Baking Through the Alphabet: F is for Flan Cupcakes

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There’s this one episode in Friends where they’re sitting around the dining table at the girls’ apartment planning Rachel’s surprise birthday party. Phoebe asks about the birthday cake, and Monica says she’s not making a birthday cake, but is making “birthday flan” instead. “It’s a traditional Mexican custard dessert!,” to which Joey responds with “Happy birthday, here’s some goo.”

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The reason why I mention this is because:

1) Friends is my favorite TV show! I don’t really agree with a lot of their morals, but I really do appreciate the friendship among the six of them. The show never fails to make me laugh, and my friends and I love quoting their lines for any and every situation. I own all 10 seasons, and it never gets old. Never.

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2) F is for Flan Cupcakes! I found these cupcakes while watching Food Network with a friend a few years back. It seemed like such a genius idea–vanilla cupcakes filled with flan, topped with cream cheese frosting. Yum!

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I know the recipe seems complicated, but it’s not too bad! Slow and steady wins the race. The cupcakes were moist and fluffy…and I’d have to say the best vanilla cupcakes I’ve made so far. The flan came out more like a really light and fluffy cheesecake, a bit like the Asian cheesecakes with a caramel flavor. For the cream cheese frosting, I ended up making half of what the original frosting recipe called for, and I was able to frost 18 out of the 24 cupcakes. I’m not a big fan of frosting and a little goes a long way for me, but if you are, feel free to double what’s called for below.

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As for the cupcake as a whole, I really wish the flan flavor shined more. With the cream cheese frosting and vanilla cupcake, the flan was kind of tucked away in the back. Regardless, I think this is the best cupcake I’ve made so far (which…isn’t THAT big of a deal since I don’t make cupcakes that often. BUT they usually fail–too dry, frosting too runny, too doughy, etc–so I’m glad this one turned out well).You don’t use all the flan in the cupcakes, but you can always use the extra as a side dessert. To be honest, I think I like the flan more on its own than with the cupcakes because it tastes like a light cheesecake. I like the combination and concept behind the flan cupcakes, which is why I’m sharing this with you all. Maybe you’ll like these more than my picky tastebuds did!

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Flan Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes
From Food Network

Ingredients:

For the Flan Custard:
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
One 12-ounce can evaporated milk

For the Cupcakes:
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup milk

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
One 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. For the Flan Custard: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium pot over medium heat, cook the sugar and 1/2 cup water. Cook until the sugar caramelizes and turns into a nice, amber color, about 10 minutes, without stirring. Pour the caramelized sugar into an 8- by 10-inch pan or 10-inch cake pan. Let it cool.

2. In a blender, blend together the eggs, cream cheese, condensed milk, and evaporated milk. Blend for about 4 minutes.

3. Pour the egg mixture into the pan with the sugar. Put the pan inside an 11 x 14-inch pan. Pour water into the larger pan until almost full (water bath). Bake until it sets and has a slight uniform jiggle, about 1 hour. When done, take out the small pan and let it cool.

4. For the Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare cupcake tins by lining with paper liners. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

5. In another bowl, cream together the butter and granulated sugar until fluffy and light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the vanilla; mix until fluffy. Fold in the flour mixture, alternating with the milk. Do not overmix. Portion the batter into the prepared tins. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or just until set and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.

6. For the Frosting: Cream together the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl until fluffy.

7. For Assembly: Cut a hole in the top of each cupcake. You can use an apple corer; I used a paring knife. Fill a pastry bag with the flan. Pipe in enough flan to fill the hole in the cupcake. Top each cupcake with frosting. Enjoy!

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So for all the January babies, happy birthday, here’s some goo. =)

Until next time,

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

Baking Through the Alphabet: D is for Dulce de Leche Eclairs

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Hello to all my new readers!

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It’s crazy how much my blog has grown the past few weeks, all thanks to Welcome Home on Facebook! I know there are a lot of comments sitting in my inbox, but I promise I’ll get to them soon! I’ve been swamped with finals and projects these past two week and haven’t had the chance to get around to them. But guess what? Finals are done, projects have been submitted, fall quarter duties have been relieved, so I can safely say…

HELLO WINTER BREAK!

Yes, I survived another quarter of college (all through the grace of God, of course). It’s been a crazy one, but I’m thankful for it all.

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I had meant for this post to be my “Happy Thanksgiving!” post, so let me just say…Happy (belated) Thanksgiving! I hope you all had an enjoyable and relaxing Thanksgiving with your loved ones (food included!). I know I did–it was great to be at home during the week with family and friends. I had lunch with my family, reunited with (actually, MET for the very first time) some extremely distant cousins for dinner (we have the same great-great-great grandma), and hung out with high school and church friends. It was a weekend well spent!

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I’m still baking my way through the alphabet. I know I’m only four letters in, but this letter kind of sucked. I knew I wanted to do dulce de leche eclairs, but it took me THREE tries to get the filling right. First, I tried making this diplomat cream, which is basically a combination of whipped cream and pastry cream. It was perfect since I had a bunch of leftover egg yolks from making macarons. But I messed up because I overcooked the pastry cream and ended up with this ugly, chunky, scrambled egg mess. Not good. Delicious!, but not good. I decided to make a dulce de leche whipped cream by beating together dulce de leche and heavy cream. All was well, until I got a little selfish and wanted stiffer peaks. So I put the bowl back under the wire whisk, turned it on, and ran to get my camera. I swear, it was only like 20 seconds, but by the time I got back the cream was overbeat (is that a word?) and had turned into a curdled mess. Boo.

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Third time was the charm. I used my trusty cream puff recipe from Joy of Baking, and piped logs instead of little mounds. The eclairs did come out a little fatter than I would’ve liked and I’ll have to pipe thinner logs next time, but they were still delicious. I spread a little dulce de leche on the bottom shell of the eclair, filled it with dulce de leche whipped cream, topped it with its other half, and topped that with chocolate ganache. The chocolate and dulce de leche go so nicely together, and it’s a nice twist to your typical cream puff/eclair. My roommates said it was a little too sweet for them (it was okay for me), but if you want it less sweet, you can spread less dulce de leche onto the bottom puff or skip it altogether. Either way, the chocolate ganache with the eclair shell and the dulce de leche whipped cream will be tres excelente (insert the “ok” hand emoji here).

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Dulce de Leche Eclairs
Makes 16 eclairs
Adapted from Joy of Baking

Ingredients:

For the Choux Pastry:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup water
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the filling:
1 pint heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup dulce de leche (more or less, to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the chocolate ganache:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1. For the choux pastry: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with a Silpat or parchment paper. Place the butter in a saucepan over medium high heat; bring to a boil. Make sure the butter is completely melted before the water boils. Remove it from the heat, and using a wooden spoon, add the flour, sugar, and salt, stir until combined. Return the saucepan back to the heat, and keep stirring until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball.

2. Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl, and beat it to release the steam from the dough. When the dough is lukewarm, mix in the eggs until you have a smooth, thick paste. The dough will separate but will come together to form a thick paste. The dough should fall from the spoon in a thick ribbon.

3. Place the dough in a pastry bag and pipe oblongs of dough onto the baking sheet. I made mine slightly larger, but the original recipe piped “12 oblongs of dough about 3/4 inch wide. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Continue to bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the shells are an amber color and are almost dry inside when split. Remove from oven; cool on a wire rack.

4. For the filling: With a whisk attachment (or a whisk, if you’re doing it by hand), beat the cream until soft peaks form. Mix in the dulce de leche, and beat until the cream holds stiff peaks. Add more dulce de leche if you want a stronger flavor. Mix in the vanilla. Refrigerate until ready to use.

5. For the chocolate ganache: Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the cream until just boiling and pour it over the chocolate. Gently stir until the chocolate is melted.

6. For assembly: Split the pastry shells in half, lengthwise. Take the top shell, dip it into the chocolate glaze, and let the excess drip off. Let it dry. Spread a little dulce de leche onto the bottom half (you should have some extra from the can), and fill it (can spoon or pipe) with the dulce de leche cream. Place the top half of the pastry shell on the cream. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use; it can be stored for two days. Enjoy!

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Until next time,

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

Fruit Tarts II

IMG_4088 Two weeks late, but…I’M 20!!! IMG_4086 I know I’m still young, but God has been faithful to me these past 20 years. It was a blessed birthday, and I’m thankful for everything!

I celebrated with my family:

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Celebrated my birthday at midnight with my roommates: IMG_4488 At work, my coworkers decorated my cubicle and gave me this AWESOME mini pie pan (which is perfect for this recipe):

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Then that night, I was surprised by J! I was under the impression that I was going to dinner with my roommates. I decided to nap between work and dinner, then I woke up to noise and someone poking my nose…and it was J! He drove to Irvine to surprise me =). We walked to the car, and found two more friends. Then we got into the car and they kept saying we were going to McDonald’s (totally didn’t fool me, by the way), but we ended up at an all you can eat KBBQ restaurant, where I was surprised again with more friends! Then during dinner, my sister and her boyfriend surprised me with a yummy strawberry tiramisu birthday cake =). Indeed a good surprise–good job J and thank you friends!!! =) :

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It was a very blessed birthday, and…I am thankful =). IMG_4097 Remember the fruit tarts I made last summer? Today, I bring to you all my new favorite fruit tart recipe. It’s pretty close to the one I made last time, but I think these are much better and a lot easier. This time around, I made a bunch of differently sized tarts. I like the crust because it’s so rich and buttery, and it goes great with the extra chocolate layer i spread on before I layer in the custard. The custard is AMAZING. I can eat it right off the spoon. And my favorite part? The entire custard is made in the microwave. Yup, no more having to worry about scrambled eggs, boiling the milk, or making sure the milk doesn’t burn or form a skin. You dump in all the ingredients, whisk it, and stick it in the microwave for a total of six minutes. It’s creamy, eggy, and perfect for these fruit tarts. And don’t worry, there’s a little more custard than needed for these tarts, so feel free to eat that with a spoon =).

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Fruit Tarts
Makes 13-14 mini tarts, or a large tart + a few smaller ones
Adapted from From Salad in a Jar

Ingredients:

For the Tart Crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), chilled
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream (or milk)
1/4 cup chocolate chips, melted

For the Custard Filling:
2 3/4 cups whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. For the crust: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add slices of the butter to the flour, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the egg yolk mixed with milk, and pulse until all the ingredients are moistened. Continue to pulse until the dough starts to stick together. Add a little milk if the dough seems to be too dry. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, grease your molds with cooking spray. When the dough is chilled, roll pieces of the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap into a circle slightly larger than your tart molds. Press the dough into the molds, keeping the thickness consistent. Trip off the excess, and continue to do so for all molds until you have used up all the dough. You can use the extra scraps to make another tart if you have enough. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork. Freeze for at least 30 minutes.

3. Place the frozen tart shells on a cookie sheet (the original instructions say to press a small piece of foil down into each crust. I got lazy and didn’t). Bake at 400F for 10-13 minutes, until golden brown. When done, prick the bottom again to release some steam. Some of the bottoms may have puffed up, and that’s ok. Spread a thin layer of the melted chocolate onto the crust and let harden.

4. For the Custard Filling: Whisk together the milk, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and egg yolks in a large microwave safe bowl. Microwave 6 minutes, whisk until smooth  after three minutes, then every minute after that. Add the butter and vanilla; whisk until smooth.

5. For Assembly: Fill each baked tart with the custard filling. Top and decorate with fruit of your choice. Enjoy!

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Until next time,

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

Blueberry Custard Pie Bars

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I helped out with a retreat this past weekend with some AACF brothers and sisters. I took care of the infants group (6 months-2 years), and I must say…THEY ARE SO CUTE. We only had three infants, but one of them got sick after the first session. I honestly don’t think I did much; I think I spent more time hanging out with AACFers than I did with the kids, haha! But I really did enjoy getting to know them more since I’ve been kinda MIA this past year. I’ll be back, I promise! It was also fun to be able to hang out with the other helper, who’s married with two kids. It’s nice to be able to talk to older women and to listen to the wise things they have to say. All in all, it was fun!

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There is one moment that I must share, though. Since the infants were on a different rotating schedule (basically nonexistent rotations) than the other groups, we dropped by the red group, which were the 3-5 year olds. D’s (the one that got sick) brother J was in that group, so we dropped by to say hi. J was at the crafts table with another kid, L. This was the conversation:

L: J, is that your brother? (pointing at D)
J: Yeah, it is!
L: HE LOOKS LIKE AN ALIEN!!!!!
Me: That’s not nice! Don’t say that!
L: BUT HE LOOKS LIKE AN ALIEN!

Heh, kids just say that darndest things. It was encouraging to see the kids become attached to us so quickly and so excited to learn and play. =) Thanks for the opportunity!

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Anyways, it’s berry season! I love berries, but I think the only berries that I enjoy baked in desserts are blueberries. I’ve made a few recipes with strawberries baked inside the cake, but they’ve never really appealed to me. But blueberries…they are another story. I love how they just ooze out.

IMG_3656I remember last summer I went through a phase with blueberries because Sam bought this 5 pound box from Costco. As a result, I made Blueberry Crumb Muffins and Blueberry Pull Apart Bread. It’s one year later, the blueberries are back, so today I present to you all…

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BLUEBERRY CRUMB BARS. I’ve already made these four times in the past week. My friend T shared this recipe with me, and I love it! It’s a sweet custard with blueberries and a thick graham cracker crust. It’s a really light, refreshing, and easy dessert. I do like how this is LOADED with blueberries–this recipe uses 1.5 pounds of blueberries! Take advantage of berry season y’all, and make this!

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Blueberry Custard Pie Bars 
Makes one 9×13″ pan
Adapted From Butter Baking

Ingredients:

For the Crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (28 squares)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the Custard Filling:
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cups sour cream
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
500g blueberries (18 oz); I used fresh, you can use frozen

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F and line a 9×13 inch baking tray with parchment paper.

2. For the Crust: In a medium bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Pour the crumbs into the prepared pan and press into an even layer. Bake for 7 minutes; leave the oven on when done.

3. For the Filling: Beat the eggs until combined. Add the sugar; beat until foamy. Add the sour cream, flour, cornstarch, and salt, and beat until incorporated. Stir in the vanilla.

4. Fold in the blueberries. Pour the custard mixture over the crust and smooth out. The batter will be thin.

5. Bake until the center is set, about 30-40 minutes. Let cool, then refrigerate and cut into bars/squares. Enjoy!

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Until next time,

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

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Oreo Rice Krispies Treats

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When I was little, I always poked my nose into the kitchen to see what mama was cooking. From sticky rice to steamed buns, I was there to help cut, roll, stir, and learn. She taught me almost everything I know about cooking, and every meal I make in the kitchen today is because of her (and some tips from my pops). People always ask me why I enjoy baking so much, and I always reply by saying I’ve always liked to cook/bake because I’ve always helped my mom in the kitchen while growing up. Now, there are plenty of other reasons, but I can assure you that one of the main reasons is because the kitchen was something that my mom and I bonded over. I’m thankful for those days–so thanks mom, for influencing me to love and know the kitchen =).

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One of the things my mom and I made a lot was Rice Krispies Treats. We didn’t do much baking in the kitchen aside from fish and chicken, so that usually meant no desserts. We did have our share of sweets though, with green/red bean soup, red bean steamed buns, or the easy go-to I-Mei Mango popsicles, orrrrrr….Rice Krispies Treats. This was something we did together. I measured the ingredients, melted the marshmallows and butter, and she did the stirring and pouring into the pan. I could never handle the stickiness of the cereal and marshmallows, and the pot was usually too heavy and hot for me anyway.

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I’ve been eyeing this recipe for a while, and I jumped at the chance since I had extra marshmallows and Oreos. I saw one where there was an extra white chocolate and Oreo layer on top, but that was just too much for me–wayyyy too sweet! I liked this variation; the treats were chewy, and there were Oreo chunks in each bite. Not too sweet or heavy, but be careful to not eat the whole batch =). A few tips that I learned from my mom: 1) When you’re stirring your cereal and marshmallows together, take the pot off the heat, or else the treats won’t be chewy and will become crunchy. 2) A wet plastic rice paddle works really well for getting the cereal/marshmallow mixture into the pan. Just run it under the water when it starts getting sticky. 3) Soak your pots/pans for a little bit before washing. It’s not worth your time to scrub them right away. Tips aside, these are sooooo good. It was gone within a day when I made them. Do it. It’s good for you (just kidding. It’s not really good for you, but it really is delicious!!!)

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Oreo Rice Krispie Treats
Makes one 9×13 Pan
Adapted From Glorious Treats

Ingredients:

6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
20 regular Oreos, crushed/chopped
5 cups mini marshmallows
3 tablespoons butter

1. Spray a 9×13″ pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

2. In a large ziplock bag, crush the Oreos; you’ll want some to be chunks. I used the bottom of my measuring cup to crush them. Add the Rice Krispies and Oreos into a large bowl and stir to combine.

3. In a large pot over low heat, melt the butter, stirring constantly, making sure it does not burn. Add the marshmallows, stirring until the marshmallows are fully melted. (Alternatively, you can melt the butter and marshmallows in a microwave.)

4. Remove the pot from the heat, and add the Rice Krispies/Oreo mixture. Stir until well coated. Spread the mixture into the prepared 9×13 dish. Use a spatula sprayed with cooking spray (or my favorite, a wet plastic rice paddle) to press the mixture into the dish. Flatten as needed. Let cool (about 20 minutes), then cut into squares. Enjoy!

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Until next time,

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