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.  ^.^