Monday, June 28, 2010

Spring Cleaning Part II: Mango Tart


The Spring Cleaning is taking a little longer than expected, it was three months ago since I started my first one. I did have quite a few list of things to make from the "leftovers" but for some reason, a lot of them did get used up for something, which is good, I guess. It's not Spring anymore, it's Summer (yay!), but I still call it Spring Cleaning as I've never heard of Summer Cleaning before :)


This time, everything seems like it was meant to be for this tart. You probably guessed it right that I have just two 4" baked tart shell from making key lime tartelettes (not featured in this blog), one ripe small mango, two 3" of frozen mango mousse. I did have to make the custard filling for the tart which was a breeze to make, it was just a simple custard made with whole egg, a little cream, and sugar, baked inside the tart shell. Then, I put slices of mango on top of the cooled custard, placed the frozen mango mousse on top, put a strawberry for decoration and color and voila! you got one of the tastiest and simplest mango tart ever! A pile of raspberry, mint leaf, and white choc decor would probably look great on these, but strawberry did the justice just fine.


I love the yellow color of this tart! It reminds me of sunny warm summer day, sitting on the back porch with a cup of tea, hmm....

So, please don't throw away those leftovers you have, be it just a little of any mousse, jelly, sponge cake scraps, cream cheese frosting, sugar syrup, or anything at all, you can always transform them to something totally delicious with just a little extra effort!


I'm enjoying the best of California weather at the moment, clear blue sky with a little streak of white clouds here and there, warm sun, birds chirping and crisp weather in the morning, ahh... simple pleasure :)

Components:
- Pate sucree (leftover from this, don't poke holes on the tart if you will bake a runny custard in it)
- Custard (made with egg, sugar, and cream, baked inside the tart shell until set in the middle)
- Fresh mango slices
- Mango mousse (leftover from this)
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Enjoying the Bounty of Summer: My First Cherry Clafoutis!


Yes, I've said it, I've never made clafoutis before. There, done.

According to what I've been reading, clafoutis is one of the easiest French desserts there is, it falls into the same category as gratin, pots de creme, creme brulee, etc. as it has almost the same ingredients and method, except for the addition of flour. For someone who describes herself as French pastry aficionado, it is quite a shame that I've never made it or ate it before until now. While I'm very familiar with its custard family (gratin, creme brulee, ...), this is the only one that's left out. To be honest, cherry clafoutis has always been on my list of things to make every year, at least for the last three consecutive years, and finally it comes to reality :).

Since cherry season is really short, I usually find myself out of cherries when I finally had the chance to make it. Sure I can make it with other fruits, but for some reason, I've always wanted to try the classic for the first time :).


It's funny how I always make a list of things to make during summer, each year, but not all of them are actually made it to a realization. With the gift of summer, fresh ripe sweet cherries, blushing apricots, fragrant peach, succulent strawberries, I mean, how can anyone resist? Simple things that bring you contentment in life. This year, I do the same thing too. In fact, the list is getting longer and longer and I'm determined to make at least 60% of them or hopefully I can make all of them, which means that I have to bake about 3 times a week :). We'll see how it goes, but for the next few months, you will see lots of summery goodness in this blog.

Finding the best recipe was pretty hard as I don't know how a good clafoutis texture or taste would be like. If it's a mousse or a cake that I'm pretty familiar with, I can usually have a prediction of how it would turn out like by looking at the amount of each ingredients, but not this time. What made it so hard too is that there a LOTS of good-looking clafoutis floating around the web. Whenever I visit tastespotting or foodgawker or my favorite blogs, you can bet that at least there's one clafoutis being posted, and they're all look gorgeous! I love this time of the year when everywhere I go for blog hopping or to one of those sites that feature food with good photography, I saw summer summer and summer and I'm lovin' it! BBQ, outdoor parties, strawberry cakes, cherry desserts, stone fruits goodies, refreshing drink, they all scream for summer! I finally settled down to this recipe.

Making this was easy as predicted, the longest time was when I had to wait for the cream to cool down so that it can be infused with vanilla bean, but I left it overnight so it wasn't really a problem. Oh, I bought cherry pitter too for this special occasion :), not only for the clafoutis, but I have some other cherry desserts/cakes lined up to be made. At least buying it will give me more pressure to put the pitter to a better use :D


Many people say that the traditional clafoutis have the unpitted cherries in it. They believe that the pit will release a nutty flavor to the clafoutis, but I decided to skip that part because I don't want my little niece and nephew to choke on them. The texture of this dessert is a cross between a custard and a cake because of the addition of flour. Many people eat it as dessert, snack, or even breakfast, but since I don't eat berakfast other than my dose of caffeine in the morning, I saved it for dessert or snack and it's even better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Cherry Clafoutis

adapted from here

200 ml heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
100 ml whole milk
3 eggs
50 g caster sugar
70 g all-purpose flour, sifted
1 Tbs. Kirsch (or substitute with Grand Marnier or Cointreau)
pitted or unpitted black cherries
powdered sugar for dusting

  • Preheat the oven to 180C (350F)
  • Heat the cream and vanilla bean seeds, together with the pod on a gentle heat until simmer
  • Add the milk and let cool
  • Remove the vanilla pod
  • Whisk the eggs, sugar, and flour in a bowl, then add the cooled cream, whisk well
  • Add the liqueur
  • Put some cherries (pitted or unpitted) in your baking dish (I used four 4" ceramic dish) and pour the batter on top of the cherries
  • Bake for about 30-40mnts until the top is golden brown
  • Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm or at room temperature
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Friday, June 18, 2010

Cherry & Strawberry Picking and Lemon Buttermilk Sherbet


Every year, when cherries are in season, I try to do cherry and strawberry picking, except last year because we went too late and all of the cherries were gone. Well, who's to blame when cherries are out on late July? Not to mention that I completely missed the cherry season last year due to I don't remember what. I just know that I didn't eat enough cherries as I wanted to and my biggest disappointment is that I didn't get the chance to play with them in the kitchen! You see, cherry season is very very short, from Mid May-mid June, maybe late June if you got lucky, but that's about it.

This year, I came more prepared. I've already made a list of the cherry desserts I wanted to make as well as some strawberry desserts, and off to cherry and strawberry picking earlier. Our farmers' market has abundant of them, but it's the experience that you're missing when you're buying off of the market. I'm not complaining though because I completely rely on those cherry and strawberry stands in the market every week and they have the sweetest and the most amazing fruits I've ever had.

It was particularly hot that weekend when we went, and quite windy too at the farm, which made it better because it didn't feel as hot as I thought it would be. We were off to a good start with our buckets full of rainier and bing cherries, I took my niece with me too and she enjoyed every second of it, she had her own basket from home, and she even wore cherry-printed shirt! Now, that's the spirit!

It was scorching hot though when we started the strawberry picking, but it didn't stop us from getting the most beautiful and the sweetest strawberries! It was so tempting to munch on them when we're picking it, but we had a good self-control :).

This hot weather makes me crave for something cold and refreshing, and that's when sorbet comes to mind. Plus, I've been dying to use my brand-new ice cream machine I got from my birthday this year (thanks guys!). It would be perfect if I made strawberry sorbet, but not this time. Don't worry though, it'll come soon once I gather my last ingredient for it :). I don't want something fancy this time, just something simple, cool and maybe lemony, and that's when I spotted this from one of my favorite bloggers, how perfect! I had some leftover buttermilk from the baby shower event that needed to be used up lots of meyer lemon juice and zest in the freezer, so everything was ready.


Making this sherbet was a breeze, as it only has few ingredients. I reduced the amount of the lemon juice a little because it was too tart for me. It turned out GREAT! just everything I wanted, simple, tangy, cool, and very refreshing, with some lemon note to it. Ahh... I couldn't stop eating the ice cream while it's still running in the machine, it was so good. This is exactly what I would crave for on a hot sunny day. The taste reminds me of the original flavor of frozen yogurt at its best with lemon flavor.

I'll leave this post at that because now, I have to start pondering what I should make with all those cherries and strawberries in my fridge :).

Lemon Buttermilk Sherbet
adapted from David Lebovitz's "The Perfect Scoop"

80 ml water
130 g granulated sugar
zest of one lemon
225 ml buttermilk
35 g lemon juice
  • Combine together the water, sugar and lemon zest in a saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil (I like to rub my zest with the sugar to release the lemon oil for more lemony flavor).
  • Remove from the heat and transfer it to a bowl, chill until completely cold (I chilled mine overnight)
  • Add the buttermilk and the lemon juice to the sugar syrup and churn it in the ice cream machine.
  • Transfer to a container and freeze
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Long-Awaited Baby Shower Party




This is what occupied my mind mostly for the last 2 months, and it's where all my energy and time went to for the last 2-3 weeks, it's this baby shower.

This time, it was for my own brother and sister-in-law, they've been trying for a while and they've finally been blessed with soon-to-be baby girl. It was only appropriate if I want to throw them the perfect baby shower for their first one. That is why the planning was happening for a whole 2 months from the decoration, food, facility, place, guest, theme, etc. to make everything perfect (or so I hope). My sister-in-law, J, has a very cheerful and bright personality, she likes all things colorful, so it was a no-brainer either that the theme is green-yellow-orange color and Spring, that includes butterflies, bees, flowers.



The party was at one of our friends, D's house. He has a wonderful house with pool area, which is nice so that people can also hang out in the backyard. I was trying to make everything perfect from the food to the decoration, and fortunately we're surrounded by talented friends to make an under-budget party looks like a really well-done one! Thanks to Irene for being in charge of the whole decoration, she's a gem. She knows how to take a party to another level. With hanging paper pom-poms, grass, flowers, she made the event completely gorgeous, beyond my expectations! Special thanks to Cika too for all the printing labels and tags, it's more than fabulous!! Thanks to Nana for helping me made the figurines for the cake :). For everybody who helped with the food, crafts, favors, they're super talented people.



After deciding on the food, and the other details, I can finally concentrate on the desserts. Since this blog is mainly about baking, I'll concentrate more on the dessert part :). Dessert table was a must at this party, it's not even an option as we know how much Joan loves desserts. Heck, I try to have dessert table at every party I'm organizing :). I'm no dessert table expert, I'm just starting and I can't say that the previous dessert tables I made were perfect because let's be honest, they weren't. I tried to pick desserts that fit the theme, which involves some yellow, green, and orange colors. Mango, pistachio, passion fruit are the main flavors for this, I was thinking about lemon but the mother-to-be is not really a fan of the sour stuff. The choice of the dessert changed daily, mostly because some of the ingredients I needed wasn't available at that time.



So here's the menu of the dessert table:
- Mini chocolate cupcakes with mango and pistachio buttercream
- Candy-coated marshmallow lollipops
- Mango cheesecake on a brownie base
- Passion fruit pudding in petite glasses
- Green tea cookies
- Mango macarons
- Pistachio macarons
- Passion fruit macarons
- 2-tiered cake (mascarpone cheesecake and raspberry jelly filling for the top tier, and mocha praline cake for the bottom tier)
- almond meringue cookies (by our friend, Sukma)

Favor:
- Spring chicken cakepops (inspired by this wonderful creation by bakerella, made with chocolate cake, buttercream, and rum flavoring)

Drinks:
- Water with mint and lime slices
- Mango punch

Entree (no pictures):
- Indonesian wedding salad
- Chicken satay
- Spicy tofu with lemongrass, jalapeno, and tomatillo
- Indonesian chicken curry
- Fried noodle
- Meatball Soup




It wasn't all smooth sailing making this happened, time is the enemy as predicted and this time, the hot weather added to the list. It was super hot that particular week and my AC wasn't working. All the frosting are soft and became a gooey mess, the macarons are not all perfect due to the humid weather, the candy coating on the marshmallow doesn't set, the cakepops kept falling off due to the frosting not set, everything that can go wrong, went wrong. It was frustrating especially since I had to make the wedding anniversary cake at the same time too. I took Friday off of work so that I can work in the kitchen. I basically stood in the kitchen from 10am-11pm non-stop for two straight days plus late nights here and there, and even that still wasn't enough time.


For the dessert table, I wanted to have some dimension, which is why I used some boxes and covered them with yellow tablecloth for the jars, the cake, and the marshmallow pops. Unfortunately, we didn't have three jars of the same size for the macarons so we had to make do with one smaller one. I did put the small one in the middle but it was completely covered by the cake in front of it, so I had to switch the position.



Despite all the problems that happened, I was actually surprised myself that everything came together nicely. It was nice having an outdoor and indoor party so that people doesn't have to cramped up in a room, which can be a problem when there are about 70 people (including kids) walking around. The breeze from the backyard was also nice and the kids are playing around the pool. Thanks to all the friends who helped making this party happened. The food were superb, the decor was super nice, and as far as the dessert, I think everybody enjoyed it. And the most important thing is that D and J (my brother and sis-in-law) were surely happy and we wish them the best for the upcoming bundle of joy. I hope this shower can send them off nicely to be a good parent-to-be.



After this party, I was determined not to bake for a month! But I guess I can't stay off the kitchen for too long. Regardless of every problem we encountered in making this happens, I totally enjoy it and can't wait for the next special occasion to make a better one.

Hello!
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Updates and Lady Bug Cake

It feels like forever I went MIA. I can't believe I missed the whole month of May! I apologize if it seems like I've abandon you guys but things have finally settle down now. Thanks for the emails asking if I was okay, I really appreciate it *hugs

I had to make wedding favors before I left, it wasn't too fancy or anything just cat's tongue cookies, all 1500 of them! ahahaha... I was up all night for a week trying to bake batch after batch, packaged and tied them up. It was finally done at midnight before my departure :), so thank God. And I was so glad to hear that the bride and groom really enjoyed the cookies, yay! I guess all those long hours and sleepless nights really do paid off when people love the things you made :). I thought I took pictures of it but now I can't seem to find it :(

The day after the wedding favor is done, I went on a vacation for a week on early May to NY (yes, it was a while ago) and work was super hectic before I left and right after I came back (that always happens, doesn't it?). I came back with a severe windburn from NYC, which I got on the first day on my vacation :(. It finally healed up a week after I got back from my vacation, but never again I go out of the house sun or no sun without sunblock everywhere, it was a painful experience :(. But other than that, everything was great, we ate constantly, visited many bakeries, and we certainly walk A LOT. The first 4 days in NY wasn't very nice, it was so cold, rainy, windy, so not a good weather to stroll around, but it got better on the last day we stayed so we took the oppotunity to bike around the Central Park. We also went to DC to visit the National Mall, fortunately it was a good day in DC, warm and sunny and we did bike around the monuments. I will post pictures later after I got to it :)

It was kinda nice having a week off of everything, no work, no baking, no nothing for a week, although I have to confess that I did check my work email for the first three days but then I finally resisted :). After I got back, I was bombarded with super busy workload at work, and event after event, cakes and more cakes. Last weekend was actually the last weekend of this craziness. I said to myself, no more of this! I will share some of those events in a later post and hopefully, I am now back to my "normal" life.

Right now, this post is only for updates, to let you know that I'm still alive and baking and also to share this lady bug cake. This cake is for a little girl Olivia who celebrated her 2nd birthday at the end of May. The theme of the party is lady bug and her mom sent me a picture of the utensils they're using, so I based the decoration off of that. Truth be told, I'm never comfortable making kid's cakes, or buttercream cakes, or large cakes, and this cake is a combination of those three. Mainly because I'm not good at it, kids' cake needs to be colorful and bright with lots of decor, my buttercream skill is poor and I can't make a perfectly smooth buttercream cake, combined with a large surface area, let's just say I don't have as much confidence as I do in any other cakes I made. But why did I say yes anyway? Well first, I suck at saying no to people, second, their family has been asking me to make cakes for Olivia's 1st birthday and another birthday that it would be in appropriate to say no this time, no matter how uncomfortable it is for me to make it, but at least I tried to make the cake taste good :).

The flavor for this cake is raspberry and chocolate, with vanilla and chocolate sponge cake alternating. Making the cake base is not that difficult, just took a lot of time since it's big in size, 1/2 sheet, 12x18" and I only have one cake pan in that size, meaning that I had to make it three different times. That's the easy part, now the filling is raspberry white chocolate and cream cheese frosting with dark chocolate ganache, then it's covered with pink buttercream. Everything went well up until the raspberry cream cheese frosting, but then disasters happened. I blamed it on the long hours at work everyday that week that made me exhausted when I finally had the time at 9pm to start working on the cake. I basically did this cake for a few days every night and early morning, so you can imagine how tired I was :(.

But yeah, when it was the time for me to make the ganache, I calculated everything in my head, although I probably shouldn't do that passed 10pm. That's when my brain just shuts down and refuse to work anymore. I guess the brain and the body demanded its rest when I was calculating the amount of chocolate versus heavy cream to make the ganache. The resulting ganache came out really runny and even after I refrigerated for 30minutes, it didn't improve (it was 1am at that time). So I pour the ganache onto the cake anyway, thinking that the large rectangular cake ring will hold it up, but little did I know that my cake ring failed on me for the first time. The ganache seeped in through every possible way and making its way out from the bottom of the cake ring. It was a nightmare, I tell ya. I almost cried and gave up, but then I would imagine Olivia will have no cake for her birthday, so I manned up (or womanned-up?) and continue. I wiped the ganache off of the table, cleaned up the floor where the ganache dripped, everything in the middle of the night and went to bed. The next day, I bought more ingredients to make ganache from the start, this time I knew what I did wrong the night before, I miscalculated the chocolate needed!



The cake was finally done and what a huge relief! and this cake weighed A TON! seriously, it was so hard for me to lift it up by myself. I told myself not to do kids' cake or probably large sheet cake anymore with the exception of my nieces' and nephew's cake probably, but it wont be sheet cake or buttercream cake for sure :).

ps: sorry for the lousy pictures, it's all I got :(
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