Midnight B

When I meet people I know from my teenage days, they always tell me that they remember my brownies and how good they are.  And I was quite proud of those brownies – I can never forget how I stayed up night after night, making one batch of brownies after another.  My initial goal was a fast and easy recipe without sacrificing taste and quality.  I never did reach that goal because while the recipe was relatively simple, it was not fast… the process was rather delicate and a mis-step meant getting a different texture.

But these days, I have a slightly different goal for my baked goods.  While texture still ranks high up, what has become more important to me is producing a (slightly) healthier version.  Of course I cannot eliminate butter or sugar completely but at least I can try as much as possible to reduce them.

So, while I no longer stay up night after night, I still bake batch after batch (with long pauses in between) to experiment and tweak my brownie recipe to perfection!  Yesterday’s experiment turns out to be the best one so far…


Unoriginal as I am, I initially named this Black Brownies.  This morning, though, I thought it better to call it Midnight B.

It is essentially the same recipe from 30-odd years ago except that I no longer use granulated (highly processed) sugar, instead I use raw sugar or one that has minimal processing (as best as I could find, that is).  I also substituted part of the chocolate with black cocoa because I wanted a super dark brownie (and got a dark-as-midnight color!)… and (!) I added a secret ingredient (which hubby instantly recognized, but not quite on the mark (?????)

Overall, I just looooooooove these!

As for hubby, this is what he had to say…


(I still have one final experiment to do… if my theory is correct then I will have the ultimate, as well as perfect, brownies!


Raisin Bread

The little girl likes her bread soft and fluffy… so does her A-te and Lola.  So while hubby and I prefer the chewy, slightly crusty bread, I have to bake bread for the others too…

Good thing the book The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, has it covered!  One of the recipes in the book is the American-style soft bread!  As always, I always halve the recipe… and this particular instance, i also added raisins and cinnamon-sugar, as an added bonus for the little girl!

I was able to find the recipe online, but I seriously urge anyone and everyone to get the book – it is well worth it!

Anyway, as far as what I did – I dumped 495 grams of bread flour, 1/2 tablespoon of instant yeast, 1 tablespoon of turbinado sugar, and 1/2 tablespoon of fine salt in a bowl.  Then I poured in 1-1/2 cups water and 1/4 cup melted butter.  After mixing well, I left it on the counter, lightly covered, for 2 hours.  Then I shoved it into the refrigerator.

The next day, I plumped up 1/3 cup of raisins by soaking them in hot water for about an hour; after which I drained them and patted them dry.  Then I made my cinnamon sugar mix with 1-1/2 tablespoons of turbinado sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon powder.

Taking roughly a third of the dough, I flattered it into a rough rectangle and sprinkled the cinnamon sugar all over and scattered the raisins.  The dough was rolled into a cylinder then coiled and placed in a 7-inch buttered aluminum round pan.  I let it rise for about an hour then baked it at 350*F for about 20 minutes.

Immediately after removing the pan from the oven, I brushed butter all over the top and since I had some cinnamon sugar left over, I sprinkled it on the bread as well!

The little girl was quite happy with her fluffy raisin bread!


Lyon Frittata

Since I found some book bugs on the shelf the other day, I’d been on a cleaning frenzy!  I haven’t finished even a third of the shelves!

Anyway, as I took books off the shelves, I browsed the pages briefly.  I had to make some hard choices and decide which books needed to stay and which ones to put in the donation box… certainly wasn’t easy!

One of the books I looked at was the Epicurious Cookbook, and the recipe I saw was for Kitchen Sink Frittata.  It got me wanting to make it for breakfast the next day.

I went online to search for the recipe to link to for this entry.  What I found instead was this –

image lifted from Epicurious website

The first variant – Lyon – was perfect!  I had all ingredients in the fridge.  So what did hubby have this morning?  Frittata, of course!  I scaled the recipe to a quarter though.

My solo version –

1 small onion, sliced
1 small zucchini,sliced into thin rounds
1 small red pimiento pepper, diced
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
pinch of salt and pepper
1/4 cup mixed shredded cheese
several basil leaves, cut into strips

Sauté the onion and pimiento in a 6-1/2-inch cast iron pan.  Add the zucchini and stir fry a couple of minutes.

Meanwhile, stir the eggs, milk, salt and pepper together until thoroughly combined.  Pour into sautéed vegetables.  Stir lightly.  When the sides are set, transfer the skillet to a preheated 350*F oven.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until the center is cooked through.

Sprinkle finishing salt lightly on the top.  Serve hot.




XO Prawns and Mushrooms

I always say that the secret to any good XO dish is a good XO Sauce!  There are good ones readily available in the supermarket but the best one I’ve seen is a homemade one that a good friend gave me last Christmas, which is, sadly, down to its last use.

Given that this is the last dish I can make with that special homemade XO sauce, I decided to go all out… with my favorite mushrooms combined with my favorite seafood – shrimp… the largish kind…

And, as with good XO sauces, the best way to highlight their complex flavors is to simply sauté it.  So what I do is heat some oil in a non-stick pan and sauté 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of XO sauce.  Add in 12 large shrimps and stir fry until shrimps are done.  Take them out and arrange decoratively in a serving dish.

In the same pan (with much of the stir fry sauce still present), dump in any combination of mushrooms that you like (in my case I used 100 grams each of fresh shitake, enoki and shimenji mushrooms).  Sauté lightly until heated and cooked through.  Spoon over the shrimps.

Then get your drink of choice (mine is Coke Light), sit down and enjoy!




Maple Oat Bread

Here I go again, extolling the wonders of my little electric oven! This time it is for an almost instant snack of Maple Oatmeal Rolls for the little girl who was asking for bread when she came home from school.  By the time she finished freshening up and changing clothes, the rolls were ready!

The recipe is from the book The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  The reason why I chose the recipe is because (for some reason) I like oat bread, especially when it is sweetened!  But I always halve the recipe because the full batch takes a bit too much space in the fridge.  Also, since I did not have wheat bran, I used oat bran.

My slightly adapted, halved recipe:

1 3/8 cups lukewarm water
1/2 tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 tablespoon Kosher salt
6 tablespoons maple syrup, plus 1/2 tablespoon for brushing on the dough
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons oat bran
3/4 cup rolled oats
350 grams bread flour

For once I did not proof the yeast before mixing everything up.  (I made the dough at 2 o’clock in the morning, when I had a sleepless night…)  I set it on the counter to let it rise for a couple of hours and promptly fell asleep on the sofa.  Woke up 4 hours later to rush the dough into the fridge!  No harm done though…

Anyway, I find it easier (and faster) to make bread rolls, so that’s what I did!  Right before baking, I brushed maple syrup on the top of the rolls and since I had some syrup still left, I brushed the remaining syrup on the newly baked bread rolls!




Chawan Mushi, Bastardized version

Chawan Mushi is simply a steamed egg custard, Japanese style.  It is similar to the Chinese steamed egg.

Anyway, I based my bastardized version on a recipe I found in this book:


And I say bastardized because I skipped a lot ingredients… and (oh the horror) used instant dashi to make the dashi stock!

Here is my bastardized recipe:

1 tablespoon rice wine (sake originally)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
12 shelled prawns, cleaned
6 fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced

1 tablespoon rice wine (sake originally)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
600 ml dashi stock
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs

Marinate the shrimp and mushrooms in soy sauce and rice wine, for about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, break the eggs into a bowl and stir gently (do not create bubbles). Add the rice wine, soy sauce, dashi stock and salt into the eggs.

Divide the shrimp and mushrooms into 4 heatproof bowls. Pour egg mixture over the shrimp and mushrooms. Steam, covered, over medium-low heat for 15 minutes or so. Garnish with sliced leeks.



Artisan Bread, for my Kid Brother

So, my mother and brother dropped by the other day and they saw my freshly baked bread rolls.  My mother, in particular was quite intrigued.  She was a quite the bread baker when she was younger – she loved kneading!!!

But age has an unfunny way of rearranging life.  Her kids grew up, moved away and now that there’s only 2 of them in the house, plus her increasing age, she decided to be practical…

Anyway, she was intrigued at how bread could be made without kneading.  So I told her about it.  She got really excited.  Apparently, she is still interested in making bread but felt that she could no longer knead so she pushed her interest aside.  But now that there was a way…

Let’s just say she ordered me to find an oven for her – a small one like mine but perhaps one size bigger… then she told me to buy her all the equipment and ingredients, as well as a copy of the book!  Well, I told her I could scout for everything else but she’d have to get my brother to find her the book!

As for my brother, he asked me to teach him how (the recipe is easy since it’s from the book but he wanted a demo!).  Problem is we live far away from each other so here’s the next best thing –


From the top, left to right –

1. proofing the yeast – I use instant yeast but I still let it “bloom” because I once had an experience where my newly purchased yeast turned out to be a bad batch! Since then I’ve been careful and taken the extra 10 minutes to make sure the yeast is still active.

2. Combine the dry ingredients together.  I use half the recipe because the full recipe won’t fit in my fridge, and a 3-liter microwave bowl because it has a built-in vent!

3. Combine the dry ingredients, the proofed yeast and wet ingredients.  Mix well.

4. Set the covered bowl in a warm area and let it rest for 2 hours.  At the start, the dough is just sitting at the bottom.

5. After 1 hour, the dough is more than halfway up.

6. At almost 2 hours, the dough is near the top!  When the dough flattens at the top, shove the plastic bowl in the fridge for at least 12 to 24 hours.

7. The night before I plan to bake the rolls for breakfast, I take a third or half of the dough out, form it into a ball and let it rest for about 5 minutes.

8. Then, I divide the dough into 8 portions (for one third of the dough) or 15 portions (for half the dough) and form them into balls and place them in a well greased baking pan.  Then I let it rise for about an hour, after which it goes back to the fridge, lightly covered with cling wrap.

The next day, I preheat my little electric oven.  It takes about 10 minutes and then I just put the pan in and let it bake for about 20 minutes!  Violá!  Breakfast rolls in 30 minutes!  (If a browned crust is desired, brush with egg wash before baking.)

Alternatively, if I’m feeling lazy, I grab a third or half the dough (still the night before) and form it into a ball (boule).  I place it on a well greased baking sheet and let it rise about an hour, after which it goes into the fridge lightly covered with cling wrap.  It bakes in about 25 to 30 minutes!

00_boule-collageFresh bread every day!!!






Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake

Earlier this week, one of hubby’s friends asked me if I had a good chocolate cake recipe.  Of course I did!  In fact, I have more than a few!  Here is one for an old-fashioned chocolate cake.

2¼ cups cake flour
1 cup Dutch-style cocoa
½ tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1½ cups brown sugar
1 cup soft butter
3 eggs
¾ cup sour cream
1⅓ cups 2% milk
½ tablespoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350℉.  Butter and line 3 8 or 9-in layer pans.

Combine dry ingredients together.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Spoon into prepared pans.  Bake 22 to 28 minutes.

Fill with dulce de leche.  Frost with ganache.

The original recipe had a custard filling but I prefer dulce de leche!

Butterscotch Dreams

Not being a big fan of chocolate, my bar of choice has always been butterscotch – specifically the one that my Ilonggo relatives would bring when they came for a visit.  It was difficult to describe, but it was buttery, sugary, and something else.  Over the years it has morphed into many variants, including my all-time favorite cashew and mango!

I never figured out how to bake those Pinoy (or Ilonggo) Butterscotch but I have tried to make butterscotch bars on and off throughout the years.  I was never quite satisfied… and eventually gave up.

You see, I did not want a butterscotch-chip bar, I wanted butterscotch bars!  I wanted the flavor of the butterscotch to permeate every bit of the bar cookie… and I wanted a butterscotch bar stuffed with dark chocolate chips… or cashew nut bits… or maybe even bits of dried Philippine mango…

The answer came to me in a dream – literally!  A couple of nights ago i woke up from a dream where I’d been mixing batter for butterscotch bars… I woke up to darkness (it wasn’t even close to dawn!) and scurried into the kitchen before my memory of the dream faded!

Thank goodness I had all the ingredients on hand!  And so, my experiment began… I had no guide except for my dream… and as I added ingredients, I noted it in the little girl’s whiteboard!

The resulting bars were even better that I imagined!

The recipe will have to wait though… because friend S expressed her desire to keep the goodies to ourselves for a while.  Besides, I think it just made the Christmas Giveaway List this year!

(Thank you friend T for naming this treat!)



Hubby’s New Favorite Rolls

Hubby likes chewy bread (unlike me, i like the soft one… the rich, soft bread…) and he has a favorite recipe of mine (after a year of experimenting!)  But the recipe, of course, required kneading!

So it was back to the drawing board for me, to try and convert his favorite bread recipe into a no-knead one.  After a couple of weeks of experimenting, I finally got it!

But in order to have freshly baked bread by 6:15am, I had to wake up at 5!  The rolls, after being shaped, still needed to rise for another 30 to 40 minutes.  So I wondered if there was still a way to shorten the “waiting” time.  I wanted to wake up, crank up the oven, shove the shaped dough in and eat in about 30 minutes!

And, here is the best part… there is a way!!!

I was intrigued by an item in the FAQ on their website – the refrigerator rise!  Basically form the dough into buns the night before and let it rest in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, overnight (8 to 14 hours).  The next morning, preheat the oven, take the formed dough out and pop in the oven as soon as the oven is hot enough!

So now I can wake up at 6 to have freshly baked rolls for breakfast by 6:30 am!