Saturday, October 31, 2009

Brittle Bones


the prognosis ain't good.

While everyone else has a 'thang' for macarons, my roommate and I instead have an obsession with meringues.  It's probably one of the most common things that leaves our kitchen, from meringue kisses to lemon meringue pie (light on the curd, heavy on the meringue).  So naturally, I had to do meringue bones for the Halloween party!


But wait! these aren't just plain meringues... A genius idea of my roommate's was adding a strip of licorice string as marrow in the bones.  After baking them this way, I found out, biting into one, that the licorice both looks like marrow and simulates the softer center of bones when you bite into it, too!  Creepy.  :-D




Anyhow, get a good night's sleep, all.  Tomorrow is a big day: Happy Halloween!

(More Halloween treats from this week:
Chocolate mini-cupcakes with pomegranate-orange mascarpone buttercream
Seasalt cacao nib oreos with meyer lemon caramel filling
Candied crabapples.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Crabby Candied Apples

What's more Americana Halloween than the good ol' candied apple?


pick your poison, Snow White?

For a while now, I've wanted to make candied crabapples because everything is cuter in miniature!  But in years past, I hadn't been able to find a good, reliable, and reasonably priced (and I say reasonably priced because this is important to a grad student who has a kitchen/baking obsession) source for crabapples.  Until I happened to waltz into Whole Foods this past weekend and lo and behold-- a stand of the cutest little apples ever.  :-D  Yippee!

I've also been a little obsessed with the spooky candied apples that I first saw on mattbites.com a few weeks ago and have since been popping up everywhere.  I mean, the black is just downright creepy.


(poor red apple...)

Candied apples are super simple and easy to make.  And, crabapples make for the perfect candied apples.  Not only are they small so that you can actually manage to sink your teeth into them but also they come with a built in stem, so no need to go about forcing twigs or sticks into your apple cores.



Oh--and one more thing.  Here's what I did with the leftover melted sugar:



Black candy corn lollipops!  :-D  Can you say, sugar high?

Anyways, I have to apologize for the terseness of this post!  I've been extremely swamped at work so blogging and baking have been relegated to very late-night tasks.  Tomorrow will be a whole day of more Halloween party-prep, so I'll see everyone back here tomorrow night for another round of Halloween treats!

Read on for recipe...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hallo-week: Seasalt cacao nib oreos with meyer lemon caramel filling

Here's a bit of a tricky treat for y'all: a cookie that's sweet but salty.



I've been a bit obsessed with making sandwich cookies lately--don't ask me why because I have NO idea, so I couldn't get this idea out of my head for my Halloween party.  Originally, I'd wanted to make pumpkin oreos, but when I realized that I had too many pumpkin-flavored treats on my list of desserts to make, I had to rack my brain for a different flavor of oreo, and these sweet-but-salty cookies came about.


Seasalt and cacao nib oreos
with meyer lemon caramel filling

They are quite a mind trip but soooo good at the same time!  When you first bite into these, you taste the sweetness of the filling and the caramel but then the sea salt hits and the overall impression that you're left with is that you just ate a yummy but salty cookie.  Bizarre!  I also have to warn you that you'll really want to eat this cookie dough because it's nice and chocolate-y and not sweet at all, so I found myself popping cookie dough in my mouth whenever I had a chance.  Oops.  *innocent look*  I can't wait to serve these at the Halloween party and to see the look on people's faces when they expect a sweet cookie but get hit with savory instead!

Read on for the recipe...

Happy Hallo-week!

Happy Hallo-Week! from Desserts for Breakfast!  *Mwahahahahahahaha!*




Halloween is an Event with a capital 'E' in my household.  Since my junior year of undergrad, I've hosted a Halloween bash, and each year, it just gets better and better (or, shall I say spookier and spookier?).  *cue mood lighting*


Homemade Blood Candles

There's just something about Halloween that makes it so much fun.  Like the excuse to eat tons of candy and sugar!  Or the total kitchiness (is that a word?) of those cotton cobwebs and plastic spider rings.  And the permission to dress up as someone or something other than yourself!  Escapism at its best.  And, the best thing about Halloween for me is that it marks the beginning of Holiday Season because right after Halloween, it's Thanksgiving, and right after Thanksgiving, it's Christmas, and I looooove my holiday cheer. :-)  So that's just one more reason to celebrate All Hallow's Eve.

Anyways, this week is all about gearing up for my big party on Saturday night.  So each day, all the way up until the Scary Soiree, I'll be posting recipes and stories from my preparations for the party, provided, of course, that my day job doesn't get in the way.

I'd love to hear how you all are planning to celebrate Halloween and what you're doing to prepare for it!  Here's wishing you all a Happy and Haunted Hallo-week!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

PotW: Bananas about pancakes!

[last week's PotW: Rosemary pancakes with poached Bosc pears]

When it comes to pancakes, I don't monkey around.  Okay okay--I promise, just getting all the monkey jokes out of my system before I begin talking about banana pancakes!



There are so many things that you can do with overripe bananas--the most stereotypical being banana bread.  But I didn't feel like banana bread, despite the huge bunch of nearly overly-ripe bananas that I had on hand.  So banana pancakes it was.


Banana pancakes
with fried spiced banana,
brown sugar, and raw cacao nibs

With banana pancakes alone, I still didn't manage to use up all of the bananas I had on hand, so I decided to make double banana pancakes.  I took the leftover bananas, combined them with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, brown sugar, and a dash of lemon juice and fried them in butter.  The result was this amazing near-caramelized banana sauce for the pancakes that would seriously blow any maple syrup out of the water.  Then, the bitterness and crunch from a bit of raw cacao nib sprinkled on top provided a great counterpoint in texture for the plate.

But I shouldn't take all of the credit for the banana "sauce" on these pancakes.  In truth, I was inspired by a banana memory from my Berkeley undergraduate days (ah, undergrad cooking--how poorly we ate!).  Back when I was an undergrad, my roommate and I hosted this potluck for our music group, and one of the desserts that our friend brought was bananas that he then fried in oil with a bit of cinnamon and sugar and served drizzled in chocolate syrup and topped with whipped cream.  I remember my roommate being so enamored by this dessert that she folded it into her repertoire and proceeded to cook it.  A lot.  So here's a shout-out to Amy and Jeff who were the inspiration behind these banana pancakes!

Anyways, the week ahead is going to be a packed one!  Be sure to tune in on Monday and Tuesday to hear what all the hubbub will be about!

Read on for recipes...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Raspberry Dark Chocolate Ganache (Breast Cancer Awareness, part deux)

[for part 1 of Breast Cancer Awareness Month Chocolates, check out these rose marzipan dark chocolates!]



Here's the second flavor that my Breast Cancer Awareness boxes contained: dark chocolate ganache with raspberry preserves.  Where the sweetness of the marzipan was the focus of the other chocolates, these raspberry ones were all about the smoothness of the ganache, with just an ever-so-light hint of raspberry preserves spilling out of the chocolate shell when you take a bite.  mmm....


Raspberry Dark Chocolate Ganache Chocolates

People who tried both of these chocolates told me that they were so torn over which ones they liked better!  The two types of chocolate candies together were a great complement for each other, so I'd definitely recommend making both as a pair.

Also, don't let the chocolate work faze you from making these chocolates!  They are super easy.  I think the hardest part of candy making is tempering the chocolate, but that requires almost no skill if you use the method described in the recipes here--all it needs is lots and lots of patience to wait for chocolate to melt!  :-)  The best part of candy-making, too, is that everyone is always super-impressed that you've made chocolates.  I had this hilarious exchange with an old professor of mine where, after trying a chocolate, he said:

"You bake.  I know people who bake.  And you bake.  But-- I don't know anyone who makes chocolates!  I thought that chocolates were something that no one makes at home-- like, like, mayonnaise!"

LOL.  It's even funnier if you imagine it with a Finnish accent, as he has.  Also, incidentally enough, I've never been successful at making my own mayonnaise, though granted I've only tried (and given up) once.  Great mayonnaise-making tips accepted!, since now that I've conquered chocolates, I should try my hand again at homemade mayo.

Anyways, please, please! help spread the word about Breast Cancer Awareness.  Make chocolates.  Eat chocolates.  Whatever it takes.  Stay healthy!

Read on for recipe...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Chocolates, part 1: Rose Marzipan

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.



This is very, very important.  And a very personal issue for me, since a close member of my family recently underwent surgery for breast cancer and is now thankfully in remission.  It's a very scary thing to have happen, and I know we always think it can't happen to us, but it can.  Spread the word.  Go get tested.  Stay healthy.

In order to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month, last week, I made chocolates to pass out to my female friends.  Friends either received individual candies or boxes like this one:



Each box was filled with handmade dark chocolates in two flavors: rose marzipan and raspberry dark chocolate ganache.  I hoped that these boxes would help spread both deliciousness, happiness, and awareness!  I know it isn't much to do, but I'm a huge believer in microcosmic change.  (Highly optimistic for someone as pessimistic as me.)


Rose Marzipan Dark Chocolates

The rose marzipan chocolates were a new experiment for me, and they were inspired by princess cakes, which I had originally intended to make for this occasion.  Why princess cakes, you ask?  Well--and this is quite a silly confession--because the first person who ever told me of princess cakes said that they reminded his wife of boobs.  Yes! I'm sorry! that was so not PG, but now that the association is there, I can't escape it.  But, though princess cakes pan out this time, I wanted to take a little inspiration from them, in the form of marzipan.



The near-overly-sweetness of the marzipan here goes so well with the hint of rose and the bitterness of the dark chocolate.  I was really, really happy with how they turned out.  There is nothing quite as good as a homemade chocolate candy.

I hope you all enjoy the chocolate candy posts this week--rose marzipan today and raspberry-dark chocolate ganache in a few days.  Please, please spread the word to everyone you know about Breast Cancer Awareness.  Tell your girl friends; donate money; make chocolates; bake cookies; run a marathon; wear a ribbon.  Do what you can to help out this very real cause!

Read on for recipe and directions...

Monday, October 19, 2009

PotW: Rosemary Pancakes with Poached Pears

[last week's PotW: Pumpkin maple chocolate chip pancakes (with pomegranate mimosas)]

At this week's Saturday morning Palo Alto Farmer's Market, I found a stand tucked in a back corner selling the most amazingly priced fresh flowers, and tucked in the back of that stand was a huge bucket full of amazingly fragrant rosemary.  And I couldn't resist.  So now I have a gorgeous bouquet of sunflowers and rosemary beautifying and fragrant-fying my dining room!

But you can't just waste awesome rosemary like that--I *had* to find a way to make pancakes with it.  (My friends and I have a joke that every time I see something, the first thing that pops to my mind is, "Can I cook it?"  It's actually not too far off....)  And, another obsession of mine during the fall is pears, of which I had many extra-ripe ones lying around that desperately needed to be used.  So was born this week's rosemary pancakes with poached pears!

Rosemary pancakes
with poached pears

This was much more delicate fare than the extravagant creaminess of previous weeks' Pancakes of the Week (like here or here), but it was perfect for the overcast day we had.  The subtlety of the poached pears with sweet white wine comes through when you first take a bite and then the rosemary suddenly comes in at the end, leaving a great spiciness in your mouth.  Yum, yum!


Poached Bosc Pears

I am going to have to think about what else I can do with all this great rosemary sitting on the kitchen table right now.  Exciting!  :-)

Read on for recipes!...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pie-moticons

Happy Friday, all!

I had picked up some of these ultra cute emoticon cutters in Taiwan on my last trip there and wasn't sure if I'd ever get a chance to use them!  But I had some extra canned pumpkin and pie dough lying about, so this is what happened:



I think I've cycled through every one of these emotions this week, ending with the one on the far right today because I spent the whole day dealing with internet issues.  Bleh.  But, everything is fine now, except that I'm way behind on everything that got put off due to the internet on the fritz.  (I can't believe how much of our lives revolve around being connected and online these days!)  Anyways, no recipe post today--sorry, folks--but now that I've come up with an actual use for my emoticon cutters, I will most definitely be returning to these mini-pies with proper pumpkin recipes rather than a thrown-together, impromptu mini-pie bake.

If you're hankering for some recipes, make sure to check out my Celebrating Gourmet post that's part of A Mingling of Taste's Gourmet event!

Here's hoping that everyone has a great weekend!  I'll be back soon.  :-)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

All Gourmet Things...

...must unfortunately come to an end.

The first time that I cracked open my first issue of Gourmet magazine a year or so ago (yes, I'm a relatively new but very loyal reader), I was reminded of the first time I switched in high school from reading Time to reading the New YorkerGourmet shocked me: there was a magazine out there with gorgeous food photography, scintillating recipes, and full-length, proper articles on "good living"!  The quality was all a bit overwhelming and for the first few articles that I read, I missed my Bon Appetit fixes, where "reading" the magazine consisted of merely flipping through glossy pages.  But, it was not long before I was addicted.



There are many reasons I love Gourmet.  It's actually a magazine that you can sit down and read, rather than just flip through, as most things are these days.  There's always such a great balance between recipes, articles on the food world, and how-to's, between articles and recipes for food and articles and recipes for drink.  The food photography is terrifically enviable as well.  The main, main reason that Gourmet magazine won me over, though, was the recipes.

Unlike other food magazines or books that I often approach with a hint of caution and distrust, Gourmet magazine's recipes have never failed me.  I'm the type of person who always has to fiddle with the printed recipes, but the ones that come straight out of Gourmet require no fiddling whatsoever.  It's quite a rare experience for me.  I always take Bon Appetit's recipes with a huge grain of salt: whenever I follow them closely, the final product never turns out quite right.  But I've never had this experience with Gourmet's recipes.  From the simple to the sublime and complex, Gourmet has yet to disappoint.

So when I read about the Celebrate Gourmet! blogging event hosted by A Mingling of Tastes, I knew I had to participate.  And I knew that I wanted to do two simple Gourmet recipes--one savory and one sweet--because I think this is where Gourmet shines the most.  Where other magazines boast "simple, quick, and easy to make!" food or food that's "fancy enough to impress!", Gourmet understands that delicious food is simple food.  --And that's the mark of a true gourmand.

I will miss you dearly, Gourmet!



Read on for recipes and more photos...
(Poached eggs with green beans and gruyere
+ Chocolate creme pie)


Sunday, October 11, 2009

PotW: Pumpkin Maple Chocolate Chip Pancakes + Pomegranate Mimosas

[last week's PotW: Raspberry Guinness pancakes with chocolate and mascarpone cream]

Pumpkin! The staple flavor of the fall. I've been planning to do pumpkin pancakes for a few weeks now, and it seemed like the best time this past weekend, with the weather turning noticeably colder and the first autumn rain coming this week. So, I invited my friend, Kyuwon, over for Sunday brunch and whipped up stacks of pumpkin maple chocolate chip pancakes, poached eggs with green beans and cave-aged gruyere, and pomegranate mimosas. Very "Sex-in-the-City," Kyuwon said.

Pumpkin maple chocolate chip pancakes
with nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon spiced mascarpone cream
and maple candied pecans

Oh--and some of you might be wondering what my obsession with mascarpone cream is, since it shows up week after week. Well, it's because of the Milk Pail, an awesome local market, which stocks fresh mascarpone cream for loads cheaper than any of the stores like TJ's or Whole Foods.


Read on for pancake recipe and a bonus pomegranate mimosa recipe!...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Sunflower and Pastry Wedding

So here goes the long-awaited post about Maria and Nicholas's fabulous September wedding! I've already been posting recipes from the various desserts at the wedding for a while now (vegan chocolate pumpkin cupcakes, key lime heart pies, pomegranate-basil-vodka cheesecakes), but I have yet to give you all the big picture, so here goes.

This was most definitely my largest order thus far in the history of my little pastry start-up. I not only made Maria and Nick's wedding cake, but also a whole dessert bar! We'll get to that, though. First--the cake.

Chocolate cake
with cherry filling, dark chocolate ganache,
cream cheese frosting, and sugarpaste flowers

Maria is a huge chocoholic, so she most definitely insisted on a chocolate cake, and they wanted cherry, so I decided to make a chocolate cake with dark cherry filling, dark chocolate ganache, and cream cheese frosting on the outside to balance out the darkness inside! (I don't believe in fondant and try to avoid it whenever possible.) The sunflowers were all made by hand out of sugarpaste.

I have to admit, though, as much as I liked the final result with the sunflowers and ducks (Maria and Nick have an awesome rubber duck collection!), the cake looked even better after they had cut into it and taken the first slice. I'm so glad that I was around for it--it makes me feel so special that a couple is eating a cake that *I* made for their special day.


Anyways, so now on to the good part: the dessert bar! I have to say that I love this new trend at weddings. I did another similar dessert bar set-up in August for another wedding, but that one was far simpler and involved a lot more miniature cupcakes. Maria is also a huge tea connoisseur, so she wanted to have a fabulous, miniature pastry spread for everyone to enjoy with tea post-dinner. *Right* up my alley! So I whipped up the most fantastical menu I could think up for them:


Dark chocolate truffles with crushed cacao nibs


Espresso dark chocolate truffles

Amaretto dark chocolate truffles with almonds


Chocolate cupcake with pumpkin buttercream (vegan)

Fresh fruit tart

Pomegranate-basil-vodka cheesecake

Key lime pie

White and dark chocolate dipped strawberries

Lemon pie meringues

Man, was it a spread! Three different types of handmade truffles (for the chocoholics, of course!), cheesecakes, tarts, pies, cookies, tuxedoed strawberries! Everything turned out to be quite a hit, and the desserts really flew off the tables... Yes, that's tables. Here's just one half of the set-up:


*whew* It was so much fun to do a large mini-pastry order like this, I really have to thank Maria and Nick for the chance!

Oh, and before I'm done, a quick peak at those truffles:


(What you see there off to the sides are the lemon pie meringues--basically, the best parts of a lemon meringue pie, minus the crust--and fruit tarts.)

Congrats on your marriage, Maria and Nick!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pomegranate Basil Vodka Cheesecake

One thing I look forward to every year when the weather starts cooling down and the days get shorter are pomegranates! I remember when I was young and these fruits were terribly rare, so getting to eat just one, juicy, messy, red pomegranate each year was such a treat. Nowadays, though, they're everywhere, but that doesn't mean I don't love them any less. I find that pomegranates are great for desserts and for sweet touches to savory dishes--I'll often make a pomegranate-orange-cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving.




Anyways, here's a flavor combination that struck me last season why eating pomegranates: pomegranate-basil-vodka.  And I *had* to put it on a cheesecake.  Don't ask me why.  I have no idea.  But, despite how funny it may sound, trust me, they are good.  So when Maria asked me to come up with a cheesecake dessert as part of her wedding dessert bar and when I found out she's Russian, I thought these pom cheesecakes with a hint of vodka and basil would be perfect.


Pomegranate-basil-vodka cheesecake


I got my round mini cheesecake pans at Sur la Table, and they are awesome.  I did lightly oil the sides, though, because I'm paranoid like that, but I had absolutely no problem sliding the desserts right out.


A quick note about the recipe here: I have to confess that I don't have exact ingredient amounts for the pomegranate-basil-vodka reduction because I sort of play it by feel, so please adjust what I've written here for your own preferences, whether you'd like a thinner or thicker sauce, less basil taste, or more vodka taste, etc.  If you have any adjustments and improvements to share, I would love to hear them!  For the cheesecakes, feel free to use your favorite cheesecake recipe.  I personally like my cheesecakes baked, but I think this pomegranate sauce could work quite nicely with non-baked cheesecakes as well.

Read on for recipes...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

PotW: Raspberry Guinness Pancakes w/ Chocolate & Mascarpone Cream

[last week's PotW: Whole wheat pancakes with almond fruit and mascarpone cream]

This weekend, we brought Guinness Week to a close by celebrating with Guinness pancakes!  Originally, my roommate and I had planned to cook up a savory Guinness pancake creation, with potatoes, green apples, and cheese, but when we went to the Palo Alto Farmer's Market on Saturday morning and saw what could possibly be some of the last raspberries of the season, I suggested instead a sweet Guinness pancake with fresh raspberries.  And, viola! this delicious, sweet creation was born.


Fresh raspberry Guinness pancakes
with dark chocolate
and mascarpone cream

These Guinness pancakes have such a nice undertone to them--you can't quite tell that it's Guinness, but there's definitely something different there than with your average run-of-the-mill pancake.  The subtlety of the pancakes also nicely reflect the delicateness of the fresh raspberries!  Definitely a great way to end Guinness Week.  Happy 250th, Guinness!

Read on for recipe....


Friday, October 2, 2009

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes + Mascarpone Frosting [Guinness Week!]

Guinness Week continues!  I hope y'all are celebrating as much as I am.  :-)

Since it was impossible to bring Guinness-Dark Chocolate Ice Cream around with me to share with everyone, I decided to also whip up a batch of mini Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes to pass out.  Suffice it to say, they were a huge hit, disappearing so fast that some people didn't even believe they existed in the first place because they didn't get a chance to have any!  The mascarpone frosting on these are the perfect compliment as well, reminiscent of the frothy tops of a tall glass of properly poured Guinness.  And, the best part of it is that it's okay to eat Guinness cupcakes during the work day!  :-P

Accompanying anecdote: at first, one of my professors kept refusing the cupcake offers. But, immediately upon hearing that the cupcakes contained Guinness, he said, "Oooo! Beer! *Now* I must try one!"  Oh, academics.








Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes
with Mascarpone Frosting














Read on for the recipe...

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