“We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.”
We have in our house what seems to me an unusual number of spiders, very small grey ones. They don’t do any harm, beyond spinning cobwebs, but still, one would prefer not to meet a spider every time one turns on a light. Last fall I discovered that they had spun a fancy web between my vacuum cleaner and the wall. “Well played, spiders,” I thought, until the next week, when I discovered that they had also entrapped my long-dormant handweights. Now it was personal. If my college diploma didn’t live on a bookshelf in my mother’s house, I suspect they would have gone for that next in order to attack me on all fronts.
That paragraph has lived on my desktop for more than half a year now. I start writing things, or I leave myself little notes on my bulletin board to remember what I want to blog about. One says,
- sunglasses, lost
- baby crying while rain falls
- lemon ice cream, hot
The web that connected those points is all but forgotten. Another scribble mentions a five-item to-do list that I had discovered while tidying my desk. The only item not crossed off--I’m not that efficient, one of the items was “break”--was “vacuum?” The question mark betrays how likely I thought that was. I’m quite unsure how to judge my own talents as a housekeeper, since Andrew thinks I am overly meticulous in my regime, which I, on the other hand, would describe as “barest minimum.” But when it comes to building and keeping an online home, I’m afraid the verdict is clear.
There are so many things I wanted to write about, like a party for Andrew’s work where we all had to wait around for a frozen pie to thaw, and I realized that I could have blown the gathering away by announcing that I had baked a pie from scratch the day before. Speaking of pie, I made Joanne Chang’s pumpkin pie last Thanksgiving, and it was the first pumpkin pie I’ve ever loved. Thanks to Hi-Rise and Formaggio in Cambridge, Bee is going to grow up thinking it is normal to spend almost an hour round-trip driving to get a little something. Which reminds me that she’s finally letting me read Pooh to her. And also that soon there will be another little something around here; we expect her sister to join us in early November.
I’m very sad to close this space up, but it seemed even sadder to let the cobwebs gather. I am toying with the idea of using a Tumblr to make notes about recipes, lest I forget, for instance, the divine tuna noodle casserole (really!) in that fat green Gourmet Everyday cookbook, or how good and fun the Momofuku Milk Bar funfetti cake I made for Bee’s fourth birthday was. Since I never managed to solve the time problem here, though, it seems unlikely that a different platform will bring me up to the challenge.
Farewell, dear readers! I leave you with a poem I have enjoyed repeatedly this year and a recipe for brown sugar cake. I made it for myself on my 35th birthday last April, and then I made it again for Easter a few days later. Since this is my final post, I’m going to indulge in hyperbole and say that it is my favorite thing I’ve ever baked, best made with Kerrygold butter and eaten as soon as possible after it comes out of the oven.
by Robert Herrick
If ye will with Mab find grace,
Set each platter in his place;
Rake the fire up, and get
Water in, ere sun be set.
Wash your pails, and cleanse your dairies,
Sluts are loathsome to the fairies;
Sweep your house; Who doth not so,
Mab will pinch her by the toe.
from The Craft of Baking (which you should own, obviously; its brioche cinnamon rolls are my other favorite thing I’ve ever baked)
Put 1 packed cup brown sugar in a medium bowl. Bring 4 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup heavy cream to a boil and pour over the brown sugar. Whisk until lumpless. Can be used immediately or covered and refrigerated for up to a week.
Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 10-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment. (I used a 9-inch round springform and added five minutes to the baking time.)
Cover bottom of pan evenly with 3/4 of the brown sugar topping you made. Freeze for at least five minutes, or while you make the batter. Do not throw away the remaining topping.
Whisk together 1 cup flour, 2/3 cup almond flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. (Because of Andrew’s nut allergy, I replaced the almond flour with an equal amount of all-purpose, which worked out fine.)
Cream 8 ounces (2 sticks) very soft unsalted butter with 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla. One at a time, add 3 large eggs, beating well after each addition.
Fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Pour batter into pan and smooth with spatula. Put the pan on a baking sheet and bake until cake begins to rise around the edges, about 30 minutes. Then remove the pan from the oven and plunge a teaspoon of brown sugar topping into ten spots on the cake. Bake 15 to 20 minutes more, until golden brown and firm to touch. Turn out onto a plate and eat while still quite warm. I thought it was too hot to eat immediately and probably left it in the pan for 20 minutes or so before turning out and slicing. You can also let the cake cool in the pan on a rack and then reheat at 350 for 5 minutes before turning out and serving, but I thought this method (which I tried the second time) produced a slightly less heavenly cake.
Karen Damasco says she serves this with roasted fruit, compote, or ice cream, but she is right that it is “just as good on its own.”