Why Are You My Eclairity?

DSC_0011-2
This has been SUCH an amazing weekend for numerous reasons: dear friends visiting from San Diego and thus a mini college apartment reunion/waffle birthday party part 2, testifying about God’s goodness in my life at church, laughter and quotable moments over dim sum and a two-hour, high energy karaoke session (“Clarity”, “Crazy in Love” and Story of my Life” were definite standouts). Oh and I made these lovely eclairs here! I used the recipe found in the Bouchon bakery cookbook.

DSC_0017-3 I topped them with things I found in my kitchen such as: sprinkles, peanut brittle, candied pecans, and toasted shredded coconut (not pictured). They were delicious! The hardest part about making them was piping the eclairs onto the baking sheet, but I will nail that down with practice and the right piping tips.

DSC_0007-1
Oh and I also learned that the bottom half of my oven gets extremely hot…and thus burned these babies right here. But it’s okay because I love learning from these mistakes!

Overall, it’s been such a great weekend filled with my favorite people and activities. My heart is so full of joy and I just can’t help but be so thankful for the blessed life I live!

Hope you all have a wonderful week!

A Floral Frenzy

#SC_0211-13

I am rejoicing because my blog is officially back from its 6 month hiatus! I promise to post more frequently, and this time I will uphold that promise! Much has happened since my last post–from overextension to dormancy and isolation to a metaphorical and literal springtime during which I am finally able to create out of sheer desire and joy.

I am warning you now that this is going to be one of my longer blog posts because the process of making this cake was a rather tumultuous one that really tested my patience. There were actual tears and four sticks of wasted butter involved so if you dare, please read along! Otherwise, just look at the pictures (they’re kind of pretty right?) but do know that these pictures were almost lost forever and this blog post almost did not exist!

#SC_0230-16
There were several factors involved in the desire to create this cake. My sister announced a few weeks ago that she would be getting married on June 28 (in London!) and that she was interested in the possibility of having me create either a cake, cupcakes or some type of dessert for her wedding. She was particularly fond of this cake that I made recently for a friend. I searched through Pinterest for “wedding cakes” and “fresh flower cake” and found a beautiful assortment of cakes decorated with fresh flowers. It just so happened that two of my great friends, Sammy and Sarah whose artistry I respect and admire, are knowledgeable about flowers and are very familiar with flower arranging. Add to that the facts that we are fast approaching peony (my favorite flowers) season and Sammy’s birthday was coming up and thus a collaboration between Sarah and I was birthed. While I love piped buttercream flowers and the fact that they are edible, they don’t emanate the same beauty that living flowers do.

I decided to make the Coconut Layer Cake from the Baking Illustrated cookbook for the first time, trusting that this foolproof cookbook and my above average baking skills wouldn’t let me down. This recipe yields a light and fluffy cake because it utilizes cake flour and egg whites. It also has a very strong coconut flavor from coconut extract and an ingredient I recently (and thankfully) discovered, cream of coconut (which can be found in the liquor aisle because it is apparently used in alcoholic drinks).

#SC_0160-1
The cake came out of the oven nicely!

#SC_0161-2
Though it did not come out of the pan as nicely… I need to remember to butter and flour the heck out of my cake pans and actually wait until it cools slightly until I pry if out of the pan.

#SC_0186-7
But since I didn’t spread the batter evenly throughout the cake pan, I ended up with lopsided cakes that necessitated some shaving off to level them anyways, so I got to shave off the ugly part!

#SC_0165-3
And then it was time to make the frosting, which was a coconut flavored Swiss meringue buttercream.

#SC_0168-4
It involved the use of a bain marie/double boiler to heat up egg whites and sugar together. I was so determined to take shots of my hand whisking this mixture up that I splattered egg whites everywhere and ended up not whisking it enough. Oops.

Then I finished beating the egg whites and sugar mixture in my stand mixer, letting it cool before adding the four sticks of butter in slowly and then letting that go for a little bit. I was so excited to be almost finished! But then I came back to my mixer to find a chunky, separated mixture that resembled cottage cheese. It was NOT spreadable. The butter curdled. I think I did not let the meringue cool enough and so it melted the butter when I added it. According to this blog post I found, it could’ve been salvaged. But in my frustration and impatience, I decided to walk to the market down the street and start over instead. I literally had to run back home with my four sticks of butter because in the 3 minutes that I was inside the market, a chubby cloud decided to pour rain madly over the small patch of area that encompassed my house and the market. Soaking wet I was, but at least my butter was dry!

Jaded by the failed attempt at a Swiss meringue buttercream, I decided to make a simple buttercream frosting instead and improvised my way to a recipe.

#SC_0172-6
It still had four sticks of room temperature butter.

#SC_0171-5
And an unknown amount of sifted powdered sugar, coconut extract, vanilla extract, and cream of coconut. I creamed it in the mixer for a while until it was soft and spreadable.

#SC_0187-8
I spread the frosting on the cosmetically challenged layer, then added some toasted shredded coconut on top. The coconut was toasted in the oven for 10 minutes at 325 degrees F, then tossed and left in for another 5 minutes to achieve this ombre color gradient.

#SC_0193-9
Then I added the second layer on top and proceeded to ice the rest of the cake. It was around this time when I realized that because I was using a new frosting recipe, it would not yield enough to cover the entire cake, sides and all, which is what I had intended to do. But I improvised instead!

#SC_0197-10
I mean, the bare cake, rustic look is in right?

#SC_0198-11
And then it was finally time to place these delicate beauties onto our canvas!

#SC_0203-12
Thank you again, Sarah for so carefully cultivating these lovely peonies and so expertly placing them on this cake.

#SC_0237-18
The cake was finished and tasted delicious, the flowers looked beautiful and we were able to shoot some photos of this creation just as the sun was starting to disappear.

A few hours later, I decided to upload some of the day’s shots onto my computer in order to start my blogging process. While uploading some pictures onto my computer, I deleted about 1,000 pictures from March 2013 to December 2013 to clear some space on my memory card. It took a while, so I decided to leave my computer and cook dinner in the meantime. When I returned to my computer, I opened Lightroom so that I could edit some photos. I tried to upload the photos from my camera, but somehow could not find them anywhere. The photos I intended to delete were gone, along with all the photos I had taken that day. I was going over what had happened in my head because it didn’t quite register that my entire creation’s documentation could’ve been lost in some digital abyss. I turned to Google for possible troubleshooting options and downloaded a software to search my camera and computer for deleted files. Nothing was found. Throughout the span of 15 minutes that this all happened in, I was surprisingly cool, calm and collected thinking “maybe it’s just not meant to be shared.” And then suddenly I wasn’t. I ran out of ideas and shut myself in my room to let out hysterical tears that wouldn’t come out. Three minutes later I decided to keep searching for ways and trying. Someone on some forum mentioned extracting deleted photos from a memory card using a particular program. This was my last option. As I held my memory card in my hands, a huge rush of peace came over me–a peace that I knew was secure whether or not the photos were recovered. I simply prayed that God’s will be done with my lost photos. I hurriedly borrowed my roommates laptop (because mine didn’t have a memory card slot), downloaded the app…AND RESTORED ALL MY PHOTOS. Every single one was recovered! I screamed for a bit and rejoiced over the fact that throughout the entire day, so many things both little and large went wrong but that in the end, everything came together. And now here I am, able to share all of it with you!

The adventure of creating this cake now seems less significant than it did at the time. But through every mishap, I learned some valuable baking AND life lessons along the way. Sometimes plans don’t always go the way you think they should and things seem like a curdled mess and you don’t always understand how it happened, but these should not be invitations to give up! Improvise and persevere. Throughout this past season, I’ve learned to hold tightly to my peace and joy to refuse to be shaken when both tiny or large obstacles come at me. It has a made a world of difference.

#SC_0232-17
Here is one last shot of this beauty!

Cheers to the next baking adventure!

Fig Mascarpone Tart

DSC_1010
Living in San Francisco has brought on so many small and large lifestyle changes. For example, I no longer have daily access to a car like I did in Los Angeles so I’ve had to rely on public transportation to get to places. Although it takes longer to get to my destination, I can use my commute time to nap, listen to music, peruse instagram/pinterest/blogs or read magazines. It’s also cheaper and more environmentally-friendly so for the most part, it has been a welcome change! Another small lifestyle change is the way I shop for my food. Working at the Ferry Building Farmers Market once a week has opened my eyes to the plethora of beautiful produce and artisan products that the Bay Area has to offer. It’s wonderful to know where your food came from and to know that it wasn’t sprayed with smelly, potentially cancerous chemicals and then driven hundreds of miles in the back of a truck that passed through dust and manure particles. Okay I may have just described a fictional scenario but I’m pretty sure it actually happens sometimes! I’ve resolved to buy organic and local products when my budget allows me to, especially if I’m eating something raw. I’m also trying to learn about what’s in season and buying seasonal produce. (How SF of me, right?!) Well, guess what’s in season right now? FIGS! They’re incredibly delicious on their own (if you pick the right ones), but are also great and beautiful in tarts, so naturally I did some experimentation in my kitchen and came up with this tasty fig mascarpone tart topped Marcona almonds!

different figs
Small confession: I’ve never had a fresh fig before until about a month ago. I grew up in the Philippines where figs are unheard of and my only experience with them involved imported Fig Newtons which my undeveloped, inexperienced palette thought were disgusting. I actually didn’t know that a fig was a fruit! I came across some fresh figs while strolling through the Inner Sunset Farmers Market one morning and fell in love. Pictured above are the two types of figs that I’ve tried, the brown turkey (left) and the black mission (right). I personally prefer the brown turkey fig, which is less earthier and a tiny bit subtler than the black mission. I decided to use a mixture of both in my tart.

I’m not much of a tart baker and wanted a crust that was simple and easy to make. After searching online, I came across a simple French tart dough recipe on David Lebovitz’s site. I made it twice and the second time around, I made some small changes that yielded a crust that I was happy with.

crust
The ingredients are simple and the instructions are straightforward. I used 170 grams of flour and left my butter mixture (butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt) in the oven for 20 minutes. I might go even a little longer next time to brown the butter more. Brown butter is one of my favorite things!

crust bubbles
Pouring the flour in the butter mixture brought me back to my organic chemistry days of bubbly reactions.

DSC_0962
Mix them well!

DSC_0964
Once cool enough to handle, I used a spoon to spread the dough on a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

DSC_0966
Make sure to really cover the edges and don’t forget to reserve some dough for patching little holes later. Bake in the oven until golden brown and use the leftover dough to patch up the some holes and then let cool.

Throughout the butter boiling and crust baking process, I prepared the figs.
fig shower
I gave them a nice little shower in the sink and then pat them until they were completely dry.

DSC_0950
Then I sliced them to about 1/4 inch thickness like so.

DSC_0954
And then snapped a bunch of photos because they are just so darn beautiful and photogenic!

I made two fig tarts in three days and the second time around, decided to experiment and come up with my own filling. It was so much fun experimentally whipping creamy substances and adding sweet things into my filling. Honey and mascarpone is such a classic combination and the one that I used for my first fig tart. However, I wanted something a bit richer so I came up with the following concoction:

Mascarpone Brown Sugar Filling
1 cup mascarpone
2/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 + 1/8 cup brown sugar

Whip the whipping cream until you get soft peaks and set aside in the refrigerator. Whip the mascarpone and sour cream together until creamy and blended together. Add the whip cream and mix with a spoon or spatula. Add the brown sugar and mix until combined. Use your taste buds to adjust the flavors to your liking! Keep inside the refrigerator until ready to assemble tart.

DSC_0967
Assembly time!

DSC_0972
Spread the filling generously. I didn’t use all of the filling and stored it in my refrigerator. It’s a good dip for the leftover figs and strawberries!

DSC_0984
Feel free to place the figs on the tart however you want to. This is where you get complete creative freedom.

fig tart placement 2
I arranged the figs with the stem side facing outwards and starting with bigger, brown turkey figs on the outside.

marcona almonds
My coworker suggested sprinkling some chopped up Marcona almonds (which can be found at markets like Whole Foods, Andronico’s or Bi-Rite) on the tart for added crunch and saltiness. It was a brilliant idea and definitely elevates the tart!

fig tart outside
The tart is best served chilled, preferably outside just before the sun sets for perfect photography lighting because you’ll want to snap photos of this beauty. It’s creamy but not too heavy, with the right amount of sweetness, saltiness and crunch. I hope you have a figgin’ good time making this tart, because I sure did!

Hello, San Francisco!

Greetings, friends! My apologies for the temporary absence! It’s been a rather busy few months filled with job developments, moving into a new home and exploring my new city . Moving to San Francisco is definitely a significant change that has taken a lot of adjustment and energy, but paired with all the other new things…all I can say is that life is chaotic right now! Though I’m still very much in transition, I didn’t want this blog to be totally neglected. Since I’m very much a visual person, I thought I’d share about my life through pictures!

IMG_2715 I work for a gluten-free, organic granola company called Nana Joes based in the Dogpatch district of San Francisco. I help make, package and sell the best granola ever and sometimes bake delicious goodies like the ones pictured above with some amazingly talented and wonderful coworkers :)

IMG_2716 Cranberry pistachio orange biscotti that I made for Nana Joes’ pastry program!

IMG_2721
The view from the Ferry Building Farmers market, where I work every Saturday.

IMG_2623IMG_2588
Oh the delicious food that can be found at the Farmers Market!

IMG_2720
And the beautiful flowers, among other things.

IMG_2718
The gorgeous St. Anne’s Church found on the corner of Funston and Judah that always lets me know that I’m almost home. On the very same corner is also where the N-line stops. The N has become my dear friend and primary means of transportation to and from work, and almost every other place in the city!

I’ve also been getting acquainted with the Inner Sunset neighborhood, where I discovered a farmers market not too far from where I live. Ever since I started working at the Ferry Building Farmers Market, I always get excited at the sight of beautiful, fresh, local produce. I’ve been trying to eat only organic produce and it honestly has not been that hard! Might I also add that it’s much fresher and more delicious buying directly from farmers, not to mention fun!
IMG_2719
My most recently acquired bounties. Everything was phenomenal!

San Francisco is a really beautiful city that I am blessed to live in. As tough as any transition is, waking up and knowing that I live in one of the best cities in the world makes everything better :) Oh and sweet treats like Tartine’s bread pudding below also help!
DSC_0906

SF Eats: State Bird Provisions

IMG_2576
Last night I had the privilege of dining out at one of San Francisco’s finest restaurants, State Bird Provisions. It was definitely one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had! But in order to thoroughly enjoy the experience, I think it’s important to prepare yourself for it. It is ideal to have a reservation (which must be booked months in advanced) but they do set aside 30% of their dining area for walk-ins. I went to the restaurant to line up a few minutes before they opened at 5:30 and there was already a line of about 40 people ahead of me. Upon reaching the hostess, she told me to come back at 9:30 for a party of 4. Although it was 4 hours later, I was happy to even be able to snag some seats because I was aware of the restaurant’s popularity.

Another smart idea is to go with more people, but not too many since it’s a small restaurant. 4 is the perfect number! They serve small plates, dim sum style and it’s more fun to order many plates to share. I also think it’s good to familiarize yourself with what they’re serving that night by looking on their website so that you can pace yourself with the dishes you choose. With dim sum style service, it’s definitely very easy to say yes to everything that comes your way and before you know it, you’re too full to enjoy other dishes!

IMG_2573
We started off our meal with this salmon tartare with pickled turnips. I would say that out of all the dishes that we ordered, this one was not as amazing as the other ones. The flavors were subtle but the salmon was deliciously creamy. The best part was the crispy quinoa and sesame seeds on top which added a wonderful crunchy texture. (I love texture!)

IMG_2575
Duck liver mousse with almond biscuits. The duck liver was really strong and I don’t know if I’m accurate but I believe I tasted alcohol in there? The almond biscuits were delicious! I could pop those tiny yummies in my mouth any day!

IMG_2572
Charred octopus in a tomato chickpea salsa. The octopus was cooked perfectly!

IMG_2577
Pork belly plum salad. Plum and pork belly. Who knew it could be such a delicious combination? Plums are so delicious right now! The pork belly was crispy yet creamy because of the fat.

Other items we got from the provisions (dim sum) section:
Garlic bread with burrata – creamy, light burrata atop warm and crispy bread.
Grilled rabbit, smoked potato and mushroom ragout – tender rabbit and extremely flavorful. The mushrooms were bursting with flavor from herbs with a slight tang.

From the pancake section:
IMG_2578
Pickled anchovy-sesame pancake with crème fraîche & basil. One of my favorites from the meal. The anchovy wasn’t too overpowering, the crème fraîche balanced everything out and the pancake was warm and fluffy.

From the commandables section:
IMG_2574
Pork spare ribs glazed in their own juices atop a bed of kale. The ribs were perfectly cooked, tender and extremely flavorful. The best part was the kale it was on which was so flavorful!

We also ordered the CA state bird with provisions (first picture). Quails have such tiny bones! It had a crispy outside with some pickled onions and some sort of shaved cheese. I enjoyed it very much.

And for the best part…dessert!
IMG_2579
I wanted everything on the dessert menu but ordered two desserts to share including this mint ice cream sandwich, chocolate-plum coulis, pistachios. We also ordered the birdseed bittersweet chocolate crunch, caramel cloud cream, blueberries. A bunch of different textures and flavors that balanced each other out perfectly.

My first time at State Bird Provisions was amazing! Every component of each dish was executed beautifully and worked well with another. There was an abundance of creativity and attention to detail in every dish. The cherry on top of a delicious meal was the service. Chefs would sometimes bring you the dish themselves and interact with the customers ensuring that they were enjoying their meals. Every single person who worked there embodied the same kindness and evident passion for their craft. It was such an inspiring place with a relaxed atmosphere, perfect for small gatherings. I may have just found one of my new favorite restaurants in the city! I will surely come back, especially because their menu changes seasonally. But next time I will be booking reservations way in advance!

State Bird Provisions is located in the Western Addition.
Address: 1529 Fillmore Street (between Geary and Post)
Phone #: 415.795.1272
Note: They will be closed starting August 10th for 3-4 weeks (or more?) to expand next door.

***My apologies for the picture quality. I forgot my DSLR at home so all photos were taken under poor lighting with my iPhone 4S and edited with vscocam. Next time I will bring my DSLR!