Sunday, October 29, 2006

Kabocha squash pie...

So remember how I was all sad a couple weeks ago when I'd gotten a nasty, rotten kabocha squash? Thankfully, my local squash dealer redeemed himself last week with a perfectly nice one...

This recipe of Pichet Ong's, a kabocha squash pie with ginger vanilla bean butterscotch sauce is one of my all time favorites. I made one this past week and took it into the office - guess it was well received as it disappeared in a record 4 minutes and netted me a marriage proposal (!) which I politely declined.

Anyhow, it's a little bit fussy for everyday baking, but worth the effort...

Friday, October 27, 2006

My Birthday Cake Wish

My birthday is on November 20th, and the reason this is important is because it gives everybody ample time to make this cake for me:

Here's the recipe.

That's right, I require a cake to look like a vegetable garden. Consider this a challenge.

Sometimes I feel like Martha just gets bored.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Little Miss Cupcake Sedaris

I love Amy Sedaris. She is hilaaaaaarious. She's adorable, as is her brother, and we have the same birthday! Some of you might already know that she does some cookin' and bakin' on the side, but I wanted to share her cupcake recipe, right out of her new book, "I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence."

This particular recipe was named for her bunny rabbit, Tattletail. Bunnies and cupcakes?? Ain't nothin more precious.

the following is an excerpt from her book:


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. You will need: Unsalted butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, baking powder, salt, flour, milk.

Put 1 & 1/2 sticks of butter in mixer and beat at medium speed until somewhat smooth. Pour in 1 & 1/2 cups of sugar and beat well. Add 2 eggs. I like to crack the eggs on the side of the bowl while it is moving, which can be really stupid. I like to take chances. Yes, I have had to throw away my batter because I lost eggshells in the mix. Yes, it was a waste of food and yes, I know how expensive butter is, but what can I say? I'm a daredevil. Mix well. Add: 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla, 2 & 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 2 & 1/2 cups of flour, and 1 & 1/4 cups of milk. Beat until it looks like it is supposed to and pour into individual baking cups, until they are about two-thirds full. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Should produce 24 cupcakes; I get 18 because I'm doing something wrong, although my cupcakes were voted second best in the city by New York magazine.


In a bowl, combine 1 box (1 pound) of confectioners' sugar, 1 stick of unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup of milk or light cream and beat for a while. Really whip it, don't be afraid to get in there. I occasionally add food coloring and sometimes substitute pure almond extract for vanilla.

If you do choose to add pure almond extract instead of vanilla, you're on your own. I don't know the measurement for it, but I do know it's less than the amount of vanilla you would add.

Monday, October 16, 2006


Hey all I have a few things to say this morning, well... 4 minutes into the afternoon now. First a confession. I have just consumed one banana and two pieces of Dove dark chocolate, nibble here, nibble there. I urge anyone who has such things at their disposal to try this- it totally changed my mood from Monday to MMMMmmmmonday-as goofy as that sounds. But you know what they say, 'in Goofy there is truth' okay next I made a super decadent instant dessert the other week which I saw last year in a Food and Wine issue focusing on chefs of Spain. SO EASY. SO SUBLIME. Sliced baguette, olive oiled. Slightly toast. Remove. Place a couple squares best dark chocolate on top, sprinkle with sea salt. More toasting..just a couple min- long enough for the choc to get shiny but not spread. I tell you this was incr-edible. I think I will make it a last minute dessert staple perfect for stumbling home after midnight or an easy option for a crowd at parties. Okay, so every Mon I troll the internet for food blogs and this am I found a woman right up our alley
Check it. Also as I have already sent everyone a postcard for our inaugural DOTMC month.I will now post it for all to see!!! Hazzah!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Persian Ice Cream Delight!

The weather has been cooling down and soon most people will be less inclined to eat cold desserts like ice cream (even though winter never stopped me from inhaling a pint in one sitting). So before it gets too frosty, I'd like to share the basic recipe for the heaven that is Persian ice cream, or "bastani."
Pronouce it out loud: BASS (as in sea bass), TAN (as in George Hamilton), KNEE.
BASTANI! There, now you're more cosmopolitan than ever!

To describe it simply- it is essentially vanilla (or french vanilla) ice cream blended with saffron and rosewater, with some frozen bits of cream broken in pieces and speckled throughout. It's often garnished with (unsalted) pistachios and eaten alone, in a cone, or sandwiched between waffle cookie wafers (see pic).
I'm not so crazy about the pistachios, personally, and they're certainly optional... it's really the little gems of frozen cream that makes the dessert especially divine.

Here is the best recipe I've found so far:

1 pt heavy (whipping) cream
2 Tbsp rose water
Pinch of saffron diluted in 1 Tbsp hot water, cooled
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 gallon vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
1/2 cup halved pistachio nuts

1. Beat cream with mixer until stiff peaks form when beaters are lifted. Spread 1/2 in. thick in a flat dish; freeze 2 hours or until hard.
2. Mix rose water, saffron water and cardamom in a cup; set aside.
3. Cut frozen cream in small pieces. Place in a bowl. Add ice cream, nuts and rose-water mixture; fold with a large spatula to mix. Return to freezer; freeze at least 2 hours before serving.

It's so good, I promise! And I will be adding more (family) recipes for Persian desserts as well. My mom (rules!) is such an amazing cook, but she abhors using measuring devices...there are seriously no measuring cups/spoons anywhere in her kitchen. Consequently, getting an exact recipe can be difficult, as repeating her "use the second line on your finger to know how much water to use" method doesn't translate well for everyone...but I'm working on transcribing them all, so hang in there. They're worth the wait!

Cinnamon endorsement.

Since we're barrelling full steam into apple pie / spiced things season, I thought I'd mention that my favorite cinnamon is the extra fancy vietnamese cassia from Penzey's (link is here).

I hear you thinking "but Richard, aren't all cinnamons alike?" To which I answer "Dude, you have no idea - this stuff is killer." Because it's so strong, they actually recommend you cut back versus what you'd usually use - but I say heck with that. Cinnamon blowout!

There's a small Penzey's outlet in Grand Central Terminal, for those in the NYC area.

From a hotel room in Moscow,

Friday, October 06, 2006

Are You Hungry Tonight?

To further the gross dessert recipe photos, I scanned some pages from "Are You Hungry Tonight? Elvis' Favorite Recipes" (given to me as a gift). I included a non-dessert one so you could get a sample of the grossness of the food photos paired with random, silhouetted photos of Elvis eating and making odd gestures. The last recipe in the book is for "The Royal Wedding Cake" The recipe has not been modified in anyway. It permits you to recreate the entire original six-tiered, pale-pink marvel serving 500 guests! I mean my mom decorated cakes from our home growing up in Utah and I helped her deliver and assemble many giant, Mormon gaudy cakes to giant, Mormon families but I can only imagine, it takes 20 pounds of cake flour!

To add to the hilarity of how gross the food photos are the book is © 1992, they don't even have the excuse of being vintage. The editor may live in TN but she could have hired a decent food photographer, it's Elvis you're representing!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

my cake decorating on flickr

Some of you have seen these before but I wanted to share my cake decorating set on my flickr, I love baking but I really love cake decorating and making pretty flowers with icing, or you know, Lenny Briscoe in a panda suit...

my cake decorating

AND...I've just been asked to make another baby shower cake, any ideas for decorating would be welcome as I haven't decided what to do yet, it's a co-ed shower. I thought of just decorating a really shitty diaper or a crying baby but maybe I should stick to baby animals, storks and choo-choo trains.

In the spirit of gross food...

I'm sure you've all seen this a zillion times, but this got me through a bunch of days at my boring job:

Weight Watchers Recipe Cards

It's got this one:

And now I'm kind of wishing I hadn't blown my cover on this, because wouldn't it be awesome if for my month (EFFING FEBRUARY SUCKAS!!!), I sent out a postcard of one of those babies? What if after Richard and Brooks's emails that are like "I make things out of pure love and zen and actual pieces of rainbow," I was like "Yeah, I'm really into Weight Watchers, circa 1973." I'm trying to imagine how that would pan out. Would I be deleted from the blog? The myspace profile? THE EMAIL CONTACT LIST? Or would you trust me, make it, and try the melon mousse?

What if what I actually send out is eerily similar, just with some sort of neat looking glaze over it? Oh, the power we have!! You'll just have to trust me.


This is from the Chez Panisse desserts book. I made it the other day. It's not only delicious, it is super easy. Plus it's fun to say Tarte Tatin over and over again.

Apple Tarte Tatin
One 10 inch cirlce of frozen chilled puff pastry or pie crust, rolled
1/8 inch thick. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, 6 tablespoons sugar, 1
2/3 to 2 pounds McIntosh apples. Optional: a pinch of cinnamon

Melt the butter in a 9 inch black iron frying pan over medium to high
heat and immediately add the sugar, stirring constantly. Cook until is
tis golden caramel color, being careful to removet he pan from the
heat before the caramel is too dark because the caramel will continue
to cook from the heat of the pan.

Quarter, core and peel the apples, slice each quarter in half
lenghtwise, and toss with the cinnamon if you are using it.make a ring
of apples over the caramel in the frying pan, rounded sides down and
narrower tips toward the center. make another ring of apples in the
center. you may have to cut off the tips to make them fit. Set the
pastry on top of the fruit, let it stand until softened and push it
down between the fruit and the side of the pan.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the
apples and pastry are cooked. test with the point of a knife. remove
from the oven and let stand for a minute or twoto firm. Set a serving
plate upside down on top of the pan. Holding the plate as tight as you
can against the pan, flip them over quickly.

Serve warm witha glass of Sauternes, or garnished with creme fraiche
or vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Gooseberry almond tart.

As promised, here's a little something to get started on... May not be the most useful recipe of all time as 1) gooseberry season is over, and 2) it's a tad involved for everyday baking, but this concoction turned out better than I could have hoped. You could always substitute some other pleasantly tart/sweet jam instead of gooseberry. Hope y'all will enjoy...

* * *

Gooseberry and Almond Cream Tart

Gooseberry Jam

2.25 lb fresh gooseberries
3.75 cups granulated sugar
Juice of 2 lemons

Wash the gooseberries, and remove any stems and blossoms. In a non-reactive fairly heavy pan, mix the gooseberries, sugar, and lemon juice, and stir up a bit, mashing the berries a little. Bring the mixture to a boil, and remove from the heat. Pour into a ceramic bowl, and cover with a piece of parchment paper to prevent from oxidizing - refrigerate overnight.

The next day, pour back into the heavy pan and bring to a boil again, cooking for about 10-12 minutes, stirring a bit. Skim off any foam. Return to a boil, and make sure it gets to 221 degrees F, at which point the jam should set properly. Pour the jam into sterilized jars and seal.

Tart Pastry

1.25 cups flour
0.5 cup confectioners' sugar
0.25 tsp salt
0.5 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
2 large egg yolks
1 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tsp almond extract (good for this tart, but optional otherwise)

Combine the dry ingredients in a food processor, pulsing a bit to mix. Add the butter and pulse until it's totally cut up and mixed into the dry ingredients. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks and cream until just mixed together, and pour into the food processor. Run it until the dough comes together in a ball. Gather the dough together and place it on a piece of plastic wrap, forming into a 6 inch disk. Wrap up the disk in the plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to overnight until firm.

When firm, roll out on a lightly floured surface until about 12-13 inches in diameter. Roll up onto the outside of the rolling pin, and unroll it into a 9-inch tart shell pan. Fold over the excess dough on top of itself into the inside of the pan, leaving a bit sticking up over the edge of the pan, creating a double thick part running around the edge of the pan. Run a knife around the edge of the tart pan, trimming the excess off flush with the top of the pan. Freeze the crust for 30 minutes until firm.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line the frozen crust with aluminum foil and fill it with uncooked rice, dried beans, or ceramic pie weights. Bake the crust in the pan on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes. Carefully lift out the foil and weights, and return the crust to the oven. Turn down the heat to 350 degrees F, and bake about 5-7 minutes longer until the crust looks dry and is a little golden brown. Take it out of the oven and allow it to cool on a rack.

Almond Cream

1 stick plus 3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/3 cup finely ground blanched almonds
7 tbsp flour
3 eggs

Combine the butter and sugar in a mixer, and beat until it's fairly smooth. Add the eggs and continue beating for a few minutes. Mix the flour and almonds together in another bowl with your fingertips, and then pour into the mixer with the sugar, butter, and eggs until fully combined.

Crunchy Almond Topping

1 large egg white
2 tbsp granulated sugar
a few shakes of ground cinnamon
a bit less than that of ground nutmeg
4 oz of slivered almonds (either blanched or unblanched ok)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk the egg white in a bowl until white and frothy (this will take a bit of whisking). Add the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and whisk together. Mix in the almonds and coat them in the mixture. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and spread the topping in roughly one layer (or a bit more, just try to avoid big piles), and bake for about 10 minutes, checking constantly that the the almonds don't burn. Take them out when they look just golden brown, and allow to cool on the sheet. Peel off the almonds onto a plate.

Constructing the tart:

Pour about 7 oz of the almond cream into the bottom of the tart crust, and even it out with an offset spatula. Bake the filled tart at 350 degrees F for about 8-12 minutes until the edges of the tart are golden brown and the almond cream is puffed a little and firm. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Take 1 jar of the gooseberry jam, and spread over top of the almond cream with an offset spatula, and then sprinkle with the crunchy almond topping.

(Cobbled together from Christine Ferber's "Mes Confitures" and "Mes Tartes", "Essentials of Baking" from Williams Sonoma, and "Pastries from the La Brea Bakery" by Nancy Silverton)

Cupcake Compulsion

Ok- anyone who knows me knows I have an unhealthy (mentally and physically) obsession with cupcakes (have you seen the cupcake blog link to the right?). I don't know what it's all about. It's just a small cake... but I crave them all the time. And I'm really particular about how the frosting should be. I like all kinds, but for my favorite- the basic buttercream, I only like the sugar-grainy kind. Cause if it's too buttery and smooth, I feel like I'm eating sweet crisco. I need the full-on sugar-grit overkill. BUT! It also has to have the vanilla flavor... otherwise, it's just sugar paste.

I think my favorite place in NY for cupcakes is Sugar Sweet Sunshine. They know their frostings! Plus they have all the other goodies like banana-nilla-wafer pudding, carrot cake, etc. They serve good coffee and have a nice, comfy atmosphere with plenty of seating. They also make my favorite cupcake- golden cake with buttercream frosting (boring, I know) perfectly. Theirs is as good as Magnolia's, but less dense and rich. So I'm less likely to get in the fetal position after eating one. That way, I can eat more. Yay! Everyone wins!

In fact, after our wedding last year, my husband and I invited all our friends to one of our favorite bars in the Lower East Side, and served lots and lots of assorted cupcakes, instead of cake, from Sugar Sweet Sunshine! Everyone was stoked and I ate four, for the record. See them here- the big bag of my wedding cupcakes:

Anyways, I came across this great food site: SMITTEN KITCHEN.
It's pretty great. And it's not all desserts...they have some nice savory stuff on there too (Molly!). But one of their last entries had me pressing my face against the computer monitor...check it out:
"All Better Now"

Yuck or Yum: Part 1

A small part of the research I'm doing for my art history thesis involves post-WW2 images of women in advertisements. Through this one website, called The Cultural Archive (scroll to the bottom of the page to see listings), I've found a bevvy of great food ads from the 1950's. It's safe to say a lot of these food images were created long before "food styling" was incorporated in contemporary adverts, as it is particularly striking how gross some of this stuff looks.

Anyways, I thought I'd start a series, called Yuck or Yum? Here are some examples for your consideration: is a Coronation Cake?? (click on each pic to blow up)

Monday, October 02, 2006


I love them! I have lost a bunch, unfortunately, moving too many times. So now I am rebuilding my collection. I found this one in Richmond VA at a HUGE antique store. They also had gorgeous aluminum cake caddys (is that what you call them?) and I am still kicking myself for not bringing one back, oh well next time. So anyway this one here, features recipes with "SPRY". I have never heard of SPRY, it's like CRISCO, I guess, which is actually something I used to use in baking, but now fear. Look on the cover how that one lady is gripping the other's arm-".....that marvelous chocolate cake". How funny is that? It looks so maniacal. I would totally do that! "Do you remember those cookies you made last you!?.. THEY CHANGED MY you hear me?" I especially love the images (duh) in vinatge cookbooks, don't those doughnuts look amazing? It makes me actually want to make doughnuts- and that is crazy. I have this one at home "101 CAKES", it's small like a flip book and I tried to find it to post from but could not-it's so beautiful and has the craziest shit in it. It has a house cake- a big cake that looks like a house.(!?) A bridge cake- for your weekly bridge party, silly. All types of random event cakes. (Which is brilliant-I am so into that idea of cake for any/no occasion. "Quit my job cake", "Monday's suck cake","Best Friend is Upset cake")The pics in that one are amazing- the frostings are so billowy and perfect, I wanna sleep on these cakes. I remember my Dad's copy of Joy of Cooking, the line drawings in there made cooking seem so appealing, especially the dessert and drinks sections- those were my faves-still are ha! I imagined being a grown up and having parties with long tables full of desserts right out of a 1950's cocktail party.

I think what I love most about these books are the lifestyle they represent to me. Was there once time enough in life for "250 Refrigerator Desserts"? I mean I know the 50's were a big sham. The facade of the american dream hiding all the seediness and corruption and complacency- but when I flip through these books, I see works of pastel art, chrome kitchens and delighted faces, the promise that I can create something in my kitchen, present it to my pals and be psyched as they delight in it ahhhhhh..Ok time to make the doughnuts