Monday, February 27, 2012

Postcards: Scenes from a Garden



2012 so far has been quite the Year of Travel. I've spent more time logged in airplanes that I probably have in my own kitchen at home--hence, if you'll excuse me, the shortage of recipes as of late. This doesn't mean that I haven't been cooking elsewhere, though! Like, making fried green tomatoes and stir-fried vegetables from fresh-picked produce in a foggy, dewy garden tucked away on the winding hillsides of Southern Taiwan. The amazing thing about this little island on the Tropic of Cancer is how bountiful its land is there, producing the largest variety of fruits and vegetables of every kind that you can imagine. Their carrots are triple the size of the carrots we get in the U.S. and are softer, more tender, and juicier the minute you slice into one. Passionfruit hangs off vines lining garden walls. Cabbage heads grow larger than my head (and I have a huge head). Farms come with lotus ponds (which come with slippery bricks, camera-holders beware). Harvest season is literally year-round.

My aunt and her friends have acquired a small farm up on the hillside of Kaohsiung, which I got to visit for the first time this past January. Here are some of the scenes from that morning. (P.S. the last photo is of squash tendrils that my aunt picked to saute. In Chinese, they're called "dragon-whisker vegetables." I love that name.)


P.P.S. Thank you to all of you who've written in with wonderful, wonderful advice on places to go and things to eat in Italy! I'm very much looking forward to it! :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

TGIF: Italy recommendations, anyone?



Things are a bit crazy and topsy turvy here at the DfB headquarters lately, but in the meantime, the blog is featured over on Harvard Common Press's food blog blog (oh my, how meta!), BlogEats, this week! Click on over to check out the incredibly flattering feature here.

In other exciting news, I'm going to Italy soon! I'll be traveling in Rome and the Amalfi Coast area, so I would love, love, love any recommendations you might have in terms of must-see or must-eat places there! Oh yeah, gelato for breakfast: here. I. come.

Happy weekending, everyone!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

TGIF



The cloudy, overcast afternoons we had at the beginning of this week were filled with beautiful low light,  perfect for Mendelssohn and sweet milk tea. More rain and Mendelssohn to come this weekend--have a great one, everyone!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Passionfruit Tapioca and Lemon Cream Tarts



Happy Valentine's Day! Or otherwise known as, Happy stuff-your-face-with-desserts day! Now, I realize that I'm a little bit late to the Valentine's Day party, but this being a journal and all, I wanted to share what the dessert I'm actually having for Valentine's Day rather than making something weeks ahead of time that I wouldn't actually make again. ... and, I'm just running behind, so please forgive me! :)


It seems that, whenever I think about Valentine's Day desserts, I always come back to passionfruit. It's not your typically romantic fruit, like red strawberries dipped in chocolate--and frankly, it looks like dinosaur eggs, with its bumpy skin and bizarre, seedy insides. But, I think it's the name that gets to me, with passion, and I like that it's a little bit tart and sweet, like love.


This year for Valentine's Day, I decided to mix passionfruit with another thing that my bf and I are obsessed with: tapioca. I've always joked that you can't date me unless you like tapioca (with tea, that is), and one of the first things that happened years ago in our relationship was that Richard learned to like tapioca milk tea, just to hang with me. That's the sign of a keeper! Then, a few days ago, he showed up with a bag of lemons from his backyard (<3), which I also wanted to incorporate into the dessert.

Hence, passionfruit tapioca and lemon cream tarts! with passionfruit curd filling, which is super luscious and studded with small rounds of soft tapioca pearls, and mascarpone whipped cream, which is flavored with fresh-squeezed lemon juice and zest for an overall brightness to the dessert. It's one of those desserts that make you feel like you're eating pure rays sunshine, even if the weather outside and stormy and cold (as it finally is here in the Bay, after a winter of no rain!).


Even though it's a bit late, here's wishing you all a Valentine's Day filled with sugar and candy and delicious desserts (forget love and romance, all we need is sugar anyways)!


Read on for recipe....

Friday, February 10, 2012

TGIF



Lots of recipe research and development goes on behind the scenes here at the desserts for breakfast kitchen that doesn't make it onto the blog. There are recipes that just aren't good enough, recipes that need a bit more tweaking and finessing, and recipes that were great in concept but horrible in practice, like this one for an apple-cranberry tart creation that flooded and leaked all over my oven floor when baking. Evidence that I suffer my lion's share of baking #FAILs!

More recipe R&D and experimentation is on the agenda for this weekend, so I'm hoping that it goes smoothly without too many major disasters. In the meantime, for your weekend perusal, desserts for breakfast is featured on Saveur's website this week for their "Sites We Love" column! Check out the interview here.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lemon Speculoos Layer Cake with Chocolate Sprinkles



The first time I ever encountered speculoos cookies, at a random potluck years ago, I thought that they were disgusting. I had heard so much about how awesome these cookies were from my in-the-know Dutch friends, but, disappointingly, the homemade versions that someone had left on the table were horribly over seasoned and tasted like a shovelful of dry curry powder and ground ginger being forced down my throat. Blech!

Thankfully, my friends later assured me that speculoos were by no means meant to taste that way and that they were indeed very good, so when Trader Joe's started selling speculoos spread this past Christmastime, I very hesitantly put a jar into my shopping basket to take home to try. Plus, how could I resist something labeled and marketed as "cookie butter"?!


To my delight, my second experience with speculoos unfolded much differently from the first: speculoos spread aka cookie butter, it turns out, is delicious. It's like eating cookies in the form of ultra-smooth peanut butter. Joe Black would undoubtedly have appreciated a spoonful of speculoos over a spoonful of peanut butter if he'd known about it, omgdoyourememberthatmovie. Of course, leave it to the Dutch to come up with something like cookie butter, you know, to accompany the chocolate sprinkles they eat on their toast in the morning. Forget fruit loops, this is how you do desserts for breakfast!

[click on photo for a larger image]

Now, as much as I appreciate spreadable cookies, I decided it wasn't a very good idea for me to have an entire jar of it lying around in my cupboards (you know, dessert bloggers have to try to eat healthily every now and then, too!), so I thought I'd try using it up in a lemon speculoos layer cake, with dark chocolate sprinkles that my friend now studying abroad in the Netherlands brought back for me. The result of the combination of lemon and speculoos is bright and sweet, extra creamy with the addition of cream cheese in the frosting, a bit dense from the whole wheat flour in the cake, and punctuated by tiny nuggets of dark chocolate. It's a simple, no frills cake, perfect for an unassuming afternoon of tea-sipping-- or for breakfast, in what I suppose is befitting of the Dutch spirit (I won't tell, promise!).


For those of you in the US hoping to find speculoos spread at Trader Joe's, my local branch informs me that they are currently out of stock until the end of February. But, the good news is that (so the manager told me) the cookie butter isn't a seasonal item, so you won't have to wait until next Christmas to get your hands on some.


Read on for recipe....

Thursday, February 2, 2012

TGIF


[afternoon pastries at Saint Honore Boulangerie in Portland, Oregon]

Happy Weekending and Superbowl-ad-watching, everyone! As for me, I'll be attempting to sleep off my jet lag from recent travels and to catch up on long put-off emails--and maybe with some baking thrown in here and there. :)
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