Apple Cream Torte

I’ve subscribed to magazines for years now. It all started with Bon Appetit (which started my original blog) and while I was a faithful reader for many years, I’ve now switched over to Food & Wine to mix it up. I’ve also gotten Sunset for a while and throw in 5280 (formerly a 7×7 in San Francisco), The Sunday New York Times and my book of the moment and I am at no shortage for reading material. After so many years I’ve gotten pretty good about tearing out or taking photos of material I want to remember, so I don’t have to keep the entire publication – but that just means instead of having a pile of magazines in my house, I have a pile of torn out pages.

Every now and then I go through and weed out the recipes that no longer look interesting, or that I’ll never really make, but rarely do I actually choose one to take action against. This weekend I was ruthless in tossing out these pages AND I managed to actually make one of the recipes!

I have many times written about how I love fruit cakes. The really simple kind where there is fruit, batter and maybe just a sprinkling of powdered sugar over the top when it’s done. I love the simplicity and not overly sweet flavor. So obviously this cake caught my eye. I had a slew of apples that were past my prime for eating raw, and figured all things were adding up to me finally trying this torte.

It was great! Just what I like. Not too sweet, a tiny bit of savoriness coming through with the apple and some variety in texture as well. The apples sink to the bottom and the cream batter (there is no butter!) creates this custard-y layer at the bottom. The recipe also starts with whipping the eggs and sugar, which give a slightly crunchy, meringue-like crust on the top.

It was a huge hit with my friends and colleagues and would be a great brunch addition or a just because cake. Isn’t it time you made a cake just because?

Apple Cream Torte – from Sunset September 2016

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds (3 or 4) tender-sweet apples (Cameo, Fuji, or Gala)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat Oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 9in springform pan
  2. Core apples (original recipe calls for keeping the apples whole, but I cut in half and then cut out the core). Peel apples. Slice into 1/4 inch thick rounds or horizontal slices.
  3. Using whisk attachment, whip the eggs and granulated sugar on high until thick, pale and fluffy about 2 min. Reduce speed to medium, add cream and vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until evenly combined.
  4. Remove whisk (and bowl from stand mixer if using) and fold in apples until evenly coated, separating apple slices. Pour into prepared pan making sure the apple slices are flat.
  5. Bake about 1-1.25 hours until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cake only comes out clean. Cool for 20 min on a wire rack. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the cake, remove pan rim and cool for at least 10 more min. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm or at room temp. Serves 10.

Project: Persian New Year

I love a good project. Whether it’s for the house, crafting or making the yard new again, I just can’t seem to get enough. I love the sense of making and creating and with my continual effort to do something new, cooking has long fulfilled all of these desires. I have tried so many things, and yet there is still more to be attempted and more to be perfected.

Enter, Project: Persian New Year Dinner Party.

Back in college a friend hosted a group of us on Spring Break at her parents’ house in Santa Monica and I’ll never forget having Persian rice for the first time. The crispy bottom a delicacy adding texture and extra flavor to the rice, and the rest of the rice steamed to perfection. I don’t remember much about other dishes, but in general I do love middle eastern/Afghan/Indian food, so when I read the extensive article in Food & Wine about the ultimate Persian New Year feast I was intrigued. I happened to mention to a friend about the article to which she replied that she could actually make most of the dishes (having learned from her mom and aunt) and before we knew it a dinner party was born.

I hosted at my house and filled my dining table to the max. Jenny did an AWESOME job with the stews and rice, while I managed desserts recipes straight from the inspirational article and a delightful cocktail inspired by the holiday. I had an absolute blast at the international market she suggested – in Denver these places are not as easily accessible as in San Francisco, but they do exist! I loaded up on rosewater, flat breads, Persian cucumbers and so much more. It was also a blast from the past seeing so many products/brands I was familiar with from Germany, making me oh so nostalgic.

All of the dishes came out just wonderfully and were a smashing success with everyone. All five guests loved the food and lingered late into the evening – you know people are having a good time when there is an empty bottle of wine for each attendee! Jenny explained that Persian New Year is in the Spring, aligning with the fresh start of nature outside. It starts on a specific day, but the celebration lasts for about two weeks as it’s a time to spend with family and friends, popping by each other’s houses to collectively enjoy what life has to offer, and of course, indulging and eating way too much. The dinner party felt just that: a little celebration of the life I’ve started to build here in Denver, appreciating good friends with good food and new endeavors.

leftover wraps for lunch the next few days

The recipes we made are below, which are only a small sampling of the traditional dishes for the holiday. The Food & Wine link below has quite the variety and a Google Search will yield even more! The first three are recipes that have been passed down so they are a little less precise – go with your gut on quantities, stew consistencies and adjustments for flavor. Continue reading

Video: Shrimp Tacos + Cardamom Margaritas

Sometimes dreams come true. Craftsy has started an employee appreciation effort where they try to make random dreams come true. Someone had a dream to ride the zamboni at an Avalanche game, someone else a dream to learn to breakdance, and I had a dream to make my own cooking show episode. Obviously Craftsy has the production resources to make this happen, and I’m so grateful that they decided to spend those resources on me!

It was awesome. I got to see all the ins and outs of what goes into doing a cooking lesson on camera. Balancing looking at the camera and cooking, coming up with the right things to say (I winged it!), taking the right pauses before making no go back moves, only to mention a few – it was just so cool to be a part of.

While it’s definitely not perfect, I like to think it’s still pretty good for a first timer and that all these years of watching cooking shows finally came to some good use! So without further ado, my first cooking video… Shrimp Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa and Cardamom Margaritas!

And some stills of behind the scenes and the set:IMG_0529IMG_0479

Shrimp Tacos with Avocado Mango Salsa

Shrimp

  • 1 lb peeled devained shrimp
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp Lowrey’s seasoning salt, or salt
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • ground pepper to taste
  • pinch cayenne pepper, to taste

Salsa

  • 1 large mango
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • 1/4 red onion, minced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 taco sized corn tortillas (corn/flour mix with jalapeños, if you can find them)

Directions:

Mix shrimp with garlic and spices, making sure all shrimp are covered. Set aside to marinate while you make the salsa.

Salsa: Peel mango, remove fruit from the pith and chop it into 1/4 in.-1/2 in. pieces. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, score the fruit into 1/4 in.-1/2 in. pieces in the skin, then remove the fruit with a spoon. Mix the mango, avocado, jalapeño, onion and lime juice in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside salsa and cook shrimp.

Heat a couple of teaspoons of oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When hot, lay the shrimp in the pan in one layer. Cook on one side for about 2-3 min until opaque half way through, curled and pink. Flip shrimp until just cooked through, about another 2-3 min.

If you have a gas stove, heat the tortillas over a flame, using tongs to continually rotate the tortilla. Heat on both sides. Another option is to head in the bottom of a dry pan until browned and heated through.

Cardamom Margaritas (makes two large margaritas)

  • 3/4 cup tequilla
  • 1/4 cup grapefruit juice
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup cardamom simple syrup, recipe below

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake to cool ingredients. Distribute between two glasses with ice.

Cadamom simple syrup

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp cardamom pods, lightly crushed

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Stir to dissove sugar and continue to heat until simmering. Simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Remove cardamom pods and seeds.

Biscuits and Herbed Sausage Gravy

Years ago in San Francisco, I went to an unassuming brunch in Potrero Hill and had my mind blown by biscuits and gravy. Having my mind blown by just about anything is so rare these days, I was even more shocked that it was biscuits and gravy that did it.

The meal was an open face biscuit with a poached egg on each half, and the entire thing was smothered in a sausage gravy. The gravy was the most spectacular part, being chock full of herbs, which I have since described as a garden explosion in my mouth. I didn’t grow up on biscuits and gravy and it’s not a dish I have strong relationship with, but after that meal, when people ask about my favorite restaurants in SF, I’ve always mentioned Universal Cafe just because it gave me one of the most memorable meals I’ve had.

Since then, I’ve thought of recreating this dish so many times and it finally happened. A couple of Friday’s ago I took a staycation day and decided to start things off with a highly delectable breakfast. It was so so so good.

It’s amazing how simple it was and just how amazing it tasted – exactly like the garden explosion I had remembered so fondly for so long. I used parsley, sage and dill to brighten up the gravy and since I’ve finally got poached eggs down, it was the perfect combination. I highly recommend giving this a try. It’s rich and delicious and the perfect way to start out a special day.

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Biscuits: here. I used only a scant teaspoon of sugar and they tasted great.

Gravy:

  • 1/2 lb mild sausage
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2-2 cups milk
  • 1 handful finely chopped parsley
  • ~ 2 tbsp sage
  • ~ 2 tbsp dill

Brown sausage in pan and remove. Depending on how much grease is remaining, add enough butter to make about 4 tbsp fat in the pan. Add the flour and stir thoroughly, cook for about a minute. Add a little more than half the milk, bring to a simmer over low heat. Continue to add milk until you have reached your preferred gravy consistency. Add back the sausage and fresh herbs. Continue to add milk if it’s too thick. Cook together for ~5 min to combine flavors.

Apple Cider Donuts & Snow Shoeing

I suppose apple cider donuts scream a little more fall than they do winter, but I felt like they were a perfect treat to enjoy for breakfast before snow shoeing on Saturday!

I’ve been wanting to make this recipe for a while, ever since Emily made them here and I’ve got to say they were tasty! It was my first time making cake donuts, which were surprisingly easy – you make basically a cake bater, freeze it for a bit to stiffen it up, then cut it out and fry it. Easy peasy.

Of course, I have a few self critiques, just to make sure you guys don’t make the same mistakes…

  1. The recipe said to use a whisk, but they were just slightly too fluffy for my taste – I like a little denser donut, so next time I’ll have at it with the paddle attachment.
  2. They tasted kind of like a churro. I LOVE churros, so yay me, but the apple cider wasn’t as strong as I was hoping and the sugar/cinnamon coatings was a bit strong. Next time use real boiled cider and less cinnamon.
  3. The other thing that made them more churro like was the fact that they were pretty thin. I don’t have a true 3″ donut ring, so I used a couple of biscuit cutters. Totally worked, but next time, I would make sure they are thicker.

And that’s it about the donuts. I will probably try to make them again, because I do love a churro, almost more than I love a donut.

Now onto the snow shoeing. SO fun. I’d been wanting to use my hand-me-down snow shoes for years now and finally got my shot. We went up to Jones Pass, which had a clear path with absolutely stunning views. We hiked for just over an hour and had we been really really motivated we would have gone all the way up another 1,000 ft to the continental divide. But maybe next time. Maybe in the summer.

Obviously, everyone loved the donuts too. Recipe here.IMG_5823IMG_7935IMG_7916

Last Minute Gift: Smokey Spicy Honey Roasted Peanut Butter

It’s the weekend before Christmas, y’all – are you ready?

I am totally prepared this year, actually. I did all my shopping online, and my coworkers think I’m a shopaholic as a result of all the boxes delivered to me over the past few weeks, but let me tell you, it was the most painless Christmas prep I’ve done.

Because I know most people are not crazy planners like I am, I’m sure there are more than a few of you scrambling for one last gift. I’m here to help. I made this peanut butter right before my Brazil trip for a food swap that I’ve participated in a couple of times.  To toot my horn a bit, it felt like EVERYONE wanted to trade with me. I swapped honey roasted peanut butter with cayenne and smoked paprika. Yup. Let it sink in.

Anyhow, I would highly recommend this as a gift for anyone on your list. In an evening you can have several servings that look great and are awesomely tasty – obviously sweet, but not overly so, with a little spice and smoke. I hope you’ll give it a try.

Peanut Butter photos courtesy of Vanessa Vichit-Vadacan, a fellow food swapper. Her blog here and photos here.

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Smokey Spicy Honey Roasted Peanut Butter

  • 8oz peanuts, dry roasted, no salt
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne, or more

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix sugar, paprika and cayenne in a small bowl. In a bigger bowl, add peanuts and drizzle honey over. Mix thoroughly to spread honey over all peanuts. Add sugar/spice mixture and mix to cover all the peanuts.

Distribute evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment or silpat. Bake for about 20 min, mixing up peanuts a few times. Let cool.

Break apart peanuts into a food processor. Start processing and slowly add 2 tbsp light oil. Process until smooth or your desired peanut butter texture. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Grapefruit Cake & A Trip to Boonville

One of the many things that I love about the bay area is that it doesn’t snow. Don’t get me wrong, there is something magical about a white winter BUT the realities of living in it are something else. I’ve never had to actually endure weeks on end of life in snow, but from the short while that we had snow on the ground in Germany, I can tell you it is a nuisance. Also, when it gets unbearably cold and wet outside, the chances of being able to camp in October go down dramatically.

So yes, I went camping in October. It was absolutely wonderful. Cold at night, gorgeous during the day, and just the right time of year to get some fall colors. We were outside of Boonville, which is a couple of hours north of SF, and home to many a winery, apple orchards and the Anderson Valley Brewing company. We hiked during the day, beer tasted by afternoon, and campfired by night. The perfect weekend. Boonville is a cute little stretch of HWY 128 that is home to just as equally cute antique shops and cafes. In one of these stores, I spotted the most adorable Wedgwood china dessert plates, that I just had to have… turning what was supposed to be a nice cheap weekend, into a spendy vacation. But they are SO cute!

So obviously when I made grapefruit pound cake to have at dinner a few weeks later, I had to display it on these super cute plates. This cake is really tasty. It’s a Thomas Keller recipe, of which I was a little weary after I made a soup from Ad Hoc at Home and it had me using every pot, pan and dish in my kitchen. However, this recipe is MUCH simpler and to my surprised, used very normal ingredients and processes to yield a wonderfully moist pound cake. I’m sure it would have been amazing straight out of the oven, but then you let a grapefruit syrup soak in and top with glaze that is not only visually stunning but also really flavorful. It was a huge win with my friends and with the pinkness of the grapefruits right now, you’d be silly not to try it.

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Grapefruit Cake from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller

Cake:

  • 2 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tbsp grated pink grapefruit zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Grapefruit Syrup

  • 1 cup strained fresh pink grapefruit juice
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar

Grapefruit Icing

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp fresh pink grapefruit juice

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 10×4 inch loaf pan with non-stick spray.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.

In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment combine the eggs and sugar. Beat at medium speed for a bout 3 min until mixture is thickened and the whisk leaves a trail. Beat in the milk, then oil, grapefruit zest and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing just to incorporate, scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Spread the batter in the pan. Lightly oil a paring knife and run the knife lengthwise down the center of the batter, about 1/2 in deep. It will make the cake rise more evenly and not puff up in the middle.

Put the pan on a baking sheet and bake or 30 min. Turn the baking sheet and bake for another 30 min, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs on it. Trnasfer pan to cooling rack.

Meanwhile combine the 1 cup of grapefruit juice and granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stir to dissolve sugar and simmer for 1 min.

As soon as you have removed the cake from the oven, poke deep holes every 3/4 inch or so, with a long skewer. Immediately begin brushing the syrup over the cake. You may have to wait for the syrup to soak in, but continue until you’ve used all the syrup. Let the cake cool about 10 min.

Unmold onto a cooking rack and turn up right. Let come to room temperature. Stir the powdered sugar with the 1 tbsp + 1 tsp grapefruit juice, until smooth. Then drizzle the icing over the cooled cake. Slice and serve.

Serves 8-10 and will keep well for about 2 days, loosely covered at room temperature.