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the urban baker

the urban baker: February 2009

the urban baker

The Urban Baker is deliciously photographed blog about nourishing your family's soul through life in the kitchen. The recipes for fabulous savories and sweets are easily replicated and will inspire you.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I have purchased a lot of cookbooks over the years and most of them are worn out.  I have all sorts of books; baking (obviously), lots of ethnic books, books by famous chefs, including Nancy Silverton.  I used to frequent her "grilled cheese" nights at Campanelli, back in the early 90's and oh do I miss those early morning breakfast's before heading off to create in my first furniture studio.  Tartine in S.F. reminds me of what Campanelli used to be; intimate, delicious and casual.  I like the food at Mozza (not the wait or the crowd) and I have saved every Food and Wine Magazine that she contributed to (a particular Thanksgiving meal in 1994(?) was one of my all time favorites).  My most favorite marinade for flank steak is in her book Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton at Home.  Also in that book is one of the BEST Meyer Lemon Tarts, ever!!!!  I have a meyer lemon tree for this very recipe.

I recently got Nancy Silverton's Pastries from the  La Brea Bakery.  I read it cover to cover before deciding on what to make first.  I started with her scone recipe.  I love making scones and have made all kinds.  I like to make lots of different flavors at once and then flash freeze.  This way, my kids have scones on any given morning and scones are only good when right out of the oven.  Her recipe calls for pastry flour.  I made one batch with pastry flour and one with cake flour.  The batch with  cake flour won.  This is now my base for the perfect scone recipe.  Eli was going to a friends on a Saturday morning so I decided to try her brownies.  DELICIOUS.  2 for 2!

I have started the Nancy Silverton challenge.  I have challenged myself to make EVERYTHING in her book. 

Had some disgusting looking bananas.  Made her Banana Nut Bread (pg 15).  I am not a banana person, but everyone who ate it said it was great.

Both kids were having friends over for playdates today.  Made Crotin de Chocolat (pg. 203).  As they were baking my house smelled like chocolaty goodness!  It permeated the house and the smell lasted for hours. These are a cross between a muffin and a bread (made with yeast), but they are laced with chunks of really, really good bittersweet chocolate.  The only thing I would change is that I would not dust them with cocoa powder, I would dust them with powdered sugar instead.  A scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side wouldn't hurt either!  They were well received. 

Be on the look out for more deliciousness


Thursday, February 12, 2009


Valentine's day is just another excuse to mess up the kitchen.  As I am always baking, this year, I wanted to do some candy.  A year ago, I got into candy.  I invested in a tempering machine, I have been collecting molds and buying the best ingredients I can find.  I love candy!  I can name every piece of candy, with my eyes closed, at Sees.  Anything with a caramel inside of it is the one for me!

My friend Lisa and I both share a lot of the same passions; photography, baking, creating beautiful things on the computer and she and I love to get together and do all the things that we love.  Lisa has been creating and selling these pretzels for the past year.  When I decided I wanted to make candy for valentine's gifts, she had to be a part of it.  It was a perfect rainy weekend for she and I to pawn our kids off on our husbands and get lost in my kitchen!

I know, I said candy.  But a holiday (or any day of the week) wouldn't be a holiday with out something festive made out of butter, sugar, flour, vanilla, etc!  I made these for the 5th grade bake sale.  Packaged them all separately and they looked real purrty!

I told you I love caramels.  We used Lisa's recipe for caramels.  OMG!  That's all I can say.  We made several batches of caramel and only chocolate covered a few.  Big mistake!  We couldn't part with these particular candies.  We divided them up amongst us and mine are hidden in a very safe place where my kids will not be able to find them.  I eat one a day.  May need to make some more.  

These are the scraps left over from the carmallows (see below).  Couldn't let the anything go to waste.  When you make something in a slab and then you cut it into shapes there is so much waste.  Got to come up with a good solution for this.  Will keep thinking...

Peppermint Patties.  I have made these before and they are super easy.  I used the recipe from Gourmet Magazine Dec 07.  They are really good, however next time I would cut them a little thicker.  

My kids love "Scotchmallows" from Sees.  They are kind of the perfect candy.  Caramel, marshmallow, dark chocolate.  What could be bad??!!  MS Magazine had these in the Decemeber 08 issue and I just needed an excuse to do it.  Valentine's was the perfect excuse.  I liked this caramel recipe however didn't love it.  I also didn't really like this particular marshmallow recipe.  Next time (sooner rather than later), I will use Lisa's caramel recipe and an old marshmallow recipe, that I always use, which is from epicurious. com.  I am not complaining about them( i ate at least 5), they were good, but I know they can be better.

I had some left over homemade marshmallows in the freezer.  I also had some marcona almonds (salted).  I had extra tempered bitter chocolate so decided to make some rocky road.  Another all time favorite treat.
Yet, forgot to photograph the final product.  Not surprising that I forgot.  I am amazed that I remember to pick Levi up from pre-school most days!

Here are those luxurios caramels I was speaking about.  These are made with honey.  Have perused some recipes on the internet and few caramel recipes have honey in them ( Carole Bloome uses honey in hers-I like her books).  Sprinkled a little fleur de sal on the top.  Mmm Mmm good!

Wrapped up and ready to package

The perils of tempering!

I gave out about 15 boxes to teachers, friends and the kids Nana's.  The rest went to the 5th grade bake sale.  They were sold before they left my house.  Got lots of emails asking what I was contributing to the bake sale...made a few enemies (those who didn't get their order in on time).  Next time I will plan better.

Have a great Valentine's day!


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Another Gallery Opening

Nancy featured another artist and today was the opening.  

As Valentine's Day is around the corner, I felt it only appropriate to make mini red velvet cupcakes.  Plus, these are Nancy's favorites and since it was her "party" it just made sense.

Modified this recipe from several different recipes. The frosting is my cousin Lorrie's cream cheese frosting.  All the cast of characters; cream cheese, milk, vanilla and powdered sugar

I love this shortbread recipe.  I like to make the dough a day or two ahead and then put it in the fridge.  Thirty minutes before starting to assemble, I put the dough in the freezer.  The dough gets grated, as if it were cheese!  It is so easy to work with.  Today I used a fig jam for the center layer, but in the past I have used aprioct jam or a rasberry jam.

Hungarian Shortbread
Baking with Julia

Never made these before, but they were YUMMY!  This is Alexis' Carmel Cashew  Bars.  The bottom layer is a brown sugar shortbread.  Then I toasted some unsalted cashews and layered over the crust after it cooled a bit.  Then I made a homemade caramel.  Topped them with white chocolate!

Brownies with the volume turned way up!  A really fudgy brownie base (with pecans).  Made a layer of mint flavored frosting (powdered sugar, butter, mint flavoring, milk).  Let it set and then covered top with a thin layer of bittersweet chocolate glaze.  Rich but really good.

The final product