Category Archives: Pastry

How to Have the Best Snow Day Ever (Hint: Maple-Flavored Booze)

As if I weren’t already confused enough about what day it is, mother nature has decided to cap off the holiday season with a rather underwhelming snow day. Winter storm Hercules, named for the half-man half-god son of Zeus, has appropriately proven to be like a sort of half-blizzard half-Dairy-Queen-Blizzard phenomenon. And not to oust myself as a total curmudgeon, but I remember it literally taking an act of Zeus to get us out of school during the winter as a child. Anything under 12 inches, walk your awkward day-glow snow pants to school, Kid. You might arrive 40 minutes late with tears and mucous frozen to your face, but just remember that you’re also going outside for recess and you’re going to enjoy it. You’re going to eat that inner-city-ball-court-snow and delight in it.

There are very few days, being a grown-ass woman, when you’re encouraged not to go to work, excepting maybe full moons, days governed by your uterus (e.g. full moons), and funerals. Thusly, you don’t have to try too hard to convince me to wake up sometime after 7:30. There’s a Say Yes to the Dress marathon on that I refuse to feel guilty about prioritizing.

Please note quality TLC programming.

Please note quality TLC programming.

Honestly, we’ve seen worse snow days in Boston. But if you too don’t plan on leaving the house today simply on principle, then you’re also probably the kind of individual who plans on day drinking. Maybe you plan on day drinking and hurling snowballs at the local bird-life from your balcony like my upstanding 50-something year old neighbor. Maybe you plan on watching about 20 full hours of Friday Night Lights on Netflix and periodically sobbing, like me. Maybe, just maybe, you will blog. How you choose to fill your time on a snow day is a personal choice, but I think we all agree that it can’t hurt to toss a little rum into the mix.

Over the holiday, I created a cocktail that pays homage to New England tradition while also evoking the flavors of more tropical libations. It’s only natural to have margarita envy in 1 degree weather. I’m not going to pretend that all of these ingredients are kitchen staples, but honestly, if you’re a New Englander and you don’t have maple syrup in your pantry, kill yourself. You’ve given up. This does not count. If you don’t kill yourself, slap on some snowshoes and head to the nearest Market Basket. It’s cocktail hour, bitches.

P.S. If you were wondering what my New Year’s resolution was, it was go to bed by 11:30 on weekdays and, guess what? Already broken. So what have we learned here today?

Maple Ginger Flip
Makes 1 short cocktail

Maple Ginger Flip

1 ½ tbsp grade A or B Maple syrup
¼ tsp Fresh ginger, grated
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tbsp Water
2 oz Vodka
1 egg white

Note: Are you an egg-cocktail virgin? Is your ovo-prudishness making it difficult for you to fully commit to this recipe? It’s fine to ease into it. Start with half an egg white. This is mostly a mental trick, but sometimes success requires lying. Once you work up the courage, or are too drunk for fear, go for the whole egg white and watch the entire world shift before your very eyes.

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice. Shake quite vigorously for at least 30 seconds to get those egg whites nice and foamy. Strain into a short cocktail glass and raise your liquid courage high to Olympus. You’ll make it through this storm yet.

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THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE. The Pie is in Here (Peanut Butter Mousse Pie with Coconut Crust).

This post is dedicated to Queequeg, Scully’s dog who was named after Queequeg. Do you remember when she had a dog? And then he got EATEN!? I do, I’ll always remember.

Guys, I know it’s been a really long time and you’re probably looking for an explanation for my absence. That’s only fair, and you deserve a candid answer. Honestly, I was abducted by aliens. The kind that live really, really far away. And we went on vacation, in New Zealand, in the future, and we had to get there by horse and cart ‘cause the ship ran out of juice. Then when we got there, there was a little trouble validating my visa and I was kept in the airport holding cell until we could contact the embassy, which is really difficult to do from the future. Everyone was pretty tied up I guess, so we called Liam Neeson, which was fruitful since in the future Liam Neeson is not busy at all. I’m sorry that I didn’t let you know sooner, but after a decent probing and a few unbelievable lamb dinners, I’m back. I’m back in a big way.

Here's a group photo of my extraterrestrial buds, drinking some chaammppss.

Here’s a group photo of my extraterrestrial buds, drinking some champs.

It appears that much has transpired since my brush with the extra-terrestrial. Some guy at the Atlantic is clowning on Morgan Spurlock (despite these McDonald’s egg whites having an actual ingredient list), also thinks I’m a rich snob because I eat broccoli. A lot of people on Facebook were really upset that Robin Thicke’s notably large penis wasn’t the feature story in this month’s Rolling Stone (even though I think my dad is probably the only one who actually read the issue).  Oh, and some shirtless photos of both Geraldo Riveira and Chaz Bono have finally surfaced on the internet. About time, America. Sorry I missed your birthday. Bilbo Baggins says hi.

Another holiday that happened during my absence was Father’s day. Obviously I was a little preoccupied resolving an X-File, but say that I wasn’t, I probably would have been eating lobster at my parents’ house, where we could have shared one claw cracker amongst four of us (disgusting), and I probably would have made some sort of accompanying dessert. Let’s all travel back to a time that never was and find out what that dessert could have been!

Peanut Butter Mousse Pie - Alex Marie Lombino

There are things that dads of a certain age share in common (I’m 26, so you do the math; I don’t want to blow up anyone’s spot).  One thing is World War II documentaries. They watch all of them. Maybe that’s a general man thing, but this particular demographic can’t get enough. Band of Brothers marathons also count. Another thing is tucking in shirts. They just love to really tuck ‘em in there good. Lastly, they like peanut butter. I want to believe that this has something to do with the food culture of the 50s and 60s, the inclination towards quick and processed foods, which really took a foothold in American culture during these two decades. Peanut butter is definitely a dad favorite. I can recall times during my childhood when my father would hole up in the kitchen, hovering over a carton of ice cream and a jar of peanut butter, alternating scoops of luscious treats, while watching 60 Minutes. This is probably why after every rigorous gym session, I can be found shoveling that natural type peanut butter and a little drizzled honey into my face crevice with little restraint. It would have been obvious to me, in the event of my attendance to some sort of Father’s day dinner, that peanut butter should play a significant role in this meal. Also my dad said he likes coconut too, so that got incorporated.

Thus I bring you this peanut butter mousse pie with coconut crust. I was actually really shocked at how well the gelatin set in this nut butter-laden bombe*. I was getting really down on myself as soon as I walked away to let it cool, thinking I’d return to find some shapeless peanut goo. But no! Stiff as Ian Mckellan backstage at the Package Tour.

If you have a Dad with whom you’re still on speaking terms, bring him this pie. He will readily lend you $20 for gas, bite his bottom lip while head-bobbing to Elvis Costello and shuffling his feet in a manner reminiscent of John Travolta’s sweaty heroin groove in Pulp Fiction, gliding lightly across the Home Depot linoleum kitchen flooring he laid down himself as he drifts into the late summer sunset.

Oh, and another thing. I mentioned to the man of the hour that it would be awesome to serve this pie with some ice cream, and do you know what he came back from the store with? Rum raisin. Rum raisin ice cream. That’s the shit that dads love.

*I snuck in a vocab word for all you guys taking notes.

  1. Bombe: The egg, cream, gelatin, and flavoring base of a mousse, before the whipped cream has been incorporated


Peanut Butter Mousse Pie with Coconut Crust

Coconut Crust

12 oz. Coconut flakes, unsweetened
4 tbsp. Butter, melted
¼ cup Flour
1/3 cup Brown sugar
¼ cup Light corn syrup
½ tsp Salt
1 Egg

Preheat oven to 350°

Ya’ll, this is most easy. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process for about 20-30 seconds, until dough is consistent. Remove and shape into a ball then flatten to a thick disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for about 30 minutes.

Remove from refrigerator and use a rolling pin to roll out about ½ inch thick. This is too thick, I know, but the dough is probably very loose, somewhat crumbly. Transfer said crumbly dough to a pie pan and press into the shape of the pan with your fingers. You can use a flat cup to press and even out the dough. It should be about a ¼ inch thick in the end. Trim the excess dough, then place in the oven for about 30 minutes. The crust should be fragrant and golden brown. If you feel that it is browning too quickly, you can always turn your oven down.

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Peanut Butter Mousse

4 oz Water
4 tsp Gelatin

6 oz Milk
1 tsp Vanilla
4 oz Sugar
4 Eggs
7 oz Peanut Butter, creamy and unsweetened (I used Whole Foods brand)

4 oz Heavy cream

In a small bowl or cup, sprinkle gelatin over 4 oz of water and put aside to set.

Combine milk, vanilla, and half of sugar in a medium pot and bring to a boil on the stove, whisking occasionally so that the bottom doesn’t burn. In a medium bowl, combine remaining sugar and eggs and whisk together. Never let the sugar rest on the eggs without thoroughly combining them, or this will “burn” the eggs.

Once the milk boils, remove from the heat. Gradually drizzle milk into the eggs, whisking constantly. Once you have added about ¾ of the milk, combine the egg mixture with the rest of the milk in the pot. Return to the stove on medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a spatula or wooden spoon (preferably the wooden spoon). The mixture is done cooking when you can run your finger across the spoon without the base running down into that empty space (about 10 minutes, but no more). Remove from the heat and immediately whisk in gelatin, and then peanut butter. Transfer to a new bowl or container to cool.

When you are ready to finish the mousse, whip your cream to very stiff peaks. With a hand beater or in a standing mixture, beat your stiffened peanut butter base until it is smooth and loosened. Add ¼ of the cream to the peanut butter base and stir in to lighten the mixture. Gently fold in the rest of the cream until the color is consistent.

Pour and spread your mousse into the crust, and allow to set in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Peanut Butter Pie - Alex Marie Lombino


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Die Clean, White Girl: All Spice Cake with Tart Cherry Filling

Here’s a free little bit of advice before we begin. Never fill your cake pans with batter more than ¾ of the way, because you never know what may happen. They might mushroom out and it’s chaos. I know you want to use all of the batter, I obviously do too. But you can’t play God, you need to know your boundaries. See? Try to look past my filthy oven windows please.

Big cakes

I made a cake this week and there ain’t much else to say about it. It’s a wonderful spiced sponge cake, with a tart cherry filling and addictive cream cheese frosting. I will say that cake construction is a very vulnerable business. It’s not like brownies, no one gives a shit what happens there. With cakes, it’s as though I fear all of the negative energy buried within my bosom has somehow been imparted onto that cake. Kind of like that pie in Thinner, the film adaptation of Stephen King’s Thinner (book). Except instead of making you thinner and consequently bringing to an end your corporeal life, this cake will probably bloat you a little the next morning, as is typical of most cake. I don’t make witchcraft, I make gluten.

Allspice Cake with Cherry Filling - Alex Marie Lombino

Here, I strip myself bare for you. Despite my life-sapping inclination toward perfectionism, I lay it out there for you. I offer you food for gut, fodder for the psyche, dessert for your mouth parts. After the blood has been let, what is left of my body lies prostrate on the kitchen floor, amidst debris of crumbs and fancy. This is an artist’s struggle, a long and winding journey to an unknown destination. Behold cake, my dreams objectified deliciously before you. Judge me not lest I unfriend you on Facebook.

All Spice Sponge Cake

Allspice cake with cherry filling - Alex Marie Lombino

1 cup Flour
1 ½ tsp Baking powder
½ tsp Salt
2 tsp All spice
6 tbsp Butter, melted
5 eggs (2 whole, 3 separated)
1 cup and 2 tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
½ oz Milk

Preheat oven to 350

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and all spice. Whisk thoroughly and set aside.

Melt butter and allow to cool.

Separate 3 eggs, reserving whites for later use. In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine your 2 whole eggs, 3 egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and milk. Whisk on high speed for about 5 minutes until eggs are pale yellow and frothy. If you only have one mixer like me and most normal people, transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and wash your mixing bowl and whisk very thoroughly to use in the next step. The cleaning is very important, as eggs whites will not whip with the presence of yolk.

In your mixer, whisk 3 egg whites on med-high speed until they reach soft peaks. Add about 2 more tbsp of sugar to stabilize your whites, then continue to whisk until they reach stiff peaks.

Gently fold dry ingredients into egg yolk mixture. Next, mix about ¼ of egg whites into batter to lighten. Add the rest of the egg whites, and gently but quickly fold into the mixture until there is no more streaking. When egg whites are almost completely folded in, add melted butter and continue to fold quickly until distributed. Immediately distribute batter between two ungreased 8 inch round pans. Bake for approx. (time), until middle of cakes bounce back when touched. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 12-24 hours for easy trimming.

Cherry Filling

16 oz Frozen cherries
2 oz Lemon Juice
3 oz Water
1 ¼ cup Sugar
1 tbsp Corn starch

In a medium sauce pot, combine cherries, half of lemon juice, water, and half of sugar. Bring to a boil on the stove, then lower heat to a simmer and cover pot. Continue to cook cherries until the mixture becomes jam-like and the liquid is reduced by half, stirring frequently.

In a small bowl, thoroughly whisk together remaining sugar and corn starch. When cherries have been cooked down to a thin jam consistency, add cornstarch mixture and whisk thoroughly. Bring filling to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook for about 5 minutes over med-high heat until filling is thickened and starch is cooked out. Allow to cool to room temperature, then chill slightly in the refrigerator before assembling cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Note: This is A LOT of frosting. If you are planning to make a smaller cake, feel free to reduce by a third or by half. However, if you make the full batch, you should just eat it on fruit for breakfast, why not?

½ pound (8 oz or 2 sticks) Butter, softened
1 lb Cream cheese
2 cups Confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp Vanilla extract
2 tsp Lemon juice
1 tsp Salt

In a mixer with a whisk, cream together butter and cream cheese until smooth and consistent. Turn mixer down to low and add sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt. Turn speed back up to whip lightly for 30-60 seconds. You’re done!

To assemble

Cherry Spice Cake - Alex Marie Lombino

Trim the browned edges of your cakes. Spoon cherry filling into the center of the bottom layer, and spread out carefully, leaving a ½ inch to an inch border, depending on the size of your cake. Add second layer on top. Let gravity do most of the work to spread the filling. Frost your cake however you see fit! I did mine in a cake ring, so that’s kind of cheating but incredibly. Garnish with fresh cherries! It’s SUMMER!

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40% Recipe, 60% Tangential Ranting, 100% Real: Orange and Almond Shortbread with Vanilla Citrus Glaze

Don’t worry, there are no vegetables in this post. I apologize for that lapse in animal fat but I think I can make up for it in a few paragraphs.Orange and almond shortbread - Alex Marie Lombino
Before we get to the good stuff, I just need to say something to the most depressing episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive that is the internet. I’ve spent a lot of time on the internet this week, acquiring knowledge, watching adorable videos of sloths, and I just want to take this moment to address Google Glass. Seriously Google, from all of us ladies and gay men in long-term committed relationships with middle-to-upper-middle class white men who already spend the agonizing public transportation ride playing Fieldrunners on their iPhones or reading their Kindle Hellfires or watching porn on their watches…what the fuck, Google? Where does it end? Oh, I was just saying that we really needed to give dudes another shiny distraction from the unrelenting charade of asking me how my day was. At least they look so posh. Thanks Google, keep solving problems. Maybe while you’re at it we could get a few more Teen Mom sex tapes. Keep those coming.

In pastry news, I just baked something with three sticks of butter in it, so what am I getting so ornery about, right? I’ve been experiencing acute symptoms of culinary school withdrawal. I miss all of the stainless steel, the endless supply of high grade chocolate, the smell of the weird stockpot in the corner of the room that could fit two of me if you wanted to make Salty Broad Stew. I’m feeling creatively stunted in my tiny city-gal kitchen, and I don’t like it. In the coming weeks I will tackle something entirely too labor intensive for one girl and her blog, but for today we’re just going to make some short bread.

Shortbread isn’t actually bread, so that’s already misleading. It’s more or less a cookie. What’s really great about this shortbread is that you cut it after baking, which is like, whoa, that’s not the natural order of things. That is out of order. Trust me on this one though, because it took me less time make this recipe than it did to write this blog. I’m sure you’d never have guessed that, what with all the little nuggets of expository gold you just sifted out of the other muddy crap.

I’ll be honest, I’m having a little trouble focusing right now because Kristen Wiig is hosting SNL and Maya Rudolph is pregnant for, like, the 9th time. That’s right, it’s actually Saturday. It isn’t Sunday at all. I’ll stop blowing your mind with all this time travel and get on with the recipe.
Orange and almond shortbread - Alex Marie Lombino
Orange and Almond Shortbread with Vanilla Citrus Glaze
3 cups Flour
¾ cups Sugar
2 tbsp Orange zest (1-3 oranges, depending on size)
½ tsp Salt
1 ¼ cups (2 ½ sticks) Butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 ½ tsp Almond extract
1 Egg yolk

1 cup Confectioner’s sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 ounce Fresh lemon juice
½ tsp Vanilla extract

Combine flour, sugar, orange zest, and salt in the bowl of a mixer. Mix on low speed for a minute to disperse zest. Add butter all at once, mixing until flour is coated and appears crumbly. Add almond extract and egg yolk, and mix until dough comes together.

Press dough into an ungreased 8-10” cake pan, making sure it is evenly dispersed. Pierce with fork throughout the dough. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the edges just appear golden.

Allow to cool to room temperature, then carefully remove from pan (Here’s a hint: I used a spring form pan). Combine confectioner’s sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla. Spread carefully on top of shortbread and allow to set. Find a nice, sharp straight edge knife to cut into triangles. Serve with Earl Grey or other strong black tea, that’ll be classy.

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Chicken Liver Mousse Tart: A Dog Floor Heroes Production.

I’m back, guys! Back on the internet, and back on the East Coast. Another delayed entry this time is due to the fact that I spent Easter weekend in Las Vegas for a wedding. Not a “Vegas” wedding, mind you, but an actual wedding with catering and other upscale amenities, like a room shared with two other lovely ladies on the dog floor of the Flamingo. I returned last Wednesday, and it has taken just about this much time to recover both physically and spiritually. I find myself asking such rhetorical questions as, “Will I ever have fun again?” Working out has been a struggle. The Stairmaster tried to kill me the other day, I just know it. It kept speeding up at predictable intervals just as I had programmed it to. You know, the devil’s work.

Now I’m home in my Boston apartment, enjoying a surprising amount of sunshine and warm breeze. Don’t worry though, because it will be raining for the next three days hereafter. I’m going to enjoy the rest of this day to the fullest, for who knows when next the sun shall grace this forsaken seaport with her golden mercy. I will recall fondly the clammy warmth of Paradise, NV, as I close my eyes and transport myself to a time when nothing but my ability to break a fifty-dollar bill really mattered.

I wasn’t positive that I would like Vegas, but she is an enchantress, a sparkling siren. Before you know it, you’ve crashed your ship upon her rocky shores and you are purchasing $22 cocktails poolside with little thought to fiscal consequence. The only thing about Vegas I can’t get behind is this vague notion that a family vacation is possible is Sin City. DO NOT BRING YOUR CHILDREN HERE. Exposing your brood to so much second-hand smoke should be punishable by law. We witnessed one little girl crying in the middle of the Strip being consoled by a bicycle cop, since her shitty parents must have been winning big at the craps table while their child wandered off in search of food and shelter.

Chicken Liver Tart

I’ve resisted cooking quite a bit post-vacation. I finally suited-up yesterday to create this homage to my new favorite amusement park, Las Vegas: Chicken Liver Mousse Tart with Red Grape and Onion Chutney and Hazelnuts. It’s like a charcuterie plate in a tart! And in congruence with its inspiration, there isn’t one healthy or balanced thing about it. In fact, it’s unreasonably decadent. Serve it with naked salad and Garlique if you want to live. I also just realized that this makes for two tart recipes in a row, but ask me if I care!

You could even think of this as three recipes in one post, so actually it appears I’ve out-done myself. I’ll see you all again in June!

Another photo disclaimer: I just gave up. I don’t know what I was thinking. IT’S DELCIOUS, I SWEAR.


16 oz Flour
1 ½ oz Sugar
½ Salt
8 oz Butter, very cold and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Egg
1 Egg yolk
2 oz Water, very cold

In the bowl of a mixer with a dough hook, combine flour, sugar, and salt and mix for a minute. Add cold, hard butter and mix on medium speed until butter is cut into the flour and pieces are about the size of a grape. Add egg and egg yolk, scrape down bowl, and mix until just incorporated. Add cold water, mix for 20 seconds, then stop! Do not overwork. You still want to see chunks of butter, about the size of large peas. Dough will still be crumbly. Turn out onto counter top, and need very gently until the dough just comes together, only 3-4 turns. Shape into a thick disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for an hour or more.

Preheat oven to 425° F. Butter a tart ring or pan. If pan is bottomless, place on top of a sheet pan with parchment. After dough has chilled, turn out onto a very lightly floured surface and roll out about 1/8 inch thick, nice and thin. Transfer to tart pan, gently press into sides, and trim the edges. Chill for at least another half-hour. Bake chilled dough for 30-40 minutes. Turn oven down if the edges are browning significantly quicker than the rest of the dough. Remove crust and allow to cool to room temperature.

Red Grape and Onion Chutney

1 Large red onion
1 tbsp Olive oil
2 cups Red grapes, halved
1 ½ tbsp Dijon mustard
½ cup Red wine
Juice of half a lemon
2 tsp Sugar
¼ tsp Cinnamon
¼ tsp Crushed red pepper

In a medium sauce pan, sautee onions in olive oil until tender. Add grapes and mustard and continue to sautee for another minute. Add the remaining ingredients, and cook on medium high, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients have cooked down to a preserve-like consistency. I prefer my chutney to maintain a little bite, but you may cook it to the texture of your preference.

Chicken Liver Pate

1 small Yellow onion, diced
2 sticks + 2 tbsps unsalted butter
1 tsp Fresh oregano, chopped
1 tbsp Fresh sage, chopped
1 lb Chicken Livers, trimmed and cleaned
5 oz Dry sherry
1 ½ tbsp Sugar
Juice of half a lemon
2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Black pepper


1 cup Heavy cream, whipped

If you don’t know how to trim chicken livers, I suggest you Google it. Also, this is not for the squeamish. If you’ve never handled raw livers, you’re in for a treat. This even makes me shudder a bit, and I’ve stabbed a lobster in the face before, split his writing body in half, and sautéed his brainless carcass in a pan as he continued to twitch for another 5 minutes.

In a large sautee pan, sweat onions with 2 tbsps butter and herbs. Add trimmed livers and cook on medium heat for one minute. Add sherry, sugar, lemon, salt, and pepper and cook on medium for another 8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Puree mixture in a food processor, blender, or with immersion blender until very smooth, then gradually add 2 sticks of room temperature butter in large chunks until fully blended. Cool mixture to room temperature.

To Assemble

Chicken Liver Pate Tart

Spoon a layer of chutney onto the bottom of tart. Spoon or pipe pate into tart shell to fill. Top with toasted and chopped hazelnuts. Refrigerate tart for at least 4 hours, until set. Pate only gets more delicious with time, so I would suggest doing this overnight.

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The Sun Will Come Out Absolutely Never, But We Can Still Make Cinnamon Ice Cream with Balsamic Blueberries (is the title).

Cinnamon, blueberry, balsamic ice cream.

Remember the days when you could feel the gentle kiss of a warm breeze caressing your bare shoulders as you floated down the dry pavement in a pair of gorgeous, open-toed sandals, your smile mimicking the relentless beaming sun of a long summer’s day? Me neither. Those memories are dead. They are as dead as dinosaurs, which are really fucking dead, and now they are fossil fuel, and we burn their dead, dead bodies in the engines of our automobiles, callously speeding through puddles of slush and dirt and Northeastern anguish. It’s hard to stay positive when you live in Boston, for many reasons. One reason is people keep telling us we’re cruel and negative, which I don’t think is true. We’re just really racist. Another reason is when they cast Julianne Moore on 30 Rock and they let her open her mouth. That was ridiculous. The most current reason is that it is cold, and the wind is brutal, and we have potholes like Zeus’s chalice, which sustain very deep pools of ice cold city water that I step into all of the time. It’s a lot to endure, even for one so stout of heart as I. Maybe the one positive thing about this never-ending winter is all of the pasta I continue to eat and not feel guilty about.

I never consciously change my dietary habits according to season. My animal nature really takes the reigns in this regard. In the winter, I just want to eat all of the meat. If I see meat, it’s going to get eaten. It’s going to get thrown on top of something starchy and butter-laden, and then it’s down the old gullet. During the summer, it’s watermelon all day every day. I can’t stop with the watermelon. I want to eat it in any and all capacities, from fancy mint salads with feta, with a spoon straight out of a rind, but mostly pureed in a margarita.

Now what food, you might ask me, transcends seasonal propriety? Ice cream does. I think I touched on this last week when we met my friend at 7-11, but I eat ice cream several times a week, minimum. The great thing about ice cream in the summer is obviously its soothing, cooling properties. The best thing about ice cream in the winter is that it doesn’t melt as quickly, which is a lot more important to me than you may realize. You see, I have but one irrational fear in this world and it is melted ice cream. It is completely visceral, utterly baseless, and yet debilitating. I’m am very into frappes. I have no problem smothering a molten lava cake in a bit of creme anglaise. But when ice cream melts, when it changes form, I absolutely lose my shit and I am not able to explain to you why. Mostly because I am gagging right now just thinking about it. All of this aside, it’d be hard to say that there are many things more satisfying than a frozen indulgence on a hot summer day. One thing that might come close is homemade ice cream at the brink of spring, just as a small reminder that it’s going to get better. The frost will thaw, public works will plow its last snow bank, and the strapping young gentleman on loan from Walpole House of Corrections will plant those odd-smelling shrubs along the periphery of the Rose Kennedy Greenway. That’s the global warming promise.

Maybe you recall a real throwaway of a blog entry on New Years Eve when I listed some of the greatest things that went straight to my thighs last year. One of those things was cinnamon ice cream from Pico in the South End. I decided I would commit a most delicious act of hubris and one-up them a bit with the addition of a blueberry and balsamic vinegar swirl.

Cinnamon Ice Cream with Balsamic Blueberries

Balsamic Blueberry Compote

8 oz Frozen blueberries
3 oz Balsamic Vinegar
1 oz Sugar
1 Tbsp Lemon juice
Zest of ½ a lemon

Put all ingredients in a small pot, and cook on low heat until reduced by a little more than half. The consistency should be like a loose jam. Set aside to cool.

Cinnamon Ice Cream

18 oz Half and Half
4 oz Sugar, divided
2 ½ tsp Ground cinnamon
4 Egg yolks

Food for thought: This is best done in two days. The ice cream base will benefit greatly from “maturation” in the refrigerator, not to mention it needs to be thoroughly chilled before churning.

Cinnamon ice cream with balsamic blueberries.

In a medium pot, bring half and half, half of your sugar, and cinnamon to a boil, then reduce to low heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and remaining sugar. After your milk has boiled, remove from heat and very slowly add half to your yolks, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs. Return the yolk mixture to the pot and cook on low heat, stirring constantly with a spatula or wooden spoon. Allow the mixture to cook to “nappe” stage, which occurs when you run your finger horizontally across the spoon/spatula and the mixture does not run into the empty space you’ve created. I know that sounds weird, but that’s really how you tell. Once you have reached nappe stage, pour through a mesh strainer into a clean bowl (to remove any possibly congealed bits of egg), and stir mixture until it cools to room temperature. Cover mixture and refrigerate for 10-24 hours. Once it has chilled, pour slowly into your ice cream churner after you have turned it on. The mixture will just about double in volume after about 15-20 minutes. Do not over churn! This will make the ice cream a little chalky in texture. When the ice cream is ready to finish, pour in compote and immediately shut off your machine! You only want to give it one or two turns or you will lose the swirl effect. Scoop your ice cream into a sealable container and freeze for a few hours before indulging.

Don’t have an ice cream maker? That sucks. You should make Strawberry Cake.

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Blood, Sweat, and Tiers Brownies: Brought to you by this week’s Storm of the Century

Blood, Sweat, and Tiers.

Outside in New England, a storm is raging, inexplicably named for what, in my opinion, is easily the most overrated animated feature of all time. Controversial, I know. Our fifth-floor apartment lends a pretty good perspective of the meteorological chaos; a wisened tree in front of me, painted white by the rough hand of Mother Nature, swaying precariously in the wind and snow. It’s moments like these when I wonder, “Is Al Roker touching himself?”

Inside my soul, a comparable, metaphoric storm tests my mettle. And you know what isn’t helping? Being trapped in my apartment by weather. I understand that a snow day is probably a welcome variation to most people’s work-week, but I’m in this apartment a lot. Like, always. I really look forward to those occasions when I’m required to be pretty much anywhere else. Also, I think I’d be way more into this snow thing if there was more whiskey in my diet cherry coke.

I don’t want anyone to think I take weather lightly. You might recall, not so long ago, a post documenting a 5-hour panic attack I had, induced by driving through inclement weather. When it comes down to it, I’m just glad everyone is safe at home, invoking the crafty mixologists within themselves, spending some quality time Googling stuff or revisiting Grand Theft Auto. I’m glad that, together, we can all acknowledge the hyperbole utilized by the television meteorologists of America, and then laugh about it on Facebook. I’m glad my cats are finding this nature-show so fascinating, and that my boyfriend is working from home. Really, this storm is about overcoming adversity only to find yourself snuggled on a couch and eating something cheesey. It’s about family and forgiveness. It’s about finding a smooth segue into this brownie recipe.

You really can’t hate brownies on a day such as this one. In fact, you really can’t hate brownies ever, unless you’re missing some very important soul-part, so all demographics should be able to get on board with me. As I previously mentioned, it’s been a rough time for my brain/heart as of late, so I came up with this recipe for Blood, Sweat, and Tiers (catch my wordplay!?) brownies. They’re a reminder that all of life’s greatest achievements are born of suffering. Also, chocolate and wine and salt. They’re basically the 4 major food groups of innovators (wine counts for two groups).

These bars are two layers of very decadent brownie, followed by a cream filling flavored with red wine, topped with a very dark chocolate ganache and fleur de sel. I used Pinot Noir, though I believe port would work even better, as was my initial plan. However, sometimes you make plans to purchase booze, and God laughs. The combination of chocolate and salt, with the intense tang of the wine filling, makes for a really satisfying indulgence. If you want to eat them while sobbing in your bathtub, they’ll taste even better. That’s a fact.

As a timely bonus, isn’t that wine filling just the most beautiful shade of Valentine’s passion? Get your bookmarks ready, ladies! I heard dessert is a really effective cure for single.

Blood, Sweat, and Tiers Brownies
Blood, Sweat, and Tiers Brownies.

Rich Salted Brownies

4 oz Unsweetend chocolate
1 cup (two sticks) Unsalted butter
2 cups Sugar
½ tsp Salt
5 Eggs
½ cup Flour

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9-11 inch baking pan with parchment paper.

In a medium pot on low heat, melt butter and chocolate, stirring constantly as not to burn the chocolate. Once melted, mix in sugar and salt. Remove from heat, and whisk in eggs. If you are feeling diligent, I recommend whisking the eggs separately before whisking them into the chocolate. Mix in flour, making sure to beat out lumps. Transfer batter to the prepared pan and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the center of the brownies has set. Cool to room temperature.

Red Wine Cream

16 oz Red wine
1 oz Butter, softened
1 tbsp Lemon juice
2 cups Confectioner’s sugar

In a medium pot, bring wine to a boil and reduce down to about 1 ½ oz of liquid. Beat softened butter, then slowly add wine reduction and lemon juice. Next, beat in confectioner’s sugar on low speed. The end result should beat paste-like, but not crumbly. If you need to adjust the texture, add a very small amount of water until the mixture becomes spreadable, but remains stiff.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

5 oz Half and half
2 oz (or 1/4 cup) Sugar
3 oz Unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp Butter, softened
A generous pinch of salt

Fleur de sel, or coarse sea salt, for garnish

Bring half and half and sugar to a boil, making sure sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, and add chocolate, stirring until dissolved. If necessary, you may put the mixture back on very low heat to further dissolve. Add softened butter and stir until melted. Allow ganache to cool and set slightly before using.

To Assemble:

Remove brownies from pan by cutting around the edges and flipping over onto a cutting board. Cut the brownies in half and set one half aside. Using a spatula, spread Red Wine Cream over the first half of the brownies. Place the second half on top of the cream. Carefully return brownies to the sheet pan (this will make for easy cleaning). Once the ganache has cooled and is beginning to set up, but still fluid, slowly pour over the brownies. Chill in the fridge for about twenty minutes, them remove to cut into desired shapes and sizes. These brownies are pretty dense, so I recommend smaller bites Lastly, sprinkle the top with fleur de sel or coarse sea salt, as much or as little as pleases you.

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BANANARAMA (Is a Really Good Band, and Also This Cake with Brown-Butter and Coconut Mousse)

Banana and Brown-Butter Cake

I would like to think of myself as a woman of my word. When I say I’m going to do something, I do it. When I say I’m not going to do something, you can bet your buns that, instead, I am on the couch trolling The Superficial archives for candid bikini shots of Mrs. Coco T because, damn, that ass. You might recall that in the previous entry, I mentioned I would not be making banana bread in the foreseeable future, and I am proud to report that the statement still stands. Here are some other things I did not do this week:

I did not finish watching season one of Friday Night Lights.
I did not get any portion of my body hot-waxed.
I did not eat a cheeseburger, despite my unyielding desire to do so.
I did not cry in the shower (on Tuesday).
I definitely did not read 50 Shades of Gray, even though I just learned that this thing is actually a trilogy? Like, there is more than one of these books, prosaically detailing the most degrading ways a lady might bruise her vagina? Color me dumb-founded.

Here’s what I did do:

I watched Girls again, and regretted it.
I made ricotta dumplings for dinner one night.
I cut my toenails with reckless, reckless abandon.
I rediscovered Basement Jaxx, and, consequently, day-glow hot pants.
I made a banana-type cake.

Did you catch that last one? That’s the important one. Listen, I really like banana bread. I especially want to eat it when it is full of chocolate and toasted nuts. But the last thing I want to do is write a blog post about it. I’m pretty sure you don’t want to read about it either. I feel bad for you guys sometimes, having to trudge through yet another, “Best Paleo Yogurt-Bacon Muffin EVER!!” recipe, which is not to say that I have any idea what Paleo means. Because I don’t, it’s made up, it isn’t real.

So, the next time you find your freezer is overflowing with a nauseous collection of overripe bananas, do this thing. Make a brown-butter and banana cake with fresh fruit and coconut mousse. I’ve been eating the scraps of this cake all day and, I have to say, it’s a little addictive. Somewhat savory brown-butter gives the bananas purpose in this cake, other than just being overtly banana-y. The cake being somewhat dense in texture, as fruit batters are wont to be, I opted for mousse over buttercream. The coconut keeps the tropical theme wafting languorously to the tune of some shitty Jack Johnson song (redundant, I know), while fresh fruit (of your choosing!) gives the cake the acid and brightness it needs.

Brown-Butter and Banana Cake with Coconut Mousse
Brown-Butter and Banana Cake

6 oz Butter, Browned
4 Large eggs
6 oz Sugar
2 Squishy bananas
8 oz Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
½ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter and flour a 9 inch cake pan.

In a small sauce pan, brown your butter on med-high heat. In class, we learned to simply leave the butter on the stove and burn the crap out of it. It will smell burnt and gross. It will look black. However, all you are burning are the solids in the butter, which you would have strained out anyway. In this method, however, if you do not stir the butter as it’s browning, the solids will simply burn and stick to the bottom of the pan, and you can pour off the liquid on top with ease. If you have a gas stove, please be careful and don’t have your flame too high, because butter will catch fire and scare you a little if you aren’t accustomed to starting kitchen fires. I am a seasoned veteran of kitchen-fire-starting and have a reserve of kitty litter at my disposal for such occasions. Set butter aside to cool.

In a mixer with paddle attachment, beat together eggs and sugar on high for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg and whisk together thoroughly.

When the eggs have beaten, add your squishy bananas and beat for another 5 minutes.

Fold egg mixture into the flour mixture. When the eggs are halfway folded in, pour in butter and continue to fold gently, but thoroughly, making sure the butter isn’t just sitting at the bottom of your bowl.

Pour batter into pan and bake for approximately 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick may be cleanly pulled out from the center of the cake. Wrap and freeze cake for easiest trimming!

Coconut Mousse

3 tsp Gelatin
4 oz Water
8 oz Milk
2 oz Sugar
3 Egg yolks
10 oz Cream of coconut
Zest of 1 lemon
7 oz Heavy cream, whipped.

In a small dish, sprinkle gelatin over your water and set aside. This is called “blooming,” which is a word that I love.

In a medium sauce pan, bring milk and half of your sugar to a boil. Meanwhile, whisk together yolks and remaining sugar. When milk has boiled, remove from heat and slowly pour into your yolks, whisking constantly. Once mixed, pour the whole mixture back into your hot and return it to the stove on low heat. Do NOT boil. Eggs don’t like that. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens a bit. Strain mixture into a bowl.

Melt your gelatin in the microwave for 15-20 seconds. It happens real quick! Add the gelatin to your mousse base and mix. Next, stir in coconut cream and zest. Occasionally stir the mixture as it is gelling, so as not to develop a skin. Give it an hour, at the least, to set up nicely.

Whip your cream so it’s nice and stiff, stiffer than if you were to serve it solo. Give your mousse base a good beating so it is smooth and lump free, then fold in your whipped cream.

To Assemble:
Please trim your cake! Take off the less delicious, crusty sides, top, and bottom of the cake. Using a very sharp, serrated knife is the way to go. After it is trimmed, very carefully cut your cake in half. Reserve your trimmings, if you so choose, to use in decorating. In a food processor, pulse your softer trimmings until they are like nice, fluffy cake-snow. You can use these later to sprinkle on top of your cake.

Slice fruit of your choice to layer in the center layer of the cake, as well as to decorate the top. I chose to use kiwi, because I thought the color would look nice against all of the white and tan. Strawberries would also be complementary, flavor-wise.

Now you can be creative! I built my cake inside a cake ring, which is a snobby, pastry-school way to go about things, but it’s effective. You can “frost” this cake with your coconut mousse using whatever method you choose, but I do recommend chilling the mousse for about 30 minutes after adding the whipped cream before you do anything. In the center layer, make sure to spread a thin later of mousse, then arrange fruit, and then another layer of mousse. If you only have one layer of mousse, your cake may begin to slide around on top of the slippery fruit.

If you’d like to decorate as I have, after frosting place a cutter of any shape or size in the center of your cake. Arrange fruit within the center of the cutter. Around the cutter, sprinkle the aforementioned cake-snow on top of the cake, then remove the cutter. Chill the cake in the fridge for another half-hour or so before serving to ensure that the mousse has set.

People who claim to not really like cake will like this cake. I know this, because the man in my apartment just gave it a proverbial thumbs-up by eating it twice, despite much initial protest. So go on, force-feed a vegan, and let freedom ring.

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