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Posts Tagged ‘desserts’

Didn’t someone once say you can’t have your cake and eat it too?

Well, anyone who reads Midori Basho’s Timothy and Sarah: The Homemade Cake Contest (Museyon, 2015) will certainly be able to do both. First published in Japan six years ago, The Homemade Cake Contest is the first title from Basho’s popular 13-book Timothy and Sarah series to be translated into English, and it’s quite scrumptious.

In this charming story, mouse twins Timothy and Sarah are excited about helping Miss Flora and their mother raise funds to restore an old house in the forest. It was once a wonderful café where guests could have tea and chat while their children played outside. If only they could repair the building and reopen the café! Then young and old alike could enjoy it together!

Adorable end papers!

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photo by Husfruas Memoarer

Since I welcomed the new year with two Barbara Crooker poems, it’s only fitting that I share another of her gems for my final Poetry Friday post of 2015. I can’t think of a more life affirming way to bookend this tumultuous year.

“Making Strufoli” is included in Barbara’s most recent book, Selected Poems (Futurecycle Press, 2015), a striking collection of work first published in various chapbooks and periodicals. As Janet McCann points out in her insightful Foreword, Barbara writes about ordinary life through the lens of an extraordinary sensibility.

Though I have never made or eaten strufoli, I could certainly identify with the love-hate relationship we sometimes have with our parents and the mixed feelings which inevitably arise at year’s end, when everything comes to bear and so much is expected of us. Cooking can certainly be a form of meditation, a chance to feed our hungers for validation and understanding just as much as our need for physical sustenance.

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via Italian Handful

MAKING STRUFOLI

(a traditional Italian sweet)

In the weeks before my father’s death, I make strufoli for him,
not knowing he will enter the hospital Christmas Eve,
not knowing he will never leave that high and narrow bed.
There are piles of presents yet to be wrapped red or green,
stacks of glossy cards to write, my work abandoned until the new year,
and I’m at the counter, kneading dough, heating olive oil until it spits.
A small blue flame of resentment burns. I’m in the last half
of my life. The poems I haven’t written are waiting
outside the snowy window. But I’m in the kitchen, rolling
dough into fat snakes, then thin pencils. With the sharpest
knife, I cut them into one inch bits—a slice for the prom dress
he refused to buy, the perfect one, in shell-pink satin;
a chop for the college education he didn’t save for—She’s just
a girl, She’ll get married, Who does she think she is?— a stab
for the slap when I tried to learn Italian from his mother,
my grandmother, whose recipe this is. The small pieces hiss
in the bubbling grease. They change into balls of gold. I drain
them on layers of paper towels. I don’t know I will never make
them again, never mix in the roasted almonds, pour warm honey
over the whole pile, sprinkle Hundreds of Thousands, those tiny
colored candies, over the top. I only know the way my shoulders
ache, the weariness as I do the great juggle—family, house, and
work—trying to keep all the balls in the air. And when his stubborn
breathing finally stops, when his heart gives out at last,
I only remember love as something simple and sweet,
a kiss of honey on the tongue. I take this strufoli that no one
else will eat, and spread it on the snow for the starlings and the crows.

~ posted by permission of the author. Copyright © 2015 Barbara Crooker. All rights reserved.

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From the slicing and hissing of resentment to balls of gold, quite an emotional transformation!

I’m wondering why I never encountered strufoli before reading Barbara’s poem. My former neighbor told me about the “fried dough” she made every Christmas but I don’t recall her calling it ‘strufoli’, only that her family love loved it, and the holidays wouldn’t be the same without it. Are there any Italian grandmothers out there who’d like to adopt me? :)

So, strufoli (sometimes spelled with two “f”s), also known as Italian Honey Balls or “the croquembouche of southern Italy,” originated in Naples by way of the Greeks. Marble-size bits of dough are deep fried in oil, drenched in honey, then decorated with colorful hundreds-of-thousands/sprinkles/nonpareils. Candied fruit, nuts and lemon or orange rind are sometimes added. Strufoli are typically mounded into a pyramid or shaped into a wreath, making a beautiful, festive centerpiece for the holiday table. This sweet indulgence, also part of Easter celebrations, symbolizes abundance and good luck. Some think the honey keeps families “stuck” together.

via Everybody Loves Italian

Barbara was kind enough to dig up her grandmother’s recipe just for us and shared these words about her poem and making strufoli:

My memory of making them is somewhat dim, but I believe my grandmother taught my mother, and she taught me. As my parents aged, my mother wasn’t up for doing this any more (frying is quite a production, including clean-up), so I’d make it to have on hand when they came for their Christmas visit.

My dad was a difficult man, who grew up conflicted in an immigrant family, and who distanced himself from his culture. Around the time I was in college, he reconnected with family and heritage, so I’m grateful to have had those years of visits and those stories. He also grew up in a culture that didn’t value women; he couldn’t understand why being a wife and a mother wasn’t enough. And yet he was proud of my writing, and I think his love of gardening and love of food have been a great legacy, and an important part of my life. He’s been gone around twenty years; Mom’s been gone seven, and I miss them both, especially around the holidays.

via Fine Dining Lovers

ANNUNCIATA (EMMA) CUCCARO POTI’S STRUFOLI RECIPE

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon confectionary sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup margarine
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 2 cups olive oil (regular, not EVOO)
  • 1 cup honey (hers calls for 1-1/2 cups, but I found that to be too much)
  • whole almonds
  • 1/3 cup multi-colored candies (if you can find them)

On a floured pastry board, heap the flour in a mound and make a well in the center, into which put the salt, sugar, eggs, egg yolks, oleo, and lemon peel. Mix, then knead by hand.

Lightly roll 1/4” thick, then cut into strips 1/4” wide. Roll with the palm of your hand to form shapes the size of a pencil (think Play-Doh “snakes”). Cut into 1/4” pieces.

Fry in hot oil 3-5 minutes until lightly browned. Drain and dry on paper towels. Heat honey on low for 15 minutes. Pour into a large bowl, add fried pastry bits, whole almonds, toss, and let soak for five minutes (this part is mine). Scrape into a mound, and decorate with candy sprinkles. Have lots of Wet Wipes handy if giving to small children!

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Check out this struffoli-making video from the Academia Barilla to see kneading, rolling, cutting and frying techniques:

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poetry fridayThe clever and delightful Diane Mayr is hosting the Roundup at Random Noodling. Click through to check out out the full menu of poetic goodness on this week’s menu. Only 6 more days till Christmas!!

 

 

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wkendcookingiconThis post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food related posts. Put on your Santa caps and holiday aprons, and come join the fun!

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Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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Welcome to Poetry Friday at Alphabet Soup!

Please help yourself to a mug of coffee, tea or milk and a blueberry crumb bar — just the thing for hopping from blog to blog and reading some good poems. :)

To set you on your way, thought I’d share a poem from Mary Szybist’s Incarnadine (Graywolf Press, 2013), which won the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry. I like the intersection between the temporal and the spiritual, the dissolution of will and ego while singing praise for the divine glory of the world. And, too, in this day and age of blatant self aggrandizement, it is humbling to contemplate Mother Nature’s largesse as well as her indifference to our inconsequential and fleeting existences, our infinitesimal obsessions.

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“Blueberries’ Great Escape” via DogwoodStudioAlaska

 

HERE, THERE ARE BLUEBERRIES
by Mary Szybist

When I see the bright clouds, a sky empty of moon and stars,
I wonder what I am, that anyone should note me.

Here there are blueberries, what should I fear?
Here there is bread in thick slices, of whom should I be afraid?

Under the swelling clouds, we spread our blankets.
Here in this meadow, we open our baskets

to unpack blueberries, whole bowls of them,
berries not by the work of our hands, berries not by the work of our fingers.

what taste the bright world has, whole fields
without wires, the blackened moss, the clouds

swelling at the edges of the meadow. And for this,
I did nothing, not even wonder.

You must live for something, they say.
People don’t live just to keep on living.

But here is the quince tree, a sky bright and empty.
Here there are blueberries, there is no need to note me.

~ from Incarnadine (Graywolf Press, 2013).

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This poem appears near the end of the book, a sort of benediction. The entire collection is luminous and deeply thought provoking, with inventive explorations of the divine in everyday life. The National Book Award judges citation reads in part: “This is a religious book for nonbelievers, or a book of necessary doubts for the faithful.” Definitely worth a look — Szybist is a poet’s poet.

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Speaking of which, Heartfelt Congratulations to Juan Felipe Herrera, our new U.S. Poet Laureate, and Jacqueline Woodson, our new Young People’s Poet Laureate! Way cool! :)

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Now, please leave your links with Mr. Linky below. Don’t forget to include the title of the poem you’re sharing or book you’re reviewing in parentheses after your name. The links page will stay up indefinitely and can be accessed at any time for your reading convenience.

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Thanks for joining us today. If you’d like the Blueberry Crumb Bars recipe, click over to Smitten Kitchen. Cool thoroughly before slicing and enjoy with a side of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. :)

Have a wonderful weekend!
(Here there are blueberries, here there are poems.)

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Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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via Food Socialist

Sometimes there’s more to a brownie than meets the eye.

A really good brownie could become your identity, your touchstone, your raison d’être.

A dark chocolate fountain of creativity, the right brownie is your heart of hearts and knows where you live.

Just ask Judyth Hill.

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BROWNIES
by Judyth Hill

I got famous for them, brownies,
adding nuts and all my attention,
9 years of my life, to the batter.
The recipe reads:
Stir with all your desire to be a poet.
Break 27 thoughts about God, children,
and postgraduate degrees.
Beat till thick with ambition.
Fold in longing and chocolate, hot as the tar roof
on 101st & West End.
Mix just till you remember all the words to Mac the Knife,
Add nuts and the words Jonathan wrote on the boxing gloves
I got for Christmas:
Words from Catallus, Odi et Amo:

I hate and I love.
You ask how that can be.
I know not, but I feel the agony.

He gave me sporting equipment a lot,
though I don’t do sports.
He always remembered to add the words.
I do words.
I do brownies.
I do variations on brownies, cantatas of brownies
sonatas of brownies, quintets of fudge.
And short compositions featuring chocolate
as if it were a bassoon.

Perhaps I am the Picasso of brownies.
My blue period, the year I cried over every batch.
The way the one eyed woman can eat a brownie
and still be in my painting — a trick I discovered
and it became a genre.

Perhaps I am the Seurat of brownies,
dots of primary flavor
deep, sweet, salt,
an illusion adding up to the spectrum of dessert.

I am the Einstein of brownies,
discovering how the more chocolate you eat,
the later it gets.
Discovering how Poem x the Speed of Light² = Brownies.
Discovering that mass, brownies, and time are infinite.
Discovering that the energy of the universe
will go into each pan,
and it’s still brownies.

Maybe I’m the Martin Buber of brownies.
Climbing 10 chocolate rungs to grace.
Or the Albert Schweitzer of brownies,
giving brownies to everyone,
whether they need them or not.

What if I’m the Donald Trump of brownies,
building a cocoa empire.
Blocks of fudge, whole towers of semisweet,
bittersweet and Swiss, bullions of brownies,
chips of profit and loss. Or Lenny Bruce.
Hilarious and obscenely chocolate.
Chocolate so good it’s dirty,
and we can’t talk about it here.

Perhaps I am the Chanel of brownies,
designing a brownie for every outfit,
accessorizing brownies with shoes and bags,
a suit, a rich dark color that goes with everything.

~ from Written with a Spoon: A Poet’s Cookbook, edited by Nancy Fay & Judith Rafaela (Sherman Asher Publishing, 2002). Posted by permission of the author.

Chocolate Chanel Purse Cake via Certified Foodies

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Judyth says, “At the time I wrote ‘Brownies’, I owned and ran the famous Chocolate Maven Bakery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I am the original Maven! The bakery has gone on to be a huge success, and I sold her to pursue my career as a Poet/Author.”

(more…)

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You’ve got last minute guests coming for dinner and you need to whip up a quick and easy dessert.

Or maybe you’ve already made your Thanksgiving pumpkin and pecan pies, but need a little extra sweet something for holiday weekend guests.

What’s an adorable, well-intentioned host like you to do?

Ta da! Dorie Greenspan to the rescue with her Custardy Apple Squares!

You’ll likely have all the ingredients on hand already for this recipe; this baby can be eaten warm or cold, and it’s also good for breakfast. :)

This is just one of the goodies included in Dorie’s latest cookbook, Baking Chez Moi (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014). I just love Dorie and this book is definitely on my holiday wish list. :)

Check out the video:

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CUSTARDY APPLE SQUARES

  • 3 medium juicy, sweet apples (Gala, Fuji), peeled
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons whole milk at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.

3. Slice the apples from top to bottom using a mandoline, Benriner or a sharp knife, turning the fruit as you reach the core. The slices should be about 1/16th inch thick—elegantly thin, but not so thin that they’re transparent and fragile. Discard the cores.

4. Whisk the flour and baking powder together in a small bowl.

5. Working in a large bowl with a whisk, beat the eggs, sugar and salt together for about 2 minutes, until the sugar just about dissolves and, more important, the eggs are pale. Whisk in the vanilla, followed by the milk and melted butter.

6. Turn the flour into the bowl and stir with the whisk until the batter is smooth. Add the apples to the bowl, switch to a flexible spatula and gently fold the apples into the batter, turning everything around until each thin slice is coated in batter. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top as evenly as you can—it will be bumpy; that’s its nature.

7. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown, uniformly puffed— make sure the middle of the cake has risen—and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.

8. Using a long chef’s knife, cut the cake into 8 squares in the pan (being careful not to damage the pan), or unmold the cake onto a rack, flip it onto a plate and cut into squares. Either way, give the squares a dusting of confectioners’ sugar before serving, if you’d like.

~ adapted from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014).

BON APPETIT!

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Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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