Saturday, April 29, 2006

"Comfort in a Cookie"

These, "Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Crisps," have a texture that is both chewy and crispy, with sweet chocolate in every bite. I sampled this recipe, featured in the current issue of Midwest Living, for The Paper Palate and theWell Fed Network. The simple recipe utilizes regular pantry items, easily combined and quickly baked. The result is a very comforting, very delicious cookie.

Until we meet for coffee,

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Coffee Break


Most coffee lovers are familiar with the story of Kaldi, that infamous goatherd in 9th century Ethiopia, who accidentally discovered coffee while watching his goats dance, after eating the raw berries. Soon, he, too, was eating the berries and dancing among the goats. While I tend to become quite excited about coffee, I have not yet taken to dancing after enjoying it, neither in beverage, nor dessert form.

So today, while listening to my beloved BBC Radio (Mozart), I decided to make a Chocolate Espresso Tart (having been inspired earlier in the morning by the Quotation of the Day on The Old Foodie). Although it is not necessarily a difficult recipe, it is somewhat time consuming. Such a rich, decadent dessert seemed appropriate for this musical afternoon. And while this slice of my decorated tart may not be as pretty as Martha's, after the first taste, I was dancing around my kitchen, just like Kaldi!
Chocolate Espresso Tart
(recipe courtesy of
For the Ganache:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 61 percent cacao), chopped
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons good-quality ground espresso beans
For the Tart Shell:
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for parchment paper
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
3 tablespoons heavy cream
For the Filling:
1 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese

1. Make the ganache: Put chocolate into a medium heatproof bowl, and set aside. Bring cream and espresso to a boil in a small pan. Pour through a fine sieve over the chocolate; discard solids. Let stand 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Let cool to room temperature, 1 to 2 hours.

2. Make the tart shell: Sift flour, salt, and cocoa powder into a medium bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add egg and vanilla, and mix until combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the cream. Shape dough into a thick rectangle; wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 350°. Roll out dough between 2 pieces of lightly floured parchment paper to a 16-by-6-inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Press dough into a 14-by-4 1/2-inch rectangular flan frame set on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Trim dough flush with top edge. Prick all over bottom of shell with a fork. Bake until firm, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely. Unmold.

4. Put ganache into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip (such as Ateco #828).

5. Smooth mascarpone cheese over bottom of tart shell with an offset spatula.

6. Pipe ganache rosettes, one next to the other, on top of mascarpone to cover. Store in the refrigerator up to 1 day. Great Ganache: To turn out smooth ganache every time, make sure the mixture is at room temperature before whipping. Any warmer or colder, and its cream is likely to seize or become grainy. 
Until we meet for coffee,

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

"Not Your Ordinary Shrimp Salad!"

Sometimes lunch should be more special than the average brown bag sandwich or fast food salad. Sometimes dinner needs a more festive start. And sometimes a friendly warm weather gathering requires a special side dish contribution. Try this quick and easy recipe for, "Shrimp and Avocado Salad with Creamy Jalapeno Dressing," from the Chicago Tribune that I sampled forThe Paper Palate and the Well Fed Network.

Until we meet for coffee,

Monday, April 24, 2006

"Excellently observed," answered Candide; "but let us cultivate our garden."

To plant a garden was one of my goals for Spring. And as May quickly approaches, my agricultural procrastination increasingly haunts me. I've not yet prepared a place for a garden, nor have I purchased plants or seeds for this garden. My only explanation for this hesitation is that I'm very much intimidated by this gardening project. Admittedly, I have never had any success with those herb kits, and I am probably the only person known to have actually killed a cactus plant, while trying to care for it.

When I was a kid, Mothers, Grandmothers, Aunts, Neighbors, everyone, canned homegrown fruits and vegetables, preserving them and putting them up for cooking at another time. "Putting up preserves," was mandatory. And although I helped tend gardens and even worked a few summers on some farms, the idea of growing my own garden still unnerves me. Still, I plan to give it a good try and since one of my friends has told me that I have until the second weekend in May to plant, at the moment, I'm feeling less panicked about the situation.

On Saturday, I purchased some strawberries and some canning jars and I made a small batch of Strawberry preserves. While this tiny batch only remotely resembles those great endeavors of my past maternal influences, it has renewed my determination to plant that little garden and, "put up," whatever I can get to grow in it. Having this yummy homemade jam prompted a desire for yummy homemade scones, so back into the kitchen I went.

Whenever baking scones, I have always relied on a very basic recipe, hand written on a now very tattered piece of notebook paper. I'm not even sure where this recipe was initially copied from; I've been using it for that long. It is not an extraordinary recipe. It's the ubiquitous flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and milk combination, with some baking powder and salt added in. (And whatever extras you feel inspired to include.) These simple scones are really quite good and proved to be a perfect accompaniment to my freshly homemade strawberry preserves.

And now, as the enlightened Voltaire would strongly urge, I really must get started on preparing my garden!

Until we meet for coffee,

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Some Encouragement...

Several years ago, a generously spirited Benedictine monk baked bread for the masses, by means of public television and the printed word. Both the popular television series and the book series of the same name, Breaking Bread with Father Dominic, proved to be excellent instructional vehicles for valuable life and culinary lessons. From bread, we receive strong nourishment for life; bread blesses us with sustenance, strength, and comfort.
And inspiration.
Baking bread is an offering of hope, an act of faith whereby simple ingredients are blended, until becoming fully cooked loaves of accomplishment. There is much solace to be found in the refuge of warm bread. To share bread is a generous expression of kindness. In times of trouble and difficulty, sharing bread is to lend comfort and support.
And gratitude.
Father Dominic Garramone created a recipe for a special bread that would properly express this sincere compassion for others. Father Dominic's,"Herbal Encouragement Bread," is a braided bread, representative of the many difficult, chaotic, and confusing entanglements of life that often become interwoven with our various sources of reliance and support. This recipe contains several symbolic ingredients to further illustrate the sentiment. The positive utilization of something that has spoiled is reflected by the use of sour cream, painful tears are represented by minced onion, and thyme (because of its often environmentally harsh agricultural conditions) symbolizes courageous endurance.
Initially, I was prompted to bake this bread because of Corey's sincerely devout words this past Sunday, when her journal became reminiscent of her days spent immersed in Benedictine monastic life. She has such a strong passion to come to the aid of others. Despite no longer living among the monks and the sisters, she remains of powerful service, inspiring and encouraging so many among the masses.
She could use some bread.
Yesterday, in order to refresh and renew body, soul, and her vision for all that Brocante Home ultimately represents, Alison announced a temporary cessation of posted updates for her site. I am extremely proud of her for taking pause, in order to appreciate and nurture all that is personally precious to her. From time to time, we must determine what maintenance is to be done for the proper care and nurture of those things that are most important to us. Those things of the soul. Otherwise, we risk losing the passion once felt, prompting unfavorable sacrifices of self to soon follow. I am personally very grateful that Alison is taking the time to take care of herself and renew her spirit. She will return to us with an even greater purpose.
She could use some bread.
It's been one of those weeks, one of those seasons, but as with all seasons, time passes and we begin again. I have never before baked bread by hand, having instead in my mother's kitchen, used her bread making machine to produce generic, oddly shaped loaves. Today, I have made the attempt to bake bread by hand, offering some encouragement to those in need. Baking this bread has reinforced hard lessons of patience, for I am not a patient woman. Throughout the process, the dough commands time to pause and ready itself for its task. Slowly and quietly, I am learning the patience gained from the effort. And, my efforts have produced a warm, although somewhat unattractive, loaf of peace.
In breaking this bread, I offer humble appreciation for the varied trials that each of us must endure, while taking our personal journeys. For Corey, I break this bread to offer admiration for her always inspirational, 'sermons.' For Alison, I break this bread to offer peace for her healing renewal. To both, and to all others who are my constant sources of strength and support, I break this bread in gratitude and respect. May it nourish me, so that I may also be a source of strength and support.
Herbal Encouragement Bread
(recipe courtesy of Breaking Break with Father Dominic)
1 package of Fleischmann's Active Dry Yeast
1/4 c. lukewarm water
1 8 oz. carton sour cream
1 egg
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. minced onion
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
4-4 1/2 c. all purpose unbleached flour, divided

Dissolve yeast in warm water in small bowl. Let stand 10 minutes, or until foamy. Heat sour cream in a saucepan or microwave oven to 110 to 120 degrees. Pour warm sour cream into medium bowl. Add egg, oil, honey, baking soda, salt, onion and thyme; stir until thoroughly mixed. Add yeast mixture; stir to mix. Add 4 cups of the flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead gently 1 minute. Let dough rest 10 minutes; this resting period helps the dough to firm up. Knead 4 minutes, adding small amounts of remaining flour as needed to keep dough manageable. The dough will be elastic but slightly sticky. Rinse and dry bowl, then oil surface of dough and place dough in bowl. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free place about 1 hour, or until doubled. Punch down dough. Knead briefly to expel large air bubbles. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into an 18-inch rope. Braid the ropes to form a loaf; tuck the ends underneath. Place loaf on lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise about 30 minutes, or until doubled. About 15 minutes before end of rising time, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaf 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from baking sheet and let cool on wire rack 15 minutes, then brush top and sides of loaf with melted butter, if desired. Yields: 1 loaf. (I used 1 full tsp. of thyme for this recipe.)
Until we meet for coffee,

Monday, April 17, 2006

"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." ~ Marcel Proust


This past Saturday, Alison May, was so kind as to feature my blog onBrocante Home, complete with a screenshot and hyperlinks! Brocante Home is perhaps the most beautiful and definitive source of domestic inspiration available online. At the beginning of this year, when I exchanged a life of professional workalcoholism for a life of blissful domesticity, I found Alison's website, accidentally, while searching for vintage motivation to sew retro aprons (although the sewing was very soon replaced with cooking). Immediately, I became another one of many, who begin each day with Brocante Home. I remain a loyal member of the Vintage Housekeepers, as I have discovered acceptance among a great, supportive global community of kindred spirits, all devoted to promoting and protecting a wonderfully productive and beautiful way of domestic life.

Words cannot properly express my sincere gratitude to Alison for her wonderful compliments, therefore, I can only offer a humble, grateful gesture by baking something, "scrumptious," in her honor. (Unfortunately, England is very far away from America, so I'll have to enjoy it in her honor, as well...) Since she is quite fond of lavender, I baked a lovely lavender chocolate torte, to be served with lavender whipped cream. I couldn't find any specifically satisfactory recipe, so I simply combined dried lavender flowers with basic ingredients found in the many common recipes for the standard flourless chocolate torte. I did the same for the whipped cream, by simply folding dried lavender flowers into heavy whipping cream, beaten with sugar, until stiff.
Thank you so very much, Alison, for your praise and approval...and also for the daily inspiration!
Until we meet for coffee,

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"Once upon a time...underneath the root of a very big fir-tree."

When I was young, I absolutely adored the charming world of Beatrix Potter. As a matter of fact, I still do, very much. And it all began with a busy little bunny, named Peter. Since this is the time of year when happy little bunnies are all around, I have eagerly revisited my little Lake District friends, numerous times this past week, via Although I am very fond of all of Beatrix Potter's characters, the mischievous Peter Rabbit remains my lifelong favorite. We were was first introduced to him in 1902, with the publication of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, the first book of the Beatrix Potter Collection. Yes, he was most definitely a mischievous little bunny! In this first story, we find that despite the warnings of his mother, Peter sneaks into the garden of Mr. McGregor and greedily samples lots of yummy vegetables, until he is caught, while searching for parsley to aid his overstuffed tummy. Luckily, he escapes to the safe refuge of his mother and her soothing camomile tea.

So, in honor of my favorite little bunny (and Happy Easter bunnies everywhere this spring), last night, I baked a small batch of mini carrot souffles. "Carrot souffle" is essentially a type of casserole side dish, very popular in the American South. But instead of one large casserole, I baked several miniature ones (I should have filled the cups all the way before baking, but they were still very yummy, just the same!). Mine are dusted with confectioner's sugar, of course. The common recipe consists of pureed cooked carrots, generous amounts of butter, sugar (both white and brown), eggs, flour, baking powder, and assorted spices. Simply vary the spices included, according to taste.

Until we meet for coffee,

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"dans le ciel amoureux, un joli petit nuage bleu danse dans le vent heureux"

Several years ago, I saw a dreamy little sleep pillow displaying the beautifully embroidered phrase: "dans le ciel amoureuxun joli petit nuage bleu danse dans le vent heureux," ("in the loving sky, a lovely little blue cloud sleeps in the happy wind,"). I have never forgotten this wonderfully comforting little quote and it seemed most appropriate to share on a quiet Tuesday morning.

Choux à la Crème(recipe courtesy of

For the Cream:
40 cl milk
3 egg yolks
90 g sugar
50 g flour
1 vanilla bean
(optional 100g dark chocolate)

For the Puffs:
75 g flour
60 g butter
2 eggs
10 cl water
5 cl milk
1 tsp sugar
1 pinch salt

To make the cream: put the milk, the split vanilla bean (and the grated chocolate if desired) in a pot and bring to a boil. During that time, put the egg yolks and the sugar in a bowl, and whip for about 5 minutes (until smooth and almost white in color). Add the flour, and mix again until smooth. Slowly pour the boiling-hot milk while stirring until smooth. Put the mix back in the pot, put the pot on medium heat, and stir constantly until the cream boils. At first boil, take the cream out of the heat and let it cool.

To make the puffs: Put water, milk and butter (cut in pieces) in a pot. Add the sugar and the salt, and bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Take out of the heat and slowly add the flour, while stirring, until the dough is smooth. Put the pot back on the heat and stir constantly for about one minute, then take out of the heat. Add the eggs one by one, stirring constantly until the dough is smooth. Pre-heat the oven at 220 C. Put the dough in a pastry pocket, and make 3 cm-wide puffs, separated 4 cm from each other, on a pastry sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the puffs are brown and puffed.

To stuff the puffs: when the puffs and the cream have cooled, put the cream in a pastry pocket and fill the puffs with the cream. Yields 4 servings.

(I slightly altered pastry by adding some nutmeg, to taste. And of course, mine are generously dusted with confectioner's sugar.)
Until we meet for coffee,

Friday, April 7, 2006

Spring Break

Last night, I went traveling on an adventure holiday with Ian Wright, vicariously, of course. We trekked all through England and Wales and since Ian's spontaneity and enthusiasm sometimes reminds me of that of Jamie Oliver, I was soon inspired to get back in my kitchen. Not in the mood for anything heavy, I opted for some simple sweet treats! After an evening filled with armchair travels, what could be lovelier than enjoying a yummy assortment of Jamie's Scented English Creams?
Until we meet for coffee,

Lady Lazarus and Lemon Sponge Custard

It's no secret that in addition to being a brilliant poet and writer, Sylvia Plath was also an accomplished cook and baker. At work in her kitchen, Sylvia sought solace and inspiration from her cookbooks and comfort from her culinary creations. The Joy of Cooking was one of her most cherished books. Having read it religiously, she was more than familiar with its contents. Although I am ashamed to admit that given my continually growing collection of vintage cookbooks, I still do not own a copy of The Joy of Cooking. This truly shames me. In my somewhat weak defense, however, I often borrow a copy from my local public library.

With the month of May quickly approaching, my melancholy mood continues and I, too, am finding a certain peace in my kitchen. Like Sylvia, I know about loss and appreciation for things left behind. I know about being lost and found, while living long and coping with existential frustration. And I know there is sacred and therapeutic consolation to be found in cooking. This evening, drinking strong coffee while devouring Sylvia's prophetic words, I resolved to bake her beloved, Tomato Soup Cake, having read that she found much comfort in this recipe. But after inspecting the ingredients required, I discovered that I was without a can of condensed tomato soup. I cannot say this pained me, for although I've always been an admirer of her, this cake containing tomato soup, did not seem terribly appealing to me. I did not, however, declare absolute rejection of this recipe, because I found it to be curiously intriguing. Therefore, I can write with confidence, that someday (perhaps sooner, rather than later) I will end up eating a cake filled with tomato soup.

It has been widely reported that Sylvia was baking a Lemon Pudding Cake while writing, "Lady Lazarus," one of my favorite poems from her. Unlike the tomato cake, lemony cake really appeals to me. However, the 1997 reprinted edition of The Joy of Cooking does not seem to include a listing in its recipe index for a Lemon Pudding Cake, but it does contain a recipe for Lemon Sponge Custard. According to the recipe, while cooking, this dessert divides itself into layers of custard and sponge cake. Two distinct layers completing one beautiful whole: most appropriate and even more intriguing to me than the tomato based recipe.

Empowered by more coffee, I attempted to bake this rather delicate dessert. Surprisingly, it was not at all difficult to assemble and it baked beautifully. And mysteriously (or miraculously), the intriguing little dessert indeed transformed itself into a multi-layered treat, with yummy custard hidden beneath a yummy layer of spongy cake. As soon as the first bite melted in my mouth, I immediately and completely understood how Sylvia found joy in cooking.
Until we meet for coffee,

Lemon Sponge Custard
(Recipe courtesy of The Joy of Cooking, 1997 edition.)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter; softened
2/3 cups sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup strained fresh lemon juice
2-3 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 cup whole milk
4 large egg whites at room temperature

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9"x2" round pan or six 6-ounce custard cups or ramekins. In a bowl using the back of a wooden spoon combine and mash together butter, sugar and salt until crumbly. Beat in egg yolks. Add flour and mix until smooth. Gradually beat in lemon juice and zest. Stir in milk. In another bowl, beat egg whites on medium-high speed until stiff but still moist (they will look a little curdly, but don't worry). Gently whisk the whites into the milk mixture, blending just until no large lumps of whites remain. Ladle (do not pour) the batter into the prepared pan or cups; it is okay for it to reach the top. Bake in a water bath until a knife inserted in the center comes out nearly clean, 30 to 40 minutes for both small and large custards. Let stand for 10 minutes in the water bath. During the baking, the batter will divide into a layer of quivery lemon custard on the bottom and a light, spongy cake on top. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled, in the mold or turned out. Yield: 6 Servings
(Mine is generously dusted with confectioner's sugar.)

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Why I've become friends with Mari Winsor

So far, this has been a less than productive morning--I really need morecoffee! Considering a tenacious cold has attempted to overtake my immune system all week, today I felt the need for something warm and yummy for my rainy day breakfast. A quick assessment of the cupboards determined that, later this afternoon, I must go out for more baking supplies, as I seem to have limited quantities of many usually well stocked items. However, I have an abundance of sugar in the house...go figure. Therefore, keeping it simple without making anything too involved, I baked three mini chocolate cakes with lots and lots (and lots) of homemade whipped cream, laced with cocoa powder! Simple, but not at all nutritious or healthy. Yes, yes, very bad for me. My only defense is that I did NOT eat all three for breakfast; I only ate one (so far). But now the reasons are quite evident as to why it is absolutely imperative for me to maintain my close friendship with my Mari Winsor Pilates DVDs!
Until we meet for coffee,

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Hotdog Lovers...

Today is my wedding anniversary and rather than going out to some fancy French-style bistro or downtown chophouse, my husband and I are having Chicago-dogs for our celebratory dinner! Before the gasped, open mouthed reactions begin, let me explain why we're having hotdogs for our special dinner. My parents were married 41 years, and on their wedding night and for nearly every wedding anniversary that followed, they had hotdogs for dinner to celebrate their lifelong committment. You see, my parents grew up and were married in rural North Carolina. Their wedding, in 1964, was very nice, but was the result of much local community spirit and effort. After a small church ceremony and a homemade cake at my grandparent's house, their wedding night dinner was hotdogs from the local gas ("filling") station store.

This is not my first marriage, but this is my first wedding anniversary with my husband, Daniel. My father died about a month (just after his 41st wedding anniversary) after we were married last year. He loved Daniel very much and was more than happy with our decision to become married. It is difficult to explain, but he knew Daniel and I would also end up eating hotdogs for our anniverary dinners for years to come, celebrating our lifelong committment in honor of him.

Until we meet for coffee,

Emeril Lagasse is my hero!

Much of my home menu planning results from Internet surfing, cookbook reading, and watching television cooking shows. While there are many valid sources of culinary inspiration readily available, I seem to always find quick and reliable excellence from Emeril Lagasse! I often incorporate his, "Essence," into many of my dishes and many compliments received have been the direct result of my cooking with Emeril. His influence is evident in my popular Salmon en Croute and it is common knowledge that I absolutely adore both baking and eating his savory dinner puddings on a very regular basis. When it comes to delicious comfort foods that are beautifully presented, endless possibilities are provided, courtesy of Emeril. Not surprising is that many of Emeril's recipes include his signature, "Essence." What is surprising, at least for me personally, is that this combination of assorted spices is sold ubiquitously in supermarkets. It is curious to me that this item would be a successful seller, when Emeril readily offers the recipe for making the spicy blend online (, in his cookbooks, and on his television shows. I suppose it must be a matter of convenience, but why would you buy it when you can make it?

Emeril's ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):
(recipe courtesy of and

Ingredients needed:

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Yield: 2/3 cup.

Until we meet for coffee,


Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Taking Tea with T.S. Eliot

"April is the cruellest month," or so says my all-time favorite poet, T.S. Eliot. Given my recent melancholy and nostalgic moods, I must agree with his sentiment--at least to a certain extent. But since not all things related to April feel personally cruel, I cannot fully agree. April does hold happy dates, primarily, my first year wedding anniversary, April 5th, making tomorrow a happy date. However, my father was diagnosed with Stage 4 inoperable lung cancer on the day prior to our wedding day. Therefore, today, April 4th is obviously an unhappy date. Eliot would truly appreciate this contrast, I think. And so, early on this quiet morning, pretending I'm in a London flat, I'm taking toast and tea, while re-reading my tattered old paperback of his collected poetry.

Considering his Prufrock musings, I wonder if Mr. Eliot, himself, had any particularly favorite tea cakes. So, I did an unsuccessful Google Search, finding anything and everything but the favorite tea cakes of Thomas Stearns Eliot. I suppose I could borrow some biographical books from the public library and thoroughly research the topic, but in spirit of the reluctantly less than ambitious Prufrock, I shall personally contemplate the possibilities. Left to my rather vivid imagination, I've supposed that Mr. Eliot did not have a personally favorite tea cake, rather, he made his various selections to appease his various moods.

So, for my tea with T.S.E., I could rely on my old standard cinnamon scones that I've baked for years, but somehow that doesn't feel quite right. Lavender tea cakes seem a bit too light and feminine for the intense poet's imagined taste, while raisins and currant filled ones would perhaps be too heavy. No, I think at least today, Mr. Eliot would prefer a simple, spiced tea cake. So, in honor of Mr. Eliot and his Prufrock, and all that I dream of what an early London morning must be like, this morning's baking has yielded a yummy (but somewhat unattractive assortment) of comforting brown sugar spiced tea cakes to go with my Tetley!

Until we meet for coffee,

Saturday, April 1, 2006

With Apologies to Marie Antonin Carême - one

It seems common knowledge in the culinary world that the classic Charlotte Russe originated from the kitchen of famed French Chef, Marie Antonin Carême, in the very early 19th century. While his original recipe, or recette, included Bavarian Cream, there have been numerous varieties of flavors used in fillings in the many years since that initial dessert creation. Yesterday, I decided I would make a lemon flavored Charlotte Russe. When finished, it had a good, lemony flavor, but I wasn't entirely happy with the consistency of the filling. (I made the filling myself, as opposed to the use of store purchased, ready-to-use products.) Considering it was my first attempt, I am not too cross, but I definitely intend to achieve a better consistency for the next one. Also, I didn't account for the larger amount of Ladyfingers needed, since I bake my own, which are not split, like those purchased from a store. To compensate for this lack in quantity, I improvised, cutting each one in half, which provides explanation for why the photo reveals a dessert that is more primitive in appearance. Next time around, I will simply double the amount baked. All that said, my Lemon Charlotte Russe was still well received and Iwas the only one who thought it needed to be, 'better.' Still, I will make another one, having a smoother filling, with a sufficient amount of Ladyfingers. A Charlotte Russe that will be truly worthy of its elegant reputation and rich history. Soon, very soon. (End of Part One.)

Until we meet for coffee,

Speaking of Martha..."Martha's Cooking School"

Yes, today it seems that I'm a bit preoccupied with all things Martha. But no worries, this blog entry will not be the least bit lengthy. On her website, Martha Stewart offers 30 lessons (text/video) on basic techniques in cookery. I'm sure that many of you are already aware of "Martha's Cooking School," but since I discussed new things learned from Martha earlier today, I'd thought it worth mentioning.

Until we meet for coffee,