I left my cart in San Francisco

August 21, 2010 § 3 Comments

Well, I am officially home in San Francisco, a day earlier than I had originally planned. I spent my last week in DC alone in the Georgetown townhouse. The quiet was slightly eerie and because my key to the front door stopped working, I had to enter the house through the back alley every night, where the rats come out after dark. I never got a fully coherent explanation of why the otherwise very nice neighborhood is overrun with rats; this will be the subject of further research. But needless to say, when I had the opportunity to leave for my week home a day early, I jumped on it. Especially since it would mean being able to go to the Street Food Festival today on Folsom.

But as much I wanted to be home, it seems like someone doesn’t want me here. First, United lost my luggage. Luckily, I had only checked one bag with running clothes and cooking magazines. Then, a plywood sign like the one below fell on my and my brother’s heads at the Festival this morning when we stopped to look at “I left my (cart) in San Francisco” T-shirts. As such, we were not in the mood to walk the last block of food carts, which was packed full of mini red velvet cupcakes and chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches — the dessert block —, and instead chose to walk home through the Mission with ice on our heads. We already had the one dessert we were looking for — crème brulée from the Crème Brulée Cart, which I have only been following on Twitter for a year and had yet to pay a visit. Thick and creamy Mexican chocolate and vanilla bean brulées topped off a lunch of curry-fried chickpeas, papusas, veggie empanadas and spinach and cheese pirozhki. Yum. I am so glad to be home.

And…the fire alarm just goes off in my house as my family sautées salmon for dinner. Got to go.
Also, I just realized that you can like and tweet my blog posts. Cool?

De-tartified lemon curd (except amazingly tart)

June 4, 2010 § 3 Comments

Hello from New York City. I am surrounded by highrises and about to give you a little piece of sunshine. Just look at this picture and try to pretend it doesn’t make you happy. I accidentally got one of my feet in the first picture I took of this series and decided to take the rest with both feet in.

It helps that this is positively my favorite thing to eat. I have made this recipe quite a few times, each time with the intention of making a lemon tart. Somehow, the process never really gets that far along and I end up eating this lemon curd by the spoonful. Sometimes, I manage to save some to have on top of my toast for breakfast. But that’s as far as it ever gets. Maybe next time, I should think about making the tart shell first. But you and I both know that is never going to happen.

Lemon Curd
Recipe from David Lebovitz
Makes 1 cup (240 g)

1/2 cup (125 ml) freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, cubed

Place a mesh strainer over a bowl, and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, egg yolks, eggs, and salt.
Add the butter cubes and set the pan over low heat, whisking constantly until the butter is melted.
Increase the heat and cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and just begins to become jelly-like. It’s done when you lift the whisk and the mixture holds its shape when it falls back into the saucepan from the whisk.
Immediately press the curd through the strainer. Once strained, store the lemon curd in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to one week.

Queen of Tea and Grains

May 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

I just pulled a batch of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven but those are going to have to wait another day. I returned from Victoria, Canada the other day from a brief visit with my grandparents. They just bought a condo in Victoria, in addition to their house by the mountains, and the past couple days have been filled with the logistics of setting up a new home as well as a couple afternoon getaways. The trip included the obligatory trip downtown to Roger’s chocolates, where we picked up a couple boxes of dark chocolate mints and a bag of chocolate-covered English toffee for me to bring back to San Francisco. Soft maple sugar candies also found their way into my carry-on. I was that kid sitting in the coffee shop eating the sugar cubes meant to go in grown-up coffee and I still firmly believe I could go days on sugar alone. Maple sugar is even better than cane sugar, as it has a melt-in-your-mouth translucency and comes in the pretty shapes of maples leaves and acorns.

We also spent an afternoon at the James Bay Tea Room, which is a small white cottage on the outskirts of downtown. With a pot of the house tea — orange pekoe — we got scones with jam and whipped cream, mini quiches, butter-raisin and lemon tarts, and triangle egg and tuna sandwiches. The tea service was slightly spoiled by the fact that the sugar came out of a large jar and the strawberry jam out of plastic packaging.

While the tea was satisfactory, it did not live up to expectations. Last summer, we went to the Point Ellice Tea House, which is further out of downtown, which was much better. While Point Ellice didn’t have authentic Devonshire cream (Grandpa was adamant that authentic cream is thick enough to be cut with a knife), it offered a full array of sweets, including lemon loaf and trifle, and savories like tomato soup and cucumber sandwiches. A lovely afternoon.

I had another lovely experience last night at 18 Reasons, which is a small storefront run by Bi-Rite Market on Guerrero in San Francisco. The non-profit runs a series of events about food and art for the community, including presentations by local food producers. Last night, it held a potluck dinner with Kim Boyce, author of Good to the Grain. Every attendee made and brought a recipe from the book and we sat around a long wooden table enjoying the wide array of baked goods. Good to the Grain is all about baking with other grains besides white flour, including whole-wheat, barley, rye, buckwheat and spelt among others. The food table concentrated mostly on sweet rather than savory and boasted ginger-peach muffins, olive oil rosemary cake with chocolate chips, quinoa cookies, whole wheat chocolate chip cookies and my own contribution, summer peach pie.

This was my first time making a pie with a real pie crust. I’ve made my fair share of tarts, as well as a pumpkin pie, but never real pastry dough. Everyone said the pie turned out beautifully and we were instructed during introductions that we were not allowed to apologize for whatever we brought, but next time I will be careful to ensure the crust is sealed on the edges as some of the peach juices seeped out.

I won’t give you the recipe for the pie but rather instruct you to go buy Kim’s book. The photos are beautiful and I’ve already made several of the recipes which turned out wonderfully. If you’ve never cooked with other grains before, you should definitely try it out. Even the simple switch to whole wheat flour lends a new dimension to whatever you are baking. I won’t say anything more about whole wheat flour now, as it might spoil my next post!

With the radio up, well I’ve seen the sunrise: Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

May 11, 2010 § 6 Comments

Today is a special day: not only is it Dean’s Date — the day every student at Princeton runs frantically to turn in end-of-the-semester papers — but it’s someone’s 20th birthday. Today, I bring you a very special cake, for a very special person. She’s one of the few people who will erg with me to an entire playlist of Taylor Swift in the middle of winter. She knows the words to Big Green Tractor and Chicken Fried just as well as I do. She will paint herself blue to be Avatar with me and, to this day, is the only person who has ever worn my metallic silver leopard print spandex. Bambi, this one’s for you.

Firstly, a big thank you to Alyx over at Passively Astonished. She saw through Twitter that I was desperately searching for coconut around here and generously offered to bring some down from New York City on Monday when she visited the team. Not only did she bring huge, gorgeous flakes of unsweetened coconut, but she also brought me coconut milk, which is one of my new favorite ingredients.

The cake was originally modeled after this Ugly as Sin Coconut Cake from Willow Bird Baking. I left out the sour cream as the recipe said the cake would turn out well with or without it and, well, I just didn’t have any. I made two cakes and cut the domes off the tops in order to make a layer cake. I skipped the coconut pastry cream, which I definitely want to try another time. Instead, I used a cream cheese frosting, which I also found at Willow Bird Baking. Between the two cake layers are fresh raspberries, with a layer of cream cheese frosting on each side. Then the entire cake is topped with a coating of cream cheese frosting. Flakes of coconut adorn the entire side of the cake and pink lettering completes the look. I was very surprised with how well the writing looks on the top of the cake — I guess my newly purchased icing tips really made the difference. After the writing was done, I excitedly texted half of my contact list saying that this cake was the prettiest thing I’ve ever made. Cake decorating has always been something I’ve struggled with—I always feel that it doesn’t look good enough and end up adding more and more decorations until the end product has too many conflicting flavors. That was not the case here: I had thought of making mini cupcakes instead of a whole cake as I didn’t think the girls could eat that much. By the end of dinner, there were maybe a couple pieces left, which Emily is saving for tomorrow.

Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Raspberries

Recipe by:Fine Cooking (cake), adapted by Willow Bird Baking
Yields: 9-in. 4-layer cake

Cake Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature (I left this out)
6 large egg whites, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in middle of the oven. Grease and line with parchment two 9×3-inch round cake pans. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Mix the coconut milk and vanilla, set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes (scrape down the bowl). Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated. Add half the coconut milk and mix thoroughly. Continue to add the flour and coconut alternately, ending with flour. Add sour cream and mix until incorporated. Set aside in a large bowl if you don’t have a spare bowl for your mixer.

Beat the egg whites on high speed for 2-3 minutes, until it forms soft peaks. Don’t overdo it or the whites will get too stiff and not fold into the batter smoothly. Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it. Gently fold the remaining whites into the batter.

Divide evenly in the prepared pans. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the tester comes out clean. Cool on rack in pan and then invert to use.

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:

1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Cream Cheese Frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.
Note: This makes a lot of frosting, but I used almost all of it. I actually made two half batches. For the second batch, I left out the butter and you couldn’t taste the difference. The frosting set up well with a little time in the fridge.


Fresh raspberries
Large unsweetened coconut flakes

Also, the picture with the lit candles was taken by Yuna Sakuma!

Wake up and smell the world

March 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

My kitchen at home has a huge slab of black granite as a counter top. I used to stand on the wooden kiddy chairs, the kind of chairs that came with the kid table set, don an apron decorated with circus animals and grate huge pieces of dark chocolate into warm milk. I liked the way the darkness swirled with the white of the milk, some of the chocolate dissolving in the liquid and some staying as thin shavings. But most of all, I liked eating the concoction with a spoon at the end of the day. I didn’t know then that I had discovered chocolate ganache all on my own. Chocolate ganache remained that fantastical element that always topped my mother’s flour less chocolate torte, so rich that my childhood palette required an extraordinary amount of vanilla ice cream as an accompaniment. Now, I don’t have that granite counter top, I have four square feet of tabletop in a dormitory kitchen. I don’t have unlimited access to the crystallized ginger and bacon-infused chocolate of San Francisco specialty grocery stores, the crates of blackberries and stalks of rhubarb picked from my grandparents’ backyard in late August or the assurance that there will always be butter and eggs in the refrigerator and sugar and flour in the cupboards. But it always amazes me what you can make from almost nothing, how a couple simple ingredients can create a cake that is much more than a sum of its parts. So here goes nothing: welcome to college dormitory baking.

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