Stuffed Dates

The local baking supply store always has dates for sale.  They are already pitted but they are often on the small side… good enough for baking and not bad for snacking.  But for a real treat, Medjool dates are the best.

Last weekend, hubby went to the nearby membership-only grocery store (without me!!!!) and found some organic (!) Medjool dates, at a very reasonable price!!!!  So of course he bought some!

He is perfectly happy to enjoy the dates as is but I had to interfere and try something else!

I’d seen stuffed dates before and usually the ones I’ve seen are stuffed with cheese and/or nuts.  I decided to stick with the cheese but use some of the fruit that I had macerating in the fridge (the ones for my fruitcake projects!).

The cast of characters –

It is very easy to make, except maybe for the pitting part… then again I had to slice the dates halfway anyway so…

1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup finely minced mixed dried fruit (macerated in brandy for at least 12 hours)
about 12 to 16 pieces of Medjool dates, pitted and sliced but not all the way through

Stir the cream cheese and macerated fruit together.  Place the filling inside a pastry bag with a large open star tip.  Pipe the filling in the dates.  Then enjoy!!!

 

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Chilli Crab

Whenever we are lucky to have fresh, live crabs, my favorite dish to cook is crab sotanghon. But this time around, I asked hubby his preference and (I shouldn’t have asked since I know) he wants crabs very spicy, Singaporean style.

For this particular dish, I used the recipe in this book…

found on page 19

As usual, I personalize the recipe so here is what I did –

1.2 kilograms of crab, about 3 pieces
oil, for stir-frying
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb fresh ginger, minced
1 small onion, minced
1 to 2 siling labuyo, minced (small chilis)
1 to 2 cups stock (chicken, shrimp or fish)
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
1/4 cup tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons cornstarch slurry
1 egg, beaten
handful of wansoy
spring onions

To prepare the crab, heat some water with ginger slices and parboil the crabs until they are no longer moving.  Scrub the shells clean then chop into serving pieces.  Set aside.

Saute the garlic, ginger, onion and chilis.  Add the crab pieces and the stock, sweet chili sauce, ketchup and rice wine.  Simmer about 10 minutes, or until the crabs are cooked.  Do not over-cook!  Season with salt and pepper, as per individual taste.  Thicken the dish with cornstarch slurry.  Drizzle in the beaten egg and sir gently until egg is set.

Serve hot.  Garnish with wansoy and spring onions.

It was really spicy but delicious!  Perfect with hot steaming rice!

Hubby’s picture posted on his FB page –

He knows that flattery (ehem, compliment daw) will get him everything!!!

*smile*

Mommy’s Fruitcake

My mom, for Christmas, is famous for 3 things – her lasagna, her apple pie, and her fruitcake!

I have succeeded with the lasagna, and am still struggling with the apple pie… but with her fruitcake?  Hmmmm, I know I botched up her recipe!

Why do I say this?

Well, first of all, she has 3 recipes for fruitcake in her recipe collection.  I have no idea which one she used!

Then, I thought I had all the ingredients – I checked a week before to see if I had everything… and I did, except for some dried and glazed fruit, and brandy.  I got hubby to drive me to various baking supply stores and the wine shop to get what I needed.  Then I started soaking my fruit.  When  baking day arrived, I gathered my ingredients together and discovered, to my dismay (!) that my molasses had gone bad!!!  Too late to go out and find molasses so I used dark corn syrup instead…

Then I committed the ultimate “sin”… I failed to check the oven temperature, and I baked the fruitcakes a tad longer than I was supposed to!  After 4 decades of baking, I forget the most basic of rules!  (totally my fault because I decided to substitute pans – made the fruitcakes into cupcakes and a small loaf, instead of 2 medium loaves).

So, it really isn’t any wonder that my (mom’s) fruitcake did not resemble the original!

Don’t worry, I will try again.  In fact, I have 1.5 kilograms of fruit soaking in brandy right now!!!  (And yes, I got the molasses too!)  Now all I have to do is find the time to bake!

(Hubby says that the fruitcake is delicious, although it is a bit dry inside…)

 

 

Saging at Yema

I recently made cupcakes with caramel and frosted with caramel buttercream. It is superb combination that is universally liked. But an idea popped into my head after baking a yema-topped cake (joining the bandwagon of yema cakes that have sprouted in many malls!) for a friend…

I wondered what would happen if I frosted my banana cupcakes with yema? Hmmmm…

Yema, after all, is a close relative of caramel… Yema, in the traditional sense is a candy made from egg yolks, milk and sugar (and the “secret” ingredient that is dayap!).

So, what is yema anyway?  According to pepper.ph –

Yema is Spanish for “egg yolk,” and is most likely a reference either to its golden-yellow appearance or to its composition (traditionally a batter of egg yolks, lime peel, and sugar). Intensely rich and similar in texture to the French crème brûlée, it is sometimes made more decadent by the addition of a thin, crisp coating of caramelized sugar. Wrapped in squares of colorful cellophane, yema can be purchased everywhere, from sari-sari stores, roadside stalls, to street vendors outside churches, as well as a few select groceries and bakeries.

Anyway, I experimented with using yema as base for the frosting.  As a safety net, I also frosted some with caramel buttercream and truffle frosting… and was quite amazed at the result! Everybody preferred the yema-banana combination over everything else!

Wow!

Having Fun in the Kitchen!

There are days when I am stuck at home with nothing to do…  For such a day, I usually catch up on sleep or reading… or I have fun in the kitchen!

This particular day I went crazy… made orange-speckled mini cakes – 1 frosted with Truffle Frosting for BFF’s birthday and the other one frosted with Yema Frosting, for a colleague.  (a bit more about yema in my next post.)

Then I made banana cupcakes and mini cupcakes – a dozen mini cupcakes frosted with Truffle Frosting for BFF still, half a dozen of mini cupcakes for another colleague AND a couple for the kid’s piano teacher, AND, of course, the kid!

I was tired after all that (plus the kitchen was HOOOOOTTTT!) but it was all worth it.

 

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.)

 

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.