Category Archives: Desserts

Noteworthy 10/2/15

Some highlights from the last couple of weeks:

  • The coyotes have been noisy lately, howling up a storm every night in the open space right across the street from us. It’s loud and a little creepy, especially when there are what sounds like 40 of them yipping and yowling and probably killing something a hundred feet from our house. Felix was scared of the sound the other evening and we told him that the coyotes are just wild animals that live in the bushes and like to sing. He was quiet for a bit and then he said, “I like wild animals that live in the bushes and don’t sing.”
  • Orthodontia. We paid $5600 for the privilege of looking at this on a daily basis:IMG_1940 I have to get to crank this apparatus every evening in order to “expand Lola’s palate” over the next month. Do any of you have a fear of going crazy and doing something horrible some day? It’s one of my worst phobias, and for whatever reason this device triggers it in a serious way, maybe because it seems like such an instrument of torture. I’m afraid I’ll lose it and crank the thing too much, ripping the poor girl’s face in half. I promise I won’t though.
  • Birthday week. Lola turned 12 and made some brag worthy birthday dinner choices. First, she chose to have macaroni and cheese, not unusual for a kid, but she likes this version that is over the top and adult in every way. I use this recipe as a guide, but switch up the cheeses to accommodate what I have on hand, I up the nutmeg a bit and use white pepper instead of the black. Does that make me a pepper racist? I hope not. I also grind the bread crumbs in the food processor because I like them a little finer. I don’t make this very often because we would all weight 500 pounds if I did, but it’s a pretty great choice for a birthday dinner. IMG_1278  For dessert she wanted a salted caramel chocolate cake (can you imagine how that makes my pastry chef heart swell with pride?) No food coloring, no gaudy decorations, just a sprinkle of fleur de sel and a couple of perfect garden roses. IMG_1287
  • Lola is a remarkable gift getter. She loves all presents, and is especially appreciative of ones that are homemade or from the heart. Her enthusiasm and gratitude are delightful, one of her best qualities. I loved hearing her whoop with joy when she opened this one from my aunt:   IMG_1335 That there is a box of freshly picked chanterelle mushrooms. For a 12 year old’s birthday present. And do you see that smile? I can use this picture as proof that I’ve done at least one thing right in raising this girl. The mushrooms were the firmest most meaty ones I’ve ever seen and I cooked them into a lovely risotto with a bit of crispy pork belly on top for day two of birthday fest 2015. IMG_1341
  • As some of you know, Robert and I were a little freaked out when we found out I was pregnant with a boy the second time around. We joked in a very politically incorrect way that even though we know that you can’t turn a person gay we were sure going to try. The idea of raising a stereotypically gay son was much easier to get my head around than a team sports playing, non-showering, sloppy dressing, rough and tumble straight boy. But I overheard this conversation between Robert and Felix the other morning and I think Mother Nature has made her call. Robert: “Why don’t you ever snuggle with me in the night?” Felix: “I like to snuggle with Mama.” Robert: “Why?” Felix: “Because Mama has boobs. I love boobs.” God help me.
  • This fall weather got me feeling like making bread again so I got my sourdough starter all freshened up and made this loaf. If you are local and want some starter with which to make your own let me know, I’m happy to share.                     IMG_1401                             IMG_1410

The Pits, Part Deux

I’ve realized that one of the reasons I’m so drawn to noyaux right now is because I’m starved for nuts. Felix had a scary allergic reaction last fall and as I was driving like a maniac to get my swollen, scratching, screaming boy to the doctor I was thinking “No way, I can’t be a nut allergy mom, I’ll be a terrible nut allergy mom!” After three trips to the allergist and torturing our child with blood draws and skin pricks we now know that I am, in fact, a label reading, $400 epi-pen carrying, nut allergy mom. And because I am still breastfeeding it means that I don’t get to eat nuts either. This was one of those things that was not in the plan, you know? But I’m eternally grateful that the allergy is nuts, and not dairy, eggs, or horror of horrors, wheat. Gulp.

My consumption of nuts over the past year has been minimal. I say minimal, not nonexistent, because it turns out that I do actually know myself pretty well and being a nut allergy mom is not my forte. So far my deviances haven’t resulted in any major incidents but as a rule I don’t eat nuts right now. And those blessed noyaux have such a lovely nuttiness about them, yet they aren’t nuts.

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I have to tell you that I wrote that and then started to wonder, ‘What if they are nuts? They look like nuts, you crack them open like nuts. What the hell are they?’ I was feeling a little panicky. After an hours worth of internet research I still don’t have as much information as I’d like but I feel slightly more informed. Here is what I know: They aren’t nuts, they are seeds. That is good news for me because so far Felix hasn’t had any reaction to seeds. BUT, peaches and apricots are related to almonds so there are some people who have an almond allergy and are also allergic to those fruits (and pits). I have decided that it’s unlikely that they will be a problem for us since we have had no issues with fruit. Still, I haven’t fed them to Felix and now I’m not sure if I should or not. All the decisions, all the potential risks, it’s enough to make me nuts.

So, now you have the rambling backstory on my noyaux obsession and I can move on to what I’ve been making.

A few weeks ago I dragged my family to a u-pick berry farm to stock up on raspberries for the winter. Lola and I picked gleefully, like the berry gluttons that we are, and Robert and Felix picked less gleefully and waited until we could go get lunch. IMG_0992

We ended up with 20 pounds of berries to take home, which I was pretty happy about, considering the unpredictable company I was in. I froze most of them, but we had enough to really pig out on for a few days.

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Three days and five pounds of berries later, the novelty had worn off a bit so I whipped up a batch of noyaux flavored crème fraîche to dress them up. If you aren’t already making your own crème fraîche, you really should start. Today. It’s so easy that it doesn’t even count as cooking and people think you’re fancy if you make it. Flavoring it with noyaux adds a minimal amount of work and takes the fanciness up another notch. You can whip it if you want, but I just sweetened mine with a little sugar and drizzled it on the berries.

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What got me going on this kick in the first place was an old pastry school friend mentioning noyaux ice cream. She is a homeschool mom who blogs about cooking with kids (she has infinitely more patience than I do). Her recipe is perfect; you can find it here. I was thinking the ice cream would be even perfect-er with a swirl of caramel, but then had an epiphany and made a noyaux brittle to crush up and sprinkle on top. It may not compare to, you know, the invention of the lightbulb, but it was definitely one of my more genius moments. The almost burned flavor of the caramel with the bitter almond of the noyaux and the silky richness of the ice cream is really something special. Plus it’s beautiful because the crushed brittle is sparkly, like fairy dust. It’s a dessert worthy of your favorite people.

This isn’t a great picture, but you can get the idea:

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Crème Fraîche/Noyaux Crème Fraîche

For basic crème fraîche all you do is stir a cup of cream and a tablespoon or so of buttermilk together in a some kind of container with a lid, let it sit in a warm place for 24 hours, and then refrigerate it until it’s cold. To flavor it with noyaux, heat the cream to a simmer with about 10 apricot kernels, cover and let steep until the flavor comes through (about an hour). Strain out the kernels and let it cool it to room temperature. Add the buttermilk and proceed as above. See, it’s way easy and you can easily double the recipe if you have need for a larger amount.

Noyaux Brittle Fairy Dust

15 apricot kernels

5 Tablespoons of sugar

1/4 teaspoon of salt

First, peel the skins off the apricot kernels. This takes a little fingernail work but it’s satisfying if you are a picker/peeler kind of person.

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IMG_1165Lightly toast the kernels in the oven and then chop them finely.

In a small skillet (I like nonstick here but anything will work) melt the sugar over medium heat a tablespoon at a time, shaking the pan to mix it rather than stirring. Cook until the caramel is a medium amber color and then add the chopped noyaux and salt. Now you can stir. Lower the heat and cook until the caramel is dark amber and the bubbling has slowed somewhat.IMG_1178

Pour onto a sheet of parchment paper. Quickly, before to cools, cover with another sheet of parchment and roll it thin with a rolling pin. Let cool and break into chunks, then re-cover with parchment and roll until it’s a sparkly powder.

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I used this for topping the noyaux ice cream but I can think of all kinds of other uses for it. Flavor buttercream with it, broil some peach or pear halves and serve them with cream (or crème fraîche!) and a sprinkle of this, or use it like you would candied nuts on a salad, maybe one with roasted figs and goat cheese…and feel free to invite me over.