Friday, May 25, 2012

TGIF: summer memories, in film

When I went to Yosemite last year, I took along a disposable waterproof camera in addition to the dSLR. Since my dSLR isn't weatherproofed, I didn't want to ruin it when we climbed too close to the intense waterfall that was thundering about us last year due to heavy rains/snows. But, when we got home, I promptly forgot all about the disposable and didn't get the pictures developed until now--a year later!

I used to shoot a bit of film when I was a kid with an old half-frame camera that my dad gave me, but I'm very much a photographer who came of age in the digital medium, so it's been slow-going getting myself back into the analog formats. Of course, a disposable camera won't give you the best quality photos, but it is kind of fun to shoot willy-nilly, trusting only your instincts and not knowing how things will turn out until you retrieve the prints from the developer. The above photo of the trees is my favorite, but I couldn't resist also sharing some pictures of rainbows and misty waterfalls. :)

Back to recipes next week. This week was all about catching my breath after we finally sent the first issue of sated to the printer! Happy Weekend, all!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Almond and Blackberry Cake, with a hint of chocolate

To all of the women out there: Happy belated Mothers' Day! Not just to my mom but to every one of you who has taken care of me, nurtured me, supported me, given me secret family apple pie recipes and jars of unparalleled delicious spaghetti sauce, taught me patience and diligence and the power of hard work, believed in me even when I do not, pushed me (even in kindergarten) to dream big, given me bear hugs when I have fevers, answered my incessant and possibly idiotic questions, tolerated my extreme and annoying tenacity, provided hope when everything seemed to be falling apart, defended me against unfair injustices in the world (despite the fact that the world is unfair), shared adventures and moments that become my favorite memories, and the million other things that make me, me: to you all, a huge and resounding and all-too-well-deserved thank you.

Here's the Mothers' Day dessert that my family shared this past weekend. Since it's a holiday, a cake was of course in order, but I wanted to make it simple, not-overly-rich or sweet--just the way my mom prefers it (she's constantly trying to bake cookies without sugar or butter or eggs, sometimes resulting hilariously but endearingly in, er..., crackers with chocolate chips), but I still wanted to make it special. So I turned to David Lebovitz/Chez Panisse's almond cake. It's a cake recipe that I've played with almost every which way you can imagine--as cupcakes with raspberries inside, as pound cakes with chocolate ganache (which I made for my dissertation proposal defense to butter up (ha!) my committee), as plain bundt cakes. While this recipe is so, so versatile and delicious no matter how you slice it, I could never exactly settle on a particular recipe use that I really truly loved enough to post.... until now. Enter in the perfectly dramatic yet all so simple almond and blackberry cake with a hint of chocolate.

[click on photo below for a larger image]

The almond cake, made of almond paste, is so fluffy and moist--the texture is just the right mix of dense and yielding, with a wonderful golden-brown crust. On top, the berries are macerated in sugar and meyer lemon juice, with a bit of orange blossom water, but are still tart enough against the intense almond flavor of the cake. Tying it all together--and my favorite touch to this recipe--is the generous sprinkle of bittersweet chocolate curls on top. This hint of chocolate, in the ultra-airy form of small curls, lends just the right amount of depth and interest to the whole cake--berries, almonds, and all. I actually think that chocolate isn't used enough as an accent flavor. Too often we just see wholly chocolate recipes where chocolate is the main component, but it has so much potential as a complement to other flavors! (an episode of the Japanese anime Yakitate!!Japan comes to mind whenever I think about chocolate this way, where one of the main characters makes a pastry studded with fresh fruit. As a final, knock-out, seal-the-victory touch, he outlines the fresh fruit with chocolate to add depth and to make the fruit shine even more. For whatever reason, that scene sticks with me so profoundly. btw, I'm not a big anime watcher, but this was a series about bread and pastry arts, which is why it's one of the very few anime series I've ever seen!)

Speaking of chocolate, I am incredibly pleased to announce that pre-orders for sated are now live, so click here to pre-order your copy today! For this first release, we're using a print-on-demand printer, so I encourage you to pre-order a copy in order to get it right when it's released rather than having to wait for the second printing. I cannot believe that it's actually happening, that the magazine, after all these months of planning and work, is actually coming out! Also, stay tuned to the sated website, because previews of the magazine will be up very shortly, so you'll get a first glimpse of what's inside issue number one: the dark chocolate issue. Yipee! (for those who have asked: yes, there is an international shipping option.)

Read on for recipe....

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Strawberry Passionfruit Tart

This weekend was packed with so many birthdays and trying to squeeze in developing, baking, and eating two birthday desserts between birthday dinners and work and friends visiting from afar and gearing up for the imminent sated launch! -- Clearly everyone and their mothers are born in May, so if you're a May baby: Happy Birthday!

Anyways, though I didn't manage to get very many photos of this dessert, I have to say that this strawberry passionfruit tart is one of my favorite developments recently. Richard, the spoiled bf who knows to request tarts and not cupcakes for his birthdays, is a mad-lover of strawberries, so for years now, I've tried my hand at various ways to incorporate strawberries into his birthday desserts: strawberry cheesecake ice cream, strawberry rosemary tarts, actual strawberry cheesecake, strawberry cream puffs. But then I realized that he really wants just one thing: the strawberries--cut the whole 'dessert' crap. So this year, I attempted to make the most unadulterated strawberry dessert I could, with straight-up strawberries (and just strawberries!) filling a meyer lemon-scented crust and brushed with tart passionfruit jelly, since passionfruit is one of Richard's other fruit obsessions. And success! basically, a dessert vehicle for delivering strawberries to the mouth. :)

For this tart, make sure to look for small, ultra-sweet strawberries. Since the strawberries are the main focus of this dessert, it's paramount that they are delicious specimens. The bigger ones this time of year don't pack nearly as much flavor. Small strawberries are also easier to fit into the tart shell, and if they're small enough, you can (if, like me, you're short on time) skip the step of hulling the inner white of the strawberries out.

Don't forget to enter for a chance to win a copy of sated magazine when it comes out, if you haven't already! Pre-orders should be starting sometime in the next week or so, so stay tuned!

Read on for recipe....

Friday, May 4, 2012

TGIF: Italy memories to hold in my hand

Too often I find myself completely forgetting about moments and travels and memories because the photos are all buried away in some nondescript folder in some other nondescript folder on my external back-up hard drive.  I often wish for the days where we still printed out our photos all the time--it's so much easier to just pull down a photo album from my bookshelf while I'm randomly walking by and flip through old times than to plug in my hard drive and go searching through folders to find photos and their respective catalogs to browse. After my recent Italy trip, I decided that I didn't want to have everything hidden away, encrypted onto some spinning disc anymore. Instead, I wanted to be able to hold the memories of our trip in my hands whenever I wanted to and slowly browse, flipping the pages over one by one, to relive the sights we saw and the experiences we had. So I made a book from the photographs that I and my travel companions made (with everything from my big camera to our phones). And I can't tell you how wonderful it is to have this printed travelogue (beautifully printed by Blurb) in my hands. The whole aesthetic experience of pages, paper, hardbound covers, ink on a page, matte gloss over the photos--I wish we had more of this in our all-too-digital lives these days, which is why sated magazine is going to be a print publication.

But, since I can't have all of you over for a cup of tea and an Italy book-viewing experience, here are some of my favorite spreads in the book, for digital viewing. In addition to part of the photography (there are also photographs in here from my friends who were in Italy with me), I also designed the whole thing from scratch, which was quite the undertaking for a non-designer like myself, but I'm quite excited by and proud of the results!

[click on photo below to enter a full-screen view]

much, much more after the jump....

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Announcing sated magazine! and Earl Grey Dark Chocolate Cupcakes and a giveaway!

Grab a cupcake, have it ready, because today is a celebration of a BIG announcement. Okay, are you ready? Because here we go......!

May I proudly announce a project that has been nearly a year in the making....

drum roll please.......

sated magazine!

I am so, so excited to announce, jointly with the wonderful Anita Chu of Dessert First, a new gastronomy publication, sated magazine.

This is the project that I have been hinting at and alluding to all over the place for the past few months on the blog and via twitter/instagram. It's what has taken up all of my life and energy between dissertation-work spurts. There is so much to tell you all about sated that I don't even know where to start, even though I've been dying to reveal the secret for months and months now!

What is sated?
Sated is a quarterly print publication that is dedicated to exploring and appreciating a single food subject at a time in great depth, through a combination of recipes, art, photography, stories, and articles. For me, it is the ultimate culmination of our love, fascination, geeky-ness, and complete obsession with food: where it comes from, its beauty, its stories, the people and places involved.

Where did sated come from?
Many, many months ago now, Anita and I were discussing--over dessert, naturally!--our inspirations and aspirations and frustrations, and in a combination of all these things, we discovered that we had shared dreams and visions about what we want and hope to do in the food world. That's when the concept for sated was born: it was to be our collective dreams about food poured into magazine form. Since then, we've worked so many hours bringing together this first issue (and planning the next ones!), though it wasn't until very, very recently when I could finally believe that this was all happening, that sated was actually going to launch for all to see. :D!

The first, inaugural issue of sated is coming in May and is dedicated to all things dark chocolate. We'll be releasing teasers and revealing more details of the issue in the coming weeks leading up to its launch, but suffice it to say that we've got it all--dark chocolate recipes of your dreams, a behind-the-scenes look into chocolate-making, articles and how-tos about chocolate, and lots and lots and lots of chocolate imagery. Though largely produced by Anita and myself, we have also had a great starting team of contributors working with us, including but not limited to the talented Kamran of the sophisticated gourmet and the ever-fascinating Dan Jurafsky of language of food. Anyways, I can't reveal too much now, but to stay up-to-date on all of the news leading up to the big launch in May, you can follow the sated magazine blog, the official satedmag twitter feed, and sign up for our mailing list!

Also, to celebrate the big reveal of sated, Anita and I are giving away to two copies of the premier issue of the magazine to readers of our blogs, since without all y'alls continued and enthusiastic support, none of this could ever be happening! There are many chances for you to enter the giveaway:
1. Leave a comment on this post for one entry.
2. Leave a comment on Anita's post for one entry.
3. Follow sated on Twitter and tweet about it (mention @satedmag) for one entry (you do not need to post a comment here; we'll track it through Twitter).
4. Like sated on Facebook and leave a comment on the page for one entry (you do not need to post a separate comment here).
5. Sign up to be on sated's mailing list for one entry (you do not need to post a separate comment here).
That's five chances to win! This giveaway will run on our blogs until 11:59 PM PST on May 18, at which point we'll choose two lucky winners at random to receive a copy of the very first issue of sated magazine! :D! (<- can you tell that I am very, very excited?)

[click on photo for a larger image]

To celebrate, here is my latest dark chocolate obsession: earl grey + dark chocolate. Something about the strong fragrance of the bergamot-scented black tea makes it a robust pairing against the deep, dark roast of dark chocolate. In these earl grey dark chocolate cupcakes, I infused a combination of cream and condensed milk (for some extra sweetness) with earl grey and used it for a whipped ganache frosting that's a bit firm but melts into your mouth as you eat it, just as chocolate should. Topped with a dash of seasalt to enhance the flavors within, these cupcakes are a richly indulgent shot of chocolate. You know, to tie you over until sated is released!

Read on for recipe....