Saturday, May 28, 2011

french onion and bacon tart

I saw this recipe for french onion and bacon tart from America's Test Kitchen, and my mouth started watering.  So I had to make it.  It's kind of like a quiche, but it doesn't have as many eggs as a quiche would have.

For the pie crust, I used my favorite all-butter pie crust recipe, and pressed it into a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. I didn't have any pie weights for the blind baking, so instead I used mung beans, the only dried beans that I could find in the house.  (Sorry mom, these were the beans you brought to my house to make soup with!)

Next up was frying up some bacon. Yum!  Of course I had to snack on a few, because who can resist crispy, salty, delicious bacon when it's on a plate right infront of you!

Then, I added sliced onions and fresh thyme to the pan with the rendered bacon fat, seasoned it, and let it cook until the onions were nice and caramelized.

After letting the onions cool slightly, I combined them with a mixture of eggs and half-and-half, and then poured them into my baked tart shell.  The final step was topping the whole thing with the crispy bacon (what was left of the bacon, that is).

Then I put it in the oven and baked it at 375 F for about 25 minutes until it was set.  I let it cool for a bit, and then unmolded it from the tart pan.

I have to say, this recipe makes one delicious savory tart.  The combination of flavors and textures is heavenly - flaky buttery crust, combined with sweet caramelized onions and creamy eggs, and crispy salty bacon to top it all off!  And the best part is that you could have it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

Friday, May 27, 2011

rainbow sprinkles birthday cake for grant

We celebrated my wonderful husband Grant's birthday this week, and of course I wanted to make him a special cake.  There were three things I wanted this cake to be: 1) light, 2) bright and happy, and 3) it would have a special surprise inside!  Like this:

It's a heart inside!  A chocolate mousse heart, to be exact.  I got the idea from I Am Baker's heart cake, except she filled her cake with a crumbled cake and frosting mixture (similar to what cake pops are made out of).  I used this recipe for the white cake, and the chocolate mousse recipe from my triple chocolate mousse cake.  And then to keep it light, I frosted the whole thing with freshly whipped cream.

For the decoration, I wanted it to be cheery and bright, so I chose to use rainbow sprinkles on the sides.  Also, I had wanted to incorporate rainbows because my husband is from Hawaii, the rainbow state!  But it actually didn't come out how I had envisioned - I wanted it to be so full of sprinkles that you couldn't see the frosting.  But since I had used whipped cream, it was too soft and not dense enough, and the sprinkles sank into the frosting when I smashed them into the sides.  So I got rainbow sprinkles that look like stubble :(

Then I outlined a simple rainbow heart on the top with rainbow chips, and added a birthday message piped in melted chocolate.

The cake came out light, and not too sweet, and had that classic white cake and white frosting "birthday cake" taste, with a little chocolate surprise!

Happy birthday, my love!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

light and crispy waffles

While my cousin Angie was in town visiting, I decided to make waffles for breakfast.  I had found a new recipe on America's Test Kitchen that promised crispy waffles and called for rice krispies in the batter, and I was curious to see how it would come out.

The first waffle to come out of the waffle maker - fail!  I had forgotten to spray it with cooking spray first.  But after that first hiccup, the rest came out beautifully.  And they were crispy!

I froze the leftover waffles so that we could toast them up another day.  Later on in the weekend, my husband made his famous fried chicken wings, and we had plenty left over.  So for breakfast the next morning we had, you guessed it, fried chicken and waffles for breakfast!  It was a delicious combination (even though I left the waffles in the oven too long and they got a little too crispy) - the sweetness from the pancake syrup and the waffles was perfect with the saltiness from the crispy chicken.

I can't wait to make these again!  I might even try making savory waffles, perhaps with a little bit of cheddar and crispy bacon in the waffle batter?  Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

triple chocolate mousse cake for angie and yvonne

My cousin Angie flew in from Chicago last weekend, specifically to run in Bay to Breakers with a group of friends.  My other cousin Yvonne planned to run in it as well.  So on Angie's first evening in town, we all had dinner at my house.  For dessert, I made a triple chocolate mousse cake - a 6-inch version of the individual triple chocolate mousse cakes I made a few months ago.

The bottom layer was a moist chocolate cake (I again used my favorite homemade chocolate cake recipe instead of the flourless chocolate cake recipe from ATK), the middle layer was a bittersweet chocolate mousse, and the top layer was a white chocolate mousse.  Then I piped on a good luck message in melted chocolate.

After I unmolded my mousse cake, the top edge was really wonky and uneven.  So I thought I would pipe on a nice shell border (to hide the wonkyness).  But, it only made the cake more ugly (sigh).  I had the urge to pipe a shell border on the bottom of the cake to even it out, but I resisted, as I have messed up cakes in the past by continuing to add things such as this.

In the end, the cake tasted great, and that's all that matters, right? :)

Hope you enjoyed it Angie and Yvonne!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

rhubarb tart with strawberry whipped cream

My cousin Angie was in town visiting over the weekend, and the day she arrived I picked her up from the airport and immediately whisked her off to the Chez Panisse Cafe for lunch.  Everything was delicious.  And my favorite part, of course, was dessert.  We shared a rhubarb tart with strawberry ice cream, and it was such a perfect combination.  I often see rhubarb-strawberry combinations in pie form, but I've never thought of having those same flavors in separate components served together.

Later on in the weekend, I decided to attempt a rhubarb tart, inspired by the one we'd had at Chez Panisse.  I made my favorite all-butter pie crust recipe (which is just flour, salt, sugar, butter, and ice water), and pressed it into a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Then I sliced my rhubarb stalks into skinny batons, and tossed them with flour, sugar, and a pinch of salt.  Finally I arranged them nicely on top of my prepared tart dough, and baked it at 350 F for a little over an hour.

I loved the way it looked when it came out of the oven ... the pattern from the rhubarb, the beautiful pink color, and the look of the crust dotted with sanding sugar that I had sprinkled on before baking ... and it smelled great too!

I had wanted to make strawberry ice cream to go with it also, but forgot to put my ice cream freezer bowl in the freezer that day, so it wouldn't have been cold enough in time to make ice cream in time.  Angie had the brilliant idea to make a strawberry whipped cream to go with it instead, which turned out to be a delicious compliment to the tart.  And it was so simple - after whipping the heavy cream with a bit of confectioner's sugar, I added pureed strawberries to taste, and whipped it until just combined.

When I served a slice of the cooled tart with a scoop of the strawberry whipped cream, we decided that the tart alone was a bit too tart, but with the strawberry whipped cream it was perfect!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

tiramisu ice cream

My friend Hsing recently made tiramisu ice cream, and when I tasted it I knew that I wanted to make it too!  Not long after that, I had the perfect opportunity - my cousin Angie was coming to visit and I know that she loves boozy desserts, so I decided to make it for her.

The source was, once again, David Lebovitz's book "The Perfect Scoop".  The ice cream base included Kahlua and rum, as well as mascarpone cream to create a creamy richness.  I also made a mocha ripple (made by simmering espresso, cocoa powder, vanilla, sugar, and corn syrup), which was layered into the ice cream after it was done churning.

The resulting combination of flavors was delicious!  Although I would have loved more coffee flavor, so next time I'll try adding some espresso to the ice cream base as well.

Monday, May 16, 2011

hydrangea cupcakes - lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting

When I saw this post on I Am Baker's hydrangea cake, I immediately wanted to make it, except in cupcake form!  With Mother's Day coming up, as well as Teacher Appreciation Week at Matthew's preschool (I had signed up to make a dessert for the luncheon), it was the perfect opportunity to make them.

I went to my Martha Stewart "Cupcakes" book for a lemon cupcake recipe.  The recipe calls for lemon zest as well as lemon juice, for lots of lemony flavor.  The cupcakes turned out super fragrant, moist, and soft.

For the frosting, I made a basic cream cheese frosting and also added some lemon zest and a tiny bit of lemon juice.  Once the cupcakes were cool, I piped the lemon cream cheese frosting on the cupcakes in my signature basketweave design.

Then made a batch of buttercream frosting (which I divided in thirds and then colored  pink, lavendar, and purple) to pipe on as flowers.  I thought they turned out pretty cute, but not as impressive as a cake.  So maybe one of these days I'll try making the cake too!

Hope everyone had a great Mother's Day!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

pistachio ice cream

One of my favorite ice cream flavors is pistachio.  It reminds me of my teenage summers spent in Palos Verdes with my cousins Angie and Raymond, when we used to go down to the local Thrifty's and get a double-scoop cone for like 35 cents.  Those were the days.

I found myself craving pistachio ice cream one day, and though I wanted to try David Lebovitz's recipe for pistachio gelato, I didn't have any pistachio cream, and had no idea where to buy it.  So I had to settle for another recipe which I found on Epicurious, which instead uses pistachios that have been ground up in the food processor.

The ground pistachios are used to make a hot pistachio-milk-egg custard, which is then strained and then chilled in the refrigerator before churning.  Then I added a handful of coarsely chopped pistachios during the last five minutes of churning.

It turned out to be a very delicious pistachio ice cream, creamy and full of pistachio flavor.  And it brought me right back to those long summer days with my cousins.

Friday, May 6, 2011

coffee chiffon charlotte with homemade lady fingers

I've been dying to make a charlotte cake for some time now, especially after being fueled by pictures like this and this.  And this one too.  So when my birthday recently arrived, I decided to make my own cake (is it weird to make your own birthday cake?).

Of course I had to make my own ladyfingers from scratch.  My first batch looked horrible though (I won't be posting pictures of them or including a link to that recipe) - the batter was way too thin and the ladyfingers came out very flat and rectangle-shaped.  (Luckily, my kids loved them - they ate most of those and they didn't go to waste!)  So I made a second batch using a different recipe, which came out much better.

I love anything and everything coffee-flavored, so I decided to fill my charlotte with alternating layers of coffee chiffon cake and espresso mousse.  (I used the same recipe that I used for coffee chiffon cake and coffee chiffon mini cupcakes).

After lining the perimeter of a cake ring with my homemade ladyfingers, I sliced my coffee chiffon cake in half horizontally, and used half of the cake as the bottom layer to my charlotte.  Then I topped it with a layer of espresso mousse (which was just heavy whipping cream, whipped with confectioner's sugar, espresso powder, and gelatin which had been bloomed).  Next came the other half of the sliced cake, and then another layer of the mousse.

After dusting the top with cocoa powder, I decorated the cake with fresh raspberries.  Then I let it chill in the fridge for a few hours before unmolding it and adding the finishing touch - a nice red ribbon tied around the outside.

For some reason, I didn't like the look of the wide satin ribbon - it seemd to overpower the look of the cake.  So I changed it to thinner gauzy ribbon instead.

The resulting cake was light and airy.  It had just the perfect amount of coffee flavor.  And I actually ended up with three birthday cakes that day!  My best friend Sue made me a decadent and moist chocolate cake (thank you, Sue!), and my Mom bought me a mocha cake from an Asian bakery (thanks Mom!).  I guess it's no secret that I love cake!!!