Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Like Mexican hot chocolate, but in quickbread form

I go to Starbucks every day and order a decaf coffee. Yes, I'm that girl who they have to keep brewing decaf for even though I'm the only one who orders it. And every time in line, I always eye the pastries selection. I usually don't succumb but every once in awhile something calls out to me (the cake pops I cannot resist for example). 

The chocolate cinnamon bread was another item that called out to me, but I made myself promise not to get it until I tried to make it myself. Lo and behold, Starbucks actually posted their recipe on their website so it wasn't too hard to find. And I did a taste test afterwards :)

Adapted from Starbucks

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar. I may have melted the butter a little too much.

Whisk butter/sugar until it looks light and fluffy, like this :)

Add eggs in one at a time, mixing well after each addition. I used three, but if I were to try this again, I'd use only two since the resultant cake didn't turn out as dense as I would've liked.

Add in milk, water, and vanilla, whisking again until well mixed.

Fold in all the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and baking soda).

After dry ingredients have been folded in, beat mixture until well combined.

Transfer to a greased loaf pan and smooth the surface down. Now make the topping.


  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp powdered cocoa
  • Pinch of ground ginger
  • Pinch of ground cloves

Combine topping ingredients in a small cup and mix well.

Cover the cake with the topping. Transfer to oven and bake for 45-50 minutes.

The topping cracked while baking in the oven, oh noez :(

Still delicious when you slice it though...

The one on the left is Starbucks' while the one on the right is mine. The biggest difference is that theirs is more brownie like, while mile is more cake like (which is why I'd cut back on the egg next time). Also they might've used higher quality cocoa than I did, since I just straight up used Hershey's from the regular grocery store. But overall, I approve :)

A belated Chinese New Year, Part 2

I had a ton of red bean paste left from my mochi, and I've been craving this ice cream for the longest time since it's not readily available in supermarkets. I had exactly two cups of paste left so I decided to up the recipe ratio by 33% so I wouldn't have an awkward amount left. Worst mistake ever because it made way too much ice cream for my poor Cuisinart baby to handle. She was overflowing and miserable :( It took awhile to clean up the mess afterwards but the results were pleasing so I guess it's worth it.

Adapted from Use Real Butter (I posted the ingredient amounts that I used, but it's probably better if you just follow the original directions...)

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 cups red bean paste
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Whisk together eggs with sugar, beating until it's pale yellow

Heat milk in a saucepan at low/medium heat until it just bubbles, then turn off heat. 

Pour 1/2 of the steaming milk over the egg mixture, whisking constantly, then pour egg/milk mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk mixture. Turn heat back on to low heat and stir constantly until the custard thickens to coat the back of the spoon. 

Strain out any overcooked egg bits...

Mix in the red bean paste...

Then pour in the cream.

This is your custard! Chill in the fridge for several hours, then churn according to your ice cream machine's instructions

The churning ice cream before the volume grew so much that it oozed all over the place.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A belated Chinese New Year, Part 1

I'm about two weeks late late (lol this is what I meant earlier when I said I'm pretty behind). I did make these on the day of Chinese New Year though. These are mochi red bean cakes, and in Chinese they're called "nian gao," which literally translates to "higher each year." You're supposed to eat them so that you'll have an even better year ahead. 

Usually you can buy canned red bean paste in Asian grocery stores, but I couldn't find any shops in downtown DC that had this. The nearest big Asian grocer is pretty far away, so I chose to just make the paste from scratch.

Adapted from Chow.com

  • 2/3 cup dried azuki beans
  • Water
  • Wash of salt
  • 1/2 cup sweetener (I used half table sugar half honey)
  • Neutral oil (I used extra light olive oil)

Cover the beans in water and soak for several hours. The recipe suggests overnight, but three hours was fine for me. Drain beans, then transfer to pot and cover with water again. Add a dash of salt, bring to a boil, then simmer at medium heat for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Check and stir it every once in awhile, adding more water as needed.

This is how beans should look like after boiling, and they should be soft to the touch. Drain any excess water and transfer to a blender.

Add sweetener and blend til smooth. It should look rather liquidy.

Cook the liquid out so that you have a thicker paste. Add oil to a saucepan and turn stove to medium-low heat. Pour in paste and fry until drier, about 2-4 minutes, stirring frequently. 

Transfer to a tupperware and store in fridge or freezer until ready to use, in our case for the mochi :D I took a bunch of bites to "taste test" so the paste here has chunks missing tee hee.

Recipe from Mama Shen (my mommy)

  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 cups sticky rice flour
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1/4 cup red bean paste

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix all ingredients except red bean paste. I used an electric beater to mix well. 

Line cupcake tin with foil liners and spray with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Fill 1/3 full and bake for 8-10 minutes until just set.

Form red bean paste into 1/2" balls and place over batter. Fill to the top with remaining batter until red bean paste is just covered.   

Return to oven and continue baking for another 20-25 minutes until just set.

Refrain from taking a bite until it has cooled a bit, since the filling is piping hot. 

Om nom.

And P.S. this is my 100th post :OOO It's a minor milestone but I'm still in disbelief that I've blogged this much in only half a year. Thank you for following my blog, and hope you continue to follow to my next milestone and beyond!

Reliably delicious chocolate chip cookies

I'm obsessed with finding the best. I'm the type of person who experiments with three different recipes for the same thing side-by-side, just so I can compare the results. But I've tried a ton of recipes for chocolate chip cookies and concluded that there is no such thing as "best". They're mostly similar, and other factors such as quality of ingredients and oven calibration can make one batch vary greatly from the next even for the same recipe. 

So I'm not looking for a best in this case. I'm looking for a simple, reliable recipe that doesn't require a lot of weird steps or miscellaneous ingredients (I'm looking at you Jacques Torres for your cookies that call for two types of flour). And I think I found the perfect ones. The cookies pictured here are by Dorie Greenspan and they're quite fantastic. I made half a batch of the dough minus walnuts, then split the dough into three separate bowls with add-ins to replace the walnuts (from left: nutella, pretzels, and almond flour). All of them came out great, except the nutella ones came out a tad flatter than I had hoped. And hence I dub these to be the best reliably delicious chocolate chip cookies.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A granola that goes with everything

Growing up, I used to live within walking distance from two Trader Joe's. In college, TJ's wasn't nearly as easily accessible, so I would begrudgingly shop at Whole Foods whilst dreaming of eventually living near a TJ's again. But WF grew on me. Now I have the opposite problem: I have a TJ's close to where I work, but I miss WF an awful lot. 

So yea, I'm one of those people who happily shells out my dough to Whole Paycheck. But I really don't think that their prices are unreasonable. The produce at WF is always fresh and high quality, so if you just shop the sales, you'll get prices that comparable to TJ's/Giant and your produce won't spoil as easily.

And WF has some pretty snazzy sales. See case in point above. I went out of my way for necessities at WF the other day and discovered their trail mix bar, which lets you mix and match from a variety of options for only $6/lb. So theoretically I can buy a pound of almonds and spend only $6. Pray tell, where else can you get almonds for cheaper than that?

So I loaded up on a fantastic selection of nuts and seeds to make this delicious Saffron Orange Granola. It pairs well with yogurt and oatmeal, and can pretty much supplement any breakfast. 

I stumbled on this combo on another blog but they didn't list volumes, only ingredients, so I just threw together reasonable proportions of the suggested components and went with it. Note that you don't need to be accurate with any of the proportions that I've written, since I BS'd them and the granola still turned out great.


  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 20 saffron threads, crushed
  • Dash of salt, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg
  • 2 cups of nuts/seeds: cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds (I used maybe 1/3 almonds and equal portions of everything else)
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup each of dried cranberries and shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 425F. In saucepan on low heat, add OJ, zest, honey, olive oil, saffron, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cook until gently bubbling, then remove from heat.

Add nuts/seeds and oats into the pot with the wet ingredients and mix well. Line baking sheet with foil and grease with cooking spray. Spread mixture in a thin layer on the foil and bake, mixing it around every 5 minutes or so to help it toast evenly.

After about 20 minutes, your granola should be all toasty and done. Wahoo.

Stir in your cranberries and coconut. Let cool and store in an airtight container.

Add it to your oatmeal like I did here! Or with yogurt like I did in the very first picture of this post. Or sprinkle some on top of a hearty stack of pancakes. Whatever you like, this will pair with it fantastically.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Strawberry champagne cupcakes for Valentine's Day

The older I get, the more I realize that I'm a big sucker for Valentine's day. I'm hyper aware that it's a Hallmark holiday and all, but I'm a big softie. Flowers still turn my heart into a pile of goo.

I wanted to bake a batch of cupcakes to share with all the sweeties in the office. I was stalking the Georgetown Cupcake website and noticed one of their seasonal flavors for February was strawberry champagne, described as "Classic madagascar bourbon vanilla cupcake baked with fresh strawberries and champagne with a chocolate ganache core and topped with a champagne infused buttercream frosting and a ganache star." Sounds fantastic, amirite? I set out to try and dupe their creation. I usually prefer to post in chronological order and I have quite a few draft posts pending from the past month, but I'm going to skip ahead to today because these cupcakes take precedence.

Adapted from this cake, this buttercream, and this ganache

Ingredients for the cake:
  • 1/2 cup fresh strawberries, diced
  • 1/2 cup good champagne (sweet rose champagne suggested)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract 
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder, sifted
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Line cupcake tins with liners (I had enough batter for 21 normal-sized cupcakes, weird number I know). Soak diced strawberries in champagne and let sit while you prepare the batter.

In a large bowl, beat together softened butter and sugar until creamy and light yellow. I might've softened the butter a little too much here, but nbd.

 Add two eggs one at a time, beating well to mix between additions.

Add milk and vanilla extract, then beat well to incorporate.

Add flour, salt, and baking powder. Fold in with a spatula until just incorporated, then beat until well mixed.

Yum batter.

Fold the strawberries into the batter (drain a bit if there's a lot of champagne that hasn't absorbed), then fill each cupcake cup to about 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick. Meanwhile, prepare the ganache.

Ingredients for the ganache:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 9oz chocolate chips

Measure out chocolate chips and transfer to a small-ish bowl. I just eyeballed 9oz since I have no scale.

Heat heavy cream in a saucepan until steaming, then pour over chocolate chips. Let stand for a minute to soften.

Use a whisk to mix the chocolate chips and cream. It may look chunky at first but no worries, it will come together. Set aside so it can cool for a bit.

Once the cupcakes are out of then oven, allow them to cool to room temperature. You can make the buttercream frosting in the meantime.

Ingredients for the buttercream: 
  • 3 and 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons champagne, at room temperature so that it has no bubbles (you can microwave for a bit to help it along)

In a large bowl, beat together powdered sugar and unsalted butter at low speed until incorporated, then at medium speed for two more minutes until fluffy. Add vanilla and champagne, then beat for an additional minute. Transfer to a piping bag (or in my case, I just used a quart sized freezer ziplock).

Now put your cupcakes together! Use a knife to cut out a chunk from the middle of each cupcake. Fill with chocolate ganache. Cut the pointy end of the cut out chunk off so that you're left with only a hat, and use the hat to cover the hole.

Frost cupcakes with the buttercream.

And add the ganache drizzle. I was trying to replicate Georgetown Cupcake's signature ganache flower on this one, but I obviously failed.

These are spectacular. Each time I make cupcakes I catch myself saying wow these are the best I've ever made, but I don't know how I'd trump myself this time. 

Comparison tasting at Georgetown Cupcakes. The texture of the cake and frosting were very similar, although mine was much more boozy while theirs had a much stronger strawberry flavor. Overall I was pleased.

Pretty much the story of my life... (source: exocomics)

Edit: I'm on Serious Eats!!