August 29, 2012

Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Donut Holes


I know, I know. I just posted a recipe for 15-minute donut holes a few days ago. But I'm kinda going through a donut kick at the moment. So I figured, why not? I'll take any excuse to eat a donut.

Besides, these babies are based off an old-fashioned cake donut dough. What's the difference between regular donuts and cake donuts? Again, it all comes back to leavening. Regular donuts are raised by yeast, while cake donuts are raised by baking powder.

Old-fashioned donuts, however, are a different breed of cake donut. While cake donut batter requires a piping bag to form the donuts, old-fashioned donut dough is more like regular bread dough, requiring you to roll out the dough and use a cutter to form the donuts. And since the batter contains a lot of fat and hardly any liquid, the donuts split and crack all over the place when fried, resulting in a crisp crust with all sorts of crags to catch the donut glaze:


I started out this recipe with the intention of making actual donuts and not donut holes, but as I rolled out the dough, I realized I had misplaced my donut cutter somewhere along the move from Denver to Portland. So I had to improvise and roll mine into dough balls to create donut holes.

These donuts tasted exactly like the old-fashioned donuts I've had in donut shops, and fried up beautifully to boot. The hardest part about the whole baking process was waiting for the glaze to set on the donuts so I could finally eat them all. :-D

August 25, 2012

Black & White Cookies

Although I'm a "West Coast is the Best Coast!" kinda gal, I will say that there are some things that the East Coast does far better than the West. New York, of course, holds the throne with its superior bagels, cheesecake, and deli cuisine.

A deli staple that you seldom find out west is the Black & White Cookie:


Apparently back in the day, black & white cookies were actually made by bakeries adding a little extra flour to their leftover cake batters to create the cookies. Indeed, the batter resembles the batter for a cupcake, as opposed to dough-like batter of chocolate chip cookies. So the cookie is really more of a sponge cake that is lightly flavored with lemon, with half covered in vanilla icing and the other in chocolate icing:


When looking at different black & white cookie recipes, I ran across an old New York Times article waxing poetic about how you can learn a lot about somebody by the way they ate their black & white cookie. Do you eat the vanilla side first? Or the chocolate? Or, for the indecisive and the radical, go crazy and take a bite right down the middle?

Me, personally, I like to take alternating bites from each side until the cookie disappears. :-D

August 22, 2012

15 Minute Vanilla Bean Donut Holes

Although donuts are one of my favorite desserts, I rarely make them because of their time-consuming nature. Not only are donuts are made from a yeasted dough that requires a few hours to rise, I also find the deep-frying process and post-frying clean-up to be a hassle. As a result, you can see in my Recipe Index that the Donuts & Pastries section is a little lacking.

A few days ago, however, I found a recipe promising donut holes from scratch in 15 minutes:


That I could do.

This recipe is kind of a hack -- after looking at the recipe, I realized it was actually a quick bread recipe. Quick breads are distinguishable from regular breads because they don't use yeast and are made from a light batter instead of a heavy dough.

So when I first gave the recipe a try, I was admittedly a little skeptical. Yeast is what gives donuts its unique, bready taste. But I was pleasantly surprised by how donut-like they were. Indeed when I bit into my first donut, I was impressed to see it had the same tender, open crumb as its yeast-based counterpart:


The donut holes also had a strong buttermilk flavor, reminding me of the cake donuts you can get at supermarkets. When served fresh, these donuts are the very definition of heaven. They're best consumed right after you've rolled them in sugar, since the warm donuts almost caramelize the sugar and melt in your mouth. Unfortunately, as a general rule, quick breads don't keep as well as yeasted breads, so it's best to eat these donuts the day that they're made.

But this probably won't be a problem because I ate my entire batch in the span of an hour. :-D

August 18, 2012

Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake

Guys, this is my 100th post. How exciting! Hummingbird High is getting all growed up.

In honor of the big 100, I decided to make myself something special. I decided to bake one of my favorite desserts, chocolate sheet cake... with a twist. I decided to bake it in an iron skillet:


Pretty cool right? Candles and all.

Some people say that a cast iron skillet is really the only cookware you need. It works on the stovetop, in the oven, and outdoors in an open flame. You can use it for roasting, frying, whatever.

I personally believe that baking things in iron skillets is an underused methodology. First of all, the cake looks pretty cool when presented in an iron skillet:


Am I right?

But aside from providing a unique aesthetic, the skillet doubles as a bowl during the baking process. So you can pretty much mix your ingredients in the skillet, and then stick them in the oven. How cool is that? This recipe is basically a one-bowl cake. Way to cut down cleaning time, eh? I know I'm always down with that.

Another advantage to baking in a skillet is that it retains a lot of heat even after you take it out of the oven. That means you can have shorter baking times because the baked good keeps cooking in the pan after you take it out. This recipe, for instance, takes advantage of that. This cake was in the oven for less than 20 minutes, and was able to produce the softest chocolate cake I've ever eaten:


Yum.

August 15, 2012

Brown Butter & Honey Madeleines

So one of the things that I regret about moving away from Denver is how its affected the narrative of this blog. As you may or may not know, this blog actually started out as my attempt to recreate some of my favorite recipes when I was living up in the mountains (high-altitude affects baking -- read more about it here!). So during the early days of this blog, I focused less on producing new recipes with each post and instead focused more on food science. That is, I was trying to find out the science behind each recipe's baking process and how each ingredient came together -- what would happen if I changed the amount of each ingredient? What did each ingredient really do?

But now that I'm back in Portland and currently living at sea-level, there's really no need to experiment with ingredient ratios or baking times. To get my cupcakes coming out perfectly, all I need to do is follow the recipe, and voila! Done and done. Although it makes my life significantly easier, I do miss the days in Denver when I would puzzle over puddles of goop, wondering what caused the recipe to fail at high altitudes. I miss pouring over culinary textbooks like How Baking Works and other food science sources and trying to figure out where I'd gone wrong.

So I'm going to try something new. Consider this my attempt to return to this blog's origins -- but, instead of trying to tweak a recipe to find the perfect outcome, I'm going to be exploring several recipes for classic baked goods and trying to find the "perfect" one.

And I'm starting with madeleines:


Madeleines are little French sponge cakes in the shape of sea shells. They're about the size of cookies, but their texture is definitely more cake-like than cookie-like. Most are flavored with lemon, and almost all madeleines have a signature little "bump" on their backs:

August 12, 2012

Crème Brûlée Cream Puffs


This recipe came from my attempt to receate a fancy-pants French pastry at home. I've always been a regular customer at Pix Patisserie, a beloved local French bakery famous for their elaborate desserts. My favorite dessert at Pix has always been the St. Honoré: a circle of puff pastry filled with Grand Marnier cream and topped off with three smaller cream puffs, the dessert is apparently named for the French patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs. What's not to love?

Well, the price.

The last time I walked in to the patisserie, they were charging $7.25 for my beloved St. Honoré! Pretty ridiculous, right? That's when I decided to take matters into my own hands and try to recreate it on my own at home. And although I wasn't quite able to recreate it, I did successfully make all the pieces:


I was just too lazy to put them together. No, really!

Because as I lined up my cream puffs to prepare for the vaguely annoying and difficult task of stacking cream puffs on top of each other and gluing them together with burnt sugar, I was reminded of something else. A few days ago, I had a pretty exciting donut at Donut-O-Rama, a new(ish) food cart downtown. Now while all donuts are exciting, this donut was ESPECIALLY so. Why? It was a crème brûlée donutIt was like two of my favorite desserts had come together and created a baby.

I realized that these cream puffs were kinda the same idea -- in my quest to recreate my fancy pants St. Honore, I had inadvertently replaced the donut's yeasted sweet bread base with puff pastry. That is, I had made crème brûlée cream puffs, akin to the delicious donut I'd had a few days before.

I decided that since the cream puffs were already gorgeous with their amber sugar topping:


Why bother stacking them together to create a St. Honoré? No need to fix something that ain't broken, right?

These little balls of puff are then filled with a vanilla custard sauce, resulting in that wonderful creamy, crunchy texture that you get with crème brûlée:


And all I really needed was some frozen puff pastry sheets and sugar. I didn't even need one of those intense torches that pastry chefs use to brûlée the crème. You'll see. And you won't believe how easy this recipe is. Seriously.

And, if you really want to show off, make a couple big ones and a couple small ones, stack them together, and call it a St. Honoré. Take that, Pix Patisserie!

August 8, 2012

New York Style Candied Peanuts

Guys, I think need a vacation.

People give me a weird look when I say this. Because I just started a new job. And just moved to a new city. And spent the entire month of May doing nothing but baking. Do I really need a vacation?

Hm, let me think... yes.

Although I love my new job and love being back in Portland, I feel really weighed down by routine. Everyday is the same -- wake up, go to work, go to the gym, come home. Even the days that are different -- the days where I'll go out to dinner or go out with friends -- ultimately end up the same since we tend to frequent the same bars and restaurants. Don't get me wrong, I love the places I go to -- ultimately, I'm a creature of habit at the end of the day -- but I do need something big to break up the monotony every once in a while.

I've been daydreaming about New York City recently. I'm kind of due for a visit. For the last few years, I've taken an annual trip to the city. I've needed to go for various reasons -- to visit friends, job interviews, and the fact that my boyfriend's parents live there.

But the first time this tradition started was actually back in college. My mom and I decided to have a mother-daughter bonding trip to the big city. That was the first time I'd ever been. We did a bunch of touristy stuff -- took the boat out to the Statue of Liberty, climbed to the top of the Chrysler building, saw some cheesy musical in Times Square, visited the Met -- but what stuck with me and my mom wasn't some monument or tourist attraction.

It was candied peanuts from a street food vendor:


Candied peanut vendors are ubiquitous in the city. Similar to dirty water dogs, candied peanut vendors are armed with nothing but a portable cart with a wok used for caramelizing peanuts. They sell the candied peanuts in little bags that cost around $1 or so. They're best when fresh -- warm, sweet, crunchy, and comforting.

My mom and I are big eaters. We are Filipino, after all. We need about 6 meals a day to keep us going. And as we walked from site to site, traversing the streets of New York, we got pretty hungry pretty fast. It was these peanuts that kept us going. Every time we would see one at a street corner, we would literally give a whoop, rush over, and buy one. Or two. I think we averaged three packets of candied peanuts a day.

It only occurred to me now to try making this at home:


I was stunned by how easy it was. In fact, I'd say that I even produced candied peanuts that were even better than the ones my mom and I ate in New York. My secret? I bought some raw, unsalted mixed nuts from Whole Foods's bulk section -- so my candied peanut batch was actually comprised of a mixture of candied walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews, and Brazil nuts. Every bite had a different flavor.

So, there you go. All you need is some nuts, sugar, and water, and you have the taste of New York at home. The recipe makes nuts that are best eaten fresh, so you can really taste the toasted, smokey flavor from the caramelizing process. But they also keep well in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

But I doubt they'll be around that long.

August 4, 2012

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Guys, I have been swept up into Olympic fever. This post nearly didn't get written today because of it.

I turned on the TV to watch the Olympics, only to find that the men's 10,000m final was on. No problem, I thought. I could bake my crinkle cookies, take photos, and blog with the race on in the background.

Little did I know that the 10,000m final would have me glued to my seat and biting my nails, shoving these cookies into my mouth like there was no tomorrow:


I think I absent-mindedly ate half the batch before I realized I still needed to take pictures.

I'm finding that the sports that I enjoy watching the most are not the particularly glamorous ones. For instance, I wasn't particularly invested in Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte's swimming races. Instead, it's stuff like the 10,000m race.

The 10,000m is not a particularly fun or exciting race to watch. It's a herd of men -- admittedly, tall, lean, and shockingly muscular specimens of mankind -- running around a 400m race track 25 times. For the majority of the race, the men stick together in a pack, keeping pace with each other.

As you can imagine, watching men run around a boring track 25 times for half an hour isn't really everybody's cup of tea. It isn't flashy or showy like gymnastics or diving. But for some reason, I was hooked.

There's something to be said about events like the 10,000m race, the hepthathlon, or Olympic weightlifting that really appeals to me. Maybe it's because I used to run long-distances competitively, or because I'm currently an avid Crossfitter (and therefore just fascinated that women in my weight class are easily snatching 200lbs more than me) -- but I don't think that's it. While every Olympic competition demands gritty, hard work, successes in certain disciplines look like soaring triumphs. Take McKyla Maroney's stunning 10-second vault, for instance.

But weightlifting and the 10,000m run? No soaring triumphs here. Even a successful lift looks painful. And the men's faces in every lap of the 10,000m race were nothing but paintings of pure agony.

And I think that's what was fascinating to me. To undergo such a vicious, even painful event all for the love of the sport.

All I can say is... respect.