No photo, so take my word for it that yesterday’s lime pie, finally dolloped with concentric rings of softly (hand-) whipped cream and sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar and minced lime zest, its pale face circled with a russet collar of cookie-crumb crust (speculoos mixed with very similar almond wafers), looked rather pretty. My baked goods hardly ever look pretty — maybe handsome in an undecorated fashion, but not pretty — so I was pleased. And it tasted great, the tangy, soft, cool lime and cream a fine contrast with the crunchy, cinnamon-and-gingery crust. It went beautifully with the other dessert contribution at the dinner party, Camille’s lemon cake with raspberries.

I was inspired by this frozen lemon pie recipe from Everybody Likes Sandwiches, cross-referenced with Mark Bittman and Martha Stewart and a handful of other recipes. Citrus tarts using sweetened evaporated milk are legion, and not complex at their essence, though there are so many variations that this basic simplicity can be obscured.

The only other time I went to Ralph’s place it was for another dinner party and there too I brought cream, bowl, and whisk. That time it was a chocolate torte — the red wine cake, I think. He must think I’m obsessed with beating. The Four Freedoms monument on Roosevelt Island, now visible, clean and elegant, from Ralph’s terrace, had not then been built. Like all the best midtown views, his also includes other people’s terraces, watertowers, and the Chrysler Building.

Crunching and jamming.

You remember that pear-ginger conserve I made, out of Melissa McClellan’s FOOD IN JARS book? Well, I made another recipe, nectarine-lime, and it was maybe even more delicious. It came out a gorgeous purplish-red color, too, surprisingly, suggestive of cherries or raspberries, but I figure it was all due to the nectarines’ skins.  The minced lime zest gave it a little sharp nip.

I had all the ingredients (except the millet, procured for 26 cents at the organic store on Court Street) so I made Smitten Kitchen’s vegan, gluten-free, nut-free chocolate granola bars.  So far I have not encountered any of my acquaintance with all those requirements, but the non-sensitive to whom I’ve offered the bars have enjoyed them. There are a lot of variable slots in the recipe: I used pomegranate molasses for the sweetener, tahini for the nut butter, coconut oil for the fat, dates and dried cranberries for the fruits.  Even cut with (gasp) corn syrup the pomegranate was, as I feared, somewhat overwhelming; if I make these again I will use honey and will change up the fruits, maybe to raisins and apricots. I’ll also reduce the chocolate further (I used a little less than the cup called for).  In pursuit of effective congealment I adopted the technique from the comments of heating the syrup briefly and melting the oil and tahini into it.  I baked at night, refrigerated the tin, and cut the bars in the morning, and they held together quite well. Half the batch is keeping safe in the freezer, individually wrapped purportedly for travel snack use, though I had one frozen last night.  I’d say they were a success, but not such a stunning one as to put paid to any thought of alternatives.

I’m giving you just a thumbnail photo, because why make an ugly picture any easier to see?

Granola bars. They taste better than they look.

Granola bars. They taste better than they look.


Momentary preservation.

In the cool of the morning yesterday I made a little jar of pear-ginger conserve based on the recipe in Marisa McClellan’s book Food in Jars.

Photo on 2015-05-27 at 07.54(No, that’s not a properly sealed lid; I didn’t process it, I’ll just keep it in the fridge and use it up soon.) It’s good, though for some reason I expected it to be tangier than it turned out. McClellan’s formula includes chopped pear, half as much sugar, orange (I used tangelo) including the peel, lemon juice and zest, grated ginger, chopped walnuts thrown in toward the end.

Something else I made recently, but took no photos, and I feel uncomfortable discussing because I didn’t note the source, just jotted down an outline in my notebook: hazelnut crisps. These flourless wafers are kind of like non-puffy macaroons using the whole egg.  I baked a test batch and I’m glad I did, as they were far spreadier than I had guessed — so much so that one crept right off the edge of the baking sheet and landed in a charring lump on the bottom of the oven.  They also needed longer and hotter baking than the recipe proposed.  Once all that’s solved, they’re delicious.

Here’s my version: 1 egg; 1/2 cup sugar; scant 1/4 cup melted butter; 3/4 cup finely chopped hazel (or other) nuts; 1/2 tsp vanilla; pinch of salt. Oven 375º.  Whisk all together and let stand to thicken. Use a silicone mat or parchment; use a jelly roll pan if you are worried about cookies making a break for freedom. Drop small amounts, widely separated, and bake; after 10 minutes, pull out to separate and reshape. Bake another five to ten minutes or until they are browning nicely at the edges. Let cool and slide them off the paper. The cookies will be extremely thin.

Canzonet for two voices at the cheese counter



Overheard counterpoint at Zabar’s cheese department:

“Taleggio, taleggio, taleggio”

“Manchego, manchego, manchego”

(Not entirely overheard, though quite true. I sang S1 in this duet.)


Better macaroons.



In previous years I’ve used David Lebovitz’s recipe for macaroons, which calls (extraordinarily, I haven’t seen this anywhere else) for lightly cooking together the ingredients in a skillet before baking. This year I didn’t look up his recipe and just used the universally approved method that simply mixes the egg white with the dry ingredients and bakes.  And I have to say, they’re NOT AS GOOD. This morning I made a tiny batch of the Lebovitz method — of course I left out the flour; otherwise the only differences are the process and the addition of a little dab of honey — and they are not as macaroon-looking but they are charmingly juicy with a caramelized edge.  So good.  Thanks, David, it’s well worth dirtying a frying pan.


Continuing the Passoverian theme

Should I have a tag for “Bad Pictures of Baked Goods”?



This morning I made a batch of coconut macaroons. It’s embarrassing how easy coconut macaroons are.  Almond ones, for some reason, cause me much more trouble, but I’m going to try for some of them later today or in the passover season and also want to make tish pishti, but these may have to wait, as I am required to produce a vegetable kugel for tonight,

Some of these macaroons have a little nutmeg and cardamom sprinkled in, with some coconut extract added. Nice, I think.


First crunch of Passover

not really crack

Planning well ahead and expecting high demand, I’ve already made the first batch of chocolate caramel matzoh crack.  (It keeps well, if I keep my paws off it.)  This year’s brilliant innovation: I went to the bargain store on Court Street and found a marked-down bag of Lindt chocolate squares in four flavors. (Yeah, I know, bargain chocolate, but they’re fine, I promise.)  I used the Intense Orange squares mixed with plain dark chocolate and added a little minced clementine peel and some slivered almonds, and it is delicious. I filled out the tray with regular semisweet chips topped with roasted salted sunflower seeds.  Next up, the chili-flavored squares.  As to the macaroons to come, I think I will not make red velvet flavor, but I could be wrong.

Cold butter.

I made some tasty scones, or sconelike things, for the singers yesterday.  I hunted over Tastespotting and looked at a bunch of recipes, finally keeping three open and relying most on Tartelette‘s for structure (as I had yogurt, not cream or buttermilk) and My Lovely Kitchen‘s for the apricot-rosemary idea.  I used a total of about two cups of flour, including a quarter-cup or so of corn flour, and reduced other quantities in an imprecise sort of proportion — four Tbs of butter, for instance, whirred rapidly with the flour in the food processor.  A couple of dried apricots, chopped, and a tablespoon of currants, all soaked in a bit of tea, got thrown in, and a little sprinkle of turbinado sugar on top sparked against the not-very-sweet (but quite moist) substance. I liked them, as did my friend T and the singing gang.

Luck of the.

I wanted to contribute to dinner at Camille’s for Movie Night, but I know by now that C has usually got the main categories well covered, so I offered to bake and bring a moderately-timely Irish (or Irish-ish) soda bread.  I looked at at least a dozen recipes and had these four open when I was baking.  In the end I relied most on the King Arthur Flour Irish brown bread, but changed pretty much everything.  (Considering (a) how varied the recipes were and (b) soda bread’s something made by rustic grandmas, stringent accuracy seemed not required.) I decided I needed only a three-cup bread, so I used two cups of all-purpose and a cup of mixed whole wheat and oat flakes, a tablespoon of sugar, approximate 3/4 amounts of salt, baking soda, and baking powder, a tablespoon or so of melted butter, a little over a cup of yogurt blended with almond milk, a touch of vinegar to make sure there was enough acid, and a third-cup or so of soaked currants and raisins.  Aside from sticking to the ungreased (dumb!) cast iron skillet I baked it in, it came out handsomely brown and craggy and tasted very good, not so dry or so plain as “real” soda bread but not so ornamented as to approximate cake.  It was eaten with glee by the Movie Night gang and, the leftovers, by me for breakfast.  I wish I had a picture.

I made another yeast bread on the more-or-less Bittman method, this one almost white with a little chickpea flour and some oats.  I let it over-rise on the first rise, but it still worked out nicely. And another batch of the super ranger cookies.

Haruspex Day 2015

The Ides of March roll round again. And once again, lousy haruspex as I am, I have no predictions for you, except the eternal and obvious (the snowdrops and crocuses will appear and give way to the daffodils and tulips, et cetera).  So this year’s link is to this note on the apotropaic function of Caesar’s reported words to his killers: And the same to you!


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