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Pistachio Butter Cake 05.07.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in Portfolio, Recipes.
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Whoops, a little overflow on the left.  Trim with a knife.This Pistachio cake is flavored with cardamom and orange zest.  It might be good with green tea steeped in the milk…another time perhaps.  Other spices are optional.  Bread and Buttress loves nutmeg.  You will see that pretty much a constant in everything here.  Note that the eggs are not separated.  If you are not using an electric mixer, separate the eggs.  Add the yolks to the creamed butter/sugar.  Undermix the flour into the wets and fold in the egg whites (beaten to stiff peaks.  This is easier with whites at room temp and with a pinch of salt added).  You will need:

  • Three 8” cake pans (about 4 cups each)
  • Electric mixer (not needed, but the more powerful the better)
  • Spice grinder or clean coffee grinder
  • Scale
  • Cooling Racks
  • 1.25 cups unsalted butter (2.5 sticks)
  • 2.5 cups sugar
  • 8 eggs

Pull the butter and let it sit out overnight.  Cream the butter and sugar together for about 10 minutes.  It’ll become white.  Add whole eggs, one at a time.  Let each incorporate.  After they’re all in, scrape the sides to incorporate and mix for a few more seconds.

  • 1 package Jello Pistachio Pudding
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • ½ t vanilla extract
  • 1-2 t orange zest (one small orange)

Stir together the milk and pudding in a measuring cup with a fork and add to the creamed butter and eggs.  Toss in the vanilla and zest.  Mix.  Scrape.  Mix.

  • 2.5 cups AP flour, sifted
  • 2 cups raw pistachios, ground
  • 1.5 T baking powder
  • 0.5 t salt
  • 1.5 t cardamom
  • 0.25 t anise
  • 0.25 t nutmeg (the secret ingredient to everything!)

Chunk, not smooth.  Some flour clumping is a-ok.Sift flour into a bowl.  Grind pistachios into a meal (use a Ziploc bag and crush ‘em with a soup can if you don’t have a grinder) and add to the flour along with the other dry ingredients and spices.  Add the drys to the wets in three (or so) parts.  Go slowly.  Don’t make the mix creamy!  Mix until the added drys are almost incorporated then add another portion.  This will leave some air in the mix and will help make a fluffier cake.

Toss into greased and floured pans (8 inch round shown) Bake at 350 for 35-50 minutes.  Remove, cool on racks.

For the buttercream frosting go here.

Kay’s Famous Pistachio Cake 05.07.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in BnB.
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Mmmm, pistachio buttercream lattice and caramel brittle!We here at BnB firmly believe in the power taste has over memory, especially sweets.  Surely you have a specific food that makes you remember a certain moment in time or feeling.

For Bread and Buttress, Grandma’s pistachio cake makes us remember childhood picnics on her backyard deck under a fringed yellow umbrella.  Swing music would be playing on ancient speakers fastened to the brick exterior of the house by Grandpa.  Every time this cake is made, we take a little trip down memory lane.

When we learned that Passages NW was holding its annual Courage benefit, duty called.  We wanted the Pistachio Cake to take part in their frantic dessert auction.  Passages is a Seattle organization that empowers young girls and build community through carefully tailored outdoor programs.  It’s an organization our Grandmother would have appreciated.

Now, Grandma was no slouch but, growing up through the depression, she was thrifty.  Her original recipe for the pistachio cake displayed as much.  For example, boxed vanilla cake mix saved her some time.  Walnuts, similar in texture to pistachios were substituted in the batter. Jello pudding mix lent pistachio flavor to the cake.

Well, as you’ll see, some changes were made.  We’re making a scratch cake here folks, with a few additional embellishments.  However, we could never think of substituting the Jello.  (Ok, if you’re not into the animal gelatin, try pistachio paste).  Grandma always used a plain and super sugary American style buttercream frosting.  We decided to try a pistachio buttercream frosting in the Swiss tradition.  But fear not, the sweetness of the sugar can still be found in the pistachio brittle that tops the cake.  Find the cake recipe here, and buttercream here.  Finally, Grandma’s original recipe.

The finished cake at the Passages NW auction

The finished cake at the Passages NW auction

Pistachio Buttercream 05.07.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in Recipes.
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Remember to wash before sticking a finger in!This is a Swiss meringue buttercream frosting.  It accompanied our variation on our Grandmother’s pistachio cake.  We like it for four reasons.  First, the egg whites add lightness.  Second, it stays soft at room temp, Third, it refrigerates easily, for a week plus.  Forth, it is forgiving and cannot be overmixed.  It’s not too tough to make either.  If you think heating egg whites is expert stuff, don’t worry.

  • 5 sticks butter

Let the butter sit out overnight.

  • 1 cup egg whites (about 8 large eggs)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 0.5 t vanilla

wmaking-buttercreamSeparate egg whites.  Throw ‘em into the metal mixing bowl with sugar and salt.  Place the mixing bowl onto a pot with a small amount of boiling water.  Whisk till sugar is melted and it hurts you to stick your finger in (masochist, I know.  Ok, till it is 160 degrees F).  Remove from heat and place into mixer.  Mix for a good 10 minutes on medium high speed (6 on a kitchenaid).  Add vanilla.

  • 4 oz pistachio paste

While still mixing, add the soft butter, a quarter stick at a time, allowing it to incorporate.  Volume will reduce, that’s alright.  After the butter is in, Bam!  Buttercream.  To make it pistachio, simply add the pistachio paste.  Double Bam!  Eat a little bit.

Frosting is an art form.  If you aim too high, you might make it look like crap.  Our feeling is, stay in your skill level.  Don’t go for roses if you’ve never frosted.  Just aim to get a nice looking top.  We were going for smooth sides and a little piping work.  No plant life in this skill set, yet.  At Bread and Buttress, we love caramel so we also threw some pistachio brittle (equal volume pistachios added to sugar that has been caramelized) on top.  Note the order of assembly.  Throwing the brittle on first allows for piping to mask defects.  Smart!

Careful, now.

Sketching Golden Gardens 05.01.2009

Posted by Dan Sheehan in Recipes.
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View in the North treesSeattle has a number of beautiful and unique parks.  I’m sure all of you have your favorites.  At the top of my list is Ballard’s Golden Gardens.  I was there on a recent Saturday reflecting on why the place is such a draw.

On any given sunny day, the park will fill with folks enjoying the saltwater beaches and picnic sites.  It’s a place for all ages and all activities.  Kiteboarding, weddings, frisbee, drum circles, sandcastles, bench sitting, cruising, dog parking, making out.  My best friend was married in its bath house and recently I’ve been attending underground culinary dinners in its more quiet corners.

I can’t say what draws other to the park, but for the architect in me it has always been one thing, rhythm.  The park possesses these distinct, rhythmic layers along it’s linear site.  Some are placed by man: the masts at Shilshole Marina, the bonfire spots, and the trees.  Others are natural: the profile of the Olympic Mountains, the waves, the trees.  Others (and this is my favorite) are always moving: people, trains, boats, clouds, tides.

Those sunny days are sensory overloads.  Those sunny days call me to the park.  Usually I find myself sketching trying to express the dynamic rhythms of the place.  Usually I fail.  I think someday I’ll get there because the park, always changing, stays interesting from one sunny season to the next.

How do you draw beach sand?  I'm frusterated.View looking towards the Olympics

For full res images please visit BnB’s Sketchbook.