Every Feeling Has a Flavor (a winter pie recipe)

I’ve always said if you want to know what’s going on in my life, observe what’s going on in my kitchen.  My girlfriends used to say they knew how my love life was going just by tasting the pies I baked.  Dark chocolate and berries meant heartache while ginger apple or peach meant happiness.  For me, every feeling and life event has a flavor.  Some are happy like My Best Friend Got into Harvard Pie.  Some aren’t like He Stood Me up on the 4th of July Pie.  Some are more mundane like the recipe I’m about to share with you.

So of course I loved Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 film, Waitress. The story centers around a woman named Jenna Hunterson who bakes whatever she’s feeling into a pie. Though the details of our lives are very different, I found it easy to identify with this character because of the way she expresses herself through baked goods.

Some of her creations include “Pregnant Miserable Self-Pitying Loser Pie, lumpy oatmeal with fruitcake mashed in.  Flambéed of course.”  “I Hate My Husband Pie, you make it with bittersweet chocolate and don’t sweeten it.”   “Earl Murders Me Because I’m Havin’ an Affair Pie, you smash blackberries and raspberries into a chocolate crust.”  “I Can’t Have No Affair Because It’s Wrong and I Don’t Want Earl to Kill Me Pie, vanilla custard with banana.  Hold the banana. . . ” “Baby Screamin’ Its Head off in the Middle of the Night and Ruinin’ My Life Pie, New York-style cheesecake brandy brushed and topped with pecans and nutmeg.”

In the film, a friend of Jenna’s offers her words of encouragement about her career.  “You don’t even know what you are deep inside.  You’re not just some little waitress.  Make the right choice.  Start fresh.”  Replace the word waitress with actress or housewife and there I am.  Another woman baking her feelings into pie and working on recreating herself so she can emerge a different butterfly.  Or maybe a bat.

Recently it’s been so damn cold I’ve felt like Imma die if I don’t have some pie.  So that’s what this recipe is: It’s so Cold Imma Die if I Don’t Have Some Pie Pie.

3 bramleys, 2 cox apples, 4 bosc pears, and 6 Jerusalem figs.  It’s not a combination I’d usually put together but it’s what I had in my fruit bowl.  So it’s what I used as I really didn’t want to leave the flat.  Luckily, I also had some pâté brisée in the fridge because that’s just the sort woman I am.  I peeled and sliced the apples and pears, cut the figs into thin rounds, added 3/4 cup of sugar, some butter, and a squeeze of lemon juice before adding a palimpsest of pastry hearts for a top crust.  I brushed the pie with heavy cream and sprinkled it with demerara sugar before baking.  Halfway through, I poured the liquid out of my pie.  I put it in a pot and reduced it down to a syrup that I then poured over the pie.  I finished baking it until it was golden and the top slightly glazed with my caramel fruit syrup.  I ate it while it was still hot and washed it down with a strong cup of tea.  And guess what?  I lived.  But only because of this pie.

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*I feel the need to add this link to the Adrienne Shelly Foundation. She was the writer/director of Waitress and this NPO honors her memory by supporting women filmmakers. http://adrienneshellyfoundation.org/

 

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Things That Stick to Your Ribs (A Profiteroles Recipe)

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Yesterday, I walked a mile uphill in English rain just to drop an essay in the post to a magazine that does not accept submissions via email.  I got soaked along the way as I carried no umbrella.  Couldn’t.  I was pushing my stroppy daughter who bandied her legs about under the dryness of her stroller’s plastic cover.  In protest, she doused the inside with apple juice.  Spill-proof sippy cup, my eye.

This journey into the local village made me feel like an aspiring woman writer from yesteryear.  It was all very “Gosh, I hope the ink doesn’t run off the envelope in this storm and jeepers, wouldn’t it be swell if I heard back from the editor soon?  Note to self: don’t forget milk for the baby on the way home.”

When I came out of the post office, the downpour had stopped and there was a rainbow in the sky.  At the end of it was something better than gold.  It was Hand Made Food.  Hand Made Food is the best cafe and shop in Blackheath and their cheese selection is tops.  I decided to stop in and see if I could find any special ingredients as our friends, Alexei and Linda, were joining us for dinner.

Lucky me.  I found the creamiest Stichelton to substitute for the Iowa Maytag I knew I couldn’t get for my blue cheese dressing.  It was extremely subtle for a blue cheese and perfectly tangy.  Nothing at all like Roquefort whose piquancy borders on the rancio.  It was the perfect accompaniment to one of my favorite salads, that ubiquitous iceberg wedge of America in the 1950s served with piccolo tomatoes and crumbled bacon.

The rest of our menu was equally brawny.  Rump steak, wilted spinach, buttered potatoes with parsley, with bottles of Dao and Barolo to drink.  For dessert, I couldn’t help myself.  Perhaps I should have made something lighter but I didn’t want to.  Summer has left and England is going cold.  Besides my flirty, 60 year old, Cockney butcher with glinty eyes and a shiny smile made even sparklier because of a few gold teeth, told me I looked like I was wasting away and he’d make it his business to build me up before winter so I wouldn’t fade away.  Yeah, I made profiteroles.

Aptly described by a friend of mine as “Godless bundles of temptation,” profiteroles have always been more seductive to me than forbidden fruit to Eve.  Last night, they proved the same for Henry and our friends.

 

For my choux, I use Ina Garten’s profiteroles recipe.  Though the chocolate sauce I make is a little different from hers.  The recipe is below.  I hope you like it as much as our friend, Linda, did.  She gave it the thumb’s up.

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Ingredients:

100g bar of dark chocolate (I use Chocolat Menier), chopped

3 tablespoons Lyle’s golden syrup

3/4 cup double cream

1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of sea salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Method:

Place the chocolate and syrup in a double boiler.  Or if you’re like me and haven’t got one, place them in a bowl atop a gently boiling pot of water.  Once they begin to melt, add the cream and stir constantly to emulsify.  Before taking the syrup off the stove, mix in the cinnamon, salt, and vanilla.

Spoon the sauce over the profiteroles then garnish with toasted slivered nuts and soft fruit.

Store the remaining pastry in an airtight container.  Pour the chocolate sauce into a glass jar and refrigerate.  I promise this dessert is just as delicious and beautiful a day later as evidenced below.

a day later

 

 

A Mexican Piggy Cookie By Any Other Name

would taste just as sweet.  And indeed they do.  Cochinitos.  Marranitos.  Puerquitos. Cerditos.  It doesn’t matter.  Whatever you want to call them, they are always delicious.

These pig shaped pan dulces are a cross between cookies and cake.  They are lightly spiced with Ceylon cinnamon sticks and sweetened with molasses or dark brown sugar.  In Mexico, they are traditionally sweetened with cones of piloncillo which is a form of raw sugar cane, but as that was unavailable to me, I used soft dark Muscovado.  They are baked with an egg glaze and dusted with powdered sugar and emerge from the oven as fat and soft as can be.  Excellent with coffee, or even better, a mug of champurrado.  It will make you feel like a Mexican princess.

The recipe I used belongs to Patti Jinich.  You can view it here on NPR’s website as well as listen to an interview with her about Mexican piggy cookies.  I highly recommend you check out both.

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And if you need some baking music to get inspired, try this:

Recipes from The Rabbit Hospital (Lemon Raspberry Muffins and 5 Bag Chamomile Tea)

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Recently, I was quarantined at The Rabbit Hospital.  The Rabbit Hospital is the bed where my husband and I sleep, but only when it is full of all our daughter’s plush toy bunnies.  Particularly when she is, or they are, feeling weak and in need of extra love.  A state my husband calls broobly.  Brooble rhyming with ruble.  The Rabbit Hospital came to be one evening when our one year old, who has slept in her own bed in her own room since her second week of life, was feeling extra broobly and wanted extra cuddles but only in our bed and only if all her toy rabbits could join.  Well as of Friday afternoon, I’ve been The Rabbit Hospital’s resident invalid.  The reason for admission?  A virulent stomach bug.

I blame the baby germs from the cesspool of toys at my daughter’s playgroup and England’s damp foul summer weather.  For the past few days when I have not been sick, I have been asleep or generally pathetic.  The only thing that hasn’t got my morale completely down is thinking how much svelter I’ll be post-illness.  It’s true.  I’ve not been able to eat a thing.  Until today. . .

I made lemon raspberry muffins based heavily on Joanne Chang‘s raspberry rhubarb muffin recipe from her cookbook, Flour, which bears the same name as her famous Boston bakeries.  If you’re not familiar with her and you love baked goods, buy her book and remedy that situation right away.  She is an Honors graduate of Harvard with a degree in Applied Mathematics and Economics who left the world of business for that of baking.  I mean really, with what and with whom would you rather spend your days?  Puffed up bankers or perfectly puffy profiteroles?  I would choose the latter, but then again I am a Chubby Princess.

And in the tradition of all sick bunnies, I had a soothing pot of five bag chamomile which seems to have set me on the road to recovery.  After all, if this daisy-like herb was what Peter Rabbit’s Mother used to dose him upon returning home from his famously frightful adventure in Mr. McGregor’s garden, then it’s good enough for me.

Ingredients for Lemon Raspberry Muffins:

3 1/4 cups flour

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

1 1/3 cups sugar

1 1/4 sticks butter, melted

1 cup whole milk at room temperature

1 cup of Greek yogurt

2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste

2 tablespoons lemon zest

the juice of one small lemon

2 cups fresh raspberries

Method for Lemon Raspberry Muffins:  

Position a rack in the center of your oven then preheat to 350°F/176.7°C/Gas 4.

Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cornmeal, and salt.

Then in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolk until thoroughly mixed.  Slowly whisk in the sugar, butter, milk, yogurt, vanilla, lemon juice, and zest until well combined.

Now pour the wet mixture into the dry and use a spatula to gently fold the ingredients until they are just combined.

Lastly, fold in your raspberries.

Spoon the batter into the cups.  Be sure to fill them to the rim.

Bake for about 40 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown and the tops spring back when pressed in the middle with a fingertip.

Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes then remove the muffins from the pan.

*This recipe yields 18 muffins for me.

To Make 5 Bag Chamomile:

Warm a tea pot then add five bags of chamomile and fill with boiling water.  Let steep for a couple of minutes then stir in 2 teaspoons of honey to taste and a splash of milk.  I promise it will not only help you sleep but it will make you feel like the bunny in Goodnight Moon.