Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

key lime pie

i just made my first key lime pie....but it was really a science experiment. i had no idea there are only 3 ingredients in the filling: key lime juice, sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks. i didn't have to make a custard or anything! key limes are a lot smaller than regular limes...i'd say smaller than a golf ball. i found this recipe in an old issue of bon appetit magazine. all you do is mix in a bowl (whisk no need for an electric beater) and pour it in. 18 minutes later the pie is done. well not done...ready to go in the fridge. i found a few other recipes and they were all different ratios of the same ingredients.

i got excellent reviews from everyone who tasted it. my brother asked about the color because he expected it to be green...but i didn't want to add any food coloring. i had a few issues with the crust...mostly because i didn't measure the 1 1/4 cups of graham cracker crumbs and because i used a 9.5 inch pie plate. the first time the crust was too thin...the second time the crust was too thick. i'm not too frustrated though because this was all good practice. i think i'll get it right next time.

i fully intended to make the passion fruit coulis and huckleberry compote that were included in the recipe...but i had a few technical difficulties. good thing too because the sweet crispy graham cracker crust went so well with the cool, tart creamy filling, i didn't want anything else to get in the way!

from september 06 issue of bon appetit

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh key lime juice

preheat oven to 350 degrees F. combine cracker crumbs, sugar and salt in medium bowl. add butter and stir until crumbs are moist. press mixture onto bottom and sides of 9-inch glass pie dish. bake crust until set and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. cool crust completely. maintain oven temp.

whisk sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks in medium bowl to blend. pour filling into cooled crust. bake pie until filling is set, about 18 minutes. transfer to rack and cool to room temp. cover and refrigerate pie overnight.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

i'm an award winning baker!!!

i learned from the food network that the name "pound cake" came from the ingredients. this cake originally called for a pound of butter, a pound of flour and a pound of sugar. my mom's recipe is top secret so my lips are sealed. she has been making this pound cake for a loooong time. so i can't take credit for it - i'm just lucky she passed it on to me! i entered it in the california state fair when i was in middle school...and i won first place! i forgot about it until my dad reminded me - he even found the ribbon. it's wrinkled but i had to show you what i won. :o)

i would say this pound cake is one of my mom's specialties....and one of my dad's favorites. i bet she bakes a pound cake once a week. she's also figured out how to alter the recipe to make a cake that's lower in fat. she used to send this cake to family members in st. louis and chicago by request. aunt gert (who was in her 90's at the time) actually talked my mom into giving her the recipe. she passed away a few years ago so now my mom and i are the only people who know this recipe - and we even have it memorized.

this is one of those treasured family recipes ya'll.

it's pretty easy to put together...but also kind of temperamental. beat it too long and the result is too fluffy. too short and it's dense and lacking in flavor (because the flavorings aren't evenly dispersed). there are several important steps even after the cake is out of the oven. i can't go into detail but i can describe the taste experience: crunchy crust, buttery...perfectly centered between sturdy and tender. there's also a delicious, slightly gooey (purposely undercooked) layer that i leave for the very last bite.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

chocolate bliss

i realized i don't eat chocolate a lot...even though i'm a chocoholic. maybe i've been just trying to take advantage of all of this beautiful summer fruit. when i go out to restaurants i usually don't order a chocolate dessert because most of the time they are made with milk chocolate. i don't play with my chocolate...i don't like the diluted stuff. gimme the bittersweet!

i first came accross this recipe on scharffenberger's (my favorite chocolate) website a few months ago. they're called "brownies" but my mom and i agree...they're so much more than that!
i added a few extra ounces of chocolate to her recipe, just because i had an especially strong craving that day. the result was an incredibly chewy, intense chocolate bliss. there was nothing "brownie" about it.

alice medrich is the "queen of chocolate." i really wish i had been alive when she had her cocolat stores in the bay area. sigh... anyway, i've tried several of her recipes and ended up with great results. home girl doesn't play with her chocolate either. i bought this cookbook for my mom for mother's day (my mom is a chocoholic too). it's out of print so i had to get it used. just to let you know how much respect i have for alice medrich let me be clear: i was willing to pay $50 for a used book. that's some serious chocolate! my mom and i are gonna take a chocolate class with her this year. more about that later...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

july challenge

unfortunately, i didn't do this month's challenge because i don't like nuts. and i couldn't think of anyone that could eat the entire beautiful cake.

here's the (LONG) recipe to show what the other daring bakers went through in july. whew!

can't wait to find out next month's challenge..

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream
From Great Cakes by Carol Walter
1 Filbert Genoise
1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum
1 recipe Praline Buttercream½ cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
1 recipe Apricot Glaze
1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using
3 tablespoons filberts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Filbert Genoise
Because of the amount of nuts in the recipe, this preparation is different from a classic genoise.
1 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted/skinned
2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
7 large egg yolks1 cup sugar, divided ¼ & ¾ cups
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. grated lemon rind
5 lg. egg whites
¼ cup warm, clarified butter (100 – 110 degrees)
Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan. Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside. Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add ¾ cup of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another ½ minute. Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute. Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds. With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.

Sugar Syrup

Makes 1 cup, good for one 10-inch cake – split into 3 layers

1 cup water

¼ cup sugar

2 Tbsp. dark rum or orange flavored liqueur In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake. *Can be made in advance.

Praline Buttercream
1 recipe Swiss Buttercream
1/3 cup praline paste
1 ½ - 2 Tbsp. Jamaican rum (optional)
Blend ½ cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine. Blend in rum.
Swiss Buttercream
4 lg. egg whites
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 ½ -2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or liqueur of your choice
1 tsp. vanilla
Place the egg whites in a lg/ bowl of a elevtric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside. Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become toooooo soft.*On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.Wait! My buttercream won’t come together! Reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not overbeat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together.

Wait! My buttercream is too soft! Chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl– making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.

Praline Paste
1 cup (4 ½ oz.) Hazelnuts, toasted/skinless
2/3 cup Sugar
Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter. Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. **Remember – extremely hot mixture.** Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.

Apricot Glaze
Good for one 10-inch cake2/3 cup thick apricot preserves
1 Tbsp. water

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze

Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake **Ganache can take on many forms. While warm – great fudge sauce. While cool or lukewarm – semisweet glaze. Slightly chilled – can be whipped into a filling/frosting. Cold & solid – the base of candied chocolate truffles.

6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
6 oz. (¾ cup heavy cream1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreay, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)
¾ tsp. vanilla
½ - 1 tsp. hot water, if needed
Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside. Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside. Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ - 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!

Assembling Cake

Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake. Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.Spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream. Cover with ½ of the whipped cream, leaving ¼-inch border around the edge of the cake. Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Cover with the remaining whipped cream. Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes. Lift the cake by sliding your palm under the cardboard. Holding a serrated or very sharp night with an 8-ich blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing the cut areas completely. Chill while you prepare the ganache.Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.To garnish the cake, fit a 12 – 14-inch pastry bag with a #114 large leaf tip. Fill the bag with the reserved praline cream. Stating ½ inch from the outer edge of the cake, position the pastry tube at a 90 degree angle with the top almost touching the top of the cake. Apply pressure to the pastry bag, moving it slightly toward the center of the cake. As the buttercream flows on the cake, reverse the movement backward toward the edge of the cake and finish by pulling the bag again to the center. Stop applying pressure and press the bag downward, then quickly pull the tip up to break the flow of frosting. Repeat, making 12 leaves evenly spaced around the surface of the cake. Make a second row of leaves on the top of the first row, moving the pastry bag about ¾ inch closer to the center. The leaves should overlap. Make a 3rd row, moving closer and closer to the center. Add a 4th row if you have the room. But, leave a 2-inch space in the center for a chopped filbert garnish. Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving.

Leftover cake can be covered with foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

banana cupcakes...3 ways

we went to lake del valle in livermore to celebrate ku's birthday. i woke up early and made banana mini cupcakes. i decided to make 3 different frostings so the mini size will encourage everyone to taste the different flavor combos.

strawberry banana
cream cheese banana
banana pancakes (with maple frosting)

i got positive comments on all three frostings and all three combos! when i asked everyone their favorite, there was no clear winner. i think it just depends on your mood. One of my chief taste testers said she likes the strawberry frosting because it tastes fresh. another said he likes the cream cheese because it goes well with the banana cake. personally my favorite flavor is "banana pancakes," maybe because that's my favorite thing for breakfast. i think it will make a great addition on my fall menu. it's always an interesting experience to eat a cupcake that reminds you of something else.

you all know i was running late so i forgot to take pictures. these were the only two cupcakes left by the time i remembered! the cream cheese frosting was white and the strawberry was cute pink frosting. i have to figure out a garnish for the banana pancakes because the cupcake is just plain brown.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


i tested 2 new cupcake flavors today: vanilla lemon drop and cantaloupe honey.

vanilla, lemon and vodka...these flavors are in my favorite drink so i decided to try to recreate the experience in cupcake form. it was pretty good...tart and sweet and i could taste the sharpness from the vodka. i don't think ANY of my chief taste testers could taste the vodka though. something is missing...i need to work this out. for some reason i didn't like the last TWO cocktails i ordered from two different places. what's going on?

i came up with the cantaloupe honey combo myself. a few weeks ago i got a beautiful and sweet melon from the farmer's market. i got home and quickly chopped the cantaloupe and put it in the fridge for later. i prefer my melon chilled. anyway when i came back the next day the melon was perfect: sweet, ripe, orange and cool. i closed my eyes to allow my taste buds to focus. suddenly the floral taste of honey appeared in my imagination. where did that come from??? my eyes opened in surprise. i'd never heard of that combination...cantaloupe and honey...sounds kind of random. my eyes closed again and i took another bite. could these 2 flavors go together? yes, most definitely...without a doubt. just let me go test my hypothesis. i drizzled the liquid gold over the last bright orange square in my bowl and confirmed my suspicions. this cupcake was also pretty good...but i have to make a few adjustments. less honey and more cantaloupe.

so cupcakes are made up of 2 parts right? cake and frosting. usually i combine flavors in both parts...but in the future i want to put one flavor in the cake and one flavor in the frosting. i've tasted cupcakes like this and they were good. it's a good way to get more intense flavors....and you can also take a bite of just the cake....or taste just the frosting....then put the 2 flavors together....mmmmm.