The same laws of nature that cause the half and half to swish through my iced coffee preside over the universe, and hence the universe resides in a cup. The swishes and swirls, on a macro level, remind me of photos I’ve seen of nebulae, frozen moments of a frenetic, cosmic dance. They’re gossamer and ghostly and seem to encompass all that is mysterious, ephemeral, and otherworldly. I like the juxtaposition of the two ideas as I prepare my morning cup.
I’ve been enamored with culinary swirls lately, the ones that happen effortlessly through the process of mixing and folding and pouring. I’m not sure anything manmade can emulate the unintended complexity that such acts bloom into being, though I’m sure the masters at Pixar are certainly trying.
I especially love the streaks that occur when chocolate is folded into meringues.
And when peanut butter is folded into a chocolate tart.
Onto other topics. I’ve been nominated for a Saveur Best Food Blogs award in the Best Photography category! What an honor! And I’m really kind of flabbergasted. I mean, I’m sure that among the minimum requirements that must be met in order to be considered a food blog, consistency is one of them? Did I mention this news is weeks-old? But, cool beans anyway! Thank you to whoever nominated me! If you’d like to vote—for me or any of the talented people nominated in any the categories—here’s the link.
Finally, because this IS a food blog, I’m going to leave you with the recipe for the chocolate peanut butter tarts shown above. I’ve made them four times in the last couple weeks—for two birthdays and twice just because—and think I’ve got the recipe down. While the original recipe is intended for a 9″ tart pan, individual tarts trump giant tarts, period. The crust to filling ratio is just about perfect, and they look damn cute too. The swirls are formed simply by dropping warmed-up peanut butter in teaspoonfuls onto the chocolate, then swirling them around with a skewer. There’s no way to mess up—nature will take care of all the intricacies.
A quick appearance to say: these are the best brownies I’ve ever had.
We all have different opinions on the topic, I know, but such are the power of these specimens that they shattered all my notions of what a brownie should be—and I’d been firmly in the cake-y camp, you know?—and replaced them with these burnished beauties.
In Nigel’s words, they’re as “dense and fudgy as Glastonbury Festival mud.” I like that. Why can’t we all try to be that way?
NIGEL SLATER’S BROWNIES
Makes one 9″ square pan
From The Kitchen Diaries
I’m a firm believer in weight measurements these days, and as a consequence, all the volume measurements below are approximate. In other words, I recommend getting a digital scale! It’s tremendously helpful. Also, this recipe is from the UK version of The Kitchen Diaries, hence the metric measurements. But don’t you prefer metric measurements anyway? They’re so reliable.
60 grams (a scant 1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
60 grams (1/2 cup) cocoa powder
1/2 t baking powder
200 grams (1-2/3 cups, roughly chopped) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
300 grams (1-1/2 cups) granulated sugar
250 grams (2 4-oz. sticks plus 2 T) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
Line a 9″ square pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder in a small bowl. Melt the chocolate and set it aside.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until soft, creamy, and a bit airy. Add the lightly beaten eggs a little at a time, incorporating them fully between each pour. Mix in the melted chocolate. Finally, fold in the flour mixture gently but firmly.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, smooth out the top, and bake for about 30-35 minutes. The brownie will be a bit jiggly when it comes out of the oven, but the top should have puffed slightly, and a toothpick stuck through the middle should come out sticky but without raw batter attached.
Cool for an hour, during which the brownie will solidify more fully. Cut into squares and enjoy!
Happy December! We’re a month into a new lease in a new apartment and, while we’re still without a couch or coffee table or shelves for our books and knick knacks because we threw them out along with the last vestiges of the mouse problem that tainted the final few months in our old apartment, we are finally living in a place that gets direct sunlight. Yay!!! Northern light is brooding and sexy and all, and I did enjoy it, truly, while we had it, but most of the time I’m feeling decidedly un-brooding and un-sexy, so the change is very welcome.
My very first act upon moving in was fixing up the kitchen, naturally. It’s now decked out with shelves for my flour and grain collection, a knife rack, and an island that feels luxuriously roomy after spending years trying to make do with cramped little counters. In short, it’s a kitchen I really want to be in, and I’m looking forward to breaking it in with the holiday cooking and baking to come.