I've moved! I've been cooking, more than ever, but with setting up a new bakery business I've completely neglected this blog.

Come join me over at bakerybites.wordpress.com. I'll be baking one treat per week for your enjoyment.



Truffles and a Crazy Week Ahead

A tub of honey ganache has been threatening me along with the vast quantities of other ingredients and leftovers from the Thanksgiving weekend. I overcompensated for the number of guests expected for the meal by at least two-fold. Now I'm slowly working my way through the odd bits stacked in uncoordinated tupperware, taking up fridge space. I hate to waste! Even the least bit of food :)

This week also happens to be the last formal week of classes for the semester and admissions week madness at work. I think a few truffles will help remedy the chaos.

Cocoa powder with cinnamon and cardamom
Maccha powder

Ground praline walnuts


Charsiu Bao

Straight from childhood - but better because they're steamy hot and lighter on the meat filling. I used a combination of chicken and chinese bbq pork (charsiu) due to what was on hand. Good for freezing and re-steaming ~ 10 min. I forgot to put a little paper square under each bun so they stuck right to the bamboo rack. oh well.


Foodie food cart panel: Sf hearts the cart

THIS is what a food vending operation should look like.

(Guatemalan taco vendor - braised vs. grilled meats keep the meat moist and flavorful over longer periods of time)

Apparently we (the US, CA, SF, etc.) have rules against exposed food preparation. All forms of outdoor vending must be enclosed from potential contaminants (ie: bird poop, dirt, sneezes (H1N1 be gone) and thus the well-known taco truck was fabricated to meet all of these undesired desires. The problem is you see, you can't actually SEE your food until a faceless hand thrusts the taco (or bacon-wrapped hot dog) through a tiny window at you. Will the safety codes be reexamined now that the market has been recently flooded with a new wave of open-air food carts? I surely hope so...


Practice makes perfect...

...both in photography and cake-making.

This weekend's adventures started out with a simple cake-making agenda for a friend's upcoming birthday and spiraled into a multi-part, multi-layered affair. What have I discovered as a consequence?

1. Layered cakes are intensely effortful, but I imagine this has more to do with my lack of practice (first go around) at making genoise bases and bavarian creams.
2. The bavarian mousse will set up! (eventually). It might be easier next time to refrigerate the mousse for an hour and pipe it into the mold rather than pouring in the cream while it's still soft.
3. The result will look amazing to you, no matter how amateur it compares to others' work - and it will taste all the better for your hours of labor.

I started with accidental burnt caramel, leftover from a batch of faux-samoa girlscout cookies, and burnt graham cracker sable pie crust. Burnt, burnt... a theme in the works. The graham sable crust is actually quite wonderful and unique from the typical graham crusts. I took a packet of grahams, added a hardboiled egg yolk, a few tablespoons of powdered sugar and 3-4 tablespoons of softened butter. Mixed them together to form a crumbly dough which I pressed into a pie tin with the back of a spoon. 375F oven 30 min later yielded an unworkable base for a sweet potato pie, but the great beginnings of my first layered bavarian cake.

With these flavors in mind I decided to opt for flavors resembling a s'more (with the addition of caramel) and I built my cake up from there:
- 2 genoise sponge cakes: 1 chocolate, 1 vanilla
- 2 bavarian creams: burnt caramel, and Hershey's milk chocolate (Shudder. I know it's a crime to have those in the kitchen but my roomie had a bunch left over from an event).
- 1 layer graham sable crumble

I've never bought more than a pint of heavy cream at a time but bavarian creams require certain obscenities. An entire quart accompanied me home from the market.

Genoise is the basic French sponge cake. I say basic as though I know something about them, I don't. I ended up under-baking my cakes (400F 10 min) and then over-baking them a tad dry after reinserting them into the oven, after letting the cakes cool. Just proves to show that this (particular) cake was quite resilient - I'm sure if I had dappled with more delicate flavors they would not have been so forgiving.

For the bavarian creams I started with a creme anglaise base (milk + tempered yolks) without additional sugar, since I would be adding caramel or milk chocolate into the creams. One creme anglaise can be finicky enough to handle but no, I had to attempt them both at once. To be fair I was more concerned with the gelatin in the bavarians setting too quickly if I made them one at a time. However there was no need for that concern, the creams stay liquid for awhile. To the heated cream bases I whisked in caramel or chopped milk chocolate and then softened gelatin. Cooled to room temp before folding in my newly purchased carton of whipped, heavy cream. Using a square mold, I layered chocolate genoise, a layer of chocolate cream, vanilla genoise, a layer of caramel cream, graham sable crumble, another chocolate genoise, another layer of chocolate cream, and a final layer of vanilla genoise. Stuck in the freezer to firm up overnight for easier slicing.

So the layers aren't all beautifully thin and of equal heights. I don't mind too much, at least this time around :)


Rosemary Pinenut Shortbread

I like being surprised.

A little while ago, I visited the newly installed Blue Bottle Coffee storefront in the Ferry Plaza Marketplace, SF for a cup of drip coffee before attending the Rising Tides Competition displayed in the same building. The coffee was somewhat too strong for my taste, necessary perhaps for the patient but tired-looking bankers and business people queuing for a cup on Wednesday morning. Instead of the much-talked-about coffee, good but not surprising, I was impressed by the $1 pinenut rosemary shortbread displayed in the glass bakery counter under my coffee-stained paper cup. What a first bite, "savory more than sweet," with a pleasing crunch of fleur de sel.

I tend to like my baked treats lightly sweet, to join an afternoon cup of tea or coffee. However I'm intrigued by unexpected combinations and having tasted the savory-salty version of shortbread I've been meaning to give it a go in the kitchen ever since. I've also been working my way slowly through the epic Tartine Bakery cookbook for oh 3+ years or so now and I decided to work from their shortbread recipe.

Pinenuts are a bit unusual in the pantry and I'm not always immediately inspired by them beyond the usual basil pesto... they do crop up occasionally though. A few days back I had a flavorful and unexpected sardine ragu filled with chunks of fresh sardine, sweet dried currants, and pinenuts in a heirloom tomato-based sauce. Very very good. But where was I?

For the shortbread I mixed some fresh, minced rosemary from the herb patch into the softened butter as I would do to make an herbed butter. I also toasted a handful of pinenuts in a mini cast-iron skillet with a drop of olive oil and folded them into the dough as the last step. Dry roasting would also work well I imagine. The nuts have a lot of natural oils so they take on a golden hue quickly, less than 5 minutes shaking the pan constantly. Other than these two additions, I cut back on the sugar slightly and sprinkled coarse sea salt on the top of the dough before baking. I cut the original recipe in thirds (experimental) so the baking was done in two mini aluminum loaf pans (5-3/4 x 3). Pressing the buttery dough into the pans is a bit awkward, the dough tended to stick to my hands rather than the pan. Damp hands help a bit. Remember to cut the cookies into squares or rectangles while they are still warm otherwise they will crumble. Delicious but somewhat less elegant.

I'm ready for my cup of tea.


Jelly Tots and Other Novel Sweets: For My Irish Girls

Just three months ago a troop of six Irish ladies arrived on our doorstep, encouraged by our handmade "Summer subletters - Rooms for Rent" sign in the window. I recall our first conversation with the lot of them to be lively, overwhelming, draining, and slightly confusing all due to their excited energy of being abroad coupled with their unfamiliar accents. We all laugh about it now when I recently confessed to them that I swore that half of our first conversation was actually conducted in Gaelic.

Within this short span I've been educated in a few things Irish: sweet little sayings I've unconsciously adopted, the proper ways of Irish tea (milk but never sugar), reaffirming how HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) manages to hide in all things edible (on that note the girls inform me that our beloved American milk is unnaturally sweet for their palate - I can't wait to try the milk in Ireland), and finally in the form of numerous care packages from home, a jackpot of Irish snacks and sweets.

From Tayto crisps AKA chips to creamy Cadbury chocolate Moments, which are rather less sweet and smoother than the American Brand (how can this be so?!) there are a host of similar yet distinctive treats to choose from. Best of the bunch for me has been Jelly Tots, (jellies for toddlers or toddler jellies?). The sugary gummy dots come in a variety of fruit flavors like green apple and black currant. I've requested a king-sized pack of these in MY care package from the girls when they return home. In return I'll be sending over some Thin Mints and Samoas when Girl Scout season rolls around.