Friday, February 29, 2008

Daring Bakers - French Bread!

I am now officially a Daring Baker!  Go me!  And I am so happy to be one right now because this month's challenge was truly wonderful.  It was hosted by Mary (Breadchick!) of The Sour Dough and Sara of I Like to Cook, and they had us bake (daringly!) Julia Child's French Bread!

When I saw that this was to be my first challenge, I admit that I was freaking intimidated.  I had never made any kind of bread or baked anything with yeast before!  Oh my...  what to do?  But I was determined to conquer the bread, and I decided to get in on the chat that Breadchick was hosting where I could make my bread with the company and support of a few other Daring Bakers.  This proved to be a good idea when at around 7:30 in the morning I was frantically typing something like, "Oh no!!  I just realized my yeast is instant!!  Aaaahhhhh!!!"  to which the wonderful Breadchick responded with a big "Don't worry," which is exactly what I needed to hear in my panicky and half-asleep state.  

So I got my yeast working, my bread rising, and enjoyed my yeasty smelling apartment while chatting with the other bakers.  It was way fun, and a happy way to spend the day!  

Luckily, I had no other problems until it came time to unmold my batards after their third rise.  As you can tell from the picture above, one of my batards completely deflated in the unmolding stage.  But I learned from this and was more gentle when handling the other two.  I made three, but only two are pictured because my roommate and I ate a whole batard before I could take the pictures!  Ahhh we were too hungry.

Even though my bread wasn't perfect (and one batard was pretty flat), my roommate and I enjoyed it immensely.  Yeah... we pretty much ate it all in one night... 

And this is how we ate it, because it has always been my favorite way to eat French Bread.  We sliced the bread into thin slices, buttered them lightly, and toasted them in a pan.

Then I made some hot chocolate (with the chocolate you saw in the first picture that was posing with the bread), and we dipped the toasted bread in the chocolate.  We ate this for dinner on Sunday night, but it really makes an awesome breakfast, if you can wait until morning!

I am so glad that this was my first Daring Bakers challenge, because I think it really forced me to experience what the group is all about.  While there are many things I have never tried to bake before, bread has always been kind of the big thing that I just didn't do.  I don't really know why, but I've just never felt compelled to bake bread before.  This probably would have continued for a pretty long time had it not been for this challenge.  

So, Mary and Sara, thank you so much for this challenge; I can honestly say that I have grown as a baker because of it, and that's awesome!  Oh and even more thanks to Mary for hosting the chat on Sunday; it was so helpful and I had fun chat-baking!  =)

If you want to make this bread, check out the recipe here.  It's long, but definitely worth it!

Also, check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see what all those other bakers made!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I'll do the exciting news first.  Or rather, here's what I made today to celebrate the exciting news:

Excited yet?  Well I am, because I am interning in Tokyo this summer!  For two months!  Tokyo!  Ahhh, I am really too happy for words!  So instead of talking, I made Onigiri and Tamagoyaki.  Aren't they happy?  This is pretty much the closest I come to making "real food," and its also pretty much the Japanese equivalent of peanut butter sandwiches and macaroni and cheese, which is actually what I live on unless someone else feeds me.  But mmmm these are sooo much better than sandwiches!  

The big rice balls are Onigiri.  I generally stuff my Onigiri with whatever I have leftover in my fridge or cupboard, but my favorite is to use tuna or salmon, mixed with things like garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and mayonnaise.  I also normally wrap them in seaweed (nori), but alas, today I did not have any...
See here for forming instructions and filling ideas!

The yummy looking rolled up egg things are Tamagoyaki.  To make these...

4 eggs
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp water
3/4 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt
Vegetable oil

Whisk all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
Brush a pan with vegetable oil, and pour about a quarter of the mixture into the pan.  It should spread out and coat the entire bottom of the pan evenly.  Cook over medium heat until it is cooked mostly through.  
Starting at the end near you, tightly roll the egg up until you reach the other end.  Leave this roll in the pan, on the edge farthest from you.  
With the first roll still in the pan, pour another round of the mixture into the pan.  Lift the first roll a bit so that the raw egg flows underneath it.  When you put it back down, it should be sitting in the raw egg.  When it is cooked mostly through, roll this up too, starting with the end that the already rolled up egg is attached to.  Repeat this process until all of your egg mixture has been incorporated into one big roll.  
Slice the roll into pieces, and enjoy!  It can be eaten hot, warm, cold, room temperature... anything is good!

And now onto the MeMe!

I've actually been tagged twice!  Once a while back by Deborah of Taste and Tell, and then again today by the wonderful Astra Libris of Food for Laughter.  They both have awesome blogs, so you should go check them out!

Rules:  1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.  
2. Share 5 facts about yourself.
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them)
4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs. 

How fun... and now for 5 oh so interesting things about myself:

1.  I'm a college student (studying film), but I live more like an old lady - I don't drink or party... and I stay at home baking whenever I'm not doing work!

2.  I name everything (you know, random squirrels I see, pencils, etc.).  I especially like to name those few cookies in every batch that just don't bake as perfectly as the rest.  I think it makes them taste better.  One time, I had a cookie named Giraffe.  It was the best cookie I'd ever had, even though it was sooo burnt.  

3.  I can speak Japanese and French pretttttty well (though I have been known to answer French questions half in Japanese), and I am starting to learn Mandarin!  Languages are so fun!

4.  I watch Asian dramas and drool over the beautiful, girly men who spend more time on their hair than any girl I've ever known.  Yeah, that one is kind of incriminating... but seriously... they're really attractive.  =)

5.  I've had really bad luck with pets over the years, but I absolutely can't wait for the day when I have my own house, with a big backyard, so that I can have sheepdogs!  Because they're just so fluffy and huggable, how can you not love them?

Ooooh and now I get to tag more people...

Amy of Fruitlust
Coco of Ambrosia
Lunch Buckets (I don't even know your name!) of Lunch Bucket Bento
Catherine of Munchie Musings

Friday, February 22, 2008

Chocolate, Rum, and Mango... Cupcakes.

I am finally back from what seems like an eternity of not baking, though it's really only been about two weeks.  But they were the saddest two weeks I've had in a very long time - how can I be happy when nothing is coming out of my oven?  I even went through Valentine's Day and my own birthday with nothing to show for the occasions except some very loud and frequent coughing.  Yeah, I caught the flu.  And HOW can I bake when I know I won't be able to give any of my sweets away, for fear that they might get people sick?  I can't.  

I am happy to say that today was the first day in about two weeks that I have been both healthy enough and free enough to bake anything, and that I took full advantage of it!  I thought for a while about what I should bake, and I decided that I needed something with rum and chocolate.  Because after such a long period of sadness, let's face it - a girl really just needs some rum and chocolate.  And I had a couple mangos in my fridge that were aching to be eaten, so I figured I'd incorporate mango somehow, because mango+rum=mmmm.  

And then I realized that the Cupcake Hero theme this month was liquor, and that I had not yet missed the deadline (it's today, oh my!).  For those of you who don't know, this event is hosted by Laurie of Quirky Cupcake; every month, she picks a new ingredient that must be incorporated into cupcakes!  How awesome.  

So it seems that these Chocolate Rum Mango Cupcakes were destined to come out of my kitchen today!  =)

And they were pretty much amazing.  The cake part is chocolate and rum, and it is soaked in a mango rum glaze.  They are topped with whipped cream, fresh mango slices, and a bit of cocoa powder.  These were wonderful because the cake was fudgy and dense without being overly sweet, and the mango rum glaze gave it the extra sweetness and powerful rum flavor that it needed!  The whipped cream and fresh mango added something refreshing to every bite, without being overly rich.  Ahhhh I am so happy I can finally bake again... I gave these all away today, watched people enjoy them, and remembered why I love being not sick!!

For the cupcakes (adapted from this recipe on epicurious)

4 oz semisweet chocolate
8 oz bittersweet chocolate
3/4 c butter
8 tbsp rum
8 eggs, separated
3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Chop the chocolate into small pieces, and melt it in a saucepan with the butter and the rum.  
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the 1/2 cup of the sugar.  Then add the chocolate rum mixture and mix well.  Add the flour and salt and mix until incorporated.
In another mixing bowl, whip the egg whites to soft peaks.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, and continue to whip the whites to stiff peaks.  Fold the whites into the rest of the batter until no streaks remain.
Pour the batter into lined muffin tins, filling each cup about 3/4 of the way to the top.  bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  They'll shrink once you take them out of the oven, so be mentally prepared for that!  
Once they have cooled, use a fork to make lots of holes in them so that the glaze can soak through.

For the glaze:

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup rum
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup mango pulp

Combine butter, sugar, mango pulp, and 1/2 cup of the rum in a saucepan, and heat until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolved.  Then mix in the remaining 1/4 cup of rum and immediately remove from the heat (so the alcohol doesn't cook off - it's stronger that way!).  
Spoon the glaze over the cupcakes, allowing it to soak in.  

For the topping:
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp granulated sugar
Fresh mango slices
cocoa powder

Whip the cream and sugar in a mixing bowl until peaks form.  Spoon the cream over the cupcakes.  Top with fresh mango slices.  Sprinkle some cocoa powder on top, and enjoy!
These are best eaten at room temperature, but should be stored in the refrigerator.  

Monday, February 11, 2008

Guava Chiffon Sushi Cake

I love to bake things specifically for other people.  Everyone has unique preferences in flavor, some of them unexpected, and they make for wonderful baking inspiration most of the time!  By talking to people and asking them what flavors they like, I am often inspired to combine flavors in ways I never would have thought to do before, usually with satisfying results.  
So I look at birthdays as the perfect opportunities to single out peoples' tastes and provide them with desserts that they will love and appreciate more than anyone else would.  

Yesterday was the birthday of a good friend of mine who is from Hawaii.  When I asked her what flavors she liked, she said outright that the best cake she had ever had was Guava Chiffon.  This cake is a specialty of Hawaii and I had never tasted or heard of it before she mentioned it.  But after making it, I was so glad that she had requested it, because SERIOUSLY this is the best cake I have ever made.  But then I do love guava more than is probably healthy...

In any case, this cake is honestly so good that the pictures can't do it even a tiny bit of justice.  All the textures, flavors, and levels of sweetness are just perfect.  When the birthday girl tasted it, she declared that no one else could have any, and stuck an ominous note on it to mark it as hers, and certain death for anyone who tried to eat any.  So I think that means it was a success!
So the cake consists of two layers of light, guava flavored chiffon cake.  The dark red-orange in between the layers and on top of the cake is a kind of strong guava sauce, and the white frosting is cream cheese whipped cream.  It has the tangy flavor of cream cheese frosting but is less sweet and has the fluffy airiness of whipped cream.  The black on the sides of the cake is crushed oreos, which I only added for appearance purposes - I wanted to make the cake look like sushi.  (The birthday girl and I are learning Japanese together, so a sushi cake seemed appropriate)  

So, I apologize in advance for the messiness of this recipe.  I was kind of improvising most of the time, and when it came time to make the filling and frosting, I found out the hard way that I did not in fact have an extra bag of granulated sugar in my cupboard.  Oh no!  So lots of sugary improvisation went down.  But hey, the results were pretty amazing, and that's what matters, right?

Guava Chiffon Cake (very loosely based on this recipe)

For the cake:
12 egg whites
2 1/2 cups cake flour
3 cups sugar
7 egg yolks
1 cup guava pulp
2/3 cup oil
1/4 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon zest
red food coloring

Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a very large mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, guava pulp, oil, water, vanilla, lemon zest, and food coloring.  I used 7 drops of coloring, but you can use more or less depending on how pink you want the cake.  Beat until the mixture is well blended.  
In another bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and 2 cups of the sugar.  Then add this mixture gradually to the egg and guava mixture, mixing until well combined.  
In another large bowl, whip the egg whites to soft peaks.  Then gradually add the remaining 1 cup of sugar, continuing to whip until stiff peaks form.  Fold the egg whites into the cake batter until no streaks remain.  
Divide the batter evenly between 3 ungreased 9 inch round cake pans, and bake for 25 minutes.  To cool, leave the cake in the pans, and place them upside down on a wire rack.  When the cakes are completely cool, slide a knife around the edges of the pans to loosen the cakes, and then  they should come out easily.  

For the filling:
2 cups guava pulp
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp lemon juice

Whisk all the ingredients together in a saucepan, and then bring to a boil.  Cook for 5 - 10 minutes, or until the mixture thickens to a good, saucy, spreadable consistency.  Remove from heat and let cool completely before putting on cake.  

For the frosting:
3 cups heavy whipping cream
18 oz cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp gelatin
3 tbsp cold water
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract

Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water, and place this container in warm water so that the gelatin can dissolve.  Once the gelatin is dissolved, let it cool to room temperature.  
Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream in a large mixing bowl until soft peaks form.  Add the gelatin, and continue to whip until the cream has stiffened.  
In another bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugars, salt, and vanilla extract, and beat until smooth and creamy.  
Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.  Now frost that cake!  

You may have noticed that the recipe makes three cake layers, but that my cake pictures only include two.  Well, I intended to make a triple layer cake, but then I couldn't fit all three layers into my cake carrier!  So here's what I did with the layer that got left out:

And THIS one stayed in my fridge!  =)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Thai Doughnuts

I love sweetened condensed milk so much that I could eat it with a spoon - and have, on several occasions...  But this week I decided that, in light of Tartelette and Peabody's doughnut event, I should eat it with a doughnut instead.  
I have actually been wanting to make Thai Doughnuts for a while now, since surprisingly, none of my friends in this city have ever tried them; even the ones who love Thai food!  And I haven't seen them on a Thai menu since I've been in Miami.  This all makes me very sad, because good Thai Doughnuts are seriously one of my favorite desserts.  The doughnuts are warm, soft, barely sweet, and when dipped in the sweetened condensed milk, they taste like heaven.  And the peanuts add just the right amount of texture and flavor to make the doughnuts even more fun to eat!  
For the actual doughnuts, I used a recipe that didn't include yeast, because unfortunately I was out of yeast and couldn't get my hands on any in a moments notice.  But if I decide to make Thai Doughnuts again (which is very probable) I would definitely use a yeasty recipe, because these yeast-free doughnuts just didn't have the lightness I was looking for.  Oh well; they still all got eaten very quickly!  Because how can anything be bad if you deep fry it and then dip it in sweetened condensed milk and peanuts?  A perfect breakfast, if you ask me!

Thai Doughnuts (adapted from this recipe)

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup water
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
sweetened condensed milk, for dipping
chopped peanuts, for dipping

Combine the baking soda, powder, and sugar.  Add the water and mix well.  Add this mixture to the flour, and stir a little bit.  Add the oil to the mixture, and stir until a dough is formed.  Cover the dough with a moist cloth and let sit for 4 hours at room temperature.  
Heat oil for deep frying.  On a floured surface, break the dough into small (about 1 inch) pieces, and flatten them into oval shapes.  When the oil is hot enough that a small piece of dough will bubble and float in it, start deep frying the dough.  Fry each piece until it is a golden color.  
Serve while the doughnuts are still warm: dip them in the sweetened condensed milk and then in the peanuts, and enjoy!