Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sweet Spain

It’s been over a month since I returned from my three-week trip to Spain, and yet, the smells, flavors, and sounds of the rich country are strong as ever in my memory. My boyfriend and I spent three weeks trekking through Madrid, Andalucia, and Barcelona, making sure to immerse ourselves in each city’s distinct culture before moving onto the next. We were floored by the stunning architecture, touched by the unbelievably hospitable Spaniards, and in constant awe of the iconic artwork that was pervasive throughout the country’s museums. But most importantly, the food stood out as the epicenter of Spain’s rich heritage and culture. I’ll be posting more photos from my Spain trip, but for now, here’s a roundup of my favorite desserts from Spain.

Above: Perhaps my favorite dessert from the trip - the milhojas de turrón (back) from La Campana, the oldest pastry shop in Sevilla. It's reminiscient of a classic French mille feuille, but is far richer, thicker, and nuttier. It has notes of almond and condensed milk. 

My boyfriend and I were blown away by the churros con chocolate at Cafe Fútbol in Granada. We've had our fair share of churros, but these were hands down, the fluffiest and crunchiest.

Above: We succumbed to the "cronut" craze and tried the sugary treat at Boldú in Barcelona. The lemon-poppy seed was a hit while the nutella flavor was just ok.
Below: One of the highlights from our trip was my boyfriend's birthday meal at Ferran Adría disciple Carles Abellán's Suculent in Barcelona. We capped off our dinner with a refreshing Yuzu sorbet and Brie cheesecake, which is one of the best desserts I've ever tasted.

Above: (Left) Raspberry spongecake on a stick at Carles Mampel's Bubo Born in Barcelona. (Right) Granada's light and subtly sweet take on a classic cheesecake.
Below: One of the best milhojas I've ever had - at Mallorca Market in Madrid.

 Below: Ice Cream Roundup - We were impressed by three flavors, each from a different city. The mascarpone/dulce de leche/sunflower seed (left) in Sevilla was so delicious that we had it two days in a row. The violet (right) from Madrid's Mercado de San Miguel was a spin on a classic Spanish candy flavor based on an indigenous flower. The pistachio (below) from Granada's famed Los Italianos was one of the most natural tasting pistachio flavors I've ever tried.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Marshy Mallows

Making marshmallows had never crossed my mind until I saw a recent episode of Barefoot Contessa. I've always been hesitant to delve into the world of candy-making, but Ina Garten made it look so easy, that I had to give this recipe a shot. I was very pleased with the end result. These marshmallows are light and fluffy clouds that taste subtly sweet and are a far cry from the artificial tasting marshmallows sold in supermarkets. They're perfect for dipping in chocolate, dunking in coffee or eating as is. But personally, I can't wait to make s'mores with these. 

Make sure to use parchment paper when lining your pan. Dust extremely generously with confectioners sugar to make cutting and removal easy and stick-free.

 The mixture should have a very thick consistency.

 It's possible to make these marshmallows without a candy thermometer. I did! Here's the test - after the sugar mixture comes to a boil, continue boiling for about 7-8 minutes, then remove from heat. If you boil it any longer, it will not be in the soft-ball stage and will probably turn into burnt caramel, which is a no-no!

For best results, let the mallows set overnight. Cut them into squares using kitchen scissors. Rinse the scissors with hot water between cutting to avoid sticking. 


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bananas for Banana Cream Pie

The world needs more banana recipes. I often find myself confused as to what to do with browning bananas (which seems to happen on a weekly basis). So when I found this amazing banana cream pie recipe, I was excited to make something besides banana bread, muffins, or cake. The vanilla custard came out impeccably smooth and delicious, and surprisingly, it wasn't an egg or butter overload. This custard is definitely my new go-to recipe for future pie and tart fillings.

Crust Ingredients
1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers
1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar

Crust Directions
Combine the three crust ingredients in a bowl. Press the crumbly crust into a pie crust lined with parchment paper. Use the bottom of a flat cup to pack the crust tightly. Refrigerate the crust while you prepare the filling.

Vanilla Custard Ingredients
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
dash of salt
3 cups milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
2-3 large bananas
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp sugar 

Vanilla Custard Directions
In a saucepan (not over heat), combine the cornstarch and milk. Mix until very smooth and thickened. There should be no lumps. Place the saucepan over low heat and add the sugar and salt to the milk mixture. Cook and continuously stir over low heat until the mixture is thick and starts to bubble. This will take awhile so be patient. Make sure the heat is on low, otherwise the milk will scald. Keep stirring! Once the mixture starts to bubble, cook for 2 more minutes while stirring. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir a very small amount of the hot filling into the egg mixture. Stir very quickly to temper the eggs and raise the temperature to avoid curdling. Strain the egg mixture into the saucepan through a sieve and bring to a gentle boil while stirring. Once the mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat and stir in butter, vanilla and salt. Cool the mixture to room temperature, then refrigerate.

Assembly Directions
Slice the bananas and arrange in a single layer over the chilled crust. Pour the custard over the bananas and spread evenly. Beat the heavy whipping cream with 2 tablespoons of sugar until medium-stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the custard in an even layer. Chill the pie for at least 6 hours. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Let Luce Lately

Late Night Dessert: The lindzer danish at Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego.  

 Home-made shamrock sugar cookies for St. Patty's Day

 Old Hollywood Glamour: The gorgeous Orpheum Theater in DTLA

 Lemon overload: Loads of lemons in preparation for this amazing lemon-honey tart with salted shortbread crust

Mussels for lunch at Santa Barbara Shellfish Company

Spring in full swing

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Strawberry Shortbread Bars

If I'm baking with jam, I almost always use my tried and true favorite, apricot jam. But with an unopened jar of strawberry jam sitting in the cabinet, I was tempted to try something new. I adapted this recipe from Ina Garten's Raspberry Crumble Bars recipe, but with just a few tweaks here and there based on the ingredients I had on hand. Needless to say, these bars disappeared immediately. 

2 sticks of butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/3 cup all purpose flour, sifted
dash of salt
about 10 ounces of jam (any flavor)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon of dried granola
1/4 cup of any chopped nuts

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a bowl, just until combined. Add the vanilla and mix. With the mixer running slowly, gradually add the sifted flour and salt. Keep mixing until the dough almost turns into a ball. Take 2/3 of the dough and press it onto the bottom of a baking dish (see below). (No need to butter the pan because the high butter-fat content will allow the bars to slide out easily.) Slightly push the dough up to the sides. Spread the dough with the jam, making sure to leave a small border on the edges. Spread generously! Mix and crumble the granola into the 1/3 remaining dough with your hands. Break pieces of the dough and sprinkle over the jam. Depending on the size of your baking dish, you will likely have leftover dough. Sprinkle the nuts over the crumble topping and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes until the dough is light brown. Let cool completely before cutting them into squares. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lit(erature) Luce

Reading for pleasure has become a thing of the past for me. But when I do find myself with an extra bit of time, these are some books that never cease to entertain me:

Sleeping with the Enemy [by: Hal Vaughan] - the scandalous true story of Coco Chanel's multiple affairs and involvement in WWII.
The Great Gatsby [by: F. Scott Fitzgerald] - a classic. I re-read this just in time for the movie this year. 
The Sweet Life in Paris [by: David Lebovitz] - a light read and a witty glimpse into ex-pat and pastry chef David Lebovitz's new life in Paris. 
Medium Raw [by: Anthony Bourdain] - this man can do no wrong. Never a sell-out, Bourdain takes you through his gritty and anything but glamorous chef-life before achieving fame for being his non-conformist self.
Bossypants [by: Tina Fey] - hilarious, embarrassing, and honest. Tina Fey's story of her awkward upbringing up to present day will make you "lol." 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Atwater Crossing Kitchen

Atwater Crossing Kitchen is quintessential LA. Future restaurateurs should take note because an outdoor restaurant concept like ATX is exactly what LA is lacking. My boyfriend and I had lunch at ATX over the weekend, and considering it is located adjacent to railroad tracks (hence, the name), we were pleasantly surprised at the sleek but comforting architecture and laid-back atmosphere. The communal tables, friendly staff, and easy-going mood was perfect for a Sunday lunch, and the food wasn't bad either. The flatbreads on the menu were very appealing, especially the Manchego-Jamón. But we gave the Zaatar a shot and surprisingly, my boyfriend, who is a harsh critic of Lebanese food, approved.

Front: Skewered Lime-Chicken Salad
Back: French Green Lentil Salad with Salmon

Monday, March 11, 2013

Let Luce Lately

Beautiful chandeliers and mood lighting at the Langham Huntington Hotel ballroom. 

Famous "#19" pastrami sandwich at Langer's Deli.

The larger than life piñata at Lotería in Hollywood.  

Adorable Hello Kitty sugar cookies at Aroma Café in Studio City.

Pistachio ice cream in a waffle cone from Sprinkles Ice Cream.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cinnamon Apple Pop Tarts

I was never a big fan of the fruity flavored Pop Tarts. In fact, as a child, I would only nibble on the crusty edges and leave the fruit filling nicely intact. What can I say, I was more of the s'mores and chocolate flavor gal. But I recently crossed over to the dark side and made these apple filled tarts that taste like apple pie in a pocket, and now, I'm proud to say I'm a pop tart fruit convert for life.


one store-bought pie crust, thawed and cut into even-size squares

1 - 2 granny smith apples (depending on the size); cored, peeled and cubed into tiny pieces
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine all of the filling ingredients in a bowl. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes until the juices are released. Spoon a small amount onto a square, leaving the edges open. Place another piece of dough, similar in size over the filled square. Using a fork, press down on the edges to seal the pocket. Make sure to seal them really well because you don't want the juices to overflow and burn on the pan during baking. Repeat with the other squares. Poke holes in all of the squares and bake at 350 degrees on parchment paper for about 15 minutes until lightly golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.

3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons of the released juices from the filling mixture

Whisk the glaze ingredients until evenly combined and no lumps remain. The glaze should be fall off the whisk in ribbons. Add more powdered sugar or liquid to achieve your desired consistency. After the tarts have cooled, drizzle them with the glaze and let it set for a few minutes before eating. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Cake!

My closest friends know that I am obsessed with lemons. I eat them whole and especially love the rind. I even eat the lemon slices restaurants use as a drink garnish. So when I stumbled upon this amazing Lemon Yogurt Cake recipe, it was a no-brainer. The best part about this cake is the lemon syrup that gets poured on the cake while it's still hot from baking. And even though I omitted the confectioners glaze, this cake was very moist and the perfect accompaniment to late afternoon tea. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Here, There, Everywhere

Hand-brewed coffee, latte and buttery brioche with strawberry jam at Sqirl.

Shoe splurges for Mom and I.

An indulgent lunch from Würstkuche in Downtown LA. Top to bottom: Louisiana Hotlink, Pheasant, Sun-dried tomato and mozzarella würst, and Belgian fries. 

Valentine's Roses.

One bite, and these cheese-guava churros and hot chocolate from Churros Calientes will transport you from Santa Monica to Spain.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...