May 15, 2013

culinaryme: a cookbook


It's been three months of hard work - writing down recipes, grouping recipes by shared ingredients, grocery shopping, measuring, cooking, plating, photographing, editing, with repeated steps sometimes.

And finally, after a text formatting nightmare with the ebook, I have finally completed my cookbook. It is available in hardcover, softcover and in ebook format. I have copies of each, so I can honestly say that everything turned out well. The photos are pretty, the text is clear, and a friend paid me a great compliment by saying simply that she could see herself making a lot of the recipes in the book.

The sections are named after the different sections/classes I took at school - Cafeteria, PCR, Latin Quarter (which I renamed Asian Quarter to feature some of the things I ate growing up), Advanced Baking & Pastry, and Garde Manger. Some of the recipes have already been posted on the blog, but they were selected for being the best of what I've made.

This link has a preview of the book, so you can see what some of the pages look like.

I know that for a cookbook, it's a little bit pricey, but that's because the books you order are printed individually and not as part of a bulk order. If I ordered a thousand copies and sold them, it'd be cheaper and I could probably stand to profit, but then I'd have a physical inventory to contend with. So I choosing not to profit and just to offer them at Blurb prices.

To cushion the blow, I'm offering anyone who buys a book the option of getting the ebook for free! Just let me know that you've purchased one by dropping me a comment.

Thank you for having followed me in my culinary school journey, the book is really dedicated to you all.

As for next steps... I am moving (back) to New York for a full-time job. It's not cooking related, but hunger related, so you know I will still be involved in food. If I cook anything of note, I will still include it here. But for now, good bye and good luck!

April 21, 2013

boba cake

My sister Jenny came up from Southern California for spring break. It was a drop-in visit, so I scrambled to make a cake since I wouldn't be seeing her for her birthday.

Since she loves pearl milk tea (known as boba in SoCal), I decided to make her a cake that looked like the drink.

First I started with Betty Crocker boxed yellow cake mix. Yes, it was given to me, and no, don't judge.

So despite it being boxed cake mix, I applied learned techniques to make it. First, have the eggs at room temperature and whip them in the kitchenaid mixer. Eggs will beat fluffier if at room temperature (you can cheat by microwaving them for about ten seconds). While it's mixing I sift the dry mixture so it is airy and lump-free. Then I alternate pouring the dry mix and the wet mix (water and oil) into the mixer until everything is just incorporated. Then it goes into lightly-oiled round pans and straight into the oven.

Once the cake rounds were baked I allowed the pan to cool, then took the rounds out by running a knife around the edge. Since I don't have a cooling rack, I just inverted the rounds onto an upside-down muffin tin.

cake rounds

When the cake rounds cooled to room temperature, I leveled them and punched different sizes rounds out of them using metal cutters.

cake rounds stacked

These were stacked one on top of the other, from smallest to largest. The bottom round was anchored to the plate with the help of some melted chocolate (chocolate chips in the microwave in 15 second intervals, stirred in between). Then the other rounds were anchored with the help of a boba straw.

cake frosted

Two 8" cake rounds were enough to make two boba cake "towers". I frosted them with apricot whipped cream. Usually I put fruit between cake layers, but it would have compromised stability in this case, so I put it in the whipped cream instead (basically canned apricot pureed and mixed into whipped cream). The only unfortunate part was that it made the whipped cream less smooth and spreadable.

cake decorated

The last-minute addition was of boba pearls. You can cook your own, which I tried, but it took more time than I had so the pearls were too hard. So I ended up using pearls plucked out of a boba drink. Unfortunately they were really slippery and wouldn't stay "glued" to the towers. If I had more time, I would have cut the pearls in half - think that would have made them stick a lot better.

The good thing is, we were able to surprise Jenny with the cake, so that allowed the cake's flaws to be overlooked a bit. When in doubt about your creation, surprise the recipient with it! I'm only half-kidding. She liked it a lot though.

spiced potato wedges

These are kind of similar to the semi-homemade garlic parmesan parsley fries from awhile back, except these are entirely homemade and cheaper.

First, start with 2 or 3 potatoes. Scrub them well and cut them in half lengthwise, then into wedges.

Then, toss them with oil and spices - I used my standard italian herbs, garlic powder, cayenne, salt & pepper. In terms of quantity, it's just enough so that every wedge gets some on both sides. You can put all the ingredients into a bowl and just toss.

Then I laid them on a oiled sheet tray and into the 350F oven for maybe 10 minutes on each side.

potato wedges

After they're nicely golden and almost brown, I slide them onto a plate and sprinkle parmesan cheese, then put the plate back into the turned-off-but-still-warm oven for a minute so the cheese melts.

On top I sprinkled scallions, which is what I had at the time, but you can use any herb garnish. And then for dipping I had my favorite ranch and sriracha-spiked ketchup. Addicting.

March 6, 2013

rice soggies krispies

So in the month that I didn't blog, I mentioned trying things out and not having them work out. Rice krispies was one of those things.

Even though I'd never made them before I assumed I could, like other things, just make them. Well I was wrong. Apparently mastering the finer points of pastry does not exempt one from krispie fail.

In rice krispie attempt #1, I browned butter and added nutella to the mix and then topped it all with smoked almonds and chocolate syrup. I wanted the syrup to harden so I put the pan in the fridge, which I thought must have been a mistake, because the rice krispies became rice soggies (or just softies).

So then in rice krispie attempt #2 I made sure to keep the pan far away from the fridge. The kripies were crispy for like 10 triumphant seconds (okay maybe minutes) but eventually became soggy. Another fail.

I was beginning to feel like I couldn't make anything when I decided to forgo the whole making-my-own-homemade-marshamallow part and just succumbing to KRAFT jet-puffed marshmallows.

browned butter + marshmallows

So I browned 2 tablespoons of butter and melted 26 marshmallows into it. Stirred with a silicone spatula until the marshmallows were fully melted.

melted marshallow + rice krispies

Then I poured the mixture into 4 cups of rice krispie cereal (with some dried cranberries and almonds thrown in for kicks).

marshmallow pull

And lo and behold, something about the manufactured corn syrup-ness of it all meant that the marshmallow mixture didn't seep into the cereal but simply adhered to the cereal like spider silk. Crazy. Took an hour or so to set and stop being like pulling taffy.

And a day later, it still tastes great. Makes you wonder...

loaded baked potato

baked potato

Oftentimes I get hungry right before bed, which is always a dilemma because they say you shouldn't eat before you go to sleep and yet an empty stomach keeps me up.

So to preempt the problem I had a late night (but not too late night) snack of a baked potato. It was wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in the oven while I baked other things, for about an hour.

The texture was very smooth, almost like it was boiled. I guess since it was wrapped in foil it was actually steamed.

I topped it with creme fraiche, parsley, salt and pepper, cayenne, and some gherkins/cornichons on the side. Could always do cheese or bacon bits! With toppings it's like the more the merrier :)