let them cool completely. (If you keep the pecans in the saucepan they will stick to the pan.)

included in your kit:
1/2 cup (70 grams) confectioners’ sugar

from home:
3 tablespoons water

Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and enough water to make a thick, spreadable glaze.

WEEK 20 RECIPE

Halloween Mummy Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes

included in your kit:
2 ounces (56 grams) unsweetened chocolate 1/4 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup (140 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
mini chocolate chips
piping bag + mini basket tip

from home:
1/2 cup (1 stick/115 grams) unsalted butter 1/3 cup (80 grams) water
1/2 cup (120 grams ) whole milk
1 large egg (about 50 grams)
1 large egg yolk (about 20 grams)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the center of the oven.

Chop the unsweetened chocolate into small pieces and combine it with the cocoa powder in a small bowl. Combine the sugar, butter, and water in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour the hot butter-sugar mixture on top of the chocolate-cocoa mixture and whisk until the chocolate is totally melted and the mixture is homogeneous.

Whisk the milk, egg, yolk, and vanilla extract/paste into the chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and then dump these on top of the wet ingredients. Whisk again until the dry ingredients are totally mixed into the wet chocolate mixture.

Let the batter sit for about 15 minutes. (This allows the liquid to totally be absorbed into the batter and it thickens the batter up a bit so it’s not so soupy.) Meanwhile, butter and flour a standard size 12-cup cupcake tin or line it with paper liners. When the batter is ready, scoop it into the tins, dividing it evenly among the 12 cups. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the tops of the cupcake spring back when you press down on them. Let cool completely.

Fill a piping bag outfitted with a flat tip and zig zag the frosting across the cupcakes in a back and forth fashion to mimic the gauze that covers a mummy. Keep a strip of cupcake unfrosted. Add two dots of frosting for the eyes and add the mini chocolate chips to the center of the eyes for the pupils.

Have fun with these!! Cupcakes are best enjoyed the day they are baked, but they keep for up to 2 days in an airtight container at room temperature.

Mummy Frosting
makes about 1 cup, more than you need but it’s so yummy you’ll want extra!

included in your kit:
1 pound (3 3/4 cups/460 grams) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste

from home:
1/2 cup (1 stick/115 grams) unsalted butter, softened 2 tablespoons (30 grams) whole milk

Place the softened butter in a bowl and beat it with a wooden spoon until it is super soft. Add about half the confectioners sugar and work it into the butter as much as you can. Add about half the milk and keep beating with the wooden spoon until it starts to smooth out. Add the rest of the confectioners sugar and the rest of the milk and the vanilla. Keep working it with the wooden spoon until the frosting is creamy.

The frosting can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature or up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Before using, bring the frosting to room temperature and place it in a bowl and work it with a wooden spoon until the frosting smooths out again.

WEEK 19 RECIPE

Halloween Bat Oreos
makes 24 to 28 cookie sandwiches

included in your kit:
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
1 cup (7 ounces/200 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (100 grams) cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
red royal icing
bat cookie cutter

from home:
1 cup (2 sticks/225 grams) unsalted butter
1 large egg (about 50 grams)

Melt the butter in a microwave or in a small saucepan over low heat. Combine the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl and whisk until combined. Melt the chocolate on low power in the microwave or in a bowl placed over a pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted. Whisk the melted chocolate into the sugar/butter mixture. Add the egg and whisk until combined.

Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Use a wooden spoon to stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture. (The dough will start to seem too floury—it’s easiest to switch to mixing the dough with your hands until it comes together. It will have the consistency of Play-Doh.)

Let dough sit for about an hour at room temperature to firm up. Place the dough between two pieces of parchment, press it flat, and roll out the dough with a rolling pin until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Place the rolled out dough in the fridge for about 20 minutes to firm up. Remove the dough from the fridge and peel off the parchment from both sides of the dough. Using the bat cutter or a round cookie cutter (or an upside-down glass) cut out bats and circles of dough. Use a spatula to remove the cut out cookies about an inch apart onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Continue cutting out cookies until the dough is used up you can reroll the dough scraps. You can freeze the unbaked cookies for up to a month stored in an airtight container. (Bake directly from the freezer if frozen.)

Heat the oven to 325 degrees and place the rack in the center of the oven. Bake the cookies for 18 to 22 minutes, until firm to the touch. Check them frequently after 15 minutes and poke them in the middle. As soon as they feel firm to the touch, remove from the oven. You can’t judge by color because they start out looking black! Let cool to warm or room temperature on the cookie sheet or a wire rack—they don’t have to cool completely, but you can’t fill them while they are hot.

Fill a piping bag with Orange Vanilla Cream filling and use it to fill the bat cookies. Use a tablespoon to scoop out a rounded tablespoon of Orange Vanilla Cream Filling and place the filling between two round cookies. Press the cookies together to distribute the filling toward the edges. Use the red royal icing to make bat eyes and serve. The cookies may be stored for up to 3 days at room temperature in an airtight container.

Orange Vanilla Cream Filling
makes about 1 cup, enough to fill 24 to 28 bat cookie sandwiches

included in your kit:
1 2/3 cup (230 grams) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1/4 teaspoon orange food coloring gel
pinch salt

from home:
1/2 cup (1 stick/115 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon milk

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or with an electric hand mixer), mix the butter on low speed for about 30 seconds. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, orange food coloring, and salt and mix until totally smooth. Add milk and continue to paddle until smooth. It will look like white spackle and feel about the same—like putty. You can also mix this together by hand. Make sure the butter is very soft and use your hands to mix and knead the confectioners’ sugar into the butter.

The filling keeps in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature before using.

WEEK 18 RECIPE

Chubby Rocco Cookies
makes 15 to 18 large cookies

included in your kit:
1 1/4 cups (290 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
1 rounded cup (60 grams) One Mighty Mill pretzels
2 cups (280 grams) One Mighty Mill wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (120 grams) milk chocolate chunks or chips
1 cup (60 grams) mini marshmallows
2 cups One Mighty Mill pretzels for rolling cookie dough balls

from home:
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons or 168 grams) unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs

In a medium bowl, stir together the melted butter and the brown sugar until combined. Beat in the eggs until completely mixed in.

Roughly chop 1 cup/60 grams of pretzels and place in another bowl with the flour, baking soda, salt, chopped chocolate, and marshmallows. Add the dry mixture to the butter/sugar mixture and mix well with a wooden spoon until fully incorporated. Place dough in an airtight container and let rest overnight in the fridge.

The next day, heat your oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the center of the oven.

Roughly chop 2 cups of OMM pretzels. Scoop the dough into approximately 2 to 3 rounded tablespoon-sized balls, roll them in the crushed pretzels, and place on a baking sheet.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 14 to 16 minutes until the cookies are golden brown on the edges and set and light golden brown in the center. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 20 minutes.

Cookies are best enjoyed the same day you bake them. The dough keeps for up to a week in the fridge or up to a month in the freezer in an airtight container.

WEEK 17 RECIPE

Tcho Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes 12 to 16 cookies

included in your kit:
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (175 grams) light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract/paste
1 cup (140 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (150 grams) bread flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup (4.4oz 125 grams) tcho fruity drops
3/4 cup (4.4oz 125 grams) chopped tcho 68% chocolate
1/2 cup (2.5oz 70 grams) tcho milk chocolate drops
parchment paper

from home:
1 cup (2 stick, 224 grams) unsalted butter
2 large eggs

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center of the oven.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or mixing by hand with a wooden spoon or an electric hand mixer), beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes (10 minutes if mixing by hand). Stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle itself a few times the sugar and butter love to collect here and stay unmixed. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract on medium speed until thoroughly combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Again scrape the bowl and the paddle to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.

Mix together the all-purpose flour, bread flour, baking soda, and salt. Add all chocolate to the flour mix and toss to combine. Turn the mixer to low speed (or continue to use a wooden spoon if mixing by hand) and slowly blend the flour-chocolate mixture into the butter-sugar mixture. Mix until the flour and chocolate are totally incorporated and the dough is completely mixed.

For best results, scrape the dough into an airtight container and let rest in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 3 to 4 hours) before baking. Drop the dough in 1/4-cup balls onto a baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Press the dough down slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake until the cookies are golden brown on the edges and slightly soft in the center, 15 to 18 minutes.

Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool for 5 to 10 minutes on the sheet, then remove the cookies from the sheet and let them continue cooling on a wire rack.The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. The unbaked dough can be stored for up to 1 week in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

WEEK 16 RECIPE

Apple Vanilla Pound Cake
makes one pound cake

included in your kit:
2 teaspoons vanilla paste
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
1 1/4 cups (150 grams) sifted cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
small sieve
parchment paper

from home:
8 tablespoons (1 stick/115 grams) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons heavy cream
3 large eggs (about 150 grams)
1 medium granny smith apple, peeled and thinly sliced

Heat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. Line a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper or butter and flour the pan. Set aside.

In a small pan, melt the butter and add vanilla paste. Whisk in the heavy cream and set aside to let the mixture come to room temperature.

In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip together the eggs and sugar until thick and lemony colored, 4 to 5 minutes on medium high speed. While the eggs and sugar are whipping, sift and stir together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.

When the eggs/sugar are thick, add the dry mixture and gently fold by hand using a rubber spatula. Scoop a few large spoonfuls of the batter into the butter/cream mixture and stir to combine well. Once the butter/cream mixture is lightened, add it all into the batter and fold until completely combined.

Scoop into the prepared loaf pan. Layer and shingle the apples across the top in two rows. Bake in the 350°F oven for 50 to 60 minutes until the pound cake is golden brown on top and is firm when you press it in the middle. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool.

Sift a bit of confectioners’ sugar on top to finish off the cake and slice and serve. Use a very sharp serrated knife to gently slice through the apples. Pound cake may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

WEEK 15 RECIPE

Croissants
makes 8 to 10 croissants

included in your kit
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons) or 18 grams fresh cake yeast
2 1/4 cups/315 grams all-purpose flour
3/4 cup/90 grams cake flour
1/4 cup/50 grams sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons/9 grams kosher salt

from home
1 cup/240 grams whole milk, at room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons/21 grams soft unsalted butter
1 cup/2 sticks/225 grams cold unsalted butter
2 large egg yolks (about 40 grams)

In a medium bowl stir together the milk and yeast for a few seconds to combine. Add the all purpose flour, cake flour, sugar, salt, and 1 1/2 tablespoons/21 grams softened butter and knead it together by hand until it forms a smoothish ball, about 3 minutes. (Alternatively mix this all together with a stand mixer using the dough hook attachment until it comes together, about 2 minutes.) To knead by hand take the shaggy mess and keep bringing the outer parts of the dough into the center and and then pushing it outwards with the palm of your hand every now and then turn the whole thing over. It will be very sticky at first and then it will smooth out. This dough block is called the detrempe. Cover the detrempe lightly with plastic wrap or a lint-free cloth and place in the fridge overnight or for at least 8 hours.

The next day, remove the dough from the fridge and on a well-floured work surface press it down firmly into a square roughly 9-by-9 inches. Rotate the square so that as you face it, it looks like a baseball diamond. Use the sides of your palm to mark a 7-inch square in the middle of the diamond, creating triangle-ish flaps at each corner.

Roll out these triangle flaps as best as you can into square-ish shapes (about 4-inch squares)—you will have to tug a bit at the edges to pull them into a square shape as you are rolling. When you are done the entire piece of dough will be about 15-by-15 inches, with a 7-by-7 inch square lump in the middle and 4 square-ish flaps off of each side of that lump. The 7-inch square lump will be about 1-inch thick and the 4 square-ish flaps will be roughly 1/4-inch thick.

Place the 1 cup cold butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat for 15 to 20 seconds on medium speed to break up the butter while still keeping it quite cold. (Alternatively, pound the cold butter with a rolling pin to soften it and shape it into a 7-inch square.) Remove the butter from the bowl and scrape it out directly onto the 7-inch square lump in your dough, patting it with your fingers to shape it into a square shape that covers the 7-inch square. The butter should be about the same consistency as the dough.

Fold one of the flaps up and stretch it over the butter square to cover it entirely. (The dough is quite stretchy, so you can stretch it to cover the butter completely.) Fold and stretch a second flap over that repeat with third and then the fourth flap. Tug at the flaps to keep them in a square shape that covers the butter. You will now have a butter square that is entirely encased in dough above and below. Using the palms of both hands, firmly press this dough package down into a square roughly 9-by-9 inches.

When the dough package is relatively flat, switch to a rolling pin and continue to flatten the dough with the pin. To preserve the layers of dough and butter you want to firmly press down on the dough and then move your rolling pin up and down along the length of the dough, using the pin to create ridges as it compacts the dough. Once the dough is pressed down all over, then use the pin to roll back and forth, smoothing out the ridges while flattening and rolling the dough. (When rolling out laminated dough, your goal is to keep the layers directly on top of one another and even, to preserve the layering. Using this technique to compress the dough first helps to keep the layers even, making for a more flaky end product.)

Roll the dough into a rectangle about 18-inches wide and 10-inches tall. Flour the dough and the work surface generously as needed to prevent the rolling pin from sticking to the dough. Take the right side of the dough and fold it inwards about 2 inches to make a small lip. Take the left side of the dough and fold it all the way over to meet the lip. Press down on the folds with your hands so the dough adheres to itself you will have a nice package about 9-inches wide. Now fold it exactly in half by folding the right half onto the left half so it is about 4 1/2-inches wide.

Using your rolling pin press the pin up and down the dough package compressing the folds together. Turn the whole package clockwise so that it is now wider than it is tall. Roll out the dough out into a large rectangle again about 18-inches wide and 10-inches tall.

Repeat the folding process above. (Take the right side of the dough and fold about a 2-inch lip towards center. Take the left side of the dough and fold it all the way over to meet the lip. Press the folds together slightly and fold it in half by folding the right half onto the left half so it is about 4 1/2-inches wide.)

Place the dough on a baking sheet and cover it completely with plastic wrap, tucking the plastic under the dough as if you’re tucking it into bed. Place the dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 1/2 hours and no more than 3 hours.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a well-floured work surface with the long side of the rectangle facing you. This time roll the dough into a long rectangle about 24 inches-wide and 6-inches tall.

Starting at the bottom left corner of the rectangle, mark along the bottom edge of the rectangle every 4 inches until you get to right side of the dough. Then starting at the top left corner of the rectangle, mark along the top edge exactly midway between the notches on the bottom edge—so your first notch will be about 2 inches from the left and then you’ll continue to notch every 4 inches. Use a sharp chef’s knife or pizza roller to cut the dough rectangle into triangles by cutting diagonally from notch to notch. You will end up with 11 triangles and a few edge pieces of scrap.

Cut a 1-inch slit in the center of the base of each triangle. Turn all of the triangles so they are oriented with the base on top and the triangle point pointing down toward you.

Pick up a triangle and hold it by its base with one hand and gently stretch it and stroke it lengthwise with your other hand to elongate it to 10 to 12 inches in length.

Place the lengthened triangle on the work surface, fan open the base at the 1-inch slit into a Y, and then roll the dough down to the point. Once you roll down to the point, place the croissant on a parchment-lined baking sheet, with the point side down, touching the parchment. Continue with all the dough triangles, spacing the croissants 2 to 3 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl and use a pastry brush to brush egg wash lightly on all the croissants. Save the egg wash. Cover the croissants with plastic wrap and leave them in a warm place for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until they are somewhat poufy and airy.

If you are baking the croissants the same day, cover them again with plastic wrap and let them finish proofing for another 30 minutes to 1 hour. (If you are baking the croissants the next day see below.) They will get even more poufy and jiggly when you nudge them.

Heat the oven to 400°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. When the croissants are done proofing, egg wash them again. Bake in the 400°F oven for the first 5 minutes and then turn the oven down to 350°F and bake for another 25 to 35 minutes (for a total baking time of 30 to 40 minutes) until they are golden brown all over.

(If you are baking the croissants the next day, wrap them in plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator. The next morning, remove the croissants from the fridge and let them sit at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes. Heat the oven to 400°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. When the croissants are done proofing, egg wash them again. Bake at 400°F for the first 5 minutes and then turn the oven down to 350°F and bake for another 25 to 35 minutes until they are golden brown all over.)

Croissants are best enjoyed the same day. If you want to store them, place them in an airtight container overnight and refresh them in a 300°F oven for 5 to 6 minutes before serving.

WEEK 14 RECIPE

Raspberry Pop-tarts
makes eight pop-tarts

pop-tarts
1 recipe pate brisee, chilled (recipe follows)
1 recipe simple raspberry vanilla glaze (recipe follows)

included in your kit:
1 cup raspberry jam
2 tablespoons sprinkles, optional

from home:
1 large egg (50 grams)

Make the Pate Brisee and chill at least 4 hours or up to 4 days in advance.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the pate brisee from the refrigerator and divide it into two equal sized pieces, shaping the pieces into rectangles. On a lightly floured surface, roll both pieces out into approximately 11吊-inch rectangles. Using a paring knife, lightly score one of the rectangles into eight 3 1/2࡫-inch rectangles (about the size of an index card).

Whisk the egg in a small bowl and use a pastry brush to brush the entire piece of scored pate brisee with beaten egg. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of jam into a mound in the center of each small rectangle. Lay the second sheet of pate brisee directly on top of the first and carefully press down all around the jam mounds so the brisee sheets adhere to each other.

Following the score marks on the bottom layer, cut the layered pate brisee into 8 pop-tarts with a knife, a pizza roller (easier), or a fluted roller (easier and prettier). Chill the pop tarts in the fridge for at least an hour or up to a day. (You can also store in the freezer for up to a week- cover tightly with plastic wrap or store in an airtight container when frozen enough to handle.) Place the pop tarts on a baking sheet and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until entirely golden brown on top. Let the pop-tarts cool on the baking sheet for about 30 minutes. Use a pastry brush to cover the pop tarts with glaze. Sprinkle with rainbow sprinkles if desired. The pop-tarts keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

pate brisee
included in your kit:
1 3/4 cup/245 grams all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

from home:
1 cup/2 sticks/225 grams cold unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons/45 grams cold milk

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, paddle together the flour, sugar, and salt to mix. Cut the butter into about 12 pieces and add it to the flour. Paddle slowly just until the flour is no longer bright white and holds together when you clump it, and there are still lumps of butter the size of a pecan throughout, 60 to 90 seconds. (Alternatively cut the butter into the flour mixture with a fork or a pastry cutter until the butter is in small lumps and the flour is coated with butter. Proceed as directed.)

In a small bowl, whisk the yolks and milk together with a fork until they are well combined. Add all at once to the flour/butter mix. Paddle very briefly, just until it barely comes together, about 30 seconds. It will look really shaggy and more like a mess than a dough.

Dump the dough out onto an un-floured work surface and gather it together into a tight mound. Using the palm of your hand and starting one side of the mound, smear the dough bit by bit by starting at the top of the mound and sliding your palm down the side of the mound and along the work surface, until most of the butter chunks are smeared into the dough and the whole thing comes together. Do this once or twice on each part of the dough, moving through the mound until the whole mess has been smeared into a cohesive dough with streaks of butter. Gather up the dough, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and press it into a flattened disk. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using. This dough keeps in the refrigerator for 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. (Remove from freezer the day before using and let defrost in the refrigerator.)

simple raspberry vanilla glaze

included in your kit:
1 cup/140 grams confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean extract/paste
1/4 teaspoon raspberry powder or 2 teaspoons raspberry jam (if not using kit)

In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract/paste, raspberry powder/jam, and enough water to make a smooth spreadable glaze. Start with 2 tablespoons of water and slowly add up to an additional tablespoon to make the glaze thin enough to spread but thick enough to cover. The glaze can be made ahead and stored for up to 1 week in an airtight container at room temperature.

WEEK 13 RECIPE

Cornmeal Lime Sandwich Cookies
makes ten to twelve large cookies

cookie
included in your kit:
1 cup/200 gram sugar
2 tablespoons grated lime zest
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
2 cups/280 grams all-purpose flour
½ cup/80 grams coarse yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt

from home:
1 cup/2 sticks/225 grams unsalted butter
2 large eggs (100 grams)

creamy lime filling
included in your kit:
1 2/3 cups/230g confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
2 tablespoons grated lime zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
pinch kosher salt

from home:
½ cup/1 stick/115 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl using a wooden spoon or hand mixer, beat the butter, sugar, lime, and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes (at least 10 minutes if mixing by hand). Stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides, the bottom, and the paddle itself a few times during the mixing process the sugar and butter love to collect there and stay unmixed. Add the eggs and beat on medium speed until thoroughly combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and the paddle to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed (or using a wooden spoon if mixing by hand), add the flour mixture in three or four additions and mix until the flour is completely incorporated and the dough is uniform.

Using a large spoon or an ice cream scoop, drop the dough in scant ¼-cup balls onto the prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand into discs about 2 inches in diameter. (Pro tip: Dip your palm in flour or water to prevent it from sticking to the dough.) Bake until the cookies are pale brown on the edges, still pale in the center, and just firm to the touch in the center, 20 to 24 minutes. Be careful not to overbake or let the tops brown.

Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 15 to 20 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

While the cookies are baking make the creamy lime filling.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the butter on low speed for about 30 seconds. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, lime zest, lime juice, and salt and beat until smooth. The mixture will look like spackle and feel about the same. (You can also mix this together by hand. Make sure the butter is very soft and use your hands to mix and knead the confectioners’ sugar into the butter. Add a few drops of water if need to loosen up the dough.) The filling can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature before using.

When the cookies are entirely cool, turn over half of them so the flat side faces up. Spoon about 1 rounded tablespoon of the filling onto the center of each turned-over cookie and top with the other half of the cookies. Press down until the filling comes out to the edge of the cookie. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 weeks.


WEEK 12 RECIPE

Eclairs or Cream Puffs
makes about 12 eclairs or 24 cream puffs

included in your kit:
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon/150 grams all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
tropez cream (recipe follows)
chocolate glaze (recipe follows)

from home:
1/2 cup/1 stick/115 grams unsalted butter
1 cup/240 grams water
4 large eggs (200 grams)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment.

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter and water over medium heat until butter is melted. Do not let the mixture come to a boil or the water will evaporate. Stir together the flour, sugar and salt and add at once to the butter mixture. Use a wooden spoon to stir the flour into the liquid until it is fully incorporated. The mixture will look like a stiff pancake batter. Keep stirring vigorously and mixing the mixture over medium heat and it will slowly start to get stiffer and look more like loose dough and less like stiff batter. It will lose its shine and become more matte as well. Stir continuously for 3 to 4 minutes until the dough starts to leave a film at the bottom of the pan.

Remove the dough from the heat and place in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix the dough for 1 minute on medium-low speed. This will allow some of the steam to escape and the dough will cool slightly. (Or beat the mixture in a bowl by hand with a wooden spoon for 2 to 3 minutes.) Crack the 4 eggs into a small pitcher and whisk to break up the yolks. With the mixer still on medium-low speed, gradually add the egg mixture to the dough. When the eggs are all added, turn the mixer up to medium speed for about 20 seconds until the dough is glossy and shiny.

Spoon the batter into a piping bag and pipe out long tubes (for éclairs) about 5 inches long and 1 inch wide or round balls (for cream puffs) about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Space the éclairs or cream puffs a few inches away from each other. Pipe all the batter and place the cookie sheets into the oven. The heat of the oven will immediately start turning the liquid in the batter into steam and it will cause the éclairs/puffs to inflate.

After about 15 minutes, when the éclairs have puffed up and are starting to turn golden brown, turn the oven down to 325 and continue baking for another 30 minutes until the éclairs are entirely brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.

If making éclairs, split them in half lengthwise and fill with the tropez cream (recipe follows). Take the top of the éclair and dip it in slightly warmed ganache (recipe follows). Set the top onto the tropez cream and serve within 3 to 4 hours.

If making cream puffs, poke a hole in the bottom of the puffs and fill a piping bag with a small round tip with tropez cream. Pipe cream into puffs and then dip puffs into slightly warmed ganache. If not serving immediately store in the fridge. Serve within 3 to 4 hours.

Baked éclairs may be made in advance and stored unfilled in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Remove from the freezer and refresh them in a 325-degree oven for 6 to 8 minutes until defrosted. Let cool before proceeding as above. You may also store them unfilled in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days. Refresh in a 325-degree oven for 2 to 3 minutes and let cool before proceeding.

Tropez Cream

included in your kit:
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1/2 cup/100 grams sugar
3 tablespoons/25 grams cake flour
pinch salt

from home:
1 cup/240 grams milk
1 egg (50 grams)
1 egg yolk (20 grams)
1 cup/240 grams heavy cream

In a medium saucepan, scald the milk on medium-high heat just until it is about to boil, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vanilla paste into the milk. Meanwhile, mix together the sugar, cake flour and salt until thoroughly mixed. (Mixing the flour into the sugar will prevent the flour from clumping when you add it to your eggs.) Whisk together the egg and the yolk in a small bowl and gradually whisk in the sugar-flour mixture. Remove the milk from the stove and slowly add the milk, about 1/4 cup at a time, to the egg-sugar mixture, whisking the whole time. This is called tempering and it allows the eggs to slowly and gently be brought up to the same temperature as the hot liquid.

When all of the milk is whisked into the egg-sugar mixture, put the whole thing back into the saucepan and put it back on the stove over medium heat. Whisk continuously and vigorously until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil. (At first the mixture will be very frothy and liquid as it cooks more it will start to thicken until the frothy bubbles disappear and it becomes more of a thick and viscous mixture. Once it thickens, stop every few seconds to see if the mixture has come to a boil: Stop for a few seconds, see if the surface of the mixture is welling up with bubbles, and if not keep whisking vigorously.) As soon as you do see it bubbling, immediately go back to whisking and count to 10 and then remove it from the heat. Boiling the mixture briefly like this will thicken the pastry cream and cook out the flour taste.

Pour through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap placed directly on top of the pastry cream. This will prevent a skin from forming on the pastry cream. Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours until it is cold. At this point the pastry cream may be kept refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

When ready to fill your éclairs or cream puffs, whip heavy cream in a small bowl with a whisk until it holds a very stiff peak. Mix a few spoonfuls of the whipped cream into the pastry cream to lighten it up. Add the rest of the whipped cream and fold until thoroughly combined. Tropez cream may be made up to a day in advance. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

included in kit:
6 ounces/170 grams semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (we use TCHO 62% mosaic for this recipe)

from home:
3/4 cup/180 grams heavy cream

Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high until scalded, ie right before it comes to a boil and there are small bubbles in the edge of the pan. Chop the chocolate finely and place in a small bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and slowly whisk the two together until the chocolate and cream are thoroughly combined. Let cool till just slightly warm to use for éclairs or cream puffs. Store the ganache in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Warm gently in microwave before using.

WEEK 11 RECIPE

Strawberry Chiffon Cake
makes one 8-inch cake, serves 10-12

included in your kit:
2 cups/200 grams sifted cake flour
1 cup/200 grams sugar (for cake) + 2 tablespoons sugar (for strawberries)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup/110 grams vegetable oil, such as canola
2 teaspoon vanilla paste
5 tablespoons/40 grams confectioners’ sugar
Vanilla Syrup (recipe follows)

from home:
7 large eggs (about 350 grams)
1 cup/240 grams whole milk, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups/600 grams heavy cream
3 pints fresh strawberries (about 1 1/2 lbs/680 grams)

Heat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. Line two 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper circles or butter the bottoms ONLY of the two 8-inch cake pans. (We leave the sides unlined/unbuttered so that when the cake is finished baking it clings to the side of the pan as it cools. This cake is very light and airy and when it comes out of the oven it tends to collapse on itself.) Set aside.

Separate the eggs. In a large bowl stir together the cake flour, 1/2 cup/100 grams of the sugar (for cake), baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl whisk together the milk, vegetable oil, the 7 egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Set aside both bowls.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or using an electric hand mixer, whip the 7 egg whites over medium high speed until you can see the tines of the whisk starting to leave a trail in the whites, about 45 seconds to 1 minute. At this point start whipping in the remaining 1/2 cup/100 grams of the sugar (labeled “sugar for whites”) a tablespoon at a time, waiting 5 to 8 seconds before adding another tablespoon. When all of the sugar is added continue whipping for another 30 to 45 seconds until the whites are at soft peak stage, i. e., when you stop the mixer and slowly lift the whisk from the whites they rise up in a peak and then softly droop. The whites will look a lot like shaving cream. Set aside.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Use a rubber spatula to stir the two together. When well mixed, take a few large spoonfuls of the beaten egg whites and fold into the batter. Add the rest of the whites and fold gently until well combined. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake in the 350°F oven until golden brown and your finger bounces back when you poke the cakes in the center, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool for a few minutes and settle a bit. They will have risen nice and high and be slightly domed. After about 5 minutes, carefully invert them on a cooling rack. This will allow them to cool upside down and stay light and lofty. Since the sides are not lined or buttered the cake will cling to the side and not fall out of the pan.

While the cakes are cooling, stem and slice 1 pint of the strawberries by placing them stem down on a cutting board and slicing them into thin 1/4-inch slices. Place these sliced strawberries in a large bowl and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Toss well to combine. Whip the heavy cream with the confectioners’ sugar until the cream is thick and stiff. Set aside the berries and whipped cream. Make the Vanilla Syrup and set aside.

When the cakes are completely cooled, turn them over and run a small paring knife around the edge of the cake pans and invert the cakes by rapping them upside down against a table. If the bottom has caved in a bit, trim the bottom with a sharp serrated knife so it is level. Turn the cake right side up and if they have rounded at all use the knife to even off the tops of the cakes. Place one of the cakes on a flat serving plate and using a pastry brush, brush generously with about half of the vanilla syrup. Spoon about 1 1/2 cups of the sweetened whipped cream onto the cake and spread it evenly across the top. Take a small spoon and create a shallow well in the cream, building up the sides of the cream so you have walls to hold in the berries. Strain the juice from the sugared berries and spoon the berries into the well, spreading them evenly across the cake all the way up to the whipped cream wall. Discard any strawberry juice. Place the second cake upside-down onto the strawberries and cream and press down slightly to even out the cake. Brush the cake with the remaining Vanilla Syrup. Using an offset spatula, spread the sides and top of the cake with a very thin layer of cream. This is called a crumb coat and it will hold all of the crumbs inside the cake so you can finish it off with a beautiful white layer. Once the crumb coat is set, wash the offset spatula and go over the whole cake again with most of the remaining whipped cream (reserve about 3/4 cup for piping) so you have a final clean white covering of the cake. Use a large piping bag fitted with a star tip and the last of the whipped cream to pipe a border along the top of the cake. Slice about half of the remaining berries in half (pick the largest berries). Pile the halved and whole berries on top of the cake. Let the cake come together in the fridge for at least an hour or up to a day in the fridge. The cake is best served the same day it is made store any uneaten cake in the fridge for up to 2 days in an airtight container.

Vanilla Syrup
makes 1 cup

1/2 cup/100 grams sugar (included in kit)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (included in kit)

In a small saucepan combine the sugar with 1/2 cup/120 grams water and bring to a boil. Stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool. Syrup may be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge indefinitely.

WEEK 10 RECIPE

Homemade Oreos
makes sixteen to eighteen cookies

included in your kit:
3/4 cup/150 grams sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 cup/7 ounces/200 grams semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups/210 grams all-purpose flour
3/4 cup/100 grams cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup/2 sticks/225 grams unsalted butter
1 egg

vanilla cream filling

included in your kit:
1 2/3 cup/230 grams confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
pinch salt

from home:
1/2 cup/1 stick/115 grams unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon milk

Melt the butter in a microwave or in a small saucepan over low heat. Combine the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl and whisk until combined. Melt the chocolate on low power in the microwave or in a bowl placed over a pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted. Whisk the melted chocolate into the sugar/butter mixture. Add the egg and whisk until combined.

Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Use a wooden spoon to stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture. (The dough will start to seem too floury—it’s easiest to switch to mixing the dough with your hands until it comes together. It will have the consistency of Play-Doh.)

Let dough sit for about an hour at room temperature to firm up. Place the dough on a 15-inch square sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Shape with your hands into a rough log shape, about 10 inches long and 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Place the log at the edge of its sheet of parchment paper and roll the parchment around the log. With the log fully encased in parchment, roll it into a smoother log shape (still 2 1/2 inches in diameter). Refrigerate the log until firm, at least two hours. The dough log may settle and sink a bit in the fridge, so re-roll it every 15 minutes or so to keep the shape a nice round log shape if you like. If not, your cookies may be more oblong than round, which is not a bad thing taste-wise but they won’t look quite like the packaged cookie. You can prepare the dough up to this point and refrigerate it wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or wrapped in plastic in the freezer for up to a month (if frozen, remove the dough from the freezer the night before you want to bake it and defrost it in the refrigerator).

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Remove the cookie log from the fridge about 30 minutes before using. Remove the parchment from the dough log and slice the log into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place the slices about 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until firm to the touch. Check them frequently after 16 or 17 minutes and poke them in the middle. As soon as they feel firm to the touch, remove from the oven. You can’t judge by color because they start out looking black! Let cool to warm or room temperature on the cookie sheet or a wire rack—they don’t have to cool completely, but you can’t fill them while they are hot.

While the cookies are baking make the vanilla cream filling.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or with an electric hand mixer), mix the butter on low speed for about 30 seconds. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt and mix until totally smooth. Add milk and continue to paddle until smooth. It will look like white spackle and feel about the same—like putty. You can also mix this together by hand. Make sure the butter is very soft and use your hands to mix and knead the confectioners’ sugar into the butter. The filling keeps in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature before using.

Once the cookies are cooled use a tablespoon to scoop out a rounded tablespoon of vanilla cream filling and place it the filling between two cookies. Press the cookies together to distribute the filling toward the edges and serve. The cookies may be stored for up to 3 days at room temperature in an airtight container.

WEEK 9 RECIPE

Ginger Tuile Fortune Cookies

3 tablespoons dried egg whites

1/2 cup/100 grams vegetable oil, such as canola

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup/70 grams all purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

16 fortunes, folded (template included in kit, need to write, be creative!)

3 each/90 grams egg whites (if not using dried egg whites)

If using dried egg whites, whisk together whites with 9 tablespoons of water until the whites are thoroughly hydrated.

In a medium bowl whisk together the sugar and egg whites until combined. Whisk in the oil and almond extract and then the flour, ginger, and salt until batter is well combined and free of lumps. Pour the batter into an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 1 week. The batter needs to sit for a bit to fully absorb the flour into the whites.

Heat the oven to 325°F and place a rack in center of the oven. Line a very flat baking sheet with parchment paper liberally sprayed with non-stick spray or a silicone baking mat. (It will be infinitely easier with a silicone baking mat but parchment does work.) Write out 16 tiny fortunes on little slips of paper about [1/4]-inches by 2-inches. Fold the fortunes into a teeny tiny square. Set aside.

Spoon 1-2 rounded tablespoons of batter onto the baking sheet. Use the back of a small butter knife or an offset spatula to spread the batter evenly and as thinly you can into a circle about 5 inches in diameter. It takes some practice to get the batter nice and thin. Do your best and if you need to use your fingers to smear the batter a bit before spreading with the knife or offset spatula. Your first few times you should probably stick to making these one at a time but once you get the hang of it try making 2-3 at a time. Bake until the cookie is golden brown all over, 12 to 16 minutes.

Okay here is the fun part! Read these directions a few times before trying to make sure you understand how to shape the cookies. While you are waiting for the cookie to bake, set up an area near the oven with a small thin metal spatula, your fortunes, and an egg carton. As soon as the cookie is completely golden brown, remove it from the oven and immediately start to slide the spatula underneath the cookie to loosen it from the sheet and flip it over. Time matters! The cookie will go through several stages before it gets to its final cooled and crispy state. You have about 5 to 10 seconds after it has come out of the oven during which it is still pliable. This 5 to 10-second window coincides with when the cookie is at its hottest and is most difficult to handle. Try wearing latex or plastic gloves to shield your fingers from the heat. Place

one of the fortunes in the middle of the cookie, fold the cookie in half like a taco, hold the half-moon shaped cookie in both hands with the rounded half facing up to the sky and push the base of the half moon with both thumbs upwards to make the cookie bend in half into the characteristic fortune cookie shape. Hold the cookie until it cools and hardens into shape or put it pointed side down into an empty egg carton which is the perfect shape for holding the cookies. Whew! Take a deep breath and congratulate yourself. Repeat until all of the batter is used up.

If you wait too long the cookie starts to harden and cool and then your attempt to shape it will result in a shattered mess. You can place the cookie back into the oven for a few seconds to warm it into a pliable state with each reheating the cookie cools down even faster so I recommend only 2 re-heatings. Use a new cool baking sheet for each batch or cool your baking sheet under cool water before reusing if you try to spoon the batter onto a hot sheet it will immediately start to melt and become unspreadable. Once you are more adept with the technique you can make 3 to 4 at a time. Cookies may be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

WEEK 8 RECIPE

Balsamic Strawberry Shortcakes

2 1/2 cups/350 grams all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup/1 1/2 sticks/170 grams cold unsalted butter

3 large eggs (2 for dough, 1 for egg wash)

1/2 cup/120 grams heavy cream

Strawberries

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons lemon zest (about 2/3 lemon)

6 tablespoons/75 grams sugar

1 1/4 cups/300 grams heavy cream

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and position the rack in the center of the oven.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, briefly mix the flour, ½ cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed until combined, 10 to 15 seconds. Cut the butter into 12 to 14 pieces and add it to the flour mixture paddle for about 30 seconds on medium-low speed until the butter is broken down and the mixture gets sort of mealy. (Depending on the size of your mixer the flour may fly out at first so use an on-off motion with the on switch to pulse the mixer until the flour mixes into the butter somewhat. Alternatively, cut the butter into the flour by hand with a pastry cutter or a fork until the butter is broken down into small pea sized pieces and the mixture is somewhat mealy.)

Whisk 2 of the eggs and the heavy cream together in a small bowl until thoroughly mixed. With the mixer running on low speed, pour in the liquid all at once and continue to paddle for another 10 to 15 seconds until the dough comes together.

Remove the bowl from the mixer. Dump the dough out onto a floured work surface and press it out into a rough circle about 8 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Cut out circles about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter, rerolling scraps as necessary to get 8 circles. Place them on an ungreased baking sheet several inches apart.

Whisk the remaining 1 egg in a small bowl and brush egg wash onto the tops of the shortcakes. Sprinkle evenly with sugar. Bake until light golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the shortcakes from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes on the baking sheet until cool enough to handle. Remove the shortcakes from the baking sheet and place them on a wire rack to cool completely.

While the shortcakes are cooling, trim the tops of the strawberries and quarter each strawberry. Toss the sliced strawberries in a medium bowl with the balsamic vinegar, lemon zest, and 6 tablespoons sugar and let them macerate for about 30 minutes.

Whip the heavy cream in a medium bowl with 1 tablespoon sugar and the vanilla extract just until it holds a soft peak.

Cut each shortcake in half and set the bottom halves on a serving plate. Divide the Strawberries and syrup evenly among the bottom halves of the shortcakes, top the strawberries with whipped cream, and top the whipped cream with the top halves of the shortcake. Serve immediately.

Shortcakes are best enjoyed the same day you bake them, but they can be stored in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days. If you keep them for longer than 1 day, refresh them in a 300-degree oven for 4 to 5 minutes. Or you can freeze them, wrapped tightly in plastic, for up to 1 week and reheat them in a 300-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

WEEK 7 RECIPE

Sticky Sticky Buns

Not Included in kit:
eggs, yolks, butter, heavy cream

Brioche dough (recipe below – make in advance)
Goo (recipe below – make in advance)
1/4 cup/60 grams light brown sugar (included in kit)
1/4 cup/50 grams sugar (included in kit)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (included in kit)
1 cup/100 grams pecan halves, toasted and chopped (included in kit – split in half)

On a floured work surface roll the brioche into a tall rectangle, about 12同 inches, and 1/4 inch thick. It will have the consistency of cold damp Play-Doh and it should be fairly easy to roll out.

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, white sugar, ground cinnamon, and half of the chopped pecans. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the entire surface of the brioche rectangle.

Starting from the top (12-inch edge) of the rectangle and working your way down, roll the brioche like a jelly roll until the entire sheet is rolled up. Roll tightly so you have a nice round spiral. Trim both edges of the brioche roll about 1/4 inch to even out the ends.

Using a bench scraper or a chef’s knife, cut the roll into 8 equal pieces about 11/2 inches wide. (At this point the unbaked buns can be tightly wrapped and frozen for up to 1 week. When ready to bake, remove the buns from the freezer. Leave them wrapped and let them defrost in the refrigerator overnight, or at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours proceed as directed.)

Pour the Goo into a 9吉-inch baking dish and sprinkle the remaining pecans evenly over the Goo. Place the buns in the pan, evenly spaced. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and let the buns proof at warm room temperature for about 2 hours, until the dough is puffy, pillowy, and soft and the buns are touching.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the middle of the oven.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the buns are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 20 to 30 minutes in the dish. Invert the buns one at a time onto a serving platter and spoon any extra Goo and pecans on top. Serve warm.

(These are best served right away, or within 4 hours of baking. You could make them 1 day and serve them the next after warming them in a 325-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes, but at Flour we don’t serve the day-old version of this treat.)

Goo
Makes about 2 cups (enough for 8 buns)

Included in kit
1 1/2 cups/345 grams light brown sugar
1/3 cup/110 grams honey
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

From home
3/4 cup/11/2 sticks/170 grams unsalted butter
1/3 cup/80 grams heavy cream
1/3 cup/75 grams water

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and whisk in the brown sugar, honey, and salt. When the mixture is fully combined whisk in heavy cream and water. Take off heat and let cool to room temperature before using, about 30 minutes. Goo can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Basic Brioche Recipe

Included in kit
1 1/4 cups/175 grams all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups/190 grams bread flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cups/50 g sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

From Home
1/2 cup/120 grams cold water
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
11 tablespoons/155 grams unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 10 to 12 pieces

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, combine the all-purpose flour, bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water, eggs, and egg yolk in the bowl. Mix on low speed until all the ingredients have come together, 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape the bowl if necessary to make sure all the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients. Mix on low speed another 3 to 4 minutes once the dough has all come together. It will be very stiff.

Add the butter to the flour mixture piece by piece, and continue mixing on low speed for about 10 minutes. The butter needs to mix completely into the dough so stop the mixer occasionally and scrape the sides of the bowl and break up the dough with your hands if necessary to help the butter mix in.

Once the butter is completely incorporated into the dough, mix on medium speed for another 15 minutes, until the dough becomes sticky and soft and somewhat shiny. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed for about 1 minute and you should hear it make a slap-slap-slap sound as the dough hits the sides of the bowl. Test the dough by pulling at it—when you pull at the dough it should stretch a bit and have a little give. If it seems wet and loose and more like a batter than a dough, add a few tablespoons of flour and mix until it comes together. If it breaks off into pieces when you pull at it, continue to mix it on medium for another 2 to 3 minutes until it develops more strength and stretches when you grab it. You should be able to gather it all together and pick it up all as one piece when it’s ready.

Place the dough in a large bowl or plastic container and cover the dough with plastic wrap—the plastic wrap should be directly on top of the dough, touching it. Let the dough proof (i.e., grow and develop flavor) in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.

WEEK 6 RECIPE

Chocolate Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Treats with Peanut Butter Ganache

Included in the kit:
1/4 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 10-ounce bags/280 grams regular or jumbo-sized marshmallows
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups/80 grams rice crispy cereal
1 cup/150 grams salted roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
Peanut Butter Ganache: (recipe follows)
8 ounces/210 grams semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (about 1 cup chopped)
3/4 cup/195 grams peanut butter
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

From home:
8 tablespoons/1 stick/115 grams unsalted butter

Grease an 8࡮ inch baking pan, spray it with cooking spray, or line it with parchment paper.

In a large pot, heat the butter over low heat. Scrape the seeds of the 1/4 vanilla bean or add the vanilla paste directly into the butter. Add the salt. Once the butter has melted it will start to bubble and crackle—if you lean in and listen it will sound like an audience of people clapping their hands politely (in anticipation of these treats!).

Watch the butter carefully and you’ll see it slowly browning as soon as the bubbling subsides, after about 5 minutes, the butter will be fully browned and it’s ready for the addition of the marshmallows. (Add the marshmallows right away at this point or the butter may burn, which you don’t want.) Keeping the heat on low, use a wooden spoon to stir in the marshmallows. Stir well until the marshmallows are completely melted and vanilla seeds are evenly distributed.

Remove the pot from the heat and add the cereal and peanuts. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Pat the mixture into the prepared pan. Let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Spread the Peanut Butter Ganache evenly over the top. Let cool until firmed up and cut into 9 pieces.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. Whisk in the peanut butter a few tablespoons at a time until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the salt. Peanut Butter Ganache may be made up to a week in advance store in an airtight container at room temperature and beat with a wooden spoon or in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment before using.

WEEK 5 RECIPE

Funfetti Angel Food Cake

Makes one 9-inch cake to serve 8 to 10

12 large whites (about 1 1/2 cups/360 grams)

(¾ c egg white powder included in kit- see instructions below)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract/vanilla paste

1 cup/100 grams sifted cake flour- sift flour first before measuring

1/3 cup/60 grams rainbow sprinkles

Fluffy Marshmallow Frosting | recipe follows

Heat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center of the oven.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, or in a large metal bowl if whisking by hand with a balloon whisk. (If using kit, place dried egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl and add 2¼ cups/530 grams water.) Whisk on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes. The whites will start to froth and bubble and eventually the yellowy viscous part of the whites will disappear. Keep whipping until you can see the tines of your whip or whisk leaving a slight trail in the whites. With the mixer speed still on medium speed (or while continuing to whip vigorously by hand), slowly add 3/4 cup/150 grams of the sugar and vanilla extract/paste to the egg whites a few tablespoons at a time. After adding a little sugar, let the sugar whip into the whites for 10 or so seconds, then add more sugar, then wait again 10 or so seconds. Continue this way until all of the sugar is added it should take at least 1 minute to add all the sugar. Once all the sugar is added to the whites whip on medium-high speed for 3 to 4 more minutes until the whites are glossy and shiny and hold a peak when you slowly lift the whip straight up and out of the whites. (If you are using dried egg whites this might take an additional 5 to 6 minutes!)

Stir together the cake flour, the remaining 3/4 cup/150 grams of sugar, rainbow sprinkles, and salt in a small bowl. Carefully sprinkle the flour mixture on top of the whites and gently and quickly fold it into the whites. When the flour and sprinkles are entirely mixed in, scrape the batter into an ungreased angel food cake 9-inch tube pan. Use a spoon or spatula to even off the top of the batter.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the entire top of the cake is light golden brown and the cake springs back when you press it lightly. Immediately remove the cake from the oven and turn the cake pan upside-down. This ensures that the cake does not deflate and compact onto itself and since your cake pan is not greased the cake won’t fall out. Leave the cake upside-down until it is entirely cooled, at least 2 hours. While the cake is cooling make the Fluffy Marshmallow Frosting and set aside.

When the cake is cool, turn the cake pan right side up and remove it from the pan by first running a knife around the edge of the pan and the inner tube of the pan, then popping out the removable bottom along with the cake, and then running a knife along the bottom of the pan. Turn the inner tube upside-down and remove the cake carefully and quickly, and then turn the cake right side up again. Frost the sides and top and inner tube with the frosting. Use an offset spatula or knife to smooth out the frosting. Use a propane torch to carefully torch the frosting all over to create a golden brown surface. (If you do not have a propane torch, use the broil function of your oven. Place the frosted cake in the oven and turn it every few minutes until the sides and top are toasted, 8 to 12 minutes total.) Serve immediately or at the very least within 5 to 6 hours (store at room temperature until then).

Fluffy Marshmallow Frosting

6 large egg whites (about 3/4 cup/180 grams egg whites)- 5.5 Tbsp egg white powder included in kit

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste

In a medium metal or glass bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg whites, vanilla, and salt to make a thick slurry. (If using kit place sugar/dried egg whites/vanilla/salt in a small bowl and add 240 grams/1 cup of water and whisk to combine. Let sit for a few minutes to help reconstitute the whites.) Place the bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water and whisk occasionally until the mixture is very hot to the touch, 6 to 8 minutes. You should say ouch when you poke your finger in it. It will thin out a bit as the sugar melts. If you have a thermometer it should read about 160 degrees fahrenheit.

Scrape the sugar-egg white mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip on medium-high speed for 6 to 8 minutes, until the mixture cools and frosting is glossy and shiny. Use immediately.

WEEK 4 RECIPE

Strawberry Slab Pie

Makes one slab pie to serve 8 to 10

Pate Brisee (recipe follows)

1 full quart/1 1/2 pounds/640 grams fresh strawberries, quartered (the size of a quart of berries varies according to where you buy it from so be sure to weigh them or make sure you have a full quart)

1/2 teaspoon fresh orange zest

2 tablespoons sanding or pearl sugar

Divide the Pate Brisee in half and place one half in the fridge while you work with the other. On a well-floured work surface, roll out one dough half about 1/4-inch thick so that it covers the bottom of a rimmed 9-by-13-inch quarter sheet pan or baking pan. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with the dough making sure to press the dough into the corners. You may need to patch it up if the dough tears it’s okay if the dough doesn’t fit the pan exactly. Refrigerate the pie bottom for at least 30 minutes to allow the dough to relax. While it is chilling remove the other dough half from the fridge and roll it into a rectangle about 1/4-inch thick and large enough to cover the whole top of the pie. Place the rolled-out dough on a baking sheet or large platter lined with parchment and place back into the fridge to keep it chilled until it is ready to use.

Heat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the pie bottom and fill the pan with pie weights to blind bake the pie bottom. Bake in the 350°F oven for about 20 to 30 minutes until the pie bottom is matte and pale golden brown. Remove the pie weights and the parchment and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, zest, and salt and toss to combine well. Let macerate for about 15 minutes. Pour the fruit and any accumulated juices onto the pie bottom. Remove the rolled-out dough from the fridge and drape it on top of the pie. Press down slightly on the rim to adhere the edges of the pie. Trim any excess dough so that there is just a slight overhang (the dough will shrink after baking so you want there to be a little extra along the edge). Whisk the egg in a small bowl to make an egg wash. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the top of the dough with the egg and sprinkle the top evenly with the sanding or pearl sugar. Slit the dough decoratively in 6 to 8 places to allow the steam from the fruit to escape while baking. Place the pie in the 350°F oven for 40 to 50 minutes until the top is dark golden brown through and through- no pale soggy places! Remove the pie from oven and let it cool for at least 2 hours so the fruit has time to set up. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store the pie well covered at room temperature for up to a day or in the fridge for up to 3 days. If you store it in the fridge, it’s best served warmed so reheat the pie in a 300°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the top and bottom of the pie crisp up a little bit.

Makes about 23 ounces/635 grams of dough, enough for one slab pie

2 cups/280 grams all-purpose flour

18 tablespoons/2 1/4 sticks/255 grams cold unsalted butter

1/4 cup/60 grams whole milk

2 large egg yolks (about 40 grams)

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer, paddle together the flour, sugar, and salt for 10 to 15 seconds. Cut the butter into about 12 pieces and add it to the flour. Paddle slowly until the flour is no longer bright white, holds together when you clump it, and there are still lumps of butter the size of a pecan throughout, 60 to 90 seconds. Whisk together the milk and yolks in a small bowl and add all at once to the flour-butter mix. Paddle very briefly, JUST until it barely comes together, about 30 seconds. It will look really shaggy and more like a mess than a dough.

Dump the dough out onto table and gather it into a tight mound. Using the heel of the palm of your hand, smear the dough, starting at the top of the mound and sliding your palm down the sides of the mound along the work surface, until most of the butter chunks are smeared into the dough and the whole thing comes together. (This technique is called fraisage and makes for a very flaky pie dough.) Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and press it down to make a flattened disk. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before using. The dough may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days (wrapped in another layer of plastic if storing for more than 1 day) and for up to 4 weeks in the freezer.

WEEK 3 RECIPE

Marvelous Multigrain Sourdough

Makes two 8-inch round loaves

11/2 cups (340 grams) water at body temperature (when you put your finger in it, it should feel neither cold nor hot)

3/4 cup (125 grams) whole wheat flour

3/4 cup (125 grams) spelt or buckwheat flour

3 cups (420 grams) all-purpose flour

About 3/4 pound (350 grams) Bread Sponge (recipe follows)

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
(note: if you purchased the kit the salt is included in the honey portion)

About 1/4 cup cornmeal for the baking sheet

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment (or by hand in a large bowl), mix together water, whole wheat flour, buckwheat flour, and all-purpose flour for about a minute until the flour is mixed into the water and you have a shaggy stiff dough. (To prevent the flour from flying out of the bowl turn mixer on and off several times until the flour is mixed into the liquid and then keep it on low speed.) Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and let sit for about 10 minutes. (This is called an autolyse, and it allows the water to hydrate the flour, which makes for better mixing down the road.)

Add the sponge, honey, and salt to the dough and mix for 3 to 4 minutes on medium-low speed until the dough is smooth. The dough should be somewhat sticky and but still smooth, and have the consistency of an earlobe (strange as that may sound). If it’s stiffer than this add a few tablespoons of water and if it’s looser than this add a few tablespoons of flour. Add the millet, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds and mix for another 2 to 3 minutes until the seeds are all completely and evenly distributed within the dough.

Place the dough in a draft-free warm place (78 to 82 degrees is ideal an area near the stove is good or an oven with only the pilot light on is good too) for 3 to 4 hours. The dough will rise up a little bit (but not a lot) and it will feel a little loose and relaxed.

Flour your hands and your work surface and turn the dough out of the bowl. Divide the dough in half with a knife or a bench scraper. Shape each half into a ball by tucking the edges of the dough underneath and continuing to tuck the edges of the dough underneath until the dough naturally gathers into a ball shape with a taut surface. (At this point you may store the shaped loaves in the fridge overnight. Remove the next day and proceed as directed below.)

Place the shaped loaves on a baking sheet sprinkled with a generous amount of cornmeal to keep the loaves from sticking to the sheet. Cover them loosely with plastic wrap and let them sit at warm room temperature for 2 to 3 hours or until the bread has loosened up and seems relaxed. It won’t poof up too much but it will seem much softer.

Heat the oven to 500 degrees. (It’s very important to make sure the oven comes to temperature before you place the bread inside! The heat from the oven ensures that your loaves will get enough oomph to rise and grow.)

Sprinkle the tops of the loaves with 2 to 3 tablespoons of flour. Slash the bread with a knife and place the baking sheet in the oven. Place a rimmed baking sheet or a shallow pan filled with about 1 cup of water on a shelf underneath the bread. The steam from the water will create a nice moist atmosphere for your bread to grow. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the bread is golden brown on top.

Baker’s Bite: To slash bread, use a sharp paring knife or a razor blade. Dip it in water to keep it from dragging. Use the tip of the knife or blade, not the length of it, and use quick sure movements. You want the bread to be evenly divided with your slashes so that the bread expands evenly. For round loaves, either make four slashes in a square so you end up with a little hat in the middle of your bread, or make slash one slash down the middle of the bread and a few slashes diagonally on either side, meeting the middle.

Baker’s Bite: Anything that can be shaped into a round loaf can be shaped into small round rolls. If you prefer, each of these recipes could make 16 to 18 peach-size rolls.

1 cup (140 grams) plus 1/4 cup (35 grams) all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast

Stir together the water, 1 cup flour, and yeast until well mixed and sloshy. Place in a covered container and leave out at room temperature for at least 4 and up to 8 hours.

Stir in the other 1/4 cup flour, which will stiffen up the mother into a loose dough. Cover and leave in refrigerator overnight. Use as directed in following recipes.

WEEK 2 RECIPE

Double Chocolate Rye Cookies

3/4 cup/90 grams walnut halves

9 ounces/255 grams bittersweet chocolate- 4 ounces for melting/5 ounces for chopping

6 ounces/170 grams unsweetened chocolate- 5 ounces for melting/1 ounce for shaving

1/2 cup/1 stick/115 grams unsalted butter

4 large eggs (about 200 grams)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

**Butter and eggs are not shipped in the kit.**

Heat the oven to 350°F and position a rack in the center of the oven. Toast the walnuts for 8 to 10 minutes until they start to smell fragrant and are lightly golden brown when you break one in half. Remove from the oven and let cool. Roughly chop into large pieces. Set aside.

Measure out 5 ounces of the unsweetened chocolate and 4 ounces of the bittersweet chocolate (i.e. the chocolate labeled “for melting” in the DCC kit) and place with your butter in a metal bowl. Melt the chocolates and butter together over a pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until completely melted. Remove from the heat.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or an electric hand mixer, whisk together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla paste for about 5 minutes on medium high speed, until light and thick and pale yellow. With the mixer on low speed slowly add the melted chocolate and butter and mix for about 15 seconds. It will not be completely well mixed at this point—that’s okay because you will finish combining all of the ingredients by hand.

Chop the remaining 5 ounces of bittersweet chocolate into 1/2-inch chunks and shave the remaining 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate for fine shavings (if getting a kit this chocolate is in the second chocolate container). In a separate medium bowl, stir together the rye flour, the chopped bittersweet chocolate, the shaved unsweetened chocolate, baking powder, salt, and toasted walnuts. Remove the mixing bowl from the mixer, add the dry ingredients, and fold these in by hand until the batter is completely homogeneous.

For best results, scrape dough into an airtight container and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight (or at least 3 to 4 hours) before baking. The next day, heat the oven to 350°F and position a rack in the center of the oven.

Drop the dough in 1/4-cup scoops onto a baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake in the preheated 350°F oven for about 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and are soft but not liquidy when you press them in the middle.

Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool for 10 to 15 minutes on the sheet, then remove the cookies from the sheet and let them continue cooling on a wire rack.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days. The unbaked dough can be stored for up to 1 week in an airtight container in the refrigerator or up to a month in the freezer.

WEEK 1 RECIPE

Vegan Lowfat Chocolate Cake

Makes one 8-inch cake (serves 8-10)

2 1/2 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour

1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar

2/3 cup (120 grams) semi-sweet chocolate chips

2/3 cup (80 grams) cocoa powder

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder or 2 tablespoons instant coffee powder

2 cups (480 grams) cold water

1/2 cup (100 grams) vegetable oil such as canola

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350˚ and position the oven rack in the center of the oven. Oil and flour the 8 inch cake pan. Remove the excess flour from the pan.

In a medium bowl, stir the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, and the salt. In another bowl, whisk together the water, oil, vanilla and molasses. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth. Pour into prepared cake pan.

Bake for 50-55 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center. Let cool in the pan for an hour on a wire rack, then remove the cake, and continue to cool on the wire rack, cake right side up until cooled completely if you can wait that long.

Just before serving dust with confectioners’ sugar. Cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for two days.


Blueberry Lavender Vanilla Ice Cream – Vegan, Gluten-free, Refined Sugar-free

I cannot believe this is the first time this summer that I have pulled out my ice cream maker. So many missed ice cream opportunities. It actually makes me a little sad. But, don’t worry, I am back and committed to playing with my ice cream maker.

I found myself insanely inspired this past weekend after a super fun trip to the farmers market after yoga. I met up with some friends and I ended up spending over 2 hours there, buying delicious foods, chatting, getting inspired and seeing tons friends and even some family. It was a really fun morning. I had planned in advance to meet up with Janine, Alyssa and her boyfriend Daren. Alyssa recently started a blog, Wild Roots, where she shares her recipes for allergen-free foods as well as her incredible knowledge of the many benefits of the foods she cooks with. Alyssa has some really big plans she is working on that is going to be great for Buffalo, I am so excited for her and plan to be one of her biggest cheerleaders. Alyssa and I talked forever about food and cooking, playing with pairing unsuspecting ingredients together and so much more. Alyssa is such a breath of fresh air with her food and I am totally inspired by what she is doing. After sharing a recipe last week for Lavender Honey Glazed Sweet Potato Wraps with Garlic Crusted Mushrooms & Spicy Pea Spread, I recalled my search for lavender a while back where I was left empty handed. I didn’t think it would be that hard to find. I had planted some lavender last summer and for whatever reason it never really grew that well. Whether it be hubby’s lawn mower, the dog, another critter or just imperfect conditions, it never really made it. I had so many plans for that little plant and it just left me dreaming.

After being reminded of my search for lavender, finding out where to buy it locally (the Lexington Co-Op near the other dried spices and herbs), spending a few hours at the farmers market (where I purchased a beautiful basket of blueberries) and chatting with friends about delicious food, I came home inspired to make something seasonal, beautiful and tasty. This Blueberry Lavender Vanilla Ice Cream is just as delicious as it looks. That color is even more beautiful that the photos show and as I was making it, I wished I could bottle the scents up and wear them as a perfume. If the idea of eating lavender doesn’t appeal to you because of it’s floral scent, I really recommend trying to give it a shot anyway. You’ll be quite surprised at how wonderful it is. The subtle flavor that the lavender brings is so beautiful, delicate and perfect with the fresh tartness from the blueberries. The strong vanilla undertones rounds it all out so nicely, bringing it all together into a creamy, dreamy dessert that is perfect on a hot summer evening.

It was quite hot and muggy today, so I took my photos as fast as I could. I may have eaten a bowl of ice cream in between shots, ya know – cuz it was melting and all.

Happy 4th of July to all of my American readers. I hope your day is filled with family, friends, fun, delicious food and lots of magic! Enjoy!


[print_this]Blueberry Lavender Vanilla Ice Cream * – Vegan, Gluten-free, Refined Sugar-free

  • 1 quart fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (honey or agave)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 1/2 cups full fat organic coconut milk (about 1 1/2 cans)
  • 2 tablespoons dried culinary lavender blossoms
  • 1 vanilla bean (or an additional 1-2 tablespoons of vanilla extract at the end)
  • 1 cup unsweetened organic vanilla almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large sauce pan over medium-heat, add blueberries, maple syrup and 1 cup water, bring to the start of a boil then drop the heat down and allow it to simmer for about 5-8 minutes. Continue simmering until the berries begin to pop and break open, remove from the heat and using a fine strainer, pour the mixture into the strainer, over a bowl, catching the berries. Then add the syrup back to the saucepan and add the blueberries to the pitcher of your blender and set aside.

Add the coconut milk and lavender to the pan with the blueberry syrup. Slice open the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the pan, then go ahead and toss the whole bean in, too. Over a medium-high heat, allow to mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes, then remove from the pan from the heat, cover and allow the lavender and vanilla to infuse for about 15 minutes or longer.

Using the fine strainer, strain the liquid into the blender with the blueberries, gently pressing down onto the lavender and the vanilla bean to get all of the flavor. Add the extra vanilla and the almond milk and blend until very smooth.

Pour the mixture into a large glass bowl, cover and place in the refrigerator for at least a few hours, or overnight. I usually just leave it overnight.

Once chilled, pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s directions. Eat right away as a soft-serve or add to a freezable container and place in the freezer for at least 8 hours or longer, to firm up. Freeze until it is firm enough to scoop.

TIPS: Try freezing your ice cream in a loaf pan, covered in wax paper and foil. Really press that wax paper down and every time you serve some, repress the wax paper down. This will help to keep it from getting freezer burnt. You can also add a tablespoon or two of vodka to the mixture, which doesn’t affect the taste but will help keep it from getting too hard. I didn’t do it this time around since I didn’t have any vodka in the house, but I usually do.

*NOTE: If you don’t have an ice cream maker, these would be great as popsicles, too! Thanks for the idea, Alex!


Lobster Lovers Cooking Class

Lobster Lovers Cooking Class

We attended the Lobster Lovers class at Publix Aprons® Cooking School . My husband and I like shrimp better than lobster, but this menu looked too tempting to resist. We prefer the demo classes where students sit at white-clothed tables rather than the hands-on ones where you have to do the actual work. In the demo variety, after the chef makes each dish in front of us, we get to eat it with an accompanying wine. This makes for a gourmet meal complete with recipes and cooking tips.

Grilled Lobster, Shrimp and Andouille Chowder paired with an Erath Pinot Grigio.

This was delicious and filling, making it a good choice for a hearty winter soup. We liked the wine, a pleasant taste to our palates. Cooking tip 1: Maine cold water lobster is sweeter than warm water Caribbean varieties. Cooking tip 2: Rather than dunking shrimp into a pot of boiling water, put it into a pot when the water is room temperature and bring it to a boil along with the water.

Spiny Lobster and Mango Spring Rolls with Tarragon-Lime Aioli paired with a Benzinger Sauvignon Blanc.

This was a tasty appetizer. I especially liked the aioli even though I’m not a big tarragon fan. Cooking tip 1: An emulsifier binds substances together like vinegar and oil. Examples of emulsifiers are mustard, egg yolks, and garlic. Cooking tip 2: Pasteurized eggs reduce the chance of salmonella if you are using raw eggs in a recipe. As for the wine, it didn’t seem to have as much body as the first one and was too light for our tastes.

Pan-Bronzed Lobster Risotto with Roasted Corn Relish and Orange-Sherry Reduction paired with a Layer Cake Chardonnay.

I liked the lobster, sauce, and corn relish but there was too much risotto in comparison. Cooking tip, if I heard correctly: You can roast corn in its husk at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. I prefer my method, which is microwaving it in the husk for 4 minutes, chopping off both ends, and sliding the husk off. We really liked this wine choice, our favorite of the evening.

Peach Brown Betty with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream paired with a Chateau St. Michelle Riesling.

This dessert was lip-smacking good. So good and easy to make that I might even make it at home once I lose the weight I’d gained here tonight. However, I’ll use store-bought ice cream instead of making my own. The wine was too sweet for our tastes. Cooking tip 1: Use frozen and thawed sliced peaches instead of blanching and peeling fresh ones. Cooking tip 2: Cinnamon is an anesthetic so if you eat too much, it can numb your tongue.

Contests and Giveaways

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Celebrate Sweetest Day with Kurman’s Clients

If you can look past the obvious Hallmark creation of Sweetest Day, (hitting us upside the head this Saturday, October 18) and just appreciate it for what it is (an excuse to be taken out for a romantic dinner, and indulge in delicious sweets) then you’ve come upon the perfect post. We’ve highlighted the best of what’s out there for Sweeties on Sweetest Day:

Birch River Grill (75 W Algonquin Rd, Arlington Hts, IL (847) 427-4242) (BRG) has the lovely look of an upscale wintry snow lodge. It makes you just want to park yourself on the plush seats and eat till your heart’s content. Order the Rock Shrimp Scampi Linguini ($16) and try not to relive Lady and the Tramp’s pasta scene with your loved one. Save room for the Aunt Aggie’s Carrot Cake for Two ($10) – BRG’s signature dessert. A 3-layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and candied walnuts served on its very own pedestal. Can you say: adorable?

Deerfields Bakery (3 locations: 813 N. Waukegan Rd, Deerfield 201 N Buffalo Grove Rd, Buffalo Grove 25 South Roselle Rd, Schaumburg) is a fantastic spot for all those Sweeties with Celiac Disease Deerfields specializes in all things delicious, from chocolate croissants to cakes to deli salads but they have a special line for Gluten-Free goods, such as cookies, cakes and pastries. People with Celiac Disease deserve sweets too!

Dine (733 W Madison St Chicago, IL 312-602-2111) in downtown Chicago, is a classic American eatery, with a decidedly glamorous style. Indulge in the Daily Selection Cold Water Oysters ($13), a time-honored aphrodisiac, served with Appropriate Garnish. Also on the menu is the Portobello Mushroom Ravioli ($15) in an Herb Broth, with Sweet Peas and Parmesan. Gracie’s Red Velvet Cake, layered and large enough for two, is a gorgeous dessert Cream Cheese Frosting, Pecan Praline, and Vanilla Scented Strawberries are all amazing on their own, but together, they are perfection.

Karma (510 E Il Route 83, Mundelein, IL 847-970-6900), an upscale Pan-Asian restaurant, sporting a very modern and romantic flair features a Sticky Five Spice and Honey Glazed Spare Ribs appetizer ($9) served with Sweet Potato Matchsticks. This sweet and spicy starter, with layered textures and tastes, is sure to get the heart beating. The Chocolate Moelleux Cake ($8), accompanied by minted cream and red current coulis, is a satisfyingly sweet way to end the romantic evening.

MORE (1 E Delaware Pl, Chicago 312-951-0001) is a chic boutique cupcakery that looks like a jewelry store, but instead of diamonds, this spot dishes out gems of cupcakes. The flavors are meals in themselves: Fig, Blue Cheese and Port Valhrona Chocolate, Crème Brulee. If your Sweetie can be somewhat salty at times, bring home a Salted Caramel cupcake ($3.50), Moist vanilla cake surrounding an eruption of buttery salted caramel, blanketed by a silky caramel Italian meringue buttercream, garnished with black lava salt.

Tallulah (4539 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago 773-942-7585), intimate and lovely, Tallulah is a fantastic date place. Order the Red Wine Braised Pot Roast ($19), served with Braised Leeks, Mashed Parsnip, and Chervil Jus and wait for the apple of your beloved’s cheeks to get all rosey from the red wine. A must for Sweetest Day dessert would be the Ancho Chile and Chocolate Mousse ($7) with Roasted Banana Bisque it’s hard to beat spicy and sweet.


Heart Shaped Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes

This month I have teamed up with the folks over at DOLE to bring you a heart-healthy, heart-inspired recipe for American Heart Health month. It also just so happens to be Valentines Day this weekend, so if you're looking to make something healthy, delicious, and sweet (and in the shape of a heart!), this recipe is for you.


She craves

In a small saucepan, combine 2 cups of water, 1 cup of milk (at least reduced fat, please), 5 whole cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 3 crushed cardamom pods, 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, 5 white peppercorns, 5 black peppercorns and about 1-inch's worth of ginger root, thinly sliced. I don't bother peeling it. Yes, I have a thing for odd numbers, especially prime numbers.

Don't be appalled by the sheer number of spices used -- contrary to what Morton & Basset may have you believe, good spices can be purchased relatively inexpensively. Do as the Indian, Chinese and Middle Eastern ex-pats do and peruse the spice aisles of their community/ethnic grocers. No glass bottles of exotic scents, just unassuming plastic pouches filled with whole cloves, coriander seeds and the like. Thanks to them, I always have whole spices on hand to make something like a cup of tea. [Author's note: I really do dislike the term "Ethnic" markets because in my experience it usually refers to those of us with darker skin tones, Mongolian eye folds, etc. But really, let's all admit we're ethnic and help me find another term to use for these markets.]

Bring to a simmer over high heat and reduce heat. Let cook and steep, uncovered, all its wonderful flavors until reduced by one-third (usually about 15 to 20 minutes of gentle bubbling). Then add three bags worth of black loose leaf tea. Keep simmering for about 5 minutes or until you achieve that desired hue of khaki to the liquid.

Strain out the mixture into a teapot or pitcher or another saucepan. Get rid of the aromatics. And then sweeten the smooth tea with turbinado sugar (the less refined the better -- you need that treacly goodness to add even more depth) to your taste. Finally, add a pinch of salt. Really. It makes everything even more luscious.

Makes enough for 3 servings or one for prolonged sipping over a list and pen and paper. Sip or gulp depending on mood. You don't have to share the pot if you don't want to. But it isn't bad to rack up some good karma.

Pandoro French Toast for Christmas

Most people - myself included - have one or two dishes that they hold close to their hearts. These dishes are considered the markers of big events like family gatherings, post-recital dinners or holidays.

For my folks, there's nothing more indicative of their successful American dream like a steak dinner (at a screaming good value, even better if a salad bar is included). Nothing screams Dickensian holiday like roast beef and a tray of steaming hot, bouffant Yorkshire pudding. Serial dieters dream of their first taste of cheesecake.

My special occasion dish - French toast.

Tags: christmas breakfast, french toast, holiday breakfast, holiday french toast, pandoro, pandoro french toast

A Different Sort of Caramelized Nuts

There's sugar and then there's sugar. For someone like me who takes an unnatural delight in food shopping, the world of sweeteners hits way beyond C&H's pink and white packaging. Of course, there's light brown for cookies of every sort. Then there's demerera with its caramel, crunchy grains. A puck of palm sugar sits in my cupboard and gets a good shave everytime I (or rather, The Voracious One) constructs a Thai curry from scratch. Muscovado, musky and dark, is the sexiest sugar I know. But for the sake of pairing with nuts in the name of a craving or perhaps, some holiday gift-giving, I turn to the sugar from India with a phonetically fun name: Jaggery.

Chocolate Rum Cake

I started a pot of water to cook some pasta. Somewhere, I don't know when, I lost interest and forgot about it until I heard the stove top hiss with the sweat of the hot pot. I let it boil.

Baking is a loving, yet precarious act for me. I am not terribly good at it, but I am more than willing to try. Loaf cakes and quick breads are allies and stand-bys. Cookies a wary friend. But full-on frosted glory cakes -- those were another creature I hadn't really stared in the face.

But it's the holidays when people who don't really shop do so. When people who aren't so giving, suddenly feel obligated to give change, donations, and brightly wrapped gifts to those in their lives. Suddenly we're all a bit more cheerful (in theory). So then is my token toward humanity's goodness -- baking. 

It's the time of year when non-cooks take on that painstaking and sometimes painful venture of baking something for someone. If they're crafty or just don't care, maybe the ready-made cookie dough on a festive paper plate. If you're trying to impress your cadre of blogger friends, something dainty and delicious. Or if you're like me, you resort to your pastry goddess friends' talents and pick up something from a professional.

But if there were ever an occasion to try, to give that bit of extra effort, perhaps this is it. The weather is usually shit. The places where you need to run your errands (your usual excuses to not bake) are crowded. You might as well stay in and bake. So bring together two of the best things known to mankind, chocolate and booze, for the ultimate act of love. 

When you offer those in your life something as epically made-from-scratch as this, it's the human equivalent of the cat leaving a dead bird on your doorstep, baking that is. Like the cat you present it, smugly, calmly. "Here," your eyes say. "I made this for you." 

Chocolate Rum Cake Because It's the Holidays

4 ounces melted dark chocolate like Pralus Djakarta (found at stores that actually give a shit about chocolate) * 2 cups and 2 tablespoons all purpose flour (sea level folks won't need the 2 spoonfuls) * 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda * 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg * 2 sticks soft unsalted butter * 1ف/4 cups granulated sugar * 1 teaspoon vanilla OR bourbon * 4 eggs * 1 1/2 cups buttermilk * Buttercream (see below) * toasted coconut

Preheat the oven - real or imaginary - to 375 degrees.

Take a medium bowl from the cupboard in your head or from the kitchen and stir together the dry ingredients (all the way to the nutmeg).

In large bowl (or a stand mixer bowl) cream the butter and sugar together until it's pretty fluffy. Scrape the sides of a bowl with one of those indispensible rubber spatulas. Beat in the vanilla and eggs (one at a time into the bowl) until blended. Slowly drizzle in the buttermilk. Then add the dry mixture to the butter using a low speed. Add the chocolate and scape down the sides again and mix until it's evenly, smoothly, gorgeously glossy and dark.

Divide the batter between to 9-inch cake pans. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Like other cakes, you know it's done when the toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let it cool completely. Now is a good time to fall asleep, if need be.

Use a knife to trim the cake into a uniform thickness. I can't vouch for technique other than a long, sharp blade (like a bread or meat carving knife), an inclination for OCD or even a leveler if you're that way. No matter, because the frosting is what will save you. Frost the top of one cake with the buttercream and top it with the other layer. Frost the top of that, then down the sides in a sloppy, non-chalant way. It will still look good. Using your hands, press the toasted coconut onto the frosted sides (get it? it's like glue) until the sides are covered and nothing but the luscious top shows.

Serves 12 polite people 8 greedy ones or 1 restless soul.

Rum Buttercream

1 stick soft unsalted butter * 4 cups sifted powdered sugar * 1/3 cup earth brown cocoa (I'll plea to not use alkalized so that some flavor comes through I used Pralus cocoa powder to echo the melted chocolate in the cake) * 1/2 cup dark rum 

Beat the butter until soft and fluffy. Add half of the sugar and beat until smooth. Scrape down the bowl and add the rest of the sugar, cocoa and rum until it's smooth and spreadable. If you're the plan-in-advance-type, this will keep covered in the fridge for a day or two.

Recipes adapted from Susan G. Purdy's Pie in the Sky baking book.

Unexpected and Good: Cool Melon Salad w/Fried Olives & Goat Cheese

My father used to call me "melon head" (rather its Korean equivalent). To this day, I'm not sure if it's because of the sheer size of my noggin or my intense love of the ripe juicy fruit. One of the few photos of me as a kid shows me in a cotton summer dress, fat rolls bulging out the bodice seam, with my hair pulled back after a day playing with the hose. I'm sitting atop the small dark wood dining table, my feet facing my paternal grandmother who under normal circumstances I was dreadfully afraid of. But I called a truce on my fear because we were both feasting on fat slices of juicy watermleon.

Tags: israeli melon, melon, melon recipe, no cook recipe, summer eating, summer salad

Know Thy Beekeeper

Buyer beware. This cuddly little guy may be hiding a dirty little secret from the honey "industry." The golden stuff so filtered and processed it lacks the pollen particles that vital to make it. That means the millions of folks who buy honey from supermarkets thinking they're getting help from allgergies and all the beneficial properties of honey are getting nothing but a large spoonful of processed sugar.

More filtration means dminished quality. More cost to us, the consumers. Check out this article for the complete lowdown and a list of honeys who failed to actually provide, well, honey.

The only foolproof way to ensure you're getting the real deal:  Know thy (and love) thy beekeeper.

Tags: bee keepers, beekeepers, fake honey, honey, honey artisans, honey quality, honey safety, real honey, wild honey

How Do You Like THESE Apples?

Nothing against apple pie, but alone, it never quite cut it for it me. Oh I admire the pairing of crust and fruit and the middle ground of spiced juices that cools into a goo that, when done well, is quite heavenly. But more often than not, the bottom crusts turn out as appealing thickly-spread wallpaper glue and the fruit tastes more of the sugar jar than of the tree and the sun that babied it into existence. And if there were a top crust? That's a whole other story. You don't want to get me started.

Therein lies the appeal to the classic tarte tatin. It's one of those cases where things in another language — especially French — immediately sound more appealing, sophisticated and delicious. 

Boeuf bourguignon = red wine beef stew

Sole Meuniere = Sauteed Sole in Butter

Tarte Tatin = Upside-down apple tart

Tags: apple dessert, apple pie, apple pie recipe, apple recipes, apple tart, apple tart recipe, apples and cheese, tarte tatin

Haagen-Dazs Blueberry Crumble, You Kill Me (And Not in the Good Way)

The kids can have their halloween candy. My sweet fix needs to be something a bit more comforting, a bit more cold, creamy, and ideally, something that need not be rationed out or, even worse, shared.

I make no secret about my love of desserts. I make it a priority in any special dinner out. And when life can be especially tricky or the mind needs a bit of comforting, my dessert of choice is ice cream. More often than not, dessert often becomes the meal. Which in a way is a good thing, considering that I can easily put away a whole pint by my lonesome. 

Nutritious? No. But comforting, completely. That is, it usually is. 

"Haagen-Dazs" and "sucked" are words I don't usually use together. After all, who am I to argue with their dense offering of Dulce de Leche, Cookie Dough, deeply flavorful Mint Chocolate Chip, Coffee, even a plain but stunning vanilla? It's a go-to. An easy fix when the craving strikes. And it struck hard the night of Halloween. 

Like an addict I made a night time pilgrimage, long after the Optimus Primes, Vampires, and Slutty Cops had retired from public viewing, to my dealer. In this case, a supermarket with a paltry ice cream selection. But there it was, Haagen-Dazs Limited Edition Blueberry Crumble. It was supposed to be so good. "After slowly simmering ripe blueberries," it says, "we fold them into dense blueberry ice crea with rich, buttery cobbler crust and crumbles." They even include a flavor sheet on the side of the pint to prepare for the flavor bomb about to unfold. Flavor bomb me.

I should have figured from the air-light pint something was amiss. The "dense blueberry ice cream" was a cloud, a sad whimper of fruit thanks to high overrun (air churned into the ice cream custard) and slightly freezer burned from bad temperature control. The blueberry crumbles, nothing but texture that left an oily film on my sad sad tongue. 

Oh, Haagen-Dazs Blueberry Crumble, where were my simmering ripe blueberries? Where was my bursting fruit flavor, my top note of bright ripe blueberries? This was supposed to be my treat, my guilty pleasure. Turned out to be a trick. Empty calories never turned out to be more true.

There was nothing guilty about you except for the fact that you sucked. I want my money (and calories) back.

Tags: blueberry crumble, Haazgen-Dazs, ice cream reviews

FLASHBACK: Cherry Almond Cake

[NOTE:  Another oldie, but goodie. When I first typed in the title, "cherry" was "cheery" and for once I believe my careless fingers meant this typo for this cake summons up the warmth, sunshine, and pleasant feeling of summer. Which, quite frankly, we could all use considering the wonky state of climactic things around the country. So whether you're shriveling from merciless heat or wondering if fall came early, this cake in its simplicity and straightforward flavor will at least give you the taste of a true summer. Try it with some homemade creme fraiche.]

Yes, I suck at baking. Yes, I've been trying my hand at a few recipes requiring flour, some sort of leavening agent, all manner of seasoning and the suffocating heat of the oven. Call me a masochist, but the last few dishes I've made had me peeking over the oven door to see if things had gotten golden brown.
 

Sometimes, you have to do things that will hurt. In my case, it involves baking. First, biscuits. Now a cake. The inspiration came from a phenomenal woman I know, Susan Massey. This all-around gorgeous human being and food stylist extraordinaire arrived at a dinner party with this cake. Not just any cake. But a Cherry Almond Cake.

Tags: almond, almond cake, cherry, cherry cake, cherry cake, cherry desserts, cherry desserts, flourless cake, stone fruit, stonefruit cake, summer cake, summer cake, summer desserts, summer dessertscherry

What to Do with Shitty Produce: Strawberries

 
The weather seems to be a bit confused. In our neck of the woods, sunshine was delayed and a grey-green spring seemed eternal. In other parts of the world, the sun came out as fiercely as a scorned and wigged-out Whitney Houston battling with Bobby Brown.

Though you wouldn't know about all this climactic confusion on the grocery shelves. For the most part, the produce section ticked along like clockwork, to its own peculiar rhythm dictated by consumer training and expectation.

Slowly, you know things are starting to sink back into a skewed normality as the raspberries do start to appear, as does watermelon from some place far more searing with its sunshine and thirsty in water, and the inevitable display of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. The latter often comes displayed among a mountain of pre-made yellow sponge "shortcakes," brick worked like a pyramid, flanked by the ever faithful and seemingly ever-present strawberry. It's a sight to behold. Summer cookouts, barbecues, and casual neighborly get togethers. It's emblematic of summer.

Too bad then, that they don't often taste like summer. When put together in the suggested shortcake, these gorgeous gems turn out to be no more interesting than a dimwitted, but attractive woman. Bosomy, luscious-looking, but anemic in personality. They take on the personalities of the forces of whipped cream and sugar and industrial cake, losing any characteristic of its own. What happened to tasting sunshine? What happened to tasting an honest-to-god strawberry?

Herein, lies the trouble of much produce we come across today, no matter the season or product. They're just plain shitty. Coming up against these disappointments, in a moment of frustration, I've created a recurring section called "WHAT TO DO WITH . [insert shitty produce item here]."

Tags: balsamic strawberry, honey, Italian strawberry, strawberry, strawberry dessert, summer dessert

Hurray for Lazy Sundays: An Omelet and a Stack of Pancakes

It's a bittersweet thought. The sheer pleasure of lazy Sunday mornings. So lazy that the morning seeps into the afternoon. Pajamas are suitable all-day attire. The paper or an unfinished book must be finished, with each page savored. There's always a pot of coffee or tea ready to be poured. And perhaps most importantly, breakfast can be served at any time of the day.

It's a bittersweet thought, that this feast of an omelet and a stack of homemade pancakes, this joy (like so many other sources of joy) is a luxury nowadays. It is rare, which makes its occurrence so sweet, like the appearance of the first strawberry blossoms on a long-given up plant or finding or the weekday cocktail before you even think about dinner.

Tags: breakfast, eggs, herbs, omelet, pancakes

FLASHBACK: Chocolate-Dipped Candied Ginger

Crystallized ginger dipped into melted dark chocolate

[EDITOR'S NOTE:   The words "chocolate-dipped" and "candied" signal special occassion, or more specifically, holidays, in my mind.  This "recipe" is an example of making a virtue out of pantry necessity.  Any dried fruit is worth dipping into chocolate.  And when the chocolate is good, it's hard to beat.  This recipe is perfect for those last its of random chocolate bars and the "bloomed" (white, dusty surface) of chocolate hanging around on your shelves.  Even though it's a simple dip, keep the chocolate quality good.  Bean-to-bar chocolate makers using good beans make a world of difference. And in a recipe like this where glory rests on the shoulders of two ingredients, it matters.  Brands I like:  Amano, Domori, Amedei, Patric, Valrhona and Pralus.  Let them rest on the baking sheet and serve immediately.  Once hardened you can wrap them into a plastic pouch in half dozen batches and call Christmas neighborly gift giving, good.]

One "simple" truth in the kitchen: simple is always good. Easy is not a cop-out. It's just reality. I pump my fist like Tiger Woods everytime I see a food writer put "Shopping is 50% of cooking," into print. Because it's so true. Buy a few good things and something, intuitively, can come together. Even when there are just two ingredients involved. In this case, crystallized (candied) ginger I bought for the holiday's gingersnaps and dark chocolate (because, well, do I really need an explanation for this one?).

Tags: candied fruit, candied ginger, edible gifts, ginger, ginger, hand made gifts, holiday dessert, holiday gifts, homemade gifts

Miss V's Ghetto-fabulous Peanut Butter Cups

There are days where I am tired of being a grown up. Strike that. There are days where I am tired of trying to be a grown up.

I've always believed that despite whatever academic transcipts show and the boastings of once-proud parents, I've been quite retarded in my growth when it came to confidence.  People are often disturbed when I tell them that I wet through my teenage years as a pessimistic 20-something. Under the wing of a loving but a nerve-wrecked mother, my M.O. has always been to anticipate the worst from the get-go. Whatever doesn't happen then is a godsend.

Don't believe me? Take an average conversation with my mother. Whether in person or over the phone she manages to turneven the happiest of scenarios into well-springs of worry.

"How's the writing going? They're not going to fire you, are they?"

Variations include: "Hi honey, have you gotten fired yet?" "Be good. Don't lose your job." "Will you ever go to grad school?" "When are you going to buy a house?" "Have you and Andy broken up?"

And so on. I was weaned on this sort of thinking and as a consequence stayed on a safe road of doing whatever someone else says. I still retained a bit of sass with a veneer of mock confidence as well as a significant amount of body mass since my mother and I seemed to agree that feeding insecurity to be a good thing.

But it all crumbled when I turned 22 and realized that everything I wanted to do in life had nothing to do with the past years I spent studying or were things that did not make themselves obvious. I had no idea what to do. No one told me that growing up was going to be this demoralizing.

Then one day, the most obvious of things presented itself. The late night I made strawberry mint custard tarts for a friend, the moments I insisted we cook massive amounts of comfort food during snow days, even the solitary meals I cooked for my unemployed ass in my early 20s came together into an idea, still loose, but appealing.

Then writing popped its head up from the messy realm of possibilities. And suddenly it all made a little more sense. But again, no one told me that growing up would entail fighting the same battles with insecurity -- in every sense -- with yourself and with others who insist you build a better life for yourself on their terms.

With my ample childhood training, I take the chorus to heart. Anticipating the worst, why wouldn't I buy a house? Why wouldn't I give up on writing, on food, on any whisper of a dream or goal I had?

It's as if the volume has been turned up in my head and even two ideas are overwhelming. I soak in the residual stress. I contemplate possibilities and options. I pace. I lose sleep. I fester.

Then, finally, I cook. For no one else but me, however delicately or messily I want to execute it. It started with a handful of Valrhona feves (not the literal translation of "seeds," but thin ovals of single-origin chocolate) and an exasperated reach for a jar of peanut butter. I dipped the chocolate as if it were a tortilla chip in salsa. As a testament to me being an emotional eater, each bite calmed me alarmingly so, that eventually, I gave it up and decided to make something of the moment.

So, I present here the most ghetto-fabulous, serpendipitous recipe for anyone seeking refuge in the kitchen. You can draw out the process as long as you need. Melt and chill the chocolate. Then the peanut butter. Then finally another bit of chocolate. But if you're mood is such that you need a flurry of activity, the freezer is perfect.

And yes, despite the name, these are suitable for those without said fatigue. Just be sure to use good ingredients. I've long given up trying to console myself with crap.

  Peanut Butter Cups To Soothe Grown-Up Fatigue

1/4 cup dark brown sugar * 1 cups confectioners'/powdered sugar * scant 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened * 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (please please please please NO corn syrup or hydrogenated fats in this one, it's supposed to taste like peanuts, remember?) * About 1 cup of milk chocolate pieces (Valrhona Tanariva is great) * 1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces (Valrhona Tropilia is decent, Caraibe is better) * 2 tablespoons of butter * muffin tin and liners

Melt together both chocolates and butter in a double boiler. Let it cool slightly before spooning 1 tablespoon's worth into each lined muffin tin. Let set in the fridge or in the freezer.

Meanwhile, iIn a stand mixer, with a hand mixer or a good old-fashioned wooden spoon, cream together the suars, the peanut butter and butter. It'll seem stiff at first, but be persistent. It'll yield into a smooth, velvety, uniform mass.

Remove the muffin from the fridge or freezer and dollop spoonfuls atop the chocolate layer. Use the spoon or your fingers to spread it around. If you're feeling really ambitious, wet your hands and roll the PB into a little marble and flatt it down slightly and place these gingerly over the set chocolate. Either way, just get the PB there.

Spoon the remaining chocolate over the peanut butter, so that you have an even layer. Depending on your PB distribution, some might be thicker than others. But who cares? They'll still be accepted graciously by you and lucky recipient. Just make them without the worry. Place back into the fridge or freezer to set.

To serve, place one on the counter to come to room temperature or if you're a fan of frozen peanut butter cups, go for it straight from the freezer. Peel back the muffin liner. Admire the marvel of chocolate. Bite down through the chocolate - thick or thin - and let it break and melt on your tongue. Make sure you have peanut butter in your mouth as well. Savor. Repeat.

Tags: chocolate, no bake desserts, organic peanut butter, party desserts, peanut butter, peanut butter cups, valrhona

The Power of Chocolate Rum Cake

I started a pot of water to cook some pasta. Somewhere, I don't know when, I lost interest and forgot about it until I heard the stove top hiss with the sweat of the hot pot. I let it boil.

I took out a bunch of vegetables, tender, ripe and green and placed them next to my cutting board. With my knife splayed across the top, I stepped back a moment to take in the serendipitous still life. And then I took another step back and left the art to remain art and not become my dinner.

Then, I eyed the box of mac and cheese (the earth-approved kind) and though I toyed with the idea of a familiar fall back, I put the box down after thoughtfully shaking it around in my hands. All the while, I scanned the rest of the pantry for some sort of salvation from this restlessness.

Take-out was one idea. Delivery another. For a split second they both seemed viable, even good. But as soon as I picked up the phone, my mind chimed in with ennui. Again?

A quick run to the store? Or maybe not fix a meal at all. Just a seat on the couch and a date with what's left of network television. I imagined eating raw cookie dough. But that would mean I would have to make the dough which would require me to soften some butter. Apparently, I didn't not have 30 minutes to spare.

In the end, I found myself heaving and sighing. Listless in my dark kitchen, T.V. blaring in the background. This indecision plaguing me not only in the kitchen but in my office, in my car. Is this (whatever it was) really what I wanted? Or was I settling? In my aim to be responsible, planned, calculated, even how did it come to be that the proverbial Plan B became the Plan A?

More than anything, I was hungry for an answer. I really wanted someone to feed me. Console me with a bowl of soup I prayed to no one or nothing in particular. Shed some light on my life with a slice of pie. Guide me with chocolate cake.

Food is more than sustenance. Much to the dismay of therapists and nutritionists worldwide, it is my most powerful prescriptive capable of the greatest good and the greatest damage in forkful. But this night, after listless guessing my mind finally honed in some acceptable form of comfort and its name was chocolate rum cake.

Baking is a loving, yet precarious act for me. I am not terribly good at it, but I am more than willing to try. Loaf cakes and quick breads are allies and stand-bys. Cookies a wary friend. But full-on frosted glory cakes -- those were another creature I hadn't really stared in the face.

It's amazing what social obligations force you to do. For some, it is the petrifying matter of public speaking or a toast. For me, it was baking a cake for Mother's Day, for The Voracious One's madre, a kind lady who despite her Mormon provenance absolutely adores a heady chocolate rum cake.

Truth be told, I went into it a bit punch drunk the night before. Still working through a bottle of wine and the high of fine company only a few hours before, I stood in the quiet kitchen and just went at it. Flour without thinking. Measurements without peripheral worry. And before I knew it I had the beautiful mess of melted Pralus Djakarta chocolate spindled over my countertops and its aroma rising from my oven like a mythical creature, a siren of near-dangerously roasted beans with all its sweet whispers of sweet tobacco. As I watched an episode of Doctor Who, I let them cool enough so that I could saw at them delicately with a long knife into something resembling an even surface. Then a brushing of the apricot rum glaze that made the layers glisten.

The next morning, the mess was less artistic and more horrific. The lovely scene became a chore. Then I remembered there was frosting to be made and a cake to be frosted. At this point luckily, the Voracious One was awake and took the spatula out of my hands. He employed his engineering and carptentry skills to evenly, thoughtfully, precisely frost with the buttercream I had apparently made with copious amounts of rum the night before. Making this cake had turned into some tricked out episdoe of "Lost," with me trying to piece together how these components mysteriously came about. By the time I recollected these moments, the cake was serene in a cloak of cocoa.

"You have tiny hands," TVO said handing me a bowl of toasted coconut (another revealed mystery!). "You coat the cake." And so I did. I held the heavy, dense chocolate cake, the rum smelled just as potent as it did from the bottle. Just the way his mother would like it. Over the sink, I took a handful of toasted coconut and patted it onto the sides, rather like making a sand castle from long ago before I taught myself to think and worry.

When the cake was cut later that night, the heaviness hid a silky softness to the crumb and the melt of the buttercream. It was punchy like a slap to the face, the kind only a bartender can give you in a glass. But it was also welcoming with a maternal, earthy chocolate note that sang in my mouth, "Child, stop worrying. You are loved."