Homemade Fluff, Bruléed or Not

hot cocoa with bruléed fluff

Upon returning from NYC, I headed straight to Lowe’s to purchase a blowtorch and a one-pound tank of propane gas. On my way home, I stopped at the Co-op for Fluff and a pint of dulce de leche ice cream.

Lest you worry I’m embarking on some sort of dark, emotional journey, let me remind you about that sundae my friend and I split at Ichabod’s a few weeks ago: homemade vanilla ice cream, pretzel bits, salted caramel, bruléed marshmallow. The bruléed marshmallow, it turns out, was Fluff, which got torched just before serving.

As you might imagine, I felt a little tormented purchasing the Fluff. I avoided looking at the ingredient list for days, choosing an ignorance-is-bliss approach to enjoying my daily -Fluff topped hot cocoa and ice cream sundae. Continue reading

Nigella Lawson’s Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake with Booze and Coffee, Plus Two Fair Trade Giveaways

Nigella Lawson's dense chocolate loaf cake with brandy and coffee

Nigella Lawson’s recipe for dense chocolate loaf cafe, well traversed in the blogosphere, needs no tinkering. Moist, rich, tender, chocolatey — what’s to improve?

Well, when my box of Fair Trade treats arrived, and I saw the bag of coffee and chocolate nestled together, I couldn’t help think that coffee, known to heighten the flavor of chocolate without imparting much coffee flavor at all, might make a subtle difference. And because a splash of booze is often a nice addition to quick breads/loaf cakes, what would be the harm in replacing the final two tablespoons of water with brandy? And because every cake needs a pinch of salt, a pinch of salt would be added, too.

The result? Intense chocolate, subtle coffee and booze, perfect sweetness, complete deliciousness. This cake gets better by the day and is as impossible to resist with morning coffee as with postprandial cordials. Coffee, booze, salt — somehow I think you (and Nigella) would approve. Continue reading

German Peach Pie with Brown Butter & Walnuts

german peach pie and ice cream

A few weeks ago, in the daily cooking newsletter from the NY Times, Kim Severson discussed the joys of cooking with friends, the benefits of learning from others, the potential discoveries that might be made, such as peach and blackberry crisp, “whose luscious secret, borrowed from the pastry chef Nancy Silverton, [is] four tablespoons of butter browned in a saucepan with a vanilla bean poured over the fruit before the sugar and nut topping [goes] on.”

No recipe was provided, and I couldn’t find an exact match with my googling, but I think the point is that you don’t need a recipe here. Every bubbling-fruit, crumb-topped concoction you make can be adapted to have vanilla bean-flecked brown butter.

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Rhubarb Schnapps | Rhubarb Cake

rhubarb schnapps

Every spring this happens: I blink, and rhubarb season passes. And in one second, my to-make list of rhubarb recipes dissolves, my thoughts shifting to stone fruits and no-cook dinners and popsicles. Before we know it, it will be the Fourth of July, and I, my mother’s daughter, will be declaring summer over. Ugh, depressing.

I think I might, however, have a solution to these time-passing-too-quickly woes: rhubarb schnapps, a mixture of chopped rhubarb, sugar and vodka, the cheapest you can find, Nigella insists. Sounds like a win, right?

Let’s hope. Unfortunately, this is another one of those recipes whose success I cannot guarantee. In six weeks, I will report back, but as with the lemons, won’t it be more fun come mid-July to open our Mason jars together?

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Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Orange & Chocolate | Fair Trade Giveaway

loaf of coffee cake

It took 32 years for me to start listening to my mother. I’m only just beginning to understand how annoying this must have been, only just appreciating how many gray hairs I may have caused, only just accepting how many wrinkles I may have induced.

The other day I asked Ella (my four-year old) to help me pick up a mess she created, and she said: “Um, you can just do it all by yourself.” I’ve read enough self-help parenting books to know that freaking out is not the appropriate reaction to this response, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to strangle her.

I have it in for me. Every time Ella yells: “No Mom, I’m telling you a question!” I think of my poor mother and all the times she offered advice only to receive pushback.

Why was it so hard for me to just say, “Yes! Of course! That’s a great idea!” every time my mother told me to “Enunciate!” or to “Eat [my] greens!” or to “Put [my] shoulders back!”?

Why couldn’t I have just said, “You’re right,” when she told me the best chickens come from her kosher market, the best lamb from Australia?

Why couldn’t I have just smiled when she told me not to frown?

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Lemon-Ricotta Cheesecake

slice of lemon-ricotta cheesecake

Before making my mother’s lemon-ricotta cheesecake earlier this month, I hadn’t made a cheesecake in years. And I’m not sure why — it is the easiest dessert to make; it can be made a day in advance; it feeds many people; and people generally love it, especially this one, made with both ricotta and mascarpone, both lemon juice and zest.

A simple cookie crumb dusting of the pan allows this cheesecake to come together in no time, and its silky texture somehow tastes both rich and light at the same time. A small slice will suffice though it’s nearly impossible to resist seconds.

I hope all of your holiday preparations are going well, Everyone.

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Mollie Katzen’s Chocolate Eclipse

chocolate pudding cake

So you probably have your Super Bowl menu all lined up. Chips and dips, sliders and smokies — your bases are covered. But have you thought about dessert? No? Phew. Because I’ve got just the thing: Mollie Katzen’s Chocolate Eclipse, a pudding cake that feeds a crowd. Everyone will go gaga.

I learned about Chocolate Eclipse from one of you — thank you! — via email, and after finding the recipe online, I made it immediately. It was too intriguing not to.

Now, let me preface this by saying I know absolutely nothing about making pudding cakes — chocolate, lemon, buttermilk, whatever — but this cake was like none I had made before, including its dainty, molten soft chocolate kin.

The process starts off familiarly: wet ingredients (buttermilk, vanilla, melted chocolate and butter) get stirred into dry ingredients (flour, brown sugar, salt and leavenings), chocolate chips are folded in, and after everything is mixed together, the batter gets spread into a 9×13-inch pan.

But then the assembly takes a wild turn. After the batter is covered by a blanket of brown sugar and cocoa powder (which ultimately become the pudding), 2.5 cups of boiling water get poured overtop. As the water meets this sandy layer, plumes of cocoa rise and swirl, and when the cake begins looking like a Breaking Bad set prop, you’ll need some encouragement. Katzen offers it: “It will look terrible, and you will not believe you are actually doing this, but try to persevere.”

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Orange, Grapefruit & Green Grape Compote

grapefruit, orange, and green grape compote

This is the post I meant to write back on January 7th, when I was eating croque monsieur and thought you should, too. I still feel bad about that one.

Is it too late to make things right? I hope not. Because this little mixture of orange, grapefruit and slivered grapes tossed together with citrus sugar and freshly squeezed juice couldn’t taste more right than right now. My aunt, the one who makes pies and Vermont Cheddar Cheese soup and baked fontina, discovered it 10 years ago, and we’ve been making it every winter since.

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Applesauce – Yogurt Cake | Homemade Applesauce

slice of applesauce - yogurt cake

I don’t know how anyone could find fault in something as delectable as Teddie’s apple cake, as fun as the big apple pancake, or as glorious as the Balzano apple cake, but I happen to live with a few such people. And I know I shouldn’t take offense to a three-year old’s aversion to “texture” of any kind, but when I see a piece of cake picked to pieces, apples and crumbs scattered across the plate, my blood pressure rises.

In an effort to please these little beings — seriously, there’s nothing like a toddler’s behavior at the dinner table to shatter my confidence in the kitchen — I called my old neighbor, Geri, from Virginia, to get her recipe for applesauce-yogurt cake, something she always seemed to have on hand this time of year, a cake my children (and I) couldn’t get enough of when we found ourselves across the street at her house.

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