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. ūüôā

Fig Galette
Adapted from Simply Recipes

1¬†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.

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!

Impressing Foodies – Salted Caramel Chocolate Ganache Cake

I’m very lucky to have a group of friends who love to cook and bake as much as I do. Having these common interests makes it a lot easier to get along with them and share my experieinces. However, it’s a little more challenging when you want to cook or bake something for people who love food as much as you do. Take my friend’s boyfriend for instance. He’s a self-proclaimed foodie who cooks and bakes much fancier things than I do. In fact, he wooed my friend with a three-course meal on one of their first dates. (Which reminds me, I need to find a guy like that.)

Anyways, his birthday was coming up and she wanted to make him something impressive. We all know he loves salted caramel and chocolate ganache, so once I found this recipe from Bon Appetit, I knew it was the perfect cake for him. This cake is the definition of richness with two layers of chocolate cake filled with chocolate ganache and salted caramel. It was definitely the hardest cake I’ve made so far since it had so many components.

The first layer topped with chocolate ganache and salted caramel

Since my experiences with caramel haven’t been that great, I was a bit worried about making the salted caramel. It’s really easy to burn caramel, so keep an eye on it when it’s cooking on the stove. Since my friend and I were both a little paranoid about burning caramel, we may have took it off the stove a bit too early. So, the caramel wasn’t as thick as we wanted. To drive off some liquid, we kept it on the stove on low heat for about 15-20 minutes. After that, the caramel was the perfect consistency.

Assembling the cake was both the funnest, but the messiest part. First, we spread a layer and piped a ring of chocolate ganache on top of one of the cake layers. Then, we filled with ring with a generous amount of salted caramel and placed the second cake layer on top. Lastly, we frosted the cake with chocolate ganache and decorated it with toasted almonds and drizzles of salted caramel.

The cake was decadent and delicious, but extremely rich. So much that I could only take a few bites at a time. You’ll definitely want to have a glass of milk nearby to help wash down the cake. The caramel could have been slightly saltier, so don’t be afraid to add more salt. If you’re looking for a rich, decadent cake, definitely try this one. However, be warned, it’s a fair amount of work, but it’s definitely worth it in the end.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Ganache Cake
Adapted from Bon Appetit

For the cake:
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup hot water
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder or instant coffee
1 1/4 cups almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped

For the caramel filling:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 stick unsalted butter, diced
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Large pinch of fine fleur de sel (we used fine sea salt)

For the chocolate ganache:
1 1/2 pounds bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 cups heavy whipping cream

For the chocolate cake:
1. Mix the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl.
2. Add the milk, eggs, and melted butter and beat at low speed until blended.
3. Increase the speed and beat for 2 minutes.
4. Dissolve espresso powder in 1 cup hot water and add to the batter.
5. Beat until blended (batter will be thin) and divide batter between 2 pans greased and lined with parchment paper.
6. Bake the cakes at 350F until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on racks 10 minutes.
7. Flip the cakes onto cooling racks. Peel off parchment and cool completely.

For the caramel filling:
1. Stir sugar, 1/4 cup water, and corn syrup in deep medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves.
2. Increase heat to medium; cover pan and cook 4 minutes.
3. Uncover the pan and increase the heat to high.
4. Boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber.
5. Remove from heat and add cream (mixture will bubble). Then, whisk in butter, then sour cream, lemon juice, and pinch of sea salt/fleur de sel. (We noticed that our caramel was pretty thin still, so we left it on low heat for 15-20 minutes to thicken up.)
6. Let cool completely.

For the ganache:
1. Place chocolate in large bowl.
2. Bring cream to a simmer in medium saucepan.
3. Pour cream over chocolate and let chocolate soften for a minute. Whisk until chocolate is smooth. Cool, then cover and chill.

To assemble the cake:
1. Spoon 1/2 of the ganache into pastry bag fitted with 1/4-inch plain round tip.
2. Pipe a ring of ganache around edge of layer.
3. Spread 1/2 of the caramel filling evenly inside ring.
4. Sprinkle the caramel with large pinch of fleur de sel and some almonds.
5. Top with second cake layer, ganache, ganache ring, caramel filling, fleur de sel, and almonds.
6. Spread remaining ganache over top and sides of cake. Press remaining almonds onto sides and drizzle with caramel. Basically, just decorate it how you want to. 

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!

Fancy it up – Raspberry Goat Cheese Swirl Brownies

My friends and I love throwing themed dinner parties. Not only do they give us the opportunity to cook delicious food, but they also give us a great excuse to dress up. ūüôā A few weekends ago, we decided to host a fancy wine and cheese party since my friend Rachel had a gift certificate for French cheeses that was about to expire. She ordered several different types of cheeses, including Camembert, Roquefort, and Brie.

Our spread consisted of over ten cheeses, including a heart shaped Neufatel and ash covered goat cheese, several appetizers, and tomato basil fondue. And lots of wine. ūüôā All of these cheeses were delicious, except for the Roquefort in my opinion (but that’s probably because I’m not a fan of blue cheese). Because it was so hard for us to choose a favorite, we spent the evening tasting each cheese over and over again.

Knowing that there would be plenty of cheese and appetizers, I decided to bring a dessert. But I wanted to make one that used cheese in an untraditional way. So when I saw this recipe from Love and Lemons for raspberry goat cheese brownies, I knew I had the perfect dessert! The original recipe comes from The Kitchn, a website that I frequent daily, and calls for 2:1 ratio of goat cheese to cream cheese. However, upon reading the comments, I decided it was smarter to switch the ratio to 1:2. After all, even though it was a cheese party, my friends might not have liked eating goat cheese for dessert. ūüėõ

I only made a quarter of the original recipe (half of Love and Lemon’s adapted recipe). Because I didn’t have any fresh or frozen raspberries on hand, I used raspberry jam instead and swirled dollops of it into the batter. The brownies were both fudgy and cakey and the cream cheese and goat cheese batter was delicious. The goat cheese was very subtle, adding only a slight tang to the cream cheese.

My friends agreed that the goat cheese wasn’t overpowering and added a nice, fancy twist to the traditional cream cheese brownie. The raspberry jam also adds beautiful streaks of bright red to the brownies, but to be honest, I couldn’t really taste the jam.

Good wine, good cheese, and good friends. Sometimes that’s all you need for a perfect Friday night. Hosting that wine and cheese party added a nice little kick to our normal schedule. Just like the subtle tanginess that goat cheese gave to those brownies.

Raspberry and Goat Cheese Swirl Brownies
Adapted from Love and Lemons and the Kitchn (I made 1/2 a batch of these)

Brownies
5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Raspberry Goat Cheese Swirl
2 ounces goat cheese, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Raspberry jam (I was lazy, but you could use fresh raspberries)

1. Preheat the oven to 350¬ļF and lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan. (Since I made a small batch, I used a smaller pan).
2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a glass bowl placed over a simmering pot of water. Make sure the glass bowl does not touch the water. (This is the double boiler technique). I was lazy and used the microwave, but be careful if you do this, you don’t want to burn the chocolate!
3. When the chocolate is completely melted, remove from the heat, whisk in the milk, and cool for about 5 minutes. Stir in the sugar and vanilla. Stir in the eggs one by one.
4. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and fold in until just combined. Pour the batter into the greased baking pan.
5. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the goat cheese with the cream cheese, butter, egg, sugar, and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.
6. Drop dollops of the goat cheese mixture and raspberry jam on top of the brownie batter, then swirl through the batter with a knife. Be careful not to swirl too much!
7. Bake for 30 minutes or until just barely set. The top will be just turning light brown and the sides of the brownies will pull away from the pan. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
According to the Kitchn, “the flavor and texture of these brownies really bloom when you let them rest overnight.” So try to make these the night before and resist eating them right away.

Banana Doughnuts with Peanut Butter Glaze

A few months ago, I went to Michael’s and was handed a 50% coupon. I didn’t want to spend a ton of money, so I decided to buy a doughnut pan. It was one of the best purchases I’ve made! Since then, I’ve been baking doughnuts non-stop.

I’ve never really been a big doughnut fan, but for some reason, after I bought my doughnut pan, I was hooked on making them! I even have a board on Pinterest dedicated to just doughnut recipes. One of my favorite recipes is this banana doughnut with peanut butter glaze from Shutterbean.

 

They’re basically a cross between a doughnut and banana bread. The doughnuts were incredibly moist, but it’s the peanut butter glaze that you’ll rave about. Feeling a bit lazy, I didn’t brown the butter. I’m sure if you did that, the frosting would taste even better! Since my doughnut pan only bakes six doughnuts at a time and I was a bit too impatient to wait to use the pan again, I used the rest of the batter to make muffins. So if you don’t have a doughnut pan, you can just turn this recipe into muffins! Also,¬†you might notice from the photo that three are in the shape of Mickey Mouse. When my family went to Disneyland for Christmas, I just had to buy a silicone Mickey Mouse shaped muffin pan. They’re so cute!

The combination of the banana doughnuts and the peanut butter glaze is amazing! It’s just like eating a peanut butter banana sandwich, but a little less messy since bananas aren’t flying out whenever you take a bite. Also, these doughnuts are super easy to make and they come out so beautifully! If you’ve got a doughnut pan at home and want to do a little something different for breakfast, I definitely recommend trying out this recipe. The only thing you’ll probably regret is that you didn’t bake these doughnuts earlier, just like me!

In Search of the Perfect Cookie – Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Lately, I’ve been struggling with baking the perfect cookie, which in my opinion is a slightly chewy cookie that’s crispy on the edges. How could something so simple be so difficult to accomplish?

In my first attempt, I ended up with cakey cookies, probably because I tried to substitue butter with oil and applesauce and was too lazy to break out my hand mixer. ¬†Although they tasted good, they weren’t the right texture. I then realized that my laziness and attempts at being healthy weren’t going to get me what I really wanted.

Determined to bake the perfect cookie, I searched the internet for answers. My research taught me that the creaming the butter and the sugar was an essential part of cookie baking. Through creaming, pockets of air are created in the butter, which helps the cookies rise. Also, the type of fat (i.e. butter or shortening) is critical. Butter helps the cookies spread more since it has a lower melting temperature than shortening. Another important component is the type of sugar used. Apparently, using brown sugar results in more chewy cookies while white sugar results in more crispy cookies. Brown sugar retains more moisture during baking, which yields softer cookies. Furthermore, the amount of ingredients that hold moisture (eggs, flour, and sugar) affect the crispiness of the cookies. Who knew cookies were the perfect example of how much of a science baking is?

After educating myself in the ways of cookie baking, I decided to try again. Since I was adamant on baking the perfect cookie, I didn’t take any shortcuts. I used a whole stick of butter (which made me cringe a bit) and searched all over the kitchen for my misplaced hand mixer. I wasn’t going to let laziness be my downfall again. I carefully followed the recipe, making sure to cream the butter and sugar to the right consistency. I had diligently followed the recipe’s instructions to a T, until I realized there were no chocolate chips in the house! After fighting with myself on whether or not running to the nearest Safeway was worth it, I decided to make do with white chocolate chips I saw laying in the cabinet. After a bit more searching, I found macadamia nuts and voila, I had macgyver-ed my way out of a sticky situation… literally. So, after deciding to make white chocolate¬†macadamia cookies instead, I finished making the batter and spooned out a sh*t load of cookies. Now came the hard part. Baking the cookies fully without burning them. For some reason, this is the part that always seems to trip me up whenever I bake. Ovens can be finicky and if you don’t watch them, they can ruin all of your hard work in a minute. The first batch turned out just fine, browned but not too much. Thinking I had gotten the hang of it, I mistakenly left the second batch in a little too long. Although they didn’t get burnt, they did brown a lot, so much that they looked like gingersnaps instead of white chocolate cookies. Despite their color, they tasted delicious. Much crispier than the first batch, which were chewier on the inside but still crunchy on the edges.

And with those cookies, I had finally accomplished baking the perfect cookie. However, I was still not completely satisfied. A few weeks ago, I came across a recipe for chocolate chip cookies using coconut oil. After finally buying a jar of coconut oil from Trader Joe’s, I knew I had to try to bake those cookies.

Again, I followed the recipe diligently (which is usually uncommon for me). Since I didn’t have any coconut extract, I left it out. And still wanting to be healthy, I reduced the sugar to only 1 cup and used white whole wheat flour instead. After learning my lesson from those brown, but not burnt cookies, I watched the oven carefully and took the cookies out once they were slightly brown (figuring they would brown some more once out of the oven due to heat conduction). These cookies weren’t nearly as chewy and didn’t spread as much, perhaps due to the coconut oil. They were still crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. The cookies had a slight coconut taste, but not too strong.

On my quest to bake the perfect cookie, I realized that cookies really aren’t as simple as I thought. Often I ignore cookies, having eaten so many in my life so far and being able to make them as a kid. However, cookies are just as difficult to perfect as any of those fancy French pastries or desserts. Along with my new appreciation for the cookie, I realized that you can’t use shortcuts to get what you really want and that failure is almost always inevitable, but it’s also what makes success as sweet as the perfect chocolate chip cookie.