Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Chocolate Crinkles and Merry Christmas!

Christmas is here!  Though my chosen color is blue, I'm not having a blue Christmas at all.  In fact, I'll be somewhere near the ocean, having a great time with family and friends.

Here's to my readers, chocolate crinkles, to end a sweet Christmas...

Chocolate Crinkles

Makes 60 to 72 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

2 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Confectioners' sugar

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside.

In the top of a double boiler over hot but not boiling water, melt the shortening and chocolate.  Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and, with an electric mixer, beat in the granulated sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well.  Stir in the vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients and mix well.  Chill the dough for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or butter them.

Form the dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter and roll each ball in confectioners' sugar.  Place the balls about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets, flattening the ball slightly.  Bake in the middle of the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cookies are firm around the edges but still soft in the center.  For crisper cookies, bake a little longer.

Source:  The Christmas Cookie Book by Judy Knipe and Barbara Marks

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Glutinous Rice Dumplings in Sweet Ginger Syrup

A warm, comforting dessert in sweet ginger syrup that’s definitely influenced by the Chinese, it’s usually made during the Winter Solstice--it falls today--which is still celebrated by the Chinese-Indonesian families nowadays.  But in my household, we often make them throughout the year because we love this chewy and delicious dessert so much.  Often times, my mom will make some larger dumplings stuffed with sweetened crushed peanuts.  Those are the best!

Glutinous Rice Dumplings in Sweet Ginger Syrup

Serves 4

For ginger syrup:

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup water

3-4 slices of ginger

1 screwpine/pandanus leaf, tied into knot, optional

For glutinous rice dumplings:

½ lbs. sweet rice/glutinous rice flour, such as Mochiko brand

½ cup water, more if needed, at room temperature

Food coloring, optional

Water for boiling the dumplings

Make ginger syrup:

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Let it boil for 5 minutes and stir often to make sure the sugar has completely dissolved.  Turn off heat and set aside.  This can be done a day ahead and store in refrigerator until ready to be used.

Make glutinous rice dumplings:

Place the flour in a medium bowl.  Add water ¼ cup at a time; mix it with hands until it reaches a consistency of play dough (a dough that will not stick to hands).  Add more water if the dough feels dry; you will use all ½ cup of water but may need more if needed.  Add a drop of food coloring to the dough if you prefer and continue kneading until the color has been incorporated thoroughly.

Ricotta Fruitcake

Christmas is in a few days and as a tradition I've always baked a variety of sweets during this festive month.  I've baked my cookies which are consumed daily by my family members, and I've also baked fruitcakes.  There's people who don't like fruitcakes but there's a few who likes them and that includes me and my family.  For me, fruitcake is like a cake with lots of fruits and nuts in them with a healthy dose of liquor.  Now, how good a fruitcake is, I conclude, depends on the recipe and who's making it :)

This particular recipe has a ricotta cheese pound cake as the base.  The cake itself is already flavorful and moist, so adding fruits and nuts is actually enhancing those qualities.  I agree that a lot of fruitcake is hard and could be dry at times; I don't quite like that in my fruitcake either.  And believe me, once this cake is made, it will never be kept for a long time and passed down to other people!  Quite the contrary, the cake has disappeared slice by slice before Christmas has even come.

Ricotta Fruitcake

Makes 4 loaves (about 8 servings per loaf)

1 cup chopped candied pineapple

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1/3 cup dark rum

1 recipe Ricotta Cheese Pound Cake

2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut or sweetened flaked coconut

2 tablespoons unbleached flour

At least an hour before baking, preferably longer, combine the candied pineapple, raisins, pecans, and rum in a mixing bowl.  Stir, then cover, periodically stirring to saturate the mixture thoroughly.  In the meantime butter 4 3 3/4-x 7 3/4-inch loaf pans and line them with buttered wax paper, buttered side out, letting the paper come over the edge by about an inch so you can pull the cakes out easily later.  Set aside.  When you start to prepare the cake, preheat the oven to 350F.

Prepare the cake as usual.  Mix the coconut with the dried fruit and rum, then mix in the 2 tablespoons flour.  Fold the fruit mixture into the batter, then divide the batter evenly among the pans.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool the cakes in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then lift them out by the wax paper.  Cool for another 30 minutes, then carefully peel off wax paper.  As soon as the cakes no longer feel warm, wrap them in plastic wrap and overwrap in foil.  Store in a cool location in an airtight container.

Ricotta Cheese Pound Cake--adapted for the fruitcake

Makes 1 large cake

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 cups packed light brown sugar

6 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

2 cups unbleached flour

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 3/4 cups milk or light cream

1 cup ricotta cheese

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer, gradually beating in the brown sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.  Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest.

Sift the flours, baking powder, salt, and ginger into another bowl, adding any pieces of bran that remain in the sifter; set aside.  Puree the milk or cream and the ricotta cheese in a blender.

Stir the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture alternately with the milk/ricotta; do this in several stages, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Proceed with the making of the fruitcakes as described above.

Source:  Country Baking by Ken Haedrich

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Jam Cake with Caramel Chocolate Ganache

Many of you must have known by now that I love eating and making desserts.  I especially love making cakes, especially the layered ones.  Though I'm not an expert in cake decorations, I've always tried my best to cover my cakes with yummy frosting.  Honestly, the simple the decoration, the better my cake will turn out :)

Because of that, I don't mind baking cakes for birthday for my family members.  This month's birthday was my dad's and of course I made a cake for him.  His birthday was a couple of weeks ago and we went out to eat dinner at a local pizza joint to celebrate it.  I chose this cake because it looked pretty in the book and the flavor combination seemed intriguing.  After I made the cake and tasted it, I was so in love with the book!  The cake was moist with just enough spices and interestingly, the jam worked well in the cake.  I've never made a cake with jam in the batter so yeah, I was glad I tried it.  The ganache was decadent, smooth with a hint of caramel.  This recipe is definitely a keeper, I know it will come handy when I make another sweet thing.  The recipe calls for specific jam, but unfortunately I didn't have any of those and what I had in mind was actually my homemade strawberry jam.  The result?  We all love it!  The color of the cake was actually a bit more rosy in actuality but somehow the pictures didn't do any justice.  No matter, the flavor's delicious and I'm very satisfied with the recipe.

Jam Cake with Caramel Chocolate Ganache

Makes 12 to 16 servings

2 3/4 cups (13 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/2 cups (17 1/4 ounces) jam, preferably blackberry, raspberry, or apricot

3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1 1/2 cup (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar

4 eggs, at room temperature

1 cup (4 ounces) sliced almonds, toasted

Caramel Chocolate Ganache, recipe below

Grease and lined three 8-inch round cake pans (I used three 8-inch square cake pans).

Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 325 degree F.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt, then whisk the mixture to ensure that the ingredients are well distributed.

In a small bowl, stir together the jam and the buttermilk.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes.  As you make the batter, stop the mixer frequently and scrape the paddle and the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Blend in the eggs one at a time, adding the next one as soon as the previous one has disappeared into the batter.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk mixture in two parts, beginning and ending with the flour.  After each addition, mix until just barely blended and stop and scrape the bowl.  Stop the mixer before the last of the flour has been incorporated and complete the blending by hand with a rubber spatula to ensure you do not overbeat the batter.

Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pans (there will be approximately 1 pound 4 ounces per pan) and smooth the tops.  Bake in the middle of the oven until the centers are just barely firm when lightly touched, 32 to 34 minutes.  Cool the cakes on a wire rack for 30 minutes before removing them from their pans.  Once removed, continue to cool the cakes on the rack, top side up, until they reach room temperature.  Leave the parchment paper on until you assemble the cake.

To assemble the cake, place on of the layers, top side up, on a flat plate or a cake board.  Using a thin metal spatula, spread a thin layer of caramel ganache ( a bit more than 1/2 cup) on top of the cake and out to the edges of the cake.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of almonds evenly over the ganache.  Align the next cake layer, top side up, on top of the first one, and repeat with another thin layer of ganache and almonds.  Place the final layer of cake on top of the cake.  Frost the top heavily and the sides lightly with the remainder of the ganache.  Lightly press the remaining toasted almonds on the side of the cake.

This cake is best stored and served at room temperature.  In an airtight container, it keeps for up to 5 days.

Caramel Chocolate Ganache

Makes just over 2 cups (enough to frost an 8- or 9-inch cake)

8 ounce semisweet chocolate, chopped, or chips

1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Put the chocolate into a small heat-resistant bowl and set aside.

Put the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat, and stir just until the sugar has dissolved.  Put down your spoon and let the syrup come to a boil without stirring, occasionally washing down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water.  Cook the syrup until it turns a dark amber color.  Swirl the pan to distribute the color and heat.

Once the syrup reaches the desired color, take the pan off the heat and pour in 1/3 cup of the cream.  Do this carefully, as the caramel is very hot and will bubble up when you add the cream.  Once the bubbling subsides, stir in the rest of the cream 1/3 cup at a time, then stir in the butter a piece at a time.  Place the pan back over medium heat and stir to combine all the ingredients.  Once the ingredients are all incorporated into the caramel, pour it over the chocolate.  Swirl the bowl so that the chocolate is completely coated with the warm caramel, then cover and let sit for 5 minutes.  With a whisk, stir the mixture slowly, starting with small circles in the middle and working your way outward, whisking a bit more briskly as you go, until you have a smooth, glossy frosting.  Leave the ganache on your kitchen counter, stirring now and then to help it cool, until it reaches spreading consistency, about 3 hours.  If it stiffens up too much, simply put it someplace warmer than your counter.

Covered with plastic wrap at room temperature, this ganache keeps for up to 3 days.

Source:  Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes

I don't think I've made cupcakes often enough and I've never caught the cupcake fever a few years ago.  But I think cupcake is still favored by people; why they're like little cakes complete with frosting.  I do like cupcakes and this time I'm making this chocolate cupcakes stuffed with Ferrero Rocher in the middle.  The inspiration behind the cupcakes was a post by Bakers Royale's Nutella Cupcakes.  I'm taking it a lot simpler than that because at the time I was researching for a good, solid chocolate cupcake recipe so I didn't need to do a complicated frosting to go with it.  This cupcake is decent and delicious although I didn't add the 2 tablespoons instant coffee to the batter.  I thought it would make the cupcake tasted a little way too much coffee-y to me.

Little did I know that after I made these I had to make many more cupcakes for my son's school's function--though they're with different frosting and no Ferrero Rocher (that chocolate candy is so addictive).  I made some for myself--ehem, my family, and stashed them in the freezer.  I doled out four at a time and was glad that I made extra because I got to have a nice, personal-sized dessert every night :)

Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and warm

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup hot coffee

12 Ferrero Rocher

Whipped Cream Frosting:

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Unsweetened cocoa powder

To make cupcakes:

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven.  Heat the oven to 350 degree F.  Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.

Add flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and whisk thoroughly with  to combine.

In a mixing bowl, add the butter, eggs, and vanilla; beat with paddle attachment on medium speed for one minute. Add flour to egg mixture and beat for 20 seconds.  Scrape the sides of the bowl and add instant coffee.  Beat again for 20-30 seconds until the batter is smooth.  The batter will be thin enough to pour.

Divide it evenly among the lined cups.  Place a whole Ferrero Rocher in the center of each well.  Bake 18-22 minutes just until a toothpick inserted into a few of the cupcakes comes out clean.  Set the pan on a rack to cool.  Frost the cupcakes when they are completely cool.

To make the frosting:

Place heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract in a chilled bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peak forms.  Transfer the frosting to a large resealable plastic bag.  Snip the end of a corner of the plastic bag and pipe an even amount of frosting onto the cupcakes.  Sprinkle cupcakes with unsweetened cocoa powder before serving.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Red Velvet Cake

This was the cake I made for my son's birthday a few weeks ago.  I was actually quite surprised that he wanted this cake but he didn't regret it because this cake was so good.  The only comment from him was that it was a bit rich :).  But, nevertheless, he helped us finish the cake.

Red Velvet Cake

Makes 16 servings

3/4 cup unsalted butter

3 eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 1-ounce bottle (2 tablespoons) red food coloring

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups buttermilk or sour milk

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar

Never-Fail Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows)

Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degree F.  Grease and lightly flour three 9x2-inch or 8x2-inch round cake pans.  In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside.

In an extra-large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Gradually add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium speed until combined.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes more, scraping side of bowl occasionally.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in food coloring and vanilla.  Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.  In a small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar; stir into batter.   Pour batter into the prepared pans, spreading evenly.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes for 9-inch pan, 25 to 30 minutes for 8-inch pan, or until a toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean.  Cool cake in the pans on wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pans; cool completely on rack.

Prepare Never-Fail Buttercream Frosting.  Place one cake layer, bottom side up, on a serving plate.  Spread with one third of the frosting.  Top with second layer, bottom side up; spread with one-third of the frosting.  Top with third layer, top side up.  Spread top with remaining frosting.

Never-Fail Buttercream Frosting

Makes about 4 cups

In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 cups milk, 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, and dash salt.  Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly.  Reduce heat; cook and stir for 1 minute more.  Remove from heat.  Stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.  Cover surface with plastic wrap to prevent skin and cool completely at room temperature.  Transfer to a large bowl.  On medium speed of an electric mixer, gradually beat in 1 1/2 cups softened unsalted butter until mixture is smooth, scraping side of bowl occasionally.  (Frosting might look curdled until all of the butter is incorporated.)

Source:  adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Baking 2010

Friday, October 4, 2013

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

I've been busy.  When life is hectic sometimes I just want to put up my feet and nibble on something sweet.  This cookie fits my bill because it's portable, sweet, and goes together with a glass of warm tea.  Sipping the tea slowly while nibbling on the crisp edges of the cookie would lift up my mood especially when the weather turned blustery all of a sudden.  Crumbs fell to my lap and I looked at the time wondering how long had I been dreaming.  Time to go on with the everyday chore...

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

Yield: 22 to 24 large (2 3/4" to 3") cookies; or about 4 dozen smaller (2") cookies.

1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional, for enhanced flavor
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon hazelnut flavor, optional, for enhanced flavor
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread, such as Nutella or Jif
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

Beat together the shortening, sugars, egg, vanilla, espresso powder, hazelnut flavor, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and chocolate-hazelnut spread until smooth.

Add the flour, beating gently until everything is well combined; the dough will be quite stiff and a bit crumbly. If it doesn't hold together well, drizzle in enough water or cold coffee (1 tablespoon or less) to bring it together. Watch out, though; if you add too much liquid, the cookies will flatten and spread out too much as they bake.

Drop the cookie dough by teaspoonfuls or tablepoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets (a teaspoon or tablespoon cookie scoop works well here), leaving 2" between them. The larger balls of dough will be about 1 1/2" in diameter, and weigh a generous 1 ounce each (if you have a scale); the smaller ones will be about 1 1/4" in diameter, and about 1/2 ounce in weight.

Use a large dinner fork to flatten each cookie to about 3/8" thick, making a cross-hatch design.

Bake the cookies for 7 to 12 minutes, until they don't appear super-moist any longer, and seem set. Since they're dark colored, it's difficult to tell when they're done by whether or not they're browned; it's a good idea to bake one test cookie first, to figure out the timing. Smaller cookies baked for the shorter amount of time will be softer; larger cookies baked for the longest amount of time will be crunchy.

Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool right on the pan; or on a rack.

Source:  adapted from King Arthur Flour

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Apple Pie with Oatmeal Crumb Topping

Tomorrow is the first day of fall season and I can already see there's a lot of fall fruit recipes on the Internet for at least a couple of weeks.  I guess we're ushering the fall with open arms and open mouth? :)   I don't want to fall behind in enjoying the in-season fruits so I made this apple pie with oatmeal crumb topping which is really a perfect ending in cooler weather trend.

Let's not forget that I love crusts.  Some people may gravitate more towards crumbles, crisps, cobblers, and the like; but I like to have flaky, tender padding at the bottom of the fruit and kind of the same closure on top as well.  What to do when you want to combine both?  The answer is of course to make the top crust a crumb topping.  This recipe originally uses Golden Delicious apples but all I had was Gala, some Granny Smith and SweeTango apples.  I decided to mix the apples and I found out the combination was pretty good.

When it's still warm, an apple pie is hard to resist.  As shown on the picture below, evidently I cut the slice when it's warm; hence the slight breakdown of apple slices and crust.  I just couldn't help it!

Apple Pie with Oatmeal Crumb Topping

Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 recipe for single crust pie crust (recipe below) or 1 crust of refrigerated store-bought pie crusts


7 cups peeled, cored, and thinly sliced mixed apples

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

Oatmeal Crumb Topping

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup rolled oats (old-fashioned or quick cooking)

2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

If you're using a homemade crust, let it chill until firm enough to roll for about an hour.

On a lightly floured waxed paper, roll the homemade crust into a 13-inch circle with a floured rolling pin.  Inver the pastry over a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie pan, center, and peel off the paper.  Gently tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and sculpt the edge into an upstanding ridge.  Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.  If using a store-bought crust, simply drape the crust over the pie pan and sculpt the edge into an upstanding ridge; place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Combine the apples, 1/3 cup of the granulated sugar, and the lemon juice and zest in a large bowl.  Mix well, then set aside for 10 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 400 degree F.  Place a rack at the bottom of oven.

In a small bowl, mix the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar with the nutmeg and cornstarch.  Add the mixture to the apples and stir the fruit well.  Turn the filling into the chilled pie shell and smooth with your hands to even it out.  Bake the pie for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the crumb topping.  Put the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor and pulse several times to mix.  Scatter the butter over the top.  Pulse repeatedly until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.  Empty the crumbs into a large bowl, and rub them between your fingers until you have large, buttery crumbs.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Remove the pie from the oven and reduce the temperature to 375 degree F.  Carefully dump the crumbs in the center of the pie, spreading them over the surface with your hands.  Tamp them down lightly.  Return the pie to the oven, placing it so that the part that faced the back of the oven now faces forward.  Just in case, slide a large aluminum foil-lined baking sheet onto the rack to catch any spills.  Bake until the top is dark golden brown and the juices bubble thickly at the edge, 30 to 35 minutes.  If necessary, cover the pie with loosely tented aluminum foil during the last 15 minutes of baking to keep the top from browning too much.

Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

Note:  the crumb topping recipe yields more than you need.  If you don't want to use it all, simply keep it in freezer bag and freeze it for another pie or muffin recipe.

Basic Flaky Pie Pastry

Makes 1 single crust

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces

1/4 cup cold water

Put the flour, sugar and salt in the food processor.  Pulse several times to mix.  Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse for 5 to 6 times to cut in.  Fluff the mixture with a fork, lifting it up from the bottom of the bowl.  Scatter the shortening over the flour and pulse 5 to 6 times.  Fluff the mixture again.  Drizzle half of the water over the flour mixture and pulse 5 to 6 times.  Fluff the mixture and sprinkle on the remaining water.  Pulse 5 to 6 times more, until the dough starts to form clumps.  Overall, it will look like coarse crumbs.  dump the contents of the bowl into a large bowl.  Test the pastry by squeezing some of it between your fingers.  If it seems a little dry and not quite packable, drizzle a teaspoon or so of cold water over the pastry and work it in with your fingertips.

Using your hands, pack the pastry into a ball.  Knead it once or twice, then flatten the ball into 3/4-inch thick disk on a floured work surface.  Wrap the disk in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight before rolling.

Source:  Pie by Ken Haedrich

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pop Art Raspberry Icebox Cake

This is an embarrassingly late post about a birthday cake for a birthday which happened in August.  Back when August was warm and sunny--and I love everything that took place in August--my son made (and I helped) this cake for my birthday.  Over the years, and especially since I've lived in Oregon, August has become a happy and glorious month to be in, and not just because it's my birthday month :)  Sun, peak of produce, road trip, lazy days, crickets at nights, roasting marshmallow on the fire; that's just to name a few things that August has to offer.  So yeah, this cake recipe should've been posted sometime last month; but no matter, it is still gloriously good--like the month of August in every slice.

The idea to make this cake is of course the simplicity of an icebox cake; something that my son could make with little help from me.  Tastewise, the texture is smooth with lots of raspberry flavor, a little crunch from the seeds, and enough chocolaty-ness from the cookies.  My family loves this and perhaps yours will do too!

Pop Art Raspberry Icebox Cake

Serves 6

27 Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafer cookies

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

3 tablespoons cold water

One 12-ounce bag frozen raspberries

3/4 cup sugar

2 cups heavy cream, chilled

2 tablespoons framboise (raspberry liqueur)--optional

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line a 9 1/2 x 4 x 3-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap is tucked into all the corners and there is at least 1 inch overhanging the top of the pan on all sides.  Working with one cookie at a time, spread the more rounded side of 9 of the wafer cookies with a thin layer of melted chocolate and place 3 of them, chocolate side down, on the bottom of the pan.  Place another 3 cookies against each long side of the pan, chocolate-coated sides facing the pan.  Place the pan in the freezer.

Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a small bowl and let soften for 2 minutes.

Combine the raspberries and sugar in a medium-size heavy saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring a few times, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is warm to the touch.  Stir in the gelatin mixture.  Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Combine the heavy cream, framboise (if using), and vanilla in a large bowl and using an electric mixer, whip until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold in the cooled rapsberry mixture, taking care not to deflate the cream.

Remove the pan from the freezer.  Pour all but one-fourth of the mousse into the pan.  Smooth the top with a rubber spatula.  Insert the remaining 18 wafers into the mousse, arranging them vertically in three rows of six so they are lined up with the chocolate wafers on the sides of the pan.  Spread the remaining mousse over the wafers and smooth with the spatula.  The pan should be full to the top.  Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until completely set, at least overnight and up to 1 week.

To unmold, gently tug the plastic wrap that lines the pan to loosen the cake.  Place a serving platter over the pan and turn over.  Gently tap to release.  Carefully peel the plastic from the cake.  Cut into slices and serve immediately.

Source:  Icebox Desserts by Lauren Chattman

Friday, August 30, 2013

Apple-Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

Is it time for apples yet?  You bet!  Even if I'm ready to face fall season I'm confronted to the fact that my son will start school soon and I'm back working as well.  Fall means cooler weather with more rain and the feeling of wanting for comfort food.  Apples fit perfectly because in the season because there will be apple cider, apple pies, crumbles, and many more.  What's more perfect is the aroma of apple and cinnamon, that just spells fall to me.

This pull-apart bread is very easy to make and will guarantee to make your kitchen smells good.  I've a friend whose apple trees bear enough fruits for me to pick some to be used in this bread.  Since this bake in no time, I'm planning to make it often for afternoon snack for my son when he gets home from school.  Try it, you'll probably welcome fall more than you like to :)

Apple-Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

Makes 6 servings

Nonstick cooking spray

1 7.5-ounce package (10) refrigerated reduced-fat home-style biscuits

4 teaspoons ground flaxseeds--I didn't have it so I substituted with wheat germ

2 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup thinly sliced apple--I used 1 medium apple and used up all the apple slices to fill the bread

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts--mine is chopped slightly fine

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened

2 teaspoons orange juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degree F.  Coat an 8x4x2-inch loaf pan with cooking spray; set aside.  Cut biscuits in half crosswise.  In a small bowl stir together ground flaxseeds, 1 teaspoon of the granulated sugar, and the cinnamon.  Roll biscuit halves in flaxseed mixture to coat.  Alternately arrange biscuit halves and apple slices in the prepared loaf pan.  Sprinkle with any remaining flaxseed mixture and the walnuts.

In a small saucepan combine brown sugar, the 2 tablespoons orange juice, and the butter.  Cook and stir over medium-high heat until boiling.  Pour mixture over biscuits.  Bake about 25 minutes or until edges are golden and biscuits near center are done.  Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Invert bread onto a small baking sheet; invert again onto a serving platter.

For icing, in a small bowl whisk together cream cheese, the 2 teaspoons orange juice, the vanilla, and the remaining 1 teaspoon granulated sugar.  Drizzle bread with icing.  Serve warm.

Source:  adapted from Better and Home Gardens Fall Baking 2013

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Peach and Cream Cheese Slab Pie

Peaches are quintessentially summer fruits which means summer without eating peaches is just wrong.  I was late in buying the fruits from my friend who owns an orchard but I managed to pick some on another orchard.  I went with my husband and son to pick 36 (!) pounds of peaches and about slightly less than 10 pounds of nectarines.  We had gone crazy was an understatement.  The problem with going to u-pick is always on how to reign the uncontrollable desire to pick every fruit on the trees.  I didn't even know if I wanted to deal with so many peaches because I kept changing my mind on how I wanted to process the peaches.   Don't I sound so gluttonous and indecisive?  And talk about tree-ripened peaches, oh boy...they're not going to last forever before they start to go mushy and moldy.

But all went well at the end.  We ate some fresh ones, drank endless but yummy smoothies; I froze some and also baked this peach and cream cheese slab pie.  The idea was an apple-cheese danish from a magazine and I was pretty sure it could be made with fresh peaches as well.  Now, I always have frozen puff pastry in the freezer--make it homemade if you want it--but it's much easier and a snap to make with a store-bought one especially if you're pressed in time.  My suggestion is to make this early on the day because you want to eat it the day it's made to make sure the pastry stays crispy.  And make sure the peaches are nicely ripe but still slightly firm, that way they'll keep their structures in the pie.  Other than that, the pie is stupendously delicious!

Peach and Cream Cheese Slab Pie

Makes 12 servings

1 17.3 ounce package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed

2 1/2 pounds fresh peaches, ripe but slightly firm; peeled and thinly sliced (about 7 cups)

1 cup granulated sugar, divided

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


2 tablespoons coarse sugar--I used demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degree F.  Lightly grease a 15x10x1-inch baking pan; set aside.  On a lightly floured surface, unfold one pastry sheet and roll into a 15x10-inch rectangle.  Transfer to the prepared baking pan, pressing pastry to edges of pan.  Bake about 12 minutes or until golden (pastry will puff and shrink from sides of pan).  Cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, combine peaches with 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and the nutmeg.  Toss gently and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl beat cream cheese and the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.  Beat in egg and vanilla just until combined.  Carefully spread cream cheese mixture over baked pastry to within 1 inch of the edges.  Spoon peach mixture over cream cheese mixture.

On a lightly floured surface, unfold the remaining pastry sheet and roll into a 13x10-inch rectangle (make sure pastry is large enough to completely cover peach mixture).  Place on top of peach mixture.  Lightly press edges of top pastry to edges of bottom pastry.  Lightly brush top pastry with milk.  Using a sharp knife, cut a few slits in pastry to allow steam to escape.  In a small bowl combine coarse sugar and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; sprinkle over pastry.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until pastry is slightly puffed and golden.  Cool on wire rack about 45 minutes.  Serve slightly warm.

Source:  adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Fall Baking 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tomato and Cheddar Pie

This pie should be called summertime in a pie because eating one would be like savoring what are the essence of summer and labor of love in the mouth.  My parents grow several tomato plants among other vegetables in their backyard.  My dad would religiously water the garden a few times in the day and my mom would pick the weeds whenever possible, these plants are like their babies.  It makes sense to cultivate sun-loving plants in their plot because my two planter boxes in the backyard receive paltry sun rays, that growing anything is next to impossible.

My mom said to me when we picked tomatoes together that she really loved the smell of tomato plants and I couldn't disagree more!  To see these little orbs getting bigger and redder isn't unlike getting a prize--each oozes juicy and sweet liquid; it reminds us that the peak of summer is here even if it also means that it is winding down from here on.

This pie has a biscuity crust filled with layers of tomato slices and shredded cheese.  I used white cheddar whereas the original recipe uses the regular cheddar, hence my pie has a slight pale color.  There are other ways to eat summer tomatoes but for me, I like this pie--layer upon layer of cheese and tomatoes with a spread of mayonnaise mixture in between--my idea of comfort food in the heat of summer :)

Tomato and Cheddar Pie

Serves 8


2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes

1 cup buttermilk


2 lb. large ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/4" slices

2 1/2 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar (8-9 oz.)

1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan (1/2 oz.)

1 scallion, trimmed, chopped

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 1/2 Tablespoons cornmeal

Note:  Use a 9"-diameter glass or ceramic pie dish for this recipe

Make the crust:  Whisk first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Using your fingertips, rub in butter until coarse meal forms and some small lumps remain.  Stir in buttermilk and knead gently with your hands until dough forms.  Wrap dough in plastic and chill for 1 hour.

Make the filling:  Lay tomatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with 2 layer of paper towels.  Place another 2 layers of paper towels on top of tomatoes.  Let stand for 30 minutes to drain.

Preheat oven to 425 degree F.  Roll out dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to an 11" round.  Remove top layer of plastic wrap.  Invert dough onto pie dish.  Carefully peel off plastic wrap.

Toss both cheeses in a medium bowl until evenly incorporated.  Reserve 1/4 cup of cheese mixture.  Whisk scallion, mayonnaise, dill, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

Sprinkle cornmeal evenly over bottom of crust, then top with 1/2 cup cheese mixture.  Arrange 1/3 of tomatoes over cheese, overlapping as needed.  Spread half of mayonnaise mixture (about 1/3 cup) over.  Repeat layering with 1 cup of cheese mixture, 1/2 of remaining tomato slices, and remaining mayonnaise mixture.  Sprinkle remaining 1 cup cheese mixture over, then remaining tomato slices.  Sprinkle with reserved 1/4 cup cheese mixture.  Fold overhanging crust up and over edges of tomato slices.

Bake pie until crust is golden and cheese is golden brown, 35-40 minutes (check crust halfway and tent with foil if it's getting too dark).  Let pie cool at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours before slicing and serving.

Source:  Bon Appetit, August 2011

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mango Frozen Yogurt

One of my favorite fruits of all time is mango and it's no surprise that both my husband and son love this fruit as well.  Most of the time we eat it fresh, though my husband like diced fresh mango with his ice cream.  That gives me the idea of making this mango frozen yogurt.  I grabbed a few champagne mangoes at the market since these are sweet with smooth texture.  Back when I was growing up in Indonesia, the variety of mangoes are numerous and each mango has distinct taste and smell; it'll be wonderful to able to have a selection of mangoes like that here.  How I miss eating those mangoes!

Mango Frozen Yogurt

Makes about 1 pint

1 cup water

2/3 cup sugar

2 small ripe champagne mangoes, peeled and diced

1 cup Greek yogurt--I used whole milk Greek yogurt

1 cup whole milk

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Pecan Lace Cookies, optional

In a small saucepan, combine water and sugar and bring to a boil.  Cook until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 6 minutes.  Let the sugar syrup cool.

In a blender or food processor, puree the diced mango with 2 tablespoons of the sugar syrup.  Transfer 1/4 cup of the puree to a bowl and whisk in the Greek yogurt, milk, lemon juice and the remaining sugar syrup.  Pour the mixture into a glass bowl and let chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.  Refrigerate the rest of the mango puree as well.

Freeze mixture in the ice cream maker according to unit's instructions.  Towards the end of the unit cycle, pour the remaining mango puree to make a swirl pattern.  Store the frozen yogurt in an airtight container and freeze for at least 4 hours before consuming.  Served with Pecan Lace Cookies if desired.

Source: adapted from Coconut-Mango Frozen Yogurt, Food & Wine, March 2010

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pecan Lace Cookies

The next treat I made was a mango frozen yogurt and I felt it needs something to go with it.  Something crunchy to contrast with the creamy and smooth texture of the frozen yogurt.  I decided to make these pecan lace cookies.  Lace cookie is a type of cookies that are delicate, very thin and can be rolled or shaped into various forms.  Frankly, I've never attempted to make lace cookies before but I'm alway game to try something new.

Lace cookies are usually made with some kind of ground or finely chopped nuts.  The batter is quite thin and the cookie will spread when baking.  A variety of shapes can be made; when it's round and one side of the cookie is dipped in chocolate, you might know it as florentine cookie.  In this case, my choice of nuts was pecans and since I have quite a bit of palm sugar brought from Indonesia, I thought using it would make an interesting flavor combination.   Palm sugar has a distinct taste, a slightly burnt sugar-caramely aftertaste, and the color of the cookie is very dark.  The edges are brittle while the middle is a bit chewy, this could be another addiction (already thinking of making different kinds).  Overall, these are pretty successful and I played around with the shapes--some resulting in a kind of wavy configuration :)  And these don't last long at my house!

The recipe for mango frozen yogurt will be written soon...

Pecan Lace Cookies

Makes 16 to 20 4-inch cookies

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup packed palm sugar--alternately, use regular brown sugar or light muscovado sugar

1 tablespoon dark rum

1 large egg

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degree F.  Position a rack in the center of the oven.  Plan to bake only one sheet at a time.  Use of silicone mats is highly recommended, it makes baking these cookies so much easier.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.  Stir in the sugar and remove from the heat.  Add the rum, egg, and salt and beat until smooth.  Stir in the flour and nuts.  Let the batter rest for 5 minutes.  Drop tablespoons of batter about 3 inches apart on one of the lined pans.

Spread the batter very thin (about 1/16 inch) into rounds, oval, or long tongue shapes.

Bake until the cookies are browned all over, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet from front to back halfway through the baking time.  Remove the pan from the oven.  For flat cookies, let cookies cool for 30 seconds before transferring them to a rack to cool.  If the cookies are to be shaped, let rest for 30 seconds, then slide an offset spatula under each and shape as desired by draping the cookies over a rolling pin, nestling them into a cup, rolling them into cornets, or pinching or twisting them into any desired shape before they cool.  Cool completely before storing.  May be kept in an airtight container for at least 1 week.

Source:  adapted from Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy, Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mint Brownie Wedges

I love mint, in ice cream, in cakes, in brownies.  Place a wedge of this brownie alongside a glass of milk, a dollop of whipped cream (or vanilla ice cream); dessert is served.  The idea of making this last night came because I found out I still had a couple of bags of dark and chocolate mint morsels.  Those particular flavor usually comes out during winter holidays, especially at Christmastime.  Well, I thought to myself, why not making it; it's like having Christmas in July, isn't it?

Except why would I do with this particular flavor?  Upon looking at the back of the bag, I discovered a recipe that's pretty interesting and seemed quite tasty.  It was also quite easy with ingredients that I've already had on hand.  Never mind that I was in the middle of baking my daily bread and quite late--I think I like baking late at night--but, hey, the oven was ready anyway :)

I finally had a taste today after I whipped some fresh cream with a bit of sugar.  The wedges reveal dark, fudgy middle, with crackly top.  Hint of mint permeates the brownie balanced by the dark chocolaty undertone.  Since the morsels were incorporated in three different steps, I could taste them all the way till the last bite.  I must say that whipped cream slightly underperformed this time, vanilla ice cream is a much better choice.

Mint Brownie Wedges

Makes 12 servings

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 tablespoons water

1 2/3 cups dark chocolate & mint morsels, divided

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

Sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 325 degree F.  Grease 9-inch springform pan.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.  Combine sugar, butter and water in medium saucepan.  Warm over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until butter is melted, do not boil.  Remove from heat.  Add 3/4 cup morsels and vanilla extract.  Stir until morsels are nearly melted.  Add eggs, one at a time, stirring until smooth.  Stir in flour mixture.  Stir in 1/2 cup morsels.  Spread into prepared pan.  Sprinkle with remaining morsels.

Bake for 25 to 28 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out slightly sticky.  Cool in pan on wire rack.  Remove side of pan.  Cut into wedges.  Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Chocolate Shortcakes with Macerated Cherries

Meet strawberry shortcake's cousin: chocolate shortcake with macerated cherries :)  When chocolate craving hits and there are cherries in the fridge, I made this to satisfy the sweet tooth.  These two components actually work fantastically together, the flavor mimics the black forest cake.  The only difference is that this shortcake isn't split into two when it's time to eat it, but instead the cherries and cream are piled on top.  It doesn't matter how you eat it, what matters is the deliciousness of this dessert.

Few things about the chocolate shortcake.  Even though it's called shortcake, the result will be close to chocolate cake; I don't mind it a bit though since it's like making an easy chocolate cake.  Do not allow the shortcake to bake too long because it tends to get dry; a few crumbs sticking to the toothpick should be fine when it's time to check the doneness.  Otherwise, the shortcake is chocolaty and fun to eat with any kind of macerated fruits.

Chocolate Shortcakes with Macerated Cherries

Yield 6 servings


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup chilled whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Macerated Cherries:

1 cup water

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup kirsch

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups fresh, pitted cherries

1 cup chilled whipped cream

2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Toasted slivered almonds for garnish, optional

Make the biscuits:  Preheat oven to 400 degree F.  Line baking sheet with parchment.  Whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl.  Using electric mixer, beat cream and vanilla in medium bowl until firm peaks form. Stir cream into flour mixture until moist clumps form.  Transfer mixture to lightly floured surface and knead gently until dough forms ball, about 10 turns.  Pat dough out to 3/4-inch thickness.  Using 3-inch cutter, cut out biscuits.  Gather dough, pat out again, and cut out total of 6 biscuits.  Place biscuits on prepared baking sheet.

Bake biscuits until toothpick inserted into centers comes out slightly dry, about 10-12 minutes.  Transfer to rack; cool.  Biscuits can be made 6 hours ahead; let stand at room temperature.

Make macerated cherries:  Heat water and sugar in a small saucepan.  Let it boil and stir until sugar is dissolved; off heat, stir in kirsch and vanilla.  Let it cool.  Once cools, pour syrup onto cherries.  Cover and chill at least 1 hour or overnight.

Using electric mixer, beat chilled whipping cream with the confectioners' sugar until soft peak forms.  Place 1 biscuit on each of 6 plates.  Place large spoonful of macerated cherries with juices atop biscuits.  Top with whipped cream.  Scatter almonds and pass remaining cherries alongside.

Source:  adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2007

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Melon Granita

Maybe it's comfortably warm somewhere but here, it's a yo-yo weather for us.  A couple of months ago we had unseasonably few warm, 80's days; but then when May came, the rain was back and people grudgingly took blankets to sleep again.  Now that summer has come, the weather is still--yawn--not that great.  The only consolation is that summer fruits will still come in time, like strawberries, local cherries, peaches, and many more.  Interesting how nature has its own timetable.

I'm not going to wait till the warm weather to come.  When I think of summer desserts, granitas come to mind because they're easy to make and don't require the oven to be turned on.  Fruit-based granitas are always refreshing to have at the end of any meal, and what I love about them is that they're also quite low-fat.

This recipe first appeared in last year's summer edition of Indulge magazine by Zupan's Market.

Melon Granita

Serves 6

½ cup sugar

½ cup water

3 cups chilled 1-inch cubes peeled, seeded cantaloupe

¼ cup dry, fruity white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc, optional

2 tablespoons lime juice

Lime zest for garnish

Place sugar and water in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium-high heat; stirring to dissolve sugar.  Reduce heat to medium.  Simmer 1 minute.  Let syrup cool.

Place cooled syrup with cantaloupe cubes, white wine, if using, and lime juice in a food processor.  Puree until smooth.  Pour mixture into an 8x8x2-inch glass dish then cover it.

Freeze mixture until thoroughly frozen, about 4 hours, stirring with fork every 1 hour.

Before serving, scrape granite with a fork into icy flakes.  Spoon about 2 rounded tablespoons granite into each of 6 glasses.  Garnish with lime zest.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pistachio and Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies might seem like ordinary cookies but when they are made with outstanding ingredients, they can shine.  What's more, they can be decorated, have things added to them, flavored in many ways, shaped to whatever creations you dream of; there's no end to manipulate sugar cookies.

The cookies I made yesterday were essentially icebox cookies because they were shaped in a log and refrigerated for several hours or overnight before being cut into rounds and baked.  This particular recipe has cream cheese in it that makes it super, super yummy!  The dough is rolled on to chopped salted pistachio which adds texture and not making this cookie a boring cookie in my opinion :)

To keep the dough logs perfectly round, put them in tall drinking glasses as they chill (I placed those glasses horizontally in the fridge).  As you cut the logs, rotate the logs to prevent one side from flattening.

Pistachio and Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

Makes about 44 cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons finely shredded orange or lemon peel

1/2 cup finely chopped lightly salted pistachio nuts

In a large bowl beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add powdered sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.  Beat in egg and vanilla until combined.  Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer.  Stir in any remaining flour, and the orange/lemon peel.

Divide dough in half.  Shape each half into a 7 1/2-inch roll.  Roll dough rolls in pistachios to coat.  Wrap each roll in plastic wrap.  Chill about 1 hour or until dough is firm.  (Or freeze for up to 2 months.)

Preheat oven to 375 degree F.  Cut rolls into 1/4-to 3/8-inch slices.  Place slices 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until edges are light brown.  Transfer to a wire rack; cool.

Source:  adapted from Better Homes & Gardens, Brownies & Bars, 2013

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Strawberry-Meyer Lemon Curd Tart

I hope another posting of a variation on lemon curd recipe won't bore anyone.  But I can't resist not to whip up extra batch of Meyer lemon curd to make this lovely tart.  It's late spring, almost summer; local strawberries are just coming in, and Oregon-grown strawberries are red all-around, sweet and juicy.  When the tart is cut, the luscious and creamy curd seeps through the buttery and flaky crust; who can resist such temptation?

My parents have a small patch of strawberry plants and they're picking the fruits everyday---it's now or the slugs will get to them.  The fruits don't always look perfect but they're quite sweet.  Elsewhere, u-pick strawberry farms are starting to advertise their picking hours recently and I'm planning to go pick some more strawberries this season, to supplement what I can also get from my parents' patch.  Most of the fruits from last season were almost gone and my homemade strawberries jam is down to one last jar.  I used my vanilla-strawberry jam to glaze this tart and it helps the tart looking more gorgeous.

I didn't use up all the strawberries to cover up the tart--the rest was for snacking--but I think it still looks pretty that way.  The lovely combo of lemon curd and strawberries is a must-try for tart lovers.  I, for one, can't get enough eating the tart shell alone; in my opinion, a good crust equals a giant buttery cookie--simply irresistible!

Strawberry-Meyer Lemon Curd Tart

Serves 10

For Meyer lemon curd:  please see this recipe.  Note:  the curd can be made 2 days ahead.  Keep chilled until used.

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons (or more) chilled heavy whipping cream

1 large egg yolk

For topping:

1 1/2 quarts strawberries, stem ends cut flat

1/2 cup strawberry jam

To make the crust:  Blend flour, sugar and salt in food processor.  Add butter; using on/off turns, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add 2 tablespoons cream and egg yolk.  Blend until moist clumps form, adding more cream by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry.  Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk.  Wrap and chill 1 hour.  The dough can also be made 2 days ahead; keep chilled until used.  Let the dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.

Roll out dough disk on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round.  Transfer to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom.  Press dough onto bottom and up sides of pan.  Trim dough overhang to 1/2-inch; fold in and press firmly, forming double-thick sides.  Pierce crust all over with fork; refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Bake crust until golden, pressing with back of fork if crust bubbles, about 20 minutes.  Cool crust completely on rack.

Spread curd in crust.  Stand berries in curd, cut side down.  Stir jam in small saucepan over medium heat until melted; strain into small bowl.  Brush jam over berries.  Chill tart until glaze sets, at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours.

Remove pan sides from tart.  Transfer to plate and serve.

Source:  adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Triple Lemon Chiffon Cake with Meyer Lemon Curd

What is more perfect than a lemon chiffon cake for a May birthday?  Sandwiched between the layers is smooth and fantastic Meyer lemon curd and it is also used to flavor the frosting.  Springy and light in texture, the cake is wonderful medium for luscious, tangy and rich curd.  I haven't baked cakes for a while and I approached this task with trepidation.  I just wanted it to be perfect because it is for one of the most important persons in my life; that is my husband.  I breathed a sigh of relief when I cut a slice, it turned out like I wanted it to be.

The recipe is from my favorite cake book, Sky High by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne.  I've baked several cakes from the book and am always satisfied with the results.  Each component of the cake can be made several days ahead so on the day of the birthday all I had to do was to assemble the cake.  Triple-layer cake is a lot of cake so there's a few of people who got lucky tasting it :)

I really love the curd that accompanied the cake.  Meyer lemons are in season right now and they are not to be missed.  The exquisite flavor is almost floral, not unlike honey with a hint of thyme.  I bought quite a bunch of Meyer lemons which I've already made into curd and am thinking of making tartlets with strawberry next.

Triple Lemon Chiffon Cake with Meyer Lemon Curd

Makes a 9-inch triple-layer cake; serves 16 to 20

8 eggs, separated

1/4 cup walnut oil

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice

1 tablespoon grated Meyer lemon zest

1/3 cup water

1 /2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 3/4 cups cake flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Meyer Lemon Curd

Meyer Lemon Cream Frosting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line the bottoms of three 9-inch cake pans with rounds of parchment or waxed paper but do not grease the pans.

In a medium-large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, walnut oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and water.

In a large mixer bowl, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar on medium speed until frothy.  Gradually add 1/2 cup of the sugar and continue to beat until soft peak forms.

Sift the flour, remaining 1 cup sugar, baking soda, and salt into a very large bowl.  Whisk gently to combine.  Make a well in the center, pour in the egg yolk mixture, and stir to make a smooth paste.  Add one-fourth of the beaten egg whites and fold in to lighten the batter.  Fold in the remaining whites.  Divide the batter among the 3 prepared pans.

Bake for about 16 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire racks and let the cakes cool completely in their pans.  To unmold, run a blunt knife around the edges to release.  Invert to unmold; carefully peel off the paper liners.

To assemble the cake, place one layer on a cake stand or serving plate.  Top with a heaping 1/4 cup of the Meyer Lemon Curd, and spread it out evenly.  Repeat with the next layer and finally add the third layer.  Frost the top and sides with the Meyer Lemon Cream Frosting.

Meyer Lemon Curd

Makes about 1 cup

Note that while of this curd is used to fill the cake, 3 tablespoons should be reserved to flavor the frosting.

3 whole eggs

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (from about 4 lemons)

Grated zest of 3 Meyer lemons

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a medium bowl.  Transfer to a small heavy nonreactive saucepan.  Gently heat the mixture, whisking until it thickens enough to coat a spoon; do not boil.  Pour this mixture through a wire mesh strainer into a heatproof dish (this catches all of the rubbery parts of the egg whites and removes the zest).  Stir in the butter and cover the curd with plastic wrap, pressing it to the surface to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate it until needed.

Meyer Lemon Cream Frosting

Makes about 3 1/4 cups

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons Meyer Lemon Curd

Whip the cream with the sugar in a large chilled bowl with chilled beaters until somewhat stiff peak forms.  Be careful not to fully whip at this point because the curd will need to be folded in.  Fold in the lemon curd, forming a stiff frosting.

Source:  adapted from Sky High by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Confetti Slaw

Barbecue season starts this weekend and I thought I'd share this slaw recipe.  It's a fun and colorful salad as well as tasty; a perfect addition to any of barbecue or picnic meals.  It's also lighter than a mayo-based coleslaw making it perfect to pile up on your plate :)  Enjoy it and have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Confetti Slaw

Serves 6

½ cup lime juice, plus more to taste

Zest of 1 lime

¼ cup honey

2 tablespoons coarse-grain Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, more if needed

¾ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium head of red cabbage

1 medium head of green cabbage

2 small yellow bell peppers

3 green onions, trimmed, cut into 1-inch section

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Combine lime juice, lime zest, honey, mustard, cilantro, pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a large nonreactive bowl; whisk well to blend.

Remove outer leaves of cabbages, quarter the cabbages lengthwise, and remove the tough core.  Slice quarters thinly to yield 7 cups.

Slice bell peppers into strips ¼ inch wide and 2 inches long.  Add bell peppers to cabbages.

Toss cabbages, bell pepper, green onions and sesame seeds with the dressing.  Taste and, if desired, add extra lime juice, salt, and red pepper flakes.  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.  Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before serving.

Curry Turkey Meatballs

I made these bite-sized turkey meatballs flavored with curry powder, ginger, garlic and cumin a while ago.  In the original recipes, they're made into patties; stuffed into flatbreads and eaten with mango chutney and various toppings, but these can be transformed into party appetizers as well if you make them small.  I made quick-pickled red onions to go along with it; basically sliced red onions marinated in vinegar and salt.  With sliced red peppers, cucumbers, pickled red onion, they are party in your mouth!

Curry Turkey Meatballs

Serves 4

2 slices stale white bread, crusts trimmed

Whole milk, for soaking

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey breast

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup mango chutney, plus more for topping

1/4 cup plain greek yogurt

1 egg beaten

1 small red chile pepper, such as fresno, seeded and chopped

3-4 think scallions, finely chopped

1 piece (1-inch) ginger, grated

2 large cloves garlic, grated

3 tablespoons finely chopped, toasted pine nuts, almonds or pistachios

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

A small, handful cilantro, finely chopped

Melted butter or vegetable oil, for frying

Toppings:  hot giardiniera or pickled peppers, cucumber slices, lettuce leaves, tomato leaves, pickled red onion

On a rimmed platter or in a pie dish, soak the bread in the milk to soften.  In a large bowl, crumble the ground turkey and season with salt and pepper.  Squeeze the milk from the bread over the meat, then add the bread.  Add 1/4 cup chutney, 1/4 cup yogurt, the egg, chile, scallions, ginger, garlic, nuts, curry powder, cumin and cilantro.  Mix and form into about 12 bite-sized meatballs.

Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium-high heat.  Brush with melted butter (or oil).  Add the meatballs and fry, turning often, until opaque, about 10 minutes.

Serve with topping of your choice on a platter with toothpick for easy picking.

Source:  adapted from Everyday by Rachael Ray, January/February 2013.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Roasted Carrot, Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

This soup is super easy and tasty, not to mention that it also contains super vegetables, packed with vitamin As.  The kind of soup that you want to make for a chilly evening.  You can even substitute butternut squash with a different kind; I've tried it with kabocha squash and it still came out delicious.

Roasted Carrot, Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

Serves 4

1 butternut squash (about 2 lbs.)--peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds

1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

2 onions, peeled and cut into 8 wedges each

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

3 tablespoons chopped dried cranberries

3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Divide the squash, carrots, sweet potatoes and onions between 2 rimmed baking sheets.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil over each baking sheet; toss the vegetables to coat.  Roast until lightly browned, rotating the pans halfway through cooking, about 25 minutes.

In a large saucepan, combine the roasted vegetables and 8 cups water; bring to a boil over high heat.  Lower the heat, cover and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes.  Using a blender and working in batches, puree the soup, transferring pureed portions to a clean pot; season with salt and pepper.  (The soup can be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days.)

In a heavy, medium skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the pepitas and stir until toasted, about 2 minutes.  Add the cranberries and sage and stir until fragrant, about 1 minutes.  Remove from the heat; season with salt and pepper.

Stir the soup over medium heat until it simmers.  Ladle the soup into bowls; top with pepita-cranberry mixture and a sprinkling of pepper.

Source:  Everyday with Rachael Ray, January/February 2013