Friday, December 31, 2010

Cardamom and Pear Bavarian Cream Cake

Happy Birthday (ahem, a little belated) to my sister Rachael!  She's always been the silly, cheeky one, while me the quiet one with a inner closet cheeky personality waiting to jump out.  She's the one who has the sweet sweet smile that I wish I have.  However, do not let that fool you, for she has a little devilish personality that's waiting to prank you if you're not careful.  I know it because I've been the victim of the pranks more times than I can count.  I love you regardless, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY AGAIN!   And HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!!

Mmmph!  Having a mouth full of this baby had me closing my eyes, and going off to dreamy land for a moment.  At the first bite, you get blasted with the flavor of cardamom in the soft creamy Bavarian cream, followed by a subtle pear and orange combination from the pear slices and orange chiffon cake.  I melted alright!  It was just how I dreamed for it to be.  If I were standing, I would have done a Snoopy dance around the room.  Although, on second thought, it's a good thing I was sitting down, for I went weak in my knees eating this baby up.

I was introduced to cardamom the spice earlier this year by a friend who has recently moved back to India.  I miss you guys!  I think it was love at first sight for me with cardamom.  I've been dreaming of this cake for a couple months now.  Finally I got down to pencil and paper, scribbled out the recipe and then, all that's left was for the director in me to yell: "ACTION!"

I've been planning on getting the cake done for a party this weekend, but decided to try it out first and bring Black Forest Cake instead to the party.  After trying this cake, I decided that it's too good to keep it to myself and I just gotta gotta gotta share this with my friends.  Before they get to eat it though, you guys get to see it here! :D

1- Gently crush the cardamom pods with the butt of a knife or in a mortar and pestle to release the flavorful seeds.
2- Before slicing the cake rounds, it helps to have a ruler and toothpicks around. Measure about 1/2 inch thickness and insert a toothpick into the cake as a marker.  Then using a sharp knife, or a serrated utility knife, cut the cake into rounds just right above the marker.
3- If you are new to cutting cake rounds, wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for about 12 hours before slicing.  This helps to harden the cake, and thus making the cutting action easier.
4- If you soak the pear rounds in salt water mixture, remember to rinse and pat dry quickly before cooking in milk.
5- If you don't have a plastic cake wrap, makeshift with a strip of parchment paper of at least 2"x20".  You can use clear tape to tape shorter pieces together.  Otherwise, use a 9" cake tin or spring-form cake pan for this purpose.
6- You can omit using the raspberries for decoration if you prefer.

Special thanks to Helene of Tartelette for her advise and recipe which I altered for the cardamom.

Cardamom and Pear Bavarian Cream Cake

2 D'Anjou Pears (one sliced into rounds, and the other sliced into thin wedges for decoration)
1 tbsp salt
1 cup water

1 9-inch orange chiffon cake (Recipe here)
6-12 raspberries for decoration
1 strip of plastic cake wrap, at least 2 inches high and 20 inches long

4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/4 cup milk
2-3 cardamom pods, roughly crushed open
1 tbsp gelatine in 1/8 cup water
1 cup heavy cream

Cake preparation:
Cut orange chiffon cake into 1/2-inch thick rounds.
Reserve 2 rounds for this cake, and store the rest of the cake for another purpose.
Pear preparation:
Slice the pears into rounds and thin wedges.
Soak the wedges in water and salt mixture to stop it from turning brown.
Use the pear rounds immediately, otherwise, soak it in the salt water mixture until needed.

Bavarian Cream preparation:
Whisk egg yolks and sugar until very pale.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring the milk and cardamom pods to a boil over medium heat.
While the milk is warming up, place the sliced pear rounds into the milk for about 3 minutes, or until it looked slightly transparent.
Remove the pears from the milk.
When the milk boils, strain out the cardamom and measure out 1 cup of milk.
Continue beating the egg yolk mixture as you slowly pour the hot milk over the yolk.
Pour this yolk mixture back into the saucepan, and cook over low-medium heat until it coats the back of a spoon.
Remove the yolk mixture from heat and stir in the softened gelatine until it has completely melted.
Leave the yolk mixture to cool back down to room temperature.
Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream to soft peak, and fold it into the yolk mixture.
Cake assembly:
Place one 1/2-inch thick cake round on a large, flat plate.
Wrap the plastic cake wrap around the cake as tight as you can without smooshing the cake up.
Tape the plastic cake wrap together with a small piece of clear tape.
Before pouring the cream, reserve about 1 cup of the cream for later use.
Pour about 1/2 inch thick layer of the Bavarian cream onto the cake.
Place the raspberries against the plastic cake wrap.
Place a layer of sliced pear rounds on the cream.
Fill the cream to about 1 inch thick, and place another layer of sliced pear rounds on the cream.
Fill with the rest of the cream (not the reserved one cup)
Gently push in the other layer of the cake round on top of the cream.
Jiggle a little to push out the air and flatten it against the cream.
Using a spatula, spread the reserved, 1-cup Bavarian cream over the cake.
Arrange the pear wedges into a circular fan around the cake.
Chill the cake for at least 4 hours or until set.
Finally, cut up a slice and go "mmmm..." with your eyes closed, and join me in dreamy land.

Enjoy and here's to wishing all a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chocolate Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Come December time, my kitchen often looks like a tornado just torn through it.  Well, at least that's how my darling hubby describes it.  Feels like it.  Looks like it.  I guess you can call it so.  Except, I'd like to call it my Tasmanian Devil just torn through the kitchen days.  This year, the days of destruction is less than last year's.  Mainly because for the last week or two, I've had to take out 3 of my teeth, and hadn't been able to eat whatever I want.  Baking up a storm doesn't help in a sense that I'd get to see but not eat.  So I did not bake much, until this week that is.  The Tasmanian devil has torn through my kitchen again.  Flour, castor sugar, powdered sugar, chocolate bits, melted chocolate, rolling pin, parchment papers...  Yup!  They covered my kitchen workspace alright.

One of my favorite website for looking up recipes is Joy of Baking.  I haven't really played with cookies until last year.  Yeah, I know, what was I thinking.  I guess I was going crazy with cakes?  Eeehhh...  So, anyway, last year I decided to bake a batch of little somethings for our friends and hubby's colleagues, and so I found something easy from the Joy of Baking website to start me off.  

This year, that was where I started my search as well. I started off with their recipe for shortbread cookies, but decided that it needs a little more "oomph" to it.  So, I ended up whipping up a lemon icing for the cookies.  YAY!  The lemon icing gives the slightly sweet cookie an edge of tartness.  Just perfect!  If you try this, do let me know how you like it ^.^

1- You can prepare the dough ahead of time.  Wrapping it tightly then freezing it allows you to make your cookies anytime you want.  When you want to bake it, just leave the dough out at room temperature for about 5-10 minutes before rolling out and baking.
2- Playing: Dip the whole thing in chocolate, or the whole thing in lemon icing.  Hey, it's up to your own liking right? :)
3- When mixing the flour for the cookies, try not to over mix.  Slightly crumbly is okay, as long as you don't see flour pockets.  This will help improve the crispiness of the cookie.
4- I find that rolling out your dough between two sheets of parchment/wax papers is easier for me.

Chocolate Lemon Shortbread Cookies
Shortbread Cookies (recipes adapted from Joy of Baking)
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into smaller pieces
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

Using a paddle beater on your mixer, beat the butter until creamy and smooth.
Add in sugar and continue beating until smooth.
Add in vanilla extract and beat until well combined.
Add in the flour and mix until just combined.
Flatten out the dough to about 1 inch thickness on a plastic wrap.
Wrap it up tightly, and chill for at least an hour.
***At this point, you can freeze it until you need to bake***
Line two baking sheets with parchment papers.
Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper (wax paper works too) into 1/4 inch thickness.
Cut out your cookies with a cookie cutter, and line them up on your baking sheets.
Collect the rest of the dough into a ball, then repeat the rolling out and cutting until all the dough has been used.
Place your cut-out cookies in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to help firm the dough before baking.  This will help the cookies to retain the shapes better.
Preheat the oven to 325°F (177°C) while the cookies are chilling.
Bake for about 8-12 minutes until lightly browned.
Remove from the oven, and cool on a cooling rack.

Chocolate Dip
 3/4 cup (4-5 oz) semi-sweet or bitter sweet chocolate, finely chopped
Place the chopped chocolates in a microwavable bowl.
Microwave on medium heat setting for 30 seconds.
Remove the bowl and stir.
Place the bowl back into the microwave for another 30 seconds, and repeat until you have a smooth melted chocolate.
At a 45° angle, dip half of the face of the shape in the melted chocolate.
Place it on a parchment paper to cool, about 10-15 minutes.  If you live in warmer climates, do cool them in the refrigerator.

Lemon Icing
1 cup powdered sugar
2-1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest

Place all ingredients in a small bowl, and gently whisk with a fork until you have a smooth glaze that is thick, but pourable.
Dip the other half of the cookie, also at 45° angle, into the lemon icing.
Place it on a parchment paper to set, also about 10-15 minutes.

Good luck!  If you're traveling over the holidays season, do be safe.  Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mini Banana Pancakes with Chocolate Sauce

Now that thanksgiving's over, it's time for to gear up for xmas/hanukkah/kwanzaa/holidays!  I'm gearing up by exercising whenever I can, and baking up a storm, when the recovery period for wisdom teeth extractions are done >.<  But if you find yourself busy, needing a quick snack/breakfast, this is one that's so easy to make and yummy.

1- Leftover/older bananas are great for this.
2- Don't worry about leftover chocolate sauce.  If you haven't already drink them up already, just bottle it up and keep it in the fridge, and feel free to use it to turn your daily cup-o-joe into a mocha or drizzle a spoonful over your next scoop of ice cream.  If it hardens, just warm it up in the microwave for about 15 seconds and mix well.
3- The bananas I used are pretty big ones, about 7-8 inches.  If you're using tinier bananas, do remember to add a couple more.

Mini Banana Pancakes with Chocolate Sauce
(updated: 11/30/2010  Fell sick last evening with a flu and made this again this morning for breakfast, cuz it's fast! :D  And decided that the updated recipe is more banana-y.  I just adjusted the amount of flour and water, to give it a stronger flavor)

1 banana, peeled and mashed
dash of salt to taste
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 egg
~1 tbsp water
extra banana slices for plating if you wish

Right after mashing the bananas, mix in the salt right away to help stop the oxidization process (fancy schmancy word for blackening of your banana).
Mix in sugar and flour to form a thick paste.
Crack the egg into the paste and mix until smooth.
Slowly mix in the water while mixing until you have a smooth batter.
Heat up a slightly greased pan over medium heat.
With a big spoon, scoop dollops of the batter into the pan and fry for about a minute on each side until lightly browned.
Serve with banana slices and drizzles of chocolate sauce.

Chocolate Sauce
This is a chocolate sauce that took inspiration from Pierre Herme's Chocolate Glaze techniques.

1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 tsp unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces.

Boil the heavy cream over medium heat.
Once boiling, remove from heat, and slowly stir in the chocolate until smooth.
Stir in circular motion, don't whip.
When done mixing the chocolate, heat the chocolate over a pot of boiling water until it is hot to the touch or at about 140°F.
Add in the 4 tsp of butter
Stir until butter is melted and well combined.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Orange Chiffon with Chocolate and Orange Cream

Happy Birthday Y'all~!!
Okay, I've got many friends whose birthday falls in November, and none of them live nearby enough that I can make em a cake.  So here's a big dedication to all of em.  Namely, in chronological order, Derrick, YeongWen, HuanKiat, Jennifer, TakKhwin, Jim, Lester, Claire, Eric, & Laytyng. *phooo* That was quite the mouthful... lol

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ALL OF YOU NOVEMBER-BORN GUYS & GALS!  Here's to a better, sweeter, and memorable year ahead :)

Since coming back from the recent cruise to Eastern Caribbean, I've added a couple of gems to my collection of liquors, Cointreau and Kahlua.  First heard of Cointreau and Kahlua as a child when my parents bought for their own collection.  Back when I was about 18, I was the worst drinker anyone can imagine.  A couple drops of Kahlua in a big glass of milk will make me buzz.  My sister will attest to that, cuz she's the one who had to make me a glass of tea after that.  lol  Yeah, weak drinker alright.  Still weak now, but I've built up a bit of tolerance to it to a point where I can enjoy a beer or a glass of wine without falling off on my face and had to be dragged off.  *Disclaimer:  no mommy, I've never got drunk that bad before and plan to stay that way.*

I've digressed.  Anyway, I've promised my friend Jason that I'll think of a cake recipe using Cointreau when I get back, and after a couple days of figuring out the whats and hows, here it is...  I have to say, I'm surprised at how orangy the cake tastes.  The flavor of orange and chocolate balances very well and does not overpower one another.  Just how I loved it :)

1- Before slicing the cake to form the top and bottom halves, it helps to have a ruler and toothpicks around. Measure about 3/4 to 1 inch thickness and insert a toothpick into the cake as a marker.  Then using a sharp knife, or a serrated utility knife, cut the cake into halves just right above the marker.
2- If your cake is slightly domed, use the same method detailed in Tip 1 to cut off the domed area, so that you have flat surfaces to work with.
3- If you prefer not to use alcohol, just substitute the alcohol with 1/4 cup more of orange juice.  Although the boiling will rid the syrup of alcohol anyway.
4- If you do not have Cointreau, feel free to use Grand Marnier or any other orange flavored alcohol.
5- If you prefer an adult-oriented cake, you can choose not to boil the Cointreau.  Instead, heat the orange juice just enough to dissolve the sugar, then add in Cointreau last and mix well.

Orange Chiffon with Chocolate and Orange Cream

1 nine-inch orange chiffon cake, sliced into two round halves
1 15-oz can of mandarin orange slice, drained

Soaking Syrup:
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup Cointreau
1/2 tsp orange essence
1 tbsp sugar

Whipping Cream ingredients:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 pkt (2-1/4 tsp) gelatine
3 tbsp water
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tbsp of orange rind 

Soaking Syrup:

Put all ingredients for the soaking syrup in a small pot and boil on medium low heat for 5 minutes.
Then remove from fire, and let it cool down while preparing the other ingredients.
When the syrup has cooled enough to handle, brush it over the cut surfaces of the chiffon cake. 

Whipping Cream:
In a small bowl, soak the gelatine in 3 tbsp of water.
Place the bowl in a pan of simmering water.
Gently stir until the gelatine dissolves, then remove from heat and let it cool.
Beat the heavy whipping cream with a wire whip until it foams.
Add in powdered sugar, and vanilla extract.
Beat until stiff peak forms.
Remove 1 cup of whipped cream and slowly mix into the gelatine until smooth.
Slowly whip in the gelatine mixture into the rest of the whipped cream. 
Remove 1/3 of the whipped cream into a separate bowl.
Add 5 tbsp of the soaking syrup to the leftover 2/3 of the whipped cream and beat until smooth. This will be the orange flavored whipped cream.
Remove the orange flavored whipped cream into a clean bowl, and wash the mixing bowl.
Place the 1/3 of the whipped cream that was removed earlier into the mixing bowl along with cocoa powder.
Whip until smooth.

Putting it all together:
Put the bottom half of the sliced cake on a flat surface and spread a thin layer of chocolate cream over the top surface only.
Arrange the drained orange slices in a single layer over the chocolate cream.
Spread more chocolate cream over the orange slices, just enough to cover them.
Place the other half of the cake over the orange and chocolate layer.
Cover the whole cake in a very thin layer of orange flavored cream to stabilize and help the crumbs stay in place.
Then spread a thicker layer of orange flavored cream over the whole cake to cover.
Lastly decorate the cake as you wish with orange slices, chocolate cream, or chocolate shavings if you prefer.

Last but not least, good luck and enjoy a lice of orangy cake.
And again, Happy Birthday to my friends :)

Orange Chiffon Cake

Chiffon cakes are fluffy, light slices of yumminess.
Updated: January 5, 2011
***I apologize to any readers who tried to read through this and got frustrated.  I did not realize I missed out a few tips and some clarification.  And in retrospect, I am also adding some extra info on beating egg whites.  Thank you mommy, for actually going through and letting me know the frustration you encountered. MUAH!***

1- Have all your ingredients weighed, measured and ready, that will help the work-flow tremendously.
2- If you're working fast, you can beat the egg whites first, then the egg yolks.  This saves time of washing up the bowl before beating the whites if you don't have a separate mixing bowl.
3- Make sure your mixing bowl is clean and grease-free when you work with egg whites.
4- This recipe is for either a large bundt pan or for two 9-inch round cake pans.
5- If you only need one cake, feel free to wrap the other cake tightly in clingwrap and freeze it.  When you need the cake, just put it in the refrigerator 24 hours before using.
6- If you are using bundt cake pan, do not oil.
7- If you are using 9-inch pans, do not oil, but line the bottom of the pans with parchment papers.
8- I started learning making chiffon cake with self-raising flour, but have recently moved to using a mixture of plain flour, baking powder, and salt.  Either recipe should work just fine.  With plain flour, you just have to mix the flour thoroughly before you use.  With self-raising flour, you can get away with just a quick sift.
9- One way to test if the egg whites are ready: Dip your wire whip into the egg white foam, give it a quick turn and lift the whip.  You should see a beak-like egg white tip on your whip.  It might sag just a tad, but should not be limp or runny. You should still be able to see a glossy sheen on your foam.  If you see your egg whites starting to loose its sheen and form clumps, it has been over-beaten.  I have never tried this before, but I have seen this tip being promoted over and over again.  Add in one more egg white into the mixture, and beat until just right.  Of course, you will need to remove 1/8 of the egg white before continuing with the recipe if you add the extra egg white to rescue the batch.

Orange Chiffon Cake

Egg White Mixture:
7 egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar

Egg Yolk Mixture:
7 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup milk
2 cups plain flour                     )
2-1/2 tsp baking powder          )  or 2 cups self-raising flour
3/4 tsp salt                             )
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp orange essence
1 tablespoon orange rind, chopped

Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).
Combine plain flour, baking powder, and salt, and sieve 2-3 times until well mixed.  
Or if you are using self-raising flour, you may just sieve it once.
Beat egg yolks, sugar, orange juice, and milk until sugar is dissolved.
Slowly mix in the flour and salt mixture until no clumps visible.
Add in oil, rind, and orange essence and combine well.
Use a separate mixing bowl or transfer the egg yolk mixture to a separate bowl and wash the mixing bowl well so that no grease remains, because any remainder of grease or yolk leftover in the mixing bowl will cause the egg white not to rise. (see Tips 2 & 3)
Beat egg white with a wire whip until it is foaming on the surface but is still liquidy below.
At this point, slowly add in sugar and keep beating until soft peak forms.
Now add in cream of tartar while beating.
Keep beating until stiff peak forms but still glossy.
Mix a quarter of the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture to lighten it up to help the folding process.
Gently and quickly fold in the rest of the egg whites into the yolk mixture.
***Folding technique:  Using a big spatula, cut the mixture down through the center until you scrape the bottom.  Then lift up the spatula and fold the mixture over.  Do not pat the mixture down, just lightly flip it over will do.  Then give the mixing bowl a quarter turn and repeat the cutting, scraping, and flipping motion.  Then give the bowl another quarter turn and repeat...  You get the gist :)  Cut, scrape, flip, turn, cut scrape, flip, turn...***
Fold until just mixed, no visible streaks visible.
Pour the mixture into the bundt pan or equally into the two 9-inch pans.
Bake at 300°F for 30 minutes until lightly browned.
Switch the oven heat up to 350°F for another 10 minutes or so until golden brown.
Remove the pans from the oven and invert immediately, then leave to cool completely before removing the cakes from the mold.

p/s: If I come upon more tips on chiffon cakes, I'll add them below.  If anyone has any tips, please let me know, I'd like to learn ^.^

Friday, November 12, 2010

Panela Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells

Stuffed shell pasta has always intrigued me in a very interesting sort of way.  It gives off this playful aura, and yet at the same time homely and filling. *no pun intended*

Ricotta cheese is a common stuffing for cannelloni.  However, for this recipe, I'm using a mixture of queso panela (panela cheese) and mozzarella.  Panela has a slightly crumbly texture, but less crumbly than queso fresco, I thought it'd make for a good substitute for ricotta.  I also wanted a slightly chewier texture of the cheese, so I added some mozzarella to give it a stringier, chewier texture.

A local farmers market was having a sale on a variety of pork sausages, so guess who got adventurous and bought a bunch of different ones? :D  The one featured here is an apple cinnamon pork sausage.  I was a little skeptical at first, not sure what to expect of it.  However, upon trying, I knew I had to go back and get more before the sale is officially over.  haha  It has a subtle apple and cinnamon taste that complements the pork very well.  What I love best about it was the fact that it was not too salty.

1- If you cannot find queso panela, feel free to use ricotta, queso fresco, or feta cheese if you like.  Soft, fresh cheese with a milder taste works better than, say, parmesan or cheddar that will overpower the flavor of spinach.
2- You can substitute with cannelloni or manicotti (tube pasta) or lumaconi (large snail pasta) if you prefer.
3- Large shell pastas are also called conchiglioni.
4- Instead of oregano, feel free to substitute with basil.

Panela Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells 

10-12 large pasta shells (conchiglioni)
1 cup tomato based pasta sauce
5 oz panela cheese
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese
2 cups spinach, sliced and loosely packed
1/8 tsp black pepper
scant 1/8 tsp crushed oregano
water for boiling pasta
1 tomato, sliced into thin wedges
1 apple cinnamon pork sausage, cooked and sliced

Boil water in a pot and cook pasta for about 15 minutes or according to packaging instructions.
Drain and let the pasta cool down.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Meanwhile, wash and chop spinach.
Crumble panela and toss with mozzarella, black pepper, oregano, and spinach.
Stuff the fillings into the shells and place in a lightly oiled baking tray.
Cover the tray with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
While it is baking, heat up the pasta sauce on low fire.
Plate pasta, tomato wedges, and sausages, and spoon sauce over the pasta.
Lastly, enjoy your meal :)

Good luck, and have fun stuffing yourself with the stuffed shells ^.^  *pun intended*

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Peach Mousse Tart

Found my love for mousse on a cruise trip last year.  So light and heavenly...  I remember it was a chocolate mousse tart.  Simple, elegant, and airy, just the kind of dessert one can look forward to after a big meal.  Or it can also make for little bites of deliciousness.

Being me, being the crazy spontaneous me, I changed up the menu about 4 hours before due at our friend's dinner potluck.  :P  I knew I want to make a tart, something peachy, I couldn't decide what kind of custard I wanted for the tart though.  I was going to make a citrus based curd for the tart, but kept thinking of the end result and how it'll taste. Looking through my fridge and pantry and had an enlightening moment and knew what I was going to make for the potluck!

1- Change up the fruits to whichever you prefer or whatever's in season.
2- If you have leftover whip cream, just freeze it and you can scoop out a dollop on your coffee or dessert as needed. 
3- If you do not have pastry pipe, you can use a Ziploc bag to pipe in the filling.  Just fill the Ziploc with your mousse and cut off one tip of the bag and squeeze :)
4- Hate having to mess with a pastry pipe?  Worry not my dear.  Feel free to use two spoons and spoon the mousse into the shells.
5- If you end up with extra mousse filling, feel free to refrigerate it and eat it as is.

Peach Mousse Tart

10-12 three inch tart shells
4 oz cream cheese (half a packet), softened
4 oz peach yogurt
1-1/2 cup whipped heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp gelatine in 1 tbsp water
1/2 cup cubed peaches

With a paddle beater attached to your standing mixer, cream the cream cheese and sugar.
When the mixture is more or less well mixed, add in peach yogurt.
Finally mix in the whipped heavy cream to the mixture and beat until texture is creamy and fluffy.
Mix gelatine and 1 tbsp of water in a heat resistant bowl.
Heat a little water in a pan and place the heat resistant bowl into the pan to dissolve the gelatine.
When gelatine is dissolved, remove from pan and set aside.
Remove about 1/3 cup of whipped mixture and slowly add about 2 tablespoons at a time of the whipped mixture to the gelatine.
Using a spoon or fork, mix until smooth before adding the next 2 tablespoons of whipped mixture.
Repeat until 1/3 cup of whipped mixture is finished.
Slowly beat in the gelatine mixture into the whip cream mixture until smooth.
Fill the mousse filling into your pastry pipe or Ziploc bag.
Pipe one layer of mousse to fill the bottom of the tart shells.
Spoon in a layer of peach cubes onto the mousse layer.
Continue to pipe the rest of the mousse into the tart shells.
Freeze for 2 hours or refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving.

Good luck and have fun with light airy mousses.  ^.^

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Trivia - What is Pectin?

What is pectin?

Pectin is a gelling/thickening agent.  You can generally buy it in powder or liquid form from stores.  But what it is, is actually a complex form of carbohydrates called polysaccharides.  It's found in the cells of certain fruits and plants.  Wikipedia has more info on the chemical information as well as a list of common fruits and vegetables, and their level of pectin.  Citrus peels has about 30% of pectin, which is a lot compared to, say, cherries, which has only about 0.4%.
So when one is making jam/jelly/preserves from a fruit that does not have or does not have enough pectin in it to thicken, one adds pectin. 


More info on Pectin:
Pectin - Wikipedia

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Spiced Pumpkin Cranberry Cupcake

Never liked pumpkin much.  Couldn't understand all the hoo-ha behind pumpkin pie, didn't understand what's so great about spiced pumpkin latte that comes out every fall at coffee stores.  For twenty over years, it stayed that way.  All it took was a cheesecake to change my mind. ^.^  Hehe...  A couple years ago, I had a slice of pumpkin cheesecake at a friend's place and that changed my mind about pumpkins.  Heeh

So this year, to start off this fall on a pumpkin-ish tone, I made spiced pumpkin cupcakes.  After grating my nutmegs, I went bonkers, and took out my mortar and pestle and started pounding my cinnamon and cloves into powder.  Yeah, I did went bonkers that night.  lol...

1- You don't have to pound cinnamon and cloves, but if you can, try grating your own nutmeg.  It smells so awesome and it's so easy, you'll do it again after you've tried it once.
2- Soaking your cranberries before mixing and baking helps to keep them moist and plump through the baking process.
3- This recipe is for about twenty 2-1/2 inch cupcakes.  If your muffin trays are larger or smaller, remember to adjust the baking time and check for readiness.

Spiced Pumpkin Cranberry Cupcake

Cupcake ingredients:
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup water
2 tbsp brandy/kirsch
2 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cup pumpkin paste

Cream cheese icing ingredients:
8 oz cream cheese, softened (1 pkt)
4 oz butter, softened
1-3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
a couple drops of red, yellow, and green food dye

Boil the cranberries in water and brandy/kirsch mixture for 5 minutes then switch off the fire and keep the cranberries soaking for about 10 minutes then drain.
Preheat oven to 350°F and line muffin tray with paper cups.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients until well mixed.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add in the wet ingredients (oil, eggs, pumpkin paste).
Whisk together the wet ingredients and slowly draw in the dry ingredients until well mixed.
Stir in the cranberries.
Pipe or spoon the batter into paper cups and fill to about 3/4 full.
Bake for 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
Cool on a rack for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine and cream all ingredients for icing. 
Mix a couple drops of food dye into part of the icing until you achieve the color you want.
Pipe or spread cream cheese icing on the muffin.

Oh, and have fun with the icing design.  ^.^

Good luck and hope you fall in love with pumpkins.  heehee
Oh, and yes, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!!!!  Go get drunk on candies!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Peach Preserve

Finally the weather is cooling down much more, and leaves are turning bright golden yellow and all shades of red.  Beautiful really... ^.^

Of all the shades, the golden, reddish, peachy color of peaches reminds me best of fall. So here's one peach preserve to be shared with everyone! ^.^

1- Really ripe peaches are best for preserves in my opinion.  The aroma are just too awesome to say no to...
2- While cutting the peaches, it is best to immerse the cut peaches into a a bowl of cold water to prevent browning.
3- Instead of using pectin, I use lemon peel/pith as a gelling agent.

Peach Preserve

4 peaches
1-3/4 cup sugar
juices from 1 lemon
lemon pith

Wash and cut peaches into small pieces.
Place peaches and sugar into a mixing bowl and mix well.
Cover and let it sit overnight.
Next day...
Half a lemon and squeeze out the juice and set aside.
Cut off the tip of the lemon and open up the lemon peel.
Carefully, place your paring knife between the pith and peel, and cut out the pith from the peel.
Place all peach and sugar mixture, lemon juice, and pith into a medium sized sauce pan.
Heat the pan over high heat until the mixture boils.
Once the mixture is boiling, turn down the heat to medium low and simmer for 2-3 hours until thickened and fruit pieces have all softened.
*Do not worry too much if it still seems slightly watery, it will continue to thicken as it cools.
After the preserve has cooled, transfer the preserve into a clean jar and store in fridge.

Good luck and hopefully the weather where you're living is treating you well. ^.^

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Trivia - What is Allspice?

What is allspice?

Ever wonder what makes up the allspice?  It sounded like it's a mixture of all different kinds of spices doesn't it?  At least that's what it seems to me.  However, in truth, the real thing is only made up of one thing:  the dried pepper of a Jamaican pepper tree known as pimento (not to be confused with pimiento chillies).   The flavor of the dried berries smells like a combination of cinnamon, clove, ginger, and nutmeg, hence the name allspice.  Some store-bought allspice are made up of a combination of the spices mentioned above and not the real bean, but they mimic pretty closely.  So you can look for a substitute if you need to :)

Have a good Sunday and a great start to the week ahead!!

More resources on allspice:
Encyclopedia of spices on The Epicenter

Friday, October 15, 2010

Vegetables and Squid

I was chatting with my mom the other day, and she told me that looking at the galette made her hungry but she can't make it, because they're going through a period of vegetarian diet.  Sorry mommy...  But here's something to make up for it? :D

This was actually an adaptation of a recipe my mommy gave me - tri-colored capcicums and seafood (will post this up another day).

1- Instead of squid, just use vegetarian squid or any time of vegetarian gluten ingredients.
2- Instead of chicken broth or chicken granules, feel free to reach for vegetarian broth. 

Vegetables and Squid

4 baby bok choy (xiao bai cai), quartered
8-10 baby carrots, halved
1 small capcicum (bell pepper, or any red pepper of choice)
1 cup carved squid (or vegetarian gluten of choice)
1 clove garlic, finely minced (omit if your diet doesn't allow)
1 tbsp dark vinegar
1 tbsp shao xing wine
1 tbsp corn starch/tapioca flour
4+4 tbsp water
2 tbsp oil
sugar to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Wash and prepare bok choy and baby carrots as instructed above.
Arrange bok choy and carrots onto a plate and steam on medium low heat for about 10-minutes or until vegetables slightly softened.
Remove from heat but keep the plate of vegetables in the pot of hot water to keep it warm.
Mix cornstarch with 4 tbsp of water and set aside for later use.
Heat a pan at medium-high heat with oil.
When the oil is hot, saute garlic until fragrant and immediately add capcicum and squid.
Stir fry for about a minute and add 4 tbsp of water, vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar, and shao xing wine.
Stir fry for another minute or so, and taste the sauce, then adjust to your own liking.
Then stir in the cornstarch mixture until the sauce is thickened.
Remove the plate from the steaming pot and dish out the squid into the center of the plate.
Spoon some sauce over the bok choy.
Dish is ready to serve.

Good luck and have fun changing it up to your needs/liking.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Plum Galette

It's monday morning, the and weather is getting cooler, and cooler still it will get.  Need something to warm up my heart...  It's pastry time!

Galettes are essentially a free-form pie in a way.  Rustic and elegant in its own way that a pie could never be.  What's not to love? 

1- Have fun with the fillings.  Change it up with whatever's in season or whatever you like.
2- To cut a plum, half it all the way around, then twist the two halves to remove half of the flesh off.  Using a spoon or the edge of a small paring knife, take out the pit carefully.
3- Adjust the sweetness according to your batch of fruit or fruit of choice.

Plum galette

1 9-inch store-bought pie crust or pate brisee
4 plums
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp water

Preheat the oven at 400°F (205°C).
Wash and cut the plums into wedges.  Then toss it well with the sugar.
Roll out the pie crust onto a flat surface.
Place the plum fillings onto the center of the pie crust.
Then fold the pie crust inwards, overlapping as needed to finish.
Mix the egg with 2 tablespoon of water, and beat lightly.
Using a soft brush, brush a layer of egg wash on the folded areas of the crust.
Sprinkle just a little sugar over the galette.
Bake it for 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling softened.
Remove the galette from the oven, and dust powdered sugar on top.
Cool it on a rack before serving.

Good luck and enjoy a slice! 

Trivia answer...

D)  They're called stone fruits.
Also called drupes.  According to wikipedia: "The definitive characteristic of a drupe is that the hard, lignified stone (or pit) is derived from the ovary wall of the flower."
Oh, and I forgot, they all tastes fabulous!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Trivia

Apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and plums are all summer fruits.  What else do they have in common?

a) they're very pungent
b) they always taste sour
c) they're all dark colored fruits
d) they're called stone fruits

Answers will be provided tomorrow.
Good luck, and wishing everyone a beautiful week ahead!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Omelette and Ham with Salsa

Omelette and ham w salsa breakfast


They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Although, for many a years, I did not have mine, simply because...  Okay okay, I did not have a good excuse.  However, I've started eating breakfast, and now it's a ritual, be it a quick slice of bread with coffee, or something more elaborate, breakfast is there.

Living in the Southwest for almost 10 years left a mark on me.  I've fallen in love with the complexity and flavor of Mexican food.   So here's a little tip o' the hat to that love of mine.

1- Do not over cook the egg(s).  Slightly undercooked will do, it will continue to set after taken off the heat.

Omelette and Ham with Salsa
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
1 slice ham, cut into strips and cooked
2 tbsp butter (or any oil of choice)
3 tbsp fresh salsa (recipe below)

Heat a pan over medium-high heat.
Melt butter in the pan. (This will take a minute or two, so meanwhile...)
Beat the eggs with salt and pepper.
When the butter begins to bubble & foam, add in the eggs.
After letting it sit for a couple seconds, start jerking the pan towards you.
(And no, do not worry about it looking very pretty, I promise it'll be prettified at the end)
Keep jerking, and at the same time, let it form into a sort of "puddle" at the end of your pan.
Grab your pan with one hand, and a plate on the other, flip the omelet over onto the plate.
Using a sharp paring knife, make three slits on your omelette.
Place the cooked ham into the slits.
Spoon the salsa onto the omelette.

Fresh Salsa

6 roma tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
1/2 onion (medium sized)
1-2 jalapeƱo pepper
1 fresno pepper
juice of 1 lime
2 stalks cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Wash all ingredients.
Quarter the tomatoes and onion.
Chop tomatoes, garlic, onion, peppers, and cilantro finely, and combine with the rest of the ingredients in a bowl

(To make things easier, you can also chop up all your ingredients in your food processor or mini chopper)

Good luck & Good day! ^.^