Chelsea Lives: San Francisco

It’s time for another Chelsea Lives post! At the beginning of August I was lucky enough to go to San Francisco for work. While there I of course indulged in as many foodie recommendations as I possibly could! From start to finish, here are my favorites.

Blue Bottle Coffee, specifically its outpost at SFMOMA, had been on my list for years ever since I found out that they employ a pastry chef whose duty it is to create desserts inspired directly by their permanent collection. (DREAM JOB.) Before I found out about this, a dear friend and I had had a similar idea, which is why there’s a pitifully small section of this site devoted to art-inspired treats. Turns out I just can’t bring myself to combine my day job (thinking about art) with my hobby (baking!), as much as I’d like to (there’s only so much research I can do in a day, and fancy art treats do in fact require research!)–so needless to say I was THRILLED that my work trip brought me to SFMOMA so that I could finally try these desserts.

It was a hard sell between the Mondrian cake and the Thiebaud cake, but I was running on low steam after a long flight in, so I went for espresso and the Thiebaud, a yellow cake with coffee ganache and vanilla buttercream. Oh my god–I think this is the best cake I have ever had in my life. The coffee wasn’t overpowering and the buttercream was this perfect, silky texture, while still being thick and rich. I went and visited the Thiebaud painting afterwards and I swear it really was like I had just eaten a slice of the cake right out of the canvas.

Long story not short: Caitlin Williams Freeman is my idol.

Speaking of best things ever in my life–which pretty much is the caption for every picture in this post since food in California is AMAZING–burrata salad. Agh! Burrata is one of my favorite non-dessert treats. Who can resist mozzarella and heavy cream encased in more mozzarella!? Three cheers for whatever Italian came up with that genius idea. And this salad, with deep red tomatoes, arugula and herbs, good quality olive oil, and a generous helping of S&P was its perfect complement. I found it at Cowgirl Creamery‘s little take-away counter in the Ferry Building, an overwhelming mecca of fancy gourmet food stuff. Between an outpost of Miette Patisserie, Scharffen Berger chocolate, and Ciao Bella, I was definitely a happy camper.

The next day I went to much-hyped Tartine Bakery for lunch. It definitely lived up to the hype and may have changed my tune about underbaked baked goods. I love a gooey, sugary, doughy baked good, but this scone… Wow. Just wow. The density of flavor thanks to baking it to that awesome caramel hue is out of this world. New baking resolution: Fear not burning, embrace caramelization.

I also had a delicious sage/lemon/pecorino grilled cheese for lunch, don’t worry–a girl does not live on scones alone (though perhaps she does live on scones and a combination of various types of cheeses).

I met up with a friend and we had coffee at Blue Bottle! I wanted to try the New Orleans iced coffee on Sara’s recommendation, but since I’d been caffeinating myself throughout the day, I thought it best to stick with something decaf, which they couldn’t do with the premade iced coffee. Also, San Francisco is gloriously chilly, which I of course loved thanks to my bizarre affinity for 40-60 degree weather, so a hot latte was perfect. Blue Bottle’s coffee is ridiculously good. I am still regretting not bringing home a tiny bag of beans.

For dinner, it was a famed Delfina pizza. The line was ridiculous so we got it to go and ate it in Mission Dolores park (thus the grassy backdrop for above dinner). It was awesome. The perfect combination of doughy and crispy and some of the best pizza I’ve had outside of Italy.

For dessert: Bi-Rite Creamery, which is just around the corner from the park. AHHH!!! This is my new favorite place in the world. Okay, one of like 25 favorite places in the world, but still. Certainly up there as one of my favorite ice cream places, second only to San Crispino in Rome. This ice cream is crazy! Anywhere that sells anything honey lavender flavored has pretty much stolen my heart, but seriously, this beats out Wisconsin custard by a mile. (Sorry, Wisconsinites. I still love a Leon’s malt, but even that comes only so close to Bi-Rite.)

And actually, I’m not even that big of an ice cream person. Further proof that this ice cream is insanely good.

I have actually thought about that honey lavender ice cream every day since getting home. I’ve been considering buying an ice cream maker and the Bi-Rite Creamery cookbook solely to attempt its recreation. Stay tuned.

Last but not least, I snuck into Craftsman and Wolves (again on Sara’s recommendation) before my meetings on my last day there and it’s got to be one of the most beautiful coffee shops I have ever set foot in! Everything is really well presented in San Francisco, but this place takes the cake. The display cases are like those in an art gallery–precise, designed, intentional. Really beautiful. I wasn’t blown away by the muffin or the coffee, but it wasn’t bad by any means. (Poor muffin, it just couldn’t compare after Tartine the day before.)

In conclusion: San Francisco, I think you’re pretty awesome. Writing this post made me remember how delicious your food is and how much I loved your weather. Now I’ll stop typing to you as if you are a person and put you on my list of places to convince my family to vacation next so I can get back there sooner than later (hint, hint, Mom, I know you read this blog).

PS… What did you think of the graphics for this post? I thought I’d jazz up my Instagram photos in Photoshop a little. Would love to know what you think!

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Tasting Tuesdays: Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Chip Muffins

Tasting Tuesdays: Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Chip Muffins

I know the title says muffins.

Tasting Tuesdays: Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Chip Muffins

But can we go ahead and call them muffinscones instead?

Tasting Tuesdays: Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Chip Muffins

Yep–that’s a made up word. But this was one of the weirder recipes I’ve tried and I can’t quite figure out why, so they get a name that’s equally as odd as the finished product itself.

Tasting Tuesdays: Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Chip Muffins

This is from a super pretty English book called The Perfect Start to Your Day. Tonia George is a food writer and photographer and man, it shows! The photographs in this book are really stunning, and the rest of the recipes sound delicious.

Tasting Tuesdays: Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Chip Muffins

And don’t get me wrong–it’s not that these muffins aren’t delicious–they’re just not very sweet, and they don’t really look like muffins. Truly, they’re like soft mini-scones.

Tasting Tuesdays: Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Chip Muffins

I tend to like my baked goods on the very sweet side, so I think that could be why these weren’t a hit for me. Then again, the British baking recipes I’ve used tend to be less sweet than American ones are, so it might just be my taste buds.

Tasting Tuesdays: Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Chip Muffins

I wonder if it’s because I used Greek yogurt instead of regular old yogurt that they turned out more scone-y? Or perhaps it was the crunchy peanut butter? (Which, by the way, despite my confusion over the title…really does go well with the milk chocolate chips. Mmm.)

Tasting Tuesdays: Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Chip Muffins

Either way, if try your hand at the recipe below, let me know if they turn out muffin-y or scone-y. I would love to know what I did to make them turn out this way!

Tasting Tuesdays: Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Chip Muffins

As always, major thanks to the lovely ladies at Anthropologie Milwaukee! The set-up was so beautiful this month (seriously, those marble cake stands!? I think they must be sold out since I can’t even find them online), and you guys are just the sweetest.

Tasting Tuesdays: Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Chip Muffins

By the way… I am really excited because next month is the FIRST ANNIVERSARY of Tasting Tuesdays!!! (Caps and excessive exclamation points entirely necessary.) I can’t believe I’ve been baking my way through Anthro’s cookbook collection for a whole year! We have some super exciting things planned for the celebration, as well as for next year, so mark your calendars for September 18! I hope to see you there!!

Tasting Tuesdays: Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Chip Muffins

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White Chocolate Chip Walnut Scones

White Chocolate Chip Walnut Scones

WHY have I not been putting white chocolate chips in my beloved scone recipe forever!?

White Chocolate Chip Walnut Scones

Also, why has it taken me so long to mess around with my DSLR by taking portrait oriented shots?!

White Chocolate Chip Walnut Scones

Seriously, it changes everything about the way the photograph looks. These cameras just amaze me with how many things they can do.

White Chocolate Chip Walnut Scones

I’ve had mine for over a year and I still feel like I have barely even scratched the surface.

White Chocolate Chip Walnut Scones

I’m also playing around with square sized photos, which of course isn’t the normal size my DSLR takes and requires some extra editing, but I like how it looks on the blog page on my site.

White Chocolate Chip Walnut Scones

Funny that I had a spurt of baking/photography excitement after my mopey previous post. Would still love any tips against blogger’s block (ugh, that sounds lame, but you know what I mean) that you might want to share, though!

White Chocolate Chip Walnut Scones

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Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies

I finally tried out Bakewise!

Oatmeal Cookies

And… well… I have to admit, I was a little bit underwhelmed. I did leave out the raisins in the recipe (seriously. raisins? yuck) so maybe that did it… I think these guys do need a bit of something–like currants maybe? Or dried cherries?

Oatmeal Cookies

Either way, the recipe is definitely not bad. In fact, it’s a lovely basic oatmeal cookie, if you need a lovely basic oatmeal cookie (honestly, though, these are better). But it is pretty basic. Nice cinnamon flavor, decent texture though very cakey.

Oatmeal Cookies

I think these would be amazing, however, if you made them into whoopie pies. Because they’re so cakey, they would be PERFECT–seriously, perfect–with a big dollop of cream cheese frosting in between, or even a salted caramel frosting. Or maybe even ice cream–though I don’t know if these are sturdy enough for more than a small scoop. Let me know if you try them out as whoopie pies!

Oatmeal Cookies

In other news, I think I’m in a blog rut. I’ve been pretty tired lately (I taught a lot at work this summer!) but I’ve also been feeling kind of ho-hum about my blog and baking lately. It might be in part because it’s so darn hot out–turning on the oven sucks in 90 degree weather. But I’ve also been feeling kind of uninspired in terms of photography and recipes. Should I add different, non-foodie posts? Should I try to bake my way through a single cookbook (I admire folks who do it though I’ve never had a strong desire to do so myself, but maybe it would motivate me)? Any of you fellow food bloggers out there have any tips for blogger’s/baker’s block?

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Chelsea Lives: Toronto

It’s time for something a little bit new!

I’ve always enjoyed posting photos of my random travels on this blog. Since they are usually food focused, it hasn’t felt too far away from my point of view. But I thought up this silly little name for these sorts of posts and couldn’t resist (Chelsea Lives! Hah, get it–like Chelsea Bakes! But not baking, ’cause I’m living my life! I didn’t need to explain it, did I? Ah, well–what would this blog be without a healthy dose of my characteristic rambling). Also, I have been wanting for a while to create my own guide to Milwaukee, so that is in the pipeline too–and is how I came up with “Chelsea Lives” in the first place.

So, it’ll take me a bit of time to do my city justice, and in the meantime, I’m applying the moniker to a few of the places I have been lucky enough to travel to this summer!

First up is Toronto! A trip six years in the making. I went on my birthday to visit one of my very best friends (that’s us above), who had devised five days filled with everything that I love: desserts, coffee, beaches, super cool people, and her (cue the “aww”‘s). This post will, naturally, focus on the edibles. Observe…

COFFEE! There were two spots that were my favorite coffe-wise: the first is not the one that is pictured above. It’s Ezra’s Pound, which remains the best coffee I have EVER had outside of Italy and certainly the best iced coffee. Mainly because it’s an iced americano, not straight-out iced coffee, and they use coffee ice cubes. I literally have thought about that iced coffee every day since that trip. And I was in Toronto over a month ago now. Sigh.

The place in the two pictures above, though, is also quite good: Little Nicky’s! A totally adorable, retro little spot with great decor and pretty darn good coffee. The pastries are not bad, but what’s really awesome (and, I believe, what they’re known for) are the freshly made mini-doughnuts, pictured above. They pop out into this pretty ceramic holder at the end of this old time-y doughnut making machine. How can you go wrong at a place with fresh hot cinnamon doughnuts in a little paper cone?

For my birthday, we had a long, leisurely lunch at one of my new favorite tea spots in the whole world: Red Tea Box! The savory food was so-so, but the tea and desserts were INCREDIBLE. Above is the white peach jasmine tea and lavender lemonade.

We had the strawberry bento box for dessert. You guys, I cannot even begin to tell you what was in this treasure trove of tiny, strawberry inspired miniature treats, but I will try… strawberry bon bons, strawberry lemon cake, strawberry almond cake, chocolate strawberry ganache tart, roasted strawberry shortcake, strawberry lavender mascarpone tart… And those are just the ones I can remember. I have never had more fun eating a dessert in my life!

We had dinner at Terroni–a painfully, gloriously hip Italian restaurant that was right up my alley (they played a techno remix of a teach yourself Italian tape in the restrooms–I mean, washrooms). Here are the fried zucchini flowers… crispy and delicious.

Back home after dinner, we had (tiny miniature) birthday cakes! (Naturally we’d taken two to go from Red Tea Box for later celebrations.) The pink is white chocolate rose and the other is lavender honeycomb. They were quite yummy. This reminds me that I need to procure some honeycomb to bake with.

Side note: This is where my friend went to college… it’s Hogwarts. Basically.

After we went to the beach one morning, we stopped at Frangipane Bakery for a take-away box of cookies: molasses cookie, lavender shortbread, lemon shortbread, sour cherry tart, and a pecan tart. The sour cherry tart and the lavender shortbread were my favorites.

On the last day, before I had to leave to fly home, we went to an amazing vegan restaurant, Live, for brunch. Seriously, when vegan food is done right, it is sooo good. I was full the rest of the day and I couldn’t even finish this dish! Here is their gluten-free waffle with maple cashew cream, berry jam, coconut whipped cream, and lemon sugar. I still can’t believe there was no dairy at all in that gorgeous plate. Plus the salad dressing was to-die-for good–I’ll be attempting to recreate that one for years, I’m sure. Also, not pictured is the mango lassi cardamom smoothie. Mmm.

After a lounge on the grounds of Spadina House, I headed back to the Midwest. There aren’t enough words that could thank my best friend for such an incredible birthday trip. I’ll just say this: I am so lucky to have you in my life. Thank goodness ArtCat brought us together. Now go drink some water!

Malt Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting

It has been a busy, cake-baking summer!

Malt Cake with Chocolate Frosting

It’s rough to bake a cake when it’s so hot outside… as you already know from my previous two summer cake posts.

Malt Cake with Chocolate Frosting

After all, I am a creature who loves the cold. (Which is probably why I was so blissed out in San Francisco last weekend–post forthcoming–60 degrees and breezy!? Yes please!) Anyway, this means that bringing myself to turn on the oven to make something as intensive as a cake is pretty difficult.

Malt Cake with Chocolate Frosting

But I have been wanting to make this Baked cake for a couple of years now, and I knew that for my birthday, this was it!

Malt Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Yes–I bake my own birthday cakes. Some people think this is weird, but I love putting all that effort into myself once a year.

Malt Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Plus, it gives you an excuse to throw a party!

Birthday Party

Or rather, in this case, to have a friend kindly throw you a party at which you can share said cake with others! Not to mention a feast fit for a hot summer day…

Birthday Party

Homemade sangria…

Birthday Party

Fresh guacamole…

Birthday Party

Popcorn with brewer’s yeast (this is a Milwaukee thing)…

Birthday Party

Fruit, fruit, and more fruit…

Birthday Party

And goat cheese rolled with herbs from the garden.

Birthday Party

I don’t think I could have asked for a prettier setting–I definitely had way too much fun taking pictures! Of utensils in a little box…

Birthday Party

Candles and art-making materials…

Birthday Party

And of course hanging out with good friends!

Birthday Party

When it got dark, it was cake time!

Malt Cake with Chocolate Frosting

This cake is definitely one of my new favorites. The cake itself is malted and dense, almost nutty.

Malt Cake with Chocolate Frosting

The frosting is slippery and silky, so chocolatey–a weird mix between a ganache and a buttercream, and surprisingly easy and not too fussy. Let’s just say I definitely enjoyed the extra cupcakes this six-incher leaves you with.

Malt Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Thank you so much to all my friends who came and celebrated my birthday with me, and a special thanks to Shannon for hosting a beautiful party in her backyard!

Malt Cake with Chocolate Frosting

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