Austin360Cooks: Remembering Romania through a very special cake

Aurel Pop remembers the first time he bought his own pastry.

He was a kid living in Romania. Even though he was only 5 or 6, he’d been saving up money. For what, he can’t exactly remember, but here’s what he does recall about that day:

So that day I decided to break the rule, take some money from my savings (I was always saving money for something) and to treat myself and my buddy with a cake. I paid 2 lei (old Romanian currency) and it was one of the best feelings in the world. I remember punching my buddy for stealing the cherry from the top and taking too big of a bite from the whipped cream.”

Pop, who lives in Austin now, shared this story last week on his blog,, as well as the recipe for this cupcake-like treat made with a yeast-risen dough that, after baking, is dipped in a rum syrup and filled with whipped cream and topped with jam.

This was the cake, he writes, that he had every year for his neighbor’s birthday (March 5, he still remembers) and his mom’s (Nov. 15). He had savarina on his first real date, but he also remembers eating it when his sister started dating a guy named Burzo. On their first date, Burzo bought Pop two savarina so that Pop would leave the couple alone for 10 minutes to hold hands. On their second date, Burzo upped the ante to four cakes so that Pop would disobey his father’s instructions to go with them to the movies. “As a kid I thought that savarina was the best cake ever made, and I’ll tell you that I still think it’s one of the best.”

In a few weeks, Pop will return to Romania with his girlfriend to introduce her to his family and, of course, the culinary delights of home, including his mom’s cooking, his father’s “awful homemade wine” and a savarina or two.

Romanian Savarin Cake (Savarina)

Photo by Aurel Pop.

The baking time depends on the size of the cakes, but it shouldn’t take more than 25 minutes.

For dough:
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 oz. dry yeast (1 packet)
1 Tbsp. sugar
9 oz. (about 2 cups) cake flour
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. oil (peanut oil, canola oil or softened butter)
1/4 tsp. salt
For syrup:
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark rum (or 2 Tbsp. rum extract)
2 tsp. lemon zest (lime or orange)
For garnish:
2 cups whipping cream
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 inch vanilla pod, seeds scraped out (or 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract)
2 tsp. lemon zest (or orange)
2 Tbsp. jelly (sour cherry or blueberry)

Heat milk to around 110 degrees. Add yeast and sugar and mix well. Set aside for about 2-3 minutes until the milk starts to bloom (you’ll see it bubble up).

In a large mixing bowl combine flour, eggs, yolks, oil and bloomed yeast-milk mixture. Using a spatula, gently stir and mix the dough until it becomes smooth and silky. Add salt and stir one more time. Cover mixing bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 20-30 minutes until the dough doubles in size.

In the meantime prepare the syrup. In a medium sauce pan, mix water and sugar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Add rum and lemon zest and boil for 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat and let the syrup cool.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place parchment baking liners in a muffin pan. Fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full. Allow it to rise for a second time until the dough rises close to the top, about 10-15 minutes. Place the muffin pan in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let them cool.

In the meantime, in a large metal bowl mix sugar, vanilla seeds, lemon zest and whipping cream. Using a whisk or a hand mixer, whisk until you get stiff peaks.

When the cakes are cool, flip them upside down and cut them crosswise about one inch from the top (flat side) to make a little lid. Immerse the cakes in the rum syrup and let them soak for about 30 seconds each. Spoon whipped cream into a pastry bag. Pipe whipped cream between the layers of the cake. Using a knife, carefully spread jelly on the top of each cake.

Place the savarin cakes in the refrigerator for an hour before serving. Yields 10-12 cakes.

— Aurel Pop,

Recipe of the week: Savory Grits Waffles from “The Up South Cookbook”

610RBlRti5L._SX399_BO1,204,203,200_ Georgia native Nicole A. Taylor might have left the South, but the Brooklynite keeps the culinary spirit of her childhood alive through her podcast “Hot Grease” that airs on the Heritage Radio network.

In a few weeks, she’ll launch her debut cookbook, “The Up South Cookbook” (Countryman Press, $26.95), which covers regional foodways through Taylor’s distinct lens of race, gender and history. These grits waffles are her homage to chicken and waffles, a salty and sweet classic that actually started in Harlem in the 1930s.

3 slices uncooked bacon
2 tsp. brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup water
1 cup vegetable stock
1 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 cup stone-ground grits
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons (melted) to coat waffle iron
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 cup fine cornmeal
3/4 cup corn, fresh (about 1 ear)
1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Sprinkle both sides of bacon with brown sugar. Line a jelly roll or baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place wire rack on top, put bacon on rack. Place in oven for 20 minutes. Remove and set aside. Crumble bacon (you should have about 1/4 cup).

Place water, stock and salt in heavy medium saucepan with a lid over high heat. Bring to a boil. Very slowly, sprinkle grits into boiling water. Cover grits, reduce to low heat, and stir frequently. The grits should be creamy, about 20 minutes into cooking. Add 2 tablespoons of unmelted butter and black pepper. Remove from heat. Stir in cornmeal, corn, red pepper, bacon, baking powder and ginger. Fold in buttermilk and beaten eggs.

The mixture should fall off the spoon with a shake. Set aside. Using a pastry brush, spread melted butter on the waffle iron. Cook waffles on high heat (refer to waffle iron instructions regarding heat monitoring). Refrain from opening the waffle iron too prematurely. The cooking time for this grit waffle using the Nordic Ware stovetop waffle iron is about 5 minutes. The waffles should be golden brown and with a slight bounce-back texture. Serves 8.

— From “The Up South Cookbook: Chasing Dixie in a Brooklyn Kitchen” by Nicole A. Taylor (Countryman Press, $26.95)

Austin360Cooks: Spanish-style Garlic Fried Rice

Leftover rice can be pretty unappealing when you heat it in a microwave.

Frying the rice in a pan with a little oil allows you to warm up the grains while introducing additional moisture so they don’t fall apart into little brittle pieces of sand. Asian-style fried rice is what many of us are most familiar with, but one of my favorite comfort foods that I learned from my Spanish house mom way back during my study abroad year was garlic fried rice.

I mentioned this dish in a story I wrote about going back to Spain earlier this year, and a reader requested that I write a recipe for it. It’s a simple technique, so you don’t really need a recipe, but here’s one to help guide you through the process. Thinly slice — not chop or mince — the garlic to get those little crispy garlic chips that add such a nice crunch.

Garlic Fried Rice

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
Salt, to taste

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, drizzle some of the olive oil in the pan. Add the garlic, more or less to taste, and fry, moving the slices around to infuse the oil with garlic. As the garlic starts to turn light brown, add the rice and stir to coat with the oil in the pan. Continue cooking until the rice is warm, adding another drizzle of oil as needed to keep the rice moist, or as desired.

— Addie Broyles

Note: This post is part of our ongoing #Austin360Cooks social media project, where home cooks can share what they are making by adding that hashtag to their posts on Instagram. Here are the recently submitted photos:

Buenos Aires Cafe celebrates 10 years in Austin, launches chimichurri mix

Chimichurri tops many grilled meat at Buenos Aires Cafe, including this steak. Photo by Courtney Pierce.
Chimichurri tops many grilled meat at Buenos Aires Cafe, including this steak. Photo by Courtney Pierce.

For 10 years, Buenos Aires Cafe has been reminding Austinites what’s so great about Argentinian food. Flaky empanadas and grilled proteins topped with chimichurri, yes — but also European-influenced dishes including gnocchi and pastel de papas, the Argentinian spin on shepherd’s pie.

The restaurant left its original location on South First Street a number of years ago. It has two locations now: one at 1201 E. Sixth St. and another in the Galleria at Bee Cave. I was reminded of just how good their chimichurri is earlier this year at a lamb event, where Buenos Aires served a simple but spectacular plate of grilled lamb and vegetables that shined because of this flavorful mix of fresh herbs and garlic.

The restaurant also recently started selling an herb and spice mixture that you can use to make that delicious chimichurri. Just in case you can’t pick up a jar ($5), here is the recipe:


2 cups finely chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup finely fresh chopped garlic
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
1 Tbsp. crushed pepper
1 tsp. white pepper
1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp. salt
1 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar
3 cups canola oil

Mix all dry ingredients. Add the vinegar, then add the oil and mix well. Salt may be adjusted to personal liking. Serve with grilled meats or fish, as a spread on sandwiches or as a dip for vegetables.

— From Buenos Aires Cafe chef/co-owner Reina Morris offers lunch delivery to offices in Austin is a new service in Austin that connects customers stuck in offices with non-traditional catering options, including coffee shops and food trucks. is a new service in Austin that connects customers stuck in offices with non-traditional catering options, including coffee shops and food trucks.

When it’s time to order lunch for the office, your options can sometimes be pretty limited. A Vancouver-based food delivery startup called recently expanded to Austin, as well as Denver and Philadelphia, to bring better-than-average food to corporate offices around the city.

Partnering with local food trucks, coffee shops and restaurants, including Lucky’s Puccias, Cazamance, Zubik House, La Patisserie, Houndstooth Coffee and Dolce Neve, allows customers to place an order for small or large groups through its online ordering system. The company has a concierge team to lend a hand if you have special requests for dietary restrictions or a strict budget.

Most of the orders require a $15 delivery fee, and you can check out the service by going to the website,

Gourmet By Numbers open retail meal kit store

Gourmet By Numbers is a meal kit company in Austin that now has a storefront on McNeil Drive.
Gourmet By Numbers is a meal kit company in Austin that now has a storefront on McNeil Drive.

We’ve been covering meal kits for more than a year now, starting with some of the national companies that ship boxes of ingredients and recipes that home cooks assemble at home. There are a few local companies carving out a space for themselves, including Cilantro Lime and Greenling, which both offer delivery.

Last year, Austinite Heather Amalaha launched her own meal-kit delivery service, Gourmet By Numbers, knowing that one day she’d want to open a retail outlet for customers to pick up kits with everything they’d need for dinner. How is that different from a grocery store? Amalaha and her staff wash, cut and measure out all of the ingredients to go along with recipes scaled for one, two or four people. The dishes can usually be prepared in less than 30 minutes — and because there is no cutting involved they can be made by young cooks who aren’t quite ready to julienne carrots.

Amalaha still offers delivery in Austin and much of Travis County, but last week she opened a store at 7318 McNeil Drive, where customers can stop by to pick up a kit from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday. She offers vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free dishes; but you can also choose meals with meat or fish.

The single kits online and in the store cost $12.50 per serving, and there is a $5 delivery fee if you would like to have the kits delivered. You can also order via subscription, which starts at $35 per week for three single-serve meal kits. To sign up for home delivery or find out more about the new store, visit

Austin360Eats: First looks at Fukumoto, Café No Sé

Editor’s note: Welcome to #Austin360Eats! Share photos of what you’re enjoying at Central Texas restaurants, cafes, food trucks and more by adding #Austin360Eats to your photos on social media. Each Friday, we run our favorites in print, which is where you can catch these Austin-area Instagrammers later this week.

Fukumoto has only been open for a few weeks, but Amanda Harville (@modestvail) has already found an excuse to stop by the izakaya, or Japanese pub, at 514 Medina St. — these chicken meatball yakitori that you dip in raw quail egg and bonito flakes.

Another new spot on the Austin dining scene is Café No Sé, inside the South Congress Hotel at 1603 S. Congress Ave., where Melissa Carrol (@melissacarroll) had the Basque cake from pastry chef Amanda Rockman.

Mandola’s Italian Market has three locations in Austin, and all of them serve arancini, those fried risotto balls that diners such as Nicole Riccardo (@nicolericcardo) like to dip in marinara sauce.

One of our newest #Austin360Eats contributors is @so.whatcanyoueat, an local teenager who can’t eat milk or gluten and started the account to answer that eternal “So what can you eat, anyway?” question. Recently, the answer was salmon and steamed vegetables at EZ ‘s Diner, 3918 N. Lamar Blvd.

Fredericksburg has always been known for its German roots, but nowadays, peaches and wine seem to be the main draw to this Hill Country destination. Over the weekend, @atxeats went straight for the schnitzel, duck schnitzel, to be exact, from Otto’s at 316 E. Austin St.

Recipe of the week: Louisville-inspired Hot Brown Pizza

UnitedStatesofPizza_cover The Hot Brown sandwich has been around in Louisville, Ky., since 1923, and for nearly 40 years, Impellizzeri’s Pizza has been incorporating the city’s beloved sandwich into what is now a bestselling pizza.

In the new book, “The United States of Pizza: America’s Favorite Pizzas, From Thin Crust to Deep Dish, Sourdough to Gluten-Free” (Rizzoli, $30), author Craig Priebe rounds up regional pizzas from across the country, from Swiss-provolone-white cheddar cheese-topped, square-cut slices at Imo’s Pizza in St. Louis to a reuben pizza from Dove Vivi in Portland, Ore. Like the sandwich, this Hot Brown pizza has roast turkey, bacon, tomato and Gruyere cheese, but it also includes alfredo sauce, which could be made a few days ahead of time.

Hot Brown Pizza is inspired by the famed Hot Brown sandwich in Louisville. Photo by Jeff Kauck.

Hot Brown Pizza

Homemade or store-bought pizza dough
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground white pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups Gruyere, grated and divided
4 oz. bacon, about 4 strips
12 oz. sliced cooked turkey breast
1 small tomato, chopped
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Let the pizza dough rest on the counter until it comes to room temperature, about 1 hour.

To make the alfredo sauce: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until a smooth paste forms, about 2 minutes. Add the milk, salt, pepper, bay leaf, hot sauce and nutmeg. Cook, stirring often to prevent scalding on the bottom. The sauce will thicken in 4 to 6 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Add 1 cup of the Gruyere cheese, stir and remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Heat the oven to 400. Place the bacon strips on a small pan and bake for 15 minutes. They will be partially cooked. Drain on paper towels. Let cool, then slice into 1-inch pieces. Move an oven rack to the lowest position.

Increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees and heat for 15 minutes. Shape the dough and place it on a pizza pan or screen. Spread the sauce on the dough with a rubber spatula, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup grated Gruyere. Top with turkey slices, followed by bacon. Bake the pizza for 18 to 20 minutes, until the crust is deep brown and the toppings are bubbling. Check underneath with a metal spatula to ensure the bottom crust is deep brown, too. Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the chopped tomato and parsley, then cut the pizza into 8 wedges and serve. Serves 3 to 4.

— From “The United States of Pizza: America’s Favorite Pizzas, From Thin Crust to Deep Dish, Sourdough to Gluten-Free” by Craig Priebe with Dianne Jacob (Rizzoli, $30)

What can home cooks learn from Odd Duck about making better burgers?

In today’s Austin360, Matthew Odam names his top burger in the city.

The cooking crew at Odd Duck must be pretty pleased to beat out places like Clark’s, Salt & Time and Hopdoddy’s, the last of which didn’t make the cut for the top 15.

Statesman videographer Tina Phan caught up with Odd Duck chef Mark Buley to find out his secrets to making such a great burger for this food pornorific video. In Wednesday, I wrote about how home cooks can make better burgers at home, and in the video, Buley shares quite a few tips that home cooks can steal.

  • Brush the buns with butter.
  • Use 7 oz. of a mix of ground chuck and brisket. They only use salt and pepper to season the meat.
  • Cook cold patties over super high heat to get a good sear on the outside.
  • Salt tomatoes before you put it on the burger.
  • A garnish like arugula adds spice and texture.
  • For cheese, try a mix of goat cheese and shredded Cheddar. Throw in some bacon if you’re feeling like it.


Making bread with einkorn flour

I used einkorn flour to make this loaf of sandwich bread. Photo by Addie Broyles.
I used einkorn flour to make this loaf of sandwich bread. Photo by Addie Broyles.

Have you ever heard of einkorn?

It’s an ancient grain that some call “nature’s original wheat” because it is the only variety that hasn’t been hybridized.

A company called Jovial is now selling einkorn flour that the company says consumers with some forms of gluten intolerance can eat without gastrointestinal troubles. (Note: An earlier version of this post called it “gluten-free friendly,” which readers pointed out isn’t exactly accurate. Jovial’s website has detailed information about who should and shouldn’t consider eating einkorn.)

Last week, I used the flour to make a loaf of sandwich bread that turned out pretty well. The crumb is much softer than regular all-purpose flour, but the loaf didn’t rise quite as much as it might have with regular wheat flour or in the more capable hands of a better bread baker.

The flour is available at Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, Central Market and several area Randalls, as well as the website The company also makes crackers, wheat berries and pasta.

Carla Bartolucci, a longtime einkorn farmer in Italy who founded Jovial, released a cookbook, “Einkorn: Recipes for Nature’s Original Wheat” (Clarkson Potter, $25), earlier this year to help cooks who are new to the flour figure out how to use it.