baking powder

Steven’s co-worker owns a rental property in the Central Valley. The small apartment building sits on a big chunk of land which her husband planted with fruit trees. A few months ago she gave us bags and bags of citrus. Now that we’re nearly in summer, we’ve entered the stone fruit season. Thus far, she’s given us some cherries, plums, apricots. I don’t even know if cherries qualify as stone fruit. Are they berries? Anyway over the past week we got two bags of sour plums from her garden. The first batch I devoured in no time after dinner. Yum! The second one Steven wanted me to bake into something. So, ta-da: sour plum upside-down cake.

sour plum upside-down cake

sour plum upside-down cake

Sour plums tend to be a little sweet in the middle but sour near the skin and close to the pit. I love taking a bite of a plum and tasting all these flavors. Well with this cake, despite the sugar caramel coating the bottom of the pan, the sour flavor came out in FULL! We loved it: perfect with some tea or a cuppa coffee. We ate this entire cake in a couple of days for breakfast.

sour plum upside-down cake

~2 lbs sour plums, skin on, pitted
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp sea salt
2 eggs
1 cup soy or almond milk
½ cup canola oil
2 tbsp butter
Cast iron pan (12 inches diameter, 2 inches deep)

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Add one cup of sugar along with one tablespoon of water to cast iron pan over medium heat on your stovetop. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar melts and acquires a nice caramel color. If some sugar sticks to the wooden spoon scrape it off and let it melt until all lumps are gone. Spread the caramel all over the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat to cool down if caramel starts to burn. You just want a caramel color, not a smoking ruin. Cooking to long will make the flavor bitter. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

In a bowl, put remainder of the sugar, then eggs, salt and vanilla. Whisk it to combine. Add oil, soy milk, flour and whisk it again to combine. Lastly incorporate baking powder into the batter.

At this point, although still warm your caramel may be hardened and stuck to the bottom of the cast iron pan. Worry not! Spread the butter until all melted over caramel and sides of the pan. Add sour plum, along with juices if any and spread the fruit evenly over the bottom of the pan. Gently top with the batter. Bake about 35 minutes. Check for doneness via inserting a tooth pick in the center. If it comes out clean then baking is done, if not then you know what you have to do.

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I know I should have bought a smaller container of Greek yogurt in the first place…

We don’t normally eat yogurt by itself. In fact, we usually only have it at home when a recipe calls for it. Like Ottolenghi’s Greek yogurt baba ghanoush. But that scrumptious dish only required two tablespoons. What to do with the rest??

Blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes, of course!

blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes

blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes

The day before I made these pancakes NPR’s Morning Edition aired a special report on Smitten Kitchen during our morning breakfast ritual. Not about pancakes, the story spoke about how that now famous blogger turns out beautiful dishes in her tiny Manhattan kitchen (That sounds so familiar! Do you think that she got the idea from Julie Powell? Just a thought…)

Obviously, Deb Perelman was also promoting her new cookbook over the radio. Congratulations, Deb! She prepared latkes for Lynn Neary during the story—so not pancakes exactly but bear with me here. The following day I googled blueberry yogurt pancakes and one of Deb’s entries came up first.

So influenced by the morning news and Google’s high ranking, I decided to give the recipe a try. I didn’t have all the ingredients that she calls for. Here’s my adapted version of Smitten Kitchen’s dish.

blueberry Greek yogurt pancakes

1 large egg plus one egg white
1 cup plain, full-fat yogurt
2 to 4 tablespoons soy milk
3 tablespoons canola oil
½ teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cup (62 grams) whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed
Some butter to grease the skillet

Sift together sugar, salt, flour, baking powder and set aside. In a separate bowl add egg, egg white, soy milk, lemon zest, vanilla extract. Whisk to combine then whisk in yogurt. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Add a bit more soy milk if batter seems too thick.

Place two non-stick skillets on stovetop over medium. Melt a bit of butter in each pan. Add one small ladle full of batter to each pan and cook for about 3-4 minutes on one side, sprinkle some blueberries on top, flip and cook for about 3 minutes more on other side. Continue in that way until batter used up.

Serve with butter, maple syrup and a good cup of freshly brewed black coffee.


We’ve been blessed with lemons recently. Earlier in the month Kristen harvested her Meyer lemon trees and surprised us with a huge bag of fruit. We’ve been using them essentially every day but I still have a good amount in the fridge. A couple of weeks ago we went for a BBQ at a friend-of-a-friend, Maja’s house in the Oakland Hills. She had a stunning Eureka lemon tree laden with aromatic goodness. She let I harvest a large bagful. Thank you, darling! Then last week, our neighbor, Ann, left us another bag of lemons. It was hanging on our front door knob. She lives in a condo in town but has what sounds like a marvelous house on the California Central Coast. These lovelies were Lisbon.

lemon coconut triple layer cake

lemon coconut triple layer cake

In this cake I used lemons with the Oakland terroir from Maja’s backyard. I like to improv with food, but when it comes to baking I just try to follow instructions as much as I can. This recipe comes from the 1997 Joy. Cheers to the Joy, which to me remains the best, no frills cook book ever!

This recipe is a pain in the b*** to make. It takes forever. Plus the kitchen gets very, very messy. One thing I wanted to do differently was to use freshly grated coconut in the frosting, just like we do in Brazil. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it so I stuck to the dried unsweetened.

I was impressed with the lemon curd. I had no idea how easy it was to make and how delicious it turned out to be. I also didn’t know that it was made with eggs: a lot of them. Living and learning.

lemon coconut triple layer cake

for the cake:

3½ cups of cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
½ lb butter room temperature
1 & 2/3 cups sugar
8 egg whites from large eggs
3/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/3 cup additional sugar

Pre-heat oven to 375F.

You need 3 round non-stick cake pans lined with parchment paper at the bottom

Using a large stainless steel bowl beat butter until creamy. Add 1 & 2/3 cups of sugar, mixing it gradually. Continue beating for about 5 minutes. Mix will turn light in color and texture.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, mix milk and vanilla together. Add sifted flour alternating with milk mix in 2-3 phases to beaten butter. The dough will be thick. Set aside

Add egg whites and cream of tartar to another stainless steel bowl. Beat on medium speed until it turns to a snow white color and gets relatively thick. Increase speed to high and gradually add 1/3 cup sugar. Fold about 1/3 of the mixture onto cake batter. After it is mixed in, fold in the rest.

Divide batter equally among pans. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Test for doneness via inserting a toothpick in the center of the cake. Remove from oven and let rest for about 10 minutes. Invert cakes, peel parchment paper off. Turn them back up and let cool completely.

for the lemon curd:

3 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter cut into small pieces
Pinch salt
½ cup strained lemon juice
grated zest of 1 lemon
½ tsp vanilla

Prepare a double boiler so that the water’s simmering when you begin this part.

Put eggs, sugar and zest in a stainless steel bowl and whisk until it turns into a light yellow color. Add lemon juice, butter and place bowl on top of double boiler. Whisk non-stop until butter has melted and mixture thickens. Allow it to cook for few seconds more after thickened. Remove from heat and strain to remove zest. Mix with vanilla. Refrigerate.

for the “7 minute” frosting:

5 tbsp water
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1½ cups sugar
2 whites from large eggs at room temperature
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
¾ cup grated dried unsweetened coconut

You need the double boiler for this.

Place water, cream of tartar, sugar, egg whites and corn syrup on double boiler and beat non-stop on medium speed until temperature reaches about 140F. Once it reached that temperature increase speed to high and beat for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat, fold in vanilla and grated coconut. Let cool a little.

to assemble the cake:

I used a cake stand for a more impressive presentation. Whatever dish you use, start by placing a dollop of lemon curd in the center of it to help cake remain in place. Place the first layer of cake on top. Ice the top of the layer with lemon curd. Repeat with the next layer. I added a bit too much curd to mine and the cake started sliding! To “fix” the sliding I added a bamboo skewer to increase stability. Add final layer of cake then frost it entirely.


The white corn cake that Fer from the Brazilian blog chucrute com salsicha made the other day caught my eye because she uses an ingredient of which I have plenty in my pantry: harina de maiz nixtamalizada, or Mexican corn flour. It’s been sitting around since Steven prepared delicious vegetarian tamales awaiting the next tamale cook-off because we didn’t know what else to make with it.

Brazilian style corn cake with Mexican nixtamalized corn flour

Brazilian style corn cake with Mexican nixtamalized corn flour

Fer is based here in Northern California. She shares the same trouble I do when it comes to buying corn flour for Brazilian dishes. In the US it is ground too coarsely. So she resorted to the Mexican corn flour which has a similar texture to the Brazilian. I think that’s wonderfully creative in-and-of-itself and has given me loads of new ideas already.

I’ve wanted to test this flour for some time but never got around to doing it. I guess was afraid that the way the corn was processed, nixtamalization, would impart a different flavor to the cake. Well, that was completely wrong. Thanks for debunking that myth, Fernanda!

I basically followed her recipe except that I used pastry flour in the combo corn-wheat flour. This made the cake extra fluffy. It came out deliciously corny, not too sweet and super moist.

Brazilian style corn cake with Mexican nixtamalized corn flour

key ingredients for Brazilian style corn cake with Mexican nixtamalized corn flour

key ingredients for Brazilian style corn cake with Mexican nixtamalized corn flour

1½ cups harina de maiz nixtamalizada (Mexican corn flour)
2½ cups whole milk
2 cups pastry flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
½ cup canola oil
¾ tsp fennel seeds

Pre heat oven to 400F.

Grease a large baking pan with canola oil and set aside.

Put corn flour in a large bowl, add milk and whisk together to combine. Let this mix sit for about 5-10 minutes. Add eggs and mix it again to combine. Blend in pastry flour, salt, sugar, fennel seeds and baking powder.

Transfer mixture to prepared baking pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Serve with a nice cup of black coffee.


Anna’s almost secret family recipe:  chocolate cake with cooked frosting

Anna’s almost secret family recipe: chocolate cake with cooked frosting

I’ve been a fan of Anna’s blog, Keep It Luce, since shortly after she started publishing. Her Great Aunt Sue’s recipe for chocolate cake with cooked frosting really resonated with me. I’d neither had the cake before nor heard of “cooked frosting,” both of which made this intriguing. But it was the story of her grandfather on his 92nd birthday, weakened by chronic illness, and the intimate portrait of her family life that was so beautiful and memorable. It stuck with me, perhaps because in certain ways it reminded me of my own grandfather. And one day, finally, it was time to make the cake myself.

I served this at the end of a veggie dinner party for eight. I wasn’t sure what to expect as this is my first-ever chocolate cake from scratch. I knew that the cooked frosting was the bomb, as I’d tasted it while icing this ultra moist cake. It was a giant success. One guest asked for some to take home. I gave him a big slice in a doggie bag. I brought the rest to an afternoon barbecue party the following day, much to the delight of the hostess. (I couldn’t let it stay at my house as I’d have gobbled the whole thing up myself in a day or two, then felt guilty about it.)

Basically I followed Anna’s recipe exactly though I did add some rum to the frosting. Also my cake required a bit longer to set than is suggested in the Keep It Luce recipe: about an hour to 70 minutes.

Anna’s almost secret family recipe: chocolate cake with cooked frosting

for the cake:

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
¾ cups unsweetened cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 cup hot coffee (I made the cake right after breakfast)
1 cup whole milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

for the frosting:

1 cup whole milk
5 tbsp flour
½ cup butter (1 stick) at room temp
½ cup veggie shortening
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp rum

to make the cake:

Pre-heat oven to 325F. Grease and flour a 9”x13” baking dish.

Sift the dry ingredients together.

Mix coffee, oil and milk. Gradually mix dry ingredients into the liquid. Once incorporated, beat for about 2 minutes. Add eggs and 1 tsp vanilla. Beat another 2 minutes.

Pour into prepared dish and bake until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Carefully invert from dish onto a cooling rack. Cool completely.

to make frosting:

In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup milk. Beat in flour and whisk vigorously. Mine reminded me of a roux.
Cover and let cool completely.

Combine flour/milk mix with remaining ingredients and beat until combined. Mmm!

Once the cake has cooled, place on serving dish and frost. Dust with more cocoa powder (optional).

This cake is unbelievably good. Thank you for the delish family recipe, Anna!


cranberry sour cream upside-down cake

cranberry sour cream upside-down cake

I found this wonderful recipe for cranberry upside-down cake on Moveable Feasts, a great foodie blog that we’ve been following and enjoying for a while. Right now, Barbara, with a group of other blogger friends, is in the middle of this really engaging series called “Gourmet’s 50 Women Game Changers in Food,” where she’ll post a biographical sketch of one famous woman chef/entrepreneur at a time with one of her recipes which she prepares as part of the story. It is truly amazing to learn about these talented folk and all the interesting ways that they’ve made food their passion and life. Follow this link for the recent story about Nancy Silverton from La Brea Bakery, among other places.

Anyway, back to the cranberry cake. I’ve been on the hunt lately for an appropriately Thanksgiving-ish dessert that seems original. I’m not too into chocolate (I know, it is a real flaw) and I’ve already been asked to prepare classic pecan pie, so another pie’s out. So what could be better than a cake with cranberries?

In her post, Barbara warns about the caramel spilling out of the dish while baking. I used a deep 10-inch glass baking dish and placed mine on top of a baking sheet covered with foil to catch any spillage. There was a bit though really not much at all. Because my dish was larger in diameter, I needed more cranberries to cover it. Also, her recipe specifically calls for “unsulphured molasses,” but I’m not sure what that is. I had some date molasses at home already, so used that instead. Otherwise, the recipe is essentially the same.

The cake had a dense almost poundcake texture that was really complimented by the sour sweetness of the cranberries, caramel and sour cream. It makes a wonderful dessert and is excellent for breakfast, too. This yummy treat is well on its way to becoming a holiday classic in my home.

cranberry sour cream upside-down cake

2½ cups fresh cranberries
2/3 cup light brown sugar
12 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp date molasses
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream

Pre-heat oven to 375F. Thoroughly grease baking dish with butter. Then cover base of dish with wax paper cut to size.

In a small pan, add 4 tablespoons melted butter, brown sugar, molasses, and ¼ cup water. Bring to boil, mix then pour into base of prepared cake dish.

Next fill base of cake dish with cranberries, making sure to lay them evenly and cover caramel sauce as much as possible.

Sift together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, beat eggs together with sour cream. Add remaining butter to egg mixture and combine. Add flour mix to egg mix and beat until smooth.

Gently cover batter over cranberries. Bake 50 to 60 minutes. Test for doneness with a clean toothpick. Remove from heat and let rest for 15 minutes. Then run a small knife around the edge of the cake and gently invert into a serving dish.


red and white onion bajiis

by Heguiberto on August 30, 2011

Bajjis, bhajis or pakoras are Indian vegetable fritters I adore. They sort of remind me of the type of vegetable/rice fritters my mother used to occasionally make when I was a kid. She called them bolinhos de arroz, or rice balls. It was a creative way of using leftover rice. There was never waste at home and that was a good thing.

red and white onion bajiis

red and white onion bajiis

To make her bolinhos de arroz she would mix flour, baking powder, mild spices, eggs, water, left over rice, grated zucchini or chayote and just fry and serve them as an appetizer or side dish. I thought it was such a treat when she made it! But when you grow up and develop a taste for bold flavors then you replace bolinhos de arroz with bajiis.

You can make bajiis with peppers, eggplant, potatoes, or cauliflower; but my favorite ones have onions.

Here’s a simple recipe with a Brazilian-Indian approach.

red and white onion bajiis

1 medium sized white onion, thinly sliced in half-moon shape
2 medium sized red onions, thinly sliced in half-moon shape
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup chick pea flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 large organic eggs, lightly beaten
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
3-4 tbsp cold water
Neutral oil such as canola for frying

Mix cilantro, sliced red and white onions together. Set aside.

Fill a skillet with about ½ inch of oil; bring oil temperature to high.

Meanwhile whisk flours, black and cayenne peppers, salt, cumin and turmeric powders together. Incorporate egg and water to make a thick batter. If too thick add a bit more of water. Fold in onions. Drop spoons full of batter into hot oil and fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove and drain on paper towels. Serve warm.


Labneh is sort of a Lebanese version of sour cream or perhaps a very creamy cream cheese. Joumana uses it to great effect on her food blog. Look here, here and here for some excellent ideas. Hegui was so inspired that he bought a large container of labneh, mostly to snack on, it seems. I used it with this quick bread as I thought the tanginess would complement the pumpkin and herbs. You can use it like sour cream in most recipes that call for it. I wonder how Polish sour soup would taste with labneh? Mmmm.

savory pumpkin bread with garden herbs and labneh

savory pumpkin bread with garden herbs and labneh

This recipe comes from, though I’ve modified it a bit. Aside from adding dollops of labneh, I used a bit less sugar, soy milk instead of cow’s milk, and more randomly mixed in herbs from our community garden plot. In mine, I used chives, mint and sage. You can add basil and cilantro, too. I thought about Italian parsley but decided that it would overpower everything else. Next time, I intend to top the loaves with jalapeño slices for a bit of heat.

my container of labneh, here spelled labne

my container of labneh, here spelled labne

savory pumpkin bread with garden herbs and labneh

2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
½ cup soy milk
1 cup mashed pumpkin (here it was kabocha)
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp mixed fresh herbs
1 tsp per mini-loaf labneh

Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat eggs then mix in liquid ingredients, pumpkin and herbs. In another bowl, blend dry ingredients. Then mix into wet. I used disposable mini-loaf pans to reduce mess. If you use a regular baking dish, grease liberally. Add batter to mini-loafs just over half full. Dollop labneh in center of each mini-loaf. Bake about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


basbousa: semolina almond cake

July 8, 2011

This is another great recipe from Tess Mallos’ North African Cooking. We served it after the mouthwatering broiled corvina in charmoula marinade, based on a recipe from the same book, the day our super good friend, Kristen, came into town. A meal with guests wouldn’t be complete without dessert, so this adaptation of basbousa, a […]

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buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and walnuts

June 27, 2011

Steven has been making this buttermilk pancake recipe for as long as we’ve known each other. I like it so much that at the beginning I would insist that he make double batches! It was our weekend ritual. He cooked the pancakes and I would set up the table, brew the coffee and make fresh […]

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