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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.


College Cooking: Quick & Healthy Breakfast

1 Sep
Greek yogurt with fresh fruit (and me in the spoon!). 
I’m the person who thinks about what she’s going to have for breakfast while in bed the night before. I love taking in the smell of freshly brewed coffee and flipping pancakes while reading the front page of The New York Times. Now with classes starting everyday at 8 and 9:30 a.m., my college schedule does not accommodate such luxuries.

Rolled omelette made with veggies from dinner the night before. 
Though my mornings are considerably more rushed than they were during those idyllic summer days, I refuse to compromise when it comes to breakfast. These two simple and healthy recipes take minutes to prepare and make me feel energized and focused during lectures. 

The first–greek yogurt with sliced fresh fruit–will work with whatever produce you have on hand, no kitchen appliances required. For extra sweetness, mix in a bit of almond butter or jam.

The kitchen in my dorm–where all the magic happens. 

The second recipe–mixed veggie and goat cheese omelette–was inspired by an exquisite mushroom and spinach omelette I had at French Blue in St. Helena, CA. The omelette’s exterior was just set, encasing the veggies like a blanket, while the egg inside remained silky and almost molten. While my homemade version does not match the buttery goodness of French Blue’s, it received a seal of approval from my roommate, who declared that if all else fails, I could become a chef. 🙂 

For the filling, I recycled veggies from a stir-fry I made the night before. Transforming leftovers is a fundamental skill in college cooking, because you maximize the amount of time you spend in the kitchen and never waste precious produce.

Mixed Veggie and Goat Cheese Omelette  

2 eggs 
Tblsp of milk
Handful of diced, sautéed vegetables of your choice (I used eggplant, red bell pepper, and zucchini) 
Crumbled goat cheese (or any other cheese you prefer)
Salt and pepper 

1. Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray and place over medium-low heat. Crack one whole egg into a bowl with one egg white, placing the yolk in a separate bowl. Add the milk to the yolk and combine with a fork. Salt and pepper both egg mixtures to taste. 
2. Pour the egg/egg white mixture into the skillet, spreading it into a circle, and cook for a few seconds until just set. Place the veggies in a line in the center of the circle and sprinkle crumbled goat cheese over them. Pour the egg yolk mixture over the veggies and fold the two sides of the omelette over the veggies. Press down lightly on the omelette with a spatula, cooking until the yolk center is soft but not liquidy. Remove the skillet from the heat and serve the omelette immediately.

These recipes are part of my ongoing quest to cook nutritious meals from scratch in my college dorm. I encourage readers’ comments and suggestions as I continue on this journey. For more information about the College Cooking series, click here.

Easy Yogurt Popsicles and Preparing for College Life

17 Aug
Dorm food has a bad reputation. Pizza, chips and candy, energy drinks, and Cup Noodles constitute the four major food groups of the college diet. So how does a teen food blogger, one who considers the Saturday morning farmers’ market the highlight of her week, navigate this daunting new environment?  
Well, for starters, I will live in an apartment-style dorm this fall. My two roommates and I share a kitchenette equipped with a refrigerator, stove, and (hopefully) a small oven. I have access to fresh produce and pantry staples from an on-campus grocery store, but everything I cook must be quick and simple. Healthy snacks are especially important because they keep me going throughout the day and dictate my energy level. 
Enter yogurt popsicles with granola and fresh figs. 
This recipe allows you to use whatever you have on hand, mixing and matching flavors, with no fancy equipment required. Layer granola, mixed nuts, and ripe fruit with dollops of yogurt in a glass vessel, pop the glass in the freezer for a few hours, and enjoy a specially-designed, portable snack.
Some of my favorite combinations include toasted coconut and blueberries, almond butter and banana, and mixed berries with jam.
In the coming weeks, I will chronicle every chapter of my dorm food adventure. I invite you all to share any recipes and tips with me in the comments box. I look forward to discovering creative ways to enjoy fresh food within the parameters of college life.
1/2 cup yogurt (I like the tanginess of Greek yogurt)
3 tblsp granola 
2 ripe figs 
2 tblsp fig jam 
Drizzle of honey 
Drizzle the sides of the glass with honey. Cover the bottom with a dab of yogurt. Layer bits of jam, figs and granola with the yogurt, sealing the top with yogurt. Stick a spoon through the center of the “parfait,” and freeze for at least five hours. To release the popsicle, run the glass under warm water and twist the spoon.  


Oat Cake with Blueberries and Blackberries

10 Jun

Just two days ago, I graduated high school. My classmates and I wore white dresses and held bouquets, walked down an aisle to an outdoor stage (sounds like a wedding, doesn’t it?), and waited anxiously to receive our diplomas. During stressful moments and late-night study sessions, I vividly imagined this day in my mind, maybe even counted down to it. Now that toasts have been made and achievements celebrated, it hasn’t sunk in yet that I will not return as a student to the place where I spent the past six years of my life.

Picking blackberries from my backyard garden.

Change is a funny sensation, because transitioning from one chapter of your life to the next never feels the way you imagined it would. I thought it would be easy to say goodbye and look forward to entering college, but this past month has been incredibly bittersweet. 

How do I thank my amazing teachers and advisors, my peers, and my family members for all they’ve done to help me grow? How do I prepare for a completely new environment filled with thousands of unfamiliar faces, historic buildings, and dorm life? Well, for right now, I’m focused on savoring the moment. I want to let my experiences come naturally rather than always look ahead or to the past. I plan to spend this summer doing what I am passionate about; no strings attached. 

Obviously baking ranks high on my list of passions. Which leads me to this cake. A cinnamon-scented oat cake filled with ripe, seasonal berries. The top is crunchy from a sprinkling of turbinado sugar, but has a soft, tender crumb on the inside. I love the cake’s rustic simplicity, because during this time of year it’s all about allowing the produce to shine. 

Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart Living, July 2013

4 tblsp unsalted butter, softened 
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for pan 
1 cup plus 3 tblsp quick-cooking oats, divided 
2/3 cup water 
1/2 tsp baking soda 
1/2 tsp baking powder 
3/4 tsp coarse salt 
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar 
1 large egg 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
2 cups mixed ripe blueberries and blackberries 
3 tblsp coarse sanding sugar (turbinado sugar) 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flour an 8-inch square metal baking pan, tapping out excess flour. Combine 1 cup oats and water and let stand until oats have softened, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and beat in egg and vanilla until just combined, scraping down sides of bowl if necessary. Add flour and oat mixtures and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Do not overmix. Gently fold in about half of the berries.

3. Spread batter in pan and sprinkle with remaining 3 tablespoons oats and sanding sugar. Scatter remaining berries evenly over top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack at least 30 minutes before serving. It’s best served on the day of.

Simple Cherry Sorbet

8 Aug

Recipe courtesy of Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz 

4 cups (1 1/2 lb.) sweet cherries, stemmed and pitted
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1 cup water 
1 tblsp lemon juice 
1/2 tsp almond extract 

1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cherries, sugar, water, and lemon juice. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cherries have softened and released their juices, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the almond extract. Let the mixture cool completely. 
2. Transfer the cherries and their syrup to a shallow container, cover, and freeze until firm, at least two hours. Once the cherry mixture has frozen completely, remove it from the freezer, break it up, and process it in a food processor fitted with a metal blade until completely smooth. Serve right away. 

For someone who doesn’t own an ice cream maker, frozen desserts are a category I rarely venture into. So when I discovered this recipe for cherry sorbet only requiring a freezer, I knew I must make it right away. I mixed up the ingredients in a matter of minutes, popped the mixture into the freezer for a few hours, and puréed it until smooth. Voilà! This dessert is simple, delicious, and can be endlessly adapted. You could use yellow peaches instead of sweet cherries and replace the almond extract with vanilla; pineapples and coconut extract would make for a lovely tropical combination. You could purée the fruit syrup before freezing, pour it into popsicle molds with a couple fresh cherry halves, and make homemade fruit pops. For a granita: freeze the sorbet as directed, crush it up with some shaved ice, add a splash of pure cherry juice, and top with a few sprigs of mint. Or grind two parts ice with one part sorbet for a refreshing slushy. No matter how you choose to prepare this quintessential summer dessert, I can guarantee that it will be a success.