Sunday, April 26, 2009

Diva is a female version of a hustler.

You said it Beyonce!
I have here pictorial evidence of my continuing adventures into Asian cuisine. It's less of an 'adventure', but 'rediscovery'. It's my background, you see, but I grew into my culinary skills using more traditional Western or European techniques and skills, and now I'm going back to my Asian roots. And it has been really fun - and delicious! I'm not sure if it's because I'm generally becoming a better cook, but I'm f-ing up a lot less! Like, most of my final products are actually edible! And look good! Here are pan-fried-steamed pork buns. Yum.

The trick with these guys is that you start cooking these guys by frying them for maybe less than a minute in a frypan, add about 1cm of water, stick on a lid, and 10 minutes later, you have these gorgeous babies. I used two different recipe sources, one for the bread wrapper and another for the filling. I originally made a more traditional pork filling for this particular bread wrapping and a potsticker wrapper with a killer filling.

So I picked the better wrapper and filling and voila! I also cannot pleat potstickers to save my life. These guys are a lot easier to handle. These buns are more commonly shaped more round - like pleated little balls, but I did them flatter. I'll post the recipes soon - they are quite lengthy.

I know this is gross - but check out the picture on the right, my buns are sweating! I've got sweaty buns! Sweaty, meat-filled, delicious buns.

The mothership was kind enough to take some time out to roll out the wrapping for me - she's got quite the skillz with the rolling pin. I'm the pleater in the family.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Stop the madness!!!

As a result of making the seven-minute frosting, I had three leftover egg yolks. When will this vicious cycle end?!? I took an ice cream request from the mothership and I bring you - orange chocolate ice cream! With chocolate flakes!

(And yeah, I rimmed that glass. I rimmed it real good.)

Orange Chocolate Ice Cream

3 cups half & half cream (10% MF)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 egg yolks
8 oz dark or bittersweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
zest of one orange

Chocolate for flakes (you decide how much)

(Don't let the long method scare you - there's a lot of commentary in there.)

Heat cream, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, vanilla, espresso powder, and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir/whisk to dissolve the sugar and to incorporate the powder and cinnamon.
Heat until steam appears and mixture is hot, but not boiling (175 F).

When cream is hot, whisk yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar until smooth. Mix in chocolate - it will stiffen, but make sure it is incorporated.

Add one cup of the hot cream mixture to temper the yolk mixture, this will also loosen the chocolate. Add another 1/2 cup of cream if it is still too stiff.

Add the tempered egg yolks and orange zest to the saucepan and cook the mixture until it has thickened and reaches about 180/185F on a thermometer (very hot - but not boiling).

Meanwhile, prepare a sieve over a medium bowl over an ice bath. Once the mixture has reached optimal temperature, strain it through the sieve and into the bowl. Chill until thoroughly cooled.

When chilled, pour into an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions. While it's whirring away (or in my case, making a very loud turning motor noise - my maker wears a thick terry-towel hat, which is then covered with a large stainless steel bowl to reduce the noise. It also helps keep the heat in my kitchen away from the ice cream goodness), melt some chocolate.

It depends on how much/many chocolate flakes you want in your ice cream, I think I melted about...2 oz or so. Anyway, prepare a small cookie sheet, or plate even, by laying a sheet of wax paper on it. Pour the melted chocolate on top and spread it in a thin and even layer. Chill the freezer. About two minutes before you think the ice cream is ready, take the chocolate out from the freezer and crunch it up into small pieces (as small or big as you like, it will get crushed a bit in the turning motion of the machine regardless) and pour into the ice-cream maker. Let mix around for a minute or two - and voila!

Friday, April 17, 2009

What to do with too much icing? (pardon the inconsistent fonts)

Here's the situation. I made ice cream last week (4 yolks) and then something else that called for 2 yolks, so I had 6 egg whites sitting in a container waiting to be used. Continuing on the "eat-your-fridge" quest - I had to think of something to make. I opted not to do meringues (which is my usual standby) or angel food cake (boring! and I'd have to sacrifice another 4 yolks to get the whites), so I took a look at one of my new cookbooks - Maida Heatter's New Book of Great Desserts acquired at Powell's on the Portland trip. It's not a 'new' book - it's used actually and it is older than I am!

I decided to make the Haleakala Cake (Hawaiian) which called for 4 whites. What was convenient about this recipe is that it specified a metric measurement of whites, so I would be spared having to eyeball the number of whites for the cake. It's an interesting cookbook as the method is written in paragraph form rather than a numbered list. It made the recipe more engaging to read, but it was hard quickly reference steps. I could see how people would mess up or miss steps following this type of method presentation. Anyway, one line in the book was,
"Beat on high speed for 10 to 15 seconds. Then add the unbeaten egg whites (yes, unbeaten) and beat on high speed for 2 more minutes. The mixture will look slightly curdled - O.K."

Ummm. Ewww? By the way - my batter did not look curdled at all. Okay, when you add the whites in it initially does that gloppy separation thing but it smoothes out (like choux pastry) quickly. It was a very smooth white batter and it rose magnificently in the oven. Anyway, made the filling (pineapple) and then the icing. Unfortunately, I did not save the rest of my egg whites (used them in my bimbimbap) and therefore could not make the recommended Marshmallow Icing.

But I did make a beautiful 7 minute icing from The Joy of Cooking! I have tried to make a boiled-style icing before, to disasterous results, but luckily, this time - it turned out really well. Too well, in fact: the recipe in the book 'yielded' 3 cups, but I made out with about 5. Five cups of icing! I had enough leftover to ice another cake! I guess they figured it would fill the cake as well. So what's a girl to do with 2 cups of leftover icing? Make Whoopie Pies! I have wanted to make Whoopie Pies for a long-ass time, and this was the perfect excuse to whip out the recipe (Martha Stewart). And it was easy Seriously - the batter is light and fluffy and it only takes 8 minutes to bake a tray! I used a piping bag (on the 2nd and 3rd tray, 1st one was partially cookie-scooped and then using spoons) which made the whole process super-fast. And, the piping bag makes the cookies look so perfect and even and uniform and....*drooles*

I like my cookies to look like the picture, okay? I don't do 'rustic' or 'dropped'. Even my dropped cookies are done with a cookie scoop. It makes for even baking and beautiful presentation. And the cookies were light and airy and oh-so-chocolate-y. I filled them and I STILL have icing left over. I am bringing the cake to friends tomorrow and I am thinking of….maybe torching them a la meringue? I’m not sure if it will work. Maybe I will pipe (with a star tip) it on ice cream bombes. Maybe. As I said earlier – I didn’t save the leftover egg whites but still had to use whites anyway – so now I am left with 3 egg yolks. Ice cream time!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cause I'm forming!

Today I continued my "eat-the-entire-contents-of-my-fridge" quest. The mothership and I are big grocery shoppers, and as we do not generally consult with one another before purchases, we tend have a lot of stuff in our fridge. A lot. The "always buy" items include milk, eggs, and bread, and we generally go mid-week to buy these. But other than that - it's a free-for-all as to who gets to stock the fridge. As the more motivated cook, I tend to lead expeditions to the local food goods distribution centre and I take careful notes of what the mothership needs for the week. So in preparation for the next big purchasing trip - I am attempting to cook everything we have in our fridge AND freezer.

Tonight's dinner was a cream of chicken and vegetable soup and free form tomato and mozzarella tarts.

The soup was a complete mismash of items we have: bacon, cabbage, half a zucchini, 2/3 peeled carrot, one onion, two old stalks of celery, frozen peas and corn and one can of cream of chicken soup. Deeelish. Hey, at least it was chock full of veggies.

In the zucchini and carrot shared space in the Frigoverre (medium square) with half a tomato. (did I mention that I had half an apple for breakfast? I like to eat half of things and leave it for 'later'. Which the mothership interprets as 'never' and most of the time tosses it in the bin - I have to literally point to the half-eaten food item and say, "I WILL return to eat this. Do not throw this half-eaten banana/apple/cookie/tomato/sandwich away".) Also taking up real estate space in the fridge was a thawed piece of puff pastry. And some fresh mozzarella from Bosa Foods. What to do...what to do.
Free form tomato and mozzarella tarts! I was going to do the soup a la pot pie, but that would take too much time, and the original idea was turnovers, but I thought that tarts would be much more aesthetically pleasing. And they were!

-roll out puff pastry, cut into two and space apart on the cookie sheet
-dot centre with bits of cheese
-top with tomato slices (membranes and seeds removed to avoid slushy mess)
-sprinkle generously with salt and pepper
-top with more cheese
-bring one corner of pastry to the centre (or near centre), pleat and fold the rest of the pastry for a free-form shape
-bake in a 400F oven golden brown, for me - about 35 min.
-let cool slightly (it is bubbling lava hot) and bon appetit!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

All my ducks in a row

I don't 'get' Easter. My family is not religious, so I never grew up understanding Easter traditions. Everything I learned about Easter, I learned in school. I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the resurrection of Jesus, I think. I don't know where the bunnies and eggs come in. Oh glorious chocolate eggs. I don't understand the whole thing with eggs either. Fertility? Rebirth? (ooh yeah, that makes sense. Fits into that whole Jesus thing.)

Anyway, any excuse for me to bake is a good excuse! When I was in Portland, I went to the Decorette Shop and picked up a lot of goodies including an egg-shaped cookie cutter and an animal-shaped cutter. More on that later. Here was my grand Easter plan:
-create chocolate egg molds
-fill egg molds with egg-shaped cookies and chocolates
-also make chick-shaped cookies
-place in decorative bags for distribution

Step 1: Make egg molds. Done.
Step 2: Make sugar cookie dough. Done.
Step 3: Roll out and bake cookies.
Here's where it got interesting. I had thought that I had purchased a chick-shaped cookie cutter. Cute, right? I'd ice them with white icing and sprinkle with the yellow sanding sugar I have in the pantry. Only I look in my box of stuff and inside is an egg-shaped cutter....and a duck-shaped cutter. Yes, a duck. In my defense, it was awfully cute and in the end - they did make for some interesting cookies! Cute, too!
So, Step 3 - done.
Step 4: Put your junk in the box.
Step 5: Make her open the box.

Anyway, I iced and decorated those babies and they looked really great. Shout out to the mother-ship for steppin' in and grabbin' that icing bottle (Wilton mini squeeze bottle topped with a icing tip and coupler screw - works like an f-ing dream) and gettin' to work. I'd ice, she'd ice, I'd sprinkle, it was good fun and we were pretty fast. I didn't take pics of the final trays of cookies - but here are some that didn't make the final jump into the bags.The blue feet, btw, her idea.

Friday, April 3, 2009


Tonight I made a new 'classic' (in my opinion) - it's a Martha recipe for Chocolate Chunk Cookies from her Baking Handbook. They turned out as described, thin and buttery. And melting with chocolately goodness. I made these a few weeks ago and a few minutes after I put the last tray in the oven - the power went out! Not to fear! A few extra cooking minutes (actually...about 40) in the still-hot oven baked them to perfection. Therefore, these cookies I have nicknamed, "Blackout Cookies". Blackout from the sugar, really.

The recipe asked for 2 sticks/1 cup of butter - which is a lot. I'm usually very hesitant about putting so much fat into cookies, but they taste absolutely amazing. I upped the chocolate amount (don't I always??) to 15oz (instead of 12oz) and did half Chipits semi-sweet chips and half Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate chopped up. They look extra chocolate-y as the dark chocolate, chopped up, speckles the cookies in a really unique way. The distribution of the chocolate while they baked was interesting as well, there were a bunch of cookies that looked quite bare up top, but were generously ladden with chocolate at the bottom. Yum.

I need to figure out how to put borders on the pictures. I'll probably have to fiddle with the good ol' CSS again. Gah! I'm glad my COMP1850 course came in handy!

By the way. I had a dandy of a time trying to get a decent picture of these cookies. I do not know how people do it. I need to get some proper lighting to do a good job.