Monday, September 1, 2008

Eclaires with Claire!

Aaaaand I'm back! This was a very special Daring Bakers challenge because I got to do with with my best friend who I enjoy cooking with so much - Claire. She actually brought me to the Daring Bakers so it was very fitting - not to mention her name is Claire and this month's challenge was...yup you guessed it...Eclairs!

I was a bit daunted having never made pastries of this kind, but since I was cooking with a Frenchwoman I felt confident.

We decided off the bat we wanted to make an espresso pastry cream, so we dumped instant espresso powder in the eggs and started heating our cream. I was using another pastry cream recipe that calls for half and half rather than cream, milk or a combination thereof. It's always come out perfect for me, so if it's not broke, right? Once the cream was done, I wanted to stop baking because I really could have eaten the entire thing...

So fellow bakers, don't you hate it when recipes call for all these egg yolks? I've always said to myself, I need to make a book that has a recipe that calls for egg yolks on one end and another recipe that calls for the same amount of egg whites on the other end. Anyway, We had all these egg whites left over from the cream - so what do you do with egg whites? We'll get to that later...

The eclairs were wonderfully airy in the oven but deflated once we got them out. I'm going to have to figure that one out. The chocolate cream was a bit more runny than I had hoped for, but it worked eventually.

At the end of the night, they tasted great! The mocha combo did really nicely. They actually tasted a lot better the next morning after sitting in the refrigerator overnight. I was very happy.

And what did we do with those egg whites? Made a pavolva of course. I made this for my mom for Mother's Day, it's an Ina recipe - Mixed Berry Pavolva with a Raspberry Coulis. And Claire brought over her favorite British summer pasttime - Pimms. It was a very nice evening - although we probably could have gone with less sweets. But such is the life of a Daring Baker - especially when you put two together :)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Don't hate me fellow bakers :(

Dearest Daring Bakers----

I'm an awful new member, I know! This will be the second (and final!) challenge I've missed but I promise it's not due to laziness or dislike of the challenges. Things just keep coming up with work, friends or family. And I have been baking! I'll post a few pictures here. Most of these are old - I'm also horrible at keeping up with blogging (hence the 2am post). But I always snap shots with the intention of them going up sometime! Well, without further ado (and any more of my lame excuses)...


My Proudest Tart Shell..that burned me.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned here, but I'm new to the world of baking in the grand scheme of things. I've always had a love for cooking having grown up in my Grandma's kitchen. With the help and inspiration of my best friend Claire (The Flying Quiche - check it out!), I've matured as a baker. So, at the beginning of the Summer I decided to work on my tarts. My first few tart shells were a bit shoddy but this one that I made in April was my proudest to date.

My issue was my dough was always too sticky and I had to do a lot of maintenance after putting into the pan. But this one fell into place relatively nicely - I actually rolled the dough between two silicone baking mats as you can see here - and voila! Didn't stick whatsoever.

Unfortunately, in my excitement I put it into the oven without a baking sheet underneath, and I stupidly lifted the pan from the bottom after it was beautifully golden-brown. I now have a nice dark brown scar that's about three inches long on my left arm.

People ask me all the time where I got it. I know I should be prideful of my baking, but this scar is just embarrassing. Claire calls it my gay branding, haha.

Guiness Cake

I think I have to say something about not claiming rights to the name Guiness? I'm such a noob - don't judge me! Hahah.

Anyway, this is a pretty popular cake in the UK from what I'm told. This recipe was based off of Nigella Lawson's Guiness Cake in her Feast cook book. I spiced up the recipe a bit with a few additions - a pinch of salt, a teaspoon or two of espresso powder, and I used another cream cheese frosting recipe that I prefer. This one came out much better than ones I made in the past, the flavor was a lot more complex rather than flat. I made this cake for my friend Anna's birthday - she has a thing for Guiness.

As a side note - if anyone finds themselves in Dublin, do take a time out to go to the Guiness Factory. Even if you don't have a taste for beer, the view from the roof is worth it. Here's Claire, me and Anna (different one than the cake recipient) at the Gravity Bar on the factory's roof.

I'm working on my cupcakes

I told myself that if and when I get serious about opening a bakery, I need to have some fly cupcakes. Here are the first (of many I hope!) cupcakes. I had one of these at Georgetown Cupcake, a new-ish bakery here in DC, so I tried to recreate. It's a Lemon Cupcake with a Berry Frosting.

If my taste buds remember correctly, my berry frosting wasn't as flavorful as the bakery's, but for a first-time test recipe, I was pretty satisfied. I'll post the full recipe once I'm satisfied, but basically I sugared the berries to draw the juices out, then reduced that over heat. Then, I purred the berries, strained the seeds out and then sweetened it with the reduced syrup. Then, creamed some butter, used what felt like half a Costco-sized bag of confectioner's sugar, then flavored it with the berry sauce and some vanilla. Next time, I think I'll just make a berry coulis - the method I used didn't make an intense enough flavor.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Sorbet
I'm so sad not to have pictures of this. Another thing I'm sad about is that I didn't write down this recipe.

A friend of mine loves Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie so I decided to switch things up a bit and make it into a sorbet. So, I'm in the kitchen and my roommate comes it, asking what I'm doing. I tell her I'm testing this recipe as I'm tossing sugar by hand into my bowl of strawberries. "Don't you want to measure that and write it down?" she asks. "No," I tell her, "It'll stifle my creativity." At the time it sounded like a completely legit answer. In hindsight, that was quite dumb.

Roughly, I sliced some rhubarb stalks and put that to a simmer with sugar and some water. Then, hulled and quartered strawberries.

So fellow bakers - you know how certain flavors enhance others? Like chocolate and coffee, right? To me, and based off other recipes I've seen, strawberries do well with orange while simultaneously drawing out its natural sugars. Maybe it's just me though. If anyone has any hidden flavor enhancers, please comment! I'd love to know more.

Anyway, I tossed the strawberries in some orange juice and as a spur-of-the-moment decision, threw in some triple sec into the simmering rhubarb (see, if I was writing this down, I wouldn't have done that! Haha). So I cooked that a bit more to get the alcohol out and then took it off the heat and allowed it to cool a bit. Then, using my new love, the immersion blender, I blended the strawberries into the rhubarb and refrigerated it over night. And the next day - we have sorbet! I'm told it was pretty good :) Wish I had some proof (either in the form of a recipe or pictures, in that order).

Big "JJ's" Carrot Cake
You may recognize this three-layer cake as Big Bill's Carrot Cake from Dorie Greenspan's "Baking From My Home to Yours" cook book. I altered it however and named it for, well, me, haha. Two of my changes were intentional but the other was absolutely accidental.

So I again used a cream cheese frosting recipe that I prefer - the one I use has sour cream in it - makes it much lighter than most other recipes I've tried. The second change was pineapple. Every carrot cake I've made before this had pineapple in it. I'm not sure if it's because my recipe was my mom's and we're Filipino so we love pineapple. I went shopping for the recipe before even reading it and I did a pretty good job of what I needed if I do say so myself, but I had all this pineapple so decided to deviate a bit.

So the accident? See the ring in the middle? Well, I didn't grease the pan as well as I had thought, nor did I line them (I know, I'm awful) so the bottom got stuck to the pan. Deciding to make lemonade out of my lemon of a third layer, I cut a circle in the middle of the cake to mask the former hole and fill it with pineapple to make it obvious that the cake had it. Then, I garnished that with some shredded carrots and walnuts.


There you have it! A few posts that I've been meaning to put up for the last few months. There are a lot of other things I've been making, but those I'll put up later :) For now, I hope this satisfies you and again, so sorry about missing those challenges. Check back in a month and I promise to have something that will impress.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Baker's May 2008 Challenge - Opera Cake

I'm so excited to post about my first challenge!!! It was definitely a challenge though - I was doing a lot of multitasking. I supervise the Intern Program at my marketing agency and it's a small tradition to have an ice cream social for the summer interns to introduce them to the company. This being my first summer semester under my direct supervision, I decided I needed to make all the ice cream myself. I also wanted to bake breakfast for the interns, so all-in-all my Memorial Day weekend consisted of the following:

Honey-Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Rocky Road Ice Cream
Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream
Strawberry Ice Cream
Cake Batter Ice Cream
Oatmeal Cranberry Scones
Blueberry Orange Scones
Banana Bread
Coffeecake Muffins
Opera Cake

It honestly was a lot of fun - somehow I fit in a few loads of laundry and tanning for 6 hours on my cousin's boat.

But I'm getting off topic - on to the challenge!

The Opera Cake has five elements: the joconde (sponge cake using almond meal), flavor syrup, buttercream, mousse and glaze. The flavor essence of most of the elements were open in this challenge. I decided to stay with the almond theme. I'm actually allergic to nuts - especially to almonds (but only when consumed). In fact, I usually throw nuts into a lot of things so I can't eat them - it's a great diet plan especially when you're a baker!

My syrup's flavorings was a mixture of almond extract and amaretto. Having some experience with genoise cakes, I decided to soak my cake three times to really get the flavor into the cake. For the buttercream, I used almond extract. Finally, I used amaretto in both the white chocolate mousse and white chocolate glaze.

I ran into a few problems - first off I didn't use my intuition when working with the glaze. After feeling the glaze and thinking, this is probably still hot enough to melt the mousse. Then, I put it on anyway. Why I don't listen to myself - I have no idea. So I had to do some maintenance as far as putting the cake into the fridge and cleaning up the mess after everything hardened up.

Anyway, I'm told it tasted good. I wish I could have eaten it, but I didn't want to risk the allergic reaction :)

Hope I'm living up to the Daring Bakers' expectations! Look out for the next challenge!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Coffee as a Canvas

Back in January, my friend Ahram and I went up to NYC. She is like an NYC expert, especially when it comes to food and restaurants! Speaking of which, I really should do a recap of that via this blog - we called it our NYC Food Tour.

Anyway, we went to Chelsea Market. Now, it was my first time there and can I please say, I want to live there. The most amazing food shops and Food Network?! Of course I'd feel right at home.

Anyway, at the Market, there was this cafe called Ninth Street Espresso. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I'm a bit quirky when it comes to my coffee. I used to work at several cafes so I always got to make my coffee how I liked it. I like my milk steamed to 120 degrees because I want to drink it right then and there. Typically, milk is steamed to 160, then it typically rises about 10-15 degrees, and that's a tad too hot for me.

However, Ninth Street doesn't change their recipes, which I was put off by a little but I can respect that. Except for the fact that the barista was quite rude about it, so that was a little frustrating. I think the other barista sensed my frustration and started asking me questions about why I like my coffee the way I like it. She then pointed out the reason why they steam to 150 is because milk caramelizes at 140 degrees. How enlightening! She was so nice and I appreciated her knowledge.

But, I appreciated her even more because she exposed me to latte art!!! It's when you pour your steamed milk in a certain way to create designs in your espresso. How cool is that? I've been doing a lot of reading and am confident enough to try - I'll hopefully talk to some of my favorite local baristas into letting me behind the counter. I'll report back. Hopefully, there'll be pictures soon.

The picture above is from Mortefot from

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Okay so no recipes yet, and none still with this post, but because my blog has to do with food, I figured I should write about my dinner.

My roommate Jessica invited a bunch of friends over tonight for dinner, one of which was leaving for his home, Chile, tomorrow. To give Martine (that's his name) a proper American send off, Jessica wanted to create an All-American meal. So we settled on a "down home" menu:

Pot Roast with Sweet Onions
Roasted Vegetables (new potatoes, yams, red peppers, butternut squash and red onions)
Macaroni & Cheese (courtesy Nicholas Miller)
Whole Wheat Rolls
Blueberry-Peach Cobbler with Ice Cream

The dinner party was for (8) and I could have sworn we weren't going to have enough food - but sure enough everyone is extremely full.

Again, no pictures, I have no foresight. I guess the most appropriate picture would be of me being full, but that's unattractive. So just trust me when I say, I'm stuffed.

Promise - recipes to follow.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hello world!

I hope my title doesn't offend anyone. I'm Filipino and using chopsticks for me at least is so unnatural. We just use our hands to eat. Maybe we didn't have the patience for tools such as chopsticks. Or maybe we were just that hungry.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to blogging about all the trials and tribulations that happen in my kitchen! You'll be seeing some postings soon but allow me to make some notes about the recipes I have to post so that I don't forget (I just can't do it now because it's 3:13 a.m.):
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream
  • Tiramisu Dip
  • Parmesan Vegetable Soup (inspired by Ruth Goget)
  • Oatmeal Pancakes with Maple Syrup Strawberries
  • Tarta de Sangria