The Spice of Life

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It’s no secret that I love ice cream. I would probably eat it everyday if I really wanted to, but we all know that’s probably not a good idea.

I’ve owned an ice cream maker for a long time, but never really took full advantage of it. If you’re like me and you live in Texas, you generally just head over to the grocery store, buy a half gallon of Bluebell and call it a day. My friend Melisa recently sent me this recipe that was posted on The New York Times, so I decided to give it a try. I haven’t really come across a recipe that I really LOVED until now.

There are a lot of ice cream recipes out there that are eggless and don’t require any cooking time, but I’ve noticed they end up with very icy results, similar to freezer burn. For me, the ideal ice cream is rich, creamy and flavorful. This recipe yields just that. This simple recipe provides an excellent custard base ice cream, leaving plenty of room for you to get creative with flavors.

For this post, I decided to combine two of my favorite things: ice cream and chai lattes. You will need an ice cream maker for this. I use the Cuisinart ICE-21 and it works great.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 cup of half and half (I prefer using the half and half instead of two cups of cream because it gives it a lighter texture)
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 2/3 cup of granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of spiced chai latte mix (can be found at your local grocery store, in the coffee aisle)
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt (a pinch will work just fine)
  • 6 large egg yolks*

Let’s do this:

1. In a small pot, add the milk, cream, sugar, chai mix and salt. Heat the stove to medium and stir the mixture until it dissolves completely.

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2. Bring the mixture to a simmer and then remove from heat. This should take about four to five minutes.

3. In a separate bowl, gently whisk the egg yolks. Slowly pour in the milk mixture (approximately 1/3 a cup at a time) to temper the eggs. “Tempering” is the process of raising the temperature of the eggs slowly so that the eggs don’t scramble as you add in the hot ingredients.

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4. Pour the entire mixture back into the pot. Heat the stove to low to medium setting and continue whisking. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens and can coat the back of a metal spoon (approximately 170º F when read with a candy thermometer).

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5. Run the mixture through a strainer to remove any clumpy egg remnants and place the mixture in a clean bowl.

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6. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. After cooling, cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator to chill for a least four hours.

7. After chilling, run the custard mixture through the strainer one last time to remove any film that has formed during the chilling process.

8. Churn the ice cream in the machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions (approximately 25 minutes).

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9. Your ice cream can now be enjoyed as soft serve, but I recommend storing it in the freezer overnight for best scooping results. Enjoy! :)

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* If you’re not sure what to do with all your leftover egg whites, consider making French Macarons using my recipe.

Hey…nice feet.

It’s been a while. I can’t believe it’s been more than three years since my last post! Social media makes it easy to showcase a food creation. You snap a photo, slap on a filter, add some clever hashtags and voila! You’re on the internet. Blogging is time consuming, but hey, I’m here now, and I want to talk about French macarons.

When most people think about French macarons, they think of adorable meringue cookies with a delicate outer shell and a sweet, chewy center. They can be sandwiched together with jams, jellies, ganache or flavored butter cream. All in all, they sound pretty amazing. The creation of a macaron is no easy feat. Mastering the macaron has taken me countless trials, quite a bit of wasted material, and a whole lot of frustration (I still end up with some ugly/unsuccessful batches every once in a while). Hopefully the post will help you avoid all of that frustration and put you on the fast track to mastering the one and only, macaron.

A few things before we begin:

  • You will need a food scale so that you can measure the ingredients by the gram. Sounds dramatic, I know, but you’ll thank me later.
  • Make sure everything you plan on using is DRY (bowls, mixer, spatula, sifter, etc.) Any additional moisture content will ruin the outcome of your quest
  • Age your egg whites. Some may tell you that you don’t need to age your egg whites, but I have noticed greater macaron success with aged egg whites. Let the egg whites sit at room temperature for 24-48 hours in a covered container.
  • You will also need a #12 Wilton tip and a piping bag
  • Cut some parchment paper to fit your baking pan

Ingredients:

  • 100 grams of sifted finely ground almond meal
  • 100 grams of sifted powdered sugar
  • 80 grams of aged, room temperature egg whites
  • 80 grams of granulated sugar
  • Gel food coloring if you wish to color your cookies. Do not use regular food coloring.

Let the quest begin (sorry for the poor photo quality! it’s difficult to take photos with one hand):

1. Preheat your oven to 310º F. I’ve noticed that my oven tends to run hot, so I prefer a lower oven temperature. Too much heat can cause hollow, brittle cookies.

2. Weigh / measure each of the four ingredients and place them in separate containers. Sift the almond meal and powdered sugar together and set aside.

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3. Using a whip attachment, mix the egg whites at a medium speed until foamy. This should only take about 2-3 minutes.

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4. Continue to beat the egg whites, while slowly adding in the granulated sugar*

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5. Beat the egg white and granulated sugar mixture until you they become soft peaks. This takes another 6-7 minutes. Be patient and fight the urge to turn the mixer to a higher speed. This can lead to overbeating the egg whites, which will lead to pointy, witch hat looking macarons.

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6. Drop in some gel food coloring. I usually use about two to three drops. The color tends to fade during the baking process, so don’t be alarmed when the mixture looks like neon lava. Continue to mix at a medium speed for about 20 seconds, so that the color is evenly distributed.

7. Remove the mixing bowl and attachment. Add half of the almond meal and powdered sugar mixture into the egg white mixture and fold gently with a spatula. This will take approximately 25 folding motions. Add the remaining almond meal / sugar mixture and continue folding. This should take another 25 folds.

8. The batter should be thick, but flowy, similar to the consistency of lava.

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9. Transfer the batter into your prepared piping bag with the #12 tip

10. Hold the bag / tip perpendicular to the parchment paper / baking pan and pipe even, round circles. The batter should spread slightly, so be sure to provide about an inch of space between each circle.

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11. Tap the baking pan lightly to get rid of any air bubbles in the meringue.

12. Let the baking pan sit for 30 minutes to an hour at room temperature so that a shell begins to form (resting stage). The macarons should feel lightly tacky to the touch, but should not stick to your finger.

13. After the resting stage, put the tray in the center rack of the oven and bake for 14-15 minutes at 310º F. Watch the macarons grow feet!

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14. Remove from oven after they finish baking and cool.

15. Fill them with your choice of filling and enjoy!

* I ran out of granulated sugar, so I used Sugar in the Raw. I ground the sugar in the a Vitamix blender and hoped for the best. Probably why they turned out a bit ugly.

Paninis – making regular sandwiches look bad since the 1950′s

I’m back after a long hiatus! I recently picked up the Giada De Laurentis Panini press from Target for $14.99. I can’t decide if I’m more excited about the delicious panini I made or the deal I got on the press itself :). I am not much of a sandwich person myself because really, who wants to eat a sandwich when you can eat something hot? Well, the beauty of a panini is that it’s a hot, crispy sandwich that really encompasses the best of both worlds.

This is the first time making a panini, so I thought…why not make one of my favorite sandwiches? A Reuben, of course.

Here’s what I used to make mine:
- 2 slices of white, sour dough bread with a schmear of butter on one side
- a dollop of Thousand island dressing, spread evenly on one slice of bread (not the buttered side)

- a slice of Provolone cheese
- several slices of thinly slices corned beef (I used Boar’s Head from my local grocery store)

- as much sauerkraut as you’d like

1. Preheat your panini press on Low heat. I’ve found that cooking the panini on high heat causes it to cook too quickly, making it really easy to burn your sandwich.

2. I buttered one side of both slices of bread. The buttered sides will be the outside of the sandwich. It really adds a beautiful color to the cr

usty exterior and definitely adds to the crunchiness of the panini.

3. Schmear on a little bit of Thousand Island dressing to one of the slices of bread (not on top of the buttered side).

4. Add one slice of Provolone cheese on top of the dressing.

5. Stack up your corned beef to your liking. I like to add about 1/4 lb of meat into my sandwich, making it pretty hearty.

6. Add some sauerkraut and you’re almost ready to go!

7. Please the other slice of bread on

top (buttered side out) and you’re ready to start pressing.

8. Place the ready to go sandwich on the panini press and close the lid. I usually

give it about 2-3 minutes before I open the lid and check on the sandwich.

9. Continue to check on the panini until the outside is golden brown. And, voila! You have yourself a panini :)

Needless to say, it was absolutely delicious.

Some might ask you “Why in the world do you have a panini press? That’s so random.” No need to reply…just make them a panini.

The Guinness Cupcake.

I can’t believe it’s been so long since i’ve actually posted about food. I’ve been so busy with triathlon training and working that I completely neglected my blog :( And now, we resurrect!

I went to a birthday party last weekend and had these amazing Guinness cupcakes. I wanted to recreate them myself because i’ve never actually cooked or baked with beer before. So after hunting down a recipe online, I decided to bake chocolate Guinness cupcakes with chocolate ganache filling and vanilla frosting. You can’t really go wrong with beer and chocolate, can you?

I used the recipe from here and made a few small adjustments based on the ingredients I had on hand.

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes
Makes approximately 24 cupcakes

For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup of stout beer (I used Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar (I reduced this by a few tablespoons because it just seemed like too much)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Chocolate Ganache Filling
8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

Baileys Frosting
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys (I used heavy cream because I didn’t have any Baileys on hand)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

For the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F and Line the cupcake pan with 24 liners.

Melt butter with the beer in a sauce pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Whisk in cocoa powder until smooth. Be sure to continue whisking or the cocoa can burn at the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. In a mixer bowl, beat the eggs and the sour cream together. Add the cooled beer/butter/cocoa mixture and beat to combine. Add the flour mixture and beat briefly just to combine. Do not overbeat or else the cupcakes will be tough. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the batter until completely combined.

Fill the cupcake liners about 3/4 of the way full. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick or a slim knife inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely to room temperature.

To make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. Add the butter and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes: Let the filling cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped. Using your 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. I went about half to 2/3 of the way down and used a small knife to help me extract the centers. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

To make the frosting: In a large mixer bowl, whip the butter until it is very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, letting it incorporate, until the butter becomes thicker and stiff. Slowly drizzle the Bailey’s (or cream) and whip until combined. Ice and decorate the cupcakes to your liking :)

Here’s how they turned out:

Enjoy!

Happy Holidays to all!

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and the Happiest of  Holidays!

I always get an itch to bake during the holidays…well, I guess I sort of bake all the time anyway. This morning I woke up and decided to bake an Asian Sponge cake. To pretty it up a bit, I used a rose bundt mold. Removing the cake was a bit of a pain, but I think it turned out beautifully. I don’t think I beat the egg whites enough because the cake wasn’t as fluffy as I expected/wanted, but it was my first attempt. Hopefully next time will be much better.

Naked (without a dusting of powdered sugar) :):

Here is the recipe I used:

Asian Sponge Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups of cake flour, sifted
  • 9 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 cup of white sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350º F

1. Beat the egg whites until slightly foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until stiff peaks form.

2. Gradually add the sugar to the egg whites and continue to beat until sugar is mixed in.

3. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks slightly and then add water, oil and vanilla.

4. In another bowl, sift together the cake flour and baking powder. Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg yolk mixture and beat until creamy.

5. Pour egg mixture into the egg whites and gently fold until everything is well blended.

6. Pour the batter into a well-greased baking pan and bake until the top is lightly golden brown. I used a rose bundt pan and it took about 30 minutes.

If using a 9 x 13 inch pan, it should be about 20 minutes.

Enjoy! :)

A Crinkle in Time

I’ve been wanting to make chocolate crinkle cookies for quite some time now, but every time I bake cookies, I tend to always revert back to my good ol’ chocolate chip recipe. Today I felt like doing something a little different :)

I found came across this recipe while surfing TasteSpotting this afternoon, so I just had to give it a try. Instead of using baking powder, I accidentally used baking soda. Whoops…but thankfully, they still turned out delish!

Check em out:

They aren’t as puffed up as I had hoped they would be, but it was probably due to my fluke.

Here’s the recipe I used (adapted from Urban Spork):

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1  1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1  1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions

  1. Melt chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl in the microwave. I generally heat for 30 seconds at a time and stir each time. Be careful not to burn the chocolate! Set aside, and let cool.  Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Mix butter and brown sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.  Mix in eggs and vanilla, and then the melted chocolate.  Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the milk.  Divide dough into 4 equal pieces.  Wrap each in plastic; refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  4. Divide each piece into 1-inch balls.  Roll in granulated sugar to coat, then in confectioners’ sugar to coat.  Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake until surfaces crack, about 13 minutes.  Let cool on sheets on wire racks and enjoy!

If you love chocolate, you have to try these!

Turtle Power!

I feel like I’ve been neglecting this blog for a while because I’ve been pretty busy recently. But, I took some time out today to make one of my favorite asian bakery breads: buo luo bao (aka Pineapple bread). Ironically, there is actually no pineapple in the bread or recipe. The bread gets its name from the topping that looks like the skin of a pineapple. I stumbled across a photo of some “turtle bread” a week ago and thought it was just so adorable, so I decided to shape each of my buns into small turtles. I used black sesame seeds for eyes.

Here’s how they turned out:

Pretty cute, no? :)

Here’s the recipe I’ve been using to make sweet Asian breads and the “pineapple topping.” I feel like the bread recipe could use a little tweaking because it’s not exactly the way I want it yet, but it’s getting there. Please comment if you have any suggestions on how to improve it :)

Sweet Bread:

  • 3 1/2 cups of bread flour
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 tbsp of active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten

1. In a large bowl, combine 1/2 a cup of flour, the sugar, yeast and salt.

2. In a separate bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Add oil and milk to the butter and heat until about 100 degrees. It should feel warm, but not too hot.

3. Pour the butter mixture into the flour mixture. Add beaten eggs (reserve 1 tbsp for egg wash later) and stir well to combine. Beat the mixture for 3 minutes.

4. Add remaining flour, a little at a time, until a soft dough is formed. Turn the dough out to a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes. Add small amounts of flour if the dough is still too sticky.

5. Place the dough in a large bowl and cover with a clean, damp towel. Let the dough rise until it has doubled in size (about 1.5 hours). During this time, make the “pineapple topping” (see below). After the first rising, punch down the dough and let it rise again until doubled (about 1.5 hours).

6. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and shape them into flat buns. Place them on lightly greased baking sheets and then cover them with a slightly damp towel (this prevents the dough from drying out). Let the dough rise again for about 45 minutes.

7. After the dough has risen, roll out your refrigerated pineapple topping to about 1/2 cm in thickness. Use a cookie cutter or glass cup to cut out 12 circles slightly less wide than your buns. Lightly score the toppings with a criss-cross pattern.

8. Brush the top of the dough buns with a small amount of water and place each pineapple topping on top of the dough buns.

9. Brush the buns with the reserved egg.

10. Bake the buns at 350 degrees for about 13-15 minutes on the middle rack, checking them frequently to make sure they don’t burn.

Pineapple topping:

  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 tsp of baking soda
  • 2 tbsp of milk
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 2 tsp of baking powder

1. Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy.

2. Add the egg yolk, baking soda and milk. Mix well.

3. Sift the flour and baking powder into the butter mixture. Mix by hand until smooth and not sticky.

4. Chill the topping, wrapped in plastic, until ready to use.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!