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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Apple Almond Caramel Tarts

serves 8
recipe adapted from The Comfort of Cooking
prep time: 15 min / cook time: 18-20 min

2 whole sheet puffed pastry, cut into halves
4 whole apples
2/3 c brown sugar
* I used light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c sliced almonds
caramel sauce

• Peel, core, halve and slice apples.
* Sorry, forgot to photograph this step.
• Add brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt to a medium bowl and mix thoroughly.
• Add apples to mixture and combine. Allow to sit for a few minutes.
• Place puff pastry rectangles onto 2 baking sheets and spray with nonstick spray.
* I used parchment paper for easy clean up.
• Arrange apple slices on the pastry rectangles in a straight line, overlapping as you go.
• Sprinkle almonds over apple slices.
• Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until pastry is puffed and golden brown.
• Immediately remove tarts from pan and place on serving platter.
• Top with caramel sauce and serve.

• Other topping options: no topping, whipped cream, sprinkled powdered sugar or ice cream.



Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Puff Mini Cupcakes

makes 24 mini cupcakes
recipe adapted from Cupcakes!
prep time: 25 min / cook time: 11 min

1 1/2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 c milk (any fat content)
* I used whole milk

6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c sugar
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

• Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350˚ F.
• Spray the inside of a 24 mini muffin tin cups with nonstick cooking spray.
• Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg into a medium bowl and set aside.
• In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until blended and creamy, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape the side of the bowl as needed during mixing.
• Beat in the egg, mixing until smooth and thick.
* I did not beat the egg prior to mixing.
• On low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and mixing just until the flour is incorporated and the batter looks smooth.
• Fill each muffin cup wiht about 1 1/2 tbs of batter.
• Bake just until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 11 minutes.
• Cool the cupcakes for 5 minutes in the pan on a wire rack.

• While the cupcakes cool, put the melted butter in a medium bowl.
• In another medium bowl, stir the sugar and cinnamon together.

• Carefully place the sire rack on top of the cupcakes in their pan. Protecting your hands with the pot holders and holding the pan and rack together, invert them to release the cupcakes ontot he wire rack.
• Turn the cupcakes top side up and immediately roll them in the melted butter, then in the cinnamon sugar to coat it completely. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cupcakes can be covered and stored a room temperature for up to 2 days.

• For regular sized cupcakes, bake for 15 minutes.
• Try dipping the cupcakes in melted chocolate or caramel for an extra sweet treat!



Sunday, December 11, 2011

Inside Out Cheesecake Cookies

makes 20 cookies
recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen
prep time: 15 min / cook time: 12-15 min

1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
* I used 4 oz.
1 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c mini chocolate chips
1 c oreo cookie crumbs
* I used graham cracker crumbs
1/2 c white chocolate chips, melted (optional)

Preheat oven to 375˚F.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
In an electric mixer with the beater attachment, , cream together the butter and cream cheese until they are well combined.
Add sugar and vanilla to the mixture until ingredients are well combined.
Add the flour and mix on low until the flour is incorporated.
Stir in mini chocolate chips.
Coop the dough into 1" balls and roll in Oreo or graham cracker crumbs so cookie is covered.
Place covered cookie balls onto the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are golden and the tops are slightly puffed.
Cool on the pan for two minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.
Optional: Once cooled, drizzle cookies with melted white chocolate.

For a less sweet cookie, reduce the sugar to 3/4 cup.
To ensure my cookies are the same size, I used a medium cookie scoop that holds 1 1/2 tbs.
For added flavor, you can add the zest of a lemon, lime or orange.
Try using different cookie crumbs.



Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Ferran Adria talk/Super Duper

He's considered one of the greatest chefs of all time and the godfather of molecular gastronomy. His food blends taste and science, with dishes like liquid ravioli and caviar made from olive oil, and his (now closed) restaurant El Bulli was voted the best restaurant the world for 5 years in a row - with over 2 million hopeful diners fighting for the 8000 seats available a year.

So when Ferran Adria came to town to talk about his new book "The Family Meal" - which he says is a "regular book for regular people" - it seemed fitting that my dinner post-talk took place over "regular" burgers at Super Duper, located just down the block from the Castro Theater.

Also interesting was that Mr. Adria himself spent this day of his Bay Area trip visiting some "regular" places on his own - notably having tacos at La Taqueria, ice cream at Humphrey Slocombe (where he apparently ordered "one of everything") and perusing Omnivore Books (one of the event's sponsors).

His sold-out (over 1400 seats) talk was entertaining and charmingly anecdotal. He claims that there's nothing particularly new or original about today's recipes - that they are just re-envisioned versions of dishes that have been around forever. He also spent a lot of time talking about El Bulli, which closed a few months ago and will re-open as a sort of culinary think tank in a few years.

I love the idea of The Family Meal, based on the meals the El Bulli staff gets to eat, which is targeted at folks that don't have a lot of time or money to spend on everyday meals. Besides hearing him speak, attendees also got the chance to ask questions and have books signed. We saw some of that same crowd shortly afterwards at Super Duper, a retro-looking burger spot serving Niman Ranch burgers and Straus organic soft serve.

The burgers were thick and juicy and quality toppings like an organic egg, roasted portabellos or cambozola cheese really put it over the edge. A touch on the sloppy side, but some people like that sort of thing. The bun was a bit too bread-y, in my opinion, but I rather enjoyed the fries which came with three dipping sauces - homemade mayo, chipotle and a super sauce (a cousin to thousand island).

Was it really super duper? Maybe not, but there was a freshness, and an elevated but yet still homespun quality that made it super satisfying. A fun, retro-y decor and personality came through that made it feel that much more special too. I'll be back again, I'm sure.


Sunday, December 04, 2011

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

makes 1 dozen
recipe adapted from Annie's Eats
total prep time: 30 min / cook time: 20-25 min

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c confectioners' sugar

1/4 c sugar
2 1/2 tbsp flour
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 c sugar
1 c pumpkin purée
2/3 c vegetable oil

• In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and confectioners' sugar until blended and smooth.
• Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1 1/2" in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log and reinforce with a piece of foil.
• Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.

• Combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon into a small bowl; whisk to blend.
• Add in the butter piece and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.
* I forgot to cut the butter into pieces and just mixed everything together in one bowl.

Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Line muffin pans with paper liners.
• In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend.
• In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin purée and oil. Mix on medium-low speed until blended.
• With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.

• Fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner (1-2 tbsp).
• Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 12 equal pieces. Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well.
• Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely.
• Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells.
• Bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

• Do not consume out of the oven, the cream cheese filling gets very hot!
• I halved the recipe. For the full recipe (makes 2 dozen) please check out Annie's Eats.



Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

makes 15 cupcakes
cupcake recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
meringue recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
prep time: 45 min / cook time: 18-22 min

1 1/2 c cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
2/3 c sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 c buttermilk

3 c store bought lemon curd
If you want to make your own, use this recipe

3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 c + 2 tbsp sugar

• Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 325˚ F.
• Line muffin pans with cupcake liners and set aside.
• Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda together in a large bowl and set aside.
• Whisk the eggs, vanilla and lemon zest together in a large bowl.
Slowly whisk in the sugar until combined.
Whisk in the melted butter in three additions until completely combined.
• Whisk in buttermilk.
• Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the batter and whisk it in (a few streaks of flour should remain). Repeat twice with the remaining flour mixture and continue to whisk the batter gently until most lumps are gone. Do not over mix.
• Fill the cupcake liners about two-thirds full.
• Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with a few crumbs attached, 18-2 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.
• Let the cupcakes cool in the pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove from the pans and let cool completely on the racks before frosting, about 1 hour.

• Combine egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl of a standing mixer over a pan of simmering water.
* To not let the bowl touch the water or you will get scrambled eggs!
• Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved.
* Mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips.
• Attach the bowl to the mixture fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue to mix until the mixture is fluffy and glossy and completely cooled (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 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.
• Fill the cupcake with lemon curd.
• Put the top back onto the cupcake and frost the top with the meringue. With a brûlée torch, carefully torch the meringue.

• This recipe has been halved from the original recipe.



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Good Foods Catering's All Bacon Dinner

While foodies may say that bacon has become passe, I say the more, the merrier. Especially when it comes to a special pop-up dinner featuring four courses of this salty, smoky treat.

I've had some interesting things with bacon in the past: bacon jam, bacon chocolate, and bacon doughnuts. And I've read about some interesting things that I hope to try in the future: bacon martinis, bacon & egg popsicles, and a dish at Chicago's famous Alinea that's been described as a "bacon trapeze."

Unfortunately this much-antipated all-bacon dinner didn't deliver any of those squeals or surprises. But I can't complain about this fun evening spent with good friends, good booze and my beloved bacon.

Held at the Coffee Bar, which normally closes in the early evening, this special menu was created by Good Foods Catering and promised 4 courses, all starring bacon. It began with a hearty, creamy cauliflower soup that was inflected with onion, thyme, and of course, bacon.

The second dish was a salad of grilled romaine with sweet tomatoes, a red wine vinagrette, and bacon fried bread. I don't think I'm a fan of grilled lettuces in general, and while the bacon bread was tasty, the dish felt sort of heavy and weighed down.

I liked the main course, a slow roasted lamb with preserved lemon gremolata and bacon chickpea puree a little better - though it seemed to be proclaiming "garlic" more than "bacon" to me. And my favorite dish of the night was the dessert - a brown sugar cornmeal waffle with a bacon bourbon sauce. It was the perfect blend of creamy, salty, cakey, and sweet.

The setting was lovely - we sat at huge communal table in a cozy corner that felt both intimate and relaxed. The charming and gracious chef came around the dining room a few times to make sure everyone was enjoying their meals. He joked that he likes to asks "is everything ok?" while people's mouths are full stuffed with food, on purpose. Which in my case, happened quite a bit that evening.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chocolate Toffee Chip Cookies

makes 16 cookies
recipe adapted from Bon Appétit via Epicurious
prep time: 25 min / cook time: 15 min

1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 lb bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
* I used 2 c mini semisweet mini chocolate chips
1/4 c unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 c (packed) brown sugar
* I used light brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
5 (1.4 oz.) chocoalte-covered English toffee bars (such as Heath), coarsely chopped
* I didn't have Heath bars on hand, so I used 1 c toffee chips & 1 c bittersweet chocolate chips
1 c toasted walnuts, chopped
* I omitted the walnuts
Fleur de sel (optional)

• Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl; whisk to blend.
* I sifted the dry ingredients.
• Stir chocolate and butter on top of a double boiler set over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from over water. Cool mixture to lukewarm.
* I microwaved the chocolate and butter mixture in the microwave at 20 second intervals, stirring between each period. This took about 80 seconds.
• Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs in bowl until thick, about 5 minutes.
• Beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla.
• Stir in flour mixture, then toffee and nuts. (In my case, toffee and chocolate chips)
• Chill batter until firm, about 45 minutes.
• Preheat oven to 350˚F.
• Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper.
• Drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto sheets, spacing 2 1/2 inches apart.
• Optional: Sprinkle a little fleur de sel on top of each cookie.
• Bake just until tops are dry and cracked but cookies are still soft to touch, about 15 minutes. Cool on sheets.

Cookies can be made 2 days ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
• These cookies spread a lot, so you will want to put about 6 cookies per pan OR make smaller cookies and reduce the baking time.
* Please note that my cookies were cut out with a cookie cutter due to the cookies spreading into each other.



Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Brunch Drunk Love at Bruno's

It's just my opinion, but there are a few things that can help save a meal that doesn't quite live up to your expectations: 1). Good service/atmosphere 2.) The company you're with and 3.) great music. And while having brunch in one of my fondest nightspots with 4 of my favorite people was lovely, the great music spun by the DJ (dressed as Magenta from Rocky Horror) really pushed it over the top.
Especially since it was Halloween weekend.

Monster Mash. Thriller. I Want Candy. (See! Fun times.)

Top Chef finalist and 3-Sum Eats food truck guy Ryan Scott runs Brunch Drunk Love out of Mission nightclub Bruno's on weekend mornings, and was one of the reasons why my friends and I wanted to have brunch here. We drooled over the menu that promised goodies like housemade brioche donuts, mac & cheese spring rolls, and pancakes with bourbon bacon marmalade.

Time Warp. Eyes Without A Face. Psycho Killer. (Brilliant!)

We started with pineapple margaritas which were perfect - sweet and refreshing. And when our orders started coming to the table we all oohed and aahed over the beautifully plated eggs benedict (with wild mushroom ragout & housemade English muffin), biscuits with gravy and Budweiser-braised brisket, and crispy potato cakes.

But somehow the food didn't quite deliver on taste. My friend's pork hash tasted as if it had been showered with salt, and my duck hash (with edamame succotash, horseradish salsa verde & pomegranate) was a funny mashup of textures that was probably a bit too fancy for its own good.

Abracadabra. Somebody's Watching Me. I Eat Cannibals. (It just gets better & better!)

Though the food was a bit disappointing, it was still a treat to spend the morning with good friends in a lively, convivial place where everyone seemed to really be enjoying themselves. And personally I was amazed (and pleasantly surprised) as to how different the normally sweaty and filled-to-the-gills Bruno's is by day. It sure cleaned up well!

Ghostbusters. I'm Your Boogie Man. The Addams family theme song. (okay, they didn't play these while I was there, but I just thought I'd add to this already-awesome playlist while I was at it.)


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chocolate Almond 'Crack'

makes 20 servings
recipe adapted from Serious Eats
prep time: 20 min / cook time: 5 min

51 salted saltine crackers
1 c unsalted butter
1 c dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c high quality dark chocolate chips (70% or greater)
1 c sliced almonds, toasted

• Preheat oven to 350˚ F.
• Line a 12x17" jelly roll pan with foil.
• Place saltine crackers salt side up and side-by-side in the pan as tightly as possible without overlapping. Set aside.
* Use saltine pieces to fill any gaps at the bottom of the pan.
• In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat stirring frequently with a spatula.
• Once butter has melted, add brown sugar and vanilla stirring to combine. Cook for about 5 minutes or until mixture is an even dark brown color and has begun to bubble.
• Remove from heat and pour over saltines using spatula to spread sauce.
• Bake crackers for 5 minutes or until butter mixture begins to bubble.
• Remove from oven and sprinkle evenly with chocolate allowing the heat to melt the chocolate. Spread chocolate evenly with the spatula so all the crackers are completely covered.
• Refrigerate until chocolate sets and hardens. Break apart and serve.

• Some other toppings to try: coconut, chopped dry fruit, crumbled graham crackers, pretzels, bacon or other nuts.



Sunday, November 06, 2011

Crispy Cocoa-Nib Tea Cookies

makes 15 2" cookies
recipe adapted from Serious Eats
prep time: 10 min / cook time: 8-10 min

1/4 c all-purpose flour
2 tbsp + 2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c oats
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/8 c cocoa nibs

Preheat oven to 375˚ F.
• Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Set aside.
• Put flour, sugars, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and oats in a bowl and stir to combine.
• In a separate bowl, stir together the melted butter, heavy cream, honey, vanilla and olive oil until smooth.
• Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.
• Fold in the cocoa nibs.
• Drop the batter by scant teaspoons onto the prepared pan, leaving at least 3" between mounds.
* These cookies spread quite a bit.
• Bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until the edges are deep golden brown and the center is mostly set.
• Cool 5 minutes on the pan, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

• I halved the original recipe. Please go to the link above if you want the full recipe.
• I didn't have heavy cream, so I used whole milk with a bit of extra butter. I do not recommend doing this if you use the original recipe.
• As you get to the bottom of the batter, it has less "filling" so you may want to add a bit more oats to it so it'll stay together while baking.
• Cocoa nibs can be substituted for any finely chopped nut or dried fruit.


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