Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Birthday # 37- and almost as many cakes...

You know the saying about death and taxes being the only certainty in life, you can add birthdays to that short list. My birthday was yesterday. Being a Celebrationist I decided to acknowledge it, being 37 I decided it had to be with subtlety and a bit of taste. Hub and I went into the City on sunday night to see a modern dance performance at the Joyce Theater . I enjoyed the performance, Hub not so much. It was on the avant-garde side, especially the piece that involved the dancers smearing mud all over their faces and bodies. I'll be honest, I didn't really get it, the narrative and idea behind it all kinda flew over my prosaic little head. What I really love most about dance is the beauty and grace and sheer power of the human form and all of it's spectacular configurations and contortions. The piece of the program I enjoyed best of all was the one performed to Ravel's Bolero- there may have been a story there but I was concentrating too intently on the movement and music to figure it out.

Before the performance, we had dinner at The Viceroy, which was practicaly across the street from the theater. I had a very seasonal and very delicious Pomegranate Martini, and a juicy ahi tuna burger that came with New England-esque french fries. We deferred dessert until after the performance, when we strolled over to Billy's Bakery on 21st Street. If only I was a good enough writer to adequately describe the splendiferousness that is Billy's. It's a little nook of a bakery, brightly lit, with retro wallpaper, an L shaped glass counter filled with rows of cupcakes, mini tarts, and other heavenly morsels. On top of the counters were cakestands displaying perfectly frosted layer cakes and overstuffed pies. As a Libra I was in a specific version of heaven/hell.....too many choices. I am not the least bit embarassed to reveal that I ordered 4 slices of sweet nirvana: chocolate cake with mocha frosting, red velvet, peanut butter pie, chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, and a slice of peach pie for Hub. We took our booty to go, all packaged up in a white cardboard cake box. As indulgent as it is to order that much cake, and knowing I would not be able to consume it all, I still had to try each one. Call it research. The chocolate cake with mocha frosting was my favorite. The red velvet was also great. The peanut butter pie was simply too much for me.
For my actual birthday, which was Monday, I volunteered to host Book Club. This month's selection was The Help, which I really enjoyed. For the meal I decided on a Autumn theme, with Southern accents on account of the new season and the book's setting. For hors d'oeuvres I made a pimento cheese dip which was nice and sharp. Dinner started with a thick butternut squash soup with a hint of creaminess and a suggestion of spice thanks to a little sriracha sprinkled into the mix as a last minute addition. For the main course I made a balsamic onion blue cheese tart (sweet and salty and quite good), a big pot of wild mushroom risotto, and Eustacia made a crisp salad accented with black-eyed peas. Dessert was my chance to trot out the line I've been waiting to utter all year: Today's the day I can bake my cakes and eat 'em too. Inspired by a theme in the book I made a caramel cake, and just because I felt like it- a chocolate peanut butter tart. Good and gooder. The caramel cake was pretty simple- but something to curl yourself around- sweet gooey comfort. The peanut butter tart, was everything I need in a dessert: crunchy, smooth, sweet, chocolatey, also subtle - considering all the components. Unlike Billy's Peanut Butter Pie it was a thin little number- a half inch layer of chocolate cookie crust, a 1" layer of peanut butter cream and then a thin gloss of choclate ganache to pull it all together. Happy Birthday indeed.

Peanut Butter Tart
1 1/2 c. crushed oreos (about 20)
4 tbsp. melted butter
1 1/2 c. half and half
2 tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3 egg yolks
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. semisweet choc chips
1/2 c. cream
2 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350F. For crust: In bowl combine cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press crumbs onto bottom of a tart pan with a detachable bottom. Bake for about 10 mins. Let cool.
For filling: In a saucepan, combine half and half, flour and salt. Cook over med. heat until simmering, frequently stirring. In a small bowl combine egg yolks, sugar. Gradually whisk hot half and half mixtue into egg mixture. Return egg yolk mix to the saucepan. Cook and mix over med heat until thick and bubbly. Remove. Whisk in peanut butter and vanilla until combined. Pour into crust, spread evenly. Cover and chill for 3 hours.
Ganache: In a saucepan combine chocolate and cream, stir until melted and glossy, add butter pieces and stir until melted in. Spread in a thin layer over peanut butter filling. Chill until ready to serve.

No comments: