Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Healthy Sage & Honey Cornbread

I want to make this next. I was always under the impression that cornbread was chock full 'o butter. But I found this recipe that looks delicious, easy to make and healthy. I've started using King Arthur Flour's White Whole Wheat Flour for backing, which I love, and is lighter than normal whole wheat flour - so I will use that instead of all purpose flour.

Healthy Cornbread
Adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2007

butter for greasing pan
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup honey
3 tbsp butter, melted & cooled
1/2 cup yogurt or sour cream + milk to make 1 cup total
1 egg, beaten lightly

Preheat oven to 425°. Butter a 8″ square pan. Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl, making sure baking powder is evenly distributed. In a large measuring cup, add yogurt or sour cream and milk to make 1 cup total. Add egg, honey and butter, mix wet ingredients together. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients with a rubber spatula until just moistened, do not overmix. Pour into prepared pan, even the top slightly, and bake for about 20 minutes.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Homemade Ricotta Cheese & Ricotta Cheesecake

I think I had my most successful home baking endeavor ever this past week. Inspired by childhood memories of deliciously light Japanese cheesecake, a yummy ricotta cheesecake from Pepolino and a bad but beautiful cheesecake from Jean-Paul Hevin - I ventured to make my own version of the perfect cheesecake. And not only did I make the cheesecake from scratch, I made my very own homemade ricotta cheese too.

So, making your own ricotta cheese is actually ridiculously easy. But, to make a long story short - DO NOT ATTEMPT TO MAKE CHEESE WITHOUT CHEESECLOTH. Ever. And more importantly - t-shirts can not substitute for cotton muslin, which can not substitute for cheesecloth. Enough said.

But with cheesecloth - your own ricotta can be just as beautiful as mine - without the t-shirt buckets, and baby-barf looking milk curds all over your kitchen.

After my cheesemaking debacle - the cheesecake itself was actually quite easy to make and assemble as well. It takes some time - to let the crust cool, and let the cake cool etc - but all very simple and easy to follow.

I found that the key to making this cheesecake as beautiful to eat as it was to see as the cheesecake of my dreams was two things:

1) Whir homemade ricotta into perfectly creamy cheese with hand blender (a food processor would work fine here, but a pain to clean. Pushing the cheese through a sieve as the recipe called for would just have not been enough.

2) Separate eggs. Soft-peaked egg whites gives this cake a souffle like lightness you won't get any other way.

I also substituted half the flour of the crust with almond flour, which was yummy and nutty. I thought about making a graham cracker crust since I don't have a food processor to make a real crust, but I read that graham cracker crusts can be quite grainy and tend to fall apart after baking. My mini-food processor (normally used for chopping and or sauces) actually worked perfectly to make the thin crust.

Lots of citrus zest is key to giving the cake flavor - and I think next time maybe I'll even add some liquor or cognac or something to give it a bit more kick.

But overall - the cake was delicious. It sinks a bit from the gorgeous puffy thing that comes out of the oven, but it's fine. It has a wonderfully rustic look after it's settled, but still tastes light as can be. I had friends over who didn't even like cheesecake and they loved it. This cheesecake is easy to make, absolutely worth the time and effort, and so so yummy to eat. I will definitely make it again.

Fresh Homemade Ricotta
Adapted from
Double recipe for enough ricotta for an entire cheesecake

2 quarts whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Line a large sieve with a layer of heavy-duty (fine-mesh) cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl.

Slowly bring milk, cream, and salt to a rolling boil in a 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Add lemon juice, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes.

Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and let it drain 1 hour. After discarding the liquid, chill the ricotta, covered; it will keep in the refrigerator 2 days.

Makes about 2 cups of ricotta, which = around 1lbs of cheese.

Ricotta Cheesecake
Adapted from Gourmet, November 1999

For crust
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond meal/flour (if you don't have almond meal, just use normal flour)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

For filling
2 lb fresh homemade whole-milk ricotta
5 extra-large/jumbo eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Make crust:
Pulse flour, sugar, salt, and butter in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add yolk, vanilla, and lemon juice and pulse just until mixture begins to form a dough. Spread dough with a small offset spatula or back of a spoon over buttered bottom of a 9-in springform pan and prick all over with a fork. Chill 30 minutes.

Bake crust in a shallow baking pan (to catch drips) in middle of oven until golden brown, about 25 minutes, and cool on a rack.

Increase temperature to 375°F.

Make filling and bake cake:
Puree ricotta with a handblender until completely smooth. Beat yolks and sugar with an electric mixer until thick and pale, then beat in ricotta, flour, and zests. Beat whites with salt in another bowl until they hold soft peaks, and fold into ricotta mixture.

Butter side of springform pan and pour filling over crust (pan will be completely full). Bake in baking pan in middle of oven until cake is puffed and golden and a tester inserted 1 inch from center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Run a knife around top edge of cake to loosen and cool completely in springform pan on rack. Chill, loosely covered, at least 4 hours. Remove side of pan and transfer cake to a plate. Bring to room temperature before serving.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

An even better birthday cake

I know this picture is awful, and I promise to get better at taking pictures with my iPhone. But this is how you know a cake is good - when it's completely demolished within 15 minutes. :) I do have to say that this was my most successful crumb cake so far - I loved it - and everyone else did too.

I won't say too much about it, except:
1) salted caramel + dark chocolate together are divine, and
2) I have no future as a frosting piper.

Step One: Chocolate cake layers being spread and drizzled with homemade salted caramel and fleur de sel

Step Two: Chocolate & Salted Caramel Ganache being spread on salted caramel soaked chocolate cake layers

Repeat, build, and frost entire cake. Doesn't it look gorgeous?

Turn beautiful cake into kindergarden-looking art project.

But boy, was it yummy. I would make it again in a heartbeat. I halved the original recipe from the 'Baked' cookbook, as in Baked bakery in Brooklyn - because personally, three layers of cake is just too much for me - and it wouldn't fit in the cake box I bought... but it's your call. Martha Stewart has the non-halved recipe on her site. This cake is a lot of work (I started a little past 10pm and was up until 2am finishing it!) - but TOTALLY worth it. Highly recommended.

Sweet and Salty Cake – Halved Recipe

Adapted From Baked: New Frontiers In Baking

Makes one 8-inch 2-layer cake

3/8 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup sour cream
1 1/3 cups cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/8 cup (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 medium eggs
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla
1/4 cup Caramel with Salt
Whipped Caramel Ganache Icing
Fleur de sel, for garnish


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans. Line each pan with a parchment paper round, butter parchment paper and flour; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa, a little over a half a cup of hot water, and sour cream; set aside to cool, about 10 minutes.

3. In another large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together until smooth and it appears to create strings inside the bowl, about 7 minutes. Add both sugars and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 7 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until well incorporated. Add vanilla, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and mix again for 30 seconds. Add flour mixture alternating with cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

5. Divide batter evenly among the three prepared pans. Bake until cake is just firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 18 to 24 minutes. Let cool completely. I would actually chill the cakes, before frosting, in the freezer for about an hour - so that your frosting job/assembly job is easier. Believe me, the crumb layer is less fussy that way. In fact, you may not need to do a crumb layer and just assemble/frost the cake in one step.

6. Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to make level. Place four strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy Susan. Place the first layer on the cake plate. Using about 1/4 cup of the caramel, spread a thin layer on the cake, allowing some of the caramel to soak into the cake. Follow the caramel layer with a layer of about 1 cup of the ganache icing. Place the second layer on top and repeat process with another layer of caramel followed by a layer of ganache icing. Place the remaining layer on top of the second layer bottom side up. Spread entire cake with remaining ganache icing. Sprinkle with fleur de sel.

Caramel With Salt – Halved Recipe

1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/8 cup sour cream


1. Combine 1/8 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the mixture reaches 350 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in another small saucepan, mix together cream and salt. Bring cream to a boil and cook until salt has dissolved, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. When the caramel mixture has reached 350 degrees, remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 minute. Carefully add the hot cream to the caramel; stir to combine. Whisk in sour cream. Cool, and store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.

Whipped Caramel Ganache Icing – Halved Recipe

Makes enough for one 8-inch 2-layer cake

1/2 pound dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces, softened but still cool


1. Combine 1/8 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the mixture reaches 350 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.

2. In another small saucepan add cream and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. When the caramel mixture has reached 350 degrees, remove from heat and allow to rest for 1 minute. Add the hot cream to the caramel; stir to combine. Let cool 5 minutes. Place chocolate in the bowl of an electric mixer and pour caramel sauce over chocolate. Let sit 1 minute before stirring from the center until chocolate is melted.

4. Attach bowl to electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Add butter and increase speed to medium-high until mixture is well combined, thickened, and slightly whipped, about 2 minutes.

5. Cool the ganache for 20 minutes or so before frosting the cake for easier frosting.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chinese Sausage Foccacia

I've had these pictures on my iPhone forever and never posted. And finally today, I'm going to do it! As some of you know, I live across the street from Momofuku Ssam Bar and Milk Bar - which is fortunate for my tastebuds, and very unfortunate for my waistline.

They are constantly changing things around there. On Wednesday they'll be changing out their cereal soft serve for... donut flavored soft serve! Can't wait to get more samples. But on a separate note, one night I was on my way back from JFK, and starving. So I stopped by across the street - and lo and behold, they had Chinese Sausage Foccacia. How could I resist?

The familiar taste of childhood, though normally relegated to dim sum and cantonese fried rice, transported into pillows of carb-goodness. David Chang has spun your typical lapcheong into an Italian-esque foccacia. So bizarre, but oh-so-good. Oh, but just like all Milk Bar items - oh so greasy. The oil seeped through my paper towel in no time! Yum yum.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On The Lighter Side

From the Times - so I don't forget:
ANTHILL FARMS Sonoma/Mendocino; lovely, fresh and floral.
ARCADIAN South Central Coast; lively, pure and age-worthy.
AU BON CLIMAT Santa Barbara; well-balanced and complex.
CALERA WINE COMPANY Mount Harlan; intense single-vineyard wines.
COPAIN Mendocino; delicate and nuanced.
FAILLA Sonoma Coast; elegant and focused.
INMAN FAMILY WINES Russian River Valley; bright and pretty.
JOSEPH SWAN VINEYARDS Russian River Valley; restrained and delicate.
LANE TANNER Santa Barbara; light-bodied and fragrant.
LITTORAI Mendocino/Sonoma Coast; structured and energetic.
LONGORIA Santa Barbara; earthy and intense.
THE OJAI VINEYARD Santa Barbara; light and savory.
PEAY VINEYARDS Sonoma Coast; spicy and polished.
PORTER CREEK VINEYARDS Russian River Valley; fresh and elegant.
RHYS VINEYARDS Santa Cruz Mountains; graceful and complex.
RIVERS-MARIE Sonoma Coast; intense, lively and balanced.
TALLEY VINEYARDS Arroyo Grande; earthy yet fresh. (more..)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Chinese New Year - Happy "Niu" Year

I had Chinese New Year's at my apartment all-by-my-lonesome this year. But for those of you know me, you know it doesn't really bother me. I enjoy cooking for myself and eating on my own every once in a while, it calms me. But the problem with New Years food is that it is very hard to prepare for just one person. Whole fish, dumplings, new years cake, turnip cake, rice cakes, noodles, hot pot - they really only work for large-family style dinners.

So, off I went to Chelsea Market - I have discovered the joys of the Crosstown Bus! - to work out a lucky menu of my own. And what did I settle on?

Fresh oysters (nope, no lucky component there, just yummy factor)
Two whole red mullets - for two times the plenty
Lan Zhou Homemade Dumplings
Some Veggies

The dumplings were surprisingly good for having been sitting in my freezer for so many months that I don't even want to think about it. The red mullet had a lot of bones. But the oysters were delicious. I had four Malpeque Oysters and four of another kind that they had at the market that I'd never seen before. Those were really yummy. Sadly enough, I don't remember the name of them.

I also found this adorable picture of Chinese New Year macaroons. It's hilarious. Asian people really know how to outdo themselves.