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Archive for April, 2010

Apple Spice Cake

Lately, I have been thinking about a possible menu for my bake sale.  (FYI: it’s tentatively called “Sweet Lychee” until I can think of a name that isn’t so saccharine and feminine.)  Almond cookie.  Black sesame cake.  Lychee pate de fruit.  That kind of thing.  The quirky fun stuff people don’t see in Asian or Western bakeries.  I like the idea of dreaming up different flavor and texture pairings :)

The thing is that I am worried that people won’t be able to appreciate that kind of whimsical play in their food.  When I gift food for people whether it’s homemade or bought, I take great care in heeding to all of the person’s personal preferences.  I am the kind of person who holds back on the sugar, reduce the amount of frosting, and offer freshly whipped cream on the side.

As much as I realize people are entitled to personal preference, it’s honestly hurtful to see people take my gifts and make faces, as they do things like scrape off the frosting because they think it’s disgusting.  I mean, try taking one bite of the whole package as intended!  After that, I don’t mind you scraping off the frosting if it’s still too much…

Over the past year of gifting people random baked goods and learning to understand what kind of preferences Asians have with their cakes and desserts, I have noticed one particular spice seems to send people over with arms flapping.  I have never seen people so easily excited over the presence of cinnamon in a baked good.

“No cinnamon!  Absolutely no cinnamon!”

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Accounting is usually thought as black-and-white–the debits either equals the credits, or they don’t.  It seems that simple.  Well, accounting and finance professors and CPAs will insist that it’s anything but black-and-white.  If anything, it’s shades of gray thanks to the kind of subjectivity and ambiguity in accounting reporting standards.

To me, accounting is still all black-and-white, but I am taking it quite literally.  Have you ever seen a colorful financial statement?  Yeah, they don’t really exist, and after sifting through financial statement after financial statement for various accounting papers and reading off the gray digits on the calculator to do homework and exams for the past 12-13 weeks of school, I still think the kind of business strategies reflected on the financial statements are interesting and all, but I honestly have enough of the black and white and gray.  I would like some color please!

Lately, I keep thinking about the pretty jewel-like colors of agua fresca.  When I first saw the drinks, I wondered how did she get the drinks to look like the hues of the ripest summer melons.  It wasn’t until I tried pureeing some exceptionally ripe strawberries, I found out the beautiful colors come from the fruit themselves!

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Is it wrong to buy a cookbook for one recipe?  I asked myself this question a dozen times, as I stood by the Costco book section thumbing through the pages.  Haha, if I didn’t ask this question enough to myself, my dad raised an eyebrow at my purchase, as I put it in the cart with the bulk sized purchases of Vaseline and toilet paper.

To be honest, I am not a fan of cupcakes.  They’re one of those things that I enjoy making only because of their diminutive size.  Yes, smallness apparently makes everything oh-so-charming and darling.  Then again, I have bought origami books for one diagram too.  I guess I tend to give books the benefit of the doubt since I love books…

However, it took me about a year to make anything from this book let alone the Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes that caught my eye!  I am not sure if that speaks well of the book, but I did bookmark the pages and all with the full intention of making things in it.  It’s just that I have a short attention span, and there’s lots of showstopping desserts and cakes running around in the food blog community these days.

Recently, I had the idea of buying fleur de sel caramels as part of a friend’s birthday present, which reminded me of these cupcakes again.  It was then that I realized I need to make these cupcakes now before my attention drifts elsewhere!

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I have been thinking about New York a lot lately.  Maybe it’s because one of my dear friends is considering attending medical school in the City.  Or maybe it’s because I see so many recipes from NYC (and the boroughs) restaurants popping up on Serious Eats.  Or maybe I am just feeling nostalgic because all I have are fond memories of visiting such a vibrant city.

My fascination with NYC started when I was going to college in central New York.  My classmates, many of whom were from the City, Long Island and Jersey, insisted that I was missing out on awesome food.  Although they came off as slightly zealous (i.e. poking fun of my unusual moon cakes [nothing wrong with them! O-O] that I received during Mid-Autumn Festival from my mother), I knew they were well-intentioned.  Furthermore, I always felt as though I had my head in the sand during my high school years thanks partly to intense nerdom [Asian high school, don’t ask] and partly to my introversion.

Thus, I spent most of my freshman year following my dorm mates around, which introduced me to a world that included such delights like garlic knots and fried dough.  Granted my college town then was surrounded by pumpkin patches and corn fields, I always felt like I was getting a preview of New York City food culture–that is, I never seemed to get the full experience of something that was awesome and inspiring.  Food always seem to fall short of expectations, but I assumed that was because I was here and not in the City.  One of those was the ever-so popular black-and-white cookies that many in the East Coast seem to hold so dear.

“You’ve got to try it.  They’re AMAZING!  My most favorite cookie ever!”  my classmate gushed.

With that in mind, I innocently marched up to the only bakery in that small, small town that sold black-and-whites and bought some only to find that these beautiful cookies tasted mostly of icing sugar.  Sugar bomb!  I was sad.  Really.  How could a cookie so pretty and charming taste so saccharine?  I was unimpressed, and it took me a few years before black-and-white cookies piqued my interest again…  (more…)

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Bake Sale?

You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.

— James A. Froude

I will admit that I am a big dreamer.  Always have been.  My mother was always concerned with that since I never seemed grounded in reality.  I would flit from wanting to be an archaeologist to a marine biologist.  Shh!  Don’t tell her I had dreams of running away from home to study for one of the origami masters in Japan at one point!  O-O

Now that I am older, I realize it’s important to be able to realize your dream.  Otherwise, it feels as though there is this large disconnect between what I want to do and what I am told to do.  At least, trying to be a more authentic person is what I am setting out to do.

One of those childhood dreams was to hold my own bake sale.  Haha, I know bake sales are not such a big deal since many people have hosted them before, so I do want to change it up a bit and make it more difficult :)

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As the weather perks up with the first signs of spring, people are starting to ask, “What are you going to do in the summer?”  For the first time, I have a more interesting answer than summer school or moping around at home.  Haha, it appears that a summer tax internship is quite the conversation starter!

However grateful I am for people’s advice and insight about working for one of the Big Four, it does have me worried whether I act professionally.  In a way, I felt compelled to “practice” being a professional, which seems easy enough since I am juggling three group projects simultaneously.  Being a professional seems to mean a lot of things, mainly the ability to multi-task seamlessly.  It is the idea of always looking “put together” even if your mind is in total disarray.  It also means being able to wave your hand around and force a smile at the small mistakes that don’t matter in the long-run.

For a perfectionist like me, that part is hard to swallow.  There seems to be a never-ending marquee of observed mistakes that goes on and on like the stock market ticker.  I keep telling myself “Small fries!  Small fries!” when stuff like that happens.  (Oh man, watch me–one day, I am totally going to say that aloud, and people will just stare at me!)  It’s not that I despise working in group projects, as much as the days seem to grow longer and more complicated due to the people element.  It’s those kinds of days, where I just want something fabulous and foolproof—my go-to thing that makes me believe in myself even after seeing all these mistakes pass me by…

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Hamantaschen

Disclaimer: Although my hamantaschen looked as darling as these cookies here, these cookies are from the SF Examiner article.  These are slightly more pyramidal than mine, which actually looks more like Honey Never Spoil’s.  (Duh, because I used the recipe from there!)  Unfortunately, I was clumsy and forgot to bring my camera when I made them, so poo on me!

I first met hamantaschen at at a San Francisco bakery boasting “real NY-style water bagels.”  Ah yes, quite a peculiar place to be for a person who considers herself a California girl.  I mean, “real NY-style water bagels” do not have the appeal of a passion fruit bavarian cake, especially if one has a sweet tooth.

However, I have been to New York and lived there for some time during my early college years.  While I was largely surrounded by cornfields and pumpkin patches instead of the urban jungle of New  York City, I did get acquainted with things like New York style pizza and black and white cookies.  Consequently, I have learned not to question the hype about New York’s distinctive culture–it’s one of those things I have to try and eat to understand and appreciate!  Apparently, I missed the introduction to the New York-style bagels, so I guess this was my opportunity to eat up the hype… literally!

Unfortunately, my introduction to the New York bagel seemed to have gotten upstaged by hamantaschen.  (That isn’t to say the bagels weren’t fabulous, which they were!)  I attribute that partly to my dad, who I dragged along since he likes to eat bagels.  As I began to order the bagels for my dad and me, I noticed my dad continued to stare at the bakery section, as if he was totally entranced by the cookies.  Macaroons, black and white cookies, and hamantaschen–all of which were foreign yet strangely delicious looking to my dad.

“Dad, would you like schmear with your bagels?”

“What?  Uh no!  I am good!”

“Okay.  Did you want anything else?”

“No…”

Of course, he’s still staring at the bakery items while he says this.  Apparently, he is sold on the New York food hype without even tasting it!  Haha, seeing hamantaschen again in the food blogs a few months ago reminded me and was my inspiration to make these cookies :)

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