29 May 2008

Krispy Kreme has Albino Doughnuts!

Since I had the contest loot burning a hole in my purse, yesterday seemed like the perfect time to cash in my prizes. First, I got the Caribbean Fruit Chiller, the frozen not the Kreme. Last time I had a Kreme Chiller I swear it consisted of pulverized doughnuts. I was reading a book about doughnuts yesterday, and one of the recipes is for doughnut soup. Heat the milk, pan-fry the doughnut in butter, place both in a blender, and purée. Um, gross? Though it's not much different then buttering a slice of tender white bread, sprinkling it with cinnamon sugar, placing it in a bowl and pouring hot milk over it. Hm. The former tasted weirder, by far.

But I digress.

In the heat, it's always a good idea to stick with the fruity iced beverage rather than a cream-based beverage. In some slushee drinks, the ice remains pebbly, whereas the ice in this was perfectly pulverized so that it was slightly crunchy, but mostly a smooth icy texture. The flavors were great, very tropical, mango-pineapple-orangey, and the level of sweetness was perfect. It cooled me down without leaving a sticky feeling, which is why I find sorbet more refreshing than ice cream in intense heat. (It wasn't intensely hot yesterday, but all the same.)

My first inclination when I got home was to eat a doughnut, but I do have a 10K on Saturday so I need to still pay some attention to balanced eating. Dinner consisted of chicken wraps. The chicken was sort of poached in a mixture of sautéed vegetables, a wine, and seasonings. A day or so later, it was sliced and ready to make wraps. Note to self: I hate mayonnaise for a reason. I should have spread my wraps with sour cream, as I was tipped off to do. I also spread some horseradish mustard on the Flatout wraps, sprinkled it some with blue cheese (another note to self: I don't care for the taste of Kraft Blue Cheese Crumbles), then layered with spinach and the chicken, which wasn't overcooked, I should add. Properly cooked chicken makes all the difference.

Question: Is Krispy Kreme now trans fat-free? I don't know if that pertains to what I'm about to say, but the glaze on these doughnuts isn't translucent and shard-free, but rather it's morphed into an albino doughnut.

See how it breaks into shards when cut? It never used to do that, even when at room temperature and not right off the belt. It used to crunch slightly and seemingly melt into the doughnut. Weird.

Finally, this is the featured doughnut at Krispy Kreme, the Caribbean Kreme Doughnut. The girl behind the counter said the filling reminded her of bananas, but maybe only in texture. I sort of know what a Caribbean flavor would be, which makes identifying the flavors easier. Those flavors being mango, pineapple, and an orange taste. The Blognut said the filling includes passion fruit, but I really don't know what that tastes like. The last time I had passion fruit it reminded of tangerine and pineapple. The texture of the cream was good, not too sweet, and the dough was perfectly sweet and not bread rollish, plus it was tender and held up. The frosting didn't overly sweeten the taste, and the contrast of the crumb topping was really good against the filling.

My only complaint I have with Krispy Kreme doughnuts, besides not particularly caring for them (this doughnut being a pleasant exception), is that they are quite stingy with their fillings. See how there's only a quarter-sized circle of filling? It's hard to get even dough-to-cream distribution when there isn't enough cream. On my paczki post, scroll down and look at the amount of fillings. Granted, it's a once-a-year event here, but still. STILL. Krispy Kreme, I know your stocks are leveling off and the soaring gas prices contributes to ingredient pricing inflation, but no one appreciates blatant stinginess, because your doughnuts have been this way since the store first opened in Mishawaka. Maybe it's just this location. I'm willing to make that concession.

Thanks again, Blognut!

I have a 10K coming up that I'm mostly ready to race. Considering that it's only been 2 month of consistent training, I'm not shooting for the moon, timewise, but I should still get a decent time, definitely sub-1 hour, especially if I PACE MYSELF. I may or may not post pre-race pictures tomorrow, but if not, wish me luck on my 10K Saturday!

28 May 2008

Daring Bakers and the Opéra Cake

We're back, and this time in a pastry challenge worthy of a spot at the Olympics! This challenge was brought to us by Fran from Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie, Ivonne from Cream Puffs in Venice, Lis from La Mia Cucina, and Shea from Whiskful.
An Opéra Cake is made up of five components: the jaconde, an almond sponge cake, a simple syrup to moisten the jaconde, a buttercream to fill some of the layers, a mousse to make up one of the layers, and a ganache to glaze the top. We were instructed to keep the flavors "light" -- no chocolate, cocoa, or coffee, and the color had to be light as well. Going ahead with that train of thought, I decided to turn my Opéra Cake into a "White Forest Cake"; white chocolate making up the ganache as per the given recipe, and cherry puree making up the simple syrup, buttercream, and mousse. It was my dad's birthday, and I typically make him a Black Forest Cake, though a walk on the light side is always a good idea.

After making all the components, I proceeded the next day with the assembly of the cake. In this picture, I have brushed the first layer with cherry simple syrup, flavored with the most hideous kirsch I've ever smelled.

(Actually, I've never used kirsch before, but after research found that Hiram Walker Kirsch was made from the pit of the cherry instead of the cherry itself. Obviously, bitterness came to mind, and it really didn't lend a cherry taste to the syrup. My mom tasted some of it and told me that it not only didn't remind her of cherry cough syrup, it tasted like cherry Listerine, complete with the intense throat-burning feel. On the label, there are directions for a strange cocktail flavored with the HW Kirsch, HW Amaretto, HW something else liquors, lemonade, and ice. I think this brand was just made to get drunk? I didn't research kirsch ahead of time, but I know what I will buy next when the ENTIRE bottle gets used... It'll most likely take over 1 1/2 years for that to happen. Maybe this is all my n00bness coming through. If you can, enlighten me on this subject!)

Here is the mousse layer. Very light and airy, though the cherry taste was missing. I pureed my own mix of frozen dark cherries with a bit of sugar, but I think I either needed to use sour cherries or add more sugar.

This is the completely assembled cake, finished with a layer of French buttercream. The buttercream curdled a bit after I added some of the cherry puree, but it remained smooth in feel. Maybe I reduced the butter by too much, as I used 2 1/2 sticks instead of 3 1/2, and perhaps I should have used at least 2 3/4, but I don't know. Also, the Swiss buttercream I made from the Perfect Party Cake challenge was not as achingly sweet as this was, but when fully assembled it wasn't overpowering.

A view from the side

Leftover scraps from trimming the sides

After setting in the fridge, a white chocolate ganache was poured on top. For extra flair, I decided to add drops of the remaining cherry syrup (I probably could have brushed more of it on the layers) and create a marbleized design.

When we were ready to have Dad's birthday Opéra Cake, I sliced and served everyone a piece. The overall reviews were in the positive, though we all agreed that it didn't really have much of a cherry taste. The jaconde was a favorite because it was light, nutty, and paired well against the smoothness from the buttercream and mousse. The mousse was favored for it's slight difference from the buttercream in that it wasn't as sweet and was more billowy, but the texture was smooth and very much "in rhythm" with the other components. As for the buttercream, it wasn't too sweet against the jaconde and mousse, but was slightly sturdier and basically, in both a different-yet-similar way of the mousse, was within the texture and feel of the jaconde and mousse. The white chocolate ganache, however, was really off. It's waxy, plasticy texture was a complete difference, and I couldn't even cut through it without all the fillings of the cake oozing out. I would have preferred a shell of just melted white chocolate to the waxiness of the ganache.

We all enjoyed another slice as a Memorial Day treat served with vanilla bean ice cream drizzled with cherry puree-syrup.

Thanks to the hosts for giving me a push! This recipe is one I might have noted, but put off until I forgot about it. Once again, I have expanded my baking repertoire! Don't forget to peruse the Daring Bakers' Blogroll to read other tales of the Opéra Cake.

This recipe was posted by Pam from Sugar Chef. The recipe is from the original posted by the hosts, but changed to make it fruit-flavored and with a fruit mousse instead of a white chocolate mousse. A big thank you from me to Pam, as I was looking for a way to incorporate fruit, but I didn't exactly know how to proceed.

6 Large Egg Whites (room temperature)
2 Tablespoons (30 grams) Granulated Sugar
2 Cups (225 grams) Almond Meal
2 Cups (225 grams) Powdered Sugar
6 Large Eggs (room temperature)
½ cup (70grams) Unbleached All Purpose Flour
½ Tablespoon Vanilla
3 Tablespoons (45 grams) Unsalted Butter (melted & cooled)

Line two ½ sheetpans with parchment paper. Butter the paper.
Sift together the almond meal and powdered sugar, set aside.
In a bowl of a 5 quart mixer using the paddle attachment beat the eggs to break them up. Add the sifted almond meal and powdered sugar mixture as well as the vanilla. Beat for 3 minutes.
Add the flour and mix on low speed just to incorporate.
In a clean bowl of a 5 quart mixer using the whisk attachment beat the egg whites to soft peak and while still beating slowly add the granulated sugar. Continue to whisk at high speed until the mixture is at full peak and glossy but not dry.
Fold this mixture into the egg, almond meal & powdered sugar mixture.
Remove ¼ cup of the mixture and stir into the melted butter. This will allow the melted butter to completely mix into the larger mixture. Fold everything together.
Weigh the mixture. Mine weighed 2 pounds 4 ½ ounces. Spread 1 pound 2 ¼ ounces into each prepared ½ sheetpan and bake in a 400 degree convection oven (425 degrees standard oven) for 7 minutes or until light brown.
Invert onto a clean sheet of parchment paper and peel off the parchment from the cakes. Turn over and use the parchment to cover the cakes. Let cool to room temperature then cover with plastic wrap to keep it air tight.

1 Cup Peach Juice (from IQF frozen peaches drained overnight)
2 Tablespoons Peach Schnapps
Sugar to taste if your peach juice is not sweet enough.

Bring the peach juice and sugar (if using) to a boil and reduce a little to a syrup consistency. Add the Peach Schnapps and refrigerate until ready to use.

2 Cups Sugar
½ Cup Water
2 Large Eggs
2 Large Egg Yolks
14 Ounces Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
1/3 Cup Peach Puree
In a 5 quart mixer beat the butter with a paddle attachment till light and free of lumps. Set aside.
Put the eggs and egg yolks in a bowl of a 5 quart mixer with the whisk attached. Whisk for a minute to break up the eggs.
Put the sugar and water in a sauce pan and cook without stirring until the mixture reaches 225 degrees. (Once the mixture reaches 210, start whipping the eggs at high speed.)
Lower the speed to medium high and pour the sugar mixture slowly down the side of the bowl. When it is all incorporated bring the speed back up to high and beat until cool (about 5 minutes).
Add the butter a little at a time whisking at high speed.
Whisk in the Peach Puree.

4 Ounces Peach Puree
1 Ounce Granulated Sugar
1 ½ Gelatin Sheets (bloomed) (I used one packet of unflavored gelatin, though I think only half was needed to sub for 1 ½ sheets. I erred on the side of caution, just in case.)
6 Ounces Heavy Cream

Heat puree and sugar to about 86 degrees just to melt the sugar.
Add the gelatin and stir to dissolve.
Let the mixture cool to room temperature
Whip the cream and fold it into the puree mixture.

14 Ounces White Chocolate (I used Callebaut)
½ Cup Heavy Cream (I used 40%)

In the microwave bring the cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate. Stir with a whisk until the chocolate is completely melted. Use at 90 degrees.


Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
Cut the cake so you have one piece 10” x 10” and one piece 10” x 5”. Repeat with the other cake. You will have two 10” X 10” and two 10” x 5”.
Put one of the 10” pieces on the parchment lined baking sheet. Moisten it with the peach syrup using a brush.
Spread a ¼” thick layer of peach buttercream over the cake. Put small diced pieces of fresh peach over the buttercream and push them down into the buttercream.
Put the two pieces of cake that measure 10” x 5” over this, fitting them together so you have a 10” x 10” square. Moisten with the peach syrup.
Put all of the peach mousse onto this cake layer and spread out evenly.
Put small diced pieces of fresh peach over the mousse and push them down into the mousse.
Put the last 10” square cake on top of the mousse layer. Moisten with the peach syrup.
Spread a ¼” thick layer of peach buttercream over the cake. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
Spread the white chocolate glaze over the chilled cake and return to the refrigerator.
Chill until set.

27 May 2008

Milk Foam 101

Partly why I'm addicted to cappuccinos is mainly because of the milk foam. Up until now, I haven't been able to replicate it at home. I have a milk plunger, but not a steam nozzle on my nonexistent espresso machine. The foam I was making was in no way similar to what I got at a cafe (the only similarity being milk); clearly, I was making a mistake.

From the Runner's World forums (not the Not Runner's World forums), a forumite told me about a book I should check out, On Science and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee. One day after running, I was looking through the book and reading the milk section. Much to my pleasure, the topic of milk foam was thoroughly discussed.
According to the book, some milks are better suited to foaming due to the whey proteins, which are the critical stabilizers. Therefore, milks with added protein (reduced-fat and skim milks) are the easiest to foam. Whole milk, however, has a fuller texture and flavor. I only have whole milk right now, so I can confidently say that it does work and you can get a decent amount of foam; no need to go out and buy a $4 gallon of 1% just to make milk foam!

Keys to Foaming Milk
From On Science and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee

To foam a small volume of milk without steam, separate the foaming and heating steps:

  • Pour cold, fresh milk into a jar, tighten the lid, and shake it vigorously for 20 seconds (I'd say about 30-35 seconds for whole milk), or until the contents have doubled in volume. (Or froth in a plunger-style coffee maker, whose fine screen produces an especially thick, creamy foam.)

  • The stabilize the foam: remove the lid, place the jar i the microwave, and heat on high for about 30 seconds, or until the foam rises to the top of the jar.

Here's what it looks like with pictures:

Pour cold milk into the glass. I used whole milk.

I didn't have my watch on, so I ended up plunging for 30-35 seconds instead of 20 seconds, but I noticed that I had a slightly larger volume of foam. (With 1% milk, 20 seconds is what I was doing and got a good volume.)

As you can see, the contents have doubled in volume.

This is how the foam looks before it has been heated.

And this is how the foam looks after being heated. It's very stable and firm compared to the previous picture, and it looks

Foam of epic proportions!

Spoon however much of the foam you want. I typically use it ALL!


On another note, I now have the name of my dad's very kind customer (thanks, Dad!). That means I will be blogging about Mrs. Cederholm's cookies.

To clear something up, after I just now paid attention to the name of the cookies, Lazarus Chocolate Chunk Cookies, I realized this recipe is similar to the Neiman Marcus cookies. I even Googled "Lazarus Chocolate Chunk Cookies" and the recipe popped up. See, this is what I thought when I read the recipe, but this is what happens when I don't pay attention to the name of the cookies. My apologies for getting everyone hyped up!

26 May 2008

Double Holiday Weekend

Not only was it Memorial Day weekend, it was my dad's birthday, too. Also, on Saturday I received in the mail my prize from The Blognut. Blognut had a doughnut contest and I was one of the winners, so I received a coupon for a dozen doughnuts from Krispy Kreme and a coupon for their new Caribbean Chiller. Thanks, Blognut!

As per birthday tradition, we started the Sunday breakfast off with crepes. The first picture is my plate and the second is my dad's plate. The extending fork was a gift from one of my brothers to Dad.

Yet again, here is a picture of milk foam! My post tomorrow will be instructions on how to make it.

We made a lovely pasta salad with many vegetables and black olives, plus a homemade vinaigrette. Paired with the pasta was steak, and although it was medium-well it was very good, juicy, just not bloody... But I can look past my personal likings! (It tasted even better the next day!)

Chicken was also served. It was marinated in olive oil and seasonings I'm not sure of, but it was a bit on the spicy side and slightly sweet (I think it was brushed with a honey-orange glaze), with homemade barbecue sauce brushed on while grilling. Nice.

To drink, I made Emiline's Blueberry-Honey Sweet Tea. Very delicious, very cooling, and awesome when mixed half-and-half with sparkling mineral water. (I forgot to take a picture of my full glass, but that's alright, just go to Emiline's blog for better pictures.)

Part of dessert was white chocolate ganache-coated strawberries. It was good, but the ganache had more of a waxy texture than if I just dipped the strawberries in straight white chocolate, which would have had more of a snappy texture.

I hope you all had a great Memorial Day! In a way to remember both those who have given their lives and those who survived, I usually always read a book about a veteran, usually Clarence Blakeslee's book (he is a WWII veteran from Michigan), and Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters is another favorite.

23 May 2008

Special Cookies and Incredible Milk Foam

A few months ago, my dad brought some really amazing cookies from a customer of his. This one particular cookie was so amazing that he got the recipe for me! Thanks, Dad, and thanks, Dad's Customer!

I altered the recipe a bit based on what I had, mainly that I reduced the butter by a half a stick, added toasted coconut, and cherry chips, but it didn't deter from the delicious taste (the very taste that had me dumbfounded as to what exactly it was) and the chewy texture. These cookies are worthy of a spot in a cafe!

What you are looking at here is THE perfect milk foam. I have been having so much trouble making decent milk foam with my plunger that I just about gave up. One day, post-run, when I should have been stretching, I was reading a bit of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee. Basically, the book takes you through the hows and whys of why different main ingredients do what they do. Much to my surprise, making perfect milk foam is explained thoroughly. Guess what? It works! The foam I can now make is very similar to the foam I get on my cappuccinos and different cafes, even better than at some places! I am so stoked! I can even top hot chocolate with perfect milk foam and chocolate shavings... The possibilities are endless!

At breakfast the next day


20 May 2008

Don't Knock It Until You Try It

This is a new creation that I'm still tweaking, but I'm happy with the first round of results.
This pasta dish features a light tomato sauce that has pear-infused white balsamic vinegar. I really enjoy the taste of this vinegar and I like how it adds a subtle taste enhancement without overpowering other flavors. The tuna was an addition I enjoyed, but I'm aware that it might make people scratch their heads and wonder what I was drinking. I wasn't, I swear!

Overall, the sauce was the highlight; it was light and not heavy, but it doesn't mean that the dish wasn't filling. I'll be making it often!

Print this recipe

Tuna and Grape Tomato Pasta with Pear-infused White Balsamic Sauce
Recipe by Christina Provo

Ingredients -

1 16 oz. box of penne pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsps tomato paste
1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup chicken broth
7 tablespoons Alessi White Balsamic Pear-Infused Vinegar
2 tins of tuna in water, drained and flaked
Extra olive oil
Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions -
  1. Put a large pot of water to boil and add 2 teaspoons of kosher salt.

  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet with high sides on medium. When heated, add the garlic and saute for 20 seconds. Add the tomato paste and saute for 1 minute before adding the grape tomatoes, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and crushed red pepper; saute for 3 minutes.

  3. When water is boiling, add the penne, stir, and cook for 10 minutes or until almost al dente.

  4. Meanwhile, add 1 cup of chicken broth to tomato mixture and let simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until reduced and thickened slightly. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, then taste for seasonings. Add the pasta, 1/4 cup of pasta water, and the tuna; cook for another 1-3 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente.

  5. Remove from heat. Dish the pasta into bowls, then drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil on top and a light sprinkle of parmesan cheese and parsley.

  6. Enjoy!


19 May 2008

Weekend Dinner Wrap-Up

After an 8-miler I ran, I wanted something sweet to snack on. I had been meaning to make cookies for the past couple of days, but couldn't settle on a recipe. Actually, I didn't want a recipe that called for creamed butter because I didn't want to wait. Enter: Peanut butter-Honey Oatmeal cookies from Visions of Sugar Plum.
These are awesome! The perfect density-to-mix ins ratio, and it was pretty soft and chewy. I only had regular peanut butter and I subbed plumped raisins for the honey peanuts (which next time I will have), and next time I might add toasted coconut. Also, I loved the extra nuttiness that came from toasting the oats. Great recipe, Emiline!

Now, about the chocolate chips I used... I don't like using Ghirardelli chocolate chips. No, the taste is fine, and I love that they have bittersweet chips. It's just that the chip size is much too big and creates too much of an extrusion that negatively alters the shape.

Steak. I used to hate it. What changed? One day of walking around Chicago without proper sustenance, passing a sign of the restaurant in The Lake House that advertised something like "1/4 pound burgers!" In my anemic-like state, I craved IRON! In fact, my mom and I ordered liver and onions. Yes.

Saturday's steak (I forgot the cut) was cooked medium-rare. I prefer rare, but medium-rare, leaning more towards the rare, was what I felt like at the moment. As long as the meat is bloody, juicy, and not dry, I love it.

The steak was topped with a pear-infused white balsamic pan sauce. Basically, after the steaks were cooked, butter was added, swirled around, then the pear white wine vinegar was poured in. Maybe. I didn't make it and I forgot to ask, so I'm not quite sure of all of the ingredients, but it was EXCELLENT!

After dinner I had a tea smoothie. A forumite from the Runner's World forums told me about this smoothie. You brew a cup of tea (black or green), add frozen fruit (or fresh) to the blender, some frozen fruit juice concentrate (if you want), then pour the tea over it and blend away. My current favorite combination is black tea, frozen peaches and blackberries, a fresh banana, and pineapple concentrate (just a little). It really is the best way to cool down after a run, which is when I usually make it.

Sunday's dinner was steak quesadillas. The leftover steak was sliced and then sautéed with Worcestershire sauce, I think. There were also green peppers and onions. Look:

That's it until next week!

16 May 2008

Hapi Snacks For Hapi Times!

A few weeks ago, I went to Saigon Market to buy some wasabi peas when I realized, much to my dismay, that they were closed. The next step I took was to try and find some at a standard grocery store.

I walked into the store, headed towards the Asian section, surprisingly found a few different brands, and bought one that I had been wondering about. Back in the car, I opened the can and, shock and awe! I didn't really like it, so I went back into the store to buy the other brands. Instead of just buying one, I bought them all. In the name of this here blog, just for you!

Hapi Wasabi Peas -

- Had a deep roasted taste
- The texture of the peas crunched easily and ended up crunching into a powdery-like consistency
- Wasabi heat was practically nonexistent unless you a) ate many in a row, or b) were lucky and one pea was loaded.
- Didn't say it had MSG.
- Cost was somewhere around $3.09, so for the price it wasn't really worth it unless nothing else was available. In a pinch, these tasted fine if you don't prefer a super hot wasabi experience.

JFC Wasabi Peas -

- Was very green
- Way too sweet, sort of like Ramen Noodles
- The wasabi heat was hit-or-miss; some bites were mild and sweet with a slight bite, others had the Zing!
- The texture was a bit tougher than the Hapi Peas, but not by much.
- Has MSG and fake wasabi flavoring.
- This was the cheapest, coming in at $1.39, definitely better than the Hapi Peas.

Feng Shui Wasabi Peas -

- This one made me chuckle, as it advertises "no artificial colors" and the picture shows vibrantly green peas, though the actual peas were a rather dull gray-ish-green
- The ZING! was intense! From the moment a pea landed on your tongue to the time you chewed and swallowed, your nose had a major zingy feel running through it.
- As for the texture, it was the only drawback to an otherwise perfect wasabi pea. It was reminiscent of crunching on egg shells, though it didn't really make you think you were chewing a cockroach on Survivor.
- The price was decent at $1.99. If I couldn't get to the Saigon Market where I normally purchase the wasabi peas, this is the brand I'd get.

In the end, my favorite wasabi peas remain the ones at Saigon Market.

The price is $1.79 and both the texture and zing! are perfect.
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