I do eat more than cake

by April on April 24, 2012

Red Velvet Cupcake

I think I have a cake problem. Or rather, this blog has a cake problem.

One might think that all I eat is cake, and while the idea isn’t unappealing, I swear it’s not true. There’s nothing that makes me happier than a fridge full of produce. I’m going to prove it in the next week or so, too. Until then, we have these red velvet cupcakes to discuss.

I’ve had more than my fair share of red cake because it’s my dad’s favorite, and that’s because my Great Aunt Dorothy makes a red cake that’s legendary in our family. But we have a lot of April birthdays around here, so this year, Dad requested no cake. He was thrilled to see that I’d honored his request, baking 24 of these cupcakes instead.

Mom said it was her new favorite recipe for red velvet cake. Granted, she’s my mom. Not exactly a tough critic. But when Luis, who usually scrapes frosting off his cake, actually saved the leftover icing, I knew this recipe was a keeper.

It comes from Magnolia Bakery in NYC, and they say it’s one of their most popular cupcakes. Get the recipe here.

And a happy birthday to my artistic, sarcastic, hero of a father. The man who taught me how to navigate the Chihuahuan Desert with a compass and a topographical map and can still rock a scorpion pose that he learned out of a book 30 years ago. (Like father, like daughter?) I still think there’s nothing he can’t do.

Red Velvet Cupcake Birthday



Homesick Texan

by April on April 18, 2012

I’ve been in New York for the past couple of weeks, visiting friends and wishing for a bottomless pit of a stomach so I could eat more more more of the delicious things all around me. And I have new “goal” dishes on my list of things to cook, like the perfect panna cotta and this wondrous thing called soup dumplings. New York City is a good time.

I was ready to come home, though. I suppose feeling homesick is a sign that you’ve got a pretty great life waiting for your return. I traveled home yesterday, to be greeted by family, a home-cooked meal, and this Italian cream cake.

Happy birthday (cake) to me

And because I’m still so spoiled by my parents, they gave me this:

A Le Creuset birthday

You’ve heard the story about the “dumb husband” who buys his wife a kitchen appliance on her birthday, right? He’s in the doghouse for thinking she would want a blender on her special day.

Well this story never includes enough information for my liking. I mean, was it a Vita-Mix? Does it crush ice better than their old blender? Maybe we should cut the guy some slack until we have more information.

But then again, I’m the type of gal who gets this Le Creuset Dutch Oven in “ocean” (what a beautiful color!) and starts dreaming of French onion soup and Poulet en cocotte (chicken in a pot).

Not that everything I cook in it has to be French, but it probably will be for at least a month or so.



Excuses served with a slice of cake

by April on February 20, 2012

Walnut Sponge Cake

I know it’s been an unforgivably long time since I shared a recipe here, but I have some great excuses for you.

  1. I stuck with my post-Europe, gluten-free, sugar-free diet for awhile, leaving me completely and utterly confused in the kitchen. I experimented a lot and had a few wild successes (buckwheat pancakes, which I promise to share) and many more utter failures (stevia brownies with coconut flour). I still mostly eat a gluten- and sugar-free diet because I like the way it makes me feel, but a couple of times a week I’ll eat a piece of dark chocolate or a slice of bread.
  2. I developed an egg intolerance. This makes me so sad that I really don’t want to talk about it, but it’s part of the reason I’ve been less than inspired to blog. Basically, I can have small amounts of well-cooked egg (like a slice of a cake with a couple of eggs in it), but not eggs over easy or egg and potato breakfast tacos, especially not on an empty stomach. It results in hours of debilitating stomach pain, sometimes so bad that I wish I’d just feel like I’m going to pass out. I read that some people have been able to gradually reintroduce eggs into their diet, so fingers crossed this isn’t a permanent thing.

But yesterday I made this walnut sponge cake, and I feel like I got my mojo back. It came together so easily and received rave reviews. It’s super moist, nutty, and ever-so-slightly sweet. We ate it as a dessert with fresh whipped cream and berries, but after tasting it, I secretly wanted to save it for my morning cup of coffee.

Unfortunately, it was too much egg for me, which is incredibly sad because I love love love this cake. I took some Benadryl, which I later read only works for food allergies, not food intolerance, but hey, it still knocked me out, so that’s a win.

If you are lucky enough to be able to eat eggs, make this and have an extra slice for me.

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Nocciola is Italian for hazelnut

by April on November 19, 2011

Ciao, amici! I’m back from two weeks in Europe (Italy and Spain) and excited to share what I ate along the way. But with more than 2,000 photos to process, it’s taking some time.

Until I get my act together, I have to share these chocolate and hazelnut financiers from my favorite food blog, La Tartine Gourmande. (Just go ahead and subscribe or bookmark that site right now. Promise you won’t regret it.)

These are gluten-free and low in sugar, which, gasp! That sounds nothing like anything that bakes in my oven! Here’s the thing: For two weeks I ate and drank more than my body could handle. Wine at lunch and dinner? Why not! Dessert after every meal? Of course! Pastries for breakfast? Like there was another option! (No, really, there wasn’t another option.) I don’t regret any of it. Nope, not one scoop of gelato. But once I got home, I needed a detox, so I’ve been avoiding starchy carbs and sugar for more than a week now.

Although I feel great, the problem is that I need to bake! When I saw Béa’s recipe for gluten-free chocolate-hazelnut financiers (like sponge cake, often made with almond meal), I knew it was time. And with hazelnut meal and chocolate, these would satisfy my new addiction to nocciola, or hazelnut. You see, Nutella is like crack cocaine to me. There’s been more than one jar that entered the house and was consumed entirely by yours truly, before Luis could even get a spoonful. Then, in Italy, I ordered a scoop of dark chocolate gelato and took a chance on an unknown word for my second scoop: nocciola. One bite and I knew what I’d discovered. And then I ate it at every opportunity.

These financiers aren’t nearly as sweet as Nutella — kind of a good thing. I also used coconut sugar, lower on the glycemic index, in place of turbinado sugar. All of the hazelnut and cocoa goodness, however, is still present, which I now know are the best parts anyway.

(If you want more hazelnutty, chocolatey, sugary goodness, you can add Nutella as a frosting, a tempting suggestion Luis thought of mid-bite.) Recipe after the jump!

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A short break

by April on October 25, 2011

The sentence that sums up my life as of late: “Oh no, I just got hummus on my MacBook!”

Love-Crumbs will be on hiatus for two more weeks, but I promise more delicious posts to come.



Adaptations of adaptations

by April on October 5, 2011

This recipe is an adaptation. Of an adaptation.

David Lebovitz adapted it from The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet, using plain roasted peanuts (he was out of salted) and adding a pinch of fleur de sel.

I’d planned to make them Lebovitz-style, until Luis asked, “What about cajeta?”

And with that, these cookies took a turn for the Mexican.

Cajeta is similar to caramel, but made of sweetened, caramelized goat milk. It can be eaten on its own (not that I do that several times a day until the jar is empty), but it’s especially good for filling pastries, topping crepes, or poured over ice cream, which is how it’s typically consumed at our house, with the addition of toasted pecans.

You can check out Lebovitz’s recipe here, or find some cajeta of your very own and make these cookies as follows. Either way, you’ll see how perfectly caramel, peanut butter, dark chocolate, and a touch of salt meld together, and they are awfully cute besides.
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The stuff that dreams are made of

by April on September 26, 2011

You know how sometimes you’re thumbing through past issues of cooking magazines at the Sunday breakfast table when you’re slapped in the face by a dessert you somehow overlooked?

(Let’s just pretend that doesn’t sound crazy.)

I was set to make an apple tart yesterday when that very thing happened to me. I came across the recipe for this tart, and it immediately erased any longing for apple and replaced it with three words: chocolate, lavender, honey. Oh this tart.

What a combination! Floral, sweet, a touch of bitterness. Doesn’t it sound deliciously complicated? Well it’s not. You’ll whip this up with 30 minutes of hands-on work, but it’ll taste like you slaved away for hours.

Then you’ll be so grateful that I periodically review every culinary magazine I’ve ever bought. You know, just in case I missed something.
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Move over, apple turnover

by April on September 20, 2011

French Apple Turnovers

The key to these chaussons aux pommes is finding the right puff pastry.

I read the recipe in Bon Appétit’s Cooking Life column (Paris in a Pastry), but it was almost one month later when I finally made them, all because I had difficulty locating the all-butter puff pastry. Margarine was easy enough to come by, but would the French make these with margarine? Quelle horreur! I finally found it at a Whole Foods in the refrigerated section. It was at the top of the shelf in plain plastic packaging, and I almost missed it entirely. (If you’re lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s, I’ve heard great things about their store-brand pastry.)

With this recipe, Molly Wizenberg, author and writer behind the food blog Orangette, shows us how to channel our inner Parisian and take the American apple turnover to a new level.

In my house, they aren’t just a success, they’re a home run. Luis talks about them for weeks after the last crumb is gone. The blend of apples Wizenberg recommends creates a sweet filling with just the right amount of tart. With very little added sugar, and even less lemon juice, it’s really apples boiled down in their own juices — a celebration of apple.

If you want to be extra fancy you can call these by their French name, which translates to something like “slippers of apple,” (correct me if your French is better than mine, which is highly likely, since mine is awful). I call them by their French name unless I’m around a French-speaker, in which case I opt for “French apple turnover” to spare their ears. Come to think of it, these little pockets of apple and puff might be the most compelling reason to learn French.
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Desperately seeking tacos al pastor

by April on September 12, 2011

My husband Luis and I are big fans of Tony Bourdain. (I can call him Tony, right? It feels like we’re best friends…)

But we’ve been putting off watching his No Reservations episode on Mexico because we were afraid it would be too good.

See, we used to go to Piedras Negras, Mexico once a year for a family reunion. Piedras Negras sits at the northeastern edge of the Mexican state of Coahuila on the U.S.-Mexico border, across the Rio Grande from Eagle Pass, Texas.

And while it’s only a few hours away from Austin, Piedras is a whole new world. We’d go to the market where we bought cowboy boots and ate icy raspadas; the restaurant where his family has enjoyed decades of Sunday breakfasts; a little empanada shop with dozens of fruit-filled pastries. Then there was the square where we’d walk late at night to get cups of grilled corn from the street vendors, sliced off the cob and topped with butter, lime, and chile powder.

In fact we so love Mexico that we honeymooned there, too, renting a car and high-tailing it out of all-inclusive Cancun to seek out quaint Valladolid and vibrant Mérida.

We long for Mexico. Unfortunately the situation there isn’t good. Gang violence along the border has affected some of our family members, so this year the reunion was held in San Antonio.

I don’t know when we’ll make it back to Piedras, but I did know that Bourdain was going to make us miss it something awful. And sure enough, he delivered. He hit up street vendors, early morning menudo cafes, and taco stands, and by the time he was done, we had a serious craving for tacos al pastor.

A taco from Lebanon

Tacos al pastor is a funny sort of taco. It comes to us from the Lebanese who immigrated to Mexico, but it was given the Mexican spin. Chef David Sterling of Los Dos cooking school describes the transformation:

…the traditional spit-roasted meat called shawarma — generally comprised of layers of seasoned lamb on a vertical skewer that rotates in front of a flame — evolved locally with the substitution of pork marinated in achiote with a pineapple balanced on top. Thin pieces of pork and pineapple are shaved off of the [trompo (vertical rotisserie)] and onto a fresh tortilla. The now-Mexicanized name of this dish — tacos al pastor, or shepherd’s taco — reveals its ancient mideastern roots and belies its principle ingredient, which would no doubt be viewed as a scandalous twist in the pork-eschewing land of its origin. Again, this taco is finished — and localized — by the diner’s own addition of chile tamulado, x’nipek, lime juice or other typical condiments.

But finding this glorious melding of Lebanese and Mexican cuisine isn’t easy, even in a border state. Perhaps it was my demanding list of requirements:

  1. Tacos al pastor shalt not come from a trendy South Austin eatery with a fancy website.
  2. Ordering tacos al pastor must require Spanish. (Okay, you can order in English, but I’m pretty sure they taste better if you don’t.)
  3. Topo Chico must be served at the establishment.

I wanted Bourdain-style street food. And I found it. I present to you, Rosita’s Famous Tacos al Pastor. 6141094030_48b85be9b0_z6140546543_1e53c10d4c_z

Luis would have given it two thumbs up, but he was too busy eating his taco.

Well, are you still with me, or are you on your way to 1911 E. Riverside Drive, looking for a little taco trailer and a taste of heaven wrapped in corn tortilla? I do hope it’s the latter.

And please, don’t be a wuss — pile on the salsa verde.



Hot chocolate ‘stache

by April on September 7, 2011

A hot chocolate 'stache. Kerbey Lane Cafe, Austin, Texas.