Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dense and Buttery Pound Cake

I've always loved Pound cake - especially the Sara Lee kind. I grew up with that, melon flavored, chocolate swirl, all butter...the options seemed infinite. Yeah...I was a fat kid. Anyway, decided to make pound cake, and LOVED this recipe. Would definitely make it again, but it's not the light and fluffy kind of cake would is why I like it. I hate ordinary cake. I hate the texture. I hate the lightness. I's weird, but the consistency of cake just bothers me.

Butter Pound Cake

  • 1 cup butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I really like vanilla flavoring, so I doubled that)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract (or lemon zest, which is what I used)

The way to do it:
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour one 9 or 10 inch tube pan.Or just whatever you have available. I used a 9x9 brownie pan.
  2. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and mix well.
  3. Introduce the flour, one cup at a time while adding cream a little at a time until all flour and cream is mixed in well.
  4. Add the vanilla and lemon flavoring and blend well. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  5. Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 1-1/2 hours or until center springs back from small amount of pressure. Immediately turn out on cake rack to cool.
  6. Add whatever decoration you want. I ended up just putting bittersweet chocolate pieces in the middle of the cake while it was still hot - so the chocolate would melt into the cake. The most simple decoration I could think of!
It was gone in 2 days. It is quite fatty though. But every slice is a piece of heaven. Especially with the chocolate, it is amazing.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Heart Shaped Stuffed Crossiants

I was watching Rachael Ray one morning and decided that her recipe was definitely worth trying. It looked easy enough and definitely something that didn't require using my wok! I added a few twists of my own and it worked wonders. Here it is:

  • 2 store-bought bakery croissants
  • 8 slices deli ham (I chose baked honey glazed ham, but any flavor would work! I'm planning on incorporating Spam in it too! It has to very thinly sliced though)
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese (Or any type of cheese really)
  • 2 large plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • Dash of rosemary
  • Dash of red pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Slice the croissants in half lengthwise. Lay the sliced croissants in a jumbo muffin pan or in a ramekin or in my case, in a heart shaped dessert tray!
  3. Line 2 pieces of ham into the cavities of each half and top them all with a slice of cheese and a few slices of tomato. Crack an egg into each “pocket” and sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper, rosemary and red pepper (go easy on the red pepper!)
  4. Bake until the eggs have set, it took me around 30 minutes, but perhaps it was because of my dessert tray, but 15 - 20 minutes should do for a slightly runny yolk.
They were delicious =)

Update: Redid the recipe, except I used a muffin pan and used some different ingredients. Instead of ham, I used spam, and instead of a full egg, I filled the mini croissants with beaten egg with spring onions. They turned out more like a mini quiche than anything else, but took a lot less effort and time. These would be perfect hors de ordervs!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Asian Chips and Dip.

So it's game day. My boys (aka my mid/late 20 year old guy friends who still act like little babies) were coming over. I served up chips and dip, and of course, my own version of chips and dip.

I mean, the concept is there, except my Chips, I mean potstickers, and by dip, I mean sweet and sour +spicy sauce. It's still very satisfying, I swear.

I tend to improvise as I go, but for the filling, here are the main things I use:
  • 2 to 3 cups or 1/4 head of Chinese cabbage (it all depends on how much vegetables you want in your potstickers, so just alter it to your preference)
  • 1 pound lean ground pork
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions, with tops
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp canola oil (or whatever you have handy)
  • 1 tsp of cornstarch
  • Dash of white pepper
  • Dash of five spice
  • Dash of black pepper
  • Dash of salt
Honestly, any other spices you can think of that would make the filling tasty - it's all up to you! As long as you keep your ingredients me, adding fresh rosemary or thyme to the filling is just a little strange. But hey, whatever floats your boat!

The dough:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Or you can just do what I did the first time round - buy pre made ones from 99 Ranch, or even Ralphs - be careful though, don't get the Won Ton skins, get the potsticker/dumpling skins. Won Ton skins are usually much thinner, and it won't hold the dumpling together when you cook them!
To prepare:

Cut the cabbage into thin strips, make sure they are very finely chopped. Mix with a little salt and set aside for 5 minutes. Then try to pat the cabbage dry with a paper towel, the key thing is to soak up the excess moisture, so be creative, do whatever the hell you need to get the water out!
In a large bowl, mix the cabbage, pork, green onions, garlic, soy sauce, cornstarch, oil, salt, white pepper, five spice, black pepper together. If you added too much salt, just alter your other spices, remember, it's to your desire!

To make the dough...
  1. In a bowl, mix the flour and 1 cup boiling water until a soft dough forms. Knead the dough on a lightly flour surface about 5 minutes, or until smooth.
  2. Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a roll 12 inches long and cut each roll into 1/2-inch slices.
  3. Roll 1 slice of dough into a 3-inch circle and place 1 tablespoon pork mixture in the center of the circle. (These are all approximate measurements, they don't have to be exact!!)
  4. Lift up the edges of the circle and pinch 5 pleats up to create a pouch to encase the mixture. Pinch the top together. Repeat with the remaining slices of dough and filling.
To cook the actual potstickers:

  1. Heat a wok or nonstick skillet until very hot. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, tilting the wok to coat the sides. If using a nonstick skillet, add 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil. Place as many dumplings as you can comfortably fit in the work (around 12 I suppose) in a single layer and fry on high heat until the skin is slightly brown.
  2. Add 1/2 cup of water and lower heat. Cover and cook for another 5 to 6 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. By then, your dumplings should be slightly crispy and the bottom should be golden brown.
  3. Repeat until all your dumplings are cooked!
  4. Side note : after they are freshly fried, serve them onto a paper towel lined plate so the oil gets absorbed a little, otherwise it can be a little too greasy.
To make the dipping sauce:
  • I use sweet and sour sauce, and then just add some Sriracha in it for a kick
  • OR, you can use soy sauce and sesame oil, or some vinegar if you want that kick. Red wine vinegar would do. The measurements would be something like 1 tsp of seasme oil with 2 tbsp of soy sauce.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Peking town.

I don't know if it's just me, but whenever I travel to China, I can literally smell China as soon as I leave the airport. It's an old musky smell. It doesn't smell horrible, but it definitely is not the smell of freshly baked cookies. So when I revisited Beijing this year, I naturally expected to get a big whiff of that familiar scent as soon as I landed - however, I was pleasantly surprised.

Beijing is a schizophrenic. Its personality changes every couple of months and merely crossing a bridge means seeing a completely different aspect of the city - which is why I loved every minute of it.

Now let's talk food. When I think of Beijing and China in general, I think of its glorious street food. It's the heavenly and/or threatening little snacks along the street, the somewhat unsanitary yet oh-so-delicious delicacies that one can find in late night stalls - and that's what I always thought was the definition of China's food culture.

Us Chinese eat pretty much anything. We think of new and innovative ways to serve "food." Sometimes we do it so that food can party in your mouth, but most of the time we do it because if we don't think of these creative ways, people would never try them. For example. We apparently serve fruit on a skewer. It sounds normal enough on paper, but we actually glaze them in brown sugar and then freeze them, so it becomes more like a fruit Popsicle. (Okay, maybe not brown sugar, but it does look brown and it is sweet, and I honestly don't want to know the truth.)

Then we have the starfish. Simple enough. We just deep fry it so it passes as food, and I guess it would taste good. As Padma from Top Chef once announced, "deep fry anything and it'll taste good, even my big toe!" culture. So like I mentioned, Beijing is a schizo. The city has some serious personalities, so don't let it fool you. I got acquainted with one of its more recently developed faces this time round - high end cuisine. I frequented dimly lit Chinese restaurants featuring fusion food, and along with its delicate presentation and use of flavors, I would've never guessed I was tasting this at the Capital of China.

One of the most impressive places was in the middle of the Financial District. The restaurant, Whampoa Club, was an eye-opener. The decor composed of traditional bird cages hanging from the ceiling, each installed with a light bulb, a downstairs basement where the main dining room was, and private room upstairs decked out with "cloud" light installations. The effort put into renovating this once traditional Chinese household is phenomenal. Now, the food.

There were tasting menus available, something that is unfamiliar in Chinese restaurants. Instead, we usually have what we call "set menus," which are ranked as "crowd pleasers on a limited budget," not as "amazing foodie adventures." We ordered several dishes - four season preserved vegetables, foie gras wrapped with dried, pressed bean curd, steamed tofu in oolong tea and lotus seeds, and the famous Beijing specialty - noodles with fried minced pork paste (see below.)

So what did I gather from this restaurant?

...Try another one! More to come.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Childhood Snickerdoodles

Trial and error gives me - snickerdoodles so soft it's practically eating warm butter out of the oven.

  • 1 2/3 cups white sugar (or brown sugar for a healthier alternative)
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Then all you have to do is...
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).
  2. Combine 1 2/3 cups white/brown sugar, butter or margarine, vanilla and eggs. Mix well.
  3. Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Blend well.
  4. Shape dough into equal sized balls. Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon. Roll dough in sugar/cinnamon mixture and place at least 2 inches apart on baking sheets.
  5. Bake 8 minutes - no more no less, but do check to see if they look at least solid when the 8 minutes are up, if not, then leave it in there for another minute, but do NOT let it go past 10, otherwise they just become too..generic. Immediately remove from cookie sheets.
Love them.

Update : also made cinnamon streusel muffins with a crunchy, bittersweet chocolate topping. Ahh. Cinnamon overdose is always good.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Obsession with that first meal

I love my breakfast. I am very specific about what I want for breakfast, and aside from that essential caffeine, I need my carbs. One of my favorite places for breakfast is Mani's Bakery. It's great on weekdays - service is better because it's not as busy, and food tends to be served in larger portions. Parking is never an issue here, which is extremely rare in L.A.! But the best is by far their Acai and granola bowl. I am in love with their granola. I don't know what it is about the flavor, maybe it's the maple syrup and apple juice reduction that I love, but I just can't get enough of it. Their chocolate chip cookies are also what I live for. It's huge, it's decked out in Barley Malt Sweetened Chocolate Chips, and it's supposedly Vegan. I have heard however, that Mani's Bakery is not "truly" vegan but hell, I don't know enough about how truly Vegan tastes like to comment - all I know is that when I finish that huge cookie, I don't feel that drunken sense of chocolate hangover I would otherwise get from cookies at Coffee Bean, Starbucks, or even the famous Diddy Reese. I tried the vegan chocolate chip cookie from Urth Caffe, but it didn't compare - I guess that's reasonable, because most people go to the cafe for the coffee, not the cookie (though going just for the people watching opportunity is a good enough excuse!)

Alright, so back to breakfast. Like I said, I love my granola. Alcove Cafe & Bakery has pretty good granola, but I still rank Mani's Bakery as my top choice.

Oatmeal. That's also very ideal breakfast food for me, and again, makes Mani my top breakfast joint. Their oatmeal is so creamy and smooth it feels like I'm drinking a sweet soup. It is the definition of how oatmeal can taste like heaven. Yes, I just describled oatmeal as heavenly, it might be contridictory to some of you but seriously, it's orgasmic. I've tried the oatmeal at Alcove, Urth Caffe - and most of the popular healthy breakfast joints, but Mani's still ranks the highest. I just love that place, and I'm pretty sure I got my point across. =)

P.S. There's also a non-vegan chocolate dipped chocolate chip cookie at Mani's - absolutely decadent, here's the recipe if anyone wants to bake them for me! Yes? No?

Introductions and what not.

So. Here we are, my very first blog. To be honest, blogging is not one of my hobbies - mainly because my ability to read things off my computer screen is severely impaired (yeah..I have some issues.) I am not hugely involved in the blogger community, however, I am very intensely and passionately involved with my food.

I have what you call the inner fat kid syndrome. Remember the 50 cent song that sang - "I love you more than a fat kid loves cake" - well, let's just say if I said that to you, I must really really effing mean it. So guys, just because I have the body type of a typical Asian girl, don't judge. I know my food!