The Dish on Toast

This time last year, I was opting out of $4 toast from The Mill in San Francisco. Since then, the toast craze has exploded nationwide, and people are making ridiculous, delicious, or both, pieces of art on a slice of bread. Granted, the toast at the Mill is mostly $4 for the bread itself (Josey Baker), as the toppings consisted of Nutella and cinnamon sugar. But Bon Appétit made the toast trend their cover story in January. Truly, what’s better than adding a fun combo of foods you’d eat alone onto a crispy slice of toast? Especially when you’ve made the bread yourself! If you didn’t though, that’s cool. Read on for party-starting, trendingly on fleek toast.

Little spin on what seems to be a classic: ricotta and honey, plus some lemon zest for fun.
Everything is better with lemon zest.
Another classic: lox/smoked salmon and cream cheese.
Sprinkle some form of dill for a good time.
Inspired by Bon Appétit: smushed avocado, thinly sliced cucumber (peeler!)
with lemon zest, and red pepper flake. And salt, somewhere!

That Sugar Sweet

     I still have all this cooking lavender from France, and have been reading about lavender sugar for a while, so I finally tried it. You should too. You don’t need to go to France to find lavender, though it helps. But so does Amazon. Why not go for some lemon sugar while we’re at it? YUM HERE WE GO.

 I started with a tablespoon of dried lavender for about three quarters of a cup of sugar, and quickly realized that would be too much. If you have a food processor, you can take some sugar and pulverize the lavender with it so it can mix better with the rest of the sugar. Or else, put your back into it with a mortar & pestle. I ended up with about a teaspoon of lavender for 3/4 cup of sugar, and it came out pretty strong, so adjust to your preferences!
I’ll agree that this unattractive pile of mashed lavender looks more like some herb (“herb”). But fret not! I promise it will do nothing but good and well fragranced things for you and your kitchen.

If you didn’t use a processor, it might look like you have ants in your sugar. If you did, I’m guessing your sugar may look different. If you want, you can sieve out the lavender when you’re satisfied with infusion, but you can also leave it. I think it looks kinda cool…#rustic. Not actually like ants.

I laaahve all things lemon, short of eating a slice of lemon. It has such a bright, strong flavor and it makes most every baked good better. Baked betters! Now it can make so much more, so much better. I put a teaspoon of lemon zest in a cup of sugar. Don’t worry when it gets chunky and moist – eventually the zest will dry out. Feel free to sieve the zest out too. 
     Now you have this weird spiced sugar. What the heck now? Goodness, the possibilities are endless! What do you usually use sugar for? Oatmeal (oatmeal forever <3), hot bevs, cold bevs, toast (lavender sugar is the new cinnamon sugar tbh), decoration. Just look at it, so pretty! And this works for refined sugar as well as raw cane sugar, which is what I used. It's better for you, by the way. Don't limit yourself to lemon and lavender – you can make other citrus sugars, spent vanilla bean pods, ginger…even more endless possibilities! Get creative and have fun with it.

ps – have you seen the video for “Sugar” by Maroon 5? I approve #onlyinLA

Christmas Cookies: Insta-dition

     Happy New Year! I hope dieting was not on your list of resolutions this year, because there are cookies coming your way. Many cookies! They’re all excellent. Since I was running around with flour hands for two days, I thought it best to stick to my phone for the majority of Christmas’s photo-documentation. As a result, I have created a fun photo/recipe link post à la Instagram. Though none of these photos has seen Instagram as of this moment, I edited these 12 photos on my phone as if they were going to be grammed. With minimal staging, and no further ado, I present the 2k14 Christmas cookies, in square format.

      First up: ginger molasses cookies! Or molasses spice, or gingersnaps. I go with the first because I make sure these come out nice and soft so they fall apart in your mouth/hand if you’re not careful. These are particularly great in the getting cold/freezing seasons, but make what you want, when you want. Recipe from Smitten Kitchen here.

      Round two: chocolate chunk cookies! Folks, I’ve been working hard at the next best recipe for these things. So many variables, so many tests, so many possibilities! I’ll give you a hint while I finalize the next post: brown butter, light folding. Vanilla beans don’t hurt, either. In the meantime, find out about all things chocolate in your chocolate chunk cookie here.

     This year’s MVC: the Citrus Snickerdoodle. Introduced to me by my friend Adriel, these cookies throw you for a loop, then make you question your relationship with snickerdoodles altogether. I asked for the recipe he used, but he geniusly made it himself – here’s what he wrote out for me:

Faux Citrus Snickerdoodles
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. butter, softened
2 eggs, room temperature
2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
1 T. freshly squeezed orange juice (optional)

1/4 c. sugar, set aside
approx. 1 T. ground cinnamon, set aside

1) Preheat oven to 400°F.
2) Cream sugar, butter, eggs, & juices if using. Add flour, baking powder, salt, & zests.
3) Shape dough by scant tablespoonfuls into balls; roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture.
4) Place 2 in. apart on ungreased (dark) cookie sheet.
5) Bake until set, golden & slightly crisp, about 8 minutes. Cool cookies immediately on wire rack.

Yield: 3-4 dozen cookies

Do make sure to chill this dough for a bit; it will make it a lot easier to work with.

     Winner of best wrap-up to 2014 goes to the lavender shortbread. You see, I brought back the lavender from my stay in France for the first half of the year (memories/mishaps found here), and tried my first lavender shortbread in San Francisco, where I spent the middle of the year. But I still have a whole bag of the stuff (taking suggestions now). Here’s the recipe that I doubled, with too much butter here. Will most likely have an updated recipe later because these were frachement excellents.

     No I did not arrange the sink like this, nor did I plan on taking a photo of it, but I thought it looked kinda cool so, here you go. Dishes.

Here’s to finding the mathematical equation for eating many baked goods while staying extremely fit, right? Happy New Year!

On the Hunt: Dynamo Doughnuts

     One morning I was inspired to google “best doughnuts in San Francisco”, and what it came up with was less than disappointing. Among the 2-3 different sites and opinions I received, Dynamo Donuts was a unanimous choice among doughnut eaters. They’re known for their wacky flavors and ingredient combinations. And of course, their prices are just as hipster as their options (apparently hipsters have money now? Completely different subject). Normally these rings go for $2 each or more, but past a certain time in the day, they present their “twofer” deal where they’ll give you two, so they can get rid of as many fresh doughnuts as possible. So you can go in the morning, where they’ll have probably around 10 flavors for $2+ each, or you can go in the afternoon, when they’ll have 4 flavors for half the price. I say it’s a win-win.

     That’s what was left around maybe 3pm? Minus one, because I took the last of it.

     I picked lemon sichuan because I love all things lemony, and the cashier suggested something like “hibiscus heart beet”. I’d hoped he knew what he was talking about.

     I guess he did know. I was pleasantly surprised by the pink cake of the doughnut that could only have come from the ingredients. It was a nice combination of chocolate and natural sweeteners – again, from the ingredients, and not too much sugar. It was nice and simple. Particularly good for those who prefer their desserts less sweet.

     Then came my lemon. I’ve yet to ever go wrong with lemon. My favorite part about this doughnut was how it was “filled”. Instead of taking a whole doughnut and piping it, at Dynamo they form doughnuts halves and then place ample filling in between before frying away. GENIUS. Look at that space. No crowding of room, no cream oozing out of your bite and onto your shirt before you can get to it. The flavor was just as good: I guess the powder was supposed to be spicy, like a sort of pepper. So, definitely a healthier route than powdered sugar. But it was a very mild sourness, nothing too extreme. On the inside was the perfect lemon curd: not too sweet, and not overpowered by sour. Brought me back to my British jam days…mm lemon curd!

     Dynamo itself is a cool place. I’m finding that so many places in San Francisco where baking goes down, the kitchen is in plain view for all to see. Of course, not much happens in the afternoon…at all. But here’s where the magic happens. On the other side of the counter are chairs and places to sit and enjoy your high end coffee and doughnuts. In the back there’s a nice outdoor patio area where I hid.

     And here is my super shady picture of the store front. I passed by Dynamo almost twice when I went looking for it. The front is the counter that your walk up to, modest and quiet. But I’m sure in the morning there’s a line down the block! I wanted to document this, so I crossed the street with my big camera around my neck and hid behind this tree so as not to be seen by the guy working there taking a picture of this place without previously mentioning it. In hindsight, I clearly should have said something, and he definitely saw me. Then there was this guy parking his car. So I thought I’d leave this photo here to tell more of a story than to illustrate the unique store front of Dynamo…
     There you have it! Hipster doughnuts in the hipster part of town: Dynamo Donut + Coffee in Mission. If you’re in the area, definitely check them out!

Once Upon a Time…

…I made lemon cupcakes with my mom. Couldn’t miss this one, I took out the big guns for pictures. Enjoy the gallery and enjoy the combination of recipes used.

Really dense batter from a Cupcake Wars recipe
Could easily have put half the batter in there
#kitchenaidlessproblems
Nah…looks good to me
Significantly larger than it looks
Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting (without the blueberries)
Cupcakes

Ingredients
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
2 cups sour cream
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Directions 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with 24 paper liners.

Mix the flour, soda and salt together in a bowl. Set aside. Add the butter and sugar to a mixing bowl and cream until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time and mix thoroughly. Add the vanilla and lemon zest and mix to combine. Add the dry mixture in 3 parts alternating with the sour cream, ending with dry mixture. Stir in the blueberries. Fill the prepared tins two-thirds full and bake 16 to 20 minutes. Cool.

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting
Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temp.
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar (have an extra 1/2 cup on hand, just in case)
1/4 cup half & half cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes). Slowly begin adding the sugar, and beat until well combined. Beat in the cream, vanilla, and salt. Once combined, turn the mixer up to medium speed and beat for about 3 minutes straight. Turn the mixer down to low and add the lemon zest and lemon juice. Beat for another 3 minutes until the frosting is fluffy and light. [Note: If the frosting looks too thin, add that extra 1/2 cup of sugar. If it’s too thick, add a splash of cream, and beat to combine.]  
Recipes found here and here
Alright time to get profesh with the frosting
Photo tip du jour: tilting is winning (if not overused)
Pretty > practical
lolemon…