Sunday, July 29, 2007


So I'm finally getting around to posting stuff and contributing to this blog! I tend to seem non-existent, but I do exist, and so do my desserts! I'm posting a few recipes below that I've enjoyed making over the past few months and thought were worthy of sharing. So here's to the summer dessert challenge ...and spring, and winter, and whatever else I never made myself a part of!

Classic Coconut Cake
This recipe is Ina Garten's, which some of you may have made before. I've used it a couple times because it's one of those cakes that you can count on being good every time - the coconut in the cake itself makes it extra moist and it's even better a day or two old. I especially like that she uses almond extract, because I think it's a great complement to the coconut flavor.

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3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk
4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

For the frosting:
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans, then line them parchment paper. Grease them again and dust lightly with flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes (according to the recipe, although I usually do 40-45 min), until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out

The next 2 recipes are a result of trying to figure out something to do with peaches before they go bad... My aunt lives in Georgia, and every summer she comes and brings a bazillion peaches for my family, and this year I was determined to bake with them before they rotted. The first recipe is a peach coffee cake, which is in no way meant to be a competitor with Susan's "Morning After Coffeecake" (which I have made at least 6 times I think!) The second is a peach shortcake, which I made as a birthday cake for my aunt (the one that brings all the peaches) and she said it was the best birthday cake she's had in years.

Peach Streusel Coffee Cake (taken from Williams-Sonoma "Muffins" cookbook)

To peel the peaches for this recipe easily, bring a saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil. Using a small, sharp knife, cut a shallow X on the blossom end of each peach. Immerse the peaches in the boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds. Lift out with a slotted spoon and let cool on a work surface. Using your fingers or the knife, slip off the skins.

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For the streusel:
3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter,
cut into small pieces

For the cake:
1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
3⁄4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1 egg
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1⁄2 cup milk
1 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
2 firm, ripe peaches, 1 lb. total, peeled, pitted and sliced 1 inch thick

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round springform pan or square baking pan or baking dish.

To make the streusel, in a bowl, stir together the flour, brown and granulated sugars and cinnamon. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut or rub in the butter until coarse crumbs form. Set aside.

To make the cake, in a bowl, stir together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed or a wire whisk, beat the egg, melted butter, milk, vanilla and almond extract until creamy, about 1 minute. Add to the flour mixture and beat just until evenly moistened. There should be no lumps or dry spots. Do not over mix.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. If using a springform pan, arrange the peach slices in concentric circles from the pan sides to the center. If using a square pan, arrange the slices in rows. Gently press the slices into the batter. Sprinkle evenly with the streusel.

Bake until the topping is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Remove the sides of the springform pan, if using. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges or squares. Makes one 9-inch cake.

Note: If using a glass baking dish, reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Also, cake calls for 2 peaches, but I used 3.

Warm Peach Shortcake with Brandy Whipped Cream (taken from Food and Wine Annual 2007 Cookbook)

this recipe calls for 3 tablespoons total of brandy. I'm not a brandy person, so I had to go to ye ole liquor store for this one... I bought one of those baby bottles and used the whole thing... I used 1/3 of the bottle for the part that calls for 1 tablespoon (the whipped cream) and the rest to soak the raisins in. You could measure it out if you wanted, but I found it to work fine like this. Also, I added a little powdered sugar to the whipping cream to sweeten it a bit. Picture isn't mine - I got it from the Food and Wine website.

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* Vegetable spray
* 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
* 3/4 cup buttermilk
* 2 large eggs, beaten


* 3 tablespoons brandy
* 1/4 cup golden raisins
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 4 firm, ripe peaches—halved, pitted and sliced 1/2 inch thick
* 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 cup heavy cream

1. MAKE THE SHORTCAKE: Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray a 9-inch cake pan with vegetable spray. In a small bowl, stir 1 tablespoon of the sugar with the cinnamon. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, the baking powder, nutmeg, salt and baking soda. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the cold butter until it is the size of small peas. Make a well in the center of the flour and butter mixture and add the buttermilk and the beaten eggs. Stir with a fork, until a dough forms. Scrape the dough into the prepared cake pan and bake for 35 minutes, until the top is golden. Brush the top of the hot shortcake with the melted butter and sprinkle all over with the cinnamon sugar. Transfer the shortcake to a rack to cool for 10 minutes.
2. MEANWHILE, MAKE THE FILLING: In a small bowl, pour the brandy over the raisins and let stand for 20 minutes. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the peaches, cover and cook over moderately low heat until just softened, about 6 minutes. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the brandy. Add the remaining brandy, raisins, brown sugar and cinnamon to the skillet. Cook the peaches over moderate heat, stirring often, until glazed and crisp-tender, about 8 minutes.
3. In a medium bowl, whip the cream with the reserved 1 tablespoon of brandy until soft peaks form. Remove the shortcake from the pan and transfer to a plate. Using a serrated knife, slice the cake in half horizontally; slide the top of the cake onto a plate. Spoon the peaches and sauce over the bottom of the shortcake. Top with the other half. Cut the cake into wedges and serve with a dollop of brandy whipped cream.

The shortcake can be baked up to 1 day ahead.

Blueberry and Buttermilk Tart

You may have seen this next recipe in 'Living' magazine a few months ago. I especially wanted to share this one because it's a great dessert when you're in the mood for something that's not super sweet. The buttermilk gives it a tangy flavor and accompanies the sweet blueberries well. It's one of those desserts that just tastes fresh and light, and I think is great for summer!

I didn't take a picture, but this is Martha's...
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Serves 8

* 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
* 1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
* 1/3 cup blanched whole almonds
* 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
* 1 tablespoon cold water
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 3 tablespoons sugar
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
* 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
* 3 cups fresh blueberries (about 1 1/2 pints)

1. Make the crust: With an electric mixer on low speed, beat butter and 1/4 cup sugar until just combined, about 15 seconds. Add flour and salt, and beat until dough comes together, about 3 minutes. Shape into a disk.
2. Pulse remaining 1/3 cup sugar and the almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Scatter half of the almond mixture onto a clean work surface, and place dough on top. Scatter the remaining almond mixture on top, and roll out dough, resprinkling with almond mixture and incorporating into dough, until dough measures an 11-inch square.
3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Fit dough into a 9-inch square tart pan with removable bottom, pressing into bottom and up sides. Trim dough flush with rim. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes (or up to 1 day).
4. Bake tart shell, occasionally pressing bottom to flatten using the bottom of a glass, until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool.
5. Make the filling: Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small bowl; let stand until softened, about 5 minutes.
6. Heat cream, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Add gelatin mixture, and stir until it has dissolved. Remove from heat; let cool. Stir in buttermilk and lemon juice.
7. Remove tart from pan. Spread custard into crust. Refrigerate until custard is slightly set, about 15 minutes. Scatter blueberries evenly over top. Refrigerate until custard is firm, about 2 hours (or up to 1 day). Cut into squares to serve.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Icelandic dessert adventure.

The week before last, I took my parents around Iceland - I've been there probably 15+ times over the last 4-5 years, largely because I found it saved $ on airfare when I was flying home from Europe for work. Actually, the real reason I first wanted to go there was because of the band Sigur Rós - I remember reading an interview where they mentioned that their music was heavily influenced by the landscape of the country, and I always wondered what that meant...(if you want a soundtrack to this post, click here to listen to "popplagið", if you've got 12 minutes to spare).

Anyhow, the non-dessert photos from the trip (waterfalls, geysir, whale watching, puffins, Icelandic hot dogs, indie rock, my dj friends) will be up somewhere else when I have time. in the meantime, here are some things I thought y'all might be interested in:

The Skyr Cake at my favorite restaurant in Reykjavík, Þrír Frakkar, a seafood restaurant that's a ways off the main drag in the center of town. Used to be the only place in town that served whale - now that Iceland has started whaling again (for "research purposes" - ahem), it's now available at several places. Anyhow. This is about desserts.

Skyr is an Icelandic yogurt-like product, I believe made by slightly different bacteria from "traditional" yogurt. It's thicker and a little tangier than your average Yoplait or Dannon - and as of a couple months ago, you can get MS brand Icelandic skyr at Whole Foods in NYC. I recommend either the vanilla or blueberry. At $2.79 a cup, it ain't cheap, but it's worth it. If you want to support the little guy, buy some of my friend Siggi's skyr at Murray's Cheese - he's making it in small batches, and has great flavors like pear/mint and orange/ginger (my favorite). I've got the recipe for Chef Úlfar's skyr cake from a now out-of-print Icelandic cookbook - once I have a chance to test it out, I'll post the results and recipe.

The Apple Cake (Eplakaka) from Bláa Kannan Café in Akureyri up on the north coast of Iceland (the second largest city in Iceland - about 18,000 people). Sorry the photo is crummy - bad lighting. The last time I was in northern Iceland a couple years ago, my friends and I did an eplakaka tasting tour of the region and decided that this place had by far the best - moist, intensely appley, perfectly browned thick lattice on top. I asked nicely for the recipe, but was denied! So sad. Hopefully that means they're thinking about opening one in NYC and didn't want me to compete with them. Somehow I doubt it.

This is the big one. Bakarí Sandholt in Reykjavík is one of the places that I make a beeline for when I first get downtown. It's been around since 1920 (just stating the obivous for those who missed it in the photo above). If you click on "Myndir" on the top of their webpage, there's a whole section of photos of their creations. Very cool stuff. Dessert porn.

This is what you see when you walk in around lunchtime - the front counter with a couple small sandwiches, sweets, and cakes.

Walking to the back you'll find another counter with their truffles and ganache-filled chocolates - a lot of flavors I couldn't quite figure out because they were in Icelandic (not an easy language, by the way). I would have brought some back for everyone, but I had only enough room for a box for my girlfriend...sorry! One of the big things in Iceland is chocolate and licorice - there are actually more than 6 different Icelandic candy bars which are based on that concept. Guess I better report on that on a future trip, huh? Two years ago, I brought back a pile of every Icelandic candy bar I could find for my food-obsessed friend Dylan in LA to analyze - sadly his report was "Wow - they're all really good, but I forgot to write down which ones I liked more...could you bring more next time?" Despite not liking licorice so much, I think Sandholt's chocolate with licorice ganache is delightful.

Walking back toward the front is my favorite thing there - the little braided puff pastry pecan guys in the center of this case. That and a perfectly prepared cappuccino (with a leaf drawn in the foam) served as breakfast 3 mornings on the trip.

I finally had a chance to meet Asgeir Sandholt, the current owner, this trip - really nice guy. Here's a photo of the kitchen in the far back - the guy on the right works there.

OK - I couldn't help it...indulge me with one non-dessert photo, taken on my walk home from a club where a friend of mine was DJ'ing. This is what 3am looks like in the summertime at the viking ship sculpture down by the harbor, looking across to the mountains which are capped with glaciers (couldn't get it all in the frame).

Alright, I've got to get some sleep. Hope you enjoyed my little dessert travelogue!

Sjáumst og heyrumst,

- Richard

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


As some of you may already know, our lovely Lemon Melang is getting hitched. For the engagement party, I wanted to make a light and sweet summer tart. Given my obsession with all things French, I decided to use a recipe from Clotilde's Chocolate and Zucchini Cookbook that I can't seem to let go of lately. I made the Peach, Nectarine, and Ginger Tart. As usual, I got a bit distracted and forgot to add the ginger to the Pate Sable as the recipe indicates. With fresh white peaches and nectarines from the farmer's market, and a sprinkling of candied ginger, it still turned out amazingly.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Yes, it's true. This cupcake is poisonous. It was supposed to be a vanilla cupcake with a caramel chocolate frosting with a little Himalayan salt halo. That is what it looks like in this picture. However, upon biting into this very cupcake pictured, I had to spit it out into the garbage. The frosting was superb, the salt, a savory flirt of crunch. The cake tasted like old fish oil.
Thankfully I only frosted two before I tried one. At first I was so startled I had no idea what happened then I remembered finishing off the last bit of Canola oil left in the bottle. That had been sitting. Next to my oven. In my greenhouse of a loft. A loft so blazing during the day, that it sucks the moisture from my plants within a 12 hour period if I do not intervene. How did I think for a second that this oil would be OK to use for these cupcakes. I did not think, I just poured. I have been warned by serious foodies to store my cooking oils in the fridge, and even now as I type, I know my oils are still shelved but two feet from my oven, out in the open, going rancid.... RIGHT NOW! This public admission is my hope to inform, but also force myself to change my ways and get those bottles in the fridge! I have included an excerpt from the Whole Foods website on storing oils, in case any of you are as dopey as me:

Storing and Utilizing Oils

Oils, unlike wine, do not improve with age. Heat and light are especially harmful, so most oils, particularly polyunsaturated oils, should be kept in the refrigerator. Never store cooking oils by the stove. Highly saturated oils, which include most tropical oils, are quite stable and may be kept at room temperature, though refrigeration certainly won't harm them and will extend their useful life. Some oils, olive oil among them, become cloudy and may solidify when refrigerated but this does not affect quality. Usually, just a few minutes at room temperature will restore oils to their liquid state.

If improperly stored (exposed to excessive heat, light or air) or kept too long, oils eventually become rancid, with a characteristic bad taste and smell. Discard rancid oils immediately, since they are the worst kinds of fat you can consume. Heating oils beyond their smoke point is also undesirable. The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke, generating toxic fumes and harmful free radicals. Always discard oil that has reached its smoke point, along with any food in contact with it. Read the label of a particular oil to determine its smoke point, and never heat the oil higher than this temperature. In general, refined oils will have a higher smoke point than unrefined oils.

Shopping tip: Purchase cooking oils in small quantities, especially the more fragile polyunsaturated oils.