Monday, October 15, 2007

Tempus Fugit

Looking back over the posts on sweet/tart, you'll see that the most recent is dated from the beginning of July. It's shocking to realize that it's now mid-October. There are a few reasons for the gap: the planning of WizRockStock, the Harry Potter 7 party for UBS (check out the photos here), and the subsequent planning of our fall season (more info to be found here). I can assure you that even though I haven't been posting, nothing comes between me and my food.

Over the course of the last few months, I rediscovered a wonderful old friend of a recipe, the Coffee Coffee Cake. This cake was a top seller at A. van Slyck catering, the kitchen where I really learned how to bake. Its dense vanilla-scented pound cake is tempered with an intensely sharp espresso swirl. The lily is gilded with a crunchy sweet espresso glaze.
It has the added bonus of being a flexible recipe. One afternoon I was already deep into butter-creaming, and realized that I was out of the espresso required for the marbling (note to new bakers: there's a reason why you're supposed to get your mise en place ready before you begin). No worries though! I quickly mixed together some cocoa powder, a little brandy and sugar, and voila, we had a chocolate marble instead.
I have also had a fun couple of months exploring some delightful new cookbooks: Pure Flavor, the lovely collection from Kurt Dammeier (of Beecher's Cheese) includes the recipe for their crazy good mac & cheese, and challenges you to eat without additives.
Not to be confused, Pure Dessert is Alice Medrich's new dessert cookbook. It concentrates on specific "pure" flavors (like milk, fruit, grains) and offers recipes that showcase those flavors. Many of these recipes are deceptively simple: the whole wheat sables are basically the same to throw together as a classic sugar cookie, but they have a delicate nuttiness, and a lovely toothsome bite.
But my current favorite is the new dessert cookbook from Babbo's pastry chef, Gina de Palma.
Dolce Italiano is a fantastic book--its gorgeous color photos, Gina's personal stories, and the breadth of accessible recipes make this the book to buy for your baking fanatic friends this Christmas.
The zucchini-olive oil cake, with lemon crunch glaze is straightforward but quite pretty, and incredibly moist. It also keeps well, which is always great if you're baking for the week.

This morning, I've been baking the sesame cornmeal biscotti. These came together really quickly--it's a basic butter cookie batter--but the cornmeal adds a little tenderness, and the sesame give them a little crunch and an almost anise-like aroma. It's such a pleasure to discover a cookbook that delivers on all counts. The recipes actually work exactly as the say they should, and the results are absolutely delectable.

And finally, a little tart to even out all these sweets. The boyfriend and I were at some friends' for dinner last night, and after a lovely autumn meal of potato leek soup, Leigh and I experimented with some quince that she had on the counter. She had made some quince compote, and was planning on making quince paste with the remaining fruit. I was curious to see what it tasted like before cooking (I couldn't remember if I had ever had it raw). Leigh obliged, and we cut into one. It was amazing--lemony and floral and absolutely puckering!
We decided to juice the raw quince, and then strained and reduced the resulting juice with just a bit of sugar. We shook the quince syrup with a little vodka and white cranberry juice, and made a sort of quince cosmo. It had "Danger" written all over it, it was so good!

Next we're going to try making quince curd. Stay tuned!

the perfect balance