A Certain Lightness of Being

There is something to be said for a big, fluffy piece of Banana Pound Cake. It packs all the flavor and fragrance of Banana Bread, but with a certain lightness of being.

I like to bake as a way to keep the house warm during winter. I had a few overripe bananas lying around so I decided to make this Banana Pound Cake. It is so simple to whip up and makes a great breakfast for the whole week (if you can keep from eating it all at once!)

The mascarpone and sour cream in the recipe give it an incredibly airy texture. The sour cream provides a subtle tartness to balance the sweetness. It is delicate and luxurious. With just one bite I was instantly seduced!

Stay warm this winter, bake some pound cake!

Banana Pound Cake:

(adapted from The Secrets of Baking)

2 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup sour cream

½ cup marscapone

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

2 ripe bananas, pureed

1 vanilla bean, cut down center and scrape seeds

350°F oven, uses 9x5x3 loaf pan or cupcake pan

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. Combine sour cream and mascarpone in a small bowl and set aside.

Using a whisk or standing mixer, beat butter with cinnamon until soft and creamy. Slowly add the sugar a little at a time. Once the mixture is fluffy and a light white color, use a spatula to scrape down sides of the bowl.

Now add eggs, one at a time until eggs are completely incorporated.

Add one third of the flour mixture to the batter and whisk to incorporate. Then, add one third of the mascarpone sour cream mixture and blend until incorporated. Add the flour and mascarpone mixtures two more times in same order until everything is incorporated.

Fold in bananas and vanilla bean.

Pour batter into buttered baking dish. For loaf pan bake for 1 hour. For cupcakes bake for 20-25 minutes. Set on a rack to cool then serve.

ENJOY!

Cupcake Coma

While I have long heard of the fabled cupcake coma – a woozy exhaustion that is provoked by over indulgence in sugary sweet delight – I never believed it to be true. I love cupcakes, and I especially love the sweet sugary rush one gets from each soft bite. How could a cute dainty cake put one into a saccharine induced swoon? After four bakeshops and four large cupcakes lathered with heaping mounds of frosting, the cupcake coma came over me.

I was fortunate enough to be invited by the lovely TaraMetBlog to the Chevy-sponsored Best of Cupcakes Los Angeles Tour. Our small group of eager cupcake enthusiasts was chauffeured by Chevy around LA to the city’s finest cupcakeries. It was a cupcake throwdown.

First stop: Crumbs Bakeshop in Beverly Hills. Of the unbelievably large and imaginative cupcake flavor selection, I chose the Pistachio cupcake. The cake was moist and spongy with the perfect amount of frosting. The frosting was just sweet enough and coated with chopped pistachios. I am not a frosting fan and I generally avoid the stuff but I ate this cupcake in its entirety.


For bakeshop number two we walked down the street to the well-known Sprinkles. Here I tried the classic Red Velvet. I thought the cake was firm yet moist, but the frosting was thick and overly sweet. As far as frosting goes, these are the reasons I avoid it.

Destination three was SusieCakes in Brentwood. SusieCakes is known for its Strawberry cupcake, which Martha Stewart gushes over. I had to try the Strawberry, but I also could not pass up their seasonal Gingerbread cupcake. By now I was starting to understand the causes of the cupcake coma.

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The Strawberry cupcake was amazing. The cake was flavorful, but the strawberry frosting was mind altering. In the most complementary way, it tasted like a cake version of a pink starburst.

The Gingerbread cupcake with cream cheese frosting took the cake! It perfectly captured the season. With spicy and warm flavors slathered with a silky rich frosting, it was my favorite by far of the cupcake tour.

Last stop was Vanilla Bakeshop in Santa Monica. At this point I was quickly fading into sugary heaven and I needed something to captivate me. Vanilla Bakeshop did not meet the challenge. I gave the cupcakes a cursory glance and was quickly taken by the beautiful Key Lime Cupcake. Unfortunately it was cold, dry, and tasted like a refrigerator. It didn’t help that the staff (especially the manager) were rude and unwelcoming. With the exception of our last stop, this was one tasty tour.

By the end of the cupcake tour I was gorged on sweets and ready for a nap.

http://www.carolineoncrack.com/2009/12/15/best-of-la-cupcakes-tour-with-bloggers-and-chevy/

http://www.happygomarni.com/2009/12/scavenging-los-angeles-cupcakeries-in.html

http://www.tarametblog.com/2009/12/best-of-la-cupcakes-tour-with-chevy.html


Eat My Oatmeal Sandwich Cookie

I am a procrastinator. I put things off until the very very last possible minute. I cannot do things ahead of time, even if I have the time to do them. Instead, I get lost in tweets or become painfully distracted searching and listening to new music on iTunes. It really is a problem.

True to form, when it came time for the Eat My Blog charity bake sale last Saturday, I had put off buying my ingredients and making my cookies.

The day before the sale I had to prepare everything, and I did not start early. Instead I cleaned the kitchen, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, I hung out with R; suffice it to say I procrastinated. Finally when I was ready to start mid-day I had not left myself much time.

The rest of my day was wholly consumed in whipping, mixing, sifting and baking- and I mean my whole day! Ninety-five cookies, two big bowls of frosting, and 30 mistake cookies later, I somehow pulled together my Oatmeal Sandwich cookies. Once a procrastinator, always a procrastinator. But why change my ways when I always manage to pull things together in the end?

The oatmeal cookies were crispy and sweet. The filling was satiny and light. A little hint of (divulging a secret here) almond extract made it taste almost like ice cream.

Eat My Blog was a great success. It was a bake sale offering home made sweet treats from LA food bloggers. When Cathy of Gastronomy Blog sent me a message that I could participate in this amazing event I was elated. I was happy to help a good cause, all proceeds benefiting the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, I was eager too meet so many LA food bloggers I have never met, and most of all I was excited to bake.

last one!

There was an amazing array of confections and everything sold out! Thanks again GastronomyBlog, DianaTakesABite, Deliciouscoma, and G-ma’s Bakery for putting on a great event! I can’t wait for the next bake sale. This time hopefully I won’t wait until the last minute to bake and I can actually get a little sleep.

Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies:

½ pound butter, softened

1 cup packed brown sugar

½ cup of granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

3 cups uncooked oats

Filling:

¾ cup confectioner sugar

1 stick butter, softened

½ cup vegetable shortening

1 ½ tablespoons light corn syrup

1 jar marshmallow fluff

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon almond extract

* mix ingredients with electric mixer until combined and fluffy

December: Battle Fennel

I do not like licorice. I am, however, fond of fennel. Eaten raw it has a crispy sweet bite – the taste of anise permeates through the mouth. When roasted it is leathery and earthy, like sun dried tomatoes. An often-overlooked vegetable, fennel has an unmistakable flavor.

When Mel of BouchonFor2 and Leela of SheSimmers announced that December was Battle Fennel – part of their monthly Beet n’ Squash food fight- I knew I had to participate. This was my chance to bring fennel into my own kitchen and come up with something delicious.

In the spirit of the holidays, I used Battle Fennel to bring together the staff at my workplace. Working in a restaurant, you don’t often get to experiment or really have fun with your ingredients. There is a menu to follow, guests to cater to, and a job to be done. I used this opportunity to take a short break from routine and to get the place abuzz with the thought of fennel. A few people didn’t even know what fennel was. Together we tasted, we chopped, we whisked, and we learned.

I already had a general idea of how I wanted to prepare my fennel. I wanted to keep it simple and light. The fennel was kept raw for a fabulously unspoiled Fennel Salad with Fuyu Persimmons and Apple Cider Thyme Vinaigrette. Together the staff decided to add Caña De Oveja cheese to compliment the salad. This sheep’s milk cheese from Southeast Spain is creamy and lusciously soft with very pronounced citrus notes. Building up layers one by one, we fanned the paper thin slices of fennel, dressed the wedges of crunchy sweet persimmon, dotted it with the buttery cheese and sprinkled it with fresh thyme. The result was a salad of incredible depth. The flavors of licorice from the fennel, the hints of clove found through the persimmon, and the lemony tang of the cheese all combine to wash over the tongue in one succulent and flavorful bite. It is the perfect way to enjoy fennel.

Playing off of the flavors of licorice so strongly associated with fennel, I decided to make candied fennel. During the holidays there are candied fruits galore, so I thought what better holiday treat than a candied strip of fennel. And it works! I boiled the thin strips of fennel in simple syrup for five minutes. I laid the soaked fennel on a rack to dry. After a few minutes is was sticky and ready for coating. I rolled it in vanilla sugar and I left it to crystallize. The end result was fantastically sweet and toothsome, the most ordinary vegetable now transformed into a holiday treat.



Fennel & Persimmon Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette (adapted from Chicks with Knives ):
1 fennel bulb, cut in half and sliced paper thin
1 Fuyu persimmon, seeded and cut into wedges
less than .15lb Caña De Oveja cheese


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice


Pear Tarte Tatin- So Good It Hurts

It was so good it hurt. A buttery, flaky crust with a thick sweet caramel coating. Lying in between these two decadent layers were toasty soft pears.

Recently, this blog has really inspired me to spend more time in my own kitchen and cook. I invited some friends over for dinner to enjoy a little Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving. I mean if it was so good the first time why not have it again, right? So that is what we did. There were no leftovers left to enjoy but I was able to whip up a simple Thanksgiving-inspired dinner.

For dinner we enjoyed turkey cutlets simply seasoned and sautéed. To accompany we had maple brown sugar yams and roasted balsamic brussel sprouts. The real star of the meal was the Pear Tarte Tatin for dessert.

You will have to get an early start for this dessert, but it is worth the wait. The end result includes textures and tastes that deceive and surprise you! Between the three of us this 9’ dessert hardly seemed like enough.

Cut.

Share.

Enjoy the sweet pleasure.

Ode to Joy (the Baker)

I have developed quite a fondness for Joy the Baker. From her sweet and candid stories to her mouth-wateringly beautiful pictures, Joy’s blog runs the gamut of ingredients often inspiring me in the kitchen.

Case in point: what can you do with a bunch of zucchini? Joy knows: make some pancakes. So that is exactly what I did. These zucchini pancakes were surprisingly simple to whip up. They make a great starter dish or a nice light dinner when you are just cooking for yourself.

Need something to tide your Thanksgiving guests over while the turkey is in the oven? Make some zucchini pancakes and your guests will thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving.






I Left My Heart In San Francisco!

I wish it were Saturday. I wish I were walking around the Ferry Building with Christina and Angela. I want to feel the cool Bay Area breeze. I want to hear the cacophony of the different people enjoying the farmer’s market behind the building. I want to see the bridge in the distance while eating my fresh Taylor pear. I miss San Francisco, but cliché, as it may be I miss Saturday morning in the Ferry Building the most.

There is something grand about the Ferry Building with its high ceilings and perfectly manicured stalls. There is something enthralling about Miette Patisserie and Blue Bottle Coffee the lay within its walls. It is an engrossing place the Ferry Building is. One could spend the morning lost in the riveting produce aisles, oyster bars and wine racks. The perfume of freshly baked bread and fresh wheels of cheese hugging each step through its halls.

Angela (Spinach Tiger), me, and Christina (HotPinkManolos)


tomato varieties I’ve never even seen before


bright peppers and eggplant


stunning purple pluots


a tangle of grapes


a bunch of blossoms


a sweet basket of baby corn


a treasure trove of jar filled jewels


a tasty treat for R


sweet, juicy, perfect


baked beignet bites


miette confection masterpieces




blue bottle coffee, there is no coffee like this!


It is no wonder so many before me have also fallen in love with San Francisco!



Last of the Season

There it was, one last basket. I thought I would have to wait another year until I would see them again. I zeroed in on the plump purple glory. There they were at the Los Feliz farmer’s market a couple of weeks ago – just one lonely basket of figs sitting among a sea of persimmons and pears. The last basket was mine, and there were officially no more figs at the farmer’s market. They were so soft they needed to be enjoyed that day.

I found the recipe at Food52.com. It was simple and filled the kitchen with sweet aromas. The figs softened in the syrup composed of water, sugar, rum and vanilla bean. The result is an ethereal lightness that collapses when touched.

A dollop of thick, tart vanilla bean Greek yogurt was the perfect compliment to the sweet syrup and figs.

You will have to wait until figs are in season again next year before you can make this recipe, but trust me – it is worth the wait!

1 pound ripe figs

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon rum

½ vanilla bean scored down middle so seeds can release into syrup

Place whole figs in a saucepan. Cut small slits at the top of each fig. Sprinkle sugar over figs in pan. Add a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of rum (or more as needed). Place vanilla bean in center of the pan.

Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered until sugar dissolves and caramelizes approx. 15 minutes.

Fun Filled Foodbuzz Festival!

Put two hundred and fifty-plus food fanatical fiends in one room. Fill it with unlimited drinks and mass amounts of delectable delights. What do you get? 48 hours of non-stop eating at First Annual Foodbuzz Food Blogger Festival in San Francisco.

The weekend began with a welcome reception happy hour on the gorgeous Hotel Vitale terrace overlooking the Bay Bridge. It quickly moved on to a frenzied food fair of San Francisco’s finest food trucks all gathered at the historic Ferry Building.

Having enjoyed my share of amazing food truck selections around Los Angeles, I have to say with all humility that LA has nothing on the food trucks of San Francisco. San Francisco’s mobile eateries are innovative, fresh, and nothing short of brilliant.

From pizza to cupcakes, meat pies to oysters, the Taste of SF Street Food Fare had it all.


Mission Minis are gourmet mini cupcakes that are baked fresh daily throughout a number of locations around the San Francisco area. They were presented on a tier of cake heaven with more flavors than the heart could dream of. I of course sampled one of everything. For me the standout flavors were the Strawberry Lemonade and Swiss Almond Coconut. The next day at the Tasting Pavillion I had another sample of each of my favorites.

The Pie Truck offers delicious baked hand held savory pies. My favorite was the Steak and Gruyere. Buttery, flakey dough encapsulating a hot a gooey mix of nutty Gruyere and toothsome steak.

While the cupcakes and meat pies were out of this world fantastic, they did not hold a flame to Roli Roti’s Porchetta Sandwiches. I found myself chanting “I love crispy skin!” after eating one of these impressive sandwiches. Roli Roti is the country’s first mobile rotisserie. They roast pork belly rolled together with pork lion. The fatty drippings glaze yellow potatoes
lying below. The pork majestically turns on the metal spit while its skin slowly begins to crispy and harden. The pork is then taken off the spit and placed on the cutting board where the flavors are allowed to mellow and blend before being cut into thick rounds, rubbed with sea salt, and covered in chopped parsley. The meat is crammed between two hearty pieces of ciabatta bread and ready to dive into. I ate this fatty treat in 2.5 seconds, the oil dripping down my chin. When all was said and done I was left to marvel at the flavors. The juicy pork loin, the crunchy crispy pork skin, and the fatty bits squished in between. The flavors were so bright and rich. LA needs a Roli Roti’s!

To be continued…








Coconut Craze – Coconut Flan

Ever since returning from Puerto Rico this summer I have had an insistent craving for coconut. I blame this coconut craze on my new friend the Pina Colada. I know what you’re thinking… Pina colada? Eww. (I hear the judgment in your voice.) But what can I say? The pina colada has been the official drink of Puerto Rico since 1978 and my vacation would not have been complete without enjoying one or two or five. I am now a converted and faithful enthusiast of the pina colada. The amber rum with undertones of caramel, the creamy amalgamation of coconut and sweet pineapples, blending into an icy creation much greater than the sum of its parts. It is an unmistakable and completely satisfying flavor.

I was so in love that by the time I got back to Los Angeles all I could think of was coconuts, or pineapples, or both. Soon the delicious drink alone could not satisfy my thirst. R and I made coconut ice cream. We made toasted coconut milkshakes. Still, I needed more.

I found my cure – coconut flan. It is so delicate and velvety, floating as it does on top of a shallow pool of caramel, so light it almost collapses when touched by a spoon. The coconut flan I made was perfectly indulgent and perfectly reminiscent of the pina colada. This was precisely the flavor and texture I’d been dreaming of all along, somewhere in between a drink and a cake.

Coconut flan is so simple to make. In a couple of hours the dessert is chilled and ready to eat.

The recipe I use is from Gourmet. The Gourmet recipe calls for the use of sweetened coconut flakes. I tried this and did not enjoy the bite of the flakes against the silkiness of the flan.

Place coconut flakes in a pan over med. heat until golden brown and fragrant.

I made the coconut flan again, but this time I substituted coconut milk for coconut flakes. The rich coconut flavor is still present and pronounced. I still use coconut flakes, toasted and sprinkled on top of the flan.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together milk an coconut milk.

ass=”MsoNormal” style=”text-align: center;”>Add sweetened condensed milk.

Continue to whisk togther ingredients.

Add egg and continue whisking until ingredients are blended together.

Ron del Barrillito three star rum found only in Puerto Rico.

Add a teaspoon of rum for added flavor. Whisk together then set aside.

Add water and sugar to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until sugar has dissolved.

Continue to boil until it reaches a dark amber color.

Once caramel is a dark amber, remove from heat and pour into ramekins.

Swirl the caramel into the ramekins until the bottom is completely coated.

Swirl quickly as caramel sets fast!

Pour the flan mixture over the coated caramel.

Set filled ramekins in a cookie sheet water bath.

Bake flan for about an hour. When done remove from oven and set until cool.

Transfer cooled flans to the refrigerator to set for another 30 minutes.

Flan is then ready to serve. Run a knife around the edge and plate.

Enjoy!

So simple, so delicious, the flavors will linger luxuriously on your tongue. After you make coconut flan you are sure to be coconut crazed like me!


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