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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fluffy, Silky, Buttery Brioche

So I keep hearing all of this talk about how great brioche is, how it's so buttery and delicious.  Well, I was craving a nice, somewhat sweet bread and since I already made houska/challah I decided to go for brioche.  The funny thing is, I've never actually had brioche before.  In fact, I've never even seen it besides on TV and online.

Well, I actually just took my bread out of the oven and, unfortunately, a small piece got stuck to the bottom of my loaf pan.  I was disappointed, especially considering that I actually sprayed the pan before baking, but that little piece missing gave me a window into just how ridiculously amazing the texture of this bread was.  The bread was soft, airy, silky, and oh-so-good...almost melt-in-your-mouth fluffy and soft.  I cannot wait until this bread cools so I can dig in!  Based on the small piece that I tasted (since it stuck to the pan anyway), this recipe was a 100% success.

I actually used a French recipe for this, but I measured out everything using my measuring cups and spoons after I weighed out the metric volume amounts.  I had my doubts about this recipe because there is a TON of butter, and you feel like there's no way there is even enough bread for all of that butter, but there is!  Yummy, yummy, yummy!  It's sort of like when you make a good, flaky buttermilk biscuit--you feel like "where on earth is all of this butter going to fit?" but once you bake it, you're just like, "mmmmm, perfection."

Well, here you go!  Cheers to me for not being forgetful or lazy and actually measuring to convert from metric for once!  Enjoy :)

1. 7 TB warm milk
2. 2-1/2  tsp dry yeast (use what you prefer, but note that double acting will taste a bit yeasty)
3. 3c + 3 TB all purpose flour (you may need to add more based on feel of the dough.  It will be soft and sticky before the first rising)
4. 4 TB sugar
5. 1-1/4 tsp salt
6. 5 eggs, gently beaten
7. 2 sticks + 2 TB room temperature butter, cut into small pieces (I actually ended up cutting 1 TB or two from the total butter amount because I was scared, and it actually turned out perfect.)

1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a medium-sized bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Allow to proof for 10 minutes in a warm place.

2. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.

3. Add the eggs and the yeast mixture and mix (you can do this by hand if you don't have a machine).  You should have a soft, sticky dough.

4. Knead the dough intensively for 15 minutes so that it will be smooth and elastic.

5.  Stud the dough with the butter pieces and knead until the butter is well-incorporated

6. Place the ball of dough in a large, greased bowl and cover with greased plastic wrap.  Refrigerate and allow to rise overnight.  The goal is to have it double in size, but it is recommended to let it rise overnight for optimum results.

7. Preheat oven to 350F

8. Punch down the down dough until it reaches its original volume.  Form the bread into the desired loaf shape and place into a greased pan and cover with greased plastic.  Allow to rise in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
         *If you want the same loaf shape as photographed above, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and place close together in a loaf pan, as pictured.  If you have a scale, weighing the balls for equal weight would be ideal; otherwise, simply divi out balls that look about the same size.

9. Remove plastic and brush the top of the bread with egg wash.  I did mine with yolk and a little water only since the yolk creates a sweet, rich glaze which goes well with brioche.  The original recipe just calls for a regular egg wash with a whole egg.

10. Bake in greased pan for 45 minutes.  Your brioche will be very dark on the top, maybe a little darker than photographed because I had to bake an extra 15 minutes from when I took the photograph to get the bake time that the original recipe called for.  Oops :).

11.  Let cool for at least one hour.  Enjoy!


To store, wrap the bread  loaf itself (not with the pan, just the loaf) up really well in plastic and, if possible, store inside a large container for optimal freshness.  Fresh bread lasts about 3-5 days.

Bread generally freezes well, so freezing half for later use may be a great idea, even if you plan to eat it within the same week.  Simply thaw on the counter.  You can also refrigerate the loaf in an air-tight container, which is what I do after the first 24-48 hours.

The original recipe says that brioche dough also freezes very well, but not to freeze it for too long.  I'd recommend wrapping it up well in plastic, then in foil before putting in a Ziplock to protect from freezer burn.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wonderfully Rich and Delicious Shrimp Stock

I am an NPR fanatic.  Back when I was in grad school, I didn't have cable, and I was just fine was it because I'd just keep my NPR on all day long, and I just loved it.  There was always something new and interesting on the "Dianne Rehm Show" or "The Story," plenty of hilarious moments on "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me," "Car Talk," and "The Moth."  One particular show that I fell in love with is "The Splendid Table."  Host Lynne Rossetto Kasper always shared such great recipes, and I loved hearing her creative suggestions for callers in recipe ruts.  Her recipes always sounded so amazing, yet they were never overly complicated.

As a regular listener of "The Splendid Table," I had mentally bookmarked a number of Lynne's mouth-watering recipes.  One of those recipes was the Rustic Shrimp Bisque shared by Melissa Clark.  Today, I finally had the chance to try the recipe and WOW!!  Talk about an easy recipe that packs some shockingly serious flavor!  In just 3 simple steps and 20 short minutes you can have a wonderful, restaurant-quality shrimp stock for soups, bisques, or seafood rice dishes.

As usual, since I didn't have a few of the ingredients (the wine and the brandy) I substituted with whatever I had around.  Below is the recipe that I used.  The original recipe can be found at the link at the bottom of the page.  Enjoy!

1. shells from 1lb or so of shrimp, well-rinsed
2. 1 TB of butter
3. 2/3 c beer (I used Modelo)
4. 1 TB of cachaca (Brazilian sugar cane alcohol) or white rum
5. 6 cups of water
6. 1 clove of garlic
7. 1 bay leaf
8. 3 sprigs fresh time, or 1 pinch of dried thyme
9. salt and pepper to taste

1. Melt butter in a medium sauce pot and cook shrimp shells over high heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browned.  This should take about 3 minutes.

2. Add beer and cachaca and continue cooking over high heat until the alcohol is almost evaporated.

3. Once the alcohol has nearly evaporated, add 6 cups of water, bay leaf, thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

4. Strain shrimp stock into a bowl, pressing the shells before discarding them.

References: The Splendid Table

Monday, November 21, 2011

Limoncello Crepes

This past Friday I was dying for something sweet and delicious, but I've been feeling a bit under the weather, and I definitely wasn't up to cooking anything myself.  Unfortunately, I live in a bit of a culinary dessert--food here is notoriously bland and sub-par overall.  I remembered, however, that there was a Cheesecake Factory at the mall.  I really don't like cheesecake very much, but I like the mousse-y cheesecakes at Cheesecake Factory, so I decided to give it a shot.

I'd been itching to make a lemon cream cake all week, so I knew I wanted something with lemon and berries.  When I saw the Limoncello cream torte, I was sold.  It was SO delicious, and SO worth the wait!  The cake had an airy crumb yet it was somehow very dense at moist all at once.  The mascarpone cream filling was divine, and the crumb topping provided some nice textural balance.  The fresh sliced strawberries served with the cake made for a delicious balance of sweet and tart, yum!  This crepe recipe was inspired by my lemon cake craving and Cheesecake Factory's wonderful Limoncello cream torte.  Enjoy!

For this recipe, prepare the batter first, then set aside.  Make the sauce once the batter has rested then begin cooking the crepes according to the instructions below.

Crepe Recipe
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
2 eggs
1 cup milk (whole, skim, almond, etc)

1. Measure the flour into a bowl, make a well in the center, and add the eggs.  Whisk, drawing in the flour.

2. Continue whisking, pouring in the milk in a light, steady stream, gradually drawing in all the flour.

3. Whisk until smooth.  Let stand about 30 minutes so the starch grains absorb the liquid and swell

4. Ladle enough batter into a lightly greased pan (dip the napkin in oil and lightly grease the pan) (an omelet pan is ideal)

5. Cook over medium heat for 60 seconds, or until golden underneath.  Loosen the edge and flip the crepe over.

6. Cook the other side of the crepe for 30 seconds, or until golden.  Serve.

7. Oil the pan lightly before making the next crepe.

Limoncello Sauce
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
1/8 c water (optional--use only if your sauce is too tart for your liking)
caster sugar or powdered sugar to taste (I used about 2 TB or so of powdered sugar)
1 TB cachaca or white rum (I only used cachaca because that's what I had on hand)
1/2 stick of butter, cut into pieces

1. Place all in a large nonstick pan or in a medium to large skillet until the butter has melted.  Simmer gently for 5 minutes

2. Reduce the heat to low.  Place 1 crepe in the pan and turn it over to coat on both sides.  Folk it in half then fold it in half again.  Move to the side of the pan.

3. Add another crepe and repeat the same process.  Overlap the first crepe and repeat.

4. Enjoy with whipped cream and fresh berries.

References: Crepe suzette recipe in Cooking Essentials by Barry & Spieler and the Cooking Club of America

Saturday, November 12, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things...

Here are some of the things that I love to keep around to add a little extra punch to my food or to serve as the basis for a quick, easy-to-prepare meal.

1. Jowl Bacon
The sweetness of this particular bacon is delightful against the saltiness typical of bacon.  The crunch and sweet saltiness give great depth and textural variety to a number of dishes from pastas to rices to chicken dishes, veggies, and of course breakfast foods.  Although I'm not at all one to sit down to a breakfast plate and eat a whole slice of bacon on its own, it's nice to use a slice or two of chopped jowl bacon to flavor a dish.

2. Coconut Milk 
Creamy coconut adds an unrivaled delightful velvety richness to both sweet and savory dishes.  My favorite dishes to add coconut milk to are rice dishes, stews, and desserts.  Coconut milk works especially well with rice and beans and SE Asian or West Indian braised and stewed meats.

For savory rice dishes, a TB or two of powdered coconut milk works just as well as the fresh stuff and is much more convenient.  Otherwise, using fresh coconut milk for 1/4-1/2 of the liquid in a rice dish lends great depth and deliciousness.  For sweet rice dishes, fresh coconut milk adds a wonderful richness to make sweet flavors pop and to give them more dimension.

3. Jasmine Rice
Fragrant jasmine rice has a wonderfully soothing scent and a mildly sweet flavor.  It is my preferred rice to steam plain and serve on the side of a meal and my favorite rice for mixed meat and rice dishes such as Haitian rice and beans and Dominican locrio (a dish of meat and rice cooked together).  Of all of the medium to long grain rice, jasmine is my favorite for sweet rice dishes such as rice pudding or arroz con leche as well.

Another great thing about keeping rice around in general is that you can have a delicious and nutritious meal ready in just 30 minutes by adding in canned or frozen veggies and meat along with your seasoned rice.  Also, you can also use raw rice as a thickening agent.  Just soak a palmful rice in enough water to cover it while you prepare a soup; put the soaked rice and water in the blender, strain it, and you've got some old school thickener.  Works much like corn starch would.

4. Canned Tomato Products (tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes)
Canned tomato products are great to keep around for throwing together quick dishes, making speedy sauces, and for adding extra zing to savory rice dishes.  I actually have an entire shelf in my cabinet that is nothing but tomato products.  I keep whole tomatoes, tomato paste and crushed tomatoes around for making marinara or other pasta sauces and I also use 1-2TB of tomato paste in rice dishes (per 1c of raw dish).  I love to keep diced tomatoes around for soups or to mix into rice or pasta.  I also keep whole tomatoes around to slice up for braised meats or other dishes since store-bought fresh tomatoes have become both pricey and lacking in flavor.

5. Homemade chicken stock
Sometimes when I'm having a lazy day I just end up buying a roasted chicken from the grocery store (preferably Sam's Club, yum!).  Once I've eaten the chicken, I put the carcas in the crockpot with onions, garlic, veggies, herbs, and other seasonings until the bones become soft, about 8 hours or so on low.  Just let it do its thing while you're asleep or at work.  Once it's ready, you just strain the broth and enjoy.  I love to freeze the leftover stock in freezer bags in 1 or 2 cup portions.  Then I just pull out the stock to make soups or to use as the liquid for rices. It's so convenient and tastes so much better than store bought stock or broth.

Mmm, Breakfast Time!! Sweet, Salty, and Deeeelish!

I'm not the type of person to sit down and eat a slice of bacon, but there's just something about that touch of saltiness that crumbled bacon lends to so many dishes.  In this particular breakfast dish, the salty and slighlty sweet flavor of the jowl bacon balances the sweetness of the syrup.  The fluffy texture of the waffle with the crunchy bacon and the velvety soft yolk of the egg is simple and easy to make, but oh so delicious!!

*Just as a note, I'd caution against substituting with a store bought waffle in this dish.  The flavor is not nearly good enough to make this dish shine.*

1 fluffy and crisp waffle
2 eggs, fried easy over
1 slice of jowl bacon, cubed and fried

1. Take the freshly prepared waffle and drizzle lightly with syrup  (I do my syrup with just vanilla and butter flavoring, no maple flavoring)

2. Top with easy over fried egg (don't go greasy, all you need is a nonstick pan and a spray of Pam)

3. Sprinkle with crispy fried jowl bacon

4. Enjoy the sweet and salty, fluffy and crunchy goodness!!  Mmm, mmm, mmm!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake

Looking for the perfect chocolate cake?  Look no further!  This cake is chocolate-y, super moist, yet springy, and absolutely delicious!  This one is one of our family favorites, whether as a sheet cake glazed with toffee syrup before being topped with whipped cream or as a layer cake filled with raspberry preserves. This is one chocolate cake that you just can't go wrong with, no matter what you decide to do with it.  As much as I am just not a fan of Hershey's chocolate or their cocoa, you'd never know that it was Hershey's with this oh-so-wonderful cake.  Enjoy :).

2c sugar
1-3/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4c Hershey's Cocoa
1-1/2 baking powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1c milk
1/2c vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1c boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour two 9-in baking pans. 

2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla.

3. Beat on med. speed 2 min.  Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).  Pour into pans.

4. Bake 30-35 min or until a toothpick comes out clean.

5. An alternative test would be to touch the center of the cake for springiness.  Once it is springy, it is done.

6. Cool 10 minutes (do not let sit in pan too long or it will stick).  Remove from pan and cool completely before frosting

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Absolutely Perfect Omelette

Mmmm, look how thick and fluffy!

I'm not much of a eggs and bacon breakfast type of girl, so I never actually tried to make an omelette until now.  I tried out a recipe this weekend and once I got to the second omelette, everything turned out wonderfully.  Just the same, I wanted to perfect the recipe tonight.  I decided to see what adding half sour cream would do to the texture.  It did just what I expected--my omelette turned out super soft and fluffy and oh so delicious!!  Try it for yourself.  Enjoy!

3 eggs
1 TB heavy cream
1 TB sour cream (or plain yogurt, use heavy cream if you have neither of these--2 TB of either of these in lieu of heavy cream could also work)
salt to taste (about 1 tsp or so)
pepper to taste
a shake of garlic powder

 1 TB of butter and a drizzle of oil (the oil raises the smoking point of the butter and prevents burning)

1 tsp finely chopped green pepper
1 tsp finely chopped onion
1 TB sliced black olives
1 TB chopped tomatoes, excess moisture removed
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 large handful of washed fresh spinach, lightly salted (or desired amount of thawed frozen spinach), sauteed with excess moisture squeezed out)
1 slice of jowl bacon, chopped and fried (regular bacon is fine too, you want the end result to be about 1 tsp of chopped bacon)
shredded cheese, desired amount (I like about 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup and I like to put cheese on the top and bottom of the other fillings to hold them in place)

1. Place omelette ingredients in a blender for one minute, allowing the mixture to become foamy

2. Melt butter and heat oil together over medium low heat in an 8" skillet (this smaller pan will ensure optimal fluffiness)

3. Pour blended egg mixture over the pan and allow edges to set just enough to lift them with an oiled spatula

4. Lift the outside edges of the omelette and allow egg mixture to flow beneath the set eggs.  Do this for all edges and smooth out the omelette with spatula to even it out

5. Continue this process until the omelette is nearly set

6. Once the omelette is nearly set, sprinkle toppings evenly across one side of the omelette and fold the other side of the omelette on top of it

7. Cover the pan and allow the omelettes to set and the cheese to melt

8. Slide the omelette out of the pan and onto a plate and enjoy :).

Don't laugh but my boyfriend will not eat his omelettes without ketchup, and I finally tried it...I must say, if you drizzle just a little good ketchup over the top, it sure is yummy.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Rice Krispy Treats Drizzled with Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

3 TB butter
10 oz marshmallows (about 40 marshmallows if you're using Jet Puffed)
1 heaping spoonful (eating tsp) of peanut butter (Planter's brand creamy peanut butter recommended)
6c crispy rice cereal
1 large bar finely chopped quality creamy milk chocolate, such as Milka or Ghirardelli
chocolate hazelnut spread  (I used Ulker Golden brand--use your brand of preference.  I must admit, the
          consistency of Ulker is much nicer than Nutella and it doesn't get dry or pasty)

1. Melt butter over medium heat.

2. Once butter is melted, stir in marshmallows and peanut butter until fully melted.

3. Remove from heat and stir in Rice Krispies.

4. Grease a pan with butter or oil, sprinkling the bottom of the pan with chopped chocolate.

5. Spread Rice Krispies mixture over the pan, sprinkle chocolate, and drizzle with chocolate hazelnut spread.  You may need to microwave it a bit to get it liquid enough to drizzle.  If you are a peanut butter lover, tou may also wish to do the same with some extra peanut butter, but it is optional.

6. Cover with foil to encourage softening of the chocolate pieces.  Allow to set and cut into equal slices.  Enjoy :)


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Peanut Butter Bread Pudding with Homemade Butterscotch Sauce *updated*

I had some leftover ciabatta bread yesterday, and I was definitely due for some de-stressing time in the kitchen, so I decided to make bread pudding.  I've been itching to do something with a peanut butter twist, so why not peanut butter bread pudding, right?  I knew that the peanut butter alone would create a very flat, one-dimensional flavor, so in came the idea for the butterscotch sauce.  There is just something very special about the combo of peanut butter and butterscotch.  It just never fails!

This bread pudding was easy to make and tasted divine!  The top was crusty; the inside was soft and moist without being a mono-textured blob.  The peanut butter created a flavor that was warm and slightly salty while just the right amount of sweetness and richness came from the butterscotch topping, and the golden raisins gave the perfect pop of slightly tart brightness to balance the flavor.  Mmmm, tasty perfection!  The cute little cupcake portions were a great touch and a nice little portion control aid...well, at least in theory ;).

1-1/2c heavy cream
1c milk (I used almond milk because that's what I had on hand)
3/4 c - 1 c sugar (to your taste)
2 TB butter
1  roundedTB of peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
4 egg yolks
8 cups of crusty bread cut into 1" cubes (at least day old--I used ciabatta, but French bread or challah is ideal)
1 heaping TB golden raisins, soaked in rum or scotch min. of 30 min. (microwave raisins in rum or scotch 30 sec to speed process)
cinnamon to taste (~ 1/4 tsp or so)
pinch of salt (I add extra because I like mine a little saltier)

homemade butterscotch sauce---this recipe calls for scotch, but I used dark rum because it's what I had on hand and it was absolutely delicious!

1. Preheat oven to 350F

2. Place sugar, milk, cream, peanut butter, butter, and cinnamon in a sauce pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally until homogeneous.  Note that there will still be thin streaks of peanut butter, but the goal is to remove any lumps.

3. Allow mixture to cool

4. Whisk egg yolks and whisk in vanilla and cooled cream mixture.

5. Soak cubed bread in custard and toss in raisins.  Allow bread to soak with custard and raisins for at least 30 minutes, tossing occasionally to ensure that custard is nearly fully absorbed

6. Lightly press soaked bread cubed into a lined muffin pan.  Compress bread pudding mixture lightly to avoid gaps, but also to avoid a one-textured bread pudding.  I like a little crunch and texture variation.

7. Bake about 20-25 minutes or until springy when pressed.

8.  Once baked, drizzle hot bread pudding with butterscotch sauce

9. Remove liners before serving.  If desired, top with a dollop of homemade sweetened whipped cream

*You can mix the leftover egg whites with 1/4 tsp cream of tartar, sugar, and vanilla and make meringue cookies or you could always just add the extra egg whites to your eggs for omelettes in the morning, as I did, yum!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Asian-Inspired Sweet and Tangy Red Chili Pork Ribs

When I made this dish, it was one of those days when I was busy and had little time to cook.  I went to the international supermarket and saw this nice pork back rib meat.  I thought it'd be fun to play with some Korean spices and make a nice spicy, tangy sauce with a touch of sweetness and a nice fresh ginger flavor to balance everything out.  Since the ribs came cut into small pieces and the ingredients were pretty simple, I was able to make this dish quickly and easily.

The flavor of this dish balances the bitter heat of Korean chili powder, the sweet tangy-ness of rice vinegar, and the sweetness of sugar and honey.  Fresh ginger adds a nice pop of freshness and a soft crunch.  Surprisingly, the ginger rounds are actually very tasty, and they become almost candied in the cooking process, fully absorbing all of the flavors of the sauce.  The sauce is lightly thickened, as opposed to being the thick, sticky consistency of Chinese American food.  The meat on its own has a great flavor and a slight bit of chewiness (not the type that comes from being overcooked) with a very thin velvety, buttery-tasting line of fat along the edges of the bone.  Although the meat is a bit more difficult to get to with the way that the bone is positioned, the flavor makes up for it.  Other pork ribs, such as spare ribs or spare rib tips would work equally well.  In fact, I would likely prefer spare rib tips if I made this dish again.  Spare rib tips are actually one of my favorite types of pork for adding great flavor to rice dishes.

Enjoy this easy, flavorful dish with white rice.

1-1.5 lbs pork riblets, spare rib tips, or other smaller rib pieces
1/2 c corn syrup
1.5 c water
3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
2 TB of fresh ginger (peeled and sliced into somewhat thin rounds beforehand)
1 tsp Korean chili powder**
2 tsp Korean red chili paste**
1 whole dried Korean red chili pepper**
1 tsp rice vinegar (much more affordable at any Asian market)
1 tsp of honey
1-1/2 TB of sugar
salt and pepper to taste
*cornstarch (2 heaping teaspooons should do the trick--the type you eat with)

*This will be used once the marinated meat is at frying stage

**These ingredients can be found at any Korean market or larger Pan-Asian supermarkets (e.g. Global Foods in Northern VA or Korea Garden on Midlothian in Richmond, VA (

5 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
1/2 tsp - 1 tsp chili paste

1. Wash meat and rub marinade into meat for a few minutes.  Marinate for at least  one hour.

2. Make a sauce with the remaining ingredients.

3. Cook the sauce over medium high heat for about 5 minutes

4. Lower heat and simmer over medium low heat until thickened, about 25 minutes

5. Place meat in a pan with 1-1/2 TB oil over medium heat

6. Dust meat with just enough cornstarch so that both sides of each piece of meat receives an light dusting.  This seals in the meat's juices and will also aid in thickening the sauce later in the cooking process

7. Brown the meat over medium to medium high heat until 3/4 cooked

8. Once meat is cooked, add the cooked sauce to cover the meat and toss evenly

9. Cover the meat and bring the dish to a boil for just about a minute.

10. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fluffy and Crisp Waffles

Surprisingly, I haven't made waffles since I moved from Miami.  I was a bit obsessed when I first got my waffle maker.  I used to make them every week :), and I tried all kinds of recipes.  Since my little cousin from back home was staying over for the first time, I wanted to make a good breakfast for her.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find my manufacturer's waffle recipe book, which was surprisingly good, so I had to Google new recipes.  I took a big risk with a recipe that only had one review, but the ingredients looked pretty promising.  The recipe actually turned out to be my favorite!!  With a little tweaking, the texture was perfect--tender, fluffy, and somewhat crispy (I cook mine for 15-17 minutes, depending on the amount of batter--I like my waffles on the darker side).  With a little added sugar, the sweetness was spot on, and the honey created a great flavor!  I enjoyed my waffles with some homemade syrup (I use a little butter flavoring instead of maple) and scrambled eggs to which I added some chopped up pork left over from last night's dinner.  Talk about deeeelish!

Try this recipe out and let me know what you think.  I just added  a TB or so of sugar for added sweetness. My batter was runny and much looser than I prefer, so I also added about 3/4 cup of flour to get a somewhat thick, but still liquidy (as opposed to pasty) batter.  Just eyeball it.  A thicker batter makes for a denser waffle.  For the eggs, I separated the whites and beat them to soft peaks with a mixer before folding them into the blended battler.  The recipe with my adjustments makes 5 Belgian-waffle-sized waffles.  Enjoy :)!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pineapple Filling for Cakes and Pastries

Pineapple Filling
      looks ugly, tastes amaaaazing ;)   

fresh pineapple, peeled and chopped
sugar to taste
1-2 TB of dark rum
pinch of salt
2 TB or so of cornstarch (sift over the pineapple sauce while in the pan, sifting avoids lumps)
          Do NOT try to be exact with this.  Just add enough to get a desirable consistency that is not wet, but not overly stiff and jello-like either.  After about a minute on medium to medium high, you get the full effect of the cornstarch in terms of thickening.

This recipe is very much freestyle.  I didn't measure anything.  The recipe was inspired by the delicious filling used in Dominican cakes and the awesome homemade marmalades that abound there.  I just chopped some pineapple into chunks (maybe try 1-1/2 cups or so) and put it in the blender with enough water to get it going.  I pulsed it until I got a consistency still slightly chunky and not too watery.  Then I put that on the stove over medium to medium high with some sugar, cinnamon, 1-2 TB of dark rum, and a pinch of salt and added in about 2 TB or so of cornstarch to thicken it so that it would not run or get the cake wet.  End result = mmmmm mmmm, talk about GOOD!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Super Moist Homemade Basic Yellow Cake Recipe and Cake Decorating!

Hi everyone!

So I'm taking a cake decorating class at my local craft store (that was super affordable, I might add), and look what I did!!!!  Yay!!!!  Don't mind the off-balance decorations in the center.  Everything outside of the shells was pretty much me just practicing everything that we'd learned that day.  I guess I got lucky that it actually ended up looking somewhat balanced ;).  I'm super proud!  This is what we learned in our third class session.  Pretty awesome, especially considering how little I paid.  Anyhow, I just wanted to pop in and say that I will likely be posting cake decorating pics and tutorials soon so stay tuned!

I also wanted to share the ridiculously good cake recipe that I used for this cake.  The basic recipe is at the link below.  The cake turned out super moist and had a great flavor.  Instead of 1 cup of sour cream, I just did 1/2 cup fresh pineapple juice and 1/2 cup sour cream + 1TB of dark rum.  I had this cake with a yummy  homemade pineapple filling, which you can find in my other post.

The frosting was just the shortening-based buttercream frosting that is typically used for decorating cakes.  Butter becomes soft at room temperature and the frosting becomes to soft to hold the shape of things like flowers.  

FYI, for those who are curious, below would be stiff peaks.  That is NOT what you want.  If you do stiff peaks, you cake will have air bubbles.  Soft peaks is when the peaks that form kind of curl over or lean a bit at the top after you lift the beaters, whereas in the photo below they sit up straight and stiff.

without flash

with flash--see the stiff peak toward the center?

2-1/4 sifted flour

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature

2c sugar

4 egg yolks

1/2c fresh pineapple juice (you can just blend fresh pineapple and strain)

1/2c sour cream

1 TB dark rum

4 large egg whites


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and line two 8 x 3-inch baking pans or one 12 x 3-inch pan with parchment. 

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. 

Cream the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy and light in color, about 2 minutes on medium speed. Add the sugar and continue to mix until fluffy and light. 

Add the egg yolks, one at a time, being sure each is well incorporated before adding the next one. Add the vanilla. 

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream and pineapple juice, beginning and ending with the flour. Be sure the mixture is completely blended after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and beat for 1 minute. 

In a separate bowl, with clean beaters, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter with a rubber spatula. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and smooth with a rubber spatula. Bake in the preheated oven, 60 minutes for the 12-inch square pan or 45 to 50 minutes for the 8-inch pan. The top of the 
cake should be nicely browned. Test for doneness with a skewer or a toothpick; the tester should come out dry and clean. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Authentically Delicious Southeast Asian Stir Fried Pork and Squash

My boyfriend's dad loves to cook.  Though he isn't exactly the emotional, warm and fuzzy type and I definitely am, food is one of those things I feel connects souls.  I love to sit down with his dad and talk about traditional Cambodian food and learn a few recipes here and there. Stir fried pork and kabocha squash is actually one of my favorite Cambodian dishes.  The overall flavor profile of this dish is absolutely divine!  The rich flavor of the squash is an unexpectedly excellent accompaniment to the pork.  This stir fry is one of those things that's nothing like the sum of it's parts.  The squash acquires a velvety consistency, the pork is tender and flavorful, the garlic acquires a mild sweetness, the saltiness of the fish sauce balances the sweetness of the sugar and garlic, and the oyster sauce gives the dish depth, while the black pepper serves to break up the sweetness.  The green onion, although my boyfriend's dad does not use it, really adds a wonderful little pop of flavor that I just love!  The comparatively milder flavor of this dish makes it a wonderful introduction to Cambodian cuisine.  

Although it looks very similar to buttercup squash, don't be fooled.  Kabocha squash is a Japanese squash that is much firmer and has a much deeper, richer, sweeter flavor than buttercup squash.  The firm texture makes this squash ideal for stir fries.  With that in mind, I would strongly caution against substituting another squash in this recipe.  Although the preparation of the squash takes a bit of skill on the peeling and chopping end of things,the end result cooks so quickly that the overall time investment is actually quite minimal.  Just grab your squash and sit down in front of your favorite show, and it'll be done before you know it, maybe about 7 minutes.  For strategy tips, pay attention to the photos below.  Cut the peeled squash into wedges, then stand the wedges on their side and cut slices thickness-wise, as seen in photo #3.  From these slices, cut matchsticks, as demonstrated in photo #4, and there ya go!  Try this super easy and delicious dish and let me know what you think.  Yum, yum, YUM!!

What to do with the other half of the squash???  Bake it and eat it either plain or sugared; bake it into bread, sweet buns, muffins, or pancakes; or add in very thin slices to a frittata.  This squash works well in any recipe that uses pumpkin, buttercup, or butternut squash.  Don't forget to roast the seeds for a tasty snack ;).

Cambodian Stir fried Pork and Kabocha Squash

1/2 kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and julienned (sold at some supermarkets and most SE Asian markets)

1 1b of pork (pork sirloin preferred--shoulder or butt can also be used, my boyfriend's dad often uses pork belly), sliced into matchstick-like pieces

3 large cloves of garlic, minced

a generous pinch of sugar (maybe around 1/2 TB or so)

cracked black pepper (maybe around 1 tsp)

1 green onion, sliced into thin rings

oil for cooking

**These items are found at any SE Asian market.  The brands photographed are the recommended brands.  They are only about $2 or $3.  For those in Northern VA, you can also find these items at Global Foods.

*All of the amounts above are approximate.  This dish is pretty freestyle.  Adjust to your taste preference or until you sense that the flavors are sufficiently balanced.  The only thing that will really mess up the dish is overcooking the meat

1. Marinade sliced meat in a modest amount of salt along with garlic for a minimum of 30 minutes.  This step is not traditional, but I find that the resulting flavor is superior. 

2. Pat marinated meat dry, being sure to remove any excess moisture, as the moisture will result in a watery stir-fry.  

3. Heat oil in a pan over medium high to high heat.  

4. Once the pan is hot, add in meat and squash and stir frequently to prevent overcooking

5. Season the ingredients with the oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and black pepper.

6. Continue stirring frequently to allow for even seasoning and cooking of the ingredients.

7. Once the meat is about 85% or so done, sprinkle the green onion over the top, lower the heat to about low or medium low.  Cover, and let cook for two minutes.

8. Serve with Jasmine rice and enjoy!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Homemade Garlic Plaintain Chips--Mariquitas!!

Mariquitas are a Cuban snack commonly enjoyed throughout Latin America.  In Miami, fresh mariquitas can be found at many Cuban restaurants, bakeries, and sandwich shops.  They're crispy, salty, and absolutely delicious whether eaten alone or with some tangy and flavorful mojo sauce.  Enjoy my version of mariquitas with a tasty garlicky twist :).

Mariquitas (plaintain chips)
1small  pot of oil 
1 plantain, sliced thinly, either on a bias or in rounds
1 clove of garlic cut into three pieces

Heat oil with garlic slices over medium high heat.  Meanwhile, soak plantain slices in salt water to remove sticky residue and flavor the chips.  Once the oil is ready, pat the plantain slices dry and add the one-by-one into the oil, stirring constantly.  Let the chips fry until golden brown and crispy.  Be sure to stir constantly as they can and will stick if you don't.  After the first minute or so of frying, remove the garlic, as it has already released it's flavor and you don't want it to begin to become bitter.

Remove the chips from the oil and let drain on a paper-towel-lined plate.  Enjoy their crispy, garlicky goodness!!  No need to add salt since they were soaked in salt water and are already perfectly seasoned ;).  

If you so desire, serve with Cuban mojo sauce.  Here is a recipe  Just be sure that you're using mariquita mojo (not the one with all of the herbs that you use to marinade).

Authentic Spaghetti Alla Carbonara Take II

Rich, creamy, a little salty, and slightly smokey--traditional spaghetti alla carbonara is simple.  It's made with only 6 ingredients--pork jowl bacon, egg yolk, pecorino cheese, olive oil, salt, pepper.  Although you may not be familiar with it right off, it is super cheap and easy to find.  It is exactly what's used in the traditional carbonara sauce in Italy, where it is called guanciale (wahn CHA Leh).  Pork jowl is the cheek meat of the pig.  It is very flavorful and is similar to regular bacon in the way that it cooks and tastes.  

Spaghetti alla carbonara falls into the category of primi piatti in Italy.  Primi piatti are things like rice, pasta, and other starches that are eaten alongside a meat dish.  Although we are accustomed to having the chicken mixed into our spaghetti  alla carbonara here in the U.S., it is traditionally served alongside a chicken main course.

Traditional spaghetti alla carbonara contains absolutely no cream, nor does it contain pancetta.  The pancetta piece is changing and some people have become more flexible on that aspect.  For those who are lactose intolerant, the technique used for this recipe is a great way to get creamy sauces without the use of milk or cream.  The creaminess comes from the combination of egg yolks and Parmesan cheese.  Since Parmesan is a much drier cheese it generally does not cause a negative reaction in those who have a lactose intolerance.  Even for those who are not lactose intolerant, you get the benefits of a nice, rich, and creamy sauce without the gross feeling that cream-based sauces often leave you with.  


Ingredients: 350 grams of pasta, 150g (~1cup) of pork jowl bacon, 2TB of olive oil, 1 egg, 4 egg yolks, 100 grams  (~1cup) of pecorino cheese*, cracked black pepper to taste + salt, and 1 garlic clove, sliced 

*I use grated parmesan in the can because that's what I have around, and it's more economical

Cook pasta until al dente in salted water with the sliced garlic clove.  The pasta soaks up all of that yummy garlickiness, mmm!  You can leave the garlic pieces behind once you strain the pasta.

Fry pork jowl  over medium heat in a TB or two of olive oil.  Yes, this is necessary because otherwise it will stick to the pan.

Continue frying until crisp

Whisk the 1 egg and four yolks.  Once eggs are broken, whisk in parmesan until evenly blended.  Add in cracked black pepper to taste.

Once jowl bacon is crispy, immediately whisk it, along with all of the fat from the frying pan, into egg and parmesan mixture until homogeneous.  

Once the pasta is al dente, strain it lightly, leaving in some of the pasta water.  Immediately toss into into the egg mixture until the sauce has time to thicken and cook.  You must add the pasta immediately after cooking to fully cook the sauce.  Add more pasta water for a thinner sauce.  

Don't worry raw egg police, there is not an egg in the world that won't cook once you pour boiling hot oil, pasta and water over it.  Since the sauce is mostly yolk, and since it's mixed with Parmesan, no curdling! 
 Enjoy :)!

Before you comment on my unconventional method of cooking pasta, let me explain.  When I first moved to my new apartment, all of my things were still in storage because I waited until the last minute to schedule the delivery of my storage cube.  During that time, of course I was itching to cook, so I purchased a couple of cheap pans to hold me over.  I wanted to make pasta one day but I had not pots, so I improvised and made my pasta in a large pan.  The water reaches a boil much more quickly, thus it saves energy, and it holds the perfect amount of water to cover the pasta if you're only cooking for one or two people.  I've been cooking my pasta in a pan ever since.

References: (in Italian).  I learned this wonderful recipe thanks to my favorite Italian chef, Sonia Peronaci of :).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mommy's Southern Style Greens

Sauteed the pork jowl and onions after adding seasoning. I later found out that no one sautees the onions.  They just cook with the greens. 

Stuff, stuff, stuff the greens into the pot!

Just after compressing the greens down and turning on the heat

After 15 minutes of cooking 

All done :).

Everyone who knows me always says that I'm a great cook, but that I never make American food. The thing is, I know the American food like the back of my hand.  I could make it in my sleep. Although it's fun to get creative and put new twists on the traditional dishes, it's more challenging to venture out into new culinary realms.  Just the same, soul food is very dear to my heart.  Growing up, my mom and I would cook together while swapping tips and talking some good old fashioned trash over the stove.  When I was in my early teenage years and going through that stage of distancing myself from my parents, my mom would make me come downstairs to watch her make certain dishes so that I wouldn't lose our family traditions. 

Although I like to make foods from all over the world, the smell of candied yams in the oven and greens or cabbage on the stove still brings back memories of my childhood.  So for those who are always asking my why I don't make more American food, and for all of the wonderful mothers out there who so lovingly pass their recipes down to their children, keeping strong the ties to our past, this recipe is for you.

1 2lb bag of greens (collards are the most common or kale, but turnip greens are also very good)

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced (traditionally ~ 1/4 tsp garlic powder)

2-4 slices of jowl bacon, chopped coarsely ( I ran out of ham hocks.  Traditionally you use 1 smoked pork neck bone or ham hock or even a smoked turkey leg--for these large cuts of meat, score the meat with a knife. )

1/2-1 tsp (or to taste) of hot pepper flakes

1-2 TB of sugar (likely 2)

salt to taste (may 1 TB or two)

water in a large stock pot (about 2" of water)

Wash the greens well.  Drain them and set aside.

Fry the jowl bacon over medium low to medium heat in a large stock pot.  If you are using smoked turkey or ham hock or neck bones, you do not need to do this step.  *Just be sure to score those larger cuts of meat.

Once the meat is browned, fill the pot with 2" of water. Add the seasoning and the greens.

You will likely have to compress the greens to stuff them into the pot.  Don't worry, they will cook down in 15 minutes.  If all of your greens do not fit in the pot, just add in more after the greens cook down to make enough room.

Cook for about an hour and a half until tender.  Depending on the time of year, it may take up to as much as two hours or so.

*This process can also be done the crock pot.