Sunday, May 31, 2009

Berry Bread Pudding

I had a lot left over from when I made challah bread, so it was about time for some bread pudding. I made a bread pudding using strawberries, since they're in season and it seemed like a good summery thing to make.

Also! While I am thinking about it -- another good thing to do with old challah is slice it up for French toast. This bread is awesome for French toast, I promise you.

Cubing the old bread:

You then soak the bread in this milk and egg mixture. While the bread marinates, line the bottom of the ramekins with sugar and sliced strawberries:

Press the soaked bread on top:

The bread has to soak a little bit more before going onto the oven, so leave them alone for a while. (Now's a good time to do some dishes!) Then bake.

When the puddings are done, you can tell since they puff up like little cakes and turn golden brown. When they are mostly cool, invert to serve. Garnish with more berries and drizzle with lemon syrup.

Enjoy! I got the recipe from Tyler Florence of Food Network, see below:

Berry Bread Pudding

Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence

butter, room temperature
4 eggs
¾ cup whole milk
¾ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ cup sugar, plus more for dusting and topping
approx. 2 ½ cups old brioche or challah, cubed
2 cups mixed berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries), plus more for garnish
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 lemon, zested and juiced

Butter and sugar 6 (6-ounce) ramekins.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and sugar. Combine well with a whisk - then let it settle so there are no air bubbles on the surface.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Add bread to the custard mixture and toss to combine. Equally divide the berries among the ramekins and top with the bread mixture. Gently press down so they are packed evenly. Sprinkle with more sugar, then refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes to let soak.

Bake for 25 minutes in the center of the oven. The pudding is ready when it has puffed up and the custard is set. The top should be a golden color. Remove and allow to cool slightly.

In a mixing bowl, combine sifted powdered sugar, water, lemon zest and juice.

Once the pudding has cooled slightly, invert onto an individual serving plate. Drizzle the lemon fondant over warm bread pudding and serve with extra fresh berries.

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Monday, May 25, 2009

Scallion Pancakes

Alright, so I am going to make an effort to post more recipes directly on here. I was too lazy before, but I figure I might as well. It's good for my own record-keeping purposes, too.

So! We'll start off easy. Scallion pancakes are a Chinese flatbread, very similar to its Indian cousin, parathas. I've always liked them because of their chewy layers -- the consistency makes them more interesting than other breads.

First, mixing the flour and water into a dough. If you want to know something interesting -- a LOT of Chinese doughs start out this way: a simple mixture of flour and hot water. Dumplings, wontons, potstickers, you name it -- what usually changes is the type of flour you use.

After kneading (it's kind of relaxing to knead hot dough, if you ask me), you have to let the dough rest for a little bit.

Cutting the scallions in the meantime.

So you split that dough ball into 6 smaller pieces. Roll each one out into a thin circle. Brush the circle with a layer of vegetable oil. Now, those of you who have done pastry before will recognize this is sort of a short-cut version of doing a buerre block folded into a détrempe. The oil, rolled and flattened and separating the dough, is what makes the peel-away layers that are characteristic of these pancakes.

Add salt, and scatter some scallions on. Then, roll up the dough circle.

Take the roll and wrap it into a tight coil.

Okay, this might get dicey since oil and onion pieces might squirt out at you -- but work with a firm and gentle hand and roll out the coil into a pancake again.

Pan fry them on a griddle. Don't literally fry them -- all you need is enough oil to keep the pancake from sticking. Some folks like these oilier -- I have to confess I am not one of them. They taste good either way, so don't feel obligated to oil them up.

Slice and serve!

See below for the recipe. They're easy! Hope you give it a shot.

Scallion Pancakes

Recipe adapted from those of Jennifer Yu and Dorie Greenspan

1 cup cake flour
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1 cup boiling water
3 teaspoons salt (approx.)
6 teaspoons vegetable oil (approx.), plus more for pan-frying
1 bunch scallions, minced

Stir the flours in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. Add the boiling water, and stir until a rough dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth, kneading in more all-purpose flour as necessary. Cover with a cloth or wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes, or longer if possible.

On a floured work surface, roll the dough into a rough log. Cut the log into 6 pieces. Keep the unused dough covered with a damp towel as you work.

With a rolling pin, roll out one piece of dough into a circle. Brush the top with a little oil and sprinkle with some of the minced scallion greens and salt. Roll up the circle like a jelly roll and pinch the ends to seal. Coil the roll into a snail shape, with the seam on the inside. Pinch the end to secure it and set aside on a lightly floured surface.

Prepare the remaining pancakes. Reflour the work surface and roll each coiled pancake out to 1/8 inch thickness.

Heat a tablespoon of oil on a flat, wide pan over a medium-low to medium flame until hot. Set the pancake in the oil and let fry until the bottom is crisp and golden. Flip the pancake, adding more oil as needed. Remove from heat, slice, and serve immediately, or reheat in the oven.

Yield: 6 pancakes (12 servings)
Prep Time: 45 minutes, including the 30 minute rest
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Baking bread! Whoo! (Man, I love being back in a place with a real kitchen.) To be specific, I made challah.

Challah is a braided Jewish bread. The bread doesn't contain any milk or butter (it uses water and vegetable oil instead), making it parve. That also makes it considerably better for you than its French cousin, brioche.

The dough is pretty straightforward -- water, yeast, honey, a little sugar, eggs, vegetable oil, salt, and flour. I found a pretty good recipe over here, which also gives a handy guide for how to make a 4-strand braid. (I replaced some of the sugar in that recipe with honey.)

After the first rise, split the dough into 4 balls and roll them out to equal length (I got about 15 inches out of these).

Okay, the slightly tricky part. Lay out the ropes of dough and pinch one end together. Then, umm... well, just follow the King Arthur Flour instructions I linked above, haha. You'll know you're doing it right when it looks kinda like a squid.

When you're done, pinch the ends together and tuck them under. Et voila, a braided challah that looks super-complicated but really was not.

Cover and let proof until doubled in size, at least another half hour. Coat with egg wash, then bake in the oven! Be careful not to overbake, and you will be rewarded with:

It was great! Soft and warm and slightly chewy.

Also? This is a whole freaking lot of bread. The loaf is huge! Methinks there is some bread pudding in my future...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Home again, home again

Taking a short pausa to move back home! That is it, 1L year is officially over, thank goodness.

The summer fruits and veggies are starting to come in, so that means there'll be some fun baking and cooking in store - hopefully starting next week. See you soon!

Pictured above: a latte from La Colombe, a coffee shop in Center City. Literally only a coffee shop - nothing but a bar, some tables and chairs, and coffee. None of those whatever-chino drinks, either. Reminded me of Italy, in fact. (Note the textbooks in the background of the picture.)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Audrey Claire - pappardelle

So, in addition to food trucks and Quizzo, Philadelphia is also home to another phenomenon that is not nearly as prevalent in other cities: BYOs - usually small restaurants holed into renovated houses. Expect good, fresh food at fair prices. (A big plus, for a student on a budget.) Apparently due to Philly's strange history of alcohol laws, BYOs became pretty common, and popular.

So. I haven't really been to any worth noting, except one that I happened to like a lot. A LOT. Audrey Claire is sort of adorable (in terms of the decor and setting) and the food is amazing. It's the sister restaurant to Twenty Manning, which is a little more formal, and I think I prefer Audrey Claire.

I was happy to be with a group that ordered a lot of food! The appetizers were amaaazing. One of them was a humongous bowl of mussels.

Another one, which I liked best, was the pear and gorgonzola flatbread.

It looks plain, but it was good! For my main dish, I ordered the pappardelle, which was mixed with arugula, portobello mushrooms, pine nuts, and locatelli (a fancy type of romano cheese, I believe).

It photographed well! I was pleased. Very cute place, overall.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake cupcakes

White cake with strawberry inside, with fresh strawberry buttercream.

Kerry and I made cupcakes for Gary's birthday, and they were largely a product of trial-and-error. But came out fairly well!

See, Gary mentioned liking something strawberry-oriented for his birthday (or perhaps Kerry and I hallucinated that conversation because I can't remember what he said exactly). So Kerry had strawberries.

I made a white cake batter that usually goes over pretty well in cupcake form (it doesn't dry out too much - which is always a danger with white cake). And we placed slices of strawberries on top - since one of Kerry's cupcake books assured us the strawberry would sink into the cake during baking.

Perhaps they didn't mean for us to lay slices on top, because the slices didn't sink and simply stayed on top as the cake baked under it -- creating a kind of dried strawberry top. Perhaps my batter was too strong! Or perhaps we shouldn't have sliced the strawberries length-wise. Ah well.

We made a beautiful vanilla buttercream that promptly turned into soup when we mixed in the mashed strawberries. Ok, it wasn't pure soup, but close enough. Popping it into the fridge helped it to keep some body, though.

Despite the errors in our trial-and-error, they actually tasted very good at the end of the day.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ladurée - macarons

Because Yoon-jee is the best and kindest and most thoughtful person ever, she picked up a pack of macarons from Laudrée for me when she went to Paris over Spring Break. (I know!)

Ah, the little sea green bag and box. Better than a Tiffany's bag, for me. No, seriously.

You know how cupcakes are the big fad dessert in the U.S.? They're dying down now. And macarons are the talk of the dessert town in France, so I anticipate these becoming the Next Big Thing, if they aren't already. There are a lot of French pastry shops in New York already churning these babies out. And they're similar to cupcakes in that they can pair fun flavor combinations together, since they have the cookie part and the filling part.

I told her to get me an assortment of weird flavors, since I wanted to try something different.

These are just my guesses for the flavors, since YJ didn't remember what she got me. But from the background to the foreground, I believe we have: orange blossom, dark chocolate and passion fruit, lemon and green basil, rose, dark chocolate and raspberry, coffee, salted butter caramel, and violet cassis.

My favorites have to be the caramel (not too sweet! I like it), the rose (surprisingly light and you definitely taste the rose, it's so strange), and the lemon and green basil (refreshing).

I took a picture of the lemon and green basil because I thought the colors were interesting:

Someday, I wil be able to replicate that nice crackly, paper-thin cookie crust. Sigh...