December 30, 2010

Blog 1st year anniversary

Last year on this day, Dec. 29, I started this blog after watching the movie Julie & Julia. I was ambitious, and I wanted to update everyday with my bakings. While that didn't happen, and despite taking several long breaks, I am very proud of what I have done with this blog. One year and over 100 posts on foods, life, and football. I can see from my postings how far I've grown in terms of my culinary ability. Brava!

For now, stay tuned for the recipe for the photo above.

December 28, 2010

Christmas Dinner: Coastal Cheddar Mac & Cheese and Spring Rolls

Belated Merry Christmas to everyone! This year I had a very low key Christmas without a big feast. Quite a contrast to Thanksgiving! I didn't have anything planned, and only decided on what to cook around 6pm the night of! I figure after such a huge Thanksgiving dinner, I wanted to keep it simple and quick. Simple it was, but it certainly wasn't quick! We didn't start eating until almost 9pm!

December 23, 2010

Pan Fried Ravioli

I'm usually not a fan of "semi-homemade" things. I much prefer to start everything from scratch, like using fresh tomatoes as opposed to canned tomatoes. However, sometimes when you are pressed for time, a quick elaboration on an already made food is not a bad idea either. I present you our dinner last night, a little twist from the usual water boiled ravioli.

I really need a lesson on food photographing. I don't like my photos at all.

Recipes I want to try

There are just way too many wonderful recipes out there and I can't possibly try them all. I'm going to make a list of recipes I like and hopefully will get to them all eventually!

December 22, 2010

Earl Grey Sponge Cake

At mom's work Christmas dinner last week, her boss, riding on her buzz, wanted me to bake them a cake. I asked her what she liked, she said, not too sweet and no cream. That about eliminated 90% of all cakes no? Well, I decided to turn to my trusted sponge cake recipe from my aunt. This time around, I modified it a little to reduce the sweetness. And as I slowly transform this blog to gain more popularity with online readers, I will post a step by step instruction.

Today's my grandma's birthday, so this one will serve as her birthday cake as well. In fact, the very last time I did this cake, I made it for her birthday too. How fast did this year pass by!

December 20, 2010

Swiss meringue buttercream

These cupcakes were made in November in celebration of Yulee's birthday which I never got around to make a post. I have only made cupcakes a handful of times before and they were all before my great culinary breakthrough. I'm not a fan of the traditional buttercream which is literally butter and frightening amount of powdered sugar. I like whipped cream frosting, but it is difficult to keep outside the fridge for too long. I've used nutella before and just sprinkled some chopped almond. It was quite good, but is limited in flavor creativity. So I'm very happy to have found a new alternative that actually doesn't taste like sugar! Be warned though, it is still extremely high in butter, which makes it tastes oh silky smooth.

December 18, 2010


Ich liebe deutsche Weihnachten!!! Do the Germans know Christmas or what?? Well, they certainly know what food to eat during the holiday. Pfeffernüsse and Vanillekipferl can't hold a candle to stollen, or at least this stollen recipe. Remember my Christmas in July post? Well, that doesn't even hold half a candle to this stollen. This not-cake-nor-bread texture tastes just like the store bought version, except it has significantly more flavor than the store bought ones. In fact, this recipe is said to come from Dresden, Germany, the motherland of Stollen.

December 17, 2010

Handmade Soaps

This is my first handmade soap post, and I do hope to post more on this subject in the future. I started to get into soap making back in May when I purchased my first handmade soap from 維爾康天然小舖. It was horribly expensive, $5 for a tiny little soap, but I couldn't resist trying it because the lady was such a good saleswoman. She told me about how her miracle soaps have cured many skin problems. I have a slight obsession with skin products and am always on the hunt for products that will help with my skin issues...mild acne to put it mildly. She said that handmade soaps are without preservatives and other added harmful chemicals. I was completely sold. In all honesty, I really did like the soap I purchased from her, and that one little bar of breast-milk soap lasted more than a few months when I used it as a face wash. Then while I was reading my detox book, the author also warned about the same preservatives and chemicals in everyday beauty products, so I decided that I definitely want to start making soaps myself. I finally made the first batch in October. And since handmade soaps take more than 1 month to mature, I only started using these soaps in late November. I'm very satisfied with the products, at the very least, they work as well as store bought soaps but less the harmful ingredients. I made a few more batches after the first, and my mom gave them out as holiday gifts to her colleagues.

December 16, 2010

Chap Chae (Korean Transparent Noodle)

One of the very few things that I like about being in the US is that you get an abundance of international foods easily accessible. Chap Chae has quickly become a family favorite in the past month after I got this wonderful recipe from Yonza. I love the hard texture of the transparent noodle and the sesame dressing is just fantastic. This is a step-by-step instruction for Nick.

Christmas in a basket Teil II

I'm here to reveal the final two treats in my treat basket for the gift exchange: truffles! While some cookies are dubbed with the names Christmas cookies, it is the truffles that usually flood your supermarkets during this season. Last Christmas it took us a whole month to gobble down 3 delicious boxes of fine Belgium chocolates.

December 13, 2010

Christmas in a basket Teil I

Last Tuesday I had a gift exchange at work, and I took the opportunity to try out several new recipes. Since it's a holiday gift exchange, I want everything to be Christmas specials. I've done a lot of Italian recipes in the past, and Spain doesn't offer much Christmas sweets, so I turned to my third love, Germany, for some delicious inspirations. 

December 1, 2010

Turkey Day 2010

This might actually be the first time that "Turkey Day" is an appropriate name for my Thanksgiving, although I am deeply disappointed at my first turkey. In fact, I'm so disappointed at my dry turkey, I don't know if I will have the motivation to try again in the future. I brined, I buttered, and I labored, but my 10lb petite turkey still turned out like chopped winter skin. I checked the internal temperature around 2 hrs, and its fat little thigh registered at 153 *F of unsafetyness. I let it roasted for another 45 minutes but covered the white meat part with Alton Brown's aluminum turkey simply was not a good turkey day in terms of turkey for me.

November 23, 2010

Garlic and Scallion Brioche

I realize that my postings are becoming few and far between these days. I was surprised that my last post was November 2, and now it's almost December! This makes me appreciate more than ever the effort many bloggers out there put into their blog to be able to update so often. I guess I'm just not very good with words, so I never know what to write. Also, my audiences have gone so varied, I have a hard time distinguishing what and what not to say on here. What's even more unbelievable is that my blog is actually approaching it's first anniversary in a few month's time, and I have about 90 entries (though not all of equal substance) already. Time flew. 

November 3, 2010

Tiramisu cake

Wake me up when September ends...title of one of my favorite Green Day songs seem to suit my hiatus from this blog. Actually, October has passed as well, oh well, who's counting? My memory is short, so I won't offer any reason for my prolonged absence, only my apology.

I haven't stopped baking, but now that I'm starting to make handmade cold-processed soaps I have to make time for my new hobby. In fact, the first batch of my soap will mature and be ready for use in about 3 days! You'll hear more on that later.

For now, I hope you are satisfied with my Tiramisu recipe. I'm pretty sure I promised the recipe many entries ago, but never got around to it.

October 6, 2010

Banana Steamed Cake

Ingredients: (6 big muffins)
2 Eggs
100g sugar (50g agave)
2 ripe bananas, mashed (200g)
150g Self-raising Flour
1/8 tsp Baking Soda
75g oil (any flavorless oil)(50g with agave)
  1. Sift together self-raising flour and baking soda, set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together Eggs and sugar till ribbon stage.
  3. Mix in mashed bananas, beat till combine.
  4. Gently fold in flour mixture and Oil, taking care not to deflate the eggs and sugar mixture.
  5. Pour Batter into muffin pan, lined with muffin cups.
  6. Steam over high heat for 15mins or till an inserted skewer comes out clean.

August 9, 2010

Honey Early Grey Madeleine

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think I've ever posted about Madeleines. Oh Madeleines, another one of those fancy French pastries. I really admire the French for inventing all sorts of delicate, delicious, and dandy desserts. The French certainly has the Spain beat in this area, because I can't think off the top of my head any famous Spanish dessert! I have been searching for the perfect Madeleine recipe ever since I bought my Madeleine pan almost a year ago. Still...the search continues. I've tried many recipes, and this one came closest to replicating Costco Madeleines' texture that I love so much. It's more cakey and buttery than the others I've tried. I still have to work out how to flour the pan so my madeleines don't come out looking burnt. They just look dark, but they don't taste burnt at all. I'm quite pleased with this recipe, so I think I will just work off this one from now on.

August 5, 2010

Black Forest Cherry Cake

Black Forest Cake is a name that brings me nostalgia from my childhood in Taiwan; however, if you ask me to pinpoint any particular memory of this cake, I would not be able to tell you. The truth is, I don't even know if I really had this cake before as a child, yet the name is so familiar to me. Then, couple of months ago, someone in the office celebrated his birthday and the office bought this cake for him. It was from Sun-Kee, a Chinese bakery with authentic "Asian" flavor. Everyone raved about the cake, and I did too. If I haven't said already in this blog or elsewhere, baking is like a challenge, a game to me. I don't care so much about eating the end product, rather, it's the process of making something that's normally store-bought that brings me so much joy. This cake tickled me hard and I knew I had to try to make it sooner or later. Two months later...her I am.

Sun Pastry 太陽餅

I really don't know what these are called in English or how to properly translate the name into English, so I went for a semi-literal translation. When my uncle and his colleague Peter visited a couple of weeks back, Peter brought us a box of 太陽餅. My dad shared half of the box with my aunt, and ate about 70% of the rests, even the non-vegetarian ones. Imagine the shock on his face when I told him the non-vegetarian ones were probably made of port fat. My mom ate about 3 and I only ate one myself and was pretty mad at him for eating the rest. To satisfy my craving, I decided to look up the recipe and make them myself!

August 4, 2010

Spread your wings

Palmiers, butterfly cookies, or whatever you may call these little overbaked puff-pastry goodies, you have to admit it's difficult to start once you begin eating them. I used to buy them in two big boxes from Costco before I started baking. I couldn't believe they were so easy to make...I meant, with their fancy name and not-so-cheap price tag, you would think they requires quite of bit of culinary skill. Not at all. They are basically the simple puff pastry dough baked until dry and golden.

July 29, 2010

Holiday Inn a la Debi

We just had a very hectic and fun weekend hosting guests. My uncle and his colleague came from Taiwan on a business trip and stayed over this past weekend. I didn't want to disappoint them with my culinary skills, so I started practicing making puff pastry doughs days before they arrived. I was surprised at how simple it is to make pastry dough at home! Best of all, you can cut them the amount of butter that goes into the dough, and still have the end result tasting the same. I made a total of three batches with decreasing amount of butter in each batch. In the last batch, I used slightly over 1/2 of the butter called for in the recipe, and it was still great.

July 24, 2010

Christmas in July

I'm overdue for another update! The longer I'm keeping up with this journal the more respect I have for those serious bloggers who post daily because it really is a difficult task to come up with anything worth reading.

I have sadly bowed out of the Daring Baker community simply because I could not keep up with the monthly bake with everything that is going on right now. Though I have to admit the lack of world cup has returned some valuable time back to me. I am still baking, but without pressure.

July 3, 2010

Football and Almond Biscotti

I almost felt like I had a football overload because of the craziness of today's matches! First of all, Holland eliminated the 5-time champion Brazil. I always say statistics and history mean absolutely nothing in football because the teams don't play the same players that make the record. But when it comes to Brazil, I just feel that they will win just for being Brazil... just like Manchester United will win just because they are Manchester United. I'm talking nonsense here I know. Holland was my third favorite team coming in this World Cup just behind Spain and Argentina (though I'm having doubts about this right now). The Dutch squad can boast players of equal caliber as Brazil's in my opinion. I thought after the first half, they put in a very convincing win, and probably could've gotten a couple more goals.

May 28, 2010

Daring Baker Challenge: Piece Montee

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

I failed at the building the structure for a true Piece Montee. I even built a cone made out of carboard as the center, but couldn't pile the individual puffs on top of one another. I also didn't make the honey or chocolate glaze as "glue" because I was too tired and frustrated by the end of my third batch of pate a choux. 

May 13, 2010

Brown Butter & Sage Gnocchi

Happy Belated Mother's Day to all the mothers out there!

I don't cook much, but once in a while for special occasion I like to kick my dad out of the kitchen and make something more "restaurant quality." And no surprise, it is another Italian dish. I honestly don't know to make a non-Italian dish.

May 5, 2010

Greeting Card Cookie

I felt inspired to post after such a long rest in April. Since I missed out my coworker's birthday last week, I decided to make some cookies for her. I'm not a very confident cookie baker since I never seem to get the temperature correct and always end up with burnt cookies. This time I actually tested out the temperature with 1 cookie and adjusted accordingly for the rest. However, decorating the them was the most fun. I even made some with my neighbor's children's names and gave out some to them.

April 10, 2010

Pain de Mie ( Pumpkin )

My baking seemed to take another halt this week and I was was worried that Stand-mixer Xavi needed its weekly tune-up. The Saleswoman at Macy's had warned me that many people purchase stand-mixers for decoration purpose, but these mixers are like cars and require periodic use. I didn't have any particular recipe in my "project" folder to try out at the moment, so I resorted to the fail-proof pain de mie and saved my dad another trip to the bakery.

April 2, 2010

Baked Orzo with Fontina

One thing that my mom always nags me about is the fact that I would buy a lot of ingredient for one recipe and fill the fridge with leftovers that I never use again. So for my previous recipe, Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables, I had to buy fontina cheese and smoked mozzarella. I really tried to buy only the amount I need so I would be left with leftovers, however the salesman mistakenly double estimated the amount I needed. Since both cheeses were pretty pricey, I really didn't want them to go to waste. Fortunately after a little search on the internet I was able to find Giada's Baked Orzo recipe that uses both fontina and mozzarella! I had to do a slight modification because the recipe uses fresh mozzarella instead of smoked version.

April 1, 2010


I just love the looks of French pastries-madeleines, macarons, eclairs..just to name a few. French pastries are elegant, fancy, and absolutely complicated to make, which is probably why they are so intriguing to me. I love new challenges to find recipes that are "gift-worthy." I love tiny and fancy things as opposed to bulky and plain -- talking purely about aesthetic. The recipe I'm presenting here today is called Financier. Financiers are little French teacakes with an almondy flair. They are mostly baked in small rectangular molds that shaped like bars of gold.

March 31, 2010

Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables

Last Friday, March 26th, was my parents's 27th wedding anniversary. My dad wanted to celebrate it at his trusted Blue Mango Thai restaurant, but I had other idea. Being a vegetarian, it's difficult to find a good restaurant. And since we almost never go out to eat, I don't even know any restaurant that I would want to go. I suggested that I would cook instead. I saw this recipe while watching Giada's Everyday Italian last December with my grandma and have been wanting to test it since.

March 30, 2010

Spring Pasta Salad

If given the choice between moisturizer and foundation, what would you choose? I would go for the moisturizer without a second thought. It's too much of a hassle to put on makeup every time to feint a flawless skin. Besides, I have always been an advocate of beautifying skin from the inside. After all, isn't it true that you are what you eat? Such nonsense... Because.. if only the things that will make you look beautiful can also satisfy your cravings.. So for lunch today I tried to whip up something healthy, good for skin, and tasty all at once!

March 29, 2010

March Daring Baker Challenge

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

It's that time of the month again! The reveal date of the Daring Baker challenge... and I am one day belated yet again. I only finished this month's challenge last Wednesday after much doubts about my ability to complete it. For some reason this recipe really intimidated me, so I tried to put it off as long as I could. I was intimidated by the seemingly complex steps necessary in yet another layered dessert.

March 26, 2010

Pain de Mie (Part Deux)

This has been the longest gap since I last updated. Work..paid or unpaid.. has been keeping me incredibly busy in the last few weeks. And my guitar practice takes up the rest of my free time, therefore I was left with very little time for baking. In fact, I just barely completed Daring Baker's March challenge yesterday... two days before posting is due! So stay tuned for the DB posting on the 27th! But here I bring you my second attempt at pain de mie.

March 13, 2010

Swedish Princess Torte

I'm literally in awe of myself right now after spending almost a full day in the kitchen since 9 am. I've always been curious about this particular type of cake for a long time mainly because of its elegant beauty. And the other day at Ikea, when I saw that they are selling tiny princess cakes in a box in the freezer I almost got one. But really,who wants their first princess cake to be from a furniture store (line stolen from a fellow blogger).

March 1, 2010

February Daring Baker Challenge

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

I've made tiramisu many times in the past, but I've always used store-bought mascarpone cheese and lady finger. This month's challenge required that we make both mascarpone cheese and lady finger from scratch. I never knew that it was possible to make cheese at home! 

February 23, 2010

Taro Swiss Roll

I absolutely love taro root and almost everything made out of it, so when I see a beautiful taro root in the grocery store, it's just impossible for me to pass it up. It's really unfortunate that most taro roots sold here are bad and moldy. Most ones in the grocery store are chopped off in parts, and you should never ever buy those because that means those chopped off parts were moldy. This also makes me nervous about eating non-homemade taro products because god knows what kind of taros were used. So you should always buy taro roots whole and clean. 

February 18, 2010

Earl Grey Mousse Cake

.. to celebrate Billie Joe's birthday, not intentionally of course. I feel that I haven't been making any updates with real substances, but it doesn't mean I haven't been baking! In fact, I have just completed the February Daring Baker challenge, but I am not allowed to post it on my blog until the 27th (Daring Baker rule). So to keep this blog alive, I decided to take on a different challenge on my own before the big reveal on the 27th. I chose Tartelette/Veronica's Mousse Cake recipe with a variation on the flavor. I'm not a big fan of caramel as the original recipe asks for, so I decided on my favorite flavor-- earl grey tea. Earl grey is such a versatile flavor and works particularly well with pretty much any desserts that has a milky flavor. This is also my first time making mousse. The only time I had mousse was at my 19th birthday in Taiwan when my aunt made me mango mousse cake. It was beautiful and delicious, so I know sooner or later I will have to tackle this challenge as well. 

February 13, 2010

Vanilla Eclair

I don't think I have mentioned it yet, but I have picked up a new passion-- guitar! I'm not going to lie, my passion stems directly and 100% from my obsession with Green Day. The first and only time prior that I've touched a guitar was back in college when my dorm friend let me borrow his guitar to try. Then, I learned to read the tabs and tried my hand at "Good Riddance" for the first time. The phase didn't last long enough for me to even learn the first measure of the song. But this time around, after about 3 days of playing, I can strum the whole "Good Riddance" without the music! I'm currently borrowing my guitar from my cousin Edward, but I really hope I can get my own in the future. I have my eye set on seagull's acoustic!

Tomorrow, mom's friend's coming over for coffee, so I was assigned the task to make desserts for the occasion. I've longed to try Eclairs for a long time, because in my mind, it is one of those fancy french pastry that would break one's wallet. A bit of exaggeration.. regardless, it's fancy. But the appeal of Pierre Herme's recipe gave me the confidence to finally try it!

February 8, 2010

Super Bowl Sunday

well.. it's matters to me not since I know absolutely nothing about American football. I don't even understand the rule to watch the game, but I put it on anyway. I do know that the quarterback for the Colts is Peyton Manning, who won MVP in 2007 and the next year his brother Eli Manning won MVP with the NY. Giants. I like trivia like this so I was slightly rooting for the Colts to win again! I have never been to a Superbowl party, but if I were to host one, here's the recipe I would serve =)

January 31, 2010

Giant egg milk bread

My obsession with Green Day must have escalated overnight. The first thought I had waking up this morning was to watch the Green Day concert again (I recorded). It's really too bad that I missed their concert here in San Jose back in August.

January 21, 2010

Wednesday Night: Chicken Piccata

I taking tomorrow off to bake, seriously. I have to bake macarons and breads for my grandma to take back to Taiwan. But for the amount of work I did on Tuesday and Wednesday, I think the break is well deserved. I helped, over-helped, many clients.

January 20, 2010

Tuesday Night: Chicken with Mustard Mascarpone Marsala Sauce

Drum rolls please... So, here I reveal the first special dinner I made for my grandma: Marsala Chicken, in short. This is a dish that I've made at least 5 times before, and 4 of which were during my previous carnivore life. It's one of my favorite dishes to make if my aim is to impress because I really consider it restaurant quality, if not better. I just love the taste of Marsala wine in combination with the creamy mascarpone cheese. It is really out of this world. (我做給阿勳叔叔吃過!)

January 19, 2010

Milk Custard Bread 奶酥麵包

I talked to my aunt on the phone last night, and she pointed out that I don't seem to have done any breads, but I actually had made a lot of breads, just haven't gotten around to post them! When it comes to bread making, I have mixed feelings. I love making breads because it's easy and the success rate is much higher than say cakes. But I also hate making breads because I lack the patience to wait for hours after hours for the dough to rise. Making bread really is a day-long job.

January 14, 2010

Daring Baker

I'm so excited that my blog has been approved to be a member of the Daring Bakers! Daring Baker posts monthly challenges, and we have to make the posted recipe and then share photos of the final product. I hope to take on the January challenge soon, due date is the 27th. More to come on this later.

Rum Cake

January 1, 2010

Recipe Index

Orzo Salad

When I came back from Europe last January, I invited my ex-roommate Amy over for dinner. My then-current roommate Jen suggested that she would make orzo salad for the occasion. I had my doubts because I can't imagine a cold pasta salad with raw herbs and sour dressing would be any good, but I complied. And thank god I did, this cold pasta dish has since become one of my favorite dish to make, and one of the most enjoyed dish in my family. I have made this dish many times to potlucks and others, and they were all very well received. The only problem with this dish is that it is difficult to find good orzo pasta. I only like the ones you purchase by weight at this one Safeway (market) in Castro, San Francisco. They are quite expensive as well, at $2.75/lb. Barilla makes orzo as well, but they are smaller, and the texture isn't as good.