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Simplicity seems to be the key thing I overlook in everything that I do. It’s the terrible curse of loving the challenge and then overcomplicating life. Whether it’s the events I encounter or the food and desserts that I make, thinking in the most direct and simplest way possible never seems to be the first thing on my mind. Granted, as a person, in my speech, I am quite straightforward, often times saying things before thinking it through, and saying things in the simplest terms ever. But then there is a “but” and “however” – I only do so when asked to, I never willingly just say whatever is on my mind. I prefer the passive state. The quiet state. Thus the complication of it all.

So, you’re probably wondering, why has she brought up this idea of simplicity? Complications? Is this relevant to her blog at all? Well, yes, I promise it does.

I recently bought a couple of cook/dessert books, and started whipping up desserts from them or combining recipes from the internet. Today, I finally received my Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking book, amd let me just say, it’s magnificent. Every recipe is short, simple, and concise – there’s no way you could really complicate it unless you decide to get creative with adding things or subsituting things. (Ahem, like I usually do)

After my short-of-successes with the upside-down blueberry cake and the french silk chocolate pie, I decided to make a simple cheese cake. The reason being that Japanese cheese cakes are phenomenal. They are light, fluffy, and absolutely delicious, and there’s just something about them that sets them apart from other cheesecakes that I’ve had.

Harumi’s Baked Cheesecake – from Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking by Harumi Kahara

*My notes in bold mixed in with the original recipe/directions

Ingredients

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (I used cheerios and a little bit of cinnamon sugar)
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup granulate sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Directions

  1. Make sure the butter and cream cheese are at room temperature. Line the cake pan with wax paper. (I left the butter and cream cheese out of the refrigerator for a bit, and instead of using a cake pan, I used a 9″ pie tin, so make cake isn’t as tall.)
  2. Put the graham crackers in a plastic bag and roughly crush with a rolling pin. (This worked out really well. I used to just bash it with a glass couple, but this was a lot faster)
  3. Soften the butter and mix with the graham cracker crumbs. (I microwaved the butter for about 10 seconds and then tried to beat in the butter, but it clumped together. Try usingΒ  a large wooden spoon for nicer results)
  4. Pour the graham cracker mix into the bottom of the pan and press down lightly to make the base. Preheat the over 340 degrees Fahrenheit. (I used a regular spoon to flatten it into the tin and I made sure to constantly scrape down any of the mixture that got on the sides of the tin)
  5. In a bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until soft, then add the rest of the ingredients, in order, mixing each one thoroughly first before adding the next. (Because I do not own an electric mixer, I threw everything into the blender and then poured it out and beat it by hand. I highly recommend following the directions, and don’t do what I did.)
  6. Continue until the mixture thickens, then pour into the cake pan, on top of the graham cracker base. Bake in the oven for 45-50 min. Remove and leave to cool.
  7. Once it has cooled, remove from the pan, discard the lining paper and leave on a rack too cool completely.

What I loved about this recipe was that above the directions, Harumi added some of her own commentary about the cake, stating that, “When you take the cake out of the oven it is very light and soft like a souffle, but once it has cooled down it becomes creamy and smooth. If you then refrigerate it, it becomes thick and rich. It is almost like having three different cakes.” That’s definitely exciting! You can serve it in different ways and get totally different results πŸ™‚

Now for my results:

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  1. Use a 7″” spring-form pan – otherwise it’ll be a bit thin.
  2. Use graham crackers – it will smell even nicer and taste sweeter (Mine turned out fine with the cheerios and sugar mixture, but it’s not as sweet)
  3. Don’t eat it right away – haha, I always tend to do that! Let it sit, and then enjoy it πŸ™‚
  4. If you prefer the cheerios mixture, I’d suggest whipping up either your own whipped cream or have some sort of fruit or chocolate syrup on top.

Alright, well, it’s back to the books, and then more work…internship…work stuff πŸ™‚

Expect a post in a week or so, unless I happen to decide to post up cooking pictures or new poetry or photography!

Oh! and from a couple of days ago…

Mini French Silk Chocolate Pies…

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XOXO,

Ainsley

Blueberry upside down mini cakes! Absolutely adorable!

So I actually made some French Silk Chocolate mini pies – all inspired by the not martha blog :)! Which after having a personal request on blueberry recipes, I looked up various websites and decided to make mini upside-down blueberry cakes! I’ll be honest – it wasn’t as successful as I would have liked; however, it still managed to be alright!

I followed 2 different recipes – which is key to all my ventures in cooking. Always look for different options and try different things – you may not always get great results, but at least you’ve learned something new!

Alright so I’m a bit lazy today and sleepy because I had trouble sleeping last night and decided to make mini chocolate pies, which I will update you on it tomorrow.

So I’m going to just post the links that I got the recipes from and give you some little notes I took on my progress πŸ™‚

Blueberry Upside Down Cake

Yellow Cake Mix (Homemade)

So I actually decided to make 12 cupcake sized blueberry upside down cakes, so although following every bit of the directions and ingredients was a good thing –Β  I shouldn’t have baked them for so long, so…

Note of the day:

If you go from big to smaller sized desserts, be wary of cooking time and spreading everything evenly – it makes a huge difference! I burnt my little cakes a bit, and although they still turned out fine, they didn’t look that pretty, so I’m not going to post up pictures today.

I’m going to try out more fruit-type desserts in the upcoming days, so keep checking!

I again apologize for the short post!

XOXO,

Ainsley

Yup! I attempted to make the brilliant French Silk Chocolate Pie. It came with a couple of bumps in the road, but with every attempt comes another lesson, so I am proud of myself for working hard to master different desserts. I still have a long way to go, but I absolutely love every moment of it, and I hope that as my reader you have enjoyed coming to my blog and seeing my progress.

I told my roommate last night that I had been hard at work with blogging as much as I can during the week, and she commented that I sounded like I was pulling a “Julie” from the Julie&Julia book/movie. Haha, hardly, but it’s kind of exciting to see myself try something new and share it with the world. I haven’t even come close to pulling a Julie&Julia project of sorts, but I am definitely taking notes on my successes and semi-failures, and today, I did have a slight glitch in the pie-making process.

ALWAYS ALWAYS, remember to prick the bottom of your pie crust if you need to bake it first before putting in filling, and always place some sort of weights upon wax paper to ensure that it doesn’t poof up like a tortilla bowl. Alas, I forgot and I had slightly distorted and bubbly looking crust, but thank goodness it didn’t lose its buttery-deliciousness! (mistake #1)

Also, specifically for this pie, you probably don’t want to substitute butter with margarine and/or milk, because it will take forever to solidify (which even after 4 hrs…it’s still not…fully solid). (mistake #2)

Finally, if they ask you to soften/cream the butter do not do not melt or microwave it (mistake #3)

Lesson learned. πŸ™‚

I won’t be able to post up a picture today, but I will do it tomorrow, but for now, here are the ingredients and recipes I used:

French Silk Chocolate Pie Recipe (props to Tippystclair’s post)

Ingredients:

Chocolate filling-

  • 3/4 cup butter softened (Unfortunately, I subsituted 1/2 cup margarine and 1/4 cup milk – it tastes fine, it just took way too long to solidify as a pie)
  • 1 cup white sugar (I prefer brown)
  • 3 one ounce squares unsweetened baking chocolate, melted (I used unsweetened chocolate drops instead and approximated 3 oz.. To melt them, I microwaved them for about 2 min – in 15-30 second intervals)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 large eggs

Whipped Cream Topping (tastes so much better making it yourself)

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Grated chocolate for garnish (I have yet to try this part)

Directions for Chocolate filling: (With my notes in bold and parentheses)

Melt chocolate in a small bowl over hot water. Do not let the chocolate become hard. (I; however, microwaved the chocolate pieces in small bowl for a total of about 2 min – 15-30 second intervals) In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter at medium to high speed about 1 minute. (I melted the butter – next time, I think what I will do, is not completely melt the butter to a oily mix but instead have it be half melted so I can cream the rest. It’s important not to have it completely melted like I did because it will slow down the solidification of the pie process.) Add sugar, 1/4 cup at a time. Continue to beat until light and fluffy about 4 minutes. Scrape bowl often. It must be mixed long enough so it is not gritty. (TRES IMPORTANT!!) Slowly add the melted chocolate to the butter mixture, beating on medium speed until the chocolate is blended and mixture is mooth. At medium speed add eggs one at a time, beating after each one before adding the next edd. Add vanilla and mix again. Spread into pie crust.

So, overall heads up on my part, I didn’t use an electric mixer to do all of this. I toiled by hand mixing it with a tiny egg beater – which worked out fine, but if you can, it might come in handy to use an electric mixer πŸ™‚

Directions for Whipped Cream:

In large mixing bowl (you really don’t need a LARGE mixing bowl –Β  a medium one will do), beat cream until it is light and fluffy and looks like soft whipped cream. Do NOT let it get to butter stage. (INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT – however, this gives me the idea that maybe, you could actually substitute straight up butter with whipping cream? Try at own risk!) Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy and stiff. Do not overbeat. (Again, if you are hand mixing, this may take a while. I definitely gained some arm muscle on this recipe!) Put whipped cream into a piping bag and use a large star tip to decorate the pie (or smpoon the cream onto the pie. (Before doing, so I decided to refrigerate the whipped cream and the pie for a bit, so that both with be consolidated before I put them together. It’s up to you how you do it, but I can guarantee that you probably can’t put the whipped cream on the chocolate filling right away.) Sprinkle with grated chocolate. Chill for one hour before serving. Refrigerate pie and any leftovers. Makes one 9 inch pie.

Important note: make sure your pie is ready too have the whipped cream on top, otherwise, it will simply just sink into the filling (I haven’t made this mistake, but I’ve had similar slip-ups.)

Pie crust: (from the Crunchy Caramel Apple Pie Recipe I posted up yesterday? – props to Theresa Bledscoe)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp ice water

From what I printed out, I found that the directions didn’t work out as well with this particular pie, but I’m 100% sure that if you were to bake an apple pie (what the recipe was intended for) or any other fruit pie, this recipe and its directions would be perfect. But since, I like to mix up my recipes, I guess I get mixed results.

Directions:

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, and shortening. Use a fork or pastry blender and mix to a course consistency. Add ice water and mix. Roll out to fit, and place into one or two pie plates.

More notes: Again, I hand- blended; then as I added water, I continued to mix for a while and finally kneaded it with my hands. What I would stroongly recommend is that you DON’T knead the dough too much (which is what I probably did), so make sure you knead it enough to have it well mixed and ready to roll out but not too much, that it becomes over done. Also, because for an apple pie, you bake the apple with the pie crust, make sure that if you DO use this recipe and roll out the pie crust and place into tin, you do the following:

  • Make sure to trim off the extra
  • Prick the bottom of the pie crust (use a fork or tooth pick)
  • Place a piece of wax sheet over the pie crust and tin, and make sure it sticks to the pie crust.
  • Place foil (this is if you don’t happen to have pie weights lying around) over the wax paper molding it to the pie crust and tin.

The above will keep the crush from poofing up like mine did 😦

Hopefully yours is much more successful than mine! (Because mine…well is still solidifying… So I might just attempt to make mini ones and scoop out the chocolate loveliness I made…haha we’ll see.) If you have any questions, let me know.

XOXO,

Ainsley

First off, you should always step into the kitchen ready to be creative and with an excited and positive attitude πŸ™‚ It brings a little something extra to the table – trust me, I’ve seen the difference. When I am frustrated and just want to get the baking/cooking over with, the food never tastes as good as when I’m joyful and want the people I’m serving to be joyful also πŸ™‚

Let’s begin with the APPLE PIE:

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(I should first tell you that I mixed 2 recipes together, so results may vary!)

From edible Los Angeles Summer 2009 edition no. 5 (I will write notes of mine underneath in bold):
Basic flaky pastry
Yields enough pastry for a 9-inch two-crusts pie

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled
  • 3 tbsp vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

My side notes

  • For salt, I put very little because I’m not a huge fan of being able to taste the salt in my baked goods, so I just took the salt-shaker and shook a little bit out.
  • For butter and shortening, I just put a total of 7 tbsp (together) – I don’t like having too much butter or shortening in my baked goods either (it makes it healthier too)
  • Lemon juice – I didn’t use it, and it was fine, but I high recommend always having a lemon handy when you cook or bake! You’re bound to need it.

Directions (Side notes in bold and parentheses)

In a mixing bowl combine the first three ingredients. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces, and add it to the dried ingredients. Work quickly and lightly with your fingertips. Add the vegetable shortening and continue working the flour and fat together. The mixture should look like small peas. (So, because I was in a hurry I melted my butter and shortening together and then poured it over the dry ingredients.) After, combine egg yolk, 1 tbsp ice water and 1 tbsp lemon juice in a glass. Stir to comine. Add this to dried ingredients, pinching the dough to combine, gradually add more water, one tbsp. at a time, just until the dough begins to cling togethe rin clumps. The dough will tell you when you’ve added enough water. It should feel pliable, like clay – neither stick nor powderry dry. Form the dough into a ball, place on a sheet of wax paper, press it down 2 inches high, then wrap and refrigerate for about 20 min to relax the gluten. (Because I used another recipe, with this one, I didn’t really follow the directions they gave me… I combined everything together – dry ingredients and the butter/shortening, then I let it sit for a bit and then poured in the yolk and water. Slowly, I mixed everything together with a large wooden spoon, and after I had enough water, I kneaded the dough. Because I was in a hurry, I didn’t have as much time to refrigerate it for so long, but it still worked out pretty well.)

Then I took the apple mixture from this website under Theresa Bledscoe:

Apple Mixture (from Crunch Caramel Apple Pie Recipe)-

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 6 cups of thinly sliced, peeled cooking apples
  • 1 cups packed brown sugar

My side notes

  • Used less salt (like the above for the pastry)
  • For apples – I love Gala apples, so whatever suits you πŸ™‚

Stir together sugar, floud, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Add apple slices and gently toss until well coated. (When it came to coated the apple slices, I actually cut the slices up into smaller pieces and mixed it in with a large wooden spoon.)

Final set of directions – how I did it:

I took the dough out of the fridge and divided it into 2/3 and 1/3. The first 2/3 of the dough is for the 9-in pie pan, and the 1/3 is for the top layer. First I rolled flat the 2/3 dough and intoΒ  a flat disc about an inch or more bigger than the pan, then I took the disc and gently with my fingers fit it into the pan making sure to have a little extra left on the outside. I poured in the apple mixture evenly. I rolled out the remaining dough and cut in up into thin long pieces and weaved it across the pie to have a criss-cross pattern. Finally, I took the edges and folded them into the pie to secure the top criss-crossed layer, and used a fork to make a pattern around the pie tin.

Before baking it, I took the remaining egg white from the flaky pastry and used a brush to coat the pie top. Then, I placed it into the oven – baked at 375 degreess for 25 min.

Here’s what I did wrong…

I forgot to wrap it in foil first, for the first 25 min, and then remove the foil and bake for an additional 25-30 min. So make sure you do that!

If my directions or notes are unclear, let me know, and email me (ainsley.cheng@gmail.com) or leave me comments with questions or concerns. I’ve found multiple ways to subsitute things if you don’t like putting in egg or milk or butter etc. Just let me know!

ComeΒ  back for more tomorrow πŸ™‚ (I’ll have the fruit tart recipe up!)

XOXO,

Ainsley