I made that!

Sugar…ah…honey honey…

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, The Candy Store by brandi on June 30, 2009

A co-worker was singing that Archies song at work the other day, and it was in my head from the moment I saw the ingredients for honeycomb candy. And thus I needed to make some immediately. It was super fast – I think cleaning up the pot later was the hardest part. I basically just boiled some sugar, water, honey and corn syrup until it caramelized. Then I turned off the heat and stirred in baking soda.


It got pretty awesome looking. It boiled up into a foamy fluff that I poured onto a greased cookie sheet.


I let it cool and then broke it into big chunks. Traditionally it’s dipped in chocolate, but I’ve been eating so much chocolate lately that I decided to hold off on that and just enjoy it as is.



Dear Pork, I am in love with you.

Posted in All Things Pork, I Like Salt Too by brandi on June 28, 2009

Dear Pork, 

You did it again. Just when I think I’m (almost) ready to be a vegetarian, you inspire me. It was a day not made for cooking. Sunny and hot (like actually hot!), I had to spend the day at the beach, burning to a crisp. I returned home red and tender, not far from resembling a piece of jerky, and didn’t really look forward to turning on the stove. But there you were, so pink and porky. I didn’t want to slice you up.


But I had guests arriving. And I wanted tacos. Carnitas tacos. So into a pot you went, with some orange juice, orange peels, mexican coke, water and garlic.


You boiled for a while as I thought up ways to serve you. First we needed tortillas. Props to Pantea for dominating the tortilla press. Tortillas for 11 is no small task. But for you, pork, anything.


She made a lovely stack.


And there was a watermelon chilling on the counter, so we made agua fresca.


And then we caramelized some onions.


And marinated some radishes in lime juice and pepper.


And you just kept boiling.


While we roasted some tomatillos for salsa roja. For YOU, pork. You.


And then you did the most amazing thing. All the water evaporated, and you were frying in your own fat. It was so beautiful. I almost wept with love.


But it was 10.30 and the guests were getting crazed. So I started frying up those fresh tortillas.


And when you were nice and caramelized, we all stared for a while, admiring your loveliness.


And then I ate you. I’ve never felt so close to a pig before.


Yours forever, 




4 pounds pork shoulder, with fat intact

2 cups water

1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice

3/4 cup mexican coke (has real sugar not corn syrup)

5 garlic cloves, peeled

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

several orange peels


– Cut pork into 2-3 inch chunks. Combine everything in a large pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until pork is tender and fat is liquifying, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours, adding more water by 1/4 cupfuls if necessary to keep pork partially submerged.

– Uncover and boil pork mixture until the water evaporates and meat browns and begins to get crisp, stirring often.

– Cool meat slightly. Pull meat into bite sized chunks if necessary.

– Eat yourself silly.

Raspberry Jammin

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Playing With Yeast, Yes We Can! by brandi on June 24, 2009

Sometimes I just shouldn’t be allowed near the farmer’s market. Yesterday was so pretty and sunny, it made the raspberries so shiny and pink…how could anyone refuse buying a whole flat? I was so giggly riding the bus home thinking about all the projects I was going to tackle. First up though: raspberry jam. Because it’s my fave…


It’s my first time making raspberry jam, and it’s super easy! I generally go with almost equal parts sugar to fruit (by weight), but with just a tad less sugar. I heated it on low for 10 minutes, to break down the berries a bit and dissolve the sugar. Then I boiled it for about 15 minutes, until it appeared set.


I put it in sterile jars and popped it in the fridge to cool and finish setting, and then got to work on some whole wheat english muffins to spread it on…yummmm…


We are now officially overflowing in homemade jam. But I can’t stop making it.

RECIPE – Raspberry Jam:

2 lbs raspberries

1.75 lbs sugar (but this really depends on how tart your berries are)


– Heat in pot on low for 10 minutes to dissolve sugar.

– Once dissolved, bring to rapid boil and cook for about 15 minutes (this time changes depending on your quantity of berries), or until set. 

– Immediately pour into sanitized jars and seal.


RECIPE – English Muffins (adapted from Nick Malgieri):

1 1/2 tsp instant yeast 

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour (you can just use all-purpose if you like)

2 tsp salt

1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)

4 tbsp (2 oz) butter, melted

1 tbsp honey

cornmeal for pan


– Whisk together flours, instant yeast, and salt in bowl.

– Mix together warm water, melted butter and honey in bowl. Add to flour mixture.

– Knead for about 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic. If too wet, add a bit more flour.

– Transfer to a floured baking sheet and pat down to be 1″ thick.

– Let chill, loosely covered with plastic in fridge for 15 minutes (or overnight if you wrap tightly).

– Roll out on floured surface to a bit more than 3/16″ thick. Use a round cutter to cut circles. Knead scraps together and place back in fridge to chill for another 15 minutes before rolling out again.

– Let circles rest at room temperature, covered with a towel, until almost doubled in size (the time depends on how hot your kitchen is, crank the heat up and it will go faster).

– When dough is ready, heat up cast iron skillet over medium – low heat. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Cook 1 muffin at a time until you get the heat right. Sometimes it takes a few rounds to get the heat right, but basically you want your muffin to cook through with 8-9 minutes on each side. I get paranoid and always place them in the oven for 10 minutes after cooking on the skillet.

– Let them cool and toast and dig in!

Puffy McPuffpants

Posted in All Sugar All The Time by brandi on June 22, 2009

I’m on this new kick. It started at work, and now I can’t stop doing it at home. It’s a fairly laborious task, one that will surely make me and my friends fat, but I just can’t stop making puff dough. I’ve gotten to where I feel like I need to have homemade puff in the freezer at all times, ready to be rolled into flaky deliciousness at a moment’s notice. Of course lately I feel that way about a lot of things, and our freezer is feeling the love. But really, who doesn’t keep sheets of galette dough, pie dough, pate sucre dough along with strawberry scones, several quarts of fresh stock, 20 lbs of various nuts and a collection of odd flours in their freezer? But that’s another story, back to my puff habit. Puff is total magic. The most architectural of the doughs. The most sectional, and in many ways the most pure. You literally fold butter into flour until it creates hundreds of layers. It’s kind of a several hour process, great for rainy days or days when you’ve got other long winded kitchen projects, since most of that time is spent resting in the fridge. Let me show you how it works…

First you make a smooth and stretchy dough with high gluten flour, water and melted butter. You let that sit in the fridge for an hour or so to relax all that gluten and allow it to firm up a bit.


After an hour you whip up some butter (equal in weight to the amount of flour in the earlier dough) with a bit of flour (equal to the amount of melted butter in the dough) until it’s smooth and pliable. This is called a “beurrage” or “butter block” in English.


You roll your dough into a rectangle of considerable size.


And then smear your butter on one half of it, being careful not to let the butter get warm. If it gets warm, you have to stop everything and pop it in the fridge to firm back up (but not too firm!). If you haven’t guessed yet, the hardest part about puff is understanding and regulating its temperature. But once you know what you want, it’s super easy.


Then you fold over the other half of the dough, to make a giant pop tart, making sure the edges are sealed tight. I get a little anal at this point and trim away any thick doughy edges. This is called a detrempe. I don’t know if it has an english name, so you can just call it a pop tart. You then place your detrempe in the fridge for 30-45 minutes to relax and firm up some more.


You take out your detrempe and roll it out on the short side (basically make it longer) into a long strip about 3/8″ thick.


Then take the edges and fold them in until they meet at a point 1/3 from the new folded edge.


Then fold the whole thing over. This is called a double fold, or a book fold.


It should look like this. You then place it in the fridge to rest for 30-45 minutes. You take it back out and repeat, rotating it so that you are again rolling out the short side to make it a long strip, folding it the same way and letting it rest another 30-45 minutes. You want to do this a total of 3 times. You’ll notice on the 3rd fold that it starts getting really delicate. If you poke it too hard it will tear, so you have to be gentle. At this point it’s very easy to get too warm, so you must also work quickly. If your butter melts, it will merge with you flour, eliminating all those layers you worked so hard to roll in…

Once you finish your 3 folds you have what’s called a “paton”. You can store your paton in the freezer, or in the fridge if you are going to be using it in the next few days.


When you are ready to bake your puff you just roll it out into 1/8 inch sheets. This size recipe will yield one really large sheet or 2 more manageable sized sheets. I wanted a little caramelization action, so I sheeted the dough in sugar rather than flour. I decided to make little puff squares to serve at my dinner party last night, so I used a pizza cutter to slice up my sheet. Once again, it is important that your puff stays cool. If you try cutting it up while warm, it will pinch the edges together, making it hard for your dough to rise up in the oven.


I placed my squares on a parchment lined sheet tray, then placed another sheet tray on top. The top sheet tray is basically there to reign that puff in. When you heat your dough up, it’s gonna start to puff like crazy, while this is a good thing, you don’t want to go TOO tall… You place the tray in a 400 degree oven and bake until the puff is cooked all the way through. Even with a sheet tray on top, my puff rose from 1/8″ to 3/4″, which is an ideal size I think!


When you break open your baked puff, it should be filled with little flakes.


I served my puff squares with a big bowl of vanilla pastry cream and some pitted strawberries for a “make your own strawberry napoleon” dessert. It was a hit. But you can do so many things with puff…I’m sure I’ll have some more posts about it throughout the summer!



Puff Pastry

Yield: 2 1/2 lbs


12oz bread flour

4oz cake flour

4oz melted butter

1 1/2 tsp salt

9oz cool water

– Mix flours and place in stand mixer bowl. Use dough hook attachment.

– Pour water in measuring cup. Melt butter with salt in saucepan. Pour melted butter into measuring cup of water and stir well.

– With mixer on low speed, start pouring in the liquid mixture. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, by hand if needed.

– Wrap in plastic and chill in fridge for 1 hour. This will allow the gluten to rest so that it isn’t too stretchy to roll out, causing tough dough and affecting your ability to work fast to keep the butter cool.

Butter Block:

16oz pliable butter (about 60 degrees)

3oz bread flour

1oz cake flour

– Place butter in stand mixer bowl and beat with paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth. On low speed add the flours and mix until smooth and uniform.


– Roll the dough out to a roughly 12″x18″ rectangle, the dough should be about 1/4″-3/8″ thick.

– Use a spatula (your hand will warm the butter) to spread the butter over half of the rectangle (along the short side). You want to stay about 1/2″ from the edge.

– Fold the dough over and cinch the edges. Trim if necessary.

– Wrap in plastic and chill in fridge for 30 minutes.


– Roll out 3 times in a book fold, or 4 times in a letter fold, resting for 30 minutes in between each turn. Monitor the butter temperature by it’s softness. It should be cold enough to make you work for it when you roll the pastry, but not enough to rip through the dough. If it is too soft, let it chill 10-15 minutes longer in the fridge.


Lemon Blueberry Buckle

Posted in All Sugar All The Time by brandi on June 16, 2009

“Rustic Fruit Desserts” just does NOT disappoint! It’s like they put a vacuum into my brain and sucked out all the recipes I ever wanted and made a book out of them. Today I made the Lemon Blueberry Buckle, my favorite buckle recipe so far. But I’m always a sucker for buttermilk. 

First I made a super lemony streusel by basically rubbing all the ingredients together with my fingers. I put it in the freezer to firm up while I made the cake batter.


A pretty standard cake batter, flavored with lemon zest and buttermilk.


I folded in the blueberries and spread it in the cake pan.


Then I cooked down some more blueberries with a little sugar and water and poured those on top.


Then I sprinkled on the streusel from the freezer.


Since that apparently wasn’t enough action, I made a syrup of lemon juice and sugar while the cake was baking.


It came out looking beautiful.


And only got better when I poured that lemon syrup all over it. Made a sticky mess of my countertop, but it was most definitely worth it.


Ginger Apricot Jam

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Yes We Can! by brandi on June 14, 2009

Fruit anxiety. It hits me like a ton of bricks every year around this time. There’s just too much fruit: peaches, apricots, strawberries, cherries. I can’t eat it all, I can’t bake it all. So it’s time for some jam. The fruit most abundant on my counter right now is apricots, so apricot jam it is. With some ginger, because that sounds nice.


I don’t know if you know this, but there is a lot of sugar in jam. I usually let the fruit macerate in the sugar for 24 hours, but I’m on the fast track this weekend, so 2 hours will have to do.


Once it was nice and syrupy I threw it in a pot with some fresh ginger that I grated. I like to keep a chunk of ginger in the freezer for such occasions. Some lemon juice would have been good here, but I didn’t have any and was NOT in the mood for a trip to the grocery store. I simmered and simmered and simmered until it was ready*.


And spooned it into some jars that I had boiled just for the occasion! Ginger Apricot Jam – I’ll let you know how it turns out.


*still a mystery, but the important part is to get it to “set” without caramelizing. Since I don’t use pectin, this can take a while.

Upside Down Blueberry Ginger Cake

Posted in All Sugar All The Time by brandi on June 12, 2009

I’ve been waiting on these yummy little blue guys. And since I am obsessed with upside down  cakes, it seems only fitting that my first blueberry recipe of the summer be a favorite of mine. I know ginger cakes have a distinctly winter flair to them, but san francisco summers are…special (aka foggy and cold), so it seems appropriate.


First I cook some butter, brown sugar  and lemon juice together for a few minutes, to make a quick and dirty butterscotch sauce.


I spread that on my cake pan, and then tossed on the blueberries.


Then I spread my ginger molasses cake batter over the top.


About an hour later I had a cake waiting to be inverted!


And what sticky pile of deliciousness…I’m telling you, upside down cakes are my new best friend.


RECIPE (adapted from “Luscious Berry Desserts”):

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 1/2 cups blueberries

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup molasses

2 large eggs

1/4 cup milk


– Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

– In medium bowl, combine flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt.

– Cook 4 TBSP butter with brown sugar and lemon uice in pot for 5 minutes, until smooth. Pour into 9″ cake pan. Sprinkle blueberries evenly on top of brown sugar mixture.

– In large bowl, with mixer at medium-high speed, beat remaining butter until light and creamy. Add granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time. Whisk in half of flour mixture. Whisk in milk and then the remaining flour mixture. Pour batter over blueberries in pan and spread evenly.

– Bake 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on wire rack 15 minutes.

– To serve, run knife around inside of pan to loosen cake from side of pan. Invert cake onto platter. Serve warm, with ice cream or whipped cream if you like.

Apricot Almond Tea Cake

Posted in All Sugar All The Time by brandi on June 10, 2009

Lately I feel like all I make are cakes, but they’re kinda fun… Today I take on the apricot cake. I found a neat looking recipe in my “Rustic Fruit Desserts” book to try out. I switched it up a tad, since I think no stone fruit is complete without some almond.


It caught my attention with the batter. There is none, it uses a shortbread like dough instead.


You first press half of the dough into the pan.


And then spread out some chopped apricots.


And then drop the rest of the dough down on top, in chunks.


Sprinkle on some sliced almonds and bake!


Definitely a winner. The dough gives it an almost chewy texture, like a fruit bar. I’ll be trying this one again with cherries for sure!


RECIPE (adapted from “Rustic Fruit Desserts):

Almond Apricot Teacake

1 tbsp butter for pan

2 1/4 cups (11.25 oz) all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean

6 oz butter

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

2 tsp almond extract

2 1/2 cups chopped apricots (or any other stone fruit)

2 tbsp sliced almonds


– Whisk together the flour, baking powder & salt. Rub the vanilla bean seeds into the flour mixture.

– Cream the butter for 1 minute. Slowly pour sugar in while creaming. Continue creaming for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy.

– Slowly pour in eggs while continuing to cream. Add almond extract.

– Add in flour and mix on low just until a dough forms.

– Wrap in plastic wrap and put in freezer for 30 minutes (or refrigerate overnight).

– Preheat oven to 375.

– Butter 9” or 10” cake or tart pan.

– Divide dough into 2 portions. Press one into the cake pan.

– Spread the fruit over the dough.

– Break the rest of the dough into tablespoon sized chunks and drop over fruit.

– Sprinkle with sliced almonds and sugar.

– Bake 30-45 minutes (depending on size of pan).

– Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes before unmolding.

Things I Like:

The moment of just beginning to make fresh pasta.


Beet tails.


Homemade cheese. With some homemade pesto mixed in.


Bubbling sauces.


Complaining about how long it takes to make fresh pasta.


Perfectly sliced vegetables.


Assembling a lasagne.


Cooling lasagne.


Roasted veggies.


Perfect little cherry almond cakes. 


With ice cream on top.


My friends coming over to eat dinner with me. But I didn’t take a picture of that. Because that would be lame.

But you know who you are.


Cherry Frangipane Cake

12 oz almond paste, room temperature

2 tbsp sugar

6 oz butter, room temperature

4 eggs, room temperature

6 tbsp flour

4 tsp baking powder

As many cherries as you like, pitted


– Heat oven to 350.

– Butter 10” tart tin.

– Mix together flour and baking powder.

– Place almond paste into mixer and beat until smooth, 1-2 minutes. It is really important that there not be any chunks, once you start adding other ingredients, it’s impossible to get the chunks out. On the flip side, don’t overmix or it will get oily.

– Add butter and continue mixing until well blended, about 1 minute.

– Add sugar and continue mixing for for 30 seconds.

– Slowly stream in eggs, continue mixing until smooth, about 1 minute.

– Turn mixer speed to low and mix in flour and baking powder.

– Spread into tart tin. You want to have batter about 3/4″ deep in pan, So you won’t use all of the batter. You can save the rest in the fridge for about 2 weeks, or in the freezer for 2 months.

– Top with cherries, pressing them down so that they’re halfway sunk into the batter.

– Bake until done, around 30 minutes.

– Cool in pan on rack for 30 minutes before unmolding. It’s a delicate cake, so be gentle…

– Sprinkle with some powdered sugar and serve with some whipped cream or ice cream.

Raspberry Happiness

Posted in All Sugar All The Time by brandi on June 5, 2009

I didn’t think it was possible, but I’ve found a better version of bread pudding. Think of it as bread pudding: the sequal. It’s so easy that I feel a bit slow for having not thought of it sooner. I have my new cookbook “Rustic Fruit Desserts” to thank, for showing me the light. 

First you get some lovely berries. I haven’t made anything with raspberries yet this summer, so that’s where I’m going. But I used blackberries a couple of weeks ago and it was super fabulous…


Then you toast up some rich bread. I used challah, but brioche would be tasty.


And then you make a loose pastry cream (aka: vanilla pudding).


And basically just layer it all together.


And bake it for around 20 minutes, just until the berries start to break down a bit and the edges start to set.


And then just dig in.