When the buds on our cherry blossom tree unfurl, and the azaleas bushes pop into a riot of pink, I always think about rhubarb. Its appearance, like artichokes, asparagus, and Cadbury Creme Eggs, signify the of arrival of spring to me. Despite the chokehold winter has taken on much of the country, it is definitively spring in Lower Alabama. In our spacious backyard in Montana, we had a six square foot patch of rhubarb. The gorgeous, fig-shaped leaves were as big as elephant ears. At first, I had no idea what to do with all of those funny-looking things I thought looked like red celery stalks, but with a little help from our friends in town, I quickly made use of the delightfully tart ingredient, namely in this delectable Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie.
French Macaron vs. Macaroon: what’s the difference? Ever since those French cookies became the new cupcake, there’s been a lot of confusion around what one actually calls them. They’re often labelled macaroons, a seemingly harmless misnomer. In fact, a macaroon is not an interchangeable word for those French confections; a macaroon is an entirely different cookie altogether, in almost every way.
Instead of the usual artificially-colored-green treats for St. Patrick’s Day, try whipping up these fantastic, easy stout brownies from scratch. Inspired by a recipe from Bon Appétit magazine, this brownie recipe’s secret ingredient is a St. Patrick’s Day must-have, a rich dark stout beer (I prefer Guinness but you could use anything you like.) The secret: reducing the Guinness on the stovetop until its flavors are concentrated. As a result, these brownies are rich, decadent, and gooey. The glaze is definitely gilding the lily, but why not?
French macarons, those elegant, shatteringly-crisp meringue cookies sandwiching delectable fillings, are a little finicky. My first attempt at making French macarons was so abysmal that I didn’t even bother making a buttercream or ganache to fill the misshapen, overbrowned things. In fact, the shells went straight into the trash. See my failure here, if you’re so inclined. Pretty awful, right? I’m surprised I didn’t give up right then and there and decide macaron (pronounced mac-a-RON, and don’t you forget it) making was just not in the cards for me. I’m sure my persistence had something to do with my infatuation with them, a serious affliction since January of 2010, when I ate my first pistachio macaron in Paris and fell desperately in love with the ethereal pastry.
We are nearing winter’s finish line, so it’s time to use up all of the bountiful citrus you’ve collected this season. Although lemons are undoubtedly my favorite, grapefruit is not far behind, and this Grapefruit Icebox Pie is supreme. It’s no surprise grapefruit’s botanical name means “fruit of paradise.” With sweet-tart, tangy flesh and color ranging from pale pink to coral, grapefruit is a welcome star in salads, pies, curds, or simply sprinkled with sugar and broiled. Continue Reading
I’ve learned one thing about king cake while living in the Gulf Coast: people have strong feelings about this confection. Last year, when I devised the idea of a king cake tasting, everyone chimed in with their own area favorites–and they varied considerably. This year was an even bigger fête than the last, with a spread of fifteen king cakes. For our tasting, Fairhope Roasting Company generously donated a pound of their Holiday Blend coffee, a bold dark roast that blended perfectly with the sweetness of the king cakes. Need to know where to get your Gulf Coast king cake this Mardi Gras? There’s something for everyone here.
King cakes come in myriad fillings, from fruit to chocolate to cream cheese. Last year, I made a semi-traditional Pecan Praline Cream Cheese king cake. The year, on the advice of my 5-year-old son, I went a little out of the box with a Meyer Lemon Cream Cheese king cake. We had a plethora of Meyer lemons from the plea I put out on Facebook a few weeks earlier. (Our former home had a citrus orchard that I desperately miss, and some kind-hearted neighbors filled the void with their own bounty.) Meyer lemons are a sweeter, less tart cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, and they make a fantastic curd, which is what I used in the filling of this king cake.
If the Christmas Wreath Pavlova wasn’t enough of a showstopper for you, I’m thinking this Gluten-Free Yule Log (aka Flourless Chocolate Bûche de Noël) might be what you’re looking for. Even if you don’t avoid wheat, this Gluten-Free Yule Log will be a showstopper for your holiday table. Bûche de Noël, or French for “Yule Log”, and I go way back. My senior year of high school, we were assigned a final project for our International Baking class. I, ever the Martha Stewart fan, decided to make her Bûche de Noël recipe –a three-day endeavor. Her beast requires a chocolate mousse filling, chocolate genoise cake, ganache frosting, and fussy little meringue mushrooms. Kudos to my mother for indulging my ambitions and forging on with this project that I never would have completed without her help. It was success. I got an A+++ on the project (formerly thought mathematically impossible) and a recommendation from my teacher that I go on to the CIA (which confused me until I realized she meant the Culinary Institute of America).
Last week, some good (nay–amaaaazing) friends gifted us a loaf of Stollen–a German Christmas Yeast Bread; we ate it record time. There may have even been a few squabbles between me and my husband regarding who just exactly ate how much of this stuff. When the inevitable heel of the loaf appeared, I thought, “hey–this can’t be that hard to make.” And I was right. It takes the a day to bake and the better part of a week to let the loaf “ripen” into its decadent glory, but most of it is inactive, soaking or rising time.
Pavlova, Australia’s national dessert, is one of my favorite desserts, both to eat and to make. It looks seriously complicated but couldn’t be easier. Its foundation (literally) is a cloud of meringue–crusty on the outside with a pillowy marshmallow interior. Next is a layer of sweetened whipped cream, and then usually a fruit of choice. I thought cranberry would be perfect for this Christmas Wreath Pavlova, and I happened to have these fantastic Sparkling Sugared Cranberries for a garnish.
On the third day of Christmas, there were sparkling cranberries, for your cake or cocktail garnishing or snacking pleasure. This one may seem a little out of left field, but if you’re a fan of sweet and tart things, they’re delicious.
On the second day of Christmas, there was an unbelievably fudgy, deep-dark chocolatey, ooey-gooey cookie. Deep Dark Chocolate Crinkles are pretty much the exact opposite of yesterday’s Pecan Snowballs. Where those are hard and crumbly, these are soft and chewy. But hey—it’s #12DaysofChristmas and who says we have to choose? Make both and enjoy the compliments. Continue Reading
I began last year’s #12DaysofChristmas with a Meyer lemon snowball cookie, and this year it’s going back to the original Pecan Snowball. These things go by so many names it’s hard to keep up. I’ve called them tea cookies, Mexican wedding cookies, pecan meltaways, etc. What more do you need to know other than they’re delicious? Melt-in-your-mouth, crumbly shortbread, studded with pecans and dusted with powdered sugar. It’s impossible to eat just one.
As a New England transplant to the Deep South, there are a few things I desperately miss about the Northeast around this time of year. I’ll rank them in order of importance, from least to most:
3. Leaves changing 2. Apple picking 1. Apple cider doughnuts
That’s right; the thing I miss most about New England is a crinkly, white paper bag, full of freshly fried, subtly spiced, apple cider doughnut goodness. Picking actual apples comes second, with the eye-searingly gorgeous array of fall foliage bringing up the rear.
A version of this article was originally published in Best Version Media’s Spring Hill Living and Historic Midtown Living October 2017 magazines.
One of my favorite things to do with my kids (5 and 2) is bake. I’m a sucker for any sort of dessert, and my children, unfortunately, have inherited my sweet tooth. On the plus side, they’re always willing to help out in the kitchen, as long as they get to “sample” the finished product. Because Halloween is almost upon us, I thought it would be a great time to share a favorite spooky treat of ours: Double Chocolate Monster Cookies. Yes, including children in a project involving sprinkles and frosting is most likely to end up in a mess (and the end result might not be stunning) but the smiles on their sticky faces are totally worth it.
These Earl Grey Teacakes are the best reminder of this stunning season. Spring is one of my favorite times of year in our fair city. Everything is new, from the birds to the buds on the trees, and the cooler mornings and warm days (mostly) stave off the stifling heat of summer. I recently had the privilege of watching spring unfold in front of my eyes in a very different part of the world.
As you may have heard, king cake is king around these parts this time of year. I hope none of you are king caked out yet, because this weekend, Mardi Gras kicks into high gear as we approach a five-day celebration from today until Tuesday.
A few weeks ago, I posted a guide to king cakes around the Mobile and Eastern Shore area. It’s in no way exhaustive, as I’m pretty sure my guests and I would’ve succumbed to a sugar coma before tasting every single king cake available in the area. But we tried, and I’ve gotten some great feedback on some we’ve missed. Read on to discover those and for a recipe for a Pecan Praline Cream Cheese King Cake you can make right in your own kitchen. Continue Reading
Growing up, my family treated Valentine’s Day a little differently than the romantic, red rose holiday it is to most. For us, it wasn’t so much a couples-only holiday as it was a day to let those you love know how much they mean to you. My maternal grandmother was the queen of homemade Valentines, and my mother has taken up that torch with pride. Every year, she crafts adorable homemade Valentines for her grandchildren to distribute to their friends.
On the eighth day of Christmas, there were still lemons in my kitchen. That’s right, I have not somehow figured out how to use 200 lemons in one week. But lucky for me, I’m not sick of them yet, despite drinking them in my water, and cocktails, and adding them into any recipe I can think of. So that’s why I bring you lemon curd tonight, and even better, a recipe that takes fewer than 30 minutes from start to finish.