Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cherry Bundt Cake

I am breaking this cookbook review into three parts or else it will be ridiculously long:

A few months ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Warren Brown and chatting about his new cookbook. He is such an encouraging person with the sort of enthusiasm I don’t often find in many people. I was very excited when we talked about his newest book, the United Cakes of America: Recipes Celebrating Every State, which showcases each states specialty cake.

When it landed on my doorstep, I was thrilled beyond belief: after a few weeks of not really baking, I was ready to get into the kitchen and show my stuff. First off, I went through the book and looked at each recipe. Then I bookmarked the ones that I most wanted to try immediately, followed by making a list of ingredients I would need for the task.

As a pastry chef and avid baker, I do generally have most of the ingredients one would need lying around, but it’s good to make sure you have fresh milk, eggs and well, when you bake a lot you go through sugar pretty fast!

It was hard to choose where to start first, but I went for Bundt cake. I made minis using my angel food cake pans, and I added fresh cherries. Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly. Not only is this cake delicious, it is good when used to bribe your friendly neighborhood bartender when he spots you a drink cause you're broke!


Dry Ing
3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet Ing
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

2 sticks butter
2 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons sugar
6 eggs

Preheat oven to 335 F after making sure rack is in the center. Spray or brush either a 12 cup bundt pan or mini pans as you wish. I used 4 mini angel food cake pans and 3 loaf pans.

whisk dry ingredients together in one bowl, the wet ingredients in another bowl and set aside. cream butter and sugar for about 5 minutes then add eggs one at a time, scraping the sides down.

alternate the dry and wet ingredients, scrape down the sides and use your spatula to make sure the sides are combined in. Scoop into prepped pan(s) and bake approx. 50 minutes for large cake, 30 miniutes for minis. Cool 5 minutes, invert and cool.

Glaze or leave plain. Or drizzle with chocolate!

I added a 1/4 cup of cherries but next time I will add a 1/2 cup of cherries and some lime zest, just because that sounds good to me. I also think you could add lemon and anise for another delicious set of flavors!

Stayed tuned, because next up is....Whoopie Pies!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Pigs in a what now?

If you look up “grew up under a rock” in the dictionary, you will find a picture of my boyfriend. He didn’t watch Disney movies as a kid, hated mac and cheese and has never had a pig in a blanket.

Me: You’ve never had pigs in a blanket?!

Him: I just said no! (huffily)

Me: Geez, you really did grow up under a rock. Your mom is weird.

So I made some special, just for him.

My favorite biscuit book of all time is Biscuit Bliss by James Villas.  Biscuit Bliss: 101 Foolproof Recipes for Fresh and Fluffy Biscuits in Just Minutes

I discovered this wonderful writer when I read an article he did on absinthe. The book was a loan from my soul mother and it didn’t get returned before she passed on, so the book is extra special to me.

Even though I use it a lot, it actually still looks pretty new. Well, on the outside anyway!

I made the Traditional Baking Powder biscuits and added poppy seeds, pepper and a bit of hot mustard powder to the dough for a little something extra. I served with salad, crispy potatoes and grainy mustard on the side.

Traditional Baking Powder Biscuits

2 c all purpose flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

¼ c chilled vegetable shortening

¾ to 1 c whole milk

1 tsp each poppy seeds, pepper and hot mustard powder (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 F.

In a large mixing bowl whisk dry ingredients together. Add shortening and cut in with your hands or a fork. The mixture should appear mealy. Gradually add milk using your fork until sticky. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, knead and pat out to desired thickness.

Cut into squares and then triangles. Roll hot dogs into dough and bake for 15 minutes.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Espresso White Chocolate Brownies

As a pastry chef, I have been known to invent new ways to torture myself.

One way was to spend my spare time inventing new treats for my adopted Parisian Nana.

As you can imagine, she was hard to impress! Luckily, I tapped into her favorite things and got very inventive.

This recipe was one I came up with in December of ‘04, just before I became a grill cook and lost my mind.

Espresso White Chocolate Brownies

4 oz white chocolate (I like El Rey)
1/2 c butter
*melt in double boiler until smooth, set aside.

Preheat oven to 325 F. and prep your baking sheet. Use a half sheet pan to layer parchment over lapping edges for easy removal. set aside.

2 c sugar
2 tsp espresso extract
4 large eggs

Once combined, stir in into cooled chocolate (it has to be cooled or your eggs will curdle)

Fold in 1 c all purpose flour and 1c chopped nuts (your choice. I used hazelnuts)

Pour into prepped pan & spread evenly. Bake on center rack for approx 25 min, then cut into squares and enjoy!

Liked this recipe, changed it up? Email me @ mailto:luna@lunaraven.comto tell me all about it!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Apricot Ginger Pecan Cake

Since I love to experiment and had dried apricots and candied ginger lying about, last night I made this lovely little cake.

3/4 c dried apricots, chopped, soaked and drained
1/2 c candied ginger, chopped
1 stick butter, melted
1 c oats + 2 tsp water, stirred together

Combine throughly to make sure everything is coated by the butter.

Then add: 1/2 c pecans
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp flour
1/2 c cornstarch

Mix together until just combined (do not overmix!)

Pour into buttered 7x2" pan and bake @325 F for about a half hour.

Let cool before taking out of pan, place on plate and then sprinkle w/powder sugar.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

35 and still alive

As I celebrate another birthday, I can’t help but marvel at the fact that I ever even got here. My mother was told she couldn’t have any more children after my older sister. You can imagine how some people in my family vacillated between miracle and what the hell?! I actually almost died a few times and my parents were told I would not live to see the age of 10. Impressed yet?

In 35 years I have learned many things and I look forward to learning even more in the next 35. Two days before the blessed day I was in the store and the man behind me said “Hey I remember you from Purgatory!”

He looked vaguely familiar and I used to feel bad about these moments as they happen to me frequently. It’s a bit strange to me to stand out so strongly in someone’s mind they might recall me after 20 years.

I have realized that some people are more memorable than others and that being embarrassed that you don’t remember people isn’t necessary as long as you are nice to them. I have realized some other things, too…

• Life moves quickly. So don’t worry so much about little inconsequential things.

• Thoughts really are things and if your whole soul is thinking hard enough to make something happen, you damn well better make it good.

• Lying about your age is silly. Be proud of who you are, you earned it.
• I will never again starve myself because someone I didn’t like said I was fat. (How dumb was that?!)

• People who love you will always love you. People who don’t love you don’t deserve your time or attention.

• If an older woman wants to date a younger man, it’s really not my business. Unless she is my mom and he is my age.

• Feel blessed everyday. There are many people in our lives who love us and think about us. Even if they don’t always say it.

• Don’t be afraid to speak the truth. You don’t have to be mean to be honest.

• It’s okay to say ‘no’. No really. Some tasks may be too daunting or damaging for us to manage.

• Care. But not that much.

• Hard work doesn’t reward the way we’ve been taught to believe.

• It is never, ever too late to live your dreams. You may just have to adjust them a bit.

• It is always better to be who you are rather than who people expect you to be.

• Little kids don’t have a lot of stress because they view the world through different eyes. Give it a try!

I have of course learned many more wonderful things, but we can leave a few of them for next time. Thanks to all who called, emailed or twittered me to wish me a happy birthday, you made it even better!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Standoff: Mom vs Kid

My mother and I have long had a difficult and unpleasant food relationship. She is convinced that my allergies are in my head, that I love food I hate and I am convinced she is insane.

We have had many standoffs over the years. For example, she hands me a bowl of cantoloupe, which I have never liked, and I stare at her when she proclaims I adore it.

We have agreed on little over the years, except that fact that neither of us like pigs ears or chicken feet.

One of the first times this came to a head I was about 5 or 6. My mom, being raised at the end of the depression, had a clean plate policy. My dad, who actually lived through the depression, was aganist forcing people to eat food they couldn't stomach.

I have no memory of what was on my plate that night. Whatever it was, I was dtermined not to eat it. My mother informed me I was not having dessert, or in fact leaving the table until I cleaned my plate. one think you may not know about me is that I can sometimes dig in my heels at really odd times.

My parents and sister left the table. They had dessert while they watched tv. I sat in the same place at the table, every once in a while sneaking peeks at the tv when she couldn't see me.

I feel alseep at the table, at which point my dad got pissed and said it was time for bed. My mother would not back down. Being her kid, I wouldn't either. It was late. My dad actually heard my head hit the table and decided to ignore her and put me to bed.

The lesson I take from this is you cannot force people to like things you do and that telling a kid they like something doesn't really work. People's palates grow quickly if allowed to and not stifled.

My mother and I will always have very different views on life, on love and on food. When I have kids, they will eat healthy. But they won't be sitting at the table staring at food they don't like when they should be in bed. Oh yeah, and seriously, you are more than welcome to my bowl of cantoloupe. I really don't want it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fat Fannys, where art thou?

I'm not sure what sparked the memory of one of my favorite childhood dining spots. Perhaps it's because I am nearing my birthday. Or just that food has so many feelings attached to it, cookies, cakes...fries.

My dad discovered this place while working: Fat Fannys in San Ramon. I don't remember the food at all, just that it was up a flight of stairs and there in the half darkness, amazingly backlit booths lay mecca.

All of the servers dressed in costume. Oh and you ordered extra food from a phone in your booth!

My dad, knowing that his daughters would nearly die from the delight of being waited on by cute boys in wild outfits, of course took us right away. On any given day, your waiter could be a doctor, rock star or Robin Hood. Or even better, you might get Snow White, Marilyn Monroe or Wonder Woman. (Well, better if you are a little girl.)

We didn't go a lot as my parents were pretty strict about food, so it was always a real treat to go (and to pretend to forget our fries so we could order them by phone. My dad was a pretty cool guy.)

I miss the fun times we had at Fat Fannys, partly because I miss being a kid, eating with my family. And if there is ever another resturant filled with servers in costume, I am soooooo there. Especially if its my birthday!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cucumber and Pink Lady Apple aqua fresca

With summer approaching (though not fast, as it is raining as I write this!) refreshing is going to be the word on everybody's mind. This is something you could take to a picinic, barbeque, serve with burgers or tacos and best of all? If you wanted to, you could easily make it a cocktail!

This recipe is adapted from the Watermelon Aqua Fresca in Amor Y Tacos, with only the fruits being changed. It's really a great recipe and really you are only limited by your imagination on this one. Fruit: it's what you're drinking!

2 cups (mixed) cucumber and pink lady apple
3 cups water
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon sugar (or more if you need it a bit sweeter)

Mash the fruit to a pulp. (I used a hammer. Yes. I really did.) Stir in water, lime, juice, sweetener. Chill and serve.

We had this with potato tacos and fresh pico de gallo. It was wonderful.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Amor Y Tacos: Carne Asada and Pico de Gallo

Amor Y Tacos is a beautiful book. I am excited to try more recipes from it, but until then, I have created one wonderful meal that will most certainly be repeated in my house.

I used the Carne Asada Marinade*:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon soy sauce

I let it sit overnight in the marinade and then I cooked until medium and sliced it thin.

*the recipe calls for 4 garlic cloves, which I didn't have. I will make sure to use them in the future as without them, the marinade is a little bland. However, it is perfectly paired with potato tacos!

For two people you need 2 large or 4 small potatoes. Boil and when cooked through, add butter, salt, pepper and just a touch of milk or half and half. Smash with a fork and fill flour tortillas, and fry until crispy.

serve with the Carne Asada and Pico de Gallo:

2 large roma tomatoes,
1/2 cup red onion
torn cilantro leaves
salt to taste
juice of 1/2 a lime

Combine all ingrediants together and let sit so it melds. This is actually fast, easy and satisfying. Also, if you want crispy tacos without frying, brush the outside of the tortilla, fill and bake until crispy.

*All portions are for two people*