Tarta de Santiago (Spanish Almond Cake)

Spanish Santiago Cake by A Little Yumminess

Santiago Cake_A Little Yumminess

This super traditional Spanish cake first caught my eye because of its short list of ingredients and the fact that it uses no flour, just finely ground almonds, as the base. Another example of how a couple of simple ingredients can transform themselves into something special. This cake is moist, deliciously not-too-sweet, delicate and crumbly which makes it great with a cup of coffee in the afternoon. Simran and I and our friend Rachel happy nibbled away on this during a recent afternoon of recipe testing… and the fact that I wasn’t nice enough to save any for my family to try will give you an idea of how much I liked it.

In addition to being a lovely accompaniment to afternoon coffee this is a cake also has a long history. It dates back to the 16th century where it has been enjoyed by Santiago locals and pilgrims making their way to the Cathedral of Santiago Compostel (the burial place of St. James, the patron saint of Spain.). This recipe also happens to be gluten-free which comes in handy as well. Continue reading

Our Very Favorite Biscotti

Classic Italian Biscotti by A Little Yumminess

Classic Anise Biscotti by A Little Yumminess

I have a little handwritten cookbook where I jot down recipes and details of tasty meals and if you were to flip through this little book you’d find that a contender for the most dog-eared page is the one that contains this biscotti recipe. I got the recipe from Tim’s grandmother who got it from her friend Ann, which means it has the “Italian nonna seal of approval” squared. I’ve made this recipe dozens and dozens of times and it has never failed to deliver perfect, dunkable biscotti which are wonderfully crisp but not so hard that you worry about breaking any teeth. They are great for little teethers, for grown up kids and especially for avid, obsessed coffee drinkers like myself. I love the classic anise flavor and never feel too compelled to experiment much beyond that, but it’s one of those recipes that can be a great canvas for improvisation which makes it a nice baking project for kids. Lend a hand with putting the basic dough together and then stand back and let the kids come up with their own creative (and hopefully delicious) dried fruit, nut and spice combinations…. I’m just guessing here, but I have a hunch Miss Ria’s biscotti concept would include a generous scattering of chocolate chips! Continue reading

An English Classic – Rhubarb Fool

Strawberry Rhubarb Fool - A Little Yumminess www.alittleyum.com

Sugared Rhubarb_Rhubarb Fool by A Little Yumminess

Rhubarb Fool - www.alittleyum.com

The other day we picked up a few stalks of rhubarb because they looked kind of inviting… but they’ve been kind of lingering, waiting for some inspiration to hit. Last year we experimented with strawberry-rhubarb galettes which were pretty tasty, but we got to wondering what else we could do. A little research led us to Rhubarb Fool, a classic English dessert and this article from the Guardian UK. I’ll admit that my knowledge of classic English desserts is pretty remedial, so it was fun reading up on the history of this simple dessert. Fruit fools date back the to 1700’s and are typically a combination of a sweet-tart fruit compote or puree folded into a light cream of some sort.

The Guardian article turned out to be a great overview of some of the common variations (i.e. using whipped cream, yogurt, or custard — baked or stewed fruit) and even included a recipe for the “perfect rhubarb fool”. This is about as easy as it gets when it comes to making a homemade dessert from scratch and as you can see from the snapshots below, this summery, creamy, fruity, cool dessert made for some very happy campers.

Rhubarb Fool

(adapted from this recipe from the Guardian UK — serves 6)

We used rhubarb and garnished with strawberries, but you could really substitute your favorite summer fruit. Adjust the proportion of cream and fruit to suit your family’s preferences.

  1. Chop 4 stalks of rhubarb into medium dice and toss with 3 Tablespoons of sugar. Saute fruit and sugar until tender (taste for sweetness, adding more sugar as desired). Drain cooked fruit, reserving the juice to use as a sauce. Let the cooked fruit cool.
  2. Whip 3/4 cup cream and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract. Then fold in 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt.
  3. Gently fold the cooled, cooked fruit into the cream and spoon into small cups. Chill until ready to serve.
  4. Spoon the reserved sauce over the top and garnish with fresh fresh fruit if you like.

animation

“Breakfast for Dessert” Sundae

It’s breakfast for dessert (sort of); it’s golden, caramelized bananas; it’s crunchy-sweet-salty nuggets of yum.  That’s what happens when your sweet tooth kicks in and you have a bag of honey-caramel krispies staring back at you. Most of the krispies made it to an ice cream social at 18 Reasons as a BYOT (bring your own topping ), but we strategically made sure to keep some “leftovers” around. And what didn’t end up being eaten in sneaky handfuls by every member of my family, ended up on these totally accidental, breakfast-inspired sundaes.  As for the bananas… my family lives by the rule that “everything is better with caramelized bananas”. I think we’ll put that one on a t-shirt!

In case you have any shred of doubt left, Luca’s happy face will tell you everything you need to know. Make this sundae!!

Honey-Caramel Rice Krispies

These will keep for a week in a tightly sealed container. In a pinch, I think you just might be able to get away with plain old rice krispies  right out of the box in place of these fancy honey-caramel ones. Or you could break up up some rice krispy treats next time you have some at hand. 

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 TBL unsalted butter
  • 3 TBL honey
  • big pinch of salt.
  • 1 3/4 rice krispies
  1. In a pan, combine sugar, butter, honey and salt. Give it a stir and then turn on the heat to medium. The trick from here is to not give into the temptation to stir the caramel as it’s melting. You can swirl the pan, but don’t stir with a spoon or your caramel can sieze up and crystallize. Don’t stir!
  2. You’ll see the butter and sugar melt and then start to turn golden and eventually amber. It takes some time (~20 minutes) so be patient.
  3. When you’ve achieved a beautiful caramel color, immediately remove from heat and drizzle the caramel over the rice krispies. Toss well with a spoon (use caution, it will be very hot so this is not a good project for kids). Spread the caramel on the krispies on a lightly greased cookie sheet (or on top of a silicone baking mat). When cool break apart.

Caramelized Bananas

  • Slice peeled bananas into quarters. Sprinkle the cut sides lightly with sugar.
  • Lightly butter a skillet and add the sugared bananas, cut side down. On medium-high heat, cook the bananas to warm them and caramelize the bottoms This should take about 5 minutes. And there’s no need to flip the bananas at all, just cook on the cut side.
  • The sugar can go from a lovely caramel to burned rather quickly, so check often by gently lifting a corner of a banana to see how they are coming along. They are perfect when their undersides turn a deep golden brown.

Clearly Luca is not the only ice cream fiend around here. Check out some of our other favorite ice cream delights:

Weekend Baking: Angel Food Cake with Fresh Summer Berry Sauce

Angel food cake has always been my cake of choice for birthdays…. I guess it’s the tallness of it, the pillowy-ness that intrigues me. And you have to love the name, right? As a kid I imagined angels riding around on puffy white clouds eating their cake with silver forks. Given that I have an August birthday and grew up in San Francisco, my birthday memories are mostly of fogged out swimming parties, misty picnics at the park, and receiving back to school supplies as gifts (ack!). But the angel food cake was always a high point.

My fondness for this cake makes sense given my general tastes in sweets. It really is the perfect dessert for us marshmallow fans and those of us who happily skip both the chocolate and the frosting. It turns out that angel food cake actually has a lot in common with a marshmallow. Both start with a base of whipped egg whites — for the cake you fold in flour, sugar and a few other bits and for the marshmallow you whip in sugar syrup. So there you go! As an adult, I can also now fully appreciate that angel food cake is a not-too-guilty dessert. With no yolks, oil or butter, it’s virtually fat free.

The angel food cakes of my youth probably came from a boxed mix, but it really is quite easy to make one from scratch. Once the egg whites are whipped with sugar, cream of tartar and vanilla, all that’s left to do is to fold in flour that you’ve sifted with salt. That’s it. I still think it’s magical how whipping plain old egg whites can transform them into gorgeous, glossy mini mountain tops and it’s this culinary magic trick that makes angel food cake-making so fun to do with kids. I bet your young bakers will be rather impressed (plus they get to use the mixer which is always fun). And once you’ve mastered the art of the egg white in this recipe it’s only a short journey to souffles, meringues, baked alaska and French macarons. Go for the souffle, Luca!

But let’s first start with a super pretty, no-cook, easy peasy berry sauce to drizzle on top. Along with some fresh fruit, this is all you need to serve your cake in style. This berry sauce, however, goes way beyond cake. Make a batch and I promise you will have no trouble thinking of things to swirl it on. We like to enjoy it with our oatmeal, pancakes, ice cream and fruit salad and this berry sauce is right at home in two of our favorite snacks, Luca’s favorite Pink Milk and Ria’s Granola Towers.

Fresh Berry Sauce

  • 2 cups fresh berries of your choice , washed and stems removed. (You can substitute other fruit like peaches, pineapple, mango. Frozen fruit is fine too)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon or more of your favorite jam
  • seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod (optional)
  1. Puree your berries, a tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt together in a blender or food processor. If needed, add another tablespoon of water to help get your puree started.
  2. Taste for sweetness, stirring in jam a spoonful at a time until the flavor works for you. Blend again for a few seconds to incorporate everything.
  3. Push the sauce through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl using a rubber spatula. This step is not necessary but will give you a fabulously smooth and seed-free sauce. If you want to splurge stir in some seeds scraped from a vanilla bean pod.
  4. Use a funnel to transfer sauce into a squeeze bottle and refrigerate until ready to use. It will keep several days. You can freeze sauce you are not using in the next week in an airtight container.

Classic Angel Food Cake

Our go-to for angel food cakes is Martha Stewart, so here’s a link to the full recipe and the how-to. But in the meantime these are the ingredients you will need as well as a few of our notes.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 12 egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

NOTES:

  • Separating your eggs:  To avoid any shells or yolks in your cake, separate your eggs one by one into a small bowl before transferring the whites to the large bowl you will use for the recipe. Even a bit of yolk can keep your whites from beating properly.
  • Soft vs. Stiff Peaks: Soft peaks will only sort of hold their shape when you dip a spoon into them and will be kind of floppy. For stiff peaks, when you dip a spoon into the egg white you should get a little peak that holds it shape well even when you turn your spoon upside down.
  • Don’t overbeat your egg whites: If your egg whites start to look dry instead of glossy stop immediately — overbeaten egg whites will not hold the air and will break down when you cook with them.
  • Using a tube pan: The cake gets it’s height because it is able to stick to the sides and center cone of the tube pan. The best option is a tube pan with a removable bottom (vs. a bundt pan or other shape). The straight sides will allow you run a knife along all the edges to release the cake.
  • Cooling the cake upside down: I always wondered about this. It turns out the inversion will keep your cake from shrinking and will keep it lighter. If your tube pan doesn’t have feet, you can invert it over a wine bottle.

You might also like: Leftover Cake Pops, Coconut Pound Cake, Cheesecake Flan, Super Easy Chocolate Cake, Instant Chocolate Cake in a Mug, Tres Leches Cake: Cheater’s Version

This kid, on the other hand, has no problem with the frosting.

A Sweet Trip Back in Time: The Ice Cream Bar, Cole Valley

We made countless drives past The Ice Cream Bar in Cole Valley (815 Cole Street, at Carl) while it was still under construction —  drooling and plotting our first visit. It opened this month and we finally got our chance to stop in for a banana split and a twirl on the counter stools. The 1930’s ambiance alone (think wood, chrome, servers clad in white hats and aprons) gets a big thumbs up from both me and the kids. If you love vintage, trust me… this will be up your alley. But the menu is pretty interesting too.

The ice cream has it’s hipster moments, but it’s very traditional compared to what you’ll find at other hot spots like Humphry Slocombe, Bi-Rite Creamery or Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous. They showcase a short list of flavors among which you’ll likely find versions of old favorites like vanilla, milk chocolate and pistachio. The ice cream is solid, but I think this is much more of a sitting at the counter and having a sundae kind of place. We looked no farther than the banana split because it combined three flavors of ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, tart cherry), hot fudge, butterscotch, tart cherries with syrup, whipped cream and toasted almonds. The best part was definitely the caramelized banana which the gal behind the counter bruleed to order, and it was all served up in a perfectly old fashioned stainless steel footed dish with long handled spoons. I can’t remember the last I had a banana split and in these days of olive oil splashed sundaes and bacon brittle, it was a nice return to the classics.

So you can go old school with the ice cream, but you can go, really, really old school at the soda fountain in back with turn of the century style sodas, frappes, phosphates, malts and the like. Their huge list of housemade extracts, syrups, and tinctures is kind of overwhelming with what seems like a hundred flavors ranging from sweet and dessert-y to medicinal — pineapple, pink peppercorn, rosemary, dill, and chicory coffee to name a few. You can get lost in the possibilities but luckily you can also just go with a tride and true made-to-order rootbeer or one of their signature creations. It’s a a really fascinating concept that starts the wheels turning about homemade soda experiments at home, and it’s  a great way to take the little ones on a mini trip back in time while discovering some new flavors at the same time.

The Ice Cream Bar place isn’t fast and it isn’t cheap, but that’s just part of the deal here. If you go in the evening or on the weekend, chances are you wont come by a seat too easily, so this is probably most do-able with kids in tow as a special afterschool treat. We hear they are going to be offering beer and wine, sandwiches, hot dogs and snacks in the coming weeks too.

Check out these other ice cream and soda fountain faves: Really Refreshing Fresh Lime Soda, We Love Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous, Delightful Treats at the Twirl & Dip Soft Serve Ice-cream Truck , Smitten with Smitten ice Cream

Three-Decker Sauerkraut and Toadstool Sandwich Alla Grinch (aka Meringue, Apple and Hazelnut Butter Crostini with Salted Caramel Sauce)

We got too busy to decorate a gingerbread house this year (bah hum bug!), so just for fun we made a silly holiday dessert in honor of the Grinch. A three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce, of course (best holiday song lyrics ever?). Now that I think about it, it’s sort of a version of a buche de noel. The meringue toadstools are a bit of a fancy, fussy touch, but they really are a lot easier to make than they look. I took some video and will post it once I get done with all these holiday meals I am about to consume.These sweet, light as air faux mushrooms, would be equally as charming in a little spring dessert tableaux. Your kids will absolutely adore these, guaranteed!

We couldn’t quite engineer the three decker part, so we went for more of a canape which we think would be perfect for the Grinch’s next cocktail party. Basically a fun sweet sandwich. A little hard to eat without it tumbling over, but I think the Grinch would be cool with that. While these might be more of a once a year affair, this experiment is definitely inspiring us to get creative with the idea of sandwiches for dessert.

I can think of a few ways to get roughly the same effect, but here’s our version.

  • The Bread: we used a simple pound cake, but I think I would prefer a thick slice of rustic sourdough, toasted.
  • A spread of toasted hazelnut butter, for a bit of slimy sludge
  • A sprinkling of crushed up pretzels for a bit of itchy scratchy
  • Matchstich-sized apples (use a tart, full-flavored apple) for the stinky sauerkraut
  • The pièce de résistance, our fancy meringue toadstool (will post recipes and video soon!)
  • A drizzle of salted caramel sauce, tinted a disgusting shade of green for the arsenic sauce.

Hope you have a fantastically un-Grinchy holiday!

A Homemade Version of the Much-Touted Speculoos a Tartiner (spice cookie spread)

I first heard rumblings of this elusive sweet spread called Speculoos a Tartiner (aka speculoos spread or Biscoff spread) while reading an article about waffle trucks. A-list foodies from David Liebovitz to folks at The Kitchn sing its praises, proclaiming this stuff is pure magic. We’ve kept our eyes peeled and haven’t yet come across it in our wanderings around San Francisco, although I have no doubt whatsoever that it’s coming. [I'm predicting a speculoos spread invasion of the neighborhood hipster coffee shops, high end ice creameries and pop-up dining establishments by year's end.] Have you tried it? Have you been swept up into the frenzy? Please do tell!

So what is it you ask? Think finely ground Belgian speculoos cookies (think gingersnaps) turned into a creamy spread. It’s been compared to a spiced, un-chocolatey cousin of nutella and similarly, it can turn just about anything into an instant dessert. Biscoff, the company that makes the “Lotus” brand of speculoos cookies also makes the spread which has recently become available in the US. In fact, you can buy it on Amazon right now.

But if you have no patience to wait for a delivery, you can take a stab at a homemade version like we did. [Not that we need more sweets, not that we've even tasted the real McCoy, but that's just how we roll.] As luck would have it we found our local  supermarket stocked with the “official” Lotus brand cookies and we were off and running, but I would think you could use any crispy gingersnap-type cookie and get a similar result.

Check out the German, vegan food blog Seitan is My Motor (awesome, right?)  for a base recipe:

  • 150g (or ~5.3 ounces) of speculoos cookies was about 17 individual cookies of the Lotus brand variety
  • We omitted the extra sugar because it seemed sweet enough. You be the judge.
  • We used melted butter instead of coconut oil, mostly because we didn’t have coconut oil (I think an oil would be way better for the creaminess factor)
  • Seitan is My Motor has two versions of the recipe. Version 2 will give you a creamier spread, but check out the addition of extra spices in version 1, especially if you use a more mild cookie.

As advertised, we ended up with a delicious spread that tasted well…. like cookies. I’m not sure what else I could have expected, but there you go. It took all of 5 minutes to make and I guarantee that you’ll feel like one of the “cool kids” when you whip this one up.

PS: In perusing our package of Lotus brand cookies, we saw an advertisement for The Biscoff Coffee Corner where you can sample “coffee the European way” and cookies of course, located in none other than Pier 39 in San Francisco. Maybe they should start selling Belgian waffles topped with Speculoos a Tartiner with that coffee. Just a thought.

Move over Fro Yo & Bubble Tea, Here Comes Taiwanese Sno Ice!

We recently happened upon Taiwanese Sno Ice. A fun, kind of odd (well at least odd looking) sweet treat which is made by freezing a creamy base into an ice block then shaving it super thin and then topping it with cookie bits, mochi, sweet sauces, sweet beans and even, according to the menu, aloe vera and tadpole. Tadpole? I didn’t ask and I’m not sure I want to know about that one. Sno ice  is really light and airy while still being creamy. Luca talked me into the chocolate, but somehow I think the fruity flavors like mango would be the tastiest.

I’m making a predication right here and now that sno ice will be the next frozen dessert craze. It’s fairly low in calories compared to ice cream which mom likes and it looks like a crazy mochi spewing volcano which any kid would surely love. It’s a lot of fun to go through the extensive checklist of toppings and create a personalized sno ice masterpiece. I vote for the addition of gummi dinosaurs. How perfect would that be on a frozen chocolate mountain-scape? When the foodies out there get ahold of this one, I can only imagine the possibilities: salted caramel, balsamic reduction, wasabi sprinkles, cocktail inspired flavors. Just you wait, it’s coming and probably on a food truck.

We still love our fro yo, soft serve and bubble teas of course, but this is a fun new discovery definitely worth checking out. So far, I know of ony one place in San Francisco that specializes in sno ice, the very non-descript 37 Degress Cafe on Taraval way out in the outer Sunset, but we’ve heard some buzz about a place in Chicago called Cloud 9. Let us know if Sno Ice has landed where you live.

37 Degrees Cafe

1155 Taraval (between 21st and 22nd), San Francisco

New Year’s Eve Cake: Tartine’s Devil’s Food Cake with Caramel and Ganache

Happy 2011!

A little serendipity brought us a last minute dinner invitation and a babysitter for New Year’s Eve, so off we went for a grown-up dinner complete with fine china, wine and champagne. What a treat! No better excuse to make this Devil’s Food Cake from the Tartine cookbook (Tartine is a fabulous bakery here in San Francisco’s Mission District). If you haven’t haven’t seen it, this cookbook is absolutely drool-worthy. It’s got everything from pastry and dessert basics to breakfast recipes, tarts, cakes, creamy desserts and cookies. Some of the recipes may seem a bit involved at first glance, but they are well-written and surprisingly easy to follow. I can personally vouch for the quiche recipe — it’s outstanding. Best of all, Elizabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson share many techniques throughout the book that will improve your baking even beyond this set of recipes.

I’ve had my eye on the Devil’s Food Cake recipe for about a year, but no occasion to make it. The batter is velvety and the cake is filled with caramel sauce and a touch of bittersweet chocolate ganache. The whole thing is frosted with more ganache and then covered with cake crumbs that you make with your cake trimmings. As a special touch, I added a little edible gold (it was New Year’s Eve afterall!). I think the cake would be equally as good, and a touch less rich, with a just a simple sprinkling of powdered sugar and a dallop of vanilla whipped cream or ice cream.

You can make the caramel sauce and ganache while the cake bakes, so it comes together reasonably quickly, but you’ll want to set aside the better part of an afternoon to make it from start to finish. It’s best served at room temperature and covered with ganache, will hold for several days which makes it a good choice for a fancy party.

I used a technique to cut the layers which I remember seeing on Alton Brown’s show. He actually used a saw blade and some trim molding from the hardware store as a cutting guide. I used a long carving knife and one of my son’s blocks which happened to be the perfect size. It worked like a charm for getting nice even layers. I kept the knife flat on the block to keep it level and just kept cutting from the edge to the center until I had worked my way all around the cake. Easy peasy.

The dinner was lovely, the company great and the cake was the perfect end to the evening. Anyone who loves to dessert, definitely needs to check out this cookbook and better yet, visit the bakery next time you’re in San Francisco. The lines can be long (and the calorie count high!) but you’re sure to savor something memorable.

Here’s to a healthy, happy…. and yummy 2011 for us all!

But first, I think I’ll sneak a piece of  cake for my New Year’s Day breakfast. :)

[Photo of Tartine by tablehooper.net, Flickr Commons]