21 July 2014

Blueberry Lemon Coffee Cake

A coffee cake contains no coffee and does not require the company of a cup of coffee when being ingested. That shouldn't stop you from making it and eating it, though. Just make sure you have plenty of coffee available. Not because it requires it, just because coffee should always be readily available. Coffee is the best. Did I mention coffee? Coffee.

Where was I? Ah, right, the coffee cake: A simple, non-yeasted (although there are versions that contain yeast) cake that is quick to whip together and contains mostly ingredients you probably have in your fridge and pantry anyway. A great alternative to pancakes or whatever other breakfast foods you might be cooking on a Sunday morning, it can also be served as a snack with your afternoon coffee. Mmm, coffee.

This version has blueberries, but they could easily be replaced with any other kind of berry you like (raspberries, blackberries, sliced strawberries, or a mix).

Blueberry Coffee Cake

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
zest of one lemon
8 oz (about 2 cups) fresh blueberries


3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour

1. Start by heating the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch round springform pan with cooking spray and set aside.

2. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder into a bowl.

3. In a separate bowl (or using a stand mixer with the flat beater), whip together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy.

4. Add the eggs, vanilla extract, milk, and lemon zest to the butter mixture and mix until combined.

5. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix together swiftly. Make sure you don't over mix this - it's important not to start developing a lot of gluten. Some clumps of flour is perfectly fine.

6. Mix in the blueberries and pour the batter into the prepared pan, ensuring the top is smooth and level.

7. Melt the 3 tbsp of butter and pour into a small bowl. Add the 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup flour and mix until crumbly.

8. Sprinkle the crumbled topping over the batter and bake in the oven for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

9. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool at least 15 minutes, then run a knife along the edges of the cake and remove the edge of the springform pan.

10. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature. Store any leftovers in plastic wrap or foil at room temperature for up to three days. I like to reheat a slice of cake in the microwave for 15 seconds at ~50% power.

05 July 2014


It's the 4th of July, and what's more American than lemonade? Lemonade with vodka, of course! I posted a recipe for lemonade five years ago, and while it's still viable, I've made some changes and updated it a little bit. Living in Southern California now, local lemons are available more or less all year, and they make a drink like this even better!

Happy Independence Day, everyone!


1 1/2 cups freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 cups granulated sugar
8 cups water

1. Stir the sugar and one cup of the water together in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar has melted into the water, about 2 minutes.

2. Allow the syrup to cool to room temperature.

3. In a large pitcher, mix the remaining 7 cups of water with the syrup and lemon juice.

This lemonade will keep in the fridge for at least a month. Mix it with vodka or maybe some bourbon and some fresh mint leaves. You could always drink it plain on the rocks as well, but where's the fun in that?

26 May 2014

Baking Day

Today is Memorial Day in the US and I was off work. I decided to spend the day baking and here's the result! Clockwise from left, ciabatta, cinnamon rolls, and kuvertbröd.


24 May 2014

Insalata Caprese

I'm aware that I've been away from the blog for far too long, and for that, I apologize. I have a few posts lined up now, though, so stay tuned in the coming weeks for some new recipes!

The classic Insalata Caprese (literally "Salad of Capri," Capri being an island just off the coast of Naples in Italy) is simple to make but, as long as you use good ingredients, tastes far better than the sum of its parts. Make this when the tomatoes are fresh and use a really good mozzarella cheese and you're in for a real treat.

The star of the dish is most definitely the tomato. I used simple "on the vine" tomatoes, but you can use Roma/plum tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, or even small cocktail tomatoes for the salad. The latter two are sweeter than the standard supermarket tomato, so you may need to add a little extra salt to balance the dish.

Traditionally, a Caprese salad contains tomato, mozzarella, basil, olive oil, and salt. I like to add a good aged balsamic vinegar, some red onion, and some freshly cracked ground pepper to the dish. While the salad is traditionally served as a starter, we had it as a main course the other day, accompanied by garlic bread and oven roasted potatoes. Simple and wonderful.

Insalata Caprese (Caprese Salad)

1 lb ripe tomatoes
10 oz fresh mozzarella cheese
1/4 red onion
1 bunch fresh basil
extra virgin olive oil
aged balsamic vinegar
black pepper

1. Slice the tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices.
2. Cut the cheese into bite-sized pieces.
3. Pick the basil leaves off the stem.
4. Finely slice the red onion.
5. Arrange the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil on plates and sprinkle the red onion on top.
6. Salt and pepper to taste.
7. Lightly sprinkle with the olive oil and vinegar.

Serve immediately with some good bread. I would recommend something Italian, like ciabatta!

09 March 2014

Steak au Poivre

I could probably eat steak every day. I know red meat isn't great for you and it would get pretty expensive (I only buy "good" meat from stores like Whole Foods because they are strict with what kind of treatment the animals received). There's just so much you can do with a good steak - from just grilling or frying it and serving it as is to slicing it up and putting it on a bed of salad to grinding it and making burgers. I could probably deal with being a vegetarian if I felt so inclined, but I think I would miss eating steak the most.

So, I decided to make steak. "Steak au poivre" means "pepper steak" in French, and, boy, there's a lot of pepper on this thing. It's earthy and a little spicy, but, thanks to the sauce, it's creamy, delicious, and just heavenly. I served it with mashed potatoes and oven roasted asparagus. I would also recommend oven roasted potatoes or pretty much any roasted root vegetable. The recipe below is for one person; double the quantities for two and so on.

Steak au Poivre

1 piece of steak (I used a New York strip but a filet or rib eye will do just fine)
1 tbsp black pepper
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp canola oil

1. An hour before cooking, remove your steak from the fridge. Remove any big pieces of fat, salt liberally on all sides, and let rest at room temperature. Yes, your steak will be fine for an hour, but don't leave it out much longer than that.

2. Once the hour is almost up, crush the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle (or something heavy, like a frying pan) until coarse - we want large pieces, not ground pepper. Spread the pepper on a plate and coat the surface of both sides of the steak by pressing it into the pepper.

3. Over medium heat, melt the butter and oil in a cast iron skillet until it starts turning golden. Add the steak and don't touch it for four minutes. Flip, and cook another four minutes without touching it for medium rare, depending on the thickness of your steak.

4. Remove the steak to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Pour off the grease from the pan, trying to not lose any of the residual pepper.

5. With the pan off the heat (this is important), add the brandy. Light the brandy with a match (trying not to singe your eyebrows in the process) and let the flames die down. Add the cream to the pan, turn the heat back on, and set to medium low. Cook for about three minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly.

5. Add the steak back into the sauce and coat with the sauce. Place the steak on a plate with whatever side dishes you opted for and pour the remaining sauce over it. Devour.

27 February 2014

Leek & Potato Soup

Ah, the leek. It's one of those vegetables that are fairly challenging to grow because it takes a lot of patience, care, and, above all, space to succeed. I don't grow my own (a balcony is no place for a leek to grow), but I'm basically saying that I don't envy those that do. When purchasing leeks at the store, try to get the ones with as much of the white part as possible because that's essentially the part you eat. Sure, the rest has its uses (mostly for making vegetable stock), but the white part is where the flavor and consistency you're looking for lives.

Mixing leeks with potatoes and adding stock, cream, and potentially some other ingredients is called a Vichyssoise and it is apparently either a French or an American invention. There seems to be some debate regarding the fact. I don't really care; I just think it's super tasty. While a proper Vichyssoise is served cold and contains onions and no buttermilk (only cream), I like the version found here better. It's lighter, it's good both cold and hot (I prefer mine hot), and it has a certain...je ne sais quoi.

Leek & Potato Soup

1 lb leeks
1 lb potatoes
1 quart vegetable stock (preferably homemade - if not, low salt)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup buttermilk (can be substituted with a second cup of heavy cream)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
white pepper

1. Cut off the dark green parts of the leeks, leaving only the white parts (including the roots) and the light green parts.

2. Cut the leeks lengthwise all the way down to the roots, leaving about 1/2 inch. This makes them a lot easier to wash because you're going to want to get rid of the dirt that may be trapped under the outermost leaves.

3. Once cleaned, cut off and discard the roots, then cut the leeks into small pieces.

4. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat and add the leeks and a pinch of salt.

5. Sweat over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then lower the heat to medium low and cook until the leeks are tender, about 20 minutes. Continue stirring occasionally.

6. While the leeks are cooking, peel and cut the potatoes into small pieces. Note that the potatoes brown quickly if left in the open air, so I generally soak them in water (or in the vegetable stock).

7. Once the leeks are tender, add the potatoes and vegetable stock and raise the heat to high.

8. Once the soup is boiling, turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 40 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.

9. Remove the soup from the heat and puree with a stick blender or in a food processor. If using a food processor, be very careful as the soup is hot - placing a towel on top of the lid helps.

10. Once completely smooth, stir in the cream, buttermilk, and about 1/2 tsp of white pepper, then return to low heat. Slowly heat, stirring frequently, until hot enough to eat. Alternatively, let cool down completely and serve cool.

11. Slice some chives and sprinkle over the top. Serve with crusty bread and white wine.

The soup will last three days in the fridge or three months in the freezer. Reheat in a pot on the stove over low heat.

16 February 2014

Kuvertbröd - Swedish Dinner Rolls

My grandmother, who passed away about a year ago, was a great cook and baker. I will always cherish the memories of having lunch at my grandparents' house because I knew I would get either meatballs or pancakes, which, to a Swedish kid, are about the best things you can eat in the whole world. One thing I had forgotten she baked (until my mother reminded me last Christmas) are these kuvertbröd - literally "envelope bread." At least that's what I thought all my life, until writing this blog post made me think, "That's a weird name for a piece of bread that looks nothing like an envelope." That's when it hit me: A kuvert in Swedish can mean both an envelope and a place setting (i.e., the plate and all the things that go with it - cutlery, napkin, glass, and whatever else). Using my Swedish brain even more (it's been a while since I spoke Swedish with any regularity), I recalled that you would use the word when talking about how many people would be coming to a dinner party.

With all this knowledge flooding back, I realized why these awesome little dinner roll-like pieces of bread are called what they are: They're individual servings that go perfectly with your dinner without having to share or slice bread. A cursory Google search proved me right: The name stems from the fact that they are for the individual and not for sharing with others around the dinner table. Bork, bork, bork!

Recently, I've found myself using these rolls for breakfast. I know that may sound weird to anyone in the U.S. reading this, but in Sweden, having a sandwich (we call it a macka) for breakfast is perfectly normal. We generally top ours with butter, Swedish cheese (which I currently purchase at IKEA), and maybe a slice of cucumber or tomato. A future blog post will feature the macka - I promise - and it's as Swedish as Absolut Vodka and ABBA. Read the Dragon Tattoo books and you'll find that they're having coffee and mackor (plural of macka) on every other page!

Anyway! This recipe is easy but made way easier with a stand mixer. It makes 24 rolls, and they freeze really well.

Kuvertbröd - Swedish Dinner Rolls

5 cups AP flour
50 g (about 3.5 tbsp) unsalted butter
2 tbsp active dry yeast
2 cups + 1 tbsp whole milk
1 tbsp white sugar
2 tsp salt
1 egg

1. Melt the butter in a small pot over low heat.

2. While the butter is melting, mix the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.

3. When the butter has melted, add the milk and heat to 118 degrees F (48 degrees C).

4. Add the milk/butter mixture to the dry ingredients and knead with the dough hook for 5 minutes. If not using a stand mixer, mix with a wooden spoon until everything comes together, then knead with your hands for 5 minutes.

5. Place the dough in a lightly floured bowl - it's likely pretty sticky at this point. Let rest under a kitchen towel for 30 minutes.

6. Turn your oven to 480 degrees F (250 degrees C).

7. Punch the dough down and divide into 24 equal parts - I use a kitchen scale for this. If you don't have a kitchen scale (digital), go get one. So useful.

8. Roll each piece of dough into a ball between the palms of your hands and place on a baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches of space between each piece.

9. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let rest another 30 minutes.

10. Crack the egg into a bowl and lightly whip with a fork.

11. Lightly brush each roll with the egg and sprinkle a little bit of sea salt on top. Alternatively, you can sprinkle with sesame seeds or black poppy seeds. Or just omit the sprinkling of anything at all.

12. Bake in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

13. Let rest on a cooling rack until cool enough to touch before cutting in half, slathering with butter, and trying not to eat too many in one sitting.

Once completely cooled, you can freeze the rolls in a Ziploc back for up to six months. While they can be toasted, I prefer mine not to be. Instead, I microwave a roll for 30 seconds on low power, then cut in half and microwave again on medium power for about 10 seconds. Your results may vary depending on your microwave, and you need to experiment with the timing if you're defrosting more than one roll at a time.