Poilane’s Punitions

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Like so many tourists from around the world who make homage to this world famous boulangerie, I too visited Poilane on my last trip to the City of Lights and picked up a little complimentary “Punitions” cookie (or two, or three) from a basket by the cashier on my way out. I can still recall the moment the robust buttery flavor and subtle sweetness hit my taste bud – it was heaven. Just like the French culture, these cookies present a paradox that we Westerners often struggle to decipher: how something so simple (cookies made from only butter, sugar, egg, and flour) taste so rich, luxurious, and opulent.

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There’s no mystery why these butter cookies from one of Paris’ most famous bakers are called, “Punitions,” or punishment, because it’s just plan cruel to have to wait to bite into them until they cool down. Yep, it was definitely a torture.

You can find the recipe and a lovely story by Dorie Greenspan in her book, Paris Sweets. Or, click here for the recipe. This is one of my all-time favorite baking books.

Gateau au Yaourt

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Life as a mother has settled down a bit, as we approach the second month anniversary of Pon Pon’s arrival. I still cry and pull my hair out once in a while (okay, every other day), but things have definitely gotten much, much better. For one thing, I stopped taking things too seriously. I now let mistakes happen and not punish myself for them. Now that I’m learning to balance my life, I made time during the blissful hour I have before Pon Pon wakes up in the morning to bake Gateau au Yaourt, or Yogurt Cake, courtesy of the book, Bringing Up Bebe, by Pamela Druckerman.

Speaking of the book, it’s a lifesaver. I still have a few more chapters to go, but it’s been wonderful so far, providing me with sound advice about raising a bebe.

Thanks to the book, I learned to “pause,” and started to give Pon Pon the opportunity to self-sooth first, before running to her the moment she cries. I also started speaking to her more frequently, especially when I need to explain her something. The other day, I politely asked Pon Pon to please stay calm and quite in a swing for 30 minutes because mommy needed to eat lunch … and she complied! Now, I speak to her every night before she goes to bed, recapping the things we did together, and thank her for another wonderful and adventurous day.  And of course, let her know how much I love her.

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Gateau au Yaourt (Yogurt Cake)
Adapted from the book, Bringing Up Bebe, but modified slightly

The book introduced this recipe because this is a cake that even a three-year-old can make. All the measurements are done in the 6 oz yogurt container. Since I didn’t have the small container, I used the regular measuring cup.

Ingredients: 

3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used the low fat kind)
2 eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
2/3 cup corn oil

Instruction:

① Preheat the oven to 375 degree F. Prepare the 9-inch loaf pan by layering the bottom with a wax paper.

② Combine the yogurt, oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl and mix well (wet). In a separate bowl, sift the flour and baking powder together (dry).

③ Add the dry ingredient with the wet one, and mix to combine. Be careful not to over mix the batter.

④ Pour the combined mixture into a 9-inch loaf pan and bake it in the oven for about 30-45 minutes, until the inserted toothpick comes out clean.

⑤ Let the cake cool at room temperature for a few minutes before serving.

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Oh my … this is a delicious cake! I love the combination of subtle sweet and slight tang that is present in this lovely cake. I used the generic, low fat yogurt that I purchased from Fresh and Easy for this. I was worried at first because the yogurt was a little on the watery side but I think that helped make this cake extra soft and moist!

I definitely recommend that you give this recipe a try! It’ll be even better if you go crazy and have fun making this with your little one in the kitchen. I can’t wait to make this cake with Pon Pon soon!

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

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Early summer is upon us, which means fresh, succulent strawberries will begin to make appearances at local farmers markets and roadside vendors soon … and that’s a wonderful thing!

I still haven’t decided if I’ll drive down to Oxnard for the annual Strawberry Festival in May, but I’ll definitely be indulging in fraise as much as I can in the coming months. And I’ll also be making lots of desserts with the juicy berries, including this refreshing frozen yogurt.

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Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
Recipe inspired by David Levovitz’s recipe but modified slightly
(Makes about 2 quarts)

2 lbs fresh or frozen strawberries
32 oz plain yogurt
1 cup maple syrup
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon vodka (optional)

① Cut strawberries into small pieces, removing the stems.  Mix in the maple syrup, vodka, and lemon juice, and let it sit for about 2 hours to let the flavors soak in.

② Puree the mixture in a blender. Don’t liquidity completely, if you like some strawberry bits.

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③ Combine the strawberry puree with yogurt and mix well with a spatula.  You can put the mixture in an ice cream maker at this point, but you can skip this if you don’t own it, or don’t want to bother (like me this time).

④ If you’re not using the ice cream maker, pour the mixture into a plastic container and freeze for about 6 hours. Take the container out of the freezer several times to mix occasionally.

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You might want to take out the container from the freezer and leave it out for about 10-15 minutes before serving, to soften the frozen yogurt a little so it’ll scoop better.

I love this dessert. It’s tastes like a mixture of frozen yogurt and fruit sorbet, and a great alternative to a high-calorie ice cream.

Peppermint Goodness: Homemade Deodorant

deodorant ingredientsI suppose I should warn you in advance that this post is not going to be about food. Instead, I am going to talk about a topic that is somewhat unappetizing, like personal hygiene and armpit issues, but I promise that I’m going to refrain from giving too much information and get right to the point. I made a homemade deodorant. 🙂

I figured it would be okay to talk about non-food related topics here, especially because making homemade beauty products like soaps and deodorants are so similar to cooking and baking. Everything can be done in a kitchen, and ingredients used are almost all edible!

deodorant mixtureI got inspired to make my own deodorant when I stumbled upon this tutorial by Soapaholic Anonymous, an adorable little blog packed with great inspiration for aspiring home chemists like myself. As soon as I realized that I already had all the necessary ingredients in the kitchen (coconut oil, baking soda, cornstarch, and essential oils), nothing was holding me back from making my first deodorant.

I wanted to make four batches so I quadrupled all ingredients that were listed. As I was mixing the baking soda and cornstarch with the melted coconut oil, I noticed that the consistency of the mixture felt a little too liquid-y so I added additional 1/4 cup of each powder. The mixture was still runny but I decided to go with it and pour it into four clean containers and let them rest at room temperature until the coconut oil hardened a bit. I used lemon and peppermint essential oils to give it a refreshing scent, and I love that it smells like a Christmas candy cane!

deodorant containerWhen it came time to take this on a test run, I used a wooden popsicle stick I had to stir the mixture, put a small amount of the deodorant on my palm and rubbed it gently on my skin.

I wasn’t sure how it would turn out at first because of the access oil floating on top, but the mixture was surprisingly refreshing and not greasy at all. Once the oily paste / mixture is applied to skin, it immediately turns into a thin dry layer, absorbing all wetness. As long the skin is completely dry (I don’t recommend applying this immediately after getting out of shower as it leaves a little paste on skin) and apply it thinly, you will not see the white residual that mass-produced deodorants often leave behind. I think the key here is to apply it thinly and not to be afraid of the oil. I think oil is what makes it feel dry on skin (who knew?)

I think I’m going to try other recipes in the future like the one I found in Angry Chicken (one of the cutest craft blogs around) but I’m happy with this one for now. I gave three away to my trusted testers so let’s see what kind of feedback I receive from them. 🙂