Saturday, June 30, 2007


Last night in Oakland. Moving to SF tomorrow. Life=going to be easier except for the barrage of visitors in and out of my house. Three Weeks Straight of company. How is a cook to make some money, nevermind show up at work, especially at 5 am?

I will admit to no longer having any sympathy when friends who don't work in the industry talk about their work and how they can't really take time off/call in sick, etc. I tend to ask them if they really, truly *can't* or if they just don't think the boss would approve, don't really have the status quo there to vacation, have already called in sick that month, and so on. Because try being the only one who can do that job, whether or not you want to, whether or not you're sick, hungover, food-poisoned (well in that case you are supposed to stay home, but who does? who does?), having company, didn't sleep the night before, were up all night cleaning up after your dog, had too much fun at the black tie party, it was New Year's Eve, and so on. When I take next Friday off from work so I can lollygag in hot n sultry wine country, it means there just won't be any special pastries for market on Saturday.

Special pastries, what a black market item. All made with love, or else humor, possibly experimentation, and sometimes bearing a strange resemblance to UFOs.

More lemon verbena love today. I made candied lemon verbena with some of the preciousness, and the mananger got carried away and asked me pretty please to put it on the lemon tarts. She tends to want me to do decorating things I'm not into (dousing things with lavender or other herbs) but sometimes I humor her. So we had lemon curd tarts with chopped verbena and little tails in the meringue stars in the middle of the large lemon meringue tarts, thyme and raspberries on the chocolate souffle tarts. Lemon verbena's my new drug of choice. Except, I just learned (and why do people not tell me these things?) that we actually have some rose geranium growing in the flowerpot right outside our store.

So I'm thinking, something with the following: graham crackers, breton dough, plums, ganache, rose geranium cream. That is really two desserts and I'm going to have a pick a course and stay my hands. What goes with plums? Damned if I know. I've only ever made plum soup from that first menu at Sonsie and that was served with lemon yogurt and some kind of tuile, and didn't go over well at all. Also thinking of making a dessert in homage to the famous plum poem. But how would I illustrate the icebox, the implied company, the requisite formica counter, the man with the neat part in his hair [for these are all things i think about when i think about plums], the sadness within that knowledge? Rose geranium cream over ganache, but from there, where? I'm not much of a poet. Brevity is not my thing and I tend to stick to the details too much, the intricacies of a lived life and worries of an anxious mind.

Avoiding packing. Not quite sure how it got to be ten o'clock. Getting better at decorating the cupcakes, according to the boss. I'm not one of those pretty,prissy girls, but damn, I always wanna try.

Oh! + shortcakes. Biscuits almost there. The cream scones I tried out today had a really nice mouthfeel, great crumb, crunchy on the outside. This recipe was from Cook's Illustrated, quite possibly the most boring if earnest food magazine ever, modified by me to include 1/3 part cake flour. Still missing the cornmeal crunch and fantastic rise of the preferred biscuits, but it's been really great to take a recipe apart and learn bit by bit why I like what I like. i also sort of want to make the biscuits but with maple syrup instead of sugar but 1)they're barely very sweet anyway, 2)there's no maple syrup here and it's not local OR seasonal, and 3)not ideal for strawberry shortcakes.

Goal for next week: to not make my shortcakes look like pac-man style monsters. I just get really excited and earnest. I want to give people LOTS of berries and LOTS of cream. Like Bakesale Betty's does. So i toss some verbena-kissed berries on the biscuit, pack a punch of whipped cream, mound more berries on top and doff the biscuit-top hat at a lovely angle. My strawberry shortcakes are the summer you wish this was. They're Nantasket beach or Crane's beach, soft serve dipped in chocolate, skinny teenaged girls with eyeliner and cigarettes hanging from their lips. My shortcakes stay out too late, soak up the heat, burn their fair Irish skin and then peel, have sand stuck between their toes. My shortcakes ain't exactly pretty but they've been around some and they think they know a thing or two but they've got another think coming. They need to be a little more contained. Or, they *should*. I'll pretend I'm making shortcakes for the Jefa. After all, they're not just going on any dough anymore.


Anonymous said...

What's up, Cake. Me again. Hope you're filling up the fridge/freezer for my visit. I'm going to need some of your sweet, sweet desserts since I so rarely get a chance to see you. If you're feeling adventurous, maybe you can give me a lesson in something I can bake when I'm back in Boston. Talk to you later.

shuna fish lydon said...

The prose here are lovely. Almost Southern in their lazy voluptuousness. Drinking mint Juleps under the Banyan tree?

But as an aside-- Verbena is not really edible. it won't kill anyone, but, even more so than rosemary, it's an herb meant to infuse and give forth of itself but not to have teeth and stomachs try to break down...

If you want your shortcakes to stay upright-- high heat in the oven and very frozen before getting in there. But I agree, Alison's, at BB, are wondrous indeed!

And speaking of time off-- if you have a Sunday free in August I think I can make you an offer you can't refuse...

Busy all the time. said...

verbena is not edible in plant form? i should infuse it, only, or primarily? when it tastes so delicious?? so much to learn, dios mio.

make me an offer--as long as it isn't the 18th/19th when i'll be lookin pretty at a southern wedding.

shuna fish lydon said...


check out the dates and subjects of my August (baking) classes, then email me directly and tell me which one you wanna come to. I'll tell you the deal over email... can't do it here: too public.

verbena should be used only to infuse, yes. Like I said, it won't hurt anyone, per se, but it's not as edible as a leaf as, let's say, mint or even thyme...