elevenses pumpkin bread

Hello, Sunday! In this newly minted Windy City of Boston, there is nothing today calls for more than a lazy morning. Sure we could pull out all the stops for a big brunch, but why go through all that when there’s something as simple as pumpkin bread to satiate the Sunday morning haze? Plus, you can finally put that can of pumpkin to use. You know, the one that’s been sitting in your cupboard since last Thanksgiving (& I mean LAST last T-day. 2009). Unless that’s just me? If for some reason you stay on top of your yearly pumpkin consumption, this is well worth a quick trip to the store for a bit of canned pumpkin. 

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One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.

Luciano Pavorotti

love is in the air, smelling like black raspberry & almond

By now, CVS has probably already put it’s red-packaged candies on the discount shelf, but in my opinion, you can never have too many sweet things!

I mean love. You can never have too much love. Love in the form of Black Raspberry Linzer Cookies!  Mmm.

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warming chocolate & black pepper ice cream

Back in November, I was browsing through David Lebovitz’s blog & stumbled upon a recipe for Milk Chocolate & Black Pepper ice cream that he swore would make sense on your taste buds, even if the initial thought of pairing the two sounded a bit odd.  I was intrigued, so on a walk-by of Heather’s Heat & Flavor during Thanksgiving in Cleveland, I stuck my nose into no less than eight jars of peppercorns, trying to sniff out which one could possibly have undetectable chocolate notes to complement chocolate ice cream.

Failing this, I asked advice of the shop’s proprietors, & although they thought I was more than a little crazy to even consider peppering chocolate, they happily sold me three different kinds of pepper, in addition to two different kinds of cinnamon & one pouch of cocoa (you can never have too much cinnamon or cocoa, really).

I smuggled the drugs through airport security, no problem, & recently found myself back at my stovetop in Boston with a saucepan-full of hot & beautiful chocolate custard & freshly ground Grains of Paradise pepper in a small bowl, which I almost couldn’t bear to toss in. Even as I gave the grinds a final sniff, revealing an earthy scent & a mellow but present zing, I was hesitant. But never fear. Even if this combo originated from a clumsy cook elbowing a jar of pepper into chocolate, the result was a very happy accident. You’ll love it.

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tea with cookies, cookies with tea

To be perfectly honest, I’m growing a bit weary of writing about the snowy comfort foods, but since it is only the beginning of February, I suppose it’s only fair that Ms. Winter still gets to continue in full force for a while yet, no matter what Sir Phil reports (who, by the way, is currently under investigation for fraud).

But when will the cozy comfort food ideas run out?? Never, I say. Never. Today I’m going with a bit of a lighter concoction: the perfect cookie for dipping in your warm cup of tea or coffee…or hot chocolate, for those super-indulgent folks out there (I tip my insulated, waterproof hood to you all). But really, they’re most appropriate with tea, since these cookies actually contain the leaves of camellia sinensis inside of them - a spicy blend of black tea, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, clove, & cardamom, or, in a word, chai.

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hello weekend gianduia truffle tart

Hazelnut + chocolate is one of my favorite flavor combinations ever. In gelato terms, thats a cup filled half with hazelnut & half with chocolate, every spoonful with some of each. In candy terms, that’s Ferrero Rocher or any truffle that combines the two. & in daily quick fix terms, that means a spoonful of Nutella, jar to mouth with no interference. Don’t pretend you don’t do this. The peanuts & chocolate combo runs a close second, but that’s a story for a different day. Today, beautiful Friday with a couple a snow-free days ahead of us, is for gianduia truffle tart.

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snowstorm prep: cream & currant scones

& winter continues!  We have another storm on the way, even though Boston has by far surpassed its snow quota for the month, season, & year. Most of us have, of course, gotten into the snow prep groove - making sure we have the necessary groceries so we won’t need to leave the house; placing the shovels & ice scrapers, boots & gloves out by door; pulling our windshield wipers up so they don’t freeze to the window. 

But I bet most people haven’t thought to round out their prep with scones, insuring a delicious breakfast to savor while the flakes pile up outside & a filling snack to warm you after pumping the snowy iron as you dig your front steps, car, or entire roof out of the white mess. 

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When my great-uncle August was in his twenties, he left Iowa & went to study cake decorating at the National Baking Institute in Chicago. He learned everything from spun sugar decorations to ice sculpture. He went to school for 2 years & when he finished, he went back to Iowa & worked in the family bakery. Except for the odd wedding cake, he never used the fancy stuff he learned. He was in charge of yeast breads & cinnamon rolls. Just after the end of WW II, the Valley Dairy Farmer’s Association had the first of the now famous Milk & Honey Festivals. August made a model of the Statue of Liberty out of 250 pounds of white cheddar cheese, surrounded by American Beauty roses of spun sugar, especially for the occasion. He showed me the page from Life magazine he kept folded up in his wallet, one summer when we visited. On it was a picture of a much younger man, smiling next to a 4 foot tall Liberty. He told me he had 6 proposals of marriage from that photo, one from the East Coast even & he smiled & I saw him grow 30 years younger & I knew in our hearts we never get old.

Brian Andreas

breakfast, lunch & dinner brioche

Like the elusive perfect baguette, brioche is one of those breads that always looks picture perfect when you’re standing in the right bakery. If I let myself buy one, it takes an impossible amount of self-restraint not to bite into it the second my claws pounce upon it, & when I do take it, that first bite is the divinely-inspired juxtaposition of flaky, buttery goodness supported by a light & airy pillow of bread.

Less like a pastry & a bit more substantial than a croissant, brioche is your pre-buttered bread that goes well with, well, everything. Plain? Definitely. Jam? No doubt. Cheesy & grilled? Yes, please. It goes from sweet to savory & back again. Of course I want to make it. Don’t you? Ok, maybe you just want to eat it. I know I do.

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ice outside, cappuccino ice cream in the kitchen

We woke up again yesterday to a winter wonderland, but since it just snowed a significant amount on Tuesday, this snow feels less like wonder & more like plain ol’ winter.  Betty White is further buried - I did dig her out today, though, & the full-body ache is slowly setting in as I type - the sidewalks are icier where neighbors are, like myself, too lazy to dig, but in my kitchen, we’re defying winter.  Who says you can’t have ice cream when the mercury dips below a certain point?  Not me.  & to all the naysayers out there, I wave my delicious cup of ice cream in front of your faces. 

The truth is, being cold outside can go two ways: either your heat is malfunctioning & you desperately need something hot to warm your icy innards, or you’re so into being cozy, with the fireplace & the blankets & the warm clothes, that you’re actually quite warm & could use something chilled.  Hopefully you are in the latter category (if not, I send happy space heater thoughts your way), & will indulge me in a ice cream so chock-full-o’ coffee that you might as well have it for breakfast.

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