Category Archives: Recipes (Sweet)

Plumb Good Plum Cake

Summer was made for plum-filled cake.
Summer was made for plum-filled cake.

When Zoë Francois singles out a particular recipe as being her favorite in her new cookbook, you’d be a fool not to make that one first.

Her “Plum Cake” from “Zoë Bakes Cakes: Everything You Need to Know to Make Your Favorite Layers, Bundts, Loaves, and More” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy, easily merits that adoration.

Francois, who studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, and worked as a pastry chef at several Minneapolis-St. Paul restaurants, is also the creator of the wildly popular web site, ZoëBakes.

The cookbook is a must for anyone who loves baking cakes. Many of the recipes are unfussy enough for any home-cook to bake, such as “Lemon-Curd Pound Cake,” “Banana Cream Cake,” and “Olive-Oil Chiffon Cake.” For those who want to take things to the next level, Francois also includes detailed advice on working with fondant and piping bags, along with more ambitious recipes for “Blackberry Diva Cake” and a DIY “Wedding Cake.”

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The Baker’s Biscuits

Crunchy on the tops and bottoms, and flaky and fluffy-soft inside.
Crunchy on the tops and bottoms, and flaky and fluffy-soft inside.

I’ve been eyeing this recipe for “The Baker’s Biscuits” ever since the cookbook in which it was printed came out in September 2020.

It’s taken me this long to finally make them.

That’s because these 12 beautiful and bountiful biscuits require freezing before baking. And if your freezer was anything like mine during the pandemic, there was simply no precious inch to spare.

Thankfully, now that life is getting back to normal, so is my freezer. As we all exhale in relief, so, too, is my freezer at shouldering such a vital load for so long.

What drew me to these biscuits in particular? Unlike any other biscuit recipe I’d tried, these are made with 00 flour. Yes, the same finely-ground, Italian specialty flour that’s coveted for making the primo pizzas and pastas.

The recipe is from “The Good Book of Southern Baking: A Revival of Biscuits, Cakes, and Cornbread” (Lorena Jones Books), of which I received a copy. It’s by Pastry Chef Kelly Fields, owner of Willa Jean bakery in New Orleans and winner of the James Beard Foundation “Outstanding Pastry Chef” in 2019. It was written in conjunction with food writer Kate Heddings, a former food editor at Food & Wine magazine.

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Cool Off With Pineapple, Thyme, and Coconut Water Whip

Hot weather was made for icy, fruity drinks like this one.
Hot weather was made for icy, fruity drinks like this one.

When temperatures soar, you definitely want to “Eat Cool: Good Food for Hot Days: 100 Easy, Satisfying, and Refreshing Recipes that Won’t Heat Up Your Kitchen.”

That’s the apropos title of this cookbook (Rizzoli), of which I received a review copy, that couldn’t have debuted at a more opportune time, given that the first day of summer starts this Sunday, and we’re already in a full-blown heatwave.

The book is by Maine-based Vanessa Seder, former associate food editor for Ladies Home Journal and a culinary instructor at Stonewall Kitchen.

It includes 100 recipes to beat the heat. They’re designed to nourish and refresh without requiring hours at a hot stove. Among them are “Chilled Corn and Lobster Soup,” “Pan-Seared Pork Sandwich With Spicy Papaya Slaw and Spicy Pepper Jelly on Sourdough,” “Coconut Milk, Turmeric, Ginger, and Black Pepper-Poached Cod With Israeli Couscous,” and “Red Grapefruit-Rose Sorbet.”

I couldn’t resist trying my hand — and blender — at “Pineapple, Thyme, and Coconut Water Whip.”

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Mister Jiu’s Heavenly Parisian Dan Tat

Just-baked Parisian Dan Tat that's like a giant Portuguese custard tart.
Just-baked Parisian Dan Tat that’s like a giant Portuguese custard tart.

When I was a kid, my dad would often tote home a pink box tied with red string from his shopping trip to San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Inside could have been anything from pudgy dim sum dumplings to triangles of airy buttercup-yellow sponge cake to a double-crust apple pie so shiny and bronzed that it nearly looked lacquered.

More often than not, though, what was hidden inside was a custard pie.

It had a simple crust, which honestly, wasn’t anything to write home about. The real star was the smooth, eggy custard filling, almost the pale hue of eggnog, soft and just barely jiggly, and with a taste of both comfort and lavishness all at the same time.

It was my dad who gave me my first taste of this nostalgic pie, proferring an affection for it that I still possess to this day.

So, when I baked this “Parisian Dan Tart,” I couldn’t help but think of him immediately.

No doubt he would have loved this majestic version of a custard tart.

And no doubt he would have been tickled to know that its origins are also from Chinatown.

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Summer Was Made For Cherry Snacking Cake

An easy one-pan cake made with fresh cherries and swirls of cherry curd.
An easy one-pan cake made with fresh cherries and swirls of cherry curd.

I fell for this recipe hook, line, and sinker.

With emphasis on the “sinker.”

Allow me to explain: If you were to look up this fabulous Bon Appetit recipe that published in its April 2021 issue, you’d find the original one titled, “Strawberry Snacking Cake.” The accompanying photos would show a golden cake baked in a rectangular pan, with its top adorned so prettily with slices of strawberries arranged just so.

I decided to riff on that by swapping out strawberries for first-of-the-season cherries from G.L. Alfeiri Farm that arrived in my Farm Box delivery. Only, cherry halves are obviously heavier, as they sunk to the bottom of the cake. So, instead of cute little cherry halves dotting the top like polka dots, there are ripples of cherry curd brightening it here and there instead. It’s not quite the same effect, but it makes for a striking appearance, nevertheless.

I had enough fresh cherries to snack on out of hand plus bake into this wonderful golden cake.
I had enough fresh cherries to snack on out of hand plus bake into this wonderful golden cake.

The taste definitely remains on point, too. “Cherry Snacking Cake” is wonderfully moist, fluffy, and lush from olive oil and sour cream (I actually used yogurt instead) in the batter. There’s a toasty, sweet corn-like grainy crunch from cornmeal. Jam or fruit curd gets dolloped on top, then swirled into the batter before the cut fresh fruit goes overtop.

With an abundance of fruit flavor, it’s like cherry pie in cake form.

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