Saturday, November 29, 2008

November DB: Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting

For our Daring Bakers challenge this month, we baked Shuna Fish Lyndon's recipe for caramel cake, which can be found here. This recipe was definitely a challenge! You have to first make a caramel syrup over the stove, which was new to me. I don't think I let it get dark enough, but it was still very tasty. The cake itself is apparently a little tricky according to Shuna, but I didn't really have problems with it. It was dense, very moist, and really delicious! Although it has a lot of sugar in it, I didn't find it all too sweet, especially sans-frosting, which was how I most enjoyed the cake.

The frosting was another story. I expected to love it--it has caramel sauce, brown butter, and whipping cream, all of which ought to make for a great frosting. I also added the seeds from a fresh vanilla bean for good measure. But ultimately it was just too sweet for me. However, other tasters (thanks Nina and Jessie!) loved the frosting, so give it a try. I think if I made this cake again, I might try to incorporate brown butter into a lighter frosting like a meringue buttercream (which I prefer to the American-style buttercream in this recipe anyway).

Finally, I am hoping to soon try the "real deal" at Poulet here in Berkeley. I stopped in earlier this month, but got there right after they had closed! :( The folks at Poulet said that they do often have the caramel cake, so I will try back and see if I can try Shuna's original caramel cake.

Thanks to the hosts this month: Dolores (, Alex (, and Jenny ( You can find the recipe for Shuna's caramel cake on any of their blogs. This was a great challenge so thanks to them for an excellent choice! Be sure to check out all the other entries in the Daring Bakers Blog Roll, linked to at the right.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tuna Salad Niçoise, with a twist

This recipe is a great twist on Tuna Salad Nicoise and is great to make when you have guests with different tastes, as you can set out bowls of salad ingredients and let everyone choose their favorite components. You can prepare the tuna however you like, or even used canned tuna (if you do, the tuna in oil is better). My housemate seared our fresh tuna with Dijon mustard on the outside...yum! I made my salad with arugula, orzo, green beans, and little bits of olives, onions, and artichoke hearts, along with the seared tuna. Pretty!

Niçoise Orzo Salad (adapted from Epicurious)
Serves 4-6

1 cup (about 1/2 pound) orzo
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1/2 pound green beans, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 to 1 pound fresh tuna, seared (depending on how tuna-heavy you'd like your salad)
a 6-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/3 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives if desired, chopped
2 cups chopped arugula, washed and spun dry

For dressing
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 anchovies, chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)

1. In a large saucepan of salted boiling water cook orzo until tender and drain in a colander. Rinse orzo well under cold water and drain well. Transfer orzo to a large bowl and add the thyme.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the green beans in olive oil and place in a heavy baking pan. Roast until tender and browned, about 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the tuna and vegetables. Place the tuna on a platter and the vegetables in small bowls for everyone to choose from.
4. Prepare the dressing: In a blender blend together vinegar, lemon juice, anchovies, mustard, and garlic paste. With motor running add oil in a stream and blend until emulsified.
5. Toss the dressing with the orzo and allow everyone to build their own salad.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Raspberry Sandwich Bars

These delicious little bar cookies come from Baked, a new cookbook I picked up at Barnes and Noble with a gift certificate from my dad (Thanks, Dad!). The cookbook is full of delicious-sounding recipes that I can't wait to try out! This one looked particularly delicious, and it was...nice bright flavor from the raspberries, punched up with lemon juice and lemon zest, and nice flavor from the sweet oat crust. The book calls these "breakfast bars", and while I'm not going to lie and say I wouldn't eat these for breakfast, I think they're definitely in the "dessert" category. :)

Raspberry Sandwich Bars (adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)
Makes 1 9-inch square pan

For the crust and crumb:
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 plus 1/8 cup rolled oats
3/8 tsp salt
3/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 stick (6 T) cold unsalted butter, cut into six pieces

For the raspberry filling:
1/8 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 T flour
zest and juice from 1 Meyer lemon
8 oz. frozen or fresh raspberries
1 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x9 square baking dish. Put a long piece of parchment in the bottom of the pan, extending up two sides. Butter the parchment. (Believe me, you'll want the parchment to get these out of the pan!

2. Make the crust and crumb: Put all the ingredients except the butter into a bowl and whisk together. Add the butter and cut in with a pastry cutter until there are no pieces of butter visible...when you pinch the mixture between two fingers, it should hold together.

3. Reserve 3/4 cup of the crumb mixture in a small bowl. Press the remaining crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan in an even layer. Bake until golden brown, 12-15 minutes. Set aside to cool, and leave the oven on while you make the raspberry filling.

4. Make the raspberry filling: In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, and lemon zest. Add the remaining filling ingredients and stir to combine.

5. Assemble the bars: Spread the raspberry filling over the cooled crust. Sprinkle evenly with the reserved crust mixture, and press down gently to form the top crust. Bake 35-40 minutes until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Let cool, the cut into squares and serve.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Espresso Chocolate Chip Shortbread

Use real butter has a delicious recipe for espresso chocolate chip shortbread. She got it from Smitten Kitchen, who got it from Dorie Greenspan...I love following the links back to the source! I made a few changes, mostly turning these into slice and bake cookies rather than rolling them out. (I have an irrational fear of rolling pins).

The flavor is excellent...buttery, rich, and with a slight hint of coffee flavor that's not overpowering. I used mini chocolate chips, but coarsely chopped chocolate would also be tasty. Yum!

Espresso Chocolate Chip Shortbread (adapted from Dorie Greenspan)

1 T instant espresso powder
1 T boiling water
8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped OR 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

1. Dissolve espresso powder in boiling water. Set aside to cool to tepid.

2. Beat butter and confectioners’ sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth. Beat in vanilla and espresso, then reduce mixer speed to low and add flour, mixing only until it disappears into the dough. Don’t work the dough much once the flour is incorporated. Fold in the chopped chocolate or chips with a sturdy rubber spatula.

3. Divide the dough in two and roll into two fat logs (the diameter of the cookies you would like). Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator at least two hours and up to two days.

4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Unwrap the cookie dough and slice into rounds with a sharp knife. About 1/4 inch thick works well. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment and bake 18-20 minutes. The shortbreads won't get very dark. Cool and serve.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bitter Greens with Sweet Onions and Feta Cheese

This is one of my favorite ways to prepare greens. The combination of three types of greens makes the flavors more interesting, the caramelized onions add a sweet note, and the feta really jazzes things up. It's also pretty darn easy other than cutting up all the greens, which can be a little time consuming. This is great for a holiday meal or everyday.

Bitter Greens with Sweet Onions and Feta Cheese (from The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without by Mollie Katzen)

2 T extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups sliced onions (sweet onions, if possible)
3 large bunches fresh greens, stemmed if necessary, coarsely chopped (I like to use mustard greens, chard, and kale)
Salt, to taste
Up to 1 cup feta cheese
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Place a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. After about a minute, add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onions and saute over high heat for about five minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan, and let the onions cook until very tender, about ten more minutes (stirring occasionally).
2. Add the greens in batches, sprinkling lightly with salt after every other addition. Turn the greens with tongs or a rubber spatula as you go, bringing up the wilted greens from the bottom.
3. When all the greens have wilted, stir in the cheese and cook for about two minutes longer.
4. Transfer to a platter and grind black pepper over. Serve hot.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Ginger-y Greens with Tofu & Walnut-Sesame Broccoli

These two veggie dishes make for a delicious vegetarian dinner with a side of rice...perfect for those days when you're really in the mood from something green! The broccoli was my favorite...I think it would also be tasty at room temperature for a salad at a picnic. The broccoli is nice and crispy and the marinade is really yummy. The greens were also tasty and this is a nice way to prepare tofu that's really flavorful.

Ginger-y Greens with Tofu (from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home)
Serves 4

Tofu Marinade
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup vinegar
3 T brown sugar
1 cake extra-firm tofu, pressed at least 2 hours

1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided (2 T+ 2 T)
2 T grated fresh ginger root
6 cups coarsely shredded bok choy, kale, Chinese cabbage, or Swiss chard, packed
3 T lime juice
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
pinch cayenne
Toasted cashews or peanuts (optional)

1. Bring the marinade ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan. Simmer for 1 minute; remove from heat.
2. Cut the blocks of the tofu into 1-inch squares. Oil a large baking pan and place the squares in a single layer in the pan. Pour the marinade over the tofu and thens sprinkle with 2 T oil. Set aside at least 5 minutes.
3. Preheat the broiler and prepare the remaining ingredients so they will be easily on hand while stir-frying.
4. Broil the tofu 7-8 minutes until lightly browned; then turn with a spatula and brown the other side. Watch the tofu very carefully to prevent burning!
5. Heat the remaining 2 T oil in a wok. Stir in the ginger, add the greens, and stir constantly on high heat until the greens wilt. When the greens are just tender, add the lime juice, cilantro, and cayenne, and remove from the heat. Gently toss in the tofu. Top with toasted nuts if desired.

Walnut-Sesame Broccoli (from The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without by Mollie Katzen)

1/3 cup roasted walnut oil (or olive oil)
1 T dark sesame oil
1 T soy sauce
1 tsp salt
1 T finely minced fresh garlic
1 T finely minced fresh ginger
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pinch cayenne
2 lbs. broccoli, cut into 2 inch spears
1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 1/2 cups walnut halves, lightly toasted

1. Combine oils, soy sauce, salt, garlic, ginger, and peppers in a large bowl.
2. Steam the broccoli until just tender and bright green. Shock under cold running water to stop the cooking; drain thoroughly and pat with paper towels. Add to the marinade and stir gently until well coated. Cover tightly and allow to marinate at room temperature for at least 2 hours.
3. Stir in the vinegar within 15 minutes of serving. Sprinkle on the walnuts at the very last minute. Can be served cold or at room temperature.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Potato Coconut Corn Chowder

Everybody Likes Sandwiches posted this excellent recipe for potato coconut corn chowder. It's a great twist on regular potato chowder and definitely makes things more interesting. Next time, I might add a diced jalapeño or a teaspoon of cayenne pepper to spice things up a bit, but the chowder is also delicious just as it is. Another variation might be adding some sausage or ground turkey to the soup to add some protein.

Potato Coconut Corn Chowder (from Everybody Likes Sandwiches)

1 T olive oil (more as needed)
1 red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 heaping tsp cumin
3 medium-large or 6 small potatoes, cubed
1 heaping tsp low sodium chicken Better than Bullion
3 cups water (or enough to cover vegetables)
(or 3 cups chicken broth in place of the water and Better than Bullion)
1 can coconut milk
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup frozen corn
10 leaves fresh basil, cut into a chiffonade (long thin strips)
freshly ground pepper & salt to taste

1. In a Dutch oven, heat up the oil. Add the onion and saute 2 minutes until it starts to soften. Add the garlic, pepper, and celery. Saute until everything is nicely softened and then stir in the cumin. Add the potatoes, Better than Bullion, and water. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat, and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Add the coconut milk, rosemary, and optional cayenne pepper. Use a potato masher to break down the potatoes and vegetables to your desired consistency. Add corn, basil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Happy Election Day!

Don't forget to vote today!

(photo courtesy of housemate Josh; pumpkin courtesy of housemate's coworker David)

And if you're voting in California, don't forget to make it all the way down the ballot to make that NO vote on Prop 8: regardless of how you feel about same-sex marriage, it's not right to eliminate anyone's rights. Writing discrimination into our constitution is unfair and wrong.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Lemon Cream Tart

This tart is absolutely amazing! The sweet tart dough crusts is one of my all-time favorites. The lemon filling is silky, tart, and just incredible. It didn't all fit into the crust, so I ended up keeping the extra in the fridge and stealing a spoonful every couple of hours! I made it with Meyer lemons from our backyard, which I think made it all the more delicious. I topped the tart with a sweet blackberry sauce, which complemented the tart filling perfectly.

Don't forget to vote tomorrow!

You can find this recipe online at Serious Eats, here. For the crust I used Dorie's sweet tart dough (recipe here, replacing the almond meal with an equal amount of flour).

Sunday, November 2, 2008


I had never had rugelach before, but my housemate Jessie suggested they might be a nice treat for her to take to visit her family. The recipe in Baking from My Home to Yours looked absolutely amazing, so I just had to give it a try! These cookies are amazingly tender and fully of lots of crunch and flavor. These are a little time consuming, but well worth it. Be sure to check them in the oven so as not to let the bottoms get too brown, which happens very fast! I left the cinnamon out of the filling, and feel free to play around with the fillings to get them just how you like them. Yum!

Rugelach (from Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours)
For the Dough
4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup plump, moist dried currants
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
For the Glaze
1 large egg
1 teaspoon cold water
2 tablespoons sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar
For the Filling
2/3 cup apricot jam
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Makes 32 cookies
Make the dough: Let the cream cheese and butter rest on the counter for 10 minutes — you want them to be slightly softened but still cool.
Put the flour and salt in a food processor, scatter over the chunks of cream cheese and butter and pulse the machine 6 to 10 times. Then process, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, just until the dough forms large curds — don't work it so long that it forms a ball on the blade.
Turn the dough out, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day. (Wrapped airtight, the dough can be frozen for up to 2 months.)
Make the filling: Heat the jam in a saucepan over low heat, or do this in a microwave, until it liquefies. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together.
Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. (Silicone baking mats are great for rugelach.)
Shape the cookies: Pull one packet of dough from the refrigerator. If it is too firm to roll easily, either leave it on the counter for about 10 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 11- to 12-inch circle. Spoon (or brush) a thin gloss of jam over the dough, and sprinkle over half of the cinnamon sugar. Scatter over half of the nuts, half of the currants and half of the chopped chocolate. Cover the filling with a piece of wax paper and gently press the filling into the dough, then remove the paper and save it for the next batch.
Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 wedges, or triangles. (The easiest way to do this is to cut the dough into quarters, then to cut each quarter into 4 triangles.) Starting at the base of each triangle, roll the dough up so that each cookie becomes a little crescent. Arrange the roll-ups on one baking sheet, making sure the points are tucked under the cookies, and refrigerate. Repeat with the second packet of dough, and refrigerate the cookies for at least 30 minutes before baking. (The cookies can be covered and refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to 2 months; don't defrost before baking, just add a couple of minutes to the baking time.)
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Glaze the cookies: Stir the egg and water together, and brush a bit of this glaze over each rugelach. Sprinkle the cookies with the sugar.
Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until they are puffed and golden. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool to just warm or to room temperature.

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by OXO.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

October DB: Pizza!

I'm a couple of days late posting this month because of post-exam's been tough to get back into blogging! But, better late than never, right? And I am so glad I made this pizza, even though it's a bit more complicated than my usual pizza recipe. The dough is super light and has a delicious flavor...much more complex flavor than what I usually make. The overnight fermentation does require some advance planning, but it's more than worth it in the final product. Amazing!

I made four pizzas:
1. Tomato sauce, mozzarella, olives, sun dried tomatoes, caramelized onions
2. Olive oil, fresh mozzarella, sopressata
3. Mediterranean pizza: olive oil/tomato sauce, mozzarella, fresh mozzarella, artichoke hearts, olives, sun dried tomatoes
4. Tomato sauce, prosciutto, mozzarella, caramelized onions

Yum! This recipe comes courtesy of Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums...thanks to her for an amazing recipe that I'll now be using over and over again! The pizza recipe itself comes from The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhart. I found that the recipe was pretty forgiving--I was making the dough late at night, so I just mixed everything together without chilling anything first. I also used regular dry yeast instead of instant since that was what I had on hand (I just dissolved it in the cold water first). Finally, I put the dough into the fridge in a bowl rather than dividing it up first (due to fridge space constraints). I just divided it up the next evening, and this seemed to work just fine. To bake the pizza, I used this cool pizza pan my housemate has that has little holes in the bottom to help the bottom crust be extra crisp. Be sure to check out all the other amazing pizzas everyone else came up with on the DB blogroll (link to the right).

Basic Pizza Dough (from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart)

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 cups Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 tsp Salt
1 tsp Instant yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1 3/4 cups water, ice cold
1 T sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.