Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

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I have a small obsession with growing up. My wishes range from having a car and a puppy to dreaming of the day when I’ll stop thinking that fart jokes are really the funniest of them all. Sometimes I get pangs of adulty withdrawals and scrounge through Craigslist for things my parents have. Like kitchen islands and lamp shades. Curtains.

It’s not just the things. I yearn for conversations outside of the next meal and how’s-work-going. That’s what makes you an adult, right? Black coffee and philosophizing?

Mmmnope.

I don’t think I’ll ever be an adult. And I don’t really want to be. I’d much rather hang out with my high school friends and rewatch Harry Potter until I know the script by heart.

There’ll be plenty of time to put down a mortgage, get matching towels and talk about what Ira Glass said on the last episode of This American Life. Too much time, really.

But at least I can still play in the dirt and bring home rhubarb every once in a while. And if that’s what it means to grow up, then I’ll stick with it.

_MG_1619No, really, I dug my toes into the soil and snipped stalks of rhubarb. I’ve got a garden. Finally. #Adulthood.

_MG_1634My brother told me to make this cake probably 3 months ago. Now I know why.

_MG_1631Because who doesn’t love caramelizing rhubarb?

_MG_1640And then, like, turning it into a sort of biscuit-like thing that makes your apartment smell like a pastry shop?

_MG_1643The only way to flip this without it falling apart is to say “omgomgomgomgomgomg.”

_MG_1650It worked.

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake.

3/4lbs rhubarb, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 6 tablespoons cut into small cubes and chilled
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a 9-inch cast-iron skillet, cook the rhubarb, 1 cup sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, 4 tablespoons butter and 1/4 teaspoon salt on medium heat until the rhubarb is soft and slightly caramelized. Make sure the sugar doesn’t burn. Because that’d be lame. And you’ll probably have to start over. This should take about 8-10 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, remaining sugar and baking powder. Add the chilled 6 tablespoons of butter and shortening and using your hands, gently break apart the pieces until the flour mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the milk and eggs and mix until a sticky dough forms.

Gently spoon the dough on top of the caramelized rhubarb and smooth over lightly with a spatula.

Place the skillet into the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Once you take it out of the oven, let it cool for about 5-10 minutes before flipping it onto a large, flat serving platter. If you don’t have one (because you’re lacking in the kitchen department of adulthood), a cutting board should work. Or a pizza peel. Whatever.

When you flip it, swear as much as you need to ensure it’ll come out in one piece. You might have to coax it with some kind words after being so mean.

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream. Or just with a fork.

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Vegan Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles

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It’s thawing time. Are you ready to thaw? I’m totally ready to thaw.

Everyone’s emerging from their wintry cocoons. Runners are wearing neon. People are yelling hellos across the street. Smiles just happen. Ducks and swans are chilling on the pond that’s lost its icy sheet.

You know winter is over when windows open. When we start to let the cross breezes clear layers of dust. Turning down the thermostat and wearing ankle-high pants never felt so good.

What’s up, March. I’m springing forward. I’m doing a long jump into this month. I’m mid-air and far from ready to land.

There are a couple of things I want to hold on to, though. Like the flavors of January and February. And, fine, I’ll admit that my love of apple cider should be contained to November. Eggnog should probably be drunk only once.

But hot chocolate? That’s good throughout the year. You won’t want it when it’s 90 degrees out, but when it’s a cookie?

Oh man.

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And when there’s cayenne pepper? Holy zing. Just punch me in the face.

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You guys are so adorable.

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Seriously, quit your cuteness. Those crackly imperfections are too much.

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Oh. These are so vegan. Vegan to the max. And that’s almond milk.

And I might not be doing the vegan thing anymore (Listen. I work at a donut shop. When someone asks me how the hibiscus cherry donut tastes, I’d better have a real answer.), but I’m still cutting out as much dairy and eggs as possible. Plus, when a vegan cookie tastes this unreal, I’ll gladly cut out the butter.

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Peas in a pod.

Vegan Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles.

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (I used grade B)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons almond or soy milk

For the sugar dusting:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, sift flour, cocoa, cayenne, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. In a separate medium bowl, whisk canola oil, maple syrup, vanilla, milk, and sugar until fully incorporated.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wets, mixing continuously. The batter will be stiff.

Using the palm of your hands, roll about 3 tablespoons worth of batter into a small ball. Shape into pancake-like disks and cover one side with the sugar-cinnamon dusting.

On a sheet of parchment paper, place each disk about 1 inch apart, sugar side up.

Bake for about 12 minutes.

Makes 15-20 cookies, depending how big you want them.

Make them smaller if you want to share with your coworkers in the morning.

Giving Thanks

Today is that one day of the year when you wake up at 7 a.m. to make a pie.

It’s the day when you set a timer at least 12 times so you don’t burn the bread. It consists of at least three separate moments when you think everything is going to go wrong. The kitchen is filled with smoke. You don’t know which wine is yours. A baby keeps on opening the oven, you’ve made way too much mashed potatoes and, woops, you’ve run out of plastic wrap and the aluminum foil is running low.

“Are we out of butter?!”

“The pie has to set for at least five hours!”

“Wait, you don’t have a potato masher?”

“WHO DRANK ALL THE WINE?!”

But then you set up the dining table with the special napkins your mom brought all the way from Hawaii and somehow the stuffed acorn squash is still warm, the pickled carrots didn’t come out too spicy (despite the jalapeños) and you’re eating just in time for the sun to dip below the San Francisco horizon.

And the Patriots are demolishing the Jets.

I’m thankful for it all.

Let’s start with the quinoa stuffing. It would’ve been vegan if not for my sautéing everything in butter. Lots and lots of butter.

A touch of cranberry sweetness and spritz of nutmeg.

While the quinoa is soaking up flavors like parsley and sage in a big ol’ pot, it’s time to half roast some acorn squash.

Roast them face-down in a shallow bath of vegetable broth. The meat will soak up the juice and get super soft and yummy.

Then you flip ’em over and roast them with the stuffing inside. I put more butter on top. It was a good idea.

And then I got to thinking about a serious pie.

Pie crust starts with butter and flour. And ends with sugar.

My brother said that for Thanksgiving, the house should have at least three pounds of butter. Good thing, because there were a few moments when we thought we were out. But we weren’t. There was so much butter. There’s still so much butter.

Boston doesn’t have Okinawan sweet potatoes. And in Berkeley, California, the grocery store calls them “Hawaiian.” I just call them delicious.

So. Purple.

The filling tastes like marshmallows. Not even joking. Be careful.

Oh. Let me talk about haupia for second. It’s a Hawaii staple. It’s coconut. Coconut jell-o. Coconut custard. It’s good. That’s all that matters. And it’s going on top of this pie.

Thanksgiving just got so real.

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash.

2 cups quinoa, cooked with 2 cups water and 2 cups vegetable broth
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup dried cranberries, soaked in hot water and drained
2/3 cup carrot, chopped
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
4 acorn squash
1 cup vegetable stock
lots of butter

In a large and deep skillet, preferably a pot, sauté the onions and garlic in about 2 tablespoons of butter until just translucent – don’t let it brown. Add the carrots and mushrooms and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the quinoa, cranberries, herbs, salt and pepper and cook for another 10 minutes, until the quinoa has absorbed all of the flavors.

Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Lay them face down on a baking sheet and pour about 1 cup of vegetable broth so that the entire pan has a thin layer of stock. Roast uncovered for about 15 minutes. Pour out the vegetable stock (I’d save it for some soup later on) and flip over the squash. Stuff with the quinoa mixture and top with a thin slice of butter (told you there’s a lot of butter). Cover everything tightly with tin foil and throw into the oven for another 30 minutes, until the squash is fully cooked.

Makes 8 halves.

Okinawan Sweet Potato and Haupia Pie.

For the crust:
1/2 cup butter, cold and chopped into small squares
1 1/2 cups flour
1/8 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, chop the butter with the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Press into a 9-inch pie pan and bake for about 12 minutes, until just slightly browned. Set aside (you can even make this the night before you need it).

For the Okinawan sweet potato filling:
1 1/2 cups Okinawan sweet potatoes, boiled and whipped or mashed
6 tablespoons cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons evaporated milk
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In an electric mixer, whip the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until fully incorporated. Add half of the sweet potato and mix completely before adding the rest. Toss in the evaporated milk, vanilla extract and salt before whipping to a nice and creamy filling.

Smooth into crusted pie pan and bake for about 30 minutes.

Set aside and let cool completely before adding the haupia.

For the haupia:
1 can (13.5 ounces) full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup sugar

Whisk the dry ingredients in a small bowl before adding the water.

In a saucepan, heat up the coconut milk and slowly add the sugar mixture, continually whisking until it thickens into a custard-like consistency. Pour on top of the sweet potato layer (there should be about 1/2 inch of room) and smooth over with a spatula.

Let cool completely before covering with a plate or plastic wrap and chilling in the fridge. Let the haupia set for at least five hours before serving.

Makes enough for 12 slices. Surprisingly, there are leftovers.

Double Chocolate Torte

So there’s this girl I met when I got my first real-life job. We wrote about polar bears and Canadian trains. The first thing she ever told me was that she liked my cardigan. I told her it was from Costco. Later, she helped me discover that polar bears are, in fact, the Lords of the Arctic, and we have collectively managed to turn our office environment into a zoo. She has been a source of fashion advice, life advice and has always been able to supply a swath of deodorant when I’m in need.

She has been a source of sanity and insanity. She’s the best diary.

And it’s her birthday.

So there’s this cake I make. I only make it once in a blue moon. So far, I’ve only made it four times.

Now make that five.

And believe me when I say this cake should probably be called a chocogasm. This cake is so good you have to sit down when you eat it. You have to close your eyes. You have to kind of moan. You have say something along the lines of, “Are you kidding me?” or “Not. Even. Real.” or “Shut up.”

And I would make this cake every darned day because this lady deserves the best of everything – all the time.

So happy birthday, ya goob.

Oh, hi, chocolate. I’m gonna melt you with butter, and you’re gonna like it.

So wait, why is this cake the best thing in the world? The first time I ever had one was at my high school friend’s graduation party. She had a crazy dessert spread. A handful of us grabbed a slice of this stuff and didn’t know what we were getting into. We felt high. We felt like we just had the best sex of our lives.

Yeah. It was that good.

A smidgen of flour just to give this glorified chocolate bar of a cake some body.

Chocolate plate tectonics.

There’s nothing quite like a bowl full of stiff white peaks to make chocolate mousse a fluffy monster.

It’s whipping time.

New Zealand kiwis to add some color to the densest, most incredible cake you may ever bake.

Eat responsibly. Wear protection.

Double Chocolate Torte, aka The Chocogasm.

For the cake: 
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour

For the mousse:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

For the whipped cream:
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 tablespoon sugar

Optional: Kiwi fruit for garnish

For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 325 and grease a 10-inch springform pan with butter. Dust with sugar and set aside.

In a double broiler, or using a metal bowl set on top of a pot with about one inch of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter until no chunks remain. Let cool to a lukewarm temperature before whisking in the sugar until fully incorporated. Then add one egg at a time, being sure to whisk completely before adding another. Stir in vanilla and salt. Add flour and mix until the batter is smooth.

Pour into the springform pan and bake for about 35 minutes, or until the middle raises slightly. A toothpick will not come out clean. It’s okay. It’s going to be dense and gooey. Oh my god yum.

Let the cake cool completely before topping with the mousse.

For the mousse:
While the cake is baking and cooling, it’s time to make the mousse. In the same double broiler apparatus, melt just the butter until it’s liquid. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 heavy whipping cream, egg yolks and vanilla until just mixed. Slowly add the egg mixture into the butter and whisk continuously over simmering water for about five minutes. It will look a little separated. Once you’ve heated up the cream, add the chocolate and stir to melt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form. Add about 1/4 of the mixture in with the chocolate. Add the rest of the egg white mixture in quarters, folding gently so as not to lose the air bubbles (Never whack your spatula against the edge of the bowl to get all of the merengue in – this will kill precious air bubbles!). Once you’ve got everything mixed, slowly pour the mousse on top of the cake and cover. Let it cool in the fridge for at least six hours or up to 24 hours before serving.

Just before serving, whisk the remaining 3/4 cup whipping cream with the sugar until stiff peaks form.

Remove the cake from the springform pan, using a thin knife to separate the mousse from the edge. Top with whipped cream and a fruit garnish.

Serve. Demolish. Celebrate.

Rosemary Ice Cream

To the little girl who unabashedly hopped onto my lap while I was on the train to work: You’re beautifully fearless.

To the mom taking her son across the city to perform his rap songs: You’re beyond cool.

To the barista saving up her tips for a plane ticket to Hawaii: I hope you make it.

Strangers inspire me. One-time encounters are the ones I remember most. Like the first time I tried a double chocolate torte and had to sit down before finishing the first bite. That night you opened your convertible up and we let the rain come in. Or that time when we stumbled upon a break dancing party in the middle of the slums of college town. Oh yeah. We danced.

Everything I am is the summation of all of you.

So thanks, you little nuggets. Now let’s have some ice cream!

The first and only time I’ve ever had rosemary ice cream was at Hungry Mother, where gourmet French food met the Southern comforts of Creole cuisine. We had cocktails in mason jars and crostini made from bread I had shaped the day before. Just when we though our bellies couldn’t take any more battered catfish, the dessert menu screamed at us to have rosemary ice cream. And oh how delicious it was.

Six ingredients. That’s all.

Despite the simplicity of the ingredients, ice cream is a bit finicky. You have to turn it into a semi-custard before letting it cool in the fridge for several hours or overnight before even thinking about pouring it into an ice cream maker. Here is the first step in action: dissolving the sugar and honey into the milk and heavy cream as the rosemary infuses.

The next step is slightly nerve-wracking. You don’t want to whisk the yolks and cream mixture too much or else froth and bubbles will form, ruining the texture of the ice cream. You also have to add the warm cream slowly enough so that the eggs don’t set, but still manage to thicken.

I know. I was sweating. I’m even sweating now.

Once you’re done whisking the yolks with the cream, throw it back into a big saucepan (for even heat distribution) and stir constantly until it begins to thicken. If you run your finger along the back of the spoon and it doesn’t run, then it’s ready.

Lick your finger.

When it’s 80 degrees out, ice cream melts. Eat it fast. Take yourself down memory lane.

Rosemary Ice Cream.

9 egg yolks
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary, washed, drained and leaves removed from the stem
1/4 cup granulated or raw sugar
1/3 cup honey
pinch of salt

Prepare your ice cream maker – typically, this means freezing a big metal container for at least 8 hours.

In a large saucepan, heat the milk, cream, sugar, honey and rosemary to just below simmering. Stir continuously to prevent burning. Steam will escape from the surface. Let the mixture cool just slightly before adding to the eggs.

In a large bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks until just incorporated. Using a ladle, slowly spoon in the cream mixture while whisking continuously. This will ensure that the eggs do not begin to curdle. If they do begin to solidify, you’ll have to start over. Make some French Toast.

Once all of the ingredients are mixed, add a pinch of salt and return to the saucepan. Heat on low until the custard begins to thicken. This is a crucial step – make sure you keep an eye on the consistency. It shouldn’t run and it shouldn’t solidify. It should have the same thickness as maple syrup.

As soon as the custard is set, pour it through a fine sieve into a metal bowl. Place the bowl into a large ice bath and stir until evenly cooled. Put the mixture into the fridge and let it chill for at least two hours or overnight before turning into ice cream.

Depending on your machine, it should take 25-30 minutes for the ice cream to form.

Makes about 2 pints.