I love you...

like a [phat] kid loves [cheese]cake

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Figgamon Rolls [What?]

It's September. It's fig season. Life is good.
[As long as I don't think about that midterm exam I have next week.]

Now, what the heck is a figgamon roll? [By the way, it took me a long time to figure out how to spell that. Figgiman? Figammin?] It's pretty much a cinnamon roll, minus the cinnamon, plus the figs, some cream cheese, and a boatload of icing that melts into the rolls and into your mouth.
For those who are new at making cinnamon rolls, I am telling you right now that it requires a good amount of work and a good amount of workspace. If you possess neither of these things, then it might be best to hold off on these or at least invite yourself to someone's apartment who does have room. I'm sure they won't mind as long as they get a taste of the final product. You can also make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate it overnight. Just pop them in the oven first thing in the morning, and by the time you are all ready, they will be, too!

Like I said before, it is fig season right now, so take full advantage and feel free to stuff as many figs as you like into these rolls. The almonds, maple syrup, and cream cheese compliment them well, and they are a welcome surprise to anyone nomming on them. If you have any extras [I don't know how/why you would], give them away as soon as possible while they are still warm. There is nothing better than warm rolls slathered with icing - I think the boys of Delta Chi will attest to this fact.

Figgamon Rolls

For the Dough:

1 – 1/4oz package active dry yeast

1/2 teaspoon, plus 1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk at room temperature

2 Tablespoons light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 egg yolk

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for kneading

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan

For the Filling:

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup finely chopped almonds

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

6 Tablespoons [3/4 stick] unsalted butter, melted

10-15 figs, stemmed and quartered

For the Icing:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup milk

Making the Dough:

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine yeast, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 cup water heated to 115 degrees F. Stir to combine and let sit until frothy and foamy, about 10 minutes.

Add remaining sugar, milk, light brown sugar, vanilla, egg, and egg yolk. Beat with a wire whisk until well combined. Fit the bowl onto the mixer, fitting with the dough hook attachment. Add the flour and salt and mix on medium speed until the dough just begins to come together. Turn the machine on medium-high and knead the dough for 4 minutes.

Add the butter and continue to knead for about 6 minutes. The dough will the wet and sticky. Place the dough on a well floured work surface, and knead about 1/3 cup all-purpose flour into the dough. Don’t worry, the dough still might be a little sticky. It’s ok. Just set the dough to rest in a large greased bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

While the dough rises, make the filling. Combine the sugar, dark brown sugar, almonds, and salt in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Stir in the maple syrup. Set aside.

When the dough has doubled in size, dump if from the bowl onto a heavily floured work surface. Gently knead the dough until it is no longer sticky, adding more flour as needed. I think I added about 3 Tablespoons of flour. Work the dough for about 1 or 2 minutes. Once it’s no longer sticky, place a kitchen towel over the dough and let rest for 5 minutes before you roll it out.

Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 10 x 10-inch square.

In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese with a knife until it’s smooth and spreadable.

Spread the cream cheese evenly over the dough square. Fold the square into thirds like you would fold a letter to fit into an envelope. Take the open ends of the rectangle and fold into thirds again, to make a smaller dough square.

Invert the dough so that the seam is face down and, using the rolling pin, gently roll it into a 10 x 20-inch rectangle. You make find that some cream cheese sneaks through. Be as gently as possible with the dough, but continue to work it until you reach the size you need.

Turn the dough so that the short sides are parallel to you. You’re going to roll from the short sides of the dough.

Brush the top of the dough with half of the melted butter. We’ll use the rest of the butter after the rolls are baked.

Pour all of the filling onto the dough. Spread evenly, leaving a 1-inch boarder at one of the short edges of the dough so the roll can be properly sealed. Lightly press the filling into the dough. Top with quartered figs.

Using your hands, lift up the bottom edge of the dough and roll it forward into a tight cylinder. Place dough cylinder seam side down on a cutting board. Using a sharp, thin knife, trim off the uneven edges.

Cut cylinder into 8 equal slices. Nestle the slices, cut side up and evenly spaced in a greased, round 9-inch metal baking dish. Cover pan with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to let rise for 2 hours. You may also refrigerate rolls overnight.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Uncover the rolls. If you refrigerated the rolls, let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before baking. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Make the icing: While the rolls are baking, whisk together the sugar and milk in a small bowl until smooth.

Transfer the pan of figgamon rolls to a cooling rack. Brush with remaining butter. Let cool for 5 minutes. Drizzle icing over rolls. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Scenes from a Food Festival [a.k.a. How I Finally Got My Crème Brûlée]

The date: Saturday, 28th August, 2010
The what: Oakland Eat Real Food Festival
The where: Jack London Square, just a BART ride away.
The why: Crème brûlée

That is correct. After a year of waiting and two phailed attempts of waiting in line for half an hour only to find that everything was sold out, this past Saturday, I finally satisfied my crème brûlée craving. I made sure to arrive early and quickly ate my fill of savoury dishes so that it would soon be time for dessert. And when I spotted a fellow foodie pass by me with a ramekin of creamy goodness, I quickly stopped him for directions. Before I knew it, I had found the Creme Brulee Cart and got a hold of absolute bliss.

Vanilla bean. Oh, yes.

Now that I've gotten that life-changing moment out of my system, let me actually explain the rest of the scene. For the unfamiliar, the Eat Real Fest is held every year in Jack London Square in Oakland. It lasts three days and hosts some of the most prominent food carts and restaurants in the Bay Area. Most items are $2-$6, and throughout the day there is music and throngs of hungry people perusing the sidewalks for the best food there is.

Having gone before, I wanted to try out foods that I hadn't had a chance to sample last year. Crème brûlée was a given, and as you read above, that desire was satisfied rather quickly. But there were many more things to try:

Huaraches de nopales [El Huarache Loco]: An oblong masa tortilla stuffed with beans and topped with tomatoes, cilantro, cotija cheese, and strips of nopales - cactus pads. Nopales are surprisingly very meaty for a vegetable and lend a lot of flavour. And the masa was very moist and delicious.

Iced coffee [Ritual Roasters]: I literally rolled out of bed and hopped on over to Eat Real, which meant I needed caffeination to support the mass food consumption that was to occur. Enter in Ritual Roasters and their spring arrival coffees to give me the caffeine jolt I needed.

Paneer tikka burrito [Curry Up Now]: Usually I am very wary of eating Indian food outside because, frankly, my mom can do a much better job, and it's all free. But the amusing, albeit stereotypical name of this place caught my eye, and I had been craving desi khana all week. The burrito was wrapped in a roti and came with four sauces - yoghurt, cilantro chutney, sweet chutney, and hot sauce. It was pretty big, so I'm glad I went halfsies on this one.

I just thought the name was funny.

Fried plantains and banana yam beignets [Chiefo's West African Cuisine]: It's not everyday that I get to eat African food, so I couldn't pass this up. Plus, dessert time was nearing, anyways. While I had to wait a bit in line, it was worth it, for everything was super fresh. The beignets were great by themselves, and I'm glad I skipped the powdered sugar topping; and the plaintains were delicious.

Oh, and there was some bhangra dancing, complete with a DIY bhangra lesson. I love this place.

Boats, trains, foods, boy. Beautiful day, beautiful weekend.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ice Cream!

If you were to open my freezer right now, this is what you will see: an ice cream attachment for Serafina [my KitchenAid], and about 5 pint containers filled with different types of ice cream.

Nothing else.

What to do with all this ice cream? Sell it of course, to you all! Now that my India and Goa tickets are booked for winter break, money is extremely tight for me, and I'm looking to make a few extra dollars wherever I can. And what better way to do that then by doing something I love [pastry], and letting you all indulge in it?

Here is a weekly roundup of the ice creams I got on hand:

Caramel almond [1/2 a pint, $3]
Walnut infused [1 pint, $5]
Mango-nectarine [2 pints, $5 each or $9 for both]
Lavender-vanilla [1 pint, $5]

Now, I'm no professional, but these ice creams are delicious, and now that the weather is heating up [finally], I encourage you to try some out for yourself! You won't regret it.

AND...if you have a flavour idea that you want me to make for you, let me know and I'll get right on it! I'm already working on a CTC one...

FYI: Email = skaiwar@berkeley.edu; Cell = 650.430.8319

Yours til I lick the bowl clean,


Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Scream, You Scream...You Know How It Goes

Ahhhh I don't even know where to begin. Since my last post [nearly 3 months ago!] life became insanely busy and I completely lost track of time and blogging. Everything from finals, Coachella, EDC, and now a full-time job as the pastry assistant at Oliveto restaurant has kept me from doing anything else. My room appears to be hit by a hurricane, my workout schedule has fallen into an abyss, and my car needs $1000 worth of repairs.

But don't think that I haven't been cooking, for that is far from the truth. At work, I'm doing pastry for at least 8 hours a day, everything from rolling croissants to baking scones to plating desserts. Unfortunately, that leaves me with little time at home to do any actual baking, and on my days off I tend to just sleep all day and drink all night.

Now that my birthday has passed and things are slowly coming back to normal as I habituate to my summer schedule, I am ready to blog once again. Last summer, I focussed mostly on rhubarb; this year, it is ice cream.

My ice cream maker is by far the most awesome thing I have received this year for my kitchen. It has allowed me to experiment to no end with various flavours and combinations, and each time I come up with something new. So far I've concocted sweet polenta cherry, horchata, and the best one yet, espresso-hazelnut cheesecake.

Ice cream is very easy to make once you have mastered the basics. In the next few weeks, I will try to enlighten you about them as I continue to experiment on my own. In the meanwhile, check out the recipe for my current favourite ice cream flavour, and stay tuned!

Espresso-Hazelnut Cheesecake Ice Cream

16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup strongly-brewed coffee
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup Nutella
  • Combine cream, cream cheese, coffee, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Start whisking slowly to incorporate the cream into the cream cheese, then beat faster until the batter is smooth. This is best done in a KitchenAid. Be careful for splashing, and don't be afraid to take your time making sure the batter is nearly smooth.
  • Pour into your ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • About ten minutes before the ice cream is done, warm the Nutella in the microwae until it is pourable, 20-30 seconds. Drizzle into the ice cream so it swirls into the batter.
  • Once ice cream is ready, scoop into containers and freeze until set.
Photo Credits: Daniel Y. Go & sea turtle

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lazy Sundays

It was a rainy Sunday morning. My motivation to work, go to the gym, or clean the apartment was zero. All I felt like doing was listen to Jack Johnson’s ‘Banana Pancakes, bury myself under the covers, blast the heater, and watch a chick flick.

So that’s what I did.

But I did make some slight modifications:

  1. I did not watch a chick flick, as I had invited the bf to come over to bask in epic laziness with me. The movie of choice became ‘Casino Royale,’ which is actually a great rainy day film.
  2. I did end up doing some work, vis-à-vis baking. Remember those kumquats I told you about? Well, you are about to see what I did with the rest of them.

To fully become immersed in my state of quiescence, I wanted to make something that was warm and comforting but at the same not too heavy, or I would be killing myself at the gym the next day. Oatmeal fit all those criteria, but it requires no actual oven time, so instead I utilised it to make these: apple-cinnamon oat shortbreads.

Since it was only the two of us in the apartment, I created individual portions in small ramekins that I could easily turn out onto a plate. As soon as I did that, I remembered the jar of candied kumquats that were tucked away in the fridge. A brainwave later, a simple comfort dessert became a beautiful presentation of food and flavour that was just what I was searching for to satisfy me. Sliced almonds were the final touch, and my lazy Sunday afternoon was complete.

A small note: The batter for these shortbreads will be thick due to the oats and the apples, so use an offset spatula to flatten everything out. I baked them in ramekins, but if you don’t own any, you can always bake these in muffin tins or a regular 8x8 pan, but be prepared for a longer cooking time. As it is, the lower oven temperature will mandate some more time in the oven.

Lazy Sunday Shortbreads

1/2 C flour
1/4 C oatmeal
1/4 t salt
3 T brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 oz (3/4 sticks) cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 cup diced apples
Cardamom-Candied Kumquats
Sliced almonds [garnish, optional]

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease 4 small ramekins.

Combine the flour, oatmeal, salt, cinnamon, and brown sugar in a large bowl. Add the pieces of cold butter and vanilla and process until the mixture comes together in clumps around the bowl. Stir in apple pieces.

Gently press the mixture into the ramekins, making sure it is evenly spread. Bake the shortbread for 20 minutes or until shortbreads pull away from the side of the ramekins. Cool for 10 minutes.

Flip the shortbreads from the ramekins onto a small plate. Pile candied kumquats on top and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Serve warm.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kumquat Cornucopia

Before I head down to Coachella this weekend and pretty much give myself a Spring Break Part 2, I need to update this. After all, who knows how alive I will even be upon my return on Monday? Three days, scores of music artists, and raver friends; it doesn’t get much better than that.

Neither does this recipe for candied kumquats. While on spring break, there happened to be a kumquat tree in the vicinity. Rather than stealing them myself and seeming super lurky, I assigned someone else to do it for me. Thus, I found myself with a bag full of the small, citrusy fruits and needed to figure out what to do with them.

For those of you unfamiliar with kumquats, I assure you that if you like oranges, you will like them. In appearance, they are tiny, about an inch long and oval-shaped. Their orange exteriors can be bitter, so it is always a good idea to blanch them in some boiling water for a 30 seconds or so to remove some of that off-taste. When ripe, they are juicy and full of flavour [I had actually snuck a few off of the tree and popped them directly into my mouth. You know, just to test them out]. Just be careful of the seeds if you eat them raw; be sure to remove them before you use them for any sort of pastry.

Putting him hard to work

I have always enjoyed candied fruit, especially citrus ones, so I figured that candying these would be a good way to start using them up. But when reading recipes online, I found that everyone seems to candy differently. Some blanch their fruit three times, while others don’t even bother; and the sugar to water ratios varied widely.

I combined ideas from the slew of recipes I read and came up with the one below. For an added kick, I threw in some cardamom pods [those who know me know that cardamom seems to find its way into nearly every dessert I make].

The best thing about candying anything is that the final product lasts for a long time when jarred correctly. Mason jars work best to keep things airtight. After that, you can use them at your discretion, from pancake toppings to cake fillings. I’ll be posting a recipe shortly about what I ended up doing with my batch, so keep reading!

Cardamom-Candied Kumquats

2 cups sliced kumquats, seeds removed and discarded
5 cardamom pods, crushed
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water

Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Drop in the kumquat slices and blanch for about thirty seconds. Scoop out and set aside.
In a large pot, combine 2/3 cup water, sugar, and cardamom pods. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 5 minutes or so.
Add blanched kumquats and let simmer over medium-low heat for 25-30 minutes until syrup is thick and kumquats are translucent and soft, stirring occasionally. Make sure that the kumquats are not too soft to the point that they start falling apart; you want them to retain their shape, as it adds body to the final product.
Remove from heat and let cool completely at room temperature. Pour into an airtight container and store in refrigerator. Warm them up over the stove when using for garnishes.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Put a Spring in Your Step and in Your Cake

It had been three weeks, six hours, and seventeen minutes since I last made a trip to Berkeley Bowl. Those days were long and grueling; I thought I would never make it. But when my mother decided to graciously drop me back to Berkeley after spring break so that I didn't have to take BART, I knew that meant grocery shopping. And that meant the Bowl.

So, I wasn't actually counting down from my last Berkeley Bowl expedition, but it had definitely been a long time, and my fridge was in desperate need of being restocked. The advent of spring meant fresh new produce and a slew of recipes to try out, including a ginger cake one I clipped from the SF Chronicle that same day. With my recipe in hand, I loaded up on ingredients.

Usually, restaurants reserve spice cakes like this one for winter months, as it is more homey and can be served warm with some unique flavour of ice cream or gooey fruit compote. But I love ginger and figured that I could play around with the recipe and make it something more spring-like. That way I could also take advantage of the new produce at the store.

However, I cheated a little bit and bought something out-of-season: Mangoes [they usually don't appear until May].

I couldn't help it..Blame the Indian in me.

But it is because of those mangoes that I was able to come up with my springtime creation: Mango-Ginger Spice Cake. Personally, I would have liked to have more ginger flavour - the spicier the better! I also think that next time I will add a bit more sugar and use an equal ratio of whole-wheat to all-purpose flour so that the mango flavour is more pronounced. But this makes an excellent snack cake without too many added calories. I also picture it as a good cake for breakfast when served with some fresh strawberries [which are in season, by the way. Go for the organic ones at Berkeley Bowl].

April promises to be a good month - springtime foods, more blogposts, Coachella, and a lumberjack party are all in the mix.

And perhaps another trip to Berkeley Bowl.

Springtime Spice Cake

  • 2 ounces ginger, peeled and finely grated on a Microplane (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup rice bran oil or other neutral flavored oil
  • 3/4 cup dark molasses (see Note)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 2 ounces ginger, peeled and finely grated on a Microplane (about 3 tablespoons)
    1/2 cup sugar
    3/4 cup oil
    1 cup mango puree
    4 eggs
    2.5 cups whole-wheat flour
    3/4 tsp ground ginger
    1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
    1 Tbsp baking soda
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/2 cup hot water

    For the cake: Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly butter a 9- by 9-inch cake pan and dust very lightly with flour or line with parchment paper.

    Combine ginger with 1/2 tablespoon water in a mixing bowl; add sugar, oil and mango. Mix on low speed. Add eggs; continue mixing at low speed until fully incorporated.

    Combine flour, black pepper, ground ginger and baking soda in another mixing bowl. Add dry ingredients slowly to the egg mixture, continuing to beat slowly, scraping mixing bowl occasionally. Increase speed to medium for 2 minutes. Scrape; decrease speed to low and slowly add 1/2 cup hot tap water. Mix until just combined, occasionally scraping.

    Pour into prepared cake pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes and then turn out onto wire rack.

  • 2 ounces ginger, peeled and finely grated on a Microplane (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup rice bran oil or other neutral flavored oil
  • 3/4 cup dark molasses (see Note)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 2 ounces ginger, peeled and finely grated on a Microplane (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup rice bran oil or other neutral flavored oil
  • 3/4 cup dark molasses (see Note)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 2 ounces ginger, peeled and finely grated on a Microplane (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup rice bran oil or other neutral flavored oil
  • 3/4 cup dark molasses (see Note)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 2 ounces ginger, peeled and finely grated on a Microplane (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup rice bran oil or other neutral flavored oil
  • 3/4 cup dark molasses (see Note)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 2 ounces ginger, peeled and finely grated on a Microplane (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup rice bran oil or other neutral flavored oil
  • 3/4 cup dark molasses (see Note)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • Wednesday, March 31, 2010

    Dear 3 a.m..

    ...we have to stop meeting this way. You are really great, but honestly, I would much rather sleep with you.

    Love, Shikha

    This is the third day in a row where the clock has ticked past the 3 a.m. mark and I am still awake feigning homework while actually just snacking on cereal sweetened with maple syrup soporifically. The first day really did involve homework; then I transitioned into late-night baking and now, late-night blogging. Phail.

    But I did promise to post about what I did with the last of the pumpkin, and I do try to keep promises, so here it is. A few weeks back, Cal hosted the Taste of Berkeley to celebrate local foods and restaurants, and I was asked to provide some goods to sell for personal profit. I wanted something simple yet appealing and representative of me, so I went for cheesecake. (On a side note, I'm not sure if choosing cheesecake as my representative dessert of choice renders me to be a complete fatty, but I don't think there is any other way to metaphorically describe a person vis-a-vis a cheesecake in any other way).

    For me, cheesecake is one of the easiest things to make. It was the first thing I ever made when I was beginning to explore my skills in the kitchen. I even wrote my college essay about cheesecake (See? It is more useful than you think). Once you know the basic ratio for this dessert, you are able to experiment freely with different crusts, baking temperatures, and of course, the filling, which is what I did by adding in the final bit of pumpkin pie mix from my fridge. Since this canned stuff was already sweetened, I just cut down on any added sugar. I also found some mascarpone that had been leftover from some raspberry tiramisu I had made the week before, so I made a simple topping to finish the cheesecake with.

    Although I originally planned to sell 16 slices, things got messy to cut after I got too much cake residue on my slicer (how cool is that device, by the way?), so I just made eight. Needless to say, I did end up selling out, so all is well that ends well.

    And anything that ends in cheesecake always ends well.

    Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake


    • 1 box of Nilla wafers, finely crushed
    • 6 Tbsp butter, melted
    • 2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 cup pumpkin pie mix
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese, softened
    • 1/2 cup maple syrup
    • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and set aside.
    • Combine the cookie crumbs and butter in a small bowl til the cookies look like wet sand. Press into the bottom and up the sides of prepared pan. Refrigerate while making the filling.
    • On medium speed, beat cream cheese and sugar until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, until just blended. Add in pumpkin pie mix and salt until combined.
    • Pour into pan and set pan in a larger pan filled with hot water (This prevents the cake from cracking on the top). Bake for 70 minutes until center is barely moving.
    • Remove from oven and let cool completely. Cover and chill at 4-6 hours or overnight.
    • Before serving, beat together mascarpone and maple syrup until smooth. Spread over cheesecake befores slicing.

    Saturday, March 27, 2010

    Spring Fever/Break/Sun

    Has it really been over one month since my last post? Atrocious. If this ever happens again, please readers, just find me via text/email/Facebook/face-to-face and slap me. One month without delicious desserts to divulge? That in itself is an epic phail, and will not/shall not occur again.

    Or else.

    On a brighter note, it's finally spring! This year, spring fever was in full swing - new experiences [raves], new relationships [from those raves], new friends [also from those raves], and a new me. I feel happy, but in a different way. This kind of happiness is radiating from the inside out. I find myself worrying less about trivial matters like what scores others are getting on exams, and enjoying life more. Things like playing frisbee outside, sleeping in until 2pm, and going for a run outside are so refreshing and new; I love it.

    Reality is not far behind, however, and two weeks of midterms were an ode to that. Those two weeks translated into putting any notions of food on the back burner until all academic necessities had been taken care of. But finally exams ended, and the baking began, and I began with this: Pumpkin poppyseed cake, cinnamon chocolate shortbread, and cardamom caramel.

    Pumpkin is an odd item to use in this spring weather, but I had a can of pumpkin pie mix lying around and I wanted to clear my pantry of anything wintery so that once I return from spring break I can restock with more seasonal ingredients [Stay tuned for what I did with the last of the pumpkin in my next post]. The inspiration derived partially from my finishing course at Flour + Water in San Francisco. Unfortunately, the dessert that night was mediocre, but I liked the presentation. It was simple yet elegant, and I knew I could recreate it at home with ease.

    The glaze on the cake really accentuates the pumpkin flavour, so do not skimp on it. As for the caramel, it is best to infuse the cream with the cardamom the day before, but if you are spontaneous like me and don't think of these things, it's not a big deal; just scald your cream first so that it has some time to cool and develop the cardamom accent before you begin work on the caramel.

    If you really want to save time, you can bake the cake and the shortbread cookies together, but as usual, I lack efficiency in the kitchen and didn't think of doing this until it was too late. You also get the advantage of not having to torture yourself by ogling at the cake longingly while you wait for the cookies to finish.

    And it sucks to wait; trust me.

    Pumpkin Poppyseed Cake

    4 tablespoons pumpkin pie mix [from a can]
    3 large eggs, room temperature
    1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
    1 1/2 cups (5 1/4 ounces) sifted whole-wheat flour
    1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
    3/4 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    3 tablespoons (28 grams) poppy seeds
    13 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
    1/4 cup pumpkin pie mix [from a can]


    1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9-inch round pan, line bottom with parchment paper, grease parchment, and flour pan interior. In a small mixing bowl, lightly combine the 4 Tbsp of pumpkin pie mix, eggs, and vanilla.

    2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, 3/4 cup of the sugar, the baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and half the egg mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase speed to medium (high if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 minute.

    3. Scrape down sides. Add remaining egg mixture in 2 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape down sides and scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

    4. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, put it on a rack, poke all over with a wire tester or a toothpick, and brush with half of the pumpkin pie mix. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto greased wire rack. Poke bottom of cake with tester, brush with some more pumpkin, and set right side up. Brush sides with remaining pumpkin and allow to cool completely.

    Cinnamon-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

    • 1 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons whole-wheat flour (about 6 2/3 ounces)
    • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
    • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
    • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
    • 1/3 cup ice water
    • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour an 8x8 pan and set aside.

    Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups and measuring spoons; level with a knife. Combine flour and the next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine 1/3 cup ice water and vanilla; drizzle over flour mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork until moist.

    Spread dough in prepared pan evenly. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until cookies are set. Cool cookies on pans 5 minutes. Cut into 9 squares, then cut those in half to form 18 triangles.


    1 cup granulated sugar
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    3 cardamom pods, crushed
    1. Combine cardamom and cream in a small pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool. This is best done the day before so that cream has time to infuse.
    2. Put sugar in a heavy-bottomed pot and moisten with a bit of water, making sure that there is no sugar granules on the sides of the pot. Set over high heat and cook until it turns a medium amber colour.
    3. Remove from heat and strain cream into sugar, whisking constantly. The caramel will seize up, but don't worry.
    4. Set pot over low heat and continue to cook until mixture reaches the soft-ball stage [check this by doing the ice water test if you do not have a candy thermometer].
    5. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
    Assembly: Place a slice of cake on a small plate. Place shortbread cookie at an angle, and drizzle caramel over everything decoratively. Add additional poppyseeds for garnish, if desired.