Friday, April 2, 2010

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pumpkin Macarons

French macarons have been the bane of my existence for the past 3 weeks. I was determined to bake them successfully. They are such gorgeous little things... round domes with frilly feet and piped with a delicious cream. I baked several batches of chocolate, plain almond, vanilla, all failing in some way or another, such as no feet, too flat, cracked, etc. I probably went through 2-3 cartons of eggs. -_-

Finally, I succeeded! A beautiful batch of pumpkin macarons... I actually was inspired by the pumpkin bagels and pumpkin cream cheese at Noah's Bagels. I cheated and piped the pumpkin cream cheese into the macarons. It was divine!!! If you don't have access to pumpkin cream cheese schmear, feel free to use a cream cheese icing recipe and incorporate some pumpkin puree. The results should be similar.

I have to say, these were absolutely divine. I've only eaten macarons once, and I don't remember them being as good as these. There aren't too many pumpkin macarons out there, because pumpkin isn't a very French ingredient. However, the pumpkin is such an interesting, hearty taste that contrasts the sweetness of the macaron shell. Macaron shells are super sweet, and I tend to like them with a slightly bitter flavor (bittersweet chocolate) or a tangy filling (cream cheese filling). These would be perfect for Thanksgiving. In fact, I'll probably make them for Thanksgiving!! :)

I think the most important thing I learned is how much to fold and to age the egg whites. The common advice for folding is to get to the "flows like magma" stage. Unfortunately, this isn't a very informative phrase unless one has actually seen magma (practically nobody!) I think a more helpful tip would be to fold as little as possible. Underfolding is always better than overfolding. When piped, perfect macaron shells should be round and the tops should flatten themselves. It's okay if theres a little peak though, which would indicate the batter is underfolded. But at least they'll probably have feet. Also, another helpful tip is to leave out the piped shells for about an hour, so that they form a skin.

Pumpkin Macarons

-1 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
-1 cup almond flour
-5 tablespoons granulated sugar
-3 egg whites, aged for 1-2 days at room temperature, covered
-1 tablespoon pumpkin spice or cinnamon

1. Sift confectioner's sugar and almond flour into a large bowl. Discard any large chunks.
2. Add in pumpkin spice. Mix until well incorporated.
2. In another large bowl, whip egg whites with an electric mixer until foamy. Add in granulated sugar and whip on medium until soft peaks form.
3. Sift 1/3 of the confectioner's sugar/almond flour mixture into the whipped egg whites. With a large spatula, fold by cutting the spatula down the middle of the mixture and turning when meeting the bowl until mostly combined. Repeat until all is incorporated. Do not overfold.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. With a plain tip, pipe 1-2 inch rounds about 2 inches apart from each other. Leave outside for one hour to allow skins to form.
5. Bake at 325 degrees F for about 10-12 minutes.
6. Allow to cool slightly, then peel parchment paper away from macarons. If they are difficult to remove, wet the bottom of the parchment paper with a few drops water.
7. When cool, pipe with cream cheese frosting and sandwich together. Serve or store in an airtight container.

Friday, September 12, 2008


This summer is the first time I've been spending the majority of my time at a 9-5 job. I work right on Santa Monica's 3rd Street Promenade, which is full of shops and tempting food. Eating out every day can really put a strain on your diet and wallet. I balanced eating out at healthy places with bringing my lunch.

I love bento! It is really fun to try to make a lunch from home exciting to eat. Nine times out of ten, in a match between a packed lunch and a bought lunch, the bought lunch wins. But bento makes me excited to eat a yummy, cute, nutritious lunch.

I use lots of leftovers and some frozen food in my bento to minimize time. Egg molds, cute bento boxes, and fresh ingredients with lots of color makes the lunch more exciting.

Here are some lunches that I made recently:

Chicken milanesa, fried rice, grilled zucchini and tomato, fruit mooncake
This was a leftover bento, from my restaurant lunch the day before. I sliced up the leftover chicken milanesa to go on top of fried rice. The grilled zucchini is from the restaurant; I combined it with some tomato that I grilled at home. The mooncake is a new kind that I bought at a Chinese bakery, a fruity apple flavor instead of the traditional nuttier or bean flavors.

Soy burgers on wheat bread, diced watermelon, carrot sticks with peanut butter, little package of cheddar
This was a delicious and nutritious lunch. I grilled up a frozen soy burger from the freezer section of the grocery store, and cut up watermelon and carrots.

Fried rice onigiri on bed of lettuce, eggs and tomato and corn, steamed green beans

The fried rice and eggs are leftover dishes. I prepared the veggies in the morning and this was ready to go!

I recently bought new bento accessories, so expect to see those soon!!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Kim Sam Soon series: Mango Mousse Cake

I've recently been rewatching one of my favorite Korean dramas- My Name is Kim Sam Soon. Sam Soon is a chubby 30 year-old patisserie, or pastry chef. She is unladylike, strong-willed, unconventional, loyal, and a fun character, very offbeat kind of heroine. The series has been compared to Bridget Jones' Diary, but I feel like it is so much more... there is a lot more about finding yourself and finding true love, even in an unconventional form. Despite Sam Soon ah's flaws, she is still very loving and caring. She finds "true love" with the attractive President at her restaurant/workplace, but their love story isn't typical at all. For example, one scene shows Sam Soon drunk, getting a piggyback ride from the President Jin Hun. A typical scene in Korean dramas, for sure. But Sam Soon isn't the typical damsel in distress; instead, she hits Jin Hun on the head several times with her stuffed animal and curses at him! Another typical drama scene gone wrong: Sam Soon ends up in the hospital, but she isn't hurt- just exhausted. She starts snoring!

It's great series to watch for comic relief. It also has a lot of interesting culinary topics. One of my favorite scenes is when Sam Soon's hair gets stuck in Jin Hun's suit jacket. In a moment of impatience and cockiness, Jin Hun cuts off Sam Soon's hair. Sam Soon's response is to throw her handmade mango mousse cake in his face!!

He is shocked at this display, but even more surprised when he found out the cake was delicious!

Mango mousse cake sounded like a fun and delicious challenge... so I decided to start a series on my blog to make things from Kim Sam Soon.

I turned to the internet for recipes for mango mousse. Sadly, the mango mousse recipes were few and far between. I wanted an authentic Asian-style mango mousse, with silky soft, spongy layers and a light mousse with strong mango flavor. I couldn't find any really good recipes.. so I kind of improvised on one mango mousse recipe, combined with a different sponge cake recipe. It took two tries to get the result I wanted. Here's the cake I ended up making:

I'm really happy I tried this recipe.. even on the second time, the mirror wasn't perfect (I was too OCD and impatient), it was gorgeous and delicious. Stay tuned for more Sam Soon-inspired creations!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Restaurant Jaunt: Gochi

Gochi has been getting some rave reviews in the area. When I called for a reservation, the lady said that the reservations are backed up for two weeks!! I got there early to see what the fuss was all about. The atmosphere is nice, with the option of sitting at a normal table or kneeling Japanese-style on tatami. The hostesses and servers were all very polite and accomodating.
It's a Japanese tapas restaurant, so everything is served in small portions. Gochi is also known as a fusion restaurant, combining Japanese food with cuisines such as Italian, Chinese, Korean, French, and Spanish. They do have some classics, but for really good classic Japanese food I would recommend you go elsewhere.

We started with the Yuzu Ceviche, which came with homemade chips. This wasn't very good. The ceviche was very roughly chopped and I didn't like the flavor or texture of it.
Next, we got some braised pork with yellow wasabi and scallions, which seemed to be Chinese-Japanese fusion. It was good, but nothing new to me... maybe because my mom makes the exact same dish for less than a quarter of the price! :)
Next, we got the Haraime Carpaccio, which was served with alfalfa and pesto sauce. This was one of my favorite dishes of the night!

Haraime Carpaccio

Next we had Salmon Meshi, which is a fairly traditional dish. Meshi dishes are claypot dishes, where rice, fish, and some other seasonings are cooked in a hot rice pot. The rice sticks to the pot and becomes crispy and brown (my favorite!) and the whole thing is mixed then divided into bowls by the server. Definitely a well made, traditional Japanese dish at Gochi.
Another classic was the yaki onigiri, or fried rice balls. We ordered it with tuna-mayo. I was quite disappointed with Gochi's rendition, the tuna-mayo was on top of the yaki onigiri instead of inside. Also, the yaki onigiri wasn't completely golden-brown, and the inside was soft and mushy white rice. I didn't enjoy this dish.
Another one of my favorites of the night was an Italian-Japanese fusion dish of risotto croquettes served in tomato-basil and pesto sauces. The risotto had tiny specks of mushroom in them, and was quite delicious. The outside was fried golden and crispy, complete perfection. This is what fusion food is all about!

Risotto croquettes in tomato-basil and pesto sauce

I wish I took a picture of our last savory dish, a pizza that I have forgotten the name of, but it disappeared so quickly I didn't get the chance. It was covered with lump fresh crab meat, white cheese, enoki mushrooms I think, fish eggs, and a few other things. Upon closer inspection, I noticed the crust was not a regular pizza crust, but a crispy Chinese-pancake style crust, dotted with chopped green onion!The combination was divine. At first I didn't think I was unsure about this dish, but it turned out really good. The saltiness of the fish egg really melded with the softer, meltier flavors of the cheese.

The Gochi dessert menu sounds really ambitious and delicious, so I ordered two: Strawberry Tiramisu and Green Tea Creme Brulee. These dishes sound good in theory, but were very poorly executed. The strawberry tiramisu wasn't soaked in strawberry liquer like I thought it would be, but was just a normal mocha-y tiramisu with some strawberry whipped cream and a strawberry on top. Very disappointing. The creme brulee wasn't terrible, but there was no real indication of it being green tea flavored other than its green color. At 6.50 each, I thought they were wildly overpriced.

Strawberry Tiramisu

Green Tea Creme Brulee

Gochi is a decent restaurant, but I expected to be wowed because of the hype and the prices. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to those expectations. However, a few dishes were truly innovative and delicious, such as the risotto croquettes and the crab pizza. I might come again for those two, and maybe try a few more dishes.

19980 Homestead Rd
Cupertino, CA 95014

Chocolate ganache butter cookies, tea, and flowers

I bought a new tea set and have been putting it to good use. In fact, I made these cookies espressly for the purpose of showing it off! I bought this pink cherry blossom set in San Diego, at Horton Plaza's Whittard Co. The store is a British import of tons of tea and goodies from Chelsea. The prices are very reasonable when on sale.. I love it! I will be making a return visit in the future...

Chocolate ganache butter cookies

The cookies are super, super basic and the chocolate ganache was from some truffles I made earlier, but just softened with a little extra heavy cream.

I also wanted to show off some very pretty flowers I received last weekend...

Roses and orchids

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A tale of two recipes

Last week I really wanted to thank M's family for having me for the weekend, so I decided to surprise them with some pretty homemade baked goods. The first thing I kept in mind was that I was baking for a younger, sweet-tooth M & co, as well as for the older and more adult needs and tastes of his mom. Because of this, I ended up making two versions of each baked good.

The first is my banana bread. It is really delicious!! Not to toot my own horn, but I think it's the best banana bread (especially when fresh.) I made muffins of the extra to give to my roommates, and all three of them raved about them. It has a strong banana flavor and texture, probably due to the large amount of bananas.

For the "healthy" banana bread, I cut the sugar down by 1/2 a cup and increased the cinammon to compromise for the taste. For the "yummy" banana bread, I kept the original recipe and added chocolate chips. Both were delicious! I think I actually prefer it without chocolate chips, because I want to really be able to concentrate on the banana texture.

Next... I tested two recipes of checkerboard cookies because I've never made them before. The first I found online, and it included an egg and was like any normal buttery cookie. The second was a Martha Stewart recipe and didn't have an egg. I found the second to be surprisingly good, very much like a shortbread. Instead of making just chocolate and vanilla checkerboards, I opted for chocolate and orangey-lemon instead :) Instead of vanilla extract, I added Meyer lemon and orange zest and juice to the white dough. It gave the shortbread a delicate and citrusy taste which made all the difference!

Unfortunately a lot of them got broken in transport. They were still mouth-wateringly good though!