Saturday, January 7, 2012

No Adieus, just Au Revoir

Baby Version of the Black and Yellow Cheesecake (made from extra batter)

Just when I started blogging again, I've decided to let it go for a while. The pressures of family and responsibility have forced me to... re-evaluate my life. I look around and friends have gotten married, careers, mortgages, and children. They've moved away and/or moved on. Maybe it's time for me to let go of silly childish dreams and grow up. So this will be my last post. Just until I figure things out. In the meantime, I hope you've enjoyed all my little love bites and someday, I hope to bring you more.

I was craving a lemony cheesecake complimented by big plump blackberries so I came up with the Black and Yellow Cheesecake. This cheesecake is dedicated to my former roommate Brittani, all the good times in NYC, and all the good things that the future holds.

I began by making a lemon poppy seed shortbread for the cheesecake crust. It may seem like such a tedious task to make the cookies from scratch just to ground it all up for a crust, but I think it's totally worth it. I think the lemon shortbread adds that extra burst of flavor while the poppy seeds are so pretty, especially when the crust shows halfway up the sides of the cheesecake. I found many similar recipes for lemon poppy seed shortbread online, (I thought I came up with that!) but the one that kept coming up was from Claudia Fleming's The Last Course.

Be prepared. Bake the cheesecake in the morning in order to have it for dessert the same evening. However, cheesecake is usually best chilled overnight and enjoyed the next day. If you are short on time or patience, any old cookie crumb will do: short bread, graham cracker, vanilla wafers, etc. Some cheesecake recipes don't even call for a crust. If you're not going to make the shortbread, then skip to the next part for the cheesecake.

Lemon Poppy Seed Shortbread 
Adapted from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course
  • Ingredients
    1 cup (8 ounces) butter, softened
    3/4 cup (3 ounces) confectioner’s sugar
    1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
    1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
    2 cups (10 ounces) flour
    1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
    1/2 tsp salt
    1. Beat butter and sugar in a mixer until creamy. 
    2. Add the lemon juice and zest and beat well.  
    3. Sift the flour, and mix in the poppy seeds and salt.  Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine until it comes together (I used the dough hook for this part). 
    4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for 3 hours or overnight. (I was in a time crunch so I froze the dough for an hour; it worked pretty well.)
    5. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Roll out the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes and prick each piece with fork.  If you are making wedges, cut into an approximately 9" diameter circle and score lightly into 8 pieces. If the dough becomes too soft while you are working with it, return to the refrigerator and chill for several minutes. I found an antique wooden mold in my sister's cupboard so I tried it out for a few of the cookies.
    6. Place pieces on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake until pale golden and the edges are just starting to turn brown, about 23 minutes (depending on size). Cool on wire racks.  If you have made the wedges, cut along the scored lines to separate the pieces.

    For Crust:
    Break cookies into small pieces and put into food processor. Pulse until it becomes a fine to medium crumb (use about 1 cup). Press into a 9 1/2" springform pan and bake for 8-10 min. Cool and set aside. If not using a crust, butter and flour pan, and tap out excess flour.

    Black and Yellow Cheesecake
    Adapted quite a bit from
    makes one 9 1/2 inch cheesecake
    Preheat oven 300 degrees F
    Prepare a bain marie by finding a roasting pan large enough to fit the cheesecake and deep enough to hold water that comes halfway up the springform pan and set on the middle rack in the oven.

    1 15oz ricotta cheese
    2 8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened
    2/3 cup white sugar
    1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    6 eggs, at room temperature 
    1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    1 tablespoon Amaretto (optional)
    1/8 teaspoon salt

    1. Beat together ricotta and soften cream cheese until smooth. I pressed the cheese mixture through a fine mesh sieve just to make sure there are no lumps left.
    2. On medium, blend the sugar and flour into the cheeses. 
    3. Stir in the eggs, one at a time and mix on low until fully incorporated.
    4. Slowly add the lemon zest, Amaretto and salt until blended.
    5. Pour batter into the prepared pan and place in bain marie. Bake in the center of the oven for about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, until a light golden color (mine did not brown at all). Make sure the center is fairly firm, and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. It will sink slightly as it cools. Cover, and chill till serving time.
    6. Cut into slices and serve with topping of choice. In this case I used a lemon Amaretto glaze (recipe below) and fresh blackberries.
    Lemon Amaretto Glaze
    I happened to have some homemade lemon curd sitting in the freezer, but lemon curd should be easy to find next to the jams and preserves at most grocery stores.
    1/2 c lemon curd
    1 tablespoon Amaretto
    Mix ingredients in a small saucepan until warmed or microwave in bowl for 30-60 seconds. Spread on cooled cheesecake and arrange blackberries on top. Place cheesecake back in the refrigerator until set and cool until ready to serve.

    Lemon Blackberry Shortcake Bonus

    That night we went over to some friends' place for dinner. I had to come up with a quick dessert and luckily I had some extra shortbread cookies and blackberries. And of course, there's always some heavy whipping cream in the fridge. I added a tablespoon of powder sugar, 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, some seeds scraped from a piece of vanilla bean and whipped on high until stiff peaks formed. I placed shortbread in a small bowl, layered on a dollop of whipped cream, a smidgen of lemon curd and a handful of blackberries and it made a lovely impromptu dessert.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Strawberries and Chocolate

I had some chocolate cupcakes left over from yesterday and no more frosting so I decided to make use of the fresh strawberries I had before they went bad. I am way partial towards the European buttercreams, which contain some form of egg or other. American buttercreams, on the other hand, are just a mix of butter and powder sugar or some variation of that. I've had it before, but I don't remember ever making the American version until today. European buttercreams, whether French, Swiss, or Italian are so luxurious and smooth, and they're the ones reserved for wedding cakes or more European style bakeries. I guess for me, it definitely is about the texture, but the taste is different too. The powder sugar adds that sugary grittiness to the frosting while making it super sweet, which I prefer neither of. I feel like such a frosting snob, and I am sorry if I offend anyone :)

So back to the cupcakes. I only paired the strawberry frosting with the chocolate cupcakes just because I had to get rid of them, but it made more sense as I was putting it together. It reminded me of chocolate dipped strawberries, like the ones Godiva make... yum. I had preferred to use the strawberry buttercream with a light vanilla cupcake, but after trying this particular version of the frosting, the pairing would have been too sweet. The chocolate cake worked well with it. For the cupcakes, use the double chocolate recipe from my previous post, but leave the spices out (peppers and cinnamon). I found a basic vanilla buttercream and just added the strawberries to it last. Actually, I was too lazy to puree the berries and just cut them into little pieces. That's why the frosting looks a little chunky. Oops! Oh, and I still prefer Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting


2 sticks of Butter at room temperature

3 c Powder Sugar

2 Tbs Heavy Whipping Cream

1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1/2 c Pureed Strawberries

1. Beat the butter until light and fluffy
2. Slowly add powder sugar until well incorporated
3. Add cream until fully mixed
4. Add vanilla and strawberries and turn mixer on high to mix well

On a somewhat related note, I have some unexpected but exciting news- well, at least it is for me. A few months ago I sent out many job applications to many random places. Many of them were retail stores since they were hiring seasonal employees for the holidays. Just as my hours are getting cut at my current job, I was thinking about finding a second job. In the middle of posting my blog yesterday, Sur La Table calls me about the Kitchen Assistant position I totally forgot I applied for. I went in today to meet them and it was the easiest interview I ever had. The chef/program coordinator asked me to choose three items from the store and tell her why I liked them. The hardest part was picking out just three! It sounded like I already had it in the bag before they even called me. So what will I be doing? I'll be doing prep work for the cooking classes, grocery shopping, washing dishes, and assisting the chef and the students. Some of you might think I went to design school to be a kitchen assistant? I'm super excited because this job couldn't have come at a better time. Right when I was looking for a second job. Right when I became seriously obsessed with baking. I'll get all the top of the line gourmet baking supplies and ingredients I need for a bargain AND since I'm helping out in the classes, I'm pretty much getting paid to be at these cooking classes that cost $60-$100 to attend. Seriously, God has the greatest timing- ever! Oh, I chose a culinary torch, a silicone spatula, and a bottle of balsamic vinegar for my three items. Not that you were wondering or anything.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


So I'm contemplating setting up a new blog, focusing on my adventures in baking, or maybe just cupcakes. I'm not sure yet. We'll see. In the mean time, here's my first post on my very own cupcakes. Enjoy!

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

How did I come up with this idea? Well, when I was living in New York, I was waiting for a table at the ever packed Max Brenner in Union Square. This is totally not related, by the way, but only go there for dessert- chocolate and dessert. It's known mostly for that anyways. The food is horrible. It's like ordering a tuna sandwich at Dunkin Donuts: just don't do it! Anyways, while I was waiting, I decided to try their Mexican Spicy Hot Chocolate: sweet, spicy, chocolate. Sounded wonderful to me! It was served in an espresso sized cup and for nearly $6, it was quite expensive. The adventurous eater that I am, I was very excited about the non-subtle spiciness that came after the first taste of the rich hot chocolate. It was very rich, indeed, that I couldn't even finish the miniature sized drinkable dessert.

It was quite a lovely concoction, but I thought it was too rich to drink. Then I wondered, was it too rich to eat? Lightbulb! Hence, there was the beginnings of my Mexican Hot Chocolate cupcake. I remembered trying a Lindt dark chocolate chili bar a while back, and I knew I had to use that in my adaptation of Miette's Double Chocolate Cake recipe. The only chili powder I had was a concoction of other spices including onion and garlic, so that was out of the question. I had Cayenne pepper, so that would do for now. I also added a dash of cinnamon. In the end, the cupcake ended having a rich dark chocolate flavor, but it lacked the kick I was looking for. The recipe below is modified to correct that. In the end, just add as little or as much as you want to suit your tastes. However, I bet it's safe to say that if you're even thinking of making this recipe, you're not afraid of a little spice. Finally, what better way to top off a Mexican inspired cupcake than some cinnamon buttercream?

Double Chocolate Cake (by Miette, spices added by me to make it a "hot" chocolate cake)
Makes two 6 in. cakes or about 24 cupcakes

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees F
Line 2 standard muffin tins with paper liners
Make sure all ingredients are room temp, except otherwise noted


1 1/2 c (7 1/2 oz) All Purpose Flour

1 1/4 c (4 1/2 oz) Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (not Dutch processed)

1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Baking Powder

3/4 tsp Kosher Salt

1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper

1/4 tsp Chili Pepper (make sure it's just the chili)

1/4 tsp Nutmeg

2 oz 70% Cacao Chocolate, coursely chopped (I used Lindt's Excellence Chili Bar)

1 c Boiling Water

1 c Buttermilk

1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

2 Large Eggs

1/2 c Vegetable Oil (I used Safflower)

2 1/4 c (16 oz) Sugar

1. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and dried spices in a bowl and set aside

2. Put the chopped chocolate in a heat proof bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and let cool 15 min.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk buttermilk and vanilla and set aside.

4. In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs on high speed until foamy, about 2 min. Reduce the speed to low and slowly pour in the oil, whisking until combined, about 30 sec. Raise the sped to medium and whisk until fully incorporated, about 30 sec. longer.

5. Reduce speed to low and slowly pour the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Slowly pout the buttermilk mixture. Add sugar and whisk until the batter is smooth and liquid, about 2 min.

6. Stop the mixer. Remove bowl and add the flour mixture by hand with a rubber spatula until just incorporated, lifting and folding from the bottom center. Scrape down the sides and mix briefly. It might still be lumpy but stop mixing. The batter can be poured through a medium-mesh sieve into another bowl to remove any lumps. Using the rubber spatula, push as much batter through as possible.

7. Using a large rounded measuring spoon or ice cream scoop, fill each cup about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 min. I usually check for doneness with a toothpick at about 18 min. Cool in pans on rack for 20 min. Remove and cool for another 20 min. before frosting.

Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream

8 Large Egg Whites, room temperature

1 3/4 c sugar

1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

6 Sticks Unsalted Butter, room temperature, cut into pieces

1. Pour egg whites and sugar in a heat proof bowl (or metal stand mixer bowl) and whisk over hot water in a saucepan (bain marie). Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water or you'll end up with scrambled egg whites.  Heat until sugar has dissolved and you can't feel the the sugar between your fingers.

2. Transfer mixture to a stand mixer with whisk attachment and whisk on high until soft peak forms. Stop mixer and switch to the flat beater.

3. Add vanilla extract and cinnamon and mix on low until incorporated.

4. While still on low, add butter a little at a time until fully incorporated before adding more. Once all the butter is added, mix on high until smooth and thick enough to pipe.

Samson was kind enough to pose for me inbetween cupcake shots.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

mash up

I made a sandwich today inspired by a few tasty dishes I've had in the past.  It was amazing, so I had to share!  One of my inspirations was this steak panini from Choice market down the street.  The service is awful, the food expensive, but delicious.  So of course I'm always going back for more.  The steak panini's special quality is their sauce that's so packed with flavor, the sandwich is just another steak sandwich without it.  And if I remember correctly, they dress it with arugula too, which I think you can never go wrong when it comes to steak, or any kind of beef sandwich for that matter.  It is however, a little on the bitter side (in a good way), so I think you'd have to have an acquired taste for it.  So that takes me to our next inspiration: Pret a Manger's roast beef sandwich.  It's fresh, it's full, it's fantastic!  The crispy French baguette is layered with roast beef, arugula (again), parmesan shavings, and mayo.  The bread is a little hard to bite through, but the flavors are amazing together.  Finally, I recently ordered my first beef carpaccio from Fig and Olive.  The raw beef was sliced so thinly, it was  almost translucent.  They threw on some shaved parmesan, a few leaves of arugula, salt pepper, and a drizzle of some wonderful balsamic vinegar.  It left me craving some more of those flavors for days.  See the pattern?  Beef. Parmesan. Arugula.  I finally had all of my ingredients today, but let me tell you, arugula is a very elusive vegetable!

I bought some half baked french rolls, but I'm sure any of your favorite breads will do.  I put those in the oven to finish baking.  Here are the rest of the ingredients:

Deli roast beef, a few slices per sandwich-- go ahead, add more if you're a meat lover
Arugula, a few sprigs to a small handful
Parmesan shavings
Red onion, THINLY sliced-- optional, but I highly recommend
1tbs Peter Luger's steak sauce, or other sauce with horseradish-- the key is sweet and spicy
1tbs Mayo

Layer roast beef, arugula, onions and cheese on bread.  Mix steak sauce and mayo and drizzle onto sandwich.  Top with another slice of bread and enjoy!  Another variation:  if you don't have bread or are laying off the carbs, toss all of the ingredients in a bowl and you have a delicious salad!  I did both :) Yum!

Monday, January 31, 2011


The "Catwalk": see and be seen
I had lunch at the Brasserie yesterday with my fellow NY friends, Esther and Sambo.  Redesigned by Diller + Scofidio in the base of the iconic Seagram Building (Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe), it is well known to anyone who's been exposed to the world of architecture and design.

We decided to try the restaurant week menu.  Because Yelp only gave the restaurant 3.5 stars, I went to check it out mainly for the design. It was much smaller than I had imagined, but waiters and patrons were bustling cheerily.

The staff was pretty friendly and they offered to take my coat after checking in.  We were a bit early for our reservation but we still ended up waiting an extra ten minutes.  After we were seated, the waitress came out and brought us a fresh baguette.  It was kind of strange though; she just plunked it on an unused menu... just sitting there on the table with a little wax paper tied around the middle.  If I were the OCD type, I'd freak out, but since I have eaten rats in a refugee camp and perhaps much worse things (according to my older bro), it was nothing to fuss over.

I started out with the Mushroom Veloute (soup), the Braised Spare Rib and the Lemon Tart for dessert.  My favorite part was obviously the lemon tart and creme fraiche.  I've actually made something similar to that myself.  The soup was good, but I have had much better.  The short ribs were cooked to a "fall off the bone" tender perfection, but the flavor was a little off.  Well, it was probably supposed to taste that way, but there was something tart in it... maybe vinegar, and I didn't like that.  It was a waste of some perfectly good meat, in my opinion.  Don't get me wrong, it was good, but I would have liked it much better without the vinegar taste.

My Lemon Tarte

Sambo's Creme Caramel

Esther's Flourless Chocolate Cake

Overall, the food was not impressive.  Honestly, the food was just OK, and the design was definitely much better than the food. It was as I had expected, so I'm glad I didn't pay full price for a meal there.  

I was probably more excited about the drink menus... no, not the drinks!  The design!  pretty cool, huh?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Burn, Baby, Burn

I was craving some creme brulee this weekend (literally burnt creme in French), so there was no choice but to bring out the blow torch and undust the ramekins sitting in the back of the cupboard.  I'm sharing with you Alton Brown's easy recipe.  It's amazingly simple to make and there really isn't that many ingredients.  If you think of it, creme brulee is just a fancy name for vanilla pudding/custard. :)  So here you go, and burn away!

Preheat oven to 325ยบ

6 medium sized ramekins
1 baking pan that will hold all six ramekins and deep enough to hold water

1 qt heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
6 egg yolks
1 c sugar, divided
2 qt hot water

Scrape the vanilla bean to get the seeds out and add to medium saucepan along with the whole bean.  In the saucepan over medium heat, bring cream and vanilla to a boil.  Cover mixture, let it sit for 15 minutes and strain out the vanilla bean.

In a bowl, beat yolk and 1/2 c sugar until fully incorporated and it turns lighter in color.  Whisk in a little of the cream to the eggs to temper so the eggs don't curdle.  Continue adding cream a little at a time until it is fully mixed.  Pour mixture into ramekins and place into baking pan.  I usually pull out one of the oven racks halfway so I can place the baking pan on it.  Next, pour the hot water into the pan until it comes up the sides of the ramekins halfway.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until the creme brulee is set but still  trembling in the center.  Remove ramekins from pan and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

When ready to serve, remove creme brulee 30 minutes before browning sugar.  Divide the other 1/2 c of sugar equally between the 6 ramekins and spread evenly.  Using a torch, brown the sugar until it forms a crispy layer.  Wait 5 minutes before serving.  If you don't happen to have a torch laying around the house just put the dishes under the broiler for a few minutes.

Garnish with berries, if desired.  I like mine plain just fine :)  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

FALLing in Pumpkin Love

Hola, mi amigos!  I can't believe it's already fall!  I am way backed up on my blogs, but I was too inspired not to share my latest foodventure.  Two words: Las Ramblas.  Absolutely, no doubt, the best tapas I've ever had... since the last time I was there... so far.  I say that because I might have to go directly to Barcelona to find something better.  

Located in the Village on 4th St, it has to be the smallest restaurant I have ever been to.  My bedroom is bigger.  Literally.  Building code?  What's that?  3' aisle clearance?  What aisle?  (Sorry, it's an interior design thing).  Almost all the tables are bar height, and there's hooks under the table for purses and jackets because where else are you going to put it?  It's a great place for a date though, because really, that's all there's room for.  Two's company, three's a crowd in this place.  Or the more the merrier.  Just be prepared to get cozy.  

That being said, it didn't bother me one bit once I had one bite of their mouth-watering bits.  With tapas, they recommend  about two or three plates per person.  Seriously, I could have had four on my own.  No photos this time because I was too busy enjoying my dinner!  These are a few of things on the menu I've had on my two visits:

Mejillones Al Jerez (mussels in a sherry wine sauce)
fantastic with french bread

Gambas San Martin (shrimp, garlic, and white wine)
how can you go wrong with this classic?

Patatas Bravas (garlicky potatoes with aioli)

Albondigas (meatballs with manchego cheese sauce)
I savored every bite

Brochetas de Res (beef skewers in a red wine reduction)
smoky, rare enough, and tender!

Bocadillos Crujienetes (baby grilled ham and cheese)

Empanada  de Pollo (chicken turnovers with aioli)
love, Love!  I dipped bread in the leftover aioli.

Olivos Mixtos (assorted spanish olives)
I don't know how you can make those better, but they did!

But what I really want to talk about is the special they had last night-- shrimp stuffed pumpkin.  I had thought the baby grilled cheese sandwiches were precious, but the pumpkin was just as cute-- and absofrickenlutely amazing!  First of all, it was the element of of surprise.  Pumpkin and shrimp anything sounded good to me, but when the waiter brought out the baby pumpkin on a platter last, you already know it's something special.  The next thing I noticed before it even reached the table was the scent-- the smell of Thanksgiving and Christmas wrapped up in a tiny roasted orange ball.  Cinnamon and spices, I just didn't expect when I ordered it, and then I thought, but of course!  Why wouldn't it?  And the last thing that left an impression is the taste.  Just like everything else we had ordered, one small bite delivered such a punch of flavor.. not strong, but flavorful enough to leave you wanting more.  It was sweet and savory, light and creamy, familiar, yet exotic.  As with everything fantabulous in life, it made me giggle... like a school girl.

And so ladies and gents, as I perused the local farmer's market this morning for some fresh fare, I spotted some... what do you know?  Baby pumpkins!  I was left no choice but to try and replicate last night's love bite.  And of course, I documented every step so that you too can try it at home.  Oh, btw, I also grabbed some apple cider and local award winning cheese... the Rupert:  tastes like a softer, creamier parmesan... lovely.  I think I'm going to try a baked mac and cheese with it.

Shrimp Stuffed Pumpkins

1/2 stick of butter
2tbs flour
1 c hot milk
2tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, ground pepper
2-3 shrimp per pumpkin, peeled completely and deveined
3 or 4 mini pumpkins with tops cut off and seeds spooned out

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

First I started with a basic bechamel sauce:  Flour, butter, and milk.  I'm not going to go into it.  Google it.  OK, nevermind.  I'll be nice.  On a medium low heat setting, melt the butter and whisk in flour, stirring consistently for about 5 min until it's a light sandy color.  Whisk in the hot (not boiling) milk a little at a time until very smooth and then bring to a boil.  Cook for about another 10 min and whisk in the brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and freshly ground pepper.  Taste and adjust accordingly to your liking.  Add shrimp and spoon into pumpkins.  In a baking dish, add about half an inch of water.  Place pumpkins in dish and cover.  Cook in oven for 30-35 min. and voila!

Best when shared.