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 Continue reading

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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

Gifting Bread

I was chatting with my dad last weekend and already being caught up on my news, he asked what was new with my friends. I went through one by one, telling the updates of my different girlfriends that are now collectively spoken about with their boyfriend or fiance, the weddings that are fast approaching, the move ins that are happening, and the new jobs being learned. It was nice to get my dad up to date, but at the same time there’s something a little sad in talking about all the things that are moving forward with your friends, yet realizing that you are pretty much in the same place that you’ve been for the past couple of years.

I think that’s part of why I’ve been trying something new every day the past couple of Junes, the reason I got a cat and the reason I look at buying a house (well let’s be clear – it would actually be a small condo)… At the end of the day, I am not the same person I was a couple of years ago either, there’s just not a big life moment to show for it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m terribly happy with my life and am confident that I have made all the right choices for me, but I have to admit that growing up is sometimes kind of a lonely process.

So what do to about this feeling of disconnect? Go forth. Continue doing things that excite me, challenge me, engage me, and make me happy. Continue finding new things to try, continue spending time with my closest friends (and their partners), continue traveling, dating and cooking.

There is something immensely comforting and homey in the smell of fresh-baked bread, which I think also makes it a very appropriate moving day present. I helped my friend and her boyfriend unpack their kitchen in their first shared apartment this weekend and arrived with half a loaf of bread and a bottle of champagne in hand – my kind of housewarming present! This bread is good! I’ve been wanting to make a no-knead bread for a while and finally got around to it this weekend. This one is just a little sweet and chewy because of the oats, but it makes great toast and I’d definitely recommend giving it go. It’s so easy and how could you not want to make your house smell AMAZING one weekend morning.

It was a perfect something new to help me realize that at this point in my life, my days are filled with simple pleasures and little new things, rather than one big thing on the horizon. Eventually I’m sure I’ll be caught up to the other people in my life, and until then I’ll continue to find joy in sharing their joy and find joy in my own little moments.

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Maple Oat Breakfast Bread recipe here

Blackberry Syrup & Then Some

I couldn’t really tell you why I haven’t been motivated to blog this year… I haven’t been nearly as diligent about going to the grocery store, cooking for one on a weeknight has be come a bit less appealing, and if I’m really honest, I’ve just been prioritizing other things. I’ve been keeping busy by having dinner with friends, pretending to eat healthy, going to the gym a bit, you know usual life things. The usual life things that I am out experiencing, rather than documenting and blogging about.

At the end of the day, I don’t think it really matters because I feel like most things in life wax and wane at some point, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I’ve still been enjoying cooking and food and as I downloading the pictures from my trip to Seattle last weekend, I realized I have a lot of things to share with you!

I believe I’ve mentioned before my dad’s epic skills in the garden. The thing that he’s been growing the longest and what we all count down to every year are blackberries. He’s continually trying new recipes and methods to make the most of the fruits of his labor – and because of his diligent efforts we’ve enjoyed some of the best pies, jams, sauces and syrups. Of course, not every recipe comes out just right the first time, but we have experienced some happy accidents, like jam not setting and becoming an equally delicious ice cream topping!

This year he gave me some delectable jam and syrup. Since I don’t usually keep ice cream in the house, I have been eating the syrup on all sorts of morning treats like french toast and pancakes – yum! He’s got this recipe just right and I am using is sparingly hoping that it will tide me over until the next blackberry season.

IMG_4577I made bread in June! Loved my pain de mie with its crisp crust and soft lofty center.

IMG_4584It also made the most delectable french toast. Slice thick. Add a splash of almond extract to the egg. Coat in almonds. Fry!photo-20mmm… fresh blackberry syrup on buttermilk pancakes

Blackberry Syrup (adapted from Joy of Cooking)

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup blackberries (pureed and pressed through a fine mesh sieve)
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon port

Bring the sugar and water to a boil. Add berry puree, lemon zest and port. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes or until thickened.

Russell’s Tips:

  • Be sure to strain your pureed blackberries, as the seeds are not so pleasant in a smooth syrup.
  • The recipe called for a cinnamon stick, if you want more of a spiced syrup you can add the stick to the simmering or a bit of cinnamon powder
  • Most importantly – TASTE TASTE TASTE! Every batch of berries is a little different, so be sure to taste as you go and adjust to the sweetness of the fruit you are using.

Orange and Red Wine Caramel Yogurt Parfaits

Remember that Sex and the City episode, where Carrie has started dating Mr. Big and made the #1 dating mistake by neglected her girlfriends? Well, I feel like I’ve done an OK job of keeping up with my girlfriends, yet the blog is the one that has suffered in my new relationship. I must say that I have a new found respect for all those blogs I follow where the bloggers seem to effortlessly maintain their sites, significant others, and hopefully their friends too. In life, all things are bound to ebb and flow, so it’s no surprise that hobbies too wax and wane throughout  time as well. I’m still cooking, enjoying food and having fun, it’s just unfortunate that not as much has recently been done with a camera in hand or a blog post on the mind… sorry y’all.

Anyhow, this weekend I had an extra day off of work and soaked in as much home time as possible. Saturday I organized my closet, prepped for a project that I’ll be sharing shortly and strayed out only for a couple of hours for an epic trip to Target. Sunday was slightly more adventurous with watching the 49ers game with friends (SUPERBOWL!!!!), grabbing drinks with a new friend and starting my day with the below parfaits.

I saw these parfaits on the Bon Appétit site and have had them on my mind for a couple of weeks. Such a curious combination of red wine, sugar, citrus and yogurt, they are gorgeous, and pretty tasty too! The red wine flavor is much stronger than I anticipated, but somehow seems to work. I’d recommend not getting too much orange juice in your layers and using quite a bit of caramel to balance out the tart yogurt. Definitely an interesting idea that seems appropriate for dessert or breakfast – as I learned in my cook the book project, it can sometimes be a very fine line.

It always feels good to be back in the kitchen and trying new things. The knife and camera feel so right in my hands, that I promise to try to make the next post not so distant.

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Orange and Red Wine Caramel Yogurt Parfaits original recipe here

  • 1 cup sugar
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup dry, fruity red wine
  • 2 large oranges, I used a variety of Navel, Cara Cara and Tangelo
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds and pistachios, coarsely chopped

Stir sugar, cream of tartar and 3 tbsp of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, swirling occasionally (do not stir) until sugar is caramelized and the color of dark maple syrup, about 8 min – this happens FAST keep your eyes on it. Remove from heat and carefully add 1/4 cup red wine (will bubble vigorously) stir to dissolve. Add remaining 1/4 cup wine. Boil for 30  seconds stirring to make sure all sugar is dissolved. Let cool completely. Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm slightly to loosen before using.

Using a sharp knife, remove peel and pitch from oranges. Segment between the membrane and set aside.

Layer a few pieces of orange in the bottom of small glass jars – make sure to drain or pat dry slices. drizzle with red wine caramel and top with a spoonful of yogurt. Sprinkle with nuts and continue to top of jar.

Christmas: Cinnamon Rolls and a trip to San Diego

When I was growing up, and when my mom cooked more, she would always make cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. I don’t know how long it was a tradition, but it was enough to cement in my mind that cinnamon rolls are synonymous with Christmas morning. As the years went on, the labor of making yeasted dough the morning of didn’t seem worth it, so we moved on to Pillsbury, then to store-bought, then I started cooking. It took me a while to find the recipe that was just right for Christmas morning, but finally did so in a Williams-Sonoma recipe that has the rolls do their second proof overnight, allowing you to create them the night before and simply pop in the oven the morning of – what a delight.

This year we took a family vacation to San Diego for the holidays and got to stop to see some extended family on the way down, which was great. We toured around during the day; read, watched movies, and played games by night; we fashioned a Christmas tree out of a fake plant on a tall stand in the apartment living room; and I made cinnamon rolls (by hand) on Christmas Eve to ensure we’d have as much of home with us as possible on Christmas morning. I wasn’t quite the champion sister I was on Thanksgiving, as this is most definitely not a gluten/dairy free dish, but it is oh so tasty. The flaky dough is rolled with a layer of sugar, cinnamon, pecans and butter in between, coming out ooie, gooey, and very very tasty. I typically frost these with a standard powdered sugar frosting, but could apparently only remember so much for the trip out of town. Nonetheless, these were just as good and easy as ever, and so long as I can help it, will continue to be a King family tradition.

Some of the places visited, in order of photos below:

  • Botanical Garden at night time
  • The very first California Mission – highly recommended
  • San Diego Safari Park – a 4 mo. old baby elephant!
  • Cabrillo Point – amazing views, highly recommended

Christmas Morning Cinnamon Roll Recipe here

IMG_3519IMG_3396IMG_3410IMG_3466IMG_3460IMG_3471IMG_3600IMG_3654IMG_3633IMG_3537and a silly photo for good measure