Peach Upside-Down Cake

DSC_0115aThe last of the peaches. Parental scoffing notwithstanding, I found using up 25 pounds of peaches a formidable task. Despite making six quarts of canned peaches, four jars of peach jam, peach salsa, grilled peaches, and freezing a sack of peeled, sliced peaches for future use (a cop-out, I know), last week several bruised, wrinkly peaches, the remnants from my haul, still regarded me forlornly from the dry sink. Continue reading

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Lemon Almond Poppy Seed Cake with Lemon Crème Fraiche Glaze

DSC_0855aHappy New Year everyone! Here’s a sweet treat to send you into 2013, a virtual hug from me to you. This is a very easy, very delicious cake. My oven’s finally been repaired (hurrah!) and I wanted to test it with something fairly forgiving. It’s the perfect “I want cake right now!” or “Crap! I’ve got company coming and nothing to feed them!” cake, since it’s ready in 75 minutes or less. Continue reading

Berry Almond Custard Tarts

My mother’s berry custard tarts are legendary, and always perfect. Whenever I make a berry custard tart, however, there is at least a 20% chance that my custard will spitefully and wilfully refuse to set. Most recently this happened last summer, when my great-uncle asked me to prepare dinner for him and some special guests. For dessert I served them strawberries which sat like little islands among haphazard pieces of crust in a pool of completely liquid custard. It tasted nice, but it was definitely not a custard tart. (I still do not understand why I can make a perfectly lovely custard most of the time but get stage fright when I’m making a tart.) This year, I spent the Fourth of July with my family in upstate New York. I cleverly decided to make berry custard tarts so I could take advantage of that inexhaustible fount of culinary knowledge, my mother. The secret? My mother CHEATS. Continue reading

Apricot-Almond Meringue Cookie Bars

When I was an awkward pre-adolescent with dreams of becoming a chef, my immediate goal was to differentiate myself from my mother. My mother is possibly the world’s best pastry chef. After a long day of work at the laboratory (both of my parents are scientists), she would effortlessly whip up beautiful airy genoises, cream puffs, Polish poppy seed cakes, elaborate Black Forest cakes (remember those?), delicate pralines, rich ganaches, and meringues shaped like the letter S for me and R for my sister. Her bible was Paula Peck’s The Art of Fine Baking, the book from which (much later) I too taught myself how to bake. But, at the age of 11, achieving parity with my mother seemed impossible. Anyway, I didn’t want to IMITATE, I wanted to DISTINGUISH myself. Continue reading