Monthly Archives: December 2014

Our Year in Review (2014)

2014 went by so fast! We can’t believe it has been almost two years since we started UCL. Here’s a review of our eventful year:

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We went to Canoe for Winterlicious.

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We learned about Nigerian cuisine for a school project.

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We went on a Vancouver food trip. This was Ricelessasian’s first time visiting  Vancouver.

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Baked a giant cupcake for a special girl’s birthday party!  

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Ricelessasian made a lot of colourful cupcakes.

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Although Matchachoco stayed in Vancouver, we met again in Los Angeles a few months later. We went on a food trip…again (lol).

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We made our own birthday cakes!

Ricelessasian’s birthday cake:

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Matchachoco’s birthday cake: 

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Virtual Thanksgiving Potluck with EatPrayBake 🙂

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We had a couple of pasta posts throughout the year 😛

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Ricelessasian made an edible Christmas tree.

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Looking forward to more food experiments in 2015! 🙂

Happy New Year!

– Underground Culinary Lab Team

Chocolate Peanut Butter Birthday Cake

Happy New Year everyone! 🙂

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Last week, I decided to spoil myself to an extravagant, over-the-top 3 tiered cake for my birthday this year. I don’t usually make cakes; honestly, I’m more of a fan of French pastries like double-baked almond croissants and macarons. However, I came across fellow Vancouverite Coco Cake Land’s cake and I was immediately hooked! Both her and Katherine Sabbath are bakers that we follow on Instagram who create unique and stylized cakes that are one-of-a-kind. I wanted to feature this cake because it’s a very visual, youthful and eye-popping cake which made me super duper happy to bake and eat!

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Wishing you an amazing year of good vibes, yummy eats, and a healthy journey ahead!

See y’all in 2015,

-matchachoco

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Vanilla Layer Cake (makes three 6-inch x 2-inch round cake layers)
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

2 cups cake flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups of sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups buttermilk (I used 1 ¾ cups of 2% milk with 3 tbsp. of fresh lemon juice)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Butter all sides of three 6-inch round cake pans generously and line only bottoms with parchment paper.
  3. Prepare “buttermilk” by adding fresh lemon juice to the milk. Stir to combine and set aside for 15 minutes.
  4. Sift together both all-purpose and cake flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  5. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla.
  6. Add eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.
  7. At low speed, beat in the milk mixture and add in the flour mixture, alternating with dry and wet mixtures (ending with the dry). Mix until just incorporated.
  8. Pour batter in each pan (half way) and spread evenly with a spatula. Drop pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.
  9. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, until the cakes are golden brown and test doneness with a toothpick . Make sure there are no crumbs on the toothpick (a denser cake is desired for clean cutting).
  10. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pans.
  11. Invert onto separate plates to cool and set aside the layers of cakes.

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Peanut Butter Frosting (makes enough for one – 3 layer cake)
Adapted from Coco Cake Land 

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup of smooth peanut butter
2 cups of icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp. of milk
Pinch of salt

Directions

1. Using a stand or hand-held mixer, beat the butter and peanut butter on high speed for 1 minute.
2. Add the icing sugar, vanilla , salt and milk, beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minute.
3. Remove the first cake layer from the cake pan. Frost generously with peanut butter frosting. (Repeat for 2nd and 3rd layers).
4. Spread the frosting on the outer sides and smooth out the entire cake with an offset spatula.

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Chocolate Glaze
Adapted from Coco Cake Land 

Ingredients

½ cup dark chocolate, broken into pieces (I used Trader Joe’s 70% cacao Dark Chocolate bars)
¼ cup unsalted butter, diced
1/8 tsp of pure vanilla extract
1 tsp of whole milk

Directions

1. Fill a small pot with water and boil. Place the butter, chocolate, and vanilla in a heatproof glass bowl on top of the pot. Stir slowly until melted. Remove from stove and slowly stir in the milk (try to avoid curdling).
2. Set aside to cool for 20 minutes.
3. Pour glaze on top of the peanut butter frosting. With the assistance of an offset spatula, spread glaze to the edges of the cake and slowly let the chocolate drip on only a few sides of the cake.
4. Let cake set for 20 minutes.
5. Decorate the cake with meringue kisses, chocolate bark or sprinkles.
6. Serve immediately or cover and wrap the cake in saran wrap to prevent drying up in the refrigerator.

For the pretty chocolate bark decorations and cute meringue kisses, follow Coco Cake Land’s easy peasy recipes here and here!

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Stacked Matcha Cookies Christmas Tree

Happy Holidays! What treats have you made this Christmas?

Seeing as how my family was lazy to take our Christmas tree out from the storage room, I took matters into my own hands and decided to bake one instead. This one’s on my holiday baking list too!

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They’re layers of matcha sugar cookies cut out into stars of different sizes, and then stacked on top of each other to form a tree. Since I didn’t have star-shaped cookie cutters, I printed a clip art of varying star sizes, cut them out, and traced them on the cookie dough. I wasn’t sure how I was going to decorate the cookies, so I whipped out some matcha buttercream on the side.

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Matchachoco and I love baking with matcha powder. Aside from giving desserts a green tea flavour, you also get a natural green hue, avoiding the need for artificial food colouring. I used Laura Vitale’s sugar cookie recipe and added about a tablespoon of matcha powder to it. The cookies had a subtle matcha flavour which contrasted the sweetness of the cookies. It’s quite similar to the matcha shortbread Matchachoco and I baked together last year, but less buttery and a little bit more on the crisp side. They also hold their shape very well if you bake the cookie dough cold.

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I was a bit worried that it would turn out overly sweet with the addition of the matcha buttercream design, but turns out the cookies weren’t that sweet and the buttercream added some sweetness that the cookies were lacking. These cookies would pair well with some hot tea on the side.

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Hope you’re having a sweet time during the holidays!

– Ricelessasian

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Stacked Matcha Cookies Christmas Tree
These cookies have sort of a bittersweet taste because of the matcha. Of course if matcha isn’t your thing, you can use green food colouring instead 😛

Ingredients

For the cookies
1 recipe of sugar cookies
1 tbsp. matcha powder

For the buttercream
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tbsp. milk (used to adjust buttercream consistency)
1/2-1 tbsp. matcha powder (or add according to your taste)

Directions

  1. Prepare sugar cookie recipe with the addition of matcha powder. Roll sugar cookie into a flat dough and refrigerate for about an hour.
  2. After refrigerating, cut out varying sizes of star shapes with cookie cutters or by using a template (I used a template by printing out a clip art of a star in different sizes). Refrigerate again for a couple of minutes if the dough gets too soft after cutting.
  3. Bake cookies at 375 degrees F. Since the cookies are in different shapes, the smaller cookies would bake faster than the bigger ones. While baking, gradually remove the smaller cookies once their sides have browned. Continue to bake until the biggest cookie is done (approximately a total of 10-15 minutes baking time depending on the size and how many cookies you’re baking). Allow the cookies to cool on a baking rack.
  4. To make the buttercream: Beat softened butter while gradually adding powdered sugar with an electric mixer until you get a fluffy consistency. Add a couple tablespoons of milk if the buttercream is too stiff. Add matcha powder according to your preference.
  5. Once the cookies have cooled, stack the cookies on top of each other, from biggest to smallest, using the buttercream as a glue. Decorate the cookies by piping buttercream around the edges with a star tip.

I had some leftover cookie dough, so I made some sparkly Christmas tree cookie cutouts on the side 🙂

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Christmas Kale Minestrone Soup

It’s that time of the year again. I don’t know about you, but one of the best parts of the year is the weeks that lead up to Christmas. There’s a lot of excitement in anticipation for Christmas; the environment is beaming with white snow and Christmas lights. You also have an excuse to throw holiday parties!

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In spirit of the season,  I decided to get these Christmas-themed pasta I’ve been eyeing on for quite a while now. Initially, I was waiting to get it after Christmas when it goes on sale, and use it for next Christmas. But apparently, I don’t really have that much patience…

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Since I’ve recently been into soups because of the cold weather, here’s a minestrone soup post featuring one of my all-time favorite veggies, kale. It’s sweet, tangy, and hearty from the beans and vegetables used.

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Put your hands up like you just don’t kale.

– Ricelessasian

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Christmas Minestrone Kale Soup (makes about 4-6 servings)
Adapted from Laura Vitale

Feel free to adjust the amount of ingredients according to your preference. You can add whatever vegetables you want; I just used what I had at home. Meatballs would also be a great addition to this soup.

Ingredients

2/3  cup diced carrots
2/3 cup chopped celery
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth for a vegetarian version)
1 can (796ml) diced tomatoes
4-5 cups of chopped kale
1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
~1 cup pasta
1-2 tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (plus more for garnish)
Parmesan cheese (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for cooking

Directions

  1. In a cooking pot, cook carrot, celery, and onion with some cooking oil over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes or until the onions have softened and become translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Add garlic and Italian seasoning, and cook vegetables for another 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the broth and diced tomatoes. Allow the soup to come to a boil. Once it is boiling, add the kale. Let simmer for about 10 minutes until the kale has wilted. Add water if the soup reduces too much.
  3. Add the black beans and the pasta. Continue to heat the soup until the pasta is cooked al dente. Season soup with salt and pepper, and finish with some chopped fresh parsley. Serve with more parsley for garnish and parmesan cheese.

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Nutella Braid Bread

Done with this semester’s exams!

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This is something I’ve been wanting to try out, but I’ve been holding it off until the Christmas break. I have a list of other recipes ideas I’m anticipating to try, and hopefully I get through most of them over this break 🙂

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The bread didn’t turn out as symmetrical as I would’ve liked it to be, but I think it’s not bad for the first try! The shape reminded me of poinsettia and Christmas parols.

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I used the recipe Yoyomax12 used for her Nutella braid bread, but followed the instructions from Steve’s Kitchen. I only did three layers, instead of the four layers in the video, because I didn’t have enough dough. I got to say, I was pleasantly surprised with how the bread turned out! I’ve tried a couple of bread recipes in the past, but this is probably the first time I was impressed flavor-wise. It had a light, fluffy texture with a crisp crust. It tasted like something you’d buy from a fancy bread place, and it’s also such an easy bread recipe (although I can’t say the same about the braiding part lol).

TIP: Heat Nutella in the microwave first, so that you can spread it easily.

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The extra bread dough I sliced off did not go to waste! It was used for a taste test 🙂

Obligatory powdered sugar shot:

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Share the love (and the bread!).

-Ricelessasian

Pomegranate Greek Yogurt Cheesecake

Happy first of December! Where did the year go? It’s been a real whirlwind especially since it’s a busy time for us with school and other extracurricular activities. Ricelessasian and I have been a little bit MIA lately, but we hope to post more during the break.

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I’ve been meaning to make this recipe for a long time now – just waiting for the perfect timing to feature this holiday dessert. Recently, a new Greek yogurt cream cheese product was released in quite a few supermarkets and I was pretty intrigued to try it.

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Pomegranate fruits are lovely to consume this time of year; their peak season is in the Fall and Winter. They’re so beautiful and unique. Yes…the seeds are a pain in the ‘arse’ to remove, but the vibrancy of the red seeds makes them super festive to top on any sweet or savoury dishes! Research compiled by Zarfeshany et al. (2014) suggests that pomegranate consumption is associated with inhibiting cardiovascular diseases and lowering the risk of cancers such as prostate and breast cancer, due to their antioxidant properties.

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This Bon Appetit recipe was overall pretty flexible – you can bake the cheesecake or refrigerate it. It’s really up to your personal preference! Due to time constraints, I decided to bake the crust. I also opted to bake the cheesecake instead, leaving out the gelatin. Instead of making one 9-inch cheesecake, I decided to made two 4.5-inch smaller cheesecakes. The nutritional information is also included which helps you keep track of how much you’re indulging in. Typically when I bake regular cheesecakes, my limit is probably 2 small slices and then I give the rest away to my dear taste testers (aka family & friends) 😉

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I think this is a great and healthier alternative to regular or light cream cheese. However, the flavour was quite distinct. I’m a fan of greek yogurt, so the tanginess didn’t bother me too much.

It’s no secret that we love cheesecake! We featured it previously before and will likely do so again in the future. Matcha cheesecake anyone? 🙂

What do you think about greek yogurt as a substitute for regular cream cheese? Will you give it a try too this holiday season?

– Matchachoco