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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Bread, Breakfast, Cake, fruit, lunch, Recipes, Vegan

Chia Olive Oil Muffins with Caramelized Peaches [Vegan]

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In the world of all the “superfoods” out there, chia seeds seem to be the next big thing. While I’m not one for fads, I can’t say I wasn’t intrigued; the promise of more energy, lower cholesterol, aiding digestion, and a multitude of other health benefits drew me in. I bought a bag at Whole Foods and tried it for a few days, adding a spoonful or so to every meal.

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The seeds themselves are, well, pretty tasteless. Think in terms of poppy seeds; they add a nice crunch but not much else in the flavor department. And as for using it as an energy booster, well anything I could use to boost my energy can easily be trumped by the amount of hours I spend at work, leaving me tired at the end of any day. What I DO like about them is their amazing ability to absorb water; chia seeds can absorb 9 times their weight in water, leaving a gelatinous by-product that could easily replace eggs as a binder in baked goods. The moment I heard this I knew it was time to hit the kitchen.

In this recipe I used a combination of almond flour, olive oil, brown sugar, and lemon zest, leaving me with a nutty, fruity, and tender muffin, great for any breakfast on the go.

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I couldn’t resist adding a bit of tartness to it, so peaches it was! You could really eat these muffins with any fruit, but I love the lacquered sheen of these peaches once they’re cooked. It adds a nice amount of acidity and sweetness that I think pairs well with the nuttiness of the muffin.

Chia Olive Oil Muffins with Caramelized Peaches

Makes 5 muffins

10 g whole chia seeds

50 g water

125 g almond flour

62 g cake flour

4 g baking powder

1 g salt

60 g extra virgin olive oil

40 g organic brown sugar, plus more for peaches

28 g water

3 g vanilla extract

about 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

2 ripe peaches

In a small bowl, stir together your chia seeds with 50 g of water, and let sit for 20 minutes until it forms a gel. Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease a medium-sized muffin tin with olive oil or line with cupcake liners. Sift together your almond flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together your extra virgin olive oil, brown sugar, 28 g water, vanilla extract, and lemon zest until combined. Whisk in your gelled chia seeds, water and all. Whisk in your dry ingredients, just until combined. The batter will look a bit lumpy and thick, like oatmeal. Distribute batter into your muffin tin, filling each well about 3/4ths of the way up and smoothing out the top. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan completely before removing. Store at room temperature.

For caramelized peaches: Set your oven to broil and place a rack on the highest level of your oven. Cut peaches in half and remove pit. Place peach halves on a lined sheet pan and cover the tops of each half with an even layer of brown sugar. Put under your broiler for 3-4 minutes, until all the sugar is melted and bubbles, and the peaches look shiny and lacquered. Let cool completely, then peel off skin (this should be easy since the peach is cooked) and cut into slices. Enjoy!

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Cake, Chocolate, Petit Four, Recipes

Green Tea & Black Sesame Halva Gateaux

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I love green tea. I also happen to love coffee. Since I’ve been making so many fruit-based desserts lately, I wanted to switch things up a bit and make something that has a bit of bitterness to it rather than something tart, but I was torn on which to pick; green tea or coffee? Why not both?

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This cake has layers of green tea sponge cake and black sesame halva filling, and is topped with a creamy mocha glaze. I have to say, the flavor combination couldn’t be more perfect.

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The black sesame filling before adding your chocolate. Halva is a sweet sesame paste, similar in texture to tahini but much, much sweeter. It provides an intensely nutty flavor to the cake, and the addition of toasted black sesame gives a slight crunch to the filling.

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Overall, I’m very satisfied with how this cake came out. I’ll admit that I was a little hesitant about the outcome as I was making it since I was just experimenting with these flavors, but it turned out to be one of the best tasting cakes I’ve made yet, so I’m very proud of it!

Green Tea & Black Sesame Halva Gateaux

makes 6 (1″x 4″) bars

For green tea sponge cake:

100 g egg yolks

50 g whole eggs (1 large egg)

80 g granulated sugar

95 g cake flour

3 g baking powder

12 g sweet matcha powder

a scant pinch of salt

for black sesame filling:

85 g black sesame seeds

255 g soft halva (1 9oz package)

170 g milk chocolate, melted

for mocha glaze:

5 g powdered gelatin

25 g water

40 g sugar

20 g cocoa powder

a pinch of salt

213 g strong coffee

60 g heavy cream

For green tea sponge: Preheat your oven to 350F, and grease a 13×17″ jelly roll pan, and line it with parchment paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together egg yolks and whole eggs with sugar on high until eggs are pale and very thick. In another bowl, sift together your cake flour, baking powder, matcha, and salt. Fold your dry ingredients into your eggs, and spread batter over your sheet pan using an offset spatula. It should be a very thin layer. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the top of the cake just barely gets a little color. Cool completely, then refrigerate.

For black sesame filling: Toast your black sesame seeds in a pan over medium high heat until the seeds become slightly aromatic, then while seeds are still hot, pulse in a food processor for about 1 minute, just to break up the seeds. Add your soft halva to the seeds and blend another minute until mixture is slightly smooth. You don’t want to blend it too much because you want it to still be slightly crunchy. Add your melted chocolate and blend just until combined. Mixture will be really thick. Store at room temperature.

For mocha glaze: Bloom your gelatin in your water. In another bowl, whisk together sugar, cocoa powder, and salt until there are no lumps. Set aside.ย  In a small saucepot, combine your coffee and cream and heat over medium heat until steaming. Whisk in your sugar/cocoa mixture, then whisk in your gelatin mixture, and just heat until the gelatin is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Glaze will be really thin. Chill until glaze thickens slightly (this could take a couple hours depending on how hot you got your coffee/cream).

For assembly: Cut your cooled sponge cake into quarters, then spread a layer of your halva filling on top of one of the cake quarters, and layer on the next cake, and repeat, finishing with sponge cake on top and pressing down to make sure the surface is flat. Chill until filling is firm. When glaze has cooled, cover the cake using about half ofย  your glaze (the top layer of sponge will absorb this glaze because the glaze is thin) and refrigerate until set. Pour the rest of your glaze on top, then spread into an even layer over the cake. Glaze should look glossy. Refrigerate until glaze is set, then using a very hot, clean knife, trim off edges of cake and cut into bars (you should get 6 (1×4″) bars). I dusted the top of mine with a bit of gold dust and then sprinkled some more black sesame seeds on top for garnish. Enjoy!

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Chocolate, fruit, Gluten Free, Recipes

[Gluten-Free] Mint Ganache and Almond Tart

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If I had a weakness (or a few), I would say one of them is dark chocolate. And they say it’s good for you, right? Antioxidants and such? That’s what I like to tell myself, at least, whenever I feel like indulging.

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Because it’s summertime and the sun apparently loves to beat down on us this time of year, I wanted to make something with dark chocolate that isn’t overpowering or too heavy. I wanted something decadent but refreshing as well. Mint and raspberries made the perfect match!

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The crust on this tart is made with almond flour, which gives it a nice crunch that pairs well with the creamy, chocolatey ganache. It also happens to be gluten-free, which is another added bonus to an already lovely tart.

[Gluten-Free] Mint Ganache and Almond Tart

For Gluten-free Almond Crust:

220 g almond flour

30 g granulated sugar

45 g melted unsalted butter

4 g almond extract

1 g salt

For Mint Ganache:

210 g heavy cream

4 g fresh mint leaves

216 g dark chocolate (I used Valhrona 53%)

25 g milk chocolate (I used Callebaut 33%)

15 g unsalted butter

10 oz fresh raspberries, for garnish

For the crust: preheat oven to 330F. Grease an 8″ tart pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Mix together almond flour, sugar, melted butter, almond extract, and salt until combined. Press firmly into the bottom of your tart pan, keeping the thickness of the tart shell even around the pan. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the entire shell is a dark golden brown. Cool completely before filling with ganache.

For ganache: Muddle and tear mint leaves, and combine with heavy cream in a small saucepot. Bring cream to a simmer then let mint steep for at least 10 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine milk and dark chocolates, then melt over a double boiler or in a microwave.

Bring cream to a simmer again, then strain out mint leaves and pour hot cream over chocolate. Whisk until combined, then whisk in your butter until mixture is smooth. Pour ganache over the crust, and tap the pan lightly on your counter to flatten out the top.

Freeze tart until firm (I waited overnight), then pop the tart out of the pan and onto your serving dish, and garnish the top with fresh raspberries and a sprig of mint. Wait about an hour for the tart to fully defrost, 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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