daily toast

There’s a really sweet breakfast spot in our neighborhood called Farm Table. They run the whole thing out of a space no larger than a San Francisco studio apartment, which for those who don’t know this reality personally, means there’s about 40 square feet of kitchen real estate. Still, they manage turn out some seriously tasty breakfast treats, along with solid cups of coffee just about every morning.

Their “Daily Toast” is my favorite dish. It starts with slightly salty slice of focaccia bread, topped with a generous spread of sweetened mascarpone, seasonal fruit and a sprinkling of pistachios. It’s a simple, stunning combination. Inspired after stopping by for breakfast a while back, I wanted to see if I could do it any justice at home. Turns out, I can, which means you can too. The Daily Toast actually comes together in 15 minutes, if you don’t go full on crazyperson and make focaccia from scratch (ahem).

Daily Toast | The Answer is Always PorkDaily Toast | The Answer is Always Pork

There’s a pretty interesting trend sweeping San Francisco, and I’m sure other cities too, of artisanal toast. Like the cupcake and donut before it, toast has been transformed from a boring, at-home-breakfast to a fancy, indie coffee shop specialty complete with from-scratch breads and snazzy toppings. I don’t scoff because I happen to really like toast—more than cupcakes anyway—and I know making a good loaf of bread is dang hard, but the trend bears mentioning. The word is that it all stems from a coffee shop in the Outer Sunset, Trouble Coffee. I’ve had their cinnamon toast on many occasions, it’s delicious, and worth every penny. Not much beats the warm comfort of cinnamon toast as it mixes with the salty breeze off the Pacific, blanket of fog surrounding you, softly whining greyhound at your side. But, Daily Toast sure makes a decent effort, and you should absolutely give it a shot.

Daily Toast
Several slices of plain focaccia bread (I made mine from scratch, but you can often find focaccia at the grocery store. I think they use Acme Bread at Farm Table)
1 cup mascarpone
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 dash of cinnamon and nutmeg
1 cup berries, washed, dried and sliced if needed (We used a combination of strawberries and raspberries, but you could really use any berry or stonefruit. Supremed citrus would also be wonderful in winter)
1/4 cup pistachios

For the toast
In the bowl of a standing mixer or a large mixing bowl, combine the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla and spices. Beat to combine. Taste for sweetness, it should be just a tad sweet. Wash, dry and slice the berries.

Cut a piece of focaccia about 3 inches by four inches. Cut in half as if you were making a sandwich and spread each half generously with the mascarpone. Top with berries and sprinkle with pistachios. Enjoy!

Daily Toast | The Answer is Always Pork

For the focaccia, from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
5 cups (22.5 oz) bread flour
2 teaspoons (0.5 oz) salt
2 teaspoons (0.22 oz) instant yeast
6 tablespoons (3 oz) olive oil
2 cups (16 oz) water, at room temperature
olive oil and sea salt for drizzling

Stir together flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the oil and water and mix with the paddle attachment on low speed, until the ingredients start to come together into a wet, sticky ball. Switch to the dough hook and knead for 5-7 minutes on medium speed. The dough should be smooth, sticky and clear the sides of the bowl.

Sprinkle your counter with a light dusting of flour. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto the counter. Dust the top liberally with flour and pat into a rectangle. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Coat your hands with flour and stretch the dough into a rectangle twice its original size. Fold the dough letter style; fold one side into the middle and then fold the other side over that. Dust with flour and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes.

Once again, stretch the dough into a rectangle, fold it letter style, dust with flour and let rest for another 30 minutes. Allow the dough to ferment on the counter for one hour.

Line a 17″ x 11″ baking pan (I used a rimmed baking sheet) with parchment. Sprinkle some olive oil on the pan and coat your hands with some. Transfer the dough from the counter onto the baking dish, taking care to maintain its rectangular shape. Using your finger tips, press the dough into a rectangle about 1/2″ thick.  Drizzle with some oil, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Daily Toast | The Answer is Always Pork

Remove the pan from the fridge three hours before baking. Drizzle olive oil over the surface and dimple the bread by poking it with your finger tips. Cover the pan again with plastic wrap and let proof for 3 hours, until the dough doubles in size, about 1″ high.

Preheat your oven to 500° F and put a rack in the middle. Uncover the dough, and sprinkle with sea salt. Put the dough in the oven on the middle rack and lower the temperature to 450° F.  Bake 10 minutes, then rotate the pan 180° and bake for another 10 minutes. When the bread is golden brown, remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool. The internal temperature of the bread should be 200° F. Let cool 20 minutes before slicing and assembling.

Daily Toast | The Answer is Always Pork Daily Toast | The Answer is Always Pork



raspberry buttermilk cake

Oh, I love this cake. Discovered on Smitten Kitchen a while back, I’ve already made it several times this berry season. Deb calls it an everyday cake, and she’s right, it is the perfect cake for breakfast, for a BBQ, for a light dessert. And, it’s easy to throw together. I’d advise you to double the recipe and bake two if you plan to bring it somewhere—it’s so good you’ll want leftovers just for yourself when you get home.

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, from Smitten Kitchen, originally adapted from Gourmet 
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries (or any other berry you please)

Preheat an oven to 400°F. Butter and flour an 8″ round pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixture, beat butter and 2/3 cup (146 grams) sugar at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla and zest. Add egg and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk and mixing until just combined. Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Place the raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.


Bake until cake is golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Enjoy!

And a fabulous tip from Deb of Smitten Kitchen—if you don’t have buttermilk on hand, add 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of milk and let it sit for 10 minutes until it clabbers. Instant buttermilk!



rhubarb sundae with blueberries and shortbread crumble

I had a bunch of fresh blueberries from my mom’s garden, a Sunset magazine in my mailbox, a dinner party to go to and this sundae was born.

This sundae is wonderful—better than I expected. There just is something really magical about cold ice cream with a warm sauce. It’s like a deconstructed blueberry-rhubarb pie, and because each of the components are made separately, you can easily adapt the recipe to the ingredients and amount of time you have on hand. You could swap the blueberries for another berry or even stone fruit—whatever is in season or on hand. I made the shortbread from scratch, but you could certainly make due with a store-bought shortbread or vanilla cookies. And while the rhubarb in the ice cream is really wonderful and I really recommend you give it a go, you could skip that all together if you’re especially short on time and just serve it with vanilla ice cream.

Rhubarb Sundae with Blueberries and Shortbread Crumble, adapted from Sunset Magazine

For the ice cream
4 cups vanilla bean ice cream
4 stalks rhubarb, sliced thinly
6 T brown sugar

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the rhubarb and brown sugar. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has a jam like consistency. Remove from the heat and puree. Put in the refrigerator to chill for about 20 minutes.

Once the rhubarb is chilled, stir into the vanilla ice cream and return to the freezer.

For the shortbread
1/2 cup butter, softened
5 T sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 T flour
1/8 t kosher salt
1/8 t cinnamon
1 T sugar

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix 1 T sugar and 1/8 t cinnamon in a bowl and set aside. Beat butter, 5 T sugar, vanilla and salt until light and fluffy. Add flour and mix on low until large clumps form.

Bring the dough together with your hands. Roll it out until about 1/4″ thick on a floured surface. Mine rolled out quite messy, but it doesn’t really matter since you break it into large pieces before serving anyway. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Put in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Bake 15 – 20 minutes, until golden. Cool and then break into large shards.

For the blueberries
2 cups blueberries
1/2 lemon, juiced

Just before serving, heat blueberries and lemon in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, scoop rhubarb ice cream into bowls. Just as the blueberries begin to juice, pour them over the ice cream. Add shortbread shards and enjoy!



berry aperitif

The weather last Saturday in San Francisco was perfection. It was 80 degrees without a cloud in the sky, and we really only get three days a year just like it. We’d planned to have some friends over for dinner and so Jordan and I devised a summery feast to match the lovely weather, including this delightful cocktail. However, this feasting could only happen after some quality beach time with the Willow Pillow. Right here, photographic proof that our dog has adapted smoothly to the California lifestyle—she will even fall asleep in the sand, surrounded by enthusiastic (albeit pale) beach-goers.

Like I said, perfection.

This recipe is adapted from David Tanis’ book The Heart of the Artichoke. It is actually an Italian digestif, typically made with grappa and served along with your check in restaurants. We decided to make it with gin, having no familiarity with grappa, and served it before the meal.

Berry Aperitif, adapted from The Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis
1 cup mixed berries (We used blackberries and raspberries)
2 T sugar
2 cups gin

Put the berries in a large measuring cup. Sprinkle them with sugar and mush them sightly with your hands. Add the gin. Let refrigerate for several hours. Serve cold in small glasses, making sure to get a spoonful of berries in each glass.  I also think this would be great mixed into other cocktails or topped off with club soda.

Happy Spring!



baking therapy: angel food cake with lemon cream

Another coworker’s birthday, another delicious treat to break up the workday. I decided to make an angel food cake for a couple of reasons …  because my mom found an angel food cake pan at a garage sale and brought it down to me last weekend, because I’ve never make angel food from scratch, and because I’ve already brought cheesecake, chocolate cake, yellow cake, and banana bread to work.

I must say, baking this cake was quite the adventure. I made a huge mess of my kitchen (mostly because I didn’t realize just how voluminous 12 egg whites can become – very voluminous) and later was thrilled when my cake popped right out of the mold after the two hour cooling period, despite looking totally stuck to the pan.

Angel Food Cake with Lemon Cream and Fresh Berries, adapted from Martha Stewart Living

1 cup sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
12 large egg whites
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Make the cake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees, with rack in lower third of oven. Sift flour and 1/2 cup sugar into a bowl.

Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Add lemon zest and juice, cream of tartar, vanilla, and salt; continue whisking until soft peaks form, about 2 1/2 minutes. With mixer running, gradually add remaining cup sugar.

Increase speed to medium-high; continue whisking until firm, not stiff, peaks form, about 2 minutes. (At this point my mixer was overflowing with egg whites!) Sprinkle whites with 1/3 of the flour-sugar mixture. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold to combine. Sprinkle remaining flour-sugar mixture over whites in 2 additions; gently fold to combine.

Transfer batter to an UNGREASED (very important!) 10-inch angel food cake pan with legs. Gently run a knife through the center of the batter to remove any air bubbles. Bake 45 to 50 minutes.

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

While the cake is baking, make the lemon cream. Prepare an ice-water bath (this really does help). Whisk lemon juice, sugar, flour, and salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil; whisk constantly for 1 minute, until it thickens. Transfer to a heatproof bowl set in ice-water bath to cool completely, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk cream and lemon zest with a mixer on medium speed until medium peaks form, about 3 minutes. Gently fold whipped cream into juice mixture in thirds. Refrigerate lemon cream, up to overnight.

Remove cake from oven, and invert onto its cooling legs (if your tube pan doesn’t have legs, invert it over the neck of a wine, or similarly shaped, bottle to cool); let cool, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Yes, you let it cool upside down … the cake won’t just plop out of the pan so don’t worry like I did). Run a knife around the inner and outer edges of cake to remove. Invert onto a serving platter. (Use a knife to separate cake from bottom of pan.)

Frost with whipped cream, serve with fresh berries.

Conclusions: Delicious! Light, lemony and spongy … an angel food cake success! My coworkers all enjoyed it, especially the addition of the lemon zest.



baking therapy: easy chocolate cake

Another coworker’s birthday, another cake. This time I went with chocolate because we all know that any real dessert has to be chocolate.

Easy Chocolate Cake, adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room-temperature
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 t vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream

Powdered sugar for dusting, fresh berries and chocolate shavings for garnish

Preheat the over to 350 degrees

Butter an 8 inch round cake pan, line bottom with parchment paper, butter, dust with cocoa powder.

In a medium bowl, sift together cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate mixing bowl cream butter, then sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture alternating with sour cream.

Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake 30 – 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pan and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled dust with powdered sugar, then garnish with berries and chocolate shavings.

Conclusions: A pretty dense chocolate cake. The berries were a nice way to cut the richness of the cake, and this may sound crazy, but I’m glad I accidentally burnt the ganache that was supposed to top the cake. It would have pushed this dessert over the edge. The coworkers enjoyed it, but I have to say it wasn’t my best work. The search for the perfect chocolate cake recipe continues!