Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Old School Strawberry Pop Tarts



For those of you who love good food, and I'm assuming it's all of you reading this blog, you have to visit Flour Bakery. There are multiple locations but the closest one to me is the one on Mass Ave in Central. Luckily for me, one day my boyfriend took me out to lunch to Flour Bakery and gosh oh gosh, it was delicious. Joanne Chang, owner and head pastry chef, is quite a genius, literally. She graduated from Harvard with a degree in Applied Mathematics and Economics. On top of that, she can bake some of the most divine desserts, not to mention savory. She's basically my role model and I absolutely adore her. And, it's not because we're both Asian. She and her husband also own Meyers + Chang in the South End, which has a complex menu of their interpretation of all sorts of Asian specialties.

But I digress. On that beautiful day, I not only had a delicious chocolate cupcake but possibly one of the best and freshest sandwiches ever. It was the roasted chicken with strips of jicama and avocado - you have to try it. Light and refreshing, mmmm nom nom nom. As I waited for my food, I was reading the cookbook that Joanne had recently published. I stumbled across a recipe for Pop Tarts. She was saying how when she was young, all she ever wanted was to taste a Pop Tart but her mother would never buy them. I then thought about my own childhood. I was in love, possibly even obsessed, with strawberry Pop Tarts. It was either that or Toaster Strudel for breakfast on my way to school. Since my boyfriend drooled over the page and begged for me recreate them, I decided I would take a stab at it.


Tip:
If you want, you can buy pre-made pie crust from the local grocery store instead of making your own crust. This crust is basically a pie crust with an egg, which creates a firmer crust as opposed to being too flaky.

Loosely Adapted from Joanne Chang's Flour: A Baker's Collection of Spectacular Recipes


Crust:
2 cups flour (I substituted 1/2 cup with whole wheat and it was even better)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 whole egg
1 tbsp milk

1 whole egg for when you assemble the pop tarts

Filling:
3/4 cup strawberry jam (I used preserves for a sweeter and chunkier taste)
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water

Glaze:
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp milk
Food coloring/sprinkles (Optional but definitely encouraged)

 Directions:
1. For the filling: Stir the cornstarch and water together. Mix that with the jam in a pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Let it cool.

2. For the crust: In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt together. Slice in the butter. You can use a pastry blender and if you're like me, who likes to get down and dirty with food, use your hands. I would definitely place the butter in the freezer for 5-10 minutes and the flour in the refrigerator before handling, if you're using your hands. The colder the ingredients the flakier and nicer your dough would be. It'll look like little pebbles. In a small bowl, mix together the egg and water. Slowly incorporate it into the flour mixture.

3. Take half of the dough and roll it out until it's about 1/8 inch thick. You can then cut out rectangles. I didn't have a big cookie cutter, so being innovative, I used my blackberry as the point of reference. Oh, they're more than just a phone. Once you have everything cut out, beat the additional egg and brush the pieces of dough that would become the bottom layer.

4. Place a big spoonful of filling onto the bottom layer and then place a second layer on top. Pinch the edges together and use a fork to poke holes on top to let the steam escape. Then, use the fork to make the ridges on the edges of the pop tart. Repeat with the remaining dough.

5. Place all the pop tarts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate the pop tarts while you preheat the oven to 350, so that the dough can rest and set up again.

6. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet 10 minutes into baking.

7. While the pop tarts are cooling, you can whip up the glaze. Mix the confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract, milk and food coloring, if you are adding it. Once the pop tarts have cooled, glaze them and add a little bit of sprinkles on top.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Maya's Birthday Cake

Ahh she's so cute!!!! I'm going to die!!

There's a sweet little girl name Maya that my entire office is obsessed with. She's the daughter of one of my coworkers. Why is she so cute? Well, there's a million reasons and here are a few...


I got the honor to make her birthday cake, which I have to say, when I found out, I almost teared up with joy. She wanted a princess cake, which I instantly loved 'cause I've always wanted a princess cake when I was a kid, which my mama obviously never got me. I got to finally live that dream through Maya. (Thank you, Maya!) Giving her two options for flavors - chocolate fudge cake and strawberry shortcake, she chose the latter. Her reasoning only made me adore her more. She said, "Strawberry shortcake, please! It's pink and my favorite color is pink." What. A. Darling.


When I first made fondant, it went horribly wrong. It was too soft and too greasy from the butter. This time, with my heart racing 100mph, I attempted to make fondant again. "For Maya. For Maya" That's all I thought about. I couldn't possibly let little Maya down. And low and behold, the fondant came out perfect! My little lucky charm.

Now that I have more confidence in fondant, gum paste is the next thing I need to attack!


Fondant Made Easy

  • 16oz marshmallow fluff (or marshmallow creme)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6-8 cups confectioners sugar (I used 6 cups)
  • Food coloring or paste (optional)

  1. Place the jar of marshmallow fluff in the refridgerator overnight, or at least 2 hours. When ready, scoop the marshmallow fluff into the Kitchen Aid and add the vanilla extract.
  2. Mix it on low as you add 2 cups of confectioners sugar at a time until you have the right consistency. If you are adding in color, do so as you add the sugar, alternating it until you get the right color.  
  3. Butter both your palms and gather all the fondant together, kneading it softly. You can wrap it in saran wrap for  up to one week.

**I would let  the fondant sit out 15 minutes or so until you start rolling. When rolling the fondant out, make sure the rolling pin is well buttered and so is the mat/parchment paper you're using. Dust the fondant as you go, so it won't stick. 


Monday, August 8, 2011

Apple Crisp à la Mode, Please!


Sorry guys for the delayed posts! I've been so busy at work and planning my vacation to ... MEXICO! Woot woot! Woot woot! I'll tell you more on that later *wink

Having baked 10 apple pies for the Boston Pie Experiment until 2am, I was baked out by that following Sunday afternoon after the event. Luckily, I have a very sweet special man in my life who surprised me  with a bouquet of flowers, including the beautiful sunflower pictured above to cheer me up. *All together please, "awwwwwwwww"

As much fun as it was, it was exhausting! Imagine, mixing up 20 pie crusts, rolling out 20 pie crusts, peeling/coring/slicing 60 apples ...... I hereby declare, on oath, that I will not bake another apple pie for the rest of 2011 to maintain the my own sanity, unless there is a life and death emergency, so help me God. Even though it was all over, I was still haunted by the leftover apples that were sitting in my fridge. I had to figure out what to do with them - to get rid of my nightmares. :) Since pie was out of the question, an easy delicious apple crisp, it will have to be! 



What makes a good apple crisp is doubling up on the crisp, of course! That's the only way one can have it. Soft slices of apples, drenched in cinnamon-nutmeg goodness topped with a crispy, oat filled crunch - mmm mmmm, who can resist that?? Normally, it's done with only granny smith apples but I swapped half for golden delicious apples. It doesn't necessarily keep its shape like the granny smith, but it does add a bit of a natural sweetness, which I like. Mm, bite of tart granny smith, bite of sweet golden delicious and a (big) bite of crunchy oats.


Adapted from Apple Crisp from Allrecipes
  • 10 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp  cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
 
  • 2 cup oats (I used old-fashion oats for a crispier/chewier crisp)
  • 2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup butter, melted

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  2. In a bowl, toss the sliced apples, white sugar, 1 tbsp flour, cinnamon and nutmeg together. Arrange them neatly in a 9x13 glass pan. 
  3. Combine the oats,  flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and melted butter together. Crumble evenly over the apple mixture.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes. 
  5. Let cool and enjoy with a BIG heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream. 




Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Baked French Toast



I've been trying to get into baking bread and for some reason, it just doesn't ever come out as awesome as I would have liked it, which is why I hardly ever muster enough energy to make bread. I do get little bursts once in a while, convincing myself that this time when I bake bread that it would come out flawless. I always get disappointed but that's life, right? Without those high highs and low lows, life would be boring.



This past Friday was one of those moments. I committed making a delicious Cinnamon Sugar Challah bread, and nothing was going to stop me.Unfortunately, reality did. :) It didn't come out as fluffy as Challah should. Even my boyfriend wouldn't eat it - and he would normally attack anything I bake. Trying to find the silver lining in the baking disaster, I decided to make french toast. Also, who doesn't like baked french toast on a Sunday morning for breakfast? Heck, I even ate some for lunch and dinner. :)



Adapted from Pioneer Woman's French Toast
*challah bread makes the best french toast, but any kind of bread would do

  • 1 challah bread (I used my cinnamon sugar challah)
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk (Skim is fine but won't be as rich)
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (I like dark brown sugar - has more taste)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, sliced into pieces

  1. Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Tear bread into chunks and evenly distribute in the pan.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla extract. Pour it over the bread and toss, so that all the pieces of bread are coated evenly. Cover the pan with foil and keep it in the refrigerator overnight. If you're on a time crunch, at least 2 hours.
  3. In another bowl, mix the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add the butter. You can use a pastry cutter, if you have one, to combine the dry ingredients with the butter. It should look like little pebbles or sand when finished. I just used my hands to mesh them together. (Since it's hot out, it might turn out to be more of a paste instead of grainy sand since the butter doesn't stay its form, which is fine too). Place it in a doggie bag and keep it in the refrigerator until you bake the french toast.
  4. When you're ready to bake, preheat the over to 350. Take the bread and brown sugar mixture out. Toss the pieces of bread again so that the egg/milk mixture doesn't sit on the bottom. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the top. Bake for 45-55 minutes. 
Enjoy and don't forget to drizzle (or in my case, douse) it in maple syrup!

    Sunday, July 24, 2011

    Boston Pie Experiment!

    Boston is simply one of my favorite cities. It's home. Sadly, I haven't taken advantage of a lot of the various things that Boston has to offer. It was only this summer that I've gone to SoWa, which may just be my favorite farmer's market in the world! Food trucks, produce, mm delicious Chatham smoked fish, jewelry and vintage shopping - what else can a girl ask for? This is why I've decided that I needed to rediscover Boston. I jumped online and googled all the exciting events that are happening this summer and whoa baby, what did I come across?! The FOOD EXPERIMENT is coming to Boston and the theme is .... pie!! The showdown is next Sunday, July 31st, 2011 at Middle East on Mass Ave.

    I love pies - blueberry pies, chocolate pies, pecan pies, peach pie - it has a crust and I love it. As much as I get an adrenaline rush (sugar rush too!) visiting all the new cupcake or dessert places in Boston, I wish there were more pie shops. Pies are comforting and homey (surprisingly, that's a real word. I looked it up on Webster). Everyone in town knows Petsi Pies - if you don't, you're deprived. Other than that though, there's no other spot really notable for pies. Let me know if you have a good spot for pies!



    Enough of my rant, when I came across the Boston Pie Experiment, I had to go, as in drooling-from-my-mouth-had to go. Not only that, I decided I would enter and bake my delicious, oh so decadent upside down apple pie.

    So, here's a formal invitation to the showdown where dozens of pies are available for YOUR tasting. Sample all the pies and vote for favorite! And, what can make an infinite supply of pies taste even better on a Sunday afternoon? Mmm oh just good beer to wash it down. :) On top of that, you got to admit it to yourself that you secretly want to come - it's like watching an episode of Food Stars or Cupcake Wars, but in person! :) So, dig out $10 and come root for your girl!!

    See you all there! :)


    Information:
    Sunday, July 31st 12pm-3pm
    Middle East (downstairs) on 472-280 Mass Ave
    Tickets: $10 online and $15 at the door

    Judges:
    Eunice Feller,
    Chef & Owner, Bread & Chocolate
    Paul Schiavone,
    CEO & Creative Director of BostonChefs.com
    Gerry Tice,
    Executive Chef at Parker's Restaurant at the Omni Parker House 

    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    Ménage à trois of Caramel, Chocolate and Walnuts



    Having to work Monday through Saturday, Sunday becomes literally the holy day. On Sunday, I do whatever I please and no one can stop me. However, just like any other weekend of my summer, it's more of a countdown until Monday arrives than a day off. With that in mind, my sights were set to make Monday not as dreadful by any means possible. For someone who thinks a stack of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies can cure anything, baking an extravagant dessert for work is the answer to the Monday blues. :p

    It has become a little tradition where whenever my boyfriend and I are in a candy store, if there are Turtles, we have to buy them - white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, with pecans, walnuts or almonds. It doesn't matter - we just HAVE to have them. While we were down at the Cape, we saw what may be his favorite dessert of all time - turtle cheesecake at the The Hot Chocolate Sparrow in Orleans, MA. Ever since then, I've been thinking of that turtle cheesecake, which is why I decided to try to create it!




















    Cheesecake is a challenge to bake. It is very delicate and can easily turn out a mess. From the numerous times I've made a cheesecake, here are some tips that I've picked up:
    • All the ingredients HAVE to be room temperature. This is extremely important because it ensures that the batter won't be lumpy.
    • Do NOT over mix. Over mixing can cause a cheesecake to crack, causing too many air bubbles in the batter.
    • After baking the cake, extreme temperature change to the cheesecake can cause it to crack too.
    • Bake the cake in a water bath. The water bath basically helps maintain the overall temperature in the oven, making sure the cake bakes evenly. There are two ways to go about it. 
      • Wrap the bottom of the pan with foil twice and place on a cookie sheet filled with water.
      • Place a cookie sheet filled with water on the bottom rack of the oven (I normally do this as it's heck of a lot easier.)
    • The cheesecake is over baked when the whole cake is firm when you jiggle it. It is done baking when only the center moves when you jiggle it. 
     


      An interpretation of Chantal's New York Cheesecake

      • 15 graham crackers, crushed
      • 5 tbsp of butter, melted (I might even add more next time)
      • 32 oz cream cheese, room temp
      • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
      • 3/4 cup milk, room temp
      • 4 eggs, room temp
      • 1 cup sour cream, room temp
      • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
      • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
      • 6 oz of milk chocolate
      • 1 cup chopped walnuts
      • Caramel Sauce (I just bought Smuckers Caramel topping)

      1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan.
      2. In a bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Press onto bottom of springform pan. Bake in oven for 5 minutes. Spread a layer of caramel and then, sprinkle 1/3 of the chopped walnuts. Chill in the freezer until ready, so that the caramel will harden. 

      1. Mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Blend in milk, and then mix in the eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in sour cream, vanilla and flour until smooth. Pour filling into prepared crust.
      2. Bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off. Take the cheesecake out and slowly run a hot knife around the sides, loosening the cake. Let cake cool in oven with the door cracked open for 2 hours. 
      3. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Take the cake out and spread a layer of caramel and sprinkle the remaining walnuts. 
      4. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and spoon into a piping bag. Simply drizzle the chocolate all over the cheesecake. Chill the cheesecake overnight. 

      Monday, July 11, 2011

      A Cup(cake) of Earl Grey Tea


      Hi everyone!
      This is the very first post. I'm not sure what to say but here's goes nothing. 


      I've gotten into this habit of baking random goodies for my coworkers at work and now, whenever the weekend hits, I automatically feel an urge to bake. Deciding on what I should bake next, thus becoming the feature of my first post, was difficult to say the least. I love pies - a taste of home. I love cupcakes too - the perfect portion of cake and frosting, not to mention how cute they look. I adore cookies and can gobble up a dozen in no time. I had a request from a coworker for chocolate earl grey truffles. Feeling it may be too deliciously intense first thing in the morning, I thought I would do a vanilla cupcake with chocolate earl grey frosting. 


      And thus, the journey for this post begins...





      Mmmmm soft simple vanilla cake with a rich chocolate frosting with hints of fragrant earl grey ... what else would you want on a beautiful Sunday afternoon? 


      The frosting is wicked easy to make and is super versatile. I swear by this basic rich chocolate frosting. It tastes like a creamy chocolate milk. 


      Chocolate Earl Grey Frosting
      • 1 cup of softened unsalted butter
      • 2 1/2 cups of cocoa powder
      • 2 tsp of vanilla extract
      • 1 cup of milk 
      • 9 bags of earl grey teabags
      • 4 cups of powdered sugar


      1. Steam the milk and then take it off the stove. Steep the 9 earl grey teabags for 10 minutes while the milk cools. 


      2 .Cream the butter until it's nice and fluffy. Slowly add in the cocoa powder and milk, alternating each one. Add the vanilla extract and  then the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until you get the desired consistency.


      3. Now, take your prepared cupcakes and frost them! (Or,  if you're me, just lick the frosting by the spoonful!)
      **For variations, use mint tea or lavender tea or substitute the vanilla extract with espresso




      Luckily for me, my boyfriend had created a mini impromptu dinner party at our friend's house. Being the fancy schmancy chef that he is, he quickly threw together an amazing fresh scallop and shrimp ceviche and Spanish omelet. Mmmm yum! For those of you who don't know what ceviche is, it's a Mexican seafood dish made with raw fish marinated in fresh lime juice tossed with summery crunchy vegetables! 




      Tortilla chips, ceviche, cupcakes - the PERFECT Sunday.