Monday; October 10, 2011; Norseman Station

So today was the first day of the dreaded final practical exam. I just wanted to get it over with and go on with the rest of the week without a hitch or be stressed out so I went ahead and signed myself up to do it today. The only thing I really needed to worry about was the short dough since I had never made it but I was really happy when I pulled out focaccia dough from the cup. I took pictures step by step on how to do it, so you guys can learn how to do it too!

FOCACCIA DOUGH

  • ½ gallon water, lukewarm (so the yeast doesn’t die)
  • 2½ oz yeast
  • 2 oz salt
  • 1½ oz sugar
  • 1½ cups olive oil
  • 6 lb flour
Direction:

  • First of all, use a mixer with the dough hook attachment.
  • Put the water in the mixer and add salt, sugar, and water. Then, start mixing on low.
  • Slowly sprinkle yeast over the water and let the hook incorporate it evenly.

  • After everything is dissolved, add the olive oil.

  • Stop mixing and add ¾ of the bread flour.
  • Start mixing on low.

  • Add remaining flour as needed.

  • Knead it on a sturdy surface until you get a smooth dough.
And voila! You have focaccia dough! Feel free to use these for pizza or an herbed focaccia using garlic, basil, rosemary, and parsley.

When Chef evaluated my dough and tested it for elasticity, smoothness, and other criterias that I didn’t ask. The final verdict? 300/300. I was over the moon, I was so happy.

After celebrating internally for a few minutes, it was time to ship my baby off to the bread group to be used for pizzas. I don’t quite remember what kind of pizza we used it on, but I hope it turned out well!

Now that the excitement of the practical died down, it was time to sacrifice our fingertips to pull peanut brittles. Seriously, don’t overestimate your threshold of pain because even with three pairs of gloves, these were a good five hundred times hotter than the surface of the sun, at least. And Chef wanted the wispy things at the ends of each piece so we had to work hard and fast along with trying not to tear our vocal chords (it wasn’t really that dramatic but I want to pain a vivid picture for you guys on how I felt) With numb fingers, pink and raw, we tried out the brittles and they were fantastic.

Next up were the apple galettes and just like last time,  we did cinnamon apples and blueberries on the top. Now that I think about it, I’ve never actually tried the finished galette itself, but I reckon it’s tasty enough. Maybe one of these days, I’ll get to try them myself.

With my final done and most of our checklist for Norseman ticked off, I went back to the other side for the rest of the day and looked at what everyone else was doing. I spotted Nancy and Tiffany practicing their buttercream writing on parchment and they stopped long enough for a photo-op to get this nice picture.

Cream Puff Swans

So, it was my birthday a few days ago (April 22nd) and of course I was excited. I didn’t cook because I didn’t want to do anything all day but I did help my mom prep some stuff and we ended up having a big Filipino feast and everything was delicious and amazing and more than I can ever ask for in a birthday dinner. Other than the food, I was most excited about the presents. I know, I know, twenty years old and still getting giddy over gifts but I can’t help it. I love free things! Anyway, I got some clothes and money, which were all very cool and I need my wardrobe updated anyway (I got these particular jeans that I cannot stop wearing and it’s becoming unhealthy how obsessed I am about them), but the thing that made my night was getting my first set of piping tips from my dad.

I got the Wilton Masterpiece Piping Tip Set (with 52 mind-blowing pieces) and I was just over the moon. I hadn’t been this happy since I got my netbook (which I got for my birthday last year) and I my hands were itching to try them out. I decided to break them in the next day and figured the best way to do that was to make cream puff swans.

I’d always wanted to make them ever since Chef Chris’s pâte à choux demo our first day in baking, and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to try them. Of course, I just dove right in and didn’t even look for a tutorial online (which I probably should have, now that I think about it, so they could have turned out a bit prettier), but considering I did these without guidance, I was really satisfied.

I used Chef Chris’s pâte à choux recipe but I added a few tablespoons of sugar to make it sweeter, which I thought added a lot of flavor to the overall taste of the dessert. I also used the same pastry cream, but I did add about 2 oz of melted dark chocolate to half of it to make the chocolate pastry cream.

  • First, with a number 6 on the Wilton set (or a tip with a small hole), pipe a circular dollop of batter and break it off to the side to make the beak. Afterwards, pipe a backward “S” starting from the other side of the beak to make the neck.
  • Next, with a number 32 (or a star-tip), pipe at an angle until you get a ball and pull the bag towards you while loosening pressure, so that it tapers off in the end to make the tail.

  • After, with a serrated knife, cut the body in half. Then, take the top part and cut it down the middle to make the wings.

  • Next, pipe some pastry cream in the hollow of the body and situate the head/neck piece on the edge opposite the tail and bury it in the cream until it stays put and stops leaning towards either side.
  • Then, pipe over the piece sticking out on the back with more cream to cover it and give the back a smooth look.
  • Lastly, stick the wings on either side of the body with the wider ends closest to the neck and press them in slightly to make sure they don’t go anywhere.
  • Optional: You can dip the surface of the wings in either white or dark chocolate to give the swan a great contrast of color.
These little swans make great party desserts and, while they are a bit time-consuming, the reactions of your friends to these beautiful morsels are worth the effort.

Chocolate Decadence Cake with Cinnamon Ice Cream

So, two weeks ago after the Articulation Day Event, me and Ivan decided to stop by Cash and Carry to buy some baking equipment since he’s going to try to take Baking next semester. We ended up buying an offset spatula, an 11” springform cake pan (which I was super excited about because it’s springform) and, get ready for this, a 10-pound block of Guittard French Vanilla Dark Chocolate. Yes, 10 pounds. We were really psyched because it was our first 10# block of chocolate and we were anxious to use it. First, we used it on German Chocolate Brownies, which at first turned out, admittedly, pretty crappy. The taste was good, don’t get me wrong, but I guess there was a misunderstanding of baking time (I am about to compile an entire essay for Chef Chris about the inaccuracies in his recipe book because I can’t live this way, Chef!) But we baked it off again after a day or two and it was perfect. I was going to post the recipe but first I have to make adjustments on the book because I don’t want you guys to go through what we went through.

Anyway, last week, we bought some heavy cream ($7 for half a gallon it almost gave me a heart attack) because, you know, every house needs some heavy cream in their fridge. But all of the cartons in Smart and Final had expiration dates of April 14th, so of course, me and Ivan thought it best to use it up as soon as possible. And we were successful, I have to say.

First, we made some Cinnamon Anglaisefor our ice cream because Ivan’s ice cream maker was gathering dust in the pantry and I never got to make ice cream in Baking so I thought it would be a good learning experience.

CINNAMON ANGLAISE/ICE CREAM

*Note: Put the bowl of your ice cream maker in the freezer for at least a whole day before putting the anglaise in it and start making the ice cream.

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 5 oz sugar
  • 8 egg yolks
Directions:
  1. Combine the milk and cream in a saucepot and bring the heat up to scalding (when it starts to boil, turn the heat to low and try to make sure it doesn’t boil over because it’s going to be messy). Steep the cinnamon in the hot milk/cream mixture.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and the egg yolks with a whisk.
  3. Temper the hot mixture into the yolk mixture (pour the milk/cream in a slow and steady stream while vigorously combining them with a whisk).
  4. Return the tempered mixture back in the saucepot and cook over low heat until sauce consistency (approximately 165°).
  5. Strain it into a bowl and place in an ice bath until cool enough to put in the fridge.
  6. Once the anglaise has cooled, put it in the ice cream maker and let it run for an hour or two until it thickens. Then put in the freezer for at least three hours before eating.

While we waited for the ice cream to freeze, we decided to get on with the cake itself and started with the Chocolate Mousse. In Baking, we used chocolate mousse in a lot of things—mostly for Chocolate Marquis and filling for cakes—but the great thing about it is it can be eaten as it is. Yeah, just take a spoon and start snacking on it. It’s a great dessert for parties; just put it in a tall glass (martini or the like) with some chocolate crackers (or graham) with whipped cream on top. Simple but delicious.

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE

*Note: Make sure you have the following before starting on this: a stand/hand mixer (preferably stand mixer) and a bowl scraper (optional but it makes the process so much easier).

  • 2 pounds chocolate (preferably Guittard French Vanilla or semi-sweet)
  • 6 eggs, separated (in two different bowls)
  • 2 cups whipped cream
  • 1 cup sugar
Directions:
  1. Melt the chocolate in a bain marie (double boiler) and set aside to cool.
  2. Whip the cream to soft peak. (Here's a guide to the various peaks.)
  3. In another bow, whip the egg whites until frothy, then slowly add the sugar as you continue to whipping it to stiff peak.
  4. Put the chocolate into a bowl and fold half the whites with the bowl scraper.
  5. Add the yolks and beat it in the chocolate/white mixture.
  6. Fold in the rest of the whites, making sure to stir out all of the lumps as best you can.
  7. Lastly, fold in the whipped cream.
I had photos of the mousse right after I finished but it somehow got deleted. Oh well, maybe next time (meanwhile, here's a picture of it back in Fundamentals so you can see how it's supposed to look like).

Anyway, next thing on the list was the cake itself. I never got the chance to do the cake in Fundamentals (that’s the only instance I remember we ever did Chocolate Decadence but I could be wrong and might have missed some people making it in Advanced), but I was really eager to try it out because all we did was pour ganache on top and design it with milk and white chocolate stripes. It turned out easier than I had anticipated but the taste was phenomenal. I was hesitant to use half of Chef’s recipe because I thought it would be too much and we only had one cake pan so I went ahead and tried ¼ of the recipe and we ended up with a really thin cake, as you can see from the second picture. So we went ahead and made another batch and this one turned out prettier than the other one so we decided to make it the top layer. Moral of the story: if you think something’s too much, go ahead and make a little more because you never know. But we did learn that since the cake is really fragile (as in really fragile because one touch and bits of it fell apart), it might be more prudent to bake each layer separately instead of trying to cut into it (unless you chill the cake in the fridge before cutting, which I would recommend if you don’t have two cake pans and don’t want to bake each layer individually).

CHOCOLATE DECADENCE CAKE

*Note: Make sure to at least have a hand mixer because if you try to achieve the ribbon stage by hand, your arm will definitely fall off.

  • 2 pounds dark chocolate
  • ½ pound butter (8 oz)
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 oz sugar
  • 1½ oz flour
Directions:
  1. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bain marie and set aside.
  2. In a bowl, whip the eggs while slowly adding sugar until it reaches the ribbon stage.
  3. Fold the chocolate mixture into the ribbon mixture until everything’s incorporated.
  4. Lastly, fold in the flour and pour the batter into cake pan(s) (size is your choice) and bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Set aside and let it sit until it’s cool enough to put in the fridge (if doing the entire batch in one cake pan to cut in half later). If not, let it sit out until it’s cool in the center.
  6. Slather a generous amount of chocolate mousse on top of the bottom layer and place the top layer. Put it the cake in the fridge and let it chill for at least two hours.
  7. While the cake cools, get started on the ganache to coat the outside.
  8. For the best-looking presentation (and least messy procedure), get a sheet pan and put a steel cooking grid on it. Set the cake on the grid and pour the ganache on top in one steady stream and make sure it drips down the side until every inch of the cake is coated.
  9. If you have limited resources and don’t have a grid (like me), just pour it normally on the cake and if it doesn’t drip down the sides, use an offset spatula and spread it around until every inch of the cake is coated (see the first picture).
CHOCOLATE GANACHE
  • 1 pound dark chocolate
  • 12 oz heavy cream
Directions:
  1. Melt the dark chocolate in a bain marie.
  2. In a saucepot, heat the cream to scalding.
  3. Once the cream is scalding, pour it all at once into the chocolate and stir vigorously with a whisk until you get a thick, smooth consistency.
Once you’re done coating the cake, you can either let it chill in the fridge for a little bit or cut into it immediately, your choice. Be warned though, cut only a thin slice because it’s really rich but very satisfying.

Catering; March 30, 2012; High School Articulation Day

I think it was on Monday when I made the mistake of asking Chef Brian during our 120 class if there was going to be a catering event today. I was legitimately only curious (or someone had probably asked me about it), but I never planned on signing up because I was getting the rest of my catering hours as Teacher’s Aide for Chef Masumi for her Chocolates, Candies, and Truffles class. In addition to answering my question, he told me I should do it because he wants to control the sign-up sheet and he doesn’t want a lot of people signing up. My brain stopped working for a second and I said, “Okay,” because I could never say no to him. It turns out that it’s not a mistake after all, and it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

I got there at 6:30 and Chef immediately put me to work setting up the drinks table in the Demo Room. There were already about three-four students there and we were briefed a little on what’s going to happen today. High school students from a few high schools would be going there and getting first-hand experience in the kitchen to see if they wanted to take the program when they graduated, called an Articulation Event, set up by Chef Judy Moon. I was excited because I love talking to people. The teachers from each school would be meeting at the Demo Room at 8:00 and I was done by 7:30, and after that, it was just setting up each station for the demos.

Ty (a very talented and sassy student) was asked by Chef to do a demo for carving melons, and he showed off his amazing handiwork in this floral carving.

After the meeting, the students headed straight for the kitchen and got in their respective groups. The goal for the day is to have them prep most of the things they were going to eat and we’ll help finish the rest to serve to them when they’re done. I helped Nohelia with her vegetable demo and we taught our group how to cut broccoli, zucchini, green beans, and bell peppers in various shapes and sizes and I was ecstatic at how responsive and eager to work they were. They chopped and sliced like no tomorrow and in the blink of an eye, every vegetable we had were prepped and ready to go. Nohelia taught them how to blanch and I walked around to see if other stations needed help. I helped Jenaka with her caramel sauce demo and got to talk more with the students.

Meanwhile, Emily was doing a demo on how to make cream puff swans and I could tell the students were really excited and they took directions very well.

Afterwards, I took some people from our group and gave them a little tour and told them as much good things as I could about the program (which were a lot) and I was happy when they asked questions and told me how cool everything was. I herded them back to the kitchen and told them if they wanted to, they could go around and see what’s happening in the other groups. When they scattered about, I excused myself to the Dining Room where they would be eating lunch when they’re done and I got to talk with some of the teachers there. I showed them our sugar showpieces (with particular emphasis on ours because I can’t help it) and we talked about my time so far in the program. Of course, I took it as an opportunity to gush about the Chefs and overall, they were very nice and supportive.

They continued working in their stations and some of them eventually wandered off and assimilated in other groups and everyone, including the culinary students, were having loads of fun. One girl said, “Excuse me, Chef,” while she was passing by and it took me by surprise and I couldn’t help but smiling (I remember excitedly thinking to myself oh no, I’m not a chef yet but thank you so much for thinking that I am!). That little comment made my day.

When it was about time for them to retire to the Dining Room, we took over some of the stations to finish up what they started and some students stayed behind to help with the plate-ups (Grilled Chicken with Tomato Relish, Sautéed Vegetables and Quinoa Tabouli). It surprised me that they were so efficient and quick and took directions really well not because I was expecting they’d be slow and mess up because they’re not in the program yet, but because they were doing better than some of my classmates in 120 who’ve been here for a handful of semesters already! It was an amazing thing to watch them focusing on getting every plate right with correct, even portions and keeping them as clean and attractive as possible. Evan (in the front) and Trevor (facing the burners) guided them through everything and they put out the dishes in rapid-fire motion.

When all the food was successfully put out and everyone was eating in the Dining Room, Chef pulled me, Nohelia, and Brian aside and told us to go sit in a table and eat with the students. At first it was really awkward because I thought it wasn’t fair that we were eating and the rest of my classmates weren’t (it turned out that they all gathered in the cafeteria and ate the extra plate-ups), but when I sat down on the table, I got to talk even more with the students and answered all their questions (and of course, enjoyed the food they made).

After a while, I went back to the kitchen and helped Emily, Jenaka, Brian, and Marta with the dessert plate ups (Cream Puff Swans with Chocolate and Caramel Sauce).

Brian and Miss Audrey decided to have a little naughty fun with the swans with great response from the culinary students (it was nice to have a big laugh after a long day). The real swans came out, two in each plate, and the students liked it very much. They helped with the cleanup and we were done an hour earlier than expected.

While we were working, Chef pulled us out of whatever we were doing and told us to go to the front in the Demo Room. We lined up behind the demo table in front of all the students and the response was overwhelming. The clapping and whooping was deafening and standing there looking at them after watching them work so hard and have so much fun made my heart swell and it was an outstanding way to end the day. We thanked everyone―the students, the teachers, the instructors for the day, and the chefs―and bade everyone goodbye while we finished up in the kitchen.

The day ended with freshly cooked Herb Focaccia with Sundried Tomatoes, and lots of “Have a great spring break!” and “Good job, everyone!”

With the start of 120 and taking a long time to adjust to the savory side, sometimes I find myself thinking if I really wanted to do this for a living. I’ve messed up a lot of things in 120 as opposed to Baking (where everything I did always seemed to fall into place naturally), and I was upset a few times to the point that I was doubting myself and my abilities in the program. But coming in today and seeing all the students eager to learn and having them look up to us like they do with their teachers made me realize that yes, even though there are some times where I’m going to mess up, this is exactly what I want to do. I’m still growing and trying to find the styles that work best for me, and I shouldn’t let one or two things get in the way of what I want to do for a living.

In short, I was extremely happy I came today and I’m definitely going to sign up for the other one in April.

Vanilla Challah

Finally, the moment I had been waiting for all day. We actually just jumped right into making this dough without any thought whatsoever, only going with the fact that I had made this once before and that we had bread flour now. Not the brightest way to go about trying to perfect our baking but I guess it all came together at the end. We should really start being smart about what we should do next and when to do them. Maybe I’ll set up a calendar or something.

Anyway, after our dough miraculously rose (and really, I had a hard time sleeping last night thinking about them) overnight, I was extremely excited. The moment we got home from church, we wasted no time and got to work. Under the excitement, however, I was still a bit apprehensive about how the whole thing’s going to bake (or if it’s even going to bake at all) because I wasn’t 100% confident about how well we made the dough. But since I kneaded the dough with nothing but elbow grease, and really, I need to invest in a stand mixer, I was sure I was going to love it either way. It turns out, instant dry yeast works wonders. You don’t need to take the time to dissolve it in warm water and you don’t need to proof the dough before you bake it. After the dough has risen overnight, it’s ready to go. I should ask Chef Chris what he thinks about it when baking starts.

Overall, I think the bread was pretty successful. Sure, it may not be as pretty as the ones we made in Fundamentals, but they’re crunchy outside and soft inside, and you really can’t ask for more in bread. Another thing: Chef Chris didn’t bother to write out the directions in his recipe (even the baking time!) so I had to turn the house upside down for my notes and pick at my brain for a while to get everything to make sense. Help me out here, Chef, I’m doing the best I can!

VANILLA CHALLAH

*Note: This makes a lot of dough so I would probably half the recipe if you just want to try it out for the first time.

  • 4 cups milk
  • 4 oz sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans, split, scraped (or 2 oz vanilla extract)
  • 5 eggs
  • 4 pounds bread flour
  • ¾ oz active dry yeast (or ½ oz instant dry yeast)
  • 1½  oz salt
  • 5½ oz butter, melted and cooled
Directions:
  1. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the milk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla (if using vanilla beans, add the seeds into the mixture). Once the butter as cooled, add it in with the others. *If using active dry yeast, warm the milk slightly until it’s warm to the touch, but not too hot or the yeast will die. Dissolve the yeast in the milk (or do half warm water and dissolve the yeast there and half milk) and add the rest of the wet ingredients.
  3. In a bowl, put ¾ of the flour (set aside the rest in another bowl because you might not need all of it) and add the salt. *If using active dry yeast, add it in the flour and salt mixture and not in the wet mixture.
  4. Addthe flour into the wet mixture in small batches to give it time to absorb everything. Keep adding until you form a smooth dough. If you don’t use up all the yeast flour, and then add more with the flour you set aside.
  5. Cut the dough in half and wrap them both in plastic wrap twice, but not too tight so they will have some room to grow before they burst through. Put them in the fridge to rise overnight.
  6. Unwrap the dough and, on a lightly floured surface (a wooden cutting board is the optimal choice but you can use any surface), punch out the air pockets and knead again until they’re smooth. Wrap them again in plastic wrap and let rise for an hour or two.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  8. Take the dough out on a lightly floured surface and cut out 3 oz balls (or whichever size you wish). Roll these out into ropes and keep slapping them on the surface to minimize shrinkage.
  9. Take the ropes and braid them however you like. I used this very helpful guide to help me with the four-braids, since I already knew how to do three-braids. You can also do small individual ones, just be creative with the shapes (a pretzel-shaped one is always pleasing to the eye).
  10. Put them on a sheet pan (preferably with parchment paper) and brush the tops with egg wash (one egg and about two teaspoons of water, mixed thoroughly). You can also put sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or a combination of both.
  11. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the crust is hard and crusty and you feel the dough is cooked all the way through (break open a small one to make sure).
And there you have it. It’s all relatively simple and the outcome is very satisfying. They can be given as gifts or made into sandwiches if you want. As for me, a simple dab of butter and a cappuccino go a very long way.

They rose! I can’t wait to braid and bake these, I’m so excited!

Okay, so last week, we bought instant yeast at Smart and Final along with the buttermilk and we haven’t really used it since we got it. Today, Ivan and I thought that we probably should make a bread because it’s not going to last forever, and at first I was a bit nervous because here I am, just finished Advanced Baking last semester, with my cousin looking at me earnestly and awaiting commands because I had done it before. My problem is that I haven’t done a bread since Fundamentals, because my group didn’t get to do the bread rotation (which I am still disappointed of) and, to be honest, I completely forgot how to make Challah Bread. Couple that with my inexperience with the instant yeast and we have a big problem (well, maybe not that big, but it’s still a bit disconcerting). I should probably read into instant yeast more because the dough hasn’t moved for two hours now. I’m probably just impatient, but I really have a strong feeling that either I’ve killed the yeast or I didn’t put enough. Either way, I’m just hoping that tomorrow, these babies will at least attempt to burst out of the plastic wrap. Good luck to me sleeping well tonight.

buttermilk biscuits

Now that we had buttermilk, Ivan and I looked everywhere for a recipe that needed it. My first thought was the buttermilk cake recipe in Chef’s recipe book. I had made it a few times before in Baking and I can make it well. I was thinking of just filling it with a custard or mousse but then I realized we unfortunately didn’t have cake flour or something to make a custard/mousse (and really, every house needs a bag of cake flour). So it was back to the search. After a while, my cousin sent me a recipe for buttermilk biscuits. I thought, okay this recipe’s pretty straightforward, and I have been craving them a bit, let’s do it!

They came out a bit on the uglier side (because we didn’t have a cookie cutter and  since the recipe said “very wet,” I just assumed it would be, you know, very wet), but they were pretty darn good. I think if we didn’t work the dough as much, it would be fluffier, but it was still fluffy, which I enjoyed. Next time, though, I probably shouldn’t have used PAM on my sheet pan since it was already nonstick, but always being paranoid, I just had to make sure they won’t stick.

BUTTERMILK BISCUITS (Food.com)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, very cold
  • 1 cup buttermilk
Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 450°F.

  • Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and cut the butter in chunks and cut it in the mixture until you get small pieces of butter evenly distributed all throughout. This makes the biscuit light and fluffy.

  • Add the buttermilk until everything’s just combined. (Our mistake was overworking it when we could have stopped when it was all mixed together, but my mind was still on the “very wet” aspect of the recipe.)

  • Spread it out on a floured surface until it’s half an inch thick. Fold the dough five times and gently press the dough until it’s an inch thick.

  • With a cookie cutter, cut rounds and place them on a sheet pan.
  • You can knead the scrap dough to get more rounds, but they won’t be as fluffy.
  • Bake them for 10-12 minutes until the tops are a light golden brown.
  • Don’t overbake!
Tips:
  1. Don’t add any more buttermilk than what’s required. Just mix it in the dry ingredients until everything’s well-combined, wet or not.
  2. If it works better for you, use a rolling pin. If will give the biscuits a more even, consistent look, like the ones you get with your fried chicken.
  3. When in doubt, watch a video on how to make it. It helps a lot.
Relatively easy and perfect for breakfast. If only we had gravy yesterday.

January 18, 2012; BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, Pleasant Hill

A week from the start of the spring semester, Jackie texts me and asks if I wanted to go with her and Ashley to BJ’s, which is walking distance from DVC and where all the “upperclassmen” go and get a few drinks. I had never been there before and I’d always wanted to try the food there so I thought, “hey, why not, and it’ll be nice to have a little get-together before school starts up.” So I sent her they okay and two days later, I was sitting in the restaurant with Jackie, Ashley, Jose, and Mo and his girlfriend, Audrelina and a few cocktails scattered around the table.

For the appetizer, Jose and I ordered the Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms to share with the whole table. Mushrooms stuffed with spinach, feta cheese, chopped mushrooms, herb breadcrumbs, and Parmesan cheese drizzled with a lemon pesto sauce. Spritzed with the side of lemon and you have yourself the perfect appetizer.

Audrelina’s Spinach and Artichoke Pizza with spinach, artichoke hearts, cream cheese, and mozzarella topped with a tomato basil blend and Parmesan cheese.

Jose ordered the Baby Back Pork Ribs which comes with a giant baked potato and what I am guessing as sour cream with green onions. That potato was seriously almost the same size as my head.

Mo got the Parmesan Crusted Chicken topped with a lemon Chardonnay butter sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and Parmesan cheese served with cheddar mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. This looked really good and the next time I go there again, I will make sure to order this.

Jackie and I ordered the same thing (surprise!): Cajun Chicken Pasta with roasted red peppers, grilled chicken, and shrimp (Jackie doesn’t like seafood so she only had chicken) topped with green onions and Parmesan cheese. Oh, and two pieces of garlic bread. The whole thing was really good, although I was a bit ambitious of getting an entire full portion (which I now feel bad about not finishing) instead of the lunch portion that comes with a salad. Still, I was satisfied.

Afterwards, Jose treated us to milkshakes at Johnny Rockets, a very retro restaurant inspired by the 1950s. The employees were all very nice and the whole atmosphere was just very nice. I got a Strawberry Banana Milkshake and it was pretty good. I would really like to eat a meal there sometime. On that note, I think I need to make a reminder.

Cinnamon Rolls

My cousin and I have decided we needed to do more cooking and less burning our eyes in front of the television playing video games. After days of trying to find anything to make, I decided to browse the baking tag and came across redblackapron's no yeast cinnamon rolls, which she got from MomsWhoThink.com.

We had made cinnamon rolls once before and, to be honest, they left much to be desired. They were too doughy, needed more cinnamon, came apart while baking (that was only because we used a sheet pan instead of muffin tins), and were just overall a disaster. So I wasn’t very confident going into this project. I was surprised, however, at how simple and quick the whole thing was (well, if you don’t count all the time it took to get all the ingredients together which amounted to about a half hour only because everything wasn’t organized very well) and how fun making them was.

It was a tad bit messy (and by a tad I mean the whole table was covered with flour), but it was a good kind of messy. And doing this made me realize how much I love muffin tins now. Seriously, I would never even attempt this recipe without a muffin tin. I love the mushroom shape when they puff up and I really liked how pretty they came out (they also look like roses, don’t they?)

CINNAMON ROLLS (MomsWhoThink.com with one modification)

Rolls:

  • 2½ cups all purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 2 tbsp white granulated sugar
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1¼ cups buttermilk (or buttermilk substitute)
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter

Filling:

  • ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white granulated sugar
  • 5 tsp cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F.
  2. Prepare the filling by combining the brown sugar, ¼ cup white granulated sugar, cinnamon, salt, and the 1 tbsp melted butter. The mixture should look like wet sand.
  3. In a bowl, combine the flour, 2 tbsp white granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix until everything’s well-incorporated.
  4. In another bowl, melt 2 tbsp of butter (slightly cooled) and mix it in the buttermilk.
  5. Slowly add the buttermilk to the flour mixture and stir (I used a wooden spoon) until a sticky dough is formed.
  6. Unload the dough on a generously floured surface and, with floured hands to minimize sticking, knead until smooth (smooth is used loosely here because there will still be lumps, but try to get it as smooth as you can). *Tip: make sure the bottom of the dough is always floured because it will be more difficult to take it off.
  7. Spread out the dough until it’s about a 9x12 inch rectangle with your hands (if you’re lazy like me, I just took a 10x13 inch sheet pan and left an inch border on all sides).
  8. Melt 2 tbsp of the butter and spread it on the dough. Then, take the sugar mixture and sprinkle it evenly throughout the dough, leaving a half-inch border all around. Press the filling into the dough so it doesn’t come off as you’re rolling it.
  9. With the long side facing you, roll the dough tightly into a log and make sure the filling stays intact.
  10. Spray the muffin tin (or cake pan, whatever you’re using) with non-stick spray and cut the log into 8 even pieces (you can even make it 10 smaller rolls, though you will need to shave off about 5-10 minutes off the baking time). Put the rolls in the muffin tin and press them in slightly.
  11. Melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and brush the tops.
  12. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool.
  13. Optional: take a cup of powdered sugar and enough water to stir out all the lumps until a thick glaze is formed. Flick the glaze with your fingers and have fun with the patterns.

Now to eat the big one in the middle.