Tag Archives: david lebovitz

Banana and chocolate chip upside down cake

How did it get so late so soon?
~ Dr. Seuss

I’m dedicating tonight’s cake to my friend Kath.

She’s the girl who reminds me to keep my head on, who has a stylist’s fingers and a clever mind, who is creative and organised, who plans ahead but is open to spontaneity too. She’s strong (anyone who is close to me has to be especially so ;-)…) – on all fronts. I really respect her for the way she ‘walks her talk’ and speaks her mind, and I like it that hours whiz by delightfully whenever we hang out. This last phenomenon only happens with a precious handful of people for me, so I think of them as human gold nuggets!

Kath… is an excellent human.

And this… is a fun recipe to follow. If you run out of bananas halfway, like I did, just make an outer ring of banana slices (at step #2 in the recipe). Best to be prepared and have more bananas on hand, though, so you get to coat your cake with a pretty blanket of banana slices. If you’re lucky enough to have WAY too many bananas, why not make a few of these cakes and freeze some?

It’s the perfect cake to have around and eat with your favourite people; preferably with good yoghurt, a glass of red wine and, if you’re in the mood for music – perhaps some Brooke Waggoner?

Tonight Kath was trying to get me out of the kitchen and on to eating some cake, as usual she was the brain and I was the flyaway woman taking photos of her arty hands and the glossy cake and muttering “yes yes, I’m COMING!”…

She could be a hand model, don’t you think? I think so.

See, this ringlet of banana slices wasn’t too bad given my banana shortage today, but this cake would look pretty cool if it were ablaze with bananas, don’t you think? Please buy lots of bananas (i.e. more than five) before you make it. Oh, and while I’m on the subject of this cake, it won’t hurt to put in a heaping teaspoon of cinnamon in it and substitute kahlua for the vanilla essence. Just sayin’.

I’m also submitting this entry for this month’s Sweet New Zealand, hosted this month by Bron Marshall whose photos place my laptop in danger of being coated with my drool. Want to join in the Sweet NZ fun? Click here!


Ready for cookies

I treat each cookie that I bake like a precious gem, which is especially important if you’re one of those people who are able to eat just one at a sitting… to me, each cookie is just as important as the one baking next to it.
~ David Lebovitz, Ready for Dessert

Some days call for moderation; others, for multiple batches of cookies. If you should choose to start your day by casually leafing through David Lebovitz’s “Ready for Dessert” like I did recently, then you may have to prepare for a not-so-moderate day.

How to resist falling prey to David’s recipes and photos? … c’est difficile à faire.

No one’ll look down on you for losing the battle with yourself to resist making something from David’s book or website, though. I promise.

So I have yet to attempt many of David’s recipes, but the few I have tried so far have made him one of my go-to people for inspiration and in times when I really want something to turn out well. The way I see it, most professional chefs can probably write recipes in their sleep – but not everyone can successfully write recipes for the home cook/baker who fumbles, can’t multitask that well and doesn’t have a gamut of equipment… and have him/her turn out good things at least 90% of the time.

Here are some photos of my attempt at making David’s “nonfat gingersnaps”.

I usually avoid baking recipes with “nonfat” or “healthy” in the title… what is nonfat baking? My approach is to eat salad sans dressing to be really nonfat, or bake real cake. I see no reason to avoid butter completely unless specific health reasons demand it (though I also loathe butter in excess).

When I saw the words “molasses” (never tried using it), “applesauce”, “candied ginger” and “black pepper” in the list of ingredients for these “nonfat gingersnaps” though, I knew I had to overlook its title…

So, attempt these I did. Dough clung to whisk like a pining lover; fragrance whirled around the kitchen in a style not dissimilar to how red wine tends to colour my face. And the muscovado, molasses, cinnamon and double dose of ginger caused magic to bubble in the bowl…

They emerged less crisp and “snappy” than I expected…

…but very nicely spiced, and on re-reading David’s recipe which says “such a soft, chewy texture”, maybe they aren’t TOO far off from what he first whipped up in his kitchen.

I might just have to keep working on it, though. Practice makes perfect, y’know? :-)

Next on the agenda was David’s “chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons” (not to be confused with macarons).

Eight egg whites are used in this recipe, but good news – there is no painful whisking (usually an egg white requisite) involved!

My nose kept hovering too close to the pot in the making of this one.

[Coconut, I like how you make things smell so nice!]

[I also like the fact that you like chocolate as much as, if not more than, I do…]

Though really… if you’re feeling lazy/not-in-the-mood-for-chocolate (it happens, right?) these macaroons are also pretty good on their own…

The recipe said the batter would generate 60 cookies, but somehow I ended up with substantially less than that amount, even taking into account the fact that I made them quite large. There were certainly more than enough to give away, so not complaining.

Enjoy your weekend, dear readers! And I hope you bake some cookies soon.

Pain d’epices au chocolat

Words are the voice of the heart.
~ Confucius

I am now reading my 8th book since September. It amazes me, the world of books. You think you know how to speak and write reasonably well, and then you chance upon all these books that use the same words and punctuation marks as you know… and yet… paint a picture you never could have created, show a world entirely foreign to your own, hint at possibilities you never would have considered.

Lately, I’ve been reading poetry and prose that have left me gobsmacked, retreating rapidly along a sentence and reading it again. Or laughing at jokes which have somehow spanned four chapters, building on and rolling off each other, funny as hell!

I guess I’ve answered my own question as to why, in a world already swarming with books, there remain books to be written (so many worlds to discover, minds to read). Everyone who wants to write a book should probably write one.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading a marvellous book that’s had me giggling on the bus and smiling inside my stomach – David Lebovitz’s “The Sweet Life in Paris”. I can’t hope to write a decent review about it, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be rushing to your kitchen midway (perhaps multiple times, as I have)… and if you live in New Zealand, you’ll be pretty grateful for our more generous kitchen areas too. I think you’ll be struggling not to fall into an entirely different world while reading it, looking up in time to feel amazed that you are not in fact right next to David, drinking amazing hot chocolate or struggling to set up a bank account in France. David also has a fantastic website, which I have mentioned before in previous posts.

So, in short: read the book! Visit the website!

Two days ago, I decided to make pain d’epices au chocolat – chocolate spice bread – from his book (page 119). I did use a mixture of muscovado sugar and caster sugar, as well as substitute the anise seeds with unsifted chinese five spice powder, using what I had on hand. I can still label it as neither cake nor bread, but in this instance, it doesn’t matter – all you need to do is (1) cut it into wedges and share it with your friends, and (2) cut yourself a neat slice, open your mouth and eat! Sweet and dense, the chocolatey taste and soft texture of this is all-encompassing; the proportion of spices is just right to give it a warming twist – like a firm whisper, if I may put it that way.

(It is also very fun and simple to make – what a bonus!)

Oh, and this picture? I was proud of how pretty my sink looked then – what do you think? Heheh!

Sunday mornings are for florentines

Beauty is a form of genius – is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts in the world like sunlight, or springtime, or the reflection in dark water of that silver shell we call the moon.
~ Oscar Wilde

Listening to an old Cirque du Soleil soundtrack now – and rapidly falling into a sort of brilliant milky way, if such a thing is possible to evoke from music – if I close my eyes, I can glimpse a million glittering stars in a pool of black silk, shoes sweeping across a polished floor, monkeys on a trapeze, costumes, music, masks, expressions, wide eyes, red lips, movement… I can smell smoke, I can visualise a troupe of dancers gliding gracefully across a carpet of confetti, I can taste a meringue, a cherry pie, a rich hot chocolate, I can see the torching of a crème brûlée… oh, at times like this, I love yielding to the invisible powers of music.

Anyway, I must just write quickly about these florentines and try to get some sleep before Monday morning rolls around once again, I want to be fully awake at work!

I’ve been quite inspired the last few days to bake for a few get-togethers/events – banana cake and brownies have been duly delivered, and what remains is something for French class tomorrow. I was very happy to chance upon David Lebovitz’s recipe for chocolate-dipped florentines the other day… it looked and sounded beautiful! I bought the necessary ingredients to make a double batch of it.

Orange zest, egg whites, sliced almonds, icing sugar, chocolate – oh what a combination of ingredients to put together! Mmmmm! Making the florentines was a breeze, the hardest bit being to efficiently lay spoonfuls of the mixture out in flat circles on the baking tray, and to watch them carefully at the 15 minute mark (they do go from being pale yellow to golden brown so quickly at that stage!).

I was glad for the cold wintry air flowing through the open window today, as it helped the cookies to cool quickly from the oven, and also to set the melted chocolate once I had coated the cooled florentines with it.

These are magic (thank you David Lebovitz!) The best way I can describe the process of making this: it’s like waving a wand and saying Bibbity-Bobbity-Boo, and watching the pumpkin swiftly become a coach. The florentines are, of course, your golden, sweet-soled dancing shoes. You’re off to the ball, my dear!

PS. Hamish has been visiting this weekend, yay – and we have all been eating sooooo much. Of note, we had a late brunch this rainy Sunday at Duke Carvell’s today before going CD shopping/meeting up with the others. For him: seared chicken livers with roasted beetroot and hazelnut; for me: picorino potato cake with poached eggs, chorizo, tomatoes. I really like their menu – it’s pretty evident that whoever wrote it has very good taste!

PPS. Also of note: hot chocolate with soy milk at Midnight Espresso tonight came flavoured with cinnamon and a coffee bean – dreamful.

PPPS. Promise this is the last one. Don’t miss Trade Aid’s jewellery sale… creative pieces for an excellent cause!

Duke Carvell’s – No. 6 Swan Lane, Wellington – Phone: 04 385 2240

Midnight Espresso – 178 Cuba Street, Wellington – Phone: 04 384 7014

No title today

I’m not asleep… but that doesn’t mean I’m awake.
~ Author Unknown

Recipe from David Lebovitz

Recipe from Orangette

The photographs are beastly… and a tiny bit of the brownie mix leaked in the oven while it was baking, causing a very bad smell and Matt to sprint upstairs to fling open every window, door and opening to relieve us of toxic gases… but they were fun to make, and I look forward to giving them away tomorrow.

My head is now a little painful… after a week of very little sleep, I guess I should try to get some before my 6am start tomorrow… I sooooo look forward to the weekend.