Posts Tagged ‘sweets’

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...

Apples and Guilt: Baked Apple Custard with Butter Cookie Crust

Baked apple custard (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The way I see it, there are three types of guilt. Guilt complexes, guilty consciences and the most fun of the three, guilty pleasures. Guilty consciences arise when you’ve done something you know you shouldn’t, and a guilt complex comes from anticipating a guilty conscience. A guilty pleasure, then, is something you do to calm  your guilt complex down. It’s the solution to everything.

Apples and guilt go way back. Biblical back. (Let’s not get too hung up on whether apples really are Edenic. Persimmon, perschmimmon. We’re sticking to modern-day symbolism, here.) It was the fruit that cost the garden, and introduced the very first guilty conscience to the world. And we all know the three-tiered progression of guilt that follows.

Apples (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Halved apples (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Luckily, apples are their own solution. Fast forward hundreds of thousands of years to a little kitchen in Berlin where the apple became a guilty pleasure: Sensuous and silky apple custard resting on top of a crumbling butter cookie crust. The earth, it trembles.

Crushing butterkeks (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Baked apples (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Work and play (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I’ve been on a bit of a custard craze, having made my very first custard just a few short weeks ago in the form of lemon bars. What an interesting collection of ingredients, what a sumptuous result. Dense and creamy, sweet and bright. A new custard-lover was born.

Adding sugar to butterkeks (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Butterkeks crumble (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Butterkeks crust (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Never much of a baker, custard was so easy to make I thought even I could experiment with it. What if, for instance, I left out the lemons and substituted some of my overflowing supply of slowly-going-bad apples? What if I thought of the filling as a custard version of apple pie? What if the base was a riff on a graham cracker crust made with butter cookies instead? » Continue reading this post...

Bad Weather Breeds a Sweet Tooth: Carrot Cupcakes with Cointreau

Topped with cream cheese icing and walnuts (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

What better time to talk about desserts than when it’s raining? The sky is gray, the red tiled roofs of the buildings in the courtyard slicked with wet. Slushy snow flakes dot the drizzle in what the weatherman calls a “wintry mix.” And I’m thinking about cupcakes.

A long time ago, before I moved to Schöneberg, when I still called Neukölln home, I was in a baking mood. I don’t think the weather was quite so dire nor was I feeling quite as lazy as I am today – or else I’d be baking these cupcakes right now instead of dreaming about them and staring out my window.

Carrot cake batter (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Fresh out of the oven (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Carrot cake cupcakes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

My friend Ellie, who is an excellent baker in her own right, was over, and we measured ingredients and splattered batter around the kitchen while gossiping, of course, as all good bakers do. I’d soaked golden raisins overnight in some blood orange juice and Cointreau, and since there was still an almost full bottle of juice just lying around, I’m sure there were mimosas involved in this event. I’m dreaming of that day. Of those cupcakes. » Continue reading this post...

My Mother and I Bake Christmas Cookies and Eat Them All: Springerle

Springerle (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

“Does the recipe say to knead that? Don’t need knead that,” says my mom as I stand at the kitchen counter, kneading. We are baking Christmas cookies.

“Oh, and spread flour on the bottom of that baking sheet or else the Springerle will stick. The recipe doesn’t mention that.” I wonder what we’re using the recipe for.

My mother is one of the best cooks I know, and every year at Christmas, she makes mounds of delicious cookies we nibble on for days. Each time we make a new batch, she opens up a butter and molasses spackled cook book, gritty with years of sugar, and though we look at the recipe, it seems to be more of a token, or a spirit guide, than rules we need to follow.

Springerle blocks (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Basket of flowers (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

My favorite cookies are the chewy gingersnaps dunked in glasses full of cold milk, but there are also dark, spicy Lebkuchen, crumbly vanilla half-moons and anise-flavored Springerle.

Without a milk bath, Springerle are very hard cookies. When I was younger, I used to pretend it was hard tack and that I was a sailor or an early settler, trekking through snow to find winter berries and herbs for my sparse country kitchen. I didn’t actually like the taste of Springerle – less sugary than the other Christmas cookies and with a funny licorice taste. Springerle have a very grownup flavor profile, and as an adult, I’ve come to love the soft anise aroma and slight sweetness. » Continue reading this post...

Life’s a Little Brighter with Citrus: Grapefruit and Olive Oil Pound Cake

Grapefruit and olive oil pound cake (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

A dull, gray day. The kind where you pour a glass of wine at 5 in the afternoon and then decide to bake a cake. The kind where you want nothing to do with leaving your apartment, but know that walking home from the grocery store clutching a pot of basil to your nose is everything.

I don’t bake often, so when I feel the urge to turn on the oven, it’s a big deal. What it usually means is that there’s a funk coming on. I try to stave those off. No one likes a funk.

So I call my brother to come bake a cake with me and keep me company. I put on a pair of shoes and go to the grocery store. Please don’t ask what I was wearing. Just know that it involved things that should never be worn in public, much less worn in public together. I picked up some baking goods and a few things to make Thai curry, because there’s nothing that staves off a funk better than curry and cake. At home, I pour myself a glass of just-this-side-of-salad-dressing wine that’s been hanging out in the fridge for two weeks, throw some music on, and start to cook. I’m feeling better already.

Pound cake batter (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Grapefruit glaze (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

My brother says, “Is this going to be a blog post?”

“Yes,” I reply.

“Are you going to write down all the witty things I say?”

“Probably.”

“You’re going to write this conversation down aren’t you?”

“Verbatim.”

There’s not much else to say, really. This isn’t a story about witty quips. It’s a story about how the physical act of cooking, of chopping vegetables and beating eggs, measuring, smelling, tasting – is the best way I know to stave off panic.

Drizzled with grapefruit glaze (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Perhaps our stress is stored inside our hands and not our heads. » Continue reading this post...