It was beautiful yesterday. Until it turned cold again. I spotted a few patches of daffodils just ready to open along Broadway and 212th Street. And out my back window a couple of early branches of forsythia have sprung some bright green leaves.
The Farmers' Almanac predicts it will be a unseasonably chilly spring followed by record-breaking heat come July. Though the cardinals and blue jays keep me company each morning, there's not a robin to be found. The ground is still too hard for them to find any worms. Does this all mean we'll have to wait even longer for fresh berries and rhubarb, apricots and peaches, nectarines and plums?
For my family, it is thanks to our good friend Beverly that our Spring wait is so sweet and resplendent of what's to come. Last summer, as in every summer I've known Bev, waiting until each fruit is at its peak, Bev makes an incredible assortment of jams, jellies and syrups. She knows her stuff and has the astute patience to wait until just the right moment to nab those fruits and turn them into delightful concoctions to savor. Her blackberry jam can bring me directly to summer days picking berries along the trails in Block Island.
To make our days a little brighter, as the sun is not cooperating, I reached back into my childhood, remembering the jelly rolls my mother often kept on her pantry shelf. Using a combination of buttermilk and yogurt, I made a light yellow cake with flecks of lemon zest, then slathered it with Bev's jam, rolled it up and let it rest for just a bit. Perfect with a spot of tea while we watch Spring arrive.
Twin Nesselrode Pies
There is a lost piece of New York City that a disparate group of people have been searching for. Seemingly each person has been on a lone quest to re-experience a particular, coveted taste sensation. These folk have such an affection for Nesselrode Pie -- from a young rabbi in the Bronx to a well-heeled octogenarian on Fifth Avenue to an old-time Queens boy about to celebrate his birthday. And they have each been on a long and almost-fruitless hunt for Nesselrode Pie.
As the proud owner and chief baker of Pie Country, it was just impossible to resist my rabbi's request last November for Nesselrode Pie. She gave me plenty of notice and a plea I could not refuse. For her wife's upcoming 40th birthday, she had her heart set on it, and not a one could be found. Please make one for us.
She had taught both of our children, officiated at my father-in-law's shiva and helped us build our first sukkah.
Could you say no?
My first thought - what the devil is Nesselrode Pie?
A quick online search provided the answers and just two recipes. Just two recipes! Most other pies have dozens if not hundreds of varying recipes that flood the screen with a simple search. Not Nesselrode Pie.
Nesselrode Pie appears to be indigineous to New York. From what I've managed to read, it was brought to popularity by Hortense Spier, the premier pie baker for restaurants in New York City, in the 40s and 50s. Evidently all things with chestnut puree have been named after Count Nesselrode, a 19th century Russian diplomat credited with negotiating the Treaty of Paris after the Crimean War. Don't ask me what the chestnut puree connection is all about!
Nesselrode Pie or Nesselro Pudding is simply a vanilla custard, aka Bavarian cream, spiked with rum and then folded with chestnut puree set in a buttery pastry shell and topped with some chocolate shavings. Some versions have candied citrons throughout the custard, others have marons glacee. We also add a lovely layer of fresh whipped cream.
It is a shame that no restaurant in New York City currently serves this. It would be easy enough - all they have to do is contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We deliver.