Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer fruit upside down cake

My parents must think we're severely malnourished because whenever they visit they bring us cartons of fruit from Costco. Most of it ends up spoiling because we can't keep up with the quantity. I found some of our apricots and plums growing fuzz (ew) and figured I should be proactive this time and put the good fruit to use before they too turned green and furry.

I made David Lebovitz's Upside Down Cake with apricots and plums. The cake is so excessively delicious, it almost feels evil. I can't even describe it. I don't care so much for plain white cake but this recipe, along with the carmelized fruit that gets soaked up into the batter... it's heavenly. I plan to experiment with all different kinds of fruit. Please be forewarned: make this cake for guests, or else you will end up eating it all by yourself in one sitting. Seriously. It's amazing fresh out of the oven, but just as incredible (or maybe moreso) the next day when things have really soaked in.

Lebovitz used a 10" cast iron skillet but I used a plain old 9" cake pan and it worked out fine. Way beyond fine.

Upside Down Cake
Adapted from David Lebovitz

One 9-inch (25cm) cake, 8-10 servings

You have some latitude with the fruits that you use. Just make sure that whatever you use covers the bottom in a substantial layer, around double-thickness, since the fruit will cook down while baking and settle nicely into place. Berries and such as good nestled in the gaps between the slices of fruits.

For the fruit layer:

3 tablespoons butter (45g), salted or unsalted
3/4 cup packed (170g) light brown sugar
fruit: About 4-5 plums sliced 1/2" thick, 4-5 apricots quartered, or whatever fruit you desire

For the cake layer:

8 tablespoons (115g) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature.
1 1/2 cups (210g) flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (125ml) whole milk, at room temperature

Melt the 3 tablespoons (45g) of butter in the cake pan over low heat. Add the brown sugar and cook while stirring, until the sugar is melted and begins to bubble. Remove from heat and let cool.

Once cool, arrange the fruit in a pinwheel design.

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350F. (190C)

Beat the 8 tablespoons 9115g) of butter and sugar until fluffly. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, until smooth.

Whisk or sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Stir in half of the flour mixture, then the milk, then the remaining dry ingredients. Do not overmix: stir just until the flour is barely incorporated into the batter.

Spread the batter over the fruit, then bake for 45 minutes to one hour (depending on the size of the pan, and the thickness of the batter.) The cake is ready when it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and the center feels just set.

Remove from oven, let cool about 20 minutes, then place a cake plate on top, and wearing oven mitts, flip the cake out on to the plate, taking care, as there may be some hot caramel that might escape.

Serving: Upside Down Cake is best served warm, perhaps with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. It can be made in advance, left in the pan, and rewarmed in the cake pan or skillet right before serving. It's also very good rewarmed in a microwave, and served immediately.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Lemon Madeleines

I visited the New York Cake Store (aka a baker's paradise) and bought myself a Madeleine pan. I found this recipe for lemon Madeleines and then created a lemon icing for it which really helped retain its moisture. With my first batch, I made the icing a little thinner and dunked the whole Madeleine. With the second batch, I thickened the icing and dunked only the top fluted part of the cookie. Either way still tasted great (the sweetness of the icing, surprisingly, was not overpowering at all), but icing only the top made for a cleaner presentation because the bottoms of batch #1 started to stick to the wire racks after I had iced them, creating indentations on the bottoms.

This recipe makes light, fluffy Madeleines. It doesn't even use that much butter, which to me was surprising, because I always thought Madeleines were completely laden with butter. They were spongy and moist and perfect with coffee. Definitely making these over and over again. Maybe I'll have to make some matcha ones since my supply of matcha powder never seems to diminish.

Lemon Madeleines
Adapted from

Yields 1 dozen madeleines

2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Butter and a flour a 12-count madeleine mold and set in freezer.
Melt 1/4 cup of butter and set aside to allow to cool to room temperature.
In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, vanilla and salt at high speed until it starts to become light and fluffy.
Beating constantly, gradually add sugar. Continue beating at high speed until mixture is thick, pale, and ribbons form in the bowl when beaters are lifted (about 5-10 minutes).
Sift flour into the egg mixture 1/3 at a time, gently folding in after each addition.
Add lemon zest. Pour melted butter around the edge of the batter. Quickly but gently fold the butter into the batter.
Spoon batter into molds filling all the way to the top (since this recipe does not have baking soda/powder, the cakes will not overflow out of the mold).
Bake for 14-17 minutes, or until cakes are golden and the tops spring back when gently pressed with fingertip.
Use the tip of a knife to loosen madeleines from pan (they should slip out easily if pan was prepped well). Place cookies onto wire rick with fluted side up. Allow to cool before icing.

Lemon Icing

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons water (room temperature)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Whisk ingredients together until smooth.
Dunk whole or top fluted half of madeleine into icing; place on wire rack to allow icing to set.
Once icing is set, dust tops with additional powdered sugar if desired.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Snickerdoodles, Take 2

I didn't really like the way my snickerdoodles turned out the last time, so this time I used a different recipe. I followed Smitten Kitchen's recipe exactly, and the results were fantastic. Mine turned out fatter than hers (hers appear more flattened) but I like my puffy ones. They are staying soft, chewy, and slightly cakey (basically the perfect snickerdoodle) for 4 days now. But I'm down to the last one so I won't be able to check Day 5. I wish the Snickerdoodle smell would stay in my kitchen forever.

Please refer to Smitten Kitchen for the great recipe! It's definitely a keeper.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wonton Ravioli

One day, if I'm feeling particularly ambitious, I will learn to make my own pasta. Until the day comes that I have that sort of leisure, I'll manage with wonton wrappers. I've been wanting to try making ravioli with these and after a lot of research, the complaint most people had was that the wraps were too fragile for boiling and were always bursting in the water. I decided not to use any filling that needed to be cooked (no meat) so I can allow them to boil only momentarily. This seemed to do the trick.

I didn't really follow any recipe for this... for baking I stick to proportions for the most part or else you could really botch your project. For cooking I tend to just go by sight and taste, but here is basically what I did:

Cook down an entire package of baby spinach with some minced garlic, olive oil, salt/pepper, then place in colander to cool and drain excess water.

When cooled, dump spinach in a bowl. Add half a package of ricotta cheese (approx 1/2 cup) and a handful or two of grated Parmesan cheese (no need for exact measurements here, if you like more, add more).

Taste the mixture; season accordingly. I added a teeny bit of hot pepper flakes, fresh thyme, black pepper, and Italian seasoning.

Whisk 1 egg into a small bowl.

Put a SMALL spoonful (about a heaping teaspoon) into the middle of a wonton wrap. Smudge some egg around the borders, and place another wrap over, matching the edges. Make sure you press out any excess air, but be careful not to smush all the filling out.

Keep going until you've used all your wonton wraps/filling/whatever comes first. Or you just get tired.*

Boil water, add salt. Drop in ravioli no more than about 5 at a time to prevent sticking (I added some olive oil to the water to prevent this but you still need to be careful). They should only boil for about 1-2 minutes max. Use slotted spoon or spatula and place ravioli onto a plate.

Top with your favorite sauce and serve! FYI these would probably be delicious fried and served as hor'deurves with marinara. Yum!

*If you're not going to cook your ravioli right away, place them onto plates (do not overlap them - they will stick) and cover with damp paper towel and saran wrap. Refrigerate until you're ready to cook.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chocolate chip cookies

I've been on such a baking crazy lately, I can't keep up with my blog! It's becoming a compulsion...

I know everyone is always on the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie (as am I) and I think this one may come pretty darn close. I got this recipe from my cousin, who got it from a friend, so my credit goes out to the both of them. The original recipe calls for nuts but I omitted just because I didn't have them around. I love chocolate chip cookies with walnuts though, and will definitely add them next time.

The result was a perfectly chewy middle with a slightly crisp edge, just the way I like it. They stayed this way for several days, although I can't give you an exact amount of time because they were all gone in less than a week.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yields 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup + 2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup chopped nuts
8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cream butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla.
Stir in flour with baking soda and salt; blend into creamed mixture.
Add nuts. Break or cut chocolate bar in to small chunks. Stir into dough.
Drop onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. Cool.

*My cousin uses Trader Joe's Bittersweet pound plus bar (use half or more). I didn't have time to wait in the endless lines at Trader Joe's so I used regular semi-sweet chocolate chips for mine. I'll definitely have to try her way though!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cinnamon raisin bread + sandwich

I love my new kitchen. I love it so much I stayed in all weekend using its brand new appliances. I did a bunch of cooking and baking, I'll have to split it all up into different blog posts.

I've been wanting to bake my own bread for some time and always thought it would be tricky (yeast, rise, etc... all seemed too complicated for me). I decided to go for it yesterday. It was so easy, I ended up making 2 loaves of cinnamon raisin bread (one for my parents). There's nothing like a fresh loaf of homemade bread!!! I never want store-bought bread ever again. I love that it's so versatile, you can pretty much add in whatever you want (herbs, fruits, spices, cheeses, etc.). These are definitely the first loaves of many more to come.

I made a sandwich for lunch today with this bread. I put 2 slices in an oiled skillet, then flipped over after a few minutes to brown the other side. I added half a slice of swiss cheese to each piece of bread, 2 slices of turkey, and topped with thin slices of granny smith apples. I sandwiched the two parts together onto a plate and promptly devoured.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Adapted from

Yields one 9x5" loaf
3/4 cup warm water
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm milk
4 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour

2-3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
dark brown sugar and cinnamon (as much as you want)
Place the warm water and honey in large bowl. Sprinkle in yeast, stir until dissolved and let stand until creamy.
Add the warm milk, salt, and 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour; blend well.
Stir in whole wheat flour and mix well.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Place in a lightly oiled bowl and turn the dough to grease the top.
Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan. Punch the dough down and turn onto a lightly floured surface.
Roll out dough until about 1/2-1" thickness and spread melted butter or margarine, then top with as much brown sugar, cinnamon, and raisins as you wish.
Roll up the dough and tuck in the ends. Form into a loaf and place into the prepared pan.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes or until top is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove loaf from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pecan Squares

I have this old book I bought in the bargain section at B&N years and years ago. I don't even know if it's still in print. I did a quick Google search on it and it doesn't have the best reviews, which puzzles me, because of the recipes I have tried from it, they've all been fantastic. I think it was more of the techniques of some of the more complicated recipes that people were not a fan of.

I made these pecan squares for a summer BBQ and they were great. I was told they also freeze well so if you have some extra left over, stick them in the freezer and bring them out when you have unexpected guests or are in need of a quick dessert. The crust is light, buttery, and just crumbly enough, while the topping is all chewy and nutty and just plain delicious. Drool.

Pecan Squares

Yield: variable, depending on size of squares

For the crust:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup cold butter, chopped
1 egg
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of salt

For the pecan topping:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
5 tablespoons whipping cream
4 cups pecan halves
powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking dish (13x9) with butter or cooking spray.
For the crust:
Sift flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter and work through flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.
Add egg and lemon zest and blend with fork until mixture just holds together.
Put mixture into greased baking pan and press into an even layer (it helps to flour your fingers to do this).
Prick the dough all over with a fork. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Remove from oven but keep it on while you make the topping.

For the topping:
In a saucepan on medium heat, melt butter, honey, and sugars. Increase heat and bring mixture to a boil for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat. Stir in cream. Add pecans and make sure they are evenly coated with the mixture.
Pour nut mixture over the crust. Return to oven and bake for 25 minutes.
Allow to cool. Run a knife along the edges, then cut into squares. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I'm moving to another apartment at the end of the week, and therefore have been using every excuse to bake instead of pack. The less flour, sugar, and butter I have, the less crap to move, right? It's logical.

Used up my last bits of butter to make snickerdoodles, and decided to throw some dark chocolate on top while I'm at it since I had some laying around (again, trying to lessen the contents in my fridge to move). The smell in my apartment is intoxicating. Trying so hard not to eat them all. So far I've had 3, and counting...

I meant these to be thumbprint cookies but because of the baking soda, the cookies puffed up and didn't allow the chocolate to sink in, so the chocolate just ended up sitting on top of the cookie like sprinkles. Still delicious, nonetheless. The sugar/cinnamon gives the exterior a sweet crunch while the inside is almost cake-like, light, and soft.

Adapted from

Yields 10-12 cookies

1 1/3 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Chocolate chips/chopped chocolate (optional)

2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine sugar, butter or margarine, vanilla and egg. Mix well.
Sift in flour, baking soda, salt, and 1 tsp cinnamon. Blend well. Shape dough into balls.
Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon. Roll dough in sugar/cinnamon mixture and place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
If desired, create a thumbprint into each ball. Fill with chocolate chips.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool before removing from cookie sheet.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I have to admit I was very late in hopping on the cupcake bandwagon. When Magnolia, Crumbs, etc. all started taking off and made the city all cupcake-obsessed, I didn't understand what was so great about a cupcake. I mean, I like all cakes (okay, all food). But I didn't know what made a little cake so damn special as opposed to all the other oodles of desserts. To this day I've never even purchased a cupcake at Magnolia - I've only eaten ones given to me on different occasions. They were yummy, but not mind blowing. I didn't really care for the frosting, which is usually everyone's favorite part (I'm more of a fan of starch and carbs).

While I was a nursing student at NYU, I'd go strolling around in the West Village between and after classes. My boyfriend at the time introduced me to Batch (he worked across the street from it), literally a hole in the wall cupcake store by Pichet Ong (former pastry chef of Spice Market) next to his dessert restaurant P*ONG. Batch cupcakes transformed me into a cupcake enthusiast. I'm not a fan of rich, sickeningly sweet cupcake frosting that most people are a fan of; my Asian taste buds prefer just a hint of sweetness that is more commonly found in Asian desserts. Pichet got it right. He had interesting, innovative flavors (pumpkin rum raisin with cream cheese frosting was my favorite, and I got a massive "cupcake" for my 25th birthday) with frosting that wouldn't instantly rot my teeth out of my face. Then without warning, Batch and P*ONG shut down. The horror. Wtf was I to do without my Batch cupcakes?!

Lucky for me and the rest of the city, he reopened his business with a dessert spot aptly named Spot Dessert Bar in the east village. I had the pleasure of going there earlier this year, and I can proudly say my tummy and I were very satisfied. He's also selling his cupcakes there, but no pumpkin rum. :( I'm going to have to come up with my own. Hmm, I foresee a future blog post.

SPOT Dessert Bar: Yuzu Eskimo; Butterscotch Torchon

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Matcha Matcha

I hate the color green. I don't think I even owned a piece of green clothing until my last job required me to wear nothing but green, which was a bit loathsome. But green cakes? I love anything flavored with green tea/matcha (hey, I'm Asian), especially in the form of baked goods. I made these cupcakes back in April when it was finally springtime. The colors just seemed appropriate and the flavor/texture is phenomenal. I've made these a couple times since and they've been a hit with friends, guests, etc. The recipe I started with came from Cupcake Bake Shop, but my version also uses some self-rising flour and therefore allows you to omit a couple other ingredients. I topped these with matcha buttercream (and experimented with a pastry bag for the first time), and sprinkled with decorating sugar.

Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes
Adapted from Cupcake Bake Shop. Yields 12 cupcakes.

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cake flour, self-rising
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon matcha (green tea) powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside.
In a large bowl sift together flours, sugar, and matcha powder, set aside.
In another bowl whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla.
With electric mixer, beat butter until soft. Slowly add the egg mixture (on low/medium setting).
Slowly incorporate the dry flour mixture in 3 parts, continuing to beat until ingredients are well incorporated.
Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing with buttercream.

Matcha Green Tea Buttercream
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons half and half or light cream (add more for thinner consistency)
1 tablespoon matcha powder
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Mix matcha with cream in a bowl with fork until well incorporated.
Beat butter briefly with electric mixer.
Add sifted sugar and matcha mixture, beat until smooth - slowly add in small amounts of additional cream if you feel the mixture is not thin enough.

Lemon-raspberry mini cupcakes

Last weekend, instead of packing for my impending move, I spent a relaxing evening making lemon-raspberry mini cupcakes. I wanted to make cupcakes with a nice summery flavor (temperature in NYC remained steadily in the low 100s all last week) so I tweaked Magnolia's vanilla cupcake recipe (I ran out of cane sugar - the horror - and had to improvise nearly half the recipe's worth of sugar with confectioner's, which actually worked beautifully; also had no milk so I used my fat free half-and-half) then just randomly added muddled raspberries, seedless raspberry jam and lemon zest into the batter without any specific measurement. Same with the icing, which started out as a basic buttercream, then with raspberry jam and lemon zest. I topped each one with some candied lemon zest (just lemon zest with decorating sugar). Result: AMAZING how much fresh flavor is packed into such small, perfectly moist little bites. I need to get rid of these ASAP because I'm sure they're doing wonders for my body. Alas the quickest way of getting rid of them is by consumption...

Here is my complete version of the recipe, adapted from Allysa Torey (More From Magnolia: Recipes from the World-Famous Bakery and Allysa Torey's Home Kitchen).

Lemon-Raspberry Mini Cupcakes
Yields approximately 30 mini cupcakes.

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup cane sugar
1 cup confectioner's sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup half-and-half (fat free works fine)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 handfuls of fresh raspberries, slightly crushed
2 heaping spoonfuls of seedless raspberry jam
zest of one lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line mini muffin pans (2.5 pans) with cupcake papers.
In a bowl, combine the flours and sugars. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, and vanilla. Set aside.
In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Gradually add wet ingredients alternating with dry ingredients, small portions at a time. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not overwork.
Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Add raspberry jam, crushed raspberries, and lemon zest, blend well with spatula.
Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Lemon-Raspberry Buttercream
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons half-and-half or light cream (I tend to add a bit more just by eyeballing as I mix until I get the desired consistency)
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 heaping spoonfuls of seedless raspberry jam
zest of half a lemon

Cream butter with mixer at medium speed, add cream.
Gradually add powdered sugar in small amounts, continue to mix. Add additional cream if desired.
Add raspberry jam and lemon zest. Continue to mix until well incorporated.

Candied Lemon Zest
Combine zest of 1 lemon with equal amount of white decorating sugar. Keep refrigerated until use. Top each cupcake with small dollop.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Due to my overwhelming love for experimenting with delightful baked goods (as well as occasional creativity with cooking regular meals that are not completely laden in sugar and butter), amateur food porn, and whatever is left of my old fashioned Photoshop techniques from design school, I figured I'd roll up everything into a neatly packaged blog where I can incorporate all the above.

I will be back with updates on old projects that you will recognize from my facebook photo albums as well as new treats I cook up!

Here's a first glimpse of blueberry scones I whipped up after work today. Crispy and sugary exterior, soft and moist interior, with a juicy burst of fresh blueberries in every bite. Yum! Perfect for morning coffee.