Posts Tagged ‘Epiphany’

Barking Epiphany

Monday, January 5th, 2015

new year

Happy New Year! I hope you’re all sharing the optimism I have about 2015. It’s odd that just turning a page on the calendar should make one feel hopeful. Nevertheless, I can’t help feeling that this New Year will bring wonderful things.

Even before Epiphany I had an epiphany about my work. I am shifting gears bookwise. I spent a lot of time last year testing recipes for my book of funeral foods. Nevertheless, I haven’t established the right tone in my writing for the narrative. So that book is being postponed until after I finish another project that is percolating in my brain and laptop. Stay tuned for developments!

Meanwhile, as Epiphany strikes I want to share one last Christmas recipe. As many of you may know, for the last couple of years I have done holiday sales at a local branch of Williams-Sonoma in order to make extra money for year-end giving. My knees aren’t always thrilled with the job, but the people I work with are great.

Moreover, I have always strongly believed that everyone needs to spend some time doing retail work. This experience helps us remember to be extra nice to the people behind the counter when we shop.

Williams-Sonoma’s signature Christmas product is its peppermint bark. We have been handing out samples of this confection for a month and a half now, and it has ALMOST disappeared from the shelves.

Our store’s resident chef mentioned recently that one of the other stores had held a contest asking customers what they would make using the bark. This of course got me wondering what I would make myself—and it didn’t take me long to come up with something! I decided on a peppermint icebox cake.

The end product, as you can see below, looked appropriate for the season—rather like a log in snow. Another time I might crumble the peppermint bark a bit more; as you can see, its bits resembled dirty rocks in the snow. Or I might just use crushed candy canes. The flavor was pretty darn terrific, however. And I can’t really think of anything simpler to make.

I wish you all a wonderful new year full of good work, good health, and good food.


Barking Icebox Cake


2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1 package (9 ounces) Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers (these flat, round chocolate cookies are difficult but not impossible to find; just ask around at area grocery stores)
1/2 cup crumbled peppermint bark or peppermint candy


Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold in the vanilla and extract.

Spread about 1-1/2 tablespoons of the cream mixture onto a wafer. Top it with another wafer. Stack the creamed wafers standing up until you have 9 or 10 wafers; then gently lay the stack on its side on a serving plate. Repeat, adding to the horizontal stack, until you have used up the remaining wafers.

Cover the log of stacks with the remaining whipped cream.

Refrigerate, gently covered, for at least 4 hours.

Remove from the fridge just before serving and garnish the cake with the crumbled candy. Slice diagonally so that black-and-white bars appear.

Serves 8 to 10.

pepp bark

Rustic Apple Tart

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Last night my family celebrated Epiphany a little early with a simple but hearty supper of soup, bread, and apple tart, followed by a vigorous game of Clue.
I’ve written before about my love of Epiphany. The quiet final day of Christmas, it celebrates light, hope, and winter magic.
You could make much fancier desserts than this one for Epiphany. Last year I shared TWO recipes for Galette des Rois, one for chefs and one for klutzes—and the previous year I posted a gaudy Mardi Gras version of King Cake.
This scaled down version of a galette is delicious and ever so easy. A rustic tart, in case you hadn’t guessed, is one that looks really, really homemade—my personal specialty. This recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman, the king of simple and sweet.
If you want the recipe for the soup we served with the tart, please consider buying my book about my mother, Pulling Taffy. Happy Epiphany!
Tarte aux Pommes Rustique
1-1/4 cups flour
4 tablespoons sugar, plus 2 tablespoons later
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold sweet butter, plus a bit for dotting later
1 egg yolk
ice water as needed
3 apples, cut into rough slices
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons peach jam (optional)
In a cold bowl combine the flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, and salt. Carefully cut in the butter, making sure not to mix it in too finely.
Whisk together the egg yolk and 3 tablespoons of the water. Use a fork to stir them into the butter mixture. Add a little more cold water as needed to make the dough capable of forming into a ball (but barely).
Wrap the ball of dough in wax paper and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour.
At the end of the hour, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pat the dough into a circle about 10 inches in diameter (the rougher looking the better; remember; we’re being “rustique” here) on a nonstick cookie pan with edges that come up at the sides (so nothing can spill into your oven).
Toss the apple pieces into the cinnamon and remaining sugar. Arrange the tossed apple pieces on your crust. If desired, heat the jam and drizzle it over the apples Dot with butter.
Bake until the crust browns nicely (it’s best a little crispy), about 20 to 30 minutes.

Serves 6 to 8.

Farewell, little tree!


The Last Gasp of Christmas

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010
Marty at Work (Courtesy of Deborah Yaffee)

Marty at Work (Courtesy of Deborah Yaffee)

The New Year has arrived, and like everyone else I know I’m making an effort to eat a little more lightly.
Once the cream in the refrigerator is used up it will not be replaced. Salads are making a big comeback, dessert is limited to plain fruit, and my comfort food of choice is now something healthy like pea soup rather than a heavier dish like a pot pie.
Today, however, all dieting is suspended—for today is Epiphany.
Twelfth Night, the time at which the wise men (or kings or whoever the heck they were) finally found the Baby Jesus, marks the end of the Christmas season.
Americans generally celebrate this occasion rather sadly by taking down their Christmas trees and putting away the decorations that have made the season extra festive.
In contrast, the French celebrate the arrival of the wise men with A TON OF BUTTER. (The French know how to welcome people as American G.I.s learned in 1944.)
The traditional French Epiphany food is the Galette des Rois (kings’ cake), which is basically puff pastry baked around rich almond cream.
Like a New Orleans King Cake the Galette contains a tiny prize (a crown or a bean or an almond) baked within its folds. Whoever finds the prize in his or her slice of cake is crowned king or queen for the day.
Marty Yaffee, a talented local chef who recently opened the Little Cooking School in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, conducted a Galette des Rois workshop on Sunday at a nearby church.
Marty kindly supplied me with the recipe for his creation, which appears below.
I’m going to try to make a version of it tomorrow so you’ll see photos of MY galette on Friday. (I’m going to try the “blitz” version of the puff pastry to keep things simple.)
I have a feeling—no, a certainty–that my galette won’t be nearly as lovely as Marty’s. But it will taste fantastic, I know. Did I mention that the recipe calls for a ton of butter?
Happy Twelfth Night, everyone. I wish you moments of epiphany all year long…..
Chef Marty’s Galette des Rois (Three Kings’ Cake)
Marty makes standard amounts of Puff Pastry and Frangipane filling so the recipes for those actually make more than you will need for one galette. Your choices are to make more than one galette (you may actually make a rectangular cake called a jalousie if you are so inclined), to freeze some pastry and frangipane for a future occasion, or to cut down on his recipe.
for the Puff Pastry (enough for at least 2 to 3 galettes):
3-1/2 cups flour plus 1 cup for dusting during dough “turning”

7/8 cup cold water

1-3/4 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons vinegar (either rice vinegar or white wine vinegar)

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

3-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, slightly softened

Put the flour in a mixing bowl and make a well in the center.
Add the water, salt, vinegar, and melted butter into the well in the center.
Turning the bowl slowly pull small amounts of the flour into the liquids and then mix all ingredients into a dough. Knead with the heel of your hand until ingredients become almost homogenous, but don’t overknead. (Knead as little as possible to make an almost smooth dough).
Form the dough into a ball and cut an “X” deep into the dough.
Using a rolling pin, roll the “arms of the “X” until you have a starfish shape.
Cover and refrigerate for at least a half hour.
Using two pieces of plastic wrap, line the sticks of slightly softened butter up on the plastic wrap, cover with the other plastic wrap, and beat the butter gently with your rolling pin to shape the butter into a square.
Before making your dough “turns” make sure the butter is about the same consistency as the dough (if the butter is too warm it will not roll out with the dough; nor will it roll well if it is right out of the refrigerator).
Put the butter square in the center of the “starfish,” fold the arms of the starfish over the butter to completely enclose it. Now roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is a rectangle about 15 by 26 inches.
Imagine the rectangle divided into thirds.
Fold one end of the dough over, then fold that to meet the other end to achieve 3 layers. This is the first “turn.”
Use a brush to remove extra flour that is on the dough as you are folding.
Turn the dough 90 degrees and roll it out again to the same 15-by-26-inch size.
Fold in the ends again. That was the second turn.
Now wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes to relax the gluten in the dough (the substance that makes dough get stiffer as you work with it).
Keeping your work surface slightly floured and removing excess flour as you fold, roll out the dough to the same size again and do the folds.
Turn and repeat.
Now refrigerate the dough again if you wish. You may do 2 more dough “turns” to make it even flakier, though 4 turns is the minimum recommended.
You may refrigerate the dough if you are going to use it in an hour or 2, or freeze all of it or pieces of it for future use. It will keep well in the freezer for up to a month. 
Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using frozen dough.
for “Blitz” Puff Pastry (a little quicker than the standard version), which again makes enough for at least 2 to 3 galettes:
Note from Marty: If you feel like you don’t have quite enough time for making the classic puff pastry and you don’t mind your dough puffing up about 30 percent less than regular puff dough, you may save some time and effort with the “Blitz” puff pastry.
3-1/2 cups flour

4-1/2 sticks slightly softened unsalted butter

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup cold water (maybe a drop or two more)

Put the flour in a mixing bowl and make a well in the center.
Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and put them in the well.
Sprinkle the salt over the butter.
Work the butter cubes into the flour until the mixture starts to look grainy but there are still some small flakes of butter visible. Add the water, a little at a time, until the dough just comes together.
Roll out this dough into a rectangle about 8 by 16 inches.
Fold in thirds.
Roll out to the same size again and fold in thirds.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Make 2 more turns and the dough will be ready to use. Again, you may freeze a least half before making this recipe.
for the Frangipane Filling (make enough for at least 2 to 3 galettes):
1 pound 2 ounces almond paste (either store-bought or combine 3-1/3 cups whole almonds with 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar and process in a food processor until the almonds and sugar make a thick paste)

2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup flour

5 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional, but it may be needed if you have made your own almond paste)

Beat the almond paste in a mixer with a paddle attachment.
While beating, add the butter a little at a time and beat until smooth.
Beat the flour in.
Add the eggs one at a time while beating; then add the extract if you are using it.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat once more to make sure the mixture is homogenous.
Get ready to make your cake!
for the Three Kings’ Cake
Puff Pastry dough as needed

1 egg, beaten, for egg wash

Frangipane filling as needed

1 almond (for the traditional prize)

confectioner’s sugar and a sieve for sprinkling it

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Roll out a piece of puff pastry until it is 1/16 inch thin.
Make two circles, one bigger than the other. (The smaller should be 8 to 9 inches in diameter.)
On the smaller circle, put a mound of frangipane and smooth it until it is about 1/2 inch thick, leaving an outer circle of dough without frangipane about 3/4 inch wide. Place your almond somewhere in the middle.
Dab egg wash on the outer circle.
Place the larger circle of dough over the pastry lining up the edges with the smaller one.
Egg wash the top of the dough.
Use a fork to press the 2 layers of dough together.
Cut pieces of dough away from the edge for “sunrays.”
Gently score the top surface of the pastry with “sunray” design.

Bake at 425 for 10 minutes then turn the oven down to 375 and bake until the frangipane filling gives resistance to the touch (springs back).
Remove the pastry from the oven and sprinkle with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.
Turn the oven to 475 and bake until the sugar forms a slightly browned and glossy glaze.
I asked Marty how many people his galette would serve, and he said, “It depends on how much they want to eat!” Dainty pieces would serve up to 10; small servings, about 6.
Marty's Galette (Courtesy of Deborah Yaffee)

Marty's Galette (Courtesy of Deborah Yaffee)


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A King Cake for Mardi Gras

Saturday, February 21st, 2009


Mardi Gras is a time of taking chances—so I decided to try once more to make a King Cake. Readers of this blog may recall that I tried making one at Epiphany and was less than thrilled with the result. My mother taught me to persevere, however, and luckily King Cakes are eaten in Louisiana from Epiphany straight through to the beginning of Lent. I sifted through many different recipes identifying the cake elements that most appealed to me and went to work.


I’m actually very happy with my new cake, although the filling gushed into the middle so I didn’t end up with the classic ring. Mine was more of a round blob. Nevertheless, it puffed up beautifully and tasted like a sweet, creamy coffee cake.


Like the previous King Cake, it concealed a quarter (more authentic bakers would use a bean or a toy Baby Jesus) within its yeasty folds. The person who found the quarter in his or her cake was crowned King or Queen for the Day.


So—from my house to yours—here is a King Cake recipe. The biggest trick is to take your time; since it uses yeast this cake can’t be rushed. It’s a big cake so you’ll help your sanity and your waistline if you have young eaters in the house. Feel free to cheat a little and ensure that one of them gets to wear the crown! As you can see from the picture below that’s what we did at our house.

(Don’t tell Michael!)

Le Roi du Mardi Gras

Le Roi du Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras King Cake



for the cake:

2 packets yeast (do not use instant)

2 teaspoons sugar plus 1/2 cup sugar later

4 to 5 cups flour

1 teaspoon nutmeg

2 teaspoons salt

the zest from 1 lemon (save the lemon to make juice for the glaze)

1/2 cup lukewarm milk

5 egg yolks (you will not need the whites)

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature


for the filling:


1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon flour


for the glaze:


2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

the juice of 1 lemon

a little water if needed

food coloring as needed




Place the yeast and the 2 teaspoons sugar in a small bowl. Cover them with lukewarm water, and allow the yeast to proof for 10 minutes.


In a large mixing bowl combine 3-1/2 cups of the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, the nutmeg, the salt, and the lemon zest. Stir them together thoroughly (I like to use a whisk for this).


Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in the yeast mixture and warm milk. Stir in the egg yolks, and combine the mixture thoroughly.


When the batter is smooth, beat in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. (This takes a little while but eventually works.) Place the dough on a floured board, and knead it, adding more flour as needed. Your dough may end up slightly sticky but should not stick to the board.


Knead the dough until it feels smooth; then knead it for 10 minutes more. Don’t be discouraged. This kneading is what gives the final product its wonderful puffiness.


Place the dough in a buttered bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and allow it to rise until it doubles in bulk. This will take at least 1-1/2 hours and perhaps more.


When the dough has risen, punch it down. Using your fingers, pat and stretch the dough to shape it into a long, short rectangle, at least 24 inches long and 6 to 8 inches wide. Let the dough rest while you beat together the ingredients for the filling.


If you want to, place a quarter or a bean in the middle of the dough. Gently spoon the filling down the center of the strip of dough. Fold the edges up over the filling to form a cylinder that encases the dough. Pinch the edges together to seal the filling as well as you can. Your seams don’t have to be perfect; they will be hidden by the glaze.


Pinch the ends of the cylinder together to form a ring, and place it on a silicone- or parchment-covered baking sheet. Let it rise, covered, until it becomes puffy, about an hour. Preheat the oven to 375.


Bake the King Cake for 25 to 35 minutes, until it is golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool completely.


For the glaze: beat together the sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice, adding a bit of water if needed to make the glaze thick yet pourable. Divide the glaze in three, and color the three glazes purple, green, and gold. Drizzle them artistically over your cake.


Serves at least 12.



Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Epiphany (The Color Purple)

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009


          With Epiphany only a couple of days away, I decided to try making a King Cake yesterday. I first learned about King Cake from French friends. The French enjoy a “Galette des Rois” on and around January 6. In France, the cake is mainly bought in bakeries. It is made of layers of puff pastry with almondy cream in between the layers.

          In Louisiana, this concoction became a simpler King Cake. Both cakes celebrate the arrival of the three kings at the manger to visit Jesus, born twelve days earlier. Both also contain a surprise—a bean or crown in France, a plastic Baby Jesus in Louisiana. Whoever comes across the surprise in his or her piece of cake becomes king or queen for the day. In Louisiana, that person is also responsible for bringing a King Cake to the next feast. (Natives of that state eat King Cake from Epiphany straight through to Mardi Gras!)

          Louisiana King Cake is basically a sweet, yeasty bread baked in the shape of a ring, festooned with toppings that reproduce the traditional colors of Mardi Gras–purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power. I had never made King Cake before. I looked to one of my favorite sources, King Arthur Flour, for suggestions.

          I didn’t follow the recipe precisely, so I can’t blame KAF for the fact that my cake didn’t come out as well as I would have liked. (If you’d like to see the KAF recipe, visit

          Even so, I think I’ll try something a bit different next time I attempt one of these cakes. My cake didn’t rise very well, perhaps because of the cold weather. Worse yet, the overall effect was bland. My cooking may not be gorgeous as a general rule, but it is hardly ever bland!

          Although the cake wasn’t perfect, the meal during which we ate it was pretty darn terrific. My guests all cheerfully helped decorate the cake. Different people were assigned the tasks of dying the glaze purple, green, and gold. My neighbor Peter, who has a wonderful visual sense, came up with a very creditable purple. In fact, he suggested that I call this post “The Color Purple.”

          As a reward for his hard work, Lady Luck let Peter find the cake’s surprise. His piece included a quarter as I had neither a bean nor a Baby Jesus. (Don’t worry; I counseled my guests to chew carefully!) He is now King of Pudding Hollow—for at least the next day or two.

          The experience of sharing even my imperfect cake with friends reminded me of the other, equally important definition of Epiphany. The word also connotes a moment of revelation. Eating with friends and enjoying the gorgeous pinkish/purplish light of winter in New England made me feel part of something bigger, both social and natural. And that’s a perfect feeling on Epiphany.

Alice was in charge of the color green.

Alice was in charge of the color green.

The King of Pudding Hollow

The King of Pudding Hollow

A Sky Full of Epiphany

A Sky Full of Epiphany


Note from Tinky MUCH later:   I made a lovely king cake for Mardi Gras. Click here to see the recipe………..