As with every IMAX Thanksgiving potluck, I test out my annual holiday dessert that I make a number of times across the various social gatherings. This year, I picked a not-so-seasonal dessert and went with the chocolate and earl grey combination. I had seen a number of different recipes pairing those two flavors together, but the Real Simple one caught my eye.
The texture of the bundt cake is great. You get a nice crust that’s reminiscent of a brownie, though no where near as thick, and the inside is moist. I’ve made this with full-fat sour cream subbed for the yogurt, used nonfat greek yogurt, and whole fat regular. There wasn’t a big difference in flavor with any of those versions.
Heat oven to 350° F. Coat an 8-cup fluted tube pan with cooking spray.
Brew the tea in the water 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags or strain the leaves and set the brewed tea aside.
Using a mixer, beat the butter, eggs, and granulated sugar until fluffy. Blend in the chocolate.
Beat in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, yogurt, and brewed tea. [NOTE: If you use a stand mixer to blend the ingredients in this step, it will make a huge mess even if you start it on low. I’ve made this four times to date, and it’s happened every single time. I would recommend whisking everything in until everything is just combined.]
Pour into pan. The batter will be a little runny.
Bake 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out with only a few crumbs attached. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes. Turn out of pan and cool.
Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.
I ended up making 5 of these between Thanksgiving and Christmas between all of the family dinners and potlucks. I would say the only pain is cleaning the crevices of the bundt pan that ALWAYS have crumbs stuck to them!
When I turned 30, IMAX surprised me with a cake and a batch of pumpkin pie bars from my favorite bakery in LA (arguably in the world). I was obsessed with having these again, and scoured the internet for about a year to find a recipe that would help me replicate them. I finally came across one that sounded and looked like the bars from Cookie Casa.
The annual IMAX Thanksgiving potluck is my time to do a test run of one of the dishes I’ll make the following week on Turkey Day. This recipe was the perfect opportunity to try the bars out. I found the recipe on Brown Eyed Baker, but I wasn’t happy with the outcome. The topping looked and tasted like crumbs instead of a chunky crumble. Remembering what gave crumbles that great semi-chunky clumpy texture from the crumble I made a few years ago, I decided to start playing with this recipe. I made this three more times between Thanksgiving and Christmas, tweaking each time and finally found something I was really happy with. I bumped up the pumpkin content to a full can of puree to help bulk up the filling, as I thought the original was a bit crust- and crumble-heavy. I also cut an extra 1/4 cup butter into the oatmeal crumb mixture with a pastry blender for texture, and I pared down the spice content a wee bit.
I brought these to the Annual Sho-Yu Holiday Party last night, finally happy with the outcome. I am happy to share the recipe as I have edited it, after making this a total of 6 times since November!
For the Oatmeal Crumb:
1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 1/4 C quick oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C light brown sugar
3/4 C unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 C unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the Pumpkin Pie Filling:
1/4 C granulated sugar
1/4 C light brown sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 pinch ginger
1 pinch ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 can pureed pumpkin
1/3 C evaporated milk
Make the Oatmeal Crumble: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and adjust oven rack to middle position. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing excess to hang over the sides; set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda and salt to combine. Add both the granulated sugar and brown sugar and mix until no clumps remain. Add 3/4 cup melted butter and vanilla extract, then stir with a fork until the mixture is evenly moistened. Press two cups of the mixture into the prepared pan and bake on the center rack for 15 minutes.
Make the Pumpkin Pie Filling: Meanwhile, in another medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and salt. Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Finally, whisk in the pumpkin, and then the evaporated milk until the mixture is smooth and thoroughly combined.
When the crust has finished baking, pour the pumpkin pie filling over the bottom crust and return it to the center rack of the oven for 15 minutes.
While the filling is baking, cut 1/4 cup butter with a pastry blender into the remainder of the dry mixture until the butter is about pea size, trying to disperse throughout the remainder of the dry mixture. Set aside. This extra step will really give the topping that “crumble” texture, versus just being lots of crumbs on top.
Remove the dish from the oven, pinch the oatmeal crumble mixture into small pieces and sprinkle over the top of the pumpkin pie filling. Return the baking dish to the oven, placing it on the upper-middle rack, and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until it is golden on top and the center only jiggles slightly.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature, at least 1 to 2 hours. Then, transfer the pan to the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours. Cut into squares and serve. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Are these as good as Cookie Casa’s? They’re not, but they are still pretty darned close!
In my early years at IMAX, I had many a heated debate with several coworkers about whether pineapple was a key ingredient in carrot cake. I pretty much don’t order or eat a piece of carrot cake unless I know it has pineapple in it. There is something about the pineapple that just adds moisture along with a little something special, and I think most bakers look to raisins to do this. I LOVE cooked raisins, but I just don’t think they belong in carrot cake!
The IMAX Annual Thanksgiving pot luck is usually my opportunity to try out a new recipe on my office guinea pigs colleagues, so I thought I’d try to make a carrot cake cupcake. Obviously after all the pineapple talk, I wasn’t about to try a recipe that didn’t have pineapple in it. Paula Deen’s self-proclaimed Best-Ever Carrot Cake Cupcakes sounded promising. I loved the cake so much that I made these several times – for the aforementioned potluck, the 2013 Annual Kawasaki Family Christmas Party, Kevin’s friends Christmas party, and once for Christmas lunch with Kev’s family. The cupcakes were well-received across the board, but I think it was best with a bit of toasted coconut on top. A lot of cupcakes make great minis but I don’t know if I loved these as minis (I tried that, too). The batter is a bit chunky, so the dough doesn’t cook consistently in each cupcake.
As much as I loved Paula’s cupcake recipe, I also didn’t love the cream cheese frosting recipe. It just seemed a bit bland and liquid-y for my preference. I changed it up a bit, adding more powdered sugar to stiffen it up a bit and some extra butter to add some creaminess.
Last year, I took a number of vacation days to take some baking classes at The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories and expand my repertoire of ideas and general knowledge. My boss (based in Toronto) always asked what I did on my days off so I’d send her photos of the finished products. Unfortunately due to the distance, she never got to benefit from my learning. I did try to send some cookies for her birthday back in October, but they got stuck in Canadian customs just long enough to be delayed over the weekend. They arrived 4 days after I baked them, so I’m sure they weren’t a prime example of my skill level.
Lucky for me, she made it out to LA in November so I had to whip something good up. I had been eyeing a recipe on Smitten Kitchen for an apple sharlotka, a Russian dessert that is somewhat of an apple pie cake. It’s relatively healthy – being comprised of mostly apples and not very much sugar or flour. When I saw the egg-to-sugar-to-flour ratio, I assumed it would have a really light custard-y texture to the cake batter and I was right.
It’s very easy to make and really beautiful with some powdered sugar sprinkled on top. Here’s the recipe!
Butter or nonstick spray, for greasing pan
6 large, tart apples, such as Granny Smiths
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
Ground cinnamon, to finish
Powdered sugar, also to finish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper and the sides of the pan. Peel, halve and core your apples, then chop them into medium-sized chunks. (I cut each half into four “strips” then sliced them fairly thinly — about 1/4-inch — in the other direction.) Pile the cut apples directly in the prepared pan.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer or whisk, beat eggs with sugar until thick and ribbons form on the surface of the beaten eggs. Beat in vanilla, then stir in flour with a spoon until just combined. The batter will be very thick.
Pour over apples in pan, using a spoon or spatula to spread the batter and press it down into the apple pile. The top of the batter should end up level with the top of the apples.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a tester comes out free of batter. Cool in pan for 10 minutes on rack, then flip out onto another rack, peel off the parchment paper, and flip it back onto a serving platter. Dust lightly with ground cinnamon.
Serve warm or cooled, dusted with powdered sugar. We ate it plain, but Smitten Kitchen mentioned pairing it with a dollop of barely sweetened whipped or sour cream.
Note: I don’t think this cake holds up very long after you make it. It’s best when fresh, but definitely try to eat it within a day of making it!
This is a tale of love and loss, fulfillment and heartbreak, happiness and anguish. This is a tale about my first love…at work.
You meet a lot of people in the workplace. If you’re lucky, you’ll figure out who the batshit crazy people are right away and keep your distance. If you’re luckier, you’ll make a friend or two. And if you’re REALLY lucky, you will find a work spouse. Coworkers come and go in our lives but you will never forget your first work spouse.
Oh the fond memories. One of my all-time favorite Kelley stories was when a Chinese filmmaker flew in to the US for a meeting with some of our other coworkers. He sat in our common area and saw Kelley working while he waited for his colleagues. During dinner, he leaned over to one of our coworkers and said, “So I must ask you – WHO is that gorgeous strawberry blonde that works in your office? She looks like a model or an actress!”
It all started over morning coffee. Kelley and I casually complained to each other about how terrible the office coffee was at the time. Neither of us were coffee snobs, but the communal office coffee literally tasted like aluminum sludge. No amount of sugar or creamer could save it. A couple of years ago, Kelley and I started buying and brewing our own coffee. Most of my mornings as of late would start with the instant message “can you go now?”, meaning it was time to rendezvous in the office pantry. Morning coffee quickly became coffee and breakfast, which then occasionally turned into drinks after work and weekend outings. I was in a committed relationship that was martial work bliss.
Naturally, as a little goodbye sendoff, I had to make a batch of “Gorgeous Strawberry Blonde” bars. Kelley had actually sent me a similar recipe from Smitten Kitchen a couple of years ago for Pink Lemonade Bars, but they used raspberries instead of strawberries. I had to go down to San Diego for a work trip the day before her last day, so I picked up a few cartons of fresh strawberries from the Carlsbad Strawberry Company farm on the drive back up. They had BEAUTIFUL and extremely sweet strawberries to choose from.
I tweaked Smitten Kitchen’s recipe a bit to make up for the additional liquid that strawberries tend to produce (versus the not-as-juicy raspberries), and didn’t use the lemon zest in the crust that Smitten Kitchen’s recipe called for. Here’s my take:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup fresh lemon juice (pulp is fine)*
zest of 1 medium lemon
1/2 cup pureed strawberries (about 3/4 cup hulled berries)**
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
*If you want it to be less tart, use slightly less lemon juice and more strawberry puree, but make sure you end up with the same total amount of liquid or the bars won’t set after you bake them.
**Hulling the berries is really important – you only want the sweet, red part of the strawberry and none of that white bitter center.
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan, or line with nonstick foil or parchment paper.
2. Make the crust. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter, until smooth and fluffy. Working at a low speed with a stand mixer (I used a pastry blender in this case), gradually beat in flour and salt until mixture is crumbly. Pour into prepared pan and press firmly into an even layer. Bake for about 18 minutes, until set at the edges.
3. While the crust bakes, make the filling. In a blender or the bowl of a food processor, combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, strawberry puree, sugar and eggs and process until smooth. Add in flour, baking powder and salt, then pulse until smooth.
4. Gently pour the filling over the hot crust when it has finished baking. Return pan to oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until the filling is set. A light colored “crust” will form on top from the sugar in the custard – nothing a little sprinkling of powdered sugar can’t hide!
5. Sprinkle the bars with some powdered sugar. Cool completely before slicing and use a sharp damp knife to ensure clean slices. Store bars in the refrigerator. Makes about 28 2-inch square bars.
Kelley turned about as red as her bars when she opened the box on her last day and read the sign that had her infamous Kelley-isms (as seen below).
I think all approved the out come of the bars. Miss you, Kelley!