Archive for February, 2013

I didn’t think I was ever going to do that…

Ever since we made the New York Times chocolate chip cookies, we are convinced that there must be a reason why some of their recipes become huge fads all over the internet. This bread is one of them, and again, it did not disappoint. In all honesty I am still looking for the perfect baguette or the perfect everyday bread, but this bread achieved something I never would have expected: the perfect artisanal bread. It’s at least as good as the bread you get in restarauts before your meal and goes perfectly with olive oil. In fact, I could barely stop myself from eating the entire loaf at once (that is 1 1/2 pounds of bread, mind you!)

The bread tastes just as hipster as the picture suggests.

Somehow the bread ended up baking very fast, and it may have been a good idea to stick to a lower oven temperature or simply take out the bread earlier. However, everything else seems to have turned out perfect; the dough seemed to have the perfect consistency and the crust was exactly like I expected. The bottom just got a little too burnt but the top is beyond great. I wonder if I am ever going to go for another recipe, but at least the incredible easiness of making this bread inspired me.

I must go through iterations of all spreads – butter, nutella, jams etc. to see if there is anything which rivals olive oil.

With that said, I am getting more and more convinced of the Smitten Kitchen blog, making it at least to the top 5 recipe resources (along with chefkoch.de, Simply Recipes, Just Hungry and Serious Eats). Her posting on this bread was definitely helpful. I may even buy the book one day. It is the no.1 bestselling cookbook in Amazon though, so that is a little crazy.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

These last days were so filled with exciting dates – a birthday, Chinese New Year and, of course, the celebratory date we love to hate, Valentine’s Day. All I knew was that I wanted to try making a cake with the rice cooker to see how it works, and it had to be a chocolate/strawberry combination. After all, the stores are filled with strawberries dipped in chocolate so the combination might just as well be the most Valentine-y thing ever.

Why are strawberries associated with Valentine’s Day anyways? What about raspberries or cherries?

I chose to make a chocolate ganache as outer crust (such that the cake looks like a chocolate cake after all), and a buttercream with strawberry pieces in the middle. Even though I tried to use our cupcake book for the buttercream, I ultimately eyeballed the ingredients (butter, confectioner’s sugar and light cream) and whipped it until it had a spreadable consistency. Buttercream is so delicious and works well with a cake which only has 2 tablespoons of butter to begin with.

Note to self: Cocoa is kind of grey.

The rice cooker cake actually came out… acceptably. I put in more sugar than the recipe called for (since that one was designed to be frosted with whipped cream) but it was still not particularly sweet. It’s a spongy but dense cake, just as expected, and it looks like pretty much every other rice cooker sponge cake out there. The texture is feels very Asian and soft. While the cake itself is small and does not have much butter or any other fat, it definitely calls for fruit or chocolate or whipped cream toppings.
Considering that we only have a small rice cooker, the shape also came out to be rather – uh – round. Everybody said it looks like a super-sized macaron! XD Also, while I do want to try making cheesecake in the rice cooker, I think rice cookers are ultimately best used for cooking rice. It’s an expensive delicate appliance we have there!

Birthday cakes must be elaborate

I have to admit that I had no idea this cake would take that long though. There are a few French cakes out there (namely Opera Cake and Buche de Noel) which I decided I do not want to make because of the unreasonable effort put into it. When I had to confront the question of what to make as a birthday cake, I remembered how I had a mille crepe cake in Japan. While the cake was pretty, it was clearly mass-produced stuff taken from the freezer with a rather bland taste. Nevertheless, I love the concept and decided to make one.

The caramelized top is awesome.

Upon reading several articles using this New York Times recipe, I decided to stick to it and make a very ‘simple’ version. Since this is basically crepes and cream, there are million ways of dressing it up – strawberries on top, chocolate hazelnut cream instead of buttercream, bananas and chocolate, blueberries and maple syrup… But I wanted to know what the pure taste of butter and heavy cream can do for you.

Apparently the cake is great with Nutella!

In the end, the cake turned out absolutely perfect! It turned into a tall cake with a nicely flat surface and the slight unevenness of the crepe border makes it look like ruffles. Taste-wise the cake is surprisingly better than the sum of its parts. I thought the crepe itself was too heavy and sweet, while the buttercream (prior to adding heavy cream) tasted like mere pudding. As a combination, however, the whole thing attains a subtle exquisiteness I can hardly describe. It turns out crepes go amazingly well with cream! Even though I am tempted to make a chocolate version of this cake one day, I strongly doubt that it will happen anytime soon. It is, after all, something like a 5 hour endeavor.

22 layers for a 22 year birthday.