Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cooking Malaysian with Mom

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So I finally made it back to New York for a long weekend with the family, and did I eat well!  I had Dominican steak and plantains with my sis and her roommate in Washington Heights, brunch out with sis and mom, and a stroll around Chelsea Market.  I also had dinner at Locanda Verde with Bao, who's written some food pieces for the New York Times City Room blog and suggested a three-course dessert at Chikalicious.  I said, "Twist my arm, why don't you?"  I tried steak tartare for the first time and liked it, along with our fritto misto, pumpkin agnolotti, and halibut saltimbocca.  And it was fun to see the dessert chefs prepare my darjeeling gelee with pear sorbet; warm chocolate tart with pink peppercorn ice cream; and coconut marshmallow, spice cake petit four, and lavender chocolate truffle.

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Watching bread bakers at Chelsea Market

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Brunch starters

But I did some cooking as well, with my mom.  She showed me how to make some Curry Shrimp and a Shrimp and Roast Pork Mei Fun.  Some mei fun versions are soy sauce-based, and others, like this one, use a curry sauce.  I love to eat both.  Like lots of old-school Chinese cooks, she doesn't measure or time things, write down recipes, or make them the same way every time.  So I estimated measurements and took notes, helping out when asked and snapping photos.  She wasn't used to the last part, but seemed amused by it.  So I've decoded my garbled notes and estimates, and hopefully when I make the dishes on my own I'll have gotten them all right!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

White Velvet Cupcakes & Buttercream

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I was craving childhood cupcakes.  My mom used to make the yellow cake from the box and top it with frosting from the can, and little could make me happier as a kid.  This is like the grownup version.  The flavors are essentially the same, but with that baked-from-scratch goodness and slight sophistication.  After all, I dressed them up with sugar pearls.  This White Velvet Cupcake is moist and has such a tender crumb, and the Chocolate Buttercream is better than anything ever sold in a can.

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The recipes come from Rose Levy Beranbaum's new book, Rose's Heavenly Cakes.  This is not a book of the quick and easy, not for whipping up on a random Sunday afternoon.  This book is for making grand cakes, wedding cakes, cakes to impress the pants off someone.  They're beautiful, of course, and no doubt delicious, but many looked so time-consuming.  This cupcake was great because it didn't require too much effort or time, and a photo editor at work told me it was "the best cupcake I've ever had."

I watched a video of Rose's where she pointed out that your average frosting usually has a slight grainy texture.  This is because the sugar or confectioners sugar is uncooked, and all those granules are just beaten in.  This buttercream, on the other hand, dissolves the sugar over heat and makes use of some corn syrup, resulting in the smoothest buttercream imaginable.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Apple Pie, 2.0

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I can't help it -- it's an old favorite, especially in the fall!  I'm kind of recycling a post, but I really do use my tried and true recipes over and over again.  And with the weather getting chilly, it's been perfect lately for turning on that oven and making something comforting.  Plus, it fills your home with the most wonderful aromas of apple, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

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This time, I added some apple cutouts for a decorative touch. Bake them on a sheet pan for 10 minutes while the pie is baking. When the pie has cooled a bit, affix your cutouts using some corn syrup.

This recipe is from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Pie and Pastry Bible.  Her cream cheese pie dough has become my favorite for its flakiness, slight tang, and ease in rolling out.  She explains in the book that cream cheese has a high water content that's great for the pastry.  My other reasons for liking this pie (the baking reasons, not the obvious eating ones) include baking the pie on a baking stone on the floor of the oven to avoid that awful soggy bottom crust, and cooking the juices of the apples to concentrate the flavor.  True, I spent a good few hours making this, but the extra steps are rewarding in the end.  Keep in mind when planning that you can't eat it for a few hours, or the juices will run out everywhere before they've had a chance to set.  I won't repost the recipe, since you can find it here.