I attended a tea party recently– the best kind of tea party, with tiered servers and tiny sandwiches and itty-bitty desserts of all kinds– so of course I had to bring something of my own to contribute. The more elaborate dishes were already taken care of, so I thought it would be nice to have a plateful of relatively simple tea cakes on the table.
I immediately thought of friands and financiers– two traditional French cakes made with almond meal that I’ve always wanted to try– but the guest list included some nut allergies, so those were out. Still, I figured that I could use brown butter (another traditional component of French cakes) for flavor and a high sugar content to get a touch of chewiness, and with a little searching found a recipe that I thought might work as a base.
So remember when I made the three-tiered Pawprint Cake for my daughter’s birthday? At the time I wasn’t sure quite how much cake I would need in each color, so I ended up with extra layers– one 6″ layer and one loaf pan’s worth of pink cake, to be exact. I wrapped them in foil, froze them, and figured I’d find some other use for them eventually. That “eventually” arrived this weekend, when after buying several multi-packs of Pocky in various flavors to use for Valentine’s Day gifts for the kindergarten class, the teacher emailed everyone asking that we not give edible items for the occasion. (sigh)
Great, what was I supposed to do with 20+ packs of Pocky? Other than eat them, of course? But then it occurred to me that I had Pocky, I had cake, and I had Valentine’s Day coming up– of course I could put them all together to make a fabulous dessert!
After a recent party, I found myself with half a bag of potato chips left over and no idea what to do with them. I didn’t want to just snack on them out of hand– that seemed boring and overly salty– so it seemed providential when a recipe for potato chip cookies appeared in my online feed. I’m always a fan of a sweet-salty combination, and since I had plans to bake one morning anyway I decided to take advantage of the stand mixer already on the counter and the preheated oven, to try them.
I was a little concerned about the low flour content and the lack of any leavening in this recipe, but once I tasted a cookie I was an immediate convert, as were all of my coworkers who got over their initial skepticism and tried one. These are great– crispy with a hint of chew to them, with a salty, slightly warm flavor that’s not immediately identifiable as potato chips but which people appreciate once the secret ingredient is disclosed. I’ll bet they’d also be great dipped halfway into dark chocolate…
I’ve made cream puffs on this blog before, but while they’ve been light and puffy and filled with delectable cream, they’ve never been what I would call “pretty.” I’ve come to the conclusion that my standard choux recipe is just a tad too thick– not eggy enough– and that’s making the piped choux blobs slightly irregular in shape, which translates to unevenly-puffed cream puffs. I’ve decided to adapt my recipe to add a bit more egg, and to add an extra layer of protection– a craquelin.
A craquelin topping is a circle of sugar-butter dough that you put onto the unbaked choux. As the choux bakes, the craquelin cooks over the top, expanding with the choux and creating an uneven, crunchy, sugary top that adds texture to the puff as a whole. Also, I figured that having something on top of the choux would help even out the rise in the oven.
So remember how last year I let my daughter tell me what she wanted her birthday cake to look like? This year I didn’t even have a chance to ask– she handed me a sketch one day and informed me that this was what I’d be making. It had three tiers (!), was decorated with berries and green icing, and had a fake warning on the outside saying that it most certainly did NOT hide any surprises inside… or did it?
Apparently she decided that what she wanted was a hidden pawprint to surprise her guests. It had to be pink, and it had to show only when the cake was cut into. While I had a general idea as to how to get this done, I turned to the internet and was happy to find a tutorial to give me some details as to how it could be accomplished! Here it is:
I’m not going to bother posting too many step-by-step instructions because honestly, the video is pretty good at explaining what to do.
A while back I bought some parsnips to use in a recipe and inadvertently bought twice as many as I actually needed. The parsnip puree I’d intended to make was delicious– light and creamy and earthily sweet, as parsnips are– but what was I supposed to do with the rest of them?
The answer came in the form of a line from my daughter’s copy of Tangled (okay, I admit it, it’s not her copy, we bought it before she was born because we liked it so much). In it, Mother Gothel returns to the tower, gleefully proclaiming that she’s got a surprise– parsnips! To make Rapunzel’s favorite hazelnut soup for dinner! Well, parsnip and hazelnut soup sounded delicious, and I had some leftover hazelnuts in the freezer just begging to be used, so it was time to get started!
I will note at the outset that this is “Indian Pudding” as it’s made in New England– basically an enriched and sweetened cornmeal mush, baked in the oven until thick– rather than a pudding of the style made in India (which can include pumpkin). I basically decided to make it on a whim during a recent snowstorm, figuring it would help combat the cold, wintry weather outside.
I’ve never actually liked Indian Pudding in its original form– it’s not really sweet enough for me and it’s kind of one-dimensional. I decided to make it more interesting by the addition of pumpkin purée, as I love pumpkin pie and figured the pumpkin would go well with the flavor profile of the standard pudding recipe. The resulting pudding is (for me at least) the ideal breakfast food– it’s warm and comforting, with more heft than regular pumpkin pie (and all the flavor) so you don’t feel guilty about eating it for breakfast!