Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lemon Cupcakes with Peeps

Lemon Cupcakes with Peeps

It's come to this. I sit in the library, trying to read about economic statecraft, but my mind drifts to the sugary marshmallow cuteness of Peeps. Specifically, the Peep-topped cupcakes of the Upper East Side's Glaser's Bake Shop, which I experienced at Easter-time a few years ago.

As my daydream continued, I realized there was no need for a cross-town bus trip--why not bake my own? Never mind that J was out of town, many of my friends were headed home for Easter, and I had exactly zero plans for group get-togethers where I could pawn off these sugar bombs. No, I left the library, bought not one but two Peep packages (just one color wouldn't do), and headed home for a Friday afternoon baking-fest.

Lemon Cupcakes with Peeps

I followed this reliable vanilla cupcake recipe, adding the zest of two lemons. The frosting is Martha's meringue buttercream, minus two of her three sticks of butter. And the Peeps? Aesthetic purposes only. I shamefully throw them away before eating the cupcake. What can I say? Being this close to grad school graduation is clouding my judgment.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Okonomi-yaki, Hiroshima and New York Style

My creation
Hiroshima okonomi-yaki on the right; New York (Village Yokocho) okonomi-yaki on the left

One of the best meals on my trip to Japan involved cooking my own okonomi-yaki (basically a Japanese pancake, topped with delicious-ness) in Hiroshima at Misasa. Wanting to relive the memory, I ordered okonomi-yaki at Village Yokocho, forgetting that the Hiroshima version of this comfort food differs from the style found in the rest of Japan. Don't get me wrong--they're both delicious. Yet the Hiroshima-style is comprised of a very thin, crepe-like pancake, topped with cabbage, pork, noodles and a fried egg, while the Yokocho version was a thick frittata, studded with shrimp, cabbage, and more. Fortunately, I received an okonomi-yaki "expert" certificate in Hiroshima and a bottle of the restaurant's special sauce, so I will soon recreate the Hiroshima version here in my own kitchen. Meanwhile, a step-by-step Hiroshima-style guide is below.

Making the Pancake

Our instructor making the thin crepe-like pancake.


After the pancake cooks for a few minutes, top it with cabbage and bean sprouts.


Then, add the pork and a bit more pancake batter before you flip it.

Time to Flip

With two spatulas and a steady hand, carefully flip your pancake to cook down your cabbage until sweet and soft, full of porky goodness.

A Successful Flip

A successful flip.

Breaking the Yolk

Frying the egg. You break the yolk with the spatula, then move your pancake on top of the egg, flip, and you're almost ready to eat.

The Finished Product

Top the pancake with the sweet okonomi-yaki sauce, bonito flakes and seaweed powder. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Meyer Lemon Layer Cake

Meyer Lemon Layer Cake

The only downside to my Japan trip was missing J's birthday. Fortunately, his friends took good care of him, and he and I were able to celebrate before we left.

Juicing and Zesting

J loves all things lemon, so when I handed him the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook and told him to pick his birthday cake, it didn't take him long to settle on this one. I subbed Meyer lemons for regular ones, adding a soft, aromatic touch to the tartness of the curd. The cake itself is also lemon-riffic, studded with bright bits of zest.

Bright Bowls for a Bright Cake

My major departure from Martha's recipe was in the frosting, a meringue buttercream. She calls for THREE sticks of butter--I used one and a quarter, which was plenty. The frosting perhaps tasted a bit more meringue-y and marshmallow-y than buttery, but that's how I like it. The only downside to making this glorious cake was that I flew to Tokyo the next morning, so I only had one slice!

Jon Turns 31