Every year I make New Year’s resolutions. And every year, I break them 🙂 This year’s list included the usual – exercise more, eat better, read regularly, don’t waste time, grow as a person, etc etc etc. It also included blog / baking related tasks – post regularly without stressing myself out, bake a cake a week and decorate as practice, try recipes that scare me, etc. I’ve been pretty good about posting regularly in my opinion. Well, as well as can be expected 🙂
The whole “baking a cake a week” thing sort of fell flat though. But, looking on the bright side, it’s not like I didn’t bake ANY cakes! I ordered myself a few 6 inch pans, and have managed to tackle about one a month. Pat on the back for me. Hah, the thing is, I’ve been sticking to my staple chocolate cake and vanilla cake recipe, and have only been branching out when it comes to frostings. And it is totally dependent on the mood I’m in.
Fall is here! Fall is here! This is by far my most favorite season. The season of blazers, warm scarves, and just the right amount of chill in the air. The season of Fall foliage (I’m from the northeast… it’s what we do), and the satisfying crunch of leaves underfoot. The season of apples! From warm apple cider, to apple tarts, to just eating them plain. This time of year it’s all about apple variety. Honeycrisps are my absolute favorite, but I also try to snatch up some Mcintoshs, Pink Ladies, and Fujis.
Even an all year staple like the tart green Granny Smith is somehow sweeter and crisper this time of year. The Granny Smith is my favorite when it comes to baking. I know I know… that’s a cop out… but it’s true. You just can’t beat it. And the apple knows what it’s doing. It retains its shape, the tartness somehow always compliments the sweetness of whatever I’m baking it with, and I haven’t found a better companion for caramel sauce yet.
A few years ago when my husband and I were thinking about starting a family, I just couldn’t picture myself with a kid. I mean come on… a kid… that’s such a huge commitment! So much responsibility! I felt that my life would be over, and it would be all about this new baby. Hah. I know. I sound crazy. I was just so afraid of losing my sense of self. There were a lot of panic attacks, and a lot of hand holding from my husband’s end, but eventually the idea grew on me. I started to think of this future baby as someone I could be friends with, someone I could share things with, and someone who I could love.
One of the ways I got over the fear was imagining scenarios of me and this future baby / kid doing things together. I pictured us going to the park, or sitting in our future backyard just enjoying a great late Summer / early Fall day. Flying as high as possible on a swing and feeling that moment of exhilaration when you jump off midswing. I pictured us reading together before bedtime and introducing her to all the worlds that could possibly be imagined in books. From exploring new planets, to swimming in the middle of the ocean, to befriending dragons, to scolding monkeys. There’s nothing that can’t be achieved in a good book. And, because this is me, I pictured us baking.
Hah I know it’s so June Cleaver, but somehow it’s such a “Mommy and me” iconic imagine that I just can’t get out of my mind. Both of us in a sunshine filled kitchen, with this little munchkin standing next to me on a chair while we whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies (like these, or these, or these) or some cupcakes. I pictured those cupcakes coming out of the oven, and the two of us decorating them with a smear of frosting or just straight nutella and maybe some colorful sprinkles, laughing and sharing secrets, while her father sat at the kitchen table reading a book or grading papers looking up and smiling at us. “Baba look what Mama and I made! Want one?” The two of us would walk over to him, me holding glasses of milk, and her proudly but carefully carrying a plate of cupcakes. We’d sit together and share an afternoon treat while we talked about all the stuff she was learning in school and the new discoveries she’d made that week. This perfect little family moment.
A few weeks ago Maheen and I started watching “Mind of a Chef”. It’s a great show hosted by Chef David Chang as he visits different restaurants / meets with different chefs and culinary geniuses to see what’s going on in the culinary world. We are in love with the show, mainly because of how much emphasis is placed on what’s going on in Asia, but also because of how hilarious Chef David Chang is. Watching the show, you’d never guess he was the mastermind behind the crazy popular Momofuku brand. On one of the episodes he brought in his head pastry chef Christina Tosi, who talked about Liquid Cheesecake. I’m sorry… what? Come again? Yea. That’s right. Liquid Cheesecake. Sounds crazy awesome? Yea, I thought so too.
Right around this time, I also took the tart class at ICE, and couldn’t help but think, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to fill the tart with this liquid cheesecake instead of pastry cream? It would be like a cheesecake… but better.” So off I went to make a the liquid cheesecake and my tart shell. Now I know this blog doesn’t reflect it, but I love cheesecake. (one of) My only issue(s) of making it at home is that I can never get the consistency right. It’s either completely under done and rawish, or overly done so that it’s just a little dry and has the telltale crack on top. Liquid cheesecake sounded like the answer to all my concerns!
But I think I messed it up. It just never set up right for me. I was expecting something with the consistency of a really thick pastry cream, but the taste of cheesecake. Maybe I didn’t let it cool for long enough, or maybe I didn’t let it bake for long enough. Either way the cream was just too liquidy and not enough cheesecakey. A quick google search shows people using it as part of frostings or fillings for cakes. I may just try it again some other day, because the taste was just fantastic. Since I followed the recipe to the letter, I’m going to just include the source from where I got it – Liquid Cheesecake recipe from Tasting Table. Let me know if you guys give it a try and how it works out for you!
I have a love / hate relationship with tarts. I adore how they look and taste. That you can fill them with anything from a pastry cream to a ganache (the stuff you make truffles with); they can be sweet or savory; and they come in so many different sizes and shapes. How adorable are mini individual tarts that you can just pop into your mouth? They are perfect for summer garden parties, any sort of baby / bridal shower, and I have no qualms about eating a boatload of them while watching a rom-com. Love. Them.
But whenever I’ve attempted to make the tart shell at home, I’m met with disastrous results. Alh my apartment hasn’t burned down or anything, but the shells are just a wreck. Tasteless, dry, cardboardy things that may as well be mini bowls for the filling and not much else. So when I saw the Summer Tarts class on the ICE class roster a few weeks ago, I immediately signed up. I mean here was a class being taught by an award winning chef (The James Beard award. Yea. THAT level of fancy), it covered one of my most dreaded topics, and I still had gift certificates that my awesome husband had given me as part of an anniversary presents years ago. Done.
Now all the pastry dough recipes I’ve used in the past, from my culinary go to sources like CIA and Martha Stewart, to the general blogoverse, have all had me cut in the butter to form the dough. The butter, flour, water, and everything else are chilled multiple times during the course of putting it all together to keep it at the right temperature before you bake it. And this is where the problem lies. I somehow overwork the butter so I’m left with a leaden tart shell not worth anything.
There are times I just can’t believe I’m 32. A full blown adult. With a husband. And a baby. It’s kind of crazy. I can’t believe it’s been ten YEARS since I graduated from college. Where did the time go? I somehow still feel like I’m in my early twenties. Cutting classes and going out to restaurants, museums, and films without a care in the world.
One of our regular hang outs was actually the Cheesecake Factory. Me and a friend of mine would cut class, drive out a half hour just to get this one drink. A frozen mango raspberry concoction that just tasted like summer. Spring, Summer, or Fall you would find us out in Long Island sipping on these drinks (Winter was reserved for hot chocolate) discussing the most serious of topics – my parents are awful, this guy said this to me, what am I doing with my life?
Looking back, as ridiculous as these conversations were, I knew I could trust her with anything. One semester my workload was so intense, that I couldn’t commit to both working at my job and continuing my schoolwork. This friend was there for me in an instant and lent me a thousand dollars to help me get by. And when someone she trusted betrayed her, I didn’t think twice about rushing to her house and staying with her until it all passed.
As is blatantly obvious by all these posts, I love chocolate. Truffles, cakes, frostings, pudding, cookies, etc etc etc. There’s just something about the taste of the ingredient that takes me to another place. I don’t remember when I had my first chocolate covered strawberry, but that opened up a whole other set of emotions for me to experience. Since then, my go to “I don’t really want to bake but I have a craving” dessert has been a sort of fondue of 60% chocolate and strawberries. It’s quick, simple, and satisfying.
Raspberries… ehh… I wasn’t about them. If there was a show down between the two red fruits, I’m pretty sure I would have picked strawberry hands down. Until I started getting serious about chocolate that is. A few years ago, I walked into a Godiva store, nervously picked out a few truffles and walked out with my little gold satchel. I think there was a hazelnut praline of some sort in there, and a raspberry truffle. Life changing. There was a certain tartness in the raspberry that the strawberry didn’t capture. And it worked so well with the dark chocolate. I let it melt and rode the waves of the mingling flavors.
Eid Mubarak folks! Happy happy Eid! This Ramadan was intense, and wonderful, and amazing and so fulfilling. But um, my body needs a break so I’m glad Eid is finally here. For those that don’t know, Muslims around the world (including this blogger) have been fasting from sunrise to sunset for the past month to observe the month of Ramadan. The month has now drawn to a close, and we are celebrating the holiday of Eid 🙂
Here’s to celebrating! Morning iced coffee runs, afternoon ice cream treats, and licking the little bits of chocolate off my fingers when I bake on an weekend afternoon. And to get you started, I wanted to share this Earl Grey ice cream recipe with you all. It’s creamy and smooth, with the flavor of tea really shining through at the end. The next time I make this, I think I’m going to try and pair it with chocolate in some way. I have a feeling the flavors will compliment one another real well.
So here we are. The last few days of Ramadan. As some of you know, for the past 20 something days, Muslims all around the world have been taking part in daily fasts for the month of Ramadan, including this blogger. That means no eating or drinking (yes even water) from sunrise to sunset for 30 days, scheduled to end later on this week. To most it sounds crazy. No water? Even during the summer? For over 15 hours a day?? Hah. Yup.
The thing is, it actually hasn’t been that bad. I feel really blessed that the weather has been mild and I’ve had a filling meal available to me as soon as sunset rolls around. There are many (1 in 5 NYC children according to Food Bank of NY) who don’t have this option. Ramadan or not, Summer, Spring, raining, snowing or perfectly pleasant, they don’t have the option or luxury of choosing to fast. It’s the state of being they have to exist in. Knowing that, and reflecting on all that I have, I feel blessed. I feel blessed knowing that I have a safety net in the community that surrounds me.
If you met me today, most of you would think that I’m an incredibly outgoing person. I like to go out, I love parties and get togethers with tons of people and I actually enjoy floating from one conversation to another in a crowd of people. Though it comes a little bit more naturally now, this was definitely not the case growing up. I was lucky enough to grow up with two sisters and a mom who’s friendliness and ability to feel at ease in nearly any circumstance provided me with a curtain I could stand behind and just observe. They initiated conversations, made friends, and I tagged along just watching and creating stories in my head.
Books were my closest friends. I could just lose myself in a story, let myself get pulled into the characters and escape from my own life for a while. For me it was the perfect situation – I could stand just on the edges of their world and observe the inner workings of all the characters without having to interact. Without having to really look at myself. Or have to think about how the characters themselves would view me. They were real in my mind, but I took comfort in the fact that they weren’t quite alive, and as such, couldn’t stand up in the real world and judge me. Or worse, make fun of me.