May 24, 2020

Patriotic Pound Cake

I think it's safe to say this Memorial Day Weekend is unlike any we have ever known due to shelter in place and, of course, the Bay Area weather is forecast to be glorious and sunny.  But hey-ho, no use getting down about it, right?  I'll still enjoy the lovely weather, albeit from a safe social distance!


Memorial Day is the unofficial start of the summer season here in the US and I wanted to make something patriotic to celebrate the holiday.  In the past I've made blueberry pies with a star cutout crust or Ina Garten's festive flag cake.  This year I decided to try my hand at making a Patriotic Pound Cake.  I love a good marble cake with swirls of different colored batter so why not try it in the iconic red, white and blue?

I started with the Martha Stewart Living recipe for three-layer pound cake because it has the most delicious texture and crumb using the reverse creaming method.  I omitted the chocolate ingredients and tinted 1/3 of the vanilla cake with red or blue gel food coloring.   To create the marble effect there are quite a few different techniques, but for this cake I used small ice cream scoops to portion each of the colored batters into the loaf pan.  Use a sharp knife to slice the pound cake and I guarantee you'll be delighted with the patriotic swirls!

Hope everyone has a fun, safe and healthy Memorial Day Weekend! 

May 22, 2020

Braided Challah

I don't have much experience braiding bread dough but when I see beautiful loaves twisted in such interesting ways I'm determined to give it a go.  My colleague Inna makes challah every Friday for the sabbath and recently she made a mini loaf so I could try.  Her bread had the deepest, mahogany crust and such a beautiful braid.  As soon as I got home I cut a few slices and enjoyed them toasted with butter.  Delicious!  

Straightaway I asked Inna for the recipe she used and she referred me to this one from Chen Shukron.  The original post is in Hebrew but one click on Google and you can easily get the English translation.  To shape the bread she referred me to this Instagram post, but to be honest it seriously intimidated me!   I needed to start with something more for the beginner.

A few years ago I attempted a challah, but the braiding technique was a "cheat" version because you stacked a simple plait one on top of another.  What I wanted was to make the intricate, multi-strand braids that you see in bakeries, but for a novice.

I remembered seeing a Braided Round Challah from an issue of Cook's Illustrated that looked so appealing because it used the tangzhong technique, or cooked flour paste, and was shaped so beautifully.   In the end, I decided to make Inna's recipe and the Cook's Illustrated version using the braided round technique because two challah are always better than one! 

The aroma of homemade bread permeated throughout my kitchen and it was heavenly!  Both loaves baked up gorgeously, if I do say so myself.  I should definitely practice my braiding more because now it's not as daunting as it used to be.

Shabbat Shalom y'all!  

May 9, 2020

Peanut Butter Cup No-Churn Ice Cream

Here's a great recipe to make delicious ice cream WITHOUT an ice cream maker.  At first I was a bit skeptical when I read about No-Churn Ice Cream on the Cook's Country website, but after making it for myself I'm now a complete convert.  All you need is a blender, which most households have over an ice cream machine.  The other plus with this recipe is that there's no eggs used, so no cooking a custard base.  The ice cream mixture literally came together in less than ten minutes, even better in my book!

Reese's cups are one of my favorite candies so I opted to go for the peanut butter cup version of the ice cream.  [The website has many other flavors if you don't like peanut butter.]   The recipe couldn't be simpler to make: whip heavy cream in the blender for about 30 seconds until heavy peaks form, add the rest of the ingredients (except the stir-in), pour into a loaf pan, mix in the stir-ins and then freeze for at least six hours.  That's it!

The ice cream is delicious served alone but I had some extra choux pastries so I filled them with the ice cream to turn them into profiteroles. [Yes, I know technically you need three pastries on the plate for profiteroles, but I didn't have a third one!]

May 3, 2020

Bánh Mì

The Vietnamese Baguettes I made were destined to become Bánh Mì sandwiches.  I filled the baguettes ith char siu pork, pickled carrots and daikon, fresh cucumber and a bunch of cilantro.  By way of condiments I prefer lots of mayonnaise and a splash of Maggi seasoning.  The only thing missing was some pork pâté but I'll get some for next time.

May 2, 2020

Vietnamese Baguettes

Bánh mì (or Vietnamese baguette sandwich) is one of my all-time favorite things in the world.  It's the perfect food if you ask me.  Crisp, crunchy, soft and airy baguettes filled with meat, pickled vegetables, fresh cucumber and herbs.  Heaven in a bite!  Almost a decade later and I still think about the most delicious bánh mì I ever ate from Bánh Mì Phượng in Hội An, Vietnam.  

The key to a really good bánh mì boils down to the bread.  Viet baguette is slightly different than the French variety.  Yes, it was introduced to the country by the French in the 19th century but there's definitely a Viet spin to it.  The Vietnamese kind is much lighter and airier than the traditional baguette.

When I saw Uyen Luu had posted a recipe for homemade Viet baguette on her Instagram and website I could not contain my excitement.  Hers looked totally legit so I had to give it a go.

It's always intimidating trying a new recipe, especially when you have such high expectations for it.  Turns out I didn't need to worry.  The recipe wasn't complicated but there were a few steps you had to follow.  What I found very helpful was the YouTube video that was included in Uyen's post that showed how the baguettes were made.  Forewarning though, the video is in Vietnamese, but even if you don't understand the language you can still watch the video for visual clues on how the recipe works.

I literally jumped up and down when I pulled the baked baguettes out of the oven.  They totally looked authentic, down to the beautiful split on the top.  Straight away I FaceTimed my mom to show her the results and she even said the baguettes looked really good.  [And she's a tough critic!] I promised her that once I was able to visit again I would make them with her.

I'm planning to fill the baguettes with char siu or Chinese bbq pork.  Stay tuned!
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