Sunday, August 26, 2012

Brown Sugar Buttermilk Scones with Homemade Raspberry Jam

In the late afternoon, I often fortify myself for the remainder of the day by enjoying a cup of strong tea, along with a sweet of some sort (better than a shot of bourbon, I reason). Tender scones served

with homemade jam and good butter is my favorite teatime fare. I have to admit I don’t make jam or preserves much, but occasionally I get the urge, because it’s so much better than the stuff in the jar 

you buy at the supermarket. The scones, made with buttermilk, lemon zest and brown sugar, are very easy to make, as they are mixed up in the food processor before the final addition of

buttermilk is mixed in by hand. Try not to handle the dough too much at this point – it just needs to be kneaded gently a few times to come together before it’s rolled out. The raspberry jam, also flavored with a little lemon zest, is remarkably easy to make. You can even serve it warm, if you like, though it will be more like a sauce than a jam at this point.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake

Last Wednesday, August 15th, would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday, an event which was widely reported in the media. In honor of this occasion, I reflected on how Julia influenced my own life and career. As a child, I religiously watched her on The French Chef, just like every other cooking-crazed youth of my generation. As a teenager, I decided I wanted to go to Smith College pretty much based on my knowledge that Julia was an alumna. And after 

graduation, when I met Julia and her husband Paul at a party, I asked her where she thought I should go to cooking school. She suggested La Varenne in Paris, so that’s where I went (when Julia talked, I listened…). I met Julia a few other times. One year, the magazine I edited (Chocolatier), named her our Hall of Fame recipient (I mean, really, who could top Julia for this honor?). She came to the event and made a little speech, and I walked her around a bit, though she was a little shaky on her feet. A&E was filming, so we both ended up in the final two minutes of Julia’s biography program. What I loved most about Julia was her love for life, which 

she displayed so fervently through her love of food. She always seemed to be comfortable in her own skin, always ready to laugh, have a little drink and then something wonderful to eat. And when she made a mistake during one of her cooking segments, she didn’t take it too seriously – she understood that one little slip-up did not necessarily spoil the soufflé.

In honor of her birthday, I made a recipe that came from the TV series Baking With Julia. It’s a Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake, a simple recipe that suited Julia’s taste perfectly. Nothing too over-the-top, just a simple cake made with deliciously ripe nectarines and a layer of almond streusel. If I had remembered, I would’ve stuck a few birthday candles in the finished cake. But then again, I don’t think Julia was so big on gimmicks. For her, it was all about the food and, of course, the technique.  Thanks for everything, Julia – you’ll always be the best, in my book.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fresh Cherry Crumble Pie

The pie bug has officially bitten me, and while strolling through the farmer’s market yesterday some bright red cherries called out to me.  I do love cherry pie, probably because it reminds me of two of my favorite things: summer and diners. While I enjoy all forms of cherry 

pie  (from individual ‘hand pies’ to freeform galettes) my favorite is probably a double-crust country fair style pie. But when it’s hot out, I don’t necessarily want to be messing around too much with pie dough, so I opt for a simpler version of the classic: a crumble-

topped pie that half pie, half crisp. The crust is my basic pie dough, adapted from my book Diner Desserts, and has butter and shortening in it. The butter is for flavor, the shortening for flakiness. If you happen to be firmly in the pie-crust-made-with-just-butter camp, though, by all means just use butter (personally, 

shortening is my friend, and I’m not afraid to use a bit of it when necessary). The filling is a straight-forward one made with sweet cherries, sugar, cornstarch and a little lemon zest to boost the flavor. The crumble topping, which comes together quickly in the food processor, is made with slivered almonds, brown sugar, butter and a bit of cinnamon, a combination of flavors that works beautifully with cherries. Serve it with whipped cream, whipped crème fraiche, or vanilla or almond ice cream for a little slice of heaven.