Sunday, December 28, 2008

Normandy Apple Tart (or, Adventures in Applesauce)

Normandy Apple Tart

I love Dorie Greenspan's Baking book--I've made at least 10 recipes from it by now and every single one has been terrific. I don't know if it's just me but I find that a lot of recipe books lately have a lot of errors (sometimes glaring! like a certain cake recipe from a book-that-shall-not-be-named which neglected to give measurements for flour) or which are converted improperly from the metric measurements. I've never had a problem like that with Baking AND it's beautifully photographed and full of little anecdotes and tips. It's my current favorite book (although my wonderful brother got me a Nick Malgieri book for Christmas on!)

This recipe is no exception. I could not locate my tart ring (a recurring theme with me) so I made it in an 8" removable bottom cake pan. It's a bit deeper than it was intended to be and of course, somewhat more rustic looking (especially in the crust edges as you can see above), but you know, I actually found the ratio of apple to crust to be more to my preference this way. I'm usually a crust person, but this applesauce is SO GOOD.

And now for the "learn from my stupidity" part of the post. When I read instructions that tell me to puree something with a food mill, I usually shrug and reach for a potato masher or a mesh sieve and a spoon. BUT (and you know there is a but), I fell victim again to missing implements--in this case, my large mesh sieve was MIA. "Oh well," I thought, "I have this little one that I use for sifting powdered sugar. So it'll take a little longer...big deal!" Two hours later, I was sweaty, covered in bits of apple, my hand was sore, I had invoked and then cursed a number of deities, and all I had to show for it was a smallish bowl of sauce. Fortunately it was a delicious bowl of sauce (thank you Greenmarket farmers!) or I think I might have cried. Anyway, I have learned my lesson--I'm going to go get a food mill. And when I do, there will be delicious Normandy apple tart for all.

Normandy Apple Tart (recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours)
2 pounds apples (I used a mix of Gala, McIntosh, and Honeycrisp)
1/4 cup water
half a stick of cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 medium apples (I used Fuji)

1 9" tart crust, partially baked and cooled

For the crust, use your favorite sweet tart dough; there is an excellent one in Dorie's book, although I used a batch of pate sucree I had left from another baking endeavor.

Peel and core the apples and chop into 1" chunks (of course if you have a food mill, you can cut them larger and leave the skin and cores intact). Place in a saucepan with the water, cinnamon, and brown sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat. You want to cook the apples until they are extremely soft; if the water boils away before this happens, add enough a bit at a time so the apples don't stick to the bottom of the pan. When the apples are soft enough, remove from heat and process through a food mill (or push through a (LARGE) sieve.) Under no circumstances should you use what amounts to a glorified tea strainer. This is your last warning! If the applesauce seems thin, return it to the pan and cook very, very gently until it thickens slightly. Stir in vanilla, transfer the sauce to a bowl, cover and refrigerate.

When ready to assemble the pie, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Fill the baked and cooled tart shell (which you have left in the pan) with the applesauce almost to the top; place the filled pan on a baking sheet. To make the topping, peel and halve the two apples and remove the cores. Cut each half into very thin, neat slices and arrange in concentric circles over the applesauce, overlapping slightly. You could arrange them in any old way, but concentric circles is pretty. Dorie's recipe calls for an eggwash but I skipped it and sprinkled some coarse sugar on top instead. Bake for 50 minutes or until the apples are golden and easily pierced with the tip of a knife. Cool and eat!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!!!


This post has nothing to do with food, but I just had to show off my awesome new Christmas present, so Totoro and I want to wish everyone happy holidays!

And we did feast royally (lamb for lunch, steamboat for dinner). There, now it is a food post!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

NY Chocolate Show

Chocolate Chrysler Building headdress

I'm baaaack....well, kind of. I feel like I've always got some excuse about why I've fallen off the blogging thing, but really, this time, it's just been insane, and the constant news about layoffs and such are not really inspiring me to do much other than keep my head down. But actually while I've been gone I've gotten to do a couple of cool things, including going to the Sheep & Wool Festival at Rhinebeck where I got to pet a lot of sheep and alpacas. My new goal in life? Get a miniature sheep. Ooooh, miniature sheep.

Anyway! Having said that, I did emerge from the lair long enough to go to the 11th Annual Chocolate Show at Pier 94 along the Hudson River. I arrived about noon on the Sunday, paid my $25 admission fee (there was also the option of a combination ticket that included wine and food tastings on the other side of the hall) and was instantly overwhelmed by the crowd (predictably, mostly women).

Mary's of Japan flower chocolate
Mary's flower chocolates

Now, let me point out that despite my best efforts, I was not able to convince ANY of my friends to come to the Chocolate Show. Yes, I too was flabbergasted. I mean, a day scarfing down chocolate samples??? How could you resist? Well, be that as it may, I was flying solo and I spent most of my time there making the rounds, eating samples, chatting with chocolatiers, and generally staring open-mouthed at the mountains and mountains of delicious looking goodies.

Boissier Chocolate Petals
Chocolate petals from Boissier

The first booth I stopped at was Boissier, where they were keeping their samples under wraps (because people tasted too many chocolates and then lost the ability to distinguish between them, I was told). I assured her that they were my first chocolate of the day and was rewarded with a sample of these amazing chocolate petals--yes, those are cocoa nibs. I was hooked right away and left with an entire tin.

Pralus Pyramide des Tropiques
Pralus Pyramide des Tropiques

One of the best things about the show was that I got to taste a lot of single origin chocolates for the first time, as well as chocolate from companies that are "bean to bar" (i.e. that the company makes the chocolate themselves from the cacao bean). Fascinating! I only managed to take in one demonstration, a chocolate tasting led by a representative from Amedei (based in Tuscany!) followed by a demonstration of a chocolate spread recipe. Uh, that chocolate spread is one of the best things I've ever tasted. I would have bought a block of the Amedei chocolate for that but slightly too rich for my blood...instead, I just ate a few more samples. Shhhhh. I did also pick up a bunch of other chocolates from Mary's, including their green tea and soy powder ganaches, but I'll be reviewing those later on since I haven't broken into those packages yet. Yes, please, admire my willpower.

You would think that after all that chocolate, I would have craved something savory. Instead, I walked over to NYCIcy on 10th avenue and tried a mango basil sorbet. Delicious! Props to my coworker for the recommendation.

Then, I justified the entire day by walking all 60 blocks home. Well, somewhat anyway.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

One of life's burning questions...

And no, I'm not talking about the chicken or the least, not this time. No, this question has ruined friendships, torn families apart, flung lovers to far distant corners....

Okay well, maybe not. But I have heard some seriously impassioned debates when it comes to chocolate versus vanilla!

Macarons from Paulette

My friend T-San came back from a trip to LA recently bearing macarons from Paulette Macarons. Actually I'm surprised they made it back to NY from LA (the man is a legendary eater) at all! But in any case, I was the blessed recipient of two of these fine treats, thanks to the intervention of his roommate.


And to continue the choco versus vanilla theme, I made a couple of batches of chocolate and vanilla mini madeleines this week for an order (bridal shower favors!)--there are few things cuter than mini-madeleines, if you ask me.

So--would you rather have chocolate or vanilla? My answer? Life's short. Have both. :)

Post coming up: a fabulous Japanese dinner at T&N's!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Birthday cupcakes

Lemon cupcake with raspberry frosting

It was my lovely coworker's birthday yesterday and since I consider edible gifts to be the best kind there is, I decided to make her some cupcakes. As a sidebar, I just want to point out how eeeevil sites like Tastespotting are--pages upon pages of delicious looking that you start off looking for a chocolate cupcake recipe and the next thing you know, you're making a shopping list that includes a leg of lamb, cucumbers, candied shiso, and couscous. So much food, so little time.

Anyway! Before I get too distracted again, after considering the approximately 8trillion chocolate cupcake recipes that I have, I suddenly decided I wasn't in the mood for chocolate. And yes, I know, these weren't for me, but I felt like something fruity would be more seasonally appropriate. Okay, and I figured I would get to eat any misshapen or ugly ones.

These are actually quite simple to make--the cake has a nice quantity of zest in it and then a lemon syrup is poured over the top. It's pretty tasty on its own, but I didn't think it was festive enough, so I whipped up a quick cream cheese based frosting and folded in some crushed raspberries. Yay, pink! The problem I always have with frosting is that by the time you add up enough confectioner's sugar to get the right, pipeable consistency, the frosting is way too sweet for my tastes. Hence, the runny frosting. Fortunately, what they lack in beauty, they make up for in tart deliciousness.

Birthday cupcakes

I won't print the recipe for the lemon syrup cake since I just used this one from Williams Sonoma; just bake it as 12 cupcakes instead of in a loaf pan. It's best to put the lemon syrup on while they're still warm because it seems to soak up better. Once they have cooled completely, proceed with the frosting, plop on a raspberry, and enjoy!

Raspberry cream cheese icing
1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick butter, softened
2 C confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 C raspberries

Mash the raspberries thoroughly with a fork and set aside. Beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and well combined. Add the lemon juice and 1 cup of the confectioner's sugar and beat. Gradually add the remaining cup of sugar until you have achieved whatever stiffness you want--if you want something you can pipe, you will actually probably need close to 3 cups total. I stopped at 2. Stir the mashed raspberries in and marvel at the beautiful pink you have now produced. Makes enough frosting for about 20 cupcakes.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Radio silence


Work is going to keep me really busy for the next few days, so, no time to bake or eat anything more interesting than perhaps a new flavor of ramen at lunch (sigh) there probably won't be any new posts until next week at the earliest.

The good news is I am headed back to Ithaca for the weekend for some relaxation, hiking, and of course a trip to Shortstop, the best deli EVER. Hopefully some of my favorite restaurants from my college days are still there!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Cherry Friands

Cherry Friands

It has been a pretty hot summer so far in NYC and so my cooking frequency has fallen drastically, and my baking has been non-existent. Turning the oven on just makes the apartment unbearably hot, and well, although I love baking.....I also love not passing out or having heatstroke!

Anyway, the point of all that was that I was absolutely itching to finally make something and last weekend when I went home, I made a batch of lemon curd to use up some of the fiftygazillion lemons my brother had zested (for his limoncello, which I'm sure I'll need to uh, quality check). Of course, THAT left me with 6 egg I made friands.

Cherry ones, to be exact! Friands are also known as financiers and are delicious, buttery cakes. I do not have friand tins so I used a mini-muffin pan. This was also my first experience making brown butter and I had stupidly bought salted butter (confusingly labeled sweet cream butter) instead of unsalted so when I tasted the solids, I almost died of salt poisoning. Fortunately those get strained out. I also want to take a moment to say that I took REALLY AWFUL photos of my friands--I can't figure out why, but I guess you'll have to take my word that they were tasty.

Cubee Totoro and his Cherry Friand

Cubee Totoro and I both approve. Aside from browning the butter, this recipe is very straightforward and honestly if you were feeling lazy, you could just melt the butter rather than browning it. Now I just have to wait for the weather to cool off before I can risk turning the oven on again!

Cherry Friands
adapted from The Joy of Baking

2/3 C brown butter
1/2 C all purpose flour
1 C almond meal, toasted (I used 1/2 almond and 1/2 hazelnut)
1 1/2 C powdered sugar, sifted
1/8 tsp salt
6 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
cherries, pitted and cut into halves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Use a tablespoon or two of your browned butter to grease mini muffin tins (this recipe makes 24). Combine the dry ingredients and whisk. These are traditionally made with all almonds but I only had half a cup of almond meal on hand so I made up the rest with toasted ground hazelnuts. Beat the egg whites lightly and stir into the nut mixture along with the cooled brown butter and vanilla. Fill tins about 3/4 full. Bake for 3-4 minutes; remove the tins and place a cherry half on each friand (this is optional but pretty AND tasty). Bake for a further 4 minutes or until browned. You're supposed to cool these on a rack but I ate a few of them hot because I like the crusty parts the best. It's all up to your willpower, but these are best when they are fresh.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Afternoon Pick-me-up

There are some days at work when I just can't sit at my desk for one minute longer, but the thought of going out for some mediocre, overpriced, generic deli sandwich is just as unappealing.

On those days, I'm grateful that I work in Midtown and have the option of taking a nice, leisurely stroll over to Rockefeller Center to visit La Maison du Chocolat. Not that it has become a habit (bit too pricey for that!) but earlier this week, my coworker J. and I braved the humidity to wander over for some treats to cheer ourselves up.


I admit that I am a sucker for nice packaging. It's one of my many failings. J. got herself a scoop each of chocolate ice cream and strawberry sorbet, which I neglected to take a photo of, but holy frijole was that chocolate ice cream rich. It's a bit pricey ($4 a scoop if I remember correctly) but if you love chocolate, you will really appreciate the intensity of this ice cream. A scoop is almost too much.


My choice was the individual Pleyel, a chocolate and almond cake for $6. This picture is deceptive because it doesn't show anything for scale, but the cake is quite small (about 4 inches long). Like the ice cream though, it is extremely rich and dense and so I actually only managed half of it that afternoon. I saved the rest for the next day. Delicious with coffee.

Not that I hope for too many stressful days at the office, but on the other hand, life can't be all bad if you can have desserts in the middle of the day. And hey, if nothing strikes your fancy here you can wander on over to Teuscher!

La Maison du Chocolat
30 Rockefeller Center
New York, NY 10020

Monday, July 14, 2008

Treats from Switzerland

Yes, I did a bit of a disappearing act from this blog for a bit. It's been very hectic and busy around, I have to admit I have hardly cooked or baked in about a month because turning on the stove or oven heats the apartment up something fierce, and I'm just too tired.

However, I wanted to share some photos of these yummy snacks from Switzerland.

Sachsiulte Huppen

I received these as part of a birthday gift from the Man (I'm going to have to come up with a better nickname). He knows what I like. These are gianduja filled rolled wafer cookies (somewhat like the flute cookies you can buy at Asian groceries...but BETTER).

Zurcher Huppen

I'm not sure if these are manufactured year round, but these seem to have been packed for Sechselauten, that strange but wonderful springtime festival in which a snowman is blown to smithereens. I approve of such holidays.

We also had some visitors from Basel recently and they very kindly brought us some edible gifts in the form of Leckerli. By the way, that's my favorite kind of gift. You know, in case you were thinking of getting me something. I mean, edible--not limited only to Leckerli!

Basler Leckerli

Leckerli is a type of cookie made with almonds, honey, and candied peel and glazed with sugar glaze. I always sort of equated it with gingerbread, and it certainly has a similar texture if not quite the same flavor. It is delicious and I've had to limit myself to only eating one or two squares at a time...because given the chance, I could probably finish the entire box at once. Plus, it came in a gorgeous tin with a Basel scene to remind me of the fun times we had there.

So there you have it. Nothing homemade, but everything tasty. Bonus? No stove or oven necessary. Simply open mouth and insert cookie(s).

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Quick post for a quick meal

Salmon on Rice Noodles

It has been disgustingly hot and humid here lately, and although I finally have the air conditioner installed (thanks to the Baron), it's still been too hot to cook. It also helps that in this kind of weather, I really lose my appetite. I tend to only want to eat watermelon or mangos or possibly yogurt for dinner.

Anyway, it cooled off slightly today and I was feeling pretty hungry after a day of cleaning, breaking down cardboard boxes (urgh), and watching soccer (can you believe Turkey squeaking by?) so I put together this quick salmon noodle bowl. All you need to do is to soak some fine rice noodles (like the kind you would use for pho) in boiling water (I used my electric kettle) for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cut up and pan-fry some salmon fillet. All I used for seasoning was a little sea salt. Drain the noodles, put them in a bowl (or on a plate), drizzle a little sesame oil over it, place salmon on top, add spoonful of sambal oelek (or two, if you like it really spicy), add chopped scallions and PRESTO. Dinner, with a minimal amount of fuss and application of heat! Usually I also add some toasted sesame seeds but I forgot today.

Anyway, this was just what the doctor ordered. Light enough for a warm summer day but flavorful enough to be completely satisfying. Now, tell me....which photo is better, the top one, or the bottom one? :D


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Brazilian Pudding Pocky


I love going to the local Chinese grocery because they have an entire set of shelves devoted to different varieties of Pocky and Pretz. (If I had remembered to bring my camera, I could have shown you the glories of the Shelf, but....I don't have that kind of foresight.)

Anyway! So we were there to pick up more pork belly for the zongzi we were making (more on that in the next post) but of course, I got distracted by the Pocky. And, lo and behold, stuck between the Men's Pocky (bitter!) and the Strawberry Dessert Pocky was a new flavor--Brazilian Pudding.

Judging from the photo on the box, I assume that it was supposed to taste like some sort of caramel pudding or flan. I'll note here that my mother only saw the toucan and assumed it was supposed to taste like...tropical bird.


Pretty! Not as pretty as the dessert or decor lines of Pocky, but check out that swish pattern. The verdict on taste?....well, it tastes kind of coconutty but not really pudding-like. Anyway, pleasant and harmless, although this does not place in my Pantheon of Pocky.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Ginger Scones

Ginger Scones & Chai @ Teaism

Over the weekend, I went down to Washington D.C. with a few friends of mine in order to visit other friends. One of my favorite thing about visiting different cities is to check out the food, of course, so I was quite excited when someone suggested Teaism for an afternoon snack. I'd read about them on other food blogs so I went straight for the ginger scones and a mug of chai. I love their scones. They don't suffer from dryness like so many scones do, and they had nice big chunks of candied ginger to bite into. A little butter on top didn't hurt either. It was almost good enough to distract me from the chocolate torte with green tea ice cream that K. was eating across the table from me.

Chocolate Torte @ Teaism

Look at that gorgeous pile of strawberries! I consider it a supreme act of willpower and friendship that I didn't distract K. by yelling "Eek! A camouflage wallaby!" in order to steal it. Next time, chocolate!


Anyhow, now that I am back in NY and chilling on this lovely Monday, I decided to try out my own version of ginger scones. Actually, I googled for Teaism ginger scones and found a recipe they provided to the Food Network site; here is my version:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons frozen butter, chopped into small chunks
1/4 cup of crystallized ginger chips (mine are from King Arthur)
3/8 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Whisk the dry ingredients in a small bowl to combine. Rub the butter in with your fingers until the flour mixture is the texture of cornmeal. It's okay (and in fact, good) to leave some larger chunks of butter; this will make the finished scones flaky instead of crumbly. Stir in ginger chips, and milk until the mixture is just combined. Don't overwork it. Pat out the dough to about 3/4" thick and cut into rounds. I used a 1.5" cutter and got about 11 little scones. Brush the tops with a little cream or milk and sprinkle coarse sugar on top. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden.

The verdict? Well, they taste pretty good but they're not quite like the ones at Teaism. I should probably have added a bit of ground ginger to the dough but I didn't have any, and didn't feel like running to the store. Also, my oven is gas and heats only from the bottom so I have a problem with getting the tops to brown (before the bottom burns). But, the ginger is nice and spicy....and I think I'm going to go have another one now!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mmmmmm, chocolate


To continue in the birthday theme, my cube-mate (as in, sitting in the next cube from me, not sharing the same one--it's not THAT dire at work yet!) was kind enough to bring me these two interesting looking chocolate bars. The one on the left is from Seeds of Change; it's a dark chocolate bar with cashews, coconut, and mango in it. The other bar is another dark chocolate bar (71%! My coworker knows what I like :)) by Malagasy, which seems to be a British company. I haven't had a chance to try this one yet, but I'm sure it'll be amazing.


I broke open the Seeds of Change bar first, because I was intrigued by the idea of chocolate and mango. It's a good, strong chocolate with nice texture from the coconut and nuts. The mango is not a very strong flavor, but I think it's probably better that way; there was also some other fruity flavor in the background that I was having trouble identifying, but reading the ingredient label (I am smart, huh?) revealed that it was passionfruit. Delicious! Thanks, S.! Can't wait to try the other one too.


And one more birthday related thing--my coworker sent me these gorgeous roses! They still smell amazing.


Finally, in non-birthday-related news, my Christmas cactus clipping started blooming despite its home in a paper cup full of water. So, I transplanted it into a proper pot today. There are a total of three (yes, three!) flowerbuds. Pretty! Well, that's that--I'm off to DC tomorrow for the holiday weekend. Yay!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Birthday Steamboat & Lemon Syrup Cupcakes


After the initial gnashing of teeth and wailing about the indignities of age, I finally calmed down enough to answer my mom's question of what I wanted to do for my birthday dinner. I had already gone out with a bunch of my lovely friends on the Friday before (at a fantastic restaurant which I will write about in a separate post sometime) so all I really wanted to do was to stay home with the family and indulge in one of my all-time favorites--HOTPOT.

Hotpot is also known as steamboat, and is similar to shabu-shabu in that you get a big cauldron of stock into which you dip thinly sliced meats of seafood. Because they're so thin, they cook in a flash and then it's ready to be dipped in your own personal bowl of sauce and eaten. My personal blend is sha-cha, soy, and sesame oil, whereas my brother likes to go for straight gochujang (Korean bean paste) and my parents like to include fermented bean curd. It's a nice, communal way of eating, and although it's obviously more appropriate in winter, I love it enough to eat it anytime.


Here's a closer shot of the contents of our stock--there are as many variations as there are cooks. Ours had lots of fish balls, fishcakes, bok choy, beef tendon balls, pork balls, frozen tofu, regular tofu, and pumpkin. There almost wasn't enough room for the meat :).

All in all, a nice birthday!

Lemon Syrup Cupcake

And on a related note, one of my coworkers has the same birthday as I do, so I brought him a card and a lemon syrup cupcake. I just used the recipe for Lemon Bread from the Williams-Sonoma website, except that I doubled the syrup recipe and baked it in 12 cupcake liners instead of a loaf. When the weather starts to turn warm, I find that I prefer fruit and citrus flavors rather than chocolate, and this fit the bill nicely.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Matcha Japanese Cheesecake


Okay so it's been a while since I said I was going to experiment with making my own green tea cheesecake, but life has gotten in the way. And by life, I mean mostly work! But I went home this weekend for Mother's Day and decided to kill two birds with one stone--experiment AND have a nice treat for Mom. So as you can see in this photo, we had already sliced into the cake. Whoops!

I used the basic recipe for Japanese Cotton Soft Cheesecake from Lily's Wai Sek Hong, which I've made before with excellent results. This time, I omitted the lemon juice and zest and added about a tablespoon of matcha powder and a dash of vanilla. I probably should have added more matcha powder as the color came out very pale. The taste was not strong enough either, but I can't complain about the texture!


See how light and airy it is? The color is actually somewhat greener than it looks in the photo but anyhow. I loooove Japanese style cheesecake because the texture is so much lighter than NY style cheesecake. This is not to say that this is particularly healthy, of course--there are 6 eggs in the cake! But only 1 bar of cream cheese. So, better than Junior's cheesecake, I'm sure. I also had a slight mishap with not wrapping the pan with enough tin foil before putting it in the water bath, so I had a little bit of leakage, which caused a slightly denser bottom, but it wasn't a disaster.

So the verdict? Next time, more green tea! And also, I need to be more neat about lining the pan so that my edges don't come out so ugly! Still, it was pretty delicious. No need to go back to Tafu!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Review: Tafu NY


Tafu New York is a Japanese tea shop that opened last fall; this place is literally a 5 minute walk from my office and I've been intending to stop by and see what they have to offer for months now. Somehow it took me until yesterday to actually get around to visiting the store.

I didn't take any photos of the inside of the shop, but it is quite small, with counter seating along one wall and the display counters against the other wall. It's very tranquil inside and the staff were friendly and helpful, and were quick to recommend favorite flavors etc. Now, I know it's a TEA shop and I should have tried some of the teas, but my primary goal was to try the tea SWEETS....and I have too huge of a stash of tea to buy any new ones right now.

Matcha Cheesecake

So, to that end, I bought a (very, very small) slice of matcha cheesecake and a little bag of 10 tea flavored cookies. As you would expect from a Japanese shop, a lot of attention was paid to packaging.

Matcha Cheesecake 2

The texture of this was nice and soft, not dense like American style cheesecakes, with a strong, but not overpowering green tea flavor. With cheaper green tea flavored desserts, sometimes you get a seaweedy aftertaste, but there is definitely none of that here. It's a bit expensive ($4) for the size, but at least I don't feel guilty about it afterwards. Still, I'm going to have a try at reproducing this at home.

Tafu Tea Cookies

I'm not actually sure what all of the flavors are, but the green ones are obviously green tea, I think the paler ones are shiny slim, and the brown ones are vaguely chocolatey. That's my biggest complaint about these--I had a hard time discerning the flavor of the cookie. They do go nicely with a cup of tea, though, and they're cute!

So, although I felt that it was a bit overpriced, I did enjoy the treats I bought. I'd like to go back sometime and check out the tea drinks. In the meantime, look out for a post soon on my version of matcha cheesecake. :D

Sunday, March 30, 2008

First (real!) post--Sweet Potato Donuts

This is really a story about how awesome Coinstar is--there is one in the Duane Reade downstairs from my office and so periodically I take my tin of loose change down there and convert it to Amazon gift certificates. It's great! And it has greatly enabled my purchasing of new cookbooks (not that I really neeeed anymore but who can resist?)

Anyway, so the last time I had a gift certificate I was browsing Amazon, trying to decide between a couple of different dessert books when I stumbled across The Sweet Spot, written by Pichet Ong, an apparently self taught pastry chef who's worked for Jean Georges Vongerichten. I've been looking for a book of Asia desserts for some time now and the recipes in this one sounded like a nice balance between traditional sweets and more "fusion" desserts. I mean, I was sold from the moment I saw the recipe for passion fruit dan taht (egg custard tarts).

Sadly, for some reason there were no passion fruits to be found this weekend. I'm not sure why--I can only guess that some other person had also just received their copy of the Sweet Spot and had hogged all the passion fruits for their own efforts. So I decided to try out the sweet potato donuts with roasted apple filling instead. Now, these donuts are baked, not fried and they are slightly fiddly to make just because it takes time for the dough to rise and then to cook the apples separately (although you can do that while your dough is rising) but the biggest problem I had was in shaping the donuts. You can see from the photo above that they sort of look like hockey pucks--that's because I baked them in muffin tins and the batter was too loose to form into a ball shape. However, it was totally worth the effort--the sweet potato flavor really comes through and then you get a lovely tart apple chunk as a nice contrast in the center. They were maybe a tad sweet for my taste; the next time I make them, I'll probably reduce the sugar a bit and add a bit more spice.

Now, to track down some passion fruits so I can make those egg tarts!