Baking Through the Alphabet: N is for Nutella Banana Cake (and gracefulleats is two!)

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I’m two!

It’s been two years since I started this baking venture called gracefulleats…and I must say, it’s been a challenge.

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During this second year, I’ve: been featured in BuzzFeed, here and here; had my earl grey donuts with blueberry glaze featured in a German magazine called Sweet Dreams Magazin; finished seven letters of my alphabet, eight including this one (what a horrible record…); and you know, made the usual random cookies and cupcakes for bible studies, road trips, and friends/family. This year seemed so much more unproductive. The amount of posts on here seems to decrease as time goes by, and I don’t know whether or not I should contribute that to busy-ness or laziness. Perhaps both?

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There are times when I think about stopping this whole thing altogether. I tell myself, “It’s too much work, you’re wasting your money, no one really ever reads this thing, you’re not that good at this stuff anyway,” etc etc. But the amount of support and encouragements I get from friends and family is amazing. They push me to keep going, to keep doing what I love, to keep pursuing this hobby of mine. They send me links to help me with my photography and composition, recipes for me to try, and blogs for me to look for inspiration. They ask me why I haven’t blogged, then tell me that I need to finish the alphabet (and I will! Eventually). They tell me how they’ve used recipes from my blog, which always makes me a little nervous because I know I make grammar mistakes and typos all the time. But…you all know who you are–thank you.

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But as I was thinking about this post, I realized this: there’s a much greater purpose behind this blog. There’s a greater purpose behind sharing recipes with people who I’ll probably never meet. There’s more to just finding recipes, making baked goods, taking pictures, and writing blog posts. There is a far greater purpose as to why I do what I do on here. And it’s the gospel. The gospel–the story of how our Sovereign Creator sent His son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins. The story of unconditional love and everlasting joy. The story that, if we believe it, gives us eternal life in heaven to sing His praises forever. The story that gives us delight, hope, and peace…in His name and for His glory.

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My prayer is that as long as I keep living for Christ, for the gospel, this mindset may be reflected in my posts. As for how these posts will reach out to others, I’m not really sure. But I’m certain that God is good and faithful, and He will do what He pleases. I will continue to be His servant and a missionary for Christ, knowing full well that I am a child of God and that He does all things for my good. And I will continue to do this, as with all other things in life, for His glory…because that is what I was created to do.
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So, thank you, all, for your support and encouragement. Thanks for staying with me on this journey the past two years! Soli deo Gloria.

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As for this cake, this was probably one of the most troublesome cakes I’ve ever made…I practically messed up all the way through. First, I couldn’t find one of my cake pans, so I only had one 6-inch pan to work with, which meant I had to bake each layer separately, one after the other. Everything was all good, but then realized I put in two sticks of butter instead of one, which explained why each layer took almost an hour to bake and why it came out soo oily and dense (which, by the way, ended up being okay!). Then, I didn’t slice each layer in half evenly, so one of the layers was too thin and completely split in the middle while I was trying to assemble the cake. I had to pull that layer out, which became a great snack, haha. By the time I was finished, it was almost sunset–seriously, the whole day was a fight against the clock to get pictures in before the sun went down. Despite all the bumps, everything turned out okay, and now I have a cake ready for my post! The backstory behind this cake really reflects how I am in the kitchen–a klutz and a “messer upper”, but somehow things end up minimally okay.
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In terms of the recipe, the banana cake was good. It came out really dense, which may have been a result of using an extra stick of butter. The banana flavor was really strong, and it sort of overpowered the Nutella aspect of the cake. The buttercream wasn’t as intimidating as I thought it would be, considering how it required cooking the egg whites, but it definitely needed more Nutella. I really liked the chocolate ganache with the cake; my only thing is that it overpowers the Nutella, which is supposed to be the star of the cake. When I was layering my cakes, I spread a layer of Nutella, then the ganache, then chopped hazelnuts, then the buttercream. It did get pretty rich, though. I liked the crunch from the nuts, and I wanted more Nutella flavor, but feel free to do whatever works for you! I’d say this cake was a success despite all my bloopers–I definitely want to try this again. Hopefully you’ll fare better than I did :)
Birthday Cake-9Nutella Banana Cake
Makes one 6-inch layer cake
Adapted from The Cake Blog

Ingredients:

For the Banana Cake:
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Chocolate Ganache:
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 ounces heavy cream

For the Nutella Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup Nutella (i didn’t think this was enough, you may want to add more)

1. For the Banana Cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two 6-inch round cake pans by spraying with cooking spray and lining the bottom with a cut out 6-inch parchment paper circle.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Add in the sugar, and cream until light and fluffy.

3. With the mixer on low, add in the vanilla and eggs, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition.

4. Add in half of the sifted dry ingredients. Mix in the yogurt or sour cream. Add in the rest of the dry ingredients, and mix until just combined. Fold in the mashed bananas until just combined. Don’t overmix.

5. Pour the batter evenly between two pans, and bake until golden, about 22-25 minutes. Let the layers cool on a wire rack, inverting them once they are cool enough to handle. Let the cakes cool completely before slicing them in half horizontally to create four layers of cake.

6. For the Chocolate Ganache:  Place the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium-low until it starts to simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate, and let it sit for 30 seconds before whisking together until smooth. Let the ganache cool before using.

7. For the Nutella Swiss Meringue Buttercream: Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk until combined.

8. Using a saucepan that fits the mixing bowl without the bottom of the bowl touching the water, fill the saucepan with a few inches of water and place over medium heat.

9. Place the bowl over the saucepan, making sure the bottom doesn’t touch the water. Heat the egg white/sugar mixture, stirring occasionally, until the egg mixture reaches about 110 degrees on a candy thermometer.

10. Once hot, remove the bowl from the heat, and place it on the mixer. Whisk on high until the bowl becomes room temperature, and the egg white mixture reaches stiff peaks.

11. Switch out the whisk attachment for the paddle attachment. Add in the vanilla, butter, and Nutella, and beat until smooth. If using the buttercream the same day, keep it at room temperature.

12. For Assembly: Spread a layer of ganache over the bottom layer of the cake. Remember, I also added a layer of Nutella, but this cake does get pretty rich, so it’s your call.

13. Sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts over the top of the ganache, then add a layer of buttercream on top of the ganache. Place the second layer of cake on top of the buttercream, and repeat until all your layers are done. Ice the cake with the remaining buttercream, and garnish with toasted hazelnuts. Enjoy!
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Until next time,
Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!
P.S. Extra thanks to Samantha Ho for editing my pictures!

Baking Through the Alphabet: M is for Mocha and Orange Sablé Icebox Cookies

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It’s been a while, WordPress.

I don’t even know where to begin. The last time I wrote one of these things was…July. It is now December and almost January. Oops?

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Sorry for neglecting this thing. It’s funny; I didn’t think people would actually notice, but some of my friends kept mentioning, “so what about the alphabet?” “what letter are you on now?” “Are you still baking?” To answer those questions, 1) the alphabet is still to be continued, I will finish eventually 2) I’m doing the letter M now; it’s been five months 3) Yes! I am still baking.

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So, within the past five months, I’ve:

  • moved to a new place with new roommates! You’ll meet them on here eventually. You already know one of them, though–Sam, who is part of a catering company called Lettuce 24. Shameless plug. OH, I also lived with a broken oven at the new place for about 2 months. It wasn’t super brutal, but it made me really restless.
  • joined membership at my new church! It’s great. :)) I am a blessed soul.
  • turned 21! It’s a big deal for the “About” section, because I am now a a “21-year old baker” instead of a “20-year-old student.” Heh, heh, I need to update that part, too.
  • learned to enjoy the deliciousness of tea. About time…
  • watched 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Lie to Me, Gone Girl, Hunger Games, Big Hero 6, and countless reruns of Friends and The Office. Woops, I clearly have too much time on my hands…

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  • started two new books: My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, which is a heavy book for me, and Now, That’s a Good Question! by R.C. Sproul. It’s been about three months, and I haven’t finished either book, but they’re good, I promise!
  • had way too many goodbye parties for friends who moved back home to NorCal. I miss you all; come visit soon!
  • learned so much more about God’s faithfulness, and it’s crazy! He has been so faithful in all my post-grad endeavors. People weren’t kidding when they said post-grad was hard, and I know I have it easy here. It’s funny, because when you’re in school, all you worry and think about is school. Your prayer requests at small groups are just centered around classes, grades, exams, etc…but once school is out of the picture, everything else floats to the top. Responsibilities, work, friendships/relationships, identity, contentment–everything that was blinded by the wordliness of grades and GPAs while in school–show up. Post-grad life is hard, and I’m not going to go into details here, but God. is. so. GOOD…and He loves us more than we’ll ever know.

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Blurbs over; cookies. I actually attempted this letter back in July, and I totally failed. I tried making these matcha rolls, but then I sliced the dough incorrectly and ended up with these weird, bitter-tasting rolls instead of a beautiful, marbled matcha dough. Yeah, it wasn’t pretty or yummy.

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I don’t remember how I stumbled upon this recipe, but it was interesting. I’ve never made icebox cookies before, and I learned something–they’re easy to make, but they take a lot of refrigeration time. Note to self: read the instructions all the way through before doing starting. I totally underestimated the amount of time the dough needed to sit, so just a heads up: give this recipe at least 3 hours in the fridge.

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Mocha and Orange Sablé Icebox Cookies
From Port and Fin

Ingredients:

For the Chocolate Espresso Dough:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tablespoon finely ground espresso beans (I used ground coffee)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts

For the Orange Sablé Dough:
1 1/4 cup almond meal
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons orange zest (~ 3 oranges)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon/orange juice
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup dried cranberries, chopped

1. For the chocolate espresso dough: In a bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and ground espresso (or ground coffee beans). In another bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the flour mixture, then mix in the chopped walnuts. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge.

2. For the orange sablé dough: Mix together the almond meal and powdered sugar in a bowl. In another bowl, beat together the butter and zest until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the almond mixture. Add the egg and lemon/orange juice, and mix to combine. Stir in the flour. Add the cranberries, and mix until just combined.

3. Line an 8-inch square pan with plastic wrap. Press the orange sablé dough into the bottom of the lined pan, and smooth the top as flat as possible. Cover the top with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for another hour.

4. Bring the chocolate espresso dough to room temperature. Remove the plastic from the top of the orange dough, and press the chocolate dough on top. Smooth the top as flat as possible while pressing it into the pan. Cover the top with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to overnight.

5. Remove the dough block from the square pan, and take off the plastic wrap from the top and bottom. Cut the dough into 2″x8″ bricks. If you don’t want to use up all the bricks now, you can freeze the unused blocks and save them for later.

6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Slice each brick log into 1/4 inch thick slices, and lay the slices on the lined baking sheets, at least 1/2 inch apart. Bake until firm, about 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

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Until Next Time,

Soli deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking! (And HAPPY NEW YEAR!)

Baking Through the Alphabet: L is for Lemon French Macarons

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Guess what–

I’m officially a college graduate!

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(pc: Raymond Tay)

In the past three years, I’ve moved away from home, grown tremendously at a home church and found a new one along the way, built and lost friendships and relationships, met great brothers and sisters who’ve impacted me more than they’ll ever know, lived with roommates who I can’t imagine life without (holla, 1128!), learned a lot less about business economics than I would have expected, gone through probably 50 pounds of butter and hiked up the electricity bill, gotten a job which I’ll probably stay at for the next few years at least, joined an on-campus fellowship which I am very thankful for, had a strong support system back at home (and gained a future brother-in-law too!), hermit-ed and broken out of my shell (though it’s still a work in progress), started a food blog, and so many more things that I would like to say but shouldn’t list out here.

But if there’s one giant theme for my time in college, it is that God is faithful. He was faithful in bringing me to UCI, faithful in constructing every single second of my life, faithful in bringing me to where I am today. I am here today by the gospel, and it is by grace that I have been saved (Ephesians 2:8). Life is tough, but there is joy and comfort in the gospel. And at the end of the day, I have my salvation; God was, is, and will forever be sovereign over all things…and that is something to be thankful for.

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(pc: Samantha Ho)

ZOTZOTZOT forever.

This post is a special one–it’s the first collaboration project I’ve ever done with someone. And guess when I actually made these goodies…February. Yep, half a year ago. Laggy to the max, sorry! But Ryan Kim is one of the most down to earth people I’ve ever met. He’s incredibly talented, and that’s perfectly clear if you look through his portfolio. He took photos of the entire process step-by-step, from beating the egg whites, to piping the shells, to filling the macarons with lemon curd icing. He was patient even as I asked questions about all his camera equipment and life, I guess, and even when I spilled powdered sugar all over my kitchen. He definitely knows his stuff, and it was fun getting to know him with this project.

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Anyways, Ryan, if you ever read this, it was a joy collaborating with you on this one! Thanks for all the photos and for making my food look better!

Like I mentioned in my last macaron post, these things can be a little tricky, but there’s nothing to be scared about. I wrote my own tips on the other post, so I won’t be typing them again here. But you can definitely check it out here if you’re curious!

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Lemon French Macarons
(Photo Credit: Ryan Kim)
Makes about 70-1.5 inch shells (35 sandwiches)
Macaron recipe from Not So Humble Pie, Lemon Curd from A Baked Creation

Ingredients:

For the macarons:
120g almond meal
200g powdered sugar
100g egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
30-35g granulated sugar
4-6 drops yellow gel food coloring

For the filling (needs to be made ahead of time):
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
Fresh lemon juice from 1/2 large lemon (about 2-3 tbsp)
zest from 1/2 large lemon
1/2 stick cold unsalted butter, sliced

Note: For almond meal, you can grind up your old almonds, or you can buy the almond flour/meal itself. I usually buy slivered almonds in bulk at Winco and grind them myself, but sometimes I use the almond meal from Trader Joes–$4.99/lb bag.

1. For the macarons: Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. Prep a piping bag with a round tip. Place the bag into a tall drinking glass and cuff the bags opening over the top (this makes it easier to fill the bag).

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2. In a large bowl, sift the almond meal to remove any clumps, then weigh out 120g. Some people like to weigh then sift, but I always end up with so many extra lumps/chunky nuts that won’t go through the sieve that I don’t want to be inaccurate in my weights. Sift then weigh.

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3. In another bowl, sift the powdered sugar to remove any clumps, then weigh out 200g.

4. Mix together the powdered sugar and almond meal. You can sift both of them again, but I usually don’t, and my macarons turn out fine. Sifting it together makes sure that they’re evenly incorporated with each other, but I just stir with a spoon.

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5. Pour the 100g of egg whites into a large stainless steel mixing bowl. Add the cream of tartar. Begin beating the eggs on low speed. Once they are very foamy, begin sprinkling in the sugar as you beat. Increase the speed if necessary, and beat the meringue to stiff glossy peaks. Read here if you’re confused about what this means.

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6. If you’re using food coloring, make sure you are using gel food coloring. Add it in at this point (add more or fewer drops if needed), and whip for a few seconds.

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7. Add about 1/4 of the almond and sugar mixture; fold with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain (make sure you fold! Don’t stir. It’ll deflate the whites). Continue to add the almond and sugar mixture in quarters, and fold until you reach the proper batter. It is finished when you pick up your spatula and the batter flows steadily.  People describe this as lava-like or molten, but I never really understood what this meant… SO it needs to be thick enough that it will mound up on itself, but also fluid enough that it will melt back down after 20 seconds.

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8. Pour the batter into the prepared piping bag, and pipe rows of batter onto the baking sheets. Make sure you don’t pipe them too close to each other, because they may spread.

9. Rap the baking pan on the counter to get rid of any air bubbles. If you want, you can pop the air bubbles that come up with a toothpick.

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10. Let the macarons rest or “dry” on the counter until they are no longer tacky to a light touch. I know they are ready when I touch it and nothing gets on my finger. It usually takes at least 30 minutes for me, but it depends on the humidity and weather. Try to let them dry in a cool place.

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11. When your macarons are almost dry, preheat the oven to 290°F. Bake the macarons on the middle rack of your oven (this depends on your oven). I usually bake one tray at a time.

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12. Bake the macarons for 16-20 minutes. When they are done, let them cool completely on the sheets. Once the macarons are completely cool, peel them off by pulling back the parchment paper/silicone mat. The shells should come off easily. If not, put them back in the oven for 1-2 minutes.

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13. For the filling: Place the metal bowl on top of the saucepan and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. The mixture will begin to thicken in about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat; whisk in the sliced butter. Wait for the slice to completely melt before adding the next one. Pour the lemon curd into a glass jar/container, and let it cool. Refrigerate overnight before using.

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14. For Assembly: Match up each shell. Fill a pastry bag filled with the lemon curd. Pipe a small mound of the lemon curd into the center of the shell, then sandwich each shell with its other half. Do this for all the shells.

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15. You have two options now: a) Eat them all. b) Put them in the fridge, and let the flavors develop overtime. I usually just leave them overnight, since I’m always baking at night. Leave the macarons in the fridge when you’re not eating them, then when you’re ready to serve/consume them, let them warm up a bit so the macaron can soften. Or eat them straight from the fridge, like me. Your choice =).

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Goodbye, college.
You went by a little faster than I had expected, but it’s okay.

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Now it’s time to grow up.

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(pc: Timothy Lam)

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(pc: Ce)

Until Next Time,

Soli deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

Baking Through the Alphabet: K is for Kahlúa Crème Brûlée

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Hello, friends! It’s been a while (as usual). Things have been a bit hectic the past few weeks, sorry! But they’re good things, I promise.

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I started this post two and a half weeks ago. I still can’t figure out how to start this, so here I go with the bullet points again:

  • I’m graduating in less than two weeks, eeek! I’m ready for school to be over (senioritis level has been at 100% this past quarter…), but not ready for friends to move back home. I think that’s something I’ve been really thankful for this past quarter, the community of friends.
  • #glmcnation, that is all. More on this eventually.
  • The Office Project. Don’t laugh at me, but I started this project where I post something related to The Office every Wednesday, aka I either recreate the scene, or I do something similar to it. Probably makes no sense right now, but it’s a way for me to have fun, share my love for the show, and test my creativity. Maybe I’ll post a picture on here sometime.

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  • I’ve been listening to two things recently: 1) Kishi Bashi’s new album, Lighght, and 2) Ellensburg. Ellensburg is an album from Resonate Church, who also has this really good hymns album out, called The Hymns Record. Anyway, a few lyrics have been stuck in my head: “But God, rich in mercy…” / “He rolled away the stone, death has been dethroned” / “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, the sweetest Name I know.” These lyrics have stuck out to me because I think they hold so much truth–God’s unfailing love and unending mercies, the power of the Resurrection, and JESUS. There’s been a lot of uncertainty going on, not so much uncertainty in getting a job/grad school, but more so in what’s going to happen next in life for me. I’ve graduated college (or graduating, I should say), I’ve gotten my full-time job–so what’s next? It’s easy for me to be discontent in where I am, but I am reminded to not only be thankful, but also to just trust in God. He has a plan for me, and I don’t know what, but I know for a fact that He works all things for my good (Romans 8:28). He is merciful, He is just. He is good.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self  is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

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In addition to taking forever to come up with something to write about, it took me forever to figure out what to bake for the letter K. I settled on Kahlúa and was set on making Kahlúa cheesecake swirled brownies. It did not taste good (in the voice of Judy Geller when Rachel makes the trifle). I put too much Kahlua, and the cheesecake to brownie ratio was off…SUPER OFF. Round two, some other day.

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I partially settled on crème brûlée because I had extra egg yolks and heavy cream sitting in the fridge. And it worked out well! The Kahlúa flavor was prominent–so if you’re not a super big fan of Kahlúa, I would reduce it a little bit. It was creamy and silky, not too sweet, and had a nice kick at the end. I approve!

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Kahlúa Crème Brûlée
Makes 4-6 ramekins
Adapted From Being Suzy Homemaker

Ingredients:

2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup white sugar
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons Kahlúa (I used Hazlenut Kahlúa)
6 teaspoons sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Place ramekins in a roasting pan/deep baking dish at least 3 inches deep.

2. Stir together the cream and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until very hot, stirring continuously until sugar dissolves.

3. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla extract, and Kahlúa until combined. Slowly add 1/3 of the cream mixture, 2 tablespoons at a time, while still whisking (you want to temper the eggs and not cook them). Stir in the remaining hot cream slowly.

4. Pour the custard into the ramekins. Fill the roasting pan with boiling water halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

5. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the custard is set around but still slightly jiggly in the center. Let the custards come to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for four hours, or until cold.

6. When ready to serve, let the custards come to room temperature. Sprinkle sugar on each to coat the top. Then, using a hand torch, melt the sugar until it forms a crispy crust. Serve immediately (or soon!).

Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

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Baking Through the Alphabet: J is for Jalapeño Bacon Cheddar Pretzel Poppers

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I’ve spent the past hour figuring out how to start this post. So in a nutshell:

  • Happy Spring!
  • Happy spring quarter, AKA my last quarter of college
  • the working life is tiring, but I am grateful.
  • God is faithful. 1 Corinthians 1:9

Quite possibly the shortest introduction I’ve ever had. Maybe I’ll do it this way from now on. Hah, we shall see.

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This one is a mouthful–jalapeño bacon cheddar pretzel poppers…or jalapeño bacon cheddar cream cheese pretzel balls….or jalapeño cheddar bacon cheese pretzels. I don’t know, and I’ll probably never have a consistent title for this one, but as long as it starts with a j, I’m ok.

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I started these off with the mindset that I wasn’t going to eat any because I’m not a fan of unsweetened cream cheese or jalapeños. That ended up failing, and I ate some from all four batches. (Side note, these pictures are actually from round 4 with Sam’s new lens. The other pictures were no bueno.) I didn’t think I’d like the cream cheese and jalapeño combo, but it worked, but probably because of everything else–the pretzel dough, the bacon, and the cheese. They taste the best when they’re hot out of the oven, but if not, just microwave it for a few seconds and they are good to go!

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One more thing, the dough from this recipe doesn’t require any rises. I know it sounds strange, but it works. Also, the original recipe called for beer in the dough. But being the 20-year-old I am…I just used water, and it still tasted perfectly fine (although I don’t have beer dough to compare it to..). Just saying, water works too.

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Jalapeño Bacon Cheddar Pretzel Poppers
Adapted from The Slow Roasted Italian
Makes about 36 pretzel poppers

Ingredients:

For the dough:
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (1 packet)
12 ounces warm water, can also use milk or beer
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting counter
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for pretzel tops

For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 ounces shredded Mexican cheese blend (or cheddar cheese)
1 (4 ounce) can diced jalapeños
12 ounces bacon, cooked and chopped into bite size pieces
salt and pepper, to taste (optional)

To finish:
2 tablespoons baking soda
2 cups hot water
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 450°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Stir together warm water, yeast and sugar. Add the flour and salt, and knead until the dough comes together in a ball. If the dough is too sticky to come together, add some water. The dough should be tacky, not sticky.

In a medium bowl, mix together both cheeses, the bacon, and jalapeños. It’s important for the cream cheese to be softened, otherwise you’ll have a hard time getting everything combined. Add optional salt and pepper (I added them because I was scared the filling would be too bland).

Sprinkle clean countertop with 1/4 cup flour. Place dough on floured countertop, and knead in the flour until it is no longer tacky. Form the dough into a ball. You want to get 36 balls out of this ball, and there are two ways: 1) eyeball it. or 2) Quarter the ball of dough. Roll each quarter into a fat log, and cut each log into 3 pieces. Roll each piece into a log, and cut that into 3 pieces. You should end up with 36 pieces in the end.

In a large bowl, add the hot water and baking soda (the water will react a little to the soda, don’t worry).

Roll each dough piece into a ball and flatten into a circle. Add a tablespoon of filling into the center of the dough circle, and pull the dough over the filling, pinching the edges closed. (it’s sort of like making dumplings, if you’ve done that before). Gently roll the dough into a ball. Place 3-4 stuffed dough balls (depending how big your bowl is) into the hot water mixture for a few seconds (or while you prepare the next few dough balls). Remove the dough balls from water and place onto the baking sheet. Repeat the process until all the dough pieces are stuffed and dunked in the baking soda/water mixture.

Place the dough balls onto the parchment paper. Make sure they aren’t touching. Brush each ball with egg wash and sprinkle with salt. I sprinkled mine with garlic salt!

Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Enjoy!

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Until next time,

Soli deo Gloria, and happy reading, eating, and baking!

 

Baking Through the Alphabet: I is for Irish Cream Bread Pudding

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Do some songs just remind you of certain moments?

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Like for me, Anberlin will always remind me of high school. Especially when “Pray Tell” kept running through my head during my Calc BC test junior year.

“Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson (or any song by him) will always remind me of Drama 16…the parts that I did manage to stay awake in, at least. (Thanks N and W for being my friends in this class!)

“Souvenirs” will always remind me of finals week, fall quarter, freshman year…and basically what really sparked my Switchfoot obsession.

“Holding my World” by Kristin Stanfill will remind me of when I got rejected from UCLA. Truth that I needed, though. More on that later.

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I think baking is the same way. There are just some things that hold so much significance to them.

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Asian steamed buns will always remind me of my childhood, because that was something I always made with my mom.

Oatmeal raisin cookies will always remind me of my grandpa, because that was his favorite, and every time he visited, I made sure he had a batch of those waiting for him.

Cinnamon rolls will remind me of my apartment, Samoas my sister, cheesecake my mom, etc. There’s something to everything.

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This one does the same, and it’ll always remind me of work.

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I remember this one day I was sitting at the table in our office kitchen with my coworkers, and I was telling them how I couldn’t think of what to do for the letter “i.” I’m doing this whole entire alphabet thing based on the main ingredient/flavor. For example, if I made Thin Mints Cupcakes (which I did actually, post coming…eventually), they’d be filed for the letter “t” and not “c” because Thin Mints is the main ingredient. I couldn’t think of a main ingredient that started with “i.”

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…Anyways, my coworker T suggested this bread pudding recipe that used Baileys and chocolate. I had no idea what Baileys was, and she explained that it was this Irish cream liquor with a coffee flavor. She gave me the recipe, the Baileys, and the idea for this post. I don’t think you’ll ever read this, T, but this one’s for you! =)

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I was a little iffy about bread pudding because I’d much rather eat the bread by itself (I’m a major carbs fan, in case I haven’t mentioned it yet). But I figured that this would be a good addition to this alphabet mix, so I went for it. The end result? YUM. A little too rich for my taste, but definitely comforting. French bread cubes soaked in a custard, mixed with white and dark chocolate chips, baked in little ramekins to perfection, then topped with a sweet Irish cream sauce. I think it’d go really well with vanilla ice cream too! But I didn’t have any…boo.

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Three notes though, 1) More dark chocolate chips next time, and maybe less white chocolate chips, 2) You can get little Irish cream bottles at BevMo! You need two of those little bottles (they’re so cute!). You won’t use all of it, but I just poured the leftover liquor into the custard sauce, and 3) Less Irish cream sauce. I’d probably cut that part of the recipe in half because I had so much leftover. I didn’t want it too rich, so I didn’t drizzle as much cream sauce over the bread pudding. It’s your call though. If you cut the cream sauce recipe in half, you have some Irish cream liquor to put into the custard sauce.

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Irish Cream Bread Pudding
Makes 8 ramekins
Adapted From Epicurious

Ingredients:

For the Sauce:
1 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons Irish cream liquor (Baileys)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

For the bread pudding:
14 cups 3/4-inch cube French bread with crust (about 12 ounces)
4 ounces white chocolate, chopped or chips
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped or chips
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups whipping cream, separated
1/2 cup whole milk

1. For the sauce: Bring the cream, liquor, sugar, and vanilla to boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Mix the cornstarch and 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl to blend, then whisk it into the cream mixture. Boil until the sauce thickens, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Cool, cover, and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.

2. For the bread pudding: Combine the bread and chocolates in a large bowl, and toss to blend. In another large bowl, beat the eggs, 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, vanilla, and leftover Irish cream liquor. Gradually beat in 1 1/2 cups cream and milk. Add the cream mixture to the bread mixture, and stir to combine. Really combine it so the bread can soak in all the custard. Let it stand for at least 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare the ramekins by spraying with nonstick spray. Scoop the bread mixture into the prepared ramekins (or if you want, a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish). Drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup cream, and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake the pudding until the edges are golden and the custard is set in center, about 1 hour. Let the pudding cool slightly.

4. Drizzle the pudding with the Irish cream sauce, and serve warm. Enjoy!

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Holding my World. I sort of stopped listening to that song for a while, but it came back on my playlist the other day, and it reminded me so much about really trusting in God. I first heard this song this one Friday night at our high school fellowship group back in 2011. I had just gotten rejected from UCLA, which was my number one choice (even though a part of me knew I wouldn’t get in), so I was definitely bummed. But these lyrics spoke so much truth to me:

So I will not worry or fret
My God is the God who will never forget
All of His goodness and all of His promises
He’s holding my world in His hands

I was reminded that God is always good and He is always sovereign through my trials. At that moment, it sucked that I didn’t get into UCLA, but God is good because I ended up here at Irvine, and life is good. I’ve learned plenty, met great friends, have a stable job, and live with wonderful roommates. I’ve found accountability and loving brothers and sisters here who always care and love me. God was good, and He will always be good. He had a plan for me to be here at Irvine, and He has a plan for everything else in my future. Note to self: be patient and trust in God.

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating and baking!

 

Baking Through the Alphabet: H is for Honey Cranberry Orange Scones

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I’m sick.

Headache, runny/stuff nose, slight cough, burning eyes (a little), fever, and slight nausea.

But after sucking it up at work for 7 hours and finally caving in at 3 to use my sick hours and to just go home, and after some meds and a good nap, I’m feeling much better! I think. Hopefully I’m well enough to go in to work tomorrow. (Edit: I didn’t make it to work. POO.)

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But seriously. Sick hours = :) :) :).

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I’ve been really slow with the alphabet recently because I’ve been baking other things outside of this alphabet project. I’ve made…thin mint cupcakes (which will probably be for T), chocolate covered strawberry cupcakes, baked parmesan eggs, Andes mint chocolate cookies, and other baked goodies just for friends and the apartment. Cream cheese was on sale at Albertsons for a buck again, so I’ll try to find things to make with those. I bought 10 blocks HAHA.

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I made these scones about 3 weeks ago. I knew I wanted to do something with honey for T, but I was having a reaaallly hard time finding something. I wanted to make some baked good that hasn’t been a part of this whole alphabet thing yet. I settled on this honey cinnamon scone recipe until Sam gave me the idea to make honey cranberry scones.

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I really wish the honey flavor stood out more though, but I love the citrusy combination with the fluffy scones and tart cranberries. I used this honey that Sam got from a farmer’s market, but take my advice, use honey instead of sugar. I made it once replacing the honey with 3 tablespoons of sugar, but they just came out so much drier. Also, the flour called for in the original recipe wasn’t enough; my dough was sooo sticky. Just keep adding flour until it’s manageable; I gave an estimate in the recipe below. Don’t add too much because the scones will turn out dry. Oh, I also used milk instead of cream to save some fat and calories. The scones still came out delicious! So yummy that I made them again three times after that. =)

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Honey Cranberry Orange Scones
From Inspired Taste
Makes 8 scones

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour (or 2 1/2 depending on how wet the dough is)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup cold milk, plus 1 tablespoon for tops of scones
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon orange zest (I used the zest from one orange)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon coarse sugar (like Sugar in the Raw…I used
half of those packets you can get a coffee shops)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. I used my silicon baking mat and it got stained.

2. For the dough, blend together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter to the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with a few small crumbles of butter the size of peas. Alternatively you can do this by hand in a bowl and cut in the butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips. I just find that a food processor makes it so much easier.

3. In another bowl, combine the milk, honey, and orange zest and stir until the honey is completely incorporated into the cream.

4. Pour the flour/butter mixture into a large bowl. Stir in the cranberries. Pour in the honey-milk mixture and mix until a dough forms. If it’s too wet, add a little flour just until it’s easy to work with, but not too much or else the scones will come out dry.

5. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough 3 to 5 times. Form it into an 8 inch circle and cut into 8 triangles.

6. Place the scones onto the lined baking sheet. Brush with the milk and lightly sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar.

7. Bake scones in the preheated over for 12 to 15 minutes until light golden brown. Scones are best eaten fresh, but they can keep at room temperature for a few days. Perfect for breakfast. Enjoy!

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Perfect with some coffee (sorry, I lied in the picture because I really don’t drink my coffee that black…), a journal, and the word of God. :)

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Happy Thursday!

Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

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