I had some friends coming over last night for drinks and dinner. And then, one by one, each cancelled because their kids had gotten the flu that’s going around. So I was forced to eat all the lemons bars I’d made for dessert, which I didn’t think would keep until the rescheduled night. (Actually, they probably would. But I knew it would be hard to keep looking at that pan of untouched lemon bars for a full three days.)
Results tagged cake from David Lebovitz
I had some friends over for dinner recently who were moving away, which is always sad, and they were in the full-on stress of moving; packing up boxes, dealing with logistics, selling most of their things, and taking care of the details of deménagement.
I had been leafing through Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts by chocolate expert (and comrade in chocolate) Alice Medrich, who I was introduced to in the 80s, not personally, but though her spectacular chocolate cakes and confections. Her chocolate shop in Berkeley was changing the way we thought about chocolate in America, and I’d like to think my (near-daily) allegiance to the store, called Cocolat, had something to do with it.
Alice had learned techniques for making French cakes and truffles, and was getting national acclaim for her extraordinary treats sold in the shop. I was such as fan that when I was baking just down the street, at Chez Panisse, I used to stop in on my way to work for a truffle or a slice of cake. And I finally had the chance to meet Alice, and she became one of my dessert heroes, coming out with some of the best books on baking you can get your hands on. And if you’re anything like me, before long, those hands are likely to be smeared with a little bit of chocolate.
Who was more thrilled than I to find that Deb thanked me in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for lugging a big sack of French cocoa powder to New York City for her? But just after I read that in the acknowledgements, my head started reeling, thinking that others would start asking me to bring them cocoa powder as well.
That one time I did it, fortunately, I managed to avoid a catastrophe as I can’t imagine anything worse than opening up a suitcase and finding a kilo (2#) of cocoa powder had exploded in there. (It would knock the time that I had a jar of molasses open in my suitcase from that top spot.)
Last summer when I was in New York, a French acquaintance sent out a missive, looking for an Angel Food Cake pan in Paris. I’ve been thinking about making one for a number of years. But there are a number of American baked goods that don’t quite translate, and this classic cake – made like a big, baked meringue – well…I was pretty certain this would be one of them.
For one thing, the French don’t normally do tall cakes (except for le Croquembouche, a tower of cream-filled pastry puffs, which is generally reserved for weddings), and the local palate would probably find Angel Food Cake a bit on the sweet side. And indeed, for years, I didn’t like Angel Food Cake either and tended to avoid it. Until one day, I was eating a slice, and decided that I did like it. In fact, I realized that I loved it. And now, for the rest of my life, I have to spend my nights staring at the ceiling over my bed, filled with regret for the years that I went without it.
The last copy of The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth that I had, I’d lent to a good friend who was excited about starting a career in cooking at a local culinary school. I don’t know another book that captures precisely everything I love about cooking, written by a man truly passionate about his subject, and I though he’d like to read it, as it’s been very influential to me as a cook. Then I moved and never got it back. But it was the one time in my life that I was happy someone else had become the owner of one my books, because it’s one that cooks of our current generation have likely forgotten about, or never heard of in the first place.
Fortunately last summer when I was in New York, I went to browse the shelves at the great cookbook store – Kitchen Arts and Letters – and saw a brand-new copy, and picked it up. It’s one of those rare books that I can read over and over and over again, and never get tired of, so I can’t imagine not having it on my shelf to pull out whenever I want. And re-reading it again, in France, reminds me of how Roy Andries de Groot, the author, was so perfectly able to capture a place, and time. L’Auberge de l’Atre Fleuri was a rustic mountain inn run by two women, Mademoiselle Ray and Mademoiselle Vivette, who had the kind of place we all dream about happening upon, but no longer exists. The two women were dedicated not just to splendid cooking, but were fastidious about using the bounty of the mountain-walled valley, and the fields, lakes, and forests, that were guarded by those towering mountains.
I’ve never given Israeli food all much thought. Sure, I’d had my fill of falafels and hummus in my lifetime, but there is a trip in my future and I was at a dinner party the other night and the woman hosting us had lived in Israel for a number of years and said it was her favorite place in the world.
Other people at the party chimed in saying also that the food was great – especially the salads, something I miss from years of living in California – all those vibrant, fresh greens and luscious tomatoes bursting with flavor that we had an overload of at the farmers markets! But I’ve never given much thought to Israeli desserts. (I adore Black and White Cookies, but don’t know if those qualify.) So when I came across this Tu bi’Shvat Cake in The Book of New Israeli Food, as I’m fond of anything packed with dried fruits and nuts, I thought I’d give it a try.
A while back, there was a spate of books about how to ‘sneak’ ingredients that are ‘healthy’ into food for your kids, to trick them into eating better. (Raymond Sokolov wrote an excellent rebuttal to that.) And recently there have been a few books written about how kids in France eat, and behave, better than their counterparts elsewhere. I can’t really comment on them in-depth because I haven’t read the books, but I do know two things from my own observations.
I don’t usually venture out Sunday mornings because after years in the food business, I’ve learned that the one day I was sure not to be working would be Sunday. (I’d eventually made it my sole criteria when choosing where I’d work that I’d only work in places that were not open on Sunday, or for breakfast). I also didn’t think that it was fair that I should inflict myself on others before mid-day. And when I first moved to France, I was happy that only markets were open on Sunday, although I was a little vexed to find out that every store and shop was closed – until I got hip to what a good idea it was since it forced everyone in town to relax and loosen up for a day.
I’ve been dying to try some of the new “good” coffee places that have opened up in Paris but since I don’t drink coffee later in the afternoon (the disadvantage of a lifetime of working nights are persistent sleep issues) the idea of crossing town for an afternoon cup wasn’t in the cards. However since it was Sunday morning and the rest of the city was barely waking up, and I saw the sun finally shining outside, I took a leisurely hike up the barren streets and boulevards near Montmartre to Kooka Boora, for a cup of Australian coffee.