S’mores Cupcakes on a Sweet Sunday

June 20, 2011 § 4 Comments

I’ve been meaning to post this since last week but my back went out again and I’ve been resting the past several days. Last Sunday morning, I woke up and jumped out of bed to make cupcakes for a friend at my yoga studio. This friend is a generous one, regularly making wonderful cookies and bringing them in for the other students to share. It only made sense that someone else bake for him on his birthday. I made a batch of matcha cupcakes along with the s’mores cupcakes (shown above) from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

The cupcakes went over really well and I was really happy to get to share some of my baked goods with the other students.

Classic Combo Matcha + Anko (Red Bean) Macaron

May 27, 2011 § 21 Comments

Peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs… Some things in life were just meant to be together. Standing alone, they have their own wonderful charasteristics but when combined they get even better. Matcha and red bean is another classic combination that is one of my favorites – the earthiness of the green tea marries well with the sweet smoothness of the red bean paste and I really love pairing these two flavors together.

Naturally, as I got more comfortable with macaron making I turned to matcha and anko as my next practice. This has been my favorite flavor so far, but the macarons themselves could have turned out a bit better. You can see in the photos that the feet extend past the shells a bit – as they baked, the feet grew up really tall, and then collapsed back down a bit causing them to puff out. Maybe most people wouldn’t notice it… but I do. In any case, these were delicious and I’ll definitely be putting this flavor combo in my macaron making rotation. Not that often though, I have found that not everyone is a fan of red bean like I am.

Matcha Macarons:
100g Egg whites, aged 4 days
66g caster sugar
120g almond flour
180g powdered sugar
1 tbsp matcha powder
1 cup anko (red bean paste)

In a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites. When foamy, add the caster sugar and matcha. Continue to whisk until stiff peaks form. Meanwhile, sift together the almond flour and powdered sugar. When the egg whites are nice and stiff, fold into the almond flour/ powdered sugar and continue to mix until the batter ribbons back into the bowl.

Transfer the batter into piping bags, and pipe onto silpats into rounds about 1 1/2 inches wide. Let sit for half an hour. Preheat oven to 320 degrees F, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. When cool, match up the shells by size and fill with the anko.

Note: A great reference for macarons is Mad About Macarons!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Ice Cream

May 15, 2011 § 27 Comments

Like most others, I look forward to Friday evenings, but one thing that makes it that much more sweet for me is my Friday night after-work yoga practice. I call it my end of the week work detox and I love spending the time on my mat, letting the weight of the week just melt away and disappear. It’s a time for me to collect myself and catch up on the breaths I lost while holed up at my desk. Often times in class we are given the choice to set an intention for class and on Friday evenings I try to focus on things  that will help me peacefully say goodbye to the work week and gracefully wave hello to the weekend.

On Friday I drove to class and as I exited the freeway I looked forward to class, ready to go in for a strong class and let go of everything from the previous 40 work hours. But as we got into the flow, something was off. When we stood up from our first standing forward fold I felt the world go black and the room began to spin. I struggled to stay upright and swayed as I fought to keep from passing out. When everything finally cleared, after what felt like hours, I looked around and everyone was still standing – our teacher had given us a few moments to stand and ground ourselves with our eyes closed and I was grateful that no one had noticed. I took it easy the rest of the class.

Work this past week was busy and stressful without much time for me to come up for air, and I think that this extra stress manifested itself in my body. While class was a struggle, as always I still left happy about going and felt I got what I needed while I was there. I came home ready for the weekend, and thought that I would celebrate with a treat. Naturally, that includes a glass of wine but this time I decided that I would turn my treat into an extra sweet treat.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Ice Cream:
1 can full fat coconut milk
1 1/4 cups soy milk
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup First Street creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup First Street strawberry preserves

In a bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, soy milk, sugar, and peanut butter. Let chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

In your ice cream storage containers, spoon a couple spoonfuls of preserves in. Then layer in some ice cream, and some more preserves on top of that. Continue layering until all the ingredients are used up and freeze for at least a few hours, or overnight.

Source: Lick It!

*Note that I am being compensated to write this post, but all opinions are entirely mine.

Wine Tasting Weekend & Oh Chocolatey Brownies

May 9, 2011 § 20 Comments

This past weekend was exactly what I needed. Eric and I went wine tasting – one of our favorite things in the world to do. We went to Paso Robles, which happens to only be a few hours north of Los Angeles but always transports me to another world whenever I visit. The photo above was snapped on one of the small side roads – how beautiful, yes? It’s just acre after acre of beautiful scenery connecting the tasting rooms and I never tire of taking it all in. I have this lofty goal of visiting every single tasting room and with new wineries opening seemingly every day this will probably never happen but it’s still a fun goal to have. This weekend we visited Donaldi, Changala, Kaleidos, Denner, Chateau Margene, and lastly Thacher… I’d say we put a good dent in the list of tasting rooms.

 

 

The impetus for this visit was Thacher’s spring pick-up party. Being members of their wine club, we receive regular half-case shipments of their wines. In the spring though, they have a pick-up party for their members. This was our third consecutive year attending and each year it has gotten more fun. The past couple years they’ve scheduled their parties to fall on Kentucky Derby day and thrown a Derby themed party, complete with a hat and costume contest. As always, we had a blast – the food kept coming and the wine never stopped pouring. I think I might have even won the best outfit contest (my dress had graphics of awards, trophies, and horses) but was in the tasting room – natch – when they were collecting the ticket stub votes.

If you’re ever up in the Paso area I would definitely recommend a stop into the Thacher tasting room, especially if you enjoy the smaller mom and pop type places. We actually opened a bottle of one of their Zinfandels last week and noticed that only 72 cases of this blend had been produced. It doesn’t get much more special than that.

I’d also like to share some brownies with you. These were amazingly delicious! I love a good brownie. I’ve made several brownie recipes in the past but this was the first one I’ve made that used actual chocolate rather than cocoa powder. It was SO GOOD. One thing I like about this recipe is that the brownies baked perfectly without the edges over-hardening when cooled. I was able to cut them the next day without a problem.

Recipe after the jump « Read the rest of this entry »

>Fourth Time’s the Charm Macarons

April 24, 2011 § 29 Comments

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Sometimes, I can be a little stubborn. With each batch of macarons coming out a little less perfect I knew I was doing something wrong. This made me even more determined to master the technique, so I regrouped and spent an afternoon reading up on macarons. I read through several detailed step-by-step processes, tips on making the perfect macaron, and common errors in making macarons. Armed with the research and my copy of Mad About Macarons, I went into my fourth attempt ready to tackle them once and for good.

I measured, whipped, folded, and mixed. Piping out the batter I knew that this time was different. The batter held its shape and didn’t spread out like it had on my previous attempts. I had a good, but apprehensive, feeling. After popping the baking sheets into the oven, I sat by the oven and stared in, watching and waiting for the feet to appear. At about four minutes they began to peek out and say hello, and the domed tops stood up tall and proud.

Finally, I had done it – I had made some progress in making macarons. With a bit of hollowness in the shells and a little chewiness still on the table I know I still have some learning to do – but I’m definitely getting there and am happy with my fourth attempt. I have more eggs in the fridge with plans to make another batch tomorrow… keep your fingers crossed for me! Maybe this will be the perfect batch. Like most things in life, practice makes perfect and I’m up for the challenge.

>Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

April 20, 2011 § 18 Comments

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I have a friend who is so near to my heart that even though I don’t see her that often anymore, it’s like no time has even passed when I do. I met her during my first week in college, remaining friends through the dorm years and living together our junior and senior years… and knowing that I’m likely not even through a third of my life I can easily say that those were two of the hardest years. Through it all she stood by my side and carried me through it. When I think back to it, I’m so grateful that she was there for me and lucky to still have her in my life.

We recently connected again and as it so happens, her birthday was coming up and her boyfriend was planning his proposal. He gathered her closest friends to meet at the bar they had their second date to surprise her with some celebratory drinks. Naturally, I had to make some cupcakes for the special occasion. I thumbed through Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, my current go-to source for cupcakes, and picked out mint chocolate. They were amazing! A few people even went back for seconds. I can’t wait for the next special occasion so I can use another recipe from this book.
The happy couple right after she said yes!
Here’s a photo taken right after the proposal. He took her on stage at the Hollywood Bowl and serenaded her. Pretty amazing, isn’t it? I can’t wait for the wedding.

>Macaron Madness

April 16, 2011 § 22 Comments

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Macarons, second attempt

Several months ago I tried my hand at making macarons. They didn’t turn out perfect but since it was my first try I was wildly happy with the results. Since then, they’ve been hovering over my head and in the back of my mind I wondered if it was just luck and coincidence that they turned out, or if I truly did get the technique right. I kept putting off another attempt though, because just the thought of all the work that goes into them made me tired.

Last week my girlfriend hosted her monthly potluck, with this month’s theme being eggs in honor of Easter. I figured now would be as good of a time as any to give macarons another go. I filled them with the leftover choco-almond frosting from the cupcakes I made over the weekend and while they still didn’t turn out perfect, they were just as delicious as could be. I think my friend, who ate one after another, agrees with me!

Third attempt
Now, I’m determined to master the macaron. I made a third batch over the weekend and sadly, this was the worst batch of all. I did get the ‘feet’, but you can see from the photo how they extend past the dome (which by the way, is barely even a dome at all!). I spent a good amount of time over the weekend reading up on macarons and think I know where I went wrong. I have more eggs aging at home right now and hope to make perfect macarons with the fourth batch.

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