Feb 032014
So You're Making a Special Occasion Cake. Part 1: The Design Phase.

  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 […]

Nov 192013
Persimmon Pumpkin Hazelnut Bread, with tips on choosing persimmons and peeling hazelnuts

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, […]

Jul 082013
A Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Shortbread Tart

This recipe was developed for Slow Food Santa Cruz. We are flush with berries here on the Central Coast, and it’s been strawberry season for well over a month now. If you’re a local, you’ve eaten them fresh, out of hand. You’ve had them over yogurt, and in salads. Now, it’s time to get indulgent. With our local strawberries still at the peak of ripeness, make a Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Shortbread Tart. In this formulation, you will crown crisp, buttery shortbread with glistening strawberries, nestling them into a rich, dark chocolate ganache. The strawberries used in developing this recipe are […]

Jun 212013
Frozen Bananas Dipped in Mexican Chocolate Ganache and Spicy Honeyed Peanuts

  These bananas were the result of yet another Food52 contest– the theme of this one was “Your Best Frozen Dessert.” I batted around ideas for a while… I wanted to create something that wasn’t overly sweet, and that might even be a tad healthy. Then I thought– fruit, nuts, dark chocolate– do a variation on that old-time treat the “dipped banana,” and I think we have a winner. Plus Season 4 of Arrested Development just came out, and there’s always money in the banana stand. Here’s my write-up from Food52, (the recipe ended up being a Community Pick over […]

May 222012
Dragon Fruit... and Dragon Fruit Sundaes

Dragon Fruit, or Pitaya, looks like everyone’s idea of 80’s teen fashion. It’s a swirl of hot pink and florescent green, curvy and spiky and egg-shaped.  Cut it open and the fruit, speckled thoroughout with small black seeds, resembles nothing so much as a Dalmatian.  Dice the flesh, and suddenly you have dominoes. Native to Central America, it also grows well in many parts of Southeast Asia, and is commercially farmed in Thailand and Vietnam.   The taste can be a bit of a letdown after the flashy promise of its exterior. The fruit is– in a word– bland. In three words, […]

Aug 272011
Strawberry Toasted-Coconut Shortcake

It’s fun to mix up a classic a little, and incorporate an unexpected flavor.  Summer weekend nights beg for traditional chilled desserts like strawberry shortcake, and they’re an easy dessert to whip together.  Traditional shortcakes are meant to have a tender crumb, and using the “biscuit” method of preparation, (as in the recipe below), ensures that the dough won’t become over-mixed and develop a lot of gluten.  (Gluten development leads to a tougher end-product, as is typically desired in bread– hence all the kneading.)  The butter, (butter/shortening = “short” cake, say the etymology scholars), helps to coat the protein molecules in the […]

Jun 202011
Rose Water: Your New Go-To for a Light Summer Dessert.

Rose Water, a distillation of rose petals available bottled in Middle Eastern, Indian, and specialty markets, can lend a fragrant note to your desserts and savory dishes.       The nose is unmistakably of roses, but of their true essence,  (in other words, it neither tastes nor smells like the fake “rose-scented” bath products with which we are all too frequently olfactorily assaulted.)  Added to dishes, rose water imparts a subtle floral delicateness.  Below, I’ve infused it into an olive oil cake, for a dessert that feels like a walk through a summer nighttime garden.  I served it to […]