June 22, 2010

Casual Tuesdays

My morning routine doesn't include a lot of primping.  At 4am, I'm lucky to put on a matching pair of shoes much less makeup.  Outfit selection is based on a) comfort as I will be wearing it for the next 12-16 hours and b) weather conditions.  If it's a hot summer day it will be a balmy 65 on the sound stage unless you're standing under the lights and who knows what being on location will bring- sun, wind, rain, rain towers?  My closet looks like a cross between 14 year old tomboy and outward bound counselor.  At this point if I decided to go corporate I'd be lost.  Heels and pantyhose?  I'd feel less constricted in a straight jacket.
My kitchen is the one place I do feel comfortable getting fancy and this week's TWD, Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake, provided the perfect opportunity.  Luckily, the only thing high maintenance about this cake is the name because it was so simple to put together.  I opted for downsized glamour by making half the recipe into cupcakes, then I classed them up with piped frosting and candy pearls.

Even us low maintenance gals need a little bling from time to time.
For the recipe, click here.

June 17, 2010

Shades of Pink

While working on set I meet (and get coffee for) lots of celebrities and I'm rarely ever star struck but put me at an event filled with chefs and I turn into a giddy, red faced groupie.
A few weeks ago while volunteering at the Taste of The Nation Los Angeles event, I came face to face with Susan Feniger, of Border Grill, Street and Top Chef Masters fame, and was reduced to a blithering idiot.  The words, "You're so awesome, can I shake your hand," actually came out of my mouth, followed by my dropping a forkful of the Burmese Melon Salad she had just handed me onto her petite feet.  So embarrassing.  Gracious Master Chef that she is, she sweetly helped me pick up my mess and grabbed me a new fork so that I could continue to enjoy the amazing salad she had made.  Luckily the pleasure of eating this refreshing, totally delicious combination of melon, coconut and fresh herbs distracted me from my feelings of humiliation.  Also, I later redeemed myself by managing to speak to and shake the hand of Govind Armstrong without making a spectacle of myself.

I've since recovered from my clumsy brush with fame but could not get this salad out of my mind and just had to make it myself.  With all its complex flavor it is deceptively simple to make and is quickly becoming my favorite summer salad.  I didn't have everything on hand to follow Chef Feniger's recipe exactly but was still able to come pretty close.  The original recipe can be found here.

Burmese Melon Salad with Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette
adapted from Susan Feniger's version
1 small tuscan melon (or cantaloupe), seeded and cubed
1/2 a small seedless watermelon, cubed
1/4 cup mixture chopped fresh basil, mint and cilantro
1/3 cup chopped unsalted, roasted peanuts
2 tbs shredded coconut, lightly toasted
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (approx 2 limes)
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 tsp powdered ginger
1 tbsp fish sauce
3/4 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp white sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Combine melon, herbs, peanuts and coconut in a large bowl.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together oil, lime juice, ginger, sugar and fish sauce
Add dressing to salad, toss.  For added protein,  I topped mine with spicy grilled shrimp.

June 15, 2010

Bigger Than A Bread Box

We are fortunate enough to have three small bedrooms in our triangle house which allows my husband and to each have a room of our own.  Mine was the office/guest bedroom but has now been taken over by the cats.  My husband's room, or "the forbidden room" as we call (see above re:cats), is a sea of computer cables, camera equipment, and laundry in various stages of clean or dirty.  The forbidden room has a secret though- it is the perfect temperature for proofing dough.  Living near-ish to the beach keeps the downstairs pretty chilly even most of the time, the upstairs tends to be on the warm side but that corner bedroom is just right so when this Goldilocks wants to bake bread that's where it goes to rise.  When making this week's TWD, Raisin Swirl Bread, my secret weapon worked a little too well and I had to bake the bread on the lowest rack to avoid it hitting the top burner.  Luckily the rest of the bread managed to grow into it's golden brown top and came out perfectly.

Simply toasted and buttered, a slice of this bread made a perfect breakfast.

Thanks Susan for a great pick!  For the recipe, check out her blog.

June 11, 2010

Fabulous Baker Girl

The piano scene in The Fabulous Baker Boys- in my opinion, hands down one of the sexiest cinematic moments of my generation.  Who hasn't fantasized about serenading/seducing a handsome musician while slinking around a baby grand? 
Well I may not be a musically talented, french cigarette smoking blonde bombshell, but I can make some whoopie... as in these Chocolate Orange Whoopie Pies.

They may not be as sexy and Beau Bridges circa 1989, but they're just as irresistible.

Whoopie Pies
from Epicurious
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.  Stir together buttermilk and vanilla.
Beat butter and brown sugar at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy then add egg, beating until combined well. Reduce speed to low and alternately mix in flour mixture and buttermilk scraping down side of bowl occasionally, and mixing until smooth.
Spoon 1/4-cup mounds of batter about 2 inches apart onto 2 buttered large baking sheets. Bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until tops are puffed and cakes spring back when touched, 11 to 13 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Orange Buttercream
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 tbsp orange zest
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

Beat butter on high speed until smooth.  Reduce speed to low and add sugar and zest until, then increase to medium high and beat until smooth.  For even smoother buttercream, switch to whisk attachment and beat until it has the consistency of sour cream.

June 8, 2010

Sweet Endings

Once a week my husband walks into work with a white box and people are just a little bit happier to see him.  Thus far I've put biscotti, lemon bars, and nutella brownies in that box and when I stopped by there yesterday,  the requests were pouring in. Then, the unthinkable happened, a flyer for the annual office Biggest Loser Competition landed on his desk.
Starting Thursday, everyone is going to be on a diet and I'm thinking those white boxes won't be so well received.  I figured for their last hurrah I'd go big...with White Chocolate Orange Petit Fours.
Sure petit fours are small, but these are huge on flavor.   I started with a lightly orange scented vanilla sponge, brushed with cointreau simple syrup, one layer of orange marmalade and one orange buttercream.  Then, because I wanted to go out swinging, a generous drizzle of white chocolate sprinkled with orange zest.

I know I'll miss filling those boxes as much as they enjoyed emptying them.

The sponge cake and buttercream recipes can be found here.  I have Martina to thank for the white chocolate topping and the inspiration.