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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Passion Fruit and Milk Chocolate - Round Two

After I satisfied my cravings for passion fruit milk chocolate macaron, I still had 1 container each of passion fruit mixture and milk chocolate ganache, and half a slab of passion fruit pate de fruit. I was thinking how I could use them to make another dessert and an idea came to mind: passion fruit milk chocolate mousse cake, yuuuummmm... Easy and delicious round two recipe :)

Passion Fruit Milk Chocolate Mousse Cake
Yield 6 3X2-inch round cake

Sacher cake (adapted from Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard)

3 eggs, separated
35 grams almond flour
39 grams sugar
13 grams cocoa powder

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Beat 2 egg whites with 1 tablespoon of sugar (from the 39 grams) until stiff peak and reserve.
3. Whisk the 3 egg yolks and 1 egg white with the remaining sugar and almond flour until the mixture doubles in volume and turns a pale yellow color, about 10 minutes.
4. Gently fold the cocoa powder into the yolk mixture.
5. Fold the egg white foam into the yolk-cocoa mixture.
6. Pour the batter into a buttered and floured 9X9-inch square cake pan.
7. Bake for about 10 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
8. Cool the cake at room temperature, take it out of the pan, and cut into circles that fit the bottom of the ring mold.

Passion fruit mousse

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped
3/4 cup passion fruit mixture (leftover from passion fruit pate de fruit)
3/4 (2 oz) packet gelatin, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

1. Add dissolved gelatin to the passion fruit mixture and mix well.
2. Fold whipped cream into the passion fruit-gelatin mixture.

Chocolate mousse

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped
3/4 cup milk chocolate ganache (leftover from milk chocolate ganache for the macaron), melted
3/4 (2 oz) packet gelatin, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

1. Add dissolved gelatin to the melted milk chocolate ganache and mix well.
2. Fold whipped cream into the ganache-gelatin mixture.

Chocolate crumbs

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
1/2 cup cookie crumbs (use any cookie, I used leftover hazelnut meringue)

1. Mix melted chocolate and cookie crumbs.
2. Spread mixture on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or silicon mat and refrigerate.
3. Crumble into small pieces before use.

1. Cover one end of the ring mold with foil or plastic wrap.
2. Put one piece of sacher cake at the bottom of the mold on top of the foil or plastic wrap.
3. Pour or pipe the passion fruit mousse on top of the cake to fill half of the mold.
4. Sprinkle the chocolate crumbs on top of the passion fruit mousse.
5. Put a piece of leftover passion fruit pate de fruit (cut into circles) on top of the chocolate crumbs.
6. Pour or pipe the chocolate mousse on top of the pate de fruit to fill the mold.
7. Freeze the cake for 30 minutes.
8. Unmold the cake using a knife dipped in hot water to run through the sides of the mold.
9. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

Gosh... Didn't realize this involved so many steps until I wrote it down. I said it was easy, not quick :D Anw, here is the cake..
Looks pretty impressive huh :p My chocolate mousse was not as smooth as I wanted to, but it still tasted good. To eat this properly, you have to get all the layers in one bite. The passion fruit mousse and pate de fruit are pretty sour, so you'll be overwhelmed by their sour taste if you eat them by themselves. Go ahead and try this recipe, see if you like it as much as I do ^^

New Favorite Flavor Combination: Passion Fruit & Milk Chocolate

I used to hate sour taste in my dessert, but my opinion was completely changed when I bit into a passion fruit milk chocolate macaron by Jean Paul Hevin
(the one with brown and yellow shell)
It was a perfect balance of the creaminess of milk chocolate and the fragrance of passion fruit. The sourness of passion fruit did not overshadow the delicate sweetness of milk chocolate at all. I was immediately hooked. 

I'd been wanting to try this flavor combination but couldn't find good quality passion fruit puree in my little town. Until one day, I went to a local international food market and the store owner said that they have 100% natural passion fruit puree. I was so excited that I immediately made a batch of macaron when I got back from the store. I used Pierre Herme's recipe for macaron shell and chocolate ganache, and Jacques Pepin's pate de fruit recipe to make passion fruit pate de fruit. The results....
The milk chocolate ganache was runny (more like thick chocolate sauce) so I had to freeze the macaron after filling them with the ganache. Might be caused by different cocoa butter content in Herme's recipe, hmm... not sure.. Anw, the flavor was still delicious, the sweetness was just right, and the sourness of passion fruit complemented the richness and creaminess of milk chocolate extremely well. The pate de fruit in the middle gave the macaron an additional layer of texture, so I think it was a good idea. 

Passion Fruit Milk Chocolate Macaron
Yield 72 macarons (depends on how big you pipe it)

400 g milk chocolate (I use Callebaut)
400 ml heavy cream
140 g unsalted butter

1. Chop the milk chocolate into small chunks and put them in a bowl.
2.Heat heavy cream in a pan and let boil for 1 minute.
3.Pour the heavy cream on the chocolate and let sit for about 3 minutes.
4. Stir the chocolate-cream mixture until smooth and add the butter little by little while continue stirring.
5. Let the ganache cool down to room temperature, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until use.

Passion fruit pate de fruit

1 (14 oz) package of 100% natural frozen passion fruit puree (I used Goya)
1/4 cup apricot preserve
1 cup sugar
1 (2 oz) packet gelatin, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

1. Simmer passion fruit puree, apricot preserve, and sugar for 20 minutes over medium heat until slightly reduced.
2. Take 1 cup of the passion fruit mixture and add the dissolved gelatin. Keep the remaining passion fruit mixture in the refrigerator.
3. Stir the mixture thoroughly and pour it into a baking pan lined with plastic wrap. The thickness of the mixture in the pan should be about 1/4 inch.
4. Let the mixture cool down to room temperature and refrigerate until firm.
5. Cut the pate de fruit into small squares (size depends on the size of your macaron) before filling the macaron.

Macaron shell

300 g almond powder (blanched almonds ground into fine powder)
300 g powdered sugar
110 g egg whites

300 g granulated sugar
75 g water
110 g egg whites

1. Combine almond powder and powdered sugar in a bowl. Sift to remove lumps if necessary.
2. Put granulated sugar and water in a pan and heat over medium heat until the temperature reaches 215 F (use a candy thermometer).
3. When the sugar mixture reaches 200 F, starts beating 110 g egg whites (don't overbeat). Once the sugar mixture reaches 215 F, pour it into the beating egg whites (make sure the mixer is still running when you pour the sugar mixture, or you'll end up with scrambled egg whites). Keep beating the egg whites until it forms stiff peak.
4. Pour another 110 g egg whites on the almond-sugar mixture and scoop the beaten egg whites on top of it.
5. Fold the mixture together until uniform but don't overmix. It should take no more than 50 strokes.
6. Pipe the batter on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicon mat.
7. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour or until the surface of the piped batter feels dry when touched. Preheat oven to 350 F while waiting.
8. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until done. Let cool and fill with the fillings.

Making macaron is challenging because it involves a lot of steps. The key is to not overmix the batter. Once you get the knack of knowing when to stop mixing, you're golden. Sometimes I still get cracked and weird-looking macaron, but when I get it right it is super rewarding.  If you need more tips on making macaron, Syrup & Tang has a very helpful website. Still worried? Don't be, just face your batter :)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

One Lazy Saturday Morning: Toast, Egg, and Bacon

With all of my friends and roommate going on a trip to somewhere warm for spring break, I got to keep the apartment to myself and had a lazy Saturday morning breakfast. My everyday breakfast usually only consists of 2% milk, any cereal I have on hand, and a banana. I love cereal, but after a while it gets boring and I want to make something special for my breakfast this morning. I opened the fridge and I found old sliced white bread, eggs, and bacon. Not very exciting.. Then, I remembered the cover of the newest Food Network magazine..
Toast, egg, and bacon with a little twist, ordinary yet interesting and most importantly, easy. So I took my bread, cut a hole in the middle of it with a large heart-shaped cookie cutter (to make it more interesting), and fried it in a frying pan with a little bit of butter over medium heat. Once the side facing down turned golden brown, I flipped the bread, turned the heat to low, put an egg in the heart-shaped hole, and wait until the egg white became translucent. I took the bread carefully off the pan with a rubber spatula and fried two pieces of bacon on the same pan. The result...
Simple, delicious, hot breakfast for one :) The heart-shaped hole didn't retain its shape, so I think I'll use regular round cookie cutter next time. I fried the bacon extra crispy, but you can fry it less if you like less crispy bacon. The egg was a perfect sunny side-up with tender white and runny yolk..
YUUMMMMM!!! For those of you who are looking for an easy hot breakfast, try it and you'll be amazed at how simple ingredients can have such a big taste :)

A Little Taste of ChamBana

My friends in lab and I were discussing about restaurants in Champaign-Urbana (where we are) this afternoon and we realized that we have quite a variety. Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, Mediterranean, Thai, Vietnamese, you name it, we have it. Not bad at all for a small college town. As we continued our discussion, it seemed like I had tried almost all of the restaurants here and knew the menus pretty well. As a result, they asked me to write about my recommendations in my blog. I probably won't remember the names of all my favorite dishes in each of the restaurants, because usually I can just describe them and the owners know what I mean. So, forgive me if I confuse you with my descriptions.. Since there are a lot of restaurants in ChamBana, I'll only give my recommendations for some Chinese, Thai/Vietnamese, and Korean restaurants in this post.


Mandarin Wok (403 E. Green St., Champaign, IL)
- Crispy tofu
- Taiwanese mala chicken
- Pork with mayonnaise (not really a a Chinese dish, I think)
- Sweet and sour fish
- Fish with black pepper egg sauce
- Stir fried nappa cabbage with egg
- Shrimp in XO sauce
- Chicken #720 (rather spicy, the # is the # of the item on the wall)
*The dimsum is so-so except for the shrimp balls and I've read some not-so-good reviews about their pho.

Lai-Lai Wok (402 E. Green St., Champaign, IL)
- Walnut shrimp
- Three-cup chicken
- Salt and pepper pork chop
- Braised beef tendon (if you like gelatinous chewy food)
- Seafood fried noodles
- Singapore-style rice noodle
- Fried chicken leg over rice
- Pork chop over rice
- Meatball nappa cabbage casserole
- Mapo tofu
*This restaurant serves Taiwanese-style Chinese food.

Bobo China (404 E. Green St., Champaign, IL)
- Three chilli chicken (basically this dish is why I come to Bobo for)
- Beef with enoki mushroom
- Chicken with vermicelli in a reddish sauce (I don't remember the name, it's usually included in their buffet line)
- Shabu-shabu (pretty good and cheap)
*I rarely eat here and when I do, 95% of the time I order three chilli chicken.

Cravings (603 S. Wright St, Champaign, IL)
- Jakarta fried rice (reminds me of home ^^)
- Bi Feng Tang shrimp (fried shrimp with crispy topping)
- Three cup chicken
- Tom Yum fish (stir-fried with tom yum seasoning, not soup)
- Crispy beef
- Braised beef tendon
*Their dishes are more like Malaysian-Chinese. Usually go there for the Jakarta fried rice.

Peking Garden (206 N. Randolph St.)
- La Zi Ji (fried chicken chunks with chillies)
- Shui Zhu Yu Pian (fish in spicy soup)
- Zha Peng Fei Chang (fried pork intestine)
- Jing Cong Pa Ya (hot plate duck)
- Niang Dou Fu (fried stuffed tofu)
*Best Sze Chuan food in town for me. Be careful though, some of their dishes are spicy.


Golden Wok (405 E. University Ave, Champaign, IL)
- Chicken pad thai
- Beef pad seew
- Duck fried rice
- Spicy curry chicken
- Combination pho with beef and meatballs
*They serve mostly Thai food, but their pho is pretty good. I like their pad thai and pad seew the most out of all Thai restaurants in ChamBana. Big portion and cheap :D

Thara Thai (912 W. Bloomington Rd, Champaign, IL)
- Som Tum (spicy papaya salad)
- House special salad
- Basil fried rice
- Pineapple fried rice
- Tom Kha Gai
- Beef pad seew
- Mussaman curry
*The price is more expensive than Golden Wok, but they serve a lot of dishes that Golden Wok doesn't.

Siam Terrace (212 W. Main St., Urbana, IL)
- Thai fish cake
- Dragon shrimp
- Siam Terrace fried rice
- Lava trio
- Fish with chili sauce
- Devil fish
- Duck basil
- Spicy catfish
- Sticky rice with mango/ durian
*I rarely eat here because the price here is even more expensive than Thara Thai, but overall their food is good.

Saigon (1333 Savoy Plaza, Savoy, IL. Next to Schnuck's)
- Any pho (best pho in ChamBana for me)
- Com Tam (rice served with grilled pork and sides)
- Another Com dish with grilled beef
- Bun dish with either grilled pork or grilled beef and spring roll
- Egg noodle in curry sauce
- Summer roll (cold unfried spring roll filled with shrimp and vegetables)
*Love love love their com and bun dishes with grilled meat, let it be chicken, pork, or beef. They're all very tasty :)


Star Karaoke (1503 Lyndhurst Alley, Savoy, IL. Near Savoy 16 Theatre)
- Galbi Tang
- Homemade gyoza
- Fried chicken (they have different sauces in Korean which I don't know, but I usually order the mild one)
- Bulgogi
*My friends and I have the fried chicken almost every weekend. They're soooo good!! They are crispy, saucy, and just plain finger-lickin' delicious ^o^ Overall, they serve good quality food, so don't be deceived by the "Karaoke".

Good Fella (905 S. Neil St., Champaign, IL)
- Seafood pancake
- Rice cake with vegetable stir-fried in hot sauce
- Grilled Gal Bi (beef short ribs that you grill yourself on the table)
- Hot noodle soup in pot
- Pork neckbone soup (special, not on menu)
- Fish cake (free side that comes with your dishes, you can request for more if you like it)
*I usually go to this restaurant with my friends, so we always order dishes to share. The dishes I mentioned above are meant for 2-4 people/dish.

Woori Jib (710 S. 6th St, Champaign, IL)
- Pork BBQ
- Beef BBQ
- Spicy gal bi tang
- Samgye tang (Korean chicken ginseng soup)
*Their bbq dishes are very good, but the other ones are mediocre.

Arirang (607 S. Wright St, Champaign, IL)
- Fried mackerel and soondubu jjigae combo (pan-fried mackerel fish and soft tofu stew)
- Jab chae (stir fried vermicelli)
- Dol sot bibimbab (rice with vegetables, minced meat, and egg in a hot stone bowl)
- Budae jjigae (stew with everything in it)
- Bulgogi
*I always go to this restaurant when I crave for dol sot bibimbab; theirs really is the best in town. Unlike in other restaurants, you can get the gojuchang (fermented spicy soy bean paste) or sesame oil at the end of the cashier table and add as much as you want to your bibimbab. (I like a lot of gojuchang on mine :) )

Fheww.. Writing this blog makes me hungry. Anw, those are my recommendations for some restaurants in ChamBana. There are certainly more delicious dishes that I have not tried in each of the restaurants, so if you look at the menu and find something interesting but not listed here, try it. You'll probably love the dish and want to come back for more.

Oh, sorry about the lack of pictures in this post. I'll upload some when I get the chance to walk around town and take some pictures. If you can't wait,  you can see this blog (www.champaign-taste.blogspot.com). It has a lot of pictures, recommendations, and reviews of much more restaurants in ChamBana.

P.S. Atilio and Marianna, hope this helps :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

To bake or not to bake: Cheesecake dilemma

I love love love love cheesecake.. But when I'm thinking of making one, the first thing that comes to mind is, "Should I bake or should I not?". Before I talk about my dilemma, I shall explain to you that there are two different types of cheesecake: baked and no-bake/ chilled. Within baked cheesecake, there are two different versions, one is the Asian version which involves incorporating whipped egg white into the batter and the other is the American version that you most probably are more familiar with.

So why the dilemma? They're all cheesecake! No no no... Ok, they are all made from cream cheese and have a graham cracker crust, but those are the only things that they have in common. Baked and no-bake cheesecakes have completely different texture. Baked cheesecake is dense and velvety, while no-bake cheesecake is light and airy. Their characteristics are the results of the different techniques used. In baked cheesecake, you mix the cream cheese, egg, sugar, and other ingredients together and usually minimal air incorporation is strongly recommended. In no-bake cheesecake, on the other hand, you mix the cream cheese with other ingredients and then fold in whipped cream at the end. You need the air incorporation in the whipped cream to give no-bake cheesecake its airy texture. In short, baked cheesecake is more like a dense custard, while no-bake cheesecake is more like a mousse.

For me, I prefer baked over no-bake cheesecake, but it doesn't mean that no-bake cheesecake is no good. It's great! You can layer no-bake cheesecake batter with mousse, ganache, jelly, and what not to create a layered dessert, like this
(No-bake cheesecake + vanilla sponge cake + mango jelly + fresh mango and strawberry cubes)
Or divide the batter and color them separately to make this
(Made this for Halloween 2 years ago)

No-bake cheesecake is great for layering and easy to conform to various shapes of mold. On the contrary, it is difficult to bake cheesecake in weird-shaped molds, because the batter can get stuck. It is usually delicious by itself or topped with toppings, such as fruits, like this
Or it can be divided, flavored separately, baked, and covered with buttercream to create a combination cheesecake like this
If you want to play with texture, you can layer baked cheesecake with chocolate cake and ganache to make a chocolate-cake-cheesecake, like this
You've seen the pictures, so are you ready for the recipe? I post one recipe for baked and another one for no-bake cheesecake from Allrecipes.com with slight modification. Now, it's time to think, "To bake or not to bake?"

Baked Cheesecake (original recipe from here)
Yield 1 - 9 inch springform pan

Ingredients for crust:
15 graham crackers, crushed (you can buy crushed graham crackers, use about 1 1/2 cups if you use this)
3 table spoons butter, melted

Ingredients for filling:
4 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese (I use Philadelphia)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup milk
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1. Take out the cream cheese from fridge and let sit at room temperature until soft.
2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan.
3. In a bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Press onto bottom of springform pan and refrigerate while you're making the filling.
4. Starts heating a pot of water (fill the pot about 1/3 full) over medium heat.
5. In a large (preferably metal) bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Blend in milk, put the bowl on top of the heating pot of water, and whisk the mixture gently until you can see no lumps
6. Turn off the heat, remove bowl from the pot, and let the mixture cool for 15 minutes. 
7. Add eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in sour cream and vanilla.
8. In a small bowl, scoop a little bit of the batter and mix in the flour until smooth. Add the flour mixture to the batter and mix well but gently.
9. Pour filling into prepared crust and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour or less (depends on your oven). Test of doneness: the cheesecake should jiggle slightly in the middle when moved. Turn off the oven and let cake cool in oven with the door closed for 1 to 2 hours to prevent cracking. Chill overnight to let the flavors meld together.

*The double-boiler (putting your bowl on a heating pot of water) method helps with removing lumps and ensures a smooth velvety cheesecake. If you are mixing your batter in a food processor, you can eliminate this step.
*Gentle mixing is advised to minimize incorporation of air which will result in Grand-Canyon-like crack upon baking.
*Cooling the cake in the oven for several hours also prevent cracking.

No-Bake Cheesecake (original recipe from here)
Yield 1 - 9 inch springform pan

Ingredients for crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Ingredients for filling:
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
2/3 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice (or more if you like stronger lemon flavor)
1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped
1. Take out the cream cheese from the fridge and let sit at room temperature until soft.
2. In a bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Press on the bottom of springform pan and refrigerate while you're making the filling.
3. Beat cream cheese, sugar, and lemon juice until smooth (no lumps)
4. Whip heavy cream until stiff peak and fold into cream cheese mixture.
5. Pour mixture on top of the prepared crust. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

*Gentle mixing is not required in making no-bake cheesecake, because you want to incorporate air into the batter to create a light and airy texture
*If you have to take this cake out to a hot environment, add 1 packet of powdered gelatin dissolved in 2 Tbsp of water to the batter (add 2 Tbsp water in a bowl, sprinkle gelatin on top, let sit for 3-4 minutes, microwave for about 10 seconds until all granules are dissolved, let cool, and incorporate into batter).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My favorite dough: Pâte à choux

If I have to choose one dough that I think you should learn how to make, it's pâte à choux. Don't be intimidated by the Frenchy name. It's basically just the dough that you make cream puffs from. It's very easy to make and the dough is very forgiving, so if you mess up a little bit, you'll still end up with pretty decent dough. Also, you only need one pan to make the dough! So, no messy kitchen sink afterward ^^

I used to use Martha Stewart's recipe to make pâte à choux, but I found a better version from a Japanese cookbook (一流シェフのとっておきシュークリーム―). Unfortunately, the recipe uses metric system. My advise to you who don't own a scale: get one. I promise you it is a great investment, especially if you want to be serious about baking ;) Anw, I tried my best to convert the metric measurement to cups and tablespoons, but I don't guarantee that the volume measurement will produce the same quality. Nevertheless, here's the recipe:

 Pâte à choux
Yield: 14 mini eclairs or 10 small cream puffs or 5 large cream puffs

100 g (scant 1/2 cup) water
100 g (scant 1/2 cup) whole milk
90 g (6 1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 g (1/2 teaspoon) salt
4 g (1 tsp) granulated sugar
110 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
200 g (4) eggs
1 egg for egg wash

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
2. Boil the water, milk, butter, salt, and sugar in a pan.
3. Once the mixture boils, turn of the heat and add the flour all at once. Mix vigorously until they form a homogeneous lump. Turn on the heat to medium and keep stirring until a white film forms at the bottom of your pan.
4. Let the mixture cool down to room temperature (you can wait or if you're in a hurry you can transfer the dough to another bowl and beat it with your hand mixer).
5. Add the 4 eggs one at a time. Beat until the mixture is uniform after each addition.
6. Transfer the dough to a piping bag with Wilton 1A/large round tip (if you don't have a pastry bag and tip, just transfer the dough into a resealable plastic bag and snip off one of the corners)
7. Pipe out cream puffs or eclairs on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and brush with egg wash from 1 egg.
8. Bake the piped dough for 20 minutes at 375 F. Then, lower the temperature to 250 F and bake for 20 more minutes.
9. Let cool and fill with your favorite filling. 

*If you take the puffs out of the oven and they start deflating, put them back in the oven for a few more minutes. 
*If they're getting too dark too fast, cover them with aluminum foil and continue baking.
*You can double or triple the recipe as you wish.

Here's how the dough looks after being piped and before baking
 I froze the dough until they are firm (~15 minutes) and then topped it with a pastry crust to give it a crunchier texture. You don't have to do this, but if you like Beard Papa's cookie crunch cream puffs, you should. After I bake and fill the mini puffs, they look like this
 Yummm... They're flaky, creamy, sweet morsels of perfection ^_^ Too simple, you say? You can pipe the dough into eclairs, fill them with filling, and top them with chunks of your favorite fruit, like this

Still too simple? You can make them into croquembouche (tower of mini cream puffs decorated with spun sugar) or
St. Honoré (hard to describe, you'll see the picture), like these
One messy croquembouche..

and St. Honoré.. See how exciting pâte à choux is? There are many other variations that you can make, but I have yet to try them out. Alrighty then, enjoy making your own pâte à choux :)


Oops, almost forgot about the filling. Here's a filling recipe from Martha Stewart that I always use with a little bit modification

Creme Chiboust (pastry cream with whipped cream)

Yield 2 1/2 cups

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup heavy cream

1. Mix egg yolks with corn starch and 1/4 cup sugar.
2. In a pan, add the milk, remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, and salt. Heat the mixture at medium heat and boil it for 1 minute.
3. Slowly add the milk mixture to the yolk mixture while whisking to prevent the yolk from curdling. Continue adding until all the milk mixture is added to the yolk mixture.
4. Return the milk-yolk mixture to the pan and cook at medium heat until it boils for 1 minute.
5. Remove from heat, add butter and vanilla extract. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator until cool.
6. Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream to stiff peak and fold into the cooled pastry cream.
7. Now, you're ready to fill your puffs!

If you don't want to make your own filling, you can buy instant pudding mix and prepare it according to manufacturer's direction and just fold in the whipped cream.

My 1st blog ever and Tiramisu..

Hi everyone!! Thanks to my friends who encouraged me to start a blog and to my 3-weeks worth of research which just went down the drain, I get to stop doing experiments and have some free time to start a blog :D Anw, I'm just a regular graduate student in a small college town who is bored to death with my research. So what do I do outside of my lab? I bake. Every day, sometimes even twice a day, doesn't matter morning, noon, or night. I'm not professionally trained, I just LOVE baking. When you open the oven and see your cupcakes rise as high as Mount Everest.. (well maybe not Everest, but you get what I mean) it's an indescribable feeling of triumph and joy. The first cake I baked was a Black Forest with a soupy filling and a cake that is as hard as a brick. I'll never forget the look on my friend's face for whom the cake was made. Poor him, it was his birthday and he had to eat the disaster. Should have bought an ice cream cake instead.. Too bad, I don't have the picture of that cake..

Well, after that incidence, I tried a lot of different recipes to improve my baking skills. One of the first few recipes was Tiramisu. Tiramisu, really? Isn't it extremely difficult to make Tiramisu? Trust me my friend, it's not as hard as you think. It doesn't even involve baking. Technically you can bake your own ladyfingers, but I'm too lazy and I think store-bought ladyfingers taste fine. I got this recipe from www.allrecipes.com and modified it to my taste. I included some tips, that I think will help you even more, in the directions . So, here it goes:


Yield: 1 9-inch springform pan

6 egg yolks
3/4 cup white sugar
2/3 cup whole milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound mascarpone cheese (I use Bel Gioioso)
1/4 cup strong brewed coffee, room temperature
2 tablespoons rum
3 (3 ounce) packages soft ladyfinger or 1 1/2 (7 ounce) packages of hard ladyfinger
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Take the mascarpone cheese out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature until soft.
2. In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Whisk in milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture boils. Boil gently for 1 minute, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.
3. After the egg yolk mixture is cooled, whisk in mascarpone until smooth. If lumps form, strain the mixture. Do not blend the mixture using a food processor, otherwise you'll end up with mixture that won't firm up.
4. In another bowl, beat heavy cream with vanilla until stiff peaks form and fold it into the yolk mixture. You can spread the yolk mixture and whipped cream separately, but I like how the whipped cream lighten up the yolk mixture.
5. In yet another bowl, combine coffee and rum. You can replace coffee and rum with 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoon coffee liquor (Kahlua).
6. Line the side of your springform pan with ladyfingers. Line the bottom of the pan with ladyfingers, break them into pieces to fill gaps if necessary.
7. Using a pastry brush, brush the coffee-rum mixture on the ladyfingers at the bottom of the pan. Do not brush the ladyfingers on the sides of the pan and make sure you don't dip the ladyfingers in the coffee-rum mixture or you'll end up with a pool of coffee at the bottom of your fridge (this happened to me).
8. Pour 1/2 of the yolk-cream mixture on the ladyfingers and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder.
9. Put another layer of ladyfingers on top of the cocoa powder, brush with coffee mixture, top with yolk-cream mixture, and lastly sprinkle with remaining cocoa powder.
10. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight to let the flavors meld together.
11. Unmold the Tiramisu and Voila!

Fheewww... Looks complicated? Don't worry, if you follow the directions carefully, you'll be absolutely fine :)

Here is a picture of my first attempt
I dipped the ladyfingers in the coffee mixture and then line the side and bottom of the pan. The result: not very pretty, but still delicious Tiramisu.

My second attempt
Didn't dip the ladyfingers, instead I brushed the bottom and middle layers of ladyfingers with the coffee mixture. Tie a bow around it, decorate it with some chocolate at the top. The result: much better looking Tiramisu with the same great taste.

I hope you like my first post. Now, go to the grocery store, buy the ingredients, and start making your own Tiramisu. Remember, FACE THE BATTER!!