bay laurel pound cake

When I first visited San Francisco, I was walking down a shady little avenue somewhere and looked up. I was under a fragrant canopy of trees, all with dark, shiny green leaves I recognized as bay laurel. Amazing! My whole life I’d only seen those leaves preciously packed in small glass jars in the spice aisle, and here were literally millions of them just growing wild on the street.

At the time, I had a 4-inch pot in my apartment back home containing a struggling wisp of a bay laurel plant. It was a sickly skinny stick with maybe a handful of leaves on it when I bought it. One by one, the leaves withered away and then the plant died. I tried a few more times to grow my own little tree as a houseplant, each time while living in various places that had lots of things going for them but for the unfortunate lack of a Mediterranean climate.

I’ve since learned that the plant I was trying to grow was the not Umbellularia californica I saw in abundance in that state, but Laurus nobilis - same species, different variety. Both kinds thrive in the kind of climate where olives, rosemary and artichokes also thrive (as I’m absolutely sure I would, too).  [Read more...]

lemon ricotta cake with mascarpone

lemon ricotta cake with mascarpone

I’ve been in my basement sorting through boxes of books; hundreds of them.

Which ones are keepers and which go bye-bye? My mission is to downsize and it’s no time to get sentimental…

I’m approaching the task as if purging a closet – keeping the classics and moving on from the rest: if a cookbook hasn’t been cracked open in more than 3 years, out it goes. It gets tricky though, when the temptation to browse strikes. There was a reason a book made it into the pile in the first place; all it takes is a little reminder — hold on, don’t I need this recipe for Double Chocolate Angel Food Cake…that food memoir of the British Raj, those well-researched words on the world history of wine??

lemon ricotta cake with mascarpone

It seems easier to resist volumes that speak loudly of culinary moments in time, the ones that turned into passing trends. Like a pair of high-waisted jeans, books that call for blackening Cajun-spiced fish Must Get Donated.

The Julia Childs, Marcella Hazans, Elizabeth Davids — stay. They’re the equal of a vintage Chanel handbag you hand down, timeless and essential. I don’t have a Chanel bag, but I have a pair of faded Levi’s jeans I wore in high school — high-waisted and all —  that my teenage daughter now wears. She thinks they’re the coolest thing ever.  [Read more...]

pistachio crumbly cake

pistachio crumbly cake from Modena

My daughter and her friend began to make this cake disappear one afternoon, tearing off pieces with their hands, letting the crumbs fall down to where the dog was waiting, eager to take on the role of floor-polisher.

Whacanacakeshis?”

Although I think my kids should be long past the stage of being wary of nuts in and around their food – they don’t have allergies or anything else to cause worry – they still hesitate before taking a sample of any cake, cookie or other sweet baked thing with clear nut visibility.

pistachio crumbly cake sbrisolona

Apparently this cake seemed appealing despite that slight defect, because half of it was gone before I could reply.

“It’s like a coffee cake…”

“Oh, yeah. I like coffee cake, but this looks kinda flat. Are you sure it’s a coffee cake?”

“It’s an Italian coffee cake, not puffy like the ones you’re used to. You like it?”

“Yahmmmmm…”

This is my take on sbrisolona, Italian crumb cake. Most traditional ones are made with almonds or pine nuts like this one from Mario Batali, but I wanted to use pistachios, so here you go.

It turns out properly crumby, not like a dry cookie but a slightly sticky crumble.

pistachio crumbly cake

pistachio crumbly cake

Yield: one 9-inch cake

This cake is prepared entirely in a food processor before baking. It keeps very well on your kitchen counter for a few days, if it lasts that long.

Ingredients

  1. For streusel:
  2. ½ cup shelled pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
  3. 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  4. ¼ cup granulated sugar
  5. 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  6. 2 tablespoons melted butter
  7. For cake:
  8. 1 cup shelled pistachios, toasted
  9. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  10. ¾ cup granulated sugar
  11. 1 teaspoon ground anise seed
  12. ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  13. ½ teaspoon baking powder
  14. 2 eggs
  15. 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  16. ¼ cup melted butter
  17. Grated zest from 1 lemon

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees and lightly brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with olive oil or melted butter.
  2. To make the streusel, stir together all ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Grind the pistachios in a food processor until fine crumbs form; add the flour, sugar, anise seed and baking powder and pulse to combine.
  4. Whisk together the eggs, olive oil, butter and lemon zest until emulsified; add to the flour mixture in the food processor and blend just until the batter is smooth, about 30 seconds.
  5. Spread batter into the pan and top evenly with the streusel. Bake 25 – 30 minutes; the cake should spring back to the touch.
  6. Cool cake on a rack 10 – 15 minutes before removing sides of the pan; allow cake to cool completely.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/05/pistachio-crumbly-cake/