I have a bit of a problem making decisions sometimes, and have spent many hours agonizing over things like restaurant menus, socks, and especially recipes. Today I wanted to make triple ginger molasses cookies, but couldn’t decide whether to make them classic, with chocolate chunks melting inside them, or dredged in orange sugar. So I divided the dough into thirds and made all three. Sometimes being indecisive pays off.
Although everyone knows the only thing better than your dream job is no job (that is to say, bojon), I once had a dream job that lasted 16 months when a pair of fabulous sisters opened a tiny, organic bakery in my hood. The community of bakers that wound up at Petite Patisserie consisted of smart, fun, talented, compassionate, kick-ass women, and we were all dismayed when Rachel and Kirsten decided to sell the space in December of 2007.
Every ingredient we used at Petite Patisserie was one hundred percent organic, although sometimes that meant altering recipes, shipping ingredients from far away, or jumping through hoops to work with what we had. For example, no one makes blanched organic almonds, so we had to buy unblanched almonds, boil them for 30 seconds, let them cool, then spend hours slipping the skins off each almond, one by one. The almonds then got dried out in a low oven overnight, cooled, and ground finely to be made into pate sucree or frangipane. Also, though many baking recipes call for dutch-processed cocoa powder, no one makes the organic stuff. Dutch-processed cocoa gets processed with alkali to neutralize its acidity, making the color a richly deep reddish-brown, and smoothing out the flavor. Some recipes work with either kind of cocoa; others, not so much.
Anyway, one day I asked Rachel if she would order some Valrhona dutch-processed cocoa powder for me through our vendor. When I came to work the next day, she had. They’d sent us 10 pounds of it. It cost $40. We couldn’t send it back, and we couldn’t use it at the bakery. So I took my ten pounds of cocoa powder home and started looking for recipes that used it. I had never baked with it much, for whatever reason, and even sort of shunned it, thinking that any chocolaty baked good worth its salt had to be made with actual chocolate.
Somehow I finally used up the last of my cocoa a few months ago. And now that it’s gone, I miss it.
I made this cake while in the midst of a baking-with-beer phase, using an Alaskan Smoked Porter I picked up at Rainbow. The beer goes in the cake, and also gets whisked into powdered sugar to form a thin glaze which locks in the cake’s moisture while it’s still warm. The smokey flavor is subtle; you might enjoy it with a mug of milky lapsang souchang tea (like this organic one from Samovar). The recipe, adapted from Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques, originally called for Guinness, but you could use any stout or porter. Some nice options would be Bison’s Organic Chocolate Stout, or their Gingerbread Ale.
This moist, springy, tender cake would make perfect cupcakes. Enjoy it with a cup of tea or coffee for an afternoon snack, or alongside a scoop of milk chocolate stout ice cream for a decadent dessert.
Smoked Porter Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin
Makes one 8″ round cake, 8-10 servings
5 ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 ounces (6 tablespoons) dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup smoked porter (or other dark beer)
1/2 cup molasses
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil (such as sunflower)
Preheat the oven to 350º. Grease an 8″ pan and line it with a round of parchment paper.
Sift together the dry ingredients.
In a large saucepan, heat the beer and molasses to a boil. Whisk in the baking soda. It will foam up A LOT so don’t try using a smaller pan or you will be very unhappy. Remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs and oil until combined. Add the beer mixture, whisking to combine. Add the dries and whisk until smooth. Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake in the center of the oven until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and springs back when pressed with your finger, 30-40 minutes. Cool ten minutes, then invert onto a plate, remove the parchment, and reinvert so that the cake is right side up.
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 – 2 tablespoons smoked porter
Whisk together to form a glaze. Spread over the top of the warm cake.
The cake will keep well for a few days, stored airtight at room temperature.
Until recently, I never really *got* citrus fruits. Where I often spent winter longing for sweet strawberries and succulent peaches (and frankly still do), I never gave oranges and grapefruits much thought. Sometimes they appeared in my lunch bag, sometimes not. It didn’t much matter either way.
Except for the aforementioned summer fruit, I never thought much about the seasonality of produce, either, until one June day when I asked for leeks at a Bolognese produce stand. ‘Non sono di stagione,’ the vendor brusquely notified me; they are not in season. Leeks don’t have a season, I thought indignantly. They were like potatoes, onions, garlic, and lemons: available in the states any time of year.
Now that I work in the food industry in San Francisco, it’s rather impossible to remain ignorant of what comes into season when. But it wasn’t until we started receiving a CSA box that the citrus thing really began making sense to me.
Looking at a meyer lemon or a clementine when the sky has been overcast for a week feels a little like looking at the sun. And a sip of sweet juice from a fresh satsuma or pomelo tastes bright and vibrant. How clever of citrus to come into season just when we feel a dearth of those qualities, and need a dose of vitamin C to ward off flues and colds. I now cherish the glowing orange and yellow orbs that grace our eyes and taste buds in the dark, cold, and short days of winter, and look forward to the parade of citrus that marches through our kitchen each winter.
These scones are an excellent way to utilize the precious, flavorful zest of mandarins or tangerines, which gets rubbed into the buttery dough. Some of the juice gets whisked into powdered sugar for a simple glaze, and minced, candied ginger creates another layer of flavor. These scones were nothing short of spectacular dolloped with sour cream and our last jar of vanilla-meyer lemon marmalade. Any marmalade would be delicious here, or, if you just can’t wait til next spring, a spot of strawberry jam.
1 1/2 cups all purpose, whole wheat or spelt flour (or a combination)
zest of one or two satsuma mandarins (or four small clementines)
zest of one lemon (preferably meyer)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 or 2 tablespoons satsuma juice, as needed
Combine the dries and zests in a large bowl. Work in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse sand with some pea-sized butter bits remaining. Toss in the oats. Add the buttermilk little by little, tossing with a rubber spatula, until the dough just comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a 1′ high round, about 6″ in diameter. Cut the round into 8 wedges (they will look small, but will grow a lot as they bake). Place on the parchmented pan. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden, rotating once or twice. Let cool slightly.
Whisk together the powdered sugar, salt, and enough juice to make a thickly pourable glaze. Drizzle over scones. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon minced ginger.
These are best served warm. They will keep at room temperature for a few days.
Pumpkin chocolate chip coffeecake
Pumpkin cheesecake squares
Winter squash and sage gougeres
Winter squash mac n’ cheese
Sourdough pate brisee:
There are two kinds of people in the world: chocolate dessert people and fruit dessert people. (People who don’t like dessert: not people.) I used to place myself firmly in the former camp, and freely admit to being a devout chocophile. But I don’t often get a chance to bake with it, since there always seems to be some pesky fruit (or vegetable, as the case may be) to use up, or take advantage of before the season ends. And though I nibble on chocolate almost every day, I can’t even recall the last time I ordered a chocolate dessert at a restaurant.
So the other night I thought to myself, aha! I’ll bake something chocolaty. Perhaps something classic, like brownies or oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. But as I opened the fridge to pull out the butter, a jar of butternut squash puree stared back at me.
Inspired by Little Star’s wheaty masterpieces (and a jar of tomato sauce left over from last week’s eggplant parmesean), I tried my hand at sourdough deep dish pizza. I used Cook’s recipe as a starting point, tweaking the ingredients as necessary. The resulting pizza surpassed my expectations with its flavorful, springy dough crisped in a generous amount of olive oil, accented by gooey, saucy cheese and bites of bitter olives, tangy chevre and fresh basil.