SIMPLE OLIVE OIL CAKE W/ ROASTED BLUEBERRIES

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For the past 10 days, I’ve been beaming with love for a new person in my life: my niece, Imogen. Baby Immy came into this world at 5:06pm on August 12th and ever since that minute, my life has changed. The love that I have for her is something I’ve never felt before and the moment I was able to finally hold her, I basically broke down sobbing - I would do anything for her and anything to keep her safe and happy. She has the longest legs, looks exactly like her daddy and loves going on walks around the neighborhood. Life before Immy was pretty boring.

I’ve been going back and forth to Los Angeles to see Immy and help out my sister and brother-in-law in any way I can. If your friend or relative has had a newborn baby, I have a list of some ways to go about in helping out the new parents. 1) bring over a bag of groceries - ask what they need so they won’t have duplicates but also surprise them with other grocery items that you’d think they’d like (bonus if you bring the mom a bouquet of flowers) 2) do the dishes or a load of laundry, and/or take out the trash - these things tend to add up rather quickly and if you notice that their sink, laundry hamper or trashcan is full, just jump on in and get to work, 3) simply hold/watch the baby - this allows mom and dad a moment to relax and perhaps go take a nap or shower and feel human again. Even if the parents are taking shifts, any moment that their brain can just relax and not be fixated on the baby is probably the most help you can give them, and 4) cook a meal for them or bring over a nourishing dish/snack - the parents won’t have much energy or time to be cooking healthy meals, so bringing them a meal that can easily be reheated at a later time will help tremendously. Besides the groceries that I had brought my sister, I also baked a batch of these granola bars which are packed with protein, fiber and healthy fats, all things that breastfeeding mothers need.

Lastly, and most importantly, just go and hang out with the parents! Chances are, they are really bored from being cooped up at home and would love someone to talk to.

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Alright, no more baby talk (for now).

I’ve spoken before on my l0ve for desserts made with olive oil and have even shared a few recipes highlighting it, like my olive oil brownie cookies and olive oil and maple granola. Besides desserts, I’d say that 99% of my meals are cooked with olive oil; I essentially only buy butter for baking and also because Alex enjoys cooking with it from time to time. So whenever I come across a dessert recipe that is made with olive oil, I’m much more intrigued to see what the outcome tastes like. Today’s recipe of a very simple olive oil cake with a hint of lemon is one of these desserts and it quickly became a tried and true recipe of mine.

Besides the amazing rich flavor and moist texture that this cake gets from the addition of olive oil, it is extremely easy to bake and all ingredients can easily be found in your kitchen (I have lemons in my fridge at all times because I drink lemon water every morning). There’s nothing fancy about this cake which is a huge reason as to why I love it. You can serve it with nothing on top (it’s that good) but if you’re wanting to add a little something to make it more beautiful, a sprinkling of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream should do the trick. Or, you can be like me and add a spoonful of saucy roasted blueberries. Not only does this add color to the cake but a little bit of tartness and sweetness. The whole process of making roasted blueberries takes less than 30 minutes (I’m including the time it takes to preheat the oven) and it definitely elevates the cake. If you don’t want to add the roasted blueberries to this cake, you can always save the recipe for another use like adding it to a cheesecake or a stack of waffles.

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In the original recipe, the citrus used was actually the zest and juice of an orange, but since I already have an orange-centric cake on my site, I figured I’d go with lemon, especially since lemon and blueberries work so well together (the roasted blueberries also get a squeeze of lemon juice). But if you are partial to orange-flavored cakes, you can definitely swap it in, and maybe do roasted raspberries with a squeeze of orange juice instead! I haven’t tried this, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.

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Simple Olive Oil Cake

Yields (1) 9-inch cake

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Recipe adapted from Maialino Restaurant recipe via Food52

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray, olive oil, or butter (for the pan)

  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

  • 2 tbsp. lemon zest (about 2 medium lemons)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

  • 1 1/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 1/4 milk, whole or 2% works

  • 3 large eggs

  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 medium lemons)

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan (in a pinch, you can use a 9-inch cake pan, but it may overflow) with cooking spray, olive oil, or butter.

  2. In a medium size bowl, using your hands or a whisk, massage/mix the granulated sugar and lemon zest together until fragrant (this helps release the oils in the zest). Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk together and set aside.

  3. Whisk the wet ingredients (olive oil, milk, eggs and lemon juice) together a separate large bowl. To this, add the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Pour the batter (it will be very liquid-y) into the prepared springform pan and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The top and sides of the cake will be a deep golden brown color.

  4. Allow the cake to cool on a rack for 30 minutes before removing the springform pan piece, then let it cool for another hour or two before you slice in.

Roasted Blueberries

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries

  • 2 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar

  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the blueberries either on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet or in a deep baking dish. I prefer the latter option because it is easier to collect all the juices post-roasting.

  2. Sprinkle the sugar over the berries and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, taking the pan out once or twice to move the berries around to ensure even roasting. You want the berries to be in tact shape-wise but a good amount of their juices to be released (see picture above for reference). Once out of the oven, add the squeeze of lemon juice and gently mix the berries. Add a spoonful to each slice of olive oil cake or serve with waffles, pancakes, cheesecake, etc.!

PEACH + BLACKBERRY PIE BARS

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Hi. It’s me. The food blogger who has been posting recipes for about a year and a half now and who still hasn’t shared ONE traditional pie recipe yet! I believe I’ve mentioned it before in a previous post, but pies aren’t my strong suit and if someone asked me to make them a pie, I would most likely have a panic attack and then pick one up from Marie Callendars and said I baked it.

When I tell other bakers that I’m nervous of making pies, they’re usually understanding… if you didn’t grow up baking them or at least practice the process over the years, pies can definitely be daunting. There’s the stress of making the dough, from having to worry about your warm hands melting the butter to allowing the dough to chill in the fridge. You have to be proactive when it comes to avoiding a “soggy bottom”, which means figuring out if you need to parbake the crust or not. And then (what I fear the most) is making your pie look beautiful whether it’s with a perfect lattice crust or the cutesy little dough flower or leaf cut-outs that you see bakers doing on Pinterest and Instagram. I am not an arts and crafts kind of person (I can barely cut in a straight line) and therefore the thought of decorating a pie is just not fun to think about. I’m not saying pie is the hardest thing to make! I’m just saying that there is a lot to consider when attempting to bake one.

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So, this is why I LOVE making galettes, tarts, and today’s recipe: pie bars. These three categories of desserts are all super forgiving in almost every step along the way and just seem to be much less fussy than when tackling a pie. Since I’ve given you a recipe for a galette and a tart, it’s time to work with the very straightforward and simple recipe of pie bars. Pie bars take everything you would normally find in a pie - a crust, a filling of your choice, and a topping in the form of a crisp or streusel. No difficult lattice work to be found here!

And mark my words, I promise that I will do an apple pie recipe around Thanksgiving time. Apple pie à la mode is up there when it comes to my favorite desserts, so I will definitely work on perfecting a recipe to share with you all.

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Since we’re in the midst of stone fruit and berry season, I thought we’d take a fruit from each category and marry them together for these pie bars. I choice to work with yellow peaches and blackberries, but feel free to switch it up to your liking and substitute the stone fruit with apricots, nectarines, plums or pluots, and the berry component with raspberries or blueberries.

Sidenote: I visited the Laguna Beach Farmers Market this past weekend and tried the most amazing stone fruit I’ve come across yet: cherums! It’s a hybrid of cherries and plums and they’re so crunchy and flavorful, and they were the perfect dessert for our beach picnic later that day. Try to get a hold of them at your local farmers market! Picture of them above (along with the pluots that I also bought).

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The crust for these pie bars isn’t exactly a typical pie crust recipe, but actually the shortbread crust that I used for my lemon bars. This crust is made with three ingredients (flour, powdered sugar, and melted butter) and comes together in less than 5 minutes. There’s no chilling, no rolling out; all you need is to mix the ingredients together and then press it into the bottom of the baking dish with your hands or a spatula.

As for the filling, you can play around a bit with a couple of things: 1) how much sugar you’ll be adding and 2) what kind of spices you wish to use. If your fruit isn’t exactly at the peak of ripeness, I would suggest adding a tablespoon or 2 to what I have suggested below in the directions, and if your fruit is perfectly sweet, follow the recipe as written. For the added spices, I stuck to those that are most commonly found in pies, but you can use your favorites whether than means adding only cinnamon, a combo of nutmeg and cardamom, or a little bit of each.

Lastly, for the topping, we’ll be using a crisp mixture, which basically means a streusel topping but with old fashioned/rolled oats added. I kept it simple and added only a bit of cinnamon to my mixture but once again, you can add more spices to your liking, but I’d recommend sticking to adding no more than 1 teaspoon of spices combined. I also added chopped pecans for extra crunch and flavor, but adding nuts is totally optional.

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Peach and Blackberry Pie Bars

Makes about 9-12 bars, depending on size

Ingredients

For the crust:

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  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar

  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 2 medium unpeeled peaches (about 1.5-2 cups), chopped

  • 1 (6 oz.) package of blackberries

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger

  • 1/4 tsp. of ground nutmeg

  • Pinch of salt

  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest

  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the crisp topping:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned/rolled oats

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

  • 1/4 tsp. salt

  • 1/4 cup (half a stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a bowl, mix together the melted butter, flour and sugar until well incorporated. The dough will be a bit crumbly. Transfer the dough to an ungreased 8x8 baking dish (alternatively, you can line the dish with a piece of parchment paper if you wish to pull the entire baked good out). Using your hands or the back of a spatula, press the dough evenly into the dish.

  2. Bake the shortbread crust for about 15-17 minutes, or until the dough has firmed up and is golden. Set aside to cool, but keep the oven on at 350°F.

  3. In a large bowl, toss all “filling” ingredients (everything from peaches to vanilla extract) together gently using a spatula. Set aside to allow the fruit to macerate a little.

  4. For the crisp topping, add all ingredients except for the chilled butter to a medium bowl. Mix together using a whisk. Add the butter and use your fingertips to work it into the mixture until crumbs form.

  5. Pour the fruit filling over the slightly chilled shortbread crust and then evenly sprinkle the crisp topping over the fruit (using a spoon or your hand). Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the crisp topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling. Allow the pie bars to cool completely before cutting into them. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

DIY ICE CREAM BAR TIPS

The ice cream line-up (from top to bottom): mint chocolate chip, rocky road, vanilla, coffee toffee. All stored in various Tovolo containers.

The ice cream line-up (from top to bottom): mint chocolate chip, rocky road, vanilla, coffee toffee. All stored in various Tovolo containers.

This past Saturday was my sister’s baby shower, and I, of course, took on the task of handling dessert. I feel like for most baby showers, there’s usually a cutesy dessert table filled with pink cupcakes, blue candies or a donut wall, but if you know my sister and I, that’s not really our style. We both just wanted simple, summer-y desserts that both men and women would enjoy, since it was a co-ed baby shower. My initial plans were to make about three Victoria sponge cakes with each one highlighting a summer fruit (peaches, strawberries, etc.) but the closer we got to the date, the temperature continued to rise and the less I wanted to turn on the oven to make 6 or more cake layers.

So eventually I thought to make ice cream, which by now, I’m sure you all know is my favorite dessert to make. Everyone loves ice cream, and there’s something nostalgic about eating it that makes you feel like a kid, which I think is perfect for a baby shower. So, I set out to make an ice cream bar with homemade ice cream and even though it was my first time tackling such a large task (the party had about 70 attendees), it was actually super fun and not that daunting due to simple planning and organization. Here are my steps and tips to a successful ice cream bar.

(I apologize that I don’t have more photos of the ice cream bar setup - it was a looooong day, starting with my mom breaking her arm and winding up in the hospital. So once the party finally began, I tried to relax and indulged in many, many margaritas. Photos weren’t my priority by ice cream time!)

Rocky road and mint chocolate chip ice creams both in 2.5 quart-sized Tovolo containers

Rocky road and mint chocolate chip ice creams both in 2.5 quart-sized Tovolo containers

1) Buy quality ice cream containers: before you begin making the ice cream, make sure you have good containers to store it in. All these years that I’ve been making ice cream, I’d always stored them in either random mismatched Tupperware containers or various cake pans covered with plastic wrap, which was obviously an eye sore. Although this worked just fine for a single batch of ice cream consumed by myself, it wasn’t going to cut it for 8 batches of ice cream on display at a party. I had been eyeing Tovolo’s ice cream containers for years and finally purchased 5 of them in different sizes. Not only are they adorable, but ensure that there’ll be no freezer burn with its double wall insulation and secured lids. Tip: the cheapest place I found the containers for sale was at Sur La Table! Not Amazon!

2) Choose ice cream flavors and quantity: pick however many flavors that you are comfortable with making and how much you’ll make of each (based on how large the party will be). Furthermore, stick with recipes that you’re also acquainted with: I wouldn’t suggest making a new recipe that you’ve never tried before, which could lead to a disaster. I ended up making 4 different flavors - coffee toffee, fresh mint chocolate chip, rocky road and plain vanilla - all recipes found on my blog - and either did a single, double, or triple batch. I wanted to use 3 classic flavors because I knew everyone would love them and threw in the coffee toffee since it’s my favorite and not something you can find at the store (it ended up being the most popular at the party). Once you have all your flavors picked out, you can then make your grocery shopping list.

The ice cream toppings selection: rainbow sprinkles, chopped peanuts, mini chocolate chips, crushed Oreos, toffee bits and gummi bears.

The ice cream toppings selection: rainbow sprinkles, chopped peanuts, mini chocolate chips, crushed Oreos, toffee bits and gummi bears.

3) Go shopping for the ice cream bases and extra toppings: since all of my ice creams were custard-based, I bought my eggs in bulk at Costco, but everything else either came from Trader Joe’s or a standard grocery store. I also set up a toppings section for those that wanted to jazz up the plain vanilla or the other flavors. My toppings included: crushed Oreos, mini chocolate chips, Haribo gummi bears, toffee bits, chopped peanuts and sprinkles. If you want to make it more baby shower themed, you can opt to put out only pink or blue candies.

4) Plan out making your ice cream. The best part about ice cream is that you can make it well in advance as long as you have room in your freezer. I decided to dedicate one flavor per day and spread it out over the week leading up to the party so that 1) I didn’t lose my sanity and 2) my ice cream maker’s freezer bowl had significant time to freeze between batches. I also did the most time consuming ice cream first (rocky road) and left the easiest (vanilla) to be my last.

I brought my own collection of ice cream scoops to the party. It added a personal touch to the ice cream bar and made it feel more rustic.

I brought my own collection of ice cream scoops to the party. It added a personal touch to the ice cream bar and made it feel more rustic.

5) Purchase servingware for ice cream: this includes small bowls, spoons and ice cream cones. I got plastic bowls and spoons from the dollar store to save money, but for a more eco-friendly option, you can buy bamboo utensils and biodegradable bowls. As for the cones, I bought a few packs of my favorite waffle cones from Trader Joe’s which honestly taste like they’re freshly made from an ice cream shop. Also, try to have enough ice cream scoops so that there is one per flavor. I collect vintage and new ice cream scoops, so I had plenty to bring with me to the party, but you can find cheap ones at the dollar store as well.

6) Have dry ice, will travel: if you plan on setting up an ice cream bar at a location that’s not at your house, I strongly suggest buying dry ice the day of the party. My sister’s baby shower was in Culver City in LA, which with traffic, is about an hour and a half drive from my house. I bought about 10 lbs. of dry ice, put the ice cream containers at the bottom of a large cooler, and placed broken up pieces of the dry ice on top, since cold air travels downward. Since dry ice lasts up to 24 hours, the ice cream is safe from melting and could stay in the cooler all through out the party if there happens to be no freezer available.

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7) Setting up: I didn’t worry about setting up the ice cream bar until about an hour after everyone at the party had eaten the main course. I used the same table that the main meal was served on and put out three trays - one that held the ice cream toppings, one for ice cream scoops, and the last for the waffle cones/bowls and spoons. I had intended on putting the ice cream on ice in big buckets to prevent any melting but since everyone came in at once to serve themselves, the ice cream went pretty quickly before it had a chance to melt. Since I didn’t make placards detailing each ice cream flavor or ice cream topping, I stuck around and answered any questions people had (but I definitely do recommend making cute placards if you have the time). But I actually enjoyed hanging around because it was so rewarding to see people’s reactions to the ice cream that I made and to hear their nice comments about it all. It was a lot of work, so it was nice to be praised, not gonna lie.

So there are my tips! Once again, I really enjoyed setting up the ice cream bar (more than when I did the desserts for my sister’s wedding) and I think it’s a great idea for not only baby showers, but for birthday parties or any other celebrations. If you plan on doing one in the future and need some more guidance, let me know!

One party-goer’s ice cream creation: plain vanilla with rainbow sprinkles in a waffle cone. Classic.

One party-goer’s ice cream creation: plain vanilla with rainbow sprinkles in a waffle cone. Classic.