Daily Diversion #415: Cheesecake with Blackberry Compote

The Chef requested a homemade cheesecake for his Halloween birthday. I think it turned out alright! 

Cheesecake with blackberry compote

Advertisements

Daily Diversion #367: Scone and Tea

The last few days have been pretty stressful, so on Saturday I popped in to the fabulous bakery that’s just around the corner from my day job. I saved this scrumptious scone for this morning’s breakfast. Between it, a cup of my fave tea, and a good book…I’m feeling a tad better. 

Orange-Cranberry Scone from Laughlin's

Orange-Cranberry Scone from Laughlin’s

Daily Diversion #358: Russian Apple Cake

If autumn and apples are the perfect couple (and they totally are), then Sharlotka (Russian Apple Cake) is, perhaps, the most delicious expression of that union.

Sharlotka

Sharlotka

I baked one yesterday, to accompany the newly cold weather ’round these parts. Even better: the cake is served warm. The leftovers are fantastic, too. (I’m currently eating a slice and drinking a cup of hot Russian tea.)

This Sharlotka is fluffy, light, a bit tart (thanks to Granny Smith apples), and not too sweet; the top is crusty and golden.

Slice of Sharlotka

Slice of Sharlotka

I use Chef Matt Danko’s recipe (which is actually his dad’s). It’s even tastier than it looks! 

Baking Madeleines for Proust

I baked my first cake from scratch when I was nine years old: a simple cocoa cake, round, one-layer. I decorated it by throwing a handful of confectioners’ sugar on top, the powder landing sparse and uneven in spots, heavy like a snowdrift in others. It was beautiful, and tasted like spongy hot chocolate. From that moment on, standing triumphantly in my aunt Lauree’s small kitchen, I had a new hobby.

I found my sole domestic comfort early, unless brewing a perfect pot of tea counts. To this day, I would rather write and read than do anything else. Baking is my only life-long hobby, the one non-verbal art I have never ignored or repudiated altogether. My favourite time to bake is in winter, when the cold starts pushing through the walls of even the most solid structure. I meet Jack Frost head-on, with a hot oven and a swirl of sugar and spices at the ready.

I’m in the habit of reading as I bake. Consuming a few sentences of Hardy or Plath or Trollope whilst blending cake batter or folding in nuts and sultanas is appropriately meditative for this most serene of the creative arts. The uncontrollable frenzy of the holidays officially starts in America on Thursday. The next month will be a kaleidoscopic whirl of shopping, parties, and working with all of my settings broken, but one: overdrive. A few hours spent baking cookies, bars, brownies, and pies will preserve my nerves and restore my balance close to something I can call normal.

I am dedicating today, the 18th of November, this lovely calm before the holiday storm, to Proust and his madeleines. I was born on Marcel Proust’s birthday, 10th July. Today marks the 90th anniversary of his death. He was 51 years old, and left some of the most lyrical, evocative, and intensely beautiful writing in literature. All of that, and an unbreakable association with French tea-cakes called madeleines? Delicious.

Madeleines require very few ingredients, are easy and quick to make, and can be adapted to fit your whimsies. As they are shaped like shells, they require a special but inexpensive tray, but if you are ambitious you could try shaping them by hand!

MADELEINE COOKIES

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • the zest of 1 lemon

Ingredients (minus milk + a decorative pumpkin). Ingredients (minus milk + a decorative pumpkin). Continue reading