Wake Up and Smell The Coffee (And Chocolate) On Valentine’s Day

Coffee and chocolate -- a perfect match.

Coffee and chocolate — a perfect match.

 

Not quite tall, but definitely dark and handsome, this cake is the perfect companion for Valentine’s Day.

“Double Chocolate Espresso Wake-Up Bread” is from the new “The Everyday Baker” (Taunton Press), of which I received a review copy.

It’s by Abigail Johnson Dodge, a baking expert and contributing editor to Fine Cooking magazine. It’s filled with 176 recipes for sweet and savory treats, as well as plenty of technique tips, including how to judge the best ripe banana for making banana bread, assembling and filling pastry bags, shaping baguettes like a pro, and fastest way to pick leaves off thyme stems.

EverydayBaker

The recipes are perfect for the home-cook who wants to make something pleasing but doesn’t want to spend three days doing so. Enjoy everything from “Make-Ahead Chocolate French Toast” and “Salted Caramel-Toffee Icebox Cake” to “Goat Cheese Olive Spirals” and “Black Pepper Cream Crackers.” Each recipe also includes “Twists” — recommendations for changing-out the flavor of each or re-sizing it.

This particular recipe may be called a bread, but it’s really full-on cake.

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Afternoon Tea Is A Breeze With The East India Company

Cheese crackers you''re sure to fall for.

Cheese crackers you”re sure to fall for.

 

What do you need for a proper afternoon tea at home?

Great quality tea, for starters. Along with a few dainty sweets and savories to serve alongside.

The East India Company has got you covered.

Originally established in 1600 by Queen Elizabeth I to explore the unknown East, it mapped trade routes, brought back exotic flavors, planted the first teas in Darjeeling, and saw its tea thrown overboard into the Boston Harbor during the Boston Tea Party.

Today, the company continues to develop and market fine teas and foods. In fact, it recently just started being carried in select Neiman Marcus stores, including the ones in San Francisco and Palo Alto.

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Valentine’s Baking Class, Lunar New Year Dinners, and A New Brunch

The signature Rachel's Cake. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)

The signature Rachel’s Cake. (Photo by Carolyn Jung)

Hands-On Valentine’s Baking Classes

Sure, you can go out to dinner with your sweetie in honor of Valentine’s Day. But why not bake something together for an especially sweet time instead?

Rachel’s Cakes of Burlingame is offering just that — two-hour, hands-on classes designed for couples to bake and decorate homemade sugar cookies.

The classes are: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 13; and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Feb. 14.

Each class is limited to four couples, and includes lessons in rolling, baking and decorating. Appetizers and beverages also will be served. You can take home your decorated cookies, as well as any unfinished ones with a supply of icing to complete them at home.

The class is $150 per couple. Reservations are required by calling (650) 393-4514. If you can’t make it to any of these, you’ll be glad to know Rachel’s offers other classes throughout the year.

On the flip side, if you want to leave the baking to someone else for Valentine’s Day, owner Rachel Richanbach will be happy to create a rustic or custom cake.

I had a chance to try some samples recently. Her cakes are all very moist, and taste quite homey.

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There’s Always Room for (Almond) Jello

An oldie but goodie Chinese dessert.

An oldie but goodie Chinese dessert.

 

Like most everyone, my first taste of jello as a kid was of the wiggly green (lime) or red (cherry) variety.

But my heart belongs to the white type.

Namely, almond jello. As in the Chinese version so often offered at dim sum or — if you’re very lucky — at the end of a banquet dinner (just say “no” to red bean soup!).

It was cut into little cubes, spooned into a Chinese rice bowl, and topped with canned fruit cocktail, lychees or mandarin oranges, with their sugary syrup, too.

OK, farm-to-table it was not.

But after a multitude of warm, savory dishes, it sure hit the spot. It was cold, a fun texture, heady with the taste of almond extract, and sweet from the canned fruit and thick syrup.

As a kid, I would make it all the time at home. It’s that easy. If you can make regular Jell-O, you can surely make this with your eyes closed.

I admit it’s been years since I’ve made it, though. My love for baking won out, and I’m more apt to be baking a batch of cookies than stirring up a pan of flavored gelatin.

But Danielle Chang got me in the mood to revisit this old-school Chinese dessert.

LuckyRiceBook

Chang is the founder of the LuckyRice festival, a celebration of Asian cultures and cuisines, which takes place in seven cities, including San Francisco.

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Join the Food Gal and 2nd Story Bakeshop For A Macy’s Demo

MacysSecondStoryBakeshop

Can you smell the heavenly butter and sugar yet?

You will at 6 p.m. Feb. 10 when Christy Ikezi of San Jose’s 2nd Story Bakeshop joins me for a baking demo at Macy’s Valley Fair in Santa Clara.

The San Jose bakery specializes in long-fermented organic artisan breads, as well as sweet treats such as pear pie cookies, almond crisps, and dark chocolate sea-salt cookies. Its breads are sold at select South Bay farmers markets, as well as Whole Foods in Cupertino and on The Alameda in San Jose.

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