Emma Laperruque's Nutella Buckwheat Brownies

Buckwheat Nutella Brownies

I have been feeling a little...fragile as of late. For example, this obituary made me cry. This book that I finished last night left me with the most sickening case of existential dread. I went into the boys' room this morning for a morning snuggle, but one boy was happily reading in his top bunk and the other was far too busy setting up Playmobil knights for something as silly as snuggling, so I had to start my day snuggle-less. Who cares, right? Reader, the heartache, I tell you. Sometimes I don't think I'll ever be prepared for the heartbreak of them growing up.

The sun has come out in full force this week, despite freezing temperatures at night. We're having the kind of blindingly bright, blue-skied days, still bundled up in warm coats and sweaters, that I normally associate with New England in early fall. Today, driving Hugo to school, I stopped at an intersection and the haze from the sun was so bright, I momentarily thought I was in Vermont.

What to do when one feels exceedingly wobbly? Besides going out into the sunshine for a long walk, I mean. I was thinking about that today as I cooked our lunch: an onion in hot olive oil, slivered canned plum tomatoes dropped in one after the other, the salting of pasta water, the reducing of the sauce. Laying out the plates and forks, digging out the parmigiano from the depths of the fridge. Cooking pasta with tomato sauce does seem to be one of my most foolproof therapies. The mellowing onion, the starchy fug, it all ends up being self-parenting alchemy.

Nutella Buckwheat Brownies

But! I am not actually here to tell you about the healing powers of tomato sauce! I am here to tell you about these 3-ingredient brownies, which—if the world is a just place—should be the next viral recipe to sweep the planet, like that baked feta situation earlier this year. The brownies are made with Nutella, eggs and buckwheat flour. That's it if you don't count salt, but flaky salt is essential to their success, so make sure you have some when you make these.

The Nutella and eggs are whisked together until smooth, then you stir in the buckwheat flour. You scrape this rather stiff mixture into your prepared pan, then sprinkle with flaky salt. The brownies emerge from the oven with that gorgeous crinkly top and the perfectly fudgy consistency. Now I have to make one thing clear: if you know buckwheat flour, you're familiar with its assertive flavor. Hugo and I love it and the combination of the chocolate-hazelnut spread and the earthy, grassy buckwheat turns the brownies into something truly unique. Hugo couldn't stop raving. "These are the best brownies ever," he eventually said (after brownie #5 or 6). They're pretty great. The other two members of our family, who are decidedly less enamored of buckwheat, didn't quite love them as much.

You don't have to use buckwheat flour. You could use teff flour, if you wanted to stay gluten-free, or regular flour, though I suspect they could end up a bit too cloying. The buckwheat adds a hearty, almost savory note. And the consistency! I didn't believe it could be possible with just those three ingredients, but it was perfect.

Gluten-Free Nutella Buckwheat Brownies

What do you do when you're feeling wobbly, dear readers? In case it's making brownies, well, here you go and hugs to you.

Note: This post includes affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you purchase through them, at no cost to you. I use affiliate links only for products I love and companies I trust. Thank you.

Emma Perruque's Nutella Buckwheat Brownies
Makes 12-16 brownies

1 1/4 cups (370 grams) Nutella
2 large eggs
1/2 cup
(60 grams) buckwheat flour
Flaky salt (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Line an 8-inch/20-cm square baking pan with parchment, with overhang on two sides.

2. Combine the Nutella and eggs in a bowl and stir until smooth. Add the flour and stir again until smooth. Spread into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with salt if you’re using it.

3. Bake for about 20 minutes until puffy, crackly, and a cake tester inserted near the corner comes out clean.


People's Pops' Strawberries & Cream Popsicles

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Confession time: I have no less than SIX posts in the pipeline on this here olde time bloggue. Six! There is chili and muesli and cauliflower salad and eggplant parm and a million amazing new cookbooks to tell you about, but somehow the time, the time!, is never enough. So let's start small, shall we, with these delicious little popsicles that I made last week, after having an attack of the mom-guilt-blues and trying to come up with a fun after-school treat to delight my school kid.

(Another confession: A parenting thing I'm really struggling with at the moment is self-doubt. Like, I wake up at 3:30 in the morning to pee, think about something I did/said/didn't do/whatever the day before with Hugo, then proceed to fall down an awful spiral of misery, self-doubt and recriminations that last until it's time to get up and get the day going with my little dudes. It's...not great. Does that happen to you? What's your biggest parenting challenge right now? Why are babies so much easier to parent than kids? Maybe don't answer that question? Are you also an insomniac whose entire night can be ruined by one errant thought? Let's commiserate, maybe we'll all feel better.) 

The recipe comes from People's Pops by way of Catherine Newman, who loves their cookbook, and because everything she writes about turns out to be as delicious as she says it is, I went a little nuts looking up recipes for blackberry-yogurt pops and blueberry buttermilk and roasted plum pops (I mean!). Ultimately, because here strawberries are cheap and plentiful and fragrant as all get-out right now, I made these strawberries & cream popsicles. They were a cinch to make - just puree fresh strawberries with some lemon, vanilla and salt, combine it with simple syrup (which, because I once bought a pretty bottle of cane syrup for the label, I don't even do, I just pour this stuff in) and swirl in some cream - and they were indeed as delightful as they sound, especially because it's been heat-wave hot here lately and we're all constantly irritable and slightly damp with sweat and lightly spangled with playground sand.

The best thing about homemade popsicles has to be the look on your kid's face when they get off the school bus, hangry and tired and wondering what annoyingly wholesome thing you've prepared for their snack and you say there are strawberry popsicles in the freezer. And that he can have two! (Spoiler alert: he couldn't finish two. That's okay. More for you.)

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Note: This post includes affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links, at no cost to you. I use affiliate links only for products I truly love and companies I trust. Thank you.

Strawberries & Cream Popsicles
Makes 8 to 10, depending on your mold
Adapted from People's Pops

2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup water
4 cups strawberries, hulled and coarsely chopped
¾ teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ cup heavy cream

1. Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.

2. Puree the strawberries in a food processor (you should have about 2 cups of puree). Transfer the berries to a measuring pitcher with a spout and add ¾ cups of the cooled sugar mixture, vanilla, salt, and lemon juice. Stir to combine. Pour in the heavy cream; do not mix.

3. Pour the mixture into your popsicle molds, leaving a bit of room at the top for expansion. Insert the sticks and freeze the popsicles until they are solid, 4-5 hours. Unmold the pops and transfer to a plastic bag for storage, or serve at once.


Diana Henry's Roast Apple and Maple Eton Mess

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Reader! How are you? How’s the weather where you are? Here in Berlin, spring has sprung. The breezes are warm, the trees are blooming (the creamy magnolias are already on their way out, in fact, sob, but the frothy cherry blossoms are still in full glory), the markets are stuffed with fragrant strawberries and fat white asparagus. I have put away my heavy wool sweaters and warm coats and am swanning around in t-shirts and sockless feet. It is glorious.

My little white baby Bruno even has his very first sunburn on the tops of his deliciously fat feet. I am fully and miserably responsible. I plead ignorance: my skin color has me regularly mistaken for being South Asian so I have a relatively “relaxed” attitude about sunscreen when not on the beach, yet I seem to have given birth to the whitest baby in Germany, poor thing. The other day, we were at the playground in the what felt like not-even-that-hot-for-crying-out-loud sunshine, yadda yadda yadda, before I knew it, Bruno had red feet. Gah. So I am doing penance now by stocking up on baby sunscreen and already looking forward to the pitying looks that he will be getting from the mahogany-skinned Italians on the beach this summer.

As I type, I have a plastic bag filled with strawberries sitting on the chair next to me. These aren’t the best strawberries, yet, but they smell delicious and between Hugo and me, I anticipate them lasting until, oh, tomorrow morning at best. (Bruno, so far, refuses to eat any berry at all. Weirdo. Takes after his father.)

Anyway, I’m telling you this because I feel a little funny about what I’m going to do next. Which is: blog about a wintertime dessert made with roasted apples. But is so wonderful and delicious that you simply must know about it. And since I was in the depths of new-baby-hood when I first discovered it (and made it obsessively for every special meal we were invited to for a couple of months), I didn’t write about it when it was topical and in-season. Instead I’m doing so now when you could probably care less about roasted apples and will immediately close the browser window and tell me to go jump in a lake. That’s fine! I’d do the same! Forgive me!

But for the three of you who don’t feel that way (or for those of you on the other side of the world, or in Boston, where it was still SNOWING yesterday for the love of Pete), this is for you.

Now, imagine:

Whipped cream.

Greek yogurt.

Crushed meringues.

Roasted apples.

Toasted hazelnuts.



All layered together in a beautiful serving dish and spooned out in such a way that each bite contains a bit of creamy, crunchy, roasty, toasty, juicy wonderfulness. The recipe comes from Diana Henry’s reboot of Simple and is, indeed, simple. All you have to actually cook are the roasted apples (does toasting hazelnuts even count as cooking?). The rest is whipping cream and bashing up store-bought meringues and drizzling maple syrup (and, uh, toasting hazelnuts - don’t you even dare to try and skip this step as untoasted hazelnuts are the devil’s work, as everyone knows).

It is, of course, a wintry riff on Eton mess, traditionally made with fresh strawberries in spring and a glorious dessert in its own right. (Though I never really get beyond just stuffing fresh strawberries unadorned into my craw when they're local and sweet and cheap and sold on every street corner.) Somehow, with the meringues and yogurt and apples, it manages to be a pretty light dessert, the kind you're happy to spoon up after a big meal. (I was going to write, "like Christmas" after that, but it turns out that even I, blogger of apple desserts in springtime, can't bring myself to write about the holiday that shall not be named, so you'll just have to infer it.)

And with that, dear reader, I'm off to buy some fresh rhubarb. At the rate I'm going, I'll blog about what I do with it just around Thanksgiving. Ha!

Note: This post includes affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links, at no cost to you. I use affiliate links only for products I truly love and companies I trust. Thank you.

Roast Apple and Maple Eton Mess
Adapted from Simple
Serves 6

1.5 lbs cooking apples, peeled, cored and halved
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup, divided, plus more to serve, optional
3 1/2 tablespoons hazelnuts
1 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
4 1/4 ounces meringues, coarsely broken up

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Place the apples in a roasting pan and toss with the brown sugar. Drizzle 3 tablespoons water over the apples. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the fruit is tender. Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons maple syrup over the apples and let cool.

2. Toast the hazelnuts in a dry pan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they smell toasty and delicious. Let cool and coarsely chop.

3. If necessary, lightly crush the apples with a fork - but take care not to make applesauce out of them.

4. Whip the cream until it holds its shape, then fold in the Greek yogurt and remaining maple syrup.

5. Layer the apples, cream, hazelnuts and meringue in individual glass dishes or one larger serving dish. If you like, you can drizzle additional maple syrup as you go (I never do). Finish with a layer of cream and a sprinkling of hazelnuts. Serve immediately (otherwise the meringues soften).


Gerhard Jenne's Bittersweet Brownies with Cranberries

Brownies with cranberries

Drowning as I am in cakes and cookies and sweet breads, I have absolutely no business - none! - making brownies on my day off. But I couldn't help it! I'm sorry! It's just that I was looking through a book that a British publisher sent to me last year (written by a German baker living in London) when something on page 141 called Boston Brownies caught my eye.

Now as you know, I have spent many a year in Boston, both as a child and a college student, and I have never, in all that time, heard of a Boston brownie. (Have you?) I had to read a little closer. My interest was piqued! Turns out that Gerhard Jenne, inspired by the fresh cranberries he discovered on a trip to Massachusetts, decided to pop a bunch of them in a brownie batter. The result - sort of like an American take on the Black Forest Cake of his youth - was so good he put the recipe in the book.

I was intrigued. I was also a little skeptical. I mean, fresh cranberries? With chocolate? (Also, er,  Anglo-German brownies?) The recipe looked really easy, though, and it was Sunday and I happened to have frozen cranberries in the freezer, so I decided to go for it and I am here to tell you now that these brownies are amazing.

AMAZING.

Bittersweet brownies with cranberries

You all. The brownies themselves, made with a mix of bittersweet chocolate and cocoa, are incredibly fudgy and dark with a gorgeous crackling crust. So the recipe would be a keeper for that alone. But the addition of the cranberries is, in fact, totally inspired - the sour, fruity pop against all that rich, dark chocolate is really delicious. We took the brownies to tea at our friends' house, where we each ate two pieces (Hugo included!) and then the men each ate a third while I tried to distract Hugo from demanding more by throwing myself on the floor and pretending to be a car. (It worked!)

In conclusion:

A.The world does need another brownie recipe.

B. Fresh cranberries in brownies are brilliant.

C. Anglo-German bakers have got the brownie thing figured out.

Oh, and furthermore! Do not repeat my dunderheaded mistake of always leaving the pan of brownies wherever I bring them. Make sure to keep a few for yourself the next day or you will regret it. Speaking from experience. Ahem.

Gerhard Jenne's Bittersweet Brownies with Cranberries
Adapted from Deservedly Legendary Baking
Makes 16
Note: The original recipe calls for 200 grams of chocolate and only 1 tablespoon of cocoa, but I didn't have enough chocolate in the house that day, so I made do with what I had and upped the amount of cocoa. I loved the result, so that's what I've listed below.

3 eggs
1 1/3 cups (275 grams) sugar
6 1/4 ounces (175 grams) butter
6 1/4 ounces (175 grams) dark chocolate (54 – 60% cocoa solids), chopped into small pieces
1 1/3 cup flour plus 1 tablespoon (175 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 1/4 ounces (175 grams) fresh cranberries

1. Heat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Line an 8 x 8-inch pan with parchment paper.

2. Break the eggs into a mixing bowl, then whisk in the sugar until frothy. Set aside.

3. Put the butter in a pan and melt over medium heat until it has completely melted and small bubbles are just beginning to rise to the surface. Turn off the heat, add the chocolate, and stir until melted.

4. Whisk the eggs and sugar again until pale and frothy, then whisk in the chocolate mixture until well combined. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and stir gently with a spatula until there are no white streaks remaining. Add the salt. Fold in the cranberries. (If you're using frozen, this will cause the batter to seize up slightly, so work quickly.)

5. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and even the top. Bake for about 25 minutes, then take the pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack to cool completely. Cut into squares and serve.


Ashley Rodriguez's Bittersweet Brownies with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting

Bittersweet brownies with peanut butter frosting

According to the internet, the East Coast of the US is about to be swathed in an apocalyptic amount of snow. Meanwhile, over here, it's just miserably gray, as it always always always is this time of year. I can't remember the last time I saw the sun. Hugo, who is really into SAAHN! and MOOOON! and DAHK! and LIGHT! and COWDS! is very confused.

Luckily, I have just the thing for all you over there and all of you over here to make while the winds howl and the sun remains stubbornly behind that impenetrable bank of clouds: Brownies. Bittersweet ones. With SALTED PEANUT BUTTER FROSTING. (If you can, imagine me yelling those last four words, getting increasingly louder with each word.)

Bittersweet brownies

For the past five years, I've been loyal to one single brownie recipe: Alice Medrich's Cocoa Brownies. They're easy, they're fudgy, you don't need a single special ingredient and everyone who eats them falls instantly in love with them. Why, even my husband now knows how to make them. (This, my friends, is saying a lot. Ahem, Mister Instant Mashed Potatoes, ahem.) I was pretty happy with my one single brownie recipe! It felt pretty good to have found The One. After all, at least on the brownie front, I didn't have to do any more looking.

But. Then. Along came Ashley Rodriguez of Not Without Salt and her beautiful, vulnerable, touching first cookbook called Date Night In (more on that in a second). In one flip of a page, her recipe for bittersweet brownies with a salted peanut butter frosting very unceremoniously kicked those sweet little cocoa brownies right off the ledge. Pow!

Ashley used to have her own custom cake company, and before that she learned the tricks of the trade at Spago, working under pastry chef legend Sherry Yard, so when it comes to sweets, she's a voice of authority. In Ashley's brownie recipe, you build layers of rich flavor by first browning the butter and then using a combination of chocolate and cocoa. She also gives you tips on how to get the fudgiest brownie possible (just use 2 eggs instead of 3) and that lovely crackly top, but the salted peanut butter frosting is really the, uh, icing on the cake, the cherry on top, the gilding of the lily. It's the whole raison d'être of these brownies (though they are pretty fabulous on their own, too).

Salted peanut butter frosting

You whip peanut butter, butter and confectioners' sugar together, beating them together at high speed until the mixture gets lighter and lighter, and then spread great swoops of it onto the cooled brownies. Ashley has you sprinkle the pan with flaked salt at the end, but I happened to have some of this fancy French butter with salt crystals hanging around and used that in the frosting instead, eschewing the salt sprinkling at the end.

But whatever path you take, definitely include salt. It's an essential finishing touch that keeps all the flavors together, that cuts the richness, that makes you sit up and take notice. It's no coincidence that Ashley's blog is called Not Without Salt. These aren't just any old brownies, no sirree. These are paradigm-breakers.

Bittersweet brownies with salted peanut butter frosting

As for Ashley's book, which is a collection of seasonal menus (from cocktails to dessert) that she's made for a weekly date night at home with her husband Gabe, it really is so lovely. Each menu is preceded by a little story she tells about her marriage and its natural ups and downs. With busy jobs, three children, and 10 years of marriage under their belts, several years ago Ashley and her husband found themselves drifting apart. Determined not to slide into a deeper hole, they started going on dates at home every week. Gabe would mix cocktails and Ashley would create a restaurant-worthy menu just for the two of them, no kids allowed. Through this very purposeful, conscious way of approaching their marriage and their need to connect again, they created a whole new level of commitment to each other. It is, to say the least, inspiring.

Also mouthwatering, because Ashley really knows food. A few of her menus are ambitious (for a tired working mother, at least), but that's sort of the point. It's her way of showing her husband her love and commitment and she expects no less from her readers. And there are plenty of menus that are more straightforward. I've already earmarked the recipes for their perfect burger, the French 75 cocktail, salted toffee popcorn, a pickled vegetable salad and salmon cakes with chiles and fresh herbs. (Plus, thrillingly, Ashley includes a recipe for pickled peppers in the style of Mama Lil's, which Molly sent me for Christmas once and which I haven't stopped thinking of since!)

Now all I have to do is get my husband to mix me a cocktail...

Ashley Rodriguez's Bittersweet Brownies with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting
Adapted from Date Night In
Makes 16 square brownies
Note: The original recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate, which isn't available in Germany. Instead I substituted an equal amount of 70% chocolate and then reduced the sugar from 300 grams to 175 grams. I was thrilled with the result, especially paired with the sweet-salty frosting. Depending on your taste, though, if you go this route, you may want to up the sugar amount to 200 grams.

Brownies:
3/4 cup (170 grams) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
3 ounces (90 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (175 grams) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (40 grams) cocoa powder
1/2 cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour

Frosting:
6 tablespoons (85 grams) butter with salt flakes, at room temperature
3/4 cup (100 grams) smooth peanut butter
1/3 cup (40 grams) confectioners’ sugar

1. For the brownies: Preheat the oven to 325 F (160 C) degrees. Grease an 8-inch square pan. Line the pan with parchment paper so that a couple of inches hang over the edge. Then grease the parchment.

2. Place the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over medium-high heat. Allow the butter to cook until the milk solids bubble up and then settle into the pan and caramelize. Swirl the butter in the pan in order to see the color of the little bits on the bottom. As soon as the milk solids are golden and the butter smells nutty, about 3 to 5 minutes, remove the pan from the heat.

3. Pour the browned butter into a medium bowl and add the chopped chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute to melt, and then whisk together. Whisk in the sugar and vanilla while the butter mixture is still warm. Stir in the eggs, and salt until well blended. Sift in the cocoa powder and flour. Fold the ingredients together until just combined using a spatula.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle pulls out clean. Let cool to room temperature.

5. For the frosting: With an electric mixer, whip together the butter, peanut butter, and confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl. Continue to mix until everything is well combined and the frosting has lightened in color. Frost the cooled brownies, cut into squares and serve. Brownies can be made 1 to 3 days in advance. The frosting can be made up to 1 week in advance.


Yotam Ottolenghi's Raspberry Meringue Roulade

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I realize this is verrrry last-minute, but perhaps there are a few among you who have not yet decided on your Christmas dessert or who are still planning your New Year's Eve dinner or just plain want to have your socks knocked off by a dessert. Yes? Yes?

Getting right down to brass tacks, because none of us have any time at all right now (amirite?): Yotam Ottolenghi's meringue roulade from his latest book Plenty More. Imagine: a base of vanilla-flavored meringue - with cornstarch and vinegar mixed into so that it stays marshmallowy and rollable after baking instead of crisp and crackling - spread with whipped cream and fruit, then rolled up and topped with more whipped cream and fruit plus powdered sugar to make it look all festive and wintry and perfect.

BOOM.

To put it bluntly: It's so good that it literally rendered an entire table of people at our Christmas Eve dinner last night entirely speechless.

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The original version has you flavor the whipped cream with rose water and top the roulade with chopped pistachios in addition to raspberries, but I don't like rose water, so I left it out and then left out the pistachios too and it was still divine. (The whipped cream is mixed with mascarpone for some extra flavor and ballast.) You could do any number of combinations - I keep thinking that pomegranate seeds would be fantastic in it.

The roulade is just the right thing after a heavy holiday meal - all sweetness and light with little pops of fruit here and there and the cooling smoothness of cold cream. (Though the next time I make it, I will reduce the sugar just a touch. The recipe below reflects that change.)

Have a wonderful, delicious and peaceful holiday season, darling readers. I am, as ever, so grateful to have you all in my life.

Yotam Ottolenghi's Raspberry Meringue Roulade
Adapted from Plenty MoreServes 8-10

4 egg whites
1 cup/200 grams granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
3.5 ounces/100 grams mascarpone
1 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 3/4 cups/400 ml whipping cream
5 ounces/150 grams fresh raspberries

1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC/320ºF.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large, clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with an electric mixer until they begin to firm up. Add the granulated sugar to the whisking whites in spoonfuls or tip into the bowl in a slow stream. Continue whisking until you achieve a firm, glossy meringue. Using a large metal spoon, gently fold in the vanilla extract, vinegar and cornstarch. Spread the mixture evenly onto the parchment paper, making a 13x9.5-inch/33x24-cm rectangle.

3. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until a crust forms and the meringue is cooked through (it will still feel soft to the touch). Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan.

4. Unmold the cooled meringue on a fresh piece of parchment paper. Carefully peel off the first piece of parchment.

5. Place the mascarpone in a large mixing bowl along with the confectioners' sugar. Whisk to combine, then add the whipping cream. Whisk just until the cream starts to hold its shape. Don't overmix - you want a relatively loose whipped cream. Spread most of the mascarpone cream on top of the meringue, reserving a few tablespoons. Leave a small border around the edge of the meringue. Scatter most of the raspberries all over the cream

6. Use the paper to assist you in rolling up the meringue along its long edge, until you get a perfect log shape. Carefully transfer the log on to a serving dish. Use the remaining cream to create a rough wavy strip along the top of the log. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

7. When ready to serve, dust the log with confectioners' sugar and dot with the remaining raspberries.


Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Dessert

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My favorite kind of pancakes are buckwheat pancakes; my dad used to make them for us when I was little and I've loved their haunting, stoney flavor ever since. I introduced Max to them several years ago. He fell instantly and madly in love, and of course Hugo likes them, too, but my suspicion is that Hugo would eat most anything in pancake form as long as it held the promise of a drizzle of maple syrup. ("May-ah, mama, may-ah?")

But last weekend we were out of buckwheat flour, so I got to wondering if rye pancakes would be any good seeing as I had just a little bit of rye flour leftover from some long-ago experiments in German bread (no, the experiments did not go well, sigh, gnash, etc.). I used equal amounts of rye and white flour in a pretty standard pancake batter and lo, it was a huge success! The pancakes were fat and puffy, glorious to behold, and the rye flavor was delicious - wholesome and nutty and very, very nice paired with the maple syrup. I don't usually put butter on top of my pancakes when I serve them, but in this case I did, because the pancakes were so thick and fluffy that they needed some moistening. Now I think the butter is essential. It melts and combines with the maple syrup and soaks the pancakes just right.

So, the recipe is as follows: Whisk together 3/4 cup white flour, 3/4 cup rye flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1-2 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together an egg and 3/4 cup of milk. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ones and mix until combined; try not to overmix. The batter will be relatively stiff. Fry as usual in a buttered pan and serve with a pat of butter on top and maple syrup.

Eggplant meatballs

Amelia recently raved about meatless eggplant-porcini meatballs that sounded (and looked!) so delicious that I had to try them. And, woah, yes, they are pretty glorious - richly flavored, with a wonderfully springy, chewy texture. They are more than a bit of work (you have to roast eggplant, soak porcini, make breadcrumbs, fry the polpette (I can't call them meatballs!) and make tomato sauce to cook them in), but I still managed to get all of this done on a weeknight, so go figure. As Amelia says, it's pretty much all enjoyable kitchen work and I sort of squeezed it in and around Hugo's dinner, bathtime and then that quiet, wonderful stretch just after he fell asleep, when the evening still felt new and full of promise.

The recipe is here. It's a keeper.

Creamed spinach on toast

On book-testing days, I'm always in a bit of a scramble to think of something light and vegetable-based for our lunch. We just need a little something savory in our bellies to be able to evaluate the cakes without feeling ill and it needs to be quick and easy to put together since we need to be mostly focused on measuring and converting and baking and cleaning. I've been loving the challenge; it's made me more creative than I'd usually be on my own. (Oh helloooo, cheese sandwich, you again?) Liana Krissoff's dead-simple, nearly instantaneous tomato soup was a recent hit, but the other day I made a sort of ersatz creamed spinach on toast and ooh, that was very nice, too.

I fried a diced onion in some olive oil (or was it butter?) until it was fragrant and translucent, then dumped in a whole bunch (3/4 pound?) of chopped fresh spinach and let it wilt down. I added salt and hot pepper and then cooked the spinach until it was silky and most of the liquid had boiled off. At that point, I added just a few spoonfuls of crème fraîche and let them melt and mix in with the spinach. You could hardly tell that there was anything creamy in the spinach, but it added some welcome body and richness. I toasted two slices of white bread (peasant would have been even nicer), then piled a fat amount of spinach on each piece of toast. A few microplanes of Parmesan cheese on top and that was that.

Nothing more than a silly little fridge-cleaner, but it hit the spot.

Millionaire's shortbread

Finally, dessert. I apologize for the photo, which looks a bit picked-over, right? I have a good excuse: namely, those very squares. So irresistible, I couldn't even get out my camera in time before a bunch of marauding dinner guests fell on the pan and made quick work of it. What you're looking at is a batch of Jane Hornby's salted caramel shortbread bites (also known as millionaire's shortbread, but doctored with flaky sea salt on top). The recipe comes from Hornby's latest book, What to Bake and How to Bake It. Millionaire's shortbread is insanely good, sort of like a very fancy Twix bar, but even better? (Way better, says Max.) Imagine: a vanilla-flavored shortbread base, baked until crisp, a thick, salted butter caramel poured on top and finally a dark chocolate layer sprinkled wth a few flakes of salt to offset all the sugar and butter. In the immortal words of Osgood Fielding III, zowie!

With no further ado, the recipe (I didn't have time to convert it to US measurements, apologies to those without a scale. You should be able to do all of the conversions using Google):

Jane Hornby's Salted Caramel Shortbread Bites
Makes one 8-inch pan

For the shortbread:
110 grams unsalted butter
50 grams sugar
Pinch of flaky salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
140 grams all-purpose flour

For the caramel:
110 grams unsalted butter
200 grams dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons golden syrup (or corn syrup)
1/2 teaspoon flaky salt
400 gram can of evaporated (condensed) milk

For the topping:
200 grams dark (70%) chocolate
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon flaky salt

1. Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper; set aside. Beat the butter until creamy and very pale. Add the sugar, salt and vanilla and beat until very well-combined. Sift the flour over the butter mixture and gently work into the butter until you have an even dough that clumps together.

2. Press the dough into the prepared pan (you may have to flour your hands for this part) until it's level. Prick it all over with a fork, then chill for 10 minutes. Heat the oven to 160 C. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the shortbread is golden all over. Let cool completely.

3. Melt the butter, sugar, syrup and salt together in a saucepan, then stir in the condensed milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens. This will take about 20 minutes, give or take a bit. Don't let the caramel burn. At the end, it should be thick enough for the spoon to leave a trail in the caramel for a few seconds. Pour the caramel over the shortbread and let cool completely.

4. Melt the chocolate in a microwave or double boiler, then stir in the oil and pour the chocolate evenly over the caramel. Use a spatula to smooth out the chocolate. Sprinkle with the salt and let cool completely, either at room temperature or in the fridge. When the chocolate has just set, mark it into squares, then chill until completely firm. Cut into squares to serve. For a very clean finish, wipe your knife blade with a damp towel between each slice. The squares keep for three days in an airtight container.