Monthly Archives: August 2010

eat your veggies cake

i started flipping through the KAF catalog a few days ago, and came across their recipe for zucchini and carrot muffins.  the recipe seemed exceedingly healthful (seriously, wheat flour, 2 tbsp of oil, 1/2 cup sugar, and lots of zucchini and carrots) that i decided to give it a go.  plus, i went a little overboard at the farmers market buying up whole lots of zucchini and carrots, and needed a vehicle for expunging the garden bounty from my now over stuffed refrigerator.

not wanting to muck about in search of my mini muffin pans (as per the original recipe), i decided to bake the batter in a loaf cake pan.  the resulting loaf cake turned out to be quite delicious — although, in the future, i’d cut the sugar content even more.  the amount of sugar the cake needed, really depends on the sweetness of the dried fruits used.  i used chopped up dried pineapples that really added quite enough sweetness wholly of their own.

hubby started to call the cake, the vegetable cake, and the name sort of stuck. . .

Eat Your Veggies Cake
(makes one 1x9inch loaf cake; modified from the original KAF zucchini and carrot muffins recipe)

Wheat Flour 1 cup
Baking Powder 1 tsp
Cinnamon 1 tsp
Salt ½ tsp
Sugar 1/3 cup
Canola Oil 2 tbsp
Egg 1 large one
Zucchini 1 cup, shredded
Carrots 1 cup, shredded
Pecans ¼ cup, chopped
Dried Pineapples ¼ cup, chopped
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350ºF and grease a 9 inch loaf pan.
  2. Whisk together wheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and sugar in the bowl of your standmixer.
  3. Add in oil, egg, zucchini, carrots, pecans and dried pineapples.  Mix until just combined.
  4. Pour batter into loaf pan, and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  5. Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

cheesecake bars for y

i’ve been trying to figure out how to bring Y, who lives on the other side of the world, a cheesecake that will survive the 18 hour plane ride.  i’ve proposed everything from putting the cake in deep freeze (which she claims will ruin the texture, plus i’m not entirely sure that cheesecake doesn’t qualify as a gel like substance) to bringing cream cheese with me and making the cake fresh at her place (though she claims not to have a kitchen aid standmixer).  and, on top of it all, y is lactose intolerant — meaning that she either has to remember to take her lactose pill prior to ingestion or i can concoct a lactose free version of cheesecake.

i thought that cheesecake bars might be the perfect compromise in terms of “travel-ability.” being about an inch in height, the bars are a lot more sturdy than a full-fledged cheesecake. i think i can slice them up, and place them into a tightly packed tin in the bottom of my suitcase.

as for the lactose intolerance bit, i read somewhere that cultured cheese, yogurts and creams are in fact lactose free.  the trouble is that many commercially made cream cheeses (like Philadelphia Cream Cheese) have somehow managed to kill the culture in the process of making cream cheese — thereby, letting lactose brew rampantly.  as long as i looked for cream cheese with a live culture (like nancy’s cultured cream cheese — sometimes sold at WF), i’d be good to proceed on the lactose free highway.  barring that, i could take a few cannisters of cultured sour cream, and let them drain overnight until they became cream cheese.

i decided to do a test run of the cheesecake bars this weekend but used regular cream cheese.  i have tasted cultured cream cheese in the past, and it tastes a bit more sour than Philadelphia brand.  my guess is that one would need to add a bit more sugar than in the recipe.  then again, nothing beats sticking one’s finger into the batter to judge taste.  i’m making the lactose free version next week and will let you know if i think any additional changes should be made.

Cheesecake Bars
(about nine bars baked in an 8×8 inch square pan)

Graham crackers 2 cups
Butter 8 tbsp, softened
Salt ½ tsp
Cream cheese 16 oz, softened and at room temp
Eggs 2 large ones
Sugar ½ cup
Salt ¼ tsp
Vanilla 1 tsp
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.  Butter baking pan and set-aside.
  2. Crush graham crackers in food processor or with hands until resembles corn meal.
  3. Place graham crackers crumbs, salt and softened butter in standmixer with paddle attachment.  Mix until well combined.
  4. Pour crumb mixture into baking pan.  Using bottom of cup to compact the crumbs.  Press the edges up to side of pan (about 1/2 inch).
  5. Bake the crust until the edges are light brown (about 20 minutes).
  6. Add cream cheese to cleaned bowl of stand mixer.   Whip on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Use rubber spatula to scrape down sides.  Then add eggs,  whip for 3 minutes.  Followed by sugar, salt and vanilla.
  7. When crust is ready, remove from oven and pour the filling into the hot crust.  Continue baking for 20-25 minutes, or until the filling has set.
  8. Remove from oven and cool in pan.  When completely cooled (it will more easily crack when inverting if not completely cooled), invert the cheesecake, and slice into bars.  (it helps to run your knife through very hot water, when slicing).

bubbling blueberry tart

you know it’s blueberry season when costco starts selling these massive 5 lb packages of ultra large and super sweet blueberries for $5.  i picked up a package about a week ago, and after munching on them for a week decided that i needed to transform the remainder into a tart before they started to grow hairs.  fortunately, i had half a pate brisee recipe left in my freezer from my stone fruit tart last week — making the tart would be a snap! take a look at the ingredient list below, only 3!

Bubbling Blueberry Tart
(makes one 9.5 to 10 inch tart)

Pate Brisee About half a recipe
Blueberries 1 lb, washed and dried
Sugar 1/2 cup
  1. Roll-out the dough on a well-floured surface until it is about 13 inches wide and about 1/16th inch thick.
  2. Fit the dough into a 10 inch tart ring, and clip off the excess pastry and reserve  [note: if re-rolling is necessary, the excess pastry should not be squished together into a ball before re-rolling.  Rather, place the slabs on top of each other and then re-roll].
  3. Prick the bottom of the tart with a fork and place the raw tart shell in the freezer.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.  When the oven reaches 350ºF, bake the tart shell for 15 minutes and then remove from oven to cool.
  5. Use a flower mold to cut the excess pastry into 40-50 small flower shapes.   Place these pastry flowers on a tray and store in the freezer until ready for use.
  6. Toss together the blueberries with the sugar.
  7. When the tart shell has cooled, pour the fruit into the shell and then gently place the floral cut-outs on top of the tart.
  8. Bake for another 35 to 45 minutes, or until the fruit is fragrant and the shell is a rich golden brown.

chao thai in elmhurst

hubs and i got bored on saturday night and decided to go in search of authentic thai food in the outer boroughs.  we’ve been to sripraphai many times before (yes, we’re addicted to the watercress salad and duck green curry), and wanted a different point of view.  we jumped in a car, fought our way through some manhattan bridge traffic, and found ourselves in elmhurst (which is just around the corner from sripraphai’s woodside location).

chao thai is a hole-in-the-wall. if i didn’t know better, i’d have mistaken it for just another asian take-out joint.  the food, however, is an entirely different matter.  we started off with a duck salad.  it was less greens and more strips of duck that were re-fried (not greasy at all), and tossed with pineapples, red onions,  papaya , scallions, thai chilli peppers and drizzled in a sweet and tangy salad dressing.  probably one of the more “duck” focused duck salads that i’ve had — the usual fare is a lackluster iceberg salad with a few pieces of greasy duck on top.

we then ordered 3 dishes as an entree:  a chili lime steamed sea bass (my favorite and the waiter’s recommendation after i attempted to order yet a 3rd basil sauced dish — the flesh of the fish is tender but firm, and it’s got this refreshing chili, lime garlic sauce), prad prik khao (minced pork sauteed in basil sauce — very flavorful, and not a bit dry), and a pigs feet sauteed in basil sauce (i love this dish, i love the gelatinous texture of slow stewed pigs skin and fork tender tendon, but i worry about my cholesterol levels with each bite) .  i’ll admit that we haven’t quite gotten the ordering down a science (it was our first time there), but everything was truly delicious and generously portioned.  we ended up taking much of it back in the form of leftovers, and ordered a delicious papaya salad to enjoy the next day.

the next time we go, we’ll have to test their soft shell crab, curries,  noodle soups that another table seemed to be happily slurping away, and mango sticky rice!

ooo chao thai, when can i visit you again?

Chao Thai
85-03 Whitney Avenue
Elmhurst, NY 11373
(718) 424-4999
Open daily 11a-11p

a stone fruit yogurt cake

you could say that i was in the mood for making a massive loaf cake.  rather than make 2 cakes in 2 separate loaf pans, i used my 5×12 inch bread pan.  i decided to layer the bottom of the cake with sliced apricots, pluots and peaches.  kind of like making a tea cake version of a tarte tatin, except that the large hump on the top side of the cake rather foiled my plans when i flipped the cake over. i think in the future,  i’ll either fold the fruit directly into the batter or place it on top.  you live and you learn.

this time around i started with dorie greenspan’s recipe for yogurt cake.  it is similar to the other yogurt cakes i’ve made in the past with the key exception that she recommends using ground almonds for about 1/3 of the normal flour content.  lacking almonds on hand to ground, i used finely ground almond flour (for making macarons) instead.  i thought it resulted in a tighter and more compact crumb.

A Stone Fruit Yogurt Cake
(makes one 12 inch loaf; halve for a more normal sized loaf)

AP Flour 2 cups
Almond Flour 1 cup
Baking powder 1 tbsp
Salt 1 tsp
Sugar 1 ½ cups
Plain yogurt 1 cup
Eggs 3 large ones
Vanilla 1 tsp
Canola Oil 1 cup
Stone Fruit (peaches, apricots, plums, pluots) 3 medium sized fruits, washed, sliced and pitted
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Butter and flour loaf pan.  If you intend on putting fruit on the bottom of your cake, i’d recommend lining the bottom of your pan with parchment paper (which i neglected to do, resulting in some of the fruits sticking to the pan when removed).
  2. *Whisk together flour, almond flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
  3. Add in yogurt, eggs, vanilla, and canola oil.  Mix by hand or on lowest mixer speed until well combined.
  4. *If you intend on layering the bottom of your pan with fruit, i’d recommend placing the fruit in first before starting your cake batter.  If you want the fruit in the batter, I’d toss the fruit with a bit of flour (just to coat it), and then gently fold into your batter.  You can also place the sliced fruit on top of the batter after pouring it into the pan — though my guess is that some of it will likely sink into the batter.
  5. Pour batter into pan and bake for 1 hour (a regular sized loaf will take 10 minutes or so less time).  When the cake is ready, you will notice that the sides of the cake have come away from the sides of the pan.
  6. Remove from oven and wait 5 minutes before unmolding to cool on rack.

a summer stone fruit tart

sometimes i get a bit carried away in the produce aisle, especially in the summer time.  i end up buying more fruit than i can consume, and rather than throw it away, i make it into tarts.  i had a whole bunch of apricots, pluots and cherries in the fridge.  i washed them, sliced them, pitted them and then tossed them onto a pate brisee tart shell.  about 45 minutes later, i had myself a big bulging tart!

Summer Stone Fruit Tart
(makes one 9.5 to 10 inch tart)

Pate Brisee with Egg Yolk – adapted from Christine Ferber’s Mes Tartes

AP Flour 500g
Butter 375g, cubed
Sugar 2 tsp
Cold Milk 100g
Salt ½ tsp
Egg yolks 2
  1. Pour flour, sugar and butter into the bowl of your food processor fitted with the blade attachment.
  2. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. Dissolve salt into cold milk.
  4. Add in egg yolks and cold milk.  Pulse until a dough barely forms.  Do not overmix. [note: the addition of egg yolks makes for a sturdier tart].  You can take it out in its crumbly state and press it into a disc with your hands. Then, wrap in plastic, and let rest overnight.

Preparing the Tart

Pate Brisee About half recipe above
Stone Fruit (peaches, plums, pluots, apricots, cherries) About 2-3 lbs, pitted and sliced
Sugar ¼ cup
Cinnamon 1 tsp
  1. Roll-out the dough on a well-floured surface until it is about 13 inches wide and about 1/16th inch thick.
  2. Fit the dough into a 10 inch tart ring.  Leave about 1/2 inch outside of the ring and pinch with your index and thumb until it forms a rusticly, crimped edge.  Prick the bottom of the tart with a fork.
  3. Place the raw tart shell in the freezer and pre-heat oven to 350ºF.  When the oven reaches 350ºF, bake the tart shell for 15 minutes and then remove from oven to cool.
  4. Toss together stone fruit with half of the sugar.
  5. When the tart shell has cooled, pour the fruit into the shell and then sprinkle the remaining cinnamon and sugar on top.
  6. Bake for another 35 to 45 minutes, or until the fruit is fragrant and the shell is a rich golden brown.