Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Matcha Cake with Black Sesame Cream Cheese and Matcha Meringues

They say third time's the charm right? Well I sure hope so because this is the third time I am writing this post. Blogger keeps deleting all the text once I save the post and it is driving me nuts. 

Let's get back to the main point of this blog post. It is a very important main point because it involves matcha. It seems like matcha is extremely trendy nowadays - matcha cafes and matcha-flavoured anything and everything are popping up everywhere. Not that I am complaining at all because matcha is my fav. Matcha ice cream? Give me eight scoops. Matcha mochi? Sorry, I just finished the entire container.

If you ever visit Vancouver in the spring, you will be either admiring the cherry blossoms or having the worst allergies because of the same cherry blossoms. I somehow manage to do both during the spring time. Victor and I wanted to take advantage of cherry blossom season in Vancouver and do a cherry blossom-themed cake shoot. We decided to make all the flavours in the cake be Asian-inspired as well, so I went with a black sesame cream cheese matcha chiffon cake to be adorn with the small pink blossoms.

We did this shoot a week before my birthday, so I could not resist placing a candle and some homemade gold star toppers on the cakes. A little behind the scenes fun fact for you: I placed the candle too close to one of the gold star toppers and the entire topper caught on fire. It was quite hilarious...and scary...but more on the hilarious side of things. (Evidence: scroll to the very bottom)

Besides the gold star toppers, I also had five cakes in three different sizes! It isn't a real birthday celebration unless you have five individual cakes right?!

Matcha Cake with Black Sesame Cream Cheese Layers 

Matcha chiffon cake
Adapted from Twigg Studios

220g (1 cup) granulated sugar
225g (1 cup) butter, at room temperature
225g (1 and 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp of salt
4 eggs
2 (heaping) tbsp of matcha powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

Black sesame cream cheese filling
1 1/2 cup whipping cream
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese
225 g (1 cup) white sugar
1/2 cup ground black sesame

Matcha meringue kisses
2 egg whites
125g (1 cup) icing sugar
1/2 tbsp matcha powder

The Cake Base:
Pre-heat your oven to 350°F. Line the cake pan with parchment paper. My pan was 13 x 9 x 2. You can use whatever sized pan you like, you will just have to adjust for the baking temperature and your layer will be thinner/thicker than the ones pictured in the post.

With a mixer, cream together the room temperature butter and sugar until it becomes pale yellow in colour. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until eggs are well incorporated. Add the vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, sift matcha powder over the flour - you do not want large clumps of matcha in your cake! Add in the salt.

Add the bowl of dry ingredients to the bowl of the wet ingredients. Slowly add in the half cup of milk (adjust the amount of milk based on the consistency of the batter). 

Bake cake for 40 - 45 minutes, checking the doneness of the cake at around 35 minutes. Let the cake cool completely before removing/cutting it. 

Once the cake has completely cooled, use a cake ring and cut out three even layers. If your sheet of cake is not large enough to cut three layers, you can cut out two nice cake layers and use the scraps to construct a bottom layer. Alternatively, you can make a two-layered cake and make mini cakes with the remainder of the cake. The possibilities are endless! I cut out two thick cake layers and cut those in half...making a four layer cake. 

To assemble, place a layer of cake down and smother on a generous portion of the cream cheesing filling. Alternate between the cake layer and cream cheese layers until you have a cake with desired cake and cream cheese layers.

Decorate the cake however you like. I used a combination of matcha meringues, berries and flowers. Before I topped the cake with berries and flowers, I dusted a thin coat of matcha sugar on the top layer of the cake - I thought this made the cake look more presentable. To make the matcha sugar, just sift matcha powder over icing sugar and the amount of matcha depends on what colour you want the matcha sugar to be. You can skip this step if your top layer is a cream cheese layer (versus a naked cake layer).

Black sesame cream cheese
In a bowl, beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form and set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, and ground black sesame. Beat until smooth, then gently fold in whipped cream with a spatula.

Optional: Meringue Pebbles (make these the night before):
Preheat the oven to 200F and place a piece of parchment paper atop a baking sheet.

In a glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites until foamy using an electric mixer. Sprinkle in the powdered sugar and matcha powder a little at a time, while continuing to whip at medium speed. When the mixture becomes stiff and shiny, stop mixing, and transfer the mixture to a  pastry bag. Pipe the meringue out onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 1.5 hours, turn off oven, and let meringues sit in the oven overnight if possible. Meringues should be dry to the touch and can be easily removed from baking sheet.

Photography & Editing || Victor Yuen

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Dulce de Leche Rosemary Shortbread Sandwich Cookies

What?!!?11?11? You're a Star Wars fan?!?!111?1!1

Sorry to burst your bubble...but unfortunately I do not know much about Star Wars. I just knew that I needed these Star Wars cookie cutters when I first saw them online. I knew I wanted make the Yoda ones matcha flavoured, the Darth Vader ones would be flavoured and coloured with ground black sesame, chocolate espresso for the Chewbacca, and something simple for C-P3O. I used my trusty shortbread cookie recipe as the base for all these flavoured cookies and played around with the proportions of ingredients that added the flavours and/or colours of each character cookie. Note to self: don't just add additional spoonfuls of ground black sesame without adjusting the proportions of other dry ingredients. The cookie will turn out way too dry. 
I made these Star Wars cookies for a friend quite a while back and kept some of the leftover dough in freezer. (Yes, you can freeze cookie dough for later use.) I found that shortbread dough freezes really nicely, but dough for cookies that are meant to be softer and chewier does not freeze as nicely. The chewy cookies lose some of that...chewy factor once the dough has been frozen for a while. Remember to keep the dough sealed properly if you do decide to freeze it. Let the dough soften up just a bit at room temperature when you take it out of the freezer so it is easier to work with. 
Anyways, this post is not about the differently flavoured shortbread cookies (sorry, if you were expecting that). They are Yoda-shaped though just 'cause they are more fun that way. This post is about my favourite shortbread cookie, my go-to, my I'm-not-sure-what-to-give-you-so-I-made-you-a-jar-of-cookies kinda cookie.  It is a sweet and savoury rosemary shortbread cookie. There is just something about the balance of the sweet, the savoury, and the earthy notes of the ingredients when they are all combined. I like to think of these as a grown-up, mature version of a classic all-butter shortbread cookie. If the classic shortbread cookie was the girl next door, these rosemary ones would be the mysterious new girl in the little black dress that just moved across the hall. 
The recipe for these rosemary shortbread cookies is probably the recipe that I have used the most. I have made them so many times that I have the recipe memorized. Every time I make these cookies without having to refer to the recipe I have written down, I say to myself, 'If I were on some cooking TV show and the challenge was to make a cookie on the spot, I would be in really good shape!' I have that exact same thought every. single. time. I watch The Food Network way too religiously. 
These cookies are really good by themselves, sans filling, without the frills and thrills. But if you are craving something a little sweeter, or maybe you are just a super big fan of dulce de leche (let's be honest here, who isn't a big fan of dulce de leche), feel free to sandwich some of that heavenly goodness in between two of these bite-sized cookies. Now they are pretty much a salted caramel cookie with a subtle rosemary note. What's not to love?

Dulce de Leche Rosemary Shortbread Sandwich Cookies

Rosemary Shortbread
225g (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

125g (1 cup) powdered sugar, sifted

2 teaspoon finely minced dried rosemary

1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

300g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
Olive oil (optional)

Dulce de Leche 
1 can sweetened condensed milk
(Or cheat and just buy a jar of it at the store. I won't tell. I promise.)

Rosemary Shortbread:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on low speed until smooth. Add the sugar, rosemary and salt. Mix on low speed until well combined. Add the flour and mix on low speed until just uniform in texture. 

Gather the dough into a ball. Transfer to a piece of parchment paper, cover with a second piece of parchment and flatten to form a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 5 days. If you are running low on time, just throw it in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the dough into whatever shapes you like and place them on the lined baking sheet. These won’t spread too much, if at all.

Bake until golden around the edges, approximately 14 - 16 minutes. When I am making these cookies without the filling, I like to brush a coat of olive oil on the cookies right when they come out of the oven. When filling the cookies with something sweet like dulce de leche, you can omit this step.

Dulce de Leche Filling:
Honestly, with the time and effort (did I mention time?) that it takes to make your own dulce de leche, whether you're using a can of condensed milk or making it from scratch, it is much more efficient and practical to buy already-made dulce de leche from the store. But if you do want to make your own, this is the sweetened condensed milk route.

Remove the label from the can and place the can on its side in a large pot. Fill the pot with room temperature water and make sure the water level rises at least two inches above the top of the can. It is extremely important that the entire can of condensed milk stays fully submerged in the water during the cooking process. The water level should never get any lower than one inch above the can as it cooks, so make sure to check on the water level every half hour and be ready to add more boiling water as needed.

Simmer the can for two to three hours, depending on how dark you want the dulce de leche to be. The only downside of cooking condensed milk in the can is that you cannot really tell how dark the dulce de leche is until you open the can. Always let the can of condensed milk return to room temperature before opening it. Do not open the can while it's still hot, as the hot dulce de leche may squirt out because of the pressure inside the can. Oh yeah, the can will be piping hot. Use tongs. Please.

Transfer some of the dulce de leche into a piping bag and used it to fill the cooled cookies. You can simply use a spoon but I used a piping bag to make it a tad bit less messy. You will have some dulce de leche leftover after filling the sandwich cookies. This is not a bad thing. Drizzle it on everything you eat for the next three meals. You can thank me later. 

This recipe makes 50 - 60 two-bite individual shortbread cookies or 25 - 30 sandwich cookies. You can easily halve or double the recipe. I would suggest doubling, because these sweet and savoury cookies, even on their own, are extremely addictive.

Photography & Editing || Victor Yuen

Friday, 10 April 2015

Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches (Behind the Scenes + Styling)

As I promised, here is the second part of the ice cream sandwich shoot! If you missed the first part of this ice cream sandwich project and would like the recipes for the funfetti and peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, you can find the link here. If you are here to take a sneak peek of the behind-the-scenes dealio of what went down that day, you are in the right place.
I met Lucy before we decided to collaborate on this project together. We met through Instagram and shared a crepe and some Earnest Ice Cream at our favourite neighbourhood cafe quite a while back. Roughly a month or two ago, Lucy suggested that we work on a shoot together, where Victor and I can do our usual thing and she will go ahead and do the styling for the shoot. I have never had anyone style me before, so this was a whole new (fun!) experience.
Lucy got in contact with a few jewellery designers and an online high quality consignment shop to pull a few looks for me. The jewellery Lucy brought that day were dainty little pieces that she thought matched my personal style. She knew exactly what kind of jewellery I like, despite only meeting me a few times. She also got this beaaaautiful blue dress which I know I could live in forever. 
Lucy even managed to get Earnest Ice Cream to agree to provide all the ice cream we needed that day to make the lovely ice cream sandwiches. We had quite a hard time choosing which flavours we wanted for the cookie sandwiches, because let's be honest, all the Earnest flavours are to die for. We went with my favourites whiskey hazelnut and a classic, the Tahitian vanilla. 
Having Lucy change my outfits and jewellery in between shots was something I had to get use to, but something I did not mind at all. Working with both Victor and Lucy was a lot of fun. We spent an entire afternoon playing with dresses, bracelets, rings, and ice cream - what more could I ask for? 

I hope you enjoyed the ice cream sandwiches if you got a chance to make them already, the lovely photos Victor took of them, and this set of behind-the-scenes photos as well. I also threw in some tripod selfies at the end here. They are my favourite. 

Photography & Editing || Victor Yuen
Styling & Clothing || Lucy Yun, Closet Crows
Jewellery || Foe & Dear, C for Charlotte, Sarah Mulder Jewelry
Ice Cream || Earnest Ice Cream