Strawberry Freshcream Cake – Paris Baguette (in Zion Market)

Can you believe summer is almost over? We have been in the steady low 80′s here, not that I’m complaining. August has been typically the hottest month in San Diego. Records showed that on Aug. 12 the year we got married, it was 87 degrees F. The record was 93F in 2003. I always seem to focus on August’s temperatures since our wedding day 18 years + 1 day ago had felt like the hottest day ever. It really wasn’t but it felt that way.

For this year’s anniversary, I decided to get a Strawberry Freshcream cake from Paris Baguette. I was running  errands in the Clairemont area so ended up at the Zion Market location. There’s also another location in H-Mart in Mira Mesa, just fyi.

I’ve been wanting to get a freshcream cake from Paris Baguette for some time and have been waiting for the right occasion. The cakes are not cheap for the size of the cakes, certainly not something I would just get on a whim. Included in the price, you can get complimentary candles as well as a plastic serving cake knife, which I thought was cool. The good news for anyone who doesn’t want to shell out $28-40 dollars or just don’t need a whole one, some of the cakes are available by the slice.

The freshcream cake reminded me of the birthday cakes my mom would buy me from Asian bakery stores when I was growing up. I love these kind of cakes because the cakes are fluffy, just lightly sweet so the fruit filling can shine through. Whipped cream frosting and filling are my favorites.

I got the smaller of the cakes available since I wasn’t sure how we (I) would like it. I figured that if we loved the cake, I can get another one for the Mister’s birthday in a couple of weeks. To quote him after his first bite, “Mmmmmm, oh this is really good.” He concurred that this was the best cake I’ve brought home to date. Even better than the strawberry coconut cake I got him last year.

Here’s a look at the x-section. The only complaint I had  was that there could have been more strawberries in the filling. What little there was was sweet and fruity. I’m using all the will power that I can muster not to go slice a piece right now!

While I was waiting for my cake to be boxed, I got really hungry staring at all the pastry so I bought a small red bean mochi and a soft cheese cake. I ate both of them before I had the mind to take pictures. I did say I was really hungry, didn’t I? Both were very good. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the cheese cake but it is NOT like the Western cheesecake. This was an actual cake with cheese flavoring. The texture was soft, as in the name and had a mild cheese flavor. The texture and flavor are hard for me to explain but I liked it. You should try it. I think I’ll pick up a few more variety of desserts the next time I’m there. Certainly have to get one of these soft cheese cake for the Mister since he gave me a hard time for not getting him one. Not really a hard time but hey, I was hungry, okay?

One more thing, not hard to notice that my blog has a different look. I’m playing around with an updated theme and color scheme. There are some limitations to the template so I decided to go back to my old logo header rather than spend hours on end editing the the codes to fit the animated version. Simple is best these days. Let me know what you think.

Hope everyone’s enjoying their summer so far. Have a great rest of the week!

Choco Pie Fever

The Mister and I have been on a choco pie kick for the past few months.  Love having one (or two) of these chocolatey chewy pies with the morning coffee! So far I’ve only tried the two main brands, Lotte and Orion. Both available at the local Korean markets. But while The Mister was in S. Korea, he sent back some Orion choco pies. It wasn’t until I bought some Orion locally that I realized there were slight differences between brands and even within the same brand. So let’s take a look at some side-by-side comparisons.

Here we have the Korean Orion brand on the left in each picture (the ones the Mister bought in Korea) and the Lotte brand on the right (bought locally in SD). Orion’s package is a little bigger than the Lotte because the actual pie is slightly bigger.

 

It might be a little easier to see in these pictures. The Orion is the pie on the bottom.

 

As far as taste, they both had the same flavors, meaning if I were to close my eyes and bite into them, I wouldn’t be able to tell solely based on taste. Texture-wise, on the other hand, was the big difference. The Orion had a softer cake. The Lotte ganache was firmer, reminding me of a s’mores like texture although the cake wasn’t dry like a graham cracker. The cake was drier than the Orion brand. The Orion was more like a whoopie pie. I think because of the softer ganache and cake, the marshmallow texture seemed to be more prominent. I tried just the marshmallow from both to see if one was softer than the other but no, they were both the same. The Mister and I both preferred the Orion brand. But neither of us would say no to a Lotte choco pie.

Even though we can get Orion brand locally,  we still prefer the Korean version of Orion. Here’s why. Introducing the Orion US choco pie on the left, Orion Korean on the right.

The first thing I noticed was that the US version is smaller. The picture makes the US ganache seem shinier because of the lighting but it really isn’t.

The US cake is just minimally thicker at the most. Two other side-by-side comparison showed more of the size difference.

 

I didn’t take any comparison pictures of the Lotte and Orion US versions but they are pretty similar overall. The only slight difference I noticed was that sometimes the Orion cake was a little softer.

So there you go. I got some other snacks as part of the care package but they will have to wait for another post later.

Hope everyone has a fun Independence Day!  Stay cool and safe!

Braised Black Cod with Sauteed Spinach and Mushrooms

Some time last October, Trader Joe’s had black cod on sale. I never bought frozen seafood from TJ before but it was the perfect opportunity to final try Morimoto’s braised cod recipe from his book Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking. You can actually find a copy of his recipe here if you don’t have a copy of the cookbook.

I love braised fish dishes. And since I’ve had one of the braised fish dishes at one of Morimoto’s restaurant before, I was pretty sure this was going to be delicious. Yup, it was wonderfully delicious, one of those where we could just kept eating until our bellies popped. I only had 1.5 pounds of black cod so I decided to half the remaining ingredients in the recipe. There was plenty of yummy sauce with lots to spare (drizzle that over some steamy white rice, yum!). Made me wish I bought an extra piece or two of black cod.

As a side, I just used what I had in the fridge. Some sauteed mushrooms and spinach with garlic. Very quick to throw together.

You’ll need:

  • Rinsed spinach (about a bunch), make sure all the grit and dirt is gone
  • sliced button mushrooms (about 8-10, more if you like, Creminis are nice too)
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Tamari
  • 1 Tablespoon low sodium chicken broth (optional)

In a skillet on medium heat, butter and EVOO. Add mushrooms and salt, saute until mushroom is brown. Add garlic and cook for about a minute. Add spinach, Tamari,  and chicken broth (optional) and cook until spinach is wilted. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve immediately.

My mouth is watering now just thinking about this. Oh yeah, one other thing, I julienned some green onions (soaked in ice water for a few minutes to make them curl) and fresh ginger to garnish the top of the black cod. Purely optional. As a matter of fact, I remembered about these just as we were about to scarf enjoy our dinner. It didn’t add a whole lot to the dish IMO but it did make it look prettier.

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

It’s been over 2 years since I posted on blueberry pancakes. But since then I have a new favorite (you can find the recipe here) and thought I’d better post an update. It’s very similar to Alton Brown’s recipe but this one has a bit more sugar and butter and everyone seems to like this much better. Let’s just say there’s enough butter in this so that we don’t need to add more pats of butter on top of the stack.

The only thing to keep in mind when putting together the wet ingredients is that melted butter will solidify a bit if added to cold buttermilk. Kind of defeats the purpose of melted butter so I beat the eggs with the buttermilk (more often milk + vinegar) then let it sit to room temperature. Then I’ll add the melted butter (not molten lava hot) to that then mix with the dry ingredients. I follow the Alton rule of mixing a set amount, usually 10-12 good mixing with a large whisk, then walk away. It’ll be a bit lumpy but I let it sit for about 5 minutes and the batter will get all bubbly. Then the usual. I use more butter on the griddle before ladling the batter on. Then top with blueberries (usually frozen straight from the bag). For my griddle, 320 degrees F is a good temperature and if I wait for it to preheat, I actually have presentable first pancakes. The time to flip over is when the edges start to firm up a bit and you see bubbles on top.

And then serve them up with some real maple syrup. Warm up the syrup if you want to get all fancy and shit. I’m too lazy. In the picture below, you can see the top of Merlin’s head and Sydney’s right ear, watching and drooling as their daddy chomps down on his stack of pancakes. They’re waiting patiently (sort of) because I make a dollar sized pancake for each of them.

Here is my plate of small dollar sized pancakes. I only like small pancakes since I like the slightly crispy edges the most. Alright, here’s another food tick. I don’t like to drench syrup all over my pancakes since I hate soggy pancakes (kind of like my cereal). So I just pour the syrup onto the plate and dip my pancake into it as needed. The Mister chuckles when I do this since he says I look like a little kid playing with my food.

I typically make a half batch when it’s just the two of us but the full recipe is just the right amount for 3 adults. Not a bad way to start a Sunday morning I think.

Christmas is just around the corner. I just picked up the last present early this week so I’m done with all my shopping!!!! Actually I would have been done 2 weeks ago but the Mister threw in a last-minute change up so I had to get another gift. But hey, that’s what online shopping with free two-day shipping is all about.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas (or Hanukkah) and I’ll see you all in 2013!

Cheese Strudel Challenge

With the apple strudel challenge completed, it was time to tackle the next one, cheese strudel. Cheese strudel is my MIL’s favorite (apple is the Mister’s). The good thing about this challenge was that the hard part was already taken care of. Now just to figure out the cheese filling. Based on MIL’s recollection of her mother’s cheese strudel, it was basically cottage cheese, eggs, lemon zest and some sugar just to give a hint of sweetness. Quite frankly, the filling sounded a little bland to me and I felt something was missing. So I decided to come up with one of my own but still using cottage cheese. I’ve made Ina’s cheese danish before and enjoyed very much so I decided to take some elements from that. There were several sweet cheese strudel filling recipes out on the Internet, mostly calling for sour cream and farmers cheese (or dry curd). Those had some elements of  Gram’s recipe and gave me an idea as to how much cottage cheese to use for a single strudel.

Results? MIL said the filling was spot on. I thought it was pretty good although I much prefer a cheese danish and the apple strudel. I wasn’t sure if the filling was sweet enough at first but both the Mister and MIL said the cheese strudel is not suppose to be very sweet and that the sweetness was just right. Well alrighty then. Sorry no picture of a sliced piece since this went very fast. It got divided up pretty quickly (SIL was also into this whole strudel thing). What was surprising is that the cheese strudel kept very well in the fridge for 4 days (wrapped in foil). Like its apple counterpart, it heated well in the toaster oven. Nice and crispy outside, warm and delicious inside. This is one of those things where you really want to warm it up before serving. Guess what the MIL is getting for her birthday next month???

Hope everyone had a terrific Thanksgiving!

Sweet Cheese Strudel Filling
 
 

Enough for 1 strudel
Ingredients
  • 1½ lb cottage cheese (small curds)
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2-3 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ C sugar
  • ¼ C powdered sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F on convection baking setting. If oven does not have convection, use same temperatures but will just need to bake a little longer and will need to rotate pan half way through baking.
  2. In a food processor (or using a hand mixer with a large bowl), blend everything together until smooth. Leave in the fridge until needed.
Filling strudel
  1. Along a long edge of stretched dough about 4 inches from the edge, dollop cheese filling.
  2. Fold dough edge over to cover filling. Fold the short side edges over to cover the ends. Lift the sheet slowly to gently roll the strudel.
  3. Grease a sheet pan with Crisco/butter mixture. If using parchment paper or silicone baking mat, grease the top of sheet/mat. Lift strudel into pan, making an “S” shape to fit. Generously brush the top and side of strudel with Crisco/butter mixture.
  4. Bake at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 400 degrees F. If using convection baking, bake for another 20 minutes. If using standard baking, bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the strudel is golden brown.
  5. Cool a bit before serving. Best served warm.
  6. Reheat in oven at 325 degrees F for about 12-15 minutes to crisp up dough and warm the cheese filling.