Friday, August 28, 2015

A Whale of a Zucchini Bread!

Renee Erickson is one of my culinary heroes.  She is inspired by fresh, seasonal ingredients and treats those ingredients with utmost respect.  Renee's food is complicated in its simplicity and to me every bite is superb.  I used to live down the street from The Whale Wins and out of the dozens of times I have dined there I only had one plate I thought was just so-so.  The caveat is that she cooks the style of food I like to eat.  There are so many outstanding restaurants in Seattle but her style of cooking makes me a happier human being.

As you know, if you have read any of my posts, I have a sweet tooth.  However, I rarely order dessert when I am out for dinner because they always look better than they taste.  Two years ago, I was at The Whale Wins and after dinner the waitress came around with the dessert menu. I took a glance and was super happy that nothing struck my fancy - whew!  My friends ordered the Zucchini Bread - as dessert?  Who are these people?  That's not dessert!  When the warm slice of heaven arrived, my friend generously asked if I wanted a bite.  It smelled good.  It was warm - fresh out of the wood-fire oven.  It had fresh butter melting into it.  And if that wasn't convincing enough, the slice was finished with a dollop of creme fraiche and sprinkled with Jacobsen's sea salt. I didn't want to be rude... It was the most amazing earthy, fruity, lemony bite of HOLY COW! I order it each and every time I dine at The Whale Wins.  I dream about this Zucchini Bread - dream! 

When  A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus: Menus and Stories (Renee's cookbook) came out last fall I could hardly wait.  Hoping that the Zucchini Bread recipe was included and it was.  Happy Happy Joy Joy!  

Here is the recipe for this unbelievable Zucchini Bread.  Enjoy!

makes 1 9-by-5-inch loaf pan

3 cups grated zucchini (from 1 pound zucchini)
2 cups granulated sugar, divided
Unsalted butter, for the pan
2 cups (about 256 grams) all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
3 large eggs
Grated zest from 2 large lemons
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
for serving:
Unsalted butter
Créme fraiche
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon or Jacobsen

Preheat the oven to 350•F.
For the cake: In a mixing bowl, blend the zucchini with 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar. Transfer the mixture to a fine-mesh strainer and set the strainer over the mixing bowl. Fill another bowl, this one just big enough to fit inside the strainer, about halfway with water and carefully set the water bowl directly on top of the zucchini. (This presses the water out of the zucchini.)
Butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg.
In another bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla until well blended. beat in the olive oil in three stages, whisking until it is thoroughly combined each time.
Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no white spots remain. Working with a handful of zucchini at a time, use your hands to press and wring all excess moisture out of the zucchini. When all the zucchini has been pressed, add it to the batter, and stir it in gently until evenly distributed.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top evenly with the demerara sugar. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 70 to 75 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Cool the bread in the pan for about 20 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely.
To serve:
Cut the bread into 1-inch-thick slabs. Melt about 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. (Use the same amount of butter for however many pieces of bread will fit into the skillet at once.) When the butter is melted and foamy, add a few slices, and cook for a few minutes on each side, until warm and toasted. Serve the bread over a smear of créme fraiche, sprinkled with sea salt. Repeat with the remaining bread.

All the pressed juice out of the zucchini!  What a color!

Beautiful lemon zest!

Tovolo Whip Whisk and our Stainless Steel Bowls - can't live without these bowls.

Look at the color that all the olive oil and lemon create not to mention the zucchini at the top!

Can you smell it?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tovolo's Day Off


A company that plays together, stays together. Today's a good day for a day off.  Fall is approaching and there aren't too many more sunny, summer days in Seattle left. I can already see the light changing and the air has begun to get crisper.  It is a perfect day to pack up early today and head out for a good game of baseball.

The whole Seattle office is going.  If you are lucky enough, at least once in your work life you have the opportunity to be a part of a group of people who all genuinely like and care for each other.  Normally, there is that one person you always roll your eyes at or a boss you think is less than stellar, but right now at Tovolo we have that perfect group.  We all work and play really well together. We share ideas and truly respect each other's opinions. I get kind of sappy about it because I have been around the block enough to know it is a rare find.
(BTW - I am writing this pre-game and will post pics post-game.)

Thanks to Matt, P.T., and Jeff for your generousity. The Mariners won and it was a great game!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Outlaw Cookies

Some cookies should be illegal!  Chocolate cookies so intense it's criminal. Creamy centers decadent enough to make you lose all control.  Stolen moments of pure sugar bliss.

Recently, I made such a cookie.  It was for my friend's birthday.  When you are just an average person and have a good friend who has a degree as a pastry chef, making something sweet as a birthday present can be a tricky proposition.  Luckily, our sugar sensibilities are pretty much aligned so most of what I make or experiment in making I can count on her liking.  

I was meeting her out for dinner so I couldn't really make cupcakes or a proper birthday cake, so I went the route of cookies.  She and I went to Paris on an eating extravaganza a few years ago and I knew that she loves Sable cookies. Sables are thin, buttery cookies that are very popular in Paris.  You often see them with fresh herbs baked into them like Rosemary or Lavender.  One of my favorite blogs, has a wonderful Intensely Chocolately Sable cookie recipe that is not only delicious but pretty easy to make.  These cookies are thin and slightly crispy but soft in the middle.  If you roll them thinner you could make them crisper but be very careful not to burn them because burnt chocolate is not your friend.  It's just not.

Note: The Tovolo Pastry Mat in the picture. I have started using this for everything!  Rolling out doughs, cookie dough, even just as a "ingredient" mat when baking.  It keeps my counter clean and is super easy to keep things neat and organized.

I decided to step the cookie game up a notch by making them sandwich cookies. Adding a thin layer of buttercream between the two chocolate sable cookies.
I had a choice to make:

a. Vanilla buttercream - delicious, classic, expected
b. Tonka bean buttercream - exotic, rare, illicit

Long explanation short, Tonka beans are akin to vanilla beans.  They are having a moment in Europe and the UK in both sweet and savory application but are not legal in the US.  I just happened to have a few from a friend who was in Europe a few years ago and brought some back with him.  They are somewhat floral in aroma.  They are often used in perfume but they aren't soapy like lavender can be sometimes.  Tonka beans are earthier like a spice opposed to an herb.  

If you didn't guess already, I went with Tonka bean buttercream.  You could use either and both would be awesome.  I took 1/2 cup of butter and let it get to room temperature.  I then whipped it in my stand mixer, adding a finely grated Tonka bean (although if using a vanilla bean, I would scrape the beans from the pod) and add it to the butter.  This essentially makes a compound butter.  I put it back in the fridge for a few hours so that the bean and butter had some time to really get to know each other.  When the cookies were cooled completely, I made the buttercream with the pre-made Tonka Bean butter (I used 6T of the butter, leaving a few Tablespoons for other applications like French Toast - your welcome), 2 cups of powdered sugar, and about 3T of milk.  I always taste buttercream until it is the sweetness and consistency that I want.  I also think it is important to sprinkle a pinch of salt in the frosting - it helps to cut the sweetness and gives it a little lift.  

Recipe by
Intensely Chocolate Sables
Inspired by Balthazar, adapted quite a bit from Miette - 

Makes 40 to 48 2-inch thin cookies, fewer if thicker, or 24 sandwich cookies!
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (30 grams) Dutched cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 to 2/3 cup (100 to 135 grams) granulated sugar (less for a more bittersweet cookie)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, grated or finely chopped until almost powdery in a food processor - 70% Theo Chocolate is perfect!
Coarse sugar (turbinato/sugar in the raw or decorative) for sprinkling

Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking soda together onto a piece of waxed paper or into a bowl and set aside. (I almost always skimp on sifting wherever possible, but my cocoa is always lumpy, so this is unavoidable.)
Cream butter, sugar and salt together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla, beating until combined, then scraping down sides. Add dry ingredients and grated chocolate together and mix until just combined.
Scrape dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, wrap it up and chill it in the fridge until just firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. No need to get it fully hard, or it will be harder to roll out. Dough can be refrigerated until needed, up to a two days, or frozen longer, but let it warm up and soften a bit before rolling it out for decreased frustration.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll dough gently — it will still be on the crumbly side, so only attempt to flatten it slightly with each roll — until it is 1/8-inch thick (for thin cookies, what I used), 1/4-inch thick (for thicker ones) or somewhere in-between (I suspect the Balthazar ones are rolled to 3/8-inch). Cut into desired shapes and space them an inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle decoratively with coarse sugar. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (for thinner cookies) or 10 to 12 minutes (for thicker ones). Leave cookies on baking sheets out of the oven for a couple minutes before gently, carefully transferring them to cooling racks, as they’ll be fragile until they cool.
Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks of 4 p.m. rations.

Assembly for sandwich cookies:
Spread a generous dollop of buttercream onto one cookie and spread it almost to the edge.  I used a Tovolo Mini Scoop & Spread which was perfect for this task.  They look better if you add just a thin layer of buttercream to the other half of the sandwich before putting the two halves together.  Plus, can you REALLY have too much buttercream in the sandwich cookies? No, you can not.  These were for a birthday so then I just sprinkled them with course, colorful sugar for festiveness. Voila!  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

To Doughnut or Not to Doughnut? Wait, I don't understand the question...

To me, doughnuts are a perfect food.  They are light and sweet, vary in flavor and texture, and are good any time of day. Doughnuts, in my experience are never grumpy.  I can admit that not all doughnuts are created equal but that is part of their beauty - there is always a new doughnut shop to try to see if the next doughnut is better than the last. 

The only real drawback from the love and appreciation of doughnuts is that no matter how hard I try to rationalize, they really have no nutritional justification.  Don't get me wrong, there is something to be said for the nourishment that my soul receives when luscious custard filling oozes out of its pillowy captivity. 

Wipe drool now.

I discovered a doughnut shop called FROST not far from my house. (Far enough away to be slightly shamed by the lie "Oh, I was just in the neighborhood" drive by doughnutting that happens but I digress.)  I was watching "Donut Showdown" on the Cooking Channel - DON'T judge me - and the owner put up some impressive doughnuts that were not so overdone in flavor combinations and decorations that I wanted to puke.  He won the challenge - YAY!  At the end of the show, they mentioned the shop was in Seattle so I thought I best check it out, just to be supportive and all. 

FROST is hands down one of the best doughnut experiences I have in years.  Their dough is soft and fluffy, tasty but not too yeasty, and cooked enough to where you have to bite into the doughnut.  They are perfect.  I am so sad they are not just a little closer and equally happy that they are not.  If you are ANYWHERE near Seattle, make the trip - you will not be disappointed!  (Oh and call me and I will meet you there.  PLEASE!)

Glazed with just the right amount of sugar crack...fluffy and soft.

This is the Peanut Butter Perfection from FROST.  It is the same soft luscious dough surrounding super light and creamy, almost silken peanut butter flavored cream.  TDF!

Wait for it...Scuttlebutt Chocolate Porter Doughnut with Bacon Buttercream.  (this is where you picture me dropping the microphone -BOOM!)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Pizza Party

Recipe testing is hard work.  It takes hours of dedicated research.  Tasting the same thing time after time after time - understanding the nuances of flavor.  You need to enlist the help of numerous people.  And you have to eat alot of pizza.  Gosh, life is rough.
If you haven't made homemade pizza before, I highly encourage it.  It is super easy and generally tastes way better than anything you can buy at the store.  My favorite part is that I can make it exactly the way I like - thin, thin, thin almost cracker like crust, minimal tomato sauce (if any, I prefer pesto) and all my favorite toppings.  Pizza is such a blank canvas that there is no wrong way to make it.  One of my favorites is homemade Romanesco sauce, burrata, fresh tomatoes, and arugala.

We have been testing the pizza dough recipes in the office for an exciting new product (to be divulged at a future time) and this is the winner.  It is easy to make., easy to work with and tastes delicious!

Homemade Thin Crust Pizza by

Makes two 10-inch pizzas 

For the dough:

3/4 cups lukewarm water

1 teaspoon active-dry or instant yeast

2 cups  unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt


Heat over to 475F. A great tip is to leave the oven at full temperature for about 15-30 minutes before putting your pizza in the oven.  

Combine the water and yeast in a mixing bowl, and stir to dissolve the yeast.  Add the flour and salt to the bowl and mix until you've formed a shaggy dough.  You can also do this in a food processor and pulse until a ball forms.

Turn the dough out on a clean, lightly floured surface.  Knead until all the flour is incorporated, and the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. The dough should still feel moist and slightly tacky.  Cut dough into two even balls and cover with plastic wrap or place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel.

Let the dough rise until it has doubled in size, about an hour or two.   If you are pressed for time, you can let it rise for as little as 30 minutes.   After rising, you can use the dough, refrigerate it for up to three days, or in a freezer bag and freeze. IF you have refrigerated or frozen your dough, bring it back to room temperature before using.

Place dough onto lightly floured surface and roll to desired size and thickness.  My book - the thinner the better!
Bake for 12-18 mintutes based on the ingredients used.  This is for cheese and vegetable pizza or pizzas with meat that has already been cured or cooked.

For other ways to use pizza dough, visit: blog


Friday, August 7, 2015


New York City is the always interesting.  Last week I had a great opportunity to go to NYC for a few days and meet with editors from some impressive magazines to talk about Tovolo's new products.  I had about a 1/2 day on my own to look in on some of our customers as well as try to check out some new food joints I have been hearing about.
When I arrived on the red-eye at 6:00am EST, it was already in the 80's.  By the time I got to my hotel, dropped off my luggage, (of course I couldn't check into my hotel room) and walked down to Chelsea it was well into the 90's. My first stop once I reached the cool oasis of Chelsea Market, was the Doughnuttery.  What's the Doughnuttery?  I am glad you asked.  It is a unique little doughnut shop tucked away in a brick lined alley, midway down the market's corridor.  They are known for very petite (better for eating MANY of them) hot, delicious, cake doughnuts, While they are still hot you can choose from 22 or so flavored sugars to have the hot little morsels tossed in for your tasting enjoyment.  I tried PB&J and Paris Time.  The PB&J is just what you would expect but somehow they take the peanutty, saltiness of peanut butter and make it into a powder and do the same thing with the jelly - it is a feat of genius.  It almost tastes creamy and tart at the same time - YUM!  The Paris Time was a combination of Lavender, Vanilla, and Pistachio sugar - so balanced and flavorful but perfectly subtle.  Tres Bien! 

After going back to the hotel for shower number one, I headed out into the heat again.  I walked back through Chelsea and started to make my way downtown.  I had a great list of all these wonderful places that I was going to try for lunch in the city.  I had only one problem and it was a big one.  It was 102F.  I do not like HOT.  I am not even a fan of warm so HOT in NYC is like walking on the sun for me.  I powered through (10.5 miles total for the day) but every time I passed somewhere I wanted to eat it was just too hot.  I probably drank 8 bottles of water but food was not happening.  Finally after passing Shake Shack, Hill Country, ABC Cafe,  and numerous other awesome food joints I ended up walking into a SUPER air conditioned place across from Broadway Panhandler.  I had curried chicken salad.  I flew 3000 miles to foodie Nirvana to have curried chicken salad for lunch. So sad.  SO very sad.  It was a good curried chicken salad.  I took a picture of it to post but it was too embarrassing.
I did mange however to make it over to Morganstern's Finest Ice Cream.  Bless these lovely people.  It is the tiniest, little, almost non-descript shop but what they lack in space they make up for in charm. Morganstern's is an old fashioned, soda fountain-esque, clean, white shop.  They break down their flavors into sub-sets: Vanilla, Coffee, Caramel, Chocolate, Strawberry, and Specials.  Additionally, there is is section for Sorberts and Toppings.  It was ALOT to take in.  I opted for under Vanilla; Burnt Honey and under Specials; Tonka Bean.  I didn't need to go any further - that would have been perfect but that just wouldn't be me.  I had heard things about the Sesame Caramel Sauce and when I saw it - the deed was done.  HOLY happiness!  It was super dark amber in color with black sesame seeds throughout - just enough for that wonderful nutty flavor but not so many that my teeth would be studded with little black specks.  OH my, thank you!  It was so creamy.  The flavors were bold but well balanced and so refined!  Excellent!

I was also very fortunate to have have crossed paths with the Green Market.  A farmer's market right in the heart of Union Square Park.  It is such a beautiful respite right in the middle of the city.  Summer vegetables - is there anything better?

New York is always interesting.  The sights, the sounds, the people, the food, the vibe in general - it is one-of-a-kind.