October 31, 2012
My boyfriend Erlend and I are lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where there are three local, artisan supermarkets within 10 minutes of walking distance in either direction. Supermarkets like Whole Foods, but almost everything in the store is from within a hundred mile radius of the city or the Northwest. It's a locavore's dream.
Erlend has a fondness for fall fruit -- specifically, apples. New Seasons, one of the supermarkets around us, currently carries an incredible variety of apples. Some of which I've never even heard of -- Mutsu (which tastes like vanilla), Orleans Reinette, Ashmead Kernel... the list goes on. My favorite is the Pink Pearl: tiny apples with a yellow-green skin and a surprising bright pink inside.
Me, personally, I'm more of a plum girl than an apple one. I was sad to see summer's fruitful plum season go. So I was surprised when Erlend came home with a bag of "fall plums" -- beautiful maroon and indigo varieties that New Seasons claimed to be the final batch of the season. I was initially skeptical, but after slicing one open, I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted with the juicy, bright orange yellow that reminded me of summer's plums.
And so I decided to make this stone fruit tea cake filled with fall plums:
In the spirit of local, I used a recipe from the cookbook of a local bakery, Baker & Spice. My coworker Alanna once brought in a marionberry tea cake of theirs to the office that was so delicious that I nearly knocked my other coworkers out of the way to get seconds. She came back the next day and lent me their cookbook. Thanks Alanna!
What makes this cake so delicious is that it uses a shortbread-style dough to enclose the fruit. The dough is not overly sweet, and instead, just provides the perfect buttery compliment to the fruit's natural sweetness. Use any stone fruit (like plums, peaches, apricots) that's in season, or, just use berries. It'll be delicious eitherway.
October 27, 2012
I hesitated posting this recipe online because I had a lot of trouble with it. More specifically, I'm terrible custard maker. I'm too impatient to stand over a saucepan, whisking constantly to get that thick, creamy texture we all know and love. Most of the time, I often burn the custard since I turn up the heat too high in my impatience.
But this recipe pays off. Because underneath the vanilla custard layer, is a layer of dulce de leche:
Topped off with a layer of banana slices:
Yep, layers of vanilla custard, banana slices, and caramel. Really, that's all you need for a good banana cream pie.
October 24, 2012
When I first started working at my company, I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of my coworkers made it his duty to bring in a box of donuts every Friday. For weeks, the entire company thrived off this luxury, looking forward to our sugary pastry marking the end of the week. Then, one day, the donuts were gone. They stopped coming.
I began to suffer withdrawal. I NEEDED a sweet pastry on Friday mornings, otherwise, it would feel like the day was endless and the weekend was far, far away. With no donuts to placate me, this past Friday was torture.
So you know what I did first thing last Saturday morning?
I made donuts:
These are chocolate cake donuts topped with vanilla frosting and toasted coconut, a knockoff of one of my favorite store-bought donuts. I forget how easy it is to make cake donuts -- it's almost like making cupcakes, with no need to worry about centers collapsing and no fussing about with deep fryers. All you need is a donut pan.
While the original recipe called for flavoring the donuts with vanilla, I noticed a near-empty bottle of Grand Marnier and felt inspired to add the orange-flavored liqueur instead. I do love chocolate-orange as a flavor combination, and thought it would add a unique, complementary flavor to the toasted coconut. The result was wonderful -- not boozy at all, with just a little bit of an orange scent. And that's all I need.
I'll definitely be bringing these donuts in for my coworkers this Friday, just in case anybody else suffers from the same withdrawal I do :-D.
October 20, 2012
Guys, you know what I love? Cheesecake. You know what I don't love? Making cheesecake.
I'm a terrible cheesecake-maker. Don't get me wrong -- the cheesecake almost always tastes delicious. But it looks ugly. Oh so ugly. No matter what method I try, whether it be the water bath method or cooling the cake in the oven, my cheesecake always emerges from the oven with its top split in cracks.
So I was beyond excited when I found this recipe for a simple cheesecake that required no special pans or water baths. The recipe promised that all I needed was some white chocolate and wild berries to produce a creamy cheesecake that could be cut in bars:
And boy, did it live up to its promise.
The recipe instructs you to top the cake with berries before baking, so you don't really need to worry about the appearance of the cake. Topping it off with berries also lends a tartness to the cake that prevents it from becoming too sickly sweet. These cheesecake bars were everything you could ask for in a cheesecake -- creamy and delicious, without the need to fuss with weird cheesecake baking methodologies. My only problem with the recipe was that I wished it made more than an 8 x 8 pan's worth... but I guess that's a good problem to have, right?
October 17, 2012
When I was in seventh grade, I had an Italian classmate whose mom made the best tiramisu ever. THE BEST. I remember initially being skeptical -- as a younger kid, I hadn't developed a taste or liking for coffee yet, and wrinkled my nose at the stuff. So when he brought in tiramisu for the class, I was hesitant to try it. Coffee flavored cake? No thanks.
But then I took a bite.
Needless to say, I feel like I've been chasing that flavor ever since. Every tiramisu I try at restaurants, bakery, hell, in Italy itself -- can't ever live up to Mrs. Stradiotti's tiramisu.
Folks, these cupcakes are the Hummingbird Bakery's recipe for tiramisu cupcakes. Now, I know that tiramisu is traditionally made from ladyfingers dipped in coffee and layered with mascarpone cheese. But this recipe swaps out the ladyfingers for a vanilla cupcake base:
And infuses the cake with a coffee syrup and mascarpone frosting.
Often times, my big qualm against tiramisu at restaurants and bakeries is that it is too sweet -- but trust the Hummingbird Bakery to get it just right. Even with a cupcake base, the recipe results in alight-as-a-feather cake complemented by creamy mascarpone and strong coffee flavors. It was like eating an espresso... in cake form!
This is definitely a recipe I'll be making again and again.
October 13, 2012
This past week, my boyfriend and I downsized to a much smaller apartment. Since we were moving from a house, I decided to implement what I nerdily call "austerity measures". That is, things have got to go. No clothes I haven't worn in the last 6 months. No books I keep meaning to read but never do. To Goodwill it all goes.
Unsurprisingly, the hardest things to part with are kitchenware. As a food blogger, I find it hard to convince myself that I won't be needing those 7 mixing bowls or 10 different-colored rubber spatulas. As you can imagine, I've accumulated a lot of kitchenware in the last few months, even despite moving between three different states within the last 12 months.
In addition to the kitchenware, I was also surprised to find the amount of ingredients I've accumulated. My kitchen is filled with bags of frequently-used ingredients with just a few morsels left, or, worse -- half filled jars of unique ingredients like coconut oil, glucose, and corn syrup. Am I really going to haul a near-empty jar of peanut butter across town with me? I don't think so.
So behold, my white chocolate coconut cookies:
These cookies were actually a result of me throwing together all the half-empty packets or jars of ingredients in my pantry: mini chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, brown sugar, and coconut oil.
The coconut oil was a remnant from my time living in Colorado, when I attempted to bake paleo goods by replacing butter with coconut oil. Needless to say, that lasted about a day or so, because let's face it, nothing beats real butter. But I figured that using coconut oil this time around would be a nice change, since it's fun to occasionally experiment and substitute now and again.
The result is a soft, delicious (vegan!) cookie that tastes of coconut and white chocolate.
Your typical, delicious cookie, elevated with a unique twist -- coconut oil. Not bad, for a recipe comprised primarily of pantry leftovers.
October 10, 2012
You know what I love? Banana bread. You know what I don't love? Taking pictures of banana bread.
Doesn't it look like I've just sliced a brick in to pieces? Sigh.
Doesn't it look like I've just sliced a brick in to pieces? Sigh.
Despite the less-than-attractive photos, this banana bread recipe is one of the best I've found. With the addition of sour cream, caramel syrup, and toffee pieces, this banana bread is more like a caramel cake than a banana bread. So dense, so moist, and so delicious. Unfortunately, because of its incredibly moist interior and crunchy caramelized outside crust, the bread doesn't translate well in photos:
But believe me when I say that this is one of the best banana bread recipes I've found. The flavors blend perfectly together, and the ingredients are carefully combine to create the softest, moistest banana bread ever. I often find loaves have a tendency to turn out too dry, but not this recipe. Nope. So despite the crappy photos, promise to believe me when I say: make this banana bread. It's one of the best banana recipes I've found. Seriously.
October 6, 2012
I noticed the other day that I have a LOT of chocolate recipes on my blog. My last two posts -- my marble pinwheel cake and double chocolate cookies -- have been chocolate related. I think it's about time for something new. What's a quintessential baked good that doesn't involve chocolate or vanilla?
I know. Lemon bars:
Lemon bars tend to be a hit-or-miss for me. Although I love citrus-flavored baked goods (as made evident by the abundance of lemon- or orange- scented baked goods in my recipe index), I tend to be wary towards lemon bars. Often times they are too sweet, with copious amounts of sugar overtaking the lemon flavor.
But trust the Hummingbird Bakery to get this recipe just right:
These bars have all the elements of a lemon bar that I really enjoy: lemony, tangy, gooey, and not too sweet. I think I like these a lot because they are actually more shortbread cookies with a lemon topping? For instance, I'd say that the cookies are actually 3/4 lemon shortbread and 1/4 lemon custard. The perfect ratio. Don't forget to top off with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, cinnamon, and ground ginger to give these babies a unique flavor.
October 2, 2012
I apologize for the lack of posts this past Saturday, I've been down in San Francisco on a business trip all week. No matter. For your patience, I present to you one of the most beautiful cakes I've ever made:
This, my friends, is a marble pinwheel cake. I've been coveting a bundt pan ever since I saw Baker Royale's beautiful zebra bundt cake and was dying to try out the recipe. But I was appalled to find that a traditional bundt pan cost nearly $30 on Amazon! Screw that. Disheartened, I was about to click away when this beautiful pinwheel bundt pan caught my eye. It was $10 cheaper than the traditional bundt pan, and I was sure that its epic mold would produce a rather majestic cake:
I was right. Isn't it beautiful?