Thursday, November 25, 2010


Dear Meggy,

Turns out having a new baby and working full time is wicked time consuming. When I do make time for sweets, I lose steam on the photos and the posting. Here is a Thanksgiving pledge: I will photograph and post at least one dessert this weekend. This should not prove too difficult since I have already made 4 pies and pumpkin bars. Avanti!

How about you?? What's your excuse, full time job and Masters program or something? Pah! Show me the goods!



Saturday, June 12, 2010

Banana Cream Pie

Dear Megs,

We have been remiss! I *know* you're baking. Where are the posts? And when are you coming to visit me and my darling little man? We miss you up here, and Avi needs to meet crazy old Aunt Megs, like, now. Ok? Ok. I'm so glad we settled that.

Last week, I made a banana cream pie to bring to a friend's barbecue. Now, as you know, on principle I am against pies that have something other than tart fruit as their main filling: cream pies, chocolate pies, mint pies, I'm against them. But, this friend being excessively fond of banana cream pies, I made one. And I must say, I might be a convert. The pie was beautiful, delicious, and very easy to make. I can also think of all kinds of tweaks that would turn this homey recipe into something a little fancier.


Banana Cream Pie

6 T cake flour
2/3 c sugar
1/4 t salt
1 3/4 c milk
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 1/4 t vanilla
1/2 c whipping cream
3 bananas
1/2 lemon

18 graham crackers
6 T butter
1/4 c sugar

1) Pre-heat oven to 350. Mash the hell out of graham crackers, making crumbs as small as possible. Mix with sugar and melted butter. Use your hands to insure everything gets really well mixed. Press into a pie plate; the harder you press, the better the structure of your crust will be. Pre-bake for 12-15 minutes.

2) In a double boiler, mix flour, sugar, and salt. Add milk, and cook until thick, stirring constantly. Cook for 15 minutes longer, stirring periodically. Pour small amount of milk mixture over egg yolks and beat, then add that to the double boiler and cook 2 minutes (or so) longer. Do not let it boil! Remove from heat, add vanilla. Chill completely.

3) Fold whipped cream into cold pastry cream.

4) Sprinkle lemon juice over sliced bananas. Put a layer of banana on the cooled pie crust, top with cream, and top that with more bananas. Garnish with berries, whipped cream, lemon peel, or whatever you find pretty.

5) Nom nom nom!

Monday, May 3, 2010

A New Secret Ingredient?

Dear Megs,

I just made the yummiest, most perfect thing ever. It didn't cook for *quite* long enough - still gooey in the middle - but I have to say, this is the most scrumptious thing I have ever had a hand in.

I might have to change the secret ingredient, though.



Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Secret Ingredient is Passed Down

Dear Linz,

What beautiful posts! From the éclairs to the croissants to the lemon doberge cake -- it’s all so beautiful! I think my favorite post, however, was about your grandmother's simple, perfect cornbread. Recipes are perhaps one of the best things to pass down between generations. Furniture breaks. Rings are stolen (*sigh*). But recipes last forever.

Sadly, I don’t have any of my grandmother’s recipes to share right now. Her cousin told us about a time when she pranked her playmates by filling cream puffs with cotton balls (ha!), but that was long before she was a grandma with grandma recipes. I hope to find some as my family and I sift through things in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here's her mother’s recipe for apple delight (essentially an apple crisp except for the fact that it’s not)

Great Grandma Jessica’s Apple Delight

¾ cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
6 - 10 apples (I typically use Macintosh apples)

Soften butter to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350. Mix flour, sugar, butter, and cinnamon to form crumbly topping. Peel and slice apples to fill casserole bowl. If apples are dry, add 1/4 cup water. Sprinkle on topping. Bake 1 hour, until bubbly.

The last time I made it, I used my new Le Crueset mini-cocottes:

And topped it with homemade cinnamon ice cream:

Cinnamon Ice Cream

1 cup whole milk

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup pure maple syrup

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup heavy cream

½ tsp pure vanilla extract

½ tsp coarse salt

Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside. Combine the milk, sugar, maple syrup, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture just begins to bubble and sugar has dissolved, 6 to 8 minutes. Add cream, vanilla, and salt; stir to combine. Pour mixture into a medium bowl set in the ice-water bath. Stir occasionally until cooled. Cover and transfer to refrigerator until chilled at least 1 hour and up to overnight. Stir mixture briefly; pour into an ice-cream maker and process according to manufacturer's instructions.

Love you,


P.S. The top photo is of my great grandmother and great grandfather (remind me to tell you about their victory garden sometime). The other two photos are courtesy of my amazing roommate, Daniel Hernandez.

Lemon Doberge Cake

Hi Megs.

This weekend I wanted to try something really pretty, so I decided to make a Doberge cake (pronounced doh-bash), which is a really popular cake in New Orleans. It usually has 6 thin layers, and the most common flavors are chocolate, caramel, and lemon. My choice was obvious. You know I'm a lemon fiend.

Everything was proceeding as planned. Then, while putting the cake in the fridge to set the layers and the filling, I dropped it. Oops. Oh well, it still tasted really good. When am I going to figure out how to make stuff that looks as pretty as it tastes?


Lemon filling:
3 c sugar
3 T flour
juice and rind of 6 lemons
3 eggs, beaten
1 c water
3 T butter

Mix ingredients well and cook over medium heat, stirring periodically until mixture thickens to a custard/jelly. Chill completely.

1 c softened butter
2 c sugar
4 eggs, separated
2 3/4 c flour
1/4 t salt
3 t baking powder
1 c milk
1 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 375. Butter 9 inch cake pans and line with wax or parchment paper. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolks one at a time, mixing thoroughly. Add sifted dry ingredients, alternating with milk. Add vanilla. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Put 3/4 c of batter in each pan, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Repeat until all the batter is used.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz softened cream cheese
1 lb (1 box) powdered sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 t vanilla

Assemble cake by spreading generous layer of cooled lemon filling between each cake layer but not on top of the last layer. Frost top and sides with cream cheese icing. Do not drop.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Dear Megs,

I made croissants this weekend! I've never tried one of these fancy pastry doughs before, and though it's kind of an all day endeavor, it's really not complicated or even hard. You just need to be around and deal with it every 45 minutes or so. However, for the amount of work it requires, it does seem like kind of a small return, so next time I make these, I will probably make several batches at once. More work, yes, but apparently the dough freezes well, and, these were DELICIOUS.

The recipe I used is from the Williams and Sonoma baking bible, The Essentials of Baking, which I love because it has lots of scientific explanations of baking stuff, about why things work the way they do and such. Mine
didn't double in size when rising, which W & S attributes to the butter in the dough being too warm and making the layers stick together, but I don't think that was the case because they also say that the way to recognize the butter being to warm is that it oozes out the sides, which it didn't. But in the end it didn't matter because the result was light and flaky and so, soooooo good.


2 t active dry yeast
2 T sugar
3 T warm water
1 t salt
2 T cooled melted butter
1 c cold whole milk
2 1/2 c flour

1 c butter
2 T flour

1 egg
1 T whole milk

1 - Mix yeast, water, and a pinch of sugar until dissolved, let stand until foamy.
2 - Mix yeast mixture, the remaining sugar, salt, butter, milk, and 1/2c of flour with a wooden spoon (or your new Kitchenaid!) until blended.
3 - Add remaining flour 1/2c at a time, until just blended each time. Dough will be very sticky. Do not overblend, or it will lose some of that final lightness.
4 - Roll into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 45 minutes or so.

1 - Use a rolling pin or the heel of your hand to warm butter and shape it into a 6x8 inch rectangle. This means you can't use room temperature butter, though that would be easier to shape; you need to be able to pick it up. As you shape, press the flour into the surface of the butter. If it gets too warm (oozy), stick it in the fridge for a few minutes until it has firmed.

1 - The process by which you work butter into the dough for this type of pastry or for puff pastry is called laminating. The butter should be firm but pliable, the dough should not be allowed to warm enough to get sticky again.
2 - Place the chilled dough rectangle on your work surface with the short end toward you. Put the chilled butter package at the base of the dough rectangle, leaving 1/2 inch border of dough, and fold the top over, pressing dough together to seal.
3 - Roll into a 10x24 in rectangle, and then fold the bottom third up and the top third down as if folding a letter. Cover in plastic and return to fridge for 45 minutes. This is the first turn.
4 - Repeat last step 3 times for a total of 4 turns, and then return dough to chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.

1 - Roll the dough into a 9x18 in rectangle. Cut in half lengthwise, then cut each half crosswise into 4 squares, for a total of 8 squares. Cut each square in half diagonally.
2 - Butter your baking pans (no Pam this time - not after all that work!). Stretch each triangle to about twice its original length, and stretch the wide end of the triangle even further. Place the dough on the work surface with the point facing you and, grasping the wide end, roll dough toward point, turn the ends in slightly.
3 - Place on baking sheet about 3 inches apart. Cover with a dishtowel and allow to rise until doubled in size, about an hour and a half.
4 - Preheat oven to 425.
5 - Brush dough with egg/mild mixture and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Coconut Cake

Dear Megs,

My mom's birthday is this week! We had dinner over there on Alex's parents' last night here (they visited for a week) and I decided to turn it into a little b-day celebration for my mom, even though she cooked dinner.

The cake I made her may have the most gorgeous texture of any cake I have ever tasted. Moist and soft, velvety. Lovely. The cake is not overwhelmingly coconutty, despite its name. I've seen it with pastry cream between the layers, and was going to make lemon curd to fill it with, but got lazy and used a lemon cake syrup instead. Next time, though, I'll really drench the layers with it instead of brushing it on with a pastry brush before icing: it was too subtle. This is another recipe from the ever-wonderful Cotton Country Collection, modified slightly by me.

Coconut Cake

1 c butter
2 c sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 t vanilla
1/2 t almond extract
2 2/3 c cake flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 c coconut milk
1/2 c cream

Preheat oven to 350. Cream the shit out of the butter and sugar - this means it should be ALMOST WHITE when you start adding egg yolks one at a time. Add the vanilla and almond. Sift cake flour, measure, and sift again with other dry ingredients. Beat into butter mixture, alternating with the milk/coco milk. Beat egg whites stiff and fold into batter. Bake in 3 greased 9 inch layer pans for 30 minutes. Cool on racks, remove from pans when nearly cool.

Lemon syrup:
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c water
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
1 t vanilla

Boil sugar, water, and lemon juice until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in zest and vanilla. Brush cake layers with cooled or slightly warm syrup.

2 egg whites
1 1/2 c sugar
5 T cold water
pinch cream of tartar
1 1/2 t white Karo
1 t vanilla
grated unsweetened coconut

Combine all ingredients except for the vanilla and coconut in the top of a double boiler (or in a stainless mixing bowl, if you're me). Blend, then set onto the bottom of the double boiler (or saucepan, if you're me) in which water is already boiling. Beat mixture vigorously for 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Assemble cake, icing between layers. Icing will get progressively gooier. Ice the outside of cake and sprinkle with coconut. You *can* use sweetened coco flakes if you want, but these boiled icings are very sweet already, and the unsweetened adds a rich earthy flavor that manufacturers have somehow managed to pound out of sweetened coconut.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

King Cake!

Dear Megs,

This year I made my first Mardi Gras King Cake! Usually I order one from Gambino's, which used to be the best bakery in New Orleans, according to my mom. I don't know if it still is...Gambino got killed a few years back. Mob hit, I guess.

Anyway, King Cake isn't really cake, it's a sweet yeast bread that's really more like a breakfast bread or a danish of some sort. Iced with a simple confectioner's glaze, sprinkled with colored sugar. Num! After baking, you stuff a plastic baby in there somewhere, and the person who gets the baby has to bring the next cake or host the next party, depending on how you do it. New Orleans people have a very specific idea of what the baby is supposed to look like, but I had to make do with eBay and accidentally ordered these giant babies that are totally wrong. Oh well. Next year. There are lots of recipes online, but I decided to go with the simplest one, here. Glad I did! It was light and moist and wonderful and delicious. You should make one, but ignore the comments on that site - they aren't supposed to be extravagant or decadent or, well, cake. The secret to a good king cake, says my mom, is that king cake isn't very good. She said mine was better than Gambino's, but she has to say that. She's my mom.

Incidentally, here's what became of the baby:



Saturday, February 13, 2010

Simple, perfect cornbread

Hi Megs,

I thought today you could use a dose of comfort food. Wish you were here to share this with me! Sorry the picture sucks. I still haven't bothered to read the manual to my camera and figure out the low light settings, so I really shouldn't take pictures for the blog at night. Maybe when I finish my PhD I'll get around to figuring it out...

So, Alex and I bought half a pig from a local farm this winter, and I'm telling you, I'm never going back to store-bought. No guilt, no weird processing, no horrifying conditions. Just piggy. Delicious, delicious piggy. So anyway, we've been eating more pork than usual. The other night I decided to make chili, but instead of ground beef I used ground PORK, and instead of kidney beans I used local cattle beans, which seem to be exactly like kidney beans in every way except they're spotted red and white. Also, since it's a small company there's always a rock in there somewhere, which adds some excitement to dinner.

Anyhoo, I was wishing for bread and decided to whip up a batch of cornbread. Now, I feel like lots of people (and restaurants) mess cornbread up because they won't get out of its way. The whole point of cornbread is that it's got simple ingredients and it's easy to make. Cornbread is - and should be - country. This is a recipe I got from my mom, who got it from her mom, and so on. I'm not sure they would even call it a recipe - it's just how you make cornbread, and once upon a time, everybody just knew how to do it.

1 c cornmeal (I REALLY prefer coarse, which gives cornbread its great texture, but to each his own)
1 c flour
1 c milk (or buttermilk, or yogurt, or whatever dairy product you have lying around)
1 egg
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c oil (any one will do, but I usually use some kind of veg oil)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
extra oil for skillet

Put some oil in a cast iron skillet, and place the skillet in the oven while it preheats, to 350 or 400. Doesn't really matter which. Mix ingredients in a big bowl (no need for a beater, a wooden spoon or spatula will easily do the trick), and pour the batter into the hot oil in the skillet. Bake until done. Eat too much of, preferably with butter.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Blondies for Grown-Ups

Dear Megs,

Today I had to make a dessert to bring to a Super Bowl party (WHO DAT!!!!), and was inspired by a blondie Alex got yesterday at Scratch Bakery, but I wanted to sex it up a little. So I added a few things. These were delicious, but in the future I won't melt the butter before mixing, because though I like a gooey bar-cookie, these were a little too gooey. Serious yum, though.

2 sticks butter (melted)
1 1/2 c dark brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1/2 t almond extract
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 1/2 c flour
1/4 c cognac or bourbon (I used Hennessy)
1/2 c toffee chips
1 c dark chocolate chips (I was out, so I used 4 squares of semi-sweet baking, chopped coarsely)
1 c chopped pecans
zest of 2 oranges

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour (I used Pam baking spray, my new love - it's so easy) a 9x13 baking pan. Mix butter and sugar (cream butter and sugar if you decide not to use melted butter). Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly. Mix in extracts and booze. Mix in salt, baking powder and flour, then fold in nuts, candy, and orange zest. Bake for 30-45 minutes, depending on how gooey you like them. I tried 30, until the middle was just set, but after eating one, I stuck them back in the oven for 15 minutes. They were still really moist and rich even after that.

Love, Linz

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Eclairs with Blood Orange Cream and Cognac Ganache

Dear Megs,

Today I had several new accoutrements to put to use, and I decided that, since I didn't sleep too well last night, I did not have the wherewithal for actual work. So, I decided to try making éclairs, which seem so fabulous that I thought they'd be hard. They aren't!

You don't need these:

Or this:

to make éclairs, but they do make things easier. And kitchen toys are fun.

Eclairs with Blood Orange Cream and Cognac Ganache

1/4 c unsalted butter
1 c water
1/2 t salt
1/2 t nutmeg
1 c flour
3 large eggs
Preheat oven to 400. In a medium saucepan, bring butter, salt, and water to a boil over med-high heat. Reduce heat to med, and add flour and freshly grated nutmeg. Stir well with a wooden spoon, smushing the flour mixture against the sides of the pan to break up lumps. It will seem like it doesn't need more cooking, but do this for 2 minutes anyway. It's ok if some sticks to the bottom.
Remove pan from heat and scrape dough into a different bowl (like, say, the bowl of your new stand mixer, with the paddle attachment) and add eggs at room temp one at a time. Beat continuously as dough separates and then comes back together.
If you want that eclair shape, you'll need a plastic bag or pastry bag fitted with a jumbo star tip. Otherwise just put some dollops of dough on a heavy baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake 45 minutes or so, until dough is light and poofy and golden brown (if desired, brush with lightly beaten egg for shine).

Cognac Ganache
4 square bittersweet chocolate
1/2 c heavy cream
1 t light corn syrup
1 T cognac
Scald cream without allowing it to boil. Remove from heat, and add chopped chocolate, corn syrup, and cognac. Wait a few moments, then stir until smooth.

Blood Orange Cream
1 c whole milk
3 large egg yolks
1/4 c sugar
2 T cornstarch
1/8 t salt
1/2 t vanilla
zest of 1 blood orange
1 c heavy cream
1 T powdered sugar
1 t vanilla
Scald the milk without allowing to boil. At the same time, whisk yolks and sugar until pale. Add cornstarch and salt, continuing to whisk. Pour the hot milk into egg mixture slowly, continuing to whisk. Return to saucepan, ever whisking, for several minutes, or until cream thickens considerably.
Remove from heat and transfer to a clean bowl; whisk in vanilla and orange zest. Chill in fridge for about an hour.
Beat cream, powdered sugar, and remaining vanilla until stiff. Remove pastry cream from fridge and whisk to smooth. Beat about 1/3 of whipped cream into the pastry cream, then fold the rest in to lighten the cream.

Assemble by gently cutting pastry in half, plopping filling in the middle, and spooning warm ganache over the top. Refrigerate.