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Blood Orange and Vanilla Custard

February 10, 2012

It’s the second week of February, and we’re skating towards Valentine’s.  Everywhere I look, chocolates of every shape and size are forming lines in pink and red heart-shaped boxes, gearing up for the big day.  And it’s not that I have anything against them.  I’m actually a fan of Valentine’s Day – I already sent out the cheesy cards, and will certainly be indulging in a chocolate or two – but I’ve encountered a bit of a… distraction:  the early arrival of blood oranges.

Now, I realize this is my second mention of the cusp of citrus season, when tangerines and grapefruits are barely turning yellow.  But what can I say?  The tangy sweet fruits are the perfect antidote to winter doldrums – reminding us that spring and summer are but a few weeks away.  And blood oranges, being one of the earliest (and most beautiful) arrivals, exemplify this perfectly.

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Chocolate Honey Cake

February 1, 2012

Every year at the beginning of January, I struggle with my inner baker.  Days of holidays just past – the seemingly endless buttery pie crusts and thick ganache-filled truffles – feel just a little too extravagant for these crisp days.  Even here in California, where the winter weather rarely dips below fifty degrees, the bare trees and brisk winds call out for something a little more peaceful.

The Thursday Farmers’ Market confirms.  The few strawberries that made it through the recent rains are green around the tops and a little too crisp.  The blueberries: too sweet and too soft.  The apples and pears, long since picked but still abundant from storage, sit quietly without calling out any inspiration.  That’s when I spot it.  The lone tent that sits out of line with the others, radiating a sunny sweetness that speaks to any season: honey.

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Welcome to baking with flours!

January 26, 2012

About Me

My name is MJ … (which stands for Mary-Jane. Yes, yes, make all the jokes you can think of.  Believe me, I’ve heard them ALL.)  … and I love to bake!

Over the years, I have arrived at a firm belief that good food can help shape our lives- it comforts us, it can make us feel nostalgic, excited, or even adventurous.  Good food can open our eyes.  BUT great food can only come from great ingredients, and that’s what this blog is about.


Of course, flour is an essential ingredient in baking, one that’s often taken for granted, purchased on the cheap, and used without further thought. We do this with all kinds of foods, whether it’s the uniformly sized apples going into a pie or the pale-yolk eggs we pluck off the grocery store shelf.   I want to stop overlooking these everyday ingredients, and to take a look at where they come from, how they get to us, and what they can really do in the kitchen.

Focus on the fruits and flours, shall we say?

One last thing…

I’m lucky enough to live in Southern California, with its mild temperatures and year-round harvests of incredible produce.  Even luckier still, I can visit a local farmers’ market practically every day of the week and in every season.  I take serious advantage of this, and you’ll find my blog highlighting products from these farmers’ markets quite a bit. But for those of you who can’t find a farm stand in the middle of February, you can also feel blessed to be living in a time where just about every ingredient you can think of is always available at the supermarket!  But just for good measure, I’ll be offering tips and tricks on how to select the best products from the grocery store, so you can benefit from using the best ingredients available to you.