sweets

It was a few years ago when a good friend of mine introduced me to za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice mixture containing thyme, sumac, salt, sesame, and sometimes oregano and marjoram. “Spread it on flatbread,” she said, while pressing into my hands a giant bag of the spice blend. It wasn’t until recently, though, when trying to use up spices in my cabinets, that I really fell in love with za’atar and a whole world of potential uses opened up: salad dressings, seasonings for roasted veggies, thick yogurts to dip bread in, and—of course—desserts.

Eating desserts for breakfast requires a delicate touch—no, I’m not a fan of pancakes drowned in syrup first thing in the morning! Za’atar is a wonderful addition to breakfast muffins, adding just enough of a salty, spicy kick for a subtly sweet day-starter. Carrots and the graininess of whole wheat flour make these muffins feel virtuous for breakfast, and the kumquat compote, tempered by a hint of woodsiness from dried lavender, provides the requisite touch of syrup sweetness—but not too much.

Carrot Za’atar Muffins with Kumquat Lavender Compote
Makes 16 muffins

Muffin Batter

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2½  tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1½ cups light brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups shredded carrot, from about 3 – 4 medium-sized carrots

Crumb Topping

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp za’atar
  • ¼ cup butter, cold

Compote

  • 2 cups kumquats
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice, optional
  • ½ tsp dried lavender buds

Note: these muffins can be made ahead for the next morning, if stored in an airtight container once they are completely cooled.

  1. For muffin batter: Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare non-stick muffin pans with 16 muffin liners. If not using muffin liners, grease the pans. Set aside.
  2. In a bowl, whisk to combine the whole wheat flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the brown sugar and butter. Beat on medium until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add the vanilla, mixing until combined. Beat in the whole wheat flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk. Mix until just combined. Fold in the shredded carrots.
  4. Divide the batter amongst the prepared muffin tins.
  5. For crumb topping: In a bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and za’atar. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter or fork until the butter is the size of small peas. Spoon on top of the prepared muffin batter.
  6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the muffins comes out clean and the edges have turned golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Once the pan is cool enough to handle, remove the muffins from the pans. Let the muffins cool completely on a wire rack.
  7. For compote: Slice the kumquats into ⅛-inch slices, removing seeds as you go. In a small saucepan, combine the sliced kumquats, sugar, lemon juice, and dried lavender. Add one or two tablespoons of water to wet the sugar, depending on how much juice the kumquats have. Place the saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer the kumquats for about 20 to 25 minutes until very soft, letting the mixture bubble rapidly during simmering. Remove from heat and skim any white scum from the top with a slotted spoon. Transfer the compote to a heat-safe container. Serve with muffins.

{ Recipe and  Photos by Stephanie Shih for Anthology Magazine }

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Apple Flognarde

by Alexis on March 7, 2014

After the literal multi-layered feat that was last month’s recipe, I thought, “What simple dish provides me great joy without making myself crazy in preparing it?” A long-time fan of custards both sweet and savory, this dish from a favorite “foods of France” book is one I return to regularly. This custard, called a flognarde—because of its origins in Auvergne and the type of fruit incorporated—is similar to the better-known clafoutis and is every bit as delicious.

Think rustic French paysage and the simple, perfect foods that represent it. It is a particularly unfussy recipe. With the most basic of ingredients, you have a presentation-worthy dessert. Or breakfast, if you’re feeling decadent. Et voilà!

Apple Flognarde
Serves 4

  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 5 tbsp flour
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk, use grass-fed whole milk if possible
  • zest from 2-3 meyer lemons
  • 3 apples, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 4 tbsp butter, cubed, plus more to grease the pan
  • confectioners sugar, for dusting

Note: You may substitute sliced pears for the apples, or include a scatter of raisins or grapes if you want to experiment with variations on the flognarde.

  1. Grease a medium enameled cast iron skillet. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Mix together the flour, sugar, zest, and milk. Add the eggs and beat vigorously. Continue beating while pouring mixture into the pan.
  3. Fan the apple wedges and lay out in a pleasing fashion. It’s okay if they slide around a little as you place them.
  4. Dot with butter and bake until the custard rises and has turned golden brown at the edges, about 30 minutes. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve hot or cold.

{Photos by Melina Hammer}

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Juhu Beach Club Desi Jacks

by Alexis on February 28, 2014

When we were contemplating what kind of food story to include in the latest issue of Anthology (Issue No. 14), we decided to tackle international cuisines. We’d all had experiences of wanting to try to make something from a trip abroad or that we’d had at a favorite restaurant, but been intimidated by foreign ingredients and methods. We reached out to three of our favorite Bay Area chefs, each of whom specializes in a different cuisine: Indian, Burmese, and Japanese. Preeti Mistry of Oakland’s Juhu Beach Club gave us an inside look at an Indian kitchen and also provided us with a delicious recipe for Shrimp Curry, which is part of the story in the issue.

While we were shooting with Preeti, she gave us a sample of the bar snack of choice that she’s created for Juhu: Desi Jacks. The Indian-inspired riff on classic Cracker Jacks was an unexpected yet perfect pairing: the spicey, earthy flavors against the sweet caramel kept us going back for more. So even though she’d already given us one great recipe, we begged Preeti to let us share the recipe for Desi Jacks with you here. Enjoy!

Desi Jacks
Yield 8 quarts

  • 8 quarts popped popcorn
  • ½ cup ghee (or substitute melted butter)
  • 4 tbsp cumin
  • 4 tbsp red chili powder
  • 1 cup pistachios
  • 4 cups peanuts
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups light corn syrup
  • 2 tbsp Maldon sea salt

Special equipment: Silpat mats, sugar thermometer

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Season popcorn with ghee, half of the cumin, half of the red chili powder, and salt to taste. Toss well to coat evenly, set aside.
  3. Toss both nuts with oil and the remaining cumin and red chili powder. Season to taste with salt. Spread on sheet pan and roast at 350°F until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. Let cool.
  4. In a pan large enough to hold the popcorn and nuts, combine the sugar and corn syrup and place over high heat. Cook sugar stirring every few minutes and monitoring the temperature. When the sugar reaches hardball stage (250-268°F) add the nuts and popcorn and stir over the heat to fold into the caramel. Put the pan into oven at 350º for 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and stir further if necessary to incorporate caramel. Turn out onto Silpat mats and flatten out with back of spoon. Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt and let cool. Break apart and enjoy. Will keep in airtight container for 2-3 days.

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I’m already scheming ways to work this cake by our talented food contributor Melina Hammer into my agenda as soon as possible. Half dessert, half after-dinner drink, this seems like ideal party fare and the perfect way to keep friends lingering around a table a bit longer. (By the way, are you following Melina on Instagram? Her stream is full of delicious glimpses of life in the South!) Thanks for sharing, Melina! —Alexis

Bourbon-soaked, densely chocolatey layer cake with mocha buttercream.

Have I got your attention? I’ve been thinking about the kinds of things people reliably go bonkers for in the world of food, and I realize that layer cakes hold a special place in people’s hearts. Or minds. Or is it stomachs? Whatever the case, it had been a while since I’d fashioned one.

As I contemplated in which direction to take the plunge, the outrageous, soaked, savory/sweet flavors of my wedding cake washed over me. That cake conjured much in the way of heady delights—so much so that I felt the need to recreate its sinful layers and see if I could hit the perfect balance of booze, chocolate, and velvety cream. I think it worked as my husband, when offered his first slice, had only superlatives and “oh damns” to utter in-between bites.

So, if it’s time to endeavor to make a magnificent layer cake—perhaps a last minute celebration of sweet Valentine’s love?—or just to get rocked by something sinfully great, let this decadent beauty woo you.

Bourbon-Soaked Cake with Mocha Buttercream

For the cake:

  • 2 sticks butter, softened, plus more to grease pans
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder, plus more to dust pans
  • 5 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup instant espresso
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup good bourbon like Bulleit, plus more to drizzle onto cake layers
  • 2/3 cup cane sugar
  • 3 eggs, plus 1 additional egg white to paint the fruit
  • 1 tbsp good vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar, for the fruit
  • 7-11 lady apples or seckel pears

For the mocha buttercream:

  • 5 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 oz milk chocolate, chopped
  • 2 1/2 tbsp instant espresso
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp good vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted

Note: If you can, bake the cakes a day before icing them. They are are easier to work with when chilled. You can make the buttercream in advance too. Store buttercream refrigerated in an airtight container, then allow to come to room temp and give it a good whip before frosting the cake.

  1. For the cakes: Using a pastry brush, paint a thin layer of softened butter all over two 8-inch round by 2-inch high cake pans. Be sure to paint along the crease. To line the pans with parchment, start with a square piece, fold in half, then in half again. Fold one side to the other to make a triangle, and repeat one more time. Place the point of the triangle at the center of the pan, press parchment along bottom and crease parchment at pan edge. Snip off the extra with a pair of scissors, unfold, and spread flat on the bottom of the pan. Dust the pans with cocoa powder, tapping and tilting until the interior is completely coated. Empty leftover cocoa powder from first pan into the next and repeat until it also is well-coated.
  2. In a double boiler over simmering water, melt bittersweet chocolate until just smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit. Combine cocoa powder and espresso in a heatproof measuring cup. Pour enough boiling water in to reach the 1 cup line and stir until dissolved. Add salt and stir to dissolve, then pour in bourbon. Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add sugar and beat until well incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract, baking soda, and chocolate. Continue mixing on medium high, scraping down the sides as needed, until the mixture is well combined..
  4. Add about a quarter of the bourbon mixture to the mixer bowl and with the mixer on low, blend well. Next, add about a third of the flour, mix well. Repeat like this until you finish with the last of the bourbon mixture.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pans, smooth the tops, and smack the pans onto the counter a few times to settle the batter. Place into the oven and rotate the cakes halfway through, baking for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then invert onto rack.
  6. Drizzle a tablespoon or so of bourbon over each cake. Wrap in cellophane and chill for at least an hour, as long as overnight.
  7. For the buttercream: Place chocolate chunks into a double boiler over simmering water and melt until just smooth. Remove from heat and set aside. Use a teaspoon or so of boiling water from the double boiler, dissolve the espresso powder by swirling it in a small dish. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
  8. With an electric mixer beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add in the espresso and beat to incorporate. Add the chocolate and beat until well mixed, then add the vanilla and kosher salt. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, mix everything together.
  9. With the mixer on its lowest setting, add the confectioners sugar in stages and beat until creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat for a few more minutes once well incorporated, until mixture becomes even lighter and more fluffy. Store overnight refrigerated in a sealed container, or prepare to frost cake layers.
  10. To Assemble: Use a pastry brush to paint egg white onto bottom two-thirds of a lady apple or pear. Holding the stem, roll fruit around in a small dish filled with the caster sugar. Lightly tap any extra crust of sugar off and set aside onto a plate for later. Repeat with remaining fruits and set aside.
  11. After having chilled the cakes, remove cellophane from one and set on top of a piece of parchment. Carefully slice each layer in half so you have 4 equal layers, each about 1″ thick. Place one layer on your cake stand and refrigerate the others.
  12. With an offset spatula, work a quarter of the frosting from the center outward and in back-and-forth gestures to spread it towards the edge. Place the second cake layer, centered and level with the first. Press down lightly with your hand flat on the surface of the cake to even cake and frosting. Continue stacking layer atop frosting, until everything looks level and absolutely gorgeous.
  13. After the top layer has been frosted—I kept the frosting in from the edge to create a border for the fruits—position the lady apples, or whichever fruits you have chosen to use, in a pleasing fashion. If you have survived all this, chances are you have a stunningly beautiful and delicious cake in front of you. Invite friends over and enjoy! They will have nothing but love for you.

{Photos by Melina Hammer for Anthology Magazine}

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Craftsman and Wolves Online

by Alexis on February 3, 2014

Craftsman and Wolves quickly became a favorite spot for the Anthology team after chef and owner William Werner opened his Valencia Street patisserie in 2012. His confections, from elaborate cube cakes to humble, but best-we’ve-ever-tasted, chocolate chip cookies kept us visiting. (Regular readers may recall that for last year’s spring issue, we asked William to put together a menu featuring some of the treats he serves as part of his tea service. The recipes are superb—if you haven’t already, try making the Hazelnut White Chocolate Tile.)

But even with frequent visits and a few recipes in my collection, I’ll still take all the Craftsman and Wolves I can get. So when William announced a new online CAW shop over the weekend—carrying favorites like Smoked Butter Caramels, Damn Fine Granola, and Confiture Cafe au Lait—I was thrilled. If you’ve got the same addiction I do, or if you don’t live near enough to stop in, the new online shop promises to bring delectability to your mailbox.

{ Images from Craftsman and Wolves }

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