Monday, December 24, 2012

Best buttermilk pancakes

Merry Christmas everyone! Make your family happy tomorrow morning and whip up a batch of these during a present-opening break. Or before present opening begins if you have a small child who is up at 6am anyway. (Hey Santa. Here's a hint: all I want for Christmas is to sleep past 7am!)

These are your quintessential American pancakes: fluffy, slightly sweet, a hint of vanilla. The batter only take five minutes to whip together - only 1 extra step then using a pancake mix and I promise it is worth the 2 extra ingredients! These are so yummy they don't even need maple syrup. Just a dusting of snowy sugar.

Buttermilk Pancakes

Adapted from Joy of Cooking

You can cheat and bring the buttermilk to room temperature in the microwave and the eggs to room temperature by placing in a bowl of hot tap water.

Don't be alarmed by how thick this batter is. You can spread the batter out in the pan a bit so that they cook all the way through faster.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
3 tbsp butter, melted
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Whisk wet ingredients together in a small bowl until thoroughly combined, then add to the dry ingredients and whisk together with a few swift strokes just until combined. Do not overbeat, and small lumps are de rigour.

Place 1/4 cupfuls of batter in a preheated buttered pan or griddle on medium heat. Flip when the exposed side forms bubbles, and then cook just until cooked through. You might have to experiment with different levels of heat. (If the butter starts to brown within seconds of being put on the pan then it is too hot.) Place in a warm oven to keep hot or just serve 'em up as they come off the griddle. You won't have leftovers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chocolate Almond Torte

The past two weeks have been a bit hectic. But as much as I'd like to blame the holiday season for my procrastination, I really have been holding back because this recipe is too good to share. I have never felt like not sharing a recipe until now. However, seeing how it is Christmas time, I feel I ought to break out of my miserly Scrooge mood and pay up.

Folks, there is a reason that this cake is also known as the Queen of Sheba. It is elegant, divine and wholly regal.

The best word to describe this cake is transcendental.

But don't take my word for it. Just try it.

Chocolate Almond Torte
adapted from a recipe from The Times

This is one of the easiest elegant desserts you could possibly make. It also makes one of the best breakfast items. But however - and whenever - you serve it, do NOT sully it's beauty with vanilla ice cream. The sugar and vanilla will overpower the subtle notes of the chocolate and almonds. A slightly sweetened creme fraiche goes quite nicely if you must have an accompaniment.

- 200g dark chocolate
- 1 tbsp strong espresso coffee
- 1 tbsp rum or brandy
- 150g caster sugar
- 150g unsalted butter
- 100g ground almonds
- 5 large eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch spring form pan.

Melt the chocolate, coffee, rum or brandy, sugar and butter in a double boiler (or in a bowl sitting over a pot of simmering water.) Remove from the heat and stir until combined.

Add the ground almonds and mix well. Beat in the egg yolks, one by one.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until slightly stiff peaks form. Stir a couple of spoonfuls  of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then gently fold in the rest.

Pour batter into pan and bake for 30-40 minutes. Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack before removing from the pan. Dust with confectioners sugar before serving.

Optional: serve with sweetened cream or creme fraiche.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread

This is one of my favorite cake recipes. It is a moist, dense, intensely-spiced cake. It is so Christmas-y that biting into one is like having Bing Crosby croon "I'll be home for Christmas" right in your ear. In fact, when, in the middle of July I'm just wishing Christmas were here already, I bake up a batch of these and my holiday yearnings are temporarily satisfied.

For years I've baked this version of the recipe. It was very sticky, and often fell in the oven. Then I realized that the sugar ratio was really, really high. Then I found the version that you'll find below, which seems to be Claudia Fleming's original recipe. It has half the sugar, and more baking soda. She also included grated fresh ginger. I didn't, but think it would be great to add next time if I were serving this as a proper dessert. This time around I served it to friends as a mid-afternoon snack with mulled wine. (Now that's my idea of a great mommy/baby playdate!)

Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread

adapted from Claudia Fleming

Here in the UK they don't sell molasses so I used 3/4 cup dark treacle and 1/4 cup golden syrup. Treacle is like a really dark and thick molasses and golden syrup is similar to high-fructose corn syrup (not regular corn syrup which isn't as sweet.) 

Also, as you can see in the pictures, I used silicone rose and geranium molds which I simply buttered and floured, and they came out quite nicely. If you're using a regular (non-silicone) pan I highly recommend using parchment paper as described below or buttering and flouring really, really well because these do have a tendency to stick to the pan.

  • 1 cup Guinness stout, or oatmeal stout
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9- X 5-inch loaf pan, line the bottom and sides with parchment, and grease the parchment. Alternatively, butter and flour a 6-cup Bundt pan.

    In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the stout and molasses and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the baking soda. This will make the mixture foam up considerably so make sure you use a large pan. Allow to sit until the foam dissipates. 

    Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the eggs and both sugars. Whisk in the oil. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom.

    Combine the stout mixture with the egg mixture, then whisk this liquid into the flour mixture, half at a time. 

    Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour, or until the top springs back when gently pressed. Do not open the oven until the gingerbread is almost done, or the center may fall slightly. 

    Transfer to a wire rack to cool.


  • 1 cup Guinness stout
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking soda
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

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