Beignets! It’s been awhile since a capital-P Project has landed on this blog. Since the advent of our little guy, I’ve been more tempted to fill my Saturday mornings with alphabet books and trips to the playground and the occasional quick and easy food experiment than making extended messes in the kitchen. But then a few weeks ago, while daydreaming about the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival and all the mooncakes that it heralds, the idea of these salted yolk and lotus paste beignets popped fully-formed into my head. My very favorite flavor of mooncake, silky, fragrant lotus paste and punchy orange yolk, but dispersed throughout an airy, tender beignet instead of in a dense mooncake? They were, at that moment, as good as made.
Believe it or not, these pretty little buttercream roses were piped by yours truly. For someone who is all thumbs and, at best, has a passing knowledge of how to decorate a cake, this is a feat indeed–and it’s all thanks to a dynamo of a friend and her marvelous book, Coco Cake Land, which is coming out today! I truly cannot be more excited.
Hi! In less than three days, we’re jumping on (or, more accurately, “squeezing a toddler and many bags and a stroller and a car seat onto”) a plane and heading to Hawaii for the first time since our two-bowl household became a three-bowl one. There are aunties and uncles and cousins for Luke to meet for the first time, beaches to explore, galbi to chew on, and to say we–and even more, his grandparents–are excited would be an understatement. Our fellow passengers are probably less excited, though they don’t know it yet. (If you have any tips for entertaining a 14-month old in an enclosed space for five hours, I welcome them and our seatmates will thank you.)
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.
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.
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.