What’s Happening at the Homestead



Bet you thought I vanished, hm? Certainly not gone for good, but the last few months have provided a genuine crush of activity with visitors, birthdays, and trips out of town, and the usual baking, too. By way of catching up, and before we return to somewhat regularly-scheduled programming . . . there has been:

A cheeseboard. Beautifully and perfectly utilized with a spread of cheeses arranged by my loving person; all cheeses are displayed on a one-of-a-kind cheeseboard made by Mamie Breard of T-Vine winery from reclaimed wine shipping crates.


Homemade granola. Loads and loads of it laced with dried fruits such as tart cherries and apricots, nuts like almonds and pistachios, shredded coconut, peanut butter chips, and candied ginger — the recipe changes every time.


Preserved lemons and lemon bread, adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for a grapefruit loaf. Nick found an article noting several recipes to try with preserved lemons, so he assembled a concoction in a mason jar with lemon slices cured in salt, lemon juice, and lavender and sprigs of rosemary infused throughout.


A trip to wine country for my dad’s birthday and incredible visits to Schramsberg, T-Vine, Madrigal winery, Charbet, and Laura Michael wines/Zathila Vineyards. This trip also included the discovery of Model Bakery’s famous english muffins. Huge, hand-shaped, and fried in butter, it didn’t take long before we recreated those muffins at home.




A tour of Alcatraz, which provides stunning views of the Bay in every direction.




Camping at Steep Ravine Cabins, which warrants a post all its own. An early Valentine’s Day treat, we spent two days hiking and just one night in a cabin perched right above the Pacific — it was like looking out at the edge of the world while the moon lit the waves lulling us to sleep. And it turned out our trip was well-timed; with rains earlier in the week, our hikes were muddy and verdant and blessed with creeks rushing and waterfalls around nearly every bend.




A tour of Speakeasy brewery for a birthday party.



Peanut Butter Pie. A bet I’m prepared to lose is one that includes dessert as the wagering token. The recipe for this pie comes from Homeroom’s own cookbook; Homeroom is an outstanding mac & cheese joint in Oakland. This pie can be served as an icebox pie, with an ice cream consistency straight from the freezer, or, when served closer to room temperature, it becomes silky, creamy, and oh-so-smooth. I prefer the latter.



And, suddenly, there’s spring all around us and a trip to Boston ahead. More, very soon.







Thanks and photo credit to Dan and Andrea Sprockett

So the cinema of love is a silent film
and there’s no going back now;
the grace of him, when he holds her.

A Gluten-Free Pastry Experience



Have you ever accidentally baked several loaves of gluten-free bread? How about accidental gluten-free pop tarts? Me. I have. And my partner and I only realized the cause of the poor pastries and irregular bread after many tears were shed, expletives elicited, and my countless mutterings of what the hell is wrong with this dough? It was sticky, difficult to roll out, and the final product: not very flaky, bland, something…off.

In every kitchen, there must come a recipe that tests the very core of your baking patience, and, causes you to question yourself as well. Such as, do I really know anything about baking? Did I measure ingredients correctly? Have I done something wrong? And your contempt for the pastry dough eclipses everything else until you’re having a cranky fit in the living room that sounds something like, “…stupid, stupid, stupid. I hate it!” For me, it went in rounds like that, each bout with a new vilifying phrase, until the experience was exhausted.






So, that happened, and this post was originally titled “Homemade Pop Tarts (and my hatred for them),” but I’m glad to have reached understanding — that the cause of all this baking strife was the flour: a poorly labeled bin of flour in the bulk section of my local Whole Foods, labeled as All-Purpose with the fine print of alternative flour. I failed to note before purchase that the ingredients list included garbanzo beans, among other substitutes. I’m also glad that I no longer have to doubt the recipe for homemade pop tarts provided by Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite food blogs, as she had never failed me before. Yet I cursed that recipe and hated it with a fever as I rolled out my dough wondering why it was so soft, why the flour failed to bind.







The good news: we persevered, and there were homemade pop tarts — seven of them with various fillings thanks to Nick’s foresight. He mixed an apple-ginger filling with brown sugar, we filled several tarts with chocolate chips, and the remaining few with rhubarb jam. In even better news, the pop tarts were much tastier on day two despite the flavor of the pastry itself being…not so savory.

Bottom line: this recipe deserves a do-over in the Hawk & Pigeon test kitchen. For the next round I’ll likely try a traditional pie dough recipe for the pastry, or, simply try Smitten Kitchen’s recipe again with tried-and-true all purpose flour. Gluten, gluten, gluten. I love it.


Canning Intensive at 18 Reasons



Food is so basic. It’s everything. Transformative, meaningful, and malleable. A means of caring for each other and ourselves. An art and a necessity — and rich with possibility. Each year as I continue to research and experiment and learn more about food and cooking and baking, I only grow more inspired. More bold. My quest for trying new ingredients and recipes: it can’t be quenched. For a while now, I’ve wanted to learn more about canning and preserving. I’ve flipped through books and done some reading on the internet, whole-heartedly gobbled my good friend Erin’s homemade strawberry and raspberry preserves, and, finally, last weekend yielded my first-ever canning class at 18 Reasons in San Francisco. The class was a very awesome Christmas gift from this fellow I know (and love), and it did not disappoint.


18 Reasons is a community space dedicated entirely to workshops and cooking classes that cover a range of topics — from gardening to canning, knife skills to tasting seminars, they feature movie nights, community dinners, and more. And, in the words of 18 Reasons, their food programming is designed to “inspire action and foster collaboration toward creating a just and sustainable food system.”

The class was FUN, cured my worries about sterilizing jars, and the three hours absolutely flew by as we chopped, stirred, and simmered. Our team left with eight jars of Meyer Lemon Ginger Marmalade, three bottles of Blood Orange Vanilla syrup, and sachets of loose-leaf tea: a mix of dehydrated bergamot and blood orange, lavender, and vanilla.

I’m already eager to take another class come spring; our instructor noted that there will be another canning feature with strawberries and possibly cherries (yum!). The class fee is an incredible value considering the gorgeous fruit that was used and what we left with: marmalade, syrup, recipes and tea to take home, and during class we were treated to snacks (including the most luscious date I’ve ever had in my whole life) and an orange sorbet made with leftover satsuma mandarin juice.

Next on my to-do list: researching a similar community space in Oakland, or, heck, if it doesn’t exist — creating one with some friends.

Credit and huge thanks to Andrea Sprockett for sharing her photos with me!


Dayum dessert bars (Chocolate peanut butter crispies)



When I first read the recipe for these multi-layered chocolate peanut-butter crispy bars over on the Smitten Kitchen blog, my first response muttered over my keyboard was Damn…Damn. Dayum.

So I’ve renamed these the Dayum Bars and they are destined for my company’s annual bakesale tomorrow. It’s a simple yet swoon-worthy dessert that I can take no credit for, as Nick was really at the helm guiding these bars to existence — heating the water, sugar, and corn syrup to a candied state and melting chocolate and peanut butter together — while I was baking cookies (peanut butter-chocolate chip-oatmeal cookies!) for a birthday party.







A whole afternoon spent baking is a pretty fantastic thing, especially when it involves sampling various kinds of peanut butter and chocolate at all different stages of meltiness. Again, re: previous post, life is hard.





How we deviated from the recipe: by using two kinds of rice crispies (one generic and one fancy mix with a rounder shape and darker toasted color) and two kinds of peanut butter, then tweaking the chocolate-peanut-butter layer to taste and adding more chocolate until we reached the perfect combination.

The feedback so far on these bars is that they taste like Reese’s peanut butter cups with a crispy bottom, but I say Reese’s wishes they’d had the foresight to come up with this. My take? They are incredible at any state — slightly chilled and straight from the refrigerator, or sticky, gooey, and melting a bit after sitting out on the counter.

To all the chocolate-peanut butter lovers out there: good golly, proceed with caution.

Apple Slab Pie and wintery dessert dreams



Yes, I’m starting off with a gratuitous Dynamo Donuts shot. Go ahead. Be jealous. The lineup on a recent Saturday morning included pumpkin chocolate chip, meyer lemon-huckleberry (the pink one), an apple fritter, and the much-talked-about bacon-maple-apple.

But back to the topic at hand. My company’s bakesale is next week and there are serious things to consider. Really. Serious. Things. I spent maybe an hour (hours) a few weeks ago drooling over recipes at the National Baking Society blog, which I linked to as a follower of Matt Lewis of Baked in Brooklyn, NY. His cakes make my heart soar.

So the question is, do I make these…or this. A bundt cake that is a genuine hallmark of the ’80s, or a crispy dessert bar that is the holy trinity of sweet flavors — caramel, chocolate, peanut butter. I know, life is hard when the biggest dilemma is what treat to make next. I blame Lady Holiday for turning my head, so all I want to do is bake cookies, make mulled wine, and dive into a series of crafty projects, but it seems I can hardly find time to stop and smell the pine trees — this little guy in particular.

While that decision is set to simmer, I’m also going to revisit the apple slab pie I made for Thanksgiving this year. A creation looking like a giant pop tart (if we’re being honest), but the spices added to the filling are right on in my book — a little heavy on the cinnamon, which I love. And while the dough is difficult to roll out in such large scale, it’s worth the effort and satisfying to have LOTS of leftover pie to go around. Because who doesn’t want leftover pie? Right?







If you look closely, you’ll see I had to patch/mend the bottom corner of the crust as my rolling technique was not spot on. If this happens to you too, not to worry — all looks and tastes fine in the end.



Iced up and ready to serve!

And, a photo of me holding the behemoth:


Many thanks to Smitten Kitchen for her slab pie inspirations, and a few more Thanksgiving photos below.

A weekend of firsts: Ricotta and Races


Sometimes life is so, so good. And when it is, it’s important to stop and take notice; to slow down and roll around in all that rich and delicious joy: joy, joy, joy. Love, love. I am a lucky person and the universe has been good to me in recent years — also a combination of me working hard to reach certain goals that have manifested internally and externally. But I recognize that I am incredibly fortunate, with a roof over my head and room for creativity in my life; the ability and means to make delicious meals some days and meet friends for donuts other days; the strength and health of my body. I’m marking that this is a beautiful and blessed time in my life, and I feel thankful. For my family’s support, for new love, for the continued endurance and care of friends. Funny, how this richness aligns with a very week designed to give thanks. My proverbial cup runneth over. I can’t say it enough.

And for those who are still with me and haven’t been deterred by the honey dripping off this page, last weekend brought some wonderful things including my first bout of making ricotta! I happen to know this fellow who is adept at the art of cheese, and he guided us to the completion of an incredibly simple pasta dish with homemade ricotta to boot.


The process couldn’t be more simple. It goes like: slowly heat milk in a pot to just below a simmer, add an acidic element (we used vinegar) to get the milk to curdle, and when soft clumps have formed, scoop out the ricotta with a slotted spoon and transfer to a cheesecloth. Drain. Wrap the ricotta up in the cheesecloth in a small bundle and twist the cloth to squeeze cheese gently. Serve.

The pasta recipe was a happy form of carb-loading before running my first 10K race in Berkeley. I’ve run off and on at different times in my life, with long hiatus years in-between, but back in June I was inspired by a friend’s lead and decided to start running three times a week to train for a 5K, and then I set my goal higher — to run a 10K in November. Low and behold, I’m a little shocked and staggered that I’ve actually met my goal. It has been a process, too, watching my body change: becoming a little leaner and a lot stronger, and the side effect of all this running? Feeling like I certainly wield the potential within myself to do anything I set my mind to. That is powerful news, all. It’s not timid. It’s a whole new chapter for me, and I like it.

I took part in the inaugural Berkeley Half, which included a half marathon, a 10-mile race, and the 10K. I absolutely had race-day jitters, and have a sweet memory of Nick pinning my race bib to my shirt while my teeth chattered, but it turned out to be a lot of fun and the route included streets and Marina paths that were part of my training runs; I felt like I was breaking ground on my own turf. A sampling of photos is below — for the full experience click here. (And huge thanks to Nick for navigating the route so seamlessly and taking all these shots!)

Wishing all a lovely time with family this week. I made a batch of dough tonight and have some baking on deck (slab apple pie!), and will be getting some deliciously sordid dessert photos on this screen soon.