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Bill Granger’s Coconut Bread

17 May

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Certain meals occupy a special place in my heart, not simply because of delicious food, but the memories that accompany these experiences. When my family and I traveled to Australia last year, we visited a Sydney breakfast institution called Bills.

Bill Granger, the restaurant’s owner and a prominent Aussie chef and cookbook author, emphasizes a fresh and easy-going approach to cooking. For breakfast, Bills specialties include silky scrambled eggs, cloud-like ricotta pancakes topped with bananas and honeycomb butter, and organic sourdough toast smothered with fruit preserves. Other than being one of the tastiest breakfasts I’ve ever had, Bills’s bustling, light-filled atmosphere and welcoming service encapsulated my trip to Australia.

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While Bills offers a short and simple menu, every dish was masterfully executed using high-quality ingredients. My family and I each ordered the famous scrambled eggs (there’s a reason the New York Times crowned Granger the “Egg Master of Sydney”), and selected this coconut bread as a sweet complement.

Despite its humble description, this loaf boasts rich coconut flavor and a tender, sturdy crumb. While it is wonderful enjoyed plain, Bills serves it grilled, cut in thick slabs, with a dollop of butter and honey on the side. Best of all, every bite transports me to that sunny morning spent in a foreign country, enjoying vibrant, unfussy food with the people I love.

Recipe courtesy of the New York Times, via Smitten Kitchen

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 to 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 ounces sweetened flaked coconut (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 6 tblsp unsalted butter, melted or melted and browned, if desired
  • Vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray for baking pan

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Add sugar and coconut, and stir to mix. Make a well in the center, and pour in egg mixture, then stir wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. Add butter, and stir until just smooth — be careful not to overmix.

3. Butter and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan, or coat it with a nonstick spray. Spread batter in pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, anywhere from 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool in pan five minutes, before turning out onto a cooling rack.

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Tangerine Sour Cream Pound Cake

12 Mar

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You learn a lot about people by looking at their bookshelves. My dad has a wall dedicated to jazz books, complete with a bronze sculpture of Miles Davis and miniature figurines of an orchestra. Another section of his library contains autobiographies of former U.S. presidents and books about economics and behavioral psychology. You could say that he’s a pretty eclectic guy. My mom collects coffee table books about fashion, art, and flowers, along with fiction novels by iconic French writers. She arranges them pristinely, each book a gorgeous jewel awaiting to be examined.

You can probably guess what my bookshelf looks like. My love for baking, photography, and writing has inspired an extensive cookbook collection. The cookbooks that I’ve acquired from my travels bring back vivid memories of brisk afternoons spent strolling through San Francisco, or the best scrambled eggs I ever ate while in Sydney. Whenever I read cookbooks from my favorite bloggers, I marvel at how the internet has allowed amateur cooks to become award-winning authors and photographers.

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I am always on the lookout for cookbooks from local bakeries and restaurants. Valerie Confections, a quaint bakery located in Echo Park, offers meticulous, French-inspired pastries and confections. Sweet by Valerie Gordon contains a wide array of gorgeous recipes, ranging from fancy celebration desserts to breakfast pastries and everyday cakes.

This pound cake is wonderful in its simplicity. Fresh tangerine zest offsets the sour cream’s richness and provides a bright, slightly tangy flavor. To finish, the cake’s golden brown crust is covered with a shiny tangerine glaze. Served alongside a cup of tea, this cake becomes a delightful breakfast or afternoon snack.

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Recipe slightly adapted from Sweet by Valerie Gordon

Because I prefer my baked goods less sweet, I eliminated one cup of sugar and chose not to soak the cake in syrup after baking. The cake was sufficiently moist and subtly sweet. 

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 tblsp grated tangerine zest (from about 8 tangerines)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the glaze:

  • 1/3 cup fresh tangerine juice (from about 6 tangerines)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325° F. Grease a non-stick tube pan with butter or baking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix the sour cream, tangerine zest, and vanilla together in a small bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.

3. Reduce the mixer to low speed and add the dry ingredients, one cup at a time, mixing until just barely combined. Some streaks of flour are ok. Add the sour cream mixture and mix until smooth. Do not over-mix. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top.

4. Bake for 45 minutes, then rotate the cake and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, or until the top of the cake is cracked and golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a cooling rack for 45 minutes, then invert it an allow to cool completely. To make the glaze, whisk the tangerine juice and confectioners’ sugar together in a bowl. Adjust amount of powdered sugar based on desired thickness of glaze. Pour over the cooled cake and allow to set completely.

My Favorite Banana Bread

25 Feb

When I first began baking, I insisted that everything I made was absolutely delicious. I fiercely defended my rock-hard pound cakes, puddle-shaped sugar cookies, and acridly-sweet brownies. Over time, I learned that one must accept failure in order to develop outstanding recipes. Few baked goods come out perfect after the first try, and even then, an experienced baker will elevate them from great to excellent. My tireless pursuit of the perfect banana bread taught me this invaluable lesson.

When it comes to classic American treats, everyone has different preferences. Through sampling countless banana breads, from bakeries and my own kitchen, I formulated an ideal version in my mind. A moist, fragrant loaf with a tender crumb and cake-like consistency, this recipe achieved my goal.

This bread appeals to banana purists. Beating the butter and brown sugar creates a light, fluffy texture and a nice lift to the crust. This technique yields an end product closer to a tea cake than a spongy, dense quick bread. Even though it’s wonderful plain, sliced thick and smeared with a dab of butter, I can’t wait to spice it up with chocolate chunks, nuts, and coconut flakes. Because even my perfect recipe offers infinite opportunities for improvement.

Recipe adapted from Donna Hay Magazine via Sweetie’s Home

Adding a handful of walnuts provides a pleasant crunch and toasty flavor.

  • 8 tblsp (1 stick) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups of mashed, ripe bananas (about 4 large bananas)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup toasted, chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan with butter. Using a stand mixer equipped with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the honey and beat for another minute, or until thoroughly combined. Reduce the mixer to medium speed, and add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla extract and banana and mix until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and walnuts. On low speed, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing until just barely combined. A few streaks of flour are OK.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool in pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then remove the bread and allow it to cool completely.

Meyer Lemon-Blackberry Loaf Cake

17 Jan

Whenever I bake something new, my mom and I conduct a tasting session around our kitchen table. We assess the texture, complexity of flavor, and uniqueness of an item, savoring each bite in between sips of coffee. While I have undoubtedly inherited her sweet tooth, my mom has also taught me to appreciate quality and attention-to-detail. Unlike a main meal, eating a baked good is a special experience that someone enjoys for a few minutes out of his or her day. Pastries are not meant to be wolfed down for sustenance, but should provide simple pleasure and sweet satisfaction. This philosophy has shaped my baking style and recipe selection.

I chose to make this cake because I thought it would pair well with an afternoon coffee or tea, providing just the right amount of sweetness and tender, moist crumb. Plump, tart blackberries spot the cake’s golden interior, like little jewels that burst inside your mouth. With its beautiful appearance and fresh, unfussy flavors, this loaf epitomizes what a great baked good should be in my book.

Recipe courtesy of Foodess

Because I used fresh, juicy blackberries, I increased the original baking time by 10 minutes. If you opt for a dried fruit or one with less moisture, adjust the baking time accordingly. 

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 /4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp finely grated Meyer lemon zest (from two lemons)
  • 1/4 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup fresh blackberries, broken up into small pieces

For the glaze:

  • 1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Yields 12 generous slices.

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan, or line with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together sour cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl when necessary.

3. Reduce mixer speed and alternatively beat in ⅓ of flour mixture, followed by ½ of sour cream mixture, and repeat, ending with the last ⅓ of the flour mixture. Be sure to pause the mixer occasionally to scrape down sides of the bowl. Using your hands, gently break up the blackberries into small pieces. Use a spatula to gently fold them into the batter.

4. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 60-80 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly pressed or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan, then transfer to a cooling rack. Cool completely before icing.

5. To make the glaze, whisk together lemon juice and powdered sugar until there are no lumps. Adjust the amount of powdered sugar based on desired thickness. Drizzle over cooled cake.

Cardamom-Almond Pound Cake

2 Oct

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I have never been a picky eater. Even though I ate just about everything as a child, certain foods made more appearances than others. I enjoyed tomato sauce pasta, white rice, and grilled chicken multiple times per week. Sometimes multiple times per day, if my grandmothers were babysitting me.

This same idea applies to dessert. I cannot recall how many chocolate cakes and chocolate chip cookies I have sampled in my lifetime. Too many. Cakes spiced with cardamom? Just one–a buttery Armenian Easter bread that I look forward to every year. Despite my love of this bread, I had never thought of using cardamom in any of my own baked goods. So when I saw this recipe for cardamom-almond pound cake in the August issue of Bon Appétit, I knew I had to try it. Cardamom has an awesome nutty/spicy quality that gives this sturdy pound cake an exotic flavor. My favorite part of any loaf cake is the crunchy top, which, in this case, is studded with golden brown slivered almonds.

Recipe courtesy of Bon Appétit 

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche (I used full-fat sour cream instead)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

1. Position a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350° F. Butter a 9x5x3” loaf pan; line bottom and long sides with a strip of parchment paper, leaving overhang.

2. Whisk baking powder, cardamom, salt, and 2 cups flour in a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk milk and ½ cup crème fraîche in a small bowl; set aside.

3. Using an electric mixer equipped with a paddle attachment, beat sugar and ¾ cup butter on high speed until light and fluffy–about 4 minutes. Do not rush this step as it gives the cake its light texture. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl with a spatula. Then add vanilla and almond extracts.

4. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with crème fraîche mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients; beat just until combined. Do not overmix. Scrape batter into prepared pan, smooth top, and sprinkle with sliced almonds.

5. Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 55–65 minutes. (Tent with foil if browning too quickly.) Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes. Using parchment overhang, gently remove cake from pan and transfer to rack; let cool completely.