Easy Holiday Baking: Persimmon Teacake

I discovered persimmons when I lived in Europe, where they are commonly known as sharon fruit. They were a mystery to me at first, these orange tomato-shaped creatures – how to eat them? Skin or no skin? I quickly learned to enjoy persimmons in their entirety, with their taught crisp skin giving way to dribbling soft, honey-sweet flesh. Now I live in California, where persimmon trees grow in our garden. In the fall, when the leaves are still intact, the persimmon trees are at their prettiest. Their fruit continues to ripen, and their pumpkin-orange skin is striated with shades of gold and sage, while the robust leaves are streaked in crimson. Come winter, when the leaves have fallen, the fruit continues to cling to the barren branches, dangling like forgotten Christmas ornaments, ripe for plucking.

There are two types of persimmons: the round squat fuyu and the more upright heart-shaped hachiya. The hachiya must be eaten at its ripest, which means incredibly squishy, to avoid its astringent unripened flesh. It’s best to enjoy an hachiya as a big juicy slurp with a napkin in hand, or blending its pulp into baked goods. Unlike the hachiya, the fuyu is not astringent, so it may be eaten firm or soft. I enjoy the firmness of fuyus when their consistency is similar to a crisp pear. At this stage they hold their shape well and have a soft sweetness, which makes them a great addition to salads and salsas. The firm fuyu fruit can also be grated and mixed into baked goods, just as you would grate a carrot into cakes -– such as in this teacake.

Persimmon Olive Oil Teacake
Makes 1 loaf

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely grated fuyu persimmon, packed, about 2 persimmons
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter or oil a loaf pan.
2. Whisk the flour, almond flour, cinnamon, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugars until light and fluffy, then whisk in the oil and vanilla. Add the flour ingredients and stir to just combine without overmixing. Stir in the persimmon and walnuts.
4. Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes clean, about one hour, depending on the shape of the pan. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Strawberry Cake and TasteFood News

strawberry cake tastefoodIt’s almost summer, and we deserve cake.

I am so excited to share with you 2 pieces of good news about TasteFood. It’s been a little quiet here on the blog lately, in large part due to 3 book projects I’ve been busy working on. I am happy to announce that the first book The Little Pink Book of Rosé, is now available for pre-order! It’s a light and sparkly little gift book, filled with quips, quotes and fun facts about rosé (my favorite summer wine), as well as 20 sweet, savory, and drinkable rosé recipes which I developed.

Now for the second piece of big news: As of June 8, TasteFood will be a syndicated weekly column coming to a newspaper near you! This means that you will be able to read TasteFood in many of your local papers throughout the U.S. each week. Once the dust settles, I’ll be developing a newsletter that will tie in news about my cookbooks, blog, and column. Finally and most importantly, I would love to hear from you!  Leave a comment, ask questions, let me know about recipes, cuisines, or cooking topics you would like to read about, either here on the blog or the email address provided in my column – your feedback is highly valued!

So, now it’s time for cake…

Strawberry Cake

While nothing beats fresh sun-sweetened strawberries, au natural or swiped through a dollop of whipped cream, put aside a pint or two to make this simple cake. It’s light and simple, gently sweetened and generously studded with as many strawberries you can fit. I halved the jumbo-sized strawberries in the pictured cake, but recommend quartering them if very large, so they’ll begin to break down while baking, making a luscious juicy mess. Serves 6 to 8.

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, divided
1 pound strawberries, halved – or quartered if very large

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180C). Butter a 9-inch (23cm) pie or gratin dish.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
3. Combine the butter and the 3/4 cup sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the egg, buttermilk, vanilla and almond extracts, and 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Add the flour and mix to thoroughly combine without over-mixing. 4. Pour  the batter into the prepared dish and spread evenly. Arrange the strawberries, cut-sides down, on top of the batter, gently pressing to partially submerge. Squeeze in as many strawberries as possible – it’s ok to be greedy – and reserve the rest for serving. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the 1 tablespoon sugar.
5. Bake the cake until the top is light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes clean, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Cool slightly and serve lukewarm or at room temperature with whipped cream and extra strawberries (if you haven’t already eaten them!)

Blackberry Clafoutis

Blackberry Clafoutis TasteFood

Got berries? If you’re like me, it’s impossible to resist the baskets of fresh summer berries at the farmers’ market. If you have more restraint than me and you haven’t gobbled your berries up yet, here’s a great way to add them to a dessert. Clafoutis is a French flan-like dessert consisting of fresh fruit baked in a custardy batter. It’s light and elegant, gently sweet, and redolent with your favorite fruit. Berries work well because their juices seep into the clafoutis while it bakes. You can also use cherries, plums, and pears.

Blackberry Clafoutis

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 to 55 minutes
Makes 8 (6-ounce) or 1 (10-inch) clafoutis

Unsalted softened butter for greasing the pans
1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
12 ounces fresh blackberries
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups half and half
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus extra for garnish
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter 8 (6-ounce) shallow ramekins (or 1 (10-inch) ceramic tart pan). Sprinkle the ramekins with the 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and tap out any excess. Place the ramekins on a baking tray. Arrange the berries in one layer in the ramekins.
2. Beat the eggs and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. On low speed, mix in the half and half, flour, lemon zest, vanilla extract, almond extract, and salt until just combined.
3. Pour the mixture over fruit. Transfer the clafoutis to the oven and bake until the top is tinged golden brown and the custard is set, about 25 minutes for the ramekins (or 35 to 40 minutes for the tart pan). Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
4. Before serving, sprinkle the clafoutis with powdered sugar and garnish with additional lemon zest. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Strawberry Rhubarb Parfaits with Almond-Quinoa Streusel

Rhubarb trifles quinoaTrifles and parfaits are a great way to show off the season’s best fruit. I like to assemble them in little glasses, so the layers are visible and the servings aren’t too large. They can be as simple as fruit and cream, but I often add a little crunchy texture, such as crumbled meringue or a sprinkle of streusel. In this recipe, I’ve made an almond and toasted quinoa streusel. The nuttiness of the quinoa is a great match for the tart rhubarb.

Strawberry Rhubarb Parfaits with Almond-Quinoa Streusel

This recipe makes about 6 large servings or 12 small servings, depending on the size of your glasses.

Rhubarb Compote:
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, ends trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2/3 cup sugar, or to taste
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Pinch of ground cinnamon

Almond-Quinoa Streusel:
1/2 cup red quinoa, rinsed
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup shaved coconut
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Whipped Cream:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pound fresh strawberries, quartered

Make the compote:
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves and the rhubarb releases its juices. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the rhubarb softens and the compote is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Cool and refrigerate until use.

Make the streusel:
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Toast the quinoa in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the almonds and coconut.
Whisk the syrup, oil, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Pour over the quinoa and stir to combine. Spread the streusel in the pan and transfer to the oven. Bake until deep golden brown, about 25 minutes. Remove and cool.

Whip the cream:
Combine the cream, sugar, and vanilla ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form.

Assemble:
Spoon a layer of rhubarb into serving glasses. Top with cream. Add a layer of strawberries over the cream and top with more cream. Garnish with the streusel. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 hour before serving.

 

Cranberry Pear Galette


cranberry galette tastefood

I am not a patient baker. My desserts tend to be “rustic” which, in my case, is a polite way of saying messy and imprecise. Fortunately for me there is a place in the dessert world for my rustic desserts. I call it my sweet spot (pun intended) which includes crisps, crumbles, cobblers, galettes, and crostatas. These desserts show off the season’s best fruit, in the company of some sort of pastry dough or streusel and are assembled in a delightfully unfussy way. This Cranberry Pear Galette is a perfect example – it’s a free-form tart, which is also known as a crostata. Unlike a traditional tart or pie, a baking dish is not required. The spiced fruit filling is simply mounded into the center of the pastry dough, then the pastry edges are gathered and folded around the filling leaving the top exposed. The result is a golden free-form crust cocooning a bubbling center of oozing fresh fruit. Now, that’s my kind of dessert. Try this one on for your Thanksgiving holiday.

Cranberry Pear Galette

Serves 6

Pastry dough:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled, but into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup ice water

Filling:
4 ripe but not too soft pears (bosc or anjou), peeled and cored, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons almond meal, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg, lightly whisked

1. Make the pastry dough: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse once or twice to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal and the butter is pea-sized. Add the water and pulse until the dough just comes together. Transfer the dough to a work surface and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling out.
2. Roll out the dough on a piece of parchment paper into a circle approximately 12-inches in diameter. (It does not have to be perfect!) Slide the dough onto a baking sheet and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the pears, cranberries, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons almond meal, the lemon juice, orange zest, cardamom, and cinnamon in a bowl. Stir to combine.
4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon almond flour over dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Mound the fruit over the almond flour. Fold the borders up and around the fruit. Lightly brush the dough with the egg and sprinkle the galette with the 1 tablespoon sugar.
5. Transfer the galette to the oven and bake until the crust is golden and the fruit is tender and bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla a ice cream.

Raspberry Almond Streusel Bars

raspberry almond bars tastefood

Whole wheat flour, almonds, and oats confer in a dense and spiced streusel, sandwiching an intense raspberry filling, while debatably nudging these bars into the kind-of-sort-of healthy department…oh, who am I kidding. Whether you call these raspberry bars indulgent or healthy(ish), they should be a must-have on your holiday cookie to-do list.

Raspberry Almond Streusel Bars

Since the crust and topping are the same dough, the topping will be more dough-like rather than crumbly.

Makes 16 small bars.

Crust and Topping:
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup almond flour (meal)
½ cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract

Filling:
1 cup high quality raspberry preserves, such as Bon Maman
6 ounces fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon raspberry liqueur, such as Chambord (optional)

1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds, coarsely chopped

Heat the oven to 375°F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 opposite sides. Butter the parchment.

Combine the flours, almond meal, sugars, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and extracts. Pulse until mixture is coarsely blended, 10 to 12 times. Transfer 1/2 cup  of the mixture to a bowl to reserve for the topping. Press the remaining mixture firmly and evenly into the pan. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Place the preserves, raspberries and liqueur in a bowl. Mix with a fork to combine, lightly mashing the whole raspberries but leaving large pieces intact. Spread the raspberries over the crust. Add the almonds to the reserved topping, then sprinkle the topping over the filling.

Bake until the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan and cut in 2-inch squares. Serve at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Roasted Figs with Prosciutto, Goat Cheese and Rosemary


Certain food combinations are not meant to be messed with – and this is a classic example: Plump seductive figs, salty supple prosciutto, and fresh creamy goat cheese are a holy triumvirate. Teamed up with rosemary (does that make it a quadrumvirate?) and roasted in the oven until crispy, bubbling, and luscious, you have a sensational appetizer – period; forget the Latin lesson.

Roasted Figs with Prosciutto, Goat Cheese (and Rosemary)

The rosemary sprigs do double duty as a toothpick and aromatic, infusing the cheese and figs with woodsy aroma while they bake in the oven. The trick is to discard the roasted sprigs and replace them with fresh leaves as a decorative garnish for serving.

Makes 16

8 ripe figs
3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 slices prosciutto, halved lengthwise
16 (3/4-inch) rosemary sprigs with stem
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh rosemary leaves
Runny honey
Finely grated lemon zest for garnish

Heat the oven to 375°F. Cut each fig in half lengthwise and place on a work surface, skin side down. Gently make a small indentation in each center with a teaspoon. Mix the goat cheese and pepper in a small bowl until smooth. Fill the indentation with goat cheese. Wrap a prosciutto slice, cross-wise, around the fig, like a belt. Spear a rosemary sprig through the center to hold the prosciutto in place. Repeat with remaining fig halves.

Place the figs in a baking dish and lightly brush the prosciutto strips with olive oil. Bake in the oven until the prosciutto begins to crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove and transfer the figs to a platter. Gently remove and discard the baked rosemary sprigs; fill the incision with a few fresh rosemary leaves. Lightly drizzle the figs with honey and garnish with lemon zest. Serve immediately.