Black Fruitcake

Over the last several years, people suggested that I write a book of fruit desserts. I point out, helpfully, that I already have, but every year a few books of fruit desserts come out, mostly relating to pies or crisps and cobblers. So it was interesting to see one devoted solely to cakes, called (appropriately) Fruit Cake: Recipes for the Curious Baker. But no need…

Over the last several years, people suggested that I write a book of fruit desserts. I point out, helpfully, that I already have, but every year a few books of fruit desserts come out, mostly relating to pies or crisps and cobblers. So it was interesting to see one devoted solely to cakes, called (appropriately) Fruit Cake: Recipes for the Curious Baker.

But no need to worry that it’s a book of Christmas cakes with sticky green cherries in them. It’s by Jason Schreiber, a food stylist and recipe developer, who dreamed up with seventy-five cakes that feature fruit, everything from Key Lime Meringue Cake to a tropical fruit Panettone. There are also Pineapple Breakfast Cakes, his riff on the classic Sachertorte with chocolate and apricots, and a Jamaican Black Cake, that caught my eye for a number of reasons.

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December Events: Live and Online

Even though travel is interrupted, for the time being, I’ve planned several online events this month, and one in-person event in Paris: December 11: I’ll be signing copies of Drinking French at Café Méricourt in Paris from 3 to 4 pm. Copies of Drinking French will be available to purchase from the café for signing. (If you’d like a copy of L’Appart or The Perfect…

Even though travel is interrupted, for the time being, I’ve planned several online events this month, and one in-person event in Paris:

December 11: I’ll be signing copies of Drinking French at Café Méricourt in Paris from 3 to 4 pm. Copies of Drinking French will be available to purchase from the café for signing. (If you’d like a copy of L’Appart or The Perfect Scoop, click here to pre-purchase a copy for pick-up at the event.)

December 12: Join me for an interview and chat with pastry chef Melissa Weller, author of A Good Bake with Now Serving in Los Angeles. I’ll post the exact time and sign-up info on this page and on my Schedule page when they get it up on their site. Hang tight!

December 13: I’ll be offering a seminar on French Apéritifs: History, Cocktails, and Culture as a live online presentation with Context Conversations. I’ll cover the history and culture of the iconic apéritifs of France and demonstrate various drinks you can make with them, along with the recipes. Register here. (Note: Through Dec 6th you can use the promo code THANKFUL15 for a 15% discount on all Context seminars, including mine.)

December 20: ‘Tis the season for drinks and desserts! Join me baker Edd Kimber for this special holiday get-together live online with La Cuisine Paris. We’ll be doing some baking, making holiday drinks, and answering your questions. More info and register here.

Also, I’ve got several terrific guests this month scheduled on my Instagram Live Apéro Hour videos, including Michelle Polzine, Joanne Weir, Brad Thomas Parsons, Lesley Chesterman, Jean-Louis Charbonnier from Comté cheese, and Aurélie Panhelleux. Follow me on Instagram to get notifications when they’ll be happening!

Far From the Tree: Apple-Pear Cocktail

  The other day I was thinking of cocktails that were fall and winter-friendly. Calvados (apple brandy) of course is always in season, but I also had a bottle of spiced pear liqueur from St. George Spirits in California on hand that has a lovely pear flavor mingled with a bouquet of spices, that I’ve been meaning to incorporate into a cocktail. I had a…

 

The other day I was thinking of cocktails that were fall and winter-friendly. Calvados (apple brandy) of course is always in season, but I also had a bottle of spiced pear liqueur from St. George Spirits in California on hand that has a lovely pear flavor mingled with a bouquet of spices, that I’ve been meaning to incorporate into a cocktail.

I had a hunch that it would be well-paired with French apple brandy, and that hunch proved correct in this Far From the Tree cocktail, a nod to the expression that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” as the apple brandy – and the sparkling apple cider – fell into my kitchen, which are quite far from any trees. But happily, they all made it into my glass.

(And I’m hoping that all made sense. I’ve been trying to translate some American expressions for my French partner, especially “They drank the Kool-Aid,” which I’ve decided just isn’t translatable.)

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Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

One thing I’ve been working on this year, which may be remembered in the future as “the year we all stayed home,” is updating blog posts. Quite a few of them that were written, say ten…or fifteen years ago, benefitted from being reformatted and tightened up. Blogging was a lot more casual way back when, and as I make (and remake) recipes, I often tweak…

One thing I’ve been working on this year, which may be remembered in the future as “the year we all stayed home,” is updating blog posts. Quite a few of them that were written, say ten…or fifteen years ago, benefitted from being reformatted and tightened up. Blogging was a lot more casual way back when, and as I make (and remake) recipes, I often tweak and refine them. So I used my time during confinement to go through some classics and give them a fresher look.

It’s been a tough year and with Thanksgiving not necessarily happening, it’s good to have memories of friends. When my first book, Room for Dessert came out (which morphed into Ready for Dessert), a lot of people said, “I’ll bet everyone is going to make you a Coconut Cake for your birthday now?” That was because one of the first recipes in the book was for a Coconut Cake I made for Alice Waters’ father for his birthday, and I mentioned before the recipe that I wish someone would make me a Coconut Cake for my birthday. It took a long, long time for me to get that Coconut Cake, but it finally happened in, of all places, Paris.

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Le Soleil cocktail

Thankfully, we are over that brief period of the year when the only fruits at the market are apples and pears, with a few persimmons and quince thrown in for good measure. I like those fruits very much but as winter descends and the skies turn grey (and stay that way) for the next few months, nothing brightens things up like a bowl of tangerines…

Thankfully, we are over that brief period of the year when the only fruits at the market are apples and pears, with a few persimmons and quince thrown in for good measure. I like those fruits very much but as winter descends and the skies turn grey (and stay that way) for the next few months, nothing brightens things up like a bowl of tangerines in my kitchen.

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French Apple Tart: Tarte fine aux pommes

Come fall, you’ll see tartes fines aux pommes in bakeries across France. In contrast to fancy pastries many pastry shops are known for, these thin apple tarts are French baking at its most basic, and at its best. A thin crust of buttery, crackly puff pastry with a fan of baked apples on top, then glazed, these simple tarts are normally served without any accompaniment,…

Come fall, you’ll see tartes fines aux pommes in bakeries across France. In contrast to fancy pastries many pastry shops are known for, these thin apple tarts are French baking at its most basic, and at its best. A thin crust of buttery, crackly puff pastry with a fan of baked apples on top, then glazed, these simple tarts are normally served without any accompaniment, however you wouldn’t get any complaints from me if there was a scoop of vanilla ice cream, cinnamon ice cream, or salted butter caramel ice cream, on top.

My discerning Frenchman likes things simpler and would tell me to leave it alone, but if I just happened to have some ice cream on hand, and was serving myself a scoop, I know from experience that he wouldn’t refuse one, too.

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Holiday Drinks

This year, it’s a sure bet that holiday gatherings will likely be more intimate, with perhaps more celebrating online rather than around a table. As you cozy up to the chimney…or computer, it’s nice to have a drink in hand either to take the chill off or to make things feel more festive. Unless you’re the lovely Ina Garten, who prefers to make drinks by…

This year, it’s a sure bet that holiday gatherings will likely be more intimate, with perhaps more celebrating online rather than around a table. As you cozy up to the chimney…or computer, it’s nice to have a drink in hand either to take the chill off or to make things feel more festive. Unless you’re the lovely Ina Garten, who prefers to make drinks by the pitcher, individual drinks are a nice way to celebrate more intimate gatherings and you can make just one to two, or scale ’em up to make four or six, if necessary. My hot chocolate recipes (below) can easily be made in advance – in fact, they’re better if they are – then rewarmed right before serving. Marshmallows and whipped cream are optional, but if I’m going to be honest, they’re encouraged.

Here are my favorite and most popular drink recipes on the blog that’ll warm you up, including two types of hot chocolate (there are several others in Drinking French, including a Salted Butter Caramel version), French mulled wine, an apple-based cocktail, and a few libations with cranberries. There’s also a brown-buttery Old Fashioned, a pink Cosmo to brighten things up, a creative Kir, and Jeff Morgenthaler’s amazing eggnog. So no matter where you are, whether you’re at home with friends and family or able to gather out and about, here are some drinks I hope will help make this holiday season more enjoyable…

Vin Chaud

A winter classic in many countries, when they’re open (they’re closed at the moment), cafés in Paris will have the words ‘Vin chaud’ scribbled on a blackboard either inside or out, beckoning people to come in from the cold to have a glass. Patrons are usually huddled around terrace tables or standing at the bar, sipping glasses of warm spiced wine, but this year, mulled wine maison will be in fashion. My version of vin chaud is spiced with cardamom, star anise, cloves, and fresh ginger. And it’s even better if you tip a bit of brandy in it!

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Spicy Mushroom Lasagna

When the very first Ottolenghi book came out, I had no idea what this mysterious restaurant, or person, was. But I was immediately captivated by the spectacular salads, cakes, vegetables, flatbreads, and more piled up on tables at Ottolenghi. The pictures in the book had a vibrancy that I’d not seen in any other cookbook before; mounds of vibrant-green fresh herbs piled atop salads, charred…

When the very first Ottolenghi book came out, I had no idea what this mysterious restaurant, or person, was. But I was immediately captivated by the spectacular salads, cakes, vegetables, flatbreads, and more piled up on tables at Ottolenghi. The pictures in the book had a vibrancy that I’d not seen in any other cookbook before; mounds of vibrant-green fresh herbs piled atop salads, charred vegetables and lavish use of tahini (which I narrowly once thought was only used to make hummus), and plum-marzipan cakes with the rosy, glistening fruit juices sliding off the top and pooling at the bottom. Wow.

We’ve since seen that style in plenty of other books, but the Ottolenghi books continue to evolve and each one marks another evolution in Yotam Ottolenghi’s cooking. And even when you don’t think he could come up with another great idea, he does.

Flavor is Yotam Ottlenghi’s latest book which he’s written with Ixta Belfrage. The title refers to the concept of the book, which is about how (and which) ingredients can be used to amplify flavors when cooking and baking. Ixta had a multicultural upbringing and she’s brought references and flavors from around the world in this book, which includes this Spicy Mushroom Lasagna. The recipe features dried and fresh mushrooms, as well as dried chiles, likely influenced by Mexico where she spent time with her grandfather, who lived there. The photo of it in the book made me want to make it. So I did!

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Confinement and Lockdown Strategies

As of last week, France has gone back into lockdown, which prompted a 454 mile (730km) traffic jam as people tried to get in and out of the city. The lockdown is expected to last a month and while it’s not ideal, it’s not nearly as restrictive as the lockdown we had last spring and everything from taking a walk to going to the grocery…

As of last week, France has gone back into lockdown, which prompted a 454 mile (730km) traffic jam as people tried to get in and out of the city. The lockdown is expected to last a month and while it’s not ideal, it’s not nearly as restrictive as the lockdown we had last spring and everything from taking a walk to going to the grocery store was tense and fraught as there was less information as the Covid-19 virus is spread, and masks were in short supply.

On the second day of the current lockdown, I went to get a few groceries and there were people on the streets, people eating food in front of restaurants, people in offices, and even the local vodka shop was open. (Bookstores, however, are closed as they’re not considered essential businesses. Interestingly, large supermarkets can remain open, but aren’t allowed to sell books either.)

The situation is evolving and my hunch is there will be more stringent measures put into place, a feeling shared by everyone I’ve spoken to here. But unlike last spring, I have enough baking chocolate, flour, and sugar, to last for a couple of months. (Almost everyone I’ve spoken to has also agreed that this lockdown is likely to continue through Christmas.) For the record, I’m not a hoarder. Because of what I do, I always have a few month’s worth of baking ingredients on hand because, well…you never know, do you? Last time I was caught without any chocolate, which in my line of work is considered “essential.”

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Chocolate, Dulce de Leche, and Vanilla Marble Cake

There may not seem like a lot to celebrate at the moment, but on a lighter note, we have baking. It’s something people have done for centuries, in every country around the world. Some do it for fun, others do it to eat and sustain their families. I used to be asked why I baked (which used to my most FAQ), but I dunno. I…

There may not seem like a lot to celebrate at the moment, but on a lighter note, we have baking. It’s something people have done for centuries, in every country around the world. Some do it for fun, others do it to eat and sustain their families. I used to be asked why I baked (which used to my most FAQ), but I dunno. I just do it.

Bake From Scratch celebrates people who like to bake and when I met editor Brian Hart Hoffman, when he came to Paris to profile me in The French Issue a few years ago, we hit it off. He’s hard not to like, the definition of engaging, and a heckuva lot of fun to spend time with. We’ve kept in touch over the years, meeting up here and there, but since travel is off the agenda for a while, he sent me their latest 5th-anniversary issue, hot off the press. And when I saw this stunning Chocolate, Dulce de Leche, and Vanilla Marble Cake, I knew I had to make it.

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