Posts Tagged ‘cornstarch’


Toad-In-The-Hole, an egg, sausage, and rosemary dish baked inside Yorkshire pudding batter. My recipe was a gift from a Manchester, UK reader, and it’s so deliriously satisfying that I will never make another.

Hygge (pronounced like a tugboat’s horn: HOO-gah) is a old Danish word that’s difficult to translate into English. My best definition: It’s the well-being that results from surrounding oneself with comfort, safety, and, if Pottery Barn has anything to say about it, off-white boucl√© throw pillows.

I’m not knocking Pottery Barn, mind you; once I learned about hygge, I realized my own North Star has been leading me toward the concept all my life, including my love for that store’s aesthetic, which is totally doable without the price tag. The New York Times recently advised people who were seeking hygge to take the following as a Step One: ‘Go home, and stay there.’ A fair starting point.

As someone who can get overwhelmed easily—a door prize from my childhood—I will probably always gravitate toward hygge. The photos below show some of my favorite things to eat to feel soothed and safe, but this is really a way of life, if you can swing it—a way to live more civilized life.

My methods (and you’ll have your own, and I would love to hear about them):

-Using only wooden, glass, or ceramic dishware. Plastic and metal are a no-go.

-Yoga every morning.

-Serving my most I’m-glad-you’re-here dessert to guests: a hot, fresh, fudgy brownie, a blop of melting homemade ice cream on top, served in a bowl.

-My fireplace, which is gas, but still way cool.

-Changing the feel of my place with every season; most recently, a fresh Christmas tree in my bedroom and vintage Advent calendars from my neighbor, long gone and much missed.

-Breathing in fresh cold air after a snowfall, and wearing my best snowball-making mittens from when I was 12 (I didn’t get much bigger).


-Traveling on my bike as soon as it’s warm enough to, as much as I can.

-Getting virtually all of my furniture secondhand so it has a little soul to it. I find it in antiques stores, from friends, and from garage-sale lawns. I refinish it to make it my own, and sew my own pillows and curtains. (Not really good at it, but they hold together.)

-Vanilla extract made from vanilla beans and local vodka. Laundry detergent made from Borax, washing powder, and Ivory soap. Fresh herbs wrapped in cheesecloth and hung to dry.

-Reading the delicious essays in the weekend Times.

-Cooking from scratch. (Making sausage bread next. Yowza, and stay tuned.)

-Hanging my own work on the walls of my place—photography, drawings, and pebbles I’ve collected from all over the world.

-Very thick hot chocolate made with great-quality semisweet chips, milk (or make it with half milk, half cream, if you want to see me genuflect), and a smidge of cornstarch.

-It’s astonishing how much clutter stresses people out. I shoo it right out the door so it never has a chance to put up its feet.

-Relaxing in ten-year-old L.L. Bean flannel pajamas and blogging, like, say, right now.

-Laughing really hard with friends.

-Bringing a little bite of something good to share when I visit someone.

-Cooking to ABBA, or classical music, or the Mamas and the Papas, or The Cure. Any music.

-Celebrating Chocolate Day every third day (to stave off migraines), and eating organic dark chocolate on my favorite little 1960s-era plate that once belonged to my aunt.

-Opening the windows and leaving them open as soon as I can every season. I am happiest when the indoors feels as much like the outdoors as possible.

-Living where the ocean mist rolls down the streets on foggy mornings.

-The hiss and bubbling of old radiators.

-Feeling the charged energy in the air on Mischief Night and Christmas Eve.

-Reading fairy tales, different versions of each, and then studying the analyses of each. Scrumptious.

-Freshly laundered cotton sheets, a down comforter, and a cool, dark bedroom. A horizon I’m heading toward very soon.

Peace & love.


Hot homemade sourdough bread with melting Kerrygold butter.


Shepherd’s pie, properly made with lamb. The UK knows from hygge, even if it’s not their word. Chronically gloomy skies demand it to preserve the sanity of the people.


Maple cream tart.


Local apples on a reclaimed vintage farm bench.




Mozzarella in carrozza, a grilled-cheese sandwich that’s battered before it’s fried.


I think I put five pounds of apples in this dude. An avalanche of fruit every time I sliced it.

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Hot chocolate is something almost everyone likes. Even those who aren’t fans of chocolate cake or brownies will usually accept a hot chocolate. There’s something so comforting, so nostalgic, about it, the way it conjures up memories of being drawn into the safety of home and kitchen, where any negative stuff that happened during the day floats away in the steam of what’s brewing on the stove. Those of us lucky enough to have had a cup of hot chocolate waiting when we got in from wet January school days or from snowball fights don’t forget.

This perfect little time machine of a drink can come from a blue packet and hot water. If that’s what you remember, and want to remember, knock yourself out. If that’s something you’d rather not remember, and rather want something celestial, here it is.*

This recipe makes one intensely thick, velvety mug of hot chocolate, one you could feasibly drink without a spoon, but having a spoon really helps.

First, take out a good mug—something worthy of what it’s about to contain. Nothing wussy for this. Thick earthenware or ceramic does the trick best. If it has little stenciled snowflakes on it, all the better.

Next, take out a small, heavy saucepan. Set it on the counter and put in a cup of milk**, 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch that you’ve put through a strainer (just to get any lumps out), and a little handful of very good quality chocolate***. I know hand sizes are different. Mine is dinky, and the amount I use, about 1/4 cup, works well for me. But if you have big hands and/or a tendency to speak in tongues after consuming too much chocolate, scale back.

Here’s what it looks like when it’s all in:

Turn on the heat to medium and stir with a whisk to help melt the chocolate and bring everything together. This takes a minute or so. Keep stirring.

Here it is when it’s getting hot and is almost combined:

Next it will boil a little, even though you’re still whisking. That’s okay, but turn the heat down slightly to medium low so it doesn’t get crazy. Burnt milk in a pan is a drag to clean. Once it starts boiling and you’ve turned down the heat, stir for two minutes. It will look like this when it’s done:

Take the pan off the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes to regroup. Then use a rubber spatula to pour it into your very appropriate mug. If you have a homemade marshmallow on you, by all means, grace your drink with it. A blob of highly slurpable real whipped cream is nice, too.

Now take your drink and spoon and sit and look out at the snow falling. If it’s not, imagine that it’s snowing. You’re already halfway there.

*That sounded judgmental, I know. But you haven’t tried this yet.

**Faithful reader Dawn is an advocate of organic milk, and so am I. It really does taste creamier, not to mention you won’t be ingesting pesticides, hormones and steroids. Doesn’t matter if you use whole or low fat milk—the higher the fat, the yummier, of course—but I regularly use 1% and love it.

***I used 60% bittersweet chocolate buttons here, but I actually like semisweet better for hot chocolate. It has a really appealing tang that bittersweet doesn’t. Organic chocolate will taste cleaner, if that makes sense. Purer. You can also use good quality white chocolate. Really good, and if you save some to drink cold in the morning, it tastes a little like a milkshake.

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I love pumpkin pie as much as the next chick, really I do. But October has this treat written all over it.

Cider syrup does not come in a jar or a bottle (not that I know of, anyway; and even if it was, this version is probably better just because it’s homemade in your own cute little cucina). You can cook it up in about 20 minutes, your house will smell incredible, and your family will think you’ve been sneaking away for private lessons with the Barefoot Contessa.

Take out a small saucepan and put in 1/2 c sugar, 2 tbsp cornstarch, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp nutmeg.* Mix it up.

Next add 2 c apple cider, and if you can get it with nothing added, all the better, because the flavor will be more intense.**

Add a couple of apples, peeled and sliced as thickly or as thinly as you like. Use different varieties, if you can get them. Any will do except maybe Macintosh, which tends to plotz in the pan. Hang onto those for applesauce.

Boil, stirring, for one minute. Take it off the heat and add a pat of butter for richness. Stir. Done.

The syrup should be goopy and gorgeously aromatic. It’s great hot over pancakes or waffles, which is how I grew up eating it (Dad would make pancakes with apples in the batter and then we’d spoon this stuff over it). Put a square of hot gingerbread or hot pumpkin bread in a shallow bowl and dump some of this, cold, on top, for breakfast, and you’ll feel like you have nothing to do all day but putter around the bed-and-breakfast wearing Ugg slippers and reading House Beautiful. Or do what I do: put the syrup in a Tupperware, stick it in the fridge until it gets good and cold, then take a spoon to it. Sometimes I feel guilty doing this, knowing full well how many other worthwhile ways I could be enjoying this, but it doesn’t last long.

I just bought little local, organic Bartlett pears from the farmers’ market and am going to try them in a riff off this recipe, with cardamom, my current obsession, substituted for the cinnamon, and pear brandy, steaming hot over vanilla ice cream.¬† Brown sugar instead of regular granulated sugar would be good too. Any other riffs you can think of? I’m all eyes.

*Saigon cinnamon, available in my local supermarket and possibly in yours, makes such a difference in pungency and fragrance that I don’t bother using any other kind of cinnamon in any of my baking. Same goes for using nutmeg in its original seed form. It’s about the size of a hazelnut, and again, can be found fairly easily. Just grab a cheese grater, or better, one of those neato microplane graters, and grate some right into your bowl. Don’t fret too much about measuring. Yes, you can use ordinary cinnamon and ground nutmeg and get decent results. But only decent.

** NJ shore residents: Don’t fool around and just head straight to Delicious Orchards.

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