For years, I’ve wanted to make a ricotta cheesecake. One time, long ago, I did it in a coffee mug–I was going through a weird phase of my life, then–but that was it. I never actually made a real ricotta cheesecake.
Then, this weekend, I was supposed to bring a dessert to a dinner party. The original plan was to bring a chocolate dessert, but the day before I had a sudden change of heart. “Can I bring a ricotta cheesecake instead?” I asked the host. The host said, “Sure.” I was all set to make the one out of Gina DePalma’s Dolce Italiano (a wonderful book) until I told Gina DePalma my plan and she let me in on a little secret.
Most people who buy malt powder do so to make malteds, not homemade everything bagels. But days after making those bagels, I found myself with a perfectly good carton of malt powder and, having made a chickpea stew for dinner, I figured: “Hey, we deserve some chocolate malteds.” Here’s the thing about chocolate malteds: you don’t make them with chocolate ice cream. You make them with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup.
Every generation is given its iconic body part. The 90s gave us Cindy Crawford’s mole. The aughts gave us Janet Jackson’s breast (perfect cupcake fodder). And now the 10s have given us a gift in the form of a pointy, wet protuberance: Miley Cyrus’s tongue.
I first became aware of Miley’s appendage, as most of America did, at the MTV Music Video awards when she appeared onstage with stoned, pink teddy bears (no I’m not talking about Robin Thicke) and she stuck her tongue out in a way that defied the laws of mouth-physics. Was it disturbing? Was it groundbreaking? I’m not sure. But one thing was for certain: that tongue was seared forever into my memory banks.
What does it profit a man to make profiteroles? Turns out: it profits a man a great deal. A woman too.
Profiteroles are happy little puffs that you slice in half, fill with ice cream and then drizzle with chocolate sauce. Sort of like little ice cream sandwiches, except they’re not sandwiches; they’re more like buns filled with ice cream. And making those buns (or puffs, really) is such a cinch, I could probably make a batch in the time it takes to write this post. And once you have them, all you need is ice cream and chocolate sauce and you’re ready to serve up an elegant dessert.
Somewhere along the way, I lost interest in making ice cream. I didn’t lose interest in ice cream, just making it. So if I were to have a dinner party, I might make brownies and hot fudge sauce for brownie sundaes (as I did for an upcoming episode of The Clean Plate Club), but I’d buy the ice cream at the store and that was that. I was happy. I’d been there and done that with ice cream. But then a cookbook showed up from one of my favorite restaurants in all of New York (maybe in all the land), Franny’s, and there at the back was a recipe for one of the best ice cream/gelato concoctions I’ve ever tasted: their toasted almond gelato.
“Take a risk or play it safe?” That was the question I asked myself the day before Besha Rodell and Rachel Shukert came over for dinner last week. Rachel I wasn’t nervous about. Even though I’d never met her before, I knew we’d click because we’re both musical theater geeks. The food would be secondary. I also knew I’d click with Besha, who I had met before (at Proof Bakery last year) but that’s not what made me nervous. What made me nervous is that Besha is a food critic. A food critic! Can you imagine cooking for a food critic? I was kind of freaking out.
This is a week of recipes where the finished dish doesn’t look good, but tastes really good, so I lead with a picture of something else. Yesterday it was Kachin Chicken Curry with a picture of a mortar and pestle, today it’s No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies from Baked Explorations with an image of peanut butter in a measuring cup. You’ll understand why when we get to the end.
I’m a pie fool which isn’t the same thing as being a fool for pie. Julie Klausner recently pointed out in her podcast that Jews are cake people, Christians are pie people. From my own life experience, I find that to be true: my Jewish parents and grandparents, when at a social gathering, would put out cake. My dad would eat Entenmann’s crumb cake or lemon coconut cake at home for breakfast or dessert. I can’t recall a single time that a pie ever made an appearance at my house in my childhood. Whereas Craig, who grew up in a Christian family in Bellingham, Washington, ate pie. His dad makes a killer apple pie; pie is part of the fabric of their existence. Which is probably why when I make a cake, I could eat the whole thing and Craig will have a little slice; when I make a pie (especially apple), he goes nuts for it.