Tag Archives: celebrations

So we beat on, boats against the current

There’s new scaffolding up by the New York Life building. This time it’s far more imposing and permanent.  Walking home late the other night, I noticed it and that it half obstructs the old “Interboro Subway Line” sign. A relic of the past, certainly, but a personal anchor, nonetheless.

At the very least, I liked seeing it.

Thankfully the neon glasses on 27th street are still there, bright as ever, reminding me at of Dr.T. J. Eckleburg.

Even so, there’s no doubt about it—the neighborhood is changing, again. If you can even call it a neighborhood, which I don’t suppose you can, since it’s mostly hotels and office buildings, but it suits me. And, it’s home.

You can’t stop progress.

I’ve been meaning to tell you about this cake and the story behind it for more than a month now.

Time gets away from me.

And, so, to go back to December 2011—each year, I cook my mother an elaborate birthday dinner. I’ve talked about it here before. It’s an all day affair. Think: cosmopolitans with freshly squeezed key lime juice, risotto, any manner of dessert, well, you get the idea. This year, however, owing to a new job with a different vacation policy, I only had a few days off around the end of the year which, among other things, meant less time visiting my family and by extension, less time to cook.

I suppose, then, my mother can be forgiven for suggesting that I make her birthday cake from boxed mix. Yes, boxed mix. I was incredulous—definitely not a good way to start a birthday meal. I couldn’t help it, for a birthday it seemed to defeat the whole purpose.

For me, cooking, opening up my table, is an act of respect and affection. The whole point is taking the time out, of telling someone that they’re worth the extra time and steps it takes to make something from scratch. So, a boxed mix simply wouldn’t do. Not for the occasion and certainly for my mother. After all, she was the woman who taught that baking was a meditation of sorts. To this day, when things get stressful, she takes out her measuring cups.

It’s getting cold here and the work shows no signs of abating. I’ve taken to leaving my own measuring cups on the counter, rather than putting them away.

Make of that what you will.

Chocolate Fudge Cake
Adapted from here

For the Cake
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
3 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 tsp vanilla extract, divided
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
3 cups flour
3 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/3 cup boiling water

For the ganache
18 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp butter, cut up
1 tsp vanilla

To Make the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans. Dust with flour, tap out excess.

In a large bowl, beat together 3/4 cup butter and sugar with electric mixer or medium speed until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Add eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla and beat until well blended. Add melted chocolate and beat 1-2 minutes; set aside.

Mix together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to chocolate mixture in two additions alternately with buttermilk. Beat until well blended. With mixer on low speed, add boiling water and beat until smooth (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake 35-40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans 10 minutes, then unmold onto racks and let cool completely.

To Make the Chocolate Ganache:
In a 2 quart glass measure, combine chocolate chips and heavy cream. Heat in a microwave oven on HIGH 3 minutes or until melted and smooth when stirred. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour, or until ganache holds its shape and is thick enough to spread on cake.

To Assemble the Cake:
Cover a cake layer with a little more than 1/3 of chocolate ganache. Set second layer on top. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining ganache. Refrigerate cake 3-4 hours, or until ganache is firm, before serving.

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Cause for Celebration

Indulge me if you will. This is my hundredth post.

I was at a party recently when I finally realized how far I had come from here. The fact that I had a blog had come up in conversation and I went through my usual explanation of it—how many months after being restructured at work, I was feeling stymied and started to worry that I’d lose what rudimentary knowledge html I had; how a food blog seemed a better vehicle for creativity since I wouldn’t be mining my personal life for content, which had been something that I wanted to avoid.

Jared stopped me.

“Why not just say, I have a food blog because I like cooking?” he had asked.

I started to protest. A year and some odd months later, and I still don’t think of myself as a food blogger.

“Fine,” he said, “But it sounds so much better. And more interesting.”

The thing is, this project has morphed. I still code all of the posts myself, just so I remember. But, this blog has also gone from being a thing that I do just because to a thing that I look forward to doing. It has become an archive of my cooking and a way to challenge myself, coming up some outlandish projects and new staples.

I’m just as likely to check the recipe index here when I’m cooking as I am to consult a cookbook. I’m hoping that some of you out there are, too.

And, while originally, I took pains to keep the personal out, it has slowly seeped in. I like that.

It seems fitting, too, that my hundred post is one in which I tackle one of my long standing kitchen fears—pie crust. It’s always seemed unnecessarily fussy to me, with the ice water and the need to keep everything chilled just so, and I’ve never been certain it’s worth all the effort. But, after going through the effort of freezing sour cherries during their short lived season, it seemed like it was finally time to try.

I’m ambivalent, which is why I’ve stuck to topping the tart with an almond crumb.

Who knows, maybe lattice crusted will be the next step? Perhaps it’s something to aim for with my two hundredth post.

It’s certainly nice to have goals towards which to aspire.

To make the crust:
1 cup white flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3-4 TBS ice water
1/2 cup (8 TBS) butter, chilled and divided

In a food processor, combine the flours, cinnamon, and butter. Pulse about 10-15 times, adding ice water slowly until the mixture forms into loose pebbles. Turn out of your mixer and form into a disc. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

To Make the filling:
4 large peaches, diced
3 large shiro plums, diced
1 1/2 cups cherries (sour if you have them)
1 TBS lemon juice
1/3 cup granulated sugar, if using sour cherries. 1/4 cup if using sweet.
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 TBS cornstarch

In a large bowl, combine the peaches, plums, cherries, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and corn starch. If you are using sweet cherries, scale back the granulated sugar to 1/4 of a cup or less. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the tart.

To Make the Crumb:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
4 TBS butter
3 TBS granulated sugar
3 TBS dark brown sugar
1/4 cup almonds
1 tsp cinnamon

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the almonds have been coarsely ground. Chill for at least twenty minutes before using.

To assemble:
While you are assembling, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roll out the dough and place it into a 9×13″ pan. Using a fork, poke holes along the bottom. Place the tart pan on a cookie sheet.

Pour in the fruit filling, spreading evenly throughout the pan, then top with the almond crumble.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, rotating halfway through. Allow the tart to sit for at least twenty minutes before serving so that the juices can cool.

Serves Eight

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And, to you.

Today is my sister’s birthday. I have a cake planned, and, if I can pull it off, I’ll tell you about it.

Until then, here are some flowers that we spotted last weekend along Park Avenue.

This counts as a gift, right?

Happy Birthday, Robyn!

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