Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts

Apple Loaf Cake with Pinenuts

Apple Loaf Cake with Pinenuts

I love”homey” food, but you already knew that, didn’t you. Some people like to curl up with a warm blanket and a book, I myself, like to curl up with a hot cup of tea and a piece of cake. When curling up, it’s always best not to have a piece of cake that’s too sweet and sugary. No, proper curling should be done with a less sweet, almost bread like cake that will perfectly compliment a cup of tea. Ta Da! That’s where this Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts comes in.

This cake is the BFF to a cup of tea. The “not-so-sweet” cake is filled with chunks of juicy apple and topped with earthy, crunchy pine nuts. Really, a perfect combination of flavors. This recipe will make two, 8″ x 4″ loaf cakes, so guess what, keep one for yourself and give the other to your BFF. Wrap it up in parchment paper and tie it with baker’s twine, and I guarantee, they’ll be very impressed.

Apple Loaf Cake with Pinenuts

Apple Loaf Cake with Pinenuts

Apple Loaf with Pine Nuts

Adapted from Real Food, Winter 2013

  • 3 large, crisp tart apples peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2″ slices
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 5 large eggs
  • 10 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. For this recipe I used two, 8″ x 4″ loaf pans. I sprayed the inside of the pans, then I cut parchment paper to fit in the pans and sprayed that too. I like to use the parchment insert because the cake will lift out effortlessly.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt. Set aside.
  3. Next, in a large bowl, I added the lemon juice and lemon zest. I cut the apples into 1/2″ slices and as I added them to the bowl, I tossed them in the lemon juice so that they wouldn’t oxidize. Then, sprinkle the apples with 2 tablespoons of sugar, and gently toss.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs and 1 cup of sugar for 2 minutes.
  5. Slowly, stir in the butter and vanilla. In several increments, add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter over the apples and gently fold it in.
  7. Evenly divide the batter between the two pans, and sprinkle the pine nuts on top.
  8. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes 2, 8″ x 4″ loaf cakes

Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts

Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts

Mama’s Tips: 

In baking, size does matter. Make sure you always adjust your baking times if you’re using a pan that’s not the one specified in the recipe.

  • An 8″ x 4″ loaf pan holds 4 cups of batter
  • An 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan holds 6 cups of batter
  • A 9″ x 5″ loaf pan holds 8 cups of batter

Whenever working with fruits like apples, pears and bananas, toss them in a little lemon juice to keep them from oxidizing. Brown fruit is definitely not appetizing.

When baking, remember all ovens do not work the same, so baking times are always just an estimate. I always check my cakes 5-10 minutes before they’re supposed to be done to make sure they don’t brown too quickly.

I always like to put a parchment paper insert into my pans (which I spray along with the pan) so that cakes will always lift out effortlessly. It’s a bummer when the whole cake doesn’t come out intact!

Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts

Apple Loaf Cake with Pine Nuts

Recipe: Easy


Banana Cream Pie Dessert Shooters

Banana Cream Pie Mini Shooters

Banana Cream Pie Mini Shooters

Each year, I live for that two month period that begins with Halloween and sees me through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. I’m totally grateful that it’s filled with family, fun and way, I mean way too much food. It’s a whirlwind of turkeys, hams, cookies, cakes and lots and lots of sugar. In fact, I think I need  to detox from all the sugar still in my system.

But alas, it’s January 6th and the party’s over. The east coast friends have all gone home, the kid’s back at school and Mama is left jonesing for her next gig. Just business as usual. And so, I set my sights on Super Bowl Sunday.

The truth is, I don’t even like football, (did I just hear a gasp from all over America). But I love all the commercials, and who doesn’t love a good ‘ol half-time show. Ok, so just me. I know it’s a little far in advance, but I’ve already started planning my menu for game day.  For dessert, I decided to serve these Banana Cream Pie Mini Shooters.  Their taste scores a touchdown, but their small size won’t hit ‘ya in the end zone if you know what I mean. I know, lame football humor…

Banana Cream Pie Mini Shooters

Banana Cream Pie Mini Shooters

Banana Cream Pie Dessert Shooters

  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean – split down center
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons baker’s sugar (superfine)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 6 teaspoons corn starch
  • 1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut (optional)
  • 1 medium ripe banana
  • 1 medium banana
  • 5 graham crackers
  • 1/3 cup almonds (blanched or sliced, optional)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • Extra almonds for garnish

Directions 

  1. In a medium size pot over medium heat warm the milk and the vanilla bean just until boiling.  Just as it reaches a boil, remove it from the heat and let it cool slightly.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and the sugar on medium speed until it becomes pale and thick.  Reduce the mixer to low and stir in the flour and cornstarch, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides periodically. Remove the vanilla bean from the milk, and slowly stir the milk into the egg/flour mixture.
  3. Pour this mixture back into your pot and heat gently over a medium heat. Using a wire whisk (if you don’t have one, a wooden spoon will work also),  continuously whisk the mixture until it thickens and comes to a boil. Boil for one minute and keep on whisking so that lumps do not form and the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Remove from the heat and continue to whisk for a minute or two then pour the mixture into a large bowl to cool. Cover the surface of the mixture with plastic wrap so that a skin doesn’t form.
  4. You can make this pastry cream a day in advance and keep it covered in the refrigerator.
  5. When you’re ready to use the pastry cream, take the ripe banana and with a fork or the back of a spoon, mash the banana until it’s almost like a puree. Then whisk it into the pastry cream. If you choose to use the coconut, whisk it into the pastry cream.
  6. Place the graham crackers and almonds in a food processor and pulse until you have fine crumbs, transfer to bowl and set aside.
  7. In a medium bowl beat (either with a stand mixer with whisk attachment, hand mixer or wire whisk) the heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. You can make the whipped cream in advance too, just cover and keep in the fridge a day in advance.
  8. To assemble the shooters:  Place two teaspoons of the crumbs into the bottom of the shot glass. Slice the remaining banana into 1/2″ slices, and  place the banana on top of the crumbs. You can spoon the pastry cream into the shot glass or you can pipe it in with a pastry bag. Using a pastry bag fitted with a star tip, pipe the whipped cream on top of the pastry cream layer. Garnish with sliced almonds, sliced bananas or toasted coconut.

Makes 10 shooters (approximately 2.5 ounces each)

Banana Cream Pie Dessert Shooter that looks like an Ice Cream Soda

Banana Cream Pie Dessert Shooter that looks like an Ice Cream Soda

Mama’s Tips:

The pastry cream can be made a day in advance. When the cream has cooled, cover the surface with plastic wrap so a skin will not form and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to  use it.

The whipped cream can be made in advance also. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form and then transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

The graham cracker crumbs can be made a day in advance. Just store in a covered container until ready to use.

I add the nuts to the graham crackers because it gives the crumbs some added texture which is a nice compliment to the banana cream. However, if you or someone else has a nut allergy then just eliminate them from the recipe.

Banana Cream Pie Mini Shooters

Banana Cream Pie Mini Shooters

Recipe: Intermediate


Apple Pie in a Bag

Apple Pie baked in a brown paper bag

Apple Pie baked in a brown paper bag

It’s getting closer to the big day, you know what day I’m talking about, right? Thanksgiving, of course. It’s my most special meal, well it seems every meal is my most special meal, but this one definitely is. In fact, I am so excited I can hardly contain myself.  It’s the one day I will eat with reckless abandon. For me it’s a food version of a perfect storm. Every food I consider to be one of my favorites will make an appearance at my Thanksgiving table.

I embrace this holiday not just for the food, but for the fact that I truly am thankful for the food, and for my family.

I was speaking to my sister-in-law, Wanda the other day and she told me about a pie she makes that is my brother’s favorite. Since Apple Pie is a requisite for any Thanksgiving dinner I thought I would try it out before the big day. I was intrigued because this pie was baked in a brown paper grocery bag. She said that the bag kept the crust from over browning and that the apples became soft and tender and stayed juicy. Hmmmm, sounds like Mama needed to give this a try. Well Wanda, I was quite pleased with the results. I used a pre-made crust for this pie, but hey, if you’ve got the energy then go ahead and make your own crust.

Apple Pie baked in a bag

Apple Pie baked in a bag

Apple Pie in a Bag 

  • 7 crisp, tart apples peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sugar – divided
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 stick, unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 box pre-made refrigerated pie crust, 2-9″ crusts
  • 1 large brown paper grocery bag

Directions 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl whisk together 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of flour, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon.  Peel, core and thinly slice your apples placing them in a large bowl. As you slice them, sprinkle a teaspoon or so of the sugar mixture over the apples to coat them so they won’t turn brown as you slice them. When all the apples are sliced and in the bowl, spoon in the remainder of the sugar mixture and toss to coat all the apples.
  2. Place one of the 9″ crusts into a 9″ pie dish. You may need to roll it out a little, so you should do that on a piece of parchment paper.  Spoon the apple mixture on top of the crust.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together 1/2 cup of all purpose flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 stick of melted butter and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Pour this mixture over the apple mixture.
  4. Place the remaining crust on top of the pie. You may have to roll it out a little so that it fits over the pie. Seal the edges of the 2 crusts together. With a sharp pairing knife, poke 5-6 slits on top of crust so that the steam can escape.
  5. Place the pie into a large brown paper grocery bag and then staple the ends shut.
  6. Bake in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Leave pie in bag for 5 minutes after removing from the oven.
Apple Pie baked in a bag

Apple Pie baked in a bag

Mama’s Tips

I sprinkled my apples with a teaspoon of the sugar mixture as I sliced them. The sugar mixture kept the apples from turning brown.

When pie is done baking, if you like a browner pie crust, remove the pie from bag and bake a few minutes more til browned on top.

Place bagged pie on a cookie sheet to avoid messy spills in the oven while baking.

Removing Apple Pie from the paper bag

Removing Apple Pie from the paper bag

Recipe: Easy


Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Life is funny, nothing ever stays the same.  Friends, please forgive me for getting all sentimental and philosophical on you, but this time of year brings back lovely memories for me. It doesn’t seem so long ago that by mid-October every year my boys and I would spend hours planning their costumes for Halloween, who they would walk the neighborhood with, and which candy I should buy to give out to the local revelers. But things have changed, my boys have moved on to begin their own lives, and my husband and I have been left here to celebrate Halloween alone, just us and a few bags of mini Snickers bars. I know, so sad.

In fact, things have gotten so bad that the local children will not even walk up my long, steep driveway for a measly mini candy bar anymore. In recent years I’ve had to go stand at the bottom of the driveway with “full sized” candy bars if I wanted to see any action.

Halloween is also that time of year when I can use pumpkin with reckless abandon.  I love to use it in muffins, cookies, cakes and pies, and I really can’t understand why it’s not popular all year round. One of my fall favorites is this Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze.  The cake part is mildly flavored with those traditional autumn spices, and the streusel filling is a perfect little surprise in the middle of the cake. What could be bad about pumpkin, nuts and chocolate.

So, one last thing.  Do you think it would be weird if I asked my 25 year-old son to let me dress him up as a Power Ranger so we could go house to house trick-or-treating together? I’m just kidding, kinda’.

Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Adapted from “Very Best Baking”

Streusel

  • 2/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Cake

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup pure pumpkin (15 ounce can Libby’s brand)
  • 1 – 8 ounce container sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Chocolate Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons milk

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and using melted butter and a pastry brush, brush the insides of the bundt pan with butter and lightly flour the pan, tapping out the excess flour.
  2. To make the Streusel: lightly toast your walnuts in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Constantly stir so they don’t burn. Toast just until they become fragrant. Allow to cool. Toss walnuts, cinnamon, brown sugar and mini chips in a medium bowl until all ingredients are incorporated. Set aside.
  3. For the cake batter, sift the flour, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl, and stir with a whisk to incorporate all ingredients.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the pumpkin, sour cream and vanilla and mix well. With the mixer on medium-low, gradually add the flour mixture.
  5. Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan.  Spoon the streusel topping over the batter but don’t allow the topping to touch the sides of the pan.  You can choose to only use the streusel inside the cake, or you can also sprinkle some streusel on top of the cake also. Spoon the remaining batter on top making sure the batter layer touches the edge of the pan.
  6. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes then turn out to a wire rack. Let the cake cool completely before you top with the glaze.
  7. To make the glaze: Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa powder into a medium sized bowl. Add the vanilla. Add the milk a spoon at a time and whisk until you have the desired drizzling consistency.
Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Galze

Pumpkin Streusel Cake with Chocolate Galze

Mama’s Tips: 

Be sure to use the size egg that any recipe calls for when baking. If a recipe calls for “large eggs”, don’t use extra large eggs as it will definitely effect the final product.

You could also use mini bundt pans to make this cake. Just make sure you adjust the baking time accordingly.

The mini paper bundt pans used in this post were purchased from Cost Plus World Market.

Recipe: Easy


Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

It’s September, and son #2 is out of the house again living the high-life as a student in Santa Barbara where he’s studying to be an EMT. It’s a hard program, so let’s all pool our positive thoughts together and send them in his direction. Thanks guys! Anyway, he’s been up there about a month, but he’s coming home this Sunday and we’ve decided to have a little brunch in his honor…cause his mama misses him so much!  My parents are coming over, because they too miss him a great deal, and his big brother, son #1 is coming, but he won’t admit how much he misses his younger brother.  Ah, kids!

I’m preparing all his favorites; homemade waffles, fresh fruit and crispy bacon. He has requested that I bake this Chocolate Chip Cornbread which he likes toasted and topped with a big slab of butter. I’ve made cornbread a million different ways, but I particularly like this one for breakfast because it’s a little bit sweet and a little bit savory. If you can, it’s a treat to serve it right out of the oven.

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

From Bon Appetit

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs

Directions

  1. Place the oven rack in the middle position, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray a 9″ x 5″ metal loaf pan with cooking spray, or you can use mini loaf pans or muffins tins if you wish.  Just adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Stir in the chocolate chips. Set aside.  In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the milk, oil and eggs.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir just until all the ingredients are incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s).
  3. Bake the cornbread until the top starts to turn a little golden, and when a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. For the 9″ x 5″ pan, bake about 35 minutes. Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. The cornbread is best served warm with a little butter.
Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Mama’s Tips: 

As with all batters, mix this one just until all ingredients are incorporated. Do not over mix.

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Chocolate Chip Cornbread

Recipe: Easy


Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti

Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti

Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti

For years I was the proud owner of a 1980′s flip phone.  My life was good, and it was simple.  I could make calls and receive calls, and I lived in the moment. I wasn’t distracted by my electronic device like the masses of people around me. Yeah, you know who you are.  Sadly, I haven’t had a conversation with either one of my son’s in years because I can’t get them to put down their phones for more than three minutes. I wondered to myself, what was happening on these phones that was so riveting.  Was I missing out on something? Was I suddenly becoming obsolete.

I started getting a lot of pressure from my friends regarding my lo-tech device. They were frustrated because I couldn’t text them, or send them photos.  And so, much to my dismay, I gave in and recently purchased an iPhone 5 as well as an iPad. These devices, which I had regarded as the downfall of civilization as we know it, have become my new obsession. So, here I am totally detached from the people around me because I’m so busy texting, tweeting and Instagraming because lord knows, the world is dying to see another photo of the burger I’m having for dinner. I want to go back to my old life where I had meaningful conversations with people, but I’m afraid that’s no longer possible.  I have an app that helps me convert ounces to grams, and one that tells me which transit to take when I’m in New York City, and honestly that’s a whole lot more interesting than talking to people. Am I right, or what.

However, today, I told myself  “Mama, step away from the phone”.  I pulled out the cookie sheets and decided to return to my old obsession…baking. I decided to share with you one of my all time favorites, the Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti, which I will undoubtedly enjoy as I tweet a photo of the finished product.

Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti

Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti

Pine Nut Biscotti

From Great Cookies by Carole Walter

Biscotti

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts, divided
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten with 2 teaspoons of water

Lemon Glaze

  • 1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • About 1 tablespoon hot water (or a little bit more)

Directions

  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat. Place the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, or if you have a double one, place them in the center rack position. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Sift all the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl and then set aside.
  3. Place the butter and the lemon zest together in the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment and mix on medium speed. Then add the sugar in a few increments and beat for 1-2 minutes longer.
  4. Beat in the egg, then the yolks and vanilla and mix for another minute or two.
  5. Reduce the mixer to low speed and add the dry ingredients in several additions and mix just until the ingredients are incorporated. Do not over mix. Using a spatula, gently fold in 1/4 cup of the toasted  pine nuts.
  6. Spoon half of the dough onto one of the baking sheets, and with lightly floured hands form the dough into two, 2 x 14 inch logs, with one log on each sheet.
  7. Using a pastry brush, brush each log with the egg wash and sprinkle the pine nuts on top of each log, pressing them into the dough so that they stick to the dough.
  8. Bake each log for 18-20 minutes until they become browned. Remove the sheets from the oven and let the cookie cool for 15 minutes.
  9. Lower the oven temp to 325 degrees F. Take each log off the cookies sheet one at a time, and place on a cutting board.  Using a good serrated knife begin to slice the log into 1/4 ” slices that you slice on an angle.  If you like a thicker cookie, make each slice 1/2 ” instead.
  10. Lay the cookies down on their flat side back on the sheet and place in the oven for another 9 minutes. Turn the biscotti over and then bake for another 9 minutes.
  11. While the cookies are baking, in a medium bowl, add the powdered sugar, lemon juice, corn syrup and water to make a drizzling consistency glaze. If it’s too thick to drizzle, add a little water in small increments til you get the right consistency.
  12. Drizzle while the cookies are still warm. Let them cool to room temperature on a cooling rack so that the glaze hardens.

Yielded about 3 dozen biscotti

Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti

Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti

Mama’s Tips

To toast the pine nuts: Place the nuts in a small, dry frying pan over a low heat, constantly stirring the nuts until they begin to turn light brown in color. Don’t leave them unattended as they will burn quickly. Toasting them will bring out their natural oils and that “nutty” flavor making your biscotti that much better.

Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti with Fresh Lemon Glaze

Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti with Fresh Lemon Glaze

Recipe: Easy


Fabio and his Fabulous Fabio’s Cake

Fabio's Cake - torta di Fabio

Fabio’s Cake – torta di Fabio

I was invited to attend a tasting and book signing, for Chef Fabio Viviani who’s promoting his new book “Fabio’s Italian Kitchen”, at the culinary school I graduated from. I thought it would be a pleasant evening involving a dish of pasta and an opportunity for him to sell a few books, but I was wrong because it was more than that. For those of you who may not know him, Fabio Viviani was a contestant on Top Chef Season 5 as well as several other Top Chef spin-offs. He’s also the owner of two very successful restaurants in the Los Angeles area, his own cooking show, and of course, a cookbook author.

When Fabio entered the room he was like a whirling dervish, full of energy, his arms constantly moving, so much so that I was unable to get barely one photo of him that wasn’t blurred. When he came to this country in 2005, he spoke not a word of English. He has great command of the language now, but speaks it in an Italian accent so adorable that Sophia Loren would find it endearing. The guy is so funny that if his day job as a successful chef doesn’t work out, he could definitely try his hand at stand up comedy.

But enough of that. Besides his European charm and perfect plates of pasta that he turned out that evening without breaking a sweat, he had a more meaningful message that he shared with us. He spoke at great length about charity and the importance of giving back. He also shared with us a very funny story about being contacted by the First Lady, Michelle Obama to work along side her on one of her causes. I like that he’s not just a guy who talks the talk, but he also walks the walk. He donated all of the proceeds from this evening’s event to Chef Cecilia DeCastro to fund a scholarship for a worthy student to attend her Academy of Culinary Education. Man, what this guy packed into 2 1/2 hours was amazing and certainly explains why he was voted “fan’s favorite” on his season of Top Chef.

Okay, so back to the food.  There’s so many mouth-watering recipes in this book accompanied by stunning photographs that I couldn’t even decide where to begin. Since Mama loves to bake, I chose to start with his “Fabio’s Cake” , and I was thrilled with the result. It’s a moist and rustic cake abounding with chunks of apple and and fresh orange zest. Very fresh and very Italian.

Questo e un dolce molto gustoso.

Fabio's Cake - torta di Fabio

Fabio’s Cake – torta di Fabio

Fabio’s Cake

From Fabio’s Italian Kitchen

  • 2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 3 cups apples, peeled, cored and crushed
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Directions 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using a tablespoon of melted butter and a pastry brush, brush the bottom and sides of a 9″ springform pan, then lightly dust with flour and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar until foamy. With the mixer on low, add the rest of the ingredients and mix just until incorporated.
  3. Pour the batter evenly in the pan and then sprinkle the top lightly with the brown sugar. Bake for 50-60 minutes until  golden and when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  4. Cool in pan for 20 minutes, then unmold. When cake is cooled, dust with some powdered sugar.

Serves 8-12

DSC_0010

Fabio Viviani demonstrating homemade pasta.

Mama’s Tips:

To crush the apples: peel, core and chop the apples into chunks, and toss with some lemon juice so they won’t discolor. Place the chopped apples in a large ziplock bag and then wallop with a rolling pin til nicely crushed.

IMG_0114

Recipe: Easy


Cinnamon Chocolate Coffee Cake

Cinnamon-Chocolate Coffee Cake

Cinnamon-Chocolate Coffee Cake

It’s 12 o’clock at night, and here I stand in the dark over the kitchen sink eating hunks of this Cinnamon Chocolate Coffee Cake. Suddenly the lights flick on, and my son Michael looks at me in surprise or horror, I’m not sure which one and asks “Mom, what in the world are you doing?” Oh, the shame I felt. Yes, caught in the act of scarfing down light and airy cake laced with nuts, chocolate and cinnamon. Since having this cake at my sister-in-law’s house I’ve been obsessed with it, so much so that my family has considered planning an intervention. Okay, I’ll try and get a hold of myself.

As you can see from the picture below, you need not restrict yourself to baking this in a 10-inch tube pan. If you’re feeling wild and crazy, you might want to try baking this cake in mini loaf pans or in mini bundt pans. The choice is up to you. Either way I think you’re gonna love this cake as much as I do. I just hope that if you do get up in the middle of the night to eat it over the kitchen sink, that no one catches you. It’s very embarrassing. Trust me.

Cinnamon Chocolate Coffee Cake

Cinnamon Chocolate Coffee Cake

Cinnamon Chocolate Coffee Cake

From My Sister-In-Law “Wanda”

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Topping

  • 2/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Place the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10-inch tube pan by melting some butter and using a pastry brush, lightly coat the entire pan and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg.  Add the vanilla extract. Alternately, add the flour mixture and the sour cream mixing on medium-low speed until ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Spoon 1/2 the mixture into the greased 10-inch tube pan. Sprinkle half the topping mixture over the batter being careful not to touch the edge of the batter. Next, spoon the remaining batter over and sprinkle the remaining topping over the cake.
  5. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes or until tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake. Cool cake in the pan for 15 minutes and then remove from pan to finish cooling on a rack.
Cinnamon Chocolate Coffee Cake

Cinnamon Chocolate Coffee Cake

Mama’s Tips:

  • Because most ovens have “hot spots”, I rotate my cakes half-way through baking so that the cake will bake evenly.
  • Be careful not to overmix your batter as it will result in a dense cake. Mix on medium-low speed and mix just until all ingredients are incorporated.
  • For cakes, butter and eggs should be room temperature. I usually take mine out about 2 hours before baking. However, if you cut your butter into small chunks it will warm up faster. To bring eggs to room temp quicker, place them in a bowl of warm water…that will do the trick.
  • For baking purposes, use the best pure vanilla extract you can afford. Avoid using anything with artificial flavors.
Cinnamon Chocolate Coffee Cake

Cinnamon Chocolate Coffee Cake

Recipe: Easy


Blackberry Cake

Blackberry Cake

Blackberry Cake

It’s practically summertime here in Southern California and there’s beautiful berries everywhere. Everywhere I look from supermarkets, to farmer’s markets and roadside stands all I see are berries. It’s my personal observation that strawberries always seem to get top billing with blueberries and raspberries coming in at a close second. It appears to me that the blackberry just doesn’t get the same notoriety as it’s cohorts. Since today was designated as a baking day, I thought I would show the blackberry a little love and make it the star of this particular baking project.

I found that this cake tasted even better when I added a nice dollop of freshly whipped cream to it and then sprinkled it with a few juicy blackberries. This rustic, homey dessert is best when served warm from the oven.

Blackberry Cake

Blackberry Cake

Blackberry Cake

From Baking by Emma Patmore

  • 1 pound blackberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup self-rising flour

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using a pastry brush and a tablespoon of melted butter, lightly grease a 8″ cake pan or a 9″ pie plate and set aside.
  2. Place the blackberries and the sugar together in a medium bowl and gently toss until the blackberries are totally covered in the sugar. The berries are very tart (usually) so make sure they’re completely coated.
  3. Place the coated berries in the pan you set aside. Spread them around so they evenly cover the bottom of the pan.
  4. Beat the egg and brown sugar together in a large bowl until well combined. Stir in the melted butter and milk. Sift the flour into the egg/butter mixture and blend until the flour is incorporated.
  5. Blend until you have a smooth batter then spread the batter over the blackberries in the pan.
  6. Bake for about 25 minutes until the cake is firm and golden around the edges.
  7. Dust the top of the cake with some powdered sugar and serve warm.
  8. You can also bake this cake in individual ramekins, just adjust the time accordingly.
Blackberry Pudding

Blackberry Pudding

Recipe: Easy


Strawberry Ice Cream made with fresh California Strawberries

Strawberry Ice Cream made with fresh California Strawberries

Strawberry Ice Cream made with fresh California Strawberries

What could be more fun for a girl obsessed with strawberries, than the opportunity to spend the day frolicking in the fields of a strawberry farm in Oxnard, California!  Yes, it’s true.  I was invited by the California Strawberry Commission to tour a working strawberry farm along with a group of fellow foodbloggers. The farm is run by Bill Reiman who took us out into his fields and showed us how this gorgeous fruit is picked, processed and packed. As our group stood there in the warm California sun, Bill explained  how environmentally conscious California strawberry farmers are, and how they have invested millions into research and sustainable farming practices.  He went on to explain how 88% of the nation’s strawberries are grown in California, and that California has a 12 month growing season. So guess what, you can enjoy your strawberries 24/7!

The final highlight of the day was a strawberry-themed dinner prepared by Executive Chef Tim Kilcoyne. Our hosts had set up a white canopied tent that was surrounded by strawberries as far as the eye could see, and our backdrop was the Santa Monica Mountains. A Hollywood set designer couldn’t have done a better job. As if this wasn’t enough, each guest was sent home with a flat of  sweet, California Strawberries. Yes, it was a most excellent adventure, and one I’ll never forget.

So what did I do with all those berries you ask…well, I turned them into ice cream of course.

Strawberry Ice Cream made with fresh California Strawberries

Strawberry Ice Cream made with fresh California Strawberries

Strawberry Ice Cream

Williams Sonoma “Ice Cream”

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup (185g) sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (250g) fresh California strawberries, stemmed and coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the cream and milk. Add the sugar and a pinch of salt and whisk the mixture until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the vanilla. Let the mixture sit for 20 minutes so that the flavors begin to blend together. Cover and refrigerate the mixture until chilled, from 3-8 hours.
  2. In a medium bowl, using a fork, mash half of the chopped strawberries until they break down into small chunks, then add the remaining coarsely chopped strawberries to the bowl. Cover and refrigerate these strawberries for an hour.
  3. After an hour, pour the milk/cream mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When nearly frozen and the mixture looks like thick whipped cream, add the strawberries. Churn just until blended. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container. Freeze until firm, about three hours, or up to 3 days before serving.

Makes 1 1/2 quarts

Fresh California Strawberries

Fresh California Strawberries

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We were treated to a chef prepared, strawberry themed meal in a tent set up in the middle of the strawberry field. The Santa Monica Mountains were the perfect backdrop.

Fun Strawberry Facts:

8 strawberries contain more vitamin C than an orange. They’re low in sugar, with only about 50 calories, and strawberries are a great source of fiber, folate and potassium. Yeah, so who else can make that claim!

Strawberries are good for your heart folks. Potassium found in strawberries can help control blood pressure and fight strokes. The antioxidants, fiber and phytochemicals in strawberries has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels.

California strawberry farmers use less than one percent of California’s cropland, but create nearly 10 percent of all California’s farm-related jobs. You go California farmers!

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Mama had a grand old day in the California Strawberry Fields.

Recipe: Easy

* Disclosure: This post is sponsored by The California Strawberry Commission. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.


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