Multicultural Dough

Have you ever realized that countless cultures have their own versions of fried dough?

In America, we have donuts and fritters.
In China, what translates literally to "oil-fried ghosts" is served with congee.
In France, there are beingets, which in the U.S. are associated with New Orleans.
Now in Italy, they take their fried dough seriously.  There are countless versions - bombolini and zeppole to name a couple. 

As you can see, I can name a few off the top of my head, but I was quite amazed when I came across this Wiki article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_doughnut_varieties 

Below, I really love the strawberry jam doughnut picture.  It's not often that what you envision comes to life exactly the way you pictured it.   

Beingets [03.25.2010]

Homemade Strawberry Jam Doughnuts [03.25.2010]


The First Sign of Warmer Days

In mid-March, the first strawberries of the season caught my eye.  I may sound like a dork, but it's really exciting.  My mind starts racing - strawberries, berries, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots.  It's all on it's way and summer is just around the corner!

Below, is a strawberry pastry cream filled tart.  I glazed the strawberries with a strawberry syrup to give the fruit a shine.  

Strawberry Tart [03.18.2010]

I really love this shot - how the contrasting colors pop and the way I was able to capture the strawberry so closely.


A Savory Snack

Although squash are at it's peak summer through fall, surprisingly it's available year round.  

Butternut Squash Soup [03.10.2010]

I suppose during the previous fall, I didn't get my fill of squash.  Unlike other years, it wasn't everywhere I turned.  When I just so happen to come across squash in March, I decided to make soup.  This was my second try at making butternut squash soup.  The first time, the squash flavor wasn't strong enough.  However, this time I prevailed.  I chopped the squash, tossed it with salt, pepper & olive oil and roasted it in the oven.  I pureed it in chicken stock with a couple leaves of sage and voila!  This turned out to be a wonderful savory treat on a chilly day after work.  It was warm and full of flavor.  It's texture was rich and creamy.  To put it over the top, I added toasted pumpkin seeds.  It added a wonderful crunch and a nutty flavor.  

I can't wait to make it again!


Carb Filled Weekend

Sometimes I go a little crazy with bread because I hardly ever make it.  I love eating freshly baked bread so much, but making it isn't high on my list.  I think it's because it doesn't necessarily require the amount of precision that I'm use to in my baking.  

Cheddar & Chive Biscuits [03.07.2010]

Gruyere Popovers [03.07.2010]

Both these recipes are from Laurent Tourondel's cookbook.  I just had to buy the book after having the Gruyere Popovers at BLT Steak in NYC a few years back.  (BTW, I love BLT Burger too.)  This was my first time making this biscuit recipe, but I look forward to enjoying the final product again...perhaps later today. :)  I enjoyed them with a little bit of honey, but they can definately stand up on their own.

I know my popover picture is out of focus, but I just had to share how amazing these come out.  They're crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, cheesy on top and so easy to make - what more could you want?  

Back to my blurry photo...the natural light in the house is nearly non-existent!  It's quite difficult for me to take a picture indoors without a tripod (which was the case).  The only windows in the house face either north or south with the exception of the bathroom - not the ideal location for food photography.  So my ideal photo shoot location is right outside the back door.  My neighbors must think I'm weird.


A Time to Grill

Grilling season has recently started and not only do I love grilled meats - I love grilled fruit!  Grilling fruits bring out it's natural sweetness and there is nothing like eating a piece that is dripping with juices hot off the grill.  Two fruits that I love to grill are peaches and pineapples.

Grilled Pineapple [03.06.2010]

To grill fruit, I like to brush it with olive oil beforehand.  I cook it until it's tender, but I still want it to have some bite - no mushy fruit here!  I also aim for grill marks, so make sure it's hot.  On the stove top, I made a reduction of spiced rum, brown sugar and dried cherries.  I kept it warm and brushed it onto the pineapple after it came off the grill.  It not only gave it another layer of flavor, but a beautiful shine.

I don't have a picture of grilled peaches, but I love them seasoned with salt & pepper.  Try it for yourself - it's amazing!


Brown is the New Black

I don't know about you, but when I think of colors I like, brown is not very high on my list.  To me brown can be dull and plain.  So when I went to photograph the following two "brown" desserts, I wasn't very excited.   In general, I'm often conscious of using contrasting, but complementary colors and thought that the different shades of brown would get lost in photography.  That's why I was pleasantly surprised with the amazing quality and color in these pictures.  To me, they convey warmth and a simple, yet familiar feeling.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cream Pie [03.06.2010]

Espresso Creme Brulee [03.06.2010]

I made these two desserts not thinking about photography at all.  The Chocolate & PB Cream Pie I made because I realized that I've never made a cream pie in my life and anyone who knows me, knows that I love peanut butter with a passion.  The crust is peanut butter flavored and the filling is chocolate & PB.  It's topped with a quenelle of whipped cream, crust crumbs and cocoa nibs.  The silkiness of the filling and crunch of the nibs made an amazing texture combination!

I made the  Espresso Creme Brulee basically because I wanted to use the cup!  I love when brulees are filled to the very top edge of the dish and the crust of caramelized sugar looks as if it's ready to ooze over the sides.  This dessert was a big hit with grandma, yes, the same grandma that says she doesn't like dessert and everything is too sweet.  :)

In conclusion:
I still love peanut butter
creme brulee 1, grandma 0
I will never see the color brown as I did before


I Want Another One!

Yep, that's my big guy - Sir "Creases" Barksdale.  He turned 2 (in human years) this past March.  He looks serious, but he's pretty goofy.  That's him on "his" bench outside the local library.  He loves to rest there after his walk.  

Crease [03.09.2010]

And yes, I really want another one.

a.  a buddy for Crease - so he can hang out with the boys
b.  a girlfriend for Crease
c.  a fling for Crease so that I can have one of his babies
d.  all of the above


Colorful Carrot Cake

I  was inspired when I came across some baby heirloom carrots this spring.  Of course carrot cake came to mind, but I didn't want to do just any ordinary carrot cake.  

 Heirloom Carrot Cake [03.04.2010]

I wanted to do something that highlighted the amazing colors of the carrots so I ended up taking a more avant garde approach to the plating of this dessert.  I baked a thin layer of cake and did a 3/4" dice.  I tossed the cake with 3/4" dice poached pear and candied walnuts.  This mixture sits atop a smear of whipped and lightly sweetened cream cheese.  To finish it off is a quenelle of cream cheese ice cream and a drizzle of caramel. 

Hmmm...my sweet tooth is acting up - wonder why.


Hom Sui Gok

Hom Sui Gok is a Golden Glutinous Rice Dumpling that can be found at Chinese Dim Sum.  Most that I have tried are savory, but still slightly sweet.  The ones that I were taught to make were strictly savory.  

The photo below was a landmark for me.  It was the first time I felt I had a true grasp on depth of field.   

Hom Sui Gok [02.14.2010]
I would make these savory treats every year with my grandmother, mom and aunt to celebrate Lunar New Year.  As with many family recipes, there were no exact measurements.  After my grandmother passed away a few years ago, it took a while for me to develop a written recipe that compares.  This year, they came out spot on.  However, next year I would like to add a small amount of sugar to the dough for a more golden brown color.  

The dough is made with glutinous rice flour, boiling water, salt, our secret family ingredient and dredged in sesame.  The filling is a mixture of ground pork, BBQ pork, mushrooms, green onion, dehydrated shrimp, soy sauce, oyster sauce, salt and white pepper.  After forming the dumplings, they are deep fried and delicious!


Look Familiar?

Yes, you finally get a description of the cake used in my header.  I made it for my aunt's birthday earlier this year.  Here's another view...

 Coconut, Lime & Passion Fruit Cake [02.14.2010]

I really love tropical and fresh flavors.  This cake is a coconut flavored sponge brushed with a lime syrup then layered with a passion fruit curd.  To mellow out some of the tart flavors in the cake, I "frosted" it with a fluffy meringue. It's then finished with lime zest, candied lime, candied coconut and toasted coconut.  

I absolutely love the visual appeal of this cake.  I hardly ever make cakes because it's really a project.  However, it's very rewarding when your hard work pays off.


WOO - 2010!

Hey, at least I'm making some progress - finally pictures from this year.  

Sometimes I just want to practice my photography and I don't exactly have the motivation to bake....

Raspberry Mousse [01.28.2010]

This was the case.  Here, I used some leftover devil's food cake for the base.  I winged a raspberry mousse, which had a bit too much gelatin - you pastry people can tell from the picture.  However, it wasn't necessarily a bad thing for photography.  I actually did photo shoots for this dessert on two separate days because I was initially unhappy with the lighting.  And as you can see - it held up.  

And for a little side note, when working with raspberries , one of my favorite ingredients is the raspberry wine from Trader Joe's.  The raspberry flavor comes through and it's perfectly sweetened - adding just a bit enhances the raspberry flavor to whatever you're making.  This is especially useful when raspberries are not in season.  


Beehive Corn Muffins?

Whoa, what happened here?  In the midst of the chaos while preparing for our Christmas dinner last year, I decided to make corn muffins on the fly.

Honey Corn Muffins [12.25.2009]


Oven was still too hot from the roast when I put my muffins in, so they came out looking like beehives!  I think they looked pretty cool, unintentional or not.  


Cupcake Bonanza...

Last Christmas, I decided to take the easy way out.  Instead of making a million different cookies and desserts, I decided to do cupcakes.  Cupcakes are definitely an easy "go to" sweet that makes everyone happy.  At this time, I was still clueless about the use of my camera.  Of the photos below, I really only like the second one - the rest are just there to show you the variety.  
Cupcakes [12.13.2009]

The cupcakes above are:
Vanilla Bean w/ Cranberry Meringue & Cranberry Compote
Lemon Gingerbread w/ Cream Cheese Frosting & Candied Lemon Zest
Peppermint Chocolate w/ Peppermint Chocolate Ganache, Valrhona Crunchies & Sprinkles

I'm not quite sure how many of these cupcake I made, but I believe they went to 4 or 5 different events - so you can only imagine. 


Off-Topic Thursdays

It's official - As much as I love sweets, we're going to need a little break once a week.  I absolutely love the following picture and just had to share!

 Buddha - Kamakura, Japan [01.08.2005]

Saw my BFF the other night and she had just returned from an Asia trip.  That of course reminded me of good times!  Japan is one of my favorite destinations.  We had stopped in Kamakura on a bus tour.  With limited time, I snapped the photo but didn't have time to go inside the buddha - we had to get the soft serve (sakura and purple sweet potato) outside instead.  Hey, I've got my priorities!  

As you can see, this picture was taken over 5 years ago.  At the time, I only had a point and shoot.  I think the picture came out pretty good considering.  I love the light, the shadow, the point of view and how the clouds are rolling by. 


Apples from my "Garden"

Garden in quotations because at the time, it really wasn't.  In all honesty, it still isn't.  When the following pictures were taken, the backyard was completely overgrown.  Just this past couple of weeks, we've cut everything down with the exception of the apple tree.  Landscaping by the contractors just started yesterday - I'm going for a more functional space in the yard.

Apples from my Garden [11.05.2009]

Back to the topic at hand, this little apple tree...it was just pruned a couple of days ago in hopes that it will begin to yield larger fruit.  The average apple size in the last harvest was about 2" in diameter!  Of course, it didn't help that the poor tree looked more like a bush.  Despite it's size, they are definitely some of the most delicious and flavorful apples I've enjoyed.

Apple Tasting [11.08.2009]

Let's face it, I  am not crazy about this picture at all.  At the time, I didn't have an appropriate plate and I also remembered scrambling to make everything after work and trying to get the photo before the daylight was gone.  (My lighting issues will most likely be addressed in a later post.)  So here it goes, Apple Tasting from left to right - apple fritter w/ sauteed apples, moist apple cake w/ brown sugar whip cream, apple pie and caramel apple.


Just Ripe

Don't you just love it when a particular fruit is in season and you just so happen to come across the most magnificent one you've ever seen?  And it only gets better because once you taste it, the flavor doesn't let you down.

Pomegranate [11.04.2009]

Late last year, I was lucky enough to be bestowed some hand-picked pomegranates by one of the restaurant's suppliers.  They were homegrown and had come from his own tree.  All were cracked and heavier than you would expect - both, signs that they were bursting with juices.  After enjoying a couple, I decided to make a small batch of sorbet with the rest.  Above you see my pomegranate photo collage - cracked pomegranate, pomegranate arils and pomegranate sorbet.

Even though summer is starting, I feel like I am reliving last fall through these posts!


Asian Flavors

Although I absolutely love the food, working in an Italian restaurant somewhat limits my ingredient list.  So when I'm experimenting at home, I love to get my hands on ingredients that I don't utilize daily.  The following is a dessert inspired by Asian flavors.

Yuzu Meringue Tart [09.28.2009]

The tart shell is a typical pate sucree.  I made a yuzu curd on the stove top, filled the shells with it and finished it off in the oven.  It is topped with a Swiss Meringue and pieces of black & white sesame brittle.  Although I'm easily drawn to tart flavors like yuzu, I must say that the sesame brittle definitely stole the show!

For any who are interested, the reflection in the image is caused by my just polished countertop.


All-time Favorite Dessert?

I have come to be quite obsessed with panna cotta!  Besides ice cream (and perhaps all frozen desserts), it could very well be one of my all-time favorites.  The catch?  It has to be the right texture - one that just holds it's shape, one that falls apart when touched by a spoon, one that melts in your mouth.  Can you tell that I'm a little picky?

Coconut Lime Panna Cotta [09.21.2009]

The panna cotta itself is made with coconut milk, whole milk and cream steeped with lime zest.  The top is garnished with a prickly pear gelee, a coconut "snowball" and lime zest

I loved the colors of this dessert and the fact that I was able to capture the subtle green hue of the panna cotta. 


A Holiday Made for Me

In recent years, Thanksgiving has become one of my favorite holidays.  When I was younger, it was quite the contraryNaturally, as my love food for developed, so did my love for the national holiday celebrated by a massive feast.

Pumpkin Pie [09.02.2009]

This photograph is a flashback to Thanksgiving 2009. It is my take on a pumpkin pie - I actually used butternut squash instead of pumpkin and baked it in a ring mold on a graham cracker crust. It's topped with a brown sugar creme fraiche and homemade apple marmalade.

Looking back on this photo makes me want to  take more pictures with the use of props!


Long overdue...

It's been nearly 3 years since graduating from culinary school.
It's been nearly a year since my boyfriend surprised me with a dslr camera for my birthday.
It's been nearly 6 months since he purchased the pastrypixels domain for me.

So needless to say, it's time to get organized and document both my pastry and photographic skills. I'm starting with pictures from a year ago. If all goes as planned, one post a day until we're all caught up.

Here are my first two attempts:

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cupcake [08.20.2009]



Milk & Cookies [08.24.2009]


At that time, I knew absolutely nothing about photography that required skills beyond point and shoot. One of my friend's blog - www.namthip.com is what has really inspired me to do this.

I hope you enjoy!