Lemon Bars - Attempt #3

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

For the third time, I tried to make Lemon Bars. This time, I used a Barefoot Contessa recipe...but with some slight alterations. I juiced some Meyer lemons earlier in the year, popped them into ice cube trays, and got myself a bagful of fresh frozen (um, that sounds wrong) juice. So, I didn't have any zest and that was left out...most likely lessening the lemony taste.

The crust was okay, but the topping wasn't the best (perhaps due to the lack of zest). Thanks to a suggestion from the Master Chef D, the powdered sugar stayed on! (The secret is all about room temperature-ness).

Oh well, I'll keep trying until I find the perfect Lemon Bar! Stay tuned!
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Edamame Pancakes in Japan

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Yuko is my friend from a high school Sister City exchange program. This is her son, Daiki. They live in a suburb of Tokyo. Yuko attempted to cook pancakes for her son...

My mom is in Japan with my camera so I thought I would get photos from Japan. However, these aren't from my mom's trip to Okinawa, but from my friend, Yuko in Tokyo! Yuko and I have known each other for years and years. We have visited each other many times...we have traveled to Half Dome (no, not to the top, silly - that would be way too exhausting!), San Diego for her crazy English classes, ate our way through San Francisco with Sumi, chowed down on tons of shrimp in Las Vegas, viewed the Grand Canyon for a few minutes in the cold, and even visited my grandmother in Okinawa. Yuko is now married to a wonderful man and they have a cute son I can't wait to meet! (Yuko is a translator and translates really technical (and boring) business stuff.)

One thing I love about this blog is that I hear from friends that they were inspired to bake!! That is so wonderful. Everyone should bake. Baking is good for you and for those who eat your yummy stuff (sans the heart disease). Please post in the "comments" sections if you too were so inspired to bake! (Personal note to Susan B: hint, hint...post, post!)

And Yuko was inspired to bake/cook for her son! What a wonderful gift a mom can give to her son...Well, here is Yuko story:

I just wanted to tell that I can’t bake… To be exact, I cannot bake without tasting too much.

I tried to make pancakes for Daiki. I used to buy frozen mini pancakes but thought making them from scratch would be a good idea because making them from a pancake mix is foolproof and cheaper (and maybe safer in this day and age!)

Since I had frozen edamame paste in the fridge, I decided to make edamame pancakes. It may sound weird, but I wanted to add more protein to the Daiki’s snack.

The first piece was cooked too much. Most of the surface got burnt. Since I thought Daiki would not like the bitter taste, I ate it for him (emphasis should be placed the part “for him”!)

Then, on my second try, it looked a bit undercooked so left it for a few more minutes…overcooked again! So I ate it.

One piece led to another…. I was soooo stuffed!!!

Maybe I should go back to buying packaged frozen pancakes again…I cannot be the Food Translator. ;)

Little Daiki in Tokyo says, "Stop eating my pancakes, Mom!"
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Going to Japan Bar Cookies

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bar Cookies made with White & Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Today, my mom flew back to Okinawa, Japan to visit my 87-year-old grandmother and her family. My mom has not flown on an airplane in 11 years, and a lot has changed since then. She got a wee bit confused with the new restrictions... she thought she could not bring any liquids or gels, even in her checked luggage!

After dropping my mom off at LAX, I went to work where we had a lunch potluck. I made some Nestlé bar cookies with the Nestlé swirled chips -- a swirl of white chocolate and semisweet chocolate. I used the chocolate chip cookie recipe on the back of the package, adding two tablespoons of flour since I was omitting the nuts, and spread it out in a jelly roll pan.

You mix in about two thirds of the package in the batter and scatter the remaining chips on top. I think the morsels are very cute!

I loaned my mom my digital camera so I may not have new posts for about one week!
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Chocolate Colorado Rockies Cupcakes

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Yippee! The Colorado Rockies made it to the World Series!

Although I am sad my Anaheim Angels were knocked out, I'm now pulling for the Colorado Rockies. My co-worker's brother is on the coaching staff of this extremely hot team. So I decided to make Chocolate Colorado Rockies Cupcakes.

Here comes the lazy part of cooking... I didn't have any milk nor buttermilk in the house and I was reluctant to head over to my janky Ralphs to pick something up. Luckily, I found two recipes that only used ingredients found in my kitchen.

For the chocolate cupcake, I made the Devil's Food cake from Martha Stewart. This is very similar to Mrs. Milman's chocolate cake that's also on her website, but instead of buttermilk, it uses sour cream (which, for some reason, I had in abundance in the refrigerator).

The frosting. Wow. The frosting. For the frosting, I found a recipe on Oprah's website from the famous Sprinkles bakery. It calls for a lot of rich ingredients -- but no buttermilk or milk! Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate, tons of powdered sugar, four sticks of butter, sour cream and vanilla make up this rich chocolatey frosting. I believe I over-whipped the frosting but it was 6 a.m. so please give me a break.

A boatload of powered sugar (1 1/2 pounds)...thank goodness I have my scale. I inserted the apple for scale.

10 ounces of yummy Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate
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Typos Caramels

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Cakes? Cookies? Nope. Let's try candy!

I found this recipe in the beautiful book: Chez Jacques: Traditions and Rituals of a Cook by Jacques Pepin. (Thanks Jessica for showing me this new library book!) Eventually, I want to make caramel apples - the perfect fall food!

This is a test.
What the heck is wrong with this brand new thermometer from Sur La Table?
Look closely.

Yes, you see 225 degrees on the left. Then 275 degrees on the right. What should be in the middle? Perhaps 250? Well, no, you didn't buy MY thermometer!

220 degrees?! Is this the new math that kids are learning today?!??! I'm blaming the disaster first batch on these "special numbers"...I was looking for 240 degrees, which I thought would be near the LARGE 220 degrees label...well, you can guess what happened. (By the way, burnt caramel doesn't smell so great.)

So here is how caramel comes together. First, a mixture of water, light corn syrup and sugar come to a boil.

You add heated butter and heavy cream to the boiling mix and let it get to 240 degrees or the softball stage. After about 6 minutes of boiling and bubbling, the yummy smelling mixture gets poured into a loaf pan. Let it sit for 4 hours to cool off and firm up...then wrap with cute wax paper pieces!

Bikini Asian Pear
After pouring the boiling hot caramel into the pan, I couldn't resist grabbing a fresh Asian pear (I'm seriously IN LOVE with the Asian pear) and slamming it against the side of the stainless steel saucepan. As you can see, it picked up a bit of the caramel for an instant sorta-kinda bikini-looking caramel Asian pear. 220 or 250 degrees of fun!
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Columbus Pumpkin Roll

Monday, October 8, 2007

It's Columbus Day! Or Indigenious People Day in Berkeley! And since I'm a government worker in a land that recognizes this holiday, I had the day off! Sweet.

Yeah, yeah, yeah...I made a pumpkin roll (as the title says). However, the highlight of the day was seeing the new George Clooney movie, "Michael Clayton." Two full hours of George Clooney in a suit. With salt-and-pepper hair. On the big screen. Sweet.

I also ate some yummy Ethopian food at Nyala on Fairfax, had a fix of Pinkberry in the Farmer's Market, and saw a bunch of people trying to get into Dancing with the Stars at CBS Studios (it was a very surreal scene as the crowd was totally diverse and all dressed up...I thought they were going to a strange Columbus Day afternoon wedding, but a nice girl in line set me straight!) However, when we were heading back to the car, we overheard an angry woman (in a nice dress) saying she didn't get in and that she "took half a day off work..." Boy, you know she ain't voting tonight!

But I digress... Here is a pumpkin roll. The recipe is on the inside label of the Libby Pumpkin can or you can see it here!! How can you go wrong with Fall's favorite flavor - the pumpkin...and a boatload of cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar? This is really easy to make, very quick and has lots of crowd appeal.

Fresh from the oven in a jelly roll (15 x 10) pan

After coating a kitchen towel with powdered sugar, the cake is placed on it as soon as it is pulled from the oven. Then, you roll it up (along with the towel).

Let the roll sit for 30 minutes to cool off and learn its form.

After cooling off, you carefully unroll the cake and place a filling of cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla on top. Then it all gets rolled up and wrapped in plastic wrap overnight!

Sweet. It's Fall.
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Williams-Sonoma Apple Cake

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Williams-Sonoma "Cakes" - Apple Cake

Strands of apple coated with cinnamon sugar dot this light cake

It's fall. It's apple time! I simply love apple desserts. If you've been reading my blog, you know that I've made a bunch of apple cakes. I think my ultimate goal is to be able to make an apple cake for everyday of the week. I made the Martha Stewart apple cake, my mom's old recipe, one from Baking Illustrated, and I modified a coffeecake by adding apples. This time I used the Williams-Sonoma Cakes book (page 63) for a second time.

This recipe used three medium Granny Smith apples that were shredded. The apples sat in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon for 15 minutes and then I drained the liquid that was released. The batter included eggs, sugar, vanilla, cake flour, and sour cream. Your basic yummy cake ingredients.

I placed 2/3 of the batter into the tube pan and then sprinkled some cinnamon sugar mixture on top. The rest of the batter was placed on top of that and the remaining cinnamon sugar mixture topped my apple cake. After baking the cake for 50 minutes, I pulled it out of the oven only to discover that the cinnamon sugar mixture on top created a shell. After I inverted the cake onto a plate and then re-inverted it onto another cake plate (it is very difficult sometimes to take a cake out of the tube pan), the shell cracked a little bit but I knew it would be broken when we slice the cake anyway.

I thought the cake was pretty moist and the strands of apple coated with cinnamon sugar added a nice bit of sweetness to the cake. Which one is my favorite? Hum, I might have to make them all and do a taste test! I also want to try and replace regular apples with some Asian Pears this fall!

On another note, Go Angels in the post season!!!
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Early Morning Blondies

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

I made this batch of Blondies from the American Classics book (page 327) by the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine. According to Cook's Illustrated, "Blondies are a first cousin to both brownies and chocolate chip cookies."

As always, Cook's tested a gazillion batches saving the best to publish. This one used all-purpose flour, melted butter, light brown sugar, eggs, semisweet chocolate chips, and white chocolate chips. I omitted the pecans for this recipe.

The recipe was really easy to make because I didn't need to bring anything to room temperature. That's one of my problems with working and trying to bake... and bring in the freshest products into the office. I like to get up early in the morning and bake, but having to get up extra early to remove the butter from the refrigerator can be a bit tedious and cause sleep deprivation. For this recipe, I measured all the ingredients the night before and set the clock for 5 a.m.

People at work seem to like them... but they remind me too much of its cousin, the chocolate chip bar cookie. To be quite honest, I would rather have a brownie.

I chopped up these chunks of white chocolate to add to the semi-sweet morsels
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