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Thursday
Nov132014

Lemon Heaven: Crêpes au Citron Recipe

Crepes with lemon sugar

Crêpes au citron: roughly translated, it means "lemon heaven". Technically, they are crepes made with lemon, but I have made my decision. 

This lovely recipe is excerpted from French Bistro: Restaurant-Quality Recipes for Appetizers, Entrées, Desserts, and Drinks.

French Bistro Maria Zihammou

*crêpes au citron*

Crêpes with lemon sugar

What would a French cookbook be without crêpes? Those soft, buttery, and thin pancakes you can buy just about anywhere in France. So simple and delicious with just freshly squeezed lemon and raw sugar on top . . . or filled with my amazingly good noisette crème.

serves 4 people

  • 3 eggs
  • 1¼ cups (300 ml) wheat flour
  • 3½ tbsp (50 g) butter, melted
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup (250 ml) milk, 2%
  • 1 cup (250 ml) cold water
  • butter, for pan-frying
  • 2 lemons, cut into wedges
  • ½ cup (100 ml) raw sugar

Procedure

  • Whisk the eggs until fluffy. Add the flour gradually and continue whisking until all clumps have disappeared. Add the butter and salt; whisk together. Finally, pour in the milk and water, and whisk the mixture into a runny pancake batter. Place in the fridge to cool for at least an hour.

  • Pour a thin layer of batter into a frying-pan with butter, and cook until it takes on a light golden color. Serve with sugar and lemon.

Enjoy!

Thursday
Nov132014

How to Make an Easy Olive Oil Cake

This olive oil cake is my new favorite. It's loosely based on a Middle Eastern recipe for a semolina cake called basbousa, but this version is made with olive oil. The olive oil gives it a really unique flavor--nutty and rich and texture-wise, unbelievably moist. Since it's olive oil, you can keep telling yourself it's healthy, too!

Find the full recipe here.

Tuesday
Nov112014

CakeSpy Does the Bake-Off, Volume 3

I feel pretty cool being able to say this: I have attended the Pillsbury Bake-Off not one, not two, but a whopping three times. This means I have also accosted--I mean HUGGED!--the Pillsbury Doughboy not once, not twice, but thrice. This time, it happened in Nashville, Tennessee.

I rule!

OK, now that I've gotten the self congratulatory part of the post done, let me give you some important links:

  • If you're keen on reading about the other Bake-Offs I've attended, here's Las Vegas and here's Orlando.
  • If you want to see all of the sweet recipes from this year's Bake-Off, click the bakeoff tag
  • If you want to see the four finalists for the million dollar prize, click here.

OK. NOW, I am ready to tell you about the 47th Bake-Off, in Nashville.

Bake-Off, Nashville

Have you ever been to Nashville? I hadn't, but have been hearing over and over how it's the "it" city. Taylor Swift has a mega apartment there (I read it in Life & Style Magazine), lots of cool new restaurants are opening, and everyone has a country music dream. It's really an interesting place to see. 

I arrived a bit early so I could add to my list of places I've done yoga (in case you didn't know, I want to take a yoga class in all 50 states). Here's my current map:

Woot! 

After that, I met up with my friends Megan and Robby. Megan you may know as the kind-of-big-deal baker behind Bake it in a Cake, the blog and the book, Bake it in a Cupcake. We had a wonderful time with a dinner at the restaurant The Wild Cow.

Then, we proceeded to Hot and Cold, a cute cafe that served interesting seasonal drinks. I got a hot chocolate, because I wanted to put something special in it: one of the marshmallows Megan gifted me, from Bang Candy Company.

Bang Candy Co., Nashville

They drove me by a mini parthenon. When's the last time you drove by a mini parthenon?

Bake-off

And then it was time for bed.

Cake in bed

The next day, before the Bake-Off events kicked off, I had an ice long walk with my friend Nicole of Baking Bites. We checked out, among other things, the Johnny Cash Museum, where I found this treasure...

Johnny cash cookbook

and the Ryman Auditorium, a landmark with rainbow windows: Ryman theater, Nashville

...and then I saw this, which I immediately photographed just 'cause: Dolly

and the Goo Goo Cluster store, where I wanted to buy one of everything but settled for some candy.

Goo Goo store

Goo Goo Cluster! Ever had one? Goo goo supreme

After that, we had a lovely coffee at Bongo Coffee, which is famous because several years ago it is the place that discovered the Mother Theresa Cinnamon roll (AKA "Nun Bun"). Apparently it was stolen--which begs the question: who does that?

The Bake-Off media events began with a presentation from GE, wherin they showed us their new Advantium line. They gave away an oven but I didn't win--Jocelyn of Grandbaby Cakes did. That's ok, she's adorable and she deserves it. 

That leads me to what else I wanted to tell you: there were all sorts of celebrities there!

Famous bloggers at the Bake-Off

I felt like a mini celebrity just being near them. They included but were not limited to:

It seems like a good time, btw, to remind you of this video Bakerella made of my cuppie character. 

Now you just try and tell me that isn't a star studded lineup. 

After our GE event, we had a fantastic dinner at The Southern. They served something called chocolate whiskey cake there which featured chocolate cake with whiskey, buttercream, and coulis. Oh-my was it good. 

Whew! I'm ready for bed, how about you?

The next day, things started bright and early with the Bake-Off. This is what the show floor looked like before the bakers walked on: 100 individual setups to bake their recipes, all at the same time. 

Bake-off

As usual, the media people stood in a little corral and were allowed to circulate after the bakers had a few minutes to acclimate and get started.

Bake-Off, Nashville

I was delighted to see a few familiar faces from previous Bake-Offs:

Bake-off

Bake-Off entrants can be in the competition three times; I was happy to see some familiar faces. I love talking to the people (mostly ladies) on the floor.

I circulated the floor, met someone famous named Carla Hall, who had glasses just as cool as me:

Bake-off

and of course, got to have a tender moment with my boyfriend (I'm not sure if he knows it though), the Doughboy.

Nashville bake-off

After a few hours circulating, the food was delivered to the judges and we had a few hours to kill. How did I kill them? By checking out the Goo Goo Cluster store again with Lindsay and Julie. I got a t-shirt this time. Yay!

I was also excited because I had found a recipe for Goo Goo Cluster pie in the hotel magazine, so I picked up more Goo Goos to try it out. Stay tuned on the blog for that baby!

In the early evening, we met up again and attended an awards ceremony. Doughboy

Here's where the Bake-Off was different from previous years.

Instead of announcing the million dollar winner, they announced the four finalists. That means that America will do the picking of the winner, which will be announced later this month on The Chew. Who will you vote for?

Find the finalists here.

u

After that, the evening wasn't done, because Nicole had found out there was a concert outdoors. So at close to midnight, me, Nicole of Baking Bites, and Ariel of The Kitchn went to see a Beiber-looking dude who sang country songs and made 13 year old girls scream. Hunter Hayes was the name, know it?

Then, it was time for bed. Glorious bed!

I awoke and had one final breakfast and press conference. After that, can you believe I did a painting in my hotel room? It's true.

Nashville painting

and finished it, too!

Nashville painting

Luckily since I had a few hours to kill before my flight, I met up with Lindsay again, and along with Amanda we visited Christie's Cookies.

Christie Cookie Co, Nashville

We also dropped by Antique Archeology, AKA the "American Pickers" store.

Pickers store

And Bang Candy, where those marshmallows had been from earlier in the post. 

Bang Candy

Then, it was time to go home. Here's what the sunset looked like from the plane, on my transfer in Atlanta. 

Sunset from plane - Atlanta

Whew! The Bake-Off was even more amazing than ever. I can't wait to see who wins!

Stay sweet! Love, CakeSpy

Tuesday
Nov112014

Bread with Corn and Avocado Honey

I need to tell you: my life is so totally sweet sometimes.

Like recently, I was contacted by the National Honey Board. It's true: I love the fact that I am someone who is contacted by the National Honey Board.

They asked if I'd like some cool honeys to sample and test out in my baking, and I guess you can surmise what my answer was. Yes! Of course! I love baking with honey. 

So they sent me this little package of some very interesting honeys...including buckwheat, tupelo, alfalfa, and AVOCADO HONEY. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Apparently these varietals refer to the plants which the bees buzzed around (that is my paraphrased version of what happens).

Honey and corn bread

Whoa!

Here they are, all in my hand. When is the last time you had a handful of honey? 

Honey and corn bread

Since I've been very into baking bread recently, I thought that using some of the honey as part of the recipe (and to top it, with butter) would be a fine idea. 

I wanted to try a bread with part ground corn, so I thought the avocado honey would be a nice complement.

So I mixed up my dough...

Honey and corn bread

of course, this included the honey...

Honey and corn bread

let it rise...

Honey and corn bread

and baked it up.

Honey and corn bread

Wow, my friends. I need to tell you that this was some of the nicest bread I've ever put in my mouth, and I've eaten my fair share of carbohydrates.

Honey and corn bread

The mix of whole wheat and corn flour gave it a nutty yet lightly sweet flavor, and it had just a touch of a nubbly texture to keep things interesting. I can't say I tasted any soupcon of avocado-ness per se, but the honey definitely had a complex and rich flavor.

Honey and corn bread

When topped with a pat of butter that melted instantly because the bread was still warm from the oven, and a dab of more avocado honey, it was just perfect. 

As a topping, the avocado honey was very interesting. It was almost like molasses honey--it was heavy and rich, but without the slight bitterness nature of molasses. Smoother. If you enjoy tasting different honey varietals (I do, it turns out!) this one is definitely worth seeking out.

Oh, and here's that bread recipe. Lucky you!

Bread with corn (not corn bread)

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Yield: 1 large loaf 

  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (1 packet)
  • 1 tablespoon honey (I used avocado honey)
  • 2 teaspoons salt (I got all fancy and used lavender rosemary salt)
  • 3 tablespoons soft butter
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup coarse grind cornmeal (I used Bob's Red Mill)

 Procedure

  1. Combine the water and yeast. Once the yeast begins to bubble lightly, proceed.
  2. Mix all of the remaining ingredients with the yeast mixture in the order listed.
  3. Knead, either by hand with a dough scraper or with a stand mixer, until it has progressed past a shaggy texture to a solid, slightly sticky mass. This can take up to 5 minutes by hand; less when using a mixer. It will never quite take on the smooth elasticity of the honey-wheat variation of this bread, but the extra moisture is necessary as the whole grains will absorb it. Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover it, and let it rise at room temperature until it’s quite puffy and doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
  4. Gently deflate the dough with your hand (a gentle pressing, not a knockout punch), and shape it into a fat 9″ log (it may still be slightly sticky; I used lightly oiled hands). Place it in a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
  5. Cover the pan, and let the dough rise for 2 hours or even overnight, or until it has formed a crown which extends 1 inch or slightly more over the rim of the pan. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F. 
  6. Bake the bread uncovered for 20 minutes. Tent it lightly with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until it is golden brown on top, and when knocked lightly, yields a slightly hollow sound.
  7. Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out onto a rack to cool. When completely cool, wrap in plastic, and store at room temperature. 

Bread with butter and honey: what could be finer?

Tuesday
Nov112014

Illustration Friday: Paper

Better than on paper

What's better than drawing on paper? Drawing on a pony! I did this illustration as part of the Illustration Friday series. 

Saturday
Nov082014

Can You Ship an Ice Cream Cone?

I've always wondered about this, and maybe you have, too: can you ship an ice cream cone in the mail?

The obvious answer is no. Ice cream melts quickly, is highly perishable, and would likely arrive as a puddle. When regular carton ice cream is shipped, it's packed all crazy in dry ice, a shipping method which isn't quite as accessible as popping a stamp and dropping an envelope in a box.

But still. I wanted to know...how would an ice cream cone arrive? 

So, in the name of science, I decided to do a little shipping experiment.

I shipped myself an ice cream cone in the mail.  

First, I assembled materials: I printed a shipping label (I shipped to myself), got a padded envelope and airtight bag, and got in the car.

Next, I went to the closest ice cream shop, which happened to be Baskin-Robbins, where I picked up a scoop of mint chocolate chip. With sprinkles, because, well, rainbows!

This cone never saw what was coming.

Then, I performed the following steps, which you can see in photo form: I packed the cone in the airtight bag, gently forcing excess air out, and sealed it. I folded it over and put the cone in the envelope, which I then sealed. I approached the mailbox with trepidation. Would this work? The package felt cold in my hand. 

The very next day (which is impressive because as odd as it sounds, in Santa Fe the mail goes to Albuquerque to be sorted then comes back) I had a special arrival. It still felt cold, but I think this was just because it was a cold day. The envelope felt pretty much the same, if a bit thinner.

When I opened it up, here is what I found:

Ice cream cone massacre!

Although actually, that having been said, it wasn't as bad as I had feared. I had feared a lightly green dripping mess arriving in a soggy envelope. This was actually pretty tame, and the cone held its shape way better than I would have thought.

After considering it for a few moments, I put the entire bag in the freezer, aligned just so, so that the ice cream could pool in one portion of the bag and re-solidify.

At this particular moment, it's still in the freezer, and I'm pondering eating it. I know it got warm then cold again, but I am alarmingly not scared of bacteria, eating cookie dough willy-nilly and cake batter with a vengeance, and I haven't died yet. 

Would you eat this ice cream cone after it had been mailed?

Saturday
Nov082014

Awesome Alert: Pancakes Stuffed with Bacon

Bacon stuffed pancakePancakes. Bacon. Some things are just better together. While these two practically perfect foods have been sharing real estate on breakfast plates for years, they’re typically prepared separately. Declare an end to this division by bringing them together in one delicious dish with this recipe for bacon pancakes.

 

Read the full post here. 

Saturday
Nov082014

Pillsbury Bake-Off Finalists: Which Gets Your Vote?

So, in case you missed the news, I attended the 47th Pillsbury Bake-Off last week. Woo!

I will have a full roundup of that adventure for you shortly, my dears, but in the meantime I had to share some important news about the event.

This year, things were a little different. Instead of announcing the million dollar winner, they announced four finalists, which had been narrowed down by a set of esteemed foodie judges. While the judges' input will count for 55% of the final tally, the final winner will be decided by online vote. 

That's right: you could have a say in who wins the million dollars! VOTE HERE.

Meantime, though, let me better educate you on the recipes in the final running.

First, we have Chocolate Doughnut Poppers.

They're made with crescent dough, which is stuffed with chocolate hazelnut filling and finished with a sweet glaze and nuts on top.

Next up: Peanutty Pie Crust Clusters.

These addictively sweet-and-salty treats are made with a melange of peanuts, pie crust, toffee, and white chocolate. 

Peanutty pie crust clusters

And then, venturing into savories, creamy corn-filled stuffed peppers.

Peppers are stuffed with creamy corn and then rolled in crescent dough--very cute. 

And then another savory: Cuban-style sandwich pockets.

Visually, sort of like cuban sandwich meets pop-tart. I say that as high praise. 

Vote for your favorite here!

Friday
Nov072014

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

Square scoops of ice cream? Believe it. (Cinners and Squares)

Listen to an interview with me on an eating disorder recovery podcast! (Recovery Warriors)

In case you missed it: the most beautiful blog post ever. (Culinary Concoctions by Peabody)

Butternut blondies with white chocolate chunks (Whole Foods; I found it via Vanilla Sugar)

Easy and elegant chocolate garnishes (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

Food encompasses human struggle and happiness. An interesting read. (Arizona Daily Star)

How to make sandwich bread. (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

Junk food brownies. These are brilliant. (Love and Olive Oil)

Pumpkin Spice Butterscotch Sprinkle cupcakes. Every word is so right! (Picky Palate)

Paint the rainbow: explore color theory, adorably. (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

Homemade honeycomb ice cream. If you don't know what that is, it's worth discovering. (Giramuk's Kitchen)

What is "urban sketching" and how do you do it? Find out here. (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

Looking for a cool contest? Check out Perugina's Chocolate Dessert Contest. (Perugina)

Back in stock: the best holiday card ever! (See what it is here)

I don't know if you already knew, but I'm on instagram. User name: cakespyblog (it's a long story why I don't have the "cakespy" one; deal with it!)

Book of the week: You Can't Judge a Cookie by Its Cutter: Make 100 Cookie Designs with Only a Handful of Cookie Cutters. What the title promises, the book certainly delivers: you'll learn how to make many types of clever cookies with a small selection of cookie cutters. Check out a more full review (which is what initially intrigued me!) on InStyle.

Thursday
Nov062014

Simple, French, Perfect Tarte au Citron, or Lemon Tart

Lemon tart - Maria Zihammou

When I went to Paris, I learned once and for all that there is a difference between the tarte au citron (lemon tart) and its American cousin, Lemon bar. What is the difference? Well, the tartes are French, and therefore slightly better in every way. Here's how you make them. This lovely recipe is excerpted from French Bistro: Restaurant-Quality Recipes for Appetizers, Entrées, Desserts, and Drinks.

PS: want to read more about my overseas adventures? Here's a roundup of my last trip to Paris.

French Bistro Maria Zihammou

Lemon tart

Lemons are always in my kitchen at home—a favorite ingredient that I just can’t do without. They have a wonderful, fresh sourness that’s lovely in a creamy tart that might otherwise be too heavy and sweet. Delightfully delicious, citrusy lemon tart that simply melts in your mouth. Mmm. . .

6-8 people

dough

  • 7 tbsp (100 g) butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups (350 ml) wheat flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp cold water

filling

  • 5 eggs, preferably organic
  • 4 organic lemons
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • ½ cup (100 ml) whipping cream
  • ½ cup (100 ml) granulated sugar
  • powdered sugar, for decorating
  • whipped cream, for serving, optionally

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Start by making the dough. Mix the butter, flour, egg yolk, powdered sugar, and water. Knead together with a light touch to form a smooth dough. Press out the dough in a spring-form pan, about 9½ inches (24 cm) in diameter. Pre-bake the crust for about 10 minutes until it’s a light golden color. Take it out and let it cool.

  2. Meanwhile, make the filling: whisk together the eggs in a bowl. Squeeze in the juice from the lemons, and grate 1 tbsp of lemon zest into the bowl. Add the whipping cream and sugar, then whisk thoroughly.

  3. Fill the cooled crust with the lemon cream and cook the tart for about 30 minutes, until the cream has set and feels a bit firm. Allow the tart to cool, and decorate it with the powdered sugar. Good on its own, or with whipped cream.

Excerpted with permission from French Bistro: Restaurant-Quality Recipes for Apetizers, Entreés, Desserts, and Drinks by Maria Zihammou. Photography by Åsa Dahlgren. Copyright 2014, Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

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