Monday, December 15, 2014

Recipe: Red Velvet Cookies

One of my favorite cakes...other than chocolate...was always Red Velvet, which is a close cousin of chocolate, if you didn't know. And as per request from a good friend of mine (because apparently I owed her cookies), here's a recipe for  to-die-for Red Velvet Cookies!

Red Velvet Cookies
makes 36 cookies

What you will need:
  • 3 cups + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temp)*
  • 1 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs (room temp)
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp red food coloring
  • 2 cup white chocolate chips**
*if using salted butter, omit 1/2 tsp salt
**can substitute with regular chocolate chips or anything you want!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a separate medium-large bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (a hand mixer will work fine), cream butter on high until smooth and creamy. About 1 minute. Remember to scrape down the sides and bottom of your bowl whenever you need to. 

On medium speed, beat in your granulated sugar and brown sugar until combined. Then beat in your eggs, milk, and vanilla.

Add your food coloring and mix until there are no longer any streaks of color (or no color) visible. The red color should now be incredibly intense and the dough should still be quite runny, however feel free to add more food coloring to intensify the color even more if you'd like.

Pour in your dry ingredients. With your mixer on low, mix your dough until just combined. You do not want to over mix.

Still on low speed or by hand, mix in your white chocolate chips until thoroughly visible throughout your dough. Your dough will still be rather sticky, so cover the bowl with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate for AT LEAST an hour. THIS IS MANDATORY or your dough will be way too soft.

Prepare two baking sheets and line them with either parchment paper or silicon mats. Gather 1 - 1 1/2 tbsp of dough and roll into a ball. Place them on your baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 10-13 minutes.

When you take them out of the oven, they would have only spread just a bit. Using your clean fingers or the back of a spoon and gently flatten them while they are still hot. Also while they're still hot, use some extra white chocolate chips and push them into the top. This gives a little more contrast to the red cookie. Have them cool on the cookie sheet for about 5-10 minutes, then transfer them onto a wire rack to cool completely.

I swear, these are some of the best things I have ever made. They're basically a little cake in cookie form; aka heaven on earth (so my coworker says).'re welcome Hilary <3 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Recipe: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

The weather has been pretty gloomy around here lately. It's wet and rainy, but this is my kind of weather! I know not everyone's crazy about rain showers and the end of summer, but that's okay because I have the perfect pick-me-up. Who doesn't love White Chocolate Macadamia Nut cookies?!

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

makes 24 cookies

You will need:
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) *unsalted butter (room temp)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs (room temp)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped salted macadamia nuts
*If you do not have unsalted butter, it may be substituted with regular butter. However, omit the 1/2 tsp of salt.

Begin by preheating your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Cream together your butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffyIt should look something like this. Make sure to use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Add your eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Mix until well combined. Your mixture should loosen up a lot and become runny.

Add your flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. You do not want to over-mix. The dough should start forming right away and on it's own. Once combined, scrape the sides and bottom of your bowl.

Add the white chocolate chips and coarsely chopped macadamia nuts. Fold them in with a rubber spatula until they are thoroughly incorporated within your dough.

Gather two tablespoons of dough into a ball and tear it in half. Place the torn side of one half face down onto your lined cookie sheet, and place the other half on top with the torn side facing up, like shown above. These are rather large cookies so place them about 2 inches apart for spreading.

Bake your cookies for 12-13 minutes or until the edges are slightly golden. They will remain puffed up and appear undone when you take them out of the oven. Let them sit on the cookie sheet to cool for 10-15 minutes. The cookies' residual heat will finish off the insides and it will begin to flatten out. Transfer them onto a wire rack to finish cooling (but they taste the best when warm).

Quite a few people have been asking me for these lately, so I'm glad I finally found the time to make them!
The original recipe is not mine and I found it here. However, I did alter the ratios slightly and adjusted the proportions to fit my needs.
This is probably one of my favorite cookies to make and from what I've heard it's a lot of my friend's favorite too hehe.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

DIY: Cheap and Easy Watch Stand

Finally, something other than food! (But then again, who doesn't like food...)

I've always liked watches, but they just never fit me! Last winter, when I finally learned how to resize my own watches (possible demonstration in the future?), I realized that there was hope for me and my tiny wrists. Thus, my love for watches flourished.

As my small collection continues to grow, I definitely don't want them scattered around my cluttered desk or stuffed in some box. And who wants to pay $10-$20 for a stand?.. Well for those who are just as cheap and equally eager to make things as I am, here's an easy DIY for you!

DIY Watch Stand (EASY)

What you'll need:
  • CD container
  • Paper towel roll
  • Felt
  • Scizors
  • Fast-drying glue (hot glue gun or E6000 recommended)
*Be cautious of glue fumes. Glue in ventilated area.

Fill the bottom of your CD container with wax or resin to give your base some body and weight. I recommend resin because it isn't as messy and will last longer.

Find the middle of the paper towel roll and cut a hole just big enough to fit the center of the CD container. Cut a little at a time to make sure the hole isn't too big. 

Most CD containers come with a plastic divider; trace and cut out a piece of felt. Cut it a little larger than the disk to ensure you can cover all gaps.

*If you do not have a divider to trace, use a CD or DVD

Glue the plastic divider onto your resin, followed by the felt piece on top. You can see that cutting your felt larger covers the visible resin/wax.

*Thick card stock paper or cardboard can replace plastic divider if needed.

Before covering your pieces in felt, stuff the paper towel roll. Scrap fabric or paper will work just fine. You want the paper towel roll to be sturdy enough to withstand the weight of your watches/accessories. Tape off the open ends to make gluing the end circles of felt easier. I recommend cutting the hole into the felt after covering the paper towel roll.

Cover the rest of pieces. Have all your seams at the back of your stand.

Put glue on the top of the CD container and insert it into the hole and hold firmly for a couple of minutes. Glue around the outside to make sure it is secure. Allow your stand to stand upright for 10-20 minutes to completely set.

At this point, your easy DIY watch stand is complete! But of course, you can always take it to the next level...

Decorating is the best part! Let your creativity run wild. I had some decorative ribbon lying around from a previous DIY and decided to use the rest of it for some simple embellishments. It really does make a difference!

And NOW you're done!

Since the materials used in this DIY are merely scraps found around the house, it won't always be very stable, especially with heavy watches and jewelry. So I recommend trying to balance the weight on both sides.
This DIY was really cheap and easy, and as my collection grows, perhaps I'll make another DIY that accommodates to more! Until then, here are a few of my favorite watches at the moment:

I really had a lot of fun making this and I hope to soon expand on this as well as expand my collection. Here's to more future DIYs!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Recipe: The Best Banana Bread Ever

It's been a long time coming, but I'm back again with a not-so-new recipe. Everyone has had banana bread at least once in their life, and I've come across countless recipes, but there could only be one winner.

Banana Bread

makes 2 loaves

You will need:
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter (room temp.)
  • 4 eggs (room temp & beaten)
  • 6-7 (very ripe) bananas
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
*TIP: The riper the bananas, the better!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare 2 2x4x8 loaf pans by coating them with butter/oil and dusting them with flour.

In a large bowl, mash your bananas. Breaking them up into small pieces makes the process a little faster and easier. I like using a fork, but if I'm in a hurry, I break out the potato masher...go big or go home!

The end result is basically a huge vat of banana guts. It is going to be a little chunky, but try to avoid super large chunks. You don't want wet spots in your banana bread. 

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a hand electric mixer, cream your butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add your bananas and beaten eggs and mix well. At this point your batter will look a little curdled (but it's not, don't worry it's just the bananas). In another separate bowl, sift together your flour, baking soda, and salt and mix into your batter, but just until incorporated. You do not want to over mix!!!

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans. Tap each pan on a flat surface a few times to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Test the banana bread with a tooth pick or skewer. Don't worry if it is still a little wet near the surface, that can happen since there are so many bananas in this recipe.

When finished baking, place pans on a wire rack for about 10-20 minutes or until they are cool enough to touch.

Once cool enough, use a butter knife or spatula to help flip the loaves out of the pans to finish cooling completely on the wire rack. (This batch's center, as you can see, remained a little wet, which is why this little crater formed while cooling.)

My dad has had this recipe for years, ever since we still lived in San Francisco ten years ago, and we have still yet to find another that has even come close to competing with ours. If you don't believe me, you're just going to have to try it for yourself!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Recipe: Mini Banana Nutella Tarts

If you have never had a Banana Nutella sandwich at 2am, then you have not lived. Here I'm sharing with you, something even better...Mini Banana Nutella Tarts! The best midnight...or 2am snack.

I originally found this recipe for Jam Tarts, but I'm not necessarily a Jam/Jelly kind of person so then I thought, "Hey, why not use bananas and Nutella instead"?! The creativity was flowing so I ran into the kitchen and got started.

Mini Banana Nutella Tarts
with caramelized bananas

makes about 24

Pastry Crust:
  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter (room temp.)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg (room temp.)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • about 1/2 cup Nutella
Caramelized Bananas
  • 2-3 ripe, but firm bananas
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 3-5 tbsp granulated sugar
  • Fresh lemon juice

To begin the pastry crust, attach a paddle attachment to your stand mixer (a hand mixer will work fine), and cream together the butter and 1/2 cup of sugar on medium/high speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Be sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of your bowl as needed.

Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Your mixture may look slightly curdled, but this is okay. Remember to scrape your bowl!

In a separate bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add the flour to your mixture and beat, starting on low speed, until just incorporated. (You want to start on a low speed so flour doesn't explode in your face. You can increase the speed after a few seconds.) A ball of dough should form rather quickly so you don't want to over-mix it when it's not needed. 

As you take the dough out of the mixing bowl, it should be in pieces, so on your clean counter (you can lightly dust your counter with flour if you'd like but it isn't necessary), briefly knead the pieces together and split it in half.

Wrap the two parts in plastic wrap and place them in the fridge to chill about 45 minutes to an hour. However, if you feel that your dough is firm enough, you can proceed to roll it out. You can tell if your dough isn't firm enough if it cracks while you're rolling it out. 

Place your first ball of dough in between two large pieces of parchment or wax paper and roll out until about 1/8in thick. To prevent the paper from sliding on the counter, I put a silicon mat underneath (as seen in the picture earlier), but a slightly damp towel will work just fine. Be sure to check both sides of the dough to ensure that there are no wrinkles or cracks. Repeat with the second ball of dough. At this time, chilling your dough for about 45min to an hour is NECESSARY. You'll be handling it a lot from now on so you'll definitely want to reduce the chances of cracking. 

While the dough is chilling, this is a great time to work on the caramelized bananas! Cut your bananas into slices about 1/8in thick and place them in a shallow dish. Add your lemon juice, just enough to lightly coat the bananas. You won't be able to taste the lemon later on, this is just to prevent the bananas from browning.

In a large saucepan on high heat, melt your 1tbsp of butter until it bubbles. Add your bananas and toss until they're all coated in butter. Still on high heat, sprinkle your sugar over the top of the bananas and continue tossing until they caramelize.

Most of the butter should reduce down into a thick paste. (At this point my house smelled AMAZING.) Strain out excess butter and set the caramelized bananas aside to reach room temperature

Now is a good time to preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

When your dough has finished chilling, pull the first sheet out and begin cutting out your circles (or in my case, scalloped circles). Since these are miniature tarts, a 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter will suffice.

Begin placing your dough into a miniature muffin pan (can be purchased at most craft/baking stores). 

Be gentle, because the dough can easily crack. If this happens, you can simply patch it up with a little bit of extra dough. If your dough gets too soft to handle, put it back in the fridge for another 20 minutes or so
I had to do this repeatedly since my kitchen was so hot...

Place your bananas at the bottom of each tart. One slice of banana per tart should be perfect.

Fill a Ziploc bag with the Nutella and snip off a small piece of the corner. This makes filling the tarts a lot quicker and neater. Tap the muffin pan on a flat surface a few times to flatten out the Nutella as well as releasing any air bubbles

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the edges of the pastry are a nice golden brown. You will notice some of the caramelized banana bubble around the Nutella, but that's okay. Let them sit in the pan to cool for about 10 minutes. Afterward, use a small knife or spatula to take your mini tarts out and place them on a wire rack to finish cooling.

Top them off with a little more of that caramelized banana and you're good to go! And just FYI, these taste THE BEST when they're warm out of the oven.

The Nutella set up really nicely after being baked and the caramelized bananas tasted amazing. The Nutella and banana flavors balanced well and the pastry crust pulled it all together.

I'm quite proud of myself this time around and just saying, my coworkers loved these heheh. Let me know if you try this out and thanks for reading!