Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lavendar Lemon Bars

Lavender and lemon pair so nicely so why not combine them in classic lemon squares?

The flavor of the lavender in this recipe is very subtle and really enhances the dessert. I have adapted the recipe by adding lemon zest and eliminating the coconut oil (substituting it with a little water and extra butter). It is a very simple and basic recipe and very refreshing.

Lavender Lemon Bars
Adapted from All Recipes

2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons dried lavender buds
3/4 cup butter, soft
2 cups flour
pinch salt
3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup flour
4 eggs
Zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract (optional)
1/2 teaspoon dried lavender buds

  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8x12 inch baking dish.
  2. Make lavender sugar by blending the sugar and 2 teaspoons lavender buds in a blender; blend until the lavender is powdered.
  3. Blend together with an electric mixer 1/4 cup of the lavender sugar, butter, 2 cups flour, zest of 1 lemon, water and salt in a bowl until a dough forms; press into the bottom of the prepared dish.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until the top begins to turn golden brown; about 15 minutes.
  5. While the dough bakes, mix together the remaining lavender sugar, 1/4 cup flour, eggs, lemon juice, lemon extract, zest of 1 lemon and 1/2 teaspoon lavender buds; pour over the baked crust and return to the oven to bake until the center is set, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely and dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.

Thanks for the beautiful plates Kate!

Monday, January 19, 2009


Caroline and I treated ourselves to Champagne Happy Hour last night at Bite in Hillcrest, San Diego. The happy hour at Bite is so reasonably priced and offers an interesting selection of champagne cocktails as well as small plates ranging from $2-$4. There are cozy and inviting couches and arm chairs in front of a fireplace, which is where we made ourselves comfortable.

Having been to the champagne happy hour once before, I recommended my favorite of the selections and my sister and I both ordered Bite's Classic Champage Cocktail. This cocktail is infused with cardamom, bitters and a sugar cube to finish. It is such an incredible combination of flavors that I usually stick with this choice, although there are several other wonderful options. I have also tried Bite's rose syrup infused champagne cocktail as well as their elderflower syrup infused one, both are good and very different. They offer passionfruit and raspberry bellinis as well.

My sister and I decided to try one of their desserts and shared the warm cream cheese bread pudding which was topped with a buttermilk blueberry sorbet. I usually don't enjoy bread pudding, but this one has definitely changed my opinion of them altogether. The sorbet was really interesting and fresh and the pudding itself was satisfying and creamy. There was a crust of caramelized sugar on the bottom of the bread pudding which added the perfect crunch and texture to the dish. Yummy!

Bite's Champagne Happy Hour is every single day from 5-7pm and worth a try if you are in the Hillcrest area! Caroline and I are lucky we only live a few blocks away and we will definitely be back soon.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Mellow Yellow Cupcakes

I'm just mad about saffron...
In remembrance of our trip to Las Vegas and our spectacular viewing of the amazing Love Cirque du Soleil show, and in celebration of her birthday, I made Rachel Orange Chiffon Cupcakes with Saffron Buttercream.

I spoke about my love of using saffron in desserts and how special and rare this spice is in my Saffron Apple Tart post. I just adore honoring this delicate spice by allowing it to truly shine on it's own in a recipe. My Saffron Buttercream is rich and creamy and affords the saffron threads a place to shine. The soft flavor of the saffron compliments the light orange chiffon cake but would also pair beautifully with a pistachio or pear cake.

While this buttercream might seem a little daunting, I promise it is really very simple and almost impossible to mess up. The egg yolks add such richness and flavor to the buttercream and are fully cooked in the process so there is no risk. The recipe can be easily adapted by omitting the saffron and adding vanilla (or any other extract). Give it a try, it is a thousand times better than a plain butter and powdered sugar buttercream and just as easy.

Saffron Buttercream

9 egg yolks

1/2 cup corn syrup
5 1/2 oz sugar
1/4 tsp saffron threads (finely chopped)

1# Butter

1. Begin whisking yolks in mixer.
2. Meanwhile, bring corn syrup, sugar, and saffron to a boil on the stove.
3. Once this is at a boil, slowly pour syrup into yolk mixture (lower speed but keep on). Switch to paddle attachment on mixer, increase speed and allow to fully cool (this will take about 10 minutes).
4. Add butter in pieces, and continue to mix until well blended and mixture becomes shiny in appearance (about 3-5 minutes).
5. Refrigerate until ready to use. Before using, beat with paddle attachment until shiny and soft.

The Orange Chiffon Cupcakes are made from the same batter I used to make the cake in my Acai Mousse Tart.

Orange Chiffon Cupcakes

1 # cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1# sugar
1# 5oz egg yolks
8 fl oz vegetable oil
8 fl oz orange juice
1 Tbs vanilla
1# 5oz egg whites
1 orange, zest

1. Sift the dry ingredients together and mix with 1/3 of sugar.
2. Combine yolks, oil, juice, zest, vanilla in mixer. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into larger bowl and set aside.
3. Whip the whites on medium speed until soft peaks form (you will see white foam). Increase speed and gradually add the remaining sugar. Continue to whip to create a medium peak meringue.
4. Gently fold 1/3 of meringue into yolk mixture to fully combine. Fold in rest of meringue.
5. Divide into lined cupcake molds and bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Allow to cool, and frost with buttercream. I decorated the top with chocolate shavings and kumquat slices.

Happy birthday Miss Rachel!!! (I realize this posting is a little late, but now you can have the recipe as a special bonus gift, surprise!)


For those of you who love tropical fruit, bright colors and Cuban beats, this bakery is for you. Azucar in Ocean Beach, San Diego is friendly and lively, offering a refreshing take on traditional French pastries. A Cuban style patisserie, Azucar offers a variety of options from breakfast pastries (scones, danishes, muffins) to cupcakes (coconut, red velvet, pumpkin) to intricate individual desserts.

This was my second visit, and I will definitely be back for more. My friends and I tried two of their desserts, the Varadero and the Key Lime Tart.

The Varadero (pictured below) is a white chocolate mouse filled with fresh bananas and a white chocolate coconut cake center. Very flavorful and refreshing on a hot day.
The Key Lime Tart has a graham cracker crust and an intense lime custard filling. It packs a punch so the creme fraiche on top adds a nice balance to the tartness of the lime.
During a prior visit, I tasted the Diablo (dark chocolate mousse with chocolate cake) and the Divina (white chocolate cake, passionfruit curd, and vanilla meringue and my favorite!!!). We also had a guava cream cheese danish, which was very unique.

The service here is very friendly and the atmosphere inviting. Azucar has only been open for a few months, so go lend your support by purchasing a special treat!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Jin Patisserie Los Angeles

I didn't even bother taking pictures of the chocolates Kate and I tried at Jin Patisserie. We went there hoping to try their famous macarons, but were disappointed by how stale and unappealing they appeared in the pastry case.

When you visit the website for Jin Patisserie you are presented with beautiful photos of pastries, chocolates, and macarons. When you step into the patisserie, however, you will most likely be disappointed by the lackluster presentation of product. Not only were the pastries themselves dissapointing, the staff was unfriendly and borderline rude.

Kate and I were shoved aside by one assistant and asked to move by another. Not one greeted us with a hello or as much as a smile.

Considering we had driven 2 hours from San Diego, we decided to give the chocolates a shot since they at least sounded exciting. The woman who begrudgingly helped us offered no suggestions or greeting, so we were left to our own devices. Kate chose an Earl Grey tea infused chocolate, and I chose a Jasmine chocolate (I love florals!). We both were excited to try a mango basil chocolate.

We took our chocolates and left the shop in a hurry. The adorable Abbot Kinney Blvd where the shop is located in Venice was much more appealing. The street is lined with unique and varied shops, as well as bars and cafes.

We happened upon a small wine shop and with a mutual affinity towards wine walked in without hesitation. The shop is called El Vino and is located at 1142 Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice, CA.

As you walk in, you are immediately greeted warmly by the young owner, who built the wine racks and shelves by hand (and lets you know he lost 20 lbs doing so). The display of wines and wine paraphernalia is lovely, as is the warm lighting and soft music playing in the background. Kate and I were enjoying looking at all the unique labels of the diverse wine selection when we noticed a $12 champagne tasting sign. Just what we needed after a long drive!

The French man who poured our champagne (reminded me of a pirate) was incredibly knowledgeable and shared personal stories with us about the makers of the wines we were tasting. Our first sparkling wine was actually a pear/apple cider from France. The pears and apples were grown organically and harvested from 300 year old trees (which we were presented pictures of). Kate purchased a bottle of the apple cider by the same label.

Our second was a Cava from Spain, and our third a champagne from Reims. We paired each with one chocolate from the patisserie. What a perfect marriage and happy coincidence!

As for the chocolates, the earl grey one was unmemorable and strange (hazelnut and tea?). The jasmine was perfect with the champage, and the mango basil was incredible.

I would not recommend the Jin Patisserie to anyone, but I would definitely suggest a stop at El Vino wine shop. Considering I don't live in Los Angeles anymore, I regret that I won't be able to frequent the shop. I did however put down my sister Lindsay's name on their emailing list. Surprise Lindsay! I think you will thank me. :)