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

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.

Grown Up Floats: Tomato Sorbet + Champagne

I started subscribing to Sunset Magazine back in February. I signed up for it by snail mailing in a check. REALLY old school. I know. Seeing as that I send most of my mail from the office, my coworkers laughed and made fun of me as I made my way to the mail area, but you know what, is it so unreasonable to not want to be signed up for recurring charges? I don’t think so. And about the subscription itself? I was laughed at about that too, but let me tell you, it’s not just for old people. I know that’s what you’re thinking… But if you spent any time flipping through, you’d see it’s actually a celebration of living in the west, with great day and weekend trip ideas, seasonal garden ideas and seasonal recipes as well.

So far, I’ve really enjoyed the local inspirations and was taken with the recipe for Yellow Tomato Lime Sorbet in the August issue. I made it a little while ago, when tomatoes were at their peak, and book club this weekend was the perfect time to serve it up. These grown up floats were an absolutely delightful bit of summer, so appropriate to enjoy when San Francisco is experiencing its true Summer weather. The sorbet alone is sweet and tomato-y with really nice balance from the lime. The champagne in the float helps balance the sweetness and mingles so nicely with the dissolving sorbet. Book club was impressed and so was I. Not to mention, I was happy to have an excuse to use my really cute new glasses from Seattle.

With recipes like this, I could have skipped the embarrassment of mailing in a check and gone forward with the recurring subscription!

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Yellow Tomato & Lime Sorbet recipe here

Floats: cover sorbet with champagne and a little bit more.

Ginger Beer, Gingersnaps & A Ginger Cat

I hope when I wrote that my new man was cuddling near my face that you gathered he’s none other than my new cat, Mr. Tibbs. I’ve had him for almost 2 months now and things are great. Mr. Tibbs (nee Marmalade) hails from the East Bay SPCA and we ‘met’ online. I was immediately taken with his orange color and sidekick demeanor that I read about – I just had to meet him in person. I couldn’t believe how comfortable and curious he was! As I confirmed with my friend that day – he’s awesome, life partner awesome. So I brought him home and the rest is history. He loves to play, is a voracious eater (would you expect anything else from my pet?) and after these couple of months, his coat is softer, brighter and more orangey than ever – I love it.

Screen shot 2013-06-05 at 9.04.23 PMNaturally, I decided to host a Mr. Tibbs Meet & Greet. Of course, based on his coloring I decided that only ginger and orange foods would do. Obviously, I made ginger beer from scratch and mixed it with Pimm’s for Tibbs’ Cups cocktails at the party. Without a doubt, I made home made gingersnaps too. The party, ginger beer and assorted treats were a HUGE success! Mr. Tibbs stayed out the whole time and loved all the attention, people loved the cocktails, and I had a great reason to have a party!

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IMG_4486Now I’ll tell you, the ginger beer took a little more time and testing than I originally anticipated spending. There are SO many recipes, tips and tricks online. I wanted something simple, that I didn’t need a juicer or micro plane for; and a recipe that was big enough to quench a crowd’s thirst – who is going to all that effort just tomake 1-2 bottles of ginger beer? I finally had to combine several recipes and came up with my own method that yielded a tasty spicy concoction, which was a hit with everyone. I’m so happy people enjoyed the drinks and I’ve been pressed to blog about this sooner rather than later – so here we go!

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Ginger Beer 101:

  1. Ginger Beer is NOT alcoholic. It’s like ginger ale, but usually stronger in flavor and yeast is used for flavor and carbonation instead of CO2
  2.  You can make it as spicy as you like by adding more ginger, steeping longer – people actually really enjoyed the spicier versions.
  3. I know those glass bottles look really cute and trendy, but I loved the ease of using plastic! You know exactly when it’s carbonated enough.
  4. Champagne yeast is the way to go. Some recipes say regular dry active is ok too, but make the effort for the champagne. It makes a difference.
  5. Add the lemon juice right before bottling. If you add it while the ginger is steeping, the liquid will turn pink.
  6. When you finally are ready to open your bottles, DO IT SLOWLY, or you’ll have ginger beer all over your kitchen. Yes, this happened to me. Twisting off the top a little bit at a time is the way to go.

Ingredients for Moderately Spicy Ginger Beer:

  • 6 oz fresh ginger, cut into large chunks (8oz if you want it really spicy)
  • 1 1/5 cups white sugar
  • 8 cups water
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 tsp Champagne yeast, you can get by with 1/8 tsp too.

Directions:

Using a food processor, mini chop or immersion blender chopping attachment to briefly pulse the ginger into a fine chop (see picture).

In a large pot with a lid bring water to a boil. Add sugar and ginger. Stir to dissolve.

Let it cool to ~100 degrees Fahrenheit, so you don’t kill your yeast. Once it’s the appropriate temp, add yeast, stir it up and cover with the lid. Let it sit for 24 hours. NOTE: If you let it sit just overnight ~12hrs you will have a milder flavor, if spicy isn’t your thing.

After 24 hours, strain the mixture through cheesecloth/fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Add lemon juice and stir to distribute.

Fill your vessel. This is what you’ll serve out of, so use what you like. You can see I have a mixture of glass, plastic and mason jars. That’s right, I made A LOT of this stuff. Leave a little space at the top, but too much air will take longer/prevent carbonation.

Let sit 24-48 hours at room temp until the plastic is rock hard, like a soda you buy in the store. THIS is why I like plastic, you know when it’s done! NOTE: If using glass, you can just wait that long, and maybe twist the top a bit to see if pressure comes out. For one batch I used just 1/8 tsp yeast, which worked too, I just had to leave it out closer to 72 hours to carbonate.

Once reached desired carbonation, refrigerate it to stop the yeast, or drink right then! If you refrigerate for a while, you may want to take it out a day or so before serving to make the yeast active again at room temp, to ensure proper carbonation. Also, no harm in giving the caps a little twist every now and then to make sure they don’t explode.

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Comments:

As you may be able to tell, I made quite a few versions, and the above is what worked best for me. Each time is a little different, which is exciting, and makes you feel like the possibilities are endless.

The guys at San Francisco Brewcraft, where I got my yeast, got all technical on me about how over time the yeast might eat the sugar making it dry, so time sitting and quantity are important, etc. I got overwhelmed being an amateur, but it’s actually really easy and I didn’t mess it up. They also got me excited about how this is where the creativity comes in! You can sweeten with whatever you want (white sugar, brown sugar, turbinado sugar, agave nectar), use whichever citrus you want (lemon, lime, grapefruit) – so many options!

Also FYI: We’re talking carbonated, but not CRAZY carbonated – it’s way more bubbly right when you open it, though it doesn’t really make a difference when you’re mixing a Tibbs Cup (see below).

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Tibbs’ Cup:

  • 1 part Pimm’s
  • 3 parts ginger beer
  • squeeze of lime

Mix the above over ice and enjoy! Feel free to adjust ratio to your liking. Video for how to make a real Pimm’s Cup here.

Gingersnaps:

This recipe was great! David Lebovitz and Alice Waters didn’t let me down. I added 1/4 tsp each of ground cloves and all spice. Best part is, you can make the dough ahead of time and just slice & bake the day of.

Mexican Chocolate Creme Brulee

I became obsessed with the idea of a Mexican chocolate creme brulee when I had friends over for dinner a couple of weeks ago. My best friend is pregnant and due very very soon, so I had to take advantage of being able to have her and her husband over before baby makes three! I made barbacoa beef tacos, which were amazing, a corn, beet and black bean side salad, and of course Mexican chocolate creme brulees.
I absolutely LOVE creme brulee – the contrast of textures and temperatures divine. I tend to prefer the classic vanilla, but am pretty smitten with this one as well. To make this chocolate version match back to my entire Mexican themed meal, I added a little cinnamon and ancho chili powder to give it a little kick and I finally got the ratios in the right place. Everything is subtle enough to not overwhelm, and hits you at different points. The cinnamon is a little more forward, where the chili waits to linger around after the indulgence. Even though I’ve made these 3 times now, I feel like I learn a little more each time. So a few tips follow, but regardless of what you think you’ve done to mess it up, you are going to have amazing flavors and a dish that is chocolatey, sweet, and just a little spicy and smokey.
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Tips:
  • Bake until the edges are set (about 1/2 an inch in) but the middle is still kind of loose.
  • It will firm up in the fridge and you want to pull out right before serving to keep it set and so that it remains cooler while the torched sugar provides some warmth.
  • Use a fine mesh sieve, or layer a normal sieve with cheese cloth so the custard is even finer – my last batch game out a bit grainy and next time I’ll use the cheesecloth!

Mexican Chocolate Creme Brulee makes 4-5, 1/2 cup servings:

  • 2 cups cream
  • 3 oz. chocolate (semi sweet or bitter sweet, I use 2 oz semi and 1 oz bitter)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar + extra for sprinkling
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Set water on to boil and preheat oven to 325

Heat the cream in a separate sauce pan, until bubbles form around the edges. Remove from heat and add chocolate, or pour over chocolate in bowl. Let it sit for a minute to heat chocolate, then stir to dissolve. Add cinnamon and chili powder and stir well to combine.

In a separate bowl whisk yolks and sugar until thoroughly combine, but do not over beat – you don’t want too much air in the mixture. Slowly whisk hot chocolate milk mixture into yolks/sugar. You can temper it a little but will be straining it anyhow. Add vanilla extract.

Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve into another bowl or large measuring cup. Then fill ramekins. Place ramekins in baking dish and pour the water you’ve let come to a boil into the baking dish. Make sure it comes halfway up the side of the ramekins. Carefully place in oven and bake for 20-25 min (will depend on how deep your ramekins are). I would start checking at about 15 min and go back in 5 min intervals to see how it’s set.

Remove from hot water and let cool to room temp. They may still be a bit runny in the middle. Refrigerate a few hours to fully set. Remove from fridge right before serving, sprinkle sugar on top and use a cooking torch to caramelize the sugar. Serve when melted sugar is set.

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.