Well look at that, it's been over 2 months since I've sat down to write something here. If it's any consolation, I've thought about lots of things that I wanted to tell you but really life just hopped in the way each time I planned to sit down and start.
I realize that one, I am assuming you have all been bereft without me, wringing your hands and feeling lonely and cake-less! So let's just pretend that you have, okay? And two, I have determined that it's me who needs this writing. It's the best outlet; it feels so lovely and right to pour my thoughts onto this (digital) page, and knowing that some of you are reading it on the other side is one of the nicest feelings. So I am vowing to get back in the habit of writing (while knowing that initially it's a muscle you have to flex and exercise, hard as it feels some days). Please hold me to this! (Spoiler alert: No one but yourself can hold you to the things you set out to do for yourself!)
Okay, awkward hello and apologies aside, I'll tell you what's been happening. I can't cover it all in one post (and shouldn't we just get down to some dessert already?), so this is a brief round-up and we can just get into it all bit by bit, as friends do.
I last wrote in March. I'd just had my birthday (complete with one of the most magical restaurant dinners in my experience, more on that soon). Then I got married, went on a honeymoon to the Seychelles wherein I got sunburned, tanned, and ate my body weight in passionfruit in that order.
Since then, I've been just tooling about town, being a married lady and trying to DIY wallpaper in our house (ha! Guys, this is so much harder than it appears), making a lot of spaghetti squash in my Instant Pot (more on that too soon), reading excessive amounts of poetry and lots of good novels, discovering some killer salad combinations (pickled radishes + roasted butternut squash + green goddess dressing + snap peas, I'm looking at you here), sunning myself as often as possible, and swooning over how chubby my new nephew is even at the tender young age of one month (by the way, is the smell of new baby one of the nicest or what?).
There have been trips: to Maine, to Baltimore, to Vermont. I went to DC to visit this exceptional bakery and sampled, among other things, one of the best granolas I've ever tried: a combination of oats, buckwheat groats, popped sorghum, hickory syrup, and cranberries. Why have I never put popped grains in my granola?!
On the topic of popcorn: I've been putting nutritional yeast and dried dill (and sometimes Parmesan) on mine lately, thanks to a batch I tried at my sister's in Portland. I don't even consider myself a strong lover of dill, but here we are. Things change.
I've been baking, but not too much, and one of the things I've been wanting to master is a good pecan pie. I've never loved pecan pie before--for me it falls into the baklava category of overly sweet nut desserts, which just don't do it for me. But a bite of a very good pecan pie, and I'm a convert. The trick, I believe, is in creating almost a chess pie-like layer with a cap of nuts, rather than nuts dominating the entire filling.
This way, you get more textural contrast, and the soft filling is so good nestled inside a buttery, flaky crust. It's key to dial back the sweetness and to add some sea salt to really make it taste addictive.
I recommend loosely whipping some cream, folding in a bit of mascarpone and orange zest, and serving that on top. You don't have to! But really, if someone suggests you eat whipped cream, the smart thing to do is to say, "oh thank you for that idea!" and then to immediately go do it and then fall asleep next to someone you really love, content and comforted and full of pie.
TOASTIER, LESS-SWEET PECAN PIE
Note: I like to lightly toast the nuts to bring out more flavor but you may absolutely skip this step.
Dough for a single crust 9" pie (I use this one)
2 cups chopped, lightly toasted pecans
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Roll out your pie crust and transfer it to a 9" pie plate, and crimp the edges. Line the pie dough with foil and pie weights, and bake for 10 minutes, until very light golden brown. Let it cool, then brush the inside with an egg wash (this is optional but I find it keeps the crust more crisp).
In a medium bowl, whisk together the 3 eggs, cream, and brown sugar. Add the corn syrup, molasses, vanilla, and salt and whisk well to combine. Then add the melted butter and whisk thoroughly. Fold in the pecans.
Pour the filling into the cooled crust. If you want to be fancy, you can arrange some pecan halves on top but really, who cares.
Place the pie in the oven and turn the oven down to 325 degrees F. Bake until filling is just set but slightly soft still in the center, about 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely before serving.
PSA: It is very good cold the next morning.