Monthly Archives: June 2010

there’s a new bakery in tribeca . . .

takahachi bakery is perhaps the nicest japanese bakery in new york city.  they’ve got a huge assortment of pastry items:  asian flavored ice cream, japanese sandwiches both hot and cold (e.g. a yakisoba sandwich), salads, a long counter filled with japanese breads (the mochi anpan is delicious, as is their walnut crumble almond danish), and a glistening pastry case filled with things like shiso flavored puff pastry, artfully decorated cupcakes, opera cakes, fancy mousse cakes, japanese strawberry shortcakes, french macarons and delicate earl grey financiers. they just opened a week or so ago.  and while i’ve gone there 4-5x already, i find their assortment so vast that i feel as if i’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg.

i usually get one of their salads and one of their irresistible pastry breads. there’s a light-and-airy,  seating area in the back, where you can watch the pastry chefs and master bakers hard at work.

everything is made fresh daily. it’s my kind of place.

Takahachi Bakery
25 Murray St (near Church)
Mon-Fri: 7-7
Sat: 8-8
Sun: 8-4

travel + leisure’s food issue

over the weekend, i received travel and leisure magazine’s food issue in the mail. as i flipped through the pages, i found quite a number of items that i’ve both written about and obsessed over in the past year. i thought i’d share some of the magazine clippings, as it adds another perspective, and serves as a bit of a trip down memory lane at least for myself.

the magazine also covered a lot of new food places in different parts of the world that i’m putting on my list of things to do.  it’s an action-packed, taste bud overloading issue filled with all sorts of food porn. . . i’m glad i have my copy.

the japanese kit kat is becoming a bit of a “where’s waldo” exercise for me.  i hit the mega load back in january when i went to tokyo, and then spied some new flavors in london a few months later. according to the t+l article above, the folks at nestle japan have been busy concocting new and more exciting flavors!  i wonder if they’ll ever go the bertie bott’s (of harry potter world) route and create “rotten egg and bacon” flavored kit kats. . . although my guess is that that goes against japanese sensibilities.

remember this place?  the t+l photographers captured a great interior photograph of the pastry display at la pâtisserie des rêves.  the accompanying text in the article gives shout-outs to chef conticini’s tarte tatin.

so i’ve been noticing that i seem to write more about places that i visit while traveling, rather than ones that are close to home.  locanda verde is one of my favorite restaurants in new york city.  the food is rustic, homey, well-made, and it’s also a stone’s throw from where i live.  they have, amazing fig crumb muffins and a to die for sheep’s milk ricotta — happy sheep creamy, spiced with cracked pepper, herbs and orange truffle honey, and oh my god so addictive.  i really can’t stop myself when i order it, which is why, i must now stop ordering it.  and now that i’ve spilled the beans (again), i’ll probably never get a reservation!

strawberry covered red velvet cake

hello cake!

hubby’s friend asked me to make her a cake.  she wanted red velvet and well um i got a little bit carried away covering the cake with strawberries!  i think it ended up looking like a strawberry shortcake from the outside, but trust me, it’s all red velvet with cream cheese frosting underneath the strawberry layer.

unfortunately, i didn’t get a chance to taste test this cake, but i’ve made it before and the recipe (a friend of mine passed it along to me) really is quite good.  a lightly cocoa flavored  moist cake dyed bright red, smeared with cream cheese frosting. yum!

Red Velvet Cake
(makes 1 nine-inch round, double layer cake)

Flour 3 ¾ cups
Cocoa powder 3 tbsp
Baking soda 1 ½ tsp
Salt ½ tsp
Butter 1 ½ sticks, at room temp
Sugar 1 ½ cups
Canola Oil ¾ cups
Eggs 3 large ones
Vanilla extract 1 ½ tsp
Vinegar 1 ½ tsp
Red Food Coloring ½ to 1 tbsp (slowly drop some in until you get the right colour)
Buttermilk 1 ½ cups, at room temp
Cream Cheese 16 oz., at room temp
Butter 1 ½ sticks
Powdered Sugar 1 ½ cups (taste the batter as you’re making it.  you might like your frosting more sweet or less sweet)
Vanilla extract 2 tsp
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Butter and flour 2 nine-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Place butter, sugar and oil in the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment.  Whip until light and fluffy.
  4. Add in eggs, one at a time.  Mix until well incorporated.  Add in vanilla, red food coloring and vinegar.  Continue to beat until well combined.
  5. Turn speed down to lowest setting.  Add flour mixture and buttermilk in 3 parts and mix until just incorporated.  Do not over-mix.
  6. Divide into prepared pans and bake for 35 minutes.   Cool completely on a rack before frosting.
  7. To make the frosting, whip together cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add in the vanilla and then the powdered sugar.  Beat until mixture represents frosting.
  8. To assemble the cake, brush a bit of simple syrup onto the interior edges of the cakes.  Apply a layer of frosting in the center of the cake (I also added in some strawberries in the middle layer), and then carefully place the 2nd cake layer on top.  Cover the rest of the cake with frosting.  Your cake is ready at this point, although, if you want to go crazy like me, you can thinly slight a bunch of strawberries and cover the entire cake with them.

earl grey mixed berry jam gelato

i started off intending to test out ciao bella’s recipe for strawberry gelato.  as i read the recipe, i realized that their technique for prepping the strawberries was in fact quite similar to jam making.   the strawberries are cooked with sugar and lemon but for a shorter amount of time compared to the jam making process.  rather than run out and buy a vat of strawberries, i spied the pot of earl grey mixed berry jam that i had made earlier and opted for a short cut. i took a cup of the jam, blended it with a quart of plain gelato base, and poured it into my gelato machine.  an hour later, i ended up with some seriously yummy stuff.  it’s got the light fruitiness one would expect of strawberry gelato but the addition of earl grey and jam making techniques, gives it what i’d describe as a sophisticated, caramelized fruit flavour after taste.  the kind of thing that is like a wisp of steam rising from a hot glass of fauchon’s pomme tea at the end of a meal.

Earl Grey Mixed Berry Jam Gelato
(makes 1 quart)

Earl Grey Mixed Berry Jam 1 cup
Ciao Bella’s Plain Base 1 quart  (leave out the green tea powder)
Fresh Strawberries (optional) 1 cup, sliced
  1. Combine jam and plain base in blender.  Mix until evenly combined.
  2. Pour into ice cream maker and add in fresh strawberries.
  3. Follow manufacturer’s instructions.

crack, snap and thud: the tomato accident

for the past few months or so, i’ve been documenting the growth of my tomatoes under the green shoots page of my blog.  things had been going splendidly with my tomatoes growing by leaps and bounds.  that is, until last night. . .

hubby heard a crack late in the evening emanating from the tomato plants.  i took a look at the plants and they seemed allright, so i thought nothing of it.  the next morning, i woke up to find that one of my larger tomato plants had snapped in three places  due to the weight of its fruits and crashed into its neighbor, causing its smaller neighbor to crack in one place as well. and, one of the larger (3 inches in diameter / 186g) , still green tomatoes fell to the ground with a thud. aiyeeeee!

i hurriedly got out my first aid kit and started to bandage up my tomato plants in the places they had cracked  (see red circle above) and re-attached them with waterproof first aid tape to the tomato stakes.  if all goes well, the cracked stalks will heal and form a scar.  fingers crossed until then!

oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

back in my college days, there used to be this deli in town that served the *omg* most divine oatmeal cookies.  they were huge, chewey and flavorful.  i got to thinking about those oatmeal cookies yesterday and decided to try making some today.

i started out loosely following the sono bakery’s oatmeal cookie recipe with some changes.  i left out the coconut flakes as hubby detest coconut and dropped in a few dried cherries.

hubby quite liked the cookie (it’s a bit crisp), but it still isn’t quite the flavor that i had in mind from my college days.  given that i’ve got 5 kg of oatmeal in my cupboard from my little costco stocking trip, i’m well supplied to keep tinkering away. stay tuned for that oatmeal cookie eureka moment.  . .

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie
(adapted from the Sono Baking Company)

Flour 2 cups
Baking Soda 1 tsp
Sugar 3/4 cup
Brown Sugar ½ cup
Butter 2 sticks (@ room temp)
Salt 1 tsp
Eggs 2  large ones
Vanilla 2 tsp
Chocolate Chips 1 cup
Oatmeal 1 cup
Dried Cherries ½ cup
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Cream butter, salt and sugars in the bowl of your standmixer until light and fluffy.
  3. Add in eggs, one at a time.  Beat until well combined.
  4. Add in vanilla.
  5. Turn mixer down to lowest speed and add in flour and baking soda. Mix until a dough just begins to form.
  6. Add in oatmeal, dried cherries and chocolate chips.  Mix for 30 seconds on lowest speed OR gently fold in with a rubber spatula.
  7. Using an ice cream scooper with a lever, drop the cookies onto the lined baking sheets. [I got about 18 cookies using a 2 inch scooper.  The cookies come out 3-3.5 inches in diameter].
  8. Bake at 350ºF for 15 minutes.  Then, remove from oven and cool on a rack.

scones: currants & chocolate chips

sometimes when i’m not feeling particularly inspired, i like to play the baking wheel of fortune game, which more or less entails picking up a cookbook from the shelf and baking whatever page happens to land open (with certain provisions like having the necessary ingredients on hand or being able to make appropriate substitutions).  as it happened yesterday, i selected the sono baking company’s recipe book and it just happened to fall onto a recipe for sour cherry chocolate scones.  now lacking sour cherries in the house and being a bit short on AP flour, i made a few changes to the original recipe.  but it produced delicious golden brown scones that took me about 5 minutes to whip together.  how’s that for instant gratification?

Currant and Chocolate Chip Scones
(makes 10-12 two inch round scones)

Flour 2½ cups
Sugar ½ cup
Baking Soda 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Salt ¼ tsp
Lemon Zest Zest of 1 lemon
Chocolate Chips ½ cup
Currants ½ cup
Heavy Cream 1 ¼ cup + more for brushing
  1. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, lemon zest, chocolate chips and currants in the bowl of your standmixer.  Whisk together on lowest speed.
  2. Slowly pour in heavy cream until a dough just begins to come together.  [you may not need all of the cream].
  3. On a lightly floured surface, work the dough into a disc with your hands.  Press on it until it is 1 inch thick — a rolling pin helps too.
  4. Use a 2 1/4 inch biscuit round to cut scones out of the dough.  Re-roll the scraps until you have no more dough left.
  5. Put the scones on a parchment lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.  Leave the scones in the freezer for at least 1 hour before baking.
  6. Just before baking, brush the tops of the scones with heavy cream.
  7. Bake at 375ºF or 25 minutes.

testing ciao bella’s green tea gelato recipe

green tea gelato was the first recipe i tested out from the ciao bella gelato cookbook.  it’s surprisingly simple to make:  whip up their plain base, add 1 tablespoon of matcha tea powder, blend it in a blender, and then pour into ice cream maker. i found the green tea flavour in the original recipe to be a bit light, and would probably add an additional tablespoon or two to pump up the matcha quotient.

their plain base doubles up easily.  i made two batches of the base at once.  i’m keeping the other one in the fridge so that i can easily make another flavor, like black sesame, or hojicha, or red bean!

Ciao Bella’s Green Tea Gelato
(makes 1 quart, modified for taste)

Whole Milk 2 cups
Heavy Cream 1 cup
Egg Yolks 4 large ones
Sugar 2/3 cups
Green Tea Powder 2 tbsp recommended
  1. Combine milk and cream in a medium sized saucepan.  Stir to prevent skin from forming.  Heat until bubbles begin to form around the edges (temperature should be ~170ºF if you’re using a thermometer).
  2. While heating the milk/cream, whisk egg yolks in your standmixer on high speed.  After 1 minute, add in sugar and continue to whisk until the yolk-sugar combination becomes thick, pale yellow and reaches the ribbon stage.  Turn the speed down once it reaches this stage to the lowest setting.
  3. Next, temper the egg yolks by slow pouring the hot milk into eggs.
  4. Then, pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook stirring constantly.  It is ready when the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (~185ºF).
  5. Set a bowl over an ice bath and pour the custard through a mesh strainer.  Stir intermittently until custard has cooled.
  6. Once cooled, cover and place in refrigerator overnight or for at least 4 hours.
  7. The next day, pour the cooled gelato base  into a blender and drop in 2 tbsp of green tea powder.  Blend until smooth.
  8. Then transfer to ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions.