Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers - Pizza!

This month's challenge was hosted by Rosa from Rosa's Yummy Yums and dedicated to the late Sher of What Did You Eat.

We were called upon to make our own crust and to top it with toppings of our choice. I was really excited about this challenge because I love nontraditional toppings and looked forward to the opportunity to make pizza my way. Rosa's recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice promised a "tasty, thin, crispy, yet chewy pizza crust". And it delivered. The technique used is cold fermentation with the first rise happening overnight in the fridge. The dough was quick and simple, coming together smoothly by hand. It was extremely elastic and pliable, stretching easily when I went to toss it (something I was really bad at). I've only had the chance to make one pizza, but I still have 7-8 small dough balls in the freezer, so it's going to be a delicious few weeks.

Basic Pizza Dough
Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches)

4 1/2 cups unbleached high-gluten (14%) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled (I used all purpose)
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but better with)
1 3/4 cup water, ice cold
1 tbsp sugar
semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

Day 1:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and yeast. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the water, oil, and sugar. Mix well and then knead to a smooth ball (about 5-7 minutes).

Dust a board and pour some oil into a large bowl. Turn the dough out onto the floured board and cut into 6 pieces, or smaller if you're making smaller pizzas. Coat in oil (especially if you're storing the dough in the freezer) and wrap in plastic. Dough can rest in the fridge for 2-3 days or up to 3 months in the freezer. Just be sure to move the frozen dough to the fridge the night before you plan on making the pizza.

Day 2:
About 2 hours before you're planning on making the pizza, take the dough out of the fridge and place them on a dusted board. Gently press the dough balls into disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter. Cover lightly and let them rise for 2 hours.

45 minutes before you are ready to make the pizza, preheat the oven to 500 degrees and heat up your pizza stone. If you don't have a pizza stone, a regular baking sheet would work, just don't preheat it. Toss or press the dough into desired size. Sprinkle pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal or durum flour and lay the dough on top.

Now go to town with the toppings! Once you've topped to your heart's content (remember that less is usually better in this case), bake in the preheated 500 degrees oven for 8-10 minutes.

I made my personal pizza with:
  • Roasted garlic white sauce
  • Caramelized onions
  • Yellow and green squash
  • Mozzarella, Asiago, Provolone, Parmesan shredded cheese blend
  • Greek feta crumbles

The roasted garlic white sauce was just a basic roux and milk sauce base with mashed roasted garlic stirred in, seasoned simply with salt and pepper.

The red onions were cut thin, then sauteed in olive oil over low heat until they're soft and caramelized (about 25-30 minutes since I didn't make much). A pinch of salt sped up the process.

The yellow and green squash were cut into thin rounds, rubbed with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and briefly grilled.

And assemblage:

sauce and 4-cheese blend

caramelized onions go on top

grilled squash and feta cheese

Baked and ready to eat ^^

Friday, October 24, 2008

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Black bottom cupcakes - the baby of moist chocolate cake and silky cheesecake - what's there not to love ^^

I made some regular ones and some with thickened cherry juice in the chocolate batter, then topped them with whole preserved cherries.

Black Bottom Cupcakes
makes 2o regular size cupcakes

For chocolate batter:
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup yogurt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

For cream cheese filling:
1 package cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

To make the chocolate batter:
Combine flour, 1 cup sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture and add in milk, yogurt, oil, vinegar, and vanilla extract. Stir until just combined.

To make cream cheese filling:
Beat softened cream cheese with sugar, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips.

To assemble:
Line standard-size cupcake pans with liner or grease lightly. Fill no more than 1/2 way with the chocolate mixture. Add about 1-2 tbsp of the cream cheese filling on top. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees oven for about 20 minutes.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"Kimchee" Fried Rice

Came back from my midterm at 3 pm having eaten nothing all day, and made this mock kimchee fried rice. I didn't have any kimchee but I did have napa cabbage that needed to be used up. So I tossed that in and seasoned it with garlic, gochujang and vinegar. Add in some chicken, red onions, soy sauce, and ketchup (yes, ketchup), top it off with a fried egg, and lunch/dinner is served.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


ingredient list (in no particular order): broccoli, red onion, chicken, garlic, ginger, cherry tomatoes, fish sauce, soy sauce, cooking wine, thai red curry paste, crunchy peanut butter, salt, chili flakes

Hello Fall...

Ok, so it doesn't feel like fall up here in the Bay Area. The days have been clear and pleasantly warm. But the spirit of fall is here, and with it the welcoming excitement of the holiday season. Soon the fiery leaves will dance in the snappy breeze, scarves and gloves will make an appearance, and fireplaces will alight with cheery flames. It's time to bust out the roasting pans and pie dishes, for the house to smell like turkey and spices. But first up...Halloween :)

My friend Agnes hosted a pumpkin carving party this weekend (she was aghast that so many of us have been deprived of attacking giant orange things with knives). The weather was gorgeous in Marin on Saturday and a group of us frolicked in the pumpkin patch, doing the whole wheelbarrow thing and everything. Here's our handiwork, all lit up...

I made cornbread for the occasion. I like the moist, sweet, cake-like cornbread, so that's what I made. Apparently, this style isn't traditional Southern. But I prefer it this way. Everything is made in one pot, so easy cleanup. I used just shy of 2/3 cup of sugar in this and drizzle the top of the batter with honey (which explains the crosshatch pattern in the picture) before baking. It's definitely on the sweet side and in this case I didn't mind it (but I have been having a major sweet tooth this weekend). You might want to decrease the sugar to 1/2 cup or even less.

Grandmother's Buttermilk Cornbread (from allrecipes)
Make 1 8x8 square pan

1 stick butter
2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (I used 1 cup milk with 1/2 tsp vinegar added in)
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Melt butter in a pot. Remove from heat and add in sugar. Add in eggs and whisk quickly to prevent eggs from curdling. Combine buttermilk with baking soda and stir into butter mixture. Add in cornmeal, flour, and salt. Stir until combined and a few lumps remain.

Pour into a greased 8x8 pan and bake in a preheated 375 degrees oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

I made another batch tonight and played around the recipe to reduce the fat. So here's what I came up with. The procedure is the same.

1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup low-fat yogurt
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 cup non-fat milk + 1/2 tsp vinegar
2 eggs
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda (I added extra by accident)
1/4 tsp salt

This version was moist and tasty as well, but not as dense as the original. The texture was quite spongy and light.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Traditionally a hot ham-and-cheese sandwich topped with a fried egg. My version features...things I had in the fridge. Yep grocery day is fast approaching. This is made with Gruyere cheese, oven-roasted turkey, and grilled zucchinis. A thin layer of honey mustard and a fried egg, sunny-side-up tops things off. Enjoy with a knife and fork.

Sweet Clover Rolls

The lovely and talented Miriam baked crescent rolls using this recipe a few weeks ago. Served with honey butter, they were amazingly good. Here's my rendition.

Sweet Clover Rolls
makes 18 rolls

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 egg
2 1/2 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
3 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Heat up water, milk, sugar, and butter until butter is melted and liquid is warm. Sprinkle on yeast. Let the mixture stand for about 10-15 minutes to revive the yeast; the end mixture should be foamy.

In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture, beaten egg, and salt. Add the flour cup by cup to form a smooth dough. Cover and let the dough rise for about an hour. Pinch off about 1-inch rounds and place 3 of them in one muffin tin. They'll bake into pretty clovers. Let them rise for another 20 minutes, then bake in a preheated 400 degrees oven for 11-13 minutes until they are golden brown.

Serve with honey butter, and try to not eat the whole batch in one sitting.

I made 12 of these clover rolls and used the rest for miniature cinnamon rolls. Roll out the dough into a rectangle, spread with softened butter, sprinkle with lots of brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts, and then roll tightly. Slice into 1 1/4" thick rolls and place into a butter pan. Let it rise for 20 minutes and bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Brunch and a Scone Recipe

My friend and I cooked brunch this morning, which was a much nicer than going to Genetics. He asked for Eggs Benedict, which I never made before (and now that I have, I don't know why I didn't). English muffin (toasted BOTH sides), Canadian Bacon (or black forest ham in our case), poached egg (yolks runny please), topped with lemony-buttery Hollandaise sauce.

Hollandaise Sauce
2 servings

2 egg yolks

1/4 cup melted butter, kept warm
lemon juice
cayenne pepper

In a double boiler over simmering water, whisk egg yolks and lemon juice until thick and doubled in volume, about 3-4 minutes. Slowly drizzle in warm melted butter, whisking the entire time to prevent the sauce from breaking. Season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Keep warm until serving.

I also made raspberry scones so we would have something to eat if the Eggs Benedict failed. I toyed with the idea of trying a new recipe. I like the one from Tyler Florence too much and I've had enough bad experiences with scone recipes. But I modified this one from Allrecipes and it turned out quite well.

The trick to good scones is cold butter and cold cream. Don't skimp on either- I've made scones with margarine and milk and it just isn't the same. I added fresh raspberries to mine, but these would be great with all sorts of add-ins. For sweet, try ginger-cinnamon, lemon-blueberry, fresh peach, fig-walnut, chocolate, etc. For savory, add in shredded cheese, ham, and different herbs.

Raspberry Almond Scones
Makes 10 large scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
8 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1/2 cup cream
1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup fresh raspberries
handful slivered or sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in cold butter so that the mixture resemble coarse meal. In a separate bowl, beat together egg, cream, and vanilla extract. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add in the wet ingredients. Stir until just combined. Press the dough into a ball with your hands. There may be some dry spots, but just press until everything comes together.

Add in almonds. Gently fold in raspberries, taking care to not break them up too much. Form 1 1/2 inch balls and place on greased cookie sheet. Brush the top of the scones with cream or beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 15-17 minutes.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Happy Birthday!

A birthday cake for my friends Mikey and Dana. Mikey, being the true Korean he is, asked for a sseng cream cake with lots of fruit. This is my rendition: light vanilla chiffon cake layered with white chocolate mousse, fresh fruit, and sweetened whipped cream.

For chiffon cake:
Adapted from
Technicolor Kitchen
8 eggs, separated

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup water

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

1 1/2 cup sugar

1 3/4 cup cake flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottoms of 3 9" cake pans with parchment paper, but do not grease the pan.

In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks, oil, vanilla extract, and water. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until frothy. Gradually add in 1/2 cup of water and beat until whites reach soft peaks.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, the rest of the sugar (1 cup), baking soda, and salt. Add in yolk mixture and beat to form a smooth paste. Stir in 1/4 of the egg whites to lighten the batter. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites, being careful to not deflate them too much.

Divide the batter into the 3 prepared pans. Bake for about 16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely in the pan before unmolding. Invert, and carefully feel off the parchment liner. Be sure the cake is cooled completely before assembling.

For Sweetened Whipped Cream:

1 pint heavy whipping cream 1/4 cup sugar 1 tsp vanilla extract

Whip cream with sugar and vanilla until medium peaks. Keep in the fridge until ready to use.

To assemble:

Place 1 layer of the cooled cake on cake stand or serving plate. Spread on chocolate mousse. Add in diced peaches.

Place another layer on top, pressing down slightly. Spread on whipped cream. Top with sliced strawberries.

Place the final layer on top. Do a crumb coat frosting with the whipped cream and place cake in the fridge to set up. Then frost the whole cake again. Decorate the top with fresh fruit.

Open Sesame

I bookmarked this recipe from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert over 3 months ago, and made this cake twice within the past week. My dad came to visit last week, and I sent him back home with a box of treats - simple chocolate walnut cookies for the young one and something more refined for my mom. My mom, being so incredible in the kitchen, is definitely one with a discerning palate. Whenever she approves of something I make, I know that it has to be good. She called a few nights later, saying that she quite enjoyed this.

I changed the original recipe a bit, mainly to intensify the sesame flavor and to introduce a floral sweetness from the honey. My modifications are in blue. The cake is light and spongy, fragrant from the sesame oil, and flecked with black sesame seeds. Tasty and pretty.

Honey Sesame Cake

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2 1/2 tsp toasted sesame seed oil (I upped it to 2 tbsp)*
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup sugar (I used 1/3 cup sugar and 1/2 cup honey)
1/2 cup buttermilk (I added 1/2 tbsp lemon juice to 1/2 cup whole milk)
1/4 cup toasted black sesame seed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 8" cake pan.

In a small bowl, beat together eggs, sesame oil, and vanilla extract. Set aside.

In another bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat softened butter until creamy. Add in sugar and honey and beat until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in egg mixture. Add in 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat until flour is just combined. Add in 1/2 of the buttermilk and mix until just combined. Beat in another 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the rest of the buttermilk. Finish with the last 1/3 of the flour. Stir in sesame seeds.

Pour batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool for about 10 minutes. Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar or a drizzle of honey.

*It is very important to use fresh toasted sesame seed oil. Untoasted wouldn't impart nearly enough flavor (and it sucks for everything else too), and rancid oil is just bad in general.

And while we're on the topic of sesame, meet zhi ma qiu (Chinese for sesame ball ^^). He's cute huh?