In 2004, our family was a bit worn by a run of fairly epic events: illness, strife and woe, though strangers for the most part up until then (lucky us!), took up residence in our solar system with a vengeance. When the dust settled (for good, we innocently thought) my husband and I did a hugely greedy thing: we had another baby.
It was greedy by planetary standards, and that gave me some major pause. But it was also greedy for joy. I can run circles around most circular thinkers—but this! But that! But this and that!–and though I continue to visit and revisit many of my big decisions, I feel pretty confident that the joy grab was a sound move.
Illness, strife and woe have not been as strangers since then. But the boy continues to compound the happiness of those around him. This week Vitamin A turned 10, a noteworthy milestone.
We always have his Party after the holidays, when his school chums are more available, and mark his official day with a quieter bit of family-based hoopla. He made a detailed dinner request, but all he said about dessert was something plain-ish, possibly involving jam.
My mom used to make a thing called a sponge omelette, which came from a Viennese pastry cookbook that she got some serious mileage out of when we were tots. It came to me in a blinding flash as I was mincing and roasting things; it obligingly required only ingredients that I already possessed, mixed up in a trice and was easily made gluten free, if that’s of interest to you.
Partly because I burned the bottom of it a little bit last night, and partly because it was so tasty and easy to make, I had to make it again for breakfast this morning. It tastes just like childhood happiness, and just like I remember, and is a simple method for fomenting a little joy in your orbit.
I made last night’s omelette for a crowd, in a 12” skillet using 6 eggs. I made this morning’s version in a 10” skillet using 4. Thanks to this recipe, which was not what I was after but was certainly helpful, I discovered the handy calculus that what you want is about a tablespoon each of flour and sugar per egg. Meaning you could make a one-person omelette without much trouble (I’ll leave you to calculate how large that omelette would need to be). I bumped up the flour a bit more, as you’ll see, but the math basically held up for the two versions.
If you want jam on it, and it certainly plays well with jam, go for apricot. If you want your lily gilded further, try my friend Peggy‘s insanely delicious whipped cream (details below). There is no going back to the plain stuff, though. Consider yourself warned.
Much as I did not have a gift guide, I also don’t have a major 2014 in review to offer. But if you haven’t seen them already, I think this sweeping biographical survey and this incredibly moving visual stunner are worth a look as we fiddle with the focus knobs in preparation for another turn around the sun.
Wishing you all a peaceful, healthy new year.
viennese sponge omelette
- 4 eggs, separated
- 4T sugar
- pinch of salt
- barest scrape of finely grated lemon zest
- 5T sweet rice flour (or AP flour)
- 2T butter (salted or unsalted; if your salted butter is quite salty, you may want to go half and half)
Heat the oven to 350. Put the butter into a 10″ oven-proof skillet, and begin to heat it over low heat. In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until glossy and peaked. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar and lemon zest until thick and pale, about 4 minutes by hand with a balloon whisk. Turn the heat up a little under the pan, and fold a little of the egg whites into the yolk mixture to lighten. Now begin to fold in the remainder, and when it’s about half combined, add the flour. Gently fold until well blended, and pour into the waiting pan, where the butter should be foamy. Slide into the hot oven. Bake 16-20 minutes, until lightly golden on top and springy to the touch in the center.
Serve right away, with a dollop of jam and cream, or take it neat.
(my amateur version of) Peggy’s Whipped Cream of No Return
- half pint of heavy cream
- 4 oz creme fraiche
- 1T maple syrup
- dash of vanilla extract or 1/2 t of vanilla bean paste
Whip the cream with the vanilla and maple until it holds the softest peaks; fold in the creme fraiche, and beat a moment or two longer, until it has a nice dollop-y consistency.