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.

Favorite Shot: Spring Begets

Spring Begets Bugs, An Equation

Spring=End of May=Almost June

Almost June=Summer=Camp=Camp Bugs.

Therefore Spring=Camp Bugs



Someone Got It Right: The Cinque Terre

Thank you, God, for this beautiful place. Thank you for giving Rick Steves the gift for writing travel guides. Thank you for grueling 90-minute hikes that are the ultimate reward in workout and photos. It was just what I needed.



Rando Tuesdays: People Who Are Creative

There was this girl who sat behind me in class for a while. She is, like, real creative and cute. She would always draw on her notes and make them into art. I find it hard to concentrate on the class and draw, but some people have the gift.

We went on a missions trip together, and one night, the three of us girls decided to make a gift for our host family. We made chocolate cake with boiled flour frosting, and filled with raspberry jam. It was divine.

But the best part was that Karalie took over the decorating with her typical flowers. I couldn’t have done it better.

Thank you very much; I will try that sometime please. You can too! Just buy some of that gel stuff from the grocery store, no assembly required.

Happy decorating,


Pipe Dream #110: To Not Burn Out (And Pay Damage Deposits) – Apple Tarte Tatin

Please please please follow the directions on this recipe. I promise it will turn out for you. I know because it is smittenkitchen’s recipe, and they always turn out. I also know because half of it (the pastry) turned out for me. The other half was clearly my fault, and due to my lack of proper utensils. I know, I know. A bad cook always blames her tools, right? But in this case, it was so true. And I was having a bad day. So despite the awful-looking, burnt pictures of this classic French tarte tatin, please make this. It is yummy and apple-y and caramel-y.

Not burnt and broken, like mine.

Here’s what went down: I knew I didn’t have the right pan, but I decided to MacGyver the thing anyway. I was in France, I wanted to make something French, ok? My heart was set.

I cut up the butter, and subsequently cut in the butter and made the pastry. After I had arranged the apples in the pan and set it on the stovetop, I got somewhat distracted by this, the other half of our dinner. There was also a whole chicken involved in the mix.

You too? It’s ok.

So there it was, bubbling away, when I noticed a funny burnt smell coming from the stovetop. 30 seconds was the difference between a dark caramel and a half-burnt caramel.

It took three hours, two knives and a heart full of remorse to fully remove the burnt caramel from that Pyrex. I was also potentially motivated by the fact that this was not my flat and that I would pay the damage deposit on it were there any, ahem, damage to the flat and the baking utensils therein.

For rainy days,


Apple Tarte Tatin

Adapted from smittenkitchen

1 stick plus two tablespoons cold salted butter (5 ounces), cut into cubes and chilled in freezer
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 1/2 cup flour
3 to 6 tablespoons ice water

7 medium apples
1 stick (4 ounces) salted butter
1 cup sugar

Prepare Crust: You can definitely use a food processor for this, but I used knives as I didn’t have a food processor. Pre-mix the flour and sugar in the food processor container, and cube the butter on a plate. Then put the dry ingredients and the butter in the freezer for a while. This will get everything, including the blade and container, nice and chilled. The colder everything is, the flakier and more tender your crust will be. Prepare about 1/3 cup ice water and refrigerate.

After you’ve chilled everything for at least 20 minutes, add the cubes of butter to dry ingredients and pulse until the largest pieces of butter are no bigger than tiny peas.

Add the ice water a little at a time, processing just until the dough starts to come together into a mass. Don’t overprocess it. Turn out onto well-floured surface and pat together into a ball. Don’t handle the dough too much, or the warmth of your hands will start to melt the butter. Flour the top of the dough and use rolling pin to quickly press and roll the dough out into a 10 to 11-inch circle. Keep turning the dough as you do this to make sure it doesn’t stick to the rolling surface. Throw more flour underneath the dough if necessary. Check the crust to make sure it’s just big enough to cover the top of your tarte tatin pan. Move the crust onto a piece of parchment paper or onto a floured rimless baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Prepare filling: Preheat oven to 375° F.

Peel, core and quarter the apples. Don’t cut them into smaller pieces than quarters–the quarters shrink considerably during cooking. You can squeeze a bit of lemon on them, but it’s not necessary.

Over low heat in a heavy, ovenproof skillet measuring 7 to 8 inches across the bottom and 10 to 11 inches across the top, melt the stick of butter. Remove from heat, add the sugar and stir until blended.

Shake the pan so the butter-sugar mixture distributes evenly across the bottom. Arrange apple quarters in pan, first making a circle inside the edge of the pan. Place them on their sides and overlap them so you can fit as many as possible. Then fill the center of the pan; you may have some apple left over. Keep at least one extra apple quarter on hand–when you turn the apples over, they may have shrunk to the extent that you’ll need to cheat and fill in the space with an extra piece. This one piece won’t get quite as caramelized as the other pieces, but don’t worry–it will still cook through and no one will notice.

Return your pan to the stovetop on high heat. Let boil for 10 to 12 minutes or until the juices in the pan turn from golden in color to dark amber. Remove from heat. With the tip of a sharp knife, turn apple slices over, keeping them in their original places. If necessary, add an extra slice of apple to keep your arrangement intact. Return to the stovetop on high heat once more. Let cook another 5 minutes and then remove from heat.

Place the crust on top of the apples and brush off excess flour. Tuck edges under slightly, along the inside of the pan, being careful not to burn fingers. You can use your knife.

Bake in oven until the top of the crust is golden-brown in color, about 25-35 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack about 30 minutes.

Run a sharp knife along the inside edge of the pan. Place a plate or other serving dish on top of the pan and quickly flip over the whole shebang so the tarte drops down onto the plate. The pan will still be hot, so use potholders and be careful! Don’t burn yourself or drop stuff! If you are feeble and clumsy, get someone stronger and more coordinated than you to do this. Peek under the edge of the pan to see if the Tarte came out. If there are any pieces of apple left behind in the pan or otherwise out of place, carefully put them back where they are supposed to be.

This keeps well for about a day at room temperature; if you have to refrigerate it, warm it up slightly before serving.

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