momofuku milk bar exam no. 9 {carrot layer cake}

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Oh, I've missed y'all so much.

I have been slacking in the blogging, I know... it's been for valid reasons if that makes it any better (it doesn't). All great excuses: the Met Gala (!!!), moving office spaces, and being the maid of honor at my friend Rebecca's wedding. But my priorities are back in order now and the Momofuku Milk Bar Exams are back on! Which is great because this recipe is a true showstopper.

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{carrot caps}

I (and my friend Katherine) have been wanting this carrot cake for so long, you would not believe it. But I knew I wanted to save it for a special occasion... cue the engagement of my coworkers Kraig and Myriam! It was perfect timing and partly planned/completely accidental that this 'carat' cake was apropos for an engagement theme. I thought I was some sort of genius for coming up with this tasty pun but alas no, Betty Crocker (amongst a million others) had beaten me to the punch! One of these days, Betty...

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Although it may not look like it, this carrot cake is actually pretty traditional in its flavors. There's the fresh carrots, the cream cheese, the cinnamon. No raisins, no walnuts, no pineapples (thank goodness). When it comes to carrot cakes, I'm a purist. What makes this recipe so unique however are the Momofuku-esque touches such as the milk crumbs and graham frosting which really elevate it in the best possible way! Once again, these crumbs are changing my life... there is now a clear division of B.C. (before crumbs) and A.C. (after crumbs) with which I will now live my life by.

The only alterations I made to the recipe were purely aesthetic. The carrot curls on top are an addition that make this cake truly worthy of an engagement celebration, don't you think? I love the pop of color! If you don't love your friends and family as much as I do, you can totally do without them. No judgement.

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But really, no carrot curls?? Look at them... you must be some sort of monster! Include them in your cake. Their curly cues are just too cute to deny.

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carrot layer cake makes 1 (6-inch) layer cake, 5 to 6 inches tall; serves 6 to 8

  • 1 recipe Carrot Cake
  • ¼ cup (55g) milk
  • 1 recipe Liquid Cheesecake
  • ½ recipe Milk Crumb
  • 1 recipe Graham Frosting
  • carrot curls, optional

(1) Put a piece of parchment or a Silpat on the counter. Invert the cake onto it and peel off the parchment or Silpat from the bottom of the cake. Use the cake ring to stamp out 2 circles from the cake. These are your top 2 cake layers. The remaining cake “scrap” will come together to make the bottom layer of the cake - layer 1, the bottom - (2) Clean the cake ring and place it in the center of a sheet pan lined with clean parchment or a Silpat. Use 1 strip of acetate to line the inside of the cake ring. (3) Put the cake scraps in the ring and use the back of your hand to tamp the scraps together into a flat even layer. (4) Dunk a pastry brush in the milk and give the layer of cake a good, healthy bath of half of the milk. (5) Use the back of a spoon to spread half of the liquid cheesecake in an even layer over the cake. (6) Sprinkle one-third of the milk crumbs evenly over the cheesecake. Use the back of your hand to anchor them in place. (7) Use the back of a spoon to spread one-third of the graham frosting as evenly as possible over the crumbs. - layer 2, the middle - (8) With your index finger, gently tuck the second strip of acetate between the cake ring and the top ¼ inch of the first strip of acetate, so that you have a clear ring of acetate 5 to 6 inches tall—high enough to support the height of the finished cake. Set a cake round on top of the frosting, and repeat the process for layer 1 (if 1 of you 2 cake rounds in jankier than the other, use it here in the middle and save the prettier one for the top). - layer 3, the top - (9) Nestle the remaining cake round into the frosting. Cover the top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Give it volume and swirls, or do as we do and opt for a perfectly flat top. Garnish the frosting with the remaining milk crumbs. (10) Transfer the sheet pan to the freezer and freeze for a minimum of 12 hours to set the cake and filling. The cake will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks. (11) At least 3 hours before you are ready to serve the cake, pull the sheet pan out of the freezer and, using your fingers and thumbs, pop the cake out of the cake ring. Gently peel off the acetate and transfer the cake to a platter or cake stand. Decorate with the essential carrot curls (if you wish). Let it defrost in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours [best to do 5-6] (wrapped well in plastic, it can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.) (12) Slice the cake into wedges and serve.

Carrot Curl Tutorial:

  • Take a peeled carrot and cut about an inch off the bottom. Then using a peeler, continue peeling one side only until you get thin ribbons. The bigger the carrot, the broader the ribbons. Simple!

carrot cake makes 1 quarter sheet pan cake

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick, 115g) butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup (120g) light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup (40g) grapeseed oil
  • 1¼ cups (200g) flour
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.5g) baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon (1.5g) ground cinnamon [upped to 1 teaspoon]
  • 1¼ teaspoons (5g) kosher salt
  • 2½ cups (225g) shredded peeled carrots (2 to 3 medium-sized carrots)
  • Pam or other nonstick cooking spray (optional)

(1) Heat the oven to 350°F. (2) Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs, and mix on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once more. (3) On low speed, stream in the oil. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and paddle for 4 to 6 minutes, until the mixture is practically white, twice the size of your original fluffy butter-and-sugar mixture, and completely homogenous, with no streaks of fat. Don’t rush the process. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. (4) On very low speed, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix for 45 to 60 seconds, just until your batter comes together and any remnants of dry ingredients have been incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. (5) Detach the paddle and remove the bowl from the mixer. Dump the shredded carrots into the bowl and, with a spatula, fold them into the batter. (6) Pam-spray a quarter sheet pan and line it with parchment, or just line the pan with a Silpat. Using a spatula, spread the cake batter in an even layer in the pan. (7) Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes. The cake will rise and puff, doubling in size, but will remain slightly buttery and dense. At 25 minutes, gently poke the edge of the cake with your finger: the cake should bounce back slightly and the center should no longer be jiggly. Leave the cake in the oven for an extra 3 to 5 minutes if it doesn’t pass these tests. (8) Take the cake out of the oven and cool on a wire rack or, in a pinch, in the fridge or freezer (don’t worry, it’s not cheating). The cooled cake can be stored in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 5 days.

Liquid Cheesecake makes about 325g (1¼ cups)

  • 8 ounces (225g) cream cheese
  • ¾ cup (150g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (6g) cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon (2g) kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons (25g) milk
  • 1 egg

(1)   Heat the oven to 300° F. (2)   Put the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the sugar and mix for 1 to 2 minutes, until the sugar has been completely incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl (3)   Whisk together the cornstarch and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the milk in a slow, steady stream, then whisk in the egg until the slurry is homogenous. (4)   With the mixer on medium-low speed, stream in the egg slurry. Paddle for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and loose. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. (5)   Line the bottom and sides of a 6x6 inch baking pan with plastic wrap. Poor the cheesecake batter into the pan, put the pan in the oven, and bake for 15 minutes. Gently shake the pan. The cheesecake should be firmer and more set toward the outer boundaries of the baking pan but still be jiggly and loose in the dead center. If the cheesecake is jiggly all over, give it 5 minutes more. And 5 minutes more if it needs it, but it’s never taken me  more then 25 minutes to underbake one. If the cheesecake rises more than a ¼ inch or begins to brown, take it out of the oven immediately. (6)   Cool the cheesecake completely, to finish the baking process and allow the cheesecake to set. The final product will resemble a cheesecake, but it will be pipeable and pliable enough to easily spread or smear, while still having body and volume. Once cool, the cheesecake can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Milk Crumb

  • ¼ cup (20g) milk powder
  • 2 tablespoons (20g) flour
  • 1 tablespoon (6g) cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon (12.5g) sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon (1g) kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons (¼ stick, 27.5g) butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons (10g) milk powder
  • 1 ½ ounces (45g) white chocolate, melted

(1) Heat the oven to 250° F. (2) Combine the 20g (¼ cup) milk powder, the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Toss with your hands to mix. Add the melted buter and toss, using a spatula, until the mixture starts to come together and form small clusters. (3) Spread the clusters on a parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes. The crumbs should be sandy at that point, and your kitchen should smell like buttery heaven. Cool the crumbs completely. (4) Crumble any milk crumb clusters that are larger than ½ inch in diameter and put the crumbs in a medium bowl. Add the 10 g (2 tablespoons) milk powder and toss together until it is evenly distributed throughout the mixtures. (5) Pour the white chocolate over the crumbs and toss until your clusters are enrobed. Then continue tossing them every 5 minutes until the white chocolate hardens and the clusters are no longer sticky. The crumbs will keep in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer for up to 1 month.

Graham Frosting makes about 230g (1 cup)

  • ½ recipe Graham Crust
  • ⅓ cup (85g) milk
  • ½ teaspoon (2g) kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons (85g) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15g) light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1 tablespoon (10g) confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon (0.5g) ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon (0.5g) kosher salt

(1) Combine the graham crust, milk, and salt in a blender, turn the speed on to medium-high, and puree until smooth and homogenous. It will take 1 to 3 minutes (depending on the awesomeness of your blender). If the mixture does not catch on your blender blade, turn off the blender, take a small teaspoon, and scrape down the sides of the canister, remembering to scrape under the blade, then try again. (2) Combine the butter, sugars, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes, until fluffy and speckled yellow. Scrape down  the sides of the bowl with a spatula. (3) On low speed, paddle in the contents of the blender. After 1 minutes, crank the speed up to medium-high and let her rip for another 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. If the mixture is not a uniform pale tan, give the bowl another scrape-down and the frosting another minute of high-speed paddling. (4) Use the frosting immediately, or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Graham Crust makes about 340g (2 cups)

  • 1½ cups (190g) graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup (20g) milk powder
  • 2 tablespoons (25g) sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon (3g) kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick, 55g) butter, melted, or as needed
  • ¼ cup (55g) heavy cream

(1) Toss the graham crumbs, milk powder, sugar, and salt with your hands in a medium bowl to evenly distribute your dry ingredients. (2) Whisk the butter and heavy cream together. Add to the dry ingredients and toss again to evenly distribute. The butter will act as a glue, adhering to the dry ingredients and turning the mixture into a bunch of small clusters. The mixture should hold its shape if squeezed tightly in the palm of your hand. If it is not moist enough to do so, melt an additional 14 to 25 g (1 to 1½ tablespoons) butter and mix it in. (3) Eat immediately, or deploy as directed in a recipe. The crust is easiest to mold just after mixing. Stored in an airtight container, graham crust will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature or for 1 month in the fridge or freezer.

pumpkin mousse parfaits

hello November!

So far November in New York has been, to put it kindly... a bitch. First, we welcomed the month with Hurricane Sandy aka Frankenstorm and then Athena the Nor'easter brought an onslaught of our first snow this year. I don't mean it lightly when I say I feel incredibly grateful and lucky to have been safe and warm.

To anyone who still needs a warm place to stay or electricity or pumpkin parfaits... this is for you.

This dessert requires no baking and is super easy to put together. I was skeptical about the pumpkin-orange mousse but I think my final verdict is... I like it? I only added 1 teaspoon of orange zest instead of 2 and that was plenty. Next time, I may reduce the whipped cream to 1 cup as well for a more intense pumpkin-y flavor.

I think this is perfect for the Thanksgiving holidays. It's a nice variation on pumpkin pie and feels deceptively light (despite the copious amounts of heavy cream. I'm so evil.). I took these adorable parfaits to my friend Emily's party and they were quite popular. Make sure not to make them too big as these little things are richer than they appear.

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Pumpkin Mousse Parfaits adapted from Barefoot Contessa

  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 packet (2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin powder
  • 1 (15-ounce can) pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ cups cold heavy cream
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Sweetened whipped cream (recipe followed)
  • ½ cup crumbled ginger cookies

1)    Place the water in a heat-proof bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Set aside for 10 minutes for the gelatin to soften. 2)    In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar, egg yolks, orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. 3)    Set the bowl of gelatin over a small pot of simmering water and cook until the gelatin is clear. Immediately whisk the hot gelatin mixture into the pumpkin mixture. 4)    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream and vanilla until soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture. 5)    To assemble, spoon some of the pumpkin mixture into parfait glasses, add a layer of whipped cream, then some chopped cookies. Repeat, ending with a third layer of pumpkin. 6)    Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. To serve, decorate with whipped cream and some more crumbles of ginger cookies.

Sweetened whipped cream

  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1)    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla until firm peaks form. Use to layer and decorate the parfaits.

Makes 8-10 servings

rise and shine!

Yes, we all know it's 'the most important meal of the day' but... do you eat breakfast?

I admit that for a long time, I did not. Mostly because I am not much of a morning person. Still not. When I did start eating breakfast, it was more like, grab a Special K bar before heading out the door. Even now, I'm not a huge breakfast fan unless it involves my sister's oatmeal pancakes or a nice crab cakes benedict (anything with poached eggs really).

The issue with breakfast is I want something that's energizing, not too filling, and of course yummy. These days, my very fancy breakfast usually consists of anything that's easy to grab-and-go like these oatmeal applesauce blueberry muffins (which I waxed poetics about in my NY Diet). These muffins are the perfect on-the-go, nutritious breakfast. Seriously, I love these. I even eat them as a sweet treat after dinner. Bake a batch over the weekend then refrigerate them so you'll be sure to have breakfast all during the week... if they last that long.

Oatmeal Blueberry Applesauce Muffins adapted from Joy the Baker 

  • 1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 ¼ cups oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup low-fat buttermilk (I used soymilk)
  • ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

(1)  Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper cases or spray with nonstick cooking spray. (2)  In a large bowl combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. (3)  In a medium bowl whisk together the applesauce, milk, sugar, oil, egg and vanilla. (4)  Make a well in dry ingredients and add applesauce mixture. Stir until just moist. As with most batters, it's better to not overmix; a few lumps of flour are fine. (5)  Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full (about ¼ cup). (6)  Bake for 16-18 minutes. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes before taking out and cooling on a wire cooling rack.

Makes 12 muffins

Autumn in New York

No, I'm not talking about that terribly sappy movie with Richard Gere and Winona Ryder. Though, I could never really bad-mouth Winona as Little Women has been, since 5th grade, my go-to rainy day movie.

Actually, the origins of my last name Choo (추) mean 'Autumn' or at least that's what my mom has always told me. Regardless, I like to think that's why I have such an endearment for the fall season. I love watching the weather cool down, the leaves change colors and the consumption of any and all fall desserts. Treats that incorporate the bounties of fall like apples, cranberries and of course... pumpkin!

This past week, one of my roommates made these delicious pumpkin chocolate chip & pecan cookies. They were so perfect for the crisp fall weather. When I asked her for the recipe, she told me she got it off this site skinnytaste.com. wait WHAT?! these cookies are delectable AND low fat?? Praise the pumpkin gods!

I decided to make a batch of these deceptively delicious cookies for my workplace, which seems to be riddled with all things mini-cupcaked and fun-sized. The only adjustment I made was to omit the pecans cause I'm not a huge fan of them (who eats pecan pie without the pecans?... guilty.)

Just check out the step-by-step photos for these Pumpkin Spiced Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

 then ADD...

 math can be so fun.

Pumpkin Spiced Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (low fat) adapted from skinnytaste.com

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup unpacked brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 tablespoons canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup chopped pecans (optional)

(1)     Preheat oven to 350°; line two baking sheets with parchment paper or use a silpat. (2)     In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pumpkin spice and cinnamon. (3)     In a large bowl, with a mixer, cream together the butter and the sugars on medium speed. (4)     Add the egg, followed by the pumpkin and vanilla extract. (5)     Working by hand, stir in the flour mixture and the oats until just combined and no streaks of flour remain; stir in the chocolate chips. (6)     Drop 1 tablespoon of the dough at a time onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until cookies become light brown at the edges. (7)     Cool on baking sheet for 3 or 4 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 32 cookies, 1 tablespoon each

These were such a hit at work! not a crumb left in sight (unfortunately). I HIGHLY recommend making them. like NOW.