So not all of my baking ideas always pan out. I thought it would be great to add some purple sweet potato puree to the tangzhong breads I’ve been making. I imagined a soft and fluffy bread, lightly flavored with sweet potato, with a light purple hue.

I figured I could just mash some sweet potato in while kneading the dough and then perhaps add a little bread flour to make up for the additional moisture. But I figured wrong. Once I added the sweet potato mash to the bread dough, it simply would not knead together. The dough was super super sticky.

Every time I touched it, it was like bubble gum stuck to my fingers! I wonder if it would have made a difference if I had kneaded the dough first and after the dough was finished, add some sweet potato puree and mix rather than adding the puree directly into the dough mixture to be kneaded.

Anyhow, my solution was to continue to dump bread flour, but it still didn’t come together. Until suddenly it did, but by this time the dough was really dry…and I hadn’t increased the instant yeast so I knew the dough would not rise as much as it should.

With all the baking problems going on, I ended up not having enough time to let the dough properly rise. It was late and I had to get up early in the morning. So I baked it before the dough was finished proofing.

The bread still turned out okay. It looked like bread and it tasted like bread and was still relatively soft. It definitely did not come out the way I had imagined when I started the bread. I actually think it looks quite pretty though the taste didn’t live up to what I was trying to create. I won’t post the recipe on this one because I’m going to work on improving it and when I produce a bread like the one I imagined in my head, I’ll share the recipe.

This past weekend the BF and I had the pleasure of dining with one of my favorite LA food bloggers, Rosa from Dining with the Catty Critic, along with her husband and two of their foodie friends.

We had brunch at Fraiche LA in Culver City (not to be confused with the Santa Monica location). A few months ago, Fraiche hired Chef Ben Bailey to helm their kitchen and rework the menu. Chef Bailey is well loved by the food bloggers in LA and I’ve been wanting to try his culinary skills since he worked at Petrossian though I never got a chance to. After reading numerous drool worthy posts which can be found here, here, here, and here, I decided I couldn’t stand to read another post and had to make a visit.

The BF and I arrived in record setting time, as there was no traffic at all during our drive up. I believe this is the first time this has occurred. Apparently no one is on the road the morning of Superbowl Sunday (but surprisingly a lot of them are on the road when the Superbowl starts…). Also, no one is out eating either, as the restaurant was uncharacteristically empty.

Unfortunately for me, Chef Bailey was not working that day, so I didn’t get to meet him. I guess I will have to revisit at another time.

Catty Critic, having already dined at Fraiche on several occasions, was an expert on the menu and gave us a run-down of what to order.

For appetizers, we shared the piquillo cheese spread and smoked trout rillettes. Both spreads were served in cute little jars accompanied by slices of fresh bread. The piquillo cheese spread tasted like a gourmet version of nacho cheese. I loved the spice and the little bits of chorizo inside.

However, my favorite spread was definitely the smoked trout. It was creamy and smokey with just the right amount of herbs and lemon mixed into the flavors. I couldn’t stop eating this stuff.

One thing I noticed though was that our bread was not toasted. In the posts I had read, the bread had been toasted.

Catty Critic also ordered a fruit salad which was supposed to be accompanied with a ginger syrup. I forgot to take a picture of the fruit salad, but it arrived plain without any accompaniments. When she inquired as to the syrup, they had to actually get out the menu and check before confirming that it was supposed to have a syrup. They quickly remedied the situation and provided the syrup, but it appears the syrup was not very gingery.

For my main entree I ordered the truffle burger, something I’d been eyeing for quite a while. There is an option to add a fried egg on the burger, and at Catty Critic’s suggestion, I chose to do so.

I ordered the burger a medium and it was more of a well done. However the burger was very moist, juicy and the truffle oil really raised the taste to a new level. The bread bun was toasted and was hefty enough to hold up the burger. The runny egg yolk added a deliciously messy factor to the burger. The burger was served with a side of fries, which was the only thing I didn’t like on my plate.

BF chose the daily handmade pasta which on that day was bucatini carbonara. The pasta was tossed in a creamy sauce with little bits of crispy pancetta. BF and Catty Critic’s husband both chose this dish and loved it. Again, the previous versions I had seen of this pasta, it was topped with a slow poached egg, which I can only imagine would have made this dish even more delicious. On this occasion there was no egg.

Catty Critic ordered the brioche french toast, which she really enjoyed.

I was pretty full when we were done but after Catty Critic’s description of the mango and passionfruit panna cotta dessert, I couldn’t help but want to try it. We decided to share one. The panna cotta is topped with a layer of passionfruit gelee and chopped mangos, and then garnished with some pop rocks.

The panna cotta was just the right amount of sweetness for me and I liked the tiny bits of mango pieces that lay on the top layer. The little pop rocks added a fun and playful factor to the dessert.

Overall, we had a nice relaxing brunch. I loved hanging out with Catty Critic and meeting her husband and friends. I liked what I ate, but I couldn’t help but notice some inconsistencies in the kitchen without the executive chef around. Gastronomer recently noted a similar inconsistency in experience from when she dined with Chef Bailey and then without.

Hopefully I’ll have another chance to return when Chef Bailey is around.

Fraiche LA
9411 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
Phone : 310-839-6800

Many chinese cakes are steamed rather than baked. Another characteristic of many chinese cakes is that the cupcake and muffins will have a split open top. You will often see this in cakes served at dim sum or in chinese bakeries. I love the split open top look. It makes the cake look so soft and fluffy as if it is bursting open. The bursting open also shows the tender crumb of the inside of the cake which isn’t apparent in a cake that hasn’t opened.
Recently I stumbled on a series of pumpkin desserts made by “Table for 2 … or more.” I will definitely be revisiting these desserts come next October. However, I couldn’t resist trying a few of them out now.

One entry was for some beautiful pumpkin muffins and I thought that I could try making them but with purple sweet potatoes as I have been on a mission to make as many different kinds of desserts as possible with purple sweet potatoes now that I have finally discovered how to get them to retain their purple color rather than turning gray or green. You can read about my discovery here.

I love the color purple and being able to create purple desserts without food coloring has been so exciting. I modded the recipe slightly since I was using purple sweet potatoes. The cakes came out beautifully. They split open quite nicely and were a pretty pinkish purple.

The texture of the cake is definitely more muffin than cupcake. It is a little bit dense as the result of using a small amount rice flour. I think I may attempt this again without any rice flour. I recently looked back at the original recipe which Table for 2 or more adapted from and it does not use rice flour so I think I might be able to get a fluffier texture without the rice flour.

Purple Sweet Potato Muffins
(adapted from Table for 2…or more)
125gm steamed purple sweet potato
1 egg
120gm sugar
120gm milk
30gm vegetable oil
180gm cake flour
20gm rice flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1. Put steamed purple sweet potato flesh, egg, sugar, milk and oil in blender or food processor and process so that the mixture becomes a smooth paste.
2. Sift cake flour, rice flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl.
3. Pour in the wet ingredients and stir until combined.
4. Prepare large pot of boiling water and place steamer on top. You can also use a rice cooker steamer.
5. Spoon batter into cupcake liners. Place the cupcake liners in a firm mold such as ramekins so that the cupcakes hold their form while cooking. Fill cupcake liners about 3/4 full and steam on high heat for 15 minutes.