Author Archives: Moriah VanVleet

Got leftover matzah? Try these sweet sesame bars

Matzah bars (1)
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The seders might be over, but maybe you still have a box of matzah around? Its blank-canvas quality and its distinctive browned edges make it a perfect candidate for a flavorful sweet — and this one is easy to make, with most of the process taking place quickly on your stovetop. Together with a heap of toasted sesame seeds, matzah melds deliciously with sweet almond paste, bits of citrus zest and a splash of vanilla. The result is a delicious and decadent treat, reminiscent of baklava with its lightweight crunch, sweet honey, and citrus: a tasty new spring tradition. … Continue reading »

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Lemony fennel cupcakes: Citrus meets fragrant herb

Lemony Fennel Cupcakes (7)
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When I was recently served a salad speckled with slices of fresh fennel, I was reminded of how much I love it. The crunchy white herb was aromatic and mildly sweet, with a whisper of licorice flavor.  Before I knew it, I was recalling all the ways I’ve seen fennel: its bulbs thinly sliced on gourmet pizza, its stalks served like celery on a veggie tray, its seeds served to cleanse the palate after dinner at an Indian restaurant.

But there was a gaping hole in the dessert department, and I couldn’t understand why. Delicately herbal and pleasantly mild, fennel’s fresh form was an excellent candidate for something sweet.  Soon I paired it with lots of lemon and made some of the most tender, airy cupcakes I’ve ever eaten. With its bulb in the batter and its wispy leaves in the icing, fresh fennel had found its sweet spot in my kitchen. … Continue reading »

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Pea and peppermint cake: Delightfully different

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For the new year, maybe you decided to eat more vegetables, or you’re craving green foods after a season of richer meals. Or, perhaps you didn’t resolve to do anything new, but you appreciate a little adventure in the kitchen. Allow me to introduce a delicious dessert whose ingredients include a heap of unlikely vegetables: green peas.

Frozen peas are my back-up for fresh veggies, and the kind I buy come in a bag that boasts, “Naturally sweet!” Despite those truthful italic words, I usually mask the peas’ sweetness with a bit of sea salt or parmesan cheese, serving them as a savory side. But then again, I’ve done the same thing with carrots, zucchini and pumpkin — and if these can make much-adored sweets, why not give peas a chance?

So I finally paired my sweet peas with sugar, flour and vanilla — along with plenty of fresh peppermint leaves and a bit of tangy lemon zest. The result was a delicious and refreshing cake, bursting with minty citrus and sweet herbal undertones. Here is the recipe: … Continue reading »

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Egg nog cream pie for a scrumptious season

Egg Nog Pie (9)
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I’m ever smitten by the festive flavor and creamy decadence of egg nog.  I wait all year for it to come back to me in the form of frozen yogurt, steaming lattes, and even cake.  I love the way it pairs perfectly with my favorite spice — magical nutmeg — and how it reminds me of the cool, sweet milkshakes I sometimes sipped in my younger days.

But when the holidays come, I rarely indulge in egg nog. Efforts at self-discipline notwithstanding, I tend to guzzle my drinks instead of sipping them, and after a drop too many of egg nog, I feel stuffed and sorry. But if the nog comes in the form of dessert — one that can’t disappear with the tilt of a glass — I tend to slow down, to savor it. And with all its sweet richness, egg nog simply seems at home in a format that can be sliced, bitten and washed down with hot coffee.

For my latest creation, I transformed egg nog into a pudding-y custard, slathered it with spiced whipped cream, and paired it with an almond-flecked gingersnap crust. Here’s the recipe: … Continue reading »

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Sunroot spice cake: Celebrating the unusual

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Autumn invites the making of spice cakes: this one uses sunchokes for something different but delicious. Continue reading »

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Nasturtium cookies offer refreshing floral fruitiness

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When I first moved to the Bay area, I fell in love with the little orange flowers readily decorating my new backyard. They seemed so delicate, but grew so profusely. I welcomed their vibrant bursts of color and their leaves that looked like floating lily pads. I was soon to notice these flowers all over the neighborhood, whether spilling over a fence or taking over a nearby garden.

It turns out that nasturtiums, as they’re called, are practically ubiquitous in our area; they grow like weeds, and are even considered weeds by some. But as far as I’m concerned, their commonality doesn’t take away any charm. And discovering that nasturtiums are edible has given me even more adoration for them. … Continue reading »

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Tomato spice cake: A seasonal sweet

Tomato Spice Cake (9)
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It’s been hard not to notice the abundance of tomatoes in season lately.  I’ve seen vibrant varieties of colors and shapes at farmers markets, grocery stores and gardens of green-thumbed friends.  They whisper that summer is sneaking away as the magic of autumn awaits us. They offer a burst of life and color while the sky gets a little bit darker each day. … Continue reading »

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Summer recipe: Cinnamon peach sandwich cakes

Peach whoopie pies (6)
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Peach season is almost over and, I have to say, I can’t get enough of it. There’s something that sings summertime when I bite into a fresh, ripe peach. Tart, sweet and juicy, the fruit is as delicious as it is elusive; it disappears into one’s belly as fast as its season seems to vanish into the autumn months. White peaches, yellow peaches, saturn peaches — they are all as beautiful and fragrant as they are scrumptious, if you ask me. … Continue reading »

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Got leftover lemonade? Try this summer cake

Lemonade Cake (9)
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Lemonade is a quintessential summertime drink — it’s almost hard to imagine an outdoor event without it.  I recently found myself with a jug of leftover lemonade in my fridge, luring me in with its tart sweetness every time I opened the door. I’d take a little sip here and there, but more than anything, I felt compelled to turn it into a refreshing summer dessert.

Cake recipes nearly always rely on both liquid and sugar, so I decided to create one using the lemonade to help fill these roles. Since Meyer lemons are soft with a milder texture than the standard kind, it was their pretty slices that I pictured on the cake from the beginning. While this recipe is delicious without any embellishments, adding a sprinkle of sweet corn can bring to mind another summer staple, or a handful of coconut can add a tropical flare. … Continue reading »

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Hibiscus pistachio meringues: Perfect summer treat

Hibiscus pistachio meringues (5)
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One of my favorite summer drinks is a simple brew made from a stunning crimson flower. Tart and refreshing on a warm afternoon, iced hibiscus is tangy and floral, delicious with a squeeze of lime and a bit of sweetness. 

To celebrate hibiscus in an unusual, edible form, I recently decided to transform my red beverage into a tangy syrup and whip it into meringue for baking. Enhanced with citrus zest and sprinkled with bright green pistachios, the little, light cookies proved to be beautiful and delicious: a perfect summer treat.

Hibiscus Pistachio Meringues (makes about 125 meringues)

¾ cup boiling waterHibiscus pistachio meringues (18)¾ cup dried hibiscus petals, divided
3 ounces shelled pistachio nuts
1 lemon or lime
1 tablespoon clear corn syrup
¾ cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
3 egg whites (about 3/8 cup)
red food coloring or beet powder, optional
salt for sprinkling (if nuts are unsalted)
candy thermometer … Continue reading »

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Coffee and spirits: The Firelit cake

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When I was given a bottle of Firelit Coffee Liqueur recently, I was quick to open it and inhale its superior scent: sweet, strong and surely made with top-notch brandy and local coffee. Produced and bottled at a revered artisan distiller nearby, the liqueur was undoubtedly delicious on its own. But it also allured me with its promise of warming up a new dessert creation. In a brown sugar batter with brewed coffee, almond flour and bits of fruit, the potion proved to make a victorious cake.

Firelit coffee liqueur cake (makes an 8″ round; serves 10-12)firelit-cake-6

- 1 ¼ cup coffee liqueur, divided
- 1 cup raisins
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar
- 2/3 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup strong coffee, cooled
- 1 and 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1.5 teaspoons baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup almond meal
- finely grated zest of one orange … Continue reading »

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Mango meringue pie with coconut macadamia crust

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I love this time of year at the market, when mountains of fragrant mangoes seem to surround me as I shop. Mangoes lure me in with their promise of sweetness and a juicy, tropical taste.

When I thought about making a mango confection recently, I was skeptical at first. Could they be any better than they are plain? Would their natural sweetness make for a wince-inducing, sugary dessert? After much thought and experimentation, I decided to pair my mangoes with a crispy graham crust full of macadamias, coconut and lime. Then I slathered the creation with fluffy vanilla meringue and toasted it like a marshmallow. The result was a perfect spring treat, and it disappeared before I knew it. … Continue reading »

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Gin and tonic cake: A cocktail turned confection

Gin and Tonic Cake (15)
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Herbal and effervescent, a gin and tonic is known as one of the most refreshing concoctions in existence. I’m not sure why the drink has been on my mind lately; perhaps it’s the recent surge of warm weather, or more likely, my own need for invigoration. Whatever the reason, I was quick to transform the classic cocktail into a fresh dessert – first in my mind, then in my kitchen.  After all, why not have your gin and eat it, too? … Continue reading »

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