Friday, August 23, 2013

On Not Drinking the Vuelta (Again)
I am no Adam Hansen. Hansen, a shoe designer, leadout train member extraordinaire and rather awesome tweeter is currently aiming to complete his seventh consecutive Grand Tour. As much as I enjoy drinking the wines of the Giro and of the Tour de France, I have yet to drink the wines of the Vuelta. One of these years I will (and will probably start here), but not 2013. 

But, I'll certainly be watching. The startlist includes names like Vincenzo Nibali, Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez, Sergio Henao, Rigoberto Uràn, Ivan Basso and more. The route map is above. I'm very fond of the Podium Cafe race viewing preview and I am hoping that they  may host another Stage Predictor game. There is also good race information on Inrng.

That said, I was sent wine samples that correspond to three of the Vuelta stages by the folks promoting the Spain’s Great Match event, a wine and food event taking place in New York on September 24th. Wines information in italics below comes from their promotional materials


Stage 5: Rey Santo Rueda 2012 is a white wine made in the region of Rueda near the Lago de Sanabria stop in the race. It is a blend of estate grown grapes from 10-year old Verdejo and 40-year-old Viura vines. Information from the importer is here. and the producer here.  

 In Spain, Rueda whites are called the most popular white wines. Rueda wines have a refreshing distinct flavor, known for a hint of herbs, a balanced minerality and an excellent level of acidity. The wines are crisp, filled with tropical and stone fruit. Known as “the people’s white,” Rueda wines are accessible and versatile, a perfect pairing with seafood, salad, white meats, pasta and more. 

I found it fragrant and herbal, with lots of fruit, a very easy-drinking summer white. 

Stage 10: 2008 Casa Gualda La Mancha Seleccion Cincuenta Anniversario A blend of Tempranillo, Petit Verdot and Syrah. It spends four-months in new French and American oak barrel and 1 year for semi-new barrels and is made very near the Torredelcampo stop. The producer website is here.

Stage 21: ARRAYAN SELECCION 2009  A blend of Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot that is aged for eight months in French oak casks. It is made north of Toledo southwest of Madrid near the end of the race. The producer website is here.

These two wines are from the region of Castilla la Mancha which is a large wine producing region south of Madrid on the vast central Iberian plateau. More than half of the country's grapes are grown here. They are characterised, above all the young wines, by being very expressive in the nose, for their fruitiness (black fruits, mature fruits, cherry, strawberry, redcurrant), their strong colour, generally an intense purple-red with purple rims. In the mouth they have structure and strength, with lively and persistent tannins.

I say: Indeed, lots of fruit here along with some leather, spice and sweetness. Persistent tannin indeed, especially on the Arrayan. Some licorice on the Casa Gualda.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Blackberry Almond Buckle

This time of year, many recipes at our house start with: first, you pick the blackberries. As our new neighbors seem to have no interest in sharing in our annual harvest, we are once again dealing with an excess of blackberries. Most years, I simply freeze most of them and use them on the sort of cold January night, when even in California, you feel like spring is too far away. But this year my freezer has been taken over by K's baking projects. At last look, and I may be missing something, that included: half a chocolate layer cake, pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, halves of two different vanilla layer cakes with colorful frosting, random cupcakes, and chocolate zucchini bread. Add that bounty to our regular freezer items and there is little room for blackberries. 

Buckle has always been one of my favorite desserts and it is one of my favorite ways to use up "excess" blackberries. Thus this text exchange earlier in the week with K.
"I think you should make another buckle."
"You'll need to buy more butter."
"Also, vanilla."
"With what fruit? Please don't be blackberries."

Blackberry Almond Buckle
Adapted from the The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee: Growing, Roasting, and Drinking, with Recipes, because we like Caitlin's buckle
We've upped the fruit a lot from the original recipe because I like a lot of fruit in my buckle, if you like more cake than fruit, use 1 or 2 cups.


  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla salt (Kosher salt with vanilla bean) or Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 11 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla salt
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups blackberries or fruit of your choice
To make the streusel, cut the butter into small chunks and let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the mixture resembles coarse beach sand, about 
2 minutes. Add the almonds and mix just until the streusel begins to clump together and look like gravel, being careful not to let it come together to form a dough.

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan.
Combine the flour and baking powder in a small bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on low speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sugar and salt and mix on low speed until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then mix on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the eggs and the vanilla extract and whisk until well blended. With the mixer on medium speed, add the egg mixture slowly, in a steady stream, and mix until well-incorporated and very smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then mix on medium speed for 30 more seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the flour mixture. Mix on low speed just until uniform in texture. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the blackberries until evenly incorporated. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth it with a rubber spatula, and sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top. Bake for 60 minutes, until the streusel is dry and golden and the buckle is firm and springs back when gently pressed in the center, rotating the pan midway through the baking time.
Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. Stored in a covered container at room temperature, it will keep for up to 3 days. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Flour Bakery's Homemade Oreos

I've been quiet, but K has been baking up a storm. I actually said out loud a few days back "Please, no more cake." One of her latest projects, and one of my recent favorites, was the homemade "Oreos" from the Flour Bakery Cookbook.

Flour Bakery’s Homemade Oreos
Yield: 16 to 18 sandwich cookies

1 cup (2 sticks/228 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup (200 grams) semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled slightly
1 egg
1-1/2 cups (210 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (90 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tsp. kosher salt (K used vanilla salt)
1/2 tsp.baking soda

In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter and granulated sugar until well combined. Whisk in the vanilla and chocolate. Add the egg and whisk until thoroughly incorporated. 
In another medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda until well mixed. Using a wooden spoon, stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture. The dough will start to seem to floury, so you will find it easiest to switch to mixing it with your hands until it comes together. (K's note: You will get lots of cookie dough on your hands.) The finished dough will have the consistency of Play-Doh. 

Transfer the dough to a sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Shape the dough into a rough log about 10 inches long and 2-1/2 inches in diameter. Place the log at the edge of the sheet of parchment paper, and roll the parchment around the log. With the log fully encased in parchment, roll it into a smoother log, keeping it at 2-1/2 inches in diameter. (Note: K's log rolling skills were not perfect, so we ended up with oblong cookies.) Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until firm. The log may settle and sink a bit in the fridge, so re-roll it every 15 minutes or so to maintain a nice round log, if you like. K did not re-roll.
 Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut the dough log into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place the slices about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cookies are firm to the touch. Check them frequently after 16 or 17 minutes, poking them in the middle. As soon as they feel firm to the touch, remove them from the oven. Let cool before filling.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1-2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbs. milk
Pinch of kosher salt

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on low speed for about 30 seconds, or until completely smooth and soft. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat until the mixture is perfectly smooth. Add the milk and salt and again beat until smooth. You should have about 1 cup.
Scoop about 1 rounded tablespoon of the filling onto the bottom of 1 cookie. Top with a second cookie, bottom side down, then press the cookies together to spread the filling toward the edges. Repeat until all of the cookies are filled.