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

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Alfajores – a holiday baking idea from The Foodie Handbook

Sugaredalfajores 

Here's another recipe from my new book I'd like to share, and this is just the perfect time for it.  Aren't we all thinking about holiday baking these days?  Ok, if you're in Northern California you must be thinking freezing weather too – you've heard all the complaints on twitter I'm sure – so, what better than baking for an excuse to turn on your oven and warm up the house?

It will also be fun to do something slightly different than the usual sugar or gingerbread cookies, don't you agree?  I highly recommend these Alfajores, two buttery, crumbly cookies hugging the sweet dulce de leche (a sort of caramelized milk jam), your friends and relative will appreciate the novelty.  You may have to teach them how to say the name, al-fa-ho-res, but once they bite into these addictively delicious cookies, they won't mind one bit.

Don't let the fact that these cookies are so deliciously delicate – they seem to crumble under too
intense a gaze – deter you.  While being made, the dough is so easy to
work with it feels like Play-doh.

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The best fig tart, ever (a recipe from The Foodie Handbook)

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I could also call it the easiest fig tart, ever.  Really.  It has an astonishingly small list of ingredients: a pie crust*, some luscious figs, with a hidden layer of frangipane, which, despite the fancy-sounding French name, is simply a concoction of toasted almonds, sugar, butter, and egg that you can make easily in a food processor.

The key to the magic here is the frangipane.  It’s one of those things that sound far more difficult and fancy than they really are.  My frangipane recipe came from the one in Michel Bras fantastic Notebooks of Michel Bras: Desserts. It’s basically equal quantity (by weight) of almond meal, butter, and sugar, with one egg to bind it all together.  That’s a truly fantastic recipe, and one so versatile I find a use for it in practically all my fruit tarts, from the summery stone fruits to the fall harvest of pears and apples.  Right about now, with melting soft and tantalizingly sweet figs make an appearance all over the place, you can make a fig tart with a base of this frangipane and it will turn even the most ardent fig hater into a lover. Read more »

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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

Churningaway

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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