It has been a week since I last blogged. Work kept me quite busy, and I had to host a poker/potluck party on Saturday. For desserts, I decided to make red velvet cupcakes and a pumpkin roll to add some holiday colors. My friend brought a chocolate cake from Extraordinary Desserts, which was a perfect addition to the dessert table. A year ago, I became obsessed with red velvet cupcakes after watching Paula Deen whipped up the divine dessert on Food Network. Shortly after, Vu’s sister introduced me to Sprinkles Cupcakes in Palo Alto, and I was won over. I love making red velvet cupcakes for potluck and parties. I adapted the cake recipe from Paula Deen and made cupcakes which worked very well.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tbsps red food coloring
1 tsp white distilled vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pkg (8oz) cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder.
In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a mixer.
Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers. Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.
For the cream cheese frosting, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy. Apply the frosting after the cupcakes are cooled.
After we walked off our lunch, we drove to Ici on College Avenue, a quaint ice cream shop known for fresh ice creams and sorbets with different flavors served daily. The line was out the door despite the cold and rain. There were 3 servers, each helping a group of people from tasting, to scooping, and ringing up the bill. Definitely not very efficient! I ended up trying 6 flavors: pumpkin candied oatmeal, hazelnut, malted vanilla amaretto cherries, honey pistachio, huckleberry, and passion fruit. My favorite was the malted vanilla! The ice cream was sweet but not overpowering and quite refreshing. Their cones were also delicious, fresh and crunchy, with a hint of sugar. For a single scoop costing $2.85 or double scoop at $3.85, it was worth it. Besides ice cream and sorbet, they also serve other delightful sweets and baked goods. I would definitely come back and try their other flavors. It was a pleasant way to end our short adventure in Berkeley.
Enjoying my malted vanilla amaretto cherries.
Pumpkin and honey pistachio
These are definitely my favorite ice cream cones!
For my flight to San Jose over the weekend, I brought along Dessert by Williams-Sonoma to get ideas for Thanksgiving dinner. As I flipped through the book, I saw an interesting recipe for poached pears with raspberry coulis. Personally, I am not a huge fan of pears, let alone cooked pears. The picture was so enticing that I decided to give it a try. It was definitely a different type of dessert.
4 firm Bartlett pears, peeled leaving the stem intact
1 cup white wine (Riesling or Pinot Grigio)
2 cups fresh orange juice
1 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
3 orange zest strips
3 lemon zest strips
2 whole cloves
1 cup rasberries
1 tsps powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
Peel the pears and generously rub with the lemon half to prevent discoloring. Core the pears from the bottom using a melon scooper, leaving the stem intact.
In a deep sauce pan, combine the white wine, orange juice, water, sugar, lemon zests, orange zests, and clove and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat and add the peeled pears, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the pears are tender but not falling apart. Remove the pears and place in the refrigerator. Heat the saucepan to high heat and reduce the syrup to approximately 1 cup of liquid, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.
For the raspberry coulis, combine the raspberries, powdered sugar, and lemon juice in a food processor and pulse until the berries are pureed. Pass the puree through a fine mesh sieve to extract all the juice.
Serve the pears slightly chilled in a pool of raspberry coulis and drizzled with a little syrup.
I am so happy to be back in San Diego after a long weekend in San Jose. I flew to the bay area for a Medicare Part D/MTM event lead by the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy. It was wonderful to see so many underserved Vietnamese seniors helped this weekend. The pharmacy students answered questions about Medicare benefits and switched many seniors to more affordable prescription drug plans. A good number of seniors came out despite the rain and some even took the bus to get to the event. It was definitely a worthwhile trip. I also got a chance to visit my parents and brought home some goodies. I immediately put my mom’s red beans to good use and made “che dau do” or Vietnamese red beans dessert. When I was little, my mom would take me to the supermarket, and we would stop by a street vendor for “che dau do”. The beans are cooked for a long time and flavored with coconut milk, making it a very comforting dessert on a cold or rainy day. You can also eat it cold, but I prefer it hot, especially for a cold, rainy day like today.
1 cup Azuki red beans
5 cups of water
1 piece of orange peel
2/3 cup of brown sugar plus 1 tbps for the coconut milk
5.6 oz Chaokoh coconut milk (optional)
a pinch of salt
Soak the azuki beans in water overnight to soften.
In a medium saucepan, bring the water and orange peel to a boil. Turn the heat down, add the azuki beans and let simmer for 2-3 hours, until the beans are softened. Add the brown sugar and stir until dissolved.
In a separate sauce pan, bring the coconut milk to boil, add 1 tbps of sugar and a pinch of salt. Add the coconut milk to the red bean when ready to serve. (Or you can add the coconut milk directly to the pot of cooked beans.)
Crepe is one of my all time favorite desserts. Crepes are very thin pancakes originating from Brittany, France. Back in the old days, crepes are made with buckwheat flour. Today, there are many adaptations making the possibilities endless. You can prepare a savory variation by adding fresh vegetables and herbs, cheese, seafood, or meat as breakfast or even a main entrée. To satisfy your sweet tooth, you can prepare different fillings with seasonal fruits and sauces, and pair with ice cream, or not. When we were in Paris, crepe stands were at every corner and we ended up having crepes daily, a much cheaper alternative to expensive bistros. This is my first time making crepes so bear with me.
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
3 tbsps melted butter
1 tbsp of vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
butter for coating the pan
4 oz of mascarpone cheese
4 oz of rhubarb raspberry jam (or your favorite jam)
fresh raspberries, whip cream, and powdered sugar for garnish
Using a mixer, blend all the ingredients together. Press the batter through a sieve to remove any lump. Refrigerate for 1 hour to reduce the bubbles which prevents the crepes from tearing during cooking.
Heat a small non-stick pan on low heat with butter to coat. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly.
Cook for 30 seconds or until golden and flip. These crepes are paper thin so be careful not to tear them. Lay them out flat on paperlined plate to remove any excess butter.
Spread mascarpone cheese and jam on half of crepe. Fold the crepe into a quarter.
Serve with fresh raspberries and whip cream. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top. Bon appetit!
It was another beautiful day in sunny San Diego. Looking outside my window, I realized autumn is here and the leaves have changed to a range of red to yellow color. My favorite things in autumn are pumpkin pie, pumpkin ice cream from Baskin Robbins, apple cider, enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with the family, and Black Friday. My husband loves pumpkin pie, and I saw him eyeing it at Costco today. It would be hard for two people to finish the Costco pumpkin pie. You would end up sharing half of the pie with your co-workers. One of my favorite desserts is cheesecake so I decided to make pumpkin cheesecake, a compromise between my husband and me. Although I purposely made this cheesecake for two people, you can always scale the ingredients to serve 8-12 people for Thanksgiving dinner or any other occasions. When serving the cheesecake, don’t forget to add a touch of whip cream.
1/3 cup (or 1/2 cup if you like a thicker crust) graham cracker crumbs
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsps melted salted butter
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
8 oz pureed pumpkin
3 tbsps sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter.
Press down flat into a 4-inch springform pan.
Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin puree, egg, sour cream, sugar and the spices. Make sure you you blend all the ingredients very well otherwise your cheesecake will turn out chunky. Add flour and vanilla. Beat together until well combined.
Pour into crust and bake for 1 hour. Notice how smooth the consistency is.
Remove from the oven and let sit it for 15 minutes. Refrigerate for 4 hours before serving.