Giveaway Winner

I didn't mean it to be this long to post the winner for the giveaway from the previous post, but it was busy busy busy. I'm typing this while sipping my coffee in the morning after baking a batch of cake base (more batches later), and hurrying to get to work.

Anyways, without further a do, after filtering unqualified comments (double comments, people residing outside US & Canada, etc), using, the winner is (drumroll please) Cynthia

Congratulation Cynthia! CSN will contact you for the information directly to send the gift card.

I have to leave this post at that now, cake and more cakes are coming soon. I wish I have 48 hours in one day and only 8 hours of working hour or none at all :).

Have a great Monday everybody!

Strawberry Ice Cream Cake and Max's 2nd Birthday!

I hope you haven't gotten tired of seeing red in this blog just yet, because I still have more coming :).

Do you remember this little boy? It feels like it was just last week that he turned one year old, can't believe how time flies really fast, makes me feel not to take time for granted. Well, this little boy now turns two and he is definitely one of the cutest boys I've ever known. He's so bubbly, seriously, he loves to smile and you can see it in his eyes. His eyes are smiling with him everytime, and I can't help but to smile each time he's doing it. You will love being around him, makes you want to hug, kiss, more hugging and kisses, and more. He is so gentle with babies, unlike most kids, he is so precious indeed and when he does his little dance, I always feel like spanking him (jokingly and gently of course), it's cuteness overload.

Our family (me and my brothers' family) is very close to Max's family and we have been so blessed to know them. They've been one of the greatest blessings in our life, they've been such a huge help too with the kids when we needed them, I could go on and on without getting tired.

When Kiki, Max's mom, reminded me that Max's birthday was coming up, I was so unprepared. I completely forgot about it with all the things that are happening lately, it seems so hard to remember things anymore :(, thanks for calendar in my iPhone that I can pretty much keep up with things.

If there's one thing that little boy loves other than his parents, it would be his strawberry. Yup, he adores strawberry ever since he was so little (he still is), whether it is super tart or sweet, he'll gulp them down in no time, no joke. The parents have to limit his strawberry intake or else he would finish a whole pound in one sitting. Unlike other kids, Max doesn't like sweet stuff, or more specifically cake or dessert, he's starting to develop his fondness toward ice cream in the past few months though. So when I asked K, what Max wants for his birthday, K suggested strawberry ice cream cake, and who am I to argue?

Max would be more than happy with just plain ice cream covered with strawberries, his eyes always lit up whenever he sees those red jewels, but I decided to make homemade strawberry ice cream. I'm never a fan of store-bought ice cream really, mostly because it is too sweet, and the taste is not as real as I would like, and so I decided to make homemade ice cream despite the crazy schedule. This is gonna be my first time making it, so I wouldn't promise it would be perfect, good thing it was for Max who will eat anything strawberry, be it good or bad, perfect victim I say :)

I bought a box full of ripe strawberries at the farmers' market the week before, hulled, washed, dried, and froze them. If there's one thing I learn from experience and not from book, it would be that frozen berries have deeper color and stronger taste if you puree it. This is true mostly for raspberry and strawberry, which is another reason why I love freezing fruits at its peak. I did use some fresh raspberries for mousse, sauce, coulis before but the color is somewhat pink and not deep red color like the frozen ones would produce, it also has some "raw" taste to it, which is great in fruit tart, or for decor, but I prefer the deeper taste and color for puree.

I used the basic custard recipe from the previous green tea ice cream cake (with different method), added some sugar and strawberry puree until I was happy with the taste. Most strawberry ice cream recipes I saw uses vanilla (bean, extract, or paste) to flavor the custard but I omit this because I want the taste to be pure strawberry, not strawberry-flavored vanilla ice cream. I ended up using quite a bit of puree to get a strong strawberry flavor and pretty pink hue. A squirt of lemon juice would probably brighten up the flavor too, but I didn't have one at that time, you can try it if you want. I also have some sponge cake in the freezer so I used that instead of making another one. The dome-shaped has two layers of sponge in it (8" and 6"), while the other one has only one 8" round cake in the bottom.

One great thing about making ice cream or frozen desserts for that matter (among other great things of course) is that you can add anything you like to the base, you can use mint or any other herb (lemon-thyme, lavender, etc), you can combine ingredients, you can mix some flavor, add this and that but still have a good result, it's very forgiving. I added roughly chopped strawberries into the leftover ice cream after assembling the cake to enjoy on its own too.

I made two ice cream cakes, one is for Max's birthday and the other one I was planning to bring to a housewarming party at a friend's house. The one for housewarming didn't quite make it there because we lived about an hour away. I stopped at my brother's house on the way to take a picture really quick but it was melted (as you can see in the picture). A quick trip to the freezer didn't seem to help either as it was so hot in the house. I guess I wasn't very smart in deciding what to bring to the party this time :(. So, it was my brother's luck that I had to leave the ice cream cake there for him and his family as I wouldn't possibly drive another 40 minutes with semi-melting ice cream in my car.

Anyways, Happy Birthday dear Max, wishing you another blessed year ahead and many many more and may you grow to be a man with faithful and humble heart and that you will be a great blessing to others just like how your parents is, we love you :)

I'm off to LA this weekend for Disneyland for the first time. Yup, my first time ever after 9 years living in CA. I know, I know... but for some reason I've never had the urge or passion to go. I'm never been a fan of disney, cartoon, or deathly roller coaster ride anyways. While all of my other friends are super excited about the Disney, I'm a lot more excited of eating good food :), so we'll see if I can bring the kid in me this weekend. Have a good weekend and see you all next week!

Strawberry Ice Cream

500 ml heavy cream
250 ml whole milk
200 g sugar (see note)
6 egg yolks
1000 g strawberry puree
a squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
chopped strawberries (optional)
  • Combine the cream, milk and sugar in a saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil
  • Meanwhile, break the egg yolks and whisk it until it blends well
  • Temper the egg yolk and the milk mixture, and put it back in the saucepan.
  • Bring the mixture to 84C over low-medium heat, stirring all the time
  • Remove it from the heat and strain it to avoid any lumps
  • Cool it until it reaches room temperature
  • Add the strawberry puree, mix well
  • Refrigerate overnight, and process in an ice cream maker
  • My strawberries were very ripe and sweet, adjust the amount if your strawberry is just so-so or not very sweet.
  • If you're adding chopped strawberries, add it when the ice cream is almost done

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Jellied Cream, Raspberry Gelée, Yogurt Sherbet, and a Giveaway!

Did I tell you how much I LOVE Summer (often enough?)? I went to a different farmers' market than the one we usually go to two weeks ago, and to my surprise, I found some lovely yellow plums and it was bursting with sweet juices on my first bite. I fell in love on the spot and bought a bag full of them, not sure what to do with them but I bought loads of them! Plums usually don't have that much flavor, it's basically sweet juice, so not sure if it would be any good to turn them into something. I was planning to make a simple tart with it, maybe accompanied by a good vanilla bean ice cream, but I found myself eating it everyday out of hand, it was too good to be turned into something.

I've also been taking advantage of the corn season and make corn fritters from fresh corn. My little tomato garden is also producing so many different tomatoes with different colors and sizes, so exciting, not to mention the basil too. At this time of the year, you can be sure that my fridge is full with so many different varieties of fruits. Soon, it's my freezer that will be loaded with sweet juicy fruits :).

Do you know that I cook too :D? My friends and I watched "Julie and Julia" a few months ago and we've been trying to imitate the way Julia talks. I've always loved movies about food and ever since we watched that movie, we can't stop talking about when are we going to make the famous beef bourguignon, the last and famous dish on that movie and there I was in search of the perfect cast iron pan (you see, when they said "we", they actually meant me). When I was in college, I had a dream that someday, I would own my own le creuset pan (for real!) and cook so many dishes with it including the beef bourguignon, it is somewhat a weird wish for someone who doesn't major in culinary, but chemical engineering instead and of course it didn't come to reality as it was pretty costly for a college girl, especially when one book costs around $200.

It's funny how find myself baking and posting more and more dessert at the time when I am at one of the busiest moments lately.

Every Summer, I notice that instead of becoming more relaxed, I seem to be in a very fast pace of life, it's like I'm in race with the time all the time, it's one of those time when you wish that there are 48 hrs in a day. There are so many birthdays in Summer and if you're like me, you're more excited making birthday cakes with those lovely fruits compared to the Winter time, plus the ice cream season, the stone fruits, the berries, the sun, it's like even if I bake everyday, I still wouldn't be able to make every item on my list.

I was pondering for inspiration of what I should make on the weekend a few weeks ago. Planning is the key since time is so valuable so everything has to be planned out first to have a success baking time :). I was looking at my fridge and I saw some leftover cream cheese that needs to be used up pretty fast. I like to buy big blocks of cream cheese whenever I go to Costco, but I can never use it in one go. Once it's opened, you need to use the remainder soon before it starts to go bad. It is actually perfect this time to have cream cheese leftover as I have been wanting to try one of the cheesecake recipe from Alain Ducasse's book. I've been referencing recipes from this book for the last few posts in my blog and I fall in love with this book all over again. If you look closely to the recipes, a lot of them are actually manageable to make, it just has a very long step and components, which can be a turnoff.

There's this one recipe for cheesecake under plated dessert. There's nothing too fancy about the recipe, it looks pretty standard to me except that it uses grounded pate sucree as the crust because apparently they don't have graham crackers in France. The thing that caught my eye was the amount of time it needed to go into the oven. The recipe requires the cheesecake to be baked at a very low temperature for 3 whole hours!!! Yup, I couldn't believe it at first, but the picture next to it showed a slice of cheesecake with what looks like a very smooth and creamy texture. To be honest, I'm not a fan of the thick and dense NY style cheesecake. I can probably eat a small spoonful but that's about it. When I saw how creamy and soft the cheesecake looked in the picture, I was sold. Besides, I'm a little curious how French top pastry chef interprets this classic American dessert.

I don't have the amount of cream cheese required to bake a full cheesecake, so I re-sized them according to the amount that I have and it's perfect for 8" round, which is more than enough for me. He paired the cheesecake with yogurt sherbet and berry compote. I decided to skip the berry compote and just topped the cheesecake with raspberry glaze and served it with fresh berries. The top is actually a raspberry jelly that I planned to make a pattern on top of the cheesecake with but it wasn't 100% successful, the pattern smudges out and doesn't look so cool anymore, so I just covered the entire surface with it and applied some clear glaze to get the shiny effect.

As I mentioned in the previous post, San Jose has been pretty cold for Summer this year. The temperature just stays around 70-75F during the day and mid 40's-low 50's in the morning and at night. I was hesitant at first turning on the oven for 3 hrs in a Summer day but I guess this is the perfect timing because it didn't feel hot at all. The outside temp was nice, the house is also nice and cool at 75 F even with the oven turned on. It seems like forever waiting the cheesecake to be baked for 3 hours! I was so tempted to take a nap at the second hour but I didn't. I even thought that the cheesecake will never ever set at 195F because it still looked wet after the second hour. But in the end, it sets beautifully, so creamy without being dry or dense at all.

The yogurt sherbet was also delicious! It tastes exactly like the original flavor of my favorite frozen yogurt place when I tried it soft-serve straight from the ice cream maker, and it was pretty simple to make too. Too bad I wasn't making a lot of it, or I would have eat it straight with my spoon.

The combination between the soft and creamy cheesecake, slightly tart and refreshing raspberry jelly on top, paired with yogurt sherbet was outstanding! I'm not sure if I'm ready to wait for 3 hours everytime I'm making cheesecake, but maybe I will :)

Now, onto the giveaway. The CSN store, which has 250+ different sites, is graciously offering a $40 gift certificate that you can spend anywhere in their hundreds of store. They have HUGE selections of outdoor and kitchen stuff that you would absolutely love. An idea would be to use to it toward the le creuset pan that I've always wanted :).

How to Enter: All you need to do is just leave a comment here and tell me what do you bake/cook/make to make use of the Summer produce to the fullest. I would LOVE to know what people are up to in Summer :)

The giveaway is open to US and Canada residents only. The giveaway will open for a week until Tuesday, August 17th 2010 and I will pick one winner randomly on the following day.

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake
adapted from Grand Livre de Cuisine: Alain Ducasse's Desserts and Pastries
yield: 8" round cheesecake

75 g toasted slivered almonds (or almond powder)
45 g graham cracker crumbs
20 g sugar
3 Tbs. butter, melted

Cheesecake Filling:
24 oz cream cheese (three 8-oz blocks)
200 g sugar
3 eggs + 1 yolk
2 Tbs. flour
95 g heavy cream
vanilla bean seeds

Jellied Cream:
200 g heavy cream
25 g granulated sugar
3/4 tsp powdered gelatin (add about 1 tbs of water)
seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean

Yogurt Sherbet:
150 ml whole milk
90 ml heavy cream
50 g atomized glucose
140 g granulated sugar
550 g plain whole milk yogurt
4 g (1 tsp.) sorbet stabilizer
25 g (6 1/4 tsp.) powdered milk

To make the yogurt sherbet:
Combine all ingredients, except yogurt, and heat until it reaches 183F (84C). Remove from the heat and chill to 39F (4C), then add the yogurt. Mix well and let sit (I refrigerated mine overnight to one day). Process in the ice cream maker

To make the Cheesecake:
To make the crust: if you're using slivered almond, pulse it in a food processor until fine, if using powder, just combine it with the rest of the ingredients. Press the mixture in the bottom of a springform pan (I lined mine with parchment paper too, but you don't have to). Bake the crust on 350F for about 10-15minutes until the crust is slightly brown. Let cool.

To make the cheesecake filling: combine the cream cheese, vanilla bean seeds, and the sugar and mix with paddle attachment until soft and creamy. Add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, then add the heavy cream and flour. Pour onto the cooled (or slightly cooled) crust and bake in a waterbath for 3 hours at 194F (90C). Let cool, leave to sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Spread the jellied cream on top of the cheesecake and smooth out with spatula, let it set. Remove the cheesecake from the pan.

  • If you want to make it into 9" round springform pan, use five 8-oz blocks and re-size the rest of the ingredients for the cheesecake filling and the crust accordingly. You can use the same amount of the jellied cream and the yogurt sherbet.
  • The book uses grind tart crust to make the base crust for the cheesecake. It also suggests using regular plain graham cracker crust if you have it available, but I'm never a fan of the regular graham cracker, and I've been using this almond crust for every of my cheesecake. You can use any type of crust you want.

Mango Chocolate Mousse Cake and Macaron

First of all, I want to apologize for yet another mango cake in this blog. It was only two weeks ago that you saw some yellow cheesecake but here I am presenting you with another one. I hope you'll bear with my mango madness for a bit.

Strangely, California has been under a lot of clouds lately, very unusual in Summer. The temperature dropped to mid 70's and it is breezy in the morning and at night, but it's all perfect in the afternoon. I always try to sneak in some walk around the office building around 4pm when I have the time, just to enjoy the sun.

Anyways, it was yet another birthday for my coworker in the same team. I didn't know what he likes, I just assume or more like forcing myself to believe that he likes anything just because so that I could make whatever I want :). I was still curious a lot about mango and chocolate combination, I made it a few times in macaron, cheesecake and brownies, etc, but it always seems like the mango flavor is easily lost in the midst of chocolate, chocolate overpowers almost everything basically. So, I was determined to once again, try this combo with mostly mango mousse and a layer of chocolate mousse in between, hoping that this time, mango will rule.

It just seemed like a perfect idea and combination when I pictured the cake. I imagined a perfect layering, with a little crunch in the middle, and definitely chocolate macaron decoration, secretly hoping that my coworker is not allergic to one of them.

This cake has quite a few components, it has two layers of chocolate sponge, mango mousse, chocolate mousse, a thin layer of feuilletine, clear glaze, and of course the macarons. The macarons are filled with mango buttercream, except the side decoration. It took quite a bit of time to make each one but once you've got it all, it's relatively easy to assemble. I took a shortcut and used my last batch of instant chocolate mousse though, it was Alaska-Express chocolate mousse mix just because I have enough leftover to make one 8" layer (will have to make it from scratch next time), everything else was pretty straight forward too.

I finally ordered some pectin NH online and I made my glaze using that. In the past, I used just regular pectin that I get from the grocery store, but I could never get the consistency I wanted. The resulted glaze was so runny at first even after refrigerating it overnight, thinking that I should have put more pectin, but after longer refrigeration, it thicken beautifully, just perfect consistency.

The cake was definitely a hit when I brought the cake in the office, it's very light, refreshing without being too heavy and definitely far from too sweet :)

The cross-section picture above was taken with my point-and-shoot camera, not very good quality, but just to give you guys an idea of how the inside looks like, it wasn't a clean cut either but it works :).

You know, I should really restrain myself from buying fruits all the time. I can't resist in buying lots and lots of gorgeous cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, mangoes, but then I'm left with all these wonderful fruits without knowing how do I have the time to play with them. I have so many varieties of fruits that I'm confused of what to make. I just finished making some healthy and tasty fruit smoothie with peach, raspberry, blueberry, and some mango, yumm... Fruit crumble using all the different summer fruits might be in the menu a few weeks from now if I ever managed to squeeze some time to make a vanilla bean ice cream. I haven't been playing too much with raspberry this year, knowing that I still have a few months to go, but not for the stone fruits, their season will be over before you know it. I already have some list of raspberry dessert I want to make, hmm cannot wait. In the next few weeks, you will find me busy buying and freezing each one of them though, for my winter stash this year. Oh how I wish they would be available all year long.

Verity Joy Rediawan
On a side note, I'm officially an aunty of 13! Remember this baby shower? Yup, I have 13 nieces and nephews now, and the 13th was just born a few days ago and I am officially in love with her. This cake was actually made right before the baby was born. Can't wait to see her grows up and feed her cakes to maintain those chubby cheeks :)