Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Due to a few last minute things that have come up at work, I have to take an unplanned hiatus from baking and the blog for the next few weeks, making for an unfortunately abrupt holiday post just so the festive season doesn't go by without me wishing y'all a wonderful Christmas. Perhaps this is all for the better anyways-- I spent the last week or so with several food-ography and baking projects, and my studio and kitchen haven't yet completely recovered from the insanity! So while I hate taking time off from the blog, I hope you'll all excuse me for dropping in to quickly wish everyone "Happy Holidays!" before this blog goes on a little sabbatical for the remainder of 2011.

I hope everyone has wonderful holiday celebrations and gets to share this lovely season with the dear people in your lives. Thank you all so, so much for being an incredible community and letting me carry on and share my food and photography and life with you every week here on this little web platform of mine. I am very much looking forward to being back and hearing from everyone in 2012!

Happy Holidays!


Friday, December 16, 2011


photo made and processed with the iPhone

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the new location of the ever wonderful Dandelion Chocolate chocolatiers with Anita Chu of Dessert First for a special project we're working on together. Their cavernous new space is a former photographer's studio, and I am so envious of their light.

More to come on our new project soon, I promise! It's been many, many months in the making, but hopefully I'll be able to let y'all in on the secret in short time. Meanwhile, I wish everyone a great weekend. Mine is packed with lots and lots of photography project-age, so I know it'll be good. :) Happy Friday, everyone!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Persimmon Spice Tea Cake

I've been a wee-bit obsessed with bundts lately. (okay, okay, let's get your snickers and 'I like big bundt' jokes out of the way right now, please.) Bundts and quick tea cakes, to be exact. It's because they're so fast and easy and delicious, as simple as mixing the dry ingredients into the wet ones and throwing it all into the oven. And yet, there's something special and "ooooo"-inspiring about a bundt cake. It's as if baking the batter in a bundt pan magically transforms an ordinary cake into an extraordinary! cake.

For this reason, bundt (and loaf) cakes have become some of my favorite things to make during this time of year, when there is so much baking to be done for special celebrations amidst all of the scramble for end-of-the-year deadlines. Like this week. There are waaaaay too many deadlines and things to do--my "to do" list isn't really as much a list as it is a tome.

And so, enter the bundt cake to save my butt (excuse me, I couldn't resist :-P) when it came to baking for the holiday parties of the past few days. I've had these persimmons sitting on my counter, which were ripening themselves into a pulp for a while now, and I thought that a persimmon spice cake, versus the more typical pumpkin spice cake fare, would be a good excuse to use them up. So into the food processor they went, then a quick stir into a cake batter, and a little while later, out of the oven emerged this wonderfully spicy and super, super moist tea cake. I think because the persimmons are a bit more juicy than pumpkin usually is, these cakes came out even more luscious than normal.

[click on photo for a larger image]

For the second holiday party, I made an almond, meyer lemon, and poppyseed bundt, but I'll save that recipe for some other time. :) Now, if you excuse me--I hope you don't mind this ultra-short post, but my to-do list beckons! Til soon!

Read on for recipe....

Thursday, December 8, 2011

TGIF: on chips and language

It's not often that the three distinct worlds I seem to straddle--food, photography, and linguistics--happen to collide. But, it's happened! Dan Jurafsky, professor of linguistics at Stanford University, has just published a fascinating article with another researcher, Josh Freedman, in the latest issue of food journal-magazine Gastronomica on the use of language for marking social identity in the advertising of potato chips. And I have a little photography byline in the article. :) (Above is a photo I made for Dan's blog illustrating some of the basic concepts in the article. )

Read a summary of the article on Dan's blog Language of Food here, and then go check out the full-length article, with pictures by yours truly, in Gastronomica itself. (Those with academic access via a library subscription can access the article electronically via JSTOR here.) It'll make for some wonderful weekend morning reading!

On that note, happy weekend, all! I've got three holiday parties over the next four days. I don't know if I'll survive it all--someone might have to fish me out from beneath the inevitable mountains of powdered sugar and cookies come Monday.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Berry, Apple, and Rosemary Shortbread Bars

M'dears, cookie season is officially upon us! My fridge is stocked with butter, Costco has rolled out the huge packs of parchment paper that they only carry during this time of year, and I've already had to refill my sugar and flour jars twice. Ah, the holidays!

A couple of years ago for the holidays, one of my oldest friends, Priscilla, gifted me with a box of assorted homemade cookies. In them were these amazing, amazing raspberry jam shortbread bars--so good that ever since then, I've been begging Priscilla to make the bars for me again every Christmas. For some reason, however, my begging skills are apparently not up to snuff (NTS: practice Puss'n'Boots face) because I have yet to convince Priscilla to make them for me again! Alas, great sadness. :(

But then, in the midst of a desperate craving for jam shortbread bars, it suddenly dawned on me that, as a baker, I am perfectly capable of taking matters into my own oven-mitted hands. So, enter my spin on this bar-cookie: berry, apple, and rosemary shortbread bars. Before you go and accuse me of once again going off the deep end with potentially insane flavor combinations, allow me to explain where the inspiration for this one comes from. A couple of days ago, a few local San Francisco Bay Area food bloggers and I were brainstorming flavors of blackberry jam that Sean should make (backstory: we were at an event promoting blackberries). Of course, brainstorming flavors is one of my favorite pastimes--I swear a psychologist would have a field day doing food-related free word association analysis on me. Anyways, we all threw out a bunch of suggestions: blackberry-rose! blackberry-ginger! blackberry-vanilla! And somehow, admist all of this, Irvin and I both arrived at a consensus on blackberry-apple-rosemary jam.

Over the next few days, the idea of dark berries paired with apples and rosemary stuck with me. Tart chunks of green apples seemed to be a fitting companion to supple and ultra-sweet berries, and rosemary lends the combination a more sophisticated, rustic air. Together, this trio formed the perfect storm for my long-desired shortbread bars, with homemade blackberry and wild blueberry jam and large pieces of baked apples sandwiched between crumbly layers of almost-savory rosemary shortbread. It's like having jam and apple pie all at once! :)  (For a more standard variation, the rosemary can easily be left out of the shortbread, which is flavored with lemon zest as well, so it will still taste plenty yummy.)

As if these bars weren't awesome enough, I realized, after pulling them out of the oven, a fact that makes them even awesome-er. You see, these little squares of delicious are called "Berry, Apple, and Rosemary Shortbread" bars. Now, if you acronym-tize that, you get.... BARS bars. Oh yes, dear friends. Pun-age! (Okay, cue collective groan and facepalm from most of you out there and a mild applause from English major dorks like me who appreciate a good pun when they hear one!)

[click on photo for a larger image]

Anyways, Priscilla--if you're reading this-- I'm still waiting for you to make your awesome raspberry jam version of these bar-cookies again! *hint hint* And for the rest of you: what cookies are you planning to make this season? Share below!

[full disclosure: thank you to Driscoll's for the blackberries used in this recipe, and thank you to my mom for the apples used herein. As always, I wouldn't be telling you about any products that I don't myself use and love.]

Read on for recipe....

Friday, December 2, 2011


Yes, it's been a little crazy and hectic here in Real Life land, between Thanksgiving travels and work deadlines and new projects piling up--I'm sure you all know the feeling! But, have no fear, the recently neglected blog should be back up and running soon. Until then, I wish you all a very happy and warm first weekend of December!

Weekend plans for the holiday month? Share below! I, for one, am headed to a cookie swap. Yay, butter and sugar!