Saturday, January 30, 2016

"the tastiest crap ever" aka chocolate pudding cake

There's a special time of the month when my love for dark chocolate transforms into a rabid, insatiable need, only trumped by water and oxygen.  My thoughts become flooded with chocolate raaainnn; I find myself drifting into the pantry at odd hours of the day (and night), in search of any-godforsaken-thing chocolate.

This was one of those times.

Flash forward to Friday night, when we were thumbing through recipe books and the vast interwebs for the ultimate chocolate dessert. After passing on treasures like fruitcake brownies (I can't believe those exist, either), Meka came upon Holly's hot fudge pudding cake.  Joy later christened this The Tastiest Crap Ever. Because it looks like crap. It really, really does.

Judy's bowl of tasty crap cake. 
But it's unfair to call this cake the Tastiest Crap Ever. That's setting the bar too low. It's probably more accurate to call this the Crappiest Looking Tastiest Cake Ever, but that's also a lot of words. 

In addition to its sludgy appearance and intoxicating yummy-ness, there's one other thing you should know before making this cake. It uses the weirdest cake recipe, ever. But as it turns out, this amalgamation of weirdness spells deliciousness.

Specifically, the wet cake batter is first topped with a dry batter mixture, which is then flooded with boiling water. I repeat, the final step of this recipe entails pouring boiling water all over the cake batter. Say what?

Well, it shouldn't serve as a surprise that an unconventional recipe would produce an unconventional cake. But hey, unconventional can be a good thing. Especially when it creates this gooey, lava cake-esque masterpiece!

So...if my repeated references to fecal matter hasn't spoiled your appetite yet, I highly, highly recommend you make this cake. I give it 5 stars and a smiley face - no, a shiny Michelin for its ability to kick chocolate craving butt like no other.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

(year of the) monkey banana walnut bread

On a frosty winter night, me and two trusty minions gal pals - Judy and Joy - sat around a table pondering the fate of two very brown, pungent bananas.

Cakes and muffins were too #basic, we thought. In the end, we embarked on the lesser traveled path to make spiked monkey bread. You see, there is a tendency for the bizarre and inexplicable to manifest in the College Kitchen. After unsuccessfully combing the internet for the recipe of our visions, we were left improvising throughout the night.

For the first time ever, Judy kneaded bread dough. I figured she would excel at this, given her experience as the household masseuse.

"Doesn't it feel just like like human flesh?!" I asked her. She disagreed. (Perhaps I should keep these kinds of thoughts to myself.)

Later on, our cheeky attempts to spike the sauce were snuffed when the bourbon boiled off some in the cooking process and then all in the baking process. Wump. Ah well, still nommy!

At midnight, the monkey bread emerged from the oven. Like pure magic - a warm cinnamony pull-apart bread bejeweled with walnuts and caramelized bananas. As a forewarning for anyone who tries this (which you should), when we un-molded the bread, we also opened the floodgates of a delicious caramel waterfall. Truly, I'm not exaggerating. Just ask Judy and Joy, the angels who cleaned up the hot mess. Isn't that what gal pals are for?

Monkey bread is best eaten fresh and perfect for sharing. Joy reminded me about the dairy-free, coconut-based version I made last year. Now, we have a new fantastic recipe for an almost dairy-free (but easily substitute-able) banana walnut version! That night, we pulled out all the excuses and came close to consuming the bread in its entirety. Oops. Maybe if I do this more often, I'll grow a booty worth shaking. Senior sixteen? Senior sixty? Oh, I don't know. I'd like to say that what happens in the college kitchen, stays in the college kitchen, but it looks like I might be carrying it around my hips soon enough. With this bread - no regrets.

banana walnut monkey bread
Drool, baby, drool.
sweet monkey bread dough 
(adapted from Karlynn Johnston's recipe here)
2 Tbs butter, melted (can sub coconut oil)
1 cup of milk, warmed (I used soymilk)
1/3 cup water, warmed
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
3-4 cups bread flour
2 tsp salt

spiced sugar mixture
1/3 cup white granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves

3/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tbs butter (can sub coconut oil)
1 cup milk (I used sweetened vanilla almond)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp cinnamon
optional: 2 Tbs bourbon

2 bananas, very ripe

to make the dough
1. In a microwave safe bowl, combine the butter, milk, water and sugar.
2. Microwave the mixture until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth.
3. When the mixture has cooled to ~115 F, add the yeast. Let bloom for 5 minutes.
4. In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour and salt.
5. Pour in the yeast mixture, mixing and adding more flour until a moist dough forms.
feat. Judy, bread kneading apprentice
6. Continue kneading dough and adding flour/water as necessary, until dough ball is smooth.
7. Allow the dough to rise in a greased and covered bowl for 1 hour.
to make the sauce, while dough is rising
1. In a sauce pan, combine the sugar, butter, almond milk.
2. Heat the mixture on med-low and stir until everything is dissolved.
3. Continue heating the mixture on low-med for 10 minutes. Let the mixture boil for 1 minute.
4. Let the mixture cool for 5-10 minutes.
5. Add in the bourbon, vanilla, walnuts and cinnamon.
6. Simmer the mixture on low for 3-5 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes prior to using. It will appear very liquid-y for now, but rest assured it will thicken when baked.
to assemble the monkey bread
not yet baked, prior to adding sauce
1. In a greased bundt pan, pour a shallow layer of sauce. Add a layer of thinly sliced fresh banana and walnuts.
2. Roll out the dough and divide into ~40 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball shape.
3. Dip the dough balls into the sauce.
4. Then, dip them into the spiced sugar mixture.
5. Arrange the dough balls into the pan.
6. Alternate a layer of dough balls with scatters of walnuts and thinly slices of banana.
7. After you've finished adding the dough, pour the remaining bourbon sauce all over the top. It will look like a lot of sauce, but rest assured that it will thicken and reduce while baking!
8. Bake at 375 F for 30-35 minutes, until the sauce is thick and bubbling. Let cool for a few minutes before un-molding it over a curved plate (be warned that lots of sauce will pour out!). SERVE WARM AND FRESH because no other way will do this justice!! :) You can also garnish and dip fresh banana slices in the sauce.

Garnish with fresh bananas, which you can dip in the sauce! :)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

strawberry oatmeal crumb bars

Throwback to my first baking adventure of 2016 - and it was a good one!

In traditional Chinese culture, you start the new year by eating something sweet, so you will have a "sweet" year. These strawberry oatmeal crumb bars are buttery, sweet-but-not-overly-so and conjure memories of summer.

I made these as a (not very conventional) new year's treat that conveniently uses up the rest of my homemade no pectin, no problems strawberry jam. Also, I'd been craving a chunky dessert. But do I really have to justify making these? Nah!

I adapted the recipe from Dinner, Dishes and Desserts, by readjusting the yield, reducing sugar to let the jam's sweetness come through even more, and incorporating oatmeal into the base. My parents (especially my father) were big fans of these bars. My father kept asking how the oatmeal got to be so crumbly and good; I'm pretty sure it's just the magic of butter, combined with some oven toasting action and love, the secret ingredient that makes everything taste better.

strawberry oatmeal crumbs bars (adapted from Dinner, Dishes and Desserts)
bar base
1/2 cup butter, softened and diced
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup white or brown granulated sugar
dash of cinnamon

~1/2 cup strawberry jam or jam of your choice (I recommend a chunky one)

crumb topping
1/3 cup oats
1/4 Tbs cup brown granulated sugar
optional: coconut flakes, cinnamon

Yields 9 medium bars or 12 smalls bars

To form the base
1. Combine softened butter, flour, oats, sugar and cinnamon until thoroughly combined and moist. You can use a mixer on low speed or mix by hand.
2. Press roughly 3/4 of the total mixture - or enough to create a full layer on the bottom - into a greased 9x9 pan.
3. Bake at 375 F for 10-15 minutes, until lightly golden.
To create the jam layer
4. Spread the jam evenly over the baked base.
To add the crumble topping
5. To the leftover base mixture, add more oats, brown sugar and any optional additives.
6. Combine until moistened, or until it clumps together when pinched. If the mixture is too dry, add more softened butter by the tablespoon.
7. Distribute chunks of the topping mixture over the jam, until the entire layer is covered.
8. Bake at 375 F for 20-25 minutes, or until crumb topping is golden brown. Let the bars cool well. If you can, refrigerate for an hour or overnight to help it firm up. Enjoy! :)

Thursday, December 31, 2015

food resolutions of 2016

I have an infinite plethora of plans for 2016. Among them include finishing my thesis, graduating college and getting a job. In between the tears and long date nights with black tea and my textbooks, I am really, really looking forward to...


homemade vanilla/mint extract
Enough of the diluted, pricey nonsense! The moment I turned 21, I've been itching to head to the liquor store and buy a nice, big bottle of vodka. And while many other freshly 21 year-olds may experience that same "itch", they probably aren't also planning to stuff their precious liquid courage with mint leaves or vanilla beans...Well, what can I say, I have a giant mint bush in my backyard, calling my name.

baked donuts (a dairy free and vegan version)
The first time I tried baking donuts (which was, like, one week ago), I made something else. Let's just say my visions of a glorious tower of mini matcha donuts - stacked to resemble a Christmas tree - didn't translate so well into reality. They were crumbly and chaotic, and most important, I can totally do so much better. I look forward to spending the coming 366 days finding the dairy free or vegan donut recipe of my dreams.
*sob* Anyone up for crumbly donuts?
black sesame 
I love black sesame desserts in indescribable ways. Their taste is reminiscent of peanut butter, and there's a Chinese belief that it'll keep hair black 4eva (although at the moment I'm not sure it could be any other color). I love it so much that I will happily and shamelessly down cup after cup of black sesame soup, much to the curiosity of my housemates, to whom it probably looks like I'm aggressively slurping down black tar. Well, I pretty much do eat everything, so.. Hence, I think it would be a fun idea to devise some recipes (perhaps bread? mochi? cake?) that make black sesame the star of the show.

(ratchet) mochi
Who knew we could recreate this ancient, laborious traditional dessert with a microwave and the right ingredients? Ah, the *magic* of technology. I'm honestly curious how microwave mochi will turn out, and whether it can achieve the same impossibly pillowy texture. On the topic of black sesame, one of my favorite black sesame desserts is black sesame mochi.

The time-honored, labor-intensive tradition of making mochi.
Versus, the borderline sacrilegious 10 minute version of making mochi. 

chickpea water aka aquafaba
Aquafaba, or chickpea water, is the new-ish ingredient transforming the vegan baking world. Believe it or not, you can whip the chickpea brine (yes, direct from the can) into a fabulous egg-white substitute. Life-changing, I know. I tried doing this for my sister's vegan birthday spongecake, and sure, I failed miserably, but I learned 3 crucial lessons: 1. Aquafaba is indeed witchcraft and whips up beautifully like egg whites. 2. Chickpea brine is, well, briny. Duh, right? It impacts the taste of what ever you are making. 3. My whip attachment does not reach the bottom of my mixing bowl, which explains why, for the longest time, my mixture failed to whip properly.

Finally, in honor of a fabulous 2015 and to another year of kitchen adventures, here are photos of the vegan birthday sponge cake I surprised my sister with. 

I present to you: Green tea sponge "roulade" with homemade strawberry jam & vegan carob whipped cream. And a hint of chickpea brine. One of my proudest creations yet. 

Wow, what an appetizing color combination.

Resist your urge to lick the screen. Please.

Happy new year!