May 2014

bee suits and banana bread

Posted on May 22, 2014

Last Saturday, we had the great fortune to participate in our first ever honey harvest! It was a food nerd’s dream day. We began with some pastries from the sublime French bakery B. Pattiserie and then spent the afternoon harvesting (and sampling) honey, ending the day with the best ramen we’ve ever had at Ramen Dojo in San Mateo. It was magical, and all thanks to our friend Russ. Russ works with beekeeper Kendal (and turns her excess honey into homemade mead!) and knew we’d be really into harvesting honey and learning about bees. And so he arranged for us to come down and help with Kendal with her honey harvest.

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Kendal has three thriving beehives down in Palo Alto. Not only is she super knowledgeable about bees and beekeeping, she was a patient hostess, especially considering all of our questions and general clumsiness. I’m not going to pretend to have learned enough about beekeeping in just one day to give you any specifics, so I’ll just say it was a super fun day and definitely made me want to have a hive of my own someday. If you’re curious to learn more about beekeeping, I’d recommend you check out Kendal’s Bee Blog—I’ll sure be recruiting her whenever I decide it’s time to start my own hive.

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After getting all of the equipment set up in the garage, we suited up and took the frames full of honeycomb from the top boxes of the hives. Kendal had put in a bee separator between the frames we were going to harvest and the rest of the hive so those frames wouldn’t have too many bees on them.

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After checking the frames to determine which had the honey at the right stage to harvest, we shaved off the top layer of beeswax with a hot knife. The bees cap each little comb with wax so that the honey stays where they want it and so you’ve got to carefully open up the comb so you can extract the honey. This is pretty much what my face looked like the whole day. It was SO fun.

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Then we put the honeycomb into the extractor. Basically it’s a honey centrifuge. Then the honey drains into a bucket through several layers of strainers to remove any impurities and it’s ready to bottle. It’s pretty much impossible to harvest honey without eating a lot of honey. So tasty!

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Instead of pretending to know more things about bees, I’ll stick with what I’m a bit better at, food. Inspired by the honey all around me on Saturday, but lacking the motivation to make what I consider to be the one true monument to honey, baklava, I made this banana quick bread with honey and cinnamon sugar. And it was really good. Like most quick breads, this one is perfect with a scoop of ice cream for dessert and even better with a cup of coffee in the morning.

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Banana Bread with Honey and Cinnamon Sugar Topping
11/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used bread flour because that’s all I had on hand and I’m a heathen. Turned out just fine) 
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 mashed ripe bananas 
2 large eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup honey
¼ cup water

For topping:
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. packed dark brown sugar

Butter and flour a loaf pan, or butter and line with parchment. Preheat your oven to 350° F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Stir in the eggs, vegetable oil, honey and water. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to combine. It’s advisable to run a spatula down the sides and scrape the bottom of the bowl. Mix the cinnamon sugar topping in a small bowl.  Pour the batter into a lined baking pan and sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar topping.

Bake for one hour, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for an hour and unmold. Slice and serve with a scoop of ice cream, dollop of whipped cream or as is.

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-Emily

olive oil ice cream | angel food cake

Posted on May 6, 2014

Asking me to pick a favorite food is like asking a mother to pick her favorite child. It’s hard. But press me long enough and I’ll probably say ice cream. Or pasta. Or green beans. Or sushi. It really depends on the day.

Indecision aside, ice cream is up there at the top of my list. It aways sounds good even if I’m stuffed. I like even the worst of ice creams. Wendy’s frosty or McDonalds vanilla cone, I’ll choke one down—if choke is synonymous to joyfully consume with a grin of happiness across one’s face. I love ice cream.

This ice cream was inspired by the orange olive oil cake that I made a few weeks ago. The ice cream follows the same general recipe as Bi-Rite’s ice creams: heavy on the cream, light on the other flavorings. It’s really wonderful. And as my custard was chilling, I mused… orange and olive oil would go really well with pistachios, and who doesn’t like ice cream topped with with crunchy bits? Thus pistachio brittle brittle was born. It was a good hunch. This is a really sublime combination. I’m only sad I can’t fit more than one batch of ice cream into my ice cream maker.

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Whenever I make ice cream, I end up with a jar of egg whites in my fridge. They’ll languish there, maybe a tablespoon is added to a cocktail, and then a few weeks later I’ll toss the rest. It’s wasteful and a shame. And so, I decided to see if I could make a baby angel food cake out of the remaining egg whites. Turns out, you absolutely can! It’s about half the height of your traditional angel food cake, but no less delicious.

Orange Olive Oil Ice Cream with Pistachio Brittle
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup 1% or 2% milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 orange, zested
1/4 olive oil

In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks just to break them up and then whisk in half the sugar (6 tablespoons). Set aside. Put a plastic container in an ice water bath.

In a saucepan, heat the cream, milk, rest of the sugar and salt over medium heat. When the mixture is just about to simmer, whisk 1/2 cup into the egg yolk mixture. Then whisk in another 1/2 cup. Then add the egg mixture in with the remaining milk in the saucepan and stir.

Cook the mixture carefully over medium heat, stirring constantly until it is thickened. If it can coat the back of a spatula and hold a clear path when you run your finger across it, it’s ready. Pour through a mesh strainer into a plastic container. Zest the orange over the custard mixture and mix in. Stir occasionally until the mixture cools. Once cool, put in the refrigerator to chill for 2 hours or overnight.

Whisk the olive oil into the chilled base. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Enjoy right away, or put back into the plastic container and freeze.

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For the pistachio brittle
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup light corn syrup or tapioca syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter

A note on candy making:  The first time I tried to make this brittle I used an organic sugar made from evaporated cane juice. It’s basically the more hippie/less processed variety you can buy at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Don’t do this! Your brittle will reach a point where it suddenly transforms from syrup to rock candy. There’s no way to coax it into caramel and it is a nightmare to clean. To make this recipe, you’ll need to get the super processed C&H or Domino Pure Cane Sugar that your grandma uses.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and then brush it with a light layer of oil. Combine sugar, water, corn syrup and salt in a heavy saucepan. Put the pan over medium heat and cook without stirring until the mixture reaches 280° F, about 20 – 25 minutes. Pay close attention once it reaches 250° F because it will get to 280 very quickly and you don’t want it to burn.

Stir in the pistachios and stir frequently as the nuts toast and the syrup browns. When the syrup is a mahogany brown, remove from the heat and carefully stir in the baking soda. Once that is blended, stir in the butter.

Pour onto the prepared baking sheet and carefully spread into a thin and even layer using a heatproof spatula. You’ll want to work quickly to spread it before it hardens, but be careful because the mixture will be very hot!

Let cool to room temperature for at least an hour and then cut into pieces to sprinkle on top of the ice cream. Store in a tupperware on the counter.

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Baby Vanilla Angel Food Cake
2/3 cup sugar
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup cake flour, sifted
3 tablespoons warm water
5 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract (I bought vanilla paste online for a Thomas Keller recipe about a year ago. It’s basically just several scraped vanilla beans in a bit of alcohol with some zanthan gum to give it a gel texture. It’s wonderfully strong flavored and pretty great stuff)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

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Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a food processor, spin the sugar for about 2 minutes until it is super fine. Sift half of the sugar with the cake flour and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixture or a large mixing bowl, add the egg whites, water, vanilla paste and cream of tartar. Whisk on medium high until stiff peaks form. This will take about 10 minutes. Once the mixture is looking meringuey, carefully fold in the flour mixture.

Spoon batter into an ungreased tube pan. Cook 25 minutes, until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool upside down on a cooling rack for an hour before unmolding from the pan.

-Emily

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