I met my BFF in Language Arts class when I was fourteen. What the lesson plan of ‘Language Arts’ consisted of or what knowledge I gleaned from the 50 minutes a day I spent in that classroom is unimportant because from the moment we had our initial group project it was lady friend love at first sight.
All it took was one trip to the mall and we were pretty much instantly best friends. Over the years we have had a shared love of many things – namely flared jeans and a questionable taste (debatable!) in music and now that we are older and wiser our shared affection of things has grown to include good IPA and red lipstick and a high level of connoisseurship in the freshly-made buttery croissant department.
This spring in New York has been marked by a series of false starts. One week it is trenchcoat weather and the next requires snow boots. The entire city seems to be holding one big collective breath until we get through this last cold bit. I had brunch and sat outside (!!!) last weekend and now I sound like an old lady who only talks about the weather. But when trudging around in the late-March snow it is difficult not to dream of warm afternoons and springtime produce and picnics in the park and not wearing a puffy coat and all the glory that is ICED COFFEE. Oh le sigh! So to bridge the gap between spring and these last few chilly days I have been baking with brightly glowing citrus.
The inspiration for this tart comes from one of the best flavor combinations that exists – creamsicle – and you’d be hard pressed to find a better fit together than the orange and the vanilla bean. They are match made in culinary heaven.
It is a scientific fact that the mini form of anything is just plain better then the larger equivalent. I can’t explain why, when, or how my fascination with mini things began but I can tell you that to this day if presented with a choice I will always without fail choose the mini option.
This weekend I spent approximately 95 minutes give-or-take in one of my most favorite stores looking at their collection of mini school supplies and wondering things like: Are mini scissors a necessity? Do I need this small roll of tape? In theory, probably not, but what is one supposed to use to close those tiny envelopes and note cards? Surely full-size tape will not do.
When math and baking come together and pretzels and peanut butter are involved, this is what the equation looks like: pb + pretzels [crushed] √ (35°/30 minutes) x melted chocolate = truffles.
This truffle is dessert simplicity at its best. Only three ingredients – pretzels, peanut butter, and chocolate – come together in a form so exquisite, it is the pinnacle of salty, sweet bliss.
Begin by crushing a few handfuls of pretzels. You can do this in a food processor but that is just another thing to clean. Instead, I busted out my rolling pin and crossed my fingers that my neighbors were not trying to sleep.
Next step: mix in peanut butter and roll into balls. Now things start to get difficult because you have all these peanut butter and pretzel centers that will you want to “sample” but resist. They turn into something even more magical when dipped in chocolate. Patience is a tricky friend.
One of my most favorite condiments is Buffalo wing sauce which is made all the more strange due to the fact that me and chicken wings have never been able to be friends. I wish I could enjoy wings. I always think I want a wing. I whet my palate with a celery stick and mentally prepare by ordering a cold beer but then when the time comes I always feel like, okay, so that was a lot of work for what? A bone covered in sauce? Maybe I am doing something wrong but I’d bet that a roll of pennies weighs more than the meat on a dozen chicken wings. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely respect the glory of the wing but I also want to make everyone happy so I will just leave the serious wing-eating to those who get it. My only request: let me keep my Buffalo sauce and no one gets hurt.
It just so happens that The Day Of Snacks And Chicken Wings (known colloquially as The Super Bowl) is quickly approaching. Last year I made pretz-ales which is just a jazzy name for soft pretzels made with beer and definitely hit the mark for some serious snack-age. But this year I thought it would be fitting to honor the other half of the classic holiday du sport: Buffalo wing sauce.
The memorable layer cakes I have enjoyed throughout the ages can be counted on one hand. The most noteworthy being the one served at my fifth birthday party. Layer cakes evoke nostalgia like very few other things in life and are on par with love notes from your 9th grade boyfriend or those tiny (AND ADORABLE!!!!) baby shoes that mothers tend to save because they just can’t let go of tiny and adorable things. This birthday cake was no exception. It was an exact replica of Ariel from The Little Mermaid but crafted entirely out of overly-sweetened cake and brightly-colored neon frosting. The adults in attendance probably hated it but me and my pint-sized party-going friends were thrilled!
It is mildly embarrassing to admit my childhood love of The Little Mermaid and I would like to come clean with the fact that there were one too many years of enthusiasm for this video. I didn’t care about much back then but I definitely wanted to live in a secret magical waterland and have my best friend-slash-life advisor be a reggae-loving crustacean. Obviously I could have gone without the terrifyingly mean seawitch but hey, the good comes with the bad.
I am pretty sure that two large factors contributed to this obsession: one was that I was enrolled in swimming lessons and two was that these were the years that my uncle was in a steel drum band so anytime I accompanied my parents to a gig it was like experiencing a real-life under the sea concert with Sebastian.
Frosting a layer cake is one of those things you never think you need to know how to do until you happen to need to know how to do it. These moments of realization usually come when you are halfway through, frosting is everywhere, you haven’t changed into your party clothes yet, your cell phone keeps ringing with friends asking, “Where ARE YOU? What is up with the CAKE you were talking about?!” and you are like “whhhhaaaa am I doing?!!” I know this feeling because this has happened to me.
Frosting these types of cakes can be stressful because they are usually made for an important type of event that only celebrating with a multi-layer cake can provide. While yes, it is true that you can achieve the same general function with a butter knife and a plate because in essence “how to frost a layer cake” translates to slathering frosting between layers of baked butter and flour but there are a few tricks that will make your cake look super fancy for super little effort. Let’s get started!
How To Frost A Layer Cake!
Select your tools. As any building contractor will tell you, the final outcome of your project is greatly enhanced with the correct tool. Same goes with cake decorating. These are the objects that I find the most helpful and essential in the process of layer cake-decorating: a cardboard cake round, the bottom of a removable tart pan, a cake stand, an offset spatula, a sharp serrated knife, a pastry bag fitted with a #12 tip, and a pastry scraper.
Prepare your base. This cake stand is where we are going to build our cake. I cut my cake board the exact same size as my cake so that it would not show. If you aren’t transporting your cake, you don’t really need a board but it helps to give the cake a base if you happen to need to move it, or if your cake won’t fit into your fridge on the stand. Begin by making a few tape loops and securing the cardboard base to the stand, then put a small dab of frosting on the board (or cake stand base) which makes sure that your cake won’t slip around. Cut a few strips of parchment or waxed paper and place them underneath the cake board. This will make sure that your cake plate stays clean!
I have never been very good at breakfast-ing. I want to be better but if I could have it my way I would have a few hearty cups of coffee until lunchtime comes around. I certainly love breakfast-type foods but just not during the appropriate 7 to 9:30 am window. It takes a lot to force feed myself cereal every morning but I do it because I keep stumbling across these “top 5 lists for health” which show up in magazines that tend to hang around in dentist office waiting rooms and include lines like “studies show that eating a large breakfast can improve this, that, the other thing, and is linked to becoming a billionaire…”
So why can’t I just enjoy the first meal of the day? I blame it on Hot Lunch.
My Hot Lunch experience definitely had its fair share of fish sticks but I was lucky that my elementary school offered a program that was on the better side. I am not certain of this because I rarely got to enjoy it due to the fact that I had to bring my lunch in an assortment of tiny Tupperware containers which all packed into a reusable cloth lunch bag – may I add that this was way before all that jazz was cool.
But I was relieved of these containers every other week when they served the Breakfast-For-Lunch meal. In my opinion this was the one meal that Bob* the lunch guy actually nailed and the only worth fighting with my parents for about letting me buy. Not that I blame him much because who am I to judge. His job was to make Hot Lunch for 100 children under the age of 12 and I don’t think we actually cared what we ate as long it included one of the three food groups: cookies, pizza and pepperoni.