Fall: North and South

I’m a Southern Girl at heart.   People are usually surprised when they learn this about me, because I don’t have an accent or much of that fabled “Southern Charm.”  But the fact remains.  I grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, watching horse races at Keenland on the weekends and playing tag in summer nights in the meadow behind our house.  In middle school I moved to Atlanta, where the South really took hold of me.  Sweet tea flowed on screened-in porches and I was forced into Cotillion where I learned to foxtrot and sit with my ankles crossed.

But from the start I refused to be “southern.”  While my brother and sister adopted twangs I wouldn’t even say so much as a “y’all.”  The South was beautiful, it was charming, it was special, but it wasn’t me.

So when I applied to college, I didn’t look anywhere south of the Mason Dixon line.  I ended up at Williams.  There were things I loved.  I loved the golden leaves, the apple cider donuts, the rough and tough guys at the Bakeshop.  But to my surprise I began to actually miss the South.  I missed people holding doors for me.  And the people, the politeness, etc.  When the snow came, I missed the sun.  And, of course, I missed the food.

Kim Sunee (http://kimsunee.com/) asked me to write a contribution to her blog about Comfort Desserts, and immediately I thought about doing an apple dessert because, well, its fall in New England.  Also, a few days earlier I’d had a few friends from abroad come visit and to give them the quintessential smalltown Northeastern experience we had of course gone to a little apple orchard and filled up on as many Honeycrisps as we could carry.  It was overwhelmingly cute and wholesome.

But even though Georgia’s emblematic fruit is the peach instead of the apple (though technically South Carolina produces far more peaches?), I had to include it in this post, because home is the ultimate comfort.  So here are two apple desserts: Apple Pie with a Cheddar Crust and Apple Pecan Cake with Brown Butter frosting.  Many thanks to the ever-generous Suzie house for taste-testing!

Pretty pretty apples

Peeled and ready for bakin! Lucky apples.

Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust

Crust (adapted from Martha Stewart)

3 c All Purpose flour

2 tsp. salt

2 c. cheddar cheese  (if you want more of a cheese flavor, you could also try a sharper cheese like asiago)

16 T. butter (2 sticks), cold, cut into small cubes

4-8 T ice water

Mix together flour and salt in a large bowl.  Add butter and mix in with fingers until dough is coarse and no butter chunks remain.  Mix in the cheddar cheese.  Add water slowly, starting with 4 tablespoons and increasing until you have a dough that will just come together when pressed.  Turn out onto a floured surface and divide into two equal amounts.  Form two discs, cover in plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour.


6 apples (3 granny smith, 3 honeycrisp), peeled and sliced thinly

1 T lemon juice

.75 c sugar

1/2 t. salt

Toss all ingredients together

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Flour your counter, unwrap your first dough (if the two pieces look uneven, go for the smaller one) and put it in the middle and flour that too. Start rolling your dough by pressing down lightly with the pin and moving it from the center out. Roll it a few times in one direction, lift it up and rotate it a quarter-turn. And that’s what you’re going to continue to do, roll a couple times, lift the dough and rotate it. Re-flour the counter and the top of the dough as needed.  If at any point, the dough starts to get sticky or soft, it’s warming up and will only become more difficult to work with. Transfer it back to the fridge for a few minutes to let it cool, then resume your rolling process.

Once your dough is a 12- to 13-inch circle, transfer pie dough to a standard pie dish by folding it gently into quarters (making no creases), arranging the folded corner into one quadrant of the bottom of your tin and gently unfolding it to fit over the base. Trim the overhang to one inch.

Scoop filling into bottom pie dough, including any accumulated juices. Roll out your top pie dough using the same procedure, until it is 12 to 13 inches in diameter.  Cut some decorative vents in the pie lid before baking.

Brush with egg, cream or water and sprinkle with sugar.  Put pie in the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.  Let cool before slicing!


Look at this artsy picture of a slice of pie on a tree stump!  I was quite proud of this one.  Thanks to Brian for eating it afterwards.


Apple Cake (adapted from Southern Living)

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

1.5 cups sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 pounds apples (about 4 large), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick wedges (I used honeycrisp)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Toast pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

Stir together butter and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl.

Combine flour and the next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture, stirring until blended.  Stir in apples and 1 cup pecans.  The batter will be very thick, almost like a cookie dough.  Don’t worry!

Spread batter into a lightly greased 13-x9-inch pan.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool completely in pan on a wire rack (about 45 minutes).  Spread your choice of frosting over top of cake; sprinkle with remaining ½ cup pecans.


Brown butter frosting:

1 cup butter

1 (16-oz.) package powdered sugar

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Cook butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, 6 to 8 minutes or until butter begins to turn golden brown.  Remove pan from heat and pour butter into a small bowl.  Cover and chill 1 hour or until butter is cool and begins to solidify (I tried to do this in the pan and make the icing in it, but I think it overall made it more complicated).

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add powdered sugar alternately with milk, beginning and ending with powdered sugar.  Beat mixture at low speed until well blended after each addition.  Stir in vanilla.


Cream cheese frosting:

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese in electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add sugar and salt, beating until blended.  Stir in vanilla.

Goodbye, Alaska

That’s right, I’m back home in the ATL.  Though I’m happy to have returned to humid, green, beautiful, urban (aka has more people than caribou, unlike some places) Atlanta, I do miss some things about the great state of Alaska.

First would have to be the people.  Alaska, you may be crazy, but you make some pretty nice folk.  Special thanks to Kim Sunee and Laurie Constantino for helping me learn all about food, how to cook it, make it look pretty, and write about it.

See? Big improvement.

Second would be nature.  No one really knows how to do nature like Alaska.  I can see why some people would want to live there.

I don’t really have a third reason, but those two are pretty big ones.  Oh!  Alaska has some great breweries and coffee roasters, they sell guns in the grocery store, and moose hunting is a legitimate excuse to miss work.  Not sure if those are necessarily positives, but they certainly are unique.

Don’t worry, this post is more than purely sentimental.  There is a recipe in here.  Related to the above styled picture, look how I tie things together!

On one of my last weeks in the Kim Sunee/Laurie Constantino test kitchen we made delicious, creamy zucchini cornbread.  I won’t tell you the secret, you’ll have to wait for Sunee’s book.

HOWEVER, this recipe inspired me to make my own cornbread, and to finally use up those perfectly ripe nectarines I had frozen a month before, swearing I would use them sometime.  

Well, sometime came last week.  I decided to make brown butter cornmeal nectarine snack/breakfast cake.  That sounds like a mouthful (haha) title, but really it’s just a not-too-sweet cornbread, with browned butter and diced nectarines.

The coolest part?  You cook it in the same cast iron skillet where you melt the butter, so your pan is already greased.  Genius.

This cake is delicious.  It’s sweet enough to indulge a craving, yet also substantial enough to eat for breakfast or a late afternoon snack, especially with a cup of milky coffee.  Any fruit could be used, I’m thinking berries or stone fruit.  Let me know how it goes!  If you’re using frozen fruit, as I did, just don’t thaw it before adding it to the cake batter.

Alaska, it’s been real.  Maybe I’ll come back some day, but until then, I’ll think of you every time I eat a salmon

Alaska, I’ll miss you!

Cornmeal Brown Butter Nectarine Snack Cake

Serves 8-12, unless Martin Hansen is eating with you

1 cup + 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

3/4 cup yellow cornmeal plus a little extra for sprinkling

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

2 large eggs

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus one tablespoons unsalted butter, melted until browned then cooled slightly

3 or so nectarines, about a cup and a half

In a 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet, melt butter over medium heat until browned and fragrant.  Use a potholder to grab onto the cast iron and carefully tilt back and forth so the melted butter greases the sides of the pan.  Remove browned butter from the cast iron to cool, and set the buttery cast iron aside.  You’ll use it to bake the cake later!

If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, simply butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.  Set aside.  Brown the butter in a skillet over the stove top and incorporate into the recipe just the same.

In a small bowl, mix together chopped nectarines with a tablespoon or so of flour, so they don’t sink to the bottom of the cake.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a small bowl, carefully whisk together eggs, buttermilk, and butter.  Add the wet ingredients, all at once, to the dry ingredients and fold together with a spatula.  Fold until very few lumps remain.  Add in the nectarines.  Pour batter into the prepared buttered pan, sprinkle some cornmeal over the top if desired, and place in the oven.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.  Use a skewer or the tines of a fork to poke holes in the bake.  Sporadic holes here and there will do.  This cake will last for up to 4 days, well wrapped, at room temperature.

Alaskan Adventure Updates

Sooo I’ve been doing a lot of things this summer that I don’t normally do.  Hiking, fishing, camping to name a few.  Oh and being in Alaska.

I’ve also made up some recipes, some of which are pretty good, like this coconut almond cashew granola.

Unfortunately I left a few of those cashews sitting on the counter and this seemingly peaceful dog

Jumped up and ate about half her body weight.  You don’t want to know the rest of that story.

There were also a few other recipes which were in need of some serious editing.  Like this peanut butter-stuffed cereal-coated jelly-syruped french toast.

I will not give up until the pb & j turned decadent breakfast food becomes a reality.

I’ve cooked oysters on a fire in Homer, watched seals and sea otters in Seward, and, most impressive of all, learned to drive stick shift.  Those who know me understand what an impressive feat this is, considering I failed my first driving test and refused to drive on the highway alone until, oh, roughly last year.  I still occasionally stall out, but only when I’m at a light on a steep hill with a giant, mean truck-driver behind me.  Of course.

I’ve also had great successes with cupcakes, both vanilla with sour cream chocolate frosting and chocolate beet with cream cheese beet frosting.  When I don’t know what to bring to a gathering, I usually go with cupcakes.  They really never are a bad choice.

With just over a week left in “the last Frontier,” I can safely say I’ll have mixed feelings when I go.  But hey, it’s not over yet.

Coconut Almond Cashew Granola
Loosely based on Granola Bars from Back to Basics by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter, 2008)

It’s hard to give measurements for this recipe as everything varies with personal taste.  I chose to use cashews, almonds, and raisins because that is what I like and what we had, but any other nuts or dried fruit would also be delicious.  You can also vary the amounts if you want more or less nuts, dried fruit, coconut etc.

1 cup cashews
1 cup almonds
1 cup coconut
1 cup oats (not instant)
1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spread oats, almonds, and cashews on one cookie sheet in one layer, and coconut on another.  Put both sheets in the oven to toast, about 3 minutes for the coconut and 5 minutes for the nuts, or until they start to brown and you can smell them.

Meanwhile, on a stovetop combine the syrup, brown sugar, honey, salt, and oil over low heat until sugar dissolves.  Take off heat and add vanilla.

Put oats, coconut, nuts, and raisins in a large bowl.  Pour sauce on top and toss, then pat into parchment-lined baking sheet.

Put in oven for 10 minutes, or until toasty brown.

Let cool for 15 minutes, then break up with hands or  smash into pieces.  Serve on top of yogurt, ice cream, or plain with milk for breakfast.

Dipnetting on the Kenai

This is me standing on a beach on the Kenai River in Alaska in freezing rain, holding a puppy named Cleo, and surrounded by dead sockeye salmon entrails.  Summer in Alaska has never been so sweet or so full of carnage.

I did not realize it, but fishing in Alaska is akin to…well…nothing comes to mind.  In my neck of the woods, fishing is something people do for pleasure.  You come home at the end of the day with a fresh sunburn and some sand in your hair, and if you catch a few fish to eat all the better.  Not so in the great North.

In Alaska fishing for salmon is both sport and necessity.  When word gets out that the salmon are running, people hightail it to the nearest fish hotspot as fast as their Subaru and pickups can carry them.  The closest thing I’ve seen to the frenzy to get into the Kenai was the crowd of cars I saw outside of Bonnaroo.  People are damn serious about their fish out here.

Families come as one, both to enjoy some quality time together and exploit their children to bonk the s&%* out of some sockeye salmons.

Yes, bonk.  Let me back up.  Instead of fishing for the salmon with a traditional fishing rod, which wouldn’t work because salmon are no longer eating as they swim upstream to have their babies and die, people in Alaska do something called dipnetting.  Dipnetting is when you basically stand in the water with a 5 foot diameter net, wait for a salmon to swim into it, and then drag it back onto shore and kill it by bonking it in the head.  I’m pretty sure that’s a technical term, and it’s usually the kid’s job.

After the salmon is bonked it’s gutted, de-headed and rinsed of slime and sand.

People throw the entrails and heads of their salmon back in the ocean, which of course washes up on the shore during high tide.  Hence the giant piles of rotting fish carcasses

Which is a very strong contrast to the crazy beautiful mountains and ocean all around.

And a few crazy people, including David Hansen, opt to float instead of dipnet.  This is basically dipnetting but instead of standing up to your chest in the freezing cold ocean water, you swim around in it like a crazy person, all while holding a net.  Yeah, you get a few more salmon, and probably lose the use of a few extremeties due to hypothermia.

If you look closely, you can see a little black dot that’s David’s head.

Despite the fish blood and rain, this weekend of sockeye salmon-ing was definitely a true AK experience.  And now we have 120 red salmon fillets to eat all summer long!  Tom and Suzers, some day I will get you to eat this delicious red flesh and love it.  Mark my words.

A good way to start is with Dave’s signature brown sugar salmon rub!

Dave’s Brown Sugar Salmon Rub

makes enough for 2 large salmon fillets

1/2 c brown sugar

1 tbsp. fresh thyme

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

pinch of salt

1/4 c olive oil

Mix dry ingredients, add olive oil bit by bit until it becomes a paste and is spreadable with a fork.

Rub into salmon and then grill on a moist cedar plank.

I’m Baaaack! Oh yeah, and I’m also in Alaska.

So!  For those of you who don’t know, I am spending the summer in Anchorage, Alaska.  I don’t even have to change the theme of the blog, because being in Alaska almost makes me feel like I’m still abroad.  Seriously, it’s borderline a foreign country here.  It is sunny around 20 hours a day (or at least the sun doesn’t set til 2 am, sometimes it’s actually rainy. Actually more than just sometimes.)

But those sunny days are totally worth it!

Anchorage is on the coast, so the sun lights up the ocean to the west and the mountains to the east, and there are flowers growing everywhere!  Speaking of things growing, I made the exciting discovery the other day of some rhubarb growing in the yard of the house the bf and I are housesitting.  Everyone in Anchorage loves to grow things, just like they love to bike everywhere and have an excessive amount of outdoor festivals.  I must say, these Alaskan folk really know how to make the most out of summertime.

So, back to rhubarb.  Or have I even mentioned rhubarb yet?  Here is another picture.

Weirdly, I had never eaten rhubarb before this past weekend.

I had, however, heard of its legendary power to pair with sweet delicious dough and cinnamon-flavored streusel topping to make something of beauty.

A crumb cake.  Can anything be more magical?  So simple, yet so satisfying. Pairs perfectly with a hot cup of milky coffee (hence the name, duh) on a Sunday morning, or as an after-dinner treat. I could wax on for hours, but I won’t, because no one would find that interesting.

Recipe adapted from Smittenkitchen.com


Butter for greasing pan

For the rhubarb filling:
1/2 pound rhubarb, trimmed
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

For the crumbs:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, melted
1 3/4 cups cake flour (I was out and used all-purpose and it worked great)

For the cake:
1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour (ditto on the all-purpose flour–worked just fine)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 8 pieces.

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. For filling, slice rhubarb 1/2 inch thick and toss with sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.

2. To make crumbs [this step now updated, see comment #150] in a large bowl, whisk sugars, spices and salt into melted butter until smooth. Then, add flour with a spatula or wooden spoon. It will look and feel like a solid dough. Leave it pressed together in the bottom of the bowl and set aside.

3. To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about 1/2 cup batter and set aside.

4. Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan. Spoon rhubarb over batter. Dollop set-aside batter over rhubarb; it does not have to be even.

5. Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size. They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter (it might be moist from rhubarb), 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

In Which Davies Turns 16…and I realize I am now old

Happy Birthday Davies!  Can’t believe my little sis is already the bit 1-6, aka will soon be driving.  Lord help us all.

Look at this happy family!  All we need to complete it is the dogs.  What?  Oh, wait, since you asked, here’s a picture of the cutest fuzziest dogs in the universe!

(Henners on the left, Mudge on the right. Obviously)

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot Contessa’s PARTIES! The caps and exclamation point really add emphasis to how fun the parties are that she throws.  If you need more evidence of Ina Garten’s awesomeness, see this clip from 30 Rock


Now, back to the recipe!

It’s fairly simple: combine wets (sour cream, mmm) and dries, and you get

Sour cream is always a fun thing to play around with because it adds this great moisture.  Buttermilk too!

Whip up some cream.  Leticia, my pastry boss from JCT Kitchen, gave me some good whipped cream tips.

-If you want the whipped cream to whip up slower, but be very soft and fluffy, add the sugar (ALWAYS powdered) before you whip the cream.

-If you want the whipped cream to whip up faster and stiffer, add the sugar at the end, after the cream already has stiff peaks .  p.s. still peaks means if you take the whisk out of the bowl and hold it upright there will be a little peak on the top, and it will not collapse onto itself

Yeah I didn’t take this picture.  I googled it.

For this recipe, I’m more for the softer approach because it makes the cream easier to spread.  Add a little vanilla at the end, or orange liquor if you’re crazy.

Beautiful!  If I do say so myself.

This cake could be done with any in season berry.  I was really pining for those Aix outdoor markets whilst shopping for strawberries at Publix, but hey, I take what I can get.  Just make sure to smell the berries before you buy them, because it’s smell, not looks, that determines if they’re ripe or not.

I macerated (fancy word for marinated, but with fruit) the berries in a bit of orange juice and sugar for about an hour to let them get tender and even more juicy.

Buon Appetit!  Im off to watch Barefoot Contessa on TV and eat some waffles.  Life is good in the summertime.


Strawberry Country Cake

This recipe actually makes two cakes, each of which make the layered cake pictured above, so it would be fine to halve the recipe.  Or you could always go big and make a quadruple layered cake.  Send me a picture if you achieve this feat.


1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

3/4 cups sour cream at room temperature

1/2 tsp grated lemon zest (We found the lemon flavor was a little strong, maybe cut it out if that’s not what you want)

1/2 tsp grated orange zest

1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I always do more)

2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup corn starch

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp baking soda

For the Filling of Each Cake

1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled

3 tablespoons sugar (I do powdered, no grittiness)

1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled (tops taken off) and sliced


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans

Cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  On medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream, zests, and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Mix well.  Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda.  On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine just until smooth.

Pour the batter evenly into the pans, smooth the tops with a spatula, and bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then remove to wire racks and let cool to room temperature.

To make the filling for one  cake, whip the cream by hand or in a mixer until firm, add the sugar and vanilla.  Slice one of the cakes in half with a long, sharp knife.  Place the bottom slice of the cake on a serving platter, and spread with half of the whipped cream, and scatter with sliced strawberries.  Cover with the top slice of the cake and spread with the remaining cream.  Decorate with strawberries.


haha silly me

Forgot the recipe for the tart! See last post for a link to Joy the Baker, whose fabulous pie dough recipe I like (AND it uses buttermilk!)

I actually halved the whole thing because the only pie tin my family has is weirdly shallow, and added lemon juice for extra lemony-ness.


  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 4 large eggs yolks
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • freshly grated nutmeg to taste


Roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface and fit it into a 9-inch (1 quart) glass pie plate. Crimp the edge decoratively and chill the shell for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a bowl whisk together the butter, the sugar, the buttermilk, the egg yolks, the flour, the vanilla, the zest, the salt, and the nutmeg and pour the filling into the shell. Bake the pie in the lower third of the oven for 20 minutes, reduce the temperature to 325°F., and bake the pie for 20 to 25 minutes more, or until the filling is set and golden. Let the pie cool on a rack and serve it at room temperature or chilled.

Recipe credit of gourmet magazine

…and the buttermilk tart

Here I go, following through on the lofty promises I made last post.

My host mother Geraldine said that she loved lemon tarts, and I had some buttermilk leftover from the Strawberry Cake (see previous posts,) so I decided to fuse the two and go for a southern classic: buttermilk pie.

Obviously as I was in France it would be a tart, not a pie.  Because pies do not exist there.

I made the dough, following http://joythebaker.com/‘s awesome foolproof recipe which also, conveniently, contains buttermilk! If you are scared of pie/tart dough, I understand. It’s scary.  Maybe even scarier than the ghost tour I took in Edinburgh…ah who am I kidding, that was really freaking scary.

The secret is to keep all the ingredients (butter, flour, (butter)milk, ice water) cold, and to chill the dough for a few hours before use. And using plenty of flour to keep the dough from sticking when you’re rolling it out. Easy peasy pie! (or tart. haha)

As my host family didn’t have a rolling pin, because that would be too easy, I used a Centrum vitamin bottle to flatten the dough.  My host sister Chloe helped out by decorating the flour.

Roll it out, and…

Ta dah!!! Nice pretty pie dough.

No need to butter the pie pan, there’s PLENTY of butter in the dough.  Prick the bottom with a fork and crimp the edges to make it pretty pretty.

Bake in a 350 degree over for about 15 minutes, til things start getting nice and browned. Then take out and let cool. This is called “blind baking,” aka baking the crust before  you put the filling in.

Here we are getting ready to go in the oven

And here it is finished! Wait to take it out until the top gets all carmelized and brown and bubbly. Mmmmm

Look who was in the kitchen with me!!

Here’s the feast my host mother lovingly prepared my last night in Aix!  Niko sushi.  A teenage boy on a moto delivered it, and I had to answer the door  as he was yet another one of Chloe’s ex boyfriends. Classic.

For the first time, EVERY crumb was eaten.

In Which I Sum Up My Whole Semester…and make a lemon buttermilk tart

Tuesday I said au revoir to my lovely home in Aix en Provence.

“Tuesday?” you ask.  “But today’s Monday! What have you been doing all this time???”

Well, thank you for your concern, I’ve been doing a bit of the old post study-abroad travelling aka mooching off friend’s extra beds.  Thanks Alexis, Ayela, and Sally! More to come on this later.

So back to Aix. This blog is mostly about cooking, so I have kind of avoided putting up pictures of my home/friends/etc, but as I just left and am feeling a bit nostalgic here is an overview (in photos, of course) of my last semester.

Ma Maison!  This path looks really nice now, but could be very perilous at night. Trust me.

Cherries!!! Look how they’ve grown.

To the below that’s lavender.

Yes there was a lavender field in my backyard.

And beyond that…

This was my neighbor’s backyard, so I was technically trespassing.  But worth it, right?

My little provencal window and my little provencal room.  I’m in the middle of packing, but who am I kidding, that’s still the cleanest it’s been all semester (much to my host mother’s chagrin…)

Here’s what greeted me when I came home every day!

That face just warms the cockles of my heart.

And then I yell “Askyyyyyyyy” and he runs up to me and rubs his smelly drooly face all over my clean clothes and I just love it.  And then my host mom would say “Asky ta copine est ici! ” which basically means Asky your friend is here. I think they questioned my mental capacity a bit due to my obsession with their dog but who cares! I love him anyway.

Here’s the bus stop where I waited every day for the 20,

aka the least consistent, worst bus from hell ever to show itself in the south of France.

It was either early or late, or didn’t show up at all, and they loved pretending they didn’t see me with my arm up and forcing me to run after them waving my hands like a complete basket case.

And here’s where I arrived every day in Aix, listenin’ to my ipod to look cool and trying to ignore the disapproving looks aimed at my bare legs.

Look at these picturesque sights!

Lolz. Look at this pug dog sitting on its masters lap at a semi-chic cafe.

We weren’t sure if it had just come from a labotomy or if this was a natural state of a pug face.

Here’s a quick overview of a few more aix favorites.

We have O’Shannon, one of theseveralIrish pubs, and then the lovely apartment where my parents stayed when they visited! Isn’t it magical? (rhetorical question)

And here are some of Aix’s most adorable old men.  That one on the left is shelling fava beans in the street!  And that other one was just being cute and old.  I don’t know why old people are better in Europe.  They just are.

So I know I promised you a lemon buttermilk tart, and believe you me it’s coming, but there’s a train tomorrow at 7 am to London that is not going to catch itself!

So tune in next time for lemon buttermilk tart, asky pictures, an overview of my travels, and more witticisms.

Perhaps the best picture to sum up my year in France.

Stuff Growing! I want to go to there.

I have a weird, borderline unhealthy obsession with eating things that are growing on trees.  I say borderline unhealthy because it can lead to me

a) Being arrested by the police or chased off someone’s property with a shotgun or

b) Falling from a tree that some weird part of my mind insists I have to climb to get the best, highest fruit.  I may or may not have just gotten back from scaling cherry trees in my backyard in a dress and flipflops.  No broken bones yet! (knock on wood)

Here are the cherries!

They are much redder higher up.


Doesn’t it look like a poem in this context!

Almost a haiku…

Also, a picture of my backyard to place you in context.

So many little daisies! I know they’re weeds but I love them anyway

Aksy likes them too!

 Springtime in Provence is pretty darn hard to beat.  Here is a quick montage of a strawberry cake I made to celebrate my  adorable language partner Sophie’s PACS with her boyfriend Thomas!  Who is also adorable.

In the beginning, there were strawberries.

Fun fact: you should always pick your strawberries based on how strong their smell is, not based on how they look!

Step 1: Cut

Step 2: Make a cake and put the strawberries in it.

Step 3: Bake and take to a party themed Time Travel with frenchies and enjoy the chaos that ensues.

Think I may have skipped over things a bit? Here’s the recipe, from http://smittenkitchen.com.  Only thing I changed is subbing buttermilk for regular milk, because buttermilk ( or lait fermente in France) is delicious.  Weirdly, they also drink it alongside crepes in Bretagne.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pie plate
1 1/2 cups (188 grams) all-purpose flour (can swap 3/4 cup or 94 grams all-purpose flour with 3/4 cup or 75 grams of barley flour, see Note)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 cup (200 grams) plus 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup (118 ml) milk
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 pound (450 grams) strawberries, hulled and halved–>most other berries would be good too!  Next time I’m trying blackberries.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 10-inch pie pan or 9-inch deep-dish pie pan (what I used)beat butter and 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.

Pour into prepared pie plate. Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer (though I had to overlap a few to get them all in). Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.

Bake cake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325°F and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. (Gooey strawberries on the tester are a given.) Let cool in pan on a rack. Cut into wedges. Serve with lightly whipped cream.

Do ahead: Cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days, loosely covered, but good luck with that.