Taiwanese Black Bean Noodles

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

If you go into 5 different Taiwanese restaurants and ordered their Black Bean Noodle (called zha jiang mian in Mandarin), chances are you will receive 5 different variations of this one dish! The Black Bean Noodle recipe, like most other Chinese recipes, really depends on the restaurant or family and what their preferences are! Some places use particular sauces, some add in vegetables, and some even add in beef or seafood in place of the pork! With all this variety, keep in mind that many dishes can be tailored to your own preference and what you like!

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

The recipe I have come to adopt was taught to me by my grandfather. The way he makes it includes the use of mushroom, however, I loath their taste and texture and have a self proclaimed allergy to them. Also, most recipes do not use nearly as much tofu in the sauce as I do, however, my family loves tofu (and by family, I mean me), so I tend to add more than usual. Other than that, here is how I make my grandfathers black bean noodles.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

I was pressed for time and wanted to get dinner on the table by 7pm. I began making dinner at exactly 6:20pm, and to speed things up, I set up my 3 pans: 1 cast iron wok, 1 large nonstick pan, and 1 pot filled with water to boil. If you don’t have a wok, then use a pot.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

To begin, you need to fry up the tofu. I used two packages of the Five Spice flavored tofu (total 16 tofu squares, 8 per package). Dice them up into small 1 centimeter cubes.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

In the pan, heat up some oil (I used extra virgin but vegetable or canola will do just fine). Once the oil is hot, pour in the diced tofu and allow it to brown. Stirring the tofu will cause it to break, so use a spatula to continually turn and flip the tofu. If the tofu is sticking to the pot, add more oil.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

While the tofu is browning, you can start on the sauce. Mince about 1-2 Tbsp of garlic and ginger. In wok, add in oil, and once hot, add in the garlic and ginger. Saute until the aroma of garlic comes out, then add in the pork. Use a spatula to break up the pork until it is thoroughly cooked. As you can see below, a lot of fat comes out of the pork so use a spoon to get rid of any excess fat.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

Make sure you are still constantly flipping your tofu! Also, once your water is boiling, add in your Chinese dried noodles and cook until tender. Drain and coat with a couple tablespoons of oil to prevent them from sticking to one another and set aside until ready to eat.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

When the pork is cooked and the tofu is browned, they can be combined into the wok. Stir to mix it up evenly, then you may add the sauces.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

My grandfather and I have come to favor the “Lian How Brand” of black bean sauce and the varieties that they produce. There are many many different forms of black bean sauce, but this is our favorite. If you cannot find this particular brand, do not worry, just use which ever black bean sauce you can get your hands on.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

Add in the the different sauces to the wok, and fold it into the tofu meat mixture with a spatula until thoroughly coated. It is always better to add in a little at a time and have room for addition as it is easier to add than it is to take out. At this point, taste a tofu and see if the flavors are okay. If it needs more flavor, add in more black bean sauce. If not salty enough, add in some soy sauce. My family does not like the sauce as salty as my personal preference, so I will sometimes go lighter on the soy sauce. The recipe down below is the standard base, and then you will have to adjust based on your personal preference.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

Once you are satisfied with the taste, add boiling water to the mixture until it is just barely covered and allow it to come to a boil.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

Make a slurry with cornstarch and water. Slowly add in the slurry as you are stirring the mixture. The sauce will begin to thicken. Keep pouring in the cornstarch slurry until it has reached a thick, saucy but still runny consistency. Take a small spoonful of sauce to check the taste one more time and adjust if needed.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

I was able to finish making this in 38 minutes and have dinner ready at 6:58pm!

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

To serve, we have a grater peeler we use for cucumbers. We grate the cucumber directly into an ice water bath to keep it cold and crisp. When ready to serve, take the noodles and spoon on a generous helping of black bean sauce, and top if off with the grated cucumbers!  From my grandfathers kitchen, to my kitchen, and now to yours.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodles

Time: 1 hour

Oil to coat the pans (Olive, vegetable, or canola will work just fine)

2 large handfuls of Chinese dried noodles (we use Shandong dried noodles)

12-16 Five Spice tofu squares, diced into 1 centimeter cubes

1-2 Tablespoons minced garlic

1-2 Tablespoons minced ginger

1 pound ground pork

3 Tbsp soy sauce

3 Tbsp sesame oil

1/3 c black bean sauce

1/4 c sweet flour black bean sauce

Boiling water (about 3 cups)

Cornstarch slurry (1/4 c cornstarch + 3 Tbsp water)

1 cucumber

  1. Heat up a cast iron wok, 1 nonstick pan, and 1 pot filled with water to boil. If you don’t have a wok, then use a pot. When the water is boiling, add in the two handfuls of dried noodles and cook until tender. Pour the noodles through a colander, and drizzle in oil and toss to evenly coat. This will prevent them from sticking to one another. Set aside until ready to use.
  2. Dice the tofu into 1 centimeter cubes. Pour in enough oil to coat the nonstick pan. Pour in the tofu and use a spatula to flip the tofu until most sides are golden brown. Don’t stir the tofu, as it will cause them to break apart, so use the spatula to flip them around. If they are sticking to the pan, pour in more oil.
  3. While the tofu is browning, make the rest of the sauce. In the wok, pour in enough oil to coat the pan. Add in the minced garlic and minced ginger. Once you can smell the fragrance of garlic, add in the ground pork. Use a spatula to break up any chunks and thoroughly cook. Use a spoon or ladle to remove any excess fat.
  4. When the pork is cooked and the tofu is browned, add the tofu into the wok and thoroughly mix. Add in the black bean sauce, sweet flour sauce, sesame oil, and soy sauce and use a spatula to fold the sauces into the mixture until completely coated. Taste a tofu and adjust the flavors as needed. If not salty enough, add more soy sauce. If it is bland, add more bean or flour sauce.
  5. Add enough boiling water to the wok until it just covers the mixture. Bring the sauce to a boil.
  6. Make a slurry with the cornstarch and water, and slowly pour it into the sauce as you are stirring. The cornstarch will begin to thicken up the sauce. When it is a thick but still runny consistency, your sauce is ready!
  7. Grate one cucumber into an icy bath to keep it crisp. When ready to serve, spoon the sauce over the noodles and top with cucumber.

Traditional Taiwanese Black Bean Noodle

Summer S’mores Pie

Smores Pie

I love nothing more than a good, gooey S’more on a summers day. Unfortunately, due to the drought in California, most campsites have banned campfires in fear of it causing a forrest fire. Last year, I made my Ultimate S’mores Brownies which were an absolute crowd pleaser. This year, I am preparing for the summer with my Summer S’mores Pie. It is served cold, which is perfect for a hot summers day! This recipe is the same as the Double Chocolate Pudding Pie recipe, with the addition of the topping. The marshmallow topping is perfectly goopey and the graham cracker crust has the perfect crunch.

Smores Pie

To start out, make the graham cracker crust. Simply place the graham crackers into a freezer ziplock bag and crush it with a rolling pin. Pour in the sugar and melted butter and toss until fully combined. Press the contents into a well buttered pie dish and bake. Remember to butter the pie dish! I have had so many instances where I forgot and the crust would be stuck to the dish.

Graham cracker crust

Once the pie crust is ready, the filling is quite simple to make. Dissolve the gelatin in a small bowl of water and set aside for it to bloom. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, measure out the sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt.

Smores Pie

Add in the milk and whisk the mixture together until there are no more lumps. Turn the heat onto medium high heat and continue to whisk until it begins to thicken. This will take about 10 minutes of constant stirring. If it is left by itself without any whisking, the pudding will become lumpy.

Smores Pie

When the mixture is bubbly and has thickened in consistency, turn the heat off.

Smores Pie

Add in the chocolate chips, vanilla, and the bloomed gelatin.

Smores Pie

Whisk until the gelatin and chocolate has melted into the pudding and pour the mixture into the prepared graham cracker crust. Refrigerate for at least three hours for the pie to cool down and set.

When the pie has set, take it out of the refrigerator to bring to room temperature. I know this sounds counterintuitive but it is to make sure the marshmallow topping can actually stick to the pie. Otherwise, it will just slide around the top. To make the marshmallow topping. Simply measure out all of the ingredients into a glass bowl.

Smores Pie

Set it over a double boiler and with a hand held mixer, whip the fluff until it thickens.

Take a paper towel and dab the top of the pie to remove any condensation or moisture. Pour the marshmallow fluff onto the pie and spread it out. With a fork or a spoon, make some peaks and swirls into the fluff.

If you have a kitchen torch, use it to caramelize the top. If not, simply place the pie under an oven broiler to brown. Place it back into the fridge until it is ready to be served.

Note that the topping is very gooey so serving the pie will be messy, but is worth it! 

Smores Pie

Smores Pie

Summer S'mores Pie

recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger, Food Network

Graham Cracker Crust

9 full sheets of graham crackers

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted (plus more if needed)

4 Tbsp sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9in pie pan.
  2. In a gallon size ziplock bag, crush the graham crackers until finely ground using a rolling pin.
  3. Open and pour in sugar and make sure it evenly disperses.
  4. Pour in the melted butter and mix so that all of the crumbs have absorbed some butter. When you take a handful of graham crackers and squeeze, it should hold its shape. If it comes loose, melt some more butter 1 Tbsp at a time until it holds.
  5. Pour the graham crackers inside the pie pan. Firmly press the graham crackers in place using the bottom of a measuring cup or small cup.
  6. Bake for 10-12 min, or until it is at a toasted golden brown, and then let it cool.

Chocolate Pudding Filling

1 pack unflavored gelatin

1/3 c cold water

2/3 c sugar

1/3 c cocoa

1/3 c cornstarch

pinch salt

3 c whole milk

2 oz bittersweet chocolate chips

1 tsp vanilla

  1. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt.
  3. Turn the heat onto medium high and gradually pour in all of the milk.
  4. Whisk constantly; never leave or stop whisking otherwise it will turn lumpy. Make sure you whisk the bottom of the pot well as some may remain on the bottom and burn.
  5. Continue whisking until the mixture thickens to a pudding consistency. It may take about 5-10 min, then remove from heat.
  6. Add in chocolate, vanilla, and reserved gelatin.
  7. Pour mixture into pie crust and set for at least 3 hours (overnight recommended).

Marshmallow Topping

1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

pinch salt

3 Tbsp corn syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 teaspoon water

1 egg white

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a glass bowl and place over a double boiler.
  2. With a hand held mixer, whip the contents on medium high speed until it forms white, medium soft peaks.
  3. Leave the pie out to come to room temperature. Take a paper towel and dab the top of the pie to remove any moisture or condensation. (This will prevent the marshmallow topping from sliding right off the pie)
  4. Pour the marshmallow fluff onto the pie and with a fork or spoon, form swirls and peaks.
  5. Using a kitchen torch or oven broiler, caramelize the fluff until golden brown.
  6. Place it back into the refrigerator until the pie is cold. Once cold, it is ready to be served!

Smores Pie

 

Matcha Mille Crepe Cake

Matcha Mille Crepe Cake

The first time I heard of a mille crepe cake, I thought… interesting concept, don’t know how I feel about it, but it’s worth a try. With that, came the Berry Crepe Cake in which I filled traditional crepe layers with pastry cream and berry whipped cream, and it did not disappoint! Fastforward to present day. A crepe shop just opened up nearby and I was reminded once again of the mille crepe cake. This time, I wanted to take a different approach and make a Matcha Mille Crepe cake. And just for kicks, I thought it would be even better if it were miniature size.

Matcha Mille Crepe Cake

Matcha Mille Crepe Cake

You begin by making the batter of the crepe. For this recipe, I adapted my go-to crepe recipe. As I am making one mini cake, I cut the recipe in half. The proportions that you see in the photos are only half of the recipe at the bottom of the page. To start out, sift the flour, matcha powder, and salt in one bowl.

Matcha Mille Crepe Cake

In another, whisk together the milk, egg, and melted butter.

Matcha Mille Crepe Cake

Combine the two together and whisk until just combined. Do not over mix the batter, as it will cause the crepes to become tough. If there are a few lumps, that’s okay.

Matcha Mille Crepe Cake

Strain the mixture through a sieve to remove any lumps. You should end up with a smooth batter. Cover the batter with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Matcha Mille Crepe Cake

Once the batter has had time to rest, check the consistency. It should be on the liquid side, almost like chocolate milk. If it is too thick, gently whisk an additional tablespoon or two of milk.

Take a nonstick skillet and grease it with butter. Use a paper towel to dab off any excess. Save this paper towel, as you will use it to help re-grease the skillet between each crepe. Over medium heat, take about 1/4 cup of batter and pour it into the pan. Quickly swirl the pan around to evenly coat and allow it to cook. When the top side slightly dries out, it is ready to flip. Just a quick tip– the first crepe usually never turns out right, at least for me. So if your first one isn’t perfect, don’t be disheartened!

Flip, and cook the other side until it has dried and formed brown spots. Move the crepe to a plate, use the paper towel to re-grease the pan, and begin your next crepe. Continue until all of the batter has been used up and you have 8-10 crepes. Allow them to cool completely.

Matcha Mille Crepe Cake

To get them perfectly round and miniature, I use a cookie cutter. Each crepe will give two mini crepe circles. Cut and trim all the crepes to the desired size. You should have 16-20 mini crepes. A typical mille crepe cake will have 20 layers.

Matcha Mille Crepe Cake

Matcha Mille Crepe Cake

Matcha Mille Crepe Cake

For the filling, there are several options you can go with. Whipped cream, pastry cream, red bean paste, or fruit all go great with green tea, but I chose to go with a matcha whipped cream filling. As matcha powder lumps up fairly easily, you have to first mix it with heavy whipping cream that has not yet been whipped up.

Matcha Mille Crepe Cake

Whisk together until most of the lumps are gone. Then, you can fold the liquid into some already whipped cream.

To assemble, it’s simply a matter of alternating the crepe and filling! I put it on a cake turn table to make it easier and am using a straight spatula. You want to make sure each layer of whipped cream is a thin layer, roughly equivalent to the thickness of each crepe layer. Spread the cream to the very edge of the crepe; it’s okay if some overspills.

Keep alternating until all of the layers are completed. You want your last layer to be a crepe, not whipped cream. You can use the straight spatula to clean up any cream that spilt over the edge.

Matcha Mille Crepe Cake

Matcha Mille Crepe Cake

Finally, dust the top with matcha powder. Use only enough matcha to just cover the top, as too much matcha can cause it to have a bitter taste.

Finally, it is finished! I recommend letting it sit in the refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours before consuming so that the layers can meld together, but it can also be consumed right away. Enjoy!

Matcha Mille Crepe Cake

Matcha Mille Crepe Cake

Matcha Mille Crêpe Cake

1 c flour

3 Tbsp matcha powder

pinch salt

2 eggs

1 1/2 c milk, plus more for thinning the batter if needed

2 Tbsp melted butter, cooled to room temp

1 cup Matcha whipped cream, recipe below

Matcha powder, to dust

  1. Sift flour, matcha powder, and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and butter until combined.
  3. Make a well in the flour mixture and add in the milk mixture and whisk until just combined. Strain it through a mesh sieve to remove any remaining lumps.
  4. Cover the batter with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. Once the batter has had time to rest, check the consistency. It should be a thin batter. If it is too thick, gently whisk in an additional tablespoon or two of milk.
  5. Take a nonstick skillet and grease it with butter. Use a paper towel to dab off any excess. Save this paper towel, as you will use it to help re-grease the skillet between each crepe.
  6. Over medium heat, take about 1/4 cup of batter and pour it into the pan. Quickly swirl the pan around to evenly coat and allow it to cook. You will know when it is ready to flip when the top side slightly dries out.
  7. Flip, and cook the other side until it has dried and formed brown spots. Move the crepe to a plate, re-grease the pan with the paper towel, and begin your next crepe. Continue until all of the batter has been used up, making about 16-20 crepes. Allow them to cool completely.
  8. To get them perfectly round and miniature, use a round cookie cutter. Each crepe will give two mini crepe circles, making about 32-40 mini crepes. Use half for one cake and the other half for a second cake.
  9. To assemble, alternate the crepe and filling. Make sure each layer of whipped cream is a thin layer, roughly equivalent to the thickness of each crepe layer. Spread the cream to the very edge of the crepe.
  10. Keep alternating until all of the layers are completed. The last layer of the cake should be a crepe, not whipped cream. Use a straight spatula to clean up any cream that spilt over the edge.
  11. Finally, dust the top with matcha powder. Use only enough matcha to just cover the top, as too much matcha can cause it to have a bitter taste.
  12. Letting it sit in the refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours before consuming so that the layers can meld together. Serve cold.

Matcha Whipped Cream

2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream, not yet whipped (liquid form)

1 Tbsp matcha powder

1 c whipped cream, whipped to stiff peaks

Whisk together 2 Tbsp liquid form heavy whipping cream and 1 Tbsp matcha powder until most of the lumps are gone. Then, fold the liquid into 1 cup of whipped cream.

Matcha Mille Crepe Cake

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

Profiteroles. As opposed to Cream Puffs which are filled with whipped cream and the occasional fruit, profiteroles are often filled with ice cream or pastry cream. I had some Earl Grey Pastry Cream left over from a previous baking project, and decided to use it as a filling for these profiteroles!

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

When I was a senior in high school, I used to work at a cream puff bakery every weekend. Some of my friends would ask me about if I ever became tired of the glorious whiff of fresh puffs baking in the oven. Yes, most definitely yes. Smelling the same smell for eight hours takes a toll. But after finishing my work there at the end of high school, I have come to love the smell once more. These puffs are inspired by my Earl Grey Pie, using both chocolate ganache and pistachios to complement the Earl Grey flavor. It’s easy to make, full of flavor, with a slight crunch on the outside while decadent on the inside.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

In a medium saucepan (it is best not to use a non-stick pan), mix together the butter, milk, water, salt, and sugar. Some recipes only call for milk, which enhances its decadence, while others only call for water, which enhances the texture. I use both to bring a little of each to the table. Turn the heat on medium and bring it to a boil.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

As soon as it reaches a boil, take the pan off the heat.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

Dump the flour in, and with a wooden spoon, begin to mix to form a dough.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

Once it has formed a dough ball, return it onto medium heat to cook the flour. Continue to stir it around to release any steam. Too much steam inside of the pastry may cause it to be too moist on the inside.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

You will know when the flour is cooked when a thin layer of dough begins to coat the bottom of the pan.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

Turn off the heat and allow it to slightly cool. You can spread it out into a thin layer in the pan to let it cool faster. Form a well.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

Once the dough is cool enough to touch, crack one egg into the well, then begin to stir vigorously. You do not want to cook the egg and make scrambled eggs. That’s why its important to allow it to slightly cool and use room temperature eggs.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

At first it may seem lumpy and gooey, but continue to beat the two together with the wooden spoon. Once it becomes one smooth mixture, form another well, crack the second egg in, and mix once more.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

By now, the dough should be a smooth, shiny yellow blob. The dough should be able to drop off the spoon when it is lifted out.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

Take a pastry bag and fit it with a large round piping tip. I am using the Wilton 1A. To prevent the top from getting messy, fold the bag inside out over your hand.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

Transfer the dough into the bag. You may want to use a rubber spatula to help make the transfer easier.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

On a silicon mat or parchment paper, pipe straight down, while slowly pulling up. Some people make swirls, but that will create lopsided puffs.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

As there are points, dab your finger in water and press all the peaks down.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

These golden blobs are ready for the oven! Bake at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes, or until it is golden brown all over.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

They came out so beautiful! Perfectly puffed, nicely golden, and the kitchen smells incredible! Transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely. While it’s cooling, you can get the filling and topping ready.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

This was the Earl Grey Pastry Cream I had left. It is absolutely decadent, not too sweet, but still full of flavor. For a full step by step tutorial, click on the link.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

Transfer it to a pastry bag. I had it fitted with a Wilton 10 tip, but any medium round tip will do. Refrigerate until you are ready to use it.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

Give the pistachios a rough chop.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

Then, make the chocolate ganache sauce. Simply pour the cream into a glass bowl and microwave until it begins to bubble. Add in the chocolate chips and gently mix until it forms a smooth mixture.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

Once the puffs have cooled, they may be filled. Find an area on the puff that is soft and poke the piping tip in. Fill the puff with pastry cream.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

After they have all been filled, take a fork, and drizzle the chocolate ganache sauce over the top of the puffs. If the ganache has cooled down and thickened, place it back in the microwave to heat it up.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

Move the puffs to a serving platter and sprinkle pistachios all over before the chocolate cools.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

Each puff is beautifully filled. The chocolate ganache drizzle is just enough to complement the flavor of the Earl Grey, as the crunch from the pastry and pistachios complement the smoothness from the cream. Hope you give it a try!

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup milk

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp flour

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/3 c pistachios, chopped

Chocolate Ganache Sauce, recipe below

1 1/2 cup Earl Grey Pastry Cream, recipe below (**must be made several hours in advance**)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a medium sauce pan (not a non-stick), over medium heat, add the butter, milk, water, salt, and sugar, and bring it to a boil.
  3. Once it begins to boil, remove the pan from the heat and add all of the flour.
  4. With a wooden spoon, mix the flour into the liquid to form a dough ball.
  5. Return the pan to medium heat and cook the dough. You will know it is cooked when a thin layer of dough begins to coat the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat.
  6. Allow the dough to slightly cool. When it is cool enough to touch, form a well in the dough.
  7. Crack one egg into the well and quickly beat the egg into the dough. Be sure not to let the egg cook on any hot surface. The mixture will seem gooey at first but it will eventually form a smooth mixture. Then, add in the second egg and mix until the mixture is smooth and shiny.
  8. Transfer the dough into a piping bag with a Wilton 1A, or any other large round tip. Pipe the dough onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
  9. Once it has all been piped, wet your finger with water then push down all of the pointy peaks of each puff.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes until it is golden brown.
  11. Transfer them to cooling racks and allow them to completely cool. Meanwhile, prepare the ganache, pistachios, and transfer the pastry cream into a piping bag with a round tip.
  12. Once it is cooled, find a soft spot on the side of the puff and poke the pastry cream tip inside. Fill with pastry cream. Repeat for all of the puffs.
  13. Using a fork, drizzle the chocolate ganache sauce over the tops, and sprinkle with pistachios.

Chocolate Ganache Sauce

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

3 Tbsp semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a small glass bowl, heat the heavy whipping cream in a microwave for 20-30 seconds, until it just starts to bubble. Add in the chocolate chips and stir until it is one smooth mixture. It will firm up as it cools. It may be refrigerated and stored for a week. To bring it back to its sauce consistency, simply place it back into the microwave for 15 seconds at a time, stirring between each interval until it is completely melted again.

Earl Grey Pastry Cream

adapted from Tartine Bakery’s Pastry Cream

2 cups milk

5 bags Earl Grey Tea Bags (Twinings Earl Grey)

1/4 tsp salt

5 Tbsp cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

Heat the milk, tea bags, and salt in a sauce pan on low for 5-10 minutes, constantly stirring until the color turns a medium-light grey color. If some tea leaves fall out, it is okay, you will strain it out later. Once it has reached the desired color, bring the milk to a gentle boil. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, sugar, and eggs in a medium bowl until thick and smooth. When the milk is at a boil, take it off the heat. Place a strainer over the egg mixture. Pour half of the boiling milk through the strainer into the egg mixture to temper the eggs, making sure to whisk vigorously to prevent the eggs from cooking.  Once all of the milk has been mixed in, return this mixture into the saucepan on medium heat. Whisk continuously until the cornstarch cooks and the mixture is thickened. Remove from heat and add butter and whisk until smooth and completely incorporated. Pour into a heatproof bowl and place plastic wrap on the surface of the cream to cool to avoid the creation of a “skin” layer. Allow to cool completely before using, about 3-4 hours. The cooled earl grey pastry cream should be very firm, needing to be lightened with whipped cream before using.

Earl Grey and Pistachio Profiteroles

 

Perfect Pie Crust

Making the perfect pie crust used to be intimidating. Please note, used to be. I grew up watching Food Network and was so intimated by the way the chefs would speak of the pie dough and all the ways it could go wrong. It’s too tough, it’s under baked, its over worked, it could go on and on. There were competition shows with all these grandmothers with their unique recipes and techniques on how to make their version of perfect pie crust. If you go online and search “pie crust” or “pie dough,” you get a myriad of websites that share with you their secrets. Maybe that’s how you landed on this post and I suppose this post will just be another one among thousands out there.

Yet as intimidating as it seemed, I decided to finally give it a try. Since then, pie crust has been one of those recipes I can throw together without much thought. I use it for my Earl Grey Pie, my Apple Pie, and everything in between. And every time, it comes out beautiful and perfect. I can put together a pie crust in less than 5 minutes; it takes me longer to was the dishes after than it does to make the actual dough! The reason for that is you want to handle the dough as little as possible. Work fast, and keep it cold. That is the trick to the best dough.

Pie dough1

To start out, measure out the water and salt in a pyrex cup. Put it in the refrigerator to lower its temperature. On a cutting board, cube the butter into small pieces. I am making four pie crusts so the quantities you see in the photos are multiplied of what you would actually use. Remember, work fast to keep the butter cold. After cubing, I often move the butter into a bowl and back into the refrigerator to get the temperature down again. While it’s in the fridge, you can measure out the flour.

Pie dough2

Once the temperature of butter has been lowered, use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter to the flour. I use a pastry cutter as opposed to a food processor because you have more control over the dough when you are using a pastry cutter. A food processor can easily overwork the dough.

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Here, I am about halfway into the cutting in process. The butter should become smaller pebble sized as it is being worked into the flour. Remember, work fast, and keep it cold. You don’t want to use your hands as your body temperature will melt the butter.

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Once the butter resembles small pebbles, it is time to add in the water and salt. Pour it over the flour mixture and use the pastry cutter to mix the two to form a dough.

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This is what it looks like after. As I quadrupled the recipe, I have four pie doughs (one dough ball makes two pie crusts). You can still see chunks of butter within the dough. Those chunks are what will give the crust its flakiness.

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Wrap tightly in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before using.

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When the dough is set, unwrap and place on a floured surface. I am using this dough for tarts.

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Roll the dough out to about 1/8 inch thick. You can slightly see the marbled pattern that the chunks of butter creates throughout the dough. Beautiful. 

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Press the dough into the molds and cut off any excess. If the dough is still cold, you can always re-roll the excess into a dough ball, refrigerate it to firm up, and roll it back out. If the dough has already reached room temperature, it will not work as well.

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Once it is in the molds or pie tin, place it back in the refrigerator to firm up again. The pie dough needs to be really cold before baking.

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Right before you put the crust into the oven, prick the bottom with a fork. This will allow for even baking and for steam to be able to escape. If you are going to fill the pie for baking, you would do so now. However, with this one, I am blind baking it.

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To blind bake the pie, cut parchment paper squares to line the inside of the pie. I find it easiest when the parchment is first crumpled into a ball, then unrolled. This will give the paper more flexibility to fit into the crust. Fill the crusts with baking beans or rice, then bake.

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When the edges are golden brown, remove the baking weights and parchment paper. Put it back into the oven for an additional 5 minutes, until the inside of the pie is also golden brown.

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Now that is how a perfect pie crust should be.

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Look at all those layers the butter has created!

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And it’s golden brown all around, even on the bottom of the tart. Once it has slightly cooled, you can remove it from the molds and used however you would like!

Perfect Pie Crust

recipe from Tartine Bakery

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 c very cold water (I placed in freezer for 5-10 min)

1 1/2 c + 1 Tbsp flour

1/2 c + 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

Dissolve salt in water and keep refrigerated until needed. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter and flour until the butter is the size of small pebbles. Work as fast as possible. Add in the water and continue to cut it into the dough until it loosely holds together. Roll it together so that it holds, wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.

When ready to use, roll the dough out onto a floured surface. Press it into the pie crust or molds, then trim off any excess. Return to the refrigerator to firm up for 5-10 minutes. Then, prick the bottom of the pie with a fork to form small holes. Line the pie crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Remove the pie weights and parchment paper and place back into the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the inside crust is browned and dry. Use as desired.

Letter to JJ

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Dear JJ,

By the time I publish this, you will have already passed. As I type this, you are lying next to me on my bed, panting and struggling for each breath. The selfish part of me keeps praying that with each breath, there is another one that follows. But I know that it is almost time. I can see it in your eyes, and I can hear it in the murmur of your heart and lungs when I lay my ear on your side. Your cataracts have left you nearly blind, you can barely walk, and you have not eaten since Saturday. It is now Tuesday.

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The puppy-you would have been so mad to find out you have been turning your head away from the chicken (you love chicken) and canned dog food I’ve been trying to bribe you with. Eating has always been your life. Like owner, like dog they say. I remember that one Sunday, we came home from church to find you on our kitchen table with your head deep in the donut box. Even until last week, you still dug through of our garbage, smelling and looking for any food you can come across. Sorry we can’t feed you more than twice a day, the vet says you’re too fat.

For the first fourteen years, you had the honor of calling Jingle your brother. You both made quite an odd pair but you stuck together. This brotherhood worked because a) Jingle was a pushover and b) you always got what you wanted. I don’t know why you liked sitting on him, but for some reason, he always let you.

You always loved hiding bones. The story would predictably play out as: You hid the bone, and Jingle always found it and ate it while you sat nearby watching him. After Jingle passed, you stuck closer to us. You only went out to the backyard to go to the bathroom and needed to be around people.

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And for the past sixteen years, I had the joy of being your owner. Sixteen years. All I have ever known was from the time I came home from elementary school, all the way through to when I came home from college, you were always there to greet me. I’m sorry there isn’t more time for walks around the neighborhood or trips to the doggy park. I’m sorry that it was only recently we began to spoil you with chicken. I wish there were more meals for you to beg for. I wish there was more time to snuggle in bed, for you to steal my spot and pillow and to hold your paw and bother you while you sleep. For the first time in my life, there won’t be any more of that.  No more 7am wake up call from you to give you food and no dog left to chase the squirrels away from our yard. Through all these years, you have been such a blessing in my life. Don’t worry though, I won’t let you suffer; if it comes to that, please somehow let me know that you are ready. But my prayer now is that you can sleep peacefully and wake up in doggy heaven. I know that if there was one, you would be there. It’s okay to go, I’ll be fine….

With so much love, sweet dreams Bao Bei.

JJ passed away on Thursday, February 11, 2016 at home in my arms.

Earl Grey Pastry Cream

Earl Grey Pie

Ever since I’ve discovered how to make earl grey pastry cream, I’ve been meaning to do a step-by-step photo post. I first came up with the recipe for this Earl Grey Pie for a Pi day wedding last year. I modeled the pie after Pie Hole’s Earl Grey pie and the recipe has been adapted from Tartine bakery’s recipes. Since then, it has been my number one asked for pastry as well as this blogs most popular post! I hope that with these step-by-step photos, more people will be willing to try it at home and not be intimidated by it. Earl grey may sound fancy but making it is not! To learn how to make the pie crust, visit the post on the Perfect Pie Crust.

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I always use Twinings Earl Grey Tea bags. Some other brands that make Earl Grey tea include other spices into the mix which will impact the taste of the pastry cream. I just like to keep it simple and pure.

Measure the milk and pour it into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Unwrap five teabags and snip the strings off. Over the next 5-10 minutes, allow the tea to infuse into the milk while gently stirring to prevent the milk from burning at the bottom of the pan. While you are waiting for the tea to infuse, you can prepare the other half of ingredients.

In a medium bowl, measure the sugar, eggs, salt, and cornstarch and whisk until it is completely smooth and no lumps remain. Set aside.

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Once the milk is at a beautiful tan, turn the heat up so it can come to a rolling boil. If some Earl Grey leaves escape from the bag, don’t worry, they’re going to be strained out. Take the pot off the heat.

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As just mentioned, there may be some Earl Grey tea leaves that escape the tea bags. To strain them out, I put a strainer above the egg mixture.

Now comes the task of mixing the two. As the milk mixture is hot and the egg mixture is cold, I don’t want the hot milk to immediately cook the eggs and make scrambled eggs. To avoid this, we need to “temper” the egg mixture by gradually adding in small amounts of milk at a time while whisking the egg mixture vigorously. This will slowly bring the temperature of the egg mixture up while dispersing the heat from the milk mixture. In small batches, pour the milk through the strainer to strain out any of the leaves, and quickly whisk the egg mixture as the milk falls through. Continue this process until all of the milk has been passed through the strainer and has been mixed in. Personally, I like to see small bits of Earl Grey tea leaves in my pie because it looks more authentic, so I’ll usually add a small amount of the tea leaves back into the mixture, but that’s just personal preference. If you happen to see small bits of cooked egg, don’t worry, simply pass it through the strainer once more to strain out the cooked egg bits.

Pour the cream back into the medium saucepan and return it onto medium heat. Use the whisk to constantly stir the mixture until it thickens. As the temperature of the cream goes up and reaches a certain temperature, the cornstarch will be activated and begin to thicken. At this stage, it is prone to burning or thickening at the bottom of the pot since that is where it receives the most heat. Just make sure you keep an eye on it and continually whisk until it is smooth, lump free, and bubbly. If there are lumps (like the top right photo), whisk faster and it should smooth it out.

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Once it is thick and bubbly, you know that the cornstarch has thickened it to the maximum. Take it off the heat and add in the unsalted butter and whisk until it is completely melted an incorporated in.

Pour the pastry cream into a glass bowl. Take saran wrap and press it onto the surface of the cream, so that there is no part of the pastry cream exposed to air. Any part that is exposed to air as it cools will harden and form a “skin” over the top. Allow it to cool completely in the refrigerator overnight.

When you are ready to use the pastry cream, whip up the whipped cream. I like to use the brand Pastry Pride as it is an extremely stable and smooth when whipped up, but it’s sometimes hard to find. Whip until it reaches stiff peaks.

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Now from that batch of whipped cream, remove about 2 cups of cream. This will be reserved for the topping.

Now into the bowl goes the Earl Grey cream. As you can see, it has firmed up quite a bit which is why it is necessary to lighten it up with whipping cream.

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At first, it will look disgusting. The whisk attachment will break up the pastry cream as it gets coated with whipped cream. Keep whisking.

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Then, it will look like cottage cheese. There will be lumps of Earl Grey as well as whisps of whipping cream. At this stage, it might be a good idea to scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. Then, turn the machine back on and continue to whisk.

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Finally, all of the lumps will smooth itself out as the whipping cream is completely mixed into the Earl Grey. The color has lightened, the texture has lightened, and the consistency is smooth and silky. This pastry cream is finally ready to fill a pie!

Earl Grey Pie with topping

Earl Grey Pie

recipe inspired by Pie Hole, Los Angeles & Pasadena

Flaky Pie Crust

recipe from Tartine Bakery

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 c very cold water

1 1/2 c + 1 Tbsp flour

1/2 c + 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

Dissolve salt in water and keep refrigerated until needed. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter and flour until it forms large crumbs. Add in water and continue to mix with the pastry blender until it loosely holds together. Roll it together so that it holds, wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. When completely chilled, roll out to be 1/8 in thick and cover the pie tins. Use the back of a knife to cut off any excess dough. Place back in the refrigerator in case some of the butter has melted from handling the dough. Once it has completely chilled, use a fork to prick the bottom of the crust. Line the top with parchment paper and weigh it down with baking weights (beans, rice, etc). Bake for 20-25 min, until golden brown around the sides. Remove the parchment paper and bake for 5 more min, until all moisture has evaporated from the crust. Allow the crust to cool completely on a wire rack.

Earl Grey Pastry Cream

Earl Grey Pastry Cream

adapted from Tartine Bakery’s Pastry Cream

2 cups milk

5 bags Earl Grey Tea Bags (Twinings Earl Grey)

1/4 tsp salt

5 Tbsp cornstarch

1/2 c sugar

2 eggs

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

Heat the milk, tea bags, and salt in a sauce pan on low for 5-10 minutes, constantly stirring until the color turns a medium-light grey color. If some tea leaves fall out, it is okay, you will strain it out later. Once it has reached the desired color, bring the milk to a gentle boil. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, sugar, and eggs in a medium bowl until thick and smooth. When the milk is at a boil, take it off the heat. Place a strainer over the egg mixture. Pour half of the boiling milk through the strainer into the egg mixture to temper the eggs, making sure to whisk vigorously to prevent the eggs from cooking.  Once all of the milk has been mixed in, return this mixture into the saucepan on medium heat. Whisk continuously until the cornstarch cooks and the mixture is thickened. Remove from heat and add butter and whisk until smooth and completely incorporated. Pour into a heatproof bowl and place plastic wrap on the surface of the cream to cool to avoid the creation of a “skin” layer. Allow to cool completely before using, about 3-4 hours. The cooled earl grey pastry cream should be very firm, needing to be lightened with whipped cream before using.

Assembly

Earl Grey Pastry Cream

1 1/2 c ready to whip whipping cream (I recommend Pastry Pride)

1 fully cooled pie shell

1/4 c heavy whipping cream

1/2 c chocolate chips

Small handful pistachios, roughly chopped

Once the pastry cream is ready to use, whip up the 1 1/2 cup whipping cream until stiff peaks. Remove 2 cups of whipped cream and reserve in a separate bowl. To the mixing bowl, add in the pastry cream and whisk the both together until completely smooth.

Meanwhile, microwave the 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream in a heatproof bowl until it is bubbly. Add in chocolate chips and stir until smooth, making a chocolate ganache. Spoon the chocolate ganache into the pie shell, spread it into a thin layer, and allow it to cool completely.

Take the finished earl grey pastry cream and fill the pie. Smooth out the top. Take the 2 cups of reserved whipping cream and spoon onto the top and spread it out. Decorate with pistachios. Serve cold.