It’s the end of March, and spring is showing its colors. It’s so glorious and quite possibly my favorite season. Each day something new is blooming – first the daffodils, then the tulip magnolias, then the cherry trees and redbuds, all unfolding like a much anticipated story. And no matter how many times I’ve seen a cherry tree blossom, I’m still in awe of its beauty.
1. Create An Intimate Space
Nothings says romantic like a cozy nook – a little getaway that makes you feel far removed from the chaos of the outside world. The hollow of a low-limbed tree. A garden teepee. A barn loft. A luxurious canopy bed. Whatever space you love, let it hug you. I tend to love the little spaces nature already provides, but you can create a tiny world of wonderment just in the corner of your living room.
Panna cotta is a bite of heaven. Italian for “cooked cream”, panna cotta is one of those desserts that seems like only a professional should attempt making it. I kept putting off making it because I figured since only fancy restaurants have them, they must be more complicated than everyone says. It’s elegant and eye-catching, but it is so very easy to make.
Beets are a vegetable – I am sorry to admit – that my immature tongue refused for years. But with the coming of age, your taste buds transform, and now I am happy to say that I love beets! And black coffee, and dandelion greens, and strong cheese! All the things that make me feel like a distinguished gourmand, when in reality I just have the palate of a normal adult. It’s not that I’ve completely abandoned my adolescent cravings – like ice cream, my Epicurean heel – it’s just now I do odd things like add BEETS to ice cream.
If you love nature and what it offers to our tables, then you are probably like me – full of wonderment and excitement – when a new natural food is brought to our attention. When I stumbled upon red walnuts in the market, I knew I had to utilize their beauty in a bake. I also had been wanting to experiment with the botanical syrups I had in my cupboard, so I thought that the light floral of rose would complement the earthy nuttiness of walnuts in a sweet confection. It’s all quite romantic. Certainly roses are. As for the walnuts, the red color evokes that romanticism, but being known as “blood walnuts” in their native lands of Central Europe also adds a certain romantic dark charm.
Great British Bake Off 2015: Episode 8: Pâtissière
The quarter finals of the Great British Bake Off challenged the bakers in the realm of French pâtissière. And a challenge it was! The contestants had to take on cream horns, mokatines, and a show-stopping religieuse a l’ancienne. Most people know what a cream horn is, but the mokatines and religieuse are a little more elusive, especially here in America. Mokatines are intricate, coffee flavored petit fours. And the religieuse…
Great British Bake Off 2015: Episode 6: Pastry
Episode 6 of the Great British Bake Off introduced us to some fancy pastries: flaounes, frangipane tarts, and vol-au-vents. Those all sound quite posh, don’t they? Two are of France – the frangipane tart and the vol-au-vents – and the flaounes are from Greece. If you have never heard of these pastries, do not fret. Vol-au-vents are an old-school type of hors d’oeuvre; unless you attended upscale dinner parties in the 1970’s, you probably have never come across them. As for the flaounes, the ingredients are so specialized to the Cyprus region of Greece that you’d be hard pressed to find them outside of the Mediterranean. Frangipane, however, is something you have likely heard of. It’s a common almond filling used in French pastry, and if you’ve done any French baking, you’ll know that almonds are used in French confections as much as sugar and flour.
Great British Bake Off 2015: Episode 5: Free-From
The theme for episode 5 of the Great British Bake Off was “free-from,” meaning that each bake would challenge contestants to omit sugar, gluten, and/or dairy. It was a first for the show, and a first for me, too. I never bake “free-from”, because if I’m going to spend my energy baking, the result must always be rich, and creamy, and sweet. Unfortunately, my taste buds don’t consider agave equivalent to sugar, or coconut milk equivalent to heavy cream. So, I was a bit apprehensive when I learned that there was a “free-from” week. All is well, however, because the end product looked spectacular, and it didn’t taste half bad!