Cook.Bake.Eat.Write.

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So I was supposed to go camping this weekend…but instead, I baked bread! (^_^)

It’s a cinnamon-sugar-raisin swirly loaf of bread goodness. It’s amazing. It’s gorgeous. It’s—it’s—maybe one the most beautiful breads I have ever baked.

It was such joy to make (mostly because it worked out). And I have the Two Fat Als to thank for the recipe. (They have such a beautiful site—an altogether inspirational culinary experience.) Their method is pretty basic, and they’ve also adjusted the recipe for (temporarily) stand-mixer impaired people like myself.

The science behind the baking fascinates me. I am in awe of the entire process—watching the yeast come to life and bubble and foam, working the dough, letting it proof and witnessing it transform into an edible miracle, a culinary work of art.

And along with this awe comes fear—fear because you never know if it’s going work out. Is the yeast too old, the air too cold/too dry? Is the dough too dry? And the question of all questions—will it rise? I suppose this is all a part of what makes baking so exciting. You never know if it will turn out—when it doesn’t, it is a sad, sad thing. But when it does, the pride you feel of having transformed the plain and ordinary (flour, eggs and water) into something so beautiful is indescribable.

That’s how I feel about this bread. It was a mother of a dough to work with. I worried, I self-doubted and I even thought about scrapping the whole project. But I refused to give up and just kept on kneading (for about 20 min.) until the dough finally came together. The rest was easy.

Oh, it was so pretty when it came out of the oven—a golden dome of crust masking the secret swirl beneath. And the smell of it—it enveloped the whole apartment in a cloud of cinnamon and sugar perfume.

I waited until morning to slice and taste test. (It seems odd to get such delight from slicing bread, but I do. (^o^”) ) It’s fluffy, light, mildly sweet and cinnamon-sugar-infused throughout. It makes me so happy just thinking about it!!

Enjoy!

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Oh-My-Goodness-Cinnamon-Raisin-Swirl Bread (adapted from the recipe from Two Fat Als)

INGREDIENTS

Dough:

1/2 cup milk

4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 package dry active yeast (2 1/4 tsp)

1/2 cup warm water

1/3 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 tsp salt

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra

Filling & Glaze:

1/4 cup sugar

5 tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 cup raisins

milk for brushing

1 large egg

2 tsp milk

INSTRUCTIONS

1. For the dough: Heat milk and butter together in a small saucepan until butter melts. Cool to lukewarm.

2. Meanwhile, sprinkle yeast over warm water in a large bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir slowly in a circular motion while adding sugar, eggs, salt and lukewarm milk mixture.

3. Continue stirring a bit more quickly, and add 2 cups of flour until mixed thoroughly, then add remaining 1 1/4 cups flour until mixed through. Add more flour if dough seems extremely sticky.

4. Remove dough from bowl, and knead on a floured surface for about 10 minutes, adding more flour as necessary, until dough is smooth and elastic. Place in covered, greased bowl to rise for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until doubled in size.

5. Once risen, punch dough down once in the center, and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix cinnamon and sugar together for filling, and grease 9×5 inch loaf pan.

6. Roll dough into an 8×18 inch rectangle, with the 8 inch side facing toward you.

7. Brush milk over dough, and sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture and then raisins over it, leaving a 1/2 inch edge on the side farthest away.

8.Beginning with the side closest to you, roll dough into a log shape, pressing ends together to make sure that it does not become more than 8 inches. Pinch dough ends together to form a tight seam, and push ends of dough toward the center. Pinch outside dough edges together to form a seal. Place the dough seam-side down into the loaf pan, and press down evenly. Let the dough rise more until it is about 1 inch above the edge of the pan (30-60 minutes).

9. Preheat oven to 350, and combine milk with egg. Before baking, brush this mixture over the top of the loaf. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown, and let cool for 45 minutes before serving.

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I went to see District 9 at Kabuki Cinema yesterday.

Everyone always talks about this theater because of the whole allure that comes with ‘boozing at the movies’. So, naturally I was stoked when I found out the film my brother and I wanted to see would be showing in this part of the cineplex.

The living-room-theaters I’ve been to (all in Portland) have been brilliant (esp. the Kennedy School one)—plush love-seat sofas, gourmet movie nibbles and a full bar. Kabuki is not like this—no comfy sofas and no side-tables to put your bevis on. Just a regular auditorium experience that makes you wish you’d snuck in those red-vines after all.

As for the movie itself, wow—weird. I get the theme’s relevance to real life immigration issues as well as it’s relevance to redefining the human condition to include those of all living creatures, i.e. aliens. (I was totally pro-Prawn by film’s end.) But why so violent? What was Peter Jackson thinking? People were actually laughing in the theater when aliens and humans would get literally blown to smithereens. My reaction was more along the lines of covering my face with my hands, cringing and waiting for the shooting to end. (>.<“)

I feel traumatized by all the blood and blowing people to bits stuff. And I’ve decided the best way for me to cope is through cake. A nice, homey, afternoon-tea cake with chocolate and nuts.

Again, TipTopf provided me with exactly what I was looking—a recipe for ‘Tirolercake’, which is basically a sponge cake with ground hazelnuts or almonds and nibs of dark chocolate.

A no-fuss cake that makes all the images of Prawn exploitation and human indecency disappear. All is right with the world again. \(^o^)/

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Tirolercake (recipe from TipTopf)

Makes one 22-25cm cake

INGREDIENTS

125g unsalted butter, at room temp.

3 eggs

125g super-fine sugar

a pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla sugar (I didn’t have any, so I used vanilla extract)

150ml milk

250g all purpose flour

1 tbsp baking powder

80g ground hazelnuts or almonds (You can replace some of this with roughly chopped nuts for texture.)

80g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

a handful of almond flakes

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg. C. Grease and line with parchment paper a 22-25 cm cake form.

2. In a stand-mixer or by hand, beat the butter until little peaks form.

2. Add in the eggs, sugar and salt. Mix until the mixture takes on a light yellow color.

3. Stir in the vanilla and milk.

4. Combine the flour and baking powder. With a sieve, add both into the batter. Stir.

5. Add in the ground nuts and chocolate. Mix to combine.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake form. Bake for 40-45 min.

I never eat brunch, let alone breakfast. Yes, I am fully aware that I am setting myself up for overeating and carb-loading later on in the day. But I am just not one of those people who can stomach solids at 8 in the morning. Coffee is about all I can handle that early in the AM. Even on weekends.

So the fact that I fantasize about breakfast and brunch foods—all the time—doesn’t make much sense. Maybe it’s the idea of getting up after a long sleep-in, throwing on jeans and a hoodie and meandering over to the diner around the corner for a big stack of fluffy, syrup pancakes that gets me. Even better is when the person you love joins too. Or maybe it’s the thought of sneaking out of bed to bake and then seeing the look of surprise and joy on that special someone’s face when they see that you baked for him/her…

Scones usually do the trick, especially ones chock full of fresh berries. If only they weren’t so easy to make, and if only I didn’t have the most perfect recipe (thanks to Nicole at BakingBites)  for super quick and airy blueberry ones! Actually, I’m so grateful for this recipe because these are seriously too delicious for words.

As for preparation, this is what I have to say:

-Use good-quality butter.

-The original recipe calls for dried blueberries, but I prefer fresh or frozen. If using fresh or frozen, be sure to toss them in a little flour before mixing them in with the rest of the batter. This will somewhat prevent the batter from staining.

-Do not overmix.

These take literally 25 minutes from start to finish—so you can stay in bed all morning and still be able to bake and enjoy warm scones with your loved ones.

I wish it was brunch RIGHT NOW!

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(Crappy picture is better than none at all.)

Blueberry Drop Scones (adapted recipe from BakingBites)

INGREDIENTS

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, plus 1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup milk, plus more if needed
coarse sugar, for topping

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a small bowl, toss and coat the blueberries in a little flour.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.

4. Add cut up butter and toss to coat. Using your finger tips, rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles very coarse sand. A few large bits are ok, but try not to have any pieces larger than an average pea.
5. Stir in blueberries. Add about 2/3 of the milk and stir. Add remaining milk gradually until the mixture comes together into a slightly sticky ball.

6. Divide dough in eight even pieces and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with a bit of coarse sugar, if desired.
7. Bake for 16-19 minutes, until scones are a light golden color. A toothpick should come out clean, but color is a reliable indicator for these.

No work to do, so blog I shall.

I’ve been a legal assistant for all of 2 months. Before that, I was a writer and a teacher. Basically, I was my job—I thought about it on the way to work, from work, on the weekend, on holiday; even sleep offered no escape from it.

Now as an official 9-to-5er, my job no longer defines me. It does not follow me on my way home or on my errands, nor does it plague my dreams as I sleep.

I may be one of the few people who is actually OK (so far) with a 9-to-5 schedule. No, I don’t plan on being a legal aid for the rest of my life. I am wise enough, however, to be grateful for the work that I do have and also to realize that this job is a means to an end and is by no means an end.

You know what the best part of my job is? The walk home. Listening to my little iPod, eyes smiling, I bounce down the street and think about what I’m going to have for dinner. And now that it’s almost officially Fall, I’ve started craving warm, homey foods again.

One of my favorite dishes to make is one I grew up eating at home — Japanese-style Curry Rice (日本スタイルのカレーライス). It’s hearty, wholesome and tummy-warming. You can add whatever kind of vegetables and meat you like (I usually do ground beef or chicken to save time, which makes my version a mix between curry rice and hayashi rice—ハヤシライス.)—convenient when you  have veggies you’re trying to use up. After just 30 min., you can sit down with a big spoon and a side of red pickles (fukujin-zuke, 福神漬) and dig in!

Japanese-style Curry Rice (日本スタイルのカレーライス)

INGREDIENTS

1 carrot, peeled and chopped into large pieces

1 medium potato, peeled and chopped

1 medium onion

150 g ground chicken or beef

1/2 cup corn kernels

1 cup chinese greens

1/2 small pkg Japanese curry

1 1/4 cup water

oil for frying

For Rice

2/3 cups short-grain rice

5/6 cup water

DIRECTIONS

1. Prepare and cook rice. (I wash and drain it 3 times in water—because that’s what my mom always does—and then cook it in my rice cooker.)

2. Fry meat in a pan until no longer pink.

3. Add onion, potato and carrot and fry until lightly golden.

4. Add water and bring to a boil. Stir in curry until thoroughly combined. Reduce heat to lowest setting, cover and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

5. Once potatoes and carrots are completely cooked through and the curry has thickened, add corn and chinese greens. Stir in and allow to cook uncovered for about 5 minutes.

6. Serve over Japanese short-grain rice.

Life is really quiet right now. Simple. This is what I wanted—or thought so anyhow.

At the same time, I feel like I am on the brink of something big. Life is about to change, and I wish that I could see how or wish that it would just happen already!

In the meantime, life continues on and I just go with the flow. And wait for this strangeness to pass.

I haven’t really been in the mood to do much cooking or baking. Yesterday, for example, I got home, and didn’t feel like cooking or eating! This NEVER happens.

This is a phase. I’m not even going to try to pretend to be inspired today. So I’ll leave you with a recipe for a cake I’ve made a few times in the past but never got around to blogging about.

For the life of me, I can’t remember where I got this recipe from. I have a feeling it’s another one I adapted from TipTopf, but I could be wrong. (If anyone recognizes the base recipe, please let me know!)

The times I’ve made this, I’ve always halved the recipe and kept the original bake time, which in the end worked out well. This might have to do with the fact that I only have an 8-inch cake pan rather than a 10-inch as the recipe calls for.

The cake is dense, banana-rich and super spongey. You can experiment with nut types—I’ve used almond, walnut and hazelnut, which resulted in a slightly different sponge character each time. Thinking about it, I wonder how banana and salted pistachios would work together.

Chocolate Banana Nut Cake (adapted from a recipe in TipTopf?)

INGREDIENTS

6 oz unsalted butter, diced

6 oz bittersweet chocolate

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1 cup  extra-fine sugar

1/2 cup ground walnuts

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2/3 cup buttermilk

1 tbsp vanilla extract

2 cup lightly mashed bananas

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup chopped walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds or pecans

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease and line a 10-inch cake pan. Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler till it is smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. Sift together flour and baking powder and baking soda. Add sugar, ground hazelnuts, and salt. Blend thoroughly.

3. Stir in buttermilk, vanilla extract and banana just until combined. Set aside.

4. Add the eggs to the cooled chocolate mixture. Stir until well combined and thick. Stir into the banana mixture until well combined.

5. Pour batter into pan and bake for 20 min. Remove and sprinkle chopped pecan nuts over the top and continue to bake for another 25 to 30 min. until skewer comes out clean.

6. Cool cake on rack. Serve either plain or a dollop of spiked whipped cream.

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It’s Labor Day weekend here, and guess what—it’s sunny. And warm. Crazy!

No big plans for the long weekend. The family was down from Portland all last week—the family-fun marathon ended only Wednesday—so I’m taking it easy.

I’m not being completely anti-social, though (^_^”) My friend invited me to a barbecue she and her boyfriend are throwing. And my contribution for the occasion? Brownies. Fudgy-hazelnut-dark chocolate brownies actually.

Though I had originally planned on using my stand-by recipe from Martha Stewart, I ended up having to try a new one—one that doesn’t require any cocoa (forgot to pick some up).

The recipe is from Emiline over at (Visions of) Sugar Plum. It’s different from any other I’ve tried, as it requires one to place the direct-from-the-oven brownies into ice water and then into the freezer for an hour. The mixing process was also a bit simpler—no messing with bain maries; butter and chocolate are melted directly in a saucepan.

OMG—they are incredible. Sharp, intense, rich and luxurious. When I took them out of the freezer, I was afraid they would be frozen solid through but after cutting them into squares and tasting them, I realized they were anything but. Velvety smooth fudge in the middle with chopped hazelnuts throughout. The hazelnuts really add texture as well as cut through the intensity of the dark chocolate a bit (but definitely don’t take away from it either).

My verdict? Freezing the brownies is such a good idea—you have a chilled brownie that is super dense and holds a nice shape. Here’s hoping they hold up on the bus, light-rail and walk to the barbecue!

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Fudgy-Hazelnut-Dark Chocolate Brownies (Adapted from a recipe by Emiline)

Ingredients:

3/4 cup organic unsalted butter

14 oz. organic 70% dark chocolate

1 cup organic all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 large organic free-range eggs

1 cup granulated sugar (I used 3/4 cup organic sugar cane)

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar (I used 1/4 cup)

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup organic hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line an 11×8-inch baking dish/pan with foil. Coat foil with shortening/non-stick spray/butter etc.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Turn heat off, and stir in chocolate, until melted. Set aside pan, to cool slightly.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, sift together flour and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat together eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla, for 4 minutes. (I did this by hand—exhausting (-.-“)—and experienced no problems.)

Reduce mixer speed to low, and beat in melted chocolate, until combined.

Stir in flour until just combined.

Stir in the chopped hazelnuts.

Scrape batter into prepared pan, evenly. Bake at 375 degrees F, for 23-25 minutes. Plunge pan into a larger pan filled with ice water. When brownies have cooled off a bit, freeze until cold, about 1 hour. Slice into bars.

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This is one f*ing expensive city—and I earn barely above minimum wage. (I am not being ungrateful, God. I am grateful for the blessing of work in these economically harsh times—really I am!). Suffice to say, things are tight right now. I’m doing mental math with my salary all the time and wondering where I can cut back (even more) and still enjoy life.

So this is what I’ve come up with so far.

-Bag lunch it to work: WAS doing really good with this—lunching on wholesome fruit salad in a nearby park—but with SF’s temperamental weather moods, I end up buying. Actually, since I only ever order a single bagel+butter ($1.55), it feels more like I’m renting a table to sit and read at for 30 minutes.

-Go out less: I hate this one.

-$40 weekly grocery budget: I was even toying with cutting that to $30. I haven’t tested out $40 yet, but I think it’s going to be tough. Maybe I should go back to non-organic.

Why is eating organic so dang expensive? This is why I avoided all organic craziness for so long (I recently gave in after seeing Food, Inc.)—you can’t be a have-not if you want to enjoy non-genetically modified food. Nevertheless, I’m determined to try.

-Eat in and cook with what I have, not with what I want: Eating in is not the problem. Even if it’s just me, I really enjoy the effort that goes into making a warm, colorful, flavorful meal for myself. It’s the trips to the grocery store before cooking that are the problem. So, I’ve decided to try to be more resourceful with the food I have already at home.

Today I successfully avoided going to Trader Joe’s after work and came up with a pretty good go-to meal for myself.

Mushroom-Corn Frittata with Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes Served with a Tomato Salad with Balsamic-Olive Oil Vinaigrette

Sounds nice, right? It was!

I don’t have one of those oven-safe pans, so after pan-frying the veggies, I poured the whisked eggs/milk on top and covered the whole thing with a lid. A few minutes in, I sprinkled in the goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes and let it finish cooking. And when I removed the lid, I had a light, fluffy frittata—steamed on top and golden on the bottom.

Organic Mushroom-Corn Frittata with Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes Served with a Tomato Salad with Balsamic-Olive Oil Vinaigrette

Serves 1

INGREDIENTS

Frittata:

olive oil, for frying

1/2 small onion, sliced thinly

1 clove garlic, minced finely

3 mushrooms, sliced (I used brown cremini)

1/4 cup frozen corn kernels

2 large eggs

splash of milk (I used non-fat)

1 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes in oil, sliced

1 tbsp soft goat cheese, crumbled

salt & pepper

Tomato Salad

2 Roma Tomatoes, sliced

extra virgin olive oil

balsamic vinegar

salt & pepper

1 tbsp goat cheese, crumbled

DIRECTIONS

Tomato Salad:

1. Slice the tomatoes and layer them on a plate.

2. In a small bowl, mix together the extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Then, pour over the tomatoes. (Didn’t bother with the bowl and poured the individual ingredients directly over the tomatoes.)

3. Top with crumbled goat cheese. Set aside (to marinate) while you prepare the frittata.

Frittata:

1. Pre-heat a small (I think mine is 5″) non-stick pan on medium-high. In a little olive oil, fry the onion, garlic and mushrooms until softened and browned. (The higher heat is necessary because of the high water-content in mushrooms.) Sprinkle in a little salt and pepper to taste. (I always add salt later in the cooking process, as salt draws out water.)

2. While the mushrooms, onions and garlic are frying, whisk together 2 eggs, a splash of milk and salt & pepper in a small bowl.

3. Into the pan, stir in the corn, allowing to just heat through. Then, distribute the vegetables in the pan, so that the entire bottom is covered.

4. Pour in the egg/milk mixture, making sure to cover all the vegetables. Place a lid on top and allow to steam for 2 minutes.

5. Remove the lid. Sprinkle the sliced sun-dried tomates and crumbled goat cheese on top. Replace the cover and steam for another 3-4 minutes.

6. Fold the frittata onto the plate with your tomato salad and ENJOY!


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  • Fudgy Brownies for a BBQ « Cook.Bake.Eat.Write.: [...] I had originally planned on using my stand-by recipe from Martha Stewart, I ended up having to try a new one—one that doesn’t requir
  • Mama Leah: Well, my darling, I am extremely impressed and inspired. I, of course, don't have one iota of the culinary skills that you have (except for baking, b
  • saffronandbasil: Thanks for the recipe. By the way, LOVE LOVE your site.