sweets

Creme Brûlée with Rhubarb Coulis

Hello! Let me start of this post by wishing all the moms a very happy belated Mother’s Day, I hope your days were full of flowers and good food! It was a gloomy day here, I’m talking chilly and on/off rainy all afternoon, so it was a perfect day to stay in and take on some big cooking endeavors. My mom does so much for me and my family that the least I could do was make a fancy dinner, right? That’s how I best express my love, in slow-cooked french stew and desserts. Our menu was Beef Bourguignon, a recipe that can be found here, and these gorgeous creme brûlées. For those of you know have been keeping tabs (I know everyone is SO interested), I finally got some butane for my kitchen torch and this was the first recipe on my list.


Now I have ALSO been awaiting the arrival of rhubarb at the local farm for ages, and yesterday morning I showed up prepared to fight off anyone who tried to take more than me. As luck would have it, there was a table FULL of it and I confidently grabbed two large bunches, some for this recipe, and some for a pie later this week- I am on rhubarb lockdown here you guys!! So anyway, when brainstorming how to somehow use rhubarb and also make creme brûlée, I came across a recipe that used raspberry coulis on the bottom and custard on top, and I knew immediately that this was it. Substitute the raspberry for rhubarb, and the tartness is a perfect compliment to the richly sweet custard.

In all seriousness, I was crazy proud of how these came out, and they’re surprisingly easy to do. It’s mostly assembling the parts, and the hardest part will be using the kitchen torch. I found that some came out better than others, but it’s a learning process and you’ll soon be able to tell what amounts of sugar feel right and the height of the flames, etc. But I believe in you and this is going to go great! Let’s get to it!

*Recipe adapted from this recipe from Food Network*

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes- 1 hour
Total Time: ~1 hour 30 minutes

Rhubarb Coulis Ingredients

Approximately 4 cups (about 6 stalks) rhubarb, chopped
½ cup water
2/3 cup sugar

 

Rhubarb Coulis Steps

1. In a heavy-bottom saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Add in the rhubarb and turn the heat down to medium-high.

2. Cook until the rhubarb softens and the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.

3. Transfer to a glass bowl and allow to cool completely. While this is cooling, let’s make the custard!

 
Vanilla Bean Custard Ingredients

4 cups heavy cream
2 cups half-and-half
½ tsp kosher salt
1 tbs vanilla bean paste (or 2 vanilla beans, scraped + the pods, or 1 tbs vanilla extract)
16 egg yolks (I know, I’m sorry- make sure to save the egg whites for THESE!)
1 cup granulated sugar

Vanilla Bean Custard Steps

1. In a large saucepan, add the cream, half and half, salt, and vanilla (plus the pods if you’re using whole vanilla beans). Bring this mixture to a boil over medium heat, then remove and cover while you prepare the eggs.

2. In a large glass bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until the mixture is pale yellow in color.

3. Slowly drizzle the hot cream into the egg mixture, whisking the whole time to make sure the eggs don’t cook! Strain the mixture through a sieve into another glass bowl.

 

Creme Brûlée Assembly

1.  Begin by preheating your oven to 300ºF, and make sure you position the rack in the center position. Place your ramekins in a large tray or roasting pan with sides.

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2. Start by filling each ramekin with 2 tablespoons of the rhubarb coulis (or enough to evenly cover the bottom). Carefully ladle the custard on top, filling almost to the top.

3. Next, create a bain-marie by filling the roasting pan around the ramekins with boiling water, but be careful not to get the custards wet! The water should reach about two-thirds of the way up on each.

4. Bake the custards for 55 minutes to 1 hour, until the custard is set but still slightly jiggly. When finished, remove from the roasting pan and allow to cool completely, at least 3 hours.

5. When the time comes to brûlée them, evenly coat the top of each custard with a scant tablespoon of white sugar- you don’t want too much sugar on top because it will burn more easily, but you do want enough to make that classic crunchy top.

6. Using a kitchen torch, brûlée the sugared top of each custard until it turns an even golden brown. Allow to cool for a minute so that the sugar can harden completely before eating. When the time comes, prepare your spoons and crack those perfect shells.

xoxoxoxoxoxoxD

 

sweets

Lemon Meringue Pie (with a broiled top because my dumb torch didn’t have butane)

Welcome friends! Once again I find myself writing posts a whole week late because my concept of time management is just ridiculous. The weekends come and go in such a flash that I never seem to get anything done. (Also, time really flies when you accidentally sleep until 11:30 on Saturdays.)

ANYWAYS, today’s recipe is the classic Lemon Meringue Pie, something that I was hesitant to make after a disastrous attempt several years ago made me too afraid to try again. But after buying a fancy new blowtorch I was excited to see how it carefully toasted the peaks to perfection. Well. Of course things didn’t go to plan. BECAUSE after finishing the whole pie and taking out my torch to begin, I discovered to my dismay that it didn’t come with the butane I needed to get going. As you can see based on the title of this recipe, I’m DEFINITELY not still bitter about it and have clearly moved on. In hindsight, it probably should’ve been obvious that it wasn’t in there, and this could all have been prevented by be opening the packaging more than 30 seconds before I was planning to use it, but I’m not perfect so I made do!

Look at those clean cut lines!!!

In the end, I used the tried and true oven broiler to get the meringue top brown and toasty and, while this isn’t my preferred method (it starts to make the lemon filling too liquid if it heats up too much), it’s how I always remember my grandma making it, so that’s got to count for something! But I digress, let’s get baking!

(recipe adapted from The Fearless Baker + my grandma’s recipe cards!)


Pie Crust Ingredients

1¼ cups All-Purpose Flour
¼ tsp kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, very cold and cubed
3+ tablespoons ice water
1 egg white, beaten

Pie Ingredient Steps

1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Mix together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with your hands or a pastry blender until it’s evenly distributed and roughly the size of peas.

2. In the center of the flour mixture, add the 3 tablespoons of ice water to start and begin kneading with your hands until it comes together as a dough, sparsely adding water if necessary. You know it’s done when it can be gathered into a ball but still feels slightly dry- never wet or sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

3. When ready to blind bake, roll out the crust on a well floured surface until it’s a few inches wider than your desired pie plate on all sides, making sure to check that it isn’t sticking anywhere. Carefully transfer to your pie plate; I like to fold mine in half and then in half again, then unfold in the plate, but some people like to roll the dough around the rolling pin and transfer that way.

Okay but this is the neatest pie crust I have EVER made

4. Trim and crimp the edges as desired (I like a fluted crust myself), and prick holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork. Place a square of parchment paper larger than your crust in the middle and fill with pie weights, dried beans, or rice and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the crust is just golden.

It’s high time I buy myself some pie weights I think, I waste a LOT of rice doing this

5. Remove the parchment paper and weights and brush the whole crust with one beaten egg white, then return to the oven. Bake for another 12-15 minutes- watch your edges and cover if they begin to brown too fast! Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before filling.

Lemon Curd Filling Ingredients

12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) salted butter
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1¼ cups lemon juice (fresh squeezed, about 5 to 6 lemons)
10 egg yolks (save 6 of the whites for the meringue!!)

Lemon Curd Filling Steps

1. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and sugar, eliminating all lumps. Add this mixture to the melted butter, along with the lemon juice and the egg yolks, mixing until everything is combined.

2. Turn the heat to medium-low and mix constantly, this time with a silicone spatula so that nothing on the bottom of the pan starts to burn. The mixture will begin to thicken in 5-10 minutes, and is finished when it looks like it’s just about to start bubbling.

3. Strain this mixture through a sieve to get rid of any accidental cooked egg, and cool in the fridge with plastic wrap pressed directly to the surface to prevent a skin forming. While this chills, make the meringue.

That YELLOW! So fresh! So summery!

 


Meringue Ingredients

6 egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup white sugar

Meringue + Pie Assembly Steps

1. Before you start, make sure the bowl of your mixer and it’s whisk attachment are grease-free. Whip the whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks begin to form.

2. Gradually add in the sugar, allowing it to dissolve and be incorporated, then beat the mixture on high until medium-stiff peaks form.

3. Fill your cooled pie crust with the chilled lemon curd spread evenly. Generously dollop the meringue on top and spread to the edges. I like mine piled high up and swirled so that when it toasts, the peaks and swirls are highlighted golden brown.

Obviously with a torch you’ll get a more controlled, even color, but all things considered I’d say this looks pretty delicious!

4. Once you’re satisfied with the look, you can use a kitchen torch to toast the meringue, or you can place the pie on a high rack in your oven and broil on low for 2-3 minutes- do NOT take your eyes off it, it can go from barely toasted to burnt in two seconds in the oven!

Now go bask in the glow of the compliments from your friends and family because this pie deserves them! xoxoxoxox

ALSO while we’re here, it is my dearest mom’s birthday today, so while we won’t be having this pie to celebrate, this post is dedicated to you. YAY!

Some pretty epic meringue height here!
savories

Baked Meatballs with Cheesy Parmesan Polenta

Ah yes, Sunday dinners. I think we can all agree that Sunday nights are the saddest part of the week, knowing what’s to come. To counteract that, Sunday dinners in my house have become the solution- a fancy meal and a glass of wine to lull you into a sense of coziness so that you briefly forget that the work week lies ahead. This week? Fricken meatballs and cheesy polenta because why the heck not. And, because there are better things you can be doing with your Sunday besides individually searing each meatball, these are baked all at once and then finished in a mouthwatering and deceivingly easy tomato sauce that people will think you spent your whole day standing over the pot. Adapted from this recipe by Ina Garten, it’s served with a heaping portion of cheesy polenta in lieu of spaghetti, and as a diehard pasta enthusiast, I can promise you won’t even miss it.

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This weekend I somehow fell down a cooking/ baking hole where every project I’ve been putting off recently all accidentally happened at once. In a span of two days, I made a batch of raspberry macarons (following another batch of toasted marshmallow ones from Tuesday), the FLAKIEST biscuits I have ever made, a lemon meringue pie (coming soon), and this dinner. I think I stood for 8 hours straight on Sunday but wow it was worth it. But honestly, enough about that, let’s get down to what really matters, cooking and eating THIS.

Makes: 10 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: about 1.5 hours

Meatball and Sauce Ingredients

2 cans (32 oz. each) crushed tomatoes
2 onions, peeled and cut in half
½ cup (1 stick) salted butter
2 lbs ground beef (or 1lb ground beef, ½ lb ground veal, ½ lb ground pork)
1¾ cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
½ cup ground pecorino romano cheese
½ cup ground parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbs fresh chopped parsley
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup dry red wine
¾ cup water
Olive Oil, for brushing
Salt and Pepper, to season

Meatball and Sauce Steps

1. In a large, deep pot, add the crushed tomatoes, butter (sliced into tablespoons), and the halved onions. And honestly, that’s it for the sauce. Turn the heat to medium low, and stir occasionally, cooking for 45 minutes, or until the onions are soft.

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2. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400ºF and line your baking trays with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, breadcrumbs, cheeses, garlic, parsley, beaten eggs, red wine, and water. With your hands (or a spoon/ spatula) mix everything together until all ingredients are evenly dispersed throughout.

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3. Scoop roughly 1½ tablespoon amounts and roll them into neat balls with your hands, and line them up on your trays. Brush each meatball with olive oil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

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4. At this point, remove the onions from the tomato sauce, and add the roasted meatballs and allow them to cook in the sauce for 10 minutes more. Serve a heaping portion on top of a luscious bowl of polenta (recipe below). YUM!

Cheesy Parmesan Polenta Ingredients

8 cups chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cup stone ground cornmeal
1½ tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 cups fresh grated parmesan cheese (this sounds high maintenance but the fresh grated kind makes a difference I promise, it melts way easier and more smooth)
1 cup creme fraiche
½ stick (4 tablespoons) salted butter

Cheesy Parmesan Polenta Steps

1. In a medium sized pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil with the garlic. Reduce the heat to low and slowly whisk in the cornmeal to eliminate lumps.

2. Add the salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the polenta is thick. Don’t forget to scrape the sides of the pot!!

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3. After 10 minutes, remove from heat and stir in the parmesan, creme fraiche, and butter. Serve with meatballs and prepare for a food coma like you’ve never seen before.

xoxoxoxoxD

 

sweets

Fresh Fruit Tart

So ever since we’ve had a minimum of one nice day a week, I have convinced myself that the warm weather is here to stay, and with that comes an overpowering desire to bake with summer fruits, you know? I’ve been waiting for the rhubarb to arrive at the farm since practically last spring, but thanks to the stubborn cold weather, it won’t be for sale for around another month. A MONTH. I am devastated, as you can imagine, so to try and fill the void left in its wake, I made this tried-and-true fruit tart last weekend and I am happy to say that there was not a crumb left after dessert.

It begins with a buttery tart shell with just a hint of sweetness, topped with vanilla pastry cream that is literally so good that I ate the leftovers out of the bowl with a spoon, and an artfully disheveled pile of fresh fruit on top. The best part about this is that you can really use whatever fruits you feel like based on what’s in season- blueberries and blackberries alone would make a gorgeous and dramatic looking tart, pitted cherries or mango or some stewed rhubarb- it’s totally up to you what fruits should be featured. For this one, I settled on what I could find at the store because it’s technically not berry season, so I was going to take what I could get, but I would love to hear your flavor ideas as well!

I’m posting this on a Saturday because this week just got away from me, but hopefully this will give you an excuse to try your hand at this tart right away. As for me, I will be looking for any excuse to use a blowtorch so I think I’m seeing a meringue pie in my future. Happy Saturday!

Tart Shell Ingredients
from 
The Fearless Baker, by Erin McDowell

2 cups All Purpose Flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons salted butter, very cold and cut into cubes
¼ cup ice water

Pastry Cream Ingredients
from 
The Fearless Baker, by Erin McDowell

3 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup granulated sugar (divided into ¼ cup for milk mixture and ½ cup for egg yolk mixture)
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract), or ½ vanilla bean (seeds and pod)
5 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/3 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

Plus assorted fruit and berries, to top

Steps

1. Using a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is coarse and the butter is in small, pea-sized pieces. If you don’t have a food processor, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt, and then cut in the butter with a pastry blender or mix with your hands until the butter is incorporated in the same way.

2. Move the mixer from the food processor to a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the ice water into the middle and knead with your hands until the dough comes together and looks smooth. At this point, it should not be overly sticky or too wet. Wrap this dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

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All ready to roll!

While the dough is chilling, start your pastry cream here.

3. Combine milk, salt, and ¼ cup of the sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the vanilla (extract or paste), or add the seeds and the pod of the vanilla bean to the mixture. Heat to a simmer over medium heat- do not let it boil!

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Confession: I forgot to capture the pastry cream I was making this time, but this is what the beginnings will look like!

4. Meanwhile, in a glass bowl, whisk together the remaining ½ cup of sugar and the cornstarch so that they are evenly mixed without lumps. Whisk the egg yolks into this bowl until all is incorporated.

5. When the milk is simmering, remove the vanilla bean there is one and turn the heat to medium-low. Slowly, and whisking constantly to prevent scrambled eggs, add a little of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture to temper. Then, pour the bowl of egg mixture back into the pot with the rest of the milk and return the pot to the stove, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula until the mixture is thick and just about to bubble, about 5 minutes.

6. Remove from the heat, and stir in the butter until incorporated. Chill in the fridge until cold and set, pressing plastic wrap directly to the surface to prevent a skin forming.

Back to the tart dough!

7. Let your dough rest at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes so that it rolls out easily. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. On a lightly floured surface, roll your dough into one large circle, about 2 inches wider than your desired pan on all sides. Make sure to check periodically to make sure that the dough isn’t sticking to your work surface, and re-flour as necessary.

8. Very carefully roll the finished dough over the rolling pin, and then drape into your tart pan, pressing it into place and allowing the extra dough to hang over the side. If you’re using a metal fluted pan (like I am), you can roll your rolling pin over the top of the pan, and the excess dough will be cut off, leaving you with a perfectly neat tart.

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Look at those perfect edges!

9. To blind bake this crust (bake without a filling in it), cut a square of parchment paper slightly larger than the pan size and place it in the pan on top of the crust. Fill this with dried beans, rice, or pie weights and bake like this for 12 to 15 minutes, until the crust starts to turn golden.

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Ready for blind baking!

10. Remove the parchment paper and weights from the shell and return the tart to the oven, baking for another 10 minutes until it’s evenly golden brown. Remove from the oven and immediately brush with 1 egg white- the heat of the shell will cook the egg white and seal the tart to prevent a dreaded soggy crust. Let it cool completely before removing from the pan.

11. When the shell has completely cooled, fill with the chilled pastry cream, and top with your desired choice of berries and other fruits. Now, eat the whole thing in one sitting and never look back.

xoxoxoxoxoxD

 

sweets

Passionfruit Macarons

So something BIG happened this week, and that big thing was that someone was brave enough to pay me to bake for them! A few weeks ago after a tough work week, I brought in a batch of these passionfruit macarons as a morale booster, and my sweet sweet coworker then asked me to make some this weekend for a party she’s having. So the pressure was on because macarons are notoriously temperamental, but the gods of french baking were smiling down on me because these cookies went off largely without a hitch.

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Still some cracks, but it’s okay to be perfectly imperfect because the taste is remarkable!

Something that I’ve been noticing when I make macarons sometimes is their tendency to crack on the tops, and for so long I couldn’t figure out why. After some research and many MANY trials, it seems that the batter cracks for a few reasons, like a batter with too much liquid, a batter that’s under-mixed, or an environment that’s too humid. But never fear, there are solutions for all of these problems! To keep a batter from getting too wet, switch to gel food colorings instead of liquid. Not only will you get a more vibrant color, but you’ll be using way less food coloring while you’re at it. Next, when mixing your final batter (after the flour mixture is added to the whipped eggs), you’d be surprised how much mixing you actually have to do. I always used to be afraid of mixing too much and deflating the egg whites, BUT it turns out you have to mix the batter until it’s thin enough that when you lift up your spatula, the batter flows off in a v-shape like lava. Lastly, the humidity is a little tricky. If you desperately need to make these on a humid day, keep all the windows closed and crank the air conditioner way up to keep it cool and dry. If this isn’t possible, you may just have to postpone your macaron adventures until a less-humid day. Who knew cookies could be so high maintenance?

It’s important to remember that no matter what happens, these cookies will taste SO good that no one who eats one will even notice if there are some cracks. The passionfruit is tart and summery and a perfect compliment to the delicate sweetness of the almond cookie base and the rich buttercream. Feel free to make your own passionfruit curd if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, but since the cookies are labor intensive on their own, I figured I’d give myself a break and use store bought passionfruit curd (which, btw, I could eat with a spoon out of the jar). Anywho, let’s get started, happy baking!

Makes: About 50 2-inch complete macarons (depending on how big you pipe them)
Prep Time: 45 minutes – 1 hour
Bake Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1.5 hours

Macaron Ingredients: (adapted from Ladurée Sucré: The Recipes)

2¾ cups + 1 tbs almond flour (ground almonds)
2 cups + 1 tbs confectioners sugar
6 egg whites + ½ an additional egg white, separated and lightly whipped until foamy
1 cup + 1 tbs granulated sugar
Yellow gel food coloring

Macaron Steps:

1. Begin by prepping your baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat. Do NOT grease your pans for this type of cookie.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the ground almonds and confectioners sugar to remove all lumps. Set aside.

3. In the (CLEAN, GREASE-FREE) bowl of your mixer, whip the 6 egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add in a third of the granulated sugar and beat until it has dissolved. Add in another third, beat until dissolved, and then add the last third. Add the food coloring at this point to achieve the desired yellow color. I went for a lighter one this time, but it’s totally up to you! Whip this mixture until the egg whites are pure white and can stand up on their own when the beater is removed, it should be about 5-7 minutes total.

4. Fold the almond flour mixture into the egg white mixture, continuously mixing until all the flour is incorporated and, when the spatula is lifted out of the batter, the batter flows like lava in a v-shape back into the bowl. If your batter seems too thick, slowly add a little of the extra ½ egg white, a little at a time, mixing until the right consistency is reached.

5. Pour this mixture into a piping bag fitted with a wide circle tip (or just cut the tip of the piping bag into a 1 inch wide circle or so). Pipe the macarons about 2 inches in diameter, leaving about an inch of space in between each one- they don’t spread very much but you wouldn’t want any to bake together. If you get a little “Hershey Kiss” looking swirl on top, dip your finger in a cup of water and gently smooth it down. Tap your baking sheets on the counter to release any trapped air bubbles.

6. Preheat your oven to 300ºF now. Let the macarons sit on the baking sheets for 10-30 minutes until a sort of skin forms on the tops of the cookies- when you touch the tops, they should feel smooth and no cookie batter should come off on your hands.

7. Bake the macarons for 15 minutes and allow them to cool completely on the baking sheets before removing. If you pull them off when they’re still warm, they are more likely to break or fall apart. When they’re cool, gently peel them from the parchment paper and match up your pairs so that they’re ready for filling.
Passionfruit Buttercream (and Filling) Ingredients:

3 cups confectioners sugar
½ cup salted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 tbs whole milk
¼ cup passionfruit curd, plus about ¼ cup more for filling

Passionfruit Buttercream (and Filling) Steps:

1. In the bowl of your mixer, cream together the butter, vanilla, and confectioners sugar. Slowly add the milk, tablespoon by tablespoon, until you reach the desired smooth consistency.

2. Add in the passionfruit curd and whip the frosting until it’s light and spreadable.

3. On one cookie from each pair of macarons, pipe a wide circle of buttercream along the edge. Fill another small piping bag or ziplock bag with passionfruit curd, and pipe a small dot in the center of the buttercream for a little surprise bite! Place the second macaron on top and voila!

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The passionfruit curd is the perfect surprise in the middle!

These cookies are best enjoyed after a night in the fridge so that the flavors can fully develop, but if you simply can’t wait, they’ll be delicious immediately as well. Enjoy!!!

xoxoxoxoD

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savories

Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo

You know when you get the sudden desire to go to New Orleans? Or is that just me? I’ve never been and I’ve been thinking so much about it lately, but since a trip is out of the question right now, I’ve settled for cooking some classic cuisine to tide me over. This gumbo, borrowed from this recipe from The New York Times, is the perfect treat for when a beautiful, sunny Saturday turns into a cold and stormy Sunday- its slightly spicy, hearty, and chock full of shrimp, andouille sausage, and that savory-sweet mix of slow cooked peppers and onions. It’s SO good.

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In other news, what a crazy week, huh? I didn’t even work a full week last week and boy was I exhausted. A fancy brunch in NYC with a friend, complete with tomato and polenta baked “Eggs In Purgatory” with a Rose Sangria was exactly what I needed to cure me, and I have a good feeling that a recipe for that will find its way here soon, never fear. Also coming this week will be one of my newest and proudest creations, Passionfruit Macarons! I brought them in to work a few weeks ago on a whim, and they were an overwhelming success, so I’ll be taking a second stab at it later this week.

Secondly, I have to confess something. I have a serious issue where I collect cookbooks and random kitchen gadgets that only serve one purpose. My poor parents’ kitchen is filled to the bursting point with my pasta maker, various zesters, piping tips, and cookie cutters. The newest addition to that family? A blowtorch. I bought one mostly for creme brûlée, but I also hear it’s good for toasting the meringue on a Lemon Meringue Pie, which I have yet to make successfully, so I’ll keep you all posted. I also got TWO new cookbooks for my birthday, another from Queen Ina Garten to add to my collection of Barefoot Contessa books, and one with the most stunning pictures from Maine, and I just can’t wait to dive in.

I had so much cooking planned for this weekend and then suddenly it was Sunday afternoon and I had done literally nothing so that’s on me, I promise I’ll be back in the groove soon! But until then, please enjoy this recipe for gumbo and have a wonderful week, you can do this!

Serves: 8 to 10 dinner portions
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients: (measurements for 4 to 6 in parenthesis)

2 lbs. (1 lb.) shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ cup (¼ cup) olive oil
2 (1) red bell peppers, diced
2 (1) green bell peppers, diced
3 medium (1 large) yellow onions, diced
1 cup, 4-5 stalks celery (3 stalks), diced
3 cloves (1 clove) garlic, minced
½ cup (¼ cup) all-purpose flour
2 tbs. (1 tbs) tomato paste
2 tsp. (1 tsp) paprika
½ tsp. (¼ tsp.) cayenne pepper
2 cans (1 can) diced tomatoes
12 oz. (6 oz.) andouille sausage, sliced into inch-thick slices
8-10 cups (6 cups) chicken broth
2 cups (1 cup) okra, chopped
3 tbs. (1 tbs.) salted butter
3 cups (1 cup) white rice
scallions, for garnish

Steps:

1. Making the gumbo base: in a heavy-bottom soup pot, heat your olive oil on medium and add in the onions and bell peppers. Stir as the veggies get soft and the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and mix to combine, cooking for another 3 minutes to remove the raw flour taste.

2. Next, add the tomato paste, paprika, and cayenne pepper and mix so that the tomato paste is fully incorporated. After 1 minute, add the diced tomatoes and liquid, plus the andouille sausage, and cook for another 2 minutes. At this point, season with salt and pepper.

3. Pour in the chicken broth (use the lesser amount if you want the gumbo to be thicker), and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen the flour and browned bits. Simmer the gumbo for 25 minutes with the top off, so that the mixture thickens. Taste and adjust your seasonings as necessary.

4. At this point, bring 5 cups (2 cups if using the 1 cup of rice) of water to a boil with the 2 tbs. of butter. When the water boils, reduce the heat to low and add the rice. Stir once to coat all the rice in butter, then cover and let the rice absorb the water for 20-25 minutes.

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4. Stir the chopped okra into the gumbo and cook until they become soft, about 5 minutes, then add the shrimp. Since shrimp cooks so quickly, let this mixture cook for another 2 minutes and then turn off the heat. Fluff the rice with a fork, and scoop a generous amount into a bowl. Top with a heaping portion of gumbo and sprinkle on some green onions if you’d like (I bought some and in the rush to eat I totally forgot, ah well!).

Tada!!!!!!

Now close your eyes and pretend you’re on Bourbon Street just like I was doing. Enjoy!!

xoxoxoxD

sweets

Cinnamon Birthday Cake (with Marzipan Succulents!)

Hello! It’s been a bit since I last posted, I’ve been all over the place but I’m back now, never fear. Today’s recipe is brought to you once again by my love of cinnamon, in case you haven’t sensed the theme here. I turned 23 on Monday, and because I know who I am, I’ve gotten into the habit of making my own birthday cake. It works because I can experiment and pick my favorite flavors, but no one complains because it’s a cake for me anyway! (As if anyone could complain about eating cake though.)

So to start, I use a classic birthday cake recipe from a Williams-Sonoma Cake cookbook that I’ve had for years now, and it’s simplicity is its greatest asset. But because I can never leave anything alone, I added a few tweaks here and there in the form of some cinnamon, almond extract, and a vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract, and boy it went well. As my mo remarked, the cake smelled like snickerdoodles as it was baking, and was moist and amazing when iced and sliced. To complete the cinnamon masterpiece I covered this cake in a cinnamon-y buttercream and free-handed a few marzipan succulents for decoration. I, of course, know that they could be cleaner if I used cookie cutters or stencils, but I simply didn’t have any so I made do!

This whole recipe is great because without my flavor additions, they serve as basic templates for cake and buttercream that can be changed as you see fit. I’m including stars next to the ingredients that I added so that the following recipe can be two in one! Let’s get baking!!

Makes: 1 2-layer 9″ round cake or 1 9×13″ sheet cake
Prep Time: 1 hour+ (depending on how into decorating you get!)
Bake Time: 20-25 minutes
Total Time: 1.5-2 hours

Cinnamon Cake Ingredients
adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Cake

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon*
½ cup whole milk
½ vanilla bean (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
½ tsp almond extract*
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature and lightly beaten

Cake Steps

1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour your desired cake pans, or grease and line your pans with parchment paper (which is my preferred method, to keep the consistency correct and to prevent sticking mishaps).

2. In a large bowl, sift together your flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

3. If you’re using a vanilla bean, add the milk, almond extract, and scraped vanilla bean seeds + pod to a saucepan and heat over low heat (do not boil the milk!), until the vanilla has infused with the milk. Remove and discard the pod. If you’re using vanilla extract instead, add both extracts to your milk at room temperature.

4. In the bowl of your stand mixer (or large bowl + hand mixer), cream your butter on medium speed for 1 minute. Add in the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

5. Drizzle your eggs into the bowl of the mixer on low speed, a little at a time, allowing each addition to incorporate before adding more.

6. Next you’re going to be adding your flour mixture and your milk mixtures alternatively, starting and ending with the flour. Add your flour in 3 batches, your milk in 2. Mix until just combined.

7. Pour the batter into your pans and spread evenly. Before baking, tap your pans on the counter to release any trapped air bubbles. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

8. Allow the cakes to cool almost entirely in their pans, trying to move cakes around when they’re still warm makes them way more likely to crack or break! While they’re cooling, you can make your frosting.

Cinnamon Buttercream
adapted from Domino Confectioners Sugar
*you may have to do this in 2 batches if you have a smaller mixer like me! If so, just divide these amounts in half*

7 cups (2 boxes) confectioners sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
¼-1/3 cup whole milk
½ vanilla bean, scraped, or 2 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract*
½ tsp ground cinnamon*

Buttercream Steps

1. Cream together your butter and sugar. Slowly add in the milk, little by little until your frosting has reached the desired spreadable consistency.

2. Add the extracts (or extract and vanilla bean seeds), and cinnamon, and mix to combine.

3. Once your cakes have cooled, generously frost the top of your first cake and stack the second cake on top, so that both domed tops are in the center and the top and bottom of your cake is flat.

4. “Crumb coat” the cake with a thin layer all over and chill for 15 minutes. Finish with a second, thicker coating of frosting. Dip your spatula in warm water and run it along the sides and the top to smooth.


Decorations

Almond paste (marzipan)
Food Coloring
Cocoa powder
Chocolate Shavings

or any sprinkles/ extra frosting you want!

Steps

1. To color your marzipan, break off a large chunk and make a well in the center, adding in a few drops of the color you want. Knead it around in your hands until the color is evenly distributed. Warning, you WILL dye your hands this way, I looked like Elphaba from Wicked for quite a while.

2. To make a succulent, I cut out star shapes in gradually smaller sizes, starting with the largest and then 3-4 more, getting smaller each time. I layered them on top of each other one at a time and pressed the center in until the pieces were stuck together.

3. Brush the edges with a little cocoa powder and arrange them on the top of the cake. Cover the area with chocolate shavings if you feel like it, I thought the cake needed to look a little more like a garden you know?

Then, take at least 600 pictures to brag to your friends about your masterpiece, and enjoy!!!

xoxoxoxoxoD