Tag Archives: baking

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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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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A baker’s moment: Semifreddi’s celebrates 30 years

Tom Frainier, 'Chief Bootlicker"(aka CEO) at Semifreddi's. Photo: Pete Rosos
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Tom Frainier likes to cuddle a freshly baked loaf at his Semifreddi’s bakery and exclaim, “Bread is sexy.”

Frainier’s passion for making a beautiful and delicious foodstuff based on the ancient art of fermenting grain is evident. The idea of creating many jobs also excites him.

“We are the offensive linemen of the food world and not the celebrity chefs,” the Semifreddi’s CEO said recently. “Every day the team grinds out what has been made for thousands of years. Our business mission has evolved from ‘take care of the customer’ into ‘take care of our employees.”

This is a man whose business card reads: ‘Chief Bootlicker.’ … Continue reading »

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Brown sugar soy sauce cake: Gooey, citrusy, delish

Brown Sugar Soy Sauce Cake (165)
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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 »

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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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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

Cinnamon Peach Sandwich Cakes. Photo: Moriah Van Vleet
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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. Photo: Moriah Van Vleet
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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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