Toast, Tomato and Cheese

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I imprinted on this sandwich at a very young age. This was and still is a mainstay of the Spencer household every summer (usually several times a day) when the tomatoes are at their peak. The harmony of the ingredients is perfection – do not under any circumstance add or subtract any ingredients. You may think, “bacon would be great on this”. You would be wrong – it actually messes with the harmony. You might want to skip the mayo, which is a downright sin. This is not a time for improvisation. Stick with the classic. Follow the recipe exactly.

  • One slice of decent bread
  • One or two ripe tomatoes – homegrown or farmer’s market only
  • Two slices cheddar or other decent cheese
  • About 2 TBSP mayo – Hellmann’s or Dukes.

1. Toast bread.

2. Scald tomatoes – boil water in a small pot, electric tea kettle, or microwave. Place tomatoes in boiling water for 5 seconds. Remove from water. Remove skin from tomatoes and slice into very thick slices.

3. Spread mayo onto toast. Fit as many thick slices of tomato on the toast as you can. Top with cheese.

4. Place sandwich on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler on high for up to 5 minutes- watching closely until the cheese starts to bubble and turn slightly brown.

5. Eat.

– This recipe is easily doubled-

Marshmallows

A little bit fussy

I’ve been making these marshmallows forever. People have been looking at me like I’m crazy because I make marshmallows forever. But, homemade marshmallows are one of those things that are so superior to store-bought that it’s worth the fuss. And the crazy looks. And since this is a safe space, I’m sharing the recipe with you. It is s’more season afterall.

  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin (3/4oz total)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup potato starch (or corn starch)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Special equipment:
candy thermometer
stand mixer with whisk attachment

Line a 13×9-inch pan with foil, letting some overhang to make lifting the marshmallow out easier. Coat lightly with non-stick spray or butter.
Pour 1/2 cup cold water into bowl of stand-mixer. Sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand.
Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup cold water in heavy medium saucepan (with a handle preferably). Over medium heat, stir super-gently with a heatproof spatula, or swirl the pan every so slightly, just for the first couple minutes to dissolve the sugar, being careful not to let any sugar granules stick to the sides of the pan (if they do, wash them down with a wet pastry brush). Once sugar had dissolved, attach a candy thermometer and never stir it again until it reaches 240º, about 8 minutes. It will boil up the pan quite a bit as it gets going- just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over, adjusting the heat accordingly.
With the mixer running on low speed with the whisk attachment, slowly pour the hot syrup into the gelatin in a thin stream, running down the side of the bowl so the whisk doesn’t splash it all over. Don’t worry about the syrup that sticks to the bowl. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until very stiff and cooled to lukewarm – it should take 10-15 minutes.
Add vanilla and beat to blend, about 30 seconds. DON’T FORGET THE VANILLA. Otherwise you will have beautiful sweet marshmallows that have that lovely hint of horse hooves. Ask me how I know.
Spread the marshmallow into the greased pan and smooth the top as best you can. Let stand for at least 4 hours before cutting. Overnight is even better.
Sift starch and powdered sugar together and dust your work surface. Lift marshmallow out and cut into squares using a rotary pizza cutter dusted with sugar/starch. Or a large knife also coated. Roll in sugar/starch until all sides are coated before stacking or packing.

Variations:

  • Add 1 tsp instant coffee to gelatin
  • Add 1 tsp cinnamon to gelatin
  • Substitute almond, mint, rum or any extract for vanilla
  • Sprinkle with toasted nuts after spreading in pan
  • Dip in chocolate after cutting in shapes
  • Add food coloring
  • Fill a pastry bag with the warm mixture, pipe into Peeps-like shapes, roll in colored sugar, and dot with little chocolate eyes for Easter (I did that once – again, safe space)
  • Sky’s the limit, really

Simple Cream Scones

Unfussy

Makes 6 scones

Because you don’t have to mess with cutting in butter to the size of peas- if you take into account the amount of time it takes to make these scones, while also considering the deliciousness of said scones, noting the myriad of variations you could make using pantry dibs and dabs, this might be the best recipe of all time. Impress your overnight guests by whipping these puppies up first thing in the morning. They also work on their own as a topping to a cobbler or such thing.

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 TBS sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream – a little extra for glazing
  • 1 tsp vanilla (or other extract)

Optional Additions: 1 cup dried fruit, or chopped fresh fruit, or nuts, or freeze-dried fruit, or chocolate chips…zest from 1 lemon, or lime, or orange…

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together with a whisk in a medium bowl. Switch to a rubber spatula and mix in any fruit or nuts or zest. Combine heavy cream and extract together and fold into dry ingredients until everything is moistened, but do not over mix.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface, pat into a 6″ circle, and cut into 6 wedges and place on a cookie sheet. Or, scoop with a cookie scoop onto a cookie sheet, flattening slightly to make round scones.

Brush with a little extra heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar or cinnamon sugar.

Bake at 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until starting to brown on the edges. Bada bing.

Peach Kuchen

Unfussy

This Spencer family classic is an oldie but a goodie. The cookie-like crust absorbs the peaches and their juices like a champ. It’s a delicious and simple way to celebrate peaches or any stone fruit. Pears too.

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3-4 firm but ripe peaches
  • 2 TBSP sugar

Brown the butter in a small skillet, until toasty and nutty.  Set aside to cool to room temperature. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Scald peaches in boiling water and remove skin. Slice peaches.
Cream cooled butter, sugar, egg, and extracts together. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt until just combined. Pat dough into bottom and up sides of a 9″ tart pan. Arrange peaches on dough, overlapping slightly. Sprinkle with sugar or cinnamon sugar.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until crust is brown and middle is cooked through.
Let cool 15 minutes before removing tart from pan.
Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.

A sprinkling of raspberries or glazing with currant jelly makes for a more fancy-pants presentation.

Best Banana Bundt

Unfussy

Not one banana goes to waste in this house. Not on my watch. This super moist banana cake is everything banana “bread” should be (it’s cake though, right?). Frosting is totally unnecessary. Completely superfluous.

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup triple-filtered coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup mashed brown banana (about 4 large)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray a 12-cup bundt pan, or 2 loaf pans. In a stand mixer, cream butter, coconut oil and sugars together until light and fluffy – at least 5 minutes. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate. Mix in the banana. Add 1 cup flour, salt and baking soda and mix on low. Add sour cream/yogurt and mix to combine. Add remaining 2 cups flour and mix only until incorporated. Pour into prepared pan(s).

Bake 60-70 minutes, covering with foil if it gets too brown. Let cool 15 minutes before unmolding.

“From the Mall” Sugar Cookies

Unfussy

These sugar cookies are the Kraft singles of cookies. There’s nothing gourmet about them. If you roll them in sprinkles they will scream “bake sale”. I love them.

  • 2 sticks butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup neutral oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 TBSP dried milk powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar until pale, thick and fluffy with a paddle attachment. Add eggs, oil, vanilla and mix. Add flour, salt and baking soda and mix to combine. Mix in milk. Drop or scoop 3 TBSP mounds onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet – only 5 or 6 cookies per sheet as they spread considerably. Bake 18-20 minutes, until the edges are light brown and the center is still gooey.

To roll in sprinkles, or cinnamon sugar: Scoop onto cookie sheets, chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then roll in desired coating. Bake as directed.

This recipe is adapted from Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar. She bakes these sprinkled with cinnamon sugar in a 9×13″ pan for 25 minutes. Cut into bars and extra gooey in the center, they are equally delicious.