Cherry chocolate coconut almond crisp

Cherry clafouti crisp

Here at The Ordinary, in our illustration division (located in a spacious and sunny atrium between the rooftop greenhouse and the outdoor swimming pool in the parpapets) we like to draw mixed up animals. You can find us hard at work, day and night, combining winged creatures, finned creatures and those with claws and tails. The best part of this fantastical exercise, is that the resulting mixed up creature is usually quite delightful. Let us present a few choice examples from our archives…
Malcolm’s fox-owl.

Isaac’s Ring-tailed Ouzel

Ring tailed ouzel

And my squirrel-giraffe

Squirrel giraffe

This dessert is a mixed up animal, too! Part cobbler, part crisp, part frangipane, part clafoutis. It’s fruity, soft, chocolatey, and crispy all at the same time! Here’s how it all went down: I had bought a bag of cherries. In general, cherries don’t last long in this house. However, we went away twice for a few days within a week or two, and before we knew it, the cherries were past their first blush of youth. Well! A chance to bake!! I wanted to make a cobbler/crisp type dessert. I also had clafoutis on my mind (the french cherry & baked custard dish) – specifically I was thinking about clafoutis with a frangipane type of custard. This combines all of those things. We have a layer of warm cherries splashed with rum, a layer of soft baked almond custard with bittersweet chocolate chips, and a crispy coconut topping. If I do say so, and I do, this is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever made! It has a lot of different flavors, it’s true, but they all go very nicely together. We ate it warm with lightly whipped cream flavored with maple syrup and vanilla.

Here’s The Kangaroo Rat from the Beastie Boys. I know that’s an actual animal, but they look so unlikely (perfect, but unlikely!) And the album is called the mix-up, so it’s double extra good.

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Banana, lime & coconut bread

Banana, lime, and coconut bread

In which Claire goes on and on about a word she has a crush on.
Today, friends, we’ll be extraordinarily etymological. I love this word: “selah.” It’s a word of ambiguous history and meaning, and the mystery only adds to its beauty. It’s a Hebrew word found frequently in the psalms, but it’s also a word in modern Arabic and Syrian Aramaic, and I’m fascinated by all of the ideas about what it might mean. (I haven’t done very scholarly research on this, but when you’re dealing with ambiguous words, precise meanings and careful citations are not desirable, I think, and in my case, they’re just not possible, because my brain is a vague and muddled place!) The psalms (also a lovely word!) were apparently sung and accompanied by music, and it’s possible that the word “selah” was a notation to the choir master, possibly to take a break in the music, to pause and reflect on what’s been said, to change the rhythm to signal a change in thought or theme. It also means to lift up, or hang, or to measure. So perhaps it means the person singing the psalms should lift up their voice, in pitch or volume. Of course, things were measured by being lifted and weighed against something else, so that’s part of the meaning, as well. (I wish I could express my thoughts more clearly – Isaac is having a distracting and inexplicable melt-down about strawberry chewing gum. He never gets to do what he wants! Never!) Back in the day, when I was in school, I read a lot of feminist film theory, and I found it very thrilling. It was difficult to understand, but it was frequently about language, about the language of film, and the language of vision, as well as the language we speak with. I think the authors used purposely obscure language, but I found this funny, it was a sort of joke, and it was a pleasure trying to decipher their meaning. Many writers spoke of the necessity of using the spaces between words or between shots to tell the story. To inhabit the silent moments to tell a more interesting story than the words or actions could tell. That’s what “selah” reminds me of – at least as I understand it. It’s about the words that have come before – it gives them more meaning and value, because you’re measuring them, and pausing to think about them. But it’s about the pause itself as well. I can picture meaning hanging in the air, floating just above our grasp, before it’s set down again and we can reach it. Apparently in Arabic and Syrian Aramaic, the word means “praise,” and specifically praise beyond expression or understanding. It’s a word to describe what can’t be described in words!!

Of course, I came to the word through The Ethiopians’ song The Selah. Because “selah” is also a word used by rastafarians. It gives weight and importance to the words that have come before, and it “seals them up.” I love the Ethiopians for their sweet voices and sweet melodies, and I love that I can’t always understand what they’re saying, which makes them mysterious and full of meaning. It’s funny how when the meaning is obscure or indefinable, it feels more like somebody is talking to you, or expressing your thoughts. Selah!

If you’re like us, and you’re having a hot patch of summer, all of your fruit is ripening faster than you can eat it. So you have some extra mushy bananas. Here’s a banana bread with tropical overtones for our tropical heat wave. It’s flavored with ginger, lime, and coconut. It’s very subtly sweet, and the ginger and lime add a little zing. Yes, it’s too hot to bake, but we’re baking anyway, because we can’t not!

Here’s The Ethiopians’ The Selah

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Coconut, almond, & cherry cake

Coconut, almond & cherry cake

When I was twenty I went to school in England. I was supposed to be there three years, but after a year I was completely miserable and I came back home. Maybe I should have stuck it out, but it didn’t feel like an option. Three years is such a long time, when you’re twenty. Besides, I wouldn’t have met David and had my boys. It’s hard to regret former decisions, once you have children!! Anyway, I’d never been very patriotic, but a strange shift occurred, and I started to be very defensive about America, and very nostalgic for it. Not the way it actually was at the time, though, but for some myth of simplicity and pioneer spirit. I devoured the Little House on the Prairie books, though I hadn’t really liked them when I was little. Laura’s dad made a big blanket pancake, to keep all the little pancakes warm! I loved that! During a holiday, we stayed at the mennonite center in London. I found a cookbook – The Mennonite Community Cookbook. I can’t tell you how comforting I found this odd little book. It was compiled by Mary Emma Showalter in 1950, but many of the recipes are much older than that, I think. They’re contributed by women from all over the country…Mrs. D.D. Driver, from Heston Kan contributed the Salmon Roll with Egg Sauce recipe. The Pansy Cake was the work of Mrs. Henry Brown, of North Lima, Ohio. The Chicken Relish Mold was provided by Mrs. Lillian Wought of Cullom, Ill. The back of the book contains extensive lists of helpful information. When wrapping a package for mailing, dip cord in water to moisten. The cord will shrink as it dries, and will make a tighter package. Save the empty adhesive tape spool to wind your tape measure on. This will save trying moments caused by a jumbled sewing basket. Boiled rice water makes an excellent starch for dainty collars, cuffs and baby dresses. It’s like the hagakure for housewives! I liked to read these women’s names, and locations, and recipes, and think about them having lives and passions just like mine. I can’t quite explain why this book appealed to me so much, but it did, I read it like a story book, and I bought it, and I still consult it from time-to-time, for baking basics.

This cake reminds me of one that could be in the oddly dark little pictures in the book. It’s a simple, flavorful tea cake. I like almond and coconut together, and I like the texture that they give to a plain cake. After making the gateau basque, I wanted to experiment with a layer of cherry preserves baked right into the cake. It sorta sunk to the bottom. Not quite what I had in mind! Good, though – it reminded me of a fruit-filled danish, somehow. You could just as easily bake this cake, and then slice it in half when the cake cooled, and spread jam on then.

Here’s The Carter Family with Single Girl, Married Girl. A remarkable, subersive song that gives me the same feeling as my Mennonite cookbook. What were these women’s lives like?

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Coconut cake with blackberry mousse

Coconut cake with blackberry mousse

I work in a restaurant that has a candy dispenser. If I have two quarters left over at the end of the day, I’ll sometimes bring home small cups of candy to my boys. Twenty-five cents worth a piece. I always bring M&Ms to my little one, and skittles to my older son. It seems funny that their love for fruity or chocolate-y candy has become a defining characteristic for them. One small way to be their own boy. And an easy way to divide the spoils come Halloween or Easter! I made a cake for my brother and father the other day (they both have February birthdays). I know they like chocolate (who doesn’t?) but I always think of them as falling towards the fruity end of the sweet spectrum. So…flush from my success with the chocolate drambuie mousse, I decided to make them a coconut cake with blackberry mousse in between the layers. This being February, when raspberries and blackberries seem to cost about $10 a piece, I used blackberry jam instead of fresh fruit. (Honestly, if you have fresh raspberries, don’t you just eat them? Exactly as they are?) The mousse is actually a white chocolate blackberry mousse, because I didn’t want to use gelatin, and I thought the chocolate would help to make the mousse more substantial, once it un-melted. It isn’t a difficult cake to make, but the assembly process does have a few messy-fun steps.

Here’s Doc Watson’s Blackberry Rag.
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Coconut-lime-vegetable soup

cocnut lime soup

The elegance of this light, bright soup belies its humble origins. In point of fact, this soup is the result of a very nearly empty vegetable drawer and a half-used can of coconut milk! I tend to save the white, hearty, wintery vegetables till the end of the week, and use the more brightly-colored, more easily-spoiled veg earlier. But I had carrots and peas, man! I could have added those! I made a choice to use only white vegetables! A conscious choice! I think they look nice with the silky tart-sweet coconut lime broth. As it happens, you could really use any vegetables you like in this soup – it’s eminently adaptable. Carrots and peas would have been pretty, actually. So would broccoli, or spinach, or sweet potatoes… You could also add basmati rice, if you wanted a heartier dish, or you could serve it over long, thin pasta, or you could add nuts – cashews or pistachios would be good, here. Or you could add red lentils. Or lots of cilantro. Go crazy, baby! I liked it in this simple manifestation, though – just what I was in the mood for. Sometimes vegetables and broth are all that are needed.

Here’s Louis Armstrong singing about being stranded on a Coconut Island. Now doesn’t that sound nice?
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Cardamom coconut brownies with white chocolate.

cardamom coconut blondies

A few weeks ago I was reading about Indian sweetmeats, as one does, and I thought, “These would make great cakes!” Not that they weren’t perfect in their original forms, I’m sure, just that some of the flavor combinations, and some of the interesting techniques seemed so inspiring to me, so full of possibilities. One in particular, a kind of fudge, with cardamom and coconut, became stuck in my craw as a perfect combination. Time passed, and the combination of cardamom and coconut haunted me…but I really felt that I wanted to make something with a different texture – not light and crumbly like a cake, but dense and tender, like the fudge that had inspired me. And then the whole thing with the brownies happened (I made 2 trays in 2 days…) And then it hit me!! These should be brownies!! But really blondies, because they wouldn’t have any cocoa in them! And they should have white chocolate chips, because brownies are required to have chocolate chips, but I liked the idea of all the wintery white colors in these. Before the last brownie was eaten, I got to work. And, let me tell you, these are the most ridiculously tasty, tender inside, crispy outside blondies I have ever eaten!!

Here’s Jole Blon by Harry Choates
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