Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Double chocolate espresso pound cake with rose-scented cream cheese frosting

After Christmas, New Years, and the December holidays are over, I'm always spending January counting down the days to Valentine's. Sure, there are lots of people who grumble about Valentine's Day, citing that it's become this Hallmark holiday, but I still maintain a very romantic notion about it and most other holidays (ah, romantic in the 'idealization' sense).  After all, life's too short not to be celebrating the happy things in it! and I'm a firm believer that we should celebrate everything we love on Valentine's Day, not just significant others.  (I'm such a holder of this philosophy that I think, the dork I am, that I even wrote an essay arguing such in eighth grade.)  Finally, when it comes down to it, through all of that lovey-dovey hubbub, Valentine's Day is the holiday of desserts, so what's not to love?

This double chocolate espresso pound cake with rose-scented cream cheese frosting is one of the desserts on my Valentine's Day radar this year.  The combination of rose and chocolate is just so classic that I can't ever really escape it, especially ever since watching Like Water for Chocolate.  The key here balancing the light sweet scent of the rose in the cream cheese frosting with the robust dark chocolate espresso pound cake underneath--my friend who tried the cake called it the perfect "breakfast cupcake," given how dense and buttery but not-too-sweet the cake is.  Oh, and why are these called "double chocolate"?  Because they also have a healthy handful of bittersweet chocolate chips thrown in to the mix.  Despite what Hallmark says, really Valentine's Day is about celebrating chocolate.  (Though I don't doubt for a second that there's a Hallmark card out there that says just that!)

So here's the countdown: 19 days left until Valentine's Day, the holiday of desserts!  What are you making to celebrate what you love?

Read on for recipe...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mango and Kiwi Coconut Sticky Rice

After traveling for the better part of the first two weeks of the academic quarter and being away from my home institution for an entire semester prior to that, I've been spending this week just trying to land on my feet and get back into the swing of things.  It most definitely has NOT been easy!

Certain things have made the transition survive-able though, like getting back to my Wednesday night routine: making dessert and watching the latest Top Chef episode on Bravo with my friend Starr.  This week, Starr mentioned that she had sticky rice at home, and I jumped at the opportunity to try this recipe that I'd been eyeing on one of my favorite food blogs, Une-deux Senses, for a while now.  The rice, which I made in a rice cooker rather than on the stove (because I'm Chinese and have no idea how to cook rice that's not risotto/paella without a rice cooker!), turned out beautifully--sticky, al dente, perfectly coconut but not overly sweet--and was the perfect base for sweet slices of tropical fruit on top.  The kiwi was a great addition as well, and, unlike certain people on Top Chef last night, I was smart enough to stop there and not add any foam.  (you Top Chef fans know what I'm talking about!)

Anyways, I still feel as if I'm totally scrambling to catch up with my life right now, but hopefully! soon I'll get back to a proper rhythm for my days.  Otherwise, I'm going to be totally screwed....  ack!

(I barely made any changes at all to the original recipe, so hop on over to --> Une-deux Senses <-- for the instructions to this dessert.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ten days, two cities, tons of food.

I'm back! from the wintry wonderland of the East Coast. It wasn't really a vacation since I was mainly there for conferences, but I loved being able to see new places, rediscover ones I'd already visited before, make new friends, catch up with old ones, and eat new food!

The first stop was Pittsburgh, where I stepped right off the plane into real Winter. Snow! Snow is magical, I've decided.

For the first part of my time in Pittsburgh, I was mostly stuck in and around the conference hotel, and honestly, the food was not that notable: case in point-- at one meal, everything I ate was yellow and served in styrofoam. Gourmet, indeed.  I did make it to Primanti's though.  That was definitely an experience in greasy, late-night, artery-clogging, lick-your-fingers-clean pub food.

After the conference ended, I visited an old friend of mine from undergrad who's currently studying at Carnegie Mellon, where I totally got to geek out with people in the Language Technologies Institute for a few days.

By the way, the building that houses LTI is brand new and way cool and modern.  And the chairs are amazing!  Every floor has different chairs!  I was a wee-bit obsessed.

Then, it was off to catch the last flight out before the impending snowstorm....

...and on to New York!  Ah, mecca of good eats, how I've missed you!

Of course, the minute I dropped off my bags, I hopped on the train to the one restaurant that I've been hearing so, so much about: Momofuku Noodle Bar.

Ah man, was it good!  I really, really liked the steamed buns, though I have to admit that I am partial to them to begin with because I adore the original Taiwan versions.  But Momofuku's were truly delicious, with the light, airy steamed bun wrapping around ultra-tender meat, finished off with horseradish mayo and a squeeze of Sriracha from the bottle that the barman nonchalantly slid towards me.  The open kitchen layout was fun, since I could watch the line of cooks calmly and meticulously create each plate of food.  And it was awesome how the chalkboards on the walls listed the farms from which all of the ingredients were sourced.  The one thing I wasn't actually that crazy about at the noodle bar was the ramen itself, but I think that's because I just didn't like the tanginess of the XO broth--all of the elements inside the bowl were great, and judging from what the guy next to me was eating, the regular broth looks much better.  What I love most about traveling and trying new food is seeing all of the combinations of flavors and ingredients and tastes that I would have never thought of myself, and Momofuku was particularly exciting because of the wacky combinations they have that seem to just miraculously work together.

After stumbling out in blissful happiness from the noodle bar, I couldn't resist swinging by Momofuku Milk Bar.  After all, it *was* right around the corner!  I'd had the apple pie cake truffles with lunch at the noodle bar, and those were a delicious mix of apple cake and cinnamony apple chunks coated in a thin layer of white chocolate and rolled in a crumbly pie-like topping. (nom)  Since I was so full already, I mainly wanted to try the famous cereal milk soft serve, just to see what all the buzz is about.  Honestly, though, I didn't particularly care for it.  The soft serve did taste like cereal milk, which is great and all, but I don't really like milk in my cereal to begin with, so I wasn't so excited about the flavor in the end.

The next few days in the city were spent alternating between conference-attending and restaurant-hopping!

I was fortunate enough to be staying just around the corner from City Bakery, so I stopped by on my way into the conference one day.  Pretzel croissants!  Such a New York thing, but oh so good.  They're chewy pretzel wrapped in ultra-flakey croissant dough and topped with just the perfect amount of salt.  They went perfectly with the thick City Bakery dark hot chocolate, with a gigantic homemade marshmallow.  I hadn't seen hot chocolate that thick since Italy!  It was so thick that I kept adding hot water to it throughout the day at the conference with absolutely no detriment to the actual taste of the drink itself. = Perfect conference food.  :-)

I can't go through this recap of eating around NYC without especially thanking two friends, Amy and Maryam, who made it their mission to make sure that I was well-fed during my time in the city.  Ah, we ate so much together, from s'mac (thanks to Wilde in the Kitchen for suggesting it!), where we lunched on buffalo chicken mac'n'cheese, to a full-on feast in the one block of NYC's k-town.

For brunch one day, they insisted that we *must* go to Shopsins, this tiny two-table stand with a menu that you need a magnifying glass and hours to properly decode and process.  The main reason we had to go?  Mac'n'cheese pancakes.  Yes.  *Of course* I had to try the mac'n'cheese pancakes!  I know that they may sound weird, but trust me--they are delicious, especially when dipped in the special Shopsins hot sauce and maple syrup.  The mini donuts were awesomely good, too: airy yet doughy, straight out of the fryer, and tossed in cinnamon sugar.  The huge bowl of them might look intimidating, but we polished them off with no problems at all!

After the conference ended, the remainder of my days in New York were spent for the most part bakery-hopping: bagels from Absolute Bagels, milk bread and macarons and chocolate chip madeleines from Silver Moon Bakery, and raspberry bomboloni and amazing chocolate chip walnut cookies (that are more like scones!) at Levain Bakery.  (Thanks to all of you who suggested Levain Bakery! soooo glad I went.)  It was my first time having bomboloni, but after having Levain Bakery's version, I honestly don't think regular ol' filled donuts will ever be up to par again.

Somehow, I was able to make room in my stomach for a quick lunch at Shake Shack (the custard is super creamy!) and a pit stop at Grom gelato (get the crema di Grom), too.

Anyways, I have to say that despite all of the good eats and fun, it's great to finally be back (in a land with fresh salad and in-season fruits and vegetables!).  After working through Christmas to prepare for this trip, I'm so ready for life to just go back to normal again.  Or, rather, back to as normal as things get.  :-)

Thanks again to all who suggested places to eat in Pittsburgh and New York.  I really wish there'd been time to try all of them!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Green Apple Jasmine Sorbet Sandwiches with Chocolate Snaps

Thank you to everyone who wrote in on the last post with your recommendations for New York and Pittsburgh eats.  I've had the chance to visit quite a few of the places y'alls recommended, and they've definitely been delicious!

I'm still on my business trip, and though I've met wonderful new people and learned so many things so far--and seen so much snow!, I'm utterly exhausted already.  Giving three presentations/talks on three different subjects in the space of four days?  Not easy, and I'm totally talked out!  There are seriously no more words left in me.  So I hope you don't mind if I just show you pictures of what I have waiting in my freezer at home for me.  And I can't wait to get back to it: green apple jasmine sorbet with chocolate snaps = sorbet sandwiches!  I made these before leaving on my trip, and they're going to be the perfect post-conferences detox dessert.  Light, bright, and fresh from the tart green apple and fragrant sweet jasmine tea, combined with just the perfect amount of earthy chocolate, will be exactly what I need after days of traveling airports and eating out.  And yes, I just said "detox dessert."  Because that's how we do it in the dessertsforbreakfast household.

P.S. Watching it snow outside and being outside *in* the snow is like living in a snow globe!  Magical!

Read on for recipe....

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The easiest chocolate chip cookies on earth.

Alright, readers, I need your recommendations! I'm headed off on a business trip (*ahem*, in academia, that means giving talks at conferences) to Pittsburgh and New York City for the next while, and there's a very important question on my mind:

Where should I eat?

Please tell me what your favorite eateries in Pittsburgh and NYC are in the comments below!

It just so happens that I'll be in Pittsburgh at the same time as one of my good friends from college, Nate, who's located there now, has his birthday.  When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he said that he wanted a cookie recipe, and when I asked him what kind of cookie recipe he wanted, this is the reply I got: "I want something dead simple and quick. My usual chocolate chip cookie recipe takes more effort than I'm willing to put in."  My initial reaction to this was something along the lines of "Wait, wait, WHAAAAA?!  How can it *get* any simpler than chocolate chip cookies?!?"  But then I got to work and arrived at this recipe: the simplest chocolate chip cookie known to man and yet, so incredibly flavorful, perfectly chewy and toothy in the center, with just the slightest hint of crunch on the outer rim.  The first batch of these that I pulled out of the oven disappeared within an hour.

Here's how dead-simple these babies are.  There are only seven ingredients: butter, vanilla, salt, brown sugar, eggs, flour, and chocolate chips.  (The secret to the extra kick of flavor is letting the butter brown while melting it.)   All that's required is one pot, one half-cup measuring cup, and one half-teaspoon measuring spoon.  (Read: super simple clean-up).  There's no annoying creaming of room-temperature butter with sugar-- just melt the butter in the pot and then stir everything in.  This recipe makes six to eight large sized cookies that all fit on one baking sheet, meaning no waiting around for numerous batches, and all you have to do is plop the dough down with a spoon (no shaping of cookies required!) and they will spread themselves out to the perfect round shape.  I dare to you try to make a chocolate chip cookie recipe that tastes better and is simpler to make than this!

One final thing: every year at one of the conferences I'm attending, the American Dialect Society votes on Words of the Year.  This year, several of us foodie linguists have launched a campaign for "nom" to be voted a Word of the Year because we believe that it's finally time this word be recognized!  The nomination process just took place today, and "nom" is a candidate in the running for Word of the Year: Most Useful Word.  The vote is tomorrow (Friday), so all of you who are on twitter and believe in the power of "nom," please retweet this message:

I'm not sure if they'll count virtual votes, but it will at least send the message that "nom" is alive and thriving!  If you're interested in what other words have been nominated for 2010, the list should go up here sometime soon.

Go "nom"!  (which, incidentally, is the perfect word for describing these cookies...)

Read on for the recipe...