Baking Crack Pies at Momofuku Milk Bar

Momofuku Milk Bar Class

Two weekends ago, I flew out to New York to celebrate the wedding of two close friends from grad school. Given that it was Labor Day weekend, I spent a few extra days checking out some delicious spots, old and new, in New York City. For me, travel and food go hand in hand, and one of my favorite ways of exploring a city is through its restaurants and cafes. On my list was Momofuku Noodle Bar (how have I never been?), Russ and Daughters, Black Seed Bagels, and a few others.

On my flight to JFK, I started planning out my stops in the city, and one of them was definitely going to be Momofuku Milk Bar. As a huge fan of Christina Tosi, owner of Milk Bar, I really wanted to swing by one of the locations and snag one of their signature corn cookies. I’ve had co-workers and friends bring me back Milk Bar treats as souvenirs, but I had yet to go for myself. As I was checking out the Milk Bar website for locations, I immediately saw “CLASSES” at the top of the page. OMG. What’s better than buying a sweet treat from Milk Bar? Getting to bake your very own treat in their kitchens. I just *had* to do this.

Fast forward a few days later, and I’m hanging out in Milk Bar’s production kitchen in Williamsburg along with 20 other students. We’re all eager to dive into the class, with our signed Milk Bar books in tow and signature Tosi headscarves tied with a nice big bow (yep, the guys wore them too!). The class was part of the Milk Bar’s Bake the Book series, and each Saturday class covers one of their flagship recipes in their book. My class was all about baking Milk Bar’s famous Crack Pie and birthday cake truffles, their spin on the classic cake pop sans stick.

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Vanilla Crepe Cake

Vanilla Crepe Cake Some girlfriends catch up over a cup of coffee. Others may share tales of their weekend debauchery over drinks. But I have to say that there’s A LOT of great chit chat that happens when close friends spend the day together in the kitchen. Every few months–definitely not as often as we’d like–my good friend Corinne and I plan a baking party. That’s right. BAKING PARTY. Once the date is set, we spend the week leading up to the big day thinking about which fancy dessert we want to bake — the more unique and intimidating, the better. During our last party, we made mini fruit tartlets and Alfajores cookies. It was our first time baking those beauties and surprisingly, they turned out well. But even if they didn’t, no worries – baking day is a judgment-free, safe place :)

This time around, I made a 25-layer vanilla crepe cake topped with fresh raspberries. Corinne baked a beautiful fig tart using a variety of green and purple figs from the farmer’s market. And she made lemon bars for extra credit – she’s a baking machine! Now on to the vanilla crepe cake! Perhaps you’ve seen these cakes before as they’ve been made famous by the Lady M bakery, with locations in New York, LA, Singapore and Korea. Essentially, the cake is made up of over 20 layers of crepes with a light filling between each crepe. Given how much I love making crepes, both sweet and savory, I wanted to give this cake a try.

Vanilla Crepe Cake… 

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Slow-Roasted Salmon

Slow-Roasted Salmon

As a Seattle native, I’ve been spoiled with access to arguably the best salmon in the world. We take our salmon very seriously in the PNW. So seriously, that the local news stations cover the arrival of Copper River salmon from Alaska each year. No joke. And in my family, buying high quality fish has always been super important. In fact, over the last 20 years, my parents built a friendship with our local fishmonger, Richard, at Pure Food Fish Market located in the famous Pike Place Market. They always give him a call before stopping by, just to confirm what’s best to buy that day, whether it’s fish, crab, or any other type of seafood.

I have so many childhood memories of enjoying salmon for dinner, usually served on a bed of Persian herbed rice called sabzi polo (recipe coming soon!). Then and now, my favorite salmon preparation is simple: brush on olive oil or butter, sprinkle some salt and pepper, and serve with fresh lemon wedges. When you have an delicious piece of fresh fish in front of you, why mask its flavors with anything more?

When I can get my hands on good salmon in SF, I usually place it in a pan and bake it at 450 degrees F for 12-15 minutes. However, lately I’ve been stumbling upon recipes that call for slow-cooking the salmon, which basically means baking the salmon at a low temperature for a longer period of time. I decided to give it a try, and baked the salmon fillets at 275 degrees F for 18 minutes. After cutting into my first piece of the salmon, I was SOLD. The fish was cooked yet still moist, and had an incredibly buttery texture and rich flavor. Squeeze a lemon wedge or two over the salmon, and serve with a side salad such as my Radish, Goat Cheese and Grape salad.

How do you like to cook salmon at home? Have you tried slow-roasting?

Slow-Roasted Salmon… 

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Radish, Grape, and Goat Cheese Salad

Radish, Grape, and Goat Cheese Salad

♫ Cooking to Red Lights by Tiësto

It was only a matter of time until I mentioned one of my latest obsessions on this blog. And no, I’m not talking about a newfound vegetable or clever kitchen gadget. I’m talking about the best workout of my entire life…Barry’s Bootcamp! They opened their first location in SF last June, and working out there 4-5 days a week has been transformational. I’m happier and feel better, both inside and out. The Barry’s Bootcamp instructors are super positive and energetic, the hour-long workouts are intense, and the music is just what you need to push your limits. There’s a real sense of community, especially when you start to see the same faces sweat it out at 7am.

So now that we’ve got that out of the way, I can introduce you to one of the craziest challenges I’ve had to go through: a 30-day no added sugar, no white flour, and no alcohol challenge. This was organized by one of my favorite Barry’s instructors, the amazing Erica Stenz. I signed up to test my willpower – could I really do this? I usually roll my eyes at these types of challenges, but I was really bought in on giving this a shot.

And…I made it! Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely a slip ups on the sugar and flour, especially because sugar is added to everything – even bacon! It was much easier than expected to cut out the alcohol even when faced with a bachelorette party, the Beyoncé + Jay Z concert, Outside Lands music festival, and many more tempting events over the last four weeks. Was it worth it? Well, after 30 days, I look and, more importantly, feel the best I ever have.

So, with all that in mind, I’d like to share a new salad recipe with you that I enjoyed while on my challenge. No added sugar is quite the challenge for a girl with a sweet tooth, so I’ve been finding ways to sneak fruit into some more savory dishes. In this salad, the spicy radishes, sweet green grapes, and tart goat cheese all work really well together, especially when tossed with mache lettuce (aka lamb’s lettuce), which has a nutty flavor. I prefer to lightly dress this salad with a really simple champagne vinaigrette (recipe below). During the challenge, I used lemon juice or balsamic vinegar with olive oil, salt, pepper, and minced shallot, if I had it on hand.

Radish, Grape, and Goat Cheese Salad

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Sunday Night Stovetop Popcorn

Stovetop Popcorn

Just about every Sunday night, I spend the precious final hours of the weekend working on this lovely blog and indulging in my guilty pleasure TV shows (RHO-fill in the blank). If I’ve spent the day cooking, then it means I’ve been snacking all day and generally skip dinner. And what that really means is that I make a big bowl of stovetop popcorn to munch on while I crank away on photo editing and recipe writing, all with my favorite crazy ladies in the background.

I started making stovetop popcorn about a year ago and it has quickly become my favorite healthy snack. It takes less than 5 minutes from start to finish, making it the perfect go-to snack for entertaining as well! While it tastes great with a sprinkle of salt, you can spruce it up even more with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or truffle salt/oil. I try to keep my popcorn relatively healthy with no butter, but let’s be honest, that’s one of the most classic and delicious toppings there is, right?

This recipe only needs two ingredients: yellow popcorn kernels and oil. I buy organic yellow kernels from the bulk bins at Whole Foods, usually 2-3 pounds at a time to last me for awhile. You may think that a kernel is just a kernel, but I recommend buying organic. I once used Orville Redenbacher “gourmet popping kernels” and the popcorn was nowhere near as fluffy or as flavorful. White popcorn kernels also work; they just tend to be smaller when popped than yellow kernels and have a slightly sweeter flavor. For the oil, I like to use peanut oil because it gives the popcorn a nuttier flavor and has a higher smoke point than olive oil. Even though you’re not getting the oil extremely hot, I still think peanut oil is the way to go!

Now that I can make this popcorn with practically my eyes closed, I’ll never buy microwave popcorn again. Try it out and I bet you’ll agree!

Stovetop Popcorn

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