When in Napa. . .

. . . go to Bouchon Bakery!  Their baguettes are perfect, their macarons are enormous, and everything is delicious and lovely.  After finishing a conference in Napa (rough life, I know), I detoured up the road for pastries and some lunch.  This little fig tart was light and bright, though it could have been a little figgier for my taste.  Nevertheless, beautiful enough to share.

Granola!

You know you’ve been in California too long when you start making your own granola.  But readers, that is what has happened.  I find that store bought granola is generally too sweet and has weird things in it.  This is a delicious old family recipe supplied by my mother-in-law.  Clearly, not my side of the family – since Asian people don’t have a tradition of making granola.  Our old family recipes are of like miso paste and dumplings.

Rollefson Family Granola
(Notes are from Grandma D)

  • 1 – 42 oz. box old fashioned Quaker oats
  • 12 oz. jar wheat germ (or 12 oz. rolled wheat, rye, bran etc.) – I always use wheat germ
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 2-3 cups nuts (I chop them coarsely; Aunt Betty doesn’t chop them – your call)  – I usually use walnuts and pecans but almonds work too

Mix the above.  Then in a blender combine:

  • 12-16 oz. jar honey – I use 12 oz of honey (or 3/4 c. light molasses + 1/4 c. honey , or 1 c. malted barley + 1/4 c. black strap molasses)
  • 1 cup safflower oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp vanilla (yes, that is really tablespoons!)
  • (optional: 2 T. cinnamon – I never have used this)
  • 1 tsp salt

Blend the liquids until smooth, then mix with the dry ingredients.  Add raisins here if desired.

Spread on cookie sheets (2 large cookie sheets on 2 shelves of the oven). Bake at 175-200 for 3-4 hrs. max. (what I do) OR at ~250 for 1-2 hours.

My breakfast of yogurt, granola, bananas and maple syrup. Yum.

Over-the-Hill Cake

My friend Mark recently celebrated a very special birthday. He is a mammalogist who works with carnivores so I thought this cake with a bear chasing him over the cliff would be appropriate. A Davis buddy helped me execute this birthday cake project.

The cake was the “perfect party cake” from Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking book. Oh, what a perfect party cake it was. The recipe is a white lemon cake, but we replaced vanilla for lemon extract and made it into a vanilla cake.  It was firm but light, easy to work with, subtle, not too sweet, and extremely delicious. We used the swiss buttercream recipe from smitten kitchen and Bonne Maman apricot preserve in between the layers. The cake was 5 layers at its highest point.

The cake was covered in marshmallow fondant and topped off with an Anakin Skywalker action figure outfitted to look like Mark, a chocolate bear that just happened to be perfectly scaled to the action figure, chocolate truffle boulders, coconut spring snow, and custom made felt trees. Pretty fun birthday cake!