Normally I don't really like tests. Remembering specific dates and times of historic wars and expeditions is not one of my strong suits. But in the case of testing with stylist Rachel Gruing, I love it! Rachel & I met on set on the Amazon Visual Team, a small division of the Amazon.com Photography Department that shoots high traffic images for landing pages and the like. Working for the Amazon Visual team was a unique experience and I was fortunate to meet many kind people there, including Rachel. A few weeks back we tested and had a great time! Rachel is an incredibly hardworking and versatile stylist who, in addition to having her own website here, is repped by one of Seattle's top reps, Sally Bjornsen. We shot a number of images and I whole-heartedly devoured everything she made. Rachel styles soft goods & props in addition to food & is also a wonderful chef! She was so sweet to share her recipes with me and I can attest that they are completely delicious! Thanks so much Rachel!
This is honest to pete the most moist cake I've ever had in my life!
Pear Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
For the cake:
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup whole milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cups grated bosc pears, well drained, from 3-4 pears
1 1/2 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped
For the frosting
2 8oz packages cream cheese
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp powdered ginger
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Butter and flour two 9" cake pans.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry mix and add the oil, eggs, milk, and vanilla. Whisk to just moistened. Fold in the pears and walnuts.
Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
To make the frosting:
Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat until fluffy.
Once the cakes have fully cooled, level the first layer and top with 1/3 of the frosting. Place the second layer and cover with the rest of the frosting. If making a naked cake, use half of the frosting on the first layer and half on only the top of the second layer.
Rachel's Lemon Herb Pesto
6 c mixed herbs; I generally use:
2 c basil
1 c parsley
1 c cilantro
1/2 c sage
1/2 c oregano
1/2 c rosemary (leaves only)
1/2 c thyme sprig
2 cloves garlic
1/3 c olive oil
3 TB lemon juice
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Feel free to use whatever herbs you have on hand; I find that this works best when three to four cups of the herbs are larger and leafier (like parsley, cilantro, or basil). Sorrel is another lovely addition to this pesto.
Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. This pesto is delicious on pasta, and can also be used as a spread on crostini, sandwiches, or as a salad dressing when thinned with additional lemon juice and olive oil.
A word of warning on this one, should you feel ready for an adventure, this is the recipe for you!
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 c whole milk
2 TB cold butter, diced
3/4 c cake flour
3/4 c + 2 TB caster or superfine sugar (you can pulse regular sugar in a food processor to make it less coarse)
4 egg yolks
1 TB dark rum
1 tsp vanilla
In a saucepan over low heat, combine the milk and vanilla bean. Heat to 183 F (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk, then discard the bean.
Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the butter, flour, and salt until combined. Sprinkle sugar over this mixture and pulse until well mixed. Add the egg yolk and pulse until thick and golden.
With the processor on, quickly and steadily add the milk to the mixture and process until well combined.
Strain through a fine sieve into a clean container. Mix in the rum and vanilla, then let batter cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate 24 - 48 hours.
When you're ready to bake the canele, heat your oven to 400 F.
*I use a silicone mold to bake these canele. If you have copper or aluminum canele molds, you should coat the molds with white oil (a mixture of 50% beeswax and 50% safflower oil), then freeze the molds upside down on a sheet pan for 30 minutes. This helps to develop the dark, caramelly crust on the canele.
Fill the canele mold(s), leaving 1/4" of space free. Bake for 1.5 hours. The tops (which will actually be the bottoms) of the canele should be deeply browned. If using a silicone mold, let the canele cool in the mold, then pop out. If you've used a copper or aluminum mold, pop the canele out of their molds as soon as they come out of the oven.
These are best eaten 1 to 5 hours after they've been baked.
1 c butter, softened
1/2 c brown sugar
1 c almond meal
1 1/2 c chestnut flour
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the almond meal and chestnut flour and mix well to combine. Form the dough into two balls and roll out onto a sheet of parchment paper to about 1/4" thickness. Use a knife to score the dough into your desired shapes. Bake, on parchment, for 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, then use a knife to cut along the score lines. Store in an airtight container.