"Food: Science, Art, Passion, Pleasure, Adventure & Exploration"

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Let's Eat Cake!

So I've started doing some research on different types of cake batters. I've made different types but I don't think I've taken time to really do any extended research into the different ways certain cake batters are made or how they came to be.

Food research can be so daunting and intimidating because I often ask myself, "Wow, with all of the never-ending information on food available, where do I start and how can I possibly learn so much?"

I want to learn as much as I can, but it's going to take patience, continued curiosity (certainly not a problem!), experience-gathering, and organization (definitely more of a challenge for autodidacts who create their guides and paths).

Anyway, as I mentioned, I decided to look more into cakes, lately.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cookie Ideas 1

It's not like I haven't written about cookies and cookie ideas already, but I decided to organize entries about cookie experiments, since they deserve a category of their own.

I find that when it comes to baking and cooking, as much as I absolutely love cakes and cupcakes, I really have a fascination with making cookies and candies, especially when it comes to the many different results that can come about just from boiling and preparing different concoctions of sugar mixtures. It's really a science I hope to eventually master because last week, I tried making some Haitian pralines and although I followed the recipe well (until the end), I think I did something wrong at the end of the process. What I came out with were more like praline caramels or caramel praline rather than actual traditionally-textured pralines. LOL!

They were still very tasty with a praline flavor, but just NOT texture appropriate. They were awesome as caramels, though.

So just like with my attempt with fudge years ago, I am going to have to try making pralines again to to bring out the proper result.  As it often said, practice makes perfect. If I looked back at what I did wrong, I think I did not allow the mixture to cool down enough toward the end. The mixture still had a gloss when I poured it out into spoonfuls on a cooling tray and the mixture was supposed to have a matte look to it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Baking Adventure 5: Candied Brown Sugar Melts

I cooked up two big trays of three cheese enchiladas recently. I do have photos (great since it's a savory dish) but I will upload them later in a proper entry dedicated solely to the enchiladas. I think I'll post a recipe too. I haven't done this yet and it's time. Enchiladas are so easy to make and customize.

So, now to my brown sugar melts. Basically, these are rich sugar cookies made with golden brown (light brown) sugar and lots of butter and vanilla, rather than with white granulated sugar. The taste of brown sugar is very distinctive when it cooks within the cookie batter. The entire house smelled like buttery caramel pancakes.

One thing I noticed with this recipe is that I had to turn down the oven temperature a bit because the brown sugar cooks quicker in the dough I made. I also had to raise the oven rack up higher so that the bottom of the cookies would not burn as easily and too quickly. I used a non-stick baking pan and skipped the cooking spray this time around. I found that with my first batter, adding cooking spray at the bottom like I usually do, made the bottom of the cookies slightly burn. I barely had them in there for 8 minutes without noticing a slight borderline burning aroma.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Baking Adventure 4: Big Batch of Sugar Cookie Fun

Today, I wanted to conjure up baker's joy. I know this is the name of a cooking spray but I also think it's a cool term for the momentary happiness that results from baking -well, at least the joy that develops for me whenever I make and bake something. Baker's joy is just what I needed today. Maybe I'll think of another term later on. For now, it sticks.

My schedule has been a little erratic but I decided to make a large batch of sugar cookies (with extra butter). I split the batter in half once I completed the basic recipe. I turned one batch into a spiced rum batter, using ginger, cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg, rum liquor and vanilla bean paste. The other half remained a plain sugar cookie mix. I used what I had in the kitchen and what would be simple for today. Some cookies, upon closer inspection, look a bit more "textured" than others. Those are the spiced rum cookies. If I used brown sugar for those, their appearance would have offered a better contrast.

However, I made these cookies thinner than usual and cut them out into 3 different shapes to vary the look of the baked cookies once I piled them up on a plate. I cut out some short rectangles, rectangular clouds and cute "perky" circles.

The cookies came out crispy with a slight chewy texture undertone. They are highly tasty, buttery and sugary with rich, pale, golden coloring. I've got a few images to show:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Working On My Baking/Cooking To-Do List

Well, I better get started working on my 50 Things to Bake/Cook list. My personal affairs have been very out of sorts and busy lately, but I don't want to abandon my commitment to this blog and to continuing my exploration of the world of food and food passion. So, as I've said a few times, stay tuned.

If you saw my previous entry, you'll notice what I had on my cooking/baking to-do list. I want to begin checking off some items there because the list wasn't made to simply look cute. LOL. It was compiled for eventual and gradual but total completion.

Here are things I've been contemplating making lately (making from scratch) and I haven't forgotten about my curry dish promise. I will be eventually making a curry dish, one that I've made or one that hasn't been made:

  • Pizza (pesto, vegetable, margherita, or triple cheese)
  • Pesto lasagna
  • Chicken korma with basmati rice.

I'd like to innovate a bit with toffee too. I might do something with pistachios and/or some type of liqueur.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Things to Cook or Bake in the next 500 days

This is a play off of the 101 Things to do in 1001 Days project.

II am going to write down things I'd like to make/cook within the next year or year and a half or things I have already made and cooked but want to do again in a different way or better (improve upon)...and cross them off as I do and/or improve them.

  • Create your own list of items you'd like to try, innovate or improve. Feel free to pass this idea on.

  1. Create homemade tortillas (from scratch) either flour or corn
  2. Make saltwater taffy
  3. Make marshmallows from scratch
  4. Make a tray of coconut ice from scratch
  5. Make my own butter from scratch
  6. Create my own cheese from scratch and use it in a sandwich, salad or pasta
  7. Make pasta dough from scratch and create a tasty pasta dish with homemade pesto sauce
  8. Make petits fours from scratch (buttercream iced and cream-filled with decorative coatings)
  9. Create a signature dessert or savory and promote and prepare it for loved ones.
  10. Prepare and make sticky buns from scratch (apple cinnamon or caramel rum)
  11. Make at least 2 dozen yeast dough glazed and chocolate doughnuts from scratch
  12. Prepare sushi at home (salmon or scallop)
  13. Make corn cakes from scratch with Mexican-style filling (ground turkey, homemade guacamole, sour cream, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, etc.)
  14. Prepare spicy mango salsa
  15. Make an Indian curry dish from scratch (chicken korma, chicken tikka masala or something along those lines)
  16. Make funnel cake at home
  17. Prepare homemade vanilla bean ice cream, a sorbet, a gelato or another cold treat.
  18. Make cheese tamales
  19. Make proper homemade cannolis
  20. Create a margherita pizza from scratch, dough and all
  21. Learn how to poach several unique ingredients
  22. Learn how to temper chocolate well
  23. Successfully bake and prepare a fondant cake with a unique style
  24. Learn how to recreate my mom's gumbo recipe
  25. Make a fudge from scratch (this is another one I've done but I want to avoid the batter setting up grainy this time around)
  26. Create a nut butter out of a selected nut (cashew, almond, pistachio) and use it in either a savory or dessert dish
  27. Make cinnamon or honey graham crackers
  28. Create one of each: a marmalade, a jelly, a jam, a spread, a fruit butter, a fruit curd
  29. Make pancakes from scratch (no mix)
  30. Prepare homemade French fries
  31. Prepare homemade jalapeño poppers with cheddar cheese
  32. Make mozzarella sticks with a cocktail or ranch sauce/dressing also made from scratch
  33. Prepare a classic French dish
  34. Prepare loaf bread and use it for sandwiches, traditional toast, or a breakfast meal (French toast, grilled cheese)
  35. Bake a roast or turkey with a special glaze or spice blend made from scratch
  36. Prepare a Thai green curry dish (kiew wan) with jasmine rice
  37. Create a signature drink (smoothie, shake, alcoholic, malt or juice)
  38. Make ice cream sandwiches (using homemade ice cream goal)
  39. Make homemade Popsicles with juice mixture I've created from fruit
  40. Make cookies with a filled center
  41. Make chicken pot pie from scratch
  42. Make clam chowder from scratch in a sourdough bread bowl
  43. Prepare crackers of some kind from scratch
  44. Make an Étouffée dish from scratch
  45. Make homemade eggnog
  46. Prepare a fruit cobbler
  47. Make a lasagna dish from scratch with a cheese sauce
  48. Prepare a custom boba drink
  49. Create a signature nacho dish
  50. Make baklava from scratch, including phyllo dough
  51. Make a pie from scratch, including pie crust
  52. Creating pop tarts from scratch
  53. Prepare a tart with a fruit or chocolate filling
  54. Prepare a chili from scratch
  55. Make a baked dish using potatoes as one of the main ingredients (potato au gratin)
  56. Create a signature baked banana pudding dish

    Thursday, January 7, 2010

    Baking Adventure 3: Chocolate Obsession Cookies

    I am not sure what to call these. I always feel compelled to come up with this dazzling and alluring name for my baking experiments. Coming up with a cool name honors and completes the recipe for me. I feel like cake has it's icing, so to speak. The cookie batter for the dough was made with Valrhona cocoa powder, dark chocolate fèves (used to make a dark chocolate ganache using heavy cream; added to the cookie dough batter), a bit of Nutella, rum liquor, and vanilla bean paste. I didn't mind putting vanilla in these because there was so much chocolate flavor to begin with and I wanted a more complex flavor profile than simply and only chocolate. The rum liquor added a twist to the flavor of the cookie dough (I used Myers's original dark Jamaican rum). Each cookie contains a gooey milk chocolate center and is topped with a Valrhona chocolate pearl, in the center. They were baked into the cookie as a decorative touch.

    These are seriously yum and they came out with absolutely the most perfect texture. Moist and chewy. I definitely pat myself on the back for this baking adventure. The cookies are all gone now. I had a platter FULL of them piled up on top of one another when all the baking was done for the day.

    ^ These cookies are cooling on the rack. They were just taken out of the oven and are the first batch.

    ^ More chocolate obsession cookies cooling on the rack (close up)


    ^ Platter of cookies, but these were the first round of them. Once I was done with each batch, the pile was much larger.


     ^ Showing what one of the cookies looks like when broken apart, revealing the milk chocolate center.

    To get the milk chocolate center, I baked each cookie as I did the green tea white chocolate sugar cookies. I cut out circles in hand-flattened dough with one of my circular cookie cutters (I am going to have to take photos of my collections of cookie cutters soon. I have so many kinds and sets). Half of the circles were the bottoms and the other half were the tops. Each cookie bottom received a milk chocolate fèves in the center and was layered with a cookie top. The top was pressed lightly around the edges to gently seal in the milk chocolate fève (disc-shaped piece of chocolate) and placed in a baking tray sprayed with Pam Baking spray (which includes real flour in the mix). The spray has a wonderful birthday cake aroma to it when you spray it in the tray and the scent releases into the air.

    These take no more than 10 minutes to bake. You can bake them up to 12 minutes, but it's so easy to lose track of time, because as soon as you put them into the oven, they are done so quickly. Best to remain near or in the kitchen as they bake so you don't forget!

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    What's Aboard the Dream Boat?

    I've been down so many roads and with each experience I figured I had found my "final calling" but little did I know that that was the wrong mindset to have. For me, there should be no "final" calling. Just the embarking on many adventures. I've drank the Kool-aid like everyone else, which compelled me to find some traditional means of feeling "purpose" in my life.

    Purpose, to me, should be led by passion, but so many are afraid to follow wherever that leads them because there's no explicitly detailed map or guidebook on this type of journey. I certainly include myself in harboring such fear. The map and guidebook has to be created by the passion pursuer when the path is individual and personal.

    I really don't know the details of what my future could be, but I know there are certain elements and experiences I definitely want in it and always have wanted. As I've often said, I want to write professionally and interactively (meaning including my illustration skills sometimes), in some sense. Blogs, columns, articles, books, essays, and so forth. When I mention doing writing, I mean in a way that truly excites and allows me to be very creative, expression, inspiring, and informative. I am hoping that this blog, which is centered on food, is a good start to reawakening that spirit in me and leading me down such a path.

    Inside Info: I started off writing a lot in my other blog, The Asymptotic Faery. I'd like to return to it someday, but in due time. There's much time for a lot of things and I am trying not to make myself feel so rushed. There's no need to rush. It's all about play, exploration and passion (a word I just love to pieces and that you will see me use often).

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    Another Day for Savory?

    Yesterday was rather a busy day in various respects, so I didn't get to making a curry dish or a stir fry like I had planned. However, I stopped by one of my favorite Indian eateries in Marina del Rey.

    The place is called Shershah. The owner is extremely nice and I've been going there for years. He recognizes me each time I come in and I love his hospitality. Tonight I ordered some of my usual. He knows that I am a fan of their chicken tikka masala. So I ordered that and a serving of their chicken korma. Of course, basmati rice was part of the complete purchase. I asked for extra of their mint sauce. It's the tastiest sauce and I eat it with the curry and rice dishes, as well as any of their naan breads, among many of their other dishes. The last item I purchased with the total order was stuffed paratha with paneer. The stuffed paratha can be filled with a choice of potatoes, onions or panner (cheese).

    Paneer is an Indian or Desi cheese similar to farmer cheese. It's texture can be compared to firm tofu and sometimes it is chopped into cubes. Other times it might be crumbly. I've had paneer in many Indian spinach-based curries (usually recognized by the word saag or palak in the dish's name), but I prefer it in or with naan breads.

    I'm not sure what Shershah makes their mint sauce with other mint, obviously. I've never asked outright , but from the taste, I gather that there's definitely a hint of vinegar in there, some lemon juice and a little salt. Additionally, I think there's certainly some cilantro and garlic but the condiment is mostly mint in flavor - tangy, potent, delicious and slightly spicy (probably from chili powder). It's super yummy and I always get tons of it when I go into any Indian restaurant.

    I have a good amount of the food left over from tonight. So lunch is taken care of.

    I did manage to make some dough for some more cookies. I felt like I wanted to experiment further with a new chocolate cookie recipe. In these cookies, I added (since I have tons of it) Nutella, rum liquor, valrhona cocoa powder, and a chocolate ganache I made from valrhona dark chocolate fèves and heavy cream. The chocolate cookies will have a milk chocolate center so that when people take a bite, they get a mouthful of gooey and rich chocolate cookie core.

    I'll post pictures of these later after they are baked. The dough is still chilling in the fridge. Tomorrow, I will do savory. LOL. I promised it, so I shall do it. Stay tuned...

    BTW, how can I forget about Shirley O. Corriher? She's the author of the books BakeWise and CookWise. She's a baker, cook, and food scientist with a biochemistry degree (*yay*) who teaches about the how's and why's of cooking - basically the science behind cooking and the use/function/role of many ingredients in recipes.

    I have to put her books on my reading list, especially BakeWise.

    Monday, January 4, 2010

    My Own Reading Rainbow

    These are some books I will be purchasing within the next 2 months. They are going to go on my 100 Books To Read This Year list, too. I have heard good reviews on some of these books after researching them and seeing them recommended by various people in the food industry, so I'm excited about reading them.

    If you are inspired, go and check out these books too:

    1. The Curious Cook: More Kitchen & Science Lore by Harold McGee
    2. On Food & Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee
    3. Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Box Set) by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck
    4. The Oxford Companion to Food and the Oxford Companion to Wine (2-Volume Set) by Alan Davidson
    5. Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen by Elizabeth Andoh
    6. The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious and Perplexing City by David Lebovitz
    7. The Patisseries of Paris: Chocolatiers, Tea Salons, Ice Cream Parlors, and more by Jamie Cahill
    8. The Professional Pastry Chef: Fundamentals of Baking and Pastry (4th Edition) by Bo Friberg
    9. On Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a French Town by Susan Hermann Loomis
    Inside Info: OK, so there's a French theme going on here. What can I say? I am fascinated by France, and particularly Paris. It's one of the places that I've always wanted to visit some day and I'll go further in saying that, in the future, I'd love to live there for awhile. I am seriously thinking about. First, I'd like to live in Canada for a bit and in the meantime (if the cards are played right, I might get to do this starting late this year), I'd like to make plans for Paris as the next step. Overall, I hear it's got an amazing food culture. It's also the place for pastry and dessert aficionados, and I am very interested in gaining some food knowledge, exploration, and experience in that city, among many others.

    I have a long intermittent history with learning French and I've always had a burning desire to become a polyglot (hyper-polyglot if I truly want to put the challenge and pressure on). The best way to learn a language or to push basic or intermediate knowledge of one into full motion is through immersion. Another one of my goals for this year is to get back into my French language studies and take the process seriously, so that by the time my plan to live in France becomes a reality, I'll be reasonably groomed for it, at least in this regard. :D
     OK, leaning back out now and away from your ear.
    Chit-Chat: Just got a thought for something called "Ear Whisper Therapy". When someone whispers very lightly in my ear, I find the sensation created so utterly soothing that I feel the need to fall asleep in total relaxation and tingly mind feelings. Wouldn't this be nice if this odd therapy was offered in alternative spas? I'd certainly try it. I'd pay for 20 minutes of it. The spa would just have to make sure that the person doing the whispering had a pleasant voice, clean breath, good hygiene, and uh...lots of patience. Maybe if they read from books or cited random passages, it would help with the enduring task.

    Let's continue with a few more books, shall we?
    1. Any books from the Best Food Writing series by Holly Hughes
    2. Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage by Louis E. Grivetti et al.
    3. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan
    4. The Great Book of Chocolate by David Lebovitz
    5. Chop Suey : A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States by Andrew Coe
    6. Spice: The History of a Temptation by Jack Turner
    7. BakeWise by Shirley O. Corriher
    8. CookWise by Shirley O. Corriher
    So, as you can see, I'll have lots to read by starting off with this list. *Yay*

    Something Savory?

    I think tomorrow (or rather later today, since it's now the 4th of January) I will make something savory.

    I am pretty good at making basic curries in different flavors and I haven't made a curry dish in a long time. I might do that with some jasmine rice or I'll think about making a stir fry dish. My cheese enchiladas are awesome, too. Decisions, decisions!

    So stay tuned for a savory food adventure tomorrow. I might step out to eat somewhere for lunch and if I can snap some photos of what I choose for lunch, I'll take them and write about my lunch out, here. This year, I'll definitely have to explore more restaurants, shops and markets further and takes LOTSA photos.

    Sunday, January 3, 2010

    Baking Adventure 2: Cracked Green Tea White Chocolate Sugar Cookies

    These cookies were definitely an experiment, as I've never made this particular type of cookie. I have, however, made all types of sugar cookies. I have very basic recipes for most desserts types that I keep in my own cooking grimoire. I make up my own recipes entirely from scratch to see what I get and I learn from the recipes that I see from cook books on my shelves, from food personalities on Food Network or Fine Living, from fellow food bloggers, and/or food sites that feature recipes. What I like to do is learn about various fundamental ingredients and how they work as agents in a recipe. Before I get too fancy, I need to know the foundation of things.

    • What does butter do? 
    • How does sugar work (other than sweetening a recipe)?
    • What happens if I include baking soda (used more with recipes that involve acidic ingredients such as fruit juices and sour cream)? 
    • What purpose does cream of tartar serve?
    • Why should I use powdered sugar for some icings?

    These questions sound very basic and simple but they are very important to understand and their importance can be underestimated. Basically, these type of questions are what I like to find out more about, as much as I can, because it reminds that me cooking and baking are truly a science and the better you understand ingredients and their many roles, the better culinary alchemist you'll be. The part I like the most is that you become a better innovator. The best scientists in any respect (even if metaphorical) are the ones that can innovate. That's what I aspire to. As I mentioned before, I have so much to learn about the world of food and cooking.

    OK, now on to the photos (click to read more below):

    Awesome Food-themed Films

    I am sure there are more films I could add, but again I am thinking about films that are generally food-based, not  necessarily films with a scene or two about food. But I'll consider giving them honorable mentions.

    1. Eat Drink Man Woman
    2. Julie & Julia
    3. Chocolat
    4. Charlie & The Chocolate Factory
    5. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory
    6. Like Water for Chocolate
    7. Fast Food Nation
    8. Food, Inc.
    9. Supersize Me
    10. The Secret of the Grain
    11. Consuming Passions
    12. Tampopo
    13. Delicatessen
    14. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

    Zany Food-Themed Games

    Games can be board games, casual games, virtual worlds/MMOs, card games, whatever.
    1. Burger Shop Series
    2. Food Fight: A Trivia Game for Serious Food Lovers
    3. Cake Mania Series
    4. Candyland
    5. Burger Time
    6. Fat Princess (you get to feed cake to fatten up princesses)
    7. Delicious Emily’s Series
    8. Cake Shop Series
    9. Success Story
    10. Chocolatier Series
    11. Bilbo: Four Corners of the World
    12. Chocolate Shop Frenzy
    13. Youda Sushi Chef
    14. Sweetopia
    15. Amelie’s Café
    16. Stand O’ Food Series
    17. Turbo Series (Turbo Fiesta, Turbo Subs, Turbo Pizza)
    18. Golden Hearts Juice Bar
    19. Hot Dish
    20. Go-Go Gourmet
    21. Ice Cream Craze: Tycoon Takeover
    22. Cooking Dash Series
    23. Ice cream Mania
    24. Pastry Passion 
    25. Alices's Tea Cup Madness
    26. DQ Tycoon
    27. Burger Bustle
    28. Diner Dash Series
    29. 2 Tasty

      Food-Themed Lists

      Last night, I thought about compiling some very cool lists that have food as a theme. What I'll do is add them to the sidebar later. I'll occasionally update them if I come across anything new.

      These are some list ideas I have in mind:
      1. Awesome Food-themed Films
      2. Zany Food-themed Games
      3. Wonderful Food-scented Perfumes
      4. Spectacular Food-themed Music
      So far, I've got some items under each list. If you read my blog and have any ideas to add to any of these lists, please send them my way. I think one of the challenging lists (other than the music list) is the one about films. I've seen many films with food-themed scenes but the movies aren't generally food-based . The Joy Luck Club comes to mind as well as Soul Food. The films can be documentaries, too.

      Things are Looking Green

      OK, so I got the idea for my cookies. Tomorrow was supposed to be the day that I baked my cookies, but I'm cutting myself some slack since I share a kitchen with others. Today will be the day, however. My SO told me that I should make cookies with a green tea and it just so happens that I have a lot of green tea/match powder left. It should still be fresh since I keep it stored properly.

      So I am going to go green tea cookies with white chocolate. I'll use a "ravioli" technique. LOL. This means I'll cut the dough into cookie circles but on half of those circles, I'll place chopped up pieces of premium white chocolate and I'll use the remaining circles as tops to pinch down on each bottom circle, making the cookies look like enclosed pockets. Once all of that is done, I'll bake them this way and they should come out moist and chewy with creamy white chocolate centers. Hmmm...I might even whip up some royal icing for decorations on the cookies (green and white or just white) or I'll think of something else. I want these to be attractive as well as tasty.

      Saturday, January 2, 2010

      Today's Adventure Brainstorm

      So I have some cake left from the two cakes that I baked the other day. I certainly don't need to bake any more cake for now. I think what I might bake later tonight are cookies.  They're easy to make and I could innovate on recipes without much of a hassle.

      The thing is, I have no idea what kind of cookies I'll be baking later tonight. I am still brainstorming over ideas. I feel like I need to be thrown into the Food Network show, Chopped (which I love, btw!), so that random and unlikely fused ingredients may inspire me. LOL.

      These are some ingredients that spring to mind:

      • Pineapple
      • Nutmeg
      • Molasses
      • Honey
      • Almond Butter
      • Nutella (since I have plenty left)
      • White chocolate
      • Starfruit/carambola
      • Butternut squash (hmmm, I'll have to not only head out to the store to get a supply but bake or boil these to get the puree I need)
      • Strawberries
      • Caramel (well, not the kind in a jar but the kind I'd make from scratch using cane sugar, butter, vanilla bean paste and cream)

      These wouldn't be used together of course. LOL. Nope. They are just random ideas for custom recipes that might help me to come up with something unique. I do like the butternut squash ingredient. That's interesting indeed. I don't even know if I could get starfruit right now. Are they seasonal?

      I'm an info junkie but I still have so much to learn and explore about food (I'm glad). If you are reading my blog and you have any ideas to throw my way for tonight, feel free to hurl them at me with force and enthusiasm. It's the only way I'd enjoy being hit over the head repeatedly...

      Hmmm...on further research (looking up more info on starfruit at the moment), I might steer clear of it for now until I figure out how to infuse it or to what degree. I have some older relatives who are on medication although I don't have anyone in my immediate family with kidney failure or issues. According to research, the fruit can present health hazards and complications for those, respectively, with kidney problems (past or current) and those who take high blood pressure medication or anything for heart disease. I don't want to make anyone sick.

      Other than that, starfruit is a very good antioxidant source and offers plenty of vitamin c.
      I've never tried starfruit, though. I hear it's got a tangy flavor, but I think that depends on what type of starfruit is selected. The smaller starfruit is lemony in flavor and tart (often used in cooking), while the other larger varieties are sweeter. Looks like late winter is a good time for selecting sweet starfruit and midwinter is a great time for gathering the tart sorts. Some people have compared it's flavor, overall, to a cross between a granny smith apple and a crunchy grape, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, and sour pineapple.I wonder if it's flavor is distinctive enough to give a unique flavor profile to a cookie recipe? That's what exploring is for...to find that stuff out.

      Intrigued? Indeed I am. I must try some soon. Their look alone has always been enough to attract my attention in supermarkets.

      Oh...and I need to think of what I'll be doing tomorrow so I don't get such a late start, like today. I should be preparing in advance daily, if I am to keep this food blog project up. Already, I am enjoying it immensely. So far, it's been a great way to start off the year.

      Little Known Food Facts

      -Did you know that adding vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste or any vanilla flavoring to a chocolate recipe considerably decreases the strength of flavor of chocolate in the recipe?

      -If you want a stronger or purer chocolate flavor, leave out or lessen the vanilla flavoring. 
        -Mille feuilles are French pastries that are made up of 5 layers - 3 layers of a puff pastry and 2 layers of French custard (also called creme patissiere) that alternate. Sometimes, jam or cream is used rather than custard. The top layer of the pastry is topped with a rich icing or sometimes poured fondant and blended in a pattern with chocolate ganache or chocolate strips. The resulting pattern often looks like a spider web. Other names for this pastry are vanilla slice, Napoleon cake, custard slice, and cream slice. 
        -Icings, Frostings, Glazes, and Crumb Coats 

        Icings & Frostings: Icing is often called frosting and vice verse, but some consider frostings (buttercreams, thick ganaches, royal icings) to be stiffer, richer, creamier and more appropriate for the final finish of a decorated cake (rosettes, piped flowers, swirls around the edges), while icings are thinner, less heavy and used for very smooth top coating of decorating a cake.

        Glazes: Glazes are usually shiny coatings on top of a dessert, usually cakes or smooth pastries. Bundt cakes often feature poured melted chocolate sauces and thin icing glazes. Other popular glazes are sugar syrups used to soak and flavor layers of wedding cakes before being frosted, egg washes on breads and pastries, and thin chocolate ganaches or poured fondants. 

        Crumb coats: A crumb coat is a thin layer of icing spread over a layer cake, and then chilled or flash frozen to set or stiffen. A crumb coat layer of icing protects stray crumbs, from cake layers, from getting into the final top coating of frosting of on a cake. Crumb coating can be compared to gesso, which is used to prime a canvas for painting.

        -Vinegar is occasionally added to pie crust dough to keep the dough white, to prevent oxidation, and to relax the gluten in the dough so that the pie crust dough is more malleable for rolling.

        Acidulated water is created when an acid is added to water. Lime juice, vinegar, lemon juice, and white wine are some of the acids that are often added to water.

        This water mixture is often used to maintain a fresh and crisp look and slow down the browning (oxidation) of fruits and vegetables such as avocados, apples, bananas, artichokes, and pears.

        An added benefit of acidulated water is that it can give treated vegetables and fruits a slight acidic or tart taste which adds to a dish's flavor profile.

        Acidulated water should be used as soon as it is needed and vegetables and fruits should be dipped in the solution rather than saturated with it.

        Some recipes that involve acidulated water-treated fruits and vegetables are banana pudding, apple pie, pear tarts, guacamole, and artichoke dip.

              Friday, January 1, 2010

              Baking Adventure 1: Coconut Lime Cake & Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

              Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Milk Chocolate Nutella Buttercream Icing.

              This is my chocolate hazelnut cake, all made from scratch (icing and batter). The flavor profile is distinctive and rich. I used extra butter in the cake batter for a moister texture.

              The only pre-made item I've used in this recipe is Nutella. I used that to give the icing that "x factor". LOL!

              The cake batter is a yellow cake recipe and those little dark balls that you see on the cake as decorative (although edible) items are called chocolate pearls. I get a lot of my cooking supplies and ingredients from a variety of places, but most of them come from an enchanted place in Culver City, Calif., called Surfas Restaurant Supply and Gourmet Food. They are located on Washington Blvd. in what's considered the restaurant district, in Culver City.

              I tell you, the store is always a pleasure to go to! I always feel like a kid walking into a candy store! You can find nearly anything, and I think they allow you to special order some items that aren't in stock. There are rows and rows of colorful decorations for cakes and cupcakes, all sorts of raw and exotic sugars, many flavors (bubblegum, lime, pear, cotton candy), oils and extracts (lemon, lime, orange, chocolate, strawberry) and mix-ins (pralines, treacle, nut flours, ribbon candy, hazelnut sauce) for pastry recipes, LOTS of supplies for commercial kitchens (which is fantastic since domestic kitchen owners can get some cool stuff for their home use), packaging, rows of all sorts of pure, high quality chocolates in BULK (to use for cooking and baking), and much more.

              The Beginning of 2010

              So, it's nearly an hour after the turn of the New Year and I promised myself that I'd start something very different and very new. I finally saw the film Julie & Julia and it inspired me. I thought, "Wouldn't it be so cool to do something similar to Julie Powell and challenge myself to cook or bake something each day and document it?"

              I relate a lot Julie Powell's character in the film. There's a part in the film where she's in bed with her husband and says that she rarely finishes anything that she starts. I can so relate! I wouldn't say I rarely finish my goals, but there are so many projects that I've left by the wayside. I started with incredible enthusiasm and then...fizzled out.

              I don't have ADD (I don't think!), but I'm so full of ideas at any given moment, that it's so easy to go from one thing to the next. I am a bottomless pit of ideas. In fact, I could write a big book of ideas and probably get it published and sold. But who wants to be a shadow boxer? I'd like to be the star in m ring, for once and get the credit, fulfillment, and reward I deserve.

              I get this feeling of wanting to take on everything at once. Perhaps it does relate to patience on some level. I enjoy envisioning, building a concept or an idea, but maybe once I get started on the very process of carrying it out, I get bored...unless the process continues to stimulate me with the conceptual side of things.