Archive | San Francisco RSS feed for this section

Skippin’ to the End: The Final Gingerbread Project

29 Jan

So the bake sale for the teachers worked out quite well! I made chocolate biscotti and almond biscotti about 10 inches long and sold them for a dollar each earning me (ahem, the San Francisco Food Bank) a total of $25. They were all gone in three days. :)

For the student bake sale, I made a bunch of muffins – orange cranberry, lemon blueberry, and banana. Luckily, my friends Tina and Michelle made pumpkin muffins, banana bread (the banana muffins I made were such a hit, people kept on asking for more!), and miniature peacan chocolate chip cookies. I even sold bagels with cream cheese and bacon one morning. Let me just say that my friends and classmates were quite happy every morning this week. I can’t count how many times they asked if I had something to sell.

All in all, I ended up earning $75 for the San Francisco Food Bank! This is quite amazing since everything I sold was $.50 or$1 at the most. And that completed my bake sale. I enjoyed selling my baked goods to everyone at school. Amazingly enough, I’ve developed a reputation among my classmates and teachers for being a baker. And you know what, it’s a reputation that I don’t mind. :)

Anyway, so today I formally presented my gingerbread project and titled it, “710-720 Steiner Street: The Painted Ladies”. My classmates and fellow scholars were surprised at the size of the gingerbread. I’m not sure what they were expecting, but you can judge for yourself.

The Painted Ladies

Also, what do you think of the resemblance? Does it look like the Painted Ladies? By the way, I know that there are six, but I only had time to the first four (710-716).

The Painted Ladies - Original

 

To liven up my presentation, I decided to test the other students to see if they were listening to me. I had just been talking about the science of baking and what the different ingredients (like flour, sugar, eggs, and baking soda) do to the dough. After this slide, I took out little bags with four different kinds of gingerbread cookies from Betty Crocker’s gingerbread cookie mix. (I know what you’re thinking: a mix? My excuse: It was 10pm last night and I still had to finish my powerpoint so I stuck with the mix. I’m not proud, but it worked.)

I asked all the students to taste the cookies and try to tell which cookie was the original, the one with 1/4 cup more flour, 4 tsp more oil, and 4 tsp more baking soda/powder. Here are all the pictures of the cookies. Can you guess which  ones were which?

 

Mystery Cookie #1

Mystery Cookie #1

Mystery Cookie #2

Mystery Cookie #2

 

Mystery Cookie #3

Mystery Cookie #3

Mystery Cookie #4

Mystery Cookie #4

 

Okay, so the answer to the cookies are…

Mystery Cookie #1: Extra 1/4 cup more flour

Mystery Cookie #2: Extra 4 tsp baking soda/powder

Mystery Cookie #3: Original

Mystery Cookie #4: Extra 4 tsp oil

And there you go! How’d you measure up? :)

Before I end this post, I just want to post two more photos to remind you what it started it out as:

Constructing the first house

Marshmallow Trees

 

 

Advertisements

Gingerbread Houses Were Made for December

17 Dec

The blueprints and gingerbread house

In the words of my college counselor, I am taking a “university level Great Books” class, also known as Senior Seminar. In this class, I am given 100 hours to do something interdisciplinary that I have never done before. I originally thought of:

a) Making a telescope with real glass
b) Making a miniature, but human-sized planetarium
c) Making kites of different materials in different geometric shapes
d) Constructing a famous SF structure out of gingerbread

Well, when I factored in money, time, supplies, knowledge – and well, reality? – I ended up crossing out the first two:

a) Making a telescope with real glass
b) Making a miniature, but human-sized planetarium
c) Making kites of different materials in different geometric shapes
d) Constructing a famous SF structure out of gingerbread

And then when I factored in my REAL interest, the list looked like this:

a) Making a telescope with real glass
b) Making a miniature, but human-sized planetarium
c) Making kites of different materials in different geometric shapes
d) Constructing a famous SF structure out of gingerbread

And that was how I came up with my final plan: construct something out of gingerbread!

But what exactly? Ah, that question was easily answered: San Francisco’s Painted Ladies.

So, that’s what I’m going to be doing during December – making three of the houses – because January won’t give me enough time with schoolwork and all that.

I think the best part of the project is going to be holding a baking class for De Marillac Academy students, who if you don’t know come from San Francisco’s under-served neighborhoods. These students attend the middle school for free because their parents cannot afford to send them to school. My high school is technically the sister school, so I thought that I would follow in the Lasallian and Vincentian footsteps and help the middle school students out. After all, baking is an art and art is important to a child’s development.

Since I don’t have all the financial means to buy all the supplies and ingredients, I’m writing letters to Safeway, Lucky’s, possibly Trader Joe’s, and possibly Sur la Table. (I’ve taken several baking classes so maybe they would be willing to donate supplies to a worthy cause?) Anyway, I’m hoping this works out because this would be a great opportunity for these kids. They deserve it.

Anyway, since this is officially my last school day of 2010 – as someone reminded me the other day – I am now out for Christmas Break. Life’s good. :)

Lovin’ Mornings

13 Nov

I can’t even remember what I wrote in my last post … That’s a bad thing, I know. But I’ve got more updates on what I’ve been doing and baking lately!

 

One thing I have learned is that non-expired yeast is ALWAYS better than expire yeast even if the expire yeast has just been expire for 2 weeks. Ick. Not only was this bread made out of expire yeast,  but I didn’t have enough flour so there went my idea for a simple white bread. To come out with 4 cups of flour, I used 2 cups of unbleached flour and 2 cups of oat bran flour. While reading the BreadMan instructions, I noticed that it said oat bran was used to “enhance the texture of the bread” and it made no mention of it being the main source of flour. But oh well, I was craving bread and since I was too lazy to buy any proper ingredients and hand-knead the dough, all the mixed-matched ingredients went into the BreadMan’s bucket and the BreadMan did the rest of the work.

Homemade Oat Bran BreadI don’t think that I hated the bread. It did have an awkward sour-ish taste – was it the yeast or oat bran? But the end result was edible and when toasted with butter was delicious. But let’s just say that I’m glad to have store-bought artisan bread again. :)

So today I went back to St. Anne’s to help out – okay, now I remember what I wrote about last time ^^ – and anyway, after I chopped the carrots, peeled the potatoes, diced the apples, and sprinkled lemon juice over the apples, I was able to make Mexican Wedding Cookies! I’ve never made these before so I don’t know if they turned out the way that they were supposed to, but I’m kind of proud of them! Check ’em out:

Raw Mexican CookiesMexican Cookies FinishedWhat do you think? Did they turn out well for a first-timer’s Mexican Cookies?

Anyway, I just love the weekends. It’s always great to relax and do whatever I like during the mornings. Have I mentioned that I really really enjoy mornings?

Cran Apple MuffinCoffee and Mixed Berry Muffin

Bake Sale Success

21 Oct

Remember how I wrote that I was volunteering at St. Anne’s kitchen? Well, I have been helping Elvira the head baker these past couple weeks, and her big day finally came: the St. Anne’s Rummage Sale! The rummage for sale included furniture, art, clothes, and FOOD – baked goods.

And guess who had to bake everything?

(No, not me.) Elvira!

But guess who got to help? :)

None other than yours truly!

I helped her make her chocolate oatmeal cookies, tarts, and banana loaf cake. She was even kind enough to let me take home six, giant-sized cookies, which have now prompted my obsession with chocolate oatmeal cookies. I can’t get enough! And just when I ran out on Monday, my friend’s birthday was on Tuesday and her other friend brought in more!

Anyway, here are the photos. Hope you’re eating something good tonight.

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies and Banana Loaf Cake

Indulge and admire the chewy, chocolate-y-ness of the oatmeal cookie, and the moist crumb of the banana cake.

Guess who’s got the recipe? ;)

 

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 ~

My Almond Brittle Adventure

15 Jun

Went to the SF Ferry Building again today. Seems like I just can’t get enough of the Embarcadero area! I seriously love this place though. It’s particularly attractive when the sun’s out and the Ferry Farmer’s Market stalls are out.

As I was sampling the delectable goodies among the stalls, I happened to munch upon almond brittle.

It was delicious.

Dark Chocolate Almond Brittle - Close Up

Unlike the previous almond brittle that I have had from the store, this one was not as hard probably because it was not processed as much. I’m not sure but I’d like to think it was at least.

I couldn’t actually see as many whole almonds in there as some of the major brands, but the almond flavor was still dominant. It was thinner than most kinds too. Either way, I couldn’t leave without buying a 4 ounce package of the dark chocolate almond brittle.

When I run out of almond brittle, I’m going to have to make some. Any one have any recommended recipes?Dark Chocolate Almond Brittle

I haven’t much else to say except that I absolutely love going to the Ferry Building. The specialty foodie restaurants and fresh produce are simply irresistible!

If you go, check out  G. L. Alfieri’s Fruit and Nut Stand. At the stand you can find an assortment of nuts, nut butters, almond brittle varieties, and more. Reasonably price though not cheap.

To order from G. L. Alfieri online, click here.

Just remember that the farmer’s market is there on Tuesday, Thursdays, and weekends from 10 am to 2 pm. Plan wisely!

La Mar Restaurant and then to Neverland!

6 Jun

Pee-tah! Pee-tah!

Just one of the funny lines in the San Francisco 360 degrees Theater at Ferry Park. I know it doesn’t seem very funny, but just picturing a grown woman with pigtail braids playing a young Wendy Darling in a nightgown saying this in a British accent.

Peter Pan Tent SceneI’m not too sure how purposely comical the performance was supposed to be, but there were for sure some elements that were quite funny because of the character’s dialogue/asides. Some of the other funny aspects came from the lack of traditional technological and theatrical elements. In order to dramatize the fight scene between Peter Pan and Captain Hook, the actors literally faked slow motion while the slow-mo music played in the background. The entire audience underneath the white tent was laughing. So instead of a climax of suspense, it was almost an anti-climax. But, I’m getting too technical here.

The added 360 degree surround sound and backdrop was a nice. It was definitely different than what I am accustomed to having watched numerous Broadyway musicals over the years – Beauty and the Beast, Annie, Jersey Boys, Grease, A Christmas Carol just to name a few. I did find the performance to be home-y and more private as if the actors were more engaged with the audience. I also enjoyed being up close (row D) to the stage. Though the props were simple and used variously for different scenes as new pieces, I enjoyed seeing the actors’ facial expressions. Not that I expected less, but each actor was in-character the entire time whether or not the spotlight was on them. That, I found, was very professional of them.

Of course, my evening in Neverland would not have been complete with seeing Tinkerbell. This, however, she was not the cute green lady-like character Disney protrays her as. Instead, the theater company had an actor play Tink as a grungy fairy with a whole lot of attitude. Her hair was curly and tied awkwardly on top of her head. Her cute green fairy outfit was instead a dirty white tank with a spewing, rough-looking pink tutu with lights. I had to say that she was definitely entertaining as she spat out, “You [Peter], silly little ass!” when Peter could not understand what Wendy truly thought of him.

Unfortuntely, I do not have any pictures of the actual set. The security was very tight. But here are the links to the site where they have ample videos and pictures.

For  official Peter Pan website and pictures, click here.

The Pre-Pan Dinner at La Mar Restaurant, Pier 1 1/2

While I do not have pictures of Neverland, I do have pictures of the mouthwatering seafood at La Mar Restaurant, which is conveniently located right across the street from the Ferry Park. La Mar is known for their Peruvian fusion cuisine, fresh seafood, and diverse menu.

Check out La Mar’s website for their gastronomic dictionary here.

I found the whole experience at this restaurant unexpectedly casual. It’s definitely a casual dressy place, but the waitress assigned to our outdoor table was very nice.  As my mom pulled out her printed out menu of La Mar, the waitress exclaimed, “We love your kind of customers! You’re here for the food and you know what you want.” She was even quite shocked to find out that my mom and I were, well, mom and daughter. With cow eyes, she looked at my mom and asked, “What’s your secret?” My mom laughed and replied, “I don’t drink or smoke”. And to that, she laughed and said, “Well, that’s out of the question for me!” But besides being the great conversationalist, she was an attentive server who returned back at the appropriate times, asked the right questions, and knowledgeably answered all of ours.

Since my mom’s business friend was technically taking us out as her “business clients”, the four of us girls ordered a ton of stuff. Just look at the pictures. I don’t even know how much the bill was – or how we ate it all.

The Appetizers

Ceviche Tasting

Ceviche Tasting: Mixto (Mahi Mahi, calamari, octopus and habanero pepper in ají amarillo leche de tigre), Chifa (Mahi Mahi with peanuts, scallion in sesame leche de tigree), Nikei (Ahi Tuna, red onion, Japanese cucumber, in tamarind leche de tigre with avocado), Classico (California Halibut and red onions in habanero pepper leche de tigre) --- There were about four more varieties available.

Tiradito Nikei

Tiradito Nikei - Ahi Tuna in Nikei sauce with passion fruit and honey leche de tigre

Empanada Sampler

Empanada Sampler: Chicken, Beef, Corn, and Seafood

The Entrees

Arroz Jugoso

Arroz Jugoso - Prawns, clams, mussels, calamari, octopus, white fish and vegetables in a juicy arborio rice with a blend of Peruvian ajis

Special of the Day: Whole Red Snapper

Special of the Day: Whole Red Snapper

Special of the Day: Tiger Prawns, Farro, Beans with Seaweed Foam

Special of the Day: Tiger Prawns, Farro, Beans with Seaweed Foam

Arroz Norteño

Arroz Norteño - North Peruvian seafood combination with mussels, shrimp, octopus, and fried rice with cilantro and Huancaína sauce (like Paella)

The Desserts

Sorbetes Caseros

Sorbetes Caseros - exotic homemade sorbets

Suspiro Limeño

Suspiro Limeño