Wednesday, March 7, 2012



I don't mind living in a man's world as long as I can be a woman in it.
- Marilyn Monroe

My dear friend Lael keeps teasing me about living in a household full of men.Woman vs Man. Me vs Godzilla. Fay Wray vs King King. Coming from her own house of one man, Giuliano, swimming against a tide of women, Lael must see my own world as one ongoing, raging battle of wits and wills, an everlasting struggle to please the hard-to-please. Or a great comedy act. One solitary, isolated girl baking and cooking for, humoring 3 men. Sugar & spice and everything nice simply going about my life and trying to understand the snakes and snails and puppy dog tails, to no avail.

In a way she is right. Every single day more proof is laid at my door that we are entirely different species. Try as I might, I am often berated for not understanding, chided for talking to the boys as if they were girls, using emotion and compromise where stalwart orders and force are the only effective means. When I am upset they need me to be happy and bright; yet my cheerfulness is a sign of flippant insouciance in times of worry. When I dress up they ask me where I am going; “Nowhere, I just feel like looking nice.” merits shrugged shoulders and rolled eyes. Dressed down, jeans, fleece and slippers, and they rebuke me for slouching around the house like a listless, uncaring slob. An evening in front of a good movie? Homemade pizza a-gogo, coffee table spread with a traditional red & white checked cloth, cork popped on a luscious, fizzy bottle of Lambrusco and, yes, you see it coming, don’t you? She wants a good chick flick or something light and humorous and they want zombies and chainsaws or giant fireballs or a dark thriller filled with spies and evil and boogey monsters. They make fun of me for carrying Kleenex in my purse and cookies in the car yet are always the first to partake. They lose, well, almost everything and, somehow or other, I never do; and no matter how often I point out that it is because I follow the old adage “A place for everything and everything in its place”, frankly they do not; ecco fatto. My kindness is seen as weakness, my gentle words of understanding simply giving up and giving in, my pithy words of wisdom as mere blather, just mom rattling on and on again.

Though we adore men individually,
we agree that as a group they’re rather stupid.
-Mary Poppins

But I malign my men too readily and much too flippantly. As the only girl in a schoolyard full of boys, it is often a frustrating prospect and once too often I have come out the loser, face down in the dirt and bicycle stolen. Yet, for all of their “maleness”, as much as they seem absolutely mystified by my “girliness” they are ready to protect me at a moment’s notice, pamper me on each and every special occasion, whether birthday, Hanukkah or even Valentine’s Day. They walk on eggshells if I am unhappy and do all within their power to soothe my hurt and cheer me up. They coddle me when I am sick and although they seem to go out of their way to make me angry, they are also quick to step in, apologize and clean up the mess when I finally explode. They used to get upset and embarrassed when I was overly friendly to strangers, chatting merrily to shopkeepers, conversing with the butcher, attempting to draw a smile from even the grouchiest of curmudgeons, yet now they either stand by patiently waiting for me to finish or they, themselves, join in the fun. Yes, I malign them; we tease each other endlessly and drive each other crazy, but it is, really, all in good fun.

No, we will never understand each other’s ways and will often cross swords. But for all of our differences we are a very tightknit group who love each other’s company and care for each other’s well being; we can spend hours and days together talking and laughing, traveling and sightseeing. A helping hand and an eager ear are always there for the asking, advice and a shoulder never very far. We also know our limits and when to leave the others in peace. The perfect little family, odd in our own special way, maybe not so perfect but perfect all the same. For all that we don’t get each other, we understand each other thoroughly.

The great question that has never been answered,
and which I have not yet been able to answer,
despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul,
is “What does a woman want?”
- Sigmund Freud

Yes, Lael urges me to write about baking for a house full of men, my daily, weary attempts to keep them sated and happy. It is, I must admit, a never-ending balancing act, a delicate tightwire performance, producing just the right amount of sweet things to their satisfaction: there are days they beg me for cake, exhorting me to dash into the kitchen tout de suite and whip up something chocolate, oozing buttercream or crunchy with pecans and why not a tin of chocolate chip cookies to boot, while I’m at it; they cry neglect when the counter is bare of plates and platters bearing homebaked goodies shrouded under layers of foil, theirs for the choosing. And there are days that any baking effort is met with a shrug and a turned back…just not interested. The cakes and cookies languish away, slowly forming a comforting blanket of fuzz. They shake their heads and scold me for overbaking, admonish me for not listening to their no’s and their stop the damn baking! They have even gone so far as to scream abuse, crying for one and all to hear that I force food down their throats!

If a man wants to truly communicate with a woman,
he must enter her world of emotions.
- Gary Smalley

Ah, woe is me, the woman of the house. Too emotional. Too friendly. Too talkative. But where baking is concerned, I can usually get it right. I’ve got my finger on the pulse and if once in a while I get it wrong, making something not one of them likes, I can usually feed their desires, put smiles on each face and soothe their man-souls.

While they eat the last of the Chocolate Chip Butter Horns and Pecan Brownie Cupcakes, while Simon puts away an entire Chocolate Layer Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Filling practically on his own, I am, once again, craving chocolate. Panna Cotta has long been on my mind and I have wanted to try on chocolate for size. I based my ingredients and quantities on a small book called Panna Cotta, one of the Hachette Collection series. I added cinnamon to the blend and switched out the sheets of gelatin with powdered and followed my own how-to directions. Although JP loves the finished product, I am not altogether happy that the dessert separated, leaving a rather grainy layer atop the creamy center layer, so I will try again. I decided to post the recipe anyway, hoping a reader can figure it out and perfect it for me.

To accompany the Panna Cotta, I made Financiers, the tiny, delicate French tea cakes, very much like a sponge, lightened with plenty of whipped egg whites and flavored with ground nuts. A friend of Clem’s had given me her own recipe ages ago and I finally pulled it out and put it to good use. I changed much of the flavoring, switching the classic ground almonds with hazelnuts, adding a splash of vanilla and a dash of ground cinnamon and finishing the whole off with a handful of finely grated semisweet chocolate, not only for the light chocolate flavor but to give the Financiers a lovely “tweedy” look. The cakes are fabulous! Perfect texture, perfect flavor: light yet chewy, delicate and moist! This is such a lovely snack, great for a tea or coffee break but perfect as an accompaniment to such desserts as Panna Cotta, Ice Cream or sorbet. This recipe will now be baked over and over again, the basis for an abundance of flavor combinations.


2 ¾ cups (675 ml) whole milk, divided
.35 oz (10 g = about 2 ½ tsps) powdered gelatin
3.5 oz (100 g) semisweet chocolate (I use Lindt Doux 70%), chopped
¼ cup + 2 tsps (60 g) sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Prepare 6 individual ramekins or pretty serving glasses.

Place ¾ cup (approximately 185 ml) cold milk in a small bowl and sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the milk’s surface. Using a fork, gently give it a mix. Allow to stand for 5 minutes; this softens the gelatin.

While the gelatin is softening in the cold milk, pour the rest of the milk in a medium saucepan, add the chopped chocolate and the sugar and place over medium-low heat. Allow the chocolate to melt and the sugar to dissolve, stirring, while the milk gently heats; do not allow it to come to a boil.

Once the gelatin has soften and the chocolate milk in the pan is warm (not too hot) and the chocolate melted, add the milk with the gelatin to the saucepan. Continuing stirring or whisking while the mixture heats. Once the mixture is hot and some steam is coming off of the liquid, allow to cook over low heat, stirring, for a few (4 to 5) minutes until the gelatin is melted; if you see specks of pale gold (like drops) on the surface, this is the gelatin and these should disappear.

Remove from the heat. Allow to cool for several minutes, stirring occasionally then divide evenly among the recipients. Cover each glass or ramekin with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until set, about 8 or 10 hours or, preferably, overnight.

I have adapted the recipe of a friend of Clem’s.

1 cup (80 g) finely ground (powder) hazelnuts or almonds
5 Tbs (50 g) flour
¼ cup + 1 Tbs + 1 tsp (75 g) granulated white sugar
¼ cup + 1 Tbs + 1 tsp (75 g) granulated brown sugar (cassonade)
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
5 1/3 Tbs (75 g) unsalted butter + butter for molds
4 large egg whites
½ tsp vanilla
pinch salt
3 Tbs (approximately 2 oz) finely grated semisweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Generously butter 16 traditional (approximately 3 ¾ x 1 ¾ -inch rectangular/ 9 ½ x 4 ½-cm) Financier molds – or 8 Financier molds + 12 approximately 2-inch (5 cm) round shallow molds. This is most easily done with melted and cooled unsalted butter and a pastry brush.

Finely grate the chocolate. Slowly melt the unsalted butter over low heat and remove from the heat just as the last bit of butter is melting. Swirl a few seconds until the butter is completely melted and set aside to cool briefly.

Beat the egg whites with a few grains of salt until stiff peaks hold.

In a large mixing bowl, combine and whisk together the ground hazelnuts, the flour, both sugars, the cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Fold in the stiff egg whites until just blended. Fold in the butter a little at a time – in about 5 additions, slowly pouring the melted butter down the side of the bowl rather than right into the middle of the batter. Add the vanilla extract with one addition of the butter. Fold in the finely grated chocolate.

Spoon the batter into the molds, filling each mold no more than ¾ full. Gently spread evenly in each mold if needed. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the Financiers are puffed and evenly golden brown. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for a few minutes and then gently pop the Financiers out of the molds and cool completely on cooling racks.


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A delightful dessert! Both the panna cotta and financiers look and sound ever so good. I'm drooling...

It must feel really strange to live in a household full of growup men. I'd feel like an alien! ;-P



Rambling Tart said...

I'm chuckling about cooking for a houseful of men for I grew up the same way! I had THREE brothers and my Dad and they drove me crazy and made me happy in equal measure. :-) I still have a list of "man food" that I can haul out for ANY gathering of men that never fails to make them happy. I guess all those years were worth it. :-) Love those financiers. I too am attempting to perfect panna cotta. It's not such a bad thing to "have" to do over and over again. :-)

thelittleloaf said...

You've excelled yourself once again Jamie - these look incredible! Love the layers in that panacotta.

Luckily living with just my boyfriend our household is pretty balanced on the boy/girl front, although sometimes he complains that all my baking will make him fat. Ha! :-)

Lael Hazan @educatedpalate said...

Love it! Although in my house we do have Truffle, our boy poodle who has definately bonded with Giuliano. I'm not sure that it is only men who tease, I often find my girls rolling their eyes as I get to friendly with a shop keeper or a "new" friend on the street who I had previously not known. It is a known fact that I take longer in the supermarket than my husband, I always meet someone.

Panna cotta has always been a difficult one in our family too. Getting the mold out has been a challenge. I have the flavors correct but not the form, I'm still working on it and will let you know.

The financiers.... your photos are devine. I will see what the girls feel like baking this weekend.



Jamie said...

@Lael Hazan @educatedpalate: Ha I am glad you read this post! I've been chuckling for days over your talking about the whole Man Thing! And funny you mention Truffle because I almost talked about us having had girl dogs in the past and they were always a comfort to me and I felt like I had someone on my team! The Financiers are so good! Get the girls to make them. Then we need to figure out the chocolate panna cotta! x

Ilva said...

maybe we have to try to meet in the middle? i'm forever standing there waiting...

Sally said...

"Shhh, Mom's on the warpath"! That kind of sums it up. Oh, I talk too much (to the lady in the grocery store? blush!) say too much, etc. etc. With my one boy (now in college) I still have been outnumbered, so I know from where you speak! That said, boys do love their mothers, and now that College Boy is away at school, I still talk to him nearly every day!

As for the panna cotta, cannot fathom what went wrong--it can be tricky sometimes--maybe cream (more body?) would be a fix--or maybe the chocolate was grainy? Either way, this was an ambitious post. I look forward to making the financiers--saving this recipe for when my son comes home for vacation!

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

Never living in a house full of men, I now know why you bake. It makes them happy. You're a smart girl Jamie.

Jamie said...

@Ilva: :-D

Jamie said...

@Sally: Whenever my boys have been away for long periods of time all they want to do is call home and spend hours on the phone with me. Go figure! And actually I was thinking maybe the grainy layer was because I used whole milk instead of heavy cream. And maybe I need to cook the chocolate and cream longer before adding in the softened gelatin. Good point!

Ken│hungry rabbit said...

Men are strange creatures, aren't they? I totally get the tissue in bag thing. Both man and woman will certainly be attracted to your chic. panna cotta and financiers. Perhaps you can strain the panna cotta after you cooked it.

Nuts about food said...

Those first paragraphs had me thinking: thank God I have one of each, a boy and a girl, to balance things out. I need the girly part of the equation and always feel for my sister stuck with a family of 4 men (yes, 3 sons!). But as I went on reading I felt the love, the "understanding each other without getting each other", the fact that when it comes to the bottom of things, you are their girl to put on a pedestal and to protect and to cuddle, even if you are the one taking care of them day in and day out. Sounds like a lovely family to me. Your desserts are delicious looking as always... and I could not believe the Ivory soap ad!! Can you imagine?

Robin O | what-about-the-food said...

Growing up a tomboy and then blessed with two sons, I have a natural affinity with the beasts. But, I thank my lucky stars my firstborn was a daughter to talk nailpolish with!

Your post zoomed straight into my heart Jamie.

Jill Colonna said...

Put chocolate and Jamie together? Mum's the word and no wonder you have them in the palm of your hand. Way to go, Jamie! This looks absolutely stunning.

Janet Rudolph @ DyingforChocolate said...

Love this post.. both the story behind it and the fabulous chocolate recipes.

Javelin Warrior said...

I love the add for the soap - mostly because it's such an antiquated notion & rather shocking that such ads were ever printed (and not even that long ago...)

The panna cotta looks delicious, although I have no idea what would be causing the separation as the only separation I experienced when I made your coffee panna cotta was due to the use of the wrong ingredient! ;)

carpet cleaning Fargo ND said...

It looks divine, absolutely delightful, what a dessert

Maureen said...

Somehow I suspect you do just fine with those men. What a great dessert!

Estate Agent said...

What a great idea for a special evening, I love panna cotta but have never tried financiers so it must be very good to try something new!

Hazel - Chicken in a Cherry Sauce said...

Great post! Absolutely wonderful recipes. Gorgeous flavours and textures put together. Mmmm!

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

OMG if I had 10 cents for every time I suggested to N that he finds a place for everything and return thigs to said place....!!! I swear that the mating call of the western male is "wheresma". As in wheresma belt? Wheresma wallet? Wheresma drill? Wheresma keys?

So I USE any of these items? No? So HOW THE HELL SHOULD I KNOW WHERE THEY ARE!! Aaargh!

Anyhoo - love the financiers! And have you seen my latest post? Anything there look familiar?! ;o)

Jamie said...

@Jeanne @Cooksister: can I tell you something? I am actually able to find everything they lose! I can so get their whole thinking process that if I follow step by step where they would have gone and what they would have done I can find it. Even if they themselves never could. Glad mine are not the only ones. And you MUST try these financiers! Fab recipe from Clem's friend. And off to see your blog post now!

Flat or Apartment said...

I love the recipe. It looks absolutely delicious and I will surely check it out this weekend. Thanks!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I remember my sister-in-law, who has two sons, saying the very same type of things when her boys were younger and living at home. Now she has 4 granddaughters, which makes up for living in an all-male household for all those years!

Deeba PAB said...

Ooh I'm so happy to be back in all this yumminess. Panna Cotta and me...BFF!! And then financiers? YUM!! Been wanting to make some forever but keep saving those silly whites for macs. Must try Clems friends recipe... love the crumb and how beautifully they pair with the panna cotta. House full of men? And house full of 1 man, 2 men, teens, kids = always hungry! Food is certainly the way to the 'peoples' heart!! I can visualise you in the kitchen... as usual, its always a Julie & Julia moment that I see you in babe!

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen said...

Ah men! I chukled at the kleenex part because I know that one all too well. They're glad we have them on us aren't they? lol

Sanjeeta kk said...

A family that bakes together stays together..and could literally feel the bond getting stronger with each bake that we do together as a family! Love those cute little spongy cake like goodies.
Happy baking and may you rule the hearts of all the three men in your life forever.

Terra said...

I love the flavor combination in your panna cottas, just beautiful! I have never heard of a financiers, but I think I would love them:-) Love and Hugs, Terra

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I always find male female dynamics really interesting. I grew up with a sister so my dad was slightly outnumbered there! I don't know how I'd go in a house ful of men! I'd imagine your experience really sums it up Jamie! :D

Cake Duchess said...

Panna Cotta is a favorite and yours looks great. I remember the panna cotta recipe we used last year in Daring Bakers was a solid recipe. Did you bake that round?

lisa is cooking said...

Luckily my household is balanced with two females and two males, and one of each is a cat. Still, I have the same issue with baking too much some days and not enough other days. They should just eat when we bake, right? The cinnamon in your panna cotta sounds lovely, and I'd like a financier for breakfast, please.

bunkycooks said...

I think the panna cotta looks quite pretty separated. I am sorry that you were not happy with the taste. However, it seems like the hazelnut financiers made up for it! I have two men/boys in my house (Mr. B and Beamer). It is not always easy being the only female!

Nina said...

Wow..looks delightful:) Am drooling now:)

angela@spinachtiger said...

Your baking is beautiful and it looks like you take great pride in it. I am afraid to make panna cotta, but you have me inspired. I worked for a legendary family psychologist. She says this. "A woman should please herself, cook for herself, bake for herself first and share it with others. This simple paradigm shift changes everything. I am in household of boys too, so I understand.

Lisa said...

Oh, how I loved this post! D grew up with two brothers, so his Mom was the lone 'chick' just like you. Much of what you wrote, pepper his stories of growing up. My favorite - his Dad pulling them aside and explaining PMS to them LOL

All I can think is, how lucky are these three men to not only have you, but to have you baking all of these wonderful treats for them!, whether they're in the mood for them or not. Next time send one of your sons to me when there are no baked goods. I've got a freezer full!! In the meantime, grainy top or not, that panna cotta looks glorious, and the financiers..OOO la la! What a dessert pairing!

Soma said...

I have no siblings and all the cousins i grew up with are all girls.. i have absolutely no experience of having men around me other than my dad while growing up.. So many things I have not tried yet.. like making financiers. They sounds so extremely good!! chocolate and hazelnuts are to die for.

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

That dessert looks to die for. I wish I had the patience to create layers in stuff, it looks wonderful when it's finished.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

OMG! I can so relate. I live in a house of boys too and yes it's very much the same thing --- except for the tissue part. It's Tom who usually carries the tissues and I am always forgetting to replace them in my handbag.

Love this 2 divine treats in one post. I have not made financiers in a while - need to rectify that.


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