Coconut caramel pound cake.

pound cake

This was one of those weeks that really makes one appreciate the simple things; the kind of week where at the end of it, my salvation came from the basics – eggs and butter and sugar and flour, a bit of pasta, a bag of onions, and a few frozen sausages. The week started with some debit card fraud that cost me most of what was in my bank account, and an unavoidable trip to the local mechanic that threatened to eat up the rest.

It is also December, as you might have noticed – on top of everything, I’ve got places to go and potlucks to participate in and when you’ve got a cookbook pending, it is poor form to show up at these things with a two-liter bottle of store-brand pop and a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. If you’re not going to bother washing your hair or dressing like an adult, you should at least show up with a salad, I guess.

But I haven’t been to a grocery store all week, which is silly because there’s one half a block away and I’ve managed to hit up the liquor store in the same vicinity twice. I am a caricature of a woman unraveling. Imagine a lot of leggings and cat hair.

December is reason enough to unravel and as a good a time as any. ‘Tis the season for demands on top of demands and far more debits than credits. And it’s so easy to fall into an exasperated funk and find yourself yelling at everyone; this is not what the season is all about, I’m told. I know it’s hard advice to take sometimes, but we need to go easy on ourselves. Take breaks. Take shortcuts. Make pound cake.

Pound cake will solve a great many of your December problems. It’s cheap – at its most basic it is literally just butter, sugar, flour and eggs – and it benefits from sitting around a while, so it’s best to make it a day ahead. It’s cake, so people will think that you tried. It’s cake, so everyone will like it.

This is grandma-level stuff right here, the kind of thing that will stand the test of time. A glazed pound cake recipe in your back pocket will get you through all kinds of things, and up to 98 per cent of what December can throw at you.

This is not one of those Bundt-pan pound cakes; make this in a loaf pan. Make it the night before you want to serve it, and then plop it out onto a plate or into a container and take it wherever you need to go. This is not fancy. Let someone else handle fancy – your job is to get through the holidays, deliciously.

Coconut caramel pound cake

Cake:

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Sauce:

  • 1 14-oz. (398 mL) can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan, then line it with parchment paper so that the paper peeks over the sides by a couple of inches.

Using either a stand mixer or an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy and pale. Pause occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the eggs one at a time while continuing to beat the mixture. Once you’ve added your last egg, add the vanilla and salt, and continue to beat until thoroughly mixed.

Using a spatula, fold the flour into the butter-sugar-egg mixture, a third of a cup at a time until just moistened. Pour the batter into your loaf pan, and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Meanwhile, simmer coconut milk over medium heat with brown sugar until the mixture reduces by half. Add the vanilla and the salt, and set aside.

Using a toothpick, poke many holes into the top of the still-hot cake. Pour the coconut milk mixture over top, and let sit until cool. Cover, and let rest at room temperature for at least eight (up to 24) hours before serving.

To serve, reheat in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes. Invert onto a plate, peel away the parchment, and cut into slices. Serve as is, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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Peanut butter marshmallow bars.

Sploosh.

Last week, or maybe the week before, it rained and rained and rained one night (I can’t remember which night because that sort of thing happens a lot here), and it was dark out and nearly bedtime, and I had a lot to do, book-wise, and I was dead tired after work and we all could have just endured a few more episodes of Octonauts, but there were big puddles outside. In Vancouver, if you don’t look at a puddle as an opportunity, the time between summers can be pretty bleak. So I had Nick shove Toddler’s feet into his boots and button his raincoat while I shoved my own feet into my own boots, and we clomped outside to splash around in the water under the orange glow of our street lamps. We rounded the block twice, and on the second go-round, Toddler announced that he’d like hot chocolate, “with march-mellos.” Who am I to refuse such a request? I can never say no to a marshmallow.

So we splashed our way to the grocery store just down the street, and we marched to the back of the store where the marshmallows are kept beside the ice cream freezers and sundae toppings, bought a big bag of white mini marshmallows, then came home to make hot chocolate. By the time Toddler was in his jammies, I had his hot chocolate in his dinosaur mug, heaping with marshmallows. We drank our drinks and read some books and we all went to bed pretty pleased with ourselves and our sound decision-making.

Fast forward a few days or weeks, and I still have a huge bag of mini marshmallows. And Nick, with his diabetes, has gone off to the woods outside of Princeton to shoot our year’s supply of meat. So Toddler and I are alone, free to raise our blood sugar and rot our teeth unencumbered. I’m using up the marshmallows. Toddler’s pretty pumped.

This is a spin on a bake-sale classic, improved by substituting white chocolate chips for butterscotch chips. The result is kind of like tiger butter, only with marshmallows. I used the microwave for this because it somehow felt wrong not to. Toddler and I are going to spend our weekend together eating these in a blanket fort while watching the whale shark episode of Octonauts over and over and over until the sugar knocks us out. You should definitely lick the spoon.

peanutbutterbars

Peanut butter marshmallow bars

  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into about eight equal pieces
  • 12 oz. white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups white mini marshmallows

Put the butter and the chocolate chips in a large glass bowl. Microwave the whole thing for 30 seconds. Remove the bowl from the microwave, stirring the mixture well, then return it to the microwave and repeat this process.

Add the peanut butter, stirring well. Microwave for another 30 seconds, before removing the bowl stirring well, and repeating the process once more.

When the chocolate chips have melted and the mixture is smooth and creamy, add the salt and vanilla, stir again, then set the bowl aside and let it rest for a minute.

Lightly grease a 9″x9″ baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Stir the marshmallows into the peanut butter mixture, and then pour the whole thing into your prepared pan. Refrigerate the mixture until it’s firm enough to slice, at least two hours.

Cut into small squares and serve. This is great for bake-sales, treat tables at holiday events, and on plastic Buzz Lightyear plates under a fort made of blankets.

 

Something to Read: The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book

30days

I can be a bit of a pain to travel with, because I don’t care so much about seeing sights or sites and just want to get to the bookstore. In San Francisco, the first time, City Lights Bookstore was my first and most important To Do, and I went there just about first thing on the very first day. I nearly blew my budget that morning, and bought so many books that it was barely noon by the time the plastic bag I had to lug them around in was stretched and torn. We were a long way from our motel room, so I dragged that bag all over the city, my hands sweating against the plastic and the bag slipping constantly out of my grip.

There must be a lesson in that experience, but I haven’t learned it.

In Paris, Grace and I had different interests – her, art; me, books and ice cream – so we would go our separate ways in the morning and then meet again later on, around mealtime. One day, I spent almost an entire afternoon in Shakespeare & Co., sitting in a tattered red armchair upstairs, reading tattered old books and imagining just staying in France forever. That morning, I had gone to Père Lachaise Cemetery to see Gertrude Stein’s and Oscar Wilde’s graves, and was sort of sad to find that Alice B. Toklas’ headstone didn’t seem to bear her name. I made a mental note – if I ever become a Very Important Writer – to let Nick have his own headstone (beside my monument) with his own name on it. It is the least my estate could do.

toklas

Anyway, when I made it to Shakespeare & Co., the first book that caught my eye was Murder in the Kitchen, an excerpt from The Alice B. Toklas Cook BookI bought it, and then when I got back to Vancouver bought the full cookbook at the bookstore close to home.

Alice was and still is wonderful, and you cannot read her without feeling at the end that you have come to know her personally. She writes about France during the first world war in studied detail, and many of her recipes are simple and restrained, the sort of unfussy stuff we live for now. The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book is a cookbook only in a loose sense; it’s much more literary, a piece of memoir so compelling that the recipes almost play the role of photographs, giving you a sensual impression of having been where Alice has gone. You really do tour France with Alice, driving away from Paris and through the country in Aunt Pauline, Alice Toklas and Gertrude Stein’s Ford, named for Stein’s Aunt Pauline, who “always behaved admirably in emergencies and behaved fairly well most times if she was flattered.”

This is French cookery that pre-dates Julia Child, and the recipes range from the delicate and fancy – read Murder in the Kitchen for her struggle to prepare stuffed carp for Picasso – to the rustic and comforting, like the one for “Soup of Shallots and Cheese,” which calls for shallots cooked in butter with broth and a dribble of cream, topped with toast and melted cheese. I want to eat that every day of my life. Don’t you?

There are gems throughout the book, and one of these is for “a friend’s” hash fudge, which I read with the kind of excitement you might feel upon learning that your grandparents were way cooler than your parents gave them credit for. Hash fudge! In a book written in the 1950s! I mean, I know intellectually that was a thing that existed then, but still.

“It is the food of Paradise – of Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradises: it might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the FAR. In Morocco it is thought to be good for warding off the common cold in damp winter weather and is, indeed, more effective if taken with large quantities of hot mint tea. Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter, ecstatic reveries and extensions of one’s personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected. Almost anything Saint Teresa did, you can do better if you can bear to be ravished by ‘un évanouissement révaillé’.” (Page 259.)

Don’t you want to join that Bridge Club? I have no idea where one might obtain the secret ingredient (I am an old lady before my time, I suppose, and tragically, perpetually un-hip), but I’m sharing the recipe with you anyway. Maybe you have some adult grand-kids you need to shock and awe? Alice writes that this is something “anyone could whip up on a rainy day,” so there you go.

Alice B. Toklas’ Haschich Fudge

  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • 4 “average” sticks of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. coriander seeds
  • Handful pitted dates
  • Handful dried figs
  • Handful shelled almonds
  • A bunch of canibus sativa (in North America, Alice advises that you might find canibus indica instead and that it will work fine for these purposes)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 to 2 tbsp. butter (“a big pat of butter”)

Using a mortar and pestle (or a coffee or spice grinder if you’re lazy or you remember it’s the future), grind up your peppercorns, nutmeg, cinnamon and coriander seeds. It might be nice to toast these in a pan over medium heat first? Use your judgment.

Finely chop your dates, figs and almonds, and mix them together (this would go faster with a food processor).

Dissolve the sugar in the butter. The instructions here aren’t clear, but what you’d be going for is a bit of a caramel; you want the sugar to turn liquid, which is best done in a heavy-bottomed pot, such as enameled cast iron, over medium-high heat. Let the sugar melt before stirring. For optimal flavour, allow the sugar to cook until bubbling and golden.

Pulverize your canibus sativa (or indica), and knead it and the spices into your dried fruit/nut mixture (again, the food processor is probably best for this). Add your sugar/butter caramel mixture, and mix until combined.

Press the mixture into a pan, and cut into pieces (or roll into balls) about the size of a walnut.

To serve, Alice advises that you eat this with care, and that two pieces should be quite sufficient.

If you make this, let me know. It sounds like a high-fibre good time, though it might just make one sleepy and hungry for nachos.

And read Alice’s book. It’s a good one.

toklas2

Roasted strawberry ice cream.

Roasted berries.

I dated someone once who didn’t care about restaurants or going out to dinner, who just didn’t get it. “Food is just fuel,” he’d say, and he wasn’t attractive or funny enough for me to overlook his dim worldview so it didn’t last long. I suppose that food really is fuel, but in my case it also doubles as therapy; my mood depends on a few good meals, and my optimism wavers if I haven’t eaten well. And anyway, sleep is just recharging but aren’t we nonetheless very particular about the softness of our pillows and the colour of our sheets? How can there be people for whom these constant, vital acts aren’t anything but to-dos to be checked off a list? Or maybe I’m just a hedonist?

I’m also a chaos muppet:

“Chaos Muppets are out-of-control, emotional, volatile. They tend toward the blue and fuzzy. They make their way through life in a swirling maelstrom of food crumbs, small flaming objects, and the letter C. Cookie Monster, Ernie, Grover, Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and—paradigmatically—Animal, are all Chaos Muppets. Zelda Fitzgerald was a Chaos Muppet. So, I must tell you, is Justice Stephen Breyer.” – Dahlia Lithwick, Slate (2012)

Roasted.

Swirling maelstroms are the status quo around here; adding a toddler to the mix has not brought any order to our daily proceedings. As a grounding exercise, just before everything becomes completely unhinged (and someone innocent gets hit in the eye with the  nuts and bolts), I sometimes must do something stabilizing – usually that’s some fancy food thing that requires patience and presence of mind. On Sunday, that stabilizing thing was the slow work of transforming eggs and the strawberries that had gone ruddy and cream into ice cream, a process that began with custard-making.

Ruddy strawberries.

Custard requires focus; failing to pay attention can turn your emulsion into sweet scrambled eggs and this recipe calls for eight egg yolks, so spoiling your custard means quite a lot of waste and probably another trip to the store and I was not wearing outside-pants because it was the weekend. You have to monitor the heat, and you have to keep stirring until the mixture thickens to the point where it coats the back of a spoon and hangs on. It is not complicated, but it does require you to fixate on the task at hand.

The custard formed the base for a bit of strawberry ice cream. When I started making ice cream I played with a few different recipes, but the one I ended up sticking with is David Lebovitz’s perfect vanilla ice cream. It is endlessly adaptable, and even if you don’t really know what you’re doing at first, you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.

To make this ice cream, I tweaked his recipe; I used eight egg yolks instead of five, and I used a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste instead of a vanilla bean pod plus extract. If you just have a vanilla bean, or just extract, that’s fine; my vanilla bean paste is a splurge that my aunt got me hooked on when she brought a jar of it back for me from London; I found it at Gourmet Warehouse in Vancouver ($12), but you can also find it online. I will never not have it in my cupboard.

Vanilla bean paste.

To make this strawberry ice cream and not just plain old vanilla, I roasted strawberries drizzled with honey, and poured the whole mess into the ice cream machine as it churned. This is not the simplest of recipes, though it is not hard. But you have to pay attention.

Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream

(Makes just a bit more than a quart.)

  • 1 lb. strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract

Put a large glass or stainless steel bowl into the freezer. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Line an 8″x8″ baking pan with parchment. Put the strawberries into the pan, drizzle with honey, toss with a spoon to coat, then stick the pan into the oven and roast the berries for 25 to 30 minutes, until they have melted down and their juices are sticky and bubbling. Cool the berries at room temperature until you can handle the pan comfortably with bare hands, then stick them in the fridge to chill.

In a saucepan over low heat, dissolve the sugar and salt in the milk.

Take the bowl out of the freezer, pour the cream into it, and set a fine mesh strainer over top. Unfortunately, Nick threw my fine mesh strainer out in a fit over how annoying it was to clean before we had a dishwasher, so I only have a very small one; its diameter is just slightly shorter than that of the mug I drink my tea out of. It’s slow going, but worthwhile.

In a separate bowl, whisk your egg yolks together with the vanilla. Slowly and gently pour the warm milk mixture – in a thin stream – into your bowl of egg yolks. Whisk constantly. Once you’ve poured your whole pot of milk into the egg bowl, pour the mixture back into the pot, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula so you get all the good stuff, and return the pot to the heat (should still be low). Whisk constantly until the mixture has thickened to the point where it coats the back of a spoon and stays put, which should take somewhere between ten and twelve minutes (if you’re meticulous, that’s 170°F).

Remove the custard from the heat and strain it into the bowl of cream, stirring to combine. Cover with plastic wrap, and then stick it in the fridge, minimum four hours but ideally overnight.

Pour the custard into your ice cream maker, add the strawberries, and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze until set.

Serve with fresh strawberries.

Bad lighting, good ice cream.

Kiwi sorbet.

kiwi

The reason I find bananas so abhorrent is mainly because a banana in a lunch bag crammed into a steamy coat closet in an elementary school classroom will not only infect every other piece of food in the bag with its noxious banananess, but it will permeate your insulated plastic lunch bag as well, making every meal you ever eat out of it taste like aged overripe banana. Forever. If it happens enough, that kind of thing can scar you for life. Even now, when I give the baby a banana the smell of it on his cheeks and his breath repels me.

Until recently, I couldn’t think of anything more offensive than perfectly good peanut butter cookies destroyed by banana-stink. And then, after she complained about pantry moths in one of those water-cooler conversations, someone left the person I share an office with a big bag of mothballs. My office-mate was out sick, so the mothballs sat in our office for a full 24 hours before I thought to hang them out the window until she could take them home.

I taste mothballs in the back of my throat when I swallow. I can smell them in my sinuses when I breathe through my nose. It’s been five days.

Bananas, you are demoted. Mothballs are the new very worst.

Almost all of the very best things are delicate and perishable. Almost nothing wonderful will leave its mark forever on your tongue or in your lunchbag. A peach bruises and turns to mush when you’re not looking; a bottle of wine smashes on the sidewalk when the bottom of your piece-of-crap reusable shopping bag gives out. Asparagus wrinkles and turns into slime if forgotten in the crisper. If you are lucky you will never know the feel of a rotten potato squishing through your fingers. Cheese gets moldy, bread goes stale and grapes become raisins, which is possibly the cruelest fate of all. Somehow, though, kiwis are hardy.

Kiwis, if stored somewhere cool and dark, will last for months. I didn’t know this until recently, when I happened upon a kiwi farmer at our local Farmer’s Market one rainy Saturday. I also didn’t know until recently that kiwi fruit grows quite happily here on the wet west coast. And apparently, kiwi fruit makes excellent jam.

Skinned kiwis.

So I bought an inordinate amount of kiwi fruit, as you do. And then I didn’t know what to do with it, and the baby likes bananas so what does he know about anything, so it sat in my crisper for three weeks as I waited for an epiphany and an opportunity and then it happened. Brunch! And friends! So I made the best thing you can make out of kiwi fruit after just cutting it in half and eating it with a spoon.

Friends plus babies plus sorbet.

 

All I need now is to know how to clean the taste of mothballs out of my inner face. I’ll take any suggestion.

Kiwi sorbet

(Serves 6)

  • 1 lb. peeled, chopped kiwi fruit (10 or 12 medium-sized kiwis)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Zest and juice of one lime (about 1 tbsp. juice)

Whiz kiwi fruit in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

Combine salt, sugar, water, zest and juice in a pot and bring to a gentle boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When the sugar has completely dissolved, pour into the bowl with your kiwi purée, and chill in the fridge for at least six hours, or overnight.

Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, then pour into a bowl, cover with plastic, and freeze until you’re ready to serve it.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can turn this into a granita by pouring it into a 9″x13″ pan and scraping it every 30 to 60 minutes with a fork until frozen and fluffy. Or, you can mostly freeze it in a 9″x13″ pan, chip it out into a food processor, and blend until it resembles sorbet.

Serve cold, obviously.

Green treat: Kiwi sorbet.

Eggnog chocolate pudding.

Three days before Christmas, can you believe it? Where did the fall go? Are you ready for these next few days? I think I lost a few months somewhere, and I really should be packing in some last-minute holiday shopping, but instead I’m sitting in my new living room, listening to the rain against my window and the dishwasher – no sweeter music than the sound of your first dishwasher cleaning dishes you’d otherwise be scrubbing on Saturday – and the cat and baby batting ornaments off the tree. We are festive, sort of.

Whisking.

Pudding

The baby is more festive than the rest of us, and he has taken to holiday eating with vigor and enthusiasm. No truffle, cookie or eggnog escapes his sticky grasp, and I’ve stepped in crumbs and smears and tacky patches of floor all over the apartment – his theory seems to be that if he can’t see you, then you can’t know what snack he’s stolen. With his reach he’s just shy of three feet tall, but he can get at anything, and has not figured out yet that his silence works against him – he’s only quiet when he’s up to no good. That goes for all of us, but I am not big on self-discipline.

He loves eggnog, and since introducing him to it we have found it challenging to get him to drink anything else. But he is starting to understand the concept of dessert, and that if he endures his bowl of broccoli and carrots, there might be something sweet in it for him. And so, on occasion we throw him a bowl of something sugary and then there is no happier person in the world. Last night, after a day of squishy stomach and bouts of whining, I made him a bowl of eggnog pudding, warm and creamy and exactly what a little boy needs after a big bowl of mushy green despair. I gave him a taste as he crawled by while I was making it, and he scaled the cupboards and tried desperately to climb up my leg for more.

A taste.

 

MOAR PLS.

This recipe is the easiest thing in the world, but it is very rough – the eggnog I buy is very sweet, so I have never had to add sugar. Sweeten to your taste with maple syrup, if you have it, or a bit of brown sugar if you prefer. If your baby can hold his liquor, a tablespoon of rum or bourbon is very nice.

Yes do want.

Chocolate eggnog pudding

  • 2 cups eggnog (not light or reduced fat)
  • 4 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp. cocoa
  • 1 tbsp. spiced dark rum (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tbsp. butter

In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, whisk together half a cup of the eggnog and cornstarch until a slurry forms and no lumps remain, then add the cocoa, whisking again, before adding the remaining eggnog, rum, and vanilla. Maintain medium heat, and whisk continuously until the mixture thickens until just bubbling – don’t bring to a rolling boil (or you’ll end up with a gross scrambly egg pudding which ew). Once mixture has thickened – it should coat the back of a spoon – remove from heat, season with salt, and whisk in butter. Pour into four ramekins, cover with plastic, and cool until set, 1 to 2 hours.

Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! I hope your next few days are warm and delicious.

Eggnog chocolate pudding

Errbody loves pudding.

A maple-scented pudding and a quiet moment alone.

It’s finally quiet, except for the squeak-bark of some cat-infuriating miniature dog or giant rodent on its leash and squatting beneath the wilted rhododendron bush beside the street. Nick is out for a nerdy night of board games with his friends. The baby is sleeping. I have sent out all the resumés I feel like sending out for today, and am no longer wearing pants (as is my preference). There are dried smears of yogurt and vegetable purée all over everything including the washable high chair I keep not washing, but I am not going to let that be my problem. That is why I have Nick.

We are spending a lot of time together now that neither of us is required at an office every day, and though the ratio of arms to babies is now 4:1, I’m still finding myself busy most of the time. There are cover letters to write and my resumé to tweak for each job application. Every time I click “submit” or “send” on some application I panic that I accidentally typed the bad words I’m always thinking, or that I used the wrong homonym, or that I spelled the word “editor” with two Ds.

There are meals to make: minimally spiced purées for the baby and interestingly spiced lunches and dinners for the diabetic, who answers “I’m not really excited about that” to most of what I suggest we eat. We keep producing dirty laundry. I spend a lot of time shaving my legs in case someone calls for a last-minute interview and there’s no time to find or buy pantyhose. I always have to go to the store.

But when there is no one around to bug me, I eat pudding.

The surest way to ensure that no one else touches my pudding is to make it with tapioca.

Stirring a sweet-smelling pot of goo can be relaxing, helping to erase the little panics and trifles that so often take up the days. The goo will burble softly, in a way that is wholly unlike something tedious like oatmeal or hot cereal (which splatters and plops and lacks euphony). You can make pudding for other people, and sometimes I do, but a small amount of pudding is the sort of easy indulgence that suits a night alone, in a room barely lit by a lamp in the corner that’s just bright enough to read a book beside.

The tapioca pudding recipe I like to use is at Simply Recipes, though once you make it the recipe will stick in your head forever (it’s that easy). I don’t know enough people who like tapioca pudding to have ever made a full batch, so I can tell you that a half-batch works quite nicely – it will make enough to fill four ramekins or two soup bowls (I always eat one serving warm, and then another much later after it’s been in the fridge for awhile).

I am not going to bother reprinting the recipe here as it’s all right there, but I will tell you that I make a few changes.

  • Instead of white sugar, I use maple syrup, and rather than add it after the pot comes to a boil, I add it at the beginning. It’s less sweet this way, but more complex. If you don’t have maple syrup, use honey, or brown sugar.
  • At the end, rather than add a drop of vanilla extract, I like a scrape of half of one vanilla bean.

When you are making something that is just for you, use good ingredients (tapioca costs so little anyway) – you will be more inclined to savour if you use the good stuff, and it will be the good kind of eating alone (there is a bad kind of eating alone, which I also enjoy, but for that just use the cheap stuff).

This is a good for-now recipe, for while we’re still not into the abundant-fruit season. Do you realize that in just a few short weeks and we’ll be having conversations like this one over lightly sugared local strawberries? And reading our books in patches of summer sunlight. I can’t wait.