tahini sheet cake with cream cheese frosting

my friends zach and jodi came over from fargo the other day and took photos of all of my messes! we counted the tahini jars in my fridge and made a fancy sheet cake using chamomile and bachelor buttons from the garden. we also ate a bunch of cheetos, free of shame, because it was the fourth of july and it just felt like the american thing to do. it was the best day! next time we should probably just pulverize the cheetos and sub out the flour for cheeto dust, right?

anywho, hi from australia where i have been wide awake since 3am researching the most convenient way to pet a koala. in my two days here i have eaten about 30 avocado toasts, a lamb harissa sausage roll from bourke street bakery (10/10 would recommend), and a wonderful labneh-filled meal at kepos and co with hetty and luisa and their gaggle of great ladyfriends. i also had an insane almond macadamia milk cappuccino yesterday down the road from my airbnb, at reuben hills, which is actually embarrassingly where i have spent a majority of my time, camping out with my computer and the second pass of molly on the range because it is due tomorrow. oyoyoy! i'm finding it quite easy to concentrate here though since it's their "dead of winter" (scrumptious sweater weather but still warm enough to wear birkenstocks) and so the beach isn't calling me at all hours of the day.

other than everyone being so friendly and everything being delicious here so far, my main first impressions have been that 1) sydney reminds me a lot of san diego and boston, and 2) a lot of words are shortened here, such as "capp" for "cappuccino" and "scram" for what i *think* is "scrambled egg" but i'm going to do some research to confirm that later today at reuben hills. wish me luck. 

tomorrow we head to the mountains where there is no wifi! i cannot remember the last time i was in a no-wifi area for longer than a few hours, so i'm excited, terrified, and armed with a new notebook to write "letters," aka email drafts. 

i like to think that this sheet cake is an updated version of church potluck sheet cakes of yore. for the longest time i considered the sheet cake something that people make when they don't have the time or tools to build a nice round layer cake. but i'm coming back around to convenience items like these and learning how lovable they can be. (case and point: i've been living in my fashion-backward yet sensible turquoise fleece pullover...) is this getting too normcore? is normcore still in style?

of course if you want to make a two-layer 8" cake, this recipe will certainly work for that. but these days i'm most excited about a convenient one-layer sheet cake with a creamy cloud of frosting spread rustically all about like a sugary toupée. 


tahini sheet cake with cream cheese frosting

makes one 9x13 inch cake

ingredients

cake:
1 3/4 c sugar
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 c buttermilk
1/2 c flavorless oil, like canola
1 c tahini
1 1/2 tb vanilla extract
3/4 c water

frosting:
1 c unsalted butter
1 c cream cheese
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
a pinch of kosher salt
1 tb vanilla

assembly:
herbs and edible flowers, for decorating

clues

cake:

preheat oven to 350ºf. line a 9x13" cake pan with parchment and set aside.

in a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. in a separate bowl, mix the eggs, buttermilk, oil, tahini, vanilla extract, and water.

whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well-combined. pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. begin checking for doneness at 30 minutes.

let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then turn the cake onto a lightly greased cooling rack.

frosting:

cream together the butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer until combined. mix in the powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla. 

assembly:

spread cooled cake with frosting. decorate with herbs and edible flowers. slice and enjoy!

 


-yeh!

thank you, zach and jodi, for these wonderful photos! there will be more on their site soon as part of the "artist study" series! 

apron from: enrich & endure

aged havarti and thyme cheesecake bars

hello from a quick little trip to chicago! eggboy and i are chillin in the suburbs like the suburban human i used to be, complete with long picnic-y evenings spent at ravinia and later evenings spent at the steak n shake. i like being here this time of year, when everything is sprinkled with basil from mum's garden and we can sit outside with our morning iced coffees and hole-in-the-middles while george and gracie roll in the grass. tomorrow we're going to my friend's new mezcaleria and the next day i'm...*wait for it* going to australia!

i'm so excited! and a little cold just thinking about it because my sources are telling me that it snowed in sydney last week...??? but that actually makes me really happy because i like wearing my new brightly colored patagonia fleece at all hours of the day. do you have any sydney recs??

today i've got some little cheesecake bars for you that are perfect for a picnic (or a non-picnic. or whatever doesn't fall into the categories of picnic or non-picnic...). they've got two magic ingredients: aged havarti and thyme, which, as i learned at cheese school last month, pair beautifully together. i'm using a similar recipe here to my mini parmesan cheesecakes since aged havarti is a tiny bit like a tangier, creamier parmesan. i love how sharp it is and it lends a great little salty snap to these cheesecake bars, while the thyme makes for a pretty green funfetti-ish situation! and it's a stylish garnish accessory. i'm using castello's awesome aged havarti and pairing these with napa cellars' zinfandel because the only thing better than a wine and cheese party is a wine and cheesecake party, amirght?

with this recipe, you can go the bar route (pictured), or make little cupcakes, or make a standard round cheesecake. also please take note of the crust-to-filling ratio, which is just barely 1 : 1. i am proud of this. 


aged havarti and thyme cheesecake bars

makes 16 bars

ingredients

crust:

18 large rectangles (that is, 36 squares, or 2 full  pouches, or just under 10 oz) of graham crackers

a good pinch of kosher salt

10 tb unsalted butter, melted

filling:

2 tb flour

1/3 c sugar

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/3 c shredded castello aged havarti (found in the deli section of the store!)

1 tb fresh thyme leaves

zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

15 oz whole milk ricotta

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs

assembly:

honey for drizzling

fresh thyme

 

 

clues

preheat oven to 375 f. line an 8" square pan with parchment and set aside.

crust:

in a food processor, process the living daylights out of your graham crackers. add the salt and process a little more. we want a nice fine crumb. with the processor running, drizzle in the melted butter and process for a few seconds until the mixture clumps together. pour the mixture into your tin and press it down firmly and evenly. 

set the tin in the fridge while you make the filling.

filling:

to make the filling, you're gonna use your food processor again. don't worry about cleaning it out, it just has butter and graham cracker residue in it and that is ok.

add the flour, sugar, salt, havarti, thyme, and lemon zest and pulse it a few times to combine everything and break up the havarti. add the ricotta, lemon juice, and vanilla, and process it until smooth. two minutes-ish.

with the processor running, add the eggs one at a time, processing a bit after each one.

pour the mixture into your tins. and bake for 30 minutes, until the outer edges are set but the center is still a little jiggly. turn the oven off, open it about halfway, and let it be for about 45 minutes. remove from the oven and let completely at room temperature. cover and chill  for an hour or two, or overnight. 

cut into bars. drizzle with honey and sprinkle with fresh thyme and enjoy!

these will keep in the fridge for up to a week.


-yeh!

thank you, castello and trinchero family estates for sponsoring this post! 

harissa tomato danishes with herby goat cheese

we had a great low-key weekend of zucchini and beans and *just one more episode of jane the virgin* and trying to figure out why my pokemon go app isn't working. "maybe pokemons haven't gotten to the midwest yet?" eggboy asked as i feverishly paced around the town gym staring down at my screen. he doesn't get it, he still has an iphone 2, have i told you that?

one highlight of my weekend was eating a very mayo-y jimmy johns sandwich and another highlight was making vegan ice cream with all of the basil from our garden for eggmom and eggpop, but generally i got myself ready for the trip that i am about to embark on today that will have me in five (5!) continents within the next few weeks. two of those are just layovers, and one is north america so i guess that doesn't count.  

these danishes are inspired by my last trip to new york, a few weeks ago. i popped in for a few days to see my homies, noodle around the new hummus and tahini spots, and help maria find a wedding dress (i am going to be a bridesmaid!). i got citi bike for the first time and immediately became obsessed. i zoomed around like the good old sticky city days, when i'd violently refuse to ride the subway, and go over bridges and through midtown on the rickety old molly mobile. ah the molly mobile! look, it's me as a new york bean with the molly mobileand there i am again! and there's my little basket! and our first bike ride date! ok sorry to be so nostalgic and mushy it's just that so many of my favorite new york moments happened by bike and they all came swimming back to me on this trip! 

another great thing happened during this trip: i learned how to make couscous. not the kind where you open a box and pour it in a pot and set a timer, but the real kind, where you start with a bowl of semolina and a spray bottle of salt water and end up with zillions of tiny balls, generally of uniform size (that is something i have to work toward!). my new friends ron and leetal spent an evening patiently teaching my clumsy hands how to roll the little balls and then they whipped up one of the most amazing meals i have ever had in the whole entire world. it was meatballs in perfect sauce and herby salads shoveled up on clouds of four types of couscous and it ended with homemade marzipan dusted with gold (!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and they sent me home with their harissa. i love their harissa. it's sweet and sour and not too spicy. 

the next morning i brought my suitcase to the weight limit with all of my frozen couscous souvenirs and harissa jars and then made the customary stop at breads bakery for plane snacks where something called a designer danish was staring me in the eye and begging me to take him home. so i obliged, because i just didn't have room for a whole babka and needed something savory. oh, good heavens, it was delightful! it was a buttery flaky pastry filled with tomato sauce and topped with herby goat cheese. it was huge and delicious. that's what she said. so i hurried home and made up a version of it. 

i've taken the easy route, with store-bought puff pastry, and filled it with whipped goat cheese and tomato jam that's got a heavy plop of ron and leetal's harissa mixed in. it's a danish that toes the line between sweet and savory, and it gets an itsy bitsy kick from the harissa! you can also make these with cream cheese if goat cheese isn't your thang.


harissa tomato danishes with herby goat cheese

makes 18 small danishes

ingredients

tomato jam:

2 lbs roma tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
1⁄2 c sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tb harissa, or to taste

goat cheese filling:

8 oz goat cheese, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1 tb sugar
1 tb flour
a pinch of kosher salt
a handful of chopped fresh thyme or rosemary or a mix of both

assembly:

1 package (17 oz) puff pastry, thawed in the refrigerator overnight
eggwash: 1 large egg beaten with a splash of water
sesame seeds, for sprinkling
flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

clues

tomato jam:

In a saucepan, combine the tomatoes, sugar, and salt. Set over medium heat and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has cooked off, 1 to 1 1⁄2 hours. Press through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the tomato skins. Stir in the lemon juice and harissa. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

goat cheese filling:

beat together all ingredients until combined. transfer to a piping bag or ziploc bag with a corner snipped off.

assembly:

preheat the oven to 375ºf. line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

working with 1/2 the puff pastry at a time, roll out into a 12" square, dusting your surface with flour if necessary. cut into nine 4" squares and then transfer the squares to the baking sheets. brush with the eggwash and then fold the four corners in towards the center. poke the bottom a few times with a fork. brush the tops of the corners with the eggwash and then place a tablespoon of jam and a swirl of goat cheese in the center. sprinkle with sesame seeds and sea salt and bake until golden brown; begin checking for doneness at 22 minutes. repeat with the other half of the puff pastry. 

let cool slightly and enjoy!


-yeh!

walnut feta kibbeh, a stone fruit blender cake,

and all of these other silver lake good times...

for one week last month i lived in a little house on a hill in silver lake, los angeles, and cooked the days away.

a work-cation of sorts! done in a kitchen equipped with: a blender, some forks, no mixing bowls, and a very cute old oven. 

every morning i picked herbs and tomatoes from the garden and every night brought something new and bright and bursting with the glee of **california produce**

there were eggs in a basket made with rainbow potatoes from the hollywood farmers' market, salads upon salads upon salads galore, and in a moment of small triumph: lily and alana guided me through my first ever fish cooking experience, a pair of branzini, stuffed with herbs and lemon and olive oil we found in the cabinet. 

heather came over with maple butter and cheddar scones, alana brought poke bowls and that fancy matcha bread, and then there were those two 105º days spent with the freezer and our popsicles. (i tried to run it all off but, you know, in silver lake, that's just kinda like huffing and puffing and walking up hills.) at the end of the week, lily brewed up some rye dough onto which we dumped all of the leftover vegetables and petaluma cheese, and that was my pizza friday pizza, enjoyed on the redeye out of town.

the whole thing was like living in a secret clubhouse up in a tree and to get in you just needed to bring your appetite and a vegetable. it was all so fresh and delicious. 

today i'm sharing two recipes that can be made in even the most bare bone kitchens: a vegetarian version of kibbeh, which is a levantine meatball made with bulgar, and an interpretation of huckleberry's blueberry cornmeal cake, made with stone fruit and a blender and a slightly paired down ingredient list that allowed me to buy a few less groceries for my one short week. i did a lot of eyeballing in my rental kitchen, and used a literal tea spoon (meant for tea, not baking) for all of the small measurements. but that's ok in both of these recipes! the kibbeh, especially. you really just want it to be a consistency that will hold its shape when fried, past that you can add any seasonings or herbs or cheese that you please. and for the cake, obviously feel free to use a regular electric mixer instead of a blender. i was just so excited that multiple respectable cakes came out using this method. so, idk, make these in your home kitchen or bring them on the road the next time you vacation somewhere with a kitchen!  


walnut feta kibbeh

makes about 4 servings

ingredients

3/4 c cooked bulgar
1 c toasted walnuts, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c fresh mint, finely chopped
1 c crumbled feta
2 large eggs
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
A few turns of black pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin

oil, for frying

for serving:

yogurt or tahini, a salad, more feta, fresh herbs, a squeeze of lemon 

clues

combine all ingredients.

heat a layer of oil until shimmering (if using olive oil, take extra care not to let it smoke), fry up a test patty of the mixture and taste it. adjust seasonings as desired. roll the mixture into small balls and fry, in batches, turning until all sides are golden brown.

serve over a salad and drizzle with yogurt or tahini and a squeeze of lemon. top with additional feta and fresh herbs, if desired.


stone fruit cornmeal blender cake

adapted from huckleberry's blueberry cornmeal cake

makes one 10" cake

ingredients

1 1/2 c flour
3/4 c cornmeal
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 c coconut oil, at room temperature
1 c sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 c olive oil or canola oil
3 tb maple syrup
1 tb vanilla
2 c full-fat plain yogurt
A bunch of stone fruit, sliced
chopped fresh rosemary, if you want
2 raw sugar packets, if your airbnb host has any to spare

 

clues

preheat the oven to 350ºf. line a 10" cake pan with parchment and set it aside.

in a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

put the coconut oil and sugar in a blender and blend it all up. add the eggs, one at a time, blending after each. blend in the oil, syrup, and vanilla. add the dry ingredients and blend a little and then add the yogurt and blend to combine. pour into the cake pan, top with stone fruit, rosemary (if using), and raw sugar (if using) and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. begin checking for doneness at 1 hour. let cool for 15 minutes in the pan and then serve. 


-yeh!