Sep 032014

Since trying orange wine for the first time at Beauregard last summer, (my wife declared an immediate intention to fill a camel pack with it and sip it instead of water on a hike), I’ve tried every example I encounter. This culminated in the most amazing bottle I’ve tried to date– the Ryme 2012 Vermentino  (Las Brisas Vineyard, Carneros.) We had it to accompany a lovely meal at Passionfish in Pacific Grove, CA. Ryme produced two versions of this Vermentino in 2012; a “His” and a “Hers” (the winemakers are a married couple). We tried the “His” at dinner. Each mouthful was rich and buoyant and felt like a stroll through a stone fruit orchard when the trees are blossoming in the spring.

Ryme Vermentino 2012 - a most excellent orange wine

Ryme Vermentino 2012 – a most excellent orange wine


Orange wine is my new favorite summer drink. It is as refreshing and evocative of summer as rosé, but without the fruit-forwardness–  no danger or even hint of a descent into strawberry Shasta territory. It’s typically made from white wine grapes; brief contact with skins imparts the orange blush color. We may be slightly past Labor Day, but I think I can extend my romance with orange wines– and excuse to try any that cross my path– well into autumn.

I’m on the hunt for great new bottles– point me in some excellent orange wine directions in the comments section, if you would be so kind.

May 052014
Smoky Jalapeno Compound Butter

Smoky Jalapeno Compound Butter

Compound butter is, quite simply, a softened butter into which you have stirred/mashed/infused/incorporated other flavorings. It’s an old workhorse of French cuisine, and it’s incredibly easy to whip one up. Herbs of all stripes, aromatic vegetables such as onion, garlic, peppers, or shallots, soft cooked fruits, spices, flavorful roots such as horseradish or ginger, assorted salts, miso, hot sauce, citrus zest, and/or sweet flavorings such as honey, maple syrup, or pomegranate molasses, are all excellent candidates for inclusion in a compound butter.

I like to do a peach-honey compound butter at the height of summer, to melt over cornbread and spicy grilled meats and vegetables. Garlic-cilantro compound butter is fantastic on seafood, or spread on fresh tortillas.

Today, I wanted to make a compound butter to further emphasize the smokiness imparted by a charcoal grill. I rubbed this butter on tilapia filets before wrapping them in prosciutto and grilling them, and I saved the extra to melt over the skewers of garlic-marinated eggplant, red peppers, onions, and red potatoes that I grilled alongside the fish.

We also ate some of the butter on the aforementioned red potatoes, which I’d parboiled before grilling, as an amuse-bouche– delicious.  I’m lucky any of the potatoes and butter actually made it to their intended purpose.

Smoky Jalapeño Compound Butter from


  • 1 stick unsalted butter, well-softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked salt
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 1 shallot clove
  • 1 large garlic clove


  1. Finely dice the jalapeños, shallot, and garlic.
  2. Incorporate into the softened butter.
  3. Stir the smoked salt into the butter mixture.
  4. It's ready to use immediately. If you intend to use it later, roll the butter in plastic wrap into a tight log and re-chill. Later, you can slice it into individual servings. Melt it over a grilled steak, chicken or fish, top potatoes with it, enliven grilled vegetables, or spread it over warm, crusty bread or tortillas.

Apr 152014
Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer

If there is a more flavorful way to eat greens than as Saag Paneer, I’m not sure what it is.  While it’s a must-have dish every time we go out for Indian food, I’ve also been whipping it up at home– with various degrees of success– for at least a decade. I’ve settled on the recipe below– it’s a good compromise for me between authenticity, flavor, ease of prep, and preservation of all those vitamins in the greens. (That’s why, though it’s more common to blanch the greens and discard their cooking water, along with all the vitamins in it, I skip that step.)

The dish is one of spicy creamy greens wrapped around seared chunks of a firm and simple farmer’s cheese, called paneer. I’m finding it increasingly easy to find paneer at various grocery stores, (a decade ago I had to visit the Indian grocery to get it), and of course it’s about the easiest cheese you can make it home– but that would defeat the “quick” part of this recipe. This can be a fast and easy weeknight meal if you just have the paneer on hand.

All of these ingredients should be relatively easy to locate, though you may have to look around a bit for the garam masala and dried fenugreek. They’re both worth getting your hands on for all sorts of Indian recipes.


Quick and Serviceable Saag Paneer from indieculinary


  • 2.5 pounds baby spinach (or other sturdy baby greens, such as kale, chard, or a mixture of all three)
  • 1 head cilantro, large stems removed and roughly diced
  • 2 medium white or yellow onions, diced
  • 2 medium or 3 small tomatoes, diced
  • 3 Thai or Indian green chiles (okay to sub Serrano chiles), diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup ghee
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dried fenugreek
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half or heavy cream


  1. Dice the paneer into cubes of approximately an inch by an inch.
  2. In a large pot, heat the ghee and saute the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and paneer cubes until at least one side of each paneer cube is lightly golden. Your cumin and mustard seeds will probably pop during this process-- that's fine.
  3. Pull out the paneer cubes and set them aside, retaining the hot ghee in the pot. Some of the seeds will stick to the paneer and some will still be in the ghee. That's perfect.
  4. Saute the onion, chiles, salt, and all remaining spices (fenugreek, ginger, garam masala, ground cumin, turmeric, black pepper) in the ghee over low heat until the onion is transparent.
  5. Deglaze the pan with about 1/2 cup of water-- make sure you scrape up any spice paste that has adhered to the pan, and reincorporate it into your mixture.
  6. Add the tomatoes, garlic, baby greens, and cilantro, and saute until thoroughly wilted. You may need to add the greens in shifts, depending on the size of your pot.
  7. Remove from heat; pour in the half-and-half or heavy cream.
  8. With a hand blender, blend until smooth.
  9. Fold in the paneer and return to low heat for at least 10 minutes.
  10. Taste, adjust salt if necessary.
  11. Serve over rice or with naan.

Feb 152014
Cutting the cake

Cutting the cake


In Part 1, I discussed all the considerations necessary in the Design phase for a special occasion cake. I gave all of them some thought and  came up with a new cake concept I couldn”t wait to make. Join me below?

First, what did I decide on in the design phase? Here are my answers:

Theme- It was a wedding! My uncle and his partner of 17 years were marrying and asked me and my wife to be the witnesses at their wedding in San Francisco last week. (They plan to have a party/reception for friends and family later this year.) I made this cake as a surprise.

Structure- I chose a tiered structure of round layers.

Environment- It’s February, rainy out, and the cake didn’t need to leave the house. There wasn’t much chance of it getting too hot in here because it’s pretty much impossible to get this house any warmer than 58 degrees in the winter anyhow.

Transport- None! They were at our house before and after the ceremony so the cake could be displayed and served in the same spot it was made.

Flavor(s)- I gave this one a lot of thought and settled on an almond-infused white cake with a matcha green tea buttercream. One of the grooms loves almond pastries; the other loves tea. I thought this flavor combo would work well together and be a fun combination of their favorites.

Party Size/Number of Cake-Eaters- There would only be four of us. I wanted to send them home with extra cake, of course. So I did a 4 inch tier atop a 6 inch tier. That gave us somewhere between 10 and 16 slices.

Prep time- The wedding was on Monday and I had all of Sunday free. So I made the entire thing that day, from baking to buttercream-making to assembly and decoration.

Equipment– I had all the equipment I needed to make round tiers– pans, cake boards, etc.– on hand, so two round tiers it was. Plus it’s a nice traditional look for a wedding cake.

TIered almond cake with matcha green tea buttercream.

Tiered almond cake with matcha green tea buttercream.

Using the almond cake with matcha green tea buttercream icing flavor profile to influence the look of the cake, I planned flush tiers (no separation between them) of a green tea buttercream iced cake framed by white frosting pearls. The matcha green tea powder produced a natural (actually surprisingly dark) tea green-colored tint to the buttercream.

Using a go-to formula for white cake, I swapped vanilla extract for almond and added some ground almonds to the batter. I was careful to line my cake pans with parchment paper, in addition to spraying them with oil, for easy release. You can tell that cakes are perfectly ready when they pull slightly away from the pan– a good thing, as the oven in this house is far from calibrated. After 20 minutes or so to cool on the rack, you can run a butter knife between the cake and the pan to make sure it will release perfectly when you invert it onto a plate.

To get the perfectly flat-top look of a professional cake, I used a large, sharp serrated knife to evenly trim off the “dome” that rose atop each cake in the oven.

When stacking cakes into tiers, there are a couple of important steps to making sure they don’t collapse into each other. One is to build each tier on a cardboard cake round. Set your first trimmed layer (for the largest of your tiers) on the cardboard round, set it on a cake spinner (a worthwhile investment– it will allow you to get a professionally-frosted look during the finishing phase), and ice the middle before placing the other matching trimmed cake layer on top of it. Then ice the tops and sides. Set that tier aside and repeat all steps with any smaller tiers.

To assemble, you need to sink supports into the middle of each tier that has to support a tier above. Since my 6 inch tier only needed to support a 4 inch tier, a single plastic straw sufficed. I sunk it in just slightly offset from the middle of the cake, pulled it out, snipped it at the frosting line, and then returned it to the hole. Using the remaining straw, I did it again, slightly offset from the center on the other side. The tops of the straws were now flush with the top of the tier and would support the weight of the cardboard and cake above.

I combed wide horizontal stripes– for a slight layering effect– into the buttercream with my icing spatula into the sides of the cake, and piped white buttercream pearls around the base of each layer. Finally, I piped the grooms’ first initials– J and S– onto the top tier.

Mission Cake: Accomplished!



Feb 032014
Special Occasion Cake- Cherry Blossom Theme

Special Occasion Cake- Cherry Blossom Theme. Italian Meringue Buttercream, Branches of Modeling Chocolate, Fondant Blossoms.


I’m planning a cake for an upcoming occasion and I thought I’d do a multi-part series here on the creation of a special occasion cake. Today I’m in the design phase, so let’s talk about major considerations when planning a cake for the big event.

The cherry blossom themed cake above was one I made at culinary school, in Advanced Baking class, with another student. We made a buttercream for the exterior icing, (Italian meringue buttercream, as I recall.) The layers were a vanilla white cake interspersed with lemon curd. We beat some of the extra lemon curd into some leftover buttercream to get a flavorful and opalescent effect, and those are the “pearls” you see around the perimeter of each layer. For the cherry blossom branches, we formed the blossoms out of rolled white fondant and dusted them with a shimmery edible powder in shades of red and pink, and crafted the branches out of modeling chocolate. It remains one of my favorite cakes I’ve ever made.

Still– can’t rest on my limited laurels. So each time an opportunity presents itself to design a new cake, I try to do something different. Let’s step through the considerations.

Here are the main categories and questions you need to ask yourself in the design phase:


Theme- This consideration is the most fun– think about the occasion, the individuals being fêted, their interests and hobbies, their favorite colors, and anything else that will lead you to design a cake sure to delight them. Read below to see how I combined my knowledge of some of my grandmother’s favorite things into a unique design for her 80th birthday cake.

Structure- Sheet cake? Layer cake? Round? Tiered? If tiered, how many? The fussy look of plastic Roman columns separating the tiers on cakes seems out of style at the moment– a brief search of “cake ideas” on Pinterest will confirm this. The style now is to have your tiers flush with one another. In a later part of this series, I’ll explain how to use cardboard cake rounds with dowels or straws to keep the layers from sinking into each other. Offset layers, square layers, and fun shapes and tilts can be considered too.

Environment- This question mostly pertains to what sort of icing will work for you. If the cake is going to have to sit for a long time, or for any amount of time in a warm place, you’ll want to use a stable icing. Swiss meringue buttercream is the most stable of the meringue buttercreams (Italian is next most stable; French is least). Fondant holds up very well, although you’ll have an icing underneath it to consider. Still, the fondant will provide some protection. A straight buttercream made with butter, sugar, and flavorings only might “break” in a warm environment; introducing shortening to replace some or all of the butter will stabilize it. Buttercream made of just shortening and sugar might outlive us all.

Transport – Do you have to drive this cake somewhere? In the case of a tiered cake, I highly recommend saving final assembly for the destination, so it doesn’t topple over in the car. I pack each frosted tier separately, in its own cake carrier. If you’re serving the cake within a few feet of where you’re making it, you can probably stack your tiers whenever convenient, especially if you’d like to finish the cake. Just keep in mind that a multi-tier cake gets heavy, so make sure it’s on a sturdy base. You might want to enlist help if you need to move it from room to room or even island to table.

Flavor(s)- It’s hard to beat the strategy of just finding out– whether by asking directly or surreptitiously– what the guest of honor(s)’ favorite flavor(s) are. Then you can plan your cake layers and fillings accordingly. In the case of a multi-tiered cake, keep in mind you could easily try different cake and filling flavors per tier, but still use the same icing on all the tiers, to maintain a consistent look on the outside.

Party Size/Number of Cake-Eaters- When considering how large a cake you need to make– and most likely, number of tiers– you need to start with how many people you’re trying to serve. Good rules of thumb include– a 6 inch layer cake serves 8-10; an 8 inch layer cake serves 12-14; a 10 inch layer cake could serve 24! So that particular and popular combo could well take care of 48 guests.

Prep time- Are you going to turn this cake around in a single day? (Or just for added fun, a single evening? I’ve done that before. At a certain point, it’s 3 in the morning and you’re still rolling fondant. You wonder what possessed you to turn out a multi-tiered cake, by yourself, in a single evening. Don’t do this.) Can you start making some of the components in advance? Baked cake layers freeze and thaw well, assuming they’re well-wrapped to protect against freezer burn. Consider baking your layer cakes up to a week in advance. Are you planning any fussy decorations– say, hand-molded and painted edible flowers of gum paste or fondant? MAKE THESE IN ADVANCE. In fact, stop reading and go start them right now. My point is– allow yourself a full day and evening at a minimum. If you’re not going to have that much time available the day before/of the big event, do yourself a favor and bake in advance.

Equipment– Do you have the right equipment on hand for the cake you’re planning? You’re going to need good quality, heavyweight cake pans. If you’re planning round or square layers, make certain to choose straight-sided 3 inch-high pans– ideally two pans per layer size you plan to prep; otherwise the baking phase is going to take forever. Common layer sizes include 6 inch, 8 inch, 9 inch, and 10 inch. Restaurant supply stores are a great place to get these without paying, let’s call it, a “hobbyist’s premium” that I have observed in the cake supply departments of craft stores. You’ll want parchment paper to cut into circles to line the bottom of your pans and help with smooth release. A large serrated knife will help you to even and flatten your layers after baking. A big, flat, narrow icing spatula is a must, and to get that smooth bakery-iced look, a cake turner is imperative. If you’re planning to use fondant, you’re going to need a good rolling pin and tape measure, too. And if you’re planning flush tiers, you should pick up some cardboard cake rounds to match your layer sizes.


Special Occasion Cake- Champagne theme. Lemon cream cheese buttercream, fondant “champagne bubbles.”


The picture above is of a cake I made for my grandmother’s 80th birthday. (That’s her on the right!) Let’s run this cake through the categories I listed above.

Theme- The occasion was a large family party for my grandmother’s 80th birthday. The party wasn’t formal, but it was definitely festive, and I wanted the cake to reflect that. She loves flowers, so I certainly considered the edible candy flower path, but I’d done that before on previous cakes for her and I wanted to do something new. Then it hit me– she loves champagne; everyone in the family knows this and everyone associates it with her. I envisioned a champagne glass atop the cake exploding with bubbles, and the bubbles cascading down the cake– so that’s what I built. I placed a (plastic) champagne glass atop the cake, filled it with “bubbles” made of rolled fondant– some white and some sprayed with edible gold dust, used decorative wires to suspend a few of the bubbles in the air, and used the rest of the bubbles to encircle each tier.

Structure- Related to the categories of equipment at hand and number of cake-eaters, I chose a tiered structure of round layers.

Environment- The month was April and the weather relatively cool. The cake was to be displayed and served indoors. I did have to transport it and so I had to keep sunlight in mind. Therefore, I had to choose a reasonably stable icing.

Transport- Considerable– I would have to drive the cake about 250 miles. That was another reason to avoid a delicate icing. I prepped and frosted each tier on a cardboard cake round with the plan to assemble the tiers once I reached the party location. I then packed each one in its own cake carrier. I packed extra buttercream and my icing spatula so I could touch up the tiers when I arrived and repair any smushing of the buttercream that occured in transport. I made the fondant champagne bubbles in advance but waited until I’d assembled the cake at the party to incorporate them.

Flavor(s)- My grandma is not big on chocolate; she does love cheesecake and is fond of all fruits. I wanted the look and flavor of buttercream, but I also needed a stable icing, and so for those reasons I made a lemon cream cheese buttercream. For the interior of the cake I settled on yellow cake layered with a lemon curd filling.

Party Size/Number of Cake-Eaters- My extended family is not what you would call “small” and there’s always the chance at an informal party that extra people will show up. For that reason, I decided on three tiers, secure in the knowledge that no one would be disappointed if there were leftovers.

Prep time- I baked the cake layers and made the lemon cream cheese buttercream and lemon curd filling earlier in the week; I assembled the layers; iced them, stuck the tiers in the freezer (briefly uncovered) long enough to harden the buttercream, then carefully and thoroughly wrapped them in plastic wrap and returned them to the freezer. The morning of the party, I pulled them out first thing to begin thawing. I knew they’d complete the process during the drive. I made the fondant champagne bubbles the night before. My original plan had been to make smaller, finer “bubbles,” but time ran short and the bubbles grew progressively larger. Sometimes you have to adapt on the fly.

Equipment– I had all the equipment I needed to make round tiers– pans, cake boards, etc.– on hand, so that was a major determinant in choosing this particular cake structure.

I hope these considerations have been helpful in designing and planning your own special occasion cake!

Check out Part 2 to see how I applied these ideas in creating my next cake.

Dec 302013
Bourbon Berry Winter Cocktail

Bourbon Berry Winter Cocktail


We try to eat berries every day in the indieculinary household– there’s a lot of evidence that berries are a potent superfood, important for optimal health. Plus they’re delicious. Win-win.

In the winter, though, when they’re out of season, we’re largely relegated to frozen berries. One can only eat so many yogurt-and-berry bowls.  I could make a cobbler, crisp, or other baked delight, but holiday treat season is over and it’s back to a little law and order around here.

Enter the berry cocktail! We’ll have our berries and drink them, too. (You’ll notice any attempts at law and order have clearly not extended to cocktail oversight.)

I’ve observed a lot of mixologists incorporating preserves, marmalades, and the like into cocktails lately. I thought I’d try my hand at it.

This recipe uses frozen berries, heated and reduced until they’ve achieved a thick consistency reminiscent of preserves, but with a fraction of the sugar. Pomegranate molasses joins the party as a sweetener. (Yes, pomegranates are a berry. If you don’t have pomegranate molasses on hand, you should– it’s a lovely tart sweetener that is great for sweet and savory applications alike. You can learn more about what it is, where to get it, or how to make it in one of my previous posts… it’s a key ingredient in my muhammara popcorn crunch.) Juice of one satsuma (fine, not a berry) rounds out the drink with a subtle citrus note that marries the berries with the bourbon and club soda. Cheers!

P.S. If you don’t have pomegranate molasses, I recommend subbing simple syrup and a little lemon juice.

Bourbon Berry Winter Cocktail from indieculinary


    For the Berry Reduction
  • 1 pound frozen organic mixed berries (recommended: blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries)
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • For the Bourbon Berry Winter Cocktail
  • 2 tablespoons berry reduction
  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
  • Juice of one satsuma
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 4 ounces club soda


    For the Berry Reduction
  1. Combine the berries and honey in a saucepan and heat on low, stirring occasionally, for about an hour, or until the berries are broken down and all is reduced and thickened.
  2. Cool.
  3. For the Bourbon Berry Winter Cocktail
  4. Combine the berries, pomegranate molasses, satsuma juice, and bourbon, and whisk vigorously. (I don't recommend a cocktail shaker for this one because it will strain out the fruit, and you want the nice berries in your drink.)
  5. Pour into a highball glass over ice.
  6. Pour the club soda over and serve.

Dec 132013
Triple Lemon Rosemary Polenta Cookie

Triple Lemon Rosemary Polenta Cookie


I made this cookie yesterday for Slow Food Santa Cruz‘s Annual Holiday Party, which this year featured not only a fantastic pour of wines from Vinocruz, but also a holiday cookie exchange. Never one to let this sort of opportunity pass without making things as stressful as possible on myself, I decided to try out a brand-new recipe, one I’d only just devised and was basing on someone else’s recipe, located on the internet, which I’d never before tested. 2 hours before the party. What could go wrong?

I will temper the suspense a bit by mentioning that by all accounts the cookie was a big hit, which is why I’m posting the recipe for it today.

I used this recipe from Serious Eats as my starting template, after reading several polenta cookie recipes and deciding this one was the best match for my ingredients on hand, and that the ratios looked like they’d produce the kind of cookie I was looking for. The omission of baking powder was a little surprising, and likely led to the issue with oven spread that I ended up having to contend with. So I’ve added baking powder to my adapted recipe in order to assist with this issue. Baking powder helps baked goods to rise, which should in turn lessen the spread a little.

On the subject of oven spread– I was dismayed when the first batch of cookies ran together, and wherever airspace was available, turned to a crisp brown at the edges. I quickly tasted one, still molten, to make sure it was edible. Luckily, it was fantastic on that count. It had a wonderful texture from the polenta, which managed to be both crunchy and soft, and the melding flavors of rosemary and lemon from three sources– fresh, extract, and marmalade– were killer.

Since I knew I had a winner on my hands, taste and texture-wise, the issue now was presentation. I didn’t want to show up with cookies that had haphazardly run into each other, and that had browned so dramatically at the very edges (though they were not at all burned). So I called on a trick shared with me by one of my all-knowing culinary instructors, back when a similar thing happened at school– the round cutter. If you have a small biscuit-cutter on hand, that will do. I used the round end of my quick-icer (wide-ended frosting tip). I stamped out the middle of each cookie so that all was left was the beautiful, perfect middle. Then I garnished each with a small accent of fresh rosemary. I had a beautiful cookie on my hands. (You don’t even want to know how much grief I caused by throwing away the trimmings. I was in a hurry! I wasn’t thinking clearly.)

I’ll be making these again this weekend. My wife liked them so much that she’s chosen them as her contribution to a cookie exchange next Monday. If I come up with any other final modifications to this recipe, I’ll update this post. But for now, I think we have a winner, whether you’re going for presentation (use a round cutter to make perfect cookies) vs. those that just care about the taste (eat them straight out of the oven.)

Triple Lemon Rosemary Polenta Cookies from indieculinary

Yield: 30 cookies


  • 1 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 cup uncooked polenta (not instant)
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • Zest of 2 organic lemons
  • Juice of 1 organic lemon
  • 3 large sprigs of fresh rosemary, large stems removed and rosemary leaves minced
  • 3 additional large sprigs of rosemary, for garnish
  • 6 ounces lemon marmalade


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients (flour, polenta, sea salt, and baking powder) in a bowl and whisk to combine; set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  4. Beat the egg, lemon juice, lemon extract, lemon zest, and minced rosemary in with the creamed butter and sugar.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture and beat briefly to incorporate.
  6. On parchment-lined cookie sheets, drop cookie batter by the tablespoonful, leaving lots of room between each cookie.
  7. Flatten each cookie a little and make an indentation in the top; carefully spoon in 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of lemon marmalade.
  8. Bake (on middle or top racks only) for about 17 minutes.
  9. Cool.
  10. If your aim is presentation, cut out middles with round cutters, and garnish each with small sprigs of fresh rosemary leaves plucked from your garnish sprigs.
  11. If your aim is just to enjoy a tasty cookie, skip the round cutter step, and garnish with rosemary in the same fashion described above.

Dec 102013
Cranberry Cardamom Bread with Satsuma Caramel Glaze

Cranberry Cardamom Bread with Satsuma Caramel Glaze


So– Thanksgiving, aka High Holy Day for Cooks, has come and gone. And you are left with, shall we say, an imbalance of leftovers. The guests fell upon the remains of the Maple Jalapeno Bacon Roasted Brussels Sprouts like vultures; the turkey and mashed potatoes were swiftly packaged up for later; the sweet potato crisp was claimed in the spirit of a conquering nation setting flags upon distant shores. But the remainders of the cranberry sauce, of which you admittedly make too much each year, sit alone and unclaimed upon the table, despite the tart and citrus-infused deliciousness.

It’s time to work that extra cranberry sauce into a fragrant quick bread, redolent of cardamom. Unglazed, it’s a fantastic breakfast. Glazed with a Satsuma Caramel, it’s a worthy dessert.

I promise I’ll get off this quickbread kick soon, before I have to rename this blog to something like They’re just so easy to whip up for guests.

I used Michael Ruhlman’s quickbread ratio as a starting point for this recipe. Now get out there and use up that leftover cranberry sauce.

Cranberry Cardamom Bread with Satsuma Caramel Glaze from indieculinary


    Cranberry Cardamom Bread
  • 8 ounces whole wheat flour
  • 8 ounces AP flour
  • 8 ounces sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cardamom
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 16 fl oz milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 8 fl oz oil
  • 1 tablespoon orange extract
  • 8-12 oz fresh cranberry sauce (preferably citrus cranberry sauce)
  • Satsuma Caramel Glaze
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Juice of two satsumas (or similar citrus)
  • Zest of two satsumas (or similar citrus)


    Cranberry Cardamom Bread
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease a bundt pan.
  3. Combine dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cardamom) and whisk to combine.
  4. Combine wet ingredients (milk, eggs, oil, orange extract) and whisk to thoroughly incorporate.
  5. Fold in the cranberry sauce.
  6. Pour batter into the bundt pan.
  7. Bake for approximately an hour, or until the top is deeply golden and the bread has pulled away from the sides of the pan.
  8. Let rest and cool for at least 10 minutes.
  9. Press a plate to the top and invert to release the bread.
  10. Slip the bread from the plate to a cooling rack set over a cookie sheet, for application of the glaze.
  11. Satsuma Caramel Glaze
  12. On the stovetop, combine the unsalted butter, sugar, and satsuma juice in a non-stick pan.
  13. Bring to a boil and stir frequently.
  14. As soon as the mixture turns amber, remove it from the heat. Quickly stir in the citrus zest.
  15. Carefully pour over the bundt cake.
  16. Let cool for several minutes before slicing and serving.

Nov 192013

Persimmon Pumpkin Hazelnut Bread

I’ve adapted this recipe from one my mom made for years when I was a kid– she followed it faithfully every autumn.  The house filled with wonderful aromas while it baked. My dad still has her recipe card from the 70’s; true to the era, it calls for canned pineapple. (I feel like half the recipes of my childhood involved canned pineapple.) I love the design on this recipe card.


In this updated recipe, I use this pumpkin bread palette to highlight seasonal ingredients, so I drop the canned pineapple, raisins, and walnuts and swap in diced Fuyu persimmon, pureed Hachiya persimmon, and toasted hazelnuts. (Don’t sub Hachiya persimmons for the Fuyus or vice versa– Hachiyas will be too astringent to eat until they’re super ripe, and they don’t keep their shape as diced fruit as the Fuyus do. See the picture below for a comparison.) I’ve dropped the sugar a little. Sugar’s important for taste, texture, and preservation, so you don’t want to alter it too drastically in an established recipe. Finally, I sub in whole wheat flour. The whole thing becomes toastier, nuttier, and more substantial, and I think it’s every bit as tasty as the original– just updated a bit for our era.

Know your persimmons. Hachiya, which must be super-ripe to eat, is on the left. Fuyu, good to eat while still firm, is on the right.

Know your persimmons. Hachiya, which must be super-ripe to eat, is on the left. Fuyu, good to eat while still firm, is on the right.

One final note: Be sure to remove the skins from your hazelnuts after you toast them. Here’s how you do it: Put your hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees F for about 10 minutes. (Check often– the last thing you want is burned nuts.)  Pull them out, let them cool a little, and then wrap them in a clean dishtowel and rub them vigorously. Voila! Peeled hazelnuts.

Persimmon Pumpkin Hazelnut Bread from indieculinary

Yield: 18 slices


  • 2 fuyu persimmons, peeled and diced
  • Puree of 2 hachiya persimmons, super-ripe and skinned
  • 1 3/4 cups pureed roasted pumpkin (or one 15 oz can)
  • 3 1/3 C whole wheat flour
  • 2 2/3 C sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 C of your preferred oil
  • 1 C toasted hazelnuts with skins removed, diced
  • 2/3 C water
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp baking soda


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease a bundt pan.
  3. Sift dry ingredients (flour, sugar, spices, baking soda, salt) together in a large bowl.
  4. Make a well in the center and add wet ingredients (eggs, oil, water, Hachiya persimmon puree, pumpkin).
  5. Stir to incorporate.
  6. Fold in the toasted hazelnuts and diced Fuyu persimmon.
  7. Bake for one hour in the greased bundt pan, or until the top is golden and the bread has pulled away from the sides a little.

Oct 212013



I’ve read some rumblings of pumpkin fatigue on the web, this past week or so, but I’m nowhere near there yet myself.

Whenever I roast a pumpkin, I try to do something interesting with the seeds. They make a great snack and it always seems a waste to throw them out.

This afternoon, I wanted something sweet and spicy, and I knew a snack would be well-received in the indieculinary household.  So I cleaned the pumpkin goo off my seeds, rinsed them, and tossed them with olive oil, sriracha, honey, and crunchy Maldon sea salt. Then I stuck them in the oven for 15 minutes or so at 350. The result? Best. Snack. Ever.

After I finished snacking and before I wrote up the recipe for this site, I Googled to see if anyone else has tried the Sriracha-honey combo on pumpkin seeds. Basically, everyone and their monkey has. But I decided to go ahead and post my version anyway because it was simpler, with fewer ingredients, than any of the others I read. Who wouldn’t want a simple path to the best autumn/Halloween snack ever?

Sriracha Honey-Roasted Pumpkin Seeds from indieculinary


  • Seeds from one pumpkin, any variety, rinsed of pumpkin goo
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons Sriracha
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey
  • 1-2 teaspoons Maldon sea salt (use this brand for its large, crunchy flakes of salt.)


  1. Note: the measurements for the olive oil, Sriracha, honey, and salt vary because different size pumpkins will have more or less seeds. I used the lower end of the measurements with a Sugar Pie pumpkin. If you're prepping the seeds from a large carving or heirloom pumpkin, you'll probably go with the larger measurements.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350.
  3. Place your cleaned pumpkin seeds in a bowl.
  4. Add the olive oil, toss to coat.
  5. Add the honey, toss to coat.
  6. Add the Sriracha, toss to coat.
  7. Spread evenly on an oiled baking sheet.
  8. Sprinkle liberally with Maldon sea salt.
  9. Roast for 15 minutes but start checking after 10 to make sure nothing's burning.
  10. To serve: You can garnish soups and salads with these, but most likely they'll be devoured in your kitchen, out of hand.