Wednesday, December 1, 2010

VLOG: do you know the muffin man

Let's take a walk down Drury Lane and talk about muffins!  Do you know the difference between a muffin and a cupcake?  Muffins generally are eaten for breakfast and because of that they are subtle in sweetness.  Muffins also have distinctive high peaks.  Cupcakes, on the other hand, are miniature forms of cake.  They are frosted and are very sweet and have flat tops.  In this vlog, I'll be discussing the very simple muffin method - that is to mix the wet and dry ingredients separately and then combine them together with minimal agitation.  This will help you to achieve the high muffin tops.

I'll be sharing two different recipes with you, but they'll contain the same scientific information. You can choose between the apple pie filled muffins or the banana chocolate chip muffins OR watch both.  These recipes are equally delish.  I'll also be sharing with you two versions of one song that I am featuring.  The artist is my dear friend Arielle DiGiacomo and she plays a mean ukulele.  Although the song was originally "untitled," it became known as the "lu-wish-cious" song because we were unable to clearly identify what she was saying.  At one point I thought it was "two wishes" but that's not it either.  I realize what it is now having listened to it several times (as I inadvertently do with all the songs I feature when I edit my vlogs), and who knows - maybe you'll get it the first time.  And lastly, these vlogs are considerably shorter than my previous ones; my plan is to keep the vlogs in the 3-5 min range.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

the unconventional tiramisu

Can I tell you a secret?  I've never had tiramisu before so I'm not even sure you could even call what I made tiramisu.  According to what is considered traditional tiramisu, I deviated from it in more ways than one.  First, I wanted to avoid salmonella poisoning by cooking the egg yolks in the zabaglione and the egg whites in the Italian meringue (both of which served as my pastry cream when combined with the mascarpone cheese).  Second, I wanted an alternative to the imported ladyfingers (savioardi biscuits) to better fit to my taste buds by baking up my own sponge cake.  Third, since I don't booze I went with the suggestion of using rum over marsala wine.

This was the original game plan:

So here's the low down on what I did.  This was a three day process.
Day One: I made my own mascarpone cheese (successfully)!
Day Two: I baked 2 sponge cakes (nothing new because I've done this before) and I prepared the zabaglione custard (fail - I'm pretty sure I did it wrong because it wasn't as thick as I expected, that is according to my research).
Day Three: I made my Italian meringue and used it to create my pastry cream.  I pulverized chocolate chips in the food processor.  I divided the cakes into four layers and assembled the cake.

Overall, my tiramisu did not go according to plan.  Because I made more pastry cream than I needed, I opted out of the chocolate and vanilla whipped cream layers.  I baked 8-in cakes but used a 8.5 inch spring form pan (all I had) and filled the empty space in the sides with pastry cream.  When I put the cake together with what I had, it was literally overflowing out of the spring form pan and looked as tall as a mile high apple pie would.  So this is how it looked after assembling:

Overnight, it turns out that the sponge cake absorbed the pastry cream in between the layers, so when it was sliced the following day, it looked like I placed one sponge cake on top of the other with a dusting of chocolate chips in between each layer with the exception of the pastry cream on the sides which was not absorbed by the cake.  I suppose I can use the excuse that this was my first time and I can only improve from here.  But this cake was way to difficult to make and I think I'll pass.  But if I should ever attempt tiramisu again, I'll do it the authentic way and use raw eggs, imported lady fingers, and marsala wine.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

VLOG: pumpkinized cinnamon buns

Some notes/rambling: My vlogs are getting longer and longer.  I'm going to try avoid doing that in future posts.  I've posted some text underneath the very unoriginal blog title/heading to give you a heads up on what my upcoming project is going to be.  I'm going to try to mix it up and bake everyday simple things along with some challenging stuff.  Those basics on cake and muffins and brownies will be discussed!

Now on to the pumpkin cinnamon buns.  In this vlog, the featured musician is Barbara Bownds, or as her friends call her - Nori!  I met Nori my freshman year in college.  She was my neighbor actually.  I've never met a soul who didn't like Nori and I don't think those people even exist because she is that awesome.  The track I've chosen is titled "Doomsday" and was the song she was teaching me how to play our last year in college.  On her website, Nori provides some background information on her music and on this particular song she writes, "I wanted to write a song about superheroes, and I got to thinking about the death of Superman (when he went up against Doomsday in the comics. Because THAT was a lasting story change)."  I loved the song then and I love it now and I hope you love it too.  So without further ado, I present to you Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

VLOG: one, two, buckle my choux

I am delighted to present Free Phil as the featured artist in this vlogisode.  The one thing I can tell you about Phil is that he rocks this hairdo that reminds me of my "went crazy and cut off all my hair Britney Spears style" moment, circa 2007.  Remember when I cut off my long locks and made it super boy short?  And applied a fist full of styling gel on my head to create a spiky look? And then finished it off with a polka dotted headband that had side swept bangs peeking through?  Well, he looks like he kinda does the same thing minus the polka dots and bangs.  A hairstyle like that certainly made me stand out.  I'm not sure if he gets the same responses I did where strangers complimented me and girls told me I had "big balls" (you know, for cutting it all off), but he does get a "nod of acknowledgement" from me on the track titled "The Interview" and I hope you all enjoy it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

VLOG: the ubiquitous cookie

It has been a while since my last post.  I said I would continue blogging until I got busy and/or bored; I’m busy but definitely not bored.  My posts will probably be made at least once a month, so please google friend connect me so my new entries will pop up on your google reader!

Now what’s so special about this specific recipe of chocolate chip cookies?  That’s up to you to bake and decide.  While I personally think the recipe is a winner, there are two things about this video blog entry (or vlog) for these cookies that make them unique.  First, it focuses on chocolate chip cookie techniques and tips.  You'll see that I made the assumption that the viewer knows absolutely nothing about baking and absolutely nothing about science.  

The second thing about this cookie vlog has to do with the music selection.  I’m thrilled to introduce you to Taylor Brown.  I met him through my guitar instructor quite a few years back.  I attended a couple of his performances before and I had Taylor in the back of my mind for a project.  So I contacted him and when he got back to me to tell me he was on board, I was beyond stoked.  He gave me a few songs to pick from and I chose to feature “Scarlet" which I believe is a pretty solid track.

I hope you enjoy the vlog as much as I did making it.  I just wish it wasn't so blurry after being published on youtube :(  If you have any feedback for me, I'd appreciate it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

VLOG: it's flan you fool

In seventh grade, each student in my spanish class had to prepare a spanish influenced dish and bring it in for everyone to taste.  When a boy pointed to my dish and asked what it was, I was shocked and said "You don't know what this is?  It's flan you fool."  Ok, I didn't say that but it was something nothing similar to that effect.

Flan is such a treat to eat.  It looks delicious but has difficulty presenting itself well (especially if you fail at un-molding it).  I've made several pass/fail attempts to create, in my opinion, the perfect flan that stands up to my custardy standards.  But what I was searching for was an exemplary flan.  One that would outshine the previous contenders for the the best flan award and I found it.  Take a look.  

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Guest Blogger: Banana Walnut Cream Cheese Time!

When Ms. Lollipop left, she gave me several of her things, including three blocks of unused cream cheese.  "I guess I'll eat more bagels," I shrugged. But no, no, no, the cream cheese was meant for a cheesecake that Ms. Lollipop was going to make, so she insisted that I make this cheesecake.  "Ok, fine," I said, "how do I do it?"  So Ms. Lollipop emailed me the recipe with detailed instructions.


"It's super easy," she replied. "Which part was hard? Was it the double boiler step or the kitchenaid step or the hours long baking step?!  :P" <-- I rest my case.

So, Ms. Lollipop suggested a simpler recipe instead: Banana Coffee Cake
This was back in June, so seeing that the cream cheese didn't expire until September, I put it off. Ms. Lollipop kept me honest by regularly checking on me and the cream cheese. "How is the cream cheese? Did you make it yet?" she asked. "No, it's only July, it's still good!" I said.  "How is the cream cheese? Did you make it yet?" she asked next time. "No, it's August, I still have time!" I said.  "Hey! The cream cheese is going to expire soon!!" she warned me in late August.  "OK! OK!" I replied.  So today, with one week left to spare, I made banana coffee cake.

Note: As I wrote down the recipe, I decided that the topping is "wimpy" and that I would do the delicious streusel topping that Ms. Lollipop usually does on regular coffee cake instead.  So I copied down her streusel recipe and patted myself on the back for being so smart.

Ok, are you ready? Set? Go! Go! Go!

I purchased bananas and left them in the plastic bag to ripen for rich banana flava!
Here is the cream cheese with a week to spare!
Oops, I used the tablespoon instead of the teaspoon,
so I tried to scoop out the excess baking powder.
The recipe called for softened cream cheese and softened butter.
Mine wasn't soft enough so I pulled out... THE POTATO MASHER!
The bananas were nice and freckled!
Added B-A-N-A-N-A-S and mashed away.
The cream cheese made the batter silky smooth!
I decided to use muffin pans. Ready for the oven!
I worked on the streusel topping and incorporated walnuts.
Look at the muffin tops!!
Since the streusel topping would fall off the muffin tops,
I sawed them off with the bread knife!

At this point, I tried to sprinkle on the streusel topping, but it wouldn't stay on. Not knowing what to do, I called Ms. Lollipop. So it turned out that I am suppose to bake it with the streusel topping on.  Oops. Ms. Lollipop suggested that I toast the streusel just so the butter melts and then top the muffins. Before hanging up, she warned me not to burn the streusel.

Burnt streusel.  Oops again.

Ok, at this point, I had to get ready for work, and there's no more butter to make more streusel, so IMPROVISATION TIME!! I picked out the "candied" walnuts from the burnt streusel, placed them on the muffins, and then drizzled with a sugar glaze (powdered sugar + water), and VOILA!

Yum banana walnut mini cake!

Whew! One cream cheese package down, two more to go!

Yay!  It makes me happy when you guys submit/share your baking escapades with me!  Thanks to C for such a fantastic blog entry!  I used to bake a whole lot for and with C and those were some good times, and I hope we'll get back into that rhythm someday again when the stars collide!   Until then, I've been dying to hear and read about this recipe for quite some time (as mentioned above) and I look forward to her future endeavors involving the remaining two cream cheeses!   The banana walnut cake looks delicious, although I have to say, assuming you shared these delectable treats, it seems you saved the best part all to yourself - the muffin tops! :) 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

almond strawberry swiss roll

Whether you call it a swiss roll or a jelly roll, they are formed from a sponge cake base or as the French call it, a gĂ©noise (zhehn-WAHZ).  When flat, a filling is added (cream or jelly jam) and then it is rolled into a cylindrical form.  The outside may be kept au naturel, dusted with powdered sugar, cocoa, or frosted with ganache or whipped cream.

I've decided to go outside of my baking comfort zone and tackle the unknown.  That was when the swiss roll came to my attention.  Many people (online bloggers) have written/said they were intimidated by this dessert (including myself) because it appears complex, but as those who ventured to bake it have realized that it is rather simple to make with the aid of some techniques.  I'll share what I've researched and learned from trial and error, all of which is incorporated into the recipe directions.  So let's talk rolls!

Recipe adapted from JoyofBaking

Sponge Cake
3 tbsp cake flour
1/3 cup sliced almonds
4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Strawberry Cream Filling
2 tbsp water
1 1/4 tsp unflavored gelatin
1/2 pint (8 oz) strawberries, chopped to bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled

1) To prepare the cream filling, start off by putting the bowl and whisk into the refrigerator to chill.  In the meantime, combine the gelatin and water into a small bowl.  Place it in the microwave for 10 seconds to dissolve the solution.  Set aside.  Next, pour the whipping cream into the bowl and attach the whisk.  As soft peaks are forming, slowly add the sugar.  After stiff peaks have been achieved, fold in the strawberries.  Cover and place into the fridge.
2) Separate the eggs into two bowls.  In bowl 1, place 2 egg whites and into bowl 2, place 5 egg yolks and 2 egg whites.  Allow it to reach room temperature.

3) Preheat the oven to 350F.  Place the sliced almonds on baking sheet and toast for 4 mins or until lightly brown.  Remove from oven and transfer to another surface to cool.

4) After it has cooled, place almonds in a food processor
with one tablespoon of flour and process until finely ground.  Mix in remaining flour and set aside.

5) Increase the oven temperature to 450F.  Grease the jelly roll pan.  Line it with parchment paper.

6) In a mixer, beat the contents of bowl 1 until foamy and it becomes opaque.  Add tartar and one tablespoon of the sugar during the soft peak phase.  Whisk until stiff peaks form.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

7) Using the same mixing bowl, add the contents of bowl 2 and mix with remaining sugar.  Beat on high for approx. 5 mins until mixture nearly doubles, and becomes pale, thick and fluffy.  Then add in vanilla extract.

8) Fold in the flour, half at a time.  Now fold in the egg whites - not all at once.  Pour batter in the jelly roll pan and make sure the mixture is spread evenly.  Bake for 6-7 minutes until golden brown.  Cake should spring back when touched.

9) Allow it to cool for 2 mins before you flip the pan and remove the parchment paper.  Here you can roll up the cake with a powdered sugar dusted kitchen towel, or do what I did and roll in a new sheet of parchment paper.  Allow this to cool completely.

10) After it has cooled, unroll the cake.  Spread on the chilled berry cream filling, but only covering approximately 3/4 of the cake.  Make sure to leave the outside edges bare (approximately 1/2 inch).  The filling will naturally
spread out of the sides as it is rolled up again.

11) Roll up the cake in the same manner in which it was rolled earlier. Carefully transfer the cake to a serving dish and cover it with plastic wrap.  Allow it to set in the fridge for at least one hour before slicing.

12) Slice and eat.  Top it with additional strawberry cream filling (there will be extra) and with any remaining toasted sliced almonds (assuming you toasted more than 1/3 cup).

The number of steps can be daunting.  I'll admit that I got frustrated at times because not everything went as planned.  But I modified the techniques I used and made the corrections above, so hopefully if and when you try to make your own swiss roll, you can avoid any errors I made.

Monday, July 26, 2010

oreo cheesecake bars

One time, as my sister and I were on our way out the door of her place, I grabbed an Oreo for the ride down the elevator. As I was eating it, she was telling me that she's been purchasing the reduced fat Oreos for a while.  Did you know that the difference in fat lies in the cream, and not the cookie?  And apparently there is an evident contrast in taste between the full fat and reduced fat Oreo.  But you'd only know that if you've had a taste test comparison.  She tells me that its best to stick to the reduced fat version because once you know that there's better out there, you might not want to go back (or its harder to go back) to those "healthier" ways.  I wholeheartedly agree.

The last time I made a cheesecake was way back when.  It was also the last time I tasted a full-fat calorie laden cheesecake composed to regular cream cheese and regular sour cream.  I can't say cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts, but I really do enjoy making them.  Before now, I was under the erroneous impression that you needed a stand mixer to make a cheesecake and a spring form pan.  I was wrong.  Cheesecakes need to be well blended and smooth.  You can easily use a food processor or a powerful blender.  You can also wrap your pans in foil for easy removal in lieu of a spring form.  After this baking endeavor without the "appropriate" kitchen tools, I can tell you that you too can make a really good cheesecake at home.  Especially the kind I'm about to tell you about.  One of the things you wouldn't know after eating these cheesecake bars is that it's composed of healthier alternative ingredients.  I think it's good, and other people thought it was good.  But I also have to say, I think everyone who tried it hasn't eaten a regular classic cheesecake in a while either.  So I don't recommended taste test comparisons, but I can assure you this version tastes like the real deal from what I can recall. Haha.

Adapted from & EatCaliforniaFruit
22 oreo sandwich cookies
3 tbsp butter, melted
12 oz neufchatel (less fat) cream cheese, room temperature (approx. 1.5 eight oz packages)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup plain yogurt, room temperature
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
pinch of salt

1) Preheat the oven to 325F.  Wrap the insides of an 11 x 7" rectangular pan in aluminum foil.
Grease with cooking spray and set aside.

2) Set aside 4 whole oreo cookies to add to the cream cheese mixture.  With the remaining 18 cookies, twist the sandwiched cookies apart and remove the white filling with the back of a butter knife.  Discard this filling.  Place the chocolate cookies in a ziploc bag and crush them with a rolling pin to fine crumbs.  This should make approximately 1.5 cups of oreo crumbs.

3) Add the melted butter to the cookie crumbs and mix.  Pour this mixture into the greased pan.  Form a cookie base in the pan using your hands to spread and push the cookie crumbs into place.  Set aside.

4) In a blender, add plain yogurt and 4 oz of cream cheese.  Blend until a creamy and smooth texture is achieved.  Add an additional 4 oz of cream cheese and repeat process until all of the cream cheese has blended completely with the yogurt.  Add the flour and blend until there are no lumps.

5) In a bowl, beat the eggs with the vanilla, sugar and salt.  Add the cream cheese mixture from the blender into the bowl.  Mix until combined. Do not over beat.

6) Place the remaining 4 whole oreo cookies in a ziploc bag and roughly crush them with a rolling pin.  Be sure not to over-crush them; they should be broken into chunks and not finely crushed.

7) Mix these oreo pieces into the cheesecake filling batter.  Add this mixture to the pan with the oreo base layer.  Spread the batter evenly.

8) Place pan into the middle rack of the oven and bake for 35 minutes.  After 35 minutes, turn off the oven and keep the oven door slightly ajar.  Do not touch the cheesecake.  Let it sit and rest in the oven for approximately 3 hours. 

9) After 3 hours, remove the cheesecake and cover the pan with plastic wrap.  Place it in the fridge and let it sit overnight.  The next day, the cheesecake can be easily removed from the pan by lifting up the aluminum foil.  Slice into 18 servings.  Keep covered under plastic wrap until ready to eat.

10) Savor each bite.  Cheesecake is not to be taken lightly.  Even though this is a lighter version of cheesecake.

As you can see, these cheesecake bars are pretty yellow.  The reason is because I used organic eggs.  The yolks were orange red.  I recommend that regular, non-organic eggs be used!  The batter shouldn't be as yellow.  But if you are concerned, you can also reduce the yolk by one in this recipe (but keep the egg white). The purpose of the egg is to make up for the lack of fat and of cream cheese.  It serves as a binding agent. The flour also helps with gluten formation to keep everything together as well because the yogurt is not very thick!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Guest Blogger: Madeleines

My first guest blogger for the month is a close friend of mine, M.  I've had baking adventures galore with her and it's with my pleasure that I post her following entry on madeleines!  Please leave her comments :) Also feel free to document and submit any of your baking experiments (with photos!) to me and I'll do my best to keep your formatting as is.

In the spirit of many of Ms. Lollipop's intrepid earlier posts I thought my first guest post should be highly experimental.  It should be a recipe I'd never made before, something that I wasn't sure how it would come out.

Madeleines were the answer.

Believe it or not these were the inspiration:

I first wanted to learn how to make madeleines after tasting the ones that Starbucks sells.  You wouldn't think something that is mass produced, vacuum-sealed and shipped to chain stores across the country would be so good but these are.  They have a light, milky, buttery rich flavor to them and I think the fact that butter and cream are two main ingredients has a lot to do with it.  So I figured if the Starbucks ones are that good, the ones I make at home have to be even better right?

Ingredients: flour, powdered sugar, almond flour/meal, butter eggs, lavender honey

The reason I haven't made this recipe up til now is that it involves a few special ingredients, including some special cookware: a madeleine pan.
I got mine at Williams & Sonoma for $23 which is a bit of an investment for a recipe that you don't know is good or not.  They are available on Amazon and Target for less though.

Special ingredients include lavender honey which I bought at a local farmer's market.

Other special ingredient is almond flour.  $9 at the local food co-op.  Kind of expensive but hopefully I can find other things to make with it.

Buttering the pan.

Separating the eggs.

Pouring batter in the pan.

For those of you don't have madeleine pans I decided to try an experiment with baking some of the batter in a muffin tin. 

I was wondering how they were going to rise and get that nice bump on top if there's no leavening ingredients?  No baking powder or baking soda or anything?

They're rising anyway!  It's a miracle!

Chopstick comes out clean.  They're done!

On the left is the Starbucks madeleine.  On the right is my homemade one.

Mine's definitely more brown... and less bubbly.

Taste test time

It's hard to say which one is better.... each one is just... different.  But both are quite good! I don't really taste the lavender in the homemade one which makes me think you could just as well have used normal old honey. 

Starbucks: crumblier, sweeter, more vanilla-y.

Mine: eggier, crisp around edges, more fluffy.

The muffin tin ones didn't rise as well.  I think next time I'm going to put more batter in those.  It still has that nice crispy brown edge around it...almost like the caramelized sugar topping on creme brulee... YUM!

The recipe is from Bon Appetit Magazine and originates from a hotel in Avignon, France.


9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 cup almond flour or almond meal*
1 tablespoon lavender honey
Special equipment: Madeleine pan

1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter each madeleine mold in pan and dust with flour, tapping out excess. Melt 9 tablespoons unsalted butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Cook until butter turns golden brown, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes. Set browned butter aside.
2) Using electric mixer, beat egg whites, sugar, all purpose flour, and almond flour in medium bowl until mixture is blended and smooth. Place honey in small microwave-safe bowl. Heat just to warm, 5 to 10 seconds. Beat honey into batter. Add browned butter; beat to blend. Spoon 1 tablespoon batter into each prepared madeleine mold.
3) Bake madeleines until tops are just dry and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 12 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Gently tap madeleines out of molds. Place on rack to cool slightly.
4) To prepare additional madeleines, wash pan and cool completely. Butter and flour molds and fill as directed above. Serve madeleines warm.

* Sometimes labeled “ground almonds”; available at specialty foods stores and natural foods stores.

Goes good with milk.