Ooh-whee, are you feelin’ the Fall, people? We are, even in San Francisco. As per usual, the sunshine and blue skies have finally joined us just in time for temperature to drop, which I can never quite get used to. You know what else I can’t get used to? Daylight savings time. Before children, this used to mean an extra hour of sleep, and feeling even cozier in the late afternoon as the sun dropped out of the sky earlier and earlier. Kind of dreamy. But all this means now is that my kids’ sleeping schedules are even more terrible than usual, and I have less hours in the day to try and get a decent photograph of some really great hot chocolate for you (I give up; see above). Bah. Luckily I’ve had a few fun things going on that have buoyed my mood and kept me from jumping off the roof in a premature Seasonal Affective Disorder tirade:
1. Our big Kindergarten girl has really started reading and writing and generally blowing us away with her hilarity. She’s started lamenting the fact that she can’t walk to and from school alone like all the “collegers”. “Collegers” meaning the older kids in her school. Invented, earnestly delivered words are the best words.
2. My baby boy is still very much a baby, but is now eight (!) months old. Which means that we are officially in the Very Best Stage with him, the stage that makes people have babies in the first place: squidgy, babbling, present, funny, lovable, crawling, sitting up, and getting into things that I didn’t even know were in my house. Never mind that I still haven’t had a full night’s sleep since February, right?
3. Honeyed Hot Chocolate, which I will get to in a bit.
4. I’m actually back to work–teaching a class here and there, doing all kinds of recipe development with exciting new ingredients (more on that soon), and realizing that the importance of having some kind of creative project going can’t be overstated, especially for moms. Even within the madness of mothering two small people, making my own creative life a priority has supercharged me in a whole new way. I feel like a better version of myself, a better mother, generally just more excited to be in the world. I can’t help but wonder what the world might be like if every mother took the time to nuture her creative self as much as she does her children. With the way we mothers can multitask, can you imagine the results? We could start a revolution! And here is where I get a little Oprah on you for a sec.
So! I emerge from The Cave of Two Small Children to say hello and bring you waffles. With whole wheat, no less! I know. What has happened to me?! But in truth, there’s been a lot of exciting things happening around these parts–life is good, full, verrrrry busy. I’m even working on developing some new, exciting projects that may or may not end up being real life things so LET’S JUST NOT JINX IT, OKAY?
I’m going to try really hard not to make all my check-ins with you lovely people be all about being a harried mother of two, because honestly, I’m not experiencing anything that one tra-zillion women before me haven’t. But dang, it’s all-consuming, this two kids business. Everyday I remind myself to take it easy, to simplifysimplifysimplify, and not get all worked up about all the things on the checklist that don’t get done. Because I’m kind of Type A when it comes to my checklist, whether it’s mental or written. And just when I think I’m going to get 30 minutes to do something that might make me feel “accomplished” on a given day, somebody needs something and gahhhhh, another item on the checklist is getting pushed off again. It could be working on a new book idea, composing a coherent e-mail, or folding an entire basket of laundry at once. It could be showering when I’d like to, or it could be finally–finally!–finding my other black (most comfortable, most loved, where arrreee yooouuu?) Reef flip-flop. Madness, I tell you.
Say what? Yeah! Stabilized whipped cream. Kind of a weird-sounding thing, and yet a very good thing that I think might be part of my political platform, should I ever run for public office. That’s how much I believe in stabilized whipped cream. With prime pumpkin pie season and mile-long culinary to-do lists within our reach, there’s no better time to talk about it–a whipped cream that can actually be made days ahead of serving, and not only used in dollop form, but for piping and frosting over cakes as well. Glorious!
You know what drives the husband nuts? “Lady coffee”–that is to say, any coffee that has a creamy look and is flavored. He fears it, this lady coffee. It’s like he thinks it will make him grow a uterus or something. Anyway, he can smell that such a coffee beverage has been created in our kitchen before he even enters the house and his disdain while walking in the door is loud and extremely negative, cursing and shouting, “Ack!! LADY COFFEE!!”, as though he’s discovered something unsavory on the sole of his shoe. It’s all quite dramatic.
Unfortunately for him, I happen to looove lady coffee. For a while, the only thing that kept me from always making lady coffee (besides the Man Whining about it) was the high price and somewhat questionable ingredients in the flavored coffee creamers from the supermarket. It’s almost kind of amusing to learn that most store-bought coffee creamers don’t actually contain any milk or cream, plus there’s lots of other stuff in there I can’t quite pronounce. But recently I learned that I could make my own fabulous flavored coffee creamer for a fraction of the cost with a much simpler ingredients list, and it is awesome.
I suppose in the way others obsessively look to icons of style for inspiration about what to wear, or celebrity designers’ coffee table books to figure out how to redecorate their living rooms, I idolize food people. Which might explain this 1980s gym teacher getup I’m currently sporting and why 75% of my furniture involves particle board, but dang, check out my fly cake pan collection!
Anyway, rather than just craving certain dishes, I go through phases of who I might like to eat like during a given week and embrace it with a restraining-order-level dedication. Typing that out makes me realize how totally weird that is. But there you have it.
I found myself having a little Bostock moment myself after this past blitz of a weekend, dominated by helping to run the completely fantastic San Francisco Food Blogger Bake Sale. It was a grand success–we raised more than $2400 for Share Our Strength, yahoo!–and the afterglow (and sugar high) was lovely. Also, utterly exhausting. But mostly lovely. And definitely a Bostock-and-tea-or-hey-maybe-bourbon-to-regroup-type of thing.
All you do is cut yourself a thick slice of brioche (or two or three, ahem), soak it with an easy almond syrup, and then slather it with frangipane, a dreamy, buttery almond cream that comes together in mere minutes. Top it all with sliced almonds, pop it in the oven for a quick bake, and BAM–you’ll be transported out of your totally bananas life into a General Foods International Coffee moment in no time flat. The syrup and the frangipane keep for weeks in the fridge, so go on and make the whole batch and store it for emergency Bostock-requiring situations.
The oven transforms a handful of humble ingredients into something other-worldly. The buttery brioche comes alive again, thanks to the almond soaking syrup. The frangipane puffs and browns and is at once crisp on the edges and creamy in the center. Toasted almonds winking at you as you start to shove the whole thing in your face. Sigh. Move this recipe to the top of your mile-long to-do list, guys. You’re totally worth it.
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 ounces almond paste, crumbled
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
Sliced almonds, for sprinkling
To make the frangipane, place the almond paste, sugar, flour and almond extract in the bowl of a food processor or electric mixer. Mix until the almond paste is in fine, uniform pieces. Add the butter and mix until very well-blended, then add the egg and the liqueur, if using. Mix until the frangipane is smooth (there may be a few tiny unmixed pieces of almond paste, and that’s fine–they’ll disappear during baking).
To assemble the Bostock, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Working one slice at a time, generously brush the brioche slices with almond syrup on both sides. Place the slices on a baking sheet and slather them with substantial amounts of frangipane. Sprinkle almonds on top to your liking. Bake until the frangipane is puffed and golden, about 15-20. Serve warm.
Dear readers, let me introduce you to something very, very special. The creamiest, dreamiest way to enjoy the holiday season. The thing that just might make me forget about my favorite sparkly sugar cookies, adorable gingerbread men, and those ubiquitous chocolate-covered cherries with the oddly delicious oozy, boozy centers.
I first started thinking about this heavenly combination of flavors during a totally amazing experience at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate in Chicago, during my “How did I get here?” adventure with the Sears Chef Challenge last month. Mindy’s offers the most mind-blowing pastry and sweet drink menu, I just…I just don’t have the adjectives, people. But I will say that I had two enormous servings of Mindy’s “light” hot chocolate in as many days, and haven’t been able to get it off my mind ever since. Hooooo, boy. It was malted magic, let me tell you.
The only drawback to Mindy’s light hot chocolate, if you can even call it that, was that it was so thick, so rich, so reminiscent of an entire pint of hot, melted, Haagen-Dazs, that there was no need for breakfast on either of the mornings after having the drink the night before. I decided I needed to translate the recipe for real life, which is to say to make it possible to savor the insanely delicious marriage of malt and white chocolate all winter long without having to buy new pants. So I set out to lighten the formula up a bit while still maintaining its ability to have one’s eyes roll back in one’s head upon tasting.
The answer here is a blend of milk and half-and-half, instead of what I suspect was nearly all heavy cream in the original. Of course you can make this formula richer by swapping in some cream and adding a couple more ounces of white chocolate. But for me, this recipe is a real winner just the way it is. And if you’re feeling extra fancy, some freshly grated nutmeg and some homemade marshmallows can take it to an even more glorious level. If you need me at all for the rest of the winter, you can find me right here with a cup of this malted nectar of life, watching Oprah or Ina, silently hoping that Little C’s naptime goes juuuust a little longer.
Malted White Hot Chocolate
Make this drink even richer by swapping in some cream, adding a bit more malt powder, or a couple more ounces of white chocolate. But I’ d avoid going lower fat than this combination of whole milk and half-and-half, because the result will be rather watery, and really, what’s the point?
You can use white chocolate in bar form or chips, but I prefer bar chocolate for this, because it really turns out noticably silkier. Top with a sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg and serve with marshmallows and you’re set.
2 cups whole milk
2 cups half-and-half
6 ounces good quality white chocolate, chopped (see note)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)
Generous pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup malted milk powder (such as Carnation)
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the milk, half-and-half, white chocolate, vanilla bean paste (or extract) and salt. Whisk gently until the mixture is just below the bubbling point and the white chocolate is completely melted. Do not boil. When the mixture is hot, whisk in the malted milk powder until completely dissolved. Serve hot.
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