"Food cooked with love always tastes better!"

- Chef Alicia Perez

Food Journal / Recipes

My New Favorite Cake

Sometime last Febuary, my son put in his request for his birthday cake (his birthday is in October). You see, he had fallen in love with coffee and wanted to “give me plenty of time to come up with something amazing”. After some research and a few kitchen experiments, this is what I came up with. My new favorite cake – chocolate espresso cake with a coffee glaze and an espresso chocolate buttercream frosting. I think you get a cup’s worth of caffeine just saying the name. Oh, and it’s whole wheat! We celebrated his birthday last night and that cake will not stop calling me from the refrigerator. Say this next part in a high pitched,  slow and dreamy voice -  Alicia, come and eat me, I’m so yummy. And I’ve said  back to it all day in a firm voice – be quite cake. Guess what though, at 6 ‘o clock tonight, while dinner was in the oven, the cake won and it was delicious! So, here’s the recipe. I hope you love it as much as we did!
For the Cake
4 oz. dark chocolate (I use Scharfenberger)
2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 c dark brown sugar
1/2 c Splenda (or another 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar)
2 sticks butter ( I use Plugra)
5 eggs
2 Tbls instant espresso powder
1 c  plain yogurt
Prepare two 8″ round cake pans with butter or non-stick spray and line the bottoms with wax paper
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees
1. in a small bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt, stir with a fork or whisk to mix
2. melt chocolate (you can do this in the microwave, 30 seconds then stir and then 15 second intervals until almost melted then stir)
3. beat butter, brown sugar, splenda, eggs, espresso powder, and vanilla in a large bowl for 3 minutes (it will look a little weird with tiny butter speckles)
4. add in melted chocolate while mixing and then mix 1 more minute
5. beat in flour mixture and yogurt 1/3 at a time alternating them
6. bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
7. cool on racks for 10 minutes, run knife around edges and remove from pans, allow to cool before frosting
For the Glaze
1/4 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp. espresso powder
2 Tbls. water
Combine all ingredients, stir and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
For the Buttercream
4 oz dark chocolate – melted ( I used Scharfenberger)
2 tsp. instant espresso powder
3 Tbls. cream
2 sticks butter – room temperature (I use Plugra)
1/2 tsp. salt
4 c powdered sugar
1. dissolve espresso powder into cream
2. beat butter, vanilla and salt until combined – about 3 minutes
3. while mixing, add in melted chocolate
4. add powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy
5. beat in espresso mixture until desired consistancy

 

Food Journal / Recent Review

El New Yorican

I recently had the pleasure of eating at El New Yorican, a local Puerto Rican restaurant here in Phoenix. Puerto Rican food is something that has become very close to my heart in the last 11 years (since I met my wonderful husband, Xavier). It is an amazing combination of Meditteranean and “island food” with some influences from Africa and yes, China. These influences stem from way back in history when trade ships from far away places would come to the island with their native food and cooking methods.

Good Puerto Rican food is hard to come by unless you can either cook it, or are part of a Puerto Rican Family. If you don’t have your own family of Puerto Ricans to turn to for some of this delicious food, El New Yorican is the next best thing. It’s like eating at Grandma’s house on the island!

My father- in- law, Carlos, was the person who introduced us to this wonderful restaurant. He had eaten there a few times before and couldn’t stop raving about it. Upon entering El New Yorican with him, Carlos was greeted with a hug and a hand shake from the owner, and from behind the glass kitchen wall, came a wave and a smile from the chef . We sat down and took a look at the menu. As it turns out, they serve all of our favorite dishes, making it impossible to decide. So, we went with one of every appetizer and one main dish. Everything we ate was perfectly prepared and an absolute delight to eat.

Part way through our lunch, the band showed up and started playing. It wasn’t long before half of the guests were up and dancing. The music is as hard to resist as the food! They were soon joined by some women in beautiful long skirts performing some of the traditional island dancing. We had such a great time!

If you are in the Phoenix area, I highly recommend stopping in at El New Yorican. It is casual, and homey, and it is down home Puerto Rican food, at its finest!

El New Yorican

2714 W. Thomas Rd.

Phoenix, AZ 85017

602-314-4330

open Tuesday – Sunday 11a.m.

Food Journal / Culinary 101

The Cookie Method

What is the cookie method you may ask? Well, let me tell you. The cookie method is the fancy (or not so fancy depending on how you look at it) way that professional chefs say “how to mix your cookies right”. There are three different ways of mixing including; the one-stage method, the creaming method (this is the one we will be concentrating on the most today), and the sponge method. Here is a brief overview of each. The One-Stage Method-This method is not used very much because the baker has less control over the mixing than with other methods. However, when you are making a recipe where over-mixing isn’t going to be a problem, like with chewy cookies, this method can be used. The basic procedure goes like this- Measure all of your ingredients. Let them all come to room temperature. Put them in a mixer all at once and mix them until they are uniformly blended. Make sure your’e scraping the sides of the bowl now and then so you don’t end up with clumps of flour in your cookies because that’s disgusting. Mmmmm flour clumps-not! This method is simple and quick and even a child could do it. It is good for macaroons, some bars and a few other recipes. So moving on…. The Creaming Method- Although I’ve never googled this fact or anything, I think it is safe to say that this is the most commonly used method of making cookies. It is what you use when you make chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies and several others. The amount you “cream” will affect your cookies texture, the leavening and how much it spreads. You should only cream a little if you want your cookies to hold their shape (you don’t want to loose the edges on those pretty Christmas Trees). If your cookie is short (chef talk for “high in fat and low in gluten development”) or if you are making one of those very delicate thin cookies, too much creaming will make your cookie crumble-literally. So here is the basic procedure; 1. measure all of your ingredients 2. let them come to room temperature 3. put the fat, sugar, salt, and spices into the mixing bowl and cream them on low speed *note that you can also blend your spices and salt into your dry ingredients *for lighter cookies, cream until light and fluffy, this incorporates more air for leavening *for denser cookies, cream to a smooth paste, but do not cream until light 4. add the eggs and any liquid and blend at low speed 5. blend in your dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder) *mix just until combined, you’re making cookies, not bread The following video is The Creaming Method, it is for small at home cookie batches. If your recipe requires more than 2 eggs, I recommend adding 2 at a time and blending a little in between additions.

If you follow these basic steps, you should come out with a pretty nice cookie in the end. If your cookies still are coming out like crappies, check out the “what’s wrong with my cookies” at the end of this article. And last but not least… The Sponge Method-This procedure can vary considerably, depending on the ingredients you’re using. The batches should be kept small because the batter is super delicate, in other words, don’t double recipes that require this method because your cookies won’t come out. This method is generally used for meringue cookies. 1. measure your ingredients 2. let them come to room temperature (for greater volume warm your eggs a little) 3. whip your eggs and sugar together until the desired consistency *soft peaks if you’re only whipping whites, thick and light if you’re whipping yolks or whole eggs 4. fold in the rest of the ingredients according to the recipe *do not over-mix or deflate your eggs

AAAAAAAHHHHHHH – What’s Wrong With My Cookies So, you’ve followed all the advice, you’ve measured and re-measured, but for some reason, you still can’t make a decent cookie. There are a few common mistakes you may be making.

If…… your cookies taste bad- I would first of all check your ingredients, make sure nothing is expired or spoiled. Also, maybe switch brands. Then ask yourself these questions – Did you forget one of the flavoring ingredients maybe? Were your pans totally clean or is there some mysterious stuff burned on them that you can’t seem to scrub off? Did you measure properly? Is there anything burned onto the bottom of your oven that’s smoking while you’re cooking?

your cookies are tough (and I don’t mean they can take a hit)-you may need to switch flours-did you use a bread flour? That is a cookie no-no. Try a more delicate flour, AP flour is good for most, but you can try a pastry flour too.

your cookies stick to the pan- you may have used too much sugar or you need to grease your pan, silly.

your cookies are crumbly-you may not have mixed them properly. This could also be a problem with the recipe such as not enough eggs, or too much sugar, shortening or too much leavening. If you’re not a professional, I don’t recommend trying to adjust the recipe because ingedients are expensive, time is precious and there are plenty of other cookie recipes in the sea.

your cookies are too brown-you are likely baking them too long or at too high of a temperature

your cookies are not browning-most likely they need to bake longer, you may need to raise the temperature, or there may not be enough sugar in them, this can happen when using a sugar substitute also

your cookies have a sugar crust-either you didn’t mix them right, or there’s too much sugar

your cookies are hard-you probably baked them too long or at too low of a temperature. The recipe could also be off. If they still taste good tell everyone you were trying a new shape for biscotti and have them dip them in milk or coffee.

your cookies are dry-you probably baked them too long or at too low of a temperature, it could also be the recipe. Again if they taste good go with the biscotti story.

your cookies spread out too much-this could be from too low of a baking temperature, not pre-heating (shame on you, you know your recipe said to pre-heat and if it didn’t, well now you know for next time), you may have over greased your pan, just calm it down a little next time and don’t get crazy with the spray, you may also be over-creaming

your cookies don’t spread (and they should)-you may have your oven temperature too high, you may need more grease on your pan, your recipe may be off-try a different recipe

I hope that after reading this article all of your cookie dreams come true. Happy baking!

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