Bánh Mì Quesadillas (Vietnamese Quesadillas)

Vietnamese Quesadillas 4I found something that has changed my life: cook-and-serve flour tortillas from TortillaLand. After reading this post about these tortillas, the first thing I did was do a quick search and found that the only Walmart that carried them were over 10 miles away. Now, I know 10 miles is nothing in other parts of the country, but for me? 10 miles is far, especially when there is a Walmart less than 4 miles away. I almost gave up on them, but I was haunted by their flaky, perfectly puffed up pictures and I had to have them. So I dragged my butt over to the Walmart and acquired a package of it. And as much as I wanted to have them right away, I couldn’t! I mean, yes, I could’ve tossed in a few well-chosen ingredients and called it a day, but these were special and I needed the final product to be as special as its base.
Vietnamese Quesadillas 3If you are not familiar with a bánh mì, it is a Vietnamese sandwich that is filled with meat, a mayo-based spread, cucumber, pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, and chili peppers inside a baguette. If you’ve ever had a great bánh mì, you would know that it is an explosion of flavor and contrasting textures. In this spinoff, the mayo spread is replaced with mozzarella cheese, the bread with the tortilla and the meat with a Vietnamese fish-sauce shredded chicken.
Vietnamese Quesadillas 2Before I go on about the awesomeness of this quesadilla, I must warn you about this Vietnamese fish-sauce shredded chicken. It is a modified version of the famous Pok Pok’s wings. I’ve made the fried wings for this year’s Star Wars Day and it was the most delicious chicken wing I’ve ever put in my mouth (and I’ve had my fair share of fried chicken wings). The only downside is it will make your house smell like fish sauce. Now for some people, this might be a deal breaker but I swear to you, it is worth suffering a day of a fish sauce stink for it.
Vietnamese Quesadillas 1This is a minimum two-day project. You need a day to pickle the shredded daikon and carrots. It wouldn’t hurt to make the shredded chicken a day before either because it’s a little complicated than the average chicken recipe. But when you bite into that crispy flaky tortilla filled with warm melty cheese, garlicky chicken, tangy pickled vegetables and the crisp crunchy cucumber and jalapeño, it will make you say, “I can eat this every day of my life.” Because I did… every time I made it this week.
Vietnamese Quesadillas 2Bánh Mì Quesadillas (Vietnamese Quesadillas)

Pickled Daikon and Carrots

Ingredients:
1 large carrot
1 small daikon
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
½ c. vinegar
¼ c. sugar

Instructions:

  1. At least a day before making the quesadillas, grate the carrot and daikon over the large holes in a box grater.
  2. Heat vinegar and sugar together until sugar dissolves.
  3. Place carrot, daikon and cilantro in a heatproof bowl and pour the vinegar mixture over the vegetables.
  4. Once cooled, marinate in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.

Vietnamese Fish-Sauce Shredded Chicken

Ingredients:
8 large cloves of garlic
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ c. warm water
½ c. fish sauce
½ c. sugar
1 ½ lb. chicken, cooked and shredded

Instructions:

  1. Finely mince the garlic and place into a small bowl.
  2. Sprinkle salt over it and add warm water to the bowl and stir. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  3. Pour the garlic mixture over a sieve and push the garlic to extract as much juice as possible. Reserve the garlic juice and garlic bits separately.
  4. Stir fish sauce and sugar together with the garlic juice until sugar is dissolved.
  5. In a small pot, pour a few tablespoons of oil and heat until oil shimmers.
  6. Fry the reserved garlic bits until it turns golden brown and drain on a paper towel.
  7. Add the fish sauce mixture into the small pot and simmer until it becomes a thick sauce.
  8. Once thickened, pour over the shredded chicken and mix until completely covered.
  9. Add the fried garlic pieces and mix thoroughly.

Assembly

Ingredients:
pickled daikon and carrots
Vietnamese fish-sauce shredded chicken
seedless cucumbers, sliced into thin strips
mozzarella cheese, shredded
jalapeño, sliced thinly
flour tortillas*

Instructions:

  1. Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat.
  2. Toast the tortillas on both sides. (If using the cook and serve tortilla, cook the tortilla on both sides.)
  3. Spread mozzarella cheese evenly across a tortilla and melt.
  4. Once the cheese has melted, spread the shredded chicken over half of the tortilla.
  5. Layer the pickled daikon and carrots, followed by the cucumber and then the jalapeños.
  6. Fold tortilla in half and press down to secure the fillings.
  7. Remove from pan and cut into wedges.
  8. Enjoy

I highly recommend the cook-and-serve flour tortillas from TortillaLand.
** Picked daikon and carrot adapted from All Recipes.
*** Vietnamese fish-sauce shredded chicken adapted from Pok Pok by Andy Ricker.

Peaches and Cream Crêpe Cake

Crêpe Cake 6It’s been a while. Residency was kicking my butt and I ate too well for my birthday week and decided to go on a diet. Two weeks later, residency is still kicking my butt and the diet was a disaster. What happens when a food blogger decides to go on a diet? They lose content. Lesson learned. I won’t do it again. I promise.
Crêpe Cake 3Several weeks ago my good friend, H, brought two slices of crêpe cake from Lady M Confections. If you don’t know already, Lady M is a chain of cake boutiques that specialize in crêpe cakes. I never tried a crêpe cake before and was pleasantly surprised by the delicate layers and the light taste. But when H told me how much she paid, I was shocked at the price tag. $8 for a slice of cake?? As delicious it was, I could not justify that kind of cost and said I would never pay that that much for a slice of cake, ever.
Peaches and Cream Crêpe Cake 1Fast forward two weeks and as my birthday approached closer, I couldn’t help but think of that ridiculously expensive crêpe cake. Do I just bite the bullet and buy it or should I try it on my own? I’ve never attempted at making crêpes at home but it was my birthday, and I decided I would make one if I wanted to.
Crêpe Cake 2I know some people think making your own birthday cake is sad or depressing and until this year, I’ve been blessed with significant others that would buy me the cake of my desire. But you know what, making your own cake is better because you get exactly what you want and how you want it. Plus, if you make a mistake or mess up, you don’t feel guilty or pressured about ruining someone’s special day.
Crêpe Cake 4I had some fresh picked peaches when I went peach picking in August, so I decided to incorporate it into the cake. If I could redo this cake, I would make the crêpes thinner. As a novice, I was worried about it tearing and made them on the thicker side. In hindsight, it wasn’t necessary. So go thin if you decide to make it.
Crêpe Cake 5In the end, it was worth the effort and I suggest eating it immediately after caramelizing the sugar.  Because when you take a bite of the crisp bits of sugar with the light cake, you will be in heaven. Plus when you refrigerate it, the sugar melts and you get an odd syrup that may or may not pool all over your refrigerator shelf. (Yes, this happened. No, I was not fun cleaning it up.)

Peaches and Cream Crêpe Cake

For the Crêpes

Ingredients:
6 tbsp. butter
3 c. milk
6 large eggs
1 ½ c. all-purpose flour
7 tbsp. sugar
pinch kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Prepare the batter a day before you want to serve the cake.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt and brown the butter.
  3. In a separate saucepan, heat the milk and cool for 10 minutes. (Do not boil milk.)
  4. In a food processor, pulse eggs, flour, sugar and salt until fully combined.
  5. Add milk and butter and pulse until fully combined.
  6. Refrigerate batter for 8-24 hours.
  7. On the day of, bring the batter to room temperature.
  8. Heat a 6” nonstick pan and spray the pan with nonstick spray and wipe off.
  9. Spread 3 tbsp. of batter and swirl to cover the pan.
  10. Cook until the bottom begins to brown and flip the crêpe cook the other side until it sets.
  11. Repeat until all of the batter is used.

For the Pastry Cream

Ingredients:
2 c. milk
¼ c. sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg
¼ c. cornstarch
¼ c. sugar
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the pastry cream a day before you want to serve the cake.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring milk and ¼ c. sugar to a boil.
  3. In another medium bowl, mix egg yolks, egg, cornstarch and ¼ c. sugar until a paste forms.
  4. Using a ladle, drizzle a ladleful of milk while continuously whisking the egg mixture. Continue to drizzle in hot milk a little at a time until you mix in ¾ of the milk.
  5. Take the egg milk mixture and pour it into the saucepan with the remaining milk.
  6. Cook the mixture while stirring constantly over medium heat until mixture is thickened and pudding like.
  7. Remove saucepan from heat and mix in butter and vanilla extract. Set aside.

To Assemble

Ingredients:
1 ½ c. heavy cream
3 tbsp. powdered sugar
2 tbsp. Kirsch
3 large very ripe peaches, cut into small bits
granulated or powdered sugar for garnish (optional)
sliced peaches for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Whip the heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.
  2. Fold in prepared pastry cream, Kirsch and peaches.
  3. Lay two crêpes on a cake plate. Using an offset spatula, spread a thin layer of peach pastry cream. Cover with a crêpe and repeat until all the crêpes are used. Save the best looking crêpe for the top.
  4. Chill for at least 2 hours to set.
  5. When ready to serve, you can:
    1. Dust the top with powdered sugar.
    2. Sprinkle the top with granulated sugar and caramelize with a blowtorch.
    3. Garnish the top with sliced peaches, sprinkle the top with granulated sugar and caramelize with a blowtorch.

Crepe Cake recipe adapted from NY Times.

 

Easy Galbi Tacos {Simple Sundays}

Kalbi Tacos 7I wasn’t sure if I should really put the word “Galbi” (aka Kalbi / 갈비) since this recipe isn’t a traditional Galbi recipe. Galbi is a Korean grilled dish made by marinating meat in a soy sauce based sauce. It usually requires grated onions and Asian pears, and to be honest some days I don’t even have the time to do that. So this is my extremely simple version of Galbi sauce. You literally put everything in a glass bowl, whisk, put meat in and you are done. The only utensils you need are measuring cups and spoons, and no cutting boards, or knives are required. Is it going to taste traditional? No.  But it’s darn tasty, I can guarantee that.
Kalbi Tacos 6On the weeks I know I will be short on time, I cut up whatever meat I have on hand (usually short ribs or chicken breasts) make this marinade and toss it in. Over the next few days, I’ll cook it up little by little incorporating it to whatever dish I decide for the day.
Kalbi Tacos 9Kalbi Tacos 2Whenever I decide to make tacos, I usually buy more corn tortillas than I need and freeze the leftovers for another day. If you toast it over a (clean) gas burner, it reheats well and becomes soft and pliable in the middle and toasty crisp on the edges. I happened to have some frozen corn tortillas in the freezer and decided to make quick tacos.
Kalbi Tacos 8Kalbi Tacos 1You can really top this with whatever you’d like. On this particular day, I ran out of cheese, sour cream, parsley, avocados… pretty much every traditional taco ingredient and put my meat on a bed of mixed greens, topped it with Sriracha and sesame seeds. It still turned out delicious.
Kalbi Tacos 4Easy Galbi Tacos

For the marinated meat:
½ c. brown sugar, packed
½ c. soy sauce
¼ c. water
2 tbsp. mirin (rice wine)
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tbsp. sesame oil
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs. of meat, cut into strips (I usually use chicken breasts or short ribs)

Instructions:

  1. In a large glass bowl, whisk all the ingredients (minus the meat) until combined.
  2. Place meat into bowl, turning to coat.
  3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and put into the fridge to marinate.

For the tacos:
½ lb. mixed greens
12 corn tortillas, toasted
¾ lb. cooked, marinated meat
Sriracha sauce
toasted sesame seeds

Instructions:

  1. Cook the meat to desired doneness.
  2. Top toasted tortillas with mixed greens.
  3. Top with meat, Sriracha and sesame seeds.
  4. Consume.

Domo Macarons (Chocolate Chestnut Macarons)

Domo Macarons (Chocolate Chestnut Macarons) 3I’m a sucker for anything kawaii. Stick a cute face on a character and I’ll fall for it. There used to be a Morning Glory very close to my middle school and I used to spend all of my lunch money there on Monday only to starve the rest of the week. The call of the stuffed animals, sticker pictures and stationary was too hard to resist.
Domo Macarons (Chocolate Chestnut Macarons) 2

Many years later, I’m proud to say I quit my Morning Glory addiction but I still have moments of weakness for adorable things. The first time I laid my eyes on Domo-Kun I fell in love. The round beady eyes and his wide mouth with his sharp little teeth won me over instantly. And when I thought of decorating a chocolate macaron, I figured that his simple yet distinctive face would be perfect for it.
Domo Macarons (Chocolate Chestnut Macarons)

Macarons are the perfect vehicle for using leftover fillings and frostings. I had a bunch of leftover chestnut pastry cream from my Groot cupcakes, and chestnuts and chocolates go surprisingly well together so I suppose it was meant to be. What wasn’t meant to be was taking these photos. For some odd reason, I lost a ton of photos while transferring files from my camera to my computer. This includes the step by step pictures that I took.  No one is more disappointed than me. Boo. :(

Domo Macarons (Chocolate Chestnut Macarons)

You will Need:
chocolate macarons, filled with chestnut pastry cream (recipe below)
black fondant
white fondant
red fondant
pastry wheel/ sharp knife
water
thin paint brush (used for food only)

Instructions

  1. Roll out black fondant thinly and using the end of a thin straw or a small, plain round pastry tip punch out little black circles for eyes. After punching it out, slightly push the circles down to flatten and smooth out the edges.
  2. Roll out red fondant thinly, and using a pastry wheel or a sharp knife, cut out ½ in. rectangles for Domo’s mouth.
  3. Roll out white fondant and using a pastry wheel or a sharp knife, cut out thin strips of white fondant. Then cut triangle shaped teeth by running the pastry wheel diagonally cross the rectangle.
  4. Let fondant pieces dry out for an hour or more to firm up.
  5. Take four “teeth” and attach it to the red rectangle by using a thin paint brush to moisten the edges with water.
  6. Place black eyes on the top quarter of the macaron and attack the completed mouth to the bottom half.

Chocolate Macarons

Ingredients:
184 g. almond meal
184 g. powdered sugar
56 g. Dutch-processed cocoa powder
172 g. egg whites, divided to 82 g. and 90 g (aged, if possible)
236 g. sugar, plus a generous pinch
158 g. water

Instructions:

  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, add the almond meal, cocoa powder and powdered sugar and pulse until thoroughly combined.
  3. Sift the mixture over a large mixing bowl, throwing out the lumps as they appear.  Add 82 g. of the egg whites and stir until you get a thick paste.
  4. In a small pot attached with a candy thermometer, combine the sugar and water over medium heat and boil until the syrup reaches 200˚F.
  5. Once the syrup reaches 200˚F, start whipping the remaining 90 g. of egg whites with a generous pinch of sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment on medium speed until soft peaks form.
  6. Once the syrup reaches 248 degrees, remove the pot off the heat and slowly pour the syrup down the side of the mixing bowl with the egg whites on medium speed.
  7. Once the egg whites are fully incorporated, increase the speed to medium high until egg whites form glossy, stiff peaks.  Add two drops of the yellow gel food color and mix until batter turns a light shade of yellow.
  8. Mix a ⅓ of the egg white mix to the almond mixture and stir together until the batter is slightly lighter and less pasty.  From then on, fold in ⅓ of the egg white mixture at a time until the mixture “flows like magma”.  The mixture should be smooth and run thick ribbons off the spatula.
  9. With a pastry bag fitted with a ½ in. plain tip, pipe 1¼ – 1½ in. rounds.
  10. The piped batter may have peaks but should smooth away in a minute or two.  Let the batter stand until the tops of the macaron batter are dry to the touch, about 30 mins to 1 hour.
  11. Preheat the oven to 275-325˚F.  If your oven tends to run hot go for 275˚, if not then 325˚.
  12. Bake 10-13 minutes, until the feet are formed and the tops are smooth.  The batter is done when you slightly wiggle it and it starts to come off of the parchment paper / silicone mat.
  13. Let cool and fill.

Chestnut Pastry Cream

Ingredients
2 c. milk
¼ c. sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg
¼ c. cornstarch
¼ c. sugar
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
320 g. chestnuts, roasted and peeled
¼ c. heavy whipping cream

Instructions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring milk and ¼ c. sugar to a boil.
  2. In another medium bowl, mix egg yolks, egg, cornstarch and ¼ c. sugar until a paste forms.
  3. Using a ladle, drizzle a ladleful of milk while continuously whisking the egg mixture. Continue to drizzle in hot milk a little at a time until you mix in ¾ of the milk.
  4. Take the egg milk mixture and pour it into the saucepan with the remaining milk.
  5. Cook the mixture while stirring constantly over medium heat until mixture is thickened and pudding like.
  6. Remove saucepan from heat and mix in butter and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  7. In a food processor, puree chestnuts until very fine.
  8. Add the pastry cream and process until a smooth paste forms.
  9. Add the heavy whipping cream and process until completely mixed in.

Chocolate macarons adapted from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller, Sebastien Rouxel

Broiled Lamb Chops with Roasted Potatoes and Broccoli {Simple Sundays}

Broiled Lamb Chops with Roasted Potatoes and Broccoli  4I understand that sometimes my recipes are a little tricky, have too many steps, slightly overabundant in ingredients or a bit complicated. So on Simple Sundays, every recipe will be exactly as stated. Simple. There will be many recipes almost too basic to even write a recipe for, but still delicious in its simplicity. It will include every day dinners that can be done around 30 minutes or cookies that can be whipped up on a whim. After all, we can’t make gourmet meals every night. :)
Broiled Lamb Chops with Roasted Potatoes and Broccoli  1I have to be honest; I’m not a huge fan of lamb. It is usually too gamy for my palate. But, there is something about lamb chops that is so tender and delicious, I can’t resist them. Plus, they aren’t as gamy as other cuts of lamb.
Broiled Lamb Chops with Roasted Potatoes and Broccoli  2This is one of those dinners that are effortless but sounds fancy and plates beautifully. The only downside is that your oven has to be on. However, it’s been so chilly here in Jersey that the prospect of a warmer kitchen isn’t terribly off putting.
Broiled Lamb Chops with Roasted Potatoes and Broccoli  3Broiled Lamb with Roasted Potatoes and Broccoli

Ingredients
1 rack of lamb, frenched
1 lb. baby potatoes*
4 cups of broccoli florets
1 tsp. granulated garlic (or 4 garlic cloves, minced)
dried or fresh thyme
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F and on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil, drizzle the potatoes with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and 1/2 tsp. granulated garlic. Put into oven to start roasting.
  2. Divide the rack of lamb into individual lamb chops. Arrange your lamb chops on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil and season with salt, pepper and thyme on both sides.
  3. When the potatoes have roasted for about 15 minutes, turn the oven on to broil and remove the pan of potatoes.**
  4. Add the broccoli to the pan and season the broccoli with the remaining ½ tsp of granulated garlic, salt and pepper. Place the pan back in to the oven.
  5. Broil the lamb chops 5 minutes per side, 10 minutes in total. Let the meat rest for about 10 minutes.
  6. The potatoes and broccoli should be done at the same time as the lamb chops. If not, continue baking while the lamb is resting and check every 2 minutes. You want a knife to slide easily into the potato and the broccoli to be crisp tender.
  7. Arrange them on a plate and you’re done!

* Buy them as small as you can get them for faster cooking.  I get teeny tiny potatoes from Trader Joe’s and it’s the best thing for quick meals.
** I should note that I have a gas oven that has a separate broiling rack under the oven.

Groot Cupcakes (Mont Blanc Cupcakes)

guardians of the galaxy cupcake 2Remember how I gushed about Guardians of the Galaxy a couple of posts back?* Apparently, I wasn’t done with it. (Wait, have you watched it yet?  Can you please? It’s totally awesome. Thanks.) The latest Marvel movie had me racking my brain for a dessert idea and naturally I started with my favorite character of the group, Groot. To be honest, I thought that the idea of Groot was silly. Really, a talking tree that only says, “I am Groot” exclusively in that order? But as the movie went on, the simplest character became the most interesting and loveable of them all.
guardians of the galaxy cupcake 3A Mont Blanc is a chestnut flavored dessert. The chestnut cream is traditionally piled high and topped with powdered sugar which resembles a snow capped mountain. Hence the name, Mont Blanc, just like the mountain that borders France and Italy. The tan color of the chestnut cream is similar to the color of tree bark so instead of piling up the cream in a circle, I decided to turn it into Groot’s face.  
Groot Cupcakes (Mont Blanc Cupcakes) 2This particular Groot cupcake starts with a syrup soaked genoise cake. It is then filled with chestnut cream and dipped in a perfectly shiny chocolate ganache. (Seriously, so shiny.  I couldn’t keep my eyes off of them.) It is then topped with more chestnut cream, only this time it is piped with a multi-hole pastry tip in the shape of Groot’s face.
Groot Cupcakes (Mont Blanc Cupcakes) 1A few fondant additions later, you have your very own mini swarm of Groots.** Super cute and perfect for a Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy or Superhero themed party, I hope you give it a try for your next gathering.
guardians of the galaxy cupcake 1Groot Cupcakes (Mont Blanc Cupcakes)

Genoise Cake

Ingredients:
5 large eggs, room temperature
⅔ c. sugar
½ tbsp. corn syrup
1 ⅓ c. cake flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. butter, melted
2 tbsp. milk
2 tbsp. vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F and line muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  2. In a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs until homogenous.
  3. Add the sugar and corn syrup to the eggs and mix on high speed until thickened, lightened and a ribbon forms when whisk is lifted.
  4. Sift the cake flour into the egg mixture and fold until no traces of the flour remain.
  5. In a separate bowl mix vanilla extract, butter, milk and vegetable oil and mix into the flour mixture.
  6. Fill the cupcake liners with batter and bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a cooling rack.

Simple Syrup

Ingredients
¼ c. sugar
¼ c. water

Instructions

  1. In a small pot, heat sugar and water until sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside and let cool.

Chestnut Pastry Cream

Ingredients
2 c. milk
¼ c. sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg
¼ c. cornstarch
¼ c. sugar
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
320 g. chestnuts, roasted and peeled
¼ c. heavy whipping cream

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring milk and ¼ c. sugar to a boil.
  2. In another medium bowl, mix egg yolks, egg, cornstarch and ¼ c. sugar until a paste forms.
  3. Using a ladle, drizzle a ladleful of milk while continuously whisking the egg mixture. Continue to drizzle in hot milk a little at a time until you mix in ¾ of the milk.
  4. Take the egg milk mixture and pour it into the saucepan with the remaining milk.
  5. Cook the mixture while stirring constantly over medium heat until mixture is thickened and pudding like.
  6. Remove saucepan from heat and mix in butter and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  7. In a food processor, puree chestnuts until very fine.
  8. Add the pastry cream and process until a smooth paste forms.
  9. Add the heavy whipping cream and process until completely mixed in.

Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients:
8 oz. good quality dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
¾ c. heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 pinch kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Bring whipping cream and sugar to a boil in either a saucepan or microwave.***
  2. In a medium bowl, pour hot cream mixture over the chopped chocolate.
  3. Let it rest for 5 minutes, then whisk mixture until smooth.
  4. Add the butter and salt and mix until fully incorporated.

Fondant Pieces

You will need:
green fondant
black fondant
white fondant

Instructions

For the leaves:

  1. Pinch off tiny pieces of green fondant and form shapes of leaves by molding one end narrower than the other side.

For the eyes:

  1. Roll out black fondant ⅛ in. thick. Cut out circles that are ¾ in. in diameter.  (I used the end of a fat bubble tea straw.)
  2. Pinch off tiny pieces of white fondant and make tiny circles to press flat onto the black fondant. Remember to place the pieces off center to avoid deadpan eyes. (I placed mine to in the north east quadrant of the eyes.)

Assembly

  1. With a pastry brush, brush the tops of cooled cupcakes with the simple syrup.
  2. Let it rest 5 minutes and go over it once more with the simple syrup.
  3. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a narrow plain pastry tip with half of the chestnut pastry cream; fill each cupcake with about a tablespoon of pastry cream.
  4. Dip the tops of the cupcake with the chocolate ganache, and let set in the freezer for about 5 minutes.
  5. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a multi-hole pastry tip, with more chestnut pastry cream.
  6. Using a stead pressure, draw Groot’s face using an up and down motion. Make sure you go over the each area several times to give it a 3D effect.
  7. Carefully place the fondant eyes in the center of the face and arrange the fondant leaves at the top of the head. Remember the fondant WILL melt in time, do not place the fondant pieces until you are ready to serve or as close to the serving time as possible.

*If you don’t know by now, I’m into the geek/nerd culture.  I wouldn’t say I’m fully immersed it in, but maybe waist deep.
** Warning about the fondant addition.  Because the fondant is resting on top of a pile of pastry cream, the fondant will melt with time.  I would give you a solid hour before it starts to melt.  Tread lightly and be aware. :)
*** If using the microwave, be careful not to overheat it.  It will bubble over, leaving you a large mess to clean… not that this happened to me.  No, it totally did.  Don’t be like me.

Chocolate ganache recipe adapted from recipe girl.

Toasted Marshmallow Caramel Banana Cake with Cheesecake Frosting

Toasted Marshmallow Caramel Banana Cake with Cheesecake Frosting 2Wordy, I know.  This journey of mine started when I was trying to figure out what to post next for the blog.  I have this great caramelized banana bread recipe that I use and was going to blog about that.  But right when I was about to start baking, I realized that banana bread recipes are a dime a dozen on the internet.
Toasted Marshmallow Caramel Banana Cake with Cheesecake Frosting 4Why would I bore you with something that has been done for the umpteenth time?  No, I needed to do something different, maybe even drastic.  That’s when I spotted a bag of caramel bits that I picked up at Target a few months ago and the cogs in my brain started turning.

Toasted Marshmallow Caramel Banana Cake with Cheesecake Frosting 6It starts with a soft caramelized banana cake.  What makes it “caramelized” banana cake?  Because you caramelize bananas with sugar and melted butter until it starts to smell like banana heaven in your kitchen.  Then you mix your caramel bits into the batter to increase the caramel factor.
Toasted Marshmallow Caramel Banana Cake with Cheesecake Frosting 5Next, the cake layers are sandwiched with cheesecake frosting which is essentially my version of a cream cheese frosting only it is extra thick and tastes very much like cheesecake.  Then the entire cake is surrounded by marshmallow frosting which you toast with your kitchen torch (or in your oven if you don’t have one) and as if you really needed more, you finish it off with a caramel drizzle.
Toasted Marshmallow Caramel Banana Cake with Cheesecake Frosting 1Sweet, gooey, soft, toasty, and slightly chewy (from the caramel bits) this cake is definitely worth making for a celebration… or for no reason because it’s your kitchen and you can bake if you want to. ;)
Toasted Marshmallow Caramel Banana Cake with Cheesecake Frosting 3Toasted Marshmallow Caramel Banana Cake with Cheesecake Frosting

Makes one 6 inch 4-layer cake

Caramelized Banana Cake

Ingredients:
2 oz. unsalted butter
¾ c. brown sugar
3 medium brown bananas
½ c. buttermilk
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. cake flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. kosher salt
8 oz. caramel bits

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F and prepare four 6 inch cake pans by spraying them with non-stick spray and lining the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. In a small pot, melt the butter. Once the butter melts, add the brown sugar and bananas and cook for 4 minutes.  Cool mixture for 10 minutes before transferring mixture into a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Beat for 2-3 minutes until mixture is cool and combined.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk buttermilk, vegetable oil and eggs until homogeneous.
  4. In another bowl, mix both kinds of flour with baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  5. With the mixer on low, add half the buttermilk mixture followed by half the flour mixture.
  6. Finish the batter by alternating the buttermilk mixture and flour mixture again.
  7. Fold in the caramel bits into the batter.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between 4 pans and bake about 12-15 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Cheesecake Frosting

Ingredients:
10 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ c. powdered sugar
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 pinch of kosher salt

Instructions:

  1. In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter until combined.
  2. Add the powdered sugar slowly, followed by the mascarpone cheese, vanilla extract and kosher salt.  Do not overbeat the mascarpone cheese it will separate if you do.

Marshmallow Frosting

Ingredients:
4 large egg whites
¾ c. sugar
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. In a metal bowl of a standing mixer, whisk egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar over a small saucepan with simmering water.
  2. Whisk until sugar is dissolved and whites are slightly foamy and warm to the touch, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Transfer bowl to the standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat starting from low speed and gradually moving to high speed until stiff and glossy.
  4. Mix in the vanilla extract to finish the frosting.

Caramel Drizzle

Ingredients:
3 oz. caramel bits
¼ c. heavy cream

Instructions:

  1. In a small saucepan, melt caramel bits with heavy cream until a thick sauce forms. If the sauce is too thick, feel free to add more heavy cream.

Assembly:

  1. Frost each layer of banana cake with cream cheese frosting, ending with a layer of banana cake. Make sure you smooth the sides as well as you can. (As shown above.)
  2. Generously frost the top and sides with marshmallow frosting using your spatula to make swirl patterns along the cake. This will make a more impressive cake when you toast the frosting.
  3. Toast the frosting with a torch (kitchen, butane, or propane your choice) until golden brown.
  4. Drizzle caramel frosting.
  5. Stand back and enjoy your work of art.

Caramelized banana cake adapted from espresso and cream.
Marshmallow frosting adapted from Martha Stewart.

 

Elsa Doll Cake

Elsa Doll Cake 1This is a little late in the whole Frozen craze, but I finally made an Elsa Doll Cake.  But it must’ve been in the stars because I was lucky enough to simultaneously have a doll cake request and was finally able to get my hands on an Elsa doll.  It blows my mind that even after 9 months of its release, it is still difficult to obtain an Elsa figure.  How?? Does every little girl in the world want an Elsa doll?  It’s either that or they are releasing them ever so slowly to keep the demand up.  By the way, I still can’t stop listening to the Frozen soundtrack which is a testament to how great it was.  Speaking of soundtracks, did you guys watch Guardians of the Galaxy?  If so, one phrase… Awesome Mix Vol 1.  That’s it.  If not, watch it.  It’s fantastic in every way.
Elsa Doll Cake 4Back to the cake. The thing about Elsa is, unlike Sofia the First, her dress is fairly simple from the waist down.  It’s a sparkly slinky number with a high slit and there is no place to fit a cake under there.  So this is my interpretation of what a poofy Elsa dress would look like.
how to make an elsa doll cakeIt’s fairly straight forward in terms of decorating it, but here are a few tips when creating your own doll cake: 1) Make sure your cake is well chilled- it will help reduce the number of crumbs when you carve it.  2) Try to make your frosting as smooth as possible to reduce the number of bumps and lumps when you put on the fondant.  3) When rolling out your fondant, make sure it isn’t too thick (it will be hard to mold) or too thin (it will tear when you drape it).  4) If your fondant shapes become too soft, toss it in the freezer for about 30 seconds to firm up.  Do not freeze fondant, it will melt when it comes to room temperature.  Above all, have fun making it.  The world is your oyster when it comes to designing a doll cake.
Elsa Doll Cake 2Elsa Doll Cake

You will need:

light teal fondant
teal fondant
white fondant
snowflake fondant cutters
edible glitter, silver star shape
white shimmer dust
silver pearl dust
an Elsa doll

Instructions:

  1. Prepare a lightly frosted, 4 layered 6 inch cake that has a hole cut in the middle for your doll. (pictures 1 and 2)
  2. Chill the cake and while the cake is chilling, prepare your Elsa doll by removing her skirt and wrapping the bottom portion of the doll completely and tightly with plastic wrap. Put her arms up and her cape up and over her head and wrap the top portion of her body with plastic wrap. (picture 3)
  3. Remove the cake, insert the plastic wrapped doll and cut along the top quarter of the cake at a 45˚ angle. Use your eye to gauge where you want the skirt to start and the desired slope of the skirt. (picture 3)
  4. Crumb coat the cake, giving it a rough shape and making sure to cover the gap between the hips and the cake. (picture 4)
  5. Give it a second coat of frosting, hiding the crumbs and making it as smooth as possible to make it easier for the fondant to stick. (picture 5)
  6. Roll out a piece of light teal fondant and cut a rounded door shape for the front of her dress. Adhere it onto the front of the dress. (picture 6)
  7. Roll out a larger piece of teal fondant and drape it over the waist down to the bottom of the cake, making sure to have all of the buttercream covered. (picture 7)
  8. Using your hands, roll a skinny teal fondant rope to blend the top and the bottom of the dress together. Adhere it where the waist meets the cake. (picture 8)
  9. Cut out a white snowflake fondant and adhere it to the center of the dress to cover the seam. (picture 9)
  10. Using vodka, paint white shimmer dust and pearl silver dust all around the teal portion of the dress to give it a shimmery effect. (picture 10)
  11. Take the silver stars and place it over the light teal fondant portion of the dress. (picture 11)
  12. Using your fondant cutter, cut out various shapes of white and light teal snowflakes and adhere it to the teal portion of the dress. Feel free to use any pattern that suits you, but remember that there will be a transparent snowflake cape that covers the back of the cake. (picture 12 and 13)
  13. Remove the plastic wrap from the top portion of the doll, be careful about positioning the arms and letting the snowflake cape flow over the back of the cake.  (picture 14)

Blueberry Cake Balls

Blueberry Cake Balls 3So, I made blueberry cake balls that look like blueberries.  Where in the world did I get such an idea?  It all started with a text from my sister, who sent me a photo of a strawberry layer cake that looked like a strawberry.  I wasn’t surprised that it originated from my favorite macaron café of all time, Laudrée.  This image fueled my creative fire and with the help of a good friend, we came up with an idea for this cake ball.
Blueberry Cake Balls 1Blueberries are in season right now, and here in Jersey we grow some very tasty ones.   They’re really fat and juicy, but I feel that the most “blueberry flavored” blueberries are wild blueberries.  They are very small, but they pack a huge wallop of blueberry flavor.  This cake ball uses both kinds of blueberries for the biggest berry impact.
IBlueberry Cake Balls 2The cake ball consists of blueberry vanilla cake mixed with blueberry frosting then dipped in a thin coat of chocolate (your preference dark, milk, or white) and then finished off with a thin layer of fondant.  When I tried this recipe out, I dipped a handful of the cake balls in chocolate and left the others plain.  When I proceeded to wrap both kinds in fondant, I was surprised that they both held up well.  Unfortunately, I celebrated too early because the moisture from the blueberries in the cake and frosting started melting the fondant on the non-chocolate coated ones.  Lesson learned: you must cover this with chocolate before proceeding to the fondant portion
Blueberry Cake Balls 6Please tell me I’m not the only person who thought of Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when I saw these.  If you don’t know, Violet is the girl who turns rotund and blue like a blueberry in the book and movie.  To get this shade of blueberry, I mixed three kinds of gel food coloring: Wilton’s violet, Spectrum’s royal blue and Americolor’s super black.  As for the fondant, I tried to mimic the flared crown by doing a double layer of fondant but it wouldn’t stay.  So I settled on drawing it in with black food coloring and a small paint brush (which I reserve for food use only).
Blueberry Cake Balls 5I know there may be a few of you who are looking at this post (or maybe many of my other posts) thinking, “Yeah, I can never do that”.  Whenever I try a novel concept, I always have my doubts whether it will work or not.  Am I wasting precious time, ingredients and money?  Is it worth the pile of dishes?  But in the end, I always feel like the risk of taking the dive outweighs watching from the sidelines.  If I fail, I fail but not without learning something.  So, why don’t we just dive together? :)

Blueberry Cake Balls

You will need:
1 batch of blueberry cake
1 batch of blueberry frosting
chocolate or candy melts
blue tinted fondant
black gel food color

Instructions:

  1. Mix blueberry cake with a third of the blueberry frosting until fully incorporated. If the cake does not hold shape, add more frosting and mix until desired consistency is reached.
  2. Scoop tablespoon sized portion of cake and roll into slightly flattened circles.
  3. Chill in the freezer while you melt your chocolate.
  4. Once the chocolate has melted, dip your cake balls into the chocolate using a fork and make sure to tap off the excess.
  5. Chill the chocolate covered cake balls while you roll out the fondant.
  6. Roll out the fondant as thin as possible.
  7. At this point the chocolate should have set, if not then refrigerate until the chocolate has set.
  8. Cover the cake balls and make sure you smooth it out so that there are no lumps.
  9. Mix your black gel food color with a little bit of water to loosen up the pigment.
  10. Draw a five pointed crown on the top of your blueberry and a dot in the center.

Blueberry Cake

Ingredients:
1 ½ c. cake flour
1  c. sugar
½ tbsp. baking powder
⅛ tsp. salt
¾ c. buttermilk, divided
4 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 pint fresh blueberries, washed and drained

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and line a 9×9 in cake pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, add flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix until combined.
  3. On low speed, add ½ c. buttermilk and butter and mix until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolk, ¼ c. buttermilk, and vanilla extract until homogenous.
  5. On low speed, slowly add the egg mixture to the flour mixture.
  6. Increase speed to medium, and mix until combined.
  7. Fold in fresh blueberries
  8. Bake about 25-30 minutes until cake is done or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, and then move onto a cooling rack until completely cool.

Blueberry Frosting

Ingredients:
2 c. frozen wild blueberries
¼ c. sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice
4 tbsp. butter, room temperature
½  tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. heavy cream
⅔ c. powdered sugar

Instructions:

  1. In a small pot, cook blueberries, sugar and lemon juice until the mixture reduces to about half or until thickened.
  2. In another bowl, beat butter, cream and vanilla.
  3. Slowly add powdered sugar ⅓ c. at a time until completely used.
  4. Once the blueberry mixture has thickened and cooled, add to the sugar mixture until fully incorporated.

Piña Colada Frozen Yogurt (Pineapple Coconut Frozen Yogurt)

Pineapple Coconut Frozen Yogurt 3Do you also hear Rupert Holmes’ Escape a.k.a The Piña Colada Song when someone mentions Piña Coladas to you?  For me, it’s as if a record starts playing in my head and the very familiar “If you like Piña Coladas and getting caught in the rain…” begins.
Pineapple Coconut Frozen Yogurt 4The weather has been ridiculously hot this past week, and the thought of turning my oven was a major turn off.  (Insert HIMYM joke here.)  So with Piña Coladas on the brain, I started a journey for a pineapple coconut frozen yogurt.  I’ve always loved pineapples, but coconuts have been a love-hate relationship until a few years ago when out of nowhere I became a coconut fiend.  Dried, toasted, grated, shredded, fresh – I ate it all until like all good things, I eventually got tired of it.  But this recipe has sparked the love again, and I’m back on the coconut train.

Pineapple Coconut Frozen Yogurt 1Instead of using only shredded coconut as most recipes call for, I added a good dose of coconut cream into the yogurt base.  To make coconut cream, refrigerate a can of full fat coconut milk overnight.  When you’re ready, open up the can and the cream should’ve separated from the coconut water.  Scoop up the thickened cream and reserve the coconut water for another use.  So easy, yet it adds a surprising coconut element that you can’t put your finger on.

Pineapple Coconut Frozen Yogurt 2I have to say, this frozen yogurt was not easy to photograph.  Because of the added water content of the coconut cream and the pineapple, it is icier than your normal frozen yogurt.  This translated into melting quickly and causing me much grief.  If I could do this again, I would make them into popsicles.  I had half a mind to just scrap the project, but it was too tasty not to share.  Onto the next one …
Pineapple Coconut Frozen Yogurt 5

Piña Colada Frozen Yogurt (Pineapple Coconut Frozen Yogurt)

Ingredients:
2 c. vanilla whole-milk yogurt
2 c. plain nonfat or reduced-fat Greek yogurt
½ c. granulated sugar
3 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 batch of coconut cream
1 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple, drained
2 c. sweetened shredded coconut

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk whole milk yogurt, Greek yogurt, sugar, corn syrup and coconut cream together until combined.
  2. In an ice cream maker, pour the yogurt base and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions until you reach a soft serve consistency.
  3. Transfer to a plastic container and fold in crushed pineapple and shredded coconut. Line the top with plastic wrap and seal with the lid.
  4. Freeze for at least 2 hours. Let it sit out for about 15 minutes if completely frozen.

Coconut Cream

Ingredients:
1 – 14 or 13.5 oz. can of full fat coconut milk

Instructions:

  1. Place can of coconut milk in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.
  2. When ready for use, open the can to reveal a thick layer of coconut cream.
  3. Carefully scoop out the cream portion of the coconut milk. You will see the separated coconut water when you harvest all the cream.
  4. You can whip the coconut cream like whipped cream if desired.
  5. Do not throw out the coconut water. You can use it for smoothies, recipes or just drink it.

*Frozen yogurt recipe adapted from The Food Network.

 

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