stroopwafel fork to belly
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STROOPWAFEL!!!!!!!!!! My metropolitan life has provided me many opportunities to learn about baked goods from all around the planet. Lately, I’ve been real obsessed with this classic Dutch cookie called stroopwafel – pronounced “stROPEwafel” and translated literally to “syrup waffle”.

Stroopwafel is made up of two layers of crispy wafflecone-esque cookies pressed together with a thick caramel filling. In Amsterdam, they are the size of your face and made to order on street corners for something like 2 euros. You can’t find them in the states, though they are almost always imported and therefore smaller, laden with preservatives, and much pricier. They can be eaten dipped in a hot cup of coffee or all on its own as a snack. I’ve loved this cookie before I even knew its name. I called them gooey waffle cookies and always jumped at the opportunity to get my hands on them at bakeries or markets that just happened to sell them. It’s the textural bliss in a bite of crunchy cookie layers with a gooey caramel center that gets me.

stroopwafel fork to belly stroopwafel fork to belly

stroopwafel fork to belly

If you’ve never had stroopwafel fresh, then let me tell you, it’s a game changer. Plus, when making it yourself you get to eat all the wafel scraps or dip them into any extra caramel filling which is nothing to complain about. You’ll need to get yourself a pizelle or shallow waffle iron (the kind used for waffle cones), but the process of smashing each ball of dough into a crispy cookie was so fun I wasn’t the least bit annoyed I’d have to find room for another unusual kitchen appliance.

*Many of the recipes I found for the stroopwafel filling were darker in hue than the caramel-like one I was familiar with. That’s thanks to the molasses. Its really personal preference. Roy loved the version I made with half molasses and half golden syrup, though I thought it was a little too strong and “molassesy” for me. If you prefer a filling more similar to caramel or just know you’re not a fan of that distinct molasses flavor, you can use golden syrup instead!

stroopwafel fork to belly

stroopwafel fork to belly stroopwafel fork to belly

The last thing I’d like to mention is these babies last forEVER. If stored properly, preferably in an airtight container at room temperature or even frozen, they outer cookies will stay crunchy for quite a while time. After this batch, I snagged a few for storing the freezer so I can appease any stroopwafel craving the next time it comes.

stroopwafel fork to belly

stroopwafel fork to belly

stroopwafel fork to belly

Brown Butter Stroopwafel
Recipe makes 10-15 cookies depending on the size of your iron.

for the wafel:
250g unsalted butter
500g all purpose flour
150g caster sugar
4 1/2 tsp dry yeast
60ml milk, warmed
1 egg

for the filling:
350g molasses, golden syrup, or a mix of the two (*see notes above)
200g light brown sugar, packed
50g butter
2 tsp cinnamon

special tools:
food scale
pizelle maker or waffle iron (I used this one from Amazon)
round cookie cutter, about 3.5-4 inches in diameter

1. In a small saucepan over the stove, brown the butter for the wafel on a medium heat. Cook for 5-7 minutes until the butter turns caramel brown and has a distinct nutty flavor. Keep a close eye during this process and be careful not the burn the butter as once it begins browning, it will darken very fast. Set the now browned butter aside to cool to room temperature.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, caster sugar, and dry yeast. Once the browned butter cools, add it to the dry ingredients along with the warm milk and egg. Mix with a spatula until the dough begins to clump together. Transfer the dough to a clean work surface and knead it with your hands until the dough is uniform and will hold its shape when formed into a large ball. Place the ball of dough back into the mixing bowl and cover with a clean towel. Set in a warm area in the kitchen for at least 45 minutes so the dough can rest.
3. To make the filling, add syrup of choice, brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon to a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar and butter have both dissolved and the mixture is evenly combined. The filling becomes hardens and becomes difficult to work with when it comes to room temperature. If this happens while waiting to fill the stroopwafel, you can always pop the saucepan back onto the stove and reheat it to a more liquid texture.
4. Once the dough is finished resting, use a food scale to portion the dough into 50g balls. Depending on the size of your iron, this takes a few tries to get right. When the waffle iron is heated, grease it lightly with cooking spray and place the dough ball in the center (positioned a few centimeters more towards the back of the iron) and close the iron. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the wafel is a golden brown color. Remove from the iron and immediately use the cookie cutter to trim off the uneven edges. Use a serrated knife to cut the cookie in half. This must all be done while the cookie is still hot or it will break. Spread one side of the cookie with the stroopwafel filling and press the two halves together. Set aside to cool and repeat with the other cookies. Best served with a hot cup of coffee! Pro-tip: don’t throw away the wafel scraps! They stay crispy if stored in an air-tight container and are delicious to munch on or for dipping into any extra filling 🙂

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kale and caramel fork to belly
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After a mildly wild night out, filling my belly with Oaxacan food and micheladas, I later found myself lying in bed with Lily’s book, armed with a glass of water, my sushi page markers, and a passionfruit candle burning away on my nightstand. I first met Lily while meeting up for brunch with a few other blog buddies a few years back. We’d been seated and chatting away when in walked this woman in the cutest overalls and the most gorgeous head of red hair. Throughout the rest of the meal I gravitated towards Lily’s smile and easy laughter and her way of making you feel like you could just tell her anything and she’d never ever judge you. She talked about jumping into the *i am writing a cookbook* literary fire and I remember being so amazed by her unique understanding of food. Oh, and her last name too because how cool is it to be named Lily Diamond???

Lily is without a doubt one of the sweetest, truest, and open-hearted women I’ve met and it was a complete joy to see her shine at her book signing. I hope you’ll all enjoy Kale & Caramel: Recipes for Body, Heart, and Table and this recipe from the book for a very amazing cream pie!

kale and caramel fork to belly

I can’t say I’ve made very many cream pies in my baking career, but this one right here was a whole new experience. It’s simple and light, which really lets the natural flavors of the strawberries and basil shine through. I’m the kind of person that only ever knows how to use basil in savory dishes dishes like pesto and pasta and pizza. Though, I have recently learned it tastes wonderful with a little mint in a green grape and orange smoothie. But that’s as far as my scope of uses for basil reaches when it comes to the sweet side.

Roasted strawberry and basil sounds nothing less than delicious, yet I’ll admit I didn’t realize just how delicious the two would work together (I demolished one tart entirely on my own, standing over my kitchen counter with a large fork). I am in complete awe of this pie. Seriously. My favorite way to describe it is this: the most gentle and loving hug for your soul.

Roasted Strawberry and Basil Cream Pie
From Lily Diamond’s Kale & Caramel: Recipes for Body, Heart, and Table
Note: This recipe is meant for a 9 inch pie. I doubled the graham cracker crust and filled a large tart shell with the extra cream filling.

for the basil whipped cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
1 tbsp honey

for the graham cracker crust
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) salted butter
13 1/2 graham crackers (1 1/2 sleeves)
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt

for the roasted strawberry cream filling
2 cups strawberries, washed and stemmed, plus 5 to 7 strawberries for garnish
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
1/3 cup honey

1. In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream over medium heat. When steam rises, slightly crumple the basil leaves, add them to the cream, and reduce the heat to low. Stir and compress the basil with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, cooking for another 1 to 2 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil. Remove from the heat and let the basil steep for 30 minutes, covered. When the basil has finished steeping, strain the cream and discard the basil. Let the basil-infused cream cool, then whip with the honey until soft peaks form. Set aside in the fridge.

2. Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Crush the graham crackers in a food processor or blender until they have a sandy texture. Don’t over-blend into a flour. Pour the crumbs into a large bowl and mix in the sugar, butter, and salt. Mix until you have a wet sand-like blend. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and let cool completely on a rack.

3. With the oven still at 375°F, cut the strawberries in half. Place in a large bowl and toss gently with the sugar. Arrange them on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor or blender, puree, and set aside to cool completely. Whip the heavy cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Set aside. In a second bowl, whip the cream cheese, cooled strawberry puree, and honey until completely smooth, about 5 minutes. Fold the whipped cream into the strawberry cream cheese mixture until incorporated and even in color.

4. Once the pie crust is completely cool, spread the strawberry cream cheese mixture into the bottom of the pan. Spoon the basil whipped cream in a smaller circle over the top of the strawberry filling, leaving a 2-inch border. Garnish with fresh strawberry halves and small basil leaves. Chill, covered in plastic wrap, for at least 2 hours. Slice and serve with extra strawberries and a sprinkle of minced fresh basil leaves and small, whole leaves for garnish.

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chocolate chip cookie study

I‘m quite sure that cookies are my most favorite thing to bake, and it’s because I don’t think there’s anything not to love about them. Well, other than the fact that, you know, enjoying too many would most likely make you a bit queasy.

Amidst all the cakes and pies and ice cream you can find in the blog archives, I’ve always believed cookies win at being the easiest recipe for the most pay off. There have been many times I’ve spent the entire day baking and collapse onto my bed. Spent, with tired feet and pruny dishwasher hands. When it comes to a solid chocolate chip cookie, the hardest part is letting the dough rest in the fridge and not sneaking too many bites (more on this method and the importance of it later).

I am never tired after baking cookies. Whipping up a batch of cookie dough takes virtually no time at all. It’s simple and no fuss. You’re not painstakingly measuring out every ingredient with a scale because a few grams off and you risk sudden doom. They are not delicate and when made right, are always delicious regardless of your eggs being at room temperature or your butter a tad too soft.

There are thousands of cookie recipes, hundreds from all different cultures around the world, from different decades and different traditions. My favorite of these are the good old classic, the tried and true, chocolate chip cookie. I have made many different versions and tried a handful of different recipes, all claiming to make the best cookie. This time around, I’m settling this debate for myself and attempting to figure out what really makes the best chocolate chip cookie.


Table of Contents
i. Introduction
ii. Ingredients
• Flour: all-purpose, bread, rye, toasted?
• Butter: melted, browned, or creamed
• The Best Damn Chocolate
iii. Method
• Getting the Perfect Circle Cookie Shape
• Baking Times + Temperature
iv. Conclusion

Introduction

As a bit of a science nerd, chocolate chip cookies fascinate me. For a long time, I was convinced I’d found my go-to recipe, only to later try another highly recommended one that would also convince me of deserving a space in the “reserved for best chocolate chip cookie” section of my heart.

Most, if not all, of these recipes contain all-purpose flour, granulated white and brown sugar, vanilla extract, egg, and a decent amount of butter for a higher fat ratio. I’ve also frequently noted the key to a good chocolate chip cookie utilizes these three components: (1) good quality dark chocolate, (2) sprinkling chunky flakes of salt on top, (3) resting your dough for at least 24 hours before baking.

How can two recipes with basically the same ingredients and methods ultimately change the composition and taste of a cookie? What makes one method superior over the other, or is there even really much of a different after all? Though had on good authority, there were so many questions I needed to answer for myself before truly believing in. It was only a matter of time before I caved and started my own cookie study.

I am so excited to begin this little cookie experiment and take you all along with me! So please, grab a glass of milk and follow along as I uncover the steps to the perfect cookie 🙂

Some notes: After reading this Buzzfeed article, I’ve decided on starting with Tara O’Brady’s recipe as my base. Cookies will be taste-tested between myself, friends, and most likely the staff in my apartment building. As time permits, I’ll be adding new articles to this post once a week, focusing on each step outlined in the Table of Contents above.

This study has also been inspired by the beautiful chocolate chip cookies of Serious Eats and NYT Cooking.

fork to belly ultimate chocolate chip cookie

Baking Times + Temperature

Initially, I wasn’t planning on skipping around while tackling each category. However, I realized early on that figuring out an optimal baking time and temperature would allow me to keep the cookies consistent and give more accurate results in the taste-testing stage.

Do yourself a favor and GET AN OVEN THERMOMETER. I have a fairly good oven and even at that it is at its best still 15-20 degrees off.

Use the regular bake setting, not convection. Though convection is designed to create a more even amount of heat, I found that my results were unpredictable. The cookies came out lopsided, others not cooked evenly. Though I had to rotate my baking trays halfway through, the regular bake setting gave me much better results.

360°F is in fact the best temperature for these cookies. Baking at a lower temperature resulted in either a cookie that was underbaked (completely soft) or overbaked (not soft enough in the center) when trying to accommodate the temperature change with a few extra minutes of baking time. 360°F created a cookie that was soft in the middle and crispy on the outside, and a very incredible oomph of caramel/buttery flavor that none of the cookies baked at a lower temp had.

fork to belly ultimate chocolate chip cookie

Now that we’ve determined our best temperature for cookies, let’s talk about baking time! As you can see in the photo above, there’s a pretty significant difference between 1-2 minutes. The very best cookie spent approximately 10 minutes in the oven at 360°F. There is a slight caveat here. 10 minutes yielded that perfect soft middle and crispy shell consistency after cooling on the counter for a few minutes. However, by the next day the cookie was not nearly as soft anymore. The 9 minute cookie retained a little more of that softness but did slightly lack the same flavor as the 10 minute cookie and also appeared much too soft when first removed from the oven. If you’re not planning on enjoying your cookies the day of, I recommend letting them cool to room temperature (enjoying one right then) and freezing until ready to eat. The cookies defrost pretty quickly and still taste wonderful/retain their texture.

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Today I did something I haven’t done in a few months; I baked a loaf of bread and then I sat down and I wrote about it. Keeping up with school and also putting in enough love and time into F2B has been a big challenge for me in the last year. I was having a very difficult time juggling both and to be really honest, I was feeling too exhausted and uninspired to do much else.

It wasn’t until I was chatting with my Mom over the phone the other day that I felt, for the first time in a while, a pull towards this space. She’d been bugging me every so often, asking why it had been so long since I’d done a post. I brushed it off and told her I was too busy right now. But this time, when she asked again, she told me that she missed reading my posts. She always loved reading what I wrote here, following the recipes she thought she could tackle, and simply being able to get a little peek into my life from across the ocean. She urged me to find the time. Fast forward a few more days and a friend from school mentioned that her friend who happens to follow the blog had asked about the radio silence too (Hi Robby!). It was then that I was reminded of why I started blogging in the first place. In the last few years, this blog has since turned into a way for me to share food with people from all over the internet, but from the start, its purpose was to connect virtually and through food with my friends and family wherever they may be. And though Moms are always kinda supposed to be your biggest fans, I realized that maybe (for the millionth time in my life) she was right.

shokupan japanese sandwich bread fork to belly

Mother’s Day is specifically how I send a little extra love my Mama’s way. I’ve sent her a homemade scone mix, and the year before that I posted a recipe on mini coffee cakes. Sharing foods that remind me of moments from my childhood is my way of expressing my love and appreciation for my Mom and the wonderful memories she’s given me.

This year, I made the sandwich bread of my childhood: shokupan. This is a classic Japanese bread, simple, light yet chewy, and incredibly perfect toasted. I know my Mom still loves it because I see a loaf or two hidden in the freezer whenever I’m back home. I have a very distinct memory of sitting in the backseat of our old black Honda Accord on my way to preschool. My Dad driving us over the Pali and my Mom seated next to me with my favorite lunch in all the 3-year old world, laughing cow cheese spread between two pieces of crustless whole-wheat shokupan. I was going through a Lion King phase at this time and was listening to the read-a-long audiobook in the car. I only know this because every time I hear a thick African accent my mind immediately goes to this sandwich and has be craving it. A perfect example of Pavlov’s law. It is a simple memory for a simple food, yet both filled with so much love and comfort. I wouldn’t trade either for anything in the world. Really though, I love bread and you will at most be allowed one bite of my sandwich.

shokupan japanese sandwich bread fork to belly

shokupan japanese sandwich bread fork to belly shokupan japanese sandwich bread fork to belly

Though delicious and something that holds a special place in my heart, the shokupan I ate as a child was never homemade. My Mom always bought it from a local bakery when we’d go grocery shopping on the weekends with my Grandma. Making this bread at home and eating it totally fresh and for the first time in years felt like one giant hug for my soul… and dare I say it, tasted even more delicious than the store-bought variety of my childhood. Homemade bread is a game-changer, but this right here is some next level bread. The hardest part is waiting an extra 15 minutes for the bread to set up after it comes out of the oven all steamy and golden brown. But just imagine how amazing your kitchen will smell in the mean time 🙂

PS: Been watching Season 2 of Master of None – episode 6 is JUST THE BEST THING.

shokupan japanese sandwich bread fork to belly

Shokupan (Japanese Sandwich Bread)
Recipe from Dreams of Dashi

for the tangzhong
20g bread flour
100g water

330g bread flour
24g white granulated sugar
14g dry milk powder
7g salt
4g instant yeast
95g warm water
1 large egg (around 50g)
20g unsalted butter

1. To make the tangzhong, add the water to a small saucepan on medium low heat. Whisk in the flour and continue to stir until the roux has thickened into a pudding like consistency. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a standmixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, milk powder, salt, and yeast. Add in the warm water, egg, and tangzhong. Using the dough hook, knead the dough for about 5 minutes on medium speed (level 4 on a KitchenAid standmixer). The dough will look dry but should come together after 5 minutes.
3. After 5 minutes, add in the butter and knead on medium speed for an additional 10-12 minutes. The dough will be rather tacky. Form it into a ball and place in a well greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about an hour.
4. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and cut the dough into two equal pieces (I like using a scale for this). Roll each piece into a ball and let sit on your work surface covered with plastic wrap for about 20 minutes.
5. Grease a loaf pan and set aside. Using a rolling pin, roll out each ball of dough and fold into thirds to form a cylinder. Roll out the dough one more time and roll up into a cylinder again. Pinch the seam closed and place the log of dough on one half of the loaf pan, seam side facing down. Repeat with the other piece of dough. Let the dough rise in a warm place for another 40 minutes to an hour until the dough has risen at least 4 inches in height and there are no longer any gaps at the bottom of the pan.
6. Place the loaf in the oven and begin preheating to 350F. Bake for a total of 35 minutes. If the bread browns too quickly, use a piece of foil to cover the top of the loaf. When finished, the loaf will be well browned and sound hollow when lightly tapped.
7. Remove immediately from the pan and let cool to room temperature. Let the bread set up for at least 15 minutes before cutting into it. Enjoy!

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chanko nabe fork to belly
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I’m back in LA again still reeling from all the holiday bliss. California has been very, very rainy. It’s rained almost every day since I’ve been here. I’ve always loved the rain and have absolutely nothing but love for the gray morning light that fills the living room in the early hours of the day and the crisp, cool – almost fresh – air that permeates the city. Such a dichotomy to where I spent the past two weeks. On my morning commute, I even get to see the tips of downtown’s tallest buildings covered in low bursts of fog and clouds. It’s gorgeous and I can’t get enough of it.

Roy took me for a quick day trip to Melrose and as we stopped at the crosswalk and stood in a sliver of sunlight between two buildings, he told me how much he loves this weather too. I took in a deep breath, and again I was reminded of how clean everything felt (though we all know that’s not saying much in a city like this). I’ve been enjoying the fall and now winter weather here almost too much, and it’s nothing short of the perfect backdrop for a warm, hearty, delicious meal.

chanko nabe fork to belly

chanko nabe fork to belly chanko nabe fork to belly

This year for Christmas, we got my mom her first Staub and she’s in love with it. I had also promised my Dad a home cooked meal complete with washing all the dishes, so Roy and I headed down to Marukai and Don Quijote – a couple of our favorite asian markets in Hawaii – with just one thing on our minds: chanko nabe. I’ve really grown to love stews and one-pot meals since we’ve been living to our current apartment over the last few years and life has only gotten busier. With less and less time on my hands, chanko nabe easily became a staple meal and one of favorite to make during the week. What I love most about it is how incredibly simple and customizable it is to suit whoever’s making it. I prefer mine with mostly veggies, mochi, noodles, and a little seafood, while Roy would probably throw heaps of thinly sliced beef and Japanese sausage in. We compromise and that usually works just fine, but I am tempted to make two separate stews at times!

But I suppose that’s the beauty of this dish. Meat-lovers can get their fix with sausage, thinly sliced beef or pork, and those who’ve got an itching for seafood can add clams and fish. Plus, if you’re vegetarian, you can make this dish without any meat and it’s still so incredibly delicious. The vegetables are such an important ingredient and where the soup gets a lot of its flavor from. I also love being able to feed a group of people with just this one dish. Though it helps to throw in some belly-filling carbs like udon or vermicelli noodles. You can even cook up some rice in a quick pinch and each person can add it to their own bowls to make sure everyone’s going home with a happy tummy.

chankonabe fork to belly

chanko nabe fork to belly

I shared this dish on the blog a few years back but since then, I’ve learned a thing or two and the recipe has only gotten yummier! Here’s a few tips.

• If you’re serving this for guests, start prepping everything an hour or so beforehand. The prep is minimal, but the cook time can add up. You don’t want your guests to be sitting around waiting for food all night!

• Use as many different veggies or proteins as you can/would like to. The variety is another factor to what gives the soup a deeper and more delicious flavor.

• For a thicker broth, cook the soup with the lid off until it reduces enough. If the broth is too thick, you can always add water to thin it out.

• It takes a little bit of trial and error to get the method for this recipe just right. I’ve definitely put the mochi at the bottom before and had to deal with a sticky mess at the bottom of the pot… But chanko nabe is fundamentally very simple and not difficult at all to get right.

chanko nabe fork to belly chanko nabe fork to belly

chanko nabe fork to belly

Chanko Nabe
Recipe serves 6-8 people.

for the sauce
4 cups water
4 tbsp miso paste
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sake

first layer
carrot
lotus root
chinese cabbage
chrysanthemum greens
nishime kombu
taro balls

second layer
inari age
dried seaweed (wakame)
bamboo shoots
green onion
shiitake
shimeiji
fishcake
hard mochi
clams
shrimp
arabiki sausage

third layer
enoki
tofu
konnyaku noodles
salmon
shabu shabu thinly sliced beef or pork

add-ins
udon
starch noodles (ex. vermicelli)

1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the water, miso, mirin, and sake. Set aside.
2. In a large pot, the one you’ll be using for cooking and serving, add the first layer of ingredients. These are the things that take the longest to cook. Continue by adding in the second layer, and then the third. By the time the stew is finished cooking, it won’t be nearly as pretty but you can still neatly arrange all the ingredients in the second and third layers for aesthetic reasons as it cooks.
3. Add the miso mixture to the pot. Cover with a lid and cook on medium-high heat. After 20-30 minutes, the water level in the pot should have risen significantly and some of the ingredients are almost done cooking. At this point, add water or more of the miso mixture depending on if the soup needs liquid or more flavor. Continue to let it cook with the lid off so the soup can reduce. At this point, add in any noodles to cook.
4. Once the chanko has been cooking for about an hour, everything should be well cooked and the broth thick and flavorful. Serve hot with chopsticks and a soup spoon and enjoy a wonderfully comforting meal!

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