Tuesday, February 07, 2012
But maybe we miss the point when we keep analyzing it. Last year, I've written about finding my own meaning to what "Love" is and I've shared how I wanted to express it during Valentine's Day. That's all nice and dandy, sure. :) But this year, I realized, "Hey – what's wrong with showing a little extra effort to someone you love?" What's wrong with finding an occasion to celebrate love just for the sake of celebrating love? What's wrong with a guy finding the courage to buy roses and chocolate to the girl he's always had a crush on; or a little girl excited to send a candy-gram to the friends who's always been kind to her? Alright alright, it's getting a bit cheesy now, but my point is, when we stop trying so hard to find fault in everything around us, it frees us to enjoy and value the little things in life!
So dear ladies and gents, why not pick up your spatulas and express your love through the wondrous creation of "baked goodies" this year? And make it GOOD, with love, with extra-effort. And make it from scratch! It tastes soooo much better than the boxed mixes and your Valentine will surely be impressed!
Here are my favourite recipes and some decorating tips!
1. This is my classic Red Velvet Cupcakes with Brownie Hearts. I do a special sale of these babies every year and I've received so much love for them. The brownie hearts are especially loved and it's such a cute little touch to the classic red velvet cupcake.
2. Dragees (silver sugar balls) are always such an elegant and sparkly decoration for your cupcakes. You can easily buy them at your local bulk barn (bulk food store) or Michaels (craft & baking store).
3. You can never get enough chocolate during Valentine's Day. Try making these Chocoholic Cupcakes with Rich chocolate cake and smooth milk chocolate frosting.
4. Can't afford a dozen of roses? I totally understand – the prices during V-Day is absolutely ridiculous! Well why dont you make a dozen of cupcake roses? These aren't the crazy intricate roses that I'm sure many of us struggle to ice, but they're cute and simple! They definitely do the job. All you need to do for these cupcakes is use a offset spatula for the white frosting part. And use a normal star tip for the rose. Just swirl OUT to IN in the middle of the cupcake.
5. Ahh, the good old heart decorations. But try using some more modern and unique colours and styles! Maybe not purple like this one, but play around with your design to keep it original.
6. Here is a delicious and elegant cupcake! These Strawberry Cupcakes are one of my favourites and I think my unique decorations may relieve you of the heart-theme fatigue.
Alright, so I think I've got plenty of cutesy decoration ideas for all the lovebird bakers out there... but how could I forget the lovely ladies and gents who don't really have someone to bake for. Valentine's Day is also a perfect day for my single friends to indulge just the same. ;) Here are some ideas for good ol' vegging. ❤
1. Rich, delicious brownies. Doesn't get any more indulgent than this. Make sure you use the best chocolate you can get your hands on. Remember, it's V-Day – you can spoil yourself a little. :)
2. Chewy Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies. And this is a must: Make it fresh and eat it right out of the even with some ice-cream. It will surely make the whole world feel better. :)
3. Chocolate Toffee Cookies are perfect to soothe your sweet tooth!
4. Make yourself the best buttermilk pancakes with lots of fresh fruit and even more syrup. Don't forget the whipped cream. Hehe! Also, make sure you're in your PJs.
Alrighty -- I hope this post has inspired you to take some time loving your friends, lovers, and yourself! I'd even love it if you told me what ideas you have in mind for next week! Share some of your favourite Valentine's Day recipes and rituals!!
I wish everyone a very happy and cheerful Valentine's Day!!
Monday, January 23, 2012
I love Winter. I love the snow and even the blizzards (it's exciting!). I love the sight of the snow-covered city and the sight of people bundled up head to toe. But if there's one thing I can't stand about winter time, it's that it gets pitch black by 5:00 pm. The shortened day killllls me. I hate walking home at 5:30 PM feeling like it's 10 PM. By the time I'm home and cooking dinner, there isn't even a trace of the sun. This also greatly effects my window of opportunity for food photography, as I greatly dislike taking photos in the evening with tungsten light.
Being able to bask in (and take food photos in) sunlight is a rare opportunity and this luckily, this Saturday was a beautiful one with plenty of sunshine. So when I woke up, I started the day with a mission. I promised I'd spend my day to make something really delicious and take a gazillion photos of it. I flipped through cookbooks, bookmarks, various blogs and food sites to find the right recipe. I wanted something some-what time-consuming to take full benefit of my free Saturday and something refreshingly different than what I've made here before. And there I saw it: Toasted Almond Dacquoise.
I've had this cake at a birthday celebration before, made from Dufflet Pastries and I was blown away. I loved the delightful texture of the chewy/crunchy meringue and the pleasantly un-sweet berry-licious whipped cream filling. I knew I wanted to make it when I took a bite out of it, so when I saw a recipe that alluded to this cake, I instantly knew it was the one! I also happened to have a jar full of almonds and a container of berries in my refrigerator. Perfect!
The dacquoise is delightful cake layer that is used in a lot of fancy cakes, but don't be fooled by it's harsh sounding name – it's so easy to make! I found this wonderful recipe from Zoe Bakes and I think she describes it perfectly! "It's a light meringue that has nuts folded into it and baked in a thin layer. The dacquoise is crisp and used to add a sweet, nuttiness to your cakes. I love the contrast of a dacquoise with a soft sponge cake and a fruit mousse in the summer or with layers of rich chocolate in cooler weather." Are you in love yet?
(And this time, I had a whole day to bake so I made it a good one. Here's a step-by-step photo post for you!)
This recipes calls for almond meal, and you're free to buy them that way, but you can also just make your own. I happened to have almonds at home, so I toasted them (to make them more fragrant and delicious) for just about 8 minutes or so in a preheated oven at 350F. When cool, I grounded them in a blender/chopper.
Next step is to preheat the oven to 225F and prepare your baking tray. Prepare sheets of parchment paper by drawing circles that match the size of the cake you are going to bake. The original recipe was for a 9-inch cake and so she used a cake cardboard round, but I wanted to make cute single-serve desserts so I used a glass instead.
In a small bowl, mix the almond meal and 1/4 cup of sugar. Set aside. (I know you can see big chunks of almond here. I know it should be almond MEAL, but I actually liked having almond chunks in my cake before, so I kept a few in there.)
Now, it's time to whip the egg whites. A few tips here:
1. You probably need some sort of electronic mixer for this. I don't doubt you have the muscle-strength to whip eggs into its voluptuous state, but it's just really really hard work. It doesn't have to be stand mixer, though. I hand-held mixer is perfect.
2. Make sure your bowl is completely clean. Any traces of yolk, fat or soap, and these babies won't rise.
3. Have all the ingredients set out and ready. You want a steady and smooth transition when you're adding sugar and such, so it's great to have it all ready by your mixing bowl instead of letting the air die down while you prepare your next cups of sugar.
Whip the egg whites on low speed until they start to foam, about 45 seconds. Add the 2 tablespoons sugar to the whites and continue to whip on medium speed until soft peaks form. Once the whites form soft peaks slowly add the 2/3 cup sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks are formed and the sugar, about 2 minutes.
Time to whip out your spatula. Add the almond meal in two batches, folding them in gently after each addition. Don't overbeat! Fold in only until the almond meal is well distributed. You know your proper "folding" technique, right? Cut down the middle, scoop around the edge, rotate the bowl and repeat!
Now, you need a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip (or in my case, no tip at all – I couldn't find mine) and fill it with the dacquoise. The fun part: pipe spirals to fill the circles you've drawn on the parchment. It should be around 1/8" - 1/4" thick.
The hard part: Bake the dacquoise at 225° until dry, about 65-85 minutes. (My little circles took around 70 minutes.) Why is it hard? That hour and a bit feels like forever when you're smelling the delicious almond meringue cooking in the oven! You can use this almond dacquoise recipe in a whole lot of delicious little desserts. I hope to try different cakes with this recipe! Oh, and did I tell you that this treat is gluten-free? This meringue-based cake is a great alternative to flour cakes!!
When your dacquoise layer is baked, let it cool on a rack. It's time to make delicious whipped cream with berries! Make sure your heavy cream is cold and straight out of the fridge. You're just going to whip the cream with a dash of pure vanilla extract and when it starts to hold shape, add about 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar (add and subtract depending on how sweet you want it). I like mine whipped to its hardest peak, just try not to curdle it! Fold in your berries and voila – your delicious berry whipped cream.
For my little treat cakes, I sandwiched two pieces of dacquoise between the cream, with more cream and berries on top. I even sprinkled some almond meal and dusted it with powdered sugar for extra prettiness. :)
So there it is! A very delicious delicious dessert that I know you'll love as much as we did at home. After one bite, Andrew asked me, "Do you have any more? I think this is the best thing I've had in a loong time!" It was soo delicious!
And yes yes - this is more of a summer treat, what, with the berries and whipped cream and all. It's not quite fitting with the winter season, but think of it this way: how brilliant is it when you can create a bit of sunshine in your own kitchen? Cheers!
recipe adapted from Zoe Bakes
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cups egg whites (about 5 large)
2/3 cups + 2 tablespoons sugar (separate)
2 1/2 cups heavy cream, cold
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoon powdered sugar
2 cups fresh berries (you can also use frozen fruit)
2. Prepare parchment paper by drawing circles that match the size of the cake you are going to bake. In my case I used a small glass. Preheat the oven to 225°.
3. In a small bowl, mix the almond meal and 1/4 cup sugar and set aside.
4. Whip the egg whites on low speed in a mixer until they start to foam, about 45 seconds. Add the 2 tablespoons sugar to the whites and continue to whip on medium speed until soft peaks form. Once the whites form soft peaks slowly add the 2/3 cup sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks are formed and the sugar, about 2 minutes.
5. Add the almond meal in two batches, folding them in gently after each addition. Make sure you only fold until almond meal is well-distributed.
6. Place the dacquoise in to a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe in a large spiral until you have filled in the circles drawn on the parchment. it should be about an 1/8″ thick.
7. Bake the dacquoise at 225° until dry, about 65-85 minutes. Place on rack to cool.
For the cream:
1. In a mixer with a whisk attachment, whip heavy cream with vanilla extract until it starts to hold shape. Pour powdered sugar and add more to taste.
2. Add berries and fold until well-incorporated.
Assemble with prepared dacquoise, adding pretty details like powdered sugar and almond bits.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
I'll be honest, I really didn't feel like baking last night. But I promised that I'd do a Holiday Treats special, and I realized I haven't posted much (just one so far) and Christmas is literally just around the corner (3 days!). So from a list of ideas that I've had, I went for the easiest, quickest one. But that just adds to the awesomeness of this cookie! It's so easy that it makes it that much more delicious. I even left the big stand mixer inside my cupboard and busted out my spatula and my arm (and Andrew's arm) to show you how simple and low-maintenance this cookie is.
I know this cookie sounds/looks pretty cheesy, but hear me out. I usually dislike cookies that so obviously depend on another candy bar.. it hits my "bake-from-scratch snob" nerve. But this cookie is an exception to me. I've always been a huge fan of Toblerone chocolate bars, and the first Toblerone Shortbread cookie I tried at a local bakery made a lasting impression on me.
I'm probably a big fan of Toblerone because my dad was always a fan of the Toblerone bar. When I was a little girl, whenever my dad went on a business trip, he'd always come back home with a bag of goodies. Some promo goodies he collected at the work conference show (pens, stress-balls, maybe even a slinky toy), a few bags of airplane peanuts, and... a box of Toblerone chocolate bars. And the box would usually be open already as my dad would have snacked on one. Maybe it was just the excitement of my dad coming back from a trip or maybe it was the milky chocolate with nougat surprises in a fun triangle shape. But in any case, I fell in love with it as a little girl.
And about the discovery of the Shortbread Cookie... let's just say, the girl who worked there saw me a LOT, since I'd drop by the place even if it was out of the way to "just check if you had any of those Toberlone shortbreads left!"
So you can probably see how much I would love these cookies, and I'm sure you would enjoy them very much too! I've sorta made this recipe up by using a basic shortbread recipe and adding chopped chocolate bits as well, so you get a nice flavour overall. The dusty, almost melting shortbread is such a wonderful vessel for this chocolate! And remember, it's sooo easy to make, so hurry - make that trip to the variety store and buy some bars of Toblerone and bake this cookie!! Happy Holidays!!
Toblerone Shortbread Cookies
makes 2 dozen cookies
1 cup (2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1 small Toblerone chocolate bar, chopped
3 small Toblerone chocolate bar, individual triangles separated
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line baking sheet with parchment.
2. In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Add flour and cornstarch gradually while beating continuously. Beat until light. Add chopped Toblerone bits.
4. Drop tablespoons of dough and slightly flatten onto baking sheet. Squish Toblerone triangles in the middle of each cookie.
5. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Cool completely for best texture!
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
I was just about to write "It's finally my favourite time of year!" but then I had to think twice about that. Is it really my favourite time of year? I mean, I do love love love the snow and even the cold brisk air but I don't know if it really compares to blissful summer days or romantic fall evenings. But one thing for sure is there's no other time of year that brings festivities and excitement to our hearts! I'm really not into crazy Christmas shopping, but I do love that the holidays lead me to think of each and every special one around me, whether it's for gift-giving or not. And just as the cold winter air is invigorating, it is truly refreshing to sometimes "be still" in the midst of the holiday craziness and think about the really valuable things in life. Of course - the warm embrace of holiday spirit is just as wonderful!! (Oh and how could I forget CHRISTMAS MUSIC?)
In light of this, and in celebration of all the abundant and delectable food we are fortunate to enjoy during this time, I thought I'd do a series on Holiday Treat this year! I did a Christmas-Bake-A-Thon a few years back (Oh dear, has it been that long ago? I did this in 2008!) and made a variety of cookies: Madelines, Traditional Shortbread, Pecan Bars, Lemon Squares. So there's just ten days until Christmas but I'm going to try to make as many festive treats as I can!
The first cookie is a cookie that I baked for my husband's work christmas cookie exchange. When they announced it at work, Andrew automatically signed up right away. He kindly "command-asked" me, as if I had any other option! But really, it's quite cute how he lights up for any chance he gets to show off his wife's baking. I also received a beautiful hunk of Callebaut dark chocolate from a close friend of mine as a housewarming gift. I've been waiting and waiting for the right chance to use it and this was perfect. I looked for a recipe that would best showcase the quality chocolate and so I found these rich chocolate toffee cookies from smitten kitchen.
These cookies are very rich and fudgy but the sharp sweetness of the toffee and nutty flavour of the walnut really balance it out nicely. Also, the instructions call for an almost meringue stage for the egg and sugar so you can really feel some of that lightness coincided with the super rich chocolate butter mixture. Another key thing about making these cookies right is the baking time. Please please don't over bake it!! It's all about slightly underbaking it (ever-so slightly) and letting it cook as it cools. These cookies taste better when completely cooled so remember your patience will be rewarded while you stare down these beauties on the cooling rack. Well, let's just say that I got a report from my husband that these cookies were the first to be gone – they were the most popular! It probably helped that I made them bite-sized; it's a lot of flavour so I figured a smaller cookie will entice, not overwhelm. I hope this is a nice introduction to our delicious holiday to come! I hope all of you a sweet Holiday filled with joy and peace!
Chocolate Toffee Cookies
makes 5 dozen small cookies
recipe adapted from smitten kitchen
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups (packed) brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 1.4-ounce chocolate-covered English toffee bars (such as Skor or Heath), coarsely chopped
1 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling (optional)
1. In a small bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Stir chocolate and butter in top of double boiler set over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from over water. Cool mixture to lukewarm.
2. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs in bowl until thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla.
3. Stir in flour mixture, then toffee and nuts. Chill batter until firm, about 45 minutes. Slice and bake option: I used the slice and bake option for easier handling and even sizes. After chilling until firm, roll the dough into a log 1-inch in diameter and chill again for 20 minutes. When ready to bake the cookies, cut it into 1/2-inch slices. You can store the dough log in the freezer, wrapped in waxed paper and then two layers of plastic wrap for up to a month, just baking the cookies off as you need. Cookies baked straight from the freezer may need an additional minute or two in the oven, depending on their thickness.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line large baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper. Drop batter by half-tablespoon onto sheets, or place slices of cookie dough, about 1-inch apart. Sprinkle with a pinch of flaky sea salt, if you’re using it. Bake just until tops are dry and cracked but cookies are still soft to touch, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely on sheets.
These cookies can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
sarah the baker yoon: Look, I know it's been a while. I've missed you a lot, you know that. And I'm really really sorry that I've been so unavailable and all I've been really saying is "I'll be back" and that I'm so sorry and.. and I –
reader: I'm gonna stop you there. C'mon Sarah, don't worry about it. I gotcha. No hard feelings, just glad you're back. Now where's the food?
s: ...What? Really? You're not mad that I haven't had a proper post in a year?
r: Nope, that's silly. So what did you make today?
s: Wait, you don't want me to sulk and grovel at your feet for being such a bad blogger? That I haven't kept you updated properly?
r: Not at all. I just want you to pick up where you left off. We're good, Sarah. That's what true friends are like. You might have not seen them in years, but when you meet once again, you know exactly where you both stand – in a good relationship as always. No need for long explanations or some sort of silly act of redemption.
s: Oh wow. Aw geez. You're the best.. So.. I didn't have to feel all worried all this time? And super pressured to create the most magnificent come-back post (which actually prevented me to come back sooner)? I could just come back with a really simple post and catch up as we go?
r: Exactly. So, what have you got here now?
So like I've mentioned above, this isn't a blog shattering come-back post, but it's just a really simple story on something I've always wanted to make/shoot/blog about. And it's a delicious breakfast! I've blogged about breakfast food before as I'm one strongly rooting for delicious breakfasts in our lives but this one is the most decadent by far! Who doesn't love a good 'Eggs Benny' on a Saturday morning?
I've always wanted to make homemade Eggs Benedict with fresh Hollandaise sauce, but was always scared to. Maybe because it involved poaching eggs and double broiling and lots of whisking. But I was wrong for being so scared! I mean, these eggs weren't perfect and I've got a long way to perfecting the poached egg, but if I did it - ANYONE can do it. And it tasted heavenly! I know so many of my friends call Eggs Benedict their most favourite brunch food so I believe in y'all that you can do it at home too!
But what made this breakfast real special was the people I got to share it with. I served this brunch on a sunny Saturday to my husband Andrew and his younger brother. We invited his younger brother the night before, shared a wonderful dinner and watched some late night movies and after sleeping-in til our heart's content, we woke up to share brunch together around our small dining table. And it was a special moment for me because I've been praying for this for so long! Best friends reunited at last. :)
Andrew and his brother have been best friends always always. They know each other so well inside out and the loyalty and love they share for each other is intense. I know the most ridiculous (and perhaps dangerous) things Andrew would do for his brother, and how protective he is for him. But sometimes friendships can get hurt and damaged. Even the closest ones. And so for a year or two, the two of them didn't speak with each other. It was really painful to see but I knew that soon enough, they'll restore the intimate and special relationship they had.
And then, time passed, wounds healed, and hurts were forgiven. And it was like nothing happened. They were back, sharing meals together, laughing at each other and sincerely enjoying each other's presence once again. Just where they left off. His brother was the best best-man to Andrew, just as we've always expected. And he's more than a brother-in-law to me – he's the most generous, loveable and sweet little brother to me. And so we're back and I couldn't be any more grateful. So, here's to reunited friends, unconditional love and darn good food!
for 4 portions
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 stick)
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tsp vinegar
4 english muffins
8 pieces of Canadian back bacon or Smoked Ham
pinch cayenne (optional)
make hollandaise sauce
1. Remove 2 tablespoons of the butter and keep cold. In small saucepan, melt remaining butter; keep warm.
2. In double-boiler bowl or in heat-safe stainless steel bowl, whisk egg yolks until thickened and pale. Whisk in water and lemon juice. Add 1 tablespoon of the cold butter.
3. Place bowl over saucepan of1 1/2- inches (4 cm) barely simmering water; whisk until bottom of pan can be seen between whisks and wires of whisk become lightly coated, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Remove from heat, immediately whisk in remaining cold butter to stop the cooking of the yolks.
5. By driblets, whisk in enough of the melted butter to thicken to consistency of whipping cream. Increasing amount of butter slightly, whisk in remaining butter. Season with salt and pepper.
set up eggs benedict
1. To Poach Eggs: Fill a large saucepan with 3 inches of water. Bring water to a gentle simmer, then add vinegar. Carefully break eggs into simmering water, and allow to cook for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Yolks should still be soft in center. Remove eggs from water with a slotted spoon and set on a warm plate.
2. While eggs are poaching, brown the bacon in a medium skillet over medium-high heat and toast the English muffins.
3. Place 2 muffins on each place and spread toasted muffins with softened butter. Top each one with a slice of bacon or ham, followed by one poached egg. Place 2 muffins on each plate and drizzle with hollandaise sauce. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and serve immediately.