Monday, June 22, 2009

Sugar High Fridays - Fruit and Nut

It has been a while since I participated in Sugar High Fridays. Unfortunately, I missed the deadline again... Work, family and a new hobby – gardening, are keeping me very busy. I baked a couple cakes last week which made me feel so rejuvenated and I decided to not let “busy” be my excuse for not doing something that I really enjoy doing. When I knew the theme of this month’s SHF was Fruit and Nuts from our host Mansi, Fun and Food Blog, I couldn’t stop thinking about Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut bar. I almost wanted to recreated a home version of it until I saw the macadamia nut tart recipe from Claudia Fleming’s book.

What wonderful about Fleming’s book is that it includes serving suggestions for every recipes in the book. For her Macadamia Nut Tart, Fleming suggested the Coconut Sorbet and the Roasted Pineapple with Pink Peppercorns.

When we say, “what grows together, goes together”, this composed dessert is definitely singing that song. Macadamia nuts, coconut and pineapple, it is Hawaiian! At the same time, the warmth from the tart and pineapple contrasts the cold of the sorbet; the rich, silky tart filling, crunchy yet soft nuts, flaky tart crust, meaty pineapple, crunchy peppercorns and melt in your mouth sorbet makes every bite so satisfying.

I did all the baking, churning and roasting in one day. It seemed like a lot of work but it was straight forward. (I made the tart dough and the sorbet base the night before.) One tip for making the roasted pineapple: have every ingredient ready before making the caramel because if the caramel overcooked and it will lend a burnt taste to the pineapple which is not part of the taste contrast.

After all, it was a great success and I wish you'll give it a try.

Macadamia-nut Tart

Tart Dough
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
7 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
2 to 3 Tbsp milk

Macadamia Tart Filling
1 ¼ cups macadamia nuts (toasted and roughly chopped)
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 whole eggs
1 large egg yolk
¾ cup light corn syrup
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ tsp dark rum
¾ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt

1. To prepare the tart dough, place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the egg yolk and 2 Tbsp of the milk and pulse until the dough comes together and begins to leave the sides of the bowl. If the mixture is too dry, add more milk to the dough, ½ Tbsp at a time. Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, form it into a disk, and wrap well. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour, and up to 3 days.
2. Preheat the oven to 350F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 11-inch disk. Press it into a 9-inch tart pan, trimming away any excess dough. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Chill for 10 minutes. Line the tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the pie weights and foil and bake for 12 to 15 minutes more until set. Let the tart shell cool on a rack.
3. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Continue to let the butter cook until some of the white milk solids fall to the bottom of the skillet and turn a rich hazelnut brown. Strain the browned butter through a fine sieve into the bowl of an electric mixer. Let the butter cool for a few minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients and using the whip attachment, beat until blended, then strain through a fine sieve. (The filling can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.)
4. Preheat the oven to 325F. Spread the nuts in the bottom of the tart shell, then pour the filling over them. Place the tart pan on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until the filling is set and golden brown on top, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

Coconut Sorbet

Yield: 1 pint

2 cups whole milk
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon fresh lime juice

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, coconut, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Simmer the mixture until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for 1 hour.
2. Strain the mixture into a bowl and discard the coconut. Stir in the lime juice, cover, and chill until thoroughly cold, at least 3 hours, or overnight. Strain again and freeze in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Roasted Pineapple with Pink Peppercorns

1 cup sugar
1 tsp light corn syrup
1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 8 rings
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, pulp scraped
1 bay leaf
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp dark rum (preferably Myers’s)
1 Tbsp pink peppercorns
Pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Place ¼ cup water in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over low heat. Add the sugar and corn syrup and increase the heat to high. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the mixture is a deep amber-brown caramel, about 7 minutes. Add the pineapple, vanilla pod and pulp, and bay leaf, then bake, basting every 10 minutes, until the pineapple is tender and translucent, about 40 minutes.
2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pineapple to a serving platter and either place in a low oven or tent with foil to keep warm. (Alternatively, let the pineapple cool in the pan, then reheat for a few minutes before making the sauce.)
3. To prepare the sauce, whisk the butter, rum, pink peppercorns, and salt into the hot pan juices until smooth. Serve the sauce spooned over the roasted pineapple.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rhubarb Rose Cobbler

I'm not only obsessed with baking from scratch, I'm also very obsessed with using fresh ingredients in my baking whenever I can.

It's rhubarb season. You'll see them every time you turn around at the produce section in grocery stores. However, I just want to use those freshly cut from the garden. I want to do that because I hear people talked about what they made with their "garden fresh" rhubarb and how onderful they are all the time.

I don't have any rhubarb in my garden but my friend Karen does. Karen was generous enough to picked a big bunch of rhubarb for me to make this beautiful dessert.

I have tried rhubarb dessert before but this is my first time using it in my baking. I did a bit of research on the internet on how to prepare rhubarb and trimmed all the rhubarb that Karen gave me. I can't tell you how excited I was: nothing beats fresh vegetables or fruit from the garden!

Again, this is another recipe from Claudia Fleming's The Last Course. Did anyone other than Fleming had thought about using rhubarb and rose together? I have to say this is one of the best food combination. For once, rose is playing the supportive role. The earthiness from the rose preserves and rose water rounded out the sharp, tart flavour of rhubarb beautifully. Rose also makes an ordinary rhubarb cobbler become an elegant dessert that's romantic enough for a proposal dinner.

I'm terrible with gardening but for sure next year, I'll plant my own rhubarb!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Valentine's Day Cupcakes

Since I was back to work after my 13 months long maternity leave, I have not had a chance to update my blog. It was hard to find time to bake too.

I was into making cupcakes after Sarah's birthday. I made some cupcakes for Valentine's Day, using rolled fondant. I also used rolled fondant to make mini ladybugs for decoration. Maybe I shouldn't say "mini" because they are real-size ladybugs.

I made 2 dozen regular size and 1 dozen mini cupcakes, planning to sell them at the office. I was going to donate the proceeds to charity. However, it took me two nights to finish decorating them (my evenings are very short now because of Sarah) and I didn't feel right to sell "day-old" bake goods. So, I simply gave them away at the office to whoever has kids at home.

It was really fun working with rolled fondant. I bought a 4lb-tub fondant and ready to roll!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sarah's Birthday Cake - Part II

The day before the party
Finding the right recipes for the vegan and regular cupcakes for Sarah’s party was only the first step of my grand plan of Sarah’s birthday cake. I was going to put all the cupcakes on a cake stand and put a 8” birthday cake on top. I found a very useful tutorial from Louise showing how to make a cake stand. I bought all the materials and built the cake stand for the party. It was very easy to make and the end result is pretty impressive.

Then for the cake, I was going to use rolled fondant to cover the cake. But I had never done that. Luckily, I went to Le Cordon Bleu for a two nights cake making class just before party and learnt how to use rolled fondant to decorate a cake. (It was a pure coincident, I didn’t register the class for Sarah’s cake. You can read more about my Le Cordon Bleu experience here.) Also, I needed to be very careful that not to make the whole cake looks like a wedding cake. It was 11:00pm, coming home from the class and trying to finish Sarah’s cake for the next day’s party. I was so nervous, didn’t know what to do. Then I remembered I have a set of “Happy Birthday” candles and I put in on my cake. I was so happy with that idea. Since the cupcakes are pink and purple and the cake is pink, having those colourful candles as part of the cake turned the cake from being romantic to become very princess like.

I forgot to mention one very important part of the cake: Icing! No, no, I mean Butter Cream. I was originally planning to use Martha Stewart’s Swiss Meringue Butter Cream recipe because I had great success with that in the past. However, in the LCB class, Chef Chabert told me that I should use Italian Meringue for making butter cream. It is safer to eat because the egg white in Italian meringue is cooked. Therefore, I used my newly learned technique from the class to make the butter cream for all the cakes.

I probably was too tired when I made the butter cream – I didn’t reduce the amount of sugar for the recipe like I would normally do. Did I ever glad that I didn’t do that. This butter cream is so light, fluffy, buttery and not too sweet at all! After all, it is a LCB recipe!

After using rolled fondant to decorate four cakes – three from the class and one at home for Sarah’s cake – within six hours, I fell in love with using rolled fondant. I didn’t know what it tasted like but it is so easy to handle! (The last time I had rolled fondant was at my own wedding from my wedding cake. All I remembered was a layer of half melting paste liked icing. And yes, my wedding day was hot, hot, hot.) I was worried that the rolled fondant will be very sweet but no, it's not at all. I think it is because of Chef Chabert's trick of using corn starch instead of icing sugar for kneading and rolling the rolled fondant.

When everything was ready, it was already 1:00am…

At the Party
After singing “Happy Birthday”, I gave Sarah a cupcake. She enjoyed it so much. Yes, she made a mess but I had so much fun watching her eating the cake. All that hard work paid back within a second.

Since we didn’t cut the birthday cake at the party, some guests thought that the cake was only a dummy. :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sarah's Birthday Cake - Part I

Not every cake was created the same. These cupcakes I baked contained no eggs, no butter, no milk, no nuts and no chocolate…

They are for Sarah’s friends. Some of these little friends of hers are babies who are allergic to eggs and dairy products and have not been exposed to nuts and chocolate. My friends bought delicious vegan carob cupcakes from a local home baker for their babies’ birthday. But how can I not make my first child’s first birthday cake?! I am a big believer of using REAL butter, REAL cream and good quality chocolate in my baking. Therefore, finding a way to exclude all the wonderful building blocks from a cake recipe is quite difficult for me.

Vegan cupcakes
I had never been this serious. I rolled up my sleeves and started my cake experiment. I found a “moist vegan chocolate cake” recipe online and asked my friend and her 14 months old baby boy, Olivier, to come over to try out the recipe. I made it without chocolate but it didn’t turn out very well. I found it moist but too chewy. Most importantly, neither Sarah or Olivier liked it. Well, well. It was the first attempt.

Contingency plan
Since no one likes those chewy cakes, I have to have a back up plan: make an ordinary cake and apologize to everyone who has food allergies. So, I tried Billy Reece’s Vanilla Vanilla Cupcakes. It was a very delicate and fluffy cake. However, I’m not crazy about his frosting. It’s very sugary. But his cupcake is a winner, perfect to be the back up plan.

Allergen Free Cupcakes
Well, well, well, I tried to search for other vegan cupcake recipes online. There are a number of recipes without eggs and dairy but they are all chocolate cakes. Oh, I forgot to mention that one of the guests is sensitive to soy… therefore, substituting milk with soymilk is not preferred.

Then, I gave up with my search. I went to the grocery store to buy egg replacer. I altered Billy Reece’s Vanilla Vanilla Cupcake recipe to make my own version of vegan cupcakes. Even he had stressed that you should always use whole milk in his recipe…When the cupcakes were done, I gave one to Frank to try. He didn’t like it. He said it was bland. (NICE!) But I don’t know what to do anymore, I frosted the cupcakes after they were cooled. Took a few pictures. At least they “looked” delicious.

I saved two cupcakes at home and gave all the rest to one of my guinea pigs. (Yes, Shirley, it was you.) I tried the leftover cupcake the next morning. Surprisingly, the cupcake was quite tasty, it’s soft and moist, not as sugary as it first came out from the oven. The frosting is still too sugary to my liking (It was still Billy Reece’s frosting) but my guinea pig called me and told me that she likes it a lot!

I think it's a winner.

Winnie’s Allergen Free Vanilla Cupcakes
12 cupcakes

1 cup cake and pastry flour
½ cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup margarine
2 eggs equivalent of egg substitute
½ cup water
½ tsp pure vanilla extract

1 Preheat oven at 350F and line cupcake pan with paper liners. Combine all dry ingredients in an electric stand-up mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix well. With medium speed, add margarine and mix for 1 minute. Add egg replacer, water and vanilla extract to the batter, mix until all combined, about 2 minutes.

2 Fill cupcake lines with no more than 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to wire rack to cool

3 When the cupcakes are completely cooled, use an offset spatula to frost the cupcakes and decorate as desired. Serve at room temperature.

Winnie’s Allergen Free Vanilla Frosting

½ cup margarine
3½ cups icing sugar. sifted
¼ cup water
½ tsp vanilla

In the bowl of an electric stand-up mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream margarine. With mixer on low speed, add icing sugar, water, and vanilla; mix until light and fluffy. If necessary, gradually add extra 1/2 cup icing sugar to reach desired consistency.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Glittering Marshmallow Snow Flakes - SHF49

I love food blogging. It motivates me to try out new recipes that I saw from all my food magazines/books. In the past three months, I have made more desserts than I would normally do in a year. Now, I don’t need a reason or special occasion to make dessert. I’m so excited about making, photographing (normally done by Frank), tasting and giving out desserts. I also look forward to participating each month’s Sugar High Fridays. This month, Susan from The Well-Seasoned Cook is calling for all the dessert that glitters!

I knew what I was going to make for this month’s entry right away. I subscribed to Martha Stewart Livings at home. And I remember very clearly that she had featured marshmallow snow flakes in one of her winter issue many years ago. It was so adorable and I decided to make that marshmallow snow flakes with sparkling sugar. Just in time for Christmas

When I saw the recipe, I was shocked! I was shocked by the simplicity and the quantity that yield. It required only sugar, water, corn syrup, gelatin, salt and vanilla (I was hoping to use up some of the egg whites in my fridge.) and you can make 100 marshmallow snow flakes from one batch. Then I read on and realized that it makes small, one to two inches snow flakes. That’s better…

I cannot tell you how excited I was when I saw the sugar mixture (see recipe) became thick and had turned white. The texture looked exactly like the melting marshmallow that you’re trying to pull away from your wooden stick at the camp fire. I knew I did it!

I didn’t use sparkling sugar with bright, primary colours. They might be good for other purposes but not here, not for snow flakes. Unfortunately, the photo didn’t turn out as well as I hope (I took the pictures this time). You probably can’t see very well from the picture but my snow flakes did sparkle.

These Sparkling Marshmallow Snow Flakes are so beautiful and easy to make. It makes good gift for the holiday.

Glittering Marshmallow Snowflakes (recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living)

Makes about 100

2 envelopes (each 1 scant tablespoon) unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Vegetable-oil cooking spray
Sparkling Sugar (1/3 cup)

1. Coat a 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray; line with parchment paper. Spray parchment; set aside. Pour 1/3 cup cold water into the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle with gelatin; let mixture soften, about 5 minutes.

2. Place sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/3 cup water in a medium saucepan. Cover; bring to a boil. Remove lid; cook, swirling pan occasionally, until syrup reaches 238 degrees (soft-ball stage) on a candy thermometer, about 5 minutes.

3. With mixer on low speed, whisk gelatin mixture, and slowly pour the syrup in a steady stream down the side of the bowl (to avoid splattering). Gradually raise speed to high; beat until mixture is thick, white, and has almost tripled in volume, about 12 minutes. Add vanilla, and beat 30 seconds to combine.

4. Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet; smooth with an offset spatula. Let stand at room temperature, uncovered, until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight.

5. Coat a 1- or 2-inch snowflake-shaped cookie cutter with cooking spray to prevent it from sticking. Cut out as many individual marshmallows as possible; coat cutter with more spray as needed. Coat marshmallow with sparkling sugar and use marshmallows immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Concord Grape Parfait


I’m very lucky that I’m the only one who is so obsessed about making dessert among all my friends. People knows my obsession and always let me bring dessert to all the parties, pot-lucks and ladies night-“in”. At one of my usual gathering with my girl friends, I brought this Concord Grape Parfait which everyone loves.

This is one of the concord grape recipes from Claudia Fleming’s book. I find that Fleming’s recipes looked more complicated than when you were actually making it. This book trained me to have everything ready before getting my hands wet. Once you have all ingredients measured out, the action time for most of the recipes is less than 20 minutes (not including baking time).

The bottom layer of the parfait is grape mousse, then topped with a layer of grape gelée and a thin layer of gelled cream. I particularly like the grape gelée which the flavour is very sharp and stand out from the mousse and the gelled cream. It truly is the soul of the parfait. However, without the grape mousse as the background and the gelled cream to balance its sharp flavour, the grape gelée will become too tart to enjoy.

Fleming suggested to compose a dessert using this Concord Grape Parfait, the
Concord Grape Sorbet and Cornmeal Nut Biscotti. Still, I’m not crazy about adding the biscotti to neither the parfait nor the sorbet.

Concord grape’s season is now over. I’ll wait patiently to make the rest of the grape recipes next year. But in the meanwhile, I’m going to keep myself busy on trying all the other wonderful recipes from the book.