Sunday, August 31, 2008

Raspberry & Chocolate Éclairs

I was really excited when I found out that this month's daring baker challenge was Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé. I decided to go with a pretty pink raspberry pastry cream filling for my eclairs. I loved the color of the pastry cream but I loved the way it tasted even more.
The Éclairs were a little bit more challenging to make than I thought it would be... I had problems with the éclairs deflating. Also all of my eclairs turned out to be all different shapes and sizes. All the same, they tasted pretty yummy.
Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé RECIPE

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough Recipe
Ingredients:
½ cup (125g) whole milk
½ cup (125g) water
1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature

Directions:
1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.
2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.
3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your hand mixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time,beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.
4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

Directions for Baking:
1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.
2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.
3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.

Raspberry Pastry Cream Recipe
Ingredients:
2 cups (500g) whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75g) sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
7 oz fresh raspberrys
2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Directions:
1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.
2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.
3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the crushed fresh raspberries and then remove the pan from the heat.
4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.
5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

Directions for filling pastry with cream:
1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.
2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops ofthe éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.
3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.

Chocolate Glaze Recipe
Ingredients:
1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

Directions:
1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.
2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

Chocolate Sauce Recipe (makes 1½ cups or 525 g)
Ingredients:
4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (250 g) water
½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

Directions:
1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.
2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.
I also made a regular vanilla flavored pastry cream filling for half of my batch. The simple flavor of these eclairs were more popular than the raspberry filling. I think that I would have re-done this challenge if I had more time/money/patience because I can be a bit of a perfectionist sometimes. These éclairs were far from perfect but they were satisfying anyways.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The "Big O"

My family travels A LOT, so naturally I make at least a dozen trips to LAX each year to drop family members off and pick them up from their international trips. Every time we pass by this JUMBO donut on the 405 freeway to/from the airport, I would do an "mmmmmm.... donuts" and start daydreaming about the sweet rings of fried dough inside that little shack. Today, my mom & I just so happened to be picking my dad up from LAX. Of the hundreds of times that I passed by this gigantic donut (22 feet to be exact), today was the day that I decided to visit Randy's Donuts once and for all.
Randy's Donuts is an iconic donut shop that has been around since 1952 and I have seen it in so many TV shows and movies. Really, growing up in Southern California I had to make a trip to the "Big O" at least once! It's a true icon of LA. The donuts were... just donuts. Nothing spectacular, but the glazed donuts would be the best choice with a surprisingly chewy texture. If anything, you go to Randy's Donuts for the history, fun, and nice people that work inside the Jumbo Donut. You won't believe this, but they also have a webcam inside of the donut shop and you can watch what goes on in there 24/7! I'm serious...

Just an interesting fact: The "Big O" was featured in many, many movies including

Earth Girls Are Easy

Mars Attacks!

Into the Night

Golden Child

Coming to America

Stripped to Kill

Problem Child 2

Breathless

California Girls

Love Letters

Check out this funny video I found on YouTube

Randy's Donuts

805 West Manchester Avenue

Inglewood CA 90301

Tel: 310.645.4707

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Japanese Comfort Food

If I had to choose 1 last meal... it would probably be karaage: Japanese style deep fried chicken nuggets. I friggin' love fried chicken. Karaage is so crispy and when you bite into it, you get all of those yummy juicy flavors bursting in your mouth. I would make it everyday if I weren't so terrified of frying. I hate making fried foods because the hot oil always seems to pop and land on me! The daring efforts are always paid off with a meal of my all time favorite dish. The secret ingredient in our karaage is chili peppers to give it that extra kick! yummm0-!

KARAAGE RECIPE
Ingredients:
1 pound boneless chicken leg meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and grated
1 tbsp chili peppers
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons potato flour (starch)
vegetable oil, for deep frying
sliced lemon, to garnish

Directions:
1. Marinate the chicken with the soy sauce, ginger, garlic, chili peppers, salt and pepper for about 30 minutes.
2. Take each piece of chicken from the marinade and roll in the potato flour mixture until completely coated.
3. Heat the oil till it's bubbling and deep-fry the chicken pieces for 4-5 minutes or until golden brown.
4. Garnish with the sliced lemon and serve on a bed of salad leaves.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Experimenting With Photography

Lately, I've become more and more curious about photography. Visiting other people's blogs I'm blown away by all the amazing photography that I see. I've been practicing photography for the past few months but I still haven't figured out all of the little buttons and gadgets on my Nikon D40. I'm getting there though!
I'm also very curious about "old fashioned" manual cameras so I recently bought myself a Pentax K1000 and I'm hoping to take a beginners photography class at the local college. I've been having so much fun with my camera these days, here are a few photos I took at the park yesterday.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Japanese Ginger Pork

Shogayaki is a typical Chinese inspired Japanese dish that involves ginger and pork. It's so easy to make because you just mix the sauces and throw all the ingredients into a ziplock bag. Mom would often make shogayaki to put into our bento boxes for Saturday Japanese School. This is one of those easy meals that is always a family favorite.

SHOGAYAKI (GINGER PORK) RECIPE
Ingredients:
1 pound thinly sliced pork
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 cloves grated fresh garlic
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsps mirin
1 tbsp sake
1 tbsp sesame oil
Directions:
1. Mix soy sauce, mirin, sake, and grated ginger & garlic in a bowl and pour into a ziplock bag.
2. Marinate pork for 1 hour or more in the ziplock bag.
3. Heat sesame oil in a frying pan.
4. Stir-fry the pork slices on medium heat until cooked thoroughly.
5. Serve and eat!

Friday, August 15, 2008

It's Amore

I don't know anyone in this world that doesn't like a good sandwich. Sandwiches are easy to make, easy to eat, and easy to clean up after. What more could you ask for?
Today for lunch I made a fresh, Italian inspired sandwich on Trader Joe's par baked artisan ciabatta bread. It was the perfect light lunch bursting with Italian flavor. It's the kind of gourmet sandwich that costs $7 at a fancy restaurant but only costs 50 cents to make yourself at home.

ITALIAN AMORE CIABATTA SANDWICH
Ingredients:
Ciabatta bread
Sliced Tomatoes
Fresh Basil
Sliced Prosciutto
Thinly sliced mozzarella cheese

Directions:
1. Toast buttered Ciabatta bread.
2. Top one side of the bread with mozzarella cheese, prosciutto, basil, and tomato.
3. Eat!

I'm submitting this photo to the Snack Shots food blog photo event at the Greedy Gourmet. Ciao~

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mom's French Country Beef Stew

I must say that I am not a big fan of beef. I prefer chicken, fish, & pork over beef and pretty much avoid beef for the most part. BUT my mom's French style beef stew is an exception. It's simply, the bomb.

MOM'S FRENCH COUNTRY BEEF STEW RECIPE
Ingredients:
1 bottle of Pinot Noir
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 pounds beef shank (cut into bite size pieces)
1/2 cup flour
1 cup of baby carrots
1 cup of sliced onions

Directions:
1. Lightly coat the veggies and beef with flour.
2. Heat olive oil in a 4 quart crock pot over medium-high heat. Add vegetables and cook until they are softened and lightly browned.
3. Add the beef and slightly saute.
4. Add the ENTIRE bottle of red wine to the mixture and bring to a boil.
2. Put the lid on and cook until the beef is falling-apart tender when prodded with a fork. (6 to 7 hours)

This beef stew is a variation of the classic French Beef Bourguignon. My mom found the recipe when she was watching a Japanese travel show about the French countryside and made this dish... but she didn't remember the exact recipe so this is kind of my mom's own version of the stew. This dish is easy and doesn't require very many ingredients but the outcome is a fragrant stew with soft juicy meat.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Spaghetti Carbonara...What's Your Song?

Most couples have "songs". Songs that remind them of the memories they have together. Well, hubby and I don't really have a tune that makes us shout "Oh! This is our song!" when it suddenly plays on the radio. We have dishes.
If we had to choose one dish, it would be Tonkatsu. Whenever I make tonkatsu for dinner or we have it at a restaurant we get nostalgic.
"Remember that time when I made you tonkatsu? It was the first dish I ever cooked for you!" And we would start to get into how we were when we were younger and first started dating.
Another one of our "songs" would be Sphagetti Carbonara, hubby's all time favorite pasta dish. When I was studying abroad in Japan, one of the first places he took me on a date in Tokyo was his favorite pasta restaurant (Al Dente) where they serve his favorite Carbonara. I've attempted to remake that carbonara pasta a few times and have failed at it... but yesterday I gave it another try and I think it came pretty close to it!
SPAGHETTI CARBONARA RECIPE
Ingredients:
2 pieces of Garlic
3 pieces of bacon
1 cup of heavy cream
1 cup of whole milk
2 egg yolks
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan Cheese to taste

Directions:
1. Boil the Spaghetti in a big pot while you are preparing the other ingredients.
2. Chop the garlic and cut the bacon into small 1/2 inch pieces.
3. Saute the garlic and bacon on frying pan with olive oil.
4. In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks and mix in the cream, milk, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
5. Once the spaghetti is boiled and al dente, throw the spaghetti in to the bowl with the cream mixture. (The heat of the pasta will cook the raw eggs.)
6. Toss well and add the bacon & garlic into the mixture.

This is more of a Japanese style Carbonara and it is very delicious. Next time I think I will add more bacon!

Do you and your lover have a "song" too?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Happy Wedding Anniversary!

Exactly two years ago, on this day...hubby became my hubby. We were married in a little church right by the Eiffel tower in Paris. Everything about our wedding was romantic and perfect. Two years have gone by so quickly and married life has been amazing. I often daydream about that wonderful day... especially the AWESOME wedding cake we had that day. haha. I have to say, the cake really (almost) stole the show at our wedding. Our wedding cake was made by none other than the renowned Chef patissier of Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki in Paris. The cake was magnificent to say the least. It was a masterpiece decorated with fresh fruits, Sadaharu Aoki's signature macaroons, and topped with a white chocolate Eiffel tower. The guests had seconds and thirds, heck, I even had seconds and thirds (despite the tight wedding dress)!
Only after the wedding did I learn of a wedding tradition where couples save the top tier of their cake to freeze and eat on their first anniversary. Now I kick myself for not saving the top tier of that glorious cake!

Anyways... happy anniversary hubby! May we have many many more happy years and yummy cakes to come!

Sadaharu Aoki
56 bd de Port-Royal,
75005 Paris
Tel: 01 45 35 36 80

Cheesecake Doubletake

The cheesecake I made for hubby's birthday was such a hit that it disappeared within a day. Poor hubby didn't get as many slices as he would have wanted so I decided to bake him another one. This time I decided to add some white chocolate to the cream cheese batter to mix things up a bit. I kept the recipe exactly the same as the one I used below except I just mixed in 8oz. of melted white chocolate chunks.
The outcome: a cheesecake just as yummy as the first one I made... except I really couldn't taste the white chocolate. But it was really good, all the same.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Birthday (Cheese)Cake

Yesterday was my hubby's 26th birthday! Hubby has never been a huge fan for ultra sweet treats like me... but he really likes cheesecake. So instead of a traditional birthday cake, I decided to bake him a mildly sweet birthday cheesecake.
I've made cheesecake before but this was probably the best I've ever baked. I only had 2 eggs left in my fridge and decided to add minimal amounts of sugar, so I improvised a little but the cake turned out to be wonderful. It was moist, and fluffy, and not too sweet.
Happy Birthday Hubby. I love you!

BIRTHDAY CHEESECAKE RECIPE
Ingredients:
1 cup of graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup of melted butter
1/4 cup of packed brown sugar
1 lb. cream cheese
1/2 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup of flour
16 ounces of sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Directions:
1. To make the crust, mix the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 1/4 cup of brown sugar in a bowl.
2. Press onto the bottom of a buttered nonstick springform pan.
3. Bake the pan at 350 F for about 8-10 minutes and let it cool before you fill the pan with the cheesecake filling.
4. All cheesecake ingredients should be at room temperature before you start.
5. Lightly beat the cream cheese until fluffy and add the sugar a little at a time as you beat.
6. Add the eggs slowly while you keep beating, then add the flour, vanilla, and lemon juice to the mixture.
7. Finally add the sour cream and mix well.
8. Pour the cheesecake mixture into the springform pan (over the crust).
9. Bake for about 1 hour at 325 degrees.
10. Let the cheesecake cool, then put it in the fridge to firm up.
11. Place candles in the cheesecake, sing happy birthday, and eat!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sprinkles!

Our house is literally a minute drive away from the famed Sprinkles cupcake shop in Beverly Hills. I would often roll my eyes as I drive past the insane line forming outside of this little shop thinking that people are crazy for wasting their time and money ($36 for a dozen?!) on a couple of measly cupcakes... Sprinkles cupcakes became the "it" thing after it was featured on the Oprah show a few years ago and the hype still has not died down!
Although I don't agree on their ridiculous prices or lines, I must (and hate to) admit that Sprinkles makes a pretty freakin' good cupcake. My personal favorite is the red velvet cupcake. The cake is rich and moist, and the cream cheese frosting is so creamy and dreamy!
The coconut cupcake is really good too, oh! and the carrot cupcake is also my favorite. Heck, you can't really go wrong with any of the cupcakes here. The only real critique I have is that the trademark sugar "dots" are tasteless and bland.
The packaging is adorable, and the wooden cutlery is so cute that I always end up grabbing more than I need... to use later at home of course. Over the weekend I gave into the temptation and ended up being one of those stupid people lining up for 20 minutes just for a couple of cupcakes.
Damn you, Sprinkles cupcakes!

SPRINKLES
9635 S Santa Monica Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Tel: (310) 274-8765

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Nectarine Madness Contiunes...

With the last remaining nectarines on our tree, I decided to make a nectarine pie. This is my second attempt at making pie and still did not trust myself to prepare the dough from scratch, so I decided to use the Trader Joe's pre-made pie crust dough.
The nectarines growing on our backyard tree are unbelievably juicy and sweet so I didn't need to add too much sugar. Adjusting the top crust of the pie was the biggest challenge for me. Although this pie won't be winning any beauty contests, the taste was great! My dad especially loved it and even had a huge second slice. He said it tasted a lot like rhubarb pie with the tartness. I never really thought to put nectarines in a pie since I've never even tasted a nectarine pie before. If you never have either, you must try!
NECTARINE PIE RECIPE
Ingredients:
1 box of pre-made pie crust dough
1/3 cup white flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
3 tsp lemon juice
10 medium sized sliced fresh nectarines
Pastry for 9" double crust pie
1 egg white

Directions:
1. In a large bowl combine the 1/4 cup of sugar, brown sugar, nutmeg, flour, and lemon juice.
2. Mix well then toss with the sliced nectarines.
3. Mound fruit into pastry lined 9 inch pie plate.
4. Adjust top crust. Seal and flute edges.
5. Brush pastry with the beaten egg white; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar. 6. Cut slits in top.
7. Bake in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.
8. Remove the pie and bake 20-25 minutes more or until the crust is golden.
9. Let it cool before serving & eat!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Happy Birthday Dad & Nana!

This is kind of late... but it was my Westie, Nana's birthday & my dad's birthday last week! They were both born on July 30th.

Hubby got my dad an awesome cake! I think Japanese pastries are the best, not too overwhelmingly sweet like a lot of the desserts here in the states. Hubby got this cake from Cafe Blanc, a great Japanese Bakery in Costa Mesa. It was strawberry shortcake.
Coincidentally, a lot of the important people (& dog) in my life are Leos. My dad is a Leo, my brother is a Leo, my husband is a Leo, and my doggie is a Leo. Lucky me, because Aries and Leo are the most compatible signs in astrology. Lucky me that I get to eat lots of yummy birthday cake in the month of August.
CAFE BLANC
298 E 17th Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Tel:(949) 631-9999

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