Ensaymada atsaka Cheese Roll

I started baking when I was ten.  But I never made bread because bread-baking is/was my mom’s arena, and truthfully I thought it was tedious to make homemade bread when it was readily available in the supermarket (and my mom made bread at least once a week!).  But when my mom stopped baking (presumably due to old age), I suddenly developed the desire to bake bread!  So I decided to just go for it!  That was in 2011.

So I’ve been baking bread since then.  So far, so good… except that I have not been successful in making ensaymada!  Actually I did get a good result once – with a no-knead formula, but I wanted to try the ensaymada recipe of my mom…

The ensaymada that is available these days is not the same as the ensaymada of my childhood.  The one that I grew up with is basically a soft bread rolled in a snail-like fashion with margarine (Star) and sugar on top.  The ones that are popular now are pale, airy, pillow-y, and less bread-y… and super duper cheesy!  These days, I like the “modern” ensaymada better even if I still yearn for the old-style once in a while.

So, anyway, this recipe is one of many from my mom’s recipe collection (I still don’t have her permission to share her recipes) and it looks pretty good.  I used half the dough to make cheese rolls and the other half into ube ensaymada.

Thank goodness for stand mixers!  I swear I would not have kneaded this dough successfully!!!  The dough was rather “wet” and even after about 12 minutes of kneading by stand mixer, it was still soft and pliant… but it passed the “window” test.

The cheese rolls were first to be baked.  It turned out much browner than I wanted.  But they were soft, pillowy, although the cheese stick inside melted!  I guess I have to find cheese that does not melt…

The ensaymada were better since I covered them with foil while baking.  Everyone declared the ube ensaymada the winner… except for the kid, who lobbied for the cheese roll.  For her, it was better than the ensaymada (and she proved it by eating half of the cheese breads!

I can proudly say now that I have succeeded!!!  Now on to the next recipe in her collection!

Feeding a Crowd

I cook for my family so I am used to preparing meals for 6, occasionally for 10 to 12 when the extended family is around. I can also feed a group of 20 to 25 people without much difficulty (the first time when I was in my 20s and I prepared paella for 20 at a friend’s house) but this is the first time I will be cooking for 50! And I don’t mean a single meal…

For Love and Affection… as well as to help hubby out when the meal provider did not materialize… I had to fix the menu and prepare the food for the staff and cast of 30 to 50, breakfast, lunch, AND dinner! On short notice at that!

At first it was only dinner, and I had that covered already since I already knew about it a good week before. But barely a day before, I was told breakfast and lunch were needed as well!

Talk about a mad rush!

Of course I didn’t have enough ingredients on hand! And to make things worse, breakfast had to be ready for ship out by 8am, and lunch by 10!!!!

I woke up wayyyyy to early and started preparations – thank goodness for an easy way to make breakfast for a crowd – the tray bake!!!

For once I was glad to have a collection of baking pans (thanks to my mom who passed to me all her baking stuff). I was also happy that I had traded in my tiny, tiny electric oven and got a decently-sized one that could fit a 14×10 pan! (Although I could always use the big gas-fired baby oven if needed!)

I was also grateful for the food processor… and a wonderful assistant, A-te J, and one of hubby’s helpers, Tita A., who was in charge of cooking the rice and packing the food into the food boxes.

For the first breakfast… Spiced Ham and Egg Bake!

30 eggs
2 cups low fat milk
700 grams spiced ham, chopped coarsely
24 slices of melty sandwich cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375*F. Grease, line and grease again a 14x10x2-inch baking pan.

Mix the eggs and milk but don’t beat to avoid bubbles. Stir in the coarsely chopped spiced ham. Pour half the mixture into the prepared pan. Place 12 slices of cheese over the egg mixture. Pour the remaining half of the egg-ham mixture over the cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes then rotate the pan. Bake another 20 minutes (or until done) then place the remaining 12 slices of cheese on the top. Return to the oven and use the grill function (to melt and brown the cheese) for about 5 minutes.

Cool slightly then cut into 30 rectangles. Pack into food boxes with rice.

Meanwhile, as breakfast was cooking in the oven, I started slicing the meat into strips for the lunch meal…

Egg, Ham & Cheese Pimiento Sandwich

I am not really a bread person; I like rice more.  But when (or if) I had to make sandwiches, my favorite filling is cheese pimiento, followed closely by egg mayo.

For some of hubby’s friends, I combined my 2 favorite fillings/spreads…

6 eggs, hard boiled and coarsely chopped
200 grams cooked ham, diced
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 to 1/3 cup diced pimientos
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoon pickle relish, or to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Stir everything together gently so as not to smash the eggs too much.  For a chunkier filling, use less mayonnaise.  Use more mayo to make the filling “wetter”.

To serve, line sliced bread (or whichever bread you prefer) with lettuce leaves. Pile on the filling ( I used a scooper and it is convenient! ) and add cucumber slices.


Carrot Cake and Cupcakes with Maple Cheese Filling/Frosting

We went north recently and while mixing business with pleasure we explored the marketplace.  While we often went to buy souvenir food stuff and famous walis (brooms) from the famed palengke (wet market), we were greatly surprised to find out that the market that we were frequenting was just the tip of the iceberg!!!

As we discovered, the market extended to 2 other neighboring buildings!

Relying on (secret???) information, we delved deeper into the market to find… vegetables at prices that were waaaaayyyy more friendly!  So hellooooo carrots!!!!  and mushrooms, and beans, and Japanese cucumbers, and talbos ng sayote, and sayote, and… WATERCRESS!!!! (see the following post…)

Exploring further on, we found the dry goods section.  And glory of all glories, I found YARN!!!! Tons of it!  More importantly, I found SPECIALTY YARN.  Needless to say I had a field day and if I had my way, I would have gotten more but (it’s a good thing that) credit cards weren’t accepted so I had to choose carefully to fit my cash budget.

Our last and best surprise of all was discovering the meat market.  We found the famous longganisa that I adored (of course at a friendlier price than that of the souvenir shop where I used to get them from!) and hubby found the longganisa he preferred!  Do I need to say that we went home LADEN with treasures???!!!

Anyway, let me go back to the carrots.  If I bought carrots in our local market, the price would be (a bit) shocking.  Up north, where many vegetables are grown, the prices are more than reasonable, so when I have the chance, I hoard carrots!  When I return home, I peel and shred them and freeze them in portions for 1 batch of carrot cake/cupcakes!




B’s Sandwich…

The kid has always been a picky eater!  When she was a toddler, she ate everything!  But one day, poof!  She suddenly refused to eat her favorite foods.  She only wanted plain white rice and nothing else!


We had such a difficult time trying to figure out how to coax her into eating again.  But her pediatrician said not to force her to eat because she could be traumatized so we let her set the pace even as we tried to convince her to eat more.

The good news is things got better.  Years passed and little by little she ate more and more.  Still, the kid is not adventurous at all.  But at least she will try new foods and decide if she is okay with it – it used to be she decided first that she didn’t like it!

Anyway, one of the foods that she absolutely did not like is the EGG!  It didn’t matter what kind or how it was cooked, she refused to eat eggs.

That is, until I made a savory “french toast”…

First, beat an egg with a pinch of salt and pepper in a wide bowl.  Heat a non-stick frying pan (with a little butter).

Then butter a piece of bread and place 2 thin slices of farmers meatloaf, and pile on a piece of toast cheese.  Top with another slice of bread.  Flatten slightly.  Dip the sandwich in the beaten egg; make sure both sides have been dipped in the egg mixture.

Place the sandwich in the pan and cook about a minute on one side and another minute on the other side, until both sides are lightly browned.  (while the sandwich is in the pan, I use the spatula to flatten the sandwich a bit more).

Slice the sandwich into 2 triangles.  Enjoy while the sandwich is hot!


Puffy Omelette

It wasn’t supposed to be a puffy omelette. What I wanted to do was make a souffléd omelette, which I saw online from Bon Appetit.

But as you can see, something went wrong with my dish… and I tried to follow the recipe faithfully, too!

The kid took one look and said it looked like a big mouth eating worms!

Uh… not a pretty picture!!!

But, the dish tasted ok… at least!




Homemade Cream Cheese

It may be more difficult or complicated but I like making food stuff from scratch.  Like butter and cream cheese…

Of course my homemade version is nothing like the famous Philadelphia brand (or even the local Magnolia!); for one thing it is less salty and a tad more tangy, but what I love about my homemade cream cheese is that I know exactly what went in it!

00_cream cheese1

I (generally) followed the recipe for Real Cream Cheese in “Artisan Cheese Making at Home” by Mary Karlin. I varied in that I used cultured buttermilk (instead of mesophilic starter, as suggested by a friend) and I used powdered vegetable rennet instead of the specified liquid rennet. Reason for the variation? I could not find mesophilic starter or liquid rennet!

As usual, I used the “bird’s eye” cloth diaper to drain my cheese instead of butter muslin or “real” cheese cloth, for the same reason of the latter’s unavailability!

Death by Chocolate Cheesecake

I admit it. I have been obsessed with chocolate lately. I’ve made bourbon brownies, 2 toned chocolate and choco chip cookies, in addition to the usual, standard stuff I make. And I’m not yet done. Still on my list are Kladdkaka, Tableya Cupcakes, Creme de Cacao… and this Chocolate Cheesecake, which has been dubbed Death by Chocolate Cheesecake.

For this one I delved deep into my cookbooks. Both hubby and the kid are chocoholics, and both are very particular when it comes to chocolate – they have discerning tastes! They prefer a deep, complex, nuanced chocolate flavor. I finally hit the jackpot when I found this recipe in a special edition “magazine” of Fine Cooking.

I started with a ready-made, off-the-grocery-shelf Oreo cookie crust. I know I could have made my own chocolate cookie crust but having a ready-made one DOES give me more time to concentrate on the filling, which I believed was more important! The downside though is that the ready made crust could not contain the full recipe for the filling. So I had to polish my math skills and scaled the recipe to about 2/3 – even then I was afraid that the batter would spill over in the oven. But all is well that ends well, the batter puffed up during baking but settled in nicely upon cooling…

The recipe did not specify a topping but I had in my mind a chocolate masterpiece with 6 layers of chocolate! I imagined (1) chocolate cookie crust, (2) double chocolate cheesecake filling, (3) silky ganache topping, (4) dark chocolate curls, (5) chocolate syrup drizzle, and (6) chocolate ice cream on the side!

For the silky ganache topping, I wanted a “softer” consistency, so instead of a 50-50 mix of chocolate and whipping cream, I used a 40-60 proportion, using a bit more cream than chocolate.

For the chocolate curls, I finally used the gourmet dark chocolate bar that my brother-in-law gave as a present.

While I had envisioned the 6 layers, I ended up with just 4 because hubby decided that it was overkill (pun intended!) to go beyond the chocolate curls. (The kid happily doused her slice in chocolate syrup though, but skipped the ice cream so at least for her it was 5 layers!)

The verdict? HEAVENLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And, just like that, I am the kid’s hero again! I just love hearing her proclaim – Mommy you are the best cooker and baker ever, ever! (Her exact words)

Pasko na Talaga!

(It really is Christmas Already!)

It is a (good-humored) joke that Christmas in our country begins with the “ber” months. The malls begin playing Christmas songs and start putting up Christmas decorations. For me, Christmas begins when I see my favorite Christmas ham in the stores. But it is really IT for me when my kitchen starts churning out goodies that we are giving out to friends!

My kitchen opened early, sometime in July, when I started trying out new fruitcake recipes… but official production just recently began… with Cheese Pimiento!

The bulk of the fun is baking, cooking, and having fun in the kitchen, but part of the fun is the Christmas packaging! In fact, half the living room gets transformed into a mini production site littered with ribbons, boxes, tags labels, glitter pens, stickers…

It’s tiring but so very enjoyable!

Hello Christmas, here I come!

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!!!