When Friends Hand You Lemons

From 4th grade (April 2000, which was when I first moved to America) to my senior year of high school, I lived in Venice, California in a small house with a huge front yard. Our front yard was easily twice the size of our actual house (albeit it was a tiny house), thus it allowed my grandma to grow numerous plants from seeds that she snuck into America illegally. Some of the plants on that yard included a guava tree, a mango tree that never quite grew past three feet tall or bore any fruit, a pomelo tree, an apple tree and of course the quintessential American home plant, the lemon tree. Because our trees produced bountiful fruits, I have never had to buy a single lemon (or guava) in my life. Thankfully lemons are not that expensive, which eased the pain of losing a lemon tree when I came to college.

Like many things in life, I took that lemon tree for granted. I am only able to appreciate it now when I actually utilize lemons almost daily and frequently use it in baking and cooking. Not once did I make lemon curd or use lemons in my baking (aside from the occasional lemon zest) when that lemon tree was just outside my house. So I told myself that if I ever had such an abundance of lemons ever again, that I would make sure to use them creatively. Well, it didn’t take long for the plethora of lemons to arrive! During this winter season, I received so many lemons from friends with lemon trees (some that I still haven’t used!). I didn’t realize how eager people are to give away their lemons because if you have a tree, it’s not likely for you to use all of the fruit it bears! I promised myself that I would finally try making lemon curd and that I would somehow use that lemon curd for something pretty darn cool. And that’s when I remembered this Lemon Meringue Cookie recipe from Joy the Baker that I remember starring on my Google reader a long time ago. I believe that the lemon curd recipe she used is actually from David Leibovitz (whose blog I also admire and follow) and it was delicious!

I made sure to bust out my bright yellow, lemon-colored bowl for my egg whites to be mixed in.
I always love the way egg whites + air = this fluffy white substance called meringue.
I took out my piping bag and some of my piping tips and tried to find one that was closest to a star tip. Unfortunately my only star tip was rather small and so my meringue cookies really didn’t look like stars, but whatever because they were still cute and delicious. I do confess that I had a bit of trouble piping the meringue batter onto my baking pan because it seemed kind of wet.
They did bake just fine though! Note that this was my first time baking meringue cookies (I’ve only incorporated it into a batter for cake) so it was an exciting experience!
lemon meringue cookies
And that lemon curd was just seriously plain delicious. I may have had spoonfuls of it before I was able to get them on the cookies. But don’t worry, I washed the spoon!
lemon meringue cookies
Aren’t they just the cutest things ever?! I followed Joy’s suggestion to freeze them before serving, except I actually just stored them in the freezer in an airtight container. It was like eating a light ice cream sandwich…but homemade and obviously better. They kept in the freezer for about a few days until I noticed a decline in the quality of the cookies. Easy, fun and delicious! Oh and there was plenty of lemon curd leftover to my stomach’s delight :)


A World of Cake

I love cake. I don’t think I knew how much I loved cake until I started working at a bakery that specialized in cakes, where I daily see, smell, talk about, write about, draw, write on, blablabalbla cakes. I also didn’t realize how much I enjoyed making cakes until I had enough time to devote to making and decorating a cake from scratch! It was always hard to make cakes in college because cakes take a lot of time and effort. I’m not one to bake from a box (though yes I’ve hit rock bottom quite a few times in college and succumbed to those $.99 pleasures), frost a cake and call it done. I love making it a half-day project where I can work on my own, as slow and particular as I want to be (which by the way, does not equal success in a commercial bakery. you gotta HUSTLE up in there!). And during my funemployment months, I found comfort and joy in my ability to create something that tastes and (if I must say so) looks good! So here are my post-grad, post-Asia cake ventures!

After three months of zero baking, I decided that the first thing I wanted to make was a birthday cake for my good friend’s birthday. I made this Raspberry White Chocolate Cake using this recipe. Three mistakes that day: I ran out of eggs and substituted apple sauce for two eggs, I added raspberry extract to white chocolate while I was tempering it, and I left the cake in the pan for too long. That translated to: a cake that wasn’t properly emulsified and broke apart when I tried to remove it from the pan, white chocolate that crumbled up into hard rocks (when you add a liquid to melting chocolate…game over), and cake that just won’t come off the darn pan. Yup. It was pretty disastrous. If you could only see the sides of this cake… But at least it tasted good! Bonus points for discounted raspberries!

Ah my birthday month! One fine day I typed “elephant cake” on Pinterest and found plenty of adorable birthday cakes! They were mainly for children aged 5 and under. But nevertheless I decided to copy one and make it for myself! I knew I wasn’t going to eat it and that it would be purely for decorating purposes (it’s also 6 inches in diameter). So I made a cake that was purple inside (not caring how it tasted), with my favorite animal on top and called it my own birthday cake.
Happy Birthday to me! (Can you imagine how sad it was to dump this cake, unsliced, uneaten in the trash can? Yes I am the kind of person who makes a cake just to decorate it.)

I was tasked to purchase a cake from the bakery I work for, for my step-grandma’s birthday. BUT, seeing as this is yet another opportunity to exercise my cake-making prowess, I volunteered to make it instead! I chose a white chiffon cake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream inside with a whip cream frosting on the outside because it was the cake they had wanted me to buy. I perused online for a recipe for a good hour, compared them and decided to use smitten kitchen’s recipe. This was the first recipe I’ve ever used from her site!
It was a light and fluffy, tasty vanilla cake that had a nice hint of lemon. Do note that strawberries are not their best in November though. But overall, I liked the cake! I definitely prefer whipped cream frosting to buttercream because it’s lighter and easier to spread on the cake!

I also made my first ever, chocolate chocolate cake for a friend’s birthday! I found this recipe on Pinterest and decided to make two 6 inch round cakes, one for me and one for my friend :). I decided not to use an all milk chocolate frosting and used semi-sweet instead (I find milk chocolate to be too sweet) and I also added whipped cream in the middle of my cake to offset all the chocolate. Overall, I think it turned wonderful! It does harden quite a bit in the fridge so I’d leave it out in room temperature before serving (unless you put whipped cream inside like I did…then you better not).

And thus ends my streak of cake-making! I need more friends who appreciate cake on their birthdays. So holla at me if you want one for your birthday!

‘Tis the Season For Merry and Plentiful Baking

One small dream of mine is to someday host my own Thanksgiving dinner party. I’m talking about an all-out, extravagant Thanksgiving meal from appetizers down to the dessert. I love Thanksgiving food. I really really do. It’s not specific dishes that I love, but the marriage of all the different, typical Thanksgiving dishes all piled together on one plate–the tartness of the cranberry sauce atop a juicy piece of turkey with some garlic, buttery mashed potatoes on the side and some green beans with a bit of crispy french fried onions. I love the combination of these flavors, and I truly look forward to the day when I’ll own my own home and be the hostess of my own Thanksgiving dinner party and the cook that everyone gets to thank and praise for the delicious food (because it IS gonna be ridiculously delicious). But until that day comes, I will happily consume Thanksgiving food prepared by someone else’s hands, and continue to be the designated dessert maker!

This year I was asked to make the Cranberry Coffee Cake from my previous post, but I decided that it wasn’t enough. I’m not about to waste an opportunity to try one of the countless recipes I’ve bookmarked/pinterested/googlereaderstarred now, was I? Nope! Since my mom doesn’t like pumpkin, I decided to make Joy the Baker’s Salted Caramel Cheesecake Pie, which I found starred on my Google reader. I’ve been wanting to make a pie for so long, and considered making a cheesecake, and since I love caramel…voila!

Um yes, that caramel was of perfectly viscous consistency and because there’s a tad bit of salt in there, it had an added depth to it and wasn’t too sweet!

Ze final product, instagrammed with some stray eggs on the side for the cranberry coffee cake and an empty glass that is not even mine.

Confession: it is unnatural for me to take pictures of my baking/cooking process. It’s such a hassle/burden to stop what I’m doing just to snap a few photos of each step because when I cook or bake, I’m in the freaking zone and I just GO. But for the sake of this blog, I will try to. But for now, just end product pictures.

Also, my Thanksgiving food frenzy did not end when I food coma-ed last Thursday night. It continued throughout the weekend because my favorite social activity is…eating! Since plenty of friends were in town, I got to share some lovely meals with some great people!

ImageThis right here may have been my favorite discovery of the weekend–a macaron ice cream sandwich dipped in white chocolate from Milk, a Yelp-popular dessert & small meal joint in Los Angeles! The concept was much better than the taste. The macaron was just okay, and the white chocolate made it way too sweet, but the blueberry ice cream is muy bueno! I’ve been to Milk plenty of times (read my Yelp review ;)) and I’d have to say that it’s definitely overhyped but their ice cream is good! Also, beware: the consumption of their famous blue velvet cake yields green fecal matter.

I also shipped off some sugar cookies to my old dance group (Abba Modern) last week for their Thanksgiving party. Sugar cookies are my favorite excuse to decorate food, which is honestly why I chose to make ’em :) Mixing colors is so fun! Image

I love this time of the year because there’s plenty of reasons and occasions to bake and cook! Thus I deem it, the season for merry and plentiful baking! Yay! I’m already stockpiling my Christmas cookie recipes! :)