Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cranberry Clove Linzer Torte, and Happy Holidays

Christmas was a quiet affair this year, without much of the usual hubbub or raucous festivities. This was partly a purposeful calm-down for me: while I usually revel in the holiday season, 2012 has been such a whirlwind that it felt good to just spend a day taking a deep breath, seeing close family and closer friends, and watching the rain pound down outside. No usual holiday dessert insanity for me this year, either. Just a simple, almost-rustic cranberry clove linzer torte: tart, buttery, spicy, sweet, and cakey, with a side of chocolate red tea that I got from a visit to the Netherlands a few years ago. The idea for a cranberry filling inside a linzer torte, which typically has a raspberry jam center, came from a colleague of mine (thanks, Beth!), and I actually like this cranberry version much better than the original. Because the cranberries are tarter, the torte isn't cloyingly sweet as it can sometimes be, and the contrast between the tart center and the sweeter, clove- and cinnamon-infused, nutty crust is such a perfect balance. The torte was so good that I made three of them, cutting large wedges as gifts to neighbors, friends, and family (and saving a fair portion for myself for breakfast this week! ;)).

What did you all have for Christmas dessert/breakfast this year?

[click on photo above for larger image]

Despite the quiet Christmas, I'm actually looking forward to a more lively New Year's this year. In years past, I've hosted a small game night on New Year's Eve for New Year's orphans (read: antisocial introverts like me who don't get invited to your stereotypical boisterous NYE extravaganzas), but this year, I have proper plans to attend a proper NYE party, which I'm properly excited about! :D My friend and I are going to make this gorgonzola and pear galette, which the host has eloquently renamed, "Galette de Poires à la Gorgonzola"--everything sounds way more festive in French, doesn't it!

Then, a few days after New Years, I'm off to Boston for a short business trip. It's been years since I've been to Boston last, but I'm excited to get to explore the city again. Please, please, please--if you have any recommendations for must-eat or must-see places in Boston, please leave them in a comment below!

I hope you all are having wonderful holidays, be it Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, or Yay-no-work-or-school-for-a-couple-of-days-and-the-freeways-aren't-crowded-at-all Week! Happy Holidays!

Read on for recipe...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Jars of Cookies, from sated magazine

It's almost Christmas. I can't believe it. Somehow this year, the holidays have just sort of snuck up on me with no fanfare until a friend pointed out to me yesterday that it's already the 23rd. WHAT! None of my holiday shopping is done. >< I hope you all don't mind receiving Christmas gifts in January instead.... :\

I am super excited, however, to finally get to share a few photos from a shoot I did for sated about cookies for the holidays. I'm especially excited about these photos because while shooting this feature, I basically got to break many of the tenets of modern-day food photography: I shot in direct sunlight and at comparatively small apertures than normal (think f/11 instead of the typical f/2.8s that you see in a good deal of food photography these days). I'm kind of delighted by the results, if I might say so myself, with the sunlight glistening and sparkling off the jars, and the streaks of light piercing through dark edges of the photographs. It's refreshing to break all the rules every now and then!

Also, these recipes, developed by Anita Chu and Jennifer Altman for sated, are delicious. I might have, um, generously sampled them while shooting. :P In particular, the hazelnut thumbprints pictured below are one of my favorite, favorite things that Anita makes, and I'm so excited that she's sharing the recipe over on the sated blog today! Click on over for the hazelnut thumbprints recipe, as well as recipes for buttery Scottish shortbread and spicy speculaas (pictured above).

I hope everyone has a smooth next few days leading up to Christmas! Drink lots of hot chocolate, spiced apple cider, and mulled wine for me!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cinnamon Chocolate Sunken Souffle Cake with Sparkling Cranberries

This is a cake that I made last week for our department holiday party. I went back and forth about whether or not I wanted to share it here on the blog, since I only had time to snap one quick photo of it before having to cart it off to the party where it was promptly demolished without any further photo ops. But then I thought, if the world ends tomorrow, I would want you to go out having this recipe, because it's one of my favorite flourless chocolate cake recipes, and because it's even awesomer when topped with a high pile of crunchy, tart, sugared cranberries for a decadent sparkle to the cake. I like to call it the "Richness of the Base" cake, which is kind of a really lame linguistics pun (and yes, I like my puns in baked form). But really, this is one of my go-to flourless chocolate cake recipes ever since I developed it for the chocolate issue of sated. While I find most flourless chocolate cakes far too dense, this one is the perfect balance between being richly chocolate and still light enough to feel like you're eating cake rather than eating a melted-down bar of chocolate. The coconut oil and cinnamon in this version add a touch of extra special punch to the cake, making it perfect for holiday parties. Also! sugared cranberries are just wonderful little bursts of fruit--this is my first time making them, and I probably ate most of the cranberries before they even made it onto the cake. Oops! :)

I also decided today that if the world does end, I wanted to at least see one last sunset at the Pacific Ocean. So I just dropped everything and went. The sun and the trusty Pacific did not disappoint!

It's been sort of an insane past week, filled with a family friend's funeral and bad news and horrible people doing horrible things, and all of this oddly punctuated by good, fun, sweet, heart-warming moments in a way that's just... life being life. Even if the world doesn't end tomorrow, I keep getting the feeling that I want to hug everyone a little tighter from here on out.

Read on for recipe....

Friday, December 7, 2012

Deck the tables! from sated magazine

Over on the sated blog, there's a feature I shot with holiday table floral arrangements from the wonderful Christina of Farmgirl Flowers. Farmgirl Flowers is one of my favorite local SF businesses that I've discovered while working on sated: their mission to work with all locally-grown flowers and to create these wonderfully organic-looking, dense, and eclectic bouquets just resonates so well with the locavore movement currently in the food world. Click on over to the sated blog for tips from Christina for making these own bouquets at home!

Inspired by everything I learned while shooting this feature, I've been putting together some small arrangements of my own out of the local flowers I can find at the markets on weekends. I find that having flowers on the desk in my study/studio is so calming--it's useful to have something charming to look at off to the side of my computer screen to keep me going during the long hours of the sometimes-frustrating writing process! Here are a couple results of my recent floral experiments that I managed to remember to take photos of... lots of dahlias this time of year!

I hope everyone has been having a good first week of December! During a late night procrasti-baking session this week, I made meyer lemon and sage pound cake-lettes (with sage milk glaze and sliced almonds), but they all disappeared at the next morning's lab meeting before I could take any photos of them to share here! But, with meyer lemon season in full swing, I'll definitely be remaking them soon.

Happy Friday!