Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Double Vanilla Cupcakes with Rainbow Sprinkles

Why are sprinkles so much fun? At work, I make donuts with glaze and rainbow sprinkles. This brings me back to my childhood. As a kid, the donut dipped in glazed and smothered with sprinkles used to be my favorite. I have many memories of swinging by the local donut shop after school.

Another childhood memory involving sprinkles...when my family would go out for ice cream, I would get a chocolate dipped cone with sprinkles (some call it a "clown cone"), but NO ice cream. Is that crazy or what? I wanted the cone, I wanted the chocolate, I wanted the sprinkles, but eh, I didn't need the ice cream. Oy. Crazy town, tasty town.

A friend once told me that he imagined the walls of my bedroom to be strewn with cupcakes. That there was always just a platter of freshly made cupcakes ready to be eaten.

Well, I made some cupcakes. I made some cupcakes with a whopping amount of frosting and of course, with rainbow sprinkles on top. The sprinkles add a nice crunch the the sweet, soft frosting and the mini cake below.

The best cupcake that I ever had: I used to stage (fancy word for intern) at a restaurant in Beverly Hills, CA called Spago. I was staging on the savory side--peeling and mincing garlic and shallots, weighting out chanterelle mushrooms, slicing baby carrots on the vias, and shaving cheese onto freshly made and plated pastas...The chefs were always trying to feed me, I had to taste everything (boy oh boy was this fun!). One day, someone handed me a cupcake. It was a buttermilk cupcake with pink frosting. I had to scarf it down quick because I had to get back to work, but wow. I took a bite of the cupcake, a little cake, a little frosting, all in one bite. Wow. I will forever remember this cupcake. I have yet to re-create it. One day, one day...

For now, I whipped up a quick batch of cupcakes for my friend's graduation.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting
from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

1 cup all-purpose flour

a scant 3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup whole milk

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or use a handheld beater and beat on slow speed until the mixture is a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Gradually pour in half of the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.

Whisk the egg, vanilla and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated. Scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side or the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Continue mixing until the batter is smooth. Just a few minutes. Do not overmix.

Spoon the batter into paper lined muffin tins, dividing between the 12 cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until light golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the pan, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Frosting

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons whole milk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat the powdered sugar and butter together in an electric mixer fit with a paddle attachment on medium low speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Turn the mixer speed to low. Combine the milk and the vanilla extract and slowly stream it into the butter and sugar mixture. Once incorporated, turn the mixer to high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes. If you find that your frosting is getting to warm in the summer months, stop beating and set in the fridge for a few minutes. Once chilled, hook the frosting back up the the mixer and beat once more until you reach the desired consistency.

**NOTE: I did everything by hand. That is another option.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Polenta Cake with Olive Oil and Rosemary

Cake cake cake. I love cake. When there is cake in the house, I will eat it all day long for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Just the mere sight of a simple cake makes my body quiver. I get closer, and the smell locks me in. One bite, and I'm sold, it's over, no stopping now.

Polenta. Rosemary. Olive Oil--use the good stuff, something that has a nice fruity flavor (by the way, what is the difference between olive oil and extra virgin olive oil? Virgin means the oil was produced by the use of physical means and no chemical treatment. Extra-virgin olive oil comes from virgin oil production only, contains no more than 0.8% acidity, and is judged to have a superior taste).

Polenta cake with olive oil and rosemary. An experiment. A success. A moist treat full of herby flavor and a soft interior balanced with crunchy notes from the polenta.

I received David Lebovitz's cookbook, Ready for Dessert in the mail, and I just had to make something right away! This cake stuck out to me. It looked like a simple cake to make, I had all of the ingredients, and the olive oil and rosemary intrigued me. Slathered with some butter and a dribble of honey, dunked in some hot coffee or milk, served with fresh nectarines and peaches with a dollop of whipped cream, or eaten sliver by sliver all on its own, this cake has my heart.

Polenta Cake with Olive Oil and Rosemary
from David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert

makes one 10-inch (25-cm) cake; 10-12 servings

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup (4 oz/115 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 teaspoons plus 4 teaspoons finely minced fresh rosemary leaves

2 tablespoons (20 g) plus 3/4 cup (130 g) polenta or stone-ground yellow cornmeal (I used a combo of polenta and cornmeal)

1 cup (140 g) all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (125 ml) olive oil

5 large eggs, at room temperature

2 large egg yolks

1/2 teaspoon almond extract OR 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups (265 g) sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Smear the 1 tablespoon butter all over the inside of a 10-cup (2.5 liter) Bundt cake or tube pan. Sprinkle the 2 teaspoons rosemary evenly into the pan, then dust with the 2 tablespoons (20 g) polenta, tilting the pan to coat the sides.

To make the cake, into a small bowl, sift together the flour, 3/4 cup (130 g) polenta, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, eggs, egg yolks, and almond or vanilla extract.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl by hand), beat together the 1/2 cup (4 oz/115 g) butter and the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly dribble in the egg mixture, a little at a time, until completely incorporated. Stir in the flour mixture along with the 4 teaspoons rosemary just until incorporated. Don't overmix.

Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool for about 30 minutes, then invert the cake onto a serving platter.

Serving: This cake goes well with whipped cream and fresh summer fruit or poached pears.

Storage: The cake will keep at room temperature for up to 4 days, well wrapped. It can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

My last final was at 7pm. I had all day to kill before this test. Rather than spend my entire day in angst, trying to cram my brain, I made cookies.

Just your classic chocolate chip cookie. Buttery, soft, chewy, thick, and crispy. Oh, and chocolately, duh! The perfect cure for an anxious day of studying, for a celebration of being done, for a yearning for classic comfort food.

This entire recipe makes a ton of dough in just a short amount of time. In just under half an hour, I made my dough, baked my cookies, and cleaned up my dirty dishes. BAM. Instant craving fix.

Giving someone a gift of just a simple, classic chocolate chip cookie will brighten their day. I left a plate of cookies for my housemates with a friendly note saying "Good luck with finals, everyone." I tempted my friend Michelle with a few celebratory cookies, my study-buddy/friend Alison indulged (her mama made her a finals care-package of which I had a few nibbles: homemade chocolate chocolate chip cookies with candied orange peel, coconut oat and nut cookies, and chocolate dipped dried apricots), and I brought a few over to some hungry young lads in San Francisco. I've still got a few more cookies to give out, so come n' get em or else my greedy self might overcome me and may end up eating them all!

Crispy, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

From SmittenKitchen, adapted from

SmittenKitchen says, "...when I’m looking for a classic cookie, kind of like the old school Toll House recipe but better, even, this is what I go for."

As always with cookies, you can scoop, flash freeze, and then freeze the cookies until you’re ready to bake them, or to bake a few off at a time. You can bake them straight from the freezer, adding a few minutes to your baking time, of course, or let them thaw out on a tray for a while.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.

3. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.

4. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time (for giant cookies) or a tablespoon at a time (for smaller cookies) onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.

5. Bake larger cookies for 15 to 17 minutes, or 10 to 12 minutes for smaller ones (check your cookies before they’re done; depending on your scoop size, your baking time will vary) in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

I used to think I couldn't bake. I could not make a good cookie for the life of me. Now I work as a pastry cook. Funny how that happens.

I used to think I did not like peanut butter. My parents claimed they didn't like peanut butter, so I just followed their lead. All of those childhood years where I could have brought a pb&j sandwich to school for lunch, I was packin' rye bread with cream cheese and cucumber. Now pb is one of my favorite foods--crunchy, creamy, flavored, skippy, or all-natural, on toast, in a shake, with some ice cream, or right off the spoon--I love it every way.

This peanut butter banana bread was one of the first baked goods that I had made successfully when I was a novice baker. The banana, yogurt, and peanut butter combo help keep the bread/cake very moist. Easy to throw together, hard to mess up, tasty to the tongue.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread with Choco Chips

From VegetarianTimesMagazine

Ingredient List

Serves 8

  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (I have used regular whole wheat flour and all purpose flour before, and both work fine)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar or raw sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 medium bananas, mashed
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened crunchy peanut butter (Skippy brand is a winner for me here)
  • 1/4 cup plain fat-free yogurt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbs. canola oil
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Coat standard loaf pan with cooking spray. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl.
  2. Whisk together mashed bananas, peanut butter, yogurt, egg and oil. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Cool on rack 15 minutes before unmolding. Cool completely, then slice and serve.

Nutritional Information

Per SERVING: Calories: 342, Protein: 6g, Total fat: 14g, Saturated fat: 4.5g, Carbs: 52g, Cholesterol: 26mg, Sodium: 286mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugars: 34g
Yes, I created that smudge on the right with my finger. I just couldn't let that lone melty chocolate chip sit there all alone.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Coconut Lime Rice and Tropical Fruit Salsa

2 huge fish fillets, and I mean huge. Like, 3.5 feet long each. While this may seem small to some fish experts, 3.5 feet of fish definitely hits a record for me.

Today was a big day. It was my last day cooking for the entire co-op. To send everyone off on a good note, I made a happy, summery dinner. Ginger glazed n' grilled mahi mahi (I did a tofu version of the mahi mahi for my veggie friends) with fresh squeezed lime and chopped cilantro over a bed of coconut rice and a tropical salsa, all accompanied by sauteed snap peas and daikon radishes.

So I held my breath and crossed my fingers that this fish would turn out ok. The marinade is simple yet strong and I had to use some arm muscle to slice my fish into nice angled pieces (the scaly skin was tough to cut through). My co-cook, David, got a nice grilling lesson. I made him stand over the smoky grill and be "the fish man". He did a great job--the fish looked and tasted great with its nice grill marks (I just learned about the carcinogenic effects of heterocyclic amines in barbecued meats/fish...mmm, those carcinogens just taste so darn delicious...and maybe the omega-3 fatty acids counter balance the carcinogenic effects?).

I have definitely learned a lot from cooking in the co-ops and I feel thankful for that experience: seasonal food gets delivered to me, I have the power to feed a lot of people, I can get really creative and try out new ideas...

Next year I am living in an apartment with two friends, and I am honestly shaking in my boots with excitement! I can't wait to have a smaller community where I can cook a relaxing and intimate dinner in my clean house. I can't wait to peruse the markets and I can't wait to host my friends/family at my home for a small get-together. I can't wait to spend more time with my candy-apple-red Kitchen Aid Mixer and my mortar and pestle and my nice tart pans and my cute measuring spoons.

So here's to good times had and good times to come! Go try something new. It will probably be scary, it may turn out to be a horrible mess, but at least you tried and maybe you might try again.

Ginger Glazed n' Grilled Mahi Mahi
adapted from AllRecipes

serves 4

3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 (6 ounce) mahi mahi fillets
salt and pepper, to taste

cilantro and lime, for serving

1. Stir together honey, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, ginger, garlic, and olive oil.
2. Place the fish in the marinade and let sit for about 20-30 minutes.
3. Heat your grill (or oil a grill pan) and grill your fish (start skin side down) once each side until easily flaked with a fork. Flip only once.
4. To serve, place your fish on a plate and squeeze fresh lime over the top. Garnish with freshly minced cilantro and top with a fresh fruit salsa (see recipe below).

Fresh (Tropical) Fruit Salsa

recipe from FoodNetwork

1 ripe mango (and/or papaya), peeled, seeded, and diced
1 ripe avocado, peeled, seeded, and diced
1/2 cup diced fresh pineapple
3 kiwis, peeled and diced
1/4 cup minced red onions
1/4 cup minced red bell peppers
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons minced jalapeno
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Pinch salt

Combine the mango, avocado, pineapple, kiwi, onions, bell peppers, cilantro, lime juice, jalapeno, garlic, and salt in a bowl and gently fold to combine. Adjust seasoning to taste. Let sit for 30 minutes before serving for the flavors to blend.

***NOTE: feel free to add/subtract whatever produce you wish (jicama might also be nice to add!)

Coconut Rice

recipe from FoodNetwork

***NOTE: The coconut makes the rice really rich (feel free to use less coconut milk/more water if your not into the "richness")

1 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 cup long grain white rice

fresh chopped cilantro and fresh squeezed lime, for serving

In a saucepan, combine the coconut milk, water, salt, and sugar. Bring to a boil. Add the rice, stir well, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer undisturbed until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is fluffy, about 20 to 24 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit without stirring for 10 minutes.

Alternately, you can put everything into a rice cooker and BAM! Done.

Fluff with a fork and add the cilantro and lime. Adjust seasoning, to taste. Serve hot.