Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Classic Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie is my favorite pie of all-time. Lucky for me, the advent of canned pumpkins has given me the luxury of enjoying my favorite seasonal treat year-round. For a classic, fuss-free, non-fancy shmancy pumpkin pie, this is my go-to recipe. Although the recipe is simple, here's how to achieve pie perfection:

*blind-bake the pie crust - place a sheet of foil or parchment over the unbaked crust; fill with pie weights, dry beans or rice; bake at 350 degrees for about 15 mins. This half-baking process will ensure that the bottom of the crust does not become soggy upon contact with the wet filling.

*Do not - I repeat - DO NOT - overbake the pie. 
{Overbaked pumpkin pie = super dense.}
{Perfectly baked pumpkin pie = super creamy.}

*Cool the pie thoroughly before serving. Bon appetit!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Best Croissant in LA

I've never been to Paris, but each time I take a bite into a croissant from Proof Bakery in Atwater Village, I tele-transport to France. 

Located in a tiny space with minimal etching on the storefront windows, it seems like Proof is trying hard to go unnoticed. But judging from the incessant crowds and the rate at which they sell out of pastries, it's clearly not working. The reason is simple. Proof Bakery makes a mean croissant.  

A Proof croissant is a far cry from the Costco croissants we've all grown to love. Each bite yields massive flaking from the exterior crust and a perfectly chewy and buttery center. The plain and almond croissants are perfect and classic. But my inner sweet tooth can rarely ever pass up the decadent Valrhona chocolate croissant. Each bite is better than the last and letting a fallen crumb go to waste would be blasphemy. It's that good. 

Sure, Proof has a variety of other gorgeous pastries, but it's so incredibly difficult to resist a croissant once you lay your eyes upon their glistening golden crusts. Just don't forget to pair your treat with an agave latte. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tarte aux Pommes

Ina Garten's recipes never fail me. I recently made this foolproof French Apple Tart for Friday night company, and to say my guests were impressed is an understatement. Served with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, this tart is the perfect dessert - simple, rustic, and delicious. 

Slice three large Granny Smith Apples into 1/4-inch slices and arrange diagonally on rolled out pastry dough.

Sprinkle apples with 1/2 cup of sugar. Dot with 4 tbsps unsalted butter. 

Tip: The apple juices and sugars will ooze out and burn on the pan. But have no fear! The bottom of the tart will be fine. Just learn from my mistake and make sure to bake the tart on parchment as opposed to directly on the pan. While the tart is still very warm, generously brush warmed apricot jam or jelly. 

Bon apetit! 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Asparagus Fontina Tart

Puff pastry is great in so many ways. It's buttery and flaky. It's crunchy and light. And it's a perfect base for dessert and dinner. Inspired by this Martha Stewart recipe, I whipped up this crowd-pleasing asparagus tart that was surprisingly easy and quick to make. It adds a perfect crunch when eaten with hot soup, but it's also a perfect (and impressive looking) hors d' oeuvre when cut into small squares. 

Prepare the toppings: Depending on the size of the asparagus, cut the bottom, tough ends about 1-inch from the edge. Shred the cheese.

The Puff Pastry: Don't forget to make shallow holes in the tart before baking. Score the edges into a rectangle so the crust puffs up. Remember, this is like a fancy pizza, so you want to have a crust to grab onto. Arrange the cheese in an even layer. 

Arrange the asparagus over the cheese. It's ok if the stems go over the edges. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 

Notice how the asparagus sinks into the cheese? Delicious. 
Serve while hot and toasty!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mixed Berry Galette

I had a pint of Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream, a bowl of berries, and a pie crust sitting in my fridge, so the only logical thing to do on a Sunday afternoon was marry these ingredients for a perfect mid-day snack. Galettes and crostatas can be made with virtually any fruit - berries, figs, apples, peaches, whatever is in season.  I improvised with ingredients on hand, and the result was a refreshing, indulgent and guilt-less snack. (see recipe below).

Mixed Berry Galette
one store-bought or homemade pie crust (I used Pillsbury)
a couple tablespoons granulated sugar (adjust this based on the sweetness level of the fruit)
one teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice + some of its grated zest

Roll out the thawed pie crust on a heavy duty pan. Toss the berries with the lemon juice, zest and sugar. Let the berries macerate for about ten minutes or so. Pile the berry mixture onto the middle of the pie crust, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. (Make sure to pour in all the juices!) Fold over the crust and sprinkle the edges with sugar. Bake for about 30 minutes at 375 degrees until crust is golden brown and berries start to bubble. Serve with ice cream. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Smoothie Operator

I'm a spoiled smoothie drinker. I live walking distance from Jamba Juice, so I rarely make smoothies at home. But lately, I've found my fridge stocked with endless berries and fruits that usually end up being tossed away. Smoothies are a great way to salvage neglected fruits on the verge of rotting. Plus, overly ripe fruits are always the sweetest, saving you the trouble of adding sweetener to your smoothies. Here are two of my favorite smoothies, perfect for breakfast, dessert, and a mid day pick-me-up. 

I usually eyeball the measurements and try to make the most of ingredients that I have on hand. Tweak the portions to your tastebuds' liking. Happy blending!

Peanut Banana and Coffee Smoothie*
1 banana
a few tablespoons of peanut butter (I prefer chunky)
about 1/2 cup Vanilla coconut milk
a few tablespoons of coffee ice cream
*this is clearly a less healthy alternate 

Berry-Banana Smoothie
1 banana
one handful strawberries (fresh or frozen)
one handful other berries (fresh or frozen blackberries, blueberries, raspberries)
about 1/2 cup of Vanilla coconut milk
a few tablespoons of Pomegranate-Blueberry Sherbet


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