Monthly Archives: February 2010

earl grey chocolate chip yogurt cake

i got so carried away with making yogurt cakes that i made another one that was earl grey flavored with chocolate chips. my one criticism of the maple yogurt cake is that the maple flavour was a bit too subtle.   i wanted something with an intense flavour; i wanted to be able to smell earl grey in the cake and taste it as soon as my tongue hit the cake.  to this effect, i added in 2 tbsp of ground earl grey tea powder, which turned out to be just the right amount for the effect i wanted.

i think i’ll make this cake again for my friend C, who is visiting from philly tomorrow…brave soul braving the snow.

Earl Grey & Chocolate Chip Yogurt Cake
(one 3 inch x 9 inch loaf cake)

Dry Ingredients
Flour 270 g (2 cups)
Sugar 180 g (slightly less than 1 cup)
Earl Grey Tea Powder 2 tbsp  (take 2 tbsp of earl grey tea and grind it into a fine powder in a coffee grinder or food processor)
Baking powder 1 ½ tsp
Baking soda ½ tsp
Chocolate Chips 1/3 cup
Wet Ingredients
Eggs 2 large ones
Yogurt 250 ml (1 cup)
Canola Oil 80 ml (1/3 cup)
Vanilla Extract 1 tsp
  1. Butter and flour a loaf pan.  Set aside.  Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Place all dry ingredients EXCEPT chocolate chips in a bowl and whisk together until evenly combined.
  3. Combine all wet ingredients in a separate bowl.
  4. With the mixer set at the lowest speed (you can mix by hand as well), slowly pour in all the wet ingredients.  Beat together until just combined. Do not overmix or else the cake will become chewy.
  5. Add the chocolate chips to the batter and mix on the lowest speed until just evenly distributed.
  6. Pour into cake pan and bake at 350º F for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick insert into the cake comes out clean.
  7. Let cool for 10 minutes before taking the cake out of the pan.

a maple french yogurt cake


i live by maple yogurt.  every week, i race to the dairy section at whole foods where i quickly clean out and stock up on maple flavored yogurt.  i won’t tell you which brand i buy because well, if i did, there wouldn’t be enough for me!  but it’s not hard to figure out.  there really are only a few brands at whole foods that make a maple flavoured yogurt.

now, the other day i got to wondering about what would happen if i took my favorite maple yogurt and made it into a cake.  pretty soon the wondering turned into experimentation as i found myself digging through my pantry for flour and sugar.  i substituted maple yogurt for plain yogurt and poured in an additional shot of maple syrup to a traditional french yogurt cake recipe.  yogurt cakes are a cinch to throw together — perfect for when you’re needing a cake in a jippy.

so how did it turn out?  baking yogurt completely erases all hints of yogurt acidity.  the resulting cake is moist on the inside with a slight hint of maple sweetness; i even got a crunchy crust fresh out of the oven, tho the crust mellows out after the cake has cooled.

A Maple French Yogurt Cake
(one 3 inch x 9 inch loaf cake)

Dry Ingredients
Flour 270 g (2 cups)
Sugar 180 g (slightly less than 1 cup)
Baking powder 1 ½ tsp
Baking soda ½ tsp
Wet Ingredients
Eggs 2 large ones
Maple Flavoured Yogurt 250 ml (1 cup)
Canola Oil 80 ml (1/3 cup)
Vanilla Extract 1 tsp
Maple Syrup 1 tbsp
  1. Butter and flour a loaf pan.  Set aside.  Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until evenly combined.
  3. Combine all wet ingredients in a separate bowl.
  4. With the mixer set at the lowest speed (you can mix by hand as well), slowly pour in all the wet ingredients.  Beat together until just combined. Do not overmix or else the cake will become chewy.
  5. Pour into cake pan and bake at 350º F for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick insert into the cake comes out clean.
  6. Let cool for 10 minutes before taking the cake out of the pan.

the egg tart (蛋撻)

when it comes to chinese sweets, egg tarts are about as common as they come and have since proliferated into infinite styles, schools and flavors.  there are the macau style egg tarts, green tea egg tarts, melon, strawberry, puff pastry, shortbread, shiny and perfect, rustic and browned (like mine), super sized egg tarts, deep dish ones, mini egg tarts, egg white egg tarts, so on and so forth.  when they are made well, they are scrumptious!  a flakey or crispy crust (depending on the school) filled with a rich egg custard.  cheap too! the typical egg tart in NYC chinatown will run you about $0.60 – $0.70 cents.

as a self-proclaimed egg tart aficionado, i’ve been trying to re-create the egg tart at home.  the baked egg custard filling is a breeze to throw together — i found a great recipe from chef chan at the celestial court restaurant in hong kong.  i’ve used it to fill classic egg tart shells  (pictured above) and i’ve even poured it into a nine-inch pate sucree tart shell to make a mega sized egg tart. chef chan’s egg custard is in the classic style.  the macau style egg tarts use heavy cream in addition to milk to produce a yet richer egg custard.

now re-constructing the classic puff pastry egg tart shell has proven to be much more of a challenge.  i’ve attempted about 3 times already in the past year without much success.  i realised on my latest attempt that my problem stems from the substitution of shortening for lard.    shortening is too soft and oozes all over the place no matter how careful i am when folding the dough.  i haven’t as yet located lard in the grocery stores near me.  i may have to trek up to chelsea market to procure it.  but for now, i’ve resorted to using pate sucree, pate brisee (in the picture above) or puff pastry dough to form the tart shell.

Egg Tart Custard Filling
(enough for about 12 regular sized egg tarts.  double the recipe to fill a nine-inch tart)

Eggs 1 large one
Milk 100g
Sugar 44g  (it’s best to use granulated white sugar.  i’ve used the chunkier raw sugar before and tends to all settle to the bottom rather than dissolve into the milk)
  1. Stir together milk and sugar until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Stir in the eggs using a whisk until the mixture is consistent.
  3. Pour the mixture into prepared tart shells* until 80% full.
  4. Bake for 10-20 minutes at 350ºF until set. [nb: baking time should be adjusted to ~30 minutes for a nine-inch egg tart]  The egg custard in the classic egg tart is an unblemished yellow after it has set.  I tend to like my egg custard a little bit browned, following the macau style.

* when using traditional chinese puff pastry, the egg custard batter is poured directly into the chilled raw tart shells.   when using french tart dough substitutes, i prefer to blind bake my tarts  for 10 minutes first, allow them to cool and then pour in the egg custard.  i find that blind baking makes the tart crust crispier. for pate sucree, i will also brush on some egg whites in the last 5 minutes of the blind baking step so as to waterproof the tart shell for the egg custard batter.

nem nuong brodard, take 2

the first time we went to brodard about a year ago, our friends advised us that we should go to the ghetto one, yes, the one located at the back of a mostly deserted mall, rather than their “chateau” location.  to be fair, brodard isn’t particularly ghetto in my book.  sure, it’s crowded, loud, located in the back of the mall and they don’t take reservations, but i’ve been to applebee’s that are far more ghetto than brodard.  plus, during the lunar new year, they have on display some of the most gorgeous orchid arrangements that i’ve seen — great giant vases that would fit in very well in the grand ballroom of mandarin oriental.

now, something odd happened the first time we went to brodard. we were too full from gorging on a giant taiwanese breakfast in rowland heights, that we couldn’t really eat anything at brodard come lunch hour.  this time, i was determined to sample brodard at its finest.  with an empty stomach, we drove about an hour from downtown LA to garden grove.  after a short wait, we were seated and quickly placed our order.  we selected four dishes as we were only two people, but there were plenty more that we wanted to try.

  • nem nuong cuon and chao tom cuon: brodard is famous for their grill pork paste and grilled shrimp paste steam rolls.  every table at the packed restaurant ordered heaping plates of the rolls.  the elements that distinguish these rolls from the usual variety one finds on nyc vietnamese restaurants are: (a) the tightness in which the rolls are wound, (b) the inclusion of crispy spring roll skins within the wrapping for textural interest, and (c) the dipping sauce — something crab based, a bit like the sauce at fatty crab, but with less tang and heat.
  • mi kho dac biet with tomato sauce: is a bowl of egg noodles topped with shrimp, bbq pork, quail eggs, pork organs and plenty of herbs on the side.  2 bowls of broth (one clear, one tomato based) are served on the side.  you pour them into the broth when you’re ready to eat.  the separation of noodle and broth is to ensure that the noodles don’t get soggy.  the dish can be ordered with a garlic based sauce as well; however, not knowing which one to choose, i deferred to our waiter who recommended the tomato sauce.  and indeed, i found it to be incredibly succulent and flavorful — a taste that is achieved after the sauce has gurgled and bubbled away for many hours and all its core ingredients have surrendered their taste elements.
  • shaken beef:  don’t get me wrong, the beef here is quite good.  tasty and tender, but i prefer the version at Crustacean.  i think i found the peppers and onions a distraction.
  • banh xeo: a large crepe, whose batter is whipped up by substituting cow’s milk for coconut milk, and wheat flour for rice flour,  resulting in something that is far crispier than the original french crepe.  the brodard version is lightly stuffed with shrimp, pork, onions, bean sprouts and served with a big plate of lettuce and herbs.  we tore off a chunk of crepe, wrapped it in some lettuce and herbs and dipped it into fish sauce.  i’m not sure if we ate the crepe correctly, but it sure tasted delicious.

all in, the vietnamese food at brodard is unlike anything i’ve ever encountered in new york city.  i’d even go so far to say, that you haven’t really had vietnamese food in all its glory until you’ve tasted something on the caliber of brodard.  although i’m sure i’ll end up adjusting that statement when i finally make it over to vietnam. . .

Nem Nuong Brodard
9892 Westminster Avenue
Garden Grove, CA 92844
Tel 714.530.1744

Sunday – Monday 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Wednesday – Saturday 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Closed: Tuesday

le petit gâteau au pamplemousse (aka. the grapefruit muffin)

i tend to be a chocolate person.  i like my desserts, not so much sweet as intensely flavored.  however, after a weekend in LA living a la guy fieri on diners, drive-in and dives, i started inkling for something light and refreshing.   found a recipe for a creme fraiche based lemon loaf cake in ph’s book, and thought it would adapt rather nicely into grapefruit muffins. the resulting muffins are light, refreshing with just a hint of that aromatic grapefruit essence that i find so relaxing.

Le Petit Gâteau Au Pamplemousse
(adapted from Pierre Herme’s Lemon Loaf Cakes recipe; note: PH uses rum in his recipe as well as salt to control the rise of the cakes.  he also suggests glazing the cakes with a lemon marmelade glaze. he presents the syrup as an optional step for increased lemon intensity.)

For the Muffins:
Cake Flour 2 2/3 cups
Baking powder ¾ tsp
Grapefruit zest From 1 large grapefruit
Sugar 2 cups
Eggs 6 large ones
Crème Fraîche ¾ cup
Butter 1 stick melted
For the Grapefruit Syrup:
Water 1/3 cup
Sugar 3 tbsp
Grapefruit juice 4 tbsp
  1. Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
  2. Combine sugar and lemon zest in a bowl.  Mix together (PH suggests using your hands) until aromatic.
  3. Add in eggs, and whisk together until pale and foamy.
  4. Then add creme fraiche.  Mix until incorporated.
  5. Gently stir in the flour in 3 to 4 additions, until you have a smooth and thick batter.
  6. Finally, fold in the butter until incorporated.
  7. Pour the batter into regular sized muffin cups lined with a paper muffin cup.
  8. Bake at 350ºF for 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Some of the muffins will have a nice split on top.
  9. While the muffins are baking, make the syrup by combining sugar and water in a small saucepan.  Boil the syrup until the sugar has dissolved.  When the syrup cools, add in the grapefruit juice.
  10. When the muffins are baked, place them on a rack and liberally brush on the syrup.

malbec lemon shrimp risotto

hubby had popped open a bottle of fabre montmayou malbec circa 2007 the other day, which turned out to be perfect because i was in the mood to make some risotto. i have a rather anything goes attitude towards risotto.  what goes into it is largely determined by what i can find in my freezer, fridge and pantry.  this time around, i decided to toss some frozen shrimp into the pot along with lemon zest and chopped parsley.  it turned out to be a richly nuanced dish that was just creamy and heady enough for my tastes.

Malbec Lemon Shrimp Risotto
(3-4 servings)

Arborio Rice 1 ½ cups
Chicken Broth (preferably homemade) 3 ½ cups
Red Wine 1 cup
Onion Small onion, minced
Butter 1 tbsp
Olive Oil 1-2 bsp
Shrimp 1 lb, peeled and deveined. I used jumbo shrimp, but any size can be used so long as the cooking time is adjusted.
Parsley 1 handful, finely chopped
Lemon Zest From 1 lemon
Salt & Pepper To Taste
  1. Heat olive oil and butter in a large pot or pan. Do not use non-stick.
  2. When the butter has dissolved, add in onions.  Sautee until softened over medium heat.
  3. Pour in rice.  Stir until the rice is slightly translucent and coated with the oil,butter & onion mixture.
  4. Add in red wine.  Allow the liquid to boil down.   When it has evaporated, add in chicken broth, 1/2 cup at a time.  Do not add the broth in all at once.  The creaminess of the risotto is developed by allowing the rice to slowly absorb the liquids.  It’s probably best that you hover over the stove and stir constantly rather than walk away.  The rice can burn quite easily. Risotto is a bit high maintenance but totally worth it.
  5. Add in the shrimp when you have 1/2 cup of chicken stock remaining.
  6. When the shrimp have cooked (about 2-3 minutes), stir in parsley and lemon zest.
  7. Add salt and pepper to suit your taste buds.

homemade pizza bianca

we were waiting for snow on friday night, which turned out to be a bit like waiting for godot.  after dinner on friday night, we rushed into whole foods to stock-up our pantries in case the great blizzard of 2010 hit.  i spent the rest of the evening making a giant vat of borscht soup and some pizza bianca to go along with it.

i first fell in love with pizza bianca at sullivan street bakery, back when it was still on sullivan street and before some sort of internal fissure led to the bakery being re-named grandaisy. for $1.50 (i think it’s $2, now post 2007 food inflation), you would get a great bit slab (the slabs are slightly smaller now) of chewy flat bread, well-endowed with rosemary fragrance and just enough sea salt to leave you wanting for more.  i would go there, maybe once a month, to get my pizza bianca fix, and if i could somehow pace my pizza bianca eating habit better (instead of one fell swoop), i’d probably go more often.  grandaisy still sells pizza bianca and it still tastes heavenly but make sure you go to the location at sullivan street rather than the west broadway branch — the latter seems to sell a staler version of the bianca.

fearing that the snow would block all road access, i whipped up some pizza dough on friday night with which to make pizza bianca at home.  you can buy pre-made pizza dough instead if you don’t feel like making your own, but peter reinhart’s recipe is easy enough to make, so why not?   all you need to do after you’ve got the dough, is to stretch, sprinkle on some olive oil, rosemary and sea salt, and bake.

my homemade version turned out less chewy and thinner than the commercial edition; it’s not exactly same but tremendously tasty on its own.  at least i got hubby hooked on my version. . . he finished the last piece.

Peter Reinhart’s Pizza Dough
(best made a day in advance so that the dough can properly ferment overnight)

Bread Flour 4 ½ cups
Salt 1 ¾ tsp
Instant Yeast 1 tsp
Olive Oil ¼ cup
Ice water 1 ¾ cups
  1. Whisk together bread flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer.
  2. Fit the mixer with a dough hook, and slowly pour olive oil and ice water into the dry ingredients.
  3. Let the dough hook do the work, until you get a mass of dough that is smooth, elastic and slightly sticky.
  4. Divide the dough into 6 pieces.  Rub a little bit of olive oil on the outside of each piece of dough and wrap well in plastic.
  5. Let the dough ferment overnight.  It’s ready to use the next day and can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 days or frozen for 3 months.

To make the pizza bianca

  • Sprinkle some corn meal on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. If you’ve got a pizza stone, use that instead.   Stretch out the dough until it reaches the desired size and thickness.  The corn meal helps the dough stick and keep its shape.
  • Lightly brush some olive oil on surface of the dough.
  • Sprinkle with rosemary and sea salt.
  • Bake at 500ºF for 7-9 minutes, or until golden brown.