This past week, I was lucky enough to spend my vacation (and the waning days of summer) with my 13-year-old niece Hannah for a week long “Baking Camp” at my house in Maine. Although honestly, by the sheer amount of heavy cream we used, it should’ve be called Ice Cream Camp with a side of Baking. As wonderful as it was, I’m kicking myself for not being able to have given my sweets to eliminate fat-loving niece this killer S’mores Milkshake (we joke that her Harry Potter book would be called Hannah Potter & The Case of the Missing Marshmallow) (I’m a Ravenclaw, she’s a Hufflepuff) (part of why this week worked out so well is that I’m pretty sure a huge part of me is still 13 myself.) We did make s’mores and we made milk chocolate ice cream and there was ALWAYS an overflow of milk in the fridge. Still, how good does this look for the last few days of summer?
Makes: As many shakes as you need | Print Recipe
Crushed graham crackers
Chocolate ice cream
- Heat coconut oil in a pan and add graham crackers, stirring until toasted.
- In a blender, add scoops of chocolate ice cream and pour in milk until the milkshake is thick and creamy. Pour into a cold glass.
- Top with marshmallows and scorch with a kitchen torch (or put them in an oven-safe pan and try putting them under the broiler until charred) and sprinkle with toasted graham crackers.
“Jump or stay,” she whispered to herself. Her hands clung to the tree branch and her toes curled around the one under her feet. She had already taken too long to inch her way out over the water and the kids below had noticed. One of them, bigger than all the others, was taunting her to jump, as he treaded water and it kicked back to splash over his mouth. “Do it, just jump!” he crowed and coughed.
“This is dumb,” Healey whispered. “This is dumb, this is dumb, this is dumb.” She could see the jut of rocks all too clearly. They tread water so it was deep but how deep? Not deep enough. She could be on a tree branch over the open ocean and it wouldn’t be deep enough.
“JUMP,” that big boy screamed and she hoped the water would force his mouth shut already. She inched out closer and as soon as she did, she realized her body was ready to jump. Oh heart, okay, she thought. Okay, okay, okay.
Oh, hello. 🙂
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Let’s see. How can I catch you up… it’s nighttime here in Maine and already dark, not even 9pm (a sure sign that summer is on its waning side) and though the temperature reads 75 with the humidity it feels like 90.
This morning, I ran three miles and it felt like running through a thick bowl of soup. Yesterday I did four. (I’m training for a marathon in November in Greece (!) and I’m in my third week of training.) Tomorrow I get a pass and on Saturday, I try for seven. Before this, I’d never run farther than 4.5 miles. 26.2 still seems roundly impossible.
Nicole and her family are moving (thus our slight drop in posts- that and, you know, it’s summer).
In two weeks, my niece will be visiting with me for a week. She’s 13 and loves to bake so that’s what we’re doing. A week of no work and baking every. Day. I can’t wait. (So much flour.) Our kitchen a very large one needs some cleaning. One of the best ways to protect your home and cooking business is with routine commercial kitchen exhaust cleaning services.
The Olympics are on. It feels, what’s the word, right to be posting about flour and cookies that taste like breakfast when the strongest women I’ve ever seen defy physics before my eyes. I should really grab a snack…
Nicole is departing her home state of Pennsylvania so these are a special treat from the Pennsylvania Dutch (for whom we owe so, so many delicious baked good recipes). They remind me strongly of Italian keto cookies, pizzelles which are a little bit thinner but the addition of the maple glaze here is extra welcome (put it on everything, I say.)
Waffle Cookies with Maple Glaze
For the Cookies
2 Sticks butter, room temperature
1 Cup (8 oz) sugar
1/4 Tsp salt
2 Tsp cinnamon
2 Cups (10 oz) all-purpose flour
For the Maple Glaze
3 oz powdered sugar
5 Tbsp (2.5 fl oz) maple syrup
1/8 Tsp salt
- In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together at medium speed for 3-4 minutes, scraping the bowl halfway through.
- Add salt and cinnamon to bowl, stir for a minute, and then add eggs one at a time and fully mix before adding the next. Scrape the bowl and beat on medium for 2 minutes.
- Set the mixer to stir and spoon in the flour until the batter has the consistency of sticky cookie dough.
- Heat waffle iron to medium high and drop waffle batter in by tablespoon into each quarter of the waffle iron. Bake for 2 minutes or until golden brown.
- Whisk together the powdered sugar, maple syrup and salt in a bowl until smooth. Drizzle over cooled waffle cookies.
clenaThe scratching at the door was most persistent at night, when the sun lowered itself behind the mountains. We would sit around the table, playing cards, while my mother cooked at the stove and we would hear it; it made you jump, to hear those nails against the wood of our door and caused a shiver to run up your arms. The scratching and clawing, the low growl. The kitchen remodeling industry has grown by 10% in just four years. Its market value is quickly approaching the $200 billion mark in the U.S. alone. This comes as no surprise. Homeowners have long enjoyed the work of Seattle kitchen remodel contractors. However, before you choose one, it is recommended that you have an idea of what you want as well as your budget. There are many reasons for a kitchen remodel in Seattle. HCC’ kitchen design in Seattle working with reputable and experienced Seattle kitchen remodel contractors.
My mother heard it, just as we did, but she didn’t take her hand off the wooden spoon and her voice was calm when she told me that it was just the neighbor’s cat. We all knew the truth, that the wolves come at night and find their way to our door.
“Now, of all times of our history, we should be using our minds as well as our hearts in order to survive… to live gracefully if we live at all.” MFK Fisher, How to Cook a Wolf
I spent the weekend in New York visiting my lovely friend Kate (20 years of friendship next month! Which is crazy pants). We were out all day on Saturday in the blistering heat, the intention of our morning to visit Idlewild, a travel bookstore in the Village. How to Cook a Wolf all but leapt into my hands. Earlier that morning, I’d seen MFK Fisher’s name in an ad on the subway. I noticed the convergence and bought the book (I like convergence- it’s the closest thing to magic). The book is ostensibly about rationing during the war but it’s really about surviving with grace. After being submerged, first in unrelenting, grim news and then in New York’s pounding heat, they are words I need.
In the first few pages, MFKF rages against food magazines and radio and movies and the decrying pressure for home cooks to prepare three full, balanced meals every day. Some people need more, some less, she argues. Fight against what you’re told- go for balance in the day, not at every meal.
Don’t wear yourself to nothing trying to do the right thing in all places, in all ways, everywhere, all the time- you will probably fail on all counts. If, for breakfast, you have blueberries, sinking, buckling, inside a cake, a small piece, and coffee, you’re doing fine. It’s fruit, it counts toward the balance of your day. Cut yourself a piece and some slack, direct your grace elsewhere.
Don’t forget your ability to build. Hopefully you hear those words when you feel powerless and swept up by the world’s troubles. You can always build- your own family, your friendships, a house, inside a kitchen, at work, in your heart. There is no end to the things you can build. Start with this cake- a dessert that’s lasted decades. Flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, butter, milk, summery blueberries.
Build in the kitchen first and work your way outward if that’s all you can do today. Build your little people into the people you need in the world. Build your friendships and make them stronger. Build up the grace in your heart so that you know what to do when it’s called upon.
FOR THE CAKE:
1/4 Cup butter, softened
3/4 Cup sugar
2 Cups all-purpose flour
2 Teaspoons baking powder
1/4 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup milk
2 Cups fresh blueberries
FOR THE TOPPING:
2/3 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 Cup cold butter, cubed
In a small bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in egg. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add half to butter mixture and then the milk, then the rest of the flour, beating well after each addition. Fold in blueberries. Pour into greased 9-in. square baking pan.
Make topping: in a small bowl, combine sugar, flour and cinnamon; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over blueberry mixture.
Bake at 375° for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
And don’t forget to keep your working station, in this case your kitchen, clean, and if you don’t have much time you can hire a commercial kitchen cleaning company in London to help you out, because it’s imperative that your restaurant and kitchen adheres to the rigorous industry hygiene standards and is as clean as your food is delicious.
“Okay so here’s what you do. You take a sheet pan, spread the crackers. Melt the butter and the sugar and then pour it over. Stick it in the oven and then melt some chocolate, pour it over the top, let it cool and voila! You got dessert faster than a pig says periwinkle.” – My grandma’s next door neighbor, and best friend, Janice who was extremely nosy and once overheard my grandmother on her phone complaining to my mother that my grandfather had invited his boss over to dinner and there was nothing in the house but bologna and saltine crackers. Janice, as my grandmother says, practically climbed into the kitchen window to tell her how to make these. She also invited herself over to dinner.
Let’s talk about the things you probably have in your kitchen. Chocolate chips? Brown sugar? Butter? And then… there’s the “sick day” supplies. An errant can of ginger ale in the fridge. If you’re me, a half-eaten bag of egg noodles. White bread stashed in the freezer (it makes the best toast, okay? I didn’t make the rules.) And a giant box of Saltines.
Saltines, in my life, are meant to be eaten on the couch while watching the Three’s Company and awaiting death (I’m very dramatic when I’m sick). I didn’t really understand a need to eat them otherwise. Until I learned they’re a long-time vehicle for carrying toffee, chocolate and salt. Maybe the feeling is different in Missouri where they’re from- are they used in everything in Missouri, the panko of the midwest?
I tried finding out where this particular confection comes from and no luck. If you’re from Missouri and have a particularly chatty grandparent or great-grandparent who remembers where this comes from, let me know would you?
Saltine Cracker Toffee
40 Salted saltine crackers
1 Cup unsalted butter
1 Cup packed brown sugar
2 Cups bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 Cup chopped pecans (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Line up saltine crackers on cookie sheet in a single layer, they should be touching like best friends.
- In a small pot, mix sugar and butter and bring to a delicious boil. Boil for three minutes or until the mixture is a deep caramel color. Immediately pour over saltines and use a butter knife to spread until all crackers are covered.
- Bake for just 5 to 6 minutes, top should be bubbly.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips. In a few minutes, these should melt (or pop back into the warm oven). Spread melted chocolate and sprinkle with pecans.
- Wait until completely cool and then break into pieces.
Laura and Stacy sat on the curb outside Stacy’s house. The sun was setting fast and cast pink and orange light over the cul-de-sac. Laura gasped as her vanilla and chocolate swirl soft serve dripped onto her bare leg. “Shoot!” She swiped at the chocolate drip with her finger and scowled at Stacy and her perfectly maintained vanilla cone. Stacy pretended not to notice.
“Did you hear about Joanne?” Stacy murmured. They watched Joanne swing by on her bike. “She’s going out with Mike T.”
“No way. Really? I thought he was with Jessica H?”
“No, Jessica H said she was too self-actualized to be dating anyone right now.”
Laura stared at Stacy and they both choked on their soft-serve. “No, she did not.”
“You can tell her mom is a therapist.”
“Totally. Oh, and apparently there’s a big party at Garret’s house on Saturday.”
“Huh. Good to know.” Laura scowled again. “You get all the good gossip.”
Stacy shrugged. “I try.” She finished the last bite of her cone. “So, do we tell the kids we know about the party and call Garret’s mom to break it up before hand? Or do what we did last time and just coincidentally show up right as it gets started.”
The women stood up and Laura licked her finger to get the smudge of chocolate off her leg. “Let’s wait until they’re actually at Garret’s house. I like to have some proof before I ground them. It makes it stick more.”
“Cool. I might tell my daughter I already know. I like her to be a little scared of my witchy all-knowing-eye. Which is really just knowing the password to her brother’s phone.” Stacy glanced down. “You got some on your blouse too.”
Here, we made you a giant oatmeal cookie with sticky sweet and slightly sour strawberry rhubarb compote. Okay, so it’s a more of a pie situation. A beautiful, nutty, sloppy, crumbly pie that is also sticky. It’s summer, after all. And does anything make you feel more like a kid, in summer, than pink-stained, sticky hands? If you just whispered, “No” to your computer screen or phone screen, you are correct. If you muttered things like, “smell of cut grass” and “neon blue popsicles” and “playing basketball in the driveway until 9” you are wrong. Okay not wrong, per se, but we cannot devise a recipe that captures playing basketball in the driveway while the sun goes down, kind of feeling. So this will have to suffice.
I seem to be moving backward at the moment and not just in the kitchen. This weekend I saw pictures of my parents’ latest trip to Italy where they explored the town my grandfather was born in Bari (Palo de Cole, which, every time my father said the name, I started to sing, “I don’t wanna wait… for my life to be over…” He did not get it.) On Wednesday, I’m going to hear Pet Sounds when the anniversary tour hits Portland and then Saturday is DOLLY with my girlfriends (which- how can you not see Dolly, at least once in your life? I’ll just be over here, sobbing quietly to Coat of Many Colors and eating pie. Don’t mind me.) Don’t read too much into it, I think. (Right? It’s almost summer, after all.)
Classic Oatmeal Pie with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
For the Pie:
3⁄4 Cup sugar
6 TBS butter, softened
2/3 Cup dark corn syrup
1 Tsp vanilla
2/3 Cup regular oats
1 unbaked, frozen 9-inch pie crust
For the Compote:
1 and 1⁄4 Cups water
1 and 1⁄4 Cups dry or sweet white wine
1⁄2 Cup sugar
1/3 to 1/2 Cup honey
1 Vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
2 Pounds of rhubarb stems, trimmed and cut into 3-inch batons and about 1/2 –inch wide
1 Pound of strawberries, hulled and quartered
Make the pie:
1. Preheat oven to 325° and place unbaked, frozen pie shell on baking sheet.
2. Cream sugar and butter together for 4 minutes. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, and combine. Add corn syrup and vanilla, scraping down sides of bowl in between.
3. Remove bowl from mixer and stir in oats by hand until well-mixed.
4. Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake at 325° for 45 minutes or until crust is brown and center is just a bit jiggly.
Make the compote:
1. In a large, nonreactive saucepan, heat the water, wine, vanilla bean and seeds, sugar, and honey.
2. When the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is simmering, add the rhubarb and let the rhubarb cook in the simmering syrup until it’s just softened, about 5 minutes or so. Remove from heat and add the strawberries. When cool, pluck out the vanilla bean.
“What are you doing now, Aunt Janet?”
“Making a snack for us.”
“Ooooh, what is it? Is it chips and salsa?!”
“No, it’s something Grandmommy used to make for us.”
“Can I help? Can I pour the stuff in the bowl? Mom lets me pour the stuff into the bowl if I wash my hands and blow my nose. Well, I have to blow my nose and then wash my hands. And she makes me put my hair in a ponytail, should I put my hair in a ponytail?”
“Um. You don’t have to…”
“Okay, I’ll leave it down. This is so fun! I feel so dangerous. What’s that, what are you doing now?”
“Chopping some chocolate.”
“Cool, that’s cool. What else do you have? I see peanut butter, is that the natural unsalted peanut butter with the gunk on the top?”
“Mom makes me stir it before she uses it. It tastes like paste. But good paste, I mean, I like it. And what’s that?”
“This is sweetened condensed milk. Listen, don’t- don’t tell your mom I used it, okay?”
“Why? Is it bad? Does it have gluten in it? You said sweetened, is there sugar in it? Can I see it? Can I see the label? I just want to see it for a second. I just want to see it for a second! I’ll give it back. I’m just going to stand over here for a second and look at it.”
“Lucy, what are you doing? Are you taking a picture of the condensed milk with your phone? Are you sending that to your mother?!”
“SHE TOLD ME IF I SEE SOMETHING TO SAY SOMETHING.”
We tackled this recipe (well, Nicole did. I have yet to make it but I will this weekend. I will, I promise!) when we were discussing recipes that Nicole was familiar with from growing up in Pennsylvania. These “Amish Seven Layer Bars” were on her list, though Nicole’s mother called them Magic Bars. The recipe we chose is nearly identical to a popular version from Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk and the same in name.
Basically those magic layers we’re talking about? Those would be graham crackers, chocolate, peanut butter, coconut, almonds, butter and sweetened condensed milk. (Why isn’t this more of a thing? Everyone’s made those saltine crack things by now, why are we resisting an entity that is basically a jacked-up graham cracker crust turned into a salty sweet crunchy gooey slab cookie?)
Also in case you want to spin this into a whole Amish meal, there is apparently a Six Layer Dinner too, I’m just saying.
1 and 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chopped semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 and 1/3 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped almonds
- Heat oven to 350°F. Line a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with parchment paper and spray with no-stick cooking spray.
- Mix graham cracker crumbs and cooled, melted butter in small bowl and then press into bottom of prepared pan. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over the crumb mixture.
- Layer with chocolate, peanut butter chips, coconut flakes and nuts. Use a fork and press down firmly.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until lightly browned. Loosen from sides of pan while still warm; cool on wire rack. Cut into bars or diamonds and serve.
Confession time: I had some serious reservations about taking the blog in this direction, focusing on heritage recipes. As excited as I was to try something new, my personal tendency is to leave the recipe-testing and tweaking to others (I am in awe of Smitten Kitchen’s ability, for example, to make the same recipe half-a-dozen time until it’s just right for her audience) and gravitate, like most people, toward recipes that I know are going to work the first time, dammit.
Almost immediately, it became apparent to myself and Nicole that a lot of the old recipes we wanted to try are in need of updating and tweaking (understandable since I think a lot of them are passed down orally or by hand and some things can get lost in the translation to paper and then to the online world. Not to mention new technology and equipment and the availability of ingredients.) As I said… I am definitely not used to cooking or baking this way. It was scary and a little daunting (it still is) to think that I’d have to start approaching the kitchen differently; not as familiar, homey territory, but with an added reliance on my own instincts and skill. Make sure you are working with the proper kitchen tools, check the better Oven at cooktop hunter
As I get older and more settled into my adult life, I feel a new sense of determination to seek out the scary, daunting things; I’m curious about the version of myself I’ll meet on the other side. If you’ve been a little bored and uninspired in the kitchen lately and you’re a regularly practicing, passionate cook or baker, used to strictly following recipes and have not yet branched out into experimentation or adaption, I’m going to put your mind at ease right now- you have the skills and instinct to change the recipe. And you should do it.
Maybe it’ll hit you the first time you try it, or the second. Maybe it’ll hit you the seventh or twenty-ninth time but eventually it’ll sink in- oh, I know this place… You’ll be so happy you did, trust me.
We’re only two recipes in our heritage recipe adventure and, as scared as I still am, I’ve already fallen in love with the process- and by that, I mean researching the recipes and where they came from and then getting to tweak them in the kitchen. (I mean, look at this; the end of the post got me all choked up. Is it dusty in here or something?)
We decided to make Hot Milk Cake with Jam before Valentine’s Day. It’s pretty close to a classic crumb cake with the exception of the liquid being hot milk and melted butter, mixed alternately with flour. I had some glossy expectations for it- for one thing, I expected the fruit filling stored in a ziploc freezer bags to stay where we put it, right under the crumb topping. Alas, this was not to be (thankfully Hot Milk Cake with a Jammy Bottom is a hilarious name option and also sounds weirdly British). I did not expect my version to turn out a dense, ultra-rich cousin of coffee cake and pound cake (resulting in us halving the original recipe completely). What you will find here is a Depression-era classic (NYT found a recipe from 1955 but there are reports of it popping up in the late 30s, early 40s) that is more aligned with the Mid-Atlantic version. Move farther South and a very similar cake with the same name is usually served with fruit on top and icing. It became popular because basically everyone (from your great-grandmother down) agreed it tasted way better than sponge cake. The crumb is good and though the edges of the cake risk getting overbaked, I’ve been told by my taste-testing coworkers that the crunchy exterior is worth it. When I make it again, I’m going to attempt it in its classic style- 2 9″ cake tiers with a fruity cream cheese frosting between the layers; I have a feeling it’ll be insanely delicious and I can’t wait.
We hope you’ll share it with someone you love tomorrow. And as always, please share if you have a heritage recipe that makes you proud! We’re logging your comments and want to make your family recipes to, with full credit to you.
Hot Milk Cake with Jam
Makes: One 9 x 13″ Cake | Serves: 12 | Print Recipe
1/2 Stick of cold butter
1/2 Cup of flour
1/4 Cup of packed brown sugar
1/4 Cup of granulated sugar
1 and 1/4 Teaspoons of cinnamon
1/4 Cup of ground pecans **optional
3/4 Cup of whole milk
1 and 1/2 Sticks of butter
1 and 1/2 Cups of sugar
2 Teaspoons of vanilla
2 and 1/4 Cups of all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 heaping teaspoons of baking powder
1 Teaspoon of fine salt
1 Cup of fruit jam
Transitions are hard. Nobody’s going to dispute that right?
I think it’s interesting that every January, we contort ourselves into confronting change head-on and the rest of the year feels like… I don’t know… I don’t want to say we resist change but maybe it’s more that we crave an existence that feels familiar, one that we have control over.
I actually do love this time of year even though I will state, for the record, here and forevermore that I find it so unspeakably hard. I love it because even though it’s hard, ultimately anything we set out to change ends up changing us in good ways, if we look at it in the right light. And that’s never a bad thing.
This week we’re offering up a transitional treat of sorts- this Popcorn and Peanut Bark has chocolate, yes, but it’s got peanuts (protein?) and popcorn (the healthful dessert of choice in my house). We’re giving it to you as a sort of buck-up, shrugging, you still deserve chocolate even when you’re being really good and you had that protein shake for breakfast right, so this is totally okay kind of way.
It’s a fitting treat for January and allllll this transition talk is a good intro for Nicole and I to share that the blog will be changing soon. We’ve both grown a lot since we first started the site and we’re ready to take it in a new direction, to stretch ourselves and talk and share recipes and stories that strike a cord with us. That more narrowed focus of the types of recipes we share and the stories behind them will reveal themselves very soon. We’re super excited about it though. And I think, given where we are now (settled in our respective homes and into very adult-looking lives), it’s going to be really meaningful to take you down a new path.
Popcorn and Peanut Bark
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 cups freshly popped popcorn
1/2 cup salted peanuts (preferably Virginia)
Pinch of kosher salt
- Line a baking sheet with a nonstick liner.
- Melt the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over simmering water, stirring until the chocolate is melted and smooth, about 4 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat and add the popcorn, peanuts, and salt. Fold the mixture until the popcorn and peanuts are evenly coated with the chocolate.
- Scrape the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and spread into a thin layer.
- Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until cold and rm. Break into small clusters and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
It was my husband Jerry who came up with the idea of secret presents.
It was a simple construct really- starting on December 1, you had a month to do small, otherwise unnoticeable acts of kindness to someone in the family. It could be… starting the car for them while they were in still fighting to get out the door, so the car would be nice and warm for them. Or washing their dishes when they wandered into the living room to call their friend Tina, the chore momentarily forgotten. Flowers on the windowsill in a tiny vase. A new book on their nightstand. A plate of cookies or blondies, Joe’s favorite, on the counter by the stack of catalogs. A love note in your wallet.
The rule was, you didn’t say anything about it. You don’t say, “I started your car for you!” or “check your wallet when you get to work!” But you wrote it down on a slip of paper and on Christmas day, you roll the paper up and wrap it with a ribbon and it goes in the stocking. And when all the presents are unwrapped and the wrapping paper is sighing and hovering over the carpet, you move over to the stockings and soon everyone is unscrolling and reading and exclaiming and hugging and thanking. It’s my most favorite tradition. Even though Jerry only thought of it because of that one year when I lost my job and he hurt his back and we knew the kids would only have two presents each under the tree. Even though he’s gone now, two years this winter.
We still have the scrolls but they list bigger things now. “Called Mom out of the blue to say hi.” “Sent Grandma flowers on her birthday.” “Came home for Christmas.” This isn’t how the game is played, I want to tell my kids, amidst all that swirling paper. It’s not worth the protest, I think to myself. At least there’s a tray of treats on the counter by the catalogs, I think, and in my head, I add a note to my list, the one topped with Jerry’s name.
WELL HELLO. Hanukkah is over. Christmas is in one week. I’m not sure if you’re feeling festive or a little chubby (hi) because of the onslaught of sweets (combined with the hectic frenzy of everything which, for some reason, has made eating regular meals a rare occasion) or maybe the constant reorganizing of your to-do list against your completely blown budget has created a strange twitch in your cheek (OH HI) or maybe, just maybe all of that was true until 11pm last night when you set the last gift under the tree and then 3pm this afternoon when the last box was put on the counter at the post office and NOW you are just on the couch with a blanket over your legs and the tree is turned on and you can sit there and imagine yourself getting up and exercising in the morning (ha).
No matter where you are this month of months, you should really consider baking something. Eat it or give it away, wrap it up with a bow but honestly, even with all the run-around and the cheek twitching (seriously, what is that?) the kitchen is still a warm, welcoming place. And big fat blondies made with brown-speckled, nutty butter and dotted with chocolate chips are welcome too because of course they are.
*Looking for a fun way to be kind? This is pretty great.*
SKS Holiday Recipe Collection
S’more Cookies | The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies | Snowball Cookies (Foodie.com) | Cookie in a Skillet | White Chocolate Peppermint M&M Cookies | Hot Cocoa Cookies | Shortbread Cookies Filled With Caramel | Crisp Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies | Bourbon Balls | Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies |Beurre and Sel Jammers | Brown Butter Salted Caramel Snickerdoodles | Nutella Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies | Turtle Tassies | Walnut Bombs | Whiskey Truffles | Caramel Corn with Bacon and Cashews | Apricot White Chocolate Biscotti | Homemade Peppermint Patties | Easy Buckeye Brownie Cookies | Nana’s Butter Cookies with Milk Jam | World Peace Cookies | Jam Meringue Cookies
Brown Butter Blondies
2 Sticks (1 cup) of unsalted butter
2 Cups of all-purpose flour
1 Heaping teaspoon of kosher salt
4 Teaspoons of good-quality vanilla extract
1 and 3/4 Cups of dark brown sugar (light brown works in a pinch)
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
- Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat. After 3 to 4 minutes, it will start to smell nutty. Watch carefully and when the sizzling subsides, you should see little brown bits drop to the bottom of the pan. Wait until there is a small army of brown bits and pour into a large bowl. Cool completely (about 30 minutes). (Don’t want to wait? Cool butter for only 5 minutes and proceed with the recipe. The warm dough will melt the chocolate chips a bit and you’ll end up with a more marbled brownie. That’s an adjective right? Marbled?)
- Heat oven to 350° F. Prepare your 8 by 8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil: just press it into the pan with a little overhang, no need to grease. Set aside.
- Whisk together flour and salt. In another bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Set aside.
- Add brown sugar to the cooled butter. Mix with a wooden spoon for about a minute. Add egg/vanilla mixture to butter/sugar mixture. Mix until combined and shiny, about 20 seconds.
- Add flour mixture to the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Mix until there are still a few pockets of flour visible. Add chocolate chips. Mix until evenly distributed and all flour pockets are gone, but do not over-mix! Spoon dough into your prepared baking pan. Spread evenly. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. (Note from Food52: You can’t do the toothpick test with this because it always comes out clean. Instead, look for a crispy top that’s just starting to crack. Firm slightly-browned edges. And when you press on the center, you don’t want it to feel really soft. Don’t stress. You can always throw it back in later. Just know that once it’s cool, it will firm up quite a bit. Also great frozen.)
Remove from the oven and cool completely. Cut into desired portion sizes. Will keep for a few days at room temperature in an airtight container. Or you can freeze them for a few months.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to take the baby?”
“Mom, no. I got it. See? This is what the baby carrier is for. She’s perfectly fine. Look, she’s sleeping!” Patty proudly turned to the side, two wooden spoons in hand, and tilted her body toward her mother’s concerned face. In the carrier against her chest, her four month old daughter Lili slept against her chest. “See?” And you thought I couldn’t handle having a baby and throwing together my first, big family Thanksgiving. Ha! Patti thought as she stirred the brussel sprouts in one pan and grabbed an oven mitt to check the lid on the boiling potatoes. In a third, small saucepan, sliced apples were stewing. Patti immediately grabbed a small bowl of cinnamon, took a pinchful and added it to the simmering pot.
She heard her mother let out a somewhat exasperated sigh. “What?” Patty said. She put her hands to her side and looked around. “What is wrong?”
“Patty,” her mother said calmly. “You are doing a wonderful job. Thanksgiving is going to be delicious. But I really think you should give me the baby for a while.”
“Mother, I told you. I got this. She’s asleep!”
Her mother reached over and nudged Lili’s face over to the side. The other side of the baby’s head, Patty realized with horror, was sprinkled with cinnamon, salt and everything else she’d been grabbing for their meal that morning. “Well,” her mother said. “Worse comes to worse, we can always eat off the baby’s head later.”
I’ve brought up the idea of Reverse Apple Pie to a few people over the last few weeks and seen some eyes light up. If you’ve got a relative who immediately scours the dessert table, looks over all the gorgeous pie and dessert offerings and asks you if you have any ice cream? This might make their holiday. A slice of creamy vanilla-flecked ice cream pie, a dollop of warm apple pie filling and a drizzle of salty caramel sauce; you still get the magic effect of melting cream and thick fruit compote and a spike of salt, just with a little twist.
Over the next week, I’ll be tweaking this slightly because I’m curious if I can get the same effect using a store-bought pie crust and a layer of melted and then chilled white chocolate between the ice cream and pie. I’ll keep you posted if it works.
SKS Thanksgiving Recipes
Traditional Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows | Butternut Squash Soup | Sugar and Spice Cocktail Nuts | No Knead Dinner Rolls | Apple Crumb Pie | Mad Easy Chocolate Pecan Pies | Apple Crisp | Almond Crunch Pumpkin Cheesecake | Multicultural Stuffing | Pear Cornmeal Cake with Rosemary Syrup | Brussels Sprouts with Mint & Anchovy Sauce | Spinach with Fresh Indian Cheese | Mini Pumpkin Pies | Whiskey Glazed Carrots
Thanksgiving Recipes: Reverse Apple Pie
Make in advance: Using a store-bought graham cracker crust and vanilla ice cream makes this come together fast and the ice cream pie can stay frozen in the freezer for 2 weeks. The apple pie filling and salty caramel sauce can be stored in separate jars in the fridge. Just reheat and warm through before serving.
You will need:
Make the Apple Pie Topping:
4 Medium apples
3 Tablespoons of water
2 Tablespoons of butter
1 Teaspoon of cinnamon
1/3 Cup of sugar
1 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon cornstarch
2 Tablespoons of water
Soften ice cream and spread in graham cracker crust. Freeze at least 4 hours.
Make the apple topping:
- Peel, core and slice apples.
- Melt butter and cinnamon over medium heat. Stir in apples, sugar & 3 tablespoons water.
- Cover and cook stirring occasionally for 4-6 minutes or until very slightly softened.
- In a small dish combine cornstarch and water. Add to pan while stirring and continue to cook until apples are soft (not mushy) and filling is thickened. Let bubble 1 minute. Cool.
Serve pie with apple topping and caramel drizzle.
There was a moment when Eloise was alone on the plane, or at least it felt like she was. The flight attendants didn’t see her, in her seat all the way in the back row against the window and for a few long minutes, Eloise stayed glued to the blue fabric seat and tried to remember how to breathe.
The flight attendant that noticed her looked pinched and more than a little confused as she hurried toward her down the aisle. “Ma’am?” she asked with impatience in her voice. It had been a long flight, nearly ten hours and outside, the sky was pink. “Ma’am, you have to get off the plane.”
“Right. Sure.” Feeling like a fool, she stood, on shaking legs.
“Are you all right?”
No. “Yes,” Eloise replied. “Fine.”
She had no bags but a small purse. Everything she owned would be waiting for her in the baggage claim, four large suitcases. Eloise had worried about her bag when she first sat down; everyone else seemed to have brought on small libraries to entertain them during the long flight, books and laptops and headphones, tablets everywhere. She hoped she could watch a movie on the small screen on the back of the seat in front of her but it turned out not to be needed. For 10 hours, she sat with her eyes wide open and did nothing but think. It was like someone tazed her as she sat down and she remained that way, frozen, for the whole flight.
Every step she took now felt like a month. 12 months ago when she lost her job. 11 months ago when her father died. 10 months ago, 9, 8 when they sold her father’s house and all of his belongings and handed her a check, more money than she’d ever seen in her life. 7 months when Jonathan broke up with her- it wasn’t his fault, she thought now with a big, staggering step, he didn’t know what to do with her mountain of grief over a man she’d never known and the burden of his gifts. 6 months, 5 months, 4 months ago when she wandered into that strange building across the street from the Thai place, the one that promised “peace”, a meditation room where Eloise sat down on the floor and finally, finally wept and found peace. The man who owned the studio, who gave her a cup of tea and told her, in such a calm and lilting and knowing way that she should go to France. He was not French and he looked as surprised to have said the words as she was to hear them. 3 months, 2 months, 2 weeks ago when she went to the airport and bought the ticket. Last night, when she said goodbye to no one and boarded the plane.
And then… just hours and hours of shock. What had she done? Was she insane? Eloise felt the flight attendant’s eyes on her back as she finally left the plane, descended the stairs, shocked to find herself outside on the tarmac. Did they still do this, she wondered as she swayed on the steps, still wheel stairs up to the massive plane and let people disembark, like she was the president or Marilyn Monroe. Eloise felt the foreignness of her own life sink in then and the air stung her eyes. She reached the last step and touched the ground. And then a smell hit her. Rosemary. It punctured the air, through the stink of gasoline and the man in the vest who hadn’t showered in weeks. She stared at the ground, at the narrow path before her and saw that someone had jammed rosemary plants on either side of the door to the airport. They were out of place and lopsided but she took them as a sign- they meant well, their intentions were good. And more than that, the smell reminded her of her aunt and the small pots of it she kept on her windowsill. She lived in a big house all alone in Maine, and Eloise sought refuge there as a girl when they’d go to the lakes and into the woods and sit on the wide front porch and shuck corn and listen for the cows in the distance. Eloise took one step in front of the other and thought of her aunt, when her mother would shake her head and say, “What would possess a single, childless woman to buy such a big house in the middle of nowhere?” Probably the same thing that would possess your lost child to move to France because a stranger suggested it, Eloise replied silently to her mother. She took one step closer to the rosemary, to refuge.
A few notes on this beautiful almond cake… I used ground almonds in place of toasting and grinding them. And sour cream works in a pinch if you’re “out of creme fraiche” like some kind of peasant. 😉 I also have a theory that it would be amazing with roasted pears… like this Cornmeal Cake from our holiday collection.
Almond Cake with Lemon and Creme Fraiche Glaze
1 Stick of unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for the pan
1 Cup of unsalted raw almonds
1 and 1/3 Cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup of instant polenta
1 Tablespoon of baking powder
1 Teaspoon of minced rosemary
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 Teaspoon of salt
4 Large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 Cup of granulated sugar
3/4 Cup of crème fraîche
1/2 Cup of water
1/2 Cup of granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1/2 Cup of confectioners’ sugar
3 Tablespoons of crème fraîche
1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
Make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350° and butter an 10-inch springform pan.
On a baking sheet, spread almonds and bake for about 4 minutes, until toasty and fragrant. Let the almonds cool completely, then coarsely chop them. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until they are finely ground but not pasty. (Or buy ground almonds- just as good and a few less steps… if you do, I used about 1 and 1/2 cups of ground almond flour. Turned out fine.)
In a large bowl, whisk together ground almonds, flour, polenta, baking powder, rosemary, lemon zest and salt.
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a whisk, combine eggs and sugar and beat at medium-high speed until tripled in volume, about 10 minutes. With the mixer at low speed, add crème fraîche (or sour cream thinned with a bit of water), then drizzle in the melted butter just until incorporated.
Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg mixture into the dry ingredients in 3 batches. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until a paring knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar and lemon juice and boil for 3 minutes. Let cool.
Set the hot cake on a rimmed baking sheet and pour the syrup evenly over it. Let the cake cool completely. Remove the side and bottom of the pan and transfer the almond cake to a platter. You can also use boxes for cakes for a better presentation for the guests on your special event.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, crème fraîche and lemon juice until smooth. Spread the glaze all over the top of the cake. Let stand until the glaze sets slightly, then cut into wedges and serve.
The other mother yelled a lot. Wyatt watched from inside the van as his mother and the other mother squared off opposite each other. The other mother waved her arms.
Wyatt’s mom nodded a lot. She had her hands on her hips, a pose which Wyatt knew meant she “was very, very serious about this.” She continued to nod. The other mother yelled more, her face red, her hair a little wild. Wyatt shrunk down into his seat. He did not like to see this. He fiddled with the buckle on his seat and didn’t look up again until he heard the front door of the car finally open. He heard his mother grunt as she sat down in the seat. Instead of driving, she let out a deep, deep sigh.
“Why was Matt’s mommy so mad?” Wyatt finally asked.
She met his eyes in the rearview mirror. She spoke softly. “Matt’s mommy said she saw you and Matt on the slide. I guess she thought he almost got hurt.”
“Oh.” He blinked. “But why was she mad? She was yelling a lot. Matt didn’t get hurt at all. He didn’t cry or anything.”
His mom held Wyatt’s eyes for a long moment. Then, she got out of her seat and moved to the back of the van. She opened the door and climbed into the seat beside his. “When you were born,” she said carefully, “you were this big.” She held out her hands. “My little burrito.” He laughed. “And something magical happened,” she said.
His eyes widened. “What?”
“Well.” She frowned. “My heart, and everything in it, left my chest. It floated down my arms and out of my sleeves and latched on to you. And my thoughts followed- just slid right after my heart. And then everything else,” she made a sucking noise and grabbed his arm. “suddenly stuck right to you. And I looked down and my little baby had this little world around him, my whole world. And every day, you walk around and you fall down and you eat and you play, and you carry my world with you. And the same thing happened,” she said, “to Matt’s mommy. She’s got her heart and world all wrapped up around Matt just like I have mine wrapped around you. It’s a lot to get used to,” she told Wyatt. “Sometimes when adults get scared, it comes out sounding like they are angry. But if you’re a mommy or a daddy and you’re talking to another mommy or daddy, you don’t hear the yelling,” she said. “You hear ‘I LOVE MATT VERY MUCH!'” She smiled.
“Yes.” She took a deep breath, fished out a goldfish cracker out of his snack pack and popped it into her mouth. “You just have to listen for it.”
We’re going to take a break for a while, from the blog. For good reasons.
Very good reasons.
The best reasons, actually.
We’re leaving you, just for a while, with this lovely Late Summer Parfait. We saw it on Food52 and it’s just… too pretty. It’s September in a jar. It’s worth making. If it makes you sing its name in this tune, then we might be soul mates.
See you soon!
Late Summer Parfait
You will need…
1 Pound Cake (homemade or store bought)
FOR THE CREME:
2 Cups of whole milk
1/2 Vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
3/4 Cup of sugar
6 Tablespoons of cornstarch
1/4 Cup of crème fraîche
2 Cups of heavy cream
FOR THE ROASTED FRUIT:
1 and 1/2 Lbs of assorted late summer fruit
2 to 3 Tablespoons of sugar or honey
1/2 Lemon, juiced
2 Strips lemon zest, peeled with a veggie peeler
Reserved vanilla bean pod from making the pastry cream
1/4 Cup of rum, bourbon, amaretto, frangelico, chambord, or grand marnier
To make the creme:
1. Bring the milk and the vanilla bean pod to a simmer in a large pot. Turn off heat and set aside for one hour, to steep. (You want the milk to cool because you’re whisking it into an egg mixture.)
2. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla bean seeds together until smooth. Remove the vanilla bean pod from the cooled, steeped milk and whisk milk into egg mixture. Return the mixture back to the pot.
3. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble. It will be very thick. Once the mixture starts to boil, cook it (still whisking constantly) for one minute to ensure the starch is fully cooked.
4. Pour the cream into a clean bowl and press a layer of plastic wrap onto the surface. Chill until completely cold.
5. Whip heavy cream to medium peaks. In a separate bowl, whip the chilled pastry cream until smooth, add in the crème fraîche, and fold in whipped cream.
To make the fruit:
6. Preheat oven to 375° F.
7. Slice and pit fruit into evenly sized pieces. Toss with sugar, lemon juice, zest, and vanilla bean pod. Arrange in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast in the oven until the fruit is soft and juicy, about 15 minutes. Remove the fruit to a clean bowl and let cool completely before assembling the trifle.
8. Cut the cake into 1/2-inch cubes. Put a thin layer of vanilla cream on the bottom of the trifle dish (or dishes). Add a layer of cake cubes and brush on a bit of liqueur, followed by spoonfuls of roasted fruit and vanilla cream. Repeat the layers until all of the ingredients are used. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight before serving. Top with additional unsweetened whipped cream and a slice of fresh fruit if desired. This recipe will make one large trifle or 10 to 12 individual ones, depending on the size of the glasses.
A Poem for Mothers-to-Be By a New Mother*
Oh gentle babe
Your hair so fair and thick and lustrous and combed
Your eyes so bright and wide
Hands placed round belly, that round belly, belly so round
Is it Tuesday?
It’s WEDNESDAY? Tell me it is not so, gentle babe.
Wait, seriously. Are you sure it’s Wednesday?
But it’s noon, right? Isn’t it noon? It’s not noon? It’s midnight? It’s midnight.
*Not your SKS author, who is not a new mother unless you count “burritos” as “children” in which case, is the mother of many.
** But your SKS photographer is a mother-to-be… did you catch that, you smart cookie?
Poem inspired by my friend Moya who just had a baby. I made her this cake. If I was a nicer friend, I would make her this cake every week and assure her that her hair looks fine, it’s very nice and it’s fine, and yes, okay, she looks a little sleepy and confused but so happy too! Every week. Because that’s what we do, right? We are women. We are bound by law to hand over chocolate and wine (sometimes at the same time) and reassure and make sure she laughs a little and ask for baby pictures (such a trial, cooing over delicious baby pictures. I request a statue for my martyrdom…) and eat yet more chocolate and red wine soaked cake.
Chocolate Red Wine Cake
FOR THE CAKE:
6 Tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 Cup (145 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 Cup (50 grams) white granulated sugar
1 Large egg + 1 Large egg yolk, at room temperature
3/4 Cup (177 ml) red wine, any kind you like
1 Teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 Cup + 1 Tablespoon (133 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup (41 grams) Dutch cocoa powder
1/8 Teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
1/4 Teaspoon table salt
1/4 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
FOR THE TOPPING:
1/2 Cup of mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/2 Cup (118 grams) of heavy or whipping cream
2 Tablespoons (25 grams) of granulated sugar
1/4 Teaspoon of vanilla extract
- Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment, and either butter and lightly flour the parchment and exposed sides of the pan, or spray the interior with a nonstick spray.
- In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and yolk and beat well, then the red wine and vanilla. Don’t worry if the batter looks a little uneven.
- Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together, right over your wet ingredients. Mix until 3/4 combined, then fold the rest together with a rubber spatula.
- Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. The top of the cake should be shiny and smooth, like a puddle of chocolate. Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then flip out of pan and cool the rest of the way on a cooling rack. This cake keeps well at room temperature or in the fridge. It looks pretty dusted with powdered sugar.
- Make the topping: Whip mascarpone, cream, sugar and vanilla together until soft peaks form but do not overwhip! Dollop generously on each slice of cake. It can also be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 hours.
I am looking for a house.
It is not going well.
I mean. It’s going fine. It’s as to-be-expected, I guess. I want very specific things and I’m being rather ornery and uncompromising (which isn’t like me, frankly. Is it?) and also… it can be very lonely to look for a house by yourself. Yesterday, I went to two open houses, drove around endlessly with the dog panting in the back, and went home and had a good cry. I find myself shying away from places that are plain and small and perfectly functional, as if they’re making a statement about me and my life. As if I am consciously crafting my future to be as such- plain and small and perfectly functional. Ooof. Being a grown up is hard.
Things that are bolstering me today, in no particular order of emotional importance:
> This quote from Jessica Fetchor, lovingly transcribed and shared on Sprouted Kitchen:
“But we are always swept this way and that. We create the life we want to live, yes. Then, in return, that life creates us. We follow the tides; we have no other choice. We splash about beneath the brightest of moons, then the darkest of skies, tug hard from the surface on anchors that refuse to budge, and then, if we are very brave, dive deep.”
> This quote on Farmette, recalling a (very rainy) Irish summer BBQ:
“Imen, we get on with it here in Ireland. We just get on with it. Put up a tent or marquis if you feel the need. Everyone will come, you’ll see.”
> This photo. (Look, I don’t know why it makes me feel better, okay? Maybe because it makes me feel 10 years old again? Have mercy.)
And these pictures. Sometimes when I get the photos of this week’s recipe from Nicole, I smile. Sometimes I do a happy clap. Last night, I saw them and laughed. There’s just something so cheery about these little cups. Little unassuming grapefruit halves filled with summer cheer.
Sorbet in Grapefruit Cups
Source: Bon Appetit | Makes: 8 | Print Recipe
Do Ahead: Sorbet cups can be made 1 day ahead. Cover once sorbet is solid and keep frozen.
4 medium red or pink grapefruits
2 pints fruit-flavored sorbet or sherbet, slightly softened
1. Cut grapefruits in half and juice them. Using a large spoon, scrape out pulp and flesh.
2. Peel away any residual white pith so you’re left with completely clean rinds. Fill grapefruit halves with sorbet and smooth tops flush with edges of fruit using a small flexible spatula or butter knife to make cups; freeze until ready to serve.
3. Cut each sorbet cup in half to make quarters just before serving.
Marla and her daughter Charlotte stood outside by the truck. Charlotte looked over the stacks of boxes in the trunk and Marla went over her list. “Cinnamon swirl rolls?”
“Hot dog and hamburger buns?”
“Blueberry coffee cake?”
“Croissants and danishes?”
“My world-famous, fun and festive funfetti cheesecake?”
“2 bags of pasta?”
“Enough for a small army.”
“I think that’s it.” Marla smiled with satisfaction and nudged her daughter toward the front seat. “Come on, we’ve gotta move. The girls will be at the house by now.”
On the drive to Darlene’s, Charlotte heard her mother’s list roll over and over in her head. She watched the trees change as they left one county and entered the next. It was nearly forty minutes to Darlene’s house. Her place was the only one big enough to house Marla and the rest of their girlfriends, though it was the most out of the way for everyone. Over the years, the weekend-long festivities had extended to the groups daughters who were now all in their early to late teens and had their own weekend-long party in Darlene’s basement. Charlotte was fifteen, right in the middle of the group, who were only friends this one weekend a year. She frowned, feeling the usual nerves and antsiness that comes with spending the weekend with girls she barely knew, and found herself saying, “You’re not even able to eat any of the food we’re bringing.” Marla was diabetic and “recently and highly sensitive to gluten.” Charlotte glared at her mother, as if this were her choice of affliction. “Why’d we bring all that food if you can’t even eat it? You can’t even get anything out of it, all this work and planning and stuff.”
Marla smiled at the same changing trees. She had none of her daughter’s nerves, only her anxiousness to get there already, to tuck into two days of long, winding conversation, bottles of cheap wine and enough food to feed Terre Haute. She inevitably came home more tired than when she started but happier too. The talking was what she was needing most. Every year, it seemed like they all needed it more than ever. “There are different ways to get fed, baby girl.” She settled back in her seat, content in the drive and unbothered, for once, by her daughter’s sudden silence.
YOU GUYS. It’s the middle of July. Already. Summer is here, it is happening. It can’t be stopped.
I spent the weekend with a bunch of girls/ladies/women that I whole-heartedly adore. The little snippet above should give you a good idea of how it went down and how I’m feeling right now. I feel like I can sleep for a week but I am very happy. (Also Trainwreck is awesome; if you’re in need of some girlfriend time and your girls are busy, Amy’s a good substitute.) And hey, cheesecake. With sprinkles in it. It didn’t make the roster for this weekend but I’ve already got it in mind for next time.
For the crust:
1 and 1/2 Cups (150g) of graham cracker crumbs (about 10 full sheet graham crackers)
6 Tablespoons (87g) of unsalted butter, melted
1/3 Cup (67g) of granulated sugar
For the filling:
24 Ounces (675g) of cream cheese, softened
1 Cup (200g) of granulated sugar
1 cup (240g) of sour cream or plain yogurt, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon of vanilla extract
1/4 Teaspoon of almond extract
3 Large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 – 1 Cup of rainbow sprinkles
Optional: additional sprinkles and whipped cream for garnish
*Note on sprinkles: be gentle when folding in rainbow sprinkles and don’t overmix.
1. Adjust oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Wrap aluminum foil on the bottom and tightly around the outside walls of the springform pan. Set aside.
2. Make the crust: Grind the graham crackers in a plastic bag with a rolling pin or a food processor, until fine. In a bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and granulated sugar until combined. The mixture will be thick, coarse, and sandy. Press into a 9-inch springform pan and halfway up the sides. Make sure the crust is very compact and tight. Bake the crust for 7 minutes. Let cool as you prepare the filling.
3. Make the filling: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and granulated sugar together on medium speed in a large bowl – about 3 full minutes until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add the sour cream, vanilla, and almond extract and beat until combined. On low speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until just blended. Very gently fold in the sprinkles, starting with 3/4 cup, and they may bleed a little.
4. Pour the filling into the cooled crust. Place the springform pan into a large roasting pan and place into the oven. Fill with about 1 inch of hot water. The foil wrapped around the pan will prevent water from leaking inside.
5. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the center is almost set. (When the cheesecake is done, there will still be a 2 or 3 inch wobbly spot in the center.) Turn the oven off and open the door slightly. Let the cheesecake sit in the oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely to room temperature.
6. Refrigerate overnight or at least 6 hours. Top with additional sprinkles and whipped cream, if desired. Cover leftover cheesecake and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
7. Make ahead tip: Freeze baked cheesecake for up to 2 months. Cover tightly and freeze. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.