Tag Archives: dessert

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Only Opportunities

Recently, I was Marion Nestle’s guest at a luncheon hosted by the Food Studies students at NYU.  As Marion proudly showed me through the kitchen, she introduced me to a young woman dressed in a chef’s jacket and wearing a dismayed look on her face. 

“Oooooo!  Can we try some of those?” Marion asked the student when she spotted the sheet pan of coconut concoctions nearby. 

“Oh, those.  They didn’t turn out right.  They spread out too much, and I don’t know what I’m going to do with them now.”

We tasted them anyway, and they were fabulous.  The batter seemed to have separated as they baked, with the butter and sugar falling to the bottom and caramelizing into a sweet, brown, nutty, crispiness that turned ordinary macaroons into something extra special.

“Really?  You like them?” asked the student, seeming surprised as we helped ourselves to seconds.  “I’m glad.  I guess I’ll serve them, but I still don’t know what am I going to do with these completely flat ones on the other tray.”

“If they were mine,” I replied, “I’d chopped them up and used them as a crust for a cheesecake.  I think it would make a fantastic combination.”

“That’s a great idea!” she said, a genuine smile finally on her face.

More importantly, it was a good reminder for all of us that, in cooking, mistakes are really only opportunities to create something new.

Coconut Macaroon

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Cranberry Apple Pie

When I was recently given a photography assignment to photograph layers, I thought about the many places that layers appear in our lives.  There are layers in the atmosphere and in the soil.  Our skin has layers, and we dress in layers.  There are often layers of meaning in conversations, novels, and art.  In the food world, there are layers of onions, layers of fat, and layers in a lasagna.  But my favorite layers are the layers of Mutsu apples in a homemade cranberry apple pie

Cranberry Apple Pie

 

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Grapes

Every autumn, when the beautiful, sweet grapes from the Finger Lakes Region and the North Fork of Long Island reach my farmers market, I am reminded of images of the ancient Romans, dressed comfortably in togas and romantically feeding each other great bunches of the precious fruit.  It is said that grapes symbolize wealth, power, and good luck, and while I can’t say that they have ever brought me wealth or power, I can certainly attest to the good fortune I feel whenever I am lucky enough to eat them.

Eating Grapes

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Cacao Prieto

On a recent jaunt via ferry to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook, I scanned New York Harbor for signs of a floating bottle.  “If I ever find a genie in a bottle,” I fantasized, “My first wish will be that my grandparents return to life to spend a day with me in New York City.”  The thought slipped away as I took in street after street, and shop after shop, in Red Hook.  Then, about an hour later, I came upon Cacao Prieto, a stunningly beautiful distillery and single-origin organic chocolate factory founded by the grandson of the little girl depicted on the postcard accompanying the chocolate bars.  It seemed as if my grandparents had heard my thoughts on the ferry ride to Red Hook.  My Nana, a chocolate lover, and my Gramps, a bourbon lover, were there with me that day in New York City.

Cacao Prieto

 

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Peach Clafoutis

When I was in culinary school  twenty years ago, already — I had a French pastry instructor named Michel.  Chef Michel loved clafoutis, so on the days I was assigned to make the desserts for the school restaurant, I always made sure to include a clafoutis of one kind or another.  I was never surprised when the clafoutis ended up in Chef Michel’s office rather than in the restaurant.  And I’m pretty sure I have clafoutis to thank for getting an A in his class.

Peach Clafoutis

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Blackberries

Whenever I see fresh blackberries at the farmers market, I can’t help but marvel at their perfect beauty.  They seem to have been created by a mathematician with a flair for art . . . or, perhaps, by an artist with a flair for math.  In either case — as the happy recipient of the effort — I’m grateful that the creativity didn’t stop before the transcendent flavor was added.

Blackberries

Blueberry Pie

Although there are few places I’d rather be than my kitchen, I’m not what you’d call a happy baker.  I hate all that measuring and weighing and exacting over every little ingredient.  I much prefer to throw whatever I find in the fridge into a cast iron skillet, add a few herbs and spices, and enjoy the unpredictable results.  However, when local blueberry season rolls around, I find myself slaving over blueberry pie three or four times a summer.  On rare occasions, there will be a piece left for a lucky friend or neighbor, but — for the rest of you  I offer this photo.  Look quickly because I’m about to devour the last slice.

Blueberry Pie

Strawberry Almond Cake

It is often said that cooking is art, but baking is science.  The reasoning behind the statement is that there’s a wide margin of error in cooking, thus leaving plenty of room for creativity without ruining a dish.  Baking, however, requires precise measuring, weighing, and timing in order to yield a result worth bragging about.  That’s not to say, however, that there isn’t a bit of room for improvisation in the world of baking.  This strawberry almond cake is a good example of just that.  The recipe required milk, for which I substituted tangier buttermilk, and walnuts, for which I substituted almonds.  Then, because I had some beautiful fresh strawberries from the farmers market, I sliced those in half and placed them with the almonds in the bottom of the pan before adding the batter.  The result was so delicious that I may go bake another as soon as I’m done writing this post.

Strawberry Almond Cake

Lavender Lemon Shortbread

“Why don’t you ever make anything with lavender?” Kay asked me recently.  Taking that as the challenge it was no doubt meant to be, I bought some culinary lavender flowers at the farmers market and started dreaming up ways in which to use them.  I finally decided to embellish a recipe that I still have from my old bakery-owning days and made these lavender lemon shortbread cookies.  They’re beautiful, delicate, and delicious, and they’ll be making a regular appearance at Chez Ks . . . at least until Kay issues her next challenge.

Lavender Lemon Shortbread

Bourbon Brownies

Every Friday night when I was a child, my grandparents came to visit.  My Gramps would settle into a chair, readying himself to read me countless books, with a can of beer and a shot of bourbon.  He would allow me “as many sniffs as you want of beer but only one sip.”  The bourbon was relegated to “sniffs only” territory.  To this day, I still love the smell of bourbon.

Bourbon Brownies

Tuscan Cream Cake

I’ve been baking my favorite cake for years, the Tuscan Cream Cake from Emily Luchetti’s Stars Desserts cookbook. The recipe is so labor-intensive that I feel like crying when I make it. And so delicious that I do cry when I eat it.

Tuscan Cream Cake