Whiskey Rebellion

Glossy, whiskey-laced ganache adds over-the-top decadence to this moist, rich chocolate whiskey cake.  Mix this simple recipe in one pot on your stove.

Chocolate Whiskey Cake | Flour Arrangements

If you love simple baking projects, you’re going to want to grab yourself a bottle of whiskey and some cocoa powder.   This chocolate whiskey bundt cake gives new meaning to the word simple.  You don’t even need a mixing bowl to make it — just combine everything in the saucepan you use to melt the butter.

If you happen to be fond of washing dishes, you could transfer that butter to a mixing bowl before adding everything else.  I’m going to ask you nicely to use the saucepan, though.  We’ve got a drought going on here in California;  since I’ve got to conserve water, everyone else should, too.

Chocolate Whiskey Cake | Flour Arrangements
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Hot Tomatoes

Roasted tomatoes really shine against a backdrop of rich caramelized onions, nutty Gruyere cheese, and flaky pastry crust in this tomato & onion tart recipe.
Tomato & Onion Tart | Flour Arrangements

Every time I bite into a juicy, luscious home grown tomato, the chorus from Guy Clark’s “Home Grown Tomatoes” plays in my head like a soundtrack:

Home grown tomatoes, home grown tomatoes What would life be without home grown tomatoes? Only two things that money can’t buy That’s true love and home grown tomatoes It’s playing on a constant loop right now since I’m popping little tomatoes in my mouth just as quickly as the plants produce them in these golden days of summer.  Tomatoes are like candy, only better, since you can eat them all you want without any of the sugary guilt. While the zucchini harvest sometimes requires creativity, disposing of an abundance of tomatoes poses no such challenges.  There’s no scarcity of dishes that give summer tomatoes’ sweet, bright flavor center stage.  On bread or pasta, there’s really nothing finer than chopped fresh tomatoes tossed with basil and olive oil.  And as far as lunch goes, what’s better than thick tomato slices tucked in a sandwich along with bacon and lettuce? When I’m feeling the need to get more elegant, though, I make tomato & onion tart.

Tomato & Onion Tart | Flour Arrangements

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Squashed

These zucchini pancakes — featuring grated squash tossed with leeks, herbs, and blue cheese — taste fantastic with spicy dipping sauces.

Zucchini Pancakes with Basil & Blue Cheese | Flour Arrangements

We’re currently keeping up with our zucchini crop by sharing squash with willing takers, but I can see that soon I’ll need to start doorbell ditching our prolific harvest on people’s front steps.  For now, though, we’ve managed to feast on zucchini for days without repeating a recipe:  zucchini & basil pasta, zucchini & rosemary soup, sauteed zucchini, and zucchini pizza.  My favorite summer squash recipe so far, though, has to be zucchini pancakes.

Zucchini Pancakes with Basil & Blue Cheese | Flour Arrangements

Once grated and tossed with leeks, garlic, herbs, and blue cheese, zucchini takes on a whole new personality.  Eggs, a bit of flour, and a couple handfuls of breadcrumbs bind the mixture together in a thick, textured batter.

Fried on the griddle and served with spicy dipping sauces, these pancakes make a perfect appetizer for any summer party, but if you like them as much as I do, three or four make a fine meal alongside a tossed green salad.  They’re flavorful and tender, and they taste quite rich, despite the fact that they’re mostly vegetables.

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Simply Sweet

 Subtly spiced with cardamom and nutmeg, this rustic nectarine cake highlights the succulent sweetness of summer stone fruit.
Nectarine Cake | Flour Arrangements

Lately, when I feel inspired by an elaborate baking project, I try to resist.  It’s summer.  I’d rather toss a Frisbee at the park with my girls or splash in the waves with them at Muir Beach.

In the dark days of winter, I can get fancy perfecting a lemon meringue cake.  For now, I’m keeping dessert simple.

I love elaborate cakes, and their splendor certainly has its place, but some days call for the understated elegance of a rustic nectarine cake.

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Tight Buns

Take your burgers to the next level with brioche hamburger buns. Their flaky, tender texture and rich, buttery flavor make them well worth the effort.Brioche Hamburger Buns | Flour Arrangements

The other morning, six-year-old Tessa said,”I want to do a baking project today called ‘not those buns.'”

Frankly, I felt the same.  I’d baked brioche hamburger buns nearly every day for a week.  Ever since I’d feasted on pulled pork layered thickly into a toasted brioche bun at Dad’s Diner A Go-Go in Anacortes, WA, I’d become obsessed with creating the perfect brioche bun.

I’d gotten damn close, too.  Time and time again, the rolls emerged from the oven with a flaky, tender texture and a rich, buttery flavor.  We’d savored them with hamburgers, sloppy joes, and roast beef.  My daughters popped them in the toaster with abandon and gobbled them down with butter and honey for breakfast.  These brioche buns were perfect in every way but one: they always cracked down the middle while baking.

Brioche Hamburger Buns | Flour Arrangements

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Vacation Sweets

Double Chocolate Cookies | Flour Arrangements

My tradition of baking a sweets to bring along on vacation started two years ago when I brought sesame cookies on a weekend getaway with girlfriends to Victoria, B.C.

I didn’t recognize that baking had become an essential part of my travel routine, though, until my family headed to Disneyland this spring.   Neglecting clothes, my younger daughter instead detailed, at length, essential food items to bring with us.  As I started packing up lemon-thyme shortbread cookies for my own bag, I suddenly understood the origin of her obsession.  Looking back, it’s hard to recall a single trip for which I didn’t bake something to take with us.  In addition to cookies, a variety of cakes, brownies, and tiny tarts have accompanied us on various adventures.

Last week, as we prepared for our trip to the San Juan Islands, it felt only natural to bake a batch of double chocolate cookies before I stuffed a raincoat, Xtratuff boots, and other essentials into my suitcase.

Full of rich, dark chocolate and the sweet, resinous crunch of toasted pine nuts, these cookies kept us going throughout our long day of travel, which included a train ride, a bus trip, an airplane flight, a taxi ride, a car drive, and a ferry crossing.

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Pure Sunshine

Apricot Pie | Flour Arrangements

Apricot season feels so fleeting.  Every summer, when these ephemeral little fruits begin to appear, they feel almost exotic.  I love tearing them in half, plucking out the stones, and biting into their sweet, tart fruit.

Whenever I see them, soft and blushing rosy over their pale peach hue, I find it nearly impossible not to over-purchase. Without fail, the mound of fruit in my kitchen ripens all at once.  If we can’t keep up, it’s pie time.

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Top Secret

Macaroni and Cheese with Caramelized Onions and Ham | Flour Arrangements

When my girls were much younger, they refused to take even the smallest bite of any dish containing onions.

Because I understood the value of choosing my battles, I sometimes left onions out of recipes or resorted to sneaking them into food rather suffer through dinner-time tension.

Here’s the funny part:  whenever I used onions incognito, my kids never, ever noticed.  Usually, instead of adding diced onions as called for, I’d caramelize onions and puree them before adding them to a dish.  I was never super subtle about this, either.   I’d prep onions while my daughters hung out in the the kitchen.  Sometimes, they’d even complain that the onions hurt their eyes.  But by the time they’d tucked into generous bowls of, say, macaroni and cheese, no one ever asked what happened to the onions.

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