Milk Bar Banana Cake

I’m baaack and let me begin this post by saying that if you want to make this recipe you must be a little mad. This popular cake at Momofuku Milk Bar is so labor intensive that even they stopped selling it by the slice. Yes, the Milk Bar banana cake is delicious and it lives up to its reputation with its rich banana cream, hazelnut crunch, and gianduja fudge nestled between layers of moist, nutty banana cake. It’s seven different recipes rolled into one and you’ll have to source ingredients like hazelnut paste, gianduja and feuilletine, equipment like pastry rings and acetate strips, and you’ll need ultra ripe bananas.

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Crab-Stuffed Zucchini Flowers with Basil Sauce & Watercress Salad

Zucchini blossoms, the golden flowers on the end of baby zucchini are one of the nicest things about summer. So bright yellow they almost look orange, they are nearly irresistible to farmers market shoppers. Yet it seems many people don’t know what to do with them once they’ve bought them. They’re great simply coated with a tempura batter and deep fried, I often like to stuff them with a mixture of ricotta and aromatic vegetables to add an extra “surprise” but this version with a crab salad stuffing and a panko coating is just as delicious. The other good news is that there is no deep-frying involved.

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Cheesecake Mosaïc

This is an interesting and delicious variation on cheesecake, a recipe by pastry wiz Pierre Hermé in his latest book “Pastries”. The base is made with a sweet pastry dough turned into a powder and used like the Graham crackers crumbs of New York cheesecake, it’s topped with a pistachio cheesecake layer which is baked at low temperature until set. Sour cherries that have been poached in a vanilla syrup are arranged on top of the pistacho cheesecake layer and the whole thing is covered with a pistachio-cream cheese mousse. When the cheesecake is set it’s finished with shards of salted white chocolate around the edge and a dusting of pistachio powder. I’m a big fan of pistachio-anything so I just had to try it but what’s fun it’s the clever contrast between layers that opens the door to many interpretations. Check out what Tina of Wandering Eater did following the same concept.

I didn’t take a photo of the inside of the cake BUT there’s one in the book “Pastries”. You can see those delicious layers if you click here. It may look as a fancy and complicated cake but when you break down the work it’s really not that bad, and this one is actually fun to make. Just take it one step at the time. Enjoy!

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Vietnamese Beef Pho’

After a weeklong fight against a bad cold I’m beginning to feel human again. I followed the instructions from my doctor and took antibiotics but ultimately I think that it’s this large bowl of Vietnamese beef pho’ that did more for my well-being than any prescription drugs. Maybe I have too much imagination but I see beef pho as a distant and exotic cousin of “Pot au feu”, the provincial French dish of simmered beef and vegetables, the epitome of comfort food. The great thing about beef pho is that you could make the broth, portion it and freeze it and have it ready in about as long as it takes to cook the rice noodles. Not a bad surprise to find in your freezer.

The broth for beef phở is made by simmering different cuts of beef and oxtails with charred onion and ginger and sweet spices such as Saigon cinnamon, star anise, black cardamom, coriander seed, fennel seed, and clove. Vietnamese dishes are typically served with lots of greens and herbs to refresh and brighten the flavors and this is no exception with its garnish of green onions, Thai basil, chili peppers, lime wedges, bean sprouts, fresh coriander and mint. I served it with the fork tender beef from the broth and saved some bone marrow to add an extra layer of richness to an already delicious soup. Enjoy!

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Apricot, Cardamom & Orange Blossom Tart

The apricot experience starts in late May and ends in July and anyone trying to find them when they are neither too hard nor too soft – but just right – may have trouble. It’s the familiar story of fruit that is at its best when tree ripened but which rarely comes to market in that condition. If you live in the US you could order them from Frog Hollow Farms which produces the best summer fruits.

Or to remedy the situation of under ripe apricots you could do what I did. I poached them in a light syrup flavored with cardamom, pink peppercorn and lime zest. When I say “poached” I don’t mean “boiled”. Too high a temperature would make the delicate fruits fill up with liquid and collapse. You would end up with more of a fruit compote. I learned the hard way.

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