Chocolate Almond Fairy Cakes

In all fairness to Ms. Zoe Nathan, who wrote this recipe, she calls these "muffins" in her gorgeous cook book that happens to be named after her incredible restaurant/bake shop Huckleberry in Santa Monica, CA. To me, though, this is dessert-only fare. Besides, these rich, luscious beauties are more cake-like. Something you eat at tea time with girlfriends. Something you revel in. Something to delight the senses and fulfill any sweets craving. You know, a fairy cake!

This cake is decadent and faintly fragrant with almond. If you're thinking Almond Joy candy bars, these are not that. These "fairy cakes" are a rich cake, fortified by a nut paste that gives them a deep melt-in-your-mouth quality.

I mean, just LOOK at the chocolate. The melty, indulgent chocolate! Just try not to fall over with culinary joy. I dare you!

Thank you, Zoe Nathan, for the BEST dessert experience I've had since the chocolate tarte that is my favorite thing in the world. And a special thank you to Stacy for so kindly buying me this gorgeous cook book. I'm going to make every single recipe!



Chocolate Almond Fairy Cakes
Makes 16 cupcakes
3/4 C almond paste
1 C sugar
1 t kosher salt
1/3 C cocoa (I used Valrhona. I highly recommend using the best quality you can get your hands on)
1 C + 1 T butter, at room temp
6 eggs
2 t vanilla
1 C + 1-1/2 T flour
2-1/4 t baking powder (I only had roughly 1-1/2 t which is why my cakes look a little lacklustre)
2 C chocolate chips or chopped chocolate with about 3 T reserved

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line 2 cupcake tins with 16 cupcake papers and set aside.

3. In your stand mixer, blend the almond paste, sugar, salt and cocoa until the paste is no longer clumpy. If you taste at this point, the texture will be a bit like cornmeal.

4. Add the butter and mix until thoroughly incorporated.

5. Add the eggs, 2 at a time, beating well after each addition. I scraped the bowl after each addition, but that's not in the book.

6. Add the flour, baking powder and chocolate chips and mix on low speed until incorporated. You can finish mixing with your spatula, if need be.

7. Fill your muffin cups to the top and sprinkle a few more chocolate chips or chunks on top.

8. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until the tops spring back when gently touched.

9. Cool completely and eat!

Lemon Cream Tartlets

You know how you have those friends - the ones you clicked with the first time? Those rare and beautiful people who seem to seamlessly join you wherever you are in life and it seems like they've always been there? My friend Toya is like that for me.

Toya is a kindred soul. She loves to bake, too, and because she wouldn't be comfortable in front of a crowd, even one as small as my readership (thank you for being here!), she texts me photos of her front-window-worthy muffins, cakes and other delights.

What I really love about Toya is her earth-mother-ness. She is the high priestess in the tarot: the eternal mother, a gentle soul with fierce protective powers. She's thoughtful, quiet. She can never, ever leave a party because she is always, always listening attentively to people trying to chat her up. Add to all this the most beautiful lips on a face you've ever seen, and that's Toya. 

Recently, Toya had a very big birthday and a few of us revelers crashed her suite in a hotel. Because one does not show up empty-handed to this sort of affair, J & I brought wine, margaritas & these sweet little tartlets in Toya's favorite flavor - lemon. The difference between these tasties and, say, a lemon bar, is that they're made with a rich, decadent lemon cream a la Tartine Bakery. As complex as they are, though, they are light and lovable, all at once. Kind of like our birthday girl.

T, I love you so. Cheers to the big birthday and to all the little ones in between.



Tartine's Lemon Cream Tartlets
Makes 36 tartlets

1 C unsalted butter
1 C sugar
1/4 t kosher salt
2 large eggs, at room temp
3-1/2 C flour

Lemon Cream
1/2 C + 2 T lemon juice
3 large eggs, at room temp
1 large egg yolk, at room temp
3/4 C sugar
1/4 t kosher salt
1 C unsalted butter

Make your pastry.

1. Mix the butter, sugar, salt on medium until smooth.
2. Mix in one egg, then the other, blending completely after each.
3. Add the flour all at once and mix on low until incorporated.
4. Divide the pastry into quarters, wrap well in plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours.
5. Once chilled, remove 2 of your quarters from the fridge and freeze the rest.
6. Preheat your oven to 325.
7.Roll them to 1/4" thickness and, using a 3" biscuit cutter, cut out tartlet circles.
8. Gently press each tartlet pastry into mini-muffin pans (each mini muffin pan holds about 24 minis)
9. Bake at 325 for 6 minutes or so, just until the crust is set.
10. Remove from oven and gently press down with your thumb or a spoon so you can fill each pastry cup with cream.

Make your lemon cream.

Okay, you need a double boiler for this. Don't have one? You need a sauce pan that you can fill with about 1-2 inches water and a heat-safe bowl (preferably stainless steel, but, whatever) to place on top.

1. Boil about 1-2 inches water in a saucepan.
2. While the water is heating, blend the lemon juice, eggs, egg yolk, and sugar.
3. Once blended, place over the boiling water and stir constantly (listen, Toya is worth it. I hope you have a friend like this, too) until the mixture thickens and reaches 180 degrees (about 10-12 minutes, depending upon your boil and your stirring commitment).
4. Remove from heat and let cool to 140 degrees, stirring every minute or so to help the heat release.
5. Cut the butter into 1" cubes.
6. Pour the lemon egg mixture into your blender.
7. With the blender running, add the butter one cube at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
8. The cream will be light in color and is ready to use now or store for a few days and spoon into your creation.

Spoon the cream into the tartlet shells and place a dollop whipped cream on top. Add a blueberry or mint leaf and you're all ready to pop it into your mouth serve!

Paleo Peach Crisp

After my unintentional summer hiatus, a break that was caused mostly by a deep desire to escape the heat of my non-air-conditioned home, I'm thrilled to start sharing some of what I was willing to turn the oven on for with y'all.

First up is this gorgeous, pure crisp that happens to be Paleo-friendly. Not only is this recipe the bees knees, but it can also be made with all sorts of fall fruits like pears, apples, figs...whatever you like and is in season. In fact, the original recipe calls for pears and blueberries. Just sayin'.

I have not gone Paleo, but my mother has and it's having all kinds of positive affects on her person. Did I mention my mom has rheumatoid arthritis? That's the kind that effects pretty much every joint in your body and wreaks havoc on your energy level and immune system. Because there are so many irritants in our atmosphere and foods these days, eating a simple diet of foods that grow can reduce inflammation and seems to help with everything from allergies to arthritis.

When my mom visited over the summer, I was terrified to cook Paleo until she bought me Danielle Walker's Against All Grain. I was afraid I'd have to spend all day in the kitchen. Of spending a small fortune on food. Of feeling hungry and dissatisfied after each meal. Turns out that while I do love me some carbs, I discovered that Ms. Walker just plain makes great food. Whatever the diet, her recipes are incredible. Mom is back in Pasadena and I'm still cooking from this book all the time. I'm hoping for another of Ms. Walker's fine books for Christmas. Just putting that out there...

Anyhow, back to the crisp. Who knew that a simple recipe like this one - WITHOUT SUGAR - could be so yummy? I could totally eat this for breakfast with a dollop of yogurt on it, too (pretty sure yogurt's not Paleo!). Whether you serve this for dessert, breakfast or just try making it for an afternoon adventure, please do try it. It's pretty freaking tasty!



Paleo Peach Crisp
Serves 12

4 cups peeled, sliced peaches
1 T lemon juice
2 T coconut flour
1/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t allspice

2 T coconut oil, solid form
2/3 C almonds
2/3 C pecans
4 pitted Medjool dates
2 T shredded unsweetened coconut
1-1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt

1. Preheat your oven to 375.
2. Mix your fruit ingredients and place into your 9" x 13" baking dish.
3. Place your topping ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it resembles oats.
4. Sprinkle crisp over fruit and bake 35 minutes or until you see juices bubbling from the corners of the crisp.
5. Cool 30 minutes and serve!