David Lebovitz’s Lemon Yogurt Cake

Making David Lebovitz’s Lemon Yogurt Cake was a no-brainer for me. I love lemon. The recipe looked very easy. So I made the cake.

This is the easiest, most low maintenance cake I have ever made. The batter is mixed by hand (no mixer required!), and you don’t need to worry about keeping things even and pretty with the glaze. You don’t even have to refrigerate it! It’s almost criminal how something so easy could be so delicious.

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While I am usually very strict about following recipes to a T when making them for the first time, I did make some minor changes to David’s original recipe. Because whole milk yogurt wasn’t available at Rizal Dairy Farms, I used low fat yogurt, with David’s express approval, of course. I also tweaked the glaze a little bit because I only had one cup of powdered sugar left. I didn’t reduce the lemon juice in proportion to the reduction in sugar, so my final glaze was 1 cup of powdered sugar and 2 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice (versus the proportional 2). I also nixed the apricot-cherry compote because, I don’t even know where to find fresh apricots in Manila. Even if I did, I don’t want to spend more than the cost of the actual cake on apricots and cherries.

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If my miserliness was detrimental to my final product, I really couldn’t tell. Compote or not, low-fat yogurt and all, the cake was wonderful. The cake itself  was very moist and soft. The crumb was on the heavier side but without being too dense. David hit the sweet spot for the strength of the lemon flavor: enough to both please the citrus-mad (like myself) and not turn off (and possibly convert) those who are not a fan of it.

My tweaked glaze was a bright, more pronounced burst of lemon, and I loved it against the more subdued flavor of the cake. But even if you don’t like your citrus as strongly as I do (I do use one calamansi per siomai), do consider making the glaze as directed as the flavor will mellow out over one or two days as the glaze seeps into the cake.

The one downside to this cake (if you could actually call it a downside) is that you might be asked to make it more than once in a 7-day period, like I was. I made one on Monday, and had to make one again on Sunday, as the people who’ve gotten to try it (and some who’ve only heard of how good it was) kept asking about when I was making it again. And really, with something as easy and good as this, I really had no choice but to oblige.

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From the Milk Bar cookbook: Corn Cookies

I bought three cookies from Milk Bar on my lone stop to the bakery. I ate the Compost and the Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow cookies while still in NYC, the Corn Cookie made it back home with me to Manila. I still remember the taste of it, like a flattened Kenny Roger’s corn muffin in cookie form. I also remember my disappointment when I saw the recipe for it in the Milk Bar cookbook. It required freeze dried corn powder, something that is not available commercially in Manila.

When I found out my friend P was going to NYC, I took the chance and asked her to buy some of the corn powder for me. She delivered and came back with three bottles of my baking holy grail:

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Naturally, I made the corn cookies right away.

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My first batch were fine, but not great. They did corn-y enough, and they dried out too quickly. I think it may have been because I only used fine cornmeal, instead of cornflour (which is super fine cornmeal). I also didn’t pack in the corn powder when I measured it and it’s apparently very prone to fluffing up.

I took a different approach for my second attempt. I got a scale for my birthday (finally! Yay!), so I weighed my ingredients instead of measuring by volume. I also nixed the cornmeal and used Christina Tosi’s recommended substitution: a mixture of flour and more corn powder. The result was a significantly cornier cookie and one that didn’t become a coarse, dry mess a day after baking. It was definitely a lot closer to the one I so carefully hand carried home from NYC.

I still need to tweak some things a bit to try an get my version as moist as the original, which was closer to a Chips Ahoy! Chewy cookie in texture. If I never get to match that, though, I wouldn’t be too disappointed. Judging from how quickly my second batch was consumed, the current version is close enough.

PS: P, if you’re reading this, I still owe you cookies as a thank you for getting me the powder! 🙂

Dorie Greenspan’s Low and Lush Chocolate Cheesecake

Out of four siblings, three of us have birthdays in July, so that means a lot of baking for me during the month, even if I don’t make my own birthday cake.

Earlier this month, I made Dorie Greenspan’s Devil’s Food White Out Cake for my brother, a cake I’ve made before with my friend J.  Despite a fiasco involving a faulty candy thermometer and burnt sugar and some uneven slicing on my part, the cake turned out great, even if the frosting wasn’t as white as it should be.

This week was my sister’s turn, and she chose Dorie’s Low and Lush Chocolate Cheesecake as her birthday cake.  In her introduction to this recipe, Dorie said this was “push-button easy to make” and as far as cheesecakes go, it is. Surprisingly enough, this cheesecake doesn’t cook in a water bath (i.e. no risk of scalding yourself with hot water) and is also baked relatively quickly. My all-time favorite cheesecake takes two and a half hours in the oven (one and half with it on, another hour with it off with the door cracked open), whereas this baked in 40 minutes.

All the mixing is done with a food processor, which means everything comes together very quickly, which in turn means less air is incorporated in the batter.  The result is a denser and silkier cheesecake.

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I used 54% chocolate and, by mistake, 1/3 cup of sugar instead of the 1/2 indicated in the recipe. Not that my error was noticed by anyone. The cheesecake was delicious, with the subtle saltiness of the cream cheese still shining through the chocolate.

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The crust was also quite nice. The punch of cinnamon gives another dimension of flavor to the graham crust and also complements the richness of the chocolate filling.

Overall, this is another wonderful, delicious, and comparatively easy recipe from Dorie Greenspan. And really, I shouldn’t be surprised anymore that something that I made from her cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours is now a family favorite in the making.

Another wonderful chocolate cake option

I already had a tough time choosing between Ina’s and David’s chocolate cake recipes. And here comes another recipe to make the decision making even harder.

Naturally, it was from Dorie Greenspan.

I’ve made Dorie’s Cocoa-Buttermilk Birthday Cake a few times already. Twice without the optional melted chocolate, once with a different frosting, and all those times, the result was fantastic.

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The cake had a deep, chocolate flavor, even if the batter is the lightest-colored chocolate batter I’ve ever made. Adding the optional bittersweet chocolate naturally makes the flavor slightly richer, and the batter darker, but it really is not a deal-breaker, in case you can’t spare the chocolate.

I’ve never made anything with malted milk before, and even Google didn’t help in describing what exactly the flavor of “malt” is. What was apparent to me from my Googling is that malt is delicious, and a malted milkshake is always better than a sad, regular milkshake. And maybe the same is true about chocolate frosting. It was thick, fudgy and delicious. The frosting does have a tendency to be grainy (a universal problem, apparently) and even extended mixing with my KitchenAid didn’t result in a smooth frosting. Chilling the frosting seemed to help, but there was still a slight graininess to the finished frosting. No one in my family seemed to mind, judging by the rate the cake was consumed in our house.

So now, I have three, not two recipes to choose from whenever I want/need to make a chocolate cake. Now if only all of life’s decisions were all no-lose situations like this one.

From Milk: Cornflake-Chocolate Chip-Marshmallow Cookie

I was finally able to make something from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook this weekend. I’ve been putting it off for a few reasons. For one, I haven’t had the time to chase after the tricky ingredients I’ve ranted about in this post. For another, there’s something daunting and intimidating about trying to make and replicate something you’ve had from an iconic New York bakery. Who do I think I am, trying to make something Christina Tosi herself created? I knew I was going to be crushed if things did not turn out well (and yes, these are things I obsess about. Don’t judge.).

But I have to at least try, no? And so, try I did.

The recipe I tried out was the Cornflake-Chocolate Chip-Marshmallow Cookie. No weird ingredients needed in this one, although it is one of those many recipe within a recipe things in the book. To make this cookie, you need to make Cornflake Crunch, basically a mixture of cornflakes, milk powder, butter, salt and sugar, baked to a crispy perfection. Although the cookie recipe only requires 3/4 of the crunch recipe, make the whole recipe. If you’re human at all, you will be snacking on this, and, like me, will leave barely enough to meet the 3-cup requirement for the cookies.

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Christina Tosi recommends using a #16 ice cream scoop or a 1/3 cup measure to make the cookies. I didn’t have the scoop, so I used the latter, and my cookies turned out HUGE, some of them almost the size of a saucer. I was only able to bake three at a time on my cookie sheets. I just Googled the #16 ice cream scoop, and it turns out that its equivalent is 4 tbsps or 1/4 cup. So I will definitely use that the next time I make these.

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The cookies are actually on a full-sized plate here.

But bigger cookies are not exactly a bad thing when it comes to these ( and maybe for any cookie for that matter), because they are a marvel. They are crispy, as in thin and crispy, in the edges but gooey, chewy and sticky in the center. I don’t know if it’s Christina’s 10-minute creaming method, or the marshmallows or both, but the contrast of the textures is really something else.

Also something else? The way the cookie tastes. Imagine if you will, a chocolate chip cookie injected with the toasty caramelly-ness of roasted marshmallows, with bursts of the sweet-salty crispiness of the cornflake crunch. It may not be a classic combination, but it’s fantastic nonetheless.

And so while there some things that I didn’t get quite right to perfectly match the Cornflake-Chocolate Chip-Marshmallow cookies I had last September (for instance, I think mine spread a little too much), I think these turned out quite well. I am so glad I didn’t mess them up. Whew. And, yey!

So I guess Compost Cookies are next? Then, maybe (gasp!) Crack Pie?

December: Bittersweet Brownies and, yay!!

And just at the nick of time.

I finished what I set out to do when I started my 2012 Cooking Challenge on the last day of the year. Twelve months, thirteen recipes, the last of which was Dorie Greenspan’s Bittersweet Brownies.

And yes, I had to cram this in to make sure that I completed what should have been an easy enough challenge. I picked this recipe because it was easy, I had all the ingredients available at home and because I wanted to try out another brownie recipe after my attempt at Ina’s Outrageous Brownies didn’t come out absolutely perfect. I’m stubborn like that.

And sometimes, persistence pays out:

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As you can see from the picture, I had no issues with the texture of these brownies whatsoever. They came out perfectly, and I could slice them without the edges crumbling to pieces.

Taste-wise, these were great, too. Despite the recipe’s name, these didn’t taste as bitter as I expected them to be. Ina’s actually tastes darker and more bitter.

And if you asked me to choose between the two, I couldn’t.  Well, ok, maybe I’ll go with Dorie’s recipe because I know I can make that perfectly. But my pride aside, you really can’t go wrong with any of the two recipes. They both are chocolatey, moist and delicious. I guess it will just be a matter of taste or mood or what kind of chocolate you find in your supermarket. In the mood for something darker, with fudgy and oozy bits of chocolate chips in the brownie? Then go for Ina’s. Could only find bittersweet chocolate at Rustan’s? Then Dorie’s would be perfect.

Ah, if only all of life’s options always turned out so well.

November: Outrageous Brownies

It’s December 30th and here I am, still scrambling to finish my cooking challenge. With Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies, I am left one recipe short with one day left in the year. Let’s see what I can scramble to make tomorrow, but for now, let’s get to the brownies.

The original recipe in Ina’s Barefoot Contessa cookbook is huge, requiring 4 sticks of butter, a little over 2 pounds of chocolate and a 12×18 inch baking pan that I don’t think would even fit in my oven. Not to mention the recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate, which is hard to find in Manila.

Ina Garten’s new cookbook, Foolproof, has a variation of this recipe which conveniently only uses half of the batter, saving me the trouble of doing the computation myself. I’ve also been able to find locally made unsweetened chocolate (Goya, who knew?), so I finally had everything I needed to make these babies and see if they really are as “outrageous” as Ina claims them to be.

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Taste-wise, these do not taste like the brownies we’re used to. Probably because of the coffee powder used, the chocolate taste of these brownies is deeper and richer, even if there are only 3 oz of unsweetened chocolate to 8 of semi-sweet. I love that they taste of darker chocolate, but this might not be recipe to use if you want a sweeter, milk-chocolate-y taste.

Texture-wise… Well. I may have messed things up in that department a little. Weirdly enough, while the brownie wasn’t dry or sandy at all, it was still very crumbly. Is that possible, for something to still be moist but be crumbly? I guess it is, since that’s how these turned out. I don’t know what it was. I took them out of the oven even if the toothpick wasn’t coming out completely clean yet, even if they already baked longer than the 35 minutes recommended by Ina. Maybe it was because I used a glass pan instead of a metal one? Whatever it was, I ended up with this after slicing up the brownies:

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Brownie… clumps? I wouldn’t call them crumbs, because they were bigger than that. As you can see, there was a lot of them. And as you can also see, I couldn’t bear to throw them out. I hate things (especially good butter and chocolate) going to waste, and I figured this was a problem (if you could call it that) a little ice cream couldn’t fix.

So despite the initial annoyance at the texture of the brownies did not come out perfect, I guess ending up with yummy ice cream topping is not something I should be complaining about. Two desserts from one recipe is not such a bad outcome for an afternoon.