There are moments here in New York City, when I feel like I’m living out a television episode or something. Yesterday, walking from Rockefeller Center to Times Square, I was hit in such a moment.
I’d just come from doing an infomercial at a salon a friend owns, three stories above where the big ol Christmas sits during the holidays. Now and then he treats me to a cut or color or, in this case, a treatment that makes my hair shiny and soft. It’s been just over a year since I’ve been on camera, and though I was put off at first by the much larger production scale than I’d expected (there’s money in beauty product advertising), I quickly fell back into the fun of it. And evidently the 4 years of drama school and 10 years of city living mean I actually can do what I’ve been trained to do, so it sorta kicked ass.
I then hoofed it to Times Square to pick up some tickets for my sister (the kitsch factor in that area is laughable now, and most readily avoided), and subway’d it down to Union Square. Being early for brunch with friends (2:30 is totally acceptable time for eggs on a Sunday), I sneaked into a single spot at the bar at Union Square Cafe and treated myself to half a dozen oysters and a killer Bloody Derby*.
There was something about the tone of my day – the color, the weather, the bustle of tourists, the quiet subway car, the packed bar, the good food – that reminded me why life in New York is so sweet, and generous, and rather sexy sometimes.
Now, I feel like this little ramble should connect to this recipe, because if I was a serious food blogger than all things in my daily life would connect to the things I bake and blog about, right? I’d have more of a shtick and more than 3 people who read this would know what a Bloody Derby** is because I’ve referenced it a few times now… I may have even recipe’d it.
Anyway, this recipe connects because my day yesterday and that gorgeous chocolatey thing above are both full of love and kismet… or something like that. The recipe came together because I got some samples in from Kitch+Table, who I’ve worked with for Easy Eats and wanted to try it out on non-gluten-freers my last week of private chef-ing. The adorably talented 13-year old in the family loves brownies, so I figured we might as well have some fun with them.
First off, the brownies are delicious. I followed the very simply recipe on the bag to a T and was a bit wary when the batter was sticky and thick, but they baked up fudgey yet firm, rich yet not heavy. They have that signature crumb on top that many gluten-free brownie recipes miss. The boss family had no idea they were gluten-free, and the brownie aficionado ate the scraps around our little cut-out hearts with relish, going nuts for them. So stellar product to begin with (and I tried out two bags of this with equally stellar results). Go to Kitch+Table for purchasing or try my boozy Beer Brownies for something totally by scratch.
To spruce them up (this was the week after Valentines day) we used cookie-cutter hearts and layered them with thinly cut strawberries, some dairy-free fudge sauce leftover from my Chocolate Mallow Layer Cake and some dairy-free coconut Creme Anglaise, definitely two staple recipes to have in your pastry book.
Since leaving this job I’ve felt much emotionally calmer and steadier, and I know soon my body will catch up. And until then I’ll be thankful for the little moments, the big ones, the good things people are producing, and a little Creme Anglaise.
Dairy-Free Creme Anglaise
This recipe sounds uber fancy but it’s relatively simple. Made with egg whites and just a little bit of sugar, it’s a delicately sweet addition for dressing up desserts.
1/4 cup egg whites
1/4 tsp cornstarch, tapioca starch or arrowroot starch
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 vanilla bean, de-beaned (slice the vanilla bean down lengthwise and use the back of the knife to scrape the beans out)
3/4 cup lite coconut milk
In a medium bowl, whisk egg whites and starch.
In a small pot, whisk together sugar, vanilla and milk. Whisk constantly over medium-ish heat until steaming. Pour over the egg mixture, whisking all the while, until thoroughly combined.
Pour back into pot and return to stove. Whisk constantly for 1-2 minutes, until slightly thick, coating the whisk.
Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a Pyrex measuring cup or small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until cold.
*If you ever meet a guy in Denver with bright eyes who says he penned the name “Bloody Derby” for a Bloody Mary with bourbon in it, you have full permission to box his ears. I came up with it almost two years ago. This name has been pondered and considered. Do not trust this man. Then again, don’t box his ears, because he was in the army and is very able to kick your ass. Maybe just tickle him instead. I think he’s ticklish. Report back if you find out.
**The 4 of you who read this far down now know too. Between the 8 of us and the Denver guy and the guy I dated for five minutes when I came up with it and the bartender at the Ace hotel where we first ordered it I think we can make this Bloody Derby thing a thing. Just remember who started it. And I drank that Derby hours ago so there’s sadly not even a bourbon-infused reason for this rant.