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Archive for the ‘pastry’ Category

Have you thought about how you’re going to attack your holiday cookie plan this year? Do you have your basic dough made? If not, don’t worry. I haven’t either. While I’ve made all 12 of this year’s recipes, I only did that because I had to photograph the collective group for the last post. Seriously. I muscled my way through them all the day before Thanksgiving so while I wouldn’t recommend it, it is possible. I still have a few to tweak but thankfully those won’t post toward the end. As it is, I am writing this post a mere half hour before it goes up and haven’t started writing numbers 2-12. I suspect they’ll get done on the wire too. That’s just how I roll during the holidays. And I haven’t started my regular cookie baking. Oh well. It’ll all get done. It always does. The postman might not deliver those cookies until New Year’s but so be it. I refuse to have a meltdown this year (she says now.) Commence meltdown. What the hell … let’s go!

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About this time every year I have the same problem: apples. Too many damn apples. In the fall I like to go apple picking and well, things happen. I overdo it every time. Just 6 of this kind I tell myself. And just 6 of that one, its not too many. Maybe a few more, so 8 of that one and oh, maybe a few more of this one. Before I know it, I’ve got more apples than I know what to do with and visions of baked goods dance in my head. I’ve googled “recipes that use a lot of apples” so many times it auto-populates my search bar. The funny thing is, a lot of the recipes that come up don’t use a lot of apples … maybe two or three. False advertising! One can only use so much apple butter.

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I am extremely prone to jet lag. Back in February, after a particularly long overseas flight, I had the worst bout yet. At one point, a day or two after arriving home, I was wide-awake for a good 36 hours with surprising amounts of energy. It was strange. So I did something I’ve been meaning to do for months – I reorganized all my cookbooks. I have hundreds of cookbooks and over the years, they’d gotten a bit messy. I prefer to organize my cookbooks by subject but they were willy-nilly all over the apartment. The pile next to my coffeetable was taller than the table. It drove me crazy but I hadn’t gotten around to doing anything about it. Now I had the energy so I decided to attack the piles.

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Researching the foods of Africa in an effort to learn more about this recently maligned continent, I found so many things that sounded delicious. Too many. One day, I googled “African snacks” curious to see what came up for any of the 54 countries. I immediately perked up at the results which were far better than I had hoped. A litany of amazing things – meat pies, fritters, meat on sticks, and fried dough in all kinds of shapes and sizes and glazes. Among these were a few things with really great names that caught my attention immediately … chin chin, puff puffs and fat cakes. What?!? How much fun do these sound?!? I want to eat them all. Obviously I started with puff puffs. How could I not?

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A chef friend recently stayed with me for a few weeks and we had an interesting chat at the grocery store. She was raised in Switzerland, is currently working in Hong Kong and was in town to work at a Michelin starred restaurant for a short time. We’d made a quick stop at the grocery store to pick up some food and she stood in front of the yogurt display, baffled. “Why is there so much yogurt? Why do you have so much yogurt?” Good question. I looked at the display and was a little embarrassed. Have you taken a good look at the yogurt selection at your local grocery store lately? It’s absurd. Why do we have so much yogurt? My store is on the smaller side and has a 7-shelf display that is at least 10 feet long. Hundreds of containers and more than half of it is Greek yogurt. It’s really ridiculous.

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3.14159265, the ratio of the distance around a circle to the circle’s diameter. Guess what? Today, March 14th, is “Pi Day” the day to celebrate math and science, very important things we need to understand the world around us. Quite clever, I think. We bakers also celebrate Pi Day though we tend to think of it as Pie Day. We are funny people. Pastry dough, a sweet or savory filling and most of the time, a little heat to crisp the whole thing up. No surprise, this can go in many directions. Today, I chose to celebrate Pie Day with lovely little hand pies.

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Humble ingredients often make the best dishes and onions are the secret weapon in everyone’s pantry. What is not improved by adding an onion? I start nearly every dinner with a diced onion, some olive oil and a hot pan. Every culture’s cuisine has a similar starting point – mirepoix, Cajun trinity, sofrito, battuto, recaíto – a starting base of onions and a mix of other vegetables that create a flavorful base. There may be carrots and celery, or green pepper, or include chilies or maybe herbs but it always starts with the humble onion. Cook onions nice and slow and entire dishes can be built around those deeply caramelized, flavorful strands. French Onion Soup is just one example that illustrates the magic of a caramelized onion. This is another one of those recipes.

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