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. ūüėõ

Apple Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread
Adapted from this recipe

For the dough:
3 1/4 ‚Äď 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.

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Summer Blues


Summer is quickly coming to an end… at least it is for me, since classes start tomorrow! Eeks! How did time fly by so fast?

This summer, I traveled and ate my way through Boston, New York City, and San Diego.

Boston Done Right: Paul Revere, Cannoli, MIT, and the Charles River

Sights of the City: Times Square, Taxis on 80th St, View from Empire State Building, Downtown Manhattan

NYC Eats: Shake Shack, Chelsea Market, Momofuku, Doughnut Plant

Peaceful La Jolla

I also finally crossed off a few items on my baking to do list (but still haven’t tried making my own kimchi! need to do that soon!).

Purple Ombre Cake – Check!

Kolaches – Check!

And I spent valuable time and made amazing memories with my friends and family. Even though I was working everyday, this was actually one of my most fun summers.

To express my summer blues (and match my blue floral dress), I did a variation of blue ombre nails. I was inspired by this nail design from Miss Renaissance. I had slightly darker shades of blue than she did, but they worked well.


Although I’ll miss the laid-back, relaxing vibe of summer with the sunny days (well, only after the fog has burned off) and the rather peaceful feel of campus that comes with the absence of undergrads, I’m looking forward to what this new school year brings. Fall semester is always a fresh start for me – it feels more like New Year’s to me than January 1st. With a new season comes new friends, experiences, and memories. So, even though I’m a little sad to see my summer end, I’m excited to see what fall brings. Plus, I’ve been dying to make some pumpkin and apple desserts!

Recreating Old Favorites – Berry Cheesecake Cupcakes

While waiting for the purple ombre cakes to cool and bitten by the baking bug, I decided to whip up some cupcakes. I searched the kitchen and found half a bag of frozen berries left in the freezer as well as my roommates’ leftover raspberries and blueberries sitting in the fridge. So, I decided to make berry cupcakes again (which were a hit on July 4th) But since I don’t really like to make the same thing twice, I added in some cream cheese filling to spice up the cupcakes.

I loosely followed this recipe for berry cheesecake muffins. Once you’ve made cupcakes (or any recipe for that matter) several times, you know the basic steps for making any kind of cupcake. In that sense, I feel that baking is very loose and not as restrictive as some people think. In my opinion, all cakes, cupcakes, and cookies follow the same basic recipe. You just vary what you mix-in to change it up.

For these cupcakes, I decided to change it up by adding in a cream cheese filling. I filled the cupcake liners about 1/3 full of the berry cupcake batter, then added a heaping spoonful of the cream cheese mixture, topped it with a raspberry and blueberry, and filled up the rest with batter. Since I only wanted to use one muffin tin, I filled each liner full to the brim with filling. Seeing how full they were (i.e. on the verge of spilling out of the liners), I was worried that the cupcakes would rise too much while baking. But my worries were for naught. The cupcakes did rise quite a bit while in the oven; however, when I took them out and let them cool, they deflated down to regular sized cupcakes. So bottom line: don’t be afraid to fill up your cupcake liners – the cupcakes will deflate anyway.

I had leftover blackcurrant buttercream frosting from the purple ombre cake, so I used that to frost these cupcakes. However, any frosting would be good with these cupcakes, such as raspberry, strawberry, blackberry or even lemon frosting.

When I got to my last two cupcakes, I ran out of the blackcurrant frosting. Luckily, I had leftover cream cheese frosting in the fridge and used that for the last two. (I don’t usually have frosting just lying around. It just so happened that I was baking and decorating a lot of cakes that weekend. :P) Also, I highly recommend decorating these cupcakes with fresh berries if you have them. The fresh berries make the cupcakes absolutely gorgeous!

These cupcakes ended up being so delicious that my friend’s mom declared them the best cupcakes she had ever had! (However, that may be a bit of a hyperbole since she tends to exaggerate things.) These cupcakes were definitely some of the best I’ve made in both taste and presentation. The cream cheese filling was rich and creamy and tasted very similar to cheesecake.¬†The berries inside were refreshing and their tartness helped cut some of the richness of the cream cheese filling as well as the sweetness of the frosting.

These cupcakes are a nice twist on regular berry cupcakes and beautifully combine the flavors and textures of cheesecake with those of cupcakes.¬†Just by adding a heaping spoonful of cream cheese filling, I created a delicious hybrid of cupcake and cheesecake. Try playing around with some of your favorite traditional recipes – you’ll create a new dish while still enjoying the old one.

Berry Cheesecake Cupcakes
Adapted from chef-in-training

For the cupcakes:
1/3 cup butter (softened)
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
A bag (or half a bag) of frozen berries (you can always use fresh berries too)

For the cream cheese filling:
6 ounces cream cheese (softened)
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
zest of 1 lemon

For the buttercream frosting:
1 cup butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1 jar of blackcurrant, raspberry, blackberry, or strawberry jam

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Add one egg a time to the butter mixture, beating well after each addition.
3. Beat in the milk.
4. Combine the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
5. Gradually add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture just until moistened.
6. Fold in berries gently.
7. Fill paper lined muffin cups one-third full with the cupcake batter.
8. For the cream cheese filling, in a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and egg until smooth.
9. Drop a heaping tablespoonful into the center of each cupcake.
10. Place fresh berries in the center of each cupcake.
11. Fill up the rest of the liner with the cupcake batter.
12. Bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cupcake comes out clean.
13. Let the cupcakes cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from the pan and placing on a wire rack.
14. To make the frosting, beat the butter and 1 cup of sugar. Gradually add in the rest of the sugar, one cup at a time. Beat until light and fluffy. Add in the jam and continue beating.
15. Frost cupcakes with the buttercream frosting and decorate as you wish. Then enjoy!

A Twist on Tradition – Mango Ginger Hand Pies

Hand pies seem to be all the rage lately, which is no surprise. I mean, just look at them! They are super cute and delicious! But because I like to shake up things and put twists on traditional desserts, I didn’t want to make the classical flavors of apple, cherry, or peach for my hand pies.

Instead, I decided to make mango ginger hand pies, drawing inspiration from a food truck I found in Austin that sold empanadas. One of the more exotic flavors was the mango and ginger empanada. I never tried it, but it sounded so delicious.

I followed the general directions of this recipe for peach and ginger hand pies from The Kitchn. However, I cheated a little by using store-bought pie crust. I encourage you to make homemade pie crust if you have time. It’s actually quite easy and fun, especially when you have to cut the butter into the flour. I modified the filling a little by adding in chopped candied ginger to amplify the ginger flavor. (But I left out the fresh ginger since I didn’t have any on hand). Depending on how much you like ginger, you can add a little or lot, or omit it all together.

So tiny and cute! They fit in the palm of your hand!

The most fun part of this recipe is making the little hand pies. Just cut out circles, fill them with the mango filling, and press and crimp the edges together. But be careful to not overfill them, which is very easy to do.

Filled, crimped, egg washed, and ready for the oven!

I baked these mango hand pies for my friends for dessert after dinner one night. I was actually really surprised they gobbled up all of the hand pies so quickly and exclaimed how delicious they were. To be honest, I was a little worried my friends might not like them since 1) I thought I had put in a little too much ginger and 2) no one had ever made this recipe before (or at least, no one had posted this specific recipe online).

Freshly baked mango hand pies!

Although my products don’t often turn out the same as those I see on food blogs, it’s reassuring to know that at least someone out there has successfully made the recipe at one point. But when you make up a recipe, you have no way of knowing how good it’ll be until you eat it. It gives me more appreciation for all of the people who write cookbooks. They must spend hours just troubleshooting recipes. Just like I am with my synthesis procedure for nanoparticles, which I can tell you from personal experience, is really a lot of hard work. I suppose the only difference between me and the cookbook authors is that their products aren’t toxic. ūüėõ

Oh, and their products are much prettier and cuter, just like this little mango hand pie.

Mango and Ginger Hand Pies
Adapted from The Kitchn

1 pie crust (homemade or store bought)
2 ripe mangoes
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (or use candied or crystallized ginger instead)
2 tablespoons flour
1 egg plus water for egg wash
Extra sugar for sprinkling

1. Make pie dough from scratch or buy pie dough from the store (I used Trader Joe’s)
2. Peel and chop up the mangoes into small pieces. Mix the mangoes, sugar, ginger and flour. Let macerate for 15-20 minutes while you prepare the pie crusts.
3. Roll the pie dough out to 1/4 inches thick. Cut out small disks of dough using a biscuit cutter or a glass cup.
4. Fill each disk with the mango filling. Brush the edges of the disk with egg wash and press the edges together.
5. Place the pie onto a greased baking sheet and crimp the edges with a fork. Using scissors or a knife, cut three small slits on the top of each pie.
6. Chill the pies in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. When ready to bake, brush each pie with egg wash and sprinkle the top with sugar.
7. Bake the hand pies at 350F for 30-35 minutes or until the dough is lightly browned.
8. Cool the pies for 10 minutes, then devour!