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  • Fresh Pumpkin Cupcakes Celebrate the Harvest

    We all know about the famous pumpkin latte and traditional pumpkin pie, and this autumn favorite lends itself to many other preparations as well: soups, stews, puddings, soufflés and of course, pies and cakes.

    This week, Ronit and her pastry-chef brother Gadi Kakon have whipped up a pumpkin cupcake recipe, complete with pumpkin frosting.
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  • Cool, Cruelty-Free Desserts with Agar Agar

    We love a wiggly, "Jello"-type dessert as much as anyone does. But the sad truth about gelatin is that it’s made from the bones and skin of various animals and fish — placing it squarely out of bounds for vegetarians and vegans. Fortunately, there’s an easy work-around that results in cruelty-free desserts with just as much flavor and sweetness: agar agar, also known as kanten, which originated in 17th-century Japan. Continue reading

  • Real Vanilla: Accept No Substitutes

    Vanilla: Where would we be without it? This aromatic orchid pod from Mexico has been adding its fragrant flavor to food and drinks for hundreds of years. Continue reading

  • Meet Demerara and Turbinado

    Do modern humans have a love-hate relationship with sugar? Sometimes it seems that way. We crave sugar’s sweetness, yet deplore its effects, such as weight gain and the jitters.

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  • Make Your Own Cinnamon Syrup

    Customers at our Napa shop sometimes ask us why we carry cinnamon chips, as well as the more familiar powdered and quilled (“stick”) cinnamon. This week’s recipes are part of the answer — but first, a little bit about where we get this magnificent spice.

    Basically, cinnamon is tree bark — the most delicious tree bark in the world. Both Ceylon “true” cinnamon and its widely-used cousin, Cassia cinnamon, are harvested from trees in the Cinnamomum family. The bark of Ceylon cinnamon is more delicate than that of Cassia, which provides sturdier quills for cinnamon sticks. But when chipped or powdered, they both are bursting with cinnamon flavor and fragrance.

    Our favorite of all is Saigon cinnamon: It’s the strongest Ceylon cinnamon available in America today, and we think it has the richest flavor as well. Continue reading

  • Hamantaschen Cookies: Not Just for Purim

    Buttery cookie dough, wrapped around a sweet and chewy filling: By any name, these treats are fun to make and delightful to eat — yet they’re named for one of the arch-villains of the Hebrew Bible.

    According to tradition, the three-cornered shape of Hamantaschen cookies is a reference to the hat worn by Haman, grand vizier to an early Persian king, who schemed to kill off all the Jews in the realm. Continue reading

  • Salted Caramel

    Great culinary ideas never cease to amaze me, especially in my field. Were always working on ways to create unique blends of spices and herbs that will enhance and elevate food to a new level. So ever since salted caramel appeared on the culinary scene, Ive been over the moon for it. While caramel tastes great on its own, when you add the crunchiness of sea salt it goes from being simply delicious to sublime. The indelible taste of sweetness and the crunchiness of salt induce a delightful chain-reaction in your taste-buds. Continue reading

  • Valentine's Day Chocolate Indulgence

    Valentine's Day has garnered much controversy, publicity and even notoriety over the decades. What was once considered to be the most romantic day of the year has turned into a frantic effort for making your significant other feel special. From planning the perfect dinner at the perfect restaurant, to ordering the perfect flowers and the perfect boxes of chocolates; its become more of a feat of magic than a perfectly natural act of love. Continue reading

  • Making Doughnuts: A Tradition in Many Lands

    Here we call them doughnuts, or donuts for short. But there are as many words for deep-fried dough treats as there are lands where they are enjoyed.

    Italian doughnuts are called zeppole, or bombolini for the filled variety. Spain brought its churros to Mexico. A similar pastry, known in Turkish as tulumba, can be found around the Middle East. Dutch oliebollen and Greek loukoumades are more like fritters.

    Street vendors in the Middle East and South Asia sell jalebi; Indian gulab jamun are made with dairy solids instead of grain flour. Farther north in Pakistan and Nepal, you will find balushahi cooked in clarified butter. The Chinese also deep-fry doughs: One breakfast treat, called youtiao, resembles a cruller and is used for dunking. Continue reading

  • Moroccan Desserts

    It doesn't take much arm-twisting to motivate me to make Moroccan sweet treats for the family. When I was young girl, I remember how we all looked forward to enjoying some of the most awesome desserts that my mother used to make at home. Sometimes, she would make simple Moroccan cookies out of nuts, rose water and sugar that tasted out of this world. Continue reading

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