Archive for May, 2012

Pipe Dream #112: To Minster Myself – York

I wish I could Minster myself. Like, be so cool that I didn’t even have to add my last name onto anything. Yeah, Lauren Minster. When I heard about the York Minster, which is the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern England, I thought, “Wait, the York Minster Cathedral? The York Minster Abbey? Like Westminster Abbey?” Nope. Just York Minster. The Minster.

Anyway, I got to see it. It was cool, even if it was under construction.

York actually had a lot of intersting things in it. It was all very romantic and picturesque.

This street is called The Shambles. The houses are built so close together that you can shake hands with the person across the street from the top windows. I think it looks like Diagon Alley.

And I really have nothing to say about this picture, except that I ask you to please note the weirdness of his fingers and then reconsider his statement. Sure, man.


Rando Tuesdays: French Bakes

All the pastries in France were beautiful. I mean, compared to Germany, where it seemed like everything was heavy bread and cream cakes, France was full of whipped cream and puff pastry. I tried croissants here (clearly), and ate a multitude of other pastries for breakfast every day. Beignets, profiteroles, meringue tarts, you name it.

La Durée was one of the best pastry shops I visited. Everything was cute and pastel and perfect. The pastries were immaculate, and the attention to detail astonished me. Look at them! And they were 10 euros each, or something ridiculous like that.

The macaroons were also really fun. They come in all colors and flavors. They seem really fussy to make, so I’m glad I could try them without doing the work.

And I visited one place with walls full of chocolate and caramels. Yes please. I couldn’t help myself. I bought a little jar of caramel sel here, which is heaven in a jar.

Happy Tuesday,



Pipe Dream #111: To Have A Green Thumb – Olive Oil, Almond & Polenta Cupcakes

I’ve never liked gardening very much. Don’t get me wrong–I have tried to like gardening. I mean, it seems like a pretty cool and trendy and hipster thing to like, growing your own heirloom tomatoes and having an herb garden.
My excuses are that I never have time to do it, that I don’t have my own garden, and that I’m too busy, but what it really comes down to is the work of it. I don’t like the idea of standing out in the beating sun, breaking my back picking weeds and getting dirt under my fingernails. It’s supposed to be this extremely satisfying, relaxing thing, and I haven’t got the maturity to get it yet.
I might try it this year. The heirloom tomatoes, I mean. And to try and gear myself up for it, I am posting these flowery cupcakes I made. They are made with polenta and olive oil, which makes them feel even more garden-y. :] They were very light and eggy and almondy, since I substituted the vanilla for almond extract.
If I could do this recipe again, I would bake them in a regular oven, rather than the convection oven. There was a certain amount of crunch from the polenta which may or may not have been normal. I think if they were baked slower and longer, the polenta would have softened up a bit more.
I piped a swirl starting in the center of the cupcake, which made a flat surface upon which to arrange the flowers. Some of them featured a single bloom…
…while others were mini gardens unto themselves.
This is probably the best garden you’ll ever see out of me.
Someday I’ll grow up,
Olive Oil, Almond & Polenta Cupcakes
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Ready For Dessert
For the cakes:
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup polenta
or stone-ground corn meal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon almond extract or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

  2. Smear 1 tablespoon butter all over the inside of a 10-cup (2.5-liter) Bundt cake or tube pan, or line 2 muffin pans with cupcake liners.. Sprinkle the 2 teaspoons of rosemary evenly into the pan, then dust with the 2 tablespoons (20 g) of polenta, tilting the pan to coat the sides.

  3. To make the cake, in a small bowl, sift together the flour, 3/4 cup (130 g) polenta, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk the olive oil, eggs, egg yolks, and almond or vanilla extract.

  4. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl by hand), beat together 1/2 cup (4 ounces/115 g) butter and the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly dribble in the egg mixture, a little at a time, until completely incorporated. Stir in the flour mixture along with the 4 teaspoons of rosemary until just incorporated. Don’t over mix.

  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool for about 30 minutes, then invert the cake onto a serving plate.

For the buttercream:
2 sticks (226 grams) butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream

In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

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