Saturday, August 29, 2009

Daring Baker's August Challenge: Dobos Torte

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caff├ęs of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.


I had some trouble with this one- the caramel layer didn't work out for me at all, so instead I sprinkled almonds on top (much preferred, and more readily available than hazelnuts).
I doubled the recipe and made a rectangular torte for a pot luck at work.
Everyone loved it, and it was so fun to make- this is something I want to try again, perhaps next time I'll have a successful caramel layer.
I can't wait to see next month's challenge!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mochi filled with red bean paste.. possibly the most satisfying food I have ever eaten

One of my favorite things about going to visit my mother in law out in L.A. is the food. Not only is she a fabulous cook, but she regularly visits the variety of Asian markets that all seem to be just a short drive from her apartment.
We were there visiting her last month, she suggested we stop at the Japanese market nearby to pick up some food for lunch. I love to try new food, even if I don't know exactly what it is- and this market gave me ample opportunity. There were huge coolers stocked with fresh sushi and rice balls, plus various other fresh meals. There was a decent section of fresh produce, as well as rows of prepackaged crunchy snacks.
Best of all, there was a cooler with freshly made desserts- cakes, pastry, little balls of multi-colored goo that I couldn't identify. So, wanting to try something new, and being attracted to anything rainbow, I chose the goo.
The outer powder and dough is pleasantly sticky and chewy. The inside is pasty, sweet, red and d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s. I immediately ate all four [large] dough balls, pausing only briefly to say things like 'best food ever' and 'so amazing'..etc. When they were gone, I had a stomachache, but I didn't care.
Since the closest (and only) Asian market back home is tiny, with a very limited fresh selection, I knew there would be no more mochi cakes for me... unless I learned how to make them. So I googled and researched, and what I came up with is below.
I'm actually pleasantly surprised at how well they came out, as well as how easy they were to make.
All ingredients can be found at Asian markets (even the little one near here)- as well as online, but be careful of high shipping costs.

Makes 8 small cakes
3/4 C Mochi flour
3/4 C water
1/2 C confectioner's sugar
a few drops of food coloring (this is totally optional, and you only need a drop or two- I chose blue, and they are BLUE)
about 1/2 C sweetened red bean paste (comes in a can- I froze the extra, I think it should hold up for a couple of weeks)
about 1/4 C cornstarch

Mix Mochi, water, sugar and food coloring in a microwave safe bowl until a sticky dough forms. If the dough forms a ball and completely pulls away from the bowl, add more water. It should be very sticky.
Put in the microwave for 2-3 mins. When you take it out, it should have formed a soft dough.
Set the dough aside to cool, open the can of beans, and dust the surface with cornstarch.

Pinch off a piece of the dough, coat with cornstarch and roll, roll, roll, until it's nice and flat. Place 1/2 T red bean paste in the middle and pinch the sides together around it.
Repeat until you're out of dough. The cakes can be stored, wrapped individually, in the fridge for a couple of days (if they last that long!)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sushi, again?

So my husband and I are both super competitive people. Sometimes I think we probably make other people uncomfortable- for instance, we're never on the same team when we play anything from trivial pursuit to basketball. We're too interested in beating each other and gloating about it. We love to challenge each other- except in a few cases, where we accept the other's expertise and trust their choices without question. For instance, he's in charge of our retirement accounts and when to upgrade computers. I never question bother with question his choices when it comes to those two things. I am in charge of .... everything else. And everything certainly includes whatever happens in the kitchen.
When he made sushi a few weeks ago, I knew I'd have to try it for myself.
So tonight, I did just that. I stuck with california rolls (along with variations)- mainly because I really didn't feel like getting too intense about things. It's been really hot out, I didn't feel like cooking beyond steaming the rice.
Through doing this, I discovered that making sushi is really SUPER easy. Like easier than ordering it.
Even with just the most basic of kitchen skills, you can do everything from steaming the rice to eating it within an hour. You don't even need fancy equipment!
At home california roll

1.5 cups short grain rice (we use kokuho rose- now stocked at your neighborhood grocery store!) + water for cooking
3 T Aji-mirin seasoned rice vinegar- there are various types, this must be the type with sugar and salt- it is sold at whole foods-- Alternatively, 1/6 C rice vinegar, 1.5 T sugar, 1 T salt

3 sheets of nori (seaweed)
1 avocado
1 garlic clove
pinch red pepper powder
1/2 cucumber
2-3 imitation crab sticks

1. Cook rice according to package directions- a rice cooker makes things super easy, and costs about 10 dollars at target. Just add rice and water, push the button and you're on to bigger and better things!
2. Such as slicing veggies- For my CA rolls, I smooshed the avocado with garlic and red pepper, and sliced the cuke and crab pretty thin.
3. When rice is cooked, mix in a bowl with the aji-mirin until coated. Let sit for 5-10 mins.
4. If you have a bamboo roller, cover it with saran wrap. If not, just use the wrap.
5. Place a piece of nori on the wrap. Spread 1/3 of the rice over the nori, so you can *almost* see through the rice. This is a tough part, because it seems like there isn't enough rice, but this is one of those times where a little goes a long way. Cover the entire piece of seaweed except for about 1/2 inch at the end away from you.
6. Add your fillings about 1/2 inch in from where you will start rolling.
Photobucket I added black sesame seeds for a bit of extra crunch and flavor.
7. Using the wrap/roller, quickly roll up the sushi, taking care not to move the wrap out of the way as you roll. When you are done, wet the end of the nori to make it stick.
8. Using a wet, sharp knife, slice the roll into 1/2 inch thick pieces.

This should be served with tamari (or soy sauce) and wasabi.
After eating a couple pieces of mine, I've declared this a draw between me and my husband- his sweet potato roll is better than this CA roll, but I make it so much faster than he does!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sushi and birthdays

It was my birthday two weeks ago, and to celebrate the occasion, my fabulous husband made me some sushi. (The real way with the 3 hour rice process and everything!)
He used shrimp, cucumber, avocado, lobster, and my absolute favorite, sweet potato.
He did something to the sweet potato that involved brown sugar and spices. Definitely the best sweet potato/yam roll I have ever had, including expensive stuff in fancy restaurants.
I'm tagging it as thanksgiving as a reminder to myself that when the big T day rolls around, these sweet potato rolls are replacing squash soup as our appetizer.

Husband can take credit for all the pictures of too. Am I the luckiest girl ever?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Welcome back!

It's been a while since I've posted and some very important and fabulous things have happened since then!
First, we got a new camera! I know next to nothing about photography, but the pics we took with the old one were generally pretty shitty. It was good enough for general touristy stuff, but definitely not for capturing texture and color in food (as evidenced below)- so from here on out, there's no excuse. The pictures should all be gorgeous!
Secondly, Anthony and I spent some time visiting his mom in L.A., and then some time hiking and camping in Yosemite. Yosemite was so, so gorgeous, and gave us an opportunity to use the fabulous new camera. I still wanted to take pictures of food, though.
Toast and mushrooms on the campfire, early in the morning:
Eggs on our little portable burner:

Toast definitely tastes better when cooked with real fire.

I actually planned on documenting a whole day's worth of camping food. After this hearty breakfast, we hiked about 15 miles. After that we decided instead of camping, we should drive 3 hours to a hotel and order Domino's. We did make s'mores in the microwave, though.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

June 09 Daring Bakers: Bakewell Tart... er... pudding

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

I don't know what makes a tart versus what makes a pudding but this rocked. I made mine with lingonberries, as it was for a brunch and I felt that made it kind of breakfasty. I love the combination of tart/bitter with almond flavor.

This was my first month participating in daring bakers, and I did really enjoy it. Thanks Jasmine and Annemarie!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Dinner party!

Saturday night we had my husband's two sisters and one of their boyfriends (got that?) over for dinner.

On the menu was fresh, homemade focaccia:

Tomato Parmesan

Garlic and rosemary

Salad with mango, pepper and goat cheese (+ local mesclun!),

There was also risotto and some awesome lemon-dill salmon, made by my fabulous husband, but I don't have pictures of that. No pics of husband either, sorry ladies.

More importantly, dessert!

Strawberry tart, made with local strawberries and my mom's pastry cream recipe. I made this at the request of younger sister in law, who is visiting from sunny northern california. The cream is a little runny, but the taste is totally worth it (plus it's SO easy). This was my first time making a tart. I served it with homemade (whipping cream, cocoa powder, sugar, mix until peaky) chocolate whipped cream. As you can see above, I had a bit of trouble with the dough pulling away from the edges of the pan even though I did a blind bake and used dried beans as weights. There's definitely a learning curve for pastry dough, so I'm working on it. I'll just have to keep practicing!

Ok so recipes.
First, pastry crust:

* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut up
* 1 large egg yolk
* 2 to 3 tablespoons water
* 1 t vanilla extract

- Combine first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles bread crumbs.

- Stir together egg yolks and vanilla in a small bowl. Add egg yolk mixture to flour mixture, stirring with a fork. Add water until dough starts to form into a sticky ball. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic. Chill at least 30 minutes.

- Once chilled, roll out dough and stretch into your tart pan. Put it in the freezer for 10/15 mins and preheat the oven to 400. (I bought a tart pan just for this dessert- Salvation Army, 1.79!)

-Prick the crust with fork tines and cover tightly with foil. Add uncooked beans or rice to the top of the foil and bake for 15 mins.

-Remove weight and foil. Brush the crust with egg white and place back into the oven for 5 mins or until golden brown. Cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, (super easy) pastry cream:

3 egg yolks
1 T cornstarch
1/3 C sugar
2.5 cups milk
1 t vanilla

-Mix yolks with cornstarch and blend well. Add to saucepan with all other ingredients and cook over medium/low heat, stirring frequently, until thickened. Place in fridge to cool.

When you're about ready to serve, assemble the tart. You could use a variety of berries, or other fruit. I liked strawberry because it's in season and so simple.