Califia Farms

Califia Farms almond milk and iced coffee

These are, left to right, the best iced coffee I’ve ever tasted and my new favorite brand of almond milk, both made by Califia Farms.

Taste aside, just look at that typography.

Typography on a bottle of Califia Farms almond milk

I’m hungry! {read more}

oatmeal

cinnamon peach oatmeal with califia farms coconut almond milk

I first started making oatmeal every day for breakfast when I was straight out of college and (f)unemployed. It was cheap and easy to make, but I grew to like it because it was also filling and paired well with a cup of black coffee.

I’m hungry! {read more}

kouign amann

kouign-amann top
kouign-amann: bottom
kouign-amann: middle

Kouign-amann is something else. In the form above, it’s a delicate pastry sitting on a slightly burnt caramelized bottom that breaks into golden shards when you bite into it. Inside, a buttery syrupy center is surrounded by soft and chewy pastry layers. What a treat!

This one I photographed came from Fourbarrel in the Mission, whose Kouign-amanns are supplied by pastry chef Belinda Leong at B. Patisserie.

apricot squares

Apricot Squares, adapted from Baking Illustrated

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1/3 cup (2 1/3 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed (2 1/3 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or almonds, or a combination
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into 12 pieces
  • 1 cup apricot jam

Instructions

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. This next part is important. (If you don’t follow the instructions, the jam will ooze out and harden along the edges of the pan, and you’ll never be able to get your bars out without breaking them). Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Fold two 16-inch pieces of foil or parchment paper lengthwise to measure 9 inches wide. Fit 1 sheet in the pan, pushing it into the corners and up the sides. Leave some overhang. Fit the second sheet in the pan, perpendicular to the first. Spray the sheets with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a bowl of an electric mixer, mix the flour, oats, sugars, baking soda, salt, and nuts at low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. With the mixer running at low speed, add the butter pieces; continue to beat until the mixture is well blended and resembles wet sand, about 2 minutes.
  3. Transfer two thirds of the oat mixture to the prepared pan and use your hands to press the crumbs evenly into the bottom. Bake until the crust starts to brown, about 20 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, spread the jam evenly over the hot bottom crust; sprinkle the remaining oat mixture evenly over the jam. Bake until the preserves bubble around the edges and the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through the baking time. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the squares from the pan using the foil or parchment handles and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 1 1/2 inch squares.

Notes:

This recipe was adapted from Baking Illustrated. The original recipe called for raspberry jam and is also delicious. I’ve made it in a 9×13″ pan (it ends up being super skinny, so reduce the baking time for the bottom crust by 5 minutes or just watch until it begins to brown) but I prefer the thickness of the 9×9. You can also a 10″ round pie tin.

apricot jam

easy homemade apricot jam

I’ve been getting so many apricots in my CSA box the last couple of weeks, so my neighbor and I decided to get together this past weekend and jam. If you’ve never made your own jam before, it’s so easy your grandmother can do it. Oh wait, she probably did.

Speaking of grandmothers, even though Martha Stewart is technically an ex-con, her past crimes are irrelevant to her current homemaking skills. Taking a cue from her 4 minute “how to make apricot jam” video for the ratio of fruit to sugar*, I used the following quantities. My loot of forlorn countertop apricots could finally fulfill their glorious culinary destiny.

  • 4 pounds fresh apricots, cut into small chunks
  • 4 3/4 cups white granulated sugar
  • 10 apricot kernels (save and smash the pits with a hammer. inside of each pit is a kernel that will look like an almond and smell like almond extract)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Juice of 2 lemons

Put everything in a pot, bring it to a boil and while simmering, imagine how awesome it will be to spread on a scone. I made about 7 cups of jam (as shown in the photo above). I could have done with less water, actually, as it took me over an hour to boil everything down.

After your jam is ready, you need to store it using proper canning techniques if you want it to last long. Mason jars are ideal, but if you make a small batch you can store your unsealed jar(s) in the refrigerator and try to eat all the jam within a month. If it’s been longer, check for weird smells and/or signs of mold before you dig in.

More recipes:

*Martha’s recipe from the video makes 4 cups. She advises to use 2.5 lbs fresh apricots, 3 cups sugar, 5-6 kernels, 1/4 cup water and the juice of 1 lemon.

Q: What’s the best variety of apricots to use for making jam?

I’ve made apricot jam twice now, using whatever was in season that came from my CSA. The first time (pictured above) I used an equal combination of Robada apricots and Golden Sweet apricots, and the second time only Blenheim apricots.

If I ever make it again, I would definitely use the Robada and Golden Sweet apricot combination for both the color and flavor. The jam turned out a bright, darker red-orange and the flavor was amazing but hard to describe. It was just… less apricotty, and more peachy. On the other hand, the light orange-colored Blenheim apricot jam was closer in taste and aroma to store-bought apricot jam and dried apricots, so it was a familiar flavor and less interesting.