October 10, 2012 § 1 Comment
I’d say from the crunch of leaves underfoot, softened by the cold wetness of the air, that summer has officially come and gone. And with summer, a lot of the illusions I had about people, the next year or so, and the ones who would be in it. But there’s a bright side of every change and today, it’s becoming more and more clear.
Snuggled into wool winter socks, fleece blankets and chunky sweaters, all I’ve wanted to do for the past week has been to curl up in bed and watch TV, waiting for the world to pass by. Which for me, isn’t an ordinary desire as watching TV is usually towards the very bottom on my list of activities. Instead, every night ends with a struggle to finish the readings for tomorrow, an impromptu trip to the gym, where I do my 20-minute weight circuit surrounded by an eclectic group of boys — the body builders, the slightly-pudgy, the geeky ones you never thought you’d see doing bicep curls —, and then a stop at the campus late-night cooking-baking hut. A freezing day finished with a caramely chocolate chip cookie. There are worse things in the world.
I had my first pumpkin scone of the season the other day. Sugar-crusted, fluffy, accompanied by my everyday morning latte. I was sitting in a corner of the café, (discreetly) watching some poor boy struggle over a very thick looking textbook, when he got up, looked me directly in the eye, and hesitantly walked over to my table. To my disappointment, the idle chitchat turned into a simple request to watch his stuff while he went to the restroom, but hey….you never know what a smile and a pumpkin scone can do to turn a downcast day around.
When I was paging through what to post today, I got stuck on these blackberry scones I made at the very end of August, when blackberries were unbelievably sweet and fit to burst (and stain everything) with juices. Though they were light, buttery and gushing with fruit, and proof that I have finally overcome my tendency to overwork scone dough — a reflection I think, of my disposition to over think and overwork most parts of my life —, the moment to talk about them seems to have gone and passed me by. Instead I was drawn to the brightness and simplicity of these white chocolate mint pot de crèmes. They can be made anytime you get your hands on fresh mint, and are just as perfect as a winter dessert, accompanied by the recipe’s candy cane brittle, as they are photographed here in my backyard, in the early summer. The brulée on top was a bit gilding the lily, but I never can resist a chance to use my blowtorch.
September 20, 2011 § Leave a comment
The first time I put chili powder in a baked good, the face my little brother made told it all. Not like that in itself is all that unusual; generally, anything that isn’t vanilla, lemon or cinnamon flavored meets with that reaction from him. It can make baking at home rather boring, with a couple of people on diets and the only person who eats unashamedly being such a picky eater. But anyway, they were chili chocolate chip cookies — the slice and bake kind — and they were a bit of a let down. Too much cinnamon, not spicy enough, and a little hard, in the stale kind of way. Not a disaster, in fact my mom ate them straight from the freezer for about a month afterwards, but not capable of convincing the brother to give new flavors another chance. Thankfully, I had a chance to try again with a new dessert, and best of all, a new audience, which was a bit more receptive to adventurous sweets.
We occasionally throw dinner parties, and, when not in the middle of summer, they don’t always involve the picnic table, the backyard and barbequed fish — though this being California, they still, quite often, do anyway. For this one for instance, I made a trio of desserts: goat cheese custards with red wine reduction, tiny, spicy ginger drop cookies, and these little pots of Mexican chocolate custard. The grainy texture of Mexican chocolate and the heat that arrives after the initial smooth sweetness come through in the finished custard, giving the dessert more of a bite than your standard pot de crème.
It was one of those dinners — as it had to be with three desserts — that seemed to last forever in good company and I sent our guests home with huge bags of ginger drops at the end of the night. A couple of weeks later I got a package in the mail, with a book about the independence struggle in Algeria which we had discussed at dinner. I like surprises. And I love getting mail. Maybe that explains why I had ten billion pen pals as a young girl. And why my dorm room is decorated with postcards.
Adapted from The Perfect Pantry
I submitted this post to the Sugar High Friday dessert blogging event, which bakes under a different theme every month. September’s theme was “Sweet Heat” and you can find the roundup of desserts here at the end of the month.
2 cups whipping cream, chilled
6 oz. Mexican chocolate (2 disks minus one small wedge), finely chopped
5 large egg yolks, at room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
In a saucepan over low heat, heat the whipping cream to the simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Then whisk in the chocolate and milk mixture. Pour the finished mixture through a strainer into a large clean bowl.
Place 6-8 small ramekins in a deep baking dish, such as a brownie pan. Distribute the mixture evenly among the ramekins. Pour hot water into the roasting pan until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, and bake for 25 minutes or until the custard is just set around the edges.
Remove the pan from oven and remove the custards from the water. Let them cool and then cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.