Monday, August 30, 2010

Scallion Pancakes with Ginger Soy Dipping Sauce

Anyone that knows me knows about my dangerous love affair with Asian food. My mom tells me that she has been been eating fish and lo mein since I was in the womb and I made her eat it almost everyday. This particular Saturday night I was feeling for an Asian fix but didn't want to go all out on an entire meal...a snack would be fine. I settled on scallion pancakes since its something I love to eat when I go out for Asian and decided I might as well experiment since I had all the necessary ingredients on hand. The recipe I used for the scallion pancakes came from Use Real Butter and the dipping sauce came from Brown Eyed Baker.
The recipe was very easy to make and uses simple ingredients. I also think that next time I may add a teaspoon of salt to the dough to avoid shaking it onto the pancakes because some were a lil' to salty for my taste. As for the Dipping sauce I think I will use rice wine instead of vinegar next time and I also added in a tablespoon of sesame oil because I love how it taste. I really love the accomplished feeling of being able to make something you had to spend so much money on beforehand, truly the sweet (or in this case savory) taste of success!

Oreo Ice cream

Who doesn't love the oreos? Its like the quintessential go to sandwich cookie. Oreos bring back great childhood memories for me and is such a comfort food in my book. Recently I have been on an ice cream making binge and wanted to try one of my favorite ice cream flavors which is cookies and cream. Not straying to far from the vanilla cheesecake recipe I made last week from Baking 911 I decided to throw in crushed oreos and make an oreo ice cream for me and my sister to enjoy. I followed the exact same recipe and added 20 crushed oreos to the cold mixture when I put it in the ice cream maker and voila! The texture was so creamy and smooth, no air bubbles so this is premium stuff here people! As always I only modify this recipe from the original by using a little more cream in place of the milk. All I can say is delish! I hope you decide to give it a try I promise you wont be disappointed.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Opera Cake

When I think back to my pastry II days in 2007 the hardest thing I remember making was the opera team had it during the week our class had to do biscuit batters. At the time it was the hardest cake to do and no one could even do the musical notes on top to was just an all around hard project. I also remember it being one of my favorite cakes from that semester, it just relayed sophistication. It was my first cake that was a step above the rest, it definitely wasn't some gooey bright baby birthday cake...this was for the grownups. Since that day I didn't get to try a piece of that delicious coffee chocolate infused goodness until I passed by Lassen and Hennings in Brooklyn for a slice of red velvet and saw that they had opera cake as well. I decided to try a piece but I was sorely disappointed. Everything was wrong the cake was too grainy, buttercream lacked the velvety texture, its only saving grace was the ganache. Earlier in the spring semester my professors suggested that I bake my own but I felt to intimidated to attempt the project on my own also at the time I didn't purchase my kitchen aid mixer as yet so to pull off this project on a hand mixer would be futile. Fast forward to August 2010 and several successful baking projects later I have a new confidence in the kitchen that makes me feel I can make anything. I decided that opera cake would intimidate me no more and I would finally be able to taste my beloved cake again. I did some research and settled on this recipe from Dorie Greenspan via The Splendid Table. I gathered my ingredients, hoped for the best, and got to work. I used almond flour instead of grinding my own almonds as I believed that would give the cake that grainy texture I hate. I followed the recipe exactly except for the aforementioned flour swap, I added brandy to the coffee syrup, and I didn't used the entire amount of butter in the final ganache topping. And honestly I wouldn't do any differently than I did...the changes I implemented contributed to a cake that was out of this world! This opera cake was just a slice of heavenly goodness. The biscuit was perfect and didn't have the chunks of almonds in it that I dislike, the syrup with added liqueur had the right punch, the ganache was silky smooth, and the buttercream was perfecto! This tasted even better than the one made in school and this made me so proud. It was a one woman show, no classmates or instructor necessary and it came out great. My sister was not to fond of this cake since she is not a coffee lover but me and my brother tore it apart. I know this cake seems really intimidating but it really is not and any baker can make this with enough patience so I wholeheartedly encourage you to try it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Homemade Green Seasoning

Green seasoning is a aromatic blend of herbs, spices, and vegetables used to season meats and fish in the Caribbean. In places with a high Caribbean population you can simply buy it from the Asian markets but nothing beats homemade. To make this seasoning you don't need Caribbean ingredients and it can be made anywhere for a taste of "home".  In Trinidad my cousins used a mortar an pestle to grind their seasoning but sadly I do not own one of those. This summer my sister decided to make her own green seasoning since we had so many herbs in our garden. And she used a mini food processor so no mortar and pestle necessary. This would not be an exact recipe since its not written in stone what you have to use it can be a blend of pretty much any of the herbs you have on hand and the more you have the more it makes. My sister uses a blend of fresh cilantro, basil, thyme, oregano, sage, parsley, chive, Spanish thyme, onion, garlic, hot peppers (we use habeneros), a little mint and lemon verbena. We grind it in the food processor with a little johnny walker black to preserve it you can use vinegar if your adverse to using alcohol, and a tablespoon of either should do the trick for 1-2 cups of seasoning. Keep it covered in the fridge or you can freeze into an ice cube tray.

Rustic Style Pizza

I don't think I know a new yorker alive who doesn't love a good slice of pizza. I mean this place has got to be the home of the dollar slice. But in recent years I have seen a trend of moving away from the quick plain greasy cheesy slice to the more artistic slice. Everyone seems to be in search of the perfect crust, fresh mozzarella, and more local ingredients.  I'm not really new to pizza making but I never really found a recipe that made me a pizza like those you could get in a great brick oven pizzeria, either the crust was to bread like, or It suggested to many add ons that turned everything into a cheesy mess. I began reading this new blog earlier this month called A Year in Bread and they had a recipe for pizza dough that seemed promising. I checked to see that I had all ingredients and rolled up my sleeved and got to kneading. I had everything I needed to execute this recipe except a baking stone and a pizza wheel. But My mother had a tawa that she bought from Trinidad. Its a large completely flat cast iron disc that is used to prepare roti. I figured it could stand in for a baking stone since it can tolerate high heat levels. When the tawa first went in the 500 degree oven it started to smoke but a couple sprinkles of water seemed to fix that. The recipe also suggested that if you didn't have a pizza wheel that a flat cookie sheet could substitute. Minus those substitutions I followed the recipe exactly. After I shaped my crust I used traditional Ragu sauce, fresh mozzarella from Sahadi's in Brooklyn, a sprinkle of olive oil, and fresh basil from my garden to top the pizzas. When the pizza went into the oven I already knew it would be perfect before I even bit into it. The crust started to bubble up and it just resembled a pizza that I would spend money on at a restaurant. After I took it out the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes I cut into it and the first slice...pure heaven. Who knew something so simple could taste so good. All that was missing was a good Italian wine. My sister loved it and when my brother got around to trying it he said that it tasted like "brick oven style pizza!", that was the greatest reward.
The recipe can be found here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Homemade Ice Cream

During the dog days of summer ice cream is the go to treat to help cool yourself down. I love ice cream..I always have. As a little girl when I heard Mr. Softee trucks passing I ran down four flights of steps with my dollar in hand to buy the creamy cold treat. And today I go around the city searching for that perfect scoop, my current favorites beings the readily available Haagen Daaz and Baci Gelato. This summer though I have been trying to make everything I eat at home and since I received a free ice cream maker when I purchased my Kitchenaid I decided to try my hand at ice cream making. I scoured the Internet looking for a highly rated recipe. My first try went to Alton Browns recipe available at It was good but still I was in search of something more creamy and delectable. One day while perusing through recipes at baking 911 I happen upon a egg less gluten free recipe for ice cream. It got good reviews so I decided to give it a try.  My first attempt I decided to double it and it came out horrible. My second attempt was a heavenly concoction that tasted like a dense, sweet, cold cloud on my tongue...this was a keeper! I did make a few changes to the recipe because of lack of ingredients but it made no difference. My family loved it and so did my friends that came over to get a try. I definitely recommend this recipe.

Fish Cakes

Fish cakes from the Caribbean are nothing like the fish or crab cakes you get in the US. They are little balls of yummy fried goodness. Fish cakes are called different things on different islands such as accra in Trinidad and codfish fritters in Jamaica. I grew up making fish cakes with my Bajan (barbadian) grandmother almost every weekend. They would be the appetizer to her famous flying fish and cou cou. She would pull out all her homemade seasoning and fiery pepper sauces she acquired on her many trips back "home" and start to put together her batter for the fish cakes. I was her little assistant and throughout the whole process I would only be visualizing me devouring all the fish cakes like cookie monster. Today my grandmother is no longer here with me but food is something I use to transport myself back in time to places I can no longer go or to people I can no longer see. My grandmother never got the chance to teach me to make her own recipe when I was older so I decided to try and make up one that would be just as good as hers. The recipe I made was so good and if granny was here today I'm sure she would be proud.

Granny's Bajan Fish Cakes
1LB Salted codfish, boiled and flaked
3cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1 TBSP homemade green seasoning (recipe coming soon)
1tsp black pepper
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 hot pepper, finely chopped
3 large eggs, beaten
4 scallion stalks, chopped

1. After salt fish has been boiled, strain and set to the side. Flake when it has cooled.
2. Put together dry ingredients in a large bowl and combine. 
3. Add in all other remaining ingredients and add enough water to make a smooth batter.
4. Cover and set to the side for an hour or refrigerate overnight.
5. When ready to use, get a frying pan and fill with enough oil to deep fry fish cakes.
6. When oil reaches 350 you can drop fishcakes by the tablespoon or with a scoop. (I used a 3oz scoop and the recipe made 20 large fish cakes)
7. Fry fish cakes until brown or about 5 minutes.
8. Drain on paper towel.
9. Serve hot and enjoy.

*** If you find that your fishcakes are a little salty, before you put the second batch to fry add in a little sugar or ketchup and it should neutralize the saltiness.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Birthday Cake Adventure

I finally did it...I made a professional style birthday cake. It was layered, filled, and decorated. Ok so let me  backtrack a little. My sisters birthday was earlier this month and I decided that I should try my hand at making her a cake...I mean worst case scenario it would come out like crap and I would have to spend money to buy a cake. So in preparation I started to research recipes and find out what flavors she would like without directly asking her since I wanted it to be somewhat of a surprise. I decided on a buttermilk cake recipe and a italian meringue buttercream recipe I found at baking911. She hinted that she would like coconut cake but I didn't want to change the cake recipe so I decided I would make the filling coconut flavored.  I started the cake the day before her birthday I baked the buttermilk cake and it shrunk a little but it was still good and in the future I will keep in a couple minutes longer than the recipe states. I also did cupcakes for her and used a vanilla butter cake recipe also from baking 911. While the cake cooled I started to prepare the icing for the filling and crumb coat. I also put the cupcakes in the oven. This batch I flavored coconut by using coconut extract in place of the vanilla and adding 1.5 tbsp powdered coconut milk. This was soo nerve racking because it was my first time making a buttercream away from school and I haven't had a baking class since 2007. I did mess up my first meringue by forgetting to switch from whip to paddle but the second time around it came out fine and I went along making the buttercream. I dont have the steadiest hand and when it came time to level the cake I decided to forgo the trusty serrated knife method and use my new wilton cake leveler. It really made the job quick and easy. I proceeded to fill the cake and do the crumb coat and put the cake in the fridge. The cupcakes were done and I put them in my cupcake holder overnight. The next morning I started on my final batch of italian meringue buttercream to do the final coat of frosting for the cake and frost the cupcakes. To decorate the  cake I wanted to use pink trim and turquoise but for some reason the turquoise came out sea foam colored. The theme for her was barbie but she was turning 22 so I wanted the barbie theme to be girly but mature. I used gel colors from americolor that I had on hand and various sprinkles and sanding sugars to decorate. I also used a martini shaped cookie cutter to decorate the top of the cake.  When my sis saw the cake she was soo excited and she loved it. That was better than any payment I could receive for a cake.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Guyanese Tennis Rolls

When I think of tennis rolls I think of Allan's Bakery on nostrand ave in Brooklyn. After all that's where I had my first taste of those sweet buttery rolls. As a little girl my grandparents went every Saturday to buy beef patties, tennis and currants rolls, butter loves, and cake if it was a birthday. From my knowledge tennis rolls are a Guyanese thing and Allan's is a vincentian bakery but recipes get exchanged through inter island migration..I guess that's how Allan's made it their own. Tennis rolls is a very dense bread with a buttery flavor and sweetness from the lemon or orange zest and vanilla that is used. Prior to making this I did not have tennis rolls for a significant amount of years and was really craving some. I decided that making it would be cheaper and more rewarding because being able to make something you previously had to spend money on is a great feeling in my opinion. I did some research around the web and started comparing recipes. I decided to merge and doctor a few recipes I found online, the main recipe is from Guyana Outpost. Here it is:

Tennis Rolls
1 pkg. active dry yeast (I used 1tbsp instant yeast)
¼ cup warm water, 110°F
¼ cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk, scalded
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk beaten
1 egg white
1 tsp grated lemon rind or orange rind
2 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
4½ to 5 cups flour (I used 6 cups)
  • Soften the yeast in warm water.
  • Add butter/shortening, sugar, salt, lemon rind, lemon extract and vanilla extract to the scalded milk. Let cool to lukewarm.
  • When cool add yeast, eggs and enough flour to make a batter. Beat well.
  • Add more flour, a little at a time, to make a soft dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until satiny.
  • Place in a greased bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let rise until double in size.
  • Punch down, shape into rolls and let rise again.
  • Brush with egg white mixed with water and bake at 375°F for 25 to 30 min. Makes about 10 large rolls.

My Diet

As of mid 2003 I became a pescetarian. A pescetarian has a similar diet to that of a vegetarian but it includes fish. Prior to that I had a diet similar to what I still eat but with the exception of alot of chicken and turkey.  I only decided to go vegetarian/pescetarian behind my sister. Earlier that same year after we came back from Trinidad Carnival She decided she didn't want to  eat meat anymore and would be cutting it out of her diet permanently. I couldn't follow suit because honestly I loved chicken...I mean I loved chicken with a passion. I wanted to join her but it was a case of the " the mind is willing but the heart ain't able" or in this case the stomach. I finally bit the bullet that summer because it just became too much to be cooking 3 different sets of food at home. Pork for my brother and mother, chicken for me, and fish for jasmine. It was too much and in the long run I believed I would benefit significantly from the change in eating. Fast forward to today and my health has definitely benefited from the change. I have lost lots of weight gradually over the years and I am in great health. I do not regret giving up meat and it hasn't been an issue except when it came time to taste dishes in my culinary classes.
My overall health just continues to get better with the fact that I have joined the gym, acquired a trainer, switch the majority of my food from conventional to organic and natural, and started growing some of my food. This journey hasn't been the easiest..or cheapest, but I figure I only have one life and while I'm here I want to put the best possible food in my mouth. Also nothing beats the taste of unadulterated food, free of additives, pesticides, and the like. I'm a girl that wants to eat how my grandparents and great grandparents ate...tasting good food in its simplest form.  

Trinidad Hops Bread

Trinidad hops bread is a light airy bread that is sold in the form of rolls in the twin isle republic. Im not exactly sure why they call it hops bread but I have heard it is because originally the bread was made with hops instead of yeast. In the island republic Hops bread is shipped out to all markets very early in the morning every morning or they can be picked up from bakeries. The bread in my opinion has a neutral taste that allows it to accompany so many different fillings, Im partial to butter and cheese. My first memory of hops bread is in my Grandmothers house in Trinidad. I was somewhere around the age of 5 and I remember sitting in her kitchen, hearing chickens clucking, birds tweeting, and the gas man passing shouting out for people to buy new tanks of gas for their kitchens. As I sat by the table my Grandmother Justina placed the plate of  scrambled eggs fresh from the coup, sausage, and a warm sliced hops roll...Everything was so good and fresh, talk about good eats!
Fast forward about 20 years and I am here making hops bread in my kitchen in Brooklyn when Im feeling for a taste of that place my mother affectionately refers to as "home". While in Trinidad for a 6 month stay in 2004 I picked up the revised copy of Naparima Girls Cookbook and I have been using their recipe ever since. I have tweaked the recipe to my liking because I find the amount of shortening in the recipe is too minuscule.

Trinidad Hops Bread

2 1/2 cups hot water
1 tbsp shortening ( I use 4)
8 cups all purpose flour
2tsp salt
2tsp granulated sugar
1 pack or 1 tbsp instant yeast

1. Stir hot water and shortening together until  the fat melts and the liquid is lukewarm.
2. Place 6 cups flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl and combine. 
3. Add liquid gradually to flour and mix well
4. Place on floured surface and knead for 5 minutes adding remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough.
5. Place in greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled (about 30-45 minutes).
6. Punch down dough and form into balls 3in in diameter.
7. Place on greased baking tray, cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise until doubled.
8. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Yvette or the cupcake criminal to you

My name is Yvette a soon to be hospitality management graduate from NYC College of Technology. Im starting this blog as a way to document my adventures in the kitchen, review restaurants I have been to, and just showcase any and everything to do with my field.
Heres a little about me:

1. Im Caribbean American (Trinidad and Barbados)
2. I had this name in my head for myself from the time I heard Machel Montano's - Winin Criminal
3. I would love to get into food writing
4. I hope to make my home in the caribbean for at least six months out the year
5. I have been cooking since I had to stand on a stepstool

Thats just a little and you will learn more as the blog rolls on.
Thanks so much for reading