Friday, October 29, 2010

Sweet Potato and Squid Ink Gnocchi, and Happy Halloweekend!

Just popping in quickly for a sneak peak of one of the items on my Halloween menu this year: sweet potato and squid ink gnocchi.  Isn't the orange-and-black combination perfect for Halloween?

Both my roommate and I have been so busy that we decided to forgo our traditional all-out Halloween party for a more intimate and casual sit-down dinner with close friends.  The menu's all planned, and I'm so looking forward to some down time to be in the kitchen, relax, and enjoy a leisurely, delicious meal with wonderful people.

What are your Halloween plans this year?

Read on for recipe....

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cognac-Caramel, Pecan, and Pear Pudding Cake, oh--and Parties.

A few weeks ago, I finally met--in person, in real life!--my adopt-a-blogger mentor, Kristen, of Dine and Dish.  And I have to say, that, in meeting Kristen, I think I've met one of the nicest and sweetest people on the face of this earth.  Seriously.

Kristen was here in the Bay Area as part of the massive convergence of food bloggers for the San Francisco BlogHer Food 2010 conference.  (I kept having a mental image of that scene in Little House on the Prairie where locusts descend upon the homestead--not that I'm comparing food bloggers to locusts!  It was just that descent in droves that it reminded me of.)  She took pity on the fact that I am a poor grad student who couldn't afford the time or money to go to the conference and managed to invite me to the parties that were going on concurrently instead, so that I could still participate in the hectic and amazing atmosphere of food-bloggery!  (also, helloooo, parties.)

In short, it was all so. much. fun.  Surprisingly so, I barely *ate* anything at either of the two parties I went to--instead, I was busy talking to and learning about and meeting all of these new people who are just as obsessed with food as I am.  I started blogging before I followed or read any food blogs (consequently, I still don't know very many of you out there), so it was really eye-opening to see how many blogs and how many types of blogs there are.  I don't think it's productive to list everyone I talked to or met here (since most of you probably don't remember me. -.-), but let me just say that, judging from the sample that I did meet, food bloggers are a wonderful breed and, like Kristen, some of the nicest and most hilarious people I've ever known.

Case in point: (L to R) Me, Kristen (Dine and Dish), and Kathy (Panini Happy)
Then, at one the parties, the most crazy and ridiculous thing happened.  I say "crazy" and "ridiculous" because this stuff never happens to me.  As I was standing around, chatting with some of my fellow Bay Area food bloggers, Irvin (aka: Mr. JackHonky) nudged me and exclaimed, "Isn't that your business card they're holding?!" Then in my extreme confusion, I heard my blog name called out from the front of the room.  Then, I was walking up to the front, people were telling me my name had been drawn for something, ushering me over towards the front door.  (Heck, for all I could have known, I was being kicked out of the party!)  Anyways, it turned out that I was walking out the door that night with a brand new, cobalt-blue, gawh-geous Le Creuset set.  Now, I call this crazy and ridiculous because (1) my once-impoverished graduate student kitchen now has cookware! Yay!, and (2) I never win anything!  I think the last thing I've ever won was a stuffed dog on Valentine's Day in fifth grade (yes, I remember that moment vividly as well).  I credit Kristen, though--the girl has amazing luck!  She walked flew home with a brand new Kitchenaid mixer, so I think she somehow managed to rub some of her luck off on me.  :-)

Anyways, so here I am, with cookware that actually properly conducts and retains heat (hallelujah!), amongst which are these adorable mini cocottes that I'd been lusting after every time I walked into Sur la Table.  And for some reason, I knew that the first thing I wanted to make in them had to involve mini forelle pears.  Yeah, don't ask me why--my mind just works in mysterious, obsessive ways like that.  So here it is, the maiden voyage of these awesome little bakers: cognac-caramel, pecan, and pear pudding cakes.

Eating these pudding cakes, I seriously felt as if, in the infamous words of Paula Deen, I was gonna be arrested.  Allow me to demonstrate by listing some of the ingredients packed into this little cake:
cognac, caramel, cinnamon, brown butter, toasted pecans, brown sugar, spice-poached pears
Need I honestly say more?!  These warm-from-the-oven cakes start with an incredibly aromatic, nutty, and textured cake on top, thanks to the toasted and ground pecans, and progresses through the vanilla-spiced fruity center of a poached pear, down through a layer of dense, moist, and incredibly earthy and rustic brown butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon pudding cake, and finally hits the bottom with a thin layer of aromatically boozy, dark, and perfectly salty-sweet caramel sauce soaking its way from the bottom of the cake upwards.  I took great pains to lick every last bit of the mini cocotte and my spoon at the end of this breakfast dessert.

Before I go and dig in to another one of these cakes (someone--please stop me! come eat them so that I won't!), I want to thank the hosts of the two wonderful food blogger parties I went to.  Thank you to Jane, Helene, Stefania, and Kristen (for La Petite Soiree), and thank you to Jaden, Elise, and Ree (for the BlogHer Food closing party)!  You gals sure to know how to throw parties.  :-)  And lastly (but definitely not least), a huge thank you and shout-out to the best adopt-a-blogger mentor, like, ever-- Kristen, whom I am so glad I could finally meet in person!  *waves 'hi' from across the country*  Wish you were here to share these caramel pear pudding cakes with me!

Read on for recipe....

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lavender, Honey, Pomegranate Panna Cotta + a simple fall menu (An Addendum)

While this dessert wasn't part of my lavender-cardamom extravaganza with Meeta of What's for Lunch, Honey?, panna cotta came up in our original discussion of lavender-inspired desserts, and I just couldn't get the idea out of my head.  I was especially struck by the combination of lavender and pomegranate, which, for some reason, my flavor instincts kept telling me would make for a wonderful pairing.  So here it is: lavender-honey panna cotta with pomegranate jelly and fresh pomegranate seeds.

There's something about the rustic floral scent of the lavender that matches up so well with the earthy sweetness of the pomegranate, especially when enhanced by the delicately complex flavor of wildflower honey.  And cream.  Nothing makes me happier than finding someone else who appreciates the virtues of good ol' proper heavy cream.  Wait--I take that back.  If you top it all off with generous mounds of fresh pomegranate seeds, bursting with juices and flavor and color--then, then I'll truly be in heaven.

A few days ago, I had a couple friends over for a simple soup+salad+sandwich dinner just to celebrate fall and some of the progress we've been making at work.  I've been really trying to learn how to do simple food for dinner guests (as opposed to some of my, er, more ambitious menus) and to just let the flavors and ingredients of the season really speak for themselves.  We had the lavender duo from this post for dessert, but I think these panna cottas would have fit the theme of simple just as well, too, if not better.

a Simple Soup, Salad, and Sandwich Fall Menu

Hierloom tomato soup
hierloom tomato, chili pepper flakes, caramelized onion jus, crรจme fraiche, fresh basil

Spicy and crunchy salad
wild arugula, French radish, red carrots, Dijon honey mustard balsamic vinaigrette

Gruyere and caramelized onion grilled cheese
caramelized onions, cave-aged gruyere, sourdough rye bread

Lavender, honey, and pomegranate panna cotta
lavender and honey panna cotta, pomegranate jelly, fresh pomegranate seeds

This weekend is going to be a rainy one for us, but I'm looking forward to this weather change, finally! Time to snuggle up at home with work and drink hot chocolate--preferably with heaps of freshly whipped cream.

Have a wonderful weekend, all!

Read on for recipe....

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's Lavender for Lunch, Honey! or, A Lavender-Cardamom Dessert Duo

[A sister post by Meeta on What's for Lunch, Honey?: Lavender Cardamom Flan de la Casa]

Now, those of you who know Meeta and her What's for Lunch, Honey? blog raise your hands.  Those of you who don't--run hurry go check it out right now before reading on because it is an amazing blog, stuffed full of gorgeous photos, delectable-sounding recipes, and delightfully long and well-written (and well-researched!) content.  (She also has a beautiful photography portfolio full of eye-candy!)

Meeta and I actually "met" virtually via Hilda of Saffron and Blueberry and the wonderful time-waster social networking tool Twitter, and we are constantly lamenting the fact that we live half of a world apart from each other--Meeta in Germany and me on the West Coast of the States.  As I work through half of the night, I get tortured by the descriptions of Meeta's baking-in-progress on the other side of the world.  Remind me again why we haven't been able to invent a teleportation machine yet?!

A few weeks ago, Meeta tweeted about these amazing-sounding lavender sugar cookies she was making, and if there's one ingredient that I absolutely adore, it's lavender.  (My roommate asserts that it's my signature ingredient since she's never seen anyone else use more lavender in baking than I do.)  Long story short, Meeta and I ended up in this wonderful tweet-conversation (tw-onversation?) about all of the dessert ideas we could come up with involving lavender, volleying names of desserts back and forth across an ocean and a continent.  So many delicious ideas came out of that discussion that we decided to do sister posts on our blogs around the combination of lavender and cardamom--a sort of 21st century virtual dessert party!

So here it is-- the dessert duo that I would make Meeta if she could come visit me in California right now: a lavender-honey dark chocolate tart with a cardamom-lemon crust and lavender-honey ice cream with cardamom-almond tuiles.  Yes, I know, the names of the desserts are quite a mouthful to say, but trust me, they're quite a mouthful of nom-iness to eat, too!  :-)  Plus, how could I not incorporate honey into these desserts, given the name of Meeta's blog?  I just couldn't resist!

When making dessert duos or trios, I'm all about considering balance.  And I really loved how this pair of desserts turned out.  The spice of the cardamom and the floral scent of the lavender add a layer of interest to the tart, ice cream, and tuiles.  And the bitter, deep dark chocolate of the tart goes so perfectly with the sweetness of the honey-flavored ice cream.  You have the crunch of the tuiles against the smooth ice cream and the flakiness of the tart crust against the dense chocolate ganache as textural contrasts, and the lemons in the tart and almonds in the tuiles add a color of brightness and nuttiness to the overall dessert.  Finally--and this is my favorite part--a generous sprinkling of coarse lavender sea salt over the dark chocolate tart will make your tastebuds so, so unbelievably happy, I promise you.

Ah, now, before I go, I have to announce the winner of the (in part) CSN-sponsored Breast Cancer Awareness Month giveaway!  Congratulations, Tulle and Torts! An email is on its way to you, but if you see this first, send me one: s{at}dessertsforbreakfast{dot}com.

Thank you all for entering and helping to spread the word about Breast Cancer Awareness!  I had so much mouth-watering fun reading about your favorite pie flavors, of which strawberry rhubarb was a popular candidate!

Make sure to check out Meeta's sister-post to this one, for an absolutely divine lavender cardamom flan de la casa!  If you want to join in on the trans-Atlantic dessert conversation on Twitter, you can follow her @MeetaWFLH and me @shihbakes.  One day, Meeta, I'll come visit you in Germany!

Read on for recipes....

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Midweek Macarons: Cinnamon Apple Macarons with Apple Butter Buttercream and Tart Green Apples

This season, I've been a tad bit obsessed with apples. (and pears.)  Trust me: I've been resisting the strong urge to have every post on this blog be about apples.  I don't know--does anyone else go through phases like this with fruit and ingredient obsessions?  Or am I just particularly weird?

These macarons are my love affair with apples encapsulated in a tiny two-bite form.  It's as if you take everything amazing about an apple and squeeze and compress it--with great, magical pressure--into a single macaron.  The shells are cinnamon-spiced and sweet, brittle on the outside with just enough chewy bite on the inside.  The buttercream is packed with the essence of apple flavor from the intense homemade apple butter mixed in--an apple butter that sat stewing and bubbling on the stove over low heat for two hours, caramelizing with the brown sugar and soaking up clove and cinnamon fragrances.  And, at the heart of the macaron: an extra, extra tart crunch from chunks of crisp, fresh green apples lightly tossed in sour lemon juice and woodsy ground cinnamon.  I barely shared any of these with anyone else, being so busy gobbling them up myself.

Have you entered the Breast Cancer Awareness giveaway yet?  You have until this Sunday!

Also, a special shout-out to desserts for breakfast readers Laura Lee and Zizikalandjai. They let it slip in previous comments that their birthdays are coming up this weekend, so consider these macarons my little birthday treat to you two. :-)

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

[Want more Midweek Macarons? --> Strawberry + Red wine + Mascarpone Cream]

Read on for recipe...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Pink Pie and Giveaway

I am so excited about today's post because desserts for breakfast is teaming up with CSN stores (purveyors of coffee tables, cookware, and oh-so-much-more) for an amazing cause: breast cancer awareness.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and, as I've mentioned on this blog before, it's a cause that's very near to me because close family members and friends of mine have had to fight and survive breast cancer.  So please.  Be aware.  Get tested.  Spread the word.

In commemoration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, CSN stores and have kindly agreed to give away to one awesomely lucky winner an Emile Henry "Bake for the Cause" 9-inch pink pie plate (Emile Henry donates 10% of the sale of each pie dish to breast cancer research!).  I myself am a huge (read: HUGE) fan of the Emile Henry pie plates (I own four of them!), so I'm uber-excited for one of you to receive one, too, and especially a pink, breast-cancer-research-benefiting one.  To sweeten the pot pie even further, my breast-cancer-surviving relative and I will together donate $50.00 to the American Cancer Society for breast cancer research in the winner's name!

Now, once you have the pie plate, you can make this pink pie I whipped up for the occasion, inspired by a mash-up of my favorite pie (lemon meringue) and one of my favorite pink drinks (strawberry lemonade--trust me, I'm addicted to the stuff): strawberry lemonade meringue pie.  Inside the pie is a mix of the classic, tart lemon curd filling and a sweeter strawberry-lemon curd filling, made from the super sweet late season strawberries that are still floating about the farmers' markets right now.  The combination of lemon and strawberry lends a particularly fun twist to the classic lemon meringue pie.  (And, of course, don't forget the massive amounts of cloud-like meringue on top--my favorite part of this pie!)

This giveaway is now closed. Thanks for participating, and please check back soon for the announcement of the winner!  To enter this giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment with your name, a way for me to get in touch with you (anonymous entries will be disqualified), and the answer to this question:
What is your favorite pie?
I'll also give you an extra entry in the drawing if you tweet about this post, but in your tweet, you must mention me (@shihbakes) and include a link to this giveaway ( so that I can track all of your entries!  You have until 23:59 PST, Sunday, October 17th, 2010 to enter.  I'll pick the winner at random that night and make the announcement in next week's post, so be sure to check back then!  This contest is open in the U.S. and Canada only. (My apologies, international readers.) The pie plate portion of this giveaway is brought to you by the CSN stores and

Good luck on the giveaway, and remember to spread the word about Breast Cancer Awareness!

Read on for recipe...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Teatime: Pear Buckwheat Cake with Poached Pears

Thank you all so much for your blorgthday/blogiversary wishes last week!  I've had such fun reading about all the little things in life that put a smile on everyone's face--thanks for sharing!  The winner of the giveaway is announced at the bottom of this post before the jump to the recipe.

The weather around here has finally gotten the memo that it should be autumn, and we've been blessed with mornings of cloudy and moody skies, which, as a SF Bay Area native, I absolutely adore.  (Trust me, fog is awesome.)  And finally, finally, we're starting to see the first hints of fall in the farmers' markets too, with apples and pears and pomegranates (though I can't complain about the sweet, late-season berries that are still floating around)!  Ah, love.  Autumn and spring have always been my favorite seasons--times of transition when you can basically have it all, unlike the drastic hots and colds of summer and winter.

Pears have always been one of the fruits I look forward to the most when autumn rolls around.  For some reason, they remind me of my grandfather, though I can't for the life of me pinpoint any specific memory from which this association stems.  I think it's because he always cut sweet, ripe, and soft pears for me to eat, served on an old rectangular plastic microwave-oven plate, and, when I was old enough to wield a knife, was the first one to teach me how to cut pears, slicing the sides and meat off of the core.  (Incidentally, my grandfather was the first one to teach me how to cook--simple things, like the perfect fried egg, different varieties of fried rice, or sweet rice with dried pork.)

The idea for this pear buckwheat cake with tea-poached pears has been floating around in my mind for a while now, but I kept wanting to wait until the weather had just enough crispness to it to enjoy this cake with a steaming cup of black tea in hand, thinking back on the endless mug of oolong tea that my grandfather never failed to have with him.  This cake is inspired by a recipe of David Lebovitz's for buckwheat cake with poached cider apples, though it's been very heavily modified by me.  For a buckwheat cake (that's completely gluten free, too!), it's surprisingly delicate and airy, thanks to the whipped egg whites.  It's also surprisingly moist, from the homemade pear sauce that's added in, which balances out the nuttiness and the texture of the almonds and buckwheat.  The cinnamon and brown sugar lend the cake a perfect hint of spice, and I wouldn't have it without a side of sweet black tea-poached pears that are tender enough to cut through with a fork and work perfectly with the earthy buckwheat cake.  This cake would probably also go really nicely with a dollop of lightly-sweetened whipped cream and macerated strawberries, if you're lucky to be somewhere that still has fresh berries in the markets.  Ah--and a cup of tea on the side.  Don't forget that one.

I should also take a moment to thank my friend, Middy, for kindly allowing me to borrow a few teacups and saucers from her amazing collection to photograph.  When Middy got married this past summer (I made the cake!), she had these tea party bridal showers for which people brought her teacups and saucers from all walks of life.  Ever since then, I've been hankering for an excuse to photograph some of her collection and finally was able to come up with a suitable reason.  :-)  Thanks, Middy!

Now, onto the giveaway winner-- congratulations, Eve!  An email is on its way to you.

Thanks to all for participating.  Make sure to keep your eye out on the blog--there's more fun to come, I promise!

Read on for recipe...