Archive | November, 2011

Thanksgiving, and the Verdict – Triple Silken Pumpkin Torte

26 Nov

Hello again, everyone!
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, full of family, friends, love, great food, and of course thankfulness. :) I had a great double thanksgiving–one on Thursday, and one on Friday! I love this time of year. There are so many things to be thankful for– for my family with all their wonderful imperfections and amazing love, for my friends with all their steadfast support, for the blessing of an education, for the opportunity to live in this great country (despite its issues), and most of all for the free Grace we’ve been given in Christ. It’s times like these when I am reminded most that I am still a work in progress–I fail so many times, but with His gift of the good news of grace I can stop trying to be perfect with my own will power, stop feeling guilty, and instead turn my life into a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1) out of gratitude for what He’s done for me. And I can hold onto this and be full of gratitude despite my circumstances. And gratitude is what Thanksgiving is about, right? This is a perspective I must remember and foster all year round. What are you thankful for this year? It could be a job in these tough times, a new friend, warm Fall clothes, a fabulous new book? Leave a comment below to share what you’re thankful for!

What did you eat for Thanksgiving? On the first Thanksgiving I had with one half of my family, we had a lot of delicious Vietnamese food, and then on the second day, a more traditional fare of Cornish game hens and all the wonderful sides that go along with it (chestnut stuffing, SO YUM). Of course, we dug into the Triple Silken Pumpkin Torte that I shared with you all on Wednesday!

First slice

Since I had never made this torte before, and wanted to save cutting into it for our Friday dinner, I didn’t know exactly 100% what to report back on the flavor, or what I might have changed in the recipe at the time of my first post. Here’s a little update on all of that, based on my preferences, so you have  some ideas on how you might want to alter the recipe for the future.

Tastes: I loved this torte! As someone who isn’t a huge fan of the homogenous pumpkin filling in traditional pies, and who appreciates a greater mix of flavors, this was the perfect Thanksgiving dessert for me.

  • One thing I loved about this pie was the pumpkin/ginger flavor. I opted to use fresh ginger root instead of the more common ground ginger spice (in the little jar from McCormick or the like) and it was phenomenal! I’ve tasted many desserts made with that powdery-like cabinet spice, and never really thought much of the flavor it brought through. On the other hand, I noticed that the fresh ginger immediately made my ingredients fragrant and heavenly smelling. A big plus! This may be because of my strong affinity for ginger, so you may or may not agree with me, but I think this addition really added a wonderful dimension to the torte. Verdict: Stick with fresh ginger.
  • I was a little concerned that the maple cream layer didn’t have enough maple taste–when I tasted it before I put it into the mold, it tasted more sour (like the creme fraiche) than maple-y. After I got feedback from my family, however, they loved how the cream layer tasted, and thought that more maple sugar would have overpowered the pumpkin layers and not really allowed them to shine. Verdict: Keep the cream layer sweetened with 4 tsp. maple sugar. :)
  • The top layer (caramel pumpkin chiboust) was very sweet! I moderately liked the way it tasted, but my family likes subtley sweet desserts, and commented on this strongly sweet flavor. To remedy the possibly over-sugary taste, next time I will reduce the amount of caramel made, or allow it to “burn” a little longer to get a warmer flavor, or both! Verdict: Modify top layer recipe to contain less sugar, or cook the caramel longer.

Textures: The overall texture of this torte was very light, which I enjoyed. Although each slice contains a lot of carbohydrates and fats, the texture made me believe I wasn’t eating a ton of dessert.

  • The pie crust recipe used was the typical short crust pastry (recipe in this post) that I utilize in most of my pie desserts. It’s formulated for tarts and the like, because its higher flour to fat ratio makes it crumblier rather than flakier. However, I find it so easy and almost just as tasty as real pie crust (I’m not super picky in this area). It’s flaky enough for not containing any shortening, but I would really have loved to get the traditional pumpkin pie feeling of a real pie crust in this torte. Especially since the filling is so light, I would have liked to feel a heavier crust. Verdict: Next time, use a pie crust.
  • The term that describes this torte is silken, so the fact that I didn’t add gelatin to the top layer really screwed that part up. The top layer was more of a very light mousse-y texture than a silken, creamy texture. The lightness of the folded-in egg whites needed to be complemented by the stabilization of gelatin, but wasn’t, which resulted in quite a foamy top layer. This created a bit of interest because the torte got lighter in density as you rose up the layers, but even so, I really made a mistake in not adding the gelatin. There was very little “silken” nature, and because there was no gelatin, I doubt that what I made qualified as a true “chiboust.” Verdict: Don’t skip the gelatin! The recipe in the post reflects this addition.

Second Slice

There you go–a little bit of my personal take on Thanksgiving, and a little bit of my deliberation over perfecting this recipe. I hope this helps any of you who were thinking about making this treat for a holiday meal/party/potluck, and who wanted a little bit more information on the final taste test! Are there any other tweaks or alterations you would make? Any tips that pop into your mind that would make this torte more phenomenal? Please let me know in the comments! I appreciate constructive criticism–I love to learning about baking, and it can only make me better, right? :)

Have a great Thanksgiving weekend, friends! I’ll be reuniting with a bunch of old school friends that are in town for the holiday. It’s going to be pretty epic, and I am way excited!

Triple Silken Pumpkin Torte

23 Nov

It’s the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving! I hope all of you are joyful and full of peace at this happy season. There is so much to be grateful for! If you’re hosting your Thanksgiving dinner, you’ve probably got your menu planned out, most of your food prep waiting in the fridge, and your house all cleaned and shiny. If you’re like me, however, and only think about dessert, I bring you the mother load of pumpkin treats! YES. Or at least that’s according to several pie contests in which this torte won the Grand Prize. :)

Can I tell you about this torte?! (Rhetorical question, because I’m going right ahead and doing it anyway). This torte contains three different, perfectly complemented flavored layers that are light and creamy. I have yet to taste this baby (waiting till Thanksgiving), so I’m judging all this based on the quality of the recipe. And it’s a good one, peeps. But I will let you know exactly what the final verdict is once I’ve tasted it , with a picture of it plated and all. :) I just wanted to get this recipe up in case any of you wanted to try this tomorrow. Although it may be time-consuming and may produce a sink full of dishes, this torte is truly a showstopper. Check out this picture I found via Google on this website:

Of course, mine doesn’t look as impressive. I’m going to have to work on the photography/food presentation skills. Anywaaaay, since this is a pretty long process, I took the liberty of taking some step-by-step pictures, in case those help you at all. I know I loved step-by-step photos when I first started reading food blogs!








Triple Silken Pumpkin Torte
Makes 8-10 servings

Pumpkin Custard Layer
Dough for a 9-inch pie crust. (If you need a good recipe, this post [or this post] contains the shortcrust recipe I use 75% of the time.)
1/4 c. Granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. Finely minced ginger
1/2 tsp. Ground cinnamon
2 Eggs
1/2 c. Dark Brown Sugar
3/4 c. Pureed Pumpkin (canned, or the like)
1/2 c. Sour cream
3/4 c. Heavy cream
2 1/2 tbsp. Brandy

  1. Roll out your pie crust and place it into a 9-inch springform pan, with a little lip on the sides. Make sure you allow your pie crust to rest for 30 minutes so that it doesn’t shrink when you bake it blind. Allow the crust to cool.
  2. Heat your oven to 325 F. Whisk the sugar, ginger, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl.
  3. Add the eggs and whisk till smooth. Then add the pumpkin, brown sugar, brandy, heavy cream and sour cream, mixing until smooth.
  4. Pour this mixture into your pre-baked pie shell, cover the pan with a sheet of aluminum foil, and bake the custard layer in the oven for about 1 hour, or until just set. The middle will still be jiggly, but when you cool it, it will firm up nicely. Refrigerate

Maple Cream Layer

3/4 c. Heavy cream
1/2 c. Creme Fraiche
4 tsp. Maple sugar

  1. Combine the cream and the creme fraiche, and whip it until it starts to gain volume and thicken.
  2. Add the maple sugar and continue to beat until the cream is stiff.
  3. Pour this layer into your springform pan and smooth out the top with an offset spatula. Refrigerate!

Caramel Pumpkin Chiboust Layer

1/2 c. Heavy cream
2 tbsp. Brown sugar
1/2 tsp. Finely minced ginger
1/2 tsp. Ground cinnamon
3/4 c. Granulated Sugar
3 tbsp. Water, divided
1/2 tsp. Lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. Unflavored gelatin
3/4 c. Pureed pumpkin

3 Egg whites
1/8 tsp. Cream of tartar
3 tbsp. Granulated Sugar, divided

  1. In a bowl, whip the heavy cream until it forms soft peaks.* Try not to whip it too much, or it will curdle.
  2. In a separate small bowl, combine the brown sugar, minced ginger, and cinnamon. Mix well.
  3. In another separate small bowl, bloom your gelatin by combining it with the 2 leftover tbsp. of water. Stir well and set aside.
  4. In a non-corroding saucepan, make the caramel. Put 1 tbsp of water and the lemon juice into the pan along with the 3/4 c. of granulated sugar. Stir this until you get a homogenized mixture, and then don’t touch it anymore. Heat this over medium-high flame until you get a deepish caramel color, or 335 F. As a reference, this may take about 5 minutes. Remove this immediately.
  5. While the caramel is cooling down, whisk in your gelatin, brown sugar mixture, and pumpkin. Set this aside.
  6. With an electric mixer, whip your egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat, adding the 3 tbsp. of sugar in a steady stream. Continue to beat until the egg whites are stiff and glossy.
  7. To break up some of the caramel pumpkin mixture, add about 1/3 of your egg whites and fold in. Then fold the remaining 2/3 egg whites gently. Fold in the whipped cream.
  8. Pour this chiboust into your springform pan over the cream layer, and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Chill in the refrigerator until set, about 2 hours.

To serve, run a knife around the edge of the springform pan, and gently unmold. You can set it on a fancy cake plate and garnish with additional whipped cream, if you like. Use a hot knife to cut each slice. Enjoy!

*TIP* It helps to whip cream in a cold metal bowl. Don’t ask me why. :)

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Adapted from LA Times Food

Pumpkin Belgian Waffles

21 Nov

Hello again, long lost blog.
Yes, it has been over a week since I’ve posted anything delicious! Bad blogger, bad! I’ve been pretty busy y’know, just studying for the test that will determine my future, aka the MCAT (I’m signed up for January 28–crazzzzy).

However, it ISSS Thanksgiving week, one of the best weeks of the year, and I would be remiss if I didn’t post at least one Fall-y treat for y’all, especially since this is the holiday that’s mostly centered around food. Hence my return! On the other hand, it is called Thanksgiving, so  more importantly than enjoying food, it’s time to be grateful for all that we’ve been given, and to re-commit to using those blessings to bless others. D’awww :) Now before I waste any more time, let me bless you with these scrumptious waffles.

Oh my goodness folks. These waffles made my life. They’re supposed to be “Belgian,” but I read somewhere that authentic Belgian waffles are yeasted, and these are not, so I decided to put some bananas (quotation marks) around the word. Do not be concerned, however! These are still SO delicious, and on the plus side, the lack of yeast makes it very quick to whip up a batch! I served some to my mom in bed because she was having a bad week, poor mom. Yeah, these crisp, pumpkiny, clouds of air definitely do the trick!

The vegetable oil is the secret ingredient to creating a crunchier waffle, and distinguishes this batter from pancake batter, which makes a soft and pillowy product. I loaded these with pumpkin pie spices (all the ones you see below), and they turned out the most gorgeous orange color, perfect for a cool fall morning. Serve these with generous helpings of powdered sugar, maple syrup, apple butter (SO YUM), just plain old wonderful full-fat real butter, chocolate chips, cinnamon sugar, caramel sauce, anything your heart desires. Yum, I want seconds.

I hope you enjoy, and that they can brighten your Thanksgiving week! I know there’s so much food prep that goes into Thanksgiving, but if you want to go the extra mile, make these in the morning for the loved ones that you stay with before/after Thanksgiving! These would be the perfect breakfast treat to surprise them with when they wake up from your couch, or when they stagger in the door from the outlet mall/Best Buy Black Friday sales. :)

Pumpkin “Belgian” Waffles
Makes about 6 Waffles

2 scant c. sifted All-purpose flour
3 tbsp. Granulated sugar
2 tsp. Baking powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 Eggs, separated
1 c. Milk
1/3 c. Vegetable oil
1/2 c. Pureed pumpkin (canned or freshly made)
1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Ground Ginger
1/4 tsp. Ground Cloves
1/4 tsp. Allspice/Mace/whatever other yummy warm spice strikes your fancy

  1. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set this aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff (forms peaks on beaters that do not fold over).
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks well and stir in the milk.
  4. Combine the egg yolk mixture and the dry ingredients until just moistened.
  5. Mix the pumpkin, the spices, and the vegetable oil together, then add the mixture.
  6. Fold in the egg whites gently just until no streaks remain.
  7. Your batter is ready! Ladle dollops onto your waffle maker as instructed. We have a Krups, and it takes approx 4-5 minutes to make them brown and crisp! *

*TIP* If you have a toaster oven, crank it to 200F and put all of your finished waffles in there until ready to serve! A regular oven works as well, but takes a lot more energy, and being the half Nor-Cal girl that I am, I must say that waste would be quite undesirable. ;)
*TIP #2* Make sure your baking powder is nice and fresh for this one, otherwise you may end up with a tough and chewy waffle instead of a crisp and airy one.

Do you have a waffle maker? Are you a fan of pumpkin? Who do you think would enjoy these? Let me know in the comments below if you tried these, and how they turned out!

Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies <3 Happy Birthday Tiffany!

6 Nov

Today is a special day! If you couldn’t already tell, today is my dear friend Tiffany’s birthday! For the occasion, I baked up some very simple but very delicious “mocha chocolate chip cookies,” which should be sitting on her kitchen counter right now, along with some other goodies, if USPS did what they were supposed to! :)

These cookies are basically a glorified chocolate chip cookie recipe, infused with a good helping of cocoa powder and a couple spoonfuls of instant espresso powder, a.k.a. a match made in HEAVEN. I made these for Tiff’s birthday because of our shared love of mochas, and the many times we indulged in these drinks over our college years together. In making these, I didn’t do much in the way of fancy techniques, intricate decorating, or innovative flavor additions–these morsels are just full of plain good old espresso and chocolate flavor.

That’s OK with me though. This post is mostly about how wonderfully awesome and fabulous my good friend Tiffany is. I am writing this post as a little addition to what couldn’t fit on her birthday card, because I know she’ll be reading this eventually. Right now, however, she’s out celebrating with friends and a fishbowl margarita while I study for the MCAT all by my lonesome. I’m totally not joking either, she even sent me a picture text of it all! Yeah Tiff, thanks for that. ;]

Anyway, I must warn you that this may get a little warm… a little fuzzy… maybe even a little (OK, A LOT!) mushy. So if you’re here purely for the cookie recipe, scroll to the bottom and enjoy the sugary goodness there. I don’t presume that y’all want to know every detail that follows (this is really for her). But if you’d like to stay a few minutes and hear about an example of a true friend, keep on reading. :)

HOMAGE COMMENCES: Tiffany and I met on the very first day of our sophomore year in college. We got all settled into the dorms, and wanting to get a head-start on meeting my floormates and being social, I (and a bunch of other people) ended up in Tiffany’s double, just shootin’ the breeze about our summers. I remember how excited I felt, because here was this girl speaking in such an earnest and passionate manner, and I could see right away how easy it would be to get to know her an be friends. What made it even better was that she was a pre-med just like me, and we were even enrolled in some of the same classes! On the other hand, Tiff was so darn beautiful and vivacious, and she seemed so pulled together and outgoing that I was a little intimidated. Little did I know that Tiffany would turn out to be one of the most down-to-earth, easy-going, fun-loving, hilarious girls I would ever meet.

Here we are at a splinting workshop!

Three years later, we’ve accumulated these (and many more) memories:

  • Me (sometimes futilely) knocking on her dorm room door, trying to wake her up for our 8am bio class
  • Subsequently staggering to class, and consistently being unable to resist the call of mochas and bagels from The Coffee Spot on campus
  • Then being faced with more than 6 chalkboards full of color-coded notes that were written by our professor before anyone even showed up in the lecture hall… and then furiously trying to copy them all down before he started talking.
  • Solidarity in pain and suffering after a physics final, which included a shared pint of haagen dazs and The First Wives Club dvd. Ballin’.
  • Tiffany introducing me to the Dance Fail, Can I Have Yo Numba? (best things evar), and Glee.
  • Our shared affinity for 80’s songs we’re embarrassed to admit we love (Don Henley’s Boys of Summer, George Michael’s Faith, to name a few). I have to text her whenever I hear these songs playing in my local Safeway.
  • Random crazy Irish men
  • AMSA national conference at the Disneyland Resort, churros, and karaoke
  • Being stuck in a tiny elevator with 12 people for 45 minutes, and then being broken out by firemen with axes (AMSA, again)
  • Basically every Monday and Thursday night for the past two years of our lives (AMSA, what else?)
  • Tiffany giving me the SUBLIME gift of Philz Coffee
  • Long study sessions at The Beanery coffee shop… and basically our entire obsession with coffee.
  • Talking about everything– friends, school, guys, faith, our goals, our families, fun we’d currently be planning…
  • Shopping, need I say more?
  • Dancing in SF!
  • By chance always wanting to do the exact same thing at the same moment. This girl is “down to hang,” as she puts it :)
  • Sharing the same heart for serving in the medical field
  • Being Toasts. ’nuff said.

Wow, I did not mean for that list to get so long, but what can I say–this girl is amazing! I know all these things may sound only fun and lighthearted… The truth is, we shared a ton of those awesome carefree memories, but most of the times our friendship is a little more serious–Tiffany is constantly inspiring me with her example to be the best that I can be, to never shrink from challenges, and to not be afraid to give all of myself for my beliefs, my passions, and my goals. She may be embarrassed if I reveal these things about her, but I am actually proud of her for them. She is such a hard worker, she never settles for the status quo, but always strives for something better. That’s the way she is–a woman with a clear vision, complete confidence, but also complete humility.

We're about to walk!

Even with her many accomplishments and her bright future, above all Tiff is a friend whom I can lean on. Throughout all my ramblings, problems, insecurities, she’s always the one to listen, encourage, and strengthen me in that calming, compassionate, realistic manner that she has. Even though we are individuals and may not share the same perspective all of the time, or even though we may disagree about something, my friend will always completely consider what I’m expressing because she values me. Of course, I also value her more than I could ever say. I am so thankful for this 3-year friendship, and am SO excited for the years that are to come.

Happy Birthday, Tiffany! YOU ROCK!

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Tiffany’s Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 30 4-inch cookies

2 c. All purpose flour
1/4 c. Cocoa powder
1 tsp. Baking soda

1 tsp. Salt
1 c. (2 sticks) Unsalted butter,
room temperature
3/4 c. Granulated sugar
3/4 c. Brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
2 tbsp. Espresso powder
2 Large eggs, room temperature
2 c. Semi-sweet cho
colate chips

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F
  2. Whisk/sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. With a stand mixer or a hand-held electric mixer, cream the butter till it is light and fluffy. Add the sugars and continue beating till fluffy, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. Crack the eggs into a bowl, add the vanilla, and add the espresso powder. Beat the espresso powder into the wet ingredients until it is dissolved.
  5. With the electric mixer again, add the egg/espresso mixture in a steady stream to the creamed butter. Beat till smooth.
  6. Add the dry ingredients and beat until just incorporated. Turn off the electric mixer, and add in the chocolate chips with the rubber spatula.
  7. Place spheres of roughly 1.5-inches onto your baking sheets about 3 inches apart. Bake about 15 minutes. After baking, let the cookies sit on the sheet for about 2 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool.
  8. Package these up and send them to your best friend, birthday or not!
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