Southern-Style Frosted Cinnamon Rolls

341aThe thing that I love most about baking in the American South is the blithe disregard for caloric content and cholesterol. A close second is the Southern fondness for, well, stickiness. Gooey frostings and sticky caramel reign supreme. Baked goods are literally finger-licking good, and it is a glorious thing. The cinnamon roll – ostensibly, an innocent breakfast roll, but really a wolf in sheep’s clothing – in many ways epitomizes what I love best about Southern cakes. It begs to be eaten with the hands. It’s warm and yielding and fragrant and delightfully, decadently sticky. If you’re watching your waistline, after a proper cinnamon roll you may as well skip meals for the rest of the day. Southern-style cinnamon rolls don’t play around. Continue reading

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Nectarine Shortcakes with Nectarine Butter Caramel

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The end of summer is bittersweet. In the Pacific Northwest at midsummer it gets dark at 10 p.m., but by the end of August the days get shorter, the nights cooler, and the rain begins to return. This summer in Seattle has been glorious, and Labor Day weekend has given us a last burst of sunshine. Next week, however, it is going to rain. And rain. Hello autumn. Fortunately the markets are still full of splendid peaches, nectarines, and beautiful Italian plums, the last taste of summer.

I was in the Yakima Valley, in Eastern Washington, this weekend for a wedding. Yakima Valley is peach country. (It is also wine country, but that is a story for another day.) In Union Gap, a tiny town whose largest employer is a fruit packing company, I lost my mind and bought 25 pounds of canning peaches. At home, I spread them out to ripen and thought, “I had better do something about those nectarines.” Continue reading

Raspberry Salted Pine Nut Brittle Ice Cream

DSC_0020aSo I had another post in the line-up to publish today, but with the east coast, England, and northern Europe choking in a heat wave, I felt that I should bump something cool, refreshing, and summery to the head of the queue. And what a summer treat it is! I am IMMENSELY PROUD of this ice cream. I made it last weekend, in my nearly new ice cream maker, after I had another no-self-control U-Pick experience. After a little more than an hour, I’d picked six pounds of raspberries and four pounds of blueberries, and it’s only thanks to my sister, who was with me and able to lead me from temptation, that I did not pick more.  Having far too many raspberries is not exactly a crisis. I used over half a pound of them for this recipe, and more than anything, it made me wonder why raspberry ice creams are not more common, because raspberry ice cream is DELICIOUS. Continue reading

Apricot Caramel Upside-Down Cake

I’m one of those people who is chronically unable to accept compliments regarding my cooking. I can go further: I am a chronic apologist for my own food. This is such a consistent issue that I made a New Year’s resolution to apologize less and say thank you more.

Resolutions are great in theory but difficult to implement. Last Saturday I baked an apricot caramel upside-down cake for a party. Lovely friend Sophie helped herself to a slice and sat down beside me. “It’s a weird color because I used brown sugar,” I said. Sophie said nothing, and placed a small morsel in her mouth. “It looks dense, but that’s because the caramel soaked into the cake a little. I think I flipped it too early,” I said. With great concentration, Sophie continued to eat her cake. “I was hungover when I baked this cake, so I’m not sure if it’s my best effort,” I said. Sophie said nothing. She delicately took a bit of soft caramelized apricot on her fork and ate it. “Do you think it’s too sweet? I’m worried that it’s too sweet,” I said.

Sophie turned to me. “Let’s start this conversation again. This time, you will only praise your cake,” she said. I thought for a moment. “This is a beautiful cake,” I said. “The apricots are like a sunset over a South Pacific island, turning the water gold. The cake is like a perfumed Spring breeze, like happy memories of childhood,” I said. Sophie looked at me and laughed. She said, “Maybe you should say nothing at all. Then, when someone compliments your cake, you can say, ‘Thank you.’” Continue reading

Classic Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin is my absolute favourite go-to recipe when I need to produce a nice dessert in a hurry. It’s the ultimate crowd pleaser: a classic tarte tatin consists simply of rich apple-flavoured butter caramel surrounding soft, tender cooked fruit on flaky, buttery, puff pastry. Served warm with a dollop of crème fraiche, there is NOTHING BETTER. And your friends – particularly the ones who don’t bake – have no idea how simple it is. (People are resistant to the idea that something so delicious can be so easy to make.) The beauty of a tarte tatin is that you can make it in less than two hours with minimal fuss. If you’re an expert apple peeler and corer, you can make it in under an hour and a half. Continue reading

Caramelized Figs with Balsamic Syrup and Crème Fraiche

Although London basically had no summer this summer, I am reaping the fruits, literally, of summer in other places. The markets in Paris are full of the most glorious black figs. I sampled one at the Marché d’Aligre in the 12th Arrondissement and had to buy a kilo of them. (They only cost about three euros, by the way.) My dad, who’s got slightly antiquated notions about food, did not believe me when I told him that figs and balsamic are one of the most glorious pairings known to man. I set out to prove him wrong, and succeeded. The addition of crème fraiche made this easy dessert HEAVENLY. Continue reading