Persimmon Upside Down Cake

Do you ever look at recipes and think, “Welp, guess I’m not making this…I don’t have this ingredient, I don’t have that ingredient, and I sure as hell don’t have *insert obscure dairy-free sugar-free vegan-free ingredient here*”

Hello. I am Chef Cory. And I am here to tell you that half the battle of being a great chef is improvising.

Now, mama didn’t raise no fool…you can’t just substitute a lemon when you need a pound of beef brisket…but simple swaps like using pumpkin seeds when the recipe calls for walnuts, subbing in Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, using applesauce instead of oil, and swapping eggnog for buttermilk can cut down the cost of the recipe you’re about to create, not to mention the number of times you have to cruise the aisles of Trader Joe’s pretending you remember where the Grade B maple syrup is.

Wait, did I just say eggnog instead of buttermilk?! You might be a tad bit confuzzled at this point- and that’s okay. I’m here to declare QUIT buying cartons of buttermilk when you only need a small amount for a recipe- you can make your own buttermilk! And you can even make it vegan! Alls yous hafta do is mix 1 tablespoon of an acid like lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or white vinegar per 1 cup of whatever milk you want to use. In this case, all I had in my messy post-Thanksgiving-explosion-refrigerator was eggnog, and thus, eggnog buttermilk was born.

This “buttermilk” gives your recipe that tang that normal buttermilk predictably delivers, along with the boost in leavening (aka makes your baked goodie rise higher) and softening of your final product. Science, babies.

The result in this dazzling Persimmon Upside Down cake is a super soft texture and ultra flavorful crumb. The fresh ginger, a natural anti-inflammatory, gives it a little zing and the toasted pepitas (aka pumpkin seeds) give the cake a heartier quality and a whole lot of gut-scrubbing fiber. Did I mention those persimmons? How have I never baked with these delicious orange gems before?! They’re definitely the “apple” of the winter and their ever-so-sweet dreamy taste and creamy-when-cooked texture lends itself beautifully to the heavy spice inside this winter cake. Plus, persimmons are rich in antioxidants as well as vitamin A, C, and E. WINNING.

When your fam is starting to plan what y’all are gonna feast on for whatever holiday it is you’re celebrating, look no farther than delighting them with this gorgeous, delicious, and perfect-for-cold-weather dessert. I won’t lie, it makes a fantastic breakfast with a mug of coffee, as well 😉 See below….

Psssst- This recipe is refined-sugar free and can easily be made gluten free by using all-purpose GF flour in place of the regular flour.

Persimmon Upside Down Cake

Makes: 1 cake

  • 2/3 cups eggnog (or any other type of milk)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (can also use white vinegar)
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose, gluten free, or whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 8 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 cup 100% pure maple syrup + 2 tablespoons
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup toasted pepitas/pumpkin seeds (can bake at 350 for 10-12 mins to toast)
  • 1/4″ knob of ginger, peeled and minced finely
  • 4 ripe fuyu persimmons, green tops removed and sliced very thinly into rounds
  1. First, you’re going to make “eggnog buttermilk”- combine the eggnog (or whatever milk you’re using) and lemon juice (or vinegar) in a small bowl and let sit until slightly curdled (about 5-7 minutes). While this is going, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Next, whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda, sea salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  3. In an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, cream together 6 tablespoons of the butter (leaving the other 2 out) and 1 cup of the maple syrup until thoroughly mixed (about 2 minutes). Scrape the bowl, then add in the egg and egg yolk and beat another 2 minutes.
  4. Add in half of the flour, beat 10 seconds, then add in the “buttermilk”, beat another 10 seconds. Pour in remaining flour and beat another 30 seconds until totally mixed. You may have to scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. Fold in the toasted pepitas and ginger with a spatula.
  5. Next, heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup until just melted but not bubbling/boiling (can also use at a minimum, a 10″ cake pan if you don’t have a cast iron…in this case heat a separate skillet over medium and melt butter/maple syrup then scrape into whatever cake pan you’re using). Let cool a minute or so, then carefully arrange persimmon rounds over the mixture, beginning by placing one in the middle, then layering in outward-moving concentric circles…overlapping is chill so long as you’re covering the whole bottom of the pan!
  6. Pour batter over persimmon slices and bake for 40-50 minutes, checking cake at 40 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when a toothpick comes out clean when poked into the center and the cake looks golden brown. Let cool for at least 30 minutes, but preferably an hour (if you can wait that long….) Then, using a butter knife, scrape along all the edges of the pan to loosen the cake. Invert the upside down cake using a large plate (larger than the pan you used). Serve!

Vanilla Bourbon Apple Cider

“Eggnog or apple cider?” should be the toughest question you have to ask yourself this weekend.

Christmasukkah is almost here and I couldn’t be more excited to flee the city and swap out smog for some snow.

I can’t promise you that no strained political commentary will make its way onto the dinner table as we inch closer to the apex of the holiday season. But my Vanilla Bourbon Apple Cider will for damn sure give you enough confidence to finally tell your sister-in-law that her fruitcake tastes like the tire of a dump truck.

Why make cocktails from scratch, you ask?? Much like cooking a meal at home, it’s more fun to consume something you (all by yo’ bad self) created. Plus, the syrups used in most bars are packed with sugar and freaky-deaky ingredients. Trust me when I say that Santa wouldn’t touch them dranks with a 10 foot pole.

This Cider is made with fresh-pressed apples. The old saying “an apple a day keeps the doc away” undeniably has some merit. The famous Nurses’ Health Study showed a 21% decrease in lung cancer in those who consumer higher amounts of apples. In the large scale Women’s Health study, women eating apples had a 13-22% decrease in cardiovascular disease. Another study showed a direct relationship between apple intake and lower asthma levels. Similar studies have shown lower levels of Type II diabetes in those who consume apples regularly. Plus, all of the antioxidants inside these fruits have protective effects on cancer cell growth. Combine that with the blood sugar regulating properties of cinnamon and BOOM– how ’bout them apples.

This drink is warming, subtly sweet, and slightly spicy– the perfect beverage to sip on when you want something boozy with a nutritional boost. It’s also an excellent libation to bring to a holiday parade while you’re standing on the sidewalk freezing your nuts off waving to Santa. Additionally, it’s a great choice to bring to a Christmas party you thought was Ugly Sweater themed, only it wasn’t.

Cheers, my dears. Here’s to a brighter, yummier, more beautiful New Year. See ya in 2017 🙂

Vanilla Bourbon Apple Cider

Makes: 2 dranks

  • 2 lbs of gala apples (or other sweet variety), freshly juiced
    • alternatively, you can use 2 cups of freshly pressed all-natural apple juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1, 2″ piece vanilla bean
    • alternatively, you can use 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 ounces bourbon
  1. Combine apple juice, cloves, cinnamon, and vanilla bean or extract in a small saucepan over medium heat. Gently simmer for 5-7 minutes, until bubbly and fragrant.
  2. Remove from heat. If using freshly juiced apples, strain the mixture into a bowl. If using apple juice, skip this step and simply scoop out the cinnamon sticks and vanilla bean with a slotted spoon. Don’t worry about scooping out the vanilla bean if you used extract, obvs.
  3. Stir in the bourbon and then divide the mixture evenly into cups or mason jars. Plop a cinnamon stick or two back into each drink if you fancy a fancy drink.

Spiced Gingerbread Cookies

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The other day I was on a flight to the east coast and not feeling too hot. I rarely get motion sickness but desperate times call for…ginger ale. Maybe I was just undercover-craving soda or perhaps I was indeed,actually queasy, but I downed a whole (super cold) can before the woman next to me could get in another snore.

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Mid-chug and fanning myself with a barf bag, I glanced at the nutrition label- much to my regretI mean, I’m *almost* a Registered Dietitian so I know it’s not made of kale and kombucha, but what I saw (or didn’t see) threw me for a tailspin.

“Carbonated water, sugar, flavoring extract, citric acid, color.”

That’s it. 

Ummm….where is the uhhh……ginger?

Not present? *rolls eyes*

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My mind raced as I thought back to all of the times I drank ginger ale thinking it would alleviate my stomach issues. What a waste. So when I decided to make gingerbread cookies this year (…because Christmas) I made it my mission to put tons of REAL GINGER in there. Wow, what a concept. Maybe the beverage industry should follow my lead.

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These are the perfect cookies to bring to a holiday party, that is, if you feel like sharing the fruits  carbs of your labor. The dough is chilled overnight and rolls out perfectly the next day, no sticky mess in sight. They’re sweet, gently chewy but still crispy around the edges, a beautiful classic brown color, and brimming with tons of spicy flavorful ginger. If ya got cute cookie cutters, there’s just no excuse not to make these babes. Plus, you can’t beat ginger’s incredibly impressive list of health benefits: it’s an effective anti-nausea aid, gastrointestinal distress treatment, and powerful anti-inflammatory.

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I obviously lack gingerbread men cookie cutters; the only cookie cutter I could scrounge up was in the shape of a heart and is supposed to be for frying eggs. Guess I know what I’m adding to my Christmas list this year….a flask. Just kidding. Some more cookie cutters, guys. Maybe also a flask to bring along to the holiday party when all they’re serving is cheap, shitty Chardonnay.

Cheers.

Spiced Gingerbread Cookies

Makes: ~2 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 10 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2/3 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour + more for dusting
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1″ piece fresh ginger root, peeled and minced very finely

Directions:

  1. In a large mixer, cream the butter until whipped. Add in molasses and brown sugar and beat for 2-3 minutes, until smooth. Add in vanilla and egg and beat for another 2 minutes.
  2. In a separate mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and mix thoroughly.
  3. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture until just combined and a sticky dough forms. Then stir in the minced ginger until combined. Divide dough into two halves and wrap each into a ball then cover with plastic wrap. Use your hands to smash each dough ball into a flat disc and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (I prefer overnight). Don’t skip the chillin’…it’s necessary.
  4. When your dough is done chilling, preheat oven to 350 F.
  5. On a floured surface, roll out each dough ball about 1/4″ inch thick and keep sprinkling with flour to avoid getting the dough stuck to the rolling pin. Using a cookie cutter, create a bunch of whatever shape of cookie you want. Mine were hearts…but if I had an ugly sweater cookie cutter you bet your ass that’s what I’d be bakin.’
  6. Place cookies on 2-3 parchment lined baking sheets, keeping about 1/2″ between each cookie because they do puff up and spread a little. Bake for 8-10 minutes, checking at about 7. Cookies are done when lightly golden brown around the edges. Allow cookies to cool and then enjoy with some milk and/or spiked ‘nog.

 

Sesame Challah Bread

So I bought a classical guitar off Craigslist. She’s a little shabby and scratched up but she’s hangin’ in there.

So far I’d say I’m conquering Row, Row, Row your Boat at a mastery level.

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Stevie Ray Vaughan is probably rolling over in his grave, but I think I’m getting the hang of it.

I named the guitar Martha.

It’s fitting.

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But let’s get on with the recipe, eh?

You may think breaking bad is cool, but let’s talk about breaking bread. Mmmkay I know, not as edgy, but arguably more delicious.

Challah bread is a bit of a paradox– it’s got a crispy exterior that really maintains its chewiness, but when you bite down, the inside is dense but somehow still pillowy-soft. It’s eggy and salty and subtly sweet and…and….and I could go on an on about all the reasons why I’ve declared it’s impossible to just snack on ONE slice.

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It’s the perfect transformable bread– sure you can eat it plain (and happily so) but what about all the tasty salvaged combinations that follow? After blotting the drool off my bib, delicious french toast and superlative Thanksgiving stuffing come to mind immediately.

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Plus, braiding the bread is like 10 times more fun than braiding your hair. Because you get to eat it afterwards. It’s not as hard as it looks, trust me; I’m about as good of a braider as I am a guitar player. But I whipped this out in a few minutes using a video I found on tha interwebz, and with the swift click of your mouse, you can too. I believe in you. And I for damn sure believe in this bread. I have so many  memories of cutting into a warm loaf of challah on a Friday evening for Shabbat with my Mom’s best friend and her family.

So, can I get a Challa-lujah?!

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Homemade Challah Bread

Makes 1 large loaf (or 2 small)

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast (equal to one packet)
  • 1 teaspoon + 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup veggie oil or other neutral oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk + 1 egg white
  • Sprinkle of sesame seeds
  1. In a small bowl, combine yeast, 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, and the water. Give it a gentle stir and let it sit for about 5 minutes. When a thin foamy layer forms on top, you’re good to go.
  2. Meanwhile, in a standing mixer, whisk remaining 1/4 cup of brown sugar, flour, and salt until combined.  Remove the bowl from the standing mixer and using a spoon (we’re going old school with our arms, baby), create a well in the center and drop in the oil, eggs, and the egg yolk (egg white is fo’ later). Mix until a stringy dough begins to come together.
  3. Pour in the water/yeast/sugar mixture and stir until until dough becomes wet and stringy. Sounds delish, I know.
  4. Next, transfer the bowl back to the standing mixer and using the dough hook, knead for 6 to 8 minutes until a smooth, elastic dough forms. If you need more flour (aka dough is supa’ sticky like bubble gum), add it in 1 teaspoon at a time. Chu can also turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead with those big ole’ arms for 10 minutes. Dough is done when it holds a ball shape. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with a dish towel, place someplace warm (I used my oven with just the light turned on) and let it rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  5. When it’s nice and puffy after sitting, turn the dough ball onto a clean surface. Bust out those grammar school skills, because now you’re going to give that baby a nice pretty braid. There are tons of ways to do this, just YouTube that shiz. It’s pretty hard to explain in words and I’m a visual learner so guess you are now too. Once you’ve got it looking spiffy, place it on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Pop that baby back in the oven with the light on to puff up (this is called “proofing” in the baking world) for one more hour.
  6. After another hour, take out your challah (should be puffier than when you put it in) and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Now take the egg white and mix it with 1 tablespoon of water to make the “egg wash” which gives the challah its dreamy-licious shine. Brush the challah with the egg wash and sprinkle it with sesame seeds. Bake for 30-35 minutes, turning it around in the oven once halfway through. It’s finished when it’s dark brown, let it cool, then slice and get your grub on.