My intention, I have to admit, was not to make a pear-apple crisp. This was meant to be a tart. It was meant to be neatly sliced wedges of fruit lined up in a pretty pattern, forming concentric spiraling circles, embedded in an ever-so-slightly sweetened mascarpone base, inside the most delicate of shortcrust pastry shells.
I had imagined it — obviously — maybe a little bit too vividly. It would have been glorious.
Tempering chocolate used to drive me crazy. There were several years there where I’d make chocolate dipped shortbread to send around to friends and family as gifts for the holidays. I would grit my teeth, pull out my electronic thermometer, marble slab, and heating pad, then fuss with getting my chocolate up to 130F, then down to 88F, then back up — just a hair of a hair, mind you — to the point of liquidity.
Achieving and maintaining those precise temperatures required constant vigilance. It always made a huge mess. And half the time, despite my best efforts, I missed my marks anyway, and my chocolate-dipped treats turned out streaky and waxy and gross, and totally unfit for service in yuletide care packages — or anywhere else.
The rhubarb is a vegetable most often used as a fruit – in much the same way that the tomato is a fruit used as a vegetable. But unlike the ubiquitous tomato, rhubarb sometimes stymies American cooks. What’s to be done with this briefly available, bitter, even poisonous plant?
Well, there’s pie. In the nineteenth century, rhubarb was so strongly associated with pie that it was commonly called pie plant. And then there are the many variants of pie: crisps, crumbles, buckles. Rhubarb is so very assertive that it was not much eaten until and unless it could be sugared; prior to that, it was prized only for its medicinal properties. But other fruits have a mellowing effect on rhubarb’s harshness. Apples, especially, soften it without transforming its flavor. Personally, I believe that it’s a crime against strawberries to pair them with rhubarb – and it’s underselling the rhubarb as well!
I would appreciate it if you would all take the word ‘pumpkin’ in pumpkin mousse to be a metonym for a larger category, rather than a thing unto itself. I’m not trying to mislead you about the content of this dessert. You could, in fact, make it using a pumpkin. But this is a companion piece to my recent entry on winter squash purée. And as such, I feel it is my duty to inform you that in my version, there is nary a proper pumpkin to be found.
As I said in that post, the issue is not that I have any antipathy toward pumpkins. Far from it. But as I look out at the landscape of tough, warty, leather-skinned gourds at my culinary disposal, I find that there are lots of better ones — even to use in dessert.
For the sake of full disclosure, you need to know that this recipe for sour cherry upside down cake is recycled with only a little modification from last year’s model: a peach cake in the same style. In the previous edition, I claimed that the point of the recipe was to rehabilitate the upside down cake genre, which has been saddled with all manner of unfortunate business like canned pineapple rings, cheapy maraschino cherries, and an aesthetic that screams at the top of its little pastry lungs: I’ve just come from the 1950s, and I’m here to help!
In that post, I said that this cake calls for two key modifications that make it a delight, rather than a chore, to eat: 1) I use real fruit and only real fruit in this recipe, eschewing the canned stuff in favor of whatever is local and in season; and 2) I’ve turned this into a yogurt-based cake, which leads to a texture that is moist but not soggy, and that adds just the tiny bit of creamy tang you need to complement the acidity of the fruit.
Here are two things about rhubarb that you might not know, that you might find interesting, but that might put you off of using that red, tart, delicious celery lookalike:
Thing one is that the use of rhubarb as food is a relatively recent innovation, dating back in Europe only to the seventeenth century, according to the Wikipedia. Until then, rhubarb was used medicinally — as a laxative. Apparently, in Europe, in China, in the Middle East, and elsewhere, if you went to the doctor complaining of being stopped up, a strong dose of rhubarb was the cure.
Welcome to self-congratulation-ville, population — me. That’s right, friends. This post marks number one hundred for Twice Cooked. And it marks just about (though not quite) one year of blogging about food, politics, and whatever else it is you find on this sight. So — celebratory pigs! I’d like to thank you all (dear readers!) […]
What, with Thanksgiving coming up and all that, I’ve been making a lot of ice cream lately. First vanilla (because you can’t properly have pie without vanilla ice cream) and then maple with pan-roasted pecan pieces (because something about that combination screams I’m for Thanksgiving!). I expect that some few of you out there would […]
Sometimes I cook because I’m excited about a new idea. Sometimes, it’s because I’m hungry, or because I want something specific, or because I want to impress my friends, or because I’m guilted into it by Sarah, who tells me: Really? You want to order in again? Didn’t we just get a bunch of vegetables […]
My Valentine’s gift for Sarah was actually sort of a Valentine’s gift for me. I don’t really like white chocolate. But for a long time now, I’ve had it in my head that truffles, filled with honey-saffron white chocolate ganache, with a dark chocolate shell on the outside, would be lovely. Sarah was luke warm […]