Saucy, saucy!

As winter approaches, faster in some places than in others, please remember that APPLESAUCE IS DELICIOUS!!!!! Especially when it’s made at home. If for some reason you feel worried about making it, or aren’t a cook in general, set you mind at ease. It’s quite simple. Really. And I’m going to give you step by step instructions – which makes it even easier!

First things first, buy apples. I really love using Fuji apples. They are delicious and often quite large. This is really the key to making good applesauce, in my humble opinion. Bad, sour, or not-your-favorite-kind of apples will make bad, sour, or not-your-favorite-kind of applesauce. For me, Fujis are the cat’s meow.

After getting the apples, peel, core, and chunk them. I usually do it in about 1/2 to 1 inch slices.

Next, put them all in a large pot and fill with water until it just barely covers the apples. About on the same level really, so that you can just push the apples with your hands and they will go under a bit.

Put in a spoonful of sugar, maybe around  1Tbs. (This is to help the apples break down, it’s not really a taste thing, so I usually put around the same amount of sugar no matter how many apples I use).

Put in a spoonful of honey. (This is ALL about the taste, so as the applesauce starts to cook down, taste it, and add more to preference).

Cook for FOREVER!!! No, really, it takes a while. Usually mine is done in about an hour and a half to two hours. I have the heat on medium-low to low. It makes the house smell lovely and my skin vibrant (from standing over the pot and stirring occasionally). Make sure you stir, at least once every 5 minutes or so. At some point you will panic thinking you have added too much water and it’s never going to be right again, but don’t fret, it will be fine.

When the apples have broken down to a state you appreciate (I like mine still kind of chunky), take some out and taste it! Add more honey, sprinkle some cinnamon, whatever your heart desires. My favorite it taking a vanilla bean, slicing it lengthwise and adding that it. Cook some more to let all these flavors meld.

Then, put it in a jar! Or a tupperware, or whatever you have at hand.

Voila! Applesauce. Eat it alone, or with ice cream, or with grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s all going to be great. If you have any questions, leave them in the comment box and I’ll do my best to answer them quickly. I’ve also added some instructional pictures to help you along. I didn’t give any measurements, because honestly, it’s not about the measurements – it’s about the ratios. I’ve never measured it – ever. You’ll be fine, and I promise, it’s fun <3

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Molten Chocolate Cheese Cakes – Yum!

I’ve decided to share my most recent baking obsession: making delicious, chocolate, molten cakes! I started with a recipe from a pretty good Martha Stewart cooking book about the seasons, Everyday Food. You can actually find the original recipe on her blog. However, I really felt strongly that I wanted to include cream cheese – I mean, I love cheesecake, I love sweet cheese, I just LOVE CHEESE!!! So, after a bit of tweaking, I feel like I finally got it – a great recipe for Molten Chocolate Cheese Cakes.

Here it is:

  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 + 1Tablespoon granulated sugar (and a bit more for dusting the muffin tin)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted. (I usually use the 10oz. Ghirardelli premium baking chips – 60% Cacao. Though I don’t usually like Ghirardelli chocolate, these chips melt very nicely, and are delicious. I usually just eat a handful beforehand to get about 8 ounces.)

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Generously butter 7 cups of a standard muffin tin. Dust with granulated sugar, and tap out excess. You will need them later ;)
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, cream cheese, and granulated sugar until fluffy and delicious. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixer on low speed, beat in the flour until just combined. Beat in the chocolate (I usually just use a spatula to fold it in), do not over mix. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin tins.
  3. Bake just until just the tops of the cakes no longer jiggle – tends to be around 12 minutes (but in my oven it’s only 10). Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes.
  4. Take out of the muffin tins and place on a rack until ready to serve (they are delicious both warm and cool).
  5. Of course, there are a variety of ways to serve it: with dusted powdered sugar on top, whipped cream on the side, or some ice cream!

Anyway, try it out, and if you like it, let me know <3 This is really my first time changing a recipe so drastically (usually I just might add different spices etcetera, so this was fun!)

Baking Bad: Part II

Some of you may remember my not-so-successful attempt at making Melonpan, Cooking with Dog style. Well, today I tried it again, and I’m pretty happy with the results. I made a few changes to the conversions, and also added some cinnamon to the cookie portion. All in all, pretty delicious. I can’t wait to eat another one with Mascarpone in the middle. Yum!

So for U.S. readers, and anyone else who uses our rather bizarre baking measurements, here is the recipe I used:

Bread Dough:

1 cup bread flour

3 Tbs sugar

1/3 tsp salt

1 tsp non-fat dry milk powder

1/2 tsp instant yeast

1 Tbs beaten egg

70 ml warm water

1 Tbs (generous) unsalted butter

Cookie Dough:

2 Tbs unsalted butter

1/8 cup (generous) sugar

2 Tbs beaten egg

3/4 cup cake flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon (my addition and not strictly necessary)

For me, 1 entire beaten egg provided the 3 Tbs I needed throughout the entire recipe. Also, as I enjoy cute, small pastries, I divided the recipe into 8 pieces instead of 5. They still cooked for the same amount of time. To get step by step directions, please watch the original Melonpan video. It’s just too fun!

Summer Sun Tea: the sophisticated taste of childhood.

Today is the first day in a long time I’ve felt summer. Here in the bay area the climate is pretty temperate, so even on a hot day, somehow the feeling of my childhood ‘summer,’ the sizzling skin, the shimmering air, the intense blue sky, doesn’t translate. However, today, laying on a blanket on the porch, playing cards, and eating cold noodles (Cooking with Dog style, but made with instant ramen noodles), I feel summer. My hair even feels a few shades lighter, and my skin smells of summer salt.

In celebration we made Sun Tea. What is Sun Tea? Well, the staple of my hippie childhood and a taste I still hold dear. Take your favorite herbal tea, or make your own, get a large glass jug of some kind full of cold water, put the tea in the water, and put the whole apparatus into the sun for an afternoon. In theory, it isn’t too different from normal tea, but in practice, it’s delicious. Somehow brewing the tea in the hot sun instead of through boiling water gives it a different taste. Sophisticated and delicate iced tea.

Try it. It’s simple, delicious, and you can keep it in your fridge for quite awhile. Insta-tea! Well, not really, but close :)

Baking Bad.

The last few days I’ve been hooked on the YouTube channel “Cooking with Dog.” My mom showed it to me ages ago, but I forgot about it until last weekend. Now, all I want to do is watch Chef and Francis cook. Francis, a grey poodle, hosts the show while overseeing the lovely Japanese ‘Chef.’ Chef cooks mostly Japanese food, or Japanese inspired food, and she is amazing. I mean, seriously, she does everything precisely and perfectly. She even weighs out cookie dough to make sure each cookie is exactly the same and then presses them flat on a circle diagram to achieve true uniformity. A woman after my own heart. It’s a whole new level of perfectionism I can only aspire to.

Curious as always, I decided to test out the merit of “Cooking with Dog” recipes and see if I can somehow match Chef’s peerless cooking grace. Though I did indeed make melonpan, I failed epically in the grace department.

I chose to make melonpan for two reasons: first, I can’t cook, but I’m actually decent at baking, and two, the ingredients were relatively simple. It started out pretty well. I copied down the recipe from the last portion of the video, went to the supermarket, and got all my supplies in order. The next step was trying to figure out the conversions. Most of measurements were given in grams, and though they also supplied the ounce measurements, in many instances I didn’t find this helpful. So, like any good modern girl, I turned to the internet. After a very daunting hour sifting through conversion tables that did me no good, I found a website that did very cool conversions of everything. It even takes into consideration substance.

Conversions done, I set to work putting out all my ingredients, pre-measured. One of the things I love about Chef, is that she has all her ingredients put into adorable little glass bowls ahead of time, and she quickly and easily adds everything together. Since I was competing for grace and elegance points as well, I also placed everything out, just so, in preparation for the cooking process. Off we go, starting with the cookie dough. The problems started here.

The conversions had seemed accurate, but somehow I ended up with way too much flour for both the cookie dough and the bread dough. However, since, as I said, I have some experience baking, I made up for it with a bit more egg/water/butter, hoping I guessed accurately enough for the finished product to still turn out okay. The bigger problem was that in my haste to fix everything I had made a mess. No more pretty cups, and less and less counter space. However, the bread dough had to rise for awhile, so, taking that opportunity, I cleaned everything up and decided to try again. “Grace,” I kept telling myself, “Elegance!”

I could keep telling myself that to eternity and it wouldn’t matter. I will never be a beautiful, elegant, Japanese lady. After fighting for about 10 minutes with plastic wrap to get it neatly covering my dough without any wrinkles, I gave up. Really, if it tastes good, who the hell cares how beautifully it was created (me, I want to say, me!). Anyway, considering the mess I made with the conversions of the flour, I was really happy they turned out at all.

I’m not going to give you all the recipe yet, but after I try it again and make it perfect, I’ll post my conversions below the pictures (give me awhile before you expect anything). If you just want the original recipe, watch the Melonpan video of Cooking with Dog. Enjoy the picture below!

For those who want to read the second installment, you can do so here!

Adventures in Foodland.

Food Festival!!! Besides the hot sun, crowded street, tired feet, and outrageous lines, how can it get better? But seriously folks, it was fun. This was the first time I have been to the San Francisco Food Festival, and only the 5th year it has been running. It managed to combine a lot of really great things into one event, for example, takoyakiBrazilian cheese puffs, delicious Vietnamese coffee, cricket tostadas (seriously?), and alcohol. Add to that fun time with friends and a beautiful San Franciscan day, and you have yourself a winner!

For us, the festival started off with the Brazilian cheese puffs and a side of tomato jam. Cheese puffs are delicious on their own, with their lovely crumbly texture on the outside and their chewy, delectable center, and the tomato jam really rocked the park. Seriously. Out of this world. It was sweet, yet somehow still managed to stay savory. The texture was perfect – not too runny but also easily spreadable, with just the right amount of chunkiness. Can you tell I really enjoyed them? Kika’s Treats.

Next stop, grilled quail. I don’t really eat quail (a little too gamey for me), but I loved watching everyone else eat it. Yeah, that’s right, I enjoy watching other people eat food I won’t. It’s weird, but I don’t care. From the way they devoured it, and how picked clean the bones were, I’d say it was delicious. Also, the salad on the side was tasty and original. Cabbage, mango, carrots, and other yummy things. While we were eating (or rather, they were eating, I was watching) my friend noticed an adorable young girl selling cookies out of her own special stand. No one was paying attention to this home stall, so my friend went and got a cookie. It started a trend and soon the stand was hopping. Hopefully she made a smashing.

While the boys waited in line for a cheesesteak (which they inhaled before I even had a chance to see it), my girlfriend and I went to get a drink we had spotted earlier – the rose, basil, coconut drink. It was pretty damn good. It had chia seeds at the bottom (which look like either tiny tadpole eggs or fish eyes, depending on your imagination), along with strips of unidentifiable orange-pink things. I ate/drank it all, after sneakily dropping the ice on the ground one by one to get to the actual good stuff. I made a puddle, but it’s just water after all…

Finally we were off to the main event: ramen burgers and takoyaki!!!! The line was epic. So epic that my boyfriend had to break out the bourbon I didn’t even know he had hidden in his pocket! For Ryan (bf), takoyaki is the ultimate festival food. Every year at the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown, he gets two beers and stands in line for however long it takes to get his takoyaki. And he refuses to eat it outside of a festival, no matter how much he loves it. It’s the principle of the thing, takoyaki = festival food. Lucky boy, this year he got to eat it twice. About halfway through the line, the gentleman at the stand started to announce that they were running out of ramen burgers. DISAPPOINTED! Now this was a shame by itself, but for a few tense moments we thought they might also be out of takoyaki, which would have been a travesty. However, after I went up and asked, he assured me they were not going to run out. We had been really excited about eating the ramen burgers, as it would be our first time ever, but when we learned they have a restaurant, Nombe, we contained our sadness and focused on our octopus balls. Besides, the guy in charge was funny and really tried hard to make everyone happy.

We finished off the day with cocktails and beers (depending on the drink of choice) using our tokens, and coffee. Some of us got Vietnamese coffee (myself included), and some of us got Ritual coffee. All and all, a pretty sweet day.

Below are some pictures that I took throughout the festival. If you missed this event never fear, you can get some of the same feel during Off the Grid. Also, there is always next year!