Poached Rhubarb

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Nate, 6 months from today I’ll wear a white dress and meet you in a garden with all of our family and friends. We’ll say our vows and give each other our hearts and a lifetime. I’m so excited to share this new part of the adventure with you. I’m a lucky girl.

When I see rhubarb at the market I know that spring has found its way here. This is a simple recipe for new beginnings so I think it’s appropriate to share today.

 

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I give full credit to my instructor, Nicole, for introducing me to this method of preparing rhubarb.Quickly poaching it in a sugar syrup tenderizes and sweetens it just enough and doesn’t sacrifice flavor or crispness. The rhubarb retains its shape and beautiful color. I’m showing it here with some ginger biscuits, mint, and a generous dollop of creme fraiche as a full homage to spring, but it would pair beautifully with just about anything. Spoon it over ice cream or a lemon loaf, or maybe simply with some plain yogurt and granola.

 

1 pound rhubarb, cleaned and ends trimmed
equal parts water and cane sugar (I filled up a quart jar of each)
1 vanilla bean
lemon zest, to taste
special equipment ~ ice bath (large bowl packed with ice and water; this should be big enough to fit another bowl with your cooked rhubarb inside of it)

Combine sugar and water in a medium-sized sauce pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently to dissolve all sugar.
In the mean time, chop the rhubarb into small equal sized pieces, about an eight of an inch. Place in a large heat-proof bowl.
Split the vanilla bean down the middle and scrape the seeds out using the back of a small paring knife. Add both seeds and the pod to the bowl of rhubarb, along with your lemon zest.
When the sugar/water syrup has come to a boil, remove from heat and pour over the rhubarb.  Allow to sit until it reaches desired tenderness (3-4 minutes for crisper rhubarb and 5-7 for a softer result) Using a slotted spoon or sieve quickly sift the rhubarb out of the syrup and place into a separate bowl. Place bowl of rhubarb over your ice bath to quickly stop it from cooking. Make sure you don’t have so much ice or water in the ice bath that it spills into the rhubarb.
When both syrup and rhubarb have cooled completely add some syrup back into the rhubarb to keep it juicy and plump. Reserve the simple syrup for cocktails – I recommend a tablespoon in the bottom of a glass of prosecco. Bottoms up

 

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CHOCOLATE SANDWICH COOKIES (OREO KNOCK-OFFS)

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A few weeks ago it rained like crazy around here.  It started one day and didn’t let up for about five. None of our typical sprinkling or misting. Just torrential downpours for days. That doesn’t normally happen around here, though in the midst of this California drought it was greatly needed and kinda magical. It felt a little bit like somebody up there in the sky heard our plight and wanted to say don’t worry… you are not forgotten.  Whoever was responsible ~ thank you.

Remembering how much we needed this rain aided my patience when we came home  Sunday night after a relaxing weekend of wine tasting to find our basement flooded in six inches of water. Oh yeah. I can’t say we were surprised; extraordinary weather + 102 year old house… things happen. In a late-night scramble we called all of our friends, family and local hardware stores to track down a sump pump and came up empty handed. We  went through the moment of “let’s just leave this til the morning” before we realized the flooding had put out the pilot light on our water heater. Patience…. patience.

We sloshed around up to our shins in icy rain water, passing each other buckets and bins and garbage cans and hauling them away to the storm drains out front. Bucket after bucket after bucket of rain water and absolute misery. Fortunately at one point I started laughing, and then Nate started laughing.  We probably looked like two lunatics if anyone had walked in on that scene, but I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. You know you’ve found a good one when you can look each other in the eyes in a moment of chaos and expletives and lose yourselves in laughter.

We finally got the water to a less scary level and then went upstairs, closed the door on our rank basement and made some brothy, soupy, vegetable-y pasta to soothe our tired backs and minds. While I cooked, I tried to brand the importance of patience into my mind; store it there to be recalled later in times of need. Those times seem to be coming up a lot lately and Nate and I are becoming patience experts.

I am grateful for patience and those who show it to me on a daily basis. I’m grateful for love that binds when patience fails. I’m also still grateful for the rain, especially since it finally coaxed my daffodil bulbs out of the ground. Speaking of love and all that cheesy stuff, I recognize that yet another holiday has come and gone without a holiday-appropriate recipe.  Although I’m a little late, these cookies served as my valentine to Nate last month and they are delicious so I’d like to share them anyways. They are a pretty good throwback to real deal Oreos, except without all that processed stuff we can’t pronounce. The dutch-process cocoa is crucial to getting that distinct Oreo flavor in the cookies so use it if possible. Don’t make these without having access to copious amounts of milk for dunking.

It’s raining again now and that’s a pretty good excuse for some cooking making and patience practice.

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CHOCOLATE SANDWICH COOKIES

adapted from Martha Stewart

Cream filling
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons  vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons whole milk

Cream butter  in a medium bowl with an electric hand mixer until pale in color and fluffy. Add in the sugars and beat until thoroughly combined. Add vanilla and beat again until combined.
At this point the mixture will probably be a little chalky and powdery. Add the milk a few drops at a time, beating after each addition, until the mixture is smooth and spreadable. It should be pretty thick so take care not to add too much milk.

Cookies
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt and set aside. Combine the butter, sugar and egg in a large bowl. Add the flour mixture in two parts, mixing to combine after each addition. Use your hands and knead the dough until it becomes a cohesive dough. It should be a lot like play dough (we’re really throwing back here with play dough and Oreos). 
Divide the dough into two balls and roll out onto parchment paper. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes before cutting out desired shapes (go for the hearts… they’re too cute) and then refrigerate the cutouts again. This helps them keep their shape as they bake. 
Preheat oven to 350F and bake about 7 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies.
Allow to cool completely and then pipe or spread some of your cream filling onto one of the cookies. Stick another one on top. Dunk in milk!

CHOCOLATE CAKE (because we’re celebrating around here)

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Hey friends! Happy New Year! Remember me?? I’m the gal that used to talk about food around here.

It’s been a LONG time since we’ve talked. But, over the last four months, things started happening. Good things. Happening faster and faster than I ever could have imagined. Happening too quickly to snap photos of the meals we made or to jot down the recipes.. Too quickly to document dinner party menus or gift packaging tips or farmers market lists. Before I knew it, it was time to put a big red bow on 2013 and I realized I hadn’t posted so much as a Christmas cookie on this poor forgotten website.  Will you let me come back? Cause I missed y’all and I got news and recipes. I’ll take a second to catch you up.

September 22 was the first day of fall.  I woke up with a swelling in my heart, as I do every year on this day, because it’s my favorite. Fall is magic. Fall is when the world quiets down. Between the long days of summertime play and the chaos of holidays. Fall is my time for books and cups of tea. Cozy afternoons at home filled with comfort food. The first day of fall is my favorite day of the year.


This year, my day was extra special because it was also the day that my favorite person decided to get down on one knee on a park bench by the ocean, flip open up a box that held something real sparkly, and ask me to be his wife. Of course, it’s the day I told him yes, and the day we celebrated with all of our anxiously waiting friends and family at a nearby bar. Favorite day of the year?  Yes. Favorite day ever.

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brittle

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caramelcake

Somewhere amidst the wedding planning, we bought a house. I moved out of my parents home and became Nate’s roomie. It’s pretty awesome. It’s also a crazy ton of work being your own landlord. But, we’re having a good time. Nate knows way more about grounding electrical outlets than he ever cared to, and I can tell you how to find anything you want in The Container Store or Target. I am grateful for the daunting task of maintaining my own garden and sewing curtains. Our spare change is going towards a new furnace. I knew it was worth it the first we opened a bottle of wine and played a record in our own living room as loud as we wanted.

Not quite as exciting, but still pretty exciting, was my entry into professional pastry school. You’ll be hearing a lot more about it over the next year, but let’s just say it’s amazing. For now, because my heart is so full I need to share it with sweets, let’s have some cake. This is one for celebrating.

cake!


RICH CHOCOLATE CAKE with Salty Dulce de Leche & Hazelnut Brittle

*This cake is adapted from the wonderful cookbook One Girl Cookies, from the equally wonderful bakery by the same name in Brooklyn, NY. It is rich, dense, and very, very special.

You’ll Need

  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee (or one tablespoon of instant espresso powder mixed with 8oz hot water)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder – this the place to use that really good stuff you’ve been saving
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon table salt

Here’s How

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.  This part is important – this is one moist cake!
  • Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, pour hot coffee over cocoa powder and stir until cocoa is completely dissolved. Stir in the brown sugar, yogurt, and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined.
  • Using an electric mixer and a large bowl, cream together the butter and granulated sugar for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix for another few minutes, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Mix in approx one third of the flour mixture and half of the coffee mixture. Scrape down sides and add another third of the flour mixture and rest of the coffee mixture.  Using a paddle, fold in the remaining flour. Pour into the prepared pan.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes and rotate pan before baking an additional 20 minutes. The cake will be done when a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Use this as your guide more so than oven time. Cool cake in pan for 15-20 minutes, then remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
  • Crush a few pieces of hazelnut brittle in a food processor or with a rolling pin. Top cake with a generous drizzle of dulce de leche or caramel and the crushed  brittle (some day we’ll talk about making brittle… for now use your favorite go-to recipe or storebought v. Use just a little bit or go crazy with the toppings… it’s gonna be delicious either way.

HAZELNUT BRITTLE (makes approx 2lbs)

You’ll Need

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound skinned hazelnuts

Here’s How

  • Prepare the pan you’ll eventually pour your hot brittle onto the cool by lining it with lightly butter parchment paper or a Silpat. Set aside. Mix together the baking soda and vanilla. You can add a teaspoon of water if needed to prevent the mixture from becoming one big lump.
  • In a large, heavy saucepan combine the sugar, corn syrup, and 1 cup of water over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar crystals, until mixture is clear and reads 240F on a candy thermometer. Stir in the butter and nuts and continue cooking to 300F. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda mixture, at which point your mixture will bubble up. Be careful – it’s very hot and sticky!
  • Carefully pour the candy mixture into your prepared pan and quickly spread it out to an even thickness. Allow to cool completely and then break into large pieces.
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