Cook.Bake.Eat.Write.

Why the new name? Honestly, my mom didn’t like the old one. And when I thought about it, neither did I.

As for Cook.Bake.Eat.Write—it fits better. I like it.

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Two posts back, I blogged about my day of apple-picking in Sebastopol (Still can’t get over the name (^o^) and about how  I came back with a big brown bag of Gravenstein apples. I was so excited/inspired/motivated to get crazy creative with the little darlings. As it turned out, besides the apple tart, I managed to make nothing—yes, it is a classic case of greedy girl eating with her eyes and not her stomach.

In any case, 2 weeks later, I am stuck with about 10 apples of the worst sort—waxy, soft and sad. And though I’ve been doing the whole “apple-a-day” thing, I can’t keep up. There.are.just.too.many.of.them.

I suppose I haven’t really had too much time to think about baking lately. Love life’s a mess; been drinking too much; been spending way too much. Last night, though, I was alone in the house—both L. and M. are in deeply committed, loving relationships blah, blah—and found myself staring at the apples (and vice versa).

I’ve been wanting to have a go at pound cake for some time now. (What’s with all the quickbreads, cake-loaves and pound cakes—I know; I’m not sure why I’m so into them right now.) And I recently discovered a tub of whole milk ricotta that I had planned on using for an Italian ricotta cheesecake (which I still plan on making).

So what to do with waxy apples and a tub of ricotta. Of course—make apple-ricotta pound cake.

There were recipes for apple pound cake and ricotta pound cake but none which used both. So I adjusted this Gina de Palma recipe (found on the Proud Italian Cook website) for ricotta and added 2 grated Gravensteins to the batter.

Love the recipe and LOVE the richness of the ricotta. As for the apples, I can’t taste them. I don’t really care this time—2 down, 8 more to go—but next time, maybe I’ll rough chop the apples or add less ricotta.

This is one heavy mother of a pound cake—I swear it weighs at least 2 lbs.—which is probably why it took about 70 minutes to bake, instead of the 35 as per the recipe’s instructions. Actually, when I read 15 min. at 350 deg. and then 25 at 325, I already knew this was unrealistic.

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This is a stunner when it comes out of the oven—golden, well-risen, syrupy even and with the signature pound cake crack on top. So I was kind of disappointed when I took it out and came back 15 minutes later to find that it had lost about 1 1/2 in. in height.

I waited until the morning after to slice into the thing and do my little amateur 8am photo shoot. So I’m supposed to be on a diet—it’s driving me crazy—but I went ahead and had a piece. Oh, it’s good. Maybe the best pound cake ever.

Hope you try it! Let me know how it turns out! (Will add the picture soon!)

At last—the recipe:

Ricotta Pound Cake (adapted from a Gina de Palma recipe found on Proud Italian Cook)
INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 c cake flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt

3/4 c unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c fresh whole-milk ricotta
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 vanilla bean (Didn’t have any, so upped extract amount by 1/2 tsp)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Confectioner’s sugar for dusting (skipped this—it’s sweet enough.)

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and position rack in center. Grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside. With your mixer cream together the butter, ricotta, and sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 2 min. Beat eggs in one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Split the vanilla bean, scrape out, and beat into the batter along with the extract. On low speed beat in the dry ingredients. Scrape down and beat for 30 seconds more.

Pour batter into prepared pan, smooth down with a spatula. Gently tap pan on counter to remove air pockets. Bake just for 15 min., then turn pan 180 degrees to ensure even browning. Lower temp to 325 degrees F and bake till cake springs back lightly, the sides start to pull away, and when it comes out clean in the center, about 25 min. more.

Note: Proud Italian Cook said if the ricotta is too wet, you should drain it. I wish I would have read that far. That’s probably why mine took AGES to finish baking.

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When I first moved in, I suppose I appreciated the simplicity of my living situation—we were roommates, not friends. At one point, however, it just felt weird to be sharing such an intimate space—home—with two people and not make an effort to know who they are.

I guess I wasn’t the only who felt this way.

Last Wednesday, my two roommates, L. and M., and I finally sat down together for a dinner at home. I’ve been living with these girls for 2 months and this is the first time we really had a chance to talk. Over wine, good cheese and a fish stew that I sort of just threw together (and inspired by this recipe from epicurious), we took turns talking about our work, families and relationships.

I’m glad we did it—L. and M. are amazing, independent, inspiring women. It may be more complex than before, but I think of that as a good thing.

So here’s the stew that brought us 3 girls together.

It’s loaded with vegetables, it’s healthy and it’s pescavegetarian (for L. and M.). Also, it’s completely flexible—as long as you make the basic tomato soup part, you can throw in whatever kind of veggies and seafood you want.

Blurry photo–I know. This is the only one I have…

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Italian Fish Stew (adapted from Epicurious)

INGREDIENTS

1 onion, finely chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

3 carrots, peeled and cut at an angle into bite-sized pieces

splash of white wine

1 large handful fresh basil, including stocks, sliced chiffonade-style

1x 28-oz can plain stewed tomatoes

1-1 1/2 lbs. fish or seafood (I used 3 large tilapia fillets)

2 cups vegetables, cut into bite-sized pieces (I used about 1/2 c. frozen corn and 1 1/2 c. broccoli florets)

salt and pepper, to taste

juice of 1 fresh lemon (could use the zest as well)

DIRECTIONS

1. In a pre-heated non-stick pot, saute the onion, garlic and carrots in a little olive oil until golden in color.

2. Add in a splash of white wine and allow the liquid to reduce to about half.

3. Mix in the stewed tomatoes, chopped basil stocks and salt and pepper. Allow the stew to come to a boil; then, reduce the heat to low. Cover and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes (until the carrots are tender and the liquids have reduced enough to form a thicker stew).

4. Add the broccoli and allow to cook until al dente.

5. Pour about 1/2 the soup mixture into a blender or food processor and mix until smooth. Pour it back into the pot. (Cover the blender with a towel and not the top to avoid splattering.)

6. Add in the remaining vegetables (in my case, frozen corn) and seafood, allowing the soup to cover and cook the fish. Do not stir; otherwise, the fish with break up. Allow to stew for about 3-4 minutes—not longer.

7. Ladle the stew into the bowls. Then, top each bowl with a dollop of fresh, soft goat cheese, a squeeze of lemon and serve.

For dipping, we threw some fresh bread under the broiler, then coated the pieces with a drizzle of olive oil and a few strokes of fresh garlic.

Such an uncomplicated stew but absolutely delicious.

Oh, and of course, serve with lots of wine!

P1060740I’m confused–is it summer or fall? If it really is summer (it IS August), then why am I wearing a scarf every day, and why am I already thinking about booking my plane ticket home for Thanksgiving? Because this is San Francisco, and like Mark Twain once said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Though I must have heard this quote at least 10 times since moving here, it is actually true.

This last weekend, I left the chill of the city to go Gravenstein apple-picking and picnicking in Sebastopol, a cute town about 50 miles North of San Francisco. I know–Sebasto-what? Sebasto-hole? No–Sebasto-pol! As in the Gravenstein apple CAPITAL OF THE WORLD!

It was altogether loads of fun–turning out to be an all-day apple-picnic extravaganza! I left with about 5 lbs. of fruit and a brain full of all the fab things I wanted to make–apple butter, apple jam, apple tart, and apple tarte tatin!!

The bounty of Sebastopol before my eyes, I set out to find the ultimate apple pastry–as in apples in the crust, apples in the filling and apples in the topping.

I didn’t find a recipe with apple in the crust (I suppose I could have just added it–you know like when you add lemon or orange zest–but maybe I will next time. Grated apple essence crust? Has anyone ever done this before?). However, I did find one that utilized apples in both filling and topping, namely a “Zuercher Pfarrhaustorte” (Zurich rectory tart) that I came across on 1x umruehren bitte. Apparently, it’s another Betti Bossi recipe–the Betty Crocker of Switzerland!

I eschewed all plans I had made that Sunday–skipping Ballet in the park and a birthday party (not a close friend; someone’s mom)–staying home instead to put together this ravishing pastry. And I’m so glad I did; I enjoyed every minute–even grinding the hazelnuts by hand with my pestle & mortar (I haven’t gotten round to buying a voltage converter for my food processor yet.)

This tart is perfect for these fresh summer days in the city–it’s all hazelnuts, grated apple and flaky, butter tart crust. According to Zora, the hazelnuts are replaceable with almonds. I also didn’t have quince jam, so I used apricot. Lovely, lovely (>^_^)<

Zürcher Pfarrhaustorte (from 1x umruehren bitte and Betti Bossi)
30 cm tart pan

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shortcrust pastry (recipe see below)

150 g hazelnuts, grated
2 eggs (M)
80 g sugar
1 ts cinnamon
juice of 1 lemon
2 apples, grated

4 apples, peeled, halved, cored and finely incised
2 tb quince jelly, melted (I used apricot.)

Roll out the pastry and line tart pan with baking paper and pastry. Poke small holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork. Put in fridge, until the rest of ingredients are ready.

Preheat oven to 220 C.

Sperate eggs.
Mix yolks, hazelnuts, sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice and grated apples.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form, fold them gently into the hazelnut/apple mix.

Spread the hazelnut/apple mix over the pastry. Put the halved apples on top, cut side down.
Coat apple halves with quince jelly.

Bake tart for 35 minutes.

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I recently made the biggest leap of my life–giving up job, friends and Asia–for love. Traumatic, sad and teary-eyed, I boarded a plane for San Francisco and haven’t looked back since. But, that isn’t the point of this post.

The point is what happened after–how my life has transformed; how I have grown and learned all over again what real love is. I thought life was going to stop, but it didn’t. Despite everything, life has continued and so have I. Here in San Francisco, I have been able to build a new life for myself. I’m working again, I have a good, safe home with kind roommates, and I am completely and utterly surrounded by love. It’s as if I were meant to come here. From the moment I arrived, I have been cradled and taken care of. And somehow, I have been able to heal.

This banana bread recipe comes from my adopted mom and sister here in the Bay area. Like any good banana bread, it is moist, spongey and–best of all–is completely adaptable. So for people like me who can’t help but want to mix in as many dried fruit-nut-chocolate combinations, this recipe is ideal.

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Mrs. Zuehlke’s Banana Bread (recipe from Martha)

INGREDIENTS

2 C flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 C sugar

1/2 C butter

1 C mashed ripe banana (= 2 long or 3 short)

1 C nuts or candied nuts if desired

1/2 C buttermilk (yogurt, sour cream and milk work too)

1 tsp. baking soda

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla or extract of your choosing

1 tsp. salt

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Combine wet ingredients and whirl in blender.

2. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. (If you want to add any nuts, dried fruit and/or grated chocolate, do so now.)

3. Pour the whirled wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix for as little time as possible.

4. Pour batter into a greased pan and bake in a 350F oven for 45 – 60 minutes until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  (One may need more minutes for a smaller, deeper pan than for a larger, shallower one.)

5. Frost if desired.

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I’m obsessed. But at least I know why. I’ve spent many years of my life away from the US and have learned to live without as well as create my own substitutions for certain foods. One such item is buttermilk. Sure, you can get it in Asia, but who wants to pay $11 Singaporean dollars for 1 pint of sour milk? (Thank goodness a DIY version is super easy to make on one’s own!)

Anyway, it’s funny what you miss when you’re far from home and also what things get the label “exotic”–simple things like good-quality cheese, bread, nuts, herbs, dried fruit and chocolate that cost an arm and a leg but which you buy anyway because living without is just too sad and horrifying to imagine (at least for me it is).

Now that I’m back State-side, I am of course taking complete advantage of all these much-missed foods, especially buttermilk. (Too bad I am already missing things like pink guava, mangosteens, kuey teow and dim sum…sigh. Will I ever be content 😛 ) I had almost an entire quart of buttermilk left over from the Raspberry Buttermilk Cake I made before, so I immediately started scouring the web for recipes that required a large amount of the stuff. This recipe for strawberry buttermilk tart that I found on The LoveBite does exactly that–buttermilk in both the crust and the custard!

So–changes I made to the original: for the crust, I used a simple recipe from my go-to Swiss cookbook, TipTopf, replacing the water/cream component with buttermilk. For the custard, the only thing I didn’t do was top the tart with strawberries–definitely would have; just didn’t have any at home at the time.

I’d never actually heard of or tasted “buttermilk tart” before (apparently it’s a Southern US thing). It’s easy-peasy to put together and bakes up all golden–meringue-y on the top and custard-y on the bottom. Loved it.

(Strawberry) Buttermilk Tart (taken from The LoveBite)

INGREDIENTS

Pastry:

200g flour

2 pinches of salt

100g cold butter

2-3 tbsp sugar

grated zest of 1/2 lemon

1 egg

1-2 tbsp buttermilk

Filling:

2 cups buttermilk

1 cup milk (I used non-fat–no issues.)

3 oz butter

3 eggs, separated

3 tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

grated zest of 1 lemon

2 pints fresh strawberries (optional–I left them out)

INSTRUCTIONS

Prepare the pastry: Combine and stir together the flour and salt.

Then, cut in the cold butter, carefully mixing it in together with your fingertips.

Add the lemon zest, egg and buttermilk. Stir together quickly–until the dough is just formed.

Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Pre heat the oven to 350f / 180c

Place a large sheet of baking parchment on your counter space…at least 20 inches…sprinkle a little flour onto it. Place the pastry disc in the centre. Sprinkle a little more flour on top of the pastry and use a rolling pin to roll the pastry out into a 17 inch circle about 1/4 inch thick.

Butter the 9 inch springform pan, then place it upside down in the centre of the pastry. Place your hand under the baking parchment, use your other hand to hold the springform pan in place and carefully flip the pastry and pan. Ease the pastry down into the pan and peel back the baking parchment. Carefully mould the pastry to the bottom and sides of the pan. I re-use the parchement by tearing it into pieces and I line the bottom and sides of the pastry with it. Then place the 8 inch pan into the centre. You are going to ‘blind-bake’ the pastry shell and this will stop the sides from collapsing. Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven, remove the 8 inch pan and peel back the baking parchment.  Prick the bottom of the tart shell with a fork…every inch or so. This pastry has a little rise in it and will have puffed up. That’s okay.  Pop it back into the oven for another 10 minutes (I didn’t do this, and it turned out fine).

Start preparing the Buttermilk custard: Place the milk and butter in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter melts; remove from heat (Do not let it boil).

In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks, cornflour, sugar and vanilla.

In a smaller (very clean) mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until they foam. Add a pinch of salt and continue beating until the egg whites look glossy white and hold stiff peaks.

Pour the hot milk in a slow and steady stream into the egg yolk mix. Whisk constantly to do this. Stop pouring and keep whisking if you can’t do both at once. This mix will thinken and you don’t want the eggs to get lumpy. Whisk the buttermilk into the yolks. Add the lemon zest.

Spoon about 1/4 of the egg white mix and fold it into the yolk mix by strirring from the bottom and up and over in a circular motion. Add the rest of the egg whites. Do not beat the batter as all of the air in the egg whites will be beaten out of the custard and it is this which makes the custard so fluffy and light.

Pour the batter into the tart shell and sprinkle some brown sugar on top.

Bake about 45 mins or until golden on top and the custard is just set in the middle.

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It’s been 2 months since I moved into my new place, and finally I can say it feels like home.

I’m still missing parts of my standmixer and am in the process of stocking shelves with all the usual baking necessities, but I couldn’t wait any longer. I needed to BAKE! To christen the oven and my new baking space, I chose a simple cake recipe that I found on Smitten Kitchen‘s website. The only tweaking I did was to add chopped pecans; otherwise, though, I pretty much stuck to the recipe. Also, as with any recipe where berries are called for, I totally upped the amount–I couldn’t help myself.

So here’s the recipe. I actually baked mine in a loaf pan which turned out fine.

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake (adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Gourmet, 2009)

INGREDIENTS
1 cup (130g) all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp (2g) baking powder

1/2 tsp (2g) baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 stick (56g) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup (146g), plus 1 1/2 tbsp (22g) sugar, divided

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp grated lemon zest (optional)

1 large (57g) egg, room temp.

1/2 cup buttermilk, well-shaken

1 cup fresh raspberries (I used about 1 1/2)

1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 2/3 cup (146 grams) sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about two minutes, then beat in vanilla and zest, if using. Add egg and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter (see Note) raspberries and pecans evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 grams) sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.


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  • Mama Leah: Well, my darling, I am extremely impressed and inspired. I, of course, don't have one iota of the culinary skills that you have (except for baking, b
  • saffronandbasil: Thanks for the recipe. By the way, LOVE LOVE your site.