Happy Friday! Just popping in to wish you guys a happy weekend and to share these teeny apple crumbles, up on Verily Magazine today. These little guys were one of the first mini-fied “for two” recipes I made for this blog, and they’re still one of my all-time favorites. They’re unbelievably easy to make (seriously, you probably don’t need a recipe) and they have all the pairings I love in a little 4-ounce package: crisp textures on top matched with soft and comforting underneath, sweet notes with savory ones, warm gooey fall-spiced filling with cold ice cream. I’m especially in love with the cheddar in the crumble topping — it might be off-putting to some, but I promise it’s so delightful. Far from being jarring, the cheddar melts into a subtle nutty, savory note that’s barely but happily noticeable, and adds a little chewy resiliency to the crust that I adore. You can find the full recipe here. I hope you all have fantastic weekends!
It always surprises me around this time of year that summer hasn’t technically ended. Less so when I hear about sweltering heat in LA or abiding humidity in Florida, but at least around these parts, it feels like fall. We’re retiring our AC and pulling out sweaters. The air has a crisp snap to it in the mornings; the leaves are edging golden. The subway fills up more on my way to work, and I’m back to coming home from work in the cool gloss of darkness.
At the same time, there are still fleeting hints of summer around, even if it doesn’t feel like it outside. The afternoons are sunny, and the local markets are still overflowing with summer produce. This past weekend, I came home with a bounty of white nectarines that were sweeter than candy. And this week, I’m still eating ice cream. This (dairy-free!) Thai peanut version, to be specific.
Truth be told, I’m kind of overdue for a homemade dairy-free ice cream. Eating a lot of lactose almost always makes me uncomfortable, but because I’m bad, I do it anyways — clearly. And clearly again. (I’m single-handedly setting back the cause of people with mild food intolerances.) But after a few too many internal struggles, and after coming across an abundance of gorgeous dairy-free ice creams this summer (just look here and here!), I thought it was time to own up, because frankly, the dairy-free versions are just as good — if not better!
This is a riff on a Jeni’s flavor I’ve been meaning to try for a long time. Her Bangkok Peanut ice cream has fascinated me ever since a friend came back from a Jeni’s in Nashville raving about it, and I thought it’d be the perfect place to start with dairy-free ice cream, given that it already contains coconut milk, and all her ice creams are egg-free to begin with. In addition to the cornstarch and corn syrup combination Jeni already uses to fortify her ice cream, I added a tablespoon of bourbon to keep the ice away, as per Ashley’s tip to add alcohol, and replaced the cream cheese in her formula with a little extra peanut butter.
I was completely in love with the taste and texture that resulted. It was the fluffiest, softest ice cream I’ve ever made, with a thick and creamy texture that’s reminiscent of gelato. And just like Jeni says, the taste is like pad Thai in ice cream, in the best, least-weird way possible — it has a subtle coconut flavor, the smoothest, richest peanut butter taste, and a punchy edge from the cilantro and red pepper I ended up topping it with. To me, it’s an ideal bridge between late summer and early fall. Cool and refreshing, but creamy and decadent enough to be comforting, especially with the touch of heat from the cayenne.
I hope you’re all having a great last Wednesday of summer!
Edit: The first version of this post listed this ice cream as vegan, which I’ve now realized was totally incorrect. It contains honey, so it is only dairy-free. You can replace the honey with agave nectar, maple syrup, or more corn syrup to keep the recipe vegan. Thank you so much to the commenter who asked!
For as long as I can remember, the Mid-Autumn Festival has been one of my favorite holidays. It means it’s time for the best dessert known to me –- mooncakes. I am obsessed with mooncakes. Dense and rich, with intensely sweet, velvety-smooth fillings and a vermilion duck yolk in the center, they’re so good that I used to wait all year for the few months in the fall when they’d appear on the shelves.
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be in Hong Kong right around the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival. In Hong Kong, mooncakes are something artisanal -– in August and September, the Peninsula Hotel will sell only a limited number of extravagantly priced boxes, while the regular Hong Kong bakeries turn to selling almost nothing else, their shelves filled to bursting with every variety you can imagine. They’re traditionally given as gifts during the holiday, since the Mid-Autumn Festival is a little bit like a Chinese Thanksgiving, and a time for family reunions. But maybe I kept a stash in my fridge that year, just for me. You know … maybe.
Being away from mooncake mecca this year, I thought I’d try something different and make them from scratch. I expected them to be finicky, or at best a poor imitation of storebought cakes, but they were wonderful, and not at all as hard as I thought they would be. All you need is one of these nifty molds from handy Amazon, and a few specialty items from the Asian market. And the result is a mooncake that strips away everything heavy and indulgent about the dessert, but is just as delicious and nostalgic as the original.
Happy zhongqiu jie to anyone celebrating!
It’s another baby-cake! Last week, I wrote a little bit about my wedding cake fantasies and how I spent a weekend baking the mini versions of the cakes I’d like to bake if I made my own cake. One was a tiny hummingbird cake, and the other is this one. It’s one of my favorite cakes ever, and one that I really meant to share a lot sooner. It started all the way in September of last year, when I caught a glimpse of this gorgeous cake by MBakes and was so instantly smitten that I spent the next week holed up in the kitchen recreating a mini version. It was one of my first real attempts at mini-fying cakes — and I think it involved enough dense, fallen, gummy mini failures to make up a full-sized cake — but the result was a recipe that I’ve used as a guide to a ton of other mini cakes since then. It was the basis for last week’s hummingbird cake, plus this carrot cake I shared back in February, and like I mentioned then, it’s become my go-to for birthdays, going-away parties, random face-stuffing extravaganzas, you name it.
So after talking about it (throwback alert!) and talking about it and talking about it some more, here’s the little mini-zucchini (doesn’t that seem like it should rhyme?) cake that gave way to all the others! The cake has all the moist decadence I love from zucchini bread, but with a lighter, more delicate crumb, and the frosting is (in my humble opinion) incredible. The lime juice is the perfect lively balance to the cream cheese, and the basil was a recent addition that I’m equally crazy about. It might have been a little odd as a real wedding cake layer, but in my hypothetical wedding world, I love it.
I hope you’re all having fantastic Wednesdays! And such a huge hug and thank-you to everyone who commented on the hummingbird cake and shared your thoughts and experiences with me! I love hearing about weddings of all kinds, so it was super fun — and the advice is much appreciated. As far as blog-weddings go, you’re all totally invited and welcome to unlimited imaginary slices of an impeccably frosted, towering three-tiered wedding cake with a green tea layer, a hummingbird layer, and a zucchini layer. And all kinds of frostings. (In the blog-world, none of it clashes.)
Bowl #2 and I first discovered cold brew coffee a little over a year ago. In the midst of an epic New York heat wave (in the midst of an un-air-conditioned apartment), we thought it was nothing short of magic. Just coffee grounds, water, and time, and not only do you get to skip boiling water, waiting for coffee to cool, fiddling with coffee ice cubes — but you get a sweetly aromatic brew, full of previously unsung flavor notes, and completely different from the bitter, toasty coffee from drip machines. (If you couldn’t guess, I’m a fan.)
So when the lovely ladies at Verily Magazine asked me what I thought of a doing a cold brew affogato, I was all on board. Traditionally, affogato is served with hot espresso, but I get a little freaked every time that everything’s going to melt and end up eating the entire dessert with a mild sense of panic (casual). So I love the idea of serving it with coffee that’s already cold, and even more with cold brew, since I find it to be noticeably sweeter than regular coffee, with a hint of chocolate depending on the grounds you use. If that’s not asking to be combined with ice cream, I don’t know what is.
You can find my take on how to make cold brew concentrate and cold brew affogato here. Happy Friday! Wishing you all the loveliest weekend ahead.
So, this wedding planning thing, huh?
As it turns out, I’m not the most decisive person in the world. (Bowl #2, who is now diametrically opposed to the phrase “It’s up to you,” is probably laughing right now.) I like things, and I like some things more than other things, but when it comes to actually making a decision — especially a decision for something like a wedding! — sometimes all I can think about is whether the other thing might be better. OK, let’s do a DJ during the ceremony. (But what about live music?) Sure, let’s do a fish option. (But what about chicken?!) Yeah, you’re right, it’d be crazy for me to make my own cake. (But … cake!) I’ve treated everyone I’ve worked with so far to a symphony of really long, really drawn-out “umm”s, which I’m guessing is super enjoyable for all involved.
Happily, we’ve now finalized a lot of our decisions — and signed the contracts, when is when I finally stop thinking about the what-about‘s. But we haven’t decided on cake yet! So far, I’ve impulsively declared about four times that I’m just going to make it, and then about four more times realized I have no idea where I would freeze the layers or where I would store the finished cake or how I would transport it or … how to make a tiered cake to begin with. So as much as I fear the what-about of cold, dry wedding cake with chalky buttercream and styrofoam insides, I’ve shelved that idea for now. (There are a lot of deep messages in there about how it’s not the details that are important on the big day, or how it’s healthy to learn to relinquish control over the things that don’t matter, which are all totally true — but it’s mostly that I was stumped when it came to finding freezer space.)
To assuage my cake-making urges, the other weekend I spent a few quiet hours making the cakes I think I would have liked to make if I actually did it. (You know, except for two people, instead of a hundred.) They were the moistest cakes I knew how to make, obviously — one was a zucchini cake that is one of my all-time favorites, which I’m excited to share soon, and the other is this hummingbird cake. There are so many things I love about this teeny cake. It’s quaintly symbolic, given that it’s a quintessentially Southern cake, sweet and decadent and emblematic of where I grew up, but it’s also packed with all the tropical things that remind me of Bowl #2’s home in Hawaii. (If only I’d added some haupia!) The toasted coconut on top is unreal (how did I never toast coconut before this?), and the mashed banana and crushed pineapple make it so moist that it drives away any thoughts of frozen, crumbly-dry wedding cake. For now, that’s good enough for me!
Have you ever made a wedding cake or considered making your own? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences if you have! (Also, if you’re mulling it over too, check out this uncannily well-timed series Food52 is doing. So excited for this. F52, I love you all beyond words!)
Hihi friends! How was your weekend? Ours was a mix of a little work, a lot of nailbiting to this movie, some early prep for the Mid-Autumn Festival, and copious amounts of iced yuanyang via Season with Spice’s fantastic mix (so good!). Between my early mooncake-making and the ridiculously cool weather we’re still enjoying in New York, I feel like I’m getting confused with the seasons. Is it still spring? Wait, is it already fall? In an effort to get in the swing of summer things while it’s still around, I made these raspberry tarts — and they’re up today in a little guest post on one of my favorite, favorite blogs, Adventures in Cooking!
If you’re not familiar with Eva’s blog, stop reading and go right now. Eva has such an artistic eye and an endless imagination for exciting flavor pairings, not to mention a gift for baking some of the most beautiful cakes I’ve ever seen. Her gorgeous work has been a wellspring of inspiration since the beginning of this little blog, so to say that I’m honored to contribute something is an understatement. I’m kind of still pinching myself.
When Eva asked me if I’d consider doing a guest post while her kitchen was under renovation, I tried to come up with something that would pay adequate homage to the lovely and wonderfully original creations she comes up with. I’ve heard for awhile how well cardamom goes with berries (just look at these beauties here and here) so given my recent appreciation for it (and wealth of pods in my cupboard), I thought I’d give the raspberry jam in these tarts a little twist. To me the best kinds of flavor pairings are the ones that don’t taste like x-and-y together, but become a whole new taste of their own, and I think cardamom does exactly that to raspberry — the result isn’t a duet of flavors, but a deeper, richer raspberry jam that evolves as you taste it. I loved it. Hop over to Eva’s blog for the recipe, and have a lovely Monday!
It’s Monday! (I was going to say “Happy Monday,” but, you know, Monday.) In the off chance that ice cream will make it better, here’s one of my favorites. Even in my days as a red bean-hating kid, I loved red bean ice cream. Something about red bean in a cold confection gets me every time. My family was the same way — we had red bean popsicles in the fridge for midnight snacks, red bean ice cream on family outings. My parents aren’t normally huge fans of sweets, so dinners out usually didn’t end with dessert, but if this was on the menu we almost always got it. One dish of rapidly disappearing red bean ice cream and four spoons.
It took me a few attempts to find a homemade version I loved, but thanks to Jeni Britton Bauer and some old-fashioned pondering, I arrived at this recipe, now up on Food52. I just recently made another Jeni’s ice cream on this blog in this memorable creation, but using her ice cream base for this flavor a few months ago was actually my first introduction to her genius — and I feel like I’ll never switch back to a traditional custard. Instead of a multitude of egg yolks, she uses a combination of cornstarch, corn syrup and cream cheese to give the ice cream structure. The result is a dreamily scoopable, softer and fluffier ice cream that seems to accentuate any flavor it’s given, without making you stand sentinel over a slowly thickening custard or leaving you a half-cup of egg whites in the fridge afterwards. I love it. I can’t wait to try her other flavors (Bangkok peanut, guys! Sweet potato with torched marshmallow!) but for now, you can check out my teensy red bean piggyback here. Also, if you’re interested in making more of Jeni’s ice cream too, you can buy her cookbook here.
Wishing you all a lovely week ahead!
Last Saturday, something magical happened — the one and only Molly Yeh graced my little Brooklyn abode with her sunshiny self, and we baked and ate and shot a joint post together. Really! It was the most fun I’ve ever had shooting a post; I might even go out on a limb and say it’s my favorite post so far. There was highly hygienic ice cream churning involved, the consumption of lard bread and gummy pigs to keep our strength up, the tomato-tomahto of Canon and Nikon, what lens are you using and what ISO are you at. Molly is every bit as lovely and ebullient as she seems on her blog, even when someone, not naming any names, splatters a good quantity of butter on her and potentially ruins her clothing. (I am the worst.)
As my clumsiness might suggest, I’ve never collaborated with anyone before, so sharing the creative process with someone else for the first time was really something special. Molly’s eye for detail, aesthetic sense, and all-around joyful spirit were a breath of fresh air for this blog. From the surreal feeling of watching a quintessential Yeh shot emerge from my own dining nook (like wait, that was there all along?) to the novelty of photographing someone else (and action shots without tripods!) to the seamless back-and-forth of what if we sub this for that or how would it look if we added this, this truly captured the essence of what I imagined a collaboration to be.
I have about a million photos for you — and for me, otherwise I might not believe that Molly Yeh really cooked bacon in my kitchen and artfully placed probably-dying succulents on my dining table — so I’ll end this here. For Molly’s half of our joint shindig, hop on over to my name is yeh. Thank you lady for the tremendous honor of working with you, and for such a fun afternoon. Your box of Sahadi’s sprinkles are like a little wave from North Dakota every time I open my spice cabinet. 😉 (P.S. I owe you a new jean skirt!)
Summer has arrived! After the obstinate winter and temperamental spring we’ve had this year, I was convinced that New York was going to throw down the humid-est of humid New York summers on us, just to be the cruelest mistress it could possibly be. But instead, the universe has reminded me Cynthia, be a smidge more optimistic — and this summer has been nothing short of spectacular (so far). With the exception of a few rainy days earlier this month, June has been just an abundance of breezy, cool mornings, warm summer nights, and gentle sunshine.
On the table, there’s been tart raspberries and ripe figs, icy-cold affogatos and our first homemade corn on the cob. Off the table, we’ve had lazy afternoon strolls, evenings with cool air wafting in through open windows. A balmy, sun-soaked picnic in Prospect Park, where I met the most incredibly lovely people, gave my shoulders a good toasting, and my heart to this little guy. The days are gloriously long, the kind where you get home after a long productive trek and find that it’s only 3 PM, the sunlight is streaming through the windows, and you still have practically an entire day laid out before you — one of my favorite feelings.