Pistachio Cake

This is the simplest, best cake that you can make. It’s based on David Lebovitz’s Almond Cake. I’ve been making it for years, with a simple swap of the almond paste for pistachio paste. I’ve recently taken it to the next level by elevating the quality of pistachio paste, which is the star of the show. Suddenly, it’s a whole new creation.

One thing? Unless you’re going to dump a whole bottle of actual champagne into a cake, this is likely the most expensive cake you’ll ever make. But will you be the most beloved of cottage guests? I assure you, you will.

I used to buy American Almond brand pistachio paste, but at 30% canola oil, I was dumbing down the flavour of my cake unnecessarily. A homemade pistachio paste can be lovely, but the best quality pistachios are so expensive that I just cave and buy the best store-bought I can find, which here in Toronto is Soma’s Manjoun-Pistachio Butter. Stella Parks suggests you make your own, using cheaper California pistachios, and pump up the flavour with pistachio oil and orange water, but there is nothing like the real thing. For this cake, it truly is go big or go home.

This pistachio paste contains a lot more fat and a lot less sugar than the Odense almond paste that I use when I make the almond version of this cake. And yet it rises much higher and has a finer crumb, and is unbelievably moist. It will still sink a little in the middle, as per the original, but not be greasy or heavy. It’ll keep for days and is ideal for afternoon tea. It’s so full of eggs that I think you can call it breakfast in good conscience.

For those who want it as dessert, I reserve a little of the paste to add to whipping cream for a not-too-sweet topping. Perfect with sliced strawberries. I have a jar of candied cumquats that I used for cocktail making that work well spooned onto the cake. That same syrup is also a perfect addition to the whipped cream. Top this cake with plums, apricots, berries, poached pears, peaches, or a white chocolate ganache. Heaven.

Pistachio Cake

The simplest of cakes, based on the famous Almond Cake by David Lebovitz. The pistachio version is expensive as all heck but truly sublime.
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine American, Canadian, French

Ingredients
  

  • 1 ⅓ cup sugar (265 g)
  • 8 oz best quality pistachio paste (225 g) For SOMA pistacio paste, this is two jars minus one tbsp
  • 1 cup flour, divided (140g total)
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ rounded tsp fine ground sea salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed (225g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp pistachio extract or liquor (or ¼ tsp almond extract)
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 325ºF (160ºC). Grease a 9- or 10-inch (23-25 cm) cake or spring form pan with butter, dust it with flour and tap out any excess. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.
  • Using a food processor, grind the sugar, pistachio paste, and 1/4 cup (35g) of flour until the almond paste is finely ground and the mixture resembles wet sand. The pistachoi paste is much more liquid than almond paste, so if you're used to a drier mixture at this point, fear not.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup (105g) of flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add the cubes of butter and the vanilla and almond extracts to the sugar mixture, processing until the batter is smooth. It will be still fairly runny and vivid green. It gets better, I promise.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, processing a bit before the next addition. Scrape the sides down if necessary.
  • Add half the flour mixture and pulse the machine a few times. Add the rest, pulsing the machine until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Do not overmix. (You can also transfer the batter to a bowl and mix the dry ingredients in, which ensures that you don’t overbeat it.)
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake the cake for about 60 minutes, or until the top is deep brown and feels set when you press in the center.
  • Remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp or serrated knife around the perimeter, loosing the cake from the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool completely in the pan. It will sink in the middle a little. This is nothing to worry about.
  • Once it's cool, remove it from the pan. It stays fresh for four days wrapped tight or in a cake dome with parchment paper pressed to the cut side.
  • This cake is wonderful wiht summer fruit. It woudl also be incredible with a white chocolate pistachio ganache, or a rose and strawberry flavoured whipped cream, or an orange sauce.
Keyword #afternoontea, #pistachio, #pistachiocake, #pistachiocream, #pistachiopaste, #teacake, #teatime
White Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares with Genmaicha

White Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares with Genmaicha

Try this: make a nice cup of genmaicha (80°C for 3 minutes). Take a sip. Savour the toasty, nutty, savoury delight of this popular Japanese tea. Now close your eyes and—don’t think about it—take a piece of white chocolate and take a nibble. Take another sip.

By now you’re sure I’m insane. I get it. Do it anyway.

I was in a chocolate and tea pairing class at the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada (THAC) when I was asked to do the same thing by our instructor, the THAC president, Shabnam Weber. I was giving the pairing a nervous side-eye, quite sure that this was very wrong, somehow. But I was here to learn, and Shabnam had yet to steer me in the wrong direction. What could I do? I tried it. It was fantastic.

This unlikely duo, when taken together, was very strongly reminiscent of Rice Krispie Squares. The puffed rice in the tea, the waxy sweetness of the white chocolate, and the familiar briny undertone of the toasty green tea all united to make a funky little flavour-mishmash. Like a Jelly Belly recipe where you combine two lemon and one coconut to replicate the taste of a lemon meringue pie. But weirder.

As soon as I had this glorious strange combination, I knew I had to persuade others to try it. Make it into a dessert, even. But what dessert? Rice Krispie Squares, of course: White Chocolate Crispy Rice Squares with Genmaicha.

If you’re still reluctant to follow me down this path, I understand completely. My taste-testers all had strong, unmistakable reactions. People either loved it or hated it. No middle ground. Fortunately for me, the fans outnumbered the unenlightened by a ratio of 9 to 1. It’s a divisive little dessert, favouring the bold and all lovers of matcha ice cream.

Speaking of matcha: this dessert would be so much easier to make if you used matcha. And if you already love the combination of white chocolate and matcha, why on earth wouldn’t you just use that? It would mean simply stirring in some powder rather than infusing cream with loose leaf tea, then straining it. You could do that.

But this pairing is special, and it works in a uniquely synergistic manner. Try it. It’s weird. It’s wonderful. It’s a one-of-a-kind delight. Worth every bit of your effort and trust in me, in the uniqueness of this tea, and in your own sense of adventure.

These pretty little delicacies would be wonderful cut into tiny cubes and served as part of an afternoon tea platter. You could make it a fusion menu, à là Shangrila (they do matcha cupcakes with black sesame, is that not also a daring leap of culinary imagination?), or serve them as dessert when you order in sushi or noodles. Or just to nibble whenever you have a cup of green tea. Genmaicha, of course.

Tasting is believing. Adventure awaits!

White Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares with Genmaicha

This unusual pairing of ingredients—sweet white chocolate and genmaicha—is the surpise hit on the afternoon tea menu. Tasting is believing.
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American, Canadian

Equipment

  • 8” X 8” X 4” square pan
  • fine sieve
  • Parchment paper.

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup loose leaf genmaicha, or 4 tea bags
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 cups fine quality white chocolate chips like Ghirardelli, Lindt or Callebaut
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 7 cups Rice Krispie cereal

Instructions
 

  • Butter the pan and line with parchment paper.
  • Heat cream to 80°C or °176 F. Pour in your genmaicha, give it a gentle stir, and let sit for three minutes. The tea leaves will swell up and look as if they have absorbed all the cream. Don’t worry—they haven’t. 
  • Pour cream into a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl. Strain out the cream, pressing the tea leaves with the back of a spoon, or your hands. You should end up with about 1 ½ cups of tea-infused cream.
  • In the larger pot, place ½ cup of tea-infused cream with the butter over low heat. Add in 1 cup white chocolate chips, keeping the heat low and stirring all the while until smooth. Add marshmallows and do the same. Don’t let this mixture burn or curdle—slowly but surely does it.
  • Stir in cereal, folding slowing and gently until it is all evenly coated. 
  • Press the cereal mixture into the pan gently. Don’t press it too hard or you’ll have heavy, dense squares. Pop it in the fridge to firm up if you have room, otherwise the countertop will do just fine.
  • Pour the remaining 1 cup of tea-infused cream back into the smaller pot and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat. Add in the remaining 3 cups of white chocolate chips. Let sit for 5 minutes. 
  • Place the pot back on low heat and stir gently until white chocolate chips are melted. Stir together until smooth and let sit until room temperature. 
  • Remove the pan from the fridge. Spread ganache evenly over the squares, smoothing with a spatula until the whole surface is covered. Do NOT rush and pour while too warm or it will melt into your squares. 
  • Decorate the top with some scattered white chocolate chips and genmaicha. Return to the fridge to firm up. Serve at room temperature. 

Notes

Do NOT pour hot ganache on warm squares – it will sink in instead of sitting on top, drenching your squares into a soupy mess. Let everything cool right down.
For brewing the tea: I’ve put in the precise measurements because if your cream is too hot, the tea will be excessively bitter. Don’t worry if the cream seems a tad bitter when it’s done steeping, however. The sweetness of the marshmallows and white chocolate will counteract it.
You can use your hands and/or a cheesecloth to help wring every bit of cream from the tea leaves (if it’s not too hot, of course). You’ll bring the cream to a boil again and kill the germs. Mostly.
Use fresh cereal and marshmallows and good quality tea. The best ingredients make the best desserts.
If you use tea bags instead of loose leaf, you’ll need 4-6, depending on how strong you’d like the tea flavour to be. Keep in mind the white chocolate and marshmallows will dampen the tea’s astringency quite a bit, so don’t be afraid to brew it strong. You will need less cream for the recipe. Keep to ½ cup in the squares, adding any extra to the ganache, which requires less precision for measurements.
If you use unsalted butter, add in a pinch of salt to your cream, butter and chocolate mixture. If not, omit.
Matcha White Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares: Omit genmaicha and add 1 tsp. matcha to the cream for the squares, and 1 ½ tsp. to the cream for the ganache. Adjust the amount of matcha to taste.
Vanilla White Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares: Omit the green tea. Add 1 tsp. vanilla extract to cream for the squares, and 1 tbsp. to the cream for the ganache.
Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Squares: I don’t have a recipe for that, but you know who does? Chelsea’s Messy Apron. Crazy good. With chocolate on top.
Keyword #brewcrew, Afternoon tea, Cooking with tea, Genmaicha, Rice Krispie Squares, White chocolate