Brown Butter Rhubarb Cake

May 26, 2010 § 9 Comments

When I was just a wee thing, I had a wonderful children’s cookbook (British, I think) with life size color photographs of the recipes – each ingredient as well as the final product.  I would spend private afternoons carefully paging through this book, gazing intently at the cheese sandwiches with faces made of peppers and olives, the scrambled eggs with ham and cheese, the fish stew.  But, I would linger the longest on the cake recipe, a simple yellow sponge cake, decorated with icing and candies in the photograph.  This cake was special.  We almost never had dessert in my family growing up, unless it was a birthday or Christmas.  But, once a year when the little rhubarb plant nestled along the corner of the garden shed was ready, my mother would give the go ahead, and we would cut down a few stalks and bake them into this yellow cake.  It felt like Heaven, this dessert we got to make for no special occasion in particular, except that the rhubarb was ready and I had a cake recipe.

We’re in Minnesota again, at my parents house, for one of approximately 436trillion weddings that are happening this summer.  I went out to the garden yesterday morning to check…the rhubarb was ready.  I wanted to bake a cake.  I’ve moved slightly beyond my “Child’s First Cookbook” days, I’m slightly sorry to say, but I still wanted to keep it simple, to let the rhubarb shine through in a delicate moist cake.  Then again, I’ve also been becoming progressively more obsessed with brown butter (yes, I know that was totally two years ago, but better late than never, and it still tastes amazing, rich and nutty, even when it’s not one of Food & Wine’s foods of the year), and I had an inkling that browning the butter in the cake to give it a soft caramel undertone would buoy the tartness of the rhubarb to new heights.

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Chocolate cherry trifle

January 4, 2010 § 3 Comments

Okay, I know we’re all supposed to be full of eager enthusiasm about our New Year’s resolutions right now, their being brand new and all.  Everybody’s hitting the gym, and trying to eat more vegetables and less junk, or to be more patient with all the people involved in the horrendous airline industry who make you wait in lines or on hold for hours at a time only to cancel your flights and then reroute you only after extensive convincing and still charge you that ridiculous $20 for your luggage plus fees for overweight baggage, even though it’s really not your fault that it’s impossible to pack light if you’re visiting Minnesota in the winter (it’s 20 below out people, come on)….That is to say, this is admittedly probably not the best time to be sharing tips on making decadent party desserts.  But hey, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner!  Plus, my personal resolution is to cut myself a little more slack, which I’ve determined for this moment means not worrying about the timing of this post and writing it anyway, just because I want to.  So, on with the trifle! « Read the rest of this entry »

Spicy gingerbread cake for rainy day baking

October 4, 2009 § Leave a comment

Like most (though not all) of the known universe, I am a sucker for baked goods, and I have a definite sweet tooth.  This is the main reason I don’t bake very much at all – if I don’t bake it, I won’t have it around to eat.  If I do bake it, I try to wrap up at least half of it in tinfoil and a ziplock and put it in the freezer immediately, so it’s not readily available.  (But it defrosts quite nicely if I need it)  Doing this, like getting half of your restaurant meal wrapped up before you even start eating, is one of those obnoxious health-fanatic pieces of advice that we hear over and over again and that can turn out to be surprisingly difficult to put into practice (not to mention kind of annoying, I mean, who wants to be that person).  But, study after study shows that if a food is right there you’re far more likely to eat it, even if you’re not hungry.  And, the more food you have around you the more you’ll eat.  Interestingly, willpower has almost nothing to do with it!  This is because willpower comes from the conscious control part of our brain, while our response to the sight and smell of food in front of us happens in the part of our brain we have no control over.  Our biology is set up so that if there is more food and a greater variety around, we actually physically have to eat more in order to feel satisfied!  This means that the claim food companies make that eating should be only about personal responsibility, so they shouldn’t be regulated, is a bunch of hooey.  But, in places where we do have control, for example what foods we keep around in our house, it makes it all the more important to focus on good, real foods. « Read the rest of this entry »

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