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

Strawberry Pop Tarts

by Caroline

The cooking division of labor in our household, as I have mentioned before, is basically Tony: stove; Caroline: oven. Or to put it another way, Tony: dinner; Caroline: dessert. It’s never more obvious than at our New Year’s Day party, for which I produce a line-up of cookies, muffins, coffee cakes and the like:

While this year, for example, Tony made a massaman curry, several batches of veggie spring rolls, a green papaya salad, plus a variety of fabulous chutneys and dipping sauces. He did suggest one thing for me to make, though: home made pop tarts. And I couldn’t resist. I found a recipe from Bon Appetit and it’s a great party snack since you prep them in advance and stick them into the freezer until you want them. Eli helped me with the assembly (and took to heart my caution to keep his warm hands off the pastry!):

They were gone so fast I couldn’t take a picture, but you know what a pop tart looks like. These are too good not to make again.

Here’s the recipe, with my notes in brackets:

* 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour plus additional for shaping and rolling
* 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
* 4 tablespoons ice water
* 12 tablespoons strawberry preserves

* Powdered sugar and fresh strawberries, for garnish [I skipped this step, given the dearth of fresh berries in January]


Whisk 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour, coarse salt, and sugar in large bowl. Add butter. Using fingertips or back of fork, blend in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water by tablespoonfuls, tossing until moist clumps form. [You can do all this in the food processor: whisk together the dry ingredients, then add the chunks of butter and pulse until the mixture is coarse and grainy. Then add the water by spoonfuls and pulse until the dough starts to form clumps.] Gather dough into ball. Divide in half; shape each half into disk [or, shape into a rectangle to make your life easier when you roll it out]. Wrap in plastic. Chill at least 1 hour.

Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough on floured surface to about 13×11 inches. Trim to 12×10-inch rectangle, then cut into eight 5×3-inch rectangles.

Arrange 4 rectangles, spaced apart, on each sheet. Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons preserves in row down center of each rectangle. Top preserves with second dough rectangle. Using fingertips, gently press all edges of each tart to seal; press all edges with tines of fork to double-seal. Using toothpick, poke a few holes in center of top dough rectangle. Cover; freeze tarts on sheets at least 2 hours and up to 1 week.

Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake frozen tarts uncovered until golden, reversing sheets after 15 minutes, 25 to 30 minutes total (some preserves may leak out). Immediately transfer tarts to rack. Sift powdered sugar lightly over. Serve warm or at room temperature [if they last that long] with fresh berries [in season].

A Sparkling New Year

by Caroline

Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks is one of the few food blogs I read regularly: the writing is wonderful, the recipes are terrific, the photography is gorgeous. Even better, my sister and several friends read the blog, too; they often try out the recipes before I can get to them and report back with their results.

So it was with Swanson’s recipe for sugared cranberries, which my friend Julie made at Thanksgiving and let me taste; they hit just the right balance of sweet and tart, crunchy and soft. Ben and I both love cranberries, and we do eat cranberry sauce by the spoonful, but it’s nice to find another way to eat them. I made them for our New Year’s Day party, and served some on a cheese plate, while putting others with the cookies.

We have just enough left over to toss a couple into a glass of champagne, and then to top tomorrow’s oatmeal — they are a very multipurpose snack!

I used frozen berries, thawed briefly at room temperature on a jelly roll pan. I was short on time so I skipped the second tumble in sugar, and then used that leftover sugar (what didn’t stick on the cranberries) to make lemonade. The leftover simple syrup is in the fridge, awaiting the next round of cocktails.

Here’s the recipe, straight from 101 Cookbooks:

For the simple syrup, raw cane sugar or real brown sugar lends a nice molasses flavor to the cranberries, but regular granulated sugar (or a blend of brown/white) will work.

2 cups cranberries, picked over
2 cups water
2 cups sugar (see head notes)

More sugar for coating: I do a mix of medium-grained organic sugar for the first coating, and then a second toss with regular granulated white sugar. You don’t want a huge grain for that first toss, just something larger than standard sugar, smaller than most turbinado sugars.

Place the cranberries in a medium glass bowl and set aside.

Make a simple syrup by bringing the water and sugar just to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Let the syrup cool for a couple minutes and then pour it over the cranberries. If the syrup is too hot the cranberries will burst, so be careful. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, drain the cranberries and toss them with larger grained sugar until they are well coated. I only use a scoop of sugar at a time, and small batches of cranberries, so the sugar doesn’t get too damp. Place the coated cranberries on a baking sheet to dry for a few hours.

Do a second toss with the regular granulated sugar, this typically takes care of any sticky spots on the cranberries. Let dry another hour.

Makes 2 cups of sparkling cranberries.

Iced Ginger Cookies

by Caroline

I spent an hour today going through my stuffed binders of torn-out magazine recipes, assembling a menu for our annual New Year’s Day party. This cookie recipe is one I found in Sunset magazine four years ago and yet had never tried. Now it’s going to be a regular part of our holiday baking, because the cookies are easy, delicious, and pretty.


* 1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling cookies
* 3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
* 1 egg
* 3 tablespoons molasses
* 2 cups flour, sifted
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
* 1 cup powdered sugar
* 1 teaspoon lemon juice


1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream 1 cup granulated sugar with butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg and molasses.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and spices. Add to butter mixture and blend well.

3. Fill a shallow bowl with granulated sugar. Break off walnut-size pieces of dough and roll into balls; roll balls in sugar. Arrange on greased cookie sheets and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to cooling racks.

4. Meanwhile, make glaze: Combine powdered sugar with 1 tbsp. water and stir until smooth, then stir in lemon juice. Drizzle glaze over cookies.

Doughnut Muffins

by Caroline

This time of year, seasonal eating is often also holiday eating, as we slide from Halloween through Thanksgiving into Christmas and New Year’s. I want to take each of these in turn, give them their due, and then take a breath before the next one is upon us.

Which is why I love Advent. The liturgical calendar I’ve followed my whole life gives us four weeks of contemplative preparation for Christmas, four weeks of lessons and carols and calm. But, sadly, no specific Advent foods. Advent’s a quiet period, not quite as abstemious as Lent, but still not a big feasting time. And this year, when its first week overlaps with Hanukkah and my boys are coming home from school talking about dreidels and menorahs, it’s been a little hard to keep them focused on our traditions. And who wants to compete with latkes, anyway?

But I think I have hit on the perfect Hanukkahvent (or perhaps Adventukkah) snack: the doughnut muffin. A bath in melted butter and cinnamon sugar gives it the fried crispiness of a latke, but it is baked — not fried — to suit the more temperate Christian holiday. Compromise never tasted so good.

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups pure pumpkin puree
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs

For the Sugar Coating
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 12 standard muffin cups, or line them with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and allspice. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and pumpkin puree. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions pumpkin mixture, and beat to combine.

Spoon 1/3 cup batter into each muffin cup and bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine granulated sugar and cinnamon.

Let muffins cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Working with one at a time, remove muffins from pan, brush all over with butter, then toss to coat in sugar mixture. Let muffins cool completely on a wire rack. (Store in an airtight container, up to 1 day.)

recipe from Martha Stewart, Everyday Food