by Posie Harwood in , ,

I am a firm believer in changing the exterior to change the interior. If you think about it, it's asking an awful lot of yourself to break a habit, get out of a rut, or change a routine while everything else stays the same. To be able to wake up and by force of will, start running 5 miles every morning or being more patient or cooking dinner every night -- with the same kitchen, the same park, and the same company is tough at best, impossible at worst.

And no, a new apartment won't make you happy and a new morning bakery routine won't fix your problems. But they sure don't hurt. Tackle what you need to tackle, change what you want to change, but give yourself all the help you can find -- in the form of newness: Fresh sheets, brightly painted walls, a brand new bike, a different walk to work.

If that doesn't work, you can just make some pie and eat it on your terrace.

Peach-Strawberry Pie

Makes 1 pie

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
2 sticks butter (very cold)
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup ice water

Peach-Strawberry Filling
5 medium peaches
1 quart strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/4 cup cornstarch/flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 lemon, juiced

1. For the crust: add the flour, sugar, and salt to a food processor and mix to combine. Then add the cold butter in pieces (cut each stick into about 5 slices), and pulse until the mixture is crumbly with pea-sized lumps. Drizzle the ice cold water in slowly as the processor is running -- stop when the dough starts to come together in a ball. You may only need 1/3 cup of water, add more as needed.

2. Turn the dough out onto a surface and gently push it together into 2 flattened discs. Cover each disc with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

3. Make the filling: boil a medium pot of water. Once water is boiling, make an "x" with a knife at the base of your peaches and drop them in the pot. Let them boil for about 2-3 minutes, then take them out with a slotted spoon and drop them in a bowl of ice water until they cool down. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel them! The skin should slip right off if you start where you made the "x". Once peeled, slice them into 1/3 inch thick slices.

4. Add the sliced peaches, strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, and cornstarch to a medium bowl and mix gently to combine. **You can use cornstarch or flour or a combination to thicken the filling. I like using 90% cornstarch and 10% flour to make 1/4 cup.**

5. Preheat the oven to 375.

6. Roll out the two discs of your pie crust separately on a floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick. (But seriously, REALLY flour your counter! Pie dough is sticky business.) Transfer the first rolled out piece to your pie pan.

7. Fill the crust with your fruit filling and any juice. If your fruit happened to be extra ripe and very juicy, add a little extra flour to the filling, or just leave some of the juice out. Also you can always reserve the juice, boil it down in a small saucepan, and then add it to the filling so it is less liquid-y and more concentrated.

8. Now using a knife or a pizza cutter, slice your second rolled-out disc of crust into long strips, and lay them across your pie in a lattice pattern. Trim the excess edge crust and crimp it along the outside with your fingers, a fork, or a spoon.

9. Brush the top of your pie with a pastry brush dipped in egg white, then bake it for around 40-50 minutes (the top should be golden brown and the fruit should be bubbling).



by Posie Harwood in , , , ,

Life, and people, can be messy. You miss a subway train by 5 seconds, and the next one isn't coming for six. whole. minutes. and you're terribly late. You wait in line at Rite Aid behind two woman debating the best discount grocery stores for saving 20 cents on yogurt, and feel sad under the fluorescent lights. The elliptical machine makes a funny clinking sound on the right side every time you stride (and you really didn't want to be inside sweating anyway).

It's also surprisingly, stunningly, out-of-the-blue messy in a good way. The woman at Pret hands over your morning latte -- "it's on me today". He's late for dinner, so you miss your reservation and go across the street, and eat one of the best salads you've had in a long time (side note, fried haloumi, why you gotta be so good?)

At the end of the day, let's expect things to be unexpected. Some stomach-swoopingly, grin-inducingly good, and some not so good. To navigate the seas between the two poles, remember that there are some things in life that are clean, and well-defined, and within reach. A good novel will always be waiting. Listening to "Latch" by Disclosure will always make you want to dance. And these particular oatmeal cookies will always come out chewy and just a bit sweet.

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Adapted from a Gwyneth Paltrow recipe

1/2 cup raisins
1 heaping cup rolled oats
1 1/4 cups spelt flour
1 1/2 tsp. Saigon cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup light amber maple syrup
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the oil, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir to combine well. Stir in the raisins.

Using an ice cream scoop or spoon, drop scoops of the batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. LEave some space between them -- they will spread out a bit. Make them as big as you like, but just keep the size consistent so that they bake evenly.

Bake them for about 13 minutes. I like to take them out before they feel quite ready and are still a bit underdone-- this makes them stay extra chewy once they cool. If you do this, store them in the freezer -- they are very good frozen.


by Posie Harwood in , , ,

Lean in, I'll tell you a secret. Here it is: Every day can be a celebration. You don't have to wait for the weekend to relax. It doesn't have to be Friday night to go on a dinner date. If it isn't your birthday, you can still have cake for breakfast. And you can stop at the liquor store on your way home, and buy a tiny bottle of Prosecco, and drink a glass in your pajamas at 7 pm, just because you want to. Maybe you already knew this, but I didn't! I woke up the other morning and it hit me, solidly and loudly, that I could pick 5 things that make me wildly happy, or comforted, or challenged, and I could fill that day with them. There is so much good close at hand, and so many beautiful things to taste and feel and do, all within our reach. So do it. Bake a ridiculously complicated cake. Eat a slice. Call your mother and tell her about it. Put on really great music while you shower. Order the most exotic coffee drink on the menu, instead of "medium with milk". Annie Dillard says "how we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives." So spend them wisely, actively, and fill them up.

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It's a little time-consuming to make this, but I like having a project. Something with multiple steps ideally, something with a person in mind, like a birthday or an out-of-the-ordinary Thursday night dinner--to give you a goal, some structure, and the excellent anticipation of gift-giving, which is sort of what cooking and baking is. In projects (and in life!), it can take a few rounds to get things right, but learn from my trial-and-error: chocolate cake recipes have long frustrated me -- they are always too oily, or too crumbly, or too moist. After too many hot coffee & buttermilk versions, this one is my winner.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Joy of Baking

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour unsifted
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup hot water
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour two 9 inch cake pans. I would recommend putting parchment paper on the bottom of the pans.

Add cocoa powder and chocolate together to a heatproof bowl and pour hot water over it. Stir until they melt together and add vanilla then set aside to cool. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. In mixer, cream butter and sugar. Beat until fluffy then add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated. Add chocolate mixture and beat to combine. Alternate adding milk and flour in three additions; beat until just combined.

Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake for 25-40 minutes (check after 25), until a tester comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the pan.

10 oz. cream cheese, room temp
1 stick butter, room temp
5 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
2/3 cup peanut butter (smooth, commercial brand, not separated with oil!)
a pinch of salt

Mix together cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add sugar one cup at a time, scraping down the bowl, then mix on medium speed for several minutes until very light. Add peanut butter and salt and mix to combine. Try not to "taste test" all your icing at this point.

8 oz. semisweet chocolate (I used chips...because then I can eat them)
3 T. peanut butter (smooth, Jif or Skippy!)
2 T. light corn syrup
1/2 cup 1/2 and 1/2

Over a double boiler, heat the first three ingredients until chocolate melts. It will look far too thick! Do not despair! Remove from the heat and whisk in the half and half until it is smooth. Use this while still warm. If you want to save it for later, you can pop it in the microwave before using. You want it to be warm, not hot, so it drizzles nicely.

To assemble cake: frost layers with a crumb coating (ideally frozen layers). Then, chill for 15 minutes, and finish frosting cake. Chill for at least another 30 so the icing is very cold. Cover the top of the cake with warm glaze and just nudge it towards to edges so it drips down.

Some recipe notes:
1. I used plain old Hershey's cocoa powder in place of fancy-schmancy Vahlrona. I was worried the Vahlrona had some impact on the first failed cake.
2. Freezing the caker layers helps IMMENSELY when frosting layer cakes. Cool the cakes, then slice them if you want, then triple wrap them in plastic wrap before freezing.
3. You might think this cake looks too intense. You would be wrong; I could have bathed myself in this peanut butter frosting. I don't even like peanut butter that much.
4. Make sure to chill the frosted cake before pouring on the warm ganache, as this will give you the best drip effect.
5. When frosting a layer cake, make a "crumb coat" first. This just means applying a very thin layer of frosting, then chilling the cake. When you fully frost it, you will not get flecks of cake crumb in your (theoretically) perfectly smooth frosting!
6. There are over 800 comments on this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, so, you could do about a day's worth of research there if you are so inclined.
7. Be sure to add a little salt to the peanut butter frosting--this makes a good flavor contrast.