I’ve been meaning to make some form of sticky toffee pudding for at least a few years, ever since a friend of mine first waxed lyrical about one she’d had at a pub near our offices called the Shakespeare. At that point, I’d never had sticky toffee pudding or, possibly, even heard of it, but her description alone had me sold–of a sticky, soft, eat-it-with-a-spoon cake, gooey with dates and draped in an abundance of caramel sauce, served warm and ideally with ice cream on top (which, in and of itself, is enough to get me on board with anything).
If you’d told me a few years ago that I’d enjoy anything about fall other than, say, eating pumpkin-y things and, nominally, wearing fluffy slippers, there’s not a chance I would have believed you. (This is how deep my fear of the cold runs.) But then we moved to a quixotic land where my Michelin Man puffer jackets are happily useless, so I no longer had the cold to dread; and shortly thereafter a very important fall birthday was added to our calendars that B2 and I are way more excited about celebrating than we’ve ever been about our own. A year later, here I am: recovering SAD-sufferer and cautious fall enthusiast.
I blinked and it’s been five months of this adventure called “writing a cookbook.” How! Before all this began I wasn’t sure how shooting and writing a book with a new babe would go. The answer is, as it turns out, a lot of running around during morning naptime, a lot of truly spectacular messes, and a lot of trudging around during afternoon naptime, cleaning up those spectacular messes. I would not recommend it if you are looking for something relaxing, exactly — but maybe if, you know, you’re looking for an at-home HIIT workout that involves bites of food and a constant mental refrain of I’ll clean that up later.
The day we visited Macau was a rainy one. We splashed around from Senado Square to the Ruins of St. Paul, hunted down Margaret’s Cafe e Nata for caramelized, blistered Portuguese egg tarts only to discover to my utter dismay that it was closed on Wednesdays, and eventually ended up, soggy-toed, in the Venetian Macau, which I suspected meant we were doing Macau wrong but at least meant that (1) we were nice and dry and (2) I got my Portuguese egg tart fix after all at a Lord Stow’s Bakery.
For as long as I can remember, hazelnut coffee has been my dad’s way to start the day. Almost every day of my childhood and every day that I’m back home now, I’ve come downstairs in the morning to find him sitting in our sunny breakfast nook, already up for hours, with an oversized mug of coffee in his hand and a newspaper spread out on the table, his glasses beside it. His coffee is always the same, a spoonful of sugar and a heavy-handed pour of hazelnut Coffeemate that he stirs in with a chopstick until his coffee turns a creamy, tawny beige.
My dad’s love for cheesecake has been equally constant: In the summers that I spent tagging along with him to his oncology lab, we almost always came back from lunch in the hospital cafeteria with a narrow slice of cheesecake, perched in a plastic clamshell with a small dollop of cherry sauce on top, which we’d share in his office before he went back to work (and I went back to drawing pictures on his whiteboard or whatever it was that I did to pass the time).
My first introduction to this cake came on a brisk evening last April, in the form of a cheerful crowd of teeny baby Bundts at the launch party for Sweeter Off the Vine, the cookbook it comes from. The spread there, all baked by the inimitable Yossy herself, might have been one of the most delicious arrays of baked goods I’ve ever been privy to, from saffron lime bars and rich brown butter blondies to moist cornmeal cakes with dainty pink glaze and flaky rhubarb galettes. Yet these little Bundts, almost like pound cake in their heft but still brightly tart from a citrus glaze, still stood out so much that — shh — I squirreled away a baby cake or two to take back to friends on the way home, unable to help myself. I’ve been waiting to share it here ever since.
What a strange, hard week this has been. It feels like it has been hard in every sense of the word — difficult, unyielding. I hope everyone is okay. This is the first of a number of recipes I’ve had saved up for these first few baby-filled months, and, thankfully, it is so very easy. I think “easy” was going to be my mantra in the kitchen for the foreseeable future no matter what, now that we have a little person to cuddle and feed and care for, but right now it feels particularly apt to share something that comes together without much effort, without any stress, to be a treat that soothes and indulges.
Too often I feel like scones get the short end of the stick in the coffee shop scene. Maybe it’s because they sit out behind the glass for a little bit too long by the time that they make it into a wax paper bag, ending up just a little too dry and flavorless, unsatisfyingly crumbly, and thus under-appreciated. I’ll admit that before I tried making them at home, I succumbed to that belief, too, thinking that the way I wanted scones to taste was something that existed only in my mind: little puffy triangles that were craggy on the outside, but tender and moist within, with just the slightest springiness to them to distinguish them from cakes or cookies. But in actuality, I think a homemade scone, fresh and warm from the oven, is just that. Slight crunch on the outside, soft inside, with a subtle resilience to the crumb. And they’re, surprisingly, so very easy to make! We should all have homemade scones in our kitchens. (At least on the weekends.)
I’ve been mostly working from home in these last couple of weeks before the home stretch, but went in to the office last week to wrap up loose ends, take home all the heels that I totally forgot about for the last six months, and to do fun things like meet with my pro bono clients, who got all the adoptive funding we requested! It did mean that that hearing didn’t end up happening, but when it’s because we got everything we asked for, that’s okay with me. To be clear, I think our happy outcome had everything to do with (1) my clients being wonderful parents with the sweetest daughter who really deserved it, (2) the other side really wanting to postpone the hearing, and (3) me really not wanting to postpone the hearing because hey guys, I have a biological baby deadline, and nothing to do with any lawyering I did. But in a job where most of the time I represent (or, help people senior to me help partners senior to them represent) clients in long, drawn-out matters with things at stake that sometimes feel more abstract than real, helping parents get funding for their sunny, sweet nine-year-old, and getting this thank-you card, was about the best cap on starting maternity leave that I could ask for.
Evidently, or so I’m told, it’s less than a month until a third little bowl is headed our way. What! It doesn’t feel like it. From time to time I catch myself assuming that this is just how life is going to be from now on, having a watermelon for a belly, the mysterious inability to ever feel cold, and a maximum waddling velocity of a couple yards per hour. I assumed for so long that pregnancy would be difficult that it’s disorienting — and, I’m sure, obnoxious — to end up one of those women who actually loved most of it. (Predictably, I’m now just scared about whether the next one will be the one that’s bad.)