Recipe: Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ll be honest – I am not a great baker. I do bake from time to time, but I limit it to recipes that are easy to follow and hard to screw up. I am not one for rules; making precise measurements and refraining from tinkering with things is not really my style. I do, however, enjoy delicious things, so every now and then I’ll make a sacrifice and follow a recipe to the T. This is a requirement if you want to bake a cake, as explained in this video.

Recently, a good friend was throwing a holiday party and I wanted to bring something to share with people and to commemorate her mom’s birthday, who was in town visiting at the time. I needed something fast, easy, and fuss-free. Perhaps I could employ that bundt pan which I have owned for a year but hadn’t used even once? I knew my friend’s madre liked chocolate, and a quick google search for Chocolate Bundt Cake returned one of my favorite food blogs – Two Peas and their Pod. They had an intriguing looking Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake recipe that looked easy to follow and hard to screw up. Perfect!

The key with this cake is the quality of the chocolate you use. Do not skimp here! I used Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate baking chunks for the topping and Guittard Dutch Process Cocoa for the cake. Be sure to get a Dutch process cocoa, the authors of the recipe insist on it. That’s what I used and the recipe came out great.

Everyone at the party loved this bundt cake, and I liked it so much I wanted a second piece. Generally speaking, cake doesn’t do much for me. This cake is the exception to that. It would be perfect for a potluck, housewarming party, birthday, or any other occasion that requires feeding cake to a lot of people quickly and easily. It’s rich, gooey, moist, perfectly sweet, and big enough to have leftovers to take home.

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake
adapted from Two Peas and their Pod

Yield: Serves 10
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:
For the cake:
1 cup unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1/3 cup cocoa powder (we use Dutch process)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup water
2 cups all-purpose Gold Medal flour, plus more for the pan
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the chocolate glaze:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons corn syrup (or agave nectar)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Method:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 10 or 12-cup Bundt pan and set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, cocoa powder, salt, and water and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring, just until melted and combined. Remove from the heat and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and baking soda. Add half of the melted butter mixture and whisk until completely blended. The mixture will be thick. Add the remaining butter mixture and whisk until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until completely blended. Whisk in the sour cream (or Greek yogurt) and the vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth.
4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then invert onto a rack. Let cool completely before glazing.
5. While the cake is cooling, make the chocolate glaze. Place the chopped chocolate and corn syrup (or agave) in a medium bowl and set aside. Combine the heavy cream and sugar in a small saucepan and put over medium heat. Stir until the cream is hot and the sugar is dissolved. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until smooth.
6. Generously drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Cut into pieces and serve.

Day Trip: Highway 1 Slowcoast

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you’ve ever met me, you’ve probably gathered that I love a road trip. I will use any excuse I can find to drive down Highway 1 and take in the scenery. As a child, my parents took us to San Gregorio State Beach to play in the sand as well as Año Nuevo State Park to watch the elephant seals. It was good, cheap fun for my family, as we didn’t have a lot. Fast forward a decade or two and I remember being a young adult, freshly released into the wild, always driving down Highway 1 from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz… well, because I could. Gas was cheap back then and it was a nice way to spend the day alone. Today, I still I find great nostalgia in the familiar curves of the highway and the friendly ocean cliffs that have been burned into my memory from a lifetime of acquaintance.

Considering the fact that I’ve been driving up and down that stretch of freeway for the last 31 years, it’s only natural that I know quite a few great places to stop at along the way. The great thing about a road trip is that there is no destination; it’s about the journey. Here are some of my favorite places to go if you find yourself driving on Highway 1 between HMB and Santa Cruz. Don’t forget to bring cash, as many of these places are cash-only.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABob’s Vegetable Stand & Pumpkin Patch is the first farm stand you will see after heading south from Half Moon Bay on Highway 1. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s actually a really great place to get some cheap, local fresh veggies. They have artichokes, shelling peas, brussel sprouts, squash, pumpkins, strawberries, local honey… basically anything that grows in a 5 mile radius. They also have a nice pumpkin patch in the fall which is perfect for kids. Buyers beware: Not everything here is local. Be sure to look for the items listed as such, and ask to make sure your veggies weren’t sprayed with pesticides. If they tell you “I don’t know”, then they were probably sprayed.

San Gregorio State Beach should be next on your list, as it’s only a few miles south of Bob’s Veggie Stand. Be sure to pay for your parking spot, as our state parks need all the money they can get. You have to pay even if there is no attendant, so be sure to follow the instructions at the kiosk. Once you arrive, you can take a long walk south on the beach, dipping your feet into the cool & salty water. If sand isn’t your thing, you can stay near the parking lot and perch on a cliffside (being careful not to get too close to the edge, people DO fall off) and have a nice picnic. This place was on the short list of locations for my wedding, I love it that much.

Heading further south, you will encounter some signs for the town of Pescadero. At the junction for Pescadero Creek Road, there is a beach to your right and a turn-off to your left. Make a left on Pescadero Creek Road, and head east for about a mile. At the next intersection (Stage Road), make a left and you will be smack-dab in the middle of Pescadero. There are several businesses worth visiting here. If you are hungry, stop at the Arcangeli Grocery Store. They have excellent sandwiches made-to-order in the back, or just pick up a loaf of their delicious garlic herb artichoke bread. It’s usually still warm from the oven, and it’s so good it might not make it out of the car.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter re-fueling, there are a few other places you could visit. My favorite is Harley Farms Goat Dairy, where you can go on farm tours or just visit their quaint cheese shop to buy some of their award-winning goat cheese. They are located just around the bend; follow the wooden signs of a girl with a goat pointing in the direction of the farm. Once you arrive, park in the designated area and head towards the shop. If you are there in the springtime, you will be blessed by the sight of the cutest baby goats you’ve ever seen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf it’s not the springtime while you’re visiting, say hi to the mama goats and then head to the store, where they have a ton of different, farm-made products to choose from. I love their fromage blanc, fresh chèvre, and berry nectar. They also sell farm-fresh eggs, goat cheese ravioli, goat ricotta, chalk paint, and much more.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce you’re done spending a small fortune on cheese, head back down to Pescadero Creek Road and hang a left this time instead of going back towards the ocean. Once you reach Cloverdale Road (you’ll see a sign for Butano State Park), make a right. Follow this road for several miles until you see additional signs for Butano State Park. Get your cash ready – you have to pay to park here, as you do with all state-run parks. Be ready to get your money’s worth because this place is truly magical, especially in the summer. Park at the second parking lot where the bathrooms are (not right next to the entry kiosk). From here, there are picnic tables and trail heads. If you are here in the height of summer, there is an abundance of wild berries growing all over the place. Thimble berries and blackberries are king here, and I like to gorge myself like Yogi Bear.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can opt to head farther into the park to get a little more privacy. There are several turn-outs where you can park and trailheads that lead into some of the most pristine and under-appreciated redwood forests in California. Alex and went there just this last weekend and had a wonderful picnic under the redwood canopy. We enjoyed a salad of radicchio, arugula & scarlet runner beans, grenadine apples, dried salumi, comté cheese, and a really funky French petillant rosé.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAButano is also great for hiking (a 12 mile loop will take you on a tour of the whole park) and camping (drive-in as well as hike-in campsites are available). Due to budget cuts, it’s been closed during the winter for the last few years. It’s unfortunate as this temperate coastal redwood forest is quite mild in the winter. Next time you vote and see an option to add a small annual tax to keep our beautiful state parks open, please vote yes.

Once you’re done at the park, you can either turn back towards Highway 1 or head into the Santa Cruz Mountains. If you choose to continue east on Pescadero Creek Road, it will eventually run into Highway 84. Make a right on 84 and head up towards Skyline. At the intersection of 84 and Skyline, there is a fantastic roadside diner called Alice’s Restaurant. They have delicious burgers, great beers, and unbelievable sweet potato fries. They almost never have a wait, even if it looks insanely busy. This is a must-try place. Every time I walk through the doors, I hum Arlo Guthrie’s song of the same name. Once you’re done eating, continue east on 84, which will eventually intersect with 280 and take you back home.

If you choose to head back towards the ocean, you can continue south on Highway 1 and visit a few more farm stands and attractions. There is Pie Ranch, Slowcoast, Swanton Berry Farm (seasonal berry U-pick), and a variety of beaches and state parks you can visit. Be sure to check the hours for these places before you leave, as many of them are seasonal and close in the late summer and fall. I was up there last weekend and Pie Ranch was closed, but Slowcoast and the Swanton Berry Farm pie shop (not the U-Pick) were both open. I scored a delicious Tayberry Pie and strawberry truffle while I was there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere you have it, folks. This is about as soul-baring as it gets for me. I feel like my insides are made up of beach glass, brussel sprouts and fog. I hope you find a chance to explore this beautiful stretch of California.

Do you know this stretch of highway? Do you have some favorite places to stop at that we didn’t mention here? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Perfect Seasonal Foods for Fall

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday, I took a drive down the coast to visit the new Bonny Doon Vineyards tasting room in Davenport. They closed down their Santa Cruz location back in May and moved up into a new space about 10 minutes north of Santa Cruz on Highway 1. The proprietor, Randall Grahm, is somewhat of a bad-ass in California wine history, and I have a lot of respect for him for popularizing Rhone wines in California. After all, some of my favorite varietal wines are made from Rhone varieties, and if it weren’t for Randall we might be in the dark about these delicious wines.

Unfortunately, the people operating the tasting room would not allow me to take any photos because they weren’t finished furnishing the place. Really guys? Your website says you are open for business and I just drove here from San Francisco! Anyhow, all I got was this crummy photo of their sign on the highway.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo why is this blog post titled Seven Perfect Seasonal Foods for Fall? Well, if you’ve ever driven down Highway 1 in the fall, you know how many farm stands selling local produce there are all along the way. My travel partner and I decided to make the best of the situation and do some farm-standing along the way back home. I will review the beautiful fall vegetables we encountered along the way, along with some lovelies I came across at the Farmer’s Market this weekend.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATurban Squash! These aren’t as great for eating as they are for looking at, but in the fall you will see them taking over the coastal pumpkin patches in California. They are an heirloom variety, dating back to to the 1800’s.  The flesh tastes vaguely of hazelnut and they make an excellent soup. You can also roast them whole and use them as a large soup tureen. I would probably just leave these mutant squash as-is and add them to my home as part of my holiday décor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPo-ta-toes! Boil’em, mash’em, stick’em in a stew. While these are available year-round, I tend to eat them more in the fall because they lend themselves best to hearty, warm, savory dishes. We are fortunate to have many heirloom varieties at our disposal here in the Bay Area, and every time I buy potatoes I try a new variety. My favorite way to prepare them is to wash them, leave them un-peeled, chop into bite-size pieces, toss with olive oil & fresh herbs, then roast at 375 degrees until tender and crispy around the edges. You can use these roasted potatoes in salads, as a simple side dish, as an accompaniment to eggs, or all by themselves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASunchokes! What the heck are these, anyway? Also known as the Jerusalem Artichoke, they are actually the tuber of the sunflower. They are ugly to look at, but if you find these rarities at the market be sure to snatch them up while they are available. They are as delicious as they are ugly. I like to chop them, toss in olive oil, and roast like I would a potato. The flavor is nutty and artichoke-like and they would be great paired with something a little sweet to offset their savory personality.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARadicchio! This is my favorite bitter leafy vegetable of the fall & winter. While it’s generally available year-round, I think it tastes best this time of year. You can slice a radicchio in half and grill it, or use it raw in a salad mixed with arugula and sherry or balsamic vinaigrette. It’s important to use a sweet-ish dressing with this in a salad, as it can be quite bitter and needs a little balance. It tastes great with bacon, too. It’s festive color is perfect for the season and will be a lovely compliment on your Thanksgiving table.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWild mushrooms! This year we have a huge bumper crop of mushrooms, and it’s only fall. Prices are at rock bottom right now and you can find some pretty exotic varieties at your local wild mushroom purveyor. These shown in the photo, above, are called Violet Chanterelles, or Pig’s Ears. They have a lovely texture and earthy/pungent flavor that is perfect to accompany roasted game birds or pork. Other delicious mushrooms to try are Porcini, King Trumpet, yellow Chanterelle, Black Trumpet, Hedgehog, Matsutake, Maitake, Pioppini, and Yellowfoot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPersimmons! While I don’t have much experience with these, I do know how prolific they are around here in the fall. I had neighbors in Oakland with a whole orchard of them in their back yard. They are gorgeous when still on the tree, as they are late-ripening and the tree loses it’s leaves before the fruit falls off, making a silhouette that looks eerily like a scraggly Christmas tree full of bright orange ornaments. I know we have two major varieties here in CA; the sweet & friendly Fuyu persimmon, and the astringent Hachiya persimmon. To make them more palatable, my dad used to put his persimmon into a coffee mug and cover it with a small plate for several days. This would accelerate the ripening process, and he would eat it when it was practically rotting. Gross, Dad. There are some varieties indigenous to the United States, and they were a staple food of the Native Americans and early “American” settlers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApples! There is no fall food more perfect than the apple, especially here in California where we have access to a zillion different heirloom varieties. Right now there is a bounty of fresh apples all over the place and there’s a reason apple pie is so popular in the fall. Some of my favorite heirloom varieties include Pink Pearl, Grenadine, Rome, Wickson and Sierra Beauty. Pink-fleshed apples like Pink Pearl and Grenadine are not only beautiful, but in my opinion the most delicious. Perhaps it’s my mind playing tricks on me because of the seductive color, convincing my brain that they somehow taste better, but that Grenadine apple really does taste just like grenadine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGoodbye tomatoes, basil, sweet corn & zucchini. Say Sayonara to sweet peppers. Summer is O-V-E-R, make room for fall foods! What are some of your favorite fall fruits & vegetables?

Seasonal Foods: Artichokes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you’ve been to the farmer’s market at all in recent weeks, you may have noticed a staple vegetable of California popping up at your favorite coastal farmers’ stands, the artichoke. While other parts of the country don’t see this often misunderstood and delicious vegetable until the springtime, here in California we are lucky to get a crop of them in the fall. They favor our coastal environment, growing from Half Moon Bay all the way down to Watsonville. They grow alongside their coastal friends the strawberry, brussel sprout, and broccoli. If you take a drive down Highway 1 in the fall, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a huge pile of artichokes at a farm stand.

I think artichokes get a bad rap because of their thorny, scaly exterior. They aren’t exactly a friendly-looking vegetable, but I assure you they are worth the effort of cooking and disassembling them to reach their tender, delicious core. They leaves are basically a vehicle for butter; I like to steam an artichoke whole and serve it with lemon-garlic butter. I peel the leaves off, one by one, dipping them into the butter and scraping off the tender bits with my front teeth. Once I get down to the heart, I scoop out the “choke” (the fuzzy inedible stuff in the center) and snarf down the heart and stem as quickly as I can get it into my mouth.

Cooking an artichoke is easy; simply peel off the tough outer leaves until you get to the more tightly-closed ones, then trim the spiky tips off any leaves you can reach with a pair of kitchen shears. Then, chop off 1/2″ of the tip of the artichoke (opposite the stem end). If there is a good stem on it, I use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin of the stem (the stem is edible and quite delicious). Then, pop it into your steam basket and give it a good steam until a knife slides into the thickest part without much effort. Be careful not to over-cook it. Since artichokes vary in size, cooking times will vary.

If you are lucky enough to find really tiny artichokes, you can roast those whole and eat them as-is.

Pairing wine with artichokes is quite difficult, as a chemical in the artichoke clashes with a component in many wines which make them taste bitter and metallic together. However, there are several wines that work beautifully with artichokes; Gruner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc, Blanc de Blanc Champagne, un-oaked Chardonnay, Muscadet, Verdicchio, Alsatian Riesling, and Pinot Blanc. Basically you want to avoid anything with tannin or oak (all red wine and some whites), and focus on dry white wines with ample acidity.

Do you love artichokes? How do you like to eat them? Is there a condiment you like to enjoy them with best? Let us know in the comments.

Additional Wine Club Memberships Are Now Available!

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If you missed out on the first round of wine club subscriptions, we have decided to release another batch due to popular demand. We have a very limited number of spaces available, so if you want to secure your spot, be sure to sign up at http://club.winelandia.com ASAP!

If you are just learning about our club, read below:

Join our boutique wine club to receive four annual 6 bottle shipments of wine (2 cases total per year). We are offering small-production, hand-crafted, terroir-driven wines that will never exceed a $25 bottle average price (no more than $150 per shipment, excluding tax & shipping). Our focus is on wines that are made with minimal intervention, farmed as sustainably as possible, and fermented with native yeasts. These are the types of wine that we like to drink, and more importantly, the types of wines we wish to share with you.

We will have our first offer ready to ship in early November, just in time for the holidays. The wines that we have selected will all pair beautifully with your holiday meals. With this shipment we will include recipes, food pairing suggestions, and information about the winemakers & production.

Join today to secure an allocation of these six fabulous wines! We won’t be releasing another batch of memberships until the next shipment, so get on it!

http://club.winelandia.com

Recipe: Clams with White Wine and Shallots

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When Tala and I were planning Secret Wine Club: Loire a few weeks ago, we had very little idea of what we were going to drink or serve up until a few days before the event. The one thing that was certain, however, was that we would pour a Muscadet, and we’d pair it with clams. This pairing is off-the-charts successful, and we both recommend you try it – but the recipe and the wine do stand on their own as well. More of a technique than a recipe, I’ll tell you what you need and what to do.

Ingredients:

Clams – the smaller the better, cherrystone, manila, and littleneck are three types that come to mind. You’ll want around 1lb per person for an entrée, or somewhat less as a snack or an appetizer. (I would not be lying if I said I could eat 2lbs by myself if you let me. Just sayin’.)

Shallot – 1 or 2, depending on how many clams you’re preparing, chopped

Garlic – 2 cloves, minced

Butter – 2 tablespoons

Olive Oil – 1-2 tablespoons

White Wine – about 1 cup (anything dry will work, I used what I had open, which was a Chardonnay, but if you’re pairing the dish with a Muscadet, and you can stand to give some up, use that!)

Water – about 1 cup

Parsley – about 2 tablespoons, chopped

Crusty Bread, sliced

Rinse your clams under cold water just to make sure there’s no debris on the outside. If you’ve bought them from a high-quality seafood shop like Hog Island, you won’t have to worry about sand on the inside, either! Start by drizzling the olive oil and melting the butter over medium heat in a saute pan with a tight-fitting lid. Once the butter is melted, add in the chopped shallot and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until softened. You don’t want to color the shallots. When the shallots are softened, about 3-5 minutes, add in the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds. Turn the heat up to medium high, and add the wine and the water. Once the liquid is simmering in the pan, add the clams, spread in the pan evenly, and cover with the lid. Wait about 2-3 minutes, and check on the contents to see if the clams are starting to open. Give ’em a shake to redistribute. Cover and wait another 1-2 minutes. After about 5 minutes, most of the clams should have opened. If most are still closed, give them a bit more time. After 5-7 minutes total, turn off the heat, first transfer the clams to a serving bowl with tongs or a spoon, and then pour the pot liquor (all that delicious stuff with clam juice, wine, water, garlic, shallot, butter, and olive oil in it!) over the clams. This helps distribute the good stuff into each little clamshell, so that when you’re eating them, you don’t need to dig at the bottom of the serving bowl!

Make sure you serve the clams with an empty bowl at the table for the shells, and several slices of warm, crusty bread. Sourdough is great for this, as the tang and the sweetness and the fragrance of the clams all go together quite nicely. You can dip your bread in the pot liquor. That, my friends, is heaven.

Variations: This recipe is very flexible, and very forgiving. You can use a sweet onion, or even leeks instead of shallots. You can add some cubed bacon or pancetta or crumbled chorizo to the shallots and saute until cooked through. You can swap the white wine for a nice light, crisp beer. You can use a vegetable or chicken broth instead of water, for richer flavor.

Ever since I learned how easy it is, I almost never order them in restaurants, because I can make them at home in 15 minutes or less! This is one of my favorite things to eat when I’m alone, because it’s easy, fast, and delicious. Have you ever prepared clams? Maybe you were too nervous until now? Let us know!

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Recipe: Lemon Cream Tart

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Anybody who knows me knows how obsessed I am with lemons. They are my favorite citrus fruit because they lend an aromatic & fresh zippiness to cocktails, desserts, and savory dishes. I love lemons so much that Colleen made me a white chocolate & lemon layer cake for my wedding last year. They are also unbelievably easy to grow here in our Mediterranean climate; I have two Meyer lemon trees in my back yard that produce year-round.

When my good friend Kendra asked me to make a dessert for her wedding this last weekend, I naturally wanted to use lemons. They aren’t exactly in season, but our Indian summer had been warm around here and the thought of something heavy and seasonal like pumpkin or ginger made me sad. Lemons are perfect for warm weather because they are refreshing and light, so I decided to make Dorie Greenspan’s Lemon Cream Tart for Kendra & Dan’s wedding. Plus, I am not much of a baker, and this recipe is easy to make. I’d hate to try a new recipe and have it turn out poorly for such an important event.

This lemon cream tart recipe is one that Colleen turned me on to a few years ago. The recipe comes from Pierre Hermé (a famous French pastry chef) via Dorie Greenspan – he is her ‘pastry hero’. It’s different from regular lemon curd because of the technique used to make it. Instead of cooking all of the ingredients together at once (lemon juice/rind, butter, sugar, eggs), you just cook the lemon juice/rind, sugar and eggs until they reach 180 degrees, then let the mixture cool slightly before whipping in room temperature butter in your blender or food processor. The end result is so much lighter, creamier, and luxurious than typical lemon curd. You will never use another lemon curd recipe again after making this one.

I’ve seen a few variations of this recipe online, so I will post the one that I’ve been using from another (now defunct) blog called Eat Me Delicious. The reason I chose this version is because the sweet tart dough recipe she has does not include almond flour, which all the others do.  I try to always be aware of allergens in the foods I cook for crowds, and it seems like tree nuts are a big one. All I can say is that I am thankful that nobody there was allergic to butter. I doubled up the recipe and ended up using a total of 2 lbs of butter, nearly a dozen eggs, and an unholy amount of sugar. DELICIOUS.

Side Note: It was very warm on my friend’s wedding day, and I was concerned about the tart getting warm. This lemon cream tastes best when cold, and with the tart shell at room temperature. Here’s what I did: I made the lemon cream the night before and put it into mason jars which I placed in the refrigerator. I baked the tart shells in the morning, let them cool, carefully wrapped them for transport, and put the jars of lemon curd in a cooler with ice packs. Once I arrived at the wedding, I spooned the cold lemon curd into the pre-cooked tart shells and then decorated them with raspberries in the shape of a heart. It worked perfectly.

Lemon Cream
adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours

1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 c fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tbsp butter (10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces, at room temperature
1 9-inch tart shell made with sweet tart dough, fully baked (see below)

Getting ready:
Have a instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender or food processor ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy, and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.

Set the bowl over the pan and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture fees tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk- you whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling- you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it gets closer to 180F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point- the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience- depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp may take as long as 10 minutes.

As soon as it reaches 180F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the lender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.

Turn the blender to high (or turn on the processor) and, with the machine going, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going- to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to bend the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests, and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

Pour the cream into a container, cover tightly and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight. (The cream will keep in the fridge for 4 days or, tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to 2 months; thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.)

When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. Serve the tart, or refrigerate until needed.

Sweet Tart Dough
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioner’s sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in – you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses – about 10 seconds each – until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change – heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy-handed – press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375F.

Press a sheet of buttered foil down over the surface of the frozen tart shell. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. For a partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack (keep it in its pan).

To Fully Bake the Crust: Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

To Patch a Partially or Fully Baked Crust, if Necessary: If there are any cracks in the baked crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough as soon as you remove the foil. Slice of a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust. If the tart will not be baked again with its filling, baking for another 2 minutes or so, just to take the rawness off the patch.

Sign up for Winelandia’s Inaugural Wine Subscription!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADo you love wine? Do you find it difficult to select good wines from the vast, overwhelming walls of plonk at your local market? Do you have trouble picking the perfect foods to pair with that delicious wine you bought? Do you drink 2 or more bottles of wine per month? We have a solution for you!

Sign up for Winelandia’s inaugural wine subscription, which will ship just in time for the holidays. We will pack and ship 6 bottles of awesome wine to your doorstep for no more than $25 a bottle. With your shipment we will include recipes, food pairing suggestions and tons of information about the wines you receive. Click the link below and join the waitlist – we have a few more slots available in our current allocation and will send you an email confirming your spot.

http://club.winelandia.com

We are looking forward to helping you impress your friends and elevate your wine-fu to a new level. Join today!

Varietal 101: Cabernet Sauvignon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am feeling pretty inspired by our trip last weekend to Perrucci Family Vineyards. Harvest was in full swing, and we watched them pick thousands of pounds of beautiful fruit. The Perrucci’s produce a lot of wines, but their flagship is made from Cabernet Sauvignon. Above is a photo of some of their estate fruit, hiding safely behind some bird netting.

Cabernet Sauvignon is a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. That’s right, it’s half red grape and half white grape. Totally odd, but grapes are funny like that. It originated in southwestern France in the 17th century, and since then it’s become the most widely recognized grape in the world. It’s planted in nearly every major wine producing country and makes some of the world’s most sought-after, expensive, and powerful wines. It’s pretty easy to grow, due to its thick skin and resistance to rot and frost. It’s America’s darling for sure.

The style of Cabernet Sauvignon wines can range from low in alcohol, restrained, lean and austere to ripe, spicy, and powerful with lush flavors and round edges. Cab tends to be lower in acid than other grapes, which means that it has to be grown and made into wine very carefully if it’s going to be built for long-haul aging (acidity helps preserve a wine). Many high end cabs are built to age, but most of them you find in stores are meant to be consumed within the first 3 or 4 years. If you spent less than $40 on your bottle of cab, chances are you should drink it up sooner rather than later.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPairing food with rich, red wines can be a little tricky, but there are some rules of thumb you can follow to ensure the best results. First of all, tannin plays a major role in the types of food you can pair with a wine. Young, tannic cabs should never be paired with spicy food, because the tannins will make the spice even hotter (sometimes uncomfortably so). Additionally, tannins pair harmoniously with fatty meats, such as a rib-eye steak. Softer, aged, or less-tannic styles of cab are better off with leaner cuts of meat like a filet mignon. Acidity also plays a role – it helps cut through the fattiness like tannins do. Think of a rich, firm tannined, juicy young cab paired with slow-braised beef or lamb. YUM. Red meat really is the classic accompaniment to Cabernet Sauvignon, so you can’t really go wrong with it. Just be sure to match your tannin with the fattiness of the cut of meat and you will be in for a treat. One final thing to consider when pairing a cab with your meal is that it can clash with certain vegetables. Tannic red wines do not go well with brussel sprouts, asparagus, and artichokes. So if you are cooking up a veggie to serve along-side your delicious steak, steer clear of those.

Choosing the correct stemware for your Cabernet Sauvignon is also a great way to accentuate its complex flavors and aromas. I like to serve it in a “Bordeaux” style wine glass; a large bowl, tall sides, and tulip shape with bring out the best in your cab. The shape of the glass increases the rate at which the wine oxidizes, softening the tannins and showcasing the complexity. While it’s always best to drink your wine out of the proper glass, any large wine glass will do in a pinch.

The world’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the Bordeaux region of France, but Napa is making some strong contenders as well. We really love Cathy Corison’s cabs, made with organic, dry-farmed grapes grown between Rutherford & St. Helena in the Napa Valley. She makes wines with power, grace, and elegance. The style leans towards restrained and low in alcohol, which is unusual for the Napa Valley. She is one of the oldest-school winemakers in the area, her career starting in the 1970’s when it was unheard of to have a woman as a winemaker. She is an inspiration to us ladies in the wine biz, and having met her just once I was in awe. If you see Cathy’s wines for sale, be sure to pick a bottle up.

Whatever your persuasion is, Cabernet Sauvignon is a great grape to get started on if you are just getting into wine. It’s the “gateway wine” for many, and it might just make you fall in love. What are your favorite cabs? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

Winery Visit: Perrucci Family Vineyards

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Good lord, I love the smell of fermenting grapes in the morning. Anytime, really – I’ll be honest. It’s something I was worried I’d miss out on for the entire 2013 harvest season. Fortunately, Tala and I paid a visit to Greg Perrucci at Perrucci Family Vineyard on the outskirts of San Jose this past weekend, and I got a noseful. And a glassful. (See what I did there?) Greg has been a mentor and a force for good in Tala’s garagiste universe, coaching her through many anxious moments and home winemaking questions – it was high time that we went to visit the facility and vineyards.

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We met Greg and his family at one of their Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards, as they were wrapping up harvest of the grapes. It was beautiful – as vineyards at harvest always are – and the sky had that crisp blueness that Autumn brings.  They picked about 4400 pounds of Cab grapes on Saturday, all by 10am. The group made quick work of the small, sloped vineyard, and Greg drove the trailer back to the Perrucci homestead and winemaking facility, a short distance away. Tala and I followed behind in Tiny Car – the official Winelandia transportation vehicle.

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Once there, some of the team started destemming the Cab, while others tended to some of the in-progress wines, which is where I caught my first whiff of the pungent aroma of fermenting juice. We got to taste some Merlot mid-fermentation, as well as some fresh pressed Pinot that was awaiting yeast. These vibrant, juicy tasting experiences are the best part of visiting small producers, especially in the late summer and early fall. You get a sense of the work, and the magic, that goes into winemaking. It’s part art and part science.

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The Perruccis’ small family winery produces several different kinds of wines, mostly for club distribution and sales in local restaurants and wine shops. We tasted through several of their selections, including the Sangiovese, their red table wine, and two of their Cabernets. Their wines are approachable, affordable, and the family endeavor is really worth supporting. This is a small operation run by a great team with passion for wine and winemaking, and Italian charisma to spare. It was a great Saturday outing for the ladies of Winelandia, and well worth the visit. Hopefully we’ll be back to check them out again soon!

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