Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dear Molly Wizenberg,

Don't mind the lemons, they served as my book stand :)

When I discovered the world of food blogging, your site was one of the first ones I started reading. Soon after, I learned that you had a book on the way - I waited quite a while to make the purchase - but I did eventually and I could not be happier. I started reading the book one night, about 50 pages in I put it away and went to sleep. The day after, the stories kept popping up in my head, they entertained me for a while, but I wanted to know more. I finished the book in about 4 hours at the library my boyfriend works at. I don't remember the last thing I read that made me feel so many things all at once. Actually, once I think about it, something does come to mind but it's fictional (The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells). I laughed to myself, I reminisced about my life experiences (so far), and at times I wanted to cry. When a book has the ability to do this to me, there is only one word I can use to describe it, beautiful.

I can only ever dream of writing something so amazing. It has made me think about the food from my childhood and the food that I can only dream of making someday. And of course it has left me with an ever stronger desire to travel to France once more (because when I went the first time I was too young to remember anything) and experience all there is.

Reading the book, I also came to question my life and where I was going. I'm starting a grad program this fall and I find myself questioning if this is what I really want to do. Would I rather spend my days learning about food and cooking? Of course. But I would not know how else to survive in the world. So cooking will remain a hobby.

So far I have made the Cider Glazed Salmon, French Yogurt Cake, Winning Hearts and Minds Cake, and the Chocolate Cupcakes with Bittersweet Glaze. I look forward to trying out all the other recipes.

Thank You Molly for gifting the world with this book.

I'm sure I will write about all the other recipes that I tried, but this one in particular was just delectable to my chocoholic self. I'm talking about the Chocolate Cupcakes with Bittersweet Glaze. The cake was wonderfully tender and light. The bittersweet glaze added the perfect touch to this simple and humble cupcake. (Beware! this recipe is not for you if you love loads and loads of frosting on your cupcakes!!) If you haven't done so already, go out and buy yourself a copy of this book so you can see the recipe!! You will not regret it :)

So one of the ingredients that the recipe calls for is hot coffee. I don't have a coffee maker, so I improvised...and I'm actually quite proud of myself for coming up with this THING! I took a coffee filter filled with some coffee I got from a roommate, I put it in a strainer, and I put the strainer on top of a measuring cup - I poured boiling water over it and I got coffee!! This is what it looked like in case you were wondering.

Add the coffee to some chocolate...

and a few other simple ingredients: flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, oil, yogurt, egg, and vanilla. Mix them all up (no Kitchen Aid required!). Bake them.

Melt some chocolate to top them off and you've got these delicious cupcakes. Simple and Easy!

P.S. Have you guys tried her recipe for Cinnamon Rolls? They're wonderful!! I've made them about 4 or 5 times now, and somehow I think I get better results when I use soy milk even though it calls for whole milk (which I also tried). Another blog on these yummy rolls later!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Macaron Post

So I decided to write about macarons because I have never been so frustrated in my life with baking something correctly/perfectly! I'm sure like many others I toiled in the kitchen trying out numerous recipes. So far, I think I've made them about 7 or 8 times. Sometimes they came out beautifully and other times just WRONG. Maybe it's the perfectionist in me, but I just couldn't give up, I had to get it right.

Before I even dreamed about making them, I studied more pictures of macarons than I can count. I noticed that macarons came in different shapes, sizes, colors, with shiny domes or opaque domes, and with large feet or tiny feet - and sometimes no feet at all. I didn't realize how obsessed I became with the macaron..I was drawing them in my notes during my art history lectures and I had a good 10 or so bookmarks of different recipes. I was so scared to even begin making them, somehow I knew they were going to come out wrong the first time.

So my first attempt was in April of this year, when I went home to SoCal for spring break. I told myself that I didn't have all the necessary equipment to make them at the house I was living in while going to school in NorCal. So when I got home I made sure I had enough egg whites (that I had to age), confectioner's sugar, and parchment paper. I had to go buy almond flour/meal.So the first recipe I tried out was David Lebovitz's French Chocolate Macaron recipe. I don't know why I chose it...maybe it had to do with all the pictures on his flickr that made me fall in love with his website. So the recipe can be found on his site here.

Do make sure to read his post, I found it really entertaining and helpful. There's also a link at the very bottom, "Making French Macarons" - if you're a first timer, read it!!! I also decided that I would fill my first batch of macarons with Salty Peanut Butter Filling from Cannelle et Vanille.
For some reason, even though I can never get enough of chocolate, I thought chocolate macarons with chocolate ganache would be too sweet. So are you dying to see the picture now? Of my horrible mess of a macaron that I'm kind of embarrased to show?

Attempt #1

So what went wrong? I knew they weren't going to come out perfect on the first try! But there are SOOOO many factors that could have messed it up:
  • my almond meal wasn't fine enough
  • I didn't age my egg whites long enough (even though this may or may not work)
  • I used the wrong piping tip
  • I piped it wrong
  • I used Hershey's cocoa powder rather than Dutch-processed
  • I over-whipped my egg whites
Nonetheless, they tasted great. Chocolate and salty peanut butter are a great match of sweet, salty, and nutty. But I did try DL's chocolate ganache recipe for the rest of my macarons.

However, since I made these all in one day and quite a while ago, I really don't remember the order of all of them quite right...I'll do my best.

Attempt #2

These were made from pistachios instead of the usual almond. I bought whole, shelled, unsalted pistachios. I ground them myself. I learned that the food processor at home was not capable of making a fine powder. So I sat in my kitchen with a mortar and pestle trying to grind them as much as I could. Haha, I was so frustrated...it took forever!! I thought they came out better than the last batch, but they had really big feet! And I also topped them with pictachios because I thought they'd look much cuter :) For these I think I used Tartelette's recipe, I didn't have any powdered food coloring though, so they didn't come out that cute shade of green. In this attempt I learned to not over-whip my whites!! They need to be glossy instead of stiff!! But I did over-whip these a bit, they aren't that smooth.

Attempt #3

I was hoping that these would come out like #2, but they really didn't...I wen't back to DL's recipe, but probably over-whipped again! And I definitely didn't pipe them out correctly either. I was kinda sad, but happy at the same time because some of them had feet, even though they were teeny tiny ones.

Attempt #4

Finally, I didn't over-whip my whites the 4th time around. I had a good feeling about this batch when the batter came together beautifully. I was already smiling when I added the almonds in, gave it a few stirs, and told myself, "This is it!! It's flowing like magma!!" I was extremely excited!! As you can tell, the batter is really glossy, and at the time really liquidy, but stable enough to not turn into a flat blob. I put them in the oven and got these:

I was pretty satisfied, I did it! Or somewhat close, the last picture shows some tiny ones that were part of the same batch. But I baked them on the second level of the oven instead of the first (because there was a tray on the first level). With the oven at home I realized that I could only bake one tray at a time for some weird reason.

Attempt #'s 5, 6, and 7

After I came back to school after Spring Break, I still had macarons on the brain. I gave myself an excuse to make them again and again. I wanted to make these for Easter, since I was going to Easter Dinner with my boyfriend's family. I thought, "what better way to impress them?!" So I made three batches, two of them chocolate with chocolate and nutella filling (one had more cocoa than the other in the cookie batter) and a yellow cookie with lemon buttercream. These didn't come out perfect, but pretty close. But they did taste wonderful!

Attempt #8 (blue ones)

After the success of the yellow macarons, that I colored with liquid food coloring, I decided why not try a darker color? I wanted blue, a deep blue, maybe even a little close to turqouise..like ones that I saw so long ago. I knew it was going to take A LOT of food coloring to get that shade, and that adding THAT much liquid would probably be bad for the batter, so I used a tip from Use Real Butter's Strawberry Macaron. She dyed her sugar with food coloring! Brilliant! But I can be quite the impatient person at times. I don't think I let the sugar dry long enough, and since I wanted a brighter hue, I also added more food coloring to the batter after the dyed sugar. Bad bad me!!

I didn't think the batter's consistency changed much when I piped it out. I baked them and most of them came out quite nice. But I noticed that a lot of them had there bottoms stuck to the paper :( I was hopeful, I made some chocolate ganache, and sampled one. They were sooooo soooo sooooo wrong! The texture of the cookie was horrible, they were too fragile, had hollow insides, and they were a little wet inside too! I was disappointed, but they still made for beautiful pictures at least! Oh, I also decided to put poppy seeds on a few of them because I had them lying around, leftover from lemon poppyseed muffins.

This is it for my macaron post! It's quite lengthy but I don't feel like I hit all the points with the different recipes I tried...Hmmm, maybe I'll post more tips when I decide to make macarons again...


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hello One and All!

After months of discovering the various food blogs out there in the world, I finally decided to start my own.

First interesting fact, I never knew food blogs existed until a few months ago! When I discovered this article it definitely blew my mind like nothing I've ever experienced. Finally I found people that loved food just as much as I do!! I was ecstatic beyond belief. I scrambled to read as many food blogs as I could get my hands on. I poured over the flickr accounts of different bloggers. I bookmarked recipes left and right. And then I tried out the recipes from the NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookies to the daunting MACARONS (which I am still very much obsessed with). So like many food bloggers before me, I wanted to share my experiences, recipes, tips, and random bits and pieces of my life.

Second interesting fact, I just graduated from UC Davis with a B.A. in Art History and English. I'll be continuing my studies for an M.A. in SoCal. Even though I'm a native of the L.A. county, I've grown to love this little Cow Town so much! I spent four years here growing up, figuring out what I love, and fully experiencing my first farmers market! My discovery of the Davis Farmers Market is definitely up there with the food blogs, it was amazing! And even more amazing, it's been around for about 30 years!! Anywho, I found my spot for all things fresh, organic, and some produce I've never seen before. My eyes were drawn to the colors and textures of the produce and already made items that were also for sale. Everything from freshly popped kettle corn, gourmet popsicles, ice cold hand crafted applejuice, and of course fruits and veggies galore. I wasn't shy about trying out as many free samples as I could.

Now, how am I supposed to decide what to write about first? My macaron madness? Or my new found love in making bread? Or how about my recent trip to San Francisco ( = eating tour)? I think I'll have to think about this for a bit.

Oh, yeah, those are macarons I made way back in April for Easter. They're filled with lemon buttercream and chocolate ganache. The story behind those will be coming soon!