Monday, October 25, 2010

happy birthday, DAD!

cake all-nighter!
what do those words mean?
much like a regular all-nighter... this is what happens when you procrastinate. but don't get me wrong, this is definitely a more enjoyable, tastier experience than hitting the books til your eyes bleed...

i know my dad loves chocolate and peanut butter... i know this from his love of reese's. i thought about making this cake "fish-themed" but i feel that i have overdone this in the past... many fish shaped cards, letters, gifts, etc... nobody can love fish that much :)

after looking over recipes for cake pops (little cake balls covered in candy coating and served on sticks, cute!) i thought about the idea of mixing cake crumbs and frosting.. where else could i apply that idea?

"i can make a cake with a heart inside!", i thought, here goes nothing..

peanut butter loaf
so have you any clue how hard it is to find a decent peanut butter cake recipe? i mean just peanut butter, not peanut-butter-chocolate cake, there's a million recipes of those online. and most certainly not one involving boxed cake mix, there were plenty of those recipes floating around as well. i looked at one from paula deen, but it called for a lot of graham cracker crumbs (and shortening..really?) and to be honest her recipes weird me out a little sometimes.. can't put my finger on it perhaps i'm a bit put off by her creepy doll-like manner and devout love of mayonnaise and all things saturated fat. ehhh anyways.

instead i made up a recipe of my own, it's posted below and it worked quite beautifully! a pleasant surprise. i wanted the cake to be dense in order to hold its form inside the cake as a heart.

when it comes to chocolate cake, and i want simplicity over something fancy, i love the hershey's deep dark chocolate cake recipe for high altitude. it's wonderful, reliable, impossible to mess up, and at this point is my "go-to" for chocolate cake in a pinch. i've linked to it here but i'll post it again below to make things easier for you!

as with any kind of all-nighters, this cake all-nighter involved cheap, unhealthy food. i craved hot and salty kimchi ramen to offset the heavy butter, cream, and egg smells that filled the kitchen. after enjoying my snack i noticed the lid was the perfect size and shape for my project! (later i realize, the circle might have been a little too big for a 3-layer cake.)
my ramen template :D
i sandwiched two layers together with banana buttercream (recipe at bottom) and cut an upside-down cone shape for this bottom section of the cake. i filled it with a mixture of peanut butter crumbs mixed with some frosting, and this was the result..

bottom section of the cake
the top was a big trickier... this would be the part i need to practice to perfect this type of cake. to add to the difficulty i carved the top section out of only one layer of cake, a lot less depth to work with. however here's the result,:
top section of cake
next time i'd leave out that peak of chocolate cake, it turned out to be a little too much and flattened the heart in the end. i learned tons from making this!

since i was crunched for time i placed the cake in the freezer throughout the process of cutting, carving and assembling it in order to keep it firm and the project neat.

flipped the top section over on the bottom and frost it over...
crumb coating 
look at the little bits of banana in the frosting.. it gives it character and i love it!
banana bits :)
and now it's all frosted, ready for some delicious ganache!
frosted and ready to go
i left this in the fridge for a few hours for the frosting and cake to firm up. poured dark chocolate ganache and decorated it with white chocolate pieces (a few broke since i was so tired and was a little bit sloppy) but here is the end product:

now for the ultimate test... after my mom and i sang happy birthday to my dad, we sliced the cake! though the result was not perfect, it was still not bad! here's a slice of cake,
a peanut butter heart in every slice!!
what a yummy cake! think of all the wonderful flavour pairs...
pb and banana 
banana and chocolate
pb and chocolate. 
all came together for a mindblowing culinary ménage à trois (hoping thats not too edgy, haha)

here are the recipes i used so you can make your own!

peanut butter cake
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter (can also use smooth)
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup milk 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
preheat oven to 375.
combine flour, brown sugar, BP, and salt. set aside.
in a separate bowl mix peanut butter, butter, milk, and vanilla.
add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, combine to mix.
add egg and yolk and beat for a couple minutes.
pour into greased loaf pan.
bake for ~ 30 min.

chocolate cake (from hershey's, adjusted for high altitude)
  • 1 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups + 2 tbsp AP flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
preheat oven to 375.
combine sugar, flour, BP, BS, and salt.
add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. mix well.
stir in boiling water.
pour (thin) batter into 2 prepared round pans.
bake ~35 min.

banana buttercream frosting
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter, softened
  • 1 overripe banana, mashed
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • ~3 cups confectioners sugar 
mix butter, banana and vanilla til smooth.
add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time until desired consistency reached.

dark chocolate ganache
  • 6 oz. dark chocolate
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup
bring cream and corn syrup to a low simmer.
remove from heat.
add chocolate and stir until smooth.
let sit until desired consistency is reached.

we all thoroughly enjoyed this cake, it was decadent, rich... perfect for birthday wishes :)
love you dad, thank you for everything over the years and i hope you had a happy birthday!!!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

for my best friend

hello all,

this past week has been an especially rough one. in addition to exams, challenging homeworks, and club meetings, my parents and i had to say goodbye to one very special member of our family.

candy was a little brown dog and she was always fat and happy. she loved sleeping on couches and anywhere she could find sun, and enjoyed stealing napkins and tissues at night (so mischievous!).
look at this mischievous little face!
though she sometimes got too excited she still loved going for walks, became restless during car rides, and whenever you walked through the door she greeted you like she hadn't seen you for years.. even when you went to the garage for only 5 minutes.
we enjoyed making her "speak" to show off to our friends. after they left candy was always around to give us company, even late into the night or early hours of the morning.
candy and the lucky frog
she loved eating from the table, "people food" and would beg and drool until she got what she wanted. sometimes, she took the matter of acquiring food into her own hands...
what a sneaky dog :)
she was dependable, faithful, gentle and always kind. she loved being outdoors and encouraged us all to join her and appreciate the simple joy of spending time outside.
sun basking
i would always harrass her when she was sleeping, waking her up to take silly pictures with her! she put up with this so many times. what a patient dog.
"why did you wake me up... for this...."
not only was she wonderfully kind, she was a beautiful dog. hazel eyes and brown coat, small in size but not in character. so pretty, see?

 in her memory i made a cake....

matcha roll cake w/ chocolate pawprints
  • ~ 2tbsp melted milk chocolate
  • 3/4 cup AP flour
  • 3 tbsp matcha powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 eggs, separated. @ room temp.
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 tbsp milk
preheat oven to 400F.
pipe milk chocolate pawprints onto baking paper-lined jelly roll pan. let cool.
combine (sift) flour, matcha, and baking soda. set aside.
beat egg whites until stiff (but not dry). set aside.
beat egg yolks until light, then beat in sugar. slowly add dry ingredients and milk. combine.
add egg whites and gently fold. 
pour over pawprint-paper into pan, and bake for about 12 minutes.
let cool 10 minutes in pan, then remove paper and finish cooling on rack.

for whipped cream filling:
  • 1-2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger (or to taste)
beat cream until holds soft peaks. 
stir in honey and ginger.
spread over cooled cake, then roll up.

chill completed cake for at least 2 hours before serving.

yummy pawprints
i lined my jelly roll pan with wax paper, cut to size. used a ziploc bag with a cut corner to pipe my little doggie feet :)
this is how your egg whites should look
and this is how your egg yolks should look
here's the batter before folding in egg whites
when folding in egg whites, do so gently because the goal is to not kill all the bubbles. its what makes this sponge cake so light and consequently pliable enough to roll up.
final batter poured and ready for the oven!

not perfect, but the final result
yay pawprints!

love you, candy
though i think i overcooked the cake a bit (the baking paper stuck to the cake as you can tell) i am happy with my product. i chose matcha for the earthy flavour and green colour, much like our backyard grass. our little brown dog would always run and play on it. kinda like the chocolate pawprints. the ginger was balanced by the "egginess" of the cake, and everything played together create a distinct flavour. 

so that's my special cake for an unforgettable dog. they say all dogs go to heaven, and heaven is lucky to have candy. hopefully there's a big window like this so she can always look out and watch.

r.i.p. candy. we all love you and miss you so much. thank you for everything!!!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

half baked? twice baked!

what do you get if you cross a baked potato with mashed potatoes?

you can start by baking some potatoes. a prick of a fork, a hot oven and some patience should do the trick. meanwhile start cooking up some of the stuff that goes great with mashed potatoes,
turkey bacon, red onions, garlic, salt pepper, canola oil.
of course, you could use real bacon it would probably give you a more authentic crispy texture. or leave out the meats for a veggie option! many possibilities.

potato shells!
once your potatoes have cooled, slice in half and scoop out the insides. they won't be silky soft (i've a blister to prove it!), but get as close to the skin as possible without breaking through. rub down with a little oil, and stick the skins back in the hot oven.
mix the insides with the onion mixture
using a fork, try to smooth the potatoes out as best as you can. add sour cream or cream cheese, and milk if desired. if you have a food processor or blender (i don't), you can purée the potato first, then combine with the mix-ins for a more refined texture and clean presentation. alas, my resources are limited, so i'll stick with the rustic!

pack skins with the potato mixture, and pop back in the oven for 20-30 min. time is forgiving with this recipe.
then top with grated cheese and chives, broil for a few more minutes until cheese is bubbly.

you're done! let cool for a few minutes because a hot potato on a tongue can be quite drastic.

say cheese!
twice baked potatoes (sans butter!)
  • few pounds russet potatoes (i used 8 small ones)
  • 4 slices turkey bacon, finely diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp canola oil (or butter if you please)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • milk to taste
  • 1/2 grated cheese
  • chives, optional
  • salt/pepper to taste
preheat oven to 450F. prick potatoes with a fork and bake for 45-60 min.
meanwhile sauté turkey bacon, onions, and garlic in oil over medium heat until onions soft. set aside.
once potatoes have cooled, slice in half and scoop out insides. set insides aside.
rub skins with oil and place back in oven while assembling filling.
mash scooped potato with sour cream and milk. add onion and meat mixture. combine well. season to taste.
scoop potato mixture into skins. bake an additional 20-30 min.
top each potato half with grated cheese and chives. broil an additional 5 min, or until cheese is bubbly.
let cool for about 10 min and serve.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

school night meal

i've finally made a twitter account for my little blog project! it's been loads of fun so far, i look forward to who i will meet and what i will learn next :D

 it's finally the end of yet another busy week. my very first analysis exam (phew..that's all i gotta say) and a thermodynamics midterm. luckily things at school have started to come together.. what i learn in one class helps me understand the concepts in another. it makes my life easier, and it is quite cool to realize those connections! makes everything come full circle.

 since the academics have been snowballing lately, i've tried to devise shortcuts to feed myself well and keep it wholesome as much as possible. (alas, it is college and one day this week consisted of: calzone, pizza, chips, and taco bell. ONLY. hahaha, for shame.) but maybe this will redeem me?

yay, veggies
alright, it's pretty simple and quick which is why it's great. here's my approximation of the recipe:

easy asian-style noodles
  • 2 servings whole wheat thin spaghetti, boiled and drained
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil (more if needed)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced
  • 1/2 medium zucchini, sliced
  • a handful of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • crushed red pepper
heat sesame oil over medium heat, when hot add garlic and onions. cook til fragrant, a few minutes.
turn up heat to med-high, and add zucchini and mushrooms. cook til lightly browned.
add soy sauce and ginger, stir well.
add noodles and red pepper, toss well to combine.
serve immediately.