My boys are called to the apple bins at the grocery store these days like a siren song. Framing every bin are rows of gooey caramel apples, studded with nuts, candies and chocolate. Seriously, I can’t blame them for being drawn in, they are irresistible. But, then you bite into them and they are always just a touch disappointing. The apples are usually soft and the caramel is cloyingly sweet and tastes like it was from the previous generation. I convinced my boys to walk by without taking one, but only after promising to make them some at home. We picked fresh, crisp, juicy apples (Honeycrisp, Sweet Tango or a variety that is a bit tart). The caramel is easy to make and is rich, creamy, gooey and not over-the-top sweet. I like them with salted peanuts pressed into the caramel, but the boys like the apples dipped in caramel with no other interruptions. (more…)
I admit I enjoy the detailed work of an elaborate dessert or cake on occasion. I was a fine arts major who couldn’t paint or draw particularly well, but loved being in the midst of all that creativity in the art department. It wasn’t until I found myself in a pastry kitchen that I realized food was the medium that allowed me to express myself. Fussing over gum paste and fondant is relaxing to me. But, there are times I want to create something that is just pure and simple. When flavors are the end all and their natural beauty unadorned.
I’ve been reading A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes by David Tanis. The executive chef from Chez Panisse who has the most enviable career I’ve ever heard of. He spends 6 months of the year cooking at Alice Water’s acclaimed restaurant and the remainder of his time in France. Just one chapter in and you can’t help but hate him for having figured out the perfect life. He eloquently describes shopping in the morning at the outdoor produce market and then cooking with his friends while drinking local wines and nibbling on aged cheeses. His entire philosophy is simplicity. In fact, the book’s one downfall for me is that there is no challenge in any of his desserts, they are all simple to a fault. Gorgeous and as delicious as a fresh fig, but where is all of the fussy detail that I often crave. 😉
I want to be David Tanis when I grow up! (more…)