August 27, 2018

Olive Oil Cake

Did you know August is National Olive Oil Month?  I certainly didn't until recently.  So I thought it was very fitting to make an Olive Oil Cake before the month came to an end.  I have an online subscription to Cook's Illustrated magazine and on the website there's a section called "Trending With Our Members" which lists recipes that are currently popular with subscribers.  Their version of olive oil cake was at the top of the list so I knew it was going to be good.  

I'm surprised I'd never made this cake before but I probably deemed it too boring in its simplicity.  How wrong I was!  I couldn't believe how delicious the cake was with such a moist and tender crumb.  No need to worry about a strong olive oil taste because it's not really there.  What really shines through is citrus notes coming from the lemon zest.  The cake is gorgeous on its own but you can certainly embellish it with some fresh strawberries and whipped cream if you're so inclined.

August 23, 2018

Pineapple Buns with Chinese BBQ Pork

Hard to believe but after living in San Francisco for more than twenty years I must confess that I'd never tasted a Pineapple Bun until  just recently when I made them myself from a Cook's Illustrated recipe.  It sounds a bit silly to admit since my neighborhood is literally inundated with Chinese bakeries that sell this popular sweet bread.   One taste of the soft, fluffy interior and crunchy sugar top crust and I was a goner.

The secret to this bread is tangzhong, a cooked flour and water paste, that's added to the dough and makes the interior so light and soft.  I adore working with this dough - it is so forgiving and has the most beautiful elasticity.   You seriously can't mess it up!

The topping is piped in spirals over the proofed buns and is made of a butter, powdered sugar and flour mixture.  In the oven it melts down the sides of the bread and bakes in to a crunchy crust, very similar to craquelin on a choux pastry. 

I ended up filling my buns with Cook's Illustrated char siu or barbecue pork, another staple dish in Chinese cuisine, which I recently posted to my blog.   The savory, sweet filling was a delicious complement to the pineapple bun.   I brought samples of my first batch in to the office and my Chinese-American colleagues gave them the thumbs up.  If that's not the seal of approval I don't know what is!

August 19, 2018

Chinese BBQ Pork (Char Siu)

It all started with an email from my brother, on behalf of my mom.  Mom's an ardent America's Test Kitchen fan, similar to myself, and had just seen the Chinese Classics episode on PBS episode featuring char siu, or Chinese BBQ Pork.   She wanted the recipe so asked my brother to have me print it out for her.  (Before you ask, my parents are not technologically savvy so it's easier for them if they have hard copies of the recipe.) 

I hadn't seen this episode myself so I went about searching for the recipe on Cook's Illustrated's site since I have an online membership.  The results turned up a few versions of char siu, one from the tv show and another that was more traditional looking, i.e., very red.  I was immediately intrigued by the latter which reminded me of the delicious rows of glistening bbq pork hanging on hooks in Chinese restaurants.  The laundry list of Asian ingredients did seem a bit daunting, but if there's one thing I am, it's determined.  Once I set my mind on something nothing will stop me. 

After a quick trip to the local Asian supermarket to buy the ingredients I didn't already have I was ready to go. Trust me, do not be intimidated!  The most challenging part is gathering all the ingredients, after that the recipe comes together pretty easily.  Another plus, there's quite a bit of down time when you make this recipe.  The pork needs at least 10-16 hours to marinate so you can easily prep things the night before and finish baking the next day.  

This char siu is seriously so good.  I literally made the recipe 3x in the last week alone.  I knew it was a keeper when my family unanimously gave it the thumbs up and they are not the type of people to hand out compliments easily!   With authentic results made at home who needs takeout?  Not me!

August 11, 2018

Summer Peach Cake

If I'm not traveling and find myself at home for the weekend my Sunday morning ritual normally consists of a bit of exercise (if I'm not feeling super lazy) and afterwards heading over to the Clement Street Farmer's Market.  Being in California I think we are so spoiled with all the amazing fruits and vegetables literally grown in our backyards.  I love to peruse the various stands to see the abundance of what's in season.  It's a feast for the eyes and stomach!

The yellow peaches this summer have been especially delicious, perfectly ripe but still firm and sweet.  They're hands down my favorite fruit to buy at the market lately.  While my preference is to enjoy the peaches unadorned I'd been meaning to try America's Test Kitchen's recipe for Summer Peach Cake for quite a while.  What better time than now when peaches were at their best?

What I liked about this particular recipe was that most of the peaches were roasted, minimizing the risk of a soggy cake bottom.  Plus, the oven caramelizes the juices which really concentrates the fruit flavor.   The batter couldn't be easier to pull together and is whisked by hand so there's no need to pull out the stand mixer. 

This cake is literally bursting with peach flavor, I kid you not.  You're supposed to wait 2-3 hours for the cake to cool completely but I couldn't refrain myself.  After digging in to a slice I can tell you that it's absolutely delicious.  What I especially love is the addition of almond extract in the batter; it adds a certain je ne said quoi that makes the cake taste out of this world.  

Don't let the simplicity of the cake's appearance fool you - it easily rivals any of those fancy cakes in taste, bar none.  If you insist, you could dress it up a bit by adding a dusting of confectioner's sugar or a dollop of freshly whipped cream.  Why not make it à la mode with a scoop of ice cream?  Any way you serve it it's going to be peachy keen!

August 5, 2018

Pineapple Ice Cream

My obsession with pineapples treads that fine line between utter adulation and complete lunacy.  I don't know what it is about this tropical fruit but I just cannot get enough!  So when I saw Stella Park's recipe for Pineapple Ice Cream on Serious Eats I literally felt like screaming "Hallelujah"! 
Having tried many of Stella's recipes before (her fantastic cookbook is an absolute must for any baker!) I knew this one was going to be a winner. 

I wasn't sure if the fresh pineapple flavor would really come through in the ice cream (I've tried others where it was barely even a hint) but I had nothing to worry about.  One taste of the just churned ice cream and I was an absolute goner. 

This was everything I wanted in a pineapple ice cream and so much more.  The fruit flavor was so intense and the texture so fluffy and creamy.   Now the hard part is deciding if I should just enjoy the ice cream as is or make something with it.  What's your vote?

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