Flour’s cookbook reception: eat dessert first!

Last week I attended a small reception for the Flour cookbook.  The eponymous Boston-based bakery and cafe is owned by Joanne Chang, a local chef who also owns the restaurant Myers + Chang down near Back Bay.  The cookbook reception included a selection of cheese and spirits from Whole Foods and a pastry demo of Flour’s popular pop tarts.

Some very delicious cheeses available for copious consumption:


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Seeing blue

In my family’s grocery-shopping heyday, Costco was a regular stop on our supermarket tour.  We went way more than was reasonable for a family of four; considering they sell most of their stuff in bulk, it says a lot that we sometimes went thrice a week. In our defense, though, having a store located a mere traffic light away facilitates this kind of nonsensical behavior.  As a child, I have very fond memories of the place, with its soaring metallic ceiling, aisles like corridors, and liberally-distributed food samples giving it the appeal of a Willy Wonka factory.  Even as things have changed — the checkout lines don’t snake the way they used to, and no longer for sampling are the gourmet sausages and spinach pastry puffs — I still enjoy a leisurely stroll through the warehouse whenever I return home.  For a single person, Costco does not hold much practical appeal, but there are the occasional items I do enjoy purchasing in excessive amounts.  Like blueberries, by far my favorite berry and up there for fave fruit — just the right size for popping by the handful, with a mellow sweetness and the occasional tart explosion.  Certainly, a pint will not do, especially if I am to get all the baking juices out of me before I go back to HK.  These muffins came out looking more like chunky cookies and tasting more like dense, dryish cake, but the sight of all those bursted berries more than compensated for my lame baking skillz.


Healthy-ish Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from this recipe

1 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/4 cups AP flour
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 t instant chai
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup low-fat yogurt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 375F. In large bowl, stir together the rolled oats, flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, and instant chai mix.

2. In a med bowl, beat the egg with a fork, then stir in yogurt and olive oil. Make a well in the bowl of dry ingredients and gradually pour in the wet ingredients. Stir until just combined, being careful not to overstir. Gently fold in blueberries.

3. Spray muffin pan or silicone muffin cups with nonstick spray if desired. Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full.

4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until tops are starting to brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. I baked mine for exactly 20 minutes.

Room for improvement: dissolve chai in boiling water first; 1/2 cup sugar instead of 1/3; bake at 400F instead of 375F for crispier tops; throw in a few tablespoons of melted butter for added richness and flavor.

Recipe: ad hoc cake

When I dog-earred this pound cake recipe from Nicole Rees via Serious Eats, I had every intention of making pound cake loaves that were true to form.  The tender, golden crust and moist, rich crumb spoke to me this rainy morning, and having superfluous sticks of butter in my fridge did not hurt.  After removing the loaves from the oven and letting them cool, I eagerly prodded the cakes out of the loaf pans, only to discover that they would not budge.  Even after knifing clean the sides, the cakes resisted removal.  And when the tops of my loaves finally did break free, the lower halves did not follow, remaining stubbornly clung to my insufficiently-buttered pan bottoms.  So much for proper pound cake.  But, rather than mope around and proclaim the failure of a lost cause, this blog entry by David Lebovitz on the non-difference between banana bread and banana cake sprung to mind.  Who needs pound cake in bread-shaped form, anyway?  So I scraped everything out and packed it all — tops, bottoms, pan crumbs — into a casserole dish and baked this collection of former pound cakes for an additional 10 minutes.  Dress with some makeshift chocolate ganache to hide the blemishes and voila, the end product bears a strong resemblance to the classic yellow cake with chocolate frosting, which, like blessed few things in life, never goes out of style.

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Malteser-stuffed tong yuen…eh?

At our desserts night event earlier this week, the students made tong yuen, a traditional Chinese dessert of glutinous rice balls in a ginger-infused, lightly sweetened broth.  However, instead of getting stuffed with the classic crushed peanut, red bean paste, or black sesame fillings, some of these ballers had maltesers tucked inside, to my amusement.  That’s right, maltesers!

Tong yuen filled with rock candy: my first time eating these, and I quite enjoyed the way the sugar liquefied so that you could catch a bit of it in every bite.


Maltesers getting the glutinous rice dough treatment. I didn’t particularly like the malteser-tong yuen, but appreciated the efforts at creativity/hybridization.


Babies in the hot tub:


All this talk about maltesers has gotten me on a craving — off to 7-11 to pick me up a box 🙂

s’mores: the all-american dessert

As part of a “desserts night” event for our dorm, s’mores were the obvious choice to represent the American dessert tradition.  While roasting the marshmellows would’ve been ideal, we had to settle for the inferior microwave method to get the marshmellows appropriately gooey, though the marshmellow poofing did prove to be exceptionally entertaining for much of the night.

The ingredients: digestive crackers (graham crackers were not to be found), lindt swiss milk chocolate, white marshmellows.  Could it be less complicated?


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Tea time buffet: Cafe Andante

There’s nothing quite like taking something quaint like tea time and defiling it with the whole buffet concept.  If all goes as planned, this is the first in a series of tea buffets that I will patronize over the next few months.  An article in one of the local newspapers put me on the scent of this trail, and I need no convincing of the absolute necessity of gratuitous overindulgences such as afternoon buffets.  If you do, this blurb from the article will surely win you over: “Ah, afternoon tea, that elusive fourth meal of the day that no one really needs, but that everyone relishes once in a while. And heck, if you’re going to stuff your face full of goodies, why not plump for a buffet and get your money’s worth?”  While the English leaves much to be desired, the point is as clear as the perfect summer day: afternoon tea buffets exist for a reason and that reason is so people like you and I can fattify ourselves on dainty scones, crustless sandwiches, and the like.

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Taking a page from Momofuku Bakery

Word on the street is that the latest manifestation of David Chang’s genius, Momofuku Bakery and Milk Bar, is no pushover.  As a baked good fiend, ‘David Chang’ and ‘bakery’ in the same sentence is sweet music to my ears.  But for now, I suppose I can only salivate from afar and live vicariously through you lucky bastards who trod its hallow ground.

While I’m sure he’s not the first person to employ the compost cookie concept, that particular one stuck out to me the most when I glanced at the menu (check this review out for some solid pics).  Momofuku’s compost cookie supposedly contains foodstuffs like pretzels and potato chips, to go along with butterscotch and chocolate chips.  While I unfortunately can’t vouch for the cookie’s taste (Ed Levine seemed underwhelmed by it), I at least find the concept attractive for its hypothetically economical-environmental use of ingredients.

As such, I was delighted to discover that I had a number of ingredients on hand that would work well for a batch of cookies I planned to bake for my students: I thought, proudly and a bit smugly, that these could be compost cookies in theory as well as in practice.  Since the ingredients produced a beautiful banana, chocolate, and coconut riff, I anointed them my “bananonut” cookie creation.

An approximated recipe (is that an oxymoron?):

3/4 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
3T coconut milk
2 ripe bananas, i’m told that’s about 1 cup
1.5t vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2t baking powder
1/2t salt

100g chocolate, broken
1.5 cups oats

for topping:
desiccated coconut

Mash bananas. Whisk in vanilla extract and two eggs. Cream butter and sugar and combine mixture with banana-extract-eggs. Combine dry ingredients except for oats and chocolate.  Stir in dry ingredients about 1/4 at a time, until just incorporated. Toss in oats and chocolate, or whatever else you have on hand. 1T drops on baking sheet. Bake at 375F for 10-15 mins. Makes ~36 cookies.




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Thanksgiving Potluck Rundown

Sorry for not coming up with a remotely creative title.

Being abroad is no excuse for not celebrating Thanksgiving. Like most Americans, I instinctively associate this holiday with two things: family and a buttload of food. Many buttloads, actually. Being the upstanding cultural ambassadors that we are, my ETA cohort and I thus set forth last Thursday to recreate to the best of our abilities the gloriously gluttonous feast that is practically synonymous with the fourth sing kei sei (Thursday) of every sap yut yuet (November).

We decided to host a potluck dinner with some ~50 people (many of them students experiencing Thanksgiving for the first time).  Thankfully, I was not responsible for hosting/organizing the event, leaving me free to focus on my two cents of a contribution to the food extravaganza.  I had some Chinese sausages lying around and figured they would be great in some cheesy scallion scones.  Oh, genius am I.


I figured a combination of Cheddar and cream cheese would lend the scones some pleasant creaminess and tang, and I loosely followed this recipe from Farmgirl Fare.  Since I’m a novice with bread, I had no idea how sticky the dough should have been (esp considering the cream cheese).  I ended up with a mixture that did not really resemble what I think of as bread dough, but it pulled relatively cleanly from the sides of my mixing bowl, and I figured that would do.  The cheesiness went well with the combination of onion-y scallions and sweet sausages, and though a few scones ended up more well done than I would have liked, I really enjoyed the trio of flavors.  I wish I could’ve eaten more.  Using about 4 cups of flour, I ended up with something like 45 small, loosely heart-shaped scones.

A moment of sheer narcissism:


Here are some of the other dishes made by my partners-in-crime:

A’s jam tart (lemon-lime on the left, black currant on the right):


Prepping some greenery:




At a special request by yours truly, blueberry pie! Without question, my favorite fruit pie 😀

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An ad hoc brown sugar pastry made using leftover pie dough, for pre-dinner nibbling:


W’s sweet potato bake with brown sugar and marshmellows, or, death by sugar OD:


Gots to have the mash:


More of G’s pies:

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A’s cornbread with bacon:


G’s beloved, hot out of the oven:


G’s crusty pecan pie. I am generally not a fan of pecan pies, as the gooey, nauseatingly sweet innards don’t really appeal to me, but this one was money. Crunching through the top crust layer, I found a pleasantly sweet, almost cake-like interior, which eventually gave way to a dense, rich, buttery finish…pure deliciousness.


Meatloaf and mashed potato ‘cake’:


The dessert table (from top left, homemade whipped cream, jam tart, spiced bread loves, pumpkin pies, and egg custards hiding inside the box):


Good and plentiful food would be nothing without good people to share it with, and thankfully, those were also in abundance that night. While prepping and helping out was time-consuming and mildly stressful, the event was well worth the effort. Alas, I enjoyed whittling the night away with individuals whom I’ve come to see as dear, and at the same time, felt extremely fortunate for my large, eccentric family back home. Happy belated Thanksgiving all!