Monday, 1 June 2009

Three's a Charm

I've been holding out on you.

I'm not sure why, now that I think of it. There have been so many tasty things passing through my kitchen, but for some reason, none of them seemed worthwhile to talk about.

For instance, these cupcakes:

Pumpkin spice with a caramel cream cheese frosting. Unstoppably, wickedly good, and yet, they're just cupcakes. Doesn't everybody write about cupcakes? Aren't cupcakes the sillyfrilly of the baking world? Haven't we had enough of all this frosting already?

My feelings are mixed (except for maybe about the frosting: I'm insatiable).

And then there was the pasta. I made this, which was unbelievably delicious for being tomato, butter, onion, butter and salt, period - but really, noodles?

So I was drawing a blank. Three nights in a row of leftover rice fried in butter with an egg on top didn't help my inspiration either. And then, like with most things in life, I went overboard.

My friend Jayme came to visit.
She's graduating from college next week, and already owns two KitchenAid standing mixers (different colors, of course). For my birthday one year, she made the most obscenely beautiful cake I've ever seen, dousing the batter with a full bottle of red food coloring. Next to the cream cheese frosting which we all know I'm a huge fan of, it was pretty spectacular.

Saturday night in San Francisco, and our only idea of entertainment surrounded the stove. Three desserts rolled out of the kitchen that night, all entirely different and all entirely noteworthy.

First were the lavendar biscuits. Thin and crispy, buttery and floral, these biscuits are a bit like shortbread, but the lavender shouts out from that butter and sugar base so strongly it's hard to place them firmly in any category.

From my new favorite British cookbook, they are the perfect light cookie that just screams to be eaten with tea in the afternoon, or maybe I'm just stereotyping. Either way, if you have lavender in your garden, or see some at the market, try these. Whipped up in just a few minutes, the lavender makes the cookies seem so grown up and classy you'll hardly believe they require one bowl and an eight minute timer. (Dinosaur cookie cutter not required for grown up-edness).

But let me backtrack. Dulce de Leche. You know, the stuff Haagen Daaz puts into ice cream? Well, if you have a dollar and four hours on your hands, let me tell you a little trick. Take a can of sweetened condensed milk. Pull the label off. Submerge the can in a pot of water. And then boil it. Yes, I do mean boil the entire can. And yes, I do mean for four whole spankin' hours. Seriously, that's it. Just make sure the water doesn't evaporate (it helps to have a hot kettle next to the pot to add water every once in a while) and maybe roll the can every once in a while. Let the can cool, crack it open, and this is what you'll find:

The hot water does it's magic through the metal of the can, and suddenly (after a long time), you have sweet sticky caramel, perfect for spooning on ice cream, smearing on toast (recommended with the reoccuring allstar: fleur de sel), or eating straight from the can.

And finally, there was the cobbler. To be precise, rhubarb. This particular dessert happened for a myriad of reasons: the stalks of rhubarb at the market were slender, beautiful, and almost three feet long; Jayme had never tasted rhubarb before; Jayme's mom has a cobbler recipe she makes every summer from the peaches and apricots that Jayme's dad grows behind their home in Fresno. A quick cell phone call and a stick of butter later the improvised cobbler was in the oven, sticky with rhubarby syrup.

I was thankful that I wasn't the only one with this feast of desserts and the whole night in front of us, but it was still quite a lot of work for two small girls. Thankfully, the cobbler and the caramel keep well, and the leftover lavender biscuits took a plane journey down to San Diego.

Lavender Biscuits

1 stick butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
2 tbsp finely chopped lavender leaves
1 tsp lavender florets, separated from the stalk

1) Beat butter and sugar till fluffy. Stir in flour and leaves.

2) Roll out on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle lavender flowers over dough and press in lightly with a rolling pin.

3) Cut out shapes, arrange on a baking dish, and bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Rhubarb Cobbler

3-4 cups roughly chopped rhubarb
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp tapioca pearls
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 stick butter, melted

1) Combine first three ingredients in a bowl, then pour into a 9 by 9 pan.

2) Wipe out bowl, then combine flour and sugar. Stir in the egg. Pour over rhubarb. Pour butter over flour mixture. (It will be swimming in butter, this is a good thing!).

3) Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes, Until crust is browning and juices are beginning to caramelize the edges.

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