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Friday
Apr182014

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

Awesome interview with me on Vanilla Sugar blog.

Did I mention that you can win my books via said interview post?

Tasty grilled cheese picks in LA!

This might be my last recipe post ever on Serious Eats as they are changing their website format. Luckily it's a good one.

A fantastic article about "where is she now" involving former Seattleite and current pastry superstar Dana Cree.

OMG even though they are savory they are still baked and highly awesome. Biscuit time!

Imploding honey cake!

OooooooOOOOooooOOOOooo Funfetti gooey butter cake!

A date with me...for charity!

The experience of visiting a marijuana bakery, plus a recipe. Involves baking with marijuana.

Actually, I don't care that St. Patrick's day is over. I want everything featured in this post about St. Patty's Day-friendly sweet fare.

Gluten-free tart crust! Yes.

Fun with Peeps. Starry Night included.

 

Thursday
Apr172014

Helpful Tutorial: How to Draw a Bunny

Get your Easter off to a hoppin' start with this sweet tutorial. Whether you're a kid or an adult, drawing bunnies is a ton of fun. Here's how to do it! If I did this correctly, you should be able to drag the image to your desktop and print it larger. Enjoy!

Wednesday
Apr162014

Cadbury Creme Egg in Hole Toast

Cadbury creme egg in hole toast

Yes, I went there, and it tasted glorious. Find the recipe here.

Cadbury creme egg in hole toast

Inspired by the use of Cadbury Creme Eggs in recipes? Be sure to check out my suite of Easter recipes using the creamy eggs, including Cadbury Creme Eggs BenedictDeviled Cadbury Creme EggsCadbury Creme Egg Foo Young, and Cadbury Creme Egg Salad Sandwiches.

Tuesday
Apr152014

Gluten-Free Tart Crust Recipe

I don't care if you need to be gluten-free or not. But I do care about you eating deliciously. Here's a delicious recipe for a tart crust using nut flour...which happens to be gluten-free. Check it out here. 

Sunday
Apr132014

Bali Diary: How to Make Black Rice Pudding

Homemade black rice pudding

During my time in Bali, it didn't take too long for me to become obsessed with black rice pudding.

So you can bet your bottom donut that as soon as I got back stateside, I set forth to recreating this bali magic in my own kitchen.

As it turned out, the most difficult part was sourcing the ingredients. I assumed (with a typical American sense of entitlement, I suppose!) that I could get all of the typical Balinese ingredients at my local grocery store or Asian grocer. Ultimately, I was able to find almost everything, but it took a number of stops.

Homemade black rice pudding

The coconut cream was easy; that was in the grocery store. The black rice, in theory, shouldn't have been difficult to locate, but they happened to be out of it at the Asian grocer, so I had to buy it at Whole Foods for a slightly more premium price. As for the bananas, I sought out firm, ripe ones that I felt could best replicate the dense and super-sweet variety I tasted in Bali. 

Homemade black rice pudding

The two hardest ingredients to find were the palm sugar and panadus. After searching a number of stores for dark palm sugar I still came up dry, so finally I settled on this more honey-toned version, which did work just fine. But keep in mind that if you shave it, don't shave too much, as the sugar will harden in a couple of hours. If you couldn't find palm sugar or just can't be bothered to go and seek it out, brown sugar would do.

The panadus leaves, often used as a flavoring, were tougher to source. After scouring the web for possible substitutes I couldn't find any that quite sounded right, so I just used vanilla extract for flavoring. Maybe not traditional, but highly delicious. 

Homemade black rice pudding

Whew! That having been said, this recipe is worth seeking out the ingredients. This lovely morning porridge is almost caramelly when the sugar meets the rich coconut cream; the bananas bring all of the flavors together into an earthy, creamy, caramelly form of edible bliss.

Here's how you make this traditional Balinese treat. 

Black Rice Pudding (printable version here)

adapted from Indonesian Cakes and Desserts, a Periplus Mini Cookbook

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups uncooked black glutinous rice (or Asian black rice)
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 panadus leaves, tied into a knot (I used 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
  • 1/4 cup (or more, to taste) shaved palm sugar
  • 1 can coconut cream (14 ounces or so) 
  • pinch of salt

Procedure

  1. Rinse the rice in two to three changes of water, or until the water runs clear. Once clear, place the rice in a bowl and cover with clean water. Let it soak overnight (I did this on the countertop).
  2. Homemade black rice pudding
  3. In a saucepan, bring the rice, along with 6 cups of water and the panadus leaves (if using vanilla extract don't add it yet, though), to a boil over medium heat, and simmer uncovered for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally until the rice is softened to a slightly al dente consistency. Discard the panadus leaves, if using. Add the sugar and vanilla (if using) and let the mixture continue to simmer on low heat for about 5 more minutes. 
  4. Homemade black rice pudding
  5. Remove from heat. Set to the side for the moment.
  6. In a bowl, combine the coconut cream with a pinch of salt and mix well.
  7. Homemade black rice pudding
  8. To serve, place a healthy spoonful of the rice mixture into a bowl. Homemade black rice pudding
  9. Spoon coconut cream on top to taste. Enjoy immediately. 
  10. Homemade black rice pudding

If storing, keep the coconut cream and the rice separate, and combine before serving.

Have you ever tried black rice?

Friday
Apr112014

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

bunny and peanut butter

A history of chocolate bunnies.

Interesting Easter insights.

Much ado about muffin: a sweet video game.

I love this collection of trompe l'oeil cakes that look like food.

Interview with a Cadbury Creme Egg.

Blueberry muffins from pancake mix! Interesting.

Take a tour of regional and seasonal US pies with the wonderful new book Teeny's Tour of Pie: A Cookbook.

The best homemade marshmallows...ever!

Lemon meringue angel food cake.

Olive oil cake.

Pineapple orange layer cake. Yum.

In case you missed it: what is palm sugar?

Also in case you missed it: rainbow dessert bowls made of candy.

The question that really matters: which girl scout cookie makes the best milkshake?

Tuesday
Apr082014

Bali Diary: What is Palm Sugar?

Bali

When you go to Bali, you'll probably notice pretty quickly that the sugar is different there. 

Personally, I noticed it the first time that I was brought a coffee in a cafe. They delivered it with a small dish of what looked like the darkest brown sugar I'd ever seen. 

As I was looking at it, fascinated and slightly confused, someone who had been in Bali longer than me looked over knowingly. "Palm sugar," she said. "I never use refined sugar at home, but this doesn't seem to affect my blood sugar as much." (People in Bali, usually tourists, talk like this).

Palm sugar. Interesting. I started to notice that it was everywhere. See it behind that lovely (cookie-included) latte?

Bali

At some cafes, palm sugar was served as a simple syrup, which resembled pancake syrup. At others, in a dish, like my first experience. Interestingly, in stores and at open air markets, it was sold in thick, fat little cakes, sometimes dome-shaped, sometimes in cones. It was shaved or cut into portions, which reminded me of a story I'd heard about the early United States, wherein Colonial ladies of the house would have special shears specifically designed to cut sugar, which was at the time purchased as large cones. 

So what is palm sugar, exactly?

Palm sugar is derived from the palmyra or sugar palm (and has a relative, coconut palm sugar, which is made from the coconut palm--so if you look it up, you may come across this term, too). Once cut, the flower buds produce a sweet yet very liquid sap; this sap is collected and boiled until it has reduced to a sticky sugar consistency. From that point, it can be either bottled as a liquid, or whipped and then dropped into molds so that it will solidify. Sound familiar? In my opinion, this process has quite a similarity to the process of making maple syrup or sugar.

Taste-wise, palm sugar is slightly mellower than granulated sugar, and in my opinion, has a flavor that is like molasses-meets-honey. It's very flavorful, and is a singular flavor when used simply, as in the coconut pancakes served at Seniman Coffee, where only a few ingredients allow every flavor to shine.

Photo via Wikipedia commons

Why are there so many variances in color?

Another thing I noticed is that palm sugar can have quite a large variance in color, from honey yellow to a deep, dark brown. Basically, this boils down to (ha ha) how long and how high the temperature was when the sap was reduced. As I observed, even the same brand or vendor would have no two portions of sugar that were completely "cookie cutter"--because this isn't a highly processed sugar, there is a little bit more variation from batch to batch. 

At home, I found it easier to find the lighter colored palm sugar. Personally, I found the difference in flavor subtle; when using it in a dish that employs the sugar for sweetness in addition to other flavors, the type wasn't important. However, when using it in coffee or in a recipe where it is a primary flavor, the difference from light to dark palm sugar would be like the difference between light and dark brown sugar; the darker the sugar, the more caramelly and intense the flavor. 

Seniman coffee, Bali

How to use palm sugar

To the best of my research, you can swap equal amounts of palm sugar for granulated or brown sugar. Because of its different density, however, for best results you will probably want to weigh your ingredients rather than packing in a cup. This is for baking, however; if you're using the palm sugar in coffee or to sweeten your oatmeal, say, just use to taste. Consider the recipe you're using, as the palm sugar will impart a flavor. 

Is palm sugar healthier?

In Bali, a whole lot of people seemed to think so. Here's an article about it, if it interests you. I'll be honest, it only interests me marginally, as I don't necessarily think people eat sugar of any sort for its health benefits, anyway!

Have you ever used palm sugar in baking? I'd love to hear what you made and how it came out. 

Love from Bali, 

CakeSpy

Sunday
Apr062014

Bali Diary: Love Letter to Magnum Gold

Uluwatu and Padang Padang

I realize that it may sound funny that I had to travel so far to find something which has apparently been under my nose for some time in the United States.

But sometimes fact is stranger than fiction, and it took me going all the way to Bali to discover the Magnum Gold.

Actually, technically, it's the "GOLD?! Magnum Ice Cream Bar". GOLD?! might, upon first thought, seem like a deeply stupid name. Truthfully, it did to me. But my tune has changed.

Because as it turns out, it's quite accurate to the experience of eating a bar. Because here's what happens, in simplified terms:

Step 1: You wonder "Gold? What's so gold about it?". Shake your head. It's just an ice cream bar, man.

Step 2: Open the bar and take a bite. Exalt as you take the initial bite and discover that the yellow chocolate covers dark chocolate, which gives way to ice cream with delicate swirls of salty caramel. Think, "holy sundae, is this good." Exclaim "GOLD!".

Uluwatu and Padang Padang

So really, the name does make a lot of sense after you try the bar.

The weird thing is that while they exist in the US, I had never heard of them. But apparently Bali has caught the news that something good is happening with this bar, because they are EVERYWHERE there. There are signs in the supermarkets for them, and they are a prominent offering at mini-marts, ice cream vendors, and food markets.

At the Padang Padang beach, there was even an ice cream vendor toting them in a cooler full of dry ice. My friend and teaching BFF in Bali, Jan, flagged him down and bought one. She offered to get me one, too, but I felt that the name was kind of stupid and declined, instead electing to pose for a photo in front of a particularly large rock.

Uluwatu and Padang Padang

But the moment I saw her dig into the treat, I knew I must have my very own. So later that day, at a pit stop on the way to Uluwatu, I grabbed my own Magnum Gold.

Uluwatu and Padang Padang

Upon first bite, I was hooked. Rich chocolate that melted in your mouth, with a satisfying white and dark chocolate flavor. The chocolate flavor subsiding into and melding with the creaminess of the inside. No mere vanilla bean ice cream in here--it was swirled with salted caramel. They were delicate swirls, but certainly they were the certain something that took the bar from "good ice cream truck offering" to "I want to eat my weight in this thing".

After I got a Magnum, many of my other Bali BFFs followed in kind. You see, it's the type of thing that you want once you see someone else eating it. 

Uluwatu and Padang Padang

The experience made watching a beautiful sunset with monkeys all around even sweeter.

Thank you, Bali, for so much. But at this moment, thank you most for introducing me to my newest love. Because you know what they say: "Make new desserts, but savor store-bought, one is silver but the other's Gold."

Actually, nobody's ever said that until now, but the main point here is that you have to try this ice cream bar.

Love from Bali,

CakeSpy

Friday
Apr042014

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

Remember these? Hoppy easter, indeed.

High calorie treats: consider it a to-do list.

Helpful: a guide to different types of sugar.

Interesting facts about the invention of Jell-O.

Tutorial for children: how to steal Easter candy.

Tips for making Peeps at home.

How to make perfect flan

Ice cream mashups are all the rage. I like this trend.

Sweet and saltines. Maybe don't make them. They're addictive.

How to make isomalt jewels.

Chocolate peanut butter eggs. Happy, happiest Easter.

Hazelnut dessert noodles: I am intrigued.

How to make waffles without a waffle iron. Srsly.

Wednesday
Apr022014

Magic in the Airheads: Magical Rainbow Candy Bowls

Rainbow candy baskets

April showers bring May flowers. But let's not get all doom and gloom and April-is-the-cruelest month, OK? Because where there are rain showers, there is bound to be a rainbow or two. Or ten!

To celebrate this magical rainbow-filled month, I would like to present a project sponsored by Airheads candy which has attained this site's highest status as unicorn-approved: rainbow candy dessert bowls. 

Rainbow candy baskets

These confections are woven from candy, and are a perfectly magical setting for all of your favorite desserts. You could fill them with whipped cream or marshmallow fluff for a light and sweet cloud-like treat, or you could place an entire cupcake inside. They could even be used as decorative candy bowls at parties for a sweet table setting. 

Rainbow candy baskets

I should tell you too that this project was inspired by my time in Bali. Perhaps not for the reason you think, though! 

You see, I had agreed to come up with a project for Airheads before I left, and I figured "meh, I'll find someone's oven to bake in.". Well, as it turns out, they don't have ovens in Bali! So I had to revise my plans and figure out a no-bake treat. I thought back to my friend Not Martha's bacon bowls and an idea was born--a sweet idea, indeed.

Rainbow candy baskets

I have to say, I was rather pleased with my experimentation. It took a little figuring out, because once I wove the rainbows I had trouble getting them to stay together while I shaped the baskets. By employing regular Airheads candy, I melted them down and then used them as a sort of sealant for the inside of the baskets. It helped keep the candy together, and as an added bonus, sealed the inside so that if eating ice cream or something of the like, it would stay contained in the basket. 

You could go for a plain, cloud-like look with the finished baskets, or include additional rainbows. Definitely not excessive.

Rainbow candy baskets

Anyhow, I know that you're probably keen to make this magic happen in the comfort of your own home, so here's how I did it. I realize it seems like a long process based on my writing, but it's really not; I just wanted to be thorough in my explanations. You're welcome!

Rainbow candy baskets

You'll need:

  • 1 cupcake tin
  • double boiler
  • a spatula for stirring, a spoon, and a knife

Rainbow candy baskets

Ingredients

(Per basket)

  • 10 strips Airheads XTremes Sweetly sour candy, in berry rainbow
  • 3 small Airheads candies, unwrapped (choose similar colors for best results)
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 3 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Procedure

Grab a work surface and let's get weaving. First, grab yourself 10 strips of the rainbow colored Airheads Extreme candy. Line five strips side by side, so that the ends are facing you. 

Leaving an inch of space on the top, begin to weave one of the remaining strips of candy horizontally, over and under the vertical rows.

Grab your next piece, and weave it directly below the previous one, weaving under-and-over so that it forms a basketweave pattern.

Continue alternating with the remaining strips. 

Here's a photo-collage of the process if that all seems confusing:

Weaving a rainbow

OK, set this woven piece of rainbow art to the side for the moment. 

Now, set up your double boiler. Place three Airheads candies (the regular kind) in the top, along with the water and confectioners' sugar. 

Heat on medium, stirring every few minutes. While at first the sugar, water, and candy will remain quite separate, as it melts, the mixture will become thick. You'll see now why it was a good idea to use candy in the same color scheme--the color melts together. It might be ugly if you use different colored candies (like I did the first time) but it will taste fine. Promise. But even so, this won't be the prettiest part of the process.

Rainbow candy baskets

Once the mixture is lightly bubbly, remove from heat. You'll want to work without hesitating at this point as the candy is easier to use while still quite liquid. Gently spoon the candy in the center of your basketweave square. Use a spoon or knife to spread it to cover the woven portion as thoroughly as possible. 

At this point, I decided that rather than slice off the extra bits, I would fold over the non-woven portions. This is easier to do if you start with the pieces which are "under". They will adhere easily to the still sticky candy.

The four corners, I sliced off.

Give it about five minutes for the candy to set slightly, and transfer the candy bundle to your cupcake tin. Gently place it, centered, on top of one of the cups. Using your fingers, gently finesse it into a bowl shape.

Once again, here it all is in pictures. My apologies again for the weird melted candy color. Folding basket

Rainbow candy baskets

Repeat, making as many bowls as you'd like.

To help the bowls "set", I put them in the freezer (right in the cupcake pan) for about 5 to 10 minutes. They easily popped out of the cupcake tin at this point.

Rainbow candy baskets

Fill the bowls with whatever toppings you'd like. If you're not using them immediately, keep them in the cupcake tin so that they will retain their shape.

What would you put in a rainbow bowl?

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