Monday, June 28, 2010


certainly not the prettiest thing I've ever made

Considering how often I usually post here, it sure has been a while since I've had time to put anything up. Or cook anything for that matter. I've got a few recipes on the back burner until theyre perfected but otherwise, its been quite the busy week.

I spent a few days in Atlanta with two of my sisters and ever since we got back I have been working almost nonstop. Literally. But, here I am with a few hours to spare and before I take the biggest nap that this world has ever seen, I figured I'd post my very first daring bakers challenge. My apologies if this post is not particularly interesting, as my brain has lost most of its operating ability.

I have to be honest, I've never been particularly intrigued by pavlova. After this challenge, I think I might like to think about it more often but I have to say that this mousse was far too rich. A small dollop would definitely have been enough.

My notes are as follows:
I definitely prefer the freeform method as far as shaping the pavlova is concerned.
I would definitely make the pavlovas and the creme anglaise again, but not so much the mousse

Anyway. Recipe:
The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard

Recipe 1: Chocolate Meringue (for the chocolate Pavlova):

3 large egg whites
1⁄2 cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1/3 cup (30 grams) Dutch processed cocoa powder


1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200o F (95o C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.
2. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and
gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. (The whites should
be firm but moist.)
3. Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients
into the white. (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come

4. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire.
Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon.
(Class made rounds, hearts, diamonds and an attempt at a clover was made!)
5. Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight
container for up to 3 days.

Recipe 2: Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse (for the top of the Pavlova base):

1 1⁄2 cups (355 mls) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped
1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or orange juice)


1. Put 1⁄2 cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high
heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture
to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.
2. Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a
minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed
until it holds soft peaks. (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.)
3. Mix about 1⁄4 of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining
mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just
free form mousse on top of the pavlova.

Recipe 3: Mascarpone Cream (for drizzling):

1 recipe crème anglaise
1⁄2 cup (120 mls) mascarpone
2 tbsp (30 mls) Sambucca (optional)
1⁄2 cup (120 mls) heavy cream


1. Prepare the crème anglaise. Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and the Sambucca and let the
mixture cool. Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are
formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.

Recipe 4: Crème Anglaise (a component of the Mascarpone Cream above):

1 cup (235 mls) whole milk
1 cup (235 mls) heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75 grams) sugar


1. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow.
2. Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the
mixture to a boil. Take off the heat. .
3. Pour about 1⁄2 cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from
making scrambled eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture
and put the heat back on medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture
thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. DO NOT OVERCOOK.
4. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover
and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.
Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the mascarpone cream over the top. Dust with
confectioner’s sugar and fresh fruit if desired.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


FINALLY. A use for all the basil thats being constantly spawned by my burgeoning basil plants. (AND one more great opportunity to get some use out of the ol' food processor.)

I'm still struggling with this baking vs. cooking crisis I'm having. And not winning the battle, I should say. Soon to come will be a fantastic recipe for cookies and banana creme pie. but after that! I swear.... sheesh.

So Benny and I took a trip out to the burbs to spend some much needed time with my parents (directly following some terrific time with his) the other day and I figured I'd use the opportunity to finally make pesto. Benny cooked the chicken and the pasta while I worked on dessert and whipped up a batch of pesto. I added way too much cheese to it in order to please my parents (and my self of course) and it turned out wonderfully. Although I do think it might be nice to make this in advance and let the flavors enjoy each other's company a little more, do as you please. This will be another au pif recipe.

(au pif: literally means "in the nose," which makes some sense: letting one's nose provide guidance. But the more idiomatic equivalents of this expression are "at a rough guess" or "at random.")

so. let the recipe commence.

Recipe Soundtrack: "Sous le ciel de paris" By Edith Piaf (I know that pesto is italian and not french but this song is just great)

From My Macedonian Kitchen

Ingredients (au pif):

2 cups fresh basil
4 cloves of garlic (medium to large)
1 cup almonds (pine nuts would work well also, obviously - but then we wouldn't get to call it basil and almond pesto, would we?)
1 cup good quality olive oil
1 cup finely grated parmesean cheese
1/4 cup finely grated romano cheese
salt & pepper to taste

Put the baso; and garlic into your food processor or blender. add 1/4 cup of olive oil and blend for about 2 minutes - until you get a smooth paste. Add the almonds and keep blending. It will take awhile for the nuts to become fully incorporated and smooth. Continue adding small amounts of olive oil as needed until the pesto is blending easily. Add cheese and remainder of olive oil, until it tastes the way you like it. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Alternately, if you're using a food processor you can just stick everything in there and get it going until everything looks and tastes right.

Either way, its simple and completely delicious.

Feel free to do what you will with it. We tossed it with penne pasta and diced chicken and garnished with basil leaves and shredded Parmesan. I would not be opposed to a little bit of ground up almond on top either, for a bit of crunch. (Making sure not to overdo it, of course) You can also always spread it on toast, use it as the sauce in a pizza, put it on sandwiches, etc. The possibilities are endless. Store it in an airtight container and you're good to go.

(This served 4 people with plenty extra.)

Monday, June 14, 2010


I swear to you I made this blog to start baking less and cooking more. And it's coming up, I promise. I mean it this time.

And guys, I'm starting to feel like I'm getting pretty one-dimensional lately. Lots of pastry shells, cherries, limes, cupcakes, and lemon desserts happening around here. (Am I saying you guys a lot lately or what? I'm starting to sound like Ming, ugh.) I'm gonna get outside of the ol' comfort zone here very soon. But hey! I know they were lemon but those macarons were outside of my comfort zone!

It's getting late. Let's talk pretzels.

After spending a solid 8 hours preparing the loads of different elements for the lime zippies and lemon tarts yesterday, I sat down and felt satisfied and accomplished. For about 15 minutes. That is to say, until I saw a recipe for soft pretzels. It was about midnight and I ran into Benny's office to tell him to buckle up, it was about to be pretzel time. He helped me with the kneading (more so than I thought was necessary, but it turned out to be perfect.), and the shaping, which is a very pleasant little teamwork activity for a couple or you and your kids or your.. in-laws? I don't know.

These were completely and exactly what you want as far as a soft pretzel outcome is concerned. I'm making these again. Forever and ever.

For the sake of... blogging or something, I'm gonna give it to you straight. The dough is from one recipe and the cooking method is from another. Once I made the recipe and left it to proof, I realized that this recipe I was using did not include boiling them in baking soda and water. So I decided the best thing to do would be to abandon that recipe completely and use someone else's plan for the boiling and baking. Benny psyched me out about the baking soda/water mixture - I've seen fight club way too many times for you to tell me that I'm making the beginning stages of lye. No way I can be expected to come anywhere near it after that. So Benny did the boiling as well.

Recipe Soundtrack: "Gustav" by Jon Drake & The Shakes - Make sure to shake your butt around a little while shaping the dough. It's very important.

Recipe from The Village Cook
(I like her method of explaining the recipe too!)


1/2 c warm water and dissolve 1 pkg yeast into it.

Now, add 1/4 c melted butter (cooled)

1 egg yolk (reserve the white)

1/4 cup sugar

1tsp salt

1 cup milk

stir well, then add flour 1 cup at a time -5 cups total. Knead for 5minutes. (thank you, stand mixer!!!)

Place in an oiled bowl and allow to rise, covered with a damp towel for 1 hr.

Preheat oven to 425°F

*-This is the part where I abandoned the recipe and moved onto the Alton Brown Recipe-

Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. (I didn't think this would be important, but Benny convinced me. It was completely necessary and made perfect nicely browned bottoms.) Set aside.

Bring 10 cups of water and 2/3 cup baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. (This is tricky because the pretzels want to come apart when you put them in there, so you really need to let them be for 30 seconds.) Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk (from earlier) combined with some water and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. (kosher is fine too, I used unground sea salt from my salt grinder.) Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

I know that you might be tempted to skip the baking soda/water part but it makes an unbelievable difference. We baked a couple without putting them in the water and they were not nearly as good. Plus they don't end up with that awesome pretzel-y taste.

These keep for a day or two but they won't need to keep them that long. Plus they are completely amazing when they're fresh. I mean. amazing.

You can also play around with the toppings. This one is topped with Benny's favorite dutch cheese and some cumin.

And here's a terrible picture of our big ugly log one that was the result of a ruined pretzel shape. Ugly but scrumptious! Yeah, scrumptious.

Next we try pretzel buns! Yeah!

Ok. I'm going to bed now. Ok?


So I stole the "Zippy" thing from the same place I stole this recipe. A Piece of Cake. I've decided to take it a step further and call these lime zippies. So really the only thing I stole from Piece of Cake was the actual cupcake recipe. I used ginger syrup in place of her lime syrup and white chocolate buttercream from Epicurious instead of white chocolate cream cheese frosting because my cupcakes were going to be sitting in the heat.

my zippies hangin out in the fridge before embarking on their little journey.

Or so I thought. If my scouts are correct, these cupcakes were gone within minutes. I snuck a few and I'll tell you what, these babies are crazy delicious. Also this buttercream recipe is amazing. It made me a large mixing bowl-sized amount of buttercream. So. It was a LOT. I made a double batch of the cupcakes (resulting in 40), put a tower of frosting on each one, and I still have at least a cup and a half of the stuff.

I have been baking and cooking like my life depends on it lately. The past three days have been chock full of it. I'm starting to feel like I just put in a full days work everytime I'm done. I used, I kid you not, 8 sticks of butter and 2 dozen eggs in the past two days. Time for a break. That is after I bake yet another batch of mini cherry pies for Benny's parents tomorrow (I've been told it's not necessary but I insist!) and a bit of something for my parents on Thursday. Oh and another batch of macarons to take to Kym in Atlanta next week.

I've created a monster.

Nevertheless, let's take a look at the recipe, shall we?

Recipe Soundtrack: "Vivo Sonhando" by Antonio Carlos Jobim

Two Fun Facts:
-Up until recently I'd spent my whole life thinking that Jobim was named JOE BEAM. Because I had never heard anyone say his whole name. Not only is this a bit embarassing, but it has led to many confusing and frustrating Itunes searches. Now you know. So look at that, we're bonding.
-(Benny says, and I quote "If there is anything that says white chocolate buttercream to me it is the sweet sounds of brian wilson." I think that's a joke, but you never can tell.)

Recipes from Piece of Cake
and Epicurious

For the Cupcakes:
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, at room temperature

For the Syrup:
1 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced (you want big enough pieces you can easily get out of the syrup)
2 cups sugar
1 cup water

Place an oven rack to the center position and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with paper liners.

In a large measuring cup, whisk together, the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and lime zest. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and turn the mixer on low. With the mixer running, gradually drop in the butter pieces and mix until the texture is uniform and the bits of butter aren't discernable, about 2 minutes. With the mixer still on low, begin slowly pouring in the wet ingredients. When all the wet ingredients have been added, crank the speed up to medium and mix until the batter is light and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes.

Portion the batter into the muffin tins (a scant tablespoon in each liner) and bake until a toothpick comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly touched, 10-12 minutes. Let cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cupcakes are baking, make the ginger syrup: In a small saucepan, whisk together the sugar and water. Add the ginger slices, and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Boil until the sugar is dissolved, and the syrup is clear and slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove ginger and set aside to cool. (I keep this in the fridge in a jar and use it for drinks and what have you.)
For the White Chocolate Buttercream:
makes about 8 cups
8oz good-quality white chocolate (I used Ghirardelli chips)
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup egg whites (about 8)
2 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Stir white chocolate and cream in heavy small saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Cool to room temperature. Using electric mixer, beat butter in medium bowl until fluffy; set aside.

Combine whites and sugar in large metal bowl. Set bowl over large saucepan of simmering water (do not let bottom of bowl touch water). Whisk until sugar dissolves and thermometer inserted into whites registers 160°F, about 3 minutes. Remove bowl from over water. Using clean dry beaters, beat meringue until cool, stiff and shiny, about 10 minutes.

Beat butter, about 1/4 cup at a time, into meringue, blending well after each addition. If frosting looks curdled, place bowl over very low heat for 3 to 5 seconds to soften slightly. Remove from heat and beat until smooth. Repeat warming technique as necessary. Gradually beat in cooled white chocolate mixture, then orange peel and vanilla extract. Chill buttercream until beginning to firm, about 30 minutes. (I made this one day ahead of time and used the warming technique to get it to the right consistency.)

Some frustratingly sloppy piping here. I need a proper pastry tip.

For Decorating:
When the cupcakes have cooled, prick each one deeply with a fork about 4-5 times. Carefully spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of syrup over each cake. Allow the syrup to soak into the cakes for about 10 minutes, then frost and decorate as desired. Refrigerate any leftover cupcakes for up to 3 days.

There ya go! Little zippies. And a new use for my ginger syrup.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I don't know if you've ever read Amelia Bedelia books, but that lady is a moron. I was pondering this exact topic the other day and I couldn't figure out why I used to love the books so much as a kid, because while I'm sure her stupidity used to amuse me, I can't imagine it being anything but irritating. My favorite part is that everytime the family comes home they don't mind at all that she put the turkey in a dress and hung the lightbulbs from the clotheslines. Just so long as she made tarts.

Then it hit me. The tarts. That's why I was so into those books. Her freaking tarts always looked so perfect. No wonder the family neverminded (huh?) coming home to a "dressed" turkey! I was also into cooking and baking as a kid and I think I used to dream of making tarts that looked like hers.

A few hours after I first realized this, my sister called me to ask if I wouldn't mind making some baked goods for her turn as goodie-bringer at her church. Naturally, my first thought was tartlettes like Amelia's. (And lime cupcakes with ginger syrup and white chocolate buttercream frosting! Post to come.) Since I am still not over my cherry obsession, I went with blueberry and cherry lemon tartlettes. Soon, I promise I will make something that does not contain lime, cherry, or lemon.

Originally, I was going to use the Mini Blueberry Tartlette recipe from Chocolate Shavings, but to tell the truth, anytime anyone says that a tart dough is perfect for beginners, I instantly assume it's sub-par. Counter-intuitive snobbery, I know.

And the other part of the truth is.. you guys, I am growing completely attached to that pie dough recipe from the cherry pies. I always get tons of rave reviews on it. Its so perfectly buttery and crumbly and... oh man.... anyway. if it's not broke.

I cannot stop taking pictures of em!

So I decided instead to take the basic skeleton of her recipe and use different tried & true recipes for the different elements of the recipe.

To better explain that, I used the pie crust recipe from my mini cherry pies (Originally from Zoom Yummy), Chocolate Shavings' pastry creme recipe with some changes to make it lemon pastry creme, the lemon curd recipe from Pie In The Sky (used in my lemon tart with ginger cardamom crust) and then brushed them with a lemon simple syrup from a Donna Hay cookbook.

phew! Make more sense? Maybe not. Here's the recipe (or recipes) then! Don't let the many steps stop you, it really is a quite easy recipe. Also, Keep in mind that I was making this for a lot of people, so you might want to scale down the recipe. If you do, feel free to keep the lemon curd and pastry creme recipes at the same amount. It might have been nice to have more filling. Plus, how can it hurt to keep both around the house a little, right? right.

Recipe Soundtrack: "Fables" by the Dodos

Inspired by
Chocolate Shavings
Makes about 22

For the Crust-
2 1/2 cups (325g) flour, all-purpose
2 sticks (220g) Butter, cold
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons water, cold

Place the flour, butter, sugar, salt and water into the bowl of your electric mixer. (I used a food processor, which worked fabulously.) Mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Then work with your hands until the dough comes together and you’ve formed a nice, compact ball. Place the dough into a bowl, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

For the Lemon Pastry Creme-
2 cups of whole milk
Zest of 1 lemon
1 sqeeze of lemon juice
4 egg yolks
75 grams of sugar
20 grams of flour
20 grams of cornstarch

Separate the eggs and combine the yolks with the sugar. Whisk until the mixture turn a yellow pale of yellow (about 3 minutes). In a separate bowl, stir the cornstarch and flour together and add it to the sugar-yolk mixture. Stir to remove any lumps. In the meantime, bring the milk, zest, and lemon juice to a boil. Stir occasionally. As soon as the milk starts boiling, add a ladle of hot milk to the egg mixture and stir vigorously (this ensures that the eggs won't curdle). Add all the egg mixture into the milk mixture and whisk until the mixture thickens. This take 1-3 minutes. Remove from the heat as soon as the mixture thickens. Place the pastry cream in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Make sure that the plastic wrap touches the surface of the cream (this prevents the formation of a skin). Let the pastry cream cool.

For the Lemon Curd:
4 large egg yolks
3 large eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup sugar

Whisk yolks and eggs together in small bowl. Combine lemon juice, butter, and 1/2 cup sugar in top of double-boiler. Set pan over simmering water (medium-low heat); whisk until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Gradually whisk 1/3 of hot butter mixture into eggs, then whisk mixture back into bowl with remaining butter mixture set over simmering water. Whisk constantly until custard thickens enough to hold marks of whisk, about 5 minutes (do not boil). Pour lemon curd through strainer set over medium bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of lemon curd; chill overnight.

For The Lemon Simple Syrup-
(Optional - This also makes candied lemon peel)
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shredded lemon rind

Place water and sugar is saucepan over low heat, Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add rind, increase heat, and boil for 6-8 minutes or until the rind is glossy and transparent. Keep in the refrigerator. (This goes well over cakes and the candied peel is great garnish)

Halved & Pitted Bing Cherries
(or whatever other in season fruit you feel like!)


I made the lemon curd, syrup and pastry creme a day or 2 in advance. (More on that below)

Once the crust has been refrigerated for an hour, butter a cupcake pan and preheat your oven to 375ºF. Start taking out small pieces of the crust dough at a time, a handful works fine. Roll these out on a floured surface to about 1/8" thick. cut a rough circle and place it in to the cupcake mold, cutting off the excess.

Once you have all the cupcake cups filled, (this is a pain in the ass in the beginning, but once you've done a couple dozen, you'll love it, :) trust me... but. i'm serious.) Cut little squares or circles out of parchment paper - slightly bigger than the cupcake molds - and fit them on top of your unbaked pastry cups. It works great to just fold up a big sheet of parchment paper and cut it so you end up with a bunch of the same size sqaures. Fill with pie weights, beans, or rice. (I keep a little jar of rice that I use for this purpose only.) Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges of the tart turn a light shade of golden brown. Let the tartelettes cool for a couple minutes, remove the weights and parchment paper and leave to cool on a cooling rack.

Once all have cooled, mix the lemon curd and pastry creme together and fill the shells. One spoonful per shell will be plenty. You don't want to fill them all the way.

Garnish with blueberries, cherries, or whatever you choose and brush the tops with lemon syrup. (This is a bit annoying too, as the brushing moves the berries around a little if you stack them high like I did, but it's worth it. The lemon syrup will add the to lemon flavor AND act as a kind of glue for the berries. - Not a completely reliable glue, but a glue none the less. Let's stick to the flavor part. Yeah, it really adds to the flavor.)

Serve Immediately or keep in the fridge until serving. These keep pretty well. Speaking of which:

Make ahead-

I made the pastry creme and syrup one day, then the shells and lemon curd the next day and assembled them the day after that. It's an awesome way to break it up a little if you feel the need to. Plus, all of these ingredients really keep well. The shells do great out on the counter with a bit of plastic wrap or a paper towel over them (to keep dust and debris away - if you're like me, kitchen debris is an issue.)

And TADA! A lifelong dream, accomplished!

No really though, you should try these. They are delicious and adorable.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


You guys. I've done it. And on my first try. With lots and lots of help from different blogs of course.

So I know everyone is always yammering on about how they are so difficult and that's true, they're delicate and you have to have a good idea of what you're doing if you're gonna do it. Just feels like an important part to mention.

But let's talk shop. I decided I wanted to make macarons the other day, after all the pretty pictures on everyone's blogs finally got to be too much for me to stand. So I started doing research and trying to find a recipe. The food blog community seems to be a little torn here. A couple of them try to scare the crap out of you and tell you that if you're not a professional, you can't hack it. Which is completely untrue. Once I calmed myself down, I decided to go with the Meyer Lemon Macaron recipe from Delectable Deliciousness. With a lot of help from a huge variety of other blogs, and google searches, etc. A big one that I'd like to note is the Macaron 101 from Not So Humble Pie. I had just made a big batch of mascarpone so I decided to also take Not So Humble Pie's advice and mix some lemon curd and mascarpone together with zest for the filling.

There were a few issues with my end product that I think could be changed. I'm still figuring out the ideal situation in regards to my oven, and so I overcooked my first tray that went in. Also, even in all my research, no one told me how mealy the finished batter would be. I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be and so I may have overfolded just a bit, leaving my end cookies a little flat. Next time I'd like to whip my whites a little longer as well, I think they could have been more cloud-like. So now I have a good and delicious batch and I know exactly what needs to be done next time. Not to mention that, even though my piping was less than perfect, there was definitely improvement, which is all I really need. I'm feelin pretty accomplished here.

Another really important thing is that maturing really does fix a lot. They were kind of chewy when they first came out and now that they've been maturing for 24 hours, they're awesome. Perfectly lemony and soft. I'm toally proud of myself.

In fact, I'm more than proud. I was terrified, truth be told. I was not having the most fantastic day and I knew if I screwed them up, it would bum me out more than usual, which would then inspire lots of moping, so this was a risky adventure. It's safe to say that I as soon as I saw my cookies forming in the oven I jumped up and yelled "I HAVE FEET!" (I may have been overly excited to see the little guys with proper feet, but still.) There will be many more macaron recipes to come.

Now for the recipe. And of course, photos!

From Delectable Deliciousness (Almost quoted)

110 grams almond flour/meal
200 grams powdered sugar
90 grams aged egg whites (about 3)
30 grams granulated sugar
zest from 1 large lemon
yellow food coloring (powdered or gel is preferred but I added some liquid food coloring into the almond mix and let it dry. It worked great)

About 24 hours before you plan to make your macarons, set your egg whites out in a clean bowl to age. Keep them loosely covered, at room temperature with a paper towel to keep any stray dust out. This helps remove some of the moisture and helps you achieve a meringue that is more stable. (Note: If you end up not using your whites after 24 hours, cover them tightly and refrigerate for up to 5 days.)

Combine the almond flour, powdered sugar and zest until combined. Sift. If you're using powdered food coloring, add it to the almond/sugar mixture. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, whisk your aged egg whites until they start to get foamy. Once you start to see enough foam to hide any remaining liquid egg white, sprinkle in your granulated sugar in a slow, steady sprinkle or "in the rain" as the french recipes state. Continue to beat until you have a stiff, glossy meringue. This should take from 3-5 minutes in a stand mixer. You really want your whites stiff and cloud like.

Add your almond/powdered sugar mixture all at once. Gently stir to break down your whites a bit, then begin a careful fold. The key is to not over-beat the batter. The goal is to achieve an oozy mass that looks similar to a very thick pancake batter. It should be oozy, but not flowy - flowy means you've gone too far.

Transfer your batter to a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip. Pipe your rounds onto silpat or parchment lined baking sheets. (I used parchment.) You can trace a circle on the underside of your parchment, or just pipe for a count of 4.

Once your shells are piped, smack your baking sheet a few times on the counter to pop any air bubbles you may have lurking. Don't be scared to really give the pan a good whack! Let them sit at room temperature to dry for 30 minutes to an hour - or when the tops are no longer tacky to the touch.

I baked mine at 275ºF for about 16 minutes, or until the shells were hard and cooked all the way through. It's important to know your oven and check on your shells near the end of baking time.

Once cooled, match up your macarons by size and pipe your filling. Sandwich the cookies and pack with parchment or wax paper in an air-tight container in the fridge to mature for 2-3 days. (This really does make a HUGE difference) They keep in the fridge for 3 weeks, or up to 3 months in the freezer. Make sure that the seal is firm. This will keep them moist.

Friday, June 11, 2010


I LOVED this. Benny? not so much.

That seems to be the #1 phrase used on this blog so far.

Damn that man is hard to please. This is a tricky one because, even though I have watched this dish being made many many times, Benny is the one who cooks this one. I thought I'd try my hand at it the other day as it was EXACTLY what I wanted and tofu at Whole Foods was $1.49. (That's the last time I'll be going to Whole Foods. Mark my words.) It should be noted that I passed up a trip to Wendy's so I could make this. Now THAT says something.

Anyway, it turns out that I am really good at making this exactly the way I like it. Benny had (ahem ahem) some suggestions, since we have very different tastes. I think from now on, I'll be making it in 2 different batches, something that I'm going to have to get used to.

Either way, I've included both my version of it and Benny's suggested add-ins. I think a little bit of a beginner's lesson in stir fry seems to be in order as well. As I've been talking to my family and friends about the recipes on my blog, I've been realizing that I think most whiteys (like myself) are a little scared of homemade stir fry. Which is a bummer, because its silly easy and for the most part can flex really well according to what you have lying around.

So. Let's start with necessities.

If you're making a noodle stir fry, these are our favorite. I'm pretty sure you can get them or something similar to them in the Asian aisle at Jewel-Osco. You should be looking for a thin "oriental style noodle." If you really can't find any, ramen noodles will totally do. (Without the spices included in the ramen pack, obviously.)

Kecap Manis is also a big one. I can't stress enough how nice it is to have some around the house. We put it in everything and it is always such a nice addition. I think they have this at Jewel as well but if not, they'll definitely have it in asian markets and it would be completely worth the trip. It's an awesome sweet and thick soy sauce. Trust me, you'll love it. (I use it in a number of the recipes on this blog including pangseet, ginger coconut stir fry, lemongrass chicken, kroketten, etc.)

I think that ginger is a necessity as well but that might be a personal preference. Regardless, garlic definitely is important and so is preparing everything before you turn on your wok. This is a fast-moving little process and its really nice to have everything ready to go, including precooking the meat and lightly beating the egg. (Pre-cooking the meat is not always a necessity, you can put it in first and let it have time to cook before you start the actual stir fry - its just an issue of what works best for you.) As far as actual ingredients go, its nice to have bell peppers, other vegetables, some kind of a meat, and an egg. (Benny likes bamboo shoots and water chestnuts as well for a bit of crunch)

Now for the process. Stir fry is so so simple if you just follow a few general rules. You want to work quickly, get your wok really hot, and add ingredients based on the amount of time they need to cook. It's also obviously important to continually toss (stir & fry... see?) the ingredients. The basic formula is as such:

  1. Aromatics, salt, pepper, and vegetables first - Anything that needs some time to cook or tenderize (excluding tomato as putting it in too early will leave you with stewed peeled tomatoes and little rolled up peel ropes hanging out in there - not appealing or delicious)
  2. If you're using an egg, add it once the aromatics begin to smell real nice and the veggies start to get tender
  3. Add meat just as the egg starts to cook
  4. Add noodles, directly followed by sauces and tomatoes if you're using them, toss everything around and you're done.

As long as you stick to the basic formula, you're golden. And it's totally flexible as to what you put in there.

So here is one of my favorites in recipe form for the sake of example. Feel free to adjust the amounts or actual ingredients according to your tastes, but I would like to urge you to try fried tofu. I'm not a vegetarian or a tofu-lover at all and I completely love it. Even just as a snack. It's addicting and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Serves 3

Ingredients ("Au Pif"):

Desired amount of your favorite "oriental style" or ramen noodles
Oil for Frying
3-4 Cloves of Garlic, minced
A 1-2" piece of peeled ginger, minced
1 bell pepper, sliced in pieces small enough to comfortably eat with a fork
1/2 a white onion, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper
1 box of extra firm tofu (or your preferred meat)
Kecap Manis
Soy Sauce (we use Maggi)
1 can each Bamboo Shoots & Water Chestnuts, drained (on Benny's suggestion)


For frying the tofu:
Pat and squeeze the tofu with a paper towel and then let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes to dry. (doesn't need to be completely dry, just mostly) Then cut the tofu into cubes, strips, or triangles (I like to do all three! It doesn't matter, you just need to get it to a good size for frying and eating)

Heat deep fryer to 400º or heat about 3 inches of oil in a saucepan

Carefully lower tofu into oil and fry until golden brown. Set aside on a paper towel until it's time to add it to the wok.

For the stir fry:

Start with cooking your noodles, draining them, and setting them aside.

Drizzle a good amount of oil into your wok and heat. Get your wok real hot, and then add the ginger, garlic, pepper, onion, and salt & pepper (And bamboo shoots and water chestnuts if you're using them.) Toss/stir until you get that nice onion/ginger/garlicy smell and the onions and peppers get tender-crisp. Add the beaten egg, stirring to scramble and incorporate.

Once the egg is cooking, add the tofu, followed by the noodles.

Directly after which, get all of your mixture into the middle of the wok and drizzle kecap and maggi around the edge of said mixture, tossing to incorporate.

Turn off the heat and serve immediately.

Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge. Reheat in a skillet with a bit of water, just until hot. (It reheats really well and tastes pretty similar to when its fresh.)

Good luck!

disclaimer: I am white, and only know as much as my half-indonesian boyfriend and Ibu Enkom taught me. - That said, I'm pretty sure I can make a pretty delicious stir fry

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


It is serious business trying to find a legit ropa vieja recipe on the internet. Normally I refuse to trust a white person's recipe for a Cuban dish (or Asian) but in the end, the most reliable one we found was from - of all places- Williams-Sonoma. So I guess there's a lesson to be learned there.

I was first introduced to this meaty, stewy dish on a trip to Florida last January. Ropa vieja, loosely translated as Old Clothes, starts with slow cooked steak, stewed for hours in a mirepoix until it's insanely tender and juicy, which is then shredded and added to a colorful sofrito made with tomato, annato oil and bell peppers, where it is stewed once again, until it literally resembles old clothes. The stew is served on yellow rice and topped with capers. I like to think of little cuban ladies with lots of time and a huge family to feed making this in a ginormous stewpot. We found annato seeds at Stanley's and decided we had no choice but to make this, one of Benny's favorites. (This is how I got him to eat the coconut stir fry.) But, a favorite with good reason. This thing is incredibly savory, the steak is crazy tender, and you can eat it for days.

Since I thought it was interesting and this is my damn blog, here's some history in regards to ropa vieja-

Though the Cubans call it Cuban, this dish originated in the Canary Islands, where boats coming from and going to America would make a pit-stop. Due to heavy and continuous immigration to
Cuba and the Caribbean, ropa vieja arrived on the islands. Cubans then adopted it and added their own twist.

Spanish goods merchants, Dutch traders, slave traders, and rich Americans have all taken part in emigrating to Cuba and bringing plenty with them. In the same way that Cubans have put a uniquely Cuban twist on African rhythms, Spanish language, and American Cars, so have they made ropa vieja their own. Which makes Cuba the REAL melting pot.

From Wikipedia:

"There are many theories as to how the dish was named. One of the more popular ones is a story about a man whose family was coming to his home for dinner. Being very poor, the man could not buy them enough food when they came. To remedy his situation, he went to his closet, gathered some old clothes and imbued them with his love. When he cooked the clothes, his love for his family turned them into a wonderful beef stew."

So. Now that I've forced you to learn some Cuban/ropa vieja history, here's the recipe:

On a related note, if you felt like having a dexter viewing party and you felt moved to make dinner for it, this would be a perfect fit. I'm not sayin, I'm just sayin.

Recipe Soundtrack: "La Titimanía" by Los Van Van (On Benny's request. It's pretty 80's. And quite frankly, perfect for cooking Ropa Vieja)


Stewing Round 1:

2 1/2 lb. flank steak or lean chuck (Approximately)
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup white onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup peeled carrot
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Water to cover

Stewing Round 2:

2 Tbs. annatto oil (can be made by sauteing 1 part annato seeds in 2 parts oil until you get a steady bubble, remove from heat, let cool. Once you remove the seeds, you should have a nice red oil - It is easy to ruin. Overheating will yield burned seeds and green, useless oil.)
1 white onion, sliced thin
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fresh tomatoes, sliced or canned tomatoes, drained
Pinch or so of ground cinnamon (depending on your tastes)
Pinch or so of cloves (also according to your tastes)
1 6 oz jar sliced red pimientos, drained
2 Tbs. capers, drained
Reserved stock from Stewing Round 1

Cooked yellow rice for serving (with sweet peas for color)

Annato Oil


Place ingredients from Round 1 in large dutch oven or stock pot. Set over medium heat and slowly bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Transfer the meat to a carving board and let cool. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and reserve. Discard the solids.

In the same pan over medium-high heat, warm the annato oil. Add the onion, bell peppers, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the tomatoes and pimentos and render most of the water out of the tomatoes. While you are doing this, shred the beef and then add the stock, beef, capers, and spices. Let this stew as long as possible and when you can't take the great smell anymore, go on and eat it. (I'd say aim for at least an hour)

A good idea of what it should look like.

Serve over yellow rice mixed with sweet peas.

Oh and fried plantains if you can! (Recipe for that comin up sometime soon)


That big dark one in the center is from Aldi, the pale sad ones on the left are from Stanley's

Clearly, I can't get enough of the little guys. And I can't stop taking pictures of them either. (Mostly because none of them turn out like I want.) I made my second batch of mini pies today, what with the extra dough and extra pound and a half of cherries I had laying around. This time I added slightly fewer cherries to the filling and cooked them a little longer so that their would be more liquid in the filling and the cherries would be a little bit more tender. It worked great. I'm also becoming incredibly zen about pitting cherries. I zone out the whole time I'm doing it and whenever I've done as many as I need, its really diffcult to stop pitting. I like to think of it as a strength.

BUT. That pound and a half of cherries consisted of 1 pound of Aldi cherries and a 1/2 pound of Stanley's cherries. The differences between the two is kinda shocking. Originally I couldn't figure it out but I think it might have something to do with Stanley's focusing on local produce while Aldi's cherries come from California.

Its important to point out that the Aldi ones were $2.99/lb and the ones from Stanleys were 98¢/lb. So that could be a factor.

These cherries from Aldi are seriously fantastic. They look gorgeous on the outside, and when you half and pit them they're the perfect color of super deep red, darkening to almost black in the center. They stain my hands in a particularly rewarding way and taste amazing. The Stanley's ones... not so much. They're pale, they don't stain at all and they taste.. well... fine.

See the difference below (I still can't quite get the camera to be as accurate as I need to illustrate my point, but I suppose you might get the idea):

Maybe I just didn't pick the right bag of them at Stanley's, but I think I might just go ahead and overpay at Aldi for a while.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Ok so I may have gone overboard with the desserts these past couple days. It's been a rough week. Anywho, this amount of baking is hurting my wallet and making me fat again so we're back to cooking.

I absolutely completely love this recipe. Benny does not. For a number of completely understandable reasons. We don't like white people food that's trying to disguise itself as asian. In fact, that pretty high on my blacklist. This recipe definitely falls into that category. But it is just way too tasty to stop making it. Benny did his usual "its fine" thing after I asked him if he liked it. (Which I regularly have to tell waitresses means that he's pleased. - i.e. waitress brings him his drink, she asks how it is, he says fine, she looks confused, i tell her that means he likes it.) Fine to him means its good but not amazing beyond expectations. Which I have to say I saw coming. He didn't necessarily love this one any of the other times I've made it so really I just make it when I'm craving it.

This stir fry is awesome though. Its simple (both in taste & preparation) and leaves you feeling satisified but not stuffed.

As you can probably tell already, even in my blog's infant stage, I LOVE coconut, ginger, and garlic. All of which are major players in this stir fry. But I do have a thing or two I like to change about it. It should also be noted that, since finding this recipe last fall, this is the first time I've made it without any minor absent-minded mistakes. See, this is also the first time I've made it without also being in the process of making something else. With that said, I did do a few things that I would not recommend. Mainly pertaining to the size of the tomatoes and green peppers. Originally I thought dicing them was too small so I erred on the side of way too big this time, for photographing. Next time we'll go for something inbetween.

Also, I'll definitely be adding a bit of kecap manis next time we do this. I stood over my wok for a minute today considering it and opted to skip it but we both agreed that its something to try.

Recipe Soundtrack: "Candela" by Buena Vista Social Club

Adapted from The Apartment Kitchen

1/2 cup rice
1 cup coconut water - i use light coconut milk but both work well.
1 Tbsp olive oil (or peanut)
1/2 onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips and then halved
1 cup snap peas, halved
1 large tomato, cut into wedges or diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ginger, minced
kecap manis, to taste
shredded chicken (optional)
salt, as needed

scallions, thinly sliced
basil (preferably thai), roughly chopped

1. In a small pot cook the rice in the coconut water, stirring regularly, until it is tender and has absorbed all of the liquid. Set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a wok or large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and snap peas. Stir fry until tender-crisp, 2-3 minutes.

3. Add the kecap, garlic, and ginger, and saute until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. If using, add the chicken and the rice, and toss to heat through. Season with salt. Add the tomatoes and toss quickly.
4. Serve in warm bowls garnished with scallions and basil.

oh hell yes.


See? This is what happens when I allow myself to bake. Originally I planned to make more turnovers today. Just enough to use up my leftover cherries. But the truth is that a small batch of turnovers was enough and I wanted more cherries so I could keep some for snackin on. I figured I’d take a quick trip to Aldi for more cherries and come back to make a quick small batch of mini pies.

To make a long story short, I rode my bike to 3 different Aldis, followed by Menard’s, Dominick’s, Binny’s, Stanley’s & Home Depot. I've created a monster that can't be stopped.

Turns out Stanley’s sells cherries for 1/3 the price of Aldi. So there’s that. And the rest is a blur. No more shopping for at least a week for me. But, all said and done, I did come home with a pint of plump, ripe, and amazingly delicious blueberries, 3 lbs of cherries, some mango rum, and more than enough butter to support my habits.

I can't stop taking pictures of bowls of cherries!

More to the point, This is the first time I have ever made pie. I’ve just always been more of cake girl. To make matters worse, most times I’ve made a big cake or something to that effect it has been for an event, and people have just never requested pie. What I’m trying to say is that its not my fault. But I did always feel like I would know what I was doing when it came time to make one. And you know what? I did. Granted, these were mini pies but I say no difference. I got this recipe from Zoom Yummy and oh em gee is it delicious.

Seriously. The filling is delicious, rich and simple and the crust is perfectly flaky and crumbly. Actually, I’m pretty impressed with myself on this one. (And grateful for the recipe of course)

Lately I have been on this kick where I want to make different flavors of one thing at the same time. (I.e. instead of making a whole batch of one kind of crème brulee, I split the recipe up into 4ths and made different flavors of each one.) Sounds like a good idea, I know. But mostly its not. When I do this, I usually spend the entire time cursing myself and muttering words like “abysmal” “stupid plan” and “disaster.” This time I couldn’t resist. I wanted to make ¾ of the filling recipe with cherries and ¼ of the filling recipe with blueberries so I could fill most of the mini pies with cherry and make one or two blueberry ones. Hardly the same as trying to gently boil 3 tablespoons of cream in a saucepan so that I can have 1 lemongrass crème brulee. Plus, I’m getting better at math already.

All went quite smoothly I must say. I’m just going to post her recipe as it is. If you want to make mini ones instead of 1 big one do the exact same thing but do it in a cupcake tin.

If you want to make the freeforms just roll out a rough circle to the same thickness, spoon some filling into the center and fold up the top, pressing it together where the dough meets. Brush it with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and put it in the fridge for 20 minutes before putting it in a 400ºF oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until the crust is lightly golden and crispy.

Recipe Soundtrack: “I Hear Music” By Billie Holiday. (Billie is just pie music. She just is.) - Plus this song is the ultimate in musical good mood makers.


Recipe from Zoom Yummy


For the Crust-
2 1/2 cups (325g) flour, all-purpose
2 sticks (220g) Butter, cold
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons water, cold

For Filling:
3 Cups Cherries, pitted and halved
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch

1. To make the crust, place the flour, butter, sugar, salt and water into the bowl of your electric mixer. (I used a food processor, which worked fabulously.)

2. Mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

3. Then work with your hands until the dough comes together and you’ve formed a nice, compact ball.

4. Place the dough into a bowl, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

In a saucepan, cook the cherries in water for 10 minutes.

5. Mix together the sugar and cornstarch and add to cherries.

6. Cook the cherry mixture until it thickens – about 5 minutes. (It took me less than this)

7. Cool slightly before using to fill your pie shell.

8. Remove the dough from the fridge and place it onto a well-floured surface.

9. Cut it in about ‘2/3 : 1/3′ ratio. (a bigger and smaller half – here, I said it.)

10. To form the pie shell, roll out the ‘bigger half’ on a floured surface into a 14-inch (35 cm) round.

11. Wrap around your rolling pin and carefully unroll over a 9-inch (23 cm) pie plate.

12. Fit gently into the bottom and the side of the plate. Trim the dough to a 1-inch overhang.

13. Then go on and fill the shell with the delicious filling.

14. Then grab the ‘smaller half’ of the dough, roll it out into a 14-inch (35 cm) round as well.

15. Using a sharp knife, cut it into even strips (you can use a ruler to guide you). Form a lattice. (The original recipe has a great step by step guide to this. There is also a similar one here.)

16. brush the top of the lattice with a lightly beaten egg yolk. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 45 minutes (or until golden brown).

17. Place the baked pie on a wire rack to cool for about 2-3 hours.