Sunday, September 14, 2014

hello kitty layer jello

If you've read my blog before, you'll probably already know that I have a thing for making rainbow jello. I make it for Valentine's Day, for Chinese New Years, I've even made a green and white version for St. Patrick's Day and an egg-shaped version for Easter! So while I was writing my new book (it comes out next week!!!), I wanted to include a Hello Kitty version, made in cute silicone molds!

You can find the recipe in my new book, The Hello Kitty Baking Book, but it's basically a finger jello made with different flavors of jello, clear gelatine, and a yummy creamy white layer in between the colored layers.

To get the beautiful layers, it does take quite some time (especially if you only have one silicone mold), but the results are striking!

You could do any flavor/color combination you like, and if you can't find the silicone molds you could always make it in a 9x13 pan and use cookie cutters to cut out the shapes.

To get the recipe and see brand new photos, you can order my book here!

Monday, September 1, 2014

maple bacon-brittle ice cream

A couple of months ago while my husbands parents were in town visiting from Hawaii, my mom decided to have a lunch so that we could all get together. I offered to make dessert, but my mom said she was already making apple cake. So I told her I would make ice cream to go with it!

At first I was just going to make vanilla ice cream, but then I thought maybe a maple flavored ice cream would compliment her apple cake well. Then the thought of maple ice cream reminded me of this amazing maple and candied bacon ice cream I had at Ici one time (my favorite ice cream place), and then I knew I HAD to make something similar! So I loosely followed this recipe.

But first I decided to reduce my maple syrup slightly to concentrate the maple flavor. I placed a cup of grade B maple syrup in a saucepan, and simmered it on low until it had reduced slightly. Then I set it aside while I made the ice cream custard base - I heated up heavy cream and milk on the stove, tempered my egg yolks and sugar with it, and then mixed it all together and cooked it on medium heat until the mixture turned thick. Then I strained it, added in the maple syrup reduction, and covered it with plastic wrap before chilling it in the fridge.

While my custard was chilling, I started on making the candied bacon. I fried my chopped bacon on high heat until it was browned and crispy, and then let it drain on a paper towel and set it aside. For the brittle, I cooked granulated sugar on the stove until it melted, then added butter, baking soda, and the cooled bacon. Then I poured the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with a silpat and spread it out into a thin layer. Once cooled, I broke the brittle into shards, and then chopped up about a cup of it and set it aside.

When it was time to churn my ice cream, I let it go for about 25 minutes before adding the chopped bacon brittle. Then I let it churn for another 5 minutes before pouring it into a container and placing it in the fridge to set overnight.

And then the next day, we had heavenly maple bacon-brittle ice cream. The only thing I would change is to add less maple syrup next time, as it was a tad too sweet. But other than that, it was heavenly!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

easy brownie ice cream sandwiches

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to review these silicone baking cups by New York Baking Company, and I immediately knew what I wanted to make with them - ice cream sandwiches! That way I could use them both as a baking cup in the oven, as well as a mold for the ice cream in the freezer! I just love dual-purpose things!

I decided I wanted my ice cream to be sandwiched by chocolatey brownies, so I started by using this brownie recipe from Victoria Beckham I had been eyeing. The recipe sounded so easy and it was simple to divide the recipe in half, as I only wanted to make one dozen. (Although on a side note, these turned out not as chocolatey as I wanted. I think paired with the ice cream it was good, but on it's own I like the brownie recipe in my new book better - much more chocolatey and moist! Sorry, Victoria!)

Anyway,  I whipped a half batch up, lined my cupcake tin with the silicone baking cups (although they seem sturdy enough to be able to be used without a baking tin and just directly on a sheet pan), and divided the batter into my cups (I ended up filling them a litle less than 3/4 full). Then I baked them at 350F for about 20-22 minutes. Once cooled, I was able to pop the brownies right out of the silicone baking cups!

Then I cut each brownie in half horizontally, and popped the bottom layer back into the silicone baking cup.

Next I placed a scoop of softened homemade mint oreo ice cream in each cup (you could of course use store-bought ice cream as a shortcut, but I prefer to use homemade ice cream, mainly because I love making it!), and then used a small offset spatula to smooth out the ice cream.

Finally I placed the top of the brownie on top of the ice cream layer, and put it back in the freezer to set! So easy!

I would recommend serving these the day they are assembled, so that the brownie doesn't get too hard. But if you do leave it for longer than overnight, then before serving just leave them at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes to let the brownie layer soften a bit. Then just pop them out of the silicone cups (I found the easiest way was to turn the cups inside out!)

These turned out delicious and were super easy to make! Now if only New York Baking Company would make these in cute patterns or metallic colors! Fun!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

father's day peach pie

For Father's Day this year, I decided to make a pie instead of a cake, since we had just finished a whole slew of cakes recently (my birthday cake, Mother's Day cake, Grant's birthday cake ...). Since we had fresh peaches in the fridge, and a few baby nectarines on our tree in the backyard, I decided to make peach pie, with pie crust cutouts on top to spell out D-A-D! (If you remember, I had wanted to spell out M-O-M in my Mother's Day cake, but that didn't quite work out).

I sliced up my peaches and nectarines, and tossed them with sugar, flour, and a pinch of salt. Then I made my favorite all-butter pie crust recipe, formed it into two round discs, and let them set in the fridge for about half an hour. Once chilled, I took out once disc and rolled it out big enough to fit my pie plate, gently eased my pie crust into my pie plate, and then crimped the sides.

Then I poured in my peach filling mixture. (The little teeny pieces of fruit are the baby nectarines from our tree!)

Then I baked it in a 425F oven for about 15 minutes to get the crust going, and then reduced it to 350F to bake for another 45 minutes or so.

Once the pie was done, I took out my second disc of pie crust dough from the fridge, rolled it out, and used alphabet cookie cutters to cut out pieces to spell D-A-D. (I only used less than half of the second disc of dough). Then I sprinkled on some sanding sugar and baked them on a cookie sheet at 375F for 10-15 minutes.

Once the cutouts were done, I placed them on top of the finished pie. (Note: you could also place the pie crust letters on top of the unbaked pie, and then bake the entire thing together, but I find that the cutouts don't retain their shape as well).

Mmmmm, pie...

Hope you all had a Happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

piped shells camouflage birthday cake

I've been making camourflage cakes for my husband's birthday the past couple of years (see here and here), and this year I intended to make another one! But I was running out of designs! So I took inspiration from the piped shell birthday cake that I made for my youngest baby's first birthday this year, and made camouflage out of different colors of piped shells (except that I piped the shells in a different direction)!

I also wanted camouflage on the inside of the cake this time, so I made half a batch my favorite vanilla cake batter (recipe in my new book!), divided it, and colored the batter green and brown, leaving the third portion white.

Then I alternated colors when dropping the batter into my 6-inch prepared cake pans.

Once baked and cooled, I whipped up a batch of fresh whipped cream (recipe also in my new book!), and piped a layer in between the cakes.

Then I covered the entire top and sides with whipped cream. At this point, it didn't have to be perfectly smooth, as I was going to pipe camouflage shells all over the outside!

I divided the remaining whipped cream, and colored the portions green, brown, and black. Then I used a Wilton #21 tip to pipe vertical shells in randomly alternating colors. (For the sides of the cake, I piped the shells from top to bottom, and for the top of the cake I piped the shells from the outside towards the center).

And here's the finished cake!

I especially loved the way the top of the cake turns out - the piped shells made a beautiful pattern.

And for the inside of the cake!

Cute little swirls of camouflage :)

Happy Birthday, my love!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

graduation cap cookies

I made these graduation cap cookies at the request of my friend Monica, who I've been making goodies for over the course of several years now! Her daughter was graduating from 8th grade, and Monica wanted these as cookie favors for her graduation dinner party. I didn't have a graduation cap cookie cutter though, so I asked my handy hubby to make me one! (See this link for other copper cutters that he has made for me!)

She only needed 16 cookie favors, so I made one batch of sugar cookie dough and one batch of royal icing (you can find both recipes in my new book!). After chilling the dough briefly, I rolled it out and used my new shiny copper cutter to cut out my graduation cap shapes.

After the cookies had baked and cooled, I used stiff blue royal icing to outline the graduation caps.

Then I filled it in the runny blue royal icing, let it dry overnight, and then used the stiff blue icing to outline the caps once more and add details.

Next, I used stiff yellow royal icing to add the tassels.

And the final touch was a little dot of stiff blue icing as the "button" that holds down the tassle.

Happy Graduation, Viviana! Hope you enjoyed the cookies!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

dulce de leche

I've always known what dulce de leche was, and have tasted it in ice cream and other flavored desserts, but I hadn't actually tried it by itself. My best friend from college has a husband from Argentina, and when he told me that he would eat dulce de leche straight out of the jar with a spoon, and could almost finish an entire jar, I thought, "What?! That is crazy!" In my mind I was picturing eating spoonfuls of straight caramel by the jar. Which I thought was crazy.

But when I made my first batch of dulce de leche, I finally understood what he meant. This stuff is addicting! It is like caramel, but soft, and almost pudding-like. I found myself sneaking spoonfuls of it from the fridge, using a new spoon each time, until I had accumulated a big pile of used spoons in the sink. I had only made one jar with which I had planned on making multiple desserts, but soon it became clear that I would barely have enough to make my Hello Kitty alfajores with!

I have now made three batches of this stuff! (Well, actually four batches, if you count that I made double the amount with the last batch!) For the first two batches, I used this recipe from David Lebovitz (the recipe is also in his awesome ice cream book), where the method was to roast sweetened condensed milk and a pinch sea salt in a baking dish, covered with foil, and placed in a water bath. The directions were to roast it for 90 minutes, but I ended up doing 3 hours because I wanted a darker caramel. Once it was out of the oven, I whisked in a bit of vanilla extract to add to the flavor of the caramel.

And for the last batch, I read somewhere online about cooking it in a slow cooker water bath instead, so I tried it out with my rice cooker (set on the slow cooker setting). This method was a lot easier because you didn't have to keep checking on it and refilling the water, however it took about 13 hours in the slow cooker to get the color caramel that I wanted! So I suppose there are pros and cons to both methods. ;)

This dulce de leche is so versatile - with it I have made three batches of Hello Kitty alfajores, a batch of ice cream, and I still have so many ideas on what to use it for! Posts to come on that later!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

hello kitty alfajores - dulce de leche sandwich cookies

The first time I had alfajores, I was blown away. My best friend from college was in town visiting with her husband and kids, and we were at the Ferry Building when her husband, who is from Argentina, spotted a stand with goodies from Argentina! Needless to say, they bought a box of alfajores for us to snack on later.

At first glance, they just looked like sandwich cookies dusted with powdered sugar. I didn't know what to expect, but as soon as I bit into that cookie, I was hooked! The cookie itself wasn't too sweet, and had a delicate, tender, and deliciously crumbly texture. Combined with the dulce de leche filling and powdered sugar on top, it was the perfect balance of sweetness, and I HAD to learn how to make them!

The day after our house guests left, I began my quest to make these addictive cookies. I made dulce de leche for the first time (post to come on that later), and then I made the cookies using this recipe. When it came time to roll and cut out my cookies, I of course had to make them in the shape of Hello Kitty!

Once baked, I tried the cookies, and although they were super crumbly and had a fine texture, they were a bit too egg-y for my taste (maybe from the 4 egg yolks?). So I tried this recipe instead, and while I enjoyed the taste of the cookie much better, the texture was a little more coarse than the first recipe. So I'll have to do some more experiments and somehow combine the two recipes later on!

In any case, once I filled them with homemade dulce de leche, they still tasted delicious! (I used a piping bag and medium round tip to apply the dulce de leche filling, but you could just use an offset spatula, butter knife, or spoon).

I did a final dusting of powdered sugar, and then used the back of a toothpick to trace Hello Kitty's eyes, nose, whiskers, and bow, just to define her face through all of the powdered sugar.

While these cookies are best when eaten right away, they can also be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days in an airtight container.

Just in time for for Argentina's semi-finals game in the World Cup tomorrow! Go Argentina!