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Cherry Jubilee

Cherries at Borough Market

It’s true: I’m in the midst of a torrid love affair.

I’m consumed with desire, can’t think of anything else.

Morning, noon and night.

24/7.

My mind and heart are racing.

And the cause of my affliction? Why, a deep red fruit with a tiny hole punched through it (if you’re as obsessed as I am, I can’t recommend this enough).

I’m hopelessly devoted to the sweet cherry (and there’s little doubt I would be equally devoted to the sour cherry if I could find it in London).

Stewed cherries in red wine on top of fresh Greek yoghurt, candied cherries over ice cream, cherry brown butter bars, cherry pies, and cherries stolen straight from the punnet. I have had and dreamed about them all over the past two months. And now I’ll document a few of my favourite concoctions, so that when the season draws to a close (no, no, no!), I can look back and remember our whirlwind romance in the summer of 2010.

Cherry Brown Butter Bars

Cherry Brown Butter Bars
From  Smitten Kitchen

For the crust:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Preheat over to 375°F. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8×8-inch square baking pan. Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet.

Using rubber spatula or fork, mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl. Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated. Transfer dough to your prepared pan, and use your fingertips to press the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust until golden, about 18 minutes (it will puff slightly while baking). Transfer crust to rack and cool in pan. Maintain oven temperature.

For the filling:
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
1 pound sweet cherries, which will yield 12 ounces of pitted cherries, which yielded some leftovers, perfect for snacking (alternately, you can use 12 ounces of the berry of your choice)

Cook butter in heavy small saucepan (a lighter-colored one will make it easier to see the color changing, which happens quickly) over medium heat until deep nutty brown (do not burn), stirring often and watching carefully, about six minutes. Immediately pour browned butter into glass measuring cup to cool slightly.
Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add flour and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well blended.

Arrange pitted cherries, or the berries of your choice, in bottom of cooled crust. Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over the fruit. Bake bars until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes (though, of course, this took less time in my hyperactive oven so please watch your baking times carefully). Cool bars completely in pan on rack.

Use the parchment paper overhang to carefully remove cooled bars from pan and place them on a cutting board and cut them into squares with a very sharp knife.

Yield: I made 9 fairly large bars (for gluttons like me), but Deb was able to swing 16 2-inch square bars. The choice is yours!

Cherries in Red Wine Syrup

Cherries in Red Wine Syrup
From David Lebovitz

1 pound (450g) fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (130g) sugar
1 1/4 cups (310ml) red wine
2 teaspoons corn starch or potato starch
2 tablespoons red wine or 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 tablespoon kirsch

Put the cherries and sugar in a large, wide saucepan.

Mix one tablespoon of the red wine with the corn or potato starch in a small bowl until it’s dissolved and set aside.

Add the rest of the wine and the vinegar to the saucepan. Bring the heat up to a boil, then reduce the heat so it’s at a low boil and cook, stirring frequently, for about 12 minutes, until the cherries are completely wilted and softened through.

During the last moments of cooking, stir in the starch slurry and let the mixture boil the additional minute or so, to thicken the juices.

Turn off the heat and stir in the almond extract and kirsch.

Storage: The cherries will keep up to one week in the refrigerator. They can be frozen for up to six months.

Yield: Makes 2 cups (500g). I was able to spoon this over Greek yoghurt for breakfast for a week, and it might just be my favourite way to consume cherries. I will go back to this recipe again and again.


Quick Candied Cherries

From David Lebovitz

This recipe wasn’t quite as exciting as the one above (read: I so enjoyed downing cherries soaked in red wine for breakfast at work), but it’s so simple and so, so good. I promise. You can’t go wrong with a David Lebovitz recipe.

1 pound (450 g) fresh sweet or sour cherries, rinsed
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) water
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Remove the stems and pit the cherries.

In a large non-reactive saucepan (at least 4 quarts/liters) bring the cherries, water, sugar, and lemon juice to a boil.

Reduce the heat so the cherries are cooking at a low rolling boil. Cook for 25 minutes, stirring frequently during the last 10 minutes of cooking to make sure the cherries are cooking evenly and not sticking.

Once the syrup is mostly reduced and a brilliant ruby-color, similar to the consistency of maple syrup, remove the pan from the heat and cool the cherries to room temperature.

After the cherries are cool, they can be refrigerated for up to one week, or frozen in zip-top freezer bags for up to one year.

Cherry Brown Butter Bars

P.S. See that beautiful wooden cake stand above? It’s from Nikole, and it’s perfect. It has stood alongside the cherries as a staple in my life this summer. Thank you, Nikole!

Lavender Cupcakes

When I was 19, my mother swept me and FDW off to Tuscany, to while away the summer in Villa a Sesta, a tiny town in the hills near Siena, unknown to most locals and visitors to the region, aside from wandering cyclists and a few dedicated gourmandes who set out to visit the small but exceptional cooking school and restaurant, La Bottega del 30, located on the edge of the village. On a clear day, we could stand outside the front door of the house and see Siena in the distance while breathing in the intoxicating smell of the infinite number of lavender bushes that lined our front walk. It was a time I still close my eyes and call upon when I’m feeling low, a dream filled with homemade tomato sauce and jugs of Nutella and vineyards and flourless chocolate cake and Il Palio and markets and weekend trips to the beach and newfound friends who spoke not a word of English, but who became like family despite any and all language barriers (and, shockingly, even despite the fact that I once asked one such friend, our lively gardener Girolamo, to “deflower me” instead of to “bring me flowers”). It was also the summer of a tremendous heat wave throughout Europe that at one time drove us to Venice for a respite in an air-conditioned hotel, but I pay that no mind in my cool, clear memories.

Our time in Tuscany was so special, and yet it was also so very typical of my mother, who has spent the majority of my life keeping us together in one way or another. We are a travelling circus, a family of gypsies, and we wander wherever we can together. I think the fact that I equate that summer in Italy to summers spent in the back of my father’s SUV, driving home from Vermont with the seats pushed back while we stared at the stars hanging over the highway, says something about my feelings towards travelling with my family, and I’d like to think it’s something like this: no matter where we go, it’s most memorable when we go together. Our trips together may not the easiest, nor the most relaxing, exotic or free from arguments, but assuredly these are the trips I remember the most fondly. And I think we all have my mother to thank for making us that way, for helping us realise, for example, that a month spent together in Florida with my grandfather every year was more worthwhile than spending the month in school (or at least helping our teachers realise that, as we never needed much convincing). So, on this Mother’s Day, and on the cusp of the arrivals of various members of my family over the course of the next few weeks, where we will presumably make more imperfectly perfect memories in London and Paris and Ireland, too, I’d like to thank her the way I’m sure she’d most prefer to be thanked. With food. With sweets! The sweets that my mother never made to go along with her Italian dinner menus (because Italians like her never fathom anything beyond carb after carb), thereby paving the way for me to find my niche in the kitchen in feeding my family dessert.

Fittingly, these cupcakes were made with the lavender my mom and I purchased last year (nearly to the day) in Provence and topped with candied lilies I brought back last week from Venice. They may not be as exciting as our Mother’s Day last year or our time in Tuscany, but the mere smell of them brought back so many of my sweetest memories. I hope they do the same for her. L’amore e bacia, mamma.

Lavender Cupcakes

Lavender Cupcakes
(from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

For the cupcakes:
120ml whole milk
3 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
120g plain flour
140g caster sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
40g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg
12 small sprigs of lavender (optional)

For the lavender frosting:
25ml whole milk
1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers
250g icing sugar, sifted
80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
a couple of drops of purple food colouring (optional)

Put the milk and dried lavender flowers in a jug, cover and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight if possible. Do the same with the milk and lavender flowers for the frosting, in a separate jug.

Preheat the oven to 170℃ (325℉) Gas 3.

Line a 12-hole cupcake tray with paper cases*.

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on a slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.

Strain the lavender-infused milk (for the cupcake) and slowly pour into the flour mixture, beating well until all the ingredients are well mixed. Add the egg and beat well (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula).

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

For the lavender frosting: Beat together the icing sugar, butter and food colouring, if using, in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Turn the mixer down to slow speed. Strain the lavender-infused milk and slowly pour into the butter mixture. Once all the milk is incorporated, tun the mixer up to high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.

When the cupcakes are cool spoon the lavender frosting on top and decorate with a sprig of lavender, if using.

Yield: 12 cupcakes.

*I used a combination of parchment paper and, in her honour, silly paper cases that my mom bought me for Easter.

Lavender Cupcakes

Signs of Spring

Strawberry Rhubarb Double Crisp

Over the course of the past few days, the magnolia tree in my front yard has transformed from bright pink and white to leafy green. The daffodils are now in full bloom and our tulips from Amsterdam are rivalling the ones in the Kuekenhof. My mother’s Easter bunny cake has come and gone. The park is teeming with sunbathers and barbecues on the weekend. There’s an endless loop of The Invisible Band on in my head. I have begun to consume excessive quantities of Frae. There’s a volcano erupting in Iceland. And when I close my eyes I dream of rhubarb. It’s Spring.

When I hosted a few friends for a Spring dinner last Sunday, I was shocked to discover not one of them had ever tasted rhubarb, let alone the classic sweet-meets-tart combination of strawberries and rhubarb that exemplifies, to me, all the goodness that’s to be had this time of year. I quickly abandoned my ideas for new combinations of fruit and rhubarb (a cherry and rhubarb jalousie is high on my to-bake list) and introduced them to the tried and true standard, albeit with a few delightful twists.  Not surprisingly, Dorie has done it again: the ground and crystallized ginger and the addition of a second layer of crisp at the bottom of the dish lofted this dessert high above the same-old same-old strawberry rhubarb concoctions I had made in the past. I’m a lover of toppings and crusts, through and through, and having that extra layer of crisp, well, to paraphrase the great Liz Lemon, it’s a dealbreaker. My guests left with a newfound love of rhubarb and I went to bed envisioning the whole new world of double crisps, crumbles and cobblers that awaits me this season.

Strawberry Rhubarb Double Crisp

Strawberry Rhubarb Double Crisp
From Baking: From My Home to Yours

For the crisp mix:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of salt
Tiny pinch of ground cinnamon
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup very finely chopped crystallized ginger (see above)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the filling:
1 pound (4 to 5 medium stalks) rhubarb, trimmed and peeled
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
3 cups (about 12 ounces) strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Put a nonreactive 9-inch square baking pan (I used porcelain) on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Put the flour, brown sugar, oats, ground ginger, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl and sift the ingredients through your fingers to blend them — be on the lookout for lumps in the brown sugar. Mix in the nuts and crystallized ginger, then pour over the melted butter. Using a fork, stir the ingredients until they are thoroughly moistened.

Spoon half the mixture into the pan and pat it down lightly to form a thick crust; set aside the remainder for the topping.
Slice the rhubarb into 1/2-inch-wide pieces and scatter them over the pressed-in base. Dissolve the cornstarch in the cold water; set aside.

Put the strawberries, sugar and ginger in a medium saucepan and, with a fork, pastry blender or potato masher, crush the berries. Place the pan over medium heat and, stirring occasionally, bring the mixture to a full boil. Pour the dissolved cornstarch into the pan and, stirring with a whisk, bring everything back to a boil. Keep cooking and stirring until the strawberry filling is thick and no longer cloudy, about 3 minutes. Pull the pan from the heat, stir in the vanilla and pour the filling over the rhubarb. Scatter the remaining crisp mix over the filling, breaking it up with your fingers so you can scatter it evenly.

Slide the crisp into the oven and bake for 60 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the strawberry jam is bubbling up all around the edges. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool until only just warm or at room temperature.

Dorie wisely suggests that you can try to be neat about cutting the crisp into squares, but it’s pretty hopeless; better to cut pieces in the baking pan and lift them out with a spatula or big spoon into shallow bowls. I wholeheartedly agree. Also, it just wouldn’t be right to have this or any crisp without ice cream (just ask King H, who had to make an emergency run to the bodega mere minutes before dessert).

Note: This is best the day it is made, but if you keep it covered at room temperature overnight, you’ll make a bunch of breakfasters happy the next day. Alternatively, you can cover it and place in the fridge and re-heat in the oven for dessert the next day.

Yield: 9 servings.

Strawberry Rhubarb Double Crisp

Whole Wheat Maple Apple Tart

My life in London always feels like a series of weekend travels interrupted by weekdays of work, but the past few months have been a whirlwind even for me. In a mere four weeks, for instance, I spent days peering out the top of a Land Cruiser at zebras and elephants and lions, days climbing into the innermost burial chambers of a number of the nearly 180 pyramids found in Egypt, days flying prop planes over Mt. Kilimanjaro, and, on each of those days, seen so many places I almost couldn’t believe I would ever see with my own eyes (I’ve also seen more paperwork than I ever thought I’d see with my own eyes, between vaccinations and visas and hotel bills). And, in between those days of travelling, I have had visitors in droves from America and Paris and beyond, witnessed a few unforgettable shows, watched a few of the most memorable films I’ve seen in months, finished a handful of the most engaging (and sometimes controversial amongst our holiday book club) books, ushered in Spring amongst the flowers in bloom and eaten in some of my most beloved places. There just hasn’t been much time left to spend in the kitchen, you see. The place that is usually at the forefront of my mind held only a cameo role in the story of my life over the past 4 weeks (once to make a traditional batch of pre-flight, pre-annual exotic adventure with FDW pecan buns and three times to feed guests that have come to expect to gain weight my house with chocolate sheet cake, macaroni and cheese, chocolate apricot cookies and red velvet cake). And so, it was with great joy and excitement that I stepped into my kitchen on Sunday with no deadlines, no places to be (aside from upstairs sorting through weeks worth of laundry, but that’s the best excuse to be in the kitchen anyway), no guests to entertain, no e-ticket in my left hand and passport in my right.

And no sooner had I stepped into the kitchen and cleared off the counters full of old mail and souvenirs that I unearthed a small paperback book that FDW had brought with him from home when he arrived for our safari what felt like ages ago. We met in Terminal 5 at Heathrow (my “happy place”) bright and early on a Saturday morning and didn’t see our luggage again until 10 or so hours later, when we were ushered into our hotel in Nairobi. So it was that I found myself, at nearly midnight, safari-time, digging through my brother’s bag to uncover all the goodies he had brought to me from home. At the time, that small paperback book was understandably overshadowed by treasures such as my brand new camera, fluer de sel caramel-filled chocolate from a trip to Paris the week before (FDW has kept himself busy these past few weeks, as well) and a signed copy of Alice Waters’ magnum opus. But, yesterday morning that little, well-travelled book was the Holy Grail, the missing link, the one thing I needed in a sea of bills and laundry and unread emails. The book, affectionately entitled, “Now that’s a Linzertorte! 30 Years of Recipes and Vermont Stories from the Trapp Family Lodge”, was written by the Executive Pastry Chef of one of my favourite hotels in the world, The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont. My parents, lovers of all things skiing and mountain-related, have been taking us “kids” to Trapp since we were born. I took my first steps outside a Trapp Family villa. I learned how to cross-country ski out Trapp’s front doors. When I watched The Sound of Music for the first time it was the visions of von Trapp children and grandchildren whose photos line the halls of the Trapp Family Lodge that I had in my mind. And I had my first taste of pure Vermont maple syrup at Trapp’s astounding breakfast buffet (followed, years later, by my first visit to Trapp’s syrup house, to taste “sugar on snow” for the first time and to learn how it is that they make that most perfect of syrups). It’s a magical place. It’s, as the welcome sign that greets you reads, “a little of Austria and a lot of Vermont”. It’s maple syrup and warm fires and cozy reading rooms. And maple syrup. And home. And that syrup. As soon as I opened the book I knew whatever I made would have to feature maple syrup (despite the initial urge to make the ubiquitous Linzertorte I presume I’ll feel every time I open this book). I narrowed down which maple-infused recipe to make based on sheer preservation tactics: I am no longer within driving distance of the best maple syrup in the world and so I must fiercely preserve the few jugs I have in England, which meant I quickly pushed aside anything asking for 2 cups (or more!) of the sweet nectar. The whole-wheat maple apple tart seemed a fitting compromise, calling for less than ½ a cup, and it was that fact which sealed the sweet deal.

As soon as I began assembling the ingredients, I discovered that my preservation tactics were paying off in spades. This is an interesting recipe: the tart dough is assembled by first creaming butter with brown sugar (usually the first step in my cake-making process, but never before when I made a crust), there is no freezing/pre-baking of the dough required (and for a girl who has had many an escapade with tart dough in her tempermental oven this was a surprising twist), the cream cheese filling, which makes up the bulk of this tart, tasted to me just like the French toast bagel with cream cheese at Panera Bread and the number of apples (2) left little be done in the peeling/slicing department. It’s an easy dessert to create, to be sure. And yet, it is so surprising.  Truth be told, it’s more like a cheesecake than a tart, right down to that gooey, brown sugar, heavens-be-praised stable crust (surely I’m not the only one who has PTSD from experiencing the terrifying phenomenon that is a sunken tart crust?).  A tart-y cheesecake? A cheesecake-y tart? I lost all desire to debate the semantics as soon as I took my first bite. I was floating in a maple syrup and cream cheese dream right there in my neglected English kitchen. And, after travelling so far from home, this was the perfect reminder of just where I’ve come from.

Whole Wheat Maple Apple Tart

Whole Wheat Maple Apple Tart
Adapted from Now That’s a Linzertorte! 30 Years of of Recipes and Vermont Stories from the Trapp Family Lodge

For the whole wheat crusts*:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 1/3 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
1 whole egg

For the filling/topping:
1 lb. cream cheese
1/4 cup Vermont maple syrup
1 whole egg
1/4-cup all-purpose flour
1/8 cup Vermont maple syrup for brushing on tart
2 tart apples, peeled, cored, sliced thin
1/8 cup cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Start with the crust, mixing the butter and brown sugar together until slightly creamy. Add egg and flours. Mix into a workable dough.

Grease and lightly flour a 10-inch tart pan. Divide dough into two halves, set aside one half in freezer or in the fridge for later use (or double filling/topping recipe to make 2 tarts). Divide remaining half into thirds. Press two thirds into the bottom of the tart shell. Use the remaining third to use as the rims.

Make the filling by combining the cream cheese and maple syrup and beating until creamy. Add the egg and the flour and mix until smooth.

Spread the filling into the tart shell. Layer the apples over the filling, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and brush with maple syrup.

Bake tart for 40 minutes or until golden. Remove tart from pan while still slightly warm and chill.

Serve cool with ice cream or whipped cream.

*This recipe (and most in the book) makes 2 10-inch pies. While I halved the filling/topping ingredients, I did make two crusts and have left the recipe as is for that reason (I don’t like halving eggs, for one, and who wouldn’t want another one of these crusts at the ready in the freezer?).

Whole Wheat Maple Apple Tart

The Sweetest Gift

Brownies for RH

There’s a story behind my most recent batch of this recipe: a seven-pound, one-ounce story, to be exact. It all began on the very first day of law school, when I scanned a room full of strangers and noticed a girl with a dark head of the finest shorn hair I’d ever seen in real life. I could tell, just from that cut, that she was my kind of girl. And not long after we were introduced and began blathering on (much in the same way we do today, I imagine), I knew we’d be friends. My greatest fear in going to law school was that I’d never meet anyone like me, that I’d be forever surrounded by the kind of people whose faces you see on giant billboards, above a phone number reading 1-800-LAWSUIT and a catchy slogan like “WE LIVE TO SUE”. And that’s why finding J (and, later, our most fearless legal leader, K) was so important to me: I just didn’t think it was possible, not in law school, not anywhere. We make all our life-long friends in high school and college, right? With people our own age? Not me. I met my best friend, my sister from another mother, at the ripe old age of 21. She was 30. She didn’t even flinch when I spent days stressing about just about anything there was to stress about (in fact, she was happy to stress along with me). She watched just as much Oprah and reality TV as I did. She sat on her couch critiquing dresses before the Oscars. She’d spent her formative years as an actress, so far removed from the world of law, recording albums and writing plays. She shared my fierce love of avocado grilled cheese sandwiches.  We were meant to be.

And then there were these brownies. I’d like to think we bonded over this recipe. I used to bring them into school around exam time, or when we were extra-stressed (I say extra because it’s in our nature to always be some level of stressed at any given point and it wouldn’t warrant brownies until it reached the increased threat level). J, K and I would grab fistfuls and take them into class. With one bite, all thoughts of torts and contracts and civil procedure melted away. I’ve always referred to them as my “Stolen from a Housemate Brownies”, because I found the recipe scrawled on the back of an old Advanced Oral French syllabus which was left by a former college housemate at the end of the school year (for the record, we didn’t get along, that housemate and I, but I always loved her brownies, and to this day they remain the richest, smoothest and most delightful brownies I have ever made). But, when I make them now, I don’t think of college at all. I think of J, and how becoming her friend was worth the price of my law school tuition.

So on the evening of January 13th (after a day spent feeling completely “fatutzed” (read: full of anxiety and anticipation) following a call from J in labor that morning), when I came home from work and collapsed in a pile of tears over an email reading simply, “Baby boy is perfect. Will call you tomorrow first thing for details. Love you”, it felt right to soothe my soul by making a batch of these brownies. J has had another “pooh” (read: baby), another perfect boy. Her first was born two weeks before I moved to London, and I will spend the rest of my life reminding him of how proud I am he decided to arrive early so that I could meet him. I’ve missed so much of his young life. And this time, I wasn’t even there during J’s pregnancy. Words can’t describe how much I missed talking about names, watching her run to the bathroom in the middle of class, baby showers, nine months of anticipation and – our old buddy – stress. If I hadn’t had made these brownies on baby boy’s birthday, I might have spent the night curled up in a ball, contemplating all I had missed, reflecting on the fact that his birth feels like a bookend, something calling me home and reminding me that, despite all my new adventures, friendships and experiences, I am so far from so many people I need and love. But, thanks to these brownies, my soul was soothed for the evening, baking in my kitchen in honour of the new arrival until it smelled just like my old NY apartment and its red couch on Oscar night. If ever you desire to melt your troubles away, call on this recipe. It’ll be like coming home.

This batch is for Ryan Henry. I wish you a sweet life, richer than the richest brownie.

Brownies for RH

Stolen From a Housemate Brownies

1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups sugar
7 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place a rack in the middle of the oven.

Take a 13×9 inch pan and turn upside down and cover with aluminum foil (shiny side down) to make a mold. Place foil mold inside pan. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter, place on the foil and smear evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan.

In a 3 quart pot, melt the remaining butter over low heat (make sure there are no bubbles/it does not reach boiling point). Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Add eggs 2 at a time and mix after each addition until incorporated. Add vanilla.

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the butter mixture to the bowl and stir until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs (not quite clean).

Cool on a wire rack and then place in the refrigerator overnight to firm. Remove from refrigerator and cut brownies into squares.  Serve at room temperature.

Yield: 16 -32 brownies (depending on the amount of pure, rich chocolate you can handle!).

A Gourmet Meal

Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving Plate

When you’ve exhausted all other options in the celebrating-Thanksgiving-out-of-the-country department (eating out, providing dessert, detailing instructions, offering assistance, going to work dressed like a pilgrim, etc.), you are sometimes forced to take matters into your own hands. And so it was this Thanksgiving, my third in London, when I finally caved and admitted defeat: there was just no way for me to enjoy the holiday without making my own meal, one that featured mashed potatoes and my beloved and aforementioned sweet potatoes with marshmallows and cranberry sauce and stuffing done the right way. The way it would be done were I lucky enough to spend the day in the comfort of my family home, watching the parade and enjoying the day off.

But, despite how daunting this task may be and how time-consuming this holiday inevitably becomes, the employment gods took no pity on me and I spent Thursday at work, frantically checking in on the turkey in the oven, which was being tended to by King H and an American friend just in from Paris (she had the pleasure of walking in to find King H pulling the giblets out of the turkey and spent the remainder of the day standing near the stove with him, taking photos for my future enjoyment) and mapping out all I needed to do before the guests arrived that evening. I don’t often find myself faced with lengthy, regimented, multiple day cooking schedules, but last week was full of them: I sat at work mapping out when I could realistically prepare everything, anything in advance without spoiling the taste or quality of the dish. And, now that the dust has settled and the leftovers have sadly disappeared from the fridge, it’s finally time to pass this new-found wisdom on, or at least record it somewhere so that I know it can been done, it has been done and just maybe it could be done again. Because what I discovered about hosting Thanksgiving, aside from the fact that it’s the only way to really cope with the holiday from afar and that it requires all sorts of schedules and lists, is that it’s worth it all and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Though, let it be known all ye gods of employment, I still would prefer the day off.

Finally, it wouldn’t be worth mentioning my Thanksgiving this year without highlighting its theme. I love Gourmet magazine. Always have, always will. I can’t possibly explain the joy that I feel when I see that iconic font peering out at me from the cover page, filled with new recipes and stories that will inspire me for the month and beyond. I’m hopeful anyone of a like mind can understand, despite my inability to articulate, and I know I’m not the only one who is mourning its passing. While I know I will always cling to the recipes I have found in the worn-out pages my old copies and on Epicurious, I am also acutely aware that my days of perusing the Gourmet site are sadly numbered. I thought about this long and hard one day while I was seeking out Thanksgiving ideas from a myriad of sources and suddenly felt compelled to spend this holiday exclusively with Ruth and company. It’s both a tribute and an attempt to hang on to something which I know I won’t ever be able to fully hang on to. For now, I’m at least comforted by the fact that my Gourmet Thanksgiving meal was a rousing success and the knowledge that I couldn’t have done it without that familiar friend. Below are all of the recipes I used, along with notes on preparing these in advance and on how I tailored a few things thanks to advice from our moms, who are so much a part of how this holiday tastes to us, and who have been there so many times before (I have a newfound respect for anyone who takes charge of the Thanksgiving meal). Thanksgiving, I’m now more convinced than ever, isn’t as much about where you are than it is about bringing what you most love to the table*.

Hickory-Bacon and Roasted-Corn Gougères

Hickory-Bacon and Roasted-Corn Gougères
(from Gourmet, November 2007)

I love traditional gougères, but this riff on the classic is a great choice for a Thanksgiving meal. Be mindful, however, of the fact that they taste best warm and should be served immediately when removed from the oven. There’s nothing like hot, melted cheese to tide you over until dinner!

4 hickory-smoked bacon slices (1/4 lb)
3/4 cup corn (from 2 medium ears)
1 cup water
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 to 5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (5 oz)
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Preheat oven to 375°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.

Cook bacon in skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until crisp. Drain on paper towels, then finely chop.

Pour off fat from skillet, then wipe clean. Add corn and pan-roast over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until kernels are mostly golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Bring water to a boil with butter and salt in a heavy medium saucepan, stirring until butter is melted. Add flour all at once and cook over medium heat, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from side of pan, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly, about 3 minutes. Add 4 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. (Batter will appear to separate at first but will then become smooth.) Mixture should be glossy and just stiff enough to hold soft peaks and fall softly from a spoon. If batter is too stiff, beat remaining egg in a small bowl and add to batter 1 teaspoon at a time, beating and then testing batter until it reaches proper consistency.

Stir in bacon, corn, cheeses, chives, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly butter sheets. Fill a pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch plain tip with batter and pipe about 35 (3/4-inch-diameter) mounds, or spoon mounded teaspoons, 1/4 inch apart, onto each sheet. Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until puffed, golden, and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes total. Transfer to a rack (still on parchment if using). Make more puffs on cooled baking sheets. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: about 140 hor d’oeuvres.

Planning ahead: gougères can be made ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled in sealed bags 2 days or frozen 1 week (I chose to freeze). Reheat, uncovered, on baking sheets in a 350°F oven 10 minutes if chilled or 15 minutes if frozen.

Testing Turkey

Turkey Carvers
(Dr. T and his surgical skills and the internet provided last-minute carving assistance)

Simple Roast Turkey with Pan Gravy
(adapted from Gourmet, November 2006 and Gourmet, November 2008 and inspired by our moms)

Time now for the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving meal, a mark of distinction which left both King H and I, neither of whom had ever roasted a turkey, feeling a bit overwhelmed. I’ve always been more comfortable in the baking department and am not ashamed to admit that I’ve only started cooking whole chickens over the past year (predominantly to make King H his mother’s beloved chicken and dumplings recipe, but I’m now finding myself obsessed with having chicken stock around the house). A turkey felt like…a whole new beast, especially for a girl who has a pretty ridiculous meat-to-carbs ratio on her plate every Thanksgiving. And one that needed to be tended to while I was away from home. As he did with the yeast rolls described below, King H took charge, lugging the turkey home, de-frosting it for a few days and then baking it over the course of the day on Thursday, all while managing to entertain our just-arrived houseguest and her camera (my life was enriched by the photos she took of him massaging the turkey, even when she wasn’t trying to). I had settled on this turkey recipe because it was assured to be great for first-timers, with no bells and whistles. And, to be honest, I simplified it even more at the 11th hour when I realized I just wouldn’t have the time to prepare the turkey stock in advance, settling instead on chicken stock for both the turkey and the stuffing (next year, next year, I continue to tell myself, so as not to feel a failure…one step at a time). I can now assure you the chicken stock is a fine replacement when there isn’t enough time  to get up close and personal with the giblets. When it came down to it, though, it was once again our mothers who provided the most critical advice, and where and why we veered somewhat from the recipe. First, he washed and stuffed the bird with plenty of salt (more on this method and the rationale behind it can be found below), coated it with butter (making sure to lodge wedges of butter between the skin and bones, as my mother recommended he do. And then…well, I won’t soon forget King H’s frantic calls to me after he placed the bird in the oven and realized the recipe called for the heat to be 450°F , when his mother had just told him (called to the phone at 6am her time, mind you) it should be at 350°F. One call to my mother later and he had the solution: it was fine for him to keep the temperature higher for the first hour or so, but he’d bring it down after that, to let it roast a bit slower over the course of the day, the way both of our mothers’ do. 4 hours later he was pulling our very first turkey out of the oven, while I nearly cried with relief at the smell and sight of it. I wasn’t home, but at that moment I could have closed my eyes and never known the difference.

1 16-lb turkey at room temperature 1 hour, any feathers and quills removed with tweezers or needlenose pliers, and neck and giblets removed and reserved for another use if desired
2-3 tablespoons salt
1 3/4 teaspoons black pepper
2 cups water or turkey/chicken stock

For the turkey:

Put oven rack in lowest position and preheat oven to 450°F. Rinse turkey inside and out, then pat dry. Sprinkle turkey cavities and skin with salt and pepper. A generous amount of salt should go inside the turkey itself – according to my mother, my grandpa, a butcher and a meat inspector for his entire life, used to sear by this method and ensured it would keep the turkey bacteria-free and allow anyone to keep the stuffing inside the bird. The trick is to omit salt from whatever stuffing recipe you are using entirely in order to compensate for all that extra salt in the cavity.

Put turkey on rack in roasting pan. Add 2 cups water or stock to pan and roast for one hour without basting. The lower temperature to 350°F and roast, basting every so often, until thermometer inserted into fleshy part of thighs (test both thighs; do not touch bones) registers 170°F, 3-4 hours.

Carefully tilt turkey so any juices from inside large cavity run into roasting pan, then transfer turkey to a platter, reserving juices in roasting pan. Let turkey stand, uncovered, 30 minutes (temperature of thigh meat will rise to 180°F).

For the gravy:

2 cups hot turkey or chicken stock
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Melted unsalted butter if necessary
Reserved chopped giblets from stock (optional)

Strain pan juices through a fine-mesh sieve into 2-quart measure and skim off fat (or use a fat separator), reserving fat. Pour pan juices into a bowl and add stock.

Whisk together flour and 1/3 cup reserved fat (if there is less, add melted butter) in a heavy medium saucepan, then cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, 2 minutes (mixture will be thick). Add pan juices and stock in a fast stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, then bring to a boil, whisking. Stir in any turkey juices from platter. Chop and add giblets (if using). Simmer gravy, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Yield: 12 servings (with leftovers!).

Planning ahead: sadly, there is none. You’ve got to wing it (pardon the pun). But, in case you wanted more guidance from the man himself, here’s a brief, but harrowing re-telling from King H himself that should perfectly sum up his afternoon: “As for the turkey, I started off using the recipe. I then of course got worried because I saw another recipe that called for 325 degrees, and the bag on the turkey said the same. That is when I freaked out. I wrote you to ask your opinion and you said to call the moms, which I did. I asked them both about cooking it and they both said they do it at 325-350 and that you could cook it higher to get a more crispy outside. So, for the first hour or so I did cook it at the higher temperature and then lowered it to 325. Once it was on 325, I set the timer for every 20 minutes and would baste it. I don’t know if that is the right thing to do or what Ruth Reichl would think of me, but I figured that sounded like a good amount of time. As for the prep, I cleaned it thoroughly like 12 times, then buttered it as you said and stuffed it with butter. Is there anything else you need to know, love?” Thanks, King, H – I think that should do the trick.

Spiced Cranberry Sauce

Spiced Cranberry Sauce
(from Gourmet, November 1991)

This is not your (or at least my) mother’s cranberry sauce – the cloves and cinnamon give it a much-welcomed spicy kick to counter the sweetness of the traditional dish.

a 12-ounce bag of cranberries, picked over
1/2 cup honey
2 to 3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar, or to taste
two 3-inch cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
3/4 cup water

In a saucepan combine the cranberries, the honey, the brown sugar, the cinnamon sticks, the cloves, the nutmeg, and the water and simmer the mixture, covered, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cranberries have burst and the mixture is thickened. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and let it cool. The sauce may be made 2 days in advance and kept covered and chilled. Serve the sauce at room temperature.

Yield: about 2 1/4 cups.

Planning ahead: I made this recipe exactly as suggested, but put it all together on Tuesday night. Not only did it last perfectly until Thanksgiving, but it has become my new favourite cranberry sauce recipe. It may not taste exactly like home, but the spices are so intoxicating and add such a beautiful tartness to the otherwise sweet side dish, that it’s practically perfect in every way.

Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes

Brown Butter and Scallion Mashed Potatoes
(adapted from Gourmet, November 2005)

I must admit: I omitted the scallions. King H and I had a long discussion and he simply felt that the addition of sour cream and brown butter would n these enough from the ones that we both grew up with and that we shouldn’t overdo it (we were going for the most classic meal possible, given we were introducing so many people to the holiday for the first time). I have to say, I didn’t even miss the scallions, though I can’t wait to try these again with them included. The brown butter was once again LINK a hit – people never tire of smelling it and ogling over the nuttiness of it. They were simply outstanding, and I’m proud to say I even instructed my mother to add sour cream and brown butter to her traditional recipe and it was met with just as much success at her meal. Thanks to Gourmet, we created new traditions left and right this year!

5 lb yellow-fleshed potatoes such as Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 bunches scallions, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Cover potatoes with cold water by 2 inches in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot and add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Drain potatoes in a colander, then return to pot and cook over moderate heat, shaking pot occasionally, until dry, 1 to 2 minutes. Mash hot potatoes with masher or force through food mill into another pot, then cover to keep warm.

Bring milk with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt just to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan, then remove from heat and stir into potatoes until combined. Stir in sour cream, then cover and keep warm.

Cook butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat, stirring frequently and scraping up brown bits, until foam subsides and butter is golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add scallions and pepper and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Fold butter mixture into mashed potatoes and season with salt.

Yield: 8 to 10, with plenty of leftovers.

Planning ahead: Mashed potatoes can be made 1 day ahead and cooled, uncovered, then chilled, covered. (Scallions may discolor slightly when potatoes are made ahead.) Reheat in a microwave or in a heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring. Upon the advice of my mom, however, I made them the day of, right before dinner, although I chopped the potatoes the night before and left them in a pot of cold water to prevent discoloring. She insists mashed potatoes are best fresh and, upon tasting these, I’m inclined to agree with her.

Sage Stuffing

Sage Stuffing
(adapted from Gourmet, November 2008)

This stuffing smelled like home. It was exactly what I needed after 2 years of English stuffing that wasn’t stuffing at my Thanksgiving table. I was a little hesitant to use a fresh baguette, as I know my mother uses pre-dried/cut pieces, but as soon as this came out of the oven I could tell from the smell that all would be well. As a few commentors on Epicurious did, I added about a tablespoon of thyme to this recipe and would highly recommend it. As mentioned above, I also omitted the salt, as the inside of the turkey was heavily salted prior to King H’s placing the stuffing inside.

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 good-quality baguette (1/2 lb), cut into 1-inch cubes (8 cups)
1/3 cup chopped celery leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped sage
1 tablespoon thyme (optional)
1 cup turkey stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth (plus more for re-moistening if not cooking immediately)
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in lower third (or prepare oven according to turkey’s instruction, if placing stuffing inside bird). Butter a 1 1/2-quart shallow baking dish or gratin dish if baking separately.

Cook onion and celery in 6 tablespoons butter with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with bread cubes, celery leaves, thyme (if using) and sage, then cool 5 minutes. Whisk together stock and egg (if stock is hot, gradually whisk into egg), then toss with bread mixture until absorbed. Transfer to baking dish or stuff inside 14-16 pound turkey and dot top with remaining tablespoon butter.

If in baking dish, bake, covered with foil, 30 minutes, then uncover and bake until top is golden, about 10 minutes more. If inside turkey, bake until turkey is ready for serving and is at least 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

Yield: 6. While most of the other recipes (particularly the mashed potatoes) served more than the suggested serving size, I would definitely double the stuffing recipe next time (though it may be hard to fit it all in the bird!). It was the first leftover to run out and the one I missed the most!

Planning ahead: stuffing can be assembled (but not baked) 1 day ahead and chilled (covered once cool). Bring to room temperature before baking, add more stock to moisten and bake or stuff inside turkey. This method worked perfectly for us.

Sweet Potatoes with Brown Sugar and Marshmallows

Brown Sugar-Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows
(adapted generously from Bon Appétit, November 1994)

Time for my second admission: I cheated. Ruth, please don’t hate me, but I couldn’t for the life of me find a classic candied yams with marshmallows recipe from Gourmet. It must be the one and only recipe they’re missing! But, what an important recipe it was. As I mentioned previously, this was the dish we had touted to all of our foreign friends, and they came to dinner prepared to hate it, despite all our assurances. And so it was even more critical that this recipe be everything I’d ever dreamed about in mashed sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows (and yes, I have dreamed about them many times over the past few years). In the end, although I used this recipe for guidance, I again found myself on the phone with my mother, who made suggestions and helped me create the dish I remembered from my childhood (this recipe originally called for nutmeg and cinnamon, for instance, but my mother said those additions end up making the dish taste more like pumpkin pie and less like the brown sugary sweet helpings I devoured in the past – of course, if you like pumpkin pie spice with your sweet potatoes, feel free to add the other spices). The one that would, and did, wow and convert even the most ardent skeptics (T, I’m looking at you). Then again, it may have helped that I overdid it so much on the marshmallows that they practically poured out of the pan (I don’t know how, but my mother clearly has more restraint), but that’s no matter in the end. It was the satisfied and smiling faces that made this dish.

4 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup packed golden brown sugar (plus a bit more to sprinkle on top)
6 tablespoons butter
1 bag marshmallows or miniature marshmallows (feel free to strike out on your own here, just ensure that when they melt the potatoes will be nicely covered – my imported marshmallows came in small bags, but I recall watching my mother wing it and dump handfuls of mallows from a bag of Kraft jet-puffed marshmallows on top of the potatoes. How I miss the wonder of jet-puffed mallows.)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cook potatoes in a pot of cold, salted water until boiling, then simmer until tender (about 15 minutes). Mash potatoes with a hand masher. Mix in 1 cup of brown sugar and butter until butter has melted and brown sugar is completely incorporated. Arrange potatoes in 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish. Bake potatoes 20-30 minutes or until heated throughout. Top potatoes with marshmallows and return to over for 10 minutes or until marshmallows melt and begin to brown.

Yield: 8 (or more, if you overdo it on the mallows like someone I know).

Planning ahead: Unlike the mashed potatoes, I did make the sweet potatoes on Wednesday, both for my sanity and for the fact that they would be re-heated in the oven in any case. I cooked and mashed the potatoes on Wednesday, mixed in the brown sugar and butter and left the potatoes in the baking dish, covered with foil, until dinner was nearly ready on Thursday. I then heated the potatoes and added marshmallows, giving myself enough time to ensure the potatoes would be hot/melted when served.

Featherlight Yeast Rolls

Featherlight Yeast Rolls
(from Gourmet, January 2008)

I found myself caught between a rock and a hard place at 1 am Wednesday night, when I finally admitted to myself that I couldn’t conceivably wake up at 6am and prepare these rolls before heading to work. King H, who introduced me to dinner rolls, having been served them homemade by his mother since childhood, was more than willing to assist (just one of the many things I was thankful for this year). He informed me he woke around 8 and prepared the dough, only to realize we had run out of flour! One frantic visit to the grocery store later (and about the same time our friend popped off the Eurostar) and he was back in the kitchen assembling a new batch. When I arrived home I removed the dough from the fridge and set to assembling and baking them. I can now concur that these are, indeed, “so light and fluffy they almost levitate”, although I must admit I prefer my usual recipe, despite the fact that levitating rolls could provide quite the dinnertime entertainment. One piece of advice: I would stray from the instructions and dot the rolls with butter after they’ve baked. Then the rolls remain moist and light, as opposed to a bit drier and crustier than my typical recipe.

1 russet (baking) potato (1/2 lb), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 stick unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

Generously cover potato with cold water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, until very tender, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid, then drain potato well.

Meanwhile, melt 2 1/2 tablespoons butter.

Mash hot potato in a large bowl with a fork. Stir in milk, salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons melted butter (mixture will be lumpy).

Cool 1/2 cup cooking liquid to warm (105 to 115°F ). Stir in yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast and remaining cooking liquid.)

Stir yeast mixture into potato mixture, then stir in flour with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead, dusting surface and hands with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes (dough will be slightly sticky).

Brush a large bowl with some of remaining melted butter, then turn dough in bowl to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise, chilled, 8 to 12 hours.

Punch down dough (do not knead), then halve. Roll each half into a 12-inch-long log on a very lightly floured surface with lightly floured hands. Cut each log into 12 equal pieces and roll each into a ball.

Arrange evenly spaced in 6 rows of 4 (less than 1/2 inch apart) in a buttered 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking pan.

Cover pan with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth).

Let rolls rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled (they will fill pan), 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Melt remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter.

Brush top of rolls with melted butter and bake until golden-brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Loosen edges with a sharp knife, then transfer rolls to a rack and cool slightly.

Yield: 24 rolls.

Planning ahead: Rolls are best the day they’re baked but can be frozen, wrapped well, up to 1 month. Thaw, then reheat, uncovered, on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven, 5 to 10 minutes. I opted to go fresh, but the rolls could be made earlier in the day and gently reheated. I found, however, that since this particular recipe calls for an 8 hour rest period, it’s easy to make them in the morning and then shape them before your guests arrive, letting them rise until hor d’ourves have been served and then heating them in the over until dinner.

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie
(from Gourmet, November 1999)

A classic pumpkin pie recipe to win over even the most skeptical Europeans, albeit a much lighter version than the one on the back of the Libby’s can. Making both of these pies (using the same crust recipe below) taught me another important holiday lesson: as much as you may love and trust your now defunct cooking magazine, always do what has worked for you in the past, particularly when it’s something your mother taught you. I always, always put foil around my pie crusts to keep them from burning (particularly in England, where my oven is volatile at best), but, considering I wanted to follow Gourmet religiously, I omitted this step. An hour later, I was hitting myself for it and apologizing to my mother repeatedly for discarding her method while at the same time sending her photos of the results to get her opinion. She talked me off the ledge, assured me the tiny leaves I’d painstakingly crafted for the pumpkin pie were not for naught and suggested I put whipped cream about the pecan pie edges when I served it and no one would ever know the difference. Thankfully, she was proved right (birthday candles for B helped matters) and I will never be baking pies without foil. Again.

For the dough:

3/4 stick cold unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
Cut butter into 1/2-inch cubes.

To blend by hand:
Blend together flour, butter, shortening, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender until most of mixture resembles coarse meal, with rest in small (roughly pea-size) lumps. Drizzle 2 tablespoons ice water evenly over and gently stir with a fork until incorporated.

To blend in a food processor:
Pulse together flour, butter, shortening, and salt in a food processor until most of mixture resembles coarse meal, with rest in small (roughly pea-size) lumps. Add 2 tablespoons ice water and pulse 2 or 3 times, or just until incorporated.

Test mixture:
Gently squeeze a small handful: It should hold together without crumbling apart. If it doesn’t, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring or pulsing 2 or 3 times after each addition until incorporated (keep testing). (If you overwork mixture or add too much water, pastry will be tough.)

Form dough:
Turn out onto a work surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather dough together and form it, rotating it on work surface, into a disk. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

Yield: one single-crust 9-inch pie or a 10- to 11-inch tart.

For the pie:

15-oz can canned solid-pack pumpkin (about 2 cups)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt

Make pastry dough as directed above. Roll out dough into a 14-inch round on a lightly floured surface and fit into a 9-inch glass pie plate (4-cup capacity). Crimp edge decoratively and prick bottom all over. Chill until firm (30 minutes in the refrigerator or 10 minutes in the freezer).

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake in middle of oven 20 minutes. Remove weights and foil and bake shell until pale golden, 6 to 10 minutes more. Cool in pan on a rack. Whisk together pumpkin, cream, milk, eggs, brown sugar, spices, and salt, then pour into shell.

Bake pie in middle of oven 45 to 50 minutes, or until filling is set but center still trembles slightly. (Filling will continue to set as pie cools.) Transfer to rack and cool completely.

Yield: 8 servings.

Planning ahead: the recipe suggests this pie and the crust can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered, but crust will not be as crisp as if made day of serving. I went ahead and made the crusts for both this and the pecan pie on Tuesday and made both pies on Wednesday and fortunately couldn’t taste a difference the next day.

Thanksgiving Pies

Old-Fashioned Pecan Pie
(from Gourmet, November 2009)

The classic pecan pie recipe you’d expect to find somewhere down South (or at least a place where Karo Corn Syrup is readily available).  A nice bonus to this recipe is that the pecan halves rise beautifully to the top, unlike many recipes I’ve used in the past which call for the pecans to be chopped.

Pastry dough (see recipe above)
3/4 stick unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 cups pecan halves (1/2 pound)

Preheat oven to 350°F with a baking sheet on middle rack.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round and fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Fold overhang under and lightly press against rim of pie plate, then crimp decoratively. Lightly prick bottom all over with a fork. Chill until firm, at least 30 minutes (or freeze 10 minutes).

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar, whisking until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in corn syrup, vanilla, zest, and salt. Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl, then whisk in corn syrup mixture.

Put pecans in pie shell and pour corn syrup mixture evenly over them. Bake on hot baking sheet until filling is set, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cool completely. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream (the nutmeg ice cream recipe below was perfect with both this and the pecan pie).

Yield: 8 servings.

Planning ahead: pie can be baked 1 day ahead and chilled. Bring to room temperature before serving. As mentioned, I made both pie crusts on Tuesday and baked this on Wednesday. Per my mother’s astute advice, I kept the pie uncovered in the fridge, to help avoid the condensation that so often ends up on the top of a pumpkin pie that’s been in the fridge. I removed the pie from the fridge about 2 hours before serving (as I was readying dinner) and it was at room temperature by the time I served it for dessert.

Thanksgiving Pies and Nutmeg Ice Cream

Nutmeg Ice Cream
(from Gourmet, November 1990)

The idea to make ice cream came to me as soon as I started contemplating this daunting meal and what I could possibly make in advance. Ice cream was the perfect dessert choice, because I knew my time machine (read: the freezer) could handle a batch well before Thanksgiving and that I wouldn’t risk losing any flavour. Ice cream was made for the freezer and this recipe was made for Thanksgiving. It was creamy and custardy, just like the best ice creams should be, and yet it was incredibly simple to make. The taste of the nutmeg mixed wonderfully well with both the pumpkin pie and the pecan pie. I will be making this every Thanksgiving if I have my way. I may even add some chunks of chocolate to it or steep some cloves with the cream for a nice fall kick. The Stone Cold wanna-be in me can even see crumbling some cooked pie crust and a bit of pumpkin puree in there and calling this Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream. Because any way you chose to serve it, this recipe is a winner.

1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

In a saucepan bring the milk and the cream just to a boil. In a bowl whisk together the eggs, the sugar, the nutmeg, the salt, and the vanilla, whisk 1/2 cup of the milk mixture into the egg mixture, and whisk the mixture into the remaining milk mixture. Cook the custard over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula, until it registers 175°F on a candy thermometer. Transfer the custard to a metal bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stir it until it is cold. Freeze the custard in an ice-cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Yield: 1 quart.

Planning ahead: yes! I made this on Monday, but it can easily be made even further in advance. I would advise removing it from the freezer at least 15 minutes before dessert, however, that way it isn’t rock solid (I don’t know about you, but I prefer my ice cream a bit on the mushier side). I also use an ice cream scoop when I transfer the ice cream from the ice-cream maker to the freezer, which then makes it easier to dish out scoops at will. If you’re not eating it all at once by yourself, of course…

*And, speaking of the table, a great idea from Martha Stewart, was the perfect complement to the piles of food we left in our wake.

All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake

Even as I get older and wiser (?), life continues to be full of firsts. This recipe, for instance, was the first TWD entry in my brief TWD career baked entirely by King H, my first love (discounting the likes of Taylor Hanson and Jordan Catalano, who may have come earlier, but certainly weren’t as…real), during his first foray into baking in our first kitchen. As you might imagine, I am usually the one doing the baking in our relationship. King H, on the other hand, makes a fitting sous chef (he’s often found cleaning up the wake of baking products I leave behind), a mean Chicago deep-dish pizza, and the perfect choice of music to muck around in the kitchen to. He’s also very often left to eat half a batch of muffins or 25 cookies, all in the name of feeding my baking habit. And for that I’m grateful.

Imagine my surprise, then, when he came home from work one night and mentioned he was involved in a bake-off at work. Another first: our roles had suddenly been reversed. We got into the spirit last week, when our friend B stopped over to use the kitchen and prepare her entry, these stunning Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting (incidentally, this will now be my go-to Autumn carrot cake recipe, and is a perfectly fall-spiced compliment to my more spring-y version previously posted here), but this week it was finally King H’s turn to shine. Initially inspired to bring in sweet potatoes with marshmallows, a Thanksgiving staple which is all but lost on anyone outside of the US (believe me, I’ve begged more than one English chef to make this for the holiday, only to be met with complete and utter shock and disgust, which is a big part of the reason I’ll be finally be hosting Thanksgiving at home this year), his excitement was tempered by the fact that he’d be assisting in making six pounds worth of candied yams (yams? Sweet potatoes? I’m going rogue and calling them both*) a mere four days later. And so King H had a momentary lapse in bright ideas on Sunday afternoon, as he was dragging a 14 pound frozen turkey and 12 pounds of potatoes home from Waitrose. Suddenly, all he saw before him was days of mashing, basting and mixing. It was enough to put him off baking entirely and he was suitably forlorn.

Enter me and my desire to get back on track in my quest to complete Tuesdays with Dorie and…problem quickly solved (at least the pot-luck part – he’s still got lots of mashing to do in the days ahead). I gave King H a choice of all four recipes this month (the folks at TWD have graciously done away with the one set recipe per week rule during November) and this one jumped right out at both of us, courtesy of The Nitty Britty. If he couldn’t make his candied yams, this Bundt cake, it appeared, would be a fitting substitute, as Dorie herself noted you could “name your favorite it-tastes-like-Thanksgiving flavor, and you’ll find it here”. And, as usual, right she was. I left King H to his own devices (one of the rules strictly enforced by his co-workers was that I would not produce this for him) and, aside from chopping a few unruly cranberries (why, oh why must cranberries pop all over the place?!) and answering a few questions about the KitchenAid stand mixer creaming/mixing process, I didn’t reappear again until he was pouring the batter in the well-buttered Bundt pan. And was I ever glad I had the foresight to appear at such a crucial moment, because this was the first time I was the one who got to lick the batter bowl clean, an honour I usually bestow on whoever pops down to the kitchen while I’m baking and tasting in my own time.  If the batter was any indication, this cake was going to be a hit at work. King H drizzled it with a maple syrup glaze and I watched it head out the door with him on his way to work this morning, feeling more than a bit despondent at the fact that I wouldn’t be tasting the cake that filled my whole house with the smells of Thanksgiving a mere twelve hours earlier. I may have to wait until Thursday to smell anything quite as good again, but I have it on good authority that King H’s compatriots were thrilled with this cake. And I’m thrilled with it, too, even though I never had a bite, because he baked something! And it was beautiful! And it smelled like heaven! And he’s so precise! And he told me I keep him, even when he wins the contest and becomes an international Bundt superstar! And, perhaps most importantly, now…now that he’s given these foreigners a taste of the cranberries, pumpkin, apples and pecans that help make this time of year so special, thanks to King H perhaps we just may have another first to look forward to: winning them over with those marshmallow-topped yams on Thursday…

All-In-One Holiday Bundt Cake

All-in-One Holiday Bundt Cake
(from Baking: From My Home To Yours)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger (or 1 tsp ground ginger)
1 1/4 sticks (10 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 large apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 cup cranberries, halved or coarsely chopped
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting or maple syrup icing (see note)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9- to 10- inch (12 cup) Bundt pan. Don’t place the pan on a baking sheet-you want the oven’s heat to circulate freely through the Bundt’s inner tube.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and ground ginger, if you’re using it (not the grated ginger).

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and both sugars together at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the pumpkin, chopped apple and grated ginger, if you’re using it-don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Still on low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. With a rubber spatula, stir in the cranberries and pecans. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with the rubber spatula.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding, then cool to room temperature on the rack.

Note: just before bringing the cake to the table, dust it with confectioners’ sugar or drizzle it with maple syrup icing, which Dorie introduces in her “playing around” section and which King H used to much praise in his version. Simply sift 6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar into a bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Add more maple syrup little by little, until you have an icing that runs nicely off the tip of the spoon — you might need another 1/2 tablespoon syrup to get the right consistency. Put the cooled cake on a sheet of wax paper and drizzle the icing from the tip of the spoon over it. Let the icing set for a few minutes before serving.

*Edited to add this link, aptly found by King H a mere day after my great yam/sweet potato debate.

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