Caramel-Banana Cupcakes

There are 2 ways to infuse the banana cupcake with caramel – add it to the batter (take away some of the sugar while you’re at it) or swirl it in the batter (in the cupcake pan) right before baking.  I chose to add to the batter.  Then to intensify the caramel-ness, the cupcakes were frosted with caramel buttercream.

To make your own caramel is not difficult, as long as enough you keep an eye on it.  I remember when I first started to make caramel and I would always, always burn it, until a friend told me her secret.  Nope, not using a thermometer… rather, the crucial equipment is a…. TIMER!  The magic number? 7!

First, set your timer to 7 minutes.  Then place 1/2 cup muscovado sugar, 1 teaspoon light corn syrup, 1/3 cup heavy cream, 2 tablespoons butter, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon vanilla paste in a thick-bottomed pot.  (Add a pinch of salt if desired.)  Set the heat to medium.  Stir the mixture occasionally.  Once the mixture boils, start your timer.  Stir occasionally.  When the timer beeps, turn off the heat.  Let is cool slightly in the pan then transfer to a heat-resistant bottle.  Cool completely.  Store in the fridge for 4 to 5 weeks.

To make the caramel buttercream, beat 1 cup softened butter.  Gradually add 1/2 cup to 1 cup powdered sugar (by spooonfuls).  Stir in 1/2 cup caramel; beat a couple of minutes, or until fluffy (don’t over-do it.)

 

Advertisements

Ube Bread Knots

There used to be a bakery about 3 blocks away from my childhood home where we would go and buy freshly baked bread from.  Our favorite was obviously the pandesal, followed closely by the so-called Spanish Bread.  Not so popular with my brothers but immensely liked by me was the Pan de Ube (Purple Yam Bread).  It was basically a “bun” sandwich which was filled with ube paste.  Now, whether the ube filing is the real thing or not was never an issue (before, that is).

Lately though, I have been “feeling” that the ube filling is not real at all, but just some sweet, purple-colored paste pretending to be ube.  Thus began my journey to make my own ube bread.  I started a couple of years back using straight method dough for bread but lately my go-to recipe is the no-knead recipe by Jeff Hertzbery and Zoe Francois!

As for the ube filling (halaya), store bought is fine (as long as you know they use genuine products) or make your own!

(First of all, ube is not taro, or sweet potato!)

1 kilo ube, steamed or boiled, then mashed
1 cup butter
1 cup condensed milk
1 cup thin coconut milk
1/2 cup thick coconut cream
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt the butter;  Add the condensed milk, coconut milk and coconut cream.  Stir to mix.  Add the sugar and vanilla; mix.  Add the mashed ube and cook, over low heat, until thick, about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring constantly.  Take care not to burn the mixture!

(Note – purple food color may be added to enhance the color of the halaya, since the purple pigment of the ube varies greatly.  When the inherent color of the ube is insufficient, the end product is likely to be gray in color and will look unappetizing.)

Let the mixture cool before storing in the fridge.

To make the bread, roll out a piece of dough and spread some ube halaya.  Roll it up into a long strip and fold into a knot.  Bake at 375*F for about 15 minutes (longer for bigger pieces),

 

 

 

Pizza Night!!!

The kid can be a picky eater, but when it’s pizza time… all she wants is CHEESE!

She will (and does!) pick all other ingredients and put them aside!

Soooo….

Because I was feeling a bit lazy and because the kid kept asking for it, we had pizza night.  For her… cheese pizza.  For me… Hawaiian!

The best pizza crust recipe (for me) is the Olive Oil Dough from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in 5 minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  But I halve the recipe since I don’t have a container that’s big enough.

1-3/4 cups lukewarm water
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 tablespoon Himalayan pink salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3-3/4 cups bread flour

Just stir everything together and then leave it at room temperature for a couple of hours.  Then stick it in the fridge overnight.  The next day, pinch off some dough and roll out as thin (or thick) as you like.  We like ours super-thin, about 9-1/2 inches in diameter.  (Then again, an off-the-shelf frozen pizza crust works just as well, too.)

Put some fresh diced tomatoes (or by all means use the ones from a can, just remember to drain them… or go ahead and spread on some ready made pizza sauce, that’s fine too!) then pile on the cheese!  In our case we already had cheddar, parmesan, and toast cheese so we just had to get some mozzarella (I saw an all-in-one pack of shredded pizza cheese and was so tempted to buy it; and I’m sure I would have if we didn’t already have other cheeses at home!)

Anyway, bake the pizza at the highest setting (as possible – ours was about 475*F) of the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes… then enjoy!!!

(for the Hawaiian just put sliced ham and pineapple chunks!)

 

 

 

Japanese-style Chicken Curry

Curry is no stranger to our table, but we usually have the Thai kind, and our usual local variety… but this time I wanted to try Japanese-style – a thick, sweet-ish curry.

I decided to follow the recipe for the curry base here, from scratch with only 5 ingredients!!!

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

First make a roux – melt the butter then add the flour.  Stir and cook over low heat until the roux is browned.  add the other ingredients.  Set aside while the curry dish is cooked.

400 grams boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into serving pieces (cleaned and patted dry)
4 ginger slices
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion, sliced
2 potatoes, cubed
3 to 4 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup curry roux
2 tablespoons sweetened applesauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 small red bell pepper, cubed

Saute the ginger, garlic and onions until soft.  Add the chicken and stir fry a couple of minutes.  Add the cubed potatoes. Add about 1 cup of the chicken stock; set the heat on low.

Add about a cup of chicken stock to the curry roux, to loosen it a bit and then put it into the pot. Stir to dissolve and mix everything; add remaining stock and applesauce. Let simmer until the chicken and vegetables are cooked through. Add the cubed bell peppers last (to keep them crunchy) Season with salt and pepper.

Serve hot over rice!!!

 

Filipino-style Cheese Cupcake

Even before knowing about (American/Western) cupcakes, we were happily eating cheese cupcakes (we are the ones with cheese ice cream too!).  When I was a young girl, all the neighborhood bakeries had their own version of cheese cupcakes.  Some were crumbly, extremely cheesy, sweet, heavy… there were all kinds of it.  My personal favorite was the soft kind with a lot of cheese flavor and cheese strips on top.

I tried many recipes for cheese cupcake and got a myriad of results – crumbly, heavy, sweet… none were as cheesy as I would like.  I later discovered, when someone revealed a trade “secret”, that commercial bakeries used cheese flavoring (either a concentrate liquid or powder) to enhance the cheesy flavor.  Well, I don’t know where to get cheese flavoring, then again, I preferred to achieve flavor naturally.  I was able to do by using parmesan… not the “real” stuff but the prepared and already grated ones readily available in the supermarkets.

1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter-margarine blend
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup condensed milk
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup quick-melt cheese, shredded
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Mix the dry ingredients together, then set aside.

Beat butter and sugar together. Add the condensed milk.

Add half the flour mixture and mix. Add the evaporated milk and mix. Add the remaining flour and mix. Fold in the grated Parmesan. Fold in half the quick-melt and cheddar cheeses.

Scoop batter into paper-lined muffin cups. Bake in a preheated 350*F oven for 15 minures. Take the pan out and quickly sprinkle the rest of the cheeses on top of the cupcakes. Return to the oven and bake further, about 10 to 15 minutes. Take care not to over-bake.

Bola Bola Soup

Bola is our word for “ball”, so literally, bola bola is 2 balls.  But what it really means is any kind of “meat” balls… so it could refer to meat, fish, chicken, beef, squid, mushroom, etc.

The bola bola that I knew consisted of 2 kinds – the fried one and the processed one that was usually floating in chicken soup!  It was a bowl of comfort!

The simplest kind is the one with fish or chicken stock and fish balls, with chopped spring onions as garnish.  The more elaborate ones have shredded chicken, noodles, pechay, sometimes even mushrooms, and several kinds of balls.

The first thing I always do is boil chicken breast with onions, salt and ginger ti make the stock.  The stock is strained of impurities and the chicken is shredded and put back into the stock.  The stock then is reboiled and the balls are added.  When the balls float to the top, it is time to put in the pechay (wombok).  The soup is ready!

To take it one step further, the soup can be ladled into a bowl with parboiled egg noodles to make noodle soup!

 

Dexter’s Chicken and Apple Biscuits

Dexter has been in doggy heaven for 3 years now.  I still miss him.  But we move on and forward, even as we keep him (and other loved ones as well) close in our hearts.

This is one of his favorites –

I found a recipe in one of my doggie cookbooks (yes, I cook for my furbabies too!) and made some major adjustments. The original recipe called for ground beef and diced carrots. While Dexter likes carrots, beef made him ill.  So I used ground chicken instead.

What I did –

1. Preheated the oven to 325*F.

2. Sifted 1¼ cups fine whole wheat flour and ¼ cup skim milk powder together.

3. Added an 1 egg white and 3/8 cup cooked ground chicken and 1/4 cup diced apple (diced in very small dices).

4. Mixed the mixture with my hands. The goal was to have the mixture resemble pie dough. Not too dry but not wet either, just moist enough to roll out. (I thought the mixture was a bit dry so I added about 1 to 2 tablespoons chicken broth and mixed until I got the consistency that I wanted.)

5. Rolled the mixture out to about 1/2-inch thickness (use a floured rolling pin on a floured surface) and used my doggie bone cutter to cut into shape. The little girl placed the cut out dough shapes onto a paper-lined cookie sheet. We actually stuck the pieces very close together since they wouldn’t be expanding anyway.

6. Baked them for about 22 to 25 minutes until the cookies were dry. Dexter prefers chewy over crunchy so we baked them just about 20 to 22 minutes. For a crunchy cookie, bake a little longer. Take care not to burn them though.

7. Cooled the cookies on a rack.

Dexter loved them!!!  The other furbabies loved them too!  (While I call this Dexter’s, they are really for all the furbabies!)

 

Tofu and Mushrooms with XO Sauce

As I’ve said before, the secret to any good XO dish is the XO sauce!  If you have a good XO sauce (traditionally a scallop-based sauce, but other variants such as abalone has been available in the market), you can virtually mix and match any combination of ingredients!

Take this combination of tofu and mushrooms.  It is a standard in our kitchen since I always, always have mushrooms, and tofu is one of hubby’s and the kid’s favorites!

This is one of those recipes that really does not have specific measurements…

Always begin with a hot pan and the golden “trio” of garlic, ginger, and onion.  Saute until soft and fragrant.  Toss a heaping spoon of the XO sauce (use as little or as much as you like!) into the pass and stir fry until fragrant (trust me, the fragrance is divine!)  While optional, diced red bell peppers may also be added (it adds color as well as texture and flavor).

Throw in the mushrooms (use whichever ones you like – my personal favorites are shitake, enoki, and the Korean king oyster) and stir fry several minutes until the mushrooms are cooked.  De-glaze the pan with some rice wine and a splash of oyster sauce and sweet soya sauce.  Add a little water if you like a saucy dish.  Then add the sliced tofu (my favorite shape is the cube).  Adjust the seasonings according to personal taste.  Cook until the tofu is heated through and then thicken the dish with cornstarch slurry.  Garnish with sliced leeks.

It’s super delicious on top of steamed rice!