Saturday, December 1, 2012

I was meaning to say this earlier, but here you go.

It's the first day of December.  I can't believe it. As we leave thoughts of turkey's and cranberry sauce behind, and march on into anticipation of twinkle lights and tinsel (yes, I love Christmas right down to the very last holiday themed napkin), I still have some things to say about Pie.

Besides the obvious (that it's always amazing, even when it isn't that amazing) to me it's a dessert full of history. Chalk full of tradition and reminders of home.  Where I'm from Pie is a thing.  Everyone's family has their own version of the standard Apple (cheddar cheese anyone?) and any number of holiday and non holiday reasons to eat them. Don't even get me started on how we feel about our crusts, or rather, the best way to make dough. I imagine there have been hard feelings felt over lard v. butter, or more v. less water debates.  However, what I miss most about Vermont, are the truck stops linning I-90 brimming with pie slices of every variety slowly spinning in rotating glass cases.  It's fantastic.  We all had our favorites. My dad loved chocolate cream. My sister Hazel had a passion for Key Lime pie that persisted above all else. And my oldest sister Rose still prefers pumpkin over pecan. 

I've always been a fan of pies that showcase what I love most... sugar.  So I thought I would try my hand at a New England specialty.  Maple Sugar pie.  It's exactly as it sounds. And I have to say it's  possibly the best and by the far the sweetest pie I've ever had.  I have strong opinions on maple syrup, thoughts that I thoroughly and often express to anyone who will listen, but Sugar Pie may just be the crown jewel, the icing on the cake, the king of the mountain, I could go on, of maple syrup desserts.

The filling is simple. The crumble is easy. The whole thing takes maybe, excluding the crust making, fifteen minutes.  I got the recipe from a cookbook aptly tittled Pie, which includes 300 pie recipes from all over the country, compiled by a mustached man who resembles an older looking Brawny man.

The only amendment I made was making a little extra crumble, which I added towards the end of the baking time, mainly to keep the pie looking pretty.  Also, I ended up baking the pie for about 40 minutes, despite the author's warning to resist baking over 30 minutes.  While I have nothing to compare it to, I don't regret it. Not at all.

Sugar Pie
Adapted from Pie 

1 cup flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Mix dry ingredients in bowl and work in butter with hands or pastry cutter until you reach a sand like texture. Pour 1/3 of the crumble on top of a pre-baked pie crust. Side Note: To pre- bake your pie crust make sure your rolled out crust is completely frozen, and make sure you wrap tin foil tightly down over the crust.  You can use pie weights, but dried beans work just as well.

1 cup Vermont Maple Syrup (the recipe did not say Vermont, but let's get serious here shall we?)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the Maple Syrup over burner until warm, turn off heat and whisk in baking soda, whisk in eggs and vanilla. Pour filling into the shell. Top with the second third of the crumble.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes then rotate 180 degrees and continue to make for another 10 minutes. Pull pie from oven, spread the rest of the crumble evenly overtop of the pie and bake for the remaining 10 to 20 minutes. Pie will still look considerably jiggly, however it will continue to thicken and set up as it cools and as the crumble expands.

While Sugar Pie can be served warm, I think it's best room temp.  Feel free to serve with fresh whipped cream, but make sure it's not too sweet because it's name speaks for itself. It's sweet. Really, really sweet.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Welcome to adulthood.

I have a new apartment.

Let's call this a christening.

Or rather more along the lines of spraying champagne on the deck of your boat (I've been told that's a thing), burning sage, buying an orchid (which I would love someone to do FYI), or smashing dishes- the first cake baked ritual holds its own. It's also much tastier and doesn't involve alcohol soaked walls, although I suspect this particular cake would pair just lovely with some bubbles. Maybe we should try it....

In addition to the new apartment, there's been a lot going on in the past few months. The best part about that sentence is that they're ALL good things.  That and for the past two months I've almost exclusively been baking banana bread.  Probably at least once a week, if I'm being honest. Sometimes two, if I am being really honest.  There must have been something in the air, or water, or maybe it was just that I kept subconsciously (and then very very consciously) buying bananas I knew I would never eat each week.  Whatever it was, September and October are officially awash with banana bread.  I'm not even sure we're out of the woods yet, I'm not even sick of it, but there are other important things to discuss

Like pears.

Poached and caramelized in butter and maple sugar. 

I think upside down cake is the grandmother of all cakes. Not in any hierarchical sense, just as in upside down cake is like a grandmother.  Specifically, the most infamous pineapple incarnation, screams: eat me, I've been sitting on this counter in your Grandmother's house for a week, and somehow against all odds I am more and more delicious the older I get.

Despite, or possibly because of being the most grandmotherly cake, Upside down cake is also very delicious.  Or else it is with pears and other things that are not in fact pineapples. I'm sorry to the rest of the world, but pineapples make me too anxious and I've never been all that excited about them.

But I do like pears and I do like my new kitchen. Actually, like is an understatement, I am overwhelmingly enamored with all of it despite the fact that it's tiny and currently holds very little besides pie pans and baking ingredients.  

So here's to you adulthood. To small first apartments and even smaller first kitchens. To hopefully not bouncing my deposit check and to forgetting to buy a shower curtain.  Here's to it all and here's to cake. 

Let's eat. 

For this recipe I combined Martha Stewart's holiday sensibility with Smitten Kitchen's ability to consistently deliver a really, really good cake. 

Instead of sweetened pineapple juice I used molasses and instead of rum I used bourbon. I also had to adjust the recipe to make more of the actually cake part because I wanted to use a cake pan and not a skillet. 

Pear Upside Down Cake. 
Adapted heavily from Martha Stewart and Smitten Kitchen 

For the Top:
Peal, core, and slice 4 to 5 large ripe pairs. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet on the stove top. Once the butter melts add the pears in an even layer along the bottom of the skillet. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of sugar. I prefer a combination of sugar and granulated maple sugar.  Let pears brown and caramelize for several minutes on each side. Arrange pears in the bottom of a buttered cake pan. 

For the Batter: 
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons of baking powder
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs 
1 1/4 stick of unsalted butter, slightly softened 
2 teaspoons vanilla 
1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon 
3/4 cup dark molasses 

Whisk flour, salt, and powder together in a bowl and set aside.  Whip butter in food processor until light and fluffy. Slowly add in sugar and mix. Add in eggs, stirring well after each addition. Add in vanilla and bourbon. Slowly add half of the dry mixture, until just combined.  Beat in molasses. Add the last of the dry mixture and stir until just combined. Pour batter over pears and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. 

Let cool in cake pan and then invert onto a plate.  This is definitely not the prettiest of pear cakes, but it's mighty tasty and made my apartment smell like caramelized sugar for several hours.  

Last but not least, here's to new traditions, because if I know me, the first baked cake christening is not likely to go lightly. 


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

For you, I'll bake two.

I know I get excited about produce, but I never realized how apparent it's become until the other day, over lunch, plum cake, and rosé, with a good friend of mine, who mentioned that since me at my most excitable usually has something to do with produce, I should probably just realize that I love this city. We were discussing Seattle and all its merits, discussing thoughts of new cities, and nostalgic thoughts of home.  I have a romantic love of New York, and truthfully I'll probably end up there someday- at least for a little bit- but when it comes right  down to it, I just don't think I'll ever be able to get over having a plum tree in my backyard. Ever. 

It's plum season.  You know what that means...

Plum cakes for days. So many plums, cakes, and everything in between, that I just couldn't decide. 

So I made two. I've been trying to formulate thoughts on which cake is better, forcing tastes on my friends and coworkers, and  concocting all sorts of taste tests, but I just can't. I love them both. Therefore, you get two. 

The first- a (semi) traditional Italian Plum Cake is light, fluffy, nutty, and just altogether beautiful.  Plus, I just finished Blood Bones and Butter, which I loved, and which stirred up so many desires for travel, Italy, plums, and apricot juice I could hardly stand it.  I say semi traditional because I used buttermilk instead of milk in the above recipe, for no real reason other than that's all I had. I like the softness and tang it gives the cake, so for now I'm sticking with it. 

The second cake is a bit more rustic and a bit more my style, and if I was forced to choose (absolutely forced), it's maybe just a tad bit better. Plum Corn Meal Cake. Light, fluffy, gritty in the best kind of way, and insanely moist. 

I substituted blue cornmeal for the yellow cornmeal in the above recipe because, one, it's delicious and two, it's just better. 

Trust me. 

But when it comes to the plum cakes it's still a toss up. I like them both. I really do. You can decide. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Now's not really the time.

I have a lot of fruit in my fridge. I've had a lot of fruit for weeks. I can't eat enough of it and while I've been baking with it, really these things are mostly delicious enough on their own.

So I've been baking a lot of cookies.  I know now isn't really the time for cookies, but I've been doing it anyways. There is something almost meditative about baking cookies in the morning. The day is young, not too warm yet, and you feel like, covered in flour, you just may be the only person awake. It's a feeling that from time to time can give you goose bumps. Clearly, I haven't done much in the way of real meditation, but this is what I've got and I'm pretty sure it has the same effect. Plus, by the end, you get to eat cookie dough.

I've always been a fan of no nonsense baking. Not cutting corners per say, but baking with a bit of wiggle room, or panache, if you will.  I think that's why I am so obsessed with Christina Tosi of Momofuku's Milk Bar. She really doesn't mess around. Also, she doesn't bring her eggs to room temp before adding them to the mix. I've been a fan of doing that for years and have felt guilty about it for just as long. I'm glad someone finally told me it was ok. It's a huge weight off my shoulders. Really, it is. 

So with the authority of whatever higher baking Gods that be, here are my new favorite cookies.  I've also been thinking they would be really great with some maple soft serve and maybe some bourbon....

Either way they're pretty delicious. 

Corn Cookies. 
Adapted from the Milk Bar CookBook

Basically the only thing I changed was swapping corn flour (I didn't have any on hand) with stone ground corn meal, the blue kind in particular. I think the corn meal adds a nice grittiness to the cookie and combined with the corn powder gives great texture, crunch, and chewiness all at the same time. Basically, it makes for the perfect cookie trifecta. 

And don't worry, I'm determined to get some soft serve soon, but for now you'll have to settle for a cold glass of milk. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

the in-between days.

I love summer. I love sun and ice cream, summer dresses and midnight swims. I love it all. I also love the fall. Thoughts of new boots, the first needed sweater nights, pumpkin this and that, and scarves. Lots and lots of scarves.

But the time of year I love the most is the in-between days. Here in Seattle we are almost full swing in the middle of this in-between season. The days still mostly summery, the nights and early mornings cool, and the air thick with the first sents of fall.  It's a time of utter limbo. Pumpkin beers begin popping up on shelves, I start to crave pumpkin pie, but at the very same time we still have late summer strawberries and field grown tomatoes. Basically, it's the time when a lot of good things- the best things in fact- all collide.

It's the perfect time of year.

It's also the time of year my thoughts begin to be mostly and mainly focused on huckleberries.  For me, this season holds a lot of promise. It will be my second huckleberry feast and my second time experiencing the in-between Seattle days. I couldn't be more thrilled.  Huckleberries, besides being the perfect fruit for baking- tart, sweet, and small are still new to me, so every time I see them, eat them, or even really think of them I feel like a kid on christmas morning. Each one a tiny present with endless uses and applications.

Mostly I like them in pies. Or in cobblers, or in crumble bars, or in coffee cake, or in spice cake, or, or, or. Ok, so I like them in a lot of things, but in keeping with the tradition of today's post, I have a truly in-between days recipe for you.

Chocolate Pudding Brownies with Huckleberry Jam. 

Yep. For real. It's the Jam (literally).

To make the Jam: 
I totally made this up so feel free to experiment. My version is how I like most things- on the tart er side of sweet.

2 cups huckleberries
3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
pinch salt
zest and juice from one lemon

Cook all ingredients over medium to medium low heat. Watch it bubble, thicken, and reduce. Pull off heat and let cool. This jam is also good with yogurt, toast, or you know vanilla ice cream. 

For the Brownies: 

I've made these bad boys before. Adapted from Smitten Kitchen here a few months ago, I called them Cupboard Brownies.  I still feel they are the most perfect I need chocolate and I have everything I need brownie, but while licking the batter spoon (I still do that- in fact- sometimes that's the only way I eat desserts) this time around, I was struck by how much the batter looked and tasted like chocolate pudding. You know the kind.  Instant, ready in minutes, and in my house growing up a rare treat. I was never one for Jello, but I've gone through some serious instant pudding phases in my life. First when I was eight and loved nothing more than eating the vanilla flavor straight out of the fridge (door ajar) with a spoon almost to large to fit in my mouth. Then again when I was in college and it was about the only thing I "baked." Needless to stay, chocolate pudding helps you write papers, it really does.  And after thinking about instant pudding for the past twenty minutes or so, I may just be entering a third pudding stage, but we'll see.

But, back to these brownies. They look like pudding, taste like pudding, and while they are quick and not at all fussey to make, they are far from being instant. Truthfully, that's probably a good thing.  I followed the exact same recipe this time as above, except I added another extra pinch of salt to the mixed batter.  I think they're perfect now.

So after following these steps, right up to pouring the batter into the greased 8 by 8 pan, spoon your huckleberry jam on top of the chocolate batter and use your spoon or rubber spatula to twirl and mix the jam into the top layer of the brownie.  You could mix the chocolate with the jam first before pouring into the pan, but I prefer the swirl method because, once baked, you are left with dense ganache like chocolate brownie on bottom, topped with a layer of juicy jamey chocolate goo.  And I do mean goo in the best, most pudding like, rich kind of way. As much as I love instant pudding, I feel very confident in saying that these brownies will best even the best box of jello brand. Very confident.

Also, just as instant pudding is best cold out of the fridge, I find these brownies to be best when cold. I stuck mine in the freezer to speed up the process for 30 minutes and then shifted them to the fridge.  Also, they are very rich and and a little sticky because of the jam so I would recommend slicing them like cake and serving with a spoon, or cutting into bite sized pieces, like above. 

But whatever you do, instant pudding or not, I think they're pretty good. And given they right mood, they may in fact be perfect. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

I like them all kinds of ways

Apricots.  Now I am going to talk about apricots- and how wonderful they are baked, broiled, poached,   fresh, sliced, dipped in honey, and sometimes covered in caramel.

I've been told I should always bake apricots to avoid the sometimes spongy and tasteless fruit that sometimes exists in other peoples apricots. Not my apricots- or rather- not Washington apricots, fresh picked and perfectly ripe.  Another fruit point for the west coast.  My native pride- or state ism- is melting away. Don't tell my maple syrup man...

Anyways, as much as I've been eating fresh, tart, and raw apricots- I'd also like to talk about baking with them.  Here's a secret- I crave sweets all the time, but when I bake only for myself it's kinda like I'm cooking- I get distracted, cut corners, and usually do the first thing that comes to mind.  For me that's been apricots as of late. Oh, and peaches. Sliced and tossed with granulated maple sugar and lemon and covered with a very lose oat crumble. I pretend its healthy and eat it for breakfast- or sometimes as a snack in between desserts. Seriously. 

I'm not going to give you this recipe because its embarrassing, but if you were to walk into my kitchen right now you would probably see some on my stove. I take that back, you would definitely find some on my stove and lucky for you I would probably share- as long as you didn't make fun of me and my makeshift cobbler.

OK I'm getting back to it. Apricots. Vanilla Buttermilk Cake. Honey Caramel Sauce. Yep, that's really all I have to say.

Except there's always more to say about caramel sauce.  Growing up I was always a rainbow sprinkles gal over caramel or hot fudge. Call me simple, but there is something about rainbow sprinkles that is completely nostalgic and utterly satisfying.  I digress I know, but fun fact one of my first "restaurant" jobs was at the Whippie Dip in Fairlee, VT and for two summers I dipped a lot of cones in caramel and never got the point, especially when there was the viable option of rainbow sprinkles.

But rainbow sprinkles aside, I think I get it now. That is to say, I get Caramel and how fantastic it is- rich, nutty, sweet, and salty its like the tawny port of desserts.  I'm not even sure that's an apt comparison, but I said it, I'm going with it, so there you have it.

Specifically, I like apricots coated in caramel sauce. A lot.  Cakes aside I could eat them with a spoon.

So here you go. To make about half a mason jar (thats a real measurement when it comes to liquid sweet things you will possibly need to store) of honey caramel sauce combine 1 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of honey or granulated honey in a sauce pan on medium low heat.  I prefer granulated honey because I like making caramel with less liquid and also I really like the granulated honey I buy because its especially floral, with a deep flavor and a lighter color to balance out the brown sugar.
Making caramel is kinda tricky and I often screw it up, but I am practicing and it seems to be coming along. I've found it's best to leave it alone while it begins to boil, to avoid introducing too much air into the mixture and messing up the creamy glassy nature of your finished caramel- sauce or candy.  Every so often I will tilt the pan to let the sugar redistribute, but don't start stirring until the end.  After it has been bubbling for sometime the mixture will start to pull away from the sides.

That's the moment I've found you really have to watch it. Its usually seconds between perfect and burnt, so at that point it's best to keep your eyes on it.  Technically I believe you want the temperature at about 350 to 355 degrees, but you can also do it by sight and smell.  Once the mixture reaches a uniform caramel brown (isn't the obvious) color you are probably good to go.  Also, the sugars will begin to break down and the honey will smell much richer and nuttier.  At this time add heavy cream and butter- both add creaminess, but the amount you add of each depends on what you want your caramel to do at room temp. Personally I did a 1/2 cup of each, but when I reheated it later after it had thickened some I added more heavy cream because I wanted more of a glaze and less of a thick sauce.

I'm not sure what I've been afraid of all these years, it's surprisingly easy, way easier than making rainbow sprinkles from scratch, that's for sure.  So over ice cream, apples, peaches, or yes- raw apricots I like it, a lot.

Happy summer!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I was going to talk about apricots.

I have a lot of fruit. A lot. Baskets, pints, and flats of fruit. Well maybe one basket, a half-flat, and several pints, but still that's a lot of fruit. And a lot of perfectly ripe and perfectly in season fruit.  I was going to talk about apricots, which is where this whole gathering of fruit started, but instead I am starting with the berries.

Yesterday I was feeling a little indulgent after my yoga class so I decided to treat myself to an insanely delicious and exorbitantly expensive raw coconut water and the latest issue of Lucky Peach. Somehow between setting my selections down on the register and paying, I picked up a half flat of fresh berries. I am still not sure how it happened, but it did.

After staring at my spoils and debating between cake or pie for a while, I decided on well- both.  The raspberries and blackberries for pie and the blueberries for cake. Coffee cake to be exact. 

As much as I love cookbooks and magazines, there is something to be said about the Internet and instant gratification.  Or rather, virtually stumbling across just the thing you want to eat next.  In this case a recipe for Huckleberry Maple Coffee Cake from 101 Cookbooks.   It looked good enough to fall in love with: not too sweet, not too decadent, and perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack.  Really, the best cakes for me are cakes that you can eat at 8am and at 4pm and maybe even again sometime in between.  

This is one of those cakes. 

I substituted regular pastry flour for the whole wheat pastry flour that the recipe calls for and traded out the huckleberries for the blueberries from my box o' berries, but any berry would do. Honestly, I think that it would have been best with the blackberries, but I am saving those for pie. 

I love a lot of things about this cake. I love that the outside gets crunchy and the inside stays juicy and soft from the berries. I love that its not very sweet. I love that it goes with coffee, or I suspect nicely with some whipped cream. I love that it makes my house smell like baked berries. But mostly I love that it reminds me of home. 

A perfect New England breakfast reminiscent of bead and breakfasts and summer mornings.  My only wish is that I had east coast berries. I'll give the pacific northwest the crown when it comes to blackberries, raspberries, cherries, and strawberries- but New England takes blueberries. You will never change my mind. 

Lets really talk about blueberries. As a kid we had giant blueberry bushes in our back yard, at least four or five big bushes that every year produced fists full of berries that my sisters and I would eat straight from the bush. We also lived just up the road from a pick-your-own blueberry farm, so we were never without fresh blueberries in the summer and frozen in the winter. One of my favorite treats growing up was frozen berries straight from the  gallon zip-lock bag. Handful after handful until our hands were frozen and stained a deep purple. If only I had more patience, I could have made a lot of blueberry maple coffee cakes.... 

I'm hoping my sister, who lives in vermont, will take note and make a lot of these in the very near future.  

Blueberry Maple Coffee Cake 
Mostly the same as here from 101 Cookbooks 

1 cup  pastry flour
3 tablespoons rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup maple syrup, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
zest of one lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/3 cups fresh blueberries, or other berries 
For the Crumble 
1/2 cup t pastry flour
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut 1/4-inch cubes
1/3 cup granulated maple sugar (or brown sugar)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour a loaf pan. Whisk together flour, oats, salt, powder, and soda together and set aside. Beat butter until fluffy. Add in maple syrup and egg. Beat again. Add in lemon zest and vanilla. Beat until just combined.  Add in half flour and some buttermilk. Stir. Add in the rest of the flour mixture and buttermilk and stir until just combined.  Mix in 1 cup of berries.  Pour batter into loaf fan. 
Prepare crumble by using pulsing ingredients in food processor quickly 20-30 times. Pour over batter and and the rest of the fresh blueberries. Bake 40-50 minutes. 

Let cool. Serve with coffee, whipped cream, or just a fork and a grin. 


Thursday, July 19, 2012

for someone else's birthday.

I made these cookies. They were really tasty. That's all.

They don't look all that insane, but they were pretty tasty and very simple. Meet my peanut butter cookie recipe plus one part oats and one part chocolate. 

Together you get Milk Chocolate Salted Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies. A mouthful, but a delicious one at that.

Here's a close up. 

Sadly,  I fear this is the end of birthday celebrations for a while.  I'm willing to celebrate half birthdays though. Yours, mine, or a complete strangers- that's how much I love them. 

Happy birthday! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

couldn't have asked for more.

Two days ago I turned twenty-four. I ate a lot of desserts. A lot.

It was wonderful. I couldn't have asked for more. I also ate a lot of other delicious food and went to a lot of my favorite places. In fact, three out of four of them. I am one lucky girl with some awesome and indulgent friends.  You know who you are!

First up. Three desserts and homemade fernet at Delancey. Yes three of them, all of which followed two different pizzas (one with fennel kimchi which was out of this world and my favorite of all time crimini mushroom pizza), goat cheese with more grilled fennel, and a salad with pickled rhubarb.  But before moving on to dessert- all of them- I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that I've decided I really don't like tomato sauce all that much.  In fact, I think it just gets in the way of all that cheese, grilled scapes, crimini, or fennel kimchi. I suppose however I've never had their tomato sauce, and if its anything like everything thing else I've had there, I am almost positive I could fall in love with it.

But moving on. As soon as we sat down I knew we would be getting all of the desserts.  Each of the three was perfect in their own right, I had my favorite, but whose really counting when they were all so delicious. Plus, we sat at the counter and had the most lovely service that is only possible on the west coast, but made me feel very much at home.

First. Almond cake with brandied cherries and lemon.

To be fair this was my least favorite out of my two day dessert eating extravaganza. Between the light almond flavor and the cherry, it was a bit too ameretto like for me- not the cakes fault, but rather my own taste preferences. But, there was some stiff competition and this cake against any other everyday desserts would have blown all other contenders out of the water. 

Second, and possibly my favorite because it is perfect in every which way-   Raspberry Pavlova with fresh Billy's strawberries and whipped cream. Often Pavlova can turn out chalky and fairly unappetizing, but done right it's chewy, crunchy, and pillowy all at the same time. 

Dessert Heaven. Literally a melt in your mouth, airy, summery, wonderful bite of cloud. With berries. 

Finally we ended the night with one of Molly's famous bittersweet salted chocolate chip cookies.  A minegarde, if you will, except gigantic and gooey and served in a to-go bag.  I love the cookies I make, not to be biased they are some of the best, but her's? These cookies are unreal. 

Maybe it was the liquid courage from the homemade fernet, but I found out their cookie secret. It blew my mind. I'm not going to share it though, until I test it out, but it may just change my life. 

Needless to say there wasn't a single morsel or drop left over. It couldn't have been more perfect and I couldn't have asked for more.  But then, it kept going. 

Welcome day two of birthday dessert tasting- Sitka and Spruce, which has been my ideal restaurant in Seattle and maybe anywhere for as long as I've known about it.  I mostly love it because it is exactly the type of food I want to eat all of the time, anytime, at home or out. Also, it's airy, rustic, farmy, light atmosphere is always exactly where I want to be most of the time- dining or otherwise.  They also have my all time favorite cake on the menu most of the time, so I figured the odds where in our favor. 

Gateau Basque. 

Somewhere between cake and pie, dessert and breakfast, it's the perfect combination of lots of things I love.  After having gateau basque at Sitka last fall I attempted to make my own.  It was fairly disastrous. My crust was too thick and I over cooked my pastry cream- something I still struggle with, but getting better. Still, it looked delicious and after re-trying Sitka's superior version, I think I am ready to give it another go sometime soon. 

We also sampled this. 

Homemade yogurt with pistachios and berries. Definitely less sweet, but a good final bite too a great meal.

I really do have lovely friends. Friends who will share five desserts and not blink an eye when I asked to walk to Molly Moon's to get ice cream too.

Really, I couldn't have asked for more.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

what a ways

For better or worse, I've come a long way.  It was around this time last year, when I was visiting friends and family in New York, that I decided to start this blog.  I decided to start at the top, with what I still think is the best thing I've ever tasted.

Strawberry Shortcake.

It was a disaster. My biscuits were neither fluffy, nor sweet, and my whipped cream was not as much creamy as it was milky.  Despite it all, I was off on a mission to bake and write my way through my 23rd year, and here I am about to be 24 and making strawberry shortcake with less than ideal results yet again.

So even though shortcake biscuits appear to be my baking nemesis, I can safely say I've come a long way. As with any amount of passing time, one hopes to get wiser and achieve some sense of heightened clarity. I am none of those things, but I am dorkier, more adventurous, and even more than ever a lover of sweets.

A quote I stumbled across a long time ago, and one that has stuck with me as I feel it speaks to life in a larger more metaphorical way,  refers to strawberry shortcake in its most perfect (or not so perfect) form.  James Beard once said, "There can be no dessert better, only fancier."

And so, while it wasn't that long ago that that sight of a hard boiled, or any kind of cooked or uncooked egg yolk would have sent me running for the door- I took the masters advice and boiled and peeled, pressed and scrapped yolks into my biscuit batter. And someday I'll get it, really get it, and until then I'll keep trying... 

It was good. I promise it was good. Just not as good as his. They were not fluffy, and somehow despite the recipes promise that it was impossible to overwork this dough- I did it anyway.  Then I pressed it out too thin and made slightly overdone shortbread cookies.

I am probably being to hard on myself, because afterall there is still no better dessert I can think of, only fancier, and in the case of my version- a lot fancier.

As much as I love Seattle, there is something about the 4th of July, summer, and my upcoming birthday that makes me miss the East Coast just a bit. So in the spirit of America, birthdays, home, and growing up- lets all eat shortcake.

James Beard Strawberry Short Cake
from Food52

2 cups AP flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soda
6 tablespoons butter (chilled and cubed).
2 hard boiled egg yolks (pressed through a micro strainer)
3/4 cup cream

Whisk together flour, sugar, and powder.  Add in butter, working it into the dough with fingers or pastry cutter.  Add in yolks, stir.  Fold in cream and mix until just combined. Chill. Press out into 1.5 inch thick rounds and cut into circles. Paint with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar (I used maple sugar). Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch. Let cool.

For the strawberries: 
Wash and cut strawberries into halves or quarters.  Place into glass bowl with a squeeze of lemon and sugar.

For the cream: 
Whip 1 quarte of heavy whipping cream with about 1/4 cup sugar.

Monday, July 2, 2012

practice makes perfect.

I've expressed my devotion to grapefruit, love of lemon, and secret hatred of orange, but what about lime?

Other than when it's garnishing my margaritta, or when I'm reaching over them to buy lemons in the grocery store, limes and I rarely cross paths. Until now.

Now, with a little practice I plan on adding these to my repitoire...

Here's a fun fact about limes. The British Military were late to the game in scurvy prevention, relying on limes rather than the lemons many of their Caribbian Colonies had already realized provided 4 times as much vitamin C, earning themselves the nickname limey.  History lesson of the day. 

But back to lime bars. I prefer the edge pieces because the shortbread crust acts like a little spoon, on which to more easily consume the deliciously tart, seriously tart, lime custard filling.  

Here's the thing about limes though.

They are really very tart. Much more sour in fact, than lemons.  So while I followed the same recipe I use to make lemon or grapefruit bars- I think next time I will add a little more sugar.

Sweet, tart, scurvy preventing or otherwise- I think practice is going to make perfect in this case.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

accidental bliss.

Hello summer. Or rather, welcome.  Instead of talking about the sun and how glorious it is, how much is  makes this city sing, and how it's officially the first day of summer I thought I would just show you this.

Blue sky, Ferris wheel, and one giddy girl behind the camera lens.  It's days like these that make you so happy you can't even believe how lucky you are. So excited even though you can't put a finger on what exactly the reason is, you have to share it with someone. And when there is no one in your immediate grasp, these kind of days often end in a long cross country calls to your sister who can only begin to make sense of your excitement when you take your first breath after twenty two minutes of non stop chatter.

That is accidental, stumbled upon, no-real reason kind of bliss. It's my favorite kind.

It was in one of these transcendental states of accidental bliss that I rather inadvertently made this.

While I am not much of a planner, I usually set out to make something specific when I step into the kitchen. More often than not I have a craving, special ingredient, new recipe, or occasion that tends to steer me towards the end result.  But yesterday, yesterday was some spontaneous domino effect kinda baking.

Honestly, I wasn't going to bake anything. I was going to clean.  But when I went to throw away some brown specked bananas, I realized I hadn't replaced the garbage bag, and in the moment it took me to set down the bananas and replace the trash bag I thought hey- I should probably use these.

So then I was going to make cookies. Cowboy cookies to be exact.  My second snafu (or shall we say stroke of good luck) was that I only had super cold butter. So I cheated and went to soften the butter on the stove, but as a I do from time to time, I got momentarily distracted and my butter went from soft to bubbling so I figured I might as well let it go all the way to brown.

So then I had bananas and brown butter and the inkling of a plan. If you don't know this about me, and why would you I guess, I love alliteration. A lot. I mean look at my name, it was meant to be.

Anyways, for no other reason than wanting to add a forth b to the mix I added some bourbon.  That's what happened. Born out of a spontaneous string of events, affinity of word sounds, and most importantly a state of utter accidental bliss I present Brown Butter Bourbon Banana Bread. 


Brown Butter Banana Bread

1/3 cup butter, browned and salted
2 -3 large brown bananas mashed
1 egg (beaten slightly)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt
dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup milk chocolate chips (optional... but really?)

Brown butter on stove. Wait for butter to bubble, get translucent, then remove from heat before it burns. You should be able to tell by the smell, brown butter smells more like nuts than actual butter.
Mix butter in with mashed bananas. Add in sugar, egg, vanilla, bourbon. Sprinkle in salt, spices, and soda.  Add in flour last. Stir to combine. Add in choc chips. Pour batter into buttered bread pan and bake at 350 for about 50 minutes.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

boats and birthdays and of course, cake.

My roommate in college was allergic to all raw fruits and vegetables.  If that were me I would probably die. But then I was reminded the other day at a birthday brunch on a boat drinking watermelon mimosas that if I were allergic to raw fruit, I could still eat cake. Specifically, cake with fruit, that is baked, juicy and delicious.

So I would have that going for me.

This cake is also gluten free. And mostly vegan. Mostly. I am mildly opposed to gluten free, but this cake is good. I mean really good. Not just good in an ok way especially for being gluten free. Good. Just good  in a melty, crumbly, strusseley, crunchy, you would never know except I just told you sort of way.

It can be our secret. I won't tell.

Anyways, I did some research on gluten free baking and am still working on a few tricks, but it seems to come down to the viscosity and the fluff factor. Very technical terms, but basically you don't want to overwork your dough and you want to make sure you have enough of a binder. Also, I am morally opposed to xantham gum- mostly because it is really expensive and comes in too big of a package, so I've just been adding extra baking soda and egg whites. I am not sure if it's a fluke yet, but it worked well with this particular coffee cake.

My conclusion on the whole gluten free baking thing is that it can be delicious if you don't try to hard.

Meaning, you can't just make your favorite dessert and take out the gluten and expect it to be just as good. Especially, if you like chocolate chip cookies.  They will never not taste like cardboard. It's a fact. Or at least it's what I am going with for now, but I don't have all that much invested in disproving my thesis. If I never eat a gluten free cookie again I would be extremely content.  That being said, desserts that don't revolve around the unbeatable match of gluten and butter- so no pies and no cookies sorry- can rather easily be just as, and sometimes more, tasty than their gluten full brethren.

To be fair I don't really remember the recipe I used exactly. But the good thing is I have a lot of brown rice flour, almond meal, and coconut oil so I'll try to get it down to a science.

Until then, cheers to birthdays, boats, and coffee cake that makes you gush.

Monday, June 11, 2012

booze. and other things that happened this week..

It's been a big week for booze. Or at least for me hanging out in distilleries....

It's not really dessert I know, but it's sweet and it's what I was up to.

First Vodka. Who knew that vodka doesn't always suck on its own? And that it is sometimes particularly good in a giant moscow mule....

I covered the launch of Glass Vodka and the Glass Distillery in SODO on friday. Mostly I got to to listen men in silver suits with pocket squares tell me about premium Vodka and got to feel a little like P.Diddy on a yatch.  It was fun.

I also got to eat steak on little squares of toast.


That would have still been a good about amount of distillery action for me for one week, or rather, more than usual. But then on Saturday I got to help bottle, label, and package Big Gin for my friends at Captive Spirit.  Seriously what a perfect Saturday.  Good music, good people, good coffee, and of course good gin.

Really good gin.

Specifically,  I got to try their barrel aged gin- aged in barrels from Heaven Hills Distillery- and that tastes exactly how I sometimes wish whiskey tasted like all of the time.  Good bless America.

Oh and one last thing non-booze related, for now at least I still think rhubarb lemon gin and tonics sound good, I bought, sliced, bagged, and froze a lot of rhubarb.

A lot. Somewhere in the eight to ten pounds range....

It won't be exactly the same, I know, but the chance at winter rhubarb pies and dream bars was too hard to resist, if they last that long...