Toast Your Sugar, Friends

A quick note to suggest that you all toast your sugar. I learned of the technique from Stella Parks (one of the greats!) over on Serious Eats. She uses granulated sugar in place of beans or pie weights when she is blind baking pie shells. The sugar eventually takes on color and a caramelized flavor. But you don’t need to wait for the next time you’re making pie, toasted sugar can be made anytime. Instructions here. I like the results after about 3 hours. And this stuff is great in a lot of places. Pavlovas! Ice cream! Scones! Cookies!

Speaking of Stella, she recently brought another pastry secret into my life. Her fruity whipped cream technique has you whip heavy cream with some sugar and some freeze-dried fruit in a food processor. The resulting thick and delicious cream (kind of like clotted cream) is super stable and can keep in the fridge for days. It is genius. I especially like raspberry. She explains the whole process here. Sweet!

Prune, Oat, and Spelt Scones

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A quick note to say: make these scones! They’re superduper amazing. You should make the whole batch and freeze a bunch to improve future mornings. They are definitely best served hot from the oven.

The recipe is from The Violet Bakery Cookbook, a book that I am slowly growing to love. I didn’t trust it for a long time (see issues below), I don’t believe some of the recipes and there are some conversion problems between weight and volume. But the book is very beautiful and the kind of dumb dreamy read that I often enjoy. I was surprised (and happy!) by how far it made its way through the recent Piglet cookbook competition this year, which is partially what prompted me to use the book more. You can read those reviews to get more perspective on the book.

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How We Used to Flex in Texas

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Amanda Rockman has left the building.

After a good run in Chicago, she has packed her bags and headed back home to Texas. You may remember Amanda from the famous Gateau Basque recipe she shared on these pages. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of eating a plate of sweets made by this super-talented chef, you probably won’t forget her. If pastry chefs were spirit animals, she’d probably be mine. So, as you might have guessed, I was a little bummed when I heard she was leaving town. So bummed that in her last couple of weeks I’d just show up at Nico and eat all of the desserts for dinner. Amanda’s been an important part of Chicago’s pastry scene for years—but Chicago’s loss is Austin’s gain (Austinites—Amanda will be in charge of all pastry at the soon to open South Congress Hotel, go tell her I said hello), and I am happy for Amanda and excited to see what she does next.

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Caramelized Crepes Filled with Fresh Cheese

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On one of our first Valentine’s Days together, Bryan and I decided to go out to dinner. He made a reservation at a local French bistro that we ordinarily enjoyed. The thing I remember most about that night was the embarrassing horror of it all—of the spectacle of public displays of romance. We were surrounded by couples trying desperately to have a romantic dinner, everyone was wearing red and awkwardly pulling out chairs for each other. There was this hope in the air that this would all begin to feel really romantic. Which is, of course, that last thing that is going to happen at a restaurant on Valentine’s Day. Romance rarely happens when it is supposed to (the exception perhaps being sunsets?), especially when there are dozens of other couples there trying for the same thing. We survived the dinner, and I remember being really happy that Bryan also found it objectionable. We vowed that year to never go out to dinner on Valentine’s Day, unless we were going to Taco Bell or some other place that can’t help but feel romantic. read more+++

Profiteroles with Tahini Brown Butter Cream, Sesame Cashews, Caramel and Halva

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There are a few restaurants in this world that have become iconic for me. Places that manage to provide everything I dream a restaurant could provide. Some of them are in Chicago, and I am grateful for that. Some are further away and I pine for them. A restaurant at the top of my list is Ana Sortun’s Oleana, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The restaurant has been there for a while and received heaps of praise since its opening, but we only ate there for the first time a few years ago. We were in Massachusetts to be married, and so of course that colors all of our experiences with a warm glow. But the meal blew my mind. Plate after plate of food elicited wows and mmmms and sometimes silent awe from us. It doesn’t hurt that we were sitting in the beautiful garden behind the restaurant and that the service is among the the best I have experienced anywhere. The staff is friendly and charming and eager to teach you about the food. Bryan and I both agreed it was the perfect restaurant.

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Buttermilk Pecan Fudge

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Fudge shops are not usually indicators of a rich culinary scene. I associate fudge with tourist-filled fair-weather vacation spots from Monterrey to Saugatuck to Ogunquit. The fudge in any of these shops inexplicably looks the same, thus undermining my faith in the product. It is sometimes sold alongside all forms of gummy/sour candies and ice cream that is crystallizing before your very eyes. Though I frequently enter these shops, they do have their charms and usually are well-air conditioned, I rarely eat anything. read more+++

Dark & Stormy Caramel Corn

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Remember a while back when I posted about that apple cider cream pie? Well, it remains one of my favorite recipes and it comes from the pastry genius that is Allison Kave of First Prize Pies. She and a partner (Keavy Blueher) are raising funds to open a dessert and cocktail bar in Brooklyn called Butter & Scotch. This sounds like a real dream to me, and so I was super excited when Allison agreed to preview one of their recipes here. And not just any recipe, a recipe for Dark & Stormy Caramel Corn that manages to combine one of my favorite cocktails with one of my favorite sweets. read more+++

Blueberry Shortcakes with Whipped Cream Cheese

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Sometimes all I want to say to you is: MAKE THIS NOW. Sometimes there isn’t much more to say than: This is a good recipe, and you should make it if you like eating delicious food. This is one of those times. Blueberry biscuit shortcakes with whipped cream cheese don’t really need any more explanation, so: MAKE THESE NOW! read more+++

Lottie + Doof + Zoe Nathan = Scones!

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I am a Zoe Nathan superfan. She and her husband, Josh Loeb, own a bunch of really rad restaurants (Rustic Canyon Wine Bar, Huckleberry, Milo and Olive, Sweet Rose Creamery) in Santa Monica that I eat at whenever I am in town. Zoe also grew up with a bunch of my dearest friends (hi Tini!) and worked at Tartine with another dear friend who happens to own my favorite bakery in Chicago. It is a small world of wonderful people. I convinced Zoe to stop by L + D to share a recipe and answer the ole L+D food quiz—remember that thing? read more+++