Party Planning: Strawberries and Cream “Pocky”

April 24th, 2013 · 8 Comments · Cookies, Recipes

Strawberries and cream pocky

Fun fact: I finally had a dream where my baby was in it. I guess it took a while for my subconscious to catch up, but I suppose now I’m a mommy through and through. One of my biggest fears when I was pregnant was that I would never have a free moment again. Would I never be able to do anything without thoughts of baby running through my head like a subliminal bassline?

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Happy Holidays!

December 24th, 2012 · 1 Comment · Cookies, Recipes, Sated

cookiejar 2

Happy Monday! I hope you are all enjoying the holidays with your family and loved ones. It’s been ridiculously rainy and windy here – it won’t be a white Christmas here, but it’ll probably be a wet one.

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{Cookbook Review} ‘Tis the Time for Better Nutter Butters

December 3rd, 2012 · 11 Comments · Cookbooks, Cookies, Recipes, Reviews

Homemade Nutter Butters on dessertfirstgirl.com

Happy December! Hope you had a good Thanksgiving holiday!

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Prepare to Get Sated

April 30th, 2012 · 174 Comments · Chocolate, Cookies, Recipes, Sated

sated issue1 cover

Dear readers,

It’s been a little while since my last cookbook was published. Some of my friends have been asking me what my next project would be, and I’m so excited to finally be able to announce it to the world:

I have been collaborating with Stephanie of the beautiful Desserts for Breakfast to create a new food magazine! About nine months ago, while sharing thoughts about our personal goals, we started tossing around the idea of producing our own magazine, to reflect our own particular vision of food. The idea evolved over months of late night discussions and lots of hard work, into sated magazine.

Sounds ambitious and a little crazy, right? Yes to both. There were several times when Stephanie and I looked at each other and we weren’t sure when the light at the end of the tunnel would appear. Obviously there’s so much more to creating a publication than writing words and taking photos. But in the end, all the behind-the-scenes work is worth it if you, the audience, can see our words and images presented the way we envisioned them being seen.

What is sated? sated is a quarterly production dedicated to beautiful images and thoughtful writings about food. Each issue will explore a single subject, such as chocolate, flour, or fruit, through recipes, interviews, stories, art, and photography. The end result is an intersection of culinary magazine and coffee table artbook.

sated is intended to be a print publication – although we’re working out an electronic option, we think it’s best appreciated in hardcopy format. Our hope is that sated is the type of magazine you keep on your bookshelf  or leave on your coffee table, not the kind of monthly magazine that gets read once and then recycled. That’s also why we’re starting out quarterly: to give us the time to research and produce the quality of content we want.

Here’s the concept statement I wrote in my notebook: sated is a peek into the notebook of your well-traveled bon vivant friend with a deep appreciation for the past and a streak of whimsy. She is the one who knows the origin of opera cake and finds a way to make a modern twist on it. She is the one who can talk about the differences between ten kinds of butter in a simple and funny way that makes you want to go out and buy all of them. When you open her journal, you’ll find notes on why using a molinillo to froth chocolate works best, a recipe for cinnamon brioche she wrangled from the owner of a fabulous B&B she just visited, a favorite quote from MFK Fisher, a photo of an apple orchard in fall afternoon light. She takes the best of the past and the present and combines it into her own ideal world.

sated is food with intimacy and personality. We want readers to feel like they are being invited into their friend’s home – their friend who is eager to share her enthusiasm for food . There’s so much information on food out there today that people feel overwhelmed with the need to be up to date on everything. sated isn’t looking to be trendy. sated is a leisurely exploration into the sideways and byways of food  – its history, its meaning, and most importantly its beauty.

Our first issue of sated is dedicated to dark chocolate – a fairly easy choice for two dessert lovers! We’ll put the table of contents up on the sated site soon, but we’ve put together some pretty great content I’m proud of: articles about the craft chocolate movement, how-to features, chocolate guides, and, of course, lots of chocolate recipes accompanied by Stephanie’s stunning photography. We are wrapping up production and we’re looking to announce its release within the next couple of weeks. So prepare yourself to get sated.

I’ve been blogging about food for five and a half years now, and I’ve gotten some truly amazing opportunities through my site. I hope I never stop blogging, but as my Facebook profile says, I’m always looking for the next horizon. Having written my own books and for other publications, I wanted to take on a new creative project that would challenge me and help me expand both my existing skills and develop new ones.

I’m a pretty private (shy) person, which may sound strange for someone who writes about her life weekly on a public blog. I’m still surprised when friends or acquaintances outside the food world come up to me and say they’ve visited my site. I tend not to broadcast my inner thoughts and aspirations too publicly – probably stemming from my twin tendencies to be self-reliant and to fear failure. Easier to share things when they’re all finished and done, and all the rough edges hidden away behind the curtain. So yes, I downplayed this magazine for a while, even to my friends, so I wouldn’t have to answer anyone, “oh, that magazine thing I was working on? Yeah, I have no idea what I’m doing or where it’s going,” or “oh, the magazine project? yeah, that didn’t quite pan out the way I planned.”

But the time for self-doubt is over. So sated is me throwing my windows open to the world, a public statement from me and Stephanie about how we feel about food, so I hope you’ll support us, and tell all your friends about it, and let us know what you think. Visit the website to learn about the magazine – we’ll be posting up more material and updates, and when the magazine is published you’ll be able to purchase it through the site. Also, if you’re interested in contributing to sated, use the e-mail links on the site.  I mentioned that I have a hard time asking for help, but a magazine is not a two-person job, and I have no problem saying that out loud now! To fully realize the vision we have for sated, we’ll need many more talented people on our team. If you’re intrigued by the sated mission, drop us a line!

chocolate sables overhead

To help celebrate the announcement of this magazine, I’m sharing a recipe that I made for the San Francisco Food Bloggers Bake Sale last weekend. Thank you to all of you who came out and supported us, by the way – it was a great event and everyone enjoyed themselves, and we raised quite a bit for Share Our Strength!

I made a duo of cookies, one of which was Chocolate Raspberry Sablés. Sablés are one of my favorite cookies for their dreamy, crumbly texture – butter and sugar meshed into a delicate cohesion, ready to melt at the lightest bite into crisp-tender goodness in your mouth. Two secrets: don’t overwork the dough and don’t overbake. I added some freeze-dried raspberries (chocolate and raspberry are one of my favorite combinations) for a bright burst of contrast. These are wonderfully poppable – and addictive.

Also, we’re running a giveaway to celebrate sated. We are giving away two copies of the premier issue of sated to Dessert First and Desserts for Breakfast readers. There are several chances for you to enter:

1)Leave a comment on this post for one entry.

2) Leave a comment on the Desserts for Breakfast post for one entry.

3) Follow sated on Twitter and tweet about it for one entry (you do not need to post a comment here; we’ll track it through Twitter).

4) Like sated on Facebook and leave a comment on the page for one entry (you do not need to post a separate comment here).

5) Sign up to be on sated’s mailing list for one entry (you do not need to post a separate comment here).

The giveaway will run until May 18, at which point we’ll choose two lucky winners at random to receive the very first issue of sated.

 

Thanks so much and good luck! Please stay tuned for more updates, including previews of issue one!

chocolate sables

Chocolate Raspberry Sablés

makes about 3 dozen cookies
  • 1 1/4 cups (156 g) all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (29 g) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 11 tablespoons (156 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup freeze dried raspberries
  • Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
  • Beat butter in a stand mixer until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add sugar and cream for another 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy.
  • Add in egg and beat to combine.
  • Add in flour mixture and beat just until combine and the mixture starts to come together. Do not overmix - it should still be crumbly but if you press it together with your hands it will stick together.
  • Divide dough in half and roll into 1 1/2 inch diameter logs. The dough should hold together; if it does not you can mix it a little more in the mixer but try not to turn it into a completely solid ball of dough.
  • Wrap logs in plastic wrap and chill for a couple hours until firm.
  • Preheat ovens to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Using a sharp knife, slice 1/2" thick rounds from the cookie logs. Place cookies about 2 inches apart on baking sheets.
  • Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating halfway through. Remove from oven and let cool on wire racks.

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{Cookbook Review} Cookie Time: Linzer Cookies and A Slew of Cookie Cookbooks

December 5th, 2011 · 13 Comments · Cookbooks, Cookies, Recipes, Reviews

linzer cookies

Happy December! Thanks to all who entered the Teacake Bake Shop giveaway. The winner of the cookie sampler, chosen at random, is:

Picture 1

Reader #10, Amy! Congratulations and hope you enjoy!

For everyone else, no need for sadness, as we are entering the prime cookie-baking season of the year. My fab friend Annelies just threw a cookie swap party over the weekend – keep an eye out for some truly tasty cookie recipes popping up on the blogs in the next few days. I have to admit I was a little unoriginal with my entry: I used one of my favorite linzer cookie recipes (making them always puts me in a holiday frame of mind), but I changed up the presentation with some little alphabet cookie cutters.

I’m going to be really nerdy and point out that we were asked to bring a dozen cookies to the party, and the phrase I chose worked out to a baker’s dozen. Sweet, yes? I also inadvertently provided some of the party entertainment by essentially bringing edible anagrams; obviously bloggers will be ardent wordsmiths, and I’ll let you figure out how we got from “Happy Holidays” to “Laos”.

For those of you looking for some more cookie inspiration, there are quite a few new cookie books out for the holidays. Let’s take a look (FYI, my full cookbook roundup will be following soon!)

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Apple, Pecan, and Cinnamon Crumble Bars

September 2nd, 2009 · 18 Comments · Cookies, Fruit, Recipes

Applecrumblebarserved

Thanks to all my readers for your well-wishes – it’s been a hectic, topsy-turvy couple of weeks but we are starting to get settled into our new home and we love it! It’s no surprise, is it, that the first area to get organized was the kitchen?

This is going to be a mini-digest of a post, since there’s so much I’d love to catch you up on but just couldn’t find the time amid the whirlwind of moving. Here is one of many highlights of the last two weeks:

MeFGC2

Yes, Field Guide to Candy: How To Identify and Make Virtually Every Candy Imaginable is officially out!! It’s available on Amazon , Chronicle Books, and Quirk Books, my publisher. I haven’t seen it on bookshelves in brick-and-mortar retailers but I am sure they will show up very soon! I hope to provide a proper introduction to the book when I get back from Hong Kong. Hong Kong? Er, yes, I might have forgotten to mention that. Guess who will be lugging about 15 copies of the book overseas for her family?

So, back to the new kitchen and my desire to break it in before I left for vacation. What would be the inaugural dessert? Well, a couple of weeks before we moved out, we went up to Sebastopol for the Gravenstein Apple Festival and a heaping slice of summer and Americana - a last little road trip before the moving madness.

Gravensteinapples

It was full, flush summer up in wine country, unlike fog-clad San Francisco. Children in shorts and sandals ran through a hay maze and petted baby goats, while their parents pored over the vintage farm machinery on display and listened to mellow, loose-limbed country music from the stage. And all around, bushels of red and green striped apples.

Gravenstein apples are a baker’s dream, and there were apple pies in abundance at the festival, along with apple tarts, turnovers, and cobblers – a veritable golden orchard of apple-y delights waiting to be eaten.  We also had some marvelously thick, rich cider, the color of old pennies and icy cold for a hot summer afternoon.

Babygoat

The first bite into a ripe Gravenstein is pure sensory pleasure: the sharp crunch as teeth bite through pleasantly firm flesh; the sweet-tart fragrance of the apple’s juices rushing into your nose, and finally, the crisp, assertive tang of the fruit tickling your tongue. How pallid and pedestrian, by comparison, the experience of eating those mealy, one-dimensional, inoffensively but insipidly sweet apples found en masse at some groceries. Eating a Gravenstein is a stirring reminder of what real food tastes like, and why it’s better, even essential, to have variety and heterogeneity in the crops we grow, and not just one over-bioengineered, mass produced variety of tomato or corn or peach at the store.

Traindriver

In fact, the distinctiveness of the Gravenstein apple has been recognized by Slow Food Nation: It has included Gravenstein apples in its Ark of Taste, a list of unique foods that are in danger of extinction and merit preservation. Unfortunately, Gravensteins only grow for a short period of time (they are mostly harvested in July and August), and their relative delicacy compared to other apple species has led to a steady decline in the number of orchards inSonomaCounty growing them. Today there are only about six commercial growers of these apples left inSonoma. Although Gravensteins can be found in a few other places around the US and the rest of the world, they are an especially cherished tradition inSonoma, and there was a definite sense of pride among the locals at the festival, a joy in celebrating this piece of their heritage.

Cratelabelsigns

I lugged home two big bags of gorgeously candy-striped apples home and put them in our brand spanking new refrigerator – refrigeration recommended for keeping the apples longer. While pondering what to make, of course I had to eat one to get an idea of the flavor – and one turned into another, until I had to stop! These are wonderful apples for eating – they can be very tart when they’re green and not fully ripe, but find the perfect one and it’s a wonderful, full-bodied, full-flavored beauty. The texture is so wonderfully crisp, as well, although I recommend if you want to eat them, you should do so as soon as possible. They will get softer the longer they sit; still great for baking, but perhaps not as much for eating.

Applecrumblebar

While a pie would be the classic option (and I saw many a mouthwatering pie at the festival), the kitchen was still too much of a mess and equipment still packed away, for me to attempt the Zen exercise of the perfect pie crust. I opted instead for a shortcut version: apple crumble bars from my Field Guide to Cookies book. The apples are cooked in butter and sugar with a sprinkling of cinnamon until they’re translucent and just-soft, then spread over a brown sugar crust. A sprinkle of pecan-laced stre usel, strewn over the top, provides a crunchy golden crown to the bars. The assertive Gravenstein apples really stand out in these bars – you can take out some of the sugar if you want to preserve their tartness, but I found this just the right balance. They’re obviously best fresh out the oven, when the apples are still gooey and the crust nicely crisp. You can reheat the bars in the oven for a day or so afterwards, but it’s best to eat them as soon as possible before they get soggy – not the most onerous of tasks!

Applecrumblebarstack

I feel like I’m just starting to get used to the new place, and already I’m off! I’m going to be in Hong Kong for the next week and a half, and when I return I hope to be freshly inspired to make the best use of my new kitchen!

You can stay updated on travels via my Twitter feed. I’m looking forward to spending some time with my family, eating some really good dim sum, and of course checking out as many bakeries and dessert places as possible! It’s also going to be super hot weather-wise there, so I’ll be doing my best to stay cool!

Have a great Labor Day weekend, and I’ll look forward to sharing my adventures when I get back in a week and a half!

Applecrumblebarspan

Apple, Pecan, and Cinnamon Crumble Bars

Makes about 15 bars

Filling

  • 5-6 large tart apples (about 3 lb total)
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Crust

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature

Streusel

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1-in pieces
  • 1/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped

For the filling:

  • Peel, core, and chop the apples into 1/2-inch cubes. Set aside in a bowl.
  • Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the apples and sauté for about 8 minutes until the apples are semi-soft.
  • Add sugar, lemon juice, flour, and cinnamon to the apples and stir to combine.
  • Cook until mixture begins to bubble, then turn heat to low and cook for another 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer filling to a bowl and let cool while you make the crust.

For the crust:

  • Line a 9 by 13 inch pan with aluminum foil, leaving enough to hang over the edge and act as handles to remove bars after baking. Grease foil.
  • Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl and set aside.
  • In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together on medium speed for several minutes until light and fluffy.
  • Add egg and mix to combine.
  • Add flour mixture and mix to combine.
  • Pour about half the dough into the prepared pan and gently press into the bottom of the pan, making sure it is level. Add in more dough as necessary to cover the bottom of the pan, but you will probably not use it all. (You can use it all if you want a thicker base for your bars. Set pan aside while you make the streusel.

For the streusel:

  • In a stand mixer, combine sugar, flour, and salt and mix to combine.
  • Add butter and mix until crumbly and the butter pieces are very small.
  • Add pecans and mix just to combine.

To finish the bars:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread cooled apple filling evenly over the crust, leaving about 3/4” between the pan sides and the filling.
  • Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the filling. Bake for about 35-40 minutes until the top layer is golden. Cool completely on wire rack before removing.

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