Ooey Gooey Deliciousness – Momofuku Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies

I’m a little late on jumping on the Momofuku bandwagon. For the past few years, I’ve been hearing all of the hype about Momofuku, especially the desserts from Milk Bar. There are raving reviews of the inventive cookie and cake creations of Chef Christina Tosi, from the corn cookies to the birthday crumb cake. So when I saw her cookbook, Milk, was at my public library, I put my name down on the waiting list to check it out. I was so happy to finally get my hands on those crazy recipes!

Having heard about some of Tosi’s desserts before and how complex they were, I decided to tackle one of the easier recipes. The Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies were just a slight departure from the classical chocolate chip cookie recipe, but had enough craziness to satisfy my preference for non-traditional, exotic desserts. These cookies add a twist to normal chocolate chip cookies with a cornflake crunch and marshmallows.

Before trying this recipe, I looked it up online to get some tips from food bloggers who had tried it before. Tosi and other bloggers strongly recommend using a stand mixer (i.e. Kitchen Aid mixer) to cream the butter and sugar. Luckily, my roommate got one for a Christmas present a few years ago and added it to our kitchen. (I want to say that using a hand mixer would be a fine substitute for a stand mixer, but since there is so much emphasis on using  a stand mixer and I didn’t try this recipe using a hand mixer, I’m not qualified to make that claim.)

The cookies bake very quickly and ended up spreading out quite a bit. It was a little difficult to tell when they were done since they were so thin and the marshmallows melted and puddled into the dough. So, if you like thin and crispy cookies, this recipe is for you! I think the two sticks of butter may be a bit excessive and all of the fat probably caused the cookies to spread out so much. I probably also should have made smaller sized scoops of cookie dough to reduce the spreading.

Despite having a few imperfections, these cookies were AMAZING! I can’t tell you how many compliments I received from friends and lab mates who ate them. Some people said these cookies reminded them of rice crispy treats with the cornflake crunch and marshmallows. FYI: you can definitely tell these cookies contain two sticks of butter, not only from the taste, but also from the slight greasiness of the cookies. These cookies are the definition of indulgence, from the buttery dough and cornflake crunch to the gooey marshmallows and chocolate chips. Although I experienced a few mishaps with these cookies, they were definitely worth the effort!

Never waste – Green Onion Sesame Rolls

One of my roommates loves to go grocery shopping, which is great for us because we always have a stocked fridge. However, sometimes she buys things that we don’t end up using until it’s too late (i.e. the food has started rotting). Last month, she bought a large pack of green onions, but no one cooked anything with them. I always feel bad throwing out food. Growing up with parents who were farmers in China has taught me not to waste food. Since my parents know firsthand how difficult it is to grow food, they don’t like to waste food, even the smallest amount. So when I saw this recipe for green onion rolls, I knew it was the perfect way to use up our sad, wilting green onions.

         

This recipe is pretty straightforward. Just make a basic bread dough, chop up lots of green onions, and roll out the dough. Then, generously sprinkle the dough with green onions, roll the dough into a log, slice the log up and bake. After slicing up the log, you’ll get these beautiful looks rolls, chockful of green onions. Sprinkling black and white sesame seeds on top gives the rolls as nice pop of color too.

These green onion rolls baked and browned absolutely beautifully! And they smelled so delicious from the oven! However, I was a little disappointed in the flavor. They tasted good, but I felt something was missing. In my critical opinion, they were a tad too bland. Perhaps I should have added a bit more salt or some spice? Regardless, these green onion rolls were tasty, proven by the fact that my roommates gobbled them up so quickly.

In spite of the slight blandness, these rolls were a great addition to our dinner that evening. I’d suggest making these for a potluck or a dinner party – you’ll definitely impress the guests. And it’s a great way to get rid of lots of green onions all at once!

Green Onion Sesame Rolls
Adapted from Priscilla Liang’s Easy Fluffy No-Knead Bread

For the Dough:
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons yeast
1 egg
2 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter

For the Filling:
Several stalks of green onion
1-2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Egg wash (1 egg beaten with water)
Black and white sesame seeds to garnish

1. Dissolve the sugar in warm water and sprinkle yeast on top. Let rest for 10 minutes or until foamy.
2. Combine and mix the flour and salt in a large bowl.
3. Add the yeast mixture, egg, and butter to the dry mixture.
4. Mix the dough until it comes together. Move the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead for several minutes until dough is smooth. Add additional flour as needed.
5. Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow it to double in size, roughly one hour. (You can also refrigerate the dough overnight, but make sure to let dough sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes to warm up before rolling).
6. Punch the dough with your fist. Roll the dough into a rectangle of approximately 1/3 inch thick.
7. Spread the olive oil and sesame oil onto the dough.  Sprinkle the salt and green onion evenly over the dough.
8. Roll and cut the dough into 16 pieces.
9. Line two loaf pans with parchment paper and place 8 rolls into each pan.
10. Cover the pans with a damp cloth and let the rolls rise in a warm place for approximately 30 minutes.
11. Brush the rolls with the egg wash and sprinkle the tops with black and white sesame seeds.
12. Bake at 400F for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a roll comes out clean.
13. Serve with dinner or enjoy as a snack!

This post has been Yeastspotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.

Celebrating in SF – Giants Victory Parade and Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

Celebrating the Giants’ World Series Win in San Francisco

It was awesome living in the Bay Area this past week, with the Giants winning the World Series and the gorgeous weather. (Sorry, not trying to rub it in people’s faces or be insensitive, especially after Hurricane Sandy. My heart does go out to all the people affected by the natural disaster this past week.) Even though I’m not a huge baseball fan, I was excited to celebrate the Giants’ victory. So, I convinced two of my friends to skip school with me for a few hours to watch the victory parade last Wednesday. I figured it’d be ok to play hooky for a bit since it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity, even though the Giants won the World Series two years ago. 😛

In the crowd of people trying to watch the parade

There were so many people celebrating at the parade. We got there about 30 minutes late and we were so far back in the crowd that we couldn’t see much, especially me (I was at least a foot too short). However, despite not being able to see much, I still had a great time. I love being around people who are excited and passionate about something. There’s something so exhilarating and addictive about their energy. But after a while, since we couldn’t see much, my friends and I resorted to taking pictures of ourselves at the parade.

Might as well take pictures of us since we can’t see the players

Unfortunately, I don’t own any Giants gear, so to be festive for the parade and Halloween, I painted my nails orange and black.

Black and orange

I also decided to bake some cookies for Halloween. I spent a while perusing Halloween desserts on Pinterest and foodgawker, but couldn’t find a recipe that was fairly quick and easy. So I decided to just make something seasonal instead: pumpkin oatmeal cookies with white chocolate chips and dried cranberries.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate Chips and Dried Cranberries (aka the longest cookie name)

These cookies were pretty easy and straightforward to make. However, just to warn you, this recipe makes a ton of cookies. I baked four cookie sheets worth of cookies and some of them were pretty big cookies. Since I ended up with so many cookies, I took a third of them to a Halloween potluck and another third to my lab. I left the remaining third at home for my roommates, with a cute little note wishing them Happy Halloween. At each location, people gobbled up the cookies extremely fast – so fast that within an hour or two, they were completely gone.

I tried to draw a vampire, but obviously failed 😛

These cookies aren’t too sweet, even with the white chocolate and cranberries, which is refreshing compared to the sweet Halloween candy I’ve been eating lately. Unfortunately, the pumpkin is rather difficult to taste. I’d say these cookies taste more like spice cookies (with maybe a hint of pumpkin) than pumpkin cookies. Either way, they’re a perfect dessert to bring to an autumn party or just a sweet way to end dinner. These cookies will definitely get you in the mood for fall, if you aren’t already. And be warned, these cookies will be devoured extremely quickly.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate Chips and Dried Cranberries
Adapted from My Baking Addiction and Annie’s Eats

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
¾ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter; softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
3. Beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until light and fluffy.
4. Add the pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract to the butter/sugar mixture and mix well.
5. Add the flour mixture and combine until all ingredients are incorporated.
6. Fold in the white chocolate chips and dried cranberries.
7. Drop 1-2 tablespoons of dough onto the prepared baking sheets.
8. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Simple, Subtle Beauty – Rustic Fig Galette

I mentioned earlier that my aunt has a fig tree that has been very prolific this year. So prolific that one day, she gave me a whole box full of fresh figs! It was just like Christmas! With all of the fresh figs, I knew I wanted to bake something delicious. And I’ve been itching to make a galette, so it wasn’t hard to decide to bake a fig galette!

In my mind, a galette is a lazy person’s version of pie. So this recipe was really easy, especially because I took the easy way out by using store-bought pie crust. (I promise I’ll make pie crust from scratch one day!) All I did really was roll out the pie dough, spread it with jam, cut up the figs, sprinkle them with sugar, fold up the edges of the pie dough, and bake it.

The fig galette came out beautifully, despite not being precise or perfect. There’s a certain type of beauty that comes from rustic items. Maybe it’s the homemade feel that warms my heart. The imperfections and blemishes of rustic things remind me that they were made by human hands and are labors of love. Although store-bought baked goods often taste pretty darn delicious and look absolutely gorgeous, there’s something about homemade baked goods that always makes them win over the store-bought ones (for me personally). Homemade cakes or cupcakes that look professionally made, though beautiful, are not as appealing to me as the homemade items that are more rustic looking.

This fig galette is the perfect example of the beauty of rustic, homemade baked goods. Although it has many imperfections, it’s all of those imperfections that make it even more gorgeous. (Kinda like that One Direction song, right? Haha jk). Each bump and crack in the crust is evidence of the effort and love put into making it. Knowing that little fact makes the galette just a bit more beautiful because it shows the care that the person who baked it has for you. Aww how sweet! (Sorry for this bit of cheesiness, I guess I’m feeling a bit sentimental right now :P).

The natural sweetness of the figs and the buttery crust pair well with a cup of hot tea whether you’re eating the galette in the morning or at night. It’s the perfect way to finish off a nice dinner with family or friends – I can imagine just munching on it in between sips of tea or coffee and conversations with loved ones. Or it’s the perfect indulgent breakfast to eat while standing in the kitchen, soaking in the morning sunlight and reading the paper. It’s subtle, simple actions like this that warm my heart and make me feel content with life. 🙂

Fig Galette
Adapted from Simply Recipes

butter pie crust recipe (I used store-bought pie crust from Trader Joe’s)
1 1/2 pounds mission figs, tips cut off and discarded, quartered
1/4 cup jam (I used plum amaretto jam since it was in the fridge, but use any jam you have on hand)
2 Tbsp sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Roll out dough to a 14-inch diameter round of even thickness. Place on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet.
2. Spread jam on the rolled out dough, leaving a 2-inch border along the edges. Arrange the quartered figs in a circular pattern, again leaving a 2-inch border. Sprinkle sugar over the figs.
3. Fold the 2-inch bordered edge of the crust over the figs, pleating the crust.
4. Place in the middle rack of the oven. Bake at 375F for 45-50 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned and the fruit is bubbly.
5. Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes.

MIA… but for good reason

Sorry for that I’ve been MIA and not posting for most of this month! Life has gotten a little bit busier and I’ve been going through a few significant life changes. Don’t worry, nothing bad or traumatic. Some recent experiences have forced me to sit down and deeply think about my beliefs, who I actually want to be, and how I want to live my life. This self-reflection has been a bit difficult since I’m realizing the person who I actually want to be is fairly different than the person that I thought I wanted to be. But I am actually really enjoying this self-discovery. It’s made me feel much more confident in what I believe in. Not only have I become a stronger person, but also my friendships with certain people have strengthened and I’ve realized who I can really count on and who supports me.

Even with all these life changes going on, I’ve still been baking up a storm. Here’s a little preview of recipes to come!

Fig galette (made with fresh figs from my aunt’s tree)

Momofuku’s Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies (finally tackled a Momofuku recipe!)

Blackberry Slump

How do you get rid of green onions? Make Green Onion Sesame Rolls!

Fancy it up with Figs – Fig, Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese Pizza with Balsamic Glaze

Being a female in the science and engineering world usually means you’re surrounded by men the majority of the time. Luckily, in my field, the ratio of men to women is about 60:40. And in my class specifically, the ratio is much closer to 50/50. But even though there’s a large number of girls I can talk to, we often don’t see each other much since we no longer take the same classes and are in different lab groups. Fortunately, we all like to get together once in a while to have a girls’ night! So last month, my housemates and I hosted girls’ night at our house, complete with grilled pizzas, dessert (ice cream and dessert pizza), nail painting, and a movie!

Butternut Squash, Kale, and Goat Cheese Pizza

Grilling is definitely the easiest way to cook a pizza. All you have to do is put the dough onto the grill for a few minutes on each side and then top the second side with your desired toppings. You’ll have pizza ready in less than 10 minutes! The dough gets these great grill marks and is both puffy and crispy. Who says girls can’t grill?

Pizza topped with caramelized onions, tomato, and mozzarella

We grilled several pizzas with different toppings: 1) a butternut squash, kale, and goat cheese pizza; 2) a corn, barbecue sauce, and mozzarella pizza; and 3) a caramelized onions, tomato, and mozzarella pizza. But the best one, by far, was the pizza topped with caramelized onions, goat cheese, fresh figs, and basil and then drizzled with a balsamic glaze. The pizza was devoured so quickly that I barely had a chance to snap up pictures and take a bite.

This fig pizza was so delicious!!! The sweetness of the figs and caramelized onions combined with the creaminess and tanginess of the goat cheese and the acidic balsamic glaze was a perfect balance of flavors. Also, the pieces of basil added a nice freshness to the pizza and I’m sure this pizza would pair well with a nice red wine. With these toppings, you can elevate plain old pizza into a refined, fancy dish. Perfect for dinner parties, nice brunches, or girls’ nights!

Side note: If you can get your hands on fresh figs right now, definitely make this pizza! I’m very fortunate to have an aunt who lives nearby with a very productive fig tree and this season, she’s been picking tons of gigantic figs. I’m in fig heaven right now!

Fig, Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese Pizza with Balsamic Glaze
Created from my imagination and similar to these recipes (Bon Appetit and Food.com)

Dough for 1 pizza (here’s the recipe I usually use)
Fresh figs (I used Black Mission Figs, but I’m sure you can use whatever kind you like)
1 Onion
Goat Cheese
Honey
Balsamic Vinegar and sugar (for balsamic glaze)
Basil

(I can’t really give you quantities of the ingredients since it all depends on how much you like each ingredient. Since I absolutely love figs, I put about 1 lb of figs on the pizza. Adjust the amounts to your liking.)

1. Make pizza dough and roll out flat (about 1/3 – 1/2 in thick).
2. Saute sliced or diced onions until translucent and slightly browned.
3. Slice figs and break goat cheese into chunks.
4. Dissolve a few tablespoons of sugar into 1/4 – 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan. Heat over low to medium heat until vinegar reduces and becomes thick. Stir occasionally.
5. Place pizza dough on to grill for 3-5 minutes or until slightly browned and dough has grill marks.
6. Flip the dough over to grill the other side. Brush the top with olive oil and quickly top with figs, onions, and goat cheese.
7. Carefully remove the dough from the grill after checking the bottom has cooked.
8. Sprinkle top of pizza with shredded basil leaves and drizzle with honey and balsamic glaze.
9. Slice pizza and enjoy! (Be warned, this pizza will be devoured within a blink of an eye, so make sure to get a piece!)

This post has been Yeastspotted.

Apple Picking in Sebastopol – Apple Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

Growing up in the southwestern part of the US, I missed out on a lot of produce picking since the desert isn’t as fertile as New England or California, except for those Hatch green chiles. So when my housemates suggested going apple picking a few weekends ago, I jumped at the opportunity to finally experience the manual labor of harvesting fruit.

In college, I went berry picking once with one of my friends at a farm outside of Austin. Although we had an awesome time, we were more focused on just looking at the berries (and having a photoshoot :P) rather than picking them. So we ended up picking only a handful of them. This time though, my housemates and I were serious about the harvest. We traveled to an apple farm in Sebastopol, a town about an hour away from the Bay Area. The farm actually has more acres of Asian pears than apples, but they only let people pick apples. That day, golden delicious and jonagold apples were in season. We were led to several rows of trees weighed down with ripe apples and we went straight to picking. Since the apples were so ripe, they were pretty easy to take off the trees. Some of them were so ripe that they just fell of the trees as we picked off other apples. After only about half an hour, we had several boxes filled with apples and headed back to weigh out our bounty. We ended up picking about 35 pounds of apples that day!

The farm also had many blackberry brambles and let us pick some blackberries. If you haven’t picked blackberries before, let me warn you, it’s rather difficult. Choosing ripe blackberries is a difficult task in itself since most of them are either not ripe enough or too ripe (i.e. they get squished when you pick them). On top of that, the blackberries rest in thorny brambles and to get the best ones, you end up getting scraped and scratched by the thorns. I gave up pretty early, but my housemates soldiered on and ended up picking about 3 pounds of berries.

With its apples and asian pears, the farm makes and sells asian pear apple juice, which is very delicious and refreshing. In order to pick apples, we had to sign up for a membership, which basically meant buying 12 bottles of juice. In addition to the juice, the farm also makes several different jams using asian pears, blackberries, and other fruits. We bought a jar of plum amaretto jam and a jar of asian pear, lavender, blackberry ginger jam (that’s a mouthful).

With 35 pounds of apples, I went right to work at baking up something delicious using apples. It didn’t take much effort to find apple recipes. Apparently, everyone is in the mood for apples now – Baked by Rachel is even posting an apple recipe each day. That’s how I found this recipe for cinnamon apple pull apart bread.

Pull-apart breads seem to be trendy these days. I’ve seen pins of all varieties all over Pinterest, from sweet ones (such as lemon and cinnamon sugar) to savory ones (i.e. cheddar, beer and mustard). This type of bread is a bit more complicated than others I’ve made before since you have to cut the dough into strips several times and then try to pack those strips into a loaf pan. And with the cinnamon filling, it turns out to be pretty messy. It was also a little difficult keeping all of the apples together on top of the dough and in between the strips.

I’d like to say my bread baked up beautifully, but that was not the case. I let it rise for an hour, but perhaps this wasn’t enough time. When I baked the bread, the top browned, but inside seemed pretty undercooked. I baked it for nearly twice as long as the recipe says, but I think the bread was still a bit doughy. Perhaps it was because I used some leftover sweet dough that I froze and didn’t let it thaw enough before I used it?

Although I was pretty unsatisfied with the final product, my housemates enjoyed the bread. I had baked the bread late at night and left it out to cool, but when I woke up the next morning, 3/4 of the bread was gone! Later that day, they told me how delicious it was and asked for the recipe. So I guess the bread didn’t turn out that bad or my housemates like eating doughy bread. 😛

Apple Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread
Adapted from this recipe

For the dough:
3 1/4 – 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pkg or 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
4 tablespoon butter, melted
1/3 cup lukewarm milk
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the filling:
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups apples (I just sliced one large apple)

1. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of sugar in warm water and sprinkle yeast on top. Let rest for 10 minutes or until foamy.
2. Combine and mix the dry dough ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Add the yeast mixture and remaining wet dough ingredients to the dry mixture.
4. Mix the dough until it comes together. Move the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead for several minutes until dough is smooth. Add additional flour as needed.
5. Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow to double in size, roughly one hour. (You can also refrigerate the dough overnight, but make sure to let dough sti at room temperature for 20-30 minutes to warm up before rolling).
6. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
7. Prepare the filling by combining the sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and butter.
8. Thinly slice the apples and roll out dough, on a lightly floured surface, into a 12 x 20″ rectangle (I just eyeballed this).
9. Spread the dough with the cinnamon filling and lay the apple slices on top.
10. Cut the dough into 6 sections, roughly 3 x 12″. Carefully lay sections on top of each other, this will be messy and dough will stretch.
11. Cut dough the into 6 stacks. Turn stacks on their sides and tightly pack into prepared loaf pan.
12. Allow to rise for additional 30-60 minutes or until roughly doubled in size.
13. Bake at 350F for 45-55 minutes. (I ended up baking for nearly 90 minutes.) After 30 minutes, cover with foil and continue baking.
14. When bread is golden brown, remove from oven, cool on a wire rack, and enjoy!

This post has been Yeastspotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.

Sweet and Simple – Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Another installment of the birthday cake series! Like I mentioned previously, my class has a tradition of celebrating each other’s birthday with birthday cake. For another classmate’s birthday, I decided to make carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. A classic cake that everyone loves… unless you’re allergic to carrots or walnuts, I suppose. Luckily, no one in our class is, although one guy is allergic to hazelnuts, which means any nutella ideas are out :(.

Since carrot cake is such a traditional cake that everyone is familiar with, I knew I had to get it right, from the flavors to the decorations. Although the cake is straightforward, it does require a bit of work, specifically in grating carrots. Luckily, I live with housemates who are always willing to lend a hand. One of them (actually her boyfriend) grated all the carrots while another made the cream cheese frosting. With all this help, all I had to do was bake the cakes, assemble them, and decorate (the funnest part!).

I chose a classic design for the cake with piping along the outer edge of the cake and crushed walnuts coating the sides. Clean and simple is sometimes the best way to go. A lot of times I try make things more complicated than they need to be, but as I grow older, I realize that simplicity is oftentimes the better solution (and saves you a lot of unnecessary stress). Even though complex and crazy recipes are more intriguing and exotic, they aren’t always the best. I’m an avid follower of Top Chef and a lot of times, the chefs get knocked for trying dishes that are too complicated and not executing them well.

Doing something a little simpler, and doing it well will usually earn you more points than doing something complex not very well. The same thing applies to life. As I’m growing older (and wiser, hopefully), I’ve realized that prioritizing one’s life is extremely important. There’s no way someone can have their hands in so many pots and juggle so many things (well, there are a few people I know who can do that and they are absolutely amazing). It’s much better to choose a few things that you love to do and do them well than to try to be involved in many things and not do the best job you can. Sometimes simplicity is the sweetest, just like this carrot cake.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from this recipe

For the cake:
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts

For the frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts (for decoration)

1. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, white sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla.
2. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
3. Stir in carrots and fold in pecans.
4. Pour batter into two 9 in. cake pans (greased and lined with parchment paper).
5. Bake at 350F for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
6. Let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
7. In a medium bowl, beat the butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla smooth and creamy.
8. Place one of the cakes onto a plate. Frost the top with 1/4 of the cream cheese frosting.
9. Place the second layer on top and frost the top with 1/4 of the cream cheese frosting.
10. Place the third layer on top and frost the whole cake with the remaining frosting.
11. Decorate as you wish and enjoy!

Sticking with the Classics – Homemade Yeast Doughnuts

For some reason, I’m very intrigued by doughnuts, especially the specialty doughnuts that Doughnut Plant or Dynamo Donuts sell. It’s a bit weird since I don’t really like eating doughnuts. My dad was part of a doughnut club at his work and would have to buy bagels and doughnuts once every two months for it. I remember I always preferred the bagels over the doughnuts, which were too sweet and oily. However, I do have to admit that soft, fluffy glazed doughnuts (i.e. those from Krispy Kreme) are delicious.

My interest in doughnuts has led to an itching desire to make homemade doughnuts. But the act of deep-frying always scared me off. I recently decided to suck up my fear and finally make doughnuts for a welcome brunch my housemates and I hosted a few weeks ago. I figured it was the perfect event to try since everyone loves doughnuts and I wouldn’t be stuck with leftovers. I was so excited about making doughnuts that I bought a doughnut cutter!

Making doughnuts is pretty easy and all the recipes are basically the same. The dough is super simple and you just need to cut out doughnut shapes, then fry them, and glaze/decorate them. However, let me warn you, cutting out the doughnuts is extremely tedious. Since I was making food for at least 40 people, I made a large batch of dough. Little did I know just how many doughnuts it would yield. I probably spent 1-1.5 hours just cutting out circles of dough and then cutting out the doughnut holes. I ended up cutting out way more than 40 doughnuts. Luckily, unfried doughnuts can be frozen.

The only difficulty with doughnuts is that they are best when served hot and freshly fried. Now, that is perfectly fine when you’re only making a dozen. But when you’re making at least three dozen, it’s a bit harder serving them fresh. Thankfully, my housemates were wonderful in helping me. One of them did all the frying while another one made all the glazes. And a third housemate helped me glaze and decorate the doughnuts. It was pretty hectic but we managed to get the doughnuts out hot and fresh.

Despite all the craziness, the hard work was all worth it. When I brought the doughnuts out, everyone was so impressed and praised how beautiful they were. Here’s a life tip: putting sprinkles on doughnuts is definitely one of the best things you can do.

I would have liked to make some doughnuts with crazy flavors, but since I was cooking for about 40 people, I decided it’d be better to play it safe and make classic yeast doughnuts with the standard glazes: plain, chocolate, and maple. Even though I prefer the more exotic, non-traditional dishes and flavors, I have to admit that the classics can be pretty awesome too. And these doughnuts definitely confirmed that. It’s like what people say, when you’ve found a good thing, you don’t mess with it. (Or at least leave it to the pros to do that).

*Another photography tangent: How about these non-instagram photos (well, except for one… I couldn’t resist :P)?! My friend recently bought a Nikon DSLR and snapped up a few photos of the doughnuts for me. They look amazing! So clean and crisp. The quality really makes me want to invest in a DSLR (I’d buy a Canon)!

Homemade Yeast Doughnuts
Adapted from The Doughmesstic

1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/3 stick melted butter (not hot, just melted)
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 cup all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Oil for frying

1. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of sugar in the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast on top and allow to rest around 10 minutes or until foamy.
2. Mix the milk, sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla in a bowl.
3. Add the yeast mixture and stir.
4. Combine the flour and salt. Add the flour in 1 cup increments to the liquid mixture and mix until dough comes together. (You may use more or less flour than specified in the recipe.)
5. Knead the dough until smooth and place dough in a greased bowl.
6. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
7. Roll out dough to 1/3 in. thick and cut out doughnuts with a doughnut cutter or two biscuit or cookie cutters.
8. Place doughnuts on cookie sheets with parchment paper and let rise for at least 15 min.
9. Heat oil to 350-360F and carefully drop doughnuts in one at a time. Let each side cook until golden brown. Cooking time will vary based on the heat of your oil, but 15 seconds per side worked for me.  Remove doughnuts from the oil and pat with paper towels.
10. While they are still hot, dip the doughnuts in the glaze and decorate with sprinkles!
11. Serve immediately! Your guests will thank you. 🙂

This post has been Yeastspotted.

Finally Following the Trend – Salted Caramel Brownies

Have you ever noticed how similar the food world is to the fashion world? Certain foods become really trendy just like certain designs and patterns. For example, cupcakes were all the rage several years ago and bacon desserts were pretty hot for a while. I remember a few years ago, salted caramel was super popular. All over the food blogosphere, you’d see recipes for salted caramel ice cream, salted caramel cupcakes, and of course, salted caramels. However, I distinctly remember seeing recipes for salted caramel brownies pop up the most (or maybe I just gravitated to brownie recipes back then).

After making the Salted Caramel Chocolate Ganache cake, I had a LOT of salted caramel leftover. To use it up, I decided to finally follow the trend and make those salted caramel brownies that I’d seen so many times before on food blogs. I saw this recipe from She Makes, She Bakes and loved how chockfull of caramel the brownies are. Apparently, the trick to getting a thick layer of caramel is to partly bake half of the batter first, then top it with caramel and the rest of the brownie batter, and bake the brownies again.

I had a little difficulty spreading the rest of the brownie batter on top of the caramel, so some caramel was peeking out from the edges. While the brownies were baking, I noticed the exposed caramel bubbled up a bit. Fortunately, it didn’t burn… although apparently, burnt caramel is rather popular too (or at least, it’s a popular ice cream flavor in the Bay Area). I also lucked out with putting parchment paper on the bottom of the pan, which made clean up much easier.

My brownies didn’t have as thick of a layer of caramel as I’d like, but they still tasted delicious. They were fairly rich, but not so rich that you had to eat them with a glass of milk (though, washing them down with milk was definitely satisfying). A quick tip: topping the brownies with sea salt helped bring out the flavors of the caramel and chocolate.

Also, these brownies were a bit more fudgy than I’d like. This might have been due to me using buttermilk in the place of eggs since we had run out… oops! But nonetheless, they were extremely delicious. In fact, they were so good that a whole plate of brownies was completely gone after only a few hours. So make sure you eat one because these brownies will disappear super fast!

This is a bit off-topic, but look how awesome these brownies look in natural light! I baked them at night, but didn’t photograph them until the next morning. The natural lighting made a huge difference. If you haven’t noticed already, I’m guilty of using instagram for a lot of my photos (don’t judge me too harshly… I just really like some of the filters!) since I think instagram makes them look better. However, with this natural lighting, the filters didn’t really make much of a difference because the pictures were already so beautiful. For instance, take the photo above. The rays of sunlight peeking through my kitchen window add a nice vintage-y feel to it, don’t you think?

Salted Caramel Brownies
Adapted from She Makes, She Bakes

1/2 cup butter
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped
3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs (or 1 cup of buttermilk/milk if you run out of eggs like I did!)
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt

Salted Caramel (leftover from this recipe or just follow the original recipe)

1. Melt the stick of butter in the microwave and add the chocolate. Stir the chocolate and butter together. Microwave the mixture for another 30 seconds and stir. Repeat until fully melted.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla until incorporated. Add in the butter and chocolate mixture and mix until thick and glossy (about a minute). Stir in the flour and table salt until just combined.
3. Line a 9×9 pan with aluminum foil (I used parchment paper), leaving a few inches hanging over the sides (this foil will turn into handles to lift the brownies out of the pan later). Spray the foil generously with nonstick spray, paying special attention to the corners and sides. (This isn’t needed if you use parchment paper.)
4. Pour half of the brownie mixture into the pan and spread to corners. Bake for 20 minutes and let cool for 20 minutes.
5. Pour the caramel over the cooked brownies and spread to the corners.
6. Pour the rest of the brownie mixture evenly over the caramel (be careful not to just dump all of the batter in the center) and spread to the corners.
7. Sprinkle 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of sea salt on top of the brownie batter.
8. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the center is set.
9. Cool completely before lifting the foil out of the pan.
10. Top the cooled brownies with coarse sea salt and devour!