Nothing says “I love you” like a basket of fresh-baked muffins loaded with chocolate.
There are times when I con myself into thinking muffins are just a smidge healthful.
After all, if I choose one with bran or whole wheat or carrots or blueberries, it’s not so very bad, is it?
I mean, it’s not as indulgent as eating actual cake, right?
Yeah, with “Chocolate Chunk Muffins,” I’m not going to attempt to play that game.
That’s because there’s no getting around it. These muffins are rich, tender, and super chocolatey. They are like chocolate-chip cookies in muffin form.
And they’re every bit as good as that sounds.
Feast your eyes on the butterscotch-lime croissant at Butterscots.
If you’re a baked-good fiend like I am, Butterscots Bakery in St. Helena is definitely worth a stop when you’re in Wine Country.
It’s part of the Cairdean Estate, which took over and repurposed the old St. Helena Outlet mall. When I dined at the wonderful The Farmer & The Fox restaurant on-site a few months ago, my only regret was that I was there in the evening, when Butterscotts Bakery had already closed.
On a recent trip to Napa, I made up for that by making a beeline to the bakery to buy a couple of goodies. The bakery is overseen by Joseph Humphrey, who is also the executive chef of The Farmer & The Fox. Humphrey, who earned two Michelin stars at The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, knows his baked goods. His popovers at the restaurant are the stuff of dreams.
Do you scream for ice cream?
You’ll yell even louder then for ice cream sandwiches.
Join yours truly as I host a cooking demo at Macy’s Valley Fair Santa Clara at 6 p.m. Feb. 12 with Becky Sunseri, owner of Tin Pot Creamery in Palo Alto and Los Altos.
Since the demo is just two days before Valentine’s Day, we couldn’t resist enticing you with something not only sweet, but creamy and extra decadent.
My new favorite bread.
I am madly, deeply, crazy as a loon in love.
With this bread.
It’s a solid loaf. It has a beguiling character owing to an unusual backbone of arborio rice. It has every quality you’ve dreamed about in the perfect bread. In short, it’s a keeper.
And I was smitten at the first chewy bite.
Naturally, the recipe comes from one of my favorite bread bakeries — Della Fattoria in Petaluma, where owner Kathleen Weber and her family turn out artisan loaves baked in a wood-fired oven on their ranch. They are breads full of flavor and integrity. Among the first restaurants they supplied was the French Laundry in Yountville, which tells you just how extraordinary the products are.
“Arborio Rice Bread” is from their new cookbook, “Della Fattoria Bread” (Artisan), complete with 63 recipes for everything from Della Fattoria’s signature Meyer Lemon-Rosemary Campagne Boule to Spicy Cheddar Crackers to Sticky Buns.
It appealed to me for its intriguing use of risotto-style rice and because it’s one of the more streamlined recipes in the book as it doesn’t require a starter.
Making bread always takes time and patience. It’s never a quick process. But this particular recipe doesn’t require much heavy-lifting. It also makes two loaves, so you’re amply rewarded after an afternoon of work.
Yigit Pura’s sublime cake that’s flavored with warm spices and nuts.
There’s no shame in going simple. Not even during the holidays.
Take this lovely cake, for instance.
“Spiced Hazelnut-Almond Mirliton Cake” is the easiest cake recipe in San Francisco Pastry Chef Yigit Pura’s repertoire. But that doesn’t mean it’s not special.
On the contrary, it’s everything you want in a cake — moist, airy and delicately fragrant. It’s a most elegant, light spice cake imbued with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and citrus zest. It’s also gluten-free, owing to the fact that it’s made with hazelnut and almond flours, which are roasted in the oven to really bring out their wonderful nuttiness.
The recipe is from Pura’s debut cookbook, “Sweet Alchemy” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy.
Would you believe this is gluten-free?
Pura, the inaugural winner of “Top Chef: Just Desserts” and the owner of San Francisco’s Tout Sweet patisserie, has created a book that builds on the fundamentals as you go along. Learn how to make Citrus-Scented Panna Cotta and Blood Orange, Grapefruit & Campari Gelee. Then combine both in a gorgeously layered Negroni Creamsicle. Learn how to make a basic Crepe Cake. Then add on Vietnamese Cinnamon Brittle, Butterscotch Sauce, Orange Flower Water Diplomat Cream and Bosc Pears Roasted in Caramel & Indian Spices to create the knock-out Layered Crepe Cake Brulee.