about bliss

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

twd: bourbon soaked vanilla babycake

Oh, how I adore poundcake.

Oh, how I adore bourbon.

Oh, how I adore babycakes.

Add a scattering of macerated strawberries, freshly picked (by me) from a (mosquito infested) field, and you have a simple yet unbelievable flavorful and cravable dessert.

(I may have just stated that I want to eat the rest of the mini-loaf. G can testify that I have not actually done so.)

Thank you, Wendy, of Pink Stripes, for selecting this recipe. Check out her blog—she is an inspiration, and I always love reading about her adventures in food and life. We joined TWD about the same time, and she has been a blogger friend ever since.

And...cue the giddy excitement...I am the TWD host next week! Hooray! Look for a longish rambling post on Paris and chocolate and tarts and and and...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

twd: cinnamon swirl bread

Recipe for a decadent breakfast on yet another grey June morning (summer, please return soon!): rich, orange scented bread spiraled with cinnamon and sugar, toasted and spread with French butter, paired with a bowl of Kashi heart-to-heart cereal topped with luscious berries and organic milk. A small glass of Florida's Natural pulp-free orange juice, and a mug of cafe au lait wash it all down.

Thank you, Susan, of Food.Baby, for selecting this week's recipe, a simple, delightful yeast bread that comes together quickly, with no hand kneading (if you use a stand mixer), and which tastes complete even without raisins (sorry, Mom, I know you'd love it with those flame raisins:))

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

twd: tender shortcakes

This past Sunday, I made a commitment. A big commitment. A life-changing commitment.

No, I did not jet off to Las Vegas.

I bought a freezer. A 14.1 cubic foot upright Frigidaire freezer to be delivered by Lowes once they have it in stock.

As long as I have it by strawberry season, I'll be happy.

We have another week or two before the first local berries burst forth in ruby profusion. Until then, I'm using up the last few bags of last summer's berries that have been taking up precious space in my bottom freezer drawer. I was so careful, so judicious, so conservative with my berries that I have two and one half bags left!

I decided to cook one bag into a loose jam/compote for this week's recipe, tender shortcakes. Cathy, who lives in Alabama, where I lived for six very good years, chose this recipe. She made hers with local berries and—I'm insanely jealous—Chilton county peaches. Everyone in Alabama knows those peaches because they are delicious. Check our her blog, the Tortefeasor, for the recipe, and for her usual blend of wit, humor, and delight.

The shortcakes are indeed tender, and a little mishapen due to several small mishaps:

1. lack of baking powder. I substituted a mixture of baking soda and cream of tartar, at the suggestion of Regan Daley's In the Sweet Kitchen. They're a little flat, likely because my cream of tartar is...old.

2. freezer issues. I mixed the shortcakes late afternoon, and then decided I didn't want to bake them until after dinner, so I formed balls, placed them on a baking sheet, and wedged them into the bottom freezer drawer. I forget to flatten them. And, when G came home and opened the freezer to stow his lunchbox icepack, he hollered, in alarm, "I think I ruined your balls." One ball had fallen apart, but I wasn't worried.

3. slight underbaking. The flattish cakes were golden brown on top but a tiny bit doughy when I split them with a fork.

HOWEVER, these cakes—biscuits, really—are indeed tender, very slightly sweet, and a lovely foil for fresh (or slightly cooked) fruit. I topped them with whipped cream (or, as the French so lovingly say, Chantilly. So much chicer, don't you think?), and a splash of Grand Marnier. G and I are noshing them as we work on our blogs, and we're both happy.

With the new freezer, we'll be able to enjoy shortcakes all year long. I'll be able to stow summer's freshest and localest goods. My locavore commitment will be stronger than ever.

And that, my friends, is a sweet commitment.

Friday, June 04, 2010

daily bliss: paris romance, or how a commercial inspired an impulse buy

As we made our way through the check-in and security lines at Charles De Gaulle airport, a pantheon of high-end duty free shops beckoned. Grandma announced that she needed to spend some euros before boarding the plane, so we wandered into a fragrance shop. She was taken with the soft scent of Tresor In Love, a new fragrance.

I spotted Miss Dior Cherie and thought of the delightful commercial, filled with balloons, flowers, and Parisian romance and fun. I spritzed myself from the tester bottle, and was smitten. This could be my scentual memory of an amazing trip. I selected a small bottle of Eau de Toilette, and packed it into my bulging carry-on before saying my final au revoir to Paris. Je returnee!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

daily bliss: glacé

moi et grandmere

Topping my list of Paris must-eats: Berthillon, the ice cream and sorbet shop of world renown, located on Île Saint-Louis. Monday's tour featured a visit to the neighboring Île de la Cité to visit Notre Dame. After the tour, guide Pierre-Jean announced that we had an hour and a half for lunch, and I asked for directions to Berthillon.

I lead a group of eager ladies to the smaller stand, where you can only order ice cream (another venue offers fuller cafe services), and we pondered the offerings. For four euro, I enjoyed two scoops—caramel beurre sel and cacao amer (buttered salted caramel and darkest chocolate)—in a patisserie cone. The pure, unadulterated flavors nicely melded together.

After an afternoon visiting my favorite cathedral, Saint-Chapelle, and the Conciergerie (where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned), we were free to explore. Another cone was in order. This time: fraise des bois and citron vert (wild strawberry and lime). Refreshing, light, and pure summer.

We left old Paris happy, and ready for another day of adventures (culinary and otherwise).

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

daily bliss: musée national du moyen age

This museum is more informally known as the Cluny museum, and holds collections primarily of the middle ages, though some statues and the frigidarium—a former Roman bath—date back to earlier times. The play of light and dark in these ancient rooms, as well as a subtle chill, creep into the mind and body, and I was transported back in time.

The gem of the museum is the Lady and the Unicorn, a series of six Flemish tapestries from the late fifteenth century. With intricate detail—a backdrop of flowers and small animals—the tapestries represent the temptation of the senses and the importance of renouncing sensual pleasures for a more lasting reward.

I'm afraid I did not heed such advice, as I delighted in the sensual treats of Paris. Among the delights, tarts.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

daily bliss: sparkle time

Je suis une francophile.

I suspected this to be the case as I read tales of Paris, surveyed Parisian pastries in cookbooks, paged through coffeetable books on the Paris apartment, and studied fashion.

I wondered how the Paris of my imagination—which tends towards the overactive—would compare to the real Paris. I dreaded the thought of disappointment.

Paris, like all places, is not perfect.

Homeless pull mattresses under bridges. Gangs of scammers throng popular tourist destinations. Cafe fare is not vegetarian friendly. Graffiti lines the subway rails and buildings in some parts of the city.

And yet.

Paris sparkles.

Paris shows off.

Paris celebrates.

Beauty and deliciousness and connection are revered. Old ways are observed, and one can easily find goods made in France with attention to purpose and appearance.

Paris knows that life is about more than clamoring for more.

Life is about savoring the moment, lingering for two hours at a cafe. Buying a baguette on the way home from work. Taking the elevator up to the roof to catch Paris' most famous icon sparkling in the distance, for five minutes, at the top of the hour.

So much beauty.

So much sparkle.

So much life.