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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Caramel Streusel Apple Cake

makes one 13x9 pan
recipe adapted from Little Chef and I
prep time: 45 min / cook time: 30 min

3 c all-purpose flour
1 c sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 c sour cream
1/2 c milk
8 tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and slightly cooled
2 c apples, peeled, cored and chopped (approximately 2 apples)
* Granny Smith is recommended
Caramel sauce

1 c light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 c all-purpose flour
6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup chopped walnuts
* I don't like walnuts, so I omitted this
1 tsp cinnamon

• Preheat oven to 400˚F.
• Butter a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan and set aside.
* I used two 9 1/2 inch round cake pans.
• In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
• In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs just until the egg yolks are combined.
• Add the sour cream, milk and melted butter to the whisked egg. Mix well.
• Add the egg mixture to the flour and mix until just moistened.
• Peel, core and cut the apples.
• Add the cut apples to the mixture. Mix well.
• Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan(s).

• In a medium bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the topping except the butter. Mix until well combined.
• Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
* If you omit the walnuts, the mixture will not be coarse.

• Sprinkle the streusel topping over the batter.
• Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the tester comes out clean when inserted in the middle.
• Let cool in the pan on the rack for 20 minutes.
• Drizzle caramel sauce over the top of finished cake.
* If the caramel sauce is too thick, put it in the microwave for 10 seconds.



Sunday, August 22, 2010

Haupia Hand Pies

makes 8 hand pies
recipe adapted from The Honolulu Star Bulletin
prep time: 1 hr / cook time: 20 min

1 can coconut milk (13.5 oz. can)
1/3 c heavy cream
6 tbsp sugar
* Add 1 or 2 tbsp more if you like it sweeter
1/4 c cornstarch
1 box pie crust
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp water

• Combine coconut milk, heavy cream and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat.
• In a small bowl, combine cornstarch with a bit of the coconut milk mixture to make a paste.
• Stir the paste into the saucepan of coconut milk mixture.
• Continue to cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened.
• When the mixture is thick, set aside and let cool about 30 minutes.

• In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk and water. Set aside.

• Preheat oven to 375˚F.
• Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
• On a floured surface, roll out the pie crust to about 1/8 inch thick.
• Cut out 5 1/2 inch squares from the pie crust.
• Fill each square with haupia filling, leaving about a 1/2 inch border on the 3 sealing edges.
• Lightly brush the egg wash on the edges and fold the crust in half. Using the tines of a fork, crimp the edges.
• Using a knife, put a few slits on the top of the pie.
• Place on prepared baking sheet.
• Brush the top of each pie with the egg wash.
• Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
• Remove the pie from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

• I tried out the Trader Joe's and Pillbury brand pie crust. If you like a less buttery and sturdier pie crust, the Pillbury brand is recommended. If you like a buttery and flakier pie crust, use the Trader Joe's brand.
• Keep the dough chilled in the refrigerator before rolling out. This helps to keep the crust from softening up too quickly.
• Do not attempt to eat the pies right out of the oven. The filling is extremely hot!



Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Angel" Cupcakes

So there's really no such thing as Angel Cupcakes. But they were made in celebration of a new book written by Judy Yung (my aunt) and Erika Lee called Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America, about the many immigrants who came to America through Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay.

The festivities began on July 31, 2010 which commemorated the centennial anniversary of the Immigration Station, with a series of events on Angel Island itself, including a tour of the restored barracks. From 1910 until a fire caused it to close in 1940, it’s what stood between the immigrants and America, or Gold Mountain, as it was called by its many Chinese detainees, including both of my grandfathers who were incarcerated here as young men.

The Immigration Station was slated to be destroyed until a park ranger discovered an important piece of history - Chinese calligraphy carved into the barrack walls, in 1970. It was these poems of loneliness, frustation, sadness and longing that marked one of the darkest moments in immigrant history. Over 150,000 Chinese and thousands of others including Russians, Koreans, Filipinos, Japanese and Mexicans were incarcerated here as their papers were reviewed for weeks, months, and in some cases, even years.

The festivities continued a week later at the book’s formal release party, for which these cupcakes were made. Truth be told, they are Black Bottom Cupcakes (and in full disclosure, due to time constraints, had to be made from a box!) But on this day they were more than that.

On this day they were Angel Cupcakes, for the angels that left their lives behind and journeyed to a foreign land, the angels who scraped and sacrificed and hoped for their descendents a life better than theirs. For all the angels, like my grandfathers, who are smiling down on us from up above.

makes 40-45 mini cupcakes
prep time: 20 min / cook time: 20 min

1 box Devil's Food cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 c vegetable oil
1 1/4 c water

16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (2 packages)
2 eggs
1/3 c sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 c mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Prepare cake batter according to box instructions, fill each well of lined mini cupcake pan 1/2 full.
Using a mixer at low speed, blend together the first 5 filling ingredients until smooth.
With a spatula, gently fold in chocolate chips.
Spoon 1/2 teaspoon of filling on top of prepared cake batter.
Bake for in preheated oven for 20 minutes.



Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mini Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakes

makes 12 squares
recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma
prep time: 1 hr / cook time: 20 min

1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs (1 sleeve)
1/4 c butter, melted

1/2 c fresh raspberry
2 tbsp sugar
splash of water

16 oz. cream cheese, softened (2 packages)
2 eggs, room temperature
1/4 c heavy cream
1/2 c sugar
1 c lemon curd

• Put all ingredients into a pot and cook until sugar is dissolved and thick.
• Put the mixture through a sieve and set aside to cool.

• Mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter.
* Create graham cracker crumbs with a food processor or put in a freezer bag and crush with a rolling pin.
• Lightly coat the cups of the brownie pan with nonstick cooking spray.
• Press mixture onto the bottom of a brownie pan.
• Set aside while preparing the cheesecake batter.
• Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.

• In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the cream cheese on low speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.
• Increase the speed to medium-low and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
• Add the cream and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute.
• Add the sugar and beat until incorporated, about 2 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
• Mix one cup of the cheesecake batter with the raspberry purée.
• Mix the remaining cheesecake batter with the lemon curd.

• Dot each crust with the raspberry cheesecake mixture.
• Fill with the lemon cheesecake mixture.
• Dot the tops with the raspberry cheesecake mixture.
• Use a knife and drag it though the raspberry cheesecake mixture to create swirls.
• Gently tap the pan on the countertop to get out the air bubbles.
• Place the cheesecake on the middle rack and bake for 20 minutes or until the center is almost set.
• Cool cheesecake. Refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.
* Optional: when cooled, garnish with whipped cream and raspberries.

• Cheesecake tips can be found here.
• There was quite a bit of left over cheesecake batter . . . I'd say enough to make 6 more.



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Orenchi Ramen

I don't speak Japanese, but my favorite words in this particular language have got to be "ramen" especially tonkotsu ramen, as of late. I don't know why it's taken me so long to discover this toothsome, simmered-pork-bone-bowl-of-goodness, or Santa Clara-based Orenchi Ramen, for that matter. But now that I have, it's all I can think about.

Even when it's over 50 miles from my home. Orenchi, which is a slang-y way of saying "my house" in Japanese, is worth every minute on the 101.

MFM and I have been here a few times now, and every time it seems its popularity has grown, as the wait for a table seems longer and longer. Its menu includes well-made and tasty appetizers including a flavorful and juicy chicken karaage, and a tasty agedashi-style eggplant (Note to self: items that are purplish-black do not photograph well. Note to readers: but don't let that deter you, it really is a delicious dish.)

But the real star is the ramen. The tonkotsu ramen comes to the table steaming hot, with a slice of pork, chewy bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms, green onions, salty seaweed and a gorgeous, tender, soft boiled egg. One bite of the egg unleashes the silky, creamy yolk, which is indescribeably delicious. I read subsequently that folks like to mix the yolk with the dish and eat it that way, which I have to try next time.

Orenchi's soup boasts quality ingredients like organic chicken and Canadian black pork, and a recipe that requires over 18 hours of simmering. The result is spoonful after spoonful of rich, unctious, flavorful broth. The noodles are thicker in texture than some places, but almost has to be, in order to match a soup of such substance. Soft, chewy and delicious - with just the right amount of bite.

There's something satisfying and comforting about a good bowl of ramen, and Orenchi does it exceptionally well. It's the kind of "house" that you want to call home every single day of the week.


Sunday, August 08, 2010

Chocoberry Cream Filled Cupcakes

makes 12 cupcakes
cupcake recipe adapted from Hershey's Kitchens
frosting recipe adapted from the Cupcake Project
prep time: 25 min / cook time: 18-20 min

6 tbsp cocoa powder
* I used E. Guittard Cocoa Rouge Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp butter (1/2 stick), melted and cooled
1/2 c milk, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature and lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c boiling water

1 c heavy whipping cream
1/3 c sugar
4 tbsp strawberry purée (take some fresh strawberries, wash them, remove the stems, and throw them in the food processor until they become a thick, seedy liquid)
* I used 6 tbsp

• Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350˚ F.
• Combine cocoa powder, sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine.
• Add butter, milk, egg and vanilla. Mix at medium speed for 2 minutes.
• Add boiling water and beat to combine.
* Batter will be thin.
• Evenly divide the batter into each cupcake tin and bake for 18-20 minutes.
• Let cool before assembly.

• Whip cream until it looks like whipped cream.
• Mix in sugar.
• Mix in strawberries until combined.

• Using a paring knife, carve a small hole in the middle of the cupcake. Be sure not to cut too deep.
* You can use a spoon to gently remove more of the cupcake if needed.Check Spelling
• Using your favorite pastry tip, fill your pastry bag and pipe a small amount of frosting onto the cupcake.
• Put the top back onto the cupcake and frost the top.

• If you don't want a domed top cupcake, fill the batter half way. You will end up with approximately 18-20 cupcakes.
• This cupcake is very soft and moist. Frosting isn't necessary, but it taste so much better with it.
• If you'd like your strawberry whipped cream to be stiffer, add a stabilizer such as Dr. Oetker's Whip it.



Friday, August 06, 2010

Morimoto Napa

It started, and ended with sweet. And in between there were moments of surprise, delight, exclamation, and awe. All delicious. It was probably the best meal I've had all year.

I'm a huge Iron Chef fan, back in the days when the Liberace-looking chairman was host, and the dashing silver-clad Masaharu Morimoto was always one of my favorites. So when he opened a restaurant in Napa two weeks ago, my foodie pals (to be named later, I'm still working on nicknames) and I were sure to snag a reservation.

First order of business? After battling horrible traffic, a cocktail was in order. I scanned the menu and ordered a White Lily.It was perfect. It was a sweet, creamy combination of soju and Calpico, with a refreshing bite of fresh yuzu. It was also seriously one of the best drinks I've ever had.

My favorite part of Iron Chef was always the judging, and I remember listening (and not really believing) to judges' comments like "you could tell this chef was trying to tell us a story through the food." Well, as corny as it sounds, I now understand what that means. Our entire table ordered Morimoto's omakase, or tasting menu ($110 a person). Each and every one of the 7 courses were served strategically, artistically and precisely.

Toro (fatty tuna) tartare came first, cleverly served on a wooden dish resembling a picture frame with a rainbow of condiments - including black nori paste, avocado, rice cracker bits and creme fraiche. This also marked my first time trying a yamamoto, or mountain peach - which was much more tart than a regular peach - somewhere between a raspberry and a cranberry.

Next came seared kampachi, and a version of Italian fondue-like bagna cauda, where pieces of bread, vegetables and meat were dipped in bubbling olive oil and anchovy paste (this was probably the one dish I don't necessarily have to order again, but it was a fun dish to eat nonetheless). Then came a foie gras chawanmushi (an eggy steamed custard) which was covered in a rich, savory consomme and topped with juicy pieces of duck breast. Each and every bite was delicate, decadent, perfect. Hands down, this was my favorite thing I ate all night, if not all year.

We were also treated to a plate of sushi (the hamachi was fresh and melt-in-your-mouth delicious), a palate-cleansing kombu (kelp) "tea" and a version of surf & turf including wagyu beef (cooked to a marbled, medium rare perfection), pork tenderloin in spicy tofu sauce, and spicy lobster paired with a delicious lemon creme fraiche. We also ordered (in addition to the omakase) fig tempura with a pomegranate reduction and peanut butter foie gras sauce. The peanut butter fan in me just had to try it. It didn't disappoint.

Our last course came to the table with just as much excitement as all the other dishes - homemade pistachio ice cream and poached pears topped with a champagne sabayon that made it even more "awesome," to quote one of my dining companions. It was a sweet ending to a special meal.

Even sweeter was the fact that Morimoto himself was there, on the line expediting all the dishes coming from the kitchen. He was too busy to pose for pictures (we asked) but seeing him in person was every bit as thrilling, exciting and memorable, as his food.


Sunday, August 01, 2010

Cream Cheese Danish Coffee Cake

makes 4 loaves
recipe adapted from Thibeault's Table
prep time: 2 hrs (does not include proofing time) / cook time: 20-25 min

1/2 c butter (2 sticks)
* I used salted butter
1 c sour cream
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp salt
* I omitted the salt
2 packages dry yeast (4 1/2 tsp)
1/2 c warm water
2 eggs, beaten
4 c all-purpose flour

16 oz. cream cheese (2 packages), room temperature
3/4 c sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt

2 1/2 c confectioners' sugar
1/4 c milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
sliced almonds

• Over low heat in a small saucepan, heat butter, sour cream, sugar and salt until warm and sugar is dissolved. Cool to room temperature.
• In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.
• Mix sour cream mixture with yeast and add beaten eggs and flour.
* The dough will be very soft.
• Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight to rise.
* This may be done the same day. Put in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours and proceed with the next step.
• Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead 6 or 7 times.
• Divide dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece out to 12 x 8 inches.
• Spread 1/4 of the filling onto each piece and roll jellyroll style from the long side. Pinch seams and ends to seal.
• Place seam side down on buttered baking sheet and cut X's on the top, about 6 X's.
* I didn't care for the cutting of the X's on the top of each loaf. The two that I did using this technique did open up while baking exposing the filling. You might want to try cutting slits across the top instead.
• Danish should be slightly flattened and about 4 x 12 inches in size.
* I made two using the braiding technique, as seen in the pictures. Lightly score a 2 inch wide strip down the center of the dough with a knife and 1 inch strips on the outside edges.
* Spread 1/4 of the filling onto each piece, leaving a bit of room on the top and bottom for the filling to spread as you braid.
* Braid the dough by crossing alternate strips of dough over the filling from right and left, working from the top down. When you reach the bottom, press the dough to seal it, then tuck it under slightly.
• Cover and let rise until it doubles in size, approximately 1 hour.
• Bake at 375˚F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
• Let cool on wire racks.

• Beat together cream cheese with sugar.
• Add egg, vanilla extract and salt.

• Combine confectioners' sugar, milk and vanilla extract.

• Sprinkle sliced almonds on cooled danish.
• With a fork, drizzle glaze over each loaf.

• The bread is super soft and best eaten the same day.
• When letting the loaves proof, do not place them too close together. I did not take that into consideration when I put the bread on the baking sheet and they ended up touching. The loaf got soft and was difficult to reposition.
• I found the glaze to be a bit too thick, so I added a little more milk to get a better consistency.
• The glaze recipe made way more than was needed, so consider cutting down the confectioners' sugar. I only used about 2/3 of it. If you like your pastry drenched in glaze, the amount the recipe calls for is perfect.

The coffee cake will keep unwrapped at room temperature for 1 day. For longer storage, double-wrap in plastic and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw at room temperature for 1 hour, then reheat in a 350˚F for 9-12 minutes, until the crust is crisped and the center is warmed through.


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