Almost everyone has a set of Pyrex mixing bowls. At one time, they were the mandatory shower gift. They nested and came in colors: red, orange, yellow, green and blue. I have only one left from my set- the orange one. It’s the second to the largest – the “go to bowl”. Louisa and I were baking a few years ago when she said “I always know I’m home when the orange bowl is on the table. Someday I want that bowl.” Her words took me by surprise. It’s an old bowl. It’s scratched and faded and I don’t particularly like the color orange. But when I thought about it, it is as filled with memories as any other part of the house. It has been home to pasta, salads, pasta salad, batters for cakes and cookies. In it I baked one of their favorite desserts: hot fudge pudding cake. A little miracle of science. It may be one of the single most unappetizing things I’ve ever put in an oven: a batter covered with dry ingredients and hot water. But somehow, when it’s done, there is a layer of cake covering a layer of dark chocolate pudding. Topped with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, it’s a little bit of heaven. It was, and, when we’re together, still is, our favorite treat for movie nights.
Not surprising, the bowl also has a connection to Denise. When I first moved here, I invited her little ones over to make a birthday cake for her. They were toddlers at the time. Denise ran a tight ship in those days. She made this noise I can’t quite describe when they were about to trespass in to germ country. They’d hear that noise, stop dead, hold up those little hands, wait for them to be wiped clean, then off they’d go. It was like watching a game of freeze tag. That day, I had them each standing on a chair while we made the batter in the orange bowl. I poured it in to the pan, leaving enough for some fun licking the bowl. I gave them each a spoon and turned to put some things in the sink. Remember the scene in ET when Drew Barrymore finds ET in the closet? She screams. He screams. She screams some more. That’s what I turned around to. These two sweet, beautiful faces, mouths open wide, screaming and holding up their hands because they were covered with batter. Telling them to lick their fingers only met with louder screams. I tried not to laugh while I wiped off those sticky little hands. I couldn’t send them home traumatized by making a birthday cake, so I took over, scooping a little batter onto the spoons and handing it off to them. That worked much better. They were proud and happy when they gave Denise her cake.
The orange bowl as home. Had Louisa never made that remark, I would have never entertained the thought. But she was right. After a day of school and work, that bowl almost always found its way to the counter, if not the table. It is the one tangible object that has been a constant since they were born. I look at the orange bowl through different eyes now. It is the only bowl I use when I make bread or bake something new. I don’t nest it with the other bowls, just in case it might get chipped. When I take it out of the cupboard, I can feel the memories that it has absorbed over the years. I hear little voices filled with excitement at the prospect of a favorite dish and those same little voices saying “I’m not eating that!”. It has been a receptacle of it’s own triumphs and failures and will continue to be so-an orange microcosm of our family life. And it makes me happy that my friend and her children are a part of those memories. The orange bowl as home. Thanks, Louisa.
THE MENU: BARBEQUED CHICKEN, BUTTERY FARRO, ARUGULA BLOOD ORANGE SALAD, THOMAS KELLER’S BROWNIES FROM THE AD HOC COOKBOOK
Gaining more confidence with each recipe we’ve tried, we made the brownies. We usually make one bowl brownies-this is a three bowl brownie and would be worth making if it was a ten bowl brownie. While our presentation doesn’t come close, the brownies are nothing short of spectacular and, of course, were mixed in the orange bowl.
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup good quality unsweetened cocoa powder (the recipe calls for alkalized but we used Ghiradelli and it worked fine)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut in to one tablespoon pieces
- 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
- 6 ounces 61 to 64% chocolate cut in to chip sized pieces
- powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour a 9″ square baking dish. Sift together the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
Melt half the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Put the remaining butter in a bowl. Pour the melted butter over the bowl of butter and stir. The butter should be creamy, with small bits of butter remaining and at room temperature. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the sugar and eggs, on medium speed, for about three minutes until thick and pale. Mix in the vanilla. On low speed, add about one third of the dry ingredients, then add one third of the butter, and continue alternating the remaining flour and butter. Stir in the chocolate pieces.
Spread the batter evenly in the pan and bake 40-50 minutes until center is firm and toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs on it. Ours took the full 50 minutes. Cool on a rack until just about room temperature. Run a knife around the edeges and invert on to a plate. Cool completely. Cut into squares or rectangles. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.