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Food + Recipes

Sweet Potato Pie Cupcakes With Maple Bacon Frosting

January 26, 2020
Sweet Potato Pie Cupcakes With Maple Bacon Frosting

Growing up, I wasn’t that interested in sweet potato pie. My grandma, mom, and older cousins loved it because it reminded them of Mississippi and the women who made it for them.

Sweet potato pie beats the pants off  any pumpkin pie, but given a choice, I’d rather have Aunt Fannie’s chocolate meringue pie, Uncle Clarence’s German chocolate cake, or my Grandma Dorothy’s banana cake.

Sweet potato cupcakes with sugar sprinklesBut as it’s gotten harder to hold onto memories of my relatives, I’ve been craving those original family recipes.  I found it in a delicious pour-and-bake sweet potato pie batter from Mamie & Makhi’s. The founder Lois grew up in Berkeley, but her Grandma Mamie is from Mississippi, just like my family and it tastes just like I remember.

I’ve been making pies, smoothies, pop tarts, and pancakes with her batter, which led me to  these Sweet Potato Pie Cupcakes With Maple Bacon Frosting. They capture the flavor of sweet potato pie pancakes with maple syrup and bacon. I made them as mini cupcakes, because they’re so cute, and you don’t feel as guilty about eating them.

Start by making a few  pieces of thick applewood smoked bacon–the better the bacon, the better the flavor. I found a Fluffy Maple Frosting recipe on The Spruce Eats, and replaced a tablespoon of butter with a tablespoon of bacon grease. The cake recipe is from Mamie & Makhi’s website. Try the recipe and let me know what you think:

For the Frosting

  • 3 slices thick applewood smoked bacon, cooked until browned, oil reserved
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark, packed)
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light cream (or half-and-half, milk, or evaporated milk; more as needed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon bacon fat

    1. Cook the bacon over medium heat until brown on both sides, but not burned. Blog the bacon and reserve the grease. When the bacon is cool, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices.

    2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter with the maple syrup, bacon fat, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly.

    3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until the brown sugar has dissolved.

    4. Remove the syrup mixture from the heat and let stand until completely cooled.

    5. Pour the cooled syrup mixture into a mixing bowl. Gradually beat in 2 1/2 cups of the powdered sugar and the evaporated milk. Add the vanilla extract and beat until smooth. Add more confectioners’ sugar or more milk, as needed to make a spreadable frosting.

    The frosting makes enough for a two-layer cake, a rectangular cake, or about 18 to 24 cupcakes.

For the Cupcakes

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 2-1/2 cups Mamie & Makhi’s Sweet Potato Pie Batter
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup evaporated milk (only as needed)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Combine the sweet potato pie batter, the egg and the vanilla, then fold into the dry ingredients to form a moist batter. If the batter is too thick to pour into your cupcake liners, add 1/4 cup milk, up to 1/2 cup only as needed.

3. To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake mini cupcakes for 15 minutes, being careful not to over cook or they will be dry! Stick a toothpick into one and if it comes out clean, they’re done.

4. When the cupcakes are cool enough to handle, frost them with the Maple Bacon Frosting. Top each one with a little slice of bacon and garnish with gold decorative sugar if you like.

Makes about 6 dozen mini cupcakes

Wine + Food Pairing

The Only 5 Wines You Need for Thanksgiving Dinner 2019

November 27, 2019

One of the nice things about hosting a Thanksgiving dinner is that historical precedent has done much of the menu planning for you. And the seasonal produce calendar does the rest. There’s turkey, dressing (or do you say stuffing?), mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts and cranberry sauce.

But what about the wine? Wine for Thanksgiving is a big deal, especially here in California. Of course, we’re all free to drink whatever we like with what we’re eating since the days of rigid pairing rules are over. 

After a couple decades of adult Thanksgivings, I’ve noticed that some wines create more delight–and pair with Thanksgiving’s rich, earthy and sweet flavors–better than others. So I created a list of wines that win when paired with most anything on your Thanksgiving table. If you can’t find these exact wines that’s OK; just use these five categories as a guide to happy Thanksgiving wine pairings and keep these in mind for your next big holiday dinner. 

No. 1: Bubbly

Sparkling wine is always festive and it’s a happy way to begin any dinner party, but especially one where you’re counting your blessings for the year. The acidity in a fine traditional method sparkling does a good job of priming your palate for dinner, and the toastiness from aging a bit will give the wine depth. This one made from 100% Chardonnay will pair beautifully with seafood starters like cracked Dungeness crab to creamy dips and chips and even white turkey meat.

My pick: 2016 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, $40

 

schramsberg blanc de blancs

Photo credit: Schramsberg

No. 2: Pinot Noir

So last Thanksgiving, everybody at the table was going on about how much they loooved Cab. But what wine did they all pounce on? My bottle of Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast. I shouldn’t have been surprised. There’s a reason Pinot Noir is considered the most food friendly of all the red wines out there.  With its lovely aromatics and flavors that take you through bright acidity, red fruit, smoke, spice and earth it does all the things.  Whether you’ve got a forkful of turkey and cranberry, mushroom bread pudding, or Brussel sprouts with bacon, Pinot will make it better. 

My pick: 2016 Bohème Wines Stuller Vineyard Pinot Noir, $55

 

Boheme Wines Stuller Vineyard Pinot Noir

Photo credit: Bohème Wines

No. 3: Zinfandel

While the grape is originally from Croatia, the wine called Zinfandel is an American creation. And so it seems perfectly fitting for Thanksgiving dinner. Plus, with its tangy, berry-forward flavors, juiciness and soft tannins, it’s the kind of easy-drinking wine that’s perfect with dark turkey meat, pork roast, stuffing and gravy and all the other deliciousness on your holiday table.

My pick: 2017 Brown Estate Eastside Zinfandel, $55

 

Brown Estate Eastside Zinfandel

Photo credit: Brown Estate

 

No. 4: Older Napa Valley Bordeaux Style Wine

Some people couldn’t imagine having a special dinner without some Cabernet Sauvignon. I get that, but for me, pouring a young Napa Cabernet Sauvignon (with the possible exception of one by Heitz Cellar) at Thanksgiving evokes Godzilla stomping all over the dinner table, sending peas and onions, sweet potato casserole and gravy flying.

The exuberant fruit, tannins and alcohol make Cab and its Bordelais brothers way too big for this meal, unless you’re swapping ribeye for turkey. Ah, but a wine that’s nine or 10 years old? That’s a very different story. Over time that fruit calms down, allowing earthiness and spice to emerge, and the texture to become sublimely silky. See why Robert Parker called this wine “one of the finest California Cabernet Francs I have tasted.”

My pick: 2010 Turnbull Cellars Leopoldina Vineyard Cabernet Franc, $110

 

Turnbull Leopoldina Cabernet Franc

Photo credit: Turnbull Wine Cellars

No. 5: Tawny Port

Maybe you believe in drinking dessert with whatever red wine or Chardonnay you have lingering in your glass. It makes economic sense, but don’t you want your Thanksgiving dessert experience to be the ultimate? Do this by uncorking a tawny port. Tawny port has warm sweetness mingled with tangy dried fruit and nutty notes that are made for autumn. It will make you look at a pecan, sweet potato and pumpkin pie in a whole new light. And it’s delicious with aged Gouda too. 

My pick: Prager Noble Companion 10-year-old Tawny Port, $80

Photo credit: Prager Winery & Port Works

Food + Recipes, Wine + Food Pairing

Cheddar Cheese Coin Recipe

May 6, 2018
cheddar-cheese-coins-recipe

I needed hostess gifts for a couple Sunday visits, so I decided to race to Sunshine Market and grab the ingredients for some Cheddar Cheese Coins.

The friendly checker, sizing up the content of my basket, said “Enjoy your cookies!” When I told him I was making savory cheese crackers to pair with wine, the woman in line behind me jumped in with “I want some of those.”

If you think you’re too busy to bake or don’t always like the way your creations turn out — trust me, these Cheddar Cheese Coins are foolproof, easy and deliciously worth your time and effort. I like to make the dough ahead of time, keep it wrapped up in the freezer, and then slice and bake a log or two when I need something for a party or surprise guests.

A former co-worker named Elizabeth shared the original recipe. They’re basically classic savory shortbreads. Over the years, I’ve added some of my own touches — and you should feel free to do the same.

Cheddar Cheese Coins

Make 7 dozen

  • 1 pound butter, softened
  • 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated and at room temperature
  • 4 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon piment d’Espelette

In a large mixing bowl, add the butter, cheddar cheese, flour, pecans, salt, cayenne, ancho chile powder and piment d’Espelette. Using your hands, mix well until all the ingredients are well-combined and it forms a dough.

Working on a lightly floured surface, take a hunk of dough and roll it into a 10 to 12 inch long log the diameter of a quarter. Wrap log in plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining dough. Put the dough you don’t plan to bake into the freezer, stored in a resealable plastic bag. Let the dough you plan to bake chill in the refrigerator for an hour or two.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a sharp knife, slice the chilled log of dough into discs one-eighth inch thick. Place discs ¼-inch apart on a baking sheet that’s been greased lightly or is covered by a Silpat baking mat. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until the coins are golden and the kitchen smells like toasty cheddar cheese and butter. Remove pan from the oven. Let the coins cool completely before removing them from the pan, or they might fall apart.

You might be tempted to cut the recipe in half so you won’t have so many on hand, but I don’t recommend it. Once you taste them, you’ll need more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restaurants

Here’s What You’re Missing at CDP, the Sexy Bar by Commis

March 26, 2018
popcorn and sparkling wine

When I first heard about the expansion plans for the Michelin-starred restaurant Commis, my reaction was mixed. Sure, it would be cool to have a chic bar by chef James Syhabout right next door to my place in Oakland. But it also meant saying goodbye to my favorite designer second-hand store, since they lost their lease to make room.

But after just a few visits to CDP, I’m very happy with the swap.

If you haven’t made it over to Piedmont Avenue to try  CDP (short for chef de partie) yet, you’re missing out on an exquisite cocktail and dining experience where every detail has been considered carefully. considered. The first thing to catch my eye in the space designed by Gensler was a wardrobe fronted by coppery chain curtain — what an unexpected and sexy way to store coats. A gleaming Carrara marble waterfall bar is the focal point of the dimly lit room framed by potted palms starburst chandeliers and sinuous pendant lights.

oakland 09 cocktail commis bar cdp oakland

CDP’s Oakland 09 is a play on the classic French 75.

CDP specializes in brandy and bubbly — two of my favorite things. The signature cocktail is the Oakland 09, named for the year that Commis first opened. Their riff on the French 75 is all kinds of extra: it stars Pineau des Charentes and housemade demi-sec bubbly (seriously, who else does that??)  The final touch: A spritz of jasmine essence, one of the aromas Syhabout associates with his Oakland neighborhood.

Brandy lovers will want the Blood Orange Side Car, a juicy twist on the classic. It’s spiritous enough to relax you, but I like the way the blood orange juice rounds out the flavors.

But for me, the big draw at CDP is the exquisite bar food that shows Syhabout’s creativity and chops.

brussels sprouts with chervil CDP

CDP’s brussels sprouts just might be the best in the Bay Area.

I know Brussels sprouts are on every menu in town, but trust me — you won’t find any as good as these. They’re crisped in a pan, then crispy cook sprouts and raw leaves are bathed in a luxurious, tangy vinaigrette that gets a lift from the under-appreciated herb chervil. That distinct licorice flavor surfaces again in the steak tartare with chervil creme. Syhabout deftly evokes the satisfying flavors of a rib-eye steak with bearnaise, with none of the heft.

And yes, you do need to try the warm boule of bread and chicken skin butter — it’s a nearly life-changing experience and the butter, topped in delicate flower petal and herb design, is downright beautiful.

butter decorated with flowers

Tweezer food alert: CDP’s schmaltzy butter topped with flower petals and herbs.

There’s even a happy hour menu (early from 5 to 6 and late from 9:30 p.m.to close) that starts at $3 for fine nibbles like Marcona almonds dusted in pink peppercorn and rose sugar, a funky little ham sandwich sweetened with honey or my favorite — the popcorn in seaweed brown butter. Try it with a flute of the Gramona Brut Cava or — maybe the Thienot champagne. And then repeat.

The team at CDP knows the way to a bubbly girl’s heart.

August 2018 Update: CDP no longer offers its happy hour menu. But you’ll still find an array of dishes, such as seared scallops with exotic spices, offered a la carte. The popcorn and other special creations are part of a $65 Cote de Boeuf prix fixe tasting menu that requires advance reservations via Resy.

 

 

 

 

Dinner Tonight, Food + Recipes

Cauliflower: My Vegetable of the Moment

August 31, 2017
true_food_kitch_mediterranean_cauliflower

When I’ve made the same vegetable for dinner twice in one week, it’s more than a matter of convenience; I’m officially obsessed.

Right now, I’m fascinated with cauliflower. Sure, this milky member of the crucifer family lacks the superfood sexiness of kale, the exoticism of eggplant or even the sweet crunch of carrots. No, this mild-mannered vegetable is a quiet superhero of the vegetable world with the ability to be anything you want it to be.

It started with a gorgeous Food 52 image of this deep chestnut brown cauliflower steak. In case you’re wondering, you get a cauliflower steak by slicing it about 3/4-inch thick. Here’s a Dan Barber recipe for cauliflower steaks that I spotted on Food 52.

And when True Food Kitchen opened in Walnut Creek, I went to visit their super chef Nathan Coulon. We shared the Mediterranean roasted cauliflower with tahini, harissa and mint, and it’s been one of my favorite dishes there ever since. I can’t find the real recipe online, but there are a few good copycat versions, like this one by Alyssa of Her Modern Kitchen.

I’ve made cauliflower mashed potatoes, and they turned out just as creamy as the ones from the actual tuber, with a fraction of the simple carbs. And buffalo chicken cauliflower, with a tangy hot pepper sauce mellowed with a hint of sweetness, is pretty tasty, too.

But I’ve drawn the line at subbing cauliflower for a pizza crust. You may even like that sort of thing, but there are some places a Chicago girl just won’t go.