Posts Tagged ‘desserts’

The Road Home to Apple Country: Apple Butter

Homemade apple butter (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I know I swore I’d never can another fruit. And then along came a big bag of apples, plucked straight from the tree, and I couldn’t just let them rot.

I’ve never been much of an apple person. I think they’re a little boring as fruits go – a little too uniformly sweet, too big to nibble on, too much chewing to do. But apples feel like a harbinger of the fall, of cooler, crisper days, of waiting for the school bus and new sweaters, of cinnamon sticks and pie and holidays.

A bowl of just-picked apples (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Just a lonely little apple (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I grew up in apple country. Not far from where we lived, the roads started undulating like a kiddie coaster, curving through fog-stained fields full of gnarled fruit trees and corn. We bought our apples from a stand along the road which sold fresh peaches and blueberries – whatever was in season – along with homemade pickles and preserves. And every fall, there was the Apple Harvest Festival, a sweet-smelling country fair with bluegrass music and whole pigs roasting on spits. Mouths full of apples, of course.

Bowl of bright apples (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Apple butter helper (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Homegrown apples (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I have a very vivid memory of the festival. It must be a composite, because I’m sure we went more than just the once, but in my mind it’s that one long day in the clear, blue fall. I remember an apple fritter pulled from a vat of boiling oil, soft and doughy and covered in powdered sugar. I remember sitting on a hay bale and watching a play whose plot points I can no longer recall though I can still feel the scratchy hay poking through my thin leggings and the straw sticking out from a scarecrow’s shirt beside me.

Weighing apple quarters (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Quartered apples for making apple butter (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I know there were tractors on display and squat ponies walking around and around the corral with children on their backs. » Continue reading this post...

Contingency Plan: Plum & Walnut Jam

Plum and walnut jam (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The world doesn’t always revolve the way you want it to. Take today, for instance. I woke up feeling disgruntled: My alarm wasn’t set to ring for another 45 minutes, but the pillow felt lumpy beneath my neck, the temperature was too hot under the covers and too cold on top of them, and the first rumbles of construction work were already drifting through the open window. So I got up and shuffled to the bathroom to get the whole waking up thing over with.

Breakfast was uneventful. I didn’t throw oats across the kitchen floor or slip on a puddle of milk, and so I hoped that maybe it was a foolish premonition, that the day would be fine, that I’d pep up.

But one by one, little things kept going wrong. The sun came out just as I was taking advantage of the overcast sky to start a photo shoot, I discovered SAND was dangerously behind schedule for its upcoming issue, plans I’d made had to be rearranged and then arranged back. And to top it all off, I was tired. Just glumly, eye-rubbingly tired.

glass jars (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
When life hands you lemons (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I have a plan in place for grumbly days. It’s: take a nap and start again. It’s like getting all your lives back after the Game Over screen has finished flashing. Like waking up with a new face after plastic surgery. Except without all the messy bandages and bruising.

It also involves a cup of coffee after the nap. Clearly.

Lemons (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Picked and pitted plums (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Last night after work, my boss and I biked to his city garden plot and picked plums from his tree. The branches were weeping with fruit, and when he shook them, it rained pretty purple plums. They nestled in the grass like Easter Eggs the bunny hadn’t bothered to hide. We left the garden with two hulking garbage bags of plums each, and I spent the evening watching all three endings to the 1985 classic Clue and cleaning plums. » Continue reading this post...

Sanity Measures: Brownie Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

brownie cupcakes with salted caramel frosting (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The insanity is about to begin.

Not long ago, like yesterday, I was looking through my calendar and realized that I don’t have a single second of down time until August. In case you do not have a calendar or are living with cave trolls somewhere in the mountains of Norway, it is currently May. Granted, the end of May, but that means there are still two solid, chunky months packed full of stuff.

All of it is good stuff. I’m taking a family trip to Greece, spending a whirlwind week shuttling between Chicago and Ann Arbor, whisking up to Norway for a weekend to tell the cave trolls what month it is, visiting family in the south of Germany, hosting visitors here. In fact, my first two visitors will be landing in Tegel in just two days (hi, Mom! Hi, Grandpa!).

chopped baker's chocolate (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
brownie cupcake batter (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
cupcake therapy (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
a pan of brownie cupcakes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

But even though it’s all good stuff coming up, it can be a little overwhelming for a workaholic like me to wonder when I’m going to be able to get some work done. It’s a little bit sad, isn’t it? That my biggest worry is not finding the time to check things off of my to-do list. Clearly I haven’t been doing a good job of keeping my New Year’s resolution to turn my computer off in the evenings, stepping away from work and being kind to myself.

I really should spend more time nurturing my sanity. I can always tell when I’m getting too stressed, because the number of to-do lists I have multiply. Sometimes, the lists start saying things like “spend one hour working on to-do list.” I’m not sure whether that’s meta or pathetic. Metathetic?

frosting cupcakes (Eat Me. Drink Me.) salted caramel frosting (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

But I also start cooking more complicated things. It’s odd, I suppose, that the less time I feel like I have, the more time I spend in the kitchen throwing around mountains of puff pastry, teaching myself how to do things like poach eggs or make hollandaise, or pick the longest recipe with the most ingredients in whatever cookbook I happen to be obsessing over at the time. » Continue reading this post...

That’s All, Yolks!: Leche Flan

Leche flan (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

When life hands you a dozen egg yolks, you make flan, as the famous saying goes.

It’s a beautiful, lazy afternoon. The sun has decided to play along, and it flits in an out behind soft white clouds. The courtyard is looking particularly peach these days, instead of its ashen winter hue – the pinkish-gray of an undercooked shrimp

I’m in the mood for baking, a rarity as these things go, and I magically, miraculously have all the ingredients to make leche flan, a dense, rich and creamy take on flan made only with egg yolks and other ingredients to make your arteries groan in sadomasochistic delight.

Egg yolks and milk (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The garish sounds of some awful Colombian cartoon are playing in the background, and yet it feels strangely appropriate today. The sun, the oven set to preheat, the laugh track in another language – it feels like a charmed life. Except, of course, that I can’t get David to stop eating spoonfuls of sweetened condensed milk as I caramelize the sugar and simmer whole milk down to make evaporated milk.

Egg yolks (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Caramelized sugar (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Leche flan (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
In the kitchen (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

With the weather finally warming up and the sun showing up for whole hours at a time, I’m realizing what a huge impact this dull, gray winter has had on me. All winter, I’ve felt dull and gray myself, wanting so hard to be productive and relaxed in appropriate measures, but simply feeling sluggish and beat – always – and always feeling like I wasn’t doing enough.

Leche flan recipe (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The sunshine is like a balm. I’m making flan, and there’s nothing else I should be, or want to be doing.

Leche flan with caramel (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Egg yolk-only flan (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

By the time the flan is out of the oven, the apartment smells heavenly and rich. There’s a bit of tension for the flip, but the flan drops gracefully down on the plate as silky caramel puddles around the creamy line of flan. » Continue reading this post...

Do the Bunny Hop: Bunny Butt Carrot Cake

Bunny butt carrot cake (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

My boss had been talking about Easter since the end of April. Last year. Since we’d been planning our evening of Easter crafts for almost an entire year, it’s no surprise we went a little bit overboard with the amount of projects we undertook to make.

At the office, we each have a favorite holiday, barring Christmas, of course, since everybody loves Christmas. Mine is Thanksgiving, Ellen’s is Halloween, and Shaun’s is Easter. So far, we’ve done a great job of celebrating them all – I hosted my traditional Thanksgiving potluck, and we even threw a Halloween party where all our guests had to dress up as fairy tale characters.

Bunny butt cupcakes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

But Easter is something special for Shaun, partly because of a long-ago childhood trauma involving sugar eggs. Let’s go back in time to a sepia-colored San Francisco, where a little 5th grade Shaun is eagerly anticipating the day the entire class gets to make sugar eggs and sell them as a fundraiser. For years, he’s watched the older kids spin sugar and decorate their eggs with pretty pastel icing and sprinkles, for years he’s been looking forward to this moment. And he’s so excited when his teacher stands before the class to make the announcement that the time has come… to make pizzas.

What a betrayal. Our protagonist is crushed. But this Easter, we strove to give back what was taken from him so long ago: Crafts.

Though we don’t all suffer the same Easter trauma, we’d all been looking forward to our crafts night for weeks. One internet search turned up another, and by the time we were ready to start, our roster was pretty full:

Bunny butt carrot cake Bunny butt cupcakes Rainbow Jello eggs Rainbow pastel meringues

Rainbow pastel meringues (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

And on top of that, we decided to make traditional Easter enchiladas. » Continue reading this post...

Fancy Meeting You Here: Earl Grey French Toast with Blood Orange Syrup

Earl Grey French toast with Blood Orange Syrup (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

A few weeks ago, I was having brunch at Le Bon, one of those airy, sparsely-decorated-perfectly-curated cafés in Kreuzberg, when I had a vision. My eye had lingered on the menu’s French toast made with brioche, and I was thinking of soft, pillowy piles of bread, sweet and eggy, crisp and caramel brown from a buttered skillet – as I read through the selection of teas. In another life, I lived on cups of Teavana’s Earl Grey Creme, its gnarly dark leaves peppered with pretty dried blue petals. For some reason, I thought of this tea while reading the menu, remembering its hint of vanilla. And for an even odder reason, those thoughts mingled with my French toast thoughts, and I thought – why not – make French toast sopped up in eggy Earl Grey-infused cream?

Earl Grey-infused cream (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Blood oranges and brioche (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Blood oranges (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s sometimes a strange set of circumstances that makes things click. I’ve been having a lot of experiences like that lately. Off-the-cuff conversations leading to inspired partnerships, loose-end dreams taking shape over milky lattes and cake.

How does anyone ever meet someone? You know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy. I met Aaron that way, and now here we are, standing in my kitchen, debating whether the French toast batter needs two eggs or three. Three we say, why not?

Blood orange syrup recipe (Eat Me. Drink Me.) French toast breakfast (Eat Me Drink Me.)

Like so many things, our getting to know each other was a carefully orchestrated happenstance by that guy who knows a guy (who’s really a gal, technicalities). But we share a lot in common, a St. Louis genealogy (though my Collinsville roots are a few generations removed, I’ll accept that Jello is a salad), the liberal arts thing, a history of singing in college a cappella groups – and most importantly, a passion for eating and talking about eating and helping ourselves to seconds. » Continue reading this post...

Roasting Peacocks: Pumpkin-Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Fresh eggs (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Yes, it’s true, my childhood self expected to be reprising Cats on Broadway long ago. And yes, another self believed I’d at least be poet laureate by now. And yes, there’s still a part of me that thinks, every time, that the pretty piece of coal-colored licorice is going to taste so good.

But anticipation is hardly a guarantee for what ends up happening.

On a bed of peacocks (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Ground spices (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Peacock decorations (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

For instance, I’ve been thinking about making these cupcakes for weeks. I’ve been dreaming up the most festive, holiday-heralding recipe to showcase the fantastic vintage turkey toppers I found at a flea market during the summer. The summer! And I’ve been saving them for months to use right before Thanksgiving, my very favorite holiday.

This morning, I’d planned to start baking after a leisurely breakfast, and I was more excited than a kid on Christmas to pair each perfect cupcake with its own little turkey.

Sugar and butter (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Batter (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Imagine my surprise when I opened the package and discovered that my turkeys were actually peacocks. Who’s ever heard of a Thanksgiving peacock? » Continue reading this post...

Currant Status: Ripe Red Currant Cake with Almond Meringue

Red Currant Cake with Almond Meringue (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I had approached the situation with misguided optimism. Upon waking this morning and like a sleep-stupored zombie wandering to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee and some toast, I snipped open the brand new bag of grounds just as I saw the word “decaf.” Hoping for a placebo-like effect on my brain, I made a cup anyway, tossing grounds into the French press and dousing them with hot water. Mixing the strained coffee with a little fresh milk and sugar.

A sunshine of egg yolks (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Oh, oh, oh what a horror. My eyes and my limbs lisping back into sleep. Heaviness settling into my bones. My fingers thudding on the keyboard as if there were little bricks attached to each one.

Oh, no, this would never do. Real coffee needed to be procured immediately. I grumbled my weary body onto my bike and slugged to the nearest grocery store to right the wrong.

Fresh red currants (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Home again, I said good riddance to the failed morning and lay back down in bed. I’d restart the day. And when I woke up, I’d make a cake.

Status: 15 minutes later

Coffee and baking (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Powdered sugar (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Coffee and currants (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

At least, we know that caffeine is real. I’m standing at the wooden bar in the kitchen, sipping a nice, strong (maybe overcompensatingly strong) cup of coffee and whipping up butter, powdered sugar, and an egg yolk into dough.

Butter (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Powdered sugar (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Modern art (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Yesterday, as Germany faced Portugal in far-off Brazil and the canons began to sound not long after, I was in a garden in Schöneberg picking currants. The bushes were full of ripe little fruits, clustered like grapes, with thin translucent skin bursting red. I filled my bag with one bunch after the other and still found branch upon branch hiding jeweled bunches of berries.

The vuvuzelas blared out into the balmy Berlin evening.

Johannisbeeren (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Meringue (Eat Me. Drink Me.

I grew up calling red currants Johannisbeeren, which is what they’re called in German, and Germany being the only place I’d ever seen them. » Continue reading this post...