Thursday, 22 December 2011

Buon Natale di Roma!

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Ciao, tutti!  I'm on a much-needed vacation in Rome right now, but I couldn't neglect the blog during the bakingest season of the year, so I'm leaving you with this recipe for fabulously easy, majorly impressive homemade biscotti.

I made these guys for a dinner party back in early November (more on that to come, as it was my first time doing a full-on dinner for a vegetarian-inclusive crowd), and everyone was so surprised to hear that I'd baked them from scratch.  I just brushed off the oohs and aahs with a shrug: no biggie.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Can't Afford Ornaments? Make Your Own!

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The bf and I bought our first grownup-sized (6' +) Christmas tree this year, and after we hauled it home (well, he did) and set it up, I looked up at the giant beauty and realized something: we didn't have any ornaments, and we were far too poor to buy enough of them for a tree this size.  We were going to have to do a homemade Christmas tree, and all we could do was pray it didn't come out too wonky.

Okay, okay, technically we could have found a way (probably through IKEA or Poundland) to afford a whole, big-ass tree full of ornaments.  But I'm not sure how much longer we'll be here in London – not more than another year for me, and hopefully not more than 2 for the bf – so it doesn't make sense to acquire even more stuff than we already have, and anyway, making things is fun!  So I hopped on the internet to find a recipe for a baked good that wouldn't spend a lifetime on my already-ample hips: salt dough ornaments.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Finally, a Cure for American Fall Nostalgia!

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Back when I first moved to London, one of the things I missed most about the states was hot apple cider.  The fall snap in the air that first year hit my nostalgia buttons hard, and I found myself aching to crunch through an autumn wonderland, breath clouding, hands wrapped around a hot cup of steaming apple cider.  But alas, I was disappointed again and again – even Starbucks didn't have it, and there was nothing resembling cider (to mull myself) in the shops.  The closest thing I found was something called mulled apple cider at Covent Garden, but one sip of the revolting alcoholic brew dashed my hopes against the cobblestones and shattered them into a million shards of sad.

All that fall and winter I had to content myself with coffee, which, luckily, is one of my favorite things.  But it still didn't hit the spot.  I guzzled the real stuff on brief and wonderful trips home, and resigned myself to a life without sweet, cinnamony comfort.


Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A Pretty Little Snack: Dairy-Free Blueberry Corn Muffins

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I made these little beauties for a group of friends who came over the evening after I got back to London from Thanksgiving – in other words, I made these muffins, and the other snacks I'd promised (thank god for truffle salt and hardboiled eggs) in a haze of jetlag and exhaustion after a full day of work. 

I wasn't expecting much from them; I threw the ingredients together based loosely on a basic muffin recipe and the random ingredients we had in our cupboard, and I was more than a little worried that they'd turn out strange.  But lo and behold, they came out looking fabulous (if I do say so meself)!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The 'Other' Thanksgiving Dessert: Apple Crisp

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You guys already know I'm obsessed with pumpkin, and especially with my family's pumpkin pie.  So of course when I was home in San Francisco for Thanksgiving I ate a ton of the stuff.  But what you don't know is that there's another dessert my family serves every year, and it's not pecan pie (we do serve that sometimes, in which case it's a third option) – it simply has to be something fruity.

'scuse the iphone pics – didn't bring the big camera home.*

My mom and her sisters, the current matriarchs of our big, female-dominated clan, aren't super big on sweets.  They're salt folk, and they often skip dessert altogether on Thanksgiving, preferring to eat a slice of pumpkin pie at 6am the next day, for 'breakfast' (my mom never eats breakfast, besides these rare morning-after occurrences).  So if there's going to be another dessert on their table, they require it to be something a bit less sweet, less rich, more fruit-based, and that usually means an apple crisp.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Trust Me on This One: Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

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Okay, first things first, I need to acknowledge the elephant in the room: these pics.  They're not so good...and there aren't very many of them.  This post is unlikely to get past the guards at Foodgawker, or be pinned on Pinterest, or be bookmarked solely for the beauty of the photos.  For that reason, I've been putting off writing this post.  But then, on a long and awkward train journey to Edinburgh, I ate the last of these cookies, and I decided I couldn't let the photos hold me back anymore – the world needs to know about these chewy gems.

I'm not even kidding.  These cookies are that good.  They can make a squished train ride bearable, a cold day feel nostalgically wintry, and a loved one forgive a stress-related slight.  They're magic, and they're so easy.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Delayed Gratification: Blueberry Boy Bait

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When I first saw this recipe forever ago on Smitten Kitchen, I immediately bookmarked it.  I mean, cake batter, fresh blueberries, cinnamon topping, and a cute name?  Sold, sold, and sold again.

But then it got lost in the flood of recipes I was bookmarking every day, and I forgot about it.  Until my friend Aine asked me on facebook if I'd ever heard of it, and the desire came rushing back.  Oh, Boy Bait, I lamented, how could I ever have forgotten you?

Saturday, 29 October 2011

A First Time for Everything: 2-Hour Whole Wheat Bagels

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I've always wanted to make bagels, but every time I thought I was up for it I either balked at all the steps or had a yeasted-things-disaster just before I was planning to make them and got too intimidated.  It seems like such a process: all that kneading and rising, then more rising and resting, then the shaping, and to top it all off they have to be boiled before they're baked??  WTF.

But then, last weekend, I found myself with nothing interesting to do (the bf was off with his study buddy) and some extra whole wheat flour on my hands (not literally, that part comes later), and I came across this recipe for bagels in two hours.  Yes, two hours, start to finish!  It seemed too good to be true, but I was bored and I figured I'd give it a shot.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The End of an Era, Marked by Crumb Coffee Cake

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So, my MA course is officially over.  We've all handed in our dissertations, and even though some people are still working on their books (poor researchers...), most of us are starting to look for agents and publishers to take us on.  It's a whole new ballgame, and this time we're on our own.  No weekly workshops where we can glean advice from those farther along than the rest; no meetings with grown-up writers (ie tutors) who can guide us in the right direction; no grades/marks to let us know whether what we're doing is working.  Nope, each of us is on her own now, and that's both freeing and terrifying.

But it doesn't mean we can't still meet up and gossip over cake every now and again, and that's exactly what we did a couple weeks ago!  After much back and forth on scheduling and location, we settled on a date and time and met up at our classmate C's house in West London for brunch.  And yes, the tube lines were down, and yes, the journey was long, but it was so worth it for the lovely outdoor space and even lovelier hospitality.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Fall Baking, Without the Pumpkin: Dairy Free Spice Cookies

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The air is biting, the leaves are turning, and the adolescent swans down on the canal are finally starting to turn white, which means two things: 1. the swans are currently a mottled grey-white, which is adorably hilarious, and 2. it's time to bust out the fall recipes!

Now, I'm not the most creative cook, so fall recipes, for me, usually just involve pumpkin.  I love pumpkin.  Pie, bread (or bread, or bread), muffins, oatmeal – you name it and put pumpkin in it, I'll eat it.   

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Healthifying a Craving: Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

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My cravings aren't always butter-related.  Often I crave sushi, or heirloom tomatoes, or noodles.

But if we're going to be really honest here (and I think we should be – this is a safe space for honesty and cravings), I have to admit that the majority of my sudden desires involve copious amounts of sugar, egg, flour, and yes, butter.

Friday, 23 September 2011

New York, New York: City Cravings and Cold Sesame Noodles

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The BF and I are headed to New York this evening; I have a one-week layover on my way to a good friend's wedding, and he's coming along for the first two nights in one of our favorite cities in the world.  I'm so looking forward to it.  No work drama, no book stress, just pastrami and sushi and bagels and central park and wide sidewalks and all the other things I miss so much when I'm away from NYC.

One of the foods I crave heavily when I haven't been to the city in a while is cold sesame noodles.  If you've never tried them (and chances are if you've never been to New York, you haven't, as I've never seen them anywhere else), you should.  They're salty and peanutty and cool – a wonderful summer lunch dish, although I made these on a chilly day and they were just as satisfying.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Another weird veggie I'd never cooked: Chard with White Wine and Garlic

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Contrary to what you might think from reading this blog, I do in fact eat healthy foods.  Real foods, like meats and veggies and fresh, non-baked-in-sugar-and-butter fruits.  It's true, I swear!  The problem is, anything interesting enough to share is usually cooked for dinner... at night... (so please excuse the bad pics in this post) but I promise I do eat, and enjoy, healthy foodstuffs. 

Take, for example, this beautiful chard that came in our organics box last week.  Isn't it pretty?  And, amazingly, my tastebuds finally grew up about a year ago and decided they liked chard!  Especially when it's cooked in lots of butter and cheese, but that's neither here nor there

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Fall Nostalgia Favorites: Gooey Butter Cake

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Well, it's starting to get fall-y again out there – the wind is picking up, leaves are already beginning to litter the sidewalks, and the humid midday gloom is replaced with cool, breezy evenings.  This time of year always makes me feel massively nostalgic, both for San Francisco, my heart's forever home, and for St Louis, where I went to college and experienced many wonderful autumn seasons.  The minute that fall bite hits the air I start craving long, leaf-crunching walks through residential streets, hot apple cider, and gooey butter cake, best consumed sitting in the window at Kaldi's, watching the dusk fall on the seminary park outside.

Gooey butter cake is a St Louis institution.  It tastes as good as it sounds (does what it says in the tin, as the Brits say): gooey, sweet, buttery, with a crisp top and a soft cakey bottom.  It's divine.  So when I saw the recipe in the New York Times a while back, and then again on Smitten Kitchen, I bookmarked it immediately.  But it's pretty involved, and I'm generally pretty lazy, so it wasn't until this past week that I got around to making it.

Sunday, 4 September 2011


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Y'all know how much I love cinnamon, right?  Have we talked about this beforeOh, yes, we have.  A lot.  So I ask you this: how is it possible that I never tried to make gingersnaps with cinnamon taking the lead?  HOW?

Okay, it doesn't matter how.  We'll just chalk that up to yet another brainfart on my part.  The point is, dear people, I've now tried it...and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to go back.  The cinnamon, oh, god, the cinnamon has me swooning.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Summer Lovin': Heirloom Tomato and Corn Salad

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I'm often heard to lament the woeful state of tomatoes in England.  Although London has made leaps and bounds on the food scene in the past ten years, there are a few things* you just cannot get here, and tomatoes are one of those things.  The little cherry ones are okay, but the big-'uns are just sad, flavorless lumps of dried-out depression.

Which is exactly why, when I have the opportunity to go home to the Bay Area for a month (as I just did), I eat as many tomatoes as I can get my hands on.  And my favorites, hands down, are the big, bright, juicy, luscious heirlooms that were just coming into season as my plane landed at SFO.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Fruit That Holds Its Own: Rhubarb Spice Crumble

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I'm in San Francisco right now (so please pardon the iPhone photos and potential long silences), taking a wee break from the mad scene of Londontown, but have no fear – I'm still baking!  I don't get as many opportunities when I'm home (mostly because my mother glares at me every time I place something buttery/sugary in front of her), but last weekend we had new neighbors coming over for brunch and my mom actually asked me to make something for dessert.  Of course, I jumped at the opportunity.

My mom had brought home rhubarb from the farmer's market, and I didn't have many ideas of what to do with it.  I'd made a delicious rhubarb coffee cake before, and I thought about doing a muffin version, but I'm also kind of on a health kick while I'm in the land of fresh, amazing produce, and I didn't want to load the dessert with butter and sugar.  So I decided to do a crumble.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Dead Easy: Chocolate Chip Blondies

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I love a one-bowl recipe.  Lately, with my MA course ending and changes at my job and this massive manuscript edit looming over my head, all I've been wanting to make are easy, comforting, quick recipes – had you noticed?  With the exception of the lemon cream pie, nearly everything I've made in the past 2 months has come together in under an hour and involved one bowl, a couple of measuring cups, and a (usually lined with foil) baking dish/tray.  Few steps, few ingredients, few dishes to clean up – great result.  That's my kind of recipe.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Lazy Baker Strikes Again: 'Baked' Brownies For Slackers

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The other day, I wanted a snack, but our cupboards were bare.  This is a very dangerous situation.  When we're out of snackables, I usually just eat way too much of everything else (random cold potatoes leftover from dinner, old candies from Christmas stockings, toast with butter and jam at 5pm), but occasionally I'll get up off my butt and bake.  But it has to be something easy and quick, because when I get snacky it usually means I'm either hard at work (scoff) or bored and lazy.  Enter: the lazy version of the 'Baked' brownie.

This recipe, in its original form, isn't even that involved.  But I was looking for super low-maintenance baking.  I toyed with using a one-bowl recipe from Allrecipes, but the reviews were either fantastic or abysmal, and I wasn't really up for taking the chance.  So I went back to this post from Brown Eyed Baker, for the brownies from the book 'Baked', which has been getting a ton of buzz around the food world – especially for the brownies.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Martha's Magic: Lemon Cream Pie

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I love Martha Stewart's recipes.  My banana bread recipe comes from her book, and it's been a regular favorite of pretty much everyone who knows me for years.  In fact, my friend made it for her boyfriend the other day and she said he loved it, so the legend lives on!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

A Genius Among Us: Joy's No-Roll Pie Crust

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I'm sure you all know Joy the Baker by now, yes?  She's the adorably quirky baker/blogger/muser-on-life who brought us such gems as sunflower seed bread, chocolate peanut butter puffs, and these lemon meringue cookies, which I'm dying to try once I don't feel too lazy / I buy a pastry bag.  Basically, she's kind of a genius, as well as being so creative it actually makes me sleepy just to read her blog.

But sometimes her creativity energizes me, because it encourages my laziness.  Enter the no-roll pie crust.  This dough doesn't require a lot of work (amazingness, especially for a pie dough); it mostly involves grating frozen butter, manhandling the dough a bit, and lots of greasy fingers.  Have you ever grated butter?  It's kind of weird, but also kind of ingenious.  And more than kind of pretty:

Monday, 4 July 2011

Indecision Baking: Banana Fluffernutter Muffins

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I have a bad habit of changing direction in the middle of projects.  I do it when walking (suddenly decide to take a different route), I did it with my book (and as a result have been busy rewriting the first 3 chapters almost entirely), and I do it with baking.  A lot.

These muffins are a perfect example.  See that pear up there?  The one with all the brown splotches?  I was totally going to use that.  I was going to make healthy muffins, with bananas and a pear and low-fat yogurt instead of butter or oil.  I had the best of intentions.  But then...

Saturday, 2 July 2011

How to tell if your neighbor is a food blogger...

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...well, if she makes pie dough in her nightgown in front of the bedroom window, trying to photograph the process with floury, buttery hands, that's a pretty good sign.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

For Real This Time: Momofuku Compost Cookies

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Okay, so I know I already waxed lyrical about the wonders of the Momofuku method as a base for my favorite cookie ever, but I did also (finally) try the recipe as it's meant to be made: with all sorts of weird, shouldn't-that-be-savory things stuffed into it.  And I wanted to share my experience.

A couple of weeks ago, the bf's brother came to stay with us on his way to a year abroad in China, and I thought it might be nice to give him and his friend a good old American cookie send-off.  I wanted to make a batch of my chocolate cherry cookies, but I also wanted to try the real Compost Cookies of lore.  So I made the dough up until the additions bit, split it in half, and did one batch of choc-cherry and one with potato chips, pretzels, and chocolate chunks.  You can see the bits here:

Friday, 24 June 2011

Topsy Turvy Cravings: Pear Upside-Down Cake

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I don't know why I always seem to make things out of season.  It's not intentional, but I do seem to crave certain foods more when everybody else in the world is ignoring them – maybe it's my affection for the underdog!

Anyway, for whatever reason last week I got a mad craving for pear upside-down cake.  I've never made an upside-down cake, and the most common one seems to be pineapple, which I'm not a big fan of (in things. I love it fresh), so it didn't make sense that I would want this specific baked good, but there you have it.  I'm just a slave to my cravings (and no, I'm most certainly NOT pregnant).

Saturday, 18 June 2011

What to eat when there's nothing in the fridge: Mishmash Salad

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The bf and I have been crazy busy lately.  He's spending all hours at school and in the hospital (for school), and I'm trying to edit the first draft of my manuscript, wrap up my MA, and deal with book proposals and agent queries, all while still working part-time.  There are a lot of people out there who pile more than that on their plates, and plow along just fine.  But we're not those people.

We're the type of people who get home in the evening and go straight for our computers, each of us hoping that the other will sort out dinner while we zone out in front of youtube or food blogs (respectively).  And that's where this salad comes in.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Another English Classic: Elderflower and Raspberry Jelly

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I never knew what elderflower was as a child.  I figured that you could make alcohol with it, provided it was related to elderberries, because otherwise this scene didn't make much sense (to the extent that Monty Python really ever made sense), but I had no concept of what it tasted like.

So when I moved to England, and found elderflower-flavored things everywhere, I was a bit surprised.  I feel like in this day and age we like to think that we've at least heard of the big flavor combinations of the countries we're familiar with, but somehow I never noticed this one, even when I was living in England for 6 months in college.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Making a great thing even better: Momofuku-esque Chocolate Cherry Cookies

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There are times when you think a recipe just can't get any better.  It's gone beyond 'tried and true' to be a real favorite, not just a go-to but something people talk about for days after the product of said recipe is gone.  The ingenious combination of chocolate chips, oats, and dried cherries in a cookie is one of those recipes for me.  People never expect it, and they always rave about it once they've tried it.

But then.  I tried something new with it.  I know, blasphemy, but I was curious!  For months, I've been watching other bloggers try the Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookie recipe, and I keep wanting to try it but we never have the required snack foods lying around (mostly because on the rare occasions that we do, I eat them all before I can think of doing anything else with them).  But last week, I really wanted to bake something special for my porter – who'd saved me in a really horrible, ambulance-requiring moment – and I decided on my awesome cherry chocolate cookies, with a Momofuku twist.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Delicious Imperfection: Peach and Nectarine Tart

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It was supposed to be a lazy Sunday afternoon.  We'd had lunch at one of our favorite London restaurants (to celebrate my first full draft of my manuscript!), followed by a windy wander through Bermondsey, and the plan was to go home and relax / work.  But then I was struck with an unrelenting desire to bake a peach tart.

Admittedly, the desire began a couple of days before, when I was watching Come Dine With Me and one of the contestants made a peach and nectarine tart.  We didn't have the fruit on hand, so I filed it away for another day, but then we walked past an M&S on the way back from lunch and I decided to do it that day.  In a hurry.  Without a recipe... which kind of led to a semifail.  Let's go through it one part at a time.