When you’re waking up covered in a light sheen of sweat to the deep-voiced man on the radio announcing “it’s already 80 degrees with a high of 99” your desire to turn on the oven turns to negative 20 degrees. Particularly when you are trying to keep costs down in the form of taming the resource-sucking A/C beast. Yet somehow, my desire for cake does not function in the same manner.
If there’s one thing I learned from adding six cookbooks over Christmas to my makeshift cardboard box “bookshelf,” it’s that there’s a not-so-fine line between the cookbooks that languish as the bookend supports and those that never really find a proper spot because it keeps getting picked up and flipped through.
The San Francisco Chef’s Table has been the most recent cookbook to fall into the latter category and it’s one that’s grown on me the longer I’ve had it. Aside from being stuffed to the brim with gorgeous photography and irresistible recipes, it immerses you so deeply into the food scene of my home metropolis through a series of chef-sourced recipes and fascinating backstories on award-winning restaurants that you’ll never want to leave.
Written by Carolyn Jung, an award-winning food and wine writer and blogger, and photographed by Craig Lee, an award-winning photojournalist, the cookbook is like taking a tour through the best of the San Francisco food scene practically for free–with the bonus of being able to re-create those amazing recipes in your own kitchen!
Craig, who worked for the award-winning Food and Wine department of the San Francisco Chronicle for many years and has shot for other cookbooks such as The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook and The Working Cook, also happens to be my uncle. He generously took some time out of his day to talk to us about his latest cookbook project!
There was too much good stuff to fit into one post, so I’m breaking the interview up into two parts: in part one of the interview (today), you can learn about the process of shooting the cookbook, the importance of lighting in food photography and more.
Part two will feature tips for aspiring food photographers, hit recipes from the book and unique recommendations for the SF food scene that you won’t find anywhere else!
An interview with Craig Lee, Part I:
Last weekend I attempted a healthy pumpkin bread with a swirl of cottage cheese cheesecake (let me give you a tip: it was not good). It was wrong. So wrong. Pumpkin is over.
But apples: those ladies never seem to go out of style. And thanks to a large bag of chopped apples left over from volunteering, a new bundt pan and a non-new lust for cake, I made this cake this past weekend. (And thank the heavens I made the cake this past weekend instead of the weekend before that, when my baking mojo went seriously missing. We’re talking two failed batches of cake, two failed batches of pancakes and the above bread that shall not be mentioned again.)
THIS CAKE. Not only did it come out of the pan completely unscathed (grease AND flour that pan, lady!), it was the kind of cake you take a bite of and then squeal. Or at least I did. This cake is almost pure indulgence aside from the whole grains (and the fact that it’s butter-free, if you’re into that), mostly because I wanted to christen my new bundt pan with a success and well, this was a resounding one. Erik, unsolicited, declared it one of the best things I’d ever made. I brought him a slice while he was studying at school and he literally wolfed it down while talking to me through the window of my car, commenting on the “amazing texture” (I used the H-E-B brand of whole wheat flour which has visible specks of wheat, which I think makes everything taste deliciously grainy) and overall deliciousness.
Far from a soft, spongy cake, there’s a earnest heartiness from the whole wheat that verges on crumbly, especially where the layer of soft, cinnamon-spiced apples break up the layers of honey-apple cake. It’s sort of has the same bready crumb as those really indulgent, delicious whole wheat loaves–but I’m talking bready in the BEST way–light as a cloud, with explosive flavor the the way you hope all bready cakes could grow up to be. Because this flavor really does cause eyes to roll back into heads. And multiple slices to be eaten. And happy people.
Since I thought I had reduced the sugar from the recipe I was adapting, I worried the cake wouldn’t be sweet enough and doused it in two types of warmed glaze: a simple powdered sugar + milk glaze and a cinnamon-spiked glaze. Warming the glaze is a trick I learned from Sally’s Baking Addiction that causes the glaze to set so you get that crackly top when you bite/slice in.
Turns out, I didn’t reduce the sugar very much after all, and I think you could dial back the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar to 4-6 tablespoons (still adding the honey + brown sugar). You could also reduce the sugar by topping the cake with a modest sprinkle of powdered sugar. But then you would miss out on the crunchy sugary edges that crackle like sand when you cut yourself a slice, otherwise known as the most delicious part of the cake. Moderation, my friends.
A whole wheat apple cake is laced with just enough chunky, cinnamon-boosted apple pie filling to complement the sweet honey flavor in the cake. An ideal match for coffee or tea, this is one of the most perfect coffee cakes I've ever made!
- For the apple pie filling:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 cups diced apples (I used a mix of Granny Smith and gala)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon flour
- For the cake:
- 2.5 cups whole wheat flour
- ¾ cup oat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- scant ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ cup applesauce
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 eggs
- 6 tablespoons almond milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- For the glaze:
- ½-1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon milk
- pinch of cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a bundt pan. Aggressively. (Nothing is sadder than a broken bundt cake.)
In a medium frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once browned, add the apples, brown sugar and flour and cook over medium heat until apple are softened and starting to caramelize. Add a splash of water if the apples start to get dry. Once the apples are softened, remove from heat and let cool.
Whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
In a separate bowl, combine the olive oil, sugars, applesauce, honey, eggs, almond milk and vanilla. Whisk very well to combine all the wet ingredients, then fold into the dry ingredients. Stir only until combined—do not overmix!
Pour half of batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with apple pie filling, then pour the rest of the batter on top—the pan will only be filled about halfway. Alternatively, you can fold the apple pie filling into the batter so it disperses evenly before pouring the batter in. This may help the slices crumble less towards the bottom.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the top is firm and a tester comes out clean.
Let cool while you make the glaze. In a microwave safe bowl or in a pot, combine the powdered sugar, milk and cinnamon if using. Add more or less milk/powdered sugar until you reach a consistency you like. Microwave the mixture for 15 seconds or heat it over low heat on the stove until warm--this will create a glaze that hardens on top of your cake. Drizzle over the cake and serve!
You can most likely omit the oat flour if you don't have it or don't feel like making it and use 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour instead.
In true Pancake Princess fashion, A Certain Holiday in February cannot be celebrated with anything other than an obnoxiously large slice of cake.
Of course it would happen that I am completely passionate about cake yet have lived with two roommates who, you know, like cake (because who doesn’t) but truly love…cookies.