Lemon Coconut Goobers

March 4, 2010

I have a friend named Goober.  It was Goober’s birthday last weekend.  Goober is a dear friend, one that truly appreciates my baking more than most my others.  I had to go all out for Goober.

It’s Wednesday.  This week has been so unbelievably long even though I took Monday off.  The weather has been ridiculously sporadic and off-beat.  1 hour intervals of rain and sunshine.

However I think I’m feeling a little better now that I took a two-hour nap tonight.  I got up and made this Salmon and Cream recipe sans blinis, did I tell you I gave up gluten for lent?  well that too.  I noshed on the rest of the mango I didn’t use for the recipe while I caught up with a dear 17&baking pen pal via email.  I’m also listening to Miike Snow, my newest obsession I discovered through une-deux senses.  Holy crap look at what I just wrote; my life revolves around blogs.

Let’s get back to Goober.  Fun Facts:  Goober is 18, meaning she can engage in the life changing world of cigarettes, porno, strip clubs; you know, the important things in life.

Goober’s chinese name is Mei-Ling.

I only talk in a Chinese when I am with Goober.  (note:  I do not know how to speak Chinese)

Goober and I just started a blog.

Goober likes to eat everything.  I love that; sometimes it’s overwhelming because there is so much good stuff to choose from, but when you have a list of recipes you’re dying to make, the less restriction the better.

Dorie Greenspan claims this is “The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart”, describing the texture as velvety and deceptively light.  Uh…. well in that case!  I made a pate sablee crust and topped it with meringue.

When I was making this I thought I had totally ruined it; I used a food processor and after I processed the cream it was straight-up liquid.  I expected it to be the consistency of lemon curd, however I put it in the fridge to chill and four hours later, Viola!  Lemon-cream dreams!

Pierre Herme’s Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

from Baking From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

makes 8 servings

Ingredients

1 cup sugar

Finely grated zest of 3 lemons

4 large eggs

3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons)

2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (21 tablespoons; 10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces

1 fully baked 9-inch tart shell

Making The Tart

Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at the ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

1. Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be fitted into the pan of simmering water. Off heat, work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.

2. Fit the bowl into the pan (make certain the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180°F. As you whisk the cream over heat—and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as the cream is getting closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point—the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature. And have patience—depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.

3. As soon as you reach 180°F, pull the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140°F, about 10 minutes.

4. Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to beat the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

5. Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and chill the cream for at least 4 hours or overnight. When you are ready to construct the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.

Serving: The tart should be served cold, because it is a particular pleasure to have the cold cream melt in your mouth.

Storing: While you can make the lemon cream ahead (it will keep in the fridge for 4 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months), once the tart is constructed, it’s best to eat it the day it is made.

The Meringue Adapted from Cook EatLove

Notes from Author: Because stabilization is achieved with the cornstarch paste, this meringue topping will not weep, leak, or deflate, even when refrigerated for several days. Since the pie filling should be piping hot when the meringue is added, measure out and prepare the cornstarch paste in step 1 below before embarking on the filling recipe above.

Ingredients

1            Tbsp            Cornstarch

1            Tbsp            Sugar

1/3            Cup            Water

4            Each            Large egg whites, room temperature

½            Tsp            Vanilla

¼            Tsp            Cream of tartar

½            Cup            Sugar, preferably superfine

Procedure steps for meringue

1.            Mix the cornstarch and sugar in a small saucepan, then add the water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Using a wire whisk stir briskly and boil for 15 seconds. Remove the thick paste from the heat and cover. (Now go ahead and start the filling in step 2 from the top section of this recipe.)

2.            In a clean and grease-free mixing bowl add the room temperature egg whites and beat until foamy.

3.            Add the vanilla and cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form.

4.            Slowly and gradually add the sugar and beat in well on high-speed until very stiff and glossy but not dry.

5.            Reduce the mixer speed to very slow and add the cornstarch paste 1 tablespoon at a time. When the paste is incorporated increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for another 10 to 15 seconds.

People like their stand mixer or grandma’s old wooden bowl.  My favorite kitchen tool is my gas torch.  Hands down.

Don’t think I’m done Y’all!  That was for Goober’s birthday…. but what about the LADY GAGA themed Birthday Party!?

Yes.  I needed something delicious and I was thinking coconut.

Notes about this cake.  It is seriously delicious, definitely upped my baking rep.  I ruined the consistency of the frosting, however it still tasted great.  Me, being super shameful about wasted ingredients still used the loose frosting between the layers and around the cake but whipped up some swiss meringue buttercream and topped with organic unsweetened coconut.  Using both frosting didn’t really work out; it was super difficult to frost but flavor was not lost!

I’ve seen all these colorful cakes so I decided to make mine festive with gel and liquid food coloring.  (Gel is much more vibrant).  I only got pictures after half the cake had been demolished from the night (there were like 3 humongous cakes at the party!)

Southern Coconut Cake Adapted from Tender Crumb

Makes an 8-inch triple layer cake

For the cake:

5 large egg whites

½ cup of milk

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

3 cups of cake flour

2 and 1/3 cup sugar

4 ½ teaspoons of baking powder

½ teaspoon of salt

2 sticks of unsalted butter (8oz.) at warm room temperature

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

2 ½ cups of sweetened flaked coconut for garnishing cake

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Butter the bottoms of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a parchment circle and butter the circle.

Put the egg whites in a bowl and whisk slightly. Add the ½ cup of milk and the vanilla and whisk to mix thoroughly; set aside.

In a large mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, beat dry ingredients well in order to break up any lumps. Add the butter and coconut milk on low speed and beat just to combine. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy about 2 minutes.

Add the egg white mixture in 2 or 3 additions, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Divide the batter among the pans.

Bake for 30 minutes or until a cake taster inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes. Then turn the cakes out and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on an 8-inch cake round. Cover this layer with 1 cup of the buttercream frosting. Spread it evenly all the way to edge of the cake. Then sprinkle ½ cup of shredded coconut on top. Add the second layer and repeat the process. Top with the final layer of cake and frost the top and sides of the cake.

Place the remaining 1 ½ cups shredded coconut on a large baking tray. Pick up the cake and hold it on the palm of one hand over the tray. Using the other hand scoop up the coconut and press it to the sides of the cake. Continue with this process until the sides of the cake are covered. Set the cake on a serving plate and sprinkle any remaining coconut on top of cake. Chill cake for at least one hour to allow frosting to firm up a bit.

Cream cheese buttercream frosting

12 ounces of cream cheese, slightly chilled

1 stick of butter plus 6 tablespoons of butter (7 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup of confectioners sugar, sifted after measuring

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup granulated sugar

¼ cup of water

3 egg whites

Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer and beat on medium speed until slightly fluffy and smooth. Add the butter 1-2 tablespoons at a time, mixing until smooth. Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and mix until fluffy. Set aside at room temperature while buttercream is made.

Combine the granulated sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Continue to cook without stirring until the syrup reaches the softball stage 228 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, place the egg whites in mixer bowl and have the mixer ready to go. When the syrup is ready, turn the mixer on med-low and begin mixing the egg whites. Slowly add the hot syrup to the whites taking care not to pour onto the beaters, it may splash. When all the syrup is incorporated, raise the speed on the mixer to med-high and beat the egg whites until mixture has cooled and stiff meringue forms.

With the mixer on low, begin adding the cream cheese mixture by the spoonful. When all is incorporated, raise the speed to medium and whip until frosting is smooth and fluffy.

I was frightened at how simple this SMBC recipe was…. luckily I had made SMBC several times before so I knew what to look for, but you should find a more specific recipe if your making SMBC for the first time.  Great recipe though!

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Adapted from Whisk Kid

To frost:

5 egg whites

1 c sugar

2 sticks butter, room temp

1 tsp Vanilla extract

Cook the egg whites and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved (test by rubbing some between your fingers. If it’s completely smooth, it’s done). Pour into another bowl (a stand mixer is preferable) and whip on high speed until room temp. Then, on a medium-slow speed, add the butter, waiting until each piece is completely incorporated before adding the next. After all the butter has been added, turn the mixer back to high speed and whip until it has come together, about five minutes. Add the extract, beat briefly and then use.

I had a piece of cake even though I’m on my Gluten Free diet.  shhh.

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The Ranch

February 19, 2010

Happy New Year!

The 14th was Chinese New Year, which means extensive preparation and a whole lot of food.  I’m not gona lie, I didn’t end up getting super into it this year, but what generally does need to happen in preparation is a cleaning of the house, a haircut (these must be done BEFORE the date), new clothes purchased for New Year’s day, filling the house with fresh fruit, cherry blossoms, flowers, candies, cakes, and chinese sweets.  The day of, my mom and I usually go to the Chinese temple, no washing of the hair is allowed (don’t wash away the bad luck!), no fighting or none of anything you wouldn’t want to stick with you for the new year; New Year’s day is a reflection of the entire year.

In all honesty I didn’t even see my parents the day of Chinese new year.  New Years Eve we went out to a profuse 10 course traditional dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in China Town San Francisco.  Among my all time favorites, Egg white and dried scallop fried rice, Hong Kong style pan-fried noodles, and steamed whole green onion Ling Cod.  Holy crap I ate a lot; what made matters worse was the surprise birthday dinner I had to attend for my friend at an Italian restaurant in North Beach. Ugg…. don’t judge me for having a piece of cake at the party.

Fast forward to the next morning; Chinese New Year day, oh yea it was also Valentine’s day too (:/)  Luckily I was already with my single girlfriends.  We wanted a retreat, and conveniently the birthday girl has a ranch in Healdsburg (in the country about 1 1/2 hours from the city) which we decided to drive up to.

What can I say about this place?  Idyllic and picturesque.  The kitchen looks as though it was taken out of pottery barn magazine, I was so excited to jump in there and get to use it.  Surrounded by vineyards, a white wrap around porch and a Kelly green, grassy lawn every moment spent there is a calm satisfaction I could only relish in.

My friends and I were fortunate to have the house to ourselves.  We aimlessly explored the property, took the golf-cart out for a spin, and I took photos on my camera.  Later, we went to the local market where we sampled more cheese than should have been allowed for free and came back with fresh chicken and vegetables for grilling, salad materials, and ripe peaches and nectarines for a galette.

The weather was perfect; bright, sunny and warm.  I was wearing my shorts mid-February.  Sunlight streamed through the windows and filled the kitchen with a warm glow while I began to prepare my fruit galette. I felt right at home in the classically charming kitchen.  I breathed in what felt so much like summer.  I was inspired to make this because 1) the house conveniently had pie crust in the fridge 2)  It’s the simplest of all desserts 3)  I didn’t need a recipe 4)  It felt right; the day reminded me so much of summer and I wanted something light, delicious, homemade and rustic; just like the ranch.

I didn’t use a recipe for this galette, they are so simple and I have made them several times. I had a pre-made pie crust in the fridge.  Typically I would have used cornstarch but since I had none I added a small handful of flour, shook a few tablespoons of tapioca into the mixture (I wanted to try it because it was on hand), a squeeze of lemon, and about 1/3 cup of sugar ( if any)

Step by step tutorial:

I sliced two ripe peaches and one ripe nectarine

next, I added a small handful of flour, sugar, and a bit of tapioca ( just because I had it on hand)

important that you squeeze a half of a lemon into the mixture; it brings out the bright fruity flavor; even better if you add a teaspoon of zest.

now mix gently with hands…

and pour out onto your 10 inch diameter rolled, round pie crust

Neatly place in the center with a 1 inch border.  I like to make sure they look somewhat organized, but don’t worry this is supposed to be homemade and rustic looking!

now fold the crust over, I dotted the top with just a bit of butter and brushed a little on the crust.  What you really want to do is make an egg wash for the crust using 1 egg and a few tablespoons of cream, however I had none of these.  It gives the crust a gorgeous golden brown color.

Now place in the center of a 350 F degree oven.  You want to bake this for about 20 minutes, until the juices are bubbling in the center and the crust is puffy and brown.  Don’t become worried if the fruit looks really dried out about 15 minutes in, give the juices some time!

My friend had been preparing the bbq pit and the chicken had been marinating while I made dessert….

time to get cookin!

I found this marinade in the pantry.  I think it is supposed to be for fajitas. It was delicious and we continued to brush the chicken with it as it grilled as well as some good old bbq sauce.

A lot of my friends are picky eaters. Not me.  Well something exciting is that I got them to eat my grilled onions and squash, they couldn’t resist; they’re that good.

I’m getting hungry… dinner’s almost ready

The sun began to set as we plated the food and sat down to dinner.  I couldn’t think of a more perfect Valentine’s date then good food, drink and my best friends 🙂

I also whipped up a simply delicious caprese salad sans basil + cornichons+green olives

the chicken was so perfectly moist, with a crispy, crusty skin

I learned how to make pizza through my internship…. maybe next time I’ll give this baby a whirl.

And what can I say about these ladies… other than, well I’m kind of obsessed.

St. Valentine

February 16, 2010

St. Valentine,

I have attended Catholic religious schools for the past  10 years of my life, and still do not precisely know who you are or why such a day filled with tacky drug-store manufactured cartoon cards, or chalky and suggestive heart shaped candies has been named after you.  However, I want to, in the most sincere tone of course, thank you for creating a holiday which makes all singles feel like total loners.  Amen.

Ok maybe that was harsh, but Valentine’s day sucks.  There, I said it.  Now I’m not trying to delve too much into my personal life, but I’ve never had a entirely ‘successful’ Valentine’s day, and my mom’s polite badgering of  any recent love interests only makes matters worse… ugg. Out of pity, she invited me on to join her and my father on their candlelit dinner date.  Ok, now I’ve reached an all-time low.

Well, then again I can always drown my hum-drum self-absorbed Valentine’s day sorrows in…. Did somebody say BAKING!?

Yes, I get excited for every opportunity I can bake, especially when It’s something as tacky and festive as Valentine’s day.  Even better.

Now I wanted to make something exciting and different.  I’ve been doing a lot of self evaluation of my baking and let’s face it, I’m a boring at-home baker.  Sure the pictures are nice, but I usually stick to what I know in my own kitchen: pies (from scratch…whoohoo..), layer cakes, cupcakes, and tons and tons of drop cookies.  My pal Elissa at 17 and baking prompted my need to be adventurous;  she does the daring bakers challenge and lately has so much variety on her blog (doughnuts!).  So I’m totally on a bread baking obsession, and even though I still have never attempted it at home, I’m in the mental preparation state. (haha, more like I haven’t found a minute to get yeast at the store!)  Quick Fact and Backround:  I do an internship at Orson Restaurant and Citizen Cake Bakery in San Francisco. (:D) And though I haven’t earned one pay check I get to be a totally adventurous baker, going off the whimiscally fabulous recipies of Elizabeth Falkner.  There, I’m able to make  filo wrapped date cigars, ficcocia, green apple sorbet, date pudding, cheddar bacon scones ( I had to use a deli slicer as the restaurant cures it’s own bacon; so crazy and intimidating after I saw what happened to  Mickey Rourke in the Wrestler! Luckily I escaped with all 10 fingers),  blueberry maple cheesecakes and the alfajores that are to die for. As a pronounced chocoholic, I maydare to say that it is  perhaps the most incredible cookie that I have tasted (although David Chang’s momofuku milk bar’s cornflake cookie is a contender).

That paragraph was totally all over the place now that I read it over, but in conclusion, I had to make these whoopie pies because I died when I say them on Annie’s Eats.  They were too, too cute (Bakerella Status).  I guess I stepped a little out of the box because I never have made whoopie pies before….  (boringggggg)  They turned out cakey and soft just like I imagine they are supposed to.  When I brought them to school, one of my friends raved that they tasted like pancakes. (In a good way I guess).  I cured my own buttermilk substituion (milk+ 1 tablespoon lemon juice+ 5 minutes= buttermilk :D).  I also used a marshmellow frosting which I added 2 tablespoons of sourcream to get that tangy flavor,  I didn’t have any of the ingedients for the cream cheese frosting.  The sour cream ended up deflating my frosting a bit, so I wasn’t able to achieve towering and fluffy whoopie pies. My mom’s reaction was “those are pretty ugly”… so  I left suggestions to prevent this down by the frosting recipe.

Please enjoy!

Adapted From Annie’s Eats

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies
For the cookies:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 oz. red food coloring (I used a few teaspoons)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.

Using a heart template cut out from card stock, trace evenly spaced hearts onto pieces of parchment paper sized to fit two cookie sheets.  Place the parchment on the cookie sheets so that the side you have drawn on is facing down; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the egg until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Blend in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, beat in about a third of the dry ingredients, followed by half of the buttermilk, beating each addition just until incorporated.  Repeat so that all the buttermilk has been added and then mix in the final third of dry ingredients.  Do not overbeat.  Blend in the food coloring.

Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip.  Pipe the batter onto the parchment paper using the heart tracings as a guide.  Bake 7-9 minutes or until the tops are set, rotating the baking sheets halfway through.  Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets at least 10 minutes, until they can be easily transferred to a cooling rack.  Repeat with any remaining batter.  Allow cookies to cool completely before proceeding.

To make the cream cheese frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.

Adapted from Tracy’s Culinary Adventures

Frosting

1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup water
4 teaspoons dried egg whites, reconstituted according to package directions(equivalent to 2 egg whites)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To Make the Frosting:

Bring 2 inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan. Combine 1 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 cup water in a heatproof bowl and set it over the saucepan. Heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves, about 7 minutes. Take off the heat, dd the egg whites, cream of tartar and pinch of salt to the bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until the mixture is glossy and thick, 5-7 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the heat and continue beating for 1 minute to cool the frosting. Add the vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and beat on low just to combine. I added a few tablespoons of sour cream, but the frosting started to get flat so I would suggest taking a third of the frosting out, mixing it with some sour cream, and folding the mixture back into the frosting.

Transfer the frosting to a clean pastry bag fitted with a plain, round tip.  Pair the cookies up by shape and size.

Birthday Baking

January 30, 2010

A batch of crackly, awkward and unpleasant looking sour cream chocolate cupcakes emerge from the oven.  Ew.  How do I rectify the situation?  Well, perhaps with some cream cheese peanut butter frosting….

much better.

I was in Seattle the weekend of my friend’s birthday.  I try to never miss an opportunity to get into the kitchen and bake, especially now that I’m trying to be more health conscious and bake less as of the new year, and especially because I know I won’t be the one eating it all (well, maybe.  Let’s pretend that licking the batter off the spatula and eating mouthfuls of frosting by the spoon don’t count; shall we?).  Anyways, senior-itis is definitely taking over my mentality these days.  I spend the infamous national homework day aka Sunday browsing through blogs and baking chocolate peanut butter cupcakes and Dorie Greenspan’s pecan pie, blowing off all my homework.  My haven if there ever was one.

Now notice how the pecan pie is not pictured?  Yes, about that.  I’m sure it will taste just fine, but the pecans came out of the oven slightly burnt.   Ok, that was an understatement, the pecans looked like the members of the cast of jersey shore, put modestly, too tanned.  I made this for another friend’s birthday who likes pie.   It was really hard deciding what to make him.  In all honestly I don’t exactly know what he likes in particular. Usually for a special occasion, I try to make a person their absolute favorite dessert or flavor combination, however I do remember him requesting a pie once, and I was dying to get some use out of my new Dorie Greenspan cookbook so I went with her trusted pecan pie recipe.

When I gave him the pie today, he told me he had never had pecan pie before.  Seriously!?  I was pretty shocked.  I absolutely love pecan pie, especially ones with chocolate.  It’s something I have had every year for thanksgiving dinner since I can remember.  Then again, I am a total food snob, and at the ripe age of 18 have tasted everything from smoked tea eggs and Chou dofu in Taiwan,  Nato in Japan, Durian in Hong Kong, Fois gras in Napa and escargot in NYC.  Ok so I’m really spoiled when it comes to good food. When I was young, I skipped the mac and cheese and went straight for the salmon and brocoli on the kids menu. My mom prided her kids on being “good eaters”, and if we didn’t like something, well, her famous method was to feed it to us until we did.  (Hello Onions!) But to me, food has always represented cultural acceptance and worldliness.  I find it a total turn off when people scoff at food because it “just looks gross” and don’t give it a chance.  Ok, now I can totally see how one could be intimidated when going to dim sum and having bleached chicken feet put on your table.  But it’s more about the respect you show towards food, which in turn lends respect to the culture, I mean it’s not your fault if you don’t like the taste!

Ok, enough of my rant.  Let’s get down and dirty to these recipes!

I had a surplus of sour cream in my fridge that I wanted to use up, so I specifically looked for the recipe that called for the most sour cream I could find.  Here is what I found.  Ok, now comes the embarrassing confession time and  I’m dreading writing this, so I couldn’t find my coco powder and I went ahead and used a pack of hot chocolate mix.  Naturally right after they came out of the oven I stumbled upon my can of Ghirdelli’s coco powder.  Anyways, the hot chocolate mix has some sort of thickener in it, perhaps cornstarch and I think it affected the texture of these cupcakes just a tad.  I also only used one cup of coffee.

Devil’s Food Cake

from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book

Makes one 9” cake (or about 17 cupcakes)

For the Cake:

6 oz best-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely shopped

2/3 cup vegetable or canola oil

2 2/3 cup sugar

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup best-quality unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

¾ tsp kosher salt

2/3 cup sour cream

3 large eggs

1 1/3 cups hot strong brewed coffee

To Make the Cake

1. In the top of a double boiler set over simmering, not boiling, water, melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. When the chocolate is completely melted, whisk in the vegetable oil until smooth. Remove from the heat, but keep warm over the hot water.

2. In the bowl, of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix well.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream and eggs until smooth.

4. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, and mix until combined. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the melted chocolate mixture and mix until combined. add the hot coffee (or water) in a stream, and mix until combined. (Again, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.) The batter will be very loose.

5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans (or cupcake tins, I baked them for about 20-25 minutes). Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool in the pans for 25 minutes before turning out the layers onto the rack. Cool completely before finishing.

The baked layers may be stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for 2 days. For longer storage, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze wrapped in plastic wrap and them aluminum foil for up to 2 weeks. Do not unwrap before thawing.

As for the frosting, I knew I wanted to make a cream cheese frosting.  This just looked so beautiful on Annie’s Eats.  It pipes beautifully!  I never buy frozen whipped topping, but luckily I found the ingredient in my freezer that no one had ever used.

For the frosting:

8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

½ cup creamy peanut butter

3¼ cups confectioners’ sugar

1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed

To make the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter and peanut butter until smooth.  Slowly mix in the confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth and well blended.  Mix in the whipped topping until smooth and fluffy.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

I found these hidden gems at Trader Jo’s and bought them specifically because I knew they would look super cute on top of cupcakes.  But they still needed something…. maybe a pinch of coco powder; good thing  I found it after all!

Blast from the Past

January 23, 2010

I knew I wanted to start my own baking blog from the time I was first introduced into the food blogging world.  Anticipating the start of my own site, I was a rampant baker and used my small digital camera to document every item produced in my kitchen, taking hundreds of shots of my cupcakes, cookies and cakes that I knew would one day be posted on my own blog.  However, now that I have my blog, I never look back or consider posting those old recipes I’ve made, however successful they were.  Maybe it’s the crappy lighting or blurry photography, or maybe it’s just because I can’t even keep up with posting my new recipes.  Well, today while looking through my iphoto albums, I was inspired to share some past photos and recipes of things I have made.  I do indeed have hundreds of photos sitting around serving no purpose!

Here is a brief excerpt of my baking, pre-rollininthedough.

Since I began baking, I have made a coconut cake every year for my mom’s birthday in October.  It’s her favorite, and I always try out a new recipe.  October of 2008, I was feeling ambitious and wanted to do something grand.  I found this recipe months before the date, and marveled over its impressiveness; I knew it was perfect.  However, when I read through the recipe, I was repulsed by the 10 sticks of butter called to make the entire thing.  I’ll repeat that: TEN STICKS OF BUTTER.  My family is pretty health conscious, so I tried to improve this buttery situation by opting out a few sticks from the cake batter.  Now I don’t quiet remember exactly what I did, but what I will tell you is to NOT do what I did.  If your going to make this cake, go ahead and make it with all its 10-sticks-of-butter-glory.  I followed the recipe for the frosting to a T and it turned out amazing.  Real vanilla beans.  As for my attempt to manipulate the fat out of this cake, well it had a weird flavor and dryness to it.  Looks impressive though….right?  I wasn’t confident enough to make a six layer cake, so I made it four layers.  I’m sure it will be amazing if it is done right.  Don’t mind if I just post a link, this recipe is super long: ultimate Coconut Cake

This next recipe is Dorie Greenspan’s Berry Surprise cake; a white cake with berries hidden inside, so when you cut it open the cake bursts with berries. This was a recipe done on a week of Tuesday’s with Dorie.  I fell in love with how this cake looked.  So pristine white, and berry beautiful 😉  One of my favorite blogs, Tender Crumb had one of the most beautiful interpretations of this cake which I was inspired to emulate.  I made this for my brothers surprise birthday party, so it seemed only fitting to make a Berry Surprise Cake. (I’m a corn-ball).  Known for over-doing it in the dessert department,  I also made ice cream sandwiches.  I can’t remember which chocolate chip cookie recipe I used (from the picture it looks like the NYTCCC), but I made two types of ice cream: strawberry balsamic and salted caramel.   What great flavor combinations,  if I don’t say so myself, these ice cream sandwiches were pretty dope 😀

To make the ice cram sandwiches, I let the ice cream thaw to room temperature, filled the cookies, wrapped them in plastic wrap and refroze.  Then about 30 minutes before consumption, I took them out of the fridge so they wouldn’t be hard as bricks.

I got the strawberry balsamic recipe from Tender Crumb blog as well: here

Salted Caramel Ice cream recipe:

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream

Adapted from David Liebovitz

2 cups whole milk, divided

1½ cups sugar
4 tablespoons salted butter
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the ice cream, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and adding a cup or so of water so they’re floating. Nest a smaller metal bowl (at least 2 quarts/liters) over the ice, pour 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of it.

Spread 1½ cups sugar in the saucepan in an even layer. Heat the sugar over moderate heat until the edges begin to melt. Use a heatproof utensil to gently stir the liquefied sugar from the bottom and edges towards the center, stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved. (Or most of it—there may be some lumps, which will melt later.)

Continue to cook stirring infrequently until the caramel starts smoking and begins to smell like it’s just about to burn. It won’t take long.

Once caramelized, remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, until butter is melted, then gradually whisk in the cream, stirring as you go.  The caramel may harden and seize, but return it to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted. Stir in 1 cup of the milk.

Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook the custard using a heatproof utensil, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture thickens. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read 160-170 F.

Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla, then stir frequently until the mixture is cooled down. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or until thoroughly chilled.

Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Finally, I’m going to share with you the first paid order I did; how exciting!  I remember slaving over these mini cupcakes all day.  It was so much work, but it was also well worth it.  I felt so accomplished and everybody loved these Chai tea and matcha green tea cupcakes (not pictured).  These were made for the Marin Chinese Cultural Association Asian scholarship dinner, so I went with tea flavors. Michelle from une-deuxsenses blog raved about this chai recipe, and I used a matcha cupcake recipe I created myself.  My first attempt at Swiss Merengue buttercream, it was glorious.  Recipe is here

A sample of past baking.  I can promise more is to come……

to be continued!

Seattle Chocolate Tour

January 20, 2010

I went up to Seattle this weekend to visit my awesome sister.  What a fun trip;  I got to see her hip hop group in concert, meet my pen pal and well-known blogging buddy Elissa from 17 & Baking, and take a Chocolate Indulgence Tour of the city.  And the tour is quiet accurately named, as one basically walks around a few city blocks visiting the most plush and swanky chocolate boutiques, indulging in an excess of chocolate.  From coconut cream pie, to cheesecake, to truffles,  I was not left hungry.  And as much as the calories pained my body, I highly recommend this fun experience.  Sorry about the funky lighting, I was in and out of shops!  Check it out…

Our First stop was the bar at the May Flower hotel where the bar tender took the group through chocolate cocktail making.  This right here is a combination of coffee liquor, dark chocolate liquor, and rum… perhaps something else.  Well, he topped it with rosted coffee beans and boy was it delicious.  Nothing like a shot of rum in the morning…

Next, we walked on to Dahlia Bakery

We were first treated to the famous triple coconut cream pie.  Now how is this chocolate?  well… the white chocolate shavings of course! ok so not super chocolate, but it was SUPER delicious.  YUM.

Next were chocolate crinkles that were chewy, gooey, rich and delicious

Next, we walked over the Caffe D’Arte, where we were served strong and dark chocolate mocha.

I also volunteered to help make latte art!

Next stop: Chocolate Box

This place has so much going on:  coffee bar, gelato, handmade truffles, confections, and bakery.

And of course we got samples…. ( more like a meal!)

Here is my mom enjoying an incredible chocolate enrobed gooey brownie.  so good!

chocolate cupcakes with a dark chocolate ganache filling and swiss merengue buttercream:

also, we tasted these dark chocolate lemon truffles that cut through the flavor and left a pleasant and unexpected taste

The group then walked down to Pike Place Market to the Confectional a.k.a. the place to get the best cheesecake

My favorite stop on the trip.  Both desserts served here were the bomb.  Now I’m a total chocolate fanatic, rich dark chocolate that is, but surprisingly y favorite thing happened to be this white chocolate raspberry cheesecake.

“HOLY SH*T.”

Next was a death by chocolate deliciousness, “sipping chocolate.”

Warning: this sip could kill

cloves and cinnamon make this flavorful and warming.  I couldn’t believe they even serve an 8 oz size.  One could be killed.  enough said.

cheesecake:

Next and last stop (thank god!) was Fran’s Chocolates at the new Four Seasons Hotel

More Chocolate.  I’m not going to lie… I took the last few truffles home, I couldn’t eat anymore!

As a bona fide chocoholic, it was awesome.

New Year’s Resolution

January 18, 2010

New Year’s Resolution:

1.  Blog more.

I’m trying not to bake as much after the holidays;  take a break if you will.  After a record-breaking butter intake in December 2009, it only seems fitting.  So I’m trying to eat right, stay healthy, exercise, and well… blog.  But less baking and more blogging doesn’t particularly make sense!  Well, I though about this, and there is more to blog about than just French pastry cream and butter pie crust.  My baking adventures are not limited to my own little kitchen.  I will still be baking, with a more health conscious approach  and also find fun things I can share with you all.

However, I did promise you that recipe  for the chocolate toffee shortbread from Christmas in my last post.  So easy and a great crowd pleaser.  I gave several bags away as gifts.

The Shortbread:
2 sticks softened butter
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups flour

Mix until crumbly. Press into 9×13 pan and bake at 325 for 30 minutes or until the top is just lightly browned.  Poke holes with a fork to let the steam escape.

Like This…

I then made Elizabeth Falkner’s sinfully delicious sticky toffee sauce.  This is easy and utterly amazing, I have yet to taste anything else like it.  Use it to fill cupcakes, top ice cream. layer in cakes or anything else, the possibilities are endless.  This sauce gives a decadent, rich, buttery and slightly salty flavor to anything it touches.  I knew I wanted to use it in this bar.

Sticky Toffee Sauce: (makes about 3/4 cup)

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of kosher salt

Use a medium sauce pan to melt the butter over medium/ high heat.  Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and add the brown sugar and cream, stirring just to moisten the sugar.  Bring to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes or until the thermometer registers 225 degrees F.  Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and salt and set aside to cool.  Can be stored in the refrigerator for three days.

I cooled the hot shortbread for about 10-20 minutes and then poured the sticky toffee sauce.

Make sure to spread it all over the surface, then refrigerate for about 20 minutes to set up

While the shortbread chilled, I melted about 2-3 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips over a double broiler, and added a few teaspoons of canola oil.

Pour the chocolate on….

definitely missing something…. to make it more festive I sprinkled gingerbread men on the surface 🙂

Chill the entire thing for about an hour to let it set completely.  You can take it out and slice it right away, then let it sit out because it tastes best at room temperature.

Perfect!

I happen to be up in Seattle at the moment visiting my sister and another special friend… I made her favorite cookies to bring up to her.  Look out for the recipes in my next post!