Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Triple Coconut Cake

The same friend of a friend that had asked me to make the 6" Chocolate Cake had asked me to make a 6" cake for his mom's birthday. He wanted something not so sweet and I immediately thought of the coconut cupcakes I had made before. I remembered my mom liking it because it wasn't too sweet. Asians aren't too keen on super sugary desserts so I knew this one would be good.

I used the recipe that I had used before for the cupcakes. One recipe was perfect for a 6" cake.

For the chocolate cake I baked them off in a sheet pan but this one was a small enough batch to bake right in a 6" round cake pan.

I made the cake and poured it into a "prepared cake pan."

In my experience, far too often cakes stick to the pans though it might be well lubed. So, I always try to line the bottom of everything with parchment paper. Here's a trick to getting the perfect circle for the bottom of a round cake pan. This was for the 6" cake pan.

Take a 1/2 parchment paper and fold it into fourths.

Cut one of the squares or whatever that's the closest to the cake pan you are using.

Now fold that piece into fourths.

Take one of the corners and fold it flush with the adjacent side.
Do it one more time.

Take the tip of the folded paper and put it in the center of the pan. Eyeball where to cut.

Snip and you should have something pretty close. You can trim it more if need be.

After doing that, I sprayed the inside of the pan with a cooking spray. THEN I put the parchment circle in it so that the paper had something to stick to THEN I sprayed it one more time.

After the cake comes out I take the cake round that will go underneath the cake and wrap it in plastic wrap and place it right on top of the cake.
This traps in all the moisture that will escape from the cake. Some cakes like the red velvet that I make doesn't need it but this cake is more on the dry side so it needs to retain as much moisture as it can.

After the cake has completely cooled (may take several hours with the moisture-lock lid on) I cut the take into 3 layers. I take the same cake pan and line it with something that's called acetate. A clear plastic "paper." This will make unmolding the cake SUPER easy.

The bottom layer goes in the bottom and I filled the cake layers with a coconut cream, which is essentially a pastry cream made with coconut milk instead of regular whole milk then lightened with some heavy cream. Here's the recipe I used adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: My home to yours.


3 Each Egg Yolks
1 Cup Coconut Milk

1/4 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Cornstarch, Sifted

3/4 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 3/4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Softened and Cubed

1 Cup Heavy Cream, Whipped to stiff peaks

In a small pot heat the coconut milk.

Meanwhile, place the yolks in a large mixing bowl. In another smaller bowl combine the sugar and cornstarch and mix well so that there are no lumps of cornstarch.

Slowly whisk in the sugar/cornstarch mixture into the yolks.

After the coconut milk starts to boil, take it off the heat and slowly pour it into the yolk mixture while whisking at the same time. After all the milk has been whisked in, pour it back into the pot and on medium heat continue to cook. It will thicken immediately. Continue whisking for about 1 minute while it's boiling.

Strain into a clean bowl and let it stand for about 5 minutes. Mix in the vanilla then slowly incorporate the butter into the cream. Once the butter is in cover with plastic wrap with the wrap touching all of the surface area of the cream so skin does not form.

Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or until firm.

Whisk the cream to loosen it up.

Whip about 1 cup of heavy cream and fold it into the cream in 2 batches.

Let it chill in the fridge for a few hours and unmold.

Take off the parchment and acetate and ice with cream cheese icing then cover with toasted coconuts.

I got really great feedback!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"The Best Bread Pudding" and Debbie's Baby Shower

This past Wednesday I made another bread pudding. As I mentioned in the last post I had a gang load of bread that I had brought home from work with every intention to use as much of it as possible for bread pudding.

The last recipe I used turned out.. good... I think. I actually didn't get a chance to taste it myself but others who had told me it was good despite it being underbaked. The recipe was a bit more fussy than I wanted so for my second attempt I turned to the next best source next to my cook books: The Food Network's website.

Sometimes I get worried getting recipes from there because it's proved displeasing on several occasions but I also got the easiest and best Banana Bread recipe from there as well so I gave it a go.

I came across Paula Dean's recipe for bread pudding.

Anyone who's watched even a bit of Paula Dean knows that she's infamous for all of the butter an sugar she puts in her recipes. So after carefully reading the reviews, I decided to take some of the advice of the negative ones and cut the sugars in half.

Here's the recipe I ended up using:


5 Each Large Beaten Eggs
1 Cup Sugar
2 Cups Heavy Cream
1/4 Cup Triple Sec
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

1 Pound Bread, 1" Cubes (I used 4" Brioche Burger Buns)

1/2 Cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips

1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Ounces Unsalted Butter, Room Temperature
1 Cup Chopped Walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 by 9 by 2-inch pan.

Put the bread into the pan and evenly spread the chocolate chips with the bread.

In a bowl add the eggs and beat together. Add the sugar then cream then the Triple Sec and vanilla. Pour over cubed bread. Let sit for 10 minutes.

In another bowl, mix and crumble together brown sugar, butter, and pecans.

Sprinkle brown sugar mixture over the top and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until set.

This recipe was super easy and super delicious. Alcohol always seems to elevate dessert to a higher level. I added some Triple Sec in it just for the heck of it and it was GENIOUS!!! As soon as I took a bite, I tasted the Triple Sec and man, OH MAN it was so good!!! It was fine without the sauce that Paula Dean used. But I did make a chocolate sauce that gave it a bit more oomph.


3 Ounces Semisweet Chocolate Chips
4 Ounces Heavy Cream

Melt together in a bowl in a microwave in 20 second intervals until just melted together stirring between.

My small group loved it and what's more, my brother loved it! It's rare that he loves something I make (besides chocolate mousse) SOOOO much that he goes looking for it. Whenever I leave Red Velvet Cupcakes he always tells me he forgets to eat it.

This recipe is a winner for sure.. tweaked.

* * *

Today was a baby shower for a couple at my church I adore very much. Kevin, the father-to-be, is very much like my older brother. And Debbie, the mother-to-be, has been a great ear for me giving me her advices.

I was commissioned to make the thing I get asked to do the most: Red Velvet Cupcakes. Also, I was asked to make some cookies as party favors.

I thought it would be a fun idea to make the cupcakes into Blue Velvet Cupcakes since they are having a boy. Sounded easy enough.. just add blue food coloring, right?


I will quote something our loving pastor said, "Nadia, why are the cupcakes gray?"
It tasted great, that's all that really mattered.

For the favors I made my favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe by Sherry Yard and a Chocolate Sea Salt Cookie. It's pretty easy and delicious. Not for the kids... the chocolate is intense and the salt is unexpected but goes so well together.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Death By Chocolate

Well, maybe not death but obese or, as my brother has dubbed me, "EXTREME muffin top" by chocolate. It's definitely been harder to shed the pounds since I've started this food blog. With the dishes I make comes frequent tastings which then invariably leads to the extra pounds. Even bordering on depression as I continue to try and wriggle my way into what was once my "comfortable jeans" I still can't stay away. Least of all with chocolate. I didn't really do it on purpose but the last few dishes I've made all were chocolate. Last Wednesday for small group I made some brownies. I pulled a recipe from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours called Honey-Nut Brownies.

All in all, very yummy but needed more chocolate. The emphasis was on the honey which was delicious but whenever I think of brownies, I think of a rich, intense chocolate-y, fudge-like squares. The recipe was simple enough but I think I beat too much air into the eggs because it's only supposed to yield one 9x9 pan but I got a full 9x13. Here's the recipe:

1 stick (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter (room temp)
4 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate (coarsely chopped, I used Ghirardelli)

4 Large Eggs
1/2 teaspoon Salt

1 cup Honey
2/3 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla

1 cup AP Flour
1 cup Nuts (toasted and coarsely chopped, I used Walnuts)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and prepare a 9x9 baking pan lined with foil then butter it.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double broiler (a pot of boiling water and a stainless steel bowl on top of it) or you can melt it in the microwave in 20 second increments.

In a standing mixer, with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs and salt on medium high heat until light and foamy.
(Here's where I got carried away and beat it for a few minutes.)
Add the honey, sugar, vanilla and beat for 2 minutes, or until well blended and smooth.

Reduce the speed and slowly add the chocolate/butter mixture. Mix until just incorporated.

Still on low, add the flour until the flour is just mixed in and disappears into the batter.

Fold in the nuts with a rubber spatula.

Pour into prepared baking dish for about 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool and cut into desired squares.

I cut them into bite size pieces and dusted some with cocoa powder and dipped some in crystal sugar.

* * *
A friend of a friend had asked me to make a cake so I made a Devil's Food Chocolate Cake filled with Chocolate Mousse and finished with a Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache.

The cake recipe was one I learned from culinary school. Still my favorite recipe.

4 1/2 ounces Eggs (about 3)
12 ounces Sugar

3 ounces Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder (can be found at Peets)
3/4 ounce Baking Soda
1/8 ounce Salt
10 1/2 ounces Cake Flour

7 fluid ounces Vegetable Oil
7 fluid ounces Buttermilk
8 fluid ounces Strong Coffee

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare desired baking pan. I used 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper.

In a standing mixer, with a whisk attachment, whip eggs and sugar until "
ribbon stage" which just means until the batter starts to sit on itself and resembles a ribbon.
Sift all the dry ingredients.
Combine all the liquids.

In 3 alternating batches add the dry ingredients to the egg and sugar mixture then the wet ingredients. Make sure to scrape down the mixing bowl after each addition.

Pour into desired baking pan and bake until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake. Or, you can just press down lightly on top of the cake. This is what's called the "
spring-back" test. When a cake is fully done the cake bounces back when pressed on.

It was a 6" cake which is pretty tiny. I ended up using maybe one pan in total. I cut out 6" cake layers using a cake cardboard round as a stencil. Chocolate mousse was used for the cake as well but it's incredibly time consuming to make and to describe. Maybe another day I'll post this recipe.

Essentially, what I did to make the cake was I lined the inside of a 6x3 round cake pan with what's called an acetate strip. It's a thin clear piece of plastic used for purposed like this. This ensures you being able to unmold the cake once layered and properly chilled. When you do this you get a perfectly round cake which is ideal. The mousse is hard to work with sometimes so doing this ensures none of the components to go anywhere.

I used 4 cake layers and about 4 cups of mousse.

I chilled it for a night. The same day the cake was made, I made some ganache (recipe in an earlier posting) and left it at room temperature overnight. This lets the ganache set up so you can use it like icing.

This was used to ice the cake as well as pipe the design on top.

To finish I coated the sides with left over cake that was crumbled and then dusted the top with cocoa powder.

* * *

So much cake left over from the order that I had to make something out of it. These were originally called Rum Balls but I decided to make them into mini cakes instead.

1 pound 3 1/2 ounces Chocolate Cake Scraps (what I had left over)
About 5 ounces Chocolate Ganache
About 1 tablespoon Triple Sec (orange liqueur)

Put all in a food processor and pulse until it starts to form a dough ball. Start off with little bit of ganache and liqueur at a time. You might need more or less.

Roll the dough out on 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Cut out bite size pieces.

Sandwich 2 pieces with ganache and top off with more ganache.

I actually wanted to pipe a cute design on top of each cake but the ganache started breaking. The butter started to separate from the rest of the chocolate. Don't know why it did that... so I covered it up ith some cocoa powder.

* * *

My work got a crazy amount of bread samples a few days ago. One of which was a huge rectangular loaf of brioche. I saw it and immediately thought, "BREAD PUDDING!!" I haven't made bread pudding since my time at working at the restaurant (there's a horrible story which involves me over-baking a bread pudding for Dean Koontz but that will be told a different time).

Bread pudding is relatively easy. It's a custard baked with bread. I used a Dorie Greenspan recipe yet again. But it came out underbaked.

12 ounces bread (I used brioche but challah or white can be used), Stale and cubed into 1"
1/2 cup Moist, plump Raisins (I used a banana)

3 cups Whole Milk
1 cup Heavy Cream

3 Large Eggs
4 Large Egg Yolks
1/2 cup Sugar

6 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate (finely chopped)

In a 9x13 baking dish put the cubed bread into the baking dish with the raisins or banana.

In a pot, bring the cream and milk to just a boil.

In the meantime boil water in a tea kettle then turn off the heat.

In a stainless steel bowl combine the eggs, egg yolk, and sugar. Whisk well. When the cream and milk are just about to boil, take it off the heat and slowly whisk it into the egg and sugar mixture. This is called "tempering". This method is used for most custards such as creme brulee and flan. It's done like this so the eggs won't turn into scrambled eggs. While it can be delicious, that's not what we're going for here.

After all of the cream/milk is whisked in immediately add the chocolate and slowly stir until completely melted. Try not to create too many bubbles. Pour over the bread and with a rubber spatula squish down the bread so that it can soak up the custard.

Let stand for 30 minutes making sure to periodically pressing down the bread.

Bake in a 350 degree oven in a larger pan filled with the boiled water. This is called a "water bath". This ensures slow and even cooking with sensitive dishes like custards. The water should come up about 1/2 way.

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the top is uniformly puffed and dry. When you insert a knife in the center, it should come out clean.

Here was my problem with it. I underbaked it, for one, and I used about 3 cups of heavy cream and 1 cup of fat free Lactaid. There was no whole milk in the house and I was certainly not about to run out of the house to get some (I baked these this morning so I could take to church). Another was I had double panned the sheet pans I used for the water bath. My oven tends to burn things on the bottom so I usually double pan everything. In this case, it could have done without.

Oh well. People seemed to like it. Either that or they lied to my face. I'm gonna stick with the first choice. A little optimism is good for me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I Seafood

Yesterday I was able to take some more pictures for a client of Chef Innovations. Kelly made the dishes and I took the photos.

Here's a few of the best shots.

This is my most favorite shot.
It really is amazing just how much lighting effects a shot..

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Coconut Macaroons with a Chocolate Drizzle

These little beauties are the reason coconuts have found its way into my heart. It's a recipe that I learned during my time at the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. Sometimes I wish I could go back to that time when all I had to do was go to school. Man, oh man did I kick ass back then... but enough living in the past.

It's taken me many, many tries to perfect this recipe. The original recipe used pastry flour, was really liquidy, and required it to be chilled in the freezer for about 10 minutes before baking but with my adjustments it's come out pretty perfect... in my eyes anyway.

Coconut Macaroons
Yields about 90

1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
3 oz Egg Whites
(about 3 extra large eggs)
3/4 ounces Light Corn Syrup
6 ounces Sugar
1/2 ounces AP Flour
1/8 teaspoon Salt

13-14 ounces Sweetened Coconut Flakes
(I like flakes as opposed to shredded, it's thicker)

1/2 cup Bittersweet Chocolate Chips

In a medium pot add everything but the coconut flakes (in order that it's written).
(I know in the picture it's not in the order that it's written. I realized after putting the vanilla on top of the flour that it wasn't a good idea to do that. I don't remember having issues before with it... and it really didn't effect the macaroons in the end but there were some lumps in the mixture. Just avoid lumps altogether and do it in this order.)

Give it a good stir with a heat proof rubber spatula and heat over medium heat while continuously stirring. When all the sugar granules dissolved add the coconut flakes.

Just take some of the mixture between your index and thumb and rub it together. You shouldn't be able to feel anything grainy.

Continue to cook in the pot for a minute or two until the coconut absorbs the melted mixture.
Let it cool for about 10 minutes. To speed up this process you can pour it out onto a sheet pan.

Line a sheet pan with a Silpat (a nonstick silicon baking mat) or parchment paper. In my experience the Silpat works the best. It also helps distribute heat the best.

Using your hands pile about a tablespoon for one macaroon.
In this picture the macaroons aren't on a Silpat. That's because while a pan was baking in the oven I pre-made these so I could easily load the next batch while the others cooled.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 12-15 minutes or until it looks something like this:

For the drizzle, just melt the chocolate chips in a microwave in 20 second intervals. I melt it just barely until most of the chips are melted and then by mixing the rest of the chips get dissolved. I made a cone using parchment paper but you can just use a ziplock bag. Cut off one of the corners and you have a pastry bag.

Drizzle over macaroons and there you go! It's a bit messy with the chocolate everywhere but it sure is delicious with it!

These will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for a couple of days.. though it is the best the day that it's made.