A Newsletter #23
one tiramisu, two typos, seven other desserts worth making
|Alison Roman||Dec 24, 2020||34||15|
Welcome to A Newsletter #23, also TODAY’S DATE! I realize that is not that interesting, but if you think about it happening the SAME WEEK as WINTER SOLSTICE and also THE GREAT CONJUNCTION, well…idk what that means. If you’ve found your way over by some miracle but are not yet subscribed, here, let me help you with that:
There are a lot of things that keep me up at night, but “discovering a typo in a cookbook I’ve written, edited, and sent to the printer” is really up there. Try as authors might to NOT have this happen, it….happens! Unfortunately for anyone trying to make the Sheet Cake with Mascarpone and Coffee in Nothing Fancy, it happened…twice. In the same recipe, I know. Once in the recipe for the sheet cake itself (🥴) and once again in the assembly of the actual dish (🥴🥴). It’s truly wild how many times these recipes are cooked, tested, read, edited, copy edited, and then read and edited some more. AND YET.
Anyway, I have been getting a LOT of messages about this recipe over the last week or so, which to me, indicates ppl are really keen to make this very shareable, kind-of-festive, fast-if-you-don’t-make-the-cake-part dessert sooner rather than later.
While this typo was fixed in the second (or third?) printing, here I am, almost one full calendar year after publication to set the record straight. My sincerest apologies to all who tried to make this dish and were confused at how one stick of butter could possibly be one cup (it can’t! I meant one stick, 1/2 cup) or what to do with the whipped cream mixture and whipped egg mixture (fold them together!). Please consider this a formal correction and PLEASE make this dessert, it is wonderful (serves as many as you need it to, which is to say it can serve two because it’s great the next day and the day after that).
Serves 8 to 10
Storebought ladyfingers definitely reign supreme in a classic tiramisu, but they’re kind of annoying to cut into nice, even slices if that’s what you’re after (and that’s what I was after, hence why this one was called “sheet cake with…”). Regular yellow cake is good, but not quite porous enough to get truly and properly soaked, which is why I vouch for/recommend using angel food cake (recipe follows). When whipping both the egg yolk and the mascarpone mixtures, make sure they’re stiffer than you think they should be— they will be providing the stability to the final product (loose, soupy cream mixture will never properly “set”, no matter how long it rests in the fridge).
For the cream:
4 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar, divided
½ cup heavy cream
Vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (optional)
2 cups (16 ounces) mascarpone
For the assembly:
1 ¾ cups good espresso or very strong coffee (see Note)
2 tablespoons rum, whiskey, or cognac
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, divided
Almost Angel Food Cake (recipe follows) or 1 (7-ounce) package of ladyfingers (about 24)
Make the cream. Using a stand mixer or an electric hand beater, in a medium bowl, whip the egg yolks and 1⁄4 cup sugar until very pale yellow, tripled in volume, and holds a slight ribbon when the beaters are lifted. Transfer to a large bowl.
Whip the cream, a pinch of salt, the vanilla bean, if using, and the remaining 1⁄4 cup sugar in the mixer bowl until you’ve got soft peaks. Add the mascarpone and continue to whip until you’ve got a soft, pillowy mixture with medium peaks.
Gently fold the cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture until you’ve got one bowl of fluffy, eggy, spreadable whipped cream.
Assemble. Combine the espresso and rum in a small bowl. Using a sifter or powdered sugar shaker, dust the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the cocoa powder.
Place half of the cake (or a layer of ladyfingers) in the bottom of the baking dish and, using a spoon or pastry brush, douse with half the espresso mixture. Evenly spread half the mascarpone mixture onto the cake, and repeat with the remaining cake, espresso, and mascarpone mixtures. Dust the top layer with the remaining tablespoon of cocoa powder. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.
DO AHEAD: This can be made and assembled and kept refrigerated for at least 3 days.
Almost Angel Food Cake
Serves 8 to 10
Unlike a classic angel food cake, this recipe has lots of melted butter (hence: “almost angel food cake” Almost an angel! Who among us can relate). That means it’s a little denser but still lighter than the average cake, ideal for soaking in lots of strong coffee.
1 ½ cups cake (not self-rising) or all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk the flour and baking powder together until no lumps remain. If you’d like, you can sift this mixture, knowing that this will be one of very few times I would even suggest such a thing; set aside.
Combine the butter, oil, and vanilla; set aside.
Using an electric mixer on medium-high, beat the egg whites till light, foamy, and frothy, a minute or two. Gradually add the sugar, a tablespoon or so at a time, letting the egg whites get more opaque and voluminous between additions, until sugar is incorporated. Add the salt and lemon juice and beat to blend.
Using a spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the egg whites. Be gentle here, remembering that the goal is to keep this batter (and then the cake) as light, fluffy, and full of air as possible. Once the flour is nearly all the way incorporated, gently (!) fold in the butter mixture.
Spread out onto the prepared baking sheet, smoothing the top, and bake, rotating once, until golden brown and the cake is pulling away slightly from the sides of the pan, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool entirely.
DO AHEAD: Cake can be baked 2 days ahead, kept wrapped tightly at room temperature.
QUARANTINE ACTIVITIES: HOLIDAY BAKING EDITION
If it is not painfully clear yet, I am 100% more of a “here, I made you a giant dish of what is essentially pudding, let us all eat that with a spoon together at this table” kind of dessert maker. Cookies just seem like….they take too long. There’s the dough and the chilling and the baking and ugh just give me a 2qt. vessel full of whipped dairy already. That said, below you’ll find five very nice holiday cookies and two festive chocolate desserts (one tart, one cake, both basic yet excellent: the personal brand I aspire to) to occupy yourself from here till whenever because what is a holiday, time is a flat circle, etc. The nice thing about the following desserts is that they take kindly to any number of imperfections, making them good for bakers of any level (as my Soul Cycle instructor who is MENTIONED IN THIS WILD ARTICLE once said, “perfect is boring!”). While you wait for these things to chill or bake or whatever, do yourself a favor and read this 2020 brilliance by Allison P. Davis, and this delight of a Cher profile by Caity Weaver, notorious cookie baker (Caity, not Cher).
This is, to me, the gold standard of chocolate tarts. It’s intense and for real *chocolate heads* only, that said, as a decidedly fruit dessert based person, I find this to be absolutely delightful because it has lots of salt and reminds me of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (the perfect candy- sorry, Justin!). Good for ppl who “don’t bake”, the crust is pressed in and the filling doesn’t need to bake. “How easy is that?”
This fluffy cloud cake is tender, crispy, chocolatey and gluten-free on accident. I ask you to buy hazelnut or almond flour which I know is a drag, so if you don’t want to do that you can leave it out, you’ll just get a fudgier texture, something closer to a brownie (THIS IS NOT A BROWNIE THOUGH).
Originally published in Dining In but since published in many other spaces (hi, Deb!), so you may have come across or even made this recipe before. But here it is because to exclude it would be cookie erasure and truly, to this day, I struggle to enjoy a cookie more. Remember:
Beat the butter and sugar for longer than you think- it should be creamy and thick but malleable like pomade.
If the dough looks sandy after you’ve added the flour, turn it out onto your work surface and knead it a few times-- if you’ve followed the measurements, it will come together. The finished dough should feel like play-doh.
If you’re having trouble slicing the cookie log, let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to lightly soften the dough. You do not have to use a special knife.
If the cookies break while slicing, just smoosh them back together.
If the cookies look like the edges are melting, you put too much eggwash on the outside.
If you are “into” chewy cookies with an adult, slightly spicy “molasses ginger” flavor then you will “love” these chewy ginger molasses cookies.
A cookie for the ones who intersect on the venn diagram of “loves new york” and “loves sesame seeds”. Are they annoying to decorate? You bet. Do you have anything else to do? Maybe not! (P.S. Ever try to dye frosting black? Impossible. Black sesame seeds? Already black! You love to see it. Again, if you don’t like sesame seeds, please do not make this cookie).
These are gluten-free! Isn’t that exciting? Please please please resist the urge to make them larger than I tell you-- trust in the process, I promise they spread a LOT. And if they are appearing too flat after baking, they need to be baked a little longer (you made them larger than I said, didn’t you?).
If you, like me, fantasize about eating entire tubs of those danish cookies that come in the blue tin but actually have no idea where to buy those tins, then you are in LUCK. Behold: These cookies. I will say, like ketchup, homemade will never taste the same as store-bought, but these get very close and if you forget the A/B comparison, truly hold their own.
For the month of December, a portion of profits from paid subscriptions will go to Feeding America, an organization working to fight domestic hunger and food insecurity. Learn more about them here.
Past supported organizations to put on your radar: The Okra Project / Food Issues Group / La Cocina / Heart of Dinner / ACLU / FAIR FIGHT