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).
With work picking up again after a slow start coming back from maternity leave, this project, and our ever-growing obsession, I haven’t had nearly as much time as I would like to make or share recipes from the wealth of stellar cookbooks that have come out this spring. There are so many! But I’ll get there. For now, I’m starting with an impossibly clever recipe I made awhile back from Alexandra Stafford’s Bread Toast Crumbs. At the heart of the book is a recipe for peasant bread you might know of already (it has over 3,000 comments on her original post!) but its genius is even greater because from there she has about a million (more precisely 135) more creative things to do with the bread or ways to tweak the recipe.
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.
As it turns out, sleep training is a thing that actually works. Who would have thought? (Probably, you know, all the experts.) After four months of having a baby with a college-freshman-style late night sleep schedule — and an especially interesting month having a baby who did his best to boycott sleep altogether — we have one who, somehow, has learned to go to sleep by himself. I’m not sure what to do with myself now that I’m not a human rocking chair. (Lest this sound too idyllic, I’ll add that he’s still skeptical of this “sleeping for more than two hours at a time” business. And, more recently, naps.)
Even with the advent of a waffle-maker to capture my interest (and my kitchen real estate), I can never go too long without coming back to pancakes. They’re happy food — from my dad and boxed pancake mix on the weekends, flicking the skillet to flip them in mid-air, to a beach retreat in college where a classmate showed me that, forget blueberries, you could sprinkle Reese’s Pieces across the pancakes before flipping them and be a breakfast hero, to rainy weekends in the working world where pancakes meant a lazy morning with time to spare for messy counters and sticky plates. Now that B3’s around, I can’t stop telling B2 like a broken record how excited I am to make piles of pancakes on Saturday mornings for an army of bubs clamoring for them. (I recognize that this may not match up with reality, when all I really will want to do then is sleep.)
Granted, my threshold for feeling accomplished has always been, shall we say, modest (“I added the perfect amount of sugar to my matcha latte today I can do anything!“) but ever since I was introduced to these supremely distracting pudgy cheeks, I’m finding smaller and smaller accomplishments count as victories in this household. Dinner made during naptime, victory. Clean laundry, not folded, but at least in the basket, victory! (Actually, laundry where I actually remember to put in the detergent? And didn’t forget, twice, until everything had gone through the washer and the dryer? Victory.) Clean kitchen counters before bed? Clean kitchen floors, too? Huge victory.
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.
Happy 2017! This is the year that my brother graduates from college (!) and when he first started as a freshman I kept telling everyone that 2017 didn’t seem like a real year that would actually happen. But somehow, it’s here. (Despite 2016’s best efforts.) Our waning weeks of the year were spent eating (of course), avidly watching B2 make a dent in his Christmas present, staying up late with B3 — who is now somehow 2 months old but also evidently has the sleep schedule of a teenager — and seeing how often we could make our chubawub break out into his newfound, mouth-open-wide grin. As much flack as 2016 rightfully got, I’m still a bit wistful to see it go, and our little holiday season, if not quite as quiet as usual, epitomized why I loved it so much — making our new house a new home with our first Christmas, learning our way around a life as a family of three.
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.