Earl Grey Lollipops

Earl Grey Lollipops - Lollipop Love BookPicture this: a get-away car, a driver, and a passenger with two cookbooks in tow. Is this you headed on a grand summer adventure? Maybe. I hope you will be excited for a spate of book reviews I’ve got coming up. Think of it as a Summer Required Reading List of sorts that will be several parts cookery and several parts poetry with a dash of memoir stirred into our class-is-out cocktail. Sometimes on road trips, I am the passenger, and I’ve always had a proclivity for reading in the car. Our first book of summer came all dolled up in muscovado and turbinado from Shauna Sever. Today, I want to bring to you hard crack. Another way of saying that is here comes a sweet surprise in Lollipop Love by Anita Chu. Do candy-makers have a special sense of humor? I hope so.

It’s no mistake that I took Real Sweet and Lollipop Love on that 48 hour road trip. Several years ago, Anita, Shauna, Irvin Lin, and I all organized a food blogger bake sale for No Kid Hungry. For two fun years, the four of us banded like the Three Amigos (although, maybe that makes one of us D’Artagnan and the analogy is better suited to Musketeers?). Each of us figured out how we would contribute and it worked brilliantly, especially with the phenomenal addition of eager, passionate food blogger volunteers who baked and decorated some tempting treats. We had Celia to thank for letting us set up our pop-up bake shop outside of Omnivore Books and years later, we remain friends.

At one of those bake sales, I first schemed to make a granola with green tea and liked it so much that it got tucked into the pages of my cooking with tea book. Back then, the aspiration of writing a cookbook had not happened for me yet and so I saluted Anita and Shauna as they took to their kitchens publishing several books (Anita: Field Guide to Cookies and Field Guide to Candy) and (Shauna: Marshmallow Madness and Pure Vanilla). Call it fate, call it kismet, call it a lot of hard work and sinkfuls of dirty dishes or packed refrigerators with trials 1 through 8, but all of us are cookbook authors now with Irvin’s first book, Marbled, Swirled and Layered is coming out Spring 2016. Imagine, then, my delight that my first book’s launch date happened to coincide mere weeks from Shauna’s and Anita’s.  If life is sweet, it’s because of the company we keep.

Earl Grey Lollipops

This brings us to lollipops. Lollipop Love is a slender, small book of 96 pages. As a novice candy-maker, I appreciated that the basic sugar lollipop recipe accompanies the reader onto almost every page. A good book instructs and inspires opportunities for departure. While the basics of lollipop making remain largely the same, some flavor combinations exist that excite and make me want to pull out my heavy-bottomed saucepan and get busy boiling. I’m drawn to flavors like the mango-chili lollipops (page 49) and the pink hued rosewater-saffron lollipops (page 35). If those sound a bit exotic, she also includes recipes for boozy lollipops like the Beer Lollipops (page 44) and what would be a knock-out for New Year’s Eve, Champagne and Glitter Lollipops (page 42).

The book is divided into three sections, not counting the technique primer at the beginning. I like that she masterfully educates for any skill level and shows the process to make a batch of lollipops simply. Section one explores sugar lollipops and denotes the flavors mentioned above. If you tend to be sweet on caramel, section two is for you. I’ve been eyeing the Passion Fruit-Caramel Lollipops (page 67) or the Almond Butter Crunch Lollipops (page 73). Section three focuses on chocolate lollipops and has me thinking ahead to a fun form of evening entertainment. Who wouldn’t want to dip peanut butter lollipops into chocolate (page 90) as a do-it-yourself dessert?

You will need a few essential supplies to get started, namely, lollipop sticks, lollipop molds, and a candy thermometer. And, here’s a genius tip from the Kitchn on quick and easy clean-up. Once you’ve set up your candy-making station, in less than 30 minutes you will have freshly brewed lollipops.

I say brewed because, of course, I knew I needed to make her Peach Tea Lollipops (page 33). In the headnote, she recommends that you can use any tea, so I opted to use Earl Grey instead to give a bouquet full of bergamot scented suckers to a friend for her birthday. One thing she notes is that when brewing the tea you want more astringency from it, so plan on brewing black tea for around 6 to 8 minutes . Switch it out and brew your favorite green tea, or concoct Honey-Chamomile Lollipops (page 45) for an herbal infused throat soothing hard candy.  There’s a lot to love about lollipops.

Lollipop Love Book Review

Earl Grey Lollipops

adapted ever so slightly from Anita Chu’s “Peach Tea Lollipops” from Lollipop Love.
Reprinted with permission.

Store the lollipops in cellophane bags, tied off tightly and in a cool, dry place where they can be kept for 1 month. The recipe calls for light corn syrup, which isn’t high fructose corn syrup, but the kind used to make pecan pie. If you’re not keen on corn syrup, try her recipe for Sweet Agave Lollipops on page 52 instead.

YIELD: 24 small (1 1/2-inch/4-cm) or 10 big (2-in/5-cm)

1 cup / 200g sugar

1 cup / 240ml brewed Earl Grey tea

1/4 cup /60ml light corn syrup
Coat the lollipop molds lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Place lollipop sticks in the molds.

Combine the sugar, tea, and corn syrup in a large, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches 300F/149C (hard-crack stage). Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat.

Pour the mixture into a heatproof measuring container with a spout, or a candy funnel. Divide the mixture among the prepared molds. Let the lollipops cool and harden, about 15 minutes, before removing them from the molds.

 


Matcha Dusted Maple Chocolate Cupcakes

Matcha Chocolate Cake_anneliesz_5373

First of all, it feels so good to be back blogging again. For the first time in two months, my kitchen has come out of lockdown. I’m back in Oakland and planning some delicious things for coming weeks.

Cookbooks make good traveling companions, don’t you think? With a pencil in hand, hours of entertainment are yours for the simple asking price of three to five pounds of extra weight in your carry-on or backpack. I used to travel with other peoples’ books until I started traveling with a full suitcase of my own. The best part about returning home from a book tour is returning home to Oakland to catch up with friends, and scrounge around in the cupboard and cobble together dinner with Nathan. Part of playing catch-up involves making tea dates or penciling in time to walk with friends. But recently, I played catch-up in a completely different way: taking two cookbooks written by Bay area friends on a road trip to Santa Ana. While Nathan drove and listened to AM sports talk radio, I dove into one book and then the next, pencil in hand. Each book showed the imagination of the person penning it. Now being on this side of the cookbook process, my respect has amplified at least a thousand fold for anyone who sets out to write a cookbook. For those of you prone to the idea of book babies and birthing a book, imagine a year or more of labor without an epidural. It’s quite a feat. I will never forget meeting up for lunch shortly after I’d begun working on Steeped full-time with my friend, Shauna Sever. She shared her experiences with levity, for which I will always be grateful.

Real Sweet Cookbook_5412

When a cookbook is written well, you can hear the voice of the writer leap off the page. Shauna knows the craft of telling a good story and has a distinct personality on the screen of her blog and also on the pages of her books. Her last cookbook, Pure Vanilla taught me all about different kinds of vanilla–don’t get me started on her recipe for Malted White Hot Chocolate. My relationship with all things malted borders on obsessive. Shauna’s new book, Real Sweet takes on the topic of baking with natural sweeteners. With her snappy sense of humor, she shows her extensive knowledge in a way that is approachable and leaves the reader feeling smarter. By the end of the book, I definitely felt smarter, ready to break out the coconut sugar or demerara. Shauna’s described as the next door baker and it’s really true. She is just the person you would want to have living next door, sharing sugar (turbinado!) and plates of oatmeal cookies (Mrs. Braun’s!). I figured who better to demystify the flavor possibilities of natural sweeteners than Mrs. Next Door Baker herself.

Real Sweet Cookbook_5413

The book is arranged into seven sections that take on different kinds of baking situations and focus on a particular natural sweetener. All-day snacks and lunch box treats star the femme fatale, coconut sugar, while the picnics and potlucks section explores turbinado, the hero. My cupboard happens to possess almost all of the sweeteners mentioned in the book, so naturally, I began dog earing pages for later consumption–ahem, research. Rhubarb and Rose ice cream with agave nectar? Say no more. Chocolate Chip and Cherry Date Cake sounds great. Oatmeal and Turbinado Cream Cookie Sandwiches might make it on the menu before the month is out. I’m open to opportunities to whisk, spoon and be the Friday afternoon heroine, showing up at a certain Oakland office building with baked goodies. Could it be yours? Maybe.

On this occasion I had visions of cupcakes dancing in my head to celebrate the victory of our hometown Oakland Golden State Warriors win during game 3 of the NBA play-offs. And, I wanted to pillage my pantry rather than go to the grocery store. I flipped open Real Sweet and landed on the Maple Chocolate Cake. Cocoa powder? Check. Greek yogurt? Check. Maple syrup? Check. Yes. As I finished scanning the ingredient list, my cupcake delivery plan started coming together.

Matcha Chocolate Cake-anneliesz_5404

What I like about this cake is it’s not too sweet but it has great bounce. I poked a few dark chocolate chips into one of the cupcakes and wouldn’t you know, it tasted amazing. But here’s the thing with friendship: you bring who you are to the table and they bring who they are. So, I hope you won’t be disappointed to learn I had to find a way to sneak tea into these black beauties. And, let me just tell you. Dusting the maple chocolate cupcakes with matcha powdered sugar might have been my second best decision of the day. Because good decision number one is sharing with you a book from a person who is as real and sweet as her book title suggests.

PS- If you’re in the Bay area, Shauna is going to be talking about natural sweeteners and signing books on Saturday, June 11 at 3 over at Omnivore Books in San Francisco.

Matcha Chocolate Cake_anneliesz_5370

Matcha Dusted Maple Chocolate Cupcakes

Maple Chocolate Cake printed with permission from Real Sweet by Shauna Sever

 This cake is used in a wickedly good recipe in Real Sweet: the Black and White Pancake Cake (see above photo of the open pages of the cookbook. Just imagine thin layers of chocolate cake sandwiched by cream and drizzled with ganache—need I say more?) But if you want to whip up some Friday afternoon cupcakes with a slight kick of caffeine, matcha dusting is a must. The chocolate and maple goodness are the right foil for the grassiness of the matcha green tea sugar. You can go easy does it and sift a fine sprinkling of the matcha powdered sugar on top of the cupcakes or go for a full-on green blizzard. The choice is yours. Tip: If you have leftover matcha powdered sugar, store it in a sealed container in a cool spot. Sift it over homemade donuts or whisk up a hot cup of pre-sweetened matcha by sprinkling 1 teaspoon into 4 ounces of hot 170F water and whisking until combined. Add 8 ounces warmed milk or hot water and sip.

YIELD: Makes 1 ½ dozen cupcakes, two 9-inch cake layers, or one 9×13-inch sheet cake

 

MAPLE CHOCOLATE CAKE

1 ½ cups (192 grams) unbleached AP flour, spooned and leveled

¾ cup (72 grams) unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

¾ teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 cup (336 grams) pure maple syrup (dark or very dark preferred)

1 cup (242 grams) 2% Greek yogurt

2 large eggs

¼ cup (57 grams) grapeseed oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 

MATCHA POWDERED SUGAR

1 teaspoon culinary grade matcha green tea

¼ cup powdered sugar


To make the maple chocolate cake:
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.

Lightly grease a 9×13-inch rectangular baking pan or two 9-inch round pans (and line them with parchment paper), or line 18 wells of two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.

Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a large measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, yogurt, eggs, oil, and vanilla extract.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Using a whisk, energetically blend the batter by hand until smooth and thick, about 1 minute. Spread the batter into the prepared pan or pans. (For cupcakes, fill the cups no more than two-thirds full—you should get 18 cupcakes).

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly touched, 20 minutes for cupcakes, or 30 to 35 minutes for sheet and layer cakes. Cool completely in the pan or pans on a wire rack before inverting and frosting.

 

To make the matcha powdered sugar: sift together the matcha and powdered sugar in a small bowl. Spoon a small amount of the matcha sugar into the sifter and dust the cupcakes as much as you like. Add more matcha sugar to the sifter as needed.


So Purple You Might Blink

Jacaranda

 

For a long time, I’ve thought about how a poet can only really get away with using words like jacaranda or halcyon in a poem once in their career.  But last month, that all changed.

Recently, my rental car has had the occasion to zoom down the 605 and 10 on my way to Long Beach from LAX. Several weeks ago our car cruised down the 5 in Santa Ana with my husband at the helm. Sprinkled like glitter around the edges of the framed highway, I had begun to notice bright purple blooms that sometimes burst above the highway walls. A few times they almost distracted me from the road. More than once, I had to peer above my sunglasses just to make sure that the flowers were really as purple as my eyes perceived them to be behind sunglass lenses.

In February, on a trip with my mom in Mexico, I first noticed these trees towering with festive purple plumes waving in the wind like bells. They swung backward and forward as if pealing their invitation to a block party. What I thought of as beauty, she gave a name: jacaranda.

Jacaranda. The word is as stunning as the blossoms that burst forth from its branches. Maybe it’s that its four syllables provide a pleasing aural sensation where the four a’s mirror each other in succession. Up – down – up – down. Like bells blowing in the breeze, welcoming in invitation. And I’m back underneath the tree, peering up and watching the wind tousle the tendrils of purple.

While we drove around Los Angeles and into Orange County for a Steeped cookbook pop-up shop at a maker’s festival, I ached to see more jacaranda trees in bloom, as if trying to make up for years of never being aware that this kind of beauty exists. I boldly proclaimed as we walked to dinner in Long Beach with friends that we would buy a house with a jacaranda tree out front (and subsequently we happened upon one for sale on their street, making me eat my words.) I mentioned to Ernie at the festival about my newfound fondness as he proclaimed that their season is so short. I remember wondering if the pay-off for a month or two of purple was enough to make up for all the other months of bare branches. I remember wondering what kind of food could rival that vivid color in edible form. Candied violets?

San Francisco has its cherry blossoms and plum blossoms that have always seemed like small pom poms of trees that cheerlead from the sidelines of the streets. But jacarandas are nothing short of frothy party dresses to remind people in their proximity that life is a fiesta.

Over the top in their vibrance, they unabashedly flaunt their flowers for the short time that they cling to the limbs. And isn’t that a bit like life itself? That urge to celebrate good news or a finished project can quickly get eclipsed by what’s next. I’m here to tell you that people plant their glory in close proximity down in Southern California: you might think jacaranda trees have so much pop of personality that one tree would suffice, but sometimes there are full stands of purple-flocked trees – one after the other that would make you question the idea that one can get weary of celebration.

It’s been such a swell of excitement and energy, traveling on my first book tour so far. When I used to travel every month for the tea company, I remember trying to temper my enthusiasm for where I had been, using words that would diminish the experience so as not to stir any sort of jealousy or blockage between me and my colleagues. Sometimes that tactic worked and other times, notsomuch. The small celebrations that happen at home can be some of the most beautiful and don’t require booking a trip around the world to find a life worth living. I’ve played the part of road warrior and take it up as a badge of honor to meet readers, answer cooking questions, and sign books, which is all thrilling. But I wonder when the tour is over and the suitcase is hidden in the closet, can the life cultivated off-script be enough? You know the one–it doesn’t make it to Instagram; it probably involves several evenings of leftovers. It could resemble four bags worth of laundry that have been waiting or a calendar without penciled in appointments. It might look like bare branches when compared to frothy purple party dresses dancing late into the windy night. But you and I know better, right?

The other evening, we took a walk around our neighborhood in Oakland and as we rounded one corner, a jacaranda surprised me and waved hello.


Steeped Book: Food Allergy Guide

Steeped-Book-Food-Allergy-Guide

Today’s Steeped’s one month birthday (I wonder if people celebrate books like babies and count the months after cookery conception?) A friend of mine has been posting photos to show how his baby is growing, juxtaposing her next to a gigantic Hello Kitty! doll. To think, one day she will dwarf that kitty. To think, I exercised an amazing amount of self-control and bypassed visiting the Hello Kitty! art exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles today. It’s been an unforgettable month and I am collecting the moments like patches to stitch into my memory and into this blog in snack bites. To celebrate one month and counting, I’ve got some exciting news. We just added a feature to the Steeped book website: a printable food allergy guide designed like Steeped and to serve as a companion to the cookbook.

Quite a few people in my life abide by diets that vary dramatically. When I first began working on Steeped, I knew that I wanted the book to encourage creating an inviting table where everyone could pull up a chair and feel like a special guest and where no one would feel left out. This is my hope for you– that whether you avoid gluten or have a close friend who does, that the food allergy guide can help you navigate the recipes in the book. We focused on the top eight food allergens and I was thrilled to partner with a food allergy blogger friend who served as my extra set of copyediting eyes. So, grab your copy of Steeped and head over to download the guide to tuck into your cookbook.

 

 


New York: Steeped in Spring

steeped-book-new-york

The park was flush with people. Across the street, a fountain bubbled and gargled water while a throng of men in kilts lolled on the sidewalk outside of a bus burping exhaust. It was a Saturday in New York and the sunshine sparkled as a reminder that spring had arrived. My hand had shot into the air several times as taxis began nearing. Though I don’t live in Manhattan, we seem to have an understanding between us like old friends that pick up conversations on pause. At last, one yellow cab veered toward me and in I crawled, directing the car toward the Upper East Side. At first, we began the kind of banter between strangers- talk of the weather, then talk of good food, and finally, questions about what a Californian was doing in New York. As the driver heard about the book tour adventure I had begun, our conversation turned to tea and cooking.

We agreed that he could easily make tea-infused yogurt. We agreed that if he took Lex all the way to Park, he could make it to the bookstore where I still thrill at the idea of asking for my book by name, and the delight of surprise when they hear I’m the author. I feel like a flower delivery girl in the guise of a tinkering tea cook because they smile. They congratulate me. I feel like we are complicit in some delicious enterprise of book-making and book-selling. I ask them if I can take their photograph and most of the time they comply with wide grins and Instagram handles at the ready.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the efficient way to descend on the stores I had scrawled on a piece of hotel paper, all polka-dotted up and down the east and west sides of Manhattan would be best done in a car. I had mapped out my route and described the opportunity to the driver, Mike. We struck a deal and set off to the next bookstore. Between bookstores, we began painting between the lines. He had arrived from Poland at the age of 19 to attend college and graduate. All of his family, except for an aunt in Jersey, were still in Poland. He never saw the temporary job of cab driving lasting as long as it had. He had decided to give up bread and pizza for a month to try and adopt better eating habits. We talked about piroshki and namely my friend Casey’s book that is coming out with unbridled pierogi love for him to check out once he emerges from his no carb-cocoon. We rattled on about the Scottish parade and the sea of kilts that had foisted us from Bryant Square Park. He asked about cooking with tea. He detailed the kind of tea he likes to drink (Brisk. Black. No sugar. No milk.) and he laughed with me when I described a madcap excursion on our route for me to finally nab one of the Matcha Cortados that have been making me swoon on Instagram. He handed me a $20 outside of Chalait and told me to pick a tea for him. Out I came with two bright green drinks. I may have sidled up to the bar and sipped the cortado while waiting for the iced matcha lattes. When in the West Village…

Back in the cab, we sucked down our green tea lattes and he declared that it was good. As the end of our voyage approached, we discussed a pick-up time to dispatch me with my five bags of groceries and suitcase of books to SoHo for a private cooking with tea class.

Here’s what still sits with me in the quiet room of my heart where I wrap cherished things in cream-colored tissue. Mike sent a friend to Eataly to buy my book the evening that we met. The next day, I signed it to his cousin and her fiancé. On the way to JFK while the sky was still dark and the pigeons slept, he told me he had decided to try and get a different job, one that employed his degree in public health. He said he had been driving the cab for too long and hearing my story inspired him to make some changes he had been putting off. And, as the cab pulled up to the airport’s curb, he told me he might have to get a matcha latte later that day.


Steeped Book is Here!

steeped book - stephanie shih

On the eve before school started, my eyelids would flap open not to be easily closed. Try as I might to shut them, excitement coursed through my body and anticipation kept the thoughts bumping along like trams hooked into an electrical current. Have you ever experienced that kind of sensation before?

Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea is officially available! It’s been a week since my first book, Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea has been out in stores. For days leading up to its launch, I was in a suspended state of anticipation that is now the fuel of excitement keeping me moving from one city to the next.

While attending a conference and selling books in Minneapolis, I shared a cab with three women from Washington, DC. The next day they surprised me and bought three books. In New York City, I befriended a cab driver who asked his friend to buy my book so I could sign and dedicate it. On a Sunday afternoon, women from all over New York gathered to learn how to cook with tea before we settled in for a supper they had all a hand in making, as we all contributed to a conversation that cut past icebreakers to talk about what it looks like to live a life of meaning and purpose.

People are getting steeped. It’s an exhilarating feeling to know people are inviting the recipes I worked on fervently onto their table. It’s exciting to hear people mention they are emboldened by the idea that tea can provide a path of looking for everyday opportunities to celebrate and the discovery of how tea can imbue its flavors into familiar foods.

On Instagram, photos are popping up of that bright and shiny pink and orange cover that a friend described as her favorite colors, as a sunset and that I liken to a beautiful sari. I am humbled and thrilled to see the glee and enthusiasm on Facebook. If you are getting steeped, I would love to join you for the ride by tagging your photos or tweets with #steepedbook.

The book tour has begun and I consider my life enriched by the people who have opened up their lives for a book about cooking with tea and crafting a life you want to live. While Minneapolis, St. Paul, and New York were the starting points, the journey is far from being over. I’m posting new events in my weekly newsletters and also on the book website, so head there if you want to see where I’m headed and join the cooking with tea adventure.

Thank you for welcoming this labor of love into your kitchen. Thank you to the booksellers and their cheerful staff for welcoming Steeped onto their bookshelves. Thank you for coming to a book signing and sharing your story with me even as you are about to embark on mine and make it your own. Teatime can be anytime we make room to invite it into our lives, right? Thanks for getting steeped.

 

photo by Stephanie Shih