Brown Butter Blondies

brown butter blondies

It’s approaching midnight on a Monday — a Monday! — and you’ll find me in the kitchen because there’s no sleep til brown butter. BLONDIES have been on my baking to-do list for some time now, making their way from one week’s post-it to the next. This craving/plan was kicked up a notch on a recent trip to Miami when we stopped for coffee and I ordered a butterscotchy and crumbly blondie that everyone kept stealing bites from. Blondies and coffee go together like PB & J.

I love anything with the nutty flavors of vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, bourbon, toffee. These blondies get a deep butterscotch flavor from the combined power of brown butter (a lot of it), toasted pecans, and dark brown sugar. The salty-sweet thing in desserts really does it for me too, so I topped off the blondies with flaky Maldon salt to bring out the flavors some more. Another thing to love about this recipe is that for your effort you get a lot of blondie. The batter fills a 13-by-9-inch baking dish rather than the usual 8-by-8.

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Blondies also seemed perfect this week because today is the first day of autumn and it’s just starting to feel like something other than summer around here. Afternoon storms are still sticking around in a big way, but a rainy day in September isn’t so bad if you get a chance to bake something or catch up on a book. Things can get real cozy real fast. Our new place is feeling especially homey with a new (huge!) dining table, but the scent of blondies seals the deal. That’s what makes it feel like home. There will be a round two of blondies soon. Probably this weekend. Brown butter rules from now until January.
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The Original Plum Torte

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My announcement one Saturday morning — “I’m making a plum cake!” — fell a little flat. My fiancé was not enthused and when I explained that no, it would not be a cake with frosting, I was met with only more skepticism. But soon the house was scented with cinnamon and the plum torte sat proudly on my cake stand. The cake itself doesn’t take long to make, and it took even less time for this recipe to find its newest fans.

The New York Times first published the original plum torte recipe in the 80s. The recipe ran again each year during plum season for more than a decade. Readers demanded it! Who can resist a recipe with such folklore? I made the cake just a few days after coming across it on one of my favorite food blogs, and I was impressed with its flavor and ease. No wonder Amelia made it twice already.

While Danny was out taking care of errands, I whipped up the cake and perhaps never felt more relaxed and cool about baking. There’s a lot of love for this torte, and a lot of that has to do with its simplicity and versatility. The cake elevates plums, for sure, but it’ll take to other fruit. Apricot. Cherry. Even berries. Try apples and pears as September takes us into fall. Just tumble the fruit over the top of the batter and the cake will puff up around it.

Fellow bakers suggest not cutting into the cake until the second day. That is, if you can find the willpower to wait.  The juices from the plums settle and release into the cake, infusing even more flavor. I had no intention of waiting but that night we served up a solid dinner of butter chicken and basmati rice, and we found ourselves too full for dessert. With a big mug of coffee in the morning, a slice of the plum torte was wonderful for breakfast. Our friend ate two slices that morning.

“It’s like it had jam inside. It was so good,” Danny said. And that’s a big reason why I love this cake. I adore the intense flavors of roasted stone fruits, plums in particular, and this is a recipe that shows them off. Danny said he’ll take a slice of the plum torte over any frosted layer cake. Me too.

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The Tequila Sun Also Rises

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It was a week and a half ago that we moved out of our apartment in the boonies and into an old house in St. Pete. It was home to friends of ours for several years, so the house has good vibes. We woke up early on moving day (far too early for a Saturday), and a couple friends helped us load the truck. Derek brought doughnuts to ease the pain.

A few hours later, friends started showing up at the house. Ready to unload, unpack, and help us settle in. Pizza was ordered. From our fridge, which at this point held a bottle of champagne, leftover pie, and beer, we grabbed a few cans and then went out for more. Most of our friends live on this side of the bridge, and I’m glad we’ll be closer for more days like this.

Cooking in the new house was a breeze once all our pans and plates and gadgets were in order. It seemed all the moving boxes had the same label: kitchen. I learned how to use the gas stove, and we’ve since made fettuccine with cherry tomatoes and roasted garlic, simple dinners, a plum cake (coming to you soon!) and butter chicken.

We had guests stay with us over Labor Day weekend, and one night we had friends over for an impromptu dinner. You could maybe call it our first unofficial dinner party in the house? All the lights went off in one long pause as a storm came through. I held my breath. We didn’t even have the pasta water going yet and while most people appreciate a nice dinner by candlelight, cooking by candlelight sounded a lot less romantic. To my relief, the lights came back on. Dinner came together, slowly but surely.

Four bottles of wine. Poof.

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Back from Mexico with a Craving for Chilaquiles

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They say it takes 21 days for something to become a habit. But when you’re in Mexico spending most of your day in water that’s unbelievably blue and not knowing what time it is (and not caring), I think that number shrinks by quite a bit.

We were at a beach north of Cancún for a family vacation, and Danny and I started a morning ritual of chilaquiles followed by tequila sunrises. There was no reason for this morning routine to change — except that we had to go back home. To reality. To wedding planning. To decisions about moving. This is where the tequila comes in.

We were back from Mexico with some serious tans and a serious craving for chilaquiles. It was time to make my own. Continue reading  continue reading

Tomato Cobbler

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Recipes that take a traditionally sweet dish and turn things savory are so appealing to me. There’s no reason berries and peaches should have all the fun this summer. Tomatoes love biscuits, too, and they’re fruit after all. Let’s make tomato cobbler.

I made two dishes of tomato cobbler yesterday for brunch, and they went over very well. I was inspired to make this recipe because a friend who is moving away loves tomatoes, but they ended up being a real crowd-pleaser. Cheesy biscuits on top of blistered sweet tomatoes mingling with caramelized onions and garlic? Not a bad way to kick off Sunday. This is gonna be one to make every summer.

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