vanilla extract

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.

{ 3 comments }

decadent French toast

by Heguiberto on January 20, 2012

Things with custardy fillings, textures and flavors taste like heaven to me. I love Portuguese custard pies, crème brûlée, flan, English bread pudding and of course, any decant cream-soaked French toast. A toast to French toast, I say!

decadent French toast

decadent French toast

Last Friday I went to the new La Boulange bakery that has just opened nearby my office in the Financial District of San Francisco. My co-workers Caroline and Megan wanted to taste their popular open faced smoked salmon sandwich and soup for lunch. It looked delicious, like everything else on the menu. The pastries seemed amazingly crispy and browned to perfection. While waiting in line, I couldn’t take my eyes off of this shinny, glossy, sesame seed-covered, braided brioche (challah). It was begging to come home with me. What can I say? I’m irresistible.
I used the brioche for this marvelous breakfast the next morning.

key ingredients for decadent French toast

key ingredients for decadent French toast. Mmm, that brioche loaf looks good!

decadent French toast

1 challah/brioche loaf cut into thick slices (about 6 to 8 )
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup half and half
½ tsp Kosher salt
3 tbsp sugar
~ 1 tsp canola oil
powdered sugar

Add eggs, sugar and salt to a bowl and whisk until incorporated. Add half and half and whisk again to combine. Soak bread slices on both sides for about ½ minute each. Allow bread slices to soak up liquid to almost completely saturate them with the cream mixture. Don’t let them break apart though, as it will ruin the presentation.

Meanwhile heat up a skillet with ½ tsp of canola oil, add as many slices as your skillet accommodates and fry them for about 3-4 minutes, flipping them half way. Be careful not to burn or under cook. Transfer to a serving platter, repeat with remaining. Dust powdered sugar over and serve. We had ours with some blueberries, butter, maple syrup and a nice big cuppa strong coffee.

frying the cream soaked brioche

frying the cream soaked brioche

dig in!

dig in!

{ 4 comments }

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 semolina almond cake, was perfect.

basbousa  semolina almond cake

basbousa: semolina almond cake

The original calls for caster sugar and fine semolina; neither of which we had. So as usual, we improvised. I think that the fine sugar and semolina would’ve made the cake taste smoother. Though I actually enjoyed the rougher texture, as this way it reminded me of Brazilian corn cake, a perennial favorite.

basbousa: semolina almond cake

for the batter:

¼ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups semolina
1tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ cup plain whole milk yogurt
½ cup slivered blanched almonds

for the syrup:

2 cups sugar
1½ cups water
Juice of a large lemon

for the whipping cream:

1 cup heavy cream
Confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat together butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Add eggs. Keep beating until fully incorporated. Meanwhile sift remaining dry batter ingredients together. Fold it into butter mix alternating it with yogurt. Fold in almonds. Transfer batter to a buttered 9 by 12 baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Begin making the syrup by dissolving sugar in water under moderate heat. Bring to a boil, add lemon juice and let liquid reduce by a third. Remove from heat and let cool down to room temperature. Pour syrup over hot cake right out of the oven.

pouring sweet lemon syrup over hot basbousa

pouring sweet lemon syrup over hot basbousa

Whip cream together with a tiny amount of Confectioner’s sugar until light and fluffy.

Plate cake slices on individual dessert dishes with a dollop of whipped cream.

{ 11 comments }

Irene’s zucchini oatmeal raisin bread

Irene’s zucchini oatmeal raisin bread

Irene is my paternal grandmother, though she prefers “Granny” to “Grandma.” Apparently it makes her feel younger. For a year when I was a child, my family and I lived in Geneva, Switzerland where I attended a private English-speaking school in the Third Grade. I had a Scottish friend in my class who taught me this naughty “Granny” song:

O, you cannot push your Granny off the bus, off the bus!
O, you cannot push your Granny off the bus, off the bus!
O, you cannot push your Granny, ‘cause she’s your father’s mother,
O, you cannot push your Granny off the bus, off the bus!

My whole family loved it and I’ve fond memories of all of us riding down the Swiss highways, belting out the lyrics to a broken but lively tune. We even sang it for Granny when she came to visit from the States. Aah, good stuff!

What I’ve just recently learned is that Granny Irene has a recipe for zucchini oatmeal raisin bread! My sister sent it to me after I asked her for her recipe for zucchini bread (more to come on that soon).

This bread is easy to make and it will make you feel healthy, what with all of the freshly grated Italian zucchini in there.

Irene’s zucchini oatmeal raisin bread

dry ingredients:

1 cup flour
1 cup oats
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt

wet ingredients:

3 eggs
¾ cup vegetable oil
3 cups shredded zucchini (about four medium Italian)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts
1 cup raisins

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Grease baking dishes. I used pre-made disposable wax paper formed dishes. Instead of greasing and worrying about removing cake at the end, I simply peeled the paper off like you might for a muffin and discarded the paper once the baking was done. Easy.

In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, beat eggs. Mix remaining wet ingredients into egg mixture. Fold egg zucchini mixture into the dry ingredients until batter is moist.

Pour batter into your baking dish(s). I made two small loafs and a larger round. Bake 30 to 50 minutes depending on the size of your cake. Remove from oven when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on a rack and enjoy. We had ours over coffee for breakfast. Yum!

{ 2 comments }

apple upside down cake

by Heguiberto on August 5, 2009

enjoying apple upside down cake with black coffee for breakfast

enjoying apple upside down cake with black coffee for breakfast

A few years before I migrated to the US, I lived with my older sister, Tinha, in a tiny but very cute house in Brazil. Tinha’s cooking is amazing, particularly in the cake department. She has a sweet tooth and makes great cakes from scratch. Lucky me! I could almost always count on a homemade fresh piece of cake for breakfast each day. Though she makes several kinds, one of my absolute favorites was her upside down fruit cakes. She’d use a variety of fruit, depending on what was available; like banana, pineapple or apple. The pineapple cake was the most esthetically pleasing but I always preferred the taste of apple cake. Lately, I’ve been craving one of those apple upside down cakes, so last night I made my own adapted from my sister’s original recipe. Basically I cut down on the dairy (I’m living in a ‘high-cholesterol household’) and replaced it. This recipe is made in a cast iron pan. I hope you have one.

Here’s how it goes:

Apple Upside Down Cake

Ingredients:

¾ & ½ cup sugar
1 & 1/2 tbsp cold butter
1/3 cup canola oil
2 cups flour
Pinch of salt
1 whole egg plus 1 egg white
¾ cup soy milk
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 apples (granny smith preferred) peeled cored and cut into thin wedges

How to:

Pre heat the oven to 350F.

Pour ¾ cup sugar into a cast iron pan, turn heat to medium. Using a wooden spatula stir sugar till melted and turned into a golden brown caramel color. Spread caramel on bottom and walls of pan to completely cover. Remove from heat. Let cool for few minutes, till the caramel begins to harden. Add butter to pan and mix gently to incorporate into caramel. Set pan aside.

beginning to caramelize the sugar

beginning to caramelize the sugar


part-way through caramelizing the sugar

part-way through caramelizing the sugar


fully caramelized sugar

fully caramelized sugar

Meanwhile to make the cake batter, combine liquid ingredients in a bowl and mix for a minute or so. Add flour, remaining sugar, baking powder and salt and mix for another minute or so. Set aside.

To assemble the cake:

layering apples

layering apples

Lay wedges of apple at the bottom of the pan flat side down so it will look like a fan when cake is flipped out of the pan. Keep layering apple wedges until you run out. You should have a layer of about 1 ½ to 2 inches of apples covering the entire pan that rests on top of the caramel. Pour the batter over the apple slices. Gently spread it evenly with a spatula. Bake for about 35-40 minutes. Test with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven. Let rest for about 5-10 minutes in the pan. Unmold the cake by turning it upside down onto a large platter. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes or serve at room temperature. It tastes delicious with black coffee or tea.

finished cake ready to be flipped out of pan

finished cake ready to be flipped out of pan

{ 3 comments }

freshly baked blueberry butter scones

freshly baked blueberry butter scones

Behold the power of butter!

I woke up the other day thinking of the now defunct TV cooking show, ‘Two Fat Ladies.” I really used to enjoy TV cooking shows, esp. 2FLs, but I cannot stand them anymore. Nowadays it is just food contests, disrespect for the food and for one another, and packing as many gyrating images on the screen in a mere 60 seconds that, instead of relaxing me, I dizzy watching. Maybe like the ‘slow food movement’ we should go back to basics and create “slow filming food shows” so people can actually enjoy watching these programs instead of reaching for a bottle of ibuprofen whenever you’re confronted with them. LOL Anyhow what I wanted to say is goodbye food network! I miss the good old days of Sandra Picknee, Jill Cordes and Mark Silverstein among others.

As for the 2FLs, I just enjoyed watching them cruise through the scenic English countryside on their motorbike (they made sidecars very cool, and not just as cocktails), cooking local foods, and making some real artery clogging recipes. They also smoked and drank constantly, and made fun of everyone and everything, yet you couldn’t help loving them all the more for it. Those ladies knew how to use all sorts of fat, including butter, and they weren’t shy or apologetic about it either! I especially loved the way Clarissa pronounced the word ‘butter.’ If you could taste butter from hearing the sound of the word alone, I think that it would sound like Jennifer Patterson‘s voice when she calls for this key ingredient in her recipes.

So, inspired by the ‘buttah,’ I took a stick of it and created these blueberry scones. Here’s to the 2 Fat Ladies, may they keep riding, swearing and living it up somewhere fabulous!

My Blueberry Butter Scones



fresh store-bought blueberries

fresh store-bought blueberries

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups of flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 stick of butter, chilled, and cut into small cubes
1/3 cup of soy or other milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries
Freshly ground nutmeg
1 tbs. of coarse sugar for sprinkling
1 to 2 tbs. milk to drip on scones

How to:
Pre-heat the oven to 375F.
Grease a baking sheet or use parchment paper to cover to surface of the tray.
Mix flour, salt, sugar, baking powder together. Add butter, using your hands incorporate butter into dry ingredients until it becomes crumbly.
Add liquid ingredients to the mixture. Stir until roughly incorporated. Do not over mix or add more liquid to the batter. It is supposed to be like that!
Create mounds with the cup of your hand and place them on the baking sheet. Drip milk over scones then sprinkle them with sugar and nutmeg. I made 7 scones out of this recipe.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

cool, plate and serve

cool, plate and serve

Blueberries are good for you. They are high in antioxidants. Supposedly antioxidants help protect the body against free radicals and diseases that develop with aging. Eat as many blueberries as you can! Now the buttah…

make this for brunch!  your guests will love you

make this for brunch! your guests will love you

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