The Dessertations

Two unfinished dissertations and the baking in between

Jules and Jim Pie

by margarkolb

As you may have suspected, pie-making has gone a little crazy around here. And there will be more: two expat Thanksgivings are coming up, and I am in charge of pie for both.

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pie pre-glaze

This past weekend, the pie was a Jules-and-Jim production: French-inspired, with three distinct flavors in passionate dialogue.

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pie post-glaze

It was quite possibly the prettiest pie I’ve ever made. And so it was not great for the dissertation part of dessertations. I spent an entire afternoon looking at it. Poor Nick had to confirm repeatedly that it was, in fact, a lovely pie.

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ready for its close-up

I wish you had been there to eat it, and advise. Because though it was compulsively watch-able, I did not find it compulsively edible. Perhaps the pie was making some kind of moralistic statement about Jules and Jim? Or perhaps I had spent too much time watching the pie to enjoy it properly? Deep questions. And the only way to answer them is to make it more pie…….


Continuing adventures of your cakestand

by Jessica

You have been prolific lately (and if this applies to your dissertation, too, all the better!). I wish to know what an aquathon is!

We have had a series of November birthdays, and with it, upside-down pineapple cake. Your cake stand traveled to a four-way birthday celebration.


Hot from the oven! Steam courtesy of a magical gif.


Courtesy of Joanne Chang’s Flour Bakery Cookbook. I don’t make pineapple upside-down cakes frequently, but I have been told there is a more traditional version involving maraschino cherries and pineapple rings. Which I am now eager to try.


Your cakestand was a stalwart vehicle, and prompted a number of questions about your absence: we miss you!


American apples, with pears on the side

by margarkolb

And then there is this….

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…a pear bread, almond-pear, leaning towards cake. Which is always a nice way to lean.

And starry-American apple pie, to celebrate a friend’s new citizenship.


These days, where there are big pies, minis are sure to follow…


Happy Halloween!

by margarkolb

Sweet potato pie, courtesy of Joy the Baker.

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Games. Friends.

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And an aquathlon in the morning.

Dessertating was never lovelier.

Apples for apples

by Jessica

Yes. Gah! Those little pies are exquisite, though the amount of labor involved in those thin slices would deter me. Having company would make it much easier, and having Eisha’s company would make it downright pleasurable.


The apples came in early at our favorite orchard at the Tahoe foothills: small and bright Galas and sun-baked Golden Delicious.

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The owners, a delightful retired couple whose only goals seem to be growing fruit, tanning, and giving joy, let us pick the last of their syrah grapes for free! I have no idea what to do with these; they’ve got little crunchy seeds so snacking is cumbersome.

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I think apple rosettes are a bit beyond me (or my patience, can’t tell), but the bushel we picked will be baked-good bound. A sign of things to come–

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Bulgarian Pie; Turkish Baklava

by margarkolb

We hosted a Bulgarian movie night this past weekend, which set me scrambling to learn something — anything — about Bulgarian desserts.

And, wow. I think perhaps the food truck of our dreams should be called “Circular Meals” rather than square. Because ….




“Why didn’t we know about this before?” Eisha asked me, dumbfounded. Apparently we should have. A small internet storm has gathered around apple-flower pies, based on one recipe posted by a Bulgarian lady and since translated (with varying success) into English.


Are they Bulgarian? My Bulgarian friend and her mother have yet to encounter them. Apple pies are very Bulgarian, but flower-pies are rare specimens everywhere, it seems. (Flower form adds, for clumsy people like me, about an hour to pie prep-time, using Alice Waters’ classic apple pie as a benchmark.)


Was it worth it? Absolutely it was.

We also made baklava. We sent you some in our imaginations. Come visit….there’s more in our freezer!

A glut of cherries and a sketch

by Jessica

I’m finding your biscuits delightful–and hope you finally got the muffin of your dreams, whether here or in Westown.

It has been a summer of cherries. They’ve gone into cakes, Julia Child’s clafoutis, roasted and swirled into goat-cheese ice cream, courtesy of Jeni.

The summer has also revealed an unfortunate habit: I tend to eat whatever I’ve made before documenting the fruits of my labor.

So there are many cooking shots and few final photos–such is life!

I enclose a sketch in lieu of a photograph:


A quick break for an international tea (in Woking, from Abu Dhabi)

by margarkolb


A few days spent in Westown, the house my great grandparents settled into when they returned from tending to the tigers in the colonies, made me fall in love all over again with damp weather, overgrown shrubberies, and – most of all – biscuits.


In honor of your return

by Jessica

A peach tart!





The adventures of your cakestand

by Jessica


Last week your cakestand had an encounter with coffee cake, walnuts, and crackly meringues: 

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And yes, that’s my hand blocking the camera. I learned this summer that I’m pretty terrible at photography. 

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Still, it’s pretty hard to make whipped cream look bad. 

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Walnut cake!

I’m curious about how it is to bake in the desert–do you have to adjust for humidity as one might for elevation?