“This place reminds me of Santa’s Workshop! Except it smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they want to hurt me.”
—Buddy the Elf
“This place reminds me of Santa’s Workshop! Except it smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they want to hurt me.”
—Buddy the Elf
When I was one-and-twenty I heard a wise man say,
‘Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free.’
But I was one-and-twenty
No use to talk to me.
When I was one-and-twenty I heard him say again,
‘The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
‘Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue.’
And I am two-and-twenty
And oh, ’tis true, ’tis true.
A. E. Houseman
I am awaiting the cool luxury of September and Autumn to sink into me, into my bones and the clouds and the breeze and the branches of the trees.
Instead, New York has gotten a miserable late-season heatwave. It’s a disgrace to my favorite month. Just yesterday, the heat index was 105 degrees F! Gross! I am legitimately just a puddle of sweat and skin cells. Lovely visual, I’m aware.
As I mentioned in my last post, I can’t be bothered in this heat to turn on the oven.
What’s more, last night my air conditioner broke… I was ready to jump out of a window. There is a unique hellishness about sitting in a tiny New York shoebox apartment in sweltering heat even after the sun has set, unable to open the windows for relief due to the drive shaft trash smell and the fumes from the pizza shop below me. Pizza scent may sound appealing, but 24/7 it is truly nauseous. Trust me on this one.
The heat makes me lazy and a little insane. I’m much more prone to losing my shit over little things; I am lethargic (still haven’t fully unpacked from LDW in the Hamptons…) and unmotivated. And mostly, I am antsy! Give me fall!
I am praying it won’t be this hot for my birthday, which is next Sunday! I think we should all expect a pavlova to show up on this page in honor of, well, me. /shrug/
This beaut of a cheesecake is raw, vegan, gluten- and sugar-free, and utterly virtuous.
I’ve made cheesecakes like this before, and I really enjoy them, even if I don’t follow a raw lifestyle.
The cashew and coconut milk base is ultra creamy. It barely need any sweetener, so a drop of maple syrup does the trick.
A bracing helping of matcha helps to balance the richness, and a salty-sweet date and almond crust provides a thoughtful chewiness to each bite.
I decorated mine with strawberries, freeze-dried raspberries, and chopped pistachios, because it’s what I had on hand. And, for the record, with this heat, it’s still summer fruit season so stock up on strawbs!
When I was home, I even picked and devoured some rhubarb. And the peaches I bought at the farmer’s market this week were better than the apples that I bought, so that says something.
Enjoy it while it lasts; you don’t know what you’ve got, etc. etc.
A few tips about successfully making a raw cheesecake:
Don’t line your pan with parchment paper unless you want divots in your final cake.
If you don’t have a high powered blender, soak your cashews in cold water for at least 8 hours. They should be swollen and soft, but not slimy. You can keep them at room temperature or in the fridge.
If you have extra crust, or want less crust, don’t toss it! And don’t lay it on super thick as it can get hard in the freezer! Just roll the extra crust into energy balls. They make for fantastic snacking and/or decoration for the cake.
Use any combination of fruit and nuts to decorate that you want. Green tea goes really well with stone fruit, berries,
nuts, and chocolate.
Use high quality matcha here: since the cake is not being baked, any overt bitterness won’t be covered up by sugar/butter.
Raw vegan cheesecakes, previously:
Raw Matcha “Cheesecake”
makes 1 6-, 8-, or 9-inch cheesecake, depending on how thick you want it
for the crust:
150 – 200 grams (1.5 heaping cups) whole almonds
12 dates (or as needed)
big pinch sea salt
for the filling:
500 grams cashews, soaked overnight
big pinch sea salt
100 grams (7 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) coconut oil
400 grams (1 2/3 cup) full-fat coconut milk
100 – 160 grams (1/3 – 1/2 cup) maple syrup
juice of 2 lemons
2 teaspoons matcha powder
Make the crust: pulse almonds with dates and salt until the mixture forms clumps and can be rolled into a cohesive mass.
Press the crust mixture into the bottom of a 6-inch springform pan.
Place pan in fridge while you prepare the filling.
Place all ingredients for the filling except the matcha in a large blender; start with the smaller amount of maple syrup.
Blend on high speed until smooth and creamy with no lumps remaining, about 5-10 minutes.
Take out half of the filling.
Save approximately 5 tablespoons of the white filling and place into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and place in fridge; pour the remaining amount over the chilled, prepared crust and place in freezer.
Meanwhile, blend the matcha into the remaining half of filling; taste and add more maple syrup as necessary.
Once the white filling has completely set, pour the green filling over.
Freeze until fully set.
Decorate with piped stars and swirls of the white filling; arrange freeze-dried raspberries, strawberries, and pistachios over top as desired.
“One of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened before.”
New York, New York.
The city that never sleeps: a proud acclamation even while most of its inhabitants are miserably dead tired.
Overgrown concrete jungle, deliciously bloated with opportunity, built of contradictions and false starts and dreams achieved.
I live-work-eat-sleep-breathe-watch New York.
As I settle in deeper, scenes swirl around me—little pieces of other people—dull and unremarkable, yet somehow thought-provoking.
There are soft, overripened edges amongst the city’s constitution.
I catch glimpses of them everywhere, curious (or nosy) as I am.
The subway is a microcosm of New York; ridership spans all walks of life. We all know this: we’ve seen the pictures of Meryl Streep, riding the train home after a failed audition (Meryl! Streep!); we have seen the dancers for whom riding the train is the audition.
A crowded subway full of diverse people is a great equalizer.
None of us can make it go faster and none of us can make it any less unpleasant.
Neither the man in the pressed suit and tie, nor the harried mother and her invariably crying baby, nor the bored looking model, and so on and so forth.
So I bide my time and I observe. Might as well.
There is something disappointing and vaguely optimistic about the young, fashionable professional fishing a cigarette out from her bag while drinking a green juice at 9AM.
Something repellent and electrifying about the heady smell of freshly ground coffee, paint thinner, and body odor on the A train late on Sunday night.
Something disturbing and cutesy about the girl with an expensive-looking black and white calfskin bag that exactly coordinates with the pattern of her little pomeranian’s fur.
Something comforting and unsettling, no matter how bold you’re feeling, about accidentally meeting the same stranger’s gaze more than once, or, agonizingly, more than twice, as both your eyes dart around the car, tracing similar paths (ending at a woman and her bike, atop the handlebars of which perches a man’s bulky gym bag and, more precarious still, another woman’s very large Amazon Prime box).
I wonder what contradictions people see and feel when they look at me.
Is that terribly narcissistic or just some permutation of theory of mind?
I am aware that there are, in theory, seven universal emotions.
I am convinced that body language and etiquette on an extremely crowded subway in the summer is equally well understood.
We all try desperately not to touch each other, (particularly when one enters with a stroller, or suitcase, or child in tow) carefully shifting bags, shuffling feet, and averting eyes.
Every overheated, uncomfortable body moves in unison as the subway shudders and accelerates or grinds to a halt, waving together like so many ungainly stalks of grass.
We attempt to keep polite social space between us.
When one stumbles, bumping all their neighbors while grasping with sweaty hand for the pole, mumbling apologies and righting themselves, smoothing wrinkles and reinserting headphones, we imperceptibly nod with tightly pressed lips hinting at a familiar camaraderie. We’ve been there.
Though we are all trying to willfully ignore everyone else, we are embarrassed for the person, just for a moment.
But by the time the doors open and hot, sticky air pours into the car, we have long forgotten and returned to our bubbles lit with a ubiquitous, faint blue glow.
Newcomers load in, and we make room and begin the sweaty shuffle anew without ever even looking up.
Alright, now for an important soapbox-y aside.
I titled this post “mêlé”—mixed—for the decoration of this cake, and I started composing it long before nightmares unfolded in Charlottesville and Barcelona and Cambrils and Alcanar.
Let me be clear as day: there is no room for mixed reactions to these events.
There is no excuse for mixed reactions to these attacks. Our president’s inability to condemn hatred and bigotry, his choice of wavering and mixed reactions, is astounding, even at this point when we thought he could sink no lower.
You cannot morally equivocate hate-filled terrorist groups with non-terrorist ones.
Murder and violence, while both reprehensible, are not equivalent.
I will not make space for Nazi-sympathizers or ISIS-sympathizers in my life or on my web page. It is a disappointment every day of my damn life that America put an incompetent white-supremacist-apologist in the White House.
By the way, if you think there is a difference between a White Christian group that wants annihilation of all others and a Muslim group that wants the same—that the former can have good people as its members and the latter cannot—your racism is showing.
(And for the record, I don’t think either has good people: there are no “good” Nazis. There are no good terrorists, period.)
My heart breaks. Over and over, into a million pieces, even as my resolve strengthens.
I am begging the universe to manifest a peaceful world.
In the meantime, be nice to everyone. Condemn hate, loudly, and often.
Count the days to 2018. Count the days to 2020.
Miguel-Anxo Murado wrote a mournful piece called “When Terror Came to Barcelona” in the NYT and quoted George Orwell:
“If you can feel that staying human is worth while, even when it can’t have any result whatever, you’ve beaten them.”
Here’s a cake best shared with friends, a cake that is good to the earth and kind to all living beings.
Especially kind to the living beings who get a taste…!
No animal products whatsoever, and they’re not missed in the least.
I’ve been baking quite a bit of vegan deliciousness up in my kitchen, because I don’t eat dairy and eggs day-to-day and therefore often don’t have them on hand. AKA I am lazy.
But hey, my laziness is forcing me to be innovative, so it is a good lazy. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.
This vegan coconut cake is wonderfully moreish, with a texture that is dense and rich and studded with lots of shredded coconut.
Coconut oil provides the luxurious mouthfeel, and coconut milk keeps the whole cake extremely moist.
It is soft in the center, with a light, springy crumb. By baking it in a tart pan, I was able to get more slightly crisped edges, which are addictive and a perfect place for the glaze to well up!
The glaze is super simple: just coconut milk with a pinch of salt and powdered sugar, poured over the cake and allowed to drip down the edges. It doesn’t set rock-hard, but rather like a very soft royal icing, with a nice shine.
The showstopper aspect of this cake are the fresh fruits, most of which I got at the Union Square Greenmarket. I love supporting local farmers! And everything is so fresh at farmer’s markets.
Amazing summer fruit is so abundant right now—it would be a shame not to take advantage of it.
Here I used juicy red currants, the sweetest blueberries I have ever tasted, dark red cherries and strawberries, glossy blackberries, and a few fat smyrna figs for good measure.
The whole thing is topped with anise hyssop flowers, which provides a whisper of licorice and herb flavor to the cake.
You could easily sub a little thyme or lemon thyme, or even a tiny bit of rosemary or lemon zest. Anything that provides a contrast to the fruits without taking center stage!
Vegan Coconut Cake
makes 1 9-inch cake
for the cake:
360 grams (3 cups) AP flour
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
480 grams (2 cups) canned coconut milk
200 grams (1 cup) coconut oil, liquid
30 grams (2 tablespoons) vinegar
1 generous cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
for the glaze:
22 mL (1.5 tablespoons) coconut milk
115 grams (1 cup) confectioner’s sugar
anise hyssop (or other herb of choice)
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 9-inch tart pan or cake pan.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together, and make a well in the center.
Stir in coconut milk, coconut oil, and vinegar until the batter is smooth.
Fold the shredded coconut into the batter and pour into prepared pan.
Bake until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs, or about 20-25 minutes.
Allow to cool completely.
When cooled, make the glaze: whisk coconut milk, salt, and confectioner’s sugar together and pour over the cake.
Allow to set for 5 minutes before piling on the fruits and sprinkling on the herbs.
Serve with a glass of non-dairy milk!
“You aren’t a flower, you’re every blossom in the wood blooming at once.
You are a tidal wave. You’re a stampede.
You are overwhelming.”
― Leigh Bardugo,
Words are not my strong suit right now.
I have been absent—there have been reasons, and there have been reasons.
Good and bad, both escape me before I can write them down here.
I want to keep this space a little bit sacred, for my own sanity.
It will all come out, eventually, although I am avoiding bottling up the months of June and July too tightly inside myself.
Again: for my sanity.
I have chosen to journal them in another place, rather than here, so don’t worry: I’m letting my mind run loose a little.
So, so. I am back!
And. Do you know what else is back?
Game of Thrones.
You can catch me lurking in the ASOIAF reddit, or watching endless Youtube analyses, furiously texting theories with my BFF Sam or my brother, winding down endless Wiki pages—just generally with my head in the Westerosi clouds.
A girl is very happy.
Note that this cake baked into smaller tins would be a marvelous recreation of Sansa’s favorite lemon tea cakes, without a doubt. If you need something to bring to your next watch party and you want to impress, this is just the treat.
Speaking of watching, you should read this article about Buzzfeed’s Tasty if you are at all interested in the future of the online food community and/or have ever watched one of their ubiquitous videos (I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have probably seen at least one). It is a fascinating look inside the company.
I can personally while away full hours just scrolling through their videos…
As far as other news and articles go, read them as you see fit. I could link to a million more NYTimes articles that I have pored over or rolled my eyes while reading in recent days.
Empower and equip yourself with knowledge, if I may so kindly suggest. Never let anything that you would not have considered normal a few years ago pass by undetected amidst the chaos of our world.
I personally read the news constantly.
In truth, the news is literally the only thing of which I have become an increased consumer lately.
In all other aspects of my life, I am trying to focus on what is, rather than what if.
That is to say, not many shiny new purchases to show off. Just more knowledge in my noggin’.
Oh! Also speaking of watching, I have finished the Handmaid’s Tale.
I felt satisfied having completed it.
I don’t really know how much I want another season—I know some people are chomping at the bit for one, but although I did enjoy the show fully and sincerely, I feel lukewarm about seeing the series continue.
I met a colleague of mine whose name is Hannah (and as some of you may know, my middle name is Hannah) and she was joking that we pretty much have all the biblical names in the office.
I said that we just needed Rachel’s handmaid, and neither of us could remember her name despite having both watched the damn show.
The day I finally remembered to look it up—Bilhah—and tell her, the show was nominated for an Emmy.
What a funny coincidence.
The Emmy nom leads me to believe there will be more seasons; our society does tend to milk until dry, it seems.
In food-related news, I have been sticking almost exclusively to a dairy-free + largely egg-free diet (except for Halo Top, cause oh my GOD that stuff is good and I am irrevocably hooked) since I discovered that dairy might not sit well with my skin. I cut it out last summer, but it has become much easier and practical now that I am a Real Adult and cooking 98% of my meals.
I do miss cheese, like, a lot. I’ll be honest.
I’ve been meal prepping my breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for the work week, and it feels great.
The shopping on Sundays is not the most fun, but getting it all out of the way and not worrying about planning or lugging groceries daily through New York makes it worth it.
I eat the same things happily every day. I am the most staid creature of habit.
As long as I get my favorite foods in (cruciferous vegetables, preferably kale, usually twice a day and strawberries, often frozen and slightly thawed so that they’re like sorbet), I am content.
Since I added seafood into my (as I mentioned above) essentially vegan diet, I’ve found protein to be a lot easier to come by. I still stick to my vegan staples of seitan and tofu, though. I love bouncy, chewy foods, so those come more naturally to me than they may to others.
By the way, did you know that some people consider mussels and oysters to be vegan? We all have to make our own choices, of course, and I am less concerned with perfect labels than I once was. But it is an interesting ethical question to ponder.
This cake is a luxurious experiment in dairy- and gluten-free baking.
My last post was also dairy-free: these little strawberry orange shortcakes.
Although neither is vegan (both contain eggs), don’t worry, because I have a vegan cake coming very soon. Watch this space!
Today’s cake is a citrus and almond affair, dense and plush and delightfully tangy.
It is lightly spritzed with lemon syrup, moistening it and bringing it one step closer to a melt-in-your-mouth pudding. The top is finished with powdered sugar, chopped pistachios, sweet juicy blackberries, and candied lemons.
This cake is bursting with flavor and texture, and is made with the most simple ingredients—you can garnish it a lot more minimally if you desire. Overall, it is much greater than the sum of its parts.
It is light without being wishy-washy, and it is a great choice if you need to serve people with varying food allergies. The only fat in the recipe comes from the almonds and egg yolks—no oil!
And no one will miss the dairy or gluten… My taste testers didn’t even blink or pause between inhaling bites when I told them.
I think this would be fabulous with orange zest, topped with a little dark chocolate ganache and whipped (coconut) cream; or served warm with raspberry sorbet or pistachio ice cream.
Add some fresh rosemary to the batter and serve it with vanilla crème anglaise and a drizzle of good olive oil and a pinch of flaky sea salt, if you want to get really fancy.
That does sound good… I rather wish I was in a lovely garden enjoying a slice right now. Hmm.
“I’ve known a great number of clever men. I’ve outlived them all.
You know how?
I ignored them.”
—Lady Olenna Tyrell, S7 E2
Dairy- and Gluten-Free Citrus Almond Cake
makes 1 8-inch cake
for the citrus almond cake:
zest of 2 limes
zest of 2 lemons
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar, divided in two
150 grams (1 1/2 cups) almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
for the candied lemons:
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
240 grams (1 cup) water
2 tablespoons lemon syrup, reserved
powdered sugar, as desired
edible flowers, as desired
Make the cake: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour (with GF flour) an 8-inch pan.
Separate the eggs; whisk the yolks with half the sugar and the citrus zests until lightened in color.
Add the other portion of sugar to the egg whites and whisk until soft peaks form.
Add the almond flour, baking powder, lemon juice, and salt to the yolk mixture and stir until homogeneous.
Gently fold in the egg whites, then pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the center springs back.
Allow the cake to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the candied lemons: slice the lemon into very thin slices.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, then blanch the lemon slices.
Empty the pot of water; add the sugar and cup of water and stir over low heat just until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the blanched lemon slices and allow to simmer until the rind is translucent, about 45 minutes.
Reserve 2 tablespoons of the syrup.
Lay onto parchment paper and allow to cool.
To assemble, brush the cake with the reserved syrup.
Roll the blackberries in a little bit of powdered sugar, and dust the cake with powdered sugar.
Decorate the cake with chopped pistachios, candied lemons, blackberries, and edible flowers, if desired.
Serve at room temperature with tea.
That’s Venus, September thought.
She was the goddess of love.
It’s nice that love comes on first thing in the evening, and goes out last in the morning.
Love keeps the light on all night.
—Catherynne M. Valente
Here in Chicago, the month eased in with uncharacteristic rainy, warm days, leaving us wondering what Winter had left with which to rattle our bones.
February will start out with two exams and my little’s birthday, for which she demands cake but I have promised bran muffins. Can’t spoil them too much, right?!
I truly love Valentine’s Day, and so I am beginning to post appropriately adorable, twee, and chocolaty things here—we only have two weeks left, after all!
I’ve made, precisely, a ton of treats geared for this holiday. There is a ridiculously long list that I’ve linked to below.
To start out this year’s desserts, I chose these brown butter and vanilla bean teacakes, decorated with dark chocolate and sparkly almond sanding sugar.
They’re light and airy, with crispy edges and nibbly insides; they’re mildly flavored with a whole vanilla bean and brown butter; the dark chocolate on the top adds a sweet contrast and the almond sanding sugar is the perfect crunch! (Plus, just look at those vanilla flecks inside!)
These are impossibly fast to pull together, and they store fairly well in an airtight container (up to 3 days, but by day 2, they’ll be crying out for a cup of tea to dunk in).
I actually had a few for breakfast with my morning tea—they are very light, a bit like madeleines.
Buttery, a little crumbly, and a very sweet little treat.
Valentine’s Day, previously (I will leave these links at the bottom of all my coming V Day posts):
Chocolate covered strawberry cake—sinfully dark chocolate layer cake with goat cheese buttercream and chocolate covered strawberries on top.
A dolled-up red velvet cake: with cream cheese meringue buttercream and malted milk candies.
Perfectly pink princesstårta—sponge cake with whipped cream and marzipan.
The cutest, most pin-able pink grapefruit possets, with salty and buttery Ritz crunch and pistachios. One of my favorite recipes ever!
Dark and white chocolate French mendiants, quick and healthy and pretty.
Strawberry pocky cake—love this idea, didn’t love the red velvet recipe I used. Would recommend the link above for dolled-up red velvet if recreating this idea!
Salty dark chocolate tarts—the perfect balance between flaky salt and dark, fruity chocolate.
Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Teacakes
makes 12 small cakes; easily doubled
85 grams (3 ounces, 3/4 stick) butter
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
scrapings of 1 vanilla bean
pinch sea salt
70 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) flour
melted dark chocolate for decorating, if desired
almond sanding sugar for decorating, if desired
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour (I use baking spray) 12-15 little tins, whether they are mini muffin or mini tart pans.
Place butter in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until browned and fragrant, about 6 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool.
Meanwhile, place the eggs, sugar, vanilla bean, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Beat on high for 10 minutes, until extremely light and meringue-like; mixture should be airy and glossy and no longer gritty.
Carefully fold in the flour; once it is half incorporated, pour the brown butter over top and once again carefully fold in.
Batter will fall; be sure to be gentle but completely incorporate all of the butter (this make take a little while).
Portion out into the prepared pans and bake for 10 minutes, until the center springs back and a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
Turn out from pans and allow to cool completely before decorating with melted dark chocolate and sanding sugar.
Serve with tea (of course)!
“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”
Can I tell you a secret?
Oh, bother—of course I can. I do it all the time, don’t I?
The rush—the relief—of spilling inky, irreverent and inwardly-felt thoughts into the incontrovertibly stained internet drives the very heart and soul of the blogosphere. I think.
The writing of this post began with sadness and loneliness pouring forth from a disquieted mind, with introspection and frustration and words that were important—questions about growing older that, inevitably, must be asked—but it fizzled, never reaching a boil but a rather disappointing simmer that belied the troubles beneath.
It took me so long to eke out a few tortured words.
The sentences clashed, metallic and hard-edged, and rather than producing the profound music I had hoped to hear, begat only dissonance and off-tune complaints.
Somewhere along the way I lost my thread of consciousness and the subtlety of the emotions thus came undone.
Without it, I was uncertain of the questions I was even trying to ask, or the tone I was trying to set.
This is just an elaborate way of saying: the writing sucked. It was bad. It was melodrama without substance and it was destined to develop into nothing. A half-assed staircase to understanding.
It’s not like I knew, firmly, what I wanted to write about. I was exploring as I wrote, as I often find myself doing in this space.
I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it; couldn’t quite convince each finger to tap out the required letters.
So I erased it, and sat in front of my computer, vexed.
I also simply don’t feel like putting effort into editing recent photos since I’ve moved (again)—it is such a pain, trying to document pretty food without any props and poor lighting and without my tripod.
It’s far more frustrating than not being able to articulate my anxieties, and that’s reflected in the photos.
I’m annoyed that my blog is lingering, stale crumbs lying stagnant. The same post to see every time you click back. Boring!
I want freshness and excitement and movement, and yet I am swimming against what feels like an insurmountable tide of writer’s and photographer’s block to deliver even a single post.
I can’t wait to go back to Ithaca, where I have pretty linens and lots of plates and a huge oven etc. etc., if only to glean a little inspiration and rediscover myself in the big jars of flour and sugar.
Even if the trees cast green on everything up there. Even if I have no pastry bags and piping tips or cake stands. Even if there is a lot of cat and dog hair floating around in the summer air.
Even if these are all complaints I have lobbed previously, in indignant validity, they will vanish away when I’m back in the heart of my home—the kitchen. (Do I say this every time before I return home? Maybe.)
I’ve been waiting to share these enchanting little cakelets with you, as I felt them deserving of more than just a rant.
Whatever. I gave up, I gave in, and I realized that they were plenty good on their own. Rant be darned.
Some pretty, flowery words would have been a lovely accompaniment to these ruffled pound cakes, but a cup of tea does just as well in their stead. Take it from me.
In truth, these photos are old enough to go back to Chicago, where the lighting was good and I had all my favorite kitchen tools.
This might be the real reason why I am feeling almost reluctant to release them!
I have so many posts highlighting summer’s produce to share with you all!
I really must make haste, because at the rate at which I am posting, it will be pumpkin-spice-latte season and I will be shit out of luck with a bunch of purply-stained blueberry posts lurking in my drafts folder.
I’ll start here, with these lovely mini pound cakes.
The base is a dense lemon yogurt cake, fragrant with zest and moist and buttery–in spite of the lack of butter in the batter–the texture is all due to a generous scoop of yogurt.
Each mini cake is studded with a few juicy blueberries, which, as they bake, collapse in on themselves to become sunken craters of sweet, sticky fruit.
Each cake is dusted with a little powdered sugar; in just two bites, tangy lemon and sweet berries are brought together in the best of summer pairings.
These would be magnificent if made with raspberries or blackberries, and I can imagine that they would also behoove themselves to a ripe wedge or two of peach or apricot.
These are a perfect accompaniment to summertime tea–sweet or unsweetened.
They’re adaptable to whatever summer fruit you have in your pantry (a few white chocolate chips would also sub brilliantly) and simple to make, and they bake so quickly that you won’t even notice that your oven is on!
Lemon Blueberry Pound Cakes
makes 15 mini cakes
135 grams (2/3 cup) sugar
150 grams (2/3 cup) yogurt
75 grams (1/3 cup) canola oil
zest of 1 lemon
120 grams (1 cup) flour
1 1/4 baking powder
5/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup blueberries
powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour 15 mini muffin tins or mini tart pans.
Whisk eggs briskly with sugar.
Add yogurt, oil, and lemon zest and whisk briskly until fully combined.
Add in flour, baking powder, and salt, and stir until the batter comes together.
Portion the batter out evenly into the prepared tins and press 2 or 3 blueberries into the top.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the edges are golden and the blueberries have released their juices.
Allow to cool completely, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Enjoy with a tall glass of iced tea.
All we have to decide
is what to do
with the time that is given to us.
—Gandalf the Grey
Nary a single complaint nor excuse will I launch about how long I’ve been away from this space.
It’s been ages. Epochs. I know.
But I’m not going to harp on the time that has passed.
Know that I wanted to be here and know that I was thinking of it constantly.
OK, I can’t resist: I just got wifi back, friends. I wasn’t just being neglectful.
I fear my mind is wasting away, lately.
The part of my brain that is fed by my own explorations, that is fattened by a good story or a poignant quote or a resonating piece of music, is greying at the edges, fading in a most unpleasant and quiet manner, so that I barely even notice it.
The encyclopedic filing cabinet of my mind that is more full up with facts that I love, rather than mandated ones, is seeming barren as a field left to fallow.
That part. That wild, soulful, curious part.
I need a good book to soothe my soul; I need more classical music and less coffee in the mornings.
I mean, good Lord, I sit in front of a screen all day. I know this isn’t ideal.
I think that in order to return to balance and some sort of an even keel, some serious non-screen time is necessary.
I took a nap outside on Sunday, which was heavenly even if I was laying on the hardest lounge chair of all eternity.
Next weekend I intend to do the same, with a book thrown in the mix.
And sometime between now and then I’m going to get in the kitchen and make a wonderful mess.
I have things I want to share with you—photos, too.
I have willful thoughts and questions that I am trying to coax out of my brain by smashing words together, head-on.
Today, I’m hopping on the scone wagon.
I actually made these scones a while ago, and now would you just look at THAT everyone and their mother posted a scone recipe last week. Fantastic timing on my part.
And everyone else’s are so beautiful and delicious and photogenic.
Mine are a bit craggier and are up to their necks in a pool of glaze, but trust me—flavor-wise, they’re well up to snuff.
These have the most ridiculously long name (even longer than the kingly titles of Game of Thrones…) but they need it because they are a little self-conscious of their cracked, flaky tops, okay??!!
Whole-wheat apricot pistachio lemon-chamomile scones.
Whole wheat pastry flour, soft-milled and nutty, meets butter in the best way possible, becoming a flaky, sweet, slightly-crumbly base.
Each bite is studded with chopped pistachios, the grassiness of which offsets the pieces of sweet Turkish apricots that are strewn throughout the dough.
A generous coat of egg wash and even more generous sprinkling of sparkly sugar and the scones are ready to meet an extremely hot oven, which puffs them up proudly and creates the craters and canyons that will secret away rivers of glaze until bitten into.
The glaze itself, poured over the cooled pastries generously, is made of delicate floral chamomile tea and tart lemon juice. A pinch of salt tempers the sugar, as always.
Persian flavors are very subtly melded into these scones, which last for days and make for a fantastic breakfast or tea.
You can make the scones ahead and freeze them like you would cookies. When you want a hot, buttery scone with a cup of tea, you can simply pop a few in the oven straight from the freezer.
Whole-Wheat Apricot, Pistachio, Lemon-Chamomile Scones
scone portion adapted from Food.com
Makes 8 large scones
for the scones:
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) butter, cubed
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for topping
2/3 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
10 dried apricots, chopped
1/4 – 1/3 cup pistachios, chopped
for the glaze:
1 tablespoon hot water
juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup powdered sugar, or as needed
pinch or two coarse sea salt or kosher salt
Make the scones: preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Put flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and add the cubed butter.
Using a pastry blender or your fingers, smash the butter into small pieces until the largest bits are the size of a pea.
Add the sugar and stir gently.
While stirring, pour in the milk of your choice.
Before the milk is completely incorporated, add in the apricots and pistachios and gently fold to incorporate.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat into a circle.
Cut the dough into 8 wedges and place on the baking sheet.
Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, or freeze for up to a month, well-wrapped.
When ready to bake, whisk the egg and water together and brush over the tops of the scones.
Generously sprinkle sugar all over the scones, and bake for 12-14 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
Allow to cool.
To make the glaze, brew a very strong (and tiny) amount of chamomile tea—I used about a tablespoon of hot water and a tea bag that I allowed to steep for 10 minutes.
To the tea, add in the lemon juice and the salt.
While whisking, add in the powdered sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, until the glaze reaches a pourable but thick and opaque consistency.
Drizzle or pour the glaze over the scones and allow to set completely before serving.
Scones keep for up to 4 days, tightly sealed.
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the
most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
I’m writing this during the first thunderstorm of the season.
The kind of storm with big claps of thunder, early in the morning—great cymbals crashing in the sky—while a grey drizzle settles slowly down into dry winter bones.
The kind of storm after which, later in the day, the sun comes out and the heady scent of rain soaked earth fills the air.
The storm that reminds the trees why they’re budding, that urges grass to turn green.
One deep breath to fill your lungs with springtime.
Sixty degrees F
todayyesterday, and marvelously humid from the rain. My skin and hair are in happy places.
Little purple crocuses have popped up, seemingly overnight, fanning their petals wide and showing off their bright yellow centers for the world to see.
Back home, spring is the sunny daffodils that grow tall and strong up and down our block; it’s the budding of all the oaks and the giant melt, as the land thaws out, that leaves the waterfalls fuller than any other time of year.
Spring is the chirpy birds that flit around, robins and tiny chickadees and oh!—those cardinals, with nests being built in trees just outside my bedroom window.
Gosh, guys, I do miss having trees that greet me first thing in the morning with a long-branched windy wave.
(I’m afraid home is still blanketed with snow, though. Oh, Upstate, you fickle lover, you.)
I suppose spring means something different to each person (how bad are your allergies?) and is unique in each place.
I wish my spring had more flowers, more time in the sun, and, importantly, more baby goats.
Can I move to Ireland and live on a dairy farm? Please?
Don’t know if I could ever live in an environment that doesn’t have all four seasons. I could do with a shorter winter, yes, and sure, a more temperate summer than Chicago boasts, but I can’t imagine not experiencing the changing of each season every year.
There’s something about the way our earth turns around the sun, slowly but surely, that makes you feel extra small
and extra alive, doesn’t it?
Also HAHAHA did you see this article from the New Yorker?
“…Meanwhile, sprinkle each couple’s speech with “we” statements, adding a subtle flavor of competition to the mélange…”
Literal tears were cried while laughing at this one, folks.
Opinions on the new Amazon Dash Buttons?
While they seem useful, they strike me as a bit unnecessary and seem to make online shopping that much more intrusive.
Speaking of shopping, at Whole Foods the other day (did I mention the mangoes!?! My goodness gracious, those were just the most perfect mangoes in the world.), I saw some pretty sprays of purple hyacinths perfuming the flower section.
I snatched them up, brought them home, and placed them in a jar on my desk so that my whole room smells sweet.
Their springy feel and sweet smell sowed little seeds of seasonal inspiration in my mind.
An entire stalk was sacrificed for this cake, because I wanted some flowers for decoration.
No, I am not completely sure whether hyacinths are edible. I picked them off directly after the photos.
I also picked up some berries (and asparagus), because I am overly eager for spring produce and I frankly don’t give a damn if they are in season at this exact moment, because they’re too juicy and tempting to resist!
While rooting around in my pantry for brown sugar to make muffins, a little tin of matcha powder fell from the heavens and bonked me on the head.
Matcha, bright green and perfect for a springy cake with its grassy undertones! The Gods were telling me something.
Thus was this cake born.
It’s delightfully dense, like a tightly crumbed, firm poundcake, but avoids the usual pitfall of dryness with a touch of cream, which keeps it moist even on the second day.
The matcha in the cake is not overpowering at all. It adds a whisper of green tea, a little kick of grassy, springy brightness, but isn’t overwhelmingly bitter.
This is a perfect pound cake, buttery and not-too-sweet; little ruby berries and a dusting of matcha powdered sugar make the perfect accompaniment.
It can be on your table ready to be served in less than 45 minutes, and keeps brilliantly. The last slice was that much better on the second day, as the cake had lost none of the flavor but become more moist overnight.
I could also see this being served with lashings of chocolate ganache or good honey, with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream.
Matcha Butter Cake
makes 1 6×3 inch cake
for the cake:
170 grams (3/4 cup) butter, soft
200 grams (1 cup) sugar
1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
10 mL (2 teaspoons) vanilla extract
30 mL (2 tablespoons) heavy cream
1 tablespoon matcha powder
120 grams (1 cup) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon matcha powder
1/4 cup powdered sugar
fruit and flowers, as desired
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 6×3 inch pan liberally.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the sugar and salt and beat on high speed for 5 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in the eggs.
Beat on high for 5 more minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add the cream and vanilla extract; mix only until partially incorporated.
Add in the matcha, flour, and baking powder.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix to ensure homogeneity.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is puffed and springy and a tester comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes; invert onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
To decorate, mix matcha and powdered sugar together very well.
Dust over the top of the cake and decorate with fresh fruit as desired.
Serve in repeated thin slices with hot tea!
“In his blue gardens,
men and girls came and went like moths
among the whisperings
and the champagne
and the stars.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 3
five crates of oranges and lemons
arrived from a fruiterer in New York—
these same oranges and lemons
left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 3
Gosh, it seems like ages ago now, but Valentine’s day was only a month ago.
(I know, I know, we’re already gearing up for the next holiday, but this cake is from February, so deal with it.)
It’s warm here, and the shiverings of winter seem far away, now that we’re enjoying balmy 50 degree weather.
50 degrees! Hallelujah.
You can see (dead) grass and hopeful little snow drops poking their dainty white petals out of the grey brown earth.
I heard a bird the other day singing its heart out, beak wide open and chest puffed up (exactly how I look while singing in the shower). Shocking how we take birdsong for granted.
My daddy just visited me and brightened the gray skies.
We had dinner at Sunda (amazing! really amazing! those brussels sprouts… omg…) on Friday, Indian takeout from a Nepalese/Indian place on Saturday (having those leftovers for lunch today, yum. Naan. Naaaan.), and an absolutely exquisite meal on Sunday at the Green Zebra, which is hands down one of Chicago’s best restaurants.
We agreed that we have never had a bad dish from Green Zebra, in all the times we’ve been.
In fact, the food has only gotten better. (Cannot highly recommend enough! Get there if you can!)
In two weeks time, I’ll be in Mexico with my mama.
I am so excited! We’re going to have lots of mother-daughter time on the beach and spa (hint. hint.) and possibly hike a bit! We are going to read ALL THE BOOKS.
I’m thinking of buying a GoPro for the trip/just to have (read: cute sorority videos!)—I’ve been looking at the (discontinued) Hero 3+ Black edition, but it’s pricy ($300-$400 with a monopod and SD card added).
Have any of you loved your experiences with GoPros?
Have you found them worth the money?
Heeeellllppp. I really really really really want one, but I want to feel like my purchase is justified.
So why did I start this post with Great Gatsby and champagne and Valentine’s day?
Because at the end of Valentine’s day, after having split a bottle of very, very nice champagne, N and I fell asleep and I awoke to find I had an oxymoron come true mournfully sitting on my counter—leftover champagne.
I needed to do something delicious with the leftover Veuve other than letting it sadly fizzle out before pouring it down the drain, so I made a cake that N could partake in, too.
Dairy-free lemon and champagne pound cake, with a dense, tight crumb delightfully laced with bright lemon and fruity champagne.
This cake had the best pound cake texture I have ever tasted or seen or cut in my life. So smooth and dense.
It’s topped with a boozy champagne and lemon glaze, as well as a thick, drippy vanilla glaze that’s sweet and salty all at once.
It’s quick and easy to make, and makes for perfect afternoon slices with tea. It’s a cake made for noshing—thin slice after thin slice.
The glazes are finger-licking good, and there’s nothing quite like the mouthfeel of a good pound cake, toothsome and dense.
Dairy-Free Lemon and Champagne Pound Cake
makes 1 10-cup bundt cake
for the cake:
225 grams (16 tablespoons) Earth Balance buttery sticks or other dairy-free margarine
400 grams (2 cups) sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 1 lemon (about 45 mL=3 tablespoons)
360 grams (3 cups) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup champagne (I used Veuve Cliquot, but the quality is not of great importance here)
for the lemon-champagne glaze:
juice of 1 lemon (45 mL=3 tablespoons)
30 mL (2 tablespoons) champagne
tiny pinch salt
125 grams (1 cup) (or as needed) powdered sugar, sifted
for the vanilla icing:
3-4 tablespoons almond milk or coconut cream (or heavy cream, if not dairy-free)
125 grams (1 cup) (or as needed) powdered sugar, sifted
splash vanilla extract
Make the cake: grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan very well and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat margarine on high speed for 3 minutes until very fluffy.
Add the sugar and salt and beat for another full 3 minutes.
Scrape the bowl and add in the eggs one at a time while the mixer is running; after all are added, increase speed and beat for 5 full minutes.
Add in the vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest and mix slightly.
Dump the flour on top of the batter and the baking powder and baking soda on top of the flour.
Begin to mix slowly; after the flour is halfway worked in, begin adding the champagne in a steady stream.
Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds, or until just homogeneous.
Scrape the bowl and mix for 15 more seconds.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
To make the lemon-champagne glaze, whisk lemon juice, champagne, and salt together, then sift the powdered sugar over while whisking vigorously to prevent lumps.
Add more powdered sugar if the glaze is too thin, then pour over the cake, being sure to cover the entire surface.
To make the vanilla glaze, whisk milk/cream, vanilla, and salt together, then sift the powdered sugar over.
If the glaze is too thin, again add more powdered sugar (and maybe a small pinch of salt).
Spread/pour the vanilla glaze over the lemon/champagne glaze and allow to set before cutting cake.