Category Archives: Recipes (Sweet)

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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Rewarding Yourself in the New Year — The Fika Way

Isn't it time you took a little break?

Isn’t it time you took a little break?

 

Go, go, go!

That’s how our lives are these days.

But I’m here to say it’s time to stop, stop, stoppppppppp.

At least once in awhile.

The Swedish way.

As in fika.

It’s the art and practice of taking a break to enjoy a coffee with a little treat.

And in Sweden, it’s a custom adhered to at least once a day.

Doesn’t that seem positively wonderful and civilized?

A few minutes to unplug, to stop typing, to put down the phone, and to just take a breath and be present with your surroundings and companions.

It’s what we should all do more of in this new year. It’s what we all deserve, too.

Fikabook

“Fika: The Art of The Swedish Coffee Break” (Ten Speed Press) will put you in the mood to do just that.

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Christmas Biscuits? Why Not!

Merry Christmas with out-of-the-oven, homemade biscuits!

Merry Christmas with out-of-the-oven, homemade biscuits!

 

As you ready to open presents this Christmas morning or prepare for the big holiday feast to come tonight, wouldn’t a pan of fresh, warm biscuits hit the spot?

Imagine them slathered with sweet butter and marmalade for breakfast today or alongside glazed ham tonight.

Is your mouth watering yet? I know mine sure is.

Biscuits don’t get any easier or more irresistible than these from Howard Bulka, chef-owner of Howie’s Artisan Pizzeria in Palo Alto and Redwood City.

The Palo Alto location is all about pizza. The Redwood City one, with its much larger and fully equipped kitchen, goes beyond the charred, flavorful pies to include everything from house-made pasta to classic burgers, too.

What’s more, the Redwood City one also offers weekend brunch, which includes an astonishingly great array of baked goods. This is where you’ll often find these heavenly biscuits offered.

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Take A Whiff and A Taste of The Violet Bakery’s Ginger Molasses Cake

A cake that smells of Christmas.

A cake that smells of Christmas.

 

For some people, their favorite kitchen scent is onions and garlic sauteing in a hot pan.

For others, it’s that yeasty smell of fresh bread baking in the oven.

For me? It’s that intoxicating fragrance of warm winter spices — cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Loads of ginger.

That’s why this cake had me at first smell and at first bite.

“Ginger Molasses Cake” is from the new “The Violet Bakery Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy. It’s written by Claire Ptak, a former pastry chef at Chez Panisse, who moved to London to open her Violet Bakery in 2010. Jamie Oliver has called her “my favourite cake maker in the whole world.” So you know she has it going on.

VioletBakeryCookbook

The recipes in this lovely cookbook are arranged by time of day with treats such as “Yellow Peach Crumb Bun” for morning, “Olive Oil Sweet Wine Cake” for the afternoon, and “Chocolate, Prune, and Whiskey Cake” for the evening.

As you can tell, these are baked goods that don’t try too hard. They aren’t complicated with loads of unusual ingredients. They don’t take and arm and a leg, and a whole day to make. Instead, they tantalize with their homespun yet precise character.

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Rosemary Pear Pie (And It’s Gluten-Free)

Poached pears worthy of your holiday table.

Poached pears worthy of your holiday table.

 

A friend of mine once rolled her eyes at her then-boyfriend for ordering poached pears for dessert at a restaurant.

In her mind, she couldn’t fathom why one would waste perfectly good dessert calories on simple, cooked pears, of all things.

I can see her point. After all, if you’re going to venture out to a white-tablecloth restaurant for dinner, you want to live it up. You want to eat with abandon, and finish it off with decadence. You want chocolate. You want butter. You want fluffs of cream, ganache and mousse — preferably in a take-your-breath-away form.

Pears don’t immediately muster that kind of response.

But transfer them to the finale of a comforting, home-cooked dinner, and I think even my friend would have a hard time passing them up.

Juicy, sweet, wine-y pears fanned out across a rustic tart that’s put out in the center of the table is just the type of dessert made for entertaining at home.

That’s what you’ll get with “Rosemary Pear Pie” from the new cookbook, “Home Baked” (Abrams), of which I received a review copy. It’s by Yvette Van Boven, a food stylist and recipe writer in Amsterdam.

Home Baked Book

The book is filled with more than 150 recipes for sweet and savory goodies such as “Poppy Seed Popovers,” “Verbena Cake with Fresh Fruit & Verbena Gin Syrup,” and “My Favorite Chili with A Thousand Beans, Chorizo, Chocolate, and Corn Bread.”

One glance at this pear pie in the book and I was enthralled. Who wouldn’t be with the pears arranged just so prettily atop a simple, smooth, custardy filling?

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