I love when food and books mix~ which is what I miss about Food for Thought, created by my friend Jain, who spends her most of her time living a quiet life by the sea. I seem to spend my time reading more blogs than books these days, but I still enjoy curling up with a good book~
The School of Essential Ingredients was one my first Food for Thought reviews and a happy recipe for reading. In School, Lillian reads people the way she does ingredients, with the magic of matching ingredients with personalities to change a person’s mood or life. Erica Bauermeister returns with her cast of characters introduced in Lillian’s cooking class in The Lost Art of Mixing.
Warning: Prepare for serious food cravings from the evocative smells & flavors described. . . sugar, yeast, the ‘sensual come-hither’ scent of chocolate cake, strawberries ‘plucked warm from the sun’, ‘glistening layers’, butter melting across the tongue. . .
Custard was one of the many food references in the book. . .I succumbed and indulged in Creme Brulee (or Crème Brûlée if you want to be fancy :) for Valentine’s Day~ the only way to improve on custard~ with a caramelized sugar topping.
“Lillian and her restaurant have a way of drawing people together. There’s Al, the accountant who finds meaning in numbers and ritual; Chloe, a budding chef who hasn’t learned to trust after heartbreak; Finnegan, quiet and steady as a tree, who can disappear into the background despite his massive height; Louise, Al’s wife, whose anger simmers just below the boiling point; and Isabelle, whose memories are slowly slipping from her grasp. And there’s Lillian herself, whose life has taken a turn she didn’t expect. . . .”
“Their lives collide and mix with those around them, sometimes joining in effortless connections, at other times sifting together and separating again, creating a family that is chosen, not given. A beautifully imagined novel about the ties that bind—and links that break—The Lost Art of Mixing is a captivating meditation on the power of love, food, and companionship.”
“. . .Lillian had always been soothed by food. Not the eating of it, although a spoonful of custard could almost always be counted on to set her world to rights. But she had realized early on that it wasn’t simply the taste of the custard or the cool curve of the spoon slipping across her tongue, it was the creation of the dish that spoke to her– the careful warming of the milk and beating of the eggs, the dark mystery of nutmeg, the pouring of the liquid into small, round ramekins that she would set in a shallow bath of water in the oven, the watching as all the parts came together and turned from liquid to solid, gentled white and then just slightly gold.”
Creme Brulee, serves 6
1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 cup vanilla sugar, divided (I didn’t plan far enough in advance to make vanilla sugar, so I used regular sugar)
6 large egg yolks
~Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
~Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove vanilla bean.
~In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
~Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Divide the remaining 1/2 cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.
You can find printable recipes for vanilla sugar, here, and for Creme Brulee, courtesy of Alton Brown at Food Network, here.
“Erica Bauermeister writes prose delicious enough to devour. Like a fine meal, The Lost Art of Mixing will leave you warm in your belly, full in your heart, and very, very pleased. Like all the best writers and cooks, Bauermeister comforts with the familiar—in this case, a return to a cast of beloved characters—even as she sprinkles in the unexpected and new. The results are lip-smackingly good. You might even find yourself going back for seconds.”—Tiffany Baker, New York Times-bestselling author of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County
Reading The School of Essential Ingredients first is not required to enjoy The Lost Art of Mixing, but it’s a little like eating custard without the caramelized sugar topping that makes it Creme Brulee~ while it’s good, it’s not nearly as satisfying :)
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