Archive | November, 2011

Harvest Apple Crumb Cake

30 Nov
Since I began blogging a little over a year ago, I have grown passionate about homemade, delicious food and baked goods made from scratch with fresh, high quality ingredients. Now, I carefully assess everything I eat, paying attention to even the most minute details. Having visited several outstanding restaurants and bakeries throughout my travels, I sometimes find it difficult to compare my at-home creations to those made by experienced professionals. Doing so is especially challenging when my recipes do not turn out as well as expected. But, recognizing one’s failures is equally important as recognizing the successes, especially when it comes to food. With that in mind, I have recently embarked upon replicating some of my favorite items from outside in my own kitchen. Which leads me to this cake.
Moist, flavorful, speckled with soft diced apples, and topped with crunchy pecan crumb topping, this homemade harvest apple coffee cake blows any store-bought version out of the water. On a brisk autumn afternoon, the cake can be optimally enjoyed with a mug of pungent, hot coffee in front of the fireplace. I can identify no better way to celebrate fall’s delicious apples and its mild weather than with this quintessential item. So, for those of you who have been demoralized by recent failed baking ventures, this recipe is for you. Stop what you are doing, take out the measuring cups, get to work, and you will realize that sometimes the best baked goods can come from one’s own kitchen.

Recipe slightly adapted from A Sweet Spoonful

For the cake:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup regular or low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 cups diced, peeled yellow apple, such as Honeycrisp (about 2-3 large apples)
  • Butter for greasing

For the crumb topping:

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces

Serves 12-16 slices.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13″ pan with butter. In the bowl of an electric mixer equipped with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
2. Add the eggs to the creamed butter one at a time, beating after each addition to incorporate. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Fold the apples into the batter, ensuring that they are distributed evenly throughout. Do not overmix. Spread the batter evenly onto the prepared pan.
3. For the crumb topping: In a small bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together with a fork. Pour in the butter and work it in with your hands to form pebbles. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the cake. Bake for 50 minutes. Allow the cake to cool completely at room temperature before serving.

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Best Chinese: Wing Lei, Las Vegas

13 Nov
Alaskan king crab, soft, juicy mango, avocado, aromatic cilantro, chili flakes, and miso-yusu dressing. 

Pan-seared pot stickers with minced pork and sweet Napa cabbage. 

Tender sauteed prawns and crunchy caramelized walnuts in a thick honey cream sauce and garnished with strawberries.
Imperial peking duck, airy steamed buns, crisp cucumber, scallions, and sweet Hoisin plum sauce.

          Rarely do I use the adjective “best” to describe anything, especially when it comes to food. Why? Because I cannot declare something of the highest quality or standard without exposing myself to all that is available. I want to sample every possible option before deciding which one rises above the rest. 
          I live in Los Angeles, the city with the second-largest Chinese population in the country and host to countless Chinese restaurants. I have dined in some of the most acclaimed Chinese restaurants in the world, including London’s Michelen one-star-rated, HakassanThat being said, Wing Lei, located in Las Vegas’s Wynn Hotel, is by far the best Chinese restaurant I have ever been to, for a variety of reasons. 
          Wing Lei offers a refined mix of Cantonese, Shanghai, and Szechwan cooking styles. Each dish wowed me beyond belief, combining several distinct tastes into an incredible final product. My family and I barely conversed throughout the meal and when we did our comments pertained to the food. We savored every bite, “oeeing” and “ahhing”and ultimately arguing over which dish reigned supreme. To cap off the evening: refreshing homemade fruit sorbets and smooth green tea and red bean ice creams accompanied by slightly chewy, petite almond cookies.
          Inspired by early, French-influenced Shanghai, the regal red and gold decor created a warm, inviting ambiance. The waiters remained professional and attentive throughout the meal, though not invasive. In short, I have no criticism of Wing Lei other than I wish the restaurant relocated to Los Angeles.