Thursday, September 30, 2010

Smashburger Mission Valley

7610 Hazard Center
San Diego, California 92108

After a good experience at the sneak peek of Smashburger in Del Mar, I was excited to see another location opening in Mission Valley, which is closer to where I live.

Since Smashburger is a chain, I thought the food at the Mission Valley location would be similar to the food at the Del Mar location. But my experience ended up being vastly different.

I ordered a mushroom and swiss burger.

One of the things I had loved during my Del Mar experience was that the bun stayed dry. The bottom bun for this burger was soggy and oily. Also it seemed like the patty was too wide for the bun. Most of the meat was outside the bun area.  The worst part was that the meat was extremely oily.  At first, I thought it was a result of the melted swiss cheese, but when I tried BF's burger, it was also super oily. It ended up being too oily for me to even finish.

I also got a side of vegetable frites, which I had heard good things about.  Carrots, beans and asparagus are flash fried without any batter and seasoned.  Because they are flash fried, the vegetables retained their crunchiness. The seasoning made the vegetables pretty tasty and I guess it's a healthier alternative to fries.

BF got the bacon cheeseburger.  He got a side of the smashfries we had enjoyed last time and he also got a side of chili. He thought the burger was too oily as well, and his bun was soggy.

He liked the chili though. I thought the chili was alright, but nothing special.

My favorite thing of the night were the fries.  I like rosemary and olive oil they are cooked in.

I probably won't be back at this location. I haven't yet tried the La Jolla location. Perhaps I'll try it next to see if it matches my Del Mar experience.




Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chocolate Chunk Muffin Tops

I bought a muffin top pan a while back, but I've only used it once so far to make blueberry muffin tops.  So recently I decided to make some chocolate chunk muffin tops.

I had a hard time spreading this dough onto the muffin top pan because it was pretty sticky.  The muffin tops didn't bake up as puffy and prettily as I wanted.

Eating these giant muffin tops are a bit like eating muffin cookies. I've always loved the tops of muffins, but for some reason these muffin tops don't give me the same feeling as eating the tops off of muffins.

I'll keep trying some other recipes, so my pan doesn't go to waste.

Chocolate Chunk Muffin Tops (adapted from Dorie Greenspan recipe, found on Susi's Kochen Und Backen Adventures)


3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used bittersweet baking chips by Ghiradelli)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Butter or spraymuffin top pan.

3. Melt the butter and half of the chocolate together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; or do this in a microwave. Remove from the heat.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients and the melted butter and chocolate over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a  rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being thorough – a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate. Dived the batter evenly among the muffins cups.

5. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the muffin tops comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Easy Honey Beer Bread

One of my favorite recipes in the past has been this easy honey beer bread. I love that I can get bread so easily and without having to actually deal with yeast.  The past few times when I made this bread, one of the problems I encountered was that I had to bake the bread a lot longer than the recipe called for and sometimes there would still be a tiny section that was left uncooked.  Several of my readers had a similar problem.

I wanted to revisit the recipe and tinker with it, but didn’t get a chance to until now. It’s been so long since I’ve made it, that I decided to make the recipe as written and then figure out how to tinker with it after. Before I made the bread, I searched the internet for other similar recipes, but I kept finding the same recipe.

So the funny thing is, I followed the recipe, and this time it came out fine! No extra baking time needed, no dough left uncooked. There was only two things I did differently, and not with the intent of tinkering with the recipe.

First, I skipped the last step of adding melted butter. I don’t recommend this. The reason I did this is that every time I made this bread, a lot of the butter just ends up sitting at the bottom of the bread. So I decided to take this step out. But it made a difference. The bread tasted good, but something was missing. I think it was the butter poured over the top that was missing.

The second change I made was the mixing time of the dough. I had previously read that the dough shouldn’t be overmixed. This time I barely mixed the dough. Barely, barely. After throwing the last ingredient in, I just gave it a few quick stirs just so all the ingredients came together. Then I stopped mixing. I think this may have been the reason for the better results. I’ve had other recipes with yeast where after mixing a bit too much, the dough wouldn’t bake properly.

I’m always amazed at how easy this recipe is to make.  As someone who is still having problems with yeast recipes, I love being able to churn out regular bread with this foolproof recipe.

Honey Beer Bread  (Adapted from gimme some oven)



  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. honey or agave nectar
  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) beer
  • 4 Tbsp. (half stick) butter, melted


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9? x 5? inch loaf pan.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Using a wooden spoon, stir the beer and honey into the dry ingredients until just mixed.  (I put my honey in the microwave for a few seconds as was suggested by gimme some oven, so that it was easier to mix. I barely, barely mixed the dough. Just a few strokes to make sure all the ingredients had come together and all the dry ingredients were incooperated into beer.)

3. Pour half the melted butter into the loaf pan. Then spoon the batter into the pan, and pour the rest of the butter on top of the batter. 

4. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until top is golden brown and a toothpick/knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.