Thursday: What’s Tickling My Taste Buds

I spent most of my free-time online looking at food blogs (oh god it’s countless, I think I need a blogroll…), online food magazines (TheKitchn, Serious Eats, First We Feast, etc.) and sometimes the Dining section of NYTimes.com. Really, it’s like a second job with how much time I spend deep in a never-ending pile of fun posts, deliciously written articles, and enticing food photography. Rather than keep these reads to myself, here’s what’s tickling my taste buds in the world wide web of food right now:

  • Dan Leader’s 4-hour baguette: Always an eater, never a baguette baker (yet) but this recipe looks suspiciously manageable. There’s hope!
  • Black Bean Tacos: I’ve made these before & loved them, but when I tried out a CSA a few weeks ago, it left me trying to figure out what to do with a huge bunch of radishes. Over the past week, I’ve been eating a simpler take on these black bean tacos with wilted kale or spinach, garlic seasoning, a heap of sliced radishes for major crunch and a dollop of salsa instead of chimichurri. Avocado chunks when I have them, OF COURSE.
  • Other radish uses: I didn’t even think to add radishes to tacos until I saw these super-stuffed vegan tacos and this chile-braised brisket tostada.
  • 5 trends from the 2014 Homes + Housewares Show: all you need to know is: the Vitamix personal size mixer is considered the “cheaper” option at $400 (what?!), and also, individual desserts. Mmmm.
  • Orange zest leche flan: Last weekend was my dad’s birthday so of course there was tons of Filipino sweets to be had, including two of my favorites — turon (deep friend bananas or plantains wrapped in wonton paper) & cassava cake (a mildly sweet cake made of cassava root/yucca and coconut milk). I’ve had this orange zest leche flan pinned for a while, but since this is the only Filipino dessert I didn’t have this weekend, I really want to make it now. Certainly fits in with my new focus on desserts you can make sans oven, and yes I may have already purchased a few cute ceramic pans to serve this on…
  • Lastly, I get a kick out of looking at other people’s kitchens, hoping I can find inspiration for making my kitchen look better, or at least more functional. Usually, I just end up jealous of all the natural light every other kitchen except mine has.

 

The End of My Oven

There. I said it. My poor oven, after limping along since November, is finally kaput! Sad, sad day. I didn’t want to write this because it meant I’ve really given up on it, and as a baking blogger, well how could I?

On Monday, it took 30+ minutes to reach 120°F in the back of the oven according to the fancy laser thermometer that I borrowed from the garage. The oven thermometer hanging on the rack said more like 100°F, but it’s positioned near the door so the difference makes sense. Either way, when the knob is cranked to 400°F, that’s not exactly what you want to see.

Maybe there’s a chance it’ll spring back to life. I don’t really know how ovens work, but it’s possible something might be hindering how the internal thermostat is working. Or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself. It’s fluctuated in the past, ever since that fateful day of Thanksgiving baking. Maybe there’s hope…

But in the meantime, that changes plans for what I want to share here. For now, at least until I can get a new oven or fix the existing one, I’ll try to post no-bake recipes. It’s getting warmer here in Southern California, so it’s not such a bad thing. I even have been using the convection oven function of my toaster oven to roast mushrooms, bake potatoes and even cook a frozen pizza, so there could be some fun with small batch baking there. This is just a setback, but don’t worry, this won’t stop me from baking, enjoying the treats that I love, and sharing them with you!

Chocolate Mousse Again (Because I Love It So Much)

Chocolate Mousse Pie

I know, I know. This is the second time I brought up chocolate mousse, but I promise, this is worth it.  I’ll actually give the recipe this time. Also, this post is way (actually immensely) overdue, so much that today’s Valentine’s Day festivities make it relevant again, albeit barely. You can thank my work bff for begging me to celebrate random holidays with her.

You see, this all started as a way to celebrate January 23rd, which according to nameless internet folk is National Pie Day (wait, what about March 14th? I thought we eat pie on Pi Day…). My hilarious and unrelenting work bff literally begged me in every way possible to make her a pie for this nationally unknown holiday: through Facebook, gchat, texts, in person, even with emails/gchats from her husband! Ready to ignore the whole thing as a joke, I carried on with my day and left the office to cook dinner at home. Lo and behold a sign: buried in the back of my freezer was a whole wheat pie crust left over from Thanksgiving. Damn. After a millisecond contemplating how hard it would be to make apple pie, I settled for something easier to fill the pie crust with. Easier, yes, but I think much more delicious: chocolate mousse.

Now, with another holiday upon us (one that’s more legitimate than January 23rd), it’s the perfect time to talk about chocolate mousse again. What better way to celebrate love than with chocolate, after all?

When I made the mousse, I wanted something that would be stable enough to travel with since I had to bring some to work to share — unfortunately raw eggs were out. I turned the one person who appreciated chocolate as much as I do: David Lebovitz and his great book A Sweet Life in Paris. The first chocolate mousse I made on this blog is also from him and it’s much more traditional, but thankfully he also includes a version made without raw eggs in the book.

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His alternate version calls for with heavy cream, and for the record it freezes beautifully if you’re silly enough like me to preserve some for a lucky coworker. Honestly, the pie overall wasn’t great — the whole wheat crust just didn’t work well with the mousse filling. The mousse would be perfect for a graham cracker crust if you feel like making enough to share, like an elevated version of the chocolate pudding pies made from Jell-O boxes that I ate as a kid.

This mousse though, real talk now. So rich but not too dark. The greatest balance between milky sweet and the slightest bitter bite. I usually prefer my chocolate very rich and dark, much to the dismay of normal humans everywhere, but since I made it to share, I wanted to edge off the dark side of the chocolate spectrum. This mousse did NOT disappoint my coworker, my housemates or even dark-chocolate-loving me. Case and point: my work bff did a happy dance in her cubicle after taking the first bite. So if you’re planning to make this and continue your Valentine celebrations into the weekend, take heed that this may cause a spontaneous dance party. Happy Valentine’s Day & enjoy!

chocolate mousse in a pie

Chocolate Mousse made with cream

David Lebovitz’s recipe calls for semisweet chocolate, but I think what made mine so complex in flavor is that I didn’t have any semisweet chocolate on hand. Instead, I used 1 bar of milk chocolate (33%) and one bar of very dark chocolate (80%) hoping that it would even out (verdict: YES, it so did). I think it would even be OK to have half milk and half bittersweet chocolate (70%). Feel free to play around with different kinds, but always made sure it’s good quality chocolate, as it’s the main ingredient and there isn’t much else to mask mediocre chocolate.

Also, I don’t keep Chartreuse (a type of liqueur) in the house, which is what Lebovitz’s recipe calls for. Fortunately, this works well with other flavored liqueurs like Frangelico (hazelnut) or Kahlua (coffee — though he suggests subbing actual espresso). I would even try this with Grand Marnier (orange).

Makes 4 to 6 servings (or enough to fill an 8 or 9-inch pie crust)

Adapted from the A Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

  • 3.5 oz of milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3.5 oz of dark or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (alternately, you can use 7 oz of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate instead of the two different kinds)
  • 4 Tablespoons of salted butter, diced
  • 3 Tablespoons of Frangelico
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 3/4 cup of heavy cream

1) In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate, butter, Frangelico, and water until smooth. Note that the bowl must big enough that the bottom doesn’t touch the hot water in the pan but hovers above the water when resting on top of the pan. Once melted, set aside to cool.

2) In another bowl, beat the cream with a whisk or electric hand mixer until it has formed soft peaks. The peaks should droop a little when you lift the whisk or mixer from the bowl.

3) Fold a third of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture slowly until just incorporated. Then fold in the rest of the cream with your chocolate mixture.

4) Cover and chill for at least 3 hours before serving. If you want, you can divide the mousse into individual serving ramekins, or pour into a fully baked pie crust before placing into the fridge to chill.

Note: if necessary, you can freeze this for later. Cover the top of the mousse with plastic wrap, making sure to fully cover it and remove air bubbles, then cover with foil. Freeze until needed.

Happy 2014 from Croissants, Cookies & Crumb!

Happy New Year friends and followers =) I had a very fun, loving, and meaningful holiday season, and I hope you had one that was even better. After a quiet few months, CC&C is back.

In fact, Croissants, Cookies & Crumb will go through a minor but very exciting update. There will still be baked goods from my crappy rental kitchen, but more of them and with more organization. Also, I will experiment with the tone and type of information you’ll find in each blog post, besides the recipe. This blog is to share not only recipes I like, but also what fascinates me so much about the different baked goods that grace my kitchen counter.

I will also be adding a much needed source of organization & inspiration to the blog, a new focus that I’m aptly calling my Cookbook Hoarder’s Challenge. I’ll be making a separate post with all the details soon.

If all the changes aren’t quite clear to you, just sit back and watch as the cookies, buns and other delicious fare roll in. I have a renewed sense of purpose for CC&C, and I’m very excited to share it all with you!

Baked Goods on the Horizon: November Edition

Ok so as you can tell from last week’s post, I’m still all pie-brained. That’s not a word, or a thing, but I’m making it a thing. Now that Thanksgiving is only 9 days away, I realize I should probably get started. Sure there are things I could prepare in advance, and since I’m traveling, it’s probably a good idea to do so. However, the main reason I need to ‘prep’ is because I HAVE NO IDEA what to make!

Here’s the situation: My parents are hosting Thanksgiving for our immediate family, plus my aunts, uncle, and great-aunt from Toronto (yay!!) as well as possibly my aunt and uncle from California (woohoo!). I LOVE big Thanksgiving feasts and the chance to have so many people together from different places, so I’m pretty excited about seeing everyone.

I told my mom I will take care of dessert, aka pie. She was quick to say, “no pumpkin,” and, “I want those chocolate crinkle cookies you always make.” So OK, at least 1 pie and cookies.

Also, mom wants a quinoa veggie salad like her best friend from California makes. So, at least 1 pie, cookies, and quinoa salad.

While my mom orders the traditional dishes (& some Filipino food!) from the same places every year, I usually prepare a lot of the additional food on the table, like vegetable sides, biscuits, etc. This year, one of my aunts is a newly-turned vegan, and I want her to enjoy the company and food without worrying about it. She is also gluten-free, though this has been a long-standing part of her life already. So, at least 1 vegan gluten-free pie / dessert, cookies, quinoa veggie salad, and one more veggie dish so there’s enough food for all to feast on. I don’t eat meat that often myself, and usually prepare several vegetable dishes to offset the other heavy food on the table, so I don’t think this will be that difficult to incorporate vegan fare — but it’ll be a challenge making sure there are gluten-free options too.

Phew! That’s a lot to take on. I’m trying to use these next few days to test out recipes. I’ll also bake those crinkle cookies probably a day or two in advance so they’re ready to go (plus they’re easy to travel with), along with anything else I can make in advance and just carry in the car ride over. In addition, I’m spending this Saturday morning at the San Diego Wine & Food Festival, running in the Fit Foodie 5K (there’s a special Finisher’s Village with our own food stations, wine tastings, demos and more, so I’m pretty pumped!) My week’s filling up pretty fast, but here’s a look at what’s to come on the blog this month:

  • Lemon Chess Pie (from last week’s post, but maybe with a lattice top… Is that weird?)
  • Apple Pie (possibly with a streusel topping, mmm)
  • Raw, Vegan Pecan Pie OR a Vegan, Gluten-free Chocolate Cake (still deciding which one to tackle!)
  • A re-cap of Saturday’s Fit Foodie 5K the delicious finds from the Finisher’s Village
  • Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

I feel a bit better writing it all out, even though nothing’s accomplished yet. It actually doesn’t look so bad on (digital) paper… but then again, we’ll see once I’m in the throes of Thanksgiving 2013 bake-/prep-a-thon! =)

Link Love: Pies on my mind…

While so much of the country is talking about the first flurries this week, I’m sitting here wondering why I’m wearing a sweater when it’s 88 degrees out. Actually, I know the answer to that: the old rental house I live in, while charming, has terrible insulation. My house must suck up all the cold air from the middle of the night and hold it all in because I wake up in a bedroom that’s 56 degrees, get dressed in layers, and step outside perplexed by the sun and heat. I know this is what weather apps on your phone are for but that’s asking me to be a coherent, quick thinking in the morning. No, sorry, not possible.

Even with the unseasonably warm weather, I’m falling for all the beautiful photos of holiday-themed and cold-weather foods on Pinterest. All my social media feeds are already saturated with Thanksgiving recipes, most of them about PIE.

Disclaimer: I haven’t always been a fan of pie. I’m more of a cake, cookie, bread person (hence why this blog isn’t called Croissants, Cookies, & Pie). I’ve been called non-American in jest because I didn’t grow up eating pie and I’m still in the habit of saying I don’t really like pie. Honestly, pie and I are still new friends and this courtship of ours is slow. However, I’ve seen enough gorgeous food photography lately to give them another chance.

OK, all that aside, I think I’m ready to make a pie for Thanksgiving dinner — one that won’t go unnoticed and will instead be devoured by all. I’ve compiled a few links for inspiration, as well as some great related articles that I ran into this week. Enjoy!

Last year's maiden journey into the land of pie baking

Last year’s maiden journey into the land of pie baking

I’ve only made pie once, so maybe some practice is in order before the holidays. Last year I made a classic apple pie with some help from Saveur. It was so delicious, according to a couple of people who didn’t even like pie (ok, I was one of them). Here are the links I referenced:

More how-to links for making awesome pies:

Some Pinterest inspiration I found for future pie-baking endeavors (three of which were from a Food52 feature on the ladies of Four & Twenty Blackbirds, a trendy pie shop in NYC):

All-Butter Crust from Four & Twenty Blackbirds
Never-Fail Lemon Curd from Beth Dunham
Lemon Chess Pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds
Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds — more oatmeal + chocolate love!
A savory Thanksgiving Root Pie recipe from Food52

I’ll share whatever recipe I’ve decided on for Thanksgiving a little later, but for updates on my pie fiascos and successes, you can find those on my Twitter feed.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

wwoatmealchocchip

I have a confession. I made these cookies on Sunday to distract myself from fussing with a pot of chicken stock. Yes, I’m aware that’s a strange reason to make cookies, but it was my first try at chicken stock and I was anxious. Letting something simmer for 4+ hours isn’t the easiest thing for me, and despite my plan to just enjoy the luxury of an extra Sunday hour, I felt restless. We had come back from the farmers market and I was full of ideas so I made a list of potential meals for the week. When I realized that took all of 10 minutes and I was still as restless as ever, I turned to my bookshelf and grabbed a cookbook.

notes

I grabbed Green & Black’s Organic Ultimate Chocolate Recipes Cookbook — a collection of recipes from Green & Black’s recipe testers as well as from well known chefs and bakeries across the country. Actually I won this book in a Facebook promotion a few years back, had bookmarked some interesting recipes and then never looked at it again. But with the word ULTIMATE in large font across the cover, I felt excited about it, as if I received it that day. Thumbing through a few pages, I settled on the first recipe listed for chocolate chip cookies. Oh but the recipe was hiding a little secret: these cookies had oatmeal.

oatmeal

I dove in, following the recipe step-by-step, but since I always love chewy cookies, I took them from the oven a couple minutes early. Even though I still had hours left on that now-forgotten chicken stock, I was accomplished and ecstatic. After they had cooled, I picked the best looking one off the wire rack, took a slow bite as if to better help me remember the taste, and…

…it was just OK. The overdose on chocolate chips helped (hey the recipe actually reads “amount [of chocolate] depends on your level of addiction”), but I tasted the flour and the oats separately instead of the cookie as a whole. As if in disbelief, I managed to eat 2 more before deciding to let the batch rest overnight. Surely, the cookies would benefit from a night of flavor-melding magic. Not so. They were reminiscent of tiny, dry scones, the taste more like flour than anything else. Defeated I left for work and didn’t think much more of it.

Except that I did think more about it and came home Tuesday evening eager to try again. This time I did some research on what eggs do in baked goods, learning how in this case it would act mostly as an emulsifier, and how generally the yoke provided a creamy luscious texture while the whites provided leavening. I tested and tweaked it until I got a lovely looking cookie with a shiny, crisp shell that gave way to a soft and chewy center. Alas, oatmeal chocolate chip cookie bliss.

wwoccc wwocccookiestea

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

One important thing I should note: the recipe calls for the dough to be chilled for a bit, then taking small balls of dough and rolling them quickly in your hands before placing them on the baking sheet. I tested this method out versus just plopping down spoonfuls, and the results are really apparent. Please follow the recipe’s instructions on this, unless you want your cookies to come out very flat with very burned edges. It seems the rolling into little balls helps the cookies keep their shape and prevents the edges from spreading out too thin. It’s worth the bit of extra time.

The book’s recipe calls for adding an undetermined amount of ground ginger to make the cookies more “adult” so I’ve included enough ground ginger to make the flavor more complex but not change it substantially. You can leave this out if you choose.

Adapted from the Ultimate Chocolate Recipes Cookbook from Green & Black’s Organic

  • 9 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup muscovado or granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (semisweet is fine too)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

2) Cream the butter and both kinds of sugar in a large bowl until smooth.

3) Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla into bowl and beat until well mixed.

4) Add the flour, salt, baking soda, ground ginger, and rolled oats into the bowl. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated and the dough is sticky.

5) Put in fridge to chill for 10-15 minutes.

6) Scoop out a heaping teaspoon of dough and roll it briefly in your hands to make a ball. Place on a greased (or lined) baking sheet and flatten the ball of dough slightly. Repeat with the rest of the dough, spacing the cookie balls an inch or so apart to allow for some spreading. You will have to work quickly to keep the dough from getting too warm.

7) Bake in the oven for 12-13 minutes. If you have two baking sheets, make sure the oven racks are spaced out in thirds, and place one sheet on each rack. Halfway through the baking time, switch the baking sheets to allow for more even cooking.

8) Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Then, transfer them over to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Ingredient Inspiration: Earl Grey Tea

I’m a huge tea fanatic, and my favorite kinds really depend on what kind of day it is, what I’m eating, and what the weather is like. However, if I had to choose one favorite above them all, it would be Earl Grey. Maybe it’s strange, but I have distinct memories about this tea more than others. The first time I had Earl Grey tea was at a tea party with my 4th grade class after we read a story that took place in a London garden. In high school, I used to make a cup of Earl Grey before pulling all-nighters or reading a week’s worth of English assignments in one night. I even wrote my college application essay about Earl Grey tea (sort of).

So maybe I was just looking for another reason to brew a cup, but there’s something about the seasons finally turning colder (in Southern California, at least) that especially makes me want a cup of Earl Grey. But why stop at just drinking it? With all the inspiration online at my fingertips, I realized I could have that distinct herbal, sweet, slightly-citrus bergamot flavor in many other treats and baked goods and sweets. Here’s a round-up of my favorites from the world-wide web (& a quick thank you to Michelle, Leanne, Russell, & Garrett who let me post their divine photos!).

Dark chocolate and Earl Grey tea cookies from HummingbirdHigh.com (reposted with permission)

Dark chocolate and Earl Grey tea cookies from HummingbirdHigh.com (photo owned by HummingbirdHigh.com – posted with permission)

Overnight Earl Grey Porridge from LeanneBakes.com (reposted with permission)

Overnight Earl Grey Porridge from LeanneBakes.com (photo owned by LeanneBakes.com – posted with permission)

Earl Grey Berry Tart from ChasingDelicious.com

Earl Grey Berry Tart from ChasingDelicious.com (photo owned by ChasingDelicious.com – posted with permission)

Earl Grey Chocolate Caramels from VanillaGarlic.com (posted with permission)

Earl Grey Chocolate Caramels from VanillaGarlic.com (photo owned by VanillaGarlic.com – posted with permission)

 

Links to the Earl Grey recipes above plus a few more:

Looks like I’ll have quite a few pots of tea to brew and so many ways to keep my tummy happy.

Thanks to all my early followers… that means YOU!

I can’t believe that it’s only been one month since I started Croissants, Cookies, & Crumb. While I’m trying to ramp up how often I write here and post recipes, I’m so happy with the decision to start. Often that’s the hardest thing, but I’m happy I took the first step.

I’m also happy for all of YOU, my 9 email followers, blogging class friends (hello!), family and other readers who found their way to my little patch of internet grass. I know that might not seem like a lot, but to me it really is. I’m very grateful for all of you here because in the short few weeks I’ve had this blog, your comments, likes and follows have really encouraged me to keep it up.

So on the 1 month anniversary of my first post, all I have to say is: Thank you!

And also, there’s a cookie recipe on the way ;-)

Chocolate Mousse for National Chocolate Day…sorta

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When I don’t feel like myself, there are very few things that can set my head on straight again. One is reading, cutting off the whole world outside my head and left only to the words my eyes read. Another — writing. It seems redundant, but in writing I can usually convince myself I’m in fact, me. It feels very Alice in Wonderland to say that, but I’ve found the truest words come out in writing rather than speaking. (Though, maybe I just have trouble articulating my thoughts out loud.) Another great avenue to feeling myself again is singing. Not for anyone or in front of no one except me. There’s something really liberating about it, even when I become embarrassed at myself for going off-key.

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Of course, there’s time in the kitchen. Whether cooking or baking, whether making myself a snack or making something I’m not sure anyone will eat, it fills me with peace and a quiet joy. A joy that reminds me that I am in fact, me.

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The Monday routine jolted me awake from the careless demeanor of a weekend away. Nothing particularly bad or impressive happened — just so much to do and catch up on because of course the working world didn’t take the same off-the-grid trip I did. So for each line on my To Do list that remained uncrossed, I felt more frustrated and less like myself. I tried distraction via social media (because obviously the cure for being unproductive is procrastination), which didn’t exactly leave me more inspired to get sh*t done. However, I did learn of such important holidays like National Chocolate Day.

Imagine my Monday moodiness dissipating at the realization that other people acknowledge and celebrate this silly day. Immediately I thought of David Lebovitz’s chocolate mousse from his book A Sweet Life in Paris. Yes, this would be exactly what I needed and just a luxurious way to participate in this chocolate holiday.

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Here’s the funny thing. I didn’t even eat chocolate on National Chocolate Day. I came home and tended to important matters like unpacking, doing yoga, and Googling how to cure fresh olives, so David Lebovitz’s book didn’t even come off the shelf until nearly 10pm. After following the instructions step by step I read, “Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours.” Yeah, exactly. So into the fridge it went, and into my warm bed I crept.

It made a fine dessert to commemorate the momentous Day after National Chocolate Day. More importantly, the short time it took to melt the chocolate, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold it all in together was exactly what I needed to become myself again: a girl who loves chocolate enough to make mousse at 10pm and eats it the next evening while singing loudly by herself, ever so slightly off-key.