cake4Asquare
“PHOSPHORESCENCE. Now there’s a word to lift your hat to… to find that phosphorescence, that light within, that’s the genius behind poetry.” – Emily Dickinson

(I apologize for the short post. I’m currently working on my first pass for my book, and don’t have time to talk today. But! I do have this hazelnut cake recipe that I hope makes up for my lack of words. Have a lovely weekend, dear friends.)
hazelnut cake with crème mousseline

hazelnut cake with crème mousseline

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hazelnut dacquoise
My new copper beating bowl arrived in the mail, and I immediately took it over to Zoë François‘ house and made her beat white egg whites by hand in it for this post. In between laughing and giving me dirty looks, she made this incredible dacquoise with blackberries and cream. It was so good we couldn’t stop nibbling on it all afternoon (after she made me wash all the dishes in payback).

The meringue base here is on the sweet side, but the hazelnuts incorporated in the layers and tart berries in between balance it perfectly. Zoë mentioned this dessert would also work for Passover (you can check out her Chocolate Caramel Matzo as well), so here’s another dessert option if you celebrate.
hazelnut dacquoise

hazelnut dacquoise

hazelnut dacquoise

copper pots

hazelnut dacquoise

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Chocolate Tiramisu Cake
Cake is my downfall.
I can refuse
a glass of wine,
push away
an opened box
of handmade chocolates,
spurn a toffee from the tin
and turn my nose up
at a HobNob,
but I can never,
ever resist
a slice of cake.
-Nigel Slater
chocolate tiramisu cake

Layered Cookbook
I have to agree with Mr. Slater; it’s hard to say no to a good piece of cake. I recently received Tessa Huff’s (Style Sweet CA) new cookbook Layered, which is packed full of every kind of layer cake you can imagine, plus baking and decorating tips and techniques. It’s beautifully photographed, with both classic and inventive cake recipes. I mixed and matched two recipes from Tessa’s book to come up with this Chocolate Tiramisu Cake, but next on my list are the Lemony Carrot Cake, Riesling Rhubarb Crisp Cake, and Banana Cream Cake.

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vanilla lavender cupcakes
‘And if, as we work, we can transmit life into our work,
life, still more life, rushes into us to compensate, to be ready,
and we ripple with life through the days.

Even if it is a woman making an apple dumpling, or a man a stool,
if life goes into the pudding, good is the pudding
good is the stool,
content is the woman, with fresh life rippling in to her,
content is the man.

Give, and it shall be given unto you
is still the truth about life.
But giving life is not so easy.
It doesn’t mean handing it out to some mean fool, or
letting the living dead eat you up.
It means kindling the life-quality where it was not,
even if it’s only in the whiteness of a washed pocket-
handkerchief.’
-DH Lawrence, We Are Transmitters-
vanilla lavender cupcakes

Vanilla Lavender Cupcakes

Chickpea Flour Does It All
This past week, I took seven whole days off from my cookbook. I haven’t done that since October 1, 2014, which feels very overwhelming upon typing. Over the past year and half I’ve taken a weekend or two as a break from my work, and days here and there when my littles have been sick (and they were sick so much this year!), but otherwise have been in my kitchen testing and retesting while my kids are at school and then again in the evenings after they are tucked neatly into bed. I’ve been hunched over my computer into the wee hours, trying to find better words for head notes and consistent language for recipes, double checking measurements and panicking over mistakes. As I tumble into bed my notes for the day are set within arm’s reach on my nightstand, to pick up immediately upon awakening to start the cycle all over again (or, in the event that my house burns down in the midnight hours I can grab them before jumping out of a bedroom window while clutching my two children. One of many anxious scenarios I’ve come up with; just ask my husband about all of those).

This past week, however, I watched too much TV upstairs in bed, during the day. I started rereading Harry Potter. I went out to breakfast. I took long walks. I went on a date with my husband. I went to the lake with my kids. I snuggled on the couch in between them while reading books and watching movies and didn’t once think of oven timers about to go off, or dough that needed to be prepped for the next day, or cakes that needed to be stacked and frosted.

I don’t write all of that to try and come off as some kind of cookbook martyr. I’m surely not one. But when I get a cookbook in the mail, or pick one up off a bookstore shelf, I am very aware of the time and energy that went into making all those bound pages. It makes me excited to share new ones here, which is what I am doing again, today. Lindsay Love, of Dolly and Oatmeal, just put out her first cookbook, Chickpea Flour Does it All, which is where these vanilla lavender cupcakes come from. The book highlights chickpea flour (which I’ve worked with here and here), and is focused on gluten-free and dairy-free recipes. It’s a lovely collection.
vanilla lavender cupcakes

These cupcakes are also another baking recipe for the Pulse Pledge. The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of the Pulse, and I’ve taken the Pulse Pledge, committing to eat pulses once a week for the next year. Pulses are beans, chickpeas, lentils and dry peas; leguminous crops that are good for your health and good for the environment. I’ll be posting recipes involving them periodically this year, incorporating pulses not only in my savory cooking, but baking recipes as well. I’d love for you to join me! If the Pulse Pledge sounds interesting to you, you can read more about it here. It’s a 10 week commitment, and it doesn’t require elaborate baking: a serving of hummus and a bowl of soup are good ways to take them in, too.

This post was sponsored by USA Pulses & Pulse Canada. All opinions are my own.

***PS- I’m on snapchat? I’m not very good at it yet. But if you want to follow along you can find me under sarahkieffer.***

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granita
I spent several summers in my almost 20’s frequenting Java Jack’s in South Minneapolis. It was a late-night, chain-smoking, Soundgarden-cranking coffee hangout, an odd choice for an early-morning, non-smoking, Sarah McLachlan-loving woman. But my sister and I drove there every single night after we closed down the shopping mall coffee shop we worked at, and spent our evenings out on the patio slurping down granitas with the regulars. They weren’t real granitas, of course, just some sugary coffee spinning around all day in a worn-out slushy machine, but I drank more of them then I could ever count, and enjoyed every single drop.

So when I got a copy of Tasting Rome  in the mail (Katie Parla and Kristina Gill’s beautiful new book that focuses on both traditional and contemporary recipes from their lives in Rome) and flipped open to find a recipe for a real granita, I got to work right away making it. Strong, cold coffee, a bit of sugar, and whipped cream piled to the sky is a bit more sophisticated than the concoction I drank on those hot summer nights years ago. Both have their place, but I’m looking forward to warm afternoons on the back porch, not a whiff of cigarette smoke, and Ella Fitzgerald scatting quietly while I sip my icy drink.
granita

granita

granita
‘While crafting this book, we sought inspiration in peripheral, graffiti-clad neighborhoods, patrician districts, archeological parks, neighborhood bakeries, artisanal gelato shops, dimly lit cocktail bars, chaotic markets, and innovative restaurants. The result of our explorations is this collection of recipes that embraces Roman flavors and goes beyond the tight focus on tradition to acknowledge that the city’s cuisine has evolved and that strict tradition, while predominant, certainly isn’t the only reality.’ – From Tasting Rome

GIVEAWAY: Clarkson Potter is giving away a 3 copies of Tasting Rome. Each winner will also receive a set of three 8×10 prints from the book, an 18×24-inch hand drawn map of the center of Rome by Lena Corwin and a set of exclusive recipes which aren’t in the book. To enter, please leave a comment below, with your name and email address. (If you want to tell me what music you’re loving lately that would be lovely! But not necessary.) Giveaway open worldwide, and entries will close on Sunday, April 10. The winners will be chosen at random.

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blood orange donuts

old fashioned doughnuts

old fashioned doughnuts

blood orange doughnuts6A
Yossy Arefi’s (from Apt 2B Baking Co.) new cookbook is out today, and I’d just like to begin by saying it’s so gorgeous. I’ve been a fan of Yossy’s work for quite some time and have been eagerly awaiting this release. The book focuses on all things fruit, and is filled with stunning photographs, unique flavor combinations, and recipes that work.  ‘The recipes in this book range from simple, five-ingredient affairs to more complex and involved baking endeavors like laminated pastry dough and composed tarts. My hope is that you’ll find something that’s just your speed, and that these recipes show the wide range of desserts you can make that highlight fresh, season fruit all year.’ I’m of the opinion that you can never have too many baking books, and highly recommend adding this gem to your collection. Also, you can check out the beautiful book trailer here.
sweeter off the vine

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blood orange quick bread
Sorry again for the lack of posts in February. The shortest month somehow zoomed by rather quickly; I’m still finishing up on my book, and my children have been taking turns each week being sick. The common cold, the flu, and now strep throat has knocked down our door. But we are surviving, one day at a time.

‘A kind of light spread out from her. And everything changed color. And the world opened out. And a day was good to awaken to. And there were no limits to anything. And the people of the world were good and handsome. And I was not afraid any more.’ -John Steinbeck

Here’s hoping March has such an ending.
chickpea flour

 

blood orange quick bread with cream cheese icing

 

blood orange quick bread with cream cheese icing
This quick bread is another baking recipe for the Pulse Pledge. The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of the Pulse, and I’ve taken the Pulse Pledge, committing to eat pulses once a week for the next year. Pulses are beans, chickpeas, lentils and dried peas; leguminous crops that are good for your health and good for the environment. I’ll be posting recipes involving them periodically this year, incorporating pulses not only in my savory cooking, but baking recipes as well. I’d love for you to join me! If the Pulse Pledge sounds interesting to you, you can read more about it here. It’s a 10 week commitment, and it doesn’t require elaborate baking: a serving of hummus and a bowl of soup are good ways to take them in, too.

This post was sponsored by USA Pulses & Pulse Canada. All opinions are my own.

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banana cake with penuche frosting | the vanilla bean blog
My family is still fighting off colds and coughs and what-have-yous,  so it may be very obvious as you read along that I have not had enough sleep this week, and have spent the majority of my days listening to chapter books being read, catching up on my multiplication tables, and watching too many episodes of whatever it is sick peeps want to watch (I’ll admit it’s funny, but my head is about to explode from Candace and Dr. Doofenshmirtz).

But I did sneak in baking this cake, and I bring it to you just in time for the weekend. It’s found among the pages of Food 52’s Baking Book, a lovely collection of baking ‘best-ofs’ from the site. I’ve always had a thing for bananas in cake, although I rarely make it – chocolate seems to reign on high around here. This will have to be added to the rotation, however, as it’s so dang good and won’t be overlooked any longer come birthday time.
banana cake with penuche frosting | the vanilla bean blogbanana cake with penuche frosting | the vanilla bean blogbanana cake with penuche frosting | the vanilla bean blog

A few things that helped us all this week:

The new Innocence Mission Album

This book – my daughter and I both teared up at the gorgeous drawings and bittersweet ending. Also, James Marshall kept us laughing every day.

Episodes of Family Tree (why just one season?)

Trying to find a used copy of this amazing series that doesn’t cost my soul.

Have a lovely weekend! I’d love to hear what you’re reading/listening to/watching.

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bittersweet chocolate shortbread tarts | the vanilla bean blog
I have a thing for this bittersweet chocolate filling; I used it for years when I baked professionally, and find myself turning to it often when I need an upgraded dessert. I have a similar recipe for it here (which I had forgotten about until after I made and photographed these, of course), and I’m not sure which version I prefer. The shortbread crust is rich and pairs nicely with the smooth chocolate, and the brown sugar whipped cream makes each bite a dreamy affair.
bittersweet chocolate shortbread tarts | the vanilla bean blogbittersweet chocolate shortbread tarts | the vanilla bean blog

 

bittersweet chocolate shortbread tarts | the vanilla bean blog
My brother and (almost) sister-in-law came over this weekend; I took some ‘save the date’ photos for them. Now that Cassie is part of the family, she finds herself roped into helping me with photos here as well (my sister and brother-in-law finally get a break). Martha Stewart Living sent me some pieces of from the Stockholm Indigo Collection (from the Martha Stewart Collection at Macy’s) to highlight, and Cassie willingly put on an apron and held some tarts for me. She’s a keeper.

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blood orange + chocolate shakes | the vanilla bean blog

 

blood oranges | the vanilla bean blog

 

blood orange + chocolate shakes | the vanilla bean blog
‘I took my girl’s hand
In mine for two blocks,
Then released it to let
Her unwrap the chocolate.
I peeled my orange
That was so bright against
The gray of December
That, from some distance,
Someone might have thought
I was making a fire in my hands.’
-Gary Soto, ‘Oranges’

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