Saturday, March 27, 2010

Recipe Link

Totally forgot to include the link for the Sticky Lemon Buns recipe.

It's supposed to be crap weather this weekend. Get some lemons and make some buns!

I also just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who reads this blog! I know not all of you comment - thank you to those who do! Whether you comment or not, I really appreciate all the feedback I've gotten - you are the reason I push myself to bake and publish! These photos didn't improve just magically, ya know.... I had to have all that practice for a reason.

I'm going to try and step up my game a bit and introduce a recurring weekly post featuring quick meal ideas. I can't guarantee the best writing or photos - but hey, I'm a hungry spoon and the spoon's gotta...err...scoop? I also don't have the advantage of a fork to hold my camera for me, hee hee.

Anyway - watch this space...for whatever reason - thank you!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's raining outside...but not in my kitchen!

I did manage to get a spot of baking done on the weekend, and managed to get some great snaps of the feature ingredient of the featured recipe. One of my favourite website I visit daily (actually, make that multiple visit a day!) is the Apartment Therapy - The Kitchn offshoot site. The Apartment Therapy website is a great place for inspiration, aspiring designers, and people who love to look at beautiful spaces.

Anyway - last week, "the recipe" that captured attention was for Lemon Sticky Buns. Say it with me now, "Lemon Sticky Buns"...mmm... I can't help but put my Southern twang on it. I wasn't the only one who fell victim of lust-at-first-sight - they gratuitously included the "money shot" on three different subsequent posts. So I had to give it a shot!

It's a yeast-based dough that requires a little bit of work. What does that mean? There's a good chunk of waiting around time and you're going to use your hands. The waiting around time, no problem - the elbow grease? My specialty. I really do enjoy kneading by hand - yes, it is very easy to stick it into the mixer to do all the work, but it's so satisfying to work the dough by hand. The methodic turning and pushing can be very's just nice to work with your hands after a week on a keyboard. As per the recipe title, it involves a lot of lemons. Gosh, probably 5 or 6? A combination of lots of zest and maybe the juice of 2 or 3.

Here are a few more zest shots for you. I couldn't resist. Look at the pores on the zest - I can't imagine my life without macro now.

(left: Mmmmm....lemon zest. right: A little shameless product placement. Epicurean boards, are you reading? I loooove yoooooou.

So after the dough has risen and is patted out, you have to apply a paste, the lemon filling. I took the recipe too literally and added the juice of half a lemon. A very, very juicy lemon. I really should have held back a little. The filling wound up being rather watery. If you make this recipe, go easy on the juice and hold off when the filling is thick but spreadable - like really, really warm and runny jam. Mine was like really, really, really warm and watery jam. As a result, my buns weren't so lemon-y. Still good though!

I've included a few before and after shots of the rising process. It's really amazing to see how these buns puff up - ah, the magic of yeast!

(upper left: Ready for the second rise - evenly spaced out. upper right: After an hour of rising time, covered with a towel. Be mindful of spacing! lower left & right: Post-baking - check out those flecks of zest!)

So would I make them again. Mmmm...probably not. I'm glad I made them - but I'm not sure I'm a big fan of cinnamon-roll type pastries. It's a little too dense for my liking. Then again, I take full responsibility if I made them too heavy. I will, however, always stop in my tracks for a Solly's chocolate babka bun (it's a tight, thin-layered 'chocolate' cinnamon bun. Microwave it for 20 seconds and it's perfection.) - oooh...maybe I'll have to give that a try.

Until then!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


One of the things I love about photographing ice cream is that in the right light, you can capture every last ripple, every ice crystal, and every fleck of mix-in. Yum. I had decent light - a little too much shadow for my liking, but hey - not everyone can have a studio in their house!

Featured today: Green Tea and Red Bean Ice Cream!

The last time I made green tea ice cream, I bought waaaaaaay too much matcha powder (finely milled tea) and now have a large canister of it in my pantry. I discovered, unfortunately, that the matcha powder is much too strong for my taste. Even half a teaspoon dissipated in almost two cups of water gave me a headache! I like the toasted rice kind of tea anyway :) So now the canister gets taken out...never. But a colleague invited some others from the workplace for hot pot and I thought I would bring some homemade ice cream! I also had some red bean paste leftover from the dim sum experimentation so I decided to whip up some ice cream as well.

I think I've posted a recipe for the base that I use for ice cream. Same thing here - whisk in enough matcha powder to taste! Here's the thing about matcha powder, and green tea in general. It needs a lot of whisking. A LOT. That's why they have those fancy bamboo whisks! I get it now! No matter how hard I tried, there were always flecks of powder floating around. Multiple passes through a sieve didn't do the trick either, but when the ice cream churns the flecks just...fade. It's magical.

The red bean was good - however because there were already beans in the paste (and I added it in before straining the custard base) it was a little on the grainy side. I think next time if I attempt this recipe, I'll probably boil up azuki beans and puree to make a syrup to integrate into the base instead of the paste. I think the paste added too much sugar to the ice cream which contributed to it being not as creamy.

Both went over well with the guests! It was difficult trying to explain to some guests how ice cream is made, while trying to scoop, yet keeping an ear and eye on the Wii Mario Adventureland game happening in the background (I had to forfeit my controller for a round or two - my coins!!). But it's really not that difficult! If you have the opportunity to get an ice cream maker (and if you like ice cream) I would highly encourage you to give the process a try! I have seen old-school hand crank machines at thrift shops for less than $10. Don't be afraid of the hand-crank - it's the same principle as a modern chill 'n churn, except you have to turn the crank for about 20 minutes. Make it a party and split up the work!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Compost Brownies

I've heard a lot of people discussing the effects that Daylight Savings Time has had on their schedule - mostly negative. Actually, ALL negative. Myself? I wasted too many minutes watching 27 Dresses and wound up sleeping in. I had a full day on Sunday, went to bed at a decent time and woke up and felt as though nothing had changed.

One lovely thing about the hour-ahead business is that we are blessed with a little more light! Light! Sweet, sweet daylight! As I walked to my regular bus stop after work, I was bathed in the glow of early-evening light. And it felt too early. I almost felt guilty about leaving work - it was still light out! Should I have stayed another 20 or 30 minutes or so! But like I wrote, "almost" felt guilty. In a couple of months, I'll be leaving work in the blazing sunshine, anyway. My bus arrived relatively quickly and I was home before I knew it - at an earlier time than I had ever expected to be home. One awesome upside to this was that I got to retake the photos for this post. I was thoroughly disappointed with the quality of snaps I took last night and I relished have a little bit of wonderful daylight to show off my latest creations.

It really does make a difference!

(let there be light!)

Back to the brownies. Same recipe as the blondies in an earlier post but with an added twist. Another Momofuku spinoff is the "Compost Cookie" - a baked good that includes everything including the kitchen sink! Traditional cookie mixins are a must, as well as your favourite salty nibbles (pretzels, goldfish, whatever!)...rumor also has it that coffee grounds are an ingredient as well! I omitted the coffee and the salty bits but included whatever I could find in my pantry - coconut, dried cherries, white chocolate chips, and almonds. Ahh...I should have added some cereal if I had any left. Good cereal that is. I don't think my taste testers would enjoy eating a cookie with half a Weetabix protruding from it1

The MMFK recipe includes a nice balance of salty and sweet. I think there is a real movement in the baking community to push people to not be so afraid of salt. Yes, in moderation - but salt has a role in enhancing savory AND sweet foods. Ummm, sea salt caramels? Yes please! (the best all time I've ever had - from Jenn Stone's now defunct JS Bon Bons. I miss them.) So next time - don't be stingy and go for a three-finger grab of that NaCl!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Smells like the morning after.

I attempted to make 'beer' cookies this weekend.

Let me tell you a little backstory on this one. As a kid, my family and I would go on these organized charter bus tours...that were...umm...ethnically-friendly. That's all I'm going to say on what kind of tour group it was. But I went on a lot of these trips and all over North America too! East coast, West Coast, BC, wherever - if it was a tourist spot, I can guarantee that there was a bus tour going there. Anyway, we went on a tour that included a stop at a Molson brewery (in Vancouver? Can't be sure.) The adults sampled beer, the kids sampled ginger ale and snacked on beer cookies.

Some of the best cookies ever. Crumbly, buttery, and yeah - they tasted like beer.

I decided that this would be THE weekend to test out a replication of these cookies!


The T&J came over for some Oscar watching and they both commented, "it tastes like scones." Well! That's not exactly the reaction I was looking for, but I had to agree. But they smelled like beer while chilling and baking - yet the beer taste was practically non-existent. I added way too much liquid as well, which resulted in me adding more flour - which probably resulted in the scone-like taste. So I'm not sure if I have to try a stronger beer, or boil it down to make some kind of syrup, but it is ON! I WILL make beer cookies! And when I do - you'll be the first to know!

Not all was lost - I was thinking of failure and added dried cherries and white chocolate chips to half the batter, so at least I have something sweet to nibble on this week.