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Summer Baking (Part 1)

4 Sep

Blueberry Oatmeal Crumble

Adapted from: The Farm found on “Leite’s Culinaria

The Recipe & Procedure

1. Gather 12 ounces of fresh blueberries…

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2. Mix blueberries with 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 to 2 tablespoon lemon juice. Then transfer berry mixture into buttered 9-inch pie tin.

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3. In another bowl, stir together 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup quick cooking oats, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Then blend 1/2 stick unsalted butter cut (already cut into cubes) in the flour mixture.

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4. Bake in preheated oven (375F) for 25 to 35 minutes or until berry filling is bubbling and the crumble is browned. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream on top!

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Midnight Crepes

4 Apr

Midnight Crepes

It’s not advisable to eat after 9pm, or specifically 2-3 hours before you go to bed but I had to make an exception when it came to crepes.

I was at a home meeting when I was asked to make crepes.

“Make crepes? But I don’t know how,” I said.

“It’s fine. You’ll learn! We have the batter ready too.”

Luckily I have spent my fair share watching Sofie’s Crepes in SF Japantown so I knew sort of how crepes were to be made. SORT OF.

Pouring the Batter

Finished Crepes

Finished Crepe

Crepe Filling Options

Strawberry Banana Nutella Crepe

So the crepes didn’t turn out too bad. Do I have a hidden skill for making crepes? I wouldn’t go that far yet but I’ll have to try making crepes again. Overall, it was a delicious midnight snack. :)

Happy Fourth of July!

2 Jul

I’ve been so busy between volunteering as a Teacher’s Assistant for a week at my old school, then starting my Nutrition class at Skyline College, and interning at the Chinese Hospital to publish their annual newsletter.

Whew.

I know my friends may think I’m crazy for doing all this during summer, but to be honest, I love to keep myself occupied. I enjoy lounging at home but it’s nice to have stuff to do, things to do, and people to see.

Because I’ve been so busy  I haven’t had time to update the blog. I’ve been meaning to update it with fabulous pictures of the restaurants I’ve been to so I finally did that in the first post of today. Haha. I go about a month with not a peep and suddenly two posts in a day. Look out!

Red, White, and Blue Berry Yogurt Cake

Inspired by Nicole Weston (Baking Bites).

With my new Android phone I’ve been able to receive tweets directly on my phone. I use my Twitter account basically to follow other bakers, bloggers, and food-related people/organizations like SF Food Carts (@sfcarts). One of those bakers is Nicole Weston (twitter alias: @bakingbites).

She tweeted “The perfect cake for 4th of July. Or any day in July, really. http://fb.me/E50y6aCr” on June 24th.

Nicole Weston's (aka Baking Bites) original Red, White, and Blue Berry Yogurt Cake. All credits to her. Delicious looking, ain't it?

Always wanting to bake for a holiday, I clicked on the link. When I saw her picture of the cake (shown above) and read the directions, I knew that the cake was within my ability.

“I can do that!” I remember thinking my mood suddenly lifting.

Adding the berries in

And that’s just what I did today. I baked that cake and made the frosting. I’m going to cut a slice for my dad so he can try it as well as cut more slices to share with Eric (my friend, buddy, and family friend). Of course, if I remember any other people who would like to have some, I would share with them too! That’s the best part of baking: sharing with others.

Please see Nicole’s site “Baking Bites” for the recipe.

Red, White, and Blue Berry Yogurt Cake

My version of Baking Bite's Red, White, and Blue Berry Yogurt Cake

Slice of Berry Cake 2

Slice of Berry Cake

Moist Banana Walnut Bread

Tartine's Banana Walnut Bread

Adding the toasted walnuts and sprinkle of (improvised) oatmeal

I can’t remember how many times I’ve posted a recipe for banana bread here. My go-to recipe for this has been from this random blog I found about two years ago, but I’ve found another favorite.

This recipe for banana bread is from San Francisco’s beloved bakery Tartine. I went here last year for my birthday and loved the experience. Luckily my mom anticipated my attachment to Tartine and gave me the cookbook right then there too.

I don’t think I’ve made anything from the cookbook until now because I was looking for another banana bread recipe for my mom’s coworker on his birthday.

This banana bread is rich with a tender crumb. It uses three bananas  – most recipes I’ve come across only use two – and real butter – not oil like most recipes. Oh, but this makes all the difference.

If you would like this recipe, please email me at: nell.notebook@yahoo.com

I would be happy to share this wonderful recipe with a fellow baker. :)

Tartine's Banana Walunut Bread

Finally, Happy 4th of July to you all!

Summertime Calls for a Feast

7 Jun

One Red Bell Pepper

With no more school (until September – yay!), I’ve had a lot of time on my hands.

I’m not complaining though. I get to wake up late, lounge around the house, finally get dressed after 2 hours, go outside and walk around my neighborhood, and annoy my cat to no end. Of

Three zucchinis course there are other days when I actually see friends but having all this me-time is wonderful. I can feel my batteries recharging. I suppose that

makes me a introvert, right?

Anyway, today started off as the same except that I knew that I was going to do some baking Two Carrotsand cooking. Yesterday my mom was craving a “brownie-like chocolate cake without frosting” but because of my doctor’s appointment, I didn’t have time. And just last Friday I was craving chili because of the chilly weather, which then got my mom excited for chili too.

She told me that I had the optiOne and a half cups of beanson of making

either today but I decided that I had the whole day why not make both? So that’s exactly what I did. I even made fresh corn bread!

 

 

The Dinner Table Components

Bowl of Chili sprinkled with Chopped Chives and Cheddar Cheese

Bowl of chili sprinkled with chopped chives and cheddar cheese - turned out a little sweet due to the canned diced tomatoes but with the ground Cayenne pepper it still had a kick!

Buttermilk Cornbread

Buttermilk cornbread - reminded me of the potluck at UC Davis

Oranges and Blueberries

Oranges and blueberries - to clean the pallet of course!

Chocolate Almond Torte

Chocolate almond torte - delicious, delicious delicious! A thin little slice of this dense (yet flaky) chocolate torte is all you need to satisfy any chocolate craving. Recipe from Joyofbaking.com

Mom and I also had an mixed green salad with chopped apples, mushrooms, and candied walnuts but I forgot to take a picture of it – whoops! Next time.

If you want any recipes, comment or email and I will be happy to share them with you.

Until next time, I hope summer is treating you well!

Whipped egg whitesChopped toasted almonds and chocolate butter mixture (Chocolate Almond Torte)Glazing the chocolate almond torte

Summer Tip: Check out your local Farmer’s Markets because summer fruits (melons, blueberries!, peaches!, etc.) and veggies are in season. This means great-tasting produce for good prices and a big “thank you” from Mother Earth. :)

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.

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… :)

In the Kitchen with Sarah Lodick (Sur La Table)

9 Aug

When I got back from UC Davis, I did not have much planned except for doing homework. How lame, I know.

So by Tuesday night, I had pretty much finished my summer reading assignment to read and respond to online questions regarding the chapter themes of “The Axemaker’s Gift” by Burke and Orstein. Don’t misjudge the book by my unenthusiastic attitude though. It’s a rather interesting take on how technology has changed man’s perspective of the world and how man can get back in touch with his more natural roots. If you’re looking for a serious read, this is a good choice.

Luckily, my mom already had things planned for me for the rest of the week. She had apparently called the Sur La Table in San Francisco Union Square to see if there was still room in the Teen Baking Camp; and luckily for me, there was not only room available but Chef Sarah Lodick was still willing to let me join the class for the rest of the week! Sarah had remembered me from last year and knew that I was not a troublemaker and readily let me join.Sur La Table Kitchen

Monday was apparently “Breakfast Creations” and Tuesday had been “Shortcakes, Cobblers, and Crisps”, but I don’t mind having missed these classes because Sarah gave me the recipes for the savory scones, nectarine and blueberry crisp, cherry almond crisp, (and more!).

Wednesday, “Pies and Tarts”

When I came in on Wednesday, the theme was “Pies and Tarts” so we – the 12 teens – made a banana cream pie with a Nutella Crust (delicious!), an all american apple pie, a chocolate pecan pie, and a lemon tart.

Chef Sarah putting the final "burn" on the lemon tart

Chef Sarah putting the final "burn" on the lemon tart

Lemon Tart

Lemon Tart - my student partner and I actually made this!

The Apple Pie

The Apple Pie - check out the cute apple cut-outs!

The Chocolate Pecan Pie

The Chocolate Pecan Pie - filled with toasted, nutty pecans and chocolate chunks

Even though the class was nice to take because we got to eat whatever we made, I think what I enjoyed the most was the quick baking lessons Sarah taught us.

On Wednesday, Sarah clarified the single difference between a pie and a tart, which is that a pie is meant to be served in the decorative pie ceramic/tin while a tart is meant to be served on a plate to show its decorative crust.

The second lesson of the day was between the different kinds of salts used in cooking and baking. The first shown to us was Kosher salt, which is what is primarily used in cooking because it does not have a very salty taste. This is why in cooking shows you’ll see the chef put in what seems to be a large amount of salt. Because Kosher salt is not as salty, the chef can put more of it in the dish.

The second salt was sea salt because it was going to be used in a chocolate chip cookie recipe the next day. This salt is often used in baking rather than cooking. The third salt was Morton’s iodized table salt – the salt that is in the salt shaker at a table. This is the saltiest of all the salts so it is only used in small amounts. Sarah then showed us flavored salts, flaky salts, and a block of pink salt. Who knew that there were so many kinds of salts?

Amazingly enough, when I went to check out the open house of the Art Institute in San Francisco, the chef had prepared a similar salt tasting.

Thursday, “Chocolate Overload”

On Thursday, the theme of the camp was “Chocolate Overload”. Simply by reading the name, I should have known what kind of overload I would be in for. But no, I barely considered what kind of overload would be presented to me when I arrived.

The recipes for the day included: Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt, Mini Chocolate Bundt Cakes with Ganache Glaze,  Chocolate Profiteroles with Vanilla Ice Cream, Chocolate Hazelnut Bread Pudding, and Chocolate Soufflés. That’s what I call an overload of chocolate.

Chocolate Souffles

Chocolate Souffles and Chocolate Chip Cookies (in background)

Chocolate Profiterolesand Chocolate Bundt Cake Slices

Chocolate Profiteroles and Chocolate Bundt Cake Slices - it's like a work of art with the light reflecting off the chocolate sauce!

Before any of the desserts were made, Sarah treated us to a mini chocolate tasting. Using E. Guittard chocolate, she gave each of us semi-sweet, bittersweet, milk chocolate, and white chocolate pieces. She explained the difference between all these kinds of chocolate, which is the ratio of  chocolate liquor to to cocoa butter. Best of all, she explained the whole chocolate process. I’ll repeat it here in case you don’t know how chocolate is made. :)

  1. The cocoa beans are taken from the cocoa plant pod and roasted in a large oven after being sorted out for quality. The roasting dries the bean to bring out the aroma and flavors.
  2. The cocoa beans are then cracked and the inside of the beans are broken into bits called cocoa nibs. These nibs taste just like chocolate except they’re extremely bitter. However, they are sometimes used to decorate the sides of a cake.
  3. The cocoa nibs are crushed and thickened into a paste called chocolate liquor – it has no alcohol! The cocoa nibs can also be made into cocoa liquor through a hydraulic machine that will separate the cocoa from the cocoa butter.
  4. The chocolate liquor is then mixed with different amounts of  cocoa butter according to the manufacture’s taste. Milk, vanilla, and sugar are added as well. To make white chocolate, one must only add these ingredients to the cocoa butter – leave out the chocolate and cocoa liquor.
  5. Finally, through a refining and tempering process, the chocolate is made to have the texture of the chocolate bars we know today.

And there you go! The chocolate process.

For more information on the chocolate making process, check out: How Chocolate Is Made

The last lesson in chocolate Sarah taught us was the difference between Dutch-processed cocoa and unprocessed cocoa, which is that Dutch-processed cocoa is treated with alkali to neutralize the chocolate’s acids. Again, I was happy to know that I was doing more than just baking with Sarah at Sur La Table; I was learning too!

Chocolate Tasting

Chocolate Tasting - the small little jars are chocolate at its different phases; the larger boxes are the types of finished chocolate.

Friday, “Cupcake Madness”

When I realized that Friday was “cupcake madness” I was not looking forward to it initially. I have had so many bad attempts at making cupcakes and then frosting them at home that I was not particularly excited about Friday’s class. Not even the recipes for the day really intrigued me except for the coconut raspberry cupcakes. The rest seemed medicore at best.

Oh, but boy was I wrong. (See, this is why I try to keep an open mind because the rare times that I don’t, I am always pleasantly surprised!)

Because of the small size of the class, I only worked with one other student and we got to bake TWO recipes instead of just one! My partner and I baked up the coconut raspberry cupcakes and the brownie cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. The rest of the groups made the red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (my second choice), caramel cupcakes with caramelized frosting,  and black and white cupcakes.

Cupcake Madness

Cupcake Madness - the big front three are caramel cupcakes; the front small minis are the brownie cupcakes with peanut butter frosting; the back are the coconut raspberry mini cupcakes, red velvet, and black and white cupcakes. These lasted my family and I a good three days to finish. My dad agreed on the superb taste. :)

I have to say that one of my favorites (with no bias!) was the coconut raspberry cupcakes because they had a distinct texture and taste. I had never tasted anything like it before so the mingling of raspberry and coconut was new to me. The caramel cupcakes were pretty good. I’m not much of a caramel fan so this could be why I didn’t find it that great. But it did taste like caramel and the frosting paired well with the cake part.

The brownie cupcakes with peanut butter frosting seemed to be an odd pair. I remember reading the recipe and thinking, “Really?”, but the peanut butter actually complemented the brownie. This combination worked well texture-ly because the peanut butter and brownie are both dense.

Another good reliable cupcake was the black and white  variety. I did not help make these cupcakes so I didn’t know what it would taste like but when I tasted it, I was very pleased. The white and black frosting on the top had a distinct sweetness like I had expected, but the cake itself was lemon so it cut through the sweetness and balanced it out. I’m not sure if you’re a lemon cake fan, but this was good. As of recently, I’ve begun to enjoy the taste of a lemon cake. Not of the lemon tart though because the liquidy lemon-ness of the tart was too much for me. But a lemon cake is beautiful.

Of the cupcakes, I did have a “first”.

Before Friday, I had never tried a red velvet cupcake. I know that sounds strange for a baker, but I’ve never actually tried one. The only red velvet cupcakes I had seen before were in Starbucks, but I never thought of buying on there because I didn’t want my first red velvet cupcake to be from Starbucks of all places (no offense to Starbuck fans).

The special ingredient of red velvet, as Sarah explained, is the addition of cocoa in it so basically a red velvet cupcake has  a hint of chocolate flavor in it but it colored red. Apparently, the new fad is blue velvet cupcakes, according to Sarah, but I have yet to see a blue version of this cupcake.

Trying the red velvet cupcake was an experience for me. I took a bite not knowing what to expect, but it was good. The subtle cocoa flavor does the trick with this cake. I can now say that I am a fan of red velvet cake. And this was my favorite of all the cupcakes. :)

Another small tip for making frosting and cupcakes different colors, use gel food coloring! It helps keep the shape of the batter.

So that has been my baking adventures so far. It had only been four days since I got back from Davis and I was already in the kitchen. In fact, the night I got home, I made a pound cake but it was from a box so that doesn’t really count. It’s nice to be back home, but I’m still missing my YSP friends.

"YSP" in frosting

I got a bit distracted and wrote "YSP" in frosting during the time we were waiting for the cupcakes to bake.

If you are interested in the recipes of any of the foods I mentioned above, send me an email/comment and I’ll be happy to send you the recipe. :)

‘Til next time ~