Alternative Baker // Pistachio Lime + Matcha Snowballs

It's been an insanely busy few months trying to balance a ton of work and travel, the Napa Valley harvest season, home life, and the arrival of my sweet little five-week-old nephew, Arthur. Amongst the craziness, I took a little break to celebrate my friend Alanna (aka The Bojon Gourmet) and her much-anticipated debut cookbook! From the distinct viewpoint of a classically trained pastry chef, Alternative Baker explores dessert making with gluten-free flours and lesser-known grains.

I had the pleasure of recipe testing in the development stage of this cookbook, and I also helped Alanna out with the copy on the back cover! One of the recipes I tested was the Pistachio Lime + Matcha Snowballs, and they're legitimately one of the best cookies I've ever consumed — flavor, texture, sweet to salty ratio...they're simply PERFECT. I'm a total cookie snob, so that statement holds some clout. I decided to bake these babies again for Alanna's cookbook release party last weekend — be sure to keep scrolling down past the recipe for a few of my favorite moments from her big day!

Together, Alanna and I have had many cooking collaboration wins (herehere, and here to name a few), survived a truly cursed road trip (she touches on it here), and experienced countless non-cursed and totally awesome adventures (like here). She's a good egg, I'm lucky to know her, and I couldn't be more proud of her for creating this insanely beautiful cookbook. And I'm not just saying all of this because she's my friend! Her otherworldly talent and work ethic are apparent from the moment you open Alternative Baker. Alanna has the ability to make gluten-free desserts sexy...in fact, I enjoy most of her spins on classics more than the originals.

Okay, okay, now let's talk about these crazy colorful cookies. There's a great deal of fresh grated lime, which has the most intoxicating scent. I swear I didn't want to wash my hands for like an hour after I zested! Combined with fresh chopped pistachios and matcha, the dough is citrusy, nutty, and sweet all at once. I am a weirdo and think this flavor combo creates an uncanny similarity to my favorite childhood cereal: Fruit Loops. 

Before the cookie balls go into oven, they're rolled in their first round of powdered sugar.

Once they come out of the oven and cool completely, they're rolled in a second round of sugar, followed by a dense sprinkling of matcha powder. Sinful and unique, these gems are the star of any potluck or dinner party. Trust me, I've tried 'em out at a few.

Pistachio Lime + Matcha Snowballs

From Alternative Baker by Alanna Taylor-Tobin
*Makes about 32 1.5" cookies*

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (100 g) organic blonde cane sugar
  • zest from 3 large limes (about 4 packed teaspoons/8 g)
  • 1 cup (125 g) blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 cup (55 g) oat flour
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) tapioca starch
  • 1 tablespoon (4 g) matcha, plus extra for sprinkling the tops
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (125 g) raw pistachios, chopped semi-fine (1/8-1/4" pieces)
  • 8 tablespoons (113 g) cold, unsalted butter, diced
  • 3/4 cup (90 grams) powdered sugar

Directions

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF (175ºC). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and add the lime zest. Mix on low until the sugar is moistened, 1-2 minutes. Add the almond, oat and tapioca flours, matcha powder, salt, and chopped pistachios and stir on low to combine, 30 seconds. Scatter the butter pieces over the top and mix on medium-low until the butter is completely rubbed into the dough and the dough comes together in large clumps, 3-5 minutes.

Sift the powdered sugar into a shallow bowl. Form tablespoon-sized 1" balls of dough and roll them in the powdered sugar, knocking off any large clumps. Place the balls on the baking sheet spacing them at least 1-inch (2 cm) apart. Bake the cookies until puffed, cracked and slightly golden, 14-18 minutes. The cookies will be soft at first but will crisp up when cool.

Let the cookies cool completely on the pan, then roll each one a second time in the powdered sugar. Dust the tops with a bit of matcha pushed through a small strainer. They will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week.


Alanna's cookbook release party was hosted by Sarah aka Snixy Kitchen in her cute home in Richmond. I was excited to finally meet some of Alanna's family members and a few blogger folks in person (like Todd from Honestly Yum), hang with dear friends I don't see often enough (like Amisha aka The Jam Lab and Asha aka Food Fashion Party), and to try out a few other delicious dishes from Alternative Baker. Alanna even autographed some books for the hungry crowd ;)

1C9A6729.jpg

Purchase a copy of Alternative Baker at your local bookstore or here. Or buy 20 of them, like I did, and give them to everyone you know because it makes an amazing gift!

Heirloom Tomato Tart

The past two months have taught me many, many things...but to sum it up: time flies, life is precious. I've lost loved ones, had great triumphs and failures, worked way too hard, finally took a VACATION, nested, and welcomed my baby nephew into the world (TODAY!). Amongst all the crazy, we must pause and make time for the art of slow living, and for me, that means tending to my garden and cooking and baking from scratch. I've basically realized something big. Regardless of my work schedule, unpredictable shoot times, and umpteen commitments, carving out a few hours each day to create something wholesome and delicious that utilizes fresh ingredients from my garden and the farmers market is essential for my quality of life. Sometimes this means running on six hours of sleep so I can accomplish a fresh loaf of sourdough bread, and I'm perfectly okay with that! It took me a while to land here, but I'm glad I saw the light.

The tomatoes in my garden have been going nuts over the past week — but mostly just the cherry varieties. Great for sautéing and roasting for sure, but not ideal for tarts. Luckily my dear friend & client Jennifer of Herb Lamb Vineyards gifted me some of her beautiful and super-juicy heirloom tomatoes from her vineyard's hillside garden. My first instinct was to make a savory mustard and tomato tart! I created the tart crust on the fly, knowing that I didn't have an hour to let it rest in the fridge. As luck would have it, it turned out exactly as I'd hoped — crumbly, salty, sweet, wonderful...and I'm so excited to share this summer recipe with you all.

Heirloom Tomato Tart

Ingredients

Tart Crust:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons milk (I used 1% cow's milk, but have also used unsweetened soy and almond here)

Filling (adapted from The New York Times):

  • 2 large ripe heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 eggs
  • 4-5 Tablespoons farmers cheese or goat cheese, depending on how cheesy you want it!
  • salt + pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped herbs: thyme, basil, chives, parsley (any or all!)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
     

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. To prepare your crust, toss all ingredients into a bowl and mix until just combined — it'll be crumbly, and that's fine! You may need to add another few teaspoons of milk if it does not pull together immediately. Dump dough into a 9-inch tart pan and press it with your fingers around the bottom and sides until evenly formed to the pan. Poke the bottom of the dough all over with a fork, then pop into the oven for 15 minutes. The crust should be a light golden brown.

Bump the oven down to 350 degrees. Spread the mustard on the bottom of the crust. Place the sliced tomatoes onto pieces of paper towel to dry them out slightly — heirlooms are sometimes a little too juicy, so dehydrating them slightly is important! Pat the top lightly with another paper towel. Layer the sliced tomatoes on top of the mustard in a circular motion, slightly overlapping, until evenly covered. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Beat the eggs and cheese together in a bowl until smooth, then pour the mixture over the tomatoes. Drizzle the olive oil over the top. Place into oven for 30-35 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes before popping in out of the pan, sprinkling with fresh herbs, and cutting.

    The Chico Chai-cino

    Have you ever fallen in love with a chai? I have...

    Sarah Adams, the owner of Chico Chai, is responsible for my locally-brewed organic chai obsession. This bosslady also happens to be a delightful gal who is sustainably focused in business and in life. In the interest of reducing plastic waste from her company, she just introduced refillable glass bottles for their strong brew chai concentrate. The concentrate itself is perfectly in balance — mildly spicy, mildly sweet, never short in deliciousness. In celebration of Chico Chai's packaging makeover, I thought I'd create a little cocktail and raise a glass to Miss Sarah! Special thanks to my girl Alanna for introducing me to Nocino, a liquor derived from green walnuts, which gives this simple shaken cocktail a little something special! 

    Chico Chai-cino

    Ingredients
    1/2 cup almond milk (I like Pacific brand unsweetened vanilla)
    4 Tablespoons spiced rum
    2 Tablespoons nocino liquor
    2 Tablespoons Chico Chai Strong Brew chai concentrate
    2 drops hazelnut OR almond extract
    The tiniest pinch of sea salt (I like Jacobsen Salt Co.)
     

    Directions
    Combine all the ingredients together in a mason jar over a few cubes of ice (or even better, use crushed ice). Put the top onto the mason jar and shake like heck for a few seconds. Pour through a strainer into a fancy lady glass. Or for all y'all with cocktail shakers: you're smart, just use that ;) Note: minor separation will likely occur due to the nature of almond milk.

    Makes two cocktails.

    Pumpkin + Black Bean Soup

    The maple and oak leaves are vibrant in hues of deep orange, bright yellow, and fire red. The chilly evening air is laced with the scent of freshly lit fireplaces and wood burning stoves. The many cans of pumpkin line the aisle end caps at Whole Foods. It's fall y'all, and I'm stoked!

    For the past few years, I've been trying to perfect a creamy seasonal soup. This pumpkin and black bean soup always makes me feel warm and cozy, and it's super filling — main dish status for sure. The protein from the beans and the cashews (yes, cashews) help make this a healthy and hearty vegetarian meal the whole family will love. A few notes: I prefer some full beans in my soup, so I add in one can after the rest of the soup is blended with a Vitamix (or blender). Feel free to blend the second can of beans for a velvet-smooth version. Also be sure to check out topping options listed at the bottom of this post…I've tested them all and swear these combos will make you adore this soup even more.

    Don't be scared off by the lengthy list of ingredients that follows — most are key ingredients you should consider keeping on-hand in the pantry and fridge anyway. Plus, the great thing about soup (especially blended soup) is that in general, you can throw in whatever you've got and swap one ingredient for another without much consequence. For example, if you're out of onion but you've got shallot…or you're out of broth but you've got bouillon paste or cubes. Heck, I've even switched out black beans for pintos once in a moment of desperation. Have a red pepper you need to use? Extra tomatoes? Throw 'em in! It'll only make the overall soup more flavorful. Just remember, if you add more solid ingredients you may need to compensate with a little extra broth or water prior to blending.

    Ingredients:

    1-2 Tbs. olive or grapeseed oil
    1 medium onion, chopped
    2 carrots, chopped
    3 tsp. cumin
    3 tsp. ancho chili powder
    2 tsp. smoked paprika
    1 bay leaf
    4 cloves garlic, chopped
    -
    1/2 bottle pumpkin beer OR 1/4 cup white wine or sherry
    1 - 32 oz. box low-sodium vegetable stock (OR 4 cups filtered water + 4 tsp. Better Than Bouillon
    1 Cup water
    2 - 15 oz. cans no-sodium black beans (OR soaked dry beans if you've got the time, but canned works just as well)
    1 - 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
    1 - 16 oz. can pumpkin
    1 handful raw cashews (about 1/2 cup)
    3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
    -
    Hot sauce, to taste (I use Sriracha)
    Smoked salt, to taste
    1 Tbs. white miso (I use Organicville sweet miso

    Directions:

    • In a large pot, sauté onion and carrots in oil on medium-low heat for a few minutes. Add in spices, bay leaf, and garlic, continue to cook for another minute or two.
    • Deglaze the pan with whatever alcoholic bev you're using (note: pumpkin beer is the best seasonal option here, but work with what you've got!) and be sure to scrape up all the delicious little bits from the bottom of the pan. 
    • Add in broth/water and bouillon, extra cup of water, one can of drained and rinsed beans, tomatoes, pumpkin, cashews, and vinegar. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for at least 20 minutes.
    • Seasoning break! At this point, the soup, though full of goodness, won't have a ton of flavor due to lack of salt. Very sparingly add some hot sauce and smoked salt (plain old sea salt works fine, but smoked salt adds an amazing depth of flavor) little by little until it tastes about right. Still won't be QUITE there yet, so don't panic.
    • Remove your bay leaf (or don't…sometimes I forget and honestly it really doesn't make a difference).
    • Transfer half the soup into a Vitamix (or blender) and blend until very smooth (up to two minutes). Add the creamy half into a bowl and set aside. Add the rest of the unblended soup into the Vitamix and repeat. Add all of the fully blended soup back into your original pot.
    • Add the remaining can of black beans and the white miso and stir. Bring soup back up to a simmer and allow to rest for 10-20 mins.
    • Final seasoning break! Need more salt? If it tastes salty enough but is lacking in flavor, consider more balsamic vinegar, hot sauce, or miso. Miso, made of fermented soybeans, is an "umami" flavor bomb and can transform a soup or gravy at the last minute. I've also added more bouillon at this stage (if your soup isn't already salty enough and needs more flavor).
    • Toppings. This is the magic moment! Here are some Emma-approved topping options for this soup:
      • A dollop of greek yogurt, sour cream, or crème fraîche;
      • Chopped green onions;
      • Fresh herbs (like chives and parsley);
      • Crispy shallots;
      • Red pepper flakes;
      • Pan-fried shaved brussels sprouts;
      • Buttery croutons made with day-old bread, chopped rosemary + thyme, and sea salt.

    Miss Minnie's Pecan Pie

    I've been living in the South for almost seven years now, so it seemed appropriate to finally attempt a pecan pie! I got the filling recipe from Matt's mama, and the origin of the recipe has an awesome story to back it up: Miss Minnie was the cook at the Governor's Mansion for 15 years. She had a fresh piece of her award-winning pecan pie ready for the Governor on every day of his administration. The recipe notation says "Don't dare fiddle with such a monument to Southern culinary culture!"

    I certainly didn't stray from the recipe one bit, and it turned out fantastic...mmm!

    And I even made my own buttery, flaky crust! I used this recipe - and would definitely recommend it. The recipe is all-butter rather than the majority of recipes I found that call for shortening (siiiiick!). Speaking of, did you know the "All Ready Pie Crusts" at your local grocery stores still contain lard? (Double siiiiiick!)

    Photos by Matt Morris.