29 January 2011

Tea party with Bon Appetit's Chocolate Spiced Torte

That magnificent cake in Bon Appetit's cover stared at me as I was getting ready to pay my groceries. My heart sank. This was a challenge I could not resist. It took me a while to find strong justification to bake that cake: a dear friend is leaving for a five-month out-of-the-country adventure, my husband's dear friend recently got married and I wanted to introduce her to my circle, and we haven't had tea party for a while (which I have promised ES since last year's World Cup!). So, I began the three-day adventure in making this cake:

I baked the cake on Wednesday evening, made the buttercream and spread it on the cake Thursday evening, and did the ganache glace and ribbon on Friday several hours before the tea party. I've learned from my opera cake adventure that it is wise to spread the gargantuan task over several days to keep one's sanity and to prevent making rushed decision that may ruin the cake when fatigue descents.

The cake was the highlight for the tea party, but other things that we made were also turned out really good. A friend bought a bowl of salad with intriguing mixed of texture (crunchy, velvety, crackling). A and I made a sandwich from whatever we have in the fridge (Lebne, cranberry chutney C's friend gave her as a Fall-season gift and which she shared with a number of us, shaved parmesan and thinly-sliced cucumber), and a last-minute orange-cardamom scones from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" book (375F is a better temp than his recommended 450F). L brought creme fraiche and mascarpone for the scone (BBowl no longer stock Devonshire Cream. BAD DECISION, BBOWL!! :), E brought raspberry jam to go with it. We had Twining Earl Grey and Lady Grey that C's husband brought as a gift from his recent trip to the UK (US version is too weak to my taste.... And I am not going to be apologetic about my Earl Grey snob... ;)), and for the last round of tea, we had Orange Rooiboos from Simon Levelt in Leiden.

Salad by F:

The tea spread out:

The cake, sliced:

Additional notes for the cake making:
1. For the cake, I used only 1.3 cups of sugar instead of 2 suggested.
2. I did not use Bon Appetit's glaze recipe. Instead I used suggested ganache recipe and step-by-step process from Joepastry's blog: 12oz chocolate chip, 12 oz of cream, 2 TB honey, 3/4 ts instant coffee (per BA's ingredients)
3. I followed the step-by-step chocolate tempering from About.com, and then continue with Joepastry's procedure (it calls for "room-temperature tempered chocolate").
4. I also follow Joepastry's procedure for making buttercream: sugar and corn syrup needs to boil to 250F (instead of BA's less exact 1 minute boil).
5. For the ribbon, BA's direction is pretty clear. I was able to do everything with rolling pin and a help of a plastic ruler :):

6. If I ever have a Kitchenaid Stand Up mixer (the current one is loaned by dear B), I will get a second bowl to ease switching between batter.
7. I find out that I like spongy layered cake better than dense cake like this torte. My favorite so far is still Opera Cake with joconda/gioconda as its base. My next adventure will probably revolves around joconda-base or genoise-base cake. What with the loaned Kitchenaid, I don't need to train my biceps muscle using my old (but surprisingly reliable) hamilton beach hand mixer to beat the egg whites. Heh heh.. :).

It was a marvelous adventure. I am grateful for friends who were there for the party. The hikma (wisdom) for this occasion: One need a regular heartwarming tea party to recharge in order to face the bittersweet world out there.

26 January 2011

Carrot muffin with Nutella frosting

Georgia told me last night about the post over at Smitten Kitchen for a peanut-chocolate Nutella-inspired spread: peanutella! So today I took a peek at the wonderful blog and OMG! Oh it looks soooo good and got me immediately searching the pantry for my bottle of Nutella. I was so happy that I had a bottle--in goes a spoon--hmmm hmm. I wanted to spread it on bread too (just like the Smitten Kitchen's post) but I finished all the homemade bread yesterday..... but I did have some carrot muffins that I baked last night.... hmmm carrot muffins and nutella? Could this work? Of course, anything slathered with Nutella has a high probability of being yummy, but it was superbly yummy! The Nutella did not mask the spicy muffin (as I had expected) but complemented it well. For the muffins, I used Ina Garten's carrot cupcake recipe cut in half (and added 1/2 tsp powdered ginger and zest of half a lemon).

16 January 2011

Skillet pizza

Sunset magazine has really simple and delicious recipes. I baked a broccoli bell pepper pizza twice after the Broccoli rabe skillet pizza.

All you need is dough (I used frozen), broccoli or broccoli rabe and your favorite type of bell pepper, red pepper flakes, and mozzarella. Prepare the dough in the skillet, remove and prepare your vegetables, remove and return the dough the skillet, then add your cooked vegetables and pizza. Bakes for about 15 minutes. Enjoy! The original recipe can be found here.

06 January 2011

Vegetarian laksa

I prepared laksa tonight and it was a hit.  Spouse and baby liked the soup.  The soup was restorative for me; I have a cough.

The original Chicken laksa recipe is from Sunset magazine (Jan. 2011).  I took some liberties with the recipe in terms of ingredients and measurements, largely cooking a non-meat and non-fish soup.  I could only find lite coconut milk at the grocery store so the broth was a bit thin.  Whole Foods shoppers in the neighborhood must have read the same recipe!  I used bean noodles instead of rice, red pepper flakes instead of dried arbol chiles, and Sri Lankan flavored salt instead of kosher salt.  Also, I used a yellow onion not shallots and added a clove of garlic (minced) where none was called for.

Here are my before and after photos.

04 January 2011

French Laundry Lemon Tart

My favorite lemon tart recipe is this one from Epicurious.com: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Lemon-Tart-231349. I have made it many times now and can attest it is smackelicious! Making the sabayon may seem intimidating but it is really easy, just takes some patience (and faith) waiting for it to thickened up. I highly recommend some berries on top (blueberries are best, raspberries are good too) and and oh, a side of homemade whipped cream won't be awful either. Bon App├ętit!

03 January 2011

Chicken Bao

Image from Amazon.com (source)

In our recent travel to Hong Kong we had the rare opportunity to try halal Hong Kong Dim Sum in Masjid Ammar. I was smitten..... I suddenly had the urge to master all the popular Dim Sum selection I could lay my hands on, like Chicken Bun, Har Gao, Tofu sheet dim sum, glutinous rice in lotus leaves, different kinds of shiu mai.... Upon arriving back to CA, I razed our local library and found several books on dim sum, and after several tests, my favorite one is Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's. I had the mistake of doubting her bao recipe to my detriment.

My obsession with chicken bao led me to try several recipes for the bun, including one from Yin-Fei Lo's and another from Rasa Malaysia blog. I decided I prefer the Cantonese style by Yin-Fei Lo's that relies only on baking powder to rise the dough than the other style that requires some yeast. The Cantonese style resulted in very soft, cake-like bun, while the other turned more chewy. And they say one of the secret of soft bao is to use a mixture of all purpose and cake flour.

Here's my bao

Here's my bao, too

and here is my Har Gao