strawberry jam crumb coffee cake

strawberry jam crumb coffee cake

i’m usually the type who needs to get all the work done and out of the way before truly being able to relax. on a typical weeknight, i’ll drive home from school and get going on my checklist: send last work emails, feed dogs, walk dogs, exercise (maybe) and shower before finally getting myself to sit down, eat, and unwind. but today, i heard this: go slow. pay attention.

the porch was so inviting today. the light so soft, this spring evening air so cool and so gentle after the heat wave of last week. so i did things out of order. i sliced off a thick square of this crumb cake, brought out a cup of milky tea, and sat with the evening light until it started to fade and i thought i saw the first of the mosquitoes.

how many more days do we have like this? how many other breaths will come this sweet, this easy? it’s hard to say, and maybe better not to know. instead, i’ll try to remember today’s lesson: every once in a while, go slow; pay attention.    

Strawberry Jam Crumb Coffee Cake
Adapted from Baking Bites
Makes 9-12 servings

Crumb Topping
:
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

A pinch of salt

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
 
In a medium bowl, stir together dry topping ingredients until combined, then stir in melted butter until damp crumbs are formed and the mixture sticks together into chunks when you squeeze it between your fingers. Set aside.
 
Cake:
¾ cup sugar

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 cup sour cream (light is fine)
½ cup strawberry jam, melted and stirred until smooth

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a 9-in square pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Lightly grease and set aside.

  2. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla, followed by the eggs, adding them one at a time until mixture is smooth.

  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to sugar mixture, alternating with sour cream in two or three additions, until well blended. Batter will be quite thick.
  4. Spread evenly into prepared pan.
Stir jam in a small bowl until smooth and drop by spoonfuls onto the cake batter. Gently swirl through with a knife. Top with crumb mixture, clumping it by squeezing it between your fingers while you work and spreading it into as even a layer as possible.

  5. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. 
Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing.
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roasted bacon & butternut squash pizza

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i have a growing list of reliable dinner recipes that are easy-fast-good, and these days i am feeling so very proud of it. it’s a collection that’s unique to me, full of ingredients and flavors i love, and that involve prep steps that i find therapeutic – or at the very least fuss-free enough to do on a weeknight. 

lately, that little file folder on my desktop has done wonders for my self-esteem. no matter what terrifying, confusing things i may face in the life outside of my kitchen, i at least know i can pull together some ingredients and make a great meal for myself. it’s one sure way i have of taking care of this fragile heart (and rumbly tummy) of mine.

this pizza recipe became a fast favorite, and an almost immediate addition to that treasured collection. i tend to have mediocre results when i try to make pizza at home. i used to get these limp, overly doughy, salty conglomerations of ingredients, and then i’d feel sad. and then order domino’s. this recipe changed the game for me. the trick, i think, is in turning your oven temp up high and stretching the dough thinner than you think you should. this ensures a crisp and snappy crust and beautifully caramelized toppings—in this case, smoky bacon pieces, cubes of butternut squash, rings of softened onion, and cheese for days.

i’ve made this twice now, and the second time i decided to top it off with some arugula for greenery (it is a new year, after all, and time to eat healthier) and a quick shakeover with our trusty jar of red pepper flakes. what i got was something so close to what i used to order from my favorite little pizza joint downtown – but heaps cheaper and fun to make, to boot. 

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Roasted Bacon and Butternut Squash Pizza
Adapted from Parade Magazine
Makes 4 servings
 
1 tsp. olive oil, or cooking spray
12 oz. diced butternut squash
2 slices thick-cut bacon, sliced crosswise (I used Trader Joe’s uncured apple smoked bacon)
½ medium red onion, sliced
Cornmeal, for sprinkling 
1 lb. pizza dough
6 oz. mozzarella, cubed
¼ cup Parmesan, finely grated
Crushed red pepper, for sprinkling (optional)
About 3 oz. baby arugula, for serving (optional)
Aged balsamic vinegar, for drizzling (or regular balsamic, simmered until thick) 

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Lightly coat a roasting pan or heavy baking sheet with oil or cooking spray, then scatter with butternut squash, bacon, and red onion. Roast 25 minutes, tossing ingredients around once or twice so they brown evenly on all sides. Remove from oven and increase temperature to highest setting, usually 500°F to 550°F.
  3. Sprinkle a large (12-by-17-inch) baking sheet lightly with cornmeal. Stretch dough roughly over baking sheet; no need to form a perfect rectangle. Scrape roasted vegetable and bacon mixture over dough. Scatter with mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake until browned, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper and top with arugula, if using, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar to serve.

cranberry-orange breakfast buns


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it is important for me to bake. it is how i create home when i’m missing it; it’s how i celebrate togetherness when i’ve found it. transmuting butter into tenderness, eggs into fluffiness, sugar into beautiful browned edges… and then taking the whole pan out of the oven to share around the table — that’s love of life to me. 

for as long as i’ve known to notice, my family has felt disjointed. we never were the picture of coziness and comfort that i saw in holiday movies, that i felt when i stayed for dinner at my friends’ houses. there was a warmth missing, a ‘say anything’ safety net not yet in place. it stung when i went to college, and entered adulthood, and didn’t have what i thought was a strong sense of where i came from. it very nearly broke me, actually, to have to go off on my own and figure out what mattered in life, how to keep it, how to care for myself.
 
but the funny thing about struggling is how much it creates in you, even as it seems to take away. i walked forward as best i could, and while i did i was being granted my superpower. i think we all have one: something that comes easy to us but makes a world of difference to those around us. for me, it was the gift of making a home. of conjuring warmth and welcome into raw spaces, of lighting candles and setting out the plates and heightening the pleasure of company and comfort. i think i was given it because i needed it. and in knowing its lack first, i understood second how important it was to share.
 
and so i return home this christmas, a pan of rolls in hand, knowing i am stepping into a safer place than i’ve known before. this house has become a place of rest and comfort in part because i have. it’s a long lesson, i think, changing your posture from ‘what do i get’ to ‘what can i give.’ baking, at least, gives me a place to start.

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Cranberry-Orange Breakfast Buns
Adapted (barely) from a recipe by Smitten Kitchen
Makes 12 buns. This recipe could be halved and baked in a 9-inch round or 8×8-inch baking pan.

Dough:


4 large egg yolks

1 large whole egg

¼ cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup buttermilk

Zest of 1 orange, finely grated (to be used in dough and filling, below)

3¾ cups (470 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting counter

1 packet (7 grams or 2¼ teaspoons) instant dry yeast
(also sold as Bread Machine or Rapid Rise yeast)
¾ teaspoon table salt, or more to taste
Cooking spray for bowl

Filling:

1 ½ Tablespoons butter

1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup fresh cranberries

Orange zest leftover from above

Icing:

3½ Tablespoons orange juice

2 cups powdered sugar

  1. Make the dough: In the bottom of the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, buttermilk and ¾ of the orange zest together (saving the rest for the filling). Add 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; stir until evenly moistened. Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining 1¾ cups flour and let the dough hook knead the mixture on low speed for 5 to 7 minutes. The dough should be soft and moist, but not overly sticky. Scrape the dough into a large, lightly greased bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled, which will take between 2 and 2½ hours. [If you don’t have a stand mixer, stir the mixture together with a wooden spoon, then continue stirring and beating it about in a large bowl for several minutes, until it comes together. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead it for another 5 minutes. The dough will be a tad sticky, but resist adding too much flour while kneading.]
  2. Prepare the filling: Melt the butter and set it aside. In a food processor, pulse the whole cranberries until they’re ground to a coarse rubble, but not fully pureed. You may need to scrape the machine down once or twice. Set them aside.
  3. Assemble the buns: Grease a 9×13-inch ceramic or glass baking dish. Turn the risen dough out onto a floured work surface and roll it into a rectangle that is about 18 inches wide and 12 inches long. Brush the dough with the melted butter. Sprinkle it with the brown sugar. Scatter the ground cranberries over it, then the remaining orange zest.
  4. Roll the dough into a tight, 18-inch long spiral. Using a clean piece of dental floss or sewing thread, slice the log into 12 sections; they should be 1½ inches thick. Arrange the buns evenly spread out in your baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or up to 16 hours. Liquid will pool at the bottom of pan; don’t worry, this will caramelize and thicken during baking.
  5. The next morning, bake the buns: Take your buns out of the fridge 30 minutes before you’d like to bake them, to allow them to warm up slightly. Heat your oven to 350°F. Bake your buns until they’re puffed and golden (the internal temperature should read 190°F), approximately 30 minutes.
  6. Transfer pan to a cooling rack and let cool slightly. Make the icing by whisking the orange juice and powdered sugar together. Transfer icing to a small Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off. Drizzle over the whole pan and serve immediately, or drizzle over individual servings. Leftover buns can be individually toasted and then iced the next day.

pumpkin gingersnap magic bars

this fall in particular feels like an odd transition time for me. my rhythm changes every day. sometimes i’m up bright and early and enjoying every deep inhale of chilled air, raring to attack the little stack of tasks i’ve piled up; other days i move like syrup.

with some time, i’ve found the secret to the center of myself is to get back in the kitchen. to find a quiet afternoon and an empty house, kick up some tunes, and create a rhythm. flick on the oven, clunk out the biggest pan from the bottom of the cupboard. chop, sprinkle; drizzle, stir, scatter. shimmy that pan into the heat and wait for it to bubble and brown and fill this whole place up with scents of anticipation.

this recipe is perfect for aforementioned kitchen therapy, and even more perfect for fall: extra moist from the pumpkin, chewy from the shredded coconut, and a fantastic clash of spice-y, sweet, and deep dark chocolatey. i left the kitchen feeling like a champ… and smelling even better.

 

Pumpkin Gingersnap Magic Bars
Adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody and Bakers Royale

4 cups gingersnap crumbs
 {I bought a 14 oz. tub of Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Snaps and crushed them in a bag using a rolling pin}
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

14oz. sweetened condensed milk

¾ cup pumpkin puree

1 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. fresh ground nutmeg

¼ tsp. cloves, optional
1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

1 ½ cups walnuts, coarsely chopped

1 ½ cups chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Generously coat a 9×13-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Combine gingersnap crumbs and butter in pan and combine until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press mixture onto bottom of pan, using the flat bottom of a dry measuring cup to flatten evenly.
  3. Sprinkle coconut evenly over crust, followed by chocolate chips.
  4. Combine sweetened condensed milk, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl, and stir until well combined. Pour mixture over coconut and chocolate chips.
  5. Finish by sprinkling walnuts on top.
  6. Place assembled pan in the oven and bake for about 30 to 45 minutes or until the coconut around the edge is deeply toasted and nuts are golden brown. Let cool in pan completely and then transfer finished pan to the refrigerator to chill before cutting.

tea time and a blackberry cake

when i spent a semester in australia, i loved that i found myself in a country that was part of the british commonwealth — and therefore took its snack time seriously. afternoon tea wasn’t just the cup of tea itself, but a chance to sit down for an allotted rest time, and have a bite of something light and sweet with it: maybe some lamingtons, like we had that first day at university orientation; or a small stack of biscuits, as they offered every afternoon at the hostels we traveled around to.

afternoon tea is not a ritual here in the states (our closest equivalent is something i believe is called “3 o’clock slump”), but i think it should be. 

i can’t change my country’s food culture, but there’s no reason i can’t pick a social custom to import into my own life. and this blackberry cake is a perfect way to induct afternoon teatime into my day-to-day. it’s a light, springy cake and not too sweet, but plenty fruity in flavor thanks to just a few drops of raspberry extract

our days — and life in general — have a tendency to go by so fast and furious. it’s nice to pick a time to pause, and enjoy a little something sweet and soothing.

Blackberry Buttermilk Tea Cake
Adapted from the Amateur Gourmet

1 c. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 c. sugar, divided
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
½ c. buttermilk, at room temperature
¼ tsp. raspberry extract
about 1 ¼ c. blackberries 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper; then butter the paper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Reserve 1 ½ tablespoon of the sugar and set aside. In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat the butter with the remaining amount of sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
  4. At low speed, beat in the buttermilk and dry ingredients in 3 alternating batches, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients; do not overbeat. Scrape batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  5. Scatter the 1 ¼ cups of blackberries over the batter; lightly press them in. Sprinkle the reserved 1 ½ tablespoons of sugar over the cake. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Transfer the cake to a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Turn out the cake and remove the paper. Turn the cake right side up and let cool completely. 

funfetti + raspberry cupcakes

after a day spent in the kitchen baking, my hair smells like sugar. someday someone is gonna love that about me…

Fluffy Vanilla (or Funfetti) Cupcakes
Makes 12 standard cupcakes
Adapted from Sweetapolita

½ cup whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature, divided
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 egg, whole, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. almond extract
1½ cups cake flour, sifted before measuring
¾ cup sugar
½ Tbsp. + ½ tsp. baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened but cool, and cut into cubes
3 Tbsp. shortening
¼ cup rainbow sprinkles aka jimmies, if making Funfetti cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a standard muffin pan with cupcake liners and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the egg whites, whole egg, about 2 Tbsp. of milk, vanilla, and the almond extract. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients, including the sugar, and stir to combine thoroughly.
  4. Add the butter and shortening, and beat with mixer on low speed for about 30 seconds; then add remaining milk (about 6 Tbsp.), and mix on low speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 1½ minutes.
  5. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg/milk mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition. If you’re making Funfetti cupcakes, simply fold in the rainbow jimmies until just combined.
  6. Divide the batter into your prepared pans, no more than 2/3 full. {Use a standard ice cream scoop to get even batter distribution.}
  7. Bake until a toothpick comes clean when inserted into the center of the cupcake, about 16-18 minutes. Be careful not to overbake. {The tops will still look pale.}
  8. Place hot baking pans on wire racks, then carefully—they’re hot!— remove the cupcakes from the baking pans immediately, to let cool.
  9. Let cool completely before frosting.

Frosting recipe after the jump!

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peanut butter pie

last week i quoted someone’s blurb on what it takes to be happy, boiled down to three simple clauses: someone to love, something to hope for, and worthwhile work to enjoy. i’d like to add one more for myself, one that i think i’ve known ever since i brought my first tupperware container of homebaked brownies to share with my friends at the lunch table – happiness is having someone to cook for. 

it’s hard to work this elegantly into a little post on this little blog where i write self-indulgently about the thoughts in my head and the food on my table, and frivolously about the things i wish i could buy… but here’s the reason i made this pie: i read this and my heart dropped.

do i know what it’s like to love hard for 16 years, then have my husband suddenly – absurdly, really – just stop existing?

no. not at all.

but i know how to make pie, and so i do.

happiness is having someone to cook for. the simple act of making a pie and being able to share it with those i cherish – it’s not something i can take too lightly. who would i call up to gather around the table? whose company would soothe the thought of great loss, a stranger’s though it may be? it wasn’t too long ago that i would have struggled with the answer to those questions.

but these days i know exactly who those people are, and that in itself is a great love – a great life. and for that reason i find myself happy, and grateful… and making pie.

 

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie
by Jennie of In Jennie’s Kitchen
Serves 10 to 12

8 ounces chocolate cookies
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 ounces finely chopped chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
¼ cup chopped peanuts
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup creamy-style peanut butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 – 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

  1. Add the cookies to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs.  Combine melted butter and cookie crumbs in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well.  Press mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. 
  2. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave.  Pour over bottom of cookie crust and spread to the edges using an off-set spatula.  Sprinkle chopped peanuts over the melted chocolate. Place pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
  3. Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form.  Transfer to a small bowl and store in refrigerator until ready to use.  Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a deep bowl.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar.  Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.
  4. Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture (helps lighten the batter, making it easier to fold in the remaining whipped cream).  Fold in the remaining whipped cream.  Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan.  Drizzle the melted chocolate on top, if using, and refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving.


cinnamon-bun scones

as i’ve said before, i’m not exactly a morning person. the few times i’ve found myself springing out of bed, all bright-eyed and bushy tailed, i usually a) have just returned from another time zone and my body has been tricked into resetting its internal clock, b) have something really really exciting that is happening that day, or c) know for a fact that a delicious breakfast awaits me.

…sometimes b) and c) are the same thing.

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these scones are definitely a fantastic morning treat. (and with a carafe of hot coffee and the right company, you could easily have the makings of one of those really really exciting things…) they do take a bit of handiwork – it’s a tender dough you pat together and cut into wedges, unlike the scoop-and-bake kind i usually make – but luckily for you and me and all involved, they can be baked in advance: store them un-iced in an airtight container (giant ziploc bags are my go-to kitchen tool here) until you’re ready to serve them. then just before breakfast time, give them a quick run through the toaster oven to warm them through and re-crisp their corners before slathering on the smooth cream cheese icing.

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there are few things better than the scent of cinnamon and butter coming at you bright and early in the morning. for a day you want to keep things simple-dimple, you could just dribble melted butter over crisp toast and sprinkle with cinammon sugar – one of my favorite things to eat as a kid; or keep it classic and slice off a piece of cinnamon-crumbed coffee cake. but on the days when you want a little something special, an upgrade on the usual but comforting and delicious all the same, these are good: close-your-eyes-and-sigh good.

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Cinnamon-Bun Scones

Makes 16 scones
adapted slightly from Food & Wine, March 2003
original recipe by Marcy Goldman

2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch dice, plus 2 Tablespoons, softened
2 tablespoons softened
1 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Line two large, heavy baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a pastry blender and then your fingers, combine brown sugar with the 2 tablespoons of softened butter and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon until soft crumbs form. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the 3 cups of flour with the granulated sugar, baking powder, salt and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon. Add the diced butter and – using a pastry blender or crisscrossing two knives – cut into the flour mixture until it resembles small peas. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and make a well in the center.
  3. Add the cream, egg and vanilla to the well and stir to combine. Using a wooden spoon, gradually stir in the flour mixture until a firm dough forms. Crumble the brown sugar mixture over the dough and knead it into the dough, leaving some streaks.
  4. Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Turn the dough out onto it and knead 3 times. Pat or roll the dough into a rectangle, about 1 inch thick. Cut in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise to make 8 squares.  Cut each square on the diagonal to make 16 triangles. Transfer the scones to baking sheets and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until browned. Let cool slightly on the sheet, then transfer to a wire rack.
  5. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese with the lemon juice. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Spread the icing over the warm scones and serve immediately.
  6. Scones can be baked ahead 1 or 2 days: store un-iced scones in a resealable bag or other airtight container. Before serving, toast them briefly in a toaster or regular oven; then spread with icing.

christmas chicken

this is the kind of dinner dish that makes an ordinary tuesday seem special. all you need is to know one day in advance that you’ll be wanting to eat juicy pieces of crispy-skinned chicken, and the rest is just a bit of seasoning and waiting.

buy a chicken: just a few pounds, fresh. make a rub of four spices and salt and sugar, and pat it onto the bird. sneak slivers of garlic under the skin before you tuck the little chicken into the back of your fridge for a day or two.

the rest is a science i would never have been able to work out on my own – a balance of timing and temperature –  but in the end, all you need to know is the clear sizzle of chicken fat melting off to the bottom of the pan. the thin crackle of crisp meat as you flip the roasting bird once and then twice. the scent of the garlic and spices filling the house. warm, inviting, delicious – it feels like christmas.

Christmas Chicken
spice mixture from Allrecipes.com and roasting method from The Zuni Café Cookbook via smitten kitchen
Serves 3 to 4

a few notes:

  • A small bird is optimal for achieving the crispy-skinned, juicy-on-the-inside thing: it means a shorter stint in the oven and a more generous skin-to-meat ratio
  • Salting the chicken a day in advance and letting it rest in the refrigerator results in a chicken that cooks up more moist and tender
  • Don’t worry about trussing (tying with twine) the drumsticks. The bird ends up looking somewhat immodest, but leaving the legs untied maximizes the amount of skin that can crisp up

2 teaspoons regular or garlic salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (3- to 3 ½-pound) whole chicken
5 cloves garlic, sliced

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1 to 3 days before serving:

  1. Remove and discard the neck and giblets (if any) and the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside and out. Be thorough — this will ensure a crispy skin and golden-brown bird.
  2. Approaching from the edge of the bird’s cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets. Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Slide the garlic slices into each of the 4 pockets, using your fingers to distribute them evenly beneath the skin.
  3. In a bowl, mix the salt, sugar, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Rub the chicken with the mixture. Cover chicken, and place in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.


Day of serving:

  1. Preheat the oven to 475°F. Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle. Preheat the pan over medium heat or set dish in oven until hot.
  2. Gently pat the chicken dry if needed. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders, and set it breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle.
  3. Place the chicken in the pan in the center of the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Listen and watch for it to start browning within the first 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce temperature by 25 degrees.
  4. After 30 minutes, carefully turn the bird over. (Drying the bird and preheating the pan will have kept the skin from sticking.) Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size.
  5. Carefully flip the bird back over to re-crisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 180°F.
  6. Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat. Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat from the roasting pan, leaving the lean drippings behind. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it. Stir and scrape to soften any hard golden drippings.
  7. Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice into the drippings. Let the chicken rest, covered loosely with foil, for about 15 minutes before serving. (The meat will become more tender and uniformly succulent as it cools.) Serve with drippings on the side, reheated if needed.

shots of the season

NEW YORK –

during the holidays, walking among the crowds in manhattan doesn’t feel as much like madness as it does christmas camaraderie. the shop windows are dressed up in their finest, and we all walk around with our eyes up and twinkling.

 

one day i’ll lace up some skates and carve lines in the ice here, but that night it was enough to stop by for just a few minutes and look down at the skaters on the rink – before cutting across times square to the theater to watch a broadway musical: my first.

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BOSTON –

twinkle lights wrapped the trees all up newbury street, making this lane of little brick storefronts all the more charming as we walked on through in the twilight. we had gone into a very fancy store and i had bought a headband lined with pretty green feathers, which the clerk carefully wrapped in tissue and placed into a little bag. i swung that bag the whole walk back like a little kid with a new favorite thing.


CANADA –

on the day my plane landed, flakes were coming down in the softest whispers. by the time we arrived on the street where my friend lived, everything had gotten a powdered sugar dusting of snow.


there is nothing like sunlight on freshly fallen snow.


SANTA MONICA –

on somewhat of a whim, i met some friends at montana avenue on a friday night, when they were having their now-annual holiday walk.

 

in between free samples of cake and tiny cups of prosecco, we stopped in some of the most beautifully curated home decor stores i’ve ever seen.

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LOS ANGELES –

and a bit closer to home, we are in the middle of a week of rain. but it is so much sweeter when downtown paints the showers in christmas lights.

the view is most charming from the doorway of pete’s café, where all our closest friends had gathered for a cozy dinner and a couple orders of caramel bread pudding, shared across the table.


the weather here is mild – it always is, relative to everywhere i’ve been – but it’s still cold enough for the kind of cooking that steams up the kitchen windows: mushrooms and garlic in the oven, coq au vin burbling on the stove, my favorite mashed potatoes, and a cranberry-caramel tart i carried over to a friend’s house – i’ve been busy this week.


and this morning i still had room for these nutmeg doughnut muffins.

there won’t be snow here this christmas, but there is always a way to arrange one’s own powdered sugar dusting.