December 31, 2011

Candy Cane Cookies

My last official holiday cookie post. Actually, it's also my last post of the year! I can't believe 2011 is almost over. Happy New Year's Eve!

Every year I always want to put something minty in my cookie boxes. Peppermint just seems to be a must during the holiday season what with seeing candy canes all over the place. I was tempted to remake last year's mint chocolate chip truffles, but decided at the last minute to try something new this year. I searched for candy cane cookie recipe and found these cute cookies. They're super festive and just minty enough, a wonderful addition to a set of holiday cookies.

Gingerbread Gentlemen

My second holiday post for this year: Gingerbread Gentlemen.

Every year at Christmas, ever since I started baking 4 years ago, I've been making my go-to Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookie recipe to share with friends and family. To keep things interesting, last year I started playing around with the appearance of my gingerbread men and made Gingy-bread Men (a la Shrek). This year, to mix things up, I stuck to royal icing and made Gingerbread Gentlemen.

They're one part Victorian men's fashion, one part Mr. Moneybags, and one part Mr. Peanut, which combines so many things I like: the 19th century*, board games, pop culture cartoons, fancy schmancy accessories (bow ties, top hats, monocles, and walking sticks**), and of course, mustached cookies. Win? You bet :P. They seemed to be many of my friends' favorite cookie out of all my holiday cookies.

*more specifically: art, literature, and history
**too bad there wasn't room for pocket squares and braces/suspenders

December 28, 2011

Santa Sugar Cookies

Hope all of you had a wonderful holiday break! Last week was nonstop cookie baking. To one-up last year, I had two rounds of cookies this year: one featuring oldies, but goodies (most of which are already on this blog) and another which centered around newer recipes.

Before I started baking this year's holiday cookies, I looked back at all of my past holiday cookie recipes and was surprised to see that there was nothing centered around Santa Claus. Thus, I decided that some sort of Santa cookie was a must this year. I didn't want something too complicated, so I stuck with a circular cookie cutter and my go-to sugar cookie recipe. When I think of Santa, I see his signature hat, rosy cheeks and a red nose (because it'd be freezing riding around in a sleigh all night), a big beard, and an all-around jolly face. So today I have a how-to guide for making Santa sugar cookies.

November 29, 2011

Happy 2nd Birthday!

Well this post is way overdue! I've pretty much been out of town since the beginning of November. But now I'm back and ready to start blogging and baking again, especially with the holidays coming up.

About a month ago was Diamonds for Dessert's second birthday! Like last year, I decided to celebrate my blog's (belated) birthday with a cake. Because what better way is there to celebrate a birthday than with cake? Anyway, I've been pretty addicted to pinterest lately and after seeing a bunch of gorgeous ruffle cakes, I knew I needed to try making one. Turns out they're really easy and fast to decorate. No need to worry about perfecting your icing technique or smoothly frosting the cake since it all gets covered up by the ruffles!

The highlight here is the frosting. This is the first time I've tried making a swiss meringue buttercream and I must ask, "Why haven't I tried this before???" It has a wonderfully light texture and it's not too sweet, which I love. The thing I dislike most about simple buttercream is that it needs so much powdered sugar to stiffen up, which makes the frosting too sweet most of the time. But that's not the case with swiss meringue buttercream. The strawberry puree makes this frosting even better, acting as a natural food coloring while flavoring the buttercream to taste like fresh strawberry ice cream! This amazing strawberry buttercream + my go-to chocolate cake recipe + ruffles = the perfect cake for a celebration.

October 30, 2011

Jack-o'-Lantern Cookies

Halloween is tomorrow! Which of course, means some Halloween baking. Since I always make something with pumpkin around this time of year, I decided to make some pumpkin cookies this year.

Every year, I always think about carving a Jack-o'-Lantern, but I never do. It's always either realizing I have nowhere to put it or being too lazy to clean up the mess that comes along with it. Well, this year, I came up with a solution to this desire to carve something: Jack-o'-Lantern cookies, carving cookies not pumpkins. It's entertaining and not too difficult to do. Plus pumpkin and chocolate just seem to go very well together. Overall, a fun and delicious fall activity.

October 03, 2011

Bacon Epi

It seems that I haven't posted about bread for a long time on this blog. Well, that's about to change since I'm on a bread making kick. There are too many bread recipes I need to share :).

Now that I think about it, this was one of the first recipes I put together back when I started baking. The story is that in high school, my mom used to buy these long loaves of chewy french bread filled with pockets of bacon from a bakery at a local mall. I loved that it could be easily pulled apart into individual servings. My family always referred to it as "bacon bread". Eventually though, the bakery went out of business and we had no more bacon bread.

A few years later, when I finally took up baking, I thought back to the bread and realized that it was going to be difficult to find a recipe since I had no idea what it was called. But I figured the recipe wouldn't be too hard to recreate, just a baguette recipe with some bacon. After a bit of research, I finally discovered that this is referred to as "pain d'epi". An "epi" is an ear of wheat, which is what the shape is supposed to resemble. This bread recipe is one of my go-to recipes because it's not too difficult and it isn't that time consuming (relatively speaking for bread making), and of course, it's delicious.

September 13, 2011

Flaky Taro Mooncakes

Thanks everyone for the ukulele advice! I'm surprised so many of you play the ukulele. I think I'm going to order a cheaper one off Ebay first and attempt to teach myself with the links you all provided :D.

So, the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節) was yesterday, which meant mooncakes! What typically comes to mind when thinking about mooncakes are those brown, tender-crusted pastries stamped with intricate designs and words of good fortune, basically Cantonese-style mooncakes. Two years ago, I made that type of mooncake from scratch, but truth be told, it was a pain in the butt (and that's coming from me, someone who enjoys challenging recipes). I prefer buying them from an Asian bakery since they're so widely available. So instead, today, I'm going to blog about a different type of mooncake, one that's less time consuming to make, but equally delicious.

Every year, my mom makes Taiwanese-style mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival. They are pale and flaky and are less widely available, because unlike Cantonese mooncakes which need to age for optimal texture, Taiwanese mooncakes taste best fresh from the oven. The traditional filling for these is a mix of mung bean paste and ground pork, which creates a wonderful savory and sweet filling. For a purely sweet dessert, the meat can be left out or the mooncakes are filled with taro paste, as done here. Any way, they're all very tasty, so if you want a change from the typical mooncake, try these out.

P.S. These mooncakes are closely related to the swirly purple taro pastries often found at Asian bakeries. That being said, you don't have to wait until the next Mid-Autumn Festival to make these; just think of them as flaky taro pastries, not mooncakes. Anyway, the first time I had these taro-filled mooncakes was earlier this year, in the spring.

August 24, 2011

Ukulele Shortbread

Well, these cookies have taken a lot longer than I planned due to a lot of recipe testing and weird chocolate-related problems. But I finally got it all sorted out and I'm happy with them :D.

Right now I have this big desire to learn the ukulele, which is strange since I'm not really a musical person. Not to say I didn't try. I played piano for most of my life, but since I really don't like classical music, it never became a big passion of mine. I tried the flute for a while, but that really didn't work out from, well, a lack of skill. Neither did the recorder nor the harmonica. But I think all my recent dreams of lounging on a tropical island (due to a summer stuck inside taking classes and filling out med school secondaries) has gotten to me.

While I usually don't enjoy instrumental music (ie. music with no words), I find myself feeling relaxed when I hear ukulele music; the mellowness is just infectious. I think it's a combination of liking the sound of the instrument itself and the image of the beach and palm trees that automatically pop up in my mind through association. Thus, I was inspired to make ukelele cookies. They're basically chocolate-dipped shortbread, but fancily ukulele-shaped.

P.S. Anyone play the ukulele? Do you have any advice for learning how to play? How difficult would it be to teach myself to play?

July 19, 2011

Harry's Birthday Cake

I been quite busy haven't had time to bake; not even for the 4th of July :O! It's been frustrating since I'm bursting with baking project ideas. Last week, I decided enough was enough. I was craving cake so I decided to find some time in my schedule to bake one.

But because, as you all know, I can't just let things be, I took it one step further and decided that I'd make it a chocolate birthday cake, like the one Hagrid gave to Harry when they first met, but uh, much better tasting (remember Hagrid's rock cakes? haha). I tried to keep the appearance much like the one in the movie though: a bit messy, strangely pink and green, and in need of spell check.

Above: Harry's b-day cake from HP & the Sorcerer's Stone. Photo Credit: twrobot

This cake recipe totally rocks. It's easy to mix together, a one bowl recipe. The cake comes out wonderfully moist, and it isn't too sweet, which is good because then it doesn't compete with the frosting and become overwhelming. The frosting is also easy to put together and it is perfectly creamy and chocolatey. After making this, I've decided that this is now my go-to chocolate cake recipe. If by chance you're one of THOSE people, who doesn't like Harry Potter, do make the cake anyway, just skip the pink and green frosting.

June 05, 2011

Sand Dollar Cookies

My calendar tells me it's summer, but it seems the weather begs to differ. Rain... in June? In California! What gives??? Nonetheless, my brain knows it's summer, and I've been dreaming of lounging around on the beach with the sun in my face, the ocean just a jump and skip away, and the sand beneath my feet.

Of course, given the weather conditions and my current work load, a beach trip will have to wait. So instead, I decided to bake something "beachy" to compensate, sand dollar cookies. I remember learning about sand dollars in science class when I was a kid and thinking that they were super cool. There are folk tales that describe sand dollars as mermaid currency or the lost coins of mermaids. How lovely is that? And apparently, according to Wikipedia, in New Zealand, sand dollars are referred to as sea cookies and snapper biscuits!

For the cookies, I wanted something fragile and not too sweet. I remembered reading up on kuih bangkit, a Malaysian CNY cookie, and thought that they might just work. I've never had kuih bangkit before, so I can't tell you how these cookies differ from actual kuih bangkit, but I can tell you that they fit perfectly with what I imagined for sand dollar cookies. They're white, crisp, and delicate with an interesting texture, a bit like a dry meringue. And tastewise, they're slightly sweet with a hint of coconut. A perfect summer treat!