lemon almond bread | the vanilla bean blog

Happy Monday, dear readers. I woke up this morning to thunder, lightning, and two littles climbing in my bed, sort of scared but mostly using the storm as an excuse to play games on my ipad. Yesterday was 85 and sunny – our first perfect summer day, filled with a family BBQ, swimming, and so much laughing I’m still smiling. Autumn may be my favorite season, but summer is just the best.

This lemon almond bread was also a nice way to start the day, with a light lemon flavor and the perfect fluffy-but-not-too-fluffy texture that made each bite a good reason to be out of bed, even on a Monday. Next time I might stir some blackberries or raspberries in to celebrate July’s sort-lived seasonal fruits.
lemon almond bread | the vanilla bean blog

lemon almond bread | the vanilla bean blog

yogurt culture

This delicious bread comes from Cheryl Sterman Rule‘s new book, Yogurt Culture. I’m really loving this cookbook – so many great recipes involving all types of yogurt, from slightly complex (making your own yogurt) to very easy (coffee yogurt and simple compotes) to everything in-between: cardamom pancakes, artichoke-almond soup, labneh-stuffed peppers, creamy pasta marinara, and salted caramel panna cotta, just to name a few. I’m glad to have this book on my shelf. (Also, check out her Team Yogurt page!)

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coffee pudding | the vanilla bean blog

coconut coffee pudding  | the vanilla bean blog
I haven’t baked a lot with coconut milk, but find myself looking to it more and more for various reasons. I have many friends with food allergies or dietary restrictions and most of them are able to consume coconut milk, so I find it’s a good substitute for milk and/or cream in recipes. Also, sometimes I just need a break from all the dairy in my diet, and have found soy and almond milk to not be very compatible with my body. So coconut milk it is.

Andre Prost reached out to me a few weeks ago and sent me a box of coconut milk to bake with. I was eager to give it a try, and found it to be a great addition to my kitchen. It is rich, creamy, and flavorful, and is a great substitution (or addition) to any recipe. I also appreciate that it is found in the baking section of the grocery store, as I tend to spend most of my time in that aisle anyway.

You can make quite a few things with a whole box of coconut milk. I wanted to make sure I loved it before I wrote about it, and I’m happy to report I found it to be a great product.
coconut cream pie | the vanilla bean blog
My first recipe with the coconut milk was a coconut cream pie, straight from Andre Prost’s website (where Pam has come up with some really great recipes!). I swapped bananas for some chocolate pastry cream I had in my fridge from cookbook testing. It was creamy and dreamy and very indulgent.
coconut coffee cream | the vanilla bean blog
Next I made Nicole’s Vanilla Bean Coconut Creamer, which was delicious, and went along perfectly with my afternoon coffee and Jessica’s new book.
Coffee Pudding | the vanilla bean blog
Laura’s Coconut Coffee Pudding was also on the list (topped with Tara’s magic candied cacao nibs), which was voted a family favorite. My daughter was enamored with it, although I had to cut her off because of all the coffee.
coconut chocolate muffins | the vanilla bean blog
Coconut muffins were also a hit, and I snuck in some chocolate again.
coconut milk | the vanilla bean blog
On the to-do list: coconut sweetened condensed milk sounds fabulous. I think it might also work in my no-churn ice cream recipes, which I’m excited to experiment with. Pancakes are also going to be made soon, as well as coconut brioche.

So, if you have been thinking about baking with coconut milk, don’t be afraid to try! There are so many things you can make with it. (Have a favorite recipe? Leave it below! I’d love to see it.)
coconut pie | the vanilla bean blog
This post is sponsored by Andre Prost. All opinions are my own.

buttermilk cake with strawberry buttercream | the vanilla bean blog

I’ve been making cakes (and cakes and cakes and cakes) for my cookbook, and I think I am almost done with that chapter. Almost. I think. I can’t stop myself from constantly tinkering with recipes and my family, my neighbors, and everyone at my husband’s office is officially tired of eating cake. But! I did make the yellow cake of my dreams, and yesterday I got the chocolate cake just right. I will need make it again tomorrow, just to be sure. Progress is exciting.

Buttercream is also being worked on. I started with the rhubarb buttercream I made last year; switching out strawberries for the rhubarb. It turned out lovely, and my daughter and I were enamored with the pale pink frosting. Technically this is a cheater’s post (since I really didn’t change that much from the original recipe), but after we put some flowers from the garden on top (and some fairies from her toy box), I thought it deserved it’s own space on the blog.

buttermilk cake with strawberry buttercream | the vanilla bean blog

buttermilk cake with strawberry buttercream | the vanilla bean blog

buttermilk cake with strawberry buttercream | the vanilla bean blog

(The pretty pink cake plate is from Dishes Only.)

 

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cake | the vanilla bean blog
‘The great chefs of France and Italy learn about food at home; what they do later, in the restaurants that make them famous, is use what they have learned. They build on it, they start elaborating. They take home cooking to the restaurant, not the restaurant school of cooking to the home. Inverting the process is like learning a vocabulary without any grammar…We are at risk, here, of becoming not cooks but culinary mimics. There are some things you cannot learn from a professional chef.

For there is more to cooking than being able to put on a good show. Of course, there are advantages in an increased awareness of and enthusiasm for food, but the danger is that it excites an appetite for new recipes, new ingredients: follow a recipe once and then – on to the next. Cooking isn’t like that. The point about real-life cooking is that your proficiency grows exponentially. You cook something once, then again, and again. Each time you add something different and what you ends up with differs also…Cooking has become too much of a device by which to impress people rather than simply to feed them pleasurably.’ – Nigella Lawson, How to Eat

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more reading/viewing:

A day in the life of Pinterest.

The saddest cookbooks ever.

Ice Ice Baby. I love this version.

Celebrities reading poetry.

Some life advice.

Izy’s food photography tips.

National Doughnut Day! Come play along.

(Also, I have Blueberry Puff Pastry Tarts on Handmade Charlotte, and Cherry Buckwheat Scones on Food 52.)

puff pastry tarts with twangy blueberries
Four years ago when I started this space I set up a Flickr account, mostly because everyone else was doing it. I browsed through pages and pages of photographs and profiles, and after falling down long rabbit holes of foodie pics and vacation photos that inspired serious bouts of envy, I found this cake made by Tara O’Brady. There was something about it that made me pause. All the subtle streaks of color in the frosting, that uneven pattern made with a spoon, and the well-worn wood it was resting on was a perfect union of comfort and class; simplicity mixed with unpretentious sophistication. Without hesitation I clicked on the link to Tara’s blog, and started faithfully reading Seven Spoons.
twangy blueberry sauce | the vanilla bean blog
Twangy blueberry sauce is found in Tara O’Brady’s new cookbook; a collection of recipes that is “less about innovation and more about getting supper on the table, but doing so thoughtfully, and beautifully, too.” It is everything I look for in a book on cooking: beautiful photographs, thoughtful writing, and recipes I want to put on repeat. This twangy berry sauce does not disappoint. Neither does the Basic, Great Chocolate Chip Cookies, the Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream (with candied cacao nibs!), the Poppy Seed Snacking Cake, or the most perfectly perfect biscuits you will ever make with your own two hands. My copy is already dusted with flour, and its pages are stained.

“A cookbook’s value is only half on the page; the other half is in the action it inspires. My goal in sharing these recipes and lessons is for you to come away empowered to trust your instincts, to consider your own perspective and opinions, and to keep you well fed.” -Tara O’Brady

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table
“I can eat anywhere, standing up if I have to. That said, I have always loved the idea of a kitchen table around which people can gather. Having spent a good year or more scouring the Internet, antique shops, and salvage yards for something that works for me, I finally decided to have one made. The idea had never crossed my mind until I saw, quite by chance, a barn pile high with thick oak planks, each one with its own notches and splits, ridges and undulations.

My preference is for a simple, unpolished, everyday table that will show the timber in all its natural beauty. A table that will get better for a few wine rings, oil spots, and maybe even the odd burn from a hot casserole. Scars can hold a great beauty…

The timber is fragile and has been dried, wrapped in burlap, and sprayed in every-decreasing amounts for up to five years. It now lies stacked, with air circulating around it, in a Berkshire barn, waiting to live again. We discuss planning, carving, polishing the wood, but I decided the moment I saw it that we would do as little as possible to it. As I rub my hand along the chocolate-colored planks, I faintly wonder what will be its first meal.”
-Nigel Slater, June 15 A New Kitchen Table

meringue

‘We live in a world where twists and turns are applauded. I’ve had my share of bacon-, avocado-, and cheese-flavored ice creams – most of which I could do without. And a whole year once passed when I didn’t eat a scoop of vanilla ice cream. When I finally did, my taste buds, wiped clean of their memory of vanilla, experienced something new. I felt like I was drinking fresh water after a lifetime of wine. ..

Real innovation is not about chasing the fashionable, but having an inherent beauty. It’s not about a sampling of cleverness, but honest consideration for what works well. That’s vanilla ice cream. If you haven’t had it for awhile, take a bite of a truly delicious scoop. It’s the one flavor that proves itself to be not just a passing fancy, but an eternal romance.’  – Dominique Ansel The Secret Recipes

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I am resurrecting my Silent Sunday posts – a quote or reflection from something I’m currently reading. I’m highly enjoying Ansel’s cookbook; so much wisdom and food for thought among its pages.