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Rhubarb Galette

galetteWhoa, Spring. Just four weeks ago, Brooklyn was mired in clouds, cold rain, and the dirge of winter that is March in the Northeast. Now the streets are bursting with life. Cherry blossoms and tulips are in bloom, and every patch of sad grass in this city is dotted with crocuses and snowdrops. I’m so thrilled that I’ve started buying fresh cut flowers every two weeks to bring some Spring inside my apartment, like these red ranunculus that have taken up residence in a mason jar.

ranneculusSpring also marks the beginning of prime farmer’s market season. We push aside root vegetables to make way for asparagus, ramps, and of course, rhubarb. It’s a star player in one of my favorite pies (strawberry rhubarb) and it can be deadly (well, only the leaves). It’s like the fugu of vegetables, but much safer.

rhubarbInstead of using it in a pie this past weekend, I put rhubarb in my most successful galette to date. The crust was crisp, but not too crisp. The filling was sweet, but not too sweet. And it all went well with a pint of strawberry ice cream. Continue Reading →

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Ultra Chocolate Pudding

ultra chocolate puddingI had brunch with friends this past weekend. It was the first time we’d been together in ages, so we went to our favorite spot by the park and ordered plates of French toast and omelets. Over the last few years, some of us have moved far away, some not so far. Careers have begun to solidify. One friend brought their young son who sat at the head of the table in a highchair, teething on coffee creamers and smiling between bites of his pancakes. We were newer versions of ourselves in the same old context, and yet, it felt just as comforting as our lazy Saturday brunches years ago.

Seeing them sent me on a nostalgia bender for most of Sunday, drawing on sources of comfort from years before—indie music circa 2005, old novels, and of course, food. Maybe I was looking for remedies to stress and the dreary end of March, when the Brooklyn sky alternates between gray with clouds and gray with clouds and freezing rain. Maybe I was trying to recapture what I’ve been lacking in recent months: moments when I’m completely at ease.

That’s all to say that I have a pudding recipe for you. It’s a dessert to make on a Sunday afternoon when all you want is to feel content, with a spoon in one hand and a cup of decadent chocolate and fresh whipped cream in the other.

milkI call it Ultra Chocolate Pudding because I increased the amount of chocolate by a third from the recipe I adapted. The result is a thick pudding with a near-custard consistency. Continue Reading →

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Butterscotch Maple Oatmeal Cookies

oatmealbutterscotch6Have you ever wondered what a state would taste like? If you’ve been curious about the flavor of the state of Vermont, I present Butterscotch Maple Oatmeal Cookies. They’re a little rustic and rough, but they have pockets of sweetness like a quaint village you might find on one of the state’s many country roads. They don’t flatten out like a typical cookie, leaving them mountainous with jagged brown peaks. They’re also a bit unusual, because when I think of Vermont, I think offbeat.

My college summers lent themselves to weekend trips to cities throughout New England, and back in the summer between my junior and senior years, my friend Vince and I traveled to Vermont to visit our friend Allie. I remember it was perfect driving weather with blue skies stretching over rural highways. Every few miles, we passed a sign for local farms that listed the their names, logos, and distance from the main road. We saw signs for apple orchards and dairy farms, but when we spotted a sign with the silhouette of a long-legged bird, the words “EMU FARM,” and an arrow directing us a few miles to the west, we had to follow it. Ten minutes later we were face to face with a flock of giant brown beasts.

emus We didn’t dare lean over the fence to touch the birds, but a sign stapled to a post informed us that “emu products” were for sale at the white farmhouse a few hundred yards away. We’d already driven to an emu farm, so we wanted to leave with something to show for it. Continue Reading →

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Sables

sables8Inspired by my trip to Beurre & Sel, I made sables on Sunday for a sketching get together. Not “sketchy” or “sketch,” but sketching, as in drawing still lifes in little notebooks with pencils and charcoal. We sat in a circle and drew containers and flowers on tables draped with cloth, taking plenty of breaks for snacks.

My drawing skills have progressed little since middle school even though I took a class last fall where were drew bicycles, car motors, and nudes. I think that’s why I turn to photography and flower arranging for the visual arts. I can assemble beautiful things, but it’s difficult for me to translate life to lines on paper. Everything’s misshapen and slants ten degrees to the right. I even find it difficult to cut straight lines with my knife in the kitchen. My hands don’t listen. Proof:

sables3Sables are very forgiving, though. As long as I don’t cut them less than 1/3″-thick, they don’t burn. Continue Reading →

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Honey Cardamom Madeleines

A few Saturdays ago, I woke up and went through my normal winter morning routine: stay under the covers as long as possible while checking Twitter, the New York Times, and email on my phone. My bedroom is always freezing thanks to a weak radiator and two drafty windows, so it takes a lot for me to throw off the blankets and set my feet on the icy hardwood floor. There wasn’t anything groundbreaking on Twitter or in the news, but when I checked my email, I remembered I had to go to a potluck that night and had no idea what to make. There were no strict guidelines, just “bring a dish to pass.” I got out of bed and pulled five cookbooks off the shelf.

I flipped through each book and considered my options—casseroles, salads, cookies, cheesy biscuits—and settled on madeleines, small sponge cakes with just a hint of sweetness.  They are easy to make, but you do need a madeleine pan with the signature scalloped molds.

Madeleines are often flavored with lemon zest or rosewater, but I adapted a Dorie Greenspan recipe that called for warm spices like cinnamon and ground cloves. I added cardamom to the mix, because let’s get real, I add it to most baked goods. Continue Reading →

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Mexican Hot Cocoa

I went to the Renegade Holiday Craft Fair last month where dozens of Brooklyn’s most talented makers set up booths by the Williamsburg waterfront. Between marveling at adorable prints and sewing kits and vintage plates with dog decals, I bought a cup of Mexican hot cocoa from Chickpea and Olive. A whole cup of hot cocoa is usually too heavy for me, but Chickpea and Olive’s vegan version with soy milk was perfect. It had just the right amount of spice too: enough to warm the palate, but not overwhelming.

Inspired by that craft fair cocoa, I made my own version this afternoon with ingredients I found in my cupboard.

A few tablespoons of hot cocoa powder, some spices, and a splash of vanilla later, and I had my own batch of Mexican hot cocoa. You can too! You may have everything you need at this very moment. Continue Reading →

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Chewy Chai Caramels

I make caramels for Christmas every year. They started as a random addition to the dessert table but they’ve evolved into a tradition that has me hand-wrapping hundreds of little caramel squares late on Christmas Eve-Eve. I bring them to parties and give them out to friends and family in mason jars or tins decorated with poinsettias or snowflake patterns. I usually make them with vanilla and sea salt, but in preparation for this year’s batch, I experimented with a few new flavors.

Masala chai was my most successful experiment. The warm flavors of black tea, cardamom, star anise, and cinnamon mixed well with sugar and cream. Think chai latte meets chewy caramel.

To flavor the caramel, I simmered loose chai in cream and let it steep.  Continue Reading →

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Caramel Apple Turnovers with Rosemary Crust

The glass of cider sitting by my computer means just one thing: we’re in the midst of apple season. Bust out some apple-based pastries and crank up a Fleet Foxes song because it’s time celebrate the fall harvest.

I started my celebration with a trip to an apple orchard on a perfect afternoon, complete with blue skies, sunshine, and a quarter of the New York City metro area’s population. Once we passed the entry gate, we were able to find some peace in the orchard.

I was joined by my own personal Ben Wyatt. Continue Reading →

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cranberry Cookies

I’m going to share some personal health information with you because it relates to the cookies pictured above: I spent thirty minutes in an MRI machine yesterday afternoon. I’m not dealing with anything serious or life-threatening, so don’t worry, but it did require me to stay motionless in a tiny tube for a half-hour while a machine took pictures of my insides—a really, really loud machine. For most people, this would be an uncomfortable 30 minutes, but for an anxiety-ridden, claustrophobic person like me, it was just one long panic attack.

They did have some sweet signs, though.

When the exam was over, I refused to take the subway home and spend an hour in a larger tube, so I took a cab instead. I rolled my window down as we passed over the Brooklyn Bridge and looked out over the river. My sunglasses were on, the city wind pulled at my hair, and I knew there was only one way to celebrate freedom: baking some damn cookies. Namely, some cookies with oatmeal, cranberries, and chocolate chips.

I’d call them Oatmeal Triple C Cookies, but the Internet tells me Triple C is the street name for a cough medicine teenagers like to trip on. Hm. Let’s stick with the more descriptive Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cranberry Cookies. Continue Reading →

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Chocolate, Rosemary, and Walnut Brown Butter Cookies

Ramsey and I tore through the first two seasons (and Christmas special) of Downton Abbey last week. If you haven’t been sucked in by Netflix or your local PBS station yet, it follows the lives of a British aristocratic family and their servants during everyone’s favorite early-twentieth century events (sinking of the Titanic, World War I, the Troubles, etc). It’s full of family drama, squabbling over inheritances, conniving footmen, and a whole lot of tea. Tea is consumed least three times in every episode, and depending on the time of day, it’s enjoyed with an array of beautiful sandwiches and pastries.

Few of us have time to prepare a spread of sandwiches, scones, and clotted cream to enjoy with an afternoon mug of tea, so my go-to accompaniment is a buttery, crunchy cookie.  That’s why I immediately flagged this recipe from The Kitchn. Butter, rosemary, and sugar? Perfect.

I followed the exact recipe from The Kitchn and had great results, but I wanted to try making a chocolate version. Truth: I liked the original, non-chocolate version more than the chocolate version I created. It didn’t let the rosemary flavor come through as much as I like. But! If you’re in the mood for a chocolate shortbread, give it a try. Continue Reading →