A Stand Innovation

The star of this year’s spring-forward brunch made an encore appearance a week ago Sunday, 15 years after its debut at the same event. Transparent, simple, and requiring a bit of coaxing to stand on center stage, it’s one of my most prized possessions because I designed it: a seven-tier tart stand to accommodate and vertically display quiches or tarts ranging from smallest (4 3/4-inch) to largest (12 1/2-inch), enough to serve 36 people.

The 18 1/4-inch  stand assembles from the bottom up and disassembles for storage, an essential feature for any kitchen where real estate is in short supply. Six identical clear plastic washers evenly separate seven precisely laser-cut disks twisted down a skeletal rod, a process accomplished with some finesse. But considering its modest origin as a series of doodles, dimensions, and measurements, it’s still a functional and practical vessel to serve delicately portioned, pre-sliced savories and sweets at room temperature. And thanks to the proximity and speedy turnaround of a now-defunct plastic store on Canal Street, bringing the doodles to life was a piece of cake.

disassembled translucent seven-tier tart stand

disassembled translucent seven-tier tart stand

The assembled stand vertically displays 7 tarts from smallest (4 3/4-inch) to largest (12 1/2-inch)

The assembled stand vertically displays 7 tarts from smallest (4 3/4-inch) to largest (12 1/2-inch)

For spring-forward, I served two kinds of quiche, alternating a display of the classic Quiche Lorraine, rich and bacony, with a vegetarian option, Roasted Red Pepper and Poblano. I based my shallow tart versions on Ruth Levy Beranbaum’s inspirational The Pie and Pastry Bible, an indispensable recipe collection and resource on the science of baking pastries.

Seven tiers of two different quiches served at spring-forward brunch 2013

Seven tiers of two different quiches served at spring-forward brunch 2013

Beranbaum’s recipes call for 9 1/2-inch prebaked crusts, but I easily converted recipes for smaller and larger tart pans, listed below, by multiply the ingredient quantities (in grams and milliliters) for both crust and fillings by the factor indicated in parentheses below (a simple calculation of relative volume). Frequent bakers will find that it’s well worth investing in a digital scale such as the one I happen to own.

I recommend these nonstick fluted tart pans (one-inch deep)  to make quiche in the following sizes:

4 3/4-inch (.25)
5 1/2-inch (.34)
7 3/4-inch (.67)
9 1/2-inch (1)
10-inch (1.11)
11-inch (1.34)
12-inch (1.73)

Ice Cream That’s Fit for a King

A 1970’s commercial and its infectious jingle touts the quintessential Americanness of baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. (For a trip down memory lane, click here.) I’d argue that ice cream is as beloved here as hot dogs and apple pie, though its popularity predates America. It was served in the court of Charles II of England, who reigned in the 17th century.

Of all the ice creams I’ve enjoyed in my life—and I come from a family of ice cream lovers (my grandfather Gordon was known to enjoy a nightly bowl of vanilla ice cream before bedtime)—I think red-wine ice cream has to be among the most decadent in terms of complexity of flavor, luxuriousness of ingredients, and cost per bite. A roughly two-hour process (not including additional hardening time in the freezer), it’s made with nine egg yolks, heavy cream, whole milk, two bottles of cabernet sauvignon (each reduced down to one-eighth of its original volume), cinnamon sticks, a dash of whole black peppercorns and a dash of pure vanilla extract. It’s the Champagne of ice cream, to be savored on special occasions.

I first eyed and clipped the recipe for it  in 2004; it was published in The New York Times Magazine along with a recipe for upside-down fig cake, its suggested pairing. This was before it was so commonplace to find recipes online, and I’m happy to see that this ingenious confection is now within reach of a broader Internet audience. (Readers aware of red-wine ice cream purveyors, I’d love to know of and taste-test alternative sources for days when I don’t have time to make it or just a scoop will do.)

I’ve served it frequently at dinner parties and intimate gatherings, including a social I hosted for my small residential co-op. But gifting a pint of it to my friend (and neighbor) as a birthday-and-congratulations-on-the-bar-opening-gift, packaged in a Chinese takeout container, was a first. If you need a gift idea for the person who has everything (and you live sufficiently close by for a handoff before it melts), it’s hard to top homemade red-wine ice cream. I think even Charles II would agree.

If you are in the market for an ice cream maker, check out this site. The first two listed are brands that Cooks Illustrated, my favorite food magazine, also recommends in its 2010 review.

64-ounce paper Chinese takeout container, available at Pearl River Department Store for $1.25.

Tag and label from Paper Presentation

A Foodie Faceoff

It seems only fitting to start this blog with what inspired it: a memoir essay I wrote for a food writing class taught by cookbook author Corinne Trang. The positive class feedback I received on this piece, and Corinne’s advice to my class of aspiring food writers to start blogging and develop our food writing voices, lit the fire in me to take the leap.

“Repeat after me, Gammer. Crumb buns,” said my older brother Maurie, correcting our grandmother as she prepared what she liked to call “crumble cake.” It was 1963, and at four years old, he was barely big enough to stand on his tiptoes so he could supervise her method of scrambling eggs. But he was already a perfectionist, culinary critic, semanticist and future iron chef.  Continue reading