My first post of the year is one I promised way back in 2016. I meant to write it up sooner but got busy with the holidays and work and before I knew it the year had disappeared on me. There’s never a wrong time for cake though, and I promise this one is worth the wait! I am by no means an expert baker, but there are a couple desserts I’ve made over and over again, experimenting with temperature and ratios with obsessive attention to detail until they are perfect. This chocolate olive oil cake with rosemary buttercream is one of them. The first time I made it, it was a humble loaf cake with lumpy buttercream slathered on top. As I’ve refined the recipe and learned baking lessons by making mistakes (always sift powdered sugar before dumping it into creamed butter!), it’s matured into a simple but elegant layer cake that’s a family favorite for holidays, birthdays and just because. The one pictured here was my family’s Thanksgiving dessert.
The cake itself has no butter; olive oil and just enough sugar and a splash of apple cider make it rich, moist and not overly sweet. The buttercream is infused with fresh sprigs of rosemary and is an earthy, herbal contrast to the chocolate cake. If you saw last week’s post you already know how fond I am of rosemary, especially in sweet incarnations. I’ve made this cake throughout the year, and no matter when you eat it, it seems perfectly seasonal; maybe it’s because there’s fresh rosemary in the garden all year, or because chocolate never goes out of style. I’ll make it again next month for P’s birthday; he’s requested it for the past few years and I’m happy to oblige. When I bake it, I get to eat it too, after all. Trust me, this is one you want to save for your next occasion. Continue Reading
If you’re already in the market for a New Year’s resolution, or are just looking to change things up in the dessert department, I’ve got one for you: baking with tea! Why more of us aren’t doing it on a regular basis is a mystery to me; maybe it’s that we’re in a rut of thinking of tea as only a beverage. If you think about it though, using tea to flavor food is no different than using other dried plant bits, like pepper, thyme or basil. When you’ve got a really flavorful tea, adding it to your basic baked goods can completely transform them with depth of flavor, delicate floral notes or a hint of citrus zest.
In this case, I used one of my favorite Stash winter teas, Christmas in Paris, to infuse my trusty chocolate chip skillet cookie with extra chocolatey flavor, a hint of lavender (that’s the Paris part!) and a touch of cool peppermint. Oh, and I decided to make a quick batch of tea infused no-churn ice cream too, and it turns out tea also tastes amazing in ice cream form.
Don’t ask me to explain the science behind the magic, but dairy happily takes on the flavor of whatever you put in it. So working the flavor of the tea into the skillet cookie and the ice cream is as easy as steeping a few tea bags in melted butter and cream before mixing everything together. Just like when you make a cup of tea, the strength of the tea flavor that comes through is up to you. Simply use more tea bags for bold flavor or fewer for just a subtle hint of tea. Either way, you’ve got a uniquely delicious cookie and ice cream pairing on your hands.
Why use the same tea to infuse both the cookie and the ice cream, you ask? This particular tea lends itself well to both, but in different ways: the cocoa shells in the tea add a smooth chocolate taste to the cookie batter, while in the ice cream I taste more of the peppermint, which keeps it from feeling too heavy. Whether you cut your skillet cookie into humanely portioned slices and serve it like pie a la mode, or just dive in with spoons like P and I did, I guarantee it won’t last long.
As I write this, early autumn rain is pouring and the wind is whipping around, making tree branches rattle against our windows. It’s hard to believe just two weeks ago it was 100º out and instead of the thick wool sweater I’m wearing today I was still enjoying sandals and sunglasses. But instead of mourning the passing of another short summer, I’m deciding this year to embrace fall and all its coziness with open arms. Bring on the soggy leaves, mud puddles and constant gray drizzle! I’m going to be curled up on the couch with my pumpkin bread, hot tea and a book, and when you have comforts like those, you hardly notice the new chill in the air.
The past week has been unusually hectic with multiple work deadlines for me, the first week of school for P and another health scare for Bisou. I didn’t think I’d find the time for a post this week, but yesterday all of my scrambling during the week paid off and I was able to start the long weekend by mid-afternoon. The first thing I did was whip up this (relatively) healthy pumpkin loaf. I’m not usually much of a baker; as much as I love sweets, a glance through most dessert recipes is enough to put me off actually making them. All that refined sugar and saturated fat! So I’m happy to share this pumpkin olive oil loaf with you which is incredibly moist, sweet and all around tasty and completely free of refined sugar and animal fats. Who knew it could be done? If you add the optional rosemary buttercream, you’ll be getting a good dose of all that sugar and butter stuff, but the pumpkin bread is rich and flavorful enough to stand on its own if you’re looking for a truly healthy and wholesome dessert. Continue Reading
For all the people who felt left out after last week’s cat popsicle post – after all, the heat is hard on us humans, too – these roasted plum, strawberry and creamy coconut popsicles are for you. It seems like most of the country has been sweltering under the same heat wave as we have, so most of you know how I feel right now: my hair is sticky, my face is sticky and the air feels as thick and hot as soup. As such, eating soup, or anything else that requires turning on the stove for long periods of time, is out of the question. Our old electric range will be a great radiant heater come winter, but for now it’s just not possible to turn it on passed 9 am without making the whole apartment roast.
I don’t want to use the heat as an excuse to fill up on things that can be eaten straight out of the package, though. Eating super-processed ice cream was starting to sound pretty darn appealing, so I figured I should hurry and make something refreshing and sweet before I caved into the refined sugar dairy monster. Luckily for me, I had everything I needed on hand to make these wonderfully creamy, naturally sweetened and seasonally flavored popsicles. In fact, I based the recipe on what I had in my cupboard already (seriously, I needed something sweet with urgency) and it’s a flexible enough recipe that you can do the same. Any stone fruit or berry would work beautifully using the same basic recipe. Peach and blueberry, blackberry and nectarines, the possibilities are endless! Continue Reading
Growing up, I had a major sweet tooth. I was caught more than once hoarding chocolate in my bedroom and it’s a wonder it took me until this year to get my first cavity. Now though, I have less of a taste for cloyingly sugary desserts and instead favor more balanced sweets, like this tart that’s filled with a creamy mascarpone custard, lined with a golden crust with a hint of rosemary, and topped with fresh berries. This tart is a great choice for entertaining since the fresh fruit makes it light enough to enjoy after a big meal. Plus, it can be made in advance and will keep well in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve it. There’s nothing wrong with making it just because, too! That’s what I did, and between P and me, it didn’t last more than a couple days.
My favorite part of this recipe is that while it will look and taste really impressive, it’s actually very accessible. Any home baker can make it, no special bakeware or obscure ingredients necessary. Don’t have a tart pan? Bake it in a casserole dish! Don’t have a rolling pin? Neither do I, and I’m here to say a floured wine bottle works just fine. If you don’t like blueberries, you can swap them for strawberries, or raspberries, or sliced peaches or mangos. And once the recipe is broken down into a few steps, it’s pretty easy to make, too. Okay, now that you’re ready to make your very own fresh fruit tart (yes, YOU!), let’s dig in. Continue Reading