Monday, November 29, 2010

Pumpkin spice cakes

After using my Martha Stewart collection pumpkin cake pan to make mini mochi pumpkin cakes, I wanted to use it again because it’s such a cute pan.  So I made some mini pumpkin cakes.

These were small, cute, and tasty. I love the little pumpkin shapes. The pan has been working out great. The cakes slide right out.

These molds are perfect for presenting simple cakes. I baked a bunch of mini pumpkin cakes to give to relatives over the Thanksgiving weekend and everyone seemed to like them.

Pumpkin spice cakelets (adapted from here)

Ingredients

1 cup pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground ginger

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cupcake/muffin molds with oil.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar with an electric mixer.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Using an electric mixer on low speed,  mix the dry ingredients with the pumpkin mixture until just blended.  Pour into the cupcake molds about 2/3 full.
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes  or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Liang’s Kitchen Irvine

5408 Walnut Ave
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 262-1404
Liang's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

A few weeks ago, I wrote about tasting the hand pulled noodles and beef noodle soup at Mama Liang’s House, a small popular chain  in LA and the  Bay Area that is known for its beef noodle soup, beef pancake rolls, and Juan cuisine.  You can read more about Juan cuisine in my previous post.

When I tried their new location in the Bay Area, I left feeling satisfied but not overly impressed. However, after a few weeks of sitting around in San Diego, which is sadly devoid of hand pulled noodles and good beef noodle soup, I was craving Mama Liang’s hand pulled noodles like crazy.

So when we had some errands to run in Costa Mesa, I made plans to check out the Mama Liang’s in Irvine, called Liang’s Cuisine. To my surprise, when I looked it up, the reviews were mixed, whereas the one in the Bay Area had rave reviews.

It was cold and rainy when we arrived so I forgot take a picture of the front.  This location was a tiny hole in the wall spot, which I also found surprising. We immediately spotted it though because despite the plaza being full of restaurants, it was the only one with a crowd outside waiting.

Luckily, we were able to get a table right away. A steaming bowl of beef noodle soup sounded perfect in the cold weather. BF decided to try something different and went with the beef dry noodles. We also ordered some spicy wontons.

One thing I noticed on this occasion is that there are a lot more dishes offered on the order sheet than are listed on the menu. I was afraid of trying one of the dishes on the order list though, thinking it likely isn’t very good if it’s not on the menu.

Our food arrived much more quickly than at the other location. The noodles were wide, thick and chewy like I remembered them. The broth though, was a lot saltier compared to the other place we had visited.


BF’s dry noodles were served with marinated beef slices. He thought the sauce was really really salty and he could barely eat it.

The spicy wontons were just okay in my opinion. Nothing special.

I was surprised at how different this location was. Overall, the food was too salty and I don’t think we will be back. I did think the servers were really nice and friendly though.

There was one amusing incident. At a lot of these small shops, the assumption is always that you speak chinese and so they will speak chinese to you when you walk in and only switch to English if it becomes apparent you don’t speak chinese. I’ve always thought it was amusing that they even speak chinese to BF. Usually it’s not an issue since I do all of the ordering.

On this particular night, while we were waiting for our food, BF had his sketch pad out and was sketching away. When the waitress came to give us our food she spotted the drawing pad and asked to see it, except she said it in chinese. Before I could translate, BF got the gist of her request and handed over his sketchbook. Since he had responded, she then began continuing to carry a conversation with him in chinese. To my great amazement/amusement, he seemed to be able to guess what she was saying by her gestures and he would respond in English and they carried on like that for quite a while before she finally switched to talking to him in English.

It was definitely the best part of the dinner experience. I’m disappointed that the food at this location is not as good as some of the others. Hopefully things will improve.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Soft and chewy Nutella chocolate chip cookies

One of the things I find so fascinating about chocolate chip cookies is that even though each recipe requires the same basic ingredients, a different ratio of the ingredients and slight tweaks in the recipe can create such a different taste. With other recipes, I don’t often taste the different variations of similar recipes, but with chocolate chip cookies, a few slight variations can make such a difference.

A few months ago, I tried a nutella chocolate chip cookie that I absolutely loved. Since then I’ve been playing around with the recipe, trying to achieve my ultimate recipe. This weekend, playing around with the ratios led me to a soft and chewy version of these cookies.

The cookies were puffy, but were also soft and chewy. And they remained chewy for days due to the layer of nutella nestled inside. I decorated the tops with Nestle swirl chips. A few years ago, I found these swirl chips and completely fell in love with them. I loved the color. And then they took them away! I don’t know why. Apparently they weren’t selling well. I was devastated. I used the swirl chips for all my chocolate chip cookie recipes and couldn’t believe they were gone. (They also came out with green and red ones for Christmas, which also got discontinued.)

Recently, in an attempt to search for them again in the hopes Nestle would bring them back, I found out that Nestle has come back out with the regular swirl chocolate chips. But they are hard to get. I couldn’t find them at my local grocery stores, and using the store finder on the Nestle website, the nearest location that carried them was more than half an hour away and they were out of stuck. Luckily, Amazoncarries them. Unfortunately, they are in bulk. So I had to buy more than I wanted to, but I’d rather have more of these then none at all. I’ll just have to bake more chocolate chip cookies. =)

I prefer a more crunchy outside with a chewy inside, so these weren’t ideal for me. I like soft and chewy as well, and these make a great soft and chewy cookie, but I’ll continue to play around with this recipe.

Soft and chewy nutella chocolate chip cookies (adapted from this recipe)

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp Nutella
1 cup chocolate chips

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, cream the butter, the sugar and the brown sugar. Add the eggs and the vanilla until combined.

3. Gradually add the flour mixture until the mixture is combined.

4. Mix in the nutella until it is combined with the dough.  Then add in the chocolate chips. If you are working with swirl chips, I usually mix in 2/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips into the batter and then save the swirl chips to put on top of the dough once I scoop the dough balls onto the parchment paper.
5. Use an ice cream scoop to scoop dough balls onto cookie sheets. I usually smooth them into round balls in my palm before placing them on the cookie sheet and flatten the balls slightly. Bake for approximately 8 minutes.