Thursday, October 30, 2014

Raw Chocolate + Pistachio Butter Cups

Homemade honeyed pistachio butter fills raw chocolate made from cacao butter, cacao powder, and maple syrup for a healthier take on peanut butter cups. Flaky salt and cacao nibs add addictive crunch.


As a kid, I pretty much lived for Halloween candy. My best friend and I had an aprés trick-or-treating ritual wherein we would come home, dump our loot onto the floor, and spend hours trading Mars Bars, M&Ms, and Milky Ways.


The last to be traded were always those crunchy peanut candies, which we would halfheartedly pass back and forth, our excitement and sugar highs dwindling.


The neighborhood grown-ups were good to us, save for my mom, who regularly inflicted apples or sesame-honey chews on the neighborhood youth. These went straight from our pumpkin-shaped buckets into the trash, accompanied by retching noises and eye rolls.


Now, of course, I'd take an apple and sesame honey chew over additive-laden bars of cheap chocolate-coated goo any day. With the appeal of free high-fructose corn syrup gone, I don't really get Halloween. I'll pass on the dyed red and black cocktails designed to look like bodily fluids and stick with a glass of bubbly, thank you very much. I find most real-life politicians spookier than ghosts and goblins, and I'd be more inclined to give a black cat in my path cuddles than to run the other way. I'd much rather settle in with a good rom-com than watch someone get hacked to bits by a motiveless psychopath weilding a chainsaw or other sharp object.


At the co-op yesterday, I spied something odd while perusing the cheese case. The object in question turned out to be cheese decorated to look like severed fingers. 


I just don't get it.


Rather than bare my legs as a sexy nurse or piece of pizza, I'll probably spend Halloween on the couch in leggings watching Arrested Development and eating curry. That's my idea of a happy Halloween.  


Fortunately, I'm not alone. Our red-headed feline stepchild is similarly indifferent to the holiday, disliking dressing up in anything other than stripey orange fuzz and lacking sweet receptors on his tongue. Thus the whole family can stay in, grinch-like, during October 31st, enjoying each other's grumpy company (grumpany?).


Since our apartment is far from the main drag, we don't usually have to deal with many trick-or-treaters. Rather than wasting time and money on healthier treats certain to end up in the compost, Jay and I use a different tactic when a stray be-costumed child wanders into our neighborhood and rings the doorbell. 


We hide.


These little chocolates are the antithesis of typical Halloween treats. They're made from homemade pistachio butter sweetened with a touch of honey and flecked with flaky salt. This gets enrobed in homemade raw chocolate kissed with vanilla and maple syrup. The recipe came about when I found myself with leftover raw chocolate after making ice cream sandwiches earlier this year. I melted it down and formed it into little cups filled with nut butter and topped with cacao nibs and flaky salt. Maybe it was our latent candy-loving selves, but Jay and I couldn't get enough of them.


Raw chocolate comes together quickly and easily by melting together cacao butter, cacao powder, maple syrup, and a splash of vanilla. The resulting chocolate is softer than the store bought stuff, and it needs to hang out in the fridge to firm up. Its texture is somewhere between chocolate and ganache, melting instantly on the tongue, tasting earthy and not too sweet.

I've had mixed results making my own nut butter, but I followed this technique from Erica of Coffee & Quinoa and, with the addition of a bit of olive oil, the mixture came together into a silky smooth, army green paste that tasted far more fresh and bright than the super expensive jar I purchased as a back up. (With that, I plan to give this pistachio gelato a whirl.)


These little cups are super addicting, and they're so cute, I just want to give them away to everyone I know...


...but certainly not to any ungrateful kids.


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Raw Desserts:

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Raw Chocolate + Pistachio Butter Cups


This recipe makes twice as much nut butter as you'll need for the cups, but you'll need this amount to make your food processor go if it's a standard size. Feel free to double the chocolate and toppings to make 36 nut butter cups. I used honey in the nut butter, but you could use maple sugar, coconut nectar, or brown rice syrup for a vegan option. (I think maple syrup would be overly liquid and would make the filling difficult to work with.) You can also use 1/2 cup of store bought pistachio butter if you prefer, skipping the food processor instructions. Full disclaimer: my nut butter was more brown than green (until I futzed with the colors in Lightroom). I think that blanching and peeling the brown skin off of the nuts would yield a greener butter, but this was the easy method. If you're an avid raw-foodist, you'll want to let the nut butter cool as you puree it lest it become too hot, and melt the raw chocolate very gently to keep it at a low temperature.

Feel free to trade the pistachio butter for 1/2 cup of any nut butter you like, such as almond, hazelnut, or peanut. I found raw cacao butter, powder, and nibs at my local natural foods co-op, but they can also be ordered here. Or you could use 8 ounces melted and tempered bittersweet chocolate in its place.

Makes about 18 small cups

For the pistachio butter:
2 cups shelled, raw pistachios
2 tablespoons honey (raw if you like; or maple sugar if vegan)
1/2 teaspoon flaky salt, such as Maldon (or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea or kosher salt)
1 tablespoon pistachio oil, olive oil, or a neutral oil such as sunflower or grapeseed
1/4 cup shelled, raw pistachios, coarsely chopped

For the raw chocolate:
1 scant cup (3.5 ounces / 100 grams) chopped cacao butter
1/2 cup (1.5 ounces / 45 grams) raw cacao powder (or regular cocoa powder)
1/4 cup (2.75 ounces / 80 grams) maple syrup (I prefer grade A)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For topping the cups:
~2 tablespoons chopped pistachios
~1 tablespoon cacao nibs
~1 teaspoon flaky salt (such as Maldon)

Make the pistachio butter:
In a food processor, grind the pistachios to a smooth paste, 10 minutes. The mixture will become very warm. Add the honey, salt, and oil, and process until smooth again (the mixture will be clumpy at first), 5-10 more minutes, letting the mixture cool if it becomes too warm and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Measure out 1/2 cup (5 ounces / 140 grams) of the pistachio butter into a bowl; reserve the rest for another use. Stir in the chopped pistachios, then cover and chill in the refrigerator or freezer until cold and firm enough to hold its shape, 1-2 hours or up to a week or two.

Make the raw chocolate:
Place the cacao butter, cacao powder, maple syrup, and vanilla in a metal, heat-proof bowl set over a pot of hot, steaming (but not simmering) water. Chocolate is delicate stuff, so heat it gently, stirring occasionally, until it is melted and smooth. Remove from the pot and let the chocolate cool slightly, whisking occasionally until smooth and slightly thickened. (If the mixture looks slightly separated or broken, don't worry; proceed with the recipe and it should work out fine.)

Make the cups:
Drizzle a very thin layer of chocolate in the bottom of each cup and tilt to coat. Freeze until firm, 5 minutes. Drizzle another thin layer of chocolate in a cup, and quickly place a small scoop of pistachio butter, about a teaspoon, right in the center of the molten chocolate. The chocolate will rise up around the sides, enclosing the nut butter, and the whole thing should come to 3/4 of the way up the paper cup. Drizzle more chocolate over the top of the cup, and sprinkle with a pinch each of chopped pistachio, cacao nibs, and flaky salt. 

Repeat with the remaining cups. When all are filled and topped, freeze until firm. The cups must be stored in the refrigerator as the raw chocolate softens at room temperature. They will keep, airtight, for up to several weeks.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ginger, Vanilla + Quince Upside-Down Cake {Gluten-Free}

Quince poached with vermouth or white wine, vanilla and Meyer lemon make a pretty pink topping for a moist cake kissed with fresh ginger. A gluten-free, gum-free recipe. 


Before we get to cake, a couple of pieces of business. 

1) The winner of the Smitten with Squash Cookbook Giveaway is Just Me who writes, "My favorite winter squash has to be butternut, grown by my father, as it was the first vegetable for both my boys as babies. My father passed away in the mid summer before my youngest was born, but his first vegetable was still butternut that his grandfather had planted." For many more squash recipes to share with your family, please send your mailing address to me at agoodie[at]gmail[dot]com and we'll send you a copy of Smitten with Squash. 

2) I've been looking for ways to support the time and cashola that we put into this space, and have partnered with Passionfruit to serve small sidebar ads that I get to approve myself. Hopefully they aren't too intrusive. If you're interested in getting a bit more exposure for your blog or business, you can now do so while supporting this blog via my Sponsor page. Rates are super low this month while I test things out. Thanks to my readers for bearing with me as I explore ways to keep this blog sustainable in a way that feels authentic, so that I can continue to share recipes, stories, and pictures.


Now for cake! 


I have a hard time letting go of summer produce come Fall, but fun fruits such as quince and persimmons help ease the transition. Quince are a member of the pome family along with apples and pears, and they look like a knobby combination of the two. Their flesh is pithy and must undergo a long, slow cook to be rendered edible. When they do, their flesh turns a delightful shade of pink, and their mysterious flavors get teased out. 


Pomes are part of the rose family, which makes sense given the floral notes inherent in a quince. Smell one raw, and your nose will be rewarded with a musky perfume. I like to accentuate quince's flowery qualities, so here I paired it with vanilla, meyer lemon, and fresh ginger. Quince can work well with heavier spices, but I kept things light and bright for now, in accordance with our San Francisco Indian summer. 


Since quince can be a bit tough to handle, I like to do as little as possible to them when raw. A T-shaped vegetable peeler makes quick work of their skin. Then I simply lop each one in half, leaving in the seeds which add flavor, and simmer them in a not-too-sweet syrup until they're tender, which takes the better part of two hours.


I've made the quince both with white wine (sauvignon blanc) and with a dry, white vermouth made locally by Sutton Cellars. Sutton Cellars vermouth is fortified with brandy and flavored with 17 botanicals, including orange, chamomile and rosemary. The quince made with this were nothing short of intoxicating. But the white wine version were nice, too, and they worked just fine in the cake. 


I had some Meyer lemons given to me by Sarah, and they, along with the vermouth, added beguiling flavor to the quince. In fact, one of my favorite parts was piling the candied peel on a cracker with goat cheese – heaven! (Note to self: make Meyer lemon and quince marmalade.)  


Here are some other uses for this odd fruit that I'm dreaming of:
-Poached, chopped, and mixed with apples in a pie or crisp
-Cooked down into the Spanish fruit paste called membrillo, and served with manchego cheese
-Poached, chopped, and suspended in a fritter batter, fried, and dredged in cardamom sugar
-Simmered with citrus fruits into a fragrant marmalade
-Cooked into a chunky jam to eat with yogurt, or bake into a jam tart or crumble bars
-Deborah Madison has several recipes in her book Local Flavors that I've been meaning to try, including a savory-sweet goat cheese tart with walnuts, and a quince mince pie


This cake is a pretty straightforward way to get a quince fix. Look for these unusual fruits at farmers markets or specialty stores. I found some both at the Berkeley Tuesday market and at our awesome co-op


What do you like to do with quince? Please let me know in the comments below, with links if you've got 'em!


Thanks for reading! For more Bojon Gourmet in your life, follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Bloglovin', or Twitter, subscribe to receive new posts via email, make a donation, or become a sponsor.

Quincidence:

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Two years ago:

Ginger, Vanilla + Quince Upside-Down Cake {Gluten-Free}


The ginger here adds a subtle, floral warmth that accentuates the quince. For an extra-gingery version, try adding a few tablespoons of finely chopped candied ginger to the batter (decreasing the sugar a bit if you like). If making this for highly sensitive gluten-intolerant folks, be sure to seek out certified gluten-free ingredients, particularly oat flour (which you can also grind from gluten-free oats). If gluten isn't an issue, feel free to try this with all-purpose wheat flour, or other flours of your liking such as rye or barley. I haven't tried this with gluten-free all-purpose blends, but King Arthur and Cup 4 Cup are probably good bets if you'd prefer that route. I especially liked the quince that I cooked with Sutton Cellar's dry white vermouth, but the ones made with sauvignon blanc were also excellent; I think Lillet would be lovely, as well. The alcohol all cooks off, but you could also leave it out if you preferred, using extra water or fruit juice instead.

This cake is a little bit fussy, so here are a few tips to ensure success:
-Be sure to grease the parchment paper, otherwise the quince may stick to it, making it difficult to remove and marring the surface of the cake.
-Don't overwork the batter, lest it become gummy from the sweet rice flour.
-Let the cake cool before turning it out. This allows the cake time to gain structure, keeping it fluffy when inverted.


Makes one 8 or 9" round cake, serving 8-10

For the quince:
1 vanilla bean
1 small (or 1/2 a large) lemon (preferably Meyer)
4 cups (950 mL) water, plus more as needed
1 cup (235 mL) dry white vermouth, white wine, or Lillet
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces / 100 grams) organic blonde cane sugar
1 1/2 - 1 3/4 pounds (680-800 grams) quince (3 large or 6 small)

For the cake:
1 stick (4 ounces / 115 grams) unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon for the pan
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces / 100 grams) organic blonde cane sugar
vanilla bean seeds (from above)
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons (1 ounce / 30 grams) finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup (2.75 / 80 grams) sweet white rice flour
1/2 cup (2 ounces / 60 grams) gluten-free oat flour
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces / 70 grams) millet flour (or sorghum, or brown rice)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (4 ounces / 115 grams) crème fraîche

Poach the quince:
Split the vanilla bean down the center and use the back of a knife to scrape away the seeds. Set the seeds aside to use in the cake, and place the pod in a large saucepan. Use a vegetable peeler (t-shaped works the best) to pare away 5 strips of lemon peel and add them to the pot. Juice the lemon and add the juice to the pot along with the water, vermouth or wine, and sugar. Bring the liquid to a boil while you prepare the quince.

Use a t-shaped vegetable peeler to pare away the skin of a quince. Cut it in half, leaving the seeds in, and add it to the pot. Continue with the remaining quince. Place a small, heat-proof plate over the quince to keep them submerged, cover partially with the lid of the pot, and adjust the flame to keep the liquid at a simmer. Cook until the quince are rosy and tender, about 1 1/2 hours, adding more water as needed to keep the quince submerged. When done, carefully remove the quince and let them drain, reserving the liquid (or let the quince cool in their juices if using later.) Core the quinces and cut them into 1/4" slices.

Return the poaching liquid to the saucepan and simmer until reduced by about half and bubbling thickly, about 10-20 minutes. Reserve.

Make the cake:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350º.

Shove a piece of parchment paper into an 8 or 9" round pan and trim the edges to rise 1" above the pan. Grease the bottom and sides with the 1 T of softened butter. Lay the quince slices, slightly overlapping, in concentric circles over the buttered parchment and set aside. If you have quince left over, chop them coarsely and set them aside to add to the batter. (I had about 1/2 a cup.)

Make the cake batter:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl fitted with your arm and a wooden spoon), combine the stick of butter, vanilla bean seeds, and sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined after each and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed, then beat in the grated ginger.

Meanwhile, sift the sweet rice, oat, and millet flours with the baking powder and salt into a medium bowl.

With the mixer on low, stir half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture until just combined. Stir in the crème fraîche until just combined, then the rest of the flour, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Stir in the chopped quince, if using, and give the batter a final stir by hand to make sure it is well-combined.

Spread the batter over the quinces evenly. 

Bake the cake until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, or a with a few moist crumbs, 40-50 minutes. Let the cake cool completely, then invert onto a serving platter and peel away the parchment. If the reduced poaching liquid has solidified, warm it in a small saucepan until liquid. Brush some of this glaze over the top of the cake. Serve the cake at room temperature. I like it with a flowery tea, such as Darjeeling. Extras will keep at room temperature for a day or two, or in the refrigerator for a few days.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Savory Spaghetti Squash Cakes with Poached Eggs and Harissa {Gluten-Free} + a Cookbook Giveaway

A savory, gluten-free griddle cake recipe made with garlic-infused spaghetti squash laced with chives and coriander and topped with spinach, harissa, and poached eggs for a simple one-dish meal. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Smitten with Squash by Amanda Paa. Details below.


Lately, I've noticed something odd: my tastes are changing. I suppose this is a sign of my getting older growing up, but I find myself preferring a cheese plate over a slice of chocolate cake, and struggling to find wines that are dry enough for my liking. I was the kid who squirreled candy away in her room, lived for ice cream, and dreamed of one day becoming a pastry chef. I'm the cookbook junkie who flips to the back of prospective purchases to make sure the dessert section is ample enough, the person who secretly believes that people who claim to lack a sweet tooth are actually aliens from another planet devoid of chocolate.


I still like the regular post-prandial nibble of good chocolate (and am currently obsessed with this milk chocolate caramelized crisp rice bar from Charles Chocolate), and there is still plenty of baking happening in my kitchen, but I find myself cutting back on sugar more and more; not because I feel I should, but because too much is a turn off. 


It's all very odd.


When my friend Amanda, creator of HeartBeet Kitchen and author of Smitten with Squash, asked me to share a recipe from her new book, I was surprised to find myself pulled toward not only a savory recipe, but one made with the least sugary of the winter squash varieties: spaghetti squash. (Though to be fair, the recipe still contained the word "cake.") These oblong, yellow vegetables contain fibrous strings reminiscent of pasta, and they have more water and less sugar than their starchy brethren. For this reason, I've always passed them by.


But Amanda's tantalizing recipe promised a better way with spaghetti squash. The squash is halved and roasted with garlic, squeezed of liquid, and mixed with a rice flour and egg batter laced with toasted coriander and chives. The batter is pan-fried into cakes, then topped with spinach, cilantro, harissa, and a poached egg.


I roasted the squash, but had a hard time not devouring it all before it could make it into the cakes. Seasoned simply with salt, pepper and olive oil and infused with roasted garlic, I would have gladly eaten all three pounds in one sitting. I exercised restraint, however, and soldiered ahead. I'm very glad I did.


Amanda is one of the kindest souls I know, and her generosity of spirit comes through in her writing. Reading through this book, you can tell you're in the hands of a capable chef and teacher, one who takes the time to explain things thoroughly, and adds little touches to her recipes to make each one shine. Here, toasted coriander, chives, and parmesan combine in the batter to build flavor. Spinach and cilantro lend freshness along with their myriad nutrients. Store-bought harissa adds a bit of kick, and a poached egg turns it into a one-dish meal that works as well for brunch as it does for dinner.


I'm happy to say that through this recipe, spaghetti squash and I have reconciled our differences. I no longer resent it for lacking the sweetness of kabocha, the rich texture of butternut, or the cute rotundity of pumpkin. Spaghetti squash, you're alright. 


Another thing that's alright? This book, whether or not you have a sweet tooth. Each recipe features winter or summer squash used in an innovative way, from refreshing salads to decadent desserts. All recipes are gluten-free, and many are vegetarian or vegan. 

Other sweet and savory recipes I have my eye on are:
Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Burrata and Capers
Decadent Zucchini Brownies with Chocolate Buttercream
Maple Cardamom Zucchini Snack Cake
Vanilla Bean Butternut Apple Crisp
Delicata, Spinach, and Chickpea Red Curry

Here are some beautiful squash recipes from Smitten with Squash via the blogosphere:
Autumn Harvest Breakfast Bread from The Vanilla Bean Blog
Delicata Squash Donuts from Will Frolic for Food


Amanda and the folks over at Minnesota Historical Society Press are giving away a copy of Smitten with Squash to one lucky reader. Leave a comment below telling me your favorite variety of winter squash (and optionally how you like to use it in the kitchen) and I'll pick a winner on Saturday, October 25th.


Thanks for reading! For more Bojon Gourmet in your life, follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Bloglovin', or Twitter, subscribe to receive new posts via email, make a donation, or become a sponsor.

Savoring squash:

Savory Spaghetti Squash Cakes with Poached Eggs and Harissa + a Cookbook Giveaway


Adapted from Smitten with Squash by Amanda Paa

Amanda's recipe originally calls for a gluten-free flour blend that contains xanthan gum. I played fast and loose with the flours and nixed the gum, as written here. Feel free to make this with Cup 4 Cup flour, which Amanda used to test her recipes. If gluten isn't an issue for you, trade the flours here for 3/4 cup all-purpose.

Makes 4 servings

For the cakes:
1 medium spaghetti squash (about 3 pounds), halved and seeded
olive oil, as needed
fine sea or kosher salt
black pepper
2 large cloves garlic, peeled
3/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1 large egg
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown rice flour
1/4 cup sweet white rice flour (mochiko)
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
ghee or sunflower oil, for frying the cakes (as needed)

For the poached eggs and garnish:
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (or another neutral vinegar)
4 large eggs
1 cup lightly packed spinach leaves, washed and spun dry
a few handfuls cilantro leaves, washed and dried
a few tablespoons of store-bought harissa

Roast the squash:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375ºF. Sprinkle the squash lightly with salt and pepper. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet and place the squash cut-side down. Tuck a garlic clove under each squash. Roast the squash until strands pull away from the skin and are al dente, 25-30 minutes. Let cool, reserving the garlic. Use a fork to gently scrape up the strands. Measure out 3 cups and set aside the rest for another use (such as putting in your face). 

Place the squash strands in the center of a clean towel, roll it up, and wring out the liquid. 

Make the batter:
In a small skillet set over a medium flame, toast the coriander, shaking the pan occasionally, until it smells toasty, 1-2 minutes. Cool, then grind with a mortar and pestle or a clean spice or coffee grinder. 
 
In a large bowl, mash the roasted garlic cloves, then whisk in the egg. Add the squash strands, chives, coriander, flours, Parmesan, and 3/4 teaspoon salt, and stir to combine. The mixture should hold together, but still be a little wet and sticky. If it's too wet, add 1 tablespoon brown rice flour at a time until it holds together. (I added an additional 4 tablespoons.)

Cook the cakes:
In a large skillet set over a medium flame, add enough ghee or oil to the pan to form a thin film, a couple tablespoons or so. When it shimmers, drop 1/4 cup portions of batter in the pan, spacing well apart, and flatten each into a disk. Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, until golden and cooked through. Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining batter. 

Poach the eggs:
Fill a skillet with 2 inches of lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Crack the eggs into 4 separate small cups or bowls. Add the vinegar to the water, reduce the heat to hold the water at a bare simmer. Holding a cup close to the surface of the water, slip in an egg. Repeat with the remaining eggs, placing them well apart. Cook for 4 minutes for a medium poach. Slip a slotted spoon under each egg to make sure they aren't sticking to the pan, and remove to drain on paper towels.

Serve the cakes:
Top one or two cakes with a smear of harissa, a bit of spinach and cilantro, and a poached egg. Drizzle with olive oil, chives, pepper, and a pinch of flaky salt if you like, and repeat with the remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Huckleberry Lemon Verbena Tea Cake {Gluten-Free}

A moist and tender gluten-free pound cake recipe that bursts with tiny huckleberries and fresh lemon verbena, all drizzled with a vanilla bean glaze. Whole grain and gum-free, this cake gets its pillowy texture and sturdy crumb from cream cheese and a happy blend of flours.


It seems like fall is finally hitting San Francisco. Nights are chilly enough to cover up with a light comforter (but not enough to close the window or deter the mosquitos that like to sneak in and probe us at odd hours of the night). The stack of heirloom tomatoes at the co-op grows smaller every week (though not enough to stop us from buying them up and eating thick slabs on dark mountain rye bread spread with goat cheese, avocado, and red onion every morning for breakfast.) The chill in the air makes me want to drop everything and run to the oven (though I still eschew heavy spices in favor of lighter, brighter flavorings). Hence, this cake, which is packed with the last vestiges of summer: earthy huckleberries, a scrape of lemon zest, and a handful of flowery lemon verbena leaves.


Were you to take a fat blueberry, squish it up with a wild blackberry, and condense the resulting mash into a fruit the size of a peppercorn, you would have the essence of a huckleberry. Their tiny size belies their big berry flavor. They like to grow under redwoods and tan oaks, a habitat that their woodsy flavor embodies, whispering of damp earth and dew-kissed leaves.


Huckleberries come into season in September and last through November. When we don't have time to forage for them, we sometimes find them for sale at our fabulous co-op, double bagged and dripping with indigo juice. 


With strong flavor and a low water content, huckleberries are perfectly suited to baking. They pair equally well with fall spices like ginger and cardamom as they do with bright lemon. I especially like them in this teacake which gets an extra, herbaceous dimension from chopped lemon verbena. 


Lemon verbena has been an obsession of mine since I tried it in an ice cream in France when I was in college. The fragrance is incredibly floral, with fresh citrus notes, and the leaves are commonly used to perfume soaps. In the kitchen, I like to capture its unique flavor in creamy desserts and butter-based pastries. In spite of my brown thumb, the small lemon verbena that I planted in our window box has flourished, and I managed to part with some of it in a couple of loaves of this cake.


I adapted the recipe from my favorite berry pound cake and my favorite gluten-free butter cake to make a thick batter that supports the berries. Cream cheese is the magic ingredient that keeps the cake moist, giving it a dense, pound cake-like crumb. The milk proteins work with sweet rice flour to lend a sturdy, smooth texture that no one will ever believe is devoid of gluten. The cake itself is sweet enough to feel like a treat, though you could leave the glaze off for a pastry more appropriate to breakfast than afternoon tea.


Once you develop a taste for lemon verbena, you may begin to spot it growing in backyards. Its leaves are long and slim, like those of a nectarine or peach tree, and they also make a delectable tisane steeped with hot water and a touch of honey. This makes an ideal accompaniment to a slice of this cake. 


If you can't find lemon verbena or huckleberries, try this cake with another summer berry or with frozen wild blueberries, and trade the verbena for basil, mint, or lemon balm, or a smaller amount of thyme or lavender.


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Huckleberry friends:

One year ago:
Two years ago:
Three years ago:
Four years ago:
Five years ago:

Huckleberry Lemon Verbena Tea Cake with Vanilla Bean Glaze {Gluten-Free}


Don't fret if you don't have huckleberries; this cake should work equally well with fresh or frozen blueberries (especially wild ones), raspberries, or blackberries. If you don't have fresh lemon verbena on hand, try using an equal amount of basil, mint, or lemon balm, or 1 tablespoon fresh lemon thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon lavender buds, ground finely, in its place. If you or your cake-eaters are highly sensitive to gluten, make this with flours that are certified gluten-free, particularly the oat flour. If gluten isn't an issue for you or your cake-eaters, feel free to try this with 1 3/4 cups all-purpose wheat flour instead of the rice, oat, millet, and tapioca flours. (Or use this recipe and add lemon verbena to it.)

Makes one 8x4, 9x5, or 10x5" loaf

For the cake:
1 stick (4 ounces / 115 grams) unsalted butter, softened
3 ounces (85 grams) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces / 100 grams) organic blonde cane sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup (4 ounces / 115 grams) sweet white rice flour (mochiko)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (1.5 ounces / 45 grams) GF oat flour
1/4 cup (1.25 ounces / 35 grams) millet flour
2 tablespoons (.5 ounces / 15 grams) tapioca flour/starch
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup fresh or frozen huckleberries, plus 1/4 cup for topping the cake (7.75 ounces total / 220 grams)
3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh lemon verbena

For the glaze:
1/2 cup (2 ounces / 60 grams) powdered sugar
seeds from 1/2 a small vanilla bean (or a splash of vanilla extract)
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (enough to make a drizzle-able glaze)
tiny lemon verbena leaves for garnish, optional

Make the cake:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Line a loaf pan (I used a 10x5" pan but a 9x5 or 8x4 will work, too) on the bottom and sides with parchment paper (or grease with softened butter, dust with flour, and tap out the excess).

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl fitted with your arms and a wooden spoon), cream together the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and lemon zest on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing to combine after each, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. The mixture may look broken; this is ok, it will come together in the next step. 

Meanwhile, sift together the sweet rice, oat, millet, and tapioca flours with the baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. With the mixer on low, stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until just thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Remove the bowl from the mixer, add the 1 cup of huckleberries and all of the chopped lemon verbena, and fold gently to combine, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure the batter is homogeneous.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup huckleberries and press them gently into the batter. 

Bake the cake until the top is lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs, 45-55 minutes in a 10x5" pan (longer for smaller pans). Lift out of the pan and let cool until barely warm, an hour or so. 

Make the glaze:
In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, vanilla bean, and enough lemon juice to make a drizzle-able glaze. Whisk well to eradicate lumps. Peel the parchment away from the sides of the cake. Drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake and let cool completely. 

Serve the cake at room temperature, scattered with tiny lemon verbena leaves, if you like. Extras keep well, airtight at room temperature, for a day or two, or refrigerated for up to a few days (let come to room temperature for best results).