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.
Yesterday was one of the best days ever!
Being a freelancer and having a complicated chronic illness mean I’m often stressed about money, or restrictions because of the limits of my health, or both, as in a recent $634 bill for natural medication. But it also means I’m often forced to lay low, by my own discipline,my family forcing me or my body just shutting itself down. I had worked three full days in my family office and then gone out with some food media/publicity friends late into Wednesday night, meaning that Thursday had to be market a NOTHING! day in my calendar. Being Halloween, that NOTHING would include watching American Horror Story (!), buying cider from the corner store, avoiding going downtown, and catching up on some writing / blogging. Yes, writing and blogging aren’t doing nothing. But when I have space for them sandwiched by American Horror Story and rainy walks with Mitra, they’re relaxing, too.
So there I was, infuriated by my ancient computer’s incapability to work with me by loading pages and saving documents and such, when I threw up my hands, powered down and walked into the kitchen. Because freelancing and NOTHING also mean I can put my hands into (gluten-free) flour and slice fruit when I feel like it, dammit! Continue reading
Oh, summer, how bittersweet ’tis to lose thee!
I’ve been spending a good amount of time observing the shifting in the seasons, lately. I take Mitra out every morning and take in the weight of the clothes I’m adding on, the chill of the frost on the grass when I’m in my dad’s backyard, or the whip of the wind off of the Hudson River when I’m home in New York. I stare at how the sun blasts up the luminosity of green leaves while dozing in my hammock, and the first touches of gold as I drive the Merritt Parkway back to the city again. The shadows on the brick outside my building seem a tad muted, now, and I know soon there will be only trunks sketched on them, their branches bare and trembling.
But I love this time of year, the duality of it. At the local market the apples have taken their first sign of crispness and cold, while the peaches soften and bruise next to them. Last week I made a gingerbread cake with pears for a sunny social event, and I’ve already clipped my crop of herbs and stuck jars of gremolata in my freezer to get me through the winter.
But then… there are still peaches.
Honeybun Ice Cream with Fruit Compote and Macarons
This dessert is incredibly happy-making. Honeybun ice cream made with coconut milk, topped with stewed fruit and a French macaron – divine. It was the perfect conclusion to my FoodBuzz 24×24 Scarborough Fair Summer Supper Party. Laced with lavender honey and infused with spearmint, it’s both sweet and refreshing at the same time.
Oh, and why is it named Hurricane Irene Erosion? Because my lavish summer supper party poolside in Connecticut became a rainy dinner for seven in my apartment in NYC because of the impending doom of Irene that – gasp! – dropped a twig on my car. Check out the post on the party.
The ice cream itself is incredibly creamy, silky smooth and just-sweet enough without being overbearing. It’s made with a base of egg yolks and coconut milk tempered together to make a rich custard. Sweetened only with honey and vanilla, it’s a healthy version of the classic for those of us with milk allergies.
The photos don’t quite do it justice – let’s just say if you make it you won’t be disappointed.
Oh, and the entire recipe is gluten and dairy free.
I’m not going to put a macaron recipe up here – they’re not easy to make. This was my first successful attempt after 5 failed tries. It took my interviewing Jill Colonna of Mad About Macarons and a pastry class at Dessert Truck Works to get it right. So I’ll let you explore those options if you want to tackle macarons, or suggest my Rosewater Lavender Shortbread.
Hurricane Irene Erosion
Ingredients: Ice Cream
- 2 cans full-fat coconut milk
- 5 Tbsp vanilla extract
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup honey – split
- 1 tsp gelatin
- Bring a pot of water to a simmer and place a large metal bowl on top in old-school double-boiler style.
- Place coconut milk and vanilla in the bowl and heat until hot but not boiling. When warm, add 1/2 cup of honey and whisk to combine.
- In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks.
- Temper the eggs by whisking about 1/2 cup of the warm coconut milk into the egg yolks. Make sure you whisk continually so that the eggs don’t clump. Repeat two or three more times until the egg yolks come up to temperature, and then add the yolk mixture to the bowl of milk. Whisk together over just-simmering water until the mixture thickens slightly.
- Sprinkle the gelatin on top and let it dissolve slightly, then continue to whisk until incorporated.
- Remove mixture to cool and then refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.
- Make according to the directions of your ice cream maker, or pour into a wide pan and stir every half hour for about four hours. When the mixture is just coming together, swirl in the remaining honey so that it remains in streams in the ice cream. I used honey infused with lavender, which was quite delightful.
For the Fruit:
I used a pint of black plums and two ripe peaches. I simply stewed them with a teaspoon of gelatin over medium heat until they boiled down a bit, then cooled them to gel. When completely cool, I stirred in two tablespoons of fresh spearmint.
For some reason listening to Nina Simone seemed appropriate when making Ebelskivers alone in my apartment last week. Being that Nina is neither from Denmark nor filled with jam, I don’t know why this was so. Maybe sweet cinnamon, sugar and molasses made me think both of the blues and pancakes?? Or strong coffee and whiskey? Mine is not to reason why… just to bake and sway slowly and enjoy. Which I did.
My friend Abigail loaned me her cast-iron pan for these little treats recently, and I had a feeling “waiting” for a brunch crowd was going to test my patience too far. So these got simply rolled in cinnamon and sugar and were served atop whipped cream with chocolate macaron shells, hazelnut cookies and cherry compote at a dinner party I attended later in the evening. I should have taken pictures of the whole caboodle, but let’s just say a few bottles of Prosecco had made their way around the room by the time dessert was plated.
Abigail also gave me her recipe, which is a basic pancake recipe but where the smart (and culinary-school trained) lady specifies separating the egg whites and yolks and beats the whites to stiff peaks, giving the pancakes a lot more lift and chew.
I simply adapted by using my gluten-free cake flour blend and changed / added a bit here and there. And I learned from a few floppy results how to get the pancakes as round and fluffy as possible!
- 1 3/4 cup gluten-free flour (I used my standard cake flour blend)
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, separated
- 1 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 Tbsp soy sour cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 Tbsp melter butter or cooking spray
- Sift flour, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl.
- Lightly whisk the milk and soy sour cream until smooth (this somewhat replicates buttermilk).
- Add cinnamon and vanilla.
- Lightly whisk the egg yolks and then whisk into milk mixture.
- Combine wet with dry.
- Beat egg whites into stiff peaks and then fold into batter.
- Melt butter and wipe with a pastry brush into Ebelskiver pan, then set over medium/high heat. If using cooking spray, spray liberally.
- Bring to a medium/high heat and fill 3/4 way with batter, making sure to note where you’ve started and ended to make turning easier.
- Using a miniature frosting spatula, tongs, a 2-pronged fork or miniature spatula, flip Ebelskivers when they are just starting to pull away from the pan and browning on the bottom. I’ve found confidence and the grace of a ballerina help when turning them without the batter messing all over the pan. Standing with one foot slightly raised and toes pointed somehow also contributes to success. As does giving yourself an extremely low curtsy afterwards in celebration.
Now, I simply tossed mine in cinnamon and sugar and they were divine. On a more ambitious day (or when trying to impress an overnight guest who’s daring to stay for brunch) I might put a drop of jam or lemon curd into the center. Ooh, or dark chocolate (for them, not me).
I found the result to be a lovingly fluffy, chewy pancake, rather neutral in flavor as one must be. Mixing some ground flax seed and diced ginger might be delightful. Hmm… now I’m hungry.
Round and fluffy and delicious