Birthday Bread Pudding

by Caroline

future bread pudding

It should come as no surprise, given all the baking I do around here, that my kids can order up whatever they like for a birthday dessert. But it was definitely a surprise, after a solid six years of chocolate birthday cakes, to hear Eli request bread pudding. And not just any bread pudding, but Chef Ric’s Bread Pudding.

So I went to school and asked Ric if he would share the recipe he makes for the school, only to learn that — talented chef that he is — he wings it. And of course, he’s making dessert for three hundred people, so even if he could give me the exact recipe he makes at school, it would have taken a bit of math to scale it down for our family. But luckily he has chef friends who do write down their recipes, and he passed on this recipe for a New Orleans bread pudding. It calls for more butter than any bread pudding recipe I have ever seen. I think it’s going to be great.

Bread Pudding

12 oz bread, cubed

½ pound butter

4 whole eggs

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups whole milk

Vanilla (to taste)

Ground Cinnamon (to taste)

2 cups sugar

Preheat the oven to 325. While it’s warming, put the cubed bread on a baking sheet and let toast it in the oven till just golden, about five minutes.

Lightly grease a 13X9 baking pan and put the toasted bread into the pan.

Heat milk and cream with butter and vanilla. Whisk eggs till pale in color and add sugar and whisk some more. Temper egg mixture with the cream mixture off heat. Pour the liquid over the bread and allow it time to soak for a few minutes.

Bake until set – approximately 30-40 minutes. Serve, if you like, with caramel sauce and seven birthday candles.

edited to add: I actually ran out of butter and sugar while making this (my pantry is usually better stocked than that!), so can report that this tastes just fine if you only use 1/4 pound of butter and 1 1/2 cups of sugar

Cake for my Mom

by Caroline

I really didn’t intend to write about cake again, but some weeks around here seem to occasion lots of baking and this was one of them: birthday cake for Tony, four batches of cookies for various events and finally, a delicious almond layer cake with sherry-lemon buttercream, just because. Just because my mother sent me the recipe, saying “Doesn’t this look good?” Just because my parents were visiting. Just because I like to try out new recipes when I have extra people around to eat the results.

It’s a delicious cake, best (I think) with a sprinkle of raspberries and three generations around the table to share it.

Birthday Cake

by Caroline

future cake!

Flashback: April 30, 2002

We are the new parents of a fussy, fabulous eight-week old baby. Tony heads off to work, as usual, at 5 AM so that he can put in close to the minimum ten hours his start-up expects before coming home to take a crying baby off my hands.

I’ve spent the day with that crying baby in my hands, nursing and walking laps around the house, occasionally sitting down for a minute to email one-handed with my Stanford writing students, who are working on their final essays with me while I’m on “maternity leave.”

We order in take-out from the local Chinese place and I sit on the couch in a stupor, eating bites out of the carton and watching a rerun of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” while Tony, holding Ben in one hand (the classic colic “football hold”) and a fork in the other, circles from living room to dining room, swooping over my shoulder occasionally to grab a bite of dinner himself. During commercials, I mute the TV for a moment and Tony pauses and I wish him a happy birthday, drowned out by Ben’s wails. I have no recollection of whether I bought or made a cake (I must have, I think, but I really don’t know) but I definitely remember feigning optimism. “It won’t always be like this!”


We have two boys who, happily, don’t cry nearly as much, but they still have their various impacts on birthday dinner. Today, for example, Ben has a 5:30 baseball game at which Tony is coaching. Since it’s a school night, and because my parents will be arriving, jet lagged, from the east coast at 3 this afternoon, we can’t really hold dinner until after the game. So we’ll eat in stages: Ben before his game; Eli, my parents and I during; and Tony after. But we will all sit down together, after school and before baseball, for a piece of birthday cake. This cake, which is our all-time favorite birthday cake.

Happy birthday, Tony!

Grapefruit Ginger Curd

by Caroline

Although Lisa’s and my focus here is primarily on the food we cook and eat with our families, every once in a while I, at least, cook something I know no one else will like. Sometimes, I don’t even much care. A recipe strikes me because it has one of those appealing words (mmm, caramelized) or usefully uses up lots of produce, or just has a pretty picture accompanying it.

Sometimes, I simply need to be in the kitchen cooking, and the result is really far less important than the process. So it was Saturday morning. A writing project was preoccupying me, but I wasn’t ready to sit at the computer yet and tackle it. I needed to busy myself with something slow and methodical, something that would give me some time to think. It was too rainy to go out for a run — my usual habit when I’m mulling over an essay — and I could have baked bread or chopped vegetables to start a pot of soup (like I did just this time last year) but this recipe for grapefruit ginger curd had just arrived in my inbox. And so, perhaps weirdly, I made curd. I even did the tedious step of grating a knob of ginger and pressing the grated pulp through a strainer to produce fresh ginger juice — that’s the kind of distraction I needed. It’s worth it, really. It’s delicious. And the ten minutes at the stove stirring it were just enough to get me back to my writing, now with a piece of fresh toast spread with this sunny, citrusy curd on top.


by Lisa

I had bought some old fashioned Valentines for the kids–you the kind, with tabs and wheels and adorable kids and kittens and doililes and flocking–but they both took one look at the book and balked. No way was Ella giving those out to the boys in her class. Finn felt pretty much the same.  And, so, over the last month, they painstakingly crafted their own valentines. Ella made 3 dozen felt fortune cookies and inserted “fortunes”  like, “If the unicorn you see tomorrow is wearing a hat, you’ll have bad luck” and “If you wear mismatched socks on Friday, you’ll make a new friend.”  She packed them in mini-takeout boxes.

Finn designed and drew a notecard…

& over the course of 2 days painstakingly cut out his notes with a pair of broken pinking shears…

Ella helped him decorate little red bags….

& I made 6 dozen marshmallows. Which is easy, unless you have a lousy hand mixer…in which case, it is a labor of love…

but they helped with the fun part…

&  set up an assembly line, &  packed bags and boxes with pink peppermint marshmallows & much affection…

and all manner of things…well, on this day, with this project…they were well.

Pink Peppermint Marshmallows

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 3 1/4-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • red food coloring
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  1. Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil. Coat foil lightly with nonstick spray.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup cold water into bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until gelatin softens and absorbs water, at least 15 minutes.
  3. Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup cold water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over mediumlow heat until sugar dissolves, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush.  Increase heat and bring syrup to boil. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 240°F.
  4. With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin mixture in thin stream down side of bowl (avoid pouring syrup onto whisk, as it may splash). Gradually increase speed to high and beat until mixture is very thick and stiff, about 15 minutes. Add  peppermint and food coloring until desired color is achieved and blend, about 30 seconds longer.
  5. Scrape marshmallow mixture into prepared pan. Smooth top with wet spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, about 4 hours. Turn our on a large cutting board sprinkled with sifted powdered sugar
  6. Coat a pizza roller or sharp knife with nonstick spray and cut  marshmallows into desired shape.  Sift powdered sugar over marshmallows and toss to coat.