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Friday, August 29, 2014

Bay Leaf Pound Cake

Or should I call it Bae Leaf Pound Cake? Anyone? No? Everyone else may be over the bae phenomenon, but I most certainly am not. I think the appearance of the word bae in our vernacular was, quite possibly, the single greatest linguistic advent in my lifetime.

Now this may seem like an exaggeration to you, but I find 'bae' slipping into my conversations at the very least a handful of times a day. It's my favorite of endearment. It's tender. It's sweet. And it suits all of my best baes perfectly. Just like this pound cake.

Bay leaf isn't usually the first flavor that comes to mind when you think sweets, but please don't relegate it to the realm of rag├╣ and lentil soup. It brings an earthy, herbal quality to this pound cake that indulges my penchant for desserts that taste like soap. The moist, tender crumb studded with vanilla beans becomes hearty and complex with the addition of bay leaves, and the richness is cut by the tart clementine glaze.

So I implore you. Make this cake now. And make it before bae (bay) leaves.

Bay Leaf Pound Cake
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Makes 1 loaf or small bundt cake

For the cake:
6 tablespoons salted butter
3 fresh bay leaves, plus more for decoration
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup mascarpone
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Finely grated zest of 2 clementines
Beans scraped from one vanilla pod

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
Juice from 2 clementines
1 teaspoon Grand Mariner

Preheat oven to 350. Thoroughly grease bundt pan or loaf pan, dust with flour, then tap out excess. In a small saucepan set over low, heat butter until melted. Place bay leaves in melted butter and leave to steep for one hour. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together mascarpone, eggs, zest, and vanilla beans. Once butter has steeped for an hour, whisk into mascarpone mixture. Make a well in dry ingredients and pour wet ingredients in. Gently stir in wet ingredients in a figure-8 motion, careful not to over-mix. Spread batter evenly in prepared baking dish. Lay extra bay leaves over top of the batter in any pattern you choose. Place in oven for 35-40 minutes, until top is golden brown and firm to the touch and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. While cake is cooling, in a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, clementine juice, and Grand Mariner. Once cake has cooled, remove from pan and drizzle with glaze.

More Pound Cake

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Peach and Almond Crumble

Growing up, crumble was a fixture in my household. Crumble, cobbler, buckle. All variations on an incredibly delicious theme. Sweetened, cooked fruit tenderly tucked beneath some sort of crunchy, buttery topping. Whether more akin to a biscuit or an oaty granola, I never complained. I was just happy to scrape off the top, leaving the soft, sticky fruit for some other poor soul to gobble up. Not that they were complaining either, to be honest.

At about the age of 13, crumble took up a new, and rather hilarious, place in my mind. Thanks to hundreds of screenings of The Mighty Boosh's skit 'Old Gregg' in rapid succession, I could recite his lines, hand over heart, as confidently and proudly as I saluted my great nation every morning in Homeroom. Gregg was as preoccupied with tasty treats as he was with love games and winning the affection of visitors who came to his lair. 

He discussed the merits of Bailey's Irish cream sipped daintily from a shoe and displayed a range to rival Rembrandt's with his paintings of Bailey's. But, his most delicious reference was to the crumble he made in Home Economics, for which he received an A+. I mean, his teacher said his was the best one, for god's sake!

So, if you are looking to win someone over or simply want a vehicle for the season's best and brightest (these peaches were phenomenal, by the way), then please take Old Gregg's advice, and make this crumble.

Peach and Almond Crumble
Makes one large crumble, or three smaller ones

7 peaches, pitted and diced
2/3 cup caster sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 cups oat flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup Marcona almonds, roughly chopped
2/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter, cut into cubes

Preheat oven to 375. Butter large baking dish, or line loaf pans with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss peaches with sugar, zest and juice of the lemon, cornstarch, almond extract, and spices. Set aside so peaches can macerate. In another large bowl, whisk together oat flour, rolled oats, almonds, brown sugar, coconut, and salt. Scatter cubed butter over dry ingredients, and, using a snapping motion, cut butter into dry ingredients until a shaggy dough forms, with no chunks of butter bigger than a pea. Distribute peach mixture between baking tins. Scatter oat mixture evenly over the top of the peaches. If using a large baking tin, bake for 50 minutes. If using three smaller loaf pans, bake for 30 minutes, or until tops are golden brown and peaches are bubbling. Let cool for 5-10 minutes on a wire rack before serving with a generous scoop of coconut ice cream.

More Crumbles

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Double Chocolate Almond Cookies

Filling out countless applications for jobs and post-grad programs, you come across the same questions over and over again. They're all looking for someone different, someone who stands out, but their applications are all the same. It really feels like they're all looking for the same person.

One thing that everybody wants to know, apparently, is how you would describe yourself in three words. Let me tell you. It is not an easy question to answer. So, while I'm still not sure that I can tell you about myself in three words, I can give you three for this post and these cookies: short and sweet.

Double Chocolate Almond Cookies
Makes about 15 cookies

1 1/4 cups oat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup smooth almond butter
1/4 cup almond milk
6 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 cup Marcona almonds, roughly chopped
1/4 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate
2 tablespoons cacao nibs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together oat flour, rolled oats, salt, and baking soda. In a measuring cup, whisk together almond butter, almond milk, maple syrup, and coconut oil. Make a well in the center of the oat mixture and pour liquid mixture into well. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Gently fold in almonds, chocolate, and cacao nibs. Scoop dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form into a disk. Place in freezer for 30 minutes until firm. Once firm, scoop out using a 1/4-cup ice cream scoop onto lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes until firm and golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack.