Berry Almond Breakfast Cake

9 Aug

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This cake is a doozy. I know that it may seem rather bold of me to begin diving right into the accolades here—jeez, lady, tell us how you really feel—but there is little more that I can say about this cake than this: it is perfect

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This is the cake that I want in my sticky little hands when I think of coffee cake. This is the cake that I want to see in front of me when I imagine a streusel-topped, berry-filled breakfast treat. This is exactly the type of cake that will make almond-phobes (no, really—those actually exist) do a complete 180 and finally come around to the realization that almond cakes are a delightful, delectable thing to behold.

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Not surprisingly, this cake recipe hails from the great repertoire of Tartine, the bakery that satisfies all of my bakery dreams and needs. (What? You don’t have bakery dreams and needs? Surely, I can’t be the only one who…okay, never mind—maybe I don’t want to know the answer to that) With a light almond flavor, a perfect, buttery crumb topping, and an almost hidden layer of berries baked into delicious secrecy inside, I can’t think of another coffee cake I’ve had that checks off all the delightful, delectable boxes that this one does.

And now I am going to stop talking, because you need to drop what you are doing and make this cake right now.

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Last Year: Niçoise Cobb Salad, Homemade Lemonade and Limeade and White Bean and Tomato Bruschetta

Berry Almond Breakfast Cake

Adapted from Tartine, by Elizabeth Prueitt

Crumble topping:

½ cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, slightly firmer than room temperature

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (4 ½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

2/3 cup (3 ounces) almond meal or finely ground almonds

1/3 cup (about 2 ¼ ounces) granulated sugar

pinch of salt

Cake:

6 ounces of almond paste, or make your own almond paste by combining about ¾ of a cup (4 ounces) of blanched almonds with ½ cup (2 ounces) of powdered sugar and blending together in a food processor until the mixture becomes very fine and just starts to clump together

¾ cup (about 5 ¼ ounces) granulated sugar

¾ cup (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons (7 ½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, at room temperature

½ pint (about 5 ½ ounces) fresh berries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour an 8-inch round cake pan.

To make the crumble topping, place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on high speed until creamy. Add flour, almond meal, sugar, and salt and mix only until all of the ingredients are incorporated. You do not want a smooth mixture; it should still have a crumble appearance. If you overmix it, cover it and chill it for  about 1 hour, and then break it into crumble-sized pieces. Place the topping aside.

To make the cake, place the almond paste (or your own almond and confectioners’ sugar mixture) in the large bowl of the mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until the paste is broken up. Add the granulated sugar and gradually increase the speed to medium. Continue to mix until there are no lumps. Add the butter and mix until creamy, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer as needed to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula. On low speed, add the flour, baking powder, salt, and eggs all at once, then increase the speed to medium and mix just until everything is combined. Do not overmix.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Top with berries, distributing it evenly over the surface, and then add the crumble topping, scattering it evenly over the top of the berries. (At this point you can cover the assembled cake loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight. The next morning, remove the cake from the refrigerator and leave it out at room temperature for about 45 minutes before baking.)

Bake the cake until the crumble topping is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into a non-fruity part of the cake reveals a completely cooked, non-runny cake. Tartine’s cookbook says that this will take 40 minutes to accomplish, but my cake was not done until it had baked for 60 to 70 minutes (at 40 minutes the batter was still incredibly runny). My advice to you is to check the cake at 40 minutes, then, if it’s not done, continue to bake it, checking on it every 10 minutes or so to gauge its doneness.

Let the cake cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve the cake directly from the pan. You will not be able to reliably remove it without completely destroying the cake.

Serves 8 to 12 people.

Vanilla and Strawberry Baseball Cake

2 Aug

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This, as you can see, is a cake, decorated like a baseball. Of all the things I have ever created in my lifetime, the cream puff fanciness, the three-layered cakes piled with fruit and other dreamy things, the vegan Thanksgiving entrée that was so good it could convince a grizzly bear to go off meat, this cake might be the greatest. Because it is a cake decorated like a baseball.

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I actually made this cake several weeks ago, as a Father’s Day gift for my dad, a fellow baseball fanatic and appreciator of cake. For quite some time, I was not sure if I would ever share it on this site, being as though both the cake and frosting recipes are direct takes from America’s Test Kitchen (the only change being that I, as per usual, cut the sugar in the cake by 1/3), and I generally like to feature things on this site that lean towards the original, or at least have more of a personal twist to them.

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But what, I ask you, could have a more personal twist on it than a cake decorated like a baseball? I mean, for a lady who spends what some might consider an unreasonable amount of time making cakes and thinking about/watching/obsessing over baseball, this cake is pretty much my own personal mic drop. Will I ever be able to make a cake that tops this one? I really don’t know. But, luckily, the only way to find out is to make more cakes.

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Last Year: Peach and Ginger Brown Sugar Shortcakes and No Recipe: I Ate This

Vanilla and Strawberry Baseball Cake

Classic White Layer Cake

Slightly adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

1 cup whole milk, room temperature

6 large egg whites, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 ¼ cups (9 ounces) cake flour

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) granulated sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened

4 cups vanilla frosting (recipe follows)

about 1 cup of strawberries, smaller berries preferred

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour two 8-or-9-inch round cake pans, and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, egg whites, and vanilla and almond extracts.

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together. Using an electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium-low speed beat the butter into the flour mixture, one piece at a time, about 30 seconds. Continue to beat the mixture until it resembles moist crumbs, about 1 to 3 minutes.

Beat in all but ½ cup of the milk mixture, then increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until smooth, light, and fluffy, 1 to 3 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly beat in the remaining 12 cup milk mixture until the batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds.

Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure everything is thoroughly combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, smooth the tops, and gently tap the cake pans on the counter to settle the batter. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.

Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the edges of the cakes, then flip them out onto a wire rack. Peel off the parchment paper, flip the cakes right side up, and let cool completely before frosting, at least 2 hours.

Vanilla Frosting

From The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened

3 tablespoons heavy cream or milk

2 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

3 cups (12 ounces) confectioners’ sugar

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream, vanilla, and salt together on medium-high speed until smooth 1 to 2 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low, slowly add the confectioner’s sugar, and beat until incorporated and smooth, 4 to 6 minutes. Increase mixer speed to medium high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, 5 to 10 minutes.

Makes about 4 cups of frosting.

To make the baseball cake:

When the cake has cooled completely, frost the entire cake, smoothing out the frosting as much as possible.

Hull the strawberries, then slice each one in half from top to bottom. Slice each half into thin strips of roughly equal size.

Use the rim of a large bowl to mark the curve of your strawberry stitching by gently placing the rim about 1/3 of the way across the cake on both the right and left sides. This will make a pattern on which you can place your strawberry stitches. Place strawberry slices on the diagonal on either side of the curved pattern. If necessary, consult an actual baseball in order to get an idea of how to make your stitching look just right.

Thai Shrimp Cakes

25 Jul

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Sometimes, when the sun is shining and the temperature is just right, I’ll notice that the hammock in our backyard is looking particularly lonely. If there happens to be a slight breeze, the hammock might even be swaying just a bit from side to side, like the arms of a new parent gently rocking a baby to sleep. Soon, as though being pulled by a magnetic force that guides people into relaxation, I am in the hammock, my eyes slowly beginning to close. But, wait—what’s that? Are there weeds in the vegetable patch? And what’s going on over there, by the gladiolas? Did a tree branch fall over and squash the flowers? I’d better pick up that branch and assess the damage. While I’m at it, I may as well pull those weeds. And those other weeds. And that clover that is growing into the strawberry bed. Goodbye, hammock. It was nice spending 90 seconds in your maternal embrace.

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If there is one thing I have, sadly, learned this summer, it’s that, the older I get, the more difficult it is for me to relax. Oh, believe me, I want to relax, but every time I set aside a cozy little meeting with a good book or that lonely little hammock, my mind automatically turns to thoughts of all the other things I could be doing that might be deemed a bit more productive. The one silver lining in all of my inadvertent refusal to sit down and take it easy is the fact that, while I am doing whatever it is that I should be doing, my mind usually begins to wander to thoughts of food. Sometimes, as in this most recent case, those food thoughts can produce something truly spectacular.

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While in the thick of yard work, I decided that I needed to use up some of our garden’s mint. Immediately, my thoughts turned to lemongrass, mint, ginger, and the spicy kick of chiles, all enveloping the mellow taste of prawns. Taking a cue from my favorite Indian kebabs, I decided to feature my creation in the form of small patties, browned until just crisp on the outside, but still tender in the middle. They were exactly what I hoped they’d be: spicy, fresh, and filled with complimentary flavors. I don’t know what it says about me that I do my best thinking while working, not relaxing, but if all my ideas end up being this good, I might just have to spend even yet more time weeding, and even less time in the hammock. Sigh. The sacrifices I make.

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Last Year: Best Food to Pack on a Roadtrip (this is particularly timely, since we’re living in San Francisco until the end of August, and our drive from Portland to San Francisco was a typical 12-hour affair) and Smoked Spatchcocked Chicken

Thai Shrimp Cakes 

¼ cup chopped lemongrass, outer stem peeled away

2 tablespoons grated ginger

½ cup chopped fresh mint

½ cup shopped cilantro leaves

½ chopped green onion

2 cloves garlic

½ to 1 small hot chile—birdseye or Serrano

2 large eggs

1 cup panko or dry, unseasoned bread crumbs

1 pound raw shrimp, deveined, tails and shells removed

½ teaspoon sea salt

vegetable oil

In the bowl of a food processor, combine lemongrass, ginger, mint, cilantro, green onion, garlic, chile, and eggs. Pulse until herbs are uniformly chopped, about 6 or 7 long pulses. Add panko, shrimp, and salt, and pulse until shrimp has become chopped somewhat fine, but not ground into a paste. You should still be able to see small to medium chunks of shrimp.

In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, heat enough vegetable oil to just cover the bottom of the pan. Using about ¼ cup of shrimp mixture at a time, form mixture into rough patties, then gently place them in the hot oil, cooking each patty for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until the shrimp has cooked through, but the patties remain tender. Cook 3 to 4 patties at a time, being careful not to overload the skillet. Add just a teaspoon so more vegetable oil in between cooking each batch of patties, allowing the oil to heat up heat time.

Depending on how generously you size your patties, you should end up with about 12 shrimp cakes total.

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