Growing up, there were several cookies my mom would always make around the holidays: crispy chocolate-chip laden biscotti, delicately caramelized lace cookies filled with melted chocolate, little cups of gooey nut pastries, and these tiny bombs of buttery walnut cookies I only knew as Butter Balls.
When the gluten thing hit in my early teens, those were all off limits for years. Later, as my mom started experimenting with gluten-free flours by my side, she easily adapted some of her favorites so that I could enjoy them along with my family. To this day, her biscotti come out better than mine, even though she uses my flour blend to make them. Some things just need that extra bit of mom love, I guess.
But the walnut butter balls eluded me. Until now.
It was August, and I hadn’t made a single pie.
I hadn’t made a single batch of ice cream or sorbet, either; but the cardinal sin was with the pie.
Pie is my favorite dessert. I make one for my birthday, or when I want to impress a man, or when a man I’ve impressed breaks my heart. And this summer I hadn’t made one.
But then I saw huge stalks of rhubarb in my hometown grocers. Rhubarb that was far too girthy for its own good, and so late in the season that I couldn’t nearly call it “peak”. But rhubarb none the same. I also had some really beautiful black plums from a farmers market in NYC. And I had Brooks Headley’s Fancy Desserts on my brain.
It came out October 1st, but I had it mistakenly launching on my schedule on the 20th, so this little post is a touch late. Brooks had kindly sent it to me after we’d barely missed each other at a mutual friend’s restaurant anniversary party; a black-and-white copy with notes someone had scribbled on random pages.
Now, I’ve never worked with Brooks. I met him when he was celebrated as a 2013 Dessert Professionals Top Ten Pastry chef, where we’d been introduced by Niko of Dessertbuzz (that link is for the 2014 celebration, because I love the photo Niko took of me with my favorite sweet pea of a pastry chef, Ron Ben-Israel). I had planned to work with Brooks in my interview column, but first he was busy writing the book and then my column ended. I still have yet to work with him, as I’m saving up my “wanna work on…?” request for something meaty. But the book had landed magically in my mailbox after the post Brooks-is-walking-away-from-this-party email exchange.
And it’s f***ing awesome.
Welcome to my second installment of Pro Pastry. Today over at WordsFoodArt.com, I have a review of the cookbook this recipe came from – out today! – and a bit more on the chef behind it. Take a look at the why’s behind this series, and here for my first piece in this series, Dairy-Free Creme Brulee from Chef Joe Murphy.
Okay, so this title is kinda misleading.
There’s no gluten to be found in the original of this recipe, and I did not eat that beautiful slice of toasted bread in the image above. The recipe’s not completely dairy free, as it contains copious amounts of butter. But it did take a touch of adaptation to work with it and I’m so glad I did, because I devoured it on some rice crackers, feasted it to a friend on that bread as part of his birthday dinner and, a few days later, the ladies in my writers group helped me polish off yet another ramekin, with one of the ladies going to town on it. After I explained that she was eating chicken livers, she proclaimed its excellence and said she was glad not to have originally known what was in it, as she wouldn’t have tried nor fell in love with it if she had.
Game, set, match! for Jacqueline (still have the U.S. Open on the brain, and still boggled by their scoring system). Continue reading
Living with Lyme disease = a constant battle against inflammation.
It’s nothing new, or novel, that eating certain foods and imbibing on tasty cocktails causes many to feel gross. But when you have an inflammatory illness, that “feeling gross” can result in horribly painful joints and enraged digestive systems.
Currently, it seems like everything and their brother causes inflammation in my body; my fingers are swollen, I have to roll out the puffiness in my feet and ankles, and my face get a Cabbage Patch Kid-esque pique to it. Lyme Disease + being in my thirties + adrenal stuff making it really hard to get the green light to exercise as often as I’d like = puff.
Does that mean I never indulge? Hell no. It just means that I’m constantly putting inflammation-fighting foods in my body, and making sure that the clean days far outweigh the indulgent ones.
This granola recipe is one of my favorites. It’s insanely easy, and wonderfully adaptable. Continue reading
Life can be funny, man!
I recently put a “Hey, I’m moving on!” notice up here, as it’s been well over a month since my last post and even that wasn’t a recipe. Many bloggers I know take pause or stop blogging when they have babies; I’m raising a growing writing career which has shifted in the past few years from writing about fictional people to writing about real ones.
I’ve now profiled around 150 chefs internationally for various avenues (columns on Serious Eats, Tasting Table, and Easy Eats Magazine, stuff on Imagista and in Plate Magazine, and ghostwriting for chefs). I’m currently in the beginning stages of my first book; a collection of first-person essays from some of my favorite chefs in my home city. I jump between projects and editors and ideas, and I love my fiercely independent freelance lifestyle, pulling it all together on WordsFoodArt.com.
There are only so many hours in the day and I’m filling them with work I love, leaving little time to be hyper-aware of the photos of food I’m taking or making sure I jot down each and everything I bake (that typed with love and thanks to those who have read this blog over the years). Lyme symptoms also make balancing work and my body a little tough, so my workable hours are reduced as well
But then there’s this dude up there. The chef in a black coat looking up at me with puppy dog eyes at the first (and last) pastry competition (for a good cause!) I entered a few years ago. My Holiday in a Hand Pie won two of the four awards; it was gluten and dairy free, so I was shocked. I had no idea who chef Johnny Iuzzini was when I met him, nor the famous restaurant he worked at, the TV show he hosted, or the James Beard award he’d won.
‘Cause I was lame like that. Continue reading