Inspiration Board: Wood Grain

I’m noticing a bit of a mini trend starting to emerge in the baking world: wood grain! Maybe it's an extension of the design world's renewed love of wood's simplicity, but a growing number of pastry chefs (and home bakers) seem to be using wood for inspiration! Personally, I love the look of wood, so I really enjoyed researching this one. There are so many cool ways to incorporate this trend and I can't wait to try one! Check out the images below if you too would like to add a little carpentry to your dessert menu. [Above: Martha Stewart's Chocolate Faux Bois Cupcakes]

Baumkuchen or Tree Cake. The particular cake was created by Falko Konditormeister for Katherine's wedding. If you want to create your own version of Baumkuchen, a recipe can be found here.

Woodgrain Heart Cookies from Whipped Bakeshop

Woodgrain Monogrammed Cookie from Whipped Bakeshop

Wedding Cake from Martha Stewart's Making Chocolate Woodgrain

Bird House by I Dream of Cake

Christophe Mazeaud's Wood Slice

Martha Stewart's Chocolate Wood Grain

Wood Grain Mat ($7.70) from Country Kitchen

The Mixing Bowl: La Bisbalenc by Roddy and Ginger

Virginia Armstrong of Roddy & Ginger, today's Mixing Bowl contributor, is a graphic and textile designer living in London who not only creates her own colorful and folksy designs, but also makes gorgeous cushion covers out of vintage fabric. On Virginia's site, you can find tote bags, prints, tea towels, aprons, pillows, and children's clothing, all of which are printed by hand.

The first time I saw her work, I was instantly hooked. I can't resist her simple and sweet designs, especially the happy Sardana print, which was inspired by a little Spanish village in Catalonia where Virginia has a house. In the lower right-hand corner you can see the only shop in the town, la fleca, or "the baker" in english!
It was also in this same village where Virginia learned how to make La Bisbalenc, the delicious recipe that she is sharing with us today! See how it comes together so nicely! :-)
From Virginia: We are lucky enough to have a family house in a sleepy little village in Catalonia not far from the small town of La Bisbal where the speciality is La Bisbalenc – a delicious pastry filled with Cabell d’Angel. Cabell d’angel means angel hair and is the name of the pumpkin jam used to stuff this Spanish treat. It’s a great way to use pumpkins at this time of year. However, I have a tiny quince tree here in London that has just produced a bumper crop so I made quince jam instead – also a Spanish favourite, and it still tastes angelic!
Click here to view the full Roddy and Ginger collection online and here to visit their Etsy site. To check out the Roddy and Ginger blog, click here. Thanks Virginia!

You can find the complete recipe and more delicious pics after the jump.

La Bisbalenc

If you need help converting the measurements, click here for a nifty conversion calculator.

Cabell d’Angel

4-5 cups of prepared quince or pumpkin
zest of a lemon
2 cups sugar
250g bought puff pastry (or home made if you are clever!)
1 egg beaten
pine nuts sugar for dusting

Prepare the quinces or pumpkin by peeling, deseeding and cutting into cubes. Place in a large heavy pan and just cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes till soft then process or sieve into a puree. Return the puree to the pan, add the lemon and sugar and simmer uncovered on a low heat stirring often to stop it burning. After about 35 minutes it should be like a thick jam. Cool and store in the fridge, it will keep for up to a week.

Roll out the pastry to about 12x14”. Place a thick layer of the jam along one side and paint the edges with egg. Fold over and seal the edges by folding and crimping – you don’t want a sticky mess in the oven! Prick the top a few times to let the air out and paint it generously with more egg.Sprinkle over a good handful of pine nuts and plenty of sugar. Bake at 200ºc or 400ºf for 15 minutes, keep an eye on it as the sugar can burn. Leave to cool, slice and eat!

The Cupcake Car

No this is not a joke. For a mere $25,000 you can own your very own customized cupcake car! Designed by artist Lisa Pongrace and first introduced at Burning Man, the cupcake car never gets above seven mph, so you can't really drive it to work, but it would be great vehicle to use when trolling around your palatial grounds. Watch the video below to see the cupcake car in action. For additional info, check out the Neiman Marcus Web site, right here.

In Between Spaces

Oh my, it has been a while hasn't it? Since I have been over here, gabbing about this and that. Suffice to say that a LOT as been going on. Yes, as much there has been absolutely nothing going on here! And even as I quickly send this post out, much is demanding my attention so I will make this brief -- We're moving!

This isn't a cross-country venture, and we aren't upgrading to that stately chateau with adjoining pig farm just yet. In fact, we are just moving across our little central business district, from one "village" to another. But it's a move nonetheless (a bigger place yay!!! with extra room and a real lobby and doorman!), requiring all the packing, sorting, sweating, and dust-inhalation that all moves entail. PLUS, the complete renovation of the new place. Hence the silence over here. And it heavies my heart to say it, but there will be more silence to follow as this will be my last night online in our wonderful, old, little flat. After this it's all up to our local broadband gods to get me safely online on the other side...where a mountain of unpacking await.

The big day is tomorrow, when, if all goes well, we will be sleeping in what will be our temporary home until the renovation is done (which should be done by early next year). I can't promise when I'll be back with food and photos (my oven will be packed up until we move to our new flat) but we will have to please check back if you are not too impatient. Our temporary home has a little two-burner and a small oven which I am sure I can convince to churn out something delicious!

Until then, I am a bundle of emotions -- excitement for this new phase in our lives (Home owners! Debt! Are we ready?? To finally grow up???), and a melancholy nostalgia for the life we are leaving behind (the fun and fancy-free, albeit a bit messy and disorganized, life of our first years of marriage). These old walls saw the makings of our foundation, and though a struggle at times (foundation-building is never easy if your building it to last), it was a big that I wouldn't trade for all the truffles and foie in the world :) I will miss our little flat and all that we had here...

Time to cook has been sparse but I really needed to throw myself together a store of healthy snacking to help me through this move. This granola is just the thing...and easy to throw together between packing boxes.

But enough sighing! Onward and upwards I say! We are on to all sorts of different adventures and I hope to share some of them here at some point in the not too distant future. I don't know how long until I'll be able to sneak back in here...but I will be back! :) Hopefully with something good to eat! :)

Caitlin Williams Freeman Serves up the Art of Wayne Thiebaud

Pastry chef Caitlin Williams Freeman has been getting a lot of well-deserved attention lately for the fun and arty desserts that she's been serving up at the Blue Bottom Coffee Bar, part of San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art. Freeman, a former co-owner of the lovely Miette in SF, brings artwork to the kitchen by creating sweet treats that are inspired by the work of famous artists. On the Blue Bottom menu, you'll find intriguing items like the Katharina Fritsch Ice Cream Sandwich and the Mondrian cake. I really love Freeman's creative way of looking at art and food and her ability to tie together the cafeteria with the museum in a totally unique way. That said, I'm really excited about the fact that artist Wayne Thiebaud's yummy cake paintings have finally been brought to life!

Wayne Thiebaud is a California artist best know for his paintings of everyday objects and is particularly famous for his mouth-watering pictures of cakes, pies, and other sweets! I think Michael Kimmelman summed it up best when he wrote in the New York Times in 2001 that "If the world were a perfect place, the Wayne Thiebaud retrospective that has just opened at the Whitney Museum would be nailed to the walls for good and we would be free to stop by whenever we needed to remind ourselves what happiness feels like." I hope Freeman utilizes more of Thiebaud's work in the future. How could she not? There's just so much deliciousness to work with!

For more about Freeman's desserts, click here. You can also check out Megan's version of Freeman's Mondrian cake over at Feasting on Art, right here.

[photo from the Blue Bottom Cafe by KQED SPARK.]

Inspiration Board: Halloween

There are A TON of Halloween-related recipes circling the Web right now and trying to navigate your way through them all can be just a little exhausting. For this year's Halloween post, I wanted to narrow it down to the most inspiring options. So I scoured the World Wide Web, looking for ideas that I hadn't seen before or that made me smile wider than all the rest. Enjoy and Happy Halloween! [above: Marzipan Figures by Dean & Deluca ($35)]

Vampire Cookies by Baking Bites

Gingerbread Skeletons from The Secret Life of Food

Cupcake Envy's Spider cake and cupcakes (This one really creeps me out, which means that it must be good!)

Gingerbread Monster by Scottoons (This one is actually a clay sculpture, but I thought it was a cute idea for Halloween gingerbread cookies!)

Martha Stewart's Boo-tiful Cake

The Food Network's Screaming Spice Cookies

Crack Pie (again) and Gluten-free Brownies

My birthday was last month (yes, I can admit it) and my wonderful mother was kind enough to make me Momofuku's Crack Pie to help celebrate! Talk about pressure! I've pretty much been obsessed with the Crack Pie since I wrote about it back in July and have been longing to try it. I had such high expectations for this pie that I was sure that I would be disappointed and, to my surprise, I wasn't! It was sooo good!! And I wasn't the only one who thought so! I gave a piece to one of my coworkers and this is what she e-mailed me:

Oh my gosh. It is delicious. I can see how it got the name. I had to stop twice while writing this email to take another bite.

The best I can describe it is that it's sort of reminds me of pecan pie filling: buttery and sweet. It may be too sweet for some people (aka my sister), but I loved it. Supposedly, it's basically a take on the classic chess pie, but as I don't believe that I've ever had chess pie, I can't really compare the two.

Momofuku is coming out with a cookbook at the end of October, but while there will be sweets included in the book, the recipe for Crack Pie will not be one of them. You'll have to watch the video on Martha's Web site for the instructions. Click here for the complete show.

Also, available for tasting at my bday party: Betty Crocker's Gluten-Free Brownies. Again, I wasn't really expecting much. Can Betty Crocker really make a good gluten-free brownie? Yep, they sure can! The brownies were yummy and chocolaty, just like a brownie should be. You would never know the difference. Also, the ingredient list was fairly short and I actually recognized all the words on the list, which is surprising given that this is a box mix.

Salmon and Salsa Verde Pasta

Remember this salsa verde? Don’t worry, I’m not about to drag it out of archives and repeat it all over here. Well, not totally anyhow. I do believe though that it is worth the second mention. I’ve found it can brighten up many a plain dish, do wonders in a tuna sandwich, and has become my go-to condiment for salmon.

I love salmon and its distinct flavour, rich meat, and cheerful color. C enjoys it too, although not as much as I do...and he is not exactly a fan of it baked with dill and mayonnaise as I am. He isn’t too keen on creamy sauces either...another thing I like with salmon. This bright, tangy, and extremely flavourful salsa verde was just the ticket then. Its sharp, herbaceous personality keeps the salmon’s strong flavour and fatty-ness in line beautifully. I imagine it will go well with many other kinds of fish too. You can find the recipe for the salsa verde here.

But this post is not exactly about the salsa verde, though in and of itself it is quite wonderful. This post is about the leftovers (if any) you might have after a meal of salmon with salsa verde. As I’ve mentioned a couple of times before, I am doing what I can to avoid food waste. That includes making short work of leftovers and giving them a new lease on life.

Salmon and Salsa Verde Pasta
  • 150 grams cooked pasta noodles (or your typical one serving measure, uncooked)
  • 100 grams cooked salmon, flaked (or equivalent uncooked, )
  • 2-3 tablespoons salsa verde

- Heat pasta and salmon if using leftovers. Alternately, if not using leftovers, cook noodles as per package directions, and cook salmon by either by pan-frying, roasting, or steaming (rub with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper first) then flake.
- While salmon and pasta are hot, toss with salsa verde. Taste and see if you need to add more salsa verde. I’ve just given an approximate here but amounts will vary depending on the salsa verde you are using.
- Top with grated parmesan if desired. Serves one.

You will have to judge just how much salsa verde you want in your pasta so please use your taste as a guide and put more or less as you see fit. When we have salmon with salsa verde for dinner, and it is not totally devoured, this makes an appearance for my lunch the next day. It’s a light pasta dish that doesn’t scrimp on taste, is easy to throw together (since the salmon and salsa verde are already prepared), and makes use of leftovers! Good taste, no waste ;)

The Mixing Bowl: Oat Crumble Apple Pie by Laura Ljungkvist

This week illustrator Laura Ljungkvist is sharing with us her recipe for oat crumble apple pie (see the bottom of this post on how to access a larger version of the recipe). I was super excited when Laura sent it over because not only is it a great image, but I love love love apple crumble! Especially with ice cream! Actually, if isn't served warm, with ice cream, I may throw a hissy fit! Not that it isn't yummy just on it's own but the heat and the ice cream transform it from yummy to heavenly.

Laura Ljungkvist is a Swedish artist based in New York whose work incorporates colorful images, geometric shapes, and minimalist design. Known for her incredible drawings that are built around one continuous line, Laura has illustrated numerous children's books, including the popular Follow the Line series.

In addition, Laura has also created designs for clients such as Harper’s Bazaar, House and Garden, The London Sunday Times, Mademoiselle, The New York Times, and MTV, among others. In fact, the illustration for apple crisp that Laura sent over first appeared in the awesome British children's magazine, Anorak. Below is the cover of the issue in which Laura's recipe appears. It also happens to be the chocolate issue! So there's sure to be lots of great drawings of chocolate by really talented illustrators. Check out their Web site, right here.

Click here to visit Laura's Web site. Thanks, Laura!

A larger version of the recipe appears after the jump, at the bottom of the post.

Click picture below to see larger image.

Vote for Heather Dutton's Spoon Print!

Graphic designer and Mixing Bowl contributor Heather Dutton contacted me today about a design contest that she is taking part in over at the fabric Web site Spoonflower. Designers were asked to create a fabric design that incorporated images of spoons and flowers (like the name of site). The winner gets 5 free yards of their design and the winning fabric will be available for sale on Etsy for 1 week. So, you'll get a chance to buy the winning fabric! The winner will be announced Thursday.

Voting is really easy. All you have to do is click your favorite. No registration is required. Heather's design is #7: Fleur de Cuillère by Heather Dutton. Personally, I LOVE Heather's print and I hope that it wins, but you can vote for your favorite design right here.

In addition, if you liked the design that Heather created for her Mixing Bowl recipe last July, you'll be happy to know that Heather has some lovely new notebooks ($5) in her Etsy shop that feature the strawberry and pear print that she created for her post. Click here to check them out.