Café Dulcé- Little Tokyo

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20130908_144747Café Dulcé in Little Tokyo is known for its carefully brewed coffees and unique baked goods. The pastry case is lined with a simple assortment of Asian-influenced breads from Red Bean Roti Buns to Spirulina Churros.

20130908_144151Café Dulcé also has an emphasis on unique donuts. Look at those cute Fruity Pebble Donut Holes!

20130908_144147Row after row of bacon donuts.

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Despite all the treats available, I come to the small cafe specifically for its green tea donut.

20130908_144156This is one of my favorite sweets to get in Little Tokyo.

20130908_144455The first bite was the best. My teeth sank through the thin crisp fried outer layer of the donut, then through to the pillowy and light innards, and finally the cool creamy pastry cream oozed out. Inevitably your lips are coated in a sugary crust, but it makes the whole experience even better.

20130908_144623The restrained sweetness and wonderfully soft and airy texture of the donut really make this a special treat.

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THE Crullant: Semi-Sweet Bakery

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I FINALLY managed to get my hands on the crullant from Semi-Sweet Bakery in Downtown LA. They impose a limit of 2 crullants per customer since they sell out of these pastry hybrids so quickly. Naturally I grabbed 2 of these bad boys. They were so cute with the distinctive layers of a croissant and the familiar shape of a donut. I had previously visited Semi-Sweet Bakery (https://lasweetsblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/semi-sweet-bakery/), but left without the popular crullant. This time I just couldn’t wait to get them into my belly.

Just seeing the flaky layers and the glistening sugar holding all the layers together made my mouth water. The top of the crullant was extra sugary and shattered deliciously when I took my first bite. YUM.

IMG_3597The interior of the crullant was buttery and soft, just the way I had imagined. As my teeth sank through the layers, the sugary crunch of the exterior combined with the yielding texture of the innards for an unbelievable experience. SO good. Before I knew it, both crullants were gone. 🙂

IMG_3603I will definitely be back for more.

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Roadtrip!! Los Angeles to Seattle

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I was so excited to be embarking on my first road trip ever with Seattle as my destination. After visiting the Northwest last summer, I had a sense of the fun I had in store. The drive up through California is beautiful as the road crosses immense stretches of flat land with farms on either side, to winding narrow lanes carving up and down the sides of mountains. On our trip, we spent a few days in San Francisco and a day in Portland before reaching Seattle. Devin and I made a point of mapping out a route that would allow us to see and experience some of the natural wonders on the way. One of the most memorable sites for me was Crater Lake in Southern Oregon.

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The most incredible thing about the lake has to be the deep clarity of the blue water. After the volcano underneath exploded, the resulting crater began to fill with rain water and snow melt. Due to its purity, the water reflected the surrounding crater perfectly.

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As we drove away from Crater Lake, some fluffy clouds blew in and partially covered the sun allowing for streams of light to shine through.

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IMG_3434Then it was back on the road! Further along our trip, we stopped at Smith Rock State Park in Northern Oregon.

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IMG_3349After a wonderful month in Washington, it was time for the drive back down. This time, Devin and I decided to visit Yosemite National Park and  spend a night camping in Grover Hot Springs. I wish I had pictures of some of the trails and views around our campsite because it was breathtaking! Our campsite lay near a creek that wound through the forest with huge mountains and peaks all around. I remember having to lock away all food and items with aroma in a metal bear bin to prevent any curious black bears from wandering in.

The next morning, we packed up camp and headed to Yosemite!

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IMG_3475Yosemite has the most incredible rock formations- they are massive, and just standing in their presence is quite humbling.

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Finally, a glimpse of Half-dome!! It is supposed to be one of the largest granite peaks in North America.

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IMG_3527Yosemite is a glorious place. Although we did not have enough time to see nearly as much as we wanted, Devin and I plan to be back soon!

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Le Rêve Bakery & Café

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For the past month, I have been fortunate enough to be visiting Devin in Washington. My first impression of the state- huge, foresty trees everywhere! Luckily, the weather has been mostly sunny, and I have only encountered one instance of rain. I was super excited about checking out the bakeries around Seattle, and Le Rêve Bakery & Café was high on my list. This little bakery is located in the cute but quirky neighborhood of Queen Anne and it sure fits right in. The bakery itself looks adorable from the street situated behind its own courtyard. Walking in, you feel like you are entering someone’s little home. Inside, you are cheerfully greeted by a pastry case full of tarts and other treats.

pastry caseTo the left, a counter of croissants and the like are on display.

pastriesDespite seeing all the tempting treats, I already knew what I wanted before walking in the door. First, I chose the twice-baked chocolate croissant. This pastry was quite the sight with all the sliced almonds and cracks and crevices covered in a flurry of powdered sugar.

IMG_3314The layers in this croissant were super crisp due to the extra time in the oven. To complement the buttery croissant, a chunky and subtle almond paste lay between the layers. This stuff was soooo good! I could taste the nutty almonds and feel an extra crunch from the paste. Underneath, a smooth dark chocolate ganache sweetened the whole treat,

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Next up, I had to have the kouign amann. I could hardly wait to sink my teeth into this wondrous creation. The flaky top along with the oozing and caramelized bottom had me salivating. Ohhhh boy 🙂

IMG_3318Surprisingly, the top of the pastry was especially delicious with the powder sugar combining with the flaky layers. However, it was the bottom half that truly tasted extraordinary. The exterior of the kouign amann was incredibly crunchy from the toffee-like caramel, while the innards were soft and buttery with just a hint of sweetness.

IMG_3325I was blown away by the quality of baking at Le Rêve Bakery & Café. Both of the pastries that I had were baked with care and an incredible attention to detail. The bakery itself had such a friendly vibe and cute atmosphere. If you’re in town, DEFINITELY check this place out.

Semi-Sweet Bakery

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ImageSemi-Sweet Bakery in Downtown LA has been hotly sought after once they announced the creation of their crullant. Following the craze in New York, Semi-Sweet fashioned a treat similar to the notorious cronut from Dominique Ansel. Both pastries are meant to be a cross between a donut and a croissant. To my despair, all the crullants were sold out by the time I arrived; however, the cashier let me know that the bakery usually still had a few until 9:30 am. You know these HAVE to be good if they are all gone within an hour and a half of opening!

ImageThe interior of the small bakery was bright and cheerful with hanging lightbulbs over the desserts’ counter.

ImageI had a very difficult time choosing between the carrot cake ding-a-lings and the red velvet ding-a-lings.

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ImageIn the end, my inner chocoholic won, and I decided on the red velvet.

The pastries counter offered brownies, pocket tarts, macarons, and triple chip cookies.

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ImageThe strawberry pocket tarts and the samoa macarons called my name.

ImageI was soo excited to dig into the treats that I had picked. First up, the red velvet ding-a-ling.

ImageThe ding-a-ling had a slightly soft outer layer of dark chocolate. Inside, layers of moist red velvet cake sandwiched a generous layer of cream cheese frosting. There was a surprise dotted throughout the cream cheese frosting — chocolate crunch pearls that added wonderful texture to the ding-a-ling. All the elements came together in this not too sweet and luscious treat.

ImageI wondered how closely the samoa macaron would taste to the girl scout cookie favorite. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it tasted even better than the classic!

ImageThe macaron shell was perfectly crisp with a chewy interior while the salted caramel filling added even more chew to the sweet treat. The distinct combination of caramel and coconut was elevated with the touch of salt in the caramel.

ImageLast but not least, the strawberry pocket tart appeared deceptively simple.

ImageHowever, once I bit into the pastry, the dough proved to be excellent and addictive due to its crisp flakiness. The icing was perfectly sweet with tart freeze-dried strawberries sprinkled all over. Inside, the strawberry jam added more sweetness and strawberry flavor.

ImageOverall, the treats I enjoyed from Semi-Sweet Bakery were excellent and satisfying. I will be returning to Semi-Sweet soon to try their highly anticipated crullants!

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Chocolate Chip Peppermint Patty Blondies

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The aftermath of Valentine’s Day: too much chocolate and candy for a semi-sane person to handle. Devin had bought me a basket filled with more chocolate candies than I knew what to do with. So, I figured my best option was to make some treats by combining them with more sugar and butter. Trust me, it makes complete sense. I have never made nor even had a blondie before, and I have been dying to try one. They sound delicious in theory- basically a brownie, but instead of pure chocolate, you get the flavors of butter and vanilla. Yum. In terms of V-day leftovers, peppermint patties made up the bulk of the debris. So, I decided to chop them up and throw them into the mix. At first I wasn’t sure that the peppermint flavor would go that well with a brown butter blondie, but the results proved otherwise. These are some tasty blondies with a few chewy peppermint nubbins.

Chocolate Chip Peppermint Patty Blondies

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • peppermint patties, chopped

I start by tossing one stick of butter into a pan to brown.

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As the butter browns, I add the brown sugar to the egg.

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Then I mix in the vanilla and salt along with the cooled browned butter.

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IMG_2922I mix in the flour and chocolate chips.

IMG_2973Then, I pour the batter into a parchment paper lined 8×8 baking dish. Before putting the blondies into the oven, I chopped up a handful of peppermint patties and pushed them into the batter.

IMG_3053After 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven, the blondies are ready!

IMG_2977Nothing beats that golden crackly crust!

IMG_2980I cut them into squares, making sure that each one got a chunk of melty peppermint patty.

IMG_3010As if the warm brown butter and sugar aroma wasn’t enough, seeing how the patties sunk into the batter made these even more irresistible.

IMG_3015These blondies have definitely won me over. Despite my lack of experience in the realm of blondies, I thought these were delicious. The chewy texture of a brownie with the flavor of cookie batter- brilliant. I just couldn’t believe I had never enjoyed them before!

IMG_3033The addition of the peppermint patties gave these blondies a surprising kick. The minty flavor was refreshing, and as a bonus, the peppermint patty fillings became chewy in the baking process. YUM.
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Creamy Lime Bars

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IMG_2878Holy geez, these are good. Despite the fact that I tend to prefer my desserts with a healthy dose of chocolate, these lime bars go beyond just  satisfying my sweet craving. I am Taiwanese, and a popular dessert enjoyed on Taiwan is shaved ice. This stuff is nothing like a snow cone or Icee. These desserts involve bowls of soft ice that are almost creamy in texture. Various toppings like red bean, boba, fruit, stewed taro or sweet potato, and flavored jellies are common. But the topping that tops everything off is sweetened condensed milk. This wondrous stuff is drizzled over everything and sweetens the ice. I love condensed milk, and that’s what makes these lime bars straight addictive. I could not stop eating them. The creamy, cool, citrusy filling had a cheesecake like texture, while the graham cracker crust provided crunch and buttery flavor. The extra zing from the limes  makes these bars taste light; therefore, making these very dangerous. Seriously, I just ate one after another…

Creamy Lime Bars

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 1 & 1/2 cups crushed cinnamon graham crackers
  • 5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons lime zest

Lime Filling

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

I start by crushing the graham crackers in Ziploc bags with a rolling pin. I decided to go with cinnamon graham crackers to give the crust an extra dimension of flavor. After the crackers have been reduced to crumbs, I added in the salt, sugar, lime zest, and melted butter. This mixture resembles wet sand and holds its shape when pressed together.

IMG_2763I then press the mixture into a foil-lined 8×8 baking dish and bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. The smell of butter and toasting cookies will fill the kitchen and the crust should be done when it is golden brown.

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Once the crust is cooled, I slipped it into the fridge to further chill. I like a particularly crunchy crust. Next, I separated 4 eggs and lightly beat the yolks to incorporate some air. Such a happy yellow color!

IMG_2771Now it’s time for the good stuff. Sweetened condensed milk. One 14 ounce can of that heavenly syrup.

IMG_2791I pour the entire can into the egg yolks…

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and mix the two ingredients.

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Time for the limes.

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IMG_2826I found that I only needed two limes since the ones I had were extra juicy. I toss in the lime juice along with vanilla extract and pour the batter onto my cooled graham cracker crust.

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Bake these at 325 degrees for 15-17 minutes. These must be left to cool after baking. I know, this is the hardest part about baking. Waiting for things to cool. But this is necessary in order for the filling to set. I put mine in the fridge after a while to speed up the process.

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IMG_2864Thinking about these lime bars has set off a craving. Gotta have another one…or two 🙂