Glazed Lemon Tea Cake

by Caroline

It has been so cold this week — a rare-for-San-Francisco crisp and sunny cold — that all I want to do is stay home curled up on the couch, drinking tea and eating cake. Unfortunately, children need driving to and from school, essays need writing, and other chores interfere with my desire to hibernate. But this cake suits my mood and the season; it’s a lemony, slightly-spicy and lightly-glazed cake with ingredients so basic that you can probably make it without even making a trip to the store.

• 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 cup granulated sugar
• 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest plus 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
• 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
• 2 large eggs
• 1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
• 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat butter, granulated sugar, zest, and cardamom until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream or yogurt, beginning and ending with flour. Pour batter into cake pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack. Let cool, top side up.

While the cake is cooling, combine confectioners’ sugar with remaining 3 tablespoons lemon juice and whisk until smooth; pour over cooled cake.

Recipe from Martha Stewart

Icing on the Cake

by Caroline

The World Series is over, our team won, and our black and orange meals won’t be baseball-related anymore — though they’re so seasonal, I’m sure they’ll continue.

But today, after a long and fabulous day at the Giants’ ticker tape parade, we didn’t have it in us to cook anything. We opted for dinner out at one of our favorite local places. The menu changes with the seasons (tonight I had a great lasagna with kale, roasted squash and hazelnuts) but retains enough standards that the boys — not the most adventurous eaters — can always count on their favorite salads and pasta. And we can always count on sharing a piece of ginger cake with pumpkin ice cream for dessert. It’s so good we don’t order the excellent chocolate cake. It’s so good the boys hold spoons ready to dig in the minute they see the waiter approach with our order. It’s so good I practically had to bribe the boys with extra bites so I could take a picture before it was devoured:

It’s so good the newspaper printed the recipe not too long ago, so luckily you don’t have to live in my neighborhood, or even my city, to enjoy this cake; here you go. Enjoy.

Black & Orange Oreos for the Team

by Caroline

The other day we were brainstorming about foods we could make to celebrate our team — the San Francisco Giants — moving into the playoffs. Conveniently, their uniforms are a seasonal black and orange so we were thinking pumpkin muffins with chocolate chips (or chocolate frosting), and for dinner, black bean and sweet potato enchiladas. Lisa, always working the cocktail angle, suggested orange soda with black licorice straws, and of course we’ve already seen her gorgeous Giant Marys.

Then my friend Liz reminded me about the oreo cookie recipe I sent her long ago (and then promptly lost), and suggested making an orange filling. Perfect! Now, there are many recipes online for homemade oreos (including one that calls for devil’s food cake mix; hmmm), and most use an egg — which I’m sure makes a nice chocolate cookie; but, if you’re after the crumbly shortbread texture of the oreos of your youth, use this recipe (which Liz typed up and saved on her computer, thank goodness.) I’m sorry I can’t recall it’s source, so please, if you recognize it, let me know so I can offer proper credit!

“Oreo” Cookies

In a mixing bowl, beat till fluffy
1 cup room temperature unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar

In a separate bowl, sift together
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa*
1/2 tsp salt

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter to make a stiff dough. Remove from the bowl, knead a couple times on a lightly floured board to make sure it’s fully combined, then shape into a disk and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

To bake:
Preheat oven to 350°. Cut the dough into quarters. Working with one quarter at a time and keeping the remainder cold, roll out to about 1/4” thickness. Cut into circles or whatever shape you desire, place on a cookie sheet, and bake 15 minutes or till firm. Cool on a rack. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

When cool, make sandwiches with the following filling:

1/2 cup room temperature unsalted butter beaten till fluffy with
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar and
1/2 tsp. vanilla

*Note: I use half regular cocoa and half black cocoa (available from King Arthur Flour) for a real “oreo” color.

Celebratory Fruit Turnovers

by Caroline

We were watching the Giants/Braves playoff game Sunday afternoon with nothing to munch on but little bowls of peanuts (it was almost time for dinner; I’ve been sick for two days) when the boys started dreaming of how our snacks might improve as our team plays deeper into the postseason. “Crackerjack!” one shouted. “Yeah, homemade crackerjack!” “Sure,” I promised, “I’ll make homemade crackerjack if we’re playing for the pennant.” “And It’s-Its?” Eli asked, “It’s-Its for the World Series?” “Yes, I assured him, “It’s-Its for the World Series.

We are a long way from the World Series still, and the last time the Giants got that far Ben looked like this:

eight years ago...

But Sunday’s game went well, and as we turned off the TV and turned our attention to dinner, I looked around the kitchen to see what I could make to celebrate. There was a sheet of puff pastry in the fridge; I’d gotten it out of the freezer a couple days ago to make some savory apple, beet and cheddar cheese tarts, but then I came down with a stomach bug. While I was in bed, the beets got turned into soup and the cheese and apples got eaten, but the puff pastry was still ready for use. We had a bowl of ripe pluots on the table (probably the last of the season), plus an orange, so I turned the oven on to preheat while I improvised dessert.

I chopped up the pluots, sprinkled them with brown sugar and cinnamon, then zested the orange into the mixture. I rolled the puff pastry out and cut it into six pieces, spooned my filling into the center of each one, and crimped them shut with a fork. I didn’t have an egg for the egg wash (a couple days out of commission and our supplies start to run seriously low), but a little milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar worked just fine. By the time I was finished assembling the turnovers, the oven was hot and I slid the pan into bake. I tossed the remaining fruit filling into a saucepan to cook down into a chunky sauce. Half an hour later, our pluot turnovers were ready.

You won’t find these at any ballpark, but I didn’t hear any complaints on that score. We’ll plan a bit better for the games to come, and I’ll post recipes for some baseball-friendly snacks. In the meantime, this dessert served as a good reminder that it doesn’t take much advance thought or planning to come up with a nice finish to your meal. Obviously, we don’t all have thawed puff pastry ready to go at a moment’s notice — it was a first for me — but I could have just as easily (and quickly) made a fruit crisp; all you ever really need, as we find ourselves saying again and again, are a well-stocked pantry and some fresh produce. I’m looking forward to the next game already.

Bake Sale Chocolate Chip Cookies

by Caroline

On a recent episode of Top Chef: Just Desserts (yes, I watch it, and I watch Top Chef, too), the contestants were asked to make items for a bake sale. One made a milk chocolate ginger pudding. Another made strawberry shortcake. Have these folks never been to a bake sale?!

The winning recipe, for a chocolate chip walnut cookie, is happily traditional and looks delicious. But this is the cookie I made earlier in the week, pre-Top Chef, and while I know (I know) we don’t really need another recipe for chocolate chip cookies (the one on the back of the chocolate chip bag really works just fine) I had to give this one a try, and I have to say, it’s particularly good. So the next time your kids are clamoring for chocolate chip cookies, get out more butter than usual, and then delight your kids by letting them dig out the dough with an ice cream scoop. You won’t be disappointed.