Gateau Basque is one of the most famous desserts from French Basque country. And with good reason. A tender, sweet, cookie-like dough encloses a thick pastry cream flavored with vanilla and orange zest. A special cherry jam is often spread over the pastry cream before the top crust goes on. It is exquisite. I learned how to make Gateau Basque from Bernadette Irribarren, a native of the area, who has been baking the cake regularly for decades. At the time I was collecting recipes from immigrant bakers for my cookbook, “A Baker’s Odyssey.” Bernadette invited me to her home so that I could learn first-hand how she makes this special dessert. […Read More]
Pastiera, the classic Neapolitan ricotta cheese pie enriched with cooked wheat berries, sugar, and eggs, is one of the tastiest desserts I’ve ever eaten. I first enjoyed Pastiera when we were living in Naples, Italy. I had a fellowship at the time to study at the Stazione Zoologica, and at a luncheon a few days before Easter, one of my colleagues brought a Pastiera for dessert. It was huge, about 18 inches in diameter and almost 2 inches thick, with a luscious creamy texture. I tasted hints of cinnamon, lemon, vanilla and orange.
Of course, I asked for the recipe, and the following week my baker friend placed it in my hands. That particular Pastiera called for a dozen egg yolks in the dough and 18 egg yolks in the filling. The recipe here is scaled down considerably. […Read More]
I find yellow layer cakes filled and frosted with chocolate irresistible. Yet they always seem to take second place to their one hundred percent chocolate bretheren. I am a certified member of the chocolate fanatics club, and I adore chocolate in all its forms, but I think, just maybe, chocolate frosted yellow cakes are a bit more sophisticated than their entirely chocolate siblings. […Read More]
Crunchy, sweet date bars take me right back to my childhood. A decidedly American treat, I fell in love with them soon after emigrating from Shanghai. There, my Iraqi Granny made all sorts of date goodies. But in San Francisco, our new home, I found a new love at our neighborhood bakery, the Sugar Bowl: Oatmeal Date Bars. The thick date filling sandwiched between layers of butter crunch oatmeal is irresistible. Spending the winter in southern California, where dates and oranges grow, caused me to revisit and re-imagine these old favorites. […Read More]
I’ll be going to Paris this Fall, and the timing could not have been better to read Crisp, tender, old-fashioned croissants, by James MacGuire, in Ed Behr’s outstanding food magazine, The Art of Eating. I am no stranger to croissant-baking, having learned how to make them years ago from Julia Child. But MacGuire’s recipe was different and irresistible, so I rushed into the kitchen to bake a batch of these classic yeasty and buttery rolls. […Read More]