Thursday, November 10, 2011

Project Sweet Tooth : Merger!


Where have I been? Paris!

That's right, I've finally accomplished my mission and ate my way through the city of love and pastries. Not only that, I've got something tasty to share with you all…

Project Sweet Tooth is merging with Gastrophoria (my other food blog... don't ask) and has a new home at gastrophoria.com!

Just like a hermit crab, I've shed my old home (it was a good run dear Blogspot) and designed a new one entirely from scratch. Powered by Wordpress, it's now better, stronger and tastier!

Some of the improvements include bigger photos, better organization with the site split into five sections:

1. A Spot of Tsz: self musings
2. Fooding Guide: must-share restaurant finds
3. Gastro-Remix: kitchen experiments
4. Nuanced Pig: shrine to bacon and its porky counterparts
5. Project Sweet Tooth: all about desserts and my dream trip to Paris

So, don't hesitate and visit me at gastrophoria.com! Bon appetit!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My 15 Mins of Fame : Kahlua Risotto Makes it on Saveur Magazine

Had a nice little surprise in the mail today from Saveur in the form of a free magazine... 

It turns out my Kahlua Risotto recipe made it as a runner up for the Kahlua recipe contest, whoo! 




It definitely made my day :)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Project 05: Billionaire's Bacon Palmiers

After reading about Billionaire's Bacon (a confection of candied bacon created by Mortimer's in New York City) I created this little cookie—a palmier with a twist, but really it's  the perfect man of the cookie world. 

It combines the French sophistication of buttery pastry layers, the complexity of caramelized brown sugar, the manliness of smoky bacon and just the right amount of spice from the black pepper to keep things interesting. It's a wonderful blend of sweet, salty and spicy to keep you wanting more. Best of all, he's, I mean, it's low maintenance too—the whole preparation will have you in-and-out of the kitchen in no time.

Billionaire Bacon Palmiers
Yields 20 cookies and serves 5

1/2 package or 1 sheet of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets 
1 cup brown sugar
2 thick slices of apple smoked bacon
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Let's get started. First, render the bacon slices in a skillet on medium heat till golden brown and crispy. Drain the cooked bacon on paper towels and crumble to tiny pieces  (the smaller the better) when cooled to the touch.

Next, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Unfold the sheet of thawed puff pastry on a clean work surface and sprinkle 1/2 cup of brown sugar evenly on top. Use a rolling pin to gently press the sugar into the dough.

Carefully flip the pastry over and scatter the crumbled bacon all over the top. Do the same with the black pepper. Take the remaining 1/2 cup of the sugar and sprinkle over evenly and lightly press the toppings in with the rolling pin. 

Now comes the fun part! Roll the left vertical side to the center and then repeat with the right side. Gently press the two sides together and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate the pastry log for an hour or so till it's firm and thoroughly chilled. This step is imperative because it enables you to slice the palmiers easily later on and also ensures even baking.

Once the pastry is chilled, slice the log crosswise into 1/2 inch medallions. Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet (silpat works wonders as well) with plenty of space in between as they will spread and expand in the oven.

Bake the palmiers for 8-10 minutes till they are golden brown on top. Flip the cookies over and bake for a 3-5 minutes longer till the bottom is caramelized as well. Let them cool for a short while and enjoy responsibly!


Bacon on Foodista

Friday, December 25, 2009

Project 04: Butterscotch Budino with Sel Gris

While I've never had the privilege of dining at Pizzeria Mozza due to time constraints (there's simply too many restaurants to try and not enough time!), I did try one of their offerings: the butterscotch budino. It was inconspicuously listed in the dessert menu at Bottega Louie, to which I immediately ordered.

It looked innocent enough, a tiny glass filled with a khaki-colored pudding, a thin layer of caramel and topped with whipped cream. And yet, it had the ability to transform my dining companion and me into ravenous animals—despite the fact we were stuffed from dinner already. The custardy pudding was complex with a full-bodied caramelized flavor and was luxuriously smooth, but the main show stopper was the delicate sea salt that was hidden from view by the whipped cream and caramel. It gave each bite a little crunch and a burst of saltiness that cuts through the dessert's sweetness. It was the stuff that dreams were made of.

Since then, I've been pining over the budino—until I found the recipe online in New York Times. Adapted from Dahlia Narvaez of Pizzeria Mozza, this was the real deal! Since the recipe serves 10, I made it for my friends' pre-Christmas party.

I'm happy to report that the recipe is straightforward and the results divine. I did made several changes as I am not good in following directions (I failed first grade P.E. because of it—it was strangely similar to Zoolander's situation where he couldn't make a left turn).

The first alternation is that I only used 1/2 of a teaspoon of kosher salt since the recommended 1 1/2 teaspoon was too much for my taste (it gave the caramel a soy sauce flavor, no joke). Also, because I had no dark rum, I used Kahlua instead and upped it to 1/4 of a cup. It gave the budino a rich coffee flavor—that little something extra that took it to the next level.



I've also switched the fleur de sel for sel gris as I like its larger crystals (ie. greater crunch).  And lastly I omitted the cream topping due to my conscience. You see, if you read the entire recipe, you'll see that it has around 4 cups of cream and a stick of butter—I couldn't in my right conscience add more cream on top of it to my friends. In addition, I made the serving size smaller by serving the budino in double shot glasses. My friends loved it.



Give the recipe a try and let me know how it compares to Pizzeria Mozza's version!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Sweet Tour

You're in! Thank you to all who responded—you're now on the list for the exclusive Sweet Tour!

Because of the overwhelmingly number of positive responses, I had to rework my plan. My original idea of just having you all come to my house for each dessert tasting wasn't going to fly because of space issues (doesn't help that I'm situated in the boonies as well). So, after a few staged Sweet Tooth events—thanks to my guinea pigs, I mean, OG Sweet Tooths—the logical solution is to begin a dessert tour!

Below is my schedule, which is really a dessert hit-list. Each week, I plan to tackle a dessert, and you'll get to participate by either signing up to be a host and/or sponsor:

• An ideal host is someone with a working oven and stove. By donating their kitchen for a specific dessert, they basically determine where the venue is, which in turns establish the number of Sweet Tooths can participate. Just as it's impossible to fit thousands in the Troubadour, it's not prudent to fit a crowd in a bachelor's pad... you get the idea. In exchange for the use of your kitchen, you get unlimited bragging rights as well as control of the guest list.

• Sponsors on the other hand is more of a shareholder. They invest in the dessert by donating ingredients needed in exchange for a return on their investment or as they say, for a bigger piece of the pie (figuratively and literally). In most cases, sponsors get extra portions of the dessert. And sometimes, if the dessert is for a baking contest, the main sponsor gets a cut of the prize (if the dessert wins that is). For example, I plan to enter the Scharffen Berger contest for a chance to win 10 grand. The sponsor who decides to fund that particular project will get a meal of their choice if the recipe wins.

Once I have a host for a specific project, I'll let Sweet Tooths who live in the general vicinity know a few days ahead of time to put together a small gathering. We can do a potluck, tea party... anything really—the sky's the limit. Take a look at the schedule and let me know which dessert tickles your fancy :)

Ps. Sweet Tooths who live ways away from LA need not be sad. If you're up for sparing a few coins for shipping, I can always send you a sample!



Friday, November 27, 2009

Project 03: Turning Arancini Upside Down

Although there are no written records, the legend of Arancini started with a thrifty grandmother in Sicily and a pot of leftover risotto. She fashioned the rice in little balls in the image of the dainty oranges growing outside her kitchen window and fried them golden brown. When she served the little croquettes to her family, it was such a hit they asked for the name of the dish, to which she named it, “Arancini,” after the orange tree.

At least, that was what I was imagining when I had my first Arancini. Simultaneously crispy, gooey and creamy, it’s one of those rare dishes that make you smile and swoon.

After much experimenting, I am proud to present my own version as a playful dessert. Inspired by rice pudding, I started out with a sweet risotto base, scented with vanilla and nutmeg, to create the perfect backdrop to showcase Kahlua’s complex flavors. I’ve also made other improvements such as replacing normal breadcrumbs with panko for a more delicate crunch and the traditional marinara sauce with a bittersweet chocolate sauce.

Not only is this dish fun to eat, it also makes for a entertaining party activity. Gather up a few friends, roll up your sleeves, and have fun! It’s what the grandmother would have wanted. Thanks for reading and happy cooking!

Ps. If you’re ever pressed for time, the risotto alone makes for an elegant dessert. Just serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of nutmeg on top.



Kahlua Arancini di Riso
Serves 4

Kahlua Risotto
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3/4 cup arborio rice
1 1/2 cups water, warmed
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk, warmed
1 cup heavy cream, warmed
1 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla bean paste (extract is fine too)
1/4 cup Kahlua Hazelnut
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 egg, beaten
Panko bread crumbs
Canola Oil

Chocolate Kahlua Sauce
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Kahlua Hazelnut

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add rice and stir, making sure each grain is coated with butter to prevent them from sticking. Keep stirring for 5 minutes to let the mixture toast until lightly browned—this will give extra flavor to the risotto.

Add water, sugar, salt and cook, stirring, until the liquid evaporates. Add milk, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition for a few minutes. When the rice has absorbed the liquid, add more. Remember to stir frequently as it's the key to a creamy risotto.

After all the milk has been added, stir in the vanilla and add the cream, again in 1/2 cup increments. Begin tasting the rice to gauge its texture. You'll want it to be al dente—tender, but with a little crunch. When it's at the right stage and all the liquid has been absorbed (you'll want it to be a little drier than the traditional risotto), take the pan off the heat and stir in the Kahlua and nutmeg.

Spread the risotto onto a shallow plate to cool. When it's cool enough to handle, cover with plastic wrap—to prevent a skin from forming—and refrigerate until fully chilled and firm. This can be done overnight.

When the risotto is chilled, start heating up the oil. Put at least 3 inches of oil in a heavy medium saucepan and heat to 350 degrees F. Whisk egg in a small bowl and pour panko in a shallow layer on a plate.

To create the arancini, moisten your hands and roll a heaping tablespoon of the cooled risotto into a ball. Dredge it in the egg mixture first, then coat with bread crumbs. Repeat with the rest of the risotto. There should be enough to make 16-18 balls.

To make the chocolate dipping sauce, heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan till it simmers, but not boiling. Add kahlua and pour over the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Wait a few minutes for chocolate to melt before stirring to mix.

By then, the oil should have reached the right temperature. Fry the arancini in small batches until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with the chocolate sauce. Enjoy!



Big thanks to Allen for donating a bottle of Kahlua Hazelnut, Pauline for graciously offering her kitchen and Hann (as well as Allen & Pauline) for being my helpers and tasters. Allen, I'm taking you with me to NY if I win, it's a promise!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Project 02: If Life Gives You Bad Bread, Make Bread Pudding


I blame it on Martha. As I was making one of  my weekly rounds at the neighborhood library and flipped open one of Martha Stewart Living magazine, my jaw dropped when I saw her recipe for a Apple-Honey Challah bread. It was all due to that gorgeous glossy photo. Check out the photo and recipe here.

All my past memories of failed bread-making attempts went out the window, and believe me, there were many. Granted, I was in elementary school and first started cooking, but they were such failures (think inedible bricks disguised as dinner rolls) that I swore I would never attempt to make bread again. That is, until I saw that perfect photo on the last page of Martha's magazine...

So, I dutifully gathered all the listed ingredients (sans apple since I forgot) and took it slowly step-by-step. It was an intense experience, totaling over five hours of kneading, proofing, stressing and baking.



The end result was a bit disappointing. The loaf looked well enough on the outside, but the inside showed an uneven crumb and flatten air bubbles (according to bakers, that means I've used old yeast). Thankfully, it tasted much better than it looked—with strong tones of honey and wheat.


So, what to do with a dense loaf of bread? Let it sit out for a day to get stale... then make bread pudding! I had some ripe bananas and chocolate chips on hand, so I altered a basic bread pudding recipe and created the Chunky Monkey Bread Pudding.

Chunky Monkey Bread Pudding
Serves 8 (or 6 hungry monkeys)
1. Take a half loaf of stale bread, cube it into 1-inch pieces and toast briefly in an 350 degree oven for about 8 mins.
2. Mix 2 eggs with 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or extract) with 1/4 tb salt, 1/2 cup sugar and 2 1/2 cup whole milk.
3. Place toasted bread cubes in a casserole dish, sprinkle 2 sliced bananas on top and scatter a handful of chocolate chips (or more if desired).
4. Pour the custard mixture over, sprinkle sugar on top and bake for 50 minutes in an 350 degree oven till golden brown.
5. Enjoy!



It was warm, gooey, and had just the right amount of sweetness. I organized a small group of Sweet Tooths to help me polish it off with a movie—it was a good night.

Lessons learned from this? Bread pudding is a savior and never again will I scoff at $5 loaves of bread. Good bread is well worth its price.
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