I’ve been going through my kitchen cabinets, and refrigerator…and freezer…and desk drawers, which has meant unearthing all sorts of odds and ends. Some were long-forgotten for a reason, and others brought back fond memories. Like the Pyrex glass container in my refrigerator encasing some remarkably well-preserved slices of candied citron. When I pulled the sticky citrus sections out, I realized that they don’t look quite as pretty as they did last year – which is okay, because neither do I – but they still tasted great. And the flavor of candied citron prompted me to make something I love: panforte.
Recently in Chocolate category
A favorite chocolatier of mine has finally made it to Paris, Henri Le Roux – although he’s best known for his C.B.S. caramels, which are made in Brittany, a region known for its copious use of salted butter. Whenever I’ve traveled to that part of France, I’m always delighted at their lack of restraint, and they use salty butter in everything from buckwheat galettes, to melting into large pots of salted butter caramel sauce, which they have no problem dousing on everything.
When I was in Australia, a couple of interesting things happened while I scooting around Sydney. One was that I went on the hunt for Lamingtons, and a number of people offered to send me recipes, but didn’t. And two, I got quite a few messages from people asking if I was coming to Melbourne. Then a food festival there rolled around and even though I woke up at all hours, checking my messages night and day, an invite to that city never landed in my Inbox.
But instead of being tough and bitter, I decided to dive into something tender and sweet, and was compelled to whip up my own recipe for Lamingtons. (And it’s hard to remain mad at anyone in Australia because, truly, everyone was exceptionally nice to me during my visit to Sydney.) I did call upon one of those nice folks, the master of the Lamington, Matt Rothman, when deciding whether to go with a cocoa powder icing or one made with chocolate. And he responded that he makes either, depending on whether he wanted the glaze to soak in to the cake a little (cocoa powder) or for it to be more of a thicker icing (chocolate).
It’s interesting reading some of the talk regarding if the internet is ready to replace cookbooks. Sure, there are people furiously clicking around wherever they can for a chocolate cake recipe. And there are hundreds of thousands of chocolate cake recipes that you can find using a search engine. But to me, that’s not enough. When I want to spend my precious time and funds making something to eat, I don’t want to merely find a recipe. There’s nothing compelling about a downloadable list of ingredients. It just leaves me cold. I want the author or writer to tell me about the recipe, what inspired them to create it, or how it came about.
I want to know why someone chose that recipe, what twists they gave it, what made the cake or casserole they were making so special to them that they wanted to share it. Was it an unusual ingredient? Did they like the description they read of it elsewhere? Were they inquisitive about how a root vegetable from their garden could make its way into a chocolate cake?
People are often fascinated by what, and how, I eat. They think that if you’re a baker, you spend all your time eating pastries. Which is like thinking that bartenders spend all their time drinking.
My not-so-secret strategy is that whenever I eat something, I want it to be the best of its genre. I don’t want or need a ton of cream or whatever; when I want a chocolate chip cookie, I want a really, really good chocolate chip cookie. If I eat a scoop of chocolate ice cream, it shouldn’t taste vaguely of chocolate. I want it to be full-on chocolate.
I haven’t visited Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Ohio, but I’ve heard Jeni Bauer’s ice cream was sensational. Because I can’t get everywhere – no matter how hard I try – her ice cream came to me in the form of her book, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home.
When Jeni’s book was released, we had a nice interchange via e-mail about ice cream making, including her technique for skipping the eggs and using other ingredients to get a specific consistency. She’s a stickler for getting rid of ice crystals so milk and cream get boiled to remove water, and corn starch is added to absorb any additional water that might be lingering in your mixture, to help keep the ice cream as smooth as possible.
If you skip over the fact that I made three trips in the past thirty days, and have two more coming up in the next two weeks, I don’t really travel all that much. (And it’s funny because some people like to try to point out inconsistencies about things I write about, which is amusing because I take even greater pains to point them out myself.) Before I moved to Europe, I was always quite surprised when I thought Europeans spent all their free time and weekends heading to other countries, visiting new cities, and immersing themselves in foreign cultures, when quite a few of them stay at home in lieu of hitting the road.
One of the nifty things about a blog is that you can easily revisit recipes and make revisions, while learning more about baking, and sharing those discoveries, as you go. When I wrote Ready for Dessert, I was able to update my favorite recipes, many created over a decade ago, and I had fun including the changes I’d made over the years.