leap day baking!

more puff pastry…just can’t get enough of them! and practice makes perfect.

i revamped my kouign-amann recipes, wrapped more ppbs and this time with red bean as well as taro, and made mille-feuille in black sesame, red bean, and taro flavors. i also made more brown butter cakes to bring to a friend tomorrow since i had extra batter left from a few days ago.

for the black sesame mille-feuille, i decided to do somewhat of an asian version with a cake layer in the middle. i think i may like the different textures of crunch and sponge, instead of just the crunch…hm. but black sesame pastry cream is delicious.

for the red bean and taro mille-feuille, i just did it original-style (mainly because i got lazy about making red bean and taro sponge cakes). i slightly mixed the pastes with pastry cream and while you can’t see it, the sides are the flavored pastes and the middle is regular-vanilla pastry cream.

ppb…red bean.

and kouign-amann experiment #2. this time around i decided to envelope it and i think it turned out better. i was afraid that they wouldn’t stay enclosed and thank goodness they did. but i can’t believe it’s still slightly under baked in the middle (doesn’t taste under baked though)! so what…over bake the outside next time or do i need a convection oven?! need to think about it some more. i recently saw a video of dominique ansel making his version of kouign-amann that is more bread-like than puff-pastry like (must try next time in nyc…hopefully soon), which is not how i learned it but i think i’ll need to go find live yeast soon…

brown butter cakes…more flavors!

saturday night can be very productive in my pjs, listening to my favorite new track, and an empty house.

last night, i made red bean paste as part of my already-made paste collection of green tea and taro. with pastes in hand, i decided to expand my brown butter cake flavors and make batters to bake the next day.

red bean, green tea, taro

i’m quite happy with taro—just enough flavor. green tea is always tough since i opted to not just use green tea powder as an ingredient but actually a paste; must find the right amount of sweetness (maybe brown sugar?!) to offset the slight bitterness of green tea. as for red bean, just a tad more flavor would be perfect!

ppb….#1

ppb…aka puff pastry balls.

with extra puff pastry and taro balls i froze in the freezer a few days ago, i made some taro ppb.

i rolled out my puff pastry dough and used a round cutter to shape the “skin.” they were then wrapped with taro filling, egg washed, rolled in sugar, and into the oven.

test #1…the taro escaped the skin.

test #2…most of the taro remained nicely tucked inside.

seriously, nothing can really go wrong with puff pastry! especially with some sugar and delicious taro paste!

kouign amann #1

kouign amann is sort of all the rage now in SF and i hate to jump on the bandwagon but this s*it is thoroughly good! what is it? layers of puff pastry with more butter and sugar in between. what else can you ask for?

i made kouign amann during my internship and have been wanting to make them at home…so i did and will be experimenting more. first, make puff pastry instead of buying. it’s sort of an all-day process as the dough needs to chilled between each rolling to make sure the butter doesn’t melt. but it’s well worth the effort.

i couldn’t wait for the right tins to come (tomorrow) so i decided to make them in cupcake tins since i have the correct round cutter. most of the kouign amann i’ve seen get enveloped but i decided to go rustic and just stack a total of five layers. with my 12-cupcake molds, i made 4 original (just butter and sugar in between), 4 black sesame (add black sesame paste with slightly less butter and sugar), and 4 taro (same idea as black sesame using the taro paste i made two days ago).

verdict?! amazing enough, i actually think i need MORE butter and cook them at a higher temperature. i’m also thinking there’s some logic in enveloping the layers. my tasters (i.e. family members) all preferred the taro flavor. lot more experimenting in the future!

brown butter cakes: black sesame #1

my twist to financiers, which are small cakes made with brown butter (amazing in so many ways), almond flour and egg whites, and baked in a rectangular mold that resembles a gold bar. the chef at my internship told me that a baker in paris’ financial district created this cake for people on the run with something easy and neat to eat.

first…brown butter, or “beurre noisette.” so delicious even if it’s worse for you than regular butter. while cooking, the butter makes a wonderful sizzling sound and fills the air with a nutty scent.

this is how i make my cakes…brown the butter. while the butter is cooking, all other ingredients go inside a bowl (egg whites, sugar, almond flour, black sesame powder) over boiling water and mix until the sugar dissolves.

then add brown butter, mix well and add the last ingredient, flour. the batter should rest in the fridge for at least an hour before baking…or even a couple of days.

i use mini-cupcake-like molds for these cakes since they allow me to over bake them for a slightly crunchy outside but the inside remains spongy and moist. i like them!

macaron – black sesame #1

lots of hours in a day (especially sundays) for lots of baking. doubling the posts for the day.

ugh…macarons. i love you and i hate you. i love you because, let’s admit it, you are so pretty. i hate you because, well, how many reasons can i name: 1) you’re just too sweet (sometimes); 2) i don’t like it when you stick to my teeth; 3) you’re a pain the a$$ to make; 4) you are everywhere now; 5) cracked shells simple suck; 6) even seasoned bakers screw you up once in a while; and 7) did i mention that you’re a pain the a$$ to make?!

but because you’re so pretty, i succumb to you.

two main challenges i’ve encountered with macarons. one, how to make the perfect shell (patience is what i lack and what’s absolutely necessary). two, say no to buttercream fillings!

so shells. let’s talk about whipped egg whites first. the french way is whipping raw egg whites and sugar. there are also the italian way of using cooked sugar (hermé and zumbo style) and swiss way of whipping raw egg whites and sugar in a bowl over heated water (bouchon style). i prefer the french way—which is supposedly the least stable, but—i like the challenge.

so this may sound gross, but deal with it and keep in mind that macarons ARE baked. i’ve found that day(s)-old, room temperature egg whites work the best and with that you can skip egg white powder that help to further stabilize egg whites. and don’t even think about skipping the amount of sugar required (i’ve tried and thoroughly failed), all that sugar help to form a hard shell once the batter is piped and rested for 30+ minutes to form the cute little feet of the end product.

as you can tell from the picture above, my macaron rounds are not piped consistently. seriously, pain in the a$$.

so next, fillings. i have nothing against buttercream or ganache. but one of my biggest complaint about macarons is that they are often too sweet. and since you can’t skip the sugar in the shells, fillings is where you can make sweetness adjustments (lots of sugar in buttercream). while black sesame buttercream would be delicious i’m sure, i needed a filling that’s intensely black sesame to trick the brain of the sweetness. not to mention, it makes these macarons gluten- and dairy-free. and with less butter and sugar, maybe less guilt in consuming them. so, black sesame paste (black sesame powder, sugar, and water over heat and cooked down).

they sure are tasty and i’m bringing them to a dinner party tomorrow night. i’m pretty happy with this recipe but i must pipe better. the only thing i think i have to decide is whether i like my macaron shells thinner or thicker…

taro paste

i have a thing for taro; and yes, that includes my dog who’s name is taro…she is 7lb of sweetness and perfection (at least in my eyes…and most of the time).

the interesting thing i’ve learned about taro is that it requires a lot of sugar to actually bring out the flavor. also, find large, fresh taro root instead of pre-packed, or small taro root.

today i made taro paste in preparation for pastries i have in mind of incorporating. it’s actually super easy. first, you steam taro until its soft and crumbly. then simply use either a food processor or in my case, a standup mixer with paddle attachment, and blend it together with simple syrup. some recipe will tell you to add vegetable oil but i find that unnecessary as the simple syrup does the trick without adding more fat.

a portion of the paste was made into little balls and put in the freezer; it helps to have wet hands since the starch makes the paste very sticky. what i’m planning to do with them will be revealed in a few days. unless i just eat them right out of the freezer since they resemble taro ice cream that i ate in taiwan as a child.

sable #1

sable cookies experiment #1.

the recipe is adopted from poilâne via dorie greenspan. i visited poilâne in paris in 2004 for some delicious bread and was unaware of its famous sable cookies. made correctly, sable cookies are sandy and crispy. made incorrectly, well, neither. since it’s an experiment, i typically start with the original recipe and depending on the outcome, make adjustments accordingly. so for experiment #1, i decided to make black sesame sable cookies.

instead of using a machine, i’ve decided to use poilâne’s technique—no machine. why? well, i learned somewhat of a similar technique at my stint of an internship making puff pastry. so while i’m sure it took twice the time, i do enjoy the process of feeling the dough coming together with my hands. using poilâne’s technique, you: 1) make an outer wheel with your dry ingredients (flour, salt, black sesame powder); 2) make an inner wheel of sugars (granulated and powder); and 3) inside the wheels, “wet” ingredients (butter, egg yolk).

using your fingers, combine the butter and egg yolk, then circle the inside edge of the wheel continuously until it’s all combined but don’t over mix. then form the dough into your desired log/square/shape, and refrigerate it until time to bake. this dough can be kept up to 3 weeks in the freezer to provide endless on-call cookie pleasure.

mine was kept in the freezer for a few days before baking. end result?! hm. the cookies expanded more than i had anticipated. i found the recipe too sweet and definitely needs more black sesame flavor. it was somewhat sandy and definitely crumbly. recipe adjustments have been made so ’til next time.

beginning…

lots of conversations and encouragements have taken place to get me here. but i think it’s finally time. starting a new chapter in my life and will be documenting it. hopefully these posts will bring you some mouthwatering joys and spark curiosities about what i’m doing in the kitchen. and maybe better things to come. so come back and visit!