In Indian cooking, saffron is a spice reserved for celebratory occasions, usually used as a garnish and a flavoring agent in pilafs, biryanis, and of course, desserts and drinks. In India, we would use Kashmiri saffron but here in America, I typically use Persian or Saffron. And now, I've tried saffron grown in the country of Afghanistan and it is wonderful!Read More
While I'm still on my mango season kick, I figured I should share a mango curd recipe with you. This is the classic egg based custard version which is great to spoon over fruit or yogurt but this is NOT one you should use between cakes, you can use it on top but I would avoid using it between the layers of a cake as the weight would squeeze it out. For that I will another recipe in a few weeks at my column at the San Francisco Chronicle.Read More
Save the date for October 2nd, we have a cover and a release date! It took some months to work on the cover and finalize a photo, fonts and design but it happened and I couldn't be anymore prouder of how this turned out and I can't wait for you to see the entire book. I'm also thrilled and honored that my dear friend John Birdsall wrote the foreword to Season. As always, details on pre-ordering and tour dates etc. are on the BOOK tab above.Read More
A marshmallow is like a soft pillow that jiggles with the finesse of belly dancer to a song. It should be able to bounce in your hands when tossed and stretch when pulled apart with your hands. Marshmallows are light and can be used as an accent to garnish so many desserts like cookies, cakes or even added to hot milky cocoa. But I like my marshmallows straight up because I live for the chew.
This is a version of an old family recipe, that my grandmother and mother have used for decades. What I do appreciate about their method is that they've been able to work it out without having to use light corn syrup (aka glucose syrup). There's nothing wrong with light corn syrup, it's not high fructose syrup but there are ethical issues with corn production and the environment. In India, corn syrup is not that easy to find (at least back when I lived there) so their recipe is rather remarkable; in the absence of an ingredient they've figured a way out to make marshmallows happen for every Christmas of my life.
I did tweak their original recipe a little bit, Let me explain, it involves a little science. Light corn syrup is typically added to prevent crystallization of the sugar and when making the syrup you need to be really careful to prevent crystal formation, the slightest agitation of the sugar at 245F can cause the crystals to form and seed. Honey and maple syrup don't work the same way as corn syrup since they're chemically very different even though they're all sweeteners. So I turned to cream of tartar which has a dual role in this recipe, not only does it prevent sugar crystallization of the syrup but it also helps to stabilize the egg white foam as it builds up. The result is a light and airy marshmallow that is pretty wonderful in texture.
For color, I picked up some beet powder based food color from my local store Bi-Rite and some wonderfully potent peppermint extract to give these little guys a bit of holiday cheer. Bi-Rite, carries a lot of amazing natural food colors and extracts for baking and I was very impressed with this beet color's ability to transform without leaving any noticeable taste of the root. To get those pretty swirls, just remember to add the food color at the final stage in a couple of concentrated spots dropped randomly in the foam, don't over mix as the whole thing will turn pink.
lucy's peppermint marshmallows
makes 18 - one inch squares
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 cup water
20g granulated gelatin
300g granulated sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
2 large egg whites, warmed to room temperature
1/2 to 1 tsp peppermint extract (depending on how strong you like it to be)
food coloring (I used 1 tsp of beet powder mixed in 2 Tbsp water)
Sift the cornstarch and confectioner's sugar in a small bowl. Sift 2 to 2 Tbsp over a square 9 inch baking pan. Grease the sides lightly with a little a neutral tasting oil. Keep aside.
Place 1/4 cup of the water in a small heat proof mixing bowl or measuring cup. Sprinkle the gelatin on top and allow to sit undisturbed.
Pour the remaining water in a medium saucepan, add the sugar and cream of tartar. Cover with a lid and heat on medium-low heat until all the sugar dissolved and the temperature reaches 245F on an instant-read or candy thermometer.
While the sugar is melting, start to prepare the egg whites. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, whisk on medium-high speed until the egg whites turn foamy and eventually produce stiff peaks. Stop the mixer.
Once the sugar syrup reaches 245F, pour it in a thin stream into the gelatin at the side of the mixing bowl. It will start to foam, so add it slowly to prevent it from spilling. Stir with a fork to dissolve the gelatin in the syrup, it will take a few minutes to get it smooth. Then pour the hot sugar-gelatin syrup into the egg whites in a thin and steady stream while continuing to whisk the egg whites on medium-high speed. Once the syrup is added, continue to whisk for 1 additional minute and then increase the speed to high and whisk until you get stiff peaks (the foam should be white in shiny white in color and will hold its shape). Whisk the peppermint oil for 1 minute on high speed. Then stop the mixer and add a few drops of the coloring and whisk for 3 to 4 seconds just long enough to create a few swirls (avoid the urge to over-mix or it will become uniformly pink). Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a silicone spatula transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan. Take a small offset spatula and lightly grease it with a little oil and even the top layer. Allow the pan to rest covered for at least 4 hours preferably 6 hours. The marshmallow will be ready once it is cool and spongy to touch in the center.
To cut, dust a clean surface with a little bit of the cornstarch-sugar mixture. Run a small knife around the edges of the pan to release the marshmallow. You might need to gently pull it from the sides to help release it. Cut into one inch squares with a sharp knife (you can grease the knife with a little oil to prevent sticking). Dust the squares with a little cornstarch-sugar mixture and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by the Bi-Rite Family. However, all opinions expressed are solely my own.
Fall is an exciting time, for many reasons. It gets cooler and I'm ready for summer to end. I tend to fry a lot more (learn how to make kale pakoras at my column, A Brown Kitchen at the San Francisco Chronicle) this week. But it is also an exciting time because a lot of wonderful cookbooks come out this season including this gorgeous book, Bravetart - Iconic American Desserts by Stella Parks from Serious Eats. If you follow her column on Serious Eats, you already know how Stella gets into the nitty gritty details of the science behind desserts and sweets and she shares her experiments and tips which have made me a better baker.
I made this layer cake for the Game of Thrones season finale since "Winter is here" using the recipes from the Bravetart book. Stella's marshmallow frosting is one of the best buttercream recipes, I've tried so far and a keeper. Her layer cake recipe is also a good one to have on hand and just like I've changed the flavors in this cake, you can easily do the same. I've also included her tips too because they were really useful).
My kept the decoration really simple, a simple border with silver balls and then did a little interpretive freestyle in the center. Just remember to keep your cake chilled and do a good crumb coat before you slap the frosting on.
I have one copy of the Bravetart book to giveaway to one lucky US reader. The giveaway will run for a week from October 3rd to October 10th, 2017. To enter, leave a comment below and your contact info and tell me the name of your favorite cake. I will pick a random winner and notify the winner via email. You will have 24hrs to respond, after which I will pick a new winner.
cardamom pistachio layer cake
Yield: one 8-by-5-inch three-layer cake; 16 servings | Active time: about 45 minutes | Downtime: 90 minutes to cool
For the Cake
4 cups | 16 ounces bleached cake flour such as Swans Down
2 sticks | 8 ounces unsalted butter, pliable but cool—about 65°F
2/3 cup | 4 ounces virgin coconut oil, solid but creamy—about 70°F
21/4 cups | 16 ounces sugar
21/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt (half as much if iodized)
1 cup | 8 1/2 ounces egg whites (from 8 large eggs), brought to about 70°F (See note below
2 teaspoons ground green cardamom
2 cups | 16 ounces cultured low-fat buttermilk, brought to about 70°F
To better synchronize the downtime in both recipes, start the Marshmallow Buttercream before the cake. While it’s resting, adjust an oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 325°F. Line three 8-by-3-inch anodized aluminum cake pans with parchment and grease with pan spray; if you don’t have three pans, the remaining batter can be held at room temperature for up to 3 hours. (The cakes will brown more and rise less in 2-inch pans.) Sift the flour (if using cup measures, spoon into the cups and level with a knife before sifting) and set aside.
Combine butter, coconut oil, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed to moisten, then increase to medium and cream until fluffy and light, about 5 minutes, pausing to scrape the bowl and beater halfway through. With the mixer running, add the egg whites one at a time, followed by pistachio extracts.
Reduce speed to low and sprinkle in one-third of the flour, followed by one-third of the buttermilk. Alternate between the two, allowing each addition to be roughly incorporated before adding the next. Once smooth, fold with a flexible spatula to ensure it’s well mixed from the bottom up. Divide among the prepared cake pans, about 22 ounces each.
Bake until the cakes are firm but pale, browned only around the very edges, about 40 minutes (or 210°F). A toothpick inserted into the center will emerge with a few crumbs still attached, and your fingertip will leave a slight indentation in the puffy crust.
Cool until no trace of warmth remains, about 90 minutes. Loosen the cakes from their pans with a knife. Invert onto a wire rack, peel off the parchment, and reinvert. Crumb-coat and frost with Marshmallow Buttercream according to the directions on pages 142–44.
Under a cake dome or an inverted pot, the frosted cake will keep for up to 24 hours at room temperature. After cutting, wrap leftover slices individually and store at room temperature for up to 2 days more.
A Note About Ingredient Temperatures in Cake Making:
Butter, buttermilk, and egg whites colder than 65°F or warmer than 70°F can produce a range of problems, from mild tunneling and air pockets in the cake to a heavy crumb or even a gummy layer along the bottom. Given that “room temperature” will vary from home to home, there’s no standard rule of thumb for how to warm these ingredients, but in my 1000-watt microwave, three 6-second bursts at normal power is perfect for softening two sticks of butter; two 6-second bursts will knock the chill off a cup of egg whites; and a 25-second burst will bring a pint of buttermilk to cool room temperature. Alternately, they can simply be brought to room temperature and monitored with a digital thermometer.
Gluten-Free: Replace cake flour with 8 ounces (11/2 cups) cornstarch, 6 ounces (11/4 cups) white rice flour, 41/2 ounces (1 cup) tapioca flour or arrowroot, and 11/2 teaspoons potato flour.
Yield: about 6 cups; enough to fill, crumb-coat, and frost three 8-inch cake layers or 24 cupcakes | Active time: 1 hour | owntime: 2-hour rest
Pistachio marshmallow Buttercream Frosting
1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons | 1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin powder
1/4 cup | 2 ounces cool tap water to bloom the gelatin
1 tablespoon pistachio extract
3/4 cup | 6 ounces water for the sugar syrup
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons | 10 ounces light corn syrup
2 cups | 14 1/2 ounces sugar
1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt (half as much if iodized)
5sticks | 20 ounces unsalted butter, soft but cool—about 65°F
Make the marshmallow base
In a small bowl, mix the gelatin with 2 ounces (1/4 cup) cool tap water and pistachio extract, if using.
Combine remaining 6 ounces (3/4 cup) water, corn syrup, sugar, and salt in a 3-quart stainless steel pot and set over medium heat. Stir mixture with a fork until bubbling, about 5 minutes, then increase heat to medium-high. Clip on a digital thermometer and cook, without stirring, until the clear syrup registers 250°F, about 8 minutes.
Transfer thermometer to the bowl of a stand mixer and pour in the hot syrup all at once, scraping the pot with a heat-resistant spatula. Cool to exactly 212°F, about 8 minutes, then add gelatin. With the whisk attachment, mix on low speed until the gelatin is melted, then increase to medium-high and whip until thick, snowy white, roughly tripled in volume, and beginning to ball up around the whisk, about 10 minutes. Scrape into a greased 4-cup container, cover tightly, and let stand at cool room temperature until thick and firm, at least 2 hours, or up to 1 week.
Make the buttercream:
Transfer marshmallow base to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whipping on medium speed, begin adding the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting for about 5 seconds after each addition. The fluffy creme will cling to the whisk at first but loosen as the butter is incorporated. Once combined, scrape the bowl with a flexible spatula and whip a minute more. The buttercream should be light and creamy but thick enough to hang upside down from a spoon. If it seems stiff or dense (feeling greasy rather than melting on your tongue), scoop a cup into a small bowl and microwave until completely melted, about 30 seconds.
Return the melted buttercream to the bowl and whip 15 seconds on medium-high. Conversely, if it seems loose or gooey, refrigerate the entire bowl 15 minutes, then whip 3 minutes on medium-high. For more details, check out the Buttercream Troubleshooting Guide on page 113.
Use according to the directions on pages 110–11, or set aside at cool room temperature for a few hours, until needed, and rewhip before use.
In an airtight container, the buttercream can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks, or frozen for 6 months. Soften to about 66°F at room temperature (about 5 hours if refrigerated or 12 hours if frozen), and rewhip before using.
Marshmallow depends on an accurate digital thermometer, so if things go wrong, you can bet the readings were off. This can happen if you misread an analogue thermometer or fail to fully submerge the probe in the syrup, or simply when good thermometers go bad (a sad fact of life). It can also happen when the batteries start to fade. Test the accuracy of your thermometer by making sure it reads 212°F in a pot of boiling water.
In winter months, the hot syrup may harden along the bottom of a chilly mixing bowl. Warm the bowl in hot water to prevent this problem, and dry well before use.
NOTE: Pistachio Extract - there are quite a few good brands available online, Beanilla is my favorite brand.
Recipes adapted from BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts by Stella Parks. Copyright © 2017 by Stella Parks. Reprinted with permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
So it's that time of the year when I pull the ginger out and make my favorite cake, the indomitable gingerbread cake. It's one of the few cakes, I look forward to making each year and every year, I try to do something different with it. This year's version is full of fruity flavors and spice from some expected and unexpected sources.
The inspiration from the flavors in this cake came from my trip to Sacramento when I visited the California Olive Ranch and learned about the different types of olive oil (and see the oil being made in action). The Arbequina variety not only comes with a bright green color but also has one of the fruitiest flavors which pairs really well with the spices in this cake. Brown rice miso is caramel colored salty fermented paste made from rice as the name suggests while mirin is a sweet rice wine, both of these ingredients are used often as seasoning agents in Japanese cooking and in this gingerbread cake, they do just that. And since, miso is rather salty to start with, there's no need for the addition of extra salt to this cake batter.
Since it is the holiday season, I've made a few marzipan Christmas trees to put on top of the cake and you can make some snow with a dusting of a little confectioner's sugar. Since there's no snow where we live, I had to bring it to us!
Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this cake;
- If you can't find moscovado use dark brown or light brown sugar. Jaggery is another great option.
- Arbequina is one of the best olive oils to use in dessert because it has a natural fruity flavor and in this cake, it makes a big difference. However, if you can't find arbequina, try to a fruity extra-virgin olive oil.
arbequina, brown miso and mirin gingerbread cake
yields: one round 9 inch cake
a little unsalted butter to grease the cake pan
2 cups (311g) whole-wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs, chilled
3/4 cup Arbequina olive oil from California Olive Ranch
3/4 cup (177ml) dark molasses
1/2 cup (135g) packed moscovado sugar
4 tablespoons brown rice miso
1/4 cup (60ml) mirin
1 cup (240ml) plain full-fat greek yogurt
green food coloring (optional)
1/4 cup (31g) confectioner's sugar
1. Line and grease a round 9 inch cake pan with a sheet of parchment paper cut to size and a little butter. Place a wire rack at midlevel and preheat the oven to 350F. Dry whisk all the dry ingredients from the flour to the cloves in a large mixing bowl and keep aside.
2. Attach the whisk attachment to the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the eggs, olive oil, molasses, moscovado sugar and miso. Whisk on medium-high speed until creamy for about 4 to 5 minutes. Replace the whisk attachment with the paddle, reduce the speed to medium-low and add in half of the whisked dry ingredients . Whisk on low speed until combined. Then add in the mirin and the yogurt along with the remaining flour and whisk until combined. Scrape the bottom of the bowl using a silicone spatula to make sure there are no visible flecks of flour. Transfer the cake batter to the prepare cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for about 55 to 60 minutes. The cake will done when it is firm and spongy to touch at the center and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center. Once the cake is baked, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to release it and cool on a wire rack.
3. Decorate the cake with the marzipan Christmas trees (See Video Here on how to prepare). Dust the cake with confectioner's sugar as needed.
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by California Olive Ranch. However, all opinions expressed are solely my own.