July 4th in her city – there’s nothing safe nor sane about it. It starts early in the morning with fire crackers, cherry bombs and M80s and increases throughout the day to a crescendo of sky rockets and mortars with skyward explosions akin to a war zone, putting Disneyland’s nightly display to shame. By 10 p.m., a sulfuric haze has blanketed the city and she’s thankful her roof hasn’t caught fire.
Her dog-owning neighbors hate this time of year. She, on the other hand, delights in it, lucky to be owned by two unruffled felines. This one night, her city is alive and decidedly lawless. She celebrates with a backyard party each year – more anarchistic that patriotic, except for her choice of dessert.
Coconut in the crust, and coconut milk and shredded coconut in the pastry cream ensures coconut lovers won’t be disappointed.
Coconut Pastry Crème
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons corn starch
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Graham Cracker Crust
7.5 oz. Graham crackers (2 cups crumbs)
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
Assorted fresh berries
¼ cup apricot jam
Sweetened whipped cream
Make coconut pastry crème: In a medium sauce pan, whisk together flour, corn starch, salt, and sugar. Whisk in eggs, then milk, coconut milk, and shredded coconut. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until custard is very thick, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat, and whisk in butter and vanilla extract. Scrape into bowl, press plastic wrap against the surface of the custard, and chill in refrigerator for several hours until cool.
Make graham cracker crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor, pulse graham crackers, coconut and salt until ground into crumbs. Add butter and pulse until combined and beginning to clump together. Press in the bottom and up sides of a 9” tart pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned. Cool.
To assemble: Pour pastry crème into crust and smooth. Cover with fresh berries. Heat apricot jam for 1 minute in microwave and strain. Brush berries with jam, decorate with whipped cream and toasted coconut. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Last week, a male reader questioned a slang word in one of my posts – “mansplaining.” He hadn’t heard the term. Merriam-Webster describes mansplaining as, “what occurs when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he’s talking to does.”
Some men consider the term to be a sexist Feminist word describing a non-existent phenomenon. I am here to assure my male readers that mansplaining exists. I’m not asserting that women don’t do something similar to men or that men and women don’t do it to each other – but mansplaining is a specific type of behavior perpetrated by men that, at one time or another, most women have experienced.
The larger category of behavior would be categorized (for men and women) as “talking out of your ass.” Example: A childless woman, who has changed exactly 3 diapers in her life, telling a parent of 5 children the best way to change a diaper = talking out of her ass. Within the larger “talking out of your ass” category is the subset “Mansplaining.” It’s real, it happens…trust me on this. My ultimate mansplaining story:
A male friend tried to “educate” me on what it’s like to have a menstrual cycle. Yep – I. Swear. To. God. Kudos to him for reading one article about the female body. High five for learning words like “follicular phase” and “luteal phase,” however, knowing the words doesn’t mean he will ever understand what it’s actually like to have a cycle until he’s experienced – oh, I dunno, 12 a year for 30+ years.
I’d never be so bold as to tell him what it’s like to have an erection – no matter how many articles I’ve read or how close I’ve…ehem… been to the experience.
Not all men mansplain. How do you know if you’re a mansplainer? If a woman responds to your explanation with, “You DO realized I have a degree in (fill in subject here)” [and you don’t] or “Were you aware (fill in subject here) has been my CAREER for the past 10 years” [and it’s not your career] or even a “I’m familiar with (fill in subject here) since I’ve been doing it since I was 12.” [and you’ve only read about doing it], then…you are a mansplainer. But there’s hope – the first step is admitting it.
This recipe is an ode to non- or recovering mansplainers in my life. You deserve a cookie – a rock-star of a cookie like these Compost Cookies.
All my favorite cookie flavors – plus some surprises – packed into this version of Momofuku’s famous cookie.
1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
⅔ cup packed light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup mini chocolate chips
½ cup toffee bits
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup shredded coconut
½ cup Graham Crust (see below)
⅓ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 ½ teaspoons ground coffee (not instant)
2 cups kettle potato chips
1 cup pretzel thins, roughly broken or mini pretzels
In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
Combine the butter, sugars and corn syrup in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla, and beat for 7 to 8 minutes.
the speed to low and add the flour mixture. Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
Add the chocolate chips, toffee bits, sliced almonds, shredded coconut, graham crust, oats and coffee, and mix just until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Fold in the potato chips and pretzels. Don’t overmix – try to keep the potato chips in large chunks.
Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, portion out the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Slightly flatten the tops of the cookie dough domes. Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or up to 1 week. Do not bake your cookies from room temperature—they will not bake properly.
Heat the oven to 375°. Arrange the chilled dough a minimum of 4 inches apart on parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet pans. Bake for 18 minutes. The cookies will puff, crackle and spread. After 18 minutes, they should be very faintly browned on the edges yet still bright yellow in the center. Give them an extra minute or so if that’s not the case. Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pans before transferring to a plate or an airtight container for storage.
A fancy version of a graham cracker crust. You can use your own version for the recipe above if you prefer.
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup powdered milk
2 Tablespoons sugar
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup heavy cream
Toss the graham crumbs, milk powder, sugar and salt with your hands in a medium bowl to evenly distribute your dry ingredients.
Whisk the melted butter and heavy cream together. Add to the dry ingredients and toss again to evenly distribute.
Eat immediately, or deploy as directed in a recipe. The crust is easiest to mold just after mixing. Stored in an airtight container, graham crust will keep fresh for 1 month in the fridge or freezer.
Researchers have discovered it takes a mere seven seconds to make a first – and lasting – impression.
I’m partial to the convenience and practicality of online dating – I can quickly weed out the jesus freaks, the ones who can’t string words together into a coherent sentence, the boring, the gym rats, men who live with their mamas. But still, sometimes I get it terribly wrong.
As he walked towards me, I know I’m wasting my time. What looked like “ska” in his profile, reads “dork” in person (and not the cute geek-chic kind). What read as manners on the page is really an obsessive adherence to gender roles. Once we sit down, I ask questions and he talks…about himself…I essentially interview him so he can hear himself speak. He drones on about his brainiac career, his adult children that attend MIT and Yale, about his expertise on every subject – homelessness, drugs, religion. There’s a brief pause in his self-aggrandizement to proclaim I can’t call myself an atheist since I haven’t studied the bible cover to cover (as, of course, he has). There’s mansplaining, condescension, boasting. I feel my V-jay snap shut like an abalone. I gulp down my scalding cappuccino and furtively scan the coffee house for the nearest escape hatch.
I long for a dating convention where it’s entirely acceptable for either party to walk out in the first few seconds without explanation – the seven second rule. All I think about for the next 44 minutes and 53 seconds is…I left my kitchen for this?
A roasted garlic version of Greek Htipiti, similar to romesco and a healthy yet flavorful sandwich spread and dip. I've been eating a liberal dollop of this spread on my chicken, mushroom, and spinach wraps all week. Mmmm.
8 roasted garlic cloves
8 oz. feta, crumbled
2 fire roasted red peppers (hand roasted or jarred)
2 pepperoncini, stemmed and seeded
Parsley sprigs from 6 stems parsley
Dill sprigs from 3 stems dill
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon lemon zest
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse on and off about 15 times until well combined yet still slightly chunky. Use as a sandwich spread and a dip for toasted pita chips.
It’s time for cake – help me celebrate my ten year blog-iversary today. Wow – ten years… Have I ever done anything (besides this blog) for ten years? For a girl who can’t stay dedicated to much of anything, I’m astonished to find TwoBitTart is still going. And growing – this month, I was bestowed with the most traffic ever.
But, when it comes down to it, it’s not about the click count. What makes me happiest is a reader recreating one of my recipes and posting photos (like this week) or receiving props from one of my writerly readers on my storytelling.
I started this blog in 2008 with a different name (Phorenications) and a different mission. Re-reading my very first post, I realize the content may have changed, but I haven’t, not really. No matter how many years I do this or how much my cooking, writing and photography improves, I still feel like an amateur most days. I especially love this post from 5 years ago, wondering if I’d make it to today – without having enough time to actual bake or photograph anything for my 5 year anniversary.
This year, I had time to bake – and a milestone anniversary like this one requires a celebratory cake like this Lemon Layer version with Chocolate Ganache Frosting. I’m going to eat a humongous slice – after ten years, I deserve it.
This cake is inspired by a life-changing Italian truffle. Who knew lemon and dark chocolate were made for each other? I do now!
Dark Chocolate Ganache Frosting
1 cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
2 cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring)
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup whole milk
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
Lemon Curd Filling
½ cup lemon curd
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
Make Ganache: In a medium bowl, microwave whipping cream with chocolate for 60-90 minutes. Stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature and whisk on high for 2-3 minutes.
Make Cake: Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter two 8” round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment, butter parchment and dust with flour. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Stir together milk, lemon juice, and zest (mixture will curdle). In the bowl of an eletric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add sugar gradually, beating until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Alternately add flour and milk in batches, beginning and ending with flour, mixing at low speed until just combined. Divide batter between pans, smooth tops evenly, and bake about 20 minutes, until tester comes out clean. Cool in pans on racks 10 minutes, then invert onto racks, remove paper and cool completely.
Make Lemon Curd Filling: In a medium bowl, stir together lemon curd and lemon zest. In a bowl of an electric mixer, beat whipping cream and confections sugar until it holds stiff peaks. Fold in 1/3 of whipped cream into lemon curd to lighten, then fold in remaining whipped cream.
Assemble Cake: Put one cake layer on a cake plate and spread with lemon curd filling. Top with second layer, Spread top and sides with chocolate ganache.
“You breathe in experience, and you breathe out what you make.” – Doug Aitken
This quote has been swirling around my brain today. Does this mean creating shouldn’t be a struggle – that making art is as natural as aspiration? That sounds so effortless. I wish. Or does it suggest that limited experiences, like inadequate oxygen molecules in toxic air, results in an insipid and shallow creative exhale?
In yoga, there’s a Sanskrit word, pranayama, which translates as “breath control” or “control of life force.” Pranayama is a set of breathing techniques where the breath is intentionally altered to produce specific results. In practice, when we focus on our breath, it becomes fuller, richer, more rounded. A deep, expansive inhale yields an equally full exhale.
Applied to the quote above, it would imply, indeed, that the best art requires a cache of rich experiences. Or does our internal creative process provide an avenue to transform any experience, even the drone of suburban monotony, into something wonderful?
Speaking of turning something mundane into something wonderful…this creamy, flavorful lemon, dill and caper sauce paired with fennel salad elevates humble poached salmon into something both healthy and crave worthy – fancy enough for company.
Poached salmon with fennel salad and creamy caper sauce
Starting the poaching process in cold water ensures the fish remains incredibly moist.
2 fennel bulbs, cored and thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 shallot, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
2 sprigs dill
1 bay leaf
large pinch salt
4 8-oz. skinless salmon fillets
½ cup Greek yogurt
2 Tablespoons capers, drained and roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon dill, chopped
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a small bowl, combine fennel salad ingredients and set aside to marinate.
In a large saucepan, combine water, lemon juice, shallots, celery, dill, bay, peppercorns and salt. Add salmon to poaching liquid and additional water, until poaching liquid just covers salmon (about 2 more cups).
Cover, turn heat to medium and cook salmon until internal temperature reaches 115°F, about 18 minutes. Carefully transfer salmon to a plate and chill until cold.
To make yogurt sauce, combine all ingredients and chill. If too thick, add a bit of water or milk.
Serve salmon over fennel Salad liberally drizzled with yogurt sauce.