sundae sunday

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this past weekend, i got to have some quality time with some of my best girlfriends. time like that is precious these days—time to chat and catch up, to sit around the table for as long as we need to and hear each other out, to remind ourselves and each other that this support system is here, always.

i used to throw elaborate dinner parties every month to get my friends together, with three-course menus and a specially-crafted party playlist and plenty of candles and twinkly lights. and i do miss those days. but life comes in seasons, and happiness comes from accepting that: anticipating the next season while riding out the current one with as much grace as we can. so in this season of us—tapped out, stressed, distracted, and protectively introverted as we are—what works best is what is simplest. a quiet sunday evening before the work week hits, a couple favorite ice cream flavors picked up on sale at the drugstore, toppings improvised from what’s on the pantry shelves, and just one special touch: homemade hot fudge sauce.

this one is dark and deeply chocolatey, drops silkily from the drizzling spoon, and gets just the loveliest bit of chewiness once it hits the cold ice cream. delicious.


i’ll try to remember the lesson of sunday as i prepare to enter my next season, starting up grad school courses again and stepping back into the classroom to begin my teacher training. when nurturing the life of your friendships seems like the last thing you have energy to do, that’s when it’s the most important. but forget the epic girls’ night out or the themed parties or even leaving the house. sometimes all you need is hot fudge sauce.

Hot Fudge Sauce
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

⅔ cup heavy or whipping cream
½ cup golden syrup (or light corn syrup)
⅓ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped, divided
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a 1 ½ to 2-quart heavy saucepan, bring cream, syrup, sugar, cocoa, salt and half the chocolate to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in remaining chocolate, butter and extract and stir until smooth. Cool the sauce to warm before serving it so that it can thicken up. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

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.

homemade hummus

hummus

lest i lose myself completely in a bout of navel-gazing and reminiscing, let’s take a break to talk about hummus, shall we?
 
i think it’s currently my definition of the perfect snack. bright, flavorful, not entirely unhealthy — and if you drag a freshly toasted corner of warm flatbread through a creamy mound of it like i do: a wonderful play of textures. i can be a crunchy hot cheetos girl on any day, but when i’m my best self, i whir up a batch of homemade hummus, run a pita through the toaster oven, and sit down for a cup of tea.
 
this recipe requires two things: a food processor and an extra 10 to 15 minutes of your time. it is completely worth it to spend those meditative moments popping the chickpeas out of their translucent skin one by one. it’s the secret to getting that impossibly smooth, almost whipped texture that so mimics my favorite store-bought hummus at trader joe’s.
 
speaking of which, making hummus at home won’t save you much more than a dollar or so, compared to buying a tub at the store. but i do it for the satisfaction. out of the handful of feats that make me feel like i can handle this adulthood thing, most of mine are kitchen-related. and spooning out soft gobs of my own delicious homemade dip out of the food processor and into its perfectly-sized tupperware container to place in a well-stocked refrigerator, ready for whatever needs may arise, snacking or social or otherwise — that is a priceless feeling.
 
Homemade Hummus
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Jerusalem: A Cookbook
Makes 1 ¾ cups hummus

15 oz. can cooked, drained chickpeas 
½ cup tahini paste

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste

2 small cloves garlic, roughly chopped
¾ teaspoon table salt, or more to taste

Approximately ¼ cup water
Olive oil, paprika, Mediterranean flatbread and/or carrot sticks to serve

  1. Peel your chickpeas: Take a chickpea between your thumb and next two fingers, arranging the pointy end in towards your palm, and “pop!” the naked chickpea out. Discard the skin.
  2. In a food processor, blend the chickpeas until powdery clumps form, a full minute, scraping down the sides. Add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt and blend until pureed. With the machine running, drizzle in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you get very smooth, light and creamy mixture (about 4 tablespoons).
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt or lemon if needed.
  4. Transfer the hummus to a bowl and rest it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, longer if you can. To serve, drizzle it with a little olive oil, and sprinkle it with paprika. Serve it with toasted flatbread wedges or carrot sticks.

cold-brew iced coffee

i love these summer sundays, when the morning air starts off warm and soft. i love my porch with its wiry blue table and wobbly white wooden chairs — a prime spot to take in the sunlight while it’s still dappled, before it becomes a scorcher of a heat source. (oh, our poor poor thirsty/dying/dead lawn…)

pleasant porch weather aside, i know it’s truly summer when i switch out my usual mug of hot coffee for a tall glass of the iced kind, milk and sweetness swirled in and ice cubes clinking. it’s a cinch to prepare, and a lovely warm-weather ritual to have: the night before, fill a glass jar or french press with your favorite coffee grounds and fresh water, and let sit on the counter for 12 hours. wake up in the morning, strain out the grounds (or press your plunger), and pour over ice. if i’m adding sugar (or condensed milk, if i’m gettin’ fancy), i’ll shake it up and make sure it gets mixed and thoroughly dissolved before involving the ice cubes.

overnight iced coffee: it’s one of those things in life that has a fantastic simplicity-to-loveliness ratio. 


Cold-Brew Iced Coffee
Makes 1-2 servings
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Pink of Perfection
Original method and recipe from The New York Times

1/3 cup coarse-ground coffee
1 ½ cups water

  1. In a French press or jar, stir together coffee and water. Cover and let rest at room temperature overnight or 12 hours.
  2. In the morning, plunge French press, or if using a jar, strain coffee through a coffee filter. Dilute with water and add milk and/or sugar, if desired, before pouring over ice.

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.

 

brown butter rice krispies treats

i’m still getting used to this house. i hung up a frame of my most cheerful print, swept my childhood desk of years of dust, and – perhaps most crucial of all – unpacked my baking essentials and placed them neatly in a cleared-out corner of the kitchen cupboard. but i miss my old kitchen, humble as it was. with years of use, everything i needed had settled into its best place, and so my sweet tooth always had a quick fix. a few minutes rustling about in the cabinets and pretty soon some form of batter or dough would be making its way into the oven. here, things seem to take a little more effort. so i needed something easy to draw me back into the kitchen this past weekend…


these were easy. too easy. i stood by the stove for a few moments and then suddenly found myself chewing on a gooey, caramel-scented mass of marshmallows and crackly cereal. it tasted just like the ones i ate as a kid (not often enough, i always thought), but with a toasty richness you wouldn’t get with the recipe off the side of the box, much less out of those shiny, bright blue prepackaged blocks they sell at the store. the brown butter is the hero here, and it only asks for a few extra minutes on the stove and a watchful eye so it doesn’t burn. it’s a square deal, i’d say.

be careful, though; these have a tendency to disappear when left unattended. just ask my brother. (hmph.)


Brown Butter Rice Krispies Treats
a sexy twist on the original
adapted from smitten kitchen

Makes 12-32 servings, depending on your self-control

6 cups Rice Krispies cereal (about half a 12-ounce box)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan
10.5-ounce bag mini marshmallows (mini because they melt faster)

  1. Butter (or coat with non-stick spray) a 13x9x2-inch pan.
  2. Mix cereal and salt together in a large bowl.
  3. In a large pot (one that is shiny metal or otherwise light in color), melt butter over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Watch the pot constantly, since the butter can burn quickly.
  4. As soon as the butter takes on a nutty color, turn the heat off. {When I started noticing brown flecks gathering at the bottom of the pan, I counted five seconds or so and then took the pot off the heat.} Dump in the marshmallows and stir until smooth. The residual heat from the melted butter should be enough to melt them, but if it is not, turn the flame back on low and keep stirring.
  5. Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the salt and cereal.  Stir until the cereal is well coated. Quickly transfer the mixture into prepared pan, using a greased piece of waxed or parchment paper – or pair of hands – to gently press the mixture in.  Cool.  Cut into squares of appropriate (or desired) size.

earl grey tea cookies

before the almond cake came along, these were my favorite things to wrap up pretty and give away. because of the slice-and-bake method with which they’re made, the cookies bake up to be neat little discs that pack nicely into your desired container. a couple of years ago i stacked them inside cellophane bags, each tied off with a ribbon. this year i made a trip to the container store and bought a smart little canister to fill with them.

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these cookies are classic make-ahead fare. the log of dough can stay in the refrigerator or freezer until moments before you need them, at which time you can slice off a few or many – and before you know it, the scent of butter, vanilla, and tea is warming the air, and then toasty little rounds are sliding off the cookie sheet and onto a pretty plate (or into your mouth?…).

they’re a nice thing to have on hand for when plans change and you suddenly find yourself hostess – or perhaps when you pay a visit to an old friend and want to bring something sweet to go with the conversation. that was me just a couple of weeks ago, going to visit the art teacher who has known me pretty much my whole life. i am short on paintings to show her these days, but showing up with a plate of these cookies almost made up for it. (actually, it doesn’t come close. i miss the part of me that used to search to make beautiful things; i miss it dreadfully. but – i’m getting ahead of myself.)

and if you merely need an excuse to make some cookies, these ones cozy up quite nicely next to a steaming cup of simple black tea, which i find – regardless of the weather outside, which may or may not be winter-like – is a supremely comforting thing to come home to at the end of a night.

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Earl Grey Tea Cookies
adapted from Dorie Greenspan, via smitten kitchen
inspired by Apartment Therapy’s the kitchn

Makes about 50 cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
½ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons finely ground Earl Grey tea leaves {I used the contents of 6 Bigelow tea bags}
2 cups all-purpose flour

  1. Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until it is smooth. Add the sifted confectioners’ and the granulated sugar, and beat again until the mixture is smooth and silky. Beat in the egg yolks, followed by the salt, vanilla, and tea leaves. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, beating just until it disappears. It is better to underbeat than overbeat at this point; if the flour isn’t fully incorporated, that’s okay; just blend in whatever remaining flour needs blending with a rubber spatula. Turn the dough out onto a counter, gather it into a ball, and divide it in half. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
  2. Working on a smooth surface, form each piece of dough into a log that is about 1 to 1 ¼ inches thick. (Get the thickness right, and the length you end up with will be fine.) Wrap the logs in plastic and chill for 2 hours. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days or stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.)
  3. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. While the oven is preheating, use a sharp slender knife to slice each log into cookies about 1/3 inch thick. (You can make the cookies thicker if you’d like; just bake them longer.) Place the cookies on the lined baking sheets, leaving about a ½-inch space between them.
  5. Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they are just browned around the edges. Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature.

Packed airtight, the cookies will keep for about 5 days at room temperature, or in the freezer for a month. Unbaked logs can be frozen for longer.

already procrastinating

i have had so much on my mind and not enough quiet café moments to put it all into prose.  for now, i will feed you recipes and hope better words will follow in time.

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almond cake

i cannot stop baking this cake.  it’s absolute perfection when you want something soft and dense (almost chewy) and elegant in the most unassuming way.  the warm almond perfume that wafts up from the oven as it bakes has become my new favorite scent.

Almond Cake

from Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser
Makes one cake; serves 10

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, more for buttering pan
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (measured after sifting)
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 ½ cups sugar
7-ounce tube almond paste, cut into small pieces
4 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract
Confectioners’ sugar, for sifting over cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350º F.  Butter the sides and bottoms of one 9-inch springform pan; line sides and bottoms with parchment paper.  Butter the paper. (You may forego the parchment paper as long as you are generous with the butter on the pan itself.)  Mix together the sour cream and baking soda in a small bowl. {The baking soda will make the sour cream expand, so use a bowl that has some extra room.} Sift the flour and salt into another bowl.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the almond paste, a little at a time, at medium speed, and beat for 8 minutes.  Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, and mix until incorporated.  It will look curdled; don’t worry.  Blend in the almond extract and sour cream mixture.  Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, just until blended.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Bake about 1 hour.  It is done when you press the top and it returns to its shape, and also shrinks from the sides of the pan.  Remove from the oven and place on a baking rack to cool in the pan.  When ready to serve, sift confectioners’ sugar on top and slice like a pie.

cinnamon-sugared nuts
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i meant to post this recipe in time for christmas, because loaded into a pretty glass jar, they make charming little gifts.

i at least thought i could post it in time for new year’s eve, when they would make a happy little home in a shallow bowl next to the bubbly and the little bites, should you find yourself at a dapper little house party.

but obviously we have now dug into the first week of january already…  so it’s a good thing these nuts also make a great snack to tote along, wherever it is this new year is taking you.

Cinnamon-Sugared Nuts

adapted from smitten kitchen, who adapted from Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country
Makes one pound of candied nuts

1/3 cup dark-brown sugar
2/3 cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound walnut and pecan halves (I like about a 2:1 ratio in favor of the pecans)
1 egg white, room temperature
1 tablespoon water
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix sugars, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon, making sure there are no lumps; set aside. Beat egg white and water until frothy but not stiff. Add walnuts, and stir to coat evenly. Sprinkle nuts with sugar mixture, and toss until evenly coated. Spread sugared nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet fitted with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven, and separate nuts as they cool. When completely cool, pour the nuts into a bowl, breaking up any that stick together.