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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.


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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Recipe Index

Appetizers and Snacks


Beef and Veal Dishes

Breads, Buns, Rolls & Biscuits

Breakfast Dishes

Cakes, Cheesecakes & Cupcakes

Chicken and Poultry Dishes

Cookies, Brownies & Bars

Desserts (Miscellaneous)

Egg & Cheese Dishes

Ice Creams & Sorbets

Jung Family-Related Recipes

Lamb Dishes

Muffins & Scones

Pasta, Noodles, Rice & Grains

Pies, Tarts, Crisps and Cobblers


Pork Dishes



Sauces, Rubs, Condiments, Dressings, Pickles & Preserves


Side Dishes and Vegetable Dishes


Tofu Dishes

Afternoon Tea at Craftsman and Wolves, Boozy Otter Pops & More

Not your ordinary afternoon tea at Craftsman and Wolves. (Photo by William Werner)

Craftsman & Wolves’ Spin on Afternoon Tea

When the very creative Pastry Chef William Werner decided to offer up a new afternoon tea at his Craftsman & Wolves patisserie in San Francisco, you knew it wasn’t going to be the usual staid cucumber sandwich affair.

Instead think apple gruyere scones, buckwheat crumpets, clotted cream and olive oil curd.

Not to mention beet root madelines and salt cod with brioche.

Choose either a pot of Naivetea’s oolong or tisane to go along with it all.

The menu will change with the seasons.

Afternoon tea, available Monday through Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., is $22 per person or $40 for two. Reservations are recommended by calling (415) 913-7713.

Some of the creative sweets and savories served with tea at Craftsman and Wolves. (Photo by William Werner)

Veteran San Francisco Chef Carlo Middione Hosts Two Special Dinners

Long-time Chef Carlo Middione and art connoisseur Daniel Friedlander are teaming up for two nights of wining and dining amid magnificent artwork in an 1908 landmark building in San Francisco, Oct. 18 and Oct. 20.

Middione who for decades owned the stellar Vivande and Vivande Porta Via, both in San Francisco, lost most of his senses of smell and taste four years ago following a car accident in which his small sedan was broadsided by another vehicle. Despite that, he’s still able to cook rather magnificently, as evidenced by the lunch he cooked for me when I profiled him two years ago for a story in the San Francisco Chronicle.

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Merry Marzipan

A basket of warm scones full of sweet marzipan nubbins.

Imagine waking up on Christmas morning to warm scones that hide little nubbins of sweet marzipan.

How’s that for a holiday gift to bring a smile bright and early?

“Marzipan Scones” is a recipe from the new book, “Baking Style” (Wiley) by noted baking authority Lisa Yockelson, of which I recently received a review copy. The book is full of  recipes for homespun cookies, breads, muffins and cakes  that just make you want to turn on your oven and spend an afternoon baking your heart out.

These scones are quite unusual. They look like bread and taste like cake.

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An Autumn Apple Treat

A crust to bring tears to your eyes. And a filling with a secret ingredient.

We all know it’s what’s on the inside that really counts.

But boy, what’s on the outside sure can titillate, thrill and work us into a frenzy, too.

Oh, come on. You know I’m right.

Take this “Open-Faced Apple Galette with Quince Paste.”

What attracted me in the first place to this recipe from Flo Braker’s “Baking for All Occasions” (Chronicle Books) was what was inside. After the rectangular galette emerges from the oven with its filling of sliced apples, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and allspice, it cools just until you won’t burn your fingertips. Then, you carefully slip tiny pieces of sweet, deep, rose-colored quince paste between the apple slices.

The quince paste, which you can pick up in the cheese section of any well-stocked grocery store, not only adds color, but a brighter, more complex autumn flavor to this wonderful rustic dessert. I loved the interplay between the sweet-tangy, tender apples (I used Pink Lady ones) and the sticky, gooey sugary quince with its subtle acidic note.

The recipe calls for Golden Delicious, but I used Pink Lady apples.

Yes, I loved the inside. But boy, let me tell you about the outside, too.

It’s a beaut.

Braker, who lives in Palo Alto and has been teaching baking for 35 years, sure knows how to put together a crust.

If there ever was such a thing as a perfect crust, this could be it. It’s very buttery, so crisp it shatters when a fork cuts through it, and so multi-layered flaky that my husband thought it nearly bordered being puff pastry’s more svelte cousin.

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