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A 30-something doctor with a passion for life, laughter, and good food.

Updated: 2017-04-10T11:15:15.523-04:00


The First Pancake


(This weekend is Gay Pride Weekend in New York, and, in celebration of equal rights for gay couples in New York, I've decided to change the usual food picture on top to something more appropriate.)It’s been more than a year since I wrote something for the blog, and I’ve missed so many things: the blog’s anniversary, the requisite New Year’s and birthday posts, and celebrating the successes of many people I’ve met through this tiny corner of the blogaverse. But the last 365 days have given way to more important, life-altering milestones; so many firsts, which just like the excited parent with a camcorder I’ve wanted to write about, but hadn’t, because I was too embarrassed or because it was too personal (shocking, I know, that I wouldn’t share it anyway).I fell in love for the first time last year. With it was my first date (at the overripe, blackened banana age of 28), my first kiss (the details of which are too mind-blowing to be expressed with my puny words, but you know someday I’ll try), and while no labels were being thrown around, the first guy I would call my boyfriend, or at the very least would have wanted to, had my first relationship not ended. It was devastating, and friends from all over the world physically and in writing rushed to comfort me, their friend in arrested development, well-meaning but utterly confusing. “Chalk it up to experience,” “You weren’t in love- it was just your first,” “There’ll be better ones, you just don’t know it yet.”The first love is a paradoxical thing. It is at the same time, by virtue of its ordinal, undeniably important, but it’s also what trivializes it. I suppose people go for the former when it ends well and the latter when it falls apart, but even as a paradox, I think everyone agrees with the former. I mean, don’t you remember your first?As with most earth-shattering events, soon after the first date I gave Duncan a call. Looking back I’m smirking now at the things he warned me about- he could see I was completely blown away and told me, realistically, that most first relationships don’t pan out and I should keep that in mind as I proceed (cautiously). I said that while it’s true that most people throw out the first pancake of the cooking, couldn’t you love the pancake anyway? Ripped, pale, thick in places, burned, distorted: not for consumption by the guests, but the wise chef knows that even an imperfect crepe has its value (and can even be his personal, delicious treat). And then there are those uncommon chefs who get the pancake perfectly the first time. I don’t know if that was me, but no matter what the outcome, I can say that I gave my whole heart to it. I don’t see how anyone couldn’t, the way I felt.I took note of my firsts, but the places and times we shared weren’t important because of the number, but the person with whom I shared them. Nothing trivial about that.ANYWAYYou know I love my recipes, but for this time, there’s nothing new (I mean, just look at that awful pic). The crepe recipe is from Pierre Herme and written out in this old post on Crepes, then filled with jarred Dulce de Leche and folded in the hot pan so that the filling gets all warm and melty. SO good.Check out my other site, Browse our quality cookbook reviews or submit your own! All images are copyright Mark Manguerra. Do not take or republish without asking. [...]

Dulce de Leche Eclairs


Éclair Confiture de LaitA few days ago I was at the cooking section of Kinokuniya bookstore. I was one of the non-Japanese minorities there, and if you've shopped there before you'd know that finding non-Japanese, non-Asian, non-white shoppers are even rarer. But there was one that day roaming, and I wondered what he was looking for. He finally settled in the cooking section and asked another shopper (Japanese female) for assistance. He was holding up the Japanese version of the lovely book Everyday Harumi and was asking her if it was a good choice to get to learn Japanese cooking, etc., even though the text was completely in Japanese (I wanted to butt in and say that it has an English version published by Conran Octopus).It seems I'm still green in the ways of the world, because not before long the conversation moved into whether she could read Japanese, where she grew up, what schools she went to, what's her job, and they seemed to be having a nice time for all of 10 minutes before he finally laid down the cards and she said that she had a boyfriend, but she's flattered (no time wasted after that). Even though the outcome wasn't in his favor, I was still completely in awe that he knew exactly what he wanted and went for it in the exact place where he knew he'd find it, and had the courage to follow through. Even if the initial deception was so transparent it might as well have not existed.I have always thought that people do not like being approached by strangers (maybe not for friendly conversation, maybe less for being hit on), even though I have no objections to people approaching me (maybe I like being thought of as obviously knowledgeable about cookbooks, and-- this is our little secret-- I like the folk that hang around bookstores. Well, DUH). But I could never muster up the courage to do so, regardless. I always feel like-- and not without precedent-- they will look at me and wonder why I am ruining their day or why this laughable creature even bothers.One of my favorite shows of all time is Faking It, and the clip above is from one of my favorite episodes (from Physician to Magician, if I recall clearly- watch the rest of the abridged episode here). In one exercise, the mentor asks Kevin to get people to look at the direction he's pointing. It's only when he does so with command that he's able to misdirect people. In the end, his faked confidence became real confidence, and spoiler alert, he quit his job to become a full-time magician.Maybe it's the feeling that I'm both annoying and misleading people that makes me hesitate to actually approach them in non-social situations. But to be honest, I'd be kind of sad to learn that most people in fact wouldn't want to be approached by me. Not a hypothesis I'd want to challenge, hahaha!ANYWAYThese eclairs were served at my going-away party. I was a little hesitant about the dulce de leche crème mousseline because I thought it would be heavy and excessively sweet, but it turned out to be wonderfully (if deceptively) light and with just the right amount of sweetness, with a great smoky/ subtly caramelly flavor from the interaction of the milk proteins and sugars. As for the dulce de leche itself, well, that's certainly too sweet for me in large amounts but it didn't stop my friends from getting spoonfuls of their own!Dulce de Leche Eclairs from C'est du Gateau by Christophe MichalakFor the dulce de leche, you can boil a de-labeled can of condensed milk for 2 hours, making sure it is always covered with boiling water, or you can do as I did and pressure-cook them for an hour. Perfect results in half the time. But as usual release pressure properly and don't open the cans while hot.For the eclairs, I simply followed Pichet Ong's pâte à choux recipe and piped out long logs with a 1/2" round tip on a parchment-lined sheet. Spray them with a spray bottle filled with water and freeze until completely hard. Cut the frozen slender logs into 3-1/2" portions, then you can store them in the freezer for baking later (baking instructions are included i[...]

Chocolate Revel Bars


"You put too much meaning into things," a friend of mine once told me good-naturedly (and with a touch of concern). I didn't disagree. It was my thing, even though I tried so blessed hard for it not to be a thing with me. For better or for worse, it's how my brain is wired. And to be honest, it's a really difficult way to go through life, especially when your friends do a lot of things that don't really have any motivation or agenda. It always has to be about something with me.Rather than let my racing thoughts on what people feel or think about me eat me up, it's much easier to believe that at any given moment, people are in fact not thinking of me or my feelings or whatnot. And really, why would anyone, right? It worked a little too well, however, and my own friends started to think I was harder than I was (which, as readers of this blog, you may have inferred is totally the opposite of what I am). They were used to the sarcasm and they mistakenly expected cynicism (a quality I hate), and didn't think I cried or showed any sentimentality. I hid those well.Those who've been able to walk into my room, however, would find a different me, and every drawer and shelf has something with significant meaning. Thank-you cards, letters, pictures - I treasure them all. There's even a Christmas greeting from a close friend written on a Christmas lantern - a Christmas tradition at my college, and everything gets thrown away at the end, but I stole the lantern. As it hangs near my mirror, it reminds me not to get carried away with the illusory armor - or during those precious times when a friend bares his heart and soul, I may miss the meaning.Yes, that dingy lantern is almost 9 years old...Revel bars were a common fixture in our bake sales when I was in college, and it still is a craving among us friends. A short while back my friend Genie was asking for a chocolatey cookie bar recipe that didn't need an electric mixer. Bingo! She said it pretty much was exactly what she was looking for. I recently served this for mother's day (along with apple pie, overachiever) and thanks to my three nephews, it was gone in maybe a minute.Chocolate Revel Bars from The Better Homes and Gardens New Cook BookThis recipe is halved to fit an 8-inch square pan. Double it if you want to use a 9x13 or 10x15-inch pan. Be sure to check out our book review for The Craft of Baking and our book review of David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert over at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf.100g (1 stick minus 1 tablespoon) butter200g (1 cup) packed brown sugar1/2 teaspoon baking soda1 large egg1 teaspoon vanilla155g (1-1/4 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted122g (1-1/2 cups) quick-cooking rolled oatsPreheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper cut to fit. Cream the butter until soft, then add the brown sugar and baking soda and cream until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until just combined. Using a strong wooden spoon, stir in the flour and rolled oats until just combined. Press two-thirds of the dough mixture in the bottom of the prepared pan.Filling12g (1 tablespoon) butter 200g (10-1/2 tablespoons or 7 ounces) sweetened condensed milk125g (3/4 cup) semisweet chocolate chips (you can of course use chopped bittersweet chocolate)1 teaspoon vanillaCombine the butter, condensed milk, and chocolate chips in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan or microwaveable bowl and place over low heat (or microwave on LOW power), stirring occasionally, until the chocolate has melted. Stir to combine and stir in the vanilla. Spread over the dough in the pan using an offset spatula and dot the surface with the remaining one-third of the dough (it's quite stiff, so use two spoons) irregularly in patches.Bake for 18-23 minutes or until the top is light brown (the filling will not be set at this point). Cool completely then cut into squares.Check out my other site, Browse our quality cookbook reviews or submit your own! All images are copyright[...]

Empire State of Mind (New York Part 4)


Click on any image to take you to the Flickr page to see it bigger. Also, you might want to check out my tutorial on Curves for Photoshop. My most favorite tool ever.I must confess, I don't really like Alicia Keys. I think "No One" from As I Am is her only song that has artistic merit and originality BUT that doesn't mean I don't kind of like one or two songs from each album for pop value. Empire State of Mind doesn't pick up until the bridge but there's a certain sense of hopefulness amidst the crazy/glamorous life of a New Yorker in the lyrics that I like. The sacrifices you have to make for the American Dream and all that. Above is a snap from what I believe is Union Station (14th Street) of a swing band complete with dancing couple. The couple was fun to watch but all of a sudden the saxophonist started losing it and I just had to take a pic!For obvious reasons while I was in New York, I was obsessing about cheap eats and I'd heard about Hummus Place and since I'd never eaten hummus before (GASP!), I thought it would be a good place to start.I had what I seem to recall was a Hummus Fava, but for some reason looking at this pic, it doesn't look like whole fava beans. Oh well. I don't know why I thought it was going to be much more flavorful but overall it was pretty mild. Pickles and pita in the background. Still, I was very satisfied (maybe I need to eat hummus a few more times) and the service was lovely. MacDougal Street in the West Village, by the way, is fantastic. So peaceful and culture-y.Doughnut Plant is the place that Bobby Flay challenged to a doughnut throwdown. I didn't go there because I wanted to judge the place that "beat" Bobby Flay (because I don't believe Bobby Flay is really good at anything but grilling. Seriously, Food Network, give it a rest), but just because of its reputation.The yeasted doughnut filled with blackberry jam was a bit of a letdown. I love yeasted doughnuts, but this one was even chewier than Dunkin (and I like the toughness of Dunkin, by the way), and the blackberry jam was scant. However, the carrot cake doughnut (and I suspect, all their cake doughnuts) was marvelous. See those bits of cream cheese in the middle? OMG.I took a break from eating to visit Korin Japanese Trading as I was still looking for Wagashi stuff. Instead I was amazed by the knives (left picture: Usuba on the top shelf, Deba in the middle, and Yanagiba on the bottom). Too pricey for me, but someday!I came across Rice to Riches walking along Spring Street after some fruitless kitchen shopping. The walls were filled with cornyisms like "Finally, a rice pudding that DOESN'T SUCK" but I guess they get an A for effort for trying to look cool. It's hard to do that for rice pudding.I had a picture of my chocolate rice pudding but the lighting wasn't great. They had a great variety of flavors but my rice pudding was too sweet and chocolatey. I much preferred the one I had in Loving Cup in San Francisco. Rice pudding needs moments of blandness to be balanced. This was like eating straight-up thick melted ice cream. Forget the rice.For completeness' sake, here's Jacques Torres Chocolate at the Chelsea Market, but it was mostly confectionery and small bakery items, so I didn't get anything (especially since the man himself wasn't there to impress anyway, hehe (just kidding)).DessertTruck Works had just opened when I arrived in New York. It had formerly been a roaming truck full of imaginative desserts, but they decided to "settle down" in a way. Click on the picture to see the menu up-close. You'll see why I decided to come here twice.On the left, that's the Caramelized Apples with puff pastry, cranberries, and vanilla ice cream. On the right, that's Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding with creme anglaise. They were both astounding and I don't think I can improve on them in any way. I'm surprised DT Works hasn't been getting more press, but I guess that means more for me? ;)The second time I went, there were entremets and small bakery items in a[...]

French Vanilla Flan


Flan à la VanilleThough my trip to Las Vegas was a few years ago, a lot of what I saw there became emblazoned in my memory (and noooo, it wasn't strippers or anything like that). For some reason when I went to Paris back in 2004 (way before I learned to really love food, much less cook), I didn't go to any Patisseries. Seeing one after another in Las Vegas whet my appetite for even more Patisserie, but again I skipped something that I really wanted to try - the flans.On the top shelf, you'll see the Flan Peche, with that irresistible deep brown burnished film on top of the custard.I didn't really obsess about them because they weren't a standard in most of my cookbooks, which were in English, and I didn't want to make other pastry that resembled it, because I wanted to know what the real deal was like first. Right now I realize I must sound crazy. Who goes ga-ga over custard?! It's the golden film on top, I tell you...Brief ad - check out my tutorial on the basics of using curves in Photoshop - the most-used image editing tool in my arsenal (and should be in yours, too).When it comes to pastries, I tend to be a window shopper when I'm alone, because there's always going to be a self-imposed limit of one (or two when I'm feeling naughty). Cookbooks? Fuggedaboutit. If there is a dream library out there somewhere, it's bursting at the seams because of me (thankfully now that I have a job I can really pick them up now). Probably the only things that I end up really buying are clothes, because they come and go really quickly and you have to grab the ones you absolutely love when they're on the rack, because you'll never see them again.So as you can see, I'm quite a sensible buyer. So I just have to chuckle leafing through Skymall (available on Delta flights around the world!) on the plane in moments of crushing boredom. There are actually plenty of nice items (an umbrella that won't invert, photo scanners, neck pillows), but they are all horribly overpriced. Then there are the items where you have to ask, "Who...? Why...?" No offense is meant to anyone who bought these items.Now, roses without that pesky thing we call "realism!"Dipped in 24K gold! Are ya kidding me? Have these around tha house and people will tink youse a MILLIONAIRE! Like tha king of England or tha king of France! Put these in a vase in yo bedroom and add that touch of CLASS!New acquaintance: Oh hey, what a nice necklace!Person who bought necklace: Yeah, the necklace is deeply personal.NA: It's a heart!PWBN: There's a hole in it because my best friend died and now there's a hole in mine.NA: Oh, I'm sorry.PWBN: Thanks.This is what all your conversations will be like with every new person you meet. FOREVER.If I had a nickel for each time I thought that a switch cover wasn't manly enough, I'd be flat broke. Talk about creating a need...MoOoOoOM! I promise I won't lose my cellphone again!! Just don't force me into becoming a social pariah!!Finally, a fitness technology that ACTUALLY works! (Me: okay, because the rest have been failures... Never mind.) We have developed the FASTEST way to destroy your feet! Disclaimer: maybe it's actually good for your feet. Maybe you only use it for a few minutes. But it looks ridiculously dangerous to me.And now, my favorite of all:When you care enough to give a gift that tells a person that you no longer want to worry about laughing at his jokes, applauding his successes, or just plain no longer want to offer him any real companionship and support and he can go f*** himself.The recipe is a little strange-looking but I was amazed by how well it worked. I was vacillating between thinking the taste was adequate and it might have needed a little bit more sugar, but in the end I think it's good barely sweet - perfect for folks who do not want to be bombarded with refined sugar (which is pretty much my folks and their contemporaries!).Flan à la Vanille translated and adapted from Gérard Mulot: Pâtissier à Saint-Germain-[...]

Ad Hoc's Banana Bread Pudding


Just quickly: if you want to learn the basics of adjustment layers (which is how I created the selective coloring effect in the image below), just head on over to Special Effects for my lesson on adjustment layers. It's applicable in both Photoshop and Elements.Well, so much for rushing to post as many pending recipes I have in my cache before I start my first day as a resident. For a brief period after a brief holiday, my internet pretty much exploded (again). But I'm glad to be back and can't wait to read what everyone's been up to (asking that question on Twitter doesn't seem to generate any response!). Today I'm going to be talking about a major turning point in the entire 3-year history of my learning how to bake: the day I decided to buy a digital scale.I've always thought it was silly that anyone would suggest that some people are not open to using scales because it involves "math". Granted I've never been afraid of maths (in fact I aced it), but dealing with the fractions of cups and spoons involves more math, especially if you have to scale a recipe up or down. The only part that would be prohibitive would be the price, but these are going down all the time even for good models and the time it saves and the joy of reproducing a recipe faithfully is more than worth it.The day I decided to start using a scale was when I wanted to learn to make bread. Unfortunately I didn't get the techniques of making bread right so that was a bust, but I've been using it ever since-- converting cup-and-spoon recipes and writing them down in my notebook.Common measuring problems1. Measuring brown sugarCups: Pack the brown sugar down with the back of a spoon without using excessive force.Scale: Pour it straight from the container into any bowl on the scale.2. Measuring grated ingredients (fruits, vegetables, cheese)C: Usually recipes will have an estimate of how many you'll use up (e.g., 2 carrots) and then just grate and depending on the recipe, pack them down (or not at all).S: Buy as heavy an ingredient as the recipe requires at the market (taking into account extras like trash carrot tops or peel) then just grate the weighed-out ingredient.3. Measuring viscous ingredients (honey, molasses)C: You can scrape the liquid out with a spoon, or you can spray the cup with vegetable oil spray before pouring the liquid in (don't do this if you're using it to sweeten a meringue of course).S: Pour the ingredient into the bowl on the scale.4. Measuring solid fat (butter, shortening), chocolate, almond pasteC: For butter, wrappers usually have a "ruler" where you can cut the stick (a quarter-pound or half-cup) to give you the required tablespoons. For shortening and almond paste, just make sure it's soft and slop it into the measuring cup. Chocolate comes in pre-measured squares for some brands.S: Cut off small portions at a time into the bowl on the scale.5. Measuring hot liquidsC: Always use a transparent measuring jug, as cups might spill and cause injury.S: Measure into the bowl on the scale. (Which incidentally can also be a transparent measuring jug that you can microwave, or a heatproof bowl, or a saucepan. Though you shouldn't put a saucepan from the stove onto a plastic scale.)6. Measuring flourC: The author should tell you how he or she measures flour. Some authors (Flo Braker) spoon it into the cup and level it off. Others (Dorie Greenspan) fluff the flour in the container, then dip and sweep it to level off. If they don't tell you how they measure flour, that's just foul.S: Pour or spoon the required amount into the bowl on the scale.7. Measuring sifted flourC: To minimize waste, place the cup on a clean sheet (like foil or parchment) then sift the flour over the measuring cup until it mounds over the rim and sweep it to level off. Pour the excess from the sheet back into the container.S: Cookbooks that rely on weight almost never have this instruction, but you can pour or spoon the required wei[...]

Tartine's Almond-Lemon Tea Cake


I've written a new Photoshop/Elements tutorial: using Levels to make highlights brighter, shadows darker, play with the contrast, and remove color casts.I don't have on my feed reader, but during an idle moment when I might need a food-related chuckle, I head on over and get my fill. It's not super-interesting to me because we get a much-condensed version of The Food Network here: no Sandra Lee, no Anne Burrell, no Guy Fieri. Anyway, one of the running gags they have there is, of course, Ina Garten and her insistence on only using "good vanilla," which, to be fair to Garten, is pretty valid (even though I still use the not-good kind for some applications).The thing is, I'm not made of money. When it comes to custards and ice creams and desserts where vanilla is the only flavor and it's a matter of life and yecch, I break out the bean (we have some very nice locally grown varieties), or crack open my Nielsen-Massey paste (still have plenty in my bottle, yay).Just the other day I saw an episode of Penn and Teller Bullshit where they duped a bunch of wanker diners into believing an expensive meal was made with "the best" ingredients when in fact they used microwave meals, cheap wine, sour cream in the place of clotted cream (erroneously pronounced by the dumb-waiter as from "Devo (nasal)" instead of Devon), and, in the words of Penn, "cheap-ass monkfish" in the place of lobster tail (who's bullshitting us now, Penn and Teller?). There were plenty of instances where the diners were so into their fake meals for all the wrong reasons, but come on. Do you think we could still be duped? I know I couldn't be, at least for dessert (I know my cocoa butter from my partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, if you know what I mean...).credit to Duncan for introducing me to "Posh Nosh".The thing is, "the best" doesn't always impress me. My tasting experience is still growing and so limited. I don't know what aged balsamic is like and I've only ever used the cheap one that came out of a Christmas basket. Ditto olive oil. I've only ever seen a truffle with a glass case separating us. But I love how knowing food, working with food, and experimenting has given me the power to transform simple ingredients into a unique experience.ANYWAYThis is going to be a little ironic. Because this is by far one of the most expensive "simple" cakes I've made. If not in monetary value, it is in caloric value: it has the equivalent of 450g (a pound) of sugar and 225g of butter, but the truly expensive ingredient is the almond paste. But I promise, that's it. I was a little skeptical because of the paucity of flour and the sheer volume of eggs, sugar and butter (I'm not used to making nut-based cakes). But I swear to you, it is the BEST lemon cake I've ever tasted. EVER. That's the combined magic of Tartine and Flo Braker (one of my first television-teachers when it came to baking) for you. No wonder I've heard quite a lot of raves about it from customers of the bakery.Almond-Lemon Tea Cake adapted from Tartine (also available in The Simple Art of Perfect Baking)The cake is much better - the sweetness tamed and the texture firm and toothsome - after it has been chilled in the fridge. Don't worry, it's so ridiculously moist and keeps this way even straight out of the fridge: perfect for midnight snacking. Read my full-length review of Tartine here at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf.95g (3/4 cup) cake flour or pastry flour, sifted1/2 teaspoon baking powder1/8 teaspoon salt5 large eggs1 teaspoon vanilla extract200g (7 ounces or 3/4 cup) almond paste (43-50% almonds by weight), at room temperature and cut into small chunks200g (1 cup) sugar225g (1 cup or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature1 teaspoon grated lemon zest1 teaspoon grated orange zest1 tablespoon poppy seedsPreheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Spray and line with parchment cut to fit exactly two 20x8cm (8x3 inch) lo[...]

Autumn in New York (New York Part 3)


Before anything else, if you're learning or want to brush up on Photoshop or Elements, I've put up my next "lesson" on Histograms, an important foundation to adjusting brightness and contrast.When I went to New York last November, I only had a few days before I had to go to San Francisco (but very happily, I might add), so I soaked up every little bit of it I could. Thankfully, when I returned for the second wave of interviews last January, I was able to see a little bit more and now that I've clinched a residency position there, going over my pics makes me super-excited about returning! Above is, of course, Central Park. Nothing like an Asian man in a business suit snapping away at ducks in the early afternoon that screams, "TOURIST!!!"The very, very first restaurant I went to (practically pledged getting there) was Momofuku Noodle Bar. I don't have any hipster cred (don't even have horn-rimmed glasses, much less a designer chair); I'm more of a wannabe. I was half-afraid of being shunned or laughed at, but at Noodle Bar, my server (I sat at the bar) was actually nice and reasonably attentive even smack dab in the middle of lunch, and the chefs were hard at work but seemed to be enjoying themselves.As for the food, well... I didn't grow up on ramen (just an occasional thing) but I did grow up on steamed pork buns. These were good. But hella expensive. Thank God I had a dollar bun in San Francisco that was simpler, but much more satisfying. To further jack up my bill (and to make lunch more substantial), I had ramen. Much too salty and umami and not vegetable-y ("green") enough for me. I could have done without the pork shoulder, too. But poached egg, pork belly, fish sausage, and mushrooms? YES.So, because I am a steamed pork bun fiend, I also went to the newer (hence hipper?) Baohaus (get it??). I think they too are preserving their hipster cred, but thankfully they were very nice and helpful when I went (as the only visitor mid-afternoon).As for the gua bao, it was as expensive as Momofuku but had an edge in complexity of flavors. Plus, a bonus of being served with mango nectar (yum). I heard that they adjust the relative fattiness of the cut of pork they serve you based on how they size you up. I'm not that big and tall (in fact, quite slight) but man was there a ton of fat on that pork belly (probably more than 50%). Yummy (and, uh, thanks?!!? Haha), but I should have asked for a leaner cut.Moving on... I stopped by at least one of the many branches of Pylones, but didn't get anything. I'm not sure the pepper mills would have gone with anything else in this house, but still, they are (hipster-)cute.Though I'm not a pizza fan as much as I am a steamed pork bun fan, I still enjoy a well-made one when the mood strikes (see: Francisco, San: Delfina). I've heard that Co. is one of the best in New York, if not the United States (Co. is short for Company, we haven't suddenly gone Chinese pizza on you). As you enter, these giant curtains assaulted me and suddenly I was afraid I walked in on a closed restaurant. But that's just their thing.I had a "Rosa": fresh tomatoes (yum), garlic (yum), fresh oregano (yum), and chili (OH GOD YES). Notice that I didn't say anything about cheese. Here at Co., unlike Delfina, I don't think they accept alterations on their pizza, and I'm glad, because I finally learned that a cheeseless pizza can be a thing of beauty. Superb.As a food-shopper, I made it a point to visit the Chelsea Market. While there wasn't a ton of stuff for someone who's just passing by like me (as compared to, say, someone who needs deli goods), there were a lot of places to have lunch or a snack, for people working nearby.One of the only shops that actually sold wares was Bowery Kitchen Professional Cooking Supplies and Equipment, after the famed area near Chinatown. I saw a huge stack of the disposable foil pie pans (perfect size [...]

Bean Curd Cheesecake


My friends and I have talked about the two kinds of people to whom you share secrets: ones you tell because you know they'll keep them, and others you tell because you know they'll tell everyone and their hairstylists. I fall firmly on the first category. However, I've come to the realization that not a lot of people tell me secrets in the first place. It must be because I'm generally not a good repository of facts about people, and often I take away from the juiciness of the moment by being a total, er, guy about it. You can tell me something and I can completely forget about it until the next time you bring it up (or on command). I just don't like a cloud of judgment hanging over people and coloring my perceptions of them. I want my interactions to be spontaneous and genuine.Anyway, you won't even need to tell me to keep it a secret, because by default I don't usually share conversations with other people. I'm not a good liar, but when it comes to other people's secrets, when asked I can conveniently flat-out deny something or, more usefully and convincingly, feign ignorance. I even keep secrets long after most everyone has found out. The one time I did share a (grave) secret, it blew up in my face, so I've learned my lesson.I realize it doesn't make me the most popular person, but I think being trustworthy is more important than being popular. But I wouldn't know; do you think the sharers (and not the keepers) are generally more fun to talk to?ANYWAYSecrets have nothing to do with this cheesecake; I only drew the topic from its zen-esque (enh? Not a thing) appearance. However, you can consider one of its main ingredients secret - silken tofu. I know a fair few of my readers recoil at the thought of it, and I won't lie and say "No! You really can't tell!" because a discerning palate - or at least one used to the taste of bean curd or soy milk - can tell this has it. But to be fair, it is a very pleasant-tasting cheesecake and gives the requisite richness and creaminess of cheesecake without actually being as heavy lipid-wise. I was most inspired to try this after a great experience eating matcha-flavored tofu cheesecake at Kyotofu in New York - a post for another time - though this fell a bit short of Kyotofu's secret recipe. It is a great place to start, and still a great dessert, though.Bean Curd Cheesecake adapted from Okashi TreatsI served this plain, but looking back, it would benefit greatly from a compote of any sweet-tart fruit. Cherries are my drug of choice, but of course you can't go wrong with blueberries or strawberries, or even pineapple. I've written down 2 teaspoons of gelatin here, but it was still too firm for my liking - you may be able to get away with one or one and a half. For the complete review of Okashi, one of the only books on Japanese-inspired cakes and pastries, click here to go to The Gastronomer's Bookshelf. It was written by Y of Lemonpi. Thanks Y!Soy Bean Sponge40g (1/3 cup sifted) pastry flour or cake flour20g (2 tablespoons) kinako (roasted soybean powder - this isn't available in Manila, so I just omitted it)60g (5 tablespoons) caster sugar20g (1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons) light brown sugar80g (4 large) egg yolks90g (3 large) egg whites30g (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooledLine the bottom and sides of a 28cm (11-inch) square cake pan with parchment, then spray the parchment with baking spray. If you don't have an 11-inch square pan, simply take a 10x15-inch sheet pan with sides at least 1/2 inch high and dam up the long side with a folded piece of aluminum foil 10 inches wide so that you create a partition 10x11 inches in the pan (still, line this with parchment). Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).In a small bowl, whisk together the pastry flour and the kinako. In another small bowl, whisk together the caster sugar and the light brown sugar. In another[...]

Big Sur Bakery's Doughnuts


When I was in college, I recall that a friend had told me once that I was just like Ally McBeal (apparently this was before the show went into the dumpster): I liked being sad. I also recall being a little offended by it and I would have been more indignant had I not been so shocked. No one wants to be sad, though you'd think so, given the way I behaved as a silly little teen (er, I was 16 when I entered college), which in my defense isn't so different from how most other silly little teens behave when they're all angsty and emotion-y. I mean, it's no accident that I've loved the song Rainy Days and Mondays since I first heard it. (Someday when I'm a little more confident in my voice, we may see a video of me performing it on the piano..)Sometimes I wish that American Idol would give props to the Carpenters catalog, but then I realize that no one will ever come close to that voice and they will poo all over some of the most beautiful songs ever.However, there's more to that song than describing the various little hair-triggers that depress Karen Carpenter (or really, Richard, since he wrote the song). The refrain of the song goes:Funny but it seems I always wind up here with youNice to know somebody loves meFunny but it seems that it's the only thing to doRun and find the one who loves meWhich is hidden in the middle, sandwiched in between verses hilariously accurately documenting my life at the time, including the fact that my friends pretty much knew I was in a mood and that it always passes with time even if we didn't talk it out. But I think what the refrain may have touched on is that we may not like being sad, but we allow ourselves to feel sad because 1) it's just the healthy thing to do sometimes, and 2) it feels damn good when a dear friend is there to cheer you up. It's not even about relief from a specific problem, but yes, the fact that someone loves you is comforting enough.Unfortunately for me, I relied on that comfort too much and it burned out my friends in college. When I became aware of that fact far too late in life, I resolved to keep the sadness to myself. Sometimes, though, when someone really knows and loves you, they pull you out of your shell and try to cheer you up even if you don't ask. And it's extremely nice to know there's someone in your life like that.But in the meantime, a little caloric comfort doesn't hurt in moderation. Sometimes for me it takes the form of a reasonable amount of french fries and soft-serve ice cream. Jelly doughnuts are not far behind. (Thankfully, running on a treadmill can also give an endorphin boost.) I suppose I should be thankful I don't get down as often as I used to! How do you seek comfort during those rainy days* and Mondays*?* I am aware that these things may also make certain people happy. Just roll with it.Big Sur Bakery's Doughnuts from The Big Sur Bakery CookbookI was surprised by how well these turned out despite my bread failures in the past. They are a great balance between chewy and meltingly soft. Unfortunately, like most homemade doughnuts, these are really only great the day they are made. If you're not looking forward to the calories, have plenty of friends nearby and they'll be more than happy to help. If you like, read my review of The Big Sur Bakery at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf.60g (1/4 cup) lukewarm water1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon active dry yeast310g (2-1/4 cups) bread flour (plus extra for dusting)180g (1-1/4 cups + 1 tablespoon) pastry flour1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder25g (2 tablespoons) sugar3/4 teaspoon salt1-1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg40g (5 tablespoons) whole milk powder180g (3/4 cup) cold water85g (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened1 large eggcanola oil, for fryingIn the bowl of an electric mixer, place the lukewarm water and sprinkle the yeast over. Stir and leave for 5 minut[...]

Butter and Sage Gnocchi


Gnocchi Burro e SalviaNormally I really wouldn't, but several people would have strangled me if I didn't announce over both Twitter and Facebook that I had finally succeeded in getting an Internal Medicine residency position in the United States. Thanks to all those who expressed their congratulations. My ecstasy is tempered by the sense of responsibility and the determination to be the best physician that I can be. Part of this is determining what's going to happen to No Special Effects for at least the first year of my residency. But first, let me establish a few things:1. I'm not burned out, and despite the food blogging world taking some directions that I don't support, I still love the cooking aspects of it, and of course reading up on what everyone's up to, whether food-related or life-related.2. I will not be able to comment or even read other people's blogs starting mid-June. When I was just studying for exams, I could balance everything fine, but this will take too much time, and I don't want to be that person who comments only on the top 5 people I like -- I like all of you, honestly. So if I can't do it for all, I can't do it for one.3. That doesn't mean you won't be able to talk to me anymore. If you really want to tell me anything (or if you need anything I can help with), feel free to e-mail me and I'll get back to you. And if I'm not blogging, I will still write my close friends e-mail. Tweeting, I don't know. Maybe. Just very short conversations.4. I will still be active on The Gastronomer's Bookshelf. The collaborative nature of the site makes it easier for me to manage my duties there. If you want to read my cookbook reviews (and they are all awesome, I tell ya), please subscribe to our feed.So, given all that, let me ask you:Should I still update No Special Effects for the next 12 months?Yes, I want to know what you're up to food-wise or notNo, devote all your attention to your workOther:Well, no matter what the outcome, just remember that this is a dormancy, not an extinction, and also, I have a ton of recipes and travel posts to roll out before mid-June, and some more books to review and Photoshop tutorials to write (thanks to all those who made requests). And I just realized I haven't properly celebrated over getting the job. What do you guys have in mind?? :)ANYWAYSo, this isn't really party food, but I gotta say, beurre noisette is kind of like a party in your mouth. These pictures were taken from when I first attempted making gnocchi. The texture came out beautifully, though for some reason I can't see the pretty fork-produced ridges I made on the little buggers. I snatched the recipe off The Age, from an article written by none other than the multi-talented Duncan Markham. Speaking of Duncan, he just recently wrote an article on Syrup and Tang about knowing your oven to successfully make macarons. It shocks me how often this is overlooked and how many assumptions are made, even by professionals, on how macarons should be baked, when they don't know the first thing about your oven, and all too often the blame goes to the mixing, frustrating many home bakers.Anyway. I'm aware that a classic recipe for Gnocchi Burro doesn't really involve browning or crusting the gnocchi at all (just tossing the boiled dumplings in the sauce), but I thought, why waste that extra dimension of flavor? It was as delicious as could be expected. Simply brown a big lump of butter over a gentle flame with a few fresh sage leaves, lifting the leaves out as soon as they're crisp. Add in a few boiled gnocchi at a time in the browning butter, letting some of the sides sear as you do so. And don't forget a sprinkling of salt and freshly ground black pepper.Check out my other site, Browse our quality cookbook reviews or submit your own! All images are cop[...]

Perfect Strangers (Chicago Part 2)


As usual, if you want to look at the pictures and menus in finer detail, click on them to take you to the Flickr page, where the "All Sizes" button will show you larger versions.Annoyingly, when I tried to book a hotel in Chicago for this year's interviews, this time in late November instead of late January, hotel rates were evened out at about $350 a night - about a 200% increase over last year's rates. Thank goodness for Kayak which suggested an extended-stay apartment for much less. However, I still only stayed for 3 nights, and because of wild goose chases (I'm looking at you, Red Hen Bakery, now an abandoned warehouse in the middle of nowhere) and some repetition of visited spots, it still felt like I saw much less. Oh well.But, I still felt like I hit a jackpot here. I've been at a toss-up of best cheapest lunch between San Francisco's Shalimar and...... Hot Doug's (3324 N California). I honestly still couldn't tell you; it all depends on your mood. Contrary to popular belief and probably to the disappointment of some more cultured friends I have, I like burgers, fries, and hot dogs. I just like a whole bunch of other stuff too. And when it comes to these drive-in foods, I want some thought and care put into them, not an attempt to sicken me by stuffing more ground beef per cubic centimeter. Anyway. Hot Doug's is all the way in N California street, to a commuter like me only accessible by one or two buses and surrounded by practically NOTHING ELSE of interest.But look at that. Traffic McDonald's would kill for. A line that extends all the way outside at lunchtime (management pleads that the door must be closed to conserve heat, so stragglers must bear the cold for a little while). Everyone must go here, apparently, and I agree (yes, even you, my more cultured friends).It's a pity that I missed the frites by a few days. It sounds like something I should try at least once (or fifty times) in my life. I went for the Keira Knightley hot dog. It's named so because it's hot. In a spicy way. I don't know about Keira, she looks like she could break in half at any moment.But this one is made of much stronger stuff. It's really quite a depressing hot dog in the sense that once it's over, you'll wish there was more to come. I had one with everything on it - except this being Chicago, ketchup was out of the question. Hot Doug's is no sausage nazi, so they actually offer it without guilt, but I thought the hot dog was great without it. Stomach grumbling as I type. Truly the BEST thing about Chicago (hmm, we'll see about Grant Achatz when I can afford a table).I had to visit Vanille Patisserie again and I still maintain that it is one of the best patisseries in the United States. However, I could tell that they were being stressed by the impending opening of a branch on Clinton Street (I ate at both Clinton and Clybourn), as something about the entremets seemed... Dry. Glacage was a little gummy already. Anyway, I took pictures of all but one of their Fall offerings above.I had the Manjari (chocolate pots de creme in chocolate mousse bombe) and their signature, Entremet Vanille (sable, coconut lime dacquoise, exotic coulis, white chocolate mousse, vanilla cream, mango glaze).On my last day in Chicago, the French Market (131 Clinton) opened. There were plenty of artisan shops inside, but I felt like it still needed a little more variety (kudos to the Vietnamese snack store inside), even with its Eurocentricity.However, I wanted to bring some attention to Sweet Miss Givings Bakery, which not only gives more than half of proceeds to charities that benefit the homeless and those living with AIDS, but also provides training and employment opportunities for the homeless. Bravo.I must admit that general food stores, even "gourmet" ones, are[...]

River Cafe's Chocolate Almond Cake


Torta CapreseWhen I was in first-year high school, we had an English assignment that had us writing an essay about who we consider our hero and why. I wrote a fairly insipid essay (I don't know if you've heard, but I am a crap writer) about a noble, intelligent guy (identity doesn't matter). I received a dismal score for it, and it was so predictable and forgettable I don't even remember any of the details. Our English teacher was a real motivator, so he had the writers of the highest-scoring essays read them aloud in front of class. My Math seatmate and Science lab partner was one of them, so he was called in front.To my surprise, the essay was about me. First year of high school (and being a nerd and a transferee from another school at that) is never easy for any of us. I struggled amidst a sea of strong, assertive personalities and I always felt like I was slipping away, my profile ever lower to avoid ridicule. The boy who wrote my essay -- my friend -- went on to eloquently enumerate every little thing I did: giving him a handmade Christmas present, having the ever-unpopular role of truancy officer, helping people out with Math, and, most notably, always giving people my attention and respect even when they didn't do anything to deserve it.It's stupefying to think that there's someone out there who notices all the seemingly inconsequential things you do for others, and not only thinks you're great, but actually thinks well enough of you to call you a hero (I cast aside my cynicism for a bit and hope that he didn't write about an unlikely subject just to get a high grade in the essay). But we never made a big deal about it. I was just being his friend. I hope that somehow I haven't let him down, even if most of the time I think I let myself down. The thought that there's even just one person who believes you can do great things and believes in you even when you don't yourself -- it can empower you to do things that you thought you couldn't.ANYWAYBefore anything else, check out:1. My review for The Dumpling: A Seasonal Guide over at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf.2. My new tutorial for both Photoshop and Elements users: Making your life easier by automatic processing of multiple files, something all PS/PSE blog users should know. (If you like my new site, consider subscribing to the feed too.)This is the "Chocolate, Almond Cake" from River Cafe Two Easy. I'm not sure if the ingredients make it a Torta Caprese but it satisfies all the necessary elements. I was a little frightened at the extremely short cooking time and low temperature at first, but my fears were quickly vanquished when I took a bite (though "bite" is too harsh for this meltingly divine dessert) and the voluptuous bittersweetness of the chocolate flooded my mouth. I'd be happy to eat this at any restaurant. And the bonus is, it is extremely easy to make.I made this when I had heard that one of the heroes of the British restaurant scene, Rose Gray of the River Cafe, had passed away. Whether related to food or not, who is your hero?Chocolate, Almond Cake from River Cafe Two EasyThis recipe is really forgiving. Don't fret if not all the chocolate/butter is melted or if it's not cold or whatnot. It will come together just fine.180g (6.3 ounces) 70% Chocolate180g (13 tablespoons) unsalted butter200g (2 cups or 7 ounces) almond meal or blanched almonds, finely ground in a food processor2 whole eggs, at room temperature6 egg yolks, at room temperature4 egg whites, at room temperature1 vanilla pod, split200g (1 cup) caster sugar15g (1 tablespoon) caster sugar60g (11 tablespoons) dutch-processed (alkalized) cocoa powderpinch of saltPreheat the oven to 150°C (300°F or gas mark 2). Spray, line the bottom with parchment, and spray again a 23cm ([...]

Proper Blokes' Sausage Fusilli


The deadline for the H2Ope for Haiti Raffle has been extended to March 7! Visit the link above to enter!!Last Friday found me eating lunch with old college friends of mine: Allyson, Lorie, and Belle. Allyson was one of my team-mates in Microbiology class and we had a laugh about how much time I (as self-appointed leader) would sulk as he and my friend Bulit would squirt bottles of alcohol at each other and poor Vice. My excessive sense of responsibility could have easily irked Allyson (not that he had a right!!) but we always got along fine regardless. Watching The Hangover a few days later got me thinking about the friendships I form with other guys.It seems like a bit of an eyeroll-inducer. Men by nature do not analyze friendships with other men. Unfortunately I'm wired a little differently and I do think about things other people won't, and having recently read that "men are idiots" (although not phrased so politely ;) made me think about how we're so underrated. Right Caitlin, Y, Pea? (Feel free to chime in if you, either by choice or coercion, hang around a bunch of other guys.)Allyson and I hung out in one other way -- during long gaps in the schedule or a dull day, a group of maybe 7 or so of us would drive to the computer "arcade" and play "Counter-Strike." Yes, it's that silly game where you pretend to be a group of (ahem) counter-terrorists (or, gulp, the opposite) and take out the opposing team using all sorts of weapons in a battle landscape. After playing this game for weeks and weeks with them, I was beyond rubbish at it. As in, even armed with a rifle, my opponents would just walk up behind me and stab me with a knife repeatedly until I was dead. But even though I was the weakest link, they always made it a point to include me. One of us made a drawing of the entire team as caricatures, and I was there in my innocent, wide-eyed glory -- being very proper whilst everyone else had bloodlust-y captions (my speech bubble said, "Ferdie, I think your brother has just passed here"). If I wasn't so amused (and afraid of the endless ribbing the sentiment would create), I would have been touched. (But I like the ribbing, don't I? Otherwise I wouldn't have written this.)Men just don't need any reasons to be your friend. In fact, we would probably be annoyed if you forced us to think of one. We just... are. While on one hand it feels really sweet for a woman to express why you're so awesome, there would always be that insecurity, that one day the reason will just go away and so will the relationship. I also to some extent fear cattiness and manipulation (too much Top Model?). Up to now I still don't really know what my female friends say about me behind my back. But men? Unless you are in need or facing tragedy, we don't really care about what goes on in your life. I suppose that is a cause for lamentation for some. On one hand, it's really, really hard to talk about your problems with men, but on the other hand, if you want to escape the drama, there's no better people to turn to.I just realized that I haven't really made an argument against men being idiots, but I think in our own way, we're pretty awesome.ANYWAYThis recipe for the sexist "Proper Blokes' Sausage Fusilli" comes from Jamie Oliver's book, Cook with Jamie, which I reviewed for The Gastronomer's Bookshelf (read my Cook with Jamie review here). He says "girls tend to like it as well." Golly whiz, Jamie, then just call it an Awesome Sausage Fusilli. Because that's what it is. Except the name isn't quite as catchy. I like the heat and the twist of flavor the lemon gives the dish. Couldn't stop eating it.I also had an abundance of fennel seeds, so I decided to make my own Italian sausage. Why not, I didn't nee[...]

Sweet November (San Francisco Part 6)


Now it just seems like my posts about San Francisco will just never end, doesn't it? To be honest I hope they don't, but of course I have a finite number of pictures from when I went last November to January. Basically what I'm doing is giving you a ton of reasons why you should go too - at least once (more) in your life. By the way, Sweet November was kind of a funny casting decision. Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron together again! To rekindle their scorching chemistry from... The Devil's Advocate. Yikes! Anyway. Above is a picture of my cousin Kyle being taught by Mr. (Sensei?) Valero at Hapkido class. I'll tell you more of my babysitting adventures another time.Blog research brought me to The Wok Shop in the heart of Chinatown. I must have spent an hour there just looking around - and without a doubt, the greatest ratio of time browsing : square footage of shop EVER. It is tiny but packed. I thought I'd be able to find a branding iron for making stylish dorayaki but even that is super-rare, so I came away with a cleaver and a moon cake mold instead. The owner is super-helpful. If I had more luggage space, I would have gotten a seasoned wok. (They are available on Amazon as a merchant.)This is Saint Peter and Paul Church in Washington Square just west of North Beach. When Marvin and I met up here, this was where we parted ways (and I owe him the name of the place, so here it is).Uncle Rob once told us a story about how he saved the day for a pudding shop by making water ganache for them on the spot. Loving Cup is that store and while I didn't have ganache with my duet of rice puddings (vanilla and Nutella, I recall), it was still what I envisioned a perfect rice pudding to be. Just lovely. And I finished it even though I was ready to explode from the lunch I had prior to it...... Shalimar Indian and Pakistani restaurant. Some people say that it is a hole in the wall. Some people say the staff is unfriendly. Some people say that it could be a lot cleaner. The ones I listened to are the ones who said that you will likely not find better Indian food anywhere in the United States period. Some even went so far as to say it is better than any Indian food they had in India, but maybe that's taking it too far. But I can be easily deceived after my lunch there. See that plate of 5 chicken thighs with some fragments?Here it is 15 minutes later. Murgh korma shahi ($6.95). Take note. And a plate of chawal (rice) that was probably meant for 3 people. And naan. And I finished it thinking that I had to have every single bite of it because I might never know such awesomeness again, seriously. It is worth coming back to again and again, and for only $11 total (I might have over-ordered, heh). The staff is not really friendly, but they are not unpleasant either, just kind of aloof and wondering why I want to take pictures of their food. So there you have it: the epicenter of awesomeness.I was walking along Castro street on my way to Tartine again when I encountered Thorough Bread and Pastry (get it? Thorough bread? eh...), a relative newcomer on the SF pastry scene. I thought that I might give Tartine a break and give TBaP a try. The staff comes from The San Francisco Baking Institute. I only had the sticky bun, but it was a pretty delicious sticky bun (I'm not even usually a fan). I hope to return to taste some more dessert-oriented offerings.You have to be thankful for the vast diversity of immigrant cuisine in San Francisco, otherwise diehard Italian food-lovers would never have developed the art of pizza-making to its current San Franciscan state, which has a unique flair. Pizzeria Delfina (shown here is the California St. branch, the only one open for lun[...]

Miette's Tomboy


I thought that I would be able to completely evade writing about love and all its silliness at around this time (you know... Chinese New Year). I've become extremely skilled at handling things all by myself that many of my friends would probably believe I'm the kind of person for which celibacy was made. It stings a little, but my friends from medical school are very used to me being professional that any evidence of sentimentality surprises them (something for another time), while my close friends are so used to me deflecting gooiness and mushiness with sarcasm.But then in the past year, I've been to so many airports and I'd be totally embarrassed if you saw me at the gate, watching other people. Like when this sweet-looking, portly middle-aged man was bidding good-bye to his wife (an overseas worker) at the gate. He had a sad smile and couldn't let go of his wife's hand as he wiped away tears with a handkerchief. Or coming back to Manila last Wednesday, when a kid, who couldn't have been older than eight, was wailing as he hugged his returning father (also an overseas worker) with a mix of emotions so powerful and indescribable. Happiness/sadness/pure love. If you didn't know kids you wouldn't think they'd be capable of such a complex explosion of emotion, but they are. And it was too much for the dad too, who cried.Of course, you shouldn't really listen to anything I have to say. I get misty at those stupid Kay Jewelers commercials. But I much prefer my previous examples, not the manufactured swill that dictates love can only be measured by the sparkle of jewels or how many phone calls you get when you're apart. True love (and I'm no expert, so don't listen to me, again) is never angry or jealous; it is always selfless, and every now and then, because life is the way it is, it hurts.Even though I'm not with anyone, love is threaded into every aspect of my life: when I'm so worried for someone that my heart stops; the sadness I feel when we eventually have to part; walking into walls when I'm busy thinking of someone. All that painful wonderfulness. I just have to notice it more often. Even an eight year-old can.ANYWAYThis cake is from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, which I reviewed for The Gastronomer's Bookshelf.The mousseline is a pain in the ass, and I flopped at it even in an air-conditioned room, because I'm just that crazy. Anyway, I tasted the mousseline at Miette and as it turns out, I'm not a big fan of it even if it's made well. It had a great texture, but I'm still not fond of the taste of buttercream. I'd much prefer a stabilized whipped cream for this deep, fudgy cake.By the way, I've posted two basic lessons already for my Photoshop/Elements blog, Special Effects. We're starting slow and building our skills as we go up the difficulty scale :)Miette's Tomboy from Rose's Heavenly Cakes118g (1/2 cup) boiling water28g (1 ounce) 70% dark chocolate, chopped1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract200g (1 cup) sugar100g (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sifted) all-purpose flour63g (3/4 cup + 1-1/2 tablespoons sifted) Dutch-processed cocoa powder1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder3/4 teaspoon baking soda1/4 teaspoon salt1 large egg, at room temperature54g (1/4 cup) vegetable oil121g (1/2 cup) buttermilkPreheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Spray with baking spray, line the bottom with parchment, and spray again a 6-inch round cake pan at least 3 inches high (believe it or not, this was extremely easy to find in Manila). Attach a baking strip on the outside of the pan (I neglected this: don't. If you don't have one, strap on moistened paper towels on the outside of the pan).Place the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour the boiling water over it. [...]

Tartine's Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake


Edited to add: Before things get out of hand, I need to add: I do not have an offer yet. I am just optimistic.I can't believe I have less than 48 hours left in the United States! As a parting gift, Mother Nature sent me a respectable amount of snowfall a few nights ago. For some reason, the way the sidewalks are shoveled, it forms a neat shelf of snow that remind me of chocolate sheet cake with marshmallow frosting. True story.It won't be long before I'm back in the Philippines, staring dejectedly once again at the weighing scale. It can't be as bad as my last stay here... Can it? The cold wasn't as bad as the last time, but my resolve not to overdo going out and spending (sometimes to get all-new ingredients for something, as it's not my kitchen I'm cooking in) has fueled my sloth, which is probably not so bad considering WHEN (hehe... THE SECRET! lol) I get that residency this coming July, I will not have a moment to catch my breath. Which, if you knew me from before this blog, is my "zone", though I do a better job than most at keeping "zen".I'm not going to write too much about that now (don't want to jinx it), so instead I'm going to go right into this recipe that I only started to make when I got to San Francisco last November. Probably for the best, considering what are sold as zucchini in the Manila is actually what is known as Montezuma Squash in the US. Not that it would adversely affect the recipe (though I have a feeling Montezumas are a lot more liquidy). Anyway, I plucked this recipe from my Tartine cookbook when my aunt (my dad's cousin, what you'd consider my cousin here in the US) raved about a healthified version of zucchini bread that a friend had made. It made two smaller loaves, but had whole wheat flour (not a fan, especially if you have to buy a fresh big ol' bag just to make it) and 300g sugar. I had complete faith in Tartine -- I was in San Francisco, after all -- so I encouraged her to try it with me.Well, I ended up making it probably 4 times in the nearly two months I was there. We weren't giving it away or anything: we were just eating it among ourselves. It was just that good. The addition of orange marmalade accounts for part of the sweetness but gives it a slightly bitter, sophisticated touch. It's probably as perfect a Zucchini Bread recipe as I can think of. It wasn't self-consciously health-ified, but it was inherently pretty healthy and uncompromisingly good. And really, what more can you ask for?This is from the Tartine Cookbook, which I reviewed for The Gastronomer's Bookshelf.Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake adapted from TartineSpray, line, and spray again a 23cm x 12.5cm (9x5 inch) loaf pan and set aside (you can also just spray if you're confident about your pan's non-stickiness). Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).270g (1-3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour1/2 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon baking powder1 teaspoon ground cinnamon1/2 teaspoon saltMix the above ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.285g (10 ounces or 2 and 1/2 cups) grated zucchini (about 3 small ones)115g (1/2 cup) orange marmalade150g (3/4 cup) sugar137g (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) vegetable oil2 large eggs115g (4 ounces or 1 cup) walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped (I'm not a fan, so I never included this)Mix all these ingredients (except the walnuts, if using) in a large bowl until combined (no giant lumps of marmalade at least), then sift the dry ingredients into it and stir until just combined (don't worry about it being smooth, just be gentle). Stir in the walnuts if using. Pour into the prepared loaf pan. 25g (2 tablespoons) sugarSprinkle the top wi[...]

Rose's Chocolate Feather Bed


Just a reminder: you can still join our Momofuku book giveaway. Before February 7 (12NN GMT), just insert a short paragraph in your next post about the most important food book of your life and link to our post on the Gastronomer's Bookshelf here, Then leave a comment on that post. Non-bloggers can also join by using the contact form on the site (visit the link above for details). Open to all!While Garrett has been busy decorating his new apartment, he brought up an old post from his archives about dining alone. I am a strong dining-alone proponent, so I had to leave a comment on that post.Okay, maybe proponent is too strong a category. It's more of like, I don't see anything wrong or humiliating about it at all. When I was in med school, I told Arunee it's what I usually do, and she was so shocked and said, "Noooo! Don't do that!!! You should just give me a caaaall!!!" I'm pretty sure we eventually did, cos Arunee's a blast, but it didn't change my feelings about dining alone.I recall this exchange from one of my favorite shows of all time, Coupling, from "The Girl With One Heart" (click to watch the whole episode):Sally: You've been there, we've all been there. She's the girlfriend of a bloke who's a friend of yours. So, you've got to prove you're not some mad dinner-for-one girl who secretly wants the bloke for herself.Susan: Do you want to run dinner-for-one girl past us?Sally: You know how some women go to the supermarket and they see all those little dinner-for-ones? And it's like you can hear them calling, "Come to us, Sally Harper. Come, join us!"Jane: Yeah, I've noticed they do that. (Points) And it's always your name, isn't it?Anyway, I've talked about dining alone and loneliness before and even commented about it on my friends' sites. Maybe I've just gotten used to it, but like I told Garrett, you can't let the unavailability of other people stop you from enjoying life. I obviously have plenty of thoughts, so there's always something to sort out when I am eating alone :)But of course, I am also a proponent of being open to the surprises that life throws your way. If you ever see me eating alone at the bar, smiling like a lunatic who's pleased with his own company, don't be shy! Come and join me! :)More news: I've set up a new blog about Photoshop and photo editing. If the subject interests you (or if you have any thoughts about the issue of editing food and travel photographs, or if you have any skills you want to learn or problems you want to solve), just shoot me a comment there. My frequency for updating it will depend on the demand for new lessons. Also, subscribing to the feed won't hurt ;) (After all, how often do I bug you by writing this blog?!)This is a fairly involved recipe from Rose's Heavenly Cakes. And it has nothing to do with the baking, and EVERYTHING to do with the fact that after you're done making the first cake, you have to wash your beaters and bowl and do it all over again. UGH! But, the whole house did love the cake for its light but deep chocolateyness. A small serving goes a really long way, so make this for a fairly large party of 10 to 16 people, even if the cake itself is not that big.Read my review of Rose's Heavenly Cakes!Chocolate Feather Bed adapted from Rose's Heavenly CakesI've altered (and simplified, at this rate) the instructions in case you had the same difficulties manipulating the cake as I did. Also, some of you will be pleased to note that this cake is gluten-free.Note: you will need double the quantities of the following ingredients for the cake recipe:113g (4 ounces) dark chocolate (at least 53% cacao), choppe[...]

Momofuku's Roasted Rice Cakes


We now interrupt my usual story or philosophical rant for a (and here we substitute my Oprah-yelling voice) GIVEAWAAAAAAAAY! Duncan and I are giving away a copy of acclaimed book... MOMOFUKUUUUUUU! by David CHa-AAAAAANG!Before the rest of my chatter: head on over to The Gastronomer's Bookshelf to find out how to participate. Also, check out my newest review, for Momofuku! (You can also check out our archive page to read all our reviews so far.)I'll start with the most important food book of my life: Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé. I know I haven't posted very many recipes from it and I rarely mention it, but when I was just an intern on my last year in medical school who didn't know how to cook, I envied the ridiculously beautiful creations people were making from this book and posting on the eGullet forums. I wanted to make desserts just as dreamy as they did. I guess it must have been fate, because the bookstore next to the hospital had a ripped copy for only about $10. I snatched it and fantasized over every single full-page photo. A few months after I graduated, I gathered all my courage to try my first cake recipe: The Faubourg Pavé. I guess you could call it my initiation into patisserie. And I've never looked back.(This is for the Momofuku giveaway by The Gastronomer's Bookshelf).(Obviously I'm just setting my own example, as I'm not winning the book ;)Ahem. I hope you'll participate because I really, really want to know what your greatest cookbooks and food books are. And, well, I couldn't be prouder of my second baby, The Gastronomer's Bookshelf, where we're slowly building a great network of thoughtful, talented reviewers for everything from cookbooks for busy cooks to professional textbooks and food-related literature. I'm proud of every single one of our reviews and even though people may not always agree with our reviewer's opinion of a book, we make sure that each one is helpful and informative. Cos let's face it, there are a TON of cookbooks out there!ANYWAYI just love the Korean paste products. The color coding is so helpful for people who can't read Korean (red = gochujang, brown = doenjang, green = ssämjang). When I saw this picture in the book, I knew I had to make it. The sweet and spicy flavors of Korean food is a marriage made in heaven for me. Just the tickling my taste buds needed! It's also my first time to use Korean rice cake sticks (logs). They're similar to the disc-shaped ones. They kind of remind me of very chewy, soft, bland gnocchi that lend themselves nicely to such a flavorful sauce. I hope you give it a try!The bowl, by the way, is from iittala and was a birthday gift from Duncan. Gorgeous, isn't it?Roasted Rice Cakes adapted from MomofukuThis looks a little more involved than my usual cooking recipe (we won't talk about the baking for now), but really, the only thing that takes long is roasting the onion. I accomplished that the night before, an hour before going to bed (and I was playing a video game while doing it, standing up every few minutes), so I could breeze through the dish when I woke up. The sauce and the rice cakes are no-brainers.Red Dragon Sauce60g (1/4 cup) water50g (1/4 cup) sugar180g (6 tablespoons) ssämjang (Korean seasoned/chili bean paste)15g (1 tablespoons) light soy sauce1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar (or more to taste)1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (or more to taste)In a small saucepan over high heat, stir together the water and sugar until it boils and all the sugar is dissolved. Take off the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Stir in the ssämjang, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesa[...]

30 Days and 30 Nights (San Francisco Part 5)


Hi everyone, I know I made an appeal to your generosity not long ago for my own country, but if you have something to give for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, please visit this page to find immediate ways to help, and visit these blogs who are helping too. Thanks so much.I know, I know. I skip out for a week and a half and come back with a travel post!!! I just spent so much time filtering through hundreds of pictures from San Francisco and editing a fraction of that and still managed to end up with material for maybe three posts, so I thought I'd get a head start on writing about that before I forget. But how can I forget about San Francisco? It's not just about the sun and the culture, but also one of the places I consider home. I called this post 30 days and 30 nights because that's exactly how much time I spent in the United States when I landed last August. Part of the time was spent in Greenville, North Carolina. Above is a picture taken on Maiden Lane (and how), where all the high-end boutiques are.Why not start our short foodie tour with a thing of beauty? I know I've talked about Tartine (600 Guerrero) countless times, so it shouldn't surprise you that I went a few more times to eat breakfast. And having a delicious fresh fruit tart with raspberries at their peak? Can rarely be beaten. At least for breakfast.And here is another morning (YES, I don't eat all these in one go, even though sometimes I do, urp) when I ate their zucchini bread instead. I also prepared it out of the cookbook-- a post for another time-- for my San Francisco family maybe, uh, five times. It's just that good. This one from the bakery had a hint of apricot preserves, though I'm not a fan of walnuts.That same day I went to the Ferry Market Building, and I took a few clandestine shots of Culinaire for Duncan but the ones of actual pastry paraphernalia didn't turn out so well. Happens when you hold your camera awkwardly.Claire went here before she left for France and was raving about the parfait she had at Frog Hollow Farm at the Ferry Market Building, but I just couldn't stomach much more, so I had to settle for a refreshing all-natural and very fruity popsicle.I've heard good things about Piperade (1015 Battery), which is owned by famous Basque chef Gerald Hirigoyen (author of Pintxos). I ordered the tuna sandwich with roasted red peppers and onion marmalade off the big plates, and it was a delight to eat. Unfortunately I'm still being stubborn about my allergy to raw seafood and my itchy esophagus was keen to remind me (sushi-lovers: there's just no way out, sorry. Even the finest restaurants have given me this reaction). The service was so attentive (well, I was the only one there) that at one point I thought that Hirigoyen himself was serving me. DUHAt the Ferry Market Building I had a great lunch at Slanted Door. Now, many people have sneered at SD for not being authentic and conning people and I thought I would be one of them, but I just discovered that if the food tastes really good, I really don't care. Or maybe, I would care if they claimed to be authentic, which SD does not. I mistakenly ordered the grilled tiger prawns over rice noodles with vegetarian imperial roll, cucumber and mint ($12) thinking that it was what the other servers were carrying, but it turns out that it was the Niman Ranch shaking beef ($28), so I appreciate that I was able to economize. :) Regardless, I had a delicious lunch, so who cares, right?The bar at the Slanted Door. Lone wolves like me appreciate the liberated seating :)A new shop just[...]

Spice Cake Stuffed with Almond Paste


Gevulde SpeculaasChinese settlers have been in the Philippines since before the Spanish colonization, and as a result we've inherited a bit of the cuisine and ingredients (yum) and traditions (and for a certain percentage of the population, genes). Much of the latter has to do with superstition, of which I'm not a fan. Sometimes it's harmless things like having to eat noodles on your birthday, to less harmful things like following feng shui principles for your home to harmful things like firecrackers. However, new year's eve is when we witness nearly all of them in one night. It's apparently crept over to Filipino communities here in the States. I'm not even sure if all of these are based on Chinese superstition, but we would've done them proud in our ingenuity if it turns out they aren't.ALL OF THESE THINGS MUST BE HAPPENING AT MIDNIGHT:1. Make noise (weapon of choice: coins in a can. Some people use an actual weapon, but casualties have forced the government to clamp down on this, not to say it doesn't still happen, sadly.)2. Children must be jumping as high as they can to grow as tall as possible (I did this as a kid one year and I ended up on my face. That explains so much.)3. All the doors must be open4. There must be coins on all the windowsills5. All your pockets must be full of coins6. All your vehicles must be running7. All your lights must be open (new year: brought to you by National Power Corporation, and Shell)8. You must set off fireworks (we don't do this anymore, after a near-tragedy involving a foot.)9. You must have 13 kinds of round fruits at home (new year: brought to you by Whole Foods)10. You must wear dots (we don't do this anymore past 1990, because polka dots are hideous and useless. Instead we wear plaid (rectangles="bills") or red. This year I wore argyle ("diamonds").)Add on top of that anything you still want to do at midnight, like kiss your loved ones, drink champagne, or eat. The bottom line is, of course, for prosperity in the coming year.There are a bunch of things I do before something important, besides prepare like hell. If anyone sends me a message saying good luck or God bless or any encouragement, I keep it for the day. I choose a (er) particularly comfortable pair of underthings, but that's more for not being distracted by discomfort during a crucial time. There's prayer. A handkerchief given by someone dear. A pen that won't bleed. A good haircut (helps me think).I've two interviews down and one to go. The match is in mid-March. I was going to say that I'll need spectacular luck to get it this time, but those who truly believe in themselves just know. So I know. :)This recipe is from the beautiful book Warm Bread and Honey Cake, which I just reviewed at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf (click to read).Click here to view all my gingerbread posts!Gevulde Speculaas adapted from Warm Bread and Honey CakeThe original recipe for this asked for 285g (10 ounces) of almond paste for the filling, but I found even 200g (7 ounces) very rich. The funny thing is that Pagrach-Chandra says she already reeled the filling amount in as she found the competition by local bakers to put as much filling in as little pastry as possible unnecessary. For me, it's obscene to overpower gingerbread in any way!Spice Mixture1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon1 teaspoon ground ginger1/2 teaspoon ground cloves(the book uses 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon aniseed, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/8 teaspoon mace)Cake250[...]

Tartine's Steamed Gingerbread Pudding


At my last Christmas party, when everything was just getting started, we were planted idly in front of the local news. The feature story was about a woman whose lover left her 6 years ago (I'm not aware that they shared the reason for the break-up). She was reminiscing about how they adopted dogs together and spent Christmas decorating the tree, etc. Even though they'd broken up, she still decorated the tree and put presents under it (presumably for the two of them), and set up mementos of the two of them together (a pair of Christmas angels). During the entire feature, there wasn't anyone else in her giant house. She said she did all these things in the hope that one cold Christmas night, she'd return and they'd live happily ever after."Oh man," I thought, "that is just too tragic."She didn't say why she left. She didn't even know if she'd already found someone new. I'm not sure she has her phone number or knows where she is. It seemed like the one who left wasn't making any effort to be found anyway.I started to think about old friends and infatuations, how there were these days I spent wondering if I was doing everything right in the friendship and thinking about them every single day. A few years pass and it's a miracle if I even remember their birthdays. (Well, sue me, I'm a guy...) It's sad to think about it but I guess amnesia is a built-in defense mechanism that allows us to move on with our lives and maybe someday find someone new. I wanted to give tv-person a hug and say that maybe in another six years, she'll have problems remembering what her lover sounded like, and with some luck, she'll probably only remember the things about her that pissed her off. Just kidding.I don't know what she wanted to accomplish by allowing the depressing feature to be run. Did she want to be pitied by said lover so she'd come running back? I hope she does more than that to fill the void. No-one deserves to be alone, Christmas or otherwise.ANYWAY (From now on I'm just going to use an all-caps ANYWAY as a marker to separate my silly thoughts from the recipe, hee hee.)This recipe is again from one of my favorite cookbooks, Tartine. I recently reviewed it over at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf, finally!How was the recipe? It was aggressively spicy, which I love, but I think the ginger I used was on the old side and slightly more pungent than usual. No heat rash here, but it was very heady. Also, please slice the knob of ginger as thinly as you can (1/8 inch or 3mm, or even thinner). If you look closely at the pic, you'll see there are quite a few fibers of ginger in it-- not good eats.This was meant to be served with a hard sauce, but I just discovered that if you're not a fan of hard liquor, you won't be a fan of hard sauce, ha ha ha! Just go for unsweetened whipped cream if you ask me. Check out what Lisa's going to make from Tartine this month, or check out her version of the Steamed Gingerbread Pudding back from when it was cold in Australia!Steamed Gingerbread Pudding from TartineUh... I realize that the pudding isn't actually steamed. Prueitt says that the batter is so thin and watery that it "essentially steams itself." Okay!105g (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour1/2 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamonsmall pinch ground clovessmall pinch freshly ground black pepper50g (1-3/4 ounces or 1/3 cup) fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped (see note above)100g (7 tablespoons) hot water75g (6 tablespoons) sugar72g (1/3 cup) neutral oil such as canola117g (6 tablespoo[...]

Spiced Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread Cake


Just last Thursday I was able to finally meet the lovely Jen Yu in person, after envying those who were able to attend the recent food blogger conferences. I actually thought I was a little more fortunate since we were able to spend quality time, even if only for a few hours. (My idea of a perfect time would be zooming through San Francisco in search of the best Asian food, heh heh :) From reading her blog and watching her actually speak on video you can tell she's quite engaging, but it wasn't until I met her that I confirmed what others have been saying about her-- her vivacity is infectious. I suppose we all have to exercise a bit of restraint in blogland, so meeting Jen was more awesome than I could have expected.It reminded me of the time I met Allen and he told me, "You're exactly like how I imagined you." I wondered if that was a good thing. (In case you're wondering, Allen exercises much more restraint in his writing and in person he is a riot.)One thing I don't think comes through in my writing, by its nature, is that I am a total listener in person. I think sometimes it makes me come across as shy but in truth I want to devote all my attention to the person I'm talking to. As for my stories, well, they're about as openly weird as you read on my blog.And then of course there's that other side to me, the physician, with which only a few of you have communicated (usually via e-mail or twitter, when you have specific questions). I'd like to think that whatever personality I convey isn't too far from how I deal with patients (I doubt they will want to hear my inane stories).Does your personality markedly differ from your writing?Anyway, I just wanted to share a few thoughts about the movie The Mirror Has Two Faces. It's actually pretty good (CHICK FLICK!) and I've watched it a few times, but there are some moments that have stuck out to me as so-bad-it's-good, thanks in no small part to Streisand's directing.1. When Jeff Bridges takes his sport coat off in class, his students lick their fingers. Hilarious.2. We're supposed to believe that he thinks Barbra Streisand is so hot he can't see straight. (Was he supposed to be a virgin?)3. When Barbra Streisand finally shows her cleavage in class, her slack-jawed students drool. WTF4. The night they almost have sex, the orchestra swells dramatically as Streisand throws a towel on the mirror, so she doesn't see her "hideous" face. So '50s!5. Jeff Bridges marveling at the handheld visual representation of the orchestra like a lunatic. I wanted to punch him.6. No one mentioning that Streisand with the refried hair is actually a step back from down-to-earth, "natural" Streisand.Please check out a message from Duncan, editor of The Gastronomer's Bookshelf, and get to see the books released this year that have impressed us the most, as well as the one that disappointed me the most!Spiced Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread Cake from GingerbreadThis is the third gingerbread cake in my series (see the awesome Claire Clark one and the pretty good Rose Levy Beranbaum one). It was okay -- my favorite part was the pears and the cake immediately under it, but I thought the cake itself was too light, soft, and fairly dry. I think since Miette and Claire Clark I now want all my gingerbread to be dense and damp. A word of advice on upside-down cakes: If you are overlapping the fruit, don't be impressed if you make a beautiful design as you're preparing the cake. It means the design when you flip it won't b[...]

English Gingerbread Cake


When I was in elementary school I once had a friend who, every now and again, asked me what my deepest, darkest secret was. I don't quite recall if I answered the question honestly (after all, what kind of dark secrets do ten year-olds have?), but anyone who knows me, or most people for that matter, will have realized by now that it's probably one of the worst ways to get me to open up.Many years later, I then had a co-worker who, in the midst of a conversation wherein I was sharing a bit about my family life, told me to not share any of my insights about it because she was still in the process of psychoanalyzing me. It shocked me because I thought we were having a genuine conversation and actually bonding, but in the end it turned out she was just trying to figure me out.Why do people do that? Somehow we're not satisfied with slow, leisurely discovery; the give-and-take of friendship; how someone you've known for ages can still surprise you; letting someone confide in you in his own time, when he's comfortable, when trust is there. You see, at the specific moments I described above (and I'm not sure if this was their desired outcome), trust was set back (if not really present to break, yet). I didn't feel like a friend, I felt like a case study, a curiosity, that they didn't really care about me, but what JOOSY GOZZIP I would be able to supply. No thanks.Sure, in the end it usually makes me the last to know certain things about someone. I don't mind. I respect my friends and let them trust me with what they feel they want to share. And I think my friendships are better for it.This English Gingerbread Cake is from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, and I recently reviewed it at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf (click to read it). I didn't have any lemons on hand, so of course I used the calamansi from our weekly half-ton supply from my grandmother, ha ha ha. It tasted wonderful and got finished alarmingly quickly for a cake with whole wheat flour (I'm not a fan of whole wheat!), but I've revised the instructions to make it easier to mix by hand. Also, the original suggested to replace Lyle's Golden Syrup with corn syrup if the former wasn't available. Argh! Molasses is a MUCH better substitute. Of course, I am a molasses fanatic! ;)English Gingerbread Cake adapted from Rose's Heavenly Cakes113g (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter425g (1-1/4 cups) Lyle's Golden Syrup or molasses60g (1/4 cup, firmly packed) dark brown sugar40g (1 heaping tablespoon) orange marmalade or apricot preserves2 large eggs, at room temperature160g (2/3 cup) whole milk115g (1 cup) sifted all-purpose flour115g (1 cup minus 1 tablespoon lightly spooned into cup) whole wheat flour1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder1 teaspoon cinnamon1 teaspoon ground ginger1/2 teaspoon baking sodapinch of saltPreheat the oven to 160°C (325°F). Line 20cm (8") square pan with parchment to fit the bottom and sides. In a saucepan over low-medium heat, stir the butter, golden syrup or molasses, sugar, and marmalade together until melted and combined. Set aside until barely warm, then transfer to a large mixing bowl and whisk in the milk and eggs.In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Sift this flour mixture over the liquid mixture, whisking or stirring until just combined in the process. Scrape this into the prepared pan and bake 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes (make the syrup during[...]

Claire Clark's Gingerbread


Sometimes, just for fun (and not as an obsession, mind you), I like to think about what different things in the world at which I can still be the best. You see, it seems like there's a finite number of things a man can do and at least one person out there has already devoted his life to at least one of those things, so in order to become an authority, I have to think of more and more specific things. Things that are so specific the talent becomes absolutely pointless. For example, no-one has claimed the title of World's Best Cake Baker Using His Feet, so maybe I can work at it until I am that person. That is, if no-one has actually done it already. And even when I do, it's not a distinction I'd particularly enjoy holding, nor will my cakes be particularly edible (oh, they will, if they're not squeamish).Maybe in some ways I'm glad not to be a world authority, at least not in terms of baking, because there's no way I can claim to be an expert until I feel like I've satisfactorily explored every theory. And then there are the questions! Everyone interested in that food item will ask me these questions and I will feel pressured to come up with the correct answer even if I usually don't have the answers (there's that happy escape hatch that everyone's oven is different). But I'm still young at (a few days from) 28, there's still enough time to become the world's authority on something that will make a huge impact in the world, like a medical treatment.But still, in the meantime, I will always groan when I watch a show like So You Think You Can Dance and they have all these agile bodies moving fantastically. I wonder how it feels to wake up and know you are one of the most beautiful people on the planet and you can totally rock a Samba? I've a feeling they don't know either!So. Gingerbread. The best one I have ever had in my life can be found at Miette in San Francisco. This is, of course, completely subjective. Chris Kimball would probably think it is too flavorful and scary. I love its moistness and assertive spice. Unfortunately, no cookbook is in sight (yet), so I had to look for a substitute and this version from Claire Clark (formerly of The French Laundry) is the closest I've tasted. But don't let comparisons discourage you; it really is phenomenal and you may in fact prefer it over Miette's, not that the difference is that great. This is going to be my first in a series of Gingerbread-related posts. Of course I had to start with the best one! (And no, it wasn't from Tartine!)Read my review of Claire Clark's Indulge over at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf!Gingerbread adapted from Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts120g (8-1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature120g (1/2 cup + 1-1/2 tablespoon) soft dark brown sugar220g (3/4 cup minus 1 tablespoon) molasses2 large eggs, lightly beaten220g (1-1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon) all-purpose flour2 teaspoons baking powder1 teaspoon salt2 tablespoons ground ginger1 tablespoon ground allspice1/2 teaspoon baking sodaPreheat the oven to 170°C (325°F). Line a 12-well regular muffin tin with paper liners. In a large bowl, cream the butter, dark brown sugar and molasses together until fluffy and paler in color. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition. In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients together. Sift them over the butter mixture and fold until well-combined. Divide equally between the 12 liners and bak[...]