Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Daring Bakers - French Yule Log!

Oh my gosh, it's already the end of December.... But the blogging clock inside my head tells me it's still barely November...  Where the heck have I been?  I haven't a clue.  But I'm sure it was delightful, though not nearly as delightful as sharing sweet delicious things with the internet!  So, it is indeed December, a fabulous month, and one of the most exciting things each new month brings is another Daring Baker's Challenge!

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.  They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.  

Different from the typical Yule Log of rolled up genoise and buttercream, this is a frozen mousse-based dessert composed of 6 different elements.  So many little things to stuff into one little log... It nearly drove me insane, to be quite honest.  (In a really, really fun way, of course!)  But really, it was pretty fun to try unsuccessfully to imagine how all the elements would come together and then be rewarded in the end with the discovery that the combination was definitely a magical one!

The rule this time was that we had to make all 6 elements, but there were endless variations on each one, and we were allowed to play around with the flavors as much as we wanted.  So here's what's in mine:
Chocolate Dacquoise
Dark Chocolate Caramel Cinnamon Ganache
Milk Chocolate Praline Crisp
Caramel Apple & Spice Mousse
Milk Chocolate Cinnamon Creme Brulee
Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Icing
Caramel Sauce for garnish

And yeah, it was awesome.  =)  Thanks so much to the hosts for another fab challenge!!

Also, it seems that a ton of the other Daring Baker's had awesome experiences with this challenge as well!  There are so many beautiful logs on other Daring Baker blogs right now, so please go check them out!  

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers - Caramel Cake

Oh my taters. I love caramel. Love it. So much.

Ok _o I ju_t _pilled milk on my keybo_rd _nd _m mi__ing two very import_nt letter_.

Got _ little overexcited _bout the c_r_mel... it h_ppen_...

Due to technic_l difficultie_... picture_ now, coherent po_t l_terz. =)

Update: Here comes a coherent post!

So, my computer is now pretty much completely unusable and I am sitting in the library at school writing this. I can type As and Ss again YAY!!

In any case, this month's challenge was awesome!! It was hosted by Dolores of Culinary Curiosity, Alex of Blondie and Brownie, and Jenny of Foray into Food, and they chose the most sugar-tastic cake I have ever met... which is really saying a lot! This is of course Shuna Fish Lydon's signature Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting, as published on Bay Area Bites.

Now, I am a caramel fanatic. Really and truly. I love it more th an almost any flavor out there. So I have made my share of recipes involving caramel. I have even made before a cake such as this one, that incorporates caramel syrup into the batter. But I really loved this challenge, because this recipe wasn't just "more of the same" caramel stuff... in fact it seems that there are so many different methods of making caramel and incorporating it into desserts that to me, every recipe is a little different and has something new to teach me!

For instance, I learned that when you dilute caramel with water, the flavor is also diluted, so it is sometimes ok to throw out preconceived notions of exactly what color perfect-tasting caramel should be.

Also, I learned that when you combine caramel with browned butter, it makes a flavor that really I just want to marry and be with forever! I have never before baked with browned butter, but this frosting was a real eye-opener for me and I'm pretty sure it will be appearing in many of my upcoming creations! Cause seriously, I would bathe in that stuff.

I also learned a lot about powdered-sugar-based frosting in general. See, I made this recipe twice. The cupcakes in the photos are from the first time I made it. The first time, I didn't overcook my caramel, so it didn't really add much to the cake in the way of flavor. Also, I followed the recipe exactly when I made the frosting, and I hated it. I LOVED the flavor, but I hated that it was so sweet it made my throat burn. I don't think anything should make your throat burn unless it is hot and spicy... which this frosting was definitely not.

I was almost convinced that the idea of powdered-sugar-based frosting was just a horrible one in general, since I had never before made or eaten any that did not have that gross burning sweet effect on me, and I was planning on remaking the cake using a frosting that incorporated all the same flavors, but was based in meringue instead. But then the day came to remake the cake, and I looked in my fridge at the eggs, and I already had about 10 egg yolks sitting in bowls crying out to me that they needed to be used soon, and I just couldn't bring myself to make meringue and add to the pile...

So I decided to try the same frosting again, but to be really careful about how much of everything I was adding and do it completely to taste rather than by the recipe. I ended up using only about 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, letting the browned butter set up a little, and using a lot more cream and caramel than the recipe called for.

It was soooo dreamy... so perfect. I was in love. Happiness. I will upload pictures of the second cake as soon as I get my computer back! =)

Thank you once again for an amazing challenge, Daring Baker's, and for opening my eyes to the wonders of browned butter and the potential for powdered-sugar-based frostings! <3>

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Muffins for Mixing (mixing sound, that is...)

I mentioned before that I've been blog MIA this semester because of the film I was busy pouring every hour of my life into for 2 months. Well, that's pretty much over now, because its a class involving partnerships, where each partnership makes 2 films during the semester, and takes turns directing. So I directed the first one (ugh!) and am now working on the second one, which my partner is directing. It's still a ton of work and time, but it's much, much less stressful than directing.

The thing about these films is that we want them to be good. And we technically have the means to make them good. We get 1 week for pre-production, 3 weeks to shoot, 1 week to edit picture, and then 2 weeks to edit sound. That's a lot of time spent on one 5 minute film. And of course, we have professional actors who donate their time to us, a bunch of people who help out with the dirty work on set, and our professors and student assistants who are helping us with insane problems every step of the way.

By the time my film was nearly finished, I was so unbelievably grateful to everyone who had helped me along the way, that the least I could do was bake some of them a good breakfast on sound mix day! After our 2 weeks of building sound (we don't record production sound at all, so we have to build the whole soundtrack from scratch), there is one day during which 2 amazing sound mixers work from 8 in the morning to 6 at night, spending 2 hours with each of us, making sure that our sound is basically perfect and finally locking everything in and making us finished for good.

It's a long day, a stressful day, and a relieving day all at once, and my 2 hours happened to be the very first, starting at 8 AM. So naturally I brought breakfast, in the form of these delicious muffins!

Strawberry Lime Muffins
(adapted from this recipe)

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups uncooked oats
1 cup sugar
2 cups milk
1 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
zest and juice from 3 small limes

1. Preheat oven to 425 F and line muffin tins with paper cups.
2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, oats, sugar, and lime zest in a large mixing bowl.
3. Whisk together the milk, butter, eggs, vanilla, and lime juice in a separate mixing bowl.
4. Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture until just combined.
5. Fold the strawberries into the batter.
6. Fill the prepared muffin cups about 2/3 of the way each.
7. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. This makes about 24 muffins.

They are hot and delicious right out of the oven, but just as delicious at room temperature the next day! =)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes of Creamcheeesyness! A.K.A. Alex Cupcakes!

You may have noticed that I've named these cupcakes after a person called Alex.

This is because Alex is an amazing person who did something amazing for me - so amazing that there was absolutely no way I could thank her enough short of making her cupcakes and then naming them after her.  Which I like to think is somewhat of a high honor? 
(Although really, I'd do it for anyone if they asked me to... or even if they just mentioned that they enjoy cupcakes... yeah, I'm really just a compulsive cupcake giver.  There are worse things in this world to be.)

I know you're wondering now what exactly it was that Alex did to merit this delicious gift, but it is something SO incredibly sweet that honestly I can't describe it on this blog because, well, there are enough sweet things on here as it is.  But I will say that because of her, I was able to attend one of the best concerts of my entire life, and there I got to meet (and hug!) Jimmy Gnecco, of whom I have spoken before.  

It rocked.  And so does Alex.  And so do these cupcakes that bear her name.  

These are chocolate cupcakes with orange zest added to the batter, which brings a surprisingly powerful and fragrant orange flavor to them... after tasting these, I think I will be using orange zest much, much more often in my baking!  They are filled with a honey cream cheese mixture, and topped with a whipped chocolate orange ganache.  Soooooo goood!

Oh, and Alex loved them.  She said that they were gone after a day and even accused me of flavor altering wizardry, which I took as a compliment.  =)
So if you have someone you need to thank exuberantly, these cupcakes certainly do the trick!

For the cupcakes:
(adapted from this recipe)

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of half an orange

1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line cupcake tins.
2. Cream the butter with the sugar and orange zest and beat until light and fluffy.
3. Add eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla, beating after each addition.
4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder.  Add 1/3 of this mixture to the batter, and mix to combine.  Then add half of the milk, followed by another 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by the last of the milk and then finishing with the last of the flour mixture.
5. Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 of the way full with batter, and bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  

For the filling:

4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp heavy cream

1. Beat together all 3 ingredients until smooth and well combined.

For the topping:

3/4 cup finely chopped semisweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp grand marnier

1. Place the chopped chocolate in a mixing bowl.
2. Heat the cream until it begins to boil, then immediately remove from heat and pour over the chopped chocolate.
3. Let sit for a couple minutes, then whisk until smooth and mix in the grand marnier.
4. Cover and chill.
5. When the ganache is set, whip it with an electric mixer until it is a stiff, spreadable consistency.  

To assemble:
1. Once the cupcakes are cool, cut out a small bit from the center of each one.
2. Spoon the cream cheese mixture into the newly hollowed cupcake centers.
3. Pipe or spoon the ganache onto the cooled, filled cupcakes, and then they are finished and delicious!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers - Pizza Dough!!

Shhhhhhhh... my dough is sleeping.  Ok well actually it's resting... in the fridge... waiting to be made into pizza.  Proving that there will indeed be pizza on this blog within the next day.  And oh my, I have some intense plans for this dough.  This beauty sleep is welllll needed.  

So, I've been a pretty terrible blogger these past few months, and its all because of a film.  A film for which I spent 7 weeks eating nothing but bagels and cereal and sleeping no more than 4 or 5 hours a night.  

BUT I finally screened the finished thing this past Sunday, which means that I'll be bringing much deliciousness back to this blog in the coming months.  Starting here.  Starting tomorrow. With an amazing Daring Bakers' Challenge hosted by Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums.  

I have made 2 out of 4 pizzas, and they were INCREDIBLE.  Sorry for the awful pictures, though... I was in a crazy rush.

This pizza has on it a white wine cream sauce with shallots, zucchini, mozzarella, calamata olives, brie, and lots of garlic.  It was so good... completely gone in less than 10 minutes.  

And THIS pizza, for dessert, is covered in honey-sweetened mascarpone, fresh strawberries, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  Ridiculously delicious.

Looking forward to 2 more pizzas tomorrow!  =)

I made the other 2 pizzas and took pictures of them, but my camera ran out of battery during the import to my computer, and the result of this was that they were deleted from the camera without being imported.... SO there is sadness and no more pizza pictures.  =(

But they were REALLLLLY delicious, so I shall describe them to you now.

One had a tomato sauce with balsamic vinegar, baby portobello mushrooms, ground beef, spinach, mozzarella, and more balsamic vinegar drizzled on top.  This was so ridiculously amazing, I ate 3 pieces in one sitting, and then had the rest as breakfast the next morning... cold and still amazing!  =)

And the last pizza was the most extravagant of all - tomato balsamic cream sauce, caramelized onions, mozzarella, corn, goat cheese, honey, and fresh basil.  Sooooooo good.  Every ingredient worked so perfectly with the others, and the basil was the absolute most perfect finish ever.  So yeah, wonderful wonderful it was.

AWESOME CHALLENGE!  Go Daring Bakers!  =)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Avocado Birthday Cake

I had a very special roommate last year, and one of the first late-night kitchen conversations we ever had was on the subject of school clubs.  She told me that she discovered that if you found 5 people to say they were interested in a certain club, the school would give you $200 to start it.  She thought this was the most exciting thing in the world, because, and this is in her words:  How many people love avocados?  All I'd have to do is find 5 people who love avocados, and then they'd give us $200, and we could spend it all on avocados!!!!

Well, we never started the club (I guess we're too lazy for the paperwork), but we certainly consumed a lot of avocados anyways in the time we lived together.  And when the time came to make her a birthday cake, I could think of nothing more fitting and special than an avocado cake.  And here it is!! 

It took the birthday girl a while to figure out what kind of cake she was eating, but once she did, she ate 2 big slices right there, licked her plate clean, and then proudly carried the rest of her cake home.  

I made a big cake for her, and then 3 little individual cakes that I brought over to a few of my gourmet-food-obsessed man friends.  One of them ate his and then sent me this e-mail:
I had the cake tonight...words cannot describe the interactions my mouth had with that dessert...it was orgasmic, you can just ask Craig...it brought tears to my eyes...it was "les plus delicieux"(the most delicious) and I don't even speak French, I just felt like putting that, I had to look it up...I'm basically speechless right now, so I'll just let you imagine the euphoric state I'm experiencing in the aftermath of the taste explosiveness, the mind-blowing eruption of pleasure in my palate, the sweet, sweet love that occurred in my mouth at 11:40 PM PST tonight.

And hahaha I don't think I even have to say anything more than that.  =)  I guess everyone really does love avocados!

I based this cake on the recipe the Daring Bakers used for Strawberry Mirror Cake in July of 2007, so basically it is an avocado bavarian cream layered with vanilla genoise brushed with lime syrup, and with some chocolate ganache drizzled on top.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies with Raspberry!!!!

So after all the flaming desserts at the beach, I was left in my apartment with a bad sunburn, leftover marshmallows, and a script hanging over my head that needed to be written.  

Since I had the script, I of course hadn't planned on baking anything but of course was suddenly very, very compelled to do so.  (I'm not the best at being a responsible student)  I looked around my kitchen and chocolate and marshmallows were really the only things I had, so I searched on the internet for chocolate marshmallow cookies.  I came across these lovelies at Stephanie's Kitchen, and had to have them.  And have them I promptly did.  Except I've never been fond of using that much confectioners sugar in frosting, so I used some leftover ganache I had sitting around instead of frosting.  Annnnd I added some raspberry jam as a little kicker underneath the marshmallows.  

Oooooh man they were sooo good - this was one of the rare occasions in my life where I end up eating more of something I baked than I give away to other people.  Yeah, I totally hoarded these cookies and they never even left my apartment.  My roommates had some...  hehehe.  

And here is the recipe, adapted from this one:

For the topping:

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream

To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolates in a small mixing bowl.  Heat the cream until it begins to simmer, and then pour the cream over the chocolate.  Let stand for a couple minutes, and then whisk until smooth.  Use on the cookies while still warm, or make beforehand and warm it up again before using.  

For the cookies:

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
about 15 marshmallows, halved

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  
In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the egg, milk, and vanilla to this.  
Add flour mixture to this about 1/2 cup at a time until it is all incorporated.  
Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing the drops about 2 inches apart.  
Bake cookies for 8 minutes or until firm.  Then, without fully removing them from the oven, quickly spoon some raspberry jam in the middle of each cookie, and follow the jam by pressing half a marshmallow into each cookie on top of it.  
Return to the oven and bake for 2 more minutes, or until the marshmallows are puffy and gooey.  
Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes.  Then remove from baking sheets and spoon the ganache over each cookie, making sure to completely cover the marshmallows.  

Make sure to eat a couple while they're still warm, because the marshmallows and ganache will be gooey and warm!!  Once you've had your fill of that, store them in the refrigerator and see how long they last...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Daring Bakers - Pierre Hermé's Éclairs

Mmmmm this Daring Baker's challenge was one of the most delicious and awesome ones I have had the pleasure of experiencing!  This month was hosted by Meeta and Tony Tahan, and they had us all make Pierre Hermé's incredible Chocolate Éclairs.  

I was so excited to make these because I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE éclairs but I had never made any before.  I had never even tried my hand at choux pastry.  I'm almost ashamed to say it, considering just how much I enjoy éclairs and cream puffs and anything else in that variety of sweets.  I had always meant to try to make choux pastries... but something else to bake always seemed to come up.  And these situations are exactly what Daring Baker's challenges are for, right?  Right!  So this challenge was so right for me!  Thanks, hosts!

The challenge recipe was for an eclair filled with chocolate pastry cream and topped with a chocolate glaze, and we had the option of using both or either the filling or glaze recipes given.  

I mentioned that I LOVE éclairs, and what I love most about éclairs is the burst of cold, refreshing, lightly sweetened vanilla custard you get when you bite into them.  To me, éclairs are allll about that perfect custard cream filling.   So I was a bit apprehensive of a chocolate filling.  

But I decided to try it anyways, just because it was something I had never done, and I made little chocolate cream puffs that I sprinkled with powdered sugar.  They were pretty ridiculously delicious, but they weren't the refreshing perfection that I craved.  So I made some more choux, and whipped up these traditionally flavored éclairs!  

They were absolutely incredible, and so fun to make!  All the piping, and dipping, and finger-licking... oh my...  I filled some with vanilla pastry cream, and I guess I was getting a little heavy handed with that because I ran out of pastry cream.  So I filled the remaining few with whipped cream and those were incredible as well!  I think I'm just obsessed with all kinds of cream...

I will absolutely make these again, and I'm excited now to perfect my éclair making skills and make myself ridiculously fat.  =)

Don't forget to check out the blogs of all the other Daring Bakers, because they all made some beautiful and mouth watering pastries this month!  

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Beachy Delicious

Are you intrigued by this burning donut of a plate?  

I could say something profound right now about how behind every spectacular dessert, there are spectacular burns and spectacular damage, but it wouldn't be true.  

The truth is simply this:  fire + girls + yummy things to cook on fire + things to destroy = severe banana induced burns.  

Shortly after this picture was taken, we poured coke over a towel to save it from burning.  We're smart girls.  =)  And shortly after that, we ate theeessseee burning babies of yum:

They're bananas that we stuffed with chocolate and marshmallow, wrapped in tin foil, and let sit in the embers of our campfire.  Kind of like banana s'mores, only not really.  

Seriously, these were sooo good, and I don't even like bananas.  I think this must be a really common camping dessert, because I remember that we always used to make these on our girl scout camping trips when I was a little girl.  I think they're so much fun to make, just for the fun of wrapping up your dessert, sticking it in a nice fire, and then getting to unwrap it and see what it's become!  And sooo delicious!  I did put a little bit of cinnamon on mine, though... shhh don't tell!

And speaking of cinnamon, allow me to introduce you to my all-time favorite campfire dessert:

It may not look like much, but after one bite, you'll be hooked like a yummy salmon fish.  
Of course, this is another treat from my childhood camping times.  I used to go to summer camp, and at camp we called these Dough Boys and ate them all the time.

It's very simple to make.  You get some pre-made biscuit dough and mold it around the end of a roasting stick so that it won't fall off.  Then you roast it until the outside is mostly crispy and golden-brown.  Think that sounds good?  Here comes the real good part...

Once they come off the fire, you roll them around in butter!!!!
And then you roll them around some more in cinnamon sugar!!!!!!!!!!

And after that you die, because once you have 1, you'll have to have 6, I swear.  

And that is what I did this past Sunday.  The day before our first day of classes was a day at the beach.  I got my first sunburn in ages and I made myself sick on doughboys.  What a perfect start to a semester.  =)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Honey Soufflés with Pomegranate Glaze

Breakfast?  Indeed.

I totally made this on a whim, which means that the recipe below is less of a real recipe and more of a "what I did."  But it worked!  And it was soo delicious.  The tartness of the glaze went perfectly with the smooth, intense sweetness of the honey.  If I made this again I would probably change some things in the soufflé recipe, for experimental and perfectionist purposes, but to be honest it was really delicious as it was!

Pomegranate Glaze

1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Combine all 3 ingredients in a small saucepan, and heat over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reduces.  Take off the heat and set aside.  You may need to warm up the glaze again before serving, to get it to a pour-able consistency.  

Honey Soufflé

1/4 cup honey
1 egg yolk
1 egg white
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp granulated sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 425 F.  Butter and sugar 4 ramekins, and prepare a water bath.  
In one mixing bowl, whisk together the honey and the egg yolk, and then mix in the flour.
In another bowl, whip the egg white with a pinch of salt until you get soft peaks.  Add the granulated sugar and continue whipping until you get stiff peaks. 
Add a little bit of the whipped egg whites to the honey mixture to lighten it.  Then fold the honey mixture into the rest of the egg whites, carefully, just until no streaks are left.  
Pour the batter into the four ramekins, filling them about halfway.  Place the ramekins in the water bath and into the oven.  
Immediately lower the temperature to 400 F.  Bake for 10 minutes at this temperature.
Lower the temperature to 350 F and bake for another 10 minutes.  
Lower the temperature to 300 F and bake for another 10 minutes.  
Then turn the oven off, and leave in the oven with the door closed for 15 to 20 minutes.
When they come out of the oven, invert the soufflés onto plates and drizzle them with the pomegranate glaze.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Daring Bakers Cake turned MACARON! weeee

What to do with leftover buttercream, preserves, nuts, and ganache?  
Seriously, this cake's leftovers were screaming macarons.  
So we get cashew macarons with peach preserves, cashew praline buttercream, and dark chocolate ganache with grand marnier.  Tastes just like the gateau.  But much more fun.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Daring Bakers - Filbert (read: cashew) Gateau with Praline Buttercream!

This is what happens when Allison is reunited with an oven after two months of basically living in a hotel.  I like to think it was a magical reunion.  =)

I got back from Japan Wednesday night, when alll the other Daring Bakers were posting about this wonderful cake, brought to us by July's host, Chris of Mele Cotte, and all I could do was pass out in bed and dream about it since I had been up and riding planes for the previous 30 hours.  4 countries in 1 day, baby!!!!  But no cake to show for it... yet!

So naturally the first thing I did when I woke up yesterday was plan out my baking schedule for the next week.  I decided this cake should come first because, even though I missed the posting date, it's close enough that this can count as a late post rather than a skipped month... hopefully?  And also because my grandmother's birthday was in June, and I know she loves praline and chocolate, and she happens to be visiting us in Canada this week.  

I had my doubts about this cake before starting it... I wasn't really sure how all the flavors would work together, and while I know hazelnuts and chocolate to be a killer combination, the idea of hazelnut praline with apricot and chocolate was kind of rubbing me the wrong way.  So I decided to use cashews instead, since I had never used cashews in anything before, and I guess I was just in a cashew mood.  I am generally not a fan of apricots, and my mom had about 40 peaches in a huge basket in our kitchen that she was begging me to do something with... so I made a year's worth of peach preserves and used some of that for the cake!  And ooh it was peachy.   Also, my grandmother doesn't like rum, so I just used grand marnier and vanilla throughout.  However, in the peach preserves, I added some lychee liqueur and cinnamon.  

Every Friday, my dad's band comes over and they practice their rockin' music in our garage.  Lucky for my cake, today is Friday!  So it was eaten and well appreciated after band practice, and then was packed up in yogurt containers and sent off to the band members' wives.  

Everyone loved it, even my mom who always says she doesn't like buttercream (but who eats it every time I make it!).  I was actually surprised at how awesome it was!  I think I will definitely make this cake again in the future - definitely.  Cause it was prettty ridiculously wonderful.
So thanks Chris!  I don't think I would have made this cake normally after just looking at the recipe, but I'm so glad you gave me a reason to because it turned out to be incredible!!  YAY for Daring Bakers!!  

If you're interested in making this cake, get the recipe from the host's blog here!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I've Lost Myself in Tokyo

Ok so I know I said that I would still update this blog while in Tokyo.  And that I haven't, at all. 
Ahaha what can I say?  I have never been as in love with a place as I am with this one.  I have never felt at home or like I really belonged anywhere, and that is what I feel here after only 2 months.  

Above: Ajisai in Kamakura
Below:  Adorable boy at a Japanese baseball game

So I've completely been neglecting the internet, since I spend all of my time out in the city doing things, trying to make the most of my time here.  But I have uploaded the pictures I have taken so far of this amazing place onto flickr, so anyone interested in seeing them may do so.

And rest assured, when I get back home in 2 weeks, I will go on a mad baking rampage.  MAD. BAKING. RAMPAGE.  Because regardless of how amazing Japan is, going 2 months without a kitchen can really just drive a girl insane, you know?  Especially now that I've been exposed to so many inspiring Japanese sweets.  I neeeeeeed to recreate them!!!!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers - Opera Cake

Cake Love.

What a wonderful month this was - apart from the bliss of being in Japan, this has been my favorite Daring Baker`s challenge so far!  It was hosted by our wonderful co-founders, Lis and Ivonne, as well as Fran of Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea of Whiskful, and they chose to have us make Opera Cake!  This is a cake that is traditionally made with chocolate and coffee, but the hosts specified that we keep the cakes light in color and flavor.  Apart from that, the flavors and decorations and all that were up to us!  And oh... what that led to... a ton of amazing and very unique cakes!  

I was so excited to make this that I couldn`t decide on what flavors to use, so I kind of just gave in to my indecisiveness and made two.  And what a delicious indecision it was...

I made the first cake with a pistachio jaconde, a vanilla and lemon buttercream, a strawberry lemon syrup, a strawberry glaze, fresh strawberries in the layers, and chopped pistachios on top.   

The syrup for the buttercream looked so cool when it was boiling that I had to take a picture...

I had been wanting to try pistachios and strawberries together for a long time, and thought this was a perfect opportunity because of the nut based cake and... strawberry season!  Also, I wanted to use a fruit glaze instead of white chocolate because my mom is one of those white chocolate haters, and I was actually at home and baking for my parents when I made this.  

But of course, I love white chocolate, and of course, there was another flavor combination that I have been wanting to try forever that works so perfectly with this cake.  Yes, it's green tea and white chocolate...  I think a ton of other people have done this, too... as well they should, because it is seriously amazing.  And what can I say, I made this the day before I left for Japan, so it was probably the Japan excitement that made me do it.  (mmm Japan excitement is a glorious thing!)

I did an almond and green tea jaconde, a white chocolate and green tea buttercream, a vanilla and jasmine syrup, and the white chocolate mousse and glaze. I actually finished this cake 2 minutes before bolting out of the door to catch my flight to Japan, so I was only able to taste one bite of it, but it was an amazing bite! The green tea went perfectly with the white chocolate, and the jasmine gave the whole thing a wonderful flowery essence underneath the big flavors.

mmmm green tea buttercream.... amazing.  

I said that this was my favorite Daring Baker's challenge to date, and that's because I feel like I have accomplished so much with it!  I made both cakes without any problems, they tasted amazing, and I think they are pretty much the most aesthetically pleasing things to ever come out of my kitchen (I'm always so bad at making stuff pretty...).   

Plus, I had never even heard of an opera cake before this challenge, so it opened my eyes to a piece of pastry I had never before known, and I always love it when that happens!  It's happening every day I'm here in Japan, by the way. =)

So thank you, wonderful hosts, for another fantastic Daring Baker's challenge!  I loved it, and I look forward to seeing everyone's cakes!

If you want to try your hand at opera cake, see here for the recipe!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Spicy Sorbet and Goodbye for Now!

I have some really good news, some mildly bad news, and some ridiculously delicious sorbet to share with you today...

Let's start with the good news - in two days, I'll be going to Tokyo where I'll be living for two months to intern at a TV station! Wooohooo!! I'm going to eat so much sushi that I may actually turn into a fish! A cute fish. A salmon, probably. But not for eating.

The mildly bad news is that I won't have a kitchen to bake in while I'm in Japan! Sadface... This means that while I'll probably do a few blog updates about the amazing food in Japan, this blog won't see any of my own baking projects until August.

Sorry to all the people who love desserts... but I promise I will make up for it by sharing some of the amazing Japanese foodage I encounter! And I'll still post my May Daring Baker's challenge on the post date - I've already baked my challenge and set blogger to post it at the appropriate time. Go me!

And now for some deliciousness!!!

It started because I wanted to make something delicious for my mom for mother's day. I ran through a lot of options... and shot down all of them because not only is my mom pretty picky about desserts, she's also lactose intolerant and a health freak. Then I remembered having seen the same thing on multiple blogs a while back - a few people all raving about dark chocolate sorbet. And when I say raving, I mean raving - Joy the Baker even said she wanted to bathe in hers! And then I thought about the sweet things that I know my mom really loves, and realized that two of her favorite things ever are any kind of fresh fruit and good dark chocolate.

So I went and bought a ton of fresh fruit, and then raided our chocolate stash to find that my mom hadn't touched the bar of spicy chili and cinnamon dark chocolate that I had bought last time I was in town. She proceeded to tell me that I should use it in the sorbet... so I said, "OK!" and the result was magic. I used regular dark chocolate for 3/4 of the chocolate called for in the recipe, and replaced the other 1/4 with the spicy stuff. I ended up with a sorbet that didn't taste spicy, or hot, but that was pleasantly warm. If warm isn't a term that makes sense to you when talking about sorbet... then just trust me that it was perfection. Everything I thought it would be and more. My mom even went so far as to say, "there's nothing better than this!" as she was licking the removable part of the ice cream maker! She especially loved the complexity I got from mixing two different chocolates, and I loved it too!

Here is the recipe I used - its a David Lebovitz recipe and I found it on Chocolate & Zucchini.

Spicy Dark Chocolate Sorbet

1 cup plus 2 tbsp water
1/3 cup packed cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/4 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped*
3/4 oz chili and cinnamon spicy dark chocolate, finely chopped*
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
fresh fruit (I used blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and kiwis)
*you can change the ratio of chocolates for a sorbet that is more or less spicy, or you can just use 3 oz of the same chocolate. have fun!

Whisk together the water, cocoa powder, and sugar in a saucepan.
Heat the mixture while continuing to whisk.
Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate.
Add the vanilla and salt.
Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Let cool, and then refrigerate until chilled.
Whisk the mixture once more right before using, and then churn using your ice cream maker.
Once the sorbet is ready, serve with the fresh fruit and enjoy!

And with that, Allison's kitchen says "Bye for now, and I'll see you again in August!"

But don't worry, I'll still be around, even if my kitchen isn't. And don't forget to check back on May 28th for my Daring Baker's challenge!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Baking Montage? Oh yeah...

So, the end of the semester has been crazy, and I haven't had much time to bake. And unfortunately, I get sad when I don't bake. I can't help it, my kitchen makes me happy, and when I'm not in it, I miss it.

I'm a film student, and I took a class this semester in which I had to make 5 short films, doing all the pre-production, shooting, and post production on my own for each one of them. While making movies is awesome and fun, there's a lot that goes into making a movie, hence the long list of people credited in even the simplest seeming films. Doing everything on your own is a huge bitch. So I was pretty burnt out when it came time to start planning my 5th project. I kept saying to myself, "what do I want to make a movie about?" Eventually I answered, "baking, of course!" and ran back into the kitchen for happy times.

I generally hate pre-production, but when "pre-production" involves baking cake layers, making dulce de leche, and measuring sugar and flour... well, I am so there. I wish I could show you the finished product, but alas, I go to a snobby film school and legally they own the rights to all the work I create there as a student, so I'm not allowed to publicly post it on the internet.

But please enjoy the stills I've posted of the baked goods as they appeared in the movie. And if you're curious, the movie was 8 minutes long, total, and 4 of those minutes were nothing but a baking montage of a man making brownies and cake while dancing to Michael Jackson's "Beat It" Yeah, I went there. And it was awesome.