Lemon poppyseed ricotta cake

Oh dear.

This past weekend, I caught a good case of the Wintertime Blues.

I woke up on Saturday morning mopey and peevish, and generally felt like a house off its foundation. The cold weather and short days tend to do that, don’t they? Do you ever feel that way, too?

Normally, a long walk outside helps, as does a long hug from a friend.

You know what else comforts me? Baking.

The intoxicating smell of butter and brown sugar whipped together. The movement of batter, undulating, and folding into itself. The clash of colours and textures: powdery white flour; bright, bold yolks; deep, dark vanilla pods.

So, after lacing up my boots for an urban hike around the city, I went home to take some proverbial lemons and make…lemon poppyseed ricotta cake.

I can’t tell you how therapeutic it was to grate that lemon rind into tiny, fragrant flakes of yellow. How consoling it was to watch, almost trance-like, as my mixer beat those ingredients into submission. How gratifying it was to take that first slice, and bite into a warm, tart, sweetness that my two hands made.

Oh dear indeed.

Lemon Poppyseed Ricotta Cake From the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, shared by @carolinekell *cook’s notes are starred

Serves 8-10

Tools One 3.5 x 7 inch loaf tin with 3 inch sides Sifter Electric mixer

For the sponge 7 oz (14 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing 7 oz (7/8 cups) flour, plus extra for dusting 7 oz (7/8 cups) caster sugar // *caster sugar is superfine sugar — I improvised by grinding granulated sugar in my blender 3 large eggs 1 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp salt 4 tbsp poppy seeds 2 tbsp lemon zest // *equivalent to 4 lemons 2 tbsp whole milk 3 oz (6 tsbp) ricotta cheese

For the soaking syrup Juice of 1 lemon 1.75 oz (3.5 tbsp) caster sugar 3.5 fl oz (~1/2 cup) water

Directions 1. Preheat the oven to 325°F, then grease the loaf tin with butter and dust with flour. 2. Using the paddle attachement on your mixer, cream together the butter and caster sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. 3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, then mix in the poppy seeds and lemon zest. Add these dry ingredients to the creamed butter and sugar in three stages and on a low speed, mixing well between each addition and adding the milk after the second batch of dry ingredients. Increase the speed to medium and keep mixing until the batter is smooth and even, then mix in the ricotta cheese. 4. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when lightly pressed and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, with no uncooked batter sticking to it. 5. While the cake is baking, put the lemon juice, water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to boil, allowing the syrup to reduce by about half. 6. When the cake is cooked, pour the syrup over it while it is still hot. allowing it to soak into the sponge. Leave the loaf to cool a little before turning it out of the tin on a wire rack to cool down fully before serving.

Happy (Lunar) New Year

 

According to my Chinese Horoscope, this year is supposed better than the last. The Rat, which is my Zodiac animal, is an ally of the Dragon, so I’m able to take advantage of the good energy in air. I’m not sure how much I buy into all the astrology stuff, but I’ll take any optimism, gladly.

May the coming months bring you much love, laughter, and health. xo

// image of a lucky red pocket and coconut tart, gifts from generous colleagues. //

 

Winter skin wins

Whenever the weather dips to long-johns conditions, and my pre-war radiator rattles and rumbles, I encounter two inevitables: 1) I vow to move to Costa Rica, and 2) my skin parches to point where it resembles alligator hide. Gross? Perhaps. Restorable? Absolutely. Here are my go-to winter skin solutions:

1// Jojoba oil. I first discovered this miracle when I went on Accutane to clear up my acne. I scoured message boards to find a way to soothe my painfully dry skin and learned that jojoba oil is very close to your skin’s pH level. It keeps flaking in check and gives you a natural glow, even under makeup. While it seems counterintuitive to put oil on your face, it’s non-comodegenic so it won’t make you break out. Take a peek at cult favourite, Rodin Olio Lusso, and you’ll see it’s one of the ingredients. I prefer buying organic, as I use it every morning and night. I even use it in my hair.

2// Aquaphor. In every beauty editor’s drawer, purse, and kit — and mine, too. Use it on your elbows, in and around your nose, and especially on your lips.

3// Humidifier. Not just for the skin, but for headaches and sore throats caused by dry heat. While I own (and love) this adorable cow humidifier, I’ve been coveting this sleek one by Middle Colors.

4// Insulated water bottle. Staying hydrated from the inside out is the best way to keep your skin healthy. Look cool sipping warm beverages out of this Aquaovo thermos — it even has a removable tea strainer for your favourite loose leaf.

Galette des Rois

 

One of my favourite bakeries in New York is Épicerie Boulud. One day, I’ll tell you how delicious their almond croissants are.

But for now, I’m just going to show you how delectable their galettes des rois are, and encourage you to try them — quickly. These buttery, flaky, frangipane-filled pastries are only served during the month of January to celebrate the Three Kings’ journey to see the baby Jesus — hence the name, “Kings’ Cake”.

Special thanks to Agatha for introducing me to this wonderful winter treat.

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