Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Food adventures: Japan

Hi from across the Pacific.

So I've been in Japan for the past couple of days - Kobe for two, Kyoto for the past two. I've been buying macarons wherever I see them - including the Starbucks across the street. That's right. Starbucks makes macarons. Who knew?

So snapshot of a few of the macarons I bought (plus random cute things). The two sets shown here are from different bakeries on the basement level of department stores. Bottom right, yellow is passionfruit and chocolate. It's surprisingly amazing, actually.

Also, they have this cheap (relatively) little housewares store called "natural kitchen."
I bought quite a lot (bottom left) because almost everything is 100 yen (105 including tax). That's roughly $1.50, I believe. Their stuff is ridiculously cute. Porcupine cookies, here I come.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I am cold in my room and wearing my favorite lazy-day jacket from AE with a fuzzy hood and want one of these in my apartment, damnit.

Actually, I just want an apartment.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Number 36: Pecan tarts

Christmas presents are easy for college kids. A batch of chocolate chip muffins here, cookies, there. For a good friend, though, it helps to know preferences.

Roomie decided to make T a bag-full of goodies in preparation for finals. Her favorite recipe of carrot cake (imagine chopping 3 cups full of carrots) and his favorite dessert, pecan pie.

Given that we didn't have any pie tins, we made pecan pie tarts instead. These are actually pretty simple, and the crust is quite good. Something to keep in the books.

Pecan tarts
adapted from My Kitchen Snippets and Chocolate Chip Trips

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Number 35: Cookie variations 2 - Strawberry jam thumbprint cookies

The thing about the thumbprint cookies Roomie and I make is that they always have character. You know, there are some prettier than others, some boring, some downright deformed. And I always separate the pretty from the ugly, but in the end I always forget which group is which.

Tired of chocolate (yes, weird) and with a lot of jam in our fridge, I adapted our thumbprint cookies and spooned in jam instead. Done right, these are buttery and caramel-y and wonderful.

Just preheat the oven to 350 degrees, take the dough recipe from here, roll out little tablespoon balls, and bake them 1-inch apart for 8 minutes.

Remove them from the oven, make deep indentations with your thumb and fill them with jam.

Move the rack higher in the oven (be careful!) and bake the cookies for another 7 to 9 minutes, or until the bottoms brown.

Let cool before enjoying - poor Stephen got burned eating these too quickly.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Number 34: Cookie variations - peppermint chocolate shortbread

Apologies for the hiatus. My return from Virginia was followed by some serious stressing out about finals. So here are some things that happened during the last week and a half.

1. I watched two Miyazaki films - Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle. Am now wondering why teens lust after vampires in their imagination, if they can have an awesome river god who turns into a dragon.
2. Roomie and I bought a huge can of pumpkin and made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. And then we made pumpkin cupcakes with chocolate ganache frosting. And then we left them at her house.
3. I obsessed about the new issue of Desserts Magazine, especially because they've got local Chicago pastry chef Ben Roche and his recipe for ants on a log dessert.
4. I realized that stepping foot into the moto kitchen as a guest chef was probably the most exciting thing to happen in my journalistic career....and I wasted it just interviewing the chefs. Booooo. (It was still pretty damn awesome)

Anyway before we left for Thanksgiving, I made a treat to take on the plane. I ran across similar cookies on
cupcakes and cashmere and wanted to spice up some shortbread.

I used up the remaining cookie dough from the marshmallow chocolate cookies, but you can just use your favorite shortbread/sugar cookie recipe. Coat them in melted chocolate, sprinkled crushed peppermint candies on top, and chill them until the chocolate sets. It's Christmas in a cookie. Forget chocolate chip - these are the cookies to leave for Santa.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Food adventures: Chinatown and 3-inch macarons

Yes. That is a three-inch macaron. A raspberry vanilla 3-inch macaron. You can freak out (and be jealous).

It all started with not knowing where to eat on a Saturday night. For some odd reason there was a parade down Michigan Avenue day before yesterday, so the streets were crowded with tourists and cute kids (!). However, it also meant that there would be people standing around learning how to use the CTA transit card machine, which made me miss my train going downtown (urghhhhh).

So walking around, not knowing what to eat, seeing good places filled with lines and not wanting to wait, we walked into the Peninsula's wine and cafe place Pierrot Gourmet. Obviously too pricey for college kids, but they had three-inch macarons. Raspberry vanilla, or PB&J. I think I turned to B
oyfriend, pointed at this raspberry vanilla creation, and said "I want."

Not sure, but quite positive it was along those lines.

He promised to come back later and buy it. As for dinner, off to Chinatown. Where we didn't find wontons. Boooo.

But I got the macaron eventually. And I finally understood what people have been describing as a "creamy" center. Heaven!

As you can see, it's taller than an iPod shuffle. And bigger than Boyfriend's mouth.

Off to practice spanish for a presentation tomorrow! Booooo. But after that, snickerdoodles from leftover shortbread dough. We'll see how they turn out.

P.S. Photo credit goes to Boyfriend, who knows how to use his camera better and has a knack for angles.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Number 33: Blueberry sour cream coffee cake

Both Roomie and I agree that all baked goods with sour cream are golden. Thus we bought a tub of sour cream a couple days ago at the local Jewel...and some blueberries.

After Roomie finished a three-page paper last night (on a Friday night!) we took a break to bake. And watch some Grey's Anatomy.

Blueberries and sour cream have met before - with a lot more flour, a lot more butter, and less egg. They're great in scones. But I tired of scones after the last bit was left stale in our fridge (we just can't eat that much!) and I was cravin' some cake.

Not sugar-y dessert cake. Coffee cake. So I turned to the internet, and the dependable internet gave me love.

So here's the result of our baking adventure on a Friday night. We used up the rest of our sugar and eggs, so no more baking until we get to Roomie's for Thanksgiving (lo siento, but it's not practical to go grocery shopping right before a break).

Happy baking 'till then.

Blueberry sour cream cake
Adapted from Recipezaar

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Number 32: Chocolate-covered marshmallow cookies. Or psuedo smores.

Yesterday was my registration day, and lucky me - I somehow ended up with the last slot for sophomores. Drag.

So to cheer myself up after a day of angrily cursing
the 2 people who took the very last spots in the one (okay the second) class that I really wanted this quarter, I made myself these cute little smore-ish cookies.

I had never made marshmallow before so it was quite an experience. You're supposed to cook the syrup until the soft-ball stage (or when the syrup, when run under cold water or when chilled, can be rolled into a soft ball). I, however, was preoccupied with scraping the va
nilla bean and didn't notice my syrup going past the soft-ball stage, onto the hard-ball stage, past caramel, and straight into the stage where everything becomes a wonderfully black, burnt mess of burnt sugar. Really burnt sugar.

Try two came out fine, even without a candy thermometer, all I did was periodically pick up a drop of syrup on a wooden spoon and run that under cold water. Then I rolled the syrup to see if it would harden just enough.

Of course, the cookies didn't come out as cute as tartelette's. I don't think I beat the marshmallow enough/waited long enough for it to dry out. So some of my marshmallow kisses just ended up looking like tiny misplaced boobies. Oops!

Of course, when covered in chocolate, it doesn't really matter does it?

Chocolate-covered marshmallow cookies

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Food adventures: How (not) to halve recipes

You know when you cut a recipe in half and everything is going perfectly ... until it comes out wrong and ugly and you realize that you forgot to halve one ingredient?

This time, it was the eggs.

Naturally, we didn't realize this until an hour or so later, after lamenting the disfiguration of our precious cookies. The epiphany went something like this:

Me: Those cookies are a little weird.
Roomie: Yeah they're a little cake-y.
M: They're also really know?
R: OH!
M: OH! Ohhhhhhh....oops.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Number 31: Lemon buttermilk tarts

The first time I tried making pie I didn't realize you had to bake the crust separately. Needless to say, the lemon meringue pie was awful :(

But I've learned my lesson! Ish. I slightly overbaked the crusts, but hey - stops it from becoming soggy too soon.

Pie is still scary for me because of the crust - it's different from shortbread crusts and different from cookies and different from graham cracker crusts (obviously). So yeah. Un poco dificil.

This was my second attempt at a pseudo pie - pie crust in tart shells with a lemon buttermilk filling. It works out well because the crust is not sweet at all, and things with lemon tend to be overly tangy and sweet. The perfect combo! Add on any berries and you're good to go.

Lemon buttermilk tarts
with blueberries and confectioner's sugar

Friday, November 13, 2009

Food for thought: Ready-to-eat crème brûlée

Step 1: Take out of fridge
Step 2: Remove plastic
Step 3: Sprinkle caramelized sugar on top
Step 4: Broil for 2 minutes


Monday, November 9, 2009

Number 30: Buttermilk scones

This, my friends, is my 30th recipe post. Kind of awesome, no? 30 in maybe 3 months -- not too shabby.

So I went to feast in Wicker Park two weeks ago and was wowed by a biscuit-y scone-y thing they served with their bread and a spicy, almost-chipotle butter. So now I'm off to hunt down what it is - scone? Or biscuit? We'll just have to go back and double-check. ;)

Buttermilk Scones
serve with jam and/or butter
adapted from epicurean escapism

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Number 29: Bittersweet chocolate cupcakes with vanilla cinnamon buttercream

So yesterday I got my hair cut and went shopping with Roomie (yay for girls only outings!)

Found a nice silk scarf at Crossroads and a boys shirt on sale at Urban. And while at Francesca's Collections, we found a book of supercute cupcakes. And of course, we decided to make our own supercute cupcakes when we got home.

Unfortunately, we didn't have much to go on. We didn't have any lemons, fruits, or anything really flavorful, so at around 7 p.m. we were looking at some pretty boring vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting.

Luckily, Boyfriend saved the day by bringing some bittersweet chocolate, buttermilk and baking soda. (The buttermilk and baking soda was bought for buttermilk scones - those will come later.)

And the frosting? Well, originally we were going to make a simple vanilla buttercream, but the dairy taste in the cream was too strong, and it was getting too sweet, so we added a teaspoon and a half of cinnamon. Perfection.

The cupcakes aren't necessarily sweet, so even if the buttercream is too sweet for your taste, it balances out.

Bittersweet chocolate mini cupcakes
with vanilla cinnamon buttercream

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Number 28: Julia Child's Biscuit au Beurre (Butter Spongecake)


Julie Powell ain’t got nothing on us….

I would prefer to think that we are not getting caught up in the Julia Child renaissance. I grew up with the French Chef; my grandma would always have her shows on whenever I came to visit…which was often. That raspy voice is a part of my childhood. So into the boxes of college stuff went her tome Mastering the Art of French Cooking…early edition to boot.

So what better way to procrastinate on a Thursday night when we should all be reading/writing/studying/schooling than trying to recreate one of her finely crafted recipes in the confines of a tiny dorm kitchen?

…and I have a knack for impressions. Julia’s raspy voice is my specialty…much to the chagrin of Jess and her Roomie. I have been threatened with bodily harm if I ever use it again in their presence. All I have to say to this is, “Bon Appetit!”

I have now been told that my Julia Child imitation is half Julia, half evil old lady from Hansel and Gretel. Do we really know how a fictional character sounds? Well, the increasing grip Roomie has on her spoon seems to say yes.*

Jess's note:
* Seriously. He sounds like he's an old lady who wants to eat us. :)

Biscuit au Beurre
(Butter Spongecake. Halved.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Check this out

Okay I'm a little behind, but I heard about this somewhere and ran across this photo gallery. Pretty awesome

Gelato University,29307,1932341,00.html

Monday, November 2, 2009

Number 27: Banana chocolate mini muffins

So sorry for the week-long hiatus. Quick post. Still tired from life. Have these for sweet cravings!

Banana chocolate mini muffins
adapted from delish

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Number 26: Chocolate thumbprint cookies

It's midterm season, and with quarter schools, midterms never stop.

So a quick post here until after my midterm on Tuesday. If I post anymore, you may chastise me for not studying. Then again, it might just be me relieving stress.

Speaking of dealing with stress, here's a few tips that are on a sign in the dorm hallway (courtesy of ResLife).
1. Tickle a baby
2. Play patty cake with a toddler
3. Dance a jig
4. Visualize yourself winning
5. Buy yourself a flower

Mine? Bake. And eat.

Chocolate thumbprint cookies

Friday, October 16, 2009

Number 25: Mini blueberry muffins (with streusel! and jam! and Roomie!)

Hi there. So I’m jess’s roommate. I go on baking adventures with her and generally just do what she asks me to when we’re baking. (There’s a word for that, isn’t there? Juuuuuust kidding.) It’s jolly fun.

This past Thursday we changed things up a bit and made one of my old recipes from home; blueberry muffins with streusel topping. They’re my little brother’s favorite so I’ve made them many, many times. In fact, they would probably have made me feel homesick if it weren’t for the fact that we turned them into mini muffins.

Just a few notes:
- First off, I think the greatest part about this recipe is the streusel. The second greatest part? The jam. Yum. So even though they are not absolutely vital to the muffins, don’t skip on either of them.
- Also, the original recipe (which I found a long time ago, somewhere in cyberspace) calls for a half cup of buttermilk. I experimented with real buttermilk and several buttermilk substitutes for this recipe specifically. In the end my favorite was half a cup of milk combined with half a tablespoon of lemon juice. Of course, don’t forget to measure out half a cup of the entire substitute after you’ve combined them.
- And finally, the numbers in this recipe are going to seem strange. This is because we cut the recipe in half, since all we had was a mini muffin tin. Worked just fine for us.

Blueberry muffins
(with streusel!)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Inspiration: Savory sweet

Rosemary shortbread.

Let's do it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Food adventures: Manic Mondays and macarons

My first bakery macaron. Ever.

I love feel good 80's songs. I hate Mondays.

Today I woke up with a sore throat and a stuffy nose :( But I refuse to get sick. I refuse. I am now loading up on hot water and vitamin C. Go immune system! Go!

Also walked to the post office only to find it closed. National holiday. Right (Why do we have school again?).

But to make up for it, dropped by Bennison's Bakery on Davis St. for two things.
1. To see if they had any job openings
2. To see if they had macarons.

The results?
1. Negative
2. Affirmative. Bought one of each, brought them home and shared them. Lavender (pictured above), raspberry and chocolate. Interesting; not what I expected, but good. The lavender was more almond-y than anything else and I didn't get the pseudo-cake texture. But they were darn cute.

I've tried making macarons before (jasmine tea, mint chocolate and others which failed). And somehow, I'm not sure whether or not I've done them correctly. Mine had feet, but they also had a little air bubble between the shell and the interior. I didn't fold them to the consistency of magma, but every time I tried they stuck to the sheet. Soooooo. No idea. Will have to try again once I get my hands on a food processor and some almonds. I also tried to find Tartelette's macaron tutorial but Desserts Magazine won't let me access that. Bummer.

Now about Number 1. Is "Sorry, we're not hiring at this moment" a euphemism for "Sorry, we're not hiring you because you're not qualified"? Or "Sorry, we filled the position with someone else"? Both bakeries around the area have turned me down and I am just realizing how badly I need a job. Really. Good food and baking supplies = money. Money which I may not have in a while.

So I shall pepper the landscape (read: cafes) with my resume and hope someone decides to hire me.

Anyway I have finalized my plans for Thanksgiving, and am going to the D.C. area to hang out with Roomie! I get to be a tourist and explore. Plus, her mom used to own a cutesy cool deli in the area, so more food adventures for me. Finally, expect guest blog from Roomie soon :) Blueberry muffins are on the agenda.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Number 24: Honey strawberry financiers

I miss home. And slow breakfasts with the light streaming in just so.

Strawberry honey mini financiers
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, grounded
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 egg whites
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup honey
12 small strawberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease mini-muffin tin and set aside.
1. Cut butter into four pieces. In a saucepan, melt the butter. Stir constantly and warm until it browns and smells nutty.
2. Strain the butter in a clean bowl, set aside.
3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, walnuts and salt
4. Add the egg whites and mix until it just comes together
5. Mix in butter.

6. Mix in the honey
7. Divide evenly in a mini-muffin tin.
8. Top each with a halved strawberry
10. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
11. Let cool and then remove from tin.

Note: If using regular muffin tins, bake for 16 to 18 minutes.

Also, crushed walnuts using a knife and a rolling pin. Thanks to Mayra and Matt and Roomie for helping.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Number 23: Matcha honey cookies

Rain rain rain today.

Rainy days make me want some hot chocolate and a fireplace. A good read is also in the dream sequence, as well as a super duper comfy blanket.

Sadly, our dorm doesn't come with a fireplace, and our heater just doesn't do the trick. The hot chocolate will come after another shopping trip, but for now, tea will
have to do. Tea and matcha green tea cookies.

Here's the story behind these cookies. Dormmate Matt's impulse buy this summer was a little can of matcha green tea powder. I wanted to make jasmine green tea cookies. Inspired by Boyfriend's recent successful venture with matcha green tea and honey ice cream, I decided to try something new. And voila! Stumbled upon this great blog, found a recipe for matcha cookies and dropped quite a lot of honey into the batch. These came out wonderfully crumbly and clean, very matcha-y with just a hint of honey. Tom called them "goofy." I call them perfect.

Matcha honey cookies
5 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1.5 tablespoons matcha green tea powder
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup honey
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar (for coating)

1. In a separate bowl, whisk the tea powder with the sugar
2. Cream the butter with an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add sugar until just-incorporated
3. Add the egg yolks and honey
4. Mix in the flour
5. Turn out onto a floured cling wrap
6. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
8. Roll out cookies to 1/4 inch thickness and cut shapes out. Trees are cute. Mini tart tins work as well.
9. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the edges brown

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Special post! Three-in-one! Number 22, Food for thought, and Food adventures

Food for thought: BEST. BOYFRIEND. EVER.

I love my boyfriend who can cook :)

Here's a little food porn for you all - some life-changing dorm curry out of our tiny kitchen, courtesy of Boyfriend.

Why is Boyfriend so awesome? Took me to an asian supermarket today to buy rice and curry stuff and made me food after my mind-numbing magazine meeting. Love.

Number 22: Raspberry mousse tarts

So I made the chocolate strawberry meringue tarts the other day. Super-ghetto college style. Didn't have my electric mixer so softened butter with a hair dryer. Rolled out the dough with a glass bottle covered in plastic wrap. Worked our tiny kitchen into producing some pretty decent tarts, which we shared with the hall.

Then Boyfriend complained about his lack of tarts, so I ventured downtown with the leftover tart crust dough and tried out Tartelette's raspberry mousse. This time I rolled out dough with a jam bottle wrapped with plastic wrap - fun. Worked out well, and super cute. Add some mini chocolate chips (or a layer of chocolate ganache) to the bottom of the tart for a sweet(er) surprise.

Raspberry mousse tartlettes

For the crust:
18 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1 1/8 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
3 3/4 cups cake flour, sifted

a pinch of salt
1 egg

For the mousse:
1 1/2 tspoon gelatin (3 sheets)
1 tablespoon cold water
1 cup whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean (split lengthwise and scraped)

1 egg and 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup raspberry jam
1 cup heavy whipping cream (I used Cool whip?)

To make the crust:
1. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment
2. Mix in the egg
3. Mix in the cake flour and salt
4. Turn out on a lightly floured cling wrap, wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour
5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees for deeper tarts, 365 degrees for shallow tarts
6. Roll out dough on a floured surface

7. Press into tart tins and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until brown around the edges and on bottom
8. Remove from tins and let cool

To make the mousse:
1. In a small bowl or ramekin, sprinkle the gelatin over the water.
2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk sugar, egg and egg yolks
3. Add the cornstarch and mix until it becomes a smooth paste

4. In a saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla beans until it steams
5. Pour gradually into the egg mixture, stirring continuously to prevent curdling
6. Strain the mixture back into the saucepan, cook until it thickens
7. Add the jam and cook for another 30 seconds
8. Remove immediately from heat, add the gelatin and stir until it dissolves
9. Place in a cold water bath and stir until it reaches room temperature
10. Beat whipping cream until stiff and fold into the custard
11. Pipe onto tart shells, top with raspberries if desired.

Food adventures: Wicker Park

So Boyfriend and I cruised Wicker Park Saturday, searching for this design-your own ice cream/sorbet/fro-yo/pudding cafe on Milwaukee, and I must say it is pretty damn amazing. It's called "iCream," as in "iPod," "iMac," and all those other "iThings." But it makes sense. Essentially they give you certain options and you pick and choose to create your own. And then they churn it right in front of you, using liquid nitrogen to speed up the process and make it super smooth.

So you start with this base - ice cream, fro-yo, or pudding. The sorbet has pre-made flavors based on Naked juices (I love Naked orange juice, btw). Then you choose what flavors you want (caramel, burnt sugar, green tea, honey, pear, peach, goes on!). Then mix-ins, toppings and color (pink! green! purple!). Genius (!).

Boyfriend chose green tea and honey ice cream with sprinkles and I got peach and pear fro-yo with peaches mixed in. Possibly the best fro-yo I've ever had, because normally I'm only semi-partial towards yogurt.

Sorry for the lack of pictures - didn't bring my camera with me. But I shall go again! And I'm thinking caramel and burnt sugar ice cream with chocolate chips mixed in. And I want it purple... just kidding on that last part. Maybe.

After some walking around and browsing, we hit up (pastry) Chef Mindy Segal's Hot Chocolate for dinner and had the best mac and cheese. Ever. I'm serious! Boyfriend never knew mac and cheese could be so good, and although it was a little salty, I had to agree. Beats dining hall mac and cheese at least (although that's not saying very much. Beats my mom's mac and cheese? Meh, she's red-hot at Chinese food. Not American).

Also shared a lamb and krema kasa sandwich with some pickled beets on the side which was very appetizing and finished off with a gorgeous pear dessert called, fittingly, "Pear." Poached pear tatin with some red wine and gingersnap ice cream.

Segal loves playing with salt, from what I've eaten (some with my eyes). Okay, I've eaten there twice, and only once for dinner. The other time was for dessert. But her salted caramel ice cream? Her fleur de sel cookies (pictured below with the pink filling)?

Hello Mindy Segal. I love you. Please teach me everything you know.

Fun fact - Segal is Roomie's drawing prof's cousin. Can I exploit this connection? Probably not. Awkward and weird and manipulative. Not my style.

But picked up some cookies (more food porn!) for Boyfriend's roommates and Roomie.

And with these delectable cookies, I finish off this incredibly long, epic post. Epic? Maybe. Hopefully. No more baking this week, as I have a game of catchup to play with my classes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Food for thought: BEST ROOMMATE. EVER

So I haven't mentioned this yet. I have the best roommate ever. Ever.

This morning I woke up to a hardboiled egg hiding in a pot on my desk. For me. Yay :)

Roomie wakes up about 2 hours before I do (strange schedules) and makes coffee (don't tell the CA) and breakfast for herself. Today was eggs and I got one :) Pretty damn awesome. Also, who doesn't love the smell of coffee in the morning? Even though I usually sleep through it.

And then she bakes with me and shops with me and mothers me (okay I mother her sometimes too). So yeah. This blog is a tribute to Roommate.

Also, exciting news. ish. The California Strawberry Commission is apparently releasing a strawberry-recipe eBook for the iPhone and they want to use my chocolate ganache strawberry meringue tart! (That's a mouthful. Pun not intended). So you won't be seeing anything new I've made lately because I'll be working on making sure the recipe is converted to cups and tablespoons as well as reworking the banana walnut muffin recipe.

And finally.... I received a package today filled with goodies :) my electric mixer, ice cream maker, rice cooker and food (read: ramen). Yay for packages and presents!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Number 21: Mini chocolate chip muffins

As promised, my roommate and I (with the help of another friend) made chocolate chip muffins after a long and painful walk to and from Jewel-Osco. We opted to go for the cheaper grocery store a good 20 minutes away to buy our flour, sugar, milk and eggs instead of the wallet-crushing Whole Foods.

So. Here they are! We cut a recipe in half because we only wanted these to last a week, but really after the first five minutes about half of it was gone.

Oh! I forgot to mention another exciting thing in my last post. Found Tahitian vanilla beans on sale at a mall in Montclair, CA for about $3 each. Very exciting.

So here's the recipe modified to our mini-muffin tin. Have fun!

Mini chocolate chip muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/6 cup white sugar
1/6 brown sugar (dark)
1 tspoon baking powder
1/4 tspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled (it's important to have room temperature or cooler butter to prevent eggs from curdling)
1 egg
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or to taste)

Grease a mini-muffin tin. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
1. Combine all dry ingredients (flour, white sugar, brown sugar, baking powder and salt) in a large mixing bowl with a whisk until smooth
2. Combine all wet ingredients in a separate bowl until well-incorporated (egg, milk, butter)
3. Form a well in dry ingredients and pour wet ingredients into dry. Mix until just incorporated.
4. Fold in chocolate chips.
5. Evenly distribute batter. If you want larger, coffee-house style muffins fill them almost to the top.
6. Top muffins with extra chocolate chips if desired.
7. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. A toothpick (or wooden chopstick in my case) should come out clean.

Makes 22 to 24 mini muffins.

Food adventures: Hello from Chicago

Sorry for the lack of posts - I know it must have been weird after the everyday posts of summer.

Anyhow I know you were thinking what I was trying not to think - with school and reading and wanting to have a life, how am I supposed to keep baking?

Well fear not (*cringe. Sorry for the cliches). Today (as in today, Friday, after the first week of school and before a weekend of reading) my roommate and I will walk to the local Jewel-Osco and buy some groceries (i.e. baking supplies).

I have vanilla beans on hand, as well as vanilla extract and a mixer and whatnot. Our master plan? Mini chocolate chip muffins to provide us with a week of breakfast. So expect a recipe post soon! :)

Anyway on top of my schoolwork I've been trying to find a job at a local bakery, so hopefully that'll come around. I just really want to get a feel for baking and become better at it.

Other exciting news: I ventured into the Spice House on Central in Evanston and it. is. awesome.

Three types of vanilla beans (and extract), the cheapest one is $1.89 per bean. For Madagascar beans. AH! And then the Tahitian beans. AH!
And orange blossom water, lavender, rose water, pure wasabi. AH! You know what this means? THIS
and THIS and, well, a lot of other stuff that I can only dream of making in my tiny dorm kitchen.

Anyway I can't wait to tell Boyfriend about Spice House :) He's cooking wontons tonight.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Number 20: Mini banana-walnut muffins

Okay. Hopefully, you won't hear from me in a while because that means I'm super busy packing/getting ready for school/ getting ready for class. Starting college again and I'm going to miss my kitchen :(


See then your muffins will turn out nice and fluffy and sweet, instead of flat and dense and pseudo-sweet like mine. I'm super impatient so oh well. Also, if you noticed, these are tiny. My mini muffin tin is tiny. They're on the same dish my jasmine tea macarons were on - just to give you a scale.

Banana-walnut muffins
from A Dash of Sass

2 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
1 cup (approx. 1 medium) banana, very ripe and smashed
1/4 cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg
1/3 cup honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a standard muffin tin or use cupcake/muffin liners.
1. In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup of the walnuts and the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt and baking powder). Reserve the remaining 1/3 cup walnuts for the tops of the muffins.
2. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, yogurt, vanilla, honey and melted butter. Mix in the bananas.
3. Fold wet ingredients into dry until just combined. Don't forget to scrape the bottom, where a lot of flour hides out.
4. Using a spoon, fill mini muffin tins with the batter. Fill up to the top if you want large, coffee shop-style muffins, otherwise fill the tins only 3/4 full. Top with the reserved walnuts.
5. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until the tops are nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
6. Remove from oven and let rest on a cooling rack for 5 minutes before removing from tin. Makes approximately 24 mini muffins

Ok guys wish me luck at school. :)

EDIT. I am such a dunce -_- Sorry for anybody who tried this recipe before Oct 2. The numbering for the flour was wrong. I promise it won't happen again!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Number 19: Vanilla ice cream and roasted pear


did say I would be doing breakfast foods - and I did! But I made two dishes today and I'm a little lazy. Two posts a day is a lot! So vanilla ice cream and roasted pear it- yum!

I have a love-hate relationship with brown sugar. I love the caramel taste it gives to dishes, but really? Must it turn into rock whenever I put it away
? It bent my measuring spoons.

Interestingly enough, I found a book titled "The Best Kitchen Quick Tips" in my mother's library - my mother has everything. Under "Brown Sugar" I found "Softening" which instructs us to place a cup of brown sugar in a glass plate or bowl, cover with a small piece of waxed paper, top with a slice of bread and zap it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Apparently the bread supplies moisture.

Cool. Didn't do it because my brown sugar was stuck in the box, but I'll definitely try it next time. In the meantime, I loosened the sugar using a chopstick like a pick. Fun stuff.

Sorry if that seemed random, but the recipe calls for quite a lot of brown sugar so it's relevant!

Speaking of the recipe. Vanilla ice cream and roasted pear. Ahhh it's so perfectly paired. I've wanted to try roasting pears ever since I ate at a tapas place in Evanston (Tapas Barcelona), where they had this amazing dessert (another one) with a roasted pear stuffed with white chocolate and served with vanilla bean ice cream. And I was going to be legit and make vanilla bean ice cream, but vanilla beans are so expensive and the cheapest place is Williams-Sonoma some 20 miles away. And I hate driving.

So vanilla extract it is. But still. It turned out good. Even my mother liked it!

Also, as you'll note in the picture, I attempted at making a caramelized almond crust (inspired by a semi-okay dessert at El Torito) but that didn't work out. So here's the recipe for the ice cream and pear (adapted from Tartelette and, respectively). I'll come back to the caramelized almonds someday - anyone have a recipe?

Vanilla ice cream
with roasted pear
For the ice cream:
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3 egg yolks
2 tspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar

For the pears:

2 bosc pears
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
dash of cinnamon (or to taste)

To make the ice cream:

1. Combine milk and cream in a saucepan and heat until it's steaming
2. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, vanilla and sugar
3. Temper egg mixture with the hot cream, pouring a couple tablespoons into the egg mixture and whisking vigorously. Gradually add the rest of the cream into the eggs, mixing continuously
4. Return to saucepan and cook, stirring continuously until the mixture coats the back of a spoon
5. Strain into a clean bowl in an ice bath. Continue stirring until it reaches room temperature.
6. Cover with plastic wrap so it touches the surface of the custard sauce. This prevents a skin from forming.
7. Refrigerate overnight and process in an ice cream maker to manufacturer's instructions.

To make the pears:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Peel, halve and core the pears
3. Place the butter on the baking sheet and put it in the oven until it melts.
4. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and sprinkle brown sugar on top of the melted butter.
5. Drizzle cinnamon on top
6. Place the pears cut side down on the sugar/butter mixture
7. Bake for about 15 minutes or until barely soft

8. Sprinkle a little more sugar and cinnamon on top, or if the sugar isn't burnt, turn the pears and baste in pan sauce
9. Bake until tender and glossy, about another 15 minutes or so
10. Cool before serving with ice cream

P.S. Stick a cinnamon stick in the vanilla ice cream while soft, let it firm for a couple hours or overnight, and voila! Cinnamon ice cream. Although the vanilla is still much stronger.

And now, food talk. Breakfast-related. This is what I will miss while in Chicago:

Obviously I'm not going to miss bagels because Chicago has bagels - although the Einstein Bros Bagels near school is mad expensive.

But this is my favorite bagel, and Einstein doesn't have it. The rosemary olive oil bagel from the Clearwater Bagel Co in my hometown Walnut (I think there's others somewhere). Anyway, this bagel is the reason why I learned how to make rosemary oil bread, and not surprisingly, the picture doesn't do it justice. I loooooooove this bagel. Especially with Earl Grey tea.

Okay enough raving. Just thought I'd put it out there in case anybody finds rosemary olive oil bagels in the Chicago area.

Happy eating!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Number 18: Blueberry scones

So this is my last week at my lovely home with my beautiful kitchen in sunny California. Friday, I'm off to Chicago to live in a tiny room with a tiny kitchen and expensive groceries.

Considering the fact that I'm a college girl, I realized that I'm not going to have much time to bake. Tarts? Ridiculously time-consuming. So my master plan for these next few posts is to focus on recipes that are simple and easy, mostly breakfast foods because nobody should eat breakfast in the dining hall. So scones, muffins (mini muffins!), croissants, etc.

Today I found a recipe for blueberry scones via tastespotting and to my surprise, I had ALL the ingredients in my fridge and pantry. I love it when that happens - it'll be impossible at college.

We have a Whole Foods near school which is pretty pricey, but they have these cute little bite-sized scones so hopefully this will turn out the same. I used dried blueberries though - don't have fresh ones and I didn't want to drive today. But really, I should get out more. Maybe I'll go for a walk, scone in hand.

Blueberry scones
via the Kitchen Magpie

1 cup sour cream
1 tspoon baking soda
4 cups flour
1 cup sugar, granulated
2 tspoons baking powder
1 cup butter
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup blueberries, fresh or dried (or any other fruit)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1. Mix sour cream and baking soda. This, according to the Kitchen Magpie, makes it go POOF.
2. Sift or whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until smooth and well-combined
3. Cut in the butter with knives, a whisk or a pastry cutter until fine and crumbly
4. Mix in egg and sour cream mixture until just combined
5. Knead in the blueberries, being careful not to squish fresh fruit and release juices
6. Separate into three circular discs, about 1.5 to 2 inches thick
7. Cut each disc into 6 slices
8. Bake at 350 degrees until the tops and bottoms brown slightly

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Food adventures: Sushi Gen


So this isn't really an adventure since I've been here before and I LOVE sushi, but I figured I'd take this opportunity to rave about my favorite sushi spot in LA. THIS is where I converted Boyfriend into a sushi eater, and now he buys sushi by the pound (?!).

Sushi Gen is an amazing traditional Japanese restaurant next to Little Tokyo and they have AMAZING toro. AMAZING. Every time I've gone there, their toro (fatty tuna) has always been perfect. Smooth and sweet and paired perfectly with rice. Always just the right color and the right texture.

Their sushi is always well-made, and the chefs are experienced. Sadly, their hamachi (yellowtail) is only decent, but their amaebi (sweet shrimp) and maguro (tuna) is also excellent. Uni (sea urchin) is also good.

They're always super busy but for some reason my parents and I have good luck and we're always seated upon arrival.


I tried eating the fried shrimp head for the first time today. Scary-looking things.

My mom, showing me how to eat it. I've never had it before and it freaked me out - you just remove the eyes and bite into it.

Anyway did I mention that I love sushi? My mom's worried that I won't be able to afford sushi in the future and then I'll just get skinnier and skinnier. Because sushi is the only thing I'll eat and keep eating.

Also, I keep hearing about this Sushi Sasabune - some people (cupcakes and cashmere) claim its the best on the West Coast. Really? Hmmm. Must try. Although it sounds like a non-traditional, experimental type of japanese cuisine and really, I'm more into the traditional.

That's all for now. Sorry, no recipes today. Bought a mini muffins tin for $10. Macarons are sticky again and I'm thinking of just going back to the David Lebovitz recipe. Made honey financiers with the cheapest honey I could find and some brown sugar - excellent variation.

Happy eating.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Number 17: Sweet rice cake/ MOCHI cake

One of my former dance TAs has a little maltese named Mochi. SO cute.

I've been obsessed with mochi ever since I can remember. Those pretty little Japanese sweets bought at the Asian supermarkets - AMAZING. My favorite was, and still is, the plain mochi with pink and green stripes.

And then fro-yo kicked in and mochi became all the rage - paired with strawberries on top of a tart frozen yogurt = indescribable obsession.

I've been bugging my mom to teach me how to make this ever since I started baking, but we never had the right flour. So I eventually bought some Mochiko sweet rice flour on my own and last night at 11 p.m. I told her "We are making mochi." And she said "OK, but I'm not waiting up for it to finish baking."

So here it is. My mother prefers baking it so it's more dry. Other methods include steaming it in a rice cooker or a microwave (really? I have to try that for college). It's super easy and now I'm dreaming up flavored mochi cakes. Green tea, strawberry, passionfruit, etc etc etc. You can change around the amount of egg or sugar - it's not really like cake where timing and measurements are essential. Dig in with a spoon right after baking it or let it cool and slice it up - either way it's still sweet, sticky goodness.

P.S. better picture to come. My photography isn't getting any better and I'm a little frustrated.

Mochi cake
16 ounces of sweet rice flour
2 cups milk
1 cup water
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the middle
1. Combine everything into a large mixing bowl. And I mean large - it's a lot of stuff to mix together and you don't want to waste any of it.
2. Mix together until smooth. No flour lumps or anything - it should be a thick, creamy liquid.
3. Oil a baking pan (I used a 10-inch one) with vegetable oil - try any with less flavor. I used peanut oil.
4. Pour the mixture into the baking pan, cover with aluminum foil
5. Bake covered for an hour. This should dry up most of the mixture, leaving moisture only on the top. A toothpick should come out clean.
6. After the hour, remove the aluminum foil and bake for another 10 minutes, or until visually dry on top.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Food adventures: Indonesian

Today I went with a couple friends to try out this one Indonesian restaurant my Indonesian friend likes so much. Last time we went on a Monday only to find out it's closed on Mondays. Go figure.

Java Spice - 1743 Fullerton Road, Rowland Heights, CA 91748
Highlights: Specialty drinks, banana leaves
Pictured: Coconut milk with rose syrup, coconut milk with green gelatin and brown sugar

We also had some shrimp flavored tofu wrapped in banana leaves. Not amazing, tasted like kimchi and I can't stand spicy food. But I did like the presentation and the fact that it was a banana leaf. The same way I like the fact that bamboo leaves wrap that Chinese rice dish.

Anyway, some entree pictures. I enjoyed my noodle dish, although I can't remember what it is. I just ordered what the server recommended. It all had a very familiar taste, similar to Chinese food (I hope I don't offend anyone).

Onto non-food related adventures.* Watched "9" after dinner and was severely, terribly disappointed. The animations, the drawings, the IDEA was so well-done, insightful, intriguing. The actual execution? A disappointment. The plot was so forced, so simple without any driving point other than curiosity. And quite honestly, the curiousity wasn't enough.

Character development also let me down. The nine individuals created had such potential to be amazingly human figures - their expressions and nuances were so well done. There was, however, no expansion of that. You got a glimpse of their character, but no understanding. And perhaps that's the theme with "9". You get a glimpse of the world, but no real understanding of the key players. The theme of manmade destruction, however, is force fed to you.

*Sorry. I know this is a food blog. But I figured different things will spice it up a bit.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Number 16: Chocolate torte and salted caramel ice cream

Today was one of those days where you spend a lot of time baking and nothing really goes right.

It started like this.

I woke up wonderfully late (I love summer vacation). I churned the ice cream with no problems. Attempted to make macarons via Tartelette's strawberry macaron recipe. It took me forever to dry the strawberries, and I don't like how they turned out. Are macarons supposed to be crisp? Chewy? I should probably try some before making them but I can't find any here. And I was doing so well with the David Lebovitz recipe! Ah well.

So I ate some lunch, picked up dry cleaning, and bought some butter.

When I came home I decided to make chocolate ganache for tarts. I want to recreate my first post to take a better photo. However, I made too much chocolate ganache for the nine shortbread crusts left over from my fruit tarts. After some hasty decision making, I made some more shortbread dough so I can make more ganache tarts. Another hasty decision led me to change my mind.
Instead, I decided to make some chocolate torte. This way I can get rid of the ganache AND serve it with the caramel ice cream.


It was a lot of work, it was very backwards. Really, I should learn to manage food better (shortbread dough STILL IN THE FRIDGE. what to do?)

After dinner I served the torte and ice cream to complaints that the ice cream was too salty (sorry Dad). Then made some swiss meringue buttercream that tastes too much like butter and sugar and makes me sick. Not a good baking day, but we'll try again tomorrow I guess. Sorry for the bummer entry. Prepare for an optimistic Jessica and a better picture of the chocolate ganache, strawberry meringue tart tomorrow.

Lots of egg whites to get rid of. Might make some honey financiers again with cheaper ingredients to see how I can make this stuff at school.

Chocolate torte
with chocolate ganache and salted caramel ice cream
recipe adapted from Tartelette

For the chocolate torte:
5 oz chocolate (I mixed bittersweet and semisweet because I ran out)
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 eggs
3/8 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tablespoons (15gr) flour
3/8 cup finely ground almonds
1/4 teaspoon espresso
1/8 teaspoon almond extract

For the chocolate ganache
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
6 ounces chocolate, chopped
pinch of salt
1 egg

For the salted caramel ice cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 teaspoon honey
1/6 cup water
1 1/3 cup half and half
4 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)

To make the chocolate ganache

1. Bring the cream and milk to a simmer
2. Pour over chocolate and salt
3. Let sit for a minute, mix until smooth
4. Beat the egg and mix into the chocolate mixture

To make
the chocolate torte with ganache:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the middle and a rack on the bottom.
1. Line a square cake pan with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a large bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt together the chocolate and butter. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
3. In a stand mixer (or with hand held beaters), whisk the eggs and sugar on medium speed until slightly thickened.
4. Add the vanilla.
5. Turn the speed to low and add the chocolate mixture and whip for a minute.
6. Add the rest of the ingredients. Beat one minute on low speed until everything is incorporated.
7. Spread the batter on the prepared sheet pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or unti the center is just set.
8. Pour chocolate ganache over the cake and return to oven on the lower rack
9. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. If bubbles or cracks form it is overbaked.

To make the ice cream
1. Place sugar, water and honey in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Heat and mix until sugar dissolves
2. Once the sugar is dissolved cook until it becomes an amber caramel
3. Add in 2/3 cup of the half and half
4. Bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring to dissolve caramel bits
5. Slowly add the remaining half and half
6. Whisk the eggs, gradually adding in some of the caramel mixture to temper
7. Gradually add all of the caramel mixture into the eggs, and return it back to the saucepan
8. Cook until it coats the back of a spoon, stirring continuously
9. Strain into a clean bowl
10. Place the custard into an ice bath and mix in the salt and vanilla until it reaches room temperature
11. Refridgerate overnight. Process in ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Number 15: Fruit tarts

Today was barbecue/high school friends reunion get together thing so I made fruit tarts, because you need a lot of people to eat up the custard before it goes bad. It was pretty successful. The barbecue, I mean. Fresh salsa and guac, carne asada, all the toppings and fruit tarts. Good summer dinner, although I'm still hungry. Those boys eat a lot.

I love the smell of strawberries and the way the colors of fruits collide on a tart - usually, I use kiwis, strawberries and blueberries but the blackberries were so amazing-looking at the market I skipped out on blueberries. Raspberries were just for fun.

I read on some food blog that the perfect tart crust recipe is like a baker's little black dress, and I agree. I love my crust recipe - it's buttery and crisp and perfect.

So here's the recipe. I used the same pastry cream recipe as the eclairs, just minused the chocolate. Wanted to try a simpler recipe without having to measure grams.

Fruit tarts
For the shortbread crust:
250 grams butter (unsalted)
125 grams confectioners sugar
1 gram salt
1 egg
360 grams cake flour (plus extra for rolling)

For the pastry cream:
2 cups (500g) whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75g) sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or one vanilla bean stick)
2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

To make the crust:
note: using an electric mixer makes this much easier, but use the paddle attachment
1. Soften the butter. Sift in the powdered sugar and salt and cream the butter until it pales slightly
2. Mix in the egg
3. Mix in the flour
4. Turn out the dough onto a piece of clear plastic wrap, slightly floured
5. Wrap the dough in the plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour. If you must use it soon, freeze it for about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees for flatter tart crusts, 365 for taller crusts
6. Take the dough out from the fridge and turn it out onto a slightly floured work surface
7. Flatten so it is 1/4 inch thick
8. Press into tart mold (?) and poke a couple holes onto the bottom with a fork
9. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden on the edges. Let cool

To make the pastry cream:
1. If you're using vanilla beans, scrape seeds into milk and let sit for 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.
2. Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.
3. Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.
4. Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled.
5. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).
6. Stir in the vanilla extract if using, and then remove the pan from the heat.
7. Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.
8. Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments.
9. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

- The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

- In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.
- Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.
- I washed and dried the fruit beforehand, glazing it with a simple syrup to get a shine. Jam also works.
- Also, if you want, you can replace some cake flour with ground almonds.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Number 14: Jasmine chocolate truffles

So I took a break from actual baking yesterday - tired and had to pick up a family friend from school. Instead, I made these chocolate truffles from the leftover white chocolate and bittersweet chocolate jasmine tea ganache I made the day before for the macarons.

So no recipe today - just check out the jasmine tea macaron recipe here to see the ganache recipe. Let the ganache sit in the fridge for maybe 2 to 4 hours to firm up, scoop out little teaspoons and roll into a ball. Roll in chopped almonds (mixed with cocoa powder if you want) and wrap in plastic wrap to let firm up again. The jasmine flavor really stands out after a couple days in the chocolate.


Onto food-related subjects, and some not food-related subjects. Yesterday I watched Julie & Julia, which was pretty good, although Amy Adam's character came off as awfully whiney. I really hope I don't whine and complain as much as she does, but I realized that when recipes fail I feel like crap too. Hmmm...I'll have to watch my temper.

But that one scene with raspberry bavarian cream made me really want to try that.

Another thing I realized - I can't be a cook. Chef. Whatever. I can't stand working with raw meat.

Anyway last night I was complaining to Boyfriend about how desserts aren't interesting anymore (cheesecake, some apple thing with vanilla ice cream, etc). But today my parents took me and family friend out to Santa Monica and we walked around Third Street Promenade (touristy, I know, but it's still my favorite place). For a lunchtime snack we went to Bubba Gumps and for dinner - ah dinner - we went to Italian Trastevere.

Sorry for the long-winded post, but the point. Dessert. Fresh baked pears and chocolate cream cake with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. I'm pretty sure the cream was freshly whipped, and it was amazing.

Okay that's all. I'm eventually going to try something with chocolate and pears but for now, fruit tarts for tomorrow's barbeque. Expect strawberries and kiwis.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Number 12: Jasmine tea macarons

I decided to try my hands again at macarons, to see if it was just beginners luck the second time (ok, so maybe that goes against the definition). This time, they didn't necessarily turn out as pretty because I didn't rap the sheets immediately after piping them - I think next time I will try Helen of Tartelette's recipe for macarons. I'm thinking strawberry.

So here's a new tidbit for the blog - I LOVE jasmine. As in the flower, the fragrance, and especially the tea. My dog is named Jasmine, my favorite perfume is based on jasmine and lily of the valley, and I drink jasmine green tea on a daily basis.

I went through a phase where I tried to make everything jasmine - panna cotta (I hate panna cotta! I can never get it the way I like it, no matter how easy people say it is), cookies, syrup. They were even my first try at macarons (almond macarons with a jasmine tea syrup). So last night I figured I can make jasmine tea macarons.

I don't have actual tea leaves - just tea bags. Boyfriend claims to have jasmine tea leaves but he never gave them to me (although, to be fair, I asked for them once when he was in China). And now he's off in Chicago so it's a bit awkward to go over to his parents and say "Hi! Can I have some jasmine green tea leaves please?" (All in Chinese, of course).

Anyway I'm sure with actual tea leaves you would only need a teaspoon or so, chopped.

I was thinking of doing an orange white chocolate ganache for the filling, but the jasmine wasn't strong enough for the macaron shells. So I ditched the orange idea because I felt it would have overpowered the jasmine. Instead, I infused the ganache with jasmine tea. The white chocolate definitely has more of a jasmine aftertaste than the dark, but we'll see tomorrow once the flavors settle.

Jasmine tea macarons
with jasmine-infused white/bittersweet chocolate ganache

For the macarons
2 large egg whites
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup confectioners sugar
50 grams almonds, to ground
2 jasmine green tea bags

For the ganache (choose between white or bittersweet chocolate)
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 ounces bittersweet or white chocolate
1/2 tablespoon butter, unsalted
1 jasmine green tea bag
1 teaspoon corn syrup

To make the macarons
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
1. Ground the almonds, whisk and sift with confectioners sugar
2. Cut open tea bags and mix in tea leaves with dry ingredients
3. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until it holds its shape
4. Add granulated sugar to egg whites, beat until glossy and very stiff (gravity-defying stiff)
5. Fold in dry ingredients in two batches. Don't overfold or else the egg whites will deflate
6. Pipe out 1-inch macarons an inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet
7. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until tops are crisp and barely slide against the bottom feet
8. Let cool before removing from parchment paper

To make the ganache
1. Cut open the tea bag and mix it into the cream
2. Bring cream, tea leaves and syrup to a boil and simmer for a couple minutes
3. Strain cream over chocolate, let sit for two minutes or so
4. Mix until smooth, add in butter and mix until melted

To assemble
1. Using the back of a spoon or a knife, spread ganache over the bottom of one macaron
2. Sandwich. These can sit in an airtight container at room temperature for five days, or freeze them.

Food for thought: What I will miss in Chicago

In-n-Out. Boyfriend always gets animal fries and a neopolitan shake - and I would steal some to go with my double-double protein style.

More food to come.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Number 11: Mint chocolate chip ice cream

It's super hot hear in southern California, especially with the fire and everything. So I had some extra mint yesterday and decided to make mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Some of my friends have been complaining that my ice cream scoops are ugly. I'm sorry, but I'm not a super perfectionist and really, perfect ice cream scoops freak me out after reading stories about food photography and how some photogs get their ice cream to look wonderful. In other words, sorry, but you'll have to deal with my inability to scoop ice cream perfectly.

Also, I'm having problems keeping the creaminess of my ice cream. I'm still trying to figure out how to store it. I've been storing my ice cream in either glass or plastic tupperware things with plastic wrap over it. Still, it's really annoying to try and soften it after a couple hours in the freezer - I usually transfer the ice cream and sorbets into the fridge but I'm just too impatient.

Okay onto the recipe, which is Isaac Mizrahi's mint chocolate chip recipe from Epicurious. I actually cut the recipe into thirds because I only had two eggs, so the reduced, changed version is as follows.

Mint ice cream
with semisweet and bittersweet chocolate

2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup whole milk
2/3 cup mint leaves, washed, dried and loosely packed
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 drops food coloring, green
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 ounce semisweet chocolate, chopped

1. Whisk together 3 tablespoons of the sugar and the egg yolks
2. In a saucepan, heat milk, mint leaves and the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar until it steams
3. Temper the egg yolks with a couple tablespoons of the milk mixture. Gradually pour in all the milk, whisking continuously.
4. Strain the egg/milk mixture back into the saucepan
5. Cook the mixture until it coats the back of the spoon. Do not let it boil.
6. Strain into a clean bowl.
7. Whisk in the heavy cream and food coloring (without food coloring the custard sauce will be a pale yellow)
8. Refrigerate overnight for best results, or at least until completely cooled.
9. Churn in ice cream maker, pouring in the chocolate chips during the last couple minutes of churning.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Number 10: Mint chocolate macarons

The first time I tried (key word) to make macarons, they fell flat. I didn't really understand what they were at the time, I had never had one, and so I misread the directions that said "mix in dry ingredients" and didn't take the care to fold the ingredients in.

So obviously the macarons didn't rise, didn't keep their shape and didn't have those cute little "feet."

So after doing some research, obsessing over the technique and finding myself with an extra two (aged) egg whites, I decided to try my hand at it again.

This recipe is David Lebovitz's French Chocolate Macaron recipe. After seven times he found the perfect recipe with a way to make the perfect feet - and it works.

I split the egg whites up to make one batch of chocolate and one batch of mint macarons, filling them with a mint bittersweet chocolate ganache. (I burnt the first batch, sorry!)

Mint and chocolate macarons
with mint bittersweet chocolate ganache

For the macarons
2 egg whites, aged 48 hours in the fridge or 24 hours room temp
50 grams almonds
5 tablespoons sugar, granulated
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon chopped mint leaves

For the ganache
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon corn syrup
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon mint extract

To make the macarons
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
1. Ground the almonds with the powdered sugar until fine - sift
2. Split the powdered sugar and almonds in half, mixing mint leaves into one batch and cocoa powder into the other. Set aside
3. Beat the egg whites until it keeps its shape
4. Beat in the granulated sugar until very stiff
5. Take out half of the egg whites and put it into a separate bowl
6. In one bowl of egg whites, carefully fold in dry ingredients with mint in two batches
7. In the second bowl, carefully fold in cocoa dry ingredients in two batches
8. On a parchment-covered baking sheet, pipe out 1-inch macarons about 1-inch apart with a 2-cm pastry tip. Rap the sheet against the counter top a couple times to flatten the macarons.
9. Bake for 12 minutes
10. Let cool before removing from pan

*Note: Fold in just so the white streaks of egg whites disappear. Do not over mix or else the batch will fall flat

To make the ganache
1. Heat the cream to a boil
2. Pour over the chocolate, let sit for a minute
3. Mix the chocolate until smooth
4. Add in mint extract and butter, mix until smooth

To assemble
1. Spread ganache onto one cookie, sandwich
2. Paint on extra ganache with a toothpick

These are GREAT the day after. You can store them in an air-tight container for five days or put them in the freezer. Defrost them in the container to avoid the macarons getting soggy.