Alone

Buttermilk Skillet Cake with Walnut Praline Topping


Right now I am lying on my bed with my shoes on. 
White sunlight coming in through the window. 
Two nights ago, I saw a band called Chipper Jones play. 
Of course the beauty of music, and the particular beauty of live music, is that it brings you into NOW.
Watching the drummer play, I thought he was so graceful. Even though I’m still not totally sure what “grace” really even IS. Internal peace? Quiet? Silent passion? 

So much of my time these past few years has been me struggling to find a rhythm that makes sense— trying to find the grace in motion. 
Like the kind of grace I thought that drummer showed, even if only for a moment. 

I don’t know. 


I realized the other day that from here on out, with only one semester of college to go, not that it hasn’t been real— but that the planned time is mostly ending. 
It’s like the feeling I get when I think about how old I’ll be in ten years. 
Or how I felt when I first realized that in the next few years many of my friends will get married, someone is going to have a baby, everyone falling in and out of love across time zones, working working working on their New Year’s resolutions for the rest of forever until 
The End. 
Of course, this is the beginning of the rest of forever.

I made a cake the other day. 



A buttermilk skillet cake with a walnut praline topping because I like it when things are tangible. Because making things gives rhythm to days that pass so quick/slow. 
And making things feels like grace. 

This year, I want to make things. 

One of my favorite people in the entire world sent me a mostly incoherent, very drunk email on January 1st. At the end of the message he said, “all my love. from a lost yet broken yet wonderfull soul.” 

“Lost yet broken yet wonderfull.” 

Somehow, I feel that this really sums it up. 

"Yet wonderfull." 

I love you I love you I love you. 


xoxo
m


Buttermilk Skillet Cake with Walnut Praline Topping
from The Joy the Baker Cookbook

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
For the praline topping:
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
generous pinch salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven to 375F/ 190C, positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven.
Butter and flour the bottom and sides of an 8 or 9-inch cast-iron skillet (or a 9-inch cake pan).
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until blended and lighter in color, about 3 minutes. Add egg and yolk, beating for a minute between each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
Turn the speed to low, and add half of the flour mixture. Next, add the buttermilk, and when the flour is just combined, add the remaining flour. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and gently finish incorporating the ingredients with a spatula, taking care not to overmix. Spoon the batter into prepared skillet or pan, spreading evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
While the cake bakes, make the praline topping: in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar, butter, cream and salt. Bring the mixture to a soft boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and nuts. Inhale.
Let the mixture rest in the pan for 20 minutes, to firm up. Once it has rested, and the cake has been removed from the oven, pour the praline mixture over the warm cake, spreading evenly. (If you chose to bake this in a cake pan instead of a skillet, remove the cake from the pan and place it on a cake plate, before pouring the topping over the cake.) Serve immediately, or at room temperature.
Cake will keep, well wrapped and at room temperature, for up to 4 days.

Swedish Meatballs

Life is good, mostly great. 



But today, and lately, lately being most of October, I've had the blues. 
I'm not alone in this, everybody I know is a little tired, or a little weary right now. A little lonely despite being a little too busy. 
I don't know what it is. 
Often, Barbarajo says to me, "You couldn't pay me to be 21 again." 
I think about this often. 

Maybe it's just the time of year. 
Maybe we all just need to drink more.  

On Sunday night, I stood in my kitchen, and made Swedish meatballs. 
I thought about everyone I know, and wondered where we are all going to go 
And the splintering effects of the final year of college, and how maybe you don't get some things back and other things you just pray and pray that you do, and also the hope that you can have a beer on a Tuesday night, and finish the thesis and everything else on time, maybe, if the magic happens, because I guess it's all happening all the time anyways. 
And I thought about-- it is so terrifying, and so good, to be this young. 

So I made Swedish meatballs. 
They are great. 
They are the flavor of comfort. 
Despite the October blues. 

I love you I love you I love you. 

xoxo


Swedish Meatballs
from The Gourmet Cookbook

3/4 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
1/4 heavy cream
1/4 club soda
3/4 pound ground beef round
1/2 pound ground veal
1/4 pound ground pork
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Stir together bread crumbs, cream and club soda in a small bowl. Let stand for 20 minutes. 
Put racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 400F. Oil two large baking sheets with sides. 
Combine beef, veal, pork in a large bowl. Ad onion, breadcrumb mixture, egg, salt, and pepper and blend with your hands just until well combined; do not overmix. 
Form level tablespoons of mixture into meatballs and arrange about 1 inch apart on oiled baking sheets. Bake, turning meatballs over and switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until browned, about 20 minutes total. 
With a slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to a platter. Set baking sheets on top of stove or a heatproof surface. Divide 1/3 cup water between pans and deglaze, off heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits with a wooden spoon.
Drizzle pan juices over meatballs. 


Tarte Noire (chocolate tart)




When I was traveling, people were always asking me where I was from, and whenever I said "I'm from Texas," there was always some spark of recognition and excitement. 
Saying you are from Texas is not like saying you are from North Dakota. 
Or Wisconsin. 
It's just not. 
It was the best when someone who happened to be French asked, because their eyes would light up and they'd say something like, "OH! TEXAZZZ!" Before making finger guns and asking me about horses and cowboys and Chuck Norris. 


So while I was so far away from home, I fell in love with the with the pie-making, porch-sitting, beer-drinking, no bullshit, music-loving, Tex-Mex-eating, lonestar, cowgirl, wildflower piece of myself. 
A piece of me I didn't even know I had. 
I fell in love with the vastness and vulgarity of Texas from a thousand miles away. 

The poet Charles Bukowski wrote: 

“Texas women are always
healthy, and besides that she’s
cleaned my refrigerator, my sink,
the bathroom, and she cooks and
feeds me healthy foods
and washes the dishes
too.”

And I know and love this now as well. 

I am home now. 


I've been lying in the hammock some, drinking pots of coffee, walking the dog. 
And then, on Tuesday, suddenly, I was ready to be in the kitchen again. 
The first time I actually felt like being in the kitchen in over a year. 


So I baked a chocolate tart. Which was not Texan at all, but French--because the world is topsy turvy like that sometimes, and it is possible to crave Tex-Mex when in France and French food when back in Texas. 

And while I pressed the tart dough into the pan, I thought about Paris. 
I thought about Paris, and how the only real way to understand a city, is to walk through it. 
But mostly I thought about all the people, who made the past few months a sort of miracle. 


Roberto told me, that if you want to cook, you have to cook with "the love." 
And that it's cooking with "the love" that gives food the real flavor. 

So I thought about Paris. And I thought about Texas. 
But mostly, I thought about you.

This tart is one of the best I've ever, ever made. 


xoxo


Tarte Noire (chocolate tart)
from Dorie Greenspan's From My Home to Yours 

Another thing, is that this tart is stupidly simple, and very, very sexy. Even if you can barely bake, this tart is unbelievably doable, if a bit time consuming. Additionally, for the chocolate ganache, it is imperative that you use the highest quality baking chocolate. 

For the Filling

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature

1 9-inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough (recipe below)

Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and have a whisk or a rubber spatula at hand. 
Bring the cream to a boil, then pour half of it over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seonds. Working with the whisk or spatula, very gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles, starting at the center of teh bowl and working your way out in increasingly larger concentric circles. Pour in the remainder of the cream and blend it into the chocolate, using the same circular motion. When the ganache is smooth and shiny, stir in the butter piece by piece. Don't stir the ganache any more than you must to blend the ingredients-- the less you work it, the darker, smoother and shinier it will be. (The ganache can be used now, refrigerated or even frozen for later.)
Pour the ganache into the crust and, holding the pan with both hands, gently turn the pan from side to side to even the ganache. 
Refrigerate the tart for 30 minutes to set the ganache, then remove the tart from the fridge and keep it at room temperature until serving time. 


Sweet Tart Dough 

NB: Don't roll the tart dough out, simply press it into the pan and save yourself much time and angst. 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confections' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in-- you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses-- about 10 seconds each-- until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change-- heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. 


To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press teh dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don't be too heavy handed, press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking. 

To fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 F. 
Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (Watch it though, to make sure it doesn't get too golden brown.) 

Almost Fudge Gateau

Dear one,

I'm in France, and I just drank a beer, and ate a crepe. 
Everything, intrinsically, by default of simply being, is beautiful.
I'm in Paris for several weeks, and am then cruising around Europe, for the next few months. 
Mostly alone. 
I'd be out of my mind excited, if I weren't so terrified. 
Doing what you want and being autonomous, it's amazing and necessary. 



And fucking scary. 

I've been spending a lot of time in my head and walking and looking at people.
I feel very quiet. 

Something I want to address: 

We are all aware, that this being a "food blog" is mainly a shameless charade that allows me to write about myself and growing up and love, etc. 
Because, somehow, this tiny space went from windy exposition about cake, to much windier exposition about things like feelings.
And I want to acknowledge this, only because, I'm going to be traveling, and I don't know if I can always promise you recipes, or that stories will tie back to the table, or that the state of things can be summed up in a few words that conclude with a flavor.
 I don't know if I can promise that.

However, I do promise to be hungry, if only for you. 
I promise that I will write you more, and soon. 


This is a cake I baked right before I left Austin. It's mostly chocolate and eggs. It is, apparently, a very French cake.

And finally, because it is long overdue, I want to thank you, you strangers who find me here again and again. The surprise, that anyone cares to return to this URL, it humbles me. 
Whoever you are, you're magic. 
And for my beloved family and for my tribe of beautiful people, thank you for all the hand holding and letter writing and sweet mornings and afternoons and nights and tequila and twinkling light.  
There are not words enough in this language to convey my gratitude. 

I love you. 

You make me feel fearless. 


XOXO



Almost Fudge Gateau

from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

5 large eggs
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons unslated butter, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons coffee or water
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt

For Glaze (optional) 
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 heavy cream
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Center a rack in th eoven and preheat to 350 degrees F. 
Butter a 9-inch springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter the paper, dust the inside of the plan with flour and tap out the excess. Place the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or on a silicone mat. 
Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a mixer bowl or other large bowl and the yolks in a small bowl. 
Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and add the chocolate, sugar, butter and coffee. Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted; the sugar may still be grainy, and that’s fine. Transfer the bowl to the counter and let the mixture sit for 3 minutes. 
Using a rubber spatula, stir in the yolks one by one, then fold in the flour. 
Working with the whisk attachment of the mixer, or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until they hold firm but glossy peaks. using the spatula, stir about one quarter of teh beaten whites into the batter, then gently fold in the rest. Scrape the batter into the pan and jiggle the pan from side to side a couple of times to even the batter. 
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the cake has risen evenly (it might rise around the edges and you’ll think it’s done, but give it a few minutes more, and the center will puff too) and the top has firmed (it will probably be cracked) and doesn’t shimmy when tapped; a thin knife inserted into the center should come out just slightly streaked with chocolate. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the cake rest for 5 to 10 minutes. 
Run a blunt knife gently around the edges of the cake and remove teh sides of the pan. Carefully turn the cake over onto a rack and remove the pan bottom and the parchment paper. Invert the cake onto another rack and cool to room temperature right side up. As the cake cools, it may sink. 

To make OPTIONAL glaze:
First, turn the cooled cake over onto another rack so you’ll be glazing the flat bottom, and place the rack over a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper to catch any drips. 
Put the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. 
Melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave oven-- cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir very gently with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth and shiny. Stir in the corn syrup. Pour the glaze over the cake and smooth the top with a long metal icing spatula. Don’t worry if the glaze drips unevenly down the sides of the cake-- it will just add to its charms. (Sidenote: This is why I love Dorie. She’s all about the charms of cake related imperfection.) Allow the glaze to set at room temperature, or if you’re impatient, slip the cake into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. If the glaze dulls in the fridge, just give it a little gentle heat from a hairdryer.