Thursday, June 14, 2012

coffee battenberg

Remember how much my family loved the mocha marble cake? This cake has the same, milky coffee flavor and is frosted with my famous coffee buttercream.
Battenberg is a traditional English sponge cake with a gorgeous checkered pattern on the inside. The cake was originally created to celebrate the marriage of Princess Victoria and Prince Louis of Battenberg -- the four cake panels panels symbolize the four princes of Battenberg. I thought this irresistibly festive cake would be the perfect way to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee across the pond.
Traditionally this cake is filled with jam or fruit preserves, and coated with marzipan; but since Nutella is awesome and my family is quite opposed to marzipan, I filled mine with Nutella and frosted it with my famous coffee buttercream. 
What's your favorite traditional British dessert?
With love,

3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tsp instant coffee (I used one pack of Starbucks' VIA)
2 tbsp  milk (divided)
1/2 cup Nutella

Spray an 8 inch square cake tin. Divide the tin in half by making a crease, the height of the tin, in the center of a piece of foil. Use the foil to base-line the tin, sliding a piece of cardboard inside the crease to support it. Whisk the butter and sugar together in a bowl and gradually beat in the eggs. Lightly beat in the flour, baking powder and salt. Divide the mixture in half and fold the instant coffee and and a tablespoon of milk into one portion and the remaining tablespoon of milk into the other.
Spoon one flavor into each side of the tin and bake in the oven at 375°F  for about 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
Trim each piece of cake and divide in half lengthwise. Sandwich together alternately with the Nutella.
Frost with coffee buttercream and decorate as desired.
Adapted from Cook it Simply 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

provencal tomatoes

before being baked
 I took a trip to the farmer's market this past weekend and picked up some gorgeous tomatoes.  Almost too pretty to eat.  These are nothing like the spongy, flavorless "tomatoes" that I find at the grocery store -- these are juicy and bursting with flavor. This means that they only need simple treatment to be turned into a fabulous, healthy meal.

These provencal tomatoes are perfect for a light and refreshing summer dinner. They are a great side, but also make a stellar meal when served with some crusty bread to soak up all the juices. I took my beautiful, flavor-bursting tomatoes from the market, and filled them with aromatic provencal flavored breadcrumbs, garlic, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. 
What is your favorite summer vegetable?
With love, 
  • 4 tomatoes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup fresh rosemary, thyme and basil
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
    after being baked
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Slice the tops off the tomatoes and scoop out a little bit of the center of each. Arrange the tomatoes in a casserole dish and sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
In a separate bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, herbs, garlic, and parmesan. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over each tomato. Drizzle the tomatoes liberally with olive oil.
Bake for 15 minutes. Broil for 2 minutes, or until golden brown.

Monday, June 11, 2012

crispy cinnamon toast crunch french toast {sunday brunch}

What's better than cinnamon swirl toast? cinnamon swirl french toast. This recipe was inspired by one of the many wonderful people I have met through this blog, Chloe from Every Craving. She is another teenage food blogger, and she takes beautiful photographs and has tons of unique, fun and delicious recipes on her blog such as Honey Nut Cheerio French Toast -- which gave me the crazy idea to coat my french toast in Cinnamon Toast Crunch! 

I used the leftover half of my (already decadent) cinnamon swirl brioche, followed (my idol) Alton Brown's world famous french toast recipe, and coated each of these thick buttery slices of brioche in crunched up cinnamon toast crunch cereal. 

The result was something out of this world. The toast had a crunchy, sweet, caramelized cinnamon crust, and a custard-y, eggy, soft interior. Cinnamon Toast Crunch Perfection in every bite. Nonetheless, this will definitely be one of my new go-to brunch recipes.
What's your favorite breakfast cereal? (who knows, maybe it would make some killer french toast.)
With love,


  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup, warmed in microwave for 20 seconds
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • cereal (such as cinnamon toast crunch or cinnamon chex)
  • 8 (1/2-inch) slices day-old or stale country loaf, brioche or challah bread
  • 4 tablespoons butter


In medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the milk , eggs, honey, and salt. You may do this the night before. When ready to cook, pour custard mixture into a pie pan and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Dip bread into mixture, allow to soak for 30 seconds on each side, and then remove to a cooling rack that is sitting in a sheet pan, and allow to sit for 1 to 2 minutes.
Over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a 10-inch nonstick saute pan. Place 2 slices of bread at a time into the pan and cook until golden brown, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and place on rack in oven for 5 minutes. Repeat with all 8 slices. Serve immediately with maple syrup, whipped cream or fruit.

Adapted from Alton Brown's French Toast

salmon guacamole greens salad

my guac greens salad (deconstructed)

Here is a recipe for my Guacamole Greens Salad -- its super tasty, and has all the flavors I love in guacamole! I use salmon as my protein source, because I've never really been a chicken person, but feel free to use any type of meat you prefer. 

  • 1 avocado
  • 3 tomatoes (or a bunch of baby tomatoes)
  • 2 salmon patties (or protein of your choice)
  • 1/2 red onion (diced)
  • handful tortilla chips (crunched)
 lime cilantro vinaigrette
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro (chopped)
  • juice of 4 limes
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 3/4 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Combine all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients
Toss the salad

Sunday, June 10, 2012

chunky chocolate pecan salty oat cookie

Oatmeal cookies tend to get a bad rep. They always seem to be the last ones left on cookie platters (after chocolate chip, sugar, snickerdoodles etc.). But these are different. These are salty oat cookies. Even those of you who cringe at the thought of an oatmeal raisin cookie will fall in love with these salty-sweet bundles of buttery, oat-y goodness.

A true D.C. specialty, the salty-oat was made famous at one of my favorite D.C. restaurants, Teaism. They sell three varieties: salty oat, chocolate oat, and my personal favorite, chunky chocolate pecan.
Don't get me wrong, I love their variety (it is the original after all...), but nothing beats whipping these babies up at home. (Plus one cute little cellophane-wrapped pack of six will cost you $12!)

This isn't your run-of-the-mill oatmeal cookie coated in sea salt. These chubby little mounds are chewy, oat-y, and delicious. The sweet warm spices of oatmeal, buttery pecan pieces, and dark chocolate chunks are accented by the occasional bite of a salt crystal. Undoubtedly a unique cookie -- but it captures that salty-sweet experience that you find in a chocolate covered pretzel. Once you sink your teeth into a salty oat, its hard to go back to regular, unsalted oatmeal cookies. So preheat your oven, get a cold glass of milk ready, and savor these "subtley sweet, curiously salty' cookies.
 Are there any cookie recipes unique to your region?
 With love,

3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups rolled organic oats
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks
1/3 cup chopped pecans
Coarse sea salt (I used pink Himalayan salt)

Start off by whipping cold chunks of butter in a stand mixer for a minute or two. Next, add both sugars the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and allspice. Mix at a medium speed till the mixture has a crumbly texture. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.
With the mixer on a low speed, slowly add flour. Be careful not to overmix at this point or your cookies will get tough.
Gently fold in the oats, dark chocolate and pecans. Place the dough in an airtight container and chill for at least an hour
When you are ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough on the dough about 2 inches apart and lightly sprinkle with salt. Bake on the second rack from the top for 12-15 minutes or until the edges are golden brown but the cookies are still soft to the touch. Transfer to a cooling rack. Enjoy with a nice tall glass of milk :)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

cinnamon toast

I have always loved Cinnamon Toast Crunch and never fail to "crave those crazy squares". However, I've always wondered what exactly that little baker named Chef Wendell was really baking up in his jolly little bakery. Well I found out for myself. I baked my own cinnamon toast.
I love any excuse to fill my house with the spicy, warm aroma of cinnamon sugar (cinnamon sugar croissants, quick cinnamon buns, churro cupcakes... you get the idea). Nonetheless, this bread was a surefire winner. Sweet, but not too sweet, with a soft melt-in-your mouth texture, and a golden crunchy, cinnamon sugar crust -- with beautiful, sweet cinnamon swirls running all throughout. Chef Wendell would be proud. It reminded me of one of my favorites from Panera Bread -- their famous cinnamon crunch bagel.
I used the brioche dough recipe from one of my all-time favorite books,  Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. What is so amazing about this recipe is that the dough is surprisingly easy to make, stores for a week in the fridge, and is extremely versatile. I still have about half the dough happily sitting in the fridge, which I plan to bake into something else (maybe cinnamon buns or brioche a tete?).
This morning, my dad fried a few slices up into some delicious cinnamon swirl french toast. This loaf makes out-of-this-world french toast because the cinnamon sugar melts and caramelizes in the cooking process. I make the bread, dad makes the french toast, let's just say we are a killer team.

What's your favorite way to use leftover bread?
With love,

Brioche dough (makes about 4 loaves)

  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 8 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 7 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Mix the yeast, salt, eggs honey and melted butter with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or lidded (not airtight) food container. I used my stand mixer.
Mix in the flour until entirely incorporated
Cover (not airtight), and allow to sit at room temperature for about two hours.
The dough can be used as soon as it is chilled. This dough is way too sticky to use before being chilled.
Place the dough in a lidded container and pop in the fridge.

Cinnamon Swirl:
  • 2 pounds of Brioche dough
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • egg wash (one egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water)
Start with 2 pounds of brioche dough . Form it into a ball to create a smooth surface.
Roll the dough with a rolling pin until it is 1/8 inch thick.
Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Spread 1/2 of the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough.

Starting at the long end of the rectangle roll the dough, pinch the seam shut.

Place in a well greased non-stick Loaf Pan. Allow to rest for about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Paint the risen dough with egg wash dust with remaining cinnamon sugar before baking.
Bake for about 45-50 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes in the pan and then remove the bread to finish cooling.

Friday, June 8, 2012

iced lemon poundcake {starbucks copycat}

I have a confession. I love Starbucks. Every time I walk past that iconic green sign, I can't help but wander in. Even more embarrassing, the baristas at my neighborhood Starbucks know me by name, and get my favorite drink (coffee frappuccino) ready when they see me on the sidewalk. I've probably had so many coffee frappuccinos in my life that I could rightfully be called a coffee frappuccino connoisseur...
Alas, every time I buy one of Starbucks' enticing baked goods, I can't help but feel guilty that I just paid 3 bucks for something I could have easily baked at home. That's when I had a revelation.

I don't need to deal with sassy baristas, a long line, and high prices to enjoy all of my favorite Starbucks treats. I am taking on the challenge to recreate all of my Starbucks favorites in my own kitchen (for a fraction of the price and a little bit of homemade magic) in a new series called Starbucks Copycat.

I am starting this series off with one of my all-time favorite Starbucks classics: the iced lemon pound cake. This recipe tastes exactly (if not better than) like the Starbucks one that I have been buying for so long -- light, spongy, lemon-y, and delicious. 

E-mail me your favorite Starbucks treat, I will re-create it right here in my own kitchen! I dare you!
With love,

1 box yellow cake mix
4.3 ounce instant or cook and serve Lemon pudding mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
8 ounces sour cream
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and grease two loaf pans.
2. Place all cake ingredients into a mixer, beating until well combined, about 1 1/2 minutes. Divide batter between two prepared loaf pans spreading evenly. Bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove and let cool for 15 minutes before removing loaves from pans.
3. To prepare icing, place powdered sugar into a large bowl. Drizzle in lemon juice stirring until smooth and thick. Should be a good drizzling consistency. Drizzle icing over cakes and let set for 20 minutes for a firm icing.

Inspired by Picky Palate 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

eggplant parmigiana

For all of you out there who think you hate eggplant, I dare you to give this dish a try. Even you so-called-eggplant-haters will fall in love with this delicious and comforting eggplant parmigiana. Crisp, thin slices of eggplant fried to golden brown perfection. Topped with hot, gooey mozzarella cheese and warm tomato sauce. If that's not enough to convert you eggplant-haters, this recipe is so versatile. It can be served over pasta, between bread, with a side salad, or as I served it here, with fresh garlic toast! The eggplant has such a hearty, meaty texture that even you meat-lovers out there will fall in love with this veggie dish. Are you team eggplant yet?
With love, Erica
quick garlic toasts = the perfect side
1 medium eggplant
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into rounds
Olive oil, for frying
2 cups tomato sauce
Fresh thyme, rosemary and basil

slices of mozzarella, market bread, and basil from my garden
Slice the eggplants into 1/4-inch thick slices
Mix the panko, thyme, rosemary, and Parmesan in a medium bowl.
Bread the eggplant rounds in batches by coating them in the flour, then the eggs and then the breadcrumb mixture.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add enough oil to liberally coat the bottom of the pan. Pan-fry the breaded eggplant rounds in batches for 2 to 3 minutes, until both sides are golden brown. Immediately transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate.
Place the rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment and top each one with a piece of sliced mozzarella. Top with sauce.
Turn your broiler to high and carefully slide the cookie sheet under the broiler just long enough until the cheese melts. Garnish with fresh basil.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

summertime supper

We are enjoying delicious June weather here. -- perfect for blissful early morning runs and lazy afternoons spent reading magazines outside. There is so much to do now that the weather is nice and school is out! My grade is taking a class trip to Six Flags this week, and I'm psyched to get my swimsuit and sunscreen out again for the first time this summer! Tonight, I fixed a simple dinner to honor the succulent summertime flavors that are just beginning.

My ratatouille tart is one of my go-to summer recipes, it is fresh, healthy, and showcases colorful summer vegetables beautifully.  Ratatouille a favorite at my house (check out my recipe for the best-ever ratatouille!) in the cold months of winter. In the summertime, instead of serving it in a big, warm casserole dish, I like to serve it in a lighter, prettier way -- arranged on thin, buttery, flaky sheet of puff pastry.
served with my favorite jam and crackers

I served my tart alongside a tomato watermelon salad. This salad has a beautiful contrast of sweet, salty, and savory. It is a delicious alternative to the traditional fruit salad, and the addition of fresh sea salt makes it oh-so refreshing and sophisticated. Some may call me crazy, but I always sprinkle a little bit of sea salt on my watermelon -- it brings out the succulent sweetness of the melon juice. The juicy watermelon and tomatoes are balanced out by tart balsamic vinegar, fruity olive oil, fresh Thai basil, and tangy feta cheese. Fresh, healthy and beautiful -- the perfect way to welcome summer.
What is your favorite summertime dish?
With love,

ratatouille tart

inspired by Smitten Kitchen

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 small eggplant
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 long red bell pepper
1/3 cup tomato sauce (sometimes I like to throw in a little tomato pesto as well!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Few sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Heat the oven to 375°F. Place the puff pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and gently roll until it measures about 11 x 15 inches. Prick the pastry all over with a fork.
Spread the tomato sauce over the pastry, leaving a one-inch border around the edges.
Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash and pepper.
On a mandoline or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices.
Arrange slightly overlapped slices of vegetables concentrically over the tomato puree or sauce.
Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle de-stemmed thyme leaves over the vegetables. Finish with a little sprinkling of Parmesan (as much or as little as you like).
Bake in the heated oven until the pastry is puffed and browned and the vegetables look softened (about 30 minutes) Slide onto a cutting board, sprinkle with a little bit more cheese, and cut into squares or strips. Serve warm or at room temperature.

tomato watermelon salad

inspired by Merry Gourmet

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup finely chopped fresh basil (I love Thai basil)
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

3 cups cubed watermelon, seeds removed
6 tomatoes, chopped into 3/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup chopped or torn fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup feta (or more or less, depending on your taste)

Make vinaigrette: Mix vinegar and minced garlic in bowl. Whisk in olive oil, then whisk in basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Add watermelon, tomatoes, and torn (or chopped) basil leaves to bowl. Sprinkle with feta. Toss gently with the vinaigrette and let sit before serving to allow the rich flavors to sink in.

Friday, June 1, 2012

strawberry rhubarb pie

Happy Memorial Day! Memorial Day marks the kick-start of summer for many of us (although the official start of summer isn't for a while...). One of my favorite pies to make this time of year is strawberry-rhubarb pie. I love it's old-fashioned, summertime charm.
rows and rows bursting with red, juicy strawberries

There is something so harmonious about this pie -- the sweet strawberries against the citrusy tart rhubarb, the refreshing, juicy filling contrasting against the flaky, golden crust; it has the perfect yin-yang relationship in each slice.
this pie doesn't last long at my house!
 Luckily, the farmer's market here in D.C. was overflowing with intensely red strawberries and fresh stalks of rhubarb -- all begging me to be baked into this pie. This would be the perfect end to a picnic, barbeque, or summer cookout -- with a big scoop of fresh vanilla ice cream of course!
So tell me, what is your favorite summertime dessert?
With love, Erica

strawberry rhubarb pie
1 recipe double-crust pie dough of your choice
4 rhubarb, cut in in 1/2-inch thick slices
3 1/2 cups (about 1 pound) strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
Juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk (for egg wash)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a well-floured counter, roll half of pie dough into a 12-inch circle and carefully transfer to a 9-inch pie plate.
Stir together rhubarb, strawberries, sugars, lemon, salt and tapioca in a large bowl. Place filling inside bottom pie crust and dot with bits of unsalted butter. Roll second half of pie dough into an 11-inch circle and cut slits in it (you can make this as simple or fancy as you want!). Place over the pie. Trim top and bottom pie dough so that their overhang beyond the pie plate lip is only 1/2-inch. Tuck rim of dough underneath itself and crimp the edges.
Transfer pie to a baking sheet and brush dough with egg wash -- sometimes I sprinkle the top crust with a bit of sugar. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 20 to 30 minutes, until the pie is golden and the juices bubble visibly. If the top is browning too quickly, cover with foil.
Transfer pie to wire rack to cool. Try your best to wait until it is fully cool (about 1-2 hours) so that the juices gel.