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A Happy Mother’s Day…

8 May The breakfast table

…begins with a good breakfast.

And this I’m certain about because breakfast is the first meal of the day, the meal that sets up a person’s mood, the meal that has no rules!

Perhaps, I’m bias because I love (lovelovelovelove) breakfast, but hey, Mother’s Day is also known for good breakfasts, cards, flowers, and simply showering mom with love. :)

The Card and Flowers

So for this Mother’s Day, I wanted to get my mom something, but nothing at the stores seemed just right for the occasion. I spent almost 2 hours browsing stores in a mall, walking up and down and to and fro, and talking to sales ladies and chit chatting about ideas. Still nothing.

At Japan Town, I did manage to find a card I liked, but since it was time to go (my ride was here) and the store was at the opposite end of the mall, I decided to go back with my friend Michelle later, which we did and this was the card I bought that perhaps inspired me with the fabulous breakfast idea:

Mother's Day card with white flowers

Cute, right? But notice the burnt toast...I told my mom I'd never burn the toast because 1) Bread/toast is precious 2) It's terrible to eat

So after being inspired by the card, I knew the next thing to do was get flowers. I don’t believe I’ve mentioned it yet and actually come to think of it, I know I haven’t mentioned it yet because I didn’t want to jinx it, BUT I am growing chives and was growing onions. The failed story of the onions was that it attracted some kind of strange bug, which after some research seems to have been aphids (not really sure). These pesky bugs destroyed and killed some of my mom’s plants at home as their leaves turned black/brown and withered away. :( So for Mother’s Day, I knew it had to be a plant and not just a bouquet of flowers.

Getting the plant was tricky since hiding it would be difficult. Yesterday after volunteering, I told my mom I was extending an hour at the senior home so that I could bus my way to Laurel Village to Bryan’s Grocery to buy a plant and ingredients for my breakfast surprise. Luckily even though I missed my first bus, another one came 5 minutes later and I successful got the plant, some organic chives (mine aren’t tall enough yet to cut), and the puff pastry dough. Carrying the Bryan’s bag was easy enough. When my mom picked me up, I simply told her to pop the trunk and there went the bag into another bag. And since we did grocery shopping next (and I carry most of the bags), she didn’t notice the extra bag.

Hiding the plant when I got home was still tricky though. I couldn’t let it suffocate so between my bed and the wall, I placed the plant near the window. Mom never noticed it, but my cat had her nose near it the entire time. I kept trying to shoo her away, but she enjoyed sitting right next to it so often that my mom once said, “Where’s Tiger?” and I looked over and saw her there. I had to close the bedroom door so Tiger wouldn’t give away the surprise.

The Breakfast

After rounding up all my ingredients from Bryan’s, I planned to wake up early on Sunday around 7:30 or so. For once I was glad that Tiger is a pest in the morning. She jumps on top of the bed and sits right next to my face and cries long mournful meows. The cause? Hunger pangs. This time I woke up when she cried, fed her, and got to work in the kitchen by first taking out the puff pastry to let it thaw out.

While the pastry was thawing, I cooked the ground turkey meat with garlic and onions. After this, sliced 2 medium eggplants, and 1/4 of a red bell pepper. I took 5 eggs out of the fridge along with the egg beater container. Then I preheated the oven to 400F.

Since the pastry wasn’t done thawing yet, I prepared the waffle iron (and created lots of noise), tried moving the cookie sheets, cake pans, muffin pans, etc. from where they were to a new location (and created even more noise), and then tried to get the plates from the cabinet (and created even MORE noise because I knocked over the ENTIRE stack of bakeware). Yikes. I thought I woke up Mom but apparently, if I close the dining room door to the hallway and the bedroom is also closed, then I can destroy the whole kitchen and not wake up Mom. :)

Finally, the the pastry was ready, I laid one pastry layer down, spread the turkey as the bottom layer, neatly placed the eggplants and bell peppers on top, sprinkled freshly grated Parmesan cheese and chives, cracked the five eggs (and poked them), and poured 1/2 cup of egg beaters into the 9-inch square cake pan. Finally, I laid the second pastry layer on top, spread an egg wash, and then sprinkled more cheese. Into the oven my creation went for 30 minutes.

First layers: pastry, turkey, eggplant

Bottom layers: pastry, ground turkey cooked with garlic and onions, and eggplant slices

Upper layers: red bell peppers, 5 eggs, 1/2 cup egg beaters, chopped organic chives, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese

Upper layers: red bell peppers, 5 eggs, 1/2 cup egg beaters, chopped organic chives, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese

Waffle time.

Not wanting to use a mix from a box, I looked up a recipe and then just poured it into the waffle maker. Of course, I couldn’t help but add something to recipe (vanilla extract). While the waffles were cooking, I cut up strawberries and a banana. I was tempted to make a smoothie, but then decided against it.

Vanilla Waffles with strawberries and banana slices

Vanilla Waffles with strawberries and banana slices

Oh, I forgot to mention that while I was at the senior home, they were selling banana walnut cake (which I’ve helped them make before) so I bought that too. So when the waffles were cooking, I cut several slices of the cake and prepared them in the microwave to heat up.

Walnut banana cake slices courtesey of St. Anne's Home

Walnut banana cake slices courtesey of St. Anne's Home. They were deliciously moist and very banana-y.

After some more cooking and prepping, I was ready.

The breakfast table

The breakfast table

Out of everything I made/had available, Mom loved the pastry the best. Here’s the final outcome in case you were curious….

Final layers of Breakfast Puff Pastry

Final layers of Breakfast Puff Pastry

For all you mothers out there and mothers-to-be, Happy Mother’s Day! :)

The Recipes

  1. Ultimate Breakfast Puff Pastry
    *I added slices of 2 eggplants and slices of 1/4 of a red bell pepper
    * I used 1/4 of a package of ground turkey instead of ham; and substituted 1/2 cup of egg beaters for 2 eggs.
  2. Waffles
    *I added 1/4 tsp of vanilla extra.
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A Reflection and Food Craving

28 Apr Bananas on Sourdough Toast

I’ve been on an Easter Break/Spring Break since last Friday. You probably couldn’t tell since I haven’t really posted much.

But as I’m sitting here with all my AP Government loose notes, open binder, electronic book opened (and the movie Tangled in a minimized screen), I started to think about what I do for fun.

This all came to my attention during a scholarship interview on Tuesday. The lady said, “So I see you’re taking a lot of AP classes; you play the violin; you volunteer; and you bake. But what do you do in your free time, you know, for fun?”

Pound Cake

My pound cake - How could baking not be fun?

And I basically smiled at her and said, “I have fun volunteering and baking so those two things are not ‘chores’ for me. But when I have the time, I love to check out different restaurants and bakeries with my mom.”

I’m not sure if she understood what food means to me though. I mean, sure a weeknight dinner is just a dinner, a 30-minute break where I scarf down the (delicious) food my mom makes before I hit the books again.

White Peaches

Aren't they beautiful? Would she see what I see?

But long weekends and holidays are absolutely beautiful. We wake up early to try a new breakfast place. (We tried to go to Mama’s Cafe in North Beach last Sunday, but it was way too busy.)

I’m not sure if that seemed exciting and fun to the lady, but I hope I came off as a good candidate.

Anyway, after thinking about my interview I got to thinking about how I wished I had time to bake. And then I looked at what I had been eating.

Breakfast? Fruits, slice of sourdough toast, and popcorn.

Now popcorn may sound strange, but I love popping my own popcorn in a pot at home. I don’t like butter or salt, but sometimes I’ll sprinkle some strange grated/powder cheese thing on it. It sounds gross, but it’s delicious.

I think I had two bowls of popcorn just today. I’m totally over doing it, I know, but having been without it for 40 days is hard. (My mom gave it up so I didn’t want to eat it around her.)

But here is perhaps the strangest thing I’ve eaten this week for breakfast: bananas on sourdough toast.

Bananas on Sourdough Toast

Bananas on Sourdough Toast - who knew the sourdough taste and its texture would complement the sweet soft banana slices?

I have no idea what inspired me to do this, but I woke up craving sliced ripe bananas on toast. Sometimes cravings are just cravings and the actual dish is disgusting, but let me tell you, it was just as good as I had imagined.

I know I dreamt something last night so if any idea “Inception” happened, then perhaps that’s why. Other than that, I have no clue how I got this idea.

I wonder… do you have anything “strange” that you eat/make/bake? Perhaps I’m not the only one of my kind… :)

Out of the Oven: British Flapjacks

14 Mar

I finally got around to making the British Flapjacks chosen by several voters last Friday. (Check out my previous post here for the original post).

First of all, I have to say that making the flapjacks was the easiest baking challenge I have ever done. In fact, it was not even a challenge even when taking in the time I started preparing. I debated whether or not to start because it was approximately 7:15 p.m. However as I was preparing all the oats, syrup, and sugar, I realized that the directions in the Bon Appetit article “Bar None” by Molly Wizenberg were fewer than 5 steps.

I literally looked at the microwave clock, then the ingredients neatly resting in their bowls, the clock again, and then back at the ingredients. I peered into the other room where my mom was sitting in front of the couch watching the 7 p.m. news. I wondered, “Should I? Do I have time?”

I stated to answer my own question, “Maybe if …” But before I could dissuade myself from stopping, I preheated the oven, buttered the pan, and mixed all the ingredients together. I carefully guided the gooey mass of oats, sugar, and syrup into the pan, placed the pan in the oven, and then set the timer.

British Flapjacks

And that’s when I saw it: the time. It was only 7:36 p.m. I stared at the glowing numbers. “Really? That’s all it took? 30 minutes to prep?” I am so accustomed to slaving away in the kitchen to produce a batch of anything that I could not believe it had only taken 30 minutes.

Because of the ease of the recipe, I’m sure you too – if you choose to try baking the flapjacks, which I suggest – will find this a recipe worth keeping. If I must compare the process, I must say that author Molly Wizenberg describes it best, “the method is, weirdly enough, very similar to the process for making Rice Krispies Treats: Melt butter and something sweet in a saucepan, add cereal, then press the mixture into a pan.”

But I must warn you when you make this you will just die with each mouthful of flavor. Again, in the words of Molly Wizenberg, “On first appraisal, it was all about texture, chewy in the center and crisp around the edges. But about two chews in, the flavor came: deep and hearty, the way good oatmeal can be, with a gentle amount of sweetness and a good hit of butter. I now think of this as the Flapjack Reveal. You take a bite, and it tastes good, if a little wholesome. But you keep chewing, and in a second or two, the flavor opens up threefold, big and toasty and rich, and your salivary glands start going, and you think, This is delicious. I don’t know what this thing is, but I’m going to need another.

British Flapjacks

Recipe from Molly Wizenberg, Bon Appetit

Makes 16 cookie bars

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup golden syrup*
  • 2 1/3 cups quick-cooking oats (not instant or old-fashioned) (If using old-fashioned, add 17 more minutes to baking time, and check back before the last 5 minutes).
  • Pinch of salt

* A type of syrup popular in Great Britain; available at some supermarkets, specialty foods stores, and British import shops

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Butter 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan.
  3. Combine first 3 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan. Stir constantly over medium-low heat until butter melts, sugar dissolves, and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Add oats and salt; stir until coated. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and spread out in even layer.
  4. Bake until top is golden (edges will be darker), about 25 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 5 minutes. Cut into 4 squares; cut each into 4 triangles (mixture will still be soft). Cool completely in pan before serving.

There you go – recipe and all! I highly suggest that you try making these delicious British cookie bars. They are truly a cross between a chewy oatmeal cookie and a crunchy granola bar. The taste has this familiar aspect of it but also this exotic taste.I suppose it’s familiar because of the oatmeal flavor and the “homemade-ness” from a simple oven, but there’s something about it that makes it just a delightful morning or afternoon snack.

British Flapjacks

Omnivore Books and Peter Reinhart & Friends

5 Mar

This is one of the days that I actually like my school administration. Giving the students a day off while the faculty are discussing the future plans was a great idea. (Thanks, Mr. Scudder and Dr. Hogarty!)

As you know if you read my last post, I wrote about how nervous I was for the anticipated trip to Omnivore Books to hear Mr. Peter Reinhart talk about the art of bread baking. Not to mention the fact that I had no idea what to make!

Recipe Story: The Applesauce Cake with Oatmeal Streusel

Last night I hastily did an inventory check in my apartment kitchen to find that I had no nuts, no raisins or cranberries, no gruyere cheese, or sour cream. I was completely at a loss of what to do. I mean, there went all my ideas for cinnamon rolls, gruyere puffs, and blueberry buckles. I took out all my baking books flipping madly trying to find a recipe that I could actually make when I saw it:  Applesauce Cake with Oatmeal Streusel.

“Brilliant!” I remember thinking as I remembered having applesauce somewhere in the fridge.

I read the directions which consisted of four simple steps, then began to measure out the ingredients. I took out the flour, sugar, baking power, applesauce, etc. I made the streusel part and then proceeded to make the cake part. I had everything prepared and sifted when it came time to add the applesauce. I opened the jar and frankly, my stomach lurched in disgust.

The applesauce was no longer applesauce. It was pink, fuzzy, and I think it winked at me.

However, I did not come all this way to give up, so I chopped up four medium apples, softened them in a microwave, added about 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and then swiftly pulsed them in a food processor. Ta dah – homemade applesauce!

Two cups of that went into the batter and it was ready to go. Lucky for me, it was well-received (and eaten) at the Omnivore Bookstore.

Omnivore Books – the one and only food bookstore in SF!

Omnivore Books on Food
3885a Cesar Chavez Street
San Francisco, CA 94131
Tel: 415.282.4712
Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-6pm, Sun 12-5
Omnivore Books Sign

Speaking of Omnivore … I was excited to head to this bookstore. How could I have not heard about a food bookstore in San Francisco? It is the only one of its kind and it escaped my knowledge. Before I had arrived, I browsed through the website and instantly felt that I was going to like this place. It had new books, old books, signed books, and pictures of a cute and well-lit bookstore in a vibrant and friendly neighborhood on Caesar Chavez Street.

I was not disappointed.Omnivore book shelves

Though I arrived late (I blame the alarm clock for not going off properly!), I somehow fit into the packed little bookstore. I  dissolved into the mass of people sitting in chairs and on the floor and the others leaning against the back bookcases quite easily. I was 20 minutes late, but as I always think “better late than never”. I was just thankful that my mom and I found parking only a block away.

As Mr. Reinhart was talking, I couldn’t help but notice how cute the bookstore was. I do not know if Mr. Reinhart chose this place or the bookstore invited him or a combination of a mutual agreement, but it was definitely the perfect location.

Owner of Omnivore Books: Mary

Owner of Omnivore Books: Celia

It was big enough to accommodate all 30 (or so) of us, yet it was small enough to have this familiar, cozy atmosphere. It was as if all of us had gathered humbly to hear an experienced baker and philosopher talk about his life findings and point of view. We all had crowded in together captivated by the eloquent speaker.

If an outsider had looked in, we probably looked like a family in a home because that is how it felt like: a home.

After Mr. Reinhart finished his lecture, I was able to meet the owner of this bookstore: Celia.

Assistant: Samantha; Owner of Omnivore: Celia

After talking to her, I knew that this was a bookstore I would be coming back to whether it was for the upcoming events, new baking books, or simply to visit a familiar place.

This is a must visit place for any foodie living or visiting San Francisco.

Like Omnivore? Check out their upcoming events here.


Peter Reinhart and Bread as More than a Symbol

I know that I am young so I cannot say with any truth at least “I have seen it all”. I have actually embraced the opposite outlook in life. I am so excited to explore the world around me, meet new people, and learn about new and different things.

Having said that, I’m sure that it comes as no surprise that when I walked into Omnivore and saw Mr. Reinhart, heard him talking about the 12 step process of bread baking, the techniques of professionals and tips for home bakers, and relating the literal process of bread baking to the spiritual transformation, I was completely stunned.

I could not believe that the man I had seen on the back flap of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice was there. This was the same man that I had written a letter to and emailed back and forth to! And there he was standing right in front of me. I was blown away.

As I listened to what he was saying what interested me the most besides the actual bread making techniques was his comment of the four layers of transformation especially how the basic literal level is usually over-looked.

Peter Reinhart lecturing

To paraphrase what he said, “I always knew that bread was a symbol, but I never considered that the actual process of bread baking in the oven was in itself a transformation”.

If you think about it, what he said is true. He went on to say that though the yeast dies when the center of bread reaches 140 degrees, the outcome of the soft, vulnerable living dough is a beautiful, tasty, crusty bread. The theme that he was talking about was “from death comes life” like a rebirth, or in religious terms, the Resurrection.

A religious interpretation from Mr. Reinhart might be expected from him since he was once a brother. (Even at the brother’s house, he worked as the cook there). But, his insight offers another view on the simple task of bread making. Bread has truly been a staple for many cultures all over the world throughout history. There must be a reason why. And Mr. Reinhart gave his interpretation that does indeed make sense.

The parallels between baking bread and Christianity do seem quite numerous. Whether or not it was intended to be so, I did enjoy Mr. Reinhart’s perspective and will most likely be sharing this revelation with my friends.

The book written by Peter Reinhart from a  Theologian’s perspective: Brother Juniper’s Bread Book.

*He also mentioned that he is in the process of writing another theological book as well due to come out in a few months.

The Other Noteworthy People: Wolfinger & Cohn

Eric Wolfinger - photographer and bakerAfter Mr. Reinhart finished talking, the event broke out into “casual mingling mode”. We were all encouraged to try the baked goods that the other guests brought including Raisin Bran Muffins, pecan(?) tartlets, puffs, and my coffee cake.

While walking around, I was able to meet some really cool people like Eric Wolfinger, a baker at Tartine, and Allen Cohn, photo secession baking assistant of Artisan Breads Every Day.

Talking to each of them made me feel that I could work as a full-time baker. I’m sure there are certain things in life I would not be able to do like perhaps buy a mercedes-benz every two years, but I realized that maybe I don’t mind being a “starving baker” (what an oxymoron, right?) If he could live out his passions for photography and baking, then so could I.

For Eric Wolfinger’s Website on photography and baking, click here.

Originally from Los Angeles, Eric Wolfinger explained to me that he actually majored in Political Science, but then took on baking because it was his passion. Mr. Reinhart recounted a story from his book Artisan Breads Every Day in the Epilogue of when Eric brought a “smoky, crisp flaky crust[ed]” French bread to a dinner that made Mr. Reinhart stop in his tracks.

Calling himself “The Wandering Cook”, he currently works as a baker at Tartine where he and the other bakers produce the same french bread that caused time to stop still for Mr. Reinhart. Once I found this out, I was so surprised at who I was surrounded by in Omnivore. There were so many professional bakers in my midst! Being able to talk Mr. Wolfinger was such an honor that I was delighted with the few minutes we stood and chatted.

Tartine's Pumpkin Bread, Fruit Bread Pudding, Blueberry Cake, and Banana Cake

The other man who I had the honor of meeting was Allen Cohn, one of two the photo session baking assistants for Reinhart’s book Artisan Breads Every Day.

Talking to him, I realized that there are other things that I can do to enhance my knowledge of baking. He was kind enought to write down in my notebook (yes, I actually brought a real notebook to take notes) the list of things that I should look up.

I believe the first thing he asked me was, “How do you measure your ingredients?”Allen Cohn

I knew where this was going because I had read that weighing the ingredients is much more accurate than using measuring cups since everyone measures things differently.

I responded and smiled guiltily, “With measuring cups”.

“You should really buy a scale. They’re only $40. I held a class one time and asked each of my students to measure out 1 cup of flour, and they each came out with flour weighing from 3.5 ounces to 4.5 ounces. It should weigh 4 ounces”.

As I was talking more to him, so much useful information was being tossed out that I had to ask him to write in my notebook. In it, he wrote down several links including links to The Bread Bakers Guild of America and The Bakers Dozen. He also recommended Bread by Hammelman Bread Science by Emily Buehler, and Bakwise by Corrher.

As you can see, I’ve so much to catch up on! But first things first, buy the MyWeight kd7000 scale, or else I would be failing Mr. Cohn and the integrity of bread making would be soiled!

For Allen Cohn’s Baking Website, click here.


The Summary

I am glad that I went today and that my mom was kind enough to take the day off to take me. (Thanks, Mom!) I am glad that I did not hide my applesauce streusel cake at the last minute. (I had whispered to my mom, “Take it back to the car. No one is going to eat it”. She refused after seeing me work so hard last night). I am glad that I met so many wonderful people, including Celia and Samantha from Omnivore. (Celia was Omnivore’s photographer, I think, who was the first one to dare to try my cake! After she gave it a thumbs up, others followed suit).

Meeting other people like Eric Wolfinger and Allen Cohn made me realize that my dream to become a professional baker is possible if I just keep on baking. I was so lucky to be in the presence of so many experienced bakers who were willing to share their knowledge and experience with me.

I felt so honored to be mentioned by Mr. Reinhart in his formal talk ‘on stage’ in front of everyone too. At least five different people came up to me asking what my blog’s name is. (“Notebook Worthy”, I proudly replied with a smile). I’m also very thankful for Celia from Omnivore for tweeting about me to her 1,600 followers!, and Heidi Swason from 101 Cookbooks for re-tweeting her tweet! (ah, the beauty of the internet) Most of you are probably here because of her! :)

Also seeing Mr. Reinhart as a theologian and not just the bread baker was a nice experience too. Hearing him relate bread to religion was quite an experience, something I will take with me.

Hear Peter Reinhart Talk in the Taste3 Conference Here

Most of all, I was happy to be surrounded by people who shared my passion for baking. I have to admit that I do not run into too many student bakers at my school.

I have learned a lot about myself and the possibilities of the future because of the people I met today. It truly is rather exciting.

Breakfast Means Waffles, Omelettes, and Cinnamon Rolls!

16 Jan

Nothing beats coming home after a hectic week at school even with all the love my friends show me. There’s just something about the good old familiar-ness of home: the smell as I walk through the door, the expected squeaks when I walk on the wood floors, the constant nagging meows coming from my tabby cat, and especially the much appreciated hug and smile I get from my mom. :)

The next morning after sleeping in my bed again is even better because I wake up to mom cooking us breakfast. I stroll into the kitchen with sleep eyes still and offer to help her so we end up working together.

This morning was really no different. As I awoke, I found my mom preparing us omelets, so I decided to bake some cinnamon rolls from the dough I had, and then make some waffles too. It truly is amazing how much our tiny apartment kitchen can handle. (and stove/oven for that matter too!) Because I do like you, readers, oh so much, I’ll post the recipes for the bacon-onion omelet my mom made. The cinnamon roll recipe can be found in my previous post here. The waffles were simply made from a store bought mix and made using the Big Boss Grill (an info-mercial I got from a friend). I prefer to skip the syrup and butter and spread strawberry yogurt on mine. Yumm! :P

Mother Nell’s Bacon Onion Omelet

An original recipe that is sure to make you smile. Healthier alternatives in orange brown front.

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs (or about a cup of egg beaters or egg whites)
  • 1/4 diced red onion (white or yellow is fine too)
  • a splash of milk
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 4 slices of bacon, sliced into 1/4 in pieces (or turkey bacon)
  • 3 large white mushrooms, sliced
  • pepper, to taste
  • salt, to taste

Procedure

  1. In a large cup or bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk until thoroughly combined and fluffy. Set aside.
  2. Heat pan (we used a wok) with the vegetable oil on medium heat. Once the oil is hot (2 minutes later), add the onions first until they are slightly browned. Then add the bacon slices that are slices again in 1/4 inch pieces and the sliced mushrooms. Cook mixture until fragrant and bacon is slightly browned. Add pepper and salt to taste, and little more oil if the oil is all soaked up so that the egg will not stick to the pan.
  3. Pour in egg and milk mixture and turn the stove to low-medium heat. Cook until the egg firms up and the top has a shallow pool of uncooked egg, about 5-6 minutes. Keep a close watch.
  4. With your spatula, lift the sides so the egg does not burn. Then fold one side over the other side as if you were folding a piece of paper in half. Cook omelet until it is fully cooked with no leaking egg mixture; takes about 2-3 minutes.

I hope you enjoy the recipe. It is the same one that my mom made me today. :) As always I love to hear your comments, feedback, and photos so feel free to email or comment below!

Good Morning, New Year 2010! I’ve got Cinnamon Rolls :)

2 Jan

I am not sure how familiar you are with the Filipino tradition – is it really Filipino? I’m not too sure – in which you have to wear anything round and circles on New Year’s Eve, but my mom and I actually follow it. According to the wives’ tale, if you wear circles and surround yourself with your money and anything round especially grapes and eat noodles, then you’ll have luck and wealth the following year. So, us being the slightly superstitious people – not believers of witchcraft or the such, but rather humorous believers – we decided to wear crazy clothes with circles and polka dots, put random money bills in our pockets, ate Taiwanese noodles, and put out a big bowl of grapes on our dinning table.  We were such a sight.

Anyway, I decided last night (New Years Day) to spend sometime with my newest best friends: my beautiful, brand new red KitchenAid Pro 600 and Peter Reinhart’s book Artisan Breads Every Day. (I’ll be writing about the KitchenAid mixer and Peter Reinhart in my next post). Together with my oven being all clean and spic-n-span, I was able to prepare the dough and shape it into cinnamon rolls. Beautiful, ROUND, cinnamon-y, cinnamon rolls! I decided to half the recipe in Reinhart’s book because 24 rolls for my mom and I would have been too much; as it is 12 was too much.

So this morning I baked the cinnamon rolls, and boy did the house smell good. Long gone was the awful cleaning smell from the oven. Nope, what wafted in tickling our noses were the twelve round cinnamon beauties.

They turned out fluffy and perfect tasting, not too much cinnamon with slight (oh, so slight) zing of lemon. I have to admit that I found the lemon extract ingredient to be strange, but it actually made the cinnamon rolls taste better and smell zingier.

Here’s the recipe because I know you’ll want to try it especially for your luck in 2010. :)

Peter Reinhart’s Cinnamon Rolls

Reinhart’s recipe is perfect for people working at home because it calls that you prep the dough the night before, then shape it the next morning, let it rise again, and then bake it. However, I decided to make the dough, let it rise 1 hr in a warm oven, shape it into rolls, and then place them in the fridge to rise again. The next morning I just baked them.

Makes 24 cinnamon rolls

 

Ingredients

Dough

  • 6 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (tsp) salt, or 1 tsp coarse kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons (tbl) sugar
  • 5 tbl instant yeast, or 6 1/4 tbl active dry yeast
  • 2 cups plus 2 tbl lukewarm milk, whole or low-fat (about 95 degrees F)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or melted unsalted butter
  • zest of 1 lemon, or 1 tbl lemon extract, or 1/2 tsp lemon oil (optional, but highly suggested)

Cinnamon Sugar Inside

  • 3 tbl ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • melted butter or vegetable oil for brushing on dough
  • 1 cup raisins to taste (optional)
  • 1cup chopped walnuts or pecans to taste (optional)

Cream Cheese Topping

  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup melted, unsalted butter
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar. sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp lemon or orange extract, or 1 tbl lemon juice or orange juice
  • pinch of salt

White Fondant Glaze

  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tbl light corn syrup (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla, lemon, or orange extract, or 1 tbl orange juice concentrate (optional)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup milk or water

Procedure

Dough (Make the night before)

  1. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Whisk the yeast into the milk until dissolved, about 5 minutes. Then pour yeast and milk mixture into the dry ingredients along with the oil and lemon zest. If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on lowest speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute. If mixing by hand, use a large spoon and stir for about 1 minute. The dough should form a soft, coarse ball.
  2. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed, or continue mixing by hand, for  minutes, adding flour or milk as needed to create a smooth, soft, slightly sticky ball or dough. (Sticky dough is dough that sticks to a dry finger).
  3. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes more or continue stirring for about 2 minutes more, until the dough is very soft, supple, and tacky but no longer sticky. (Taacky dough is dough that clings to a dry finger but will not stick to the finger when the finger is pulled away from the dough).
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 1 minute, then form it into a ball.
  5. Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl large enough to hold the dough hen it doubles in size. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days.

On Baking Day

  1. Remove the dough from the refrigerate about 3 hours before you plan to bake. Divide the dough in half and form each piece into a ball. Cover each ball with a bowl or plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.
  2. On a floured work surface, roll each ball of dough into a 12 by 15-inch rectangle, rolling from the center to the corners and then rolling out to the sides. If the dough starts to resis or shrink back, let it rest for 1 minute, then continue rolling. The dough should be between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick.
  3. Make cinnamon sugar by whisking the cinnamon into the sugar. Brush the surface of the dough with melted butter, ten sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Sprinkle the raisins or chopped nuts over the surface if you like, to taste. Roll up the dough like a rug, rolling from the bottom to the top, to form a tight log.
  4. Cut the log into 1-inch-thick slices and place them on a sheet pan or two round cake pans lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat, placing the rolls about 1 1/2 inches apart; they should touch each other once they rise. Mist the tops with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap, then let rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, until the dough swells noticeably and the buns begin to expand into each other.
  5. About 15 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 250 degrees F (177 degrees C).
  6. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 5 to 15 minutes, until the buns are a rich golden brown. Meanwhile, make whichever topping you prefer.
  7. Once the buns are glazed, enjoy!

Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. Combine the cream cheese, butter, and sugar in a mizing bowl. If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed fr 2 minutes. If mixing by hand, stir vigorously for 2 – 4 minutes. The ingredients should be evenly incorporated and smooth.
  2. Add the vanilla, lemon extract, and salt and mix on medium speed, or continue mixing by hand, for about 1 minute, until the ingredients form a smooth paste. Increase the speed to medium-high speed or stir more vigorously for about 20 seconds to fluff up the glaze. Once the buns have cooled for 5 minutes, use an offset spatula or table knige to spread on however much glaze you’d like. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator; any unused glaze will keep for up to 2 weeks.

White Fondant Glaze

  1. Stir the sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla together. Gradually whisk in the mill, adding just enough to make a thick but creamy glaze about the same thickness as pancake batter, adjusting with more liquid or sugar as needed. The thickness of the glaze is really up to you: the stiffer it is, the better it will hold its design; the thinner it is, the more easily it will spread. Ideally, you hould be able to drizzle a slow steady stream off the end of a spoon or other utensil to create designs that will firm up when the buns cool. Glaze the buns after they’ve cooled for about 5 minutes.

 

Me? I just like it with a bit of dusted sugar, strawberries, and butter. :) Enjoy!

 

Chocolate-Covered Almond Coffee Biscotti

8 Nov
Almond Biscotti

Here's the whole gang straight from the oven! (Recipe Below)

Alright, I’m totally rushing this post as I sit here in my pjs – sweatpants and a long t-shirt – with my glasses on. This is me right before I got to bed without any make-up or fixed hair. Bare with me on this because I just had to share this wonderful recipe.

Last weekend when I made the pumpkin spice cupcakes, I bought two big 29-ounce cans of Libby’s  100% Pure Pumpkin. I hadn’t looked at the recipe (bad idea) and so I just figured that it was on sale and so I’d big the two big cans. Wrong, wrong, wrong on my part. Two small cans of 15 ounces would have been much smarter because I only used about 1/4 of the big can for the cupcakes and I was left with so much! I had to put it in a plastic tupperware and hope that it would save. Knowing my sporadic baking times, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get to it before it rotted. So, I decided to make something with pumpkin this weekend.

Now, you may be thinking, “Okay, that’s a great pumpkin story, but how does this relate to your chocolate almond Coffee Biscotti?” And my answer is that well, it doesn’t…kind of… I was going to make a pumpkin biscotti but I couldn’t find any recipes. I knew that I had a recipe for cappuccino biscotti, almond biscotti, gingerbread biscotti (I am so trying this next weekend), and pistachio biscotti, but none for pumpkin; and to my dismay, I couldn’t find any online. I decided that I’d make a chocolate coated almond coffee biscotti instead and then just make pumpkin oatmeal cookies! (I haven’t baked them yet; the dough is still chilling so I’ll post up the recipe and photos as soon as I get to them :) ).

I’m quite the undecided baker if you’ve ever actually seen me in the kitchen. I run around the kitchen gathering supplies as I go – a big “no no” when baking. The professional baker always prepares all the ingredients in separate bowls and containers and then mixes everything in the main bowl while having everything within an arm’s length. But not me. I don’t really have the time to do all that prep work nor do I want to wash out all those containers holding the ingredients when the ingredients already have nice, pretty boxes (yes, that’s me rationalizing my laziness!) So, I’m quite the mad woman in the kitchen. This time was not necessarily different though I always make sure to read the directions before starting the mad goose hunt.

I have to say that I absolutely adore Stephanie Jaworski’s website: Joy of Baking. She does a wonderful job compiling recipes with captivating pictures.
I always check her site first because I know that her recipes come from reliable resources. I do use other sites too once in a while; you can find those in the left sidebar.

The Biscotti turned out absolutely wonderful not to mention it made the whole house – mom’s house – smell so good. My uncle came tonight and as soon as he walked in he said, “Hey! Someone’s baking again! Anything for me?” Unfortunately for him, I wasn’t done baking and had to actually stop baking the biscotti half-way. But, of course, I’ll be making him something soon. Anyhow, I decided to just bake the entire biscotti ‘log’ instead of spiting it into two logs like Stephanie says because the last time I made it, they turned out a little small to me. But when you make it, do whatever you like; experiment! The biscotti were a bit taller than the super skinny ones at the store, but who knows what kind of processing they undergo, y’know? They were so tasty, crunchy, and almond-y with a hint of coffee. Plus with the drizzled dark chocolate with powdered sugar on it, it was a bite of heaven!

I have one photo, but more are coming soon. I have realized that when I take photos at night the photos don’t come out at well as during the day even though I have great big spotlights. Go figure so I’ll take some pictures in the morning. Plus, I took the pictures before I glazed them with chocolate – another one of my last minute decisions.

Here’s the recipe since you’ve been so good and listened to me ramble and ramble. :)

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Chocolate Almond Coffee Biscotti:
A Morning Dessert for the Coffee Drinkers

Adapted from Joy of Baking;
Makes about 28 small-medium biscotti

Ingredients:

Almond Biscotti

  • 1 cup (145 grams) blanched whole almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped – I only used 1/2 cup so I doubled the almond extract
  • 1 tsp (5 grams) baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp pure almond extract – I doubled this to 1 tsp b/c I only had 1/2 cup of almonds available; still tastes good :)
  • 1 tsp instant coffee

Chocolate Glaze

    3 ounces (85 grams) of semi-sweet or white chocolate1 teaspoon (5 grams) vegetable shortening

I don’t have an exact recipe for this me being the experimenter, but you can always melt milk chocolate (for a sweet glaze) or melt semi-sweet chocolate and then add powdered sugar to your preference.

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).  Toast almonds for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant.  Let cool and then chop coarsely.  Set aside.
  2. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (I did not read carefully enough and actually baked them at 350 degrees and they still came out good :)
  3. In a small bowl lightly beat the eggs and extracts together.  Set aside.
    In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer or by hand) combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Beat until blended (about 30 seconds).  Gradually add the egg mixture and beat until a dough forms, adding almonds about halfway through. On a lightly floured surface roll dough into a log about 14 inches (35 cm) long and 3 – 4 inches (8 – 10 cm) wide. Transfer log to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until firm to the touch (log will spread during baking).  Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. I just made one large 10-inch-long log and baked it for about 35 minutes.
  4. Transfer log to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut log into slices 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) thick on the diagonal.   Arrange evenly on baking sheet.  Bake 10 minutes, turn slices over, and bake another 10 minutes or until firm to the touch.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Store in an airtight container.
  5. Melt semi-sweet or white chocolate and vegetable shortening in a small metal bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted and smooth. When melted, place chocolate into a parchment triangle or small plastic bag with one edge cut.  Pipe onto the biscotti in a decorative pattern.  Alternatively, you can dip or spread with a small metal spatula one side of the biscotti with chocolate and let dry on a clean baking sheet. This is what I did with my melted semi-sweet chocolate.

I hope you enjoy the recipe and give it a try. It’s really quite good and if you’re looking to impress your boss or coworkers at work, then this will be a good hit for all those morning coffee drinkers. Have fun and enjoy talking over your cup of joe. :) As always, feel free to leave a comment if you made it! And if you want more biscotti recipes, go here.

Chocolate Almond Biscotti Recipe

Mmm...Just look at that perfect biscotti texture!