February 22, 2020

Portuguese Pantry

photos by Gao's Cabinets

I know this blog is about baking but I recently remodeled my walk-in pantry and was so happy with the results I wanted to share more details.  Let me start by saying the "before" pantry was such an absolute disaster zone that I cringe just thinking about it.  You literally could not walk through the room because it was crammed with things from floor to ceiling.  Last summer I got so fed up with the mess that I made the decision to redo the pantry.  I spent 4th of July weekend taking every single thing out and I assure you it was no small feat.  It wasn't until I saw everything laid out that I realized how much excess and waste I had contributed to - duplicates, even triplicates, of baking equipment or accessories!  Family, friends and Goodwill charity were the lucky recipients of my clear out.  

Once the pantry was completely empty I was then able to bring in my contractor and cabinet maker to help plan my dream room.  Straightaway I knew I wanted to incorporate azulejos, Portuguese ceramic tiles, in to the design.  Lisbon is one of my favorite cities in the world and I love the beautiful tiled buildings there.  (My phone is filled with dozens of pictures of them from my last two visits.)   After searching high and low I was finally able to find authentic tiles from a UK vendor called Everett and Blue.    

Once I had the tiles sorted everything else about the pantry design came together quite easily.  With tile sample in hand I set about designing the cabinets with my favorite custom cabinet makers, Gao's Cabinets.  I've worked with them before on my kitchen and laundry room so there was no question who I would use for the pantry.  If you're in the Bay Area I can't recommend them enough...they are a dream to work with.

When it came to the overall design of the pantry I had several objectives that were non-negotiable: 1) a place to display my baking and cooking equipment, 2) enough storage to hold all my crap and 3) overall peace and serenity.  For organization I turned to my gurus, The Home Edit.  I admit I'm a super fan and obsess over all the pictures they post on their Instagram account.  Their simple, clean aesthetic just speaks to the perfectionist Virgo in me.  

I hope you'll agree with me that the finished pantry was worth it.  I couldn't be happier with the results!!!


General Contractor: Ed Hauer Construction
Ceramic Tiles: Everett and Blue
Cabinets: Gao's Cabinets
Refrigerator: Whirlpool
Quartz Countertop: Caesarstone
Clear Storage Bins: Idesign
Clear Expandable Organizer: Idesign
Clear Lazy Susan: The Home Edit 
Peg Board: Lowe's 
Peg Board & Wall Color: Benjamin Moore "Alpine White" 
Trim and Picture Rail Wall Color: Benjamin Moore "Swiss Coffee"

February 15, 2020

Lisbon Chocolate Cake

How is it that Lisbon is one of my favorite cities in the entire world yet I never managed to try Landeau's chocolate cake on my previous visits?  Your guess is as good as mine but I could literally kick myself for this oversight.  Most likely my attention was more focused on the famous pastel de nata,  but you can't blame me for that.  I really do love them!

Luckily Dorie Greenspan has come to the rescue.  She fell in love with the famed chocolate cake and created a copycat recipe that was published in the New York Times.  One bite of this rich chocolate cake coupled with light and creamy mousse and I was hooked.  Another bonus?  It's gluten-free! Hopefully this homemade version will tide me over until my next visit to Portugal.

p.s. I absolutely loved all the gorgeous tiles in Lisbon so when I recently remodeled my pantry I had to incorporate Portuguese tiles in the design.  These are from Everett and Blue and I think they look fantastic. 

February 10, 2020

Strawberries & Cream Chiffon Cake

This is the second time I've made this Strawberries & Cream Chiffon Cake.  Yes, it's that good. The first time was on the occasion of my friend A's birthday at the end of January.  When I asked him what treat he wanted I was expecting his usual favorite, tiramisu, but not this time!  Last year his wife had gotten him a cake similar to this one from a local bakery so I took that as a challenge to make it myself.  I was so happy with how it turned out that I had to make another one for this blog. 

The chiffon cake is the real star of this dessert and one of the best that I've ever tasted.  One bite and the first thing that came to mind were the cakes you find in Chinese bakeries here in San Francisco, i.e., not too sweet, but soft, light and fluffy.  I got the recipe from my baking guru Stella Parks on Serious Eats.  If you haven't already tried one of Stella's recipes I highly encourage you to.  They are as close to baking perfection as you can get.

I couldn't think of a better companion to the chiffon cake than whipped cream.  Now this isn't your typical whipped cream; this one is mixed with cream cheese which provides stability to the frosting as well as a beautiful tang.   Perfection!

February 6, 2020

Donut Loaf

O-M-GEEEEE!  Such was the reaction with my first taste of this Donut Loaf.  Could it be real?  A cake that tasted like my all-time favorite donut?  No chance, right?  Boy, was I wrong!  You seriously won't believe how legit this cake tastes and it couldn't be easier to make.  Leave the donut shops to the cops because now you can make these beauties at home.

The recipe comes from Shauna Sever and is included in her awesome cookbook, Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland."   You can also find the recipe published online here.  One tip: be sure to use freshly grated nutmeg, it makes all the difference.

February 1, 2020

Football Onesie Cookies

My friend Jesse recently commissioned some decorated sugar cookie favors for her friend's baby shower.  The brief was pretty straightforward: the baby was a boy and the expectant parents were ardent football fans (Green Bay Packers to be exact).   A quick search on Pinterest yielded some really cute design ideas.  In the end I went with a onesie-shaped cookie decorated in baby blue royal icing with a football on the chest.   Aren't they just the sweetest thing?  I'm so happy with how they turned out.  Hope the cheeseheads like them too!

January 20, 2020

Year of the Rat Cookies

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!!   Happy Lunar New Year!!

January 25 marks the start of the Year of the Rat.  To celebrate I made these rat decorated sugar cookies.  No fancy cutter needed; I just used a heart one and royal icing to form the shape of the rat.  

Wishing you health, happiness and good fortune this year.

January 2, 2020

Raspberry Meringue

If you've ever been to Yotam Ottolenghi's eponymous restaurants in London then these Raspberry  Meringues will be no stranger to you.  You can't help but notice how the pink, billowy clouds of goodness stand out among all the other baked goods on display.  I distinctly remember being mesmerized by them the first time I visited the Westbourne Grove location many years ago.  Back then I never even bothered trying the meringues; call it a temporary lapse in judgement.  Now, years later, I'd finally gotten around to making a copycat version for myself and I was so pleased with the results.    

It all came about because I was in search of a dessert that was elegant, light and refreshing for a dinner I recently hosted. I had a ton of egg whites sitting in my fridge just waiting to be used and pavlovas immediately popped in to my head.  The meringue dessert topped with fresh whipped cream and berries sounded like just the ticket.

I turned to my friends at Cook's Illustrated and found their recipe for pavlovas.  As I was whipping up the Swiss meringue an image of Ottolenghi's fruity meringues popped in to my head.  Fortuitously I also had a bag of Trader Joe's freeze dried raspberries in my cupboard.   Bingo!  Combine the two and you get a very legitimate replica to the original.

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