Showing posts with label tangent. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tangent. Show all posts

Friday, February 4, 2011

What Happens When a YouTube Celebrity Taste Tests My Baked Goods

Ok, maybe I'm using celebrity a bit loosely. But she's on her way.

So, a couple of days ago, I posted a recipe for Maple Walnut Brownies with Maple Glaze. But what I didn't mention was that I fed them to a YouTube personality for my first ever official on-camera taste test review!

Well, to be more clear, Alison Janes, a prolific YouTuber with a very big sweet tooth and platinum blonde locks (and overall high cuteness factor), asked me if I'd bake her a dessert. And I did! These maple brownies. And spoiler alert...she really liked them! Music to my ears!

You can follow Alison's entire YouTubing adventure at her channel:

But right now, let's go straight to the super important stuff: her review of the maple brownies. The review begins at 1:44 in the video.

Think Oprah should be next on my list of video taste test reviews? Reach for the stars, they say!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

File This Under Neato: King Arthur Flour Has a Baking Hotline

King Arthur Flour, one of my favorite stores and catalogs on Earth and a dream for pretty much any baker, has a Baking Hotline! What! No way. Yes way!

Can't figure out why your bread isn't rising? Wondering why the edges of your brownies get crisp while the middle is still raw? Not sure of a substitute for whole wheat pastry flour? Is your buttercream lumpy? Unable to keep your homemade caramel from burning? Bundt cake stuck in the pan? I can think of a million baking questions that either I've asked at some point, or someone has asked me. No question is dumb. There was a first time for every piece of knowledge I now have about baking. I've read a lot of books, talked to my mom, watched cooking shows on TV, and still, I have more and more questions that come up as I try new things or experience little "emergencies" in the kitchen.

So how cool is it that King Arthur Flour has a Baking Hotline! There are two ways to reach a King Arthur Flour baking expert:

CALL (802) 649-3717

Their website says they will respond to you within 24 hours and often sooner. Amazing! I am so excited by this I am beside myself. I feel like I just pulled the sword from the stone. OK, sorry, had to go there. I love you, King Arthur Flour!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My 2010 End-of-Year Cookbook Picks!

I get very excited by new cookbooks. I've added several to my collection over the past year and I have a list of others I still want. Friends and family are going to give me a hard time for having such a list since I already own more cookbooks than most and I am out of space. They tell me to cut back, to resist, to use self-restraint, will power. Fight the urge! Just say no! But hey, a girl can dream, right?

Here are a few I have my eye on...

Weeknight Desserts: Quick & Easy Sweet Treats by Beatrice Ojakangas
I love Beatrice Ojakangas and I have several of her cookbooks. Most recently I discovered her challah recipe and I can't stop making it!! This Weeknight Desserts book gets me very excited. We'll see if I last the next few weeks without getting it.

The Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe from Each Year 1941-2009
I've flipped through this book at Barnes and Noble. It looks good. Really good. Some of the best cookies are old classics. Sometimes old cookies are reinvented in newer cookbooks, but a lot of great cookies were great back in the '40s and don't need to change! This book covers decades of delicious cookies and leaves well enough alone!

The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book: The Essential Recipe Collection for Today's Home Baker
I love Williams-Sonoma cookbooks. You know, if you flip open the cover, they often name the specific recipe authors and they're the cooks and bakers I already love and follow. People like Lou Pappas and Elinor Klivans. Their names aren't on the cover, so a lot of people don't pay attention to who wrote the recipes. But that's a really important piece of information when deciding to buy a book or not! I've basically reached the point where I trust any Williams-Sonoma cookbook because time and again I am impressed with who they asked to write the recipes. So I'm going to admit to you now that I don't even know who wrote the recipes in this Baking Book. They've earned my trust. And I want the book!

Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson
I own Tartine, the first cookbook. And it won my heart after I made the brownie recipe in it and then subsequently called it The Best Brownie on Earth on my blog. Now Tartine Bread has been published and I can't imagine life without it. I want to make every single one of those delicious crusty breads!

Skinny Dips by Diane Morgan
My mom introduced me to this cookbook. We try to make healthy foods. At least, healthy savory foods. When it comes to dessert, we don't skimp. But the idea of healthy dips is just plain appealing. Great to snack on, great for when guests are over, easy to make.

Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours by Sarabeth Levine
Earlier this month, I had an amazing Hanukkah dinner of latkes, homemade latke condiments, root vegetables, and salmon at a family friend's. Then for dessert, the hostess brought out individual glass dishes of chocolate pudding. She introduced it as a Sarabeth pudding. I had never heard of Sarabeth before that moment. But the pudding was so good, so chocolaty, that I went home that night and looked up Sarabeth. Low and behold, this new cookbook by Sarabeth was getting rave reviews all over the place. Now it's on my list of Must Haves.

Rose's Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum
Rose Levy Beranbaum is a true master baker. She's a scientist. Maybe not in the official definition of scientist. But she is very exact in her explanations and recipes. She has you weigh your ingredients with a scale, and she wants you to chill the butter, or reach a certain temperature, toss flour in the freezer before using, and other specific instructions you don't often see in recipes. I made her apple pie a few months ago, and I followed her instructions to a tee. Well, it was one of the most fantastic desserts I've ever made in my life. The flakiest crust and perfectly sweet but not too sweet apple filling. I was very proud of that pie and my guests were so impressed. Earlier this year my mom and I got to hear Rose Levy Beranbaum speak at Omnivore Books in San Francisco. She was there to introduce her latest cookbook, this Rose's Heavenly Cakes. The gorgeous photos and recipes had my mouth watering. I'm excited to get this book. And I recommend you get it, too. But only get it if you intend to follow her instructions exactly. Otherwise, the great lengths she goes to to have you create the perfect dessert are wasted. And that would be a tragedy!

Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz
By now you might have noticed I love David Lebovitz. I refer to him regularly on this blog. I own his books, I bake from them, I recommend him to others. When this cookbook came out, I wasn't just all talk, saying "OMG, I have to have it! I'm going to get this book!" Instead, I bought it. Immediately. And it was one of the best decisions of my cookbook-buying life!

Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous by Joan Nathan
I usually think of Joan Nathan as the Queen of Jewish Cooking. My mom and I heard her speak about some of her travel experiences and childhood when she guest lectured at a nearby synagogue in Saratoga, California, many years ago. I make her challah and several Passover dishes from her Jewish holiday books. What caught my attention about this latest cookbook was "Kugels" in the title. There are so few cookbooks that focus on kugels, and I love kugel so much! I don't have this book yet, but it's on my Must Have List and hopefully I'll take care of that void soon.

The Perfect Finish by Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark
I flipped through this book at a store and the pictures were good enough to eat! They are the kinds of desserts I'm always in the mood to make. I want it! I want it!

Martha Stewart's Cupcakes and Martha Stewart's Cookies
Actually, the cupcake cookbook came out in 2009 and the cookie one in 2008, but I don't own either one and somehow I'm reminded of this constantly and need to rectify the situation. I'm a Martha fan. I all but owned the apron that said "Free Martha" back in the day. Each of these books includes really big photos of the dessert you're about to make, and the layout for each recipe is very readable, which I don't take for granted. How many cookbooks have you seen that use frilly script fonts and the ingredient lists are not next to the directions and they're just a big mess! Martha Stewart got it right with these books.

Luscious Coconut Desserts by Lori Longbotham
Lori Longbotham is one of only a few cookbook authors I swear by. I would recommend anything out of her cookbooks without exception. Several of her recipes are in my regular repertoire. I just made her Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Cake for the fourth time! I even wrote a poem about her here. Her Ganache-Filled Brown Sugar Bars are fantastic. Her Dark Chocolate Tart is great, too. Do you like chocolate pudding? Hers makes my dad drool. She has a series of books with similar titles that all say: Luscious _____ Desserts (and you fill in with Chocolate, Lemon, Creamy, Berry, Coconut...). This coconut one is not yet in my collection, which is a shocker! But not to worry, I will remedy this pronto.

Flour by Joanne Chang
Now here's a book I wouldn't have known the first thing about, except that it's impossible to miss all the positive reviews it's getting by food critics and newspaper columns everywhere! The recipes have a very homemade, home baker feel to them, rather than stuffy, overly fancy desserts. They are approachable, and that's exactly the kind of cookbook that appeals to me. I want this. And it's only a matter of time before I bite the bullet and get it!

The Craft of Baking by Karen Demasco
I admit I've had my eye on this one for a long time. Every time I visit a Williams-Sonoma store, it's on the shelf, staring at me in the face. Karen Demasco is a James Beard Award winner, and is known for the many years she served as Tom Colicchio's pastry chef. She's kind of a big deal. I want the Almond Pound Cake with Apricot Compote. And everything else in the book, too.

Chocolate Cakes by Elinor Klivans
Read the title. Need I say more? No. But I will. Just a few words. Elinor Klivans is a great baker and is often involved with Williams-Sonoma cookbooks. That might be where I first learned about her. What I love about this cookbook concept is that it's dedicated to one thing only: chocolate cakes. So if I am in the mood to make a chocolate cake, or need to for a birthday, I can turn to this book and have a bunch of options to spice up an otherwise conventional, regular cake. And I know it will be delicious. Because it's Elinor Klivan's recipe. I don't like to gamble. :)

Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich
Ok, I caved. I bought this book and then told my dad to buy it for my mom. And then she and I spent exactly one night reading through our respective copies, cover to cover, then called each other up, and were quoting lines out of it without looking at it! We had done our homework!!! I've already made a few recipes out of this book. They are all stellar. Go buy it! Alice Medrich is the First Lady of Chocolate, the inventor of the chocolate truffle, founder of the legendary Cocolat shop, and all around chocolate Know-it-All. Trust anything she says. Never doubt her. Kiss her feet.

Bon Appetit Desserts by Barbara Fairchild
Bon Appetit Magazine has long been my favorite food magazine. I love the RSVP section where readers can write in asking for recipes from a restaurant. And there are always stories with delicious sounding recipes and fun product reviews. Bakers I respect, such as Dorie Greenspan and Lori Longbotham, are featured writers. So naturally when my favorite food magazine publishes a cookbook on sweets, I want it. I am so utterly predictable.

Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Strangely enough, I don't have their first book, but I bought this one! I will eventually buy their first one. It just so happened I was in Williams-Sonoma looking at the cookbook section and this was in it and I flipped through the recipes, my stomach started to grumble, and I bought it. Actually, my first experience tasting their goods was when I made their Spicy Brownies, which were published on Oprah's website. After rave reviews from my guests and my tummy, these guys had a special place in my heart.

Bake! by Nick Malgieri
Nick Malgieri isn't just a good baker, he's a good teacher. His book will teach you how to become a better baker. So buy this book not just for the recipes, but for the investment. Hone your skills! Um, and enjoy the recipes. They are very much the kinds of baked goods you'd make with your grandma.

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
One of my favorite things to make is bread. But bread takes a lot of time. Even if there are two rising times so you're not actually working on the bread the whole time, you have to be home that whole time. Ok, I take that back. You can take the bread with you. My mom has been known to bring her bowl of rising dough with her to the grocery store so she could punch it down if necessary. It's a pretty strange sight. But these are the things we do for the things we love! :) Anyways, the concept of being able to make yeast bread quickly seems impossible and contrary to science, but this book will show you how. And that gets me very, very excited.

Well, I think I've given you a lot of food for thought. Hopefully you now have a better idea of how to spend your Christmas bonus or the Amazon gift card you got from your aunt. I may have missed a book or two in here that I'd really love or you'd really love, but the list wasn't meant to be exhaustive. That is not humanly possible. I don't know about you, but there will always be more cookbooks I want. It's in my blood.

Happy New Year!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Last night I had a dream that I hugged Susan Feniger. Oh wait, that really happened!

Me with Susan Feniger! THE Susan Feniger!

Last night I had dinner with 6 awesome friends (Maya, Tara, Caroline, Esther, Lindsay, and H.C.) at Street, Susan Feniger's newish restaurant on Highland, just north of Melrose, in Los Angeles. The food was incredible. All the flavors and spices I love so much. It is very much an international cuisine restaurant. Indian dishes I'm used to from growing up in Silicon Valley (where chaat houses, in particular, are a dime a dozen). Turkish doughnuts for dessert. Ukrainian dumplings with spinach, cheese, and lemon marmalade. An outstanding Pear Blossom cocktail with pureed pear and pear brandy. And something called Kaya Toast with a coconut jam filling that you dip into soy sauce and a soft fried egg. Out of this world.

I could go on and on about the food. Instead, I'll suffice it to say, you must go. I LOVED it.

However, there was one more element to the evening that took this delicious meal to the next level that I must mention. What could make the experience better than it already was? Um, hello? Notice a certain picture of two smiling faces at the top of this post? Yes! I not only met Susan Feniger, Susan came to our table, recommended dishes off the menu, checked back with us throughout the evening, posed for a pic with me because I'm such a Susan groupie, and tapped me on the shoulder to say goodbye to me before she left for the night. I wasn't even getting any sort of royal treatment or display of favoritism. She was wandering the dining room all night, coming in and out of the kitchen to say hello to guests at just about every table. She exudes warmth, smiles nonstop, and speaks about her food with such confidence you can't help but yearn for one more small plate.

Go! Go! Go! And tell Susan that Marni sent you.

The Details
742 North Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 203-0500

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

There are Neon Orange KitchenAid Stand Mixers and I Own a Boring White One? It's a Cruel, Cruel World...

This morning I opened up an email from Bed, Bath & Beyond and all the brightly colored pretty photos should have made me smile as I sipped my morning coffee. But no, giant frown upon my face! The email was advertising all the awesome colors available on the KitchenAid Stand Mixer.

Now, I swear by my KitchenAid Stand Mixer. It is one of my best friends. I've had it for years. It's a big one. The professional 6 quart with a lift head. But it's white. Boring, plain jane, vanilla, white. The machine costs hundreds of dollars. And at the time I bought it, I didn't know fun colors were an option. I only knew that I was getting an amazing machine on sale and I'm not going to question the white when the price is right (I can rhyme!).

Well guess what? Now I'm questioning the white. All those pretty colors in the Bed, Bath & Beyond email got my heart melting. I want hot pink. Or neon orange! Yellow! Or bright blue? But not white! Noooooooooooo.

Somebody please buy my used white one at full-price (Ha! Yeah right! Laughing at self as I write this) so I can get a colorful one.

If you already have one or are planning to get one, what color do you have/want?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Psycho Donuts, or How One San Jose Donut Shop Reinterprets a Classic Treat

Last weekend I flew to the Bay Area to attend an amazing annual concert called the Bridge School Benefit in Mountain View. My mom picked me up at the airport, and instead of going home, we took a little detour.

First, we stopped at the Campbell Library to check the used cookbook rack for hidden treasures. Then we drove to a donut shop. But not just any donut shop. A donut shop that had caution tape posted all over the facade. The sign on the front door said, "Open for insanity." Employees were dressed as nurses.

And then there were the donuts. Donuts with a pumpkin in the center, or even a finger! There was a raised donut dusted in oreo cookies, filled with dark chocolate, and the sides punctured by chocolate pocky sticks. The result? The Eight Legs of Horror (a donut that looks like a black widow!)! I decided on a chocolate cake donut that was covered in crushed butterfinger.

What the heck kind of donut place is this? Is it just gimmicky but not delicious? Nope. It's campy fun and yummy, too. The donuts are not greasy at all, and the cake donut I had was the perfect texture.

I could see picky eaters or traditionalists having a difficult time ordering something since there are hardly any traditional options. Then again, the place was packed when we stopped by, everyone getting their crazy donuts with cereal or candy bars or marshmallows or pretzels on top. It was very bizarre for us. Fun, but bizarre. But for Psycho Donuts, it was just another normal day in the neighborhood.

Highly recommended!

2006 S. Winchester Blvd, Campbell, CA 95008
288 S. 2nd Street, San Jose, CA 95113

Photo Gallery of Unprecedented, Super Weird, Totally Delicious Donuts

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