Lottie + Doof + Dana Cree!!



I met Dana Cree this past autumn when I moderated a Taste Talks panel on one of my favorite topics, ice cream. Dana is one of Chicago’s most celebrated and beloved pastry chefs and is responsible for the sweets at both Blackbird and Avec, two of Chicago’s most celebrated and beloved restaurants. She has twice been nominated for a James Beard award for her work at Blackbird. Dana really loves making (and eating) ice cream. She’s been selling small batches of her carefully produced pints at Chicago’s Publican Quality Meats, where each one warmly introduces itself with a “Hello my name is…” tag. Someday she’ll undoubtedly have her own ice cream shop (I can’t wait!), but for now we hoard pints. Her ice cream landed her on that panel with me where I learned that Dana is funny (she talked about poop!), smart (further evidence available on her beautiful blog) and generous (here she is!). read more+++

Cookbook Review: Cookie Love


There are a lot of cookbooks written by professional chefs who seem to have no memory of what it is like to cook at home. They often include complex recipes full of ingredients that are only available foraged from the forests of Northern California. Some of these books are perfectly lovely books and can be enjoyed for other reasons, but they’re unlikely to get much use in my kitchen. They’re aspirational, which I’m okay with—sometimes. More often, I want a book I can and will use regularly. On the other end of the spectrum there are books specifically designed for home cooks that include uninspired recipes for things like chocolate chip cookies or roasted chicken. Apparently, they’ve never heard about the internet. It is some seriously boring stuff. The current cookbook landscape leaves one feeling a bit like Goldilocks, looking for just right.

Mindy Segal, Chicago’s most iconic pastry chef, released her first cookbook, Cookie Love, this week. Segal is a James Beard award-winning (and frequently nominated) pastry chef who has been pushing sweets at Hot Chocolate, her restaurant/dessert bar, for the past decade. I learned to love pastry at Hot Chocolate. I lived near the restaurant for years and was a frequent and enthusiastic patron. The sweets she made were progressive and exciting, as well as totally satisfying and familiar. She never served a dessert so weird that you could not relax and enjoy it; her focus was on pleasure. She used salt and acid and temperature in her desserts, the way a savory cook might (and the way all pastry cooks should!). It lead to some incredible stuff. I have often hoped she would write a book—I was desperate for her secrets. About a year ago I learned that a book was finally happening, and that it would focus on cookies, the uncontested highest form of dessert. A food writer I admire, Kate Leahy, signed on to write the book with Segal. She has past experience translating the work of chefs to the home kitchen. Their book, published by Ten Speed Press, turns out to be exactly what this Goldilocks has been looking for. read more+++

Rugelach, Redux (Again)


I’ve already shared two very wonderful rugelach recipes on my site, so who do I think I am writing about a third? Well, this one is my favorite. I think. Who knows, I’m fickle. But the world can never have too many recipes for rugelach.

These are from the Bar Tartine book (which I love, see Gift Guide), though for various reasons I had to adapt these to work for me, lil ole’ me without kefir butter or home dried fennel flowers. To be honest, no stages of the recipe worked as smoothly as I would have liked them to work, and there is a major typo in the recipe that is published in the book. But despite all of that, here I am. Maybe that will convince you of how delicious these are? I hope.

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Espresso Burnt Sugar Shortbread


It’s cookbook season, and new books are hitting the shelves (and my mailbox) daily. Most of them are just okay. And then once in a while a book comes along that, for a variety of reasons, really speaks to me. I had never heard of Ovenly before opening this book. It turns out it is a bakery in New York. According to the cover of the book it is “New York’s Most Creative Bakery”, which is a ridiculous thing to claim. The bakery was started by two friends, Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin, who met in a book club, both with Eastern European roots and a serious interest in baking. I really liked the introductions written by the owners, they both seem thoughtful, charming, and passionate about what they do. My first flip through the book had me wanting to bake everything, from Nutella and Banana Coffee Cake to Bloody Mary Scones and Jelly Donut Muffins. These are the sorts of things that you actually want to bake at home.

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Chocolate Nudges


Love means sometimes having to bake with chocolate.

It’s valentines week and, love it or hate it, you’ve still got to eat. May I suggest these perfect little chocolate and pistachio cookies? Chocolate?! you say? Truth be told, my dislike of chocolate has probably been over-stated. Sometimes I like it, though I almost never prefer it (expect perhaps in the case of cheap milk shakes). I prefer chocolate as an accent, but rarely as the focus. You can keep your Death-by-Chocoholic-Avalanche-Lava-Cakes. But Bryan loves it, and because I am such a sweet husband, I baked him these cookies. read more+++

50/50 Sablé


The whole grain trend that is sweeping the nation is alright with me. The health benefits of whole grains are great, but the flavor is what keeps me coming back for more. They just taste good, and they make even the simplest thing more interesting. Kim Boyce schooled us all a few years ago, and I am happy each time the lesson is reinforced.

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LA, Vegas + Salted Caramel Shortbread

We’ve been traveling for the past couple of weeks. We were mostly in Los Angeles visiting Bryan’s family and some friends (hi guys!). Bryan’s sister and her husband recently had the most adorable baby ever, and the highlight of our trip was getting to meet our sweet niece. She was in her fifth week of life when we were with her. Five weeks! It is hard to wrap your mind around. In addition to plenty of baby holding, we also took a small side trip to Las Vegas.

Last year when we attended the Saveur Blog awards party, Bryan entered a raffle. Luck was on our side that night because he won the grand prize: a stay at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. I think we’d need to be 10 years younger(or 30 years older?), heterosexual, and very drunk to really enjoy Las Vegas, but we did our best. Mostly we enjoyed our truly amazing suite (3 bathrooms!) and marveling at the insanity that is “The Strip”. We ate at a bunch of restaurants, but to be honest I didn’t love any of them. Everything was overpriced and under-loved. It was hard to find magic. We left the strip for a brief excursion to Amber Unicorn Books, which has the most glorious selection of used cookbooks I have ever seen—hundreds and hundreds…maybe even thousands? It is in a pretty nondescript strip mall, a fifteen minute drive from where we were staying. As we drove through the streets of Vegas that most tourists never encounter, I wondered what other secrets were lurking throughout the city. I know that if people come to Chicago and never leave the loop or Michigan Avenue, they have no idea of Chicago. I wondered if it is frustrating to live in a city mostly known for a couple of miles of casinos and shopping malls.

In any case, Las Vegas was a fun diversion, and we drove back to Los Angeles with a trunk full of cookbooks. read more+++

Sugar Saucers

Recently I discovered (and shared on Twitter) that there were 243 cookbooks in my apartment. The number has since risen to 245. I was both proud and horrified by the number. It is a lot of books. It is especially a lot of books for a small, one-bedroom apartment. Poor Bryan. At least a hundred of them are in piles around the house, so my new years resolution is to find a storage solution for all of these books. Wish me luck.

One of the two recent additions to the collection was Piece of Cake: Home Baking Made Simple by David Muniz, David Lesniak and Rachel Allen (published in the UK as Baked in America- which is a much better title). It is a book from the two guys who own Outsider Tart bakery in London. The bakery sells American baked goods (whoopie pies, cupcakes, layer cakes, etc) to Brits, and apparently is popular. I didn’t know much about the bakery, and somehow missed the US release of the book back in the Autumn. I honestly have no idea why I bought this cookbook. Why do we buy most things? Boredom? I read a thing? I was hungry? Anyway, I added another general baking book to the dozens that I own and depleted even more of my expendable income. Bad idea, right? read more+++

Speculoos Buttons

I’ve been randomly exclaiming Christmas is almost over!, since Halloween. Even though I’m not Christian, I love the “holiday season” (by “holiday season” I mean: snow, Christmas decorations, presents, egg nog, good cheer, and all other secular/cultural parts of the holiday). The older I get, the faster the season goes by and the less satisfying it all is. It comes and goes so quickly, hence my anxious exclamation. I’m trying to fight the forward motion of the holidays by baking as much as possible, and watching holiday classics like She-Ra & He-Man: A Christmas Special (seriously weird, and currently streaming on Netflix).