This cake could be served in a glass – it’s essentially an after-dinner drink and dessert all in one. Because you soak the cake in bourbon. You don’t add frosting or top it with whipped cream. You just pour a layer of bourbon sauce over the cake that seeps down into every pore and overpowers whatever else is there. It’s called a bourbon apple cake, but the apple taste – or cake taste for the matter – is pretty minimal. It’s like crumbly bourbon. It’s fantastic.
Thanksgiving always reminds me of my grandma and her pies. I loved my grandma's pies. The dough did not stick to the counter while she rolled out the crust or shrink in the pan when she baked it. The insides didn’t run everywhere when she cut into it. Her pies didn’t taste too sweet. Together, we would pinch the dough all around the dish to scallop the edges, and it was just soft enough and hung over just the right amount.
I am sorry to say that my pies – while usually edible – are not my grandma’s. It’s hard to go wrong with the insides, usually some variation of fruit, sugar, and whiskey. But those crusts! I’ve watched Martha Stewart videos claiming how easy it is. I’ve taken recipe recommendations from people who swear by whatever version of butter and flour they always use. I’ve consulted Google for advice. But then I go to roll it out and even if I get something that I can put in the pan, the taste is usually dull and the consistency a bit like powder.
This year I was determined to make a pie that I wanted to eat. Starting with cherries that I froze while they were in season, a recipe that claimed to resemble a Manhattan cocktail (I love to eat my drinks), and very concerted crust practice.
Thanksgiving prep is in full swing. Whiskey cranberry sauce is marinating in the fridge, pie crusts are chilling as they wait for their cherry bourbon filling, and the Scotch is on deck to jump into the whipped cream. And I am thankful to be hosting some gluten-free guests this year to test out a new recipe – gluten free pumpkin squares with (yum!) a cream cheese bourbon vanilla bean frosting.
I would say that the pumpkin squares are obviously my way to justify eating that frosting, but in fact, the pumpkin squares are worth eating also. They have a nice cake-like texture, not too sweet (but definitely a dessert), and I would actually recommend going light on the frosting layer. The frosting is delightful and fine eaten with a spoon, but you don’t want the sweet to overpower the spice of the cake.
These make a nice alternative to pumpkin pie and are yummy enough that this might become a fall staple. If you have a lot you are baking and preparing, these are also great because the instructions are the equivalent of “mix it all in a bowl, stick it in the pan, and put it in the oven.”
I love receiving packages in the mail. Especially when those packages contain Scotch. My latest delivery was an adorable little sample bottle of Highland Park Ice Edition. Highland Park was one of my first memorable Scotches and set me on a path of good drinking. I have drunk several different expressions of Highland Park and easily made friends with all of them – but this one was new and special, which piqued my interest.
I really wanted to like it and make another friend. However, we just did not get along. I promise I tried. After my initial confrontation, I thought maybe we should take a break. Try again. Maybe it was my mood the first time or something I ate. I neglected it in a cupboard a little longer than I would normally leave an open bottle of Scotch.
The only sign that a bar was hidden behind the door in the hut at the side of the 2nd floor East Village restaurant was the line that formed before 6 p.m., spilling down the stairs. Once the bar opened, groups of trendy hipsters flowed through the door, virtually unnoticed by the rest of the guests dining on sushi and ramen in the main dining room.
When we passed through the door, we stepped from a bustling Japanese restaurant playing pop music into a stylish bar with velvet drapes tucked at the corners of high windows, brick walls, and a mural of cherubs above the bar. Already full at 6:15 with people comfortably seated – no standing – at the bar and intimate tables in the main and side room, the place had a steady hum of conversation with the sounds of jazz and cocktail shakers in the background.
We were seated at the bar, which gave us the best view of two busy bartenders with their 20’s style vests and shirt sleeves rolled and tied, calmly but continuously adding dollops and tips of this and that to the shakers, and pouring out brightly colored cocktails.