Posts Tagged ‘coffee’


Fat New Year. (POPOVERS)

February 20, 2010

First morning of the year I made something I had been thinking hilarious for a while. A king-sized, over the top power brekkie I referred to in my head as the Elvis Popover. A popover is somewhat half biscuit, half inflated pancake. The eggy batter gets huge in the oven, full of nothing but its own hot air. Elvis enters the kitchen with his legendary love of the peanut butter, banana and bacon combo, a square meal if I’ve ever seen one and maybe the perfect candidate to fill the void (and cure the hangover) on this festive morning, 2010. Trashy though it may sound, with the ingredients upgraded to a food snobbery quality, it was pretty fantastic. I would do it all again even if one short week later wasn’t the King’s 75th birthday.

The base was inspired by my friend Megz, who had recently made a batch of gluten-free popovers for an afternoon gathering. Quite impressively, she took this recipe, plain as day, and swapped out all-purpose flour for spelt flour (1:1) to excellent results, pleasing immensely the guest who didn’t go that way. The melting butter and honey over the airy and dense pastry was ridiculously good and got me thinking of all the things one can put in the empty space that is the heart of a popover.

For this version, homemade peanut butter* consisted of honey roasted peanuts and almonds, the first layer on the split popover. Piled on top was bacon acquired from the kind, meat-loving hands of friends at Dickson’s Farmstand, which I like to cook -mess free- in the oven, intertwined with your everyday unlocal bananas. This heap was coated in raw honey from Clermont, NY. The jar reads ‘produced by the bees of Ray Tousey’ and every time I eat it I feel like I am being introduced to the honey and it is awesome. We can be friends with food.

Happy New Year! …it’s still new.


2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • Preheat oven to 450 F. With butter, grease a muffin pan that makes (6) large muffins.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients until smooth.
  • Pour batter into muffin cups filling 1/2 – 1/3 of the way up.
  • Bake at 450 F for 20 minutes, then lower the temp to 350 F for another 20 minutes.
  • When the popovers come out of the oven, make a small slit the top to let off some steam.
  • Make an Elvis special out of them or don’t! Enjoy.

Though they are best straight from the oven, remaining popovers can be reheated at any hour for days to come. They won’t do any  science magic like swell up again but keep them in the oven until crisp on the outside and heated through. They will have great flavor and texture, just about begging for your jam and butter, or savory stuff like cheese or ham. Teatime!

* Process the nuts until smooth and peanut-buttery, you can fold in some coarsely chopped nuts afterwards if you are feeling chunky. I kept it smooth like Elvis’ early years.



July 11, 2009

I make pretty strong coffee* and think it kind to offer some sort of baked good to go with even though, as previously stated, I don’t love baking very much. And, as a part of the commercial food chain, it is impossible to NEVER bake. So every once in a while I give in, make something nice and hope that it will become more natural to me as time goes by. When it comes to recipes, I am an off-roader. I change and tweak and substitute and cross reference and experiment all the time. The problem: it is hard to do this when it’s essential to follow the rules (as a novice baker). So instead of being rebellious and left with something inedible, I pay attention and keep in mind some of the tips I have picked up to increase the baking-success-rate and fend off frustration:

  • read the recipe all the way through before starting
  • have the ingredients measured and ready
  • grease and line and re-grease every cake pan
  • non-stick spray is your best friend
  • add wet ingredients to dry
  • if you are multiplying a recipe, do all the math first
  • which is it!!? baking soda or powder. always double check
  • proof your yeast
  • when in doubt, the answer is usually 350F
  • use an oven thermometer
  • don’t boil gelatin
  • a small scale is very useful
  • Even Cook’s Illustrated likes Pillsbury Rolled Pie Crust and you will bake alot more blasphemous pies as a result of discovering them. (Of course they are not as good as homemade, but they can do…)
  • Speaking of Cook’s Illustrated, it is an excellent resource for baking complicated stuff because they walk you through every single detail.
  • I set a timer to go off halfway through the cooking process to check the oven in case the items need to be rotated or moved for even cooking, then I set a timer for a few minutes before recommended time is up to make sure nothing is getting too dark.
  • Avoid opening the oven during the first ten minutes of anything that is intended to rise.
  • It is true that practice makes… improvement, at least.

As a natural born rule-breaker, I find myself cheating in small ways; changing spices, adding handfuls of nuts, dried fruit and secret sprinkles of salt, black or cayenne pepper to my batters, etc. Safe substitutions also include playing with the types of flour (i.e. using some whole wheat or rice flour) or sweetener (honey or maple for sugar), or oil for butter. It works sometimes… Another trick I like is adding a crisp topping to quickbreads, muffins, cakes or fruit before baking. Putting the streusel together takes no more than pretending you are in a sand box, scrunching the ingredients with your fingers. Sprinkle it on and proceed as directed by the original recipe. You can even put a layer of streusel on a baking sheet and bake it by itself until crisp (about 30 minutes @ 350F). Embellish ice cream, oatmeal or fresh fruit. This is a great secret weapon which bakes up beautifully, giving even the ‘healthy-twist’ recipes an extra layer of deliciousness because what good is a whole grain flax zucchini yogurt muffin if no one is going to eat it…


Snazzy Streusel
3 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts)
3 tablespoons butter, cold, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons cinnamon (optional)

Combine ingredients well with your fingers. Should resemble coarse crumbs.


Make your favorite banana bread recipe extra-dreamy: sprinkle on before baking and proceed. If the streusel looks like it is getting too dark before the batter is baked, cover the top with loose foil.


Sprinkle a layer of this stuff on top of chopped fruit (apples, peaches, pears or berries) and bake 45-50 minutes until crisp and fruit is bubbly. Perfect for summer!


Make your own music, it’s rather foolproof!

* This ‘back to basics’ coffee I have become addicted to brews in the cup. Add two tablespoons of freshly ground coffee to your 8 ounce mug. Pour some boiled water on top and stir. Wait patiently for the grinds to settle and drink until the grinds are visible…um, don’t drink the grinds. Make great coffee anywhere, even in a Vegas hotel room where the nearest good coffee is San Francisco. Just please do not bring your coffee grinder on an Everest expedition whatever you do. Thx!


Baking, mad to glad. (PIGNOLI COOKIES)

May 20, 2009


Baking has always been frustrating to me. It seems especially annoying if there is any sort of time constraint on the project, and in this town there is always some sort of time constraint… even on days filed as ‘leisure’. Take for example the single day I interned in a pastry kitchen, I botched not just a small batch of custard, but in haste wasted a week’s worth of the stuff by accidentally adding dozens and dozens of eggs at the wrong time. I felt horrid! I don’t take kindly to botching up in the kitchen and I really really really abhor wasting ingredients. This is why baking and I don’t get along, there are just too many places for irreparable error and that ain’t cool.

For the most part I leave pastry to the patient ones and once in a while, just to get my hands dirty, I make something sweet…but not without much cursing and drama. I have a small collection of great dessert recipe that I can actually handle. I stick to those and people don’t realize that I am a fumbling intern when it comes to your birthday cake, some holiday cookies or the finishing touch on a five-course meal. The criterion of these recipes is: delicious, easy and foolproof little numbers that don’t make me bang my head against the wall. Simple. In a recent mission to complete one of these desserts I, of course, got to the part where you stick the blobs of dough on the sheet pan and realized that I should have halved the recipe (but didn’t) because I only started with a half quantity of the main ingredient. Classic!

The cookies were a traditional Italian bakery almond paste and pine nut confection often called pignoli cookies, pignoli being the Italian word for pine nut. They have very few ingredients, most of which are costly, and the resulting cookie is a soft, sweet fragnipane filling encased in toasty, crisped pine nuts that just pop pop pop when you eat these addictive things. The main ingredient is canned almond paste/filling, not to be confused with the kind in a tube which will not work for this recipe. The price of an 8-10 ounce can of almond paste is usually $7 or higher, not to mention pricey pine nuts. The recipe called for two (8 oz.) cans. I had one 10 oz. can, I figured by reducing the other ingredients by half everything would work out.

For a minute it seemed like baking and I were making nice as I dropped the ingredients into the food processor and buzzed my way to a nice, thick dough. But somewhere in there I forgot that I was using less almond paste and proceeded to use the full amount of everything else. Bad, bad. Bad Ori! The terror set in when I was scooping out the dough and realized it was a little stickier than I remembered from pignoli cookies past. I buried my frustration in a couple of deep breaths and instead of flinging the sheet pan across the kitchen, I crossed my fingers and continued to conscientiously pat pine nuts onto each little mound.

The result was the best batch of pignoli cookies I have made so far. By reducing the almond paste, they were a little less cloying and slightly firmer than before, yet perfectly pillowy. I was able to save a little money by using only one can of almond paste and still get a higher yield of cookies because of the ingredient stretch. It’s a double-acting baking miracle that a mistake turns into a new recipe, and I despise baking a little less too.

(adapted from
1 (10-oz) can almond paste
1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons mild honey
1 cup pine nuts (5 oz.)

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  • Pulse the almond paste in a food processor until broken up into small bits, then add confectioners sugar and salt. Continue to pulse until finely ground, about 1 minute.
  • Add in egg whites and honey, process until smooth.
  • Alternatively, use a hand beater or just a wooden spoon and some muscle to incorporate all of the ingredients into a smooth batter.
  • Using two spoons, place 1 1/2-inch rounds (about 1 inch apart) onto parchment-covered baking sheets. They can look sloppy (see below), you will have a chance to shape them better when topping with nuts.
  • Sprinkle each cookie with pine nuts and gently press them into the dough to form a nut-covered dome (see photo above).
  • Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, about 15 minutes.
  • Slide parchment with cookies on it onto racks to cool completely, then peel cookies from parchment. Once cooled, store airtight in between fresh pieces of parchment.
  • Makes about 3 dozen.


These cookies are awesome.