Posts Tagged 'neighbors'

Pipe Dream #166: To Berry Binge on a Budget – Healthful Wild Berry Cakes

wild berry 5

Hi, lovely, arty amalgamation. I remember you.

I did so mean to post this post ages and years ago. Like, back in the summer. It’s cool, though, I made these with frozen berries, which are readily-available year-round. Frozen berries are actually a super good deal, money-wise. Rather than paying $8 a carton for strawberries in midwinter reserved for special occasion, you can buy huge bags of frozen berries and eat them at will. Berry-bingeing on a budget, s’what I’m all about, obviously.

wild berry 2

I made these for our new neighbors. And heaven knows, when one gets new neighbors, one never knows how health-conscious they are, or if they have allergies. While I stopped short of making these gluten-free, I did dial back the sugar a bit. And besides the frosting, which you can omit if you want to go the muffin-route, these are dairy-free too!

I recently decided that being lactose-intolerant would be just as disruptive in my life as being gluten-intolerant. Apparently you can still develop it in your 30s and 40s. Let’s pray that doesn’t happen. I want MELK.

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Because I was experimenting a little with the sugar in this recipe, I think they turned out a little tough. Not awful, but not the lightest cake experience I’ve ever had, or that my neighbors have likely had. It definitely could be the general recipe though. For some reason, I have trouble trusting recipes that come out of books. I think I’ve read so many food blogs that I need 100 reviews on a recipe so I know it is the best one. Ditto on old family recipes. I trust those.

wild berry 1

wild berry 4

Worth a shot if you want a fun breakfast option. If you want a really good cupcake, though, I suggest these. Or these. I can say that, right?


Wild Berry Cakes

Adapted from 500 Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen mixed berries

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons berry jam

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

4 cups powdered


extra berries for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place 12 cupcakes liners in a muffin tin. If you want to go mini like me, you could try 24 or more mini cupcakes.

In a food processor, puree 1 1/2 cups of the berries. Mash the reserved berries a bit with a fork, and set aside. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil and eggs, then whisk in the pureed berries. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined, then fold in the reserved mashed berries.

Spoon the batter into the liners. Bake for 20 minutes, checking for doneness at 15 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

To frost, beat butter until cream. Add powered sugar, one cup at a time, beating until well-combined. Drizzle in milk, maybe a tablespoon or two, until the desired consistency is reached. Stir in the berry jam, then spread on cooled cupcakes. Top each with a berry or two.

Pipe Dream #155: To Doctor It Up – Chocolate Frangelico Lava Cakes

I tried really hard with these. Company’s coming, and I wanted to do something nice. Plus, I had a bottle of Frangelico burning a figurative hole in my figurative pocket where I keep Frangelico.

This recipe is a wonderful example of a life lesson that is not commonly taught in elementary school: Sometimes, our best effort is actually not good enough. And that is ok.

I looked at probably dozens of recipes, finally settling on a Food Network recipe that I altered. Overthinking is clearly not a problem.

And then, after all that thinking, I overbaked them, which is the complete opposite of the point of a gooey, luscious lava cake.

And lava cakes, on their best day, really are fab, so you should try these sometime, at least in a restaurant.

In order to compensate for what turned out to be a somewhat dense but flavor-light cake, I doctored it up with fat, nuts, and sugar.

So what might have been a total disappointment, ended up being all right Plus, we were having frangelico drinks, too, so that might have helped matters.

No worries,


Chocolate Frangelico Lava Cakes

Adapted from

4 ounces good quality semisweet chocolate (not chocolate chips, mind)

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter

2 cups powdered sugar

4 eggs

1 tablespoon Frangelico

Whipped cream, chocolate sauce, powdered sugar, toasted hazelnuts, etc. for serving (optional)

To toast hazelnuts (if using), throw them in a pan over medium high heat, stirring frequently until the dark skins loosen. Let cool on a paper towel, then rub the skins away, and give the naked nuts a rough chop. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Generously spray eight small ramekins with nonstick spray, and place on a baking sheet.

Heat the chopped chocolate and butter in a large glass bowl resting over a pan of boiling water until butter is melted. Whisk until the chocolate is completely melted, then whisk in the sugar. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Stir in the Frangelico and then the flour.

Divide batter evenly among the prepared ramekins, about 2/3 full, or a bit more. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until sides are firm but centers are soft. Let stand 1 minute.

Invert cakes onto dessert dishes and top with a little more Frangelico, whipped cream, powdered sugar, chopped hazelnuts and chocolate syrup. Serve immediately.

Pipe Dream #129: To Psychiatrize Yeast – Brioche Hamburger Buns

My mum has this thing about yeast. They’re not friends. I mean, they’ve had a few interactions over the years, but it’s always been at arms’ length, really, and it hasn’t always been the most positive of experiences. I’m just an outside observer, so I don’t know all the emotional ins-and-outs and finger-pointing that has gone on, but I don’t really get it.

Since the day I made a brioche at age 12, we’ve gotten along fine. There have only been a couple of instances where yeast has flaked on me, but it was probably just a passive aggressive reaction to me putting the heat on. It takes two to tango, they say.

As it happens, my mother is a pretty competitive person, especially when it comes to burgers. She learned how to make them in the Old Country, er, Canada. When the neighbors announced that they were having a burger competition, she jumped at the chance to show off her skills.

But what to pair with a beautiful BLT turkey burger with homemade ranch? Heaven knows she wasn’t going to buy your average white hamburger buns from Cub, not with me in the house. So after wheedling her way into my affections (Our conversation: “Hey Lo, wanna make some hamburger buns for me?” “Sure!”), I became an enabler once more. That is, I enabled her to produce an outstanding burger while also enabling her to avoid her yeast pseudo-friend once again.

I’m calling it baby steps. Someday she will see that yeast is all right. It is not as high maintenance as she makes it out to be. Until then, you should make these. They are really tasty.

I’m being repressed,


Light Brioche Burger Buns

Adapted from Comme Ça restaurant in Los Angeles, via the New York Times via smitten kitchen

Makes 8 4 to 5-inch burger buns

3 tablespoons warm milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups bread flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Sesame seeds, dried thyme, poppy seeds or sea salt, for garnish

1. In a glass measuring cup, combine one cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one egg.

2. In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add butter and rub into flour between your fingers, making crumbs. Using a dough scraper, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Scrape dough onto a floured surface and knead, scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. The dough will be sticky, but that is a good thing. Don’t want tough buns.

3. Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, one to two hours.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using dough scraper, divide dough into 8 equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange two to three inches apart on baking sheet. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap lightly coated in nonstick spray and let buns rise in a warm place for one to two hours. (I needed about one hour, but I let it go a bit longer.)

5. Set a large shallow pan of water on oven floor. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in center. Beat remaining egg with one tablespoon water and brush some on top of buns. Sprinkle with chosen garnish (I liked the thyme best), if using. Bake, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Pipe Dream #16: To Love My Neighbor, Revisited – Rhubarb Meringue Tart

We-he-ell, if that ain’t the nicest, smoothest, most grain-free meringue you ever did see. (Lauren 3 Meringues 2). Seriously, this is the nicest meringue I have ever made. It’s appropriate that the first recipe I made out of the Great British Bake Off cookbook should turn out so well. It works on paper (like Communism) and in my stomach (unlike Communism).

Before I continue, I am just going to tell you a little life story. Upon my return from England, I found two new items in my parents’ kitchen that have brought me endless delight and have contributed enormously to the ease of my kitchen life. One is the $7 bottle of truffle oil that my mum bought, unaware of the deep appreciation for truffles that I acquired in Europe. The other is this little scale she bought, unaware that I would need to measure out dozens of different recipe ingredients from English recipes. It makes nearly every aspect of my life more exact and digitized. The lesson learned here is this: Keep doing things. Maybe you will bring someone endless delight sometime.

We had a little neighborhood barbeque, and I had some strawberry rhubarb compote to use up, so I decided to take a stab at shortcrust pastry. Luckily, this one gave me no trouble and was surprisingly short to prepare. One of my neighbors is gluten intolerant, so I made her a little mini dish full of the strawberry rhubarb filling and meringue so she could partake of the awesome.

The meringue calls for golden sugar (I think I used white instead), which potentially would make the meringue brown up a little more golden than mine did. I left if in the oven a titch too long. Don’t be like me.

And now for a bit of wisdom I picked up this year: Always cut huge pieces/put out extra cookies for males. That way, they don’t have to feel guilty about taking seconds, which they almost always desire. Just another way to love your neighbor. We could even take this a step further and say “Love your neighbor as yourself,” but I don’t want to be accused of advising the blogging community give themselves extra dessert.

On the other hand, of course I do. And besides, this is meringue we’re talking about. Go ahead and slice it up big, friends.




Strawberry Rhubarb Meringue Tart

Adapted from The Great British Bake Off

For the tart crust:
400g/14oz plain flour
250g/9oz cold butter, cut into cubes
100g/3½oz icing sugar
1 heaped tsp ground ginger
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
For the filling:
2kg/4lb 8oz rhubarb (I used half rhubarb, half strawberries)
225g/8oz caster sugar
2 oranges, zest only
For the meringue:
8 free-range eggs whites
400g/14oz golden caster sugar
4 tsp cornflour

1. Grease a 30cm/12in loose-bottomed tart tin.
2. To make the pastry, sift the flour into a large bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the icing sugar and ground ginger, mix thoroughly then add the beaten eggs and just enough cold water to form a dough.
3. Turn the dough onto a floured board, knead gently into a smooth ball then roll the pastry out and use it to line the tart tin. Prick the base with a fork, line with foil and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, make the filling. Preheat the oven to to 150C/300F/Gas
2. Cut the rhubarb into 5cm/2in lengths and place in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with the sugar and orange zest then cook, uncovered, in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until the rhubarb is just tender but still holding its shape. Increase oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.
5. Add baking beans to the tart case and bake blind for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and the beans and return the tin to the oven for about eight minutes or until pale golden-brown. Remove the tin from the oven and increase the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 .
6. For the meringue, place the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk until they form soft peaks. Gradually add half the sugar, whisking all the time, then fold in the cornflour and remaining sugar and whisk until the mixture is smooth and glossy.
7. To assemble the pie, fill the tart case with the rhubarb, standing the pieces on end. Pile most of the meringue on top of the pie, keeping enough back to then pipe pointy peaks over the surface. Bake in the less than 30 mins preparation time 1 to 2 hours cooking time

Pipe Dream #16: To Love My Neighbor – Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

In the typical suburban neighborhood, people string up Christmas lights, walk their dogs and bring you fruitcakes bi-weekly. In my neighborhood, I’m lucky if my neighbors don’t blast gangster rap at 2 am and leave beer bottles strewn in my yard.

That being said, I will miss living here when I graduate. There is the east-facing yellow room with the yellow table that was full of beautiful light every morning. It provided endless quiet moments and cake-scapes for me.

Mostly, I will miss the people though. I made some really decent friends in college. I don’t even want to get into it now, because they deserve lots of posts on their own.

However, I would like to mention a rather shafted group of people that I came to know during my time here. I call them The C.O. Boys On The Corner.

They were not loud, inconsiderate neighbors who did drugs so that all my clothes now smell like the 60s. They were not dog-walkers or creepy old men with Hummers that blocked half my driveway on weeknights.

No, these were a bunch of polite, smiling, sweet boys who ate whatever my roommates and The Downstairs Girls and the 818 Boys couldn’t eat. Basically, every two weeks or so, they got a mish mash of all the “leftovers” pumping out of our apartment. I think they liked it, and I definitely appreciated having a cookie-swallowing abyss so conveniently located.

Sick! I just realized that 20 people couldn’t eat everything I bake. Ah well, it helped me to be a good neighbor, in a Golden Era kind of way.

These chocolate mint cupcakes were the only thing I ever made for them in a full batch. I was feeling guilty that I didn’t bring them the firstfruits of my labor, which is probably irrational. I used my standard one-bowl chocolate cake recipe and added mint extract for the cake. This recipe doesn’t always make for perfectly domed cupcakes, but it is quick, easy, and is extremely convenient when I have no butter on hand or forget to soften it beforehand.

I forget what I did for frosting. It was a quick buttercream, so 4 cups powdered sugar, 2 sticks butter, and  mint extract to taste should do it. Maybe a bit of milk thrown in for good measure. I seem to remember testing the frosting a bunch of times and always thinking that it needed more mint.

You too can be a good Mrs. Cleaver this week. At best, the dog-walkers will skip to the next house before letting their dog fertilize your yard. At worst, they will reject your cupcakes and you can eat them all yourself. At worst.

Your Samaritan friend,


One-Bowl Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

Adapted from Martha Stewart (Or her cronies, more likely. There is no way that woman could produce all the content for her website. It is inconceivable.)

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons safflower oil (or vegetable or canola oil)
2 teaspoons mint extract, or to taste

Preheat oven to 350º F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners; set aside. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

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