Author Archives: Moriah VanVleet

Recipe: Tender, tangy buttermilk hibiscus cake

Hibiscus Cake. Photo: Moriah Van Vleet
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Vivid hibiscus flowers are often flaunted in brewed tea, but I’ve found that their tart, earthy notes make for a wondrous edible treat, too. So when I recently came across dried hibiscus petals in powdered form, I knew they were destined for my next dessert. Besides, with spring in full swing, it’s hard to keep blooming flowers out of mind. (Ah-choo!)

This time, I echoed the hibiscus with other tangy tones: rich buttermilk and plenty of Meyer lemon. The result was a refreshing and succulent new cake — moist, citrusy layers with a deep burgundy hue. Cream cheese frosting proved a decadent and well-balanced pairing, but the cake is also lovely when simply dusted with powdered sugar. … Continue reading »

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Honey Dijon caramels: Unexpectedly delicious

Honey Dijon Caramels (13)
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In the world of savories and snacks, I’ve always been a big fan of mustard. I’m known to accumulate several jars at a time for the sheer pleasure of trying new varieties. Seeded or spicy, beery or herbal — I love spreading it on pretzels, bread, and even carrot sticks.

To tell you the truth, I never really thought of mustard as a candidate for a dessert ingredient. But recently, while in the throes of a lengthy caramel-making kick, my new jar of Dijon started calling to me. Could this velvety, scrumptious mustard match well with brown sugar, honey and cream?

See more of Moriah VanVleet’s delicious recipes on Nosh.

I find most Dijon to be silky smooth and naturally creamy, pleasantly tangy but absent of sharpness. And it tends to have a short ingredient list: salt, vinegar, and sometimes wine alongside the requisite mustard seeds. Since three of these four items are often used in sweets, I went ahead and added a scoop of Dijon to my next batch of caramels — and I’m absolutely glad that I did. … Continue reading »

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Naan bread pudding with cardamom caramel sauce

Layered Naan Bread Pudding (5)
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It’s well known that the East Bay boasts an array of fantastic take-out food. One of my favorites is a little Indian cafe where the curries are succulent, the buttery rice is speckled with saffron, and the tandoor-blistered naan bread is pillowy, warm, and as big as a record album.

It’s a rare occasion, but every once in a while, there’s leftover naan in my house. It didn’t take me long to turn it into a rich, dense sweet treat — one that’s equally delicious as a hearty dessert or a decadent brunch. With its heap of warm spices and its blankets of custard-soaked fruit and naan, this layered bread pudding is pure lusciousness. A nod to the Indian food behind it, cardamom is abundant in both the creamy pudding layers and the sweet caramel sauce drizzled over each slice. … Continue reading »

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Recipe: Beautiful, flavorful, versatile cranberry curd

Cranberry Curd (10)
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It’s happening again this year. Beautiful cranberries have emerged at the markets, and they’re calling to me with their signature tartness and never-ending dessert potential. Over time, I’ve repeatedly given into this lure, adding cranberries to numerous recipes and even using holiday cranberry sauce in some of my best-loved cookies. But it didn’t take long before I began craving cranberries in a creamy form — one I could incorporate into an array of desserts and menus.

“Curd” is a rather ugly abbreviation for “custard” — but since it denotes a specific type of custard and is well known for its luscious lemon variety, I’ve adopted it into both my vocabulary and my baking repertoire. I think of curd as, essentially, an indulgent and versatile dessert condiment. … Continue reading »

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Recipe: Fig and mascarpone pie with cardamom

Mascarpone fig pie (6)
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The signs of fall’s imminence are upon us. One of my favorites is the abundance of fresh figs, whether they’re found dangling from local trees or heaped into mountains at the market. Their oozing sweetness and jam-like centers are gifts that don’t need much doctoring, but in my view, deserve a celebration.

I decided to create a pie that would showcase the season, starting with a crisp oatmeal crust. For the filling, I chose a stovetop custard made with silky mascarpone: a creamy cradle for the fresh fig slices arranged on top. This combination invited rich and mellow cardamom, along with a bit of orange zest for complementary tang. … Continue reading »

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Aperol spritz cupcakes: Sweet, sour, scrumptious

Aperol cupcakes (13)
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I recently had the privilege of making cupcakes for the wedding of a wonderful couple. The whole process was a joy for me, from the moment the bride asked me in her lovely demeanor, to my merry hours of creating and decorating each little dessert.

Their wedding, too, was teeming with delight and sweetness. Alongside many other fun features, the couple’s favorite cocktails were highlighted at the bar; his: a whiskey sour, hers: an Aperol spritz. The latter left me dreaming of a new dessert creation: an edible rendition of the drink’s most distinctive ingredients. Bubbly-sweet prosecco and tangy Aperol were soon to find their home in a toothsome treat.

I experimented futilely with layer cakes, then cookies — and finally, perhaps naturally, my path led back to cupcakes… with marvelous results. Their reminiscent form was simply meant to be, and I added a bit of grapefruit for a complementary twist. The outcome was a delicious, vibrant, cocktail-inspired creation: lusciously delicate and bittersweet at once. … Continue reading »

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Double plum torte: Fresh, tangy, dense, delicious

double-plum-torte-8
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I grew up spending lots of time with my grandma, who not only stocked prunes like a quintessential senior, but also brought home buttery prune-filled danishes whenever she visited San Francisco (along with fragrant loaves of fresh sourdough bread). As a kid, the pastries were a rare and dazzling treat: flaky, soft dough surrounding a gooey-sweet puree of rich fruit. Remembering them as an adult, I’ve long hoped to create my own prune dessert — and when I started seeing their fresh predecessors at the market this season, I decided it was time. Fresh and dried plums were destined to become a delicious duo. … Continue reading »

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Rhubarb rum sandwich cakes: A taste of springtime

Rhubarb Rum Whoopie Pies (87)
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Rhubarb season seems to slip by quickly each spring, and by the time I think of transforming it into a new treat, it’s gone from the market. I’m left with the disappointment of missing something so bright, so refreshing, and so quintessentially springtime. But not this year.

Craving a casual dessert, I decided on a whoopie pie style cookie: soft but sturdy handheld cakes with a creamy filling. After cooking my rhubarb on the stovetop, I incorporated it into both the batter and the filling of these cakey cookies, then paired it with lightly sweetened cream cheese to mirror its tangy flavor. Some vanilla bean and splash of dark rum would offer a complementary, mellow warmth. … Continue reading »

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Mulberry oat cookies: Distinctive and delicious

Mulberry Cookies (13)
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After a recent dinner out, my dad and I popped into a tiny grocery store and picked up a random sampling of items: Mexican cactus fruit, unusually flavored popsicles (think salted chili cucumber), and a bag of dried white mulberries from Turkey.

That’s one of the things I love about my dad, and something I think I inherited: food curiosity. He’s known to order the most unusual dish on the menu, while I can’t stop experimenting with new ingredients.

Tonight we’d both expected the popsicles to serve as dessert, but we instead ended up polishing off the mulberries before we knew it. They were simply addictive: sweet, tender and almost crispy, with warm notes of vanilla and a buttery essence. … Continue reading »

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Sesame halvah cookies: A sweet Hanukkah treat

Sesame halvah cookies. Photo: Moriah VanVleet
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Dense with sesame sweetness, the taste of halvah always brings me back to the kitchen of my grandmother’s house, where a wedge of the nutty candy was one of her favorite after-dinner indulgences.

Made and spelled in various ways, halvah has ties to numerous regions. For me, halvah came through grandma’s bygone Jewish upbringing, and was always the sesame kind, preferably vanilla marbled with chocolate.

I can’t help thinking of my grandma when Hanukkah comes each year. As a way to both commemorate her and celebrate the holidays, I created a new treat for the season. After encircling a chunk of sweet halvah in buttery dough, I baked them into hearty cookie perfection and topped them with chocolate and sesame seeds. … Continue reading »

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Leftover cranberry sauce? Make these clove cookies

Cranberry clove cookies
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After each visit to see family for the holidays, my husband and I are ever grateful to head home with full bellies and a car packed with leftovers, from stuffing and gravy to containers of cranberry sauce.

My soon-after-Thanksgiving tradition has become not one of shopping, nor of eating turkey sandwiches, but of transforming the leftovers into a holiday treat: orange spice thumbprint cookies made with cranberry sauce.

Pushing centers in

Photo: Moriah VanVleet

Cranberry Clove Cookies (makes about 48)

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • Scant 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • finely grated zest of one orange
  • 1/2 cup cranberry sauce
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice (optional) … Continue reading »
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Spiced pear sandwich cakes: Luscious and laid back

Spiced pear sandwich cakes (11)
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There’s an air of looming formality in autumn. Sandals and shorts disappear into the backs of our closets. Clinking glasses and winter rituals are close on the horizon. Playing in a pile of colored leaves feels invigorating but elusive. So as a small act of rebellion against the buttoned-up-ness that winter will soon bring, I decided to join together two of fall’s most scrumptious ingredients — pears and cloves — in a deliciously relaxed form. … Continue reading »

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Earthy, scrumptious rosehip graham crackers

Rosehip graham crackers (139)
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Other than their occasional presence in tea and jam, rosehips haven’t surfaced much in my life. I suppose they’ve been overshadowed by the ubiquitous flowers of the same plant: roses (which have an entirely different scent and flavor than the fruit we call their hips).

I admit I still haven’t had a chance to taste a fresh rosehip, but I’ve now tried dried rosehips in both whole and powdered form. Earthy and subtly tangy, their flavor brought to mind the wholemeal taste of graham crackers or digestive biscuits — both of which I’ve long found addicting and wondrously versatile. But for some reason I’d never endeavored to make my own at home. Until now. … Continue reading »

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