Sunday, February 14, 2016

Chocolate espresso dacqoise (gluten free), and science of egg whites!

Valentine's Day Menu
Lots of things are happening. My rank list is in. Tyler and I are going to Peru this week with a tenuous plan at best. Formation came out and I loved it. Hillary Clinton is running for president and is BOSS. Oh yeah, and I finished my last clinical rotation in medical school. It's weird -- it's almost like yesterday when I stepped on the wards for the first time, with a clean white coat (it's an odd shade of yellow-brown-white now), a stethoscope around my neck (which has since been replaced after losing it), and a pocket full of snacks and books (still there). I started on the Heart Failure service on my medicine clerkship with my "cohort" for the clerkship being Dave Cholok, Jason Kung, and Kira Masco, people I had never really talked to much or thought about much before the start of third year. My first presentation was...not good...and I spent at least 45 minutes preparing it. And now my next patient presentation will probably be as an intern, hopefully a little better than it was two years ago.

We'll see.

Look at all those layers!
Anyways, I made a dacqoise for valentines dinner! It's a french dessert made with almond and hazelnut meringue that seems super complicated to make, but it's really not. I made it, I know the pitfalls, now I can share them with you! And future self. Anyways. It's simple. It's meringue, buttercream, and ganache. It just takes a full day mostly because you have to rest it and allow it to soften. Then at the end of the day, or the next day, you have a delicious, delicious cake. Arguably the best cake I've ever had.

Some science: Beating eggs

What is Cream of Tartar? 
It's an acid. It is the salt of tartaric acid. There are a few definitions for an acid two of which are that acids can be a proton donor, or an electron acceptor -- but this is a little too detailed to matter right now. What you need to know is that tartaric acid has a bunch of protons in it (or that it can accept a lot of electrons).

What happens when you beat eggs? 
You agitate it with a whisk enough that you (A) incorporate air bubbles that have water on their surface and (B) denature the proteins, meaning you make then go from gooped up blobs to unraveled. The proteins, since they are made up of a bunch of different atoms, start attaching to each other. Particularly, the sulfur ions that help stabilize the structure of the proteins start attaching to each other. These bonds surround some of the air bubbles, and "squeeze" the water off the surface of the air bubbles. This is why when you whisk egg whites sometimes you get that pool of water at the bottom if you let them sit for a minute.

What's the point of adding Cream of Tartar to egg white when you beat them? 

They "stabilize" the proteins. What that means is that the acid (protons) in the Tartaric acid bind to the sulfur ions and prevent them from bonding too tightly and keep them in an "open" loose formation. They keeps the water in the meringue for the most part and keeps your egg whites from deflating.

What does this mean?

This means that you can add any acid and achieve similar results! Lemon juice, etc. The upside to the tartaric acid is that (A) you don't add liquid volume and (B) you don't impart (much) flavor other than the tang of the acid if you add too much...which I've done before.

So doesn't increase the volume of the egg white?

Nope, beating it just does that, cream of tartar just stabilizes the proteins by donating a protein (or accepting electrons!). Another thing you can do to make your egg white beating go faster is not add sugar at the beginning.  This is because sugar attracts water (hygroscopic) and the crystals can get in the way of the egg proteins unravelling and finding each other. So if you add the sugar part way through, it can help keep the water in, and won't slow down your egg white beating.

Whew, now that we're done with the science...on to the delicious!

Chocolate-espresso dacquoise
Modified from Treats-SF

My advice when starting this --

  • read the directions for each component first and get your mise en place (ingredients ready to go). 
  • Actually put everything in the fridge for the resting times. 
  • Really make sure your meringue has a smooth top when you put it in the oven, it really makes life so much easier when you are putting the whole thing together later. For reals. FOR REALS. 
  • All components can be made ahead of time up to two days. Even the whole cake can be made a whole day ahead of time. 

  • 4 egg whites (save the yellows, you need them for the buttercream) 
  • 3/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted
  • 3/4 cup plain white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp salt 
Preheat oven to 250F 

Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Measure out a rectangle of 10x13inches and draw it in with a pencil. Then place the pencil side down on the baking sheet. This is important because it'll let you make a perfect rectangle, which will help with the dacquoise. You can get your parchment paper to stick by spraying the bottom of your baking sheet and then putting the parchment paper down.  

In a food processor, pulse 1/2 the sugar, all the hazelnuts, almond meal, cornstarch, and salt together into a fine texture. In the bowl of stand mixer, put the eggwhites and cream of tartar in the bowl, put it on low-medium and with whisk attachment, and whisk until foamy. Then turn up the speed to medium-high and slowly add the other half of the sugar. Keep beating until stiff peaks form. It took me 4-5 minutes. Then fold in the almond meal-hazelnut mixture in two batches. 

Spread it evenly on the parchment paper and make sure the top is as level as you can get it. Trust me, I didn't, and this step is important. 

Pop it in the oven for an hour and a half. Then turn the oven off without opening it (you don't want the heat to escape) and keep it in the oven for another hour to hour and a half to harden. Then pull it out and let it cool. 

German Buttercream 

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1.5 tsp corn starch 
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks butter (16 tbsp) 
  • 2 tbsp amaretto mixed with 1.5 tbsp instant espresso or coffee
Basically a german buttercream is a pastry cream mixed with butter. It gives it a creamier texture. So you make the pastry cream first. Mix the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch in a medium heat proof bowl. In the small saucepan, heat up the milk until it's simmering, turn off. Then, while constantly whisking slowly mix half the milk into the egg yolk mixture. This tempers the egg yolks and prevents them from scrambling which is what would happen if you added them in right away. Then pour the whole shebang back into the saucepan and turn it back on, whisking constantly until it's thick like pudding.

Put it in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour to cool down. 

After 30 min, in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment beat the room temperature butter. In three separate batches add in the pastry cream, scraping down the sides to make sure everything is well incorporated. Then add in the amaretto-coffee mixture. Turn it up to high and beat the crap out of that butter until it increases in volume and starts to look like a butter cream. 

You can store that covered in the fridge.


  • 6 oz bittersweet or dark chocolate
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream 
  • 2 tsp corn syrup
Put the chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Heat up the heavy whipping cream and the corn syrup in a small saucepan until simmering. Pour over chocolate, and whisk it to incorporate. Donnnne. That step is easy. Oh yeah, and let it chill in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes until it's still liquid, but not hot. 

Okay, so with the meringue, cut it down with a serrated knife so it's 10 x 12 inches. You want to do this slowly, so you're using the weight of the knife to cut it. Then, make a mark/nick in the meringue to divide it into four equal parts. These will be your layers. Cut them length-wise gently. If it breaks...oh yeah, you can glue that back together with the butter cream/ganache, but try to keep them in one piece. 

Then lay them out on a baking sheet. Put 1/4 cup chocolate ganache on three out of four layers. spread it, save the remaining chocolate. Put it in the fridge for 20 minutes. Then pull it out, and but 1/2 cup of the buttercream on the layer that does not have chocolate. Then place the buttercream side down on top of a chocolate layer, so the buttercream and the chocolate are touching, and you're making a meringue-chocolate-buttercream-meringue sandwich. Then put more buttercream on the top of the sandwich (another 1/2 cup) and put a chocolate piece on top of that, adding to the sandwich. 

By the end of it, you should have a clean (no chocolate,no ganache) top, and a four layer sandwich going on. Then you want to coat the outside in whatever buttercream you have left. The most important part is the top, the sides can be coated kind of mehhh...but the top should be smooth and flat. 

Then refrigerate it for half an hour to an hour. I skipped this step, and boy did I pay for it. My stuff still turned out tasting amazing, but I mean, it was defffinitely not as pretty as it could have been. When you're about to pull out the dacquoise, pop the remaining chocolate in the microwave for 10 seconds to melt it so it's pourable but not hot. 

Pull out the dacquoise. Pour the chocolate on top, and quickly spread it over the top into a smooth layer. Then spread the chocolate that dripped on the sides. 

Almost done...


  • Hazelnuts
  • Toasted slivered almonds
Then you want to coat the side of the dacquoise in almond. You can do it with it sitting on a tray, or you can lift it up if you're so bold (I did, it's no big). Just press the almonds into the side. 

Then use the hazelnuts on top. You can line them up in a row to "mark" the pieces so it is easier to eyeball pieces when you cut. I put the slivered almond on the entire dacquoise because I wanted to...but you don't have to. 

Then refrigerate for hour or two before slicing. Or you can let it sit over night. Stays good for 2-4 days covered in the fridge. 

Best. cake. ever.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Tea Biscuits

My parents, like many Indian people, make tea every day, and we have nasta (nah-s-thah) which are Indian snacks, and invariably some kind of biscuit or what other people call cookies. They weren't very fancy, but they were delicious with the tea -- particularly Parle-G glucose biscuits. Sounds odd, tastes delicious. Tyler would go through packets of these when my dad first introduced him to them. Needless to say, I don't keep them in the house much.

But I recently had some tea from a pre-mixed indian tea-tea spice that I use, and had a hankering for some biscuits. So I went back to the basics, equal weight butter and flour with a pinch of salt, and any flavoring you want.

So far I've done parmesan cheese and black peppers, chipotle pepper with habaƱero cheese, and vanilla scented-vanilla glazed. They are simple, and go really well with your cup of tea. Make them, keep them around.

The parmesan and black pepper dough that I rolled out between two pieces of parchment paper
Chipotle Habanero Cheese biscuits (and one parm/black pepper bunny biscuit!)
Vanilla glazed, vanilla scented biscuits (these were awesome)
Basic Biscuit
from Paul Hollywood's recipe

75 g (0.75 cup flour)
75 g butter
pinch of salt
A little cold water
Whatever flavoring you want to add (vanilla bean seeds, almond, some sugar, parmesan, fennel seeds, poppy seeds, go crazy!)

With your hand, or more easily in the bowl of a food processor, mix together the butter and flour and salt until it resembles coarse sand. Then add in your flavoring choice, start the food processor, and slowly add a little water until the whole thing just comes together. Dump the contents onto cling wrap, flatten it into a disc, and place in the fridge for 30 min - 1 hr.

Turn on oven to 375F

Then roll it out on a floured surface or my favorite, in between two pieces of parchment paper so your counter doesn't get messy. You don't want to handle the dough too much or the butter will melt, and you'll get mediocre biscuits. After you roll it out, if it feels too warm, just pop the whole thing back into the fridge for another 10 minutes, then you can either cut it into squares, use shape cutters, etc. to make your biscuits. Put them on a tray lined with parchment paper or silpat. Put them in the oven for ~10-18 minutes (check to make sure they are not getting too brown based on the size you cut them). Pull them out, and allow them to cool before icing or just eating! 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Raspberry Rose Profiteroles

I've been watching a bit too much of the Great British Bake Off (GBBO). It's rather devastating to me that Netflix has only one season, but nevertheless I've watched the season twice. Twice. I don't think it's really the show, but rather the time off from working/studying that has allowed me to regain my baking and cooking inspiration. So here is what I'm going to try to do this year -- a weekly post with a round-up of what we've eaten. It's partially to share, but mostly as a way for me to document some of the things I make (i.e. miso-encrusted tofu with a spinach and blue cheese salad, yes it was delicious). That way when I am lacking in ideas, I can look back and see what I made!

They went so fast..we didn't get to take a picture of the inside of these...
But for now, these profiteroles. I've become obsessed with choux and biscuits since watching GBBO. I tried making a choux for eclairs a few years back made a few key mistakes: 1) I added all the egg at one time, making the dough too runny and therefore the eclairs too flat. 2) I didn't "dry them out." In order to maintain the crispiness inside of an eclair or profiterole (aka cream puff) you need to poke a hole in them part way through the bake to allow the steam to come out and dry out the inside. That way when you fill it, it doesn't immediately become soggy. The dough itself is quite simple to make.

But these are the blueberry lavender ones we made after...they were delicious. I did learn the valuable lesson that skipping the "make the puree from the berries" step is definitely not wise though! 
Choux, meaning cabbage in french, is a mixture of flour, water, butter, and egg brought together on a stove-top. When you know how to make this, you can make eclairs, profiteroles, gougeres, or even beignets (though I haven't been bold enough to fry mine yet). They are pretty easy to fill, you can go with a basic creme patisserie, whipped cream (which I prefer), lemon curd, etc. From start to finish, the whole thing takes about 2hrs to make, including cooling and filling time. Try it out!

Raspberry-Rose Profiteroles
inspiration drawn from the GBBO 

Choux dough (read all the directions before making, it makes your life easier)
120mL water
50g salted butter
65g plain white flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1.5 tsp rose water (appropriate for food)
0.75 cups frozen raspberries
2 tbsp sugar, granulated

Over the stove, heat water and butter together, but do not boil (you don't want to reduce the water content here). When all the butter is melted into the water, bring the water to a boil, and add the flour in one go, take off heat, and mix vigorously with wooden spoon or spatula. It will come together. Bring back to heat on low, and keep mixing until it comes together in a shiny ball. Let it sit and cool to warm

Once cooler, add the beaten egg a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. It will look lumpy and weird when you first start mixing, but it will come together. Keep adding until the dough looks shiny, and falls off your spoon with a little shake. I usually end up adding all but a little bit (maybe 1 tsp) of the egg.

Either spoon onto a pre-prepared baking sheet (silpat or parchment paper) or pipe it by using a piping bag or heavy duty ziplock back onto the baking sheet.

Put in a pre-heated oven at 400F for 8 minutes, then reduce the heat to 170F for 4 minutes, then pull out and poke a hole in your eclair or profiterole to allow the steam to escape. Put it back in the oven at 170F for another 3-5 minutes. Pull them out, and let them cool.

While it's cooling, make the filling. Puree the frozen berries with a hand blender or food processor, and run it through a fine sieve mesh. The point is to get the berry puree without the seeds. If you don't have a food processor/blender, you can do the same thing by heating the berries over the stove or in the microwave and mashing them up with a spoon or fork and then running it through a sieve to get out any of the seeds. 

Put the heavy cream, sugar, rosewater, and raspberry puree into a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, and let 'er rip. When you get the whipped cream to your liking consistency-wise, put it in a bowl, and pop it into the fridge to cool. You can also do this process by hand for a mini-workout.

Then fill a piping bag/ziplock bag filled with a small round piping tip, put the tip into your cooled pastry and fill! If you don't have a pipping tip, you can just cut your pastry in half length-wise, and fill 'er up manually. No shame in that.

To dress your pastry, you can do a chocolate glaze, tempered chocolate (which we did), chocolate drizzle...really anything you like. Either way -- try this pretty simple dessert and enjoy!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

So that was 2015

2015 is done and over -- we are now a whole four days into 2016. It's a new year. We rang in the new year in Buxton, ME at a home with a few friends. It was strikingly beautiful -- an old schoolhouse restored to be a home, complete with a spiral staircase. It was cozy, relaxing, and a great place to think and eat an obscene amount of food. Take a foodie on vacation, you're going to get a lot of food. That's right, I've embraced my foodie nature.

2015 was a big year, year in review:

1. I turned in my residency applications.

2. Started my last year, last year of medical school

3. Broke and finally bought a kindle and regret NOTHING

4. Took up acrylic painting

5. Turned my house inside out cleaning it and throwing things away after reading this book. It's life changing.

6. Made some wonderful friends

7. Visited some of my friends in their new homes

8. Found my favorite restaurant in Cambridge. This love is real. 

9. Started family dinner with my brother and sister-in-law, and love it.

10. Appreciated my family more.

11. Discovered burrata. Nothing has been the same.

12. Saw my best friend marry. This was an incredible experience I feel privileged to have been a part of.

13. Acquired and lost a selfie stick. May your new home be as good as the one I provided you oh selfie stick.

14. Experienced the kindness of my fellow Wellesley alums who housed me on the interview trail. Thank you Ale and Christine.
15. Spent time with friends in new cities.

16. Learned how to spend time with myself.
17. Fell more in love with my husband. And his beard.

18. Fell more in love with my dogs.

19. Realized how unbelievably proud I am of Tyler.

20. Made this freaking awesome yule log.

That's the short list. Who knows what this year will bring...will I match? Where will I match? What is Tyler going to do? Where will we be? What adventures will we have? Who knows, but I'm excited to find out.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

DIY Candy Gifts 2016

Hello world! I'm doing a gift post before January! I'm so happy, it's an accomplishment really. The joys of being a fourth year medical student. Anyways, this year I've tried using the phrase "holiday gifts" or "winter gifts" rather than Christmas gifts to be more inclusive to those people that don't celebrate Christmas. I don't, but I grew up celebrating "commercial Christmas" with my family, so we would always say Merry Christmas to people. I didn't think of the religious connotations till college when a friend of mine said, oh, I don't celebrate Christmas. So I tried switching my vocalizations to Winter Celebrations, or Happy Winter! It's a small correction, but it costs me nothing.

That's the thing, about "being PC" it's really just me saying that this thing that I'm doing/saying hurts/offends/excludes you, and it costs me nothing or very little to change, but it costs you a lot when you hear me say...make a joke about women, minorities, immigrants, etc. So I might as well change it. I don't understand the whole "our country is too PC" rhetoric that seems to have taken over some political stages. People are mad that they can't tell an off-color joke?

Frequently I find that people make hyperbolic examples to make their point that being "too PC" is a problem. For example it would not be unreasonable to hear someone say "Well, pink socks offend me/trigger me, so stop wearing them." This makes no sense not only because of the obvious hyperbole that usually the product of not being able to find a real example, but also because the issue of offensive jokes, etc is not that it affects one person, but rather an entire group of people that live a similar experience. Rather it seems like the polite, empathetic thing to do is to, when called out, think about why someone is saying they don't want you to tell that joke/say that thing/whatever else rather than just roll your eyes about having to "be too PC."

Now! On to these totally awesome DIY Winter gifts. During the winter months, no matter where you are, it gets colder...and for me that means time for hearty soups, casseroles, and candy.

So I figured what better way to help celebrate the coming of winter and the ringing in of the new year than with some simple to make candy that you can gift away to people!

Below are the recipes for: Chocolate spoons, Chocolate wreaths, and my personal favorite, the Sweet and savory toffee
Last year's DIY candy gifts can be found here.

Chocolate Spoons: A simple, but elegant gift you can give to your friends that they can use to sweeten up their morning coffee with or simply pop in their mouths for a pick me up. They're also lovely because you can decorate them any way you want.

What you need: Plastic spoons, bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (8-16 oz), toppings (marshmallow, sprinkles, cocoa nibs, peppermint pieces, more chocolate, toffee, etc.) 

Prep a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or double boiler. Dip just the spoon part of the spoons into the chocolate getting a good coating. Place the spoon on the parchment paper. Top it with whatever toppings you like. Place them in the fridge or freezer to cool, and then pack them up!

Chocolate Wreaths: Round pretzels (I used Utz that I bought from Costco), 16 oz chocolate, toppings (cocoa nibs, sprinkles, peppermint pieces, toffee) 

The key here is to buy pretzels that you'd want to eat just by themselves. If you buy pretzels that don't taste good, or are stale, you'll get beautiful wreaths that taste not so good.

Prep a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler. Add pretzels to the melted chocolate until you feel you've "saturated" the chocolate. You don't need each pretzel to have a thick coating, just enough that it coats it. Then give the pretzels a good toss in the chocolate. I used a spatula to do them. Then one by one, using a fork, pull out the pretzels and lay them on the parchment paper. After a row is done, go back and add the topping to your "wreath." Tossing the pretzels and using the fork adds a texture to the chocolate that makes it look more "wreath" like.

Savory and sweet toffee: This is my favorite. In fact I'm munching on some now as I write this. It's exactly the same recipe that I used last year for the Pretzel Toffee but instead of pretzels I used saltines and I definitely prefer the saltines. Seriously, make this. It's so easy -- you don't need a candy thermometer, you don't need anything fancy, you just need the ingredients, a baking sheet, and some parchment paper.

What you need: 1 cup salted butter, 8oz chocolate, 1 cup light or dark brown sugar, salt, toppings (cocoa nibs, marshmallows, sprinkles, chia seeds)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9x13 baking sheet with parchment paper. If you don't have 9x13, use what you have and modify the recipe. Line the parchment paper with saltines. It doesn't have to be pretty, it just have to cover the bottom.

Then in a saucepan, heat up the butter and the sugar until it melts down and turns into a toffee. Should take about 2 minutes, watch it so it doesn't get too dark, you don't want it to burn. 

Then pour it carefully on top of the saltines, and spread it out. Don't worry if it doesn't cover everything, it'll spread in the oven. Put it in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Check to make sure it's not burning at 8 minutes. Pull it out, let it cool for a minute or two, then pour the 8oz of chocolate/chocolate chips on top.The heat from the toffee with the melt the chocolate. Spread it around in a thin layer.

 Then put your toppings on top! This year I went for a "messy" look, and mixed cocoa nibs, marshmallows, salt, chia seeds, and sprinkles on top. Pop it in the freezer for an hour to let it cool, then break it into pieces by hand and eat it or package it up to go!