Sunday, July 3, 2016

How to Make an American Flag Cake

I've been wanting to make an American flag cake for the 4th of July and had pinned several possible versions including this one from Food52 and this ice cream cake version from the Food Network.  But the problem with those round layer cakes though is that I only had one round cake pan and no way to transport the finished product.  I wasn't too keen on having to pull out my piping bag to make Ina Garten's (or as Brit + Co called it, Taylor Swift's) version either, so when I came across Smitten Kitchen's version from four years ago, I was truly smitten.  Not only was it a single layer rectangular cake, but all you needed was some powdered sugar to make the "stars" and stripes!

In her post, she includes a recipe for the cake and frosting, but I cheated by making the cake with a box mix and using store bought frosting.  After baking the cake, allow it to cool completely before frosting.  If it's domed on top, you can level it with a serrated knife or just do as I did and "spackle" in the sides with frosting so the top is level.

While the cake is baking, wash and dry the berries.  While the cake is cooling, you can start arranging the berries to make sure you have enough.  I used a piece of paper towel that was the same size as the cake to plot out the berries on.  The blue part takes up about half the short side of the flag and extends about a third of the way across.  There are 13 stripes (one for each of the original colonies; yay AP American History!) but you probably won't be able to fit that many on the cake.  If you can, try to make an odd number of stripes so that the top and bottom stripe will be red.

After frosting the cake, start putting the berries that you want to appear white on the cake, leaving room for the other berries.

Dust these with powdered sugar, then arrange the rest of the berries into the spaces left for them.

In reality, it took a lot longer to make than I thought.  The first batch of raspberries I bought were overripe and broke apart when I was washing them, so I had to go back to the store to buy another pint.  Then I made the mistake of not completely drying the raspberries before decorating the cake, so the powdered sugar started to melt before I could even take any pictures.  But if you learn from my mistakes, it's actually not that hard to make and totally worth it!  Not only is it super impressive to bring to a party, the fresh fruit on top of the cake is really, really delicious!

Fun fact:  if you can someone figure out how to make the starburst design, you can also use this template to make the Taiwanese (or more accurately, the R.O.C.) flag!

Previously:  Maine Blueberry Gateau
Last Year:  Pasta con le Sarde
Two Years Ago:  Papaya Milk and Papaya Milk Popsicles
Three Years Ago:  Bubble Tea Popsicles
Six Years Ago:  Coconut Lime Sorbet

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Maine Blueberry Gateau

I first had this cake at my friend Evie's Epiphany Party last year, and it was truly an epiphany.  I never knew homemade cake could taste so good--so buttery and moist and bursting with blueberries!  I e-mailed Evie immediately after the party to ask for her friend's recipe, and it turns out it's from a bed & breakfast in Maine.

The first time I made this cake I made it in a pie pan (because I didn't have a 9" pan) and used frozen wild blueberries.  It was quite tasty but not as pretty so I dusted it with powdered sugar as instructed in the original recipe.  When I made it this time I used a 10" springform pan and fresh blueberries, and it looked nice enough to forgo the powdered sugar dusting.

Don't worry if you think the cake batter to fruit ratio is off.  You will be spooning a lot of blueberries on top of the batter, but while the cake bakes in the oven the blueberries sink while the cake rises so it's perfect by the end.

Maine Blueberry Gateau (lightly adapted from the Benjamin F. Packard House via The Washington Post)
serves 6

1 cup and 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 pint fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained (may substitute frozen wild blueberries)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Confectioners' sugar, for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Lightly grease a 9- or 10-inch springform pan and dust with flour.

In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour with the baking powder and salt and set aside.

Using an electric mixer on medium-high to high speed, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and continue beating until well blended. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture. Beat until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the blueberries with the remaining teaspoon of flour and the lemon juice. Spoon the berry mixture over the batter.

Bake for 50-55 min, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Slide a thin knife around the edges of the cake to release it from the pan before you release and remove the springform.

Dust the cake with confectioners' sugar before serving, if you want.

Next:  How to Make an American Flag Cake
Previously:  Tortilla Española (Spanish Potato Omelet)
Last Year:  Garlic Naan
Two Years Ago:  Speculoos (Cookie Butter) Ice Cream and Mini Stroopwafel Ice Cream Sandwiches 
Three Years Ago:  Homemade Cronuts
Six Years Ago:  Elote (Mexican Grilled Corn)
Seven Years Ago:  Bulgogi Dumplings

Friday, June 3, 2016

Tortilla Española (Spanish Potato Omelet)

I already had a trip to France and Italy planned when I found out I would need to be in Madrid the following week for work.  So after some quick thinking and planning, I managed to extend my time in Europe for another week and head out to Madrid a few days early before the meeting!

It was my first time in Spain, and I wanted to make the most of it.  My friend Sarah Ruth (the one who taught me my favorite brownie recipe) joined me from Sweden, and we managed to hit a lot of the capital and even took a day trip to the nearby town of Segovia.  Some highlights of the trip:

Eating chocolate con churros every day for breakfast!  We liked going to El Brillante for the authentic Madrileño experience and learned about purros there, which are basically, bigger, fatter churros that really remind me of Taiwanese you tiao.  We also tried them at Chocolatería San Ginés since everyone says they have the best ones, and I did like them more because they were less greasy and the hot chocolate wasn't as sweet.

One of Sarah Ruth's friend's boyfriend was a local, and he was kind enough to take us around 2 of the 3 nights we were free.  I really wanted to try Madrid's specialty--bocadillo de calamares--which is basically like a fried calamari po'boy.  He took us to La Campana just off of Plaza Mayor, and the sandwich was a lot bigger than I expected!  It was pretty good, but I would've appreciated some type of sauce on there like a spicy remoulade or an aioli or something.  I bet it would be really good at 3 am after a night of partying!

Another one of his suggestions was a Chinese restaurant that was an underground parking garage.  I totally thought it wouldn't be worth even seeking, but then we looked on-line for it, and it seemed like the real deal.  So after more than 10 days without Asian food, I was desperate enough to try it out.  You guys, it was awesome!  It honestly tasted like something my mom would make!  To find it, go to the southeast corner of Plaza de Espana and look for the stairs that go down.  Can't miss it.

We went to La Latina for tapas one night, but I was so tired we only made it to two bars . My favorite was Juana La Loca.  They had the best tortilla I had in Madrid, probably because they caramelized their onions for extra flavor.  They also had El Increible, a soft-cooked egg with truffle paste on bread.  It was amazing.  I loved that they also had some dessert options for tapas, although we didn't try any.

Mercado de San Miguel is like the Fanueil Hall/Quincy Market of Madrid (super touristy food court) but it's so beautiful I can't help loving it.  They have a paella stall with four kinds of paella, and you can get a ración (single serving) instead of having to order enough for at least 2 people like every other restaurant.  I tried the paella negra which was colored with black squid ink.  The guy scraped up some of the crusty bits from the bottom of the pan so it had a nice combination of textures.

There were a lot of great places to watch the sunset.  Two of mine were next to the Royal Palace and the Temple of Debod, which was moved from Egypt when the building of a dam threatened to flood it (similar to how the Met in NYC got the Temple of Dendur).

After returning from Madrid, I knew I wanted to try making the iconic tortilla española at home.  I settled on Mark Bittman's recipe with a few tweaks.  Instead of a whole cup of olive oil, I used half olive oil, half vegetable oil, mostly for budgetary reasons.  It's still a lot of oil, though, but you can strain it and save it in the refrigerator for the next time you make tortilla española.  I also started cooking the onions before the potatoes to try get some caramelized flavor into the tortilla, à la Juana La Loca.  They were just starting to brown on the edges when I added the potatoes, but I think next time I'll wait even longer since they didn't really end up caramelized by the time the potatoes were done.

Lastly, instead of just salt and pepper, I used this awesome Spanish flavored sea salt I picked up from El Corte Inglés that was seasoned with hot pepper, rosemary, black pepper, garlic, onion, parsley, and tomato.

Tortilla Española (adapted from Mark Bittman)
serves 3 as a main course and 6 as an appetizer

1 1/4 lbs. potatoes (I used Russet, but Yukon Golds would work too)
1 medium onion
1 cup olive oil (or use 1/2 olive oil 1/2 vegetable oil)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 large eggs

Heat the oil in an 8- or 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Chop the onions and add to the oil with some salt and pepper.  Stir occasionally while you prepare the potatoes.

Slice the potatoes thinly, using a mandoline if you have one.  Add to the oil along with some more salt and pepper and adjust the heat so that it bubbles lazily.  Cook until the potatoes are tender, but not brown.  While the potatoes are cooking, beat the eggs with some salt and pepper.

Drain the potatoes and onions in a colander, reserving the oil.  Wipe the skillet clean and add two tablespoons of oil back to it.  Heat over medium heat.  Add the potatoes to the egg mixture and mix gently.  Transfer to the skillet.  After the edges firm up, about a minute or so, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 more minutes.

Use a heat-proof rubber spatula to loosen the edges of the tortilla.  Place a large plate on top of the skillet and flip the tortilla onto it.  Add another tablespoon of oil into the skillet and slide the tortilla, cooked side up, back in.  Cook for another 5 minutes, using the spatula to coax the sides of the tortilla into a domed shape.  Slide onto a plate and serve warm or at room temperature.

Next:  Maine Blueberry Gateau
Previously:  Sesame Soba Noodles with Avocado Rose
Last Year:  Taiwanese Oyster Omelet (Without the Oysters)
Two Years Ago:  Candied Bacon Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Three Years Ago:  Rosemary Honey and Lemon Frozen Yogurt
Six Years Ago:  Passion Fruit Ice Cream
Seven Years Ago:  Kalbi (Korean Barbecue Short Ribs)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Sesame Soba Noodles with Avocado Rose

Usually when I get an avocado in my Boston Organics delivery, I just hope that I'll be able to figure out how to use it before it gets overripe.  But this time I knew exactly what to do with it; I was going to attempt an avocado rose!  I had first discovered these a few weeks ago thanks to a post on Food52 on the trend taking over Instagram.

To make one, slice an avocado in half.  You want a ripe avocado, but not one that is so soft it'll be hard to manipulate without smushing.

Remove the pit, then carefully peel away the skin.  See that little bit of flesh left on the skin below?  It ended up being the only blemish on my rose.  =(

Place on half cut side down on a cutting board and slice the avocado thinly.  It helps to use a paring knife since it has less surface area to stick to the avocado than a chef's knife (which I found out the hard way).

Start shifting the slices diagonally.

Try to make as long of a chain as you can make without breaking it.

Start curling in one end of the chain and continue rolling it in until you've made a rose!

To have something to eat with the avocado, I tried making some sesame soba noodles based on my go to peanut butter noodle recipe but using tahini instead of peanut butter.  I really liked how the buttery avocado added a cool creaminess to the sesame noodles, so much so that I'd pair the two again even if I didn't have enough time to make an avocado rose!

Sesame Soba Noodles with Avocado
makes 2 servings

2 handfuls of soba noodles
3 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
A pinch of sugar
1 avocado
Sesame seeds and chopped scallions, for garnish (optional)

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add the soba noodles.  Cook until done.  Drain in a colander and run under cold water so that the noodles don't stick to each other.

Mix the tahini, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and sugar until it forms a smooth paste.  Toss with the noodles, adding water to thin, if desired.

Serve with sliced avocado and garnish with sesame seeds and chopped scallions, if desired.

Next:  Tortilla Española (Spanish Potato Omelet)
Previously:  Will It Puffle?
Last Year:  Scoglio all'Andiamo (Saffron Fettuccine with Seafood in a Lemon Garlic White Wine Sauce)
Two Years Ago:  Easy Chilquiles with Fried Egg and Avocado
Six Years Ago:  Lilikoi Malasadas (Portuguese Donuts filled with Passion Fruit Curd)
Seven Years Ago:  Moffles!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Will It Puffle?

I was so excited when I received an electric bubble waffle maker from my brother and sister-in-law for my birthday last year.  I had visions of making the eggettes I used to get from NYC's Chinatown and SF's Genki and maybe even making a puffle cone a la Cauldron Ice Cream or Monkey King Tea (below).  But after trying the recipes I found on-line for eggettes and puffle cones (basically the same recipe) I'm still not satisfied with the results.  I even played around a little with the ingredients but nothing I made recreated the aroma, texture, or taste I was looking for.

Not to be deterred, I decided to experiment with some other batter-based foods I had made before.  First up was pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread).  Since some of the eggette recipes used a little tapioca flour, I figured it would be fun to try an entirely tapioca flour based batter in the bubble waffle maker.  The results were incredible!

The bubble waffle maker was able to encapsulate the chewy, airy bread in a crispy crust in a fraction of the time it takes to bake the pão in the oven.  And it's sooooo cute!

I also tried Korean pajeon (above) and Japanese okonomiyaki (below), and the results were decent, but not really worth writing about.

Probably my favorite use of the bubble waffle maker has to be the Taiwanese oyster omelette.  Since I remember the sweet potato starch batter to be super sticky, I added a half tablespoon of oil to the batter itself and made sure to oil the waffle iron well before adding the batter.  And even though I took those precautions, I was still surprised when the omelette came out rather easily from the iron.

As with the pão de queijo, I loved how the outside of the batter got super crispy but still stayed moist inside.  And the shape of the bubble waffle maker gave it a lot more nooks and crannies for an even higher crispy to chewy ratio!

So does anyone else have a good eggette recipe or recommendation for what to try next in the bubble waffle maker?

Next:  Sesame Soba Noodles with Avocado Rose
Previously:   The 4-Hour Baguette
Last Year:  Gordan Ramsay's Sublime Scrambled Eggs - 2 Ways
Two Years Ago:  Nutella Mini Crepe Cakes
Six Years Ago:  The Best Scones in the World
Seven Years Ago:  Samoa Cupcakes and the Cupcake Exchange

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The 4-Hour Baguette

I've made the famous no-knead bread a few times now, and while the concept is great, the reality is I'm always a little disappointed with the results.  Even though there's no kneading involved, it's still a multi-step recipe that can take 20+ hours to finish, and while the texture of the ensuing bread is great for a home cook, it's kind of lacking in flavor.  So I'm pretty excited to have found a recipe for bread that only takes 4 hours from start to finish, still has great texture, and is packed full of flavor.

I pretty much followed this Genius Recipe from Food52 for Dan Leader's 4-Hour Baguette but I applied some of the concepts I learned from Ken Forkish's Flour Water Salt Yeast and added some diastatic malt powder.  According to the King Arthur Flour website, the malt powder promotes "a strong rise, great texture, and lovely brown crust".  You can certainly make this bread without it; I just used because I still had some left from making croissants that one time.

What I love about this recipe is that it doesn't call for any special equipment.  Don't have a stand mixer?  You can knead the dough by hand.  Don't have a pizza stone?  Use a rimless baking sheet or an upside-down baking sheet to bake the loaves on.  Don't have a baguette pan or a baker's couche?  Just use parchment paper and something long and weighted on the sides to help shape the loaves as they rise.  Don't have a bread lame?  Just use a sharp knife or even scissors!  As you can see, while I could definitely use more practice with shaping and scoring baguettes, I'm quite pleased with the results considering it was my first time!

The 4-Hour Baguette (adapted from Dan Leader's recipe on Food52)
makes 3 loaves

1 1/2 cups warm water, about 115°F
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups bread flour (if you don't have any bread flour, just use all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon diastatic malt powder (optional)
3 teaspoons kosher salt
Oil, for greasing bowl
1/2 cup ice cubes or 1 cup water

Place the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over it.  Let stand for 10 minutes, until foamy.

Add the flour(s) and malt powder (if using) and stir by hand with the dough hook until all the flour has been absorbed.  Let sit for 20 minutes to allow the flour to hydrate.

Sprinkle the salt over the dough and knead using the dough hook attachment on medium speed, until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.  When done, wet your hands and reach underneath the dough and grab about a quarter of it.  Gently stretch this section of the dough up and fold it over the top to the other side of the dough.  Rotate the bowl 90° and repeat 3 more times.  This process is called applying a fold.  Transfer the dough seam side down to a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a cold oven until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

After it has doubled, apply another fold, cover, and return to the oven again.  Let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Remove the dough from the oven and place an oven-safe pan on the bottom rack.  Place a pizza stone or a rimless or upside-down baking sheet on the rack above.  Preheat oven to 475°F.

Lightly flour a large piece of parchment paper and place on another rimless baking sheet or cutting board.  Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and cut the dough into 3 even pieces.  Shape each piece into a rectangle and fold the longer sides in to make a narrower rectangle, sealing the seams with the heel of your hand.  Gently roll the rectangle into a 14" log.  Place the logs, seam side down, onto the parchment paper about 2-3" apart from each other.  Lift up the paper between the logs to form pleats and hold them in place with foil/plastic wrap/parchment paper boxes on either end.  This helps shape the baguettes as they rise so that they expand up instead of out.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit until it doubles in size, about 50 minutes.

When fully proofed, remove the plastic wrap and flatten out the parchment paper to space out the loaves.  Using a super-sharp knife, scissors, or bread lame, score the top of the dough in long, diagonal slashes.  Trim the parchment paper, if needed, so that it is about the same size as the pizza stone/baking sheet in the oven.

Pull out the oven rack with the stone or baking sheet on it and, using the corner of the parchment paper as a guide, slide the loaves, still on the parchment paper, onto the baking stone or pan.  Place the ice cubes or water in the oven-proof pan (this produces steam that lets the loaves rise fully before a crust forms).  Bake the baguettes until darkly browned and crisp, 20 to 30 minutes; cool before serving.

Next:  Will It Puffle?
Previously:  Tropical Pulled Pork on Griddled Banana Bread Sandwiches
Last Year:  Chocolate Mochi Snack Cake
Two Years Ago:  Dan Bing (Taiwanese Egg Crepe)
Three Years Ago:  Happiness Cake
Six Years Ago:  Mama Huang's Secret Beer Duck Recipe
Seven Years Ago:  Cincinnati Chili 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tropical Pulled Pork on Griddled Banana Bread Sandwiches

Back in January I found an incredible deal for airfare to St. Thomas so I went ahead and booked it along with four nights at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef using my points.  Even though the weather forecast the weeks up to the trip showed a lot of possible rain, it turned out to be beautiful and sunny every day we were there!
Sunrise at the Frenchman's Reef

On our third day, my friend Sooyun and I took the passenger ferry from Red Hook to Cruz Bay in St. John and hiked the Lind Point Trail to Honeymoon Beach.  After some relaxing time on the beach, we continued over to the Caneel Bay Resort for lunch.  Little did I know I was about to have one of the best sandwiches I had ever eaten.  We almost didn't order it (I was craving a turkey sandwich, and Sooyun almost ordered something else before I reminded her about the rum pork on crispy banana bread sandwich she had pointed out earlier), but after tasting it, I'm so grateful we did.  I think it was that perfect balance of salty pulled pork and sweet banana bread plus the crunch from a red cabbage slaw.  The memory of this sandwich haunted me for over a month before I finally decided to try and recreate it.
Floating at Honeymoon Beach, St. John

For the pulled pork I pretty much followed my slow cooker kalua pork recipe except I added a quartered orange and garlic plus a splash of passion fruit rum.  For the banana bread I followed this basic recipe but you can just use your favorite recipe as long as the bread can be sliced and griddled without falling apart.  Then I made a quick cabbage slaw using coconut white balsamic vinegar, lemon sugar, and shredded red cabbage.  If you don't have smoked sea salt, passion fruit rum, coconut white balsamic vinegar, and lemon sugar, you should be fine using regular sea salt, another rum (or skipping the rum altogether), a light vinegar (like cider or rice wine), and regular white sugar.  But then where would be the fun in that?

Tropical Pulled Pork on Griddled Banana Bread Sandwiches
makes about 8 sandwiches

For the pulled pork:
3 lbs. boneless pork butt/shoulder
2 tablespoons smoked sea salt
1 orange, quartered
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup rum (tropical flavor like passion fruit or mango preferred)

Using a steak knife, poke the pork all over and rub with smoked salt.  Place in the slow cooker along with the orange quarters and garlic cloves.  Turn on low and cook for 12 hours. 

Halfway through, flip the pork and add the rum.

When done, remove the excess fat and shred the pork with a fork.

For the red cabbage slaw:
3 cups shredded red cabbage
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon coconut white balsamic vinegar (or other light vinegar)
1 teaspoon lemon or white sugar

Please the shredded cabbage in a salad spinner or a colander over a bowl.  Sprinkle the salt over the cabbage and mix.  Let sit for an hour, then rinse and squeeze/spin out the excess water.

Transfer the cabbage to a sealable container.  Add the vinegar and sugar and mix.  Cover and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, until ready to use.

For the sandwiches:
2 loaves of your favorite banana bread (or just one loaf if you want to make open faced sandwiches)

Slice the banana bread to the thickness you prefer and butter both sides.  Heat a pan over medium-high heat and cook the banana bread slices, turning once, until both sides are browned.

Top one slice with the pulled pork and slaw and add the other slice.  Serve with plantain or yucca chips and die of happiness.
Sunset at Frenchman's Reef

Next:  The 4-Hour Baguette
Previously:  Pad Thai
Last Year:  Homemade Squid Ink Pasta
Two Years Ago:  Miso-Glazed Eggplant
Three Years Ago:  Peking Duck Pizza
Six Years Ago:  Bacon Fat Caramels
Seven Years Ago:  St. Patrick's Day Maki