Archive for March, 2011

Blueberry pancakes

a nice little saturday

At this point you’re all aware of my love for Clinton Street Bakery. A few weeks ago, I came across the recipe for their famous Blueberry Pancakes and posted it immediately to give everyone an opportunity to test it out while I awaited the perfect weekend for this decadent breakfast.

That day was last Saturday. The only thing that kept me going during my 2.5 hour morning workout with Alti at Gold’s Gym (torture! But, well worth it), was the thought of enjoying a beautiful pancake breakfast…

Unfortunately, by the time I returned home, I felt like a could barely walk never mind whip up a fresh batch of pancakes with a smile on my face all the while documenting my cookery for this blog. Nevertheless, I did it successfully, barely paying attention and exhausted. For that reason, no one should be scared to try this recipe. It’s easy and more than worth the minimal effort required.

hot griddle

dry ingredients

pancake batter (sans whipped egg whites)

egg whites, soft peaks

egg whites being folded into the batter

pancakes on the griddle

These pancakes are thick and fluffy with a crispy brown butter shell. I don’t have the maple butter that completes this meal at the restaurant, but I did have lots of blueberries, fresh crushed walnuts, powdered sugar and 100% pure maple syrup. That combination worked just fine.

blueberry pancakes dusted in powdered sugar and topped with fresh walnuts

I would highly recommend these pancakes for your next relaxing weekend.  I love them with, or without walnuts cooked inside the pancakes. Here’s the full recipe.


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Bakesale for Japan - April 2, 201

What happened in Japan is truly heartbreaking.  It will take endless time, energy and funds to help the millions of people that have been impacted by this tragedy.  Although it may seem far away, there are so many ways you can help in your local community.  Here is your chance!

On Saturday, April 2, 2011, a national bake sale will be hosted in cities across the country to raise funds for Peace Winds Japan, a sister of the Peace Winds America relief organization that specializes in disaster preparedness and response in the Asia Pacific.  100% of the money raised will go to ground relief–things like medical and sanitary supplies, blankets and clothing, and as available, long-term reconstruction.

Next Saturday, NYers can head to Brooklyn Flea, where hundreds of baked goods will be available for sale.  Stop by, pick up a delicious cookie or brownie and help us raise money for those in need.

Speaking of sweets…does anyone have suggestions for what I should bake / contribute for the Brooklyn Flea bake sale?  The only rules are that it needs to be individually packaged in bags or boxes, so some type of bar, cookie or brownie might work best.  Any ideas??

See you there!

Japan flag

Bake Sale for Japan – April 2, 2011

Where: At locations across the country! At The Brooklyn Flea in NYC – 176 Lafayette Ave. (btw. Clermont + Vanderbilt Ave.)

When: Saturday, April 2nd from 10am-2pm

Who: Professional and amateur bakers, cooks, artists, artisans, and musicians coming together around food to make something BIG happen.

How: Want to help?  They need bakers, artists, volunteers, and lots and lots of customers.  Please send offers of help to NYCbakesale@gmail.com

Why: So we can donate BIG BUCKS to Peace Winds Japan

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It’s nearly St. Patrick’s Day, and if you ask me, nothing is better than a deep, dark, beer-filled cake to celebrate a patron saint of Ireland!

My sister Jocelin found this recipe for me years ago.  Neither of us can remember where she found it, but it references Kells, a legendary Irish Pub in Portland, Oregon, that makes a single layer version of this recipe.

I first made this cake as a Thanksgiving dessert that year and have perfected the recipe since then. My one piece of advice is do not make the mistake of substituting a different beer in place of Guinness. The flavor won’t be the same.

I recommend enjoying this alongside Bailey’s over ice or a neat glass of Jameson. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Sláinte!

Guinness Stout chocolate cake

Guinness Stout Chocolate Layer Cake
makes one double layer 8- or 9-inch round cake
serves 16

Drizzling syrup

2/3 cup Guinness Stout (always measure after the foam has subsided)
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
6 tbsps unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsps vanilla extract

Guinness Stout cake
cooking spray
2/3 cup Guinness Stout
1/3 cup, plus 2 tbsps unsweetened cocoa powder
2 oz semi-sweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 3/4 cups, plus 2 tbsps sugar
2 cups, plus 2 tbsps all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsps of vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsps of baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Bittersweet icing
2 1/4 cups heavy cream
9 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 3/4 tbsps of confectioner’s sugar
6 3/4 tbsps of unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/4 tsps vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup chopped walnuts, optional

To make the syrup
Combine all syrup ingredients in a small, heavy saucepan, whisking until smooth. Heat over medium heat, until sugar dissolves and syrup is smooth. Transfer syrup to a bowl and set aside to cool. Once cool, cover with plastic wrap at room temperature until ready to use.

To make the cake
Pour stout into a small saucepan over medium high heat. Whisk in 1/3 cup cocoa and bring mixture to a simmer. Remove from heat and add semisweet chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts. Cool for 5-10 minutes, then stir in buttermilk.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine 2 tbsps cocoa, 2 tbsps sugar and 2 tbsps flour in a small bowl. Coat two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray, then dust with cocoa mixture.

Beat butter with a mixer at medium speed until smooth, approximately 2 minutes. Gradually beat in 1 3/4 cups of sugar until well blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in vanilla extract.

Combine 2 cups flour with baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with chocolate mixture in three additions, stirring until blended (don’t worry if mixture looks curdled).

Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans. Bake 9-inch pans for 25-30 minutes and 8-inch pans for 35-40 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then invert on rack and cool completely.

To make the bittersweet icing
Bring cream to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl. When small bubbles form around the outside of the cream, remove pan from heat and pour boiling cream over chocolate. Let chocolate mixture sit for one minute, then whisk until chocolate melts completely and the mixture is thoroughly combined and smooth. Cover tightly and chill. Place clean beaters in the refrigerator at the same time to chill.

Once you’re ready to ice the cake, whip the chocolate mixture on medium until soft peaks form. Sift in confectioner’s sugar and cocoa and add vanilla and salt. Continue whipping until combined.

To put the cake together
Poke tops of cake layers with a skewer and generously spoon drizzling syrup over top of each cake layer. Place one layer on a platter and cover top with 1/4 of the bittersweet chocolate icing. Place second layer on top and ice top and sides of cake with the remaining icing. Press walnuts into sides of the cake, if desired.

Ashleey Margaret and I on St. Patrick's Day, 2006

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alice's tea

Post disclaimer: I love Alice’s Tea Cup. I think it’s an an adorable respite from the busy NYC streets that’s filled with fantasy, warmth and smiles.  Oh, and the food is fabulous too.

I used to work on the upper east side, a few blocks from the east 64th street location of Alice’s Tea Cup, which was when I became entranced with this hidden tea spot.  The scones were really the culprit.  I would leave my apartment early on Friday mornings to get a hot breakfast scone before work.  It’s so easy for scones to be dry, bland and crunchy and Alice’s scones are anything but. From nutella and strawberries to ham and cheese and white chocolate raspberry, they each have their own individual personality, shape and flavor and all are extremely moist and yummy. I also discovered their extensive range of teas, outstanding cupcakes and thoughtful brunch/lunch menus to be some of the best in the city.

Alas, I no longer work or live close to Alice, which is probably a good thing because my 27 year old body can’t quite handle the scone-a-week habit my 22 year old body could.  Today, my visits are few and far between, but I do still manage to climb to the upper east or west side for tea with Alice from time to time.

A recent trip to the west 73rd street location brought my scone memories back to life…

alice's scone menu

Similar to Seredipity, the shop itself is full of tea accessories, fairy wings and trinkets inspired by Alice in Wonderland.

alice's tea trinkets

Plus, the sweets themselves are front and center in the shop for an easy nibble if you’re waiting to be seated for brunch or lunch.

ginger molasses cookies

alice's cakes

And of course, all of the scones are on display…

alice's scones

I love Alice’s Tea Cup for brunch or lunch with the ladies, but the scones and cupcakes are also great to-go for a picnic in the park.  Anytime the chocolate chai cupcakes are available, get them!

For those of you that want the entire Alice’s Tea Cup experience, I would plan on at least a 90-minute wait.  The good news is that the hostess will take your phone number and call you when your table is ready, so it’s easy to leave the restaurant and go shopping or walk in nearby Central Park.

All of the scones at Alice’s are great (they just released a scone cookbook!), but the pumpkin is the most popular, for good reason.

pumpkin scone

The menu is filled with great choices too, and if you’re hungry, I’d recommend ordering a “Mad Hatter,” which allows you to try it all.  There are so many teas on the menu.  “Alice’s Tea” is a classic black tea with a hint of vanilla.  I rarely order anything else.

alice's tea cup

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Blueberry pancakes at clinton street baking company

Not only is today Fat Tuesday, it’s Pancake Tuesday!  Or as some Catholics may call it, Shrove Tuesday.  Pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent because it was a way to use up rich food products like eggs, milk and sugar before the fasting season began.  I’m not saying that I believe in Lent, or fasting for that matter, but I sure love an excuse to enjoy great pancakes.

As some of you may know, the best pancakes I’ve ever had are at Clinton Street Baking Company on the lower east side in Manhattan.  They are perfectly light and fluffy with a crisp finish.  It doesn’t hurt that they serve them with a housemade maple butter, which is a combination of maple syrup and butter whipped together and warmed.

Lucky for us, Clinton Street Baking Company has a fabulous brunch cookbook where they have shared the coveted pancake recipe.  As you will see, the secret to this recipe is the separately whipped egg whites that are gently folded into the batter to create a light and airy texture, similar to a souffle.

NEIL’S Pancakes
Clinton Street Baking Company
Makes eighteen to twenty 3-inch pancakes 

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder, plus 1 teaspoon
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
6 large eggs, separated
3 cups whole milk
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 2 teaspoons unmelted butter for the griddle
1 tsp vanilla extract
2½ cups blueberries or sliced bananas and 1 cup chopped walnuts
½ cup confectioners’ sugar or cinnamon sugar for dusting
Maple Butter

To make the pancakes

Measure and sift all the dry ingredients into a large (preferably stainless-steel) mixing bowl: flour, baking powder, sugar, salt.

In another bowl, whisk together the yolks, milk, melted butter, and vanilla until combined. Whisk the wet mixture into the dry mixture. The result should be slightly lumpy, yet combined to form a batter.

Whip the egg whites in a medium mixing bowl until they reach medium peaks (soft in the middle). You can either whip them by hand with a whisk, or put them in the bowl of an electric mixer to whip. Be careful, you don’t want to overwhip the egg whites.

Gently mix half of the whipped whites into the batter with a large rubber spatula. Then gently fold the remaining half into the batter. Remember: this batter should be slightly lumpy and have large parts of egg whites not fully incorporated; it should look like whitecaps in the ocean with foam on top. (The batter will last a few hours in the fridge without deflating too much.)

Heat a griddle — either an electric griddle, a stovetop griddle, or a big flat pan — to 350 to 375°F. Grease the hot griddle with the remaining butter. Drop cup (approximately 4 tablespoons) of pancake batter on the griddle and cook to set. Add 1 tablespoon blueberries or sliced bananas and 1 teaspoon walnuts before turning the pancakes. Never add the fruit to the mix; always add the fruit to the pancakes once they’re on the griddle. When you see bubbles start to form on top, lift the pancake halfway up to see if it’s golden brown and crispy on the edges. If ready, flip the pancake.

When the pancake is golden brown on both sides, remove with a spatula. Repeat with the remaining batter and filling, cooking several pancakes at a time. Garnish with confectioners’ sugar for the blueberry pancakes, cinnamon sugar for the banana-walnut. Serve warm with Maple Butter.

Common Mistake
Many cooks don’t heat the griddle enough, which is why the first pancake is usually a dud. Make sure it’s very hot, then put the butter on. A teaspoon or tablespoon is fine. Use just enough so that the pancake doesn’t stick.

To ensure that the whites whip up to maximum height, clean and dry all of your utensils. Also, when separating, be careful not to get any yolk into the whites.

Note About Peaks
Peaks are “soft” when you put your finger in the whites and they fall over. Peaks are “medium” when you put your finger in and they drip over a bit and stand up. “Stiff” peaks develop when you whip the whites longer and they stay up.

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sweet cupcake display

You may not be surprised to hear that when I travel, my plans revolve around eating, and drinking.

I was recently in Cambridge, MA, for the rocking American Lamb Jam and pre-event, spent a majority of Saturday gearing up for an amazing dinner at Russell House Tavern.  From a beautifully crispy duck leg confit to lamb cassoulet and a to-die-for charcuterie board, Russell House is a must for any Boston/Cambridge trip, but that’s another story for another day.

After we jammed out to lamb on Sunday, we had the perfect excuse to check out the local sweet scene on Monday.  It was my friend Frank’s birthday and every birthday boy needs a cupcake! I did some research on where to find a great cupcake in Cambridge, and thanks to some help from the Charles Hotel concierge, we hit the street to check out Sweet.

sweet cupcake menu

Named to “Boston’s Best” list by Improper Bostonian, this adorable cupcake shop is as clean cut as they come.  It’s nestled between quaint restaurants and cute boutiques just off Harvard Square, making it a convenient sweet stop while you’re checking out the sites. It has an extensive cupcake menu filled with typical flavors like red velvet, dark chocolate (see below) and carrot cake and a few unexpected gems such as bananas foster, macaroon and blueberry buttermilk pancake.

Like any great cupcakery, it offers both regular and mini cakes with lots of fluffy frosting for a decent price point of $3.25 (regular size).

cappucino cupcake

The Organic Carrot Cake was a favorite of mine with an extremely moist and flavorful cake and fun gold leaf atop the frosting.  I also really enjoyed the flavor of the cappucino cupcake, although the cake was a bit dry.

dark chocolate cake with vanilla bean frosting

If you’re looking for a basic way to experience this Sweet spot, I would recommend starting with the dark chocolate cake with vanilla bean frosting.  Perfection.

Frank and Erica

Happy Birthday Frank!

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