Thursday, October 29, 2015

apple buckwheat cake.

The first time I ate this cake, I wondered why I wasted half a dozen eggs and my really good buckwheat flour on it.  It just wasn't what I expected.  I expected more!  More pizzaz, more excitement, more everything.  I realize in hindsight that the first time I ate this cake, it was sharing a plate with homemade s'mores pie and I think everything in life pales in comparison to homemade s'mores pie.   You can't expect a buckwheat cake to shine brightly when paired with chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallow.  You just can't.  

But the next day, I revisited the cake.  I made it the first thing I ate that day (it has apples therefore it qualifies as breakfast) and this time I loved it.  This is not a cake that sings and it's not for people that expect big bold flavors (or chocolate) in their dessert. This is a cake for people who appreciate whispers, subtle nuances, and afternoon tea.  This is a cake for those who appreciate biscotti and the simpler things in live.  Or maybe it's just for people who can enjoy blondies stuffed with nuts,chocolate, and shards of caramel and a simple buckwheat apple cake.  If you're anything like me (a person who loves all desserts), you'll appreciate this.  Sometimes it's necessary to balance the desserts that scream dessert with something simpler and this cake does just that.       

Apple Buckwheat Cake
Recipe from Huckleberry 

I only had a 9-inch cake pan so I baked it in that.  It fit, though it took longer to bake which is why I think the bottom of my cake ended up as brown as it did.   I think next time, I'ld move it higher in the oven so it's not so close to the heat source the entire time.   

Makes one 10-in/25-cm cake 

For the Cake

1 cup/225 g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
1-2/3 cups/340 g sugar, plus 2 tbsp
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
6 eggs
3 or 4 apples; 1 peeled and grated, and 2 or 3 peeled and sliced 1/8 in/3 mm thick, cores reserved
1-1/2 cups/150 g almond flour
3/4 cup/100 g buckwheat flour
2/3 cup/75 g all-purpose flour
1/3 cup/55 g cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder

For the Glaze

½ cup/100 g sugar
½ cup/120 ml water
Pinch of kosher salt
1 vanilla bean, scraped (optional)
Apple cores (reserved from making the cake)

Position a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 350°F/180°C. Line and grease a 10-in/25-cm round cake pan.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, 1-2/3 cups/340 g sugar, and salt on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Incorporate the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl well between each addition. Add the grated apple and mix. Then add the almond flour, buckwheat flour, all-purpose flour, cornmeal, and baking powder. Mix cautiously, just until incorporated. Do not overmix!

Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, top with the sliced apples, arranging them in pretty concentric circles, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Do not overbake! Allow to cool for about 15 minutes in the pan.

Meanwhile, make the glaze: Simmer the sugar, water, salt, vanilla bean seeds and pod (if using), and apple cores together in a sauce­pan until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 2 minutes. Set aside to infuse.

Place a flat plate on top of the cake and pan. Carefully invert the cake onto the plate by flipping both upside down. Then lift the pan off the cake. Gently pull the parchment from every nook and cranny of the cake, being careful not to break the cake. Rest your serving plate on the bottom of the cake and turn the cake right-side up onto the plate.

While the cake is still warm, brush the glaze all over the top and sides and garnish with the nonedible vanilla pod.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

mismatched chairs.

Loving the look of mismatched chairs.  It's also incredibly economical and practical  It's a lot easier to find one random vintage chair rather then a set!  Plus I like to think it's a fun conversation piece - when people come over you can tell them the stories of the chairs.

Dining room:

Image via Pinterest.  

Monday, October 26, 2015

oat and wheat sandwich bread.

Look I realize talking about bread is very un-cool.  Bread, gluten, flour in general has been shunned in favor of chia seeds, flaxmeal, and green juices and it's just sad.  Don't get me wrong, I love a good green juice (had one this morning) and chia seeds (especially when paired with peanut butter) but I really love bread.  

If such a declaration makes me uncool, well then I am OK with that.  
Bread, freshly baked bread, warm from the oven is one of the most transcendent things.  And I can kind of understand why people are willing to shun bread if all they know it to be are those plastic wrapped loaves of awfulness that are devoid of flavor and texture.  Heck, I might even become gluten-intolerant if that was my only option.   

But homemade bread is a whole other beast.  It makes a sandwich (any old sandwich) about a billion times better.  And don't we all want better sandwiches in our life?  

It's been a while since I've made homemade sandwich bread but this particular recipe was calling my name. Namely because the word "forgiving" was thrown around a lot to describe the dough.  Most people avoid homemade bread because bread dough can be a real pain in the ass.  Sticky, finicky, all things you don't want to deal with.  But this bread dough is utter perfection.  Easy to deal with and yes, very forgiving. (Happen to have less then the required amount of yeast?  It still rises perfectly as tested (unexpectedly) by me.)  And it makes the most boring peanut better and jelly sandwich so much better.  So can we all give bread a second chance?   

Oat and Wheat Sandwich Bread
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen  

This is my go-to sandwich bread and I find that a stash of it in the freezer makes even the most sad desk sandwich something to look forward to. The dough is quite forgiving; use more water if you want to skip the milk, or use a soy milk. Use more sugar or salt, use less. Forget what you’re doing and it will forgive you if it rises a little too long. Accidentally leave it in the fridge for the better part of a week and it will taste even better than if you’d baked it on the first day, growing more flavorful with age.

Yield: 2 standard sandwich bread loaves

5 cups (635 grams) whole-wheat flour
2 cups (160 grams) rolled oats (I used quick-cooking for the least noticeable texture)
1 tablespoon kosher or coarse salt
3 tablespoons raw or brown sugar, honey or agave nectar
1 large egg
1/4 cup (55 grams grams) vegetable or olive oil, plus a little more to coat bowl
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
1 1/4 cups lukewarm milk, any kind
1 1/2 tablespoons (about 14 grams) instant yeast

Make bread dough: In the bottom of large mixing bowl, combine water, milk and sugar or honey, then stir in yeast. Add egg and oil and whisk until combined. Add flour, oats and salt and if mixing with a machine, combine with paddle attachment at the lowest speed for 1 minute. If mixing by hand, use a large spoon and stir for 1 minute. The dough will be wet and coarse; do not fret. Let it rest for 5 minutes.

If using a mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix the dough on medium-low for 2 more minutes. By hand, do the same with your spoon. The dough will seem firm and more smooth, ideally supple and sticky, but if it’s still very wet, add a bit more flour, a spoonful at a time. If it seems excessively stiff, add a little more water, a spoonful at a time. Continue to mix with dough hook or by hand for 4 minutes.

Scrape dough out onto lightly floured counter. Knead a few times, then form the dough into a ball. Oil your empty mixing bowl and return dough to it. Cover with plastic wrap and let proof at room temperature for 60 to 70 minutes, or until doubled in buik or transfer to the fridge and let it ferment overnight or up to 5 days. If proofing in the fridge, remove the dough before the fridge about 3 hours before you plan to bake it.

Form loaves: Turn dough onto a floured counter and divide it into two equal pieces. Press each gently into a rough rectangle-ish shape. Fold in sides so that the first dough is roughly the width of your bread loaf pan (about 9 inches). Roll from bottom to top and then put this log into your bread loaf pan, seam side down. Repeat with remaining dough. Let proof at room temperature for about an hour, or until the dough has crowned 1 inch above the rim of the baking pan. Halfway through, heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake bread: For 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pans once for even color. A cooked loaf of bread will sound a bit hollow when tapped and the internal temperature should read 190 degrees F. Remove loaves from tins and let cool on a rack. If you’re planning to freeze bread, I like to let it cool completely before slicing it, then sliding the sliced loaf into freezer bags. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

roasted potato, spinach, and cheddar bowl with an egg.

Our fridge is turning into one of those places where things get lost and then found again weeks later. It's not an ideal situation by any means but it is the reality.  I've pushed myself to try and perform a weekly deep dive in an attempt to unearth the items that need to be used before they go bad.  The problem that results from this is that you are left holding a handful of things that leave you scratching your head.  What the heck do I do with these things?

I've been known to throw many of these items into a weeknight pasta and hoping for the best, but while flipping through the Huckleberry cookbook (which has since become my new favorite) I read an entire section devoted to the breakfast bowl and realized this is the answer.

I've discussed numerous times on this blog that #putaneggonit is the answer to all of life's questions of what to eat, but it's even more vital when it comes to using up leftovers.  An egg makes bits and pieces a meal.   This breakfast bowl recipe is genius and will now serve as the base for all future weekend clean-out meals.  I advise you to do the same.   

Roasted Potato, Spinach, and Cheddar Bowl with an Egg
Recipe adapted slightly from Huckleberry

My favorite part of this recipe is the potato coins that after 30 minutes in a hot oven turn into potato coin chips!  I've never been a huge potato fan (unless its a french fry) but these may turn me into one.

Also, this is about as adaptable as a recipe can get.  Make sweet potato coins or swap the spinach for kale or chard.  Use goat cheese instead of cheddar or make the potato coins parmesan crusted! Switch up the spices to make the bowl more Middle Eastern (sumac and aleppo!).  Feel free to toss any additional leftovers into this base as well - avocado, diced chicken, etc.  The breakfast bowl is your oyster (and a forgiving oyster at that).   

1 pound fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch coins
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
3/4 tsp. hot smoked Spanish paprika (optional)
6 cups tightly packed spinach
2 eggs, poached
1/4 cup cheddar, crumbled
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling
Chives for sprinkling (optional)
Hot sauce for serving (optional)

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Toss the potatoes with 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 1/4 tsp. salt, 3/4 tsp. black pepper, and 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika. Roast on a sheet pan for about 35 minutes until browned and crisped but not dry.  

When the potatoes are roasted, heat the remaining tbsp. of olive oil in a larges skillet.  Add the potatoes, spinach, and the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, and 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika and saute for about 1 minute or until the spinach just wilts.      

Divide the potato mixture between two bowls (or two plates).  Sprinkle the cheese over the potato mixture and top with a poached egg.  Sprinkle flaky salt over the top and chives (if using).  Serve with hot sauce and toast.   Eat.   

Thursday, October 15, 2015

roasted tomato-basil tart.

While I love a good raw tomato (preferably eaten with burrata and basil) I love (head over heels love) oven-roasted tomatoes; something about their concentrated flavor just makes me crazy.  They work in sandwiches and are the ideal addition to cheesy scrambled eggs (you don't have to deal with that watery mess that can plague fresh tomatoes).  This is why I've declared them one of the most perfect foods.  Over the last couple of weeks, I've been buying up as many San Marzano plum tomatoes as possible and spending lazy Sundays reading in bed while my tomatoes roast.  It's not a bad way to spend a day. 

But where roasted tomatoes really shine is in a tart.   When you bake a tart with fresh tomatoes you have to deal with that awful watery tomato juice mess which causes the tart base to get soggy and turn into mush.  We don't want a mushy tart.  We want crispy and buttery and tender!  Roasted tomatoes solve that problem and also provide an extra element of flavor i.e. unmami and we love unmami.  

This tart takes some time, but it's mostly hands-off which makes it an ideal weekend project.  Slow-roasted tomatoes get nestled in a buttery crust along with aged cheddar and a mess of caramelized onions and basil.  It's true fall comfort food and the kind of thing you crave while you still have tomatoes at the market.   

Roasted Tomato-Basil Tart
Recipe from Leites Culinaria 

For the Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

2 pounds plum tomatoes (or smallish heirloom tomatoes of any sort)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
 Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Tart Dough

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

For the Tart

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
 Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound St. George or medium-aged white Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup chiffonade of fresh basil (that means cut into long, narrow strips)
2 tablespoons crème fraîche
1 large egg mixed with 1 tablespoon whole milk

Make the slow-roasted tomatoes:  Preheat the oven to 225°F (107°C).

Cut each tomato in half crosswise. (Alternatively, if using large plum tomatoes or any size heirloom tomatoes, thickly slice the tomatoes crosswise into about 4 portions.) Arrange the sliced tomatoes, cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the tomato halves evenly with the olive oil, sprinkle with the rosemary, and season with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes until the moisture is completely removed, 4 to 6 hours, depending on the size of your tomatoes. The tomatoes should be dry but still soft to the touch, and when you press a tomato with your finger, it will feel plump yet exude no liquid. (If using sliced tomatoes instead of halves, you may wish to start checking them at 2 hours.) Remove from the oven and let the tomatoes cool completely.

Make the tart dough: In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Scatter the butter over the flour mixture and, using your fingers, gently press the butter and flour together until it resembles a coarse meal. Drizzle the ice water over the top and, using a fork, gently toss and stir just until the dough comes together in a cohesive clump.
Gather the dough into a ball and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Flatten the dough into a thick disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

Assemble the tart: Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 375°F (190°C).

In a sauté pan, heat the 2 tablespoons oil over low heat and stir in the onion. Cover and sweat over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent. Do not allow the onion to color. (Alternatively, if you prefer properly caramelized onions, you can uncover and cook the onions until golden brown and intensely flavorful.) Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper, and let cool completely.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a round about 12 inches in diameter. Carefully transfer the round to the parchment.

Layer half of the cheese on the dough round, leaving a 1-inch border uncovered around the edge. In a small bowl, combine the cooled onion, the basil, and the crème fraîche and mix well. Spread the onion mixture evenly over the cheese layer. Top with the roasted tomatoes, then cover with the remaining cheese. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Fold the uncovered edge of the tart onto itself, forming uniformly spaced pleats every few inches around the perimeter. Brush the overturned edge of dough with the egg wash.

Bake the tart for 30 to 40 minutes, until the crust is a nice golden brown. Remove the tart from the oven, transfer it to a wire rack, and let it cool until it’s warm or at room temperature. Slice and serve.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

olive oil zucchini cake.

5 days after we returned from the West Coast, I set out to make my versions of the best dishes we ate there.  Things like steamed clams with roasted tomatoes and slow cooked beans with corn and feta. Most of these recipes were my own interpretations - I didn't have recipes to follow so I trusted my memory and referenced the notes I typed in between bites.  Some of the dishes were hits and others were nothing like the original I was emulating. Regardless of the outcome, I enjoy trying.  It's fun to bring home a taste of your vacation.  

But, sometimes I get lucky and stumble across the recipe for one of these most notable dishes.  I fell in love with the Olive Oil Zucchini Bread from The Whale Wins in Seattle so you can only imagine the happy dance I did when I found the recipe online.   

I like this zucchini bread a lot because it feels incredibly fall appropriate (it's grilled!) but it also feels like the kind of thing you could serve at the end of a dinner party and no one would bat an eye.  Most zucchini bread conjures visions of picnics and afternoon snacks but this one is dignified and very adult-like.  Which means it would be perfect for your next dinner party (or just because it's Sunday).  

Olive Oil Zucchini Cake
Recipe Adapted from Not Without Salt  

I dialed back the sugar because I found the amount of sugar in zucchini breads to be absurdly high.  I feel you could cut the sugar back by a couple more tablespoons but haven't tested this yet so I don't want to say you definitely should!  Feel free to try and let me know.     

Makes 1 9-by-5-inch loaf pan

For the Cake

3 cups grated zucchini (from 1 pound zucchini)
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
Unsalted butter, for the pan
2 cups (about 256 grams) all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
3 large eggs
Grated zest from 2 large lemons
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon turbinado or demerara sugar

For Serving

Unsalted butter
Créme fraiche or if you are like me, thick greek yogurt or labnah 
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon or Jacobsen

Preheat the oven to 350•F.

For the cake: In a mixing bowl, blend the zucchini with 1/4 cups of the granulated sugar. Transfer the mixture to a fine-mesh strainer and set the strainer over the mixing bowl. Fill another bowl, this one just big enough to fit inside the strainer, about halfway with water and carefully set the water bowl directly on top of the zucchini. (This presses the water out of the zucchini.)

Butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg.

In another bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla until well blended. beat in the olive oil in three stages, whisking until it is thoroughly combined each time.

Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no white spots remain. Working with a handful of zucchini at a time, use your hands to press and wring all excess moisture out of the zucchini. When all the zucchini has been pressed, add it to the batter, and stir it in gently until evenly distributed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top evenly with the turbinado sugar. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 70 to 75 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Cool the bread in the pan for about 20 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely.

To serve:  Cut the bread into 1-inch-thick slabs. Melt about 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. (Use the same amount of butter for however many pieces of bread will fit into the skillet at once.) When the butter is melted and foamy, add a few slices, and cook for a few minutes on each side, until warm and toasted. Serve the bread over a smear of créme fraiche, sprinkled with sea salt. Repeat with the remaining bread.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

dinning room.

Somedays all I want is a real dinning room.  Dinner parties!

‘Traditional With a Twist’ Style in San Francisco | Design*Sponge:

Image via Pinterest

Monday, October 5, 2015

baked apples with oat crumble.

If I had to guess, I'm pretty sure you are thinking baked apples are about as boring as it gets. Especially when it's fall and you can have your apples nestled in a buttery crust under a layer of crumble (a la apple pie).
But I'd like to make a case for the baked apple. 

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I to would have quickly dismissed the baked apple as a wannabe apple crumble pie. The baked apple is for people who are trying to be "healthy".  But then, while perusing my latest cookbook acquisition, I stumbled across a recipe for baked apples, and something in me said you must go into the kitchen right now and make this.  And so I listened to that little voice (it also didn't hurt that I had all the supplies on hand) and an hour later our kitchen smelled like heaven.   

These baked apples are so incredible that I have begun to wonder why anyone would ever want pie again. Personally I think softened apples baked under a layer of crunchy, spiced, oat crust is the way to go.  Especially when cooked in apple cider because (and here is the kicker) as the apples cook, the apple cider thickens creating an apple-cider-esq caramel.  It is life-changing. And I will happily take apple-cider like caramel over a buttery crust any day.     

Baked Apples with Oat Crumble
Adapted from Huckleberry

I made a couple of small changes.  Swapping the apple juice for cider (because cider is about a billion times better then juice) and also adding some ground ginger to the dish because I basically love ground ginger and apples.  I don't think a pinch of cloves would be a bad thing as well.  Don't feel you need to save these for dessert, they would make for an incredible brunch option as well.   

For the Oat Topping

¾ cup/170 g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup/120 g whole-wheat flour
2 ¼ cups/115 g rolled oats
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoon maple syrup
½ cup + 2 tablespoon/140 g brown sugar

For the Apples

6 apples halved and cored (peel if desired) – Try and go for a tart apple
4 tablespoon /55 g unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoon brown sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 ¾ cups/410 ml apple cider

Preheat your oven to 375°F/190°C. 

To make the crumble: Combine the butter, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, whole-wheat flour, oats, salt, honey, and brown sugar in a bowl and blend with your fingertips until homogeneous. Refrigerate until needed.

In a medium bowl, toss the apples with the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon.

Pour the apple cider into a 9 1/2-by-13 1/2-in/24-by-34-cm baking dish, then fit the apples in snugly, cut-side up. Cover with foil.

Bake until the apples are soft, about 1 hour. As different varieties have different bake times, be sure to give them a poke to see if they’re ready.

Remove the foil and top the apples with the crumble. Increase the oven temperature to 425°F/220°C and bake until the topping is nice and brown, about 20 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature.

This keeps, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.