Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Montclair Blondies

Long time, no cookies! Felt I was overdue for an update and I was craving blondies, which is really weird because that is not a "cookie" I typically crave. However, I've always kind of thought of the Montclair neighborhood of Oakland, diverse as Oakland is overall compared to this particular area within Oakland, as the blondie of 'hood cookies, if you feel me. The neighborhood, like the cookie, I can't lie, is not among my favorites. I lived in Oakland for about a decade before I even knew it existed, driving along 13 one day, not a route I typically took when I lived in the Lake Merritt area, and noticing the Lucky supermarket out of the corner of my eye (grocery stores at the time were pretty lacking in the area so a supermarket not already on my radar was a supermarket to try out right away!). Another decade later, I've now sent both kids to a part-time daycare in Montclair, have a handful of friends who've lived or currently live in the neighborhood, and occasionally pop up that way for a particular store or restaurant. But I still find it to be a bit lacking in all the things I value about the rest of this town. What can I say, I'm more of a Laurel or Fruitvale gal.


I will confess, however, that if you add in the "optional" extras like I did, listed below, and mix in a little dark chocolate along with the white, then you've got yourself an acceptably diversified, okay-I'll-admit-this-is-actually-pretty-tasty, baked treat. Here's what you'll need to make 16 2x2 inch blondies:

  • 8 tablespoons (115 grams or 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup (215 grams) lightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour


"Optional" (but not really) extras:

1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips (I used white and dark)
1/2 to 1 cup chopped and toasted nuts (I used macadamia nuts)
1/2 to 1 cup chopped dried fruit or shredded/flaked coconut (I used the latter)
1/4 cup liquor (I used bourbon whiskey); Note: Increase flour by 1 tablespoon to accommodate




Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-inch by 8-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, stir melted butter and brown sugar until blended. Add the egg, vanilla, almond extract (optional) and salt then stir vigorously until smooth. When the batter looks well blended, add the flour and stir until no more streaks of flour remain. Stir in chocolate chip, nuts or dried fruit (if using).


Spread the batter evenly in lined pan and bake 20 to 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out relatively clean. Cool then cut into 16 squares.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Fruitvale - Mexican Chocolate Cherry Surprise Cookies

For today's Oakland-inspired cookie, I'm thinking of the Fruitvale district, historically known for the many fruit orchards ("Fruit Vale"), primarily apricot and cherry, that dominated the area in the late 1800s. The area became part of the City of Oakland in 1909 and his now home to Oakland's largest Latino population.


To celebrate Oakland's Fruitvale district, I present a bit of a twist on Mexican Chocolate Cherry Rounds. I could not for the life of me find candied cherry halves, as this recipe calls for, but I did have a jar of maraschino cherries in my fridge. So I decided to bake the cherry in the cookie, similar to this recipe. Delightfully surprising, as Oakland tends to be.


Mexican Chocolate Cherry Surprise Cookies

INGREDIENTS
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 3⁄4 cups sugar
1⁄2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2⁄3 cup powdered sugar
~30-36 maraschino cherries


DIRECTIONS
Melt chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water (or in microwave) until smooth; allow to cool. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients in medium bowl.

Using electric mixer, beat 1 3/4 cups sugar and butter in large bowl until light. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then vanilla and chocolate.Gradually add dry ingredients, beating just until combined. Chill dough until firm, about 2 hours.


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Place powdered sugar in shallow pan. Form dough into 1-inch balls, flatten, and then shape around one maraschino cherry so that the cherry is sealed in dough. Roll each ball in powdered sugar to coat; shake off excess sugar.


Arrange cookies on prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until cookies puff and crack but are still soft, about 12-14 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack and cool completely. Makes about 30-36 cookies. Enjoy!


Friday, September 23, 2016

The Laurel, Oakland Kettle Corn M&Ms Cookie Recipe

I've let this project - this blog and accompanying Instagram and Twitter accounts - all but die over the past several months. But I'm back, with focus! For now, Sweet on Oakland will dream up a cookie recipe inspired by the "flavors" of each of Oakland's culturally diverse neighborhoods, beginning with a recipe for the Laurel, where I've lived for the past 6 of my total 18+ years in Oakland (not including that 4-year detour to Boston circa 2005-09!).


Did you know the Laurel used to be home to not one, but two movie theaters, in operation between the 1920s and 1960s? The Laurel Theater is now a church while the Hopkins Cinema, once a Hagstroms grocery store, is now home to a Goodwill thrift store and an AutoZone auto parts store.


The Laurel is also now home to Peter's Kettle Corn. So for our first cookie recipe, we present a Laurel, Oakland twist on the kettle corn cookie, featuring PKC kettle corn and - my favorite movie theater popcorn candy accompaniment - M&Ms (modified from this kettle corn chocolate chip cookie recipe via Jolly Time popcorn).


INGREDIENTS

4 cups kettle corn (preferably from Peter's Kettle Corn!)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup M&Ms candies

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Beat the butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon or electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the flour, baking powder and soda, and salt until well combined. Gently stir in kettle corn and M&Ms.


I used an ice cream scoop to form dough into 3 1/2 ounce balls. Place on a silicone or parchment-lined baking sheet; bake 12 to 13 minutes or until edges are set and centers are still slightly underdone (cookies will firm up as they cool and be chewy). Cool on a baking sheet for 5 to 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling. Makes approximately 16 large cookies.


Enjoy! And if you live in Oakland, feel free to share in the comments section how you'd describe the "flavors" of your neighborhood.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

#NationalGrilledCheeseDay, Oakland-style

Yep, today is National Grilled Cheese Day, a pretty important holiday for grilled cheese enthusiasts and small children alike. I have two suggestions for you, Oakland. If you're the kind of person who likes to think outside the box, head over to College Point Cafe in Rockridge, a small breakfast and lunch joint frequented by students and staff at nearby California College of the Arts, and home to quite possibly the best tuna melt I've ever had, grilled to order on a Dutch crunch roll.


If you're more of a traditionalist, Oakland has that, too. Try the soup and 1/2 grilled cheese combo at Sacred Wheel Cheese and Specialty Market, in the Temescal neighborhood. This is a delightful little market with yummy grilled cheese sandwiches, delicious homemade soups, and Nutella-filled chocolate chip cookies, to boot!


How will you celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Town's Hi/Lo Coffee Cake Recipe

Hey, Oakland! Did you know that today is National Beer Day and National Coffee Cake day! I thought surely I'd be able to find a coffee cake recipe that actually tastes like coffee...



... and has beer in it, too!



The internet has everything, after all. And while I found several boozy coffee cake recipes, none that offer both a stimulant (caffeine) and a depressant (alcohol)... #sweetonoakland to the rescue! Try this out and let me know what you think. Better yet, invite me over to try a slice!

Recipe for The Town's Hi/Lo Coffee Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour                                          
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 cup lightly toasted, chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried figs
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 1 cup of Linden Street Brewery's Glow Pilsner
  • 1 cup of strongly brewed Mr. Espresso coffee
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Grease a 10 cup Bundt pan* with butter and dust with flour. Set aside.

Sift together dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cardamom - and set aside. Dust the chopped figs with some of this dry mixture.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugars until smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well.

Fold in the dry ingredients alternatively with the beer and coffee; blend well.

With a wooden spoon, stir in the nuts and figs, mixing well and scraping down the sides of  the bowl 1 to 2 times.

Spoon batter into a well-greased and flour dusted 10 cup Bundt pan. Bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour, 10 minutes until brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Let your hi/lo coffee cake cool in the pan for about 20 minutes; un-mold the cake and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before serving. Dust with icing sugar, if desired. 

What will you have on the side: coffee or beer?!

Enjoy.

* If you don't have a Bundt pan, you can use any of the following alternatives: 9x13-inch baking pan, 2 9-inch round cake pans, about 18-24 cupcakes, 1 9-inch tube pan, 2 11x7-inch baking pans, or 1 10-inch springform pan. Check for doneness more frequently (e.g. 20-24 minutes for cupcakes) if using a shallower pan.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Oakland Pride Swag Bag

At last, an inaugural blog post about the public school fundraising project that started #sweetonoakland! I recently put together an "Oakland Pride" gift basket for my son's school to auction off at their annual fundraiser this past weekend. I thought it would make a good blog post for one of my other blogs, but those blogs aren't location-specific. I wondered if I could create a niche side-project around a phrase I've been using a lot lately - finally, after more than 17 years here - "sweet on Oakland".


Let me give you a little background information. I moved to Oakland in 1998, after about ten months in a cramped, overpriced apartment in north Berkeley. I don't really count the first place I lived, technically in Oakland, off Dana Street right on the Oakland/Berkeley border. But in 1999, I moved to the little Adams Point triangle in the Lake Merritt neighborhood, where I could walk to my part-time job in the uptown area and take the 51A AC Transit bus to Berkeley for my college classes.

I loved it. I could walk about 15 minutes down the hill in any direction to get to Piedmont, BART, the lake, or the Grand Lake area. We (my then-boyfriend, now-husband) rented a one-bedroom apartment in a small building with a pool for $795 per month and rent increased only nominally from there. We moved two more times within the Adams Point area before eventually moving to Boston for grad school and the birth of our first child. After four years there we returned to Oakland, eventually buying a house in the Laurel district.


Oakland is a complicated city. There are some things I don't like about living here, but the pros usually outweigh the cons and, itchy feet though I have, it's the only place I've felt close to calling home. This project is a shared effort to focus on the positive and highlight the things I really dig about this, in the end, pretty irresistible town.

Much of what I included in this "Oakland Pride Swag Bag", as we eventually called it, I purchased in the Laurel and Dimond districts. Here's what I included:

1. Okay, this one is cheating a little, with Chocolate Fusion, out of San Leandro. But pretty close, right? We love our East Bay neighbors, after all...

2. A tote bag and stickers from Oaklandish - a staple stop in any Oakland-centric shopping trip.

3. A set of diner-style coffee mugs from Oaklandish, specifically from the Dimond store.

4. Coffee beans from Cafe Santana Roasting Company, which recently opened a storefront in the Laurel. Great coffee, super-friendly customer service - highly recommend.

5. A copy of the This is Oakland book, available at Oaklandish stores.

6. A gift card to Peter's Kettle Corn, another relatively recent (a year or so ago?) addition to the Laurel.


7. A gift card to Homeroom, which has been in the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland since 2011. I took my son there during their opening week and we've been big fans ever since. In addition to delicious mac 'n' cheese, they make these heavenly, homemade "oreo" cookies. Drool.

8. A bottle of Rock Wall Wine - another technically East Bay pride point as these guys are in Alameda.

9. A set of Oaklandish playing cards.

10. A bar of Handbrewed Soap.

There you have it - 10 great ideas for shopping local this holiday season if you live here in Oakland. Share your hot Oakland tips on social media using the hashtag #sweetonoakland! If you're on Twitter or Instagram, you can follow along there, too!