Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Are you made for Fire and Ice?

There are many ways to cope when life gets you down.

Some people shop, some eat, exercise or talk on the phone. We all have our little ways we pick ourselves up and keep going.

Baking is of course one of my favorite ways to relax -- especially if I’m baking for someone else.

But I also have a tendency to buy lipstick. If my finances are in good shape, I might spring for an expensive slick tube of lip lacquer with a sexy French name from a high-end make up company. But a tube of lipstick from a drugstore brand can do the trick of a pick-me-up just as well as the expensive brand.

A glance into my makeup drawer reveals the evidence – dozens of tubes wait their turn by the makeup mirror. Nothing like snapping off the cover of a fresh tube of lipstick with its perfect point not yet marred to make me feel like life is still full of perfect possibility.

As the founder of Revlon, Charles Revson, famously said, “In the factory we make cosmetics, in the store we sell hope.”

I think part of the reason I buy lipstick is because it is one of the few cosmetics my mom used. She had beautiful skin and for years did without foundation. And I never saw her wear mascara or eye shadow.

But she always wore lipstick and she was loyal to one brand and one color for most of her life: Fire and Ice by Revlon.

I used to sneak into her bedroom while she was at work and slip on her high heels and smear her lipstick not so perfectly on my lips.

Revlon introduced Fire and Ice in 1950 when mom was a young woman of 21 who was about to be married. The color is red but not too bright of a red – what the efficient makeup counter sales women call a “warm” red.

But the Revlon ad slogan in 1950 said it best, “Are you made for fire and ice?” I’m sure my mom who was brought up in a very small Indiana town thought it was the height of sophistication.

A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to combine both my coping techniques of lipstick indulgence and baking.

As I’ve mentioned in this blog, my childhood home in Indiana had two beautiful cherry trees in the backyard. My mom and I baked pie after pie, cobbler after cobbler and put up many jars of jam with the seemingly endless fruit from these trees. These were sour cherries and while we thought they were wonderful to eat, we didn’t consider them to be rare.

When I moved to Northern California I quickly discovered that the local growing season for sour cherries is about two weeks long -- rare indeed.

This season I was lucky enough through my weekly (sometimes daily) patronage of a local farm stand to be notified when the local sour cherries arrived.

I quickly bought all they had and baked them into the pies I sell at the local farmers’ market. My customers who grew up in the Midwest and East Coast were as excited as I was to have them available.

After I had baked the last pie, I found that I had a few sour cherries left. I had been invited to a BBQ that same evening and wondered what I could make with so few cherries – I just couldn’t bear to waste any of them. They looked so beautiful in their white mixing bowl. In fact, they look like….well… fire and ice!

Whoa. The fire and ice image led me to ice cream which naturally, led me to David Lebovitz, ice cream master.

His cookbook, The Perfect Scoop, had just the recipe I needed, Sour Cherry Frozen Yogurt. Super easy recipe with really just three essential ingredients – sour cherries, sugar and whole milk yogurt. I needed one pound of sour cherries but even though I had a bit less than that, I forged ahead.

The finished yogurt was just bursting with flavor – sweet and sour with a smooth finish. In other words, sugar, sour cherries and yogurt. I had a bit less than three cups and I had about 15 people I needed to share it with so I started looking for a perfect complement to the sour cherry yogurt.

Cherry and chocolate came to mind and I knew that I had to make one of my favorite and easiest chocolate cakes – Chanterelle’s Chocolate Souffle Cake from the cookbook by Lori Longbotham, titled, Luscious Chocolate Desserts. This recipe is adapted from Staff Meals from Chanterelle – the now closed and much loved NYC restaurant. The alternating layers of cocoa powder and confectioners sugar on top of the finished cake truly make the cake “stunning” as Lori described it.

The guests at the dinner party obviously thought so as I wiped up the remaining drips of yogurt and wiped away the chocolate crumbs. I think I had, as Revson used to hope his lipsticks would, "turn the right head and lend a touch of class."

Pucker up.

photos by Scott R. Kline