Reader’s Digest(ibles): Anne’s Liniment Layer Cake

RD liniment cake

I love to read. I love to cook. What better set of projects to undertake than foods inspired by my favorite books? I can’t count the number of times I’ve been comfortably curled up, reading a description of something delicious being eaten/made/thrown by a character, and thought “I wonder what that tasted like?” So I figured that I’d try to bring some of those dishes to life.

First up is a classic from my favorite book in the world, Anne of Green Gables. There are numerous references to food in the book, mostly mentioned in passing (ice cream, chicken salad, chocolate caramels), but a few stand out as plot points. One of those is the layer cake Anne makes for a tea party, despite having a head cold that prevents her from smelling the bottle-full of what she thinks is vanilla extract– with disastrous results, since it’s actually anodyne liniment. Based on the text, the cake is a vanilla-flavored layer cake, sandwiched with jelly.

The cake did rise… and came out of the oven as light and feathery as golden foam. Anne, flushed with delight, clapped it together with layers of ruby jelly and, in imagination, saw Mrs. Allan eating it and possibly asking for another piece!

While the Anne of Green Gables Cookbook (written by Montgomery’s granddaughter) provides a recipe for this cake, reviews indicate that it comes out somewhat dense, which doesn’t jibe with the “light and feathery as golden foam” description in the original book. I decided to go another route, using a hot milk sponge cake recipe which has been around for a while and is supposed to produce a light, tender cake.

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Ispahan = Perfection

ispahan macaron

Okay, so having tried Pierre Herme’s Ispahan in panna cotta and granita, I’m ready to bite the bullet and try reproducing the exact dessert I had in Paris. Here’s a photo I took of the original for comparison:

ispahan macaron original

To recap, it’s two macaron shells filled with rose-flavored cream, lychees, and fresh raspberries. Because of the chilling and resting time you’ll need to start these at least a day before you plan on serving them.

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Butterbeer Ice Cream

BB Ice cream scoop

So remember my rant on Butterbeer? Well, it turns out that Universal Studios also does a butterbeer soft-serve ice cream, and it occurred to me that this could be a great vehicle for my own version of the drink.

Happily, this time my online searching indicated that at least one person has gotten the recipe right and added actual beer to the mix. I decided to make the recipe from the Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book to see what all the fuss was about.

This ice cream was pretty fantastic– the oatmeal stout provided a nice backdrop to the main flavor, which was a deep molasses-y caramel, and the salt really brought out the buttery, almost pretzel-like notes of the brown butter. The texture, even after completely frozen, is soft and scoopable, and very rich on the tongue.

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Garlic Scape Frittata

scape frittata scapes

Garlic scapes! My new favorite vegetable! I first tried them last year when I was intrigued by their elegant swirliness at a farmer’s market, but I didn’t really know what to do with them– I chopped them up for potato salad and thought they were fine, used a few more in pesto and was underwhelmed, and wasn’t sure what else to do. But this year I decided to branch out a little and tried sauteeing them with just a little oil, salt, and pepper… talk about a burst of flavor! The garlicky sharpness that’s present in the raw scapes is mellowed perfectly as they’re exposed to heat, and I’ve taken to eating them like I would green beans, as a side dish at dinner.

However, this time I was looking for something with a little more heft, and threw together this frittata. The eggs go nicely with the sweetness and garlic flavor of the scapes, and this would make a nice light lunch with a green salad, a slice of crusty bread, and a glass of white wine.

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Traditional Breadbaking at Le Cordon Bleu Paris: Day 3

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I’m back from Day 3 of the breadbaking course, and my most enduring memory of the day is that it was cold (16 degrees C). With good reason, of course– we were making brioche and it was necessary to keep the dough (and all the butter inside) cold while we worked with it. We also got to do a lot more hands-on work, which made me happy. What did we make? Let’s see! Continue reading

Traditional Breadbaking at Le Cordon Bleu Paris: Day 2

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The second day at Le Cordon Bleu was, sadly, not nearly as much fun as the first. I think they did a bunch of interesting, hands-on stuff the first day to get us hooked (not that it makes much difference, we all paid months ago). The biggest issue was that rather than getting to mix up the dough by hand and do all the kneading and shaping ourselves, we spent the vast majority of our time watching our (admittedly talented) instructor do all of the work. And while I can understand having him mix up a big batch of dough rather than have us each do individual batches, there was no reason we couldn’t have shaped our own individual loaves before they went into the oven. Continue reading