I am sorry for the unplanned long break from this newsletter — I really intended to write one after the first full week of January. And then I sat down that Friday to write to you all, less than 48 hours after the, you know, insurrection and attempted coup, and I typed “Happy (???) New Year!” and then could not think of a single other thing to say, and was like yeah, you know what? I’m going to wait on this one.
But now I do actually have hope for this new year. And yes, everything won’t change overnight, and the current administration has its flaws, and we still have a lot of very bad people out there, and oh yep that pandemic is still going. But those were some of the longest and hardest and saddest and scariest four years of my life, and those were four years that were professionally wonderful for me, so I am thrilled to the bone today that we have competent, smart, caring, thoughtful people in charge, and I’m going to enjoy that feeling as much as I possibly can.
If you missed it, my next book comes out in July! It’s called While We Were Dating, and you can read more about it, and preorder it, here! It will be out in paperback, hardcover, ebook, and audio, so take your pick! I love it very very much, and I truly cannot wait for all of you to read it. I turned in revisions for it last week, and in honor of that I’m doing a little giveaway of previous books over here on my Instagram page — jump over there if you want to enter.
Okay, I have a confession to make — I spent altogether too much money in 2020 on candles, and I’m not even ashamed of it. I’m just…in my home, all the time now, and lighting a different candle every day brought me a tiny bit of joy. If you also have turned into this person over the course of the pandemic, I have some candle recommendations for you! First, my favorite brand that I discovered last year was Sydney Hale: the candles come in a good range of scents, all in the sort of nature type scents that I enjoy (I like nature scented candles over ones that smell like baked goods); the scent is strong enough that your house smells great when you’ve been burning it for a while, but it’s not overpowering; and their customer service is lovely — I sent them an email when I went to order my favorite candle of theirs and didn’t see it on the website, and they quickly sent me back a very apologetic email to explain why they were currently not selling it, and I really appreciated it. I have tried many of their scents now and have liked every single one. Also, I love PF Candles: more good nature-y scents; great containers; reasonably priced (for this kind of candle); and free shipping! I also recommend Paige’s Candle Co: woman of color owned small business, a great range of scents, and reasonably priced. And this is more of a splurge, but I got a candle from Harlem Candle Company for Christmas and I was angry at how much I loved it — SUCH a gorgeous scent and it made my whole home smell glorious, and now I just want to buy more of them, and I promised myself I wouldn’t buy any candles in January and I just have ten more days to make it. Can I? I’m not sure, writing all of this up just made me want to buy more. And if you have other favorite candle companies I should blow my candle budget on, please jump over to the comments on Substack and share with everyone!
The first book I read in 2021 was Jessica Simpson’s memoir, Open Book, and wow do I highly recommend it! A number of people told me to read it last year, but I was always sort of confused when they said it — why would I care about Jessica Simpson enough to read her memoir? Well, let me tell you, if you thought the same, we were both wrong — it is so readable, so interesting, so well written, such a page turner. I think I finished it in three days, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. Full of great celebrity gossip but also real life stories of what she went through and mistakes she made and it’s just a very good read.
(Reminder: I have a whole Bookshop page with lots of book recommendations! Any affiliate dollars I make through it I donate to food banks and food pantries).
I made this chocolate chess pie for Christmas, and it was so easy and delicious that I regretted every time I could have made a chocolate chess pie and did not. The original recipe called for semi-sweet chocolate, but I used bittersweet because I like my desserts less sweet, and I was very glad I did. You need a pie crust for it; you can make one (my favorite recipe is in an old newsletter) or buy one if you want to make this pie as soon as possible and don’t want to fuss with pie crust (I was in a no fuss mood at Christmas and used a store bought crust and it was great). I used this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction, made the pie on Christmas Eve, and it was just perfect on Christmas Day, so I would recommend making it with enough time for it to cool completely, because otherwise it will be super gooey. UNLESS, of course you want it that way, in which case get yourself a tub of vanilla ice cream and enjoy.
Chocolate Chess Pie
1 half batch pie dough, or purchased or frozen pie dough for a one crust pie
1 large egg white, beaten (don’t worry, you’ll use the yolk in the filling)
4 tablespoons (60g) unsalted butter, cubed
2 ounces (56g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (100g) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (16g) unsweetened cocoa powder (dutch process is fine too)
1 teaspoon espresso powder (possibly optional, but was so good here)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs and 1 large egg yolk (see! there’s the yolk from above)
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for serving
Prepare your pie dough as in the recipe, up to putting it in the pie pan and crimping the edges. Put the pie pan in the fridge or freezer for thirty minutes to chill the dough. (If your dough comes in the pan and already frozen, great, start with the next thing). Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the bottom and sides of the dough with your egg white, and then line the pan with aluminum foil. Pour in your pie weights (I use sugar, this link explains why and how, and taught me so much about blind baking, which I’d always been terrible at before). Bake the crust for 15 minutes with the foil and weights on, and then remove the crust from the oven, take off the foil along with the weights, prick holes all around the bottom crust with a fork, and put the crust back in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool while you do everything else. Or you can do this part hours or even a few days in advance, if you’re the type who plans ahead.
Turn your oven to 325 degrees F. Put the butter and chocolate into a heat proof bowl; slowly melt the butter and chocolate mixture, either on a double boiler on the stove top or in the microwave. As soon as it’s melted, take the mixture off the heat and let cool for a few minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and salt. When combined, whisk in the heavy cream, vanilla, eggs and egg yolk. Then add the cooled butter and chocolate and whisk until combined.
Pour into the pre baked pie crust and bake for 50-55 minutes until the center doesn’t jiggle anymore when you gently shake the pan. For me, this took exactly about 50 minutes, and it was still very slightly gooey in the middle when cooled, which was just right for us. Remove the finished pie from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool. Eat with whipped cream or ice cream and be happy.
I hope you enjoy your weekend, everyone!