Monday, December 26, 2011

Fantastic Eclair Cake w/ Chocolate Ganache

Seriously, what could be better?

Fluffy clouds of HEAVEN

Oops I think "chocolate ganache" is redundant. It's clearer for those who don't know what ganache is (chocolate + cream) though I guess. goodness. I wanted to bring Auntie Joanne's custard pie/cream puff pie to Christmas Eve, but it wasn't big enough, and I didn't want to make two separate pies, so I found this recipe, which is basically the same thing but with a ganache topping. Heavenly...unless you don't like eclairs or cream puffs or chocolate or something. It does have a lot of pudding, but it's dang good pudding because it's mixed with real whipped cream. HECK YEAH. Making this again for New Year's Day, so I'll take better pictures and update this post soon.

Got the recipe from All Recipes (I just broke down the directions into easier-to-read steps and changed "and"s to "&"s and stuff to save people's printer ink.

Pastry shell:
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs

2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 (3.5 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
2 cups cold milk

Chocolate Ganache:
1 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Ghirardelli's 60% semisweet chips)
1 cup heavy cream

1) Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C)
2) Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish
3) Chill a mixing bowl in the freezer
4) Combine the water, butter, & salt in medium saucepan & bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium & stir in the flour. Cook and stir until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan & forms a ball.
5) Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl & beat in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated
6) Spread the dough evenly in the bottom of the baking dish.
7) Bake the pastry in preheated oven until golden brown (25 to 30 minutes - Dough will rise & make a boat shape but should drop as it cools)
8) Cool completely on wire rack.

9) Remove chilled mixing bowl from the freezer & pour in 2 cups of cold whipping cream
10) Whip until cream thickens (about 1 minute)
11) Stir in confectioners' sugar & vanilla extract
12) Continue to whip until cream forms stiff peaks
13) Refrigerate whipped cream while you mix the pudding
14) Pour pudding mixes & milk into a mixing bowl & stir until creamy
15) Fold in the whipped cream
16) Spread the filling over the cooled crust & refrigerate

17) Place chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl
18) Bring 1 cup of cream almost to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat
19) Pour the hot cream over the chocolate & allow it to soften for 1 minute
20) Whisk mixture until smooth
21) Let mixture cool slightly to thicken (~10 minutes)
22) Pour ganache over the cream filling, spreading to cover the entire surface
23) Return pan to the refrigerator & chill for at least 1 hour before serving

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dad's Fresh Fruit Jumble

My dad made this awhile ago for a family get-together. I loved how this was so colorful and full of different kinds of GOOD fruit (in my opinion). Too often fruit salads are mixed up with cantalope or something I dislike, ruining the flavor of the entire salad. All of these fruits above were fairly dry, so even if you hate grapes (who ARE you?!), you'd be fine picking the non-strawberry fruits without worrying about goopy grape juice mixing all over your fruit. Also, a lot o f the fruit is sitting inside of a pineapple.

Fruits: Grapes, cherries, blueberries, pineapple, strawberries, mandarin oranges, watermelon, and raspberries.

All you do is pick your fruits, wash 'em, and throw them together into a pineapple. I guess the only hard part is cutting open the pineapple and slicing the watermelon if you choose those fruits. The rest is easy!

How's that for a fresh, HEALTHY dish to take to a holiday party? Unhealthy holiday posts to come. I highly recommend this peppermint hot chocolate drink in the meantime if you want an easy homemade drink for a cozy night in.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Swirled Peanut Butter Brownie Cups

Swirly peanut butter brownie cups

Recipe (adapted from the regular brownie recipe at're Cooking!). All I did was change the baking time and the fact that you use a muffin/cupcake tin instead of a brownie pan/dish. These are so good!! I've made these twice over the past few days for elementary school teachers and other people who help me out throughout the year. When cooled, they slip quite easily into those little good bags that tie with a twist-tie. For these I'm going to use ribbon to make them look more festive. I hope I see my co-workers today. I hope I have enough for the kids' parents too....

1/3 cup butter
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 egg

(1) Melt butter & chocolate together. Set aside to cool.
(2) In a small bowl mix flour, baking powder, & salt together.
(3) In a large mixing bowl, beat the 2 eggs & sugar together until light. Add vanilla. Stir in flour mixture & cooled chocolate mixture.
(4) Pour into a greased muffin/cupcake pan.

(5) Beat all ingredients together until smooth.

(6) Drop spoonfuls of peanut butter mixture over the brownie layer. Marble with a knife.

(7) Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20 minutes. Cool.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

2 Casey's Cupcakes: The Pumpkin & The Peanut Butter

Casey's Cupcakes (they won on Cupcake Wars!)
I went to the Riverside location connected to Mission Inn.
3649 Mission Inn Avenue
Riverside, CA 92501
Website here.

I believe this was the most moist cupcake I've ever had. The cake/base was excellent! However, here are the rest of my notes:
(1) I dislike artificial-looking foods, so the orange frosting kinda weirds me out. If it were naturally orange, that'd be okay.
(2) I HATE edible glitter, so the glitter atop the fake orange frosting really weirds me out. Oh--and the employee reassured me that the glitter is edible. Thank you. I was so sure you were selling people glitter that would cut up peoples' insides.
(3) The top swirl was just a regular buttercream frosting as far as Melissa and I could tell, so it wasn't anything special. It would have been cool if it had been cream cheese frosting. It did make this cupcake pretty though!
(4) Aside from the color of the frosting, Melissa thought the glitter made the texture weird, and Mia wasn't a fan of the frosting either.

Sooo...although I loved the base, the frosting was bleh to me, so I wouldn't buy this. Maybe if you could request the base with a different frosting without glitter I'd get it!

I actually just sampled Melissa's pumpkin cupcake and got myself a peanut butter cupcake (not sure of the exact name because their website picture of the peanut butter cupcake looks different, so that could be a special PB cupcake). Anyway, so far the only GOOD cupcakes here are the peanut butter and the red velvet cupcakes. The only GREAT ones (in my opinion) are the strawberry and red velvet cupcakes. The red velvet is their most popular, according to the employees, so if you like red velvet cupcakes, you should try it and let me know what you think. I liked it, but the frosting wasn't sour enough for me (Casey's claims it is made of cream cheese, but I didn't taste it).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Homemade Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Delicious plain...

...but KILLER with real whipped cream & cinnamon
I'm not a huge fan of candy canes unless they're in a drink or crushed up into something like peppermint bark or the Candy Cane Joe Joes from Trader Joe's, which I absolutely love (both the Joe Joes and Trader Joe's).

This hot chocolate is soo good. I'm drinking it as I write about it.
I don't really measure things when I make drinks, but here's a really easy recipe that I just now put together for the drink above:

~1 cup hot water
1 1/2 Tablespoons Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa (THE BEST!)
1 1/2 Tablespoons brown sugar (not packed unless you want it sweeter)
3 Tablespoons whole milk
1 candy cane
Heavy whipping cream (however much you want)
Ground cinnamon

1) Heat the water
2) Mix in the cocoa
3) Add brown sugar & mix
4) Add whole milk & mix
5) Plop in candy cane
6) Top with whipped cream (use a mixer to whip liquid heavy whipping cream until it forms stiff peaks and add however much sugar you want
7) Sprinkle with cinnamon

* Notes:
1.)This would work well with mocha instead of just hot chocolate
2.) For a healthier version, use less whole milk, exclude milk, or use low-fat, non-fat milk, or soymilk instead
3.) For more peppermint flavor, add more candy cane pieces at the bottom or peppermint extract
4.) For an alcoholic version, add some Peppermint schnapps

Mia makes this drink in a similar way! Here's a picture of my drink at her place:

My hot chocolate at Mia's
hehe This is what happens to the cane

Monday, December 5, 2011

Obleas con Cajeta de Leche

These things are so yummy! And weird at the same time because you kinda feel like you're biting into stiff tissue paper or something...but then you know it's a light wafer...and then you get that milky caramel that's awesome. I can't remember the first time I had it, but I got it the other day at this huge Mexican grocery store.

The inside:

 A smoother bite:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Magnolia Bakery - Los Angeles, CA (also NY)

Chocolate & vanilla cupcakes from visit #1

Chocolate, vanilla, & red velvet cupcakes from visit #1 (I gave some away as gifts)
Melissa, Jason, Izzy, and I saw a taping of CONAN last Monday, 11/28. It was pretty awesome. Conan O'Brien is hilarious live in person and on TV. Melissa held up a sign that said something about having red-headed babies with Conan, but he didn't see it. :(

Anyway, Melissa introduced me to Magnolia Bakery last year when we helped someone in our program collect her dissertation data in LA, but I never posted about it! Here I'll combine both visits into one post. The original Magnoia Bakery is in New York, but this one is in Los Angeles at 8389 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90048.

I have to say that their vanilla cupcake is the best I've ever had. See below.

On 11/28, I got a flourless chocolate cupcake topped with vanilla bean frosting. The cake was good and reminded me of this kind of flourless chocolate cake from Crixa Cakes in Berkeley (not like this kind from Limón Peruvian Cuisine in Fresno, which was more dense and moist), but the frosting......I don't know. I can see why people would love it and why they would dislike it. At first I loved it, but then I realized that the texture had a silky, almost plastic-like feeling on my tongue that made me feel like I was eating fake frosting that would never digest and would automatically clog every artery in my body. I don't know. Conclusion = I don't like silky frosting. Here is that flourless cupcake:

Back during visit #1 to Magnolia Bakery, in February of 2011, I tried a vanilla cupcake (one of the ones pictured above) and this red velvet cupcake. Stupid blurriness. My fault. Anyway, the vanilla is the best vanilla cupcake I've ever had. It's magical, I tell you. This red velvet one was good too, but I still hold to my belief that Chiffono's has the best red velvet cupcake ever.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011!

Of course I take pictures of my Thanksgiving food. I'd say that my families have semi-traditional Thanksgiving food. Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, a few awesome non-traditional dishes that are AWESOME.

Meal #1: Uncle J and Auntie J's house

Soooo good and filling and fancy. That cup has a butternut squash soup, possibly my favorite soup ever. Definitely one of my favorites.

Appetizers! That green thing is a type of guava that tasted like a sour apple some other things. The skin was mighty sour.

I usually hate clams, but these were yummy, and I had three.

I also usually hate beets, but these below with goat cheese were yummy. Uncle Jerry has a way of making things I hate into things that I actually like. Crazy.


Meal #2: Uncle G & Auntie R's

I didn't eat much salty food here because I was still full from the first stop.

Green tea pudding/jello with pumpkin pie. My favorite was the green tea stuff. I love that matcha powder texture. The brown stuff on top is sweet red bean paste
(an pronounced kinda like "awn" or "on")

Meal #4 (No pics from meal #3 with Blake's dad's side): With Blake's mom's side
and immediate family. This was actually on Sunday, 11/27/11. Chicken, veal ravioli, cherry pizza/tart, salad, pilaf, fruit salad, garlic bread. Perfect!