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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mini Chocolate Cranberry Buttercream Cupcakes

makes 48 mini cupcakes
cupcake recipe adapted from Hershey's Kitchen
frosting recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
prep time: 45 min / cook time: 10-12 min

ingredients can be found here

2 c (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
3 1/2 c confectioners' sugar, sifted
10 tbsp cranberry purée
* I made fresh cranberry purée using this method, straining the pulp after it was cooked down
1/4 c milk

Instructions can be found here.
* If making mini cupcakes, reduce baking time to 10-12 minutes.

• In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until creamy.
• Slowly add confectioners' sugar; beat to combine, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.
• Add cranberry purée, beat to combine.
• Slowly add milk and continue beating on medium-low speed until smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes.



Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Big Apple Bites - Part 1

There wasn't enough time. (I think I said the exact same thing in last week's post, I need to take longer vacations.) I recently spent a fast-and-furious 2.5 days in the Big Apple where I met my foodie family who was visiting our cousin (Hi G!) who just started NYU. There's nothing better than spending time with family (especially with our NYU superstar, who we miss terribly), except spending time with family...over food. Which we did. A lot. Here goes...

I had three places on my wish list, and Momofuku-anything was at the top. However, getting into
Momofuku Noodle Bar on a Saturday night is tough (especially with a party of 9) but after waiting an hour and a half and splitting our group in two, it was a dream come true. Green Light: Momofuku ramen ($16) was savory, slippery and made with love; with luscious chunks of pork belly and a perfectly poached egg. Spotlight: melt in your mouth pork belly buns. Everyone from Anthony Bourdain to Martha Stewart raves about these famous buns and now I know why.

We also visited
Momofuku Milk Bar, which turned out to be a smallish take-out dessert spot hidden in the Chambers Hotel. Green Light: the Cinnamon Bun Pie has built-in cream cheese icing (genius!), we also liked the yummy peanut butter and compost cookies. Yellow light: the Candy Bar Pie was a little bit too sweet, in my opinion (like a Reese's, Snickers and Rolo all at the same time, with a pretzel). Spotlight: their famous Crack Pie had an addicting, custard-y, butterscotch-y taste that made you want to swallow more and more with each bite.

We also made sure to try the
Shake Shack, which some say is like the In & Out of the E. Coast (I think it's even better, and I love In & Out). Green Light: perfectly cooked, deliciously seasoned burgers and cheese fries. Yellow Light: the peanut butter fan in me had to try the salted peanut butter hot chocolate, which was good if not a little too rich. Spotlight: here they have concretes - which is kind of a cross between a sundae and a shake. All I can say is wow. Their Pumpkin Pie Oh My Concrete (vanilla frozen custard with a piece of pumpkin pie blended together) is one of the best things I've ever tasted.

I lived in NY for a few years and my fave bagels were from
so I had to visit for old times' sake. Green Light: cinnamon raisin bagels: firm and toothsome on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, best when eaten still warm. Another Green Light: strawberry cheesecake from Junior's: dense, creamy and flavorful with just the right amount of tart and sweet. Unfortunately, a a return visit to a former favorite spot, Gray's Papaya turned out some underwhelming hot dogs - Red Light.

Lastly, a BIG Green Light for the
Halal Guys in midtown. Open from 7:30pm-4am, this food cart (my sister's bf Pat-strami did the research, and these guys at this particular location are the best) serves a $6 platter of some of the best chicken or lamb gyro and rice ever. Fresh, tender and perfectly spiced with an awesome white (mayo? yogurt?) sauce. At $6 it's one of the best, and most delicious deals in town.

And this is only the first half. The eating continues...Part 2 next week!


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pumpkin Pecan Roll

makes 1 roll
recipe adapted from
prep time: 45 min / cook time: 13-15 min

3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 c sugar
1 c chopped walnuts (optional)
* I used 1/4 c chopped pecans

8 oz. cream cheese, softened (1 package)
1 c powdered sugar, sifted
6 tbsp butter or margarine, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract

• Preheat oven to 375˚ F.
• Grease 15x10" jelly-roll pan; line with wax paper. Grease and flour paper.
• Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a small bowl.
• Beat eggs and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until thick.
• Beat in pumpkin purée.
• Stir in flour mixture.
• Spread evenly into prepared pan.
• Sprinkled with nuts.
• Bake for 13-15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched.
* If using a dark-colored pan, begin checking for doneness at 11 minutes.
• While waiting for the cake to finish baking, prepare tea towel. Sprinkle 1/4 c powdered sugar onto the flattened towel.
• Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel.
• Carefully peel off wax paper.
• Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end.
* Do not roll up the cake too tight or the filling will ooze out.
• Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour.

• Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract until smooth.

• Carefully unroll cake.
• Spread filling over cake.
• Re-roll cake.
• Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
• Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.

• If you do not have a tea towel, paper towels work just as well . . . better actually because you don't need to wash a sticky towel in the washer!
• Be sure to put enough powdered sugar on the towel when rolling up the cake so it will not stick.
• Instead of folding in the dry ingredients, I used one bowl for everything. Mixed dry ingredients, added eggs and sugar, then beat in pumpkin purée.
• Be sure to not spread the filling all the way to the end of the cake. Leave some room for the filling to spread or else it will ooze out.



Sunday, November 14, 2010

Boston Cream Cupcakes

makes 18 cupcakes
hot milk sponge cake recipe adapted from Muffins Are Ugly Cupcakes
custard recipe adapted from une-deuxsenses
ganache recipe from Daydreamer Desserts
prep time: 40 min / cook time: 12 min

1 1/3 c cake flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c whole milk
4 tbsp unsalted butter
3 eggs, room temperature
3/4 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 small box of french vanilla pudding
1 c of whole milk
1/2 c heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 c heavy whipping cream
8 oz bittersweet chocolate

• Preheat oven to 350˚ F.
• Sift flour, baking powder and salt twice. Set aside.
• Combine butter and milk in a saucepan, heat on medium until the butter has just about melted. Remove from heat and set aside.
• Using the whisk attachment, beat your eggs on high until blended, about 1 minute.
• Add vanilla extract and sugar gradually and beat until pale and tripled in volume, about 6 minutes.
• Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Fold in with a rubber spatula. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture in 2 more additions.
• Reheat the milk mixture until just under a boil. Then add the hot milk mixture into the batter and fold it in.
• Pour the batter into cupcake tins.
• Bake for 12 minutes.

• Whip everything together until pudding has become thick, about 8-10 minutes.

• In a medium saucepan, heat up the heavy cream making sure it doesn't come to a boil.
• Stir in the chocolate and whisk to combine.
• Let cool to room temperature, approximately 20-30 minutes.

• 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.
• Spoon chocolate ganache onto the top of the cupcakes.
* Optional: when cooled, add whipped cream and cherry.



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

LA Eats

There wasn't much time. Two full days at the Magic Kingdom doesn't leave many opportunities for additional outside eating. But on a trip we took this summer, MFM and I did what we could. After two days of turkey legs, churros, and bright green mint juleps, we mixed it up with some new favorites, old standbys - all delicious.

First stop - Musha. This Torrance restaurant is an izakaya, so the more people you bring, the more small plates you can order. Yelpers say the cuisine is fusion - but it seemed pretty authentic Japanese to me. Green light: tarako kimchee udon (buttery, seafood-y, slippery, spicy), buta kakuno (pork belly cooked to a soft, buttery perfection), eringi mushrooms on a shichirin grill. Yellow light: spicy tuna dip with rice crackers, cheese risotto served in a hollowed out wedge of parmesan (not bad, just not wow-worthy). Spotlight: for birthdays they turn off all the lights, and the cook sets a wok on fire. The first time you see this is amazing (after the 4th or 5th time, not so much).

Not a reflection or anything on Musha (I was stuffed and very satisified after dinner here) but for me, driving down the street (Carson Blvd) and not stopping at the parked ramen truck was simply impossible, especially with such a cute and inviting name as Happy Cup Ramen. Green light: the miso ramen with cha shu was fresh cooked, hot and delicious. Spotlight: the experience of eating ramen standing up in front of a car dealership while traffic goes by isn't, in actuality, a bad one. It's actually kind of fun.

I'm just as enamored with the current salt trend (salted caramels, salted chocolates) as the next person, and had to try sea salt lattes at the "Starbucks of Taiwan" 85C (as in degrees) in Irvine. (Just an aside, but is anybody else curious as to whether all this extra sodium is somehow bad for you?) Named for the perfect temperature for which to consume coffee, this bakery chain has over 230 locations worldwide. Green light: the sea salt latte, which I had iced (refreshing and delicious); also a fan of the taro buns. Yellow light: first visit is a little daunting, and irritating as there are no posted instructions for newbies. Everyone just seemed to know you're supposed to pick up a tray and tongs and help yourself to the baked items then wait in a separate line to pay or order drinks.

The last stop was King's Hawaiian in Torrance. I love this place for so many reasons. The sweet and addicting Hawaiian rolls. The light and refreshing guava cake. Spam. (Green lights all around, plus another one for the katsu curry). Red light: not sure if it was just an off day, but the usually tasty bowl of saimin suffered from tasteless, watery broth and lackluster noodles. (I say off day). Spotlight: Did I mention their perfectly executed Spam musubi is served with a teriyaki dipping sauce? Fancy!


Sunday, November 07, 2010

Strawberry Bavarian Chiffon Cake

makes one 10" cake
recipe adapted from Tartine
total prep time: 1 1/2 hours / cook time: 30 min


1 c + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 c sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks (about 1/4 c)
1/3 c + 1 tbsp water (3 oz)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp lemon zest, grated
5 large egg whites (about 2/3 c)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar/lemon juice

1/2 pint strawberries
1/4 c sugar
pinch salt

recipe can be found here

1 1/2 tsp gelatin
1 tbsp water
2 1/2 c pastry cream, cold (see above)
2 c heavy cream, very cold

1 1/4 c heavy cream, very cold
4 tsp sugar

• Preheat oven to 325˚ F
• Line the bottom of a 10" springform pan with 3" sides with parchment paper cut to fit exactly.
* Do not grease the sides of the pan.
• Sift together the flour and baking soda into a large mixing bowl.
• Add all but 3 tbsp of the sugar and the salt and whisk to combine.
• In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest.
• Make a well in the flour, add the yolk mixture, and then whisk throroughly and quickly for about 1 minute until very smooth.
• Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl.
• Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat on medium until frothy.
• Add the cream of tartar or lemon juice and beat on medium-high speed until the whites hold soft peaks.
• Slowly add the remaining 3 tbsp sugar and beat on medium-high speed until the whites hold firm, shiny peaks.
• Using a rubber spatula, scoop about 1/3 of the whites onto the yolk mixture and fold in gently to lighten the batter.
• Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.
• Pour hte batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with an offset spatula if necessary.
• Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 minutes.
• Let cool in the pan (the sides of the pan will help hold the structure of hte cake as it cools) on a wire rack.
• To unmold, run a small, thin knife around the sides fo the pan to loosen the cake and then release and lift off the pan sides.
* The cake will keep, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

• Combine the strawberries, sugar and salt in a blender and process on high speed until smooth.
* Strain if needed.

• Instructions can be found here.

• In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften.
• Pour water to a depth of about 2 inches into a saucepan, place over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
• Place 1/2 c of the pastry cream in a stainless-steel bowl that will rest securely in the rim of the sauce pan over, not touching, the water.
• Heat the pastry cream, whisking constantly, until hot to the touch (120˚ F), about 5 minutes.
• Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth.
* Make sure the mixture the gelatin is going into isn’t stone cold and add the gelatin first to a small amount to of the base and then whisk that smaller amount into the remainder.
• Remove from the water bath.
• Whisk half of the remaining cold pastry cream into the hot mixture, then whisk in the rest.
• In a mixing bowl, using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a whisk, whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks.
• Immediately and gently fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula.

• Using the mixer or a whisk, whip the cream until thickened.
• Add the sugar and whip until the cream holds soft peaks.
• Using hte offset spatula, frost the top of the cake.
• The cake can be served immediately or kept cold in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
* It will keep for up to 3 days.

• Line the sides of a 10” springform pan with 3” sides with plastic wrap, allowing enough overhang to cover the top of the cake completely when it is assembled. Leave the bottom of the pan unlined. Have the cake ready.
• Hull 2 pints of strawberries. Approximately 4 cups of prepared fruit.
• Fit one cake layer into the bottom ofthe prepared springform pan.
• Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer evenly with half of the fruit purée.
• Spoon enough of the filling onto the cake to create a layer 1/4" thick and stand the strawberries upright, pointed end up, pushing them into the cream. Quickly turn the remaining filling onto the fruit lightly pressing down with the back of a large spoon to fill in any air pockets.
• Moisten the second cake layer with the rest of the fruit purée, then place the layer on top of the rest of the cake, purée side down.
• Fold the overhanging plastic wrap over the top of the cake, covering completely, and then gently press down onto the plastic to distribute the cream evenly (don’t use too much pressure).
• Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
• Using an offset spatula, frost the top of the cake.
• The cake can be served immediately or kept cold in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
* It will keep for up to 3 days.

• Chiffon cake tips can be found here.
• I had issues with my chiffon cake shrinking (please see tips above), so my 10" springform did not fit the finished cake well. I stuffed the inside of pan with paper towels to keep the cake's shape.



Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Boiling Crab

There are many, many reasons to love our San Francisco Giants. But on this night in particular, if it wasn’t for them and the last game of the NLCS final, the three-hour wait for The Boiling Crab in San Jose would have been darn near unbearable. It was pretty much the longest I’ve ever waited for a meal. And I shudder to think what would have happened if they didn’t win…MFM (still gimpy, still Grinchy) for one, would've blown a gasket I’m sure.

It was my first time at a Boiling Crab (a chain with locations in So. Cal and Texas). I’m always a bit nervous about trying new dining experiences, so instead of the usual here’s-what-I-ate commentary, I’ve constructed a list of Boiling Crab helpful hints, just in case you go. At approx. $30-$35 per person for seafood, I think it’s one of the best deals around. It's certainly one of the most delicious.

1. They do not take reservations. When Yelpers say to get there when they open (3pm) they aren’t kidding. Case in point, we put our names on the list at 6pm, and we weren’t seated until 9pm (on a Saturday). There’s the aforementioned tvs to keep you occupied, but people also just hang out in their cars or at the Target next door. Or, you can start off with an “appetizer” at the neighboring Vietnamese restaurant, as one of our friends who couldn’t wait any longer did. (No, this was not Kung Fu Prawn).

2. You will get messy. They provide bibs and rolls of paper towels, but this is food that’s totally eaten with your hands. They line the tables with industrial-style wax paper, which serves as both your plate and your shell disposal area.

3. Your seafood comes cooked in a see-through bag. See photo #3 above.

Go for the “whole sha-bang.” First, pick your seafood: (our group had shrimp, crawfish, Dungeness and king crab and clams). Then, pick your seasoning: rajun Cajun, lemon pepper, garlic butter, or the whole sha-bang (all three - words cannot describe the spicy, buttery deliciousness.) Last, your spicyness level (medium was plenty hot). The ratio is about 1 pound per person, if you include sides (we also got corn and sweet potato fries).

5. There’s even something for non-seafood eaters. Not a whole lot – but one of our non-seafood eating pals had wings and fries. There's also gumbo, oysters on the half shelf, and a variety of fish & chip-style fried options, too.

6. Is it worth the wait? Yes. Seriously. And I’m really impatient.

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