In Someone Else’s Kitchen, part 2 of 4

Let’s talk about apple crisps.

I started making apple crisps when I realized that the very real possibility and probability that I would never succeed in making my mom’s apple pie.  I got the filling right but somehow my crusts were always wrong.  So apple crisp was what I came up with.

The recipe that got me started is Dorie Greenspan’s, from her book “Baking My Home to Yours”.  As always I adjusted to suit my taste… which meant I skipped some and added others…

Anyway, this was the dessert I made for our host last week.  Why?  Because it is easy to make, with ingredients commonly available, and impressive, too.  The best part?  It bakes while we have dinner and when it is served, it is perfect straight out of the oven!

The ingredient list is fairly easy too.  The beauty of modernization is that virtually anything can be found anywhere. So even when I am 250 kilometers away from home, I can find the ingredients that I need.  The nearby supermarket and specialty shop had everything, even real cinnamon sticks and whole nutmeg!  Dishes aren’t a problem too, since there were plenty of disposable aluminum pans – in various sizes and shapes at that.  But silly me, I forgot to buy the oats…

(truth time – the pic above is NOT the apple crisp I made in someone else’s kitchen.  I forgot to take a pic of that one)  The one I made in friend G’s house is one I made from memory and I somehow got the sugar amount wrong – I put in waaayyy too much, so it was a tad on the (really) sweet side.

picture courtesy of friends G and J. The topping is all flour, no nuts

Like I said, it is easy to make –

First, generously butter a 6-inch square baking dish.  Preheat the oven to 375F.

Peel and core 2 large Fuji apples and 3 to 4 small Gala apples.  Slice into wedges.  I slice mine in varying thickness because I like a bit of crunch and a bit of mush at the same time.  Toss the apple wedges with 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar, 1 teaspoon apple pie spice ( or cinnamon), 1 cinnamon stick (broken in half), 1 tablespoon melted butter, 2 tablespoon whipping cream, juice from 1 fresh calamansi, and 2 tablespoons flour.  Place the apples in the buttered baking dish.

(a short note here – the original recipe called for maple syrup, which is a rare find in my country, so instead I use a mix of vanilla sugar, butter and cream)

Stir together 2/3 cup of flour, 2/3 cup oats (not instant), 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or cashews (optional), 4 to 6 tablespoons vanilla sugar (I usually use 5 tablespoons), a pinch of salt, and a dash of freshly grated nutmeg.  Plop 75 grams of soft, unsalted butter in the mix.  Use a pastry blender, 2 knives, or a food processor, as you prefer but I personally use my hands!  Mix until just clumpy; don’t overdo it.  Scatter over the apples.

Bake for about 40 to 50 minutes or until the topping is a lovely brown.  If the topping gets too browned, cover with aluminum foil.

Best served with cold whipped cream or vanilla ice cream!

 

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Pineapple Cheesecake

For the last 7 years I have tried to make my sweetie a birthday cake. I usually make it on time but this year I am horribly late, which I blame on the little girl’s quarterly exams. But better late than never, right?

This year I decided on a “healthier” cake, fruit-based, and if my ancestral beliefs are true – lucky!

As a child I’ve often wondered why there were always red pineapple paper lanterns in most Chinese homes and business establishments. My mom always told me they were for good luck, though I never fully understood the reason. It only made sense to me when I was much much older, when it was explained to me that the Chinese name of the pineapple was a homonym for the words that meant ‘good luck come’. It also explained why pineapple desserts are popular in Chinese cuisine!

Anyway, for hubby’s __th (his 38th, he vehemently insists) birthday, I wish him good luck and great fortune with this Pineapple Cheesecake!

For the pineapple cake base –

Heat 1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice and cook until reduced by at least half; make sure there’s 3 tablespoons. Let cool. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350*F. Line a 7-inch springform pan with greaseproof paper.

Stir together 3/4 cup flour, 1/3 cup light brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add 1 egg, 3 tablespoons canola oil, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 3 tablespoons pineapple juice “concentrate”. Mix well. Fold in 1/3 cup fully drained crushed pineapple.

Place batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 15 to 18 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan.

For the no-bake pineapple cheesecake layer –

Beat 300 grams cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add 1/3 cup sugar and mix well. Add 1/3 cup thick Greek-style yogurt, 1/3 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup whipping cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mi well. Fold in 1/2 cup fully drained crushed pineapple. Pour over fully cooled cake. Chill at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.

For the pineapple topping –

In a thick-bottomed saucepan, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 3/4 cup unsweetened pineapple juice and 1/3 cup sugar. Add 1/4 cup butter. Heat over medium-low heat to a gentle boil. Simmer about 75 seconds; mixture should be thick and creamy. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of Caribbean rum (one with coconut overtones preferred). Stir in 1/2 cup fully drained crushed pineapple. Let cool completely. Spread a thin layer of the topping on the cheesecake. Unmold from the pan. Keep chilled.

Note – the crushed pineapple should be fully drained otherwise texture of the cake will be affected; the cheesecake layer might not set properly and the topping may turn watery (and become sauce instead of topping).

I did not spread a full layer of the topping on the cheesecake, opting instead for a decorative garnish. My reason is a personal one – I wanted enough topping left over so I could make some pineapple tartlets!

Belated Happy Birthday Sweetie!

Calamansi-Ricotta-Pistachio Cupcakes

We had a bumper crop of calamansi… and I was running out of ideas where to use them!

So… cupcakes…

I was planning to make plain calamansi muffins, but got carried away trying to find a recipe…

In the end, what I did was to use my (super-secret) vanilla cupcake recipe and swap out part of the liquid to ricotta and added 3 tablespoons of pure calamansi juice.  (the cupcake itself, though, I think is a bit lacking in calamansi flavor)

Then to amp up the (super mild) calamansi flavor, I added calamansi syrup and crushed pistachios on top.

The recipe made more than expected – 6 cupcakes, 12 mini cupcakes, and 1 mini loaf!

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Irish Cream Pudding

The easy way to do this is to use a boxed chocolate cake mix and a boxed chocolate pudding mix.

But it is just as easy to use a favorite one-bowl chocolate cake and an easy from-scratch pudding recipe such as Hershey’s Quick Creamy Chocolate Pudding, which was what I did, except that I used half a recipe (for both cake and pudding) because I wanted a small cake.  But I also wanted a little oommph for the pudding, so I made a few changes…

Prepare the chocolate cake and bake as usual.  When the cake is done, remove from the oven and poke holes in it using the handle of a wooden spoon.  Start cooking the pudding.  When the pudding is done, pour over the hole-ridden cake.  Press plastic wrap on the pudding and chill until set.

My Chocolate Irish Cream Pudding –

1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons Irish Cream liqueur

Combine the sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, salt and milk in a thick saucepan.  Cook until thick and boiling.  Simmer at boiling for about 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and add the butter, vanilla and Irish Cream, mix well.

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Triple Choco Chip Cookies

My cousin D and I have been talking about chocolate chip cookies.  It made me experiment again.  But I already have a go-to recipe that I quite like (even if I experiment with other recipes still) but I’ve always baked in my big gas oven and this time I wanted to try it in my little electric oven…

The mixing part –

1. Creaming the butter and sugars.

2. Stirring in the flour mixture.

3. Folding in the chocolate chips and chunks.  I used 2 kinds of chips – semi-sweet chips and dark chips; plus I added chopped bittersweet chocolate (at least 72%)

I think that using different kinds of chocolate, as well as differently sized bits, in the cookie makes the resulting cookie so much better, with a different dimension to it.

See?  My oven is really small and it can only take 6 cookies at a time, and I had to use the 1-oz scoop at that!

The results –

top – 8 minutes baking time.  Result – soft and chewy cookies

middle – 10 minutes baking time.  Result – crispy edges, soft and chewy centers

bottom – 12 minutes baking.  Result – super crispy cookies.

The winner as per hubby – soft and chewy, 8-minute baked cookies

The little girl’s favorite?  The super crispy, 12-minute baked oookies

Me?  I added walnuts to the last batch of 6

and baked them for 9 minutes…

(before i forget, I always turn the baking sheet around midway!

Banana-Choco Chip Muffins

I don’t get to bake often these days and when I do, I just use the small electric oven. The big gas oven seems overkill when all I want is half a dozen of muffins!

So anyway, I have been craving muffins for a while now. And finally, finally, I have some spare time! I dusted off my handy dandy mixer and scrounged up my measuring cups and spoons, and mixing bowl and spatula…

To begin, preheat the oven to 375*F. Line a 6-cup muffin tin with paper cups.

Mix together:

1 large egg
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon yogurt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Add the dry ingredients:

1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons muscovado sugar **
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

Mix until just incorporated.

Stir in mashed bananas (2 large pieces very ripe bananas). Portion the batter into the 6 muffin cups. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of mini chocolate chips in each muffin cup. Use a toothpick to stir and distribute the chips in the batter.

Bake about 20 minutes.

Muffins in an hour! Yum!

Healthy Brownies

I don’t remember anymore who gave me the recipe but it had been languishing in my “box of recipes that i plan to make”. Finally, finally, i made them… in my little electric oven, too!

1/2 cup flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup cocoa
1/2 cup vanilla sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 egg + 1 egg white
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

The procedure is easy too! Mix the dry ingredients together. Add the yogurt and egss. Mix well. Stir in the chips. Put the batter in a lined 8-inch square pan, then bake in a preheated 350*F oven for 25 minutes or so. Do not over bake.

Done.

Snickers Peanut Butter Squared Cookies

If there is one candy that I cannot resist, it is Snickers Peanut Butter Squared.  It is not all that common locally so when I find them, I hoard!  My problem now is that we have too much and I can’t finish them all!!!  (and Hubby is not a fan of peanut butter…) so… I decided to convert them into… cookies!!!

The original recipe estimated a yield of 4 dozen.  Frankly, I don’t know how all of that would be consumed (even assuming that I was giving half away!!!) so I used only half the recipe (using all butter also instead of a butter-shortening mix) and added a little less than 2 cups of chopped up Peanut Butter Snickers!

1/2 cup butter
3/8 cup each brown and granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/8 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 cups chopped Snickers Peanut Butter Squared candies

Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla; mix well.  Stir in flour and baking soda.  Fold in chopped candies.  Drop by round tablespoons (a 1-oz scoop is very convenient) on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 375F oven for 8 to 11 minutes.


They are so yummmmyyyy! And the smell that wafted through the house as the cookies were baking – so heavenly!

I was done in less than an hour and the cookies were soft and chewy! The peanuts in the candy provided the crunch while the caramel and nougat in the candy bits provided just enough sweetness! I got about 30 cookies from half the recipe. I’m definitely making these cookies again!  Maybe I will try adding different kinds of chopped candy…

The original recipe is from this book:

The recipe can be found here, with a couple of its variants.

Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes

The little girl had a friend over for playtime one afternoon.  Mid-afternoon, she runs to the kitchen and whispers to me –

“Mommy! You forgot to make us a snack!”

I didn’t forget.  I had planned to serve some store-bought cookies and juice.

The kid objected.  Vehemently.

She wanted a snack that I made… cooked… or baked…

Sigh.

Ok.

I thought… pancakes… those are fast…

But in the midst of preparing the pancakes, I saw a couple of bananas on the counter that looked like it was going bad… so I peeled them, mashed them then dumped them into the mix.

And as they were cooking on the stove, I saw the remains of some chocolate chips left over from long ago.  I started sprinkling the chips on the pancakes.

Lo and behold.  The pancakes were such a big hit, the little girl asked for the same thing for breakfast the next day!  I had to rush out to buy more bananas!

(Smile)

Here’s the recipe:

2 cups flour, sifted
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
2 to 4 tablespoons sugar (I used just 2 tablespoons)
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 medium eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup butter, melted

2 pieces over-ripe bananas, mashed
pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg
chocolate chips, as desired

Mix the dry ingredients together, then mix the wet ingredients together. Mix together dry and wet ingredients just until mixed. Add the mashed bananas. Do not overmix.

Cook on a griddle as you would regular pancakes. Sprinkle on some chocolate chips while you’re at it!

Then enjoy!

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes

For a quick fix, nothing beats a cupcake.  And, if you are in a hurry, mini cupcakes bake up even faster!

The chocolate fudge cupcake recipe I used (slightly varied to suit my personal taste and style) is from this site:  http://yourfoodtube.com/easy-italian-cupcakes-nutella-buttercream-tasty-dessert/

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons dutch-processed cocoa
1/2 tablespoon instant coffee powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted butter
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon golden rum
1/2 cup hot water

Combine the dry ingredients together.  Add melted butter, eggs and rum.  Stir to mix.  Add hot water; stir.

Spoon the batter into 24 mini cupcake tins (lined with paper liners).  Bake in a preheated 350*F oven for about 14 to 16 minutes.  Cool in pans for about 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing, I used an American-style Cocoa Buttercream.

Fast, easy, delicious!  Even if I barely had time!