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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2021, I’ll still participate, but the two daughters are going to do more posting from here on out – well, I hope that’s not wishful thinking. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

We participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) if you purchase any books recommended (below), or buy products occasionally mentioned on the blog with an amazon link. 

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers. It tells a detailed chronology of its inception, and all the various  parts that had to come together every day, three meals a day, plus some, to make a mammoth food machine run. I have no background in the restaurant biz, but found the story very interesting. Would make a great gift.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers. The story is mostly about a young woman, educated, a Jew, who is the scribe (in secret) to an aging religious leader (in a time when women would have been verboten to hold such a position). And about her own curiosity about her religion and how she eventually begins writing letters (using a male pseudonym) to various Jewish leaders abroad, questioning their religious beliefs. The book is extraordinarily long – not that that kept me from turning a single page! – and complex with the cast of characters from the 1600s and the cast in today’s world of highly competitive experts analyzing the ancient papers. Altogether riveting book. Loved it from beginning to end.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid. Then to current time as a young woman tries to ferret her family history and particularly about some old-old jewelry that they can’t quite figure out – how the grandmother came to have them. Fascinating tale.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius, held captive in a woe begotten prison. It’s about Jewish history, about relationships, and certainly a lot about the starvation and mistreatment (and many died there) of this boat load of people who never should have been sent there. So very sad, but it has bright and hopeful moments toward the end when many of them finally made it to Tel Aviv, their original destination.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then become something else. There is graphic detail here (was it really necessary? not sure of the answer) so if you don’t like that sort of thing, you might want to pass on this – or else skip by those details when you read it. Women have been victims in so many ways for so many centuries, and it’s hard to read that it’s still a common thing in today’s society.

Barbara Delinsky writes current day fiction. Coast Road is really sweet story. Jack (ex-husband) is called away from his career to care for his two daughters when his ex (Rachel) has an accident and is in a coma. Over the course of weeks, he spends time with his daughters (he was an occasional dad). He also spends a lot of time at his ex’s bedside, getting to know her friends. Through them he learns what went wrong in their marriage. I don’t want to spoil the story. I liked it a lot.

Christina Baker Kline has written quite a story about Tasmania. You may, or may not, remember that my DH and I visited Tasmania about 10 years ago (loved it) and having read a lot about Botany Bay and the thousands of criminal exiles from Britain who were shipped there as slave labor in the 1800s. This book tells a different story. The Exiles: A Novel. This one mostly from a few women who were sentenced to Tasmania. There is plenty of cruelty on several fronts, but there is also kindness and salvation for some. Really good read.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name. She meets a guy and they share a bond of reading and some romance. Years go by and she’s now owner of a failing independent bookstore (and married, or separated) and suddenly begins receiving a used book (that she recognizes) every day from a different place in the country. A message for sure, but where will it lead? Yes, it’s a romance. Lots of introspection going on. Enjoyed it.

Marion Kummerow wrote an amazing WWII novel. Not Without My Sister. If you don’t like concentration camp stories, pass on this one, but it’s very riveting, much of it at Bergen-Belsen. Two sisters (17 and 4) are separated at the camp. The story switches back and forth between the two sisters’ situations, and yes, the horror of the camp(s), the starvation, the cruelty. But, even though I’m giving away the ending . . . they do get back together again. The story is all about the in between times. Excellent book.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping. This book is about a young man, who is a young father also, loses his beloved wife. He’s barely functioning, trying to get through a day, taking care of his young son. And visiting the cemetery (the one in Montmartre, Paris). There are several peripheral characters (his son, a neighbor and best friend of his departed wife, a good fellow friend too, plus a young woman he befriends at the cemetery). Before his wife’s death she asks him to write 33 letters to her after she’s gone, and to put them in a special box hidden in the cemetery monument. And that begins the story.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

As you’ve read here many times, I marvel at authors who come up with unusual premises for their books. This one Meet Me in Monaco: A Novel of Grace Kelly’s Royal Wedding. And yes, it IS somewhat about Grace Kelly’s wedding, but most of the novel is about a young woman perfume designer, Sophie, who accidentally rescues Grace Kelly from the relentless photographers who hound her every move.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Also a kind of quirky book by Beth Miller, The Missing Letters of Mrs. Bright. Picture a middle-aged woman, slogging through life with a not-very-attentive husband, grown children, and one day she decides to leave. Completely. Packs up and leaves.

Katherine Center’s book, Things You Save in a Fire: A Novel is certainly vivid. There aren’t very many women firefighters out there in the world – this is about one.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Desserts, on September 27th, 2021.

Such heavenly flavor from the almond paste in the cake. Beautiful to look at, too.

A post from Carolyn.  I’ve been a long-time follower of Luisa Weiss, from The Wednesday Chef blog. Some years ago she moved to Germany (Berlin, I think) and now has a venerable cookbook to her name, Classic German Baking. She’s a baker of the first order – my opinion from having made a few of her things over the years. Although I don’t own her cookbook. But occasionally one of her cookbook recipes pops up, this one on David Lebovitz‘s blog. I quick-like made sure to save it. So glad I did.

First off, though, you need to know that I’m a big fan of almond paste. It’s an intense almond flavor, and since it’s finely ground almonds and sugar, you can’t just add it to another recipe unless it’s called for. And as many of you have discovered, almond paste doesn’t keep on your kitchen pantry shelf for all that long. A few months at the most. After that it gets dried up and turns into the texture of a rock! I’ve learned that from experience. As I type this I have a 2nd tube of it on my shelf that needs to be used sometime soon before it’s over the hill.

When the 1st of September rolls around, my cooking brain begins to think about apples. I begin to long for cooler nights (hasn’t happened yet, as I write this), and cooler days as well (that won’t happen until mid-October here in SoCal). One year – decades ago – my DH and I took a driving trip in the New England states during September, and I was awed by the side-of-the-road fruit stands with baskets and barrels, displayed within inches of the paved road, just overflowing with apples I’d rarely heard of before, like Northern Spy, Empire, Macoun. Well, perhaps I’d read about them, but never tasted any. Is it because they don’t ship well? Probably they don’t do well with long-term storage? I’d never seen any of them in California. We ate some in the car, we bought some apple juice, and also used some of the apples in baking when we returned to Philadelphia to stay on with our friends Judy and Jerry. I have no recollection what I baked, but something. We all bought apples, and when we left to fly home, THEY still had apples overflowing in their 2nd refrigerator. I probably could have put a few in my suitcase that wouldn’t have been discovered (you aren’t supposed to bring raw fruit into California). What I did do, after I got home, was go online to one of the farms we’d stopped at, and ordered a 25-pound box of mixed apples to be shipped. What a treasure those were. Haven’t done that since, but it was fun.

So, back to this cake. This cake is a real winner . . . I’m just sayin’. Lovely moist cake (with some cubed-up apples in the batter) baked in a springform, with sliced apples angle-shingled on top, then baked to perfect tenderness, and then some apricot jam is brushed on top to let it glisten. This cake lasted for several days. I served it at that lunch I mentioned before, with some of my old employees from 25+ years ago. I sent slices home with several of them, and Taylor and I ate the rest.

There, at right, is an image of the about-to-be-baked cake. You nestle the apple slices into the batter – pressing in just a little. I used Granny Smith apples, and they held their shape well. In fact, some of those slices on the top were still bite-able. Not crisp, but certainly plenty of apple texture.

Thanks to Monica from Playing with Flour, for the photo

One of the interesting techniques mentioned in this recipe (one you need to remember) is to GRATE the almond paste using a box grater. Even the freshest of almond paste can sometimes be a bit firm, and I’ve always wondered how to best disperse it in a cake batter. A-ha moment with the grater.

Forgetting to take a photo of this genius technique, I found an image on the web, from PlayingwithFlour. Monica used a fine-grind. My tube of almond paste was perhaps a month old, and I couldn’t grate it finely, but did it using slightly larger holes on another side of my box grater. And it seemed to disperse easily in the cake batter. Hooray!

Luisa didn’t say to serve the cake with anything, but I had a tub of crème fraiche, so each piece got a dollop of that when I plated it.

What’s GOOD: everything about this cake was marvelous. Can’t say enough good things about it. Love-loved the intense almond flavor (from the almond paste) and the tender cake itself. Loved how beautiful it was. I served it at the table on a cake stand. So pretty! My recollection is that everyone loved the cake. Cake was easy to make. I’ll definitely make this again.

What’s NOT: only that you need a fresh tube of almond paste.
printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

German Apple Almond Cake

Recipe By: Luisa Weiss, blogger, Classic German Baking (cookbook)
Serving Size: 10

4 medium apples — (1 3/4 pounds, 800g)
1 lemon — zested and juiced
7 ounces almond paste
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted and cooled
1 teaspoon almond extract
4 large eggs — at room temperature
1 cup flour — plus 3 tablespoons (150g)
9 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder — preferably aluminum free
1/4 cup apricot jam — strained if lumpy

1. Butter a 9- to 10-inch (23cm) springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. Peel and core the apples. Divide the lemon juice into two separate bowls. Slice two of the peeled and cored apples into 8 sections, and toss the apple slices in one bowl of lemon juice. Dice the other two apples into 1/3-inch (1cm) cubes, then toss them in the other bowl of lemon juice. The cubed apples are added to the cake batter; the sliced apples are placed on top.
3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
4. Using a grater with large holes, grate the almond paste into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar and salt and mix until the almond paste is finely broken up.
5. Add the melted butter, almond extract, and lemon zest, and continue mixing until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, stopping the mixer and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
6. Whisk together the flour, cornstarch and baking powder in a small bowl. Stir the dry ingredients into the almond batter mixture by hand, then fold in the diced apples, along with any lemon juice in the bowl.
7. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Place the sliced apples in concentric circles on top of the batter, pressing them in very lightly.
8. Bake the cake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. If using a 9″ springform pan (meaning the batter is higher), it might take an extra few minutes to get the very center cooked through.
9. Remove the cake from the oven. Warm the apricot jam in a small saucepan and brush it over the top while the cake is hot. Let the cake cool completely, then run a knife around the inside of the cake pan to release the cake, and remove the sides of the cake pan. Keeps at room temp for a day or more; refrigerate after that.
Per Serving: 465 Calories; 24g Fat (44.7% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 60g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 117mg Cholesterol; 226mg Sodium; 36g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 129mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 227mg Potassium; 213mg Phosphorus.

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  1. hddonna

    said on September 30th, 2021:

    Oh, my, this is beautiful! I have Luisa Weiss’s book on my Kindle, and it is full of appealing recipes. This one looks like a real winner. Hope I can get a chance to try it this fall.

    I’ve purchased a few cookbooks on Kindle, but I find that I rarely go to my Kindle when I’m searching for a recipe. So I’ve stopped buying any that way, unless it’s a more essay version. . . . carolyn T

  2. hddonna

    said on October 1st, 2021:

    I don’t actually use them on my Kindle, as the format is too small, it’s in black and white, and the file size is too big. But I have the Kindle app on my iPad and my Kindle Fire, and I find I can use them on there pretty well. I buy a lot of them when they are on Bookbub for two or three dollars, usually ones I’ve read about or of which the author was interviewed on one or more podcasts. There are some I use frequently on the tablet, many I just browse through and don’t look at again. I got the newest version of Joy of Cooking, since I have physical copies of earlier editions, and I find that fairly handy. And if I find I really like one, I can get a hard copy. I do wish I had Eat Your Books, which you have recommended. It would certainly help me get more use out of my cookbook collection! So far, the cost has deterred me, but I might do it yet.

    Yes, I agree – I use my iPad when I need to look up a recipe on my own blog – much easier to read. I didn’t mean that you read the recipes on the actual kindle, but on some larger format. I think if Luisa’s cookbook ever goes onto BookBub again, I’ll likely buy it, even though most of it is desserts, I’m guessing. . . carolyn t

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