Monday, October 27, 2008

Long Distance Hug

Sometimes, everything is just completely and thoroughly, exasperatingly crappy and overwhelming. Right now is one of those times. And if I still lived in Boston, I would call my dearest friend and she would make it all better. She would give me a hug, and let me cry and then she'd bake me brownies. The crappy things would all still be crappy, but I'd feel less alone and more able to cope.

There are 300 miles between us, so I'll have make do. I'm starting with the brownies. It's the closest I can get to a hug, long distance.


2 squares of unsweetened baking chocolate
1 stick of butter plus a few spoonfuls to coat the pan
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c flour
pinch of salt
spoon of vanilla

Melt the chocolate and the butter together in a double boiler (or in a metal bowl resting on top of a saucepan with boiling water in it, like this:

After it's all melted, take off the heat and let it cool for about five minutes. Stir in the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing between each egg. Add the vanilla. Add the flour and salt. Mix well, scraping sides.

Preheat your oven to 375. Turn a 8x8 brownie pan upside-down and mold a sheet of tin foil to it. Take off the foil and flip the the pan. The molded foil should fit nicely inside the pan. Melt the extra butter and coat the foil in the pan. Pour the batter in and bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, depending how done you want them. Try not to over bake, as they will become dry and icky.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Lately, the United States haven't seemed very United. In fifteen days, we will have an election, where we will either elect the first black president or the first woman vice president. And yet, instead all of the hope and joy that should come with having these historic candidates, there is hatred and fear.

For tonight, focus on easier times, simple pleasures. Think of America, the country of apple pie and baseball. Because tonight the Boston Red Sox will play the Tampa Bay Rays for the American League Championship. And I will be eating apple turnovers to celebrate. If you don't have time to make them tonight, it's okay. The World Series starts Wednesday. Plenty of time to rekindle a warm and fuzzy feeling towards your country before you get out and vote.

adapted from Ina Garten's recipe and Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything
makes 6 turnovers

1 package frozen puff pastry (only one sheet of puff pastry needed)
1 T lemon juice
2 cooking apples - I used Jonagold and Stayman Winesap.
1.5 T sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
2 t flour
1 t ground cinnamon
1/8 t nutmeg
1/8 t ground cloves
1 egg (for egg wash)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Allow puff pastry to defrost according to package directions.
Prepare the apples. Peel, core and cut apples into a small dice. Mark Bittman who has considerably more free time than I do says to grate the apples, Ina favors a large dice. I split the difference. As you dice, toss the apples in a bowl where the lemon juice is already waiting. This will slow the process of the apples turning brown. Then add the sugar, flour and spices. When you've mixed it all well, check out the puff pastry. When it's thawed, cut into three pieces (if you buy Pepperidge Farm, it will likely be in three sections anyway). Then roll out each piece until it is about 3 or 4 inches wide, and cut in half to make squares. You should end up with 6 squares. Fill each square with between a 1/4 C and 1/3 C of the apple mixture. Fold each square into a triangle and use your finger, wet with water to seal by dampening the edge of the triangle before pressing the top layer of dough down. Then use a fork to crimp the edges. Mix the egg with a bit of water and then use a basting brush to apply the egg wash to the turnovers. The sprinkle each with sugar. Place on a baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees F.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pumpkin Dreams, Smashed

I have long loved pumpkin flavored baked goods and desserts. It's practically a holiday when Dunkin Donuts begins stocking their pumpkin muffins. I stopped eating my favorite dinner at our favorite restaurant once I learned they had pumpkin creme brulee for dessert. I made smitten kitchen's pumpkin bread pudding even though I don't like bread pudding because it was pumpkin and dessert.

Much to my dismay, I have been met with failure after failure when making pumpkin treats at home. I didn't love the pumpkin bread pudding, because of the whole not liking bread pudding bit. There were those "interesting" pumpkin pies I made last year. And now, I have failed at making pumpkin muffins. I found the recipe on a blog. It wasn't a food blog. That should have been a clue. I was taken in. Hoodwinked. I made the muffins. They contained whole wheat which made me somehow feel healthy and noble, like I was making the muffins as healthy snacks, and not treats to be scarfed down at every snack opportunity. But the muffins? Not so great. Everyone who has eaten one tells me they are good. And fresh out of the oven, they weren't so bad. But let me tell you, they don't improve. Day one, I was convinced that they were just another mediocre muffin. Day 2 I had a nightmare that my husband said they were gross and wanted to throw them all out. Day 3, I tried toasting it (for reasons to be explained later) and threw it out after 2 bites. I'm ready to toss the remaining 15. I'll wait to see if my husband eats anymore, but after that, they're going. Food waste is wrong, but so is having nightmares about having to keep eating something.

For your consideration, the problems with the muffins were as follows:
They were awfully whole wheat-y. It overwhelmed the taste of the pumpkin, the added spices and the extraordinary amount of brown sugar they used. They baked up small and sad. You could blame me for not filling my muffin tin enough, but I'll tell you, I only got two dozen and the recipe said it made three, so I will refuse culpability in that matter. The tops of them are mushy. Perhaps underbaked. I'm not sure how that happened. It was the second batch of muffins this happened to, and they baked as long as the first, in an oven that had been hot longer. All I can think is perhaps they are getting squishier upon storing, and I don't really want to think about that. Just ick.

I am very sorry to not be giving you another recipe, but honestly, if you knew, you'd thank me for not sharing it. I promise if I am every successful in my pumpkin quest, you'll be the first to know.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Kitchen Things I Love: Desert Island Implement

Growing up, I had subscriptions to several teen magazines. They were always making lists of Desert Island Books or Desert Island Albums. They'd suggest which you should bring with you if you ever were on a desert island.

Oh yes, and there were quizzes where you'd choose your Desert Island Makeup, and learn some deep insight into your soul, based on your answer.

I have no idea what my desert island kitchen implement says about me, but you better believe if I could only take one thing with me, it would be my army fork.

My grandfather was in the U.S. Army and was stationed all over the U.S. as well as the U.K. and Japan. The original army fork was his, U.S. government issue, provided to him in his mess kit. My grandmother loved it. My mother loves it. I love it so much, that when I moved away from home, my uncle bought me my very own army fork, knife and spoon in order to preserve family relations.

You can use the army fork to mix salad dressing, scramble eggs, incorporate water into flour to create a dough. It has been the death of my whisk collection. I have more unused whisks than anyone wants to know about. I actually dragged some of them out of the corners of drawers and backs of cabinets just to show them to you. Need one? They're all practically in mint condition.

You can find your own army fork at an army-navy store. The set of 3 utensils is generally well under $10.

So what's your favorite kitchen tool, the one you can't live without, the one you would bring to a desert island with you?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Honey Cakes

At the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, honey symbolizes the hope that the new year will be sweet. I think that there are a lot of us out there who need to believe that this new year will be a sweet one. And while you're waiting and hoping, maybe some honey cakes will help. These are delicate, light, and just the right kind of sweet without being cloying.

Honey Cakes
from Donna Hay's Off the Shelf

2/3 C superfine sugar (you can make superfine sugar by putting regular sugar in a food processor and pulsing on high)
6 oz (a stick and a half) butter
3 T honey
2 eggs
1 1/2 C flour, sifted
1 t baking powder

whipping cream (the recipe calls for double thick cream which I have yet to see in the US, you can make your own whipped cream using heavy cream, I didn't add sugar to mine, but you may want a tsp of sugar in yours)

Preheat oven to 325
Mix together the sugar, butter and honey until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and continue to mix until creamy. Sift together the flour and baking powder and add to the eggs and sugar mixture. Mix well. Pour into a greased muffin tin. Bake for 15-20 min. Top with whipped cream and a drizzle of chilled honey. DO NOT drizzle the honey until the last possible moment. As it warms it will squiggle down your cake. Still tasty, but not so pretty for company.


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