Saturday, April 18, 2015

Twelve Recipes Cookbook

                                                           Twelve Recipes by Cal Peternell

  This cookbook is a simple, straightforward primer on the basics of cooking, but with creative flourishs on every page. Originally written for Cal's son when he went away to college, this cookbook is much more sophisticated than the layout and chapter titles would lead you to believe.

  Cal Peternell is executive chef at world renowed Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA. His style of writing is relaxed, and this comes across in his recipes very clearly. I can imagine that cooking with his instruction would be an adventure, and enjoyable. In the words of Michael Pollan in the foreword: "Twelve Recipes is a resolutely informal, handwritten invitation to come back into the kitchen and learn the basics from a dude so chill that you will quickly forget that he is also a brilliant cook."

  Don't be put off by the titles of the chapters, as I almost was. Something about Toast didn't really excite me, but he's not talking plain ordinary toast here. Besides, my favorite breakfast is just that, buttered of course! Then he goes on to Eggs, including all kinds of variations on the theme. Once you get to the third chapter titled Beans, you begin to understand that Cal knows his flavors, and is innovative without being fussy. Chapter four is Salad Dressings And What To Dress. Salad dressings are one of my weakest links in the kitchen. I don't tend to take the time to make them from scratch, but Cal is nudging me in that direction ever so gently...and I'm inspired to give some of these dressings a try.

The remaing chapter titles are: Pasta With Tomato, Pasta Otherwise,Rice, Polenta and Mashed Potatoes, Vegetables Boiled, Roasted, Sauteed, and in Soups, Roasted Chicken, Braising, Grilling, Three SauceS: Bechamel, Salsa Verde, Mayonnaise, Cake: Carrot Cake, Plum Upside Down Cake, Blackberry Crisp...!

  My purpose was to whet your appetite and entice you, the reader, with a brief overview of a truly wonderful and refreshing cooking perspective, guided by Cal's expertise. The color pictures and drawings throughout the book add to its charm. Check it out!

  Bon Apetit!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Peppermint and Vanilla Cream Cheesecake

                        Peppermint and Vanilla Cream Cheesecake


25 chocolate graham crackers
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted


3  8oz. pkgs cream cheese
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup crushed peppermint candy, plus more for garnish
red food coloring
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

For the crust:
Crush graham crackers into fine crumbs. Mix the crumbs with the sugar, salt and melted butter. Press the crumb mixture evenly into the bottom and all the way up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Chill in freezer for 15 minutes.

For the cheesecake:

Beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and mix to combine. Beat in the peppermint and vanilla extracts and carefully fold in the crushed peppermint candy. Stir in 2-3 drops red food coloring until filling is a light pink color. Pour filling into the crust; smooth top with a spatula and refrigerate cheesecake until firm-21/2-3 hours.

Mix together the sour cream and confectioner's sugar, and spread mixture evenly over the top of the cheesecake. Chill for one more hour. Serve with extra crushed peppermint on top. Serves 8-12.

Enjoy!!  *I purposely left out the red food coloring and the folded in peppermint candy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Amazing Cookbooks!

                                       Amazing Cookbooks!

  In the past 6 months I've come across many inspirational cookbooks, and I've been trying out recipes here and there, and, I feel bad admitting this...but many of them were baked desserts...which should have been put on this blog. 

  So, even though I have not posted anything in 7 months, I have been baking all kinds of desserts and cookies. Recently I came across the Tartine Cookbook from the renowned bakery in S.F., and the pictures are worth the price of the cookbook. I baked the bittersweet chocolate, oatmeal, walnut cookies, and they disappeared quickly. Next, I plan to bake the lemon chiffon cake, which I will post here, unless it disappears too fast to catch on film.

Another wonderful cookbook, Marcus Off Duty by Marcus Samuelsson is full of unusual twists on everything from Steamed Catfish with Citrus-Soy Vinaigrette to Sticky-Fingers Curried Lobster Stew to Sweet and Salty Mud Pie.

To entice you into checking out Marcus Off Duty, here is the recipe for spice cookies, which I made weeks ago, and everyone loved them.

                                     Mormor's Spice Cookies (makes 5 Dozen)

1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
3 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
10 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup molasses

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place racks in middle and upper third of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

2. Combine the cinnamon,ginger,cardamom, and cloves in a small skillet over medium heat and toast, stirring with a wooden spoon, until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.

3. Immediately scrape the spices into a bowl. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and white pepper and whisk to combine.

4. Beat the butter and both sugars with an electric mixer in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. beat in the molasses. Stir in the dry ingredients.

5. Drop rounded tablespoons of the dough onto the baking sheets, spacing the cookies 2 inches apart. Bake until the tops feel firm when lightly touched, 10-12 minutes, switching the pans halfway through. Cool cookies on the baking sheets for about 2 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely. Let the baking sheets cool, line with fresh parchment, and bake the rest of the cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Banana-Coconut Cream Pie

                                             Banana-Coconut Cream Pie

                                          (from Cat Cora's Kitchen Cookbook)


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

7 Tbsp. chilled, unsalted butter
cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/4 cup vegetable shortening, chilled

2 Tbsp. ice water

vegetable oil for greasing


1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 cups shredded, sweetened, dried coconut, plus 2 Tbsp.

1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar

2 large egg yolks

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch

pinch of kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 Tsp. unsalted butter

1 banana, thinly sliced


3/4 cup 96 ounces) mascarpone cheese

2 drops vanilla extract

2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. confectioner's sugar

3/4 cup heavy cream

To make the crust,combine the 1 1/2 cups flour, the sugar, and the salt in a food processor, and pulse just twice. Add the butter and shortening to the processor and pulse until the mixture forms crumbs the size of peas. Slowly add the water until the crumbs appear moist.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and press into a flat disk. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. After an hour or more, roll the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface into a round 12 inches in diameter, and about 1/8 inch thick. Gently pick up the dough, and drape it over a 9-inch pie pan. Gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim the edges. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil. Fit the foil gently into the chilled pie crust, oil side down. reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. fill the pan with pie weights or dried beans over the foil, and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and beans, reduce the heat to 325, and bake until the shell is golden brown and cooked through...5-8 minutes. Set aside on a wire rack.

To make the filling, heat the milk and the 1/2 cup coconut together in a saucepan just until small bubbles begin to form around the edges of the pan. Take care not to scald the milk. Remove the pan from the heat, and let the milk steep for 20 minutes. Strain, pressing the liquid out of the coconut. Discard the coconut. In a bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks, and then add the 2 Tbsp. flour, the cornstarch, and the salt. reheat the coconut milk gently and temper into the yolk mixture. Bring to a full boil, stirring constantly. remove from the heat. Stir in the 2 Tbsp. coconut, the vanilla, and the butter.

Arrange the banana slices in the bottom of the prebaked pie crust, and immediately pour the filling over the top before the slices can brown. Allow the pie to cool for 2-3 hours.

To make the topping, whisk together the mascarpone, vanilla, confectioner's sugar, and 2/3 cup of the cream until soft peaks form. Add the remaining cream and gently whisk until the cream holds firm peaks. Spoon the cream immediately onto the cooled pie, cut into wedges and serve. Serves 8-10.

Oatella Cookies

                                                             Oatella Cookies

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

13 oz. jar Nutella

2 cups rolled oats

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the salt, cinnamon and baking soda. In mixing bowl, beat the shortening with both sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

2. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the side of the bowl. Add the Nutella and beat until smooth. Reduce the speed to low, and beat in the dry ingredients until just incorporated, then beat in the oats.

3. Scoop 1-tablespoon mounds of dough 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned and the cookies are just set. Shift the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. Immediately transfer the cookies from the pan to racks to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough. Makes 5 dozen cookies.

*These are the BEST cookies I have ever baked!*

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Neely's Coconut Banana Cake

I made this cake for Easter, and I have to admit it was awesomely delicious!!

The recipe is from Neely's Southern Cooking Cookbook.

                                   Coconut Banana Cake

1 cup butter, at room temp.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

3 large very ripe bananas

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup chopped pecans

2 cups sweetened coconut flakes, for garnish

1 recipe coconut frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and adjust rack to the middle shelf. Butter and flour 2 9-inch cake pans.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Mash the bananas with a wooden spoon in a separate small bowl.

Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a standing mixer until light and fluffy. Crack in the eggs, one at a time, mixing in the first completely before adding the second. Stir in the mashed bananas, sour cream, and vanilla, and beat until just combined. Add the dry ingredients, and gently stir in the pecans. Divide the batter between the two pans.

Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cakes are cooling, pour coconut flakes evenly onto a baking sheet. Place in the 350 degree oven and toast for 2-3 minutes, or until they turn a light golden-brown color.

To assemble the cakes: Place one layer, top side down, on a cake stand. Spread on a thick layer of frosting with a spatula. Place the other layer of cake on top of the frosting. Frost the top and sides of the cake by working from the center of the cake toward the edge, making sure to coat evenly. Gently press the toasted coconut on the sides of the cake.

                                        Coconut Frosting  (makes 7 cups)

 Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

2 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 tsp. coconut extract

5 cups confectioners' sugar

Beat the cream cheese and butter together in a standing mixer until light and smooth. Pour in the vanilla and coconut extracts, and slowly add the confectioners' sugar, 1 cup at a time, until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed with a spatula. Set aside until ready to frost.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Yellow Cake w/ Creamy Chocolate Frosting

                                   Yellow Cake w/ Creamy Chocolate Frosting
                                    (from The Kitchen Counter Cooking School )

3 cups sifted cake flour, or 2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
6 Tbsp. unsalted, softened butter
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottoms of two 8-inch round cake pans; line the bottoms with wax or parchment paper. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the sugar and butter together until they become light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes.

Add the vanilla, then beat in the eggs one at a time until thoroughly incorporated, about 4 minutes.

Next, add one-third of the flour mixture, then half the milk, then more flour mixture, then the rest of the milk, and end with the rest of the flour mixture, beating well after each addition. When its all combine, beat for one more minute.

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pans. Cool completely before frosting.

Creamy Chocolate Frosting

2 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
6 Tbsp. cocoa powder
6 Tbsp. butter, softened
5 Tbsp. evaporated or 2 % milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Sift together the confectioners sugar and cocoa; set aside.

Using a mixer or a beater, cream the butter until smooth. Gradually shake in the sugar-cocoa mixture, alternating with the milk. When all is combined thoroughly, add the vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. add more milk or cocoa powder if needed to adjust consistency and taste.

**This cake was a family favorite!!! Gone in 24 hours!**