Banana Maple Bread

I wasn't sure what to do when I woke up extremely early this Saturday morning when I didn't have pastry school at 8am, so what did I do? I got in the kitchen and baked. First I prepared custard cups for creme caramel to be finished later that day. Then, feeling once again inspired by Love Veggies and Yoga's simple/healthy/vegan/gluten free/delicious recipes, I made a tiny batch of banana maple muffins. They were insanely delicious with strong maple flavor and a nice chewy texture. I love this recipe because all you need is a fork and a large bowl to mix the ingredients in- barely any mess! All of the ingredients can be found at Trader Joe's too.

With just one over-ripe banana, this recipe makes four muffins. You could easily multiple the ingredients by three, and get a dozen muffins.

A few days later I multiplied this recipe by SIX (I had to get rid of six bananas, ok!?) and it was still delicious. I tried swapping crunchy peanut butter for the almond butter and next time I will stick with almond butter, the flavor profile matched the other ingredient's flavors better.

The best is when you get a little pocket of maple syrup in the muffin, yummm.

Banana Maple Muffins
vegan, gluten free
Ingredients (to make 4 muffins):
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 medium over-ripe banana, mashed
  • 1/3 cup unsalted raw almond butter
  • 1/3 cup almond flour (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour and 1/4 cup whole wheat flour)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 350F. Mix flax seeds through banana in a medium bowl until well combined. In another bowl mix together the flour(s) through salt. Mix the dry ingredients in to wets until well combined. Pour the batter in to lined muffin tins. Bake for about 18-24 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.


Pastry School in Pictures

Now I understand why there aren't very many blogs out there chronicling pastry school, there's no time! Here is the past few weeks in pictures (some are my creations, others are not):

All these delicious pastries are made with Pate au Choux dough

Gateuau Paris-Brests

Gougere (with egg white salad) for Blue Grass Festival

Profiterols with vanilla ice cream

Lemon Souffle
Strawberry Mousse
Chocolate Mouse with whipped cream and chocolate curls

That's how the center is supposed to look. Chef hacked it open to show us :)


My First Week at Tante Marie's

Friends and co-workers are already asking me where the goods are. But it turns out I won't be taking any home because they go to a much better cause. Mary (Tante Marie herself) started Food Runners in 1987, a nonprofit that delivers food from restaurants to those in need in San Francisco. All of our leftovers (that are edible) go to those in greater need- hooray!

On my second night I successfully made a dark caramel sauce and almost successfully made a creme anglaise, which is still cooling in the fridge for Saturday's class. After a lot of egg whisking and boiling sugar Chef Cindy Muschet demo'ed pate a choux (cream puff dough), which we'll dive right into at 8am on Saturday along with creating pastry cream for eclairs.

Here's our second class in pictures

Coffee Pot de Creme
Maple Custard

Creme Caramel


First night at Tante Marie's

I just finished my first night of Pastry school at Tante Marie's Cooking School in San Francisco! I'm exhausted and full of cookies, but I can definitely say all of the cookie theories I've talked about have been confirmed and apparently I have to stop under-baking my cookies (even though they are most delicious that way, apparently they're not "sale-able").

I'm off to read more about butter as it relates to cookies as I drift into a sugary dream...


Tangy Buttermilk Waffles

I love waking up Saturday mornings knowing I have an entire weekend for myself. I always look forward to sleeping in but rarely does that end up happening. However, waking up early has it's perks! I had plenty of time to make these deliciously tangy buttermilk waffles, topped with sour cream and blueberry preserves. (Photos still with the iPhone 3G.)

I inherited this ancient waffle iron from my mom but it still works like a charm. Replacing milk with buttermilk gave the waffle its unique flavor. I was planning to have a simple waffle with maple syrup, but the buttermilk and egg flavors came through so much, that adding a dollop of sour cream and a spoonful of blueberry preserves balanced the whole thing out very well. This meal will make you feel very sophisticated, like a French Aristocrat. If you speak French it will really help this breakfast experience. Bon Apetite!

Tangy Buttermilk Waffles
adapted from the Joy of Cooking

1. Sift into a large bowl before measuring:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar

2. Separate the whites and yolks from 3 eggs.

3. Mix together in a medium bowl:
3 egg yolks
2 tsp melted butter
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

4. Make a whole in the center of the flour mixture. Pour in the liquid mixture and combine with a few strokes.

5. Beat the 3 egg whites until stiff but not dry and fold them into the batter until just blended.

6. Pour it into your waffle maker.

Top with sour cream and jam or honey.


Pastry School

Tante Marie's baking program finally begins next week. I'm really looking forward to everything I'm going to learn but also sharing it all with you here! Prepare yourselves for scrumptious pictures and recipes and some candid stories about training to be a professional baker (all while leading a duel-life as a full time employee at an SF tech start-up.)

And here are some pictures to leave you with for the evening. This will be the last iPhone 3G picture you see here.

cheddar, fontina & gorgonzola mac & cheese with quinoa noodles


My First Delivery

The other day I got my 50th Facebook "like" for BakedLove. Setting and accomplishing small steps like this of a huge goal provides me the fuel to keep charging away at baking and blogging (and so does all the positive feedback I've been getting from people online!)

I promised the 50th person on Facebook a baked good of their choice and my old friend, Kara, was the winner. Kara lives about 40 miles away, and as a San Francisco resident, I get around on foot. Keeping this promise could have turned out to be a huge hassle since a baked good delivery is time-sensitive and fragile. Any mail system would not do- TaskRabbit to the Rescue!

TaskRabbit gets you in touch with friendly, reliable people who can help you get just about anything you need done, and put some free time back into your life. (Full disclosure: I work for TaskRabbit, but even if I didn't I would still think the service rocks.)


Having time to bake on a work night is difficult enough, without having to worry about which mailing service to use, actually getting myself there and packing the cookies for overnight delivery. So, the night before I baked Kara's peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies, I posted a Task for someone to pick up the cookies from me at work and deliver to Kara- Stress-free!

With TaskRabbit I was able keep my promise to myself to bake, blog and do more with my time! I can't emphasize enough how easy TaskRabbit's service is to deliver on my promise of baked goods. And who can put a price on having fresh baked goods delivered by a friendly person?


Raw Peanut Butter Power Cookies

More raw power cookies! The 'power' is for all the good-for-you stuff that goes in them. Raw cookies are also appealing because they are just so easy to make on a work night, then you have a healthy snack throughout the week. And, if you work at a San Francisco Bay Area tech start-up, chances are your co-workers will be foodies and not be scarred to try something labeled, 'vegan', or 'gluten-free', or 'healthy' and 'cookie' in the same sentence.

 Raw Vegan Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies
2/3 C natural peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
1 C almond flour
1/4 C ground flax seed
1/4 C unsweetened shredded coconut (first, toast it lightly in the oven to bring out more flavor)
2 tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp vanilla paste
White chocolate chips to top (premium quality- crappy white chocolate chips may contain hydrogenated and sometimes animal fat, always check the label...)

Mix it all together and shape into cookies.


5 Minute Raw Power Cookies

We just made cookies in under 5 minutes!... Notice how I said 'made' not baked. They are Raw. Vegan. Gluten free. Almond butter cookies. The first time around I got the measurements wrong, so we made them again and our version was definitely tastier. Sometimes mistakes are serendipitous. Here's the original recipe and here's ours:

Raw Vegan Gluten Free Almond Butter Cookies

2/3 C almond butter (I used almond/hazelnut butter)
1 C almond flour
1/2 C ground flax seeds
1/4 C shredded, unsweetened coconut
2 tbsp agave nectar
2 tbsp pure maple syrup (almost raw)
1 tbsp coconut oil

Mix everything together in a medium bowl. Roll into balls and enjoy.

Add cocoa nibs on top for extra sweetness. The additions are endless: chocolate chips, extra coconut, oats, honey, protein powder, or substitute another kind of butter, like peanut butter or cashew butter.


Foodie Weekend Part 1

It was a serious foodie weekend with Saturday being La Cocina's 3rd annual San Francisco Street Food Festival and Sunday being SF Food War's Salsa-licous salsa competition. There was definitely no baking going on just a lot of eating. Here's how Saturday went down:

We pre-purchased a $50 passport, which I would recommend it if you're planning to try a lot of different foods. It gets you one free drink, a souvenir passport that lists every vendor, and a "secret snack," which was a random bite of quesadilla courtesy of Mission tortillas, an event sponsor.

Me and my better half arrived at about 10:30am, 30 minutes before the event started and had a chance to walk up and down before the place became packed (with 50,000 people!) Right at 11am the place was filled but the crowd was generally mild, smiling and sedated from all of the delicious food in their bellies. We lasted about 3.5 hours there and here's what we tried:

Azalina's, based out of San Francisco, sold at various SF markets
- Malaysian fried peanut taco (small bite): The only vegan item we saw and pretty darn good. A fried flour tortilla with a peanut, tofu filling.
- Penang curry bomb buns: two curry shredded chicken sandwiches on deep fried rolls (big plate). This is the only place where we got the small and big bite plates, they both had a spicy pickle topping and a creamy sauce. This was the last thing we tried and our favorite. Friend and flavorful!

The Peached Tortilla, Austin TX, Food Truck
- Pad Thai taco (small plate): a chicken taco with peanut sauce, bean sprouts on a thick flour tortilla.

Nettie's Crab Shack, San Francisco, Restaurant
- Dungenous crab devilled egg (small plate): A perfectly hard boiled egg with plenty of creamy crab filling. Our breakfast appetizer.

Flour + Water, San Francisco, Restaurant
- Fried peppers and corn (small bite): a let-down, I think there big bite plate, a Porchetta sandwich was meant to be the star. It is still supposed to be an amazing restaurant that I'm dieing to go to.

Zella's Soulful Kitchen, based out of Oakland, Caterer, also sold at Whole Foods in Noe Valley
- Jacked Up Hush Puppies (small bite): just regular ol' hush puppies but they were good. The big bite, a shrimp po' boy sandwich, looked awesome.

Embrace Sweets, Los Angeles, sold at LA Farmer's Markets
- Caramelized banana Nutella brownie: very fudgy.
- Chocolate chip cookie: soft and nice flavor, but I think it was made with shortening.

We purposely avoided two of our favorite food trucks/carts: Curry Up Now out of San Francisco, because we ate it twice the week before, and Big Ass Sandwiches out of Portland, because we ate it twice during our weekend trip to Portland last month. We had to give other places a fighting chance.

I highly recommend taking a good look at which vendors you don't want to miss before you arrive. There where so many more we wanted to try but couldn't get to. Both events benefited various worthy Bay Area nonprofits.

11:30 am

crates, zip ties and plywood bar tables

Seoul Sausage guys. Fear the beard!

Jello art

The Peached Tortilla truck

Pad Thai taco

Look at that grip! (trip to Portland)

Big Ass Vegetarian sandwich


Nectarine Crumble

What do you do with a bag full of free nectarines? Make a crumble and take it to the beach to share with your friends!

Be sure to eat it straight from the pan with a giant spoon, that way there's time to pass it around while your friends are still eating their bite. 

Gluten Free Nectarine Crumble

Filling Ingredients
  • bag of nectarines (at least six nectarines), peeled, cut into sixths
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2/3 C granulate sugar
  • pinch of salt

Crumble Ingredients
  • 1.5 C rice and/or almond flour (or regular white flour)
  • 1/2 C cold unsalted butter, cut into sixths
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp all spice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 C brown sugar
  • 1/3 C granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a glass baking dish.

Make the crumble by stirring all of the ingredients except the butter in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter with a couple of butter knives or a pastry cutter until crumble pieces form. Place in the fridge.

Make the filling by combing all ingredients. Scoop into the buttered dish. Pour the crumble topping over the filling. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the top is golden and the juice is bubbling through.

Beer goes well with this Crumble as a pre-dessert beverage...at least when you're at the beach it does. Any type of beer will do.


Gluten Free Brownies

Here we go, gluten free brownies (take's a bite)- Pretty good, especially while they are still warm!

Ideally I would have tried the gluten free flour mix from the NY Times, but I had to work with what I already had. After comparing a few different flour mix recipes, with varying ratios of ingredients, many of which I didn't event have, I decided to just go for my own basic mix. So, my first gluten free flour mix is:
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1/4 cup almond flour (According to the Isa you can use as a substitute for corn flour)
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/3 cup brown rice flour
My regular brownie recipe creates cake-like brownies, and the gluten-free version was just as cakey and chocolatey. The texture was only slightly off and after cooling completely where a bit dryer than usual. Over all I would say a success! (The Joy of Cooking actually has a note at the end of their brownie recipe that says 1 1/3 C rice flour can be substituted for the 1 cup flour in the brownie recipe, and this book is from the 1970s before gluten free was talked about.)


Gluten Free Beer and Brownies

Well after a gluten-laden Oregon Brewer's Festival (OBF), it's time to make gluten free brownies (I have no idea how they are going to turn out.)

The 24th Oregon Brewer's Festival did have one gluten free beer from Deschutes Brewery out of Bend, Oregon. The beer had notes of citrus and hops, but, and this breaks my heart to say, kind of sucked. However, I still give them major props for creating a flavorful GF beer.

my dad's & my list of beers to try...& left-over tokens

Straight from the 2011 OBF program, "One of the most asked questions at the festival is, 'are there any gluten free beers available?'- Yes! This hop-forward Northwest pale ale is made of 100% gluten free ingredients: brown rice, sorghum, and dark candy sugar. It's hopped with Nugget Centennial, Cascade, and Citra hops for a Northwest gluten-free experience."

Unfortunately, according to my dad, Whole Foods sells a better GF beer, Estrella Daura out of Barcelona (go figure.) Let's hope my brownies get better reviews from Mr. Lavenberg. GF Brownie review coming soon.


Crepes with Stuff

This morning I went really far from vegan baking and burned through 1/2 dozen eggs (but they came from cage-free, presumably happy chickens) and a lot of cheese.

Here are crepes with cheesy egg whites, cream cheese, and jalapeƱo jelly (shout out to Jen's mom) . I like my eggs with a lot of cheese and a bit of sweet.

(adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

  • 3/4 C flour
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tbsp ground flax seed (just for fun)
  • 2/3 C plain, unsweetened soy milk (or regular milk)
  • 1/3 C water
  • 2 eggs

Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk eggs, add liquids and whisk well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk only a few times (lumps are OK!) Pour some batter onto a hot, lightly oiled pan. swivel the pan around to get a thin layer of batter. When brown on the underneath side, flip.


Vegan Banana Buttercream Frosting

It's been a year since we celebrated my roommates birth with an epic white chocolate banana birthday cake. This year she once again asked for something baked with banana and for the first time I actually had no over-ripe bananas!

Improvising, I tried to incorporate (vegan) banana buttercream filling into (vegan) chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting on top. Adding real banana, or any fruit to buttercream frosting causes it to separate and loose its texture, but it still worked for the filling and no one else seemed to notice ;)

For fun I added a (vegan) hand-rolled Belgium chocolate truffle on top of the peanut butter frosting.

My favorite flavor combination was actually the one cupcake that was dipped in chocolate ganache because I ran out of peanut butter frosting. It reminded me of a Hostess Cupcake but with a fresh, natural, banana, (and better) filling. It looked just like one and had the same texture without the weird sugar film you get in your mouth after eating Hostess products.

These cakes looked totally awesome, but I didn't take pictures except for this crappy one I took with my 3g phone. With this cupcake, I threw everything on it: banana buttercream filling, peanut butter frosting, a tiny chocolate truffle, then all dipped in chocolate ganache... tasty but messy looking.

Gina's (http://ginaespo.blogspot.com/) photo!

I realized I should have taken a picture of the Hostess look-a-like once I had eaten ½ of it, but I really didn’t want to stop to grab the camera. 

I plan to experiment with the banana frosting a couple more times- First with folding finely mashed banana in at the end and then possibly try heating up mashed banana, letting it cool and then folding it in at the end. Once I do all this, I'll update the blog.


Homemade kombucha is easy!...

... You just have to find someone who will give you a scoby (the paddy of living organisms).

You can actually be pretty lax with ingredient amounts and play around with it until you find a ratio that tastes good. Mine often ends up pretty acidic since I don’t add much sugar.

Mini chemistry lesson: the scoby is alive, similar to how yeast is a living organism and it feeds off of the sugar. The raw apple cider vinegar contains the enzymes that start the fermentation.

Let’s assume you are starting with one scoby.

Ingredients and material:
  • 1 large wide mouth jar (I use a large mason jar) but something bigger would be even better
  • 1 kombucha scoby
  • organic raw apple cider vinegar
  • water
  • tea (any flavor you prefer, mango has been the yummiest so far)
  • sugar

Make sure all of your materials are super clean

Boil the amount of water that fits into the mason jar in a large pot on the stove. Remove from the stove and stir in anywhere from 1-2 cups of sugar. Add anywhere from 3-6 bags of tea. Remove tea bags when cool, stir up the sugar if any is remaining on the bottom. Pour team into the large, clean jar, leaving 3-4 inches at the top. Add ~1/4 cup vinegar. Add the juice that the scoby was sitting in (kombucha enzymes, yum). Put a clean dish towel or washcloth over the top of the jar with a rubber band (it needs to breath!)

Let sit for 2 weeks.

Important notes:
  • Keep things super clean otherwise it will grow mold, if anything looks off on the scoby like discoloring (other than turning darker as you re-use the scoby ) or moldy-looking spots, dump it and start over!
  • Only use glass containers and don’t let the kombucha touch anything else, like metal, etc.

To bottle it:
Remove scoby and put in a clean glass bowl in a bath with some of the kombucha. I always just use my hands (after washing thoroughly). Cover with a loose glass lid or cloth. Pour kombucha into smaller glass bottles with tight fitting lids. Store in fridge. You can pour out the very bottom if it’s got a layer of sludge or you can drink it….

Yeah, those are cupcakes in the background

Scoby in it's juice (actually ,plus one tiny scoby on the side)

scoby, top-view

Check out how thick they can get: some scoby image from some hippie


Vegan Banana Cupcakes with Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting

It seems I am working my way through Isa and Terry's Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, similarly to how Julie cooked her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking (here is the archived Julie/Julia Project blog), but this is a much smaller task and more enjoyable- I don't have to worry about lobster murder, or even any animal products at all :)


After one bite my roommate says, "never make banana bread again, just these cupcakes."

I love that this process is happening organically. This past weekend I had no intention of baking but I  ran into the recurring problem of over-ripe bananas in the kitchen and felt the recurring compulsion to make something out of them rather then toss the. So I turned to the book and loosely followed their recipe for Banana Cupcakes. Here it is:

Vegan Banana Cupcakes
  • 2 over-ripe bananas (3/4 cup)
  • 1 1/4 C flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 C granulated sugar
  • 1/3 C canola oil
  • 2/3 C unsweetened plain soy, almond or rice milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 C chopped chocolate

Preheat oven to 350F and line cupcake pan with liners

Mash bananas until their are no chunks. Sift flour, baking soda, powder, salt and sugar into a large bowl and mix.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, milk, vanilla, almond extract and bananas. Create a well in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Fill cupcake tins 2/3 full. Sprinkle some chocolate pieces into each cupcake and swirl it gently into the batter with 2-3 stirs. Bake for 20-22 minutes until a knife/toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Vegan Peanut Butter Frosting
  • 3/4 C Crisco butter flavor shortening
  • 2/3 C peanut butter (whatever type you prefer)
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-2 1/2 C confectioner's sugar
  • 3-4 tbsp soy, almond, rice milk or soy creamer

With an electric hand-held mixer, cream the shortening until smooth. Add the peanut butter and vanilla and beat until very smooth (2-3 minutes). Beat in sugar. As the mixture begins to stiffen, add in the milk a tiny bit at a time. Beat until frosting is light in color and super fluffy (around 5 minutes). Make sure cupcakes are cool and frost away!


I found Gluten Freedom

Well I finally did it, and it really was no easy feat, what with having no car in SF and needing a handful of random ingredients.

I convinced my friend from out of town to drive me to Rainbow Grocery by talking up what a totally awesome meat-free co-op it is. She even shopped with me and hung around while I searched their extensive bulk food section for the five different flours I needed to bake the "vanilla" cupcakes (they tasted a bit like corn cakes, but with enough frosting the cake flavor was harder to pin down.) Dear Ashley did at least walk out with some type of vegan breakfast burrito. Laiden with a very heavy bag of groceries she even drove me back to my place before taking off on her journey back home.

Then began the real adventure- baking gluten-free, which is actually a breeze once you have all of the ingredients gathered and have an awesome recipe (courtesy of Isa and Terry). Exciting things are happening in the world of gluten-free baking. This time a year ago, it was near impossible to find a decent gluten-free baked good. But now bakers are beginning to figure out which alternative flours (like quinoa, almond, rice, etc.) bake well together to create great flavor and texture.

ground flax seeds are used to replace egg in many recipes

Later I added more frosting...

Check out this recent article from the NY Times about gluten-free baking and a link to recipes.