Rhubarb Brandy Snap Baskets
What do you cook for the person you love after 500 meals apart?
After tens of thousands of miles and countless photographs, my husband is finally coming home for dinner. For six months he’s been taking beautiful photos in unforgiving places – refugee camps, urban slums and forgotten villages across Africa.
In between, I’ve collected a new camera, a new kitchen, new friends and a new job. I started taking food photos and started a blog. I rediscovered the immense joy of cooking for, and with, my friends.
Amidst that arc, Shravan earned a greencard – the right to live in the U.S., and the right to leave it. For the first time in our five years together he was free to pursue his passion: photographing daily life on his native continent.
What meal could possibly encompass so many changes, and still taste of home? I remembered a dish from a lifetime ago on the spice-scented island of Zanzibar. It was a trip of firsts – my first time in East Africa, our first time traveling abroad together, our first attempt (never repeated) to share a single camera.
We sat on the shore of the Indian Ocean, still strangers to each other, while Shravan devoured a sea of cream in a brandy snap basket. I was amazed by his immense pleasure at the dessert, as I was at his ability to charm complete strangers – young children, old men, veiled women – into comfort in front of his lens.
It seemed fitting to re-create that bowl of cream, and the sense of limitless hope and creativity of the time. Little did I guess that the lacy sugar lattices, much like my fledging relationship, would be far more complex than the glossy magazines made out.
I burn the first cup, dropped the second, and cracked the third before I achieved a golden brown nest of sugar and spice. I piled it high with cream and rhubarb compote and sprinkled it with cloves, the famous Zanzibar spice that floats on the island’s breezes.
It tasted of everything that’s changed and yet stayed the same: the allure of far off places, our admiration for each other, our desire to capture some fleeting beauty in our photographs. It will be a sweet end to a long-delayed dinner, so many months in the making.
Brandy Snap Baskets
Gourmet | April 1997
Yield: Makes 6-8 large baskets
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon water
Preheat oven to 375° F. and butter a heavy baking sheet (make sure it’s flat).
Into a small bowl sift together flour, ginger, and cloves. In a small saucepan melt butter with sugar, golden syrup, and water over moderate heat, stirring until smooth. Stir in flour mixture until combined well and let stand 2 minutes. Spoon 1 tablespoon batter onto baking sheet and spread into a 3-inch circle. Make 2 or 3 more cookies in same manner, keeping them 2 inches apart. Bake cookies in middle of oven 7 to 9 minutes, or until just golden brown. Cool on the tray for 30 to 45 seconds, or until just firm enough to hold their shape but still pliable.
Working quickly, lift hot cookies, one at a time, from the tray with a spatula and press into a small bowl or muffin tin. (If cookies become too crisp to remove from baking sheet, return baking sheet to oven 30 seconds, or until cookies are heated through and pliable.)
To create spirals, bake thin strips of batter until golden brown (4-5 minutes) and wrap in a spiral around handle of a wooden spoon. Cool cookies 20 seconds and slide off spoon handle.
Make more cookies, one by one, with remaining batter in same manner. Brandy snap cups and twirls may be made 2 weeks ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
Rhubarb Sangria Compote
Bon Appétit | March 2008
2 cups Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 2-inch-long strips orange peel
2 2-inch-long strips lemon peel
4 whole cloves
6 cups 1/2-inch pieces fresh rhubarb (about 2 pounds trimmed)
1/8 teaspoon salt
Combine wine, sugar, orange peel, lemon peel and cloves in heavy large saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add rhubarb and salt and simmer until rhubarb is tender but still retains its shape, about 9 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer rhubarb to shallow dish, arranging in single layer. Boil wine syrup in saucepan until slightly thickened and reduced to 1 1/4 cups, adding any juices accumulated from rhubarb, about 5 minutes. Pour syrup over rhubarb and cool, then cover and chill until cold. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and keep chilled.