Matcha Green Tea Macarons

I love green tea, and I love macarons. It was a no-brainer putting the two together.

green tea macarons

Generally, I prefer flavors that help cut the inherent sweetness in macarons. I like dark chocolate because of its slight bitterness and lemon because of its acidity. Green tea, like dark chocolate or coffee, provides that slight bitterness that cuts through the sweetness. I used a white chocolate ganache base, with an adzuki bean (otherwise just known as red beans) center filling. If you head over to some asian bakeries or grocery stores, you’ll often find that green tea and red beans are often paired with each other. That’s because they’re a match made in heaven. I tested this out with the macarons, and the concept absolutely holds true.

green tea macarons

The ratios for the filling for this macaron is quite flexible and up to you. If you prefer a light green tea flavor, add less matcha powder into the ganache. If you dislike red beans, feel free to omit them. The amount also depends on you. If you make just one batch, you won’t really need a lot and if you make your own red beans, you’ll most likely have a bit left over. There are plenty of other delicious ways to eat them. But if you want to save time and don’t want to deal with the leftovers, you can find them in stores.

green tea macarons with red bean

Matcha Green Tea Macarons

50 g sifted almond meal

50 g sifted powdered sugar

40 g egg whites (around 1 egg), room temperature

40 g granulated sugar

5 g matcha green tea powder, sifted (+ a little extra to sprinkle on top)

preheat oven to 325 F

1/ Sift the almond meal, powdered sugar, and green tea powder together into a medium sized bowl

2/ With a Kitchenaid mixer or a handheld mixer, start beating the egg whites with the whisk attachment. Once large bubbles start to form, slowly pour in the granulated sugar

3/ Beat the egg white until their glossy with medium peaks

4/ Using a spatula, fold 1/3 of the meringue into the almond mixture. Continue 1/3 at a time until it’s all mixed in.

5/ Gently folding the macaronage, continue until the mixture forms ribbons and takes around 20 seconds for the ribbons to sink back into the mixture. Click here for a detailed description on how to make macaron shells. 

6/ Pipe the macarons onto a parchment/silpat lined baking sheet. (My temperature here varies from my original recipe, due to the fact that I moved and now my new oven is hotter than my old one. You can make adjustments according to your own oven.)

7/  Let the macarons rest until a skin forms on top. If you want, sprinkle some extra matcha powder on top. Slip an empty pan into the oven a rack below the macarons for a double pan, and bake the macarons for 4-5 minutes (or until the feet just begin to form). Turn the pan around, turn the temperature down to 300 F, and bake for another 8-10 minutes. The macarons will be done once the macarons no longer move when gently nudged. It’s safer to be on the well done side, as once you add the filling, the texture will correct itself.

green tea macarons with red bean

Filling

50 g white chocolate (preferably valrhona)

50 g heavy cream

1 tablespoon matcha green tea powder (this amount is up to you)

1/4 cup adzuki beans/red beans

water

sugar to taste

1/ Pour the beans into a small pot, and add enough water so that it just covers the beans. If the water gets cooked off later, you can add more. Bring the water to a boil, and then keep on cooking it at medium heat. Cook until the beans are tender. They should be a little mashed up but still somewhat hold their shape. Add however much sugar you see fit (I’ve never measured how much I added). Let the water cook off (if the mixture is too wet, it’ll soak the macaron shell) and let it cool.

2/ Melt the white chocolate over a double broiler.

3/ Heat the heavy cream until it’s almost boiling. Pour a little into the green tea, and mix until it forms a paste. Stir in the rest of the heavy cream

4/ Add the heavy cream to the white chocolate and stir. Let it cool until the ganache thickens up to a pipable thickness

5/ Pipe the white chocolate in a circle on one macaron shell leaving the center empty (if you’re using the red beans). Add the other shell, and you’re done!

Seeing Double: tarte tatin and tarte aux pommes

So which one is better? It’s a showdown between tarts and things are about to get ugly (or really really delicious).

Apples

tarte tatin apples

A tarte tatin consists of caramelized apples cut into larger chunks on top of a flaky crust. It’s made in a pan and it’s the rustic (and better tasting in my opinion) cousin of apple pie. On the other hand, tarte aux pommes is the neat polished sibling that comes out of the oven the way it went in – exactly how you meticulously arranged the painstakingly thin slices. It’s got a nicely even crust unlike the somewhat unruly one of the tarte tatin.

tarte aux pommes

Even though both are really good alternatives to traditional apple pie, each brings something unique. I used the same crust for both, which was essentially just pie crust, and I used the same type of apples. The apples I used weren’t the best, but it still turned out wonderfully. Both tarts involve cooking the apples prior to baking. This helps release the juices in the apple first, to avoid soaking the crust while baking. You can roll out the crusts beforehand and keep them in the freezer to save time. If you were, say, having a dinner party, I would suggest making the tarte aux pommes.

The tarte tatin has a somewhat nerve wracking step of flipping the tart over onto a plate. Take care not to send the tart flying (which I’m sure you won’t). Just secretly rearrange the apples back in place while no one is looking and you’ll be all set. On the other hand, rest assured there won’t be any acrobatics involved with tarte aux pommes.

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Serve both warm, and you absolutely must serve with vanilla ice cream or some crème fraîche. It’s a crime to not do so.

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But back to the original issue – which tart will be crowned. In terms of taste, I think I might have to go with the tarte tatin. Caramelizing the apples gives it a wonderful flavor and texture, and having the crust on top while baking gives it maximum flakiness. The tarte aux pommes crust on the bottom isn’t as flaky and even though I enjoy the texture of the differently cooked apples, it didn’t strike me as much as the caramelized apples. Having said all that though, I still strongly encourage you to try both. They use pretty much the same ingredients, and everybody may have their own preferences as to which they prefer.

shell

Crust

Makes two 9″ pie crusts (enough for one pie and two tarts)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 stick of butter (8 tablespoons), cubed

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons cold water (more if needed)

1. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and sugar.

2. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or a fork. Sometimes using your hands to rub the butter into the flour helps as well. Continue until there are no more large chunks butter left.

3. Sprinkle the cold water onto the butter/flour mixture and mix. If the dough is not wet enough to ball up, keep adding water one tablespoon at a time. Only add just enough water.

4. Pat the dough into two balls. Do not knead. Cover in seran wrap, and refrigerate for 3-4 hours before using

 

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Tarte Tatin

Makes one 9″ tart

1 pie crust (see recipe above)

6 medium sized apples

3 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup white sugar

pinch of cinnamon

pinch of vanilla powder

juice from half a lemon

Preheat oven to 400F

1/ Roll out the dough into a 10″ circle. Keep this inside the refrigerator until use.

2/ Peel, core and cut the apples into 1/8 wedges. This is what I did, but if you’d prefer larger chunks, you can keep them in 1/4 wedges. Toss these with lemon juice to prevent browning.

3/ In a 9″ oven safe pan, add the butter and sugar over medium heat. Add the apples.

4/ Cook the apples until the color turns caramel, the apples are soft, and all the extra juice thickens up. This can take up to 20 min.

5/ Arrange the apples so that the round side is facing down and lie the crust on top of the apples. Tuck the dough into the sides of the pan. Poke a few holes on top with a fork.

6/ Bake for 25 min, or until the crust is golden brown.

7/ Let the pan sit for 5 min, to let it cool. Place a large on top the pan, and using oven mitts, flip the pan upside down. Slowly remove the pan. If there are any apples astray, push them back into place.

8/ Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or crème fraîche

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Tarte aux pommes

makes one 9″ tart

1 pie crust

6 medium sized apples

1/4 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons sugar

dash of cinnamon

dash of vanilla

1-2 tablespoons rum + 1 teaspoon rum

2 tablespoons butter

juice of half a lemon

1 scoop of apricot jelly

Preheat oven to 400F

1/ Roll out pie crust into a 9″ tart pan. Refrigerate until use.

2/ Peel, core, and cut up four of the apples into chunks and 2 of the apples into thin slices. Toss the apple slices with the 2 tablespoons of sugar and lemon juice.

3/ In a saucepan over medium heat, mix the apple chunks with 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, 1-2 tablespoons rum (optional), and butter. Cook until juice is reduced and apples are tender. This may take 20 min.

4/ Spread the apple chunks into the prepared tart shell. Neatly place the apple slices on top in circles. Bake for 30 min, until the apples are slightly burnt on top.

5/ Mix the apricot with the rum (which, if you’d rather, you could replace with some water), and brush on top of the apples.

6/ Serve warm with vanilla ice cream

 

Langhe, Italy’s Hidden Gem

This little area nestled in the Northwest corner of Italy is decidedly my favorite area in Europe – coming from me, the girl who’s generally in love with Europe as a whole. If paradise exists, then this is it. Everywhere you look, rolling hills covered with world class vineyards grace your eyes. Picturesque towns spot the landscape as you wind through the hills. This region is generally known for its wine and truffles, and with good reason. But as a travel destination, Langhe, I believe, is highly underrated. Unlike Rome or Florence, you won’t find Da Vinci’s or never ending ruins to feast your eyes upon. You won’t go running from the Vatican to the Coliseum, lugging around your camera trying to beat the crowds. Instead, you’ll stop and literally and figuratively smell the roses. Life runs on a different pace here.

langhe vineyards

wine langhe italy vineyards

We headed down to Langhe as a stop between Turin and the Cote d’Azur in France. To be honest, I was a little disappointed by Turin. I knew that Turin was a large center of the slow food movement considering its proximity to Bra, and I went with grandiose ideas that I would have some glorious gastronomic experience there. While I certainly enjoyed the food, it didn’t particularly stand out and I felt no different afterwards. The city itself was a little rough on the edges, and the areas around Turin were run down, and seemed to be economically suffering. Despite how industrial Turin is, the areas around Turin were agrarian. I started getting a little concerned about what Langhe would be like. The towns we drove through on the way were quite run-down and amidst the flat fields we only saw run down shacks.

castle in langhe piedmont

These fears were quickly dispelled after driving up the crest of a hill, the scenery dramatically shifted. The flat landscape was no longer, as we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of rolling hills covered from head to toe in vineyards. It immediately turned from run down to picturesque. On our drive, we spotted many castles sitting atop the hills. Most of these castles are actually privately owned and not open to the public, which was a shame as we would have loved to check them out.

vineyard of our b&b

grapes in langhe piedmont

As we got to our B&B, Agriturismo Il Cortile, we realized that the owners, and their entire family, did not speak English. And we didn’t speak a single world of Italian. But that didn’t stop them from being incredibly kind and hospitable. The owner’s mother spoke to us animatedly in Italian, though I didn’t understand a single word that came out of her mouth, I felt like I got the gist of some of it. After giving us some water and treats upon our arrival, they took us down to their backyard where their young children showed me their chickens, baby ducks, and puppies. We didn’t need to speak because cooing at baby animals is clearly a universal language.

That night, we had dinner at the restaurant connected to the B&B and that was certainly an experience. The language barrier was as formidable as ever as our waiter tried to explain to us the items on the menu. Good thing it was a fixed menu and we didn’t have to choose any of the items. I applaud his efforts, even though we both gave up after the third dish. The food was absolutely delicious, as we ate Italian classics like risotto and prosciutto with melon. I couldn’t quite discern what a few of the dishes were but they were certainly all delightful.

view from Barolo church langhe

After dinner, we took the opportunity to drive around Langhe, and we ended up in Alba, the heart of Langhe. Alba itself is famous for its truffles and wine, but what many don’t know is that Nutella’s (and Ferrero) home is here. I was in Alba during the weekend, but during the week, supposedly, the entire town smells like Nutella due to the nearby factory. Now, if that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will. As a plus, I found that the Nutella here tastes better than the ones we get here in the United States due to the superior quality hazelnuts and chocolate. I might have lugged back three 850 gram jars home. It was that good.

center of alba piedmont

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The town itself is absolutely charming. The streets were filled with various food shops, specializing in items like truffles, wine, coffee, chocolate etc. Right outside the old town walls sat this wonderful gelateria – Gelateria La Romana. The gelato sat safely enclosed inside shiny metal canisters to maintain their temperature and consistency. This allowed the people to spin the gelato onto the cones for you. As we were struggling to figure out the menu (surprise surprise), we were saved by a lady who studied abroad in the United States and spoke fluent English. The gelato was perfectly creamy, and I was tempted to go get myself a second cone had I not already filled myself up with other goodies earlier.

Langhe was filled with Italian vacationers. Vacationers, and not tourists. I was a tourist posing as a vacationer, and while I certainly enjoyed myself, I still aspire to someday rise up to vacationer. There was little to no english being spoke anywhere, apart from the TI offices. One of my biggest regrets was the language barrier that existed between us. I had remarkable opportunities to speak and connect with the people there, and was unable to take advantage of it. I imagine this is what Tuscany used to be – before the waves of tourists began to flock there.

barolo

A final note about transportation – a car really is the best way to get around here. There are no extensive public transportation systems that exist as far as I can tell, which might have contributed to the lack of traffic here. But the gorgeous windy roads that I was talking about previously? They great as a passenger, but it’s not easy to drive. People drive fast, the roads are skinny, and you can never see around the corners. But don’t let that deter you! What I’m saying is more along the lines of, say, perhaps try playing some Mario Kart prior for some practice?

Straight out of Provence: Lavender Macarons

When I think of Provence, the delicate scent of lavender immediately comes to mind. Quaint villages seem to sprout from the fields of purple that dominate this beautiful region of southern France. While I was there in late June, I was hoping to catch the lavenders in full bloom. Unfortunately, it was a colder and wetter year this year, and in many place we expected to see purple, we found green instead. It smelled fragrant already, but it wasn’t the shocking sea of purple that I expected to see.

Lavender at l'Abbaye de Senanque

Lavender at l’Abbaye de Senanque

However, never lose hope! While the typical places like Valensole, Sault etc. weren’t in full bloom yet, keep your eyes pealed when driving across the region. As we crisscrossed Provence, visiting the various markets and villages, we’d randomly come across huge chunks of purple over the hill from somewhere that is still mostly green. For example, the lavender field in front of L’Abbaye de Senanque had only a hint of purple, but behind St. Paul de Mausolee (a monastery where Van Gogh stayed for a year and produced many works of art), the lavender field was in full bloom and it was absolutely gorgeous.

Saint Paul de Mausole monastery

Saint Paul de Mausole monastery

While I’m sure Provence is beautiful all year round, I can’t even imagine going any other time in the year. I can’t even fathom Provence in winter. For me, Provence is perpetually sunny and it just doesn’t work under dreary clouds. Go back home clouds.

Another surprise was the amount of lavender in the Drome Valley, the region above Provence. It was remarkably less touristy and more agricultural. The hilltop villages there rivaled those of Provence and while most of Provence’s lavender hadn’t bloomed yet, all of those in Drome already had, and some plots were already harvested in late June.

So it definitely doesn’t come as a surprise that lavender was incorporated into EVERYTHING. I’m talking lavender ice cream, lavender honey, lavender tea, lavender soap, and of course, lavender macarons. The macarons really spoke to my heart. I knew I had to make some as soon as I got home when I got my hands on some lavender for cooking at Les Baux.

The problem with a lot of florally flavored foods (if that’s what you call them…) is that they can easily start to resemble soap more than food when it’s too fragrant, and you definitely have to be careful with lavender. If you’re unsure how strong you prefer the lavender, use less than you think you would need and if the flavor is too light, add more next time. It’s better to end up with macarons with a hint of lavender than lavender soap macarons.

Lavender Macarons

Makes ~15 macarons

1 batch macaron shells, recipe here

purple food coloring (I used gel)

50 g chopped white chocolate, preferably Valrhona

100 g heavy cream, split 50/50

1 teaspoon lavender

1. Follow the instructions to make the macaron shells. When whipping the meringue, add in the purple food coloring until you get a lavender shade of purple.

2. For the filling, bring up 50 g of heavy cream to almost a boil in a saucepan with the lavender flowers. Remove from the heat, cover, and let the cream infuse for 20 minutes.

3. After 20 minutes, strain the lavender out and bring the temperature of the cream back up to almost a boil.

4. Pour the hot cream directly over the white chocolate in a small bowl. Let it sit for thirty seconds. Slowly, mix the the white chocolate and the cream together until it forms a smooth ganache.

5. Cover up the ganache, and let it cool until room temperature.

6. In a separate bowl, start beating the other 50 g of heavy cream. Continue until the heavy cream reaches the same consistency as the room temperature ganache. Slowly pour in the ganache and continue beating until the mixture thickens to the point where the beaters are leaving distinct tracks. Be very careful not to over beat the cream, as it’ll thicken up much faster than meringue. This won’t be as stiff as whipped cream and will still be a little gloopy, but don’t worry. Stick the bowl into the fridge for 3-4 hours until the ganache is thick enough to pipe and hold it’s shape.

7. Be careful to not warm the ganache up too much when piping with your hand. As soon as you’re done, stick the macarons back into the fridge and let it refrigerate at least over night. Keep in mind that because there’s a lot of heavy cream, these macarons will be temperature sensitive.

Poolish Croissants

First off, I’d like to say that it has been an incredibly busy and exciting month, hence the lack of updates. It all ended a few days ago, when I finally graduated from high school (that was pretty exciting…)! Now that it’s summer break, I’m free to bake as much as I want and I am most definitely taking advantage of all the time. I will, however, be heading off to Europe for the next few weeks, and you all will hear everything about it of course.

croissants

Now, I’ll always remember having a cappuccino and croissant for breakfast every single day in Italy, and I still crave that at times. The croissants you find in grocery stores, or often even in cafes, here just don’t compare, and I’d always thought making croissants would be an incredibly difficult and laborious process.

I was totally wrong (thankfully). While you do have to set aside half a day to make this (especially if you’re doing it for the first time), the steps are simple. The results, however, are incredible.

The most important, and main) ingredient is unsurprisingly butter. You basically wrap a piece of dough around a slab of butter, folding and rolling it out until there are too many layers to count, creating a laminated dough. That’s what makes it amazing. And since butter is the star here, the type/quality of butter is also important. Look for a high butterfat/low moisture content butter, like Plugra. Plugra can be found at Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, and Smart & Final (which I have found to be the cheapest).

Having butter as the main ingredient is also a little concerning, since I have no trouble eating three of these flaky and buttery croissants at a time. Every day.

Poolish Croissants, adapted from The Fresh Loaf 

Poolish

160 g all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur Flour)

160 g water

1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

Final dough

362 g all-purpose flour

135 g milk

67 g sugar

10 g salt

3.5 g (1+1/8 teaspoon) instant yeast

3.5 g malt (I omitted this, since I didn’t have any)

22 g butter, softened

poolish, all

287 g roll-in butter

1. Combine the poolish ingredients in a bowl, cover and let it ferment at room temperature for 8-12 hours until the surface is pebbled with bubbles.

2. In a stand mixer, combine the flour, milk, sugar, salt, yeast, malt and softened butter. Using the dough hook, and if using a KitchenAid mixer, mix on low (speed) 1 for 3 minutes. Then, increase to speed 2 and mix for 3-4 minutes to form a dough. Do not over-mix.

3. Flatten the dough into a disk, cover, and let it refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or over night.

4. Cut the roll-in butter into thinner chunks, and in between two sheets of plastic wrap, tap the butter to soften it, and roll into a 19×19 cm (7.5 x 7.5 inch) square. Return the butter to the fridge for 1-2 hours.

5. Remove the dough from the fridge, and on a lightly floured surface, roll it out to a 28×28 cm (11×11 inch) square. Place the roll-in butter slab onto the rolled out dough, so that the butter is diagonal from the dough. Fold the triangular edges of the dough over and seal the dough tightly so that no butter is visible and there make sure there aren’t parts of dough that don’t have butter. Try not to trap any air bubbles.

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6. Roll the dough (make sure you’re rolling out the butter as well when rolling the outer dough) out into a 20×60 cm (8×24 inch) rectangle. If you do end up with extra dough on the edges, cut those pieces off. Fold the rolled-out dough into thirds. Wrap up the dough in plastic, and stick it in the fridge for an hour. Repeat this process two more times (rolling it out into the rectangle and folding it up), making sure to refrigerate between each time, as you do NOT want the butter to melt at all.

7. After your final rolling and folding, refrigerate for 90 minutes and roll into a 23×90 cm (9×36 inch) rectangle. If you don’t have the space to roll out such a long rectangle, you may want to split the dough into two pieces, for easier handling. If you do cut it in half, roll each half into 23×45 cm (9×18 inch) pieces. Make sure to properly flour the surface and if you feel like your butter is getting warm, feel free to stick the dough back into the fridge before continuing. The dough should be 1/8 inches thick.

8. Cut the dough into equilateral triangles with a height of 23 cm and a base of 12 cm (4.5 inches). Refrigerate these pieces again.

9. After about 20 minutes, take them out and stretch each triangle so that it’s height is now 26 cm (10 inches). Start rolling the triangles up from the base TIGHTLY. Gently pull the top as you’re rolling from the base. You should be able to create 3 rolls.

10. Now, you are at a checkpoint. You can either proof your croissants now (get ready to bake them), freeze them to bake them at a later time, or you can stick them back into the fridge to proof and bake them the next day.

11. To proof, brush all the croissants with an egg wash and stick them into an oven barely heated at 80 F. Don’t forget to leave a good amount of space between each croissant, as it will grow a lot in the oven while baking. The croissants should somewhat grow and become really soft and jiggly. This process takes around 3-4 hours.

12. Remove the croissants from the oven and brush them with an egg wash again. Bring the oven up to 425 F, and bake the croissants for 10 minutes, and then bring the temperature down to 375 F, and bake for another 15 minutes.

Woohoo! You’re finally done! Let them cool down before digging in, and if you made too much to eat in a few days, freeze them and when you want to eat them, reheat them up at 375 F for 10-15 minutes and they’ll be just like new. Croissants fresh from the oven in the morning – sounds pretty good, eh?

Day Seven: Avocado Milkshake

Finally. The last day of the Weird Food Challenge is here. Even though the last day was technically supposed to be yesterday… I spent yesterday checking out the Getty Museum and Villa instead. It was well spent, but alas, I’m behind one day. This has been a fun, but stressful experience. Prior to starting, I already had 3 recipes planned, which made the first 3 days easy, but when I started running out of ideas, it got hard. And sometimes, even though I had ideas, I didn’t have the necessary ingredients, which was incredibly frustrating. 

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Tasting the concoctions was by far the most interesting part, however. It sometimes proved to be even more stressful than the process of making the foods (ahem ketchup macarons). The winner of the week was definitely the bacon cheesecake while many competed for the worst spot, I think the ketchup macarons took it. Most didn’t turn out as bad as I expected, which was relieving because I didn’t know what I was going to do with all this food. I do admit that a lot went into the freezer, and will probably get tossed in a months time. I did learn something from this seemingly pointless challenge. Try new foods and try to mix seemingly disparate ingredients together, because you never know what the result will be. It could be as disgusting as you expected, but it could also be amazing. Despite being tired of it after a week, I know that from now on when I bookmark recipes, I’ll take note of the sketchy ones. 

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So, today was the last day of spring break. Which means… time to do all the homework I put off during the week. I didn’t have much time to make something complicated, so I just threw together an avocado smoothie. I’ve never made any healthy or “green” smoothies before, and this is the greenest I’ve gone (even thought there’s ice cream in this). On day one, I made avocado truffles, and they turned out better than I thought, so I expected the same for this. It didn’t disappoint, partly because I expected it to not taste good. The ice cream dominated the flavor, while the avocado provided a nice taste to it. I wouldn’t drink this over say, a strawberry shake, but it definitely was not in the bad category. 

Rating: 8/10

Avocado Milkshake (Adapted from Jesus Saves Mary Spends)

1/2 ripe avocado

1/2 cup vanilla ice cream

3/4 cup milk

Blend all the ingredients together in a blender until smooth. And that’s it. 

 

Day Six: Strawberry Tofu Mousse

I like strawberries. I like tofu (I have to note that I do hate soymilk and can’t stand the taste). These are the two main ingredients for the strawberry tofu mousse, so I thought, what could go wrong? You throw everything into a blender, refrigerate it for a couple hours, and ta da! Easy mousse. 

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After I added about half of the strawberries, I stuck my finger in for a taste test. It tasted like strawberry soy milk (refer back to my second sentence). Things weren’t looking good, as I was stupid to think that blended up tofu would taste different from soy milk. But then I proceeded to add the rest of the strawberries in, and thankfully, the strawberries mostly covered the soy taste. I had an issue though – this was like a milkshake. No way was this a mousse, and panicking, I added some gelatin and threw it into the freezer. 

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Here I am, an hour and a half later, holding in my hands a half mousse – half milkshake concoction. To complete the challenge, I have to make something every single day, and since the sun was setting, I needed to take a couple pictures before the sun was gone. Therefore, at this point in time, I have no idea if this strawberry tofu milkshake will completely set into a mousse yet, but I can tell you that for a strawberry tofu milkshake, it’s quite good. Top it with some fresh strawberries, and it makes a wonderful snack. 

Rating: 8/10

Strawberry Tofu Mousse (Adapted from Whipped Baking)

8 servings

12 ounces tofu, patted dry

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved

1. Blend all ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Refrigerate to thicken.

Day Five: Mini Bacon Cheesecake

This one’s a keeper. Ohh yeah. 

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While yesterday’s brownies were definitely good, these single serving bacon cheesecakes are amazing. I never expected these to be gross before making them, but I certainly never expected the flavors to meld together so well together. The almond crust, the cheese, and the candied bacon are all perfect complements and they balance each other out perfectly. The saltiness of the bacon goes well with the sweet, creaminess of the cheese and the almond crust gives everything a nice nutty finish. I might even prefer this cheesecake to a normally flavored one, like a blueberry cheesecake. For those of you who still have doubts about this, I urge you to give it a try. It’s impossibly easy to make, and it tastes ridiculously good. The fact that they’re in small servings makes these perfect for a party or to just help control yourself (because I tend to control myself better after telling myself i’ve already eaten five cheesecakes). My mom absolutely agrees with me, so come on, what more convincing do you need. Go makes these now! 

Rating: 11/10 (I’m even throwing an incomplete fraction out there – I’m breaking all the rules today!)

Bacon Cheesecake (Adapted from the Food Network)

Makes 10 muffin sized cheesecakes

1/2 cup almonds (this does not have to be blanched, nor does it have to be fine)

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature

1 large egg, room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 strips bacon

brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 F

2. In a food processor, grind the almonds, sugar, and salt together. Once the almonds are ground into a powder, pour in the butter and mix well.

3. Scoop around a tablespoon of the almond mixture into the muffin cups, and using the back of a spoon, pack it tight.

4. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the crust has hardened (keep in mind that it will harden as it cools), and let it cool at room temperature. Turn the oven down to 325 F.

5. In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar and the cream cheese together using the paddle attachment until smooth. Add the egg, lemon juice, and heavy cream and mix until everything is incorporated, while scraping down the sides with a spatula.

6. Pour batter into the prepared muffin cups and bake for 18-20 minutes. If the center of the cheesecakes no longer jiggles when you move the pan, they are done.

7. Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature, and refrigerate for 4 hours before adding the bacon.

8. In a saucepan, cook the bacon 3/4 way through. When it’s almost done, sprinkle brown sugar and let it caramelize. Remove from the pan, and let it cool without touching each other. 

9. Cut the bacon up into segments, and place on top of the cheesecakes. Serve with gusto.

 

Day Four: The Baked Jalapeño Brownie

After an easy day three, I was a little nervous for day four. I love brownies. I love chocolate. (who doesn’t?) But I’m not particularly a spicy person. My spicy threshold is quite low and whenever I go to a restaurant and order a dish where I can choose the spiciness level, I go with mild. Every single time. Call me a wimp, but my tongue doesn’t exactly enjoy the feeling of being burned alive. And how spicy are five jalapeño peppers? I had no idea what to expect.

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Turns out, five jalapeño peppers are nothing. I could barely taste the jalapeños and the brownies were most definitely not spicy. I’m pretty sure, however, I did something wrong. I removed the seeds for fear that the brownies would turn out deathly spicy, and it turns out, unsurprisingly, that I’m not a very good judge of spiciness levels of a jalapeño. So, if you want your brownies to actually turn out spicy instead of just having a mild jalapeño-y flavor, keep the seeds in when mincing the jalapeños. 

Plus, having heard about the amazing thing that is the Baked Brownie (from the Baked bakeshop), I decided to use that as the base recipe, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. It’s good stuff.

Rating: 10/10

Jalapeño Brownies (Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking)

Makes 24 brownies

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder

11 ounces dark chocolate

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup firmly pressed brown sugar

5 large eggs, room temperature

5 large jalapeños, minced

1. Preheat oven to 350 F and grease or line a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and cocoa

3. Melt the chocolate, butter, and espresso powder in a large bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (a bain-marie). Turn off the heat, and add the in the sugar. Whisk until completely combined, and remove bowl from pan. The mixture should be at room temperature.

4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Do not overbeat to prevent the brownie from becoming cakey. 

5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate and fold it in using a spatula (not a whisk). 

6. After all the flour has been added with a little flour still visible, fold in the jalapeños. 

7. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. The toothpick should come out mostly clean. 

8. Let brownie cool and cut. This is optional, but sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving. 

 

Day Three: Spinach Bacon Muffins

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I know – day three isn’t that impressive. I don’t think I could handle another ketchup macaron fiasco today, so I decided to play it safe (and I was actually really hungry, so I needed edible food). I’ve actually never made savory muffins before, so this would actually be a first – which means, i’m only kind of cheating today.

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As I was making these, I actually realized that apart from the bacon, these are actually really healthy. It’s filled with spinach and onions, and it tastes like a quiche in muffin form. These were delicious and I would definitely make these again (unlike the past two days..) I didn’t have a single recipe to follow, so I tested out the amounts a bit. I found that I didn’t add enough bacon, which is a big source of flavor for the muffin, and I also could’ve increased the amount of parmesan.

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Rating: 9/10 

Spinach Bacon Muffins

2 1/4 cups cake flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 large eggs

3/4 cup milk

2 teaspoons vinegar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (one tablespoon for the onions, and the other should be added to wet ingredients)

1/2 onion, diced

6 strands of bacon, diced

1/2 bunch of spinach 

1/2 cup grated parmesan

Makes 12 muffins

1. Preheat oven to 400 F

2. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Set aside.

3. In a pan, heat one tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the diced bacon and onions, and cook until the bacon and onions brown. Take the pan off the heat, and add the chopped spinach, stirring it until the spinach wilts. Set aside.

4. Add the vinegar into the milk. Let it sit for 5 minutes.

5. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and one tablespoon of oil. Add the sifted dry ingredients, and mix well. Don’t overdo this however, because you want to avoid creating gluten, which results in a tough muffin.

6. Stir in the spinach mixture and the parmesan.

7. Bake for 18-20 minutes in a greased muffin pan. Insert a toothpick into the center to test if the muffins are done (if the toothpick comes out clean, it’s done). 

8. Serve warm, and spread some butter on it if you’re feeling indulgent. You won’t regret it.