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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.

 

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Cookery Bookshelf

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.

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Recipes

Chocolate Mint Trifle

Chocolate Mint Trifle

If I could wish anything for you, it’s that you might know joy. In early 2014, back when I contemplated if I should make resolutions or whether I should balk at the idea of making the same resolutions for the umpteenth year, I began thinking differently about the promise of what a new year gives us. Instead of resolutions I could easily eschew, I wanted an anthem that could carry me through the unknown curves and dips of the year to come. At that early stage, I declared it would be a year of joy. What I didn’t know then is the kind of year that this one would shape up to become. What I did know is that joy sometimes is a choice and can traverse terrain where happiness might not easily go.

I’ve written here about joy before and perhaps it’s more a life anthem that I want to dance along with or wings I want to cinch onto my shoulders. On a blog, there is only so much that one writes about personally that is fit for public consumption. Though I write here regularly, about once a week these days, all the living gets done off the screen. This is the same for you too. Even in the midst of the social media tools to connect us, there are some times when we live unscripted and quietly. The stories that get pulled out of my personal vault get determined by a criteria of whether they can be used to build up another person–in whatever they are enduring, letting them see they are not alone. To live a full life is to experience the range of human emotion… and the experiences that can elicit them. Grief colored my days grey and blue for over a year and I wrote about it that it might bring comfort to someone who is just beginning the journey in that vast valley. Trepidation stained my mom’s cancer diagnosis to be swiftly followed by triumph. Jubilation flavored telling you about my tea book that is coming out in April. Nerves and elation will equally attend my book tour events in the spring. When you visit the food poet I hope you find a glass half full to drink from that will refresh your spirit.

This year, 2014, has been full of hard stops and end words that bleed into other lines and stanzas of poetry. I leave it so grateful for all of the incredible lessons it has taught me, arm-in-arm with a dizzying array of really smart people I’ve met in 2014.  In 2015, I will continue to write about food, poetry, and their intersections here on the food poet. And, I will let tea infuse the page in a few ways I’m currently brewing up. What 2015 will hold is also somewhat unknown.  But like this Chocolate Mint Trifle, all of the bits of our lives saturate the other ones, and, for you, I hope that those bits are mostly sweet. May it involve a serving of chocolate mint pudding soaking into chocolate cake and freshly whipped cream and a helping of joy so pervasive it will not disappoint. Happy New Year’s.

Click here for my Chocolate Mint Trifle recipe on the Weiser Kitchen.

Chocolate Mint Trifle

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Recipes

Chocolate Mint Pudding

Chocolate Mint Pudding

You know how some people became enraptured with cupcakes and dolloped, smeared or piped their weight in cupcakes during the time that that particular trend peaked? Do you remember the blocks long line to obtain the famed cronut and the intense scrutiny of bakers to try and match that masterpiece of Dominique Ansel’s? If you live in the Bay area, do you remember the kouign amann hysteria that began curling its sugar buttered edges around many a local patisserie? Or, let’s mark the time when macarons made their debut as the potential new darling once cupcakes had ceded their spot? All roads lead to cupcakes and candied bacon.

It’s not really that I eschew trends, but what could a cupcake ever have that can trounce a cup of cold custard? My affection for puddings and custards has unabated over the years. Somehow it has snuck past being latched onto as the new dessert centerpiece of the century, which is fine by me. Years after the cake and ice cream phenomena of birthday celebrations had finally passed (Serve it with a spoon? Serve it with a fork? Why do we not have sporks?), I came to terms with the idea that I could forego cake and ice cream on my birthday. If I could serve exactly what my heart desired, a sweet to usher in a sweet new year of life, I would hands down pick the sumptuous swirl of creamy pudding. The horror. I can imagine birthday purists cowering in their carrot cake and vanilla ice cream hovels. Is there a sexier dessert? Possibly. It might not have all the whistles, sequins and flair that one can inflict upon a cake or cupcake, but a good pudding has heft along with the creamy consistency that makes it a dessert to savor slowly. Several years ago, I began carting home a small tub of Chocolate Pudding from Tartine and would take several days to eat my way through that dark decadence. This year, I made my own.

Inspired by the idea of peppermint hot chocolate, I decided to whisk up a batch of Chocolate Mint Pudding. There is a whisper of mint, a come hither hint that does not pop you in the face with pungency, but makes semisweet chocolate so much better. Wait until you see how I’ve finagled it into a dessert for New Year’s Eve next week. But this week, I give you the dessert that will always keep my peripheral vision in check–if you bring pudding to the table, chances are good that I will soon follow.

Chocolate Mint Pudding

Chocolate Mint Pudding

Makes 4 servings

 

5 egg yolks

4 tablespoons cornstarch

2 cups cream

2 cups whole milk

½ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, plus extra for garnish

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

½ teaspoon peppermint extract

Freshly whipped cream, optional

Fresh peppermint leaves, optional

 

Whisk the yolks and cornstarch together in a large bowl into a bright yellow paste. Sift the cocoa powder over the chocolate, placed in a medium bowl. Warm the cream, milk, sugar, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan set over medium heat for six to seven minutes, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the milk into the chocolate and whisk until it is integrated and resembles chocolate milk. Pour ¼ cup of the chocolate milk into the yolks and whisk until combined. Whisk in the rest of the chocolate milk and add the extract. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve into the saucepan, set over medium heat. Whisk until it thickens and leaves drag marks, about seven to eight minutes. Spoon the pudding into a small bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding and chill it for 3 hours.

 

 

 

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Recipes

Mini Pumpkin Curry Pies

Mini Pumpkin Curry Pie | The Food Poet_6757

Sometimes great truths come at the most inauspicious of times. Other times, like a thunderbolt, they strike with all ingredients in place. Last week, we had one of our first real fantastic rainfalls. Usually in San Francisco, the kind of moisture we are used to involves a dripping of the great faucet in the sky or the tiny droplets of mist in the fog we claim as our own and have thus named Karl. But this day, the skies shone brightly above, a steel grey hue that streaked our windows with lashes. I woke up with a chill I couldn’t quite shake. My hands felt like ice pops minus the wooden popsicle sticks.

That’s when the thunderclap nailed me with the force of its power. Right there, in my kitchen, I was struck with revelation. Cold hands can only mean one thing: it’s time to make pie.

You see, I have had several pie teachers in my life, both of whom I admire for their tenacity as much as I cherish any time I get to spend with them. Their joy trickles over into the work of their hands and their breadth of tutelage extends far from their home bases. Both Kate and Evan will eagerly say that your hands are your most important tool in making pie crust and just as vehemently will caution not touching the dough too much lest they warm it up. Cold hands remedy all of that and I’m starting to wonder if they might be endowed upon people like a spiritual non-spiritual gift. Pie heals people.

Case in point one: I attended a baby shower where each guest was instructed to bring a onesie for a game that is probably much more fun in theory than it is in practice as the befuddled mother stares from one onesie down at the whole cavalcade of partygoers trying to guess who gave what. Unless you think in navy blue polka dots or black tutus when you look at your friends, it can be a challenging feat. My onesie had developed a golden hue with a crusty disposition and just enough curry to make things interesting in the world of pumpkin pie land. While her soon-to-be newborn might be able to wear all of those onesies, my friend could nosh on the onesie I had bequeathed, a win in my book.

Case in point two: I bagged up several duets of mini pumpkin curry hand pies on Sunday morning with a clear mission of playing the part of pie delivery girl, using the same rules that apply to those who deliver flowers. First up, our friend Thomas was rolling his grocery cart away from the patch of street where he sleeps. I hopped out of the car and handed him the small bag of warm pies, telling him that Beck and I are thankful for him. It gave me joy to see him gobbling away at one of them as we pulled away, reminding me of my baking oath I’ve planted in my heart to pepper him with baked goods.

Next, at church, with my remaining bag I had to think carefully about where the two remaining pies would go. Thankfully, both intended recipients were present. I snuck one into Martha’s hands, as I told her how thankful I am for our friendship, and then later to Sara, whose pastry prowess and deep wisdom make me grateful. When we returned home, I bagged up some more, already deeply rooted in this new mission of mine. I attempted to deliver some to my favorite barista, but found he had already left for the day and thus, wound my way over to my favorite bookseller, delivering them to her with the proclamation that yes, I am thankful for her, even if my wallet isn’t.

Cold hands paired with warming spices created this series of thanksgivings. Really, though, I’m of the mind that we don’t or perhaps, I don’t tell the people I care about that one word which can sometimes supplant or work in tandem with that oft-ignored four letter word. To give thanks for someone is to recognize something intrinsic within them of value. While, I too am looking forward to the dinner table decked out in the usual suspects later this week, it’s never too early or too late to tell people you’re thankful for them. So, reader, wherever you are, I’m holding hands out to you. Inside them is a golden flaky hand pie, its steam releasing a subtle spice into the air. I am so thankful for you too.

Mini Pumpkin Curry Pies

MINI PUMPKIN CURRY PIES

One portion of the double pie crust recipe linked below makes 12 hand pies. Since you have enough filling to stuff 24 hand pies, I would suggest making two batches of the double pie crust. In your planning for pie-making using the method in the link, I recommend putting a small bowl with water in the freezer at the same time you put the large bowl in the refrigerator. This freezes the water into ice. What I have done that works marvelously well when setting up pie crust mise en place is to run some cold water over the frozen water. This ensures the water you are working with is as cold as can be, which you will need for making your pie crust. Also, another variation of mine from the pie crust method is to cut the butter into cubes before integrating it with  flour as it makes it easier to crumble with your fingers. I use a biscuit cutter to cut out the rounds which works like a charm. PS- Kate worked on this pie crust recipe for two and a half years, but it only takes you a short time to make fresh dough from scratch and is ridiculously easy. Trust me and try it if you’ve never made it by hand before.

YIELD: 24 pie rounds
INGREDIENTS

2 batches of Double pie crust

11 oz. pumpkin puree

¼ teaspoon curry powder

1 egg

¼ cup dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons cream

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon grated fresh ginger

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Set a small bowl with cold water to the side.

Prep your pie dough. While it sets up in the refrigerator covered for 30 minutes, begin assembling the pumpkin puree. In the bowl of a food processor, spoon the pumpkin puree (or roasted sugar pumpkin chunks to make puree). Add the curry powder, egg, brown sugar, cream, salt, cinnamon and ginger. Pulse until combined and smooth.

Sprinkle your workspace with flour and bring out one of the pie dough disks. With a rolling pin, push down and toward you from the middle of the disk. Then place the pin in the middle again and roll up. Now, turn the dough disk and repeat the roll out method. Keep turning and rolling until it’s about ¼ inch thick.

With a biscuit cutter, begin cutting out circles and place them on the parchment paper. In the center of each circle spoon a level teaspoon of the pumpkin filling. Dip your index finger into the cold water and trace your finger along the edge of the pie dough round. Place another pie dough round on top and crimp the edges at four alternate ends, working your finger around the periphery to bind them together. Press down on the edges of the pie round with the tines of a fork.

Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes until golden brown. Place them on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes before devouring.

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Recipes

Creamy Coconut Joys

If you’re reading this you might have noshed on an elegant slice of flourless chocolate cake last week. Perhaps you whisked together a last minute dark chocolate pudding and dusted it with chopped pistachios. Maybe, you received two bars of chocolate in the guise of Blueberry Lavender or Dark Chocolate Almond Sea Salt that you will hoard away until the moment calls for a square or two to be notched off the ends. If February 14 had a movie moniker, it would be, “There Will Be Chocolate.”

What is it with chocolate and Valentine’s Day that makes them feel indispensible, one from the other?

In the other room, the synthesized music of Mew floats into this room, over to my desk as a knife chops applewood smoked bacon for a once a year gift of homemade Carbonara. It’s become our tradition of a simple decadent dish anticipated with the fervor of turkey and dressing or any dish you might assign to a holiday. Soon, a sizzle and the wooden spoon’s nudging against the stainless steel walls will join the happy sounds coming forth from our kitchen. Then too, more chopping will commence, but a harder sound, as if knuckles rap against the front door. Twirling my fork around the noodles, watching John Cusack become Edgar Allen Poe on screen and sidled up against my love, this, this is worth remembering. And we try to etch the small moments into the trunk of our memories.

What is it with our need to complicate the very best things in life? We chase happiness like it just might be joy but that goodness can’t last. Joy, on the other hand, never ceases to surprise me. How can something so good be found in the dregs of circumstance? And maybe that’s it. Circumstance proves happiness to be so very fickle, where it cannot touch joy. Other times, we have to scratch around the dry earth of our spirits for that joy, but that does not vanquish it from existing. I think of Corrie ten Boom, a personal hero of mine who somehow found bits of joy even as she was incarcerated in a concentration camp for hiding Jews in her house during World War II or Paul singing songs in prison.

When you come down to it, joy can be hard to understand. If history has shown me anything, we don’t often chase after what we don’t understand. Instead, we try to quell it. Happiness and joy- which one are you running toward or trying to cultivate?

And this is why, after a day dedicated to chocolate and the kind of love found in small gestures or the grandiose, we come back to joy. It’s no surprise that the classic combination of almonds, coconuts and chocolate culminate in nomenclature of joy. Just as I think you will agree these Creamy Coconut Joys can present a small luscious gift whenever the occasion calls for it.  Stumbling over the ridiculously luscious St. Benoit yogurt had me clamoring for resuming my post-dinner yogurt habit. Since I trust the folks in Sonoma to not steer me wrong with yogurt, we go full fat and I’ve been told by an RD friend that yogurt from grassfed cows can give more omega’s, which is a bonus to the creamy consistency of our other favorites, Straus Organic or our love of goat’s milk yogurt from Redwood Hill Farm. Keep in mind, light yogurt equals more processing and really, when you’re keeping it simple, quality ingredients are paramount. You might find these Creamy Coconut Joys live up to their name.

We all need a bit more joy in our lives, methinks.

Creamy Coconut Joys The Food Poet

 

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CREAMY COCONUT JOYS
This recipe comes together pretty easily. I enjoyed this regularly without the coconut milk, so you can opt for that or take it over the top and make your own coconut cow’s milk yogurt. It’s your choice really. Make the yogurt hours in advance of serving and let it sit in the fridge so the flavors can coalesce. You can also toast the coconut in advance too. I find this makes for a novel, portable dessert for intimate potlucks as all items get packed into jars and are easy to transport by bus or walking.

YIELD: 4 servings

1 quart high quality full-fat plain yogurt

1 can coconut milk

4 tablespoons thick shredded unsweetened coconut

4 tablespoons raw almonds, chopped

4 tablespoons high quality bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips

In a medium sized bowl, empty contents of one quart of yogurt. Spoon coconut milk into the yogurt and stir. Cover and refrigerate.

In a pan or electric oven, toast the coconut for around 2:30 to 3 minutes on low medium heat until it starts browning but before it burns. Set aside to cool.

In the same pan or electric oven, toast the chopped almonds until they start giving off their aroma and before they burn, around 2:30 to 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.

When you’re ready to assemble the Creamy Coconut Joys, pour about 1/2 cup of the coconut yogurt into a small bowl. Scatter a tablespoon of almonds on top. Then, sprinkle a tablespoon of the toasted coconut. Lastly, dot the surface of the Joys with a tablespoon of chocolate chips or chunks.

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Recipes

Tahini Butter Cookies

It’s not often that I give myself over to an ingredient so completely. While my grocery impulse purchases more often than not consist of obscure finds like Aleppo pepper, usually I don’t devote myself to finding every conceivable way to include an ingredient into as many dishes as possible.

At one point, not so very long ago, tahini served the main purpose of being that necessary add-in for making hummus. A jar of the thick beige sludge sat on the countertop waiting. Waiting. And waiting for me to find a reason to crank its lid open and spoon some out. As I continued delving deeper into Middle Eastern cooking though, I found its use casually making its way into many ingredient lists. Rather than assert itself boldly, most of these recipes let the sesame seed butter accent the intricate spice combinations, whether that’s a recipe for Creamy Chickpea and Yogurt Casserole from the Syrian cookbook I’ve been testing, or the quinoa, spinach, pear and hazelnut salad from Whole Grains for a New Generation, dressed with, you guessed it, tahini and lemon. My mind is being blown.

As I let my guard down around this ingredient, it continued inferring itself into unexpected places. And isn’t that the truth with most new things we encounter? In the beginning we might be reticent to begin experimenting beyond the known, but as we get more comfortable, those boundaries keep extending?

Be a good cookie- what does that mean to you? I eagerly signed up to participate in this year’s Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap hosted by Julie of The Little Kitchen and Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil, especially after I learned each swapper had to make a small monetary donation to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer created by two employees at OXO to participate. I appreciate companies that think beyond the bottom line to consider how their work and reach can benefit others.

That combination of giving to something bigger than ourselves and gifting mystery cookies to mystery food bloggers clinched my interest from the get-go. I find myself easily pulled into the seedier part of the “holiday spirit” which means to say the part laced with capitalism and consumption, so this helped me adjust my fulcrum from holiday mode back to something challenging cultural mores.

I knew my recipients of the cookies I baked had specific restrictions such as no bacon (ladies after my own heart) so I began conspiring what kind to prepare. Would I go with a chocolate chip or shortbread? Perhaps I might get extra fancy and make different colors of royal icing to deck the stockings with their color and cheer. All the conjectures and brainstorming coalesced into something simple. They needed to be relatively easy since the deadline for sending them out quickly approached and I had just returned from a business trip. No time to frost and decorate, these cookies needed to work overtime just to get the job done. For Amanda of Maroc Mama, Madison of Espresso and Cream & Caitlin of Chopsticks and Measuring Cups, I had just the cookie.

And boy, was this going to be a good cookie.

Tahini butter cookies are a riff on nutty peanut butter cookies with a flourish of sea salt and sesame seeds on top.

These cookies found their inspiration from two very specific places. First, my baker friend Amy had spent time in Turkey learning how they bake their breads. She held a soft launch tasting party for her new venture, Marla Bakery. Of all the savory and sweet treats we sampled and provided tasting notes that evening, her Tahinli knocked my socks off. Here, she used tahini in a way that let the subtly sweet flavor notes of sesame come through. I scoured the table at the end of the evening for a bun to take home, but unsurprisingly they had all been scooped up.

So, with this flavor suggestion in my mind, I began ruminating on the simple and classic peanut butter drop cookie… with a twist. How would a substitution of tahini express itself in that cookie? What spices would work best to not overpower but sweetly accent the nuttiness and natural sweetness of the tahini? Had anyone ever made Tahini Cookies before? I consulted Yotam Ottolenghi’s new cookbook “Jerusalem” and of course, it featured a recipe for Tahini Cookies. He spoke in the headnotes about the rage of popularity several years ago for these cookies in his home country. As I scanned the recipe, it looked like it would bake up a cookie that could be a fan favorite in the U.S. too, but didn’t have that precise drop cookie profile I was looking for. So, I turned to a friend and fellow Food Blogger Bake Sale planner’s blog, thinking “the baker next door” would surely have a suggestion and steer me in the right direction. Her recipe lay the foundation for my adaptations.

Things to know about the Tahini Butter Cookies: they can easily be made on a Monday night after work. They will be the first cookies to be eaten up even when a chocolate cookie is also on the plate. Most people after tasting them ask what’s inside and are agog at the word Tahini. They make great homemade gifts. While you’re at it, toss some into a freezer bag for some holiday spirit in January.

Special thanks to the cookies I received in the swap – to Diana of The Dreamery for her Mexican Hot Cocoa Cookies, to Aaron of The Hungry Hutch for his Brown Sugar Shortbread and to Kari of Kari’s Kitchen for her Brown Butter Pecan Sandies. Let’s just say we made short work of your offerings.Tahini Butter Cookies

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Tahini Butter Cookies

So, I’m going to admit I can be a bit of a revisionist, but then we all give into those tendencies on occasions, right? I think of Goya promptly “borrowing” paintings from their patrons to fix a little something and never giving them back. The Maldon salt below is optional, which is to say mandatory (unless you are watching your sodium). That tiny hit of salt really brings out the deep nuttiness of the sesame seed butter. Also, I have played with adding 1 teaspoon and 1/2 teaspoon. If you like more of a cinnamon flavor, opt for the full teaspoon, but if you want to really go for the sesame gusto, stick with 1/2 teaspoon and that playful fleck of Maldon. You might want to kiss this cook.

Makes about 2 dozen

INGREDIENTS
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom or cinnamon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (8 ounce) stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup tahini
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sesame seeds, optional
Maldon flaky sea salt, optional (garnish)

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 350°F and position rack to the middle of the oven.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cardamom or cinnamon (if using), and salt.

Beat butter, tahini and sugars until smooth, about 2 minutes. Mix in egg and vanilla until combined. Dump in dry ingredients. Pulse or mix on low until just combined.

With a tablespoon, scoop out dough. Using fork tines, press each dough ball for a grid pattern. Sprinkle  sesame seeds and flaky sea salt on top.

Bake for 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for three minutes on the sheetpan. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

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Recipes

Stumptown Coffee Bean Chocolate Bark

stumptown-coffee-bean-chocolate-bark

It’s not often I’m met at the airport with an offering of chocolate. Usually, airport pickups include bottles of water to rehydrate and embraces to welcome me home. On this particular occasion, though, we had just shut the doors when a half-eaten bar of chocolate came out followed with encouragements to break off a chunk. I obliged. Lodged by my tongue against the roof of my mouth, the chocolate began melting onto said tongue with overt notes of espresso. The evening already had enshrouded us in darkness and I considered the consequence of this caffeinated welcome home carefully, crunching the slivers of ground coffee bean into oblivion and breaking off another square.

Adulthood brings its own chest of choices from which to set out discovering the world. If you think about trick or treating and the parade of young bumblebees or tiny swashbuckling pirates toting plastic orange jack o’lanterns, it becomes clear that Halloween is a holiday for children and funded by the American candy industry. Perhaps the dentists have a hand in all of that sugar-laden revelry too.

Halloween is not my holiday though. Somehow, our door is not darkened by little bats or the occasional princess bedecked in sparkly tiara and shimmery dress. Last year, I made a concerted effort to get home early, turn on the outside light and even pick up two bags of candy with the intention of finding an orange pumpkin for each snack size bar. To my chagrin, the doorbell did not ring. Upon further exploration, all those little goblins and spider-men seemed to be led by mini van or parents playing neighborhood docent across the street. Sigh.

Not one to admit defeat in the face of a challenge,  I took to the streets with my bags of candy and stationed myself as a sentinel of sweets at the entrance of our home, waiting for passersby. My tack changed. Instead of targeting children with pillowcases bulging with cheap treats, I began regaling passing adults.”Trick or treat,” I chimed as I held out plastic wrapped candy bars to surprised expressions. My new trick had found its footing and I slowly worked my way through the bags and got a chance to chat with neighborhood locals. Halloween suggested itself as an opportunity for community engagement in the most unlikely of guises: a worker passing out candy to other workers.

It bothers me to consider my hand in helping an overly active candy industry with its sometimes staggeringly long ingredient lists or suspect ingredients. If I was to consider what is a real treat to adults, I would venture to say we are not the easy sell, especially in San Francisco with its incredible panorama of specialty foods and ingredients to make your own fill-in-the-blank. Unlike children, once we get a chance to make our own choices, the world opens before us.

stumptown-coffee-beans

I started a tradition of bringing home locally roasted coffee beans to my favorite coffee drinker. It has since become a delicious souvenir of a place visited that we both can enjoy. In the spirit of Halloween, of loving an avid coffee drinker and a surprising new passion for a place “where the 90s is still alive”, I knew I wanted to make chocolate bark as soon as I smelled the Stumptown Coffee Beans before nudging it into an over-crowded carry-on bag. The House Blend aroma already hinted at chocolate and berries. It begged to be paired with chocolate once unpacked from visiting Stumptown proper.

Somehow, the mythology of Portland tainted me long before I had ever stepped onto its streets. Armed with stories of local music club touring and asides from food magazines praising the food and drink scene, I harbored a suspicion of already liking a city I had not personally met yet.

Somehow, I kept expecting to run into Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein to no avail.  Perhaps among the legion of bicyclists, I would hear the rant of a cyclist bemoaning bicycle rights, also to no avail. No Kyle McLachlan mayor playing the bass in a reggae band and shirking his mayoral duties. No superfluous birds affixed to handmade goods for sale. No jars of unexpected foods to be pickled.

Instead, we wound our way through the downtown streets at ridiculously early hours. Running over one bridge and then back on another, we found ourselves marking our routes by bakeries visited. On our way weaving through cataracts of Chinatown, we passed a line of homeless folks waiting for a mission to open. We wended our way to Voodoo doughnuts if only to take in the spectacle of flavors, color and clash of sound emanating from the small storefront.

At the end of our run, though, the thing that kept propelling me forward was a single paper cup with a heart of stretched milk and espresso drawn by the lip of a pitcher. Yes, there would be foam of silky texture gathered in the corners of my mouth for my tongue to wipe away. There might be a game of deducing the different notes in the coffee and finding such a smooth cup of joe actually shushing me.

This bastion of locally roasted coffee beans and its soundtrack of Willie Nelson crooning to the few Portlanders winking into the coffeehouse stood out as a top ten moments of 2012 morning. A bag of beans in hand, we started our way back to the hotel as the city began waking up. Somehow, I felt myself the better for the experience- running with Char into unfamiliar terrain and finding it familiar, friendly with countless places yet to discover on foot.

Now, when the kiddies run amok on the sidewalks of a city devoted to a holiday of misfits and mischief-making, a holiday wearing the colors of our World Series winners (!), the  SF Giants, I offer a treat just for adults.The requirements are few because from worker to worker, we are busy bees.

If you can’t get your hands on Stumptown coffee beans, which I’m glad to announce are now available at Rainbow Grocery or Bi-Rite, try using local Blue Bottle or Four Barrel beans, just make sure you pick a medium or dark roast to stand up to  dark chocolate. And maybe after you’ve made a batch of bark, after those little trick-of-treaters have collapsed from sugar overload, pinch off a corner to enjoy as a nighttime indulgence of caffeinated proportions.stumptown-coffee-bean-chocolate-bark

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STUMPTOWN COFFEEN BEAN CHOCOLATE BARK
This is a two-ingredient recipe. Use high quality chocolate to pair with the high quality beans. See note below recipe for other alternatives. Also, keep refrigerated.

YIELD: Enough to share with officemates, spouses, neighbors, the nice checker at the local mini-mart, friends you haven’t seen in a gazillion years, fellow San Francisco Giants fans grabbing their square of pavement for the parade on Wednesday or  teachers. Especially teachers.

2 cups Extra Dark Chocolate Chips

2 cups Semisweet Chocolate Chips

¼ cup Stumptown Whole Coffee Beans

4 cups water

– Pour coffee beans into a grinder and grind until almost fine. This allows for a bit more coarseness in the coffee beans for textural interest.

– Pour water into a heavy pot and set over medium heat. In a double boiler, pour in chocolate chips. Set double boiler over heavy pot.

– Ready a roasting pan with a sheet of parchment paper.

– Stir the chocolate chips as they begin melting and continuing stirring them until smooth. Remove from heat.

– Stir ground coffee beans into the smooth chocolate until well integrated. Spoon the chocolate coffee mixture onto the parchment paper, taking care to work it into the corners and try to maintain level surface.

– Place in the refrigerator for 3 hours or longer. Then break into chunks or chop with a heavy knife into the size pieces of your choice.

 

N O T E:
Beyond eating the bark on its own, there are several ways you could use it:

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES – Chop the bark into smaller pieces and use them as a mix-in for cookie dough instead of chocolate chip to give an unexpected espresso flavor to cookies that may just look like your standard chocolate chip variety.

TRAIL MIX – Break bark into smaller chunks and stir into a trail mix of raisins, dried cranberries, and pecans.  Like the idea of a Hazelnut Mocha? Swap in dried apricots and roasted hazelnuts as your fruits and nut combination.

– MAST BROTHERS – On a recent trip to New York, I actually found that Mast Brothers makes a Stumptown Coffee chocolate bar. Let it be known that picking up one of these bars (see below for a peek) as a souvenir is as welcome as a pound of beans.

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Mast-Brothers-Chocolate-Stumptown-Coffee

 

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Recipes

Rocky Road Popsicles

DESSERT RECIPES- Rocky-Road-Popsicles

School cannot prepare you for this. You may define “this” differently. Perhaps it’s paying a mortgage, considering a career change, mourning a death. Where does simple mathematics play in here? Or perhaps mathematics is too much of a given, that simple logic of 1-1= 0. Maybe you would say that high school French class was a misstep in your education, but it taught you the importance of J’ai perdu. Some things cannot be taught but must be learned. This distinction can be quite a doozy.

A friend sent a forward with her good intentions. It served as a sign of her thinking of me, of her including me among her inner sanctum of women to send this email. I gave the tiny screen of my smart phone a cursory glance in the Atlanta airport, waiting for the gate attendant to begin announcing the boarding of the flight to Miami. Sipping an iced coffee, I was using the time to catch up on an inbox that might have subscribed to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Among junk emails and subsequent messages, I found my friend’s forward cajoling me to “Buy More Bath Oil!”

That subject line caught me by surprise. It niggled at me along with all the other signals trying to catch my attention in ATL: the small boy complaining about needing a nap, the affluent young couple decked out in Louis Vuitton and flip-flops, the mechanical voice on the P.A. noting a gate change for Flight 5260. The Nora Ephron email won.

With my curiosity piqued by that curious subject line, subject and seeming irrelevance to one another, I tuned out the imposing distractions and read on. Ephron, who passed away just a few weeks ago began this essay on aging with the statement that “it’s sad to be over 60.” She continued describing rising health risks and watching friends die, even going into elaborate and heart-panging detail over one particular friend she described as her “phantom limb”.

This well-written essay disturbed me with its candor and her perspective of what the young have to look forward to. Something she said pronounced a truth so profound that it elicited the need for a response. “Death doesn’t really feel eventual or inevitable. It still feels… avoidable somehow. But it’s not. We know in one part of our brains that we are all going to die, but on some level we don’t quite believe it.” I could taste her fear through her words. I found myself needing to refute them, believing another way exists, that aging can be graceful. Moving toward death doesn’t have to mean fear.

I’m 35 but I know that much. I’ve seen it in the death of my landlord mere weeks ago and I hear it in the poetry of Jane Kenyon.

School doesn’t prepare you for your death.  Is it so morbid to consider we will one day die? Is it not in some way the reminder to truly live? To die well is to live well. I think about a story my Mom told me a week after my Dad died unexpectedly. While it penetrated some of the cloak of grief I had wrapped tightly around my shoulders as comfort, it means something more to me now. He had walked out his front door to fetch the newspaper and waved at his neighbor. Somehow death wormed its way into their conversation. It has a way of making room for itself like that.  He told his neighbor he was ready to die, that he had lived a good life, that his only regrets would be to leave his wife (of 25 years) behind and not see me get married. At the time, he was not dying, but sometimes epitaphs are pronounced in advance of events. May I be so blessed to be able to say the same thing as my Dad when my time has come many years from now.

I don’t know about you, but I want to suck at the nectar of what life still has left to offer! How I want to grow old and grow into these bones more, even if osteoporosis comes with that later. How I want to be old with time enough to embrace those that need to be embraced. I think of my death in light of my voracious appetite to live. We don’t know what’s up ahead the bend, do we? Whether smooth or rough, if I could make you a batch of these Rocky Road Popsicles, I would.  One of these might take the edge off enough to consider the cause of mortality in light of the call of action to live.

Rocky-Road-Popsicles

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ROCKY ROAD POPSICLES
YIELD: 16 mini popsicles
TIME: Overnight plus 5 hours passive time; 10 minutes active time

If you stick with just steps 1-4 below, you will make your own fresh Chocolate Almond Milk. It’s ridiculously easy and gives you the ability to control how sweet you want your milk. Then again, if you don’t have time to make your own almond milk, by all means, buy a box of your favorite flavor from the store and proceed accordingly. I developed this recipe  with the intention of not making the popsicles themselves all that sweet, so feel free to add more sugar and taste while you go. I figure with the addition of the mini chocolate chips and marshmallows, they sweeten things up enough for my palate. Go crazy and leave some of the almond pulp in your milk for a variation of texture. If you do try that, then why not also add graham cracker crumbs sprinkled generously over the popsicle sticks and tops of the cups for a variation on a Rocky Road S’more Popsicle? The sky’s the limit. I picked up a bag of “Black Cocoa” from a recent visit to King Arthur Flour and can vouch for not skimping on the quality of cocoa used- the flavor is unparalleled.

2 cups organic almonds

7 cups water plus 4 cups water

2 tablespoons Black Cocoa (or premium unsweetened dark cocoa powder)

2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons mini chocolate chips

1 cup mini marshmallows

Optional: 1/4 cup organic almonds, toasted and diced

 

1. Place your two cups of almonds in a large bowl. Then pour seven cups of water over the almonds and let sit overnight (7-10 hours).

2. After the almonds are done soaking, drain out the almond soaking water and place almonds into the body of a blender. Pour 4 cups fresh water into the blender and then puree until smooth, about 3 minutes.

3. Take your large bowl and line it with cheesecloth. Hold onto the corners of the cheesecloth and begin pouring the almond milk into the cheesecloth, slung over the bowl, so that the almond pulp is caught in the cheesecloth and strained from the almond milk. Do this until all the liquid from the blender has been strained.

4. In a medium sized pot, pour the freshly strained almond milk and add your cocoa, vanilla and sugar. Stir over low heat until combined and heated through, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

5. Pour liquid back into large bowl. Cover and set in fridge to cool for 20-30 minutes.

6. Once cooled, remove bowl from the refrigerator and place on a counter. Stir in mini chocolate chips, mini marshmallows and diced toasted almonds if including them.

7. Line a rimmed roasting pan with mini 3 oz. paper cups. Using a tablespoon, measure 5 tablespoons of rocky road mixture into each cup. Aim for about 4-5 marshmallows per cup- they will bob to the top.

8. Once all cups are filled, place a small popsicle stick in the middle. Since your liquid is pretty thin, use the marshmallows to help hold the stick in place, positioning them as point guards around the stick.

9. Place your pan in the freezer and leave to set for about 4-5 hours. Once frozen, peel back the paper cups and enjoy.

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Stracciatella Frozen Yogurt

DESSERT RECIPES- Stracciatella Frozen Yogurt

I’m a sucker for plain yogurt. It might be the one ingredient that is always in our refrigerator and definitely the one I lament when the container is emptied. Whether incorporating it into a savory or sweet recipe, plain yogurt- organic cow’s milk and full fat if you please and more often plain goat’s milk yogurt is one staple here to stay.

One of the main reasons we eat so much yogurt is for the probiotic qualities. Beck and I heartily concur on the benefits probiotics have brought about for us individually. We feel better. I, for one, am looking forward to a day when a visit to the doctor proffers a prescription of specific probiotic strains to cure what ails you and not just antibiotics which kill all bacteria- good and bad. While that day is long off, I could geek out about probiotics for a while and have written somewhat extensively about them elsewhere. Suffice it to say that lacto-fermented foods and kombucha have a found a fan in me.

If you’re shopping the yogurt aisle with probiotics in mind, I would encourage you to check the ingredient label and company stance on probiotics in yogurt. Nancy’s is a great example of this and they have a pretty thorough probiotics section on their website.

Back to yogurt though, several years ago when a Pink Berry created frozen yogurt pandemonium I became enamored of the new approach of a tart and tangy fro-yo rather than the cloyingly sweet variety. At one National Restaurant Association show I attended, I made a point to do a  tasting of all the tart plain fro-yo from the scads of suppliers and purveyors rating them on creaminess, tartness and sweetness.

That said, frozen yogurt is still an occasional treat. Most evenings when I want something creamy and cold, I opt for a few spoonfuls of plain goat’s milk yogurt, sweetened with a tablespoon of mini chocolate chips. The slight sweetness of the chocolate chips with the mellowed tart flavor of the yogurt hit the spot. I decided to tackle this combination in a fro-yo version that recalls one of my favorite flavors of gelato (Rocher or some semblance of Gianduja being the other).

For making the frozen yogurt below, adding in a quarter cup of sugar is not a necessity but it definitely ups the ante of this treat giving an ever so slightly sweetness that plays off the texture of the chipped chocolate that defines Stracciatella.

stracciatella frozen yogurt

 

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STRACCIATELLA FROZEN YOGURT
YIELDS: 8 servings (1/2 cup)

I find it’s helpful to grip the chocolate in its wrapper as you’re carefully chipping it. Think thin ribbons of chocolate rather than big chunks. By using the goat’s milk yogurt, you’ll get a slightly tangy but more mellow yogurt flavor than cow’s milk yogurt. If you opt for cow’s milk yogurt, go full fat as it really gives a deep tangy flavor with a rich creaminess. This frozen yogurt is not super sweet, and you could certainly use bittersweet chocolate rather than semisweet if you want. This frozen yogurt should be eaten the day it’s made as it will freeze into one solid block in the freezer.

  • 4 cups (32 oz.) plain goat’s milk yogurt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate (about 3 oz. chipped, noted below)

1. Place the ice cream canister in the freezer overnight so it’s really cold when you’re ready to make your frozen yogurt.

2. Take a chef’s knife and carefully bring the knife down on the chocolate, chipping it from the block of chocolate until the chocolate is completely chipped.

3. In a large bowl, blend in the plain goat’s milk yogurt, sugar and chipped chocolate. Once integrated, pull out your ice cream canister from the freezer and follow your ice cream machine’s manufacturing instructions. Check on the frozen yogurt as it’s solidifying, taking care to stop the machine and scrape the edges down if it seems to be sticking to the walls. Then start the machine up again until it reaches the right consistency. (My Cuisinart 2 Quart Frozen Yogurt and Ice Cream Maker takes about 20-25 minutes of active churn time.)

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Recipes

White Cranberry Almond Amaranth Crumb Cake

DESSERT RECIPES- White Cranberry Almond Amaranth Crumb Cake

I know, I know. One more last minute idea to throw a wrench into a Christmas menu. Not exactly. This spruced up crumb cake is a treat to bake up after the weekend’s festivities. The colors point back to a not-so-distant holiday while the ingredients point to the new year and those resolutions that somehow get recycled as if on repeat.

Initially I envisioned this as a muffin but then really searched deep in my soul and discovered that I think muffins are an excuse to eat cupcakes at breakfast. (I said it aloud and lightning has not struck me yet!)  Essentially, this is true, though my way of positing it might sound a bit extreme.  Hear me say this to you frankly, not like a gaggle of friends hovering in the other room waiting to jump out and yell, “surprise!” Let’s just eat cake as cake and leave the muffins for the birds, (but remember to tear the muffins in small enough bits). I’m not even about to suggest a cake that is cloyingly sweet- you’ve had plenty of treats this season, friends, that would convince you to go that route.

Instead, let’s save breakfast for the warmer and more filling repast of a good bowl of steel cut oats that will keep you going until lunch. And while we’re at it, let’s make this as chock full of almonds as we can stand it and then add in amaranth flour to continue pushing the quota of nuttiness. Those tantalizingly tart cranberries will thank you for it.

 

white cranberry almond amaranth crumb cake

 

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WHITE CRANBERRY ALMOND AMARANTH CRUMB CAKE
Adapted from Family Fun

CRUMB TOPPING

  • 1/4 cup almonds, chopped
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons maple sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted

CAKE

  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup almond meal
  • ½ cup amaranth flour
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar plus 1 ½ tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ cup maple sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen white cranberries
  1. Heat the oven to 425º. Grease a 9×9 pan. In a small pan, melt 2 ½ tablespoons butter for the crumb topping. Pour into a bowl and let it cool. In the same pan, melt ½ cup butter and set aside for use in making the cake.
  2. Begin by making the crumb topping and toast your chopped almonds in small pan on stovetop for a few minutes over low heat or in toaster oven. Mix together the flour, maple sugar, light brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the melted butter and toasted almonds when cool. Stir. With your hands, pinch ingredients together to create clumps of crumb topping. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl pour almond meal. Then sift the amaranth flour, flour, baking soda, and baking powder into the bowl on top of the almond meal. Stir in the ¼ cup light brown sugar and maple sugar. In a large bowl whisk together the yogurt, egg and melted butter. Stir together. Slowly start stirring in the flour mixture until combined. In a separate bowl, bring together the white cranberries with the extra 1 ½ tablespoon of brown sugar until somewhat coated and then stir into the batter.
  4. Scoop batter into the pan and even out the distribution of batter to all four corners of pan. Then spoon on the crumb topping onto the batter, taking care to press down onto the batter slightly, as you want the crumb topping to stick. Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Serve warm if possible. And let me just say this would taste dynamite with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream if you want to go all out with decadence or hear me out on this other serving suggestion. Serve it with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt with a smidge of brown sugar or maple syrup mixed in. You’ll still get that dairy decadence without all of the sugar.

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Peppermint Chocolate Rochers

DESSERT RECIPES- peppermint-chocolate-rochers

Looking for reasons to bake in December is not difficult. Do you find yourself any other time of year looking for reasons to break out the eggs, sugar, butter and flour with the gusto that the holidays inspires? I didn’t think so.

We hosted our second annual Cookie Swap this past weekend with local food blogger friends. Among those RSVP’d, I knew of two food allergies to keep in mind. Two friends I knew for certain are gluten free. One is in the process of eliminating ingredients and is avoiding eggs. I made Buddhettes for my egg-free friend and baked up a batch of these gluten free Peppermint Chocolate Rochers.

Yes, neither of these would “technically” constitute as cookies, but I tend to be a spirit of the law kind of gal. And Anita brought some cupcakes so clearly this could be construed a Baked Good Swap? Her alphabet Linzer cookies became our party entertainment. Mike, Anita’s husband suggested a rule early on that you could only eat a cookie if you could spell something with the other cookies.

What started as “happy holidays” became everything from “play shop” and “Als Pho” later to be followed by “Laos.”

happy holidays cookie tilesplay shopcookie tiles

Faith brought vegan Peppermint Candy Crisps. Susie baked up Drunken Almond Macaroons. Charissa and Patrick arrived with Coconut Peanut Butter Chocolate Gluten Free cookies.

peppermint candy cookiesDrunken almond macaroonsgluten free coconut peanut butter chocolate cookie

Steph brought Blackberry Rosemary Shortbread Bars. Sabrina made a batch of Lemon Rosemary Cookies with Black Pepper.

blackberry rosemary shortbread barslemon rosemary black pepper cookies

Irvin brought two batches of cookies: chocolate raspberry striped cookies and cinnamon bun swirl cookies.

chocolate raspberry cookiescinnamon bun cookies

It was a rollicking good time. Somehow baking up a baker’s dozen always allows everyone to try the different cookies and leave plenty for the hostess. I’ve got a plan for those extra cookies and cupcakes and it involves another favored reason for the holidays- gifts that keep on giving.

peppermint chocolate rochers

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PEPPERMINT CHOCOLATE ROCHERS
I’ve been a fan of the blog Orangette since 2006 when I originally started la vie en route. I can safely say this is my favorite recipe of hers. She nails dead on the rochers from local bakery Tartine. They make a version with toasted almonds and another one with cacao nibs.  I baked a batch of Rochers for Thanksgiving after finding myself the proud recipient of extra egg whites left over from making a Maple Custard Pie. I played around with the recipe for a Christmas-infused adaptation and it resulted in something special. The chocolate chips melt in your mouth and the peppermint is subtle- think of this as a sophisticated York peppermint pattie.

Adapted from this Cocoa Nib Pavlova recipe from Orangette

  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Set oven to 275. Prep two pans with parchment paper or silpat.

Place egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in a heavy duty mixer and mix on low for a few minutes and then increase to medium speed until soft peaks begin to form.

In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cornstarch.

Set the mixer on medium high and slowly pour in the sugar mixture. Continue mixing for about 5 minutes. Toward the end, add the peppermint oil. The mixture should be very thick.

Mix in the chocolate chips and cacao nibs. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto each pan with several inches in between. I like to swirl the spoon on the top to give it a swirled look. Once all the mixture has been doled out onto the pans, place them into the oven on the top rack and lower rack.

Drop the temperature down to 250. Bake for 30 minutes, switching racks halfway through baking period. Once done, the rochers will be firm to the touch. Let cool on a rack.

NOTE: If you notice your rochers are still gummy underneath when you lift them up with your spatula, place them back in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes and that should do the trick.

Makes about a dozen large rochers, best enjoyed up to a few days after baking. Store in a sealed container.

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