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Archive for the ‘sweets’ Category

snowbird

Monday was salad. Tuesday was cookies. Wednesday was salad. Thursday is…

Oh, and these are not just any cookies. They’re chocolate-covered graham crackers. Let me say that again, for full effect. They’re graham crackers that I made (!), that I covered with chocolate (!), and that I didn’t eat all in one sitting (!). I will admit, however, that I also didn’t share them.

I’ve been slow to jump on the DIY food bandwagon (actually, I’m generally slow with these bandwagon things), but I’ve made an exception for graham crackers.

Because  when the holiday lights and decorations come out of storage, and the carols play on every radio station, I think of  chocolate covered grahams, pink grapefruit, and Chinese food.

My mother’s mother was a snowbird, leaving her Manhattan home every October to spend the coldest months in Miami. Each December when my sister and I were kids, our parents drove us down from Maryland to the tip of Florida for two weeks of sun.  As we pulled up to the building, no matter what time of night, Bubbie would be sitting in the lobby, perched between a twinkling plastic pine tree and an over-sized candelabra. Riding up the elevator, luggage still in the car, Bubbie would hand my father a list of chores – hang a picture, re-wire a lamp, fix a television.

When the elevator door opened, my sister and I would grab the key and race down the hall, bursting into the apartment and making a beeline to the kitchen. In the middle of the table, next to a bowl of the pink grapefruits that Bubbie sliced and sectioned before every dinner, sat a plate of chocolate-covered graham crackers and two glasses of milk.

We knew the deal. No milk, no sweets. We drank a lot of milk during those two weeks.

The highlight of each visit was going to the kosher Chinese restaurant on Christmas eve. We’d order the usual – egg drop soup, mu shu chicken, beef with broccoli, and Kung Pao chicken. And a steak. Bubbie figured that if we were going out, she was going to go all out. I don’t like Chinese food, she would say. So we’d order the steak.

The waiter would pile all the dishes on a lazy Susan in the middle of the table, and pass around plates. My grandmother would hand back her empty plate and place her steak plate in front of her. We’d spin the Susan to the pancakes, pass hoisin sauce under Bubbie’s nose, and then spin the Susan  back to the mu shu. And Bubbie would smile and slice into her steak. Soon, she would sneak a fork into the mu shu. Then into the beef. She’d make room on her plate for rice, pushing the steak aside. It’s too tough, she’d say. We’d pass her the Kung Pao. My dad would finish the steak.

Maybe one day I’ll bribe my own kids with some chocolate covered grahams. And then my grandkids. For now, though, they’re all for me to nibble with my coffee. Sorry Bubbie. I still don’t like to drink milk.

Chocolate covered graham crackers

I adapted Alton Brown’s graham cracker recipe, and frequently consulted Joanne Chang’s recipe in Flour (Thanks, Molly, for lending me your extra copy). You’ll need to give yourself enough time to chill the dough for 30 minutes before you can roll it out.

Makes over 3 dozen cookies

- 6 T unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 C T graham flour
- 5 T  all-purpose flour
- 5 T packed dark brown sugar
- 3/4 t aluminum-free baking powder
- 1/2 t baking soda
- 1/2 t kosher salt
- 1/2 t ground cinnamon
- 3 heaping T dark molasses or honey (I used 1 tablespoon of molasses, 2 of honey)
- 2 T low-fat or whole milk
- 1/2 t vanilla extract
- 1/4 – 1/2  lb  dark or milk chocolate (If you plan to drizzle, use less; if you plan to dip, use more)

Chill. Cut the butter into 1/4-inch cubes and place in freezer while preparing the other ingredients.

Pulse. Place in the bowl of a food processor both flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Pulse several times to combine. Then add the butter and continue to pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add molasses/honey, milk, and vanilla and process for about a minute until the dough forms a ball.

Chill again. Press the ball into a 1/2-inch thick disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Roll. Remove the chilled dough and divide it in half. Return the other half to the fridge. Roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment until it is 1/8-inch thick .

Slice. Remove the top sheet of parchment and slide the other sheet onto a cookie sheet. You want to cut the dough into squares – a traditional graham cracker is 2 X 2 – but I made mine about 1.5 X 1.5 or so (I skipped the ruler). Use a pizza cutter and straightedge to make vertical and horizontal cuts all the way across the dough. Don’t trim the excess! (You’ll see why in a moment.) Use a fork to make holes in the crackers in whatever pattern you’d like. Don’t separate the crackers.

Bake. Bake the crackers in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes until the edges just start to darken (luckily, you kept on the extra dough and these jagged edges get too dark, leaving all the crackers perfectly golden.)

Cool. Remove from oven, set the sheet pan with the crackers on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. As the crackers cool, they’ll harden.

Break. Once the crackers are completely cool (20-30 minutes), break them up.

Temper. Fill a small pot with 1/2-inch of water and bring to a slow simmer. Chop the chocolate into small chunks and place half of them in a large metal or glass bowl. Place the bowl over the simmering water, making sure that the water doesn’t touch the bowl. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix the chocolate until it melts. Take the bowl off the pot and wipe away any moisture from the bottom. Slowly add the remaining chocolate pieces, continuing to stir until each small addition melts, and then add another pinch or two. The chocolate will start to get glossy. The more you stir, the glossier your chocolate will be. If you have a candy thermometer, keep stirring until the chocolate reaches 90ºF. No thermometer? No problem. Keep stirring and after about 15 minutes, dip a metal spoon in the chocolate, and then stick it in the refrigerator for 2 minutes for dark, 5 for milk. If it comes out set and glossy and not tacky to the touch, it’s perfect. If it’s still sticky – it’s not cool enough, and not tempered, so keep mixing and add any remaining chocolate pieces.

Drizzle. Lay the cooled crackers in a cooling rack. Drizzle the chocolate in a crisscross pattern over the crackers. Let the chocolate harden.

Dip. Dip each cracker in the tempered chocolate, coating half of each side. Lay the dipped crackers directly on parchment.

Eat. Don’t forget the glass of milk. 

Store. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

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good stuff

I normally read my magazines from front to back. I might sneak a peek at the New Yorker’s cartoon contest on the last page, but for the most part, I’m a cover-to-cover gal.

But when I pulled the plastic off of this month’s Bon Appétit, I jumped right to page 96 for Dorie Greenspan‘s cover recipe. She made speculoos.

I first encountered speculoos on a flight to California. This was back in the days when you not only got stuff on airplanes, you got good stuff. Around this time, Belgian cookie maker Lotus contracted with airline food suppliers and literally flew their cookies into the US to expand their market from Europe . As we boarded that plane and struggled with our luggage, the crew handed out two thin little rectangular cookies wrapped in red cellophane. One pack per passenger. This cookie  hooked me in just one bite (well, maybe two, then three, then … I stole my sister’s pack of cookies). They were crispy and delicate and caramel-y and just a little spicy and they managed to melt away in my mouth.

If I first encountered speculoos on a plane, I first truly experienced these cookies visiting my friends Janouk and Regina in the Netherlands. In light of that, I’m going to refer to these cookies as the Dutch do – speculaas (pron: spek/you/lahs) — going forward.

I met Janouk and Regina during the summer of 2006 while we were taking a stage - a dance workshop - in Nice. We danced for 3-5 hours a day and then relaxed together afterwards — sitting on the pebbly beach, grabbing a bite (and we ate a lot more than salade Niçoise), and walking back through vieille ville, the old part of town, to our rented apartments.

So, the following year at just around this time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I flew out to Den Haag for a few days en route to Belgium. I stayed with Janouk (then a student, now a teacher), toured around a bit, shopped more than a bit, and spent a day in the dance studio, taking a few hours of class with Regina, the owner. After class, we climbed the stairs to Regina’s home above the studio and hung out like we had in Nice. But this time, we ate Dutch food. Regina set out a few beers and tossed a big red bag to me. I caught it and tore it open, finding small button-shaped cookies inside. Regina said not to bother putting them in a bowl as they’d disappear before long. Those little quarter-sized nubbins were called kruidnoten (“spice nuts”) and had a taste very similar to that of speculaas. But they’re more fun that speculaas (and more dangerous) because you can wrap your fingers around about a half-dozen and pop them in your mouth as if they were seedless grapes. 

Janouk and Regina gave me a little history lesson about these cookies and Sinterklaas‘ holiday. As they tell it, Sinterklaas travels by boat from Spain (where he lives the rest of the year) to the Netherlands with several short black Zwart Pieten child servants*. They arrive on the evening of December 5th and Zwart Pieten give out candies and kruidnoten to good children. Judging by the bag we finished in one evening, we must have been very good girls that year.

As I made Dorie’s speculoos  buttons, I fashioned them closer to kruidnoten, a little smaller in diameter, a little higher in height. I wanted to make sure that I could grab a  nice handful at once.

* There is some controversy about these characters and their costumes, but that’s a topic I’d prefer not to discuss here.

Kruidnoten (or speculoos/speculaas buttons)

I adapted this recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s speculoos buttons recipe in Bon Appetit (December 2012). I skipped her glaze and colorful decorations, opting instead for a very humble looking cookie that really lets the spices and caramel flavor shine. I also made mine slightly smaller (diameter 1.25 – 1.5 inches) and thicker than recommended, so my yield was a bit lower than Dorie’s expected 90 cookies. I’ve kept the original directions. The main difference is that I rolled the logs a little bit longer and thinner (about 9 inches each instead of 8) and made slightly thicker cuts (on the liberal side of 1/4-inch). I might make them even smaller and thicker next time.

Makes 90 small cookies (with my modifications, I only made 70)

- 2 C all-purpose flour

- 1 T ground cinnamon

- 3/4 t ground (dried) ginger

- 1/2 t fine sea salt

- 1/2  t freshly grated nutmeg

- 1/8 t ground cloves

- 1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

- 1/2 C  (packed) light brown sugar

- 1/4 cup sugar

- 1 T dark blackstrap molasses

- 1 T honey

- 1 large egg, room temperature

- 1 t vanilla extract

- 1 large egg white

- Sanding or other decorative sugar – I used raw sugar

Whisk. Whisk first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl; set aside.

Beat. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat butter in a medium bowl until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add both sugars, molasses and honey; continue to beat until mixture is smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla; mix for 2 minutes.

Mix. Reduce speed to low; add dry ingredients and mix to blend well.

Shape. Scrape dough from bowl and divide into thirds. Using your palms, roll each piece of dough into an 8-inch log. Wrap logs tightly in plastic or parchment paper.

Chill. Freeze the logs for at least 3 hours. (For neater edges, remove logs from freezer after 1 hour and roll on counter.)  Dough can be made up to 2 months ahead, just keep it frozen.

Preheat. At least 30 minutes before you’re ready to bake, arrange racks in top and bottom thirds of oven and preheat to 375°. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Cut. Whisk egg white in a small bowl to loosen; lightly brush all over 1 log. Roll in sanding or raw sugar. Using a long, slender knife, slice off a sliver of dough from each end of log to make ends flat. Cut log into 1/4 inch-thick rounds. Transfer to a baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart; place in freezer while you cut the next log. (The cookies hold their shape better if you bake when dough is cold.) Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake. Bake 2 sheets of cookies, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 6 minutes, until tops are golden brown and centers are almost firm, 11-13 minutes.

Cool. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool. Repeat with third sheet of cookies. Cookies can be baked 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

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Well, people, it’s the night before Thanksgiving.

I’m eating applesauce.

In all the fuss about getting my pressure cooker up and running, I forgot to tell you why I made applesauce in the first place.

It’s for my father. Well, and anyone else who can get to it before he does. But mostly, it’s for my father. Normally I whip together something chocolate and throw it in his general direction and he’s happy. This is the guy who used to pour Hershey’s syrup in his Cheerios.

But when he was a kid, my Bubbie used to make him applesauce. I’ll be missing his birthday this year* and wanted to bring something special for him to the Thanksgiving table. So I asked him how he liked his applesauce.

A little chunky, he said, not like baby food. And I used to put ketchup on it. And I’d mix it with my mashed potatoes. 

??!!!????

Potatoes I can sort of understand. You’ve got the salty and the sweet, like a mashed up version of latkes with applesauce. But ketchup? Ketchup**? No matter what he said, he could give no satisfactory explanation.

When I asked if he’d be open to cranberry applesauce, he said it sounded perfect and it would look like it had already been mixed in with the ketchup.

Perfect. But I’ll be hiding the bottle of Heinz 57 this year.

* I’ll be in Peru for a wedding on his birthday. Stay tuned for more on that trip in January!

** Have you heard about the non-stick ketchup bottle that was developed in an MIT lab?

Pressure cooker applesauce

As Molly said yesterday, applesauce takes three minutes in a pressure cooker. 

Most recipes for pressure cookers seem to be written assuming that you know how to use one. And the cooker (my manual says I should call it the Cooker) is very straight forward once you’ve gotten used to it. But for the uninitiated, here are a few things I learned between yesterday and today about my stove-top pot-bellied Fagor and pressure cooking in general.

Bring to pressure. It sounds so simple. A recipe might begin, “Mix fruit and spices in the pressure cooker, bring to pressure, and cook for three minutes.” (And actually, it might end there as well.) Bring to pressure, like it’s a pittance of a step. Here’s what they don’t tell you, people. It can take a really long time to pressurize. As a way to check whether my cooker (I mean, Cooker) was working, I decided to boil some water. I filled the Cooker with a few inches of water, did all the stuff you’re supposed to do (the lid, the lock, the valve), and waited. I watched the pot. I emailed Molly. Steam started coming out, but the indicator stayed put. 

The indicatorThink pop-up turkey timer (the old-school ones, not these newfangled ones). You’ve got to sit around and watch for it. With such short cooking times, you need to know when you’re pressurized so you can begin timing. Perhaps it’s different on more advance or electric models, but what’s the fun in that? So I watched the little yellow dot next to the lock. Nothing. And then. A tremble. A titter. A wiggle. And slowly the dot became a nub.  But there was no pop, no noise, no way I would possibly know it had come to pressure had I not been standing and watching and watching and watching.  NOTE, my manual says that the steam should start to come out after the indicator pops, but this was not my experience.

Heat. Once at pressure (twenty minutes later, people, twenty minutes), you lower the heat to medium. They don’t tell you that in recipes. I found it on page 10 of the manual. You want to keep a gentle, steady stream of steam, so you might need to then adjust your heat up or down as appropriate. 

The cooking. This is the best part. The cooking itself goes quickly, and the Cooker cooks well. Each apples piece was the same amount of tender as the next, and we cannot attribute that to my uneven cutting skills. A quick whisk broke up all the pieces into perfect sauce. 

I’m not sure if it’s normal for it to take so long for a cooker to come to pressure, or if there’s something wrong with mine. I haven’t given up, Molly, but if anyone out there has any pressure cooker tips, please, please do share. 

Since I’m taking my applesauce on a plane tomorrow, I canned it. This was my first canning experience and I followed my friend Jess’s very clear instructions. I don’t have any special equipment other than the jars themselves; I used a silicone pot holder at the bottom of the pot to protect the jars from heat, plain metal tongs to lift things out of the boiling water, and a narrow wooden spoon to scootch the applesauce into jars.

And, finally, the recipe, based on yesterday’s applesauce made-in-a-regular-pot applesauce. Again it’s good cold, but great warmed up a bit. 

Makes 3-4 cups

- 4 lbs apples (approximately 8 medium) – today I used a mix of Fuji, Gala, and Mutsu (Crispin)

- 2 T sugar

- 1/2 lemon for juice (2 T)

- 1 C water

Chop. Peel and chop the apples into approximately 1-inch pieces.

Cook. Add all the ingredients to the pressure cooker. Close the lid, lock the pot, and turn the valve. Turn up the heat to medium-high. Eventually the indicator will pop and the pot will steam. Lower the heat to medium, adjusting the temperature as needed to maintaining a gentle, steady steam. Set your timer for three minutes.

Whisk. When your timer goes off, release the pressure (I used the “automatic” method by turning the valve). Use a whisk to break up the apples.

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Some things get easier as we get older. But making new friends is not one of them. Sure, we make acquaintances. We have people to go out to dinner with. And brunch. We befriend the parents of our kids’ friends based on play dates and carpools and school projects. But friends who know you like your high school and college friends do? Those are few and far between, and they get fewer and farther between as time goes by.

When my parents moved out to Palo Alto over a decade ago, they were in a bind. New coast, new city, new life. They knew no one. They were, to some extent, starting over. They quickly joined a synagogue, but lived several miles away, too far to walk to shabbat services as the congregation was wont to do. So they stayed in a nearby hotel on many Friday nights and relied on the community’s hospitality for shabbat dinners and lunches. It’s a hard position to be in, not being able to reciprocate.

One of my mother’s first friends in California was Stephanie. In a recent email, my mother described Stephanie as “the quintessential Palo Alto hostess … If there was an extra person or two in synagogue who needed hospitality, she could always stretch a meal to accommodate them and no one knew it was a stretch.  That was definitely a talent.” It may sound strange to think of people “needing” to be fed, but on shabbat, one of the main tenets, at least my favorite one, is eating with family and community. While she started by welcoming my parents to the community, Stephanie quickly became family. She and my mom spoke nearly every night. They even shared a birthday – February 12 – and my parents threw Stephanie a celebratory brunch when she hit a big something-oh.

Stephanie and her mother both died of ovarian cancer a few years back. In their matriarchs’ honor, the family started the Stephanie Sussman and Ann Nadrich Memorial Fund through Sharsheret, an organization that supports Jewish women facing breast and ovarian cancer. Soon Stephanie’s  daughters, Adeena and Sharon, started the Pies for Prevention Thanksgiving bake sale to raise ovarian cancer awareness and to support Sharsheret’s Ovarian Cancer Program. The bake sale has grown, gained press coverage and, now in its fourth year, you can buy pies (and breads) in eight cities across the nation, including up here in the Boston area (more on that later).

(Stephanie was clearly beautiful on the inside, and her daughters are testament to how stunning she was on the outside.)

When my family crowded around our Thanksgiving table last year, drowsy from too much turkey, we greeted our pies with greedy eyes and large plates that were soon crumb-covered. Our bellies were full, and so were our hearts.

If you’re in the Boston area and would like to order some goodies but can’t make it out to Sharon to pick them up, I’m going to be making a pie and bread run so you can grab their orders from my place the two evenings  before the holiday.

Pumpkin-Cranberry Bread

Adeena Sussman shared this recipe with me. She’s a great chef and food writer, and this quick bread is a good example of her talent for recipe development.  When we ate it last year, we couldn’t figure out whether to serve it with the meal or for dessert. If you can, hide a few leftover slices, then toast them up and slather them with butter for breakfast the next morning. You can always go to the gym next week.

Makes two 9-inch loaves or three 8-inch loaves  

- One 15 oz can solid-pack pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

- 4 eggs

- 1 cup vegetable oil

- 2/3 cup water

- 2 cups white sugar

- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

- 2 teaspoons baking soda

- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

- 1 1/2 cup fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch or three 8-inch loaf pans and reserve.

In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.

Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Gently stir in cranberries. Pour into the prepared pans.

Bake for 60-65 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

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how recipes go

I was digging around for a container of soup last night, and out plopped a bag of blueberries. I had frozen the berries at the peak of their season, having bought a pint (or two) too many.

You can’t get a better surprise than this during the first snow after the first hurricane of the season. And on the first night that you turn on your heat, the though of blueberry anything feels like a vacation in the sun.

I was envisioning a blueberry coffee cake, but that didn’t seem right. Then a friend reminded me of a rhubarb crumb bar that was adapted from another rhubarb crumb bar that was adapted from a blueberry crumb bar that was adapted from another blueberry crumb bar that I might want to check out.

Did you get all that?

But, isn’t that just how recipes go? We find something that looks good, we do a little research, we check out the “original” recipe — if you can ever really call a recipe an original — and then we tweak  until we can call it our own.

And not that anyone ever owns a recipe, but there are some that are just classically you. I’ve got a few of them — the aforementioned soup, a pear tarte tatin, almond chocolate chip cookies, and lemon bars – and friends request them regularly. So, when I heard bars, I though of my turn-to  lemon version. Blueberries instead of lemon? Do I need to ask?

And then, of course, crumb topping. Yes, definitely with crumb topping. A brown butter crumb topping. With all these recipes scattered across my screen, I set to work. While I mixed and browned and baked, I scrawled a few notes, taking an ingredient from here, a technique from there. A little cornmeal in the crust. A lot of lemon in the blueberries. And that nutty brown butter in the crumb.

And voilà. Introducing blueberry cornmeal brown butter crumb bars. Pull up a chair.

Blueberry cornmeal brown butter crumb bars

This recipe is based on my lemon bars with their cornmeal crunch. I then added a brown butter crumb topping, inspired by une gamine dans la cuisine. If you haven’t browned butter before, what are you waiting for? Brownies? Blondies? Squash? Yes, yes, and yes. 

Makes 9-16 squares

For the crust:

- 1 C sifted flour

- 1/2 C fine yellow cornmeal

-  pinch salt

- 1/8 t baking soda

- 3 T unsalted butter (room temperature)

- 1/3 C white sugar

- 1 egg

- 1 T yogurt

- 1/4 t vanilla extract

For the filling:

- 3 C blueberries (fresh or frozen)

- 3 T white sugar

- 3 t cornstarch

- 1 lemon for zest and juice

For the crumb topping:

- 6 T unsalted butter

- 1/3 C brown sugar

- 1/2 C flour

- 1/4 C fine cornmeal

- a pinch or two of salt

Prepare. Preheat oven to 350ºF and put a rack in the upper 1/3 of the oven. Grease an 8X8 square pan with vegetable oil or line it with parchment.

Make crust. Stir together the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking soda. Beat butter in another bowl until creamy (I use my mixer). Add the 1/3 C sugar and beat for about a minute until smooth. Beat in the egg, yogurt, and vanilla. Add in the dry ingredients and beat on low until just combined. The dough will be sticky, so this is going to get a little bit messy. Scoop the dough into the pan, spread it around evenly (I just did this with wet fingers), and prick all over with a fork. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top gets just starts to brown.

Make the filling. While the crust is baking, mix together the blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, and lemon zest and juice.

Make the topping. To brown the butter, cook it in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter starts to foam. After about 5 minutes, the butter will start to brown as the milk solids cook. Once you see little brown specks (the solids), take the butter off the heat. It should smell nutty. In a bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour, cornmeal, and salt. Then pour the browned butter over it and mix everything together.

Put it all together and bake.  When the crust comes out of the oven, pour the filling over the top (it should be a magenta color by now!) and then crumble the topping over the blueberries. Bake for another 20-30 minutes until the topping sets — it won’t change color much, so you’ll have to test the firmness with your fingers.

Serve. It’s best to let bars to cool completely before cutting if you want everything to be neat. If you can’t wait, try to hold off for at least 5 minutes before digging in.

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It all started with apples.

Poor apples. They’ve had a rough go at it this year, and I missed apple picking. Unless you were on the ball, you probably missed apple picking around here too. Luckily, two of the farms at my Monday market still proudly display a full range of red and green and yellow beauties. I buy them in twos and threes and they hold me over until the next week.

My favorite varieties are Jonagold and Honeycrisp. In the afternoon, I pull out a paring knife and balance the dull side of its blade against my thumb, pushing through the rough, unwaxed skin and covering a plate with apple slivers. I pair the slices with a spoonful of sweet creamy peanut butter. Sometimes two spoonfuls.

Last week, I barely saw home, and the apples piled up. I had enough for a tarte tatin. But a tarte tatin can’t be eaten alone, so I invited a group over for dinner.

The group grew to ten, the tarte grew to two, and the apples, well, I no longer had enough of them. A quick run to the store for a few more apples, and dinner was on the way.

The guests arrived and we crowded around the table for eight set for ten.

It was a simple dinner. We started with soup. Next up, a kale salad with roasted beets and orange. Another salad brought by a friend. And a tortilla española* that was a last-minute addition when I realized soup and salad might not be enough.

Shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip, we drank wine and prosecco out of tumblers.

Ten soup bowls were swiped with bread, ten plates were scraped with knives. When I rose for seconds, I found on the buffet (also known as a microwave cart hastily cleared moments before everyone arrived) a few kale leaves swimming in a large bowl, a cube of avocado embracing a spoon, and a Molly scratching the last few dark bits of egg and potato stuck to a 14-inch (!) pan.

“Did I not make enough?” I whispered. Molly solemnly nodded.

I looked around. My guests were sprawled on the sofa, chairs, and floor.

Retreating to the kitchen, I pulled out the tarte tatins, apples still tucked under crusts whose edges were tinged with sticky scarlet pomegranate caramel. I covered each pan – first the blue skillet, then the orange – with a plate and flipped. I expected an apple or two to latch on to the skillets. I didn’t expect some of the apples to have turned into circles of mush. I guess a few of my mismatched apples** were better for sauce than pie.

I hid in the kitchen for a few moments, thinking. I spooned the clinging apples and mush from the skillets and arranged them as artfully as I could.

A smile on my face and a Times article in my head, I emerged with a tarte in each hand. “Pomegranate applesauce tarte tatin for dessert!”

* The tortilla española. A tortilla española is a Spanish potato omelette, similar to an Italian frittata. I followed Mark Bittman’s recipe from How to Cook Everything (the yellow cover).  For the recipe from the updated version of Bittman’s book of the same name (the red cover) , check out Molly’s story of her trip to Spain. Let me know if you’re interested in the version I made – I’ll gladly whip another tortilla and report back to you.

** The apples. I used a mix of market- and store-bought apples that included Mutsu, Jonagold, Honeycrisp, Gala, and Granny Smith. I did a  bit of research and I think the Honeycrisps were the sauce culprits.

Pomegranate apple(sauce) tarte tatin

Tarte tatin is a traditional French upside-down caramelized apple tart. Still obsessed with pomegranate, I found a recipe that combines this tart fruit with this sweet tarte (hehe!). I cut the sugar down to 1/2 cup and the tarte was still plenty sweet. I know that the recipe might seem daunting – make caramel? flip over a burning hot skillet?  - but if I can do it, so can you. I’ve made tarte tatins with pears and tomatoes, and there are a bunch of things I’ve picked up along the way.

First, the caramel. It’s pretty easy to burn the caramel, so you need to watch it closely. If you’re afraid the caramel is starting to burn, take the skillet off the heat immediately and assess the situation: let things cool down a bit, dip a fork in the caramelizing syrup, and carefully taste it. Carefully because you don’t want to burn your tongue. A slight burnt flavor – think crême brulée – is fine, but if you taste smoke, start over.

Then, the flip. The tarte will be prettier if you flip it just out of the oven. Get out your oven mitts and extra kitchen towels. Place a plate on top of the pan and cover the plate with a towel. Grasp the pan-plate-towel pile with oven mitted-hands, hold your breath for a moment, and turn the whole thing over. Some caramel might spill out onto the towel, but you’ll be fine because your hands will be protected. If you want to wait until the tarte cools, it will turn out almost as pretty, but a few apples will probably stick to the skillet. Just scoop them off and put them back on the tarte. 

1 pie crust or puff pastry (I make this sweet pâte sucrée or pâte brisée, or just buy puff pastry)

- 1 1/2 C pomegranate juice or 1/2 C pomegranate molasses/pomegranate syrup (thickened pure pomegranate juice; don’t bother with the ones that add sugar)

- 4-8 of  your favorite baking apples, depending on size (you want enough to fit tightly into your skillet); for me, the most reliable are Granny Smith

- 1/4 C (1/2 stick) butter (or margarine for a non-dairy tarte)

- 1/2 C sugar

- large pinch kosher salt

Prep. Preheat oven to 400ºF and let pie crust/puff pastry come to room temperature.

Reduce. Bring the pomegranate juice to a boil until it reduces by a third (down to 1/2 cup ) into a thick syrup. If you use purchased pomegranate molasses/syrup, you don’t need to boil anything.

Slice. Peel and core the apples, then slice into halves or quarters. I like halves, but you can fit more apples in if you use quarters.

Caramelize. Melt butter in a heavy oven proof 9- or 10-inch skillet and then sprinkle evenly with sugar. Cook over medium heat without stirring until the mixture begins to bubble all over and turns lightly golden. This should take about 3 minutes. Remove from  heat.

Cook. Tightly fill the skillet with apples, cut side up,  and sprinkle with salt. Keep in mind, the apples will shrink as they cook and you might be able to slip  in a few more slices midway. Return the skillet to medium heat and cook the apples without stirring  until a thick, deep amber syrup bubbles up between the fruit. (OK, even though you’re supposed to leave the caramel alone to do its thing, I usually flip the apples once or twice to make sure they soak up the caramel evenly. Just make sure to leave the cut ends up because when you flip the tart, you’ll want the rounded sides facing the top.) This will take about 20 minutes. Pour the pomegranate syrup over the apples – the mixture will bubble up. Cook until the juices further thicken. The apples will be a deep burgundy color. Remove from heat. With a spatula, make sure that the apples are tightly packed.

Tuck. Roll out the crust between two sheets of wax paper into a circle one inch larger than the skillet (i.e., leave an extra inch all around). Slide the crust over the skillet and tuck it in around the apples and at the edges of the skillet. The crust doesn’t have to be perfect because you’re going to flip it over anyway. Cut a few slits in the crust to let air escape.

Bake. Bake the tarte until the crust browns and the juices at the edge are thick and scarlet in color. This takes 25-30 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven and let cool for five minutes minute. (If you let the tarte cool for too long, the caramel will thicken and the apples are more likely to stick to the pan. But if you’re nervous, just flip it later.)

Flip. Place a large plate over the skillet. Using oven mitts and kitchen towels, hold the skillet and plate together and carefully flip over the tarte. Lift the skillet — if any apples are stuck to the skillet, just put them back into place on the crust. Let the tarte cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

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5773

I don’t like honey cake, which seems heresy to state right before Rosh Hashanah. After apples and round challah, honey cake is probably the most ubiquitous symbol of the New Year. Unfortunately it’s right up there with the green- and red-speckled fruit cake as a food more about tradition than about flavor.

You’ve probably figured out where this is going. I challenged myself to make a honey cake that I could be proud of. I spent every evening last week making honey cakes. You can read all about my trials (and finally success!) in my most recent column in the Jerusalem Post. If you’re in a rush, scroll down just a bit for the recipe and you’ll bake yourself a cake that’s really all about the honey. No nuts or fruits or coffee or alcohol. No fancy honey – plain old clover honey works great. You don’t even need a stand mixer.

If you’re still looking for a few good Rosh Hashana recipes, scroll down even further to a few dishes that I’ve made in years past. (And if your menu is set, please let me know what you’re making. I’m going down to Atlanta again, and somehow I always volunteer, er get roped into, cooking something.)

And finally, a quick housekeeping note: I’ve added a new page entitled Published. Check it out to catch up on some of the articles I’ve written.

Caramelized honey cake

I developed this cake to celebrate honey for a sweet Rosh Hashanah. It’s based on a Martha Stewart recipe that I made parve and adapted to better showcase the honey. I used soy milk, but almond milk should work well: use plain (not vanilla-flavored), full-fat milk alternative. Don’t go for the non-fat versions. Before you bake the cake, drizzle the batter with extra honey which caramelizes in the oven, helping the cake develop a crispy edge. I’ve tested the recipe with and without a stand mixer and both work well – so go ahead and make this one by hand if you’d like.

Serves 8-10

- 2 eggs

- 1/4 C granulated sugar

- 1/2 C packed dark-brown sugar

- 1/2 C plain unsweetened soy milk (don’t use vanilla flavor or non-fat; plain almond milk should work well too)

- 1/2 C vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the pan

- 1 C honey, divided

- 1 lemon for zest and juice (1 t zest, 1 T juice)

- 2 C all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan

- 3/4 t baking powder

- 1/2 t baking soda

- 1 t kosher salt

- 1 t ground cinnamon

Prep. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour a 10-inch springform or two 8X4-inch loaf pans.

 Mix. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix eggs and sugars on high speed with the paddle attachment until pale and thick, about 3 minutes. No mixer? Use a whisk and a little muscle – this will probably take 3-5 minutes depending on how strong you are! Add the soy milk, oil, 3/4 cup honey (reserve the remaining 1/4 cup for later), lemon zest, and lemon juice and keep mixing until everything is combined.

Fold. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a separate bowl (I use a fine mesh strainer to get out any lumps), and whisk together to mix. With a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet in two batches until well mixed. Don’t overwork the batter.

Fill. Fill the greased and floured pan(s) with the batter. Drizzle the remaining 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of honey over the batter, getting most of it around the edges.

Bake. Bake the cake – about 50 minutes for a round cake, 40 for two loaf pan until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Try not to open the oven until almost the end of baking because this cake does have a tendency to fall a bit in the middle if you move it too much. You should be able to see through the door when the center is no longer jiggly – give it another few minutes and poke it with a toothpick. I tend to start looking (through the door!) about 10 minutes before time is up. When it comes out, the top should be slightly sticky because of the honey.

Cool. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and carefully remove it from the pan.

***

Still planning your Rosh Hashanah menu? Here are a few things that I’ve made in the past that tie right into the New Year symbols and seasonal produce. Simanim, Hebrew for signs or omens, are the symbolic foods of Rosh Hashanah. A few years ago, my friend Sarah wrote up a great explanation of the simanim, many of which are based on word play – a great read!

Already know what you’re going to make? Please share!

- Round challah- If you have a tried and true challah recipe, I’ve figured out how to weave it into a round loaf.

- Darna challah - If you need a challah recipe. This one is from Ayelet, a chef in Panama City.

- Bread machine challah – If you need a challah recipe and have a bread machine (though, I’m sure you figured out that one on your own).

Arugula and pistachio salad with orange blossom dressing - A very simple salad, though some people don’t eat nuts on Rosh Hashanah (they’re believed  to represent sins).

Spicy butternut squash soup - Squash is a siman (singular of simanim). I wrote about this soup here and my wish for a spicy new year.

- Squash mash with balsamic onions - Yup, squash again.

- Pomegranate roasted carrots – Two simanim in one here – pomegranate and carrots. Pomegranate molasses (pomegranate syrup) is one of my favorite ingredients these days. It’s sticky, tart, and slightly sweet and perfect for the New Year.

- Two more recipes with pomegranate molasses, this time meat: Ana Sortun’s spoon lamb and then my adaptation of the recipe for French roast or brisket.

- Roast a chicken, using either the classic flavors of lemon and thyme or something more creative – maybe apple and cinnamon or roast atop a pile of leeks (siman).

- Fish is another siman. Here are recipes for sea bass and two salmon dishes; the techniques can be applied to other fishes as well.

- Honey cake (see above)

- Easy apple cake – A one bowl, one pan apple cake. No stand mixer necessary. Oh, and truly fabulous.

Apfelstrudel with cinnamon caramel – Apple strudel, using store bought puff pastry. A German classic. Leave out the pecans if you don’t eat nuts on Rosh Hashanah.

Tarte Tatin aux Poires et Vin – Upside-down pear tart with red wine caramel. If you’re feeling fancy.

- Plums are finishing up their season – try any of the three plum cakes I’ve made over the past few weeks.

I wish you all שנה טובה ומתוקה, shana tova u’metukah, a wonderfully sweet year filled with fun, adventure, and good food! See  you in 5773.

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“It’s almost zwetschgendatschi time,” Melanie informed me over lunch the other week.

Punctuated by my attempts to pronounce the name in the Swedish accent that I seem to adopt every time I try to speak German (find the real pronunciation here), Mel brought me up to speed.  Her family in Munich has a zwetschgen tree in the backyard. It bears small, deep purple plums that ripen over the span of a short week or two in late August/early September.  During that time, there’s a mad rush to use up all zwetschgen before they drop off the trees. Enter the zwetschgendatschi. It’s a cake made in a sheet pan nearly the size of the oven and uses up about half a trees worth of plums.

A week later, I found the first zwetschgen in the grocery store and bought about a dozen. I called Mel, we made plans for a Sunday of baking, and I set to work researching recipes. Following Mel’s guidelines very closely. The dough shouldn’t be too sweet. The zwetschgen should be sour. Streusel is optional, but not necessary. Whipped cream is not optional.

Over the next few days, I found two base recipes and studied technique. I practiced cutting and folding the plums into quarters while leaving the skin intact. This sounds like a lot of trouble, but when you’re arranging the plums in overlapping rows like roof shingles, jammed against each other all the way to the edge of the pan, you’ll be thankful for the efficiency. Because when you’re trying to use up a tree’s worth of fruit in one large cake, you want the zwetschgen packed as tightly as possible.

When Mel arrived at my place 10:30 am on Sunday morning, I was ready. But a quick glance at the mere pound of plums sent us straight to the grocery store for more. With three more pounds of plums in hand, we rolled up our sleeves and set to work.

We made a yeast dough, watching as my mixer kneaded it into a perfect ball. While it was rising, we carefully quartered our plums. There’s nothing like working side by side over a cutting board.

The dough doubled, I rolled it out and then we stretched and pushed it into the edges of the pan. We arranged the plums, gently pressing each one into the dough, tips upright in a tight phalanx formation. Datschi most likely comes from the Middle High German word detschen or datschen which means to press.

We sprinkled the plums with sugar, Mel reminding me not to make the cake to sweet, and then popped the tray into the oven.

While we waited, I made lunch. As we sat down to the table, we could smell the zwetschgen concentrating in the oven as they sank deeper into the sweet rising dough.

Plates cleared, Mel called her mother, then her brother, the sound of lively German in the background when I pulled the glistening cake out of the oven.

As the cake cooled and the juices pooled, I whipped up some cream sprinkled with confectioners sugar.

I carried the tray around my apartment, trying to find the perfect light for capturing its beauty. This shot was taken on a blanket on my balcony. (And then the blanket, splotched with a few sticky spots of juice, went straight into the washer.)

We finally cut into the cake into large rectangles, the knife slipping between zwetschgen and hitting the soft bread-like cake beneath and reaching the pan with a thud.

The scoop of whipped cream! Don’t leave it off. It slowly melted, the cold mingling with the warm, the sweet cutting the tart.

I invited a few other friends over that evening to help get through the pan and had just a few rectangles for the next day’s breakfast (and lunch) by which time the plum flesh had deepened from a golden green color to a rich ruby red, the syrup dyeing the dough nearly all the way through.

Happy weekend, all!

Zwetschgendatschi (Bavarian plum cake)

Zwetschgendatschi is a plum cake made in Germany (and nearby countries) with the small, oval zwetschgen plums (also called Italian prune plums or damson plums or quetsche in French) that ripen in early fall. The cake has a yeast dough and is jammed edge to edge with plums.  Pick out  plums that are just slightly tender. If they’re too ripe, they’ll fall apart when you cut into them. Plus, the whole point of the cake is to use up the plums before they pass their prime.

This cake is classically made in a sheet pan - I used a 13X18 cookie sheet with a raised edge.

Serves 12-15

- 1 C whole milk

- 1 T dry yeast (approximately one packet)

- 1 t + 1/2 C + 2 T sugar (you add sugar three different times)

- 1 t + 4 C flour

- 1/2 C butter (one stick), plus more for greasing

- pinch of salt

- 1 egg

- 1 lemon for zest

- 4 lbs zwetschgen (Italian plums)

- 1 pint heavy cream

- 2 T confectioners sugar

Proof. Warm milk  in a small pot until  lukewarm (don’t let it bubble). Remove from heat and sprinkle in the yeast, 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of flour. Cover with a cloth towel and set in a warm place for about 20 minutes until the top is frothy (i.e., proof that the yeast is alive and working).

Melt. Melt the butter and let it cool while the yeast is proofing.

Knead. In the bowl of your stand mixer (or just a regular bowl if you want to knead by hand), stir together sugar (1/2 cup), flour (4 cups), and salt. Add the milk mixture, melted butter (make sure it has cooled – you don’t want it to cook the egg), egg, and lemon zest. Knead until the dough comes together into a solid ball. Knead by hand for a few minutes. You shouldn’t need any extra flour while kneading.

Rise. Return the dough to your bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, poke a hole in the plastic, and place the bowl in a warm  place. Let the dough rise until doubled, about an hour.

Slice. You’re going to want to slice each plum into quarters. You can do it the old fashioned way – cut all the way around the pit and then cut each half in half, but this will make arranging the plums a bit more difficult. The other way sounds a bit more complicated, but works really well with these plums. Slice the plum on only one side and pluck out the pit (these plums are “freestone” ones, so the pits pop right out). Gently open the plum halves without cutting the skin. Make two more cuts to flatten the plum into quarters, still keeping the skin intact.

Preheat. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Press. Generously grease a large cookie sheet. When the dough has risen enough, knead it a few more times by hand and then roll it out into a rectangle around the size of the pan (don’t worry if it’s not exact). Transfer the dough to the greased pan and press and stretch it until it reaches the edges. It will initially spring back, but evenutally it will stay in place. Try to get the dough the same thickness all around.

Arrange. Place the plums quarters on the dough in layered rows, flesh side facing forward and with the stem tips facing up. If you’ve flattened the plums, lean each one up against the next, overlapping like shingles on a roof. Now you see why it’s worth the early effort of cutting the plums carefully.

Bake. Sprinkle the plums with sugar and  bake for about 30 minutes until the dough gets golden brown. Let cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before eating.

Whip. Whip together cream and confectioners sugar. Watch carefully so you don’t overwhip to make butter (trust me, I’ve done it).

Slice. Cut the cake into 3X4 or 3X5 rectantgular pieces.

Eat. Top each slice with a good spoonful of whipped cream. Have at it!

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I’m starting to sound like a broken record: I went to the farmers market, I bought too much, I  baked, I cooked, I baked.

But how anyone doesn’t fall into this pattern eludes me, especially as August draws to a close. I wrote my most recent Jerusalem Post column about the lush rainbow of tomatoes and berries and stone fruits here in the northeast and finding ways to savor them during the last days of summer. I wrote about the rush to relax, the urgent joie de vivre that these fruits instill. (For more on this topic, check out what my friend Leah recently wrote about peaches in Saveur.)

In the JPost article, I shared two recipes that do more than just use the best of summer. They do more than just highlight the best of summer. They intensify the best of summer.

First, what do you get when you toss a handful of baby tomatoes with thick pomegranate molasses and slip them under a puff pastry crust? You might remember this recipe - it’s a tomato tarte tatin the produces the most concentrated tomato taste that I’ve ever tasted. The pomegranate molasses sweetens and tartens the tomatoes as they melt into a jam-like pulp.

Second, what do you get when you slip a handful of plums into a cake batter tinged with lime and rose? Well, you’ve already seen that cake with its tart plum juice dripping into the sweet floral cake. On a plum kick these days these days, I recreated the flavors in a much simpler cake with a batter that uses only one bowl and five minutes of your time. Because, as we all know, the less time in the kitchen, the more time to bask in the sunshine and drink rosé in the evenings.

But I’m going to let you in on a little secret. These recipes are also dig-your-heels-in, don’t-let-summer-go kinds of recipes that recreate that summer feeling when the farmers markets are in the rear view mirror. The small tomatoes, with their high flesh-to-seed ratio, used in the tarte tatin are also the best kind to buy year-round when other tomatoes are wan and mealy. In fact, I first made this tarte tatin towards the end of spring.  As for the cake, use it as a base for any summer fruit that freezes well. I freeze fresh blueberries (I have a whole bag of wild ones in my freezer) and my mother likes peaches. Any change in texture of the fruit due to freezing doesn’t impact the cake since the fruit cooks and mushes and melts into the batter.

But, enough about looking ahead. For right now, let’s just look around.

***

P.S. Click here to catch up on any JPost articles that you might have missed.

***

Plum cake with lime and rose

This recipe was adapted from Rivka’s Easiest Cake Ever on Not Derby Pie. It lives up to its name as the simplest cake I’ve ever made. All you need is one bowl, one spoon, a cutting board and knife, and a pan. The batter is thick, but is still pourable. A few swipes of a spatula gets it right into the pan. The fruit juices ooze all over and dribble beautiful color throughout the cake. The plums I used were on the tart side, which played nicely against the sweet cake. I added lime zest and rose water (available in any Middle Eastern store, rose water is a nice complement to any red fruit including berries), but they can be replaced by equal amounts of lemon zest and vanilla.

Any type of juicy fruit works. Come fall, I make this cake with apples that I briefly cook them down with a bit of sugar to help them release their juices.

Serves 8-10

-  6-8 small plums or 4-6 large plums

-  1 C flour

-  3/4 C sugar

-  2 eggs

-  1/2 C canola oil

-  1 t baking powder

-  1 t rose water (or vanilla)

-  1 lime for zest

- Optional: 2-3 T demerara sugar, also called sugar in the raw or turbinado sugar

Prep. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan, springform or square pan. (If you want to plate this, use a springform; otherwise, just serve it out of the pan.) Cut the plums into wedges (6 wedges per small plum, 8 wedges per large).

Mix. Mix together the remaining ingredients (except for the demerara sugar). You can mix this all by hand in less time than it takes to drag your stand mixer out of the cabinet.

Arrange. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. The batter is thick, so you’ll need a spatula to scoop it all out and then spread it evenly in the pan. Arrange the plum slices however you want and sprinkle with demerara sugar.

Bake. Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

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My great-uncle Ludwig lived in Paris where he and his wife Marta owned a fur shop in the center of the city. The first time I visited Paris with my family, Ludwig and Marta invited us to Furriers Tuileries for coffee. We walked along a small street nestled between the shops of Rue Saint Honoré and Rue de Rivoli to find Ludwig standing in the doorway of the cozy store, his bright blue eyes smiling when he saw us approaching.

Surrounded by coats and hats, we sat on straight-backed cafe chairs around a small round table laid with cheese and crackers and fruit – tiny plums and peaches. The fruit was sliced. The conversation was somewhat formal as the grown-ups caught up on the years since my parents’ last visit.

I balanced a small plate on my knees and covered it with crackers and fruit. When I was ready for seconds, I tentatively reached for another cracker, this time spreading it with soft creamy cheese, leaving behind the chalky white exterior. It was my first taste of room temperature cheese. It was not my last.

Ludwig and Marta eventually sold the store and Marta passed away. Whenever I visited Paris, Ludwig and I would meet in his apartment and sit on his brocade sofa and share a platter of cheese and crackers and slices of ripe fruit. Gradually our conversations became less formal. We shifted from English to French and had more to talk about than how I was doing in school.

When Ludwig visited New York, the whole family would go out to eat. When it was my turn to choose a place for lunch, I’d suggest a brasserie for steak frites. When it was his turn, he’d suggest a diner in Queens. He liked fried eggs and hash browns.

He once brought my mother an Hermès scarf that had belonged to Marta. As we sat in the diner, waiting for our food to arrive, I fingered the scarf’s hand-rolled edge and slightly rounded corners that indicated it was a vintage piece.

The last time I saw Ludwig, he sliced fruit in his tiny Parisian kitchen while I browsed the living room walls, the paintings, the books concealed behind the paned glass doors of the cabinet. There were a lot of history books.

After we chatted, he insisted on accompanying me in a taxi to my rented apartment. We chatted easily in the back seat as we rode from one end of the city to the other, crossing the Seine into the Left Bank. He got out of the taxi and walked around to open my door, asking the driver to wait until I disappeared through the courtyard and into my temporary home.

As I tell this story, I realize that it seems to have written itself and meandered to where I didn’t expect it to.

I meant to start off with a phrase that my mother told me was Ludwig’s life philosophy: n’achetez pas des bananes vertes - don’t buy green bananas. Though I never heard him say it, I often repeat this phrase to myself when I’m in an outdoor market at the peak of the season. Even though I didn’t know Ludwig well, his life always something of a mystery to me, my memories of our rare visits are strong. This French side of my family that introduced me to petite Parisian apartments, stores of another time, and fruit that you slice rather than chomp.

The recipe that reminded me of Ludwig is a blueberry peach tart. The peaches, whose scent welcomed me to last week’s farmers market, are sliced and arranged atop an almond frangipane layer. The blueberries nearly bursting with juice scatter in the center. The tart was baked for a celebration – my friend Shoshana had just defended her dissertation. Our friends gathered at my place for tart and many glasses of champagne.

The moral of this story may be obvious, but I’m not a moral-of-the-story kinda gal. Nonetheless, the tart makes me think of Ludwig and Ludwig makes me think of beautifully fresh fruit, careful preparation and making family feel like beloved guests and guests feel like family.

Blueberry peach frangipane tart

This recipe is very similar to the pear frangipane tart I made several months ago, but I changed the citrus flavor from orange to lime. This recipe may make a bit more frangipane than you need. You only want to fill the crust about halfway to the top.

Makes a large (9.5-10 inch) tart.

- 1 batch pâte sucrée or pie dough: the recipe that I use is here and here – make sure not to work the dough too much – you just need a few pulses. Also, before rolling the dough out, remember the fraissage step: gather the dough together into a pile, and then with the palm of your hand, push it away from you against the counter a few times. This will help make the dough flakey.

- 3 T unsalted butter (or margarine if making non-dairy)

- 1 1/2 C almond flour – sometimes called almond meal, this is very finely ground almonds. You can find in made with raw almonds (the flour will be light brown) or blanched almonds (the flour will be a very light beige). You could also make your own by grinding up 1 1/2 C blanched almonds – but be sure to add half the sugar to avoid making almond butter in  your food processor.

- 2/3 C sugar

- 1/4 t salt

- 1 t vanilla

- 1 lime for zest

- 2 eggs

- about 3C fruit: 3 C blueberries or 3 peaches and 1.5 C blueberries; other stone fruits will work as well

Prep. Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly grease the bottom of a 9.5 – 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

Roll. Roll the pastry dough out between two sheets of wax or parchment paper (to make it easier to transfer to the pan) into a circle about 2 inches larger than your pan. Remove the top sheet of paper. Gently lay the dough on the pan and slowly remove the second piece of paper. Press the dough into the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Roll your pin across the top of the pan to trim off any excess dough. Use this excess to patch any cracks.

Chill. Refrigerate the tart shell for 30 minutes until firm.

Bake. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Place a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper (not wax paper which will smoke) on the raw dough and fill with pie weights or raw rice. You want to weigh down the crust so it doesn’t form bubbles. Bake the dough for 10-15 minutes until it just starts to turn golden. Place on a cooling rack. Keep the oven on.

Mix. Melt the butter (I use my microwave). In a medium bowl, mix together almonds flour/meal, sugar, salt, vanilla, and lime zest. Lightly beat the eggs and then mix them in. Pour in the cooled butter and mix. The frangipane will be a bit gritty looking.

Slice. Slice peaches (or other stone fruits) into even slices. I got about 16 per peach because I like the slices thin.

Fill. Spread the frangipane in a thin layer on the tart shell, about half of the way up the edges. Don’t feel compelled to use all of the frangipane because you don’t want it to overflow after you add the fruit. Arrange the fruit as artistically as you’d like, but keep it in a single layer.

Bake. Bake for 35-45 minutes. Check the tart after 30 minutes and then every few minutes until the frangipane turns golden and is no longer jiggly. Let cool before serving.

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