Sunday, December 29, 2013

Williams Sonoma Peppermint Bark

My dad buys boxes of William Sonoma Peppermint Bark every year. And every year I always tell him I can make it for much cheaper. And I never get around to doing it.

Well this year, I did it. No longer will we go broke buying Williams Sonoma bark!
williams sonoma peppermint bark recipe
The Williams Sonoma tin is so darn cute though
The key part of this recipe is tempering the chocolate. Chocolate has a crystalline structure; if you melt the chocolate and let it set randomly, it loses that structure. All chocolate you buy is tempered, which means that all those crystals are aligned.

Tempering Chocolate 101 ( from Serious Eats and David Lebovitz)
- Tempering chocolate 
   1) makes it shiny and pretty 
   2) increases the melting point
   3) causes a crisp snap when the chocolate breaks
  4) avoids blooming, when the cocoa butter rises to the surface, make it look moldy/dusty and pale, when it is no longer tempered due to heat (fat bloom) or moisture (sugar bloom). The chocolate is perfectly good, just unattractive.
- How to temper chocolate? Melt your chocolate, then add some already tempered chocolate to "seed" it, setting up the nice pattern as the melted chocolate cools down
- To avoid seizing (clumping) do not let water get into the chocolate  (oil + water = no bueno) and do not let the chocolate get too hot (this is why we chop it into small pieces)

The recipe is dependent on the quality of chocolate, and it's better to use chocolate bars rather than chips, which have less cocoa butter so they keep their shape during baking. I used Ghiradelli's baking white chocolate and Trader Joe's bittersweet chocolate.

I had no problem with the chocolates seizing or or the white and bittwersweet layers separating when breaking into pieces, but once set the white chocolate had little darker spots since I didn't temper it right. The Ghiradelli's white chocolate was also much sweeter than the Williams Sonoma version, so I'll have to keep experimenting with that.

12 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon peppermint oil, divided
12 oz white chocolate, chopped
5 small candycanes, crushed

Line the bottom of a cookie tray with parchment paper.

Fill a saucepan with about 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer. Put 2/3 of the chopped bittersweet chocolate in a medium glass or metal bowl and set the bowl over the simmering (not boiling) saucepan. Stir the chocolate until nearly melted. Remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon peppermint oil and the remaining pieces of chocolate until those pieces melt. Pour evenly on parchment paper. Firmly tap the dish against the counter a few times to even it out and remove any air bubbles.

Let the chocolate set at cool room temperature for about 30 minutes before topping with white chocolate.

Bring the water in the saucepan to a simmer again and repeat the same process with the white chocolate. Once melted, carefully and evenly spread the white chocolate over the bittersweet chocolate.

Sprinkle the top with the crushed peppermint (pushing any chunks that stick out).

Allow the bark to set at cool room temperature until firm. Lift the bark from parchment paper and break into pieces.
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Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Merry Christmas! Every year it's an Uy kids tradition to cut out shapes from Pillsbury sugar cookie dough and decorate them for Santa. Of course, as we get older, our creations and artistic designs get more beautiful. Art masterpieces worthy for the Louvre.

However, none of us like sugar cookies. Especially with that icing in a tub smeared on top. And it's a shame to toss out such pretty cookies every year (foods have feelings too!). So this we we decided to try adapting my sister's snickerdoodle recipe from Allrecipes.
While digging in the pantry, we found a pastry gun, a gift from my sister's godmother ages ago. While Chef Sherbert used her gun to make these pretty cookies, Chef Hans and I were forced to hand shape ours since we couldn't use cookie cutters on the stickier snickerdoodle dough (originally meant to be rolled into balls, not Christmas shapes).

Without cookie cutters, they were very ugly. Like, back to when we were 5 years olds making Christmas cookies ugly. Not Louvre worthy, but...more modern art, so we'll submit these to the New York MoMA.

Chef Hans: God, is that a snowman you're rolling out? It's hideous.
Chef Uy: It's avante garde!

Santa deserved the best though, so here are the wreaths, flowers, and Christmas trees from the pastry gun. Alas, this year we didn't have time to decorate with icing, sprinkles, and chocolate chips.
1/2 cup butter softened
1/2 cup shortening (I use Crisco)
1 1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cream together butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cup white sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Blend in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Shape dough by round spoonfuls into balls.

Mix the 2 tablespoons white sugar and cinnamon. Roll balls of dough into mixture and place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. With the palm of your hand, flatten them slightly; otherwise, you'll end up with some undercooked cookies (we like crispy cookies).

Bake 8-10 minutes or until set. Remove immediately from baking sheets.  
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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Turtle Cheesecake

It's been four long months since B and I last saw each other in person, so I wanted to make something extra special when I got to visit him in Chicago after my exams. B still had tests since his school ended later than mine, so I had a little more free time to take care of him.

Of course, he requested cheesecake again. Turtle cheesecake was my absolute favorite when I was a kid. I smuggled this tasty pear cinnamon caramel sauce in my luggage since I've been super excited to use it.
I met B's new roommate for the first since I hadn't been to Chicago this academic year yet. B's roommate saw me baking up a storm, and told him, "You and the other guys with girlfriends are so spoiled. I wish I had a girl to bake... and clean my bathroom ...and take care of me...and do everything."

Some of B's friends have really, really devoted girlfriends, but not me, ha! I keep B in line.

*cough* Ok, I HAD to wipe his bathroom mirror. It was so dirty in every corner (which is pretty impressive to accomplish), that I couldn't even see my eye to take out my contacts. And his sink...

B: Come snuggle with me!
N: No, I must clean your mirror now! And reorganize your bathroom.
B: My girlfriend would rather clean my bathroom than kiss me *mopes*

Anyways, if you're feeling tired and feeling lazy like I was after all that cleaning, you can buy the Oreo crust from the store, and just pre-bake it. After all, who can live up to the 1950s housewife model all the time!? Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker.

Turtle Cheesecake

24 Oreo cookies, finely crushed into crumbs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 8 oz package cream cheese, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup half and half
1 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup pecans
caramel sauce, to drizzle
chocolate chips, to garnish

CRUST: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine Oreo crumbs and melted butter and press into the bottom and two inches up the sides of a 9-inch pie tin. Bake for 8 minutes, or until crust is firm. Remove from oven and cool completely.

CHEESECAKE: Beat together the cream cheese, Greek yogurt, and sugar until smooth. Beat the eggs one at a time, and add vanilla until well combined.

Pour the batter into the oreo crust and bake for 50 min, or until the edges are set, but the middle still jiggles a little. Do no bake till set or it will be overdone. Turn off the oven and let the cheesecake rest in the oven with the door slighly ajar. After 1 hour, remove the cheesecake from the oven and cool completely. This slow cooling helps prevent cracks (although if you're in a hurry, you can cover with topping)

TOPPING: Microwave the half and half for 1 min until very hot. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until a smooth paste to make the ganache Set the ganache aside to cool and thicken at room temperature. Spread the ganache over the top of the cooled cheesecake. Garnish with caramel sauce and chopped pecans.

Put the cheesecake in the refrigerator for several hours, or overnight before serving. Cheesecake can be refrigerated for several days or frozen.
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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pear Goat Cheese Pizza with Caramelized Onions

This is one of my $4.50 a day food stamp challenge recipes. I decided to splurge on goat cheese – Trader Joe’s is by far the best pricewise and tastewise.

To save money, I made my own crust using this recipe from The Kitchn. Alas, my bread lately has just been failing... I don’t know why my yeast didn’t work *sadface*. I tried different two packets of yeast and no rising, even after proofing and checking the expiration.

It’s ok, the flat crust worked out still.
This pizza combo is definitely one of my favorites: the pear and goat cheese combo is just delicious (ok anything with goat cheese is amazing). Goat cheese was actually introduced to me by my lab at Stanford; my PI was a huge foodie, and our lab meeting lunches on Monday were super gourmet.

Anyways, while I was making this pizza, I had a Skype date with my good friend Thomas. He was my freshman dorm neighbor and my “Mr. Fix It.” He’s fixed my camera, my printer, my bike, my computer, you name it. He also invented some contraption out of wire hangers that he could slide under the door and hook onto the handle when people got locked out of their rooms (like me, um, during orientation week…and…* cough* many other times of freshman year). It’s very useful to have brilliant engineering friends.

It’s kind of funny how friends come and go through the years, and some, like Mr. Fix- It, just stick around forever. We're actually very different, so it's interesting how friendships work. On paper, you can’t ever quite predict who becomes lifelong friends (same city? same major? same dorm? same hobbies?), but when it happens, you just know it.

1/4 - 1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon yeast, proofed
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced
1/4 cup honey (or brown sugar)
1-2 pears, thinly sliced
1/2 cup goat cheese (I used Trader Joe's honey goat cheese)
1/2 cup arugula mix
black pepper, to taste

Set the oven to 500°F and let it heat for at least a half an hour before making the pizza.

Crust: Combine flour and salt. Add the water and yeast (rapid rise/instant yeast does not need to be "proofed" in water beforehand). Mix until you've formed a shaggy dough. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. The dough should still feel moist and slightly tacky. If too sticky, add flour; if too dry add water.

Let the dough rest and rise for 1 hr (optional).

Topping: In a skillet set over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and honey to the pan, stirring to coat. Continue stirring the onions every 5 minutes or so, being careful not to burn the onions. Once the onions have softened and become a deep golden brown, remove from heat and set aside.

Assembly: On a lightly floured surface, press and stretch the pizza dough into a 10-inch circle. Transfer to a pan lined with parchment paper. Rub the pizza dough evenly with olive oil and top with rosemary.

Top pizza dough with pears, goat cheese, and caramelized onions. Add mixed greens then sprinkle with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Bake the pizza 15 minutes until golden browned. Garnish with additional mixed greens.
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Monday, December 16, 2013

Cherry Orange Scones with White Chocolate Glaze

I don’t know about you, but I feel like scones are the classiest of the morning pastries. “Yes, please, I would some sugar for my English breakfast tea to accompany scones/crumpets” sounds so elegant versus “Gee, I’m super late for school again so I’m stuffin’ a muffin in my mouth.”

Actually, I had joined the 8 am “stream team” towards the end of this semester, so the latter sentence doesn’t happen too often anymore. Streaming, for my non medical student readers, means that the professors' lectures are recorded and you can play them anytime, anywhere, (and most importantly, at any speed) you want. The lecture halls are so empty now as the ranks fall one by one for the comforts of lectures playing 2x speed at home in your PJs…ah, the benefits and tragedies of technology.
 The ability to sleep in a little and eat breakfast at leisure while reading notes is admittedly very, very nice. Buuuut, I still count myself as the 15% of devout class goers, since 9 am is still early too, hehe.

I made these for the first year babies of my friend Janet, adapting Ina Garten’s amazing recipe. Janet baked these along with me; this hipster health nut girl basically eats raw fruits and veggies for all her meals, so getting her into the kitchen is pretty good.
Since these are for a group and it’s my first time making scones, I didn’t experiment too dramatically (mom says only experiment if you will/can eat all of it by yourself if it ends up bad). I reduced the sugar and added a white chocolate glaze. I was hoping the icing would be more visible. Oh well, it just became sticky scones a la sticky buns. With the glaze, the sweetness is just perfection.

4 cups plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 oranges, zested
3/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cold heavy cream (or milk)
1 cup dried cherries
1 egg beaten, for egg wash

1/8 cup milk
1/3 cup, white chocolate (finely chopped)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In the bowl, mix 4 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, the baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add the cold butter; using two knives, cut the butter until the butter is the size of peas.

Whisk the eggs and heavy cream/milk in another bowl and pour into the flour and butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough will look lumpy! Combine the dried cranberries and 1/4 cup of flour.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and quickly knead and divide it into 4 balls. Chill for 1/2 hour (I put mine in the freezer) until cold, so dough is easier to handle.

Brush the tops of the scones with egg wash, and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides are fully baked. Allow the scones to cool.

For the glaze, microwave the milk until very hot. Pour over the white chocolate and stir until smooth. using a fork, drizzle glaze over scones.
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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gentleman's Bulgogi for my Bibimbap

So my BIG End of Basic Sciences exam is tomorrow. This is the one I need to pass to make it to clinical rotations (goodbye lectures and classrooms, hello hospitals!!).

B and I haven't been able to see each other in person for over 4 months since our classes have been crazy. But he marinated this bulgogi during his last visit here waaay back in August, and I froze it to save for "later."

Well, the week of the EBSE test is the perfect time for "later."Since I've been so busy, I haven't been able to cook. A hungry Natticakes does not learn well.
I just tossed the meat in a pan and let it simmer on low for an hour so it's tender. The Korean side dishes (seaweed, sprouts, carrots, etc) are from a Korean store store, and I just fried an egg to make my own bibimbap, inspired by My Korean Kitchen.
This is the only good food I've had all week (yogurt and cereal for dinner...isn't quite the same). Good food feeds the brain, so I get smarter, right? 

2 lbs beef tenderloin
1 onion
2 scallions
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoon brown sugar
Bulgogi Marinade (look for brands without MSG)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

cooked rice
bean sprouts
Korean seaweed
carrots, cut into strips
shiitake mushrooms
1 egg, sunny side up or fried
hot pepper paste and sesame oil

Combine all ingredients in a zip lock bag and mix. Let the meat marinate for 24 hours minimum. Sautee on medium heat until just brown, the set on low and simmer for 1 hour.

Scoop rice in a large bowl, and display all your vegetables, bulbogi, and egg. Serve it with sesame oil and hot pepper paste.
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Monday, December 9, 2013

Pumpkin Roll

Mom has made lots of recipes over the years, but I distinctly remember a pumpkin roll drizzled with chocolate that she made one Christmas. I loved it. I devoured it. I begged (for 10+ years I might add) for her to make another one, but she never made one again. *sadface*

Recently, I realized, I could make one. Yes, I am now an independent adult (ok, as independent as one can be in medical school with no income).
The recipe from Libby's Pumpkin said it serves 10, so I double the recipe, expecting extras. This was SO not the case (unless you eat baby sized portions). I'd say the double batch serves 12, definitely, not 20. This was a little tricky to figure out how much batter to pour since I didn't have a jelly roll pan. I poured the extra batter into a smaller pan, but the little version broke when I tried to roll it...I think that one was too thick. Still tasty though!

Roll making 101
- Don't bother using a towel + powdered sugar to roll that lots of recipes say to. Just use parchment paper; so much easier (and no lint in your cake).
- Make sure the lining is completely FLAT on the pan (trim to fit INSIDE the pan), or your cake will take on any wrinkles and lumps. The batter is not heavy enough to flatten out the parchment paper if it sticks out over the pan edge.
- Roll the sponge cake when you take it out of the oven, otherwise it won't stretch and thus will crack if you try roll it after it's cooled. Roll the cake as tightly as you can.
- Let the (rolled) cake cool completely before attempting to fill it or it will crack.
- When filling, be generous, but don't fill all the way to the edge; otherwise when you roll, it will ooze out the sides (not so pretty)!
The original recipe is as sweet as heck. I took out 1/2 the sugar in the cake, took out 3/4 the sugar and 1 1/2 sticks of butter in the filling, and all my study buddies agreed it's definitely sugary enough. As my friend stated eloquently, "It's because we're Asian."

Without further ado, here is my double batched and reduced sugar adaptation!

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2x 2/3 cup canned pumpkin

1 1/2 pkgs cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Powdered sugar (optional for decoration)

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Line 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper (I used larger cookie tray with sides and baked the extra batter in another smaller pan)

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt in small bowl. Beat eggs and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan(s).

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. Immediately and carefully peel the cake from parchment paper. Dust some flour and cover top with another parchment paper. Roll up cake and parchment paper together with the narrow end. Cool in the refrigerator.

Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract in small mixer bowl until smooth. Add Greek yogurt and mix.

Carefully unroll cake. Using a sharp knife, trim the edges so it's even. Spread filling mixture over cake. Re-roll cake and refrigerate at least one hour (I recommend freezing it slightly for easier cutting). Trim off the ends of the roll and remove (translation: eat it so no one sees the ugly ends).

Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving. This cake freezes well, and can be stored.
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Friday, December 6, 2013

Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Soup with Blue Cheese

I made this soup right before going home Thanksgiving break, so I was cleaning out whatever I had in the fridge. A little bit of unused canned pumpkin, some extra blue cheese and milk, and most importantly, I had two baby butternut squashes I needed to use up.
These two were my sad Halloween gourds since I didn't have time to carve a pumpkin this year (at least I dressed up for Halloween block party so I'm not 100% lame). I drew jack-o-lantern faces on them with sharpie and they've been sitting around grinning at me for almost 3 weeks. 

Which means, time for those babies to get chopped up and eaten.
I love the taste of butternut squash, but hate hacking up them because they're like rocks.

I specifically drove to Trader Joe's in an attempt to buy frozen pre-chopped squash since they apparently have it. I looked around to no avail, then asked an employee who also scratched his head while looking, saying they usually have it.

Fifteen minutes later while I was waiting in a long line to pay for my groceries (sans pre-chopped butternut squash), that same Trader Joe's employee (who had moved to the cashier position) waved a bag and hollered out, "Miss, miss! Here's your pre-chopped butternut squash. Right here!"

I got very excited, thinking I could buy it.

He then said, "This women right here is buying the last one, so you just missed it. I just wanted you to know that." He scanned the butternut squash bag at the register, and the woman waltzed off with her prize.

Gee, thanks. Well, my jack-o-lantern butternut squash tasted great, so there.

1 1/2 cups butternut squash, roasted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 - 2 cups whole or 2% milk
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons rosemary
6 stalks fresh thyme
3 tablespoons blue cheese
pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Peel, remove seeds and cut the butternut squash to roughly 1 inch cubes. Place on a pan with olive oil and roast about 30 to 45 minutes or until tender. Remove and let cool.

Combine squash, pumpkin, onion, milk, paprika, and cumin in a blender and puree. Add additional milk and spices to adjusted consistency and taste if necessary.

Pour the soup into a bowl, microwave for 5 min and crumble blue cheese over it. Garnish with thyme sprigs.

You can do this all over the stovetop on medium heat (which is probably more legit), but I'm letting you know what I did. After pureeing in my blender, the soup is still cold, but that's what the microwave is for!
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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup (Tom Kha Thale)

Someone made this soup for a potluck and I just had to make it. I used shrimp but it's often made with chicken too (Tom Kha Kai). I reduced the coconut milk a little so it's lighter, as I am not a huge fan of overly creamy soups. Adapted recipe from Tyler Florence.
Lemongrass was a bit of hassle for me to find (my usual grocery "just" ran out) so I just bought extra and froze it, but it's needed to give the Thai lime flavor. In my recipe, I put what I actually used, but here are the substitutions for authentic Thai flavors.
- Galangal root = Ginger root
- Kaffir lime leaves = 5 lime zest (and bay leaves)
- Thai chilies = Sriracha sauce or another chili pepper
- Shallots = 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 red onion

Now that little basil garnish you see is all that really remains of Joe the basil from Trader Joe's. B calls me the crazy plant lady, since I love potted plants. Cut flowers make me sad since they die. Er...never mind that my potted plants die too...(hypothetically they have a chance at least!). Joe is a sweet basil; thai basil is purplish and is great for cooking since it's sturdier. Joe, indeed, is a delicate creature.

B also thinks it's weird I assign genders to my plants.

Anyways, Joe's the oldest basil I've ever had....almost 7 months now. Alas, he's shriveled up, but 2% of him still looks good and thus gets eaten. Poor Joe. He can't win.

3-4 cups chicken stock
5 small Thai chiles, halved lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 4 chunks
1 stalk lemongrass, outer leaves peeled and cut into large pieces
1/2 can coconut milk
1 1/2 cups shiitake mushrooms
4 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons sugar
1 lime, juiced and zested (or kaffir lime leaves)
2 cups shrimp
salt and black pepper
1/2 cup basil

Bring the stock to a boil over medium heat in a soup pot with chiles, garlic, ginger and lemongrass,  Lower the heat to medium-low; add coconut milk, mushrooms, fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice and zest. Cover the pot and gently simmer to let the spices infuse the broth, about 30 minutes.

Uncover the pot and add shrimp, salt, pepper, and basil. Simmer until shrimp is cooked (pink), about 5-10 minutes.

Ladle the soup into a bowls (making sure to remove the lemongrass), and garnish with the basil.
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