Custard, floral, fruit, Places, Recipes, Tropical

Welcoming Spring: Flowerbomb Verrine

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Today is the first day of Spring, and while you could hardly even tell Winter came to Southern California this year, I still anticipate the sunshine and flowers and general sense of renewal that comes with this season. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, nor have I ever been the type to keep them, but there’s something about Springtime that just makes me want to make everything better: my life, my health, and my overall happiness. Lately I’ve noticed that I haven’t quite been myself and things have been very… off. So while I won’t go too far into personal details here, I’ve resolved to fix that, albeit slowly, as well. Baby steps.

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Yesterday was my day off and since the hubby was at work, I took a nice, quiet stroll through the San Juan Capistrano Farmer’s Market, which was a mere 10 minutes from our home. While the farmer’s market itself was small, downtown SJC during the daytime is always a bustling place, filled with rich history and culture. It happens to be my favorite place to relax; there are antique shops and little markets and boutiques all without the LA prices, so if you’re ever in South Orange County, I highly recommend stopping by. I got the lovely mix of flowers in the picture above for $4 at the market. Aren’t they stunning??

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For a while I’ve wanted to come up with a very floral dessert, and yesterday I finally decided what I wanted to make: something with very simple components, but bursting with the flavors of Spring. I made a verrine with a Honey Panna Cotta, a Feijoa and Strawberry Rope, and a Lavender Broth, and garnished it all with some edible pansies. For the panna cotta I used local honey made from avocado blossoms: while it’s not quite as floral as say, an orange blossom honey, it’s very buttery, which combines really well with the already rich and creamy dessert. For the rope, I used very ripe feijoas and wild strawberries. Feijoas are also known as pineapple guavas; they have all the tropical notes that pineapples and guavas have, but the meat is smooth and more creamy than it is tart. The rope gives the dish a nice fruity pop when you take a bite. The lavender broth combined with the feijoa strawberry rope cut into the richness of the panna cotta really well, and make for a dish that swells with springtime goodness. Basically, I want to jar it and use it as perfume.

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Flowerbomb Verrine

For Honey Panna Cotta:

Makes 3 verrines

165 g heavy cream

20 g granulated sugar

20 g honey

3 g granular gelatin

15 g cold water

Bloom your gelatin in your cold water and set aside. In a small pot, combine heavy cream, sugar, and honey and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off heat and stir in bloomed gelatin until completely melted. Let mixture cool a little, then carefully pour into verrines. To achieve the tilted glass look that I have in my pictures, I set my glasses into the wells of a large muffin pan, and tilted them slightly to the side while ensuring they have enough support to stay tilted when filled, then filled them just under half-way. Chill panna cottas overnight.

For Feijoa Strawberry Rope:

90 g Feijoas, ripe, trimmed and seeded

45 g strawberries, trimmed and quartered

150 g granulated sugar

2 g granular gelatin

10 g warm water

1/2 teaspoon lime juice

Bloom your gelatin in cold water, set aside. In a small pot, combine Feijoas, strawberries, and sugar, and bring to a boil. While stirring, let mixture boil until fruit has softened and broken down considerably, and sugar syrup reduces (I brought the entire mixture to 110C). Stir in your bloomed gelatin until it has melted completely, then remove from heat and stir in your lime juice. Blend the entire mixture together until smooth, then strain through a fine mesh sieve onto a lined sheet pan. Discard any pulp, and cover and chill the puree overnight. The next day, scrape puree (it should be firmer and more like a paste by now) into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip (I used Ateco #801). Keep cold.

For Lavender Broth:

1 Tablespoon dried Lavender buds

30 g sugar

230 g water

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 drops purple color (if desired)

Combine lavender buds, sugar, water, and vanilla extract in a saucepot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and chill overnight. The next day, strain out buds and add color if desired. Carefully pour into verrines with chilled panna cotta, and then pipe Feijoa strawberry paste into a long rope around verrines. Garnish with edible flowers if desired.

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Bread, Custard, Dinner, lunch, Recipes, Savoury

New Season, New Horizons, and (Adoreable!) Stuffed Mini Pumpkins

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So I know it’s been quite some time since I’ve posted anything here, but I swear I have a good reason for that! For those of you who haven’t heard yet, I got a new job! Yayy!! Soon I will be a Pastry Chef de Partie for a new restaurant in Downtown LA. A lot of my time lately has been dedicated towards getting ready for that job and leaving my old one behind (sigh…) but I’m really eager to put all of my energy towards this new place and just grow as much as possible. Ever since I left LA county for the OC, I’ve always known I wanted to go back, AND for those of you who know me personally, you’d know that I happen to be named after the City of Angels, but that’s another story for another time! Basically what I’m saying is that it’s like, my DESTINY, haha.

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So as you can see, things have been kind of hectic lately. But let’s forget about all of that for a second! It is now Autumn, and while it doesn’t quite show here in SoCal (it was 83F today!!) just seeing all the new fall produce at the market gets me all warm and fuzzy inside and reminds me that the holidays are coming our way. Today for lunch I roasted some mini pumpkins and stuffed them with a savoury bread pudding of sorts, and then topped them with some grated parm. Just thinking about it now suddenly puts me in Thanksgiving mode. I happen to love roasted pumpkin, whether it be for a sweet or a savoury application.

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No recipe here just because I only made 2 portions and it was such a small amount that I kind of winged it, but basically what I did was I mixed together 1 egg yolk with a scant half a cup of heavy cream, then I diced 1 slice of potato bread and tossed it in the custard with some fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme, salt, pepper, and chopped walnuts. I cut the tops off of each mini pumpkin and scooped out all the seeds, then placed them on a lined sheet pan and drizzled them with olive oil and gave a little sprinkle of salt and pepper (I roasted the tops of the pumpkins too, so don’t leave those out of the picture!!). I then filled each pumpkin with the bread pudding mixture, and baked them at 350F for 45 minutes. Once the pumpkins were fork tender, I topped each of them with a good amount of grated Parmesan cheese, and then let them bake for another 6 minutes until the cheese was nice and melted and just barely golden brown.

I’m definitely keeping this recipe in mind for when I can start throwing my own Thanksgiving dinners, especially as a great option for vegetarian friends. As always, thanks to all of my readers for keeping up with me even though I sometimes can barely keep up with this blog! Happy eating!

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Breakfast, Cake, Custard, fruit, lunch, Recipes, Savoury

[Savory] Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Balsamic Figs

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I realize that it’s been quite some time since I’ve posted about something that isn’t a dessert or some kind of sweet treat, so today I’m happy to share something savory with you all! Yesterday I made a goat cheese cheesecake, and topped it off with figs tossed in a honey-balsamic reduction. One of my favorite restaurants in Orange County plays with the sweet side of goat cheese and pairs it with almonds and roasted peaches on top of their pain perdue, so this is sort of inspired by their lovely dessert.

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Figs marinating in the honey-balsamic reduction. Because Summer is coming to an end, right now is a great time to get your fig fix on. I love that they just sop up that reduction and make the perfect balance of sweet and tart. They also happen to look like shiny little jewels on top of the cheesecake, and you know how much I like to bejewel my food!

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Like most cheesecakes, this one bakes at a really low temperature for a long time, so I would suggest making it a day ahead and letting it sit in your fridge overnight to firm up before you dig in. Apart from using goat cheese, I think what really makes this cheesecake truly savory is the almond crust: it has a good amount of fresh cracked black pepper and grated shallots, so if you happen to like onions you’ll probably fall in love with this (just like I did!). Of all the savory recipes I’ve posted here, I would without a doubt say that this one is by far my favorite. The cheesecake is just so rich and creamy, and when paired with the tartness of the figs and balsamic vinegar, it just harmonizes on your palette.

[Savory] Goat Cheese Cheesecake

makes 1 (8″) cake

for savory crust:

29 g unsalted butter

150 g almond flour

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 Tablespoon grated shallots

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For crust: melt butter and toss together with almond flour, black pepper, shallots, and salt until combined. Press into a greased 8″ tart or cake pan.

for cheesecake filling:

225 g cream cheese, at room temperature

163 g goat cheese, at room temperature

60 g granulated sugar

67 g egg yolks

50 g whole eggs

80 g sour cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

For filling: preheat oven to 220F. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together your cream cheese, goat cheese, and sugar until there are no lumps. With the mixer running, slowly add in your eggs and egg yolks, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula from time to time. Add your sour cream and salt, and paddle until filling is completely smooth with no lumps. Pour filling over crust and tap pan on your counter to flatten out the top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, turning cheesecake halfway through. Cheesecake is fully baked when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool down until room temperature, then cover and chill overnight before removing from pan.

for honey-balsamic reduction:

72 g balsamic vinegar

40 g grade A honey

257 g black mission figs, trimmed and cut in half

For reduction: In a small saucepot, combine balsamic vinegar and honey, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stir frequently, until liquid has reduced by half in volume. Let cool to room temperature, then toss figs in reduction and let marinate for 10 minutes. Reduction will thicken as it cools down. Top your cheesecake with marinated figs, and dig in!

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Cake, Chocolate, Custard, fruit, Home

Happy Birthday (To Me)!

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Another year, another birthday cake made by yours truly. Little Lainey is finally 23! Those of you who know me know that I’m not really big on celebrations (for myself, at least), and that what I really like to do on my birthday is use it as a time for reflecting on some of the things I’ve accomplished and mistakes that I’ve made within the last year and within my lifetime; I think for someone as young as myself, there are actually quite a bit of each!

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Because I have to work today, I spent the last couple of days by having dinner with my family, and spending an awesome relaxing day with the hubby. I also went to the beach for a couple of hours to do some of that reflecting I was talking about.

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This cake was kind of a last minute decision, so no recipes for this post (sorry!). For anyone who’s interested, though, it has layers of an almond olive oil sponge cake, dark chocolate, fleur de sel, and olive oil ganache, and a citrus cream. I wasn’t 100% in love with these recipes (maybe more like 85-90%) which is also why I wanted to wait on posting them till I get it right. The overall taste was good though, regardless (:

Anyway, in regards to the things that I’ve accomplished thus far in this short life, according to my husband I’m doing pretty well for someone my age, so I think I’ll take his word for it (:

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Breakfast, Custard, Petit Four, Recipes

Chai Latte Eclairs

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After going through a rough week and a nasty cold, there was nothing I wanted to do more on my day off than just spend it relaxing by myself, watching movie after movie on Netflix while sipping on a hot latte. Yes, I am aware that dairy is bad for a cold, but it’s soothing, okay?! Plus at this point I’m almost all the way through it, and it was time for a little indulgence.

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There’s a little outdoor cafe by the train station here that I absolutely adore, and they happen to make excellent chai lattes. I got to spend my morning chilling on their patio, surrounded by greenery and perfect SoCal weather, all while grubbing on some yummy Greek food and treating myself to a latte (plus or minus some coughing or sneezing here and there, but I choose to forget those parts!). Despite being sick, I also decided to bake on my day off, so why not make an homage to this drink that I wholeheartedly adore?

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A big ol’ bowl of chai pastry cream. I added hints of cinnamon and vanilla, so while the cream itself is cold, the flavor holds a lot of warmth.

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I topped each eclair with a creamy cinnamon icing, and I love that you can see the little flecks of cinnamon floating around there. I kept the decor to a minimum on these guys, because sometimes patience has no place in this kitchen! I made the pastry cream first, then as I was making the eclairs I had my cream chilling in the fridge so that by the time the eclairs were baked, the cream would be cold enough to pipe. These were little 3-inch eclairs, but feel free to make them as big (or as small!) as you desire.

The pate a choux recipe I used wasn’t my own, but can be found here. The only thing I did differently was I baked my eclairs at 325F instead of 375F, and increased the baking time. Enjoy!

Chai Latte Pastry Cream

fills 32 (3-inch) eclairs

276 g milk

203 g heavy cream

6 g loose-leaf chai tea (or 3 tea bags)

2 cinnamon sticks

100 g whole eggs (2 large eggs)

24 g cornstarch

10 g brown sugar

70 g granulated sugar

55 g butter, cold, cut into small cubes

3 g vanilla extract

Combine your milk, cream, chai leaves, and cinnamon sticks in a medium-sized saucepot and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and let chai and cinnamon sticks steep in cream for at least 10 minutes. Strain tea and cinnamon sticks from cream mixture, then return cream to saucepot and warm up again, just to a scald. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, cornstarch, brown sugar, and granulated sugar just until there are no more lumps. Temper egg mixture into hot cream, then cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until cream thickens to the consistency of pudding. Strain cream through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl set over an ice bath. While cream is still hot, stir in your butter and vanilla extract. Chill completely before filling eclairs.

Cinnamon Icing

150 g powdered sugar

60 g heavy cream

scant 1/8th tsp. ground cinnamon

Sift powdered sugar to remove lumps, then whisk together with heavy cream and cinnamon until smooth. Mixture will be really thick. Pipe icing over the tops of eclairs after they are filled.

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Breakfast, Custard, fruit, Recipes

Lychee Pudding with Strawberry Salsa

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It’s hot. It’s hot, I have a ton of egg yolks in my fridge, and a craving for something sweet. There’s no way I’m touching the oven today so cakes are out of the question. I guess I could make ice cream, but that would require me to pull out the ice cream machine, freeze the bowl, and then go through a multitude of other steps that I really don’t have the patience for right now. So what can I make? A custard, of course!

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Lychee, litchi, whatever you want to call it, is an amazing little fruit. I love it for the lightly sweet and delicate floral flavor it provides, and when it’s ripe it’s amazingly juicy.

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I know, it looks kinda like a bowl of raw calamari. But it’s delicious, I promise! Within that rough exterior lies a juicy, tender, burst of flavor, just waiting to sweep you off of your feet and into a tropical paradise.

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The pudding itself is a creamy custard that is cooked over the stove much like a pastry cream. I topped it with a tart strawberry salsa and a quenelle of airy whipped cream, and garnished it with some lemon zest. The tartness of the strawberries really balances well with the smooth, creamy custard and just gives your mouth a little “pop” when you bite into them.

Lychee Pudding with Strawberry Salsa

For lychee pudding:

134 g fresh lychee (peeled and seeded)

530 g milk

180 g heavy cream

80 g granulated sugar

115 g egg yolks

10 g cornstarch

25 g Soho or other lychee liqueur

30 g butter

For strawberry salsa:

95 g finely diced strawberries

1 g lemon zest, plus more for garnish

15 g guava juice (you could use orange or any other citrus juice really, this is just what i had on hand)

5 g sugar

For lychee pudding: In a food processor, blend lychee meat until completely pulverized. You pretty much don’t want to see any lumps. Strain out any pulp with a fine mesh sieve, and make sure to push on pulp to release all of the juices.

In a medium sized saucepot, combine lychee juice, milk, and cream, and bring to a scald over medium low heat.

In another bowl, whisk together sugar, egg yolks, and cornstarch. When milk mixture is hot enough, temper in your yolk mixture, then cook over the stove until custard looks about the consistency of a gravy (this will take a few minutes). You want to stir the pot constantly while it’s cooking to prevent scorching and to keep the eggs from curdling. When the custard is thick and you start to see bubbles forming in the middle of the pot (from boiling), turn off your heat and whisk in your butter and Soho.

Divide your custard between your serving dishes (I divided it between 4 bowls, but these portions were kind of large), then cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours (but preferably overnight) before serving.

For strawberry salsa: The salsa is best when made the day that you are serving it, so that the fruit doesn’t break down too much with all the citric acid. Combine your finely diced strawberries with the lemon zest, juice, and sugar, and lightly toss them together. Let sit for a few minutes until the sugar dissolves, then divide between your dishes and spoon the salsa on top of your custard. Top with a dollop of whipped cream if you like, then enjoy!

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Cake, Caramel, Chocolate, Cookies, Custard, DIY, fruit, Petit Four, Places, Wedding

Wedded Bliss Part 4: The Cake, The Day

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After over a year of planning, last Saturday Robert and I finally got married! A couple of hours ago we just got back from our amazing honeymoon (woot Vegas!) so now I finally have some time to show you guys a couple of pictures. I’m not going to post up too many pictures just because the photographers we hired need a couple more weeks before all the images are edited, but I just wanna give you guys a taste of our special day.

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Macaron craziness. I made roughly 400 macarons to give as our favors for our guests. Soo much effort but it was totally worth it! Each person got a raspberry lychee rose macaron, a hazelnut caramel macaron, and a dark chocolate, olive oil, and fleur de sel macaron.

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All packaged and ready to go! Because of the massive number that I had to make and how tiny our apartment is, I would say this was more than a challenge, but it all worked out in the end. I also had some help from the hubby with packaging them 🙂

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Trying to Tetris the tiers of our cake into our fridge. The cake was literally the easiest part of the wedding planning. For a long time I already knew what I wanted to do and how I wanted it to look, and it definitely helped that I build wedding cakes at work all the time.

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The finished cake: coconut sponge cake, lemon curd filling, and Italian buttercream. We had one of Robert’s friends help us deliver the cake and stack it the morning of, so that was a good amount of weight off of our shoulders and it turned out looking just as awesome as I imagined. I love how rustic and homemade (but also clean and finished) it looks.

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Cutting into our cake. The gumpaste peonies held up throughout delivery and the day of, so I’m pretty proud of that as well.

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Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed my little post about our big day. The weather was amazing, the food was amazing, and the entire day couldn’t have been any better. I am now happily married to the most amazing man I’ve ever met, and looking forward to a lifetime of happiness with him. While I didn’t get a chance to post about some of the other wedding-related crafts I made (our guest book, our painting, the chair hangs, etc.) hopefully you all got a good taste of what went on during these “Wedded Bliss” posts. Love you guys, and thanks for reading! 🙂

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