Peach Blueberry Cake

peachandblueberries

This recipe has so much potential. And I so badly want to rave about it. I mean, I have been snacking on it morning and night for the past two days. But something, I must confess, is not quite right.

This recipe appeared in the August 2005 issue of Gourmet. If you care to hear what other people think of the recipe, you can read the 143 reviews posted on Epicurious. Online, I just discovered, the recipe is prefaced with this:

We’ve received some letters from readers complaining about a burned crust when making the peach blueberry cake, so we ran through the recipe two more times. Baked in a standard light-colored metal pan, the cake was perfect; baked in a dark metal pan, however, it burned — be aware that the cake’s high sugar content makes it more susceptible to burning at high heat.

A burnt crust was precisely the problem I ran into. The recipe calls for baking the cake at 375ºF for 1 hour and 45 minutes. 1 hour and 45 minutes! Does that sound crazy to you? I mean, sometimes I wonder what people (recipe writers) are thinking. I baked my cake at 350ºF for about 1 hour and 15 minutes because it smelt too good to leave in the oven any longer and the fruit looked bubbly and delicious. You can’t see the pastry below the layer of stewing fruit, so there is no way of knowing if “the crust is golden” as the recipe suggests as a determining doneness factor.

When I bake this cake again — which I am determined to do before summer is over — I will bake it for one hour and see if that improves the texture of the crust, which in addition to being slightly burnt tasted slightly dry. When I bake it again, however, I might use a different pastry all together. My mother suggested using a shortbread pastry recipe from Chez Panisse Desserts, which she adores and which could be the perfect substitute for the current dough. All I know is this: whatever pastry is used in this dessert must be strong enough to support a thick layer of juicy, oozing fruit. And in an ideal world, it must be moist and delicious, too.

For all of you bakers out there, any suggestions?

Cake just before entering the oven:

Cake after resting for 20 minutes out of the oven:

Peach Blueberry Cake
Serves 8

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1 stick (½ cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 lb. firm-ripe large peaches (about 4), halved lengthwise, pitted, and each half cut lengthwise into fourth or fifths
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
pinch salt

1. Make pastry. Pulse together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal with pea-sized butter lumps. Add egg and vanilla and pulse just until the dough clumps into a ball, about 15 pulses.

2. With floured fingertips press dough onto bottom of an ungreased springform pan. Chill pastry in pan until firm, about 10 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and toss until the fruit is evenly coated. Pour filling over chilled pastry and cover pan loosely with foil. Bake for about an hour, until filling is bubbling.

4. Transfer cake in pan to a rack and cool uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove sides of pan and cool longer or serve immediately with vanilla ice cream.

The pastry for this cake comes together quickly with just a few pulses in the food processor. Of course, it can be made by hand as well.

One Peach, One Tart, A Favorite Recipe, Simplified

peachtart

As the title suggests, the tart featured in this post is based on a longtime favorite recipe printed in Fine Cooking several years ago. The original recipe calls for making a frangipane — an almond-based filling — to spread in a thin layer across the dough. The fruit lies over this creamy base and the combination of dough, frangipane and fruit in every bite is absolutely delicious. The addition of frangipane to any free-form tart — from plums, peaches and apricots (really all stone fruit) in the summer to pears and apples in the fall — seriously raises the bar of the classic fruit tart, adding a most subtle flavor, but a dimension that pure fruit tarts lack.

That said, in the tart pictured above, the frangipane has been omitted, and had I never known frangipane existed, I wouldn’t have missed it. A dessert of warm peaches in a flaky, buttery crust topped with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream alone is pretty damn good. And whereas frangipane requires almond paste, rum and room-temperature butter, this simplified fruit tart can be made with pantry items in no time.

All I’m saying is this: If you have the time and the ingredients, make the frangipane. You won’t be disappointed. If you don’t have the time or the ingredients, however, make this tart anyway. You will still produce an elegant and delectable dessert. You won’t be disappointed.
This recipe yields two small tarts each of which will serve three or four people. I used only one peach in the tart I made and froze the remaining portion of dough. I love love love this dough recipe. I’m not quite sure how it differs from a traditional pie dough but it without fail produces a perfect crust.
 It should be noted that while this tart probably tastes best when warm, I am discovering that it complements morning coffee very nicely as well.

Galette Dough
Yield=Two mini tarts (each tart yields 3-4 small servings; double recipe to yield two 9-inch tarts)

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 T. sugar
¼ tsp. table salt
8 T. unsalted butter
¼ C. + 1 T. ice water

Whisk flour, sugar and salt together. Cut butter into flour and using the back of a fork or a pastry cutter, incorporate butter into flour mixture until butter is in small pieces. Add ice water and continue to stir with fork until mixture comes together to form a mass. Add more ice water if necessary, one tablespoon at a time. Gently form mass into a ball and divide into two equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes and as long as overnight. (Dough can be frozen, too.)

Frangipane
Note: I did not use a frangipane in the above pictured tart. This frangipane makes for a truly special tart. If you’re pressed for time, however, or don’t feel like making frangipane, the peaches and the galette dough alone will make a wonderful dessert.

¼ C. almond paste
2 T.. sugar
2 T. butter at room temperature
2 tsp. rum
1 small egg

In the bowl of a stand mixer or food processor, combine almond paste, sugar and butter. Beat until combined, then add rum and egg and beat until smooth, or until only small lumps remain. Set aside.

To Assemble:

1 peach, sliced (If making two tarts, use two peaches.)
pinch sugar, pinch salt
1 T. butter, melted
1 tsp. sugar
parchment paper
vanilla ice cream

1. Toss peach slices with the pinches of sugar and salt. Set aside. On a lightly floured work surface, roll one disk out approximately into a 9-inch circle, using flour as needed to prevent sticking. Line a rimless cookie sheet (or upside-down jelly roll pan) with parchment paper. Transfer dough to parchment paper. Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of the frangipane (if using) into the center of the tart and spread toward the edges, leaving a 2-inch border all the way around. Arrange the fruit in concentric circles over the frangipane.

2. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Finish the tart by folding the exposed border over the tart onto itself, crimping to make a folded-over border. Chill tart in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. Brush dough with butter and sprinkle sugar over entire tart. Place in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until crust is golden. Let cool for five minutes on tray then slide parchment paper and tart onto a cooling rack. Let cool another 20 minutes before slicing.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.


Buttermilk Panna Cotta: Simplest Dessert Ever

PannaCotta

This dessert takes five minutes to make. Ten minutes tops. And it’s a great way to use up leftover buttermilk.

For example, I opened the fridge a few days ago and spotted a carton of buttermilk dated August 13. It smelt a little funky and I noticed a few lumps, but doesn’t buttermilk always kind of look/smell this way? I gave the carton a good shake, poured the buttermilk into a clear, glass measuring cup to inspect for anything looking particularly threatening and proceeded with the recipe. Success. I have now eaten panna cotta three nights in a row and have yet to feel a tinge of sickness.

Even if you aren’t trying to use up a half-empy carton of buttermilk, this is a great recipe to have on hand for several reasons:

1. It can and should be made the night before serving — perfect for entertaining.
2. It is made in individual servings — perfect for entertaining.
3. It is light and summery.
4. It literally takes no time to whip up.
5. It is delicious.

Also, you don’t need fancy ramekins or custard cups. I have them, (and love them, obviously), but for the sake of demonstration, I poured this batch into various-sized glass cups including an old-fashioned mason jar. It looked precious. The panna cotta doesn’t even really need to be inverted onto a plate, and if you chose to use glasses, in fact, I wouldn’t recommend inverting. Just eat it right out of the glass. Yum.

Note: If you do have a set of ramekins, invert the panna cotta onto plates and serve with fresh fruit or a raspberry coulis, as my grandmother does.

What is panna cotta? Panna cotta, meaning “cooked cream,” is an Italian dessert made by simmering milk or cream and sugar together. It is thickened with gelatin and must chill for a few hours to set. According to Wikipedia, panna cotta originates from the Piedmont region of Italy.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Update 05-01-2012: I no longer make this recipe. I find it to be way too sweet. This is my go-to panna cotta recipe. It’s a Claudia Fleming recipe and it’s just about perfect.

If you have 1½ cups buttermilk on hand:
1½ tsp. unflavored gelatin
½ cup milk, not skim, but 1% and up
½ cup sugar
1½ cups buttermilk
¼ tsp. vanilla extract

If you have 1 cup buttermilk on hand:
1 tsp. gelatin
6 T. milk
6 T. sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/8 tsp. vanilla

1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over ¼ cup (or 3 tablespoons if using 1 cup of buttermilk) of water. Let stand until softened, about 5 minutes.

2. In a saucepan, heat milk and sugar over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot but not boiling, 3-5 minutes.
Remove from heat, stir in gelatin mixture, then buttermilk, and vanilla. Pour into 4 or 6-oz ramekins* and chill until set, 3 hours.

3. To serve, run a knife around edge of ramekin, place a plate on top, flip over and gently shake to turn out onto plate.
Garnish with some fresh berries.

*Note: Pour into any vessel you have. If using tall, narrow glasses, do not worry about inverting. Serve right in the glass. Keeps well in the fridge for at least a week.

Wedding Cake, Desconstructed

cake

Somebody please come save me from myself. I am home alone with this now 2/3-eaten cake. Every morning I tell myself I’m going to throw it into the compost bin*, but somehow I talk myself out of it and find a reason to cut myself another “sliver.” This isn’t even the kind of dessert I really adore. I much prefer a dense almond torte or chocolate souffle cake or fruit galette. Alas, it’s still too good to trash or turn into soil for my garden. (*Yes, I purchased the Back Porch ComposTumbler!)

Why do I have this cake all to myself? Well, on Sunday, Ben and I celebrated with cake and champagne the recent marriage of two friends. Because the bride had to jump on a plane shortly after the festivities and the groom would be out of town for a month, the cake remained with the Staffords. And the reason I say I have this cake all to myself is because Ben never pulls his weight when it comes to sweets. Blast him!

Anyway, this recipe can be multiplied and turned into a real wedding cake. Last November, I made this exact cake with the exception of the frosting, strawberries and assembly for two dear friends. The lemon-buttermilk cake bakes evenly and is both moist and light. The lemon curd adds a nice tang and helps keep the cake moist. And the bright-white, Swiss Buttercream frosting (made in place of a cream cheese frosting) gives the cake a really festive, professional feel. If you don’t feel like making a Swiss buttercream, which really is not too difficult, a cream cheese or whipped cream frosting will work just as well.

Emily and James’ & Ibeth and James’ Wedding Cake
Adapted From This YouTube Video

Lemon (or Orange) Buttermilk Cake
Yield = 2 9-inch cakes (the amount used in this four-layer cake)

3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 T. baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, whisked lightly
1¼ cups buttermilk
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice (or orange juice)
1½ tsp. lemon extract (or vanilla extract)
¼ tsp. lemon zest (or orange zest)

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder.

2. In an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Slowly add the whisked eggs to the mixture and beat until combined. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the mixer. (The recipe says to start and end with flour, but I’m not sure there is any science behind that.) Add the lemon juice, extract and zest, and mix just until combined.

3. If making this layer cake, coat a 9-inch cake pan with nonstick spray (or butter liberally). Pour half of the batter into the pan and bake for about 35 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack. Note: If you have two pans, bake the cakes simultaneously. If you have only one pan, repeat with remaining batter. Alternatively, bake all the batter at once. The cake will take longer to bake and might not bake as evenly, but it certainly can be done.

Filling for the wedding cake:
Lemon (or Orange) Curd

¼ cup sugar
7 egg yolks
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (or orange juice)
6 T. unsalted butter, room temperature (butter really must be at room temperature)

1. In a double boiler (or a stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering water), whisk sugar and yolks together until pale yellow. Whisk in the juice. Stir constantly until mixture starts to thicken, about 8 – 10 minutes. (This is always a little tricky to gauge, but you’ll know it’s ready when it starts to thicken.) Remove bowl from heat and slowly whisk in the butter about a tablespoon at a time. This is sort of tedious, but only add more butter once the previous tablespoon has been fully incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap (place the wrap right up against the curd) and chill until ready to use.


Frosting for wedding cake:
For Emily and James’ wedding cake, I made a cream cheese frosting, which I love. For this layer cake, I took a stab at making Swiss Buttercream following the method described on Smitten Kitchen, which worked perfectly. This recipe produces a bright white, more professional looking icing, but either frosting tastes great.

Cream Cheese and Butter Frosting

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
½ tsp. vanilla extract
confectioners’ sugar to taste

Beat cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Add confectioners’ sugar to taste. Chill if not using right away or frost cake immediately. (It’s easier to use if you use it right away.)

Smitten Kitchen’s Swiss Buttercream

For a 9-inch cake (plus filling, or some to spare):
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
26 tablespoons butter, softened (3 sticks plus 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a big metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk occasionally until you can’t feel the sugar granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers.

2. Transfer mixture into the mixer and whip until it turns white and about doubles in size. (Here’s a tip: when you transfer to the mixer, make sure you wipe the condensation off the bottom of the bowl so that no water gets into the egg whites. This can keep them from whipping up properly. Ali’s note: I whipped the egg whites in the bowl that fits into my stand mixer so that I didn’t have to transfer anything.)

3. Add the vanilla. Finally, add the butter a stick at a time and whip, whip, whip.

Note: If you refrigerate the buttercream, leave it at room temperature for at least 10 hours before using. Also, the icing has now held up perfectly (on the cake) for three days. I’m not sure if there is any health risk here, but so far it still tastes good, there is no sign of mold, and I have yet to get sick.

Assembly:

If I were to make this cake again, this is what I would do: I would reserve enough of the Swiss Buttercream to swirl all over the top of the cake. Then, I would whisk together equal parts lemon curd and buttercream to spread in between each layer. I find the buttercream to be a tad rich and think the lemon curd would cut it nicely. So, cut each cake in half with a serrated knife. Spread center with lemon curd-buttercream mix, frost top with buttercream, top with strawnberries and serve.

S’mores and an Awesome Margarita Recipe

smores

A recipe for s’mores I believe is unnecessary. This recipe for margaritas, however, I must share with you.

Over the weekend, during a little trip to Half Moon Lake, Wisconsin to visit Ben’s family and friends, a classic, summer deluge left eight of us housebound. Not to worry. Within minutes, Tom and Liz Bennett had whipped up this concoction and delivered it in festive glasses to all the guests. With the fridge fully stocked with back-up pitchers, the storm and afternoon passed in no time.

Simple, tasty and lethal, the Bennetts’ margarita is a must try:

Bennetts’ Margarita
The original recipe calls for one can of each of the listed ingredients, but the Bennetts have tweaked the recipe slightly for taste. The recipe below, I considered perfection, but feel free to adjust according to taste.

3/4 of a 12-oz can limeade (the frozen can of concentrate)
1 beer, such as Corona
tequila
Sprite
salt for the glasses if desired

1. Place the limeade and beer in a pitcher. Discard (or reserve for another use) the remaining limeade. Fill the can halfway with tequila and add to the pitcher. Fill the can with Sprite and add to the pitcher. Stir. Taste. Adjust as needed. Pour into salted, ice-filled glasses.

L.A. Times Culinary SOS: Buttercake Bakery’s Marble Cake

buttercake

I so badly wanted to dislike this cake.

After reading the ingredient list, looking over the some-what complicated instructions, and spotting the calorie content per serving (so unnecessarily provided at the end of the recipe), I had that feeling I often get when I’m shopping for clothes — that I hope nothing fits so that I don’t have to buy anything.

Unfortunately, all of my negative energy did not help produce an inedible, underwhelming, unmemorable cake. Quite the contrary. This cake is incredibly delicious and irresistible. I wake up every morning thinking about it — thus far, the cake has gotten better and better with each passing day.

I’ve had this LA Times Culinary SOS recipe recipe tacked to my fridge for the past two weeks. I have to admit, I had serious doubts. I am so often disappointed with the recipes that call for a pound of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 4 eggs, etc.— it’s the recipes with yogurt and applesauce and olive oil that are so pleasantly surprising — both delicious and light or relatively light at least. Now, I’m sure some of you magicians out there could cut some of the butter or sugar in this recipe without compromising the flavor, but I encourage you to try the recipe once as is. I omitted the chocolate chips, which are unnecessary given that the recipe calls for the making of a cocoa syrup, which imparts a wonderful chocolate flavor.

Buttercake Bakery’s Marble Cake

Total time: 1½ hours
Servings 12 to 16

2½ cups sugar, divided
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup light corn syrup (I used brown rice syrup)
2½ teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
2 2/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter (room temperature is ideal)
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup chocolate chips (optional — I did not use them. This cake really doesn’t need them.)
powdered sugar for dusting

1. In a small saucepan, whisk together ½ cup of the sugar, the cocoa powder and syrup with ½ cup hot water. Bring just to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add ½ teaspoon of vanilla off the heat and set aside.

2. Heat the oven to 350ºF. Butter and lightly flour a 12-cup bundt pan. (I never flour anymore — it always burns for me. I coated the bundt pan with cooking spray.)

3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer), cream the butter with the remaining sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until thoroughly incorporated, then whisk in the remaining vanilla.

4. Whisk about a third of the flour mixture into the batter, then a third of the milk. Continue whisking in the flour mixture and milk, alternately and a little at a time, until everything is added and the batter is light and smooth.

5. Gently fold in the chocolate chips. (I really think the chocolate chips are unncessary, but that’s your call.) Divide the batter into thirds. Pour a third of the batter into the prepared bundt pan.

6. Whisk the chocolate syrup with another third of batter, then pour this into the bundt pan. Pour the remaining third of batter over this, lightly swirl the batters with a wooden skewer or knife to give a “marble” effect and place the pan in the oven.

7. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the cake springs back lightly when touched, about an hour. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack. Invert the cooled cake onto a serving platter and dust lightly with powdered sugar.

Weekend Baking II: Open-Face Plum Cake

plums

I’m really liking my Sunday morning routine. I get up a little before Ben, find something to bake, and whip it up, or at least have it in the oven, before Ben wakes up. This tradition is now in its fourth week running, and this Sunday I’m planning on making a recipe for a marbled coffee cake printed in the culinary SOS column of the LA Times food section two weeks ago. The recipe is based on Buttercake Bakery’s moist butter bundt cake. I can hardly wait to try it. Maybe I’ll use that cathedral bundt pan I have failed to use for three years now.

Anyway, about this plum cake. This recipe appeared in a Martha Stewart Living issue last summer, and I have had it filed in the back of my mind ever since. Last Saturday morning, when Ben and I found ourselves in San Diego at the City Heights farmers’ market, I found the perfect reason to make this cake: baskets of plums — filled with at least 20 or so — selling for $4. We picked up some peaches, avocados and two red snapper fillets as well before heading home. The plums — sweet and juicy — however, turned out to be the prized purchase. I used ten in this cake, but plenty remained for Ben and me to snack on all week. I ate the last one this morning.

Bette Aaronson, the woman to whom this recipe is credited, has been making this recipe for more than 30 years. I can understand why. It takes only minutes to prepare; it’s delectable; it’s elegant; and it’s versatile: Apricots, nectarines and peaches, it has been noted, can be used in place of the plums. I’m guessing then that pluots, plumcots and apriums would also make acceptable substitutes. I can’t believe Martha didn’t make that clear. Also, I have halved the recipe — I thought a 9-inch cake for each Ben and me seemed a little excessive — but the original recipe, if you care to see, can be found online: Open-Face Plum Cake.


Open-Face Plum Cake
Adapted from a recipe printed in a summer 2007 Martha Stewart Living
For the recipe doubled, which was how it was printed, visit the Martha Stewart Living Web Site.

Yield = 1 9-inch cake, serves 10

¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3/8 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon
¼ cup whole milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small egg or ½ a large egg
6-10 plums depending on the size, halved and pitted
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the pans

Confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Butter a nine-inch round cake pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the 3/8 cup sugar, milk, oil and egg. Fold into the flour mixture.

2. Pour batter into pan. Arrange plums, cut side up over batter.

3. Combine cinnamon and remaining sugar and sprinkle over the plums. Dot with butter. Bake until tops are dark golden, plums are soft and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool.

4. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

Rosemary-Goat’s Milk Gelato & The Chino Vegetable Stand

strawberries

Sometimes I like to test my husband’s taste buds. Here’s an example. The other night, Ben was pacing around the kitchen after dinner looking for some more food. “Can I make you a bowl of cereal?” I asked. Sure, he said. So, I filled up a bowl with a mixture of Kashi Heart To Heart and Barbara’s Shredded Oats, sliced in a banana and poured in the milk … goat’s milk that is. I gave Ben the bowl then returned to the couch.

I could hardly contain myself. “Do you notice anything different?” I asked.

“Yeah. What am I eating?” Ben asked.

“Goat’s milk,” I said. “Do you like it?”

“I prefer cow’s milk,” he said. “In my cereal that is.” Ben is such a good sport.

Now, the reason I had goat’s milk on hand is because I had been craving Capogiro Gelato, particularly the rosemary-goat’s milk flavor. Since I haven’t found a gelato shop near me yet, I decided to make my own. I picked up a quart of goat’s milk at Henry’s Market one day and set to work. I followed a recipe I like for vanilla gelato in Mario Batali’s Molto Italiano cookbook. I steeped the rosemary for about 30 minutes, tempered the egg yolks, chilled the mixture and then froze it in my ice cream maker.

The result? The gelato had a very nice texture, and the flavor was, well, shall I say, unique? The rosemary was a little too powerful. I’ve written the recipe below with a much shorter steep time.

I don’t know how Capogiro does it, but one trait I love about their rosemary-goat’s milk gelato is its pure white color. Some of their gelatos are made with eggs, some are not, and they’ll tell you if you ask. I forget if their rosemary gelato contains eggs or not. Also, I have asked many times how gelato differs from ice cream, and I never seem to remember the answer, but this is what is coming to mind: Gelato is churned more slowly. Gelato is more intensely flavored. And, according to Mario Batali’s cookbook, gelato is lower in fat.

I should note, too, that the rosemary I used came from the Vegetable Shop at the Chino family farm in Rancho Santa Fe. I have heard so much about this stand from friends living in Del Mar, and over the weekend, I finally got to see it. I picked up the most beautiful produce: two bunches of mizuna; two bunches of Swiss chard; two bulbs of green garlic; and a pint of the strawberries pictured above and below, which lasted about five minutes in my apartment. They were so sweet! They sort of tasted like grapes. The man at the stand called them “French” strawberries. Yum.

Oh, and next week, stay tuned, I have five more muffin recipes to share with you. I’m seriously up to my eyeballs in muffins.

Rosemary-Goat’s Milk Gelato
Adapted From Mario Batali’s recipe for vanilla gelato in Molto Italiano (Harper Collins, 2005)
Yield = 1½ pints

2 cups goat’s milk
½ cup sugar
one sprig rosemary
kosher salt
7 egg yolks

1. In a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the milk with ¼ cup of the sugar, the rosemary and a pinch of salt. Bring the mixture just to a boil, making sure the sugar has dissolved. Turn off the heat, remove the rosemary and discard.

2. Meanwhile whisk the yolks with the remaining sugar until the mixture is pale yellow. Ladle some of the milk into the eggs whisking constantly. Repeat until half of the milk has been added to the eggs. Return the egg-milk mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly. DO NOT BOIL. When the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon, remove pan from heat and strain into a shallow vessel. Do not second-guess yourself: When the mixture thickens, it is done. (I returned mine to the heat and it curdled. Too stubborn to start over, I strained the mixture through a very-fine chinois. It seemed to work — the gelato did not taste eggy at all. Try to avoid having to do this, however.)

3. Place vessel in the refrigerator until cold.

4. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Eat immediately or freeze until ready to serve. Once frozen, let sit at room temperature until ready to serve.

Dark Chocolate & Plastic Bulls

darkchocolate

A few months ago, Martha Stewart Living magazine reported the results of a study conducted in Europe regarding chocolate. Now I can’t remember the exact findings, but the blurb read something like this: To maximize its antioxidant powers, chocolate must be consumed on a regular basis. In other words, eating an ounce of chocolate a day (it could have been two ounces a day) is more beneficial than, say, eating one large chocolate bar every Sunday evening.

In any case, what I got out of the article was this: I should eat chocolate every day. And now, I do. And this Chocolatour bar pictured above, made by Chocolove XOXOX in Boulder, CO is one of my favorite brands. When I lived in Philadelphia, I purchased these bars by the half-dozen every time I stopped by Joe Coffee Bar. I have sampled nearly every variety Joe carries including a spicy Chilies and Cherries in Dark Chocolate, but ultimately I prefer the simple, dark chocolate.

Now, I must be honest. I’m a real sucker for labels. I swear I continue to buy this one bottle of wine, Sangre de Toro, at the San Clemente Wine Shop only because a little plastic bull hangs from the cork. A small herd of bulls now greets Ben and me every morning at the breakfast table.

But seriously, have you ever seen a more beautifully wrapped bar of chocolate? The Chocolove bars even come with a romantic poem tucked inside.

I should note, too, that Chocolove bars are Fair Trade in every way but name. Just as many small farms cannot afford to pay for Certified Organic status, many chocolate, coffee, tea and nut companies cannot afford the Fair Trade licensing fees. These bars can be purchased on-line and from a number of large markets including Whole Foods and Target. Around here, I have seen them at Henry’s Market, but a number of other shops including Ralph’s and Mother’s Market are listed on the Web site as well.

Last year, in preparation for Valentine’s day, I made a slew of festive, heart-shaped desserts. Well, I guess only three, and they are all pictured below, along with some other appropriate treats for the season, if you are so inspired.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Two Heart Tarts for Two
Linzer Cookies
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Boozy Chocolate Truffles
Coeurs A La Creme

Very Cute Seals & Cookies

sealcookies

One time it took my dad 7 hours to drive from New Haven, CT to Philadelphia, PA. Was there traffic, you may wonder? No. How then could it have taken so long? Well, he arrived to Philadelphia proper in about 4 hours, but then spent the next three hours driving around the suburbs, an area he had visited several times, trying to “follow his nose” to his hotel. He was exasperated (who wouldn’t be?) to say the least, when he finally called me from his hotel room explaining what had happened. Our dinner reservation, planned for 3 hours earlier naturally, had long been cancelled, and we decided to meet for breakfast instead.

Yesterday, I felt a little bit like my dad. After spending an hour or so exploring downtown San Diego, I felt a little hungry. I called my friend — the same friend who swears it never rains in SD — who recommended a few lunch spots, one being the Living Room located in La Jolla. I had been to La Jolla once before, and so, like my dad, did not need directions. I headed back on I-5N, got off the exit for the La Jolla Parkway and headed west. The area looked familiar, but one wrong turn led me heading North, so far North I ended getting back on the 5 heading south, so far south I had to get off and turn around to head north. I wanted to scream. I contemplated pulling into the In-N-Out — a place I’m still dying to try — located right off the exit, but decided, like my dad, I could persevere for at least a few more hours.

Fortunately, before too long (well under three hours), I found myself sitting at one of the outside bistro tables at the Living Room, basking in the sun and sipping a very calming mocha, a drink highly recommended by my friend. My BLT arrived shortly after and I tucked in. Still flustered and famished from my journey up and down the 5, however, I forgot to photograph my delectable sandwich, and before I realized what was happening, I had devoured all but one bite of my potential blog entry. Alas!

After lunch, I took a quick stroll around Seal Beach, which I had seen once before but only at night. Seals are so cute! And very tired it seems. A few of them slithered (do seals slither? whatever they do, it looks exhausting) in and out of the water, but most of them lay motionless in the sand. Except for this guy pictured below. Every time the tide reached his underbelly, he arched his back, curling up his tail and head. I could have watched it all day.

In honor of my moment with the seals, I purchased a cookie, pictured above, from Girard Gourmet, another spot recommended by my friend. By this point, I had regained my composure and was able to snap a picture before tasting this yummy and very cute treat. Thanks Chu for a wonderful day in La Jolla!