January 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

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Are you bunkering down for the #Snowpocalypse like I am? The world outside my windows is white, but so far it seems we have overreacted. The only signs that the world is ending were the lines stretching down the aisles at the supermarket yesterday, customers yelling when it looked like you might not take your place at the end of the line, and the shelves barren of bread, vegetables (I’m not sure about you, but I might not stock my house with kale if the world were really ending…), and milk.

But as it is, I don’t have to go in to work again until Wednesday afternoon Thursday, so what better to do than make a bunch of cookies! I love a good crackle on top of a chewy ginger molasses cookie and turbinado sugar does just the trick. I also love the chewy strands of coconut and flakes of oatmeal in these “Chunky Lola” cookies from the Flour cookbook, juxtaposed by blobs of melted bittersweet chocolate. Can you tell, when it comes to cookies, I am firmly in the chewy camp.

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I do hope these cookies will make up for the things I didn’t post…ahem the stickiest sticky pecan buns ever. But if you have something to say, drop a line in the comments section. Oh, and be sure to mention your favorite pizzeria in Rome. I’m so glad spring break trips extend to post-graduation life!

Ginger Molasses Cookies

October 18, 2012 § 1 Comment

I’ve spent the morning in one of the really comfy leather couches of my eating club, drinking coffee and perusing Miss Moss, a fashion/design/photography blog I recently discovered through a girl sitting next to me in seminar. I’ve spent the afternoon pouring through a thrift shop, looking for Audrey Hepburn long white gloves and pearl necklaces, but coming up with an ugly Christmas sweater with jingling reindeer instead. And the evening again, back to browsing through pages of Miss Moss, shopping for scarves online (I’m going at a rate of one new scarf a week, which is justified, I believe, because I wear them every, single day), and drinking Baileys out of an orange Solo cup, courtesy of my British friend reminiscing about Oxford Wednesday traditions of pancakes and Baileys.

Even with all of the homecoming events coming up this weekend, the threat of midterms next week, and countless other activities I feel like I should be excited about, I’m eagerly looking forward to getting off campus for a bit at the end of the month. I’d rather be buying play tickets and making dinner reservations for New York, or day dreaming about the quaintness of Portland, Maine, or just sitting around in Boston with my best friend, so I can stop calling her in panic mode every other day, dreaming of fall sunsets, which admittedly occur here too in glorious colors but lately I’ve been so lost in care that things like this tend to escape my notice. Still, tonight was one of those Halloween type nights, with a glowing moon and shadowing branchy trees cutting the orange sky.

Normally, I love fall in the Northeast, a season I never had growing up in San Francisco. I loved the crackle underfoot and in the crisp air. It felt homey, without ever reminding me of home. This year, there is something unbearably nostalgic about it that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s that feeling of being so lost in thought that I barely even notice what is going on around me. It’s that feeling that I need to see the water, breathe the ocean, that I can’t shake. This year, homey just won’t do — it will have to be home.

And so home. The Pacific Coast. The sunset hidden by layers of fog and mist that cannot be shaken. Ginger molasses cookies. Because that’s one of the first things I learned how to bake and they will always be my favorite. The only cookies I made in high school after coming home on Saturday mornings, after cross-country practice in Golden Gate Park. Crackly tops, rolled in sugar crystal. Spicy (I grated crystallized ginger into them) and dark sticky molasses. Is it Christmas yet?

The French eat too

December 8, 2010 § 1 Comment

There are few things that make me happier than a group of rail-thin French women cooing with delight and diving into slices of a warm American pecan pie for their petit gouter alongside steaming cups of thé vert. Or when they profess to adore carrot cake, cream cheese frosting and all, and suggest I open up an American style bakery in Paris, because they just know it would be a huge success. Indeed there are several American-style places here, if you want to search out bagels and brownies — which seem to be the main focus — but few places to buy ingredients with which to make your favorite American treats. It’s surprising what Americans seem to feel they need imported — the likes of Betty Crocker icings in all flavors, yellow cake mixes, and colored marshmallows, although I think it was the French girls that were cooing over those in the Etats-Unis aisle of La Grande Epicerie at the Bon Marché.

But it was on that aisle that I finally found Grandma’s molasses and ordinary corn syrup, which are both still practically unheard of here. Actually I take that back. The minute you say corn syrup here, you get a quick intake of breath and a mumbled “c’est pas bon pour la santé” as if the pound of butter dumped in every French dish is bon pour la santé. So needless to say, you don’t see any French women dumping the container of corn syrup into their tarte fillings — because tart is the closest approximation I can find to pie — but they won’t hesitate to eat it when it’s placed in front of them in the form of this gooey-still-warm-from-the-oven tart that the little American girl brought in this morning. Because, eating is, afterall, about indulgence.

This pecan pie — or pecan squares as they go in my house — is a classic on my family’s Thanksgiving table. It has a strong molasses flavor and is packed full of pecans, avoiding that gooey, far-too-sweet layer of sugar and corn syrup that many pecan pies pack in the middle. Nothing horrifies me more than a badly made pecan pie, with a thick layer of cooked sugar and a sprinkling of nuts on top. I may have Frenchified the classic a bit by making a tart crust with a generous amount of sugar and egg, instead of the simple butter-and-flour combo my dad uses, and baking it in a fluted, rectangular tart pan instead of a brownie pan.

But either way, this is the way to go come Thanksgiving (or for me, come breakfast) no matter where you live. A couple of weeks late to the Thanksgiving post, but there you go. Now excuse me while I eat the last piece with my cup of tea for breakfast. Can’t be worse for you than a café crème with a half a baguette, split down the middle and spread liberally with butter right?

Pecan Squares
Adapted from Jeremiah Tower’s New American Classics

2 eggs
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (or half unsulphered molasses, half corn syrup)
1 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups pecan pieces

One recipe of Pasta Frolla pastry dough or simply use your fingers to combine cold butter and flour until you achieve a shortbread-like consistency.

If using a crust made of just butter and flour (combine until crumbly and the dough stips together when you press it with your fingertips), bake pastry shell until golden (about 10-20 minutes) at 350 degrees Farenheit.
If using the Pastra Frolla, there is no need to pre-bake the pastry shell, just follow the directions here and press the rolled-out dough into the tart pan and fill.
Make sure your tart shell has no little holes as the filling with leak and burn in your oven.

Melt butter over the stovetop and set aside. Combine eggs and sugar. Add corn syrup, salt, bourbon, butter, and vanilla. Stir in pecans. Pour the filling into the pastry shell. Bake until mostly set at 350 degrees Farenheit, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Let cool before cutting.

Say goodbye to home: Whole grain breads

June 9, 2010 § 1 Comment

Awhile ago I mentioned that my family had started baking our own bread. While I was home we made a couple loaves a week, the first being a molasses rye bread and the second a honey whole-wheat walnut bread. I can now honestly say that I do not think I will ever be scared of yeast again. It’s like a baby. Set it in a bowl with a little warm water and a sugar to consume and it will grow, flourish, and make beautiful, tall loaves of bread. To be eaten right out of the oven, still warm and slathered in butter. Bread is one of those wonderful foods whose smell just radiates the feeling of being home. I think it will be the first thing I make in my new house in Washington D.C. (I just moved in two days ago!).

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