Me, seeing that a box of peaches has arrived for Kevin, part of a gift subscription from his parents for his birthday last year: “I hope you’re not going to ignore the peaches I’ve spent FIVE YEARS growing for you, just to eat those.”
Kevin: “This could be the subject of an entire sitcom — do I eat your peaches, or my mother’s peaches?”
Dear reader, do not fret! I saved Kevin from this fraught decision, taking the ripest of his mother’s peaches and slicing it up to have with strawberry ice cream, yum.
What a good wife I am, looking out for him that way.
Lunch with Roshani yesterday before she went off to Florida for a few weeks of glorious vacation. I am not going to lounge on a beach, but I did get a very nice seafood risotto at Little Gem (half for lunch, half saved to fill out dinner).
For the summer Patreon boxes, part of the theme is ‘wild grasses.’ Now, I didn’t actually come up with any grass-tasting cookies, but I thought this was pretty darn close. Pandan’s flavor is strong, described as grassy with hints of rose, almond, and vanilla, verging on coconut. And elephants are quite wild. These little cookies are lovely with a cup of tea.
Pistachio & Pandan Elephant Shortbread
3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 c. sugar
2 scraped vanilla beans or 2 t. pure vanilla extract
3/4 t. salt
1-3 T pandan extract paste (to desired color and flavor)
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 c. pistachio, chopped fine
1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar; add the vanilla, salt, and pandan extract. Then add flour and mix on low until dough forms. Stir in chopped pistachio.
3. Turn out dough onto floured board. (If it’s not coming together into a dough, the heat of your hands will help.) Firmly pat flat (to desired cookie height, usually about 1/2 inch). If using cookie cutters, cut out shapes, place on parchment-covered baking sheet, and chill for 15 minutes (to help hold shape).
NOTE: Can be kept chilled at this point for several days, covered in plastic wrap, and then rolled, cut, and baked fresh.
Alternately, press into baking pan or shortbread mold, prick with fork. (You can also cut shapes out after baking — shortbread is very forgiving that way — but then the individual cookie edges won’t be browned.)
3. Remove from fridge and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges begin to brown, then remove to wire rack to cool.
Roshani took me out for birthday lunch yesterday; I had an errand in the city, so we combined that with lunch at Paradise Park, which happens to be in my old neighborhood of Wicker Park, where Kevin and I lived for a few years.
I was amused to drive by our old condo and glimpse what I think are the trellises I built on the roof deck still there. I hope the current owners enjoy gardening up there, and take advantage of the water we ran up to the roof.
Eggplant fries — recommended, really tasty, and I actually really liked the burrata too, which came with an interesting combo of balsamic drizzle, fig jam, and sun-dried tomato pesto — the tomato and fig worked really well together, salty tang playing against sweetness. Yumyum.
I’ve never tried to write up a complicated cake recipe like this, so please let me know if any of the steps are confusing!
(I feel like it was a good choice to put 25 stars on my 50th birthday cake, and just 1 candle. I thought about 50 stars, but it was getting crowded…)
Sri Lankan Butter Cake with Passionfruit Frosting, Fresh Mango, and Lemon Curd
I’m always a little disappointed by American birthday cakes, because I grew up with Sri Lankan butter cake, which I much prefer. It’s a slight variation on the classic British pound cake, and a legacy of colonization. Historically in Sri Lanka, margarine would often be used instead of butter, due to cost, but butter tastes better. This is a somewhat dry cake, which makes it work beautifully with tea if served plain, and pairs well with your choice of fruit filling and frosting for a celebration cake.
NOTE: This recipe is designed for either a square or round cake cooked in a single 8″ or 9″ pan. If you plan to use different sizes of pan, adjust cooking times accordingly. For a classic ribbon cake, you’ll want to cook in separate batches or in multiple pans at the same time, so you can color each layer of cake differently. For 3-4 thin layers cooked separately, bake for roughly 15-20 minutes.
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 1/4 c. butter, room temperature
1 1/4 c. sugar
4 eggs + 1 egg yolk
1/3 c. milk, room temperature
1 T rosewater (or a few drops rose essence)
2 t. vanilla extract
zest of one lime (or lemon)
2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
5 c. powdered sugar
6 T passionfruit puree
food coloring (optional)
Mango & Lemon Curd Filling:
2 c. chopped fresh mango (thawed from frozen works fine)
1/4 c. lemon curd
1. Preheat oven to 325. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl; set aside. Butter and flour the pan(s) (baking spray with a mixture makes this easy).
2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping down sides a few times.
3. Beat in eggs and egg yolk one at a time, then add vanilla, rose, and lime or lemon zest.
4. Fold in milk and flour mixture alternately. (If adding food color, divide as desired and color at this stage.)
5. Add finished cake batter to a round 9″ pan and bake for 30-40 minutes (adjust as needed for your pans), until a toothpick comes out clean; turn out onto wire rack and let cool. Serve as is with a nice cup of tea, or add frosting for birthday cake.
NOTE: Cake may be made and refrigerated a day or two ahead (wrap tightly in plastic wrap once cooled), and then frosted, if desired.
1. Beat butter until pale and fluffy, scraping down sides a few times (about 5 minutes).
2. Add half of the powdered sugar, beat on low until mostly incorporated, then scrape sides, turn up to high, and beat until light and airy. Add remaining sugar and repeat process.
3. Slowly add in passionfruit puree; add food coloring if desired. Your frosting is ready to spread on a cake (or eat straight from the bowl).
1. Combine mango and lemon curd.
ASSEMBLE 4-LAYER CAKE:
1. Layer cake, a thin layer of frosting, filling; repeat twice. (You may not use all the filling.)
2. Add the final layer and frost entire cake. Chill to set. Serve with any extra mango & lemon curd filling on the side, to add as desired.
NOTE: Americans often ask me where to find passionfruit puree. I’ve tried several, and so far, like Funkin Pro the best for strong passionfruit flavor, available online. It can also sometimes be found in the Mexican section of the grocery, in the frozen fruit section.
I am not the neatest cake froster, so you have to be a little forgiving here. Someday I’ll learn how to do a better job with it, maybe. Kesar mango (from frozen works just fine) with lemon curd for the filling, Sri Lankan butter cake for the cake. Recipe in next post.
I have been trying to get to outdoor morning yoga at least once a week (a little interrupted by travelling) because I feel so much better the rest of the day if I do. Ideally, I’d like to have a daily yoga practice, but it’s likely going to take me a little while to work up to it. 7 a.m. classes!
But I just today realized that the outdoor yoga space for my studio (And then there was well), held in someone’s backyard, is only a block away from The Daly Bagel — I think I have my incentive now.
I really didn’t feel like working today, so while I managed to pull myself together for an hour-long SLF monthly meeting (we have three interns right now! three!), I have given myself permission to goof off for the rest of the day.
Which apparently means watching Leverage: Redemption (three episodes in so far, v. good) and baking snickerdoodles for the summer Patreon treat boxes, which I suppose does qualify as working, but is also just lovely, with a cool rainy day outside and the kitchen smelling so yummy. (The kids are excited.)
I took a base snickerdoodle recipe, replaced some sugar with a little honey, which makes them just a touch moister and more complex in flavor, and added some cardamom to the traditional cinnamon inside and out, which makes them beautifully aromatic. Happy with the result.
Cardamom & Honey Snickerdoodles
(30 minutes, makes about 36 cookies)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. + 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. + 1/4 t. ground cardamom
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup + 3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 t. honey
1 t. vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Either grease or use parchment paper on baking sheets; set aside.
2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, 1/2 t. cinnamon, 1/4 t. cardamom; set flour mixture aside.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and 1 c. of sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the egg, honey, and vanilla, then slowly beat in the flour mixture.
4. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 3 T sugar, 1/2 t. cinnamon, and 1/4 t. cardamom.
5. Form dough into small (roughly 3/4-inch) balls. Roll the balls in the sugar-cinnamon-cardmom mixture, then place the balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown and slightly cracked on the top; transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.