Author Archives: Moriah VanVleet
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
Perusing the aisles at Rockridge Market Hall, one of my favorite local markets, I recently came across a beautiful little bottle of soy sauce: a product to which I don’t usually give much attention. But this decorated label magnetized me with phrases like “small batch”, “non-GMO”, “limestone filtered spring water”, and “brewed and aged in bourbon barrels”. And the description of the taste captivated me the most: “hints of oak and a mild sweetness reminiscent of fine Kentucky bourbon.” With those words, I decided this soy sauce was destined to be part of my next dessert recipe.
Like most soy sauce, my new bottle was pleasantly rich, salty, and a bit malty at once. With its special robust flavor, I couldn’t think of a better match than molasses-rich dark brown sugar, and a moist skillet cake would offer a perfect format. For complementary complexity, I embellished and enhanced the cake with tangy, bright oranges and plenty of vanilla. To top it all off, the interplay of brown sugar, butter and salt would spontaneously create a sort of succulent butterscotch, present in every rich bite. Here is the recipe. … Continue reading »
The label on my bottle of locally made absinthe boasts that its “complexity comes from the use of fine brandy, star anise, wormwood, lemon balm, hyssop, meadowsweet, basil, fennel, tarragon and stinging nettles.”
A tiny whiff of it, and I feel like I can smell every complementary component. A tiny taste, and the unique herbs join hands and dance around a ceremonial fire on my tongue. With a vision like this, maybe it’s not too surprising that the spirit was outlawed in the U.S. for almost a century. (But of course there were other rumored reasons. See 3:10 and 6:14 of this great video.)
I couldn’t help thinking of new dessert recipes when I first tasted absinthe, but when I learned about its most historical and quintessential cocktail — the sazerac — I was even more inspired. … Continue reading »
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 »
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 »