"Bake" covers all things sweet, in or out of the oven.

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How to make a crispy fruit crumble

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I don't know about you, but I think all this talk about baking being a-precise-science-and-all-that is scaring a lot of people away from baking.  I mean, I'm sure baking a ten-layer wedding cake or five hundred tarts may well be precise science.  But baking just a pie or a few cookies, that's hardly more so than making a simple bowl of soup.  

So, if you're one of those people, I have just a recipe for you to try.  Or even if you're not, try it anyway, it's so simple and so good, you'll thank me for it later.  (Hold it with the proposals though boys, I am otherwise occupied.)

This is going to be the easiest dessert you’ll ever make.  Really it will.  It’s basically comprised of two parts, an unusually crisp crumble topping, which comes together in minutes, and a fruit filling, which can be just about any fruit in abundance at the moment.  At my market, stone fruits are just about done.  So I'm sending them off with the last hurrah with the French prune plums – quetsches as they're called over there. 

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Brown Butter Ice Cream, or, how to make ice cream in a blender

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I’m a bit ice cream crazy right now.  Not that I really needed to point out something that’s out there for the world to see, both here on the blog and on my twitter feed. I blame it all on summer, and on that David Lebovitz.  It’s his new book, The Perfect Scoop, that’s got everything churning, eating and talking ice cream!  If you haven’t got it yet, I’d get one, immediately. His recipe for Malted Milk Ice Cream -which my friend The Amateur Gourmet Adam loved so much he composed a song about it on his blog- is what’s on my dessert menu this weekend.

Ice cream is not, however, my only infatuation of the moment.  I’ve also gone mad about brown butter.  For this I blame Jeffrey Steigarten and his brown butter article in Vogue a month or two ago.  (It doesn’t appear to be online so I couldn’t link to it, sorry.)  In it, Jeffrey not only sang praises, no, composed odes, to brown butter.  He also gave an ingenious cookie recipe from a friend in Thailand, which I’m going to try very soon.

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Thyme Flower Ice Cream – glace aux fleurs de thym

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There is something magical about herb flowers.  Don’t you agree?  They are like a softer, more feminine, and altogether prettier version of the herbs themselves.  It’s a pity they are not used more often in the kitchen.  That might perhaps be because they are not easy to come by, if you buy herbs at the store you probably wouldn’t see the flowers.  Most commercial growers – or even the more diligent of home gardeners – snip them right off as soon as they appear, to prevent the herbs going to seeds and die.  But if you’re one of the lucky ones with an herb pot or two growing by the window, or better yet a patch of herbs in your garden, try letting a few go to flower, you’ll love the results.  Rosemary flowers are great sprinkled over meat dishes, especially the ones cooked with the herb already.  I love using cilantro flowers in salads, they work wherever I’d use regular cilantro leafs.  And my current favorite, thyme flowers.

Most people think of thyme as a rather strong herb, suitable for something equally strong, like lamb chops.  I beg to differ, use judiciously, thyme can be subtle and don’t overpower more delicate dishes like fish or even -wait for it- ice cream.  Yes, ice cream.

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New Orleans Pralines

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You didn’t think I forgot I had a blog, did you?  Well, I almost did.  With all the trips and the non-piggie Flu I picked up along the way, I’ve been neglecting the space here for quite a while.  (If you’re following me on Twitter you’ve heard it all before.)  Sorry.  But I’m back, and I brought you a pretty cool souvenir from the road, an amazing recipe for true New Orleans pralines.  For me, one of the best things about traveling is learning how to cook local specialties.  That’s how I bring that taste from the road home with me and recreate it whenever I want to.  So, imagine my delight when Ms.Linda and her husband Peter (my friend Josh’s dad) invited me over to their place to make pralines with them.

First, we must get something straight.  I don’t care where you are in -or even out of- the country, you need to learn how to pronounce the word right – and by ‘right’ I meant the way they do in New Orleans.  Repeat after me.  PRAA-leans.  Not praa-LEANS, or PRAY-leens.  And definitely not PRAA-lynes.  Got that?

Ok, now that we know how to pronounce it properly, it’s time I confess something.  This recipe makes textbook-perfect New Orleans pralines, yes, but it’s actually not from New Orleans!  Ms.Linda -she’s a proper Southern Lady so it’s Ms.Linda to you and me- said she got the recipe from “a Greyhound Man in Mississippi”.  I was hoping that she would say she got it from a man she met on a grayhound bus in Mississipi, wouldn’t it be such a fun story?  Alas, no, she just got it from a man who worked there.

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The best chocolate chips cookies ever?

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Once in a while, along comes a recipe that changes the name of the game.  Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe published by Mark Bittman in the NY Times two years ago was one.  It got so many cooks – who hitherto dared not touch yeast bread – to fashion themselves a veritable French boulanger, baking loafs after loafs of crackly, crusty bread, and even turning more than a few of them into petty thieves. Then, a few months ago, the Times struck again, this time with a chocolate chips cookies recipe that purported to be no less than perfection itself.

The key to that recipe?  A little patience, said the indomitable David Leite who penned the piece.  Let me just tell you that it was quite an understatement.  Unlike the good Mr.Leite, I don’t live in a world where restraining oneself from devouring, entirely raw, the whole batch of chocolate chips cookie dough during the 36 hours called for in the recipe constitutes a little patience.  And not just any chocolate chips cookie dough, mind you, but one so rich, so deliciously salty-sweet, and so -ever, ever so- tempting.  In my world, chocolate chips cookie dough can speak.  And it’s calling my name – the whole, half a box of scrabble’s worth of alphabets in my name.

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