SUMMAH! It’s hard to believe that this season is already upon us. Seems like just yesterday I was trapped in a nursing chair with a newborn, pitching an idea for a new cookbook in a hormonal haze, with my first baby heading off to kindergarten. Now, as of this week, that newborn is careening into toddlerhood (and careening into everything else in the process), a cookbook manuscript has been officially completed and delivered, and my little girl has just graduated kindergarten the same week that she lost two (!) teeth. The past few seasons have meant serious business.
But just in time for summer, things are shifting, and with that comes a slightly slower pace, and a little more time that can be spent doing whatever the heck we want–more time inhaling my kids’ necks, more time to write in this space, and–hooray!–more time to finally pour over the stack of new cookbooks that I’ve been collecting on my desk since last fall and have barely gotten to flip through.
Having just finished many months of dealing in the currencies of sugars (albeit less-refined ones), butter, and flours, and coming into some glorious weeks of sunshine and gleaming summer fruits, I’ve been in the market for simpler, lighter fare to satiate the sweet teeth around these parts. And during one recent, delicious, totally free moment to flip through all those aforementioned cookbooks, I found my answer in the pages of Donna Hay’s latest, completely gorgeous book Fresh and Light. (Seriously, is there anything that woman can’t make look painfully beautiful? I am constantly in awe of her vision. I call her “Donna Haaayyy Gurl Haaayyy”.)
Hi hi! I’m writing today for no other reason than I’ve been missing you guys and this space and wanted to keep you updated on everything that’s been going on in the Piece of Cake kitchen and beyond, lest you think I’ve been trapped under something heavy. Of course there’s the business of that behemoth called cookbook number three, which, if you’ve been following on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve heard about plenty already. Sometimes I share actual details specific to the book, other times I just reveal personal neuroses:
Writing a cookbook: 25% writing, 40% dishwashing, 10% floor mopping, 10% shopping,15% staring out the window, worrying about the book.
— Shauna Sever (@shaunasever) March 14, 2014
In any case, I am officially in the homestretch of creating this third title, all baking and sweet treat making with natural, unrefined, and lower-refined sugars. No white sugar, no corn syrup. Basically a complete 180 from my first book, which ran completely on the white stuff. But for me, baking is about playing with all kinds of ingredients and every type of sugar, and it turns out that stepping away from the usual suspects can make all kinds of delicious things happen.
It’s here! Spring has sprung, friends! And with it comes one of favorite times of the year, High Marshmallow Making Season. You might have figured as much, seeing as I am crazy enough to have written an entire book full of from-scratch marshmallow recipes. As many (hundreds! thousands!) batches of mallows that I’ve whipped up over the years, I never tire of watching sticky sugar syrup spin into fluffy clouds of whipped sugar heaven. It’s like a unicorns-traveling-on-a-rainbow-level of magic. And with Easter weekend nearly here (already, for real?), it got me thinking about some of my favorite homemade mallow recipes. Let’s all indulge ourselves in a sweet, fluffy, puffy hug, shall we?
If you want to get down with any of these recipes, you might want to check out my list of Homemade Marshmallow Troubleshooting Tips.
Happy Mallowing, everyone!
In my last post, I raved about my love of the one-pan wonder at dinnertime. Which, of course, immediately got me thinking about one-bowl/one-dish wonders when it comes to baking. As much as I love pulling out every crazy baking pan and gadget and really getting into it in the kitchen, after months and months of recipe development and testing (and an appalling amount of dishwashing), there’s nothing better than the feeling of a throwing together a recipe that feels as easy-breezy and dump-and-stir as a boxed cake mix, but isn’t…a boxed cake mix.
There are a few one-bowl, minimal dish-dirtying favorites in my arsenal that I go back to time and time again, like these brownies, or this banana bread, that are so simple and satisfying, it’s as though you can feel your all the scraggly edges of your weary soul fusing back together as you stir. In a busy life that sometimes make you want to punch yourself in the face from all its pressures, that’s the good stuff, right there. They’re the kind of recipes that remind me why I love to bake. I just dump everything in and stir, stir, stir my way back to sanity.
It’s come to this, friends: I’m so neck-deep in cookbook manuscript writing that I’m showing you one, single Instagram photo of last night’s dinner just so we have an excuse to catch up. Nothing sweet or cakey today. But sweet cracker sandwich, this meal was so superb that I think just one photo and my ramblings might do us fine? (Lie to me.)
At the risk of sounding like a citrus-loving Joan Rivers, can we talk about clementines? I feel like they’re everywhere right now–great, big cardboard flats of them for, like, five dollars a box or something crazy, calling from across the produce section with the promise of sweetness and light and sunshine, even though as I understand it, most of the country has been in a never-ending winter.
(I say “as I understand it”, because here in California, an occasional rainstorm is as close to we get to anything resembling winter weather, and we mostly just, you know, ride our bikes around in t-shirts to go eat kale salad outside and “LOL” and “OMG” over all the banaaanaaazzz weather we’ve been hearing about online.)
(As it happened, I was actually stranded in New York for a week because of a snowstorm last month, so I guess Mother Nature sensed my meterological la-la-la-ness and decided to show me how soft I’ve become during my 10 years on the West Coast. Touché, fair lady.)
But even in a mild-weathered place like California, we really do appreciate citrus during our “winter”. It’s a burst of happy food no matter where you live, all these clementines in bulk. Every year I succumb to buying at least one flat, intent on being all virtuous and snacking on them instead of spoonfuls of peanut butter or cookies, tucking them into lunchboxes and all that jazz. But even after countless little orbs eaten out of hand and a dozen packed lunches, the pile of clementines never seems to shrink. Not one bit. How many clementines does a person have to eat to make a dent in one of those boxes, for real? My fingertips are permanently stained from all the e-z peeling. Forget this noise. Let’s make doughnuts. (And share a little news with you, while we’re at it.)
Maybe it’s because I’m a late February baby, but I’ve always had a thing for Valentine’s Day. Abundance of twee notwithstanding, I just sort of love the idea of a Love Day. Granted, there have been years when I was Valentine-less, but even then I guess it was the hope that one day I would have a Permanent Valentine that buoyed me, along with a legit excuse to get chocolate wasted. These days, I still get chocolate wasted on Valentine’s Day, and this year in particular I’m pretty excited about celebrating some Big Love with our Little Family. There’s a lot that’s happened in the past several months, plenty of ups and downs and stressing until I think I might lose it (and on a couple of occasions I totally have). But we might (maybe? Please, universe?) be entering a bit of sweet spot right now, a little calm before the next inevitable storm. And so I say, bust out the chocolate. Turn dessert into breakfast, or vice versa. And good grief, don’t forget the Champagne.
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