Matcha Olive Oil Cake

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It’s been a busy a couple of weeks, but that hasn’t stopped me from baking! In fact I’ve baked more in the last week alone than I have all winter. I’ll chalk it up to it being the tail end of winter, and it really fucking blows. I know I say this every winter, but I honestly don’t even remember what the sun feels like. I’m cold all the time, my nose has been running since what feels like Christmas, and all I want is to be able to go outside without having to wear every article of clothing that I own. OK, rant finished. Now onto the good stuff!

In the last few days I’ve made a shortbread tart filled with a lemon custard, mixed berries, and streusel topping, matcha olive oil cake, and orange scented oat muffins studded with dried cranberries and golden raisins. I am on fire! I’m sure I’ll do a post on all of these at some point, but for now I’m just going to post the recipe for the matcha olive oil cake, since it is literally the most satisfying combination of flavors.

Originally when I came home from work I had intended to make a batch of simple chocolate chip cookies, since it’s what I’ve been craving for the last few days, but when I sat down to search the internet for some inspiration I came upon a matcha tea cookie recipe on the Food&Wine site. One thing lead to another and an hour later my apartment was filled with aroma of clean soil, a field of flowers, and a freshly bloomed lemon tree. This is not an exaggeration I swear!

Matcha Olive Oil Cake

2 cups AP flour

1T baking powder

1T matcha

pinch salt

zest of 1 lemon

4 eggs

1 1/3 cup sugar

1 T vanilla

juice of 1 lemon

3/4 cup milk

1 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 325. In a medium size bowl sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and matcha. In another bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until no lumps remain. Bake in a square cake pan for roughly 40 minutes. You can bake this cake in whatever pan you want, just note that cookies times will be altered. Once the cake is fully cooked cool before serving with just a light dusting of confectioners sugar.

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Lemon Blueberry Buckwheat Muffins

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I think it’s safe to say this winter has been bringing everybody down! I mean way way way down. The endless days of bone chilling winds, sunless skies, and slushy brown crap on the ground has definitely got me feeling less than perky, and I am generally a bubble of joy and optimism. As an instant remedy I’ve been keeping myself busy writing, planning fun and colorful meals, and as always baking.

Tuesdays are usually the one day of the week when I can stay home with my love and our two little fur babies, and pretend that I am a woman of leisure. I woke up this morning to the world covered in a thin dusting of white powder. The temperature a mere 12 degrees, and my family curled up around me. I snuck out of my warm bed already knowing what breakfast would be. During the winter it’s always difficult to come up with fun and exciting ideas for what to make. Lets face it, it’s hard to be inspired when you can’t even feel your fingers or toes. However in the midst of all this lies citrus. The one flavor the reigns supreme above all others. Bringing with its tart and bitter flavors, memories of warmer days.

I knew I wanted to make lemon blueberry muffins, but since I’m still trying to battle with my winter fat pants, I opted to make them on the healthier side. I used equal parts buckwheat flour to AP flour, sweetened them with just a touch of honey, and replaced most of the fat with kefir. The result was a melt in your mouth muffin, bursting with tart blueberries, everlasting notes of citrus, and just the perfect hint of sweetness. The buckwheat flour created an almost savory flavor and added a bit more bite to them making them the perfect breakfast.

Lemon Blueberry Buckwheat Muffins

1 cup AP flour

1 cup buckwheat flour

1 t salt

1/2 t baking soda

1 T baking powder

1 1/2 cups kefir

2/3 c honey

2 eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup blueberries

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Break the 2 eggs in a separate bowl. Whisk in the honey, oil, kefir until everything is emulsified. Add the wet ingredient to the dry and combine until there are no more clumps. Gently fold in the blueberries and divide into 12 lined muffin tins and bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes.

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Matcha Spelt Muffins with Black Sesame Seeds

matcha muffins

Matcha is one of those flavors I have loved for a very long time. When I was a kid I was obsessed with green tea ice cream.  Back then it was because any food that was colored, was my kinda food. Don’t even get me started on rainbow ice cream. My sister swore up and down to me that rainbow ice cream is just vanilla ice cream with food coloring, but I still swear that I can taste the colors. However now as an adult I see what I truly loved about green tea ice cream, and match in general, is its ability to take even the sweetest of desserts and transform the flavors to become more rounded, and mellow with the addition of this deeply green powder.

While making my morning au lait I searched through my kitchen for some breakfast inspiration, and as soon as I saw my bag of pure matcha powder, I knew that it would be a baking kind of morning. I decided to go for a cross between sweet and savory and whipped up a batch of matcha spelt muffins with toasted black sesame seeds. The result was incredible. The muffins had a rich and dense crumb, while the flavor was smooth and earthy, will only a hint of sweetness. Suffice it to say it was the perfect breakfast treat.

Matcha Spelt Muffins

1 3/4 cup spelt flour

1/2 cup sugar plus 2T for sugar topping

1 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

2 t matcha powder (more or less based on preference)

1 cup milk

5 T melted butter

2 eggs

1 t vanilla

1 T black sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 350. While the oven is heating stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and matcha. In another bowl combine the milk, eggs, vanilla, and melted butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry mix and whisk until all the lumps have been incorporated. Divide the batter among 12 muffins tins lined with cups. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining sugar, as well as the black sesame seeds. They should take about 20-25 minutes, you’ll know when your house begins to permeate the sweet smell of the earth.

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Cosme: The True Flavors of Mexico

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Walking into Cosme, the energy of the room is almost palpable. The drinks are poured, the food is served, and the big appetites that have arrived are satiated. As I sit at table in the back my eyes scan over the scene unfolding before me. There’s a group of business men seated beside me, still in their suits and ties. To my right sits Fabian Von Hauske, the pastry chef of Contra, enjoying a beautiful vintage. The bar is flooded with NYC socialites, wearing clothes better suited for a dim lit dance club being infiltrated by a smoke machine. There are few places that can achieve this sort of melting pot of customers, but here at Cosme the food is the main attraction and all are welcome.
I start out my meal with the sliced raw Hamachi ($19). Each bite is like a warm ocean wave gently caressing my taste buds. The Hamachi is fresh and delicate, each slice is only enhanced by the heat from the fermented serranos, while the fish sauce and black limes add notes of citrus and umami. Next up is the Uni tostadas($17). Fried and crispy, the tostada is the perfect vehicle for the crowning jewel of this dish, the luxurious uni. The duck carnitas($58) are reason alone to pay Chef Olvera a visit. The skin is sweet, smoky, and crispy, while the meat inside is so tender it dissolves the moment it hits my tongue, releasing its fatty juices. When the waiter comes over and asks about the meal, I simply take his hand and thank him for this lovely dish. Although he is not the chef, he is one of many parts that makes this experience come to fruition.
Of course I end my meal with the revered Husk meringue ($14). I don’t believe there is another dish in the last few months that has been talked about as much as this. The outside is like the shell of a pavlova, slightly sweet and salty, created by the whipping of egg whites, sugar, and pulverized corn husk powder. The inside is a barely sweetened fresh cream that gently flows from the shell it is encased in. Yes, the husk meringue is everything it’s chalked up to be. It is what every dessert strives to be, yet doesn’t always quite make it. In it’s simplest form, it is the perfect ending to what is a perfect meal.
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Chocolate Buckwheat Bundt Cakes

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As the days are suspended by the inevitable presence of night, and the memory of sunlight on my skin seems to hazily drift away, I crave to be in the kitchen. I am filled with the desire to bake, create, savor, and sooth my spirit, as well as the ones I love.

The other day, as the temperatures outside steadily dropped, I was overcome with a craving for something chocolate. Not the overly processed, much too sweet sort. I wanted the kind of chocolate that is rich, earthy, and has the perfect balance of sweet and bitter. While searching through my cabinets for what to make, I remembered a recipe I’d  seen on http://www.localhaven.net, an amazing food blog, run by a talented food writer and stylist. It was a recipe for double chocolate rye muffins, that gave me the inspiration for these chocolate buckwheat bundt cakes.

I used a combination of different recipes, and the end result was better than I even hoped for. I used a mixture of AP flour and buckwheat flour as my base, which created a really nice substantial bite to these cakes. The Dutch cocoa powder, as well as the melted bittersweet chocolate, made the cakes luscious and decadent. I added a cup of very strong earl grey tea, since I’ve also been a fan of the pairing. The tea was very subtle, but added beautiful hints of citrus. As for the glaze, I often think that they are too sweet and overpowering. These cakes are not a vehicle for the glaze, they are the main attraction, so I went with something more bitter, than sweet, and topped the cakes off with coarse sea salt. The salt added and nice crunch to the top, as well as another flavor profile.

 Buckwheat Bundt Cakes

1 Cup AP flour

1 Cup buckwheat flour

1 Cup sugar

1 T baking soda

½ t salt

½ Cup cocoa powder

1 T vanilla

1 egg

1 Cup strong brewed Earl Grey tea

¾ cup olive oil

1 Cup kefir or yogurt

2 oz dark chocolate

Glaze

3 oz chocolate

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 T butter

Directions

Set a double boiler on the stove. Melt the chocolate in a small bowl. While the chocolate is melting, sift together all of the dry ingredients. Once the chocolate has melted, whisk in your oil, kefir, tea, vanilla, and egg. Whisk everything until it is incorporated. Pour into greased pans and bake at 375 for about 30 minutes, or until pick comes out clean. The trick to making these cakes as delicious and moist as possible, is making sure not to over bake them.

While the cakes are baking, heat up the heavy cream in a small pot until it riches a simmer. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for a few minutes. Once the chocolate is melted, add the butter, and whisk until emulsified. The glaze will look pretty thin, but once it cools it while thicken to perfection.

Once the cakes have fully cooled, cut off the excess with a serrated knife (think muffin tops! SNACK TIME.) Flip them out onto a sheet tray with a cooling rack, and drizzle with chocolate glaze. While the glaze is still wet, sprinkle the tops of the cakes liberally with coarse sea salt!

As I took my first bite all my senses went into overdrive. My palate was bombarded with sweet, bitter, and salty. The crumb was moist and decadent. The flavors working in unison to create the perfect balance. So although outside the temperatures may drop, and the wind may chill my bones, inside, my oven will be on, my kitchen warm, and my home will be filled with the sweet scent of memories in the making.

photo credit: @ladybearfeasts

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A Morning Worth Waking Up For

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It’s 10am, and I have just walked through the doors of Buvette. I am seated in a small corner by the window, and the sun is shining in, illuminating everything inside the café in an ethereal glow. My server walks over to me with a smile, and asks if she may take my drink order. I ask for a cappuccino, as well as the fresh squeezed blood orange juice.

As I wait for my drinks to arrive, I look over the menu, offering all the classic French staples such as the croque madam, to steamed eggs a la Parisian, to an impressive array of charcuterie and cheeses. My drinks are set down, and I order the steamed eggs with smoked salmon and crème fraiche, with a side of cranberry walnut bread.

The air inside is intoxicating, filled with all the different aromas coming out of the kitchen. My food arrives, and I take a fork full of my eggs, and savor their light and creamy texture. The smoked salmon lends the perfect amount of salty and smoky flavor to the dish, while the crème fraiche creates a most desired decadence.

One bite of the cranberry walnut bread, and I instantly understand all the words of praise. Thick, crusty, chewy, slices of bread are packed with walnuts and cranberries, then slathered in butter and drizzled with honey. Each bite is better than the last, and as I polish off my breakfast, I silently wish that every morning could start like this.

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Monkey Bread Heaven

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After a week of being cooped up at home sick, my itch to bake reached an all time high today. Since I still don’t have all my energy back yet, I decided to make something I’ve been making since my head still didn’t reach the counter. I can’t think of a recipe more satisfying or simple than this basic cinnamon sugar pull apart bread. Every nook and cranny is a burst of buttery sugary goodness, and let’s face it, winter is the time to stuff your face with every kind of sugary carb filled food out there.

Since I am an advocate of all homemade, since the end result always turns out better, I started by making a simple sweetened yeasted dough. There are a million difference recipes out there, so use whichever one you feel most comfortable with. Once your day is ready to be used you’ll want to break the dough down into roughly sixteen pieces and then roll them into balls. While you’re rolling your dough, melt 2 sticks of butter on low heat. Once the butter is melted whisk in 1 1/4 cups of dark brown sugar. In a separate bowl or large bag mix 1 cup of granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon of cinnamon.

Drop the rolled pieces of dough into your cinnamon sugar mixture and evenly coat each piece. Ensuring each piece is sufficiently coated will make the end result extra gooey and delicious! Once all these steps are completed, grab your bundt pan and spray it really well with a non stick spray. This step is important, otherwise the bread won’t pop out of the pan once it’s cooled. Star layering the pan with the sugar coated dough, and then pour the butter brown sugar sauce over the top. Pop into the oven at 350 and allow it to bake for about 35 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when the outside is golden brown and crisp, while the center is still fluffy.

Here’s the hard part! At this point the entire house will smell like you’ve died and gone to basic bitch heaven. You’ll see images of prancing pumpkins. You’ll want to immediately throw cinnamon up in the air like confetti. And most of all you’ll want to get your eager little fingers in this baby. DON’T! The scolding hot sugar will burn the shit out of you. Give it about 15 minutes to cool, and watch as you effortlessly pop out your masterpiece onto a serving plate.

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Crepes Are The New Black

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The culinary world is a fickle one, similar in mechanism to the fashion world. One season it’s nothing but bell bottoms and crop tops, and the next season you wouldn’t be caught dead in either. The same goes for food. Remember when all the rage was cupcakes? Giant cupcakes, mini cupcakes, cupcake cones, cupcake wedding cakes. Well where the fuck are the cupcakes now? They’re dead! That’s where! Well now a new season is upon us, and it is one that I am now fondly referring to as the era of the crepe!

By nature I am in love with crepes, so in turn I am in love with this new era. You can’t walk a block now without someone trying to shove this delicious pancake in your face. Whether it be filled with nutella and fruit, or kobe beef and gorgonzola, the crepe is the new It girl.

Although it’s origins have been linked back to Northern France, the crepe has found itself all over the world now, taking on many new faces, cultures, and flavors. One of the best parts of living in a city like New York, is being able to see this first hand. All over the city you may find Creperies ranging from French, Italian, German, Japanese, and even North African, each with their own take on what a crepe is, and what it should be filled with.

Recently while walking near Union Square, I stumbled upon the holiday market, which takes place every year around this time in the park. It was jam packed with people perusing the pop up shops, in search of the perfect holiday gift. Not in the food to shop, and not haven eaten lunch yet, I decided to check out the food instead.

As I made my way through the market toward the food vendors, the cold air began to fill with an array of aromas. As I passed the doughnuttery my nostrils filled with the sweet scent of frying dough. The Mighty Balls booth sang with the smells of sharp and nutty parmesan, mixed with the acidity and sweetness of tomatoes. No Chewing Allowed permeated the air with their chocolate, smelling of bitter and earthy goodness. However none of this was what I truly wanted. As I kept weaving in and out of booths, my stomach beginning to protest in hunger, I finally saw my salvation. I knew immediately I wanted something savory and not too heavy, so a savory crepe from Bar Suzette was just that.

I got on what was definitely the longest line amongst all the food vendors. Like I said, the new It Girl! As I stood in line I looked over their menu, although I have an enormous sweet tooth and there was no shortage of that here, I ended up deciding on the sautéed mushroom and cheese crepe. When it was finally my turn to order, my body was frozen to the bone, so I ordered their house mulled cider as well. As I waited for my crepe to be prepared I took drank my piping hot cider. It was beautifully spiced with a healthy dose of cinnamon, clove, and star anise, warming me up with ever sip. I watched as the cook masterfully ladled out crepe batter onto the circular flat top, and swirled it around with a certain confidence. He clearly had a rhythm going, which is the key to making crepes.

Finally my name was called and I eagerly grabbed my long awaited prize. I took a giant bite, and waited for all the flavors to work their way around my tongue. The crepe itself was light, and had the perfect ratio of crisp on the outside, soft and airy on the inside. The filling was a combination of sautéed portabella mushrooms, gruyere cheese, fresh thyme, a balsamic reduction, and topped off with a drizzle truffle oil. This crepe was nothing short of amazing. Each bite delivered the perfect balance of sweet, creamy, earthy, salty, and acidic. As I savored each bite, I thought to myself I hope this era reigns on.

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A Childhood Summed Up In A Cookie

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Formally known as a Neapolitan cookie, I have affectionately called these little pieces of bliss rainbow cookies my whole life. Growing up in Long Island there was by no means a shortage of good Italian bakeries, where these cookies could be purchased. Whenever I look back in these days I remember the excitement I’d feel coming home to find the white box sitting in the kitchen, tied up with red and white twine. I always knew what was inside, and a feeling of sheer joy and anticipation would always overcome me.

While at the heart of the matter I was always a rainbow cookie girl, my sister was an aficionado of the lady finger. Although in those days the only part she truly liked was the part of the cookie that was dipped in chocolate. There was nothing more infuriating to me than when I’d open the box to find all of her half eaten leftovers discarded in the box!

The other day while dropping my girlfriend, Trina, off at work I finally took notice of the bakery across the street. It was barely past six in the morning and a line was already forming inside the little shop. I had recently been discussing with one of my co-workers our love for rainbow cookies and couldn’t get them out of my head. So I got out of my car and walked up to the bakery, Stella Di Sicilia Bakery. I headed in and was greeted with the sweet scented aroma of butter, sugar, and the divine smell of fresh yeasted bread coming out the oven.

I walked up to glass case display, and there they were. I knew immediately that although there was a lot more to investigate, this was what I had come for. I asked the man behind the counter to box me up a half pound. $4.50 later and I was out the door, cookies in hand. As I drove overt to work I was filled with the mixed feelings of joy and skepticism. The problem with rainbow cookies is that they are real easy to fuck up, which is why is why I stopped buying them just anywhere. I’m usually met with the disappointing reality of the cookies either being bone dry, or having a devastating improper balance of cookie to jam.

But not these cookies. The moment I opened the box I knew they would be perfect. Another thing you should know about me and rainbow cookies, and what some believe is a disturbing ritual. I essentially eat them the way one would eat an oreo. I start by taking the layers apart, eating them individually. Some may think this is a crime against nature, I say it’s the only way to eat a rainbow cookie. Now back to the cookies. As I took my first bite, I knew these were the real deal. The soft and extremely moist cookie layers were bursting with the flavor of almond. The ratio of apricot jam and chocolate were just enough to complement the cookie, yet not take away from the magic that it beholds. Each bite brought me back to the easier days of childhood, and by the time I was through with the box, my stomach was satisfied and my soul a little lighter.

Stella Di Sicilia Bakery

217 Montrose Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11206

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A Restaurant Education

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There are many things I’ve learned over the years while working in professional kitchens, but the one I value and use the most is how to cook the perfect steak. Last night was my vegetarian girlfriends birthday, so naturally I decided to cook myself a birthday steak. Don’t worry she had a lovely meal as well, and cake!

My excitement was palpable as I purchased this beautiful grass-fed rib eye, eager to bring it home and cook it to a perfect medium-rare. No there is no other way to eat a steak, unless you want to ruin what is already perfect. The reason you want to start with amazing ingredients, whether it be meat or a vegetable, is so you can actually taste the thing you’re eating. Another reason to eat in season. Cooking is like applying makeup. You want it to enhance the raw ingredient, not cake it in a bunch of crap so it’s unrecognizable.

As soon as we got home I unwrapped the rib eye and applied a generous helping of salt and pepper to both sides. While I seasoned the meat, I had a cast iron pan heating on high with a tiny bit of oil in it. Another major key ingredient to cooking a great steak is heat. You want a nice sear and crust on the outside, sealing in all the delicious juices. Once the pan was ready I dropped the steak, hearing the beautiful symphony of sizzles emanating from the pan. Another thing people like to do at this point is move the steak, press on it, shake the pan, DON’T DO THIS! Just leave it alone. After about three minutes I flipped the steak overt o sear on the other side. At this point I throw in a nice chunk of butter and begin basting the steak with it. This is completely optional, but this step not only creates a beautiful golden crust, it’s god damn butter, and it’s freaking delicious!

Once the steak was done I removed it from the pan and put it on a plate to rest. This final step allows the meat to lock in all of its juices and makes a steak so succulent and crisp, you’ll never have to go to a steakhouse again. After about ten minutes I grabbed my fork and knife and dug in. Pure joy!!!

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