A Thing That Happened Over the Weekend: I Accidentally Double-Baked Dessert

I decided to bake a tart yesterday because it’s an easy way to make myself feel like I’ve accomplished something. So, as I was finishing the first season of Scandal on Netflix, which I know everyone else was also doing yesterday, I pulled out one of my favorite cookbooks, Baking by James Peterson. (I turn to this book whenever I have a question about baking technique.) I found a recipe in there for a blueberry tart, which seemed like a good choice for my second attempt at a tart and a nice thing to eat while we watched Downton Abbey later.

My first attempt was this pear and almond tart recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I made it for a dinner party a few weeks ago – I even poached my own pears! – and I must say, it was very good.

For this blueberry tart, I decided to use the sweet tart shell recipe from Smitten Kitchen that I had used in the pear and almond tart. I whipped this up in my mini-prep food processor. Once the dough had formed, I immediately pressed it into the fluted tart pan and put it in the freezer for 45 minutes.

One of James Peterson’s suggestions for the filling was a hazelnut frangipane, which I thought would go well with the blueberries. While the crust was freezing, I roasted 2 cups of hazelnuts for about fifteen minutes. I then ground those with some sugar, eventually adding some butter, corn starch and 2 eggs.

I threw the frangipane in the fridge and began pre-baking the tart shell. After baking it for about 30 minutes total, until it was nice and brown, I realized I shouldn’t have baked it at all because the blueberry tart recipe didn’t call for that. (It called for the whole tart to be baked at 400 degrees for 1 hour.) Oops! I let it cool for a while, added the filling and blueberries, put it all in the oven and hoped for the best.

Before baking with the filling & blueberries

Before baking with the filling & blueberries

After thirty minutes, the edges of the tart shell looked very brown but the middle didn’t look done so I left it in for another ten minutes. Which turns out was a huge mistake. Because the outside of the shell turned black.

After second baking. The edges and bottom were darker than they look here.

After second baking. The edges and bottom were darker than they look here.

We ate it while we watched Downton Abbey anyway and it tasted pretty good after you got over the slight ash flavor and also the fact that you had to stab it repeatedly in order to break off a bite-size piece.

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Two Turkeys

I cooked two turkeys during the month of November. That is two more turkeys to add to the list of turkeys I’ve cooked in my lifetime, bringing my total to four. I wish I could have written about this in a more timely manner, but I’m still recovering from many, many days of celebration.

The first turkey – nicknamed Reginald P. Birdington – was for the annual friendsgiving (for the lack of a better term) that I host with my friends Jen and Liza the Saturday before Thanksgiving. This event is officially called “Cheese?giving” as it is derived from the name of the fake band that we – shockingly, soberly – started in college. We started this as a way to get all of our friends together when we moved to New York City after college and it has been a success for three years now. Each year we provide the turkey and a few other things but request that our guests bring appetizers, side dishes, desserts and beverages to add to the mix.

Reginald P. Birdington – also known to some as Reginald B. Turkington – was about twenty-five pounds, making him our largest Cheese?giving turkey to date. (We probably ended up having forty people so…a turkey this hefty was pretty necessary.) His preparation was certainly a group effort. Liza picked him up and started the brining process – with brine from the Greenpoint Trading Co. – twenty-four hours before we started cooking him.

Jen and I went to Liza’s the night before to discuss other preparations for the party, but we ended up drinking several bottles of wine and eating large amounts of sushi, which was great for my digestion. We had pretty much everything we needed anyway. I got up super early the next morning, went grocery shopping and headed back over to Liza’s, still burping up what was basically ceviche at that point. We successfully hefted the bird with brine bag out of the refrigerator and into the sink, took the bird out of the brine bag and (mercifully) spilled only a little bit of the brine on the floor. Then we shoved him into his roasting pan and into the oven and disinfected the entire kitchen.

Reginald

I didn’t take too many pictures of the other things we made, because I was using my phone to play music for most of the day. (Spotify playlist here: Cheesegiving. I suggest listening on shuffle as I was too lazy to order the songs.) We spent the remaining hours before the party making cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts (that I made with this Martha Stewart recipe and never served because there was too much on the table) and a few other things. I had just as much fun preparing everything as I did at the actual party!

Brussels sprouts that eventually went uneaten.

Even though we were nervous about turnout and being able to serve and clean up so much food out of a small kitchen, everything worked out really well. It seemed like all of our guests were happy, well fed and drunk, which is exactly what we wanted. The night ended just as it should have, with someone throwing up all over the floor at 4 am. I give a hearty thank you to my partners in Cheese? for putting together such a successful evening and to all of our friends who attended for partying.

Turkey #2

The second turkey I cooked was much smaller. My immediate family had our very first Thanksgiving with just the eight of us at home last week. My mom and I planned the menu together. My mom made mashed potatoes, green beans, butternut squash and apple pie.  I was responsible for the following:

– Turkey (using this Tom Colicchio recipe)
– Cranberry sauce (from Simply Recipes, also made this for Cheese?giving even though I really do like the kind that comes from a can)
– Stuffing (from Ina Garten, Jen made this for Cheese?giving)
– Pumpkin swirl brownies (using the Smitten Kitchen recipe, without cayenne pepper because my mom refused to buy it)

Despite nursing a modest hangover due to night-before-Thanksgiving festivities, I managed to make everything pretty tasty. (Props to Advil and coffee.)

Dinner time!

Once dinner time rolled around, I think we all had a pretty nice time hanging out together. Only like twenty poop jokes were made during dinner and my family even made a toast to me for doing much of the cooking. Then we – well, not really me – cleaned up which led to a Beyoncé dance party in the kitchen with all six Flannery kids.

Singing along to ‘Countdown’.

Very good times were had by all.

Aidan let us make a guest appearance in his daily Instagram selfie.

The First Step Is Admitting You Have a Problem

I’ve been on and off Weight Watchers for the last three years and it’s safe to say that I’m really and truly off right now. Like, I just went to the site to track my points for the first time in weeks (and weeks and weeks) and I didn’t even recognize the log in page. There was a whole year where I tracked points religiously. Or maybe I mean to say continuously. Because it was an all-day-everyday thing. It was half of what I thought about and three quarters of what I talked about. And then, one day, I stopped. I mean, not totally, but I stopped being such a psycho about calculating points and weighting myself. I had lost a very decent amount of weight. I missed drinking good beer in large quantities and eating meals that were not mostly composed of green leaves. And I really, really missed baking.

I went a whole year without baking more than probably six or seven times which now just seems ABSURD to me. Baking has been one of my hobbies since I was a kid. Now, I bake a lot. Maybe more than I should? It’s kind of negatively affecting my life. Like an addiction!

Whenever I have some sort of gathering to attend, I feel the need to bake something before it. So, if this gathering is on a weeknight, I spend the whole night before baking. Which means I don’t go to the gym or do laundry or read or write or do whatever other thing I had planned on doing that night in addition to baking but don’t actually do because I have a job and need to sleep. I also inevitably eat a lot of what I make. So, I’m like a person who cooks meth and then does some of it before giving it to other people. (That’s an apt comparison, right?)

So, I’ve decided that I’m going to start baking in moderation. Or at least, not when I need to get other things done. I’m telling myself that I’m going to plan ahead and stick to those plans! Which is, I guess, something that I learned from Weight Watchers many moons ago before I fell off the wagon.

Anyway, I’ve annoyed myself by writing all of the above because my original intention was just to tell you about two good things I baked recently!

1. Pumpkin-Chocolate Swirl Brownies

I used this Smitten Kitchen recipe (well, adaptation of a Martha Stewart recipe) that I’ve been a big fan of since I first tried it last fall. Pumpkin and chocolate are amazing together and these brownies have just a little bit of cayenne pepper, setting them apart from other “fall” desserts. The only part of the recipe that I didn’t follow was the whole melting the butter and chocolate with a double boiler. I don’t have a double boiler and I also am too lazy to purchase one. The microwave worked just fine for the task.

Two of my favorite things.

I meant to take a photo of the finished product when it came out of the oven, but I didn’t because I was in a rush. So, I took a picture of the last brownie left in the batch!

 

Note: These are even better after a few days!

2.  Banana Blackout Cupcakes

OK, I made up the name for these chocolate-banana cupcakes myself. I needed to call them something clever because they were for our book club discussion of David Carr’s The Night of the Gun, which incidentally is about addiction. I adapted this recipe from Joy of Baking. And by adapted, I mean I tried to halve it and then I accidentally added twice as much milk as I needed and then I tried to fix it by only adding a little bit of vegetable oil. But they turned out to be amazing! They were really moist – I think because of the bananas – and um, basically perfect. I’ll just have to figure out what I did exactly before I try to replicate my success.

Banana Blackout Cupcake Leftovers

I also made my own frosting for these…by hand. Aggressively stirring a bunch of butter and sugar and cocoa powder together at 11 PM isn’t so much fun, but the finished product was delicious!

 

(I used Martha Stewart’s recipe for Ultimate Chocolate Frosting.)

What should I try making next? (Now that I’ve written about these I’m excited to try something new!) A pie? One of the cakes in Baking by James Peterson? Whatever I do, I’m going to set aside an afternoon weekend for it so it doesn’t make me crazy.

Also, there won’t be a Friday Roundup this week because I’ll be in Montreal, which I’ll tell you all about once I’m back!

How I Spent My First Weekend After Summer Unofficially Ended

I’ve been very into doing things lately. By which I mean, if I’m presented with the option of having an experience versus like, staying home on a Friday night and watching documentaries on Netflix, I’m trying to choose the experiences. And I think that I did a pretty good job of doing things this weekend, or at least enjoying the things that I was doing.

On Friday night, I went to not one but two shows. I saw Cymbals Eat Guitars and Bob Mould first at Williamsburg Park. It was free and also very good! I was definitely looking forward to the show and Bob Mould’s performance didn’t disappoint. He played the entirety of the Sugar album Copper Blue, as well as some stuff from his new album Silver Age and some crowd-pleasing stuff from the Hüsker Dü era. (Here’s a link to his great Letterman performance from last week.)

After grabbing dinner, my roommate and I went to Cake Shop at a friend’s invitation to check out an all-girl Japanese band called The Suzan. Despite being in a basement that smelled like a frat and feeling a little rough due to horking down an enormous burrito just before we got there, I couldn’t stop smiling the entire time they were on stage. The entire crowd went from being skeptical to joyously dancing in just a few songs. (I mean, how could one not when confronted with four Japanese girls with the hippest haircuts and dramatic makeup ecstatically playing instruments?) I haven’t felt that much positive energy in a long time.

banana bread

I woke up early – at 11 – on Saturday to get preparations started for our housewarming party. Before 3 PM, I had baked banana bread (from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for “Jacked-Up Banana Bread”) and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with coconuts and dried cranberries (my own spin on my favorite recipe of all time, The Silver Palate Cookbook’s oatmeal raisin cookies). After that, I rearranged the furniture in my room with the help of one of my roommates and finally hung things on the wall. There is nothing like having a party to make you get all of your shit together. So now, after being in this apartment for a little over a month, I really feel at home!

the coziest corner of my room

Our party was definitely a success (I think!) – lots of good people and good food (and drinks)! And it ended only after all of the guests had left with a roommates-only dance party. I hope our neighbors enjoy R. Kelly in the (early) morning.

I got myself up early again – at 11 – on Sunday and even though I was barely functioning, I managed to make a frittata with spinach, onion, chicken sausage and parmesan. I ate it while catching up on the disappointing new BBC America show, Copper. And then I watched Drive which did not jive with me as well during the daytime as it has when I’ve watched it at night. Also, it was beautiful out and I felt bad about sitting inside and watching TV for so long so I ended up grabbing some iced coffee and just walking around Greenpoint for ages, which was delightful but sort of lonely. I was a bit tired out when I got home and had settled in to watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi when my friend Lexie called to tell me she was in my neighborhood. We caught the tail end of the Brooklyn Flea at the East River Waterfront, which was an excellent idea because the late afternoon was even more gorgeous than earlier in the day. It was a good end to a good weekend – and I’m looking forward to more like this one this fall.

(FYI, my weekend truly ended with watching Bachelorette on demand on Sunday night, which I now want to watch over and over again for the rest of my life. Lizzy Caplan + Adam Scott Forever!)