BLACKBERRY + HAZELNUT YOGURT POUND CAKE

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I have some pretty exciting (exciting for me, boring for you) news: Alex and I just booked another trip back to Portland, Maine! If you’ve been following along with The Vivid Kitchen, I think it’s pretty obvious by now how much we love Portland and would do anything to live there, so the fact that we managed to book our third trip there in less than two years is amazing.

This will be the first time that we’ll be visiting in the springtime, so we can’t wait to see how different the city will be... there may be snow on the ground or it could be raining every other day, but we won’t mind that at all! Something else different about this trip is that this is the first time we’ll have a rental car. This means we’ll be able to check out places we’ve been dying to see outside of Portland, like Palace Diner in Biddeford, The Purple House in North Yarmouth, and most importantly, ACADIA (!!!). If you have any recommendations for must-see spots outside of Portland, I’m all ears.

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Now that I have Portland on the brain and I find myself once again googling more restaurants and bars to hit for our upcoming trip, I’m reminiscing about all of our favorite spots that we fell in love with over the past two trips: Bonobo for the most incredible wood-fired pizzas, Belleville for insanely flaky and buttery croissants and swirl buns, and LFK for creative cocktails. But one of our favorite breakfast haunts for some of the best pastries in the city is Tandem Coffee + Bakery, and it is where I drew inspiration from for today’s recipe.

On our last trip to Portland, Alex and I went to Tandem for an early morning breakfast, since their breakfast sandwiches, served on the best biscuits ever, are incredible. But if you’ve ever visited Tandem before, it goes without saying that you can’t leave without ordering from the bakery’s daily selection of baked goods ranging from cakes to cookies to pies. On this particular day, it was their scone selection that caught my attention: a blackberry and hazelnut flavored scone. The golden brown pastry looked like a textbook perfect scone, and the moment I had my first bite I fell deep in love with the flavor combination. Yes, a nut and berry combo isn’t that crazy of an idea for scones, but blackberries and hazelnuts together was new to me and I knew that I had to test it out in other kinds of baked goods when I got home.

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Which brings me to this amazingly simple and not too sweet, blackberry and hazelnut yogurt pound cake. This recipe is slightly adapted from the ingenious Alison Roman, author of the cookbook Dining In and regular contributor to The New York Times food section and Bon Appétit. Alison got a lot of recognition for Dining In, at first due to a cookie recipe that went viral (which I tried and loved), but she has gone on to show that just about any recipe that she shares with the world, is not only approachable but exceptionally delectable. I’ve cooked a handful of her recipes (sweet and savory) which are all great, but I’ll always have a soft spot for her yogurt and honey pound cake with raspberries (from her cookbook). I love a solid loaf cake recipe and how it only gets better the longer it sits in your fridge - loaf cakes like this one and banana breads are always better the next day, in my opinion.

So, I took Alison’s recipe, tweaked it a bit and tried the recipe with the blackberry and hazelnut flavor combination. The end result is seriously delicious and addicting, and something that I will make over and over again. Paired with the incredible and moist crumb due to the added Greek yogurt (or sour cream if you prefer) and the lightly sweetened taste due in part to a combination of honey and granulated sugar, this pound cake is a winner. In similar fashion with my citrus ricotta bundt cake with pistachios, I finished this cake with a good amount (re: a lot) of hazelnuts doused in honey, so if you’re bringing this to a friend’s house or a party, people will know what they’re getting themselves into… and the added crunch of even more hazelnuts makes the cake better, of course. Finish with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar and you’ll have a beautiful cake ready to go.

I can’t wait to visit Portland again for more inspiration for my blog and I so look forward to eating some of the best food and drinks that the city has to offer.

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P.S. This is my 50th blog post! Woo!

Blackberry and Hazelnut Yogurt Pound Cake

Makes 1 standard loaf cake (9x4 inch pan)

Recipe adapted from Alison Roman via Dining In

Ingredients

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  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 tbsp. for berry and nut mixture

  • 2 tsp. baking powder

  • 1 tsp. kosher salt

  • 2 cups fresh blackberries

  • 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup honey

  • 3/4 cup whole-milk plan Greek yogurt (or sour cream)

  • 1/3 cup neutral oil, like vegetable or grapeseed

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

  • Roughly chopped hazelnuts, honey, confectioners’ sugar, etc. to finish

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 9x4 inch loaf pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray.

  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

  3. In a small bowl, mix the berries and nuts together with 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour (to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the cake while baking). Set this bowl aside as well.

  4. Combine the sugar, honey, Greek yogurt, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl, and whisk until incorporated. Using a spatula, slowly fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Do not over mix. Carefully add the berry/nut/flour mixture to the bowl.

  5. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth over the top with a spatula. Bake in the oven for 60-70 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through. The cake will be done when the cake is a deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs.

  6. Allow the cake to fully cool in the pan on a cooling rack before removing and transferring to a plate. Top the cake with hazelnuts mixed with honey and/or confectioners’ sugar. Store the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap. In my opinion, loaf cakes are always best the next day!

UNION SQUARE CAFE'S BAR NUTS

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Today I am giving you quite possibly the easiest recipe that you can find on The Vivid Kitchen thus far. We’re taking a break from desserts and baked goods this week in lieu of making something that will work perfectly for your Super Bowl viewing party. I’m talking about bar nuts, and not just any bar nuts but Union Square Cafe’s version of the seriously addicting snack. For those who don’t know, Union Square Cafe is a famous restaurant in NYC and comes from the mastermind restaurateur, Danny Meyer. He later went on to open other highly accoladed spots like Gramercy Tavern and Eleven Madison Park, the latter being a Michelin-starred restaurant. Although Union Square Cafe is a high-end restaurant with a sophisticated menu, their bar nuts are almost as famous as the restaurant itself. A quick google search will show that I am far from the first person to share this recipe, but I’ve found that still, a good amount of people in my circle had never heard of or tried these I introduced them. So, I want to spread the bar nuts love a little further today!

I’ve made these bar nuts at least 15-20 times since I discovered the recipe in my coveted Genius Recipes cookbook from Food52, about 4 years ago. Every time I go to a Cinespia screening at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery where we picnic before viewing a film, it’s a no-brainer among my friends that I will be bringing a batch of the nuts. At my sister’s wedding, I made a HUGE batch of these, enough for 115 people, but with only almonds because we just so happened to find pounds of them in my mom’s freezer. Each table at the wedding had a cheese platter filled with crackers, fruit, and the seasoned almonds (my mom, aunt, and I made each platter mere hours before the ceremony) and it was the perfect appetizer.

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The only problem with these bar nuts is that once you start eating them, you honestly can’t stop. I have no problem stopping myself from eating an entire can of Pringles, and I know I can only eat one single Lay’s potato chip, but with Union Square Cafe’s nuts, there’s no stopping. In fact, I never make them just for Alex and I to have at home because we both will eat nothing else until they’re all gone. And on Thanksgiving, I’m not allowed to make them because putting them out before dinner would ruin everyone’s appetite. Have I given enough proof that these nuts are amazing and that you need to make them?

As for what nuts to use, the choice is yours. You may include pecans, walnuts, Brazil nuts, peanuts, almonds, cashews or hazelnuts. These are all the nuts that are found in Union Square Cafe’s blend. But could you add pistachios or macadamia nuts? Of course you can! You also get to decide how much of each nut you want in your batch: you can have more almonds and less cashews, you can use only pecans, or you can use every single nut I listed above. Just as long as you use 800 grams (1 3/4 lbs. or 28 oz.) worth of nuts, you’re good to go. I find that the easiest way to measure out the nuts is by using a kitchen scale, especially if you’re using an array of nuts.

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It’s important that I note that you need to buy raw and unsalted nuts! We need to toast them ourselves so that the seasoning “paste” we make - consisting of melted butter, brown sugar, chopped fresh rosemary, cayenne pepper, and salt - will adhere to the warm nuts. I made two tiny changes to the seasoning paste which is that I use a bit more butter than what is called for (about 2 tbsp. instead of 1) and I finely chop the fresh rosemary. Over the years, I’ve found that these two modifications make for not only a tastier batch, but allows for the nuts to receive a generous coating of seasoning deliciousness. So that’s why in the recipe below, I have written 1-2 tbsp. of melted butter. I suggest starting with 1 tbsp. and see if it works for you, and if not, remember to add an extra half tablespoon or so the next time you make them! Because there will definitely be a next time.

Make these for your Super Bowl party please! Or any party or get together for that matter. I promise that these nuts will get more compliments than your main dish that took hours to prepare.

P.S. Have leftover fresh rosemary and not sure what to do with it? Make my lemon and rosemary madeleines!

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Union Square Cafe’s Bar Nuts

Makes about 5 cups

Recipe from Union Square Cafe via Genius Recipes

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 lb. (800g, 28oz.) raw and unsalted assorted nuts (peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts)

  • 1-2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted (see note above)

  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

  • 2 tsp. dark brown sugar, packed

  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

  • 2 tsp. kosher salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Evenly spread the nuts on a large baking sheet (if all nuts do not fit on one sheet, divide between two and toast at the same time). Toast the nuts for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and fragrant.

  2. Meanwhile, prepare the seasoning. In a large bowl (large enough to fit the nuts), combine the melted butter, fresh rosemary, brown sugar, cayenne pepper and salt. When the nuts are finished, immediately transfer to the bowl with the seasoning and thoroughly mix to coat. Add more salt or cayenne if needed. Enjoy warm, but I think they’re best at room temperature when the coating has settled.

MAPLE PECAN ICE CREAM

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I’ll never forget the first time I was in charge of desserts for a Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, it’s not like I’m a grandma and it was over 50 years ago, but like I’ve mentioned before, I didn't fully get into baking until after college. In 2013, my Thanksgiving was very low-key that year and only consisted of me, my mom, my sister and her now-husband for dinner; a small get together but we had a really fun time nevertheless. Even though I knew it was going to be just the four of us, I went completely over the top with planning the desserts since it was my first time and ended up serving 4 (!!!) dishes.

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The 4 dishes - a deep dish apple pie with a side of spiced caramel, chocolate chip cookies, cranberry hand pies, and today’s recipe of maple pecan ice cream - were a lot of work. But I remember being so happy and excited to feed my family that day that I didn’t care if I was in way over my head. Every night of the week leading up to the big day, I prepped and worked on different components of the 4 dishes (while also helping my mom with the main meal) and despite being told that I didn’t need to put so much effort into it because it was only going to be “us”, I kept my head down and finished what I started. And everything honestly came out great, surprisingly! The high I felt from accomplishing something like that was 100% worth it all.

Every Thanksgiving since then, I’ve calmed down a bit on the quantity of desserts and have shifted my focus on making a couple of really, really good dishes. Besides returning year after year to the pumpkin cheesecake recipe I gave you earlier this week, I sometimes opt to re-make the maple pecan ice cream that I first tried in 2013.

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Not that many people think to make homemade ice cream for Thanksgiving. Of course, this is because it’s just another thing that would need to be added to an already long to-do list and not everyone has the time. The norm for most people, and trust me, my family does this as well, is to buy a big ole tub of vanilla ice cream for anyone that may want a scoop with their slice of pie. And chances are, only about a 1/3 of the party will want some, whereas another 1/3 would prefer whipped cream, and the remaining would prefer nothing. But l wholeheartedly believe that this maple pecan ice cream will be requested by EVERYONE at the dinner table. Unless you have nut allergies, and if you do, I apologize because you are missing out!

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First of all, the flavor alone is pretty unique and something that you wouldn’t be able to find in the freezer section of your local grocery store. There is of course the ever so popular “Butter Pecan” flavor that most people are familiar with, but this ice cream is definitely on a whole different level, largely due to the maple syrup aspect. The ice cream base is only sweetened by pure maple syrup (the good stuff, not Aunt Jemima’s) and in fact, the only “sugar sugar” found in this recipe belongs to the candied pecans that are folded in with the maple ice cream after it’s churned. And speaking of those candied pecans - that are simply cooked with butter and brown sugar - they add such an incredible flavor and crunch to the ice cream that it makes it unbelievably addicting. There’s a full cup of pecans in this recipe and that’s because I want you to get pecans with every bite.

This ice cream is custard based - the best ice creams are - and so this means that you’ll have to temper the eggs when making the base. But besides that little step, everything else is fairly simple! And what’s most important is that you can make this days (but no more than a week) before Thanksgiving and thus have more time to give to your turkey, stuffing, and other desserts.

I say give this maple pecan ice cream for Thanksgiving a try and you’ll see how your guests (or hosts) go completely insane over it. And for those who still take the whipped cream over the ice cream: they will never know what they’re missing.

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Maple Pecan Ice Cream

Yields a little less than a quart

Recipe adapted from Closet Cooking

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw pecans, roughly chopped

  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter

  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar, light or dark

  • 1 cup whole milk

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 3/4 cup pure maple syrup (Grade A or B works)

  • Pinch of salt

  • 4 large egg yolks

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the chopped pecans and toss to coat with butter. Sprinkle in the brown sugar, and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the pecans are candied. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool completely.

  2. Warm the milk, heavy cream, maple syrup, and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Just as the milk mixture is beginning to simmer, gradually add some of it to the bowl of egg yolks, whisking constantly as to not scramble the eggs (this is called tempering). Once the egg yolk mixture temperature has raised, pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Stir constantly over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of your spatula or spoon.

  3. Transfer the mixture to a bowl set over an ice bath for about an hour before moving to the refrigerator. Chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

  4. Churn the ice cream in your maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and mix in the candied pecans. Freeze until solid.