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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Honeybee Bundt Cake

Hey, honey. 
Spring has sprung! In the spirit of starting things anew, I'm going to be trying something different this week.

A lot of food bloggers give you a really long anecdote or big history before the recipe when a lot of people just want to read the recipe. While I understand the reasoning behind all of this (nobody is going to want to read your writing unless you force them) I'm going to flip the narrative and give you the backstory of the ingredients and the reasoning for things after the recipe. Hopefully, this means you'll appreciate it so much that you'll continue to read all the way to the bottom. So, let's get on with it!

Honeybee Bundt Cake
yields 1 large bundt pan or 2 loaves
Adapted from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson

  • 11.25 oz AP flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 fat pinch kosher salt
  • 7 oz vegan butter substitute, room temperature
  • 5.25 oz cane sugar
  • 4 oz pure honey ( Try Gerard'z Honeybees Star Thistle Honey)
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 c almond milk + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp local bee pollen (available at most health food stores)
  • 6 oz pure honey
  • 2 oz coconut sugar
  • 2 oz vegan butter
  • A fat pinch kosher salt
  • A big fat handful of walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds...whatever you have lying around, crushed
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and prep a large bundt pan with pan spray. I like the kind that already has flour in it, but if you don't have that then feel free to dust your pan with a little bit of flour, just so the cake has somewhere to climb and stick to without collapsing. That being said, this is a cake you can make the batter for in advance, let rest in the fridge, and then bake from cold when you're ready. Please plan accordingly, as this cake is best served just a little warm, with some homemade (n)ice cream (Try this one.).

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Combine the almond milk and vinegar and allow to sit while you make the rest of the cake. Meanwhile, whip up the cane sugar, honey, and vegan butter with the whisk attachment of your standing mixer until really tall, light, fluffy, and homogeneous, which shouldn't take more than 2 minutes. It's quite important that everything is creamed and that the sugar is not visibly present. Whip in the vanilla paste for another 30 seconds, scrape, and add the eggs and yolk, one at a time, making sure to stop and scrape between this addition. This recipe is pretty high in fat, so it's important to make sure the eggs get in slowly. It also is imperative that everything is at room temperature for this one, otherwise the risk of the batter curdling is higher. I know it's annoying, but I assure you that it's worth it.

Are the eggs all in? Great! Scrape down and get ready. Spoon in about a third of the flour, and stir on low speed for 3 or 4 turns around the bowl. Add in half the milk and stir a little more, another 4 turns or so. Add in the second third of the flour, stir, and add the rest of the milk. Stir, add the final bit of the flour, and stir the rest of it by hand with a rubber spatula, scraping well, especially the bottom. Swirl in the bee pollen.

Scrape the batter into your prepared pan and spread it evenly all around. If your oven is not already hot, you may store it in the fridge until it has sufficiently reached its desired temperature. This particular cake actually does get a gorgeous crackly ridge if you do this, even moreso than if you bake it from room temperature, which is what you want. Either way, only stick this cake in the center rack of the oven to bake when it's sufficiently hot, and not a moment before.

Turn the heat down to 350 and bake for 40 minutes, or until the top of the cake is solid and springs back when gently touched. Meanwhile, make your glaze/syrup by combining the honey, vegan butter, coconut sugar, and a little salt, in a small saucepot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a light simmer and stir. It's going to take about 2 minutes for the sugar to fully dissolve once simmering, but please don't pull it off the heat until it's all done! Trust me on this. Take the time now to crush your nuts in a mortar and pestle, but only enough so that they're broken up into irregular pieces. Walnuts work great for this because they're so soft and fatty, but you can use any kind of nut you like. Pistachios look visually stunning, with their bright green!

Remove your cake from the oven, but keep the oven turned on. Poke your cake with either a wooden skewer or a chopstick, all the way down to the bottom. Please be generous, but don't put your holes too close together. Be sure to get a lot of them, as they'll be essential for this cake's flavor later! I use the metal chopsticks because there's a 100% guarantee of no bamboo skewer shavings getting into the cake.

Take your time with this step, and please make sure your glaze is warm and quite runny!
If your syrup/glaze has gone a little cool, heat it up again to where it's quite runny, and then pour about half of the glaze, slowly, into surface of the cake. Try to get it in the crags and holes as much as possible, so it's quite important that your cake and glaze are still warm. Take your crushed nuts and sprinkle them all over. Pop your cake in the oven for another 5 minutes, and then remove from the oven and cool on a rack, while still in the pan. This is the reason I didn't have you turn the oven off just now, and also the reason I didn't have you toast the nuts, so they won't burn.

Now, glaze the cake with the remainder or your syrup and let cool in the pan for an hour or so. This means that this cake is the absolute perfect cake to finish just before dinner so you can eat and then have dessert. It's only folksy in name but is quite impressive for a dinner party, especially with the right accompaniment.

To turn out, flip your cake upside down on a plate (not your presentation plate) and then flip your cake back over on your serving plate. You can garnish with fresh mint, if you like, or dust with powdered sugar...but I really like this cake exactly as it is.You can even reserve a couple of spoonfuls of glaze for your plating and drizzle it all over, letting it drip over the sides, creating a deliciously inviting presentation.

Did you like that recipe? Are you ready for the fun facts? Are you still with me? Great.

Put honey in your tea all spring instead of sugar. Trust me. 
Honey is a superfood and a dang miracle of nature. First, it never goes bad, not ever. There's honey in pots that are from ancient Egypt in sarcophagi that are still perfictly good and edible and haven't rotted or gone rancid. It captures, like a photograph or a painting, the taste of the earth, or terroir, of that region or season. It's an antiseptic (in survival-mode, you can use either pine sap or honey on small cuts in a pinch while you're running from zombies) and a great medicine for a sore throat or allergies. I could go on and on about honey and how important it is to get some in your diet. Yes, it's expensive, but you're going to use less of it than you're going to use sugar in many applications. Per one cup of sugar, you can use 2/3 c of honey when it comes to baking cakes and breads. Honey has complexities that sugar does not, and the fact that it's sustainable to boot doesn't hurt its argument by any means.

You'll notice that I put real honey in the recipe. A fair bit of honey on the cheaper side is made by thinning it out with karo or corn syrup. Unless you get it from a local farm/apiary, there's a good chance you might have a thinned out honey product, so make sure you look at your labels.

Do they look the same? Looks can be deceiving!
Gerard'z Honeybees is a really cool company with whom I partnered with for this post. I want to raise awareness on honey and the proper husbandry of bees. This is an ancient trade and we've been doing it since pretty much the dawn of civilization, unlike the manufacture of and the illegal trade and cartels of cane sugar. A lot of folks of the vegan persuasion - while well-intended - believe that taking honey from bees is harmful. There's a lot of evidence as to why this is untrue, but here are the bulletpoints you need to know:
  • Apiaries house hives and keep them healthy
  • Apiaries only take extra honey
    • If apiaries don't take the excess honey, there's a chance the colony will overcrowd or begin to swarm, and that's not what you want
  • When you have healthy bees, you have lots of food around as bees are pollinators
  • Farmers often have apiary plots rent-free for migrating beekeepers since they know they need the bees to pollinate their crops, which is good for everybody involved
  • Beeswax, a byproduct of most apiaries, can be used as a better alternative in candles, cosmetics, natural lip balms, and lotions than say animal fat would be 
Taking honey from bees isn't harming these animals. The amount of agave we're all-consuming, however, is harmful to a very specific kind of long-nosed bat that lives in the Southwest. We're taking their food supply, which sucks because they're the pollinators out there, so please think twice before you buy agave. If you still have reservations with honey, please buy maple syrup, sorghum, or molasses instead. 

Let's touch on allergy relief one final time. A good reason to try local honey is that it not only supports your community but also will help with your allergies. Since I live in Kansas City, I need to get honey that's from Kansas City, or at least within 100 miles of it. That means the bees are collecting pollen and nectar from flowers that are growing all around me, be they from trees or bushes or grasses or flowers. The point is that it's from the air that exists in the area that's making me sneeze, which is also why it's important to grab some local bee pollen while you're getting that.

You'll note that I called for an ingredient known as bee pollen, which some of you might not be aware of as a product you can buy. In short, bee pollen is the little yellow balls that you see on bees legs sometimes when you find one flying around. You can put it in cakes, sprinkle it on your oatmeal, stir it in your coffee, and more - but the reason that I personally want it around in spring is that it's the only allergy relief I can get without being put into a freaking coma. (Looking at you, Benedryl.) Bee pollen is crunchy, tastes really floral, and dissolves into a powder if you crush it. They come in small bags and from most local herbal or health food shops. I am fortunate enough to get mine at the local organic grocery store! The reason I added bee pollen into this recipe was that the honey I got was not from around Kansas City, but from California.

Star Thistle Honey from Gerard'Z Honeybees 🐝 So I'm obsessed with honey. One of my favorite things about it is that no two batches will ever taste exactly the same, nor should they! This particular honey has a wonderfully bitter quality, almost medicinal, but it's fragrant, pungent and so unbelievably deep with a sour finish... it takes you on a wild ride! And before my #vegan friends get mad, let me assure you that taking honey from bees is hundo P okay πŸ‘Œ . Beekeepers do everything they can to make sure that their babies are healthy and happy and always have enough food. The honey that they take is excess, and they never take so much honey that it would harm the hive. 🍯 besides, if we didn't have beekeepers, our bees would have a lot more trouble than they're already having. . . Honey it is a perfect food, that never goes bad, and is a really good antiseptic. πŸ™πŸ» Seriously! My mom puts honey over our minor cuts after washing them πŸ˜… and nothing is better than hot tea with honey when you have a sore throat. 🍡 The best part? It helps with your allergies. Gerardz's is a feature for tomorrow's blog post! Stay tuned πŸ˜‰ . . . . . #lfthx #gerardzhoneybees #honeytasting #gerardz #foodiechats #dairyfree #pareve #kosher #naturalfoods #KansasCity #california #honey #video #wannabgourmande #organicaid #savethebees #bees #nature @gerardzhoneybees
A post shared by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on

For this particular honeybee cake, I used the Star Thistle Honey. I'm partnering with Gerard'z this week and they gave me the exclusive on this soon-to-be-available product. Of course, I had to get a jar of their wildflower, too. The Wildflower honey was mild and floral, but had a bright and pleasantly sour finish. The Star Thistle, however, might be my favorite honey, because of how incredibly complex it is. It starts off with a bitter taste, almost medicinal, before you get into the sweetness. It's got quite a lot of depth, like a good dark roast coffee, and then finishes bright and sweet. I thought it was perfect for this cake, so of course I had to use it. Message the site to get some for yourself!

You saw me use the term terroir earlier in this post. This term is usually found when describing wine. Terroir is "the taste of the land." This means that the grapes are affected by the land they're grown in, say if the earth the vines grow in are heavy with either clay or lime or something else. In truth, it's quite the same for bees, depending on what they can feed upon that year. This is why you can get such flavors as 'Wildflower honey', which have been harvested from bees that get their stuff from wildflowers. You can get 'Orange blossom honey' from bees that have their hive situated in a citrus grove. Gerard'z Honeybees, based in California, have a variety of flavors, such as raspberry, alfalfa, and more. I invite you to try them all!

I also invite you to plant local wildflowers and fall bulbs, to feed your local bees. Just think, you're helping shape 'wildflower honey' in your area! But please check with your local extension office to make sure you're not introducing an invasive species of flower to your region. Otherwise, you might do more harm than good!
Some seasons the honey will be a deep amber color. Sometimes the honey will turn purple, if the bees get into a blackberry farm. Honey can be a very light gold color, or in some cases can be almost clear and be tangy and sour. The beautiful thing about honey is how incredibly seasonal it is. You can quite literally taste the years go by or monitor how the years went if you were to look at it over time. My good friend David, whose mother is a beekeeper, remembers a single summer in which it was the best honey harvest of their lives in which the honey was especially perfect.

Please plant as many flowers as you can this year! And every year! All of these bees need food and so does your soul!

One more reason that I'm in love with honey is because it's a very old world way of eating. Ancient Egyptians were keeping bees and consuming honey, and the Aztecs have been keeping bees for a very long time as well. The wandering Jews of the tribes of Moses are promised "a land of milk and honey." You can find evidence of ancient apiaries in China, and even the indigenous peoples of Northern Americas got in on the party. You won't find cane sugar in traditional Russian or Lithuanian sweets, as honey reigns supreme. If you think about it, cane sugar as a concept is no older than a heartbeat in terms of how civilization came to be. So, really, let's look at going back to our roots in the culinary world and regain a taste for honey. It's fully sustainable, will be excellent for your health and for the environment in the long run, and is incredibly tasty!

Thanks so much for enduring this new format of posting. I'm trying to be conscious of my readers' experience and I hope you enjoyed learning, especially if you got this far. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Share this cake with a loved one. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Lime Meringue Pie

If you are a follower of my Instagram, you know how much I love pie. I've been having a lot of fun lately with decorative elements and putting twists on classics. Personally, when I want a pie, I want a classical taste that is familiar in taste but somewhat conceptual in design. Remember my Lucky Charms Pie? The point is that I love lemon meringue pie...but lemons weren't on sale at the grocery store for 6/$1, so guess who won that fight.

This isn't key lime pie because key limes are tiny and actually are a citrus hybrid with a spherical fruit that can be quite small. Really they're best for juicing and making pie out of, since they're quite tiny to eat or enjoy. They also have a specific flavor that translates into something a little more fragrant and sweet than the lime you might find from the grocery store. Most of our limes come from Mexico and South America, where they grow easily.

In Pinoy cuisine, one thing can be said about the flavor profiles we seem to enjoy: put vinegar with everything. Pinoy people love vinegar and sour things, and I'm no exception to that rule. Sour things make your mouth pucker and water and they round out flavors that might otherwise be flat. One thing I learned in school that has sort of stuck with me in my career has been: if you taste something and it's tasty, but something is missing, 9 out of 10 the answer will be "acid." It could be a squeeze of lemon, a dash of vinegar, a little reduced wine or a smear of sour cream, but it is acid that elevates everything else and is a key component to delicious food. Learn to harness the power of sour!

Lime Meringue Pie
yields 1 9" pie

  • 6 oz flour
  • 1 oz walnut flour (or just fine-ground walnuts)
  • 1 oz powdered sugar
  • 4 oz vegan butter 
  • Ice water A/N
  • 8 egg yolks + 2 whole eggs
  • 1 c fresh-squeezed lime juice, strained (from about 5 or 6 fresh limes)
  • 1 3/4 c powdered sugar (sorry I don't know the oz, I always did by volume on this one!)
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 8 oz vegan butter 
  • Zest of 2 limes
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 4 egg whites
  • 7 oz granulated sugar
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
Sift the walnut flour into the 6 oz AP flour and pinch in the fat using your finger tips. Don't stop until it all comes together and the butter is about pea-sized. Sprinkle a little bit of water over it at a time and press gently until it all comes together. Chill in a disc in the freezer while you prepare the rest of your stuff. 

In a sauce pot, melt your 8 oz vegan butter in with your lime juice and powdered sugar over a medium-low flame. Meanwhile, whisk together your eggs and egg yolks with the granulated sugar until completely homogeneous. Set up a bowl lined with a fine mesh strainer for later. When your butter is melted completely, give that butter-lime mix a quick stir and splash in about 1/2 cup of the liquid into the eggs, and then whisk gently to warm it. This is called tempering, and is essential to do with any liquid/custard product that will contain egg. 

Scrape your egg mixture all into the pot and whisk gently, constantly, over a medium flame until thick. Do not let this mix boil under any circumstances! Remember, with curds, low and slow is the way to go. When the mixture is a gloriously thick and shiny consistency, quickly dump your curd into the bowl lined with the strainer, and strain out lumps that may have occurred. Once passed through, stir in your lime zest and vanilla paste. If you want to make this a little more green, it's 100% okay to add a drop of green food coloring. It's okay, but optional. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic film into the surface of the curd to prevent from getting a skin. Store in the fridge.

Turn your oven to 350 degrees. With this dough, you will be flouring your surface. Sorry, you need it this time - the walnuts are worth it for flavor but with this crust they really do need a little more flour and structure, as they do release quite a bit of oil. Flour your marble surface and rolling pin and roll out your dough to a thin flat disc, and line your pie pan with it. I like to let my dough rest in the pan for about 5 minutes to let the glutens relax a little before I decide how I trim it and decorate it.

You can do polka dots, braids, whatever you like for yours!
With this particular crust, I knew that I was going to have a meringue mounding up the top so I needed to have any design I was going to decide on be around the edge, but I still wanted a little bit of a three-dimensional element happening. With decorations, I really love leaves as elements, and I have this pretty cutter that looks like lime leaves. Unfortunately, it's too big to go around the edge of the pie, so I took my smallest circle cutter and cut a lot of small circles to go around the edge. I stuck them on with a little bit of egg wash, but you can use a little almond milk if you like. You may as well use egg wash, though, since you're going to want to brush the sides of your pie dough with the egg wash to make it brown.

Never throw away the pie crust trims! Turn them into little decorative elements that will go on your pie!

Prick your pie crust with a fork and line with a parchment sheet, and fill with baking beads (or dry beans) and bake for 20 minutes, or until fully cooked and browned. To make the leaves, cut them with a mold and bake them until crisp, about 10 minutes. I got the 3D shapes by propping the leaves against the lip of my baking sheet. Set aside to cool. Now, we're going to make a meringue!

Place your egg whites in the bowl of  your standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Meanwhile, place your sugar in a small saucepot with just enough water to cover. Fit it with a candy thermometer and bring it up to a slow boil on a medium high flame. Please note that it's very important to not jostle the pan in any way while it's coming to the temperature that you're going to want it at. Otherwise, it might crystalize and you're going to have to start again. Your goal temperature is 260 degrees F. When it gets up to 250, you can turn on the standing mixer and start whipping it to foam up.

Whip your egg whites until they've become quite white and fluffy, to about a medium peak, which should be the right amount it takes to get from 250 to 260. If you need a little more time, turn your whisk down to the lowest possible setting and let it stir. If it sets, you're in trouble. 

When all is ready, turn your whisk up to high and carefully pour the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream, being very careful to avoid the whip. Pour it in slowly, as you continue to whip to stiff peaks, until all the sugar is gone. Turn the speed down to medium-high and let it whip until the meringue is cool, about 3 minutes. What you've just made is an Italian meringue, and it's the most structurally sound of all meringues and will last you the longest. 

I totally used a smear of green gel dye in this. Why? Because look at that gorgeous color.
Now, we're finally ready to assemble! Obviously this takes quite a bit of time to do, a couple of hours, but it is worth it. Assemble by removing the baking paper and beads from your pie crust and dumping your curd in, smoothing the top to be even. Dump in your meringue and use an offset spatula to swirl and make attractive flips and whirls. You can use a torch to make it toasty, or a super-hot oven, around 450 degrees, for 3 minutes tops. Finish with your leaves, set in the side, against the meringue. 

To cut: heat up your knife with the flame of a torch or some near-boiling water, and your meringue will be cut smoothly!

And there you have it! A gorgeous, super-tart, super tasty lime meringue pie. I hope you've enjoyed reading, and please don't hesitate to tell me if you try it out.  Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Lingonberry Hamentaschen

Pretty in pink!
I love lingonberries. I'm obsessed with them, especially for spring. I love lingonberry poptarts (homemade, of course, using my favorite pie crust), lingonberry lemonade, and just plain lingonberry jam on toast. I go through phases of obsession. Currently, I'm obsessed with a little show called Allt fΓΆr Sverige. It's where they take the children and grandchildren of Swedish immigrants and bring them back to Sweden, and put them on a journey of discovery. It's a wonderful competition reality show that shows Swedish culture, the story of how we came to be, the history of a country, and the winner at the end gets to be reunited with their Swedish family in a big party! You can find most all of the episodes on Youtube. Check it out here!

Since we're talking about Youtube, I'm going to go ahead and link you up to Mayim Bialik, to give you a quick rundown on an amazing spring holiday, Purim! I'm obviously not 100% full-blooded Jewish, but I still love enjoying the culture and part of that is celebrating the holidays and eating the foods...and even better, I love sharing the culture with friends! In fact, I'm throwing a Purim party this evening! We're going to have masks, eat hamentaschen, and more.

Purim is upon us on the 21st, which is this Wednesday, so I've decided to show you how to make my absolute favorite Jewish ritual treat (yes, I love it even more than freaking latkes) the Hamentaschen. These are triangle-shaped cookies that are filled with just about anything your heart desires, although jam seems to be the favorite for most. You can fill them with pistachio paste, chocolate chips, citrus curds, ganaches...whatever floats your boat! For this, though I've chosen lingonberry.

Lingonberries are a magical kind of berry that miraculously thrive in cold areas. They do incredibly well in moist, acidic soils from ranges that are from Massachussetts to Alaska. I live in the Midwest, so it get's way too hot for lingonberries. If you live in a more northern state, please consider growing them! They have an incredibly pleasant taste, and although resemble a cranberry are only the size of a garden pea. When cooked into a jam, they give off a beautiful red-pink color, and are even prettier when swirled into a sour cream sauce.

yields about 2 dozen cookies
  • 3 medium eggs, room temperature
  • 200 g sugar
  • 2 oz olive oil
  • 2 oz vegan butter, room temperature (Earth balance is my fave, but any non-dairy butter/margarine will do)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 fat pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
  • 375 g AP flour plus more for dusting
  • A smear of pink gel food coloring
  • Lingonberry jam, as needed
Whisk together, by hand, the butter and oil along with the vanilla paste and sugar until the sugar appears to have dissolved, or at least lightened in color. Add in the eggs, one at a time, whisking wholly until completely incorporated. Add in your salt, baking powder, and smear of pink gel paste. I like Wilton's "rose", but you can use whichever you like. If you want to go an all-natural coloring way, you may use beetroot powder, which will give a beautiful red. For this crazy holiday, though, I like to go for more electric colors.

Switch to a wooden spoon and stir in your flour. Turn out onto a cold, floured, marble surface and knead gently, until everything comes together smoothly. Divide in two discs, wrap each in plastic, and chill in the freezer for at least 1 hour. 

Flour your surface again and roll out thin. I like to go to 1/8 inch, because these cookies can get tough if too thick. Be generous with flour on the rolling pin, too, as this dough is rather loose so it likes to stick. The oil is nice and makes it a kosher fat, and it also makes it more pliable so you can mold it. This is ultimately the reason I don't tend to use all oil or all butter; butter makes the dough too short and not-so-easily pliable, and oil makes the dough too runny so I have trouble shaping it and end up using way too much flour. 

Cut out circles with a ring cutter. I like 3" rings! To fill, hold the cut disc in your left hand draped gently over your fingers (or right, if you're a leftie) and fill with a generous teaspoon of your lingonberry jam. If it's not too cold, it should fall off the spoon with ease. Gently separate your index and middle fingers just enough to allow the dough to fall in and help you create a crease. Pinch this closed and use the thumb of your opposite hand to push the bottom up. Gently place these on a silpat-lined sheet pan and pinch the three corners together to create the shape. If you're having trouble, find this awesome tutorial on Tori Avey.com!

 Pop these in the freezer while you're waiting for your oven to heat up to 400 degrees. The reason you don't want to have your oven preheating while you're rolling these out is because - in my experience - they do better when they start from cold, and it's hard to keep a cookie dough cold when  you're heating up your kitchen with a hot oven. Besides, this recipe makes at least 2 dozen cookies so you're going to want to make them all at once, freeze them all at once, and bake only as needed. I've found that you can store the raw cookies, frozen, for up to two weeks if kept in an airtight container. To accomplish this, simply freeze on a tray until hard, put them in an airtight container, lined with parchment, and store until needed. 

Pop your cookies in the oven and reduce the heat to 350. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the edges just barely begin to brown. You want a super hot oven to start with , but want your more standard baking heat so the corners don't burn. The reason  you want it to be hot is because you don't want your fat to melt and therefore your cookies will lose the shape. These are tricky because they can get really tough if overcooked. 

Once baked, remove from the oven and let cool on the pan for at least 10 minutes before moving to a cooling rack. Please keep in mind that this dough is incredibly versatile. You can add in shaved chocolate and fill with nutella to make chocolate hazelnut hamentaschen. Heck, make a tiramisu hamentaschen where you use coffee extract instead of vanilla, fill it with a cheesecake filling and dust them with cocoa powder. The sky is the limit! You can even do what I did for the second offering at my part, and divide the dough in half, add lime zest, dye them green, and fill it with lime curd to make a zesty zingy lime hamentaschen.

Of course you can enjoy hamentaschen year-round, but because they take multiple steps, I recommend doing a lot all at once, with the help of family. Little ones, especially, love the idea of folding cookies. I hope you've enjoyed learning a bit about Purim! As always, if you've tried my recipes, please tell me all about it in the comments below. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Lemon Layer Drip Cake

Happy birthday to me! I'm 31 this year, and my favorite German Shepherd, Howl, turned 8 along with me! His birthday is the day after mine, and we're both Pisces Scorpio rising. He's my special dude and we always like to celebrate our birthdays together. (I actually have no idea what he likes other than belly rubs and treats, but he seems to be happy when I'm happy, so hey.)

My favorite birthday cake is lemon cake. I've posted about lemon cakes before, here, but I felt like a loaf cake this year. One thing I dislike deeply, though, is cutting a cake more than I need to. What's the solution? Sheet cake! That's right...all you have to do is make a sheet cake and cut it in strips to create a loaf shape. Bam!

So I do love cake but one thing that I don't love about cake is how heavy it can get, especially with something like a chocolate ganache or an especially thick or stodgy buttercream. Mostly, it's a rarity that I like buttercream, since many that I've had are just too sweet or too thick and gloppy for me. The solution, of course, is lemon cake. Lemon is nice, bright, acidic, and when made into a delicious curd, it's the best. Fat + Acid = good times in this chef's book. When you are cooking something or baking something and you think to yourself:

"Hmm, it's good, but something's missing..." 

The answer is almost always going to be 'acid.' Add a splash of vinegar or a squeeze of lemon. Maybe even some sour cream or a sour fruit. There are quite a lot of things that are on the acidic spectrum. I encourage you to explore them all!

Lemon Genoise Spongecake
yields 1 half-sheet pan or 2 8" rounds

  • 240 g eggs (4 to 5 large eggs)
  • 120 g sugar (I like cane sugar for this application)
  • 135 g AP flour
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Zest and Juice of a whole lemon
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
Favorite Lemon Curd
  • 3 egg yolks + 1 whole egg
  • 1/2 c lemon juice, freshly-squeezed (about 4 large lemons)
  • 4 oz vegan butter (you can use dairy butter if you like)
  • 3/4 c + 3 Tbsp powdered sugar
Lemon Buttercream
  • 8 oz butter or vegan butter substitute, cubed (I love earth balance)
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 3 heaping spoonfuls Favorite Lemon Curd
  • Powdered sugar, A/N
White Chocolate Glaze
  • 1 14 oz can full-fat coconut milk
  • 400 g white chocolate
  • Gel food coloring of your choice

Prepare your pans with either a silpat baking sheet or a parchment round-cut sheet in the bottom of your pans. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. You actually want a rather hot oven for this stuff to go into. Do not grease your pans unless you have the kind of pan-spray stuff that has flour in it. This is because spongecakes need to be able to stick to the sides of your pans to climb and retain their volume. If you grease the inside at all, the sponge will collapse and become quite dense and rather disgusting. Use paper, trust me. 

Get a medium saucepot about halfway full of water and bring it to a simmer. Combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer and set it over the water. Whisk constantly, but don't whip, to break down the albumins but also to warm the egg mixture. You're not wanting to cook it, of course, but to bring it up to at least body temperature. If you were doing a genoise the old-fashioned way with a Mrs. Patmore type of situation, you'd have to bring it up to a higher temperature, but since we've mostly got electric mixers happening, you only have to bring it up to warm and to dissolve the sugar. 

Once everything is all dissolved, bring it over to the standing mixer and bring up to a full speed whip until the eggs are wholly tripled in volume and of a quite pale color. You don't want it dry, but you want it quite stiff. This takes up to ten minutes, but keep careful not to overwhip things as you'll have to start all over again.

To get the most juice out of a lemon, I suggest zesting it first, then zapping the lemon for about 10 seconds in the microwave. Roll it gently on your cutting board before cutting in half, then squeezing generously, fishing out the seeds. Whisk together the juice, zest, salt, and coconut oil until you get a sort of thickened vinaigrette consistency. Take a fairly large dollop of your meringue-like egg mixture and fold it in. It's okay if it deflates a touch.

Sift your flour into the large amount of meringue mixture first. It's a fair amount of flour, but do take care to be gentle and not to knock out any air. You're not using any baking powders or leavening agents, so your egg foam is all your leavening. Once everything is quite well incorporated, take a large dollop of your mix and fold it into the lemon mixture. Finally, scrape the lemon mixture gently into the egg-flour mix and give it a few folds to make sure everything is wholly incorporated. 

Pan the batter gently and from a low height so as to not knock out too much air. Spread the batter as evenly as possible with your spatula, and then gently tap the bottom of your pans with your fingertips to pop any large bubbles. Remember, you don't want big bubbles like you'd find in an artisinal bread. You want tiny bubbles for your spongecake.

Bake this at 375 for 10-15 minutes, or until the color is golden-brown and springs back gently to the touch, and pulls gently away from the sides of the pan. Cool completely before using. I used the sheet pan application for this cake just because that's the look I wanted. Meanwhile, let's make the rest of the stuff!

To make the lemon curd, simply whip together your egg yolks with your whole egg with a pinch of salt until it's all homogenous. Melt the butter, lemon juice, and powdered sugar together and bring to a simmer. Splash a little bit of the hot juice mixture in with the eggs and whisk quickly to warm. Remove from the heat, add in all of your tempered egg mixture, and return to a medium-low flame, whisking constantly. You want it to thicken, but you do not want it to curdle. Once it's quite thick but not boiling, remove immediately from the heat and strain into a bowl to remove any lumps that may have curdled. Cover with plastic wrap by putting the film directly onto the surface of the curd. This way, you won't get a skin!

To make the chocolate glaze, simply scrape the coconut milk into a glass bowl and pour in with the chocolate. You can add some vanilla paste, if you like, to this but it's not wholly necessary. All you have to do is heat up the glaze in the bain marie (that double-boiler we used earlier to heat your eggs and sugar) until it's quite smooth and melted, and then dye it as many colors as you want! Keep the colors separate, of course, and let them set at room temperature for later. 

Wash our your standing mixer quite well and use the bain marie to heat half of the butter for the buttercream until it's almost completely melted. Add in the rest of the butter in and fit your mixer with the whisk attachment. Whip your butter until quite light and fully incorporated into one lovely texture, then add in the zest and lemon curd. Continue to whip until all nicely together, and then finally add in a little powdered sugar at a time at medium speed until it's thick and the right amount of sweetness that you want. It's going to be amazingly flavorful, and even better the longer you let it sit!

Invest in a rotating cake stand! I know it's strange, but I much prefer the plastic to metal ones. They don't squeak!
Once everything is cooled down, take your spongecake and cut into four equal pieces, crosswise. Spread each layer with plenty of lemon curd (please be generous) and sandwich them to create a gorgeous long loaf. To get extra lemon curd on the inside, pop some of your buttercream in a piping bag and pipe a border along each side of the cake and then fill your cake with as much lemon curd as you like. Keep in mind, it's a very bright curd, so don't overfill lest your border burst! Spread buttercream all around and chill until firm to the touch. Your cake must be rather cold in order for the glaze to not run off everywhere.

Use either gel or powdered food colorings. Please don't use the liquid!
You'll want your glaze/ganache to be a little warmer than body temperature to be flowy, so a quick zap in the microwave will do you good. I did four colors for mine, but you can do as many or as few as you like. When doing a drip glaze, I advise you to do your edges first, and use less than you think you need. Remember, you can always add but you can't take away. Once your edges are about where you like them, fill in the middle with random globs of glaze. You can now use sprinkles around the border, all over the top, decorate with candy, cherries, chocolates...pretty much anything your little heart desires! I chose amarena cherries, white chocolate curls, honeycomb candy, and sprinkles.

Please go crazy with your own decorations, and then tag me at @wannaBgourmande or #WannaBGourmande on Instagram/Twitter to show me what amazing creative souls you are!

Thanks so much for spending my birthday week with me. It was great. I'm looking forward to what my 31st year of existence on this planet does for me. Next week is going to be a fun recipe for Purim. Stay tuned!

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Cheesecake Tart with Candied Walnuts and Pomegranate Honeycomb

This is a little fancier than my normal posts, but I've been doing so many 'homestyle' cooking things at home and on my blog lately that I just had to do something chef-y. Wedding season is coming up which means lots of wedding cakes for me, and it's far too cold for ice cream so I can't sell that at the bakery. This means it's a lot of time for experimentation, which is good for me and the cookbook.

I wanted to talk a little bit about how I decide what to write and when to write it. Like the cookbook, I try to write, cook, and eat seasonally. Each chapter in the book will be about the wheel of the year and how the seasons will turn. This will have some fun history and neat things there in the margins, but it's mostly going to be about cooking sustainable and with the seasons. March is here, and it's my favorite month of the year. The full moon is the Chaste moon, and it carries the time of fertile Pisces, perfect for planting your garden. Another one of the reasons for my love of this month (or, rather, this season of spring) is a little holiday called Purim.

Purim is a sort of Jewish Halloween - and we all know how I love Halloween. There are plenty of religious bits about it but honestly this is the one holiday of the calendar that's easily the most-fun. It's a holiday in which we're encouraged to cross-dress, get drunk, and throw a rocking party. As always, you donate money to charity, or do a mitzvah, a good deed. There's, of course, a ritual food that comes with it, but we're not covering that in this blog. That post will come on March 16th, the weekend before the holiday on the 21st. (Spoiler alert: it's my own version of hamentaschen.) The whole month of March, though, is going to be full of fun foods that you can make for Purim! What's that? You'd like a little backstory as to what this holiday might be? Well...

Disclaimer: this is a super trite version that I'm about to tell you, but I think you'll get the reason it's a celebration.

In the ancient Persian empire there was this King called Ahasuerus who had his wife Vashti executed. Apparently, he asked her to dance naked for him and she was like "um, no???" so of course she was beheaded. He then goes on a search for a new wife in his kingdom and finds this smoking gal called Ester (whose Hebrew name is Haddass), whom he then weds.

Ester slays the game as a royal until she overhears the plan of this really gross and creepy royal adviser, Hamen, who has this plan to kill all the Jews because that's just kind of what seems to happen, historically. Ester's uncle, Mordecai, overhears this plan and goes to see his niece in secret and tells her all about Hamen's plan. She comes up with a really brave and brilliant plan: throw a party!

She throws this massive ball where there's food and drink and lots of fun ancient world shenanigans going on. At some point during the dinner, Ester says to the King: "Hey so Hamen is wanting to exterminate all the Jews and you totally can't do that because I'm a Jew." His mind is blown but instead of having her executed he has Hamen executed instead and the Jews are saved.

Ester saves the Jews! Hooray!

Of course, there's the proper version of this story, but all you need to know is that every spring, Jews have this amazing holiday called Purim where it's encouraged to get drunk, cross-dress, wear costumes, and just have a rocking good time. The idea is to get crazy and have fun with this topsy-turvy holiday, so where you can't tell who's the hero and who's the villain. Purim is a story of bravery and redemption, and that you're more-likely to get what you want if you know how to throw a good party.

What does this have to do with cheesecake?

Everyone loves cheesecake because it's delicious, so it's easy to get people to like it for a party. This cooks exponentially faster than your normal cheesecake would (3-4 hours) and so it'll be perfect for a party if you forget that you have one in the evening. This recipe is easily made pareve, which is known as a neutral food. This means it contains neither meat nor dairy and can be consumed with or after consuming either. As I'm sure some of you are aware, kosher law dictates that meat and milk shouldn't be on the same table.

There's a lot of debate on exactly how long you have to wait between each meal before it's acceptable to eat meat or dairy, but the point is that if you have cheese on the table then it should either be a vegetarian meal or have fish. If you have meat on the table, you should have vegetables but no milk or cheese or butter. If you're going to a party with people that keep kosher or even just are lactose intolerant, it's a nice thing to do to keep it a neutral food. My husband is severely lactose intolerant, so I don't even keep dairy in the house. But that doesn't mean I can't have cheesecake still!

With a tart, there's quite a bit of surface area that you can decorate it in any way you like. Purim requires lots of sparkles and decorations, so feel free to use bright colors. I'll be showing a couple of great little garnishes you can make, not just for this but for any item you want to add a little pizzaz to.

Cheesecake Tart with Candied Walnuts and Pomegranate Honeycomb
yield 1 11" tart

Pie crust
  • 8 oz butter (or vegan butter substitute, such as Earth Balance)
  • 14 oz flour
  • 1 oz powdered sugar
  • Spiced rum as needed
Cheesecake Filling
  • 8 oz cream cheese ( or tofu cream cheese)
  • 4 oz sour cream (or tofu sour cream)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1/3 c granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 fat pinch kosher salt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
Pomegranate Honeycomb candy
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 3/4 c water
  • 1 tsp baking soda
Candied walnuts(recipe follows)
Gilded raspberries

For the crust, make a pie crust as usual. Cube the butter into very small pieces and rub it into your flour mixture. Once the pieces are about the size of peas, add in some spiced rum, a spoonful at a time, until the dough resembles a sort of damp sand that stays together when clumped. Turn out onto a marble surface and gently knead together. You don't have to worry about gluten forming because you've used alcohol, not water, so bring it all together into one nice disc. Wrap it in plastic and let chill for at least 30 minutes in the freezer. 

In the meantime, you may preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and make your custard mix. 

Using a large bowl and a whisk, whip together your cream cheese and sour cream. You want it to be very smooth indeed with absolutely no lumps. Add in both sugars and the vanilla, stirring quite well. Don't worry about whipping air into this mixture, otherwise the texture won't be quite right. Stir in the eggs, one at a time, and being sure to not move on until each egg is 100% fully incorporated. This is very important with a cheesecake mixture that you don't rush and curdle your batter, so please don't rush it. After all, you have a crust that's cooling and that's something you don't want to rush. 

Once all the eggs are absolutely without a doubt mixed in, you may add in the remaining ingredients and whisk gently. You're not looking to incorporate air, but to create a very smooth custard. Set aside.

Between two sheets of parchment that have been liberally sprayed with pan spray, roll out your tart dough disc. You'll want to beat it up a little bit, just to soften it, using your favorite rolling pin. I like these French-style rolling pins because the less moving parts you have, the less you might have to repair later. Plus, it makes me feel like Julia Child when I whack stuff, and these are the kinds that she used.

You want to roll out your dough between parchment sheets because:
  • It's just about the quickest and easiest cleanup in the world
  • You already have enough flour in the dough, so why add more
  • Because you have less flour in there, the risk of overworking anything is far less

I personally like to use these round fluted tart pans from Sur la Table, but this 11" fluted tart pan on Amazon will do you just fine if you don't have a Sur La Table anywhere near you. For the record, I do encourage you to shop at businesses that actually pay their taxes and don't exploit their workers the way another company might. The best part about these tart pans is that they have a removeable bottom, so you can take it out and flip the dough over onto it and then lower it inside the fluted edge with a great deal of ease. Please note that the dough will be rolled quite thin, almost a quarter of an inch thin. You want this!

Once your tart pan is lined with your ultra-thin dough, fill it with your cheesecake custard. Open up your oven and place it on the bottom rack. (Remember, we always put pies on the bottom rack of the oven.) On the top/middle rack, place another pie dish full of ice and then lower the temperature to 300 degrees. This will help to create some steam and keep from forming too much of a skin, as well as having this lovely stuff bake evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the center is wobbly while still being a touch firm. If the filling puffed up a little, that's absolutely okay. Evacuate the tart from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes before refrigerating. It's now the time for you to make your garnishes!

Add the sugar meant for the pomegranate honeycomb with the water and honey to a pot fitted with a candy thermometer. Start it on high and then bring it down to a rather low boil until it comes to 300 degrees F. Turn off the flame. Meanwhile, take some whole walnut kernels on wooden skewers and stick gently, yet not all the way through so you won't break the nut. Dip each nut in the molten sugar, being very careful, and lay the skewer atop the rim of a glass, which is atop a silpat mat or a parchment sheet. You want the hot sugar to sort of drip down and form a point.

You can do this as many times as you like to make as many candied nuts as you like, so long as the syrup is warm. You can also make candy floss with this by using two forks and whipping them over a mat to create threads. Don't do this, though, if you don't feel like a mess to clean up. When you're satisfied with the amount of candied nuts you've made, turn the heat back on and add in the pomegranate molasses.

Bring your sugar syrup up to a nice boil and add in the baking soda. Stir it with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula and pour out onto a silpat mat. Work fast and work carefully!

I cannot stress this enough: Work fast and work carefully! Sugar syrup, when cooked to 300 degrees, is quite dangerous, so please don't attempt it with small children, who like to stick their fingers in everything. If you do get some hot sugar syrup on your hand, here's what you must do:

  1. Put everything down and turn everything off immediately
  2. Get safely to the sink and turn on the hot water
  3. Cuss a lot, because it hurts
  4. Let the sugar dissolve and then go to cool water, not cold
  5. Let the cool water run and then dab, not wipe, with a paper towel.
  6. Apply mustard to the burn
  7. Apply a bandaid.
  8. Cry a little, if needed.
  9. Continue working.

So honeycomb candy is known by that name because of the gorgeous texture it creates. You can snack on it on its own or dip it in chocolate when cool and dry. You may have even heard of candy bars using honeycomb!

Please be mindful that the aeration will make everything grow, especially considering the acid in the pomegranate molasses will react with the baking soda, so do be sure that you've got plenty of room on your silpat mat. Allow to cool entirely before breaking off into pieces. We'll talk about later storage in a few minutes.

For the rest of the decorations, you can use fresh berries, gold leaf...you can even roll some fresh raspberries in luster dust of any color of your choosing and decorate. You want a lot of different textures, of course, but you want it all to be cohesive. Every component in any composed dessert must be harmonious, even if it looks a little crazy. The idea, though, is to create interesting textures that will elevate a dish to the best it can be. I chose lots of crunchy things for this because the cheesecake itself is rather soft.

I love these color combinations of red and gold on a white background. You can add anything you like to dress this up for a party. You'll only need a few pieces of the honeycomb, so store the rest in an airtight container, ideally with a silica gel packet in the bottom to keep it from melting. You won't let the candied walnuts last, I assure you - they're too tasty of a snack. You can do this technique of candying with any soft nut!

Now, you can talk about assembly. If you aren't travelling far for the party, I highly suggest traveling with the components separate. If you're hosting, feel free to assemble up to 20 minutes before the guests arrive, after you've showered and made sure you're done cleaning, but before you've set out the chips and dip. Gather all of your components together and take a look as to what you'd like to do. I chose honeycomb, candied nuts, and fresh raspberries. You ultimately can choose whatever you like, but I chose these for color, for texture, and for flavor in mind. If you do go with something else, please post it on instagram and tag me! Just remember to stay organized and you'll do great!

Invest in some tweezers and a small offset spatula that's dedicated to helping you garnish cakes, pastries, and more. 
One tip I can't stress enough is that restraint is often a little better to exercise than excess. Even though you might make this for Purim, it'll look far more elegant and composed if you make use of negative space. This just means that you can always add, but you can't always take away. I think it's far more beautiful to have clusters of garnishes here and there instead of having it all over, because it's going to have a little more of an impact. Pay attention to height, especially, when thinking about your presentation. To serve, have more garnishes available if your guests really like them!

I hope you've enjoyed this post! For the month of march I'll be posting a lot of topsy-turvy fun things. March really is the best month, as it often contains some of my favorite holidays. Purim, the first day of Spring (or Ostara), St. Patrick's Day, and - of course - International Women's Day, which happens to be my birthday. Of course, there will have to be a great birthday cake post. I'll be 31!

Happy March! Happy cooking! And, as always: Happy Eating!