Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Stollen

The darkness of winter is closing in and with that, the Christmas of 2011 is almost over.  Last night we had dinner with a family friend; their kids played with mine, the adults talked in front of the fireplace.  It's the most peaceful moment during the week leading to Christmas.  The food was superb, the desserts were equally delicious.  My panettone obviously needed tinkering, but the stollen came out beautifully.  It will no doubt be one bread that make it to my Christmas baking ritual.  To prove that I can make stollen, to prove to my walking friends that stollen is not an ordinary dried fruit-nut bread :)

Christmas stollen-1-2

And the kids, who were happily entertained by Tintin comic books.

Happy kids-1


Makes 2 large breads


3/4 cup dark raisins

3/4 cup golden raisins

4 ounces whole candied citron, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/2 cup dark rum or brandy


1 1/2 cups whole milk

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 packages (1 1/2 tablespoons) rapid-rise yeast

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature


1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very soft

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom, preferably freshly ground

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out and reserved

3/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup blanched whole almonds, chopped into medium-sized pieces

2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

12 ounces marzipan, homemade or canned

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Confectioners' sugar for dusting

The night before or even 2 or 3 days ahead, combine the raisins, candied citron, and liquor in a 2-pint jar with a screw-cap lid or in a resealable plastic bag.  Turn the container several times to distribute the liquor evenly.  Set aside at room temperature to soak.

To make the sponge:  scald the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat-you will see steam rising from the surface and small bubbles forming around the edges.  Remove the pan from the heat and let milk cool to between 120 degree and 130 degree F.

Put the flour into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer.  Whisk in the yeast and sugar.  Add the milk and whisk briskly to make a smooth batter.  Add the egg and whisk to combine well.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the sponge rise until it more than doubles in volume and then collapses on itself, about 2 hours.

To make the dough with a stand mixer:  attach the flat beater and beat the butter into the sponge in 2-tablespoon installment on medium speed, beating until incorporated after each addition.  Add the sugar, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla seeds, almond extract, and salt and beat on low to medium-low speed until the dough masses on the blade, abut 5 minutes.  Scrape the bowl and beater, and stir in the raisins and citron, along with any unabsorbed liquor.  Add the almonds.  Switch to the dough hook.  Beating on low speed, gradually 2 cups of the flour and then knead for 3 to 5 minutes.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup flour on your work surface and scrape the dough onto it.  Knead the dough until all the flour has been incorporated.  The dough should feel fairly firm and only a bit tacky.  If it is too sticky, knead in up to 1/4 cup more flour.  Push any fruit that falls from the dough during kneading back into the dough.

Wash and dry the bowl and either oil it lightly or coat it with cooking spray.  Shape the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl, turning to coat all surfaces.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface and divide it in half with a pastry scraper or sharp knife.  Shape each piece into a all, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

To shape the stollen:  divide the marzipan into 2 pieces.  Roll each under your palms into a cylinder about 11 inches long.  Pat or roll each piece of dough into an oval measuring 12 inches long and about 9 inches wide at the widest point.  If the dough sticks at any point, dust it very lightly with flour.  Make a shallow depression down the center of each oval with the handle of a wooden spoon.  Place a roll of marzipan in each depression.  Lift one side of dough over the marzipan, covering it completely.  The edge of the top flap of dough should just reach the other edge of dough.

Line a large baking sheet (18 x 12 x 1 inch) with a silicone baking pan liner or cooking parchment.  Put the stollen crosswise on the prepared sheet, placing them about 3 inches from each end of the sheet and leaving about 4 inches of space between them.  Coat the stollen with cooking spray and cover them loosely with plastic wrap.  Let rise just until they have increased in volume by about half, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Adjust an oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 350 degree F.

When the stollen are ready, remove the plastic wrap and place the pan in the oven.  Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the stollen are nicely browned.  An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part should register 195 degree F.  Remove the pan from the oven and immediately brush each stollen with half the melted butter.  Put the confectioners' sugar in a fine-meshed sieve and sift a generous layer all over the top of the stollen.  Repeat in a few minutes if you see the sugar melting in spots.  Cool the stollen completely on wire cooling racks.  To serve, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices with a sharp serrated knife.

Notes:  to age the stollen, bake in advance before Christmas arrives!

Source:  A Baker's Odyssey by Greg Patent

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice

Eating sweetened tangyuan or onde-onde (in Bahasa Indonesia) during Chinese Winter Solstice Festival may become a yearly occurrence now. Before my parents moved close to me, I didn't always remember to make onde-onde in the month of December; or sometimes I was too lazy to make some. But now, my mom is my motivation to make this something to look forward to every year. Celebrating one, if not all, traditional Chinese holidays means we are keeping our cultural heritage alives in the family.

My mom usually make sweet, syrupy broth from sugar, water, lots of ginger, and kaffir lime leaves. In some of the onde-onde, she'd put ground peanuts mixed in with sugar to form some kind of paste. Last night I helped her roll those balls, small and large; red, green, brown, and white, for us to eat today; my hands were sticky from the glutinous flour but I enjoyed it.

We all ate too much of the onde-onde but we didn't mind it at all since we tried to eat them only once a year; though my mom sometimes break the tradition by making it again during winter time. When eaten hot, these onde-onde are so good; chewy, sweet, and a warming sustenance. Only my son who doesn't quite like the texture of the onde-onde; nevertheless he loves the syrupy broth.  I just hope he'll still remember this moment when he's grown up.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Almond Truffle Bars

I finally had a time to bake sweets for Christmas...ah, the joy of having two-week break from work.  It gave me a motivation to bake, it prepared me to be ready for Christmas.  Thus the sweet is aptly named Christmas almond truffle bars.  I've made this actually years before, don't remember anymore if I've ever blogged about it; but it doesn't matter, does it?  A recipe is a recipe; especially this type of recipe, everyone are always happy to be reminded to use it again.

I have big plan to do during the break, aside from doing some shoot for work that is.  I'm hoping that will be done quickly so I can focus on baking leisurely.  My mom also wanted to do baking together with me, so why not make several if time allows.  My plan is to try making panettone and stollen before Christmas.  It's an ambitious plan, isn't it?  I mentioned this plan with two of my walking partners, and they all said that these two bread were basically fruitcakes because they contained candied fruits!  I was mad at them in a good way, trying in vain explaining that they were different.  One of them was a performer and she just did a Christmas show which she sang about fruitcake in it.  Nobody likes them, there are  suspicious things in fruitcakes, and those funky stuff stuck to your teeth.  She is a funny gal and I still like her despite our different food preferences.

For now, let's have this recipe written down.

Christmas Almond Toffee Bars

Makes one 13 x 9" pan


For the crust:

2 cups vanilla wafer cookies, crushed

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

For the caramel:

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

For the topping:

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

2/3 cup chopped almonds


Preheat oven to 350°F; butter a 13 x 9" glass baking dish.

Process vanilla wafers in a food processor until smooth. Combine the crushed cookies with 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup melted butter in a big bowl.

Press the mixture into the prepared dish, tamp it down with bottom of a glass or a measuring cup. Bake for 8 minutes, or just until set.

Meanwhile, heat 1 stick butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat; stirring to blend. Bring mixture to a boil and boil 1 minute without stirring.

Immediately pour the mixture over the cookie crust, then return the dish to the oven. Bake an additional 10 minutes, remove and cool for 2 minutes.

Combine both chocolate chips in a bowl and sprinkle them over the toffee and let stand until they're glossy, about 5 minutes. Spread the chocolate over the toffee using an offset spatula, then sprinkle the nuts on top. Tap the nuts down with your fingers so they will adhere better to the chocolate. Cool bars completely.

Remove the toffee from the pan. To break it into pieces, cut with a sharp knife into bars.

Source: adapted from Holiday Cookies by Cuisine At Home

Friday, December 9, 2011

Bittersweet Truffle Tart

I shared this tart with my Bunco friends a few weeks ago. Rich, chocolaty, and creamy; those three words pretty much summed up the end result.

There's so much to write but I'm still finding the time; it's been a long week and busy month.  I'll leave with a recipe to share, though.  Until later.

Bittersweet truffle tart

Bittersweet chocolate tart

Bittersweet Truffle Tart

Makes 10 servings

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup ground blanched almonds

6 tablespoons butter, softened

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/4 cups whipping cream

12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup strawberry jam

Whipped Almond Mascarpone, recipe follows

Bittersweet or semisweet chocolate shavings (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

For crust: In a large bowl, combine flour, powdered sugar, ground almonds, butter, and cocoa powder. Beat with an electric mixer until combined. Knead gently with hands until mixture comes together. Press dough onto the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 9- or 9 1/2-inch fluted square or round tart pan that has a removable bottom or a 9-inch pie plate.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until crust is slightly puffed. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

In a medium saucepan, combine whipping cream, the 12 ounces chocolate, and granulated sugar. Cook over medium heat just until chocolate is melted, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a medium bowl; whisk in strawberry jam. Cover and chill about 1 hour or until mixture is cooled and slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.

Beat cooled chocolate mixture about 30 seconds or just until the color lightens slightly. Pour into crust, spreading evenly. Cover and chill about 2 hours and until firm.

Prepare Whipped Almond Mascarpone. Using a small sharp knife, gently loosen edges of crust from side of pan. Remove sides of tart pan. Spread the whipped mascarpone over top of tart. If desired sprinkle each serving with chocolate shavings.

Whipped Almond Mascarpone: In a medium bowl, combine half of an 8-ounce carton mascarpone cheese, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/3 whipping cream, and 1/8 teaspoon almond extract. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat on high speed until mixture is thick and holds firm peaks.

Source: Holiday Baking Better Homes and Gardens 2008

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chicken Pot Pies

My son has been begging for me to make chicken pot pies for dinner this weekend. His list of dishes to be served for the dinner was quite long; from the main dish, side dishes, to dessert and drink but I wasn't too keen to make all of them since I had a full and busy week.  In the end I managed to make chicken pot pies from scratch for him. Oh, and he helped too. A bit of honest fact about me:  I'm not a mom who loves to have my kid in the kitchen since I prefer to make things in a methodical and accurate manners (read: neat freak and controlling person) :) Also, I'm no fun to be around in the kitchen since I tend to bark orders around so people in my household tend to leave me alone. But honestly, I love having people in my kitchen, it's just they would need to be in different roles that what they'd like to do otherwise like helping cleaning the countertops, washing the dishes, and vacuuming and moping the floor.  See, no wonder nobody wants to be with me in the kitchen :)

But lately I've come to realize that maybe I shouldn't be so strict in the kitchen. Any instructions on how to cook and bake would be helpful for him when he's older. So I let him help me quite a bit in making the dish. His job was to chop vegetables and to stir things in the pot, starting with mushrooms, carrots, and then pearl onions. Drops of hot oil jumped from the pot and he would in turn jump away from the stove :) He also helped dry up dishes (I love it, I really should ask him to help more). I knew he's quite proud of what he's accomplished because he mentioned to my mom that he helped me making it. And my mom said wholeheartedly that it tasted delicious. I've read that when kids help prepare the food, they'd likely to eat everything on the plate. I saw that this is true since my son ate mushrooms and pearl onions, two ingredients that he usually won't touch.

Chicken pot pies-1-4

The chicken pot pie was truly delicious, the crust is crumbly and buttery; the one thing that I love to nibble on. I didn't get to make every dishes that my son asked but he didn't mind it and you know what, he's already planning the next set of meal!

Chicken Pot Pie

Serves 6

For the crust:
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 oz. (12 Tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces

For the filling:
5 Tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb. medium cremini mushrooms, quartered (2 cups)
1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed and patted dry
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick (1 1/2 cups)
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 oz. (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
2 1/4 oz. (1/2 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
3 cups lower-salt chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
1 3/4 lbs. red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice (5 cups)
1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

Make the crust:
Put the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the butter pieces are the size of peas, 10 to 12 pulses. Drizzle 3 Tablespoons cold water over the mixture. Pulse until the dough forms moist crumbs that are just beginning to clump together, 8 or 9 pulses more.

Turn the crumbs onto a large piece of plastic wrap and gather into a pile. With the heel of your hand, gently smear the dough away from you until the crumbs come together (two or three smears should do it). Shape the dough into a 4-inch square, wrap tightly in the plastic, and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Make the filling:
Heat 2 Tablespoons of the oil in a 7- to 8-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat until very hot. Generously season the chicken with salt and pepper. Working in two batches, brown the chicken well on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes per side, adding 1 Tablespoon oil with the second batch. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and cut into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces (it's fine if the chicken isn't fully cooked; it will finish cooking later). Put the chicken in a large bowl.

Add 1 Tablespoon oil to the pot and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add the mushrooms. Cook without stirring for 1 minute. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl of chicken.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 Tablespoon oil and then add the onions and carrot to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the edges are browned, 8 to 9 minutes. Add the garlic and stir constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds more. Scrape the vegetables into the bowl of chicken and mushrooms.

Melt the butter in the same pot over low heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the texture, which will be clumpy at first, loosens and smooths out, about 4 minutes. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and half-and-half. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom the pan. Reduce the heat to low and add the potatoes, chicken, and vegetables (and any accumulated juice), and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Partially cover the pot and simmer gently (adjusting the heat as necessary), stirring occasionally, until the potatoes and carrots are just tender, 15 to 18 minutes. Stir in the peas, sherry, parsley, thyme, and mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Assemble the pot pies:
Distribute the filling evenly among six ovenproof bowls and ramekins that are 2 to 3 inches deep and hold at least 2 cups.

Let the dough soften slightly at room temperature, about 20 minutes. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 1/8-inch-thick rectangle. With a round cookie cutter (or using a plate as a guide), cut 6 dough circles that are slightly wider than the inner diameter of the bowls (re-roll the scraps if necessary). Cut one small X in the center of each circle.

Top each bowl of stew with a dough round. With your fingertips, gently press the dough down into the edge of the stew, so that it flares up the sides of the bowl.

Bake the pies:
Position a rack in the center the oven and heat the oven to 425ºF. Put the pot pies on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is deep golden-brown, about 45 minutes. Cool on a rack for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.

Source: Fine Cooking, March 3, 2011.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cornmeal Pancakes

Hello again blog; hello falling leaves.  The last time I spent time writing seemed ages ago; I had my moment of not taking notes.  Frankly, I felt liberated to not have to write posts for the sake of audience.  I can come and go as I please, nobody seems to notice.  Lots of things have happened while I wasn't taking notes, life continues to be a series of some trepidation, decision-making, rushing forward to meet deadlines, appointments to make, never-ending work and chores, but only for a brief moment, a rejoicing week when my son turned a decade old.  I didn't mean to sound so tired but I'm merely waiting until everything passes away.

Breaking familiarity with something new is what I like in life; whereas my husband told me once he is comforted with anything that's familiar.  In food terms, his choice is boring, my choice is more exciting.  The same principle applies to pancakes, regular pancakes are plain and fluffy; cornmeal pancakes on the other hand are texture-wise interesting in each bite and the aroma is like the end of fall season rushes in.  My son who loves cornbread, adores these lacy-surfaced pancakes, stacked tall with butter and maple syrup.  I picked up the recipe from a book by Bill Neal, the godfather of Southern cooking.  His book is called Biscuits, Spoonbread & Sweet Potato Pie; an interesting book to read because of the wealth of information he put it in.  It was a chilly morning when I had these so I paired mine with spiced ginger-pear butter that I made earlier; there' no mistaken that I was craving foods that are in season right now.  There's much more to try in the book, none of it is too familiar to me, and that what makes life interesting--and keeps me going.

Cornmeal Pancakes

Makes about 18 pancakes

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 large eggs

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Sift the dry ingredients together.  Beat the eggs, add the buttermilk and melted butter.  Add to the meal and beat to make a smooth batter.  Let stand 10 minutes, then drop by the large tablespoon onto a lightly greased, medium-hot griddle.  Cook until brown on each side, turning once, and serve with butter, jam, fruit sauce, honey, or maple syrup.

Adapted from Biscuits, Spoonbread & Sweet Potato Pie by Bill Neal 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Blackberry Chocolate Cake

Rain has started; the summer is over, but I think I still has a bit of it here in this cake.  My last bowl of blackberries was transformed into a rich, chocolaty cake.  Adorned with fresh blackberries and dusted with cocoa powder, each slice is meant to be savored slowly.  Just as I hope that summer should have lasted...

Blackberry Chocolate Cake

Serves 8

250 g unsalted butter, cut into pieces

250 g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup whole milk

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature, separated

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

150 g fresh blackberries

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line a 9-inch springform pan. Melt butter in a small saucepan.

Combine milk and chocolate in a double boiler and place over simmering water. Heat, stirring, until chocolate is melted and smooth.  Using an electric mixer, beat in sugar.  Remove bowl from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

Add egg yolks, one at a time to chocolate mixture, beating well after each addition.  Add melted butter.  Stir until combined.

Sift flour over chocolate mixture.  Gently fold in the flour.  Whisk egg whites in a separate bowl until soft peak forms.  Gently fold into chocolate mixture.  Add blackberries and gently fold in until combined.

Spoon mixture into prepared pan.  Bake for 15 minutes or until risen.  Reduce oven to 325°. Bake for a further 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.  Leave to cool completely.

Place cake onto a serving plate.  Decorate with blackberries and dust with cocoa powder.  Serve slices with creme fraiche if desired.

Source:  adapted from Taste Australia

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fresh Calimyrna Figs-Almond Tart

I had an unexpected gifts from my friend last week; her son came up to me and handed me fresh Calimyrna figs in a plastic container.  "From my grandma's garden," that's all he said.  That instant I gushed out thank-yous.  His mom definitely knows my taste and I'm happier to receive these than if she'd given me diamonds :)  These are precious and I really love this type better than Mission figs.

Calimyrna figs collage

I could've eaten these fresh, but I wanted an ally to complement these seasonal fruits.  Taste-wise, figs are often paired with honey and almonds; these flavors are greatly complement each other.  After browsing for some time, I settled on a tart recipe from Bon Appetit's Desserts book.  I think the reason I love making tart is that I enjoy eating the crust more than the filling, especially when it is tender, crumbly, and buttery.

Fresh Calimyrna Figs-Almond Tart

From start to finish, this tart required three days for me to complete.  The base was done on the first day, the filling and chilling time took place on the second day, and on the last day, I finally got to eat it.  It could easily be completed in one day, however, part-time work and my job as a mom got in the way whenever I make desserts :) Distractions come and go but the tart is nonetheless still delicious.  As predicted, the crust was the last piece I savored.  Make this tart when the figs are in season, which is now; hurry while they last, the paradise is near.

P.S.  This post is for you, Laurel!

Fresh Calimyrna Figs-Almond Tart

Makes 6 servings


1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup whole almonds

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

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

1 large egg yolk

1 1/2 tablespoons (or more) ice water


3/4 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

1/2 cup honey


6 fresh Calimyrna figs, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices

1 tablespoon honey

1/4 cup almonds, toasted, chopped

For crust:  Mix flour, almonds, sugar and salt in food processor.  Add butter, pulse several times until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Whisk egg yolk and 1 1/2 tablespoons ice water in a small bowl to blend; add to dry ingredients and pulse just until the mixture starts to come together in moist clumps.  Add ice water by teaspoon if mixture is dry.  Gather dough into a ball; flatten into disk.  Wrap in plastic and chill at least 1 hour.

Butter and flour 9-inch diameter tart pan with removable bottom.  Roll out dough disk on floured surface to 1/8-inch thick round.  Transfer to tart pan.  Press crust onto bottom and up sides of pan.  Trim edges; patch cracks on crust if needed; reserve the rest of trimmings.  Freeze crust 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line crust with foil; fill with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake until crust is set, about 12 minutes.  Remove foil and beans.  Continue to bake until crust is golden, about 15-20 minutes longer.  Repair any cracks in crust with reserved dough if needed.  Cool crust.  Maintain oven temperature.

For the filling:  Whisk buttermilk, lemon juice, eggs, flour and lemon peel in bowl.  Add honey and stir until dissolved.  Pour into crust.  Bake until filling is set, it might look slightly jiggly, about 30-35 minutes.  Cool tart in pan on rack.  Chill until cold.

For the topping:  Arrange figs atop tart.  Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with almonds.

Source:  adapted from Bon Appetit's Desserts.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Blackberry and Blueberry Cobbler with Walnut Biscuits

I guess it's time for the blackberry to shine. As we're moving forward to fall season, the blackberries are ripening everywhere. Here in Oregon, the wild ones are very prolific and people develop a love-hate relationship; they certainly don't want those thorny vines in their backyard, but they welcome the arrival of juicy-sweet blackberries ripened from the sun. I live close to a secret picking spot where the blackberries are abundant, it's within a walking distance and a bit sheltered from the traffic which is desirable for impromptu u-pick.

For several days, it's my dad who was so eager to pick the berries. I guess the benefit of moving close to me is to have acquired a newfound hobby, that is berry picking. He is the one who will pick all the blueberries from the yard, he is the one who will walk and bring home the blackberries, though he complained that the thorns attack him ferociously at times.

Blackberry-Blueberry Cobler with Walnut Biscuits-1-9

Blackberry-Blueberry Cobler with Walnut Biscuits-1-6

Here is what I did with those berries, a delectable desserts who need only whipped cream or vanilla ice cream to accompany it till the last spoonful.

Blackberry-Blueberry Cobler with Walnut Biscuits-1-8

Blackberry-Blueberry Cobler with Walnut Biscuits-1-4

Blackberry and Blueberry Cobbler with Walnut Biscuits

Makes 8 servings

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2/3 cup buttermilk
4 cups fresh blackberries
4 cups fresh blueberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar, use slightly less if the berries are very sweet
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon whipping cream
1 tablespoon coarse sugar or granulated sugar
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 375°F. For biscuits, place walnuts in a food processor, pulse several times until roughly chopped. Add flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and the 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pulse several times until combined. Add butter, pulse again until butter pieces are no larger than small peas.

Transfer the flour mixture to a large bowl. Add buttermilk, stirring with a fork until the dough comes together. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface; knead two or three times to bring dough together. Press dough into a rectangle or circle 1/2-inch thick. Using a knife or 2 1/2-inch fluted round cutter, cut the dough into eight squares or rounds, re-rolling the scraps as necessary.

In a 3-quart rectangular baking dish combine berries. In a small bowl combine the 3/4 cup granulated sugar and the 1/4 teaspoon salt. Mix lemon peel and ginger into sugar mixture, pour sugar mixture over berries; gently toss with hands to combine. Combine lemon juice and cornstarch. Add cornstarch mixture to berry mixture; toss.

Brush tops of biscuits with whipping cream; sprinkle with the coarse sugar. Arrange biscuits on top of fruits. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Loosely cover baking dish with foil; bake for 10 to 20 minutes or more or until bubbly around the edges. Transfer baking dish to a wire rack; remove foil. Cool on wire rack for at least 20 minutes before serving.

To serve, spoon each biscuit and berry mixture into eight serving bowls; top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.

Source: adapted from Better Homes and Garden, Fall Baking 2011.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Belle Pastry

One of happy moments in the month of August came in a box full of treats.  My birthday fell on the second week of last month and I went to Seattle with my family for a small celebration.  In the beginning of the year I was so stoked to have it somewhere warm and sandy; but in reality having it lavishly isn't always the option.  I settled for something less but equally excellent, in fact it made me fell in love with its beauty.

Anyway, when I was in Seattle I got a chance to visit one bakery in Bellevue area which is called Belle Pastry.  It's located in the downtown area and when I visited it in mid-morning, it's already packed with people buying breads and pastries.  It sells artisan bread, fine pastries, sandwiches, chocolates, and cookies as well.  The store is delightful, the offerings are excellent.

Sadly, the only pictures I took were these two cakes, Pear Caramel Mousse and Le Pistache.  I wish I bought more!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cherry Cream Layered Cake

Yesterday I just got back from my short vacation to Eastern Oregon for five days.  I had an amazing time there, the scenery is so beautiful, it's worth driving the long miles.  Even though I'm tempted to write the story here, I usually write it down on my personal blog.  I also am taking a two-week vacation from my summer work since last week, and today I realize how good it feels not to wake up in the morning to my alarm buzz.

Last night while I was just done with dinner and starting to read last week's newspapers, my phone rang.  It was my friend, Julie, who wanted to come over and she's saying that she had something to share with me.  In less than five minutes she was at my door, bringing me  a tasty treat.  It was Rainier cherries; big in size and sweet in flavor.  We exchanged our hellos and started to talk about where to buy cherries with the best prize.  So far, she won :)  I went to pick cherries a couple weeks ago at Hood River and they're quite expensive though they're organics.  My parents and my family picked several types of cherries, including Bing, Lambert, Van, and Rainier.  We went a bit overboard with the deed, it seemed that once you picked you couldn't stop until all the buckets were full.  I don't know if that's called greedy or it's just plain uncontrollable yearning after waiting for a year for the cherry season to arrive.


Cherry Cream Layered Cake

Most of the cherries have been eaten fresh, some will be made into cherry pie filling, and a handful made it as the filling for a simple, four-layer cake. I made up my mind of what kind of cake I wanted to make, this time a vanilla chiffon cake was suffice to be the base.  Whipped cream was the frosting and fresh Rainier cherries soaked in kirsch dressed up the cake.  The result was a rustic and homey cake.  The flavor is fantastic though, if you're a fan of chiffon cake, you'll like it when it's paired with whipped cream and fresh fruits--I'm always partial to this combo anyway.

There's no definite recipe to get this cake right.  All you need is some creativity:

  • Have about 2-3 cups of fresh, pitted cherries, let them soak in a tablespoon or two of kirsch in a bowl before you start the cake.

  • Recipe for vanilla chiffon cake can be found here.  It's from my old blog and to change it into a vanilla-flavored cake, change the lime juice with water, omit lemon extract, add vanilla extract instead, and add lemon zest.

  • In this post, I made the cake in two 9-inch pans and each cake was cut into two layers.  Alternately, you could still bake it in three 8-inch pans like the original recipe.  Baking time for 9-inch pans is about 20 minutes.

  • I made whipped cream frosting from 2 cups of heavy cream and 2 tablespoon of sugar.

  • Cherry Cream Layered Cake

It didn't need to look perfect as along as it tasted delicious!  My son could eat this night after night for dessert.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Strawberry Milkshake

I hope you haven't gotten bored with another strawberry related post.  I promise to move on once my strawberry supply has become nil :)

To make this milkshake more interesting, I added a layer of freshly blended strawberries with sugar at the bottom of the glass and then topped it with the milkshake.  Add whipped cream at the end, you'll have a pretty satisfying milkshake!

The basic recipe for the milkshake layer is:

1 1/2 cups strawberries

1/2 pint vanilla ice cream

1/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste

Mix everything in a blender until smooth.  Makes about 2 cups.

If for some reason you think the ice cream part is not enough, feel free to add some more.  I like to taste it along the way to make sure I get it right.  Again, there's no right or wrong way to make this; here's a glass to celebrate the summer of the year.

strawberry milkshake-1-2

Monday, July 4, 2011

Strawberry Pops

Now is the right time to enjoy pops, especially homemade strawberry pops.  They are not hard to make, in fact, I don't have a specific recipe of how to make it.  Just blend fresh strawberries with sugar and some milk.  Pour it into a popsicle mold and there you have it!  Perfect for a Fourth of July picnic, I must say.  Enjoy the pictures and make some!

Strawberry pops collage

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Three-Berry Spoon Cake

Strawberry season is in full swing in Oregon.  I was not planning to go u-picking this summer for strawberry because my parents have a little patch of evergreen strawberry in their garden.  Even though their strawberry is small in size but they are prolific plants.  Each week either my mom or dad can be found in the garden picking the juicy morsels; they are trying to save most of it before the slugs can get hold of.  But I gave in and set out u-picking last weekend.  My goal was to pick Hood strawberries, but the two farms that I went to, both closed their Hood fields because of overpicking.  People are really going for those berry once the weather turn nice.  Last weekend we had back-to-back sunny days and this weekend the sun finally spread out its glorious rays.

3-berry spoon cake collage

3-berry spoon cake-1-13

So even though I didn't get to pick Hood strawberries, I got to pick Tillamook variety in a Sauvie Island farm.  Of all the berries that I picked some will be made into jam, lemonade concentrate, pies, milkshakes, pops, and marmalade.  Yes, I have lofty ideas yet I am still finding time to do all of those so for right now my strawberries are safely bagged in the freezer.  Some of the fresh ones were made into this three-berry spoon cake.  I have this urge to make cake with berries for some time, something substantial, something that I can sink my teeth into.   Looking up a recipe in my book collection, I found the perfect answer.  I've never made a spoon cake before and I can't find the origin for this cake either.  All I know is that this is a homey dessert; the batter part is similar to pancake batter and it puffed up considerably and was pretty sturdy.  I just love it.  You should see my husband scarfed down this cake in a beat :)

Here is the recipe and you really should try it this summer!

Three-Berry Spoon Cake

Makes 8 to 10 servings


For the filling:

4 pints strawberries (2 pounds), hulled and quartered if they are big; if they are small you could leave them whole

2 pints blackberries (12 ounces)

2 pints blueberries (12 ounces)

1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoon cornstarch

For the batter:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, melted


To make the filling:  Combine strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries in a large bowl with lemon juice, sugar, and cornstarch.  Toss to combine; let stand 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degree F.

To make the batter:  Combine flour, sugar, lemon zest, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; whisk to combine.  In a smaller bowl, whisk eggs, milk, and vanilla extract.  Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk them until evenly moistened, then whisk in the melted butter until evenly smooth.

Scatter the filling in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.  Spoon the batter on top, leaving small gaps.  Bake in the center of oven for 1 hour, or until the fruit is bubbling and a toothpick inserted into the topping comes out clean.  Let the cake cool for 1 hour before serving.

Source:  adapted from Food and Wine:  Reinventing the Classics

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Beet Cheese Tart

I used to cook beet dish only for myself; now I have partners in crime, my parents.  They will try my food as well, though I'm not quite sure if they like all of it.  Sometimes what I cook will be too radically different than what they are accustomed to eat.  Take this beet cheese tart.  It looks delicious and it tastes delicious as well.  The cheeses I used here were made locally in Oregon and I was very happy the way it turned out.  The original recipe calls for different colors of beets but what I had on hand was the regular red ones.  I'm sure if I change the type of vegetable, it might work as well.  Think of summer veggies out there, it's suddenly a great idea to make this tart again.

roasted beet tart-1

roasted beet tart-1-16

Beet Cheese Tart

Makes one 13 x 19-inch tart


All-purpose flour, for dusting

Pâte Brisée, recipe follow

1 1/2 pounds (without greens) beets

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pound fresh goat cheese, room temperature

1/2 scant fresh ricotta cheese (4 ounces)

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme, plus about 1 teaspoon whole leaves

1/2 cup grated fontina cheese (about 2 ounces)

Preheat oven to 375 degree F.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough 1/8 inch thick.  Press firmly into a 13-by-9-inch rimmed baking sheet, leaving a 1-inch overhang on all sides.  Tuck overhanging under to create a double thickness; press firmly against pan.  Pierce bottom of shell all over with a fork.  Refrigerate or freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

Line shell with parchment; fill with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.  Remove weights and parchment.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  (Keep oven on.)

Trim all but 1/2 inch of stems from beets; rinse well.  Toss with oil and 1 teaspoon salt.  Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet; cover with parchment, then tightly with foil.  Roast until beets are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.  When cool enough to handle, peel beets with a knife.  Cut into thin rounds.  Raise oven heat to 425 degree F.

Stir together goat cheese, ricotta, and chopped thyme until well combined; season with pepper.  Spread mixture over tart shell, filling all the way to edges.

Arrange beets over cheese mixture, overlapping slices slightly.  Lightly season with salt.  Sprinkle fontina and whole thyme leaves on top.  Lightly drizzle with oil, and season with pepper.  Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes.  Serve warm


Pâte Brisée

Makes enough for one 9-inch double-crust pie or two 9-inch single-crust pies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/4 to 1/2 cup water

Pulse flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor.  Add butter, and pulse quickly until mixture resembles coarse meal, with some large pieces remaining.  Drizzle 1/4 cup water over mixture.  Pulse until mixture just begins to hold together.  If dough is too dry, add 1/4 cup more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse.

Gather dough into a ball, wrap loosely in plastic, and press into a disk using a rolling pin.  Refrigerate until firm, well wrapped in plastic, 1 hour or up to 1 day.

Source:  adapted from Martha Stewart's New Pies and Tarts

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Crispy Asparagus Balls with Pasta in Marinara Sauce

Boy, these past few weeks were thrown at me at full force.  Between two rounds of antibiotics--though not consecutively--to combat awful bacterial infection, I was invited to a friend's graduation picnic and I had to show up for orientation & training for a new job.  The graduation picnic left me momentously happy since it marked the day my friend finally finished her nursing school; for the past four years I have to coordinate my carpool schedule with her school schedule.  The orientation and training left me exhausted.  I wish they would combine all the training into one day.  But, nonetheless, I could start my job next week.  With the weather's hopefully turning bright and warm, I also think that my disposition would turn more cheerful.

asparagus and onion

organic eggs

Local asparagus started to show up in the markets and I found a recipe called crispy asparagus balls.  When I was thinking about making these, I was thinking that the balls could be a great replacement of meatballs in a pasta with marinara sauce dish.  And it was a great idea to sneak in asparagus in my son's diet.  I'm not the kind of person who usually sneak in vegetables in disguise, but my son isn't the greatest fan of asparagus.  Whereas I love it!  So, the asparagus balls weren't so bad at all; they definitely are best when they just come out of the oven, crispy and goey inside.

And what's best was that I got local, organic eggs from my husband's friend at that time.  I just love the color of the eggs and the freshness of the eggs, they were such beauties that I had to take pictures of them.

organic eggs

organic eggs

Crispy Asparagus Balls with Pasta in Marinara Sauce

Serves 4-6

1 lbs asparagus, trimmed and chopped

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup bread crumbs

1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

3 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon black pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Any size of pasta, cook according to the package's direction

Marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degree F.  In a sauté pan over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Add onion and garlic;  sauté for 4 minutes.   Add asparagus, salt and pepper.  Continue to cook until asparagus is tender and still bright green, about 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool, about 10 minutes.

Using a food processor, pulse asparagus mixture 6 to 8 pulses.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and asparagus mixture.  Stir in bread crumbs and cheese; combine thoroughly.
asparagus, eggs, breadcrumbs

Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop about 1 tablespoon of the mixture, and place on a baking sheet that has been oiled with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.  Flip and bake another 5 to 7 minutes, or until crispy.  Serve warm or at room temperature.
making asparagus balls

To serve with pasta and marinara sauce, cook pasta according to the package's direction.  Use homemade or store-bought marinara sauce to accompany the dish.

Source:  adapted from Market of Choice recipe.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls

One day I went to my parents' home and they were baking something in the oven.  I smelled some smokiness coming out of it and decided to wait until it was done.  It turned out to be just several sweet potatoes that they were baking.  "Here, have a piece, " offered my dad.  I was not very hungry by then but the smell of just baked sweet potato roused my appetite.  I peeled off the skin and sinked my teeth into its soft and hot flesh.  That was when I realized I was hooked.  This leads me to eating baked sweet potato for snack from now on.

Ever since my dad shared his baked sweet potato, I'm reintroducing myself to the appreciation of eating plain, baked in-skin sweet potato.  Hot from the oven, nothing equals to its natural sweetness; this is one root vegetable that has now become my favorite.  And not to mention it is a very healthy vegetable, dubbed as number one nutritional star of vegetable, loaded carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls

But, even though I love it plain, I love it even more in cinnamon rolls.  Since I bake it quite often, I have some leftover that was ready to be made in cinnamon rolls.  My son have been begging me to make cinnamon rolls for ages, it was finally a dream came true.  Now, which recipe would I try?  I had been eyeing Yukon Gold cinnamon rolls from Bon Appetit a while back and thought that would be a great base recipe to make it to sweet potato cinnamon rolls.  I had to tweak the recipe since I wouldn't start with boiling the potatoes in the water.  What I had was approximately the same amount of baked sweet potato for the recipe and went to the next step.  The rest of the instruction will be in the recipe below.

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls

What I got from it was one of the best cinnamon rolls ever.  The texture of the dough was soft and melt-in-your mouth without overly sweet.  What I also like when making this was that I could let the dough rise for the second time in the refrigerator till the next day.  Come morning, it's time to pop the rolls in the oven.  Breakfast is ready when the rolls come out of the oven, hot and smelling amazing, and slathered with sweet icing.

So choose your sweet potato, plain or iced? ;)

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 12

About 1 pound sweet potatoes


For the dough:

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

3 large eggs

4 1/2 cups (or more) bread flour

1/2 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)

3 1/4-ounce envelopes active dry yeast (scant 2 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons sugar


For the filling:

1 1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temperature


For the glaze:

2 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons (or more) whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon coarse kosher salt


Preheat oven to 400F.  Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes and place in on the middle rack.  Bake for about 1 hour or so, or until the they are soft when pierced with a knife.  After it's done baking, let cool for a while until they can be peeled.  Cut into 2-inch cubes and add butter and mash until butter is melted.  Whisk in eggs, then 1 cup flour; mash until very smooth.  Let sweet potatoes stand until barely lukewarm.

Make the dough:

Pour 1/2 cup warm water into large bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment; stir in yeast and sugar.  Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.  Add sweet potato mixture into the yeast mixture; mix on low speed until well blended, 2 minutes.  Mix in 3 cups bread flour, 1 cup at a time, beating well.  Since the sweet potatoes are not cooked in water, you might want to add some water if the dough looks too dry.  My experience when making this was that sweet potatoes are much moister and didn't need any more water.  Beat until sticky dough forms.

Spread 1/2 cup flour on work surface.  Scrape dough out onto floured work surface.  Knead until dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is very sticky, about 8 minutes.

Coat large bowl with butter.  Transfer dough to bowl and turn to coat.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel.  Let dough rise in warm, draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Make the filling:

Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour in medium bowl. Using fork, mix in butter.

Bake the rolls:

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 425°F (do not preheat oven if you plan to rise it in the refrigerator). Line large rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Turn dough out onto well-floured work surface. Roll out dough to 24x16-inch rectangle. Sprinkle filling evenly over dough. Starting at 1 long side, roll up dough jelly-roll style, enclosing filling. Using large knife dipped in flour, cut roll crosswise into 12 pieces. Transfer rolls to baking sheet, spacing rolls about 3/4 inch apart. Cover baking sheet loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, about 20 minutes (rolls will be very puffy).  Or you could let it rise in the refrigerator overnight.

Bake cinnamon rolls until golden, about 20 minutes. Cool rolls 10 minutes on baking sheet.  If the rolls are refrigerated, get it out 30 minutes before baking.  Preheat the oven to 425°F, and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden.

Make the glaze:

Whisk powdered sugar, melted butter, 2 tablespoons milk, vanilla, and coarse salt in small bowl. If glaze is too thick to spread, add more milk by 1/2 teaspoonfuls as needed. Spread glaze over warm rolls.

Source:  adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2009.