June 30, 2015

Salted Chocolate Stout Fondue (for Two!)


By the time you guys read this, I'll be on my way to Scotland. I'm in the middle of a two week long vacation; first, in the Netherlands for my sister's wedding, and now over to the England to visit my good friend Kiron (who you may remember I visited last January in Austin, TX) before we road-trip up to Scotland together.

While clearing out my camera's memory card to make room for photos from this trip, I came across these shots of these mini chocolate stout fondue desserts. I took them this past May and I'm guessing promptly forgot about them during my whirlwind move to San Francisco. I whipped these up for me and Erlend in an attempt to finish off all the scraps of ingredients I had lying around that would otherwise have ended up in the trash — mostly partially-used bars of chocolate, open packages of candy and cereal, and half-drunken bottles of beer:


I'll keep this post short and sweet, but before I go, here are some truths about fondue that we need to talk about:

First; you don't need a fancy fondue pot to throw a little fondue party. Unglamorous pots, ramekins, or even plain old cereal bowls will do. Really, anything that holds liquid is fine. For evidence, please see my example above, wherein my otherwise useless mini cocotte pots make a great molten chocolate vessel.

Second; those who serve fruit with their chocolate fondue are amateurs. Chocolate fondue is good with your standard fruit like strawberries, bananas, and even clementine slices, sure. But chocolate fondue is HOLYHELLBALLSGREAT when served with Oreos, meringues, mini mochi pillows, mini marshmallows, and Lucky Charms marshmallows.

Third; did you know that chocolate fondue is just a giant pot of molten, melted chocolate??? No, really. Secret's out. But it's still amazing.


Some baker's notes:
  • This recipe easily doubles, triples, or quadruples for bigger parties! Fondue party away, folks.

  • I used the Le Creuset cocottes you see above because yep, I sadly do not own a fondue pot. You can get away with serving the chocolate fondue in ramekins, but you'll likely need to reheat the chocolate every 15 minutes since it tends to thicken as it cools. It helps to use a microwave dish, so you can just pop it in the microwave for around 10 to 15 seconds to reheat it. Don't microwave it any longer than that or you might accidentally burn the chocolate!

  • If you are using a legit fondue pot, remember to keep the heat at its lowest setting. Chocolate scorches and burns easily, so make sure you're stirring the chocolate constantly over the low flame.

June 27, 2015

It's the Weekend, It's the Weekend!

above: breakfast with Izy of Top with Cinnamon fame at The Modern Pantry;
below: a chocolate custard donut from Bread Ahead in Old Spitalfields Market
To see more pictures from my trip to Europe (which I'm currently still on), follow me on Instagram!


Hi everybody!

Keeping today's update short and sweet — currently I'm in Amsterdam for my sister's wedding and the days have been busy, busy, busy.

Have a great weekend!


---

This Week's Menu
(yeah, living the raw deal — three course meal!)

STARTER
by Chefs Beau and Matt of Probably This

MAIN
by Chef Gabriel of Artful Desperado

DESSERT
by Chef Thalia of Butter and Brioche

---

Links

...  all you need is love ...

...  this is how we do it ...

...  questions of science, science and progress ... 

...  who run da world?! GIRLS ... 
  • "Three things happen when [women] are in the lab; you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry." — Tim Hunt, Nobel Prize-winning biochemist and last week's biggest jerk. But thankfully, these lady scientists aren't letting him get them down. Who's crying now, Tim?

...  i guess every superhero need his theme music ... 
...  dear sir or madam, will you read my book ...
  • Both Alanna and Sarah have wonderful blog posts this week describing the shadowy, mysterious behind-the-scenes process of writing a cookbook. We need more posts like these!

...  now we got problems and i don't think we can solve them ... 

---

Have a good weekend, folks! Don't forget to comment with any links, gifs, or recipes I might have missed!

June 23, 2015

Black Sesame Sugar Cookies with Lemon Curd


A few weekends ago, Erlend and I headed over to the Inner Richmond neighborhood to pick up his surprise Princess Cake for my birthday and to do some grocery shopping in the hood's cheap Asian supermarkets. Wandering down Clement Street is a treat in itself — the avenue is lined with dim sum shops full of shelves containing fresh hand-pulled noodles and sesame balls, as well as Chinese rotisseries proudly displaying Peking duck and slabs of golden, roasted pork.

On a whim, we wandered into a nondescript store that advertised xiao long bao soup dumplings and nothing more. Inside was a whole display case offering not only every type of dumpling imaginable (soup or otherwise!), but also a multitude of buns. Steamed pork, lotus paste, or egg yolk buns — there they all were, gleaming at us invitingly. In my excitement, I ordered my default: xiao long bao soup dumplings and a red bean-filled sesame ball. Erlend, always the more patient of us two, took his time to consider all the options available and walked away with zhir ma bao, a steamed bun filled with black sesame paste.

I've always considered myself pretty well-versed in Chinese food (since Chinese cuisine in general tends to be my favorite food), but I'd never had anything like the black sesame paste bun before. The black sesame paste inside almost had the texture and taste of Middle Eastern halva, but made with Chinese black sesame seeds instead of the white ones used for tahini. One bite and I was obsessed —I had forgotten how good black sesame dessert could be! Despite the fact that we'd finished our shopping, I made Erlend go back to the store with me so I could pick up a giant bag of black sesame seeds to play with:


I've made black sesame desserts before (most notably, these black sesame buttermilk rolls with goat milk glaze), but it's easy to forget about the ingredient as it's always being overshadowed by matcha, the dessert ingredient du jour. This time, I ended up making black sesame sugar cookies instead of steamed buns, mostly because I left my bamboo steamer back in Portland and, truth be told, my bun folding and rolling skills could use some work.

The cookies themselves, however, are an homage to the buns we discovered that morning — unapologetically black sesame flavored, with nothing else to hide the unique toasty, woody flavor of black sesame. Although I loved the cookies on their own, I decided to brighten them up with a little dollop of fresh, homemade lemon curd:


The two are an odd flavor combination at first, but you'll soon find that the tart sweetness of the lemon is actually a brilliant companion to the heavy black sesame.

And don't worry! As for those zhir ma bao buns that I talked about with such wonder, I'm working on a recipe, I swear. But let's eat these cookies first.


Some baker's notes:
  • Black sesame seeds are available in the bulk sections of fancy grocery stores like Whole Foods, or Asian specialty supermarkets. You can also find them online.

  • If you want to break down the cooking time, you can make the lemon curd up to 1 month in advanced! The curd keeps well in an airtight glass jar in the refrigerator.

  • The cookie recipe starts by instructing you on how to make black sesame sugar using an oven and a food processor, thanks to this utterly genius recipe by Mandy of Lady and Pups. The recipe will make slightly more than what's needed for the rolls, and you can store whatever's leftover in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 month (similarly, you can make the sugar in advanced for up to 1 month). It's important to refrigerate the sugar since black sesame seeds have a ton of oil in them and go rancid fast. However, my leftover sugar never lasts that long — I often find myself reaching for it and stirring it into my green tea or coffee. You can also roll the raw cookie dough in a small bowl of extra sugar before baking to give the cookies a black sesame sugar glaze.

June 20, 2015

It's the Weekend, It's the Weekend!

above: my first non-Ikea Princess cake for my birthday from Erlend
below: a beautiful pot of orchids from Erlend's mom
To see more pictures of my birthday celebration, follow me on Instagram!


Hi everybody!

Thank you so much for all the wonderful birthday wishes. I had a wonderful birthday week, involving three different cakes: Princess cake from Erlend (as seen in the Instagram picture above), this boozy yellow birthday cake from yours truly, and a red velvet cream cheese cake from my sweet coworkers.

Tonight, I'm heading across the pond for my sister's wedding in Amsterdam, so be sure to follow along my travels on Instagram and Twitter. True to form, I've planned most of the trip around food, so watch my feed for desserts from England, the Netherlands, and Scotland!

Have a great weekend everybody!

---

This Week's Menu
(yeah, living the raw deal – three course meal!)


STARTER
by Chef Megan of Hint of Vanilla

MAIN
by Chef Sarah of The Sugar Hit

DESSERT
by Chef Sydney of The Crepes of Wrath

---

...  surf it, scroll it, pause it, click it ... 

...  questions of science, science and progress ... 

...  in the neighborhood bars, i'd once dreamt i would drink ... 

...  portland oregon and sloe gin fizz, if that ain't love then tell me what is ...

... take me on a trip i'd like to go someday ...
  • Cheers to the airport staff who very sweetly took care of a boy's lost stuffed tiger and gave him an adventure to remember.

... when i still see it all in my head, burning red ...

... that life ain't only supply and demand ...
  • Panicked about this summer's egg shortage? Don't be. 

---

Have a good weekend, folks! Don't forget to comment with any links, gifs, or recipes I might have missed!

June 16, 2015

Boozy Yellow Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting and Caramelized White Chocolate Ganache


Guys, I'm 28 today.

I don't have too many feels about it, except that, according to this Buzzfeed article, it's supposed to be the best year of my twenties. I don't know about that, but I do know that I have a reservation at one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco, a new creme brûlée torch courtesy of the boyf (since I woefully gave mine away when I left Portland), and the BEST yellow birthday cake recipe to celebrate:


Because if you've been a reader of my blog for sometime, you'll know that I'm a firm believer in the fact that birthdays should be celebrated with a yellow cake covered in generous amounts of dark chocolate frosting. I made one for Erlend's birthday a few years ago, and I made myself this saffron butter cake with cardamom and milk chocolate fudge frosting last year.

I'm cheating a little bit with this year since this is actually the same recipe I made for Erlend with some slight variations. The original recipe is one of my favorites and comes from Miette, one of my favorite bakeries in San Francisco. Its a decadent butter cake that uses TEN egg yolks (and no egg whites!) to give the cake its sunny yellow color; the cake is then soaked with a simple syrup to keep it ever so moist.


So what did I do to a cake recipe that I love so much to make it even better? One word: BOOZE. Lots of it. Since I love the flavor combination of chocolate orange, I soaked the cake with a Grand Marnier syrup and added some orange zest to the yellow cake batter. The boozy orange paired wonderfully with the dark chocolate ganache frosting.

And because it was my birthday, I figured I'd be extra freaking decadent and top the cake off with a caramelized white chocolate ganache. Did you know that if you roast white chocolate at a low temperature for about an hour or so (but more on this later, in the baker's notes — don't panic just yet!), it caramelizes and you get the most wonderful toasted white chocolate flavor? The end result is almost like a dulce de leche caramel and it's absolutely heavenly.


Some baker's notes:
  • There's a lot going on with this cake, so I suggest breaking it down by making the cake first, and then the syrup two ganaches the following day. Make the cake first and cover it in plastic wrap and keep it in the refrigerator until you're ready to frost it — the cake's butter flavor actually intensifies overnight.

  • So, this cake uses a shit-ton of egg yolks. You will need to use an entire dozen's total for the cake and the frosting combined. I recognize the ridiculousness of that situation (but it was my birthday, and I had to indulge myself), so let me offer you up these recipes for the leftover eggwhites: use 4 egg whites for this rhubarb and pistachio pavlova, another 4 egg whites for this white chocolate malt cake, and the rest for an egg white scramble with a ton of spinach, fresh herbs, and gruyere. 

  • Let's talk more about caramelized white chocolate, because I know I just dropped it in there last minute like whoa. I first found out about the phenomenon ever since spying this recipe in Food52's Genius Recipes cookbook and I've been playing around with it since. My one complaint, however, is that the original recipe requires you to heat at a ridiculously low temperature (265 (F)) for almost an hour, along with stirring it every three minutes or so. It's fussy, because if the chocolate gets too hot, it seizes and turns into solid crumbles instead of caramelizing.

    So a couple of things: because the oven in my new apartment runs so insanely hot and I really don't have time to stir something in the oven every 3 minutes, I started playing around with trying to find a shortcut. I found out that you can basically get the same result in almost a quarter of the time suggested by the original recipe if, instead of baking in an oven, you cook the white chocolate over the stovetop. The trick is to melt the white chocolate over low heat, and then once it's melted completely, turn the heat on high and to scorch it. Stirring constantly to distribute the heat evenly throughout the mixture achieves the same sort of caramelization, and I found that I actually had more control over the final flavor using the stovetop method — because it's happening right in front of you, you can really control how roasted and caramelized you want the final product to be.

  • It took me a couple of times to get the ratio of white chocolate to cream for the topping; don't be afraid to troubleshoot it! If you find the ganache to be too runny, feel free to add a few more chunks of white chocolate to thicken it up. If it's too thick, add a splash of cream. The trick is to add just a little bit at a time to get the consistency you want. Because you're going to be pouring it over the cake, you're going to want a ganache that's still warm and just ever-so-slightly runnier than normal to get that pretty spilled frosting look. The ganache will set as it cools.

June 13, 2015

It's the Weekend, It's the Weekend!

above: Dunkaroos, all the way from Canada thanks to Steph!;
below: bubble tea with cotton-candy wrapped straws from San Francisco's Japantown
For more pictures of the snacks I ate during the week, follow me on Instagram!


Hi everybody!

As I predicted, I missed last week’s installation of this column since I was too busy enjoying myself at the Saveur Blog Awards. But no worries! To make up to all you fine folk, I’ve rounded up twice as many of my favorite links from this past and previous week, including two menus full of lovely dishes from lots of lovely people. Have a great weekend (and hopefully you’re not sitting at home in front of your computer, like I am):

---

This Week’s Menu 
(yeah, living the raw deal – three-course meal!)

STARTER

MAIN


---

... california, here we come, right back where we started from ...

... i can't make you love me ...
  • Who else has been guilty of buying expensive junk for their cat in an attempt to make him/her love you more? Apparently not just me.

... surf it, scroll it, pause it, click it ...

... did you ever know that you're my hero ...

... take me on a trip I'd like to go someday ...

... who run da world? GIRLS ...

... portland oregon and sloe gin fizz, if that ain’t love then tell me what is ...

... hot town, summer in the city ...

... this is how we do it ...

... questions of science, science and progress ...

... and i’m hungry like the wolf ...

---

Last Week's Menu

STARTER

MAIN

DESSERT

---

Have a good weekend, folks! Don't forget to comment with any links, gifs, or recipes I might have missed!

June 11, 2015

Silver Dollar Crepes with Blood Orange Roasted Rhubarb


I always thought I was a Big City Person, but these last few weeks in San Francisco have surprised me a fair number of mildly shocking observations that shouldn't have been all that surprising. I blame the influence of TVs and movies — years of watching the Sex and the City girls go out for nightly cocktails, or Monica and Rachel from Friends living in that gorgeous 2-bedroom corner unit on their chef and waitress salaries apparently left some sort of impression. I mean, let's face it — every TV character who lives in New York City, San Francisco, or Los Angeles seems to have a spacious, loft apartment with bountiful natural light and a closet full of designer clothing. And that's just really not real life... at all.


But since moving back, there are a couple of truths I've noticed in the last few weeks that I'd like to share about Big City Living. You know, the stuff that the books, movies, and TV shows all seem to gloss over because they are boring and unglamorous:

1. 90% of the people who live in the city wear comfortable shoes.
You know how everybody in the the freaking shows and movies is always running around wearing 6-inch stilettos? Yeah, no. My sturdy, comfortable ballet flats were inadequate for the hills of Noe Valley; to scale those hills in anything more than flats would be cruel and painful. Real Big City Dwellers (at least those in San Francisco) wear running shoes with their hip outfits. It's true.

As for all those wearing heels? They take taxis.

2. Similarly, everybody seems like they're carrying 2 to 4 different kinds of bags at any given moment.
Is this a San Francisco thing? Because bags here cost 10 cents? I'm being serious. Everybody, including the folks decked out in designer clothing and expensive accessories, is carrying a variety of different bags at any given moment, usually ranging from an expensive purse, a backpack, tote bags, and reusable grocery bags. What gives.

3. Nobody eats breakfast.
You know how the Sex and the City girls were always grabbing breakfast together, or the Friends gang were always hanging out in that coffee shop together? Ain't nobody got time for that here. Even brunch, which is a much revered meal everywhere else, seems to be reserved only for three-day weekends or when friends from out of town are visiting. Otherwise, the line's just too damn long. People got code to write, ya know, bro.

And even though I've only been here for a month and change, I assimilated on the first two points fairly quickly. I walk around with an extra bag or two stuffed into my formal leather purse (just in case I need to go buy groceries after work, okay?!), and spent most of my first paycheck on buying comfortable shoes. All that's good and well, but... I still can't quite get my head around the breakfast thing! How can you not eat breakfast?!


Which brings us to these miniature crepes. These crepes are my ode to breakfast, and taking the time to enjoy the most important meal of the day (even though that's apparently not true). I made these crepes back in Portland a few months ago at the start of the spring, when the last of the winter citrus crop was still around to yield blood oranges at the same time rhubarb was just coming into season. Together, blood orange and roasted rhubarb make a bold, full-bodied, and combination that's pretty hard to beat.

So eat your breakfast, kids!


Some baker's notes:
  • Did you know that you don't need a crepe pan or a crepe spreader to make crepes? I know that a crepe spreader will make your crepes thinner and crispier, but the crepes that I had in France were actually a little bit spongy. These crepes are more like that — thin and slightly spongy in the middle, crisp and crunchy on the outsides. All you need to make them is a nonstick pan with a handle. However, to get perfectly round miniature crepes, I used a 2 1/2 inch round cookie cutter (the smallest shape from this cookie cutter set) to mold the pancakes into their perfectly shapes. You can also get creative and use other shapes like hearts and animals — Amazon has a wonderful collection of actual pancake molds that you can choose from. 

  • If blood orange is no longer available, feel free to swap out the fruit with any other kind of citrus! Regular orange and lemon would also work beautifully with the rhubarb.