I have this almond strawberry shortcake recipe for the book that I have now made four times. I love this cake, but honestly I would be ok if I didn't have it again for awhile. Not to mention there are two of us in this lovely apartment, and I have a paranoia about food going to waste, so even while giving some away to friends, guess who has been eating a lot of cake? Yea. So I went to Zumba last night, trying to make up for cake... and scones. Have you been? It's so ridiculous that I keep going back. It's a workout of embarassing salsa-type moves that make me feel like I am in some terrible latin children's musical. The high school girls in their booty shorts and the older women who wear jingly belly dancing belts, it's entertaining, but still liberating in its own way. I think it's because there is no way you could take yourself seriously in that hour, and I like being forced into that state of mind.
I have unsuccessfully made scones a few times, but this recipe is my sweet victory for the previous batches which either spread flat or came out tasteless. Their edges may be imperfect and they don't have the lighteness that a bakery scone using all white flour yields, but I wouldn't change it. The spelt and oat bran give a warmth and heartiness to the scone, while it still welcomes a thin shmear of creme fraiche or butter. The trick to a good scone is to use your hands, not tools, so you can be gentle as possible as to not overmix and work quickly so the batter stays cold. I may not be a master yet, but these are pretty delicious.
DATE + PECAN SCONES // Makes 8
Ratios adapted from Maria Speck's Ancient Grains for Modern Meals
1 Cup White Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Cup Spelt Flour
1/2 Cup Oat Bran
1/4 Cup Natural Cane Sugar
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1/2 tsp. Freshly Ground Nutmeg
2 1/4 tsp. Baking Powder
1/3 Cup Chopped Pecans
5 Medjool Dates, cut in small pieces
6 Tbsp. Butter, cold
3/4 Cup Heavy Cream
1 Tbsp. Orange Zest
Turbinado Sugar for Garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 400'. Mix both flours, oat bran, sugar, salt, nutmeg and baking powder together. Mix in the chopped pecans and dates.
2. Working quickly, cut the butter into chunks and work it in to the flour mix with your fingers until you get small pebbles.
3. Whisk the egg, cream and zest together and add about 3/4 of the cream to the flour and incorporate with as few stirs as possible. Add more of the cream as needed until you get a shaggy dough that just holds itself together. Pat it together and let it sit in the fridge for 20 minutes to chill.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough in two and make two disks that are about 1.5'' thick. If you just want to cook four scones for now, wrap the other disk tightly in saran wrap and keep it in the fridge. Cut the disk in half, then in half the other way so you get four triangles. Place them on the parchment. Brush a bit of the remaining cream on top and sprinkle a few pinches of turbinado sugar on top. Bake on the middle rack for 16-18 minutes, rotating the baking tray half way through cooking. Remove to cool. Serve just above room temperature with a bit of creme fraiche.
Fresh produce makes me giddy. I worked at the organic farm on campus while in college up in San Luis Obispo, and I mark that as the time that I both taught myself to cook, and started to give a second thought to what I was putting in my body. Our wage came in the form of a CSA basket, and every week there was some new type of sprout or a unique type of mushroom. It's fascinating to me - the variety, nutrition and flavors of produce. That fascination can bring a fury of emotions when I read articles on food politics or watch things like Food Inc. or Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution. You matter. What you eat matters. Believe it.
The combination here is a result of last weekends farmers market visit. I use the lemon thyme from my herb garden all the time, but this lemon basil we came across was the most fragrant thing I've ever smelled - only soft notes of traditional basil, more of a lemongrass scent. Hugh keeps commenting on the amazing smell, and he usually saves those compliments for bacon, caramelized onions or double chocolate chip banana bread.
I also happen to be collecting rainier cherries, grabbing them at every trip to the market, as their season is short. I put these two great finds together in a wheat berry salad with a bit of gorgonzola, but this cocktail is the stunning outcome I wanted to share with you. So pretty! I love pretty drinks. Especially pretty drinks that aren't super sweet, full of simple syrup and soda (anyone? memories of their 21st birthday? maybe something with a marschino cherry? or for my sister, 'dirty bananas,' family vacation in Jamaica circa 2008?). All to say, this is just clean and light and springy and I hope you find a reason to treat yourself to a pretty cocktail. Cheers.
RAINIER CHERRY MUDDLER // Makes 1 Cocktail
Cherries have been on the dirty dozen list, as they are challenging to grow without pesticides. Purchase organic if you can, or be sure to clean them well.
The end result here has some fibrous pieces and bits of turbinado in the glass, it adds character. You could pour it through a mesh strainer if that bothers you.
8 Rainier Cherries
Few Leaves of Lemon Basil
2 tsp. Turbinado Sugar*
2 oz. Vodka
1. Pit and halve the cherries. Put the cherries, lemon basil and turbinado in a glass (or pitcher if making more than one), and muddle it with a muddling tool, or the bottom of a wooden spoon. Get aggressive, you need to get as much juice out of the cherries as possible.
2. Fill a glass with 3/4 full with crushed ice. Add the vodka and muddled cherry mix and fill the rest of the glass with sparkling water.
* I find that rainier cherries aren't quite as sweet as bing cherries, making this drink quite light. If you like a little more tart or sweet flavor, add a splash of cherry juice to the glass.
May is always a crazy month. We have half a dozen birthdays in our family, Mother's Day, bridal shower season, while I took on a part time job and a freelance deal, as well. Sometimes having more tasks helps you to manage your time better... at least I'm telling myself that is some proven theory. I'm honestly a bit spent on creativity at the moment, which ebs and flows for me, so I'm taking a few days to edit through the recipes I already have for the book. For your sake, edit out my ramblings mid-recipe or cut unnecessary descriptive words like "smooshy."
I made this baked oatmeal for a picnic with friends, and next time I host a brunch, these will be part of a larger spread. They would be great to make ahead of time and grab on your way out the door in the morning, too (although I am a proponent of sitting at a table for breakfast, even if you have to get up earlier, I know that's not always practical). Maybe even do raspberries and pistachios and replace the milk with coconut milk. The baked oatmeal world is your oyster.
BAKED BLUEBERRY OATMEAL // Serves 6
Adapted from Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson
I used frozen blueberries because I had them, but I think that contributed to them coming out purple/gray color after baking. I'd suggest using fresh berries if you can.
You can see the original recipe at Lottie +Doof.
2 Cups Blueberries, plus extra for garnish
2 Cups Old Fashioned Oats
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Aluminum Free Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
2 Cups Whole Milk
1 1/2 Tbsp. Melted Butter
1/3 - 1/2 Cup Maple Syrup
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Toasted Chopped Almonds
1/4 Cup Turbinado Sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 375'. Divide the berries between six small mason jars.
2. Mix the oats, cinnamon, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Divide the dry mix between the jars, just layering on top of the blueberries, about 1/3 cup.
3. Mix the milk, butter, maple and vanilla together. Pour a scant 1/2 cup on top of the oats, letting it seep through to the bottom. Place all the jars in a baking dish, sprinkle a few fresh berries on top, and bake on the middle rack for about 30 minutes until the liquid is absorbed, tops are just browned but the oats are still moist.
Sprinkle the tops with the toasted almonds and a pinch of turbinado sugar and serve warm!
* I poured a bit of extra milk on mine and Hugh preferred more maple, so adjust as you prefer.
If you are going to be reheating them, I suggest undercooking them 5-8 minutes to avoid dry oatmeal. Keep the nuts on the side until ready to eat.
My personality falls somewhere around type A-. I like order, organization, a moderate routine and things done right, but only to a certain extent. My bed is made before I leave my room in the morning, I could tell you every item in my fridge and in what order I need to use said items to not waste any food, I give copies of my travel documents to my parents before I leave the country, I have never run out of gas, missed an appointment or been late on a payment. On the contrary, I have a terrible habit of not always putting on my seatbelt and exceeding the speed limit. I've been known to go days without drinking water. I choose which rules do and do not apply to me, hate reading or listening to directions and am a terrible measurer (which makes writing a cookbook sort of interesting).
I have been wanting to make a layer cake for quite some time, it even made my list of 'things to do before I turn 30', so I set out to cross that off my list while I still have a few years to perfect the goal. My discretion in baking, as it is more about perfection, is typically off (see paragraph 1). It is not a science I am invested in. I did however want this cake to be my own, so I flipped through numerous books comparing ratios of liquid to dry to cocoa, to make sure that with my expectations and friends coming over to celebrate my birthday, it would at least hold itself together. I tried to lighten it up as much as I could, but I didn't want to take too many risks - a layer cake is kind of an investment, not the time to get hard pressed on caloric content. So I gladly spent my birthday afternoon, in the kitchen, measuring and taking careful note of my baking project. I settled right in to that A- spot, allowing myself freedom with ingredients while conceding to the ratio I'd studied.
Myself and the blog share the same birthday, so as fun as it's been celebrating with my sweet husband, family and friends, I am also so grateful that you are here. This space is responsible for creativity, encouragement and new friendships for me, and the community continues to amaze me. You are wonderful people. Thank you. I wish I could share cake with you.
COCOA LAYER CAKE WITH BLACKBERRIES + MASCARPONE CREAM
Makes one 9'' Layer Cake
You can make the pastry cream a day or two in advance to get ahead. I frosted my cake about three hours before I served it and it held just fine in the fridge. If I were to guess, I'd say it would be fine in there for about 6-8 and keeping the integrity of the whipped cream. I am a big fan of muscavado as a natural cane sugar, but light brown sugar is a fine alternative.
Lastly, this cake is on the dense side. The batter is pretty thick and it doesn't cook for long. The filling and whipped cream balance this out, but if you like a more moist cake, swap in oil for the butter. I haven't tested this, but it's worth a shot.
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
1/2 Cup Lowfat Milk
1 Vanilla Bean (or 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract)
4 Egg Yolks
1/4 Cup Natural Cane Sugar
2 Tbsp. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
Pinch of Salt
1/2 Cup Muscavado Sugar
1/2 Cup Butter, room temperature
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 Cup Agave Nectar
1 1/4 Cup Lowfat Buttermilk
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 Cup Unbleached Cake Flour
1/3 Cup Non Alkalized Cocoa Powder
3/4 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Sea Salt
3 oz. Good Quality Chocolate, chopped well (milk or dark, your choice)
1/3 Cup Blackberry Preserves (I used Bonne Maman)
Mascarpone Whipping Cream
1 Pint / 2 Cups Whipping Cream
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Confectioners Sugar
1/4 Cup Muscavado
Pinch of Salt
8 oz. / 1 Cup Mascarpone Cheese
Handful of Fresh Blackberries
1. To make the pastry cream, heat the milk, cream and vanilla bean in a saucepan until just boiling at the edges. Turn off the heat and let it steep for 10 minutes. Open up the vanilla bean and scrap the seeds into the milk. Whisk the yolks and sugar together in another bowl. While whisking, add a bit of warm cream to the yolk mixture to warm it up, add another half cup, continuing to whisk. Now that everything is the same temperature, add the warm yolk mix to the saucepan. When the mixture starts to simmer, add the flour 1 Tbsp. at a time, while whisking, like you're making a bechamel. It'll take about 30 seconds and you'll see it start to thicken, once it looks like the consistency of sour cream, turn off the heat, and continue to stir a few more times to make sure everything is smooth. Stir in the butter and salt. Let it cool and transfer to the fridge while you prepare the cake.
2. Preheat the oven to 350'. Butter two, 9'' cake pans. Line the bottom with parchment for cake removal insurance, and rub a bit of butter on that as well, set aside.
For the cake, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add the eggs, agave and buttermilk and mix until evenly combined. In another large mixing bowl, sift all of the dry ingredients together, getting rid of any clumps. Add half the wet mixture to the dry, stirring gently, add the remaining wet mixture and stir to just combine. Stir in the chocolate and divide the mix between the two cake pans. Bake on the middle rack for 14-16 minutes. Check for doneness by sticking a butter knife in the center, being sure it comes out clean. Remove and cool completely.
3. Once the cake is completely cooled, invert it out of the pan and remove the parchment. Place one layer, with it's most even side up, on the plate or stand you'll serve it on. I like to slide a few pieces of parchment around the outside to keep it clean. Spread the pasty cream all across the top surface (you'll think it's a lot, but add it all, the cake absorbs it while it sits, it's not as thick as you think). Gently spread the preserves on top of the cream, it will mix in a bit and that is fine. Place the other cake on top, pushing in any filling that smushed out.
4. Whip the cold whipping cream with an electric or stand mixer, once it starts to hold shape, add the confectioners sugar, muscavado, vanilla and a pinch of salt. When you get stiff peaks, about 3 minutes, add the mascarpone and continue to whip until evenly combined. Frost the cake generously and garnish with fresh blackberries. Cake can be kept in the fridge for about 6 hours. If it chills in teh fridge, let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before you cut in to it. Cold cake isn't as flavorful.
* I piled all the frosting on top and gently pushed it down the sides to frost.
Sometimes I make things that sound good to me, and though I'm not sure they appeal to the masses, I go forth with the idea. I put hummus on my eggs, spread greek yogurt on my toast and am aware these habits aren't normal. Like last weeks quesadilla, it raised a few eyebrows, but some of you made it and liked it! Thanks for not making me feel nuts. This recipe is a culmination of inspiration - a crust from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals and a twist on a frittata I saw in Bon Appetite this past month. It's sort of like frittata meets mexican quiche meets breakfast casserole... or something. All to say, this versatile tart could easily pass for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Also, I wanted to direct you over to the Saveur site, where we were nominated for 2011 Best Cooking Blog! I am beyond flattered to be included amongst all that talented company, as each of them are bloggers I have long admired. You do have to register to vote, but they will not send you a bunch of spam. Thanks to those of you who believe I deserved to be there in the first place :)
MUSHROOM + POBLANO TART
Inspired by Bon Appetit May 2011 and Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck
The crust does not rise, so adjust the thickness as you prefer. Next time I may make it in an 8'' square and bulk up the filling amounts a bit. Maria did not suggest cooking it before adding filling, but mine seemed pretty moist and I made a completely different filling than her recipe, so I found this step necessary. Just keep an eye on it in the oven, it doesn't need to fully firm up, but you don't want it smushy. The crust can be made a day in advance to save time.
1 Cup Vegetable Broth
1 Cup Water
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
3/4 Cup Polenta or Corn Grits
1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
Fresh Ground Pepper
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Cups Thinly Sliced Mushrooms (I used Crimini but Button will work as well)
1 Small Poblano Pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced thin
3/4 Cup Milk (Whole or 2%)
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1/4 tsp. Cumin
1/2 tsp. Fresh Ground Pepper
2 Scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 Cup Feta Cheese, plus more for garnish
Tapatio or Hot Sauce of choice
1. Bring the broth, water and salt to a boil. Slowly pour in the polenta and continue to stir. Turn the heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Stir every two minutes to prevent the bottom from burning. Turn off the heat and let it sit, covered, another 5 minutes. Stir in the cheese, egg and lots of fresh ground pepper. It should be thick. Allow it to settle another 10 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 375. Grease a 9'' pie plate. Transfer the polenta to the pie plate and using wet fingers, press to form a crust in an even layer on the bottom and up the sides. If you would like a thinner crust, set some of the polenta aside. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes while you prepare the rest of the tart.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the mushrooms and poblanos and saute for 10 minutes until both are softened and the moisture has been absorbed. Turn off the heat.
4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, cumin and black pepper together until well combined. Stir in the scallions and the vegetables. Add the egg mixture into the cornmeal crust, sprinkle the feta cheese on top and bake another 20 minutes until the center is just set.
Let it rest 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with crumbled feta, chopped cilantro and hot sauce on the side.