As if I needed any further evidence that I was meant to live in Paris, it is my firm belief (though based only in fantasy) that at any time of the year over there, I will have unfettered access to things made with chestnuts, one of my favorite foods that only get a lukewarm reception in this country. Sure, we roast them on “open fires” in December (in our smoking jackets, of course, while our dog brings us the evening paper) but the rest of the year, they’re relegated to nostalgia. Even in New York City, I rarely see such delights as chestnut paste, which I attempted to smuggle back into the country after our last trip, not realizing that airport security would consider it a liquid and force me to throw it away (I still get a little weepy when I remember this). And don’t even get me started on our woeful absence of marrons glace, or candied chestnuts. Okay, fine, get me started.
Is there an unsaid rule that bar cookies have to be heavy and gooey? Two weeks ago, we picked up a cup of coffee on our way to the park so that the little monkey could continue his path of destruction outside our apartment, and I fell for something in the bakery case called peach shortbread, cut into bars. But instead of being thick and intense, it was delicate, light and barely sweet — a thin layer of shortbread, even thinner slices of peach and the faintest sprinkling of streusel on top. I knew I had to share it.
I know what you’re thinking, “Really, Deb? Tarts again?” And I realize that it might seem that I’m in a tart rut, what with those rustic rhubarb tarts and the distinctly tart-looking strawberry brown butter bettys and now these strawberry ricotta tarts. But you see, they’re all very different animals parading under the guise of tart-dom and really — because I am allowed to choose favorites, did you know that? — these are the best ones yet.
I made us some cookies.
People who really, really love chocolate are dubious about cocoa. Even if you buy the most resplendent cocoa in the world, baking things with it that taste as rich as treats with bars of 70% is a rarity. Thus, if you’d told me about a killer recipe for cocoa brownies a couple weeks ago, I wouldn’t have believed you, but since then, two things have happened.
As it turns out, the last days of October don’t awaken in me a desire to fly around on my broom, don a “sexy” nurse/maid/fireman outfit or even gorge myself on candy. Nope, according to a quick glance at my archives, apparently when Halloween approaches all I can think about is reinterpreting Rice Krispie Treats.
As it turns out, but should be really no surprise to anyone who has been following along at home, I’m not the most sane person. You see, it wasn’t enough that I baked Cheesecake-Marbled Brownies last week in hopes to win the hearts and minds of labor and delivery nurses, I became suddenly and inexplicably worried that some of them may not enjoy chocolate or cheesecake, and preoccupied myself with providing an alternative. So, to review: I have no interest in such practical things as cooking and freezing meals that will tide us over through those weeks when we have no time to cook, but I will spend my last remaining hours in the kitchen menu-planning food gifts. Totally normal, Deb. No really!