I've Moved!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

cake ♥.

I love cakes. Can you tell?

Especially layer cakes.

Like this chocolate-vanilla-caramel cake...

neapolitan cake...

I'm a vanilla girl but this chocolate cake takes the cake. Really!

And how can life be boring with green velvet cake?

Be all dainty and petite with a japanese strawberry shortcake...

Convince yourself that cake is health food with carrot cake...

Or do yourself some serious malty damage.

So now it's your turn- what is your food weakness?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

waffle my world: the classic waffle part 3.

It's time for part 3 already- and this time, I made yeasted waffles.

I chose a recipe by Marion Cunningham because of its sheer popularity- even The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum has it and it's supposed to be about cake, not waffles! Many other people have also expressed their love for its yeasty complex flavour and light texture but on the other end of the spectrum, some felt that it was overly yeasty.

The batter is left to rise overnight at room temperature for at least 8 hours, and the yeast will cause the batter to rise up to triple its original volume and then collapse- with the amount of work the yeast is doing, no wonder some complain about its yeastiness. To counter that problem, I left my batter in the fridge for 24 hours. The batter doubled in volume but it did not collapse. Before making the waffles, I took it out of the fridge to warm up to room temperature. As a result, I got waffles that had a somewhat browned, toasted flavour without the yeastiness.

This is the whitest batter I've made so far. You know how waffle batters are usually a pale yellow because of the melted butter and eggs? Even with those two components, this one has barely a tinge of yellow! This means that there is hardly any eggy taste in the finished waffle- how great is that? Eggy waffles be gone!

This is also the lightest, but by no means the crispest, waffle yet. The crispy award still goes to waffle no.2, a.k.a light, crisp waffles by Pamela Anderson. In fact, this waffle is so airy, I sort of disliked it. I like light waffles, but I want them to have some substance too. You can tell by the tiny holes peeking through that this waffle barely weighed anything. It is crisp too, but only for a while. Waffles no.2 kept their texture much longer and better than this batch.

Even though the overly light texture puts me off, it's neutral non-eggy taste and toasty flavour makes it a great base to experiment with different waffle flavours. That, in my book, wins it a commendable second place. Well, so far.

Marion Cunningham's Raised Waffles

½ cup warm water
1 package (2 ¼ tsp.) dry yeast *or 1 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
2 cups whole milk, warmed
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly *I replaced half the butter with additional milk
1 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ tsp. baking soda

Pour the water into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water, and let stand to dissolve for 5 minutes.

Add the milk, butter, salt, sugar, and flour, and whisk until well blended and smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it stand overnight at room temperature. I put mine in the fridge for 24 hours, but I bet you can get away with less if you don't like yeastiness.

Preheat your waffle maker.

Just before cooking the waffles, add the eggs and baking soda, and stir to mix well. The batter will be very thin. Pour an appropriate amount of batter into your hot waffle maker and cook until your liking.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

chocolate-vanilla-caramel cake.

You know that beautiful ruffle piping technique from Sweetapolita? Gorgeous, isn't it. She makes it look so easy. Martha Stewart too, and not to mention many other bloggers. But mine just didn't come out right. It's a downright monstrosity. P.S. You may want to cover your eyes for these few photos. 

My piping looks more like twisted ancient branches thanks to the colour of my caramel swiss meringue buttercream. I'm sorry to break your illusion that ruffle piping is a breeze. Maybe it really is, just that I did it wrongly. In fact, looking back, I've spotted some errors- I held my piping back almost 45 degrees instead of close to 90 degrees, i.e nearly parallel to the cake, and my buttercream was a little too soft.

Speaking of swiss meringue buttercream, I know it's supposed to curdle at one point after adding the butter but strangely enough, mine didn't. Perhaps my butter was too soft and mushy to begin with? And since we're on the subject of frostings, please listen to me on this- never use a thick layer of seven minute frosting to fill your cakes. It just doesn't hold up well, and within a day it will start to release water, causing your layers to slip and slide. Trust me, I know.

i put maltesers in there too!
I used the same chocolate and vanilla layers as my neapolitan cake because I had some frozen leftovers after just using half. The point of making this cake was to try out that ruffle piping but as you can see, it was a terrible flop. I'll try again for sure. I've never made SMB before and I love working with it! It's smooth and silky, not too sweet and pipes like a dream. Not to mention it's wonderful ability to incorporate larger amounts of liquid. This caramel version is from Martha Stewart, and I tweaked it a little, basically reducing the amount of butter so that it's just lightly buttery because I've never been a fan of buttercreams where the butter is so prominent it oils your mouth. I like this ratio of 1 egg white to 1 stick of butter.

Oh, and I still like the chocolate layer better.

Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream
from Martha Stewart

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
6 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces *I would use 3 sticks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Make caramel: Pour 1/4 cup water into a medium heavy-bottom saucepan. Add 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and syrup is clear. Continue to cook, without stirring, until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush two or three times to prevent crystals from forming. Let syrup boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until syrup is dark amber.

Immediately remove from heat; carefully pour in cream (caramel will bubble vigorously). Stir caramel until smooth. Transfer to a bowl; let cool.

Whisk together remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, the egg whites, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water; whisk until sugar is dissolved and mixture registers 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

Return bowl to mixer; fit mixer with whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff. Reduce speed to medium low; add butter, a few tablespoons at a time. Continue whisking until smooth.

Switch to paddle attachment. Add caramel and vanilla; beat on lowest speed until combined, 3 to 5 minutes.

Linked to These Chicks Cooked, Sweet Treats Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, Sweet Tooth Friday, Sweets for a Saturday, Sweet Indulgences Sunday.

Monday, June 27, 2011

waffle my world: the classic waffle part 2.

Welcome back to WMW: Waffle my World! This is part 2 already so if you've not seen part 1, you can read about it here. I used a recipe from epicurious.com and while it seemed to go down pretty well, it wasn't quite there yet, so the hunt for the perfect waffle recipe continues.

I'm so sorry for the poor photo quality. It seems that I find great solace in feasting on waffles when the sky is a midnight blue. As such, I have to resort to using my kitchen's horrid florescent light or my dining room's ghastly tungsten. My white balance did its best, and iphoto editing was roped in, but you know, it's just not right and I'm sorry once again. But everyone loves waffles for dinner, and I know you do too, so please don't balk at these. And I'm afraid that many more waffle photos will be photographed in this, er-hem, less than appetizing light.

This recipe from Pamela Anderson uses a method that deviates slightly from the previous one, and it is not such a well-kept secret anymore because many people know and love this- whipped egg whites. They lighten up the batter, contributing to an airy texture we seek in a good waffle. But Pamela also changed up a few extra stuff to make sure that the waffles are really light and crisp, just like the recipe's title.

She uses cornstarch and a mix of buttermilk and milk. The cornstarch is that component that makes a waffle crisp on the outside, yet tender on the inside. Instead of adding the sugar into the dry ingredients, it is added to the egg whites after being beaten to soft peaks to stabilize them. The mix of buttermilk and milk stems from the reason that buttermilk is more flavorful, but thick, which weighs down the waffle. The addition of milk thins the buttermilk down, ensuring that the resulting waffle is still flavorful but crisp. Her recipe calls for vegetable oil because, she says, liquid fat rather than solid fat (butter) delivers a better crispness. But I went with butter instead, and I also reduced it from 6 tablespoons to 4 tablespoons.

For more explanation on the role of ingredients, read on here.

my waffle maker is a batter guzzler- i can't seem to make enough for perfectly round ones
I think there's no harm in reducing the amount of fat in a waffle but you have to be careful- too little fat and the waffle will stick to the iron, sometimes splitting the waffle in half when you lift the handle up. 4 tablespoons for 2 cups of liquid (buttermilk, milk) seems to be the limit.

1 banana + 1 tablespoon butter + 1 tablespoon brown sugar + pecans + heat = yum
Now for the moment of truth.

These waffles kick butt. They definitely bested the previous ones. Not only was the texture light and crisp, the hint of vanilla balanced out the egginess that I dislike. But I can't tell if they are the one yet because I set the dial too high, resulting in waffles that browned way too much for my liking. Next time I'll go with a 2.5 or 3, just until lightly browned so that I can make a better judgement. For now though, the extra step of whipping the egg whites is a little troublesome but, this is a recipe you should definitely try.

And don't forget the buttered-banana-pecans!

Light, Crisp Waffles
by Pamela Anderson, from Finecooking.com

3-1/2 oz. (3/4 cup) bleached all-purpose flour 
1 oz. (1/4 cup) cornstarch 
1/2 tsp. salt 
1/2 tsp. baking powder 
1/4 tsp. baking soda 
3/4 cup buttermilk 
1/4 cup milk 
6 Tbs. vegetable oil *I used butter, and reduced it to 4 tablespoons
1 large egg, separated 
1 Tbs. sugar 
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 
Heat the oven to 200°F and heat the waffle iron. Mix the flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Measure the buttermilk, milk, and vegetable oil in a Pyrex measuring cup; mix in the egg yolk and set aside. 
In another bowl, beat the egg white almost to soft peaks. Sprinkle in the sugar and continue to beat until the peaks are firm and glossy. Beat in the vanilla. 
Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until just mixed. Drop the whipped egg white onto the batter in dollops and fold in with a spatula until just incorporated.
Pour the batter onto the hot waffle iron and cook until the waffle is crisp and nutty brown (follow the manufacturer's instructions for timing at first and then adjust to your liking). Set the waffle directly on the oven rack to keep it warm and crisp. Repeat with the remaining batter, holding the waffles in the oven (don't stack them). When all the waffles are cooked, serve immediately.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

waffle my world: the classic waffle part 1.

This is the start of a personal series called Waffle my World! in which I will work my waffle iron down to its spindly little electrical wires because I know how easy it is to abandon one-use gadgets after a week of initial excitement and I'm not planning to let that happen! 

I finally got a waffle machine! I'm so excited! It took my parents a lot of convincing, but I did it! The major reason that eventually got my parents to agree was how a waffle can be used to make other stuff too, like cookies and donuts and even a cheese burger- all thanks to waffleizer.com. No, I'm not about to make burgers in a waffle iron, but I do see cakes and cookies in the near future.

But first thing's first- a waffle. A proper, back-to-basic no-frills waffle. Just for a plain version along, I've bookmarked 3 recipes- a straight batter recipe, one with egg whites whipped and a yeasted waffle. This time, I started with the quickest and easiest, being the sloth-like creature I am in the morning. It's from epicurious.com and it looked pretty promising to me.

I set the dial to 3.5 since I was worried if I pushed it to the max the waffle would burn. The waffles did come out quite crisp, but I bet I could push it to 4. Taste-wise, I thought they were a bit eggy. They were light, but not very light, like what you would get from recipes that call for whipping the egg whites. The batter was on the thick side and I had to thin it down with extra milk. Overall, they weren't that bad, but they weren't mind-blowingly good either. I would probably add some vanilla or try using just egg whites.

Even though this is far from the best waffle I've tried, I enjoyed it. Really. Waffles are strangely comforting. The idea of having a whole round to yourself, even without any toppings, is enough to satisfy. It's the kind of thing that makes you go just waffles for dinner? ooh... yes! rather than chicken for dinner? hmm... anything else? It's like having a bowl of hot soup- it can be less calorific, and much less to eat, but it beats huge dinners with all your proper food groups. By the way, I never bother with food groups. To me, there's only one important food group, and that's sugar.

I noticed that different recipes call for a variety of amounts of butter. Going by the sacred rule that butter is better, which means more butter is even better, may not be true. I realized that when eating pancakes or waffles, I do not prize their flavour on butteriness, because it would eventually be smothered in syrup. Hence I think we shouldn't be tricked by recipes which write for an alarming amount of butter, because the texture might suffer- becoming dense and heavy. But then again, this is just my speculation and the fact remains that I have not found my perfect waffle recipe.

So I would like to ask- what is your favourite waffle recipe?

Belgian Buttermilk Waffles

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 2 large eggs

Put oven rack in middle position and put a large metal cooling rack directly on it. Preheat oven to 250°F and preheat waffle iron.
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
Whisk together buttermilk, melted butter, and eggs in another bowl, then whisk into flour mixture until just combined.
Brush hot waffle iron lightly with vegetable oil and pour a slightly rounded 1/2 cup of batter into each waffle mold. Cook waffles according to manufacturer's instructions until golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer as cooked to rack in oven to keep warm, keeping waffles in 1 layer to stay crisp. Make more waffles in same manner.

Linked to These Chicks CookedSweet Treats ThursdaySweet Tooth Friday, Sweets for a SaturdaySweet Indulgences Sunday.

Friday, June 24, 2011

pesto rolls.

I first came across these while blog surfing. The idea of them enamoured me. Rolled up just like a cinnamon roll, but filled with savory green pesto. I've always liked peeling the layers of cinnamon rolls off as I worked through them, slowly nibbling my way to the prized centre of gooey, sugary buttery ooze.

I've never tried pesto before, but I like the sound of it. Some greens (harmless, I assure you), pine nuts (one of my favourite nuts!), olive oil (yum...), garlic (love-hate relationship), parmesan cheese and a bit of salt. I used spinach instead of other kinds of leaves such as basil because I don't like the herby taste.

I love the way the pesto seeps into the dough when baked, like a self-buttering mechanism. I love love love these rolls, I couldn't just have one. But because the rolls spent barely 10 minutes in the oven, and pesto is raw to begin with, I found that I could still taste a slight grassiness of the spinach. Moo...

To explain their weird shape, I baked them in silicon brioche molds I bought in Europe during a quick sale. They cost only a few dollars! Silicon! I wanted, besides a unique shape, the rolls to bake up with soft sides instead of crusty edges, hence the molds. But of course, ordinary muffin tins work as well.

Pesto Rolls

Bread dough recipe

Pesto Ingredients
This pesto is rather stiff so that its easier to spread over the dough. You may also have leftovers. Feel free to substitute rocket, basil or any other leaves for the spinach. The pine nuts are interchangeable as well- walnuts seem to be popular too.

1 cup spinach
1 clove of crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan
salt to taste

Place spinach, pine nuts, garlic clove and lemon juice in a food processor. Process until the spinach has broken down a bit. With your food processor still running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Add parmesan cheese and process for about 7-10 more seconds. Stop the food processor and add salt to taste.

To assemble:
Roll out your dough as you would for cinnamon rolls, i.e. a rectangle. Spread the pesto over the dough, going as thick as you want. Roll it up, from any side is fine really, and divide by cutting the roll into your desired lengths and place in a pan to rise until doubled in size. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until the rolls sound hollow when tapped, about 10-15 minutes.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

chocolate pudding cake.

I read the recipe, I didn't understand it.

I made the recipe, I still don't understand it.

Luckily, you don't need to know how can a mish-mash of ingredients and boiling hot water transform into a sauce that sinks to the bottom without any spoon work. You know what? I think it's magic.

If the words chocolate, pudding and cake don't entice you, maybe one-bowl will. In fact, it's more like one-pan. All necessary mixing is done in the pan you're about to bake in, which is just mixing the dry ingredients, pouring the wet ingredients then mixing it into a thick gloopy batter. After that it's just pouring brown sugar, chocolate chips and boiling water with vanilla stirred in. Is it the easiest recipe I've done? Well, possibly.

The hardest part of this is only guessing when it's done, because obviously, the usual poke-a-skewer-into-the-middle-of-the-cake-and-if-it-comes-out-clean-it's-done method doesn't work here. You'll probably poke the skewer into the sauce, but then again, you might not, so maybe the poke-a-skewer-into-the-middle-of-the-cake-and-if-it-comes-out-clean-it's-done method does work. Hmm.

It's important to let it cool a bit, even though its best consumed warm. This is not just for tongue-burning protection, but to also allow the sauce to thicken up. I took a long time to take pictures so my sauce thickened more than I would like. I think waiting for about 5 minutes should be just right, depending on the size of your batch. I made a quarter of the recipe and ate it all by myself. I'm sorry. Yeah right.

The best word to describe this is... comforting. The moist, soft spongy cake, the indulgent fudge sauce, the slight crispness of the crust on top, all eaten together with just a bowl and a spoon, it's like high-class baby food. Wait... maybe that sounds a little weird.

The best accompaniment is vanilla ice cream. I repeat, vanilla. There is no better flavour combination.

Chocolate Pudding Cake
recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups hot water

Preheat oven to 350F.

In an 8 x 8 inch square pan, stir together the flour, white sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Add milk and oil, mix well. Sprinkle brown sugar, remaining cocoa powder and chocolate chips over the batter. Add vanilla to the hot water, the pour the water over the top.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the surface appears dry.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Linked to These Chicks Cooked, Sweet Treats Thursday, Sweet Tooth Friday, Sweets for a Saturday, Sweet Indulgences Sunday.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

chocolate oatmeal almost candy bars.

If you're on a diet, even though I find that idea completely ridiculous, you should look away now. Go, go away. Shoo. Because if this wrecks your diet plan, I refuse to be held responsible.

The bottom layer is like a delicious chewy oatmeal cookie with salted peanut scattered in and around. The middle layer is a sticky fudgy raisin fudge. It's made with sweetened condensed milk, and that makes it easy but so bad. The top layer is basically a repeat of the first, but I made it special by adding broken up mini pretzels. If you're going to make this, please please please add the pretzels, but preferably don't add it before baking. It gets soft after the first hour so just take a few out of the bag and arrange it impromptu. 

The suggested serving size is a square this big, an eighth of a 8 x 4.5 inch loaf pan, for example. But unless you had a light meal, or are eating one on its own, I suggest you portion it smaller because it. is. huge. It may be the tallest bar cookie I've ever made. And I love it.

Dorie encourages you to try one at room temperature, although it would normally be chilled. It's hard to disagree with her, so I had both. I did it because of her. Uh huh. 

The only significant difference is in texture. If you like a dense, chocolate bar kind of texture, you'll probably go for chilled. But you need to gnaw on it, just giving you the heads up. At room temperature, its much easier to fork, and the chocolate layer is something akin to cooled down fudge sauce- not quite fluid, yet not quite stiff.

Go on, make some. You know you want to.

Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars 
recipe from Baking: From My Home to Yours

For the oatmeal layer:
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups (packed) brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned (rolled) oats
1 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

For the chocolate layer:
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
¾ cup coarsely chopped peanuts, preferably salted

Getting ready:
Center a rack in the oven, and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, and place the pan on a baking sheet.

To make the oatmeal layer:
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until it is soft and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat for 2 minutes, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating for a minute after each egg goes in. Beat in the vanilla. The mixture should be light and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing just until they disappear. Still on low speed, or working by hand with a rubber spatula, stir in the oats and chopped peanuts.
Set aside 1½ to 2 cups of the mixture, then turn the remaining dough into the buttered pan. Gently and evenly press the dough over the bottom of the pan. Set aside while you prepare the next layer.

To make the chocolate layer:
Set a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Put the condensed milk, chocolate chips, butter, and salt in the bowl and stir occasionally until the milk is warm and the chocolate and butter are melted. Remove the bowl from the pan of water and stir in the vanilla, raisins (if using), and peanuts.
Pour the warm chocolate over the oatmeal crust, then scatter the remaining oatmeal mixture over the top. Don’t try to spread the oatmeal, and don’t worry about getting the topping even — this is fun, remember?

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the chocolate layer is dull and starting to come away from the sides of the pan. Transfer the baking pan to a rack and cool for about 2 hours.
Run a blunt knife between the edges of the cake and the pan, and carefully turn the cake out onto a rack. Turn right side up, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cutting.
Cut into 32 rectangles, each roughly 2¼ by 1½ inches. Makes 32 bars.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

poppy chow.

An adorable name, yet strangely off-putting due to its likeness to dog food. In fact, the actual version, puppy chow, actually suggests this. I gather that it is Crispix cereal coated in a chocolate-peanut butter-powdered sugar mixture, but because this version uses popcorn instead, hence the word poppy. Get it?

This is the other flavour of popcorn I was referring to in a previous post. I quite like this too and I can't seem to decide which I like better, this or the caramel one. I love the hardened pools of fudginess in the nooks and crannies of the popcorn where it didn't get mixed evenly but the downside is that it gets soggy more quickly, especially in my kind of weather.

Even though the recipe suggests 1 1/2 cups of icing sugar to coat, I found that I only needed 1/4 cup for a half batch, 1/2 cup for a full. The icing sugar not only makes the poppy chow looks like it has been buried under a layer of angelic snow, but when coating the surfaces of the popcorn, it somehow stops the chocolate-peanut butter coating from melting and plastering to the sides of whichever unfortunate container you are using.

I used pretzels in this mix again! Chocolate-peanut butter coated pretzels? Need I say more?

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Popcorn {Poppy Chow}
recipe taken from Brown Eyed Baker
9 cups plain popcorn
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups powdered sugar *I needed only 1/2 cup
Optional but very delicious: mini pretzels, crushed and salted peanuts
Put the popcorn in a very large bowl.
In a microwave (at 50% power) or over a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter until melted and smooth. Stir in the vanilla.
Pour the chocolate mixture all over the popcorn. Using a large spoon, stir until all of the popcorn is evenly coated with the chocolate/peanut butter mixture.
Sift the powdered sugar over the chocolate-covered popcorn and stir until each piece is evenly coated. Spread the mixture out onto a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes or until the chocolate is set. *I let it set first before stirring the powdered sugar. So the order goes like this- sift, set, stir.
Break it up and serve! Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Monday, June 20, 2011

caramel pretzel salted peanut popcorn.

Firstly, it isn't purely caramel. I added honey in there too because I ran out of corn syrup. But because its taste doesn't show up in the final product, although you can smell it while its cooking, I decided to leave the honey out of the name.

It all started with Garrett's Popcorn. I visited one of its outlets, at Resorts World Sentosa, last week and its mushroom-shaped, caramel coated crunchy popcorn has been sticking in my mind. I read recipes of popcorn before- they don't look difficult. So why not, I thought to myself, recreate a homely version of Garrett's without the exorbitant price and more freedom of choice of combinations?

Thinking about it was the easy part.

I burnt my popcorn the first two times. It wasn't the lack of oil, there was definitely enough, but rather the lack of technique. I was about to give up hope if I didn't succeed the third time but luckily, I came across this wonderful method which finally led me to sweet sweet success. I didn't have any un-popped kernels at all! Although some were burnt because I forgot to shake the wok after one time.

Here's the mind-boggling thing I found out after researching on various popcorn recipes- some called for a lot of butter, some moderate and some little, like this recipe from Baking Bites I followed eventually. I have no idea how how much or how little butter can affect a caramel chemically, so I decided to follow what I wanted taste wise.

I like caramel pure. Meaning, without cream or butter so that the true flavour of caramelization stands out. That was why I settled on Baking Bite's recipe. There is one exception, however, and that is See's Candies peanut brittle. Even though it has those dairy components that would, in my opinion, dull a caramel, I never fail to get it whenever I'm in America (or when anyone I know goes there). Either I decide on the pure brittle itself, or in a form of dark, milk or white chocolate-enthrobed squares. Or both. I remembered carrying 6 pounds worth of See's while touring around San Francisco. Quite willingly and very happily.

I got what I wanted. This popcorn is not as buttery as Garrett's but light and crisp, and is definitely worth the burned pots because of the pretzels. I ended up picking out nearly all the pretzel pieces for myself even though the popcorn was supposed to be the star of the show, or at least the bag. Sweet caramel, salty pretzels, is that the combination or what? If you're too lazy to make popcorn, just use all pretzels instead. You're not missing out on anything.

Out of the oven, every morsel was crunchy and crispy with shards of caramel but after a few hours, it started to soften a little. I guess that's the problem with my humid weather, but a re-crisp in a 350F oven restored it to its former glory.

I stored it in this huge, adorable popcorn tin I dug up from the depths of the storeroom. I think I got it when my whole family went for a movie a few years back and went on a popcorn splurge. The other packet behind? That's another flavour, and another post. I think this one is long-winded enough as it is already.

Caramel Popcorn

8-10 cups popcorn
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 tsp molasses
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
Optional: mini pretzels and salted peanuts 
Pop corn and let cool. If using mini pretzels, crush them into smaller pieces. Line a 10×15 pan with lightly greased foil or a Silpat. Preheat oven to 250F. Place glass bowl in oven to warm while making the caramel.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, molasses and butter; bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until the mixture reaches 250F and is at hard-ball stage. This will take 2 to 3 minutes.In the meantime, transfer popcorn to now-warm glass bowl.
Remove pan from the heat and immediately stir in salt, baking soda and vanilla. Pour the mixture over the popcorn, stirring until most of the kernels are coated. Pour mixture onto baking sheet.
Bake popcorn for 1 hour, stirring (and if necessary, spreading out) every 15-20 minutes.
Let cool and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

persimmon packets.

It was not the alliteration that drawn me to this recipe, I assure you, as the original name was actually Apricot Packets, basically wedges of the fruit with sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper and tea leaves sprinkled over before wrapped in a parcel of parchment or aluminum and tightly sealed, like its fate when being sent into the oven. I got this recipe, not surprisingly, from a book entitled Desserts by Pierre Herme. I think such an exotic recipe can be expected from him and is exactly why he is one of my respected pastry heroes, never yawn-inducing and absolutely brilliant.

I chose to substitute persimmon simply because that's what I had and also as it was bordering on the blackened, over-ripened stage. I wonder if you feel the same way too- spoiling fruit? Bake them, not throw! At least that rule applies to bananas.

I've seen this method of wrapping an edible with aromatics in a packet applied to fish before, in one of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks, but I've never seen one for desserts. I guess that was the deciding factor for me to carry out this recipe.

This is a baked dessert which doneness cannot be foretold by scent, but rather by the puffiness of its packet. When it looks like an inflated balloon, you can take it out. Snip open the parcel while it's hot, if you choose to unfold the creases with your bare hands, I daresay you will need to freeze your hands first. Anyway, when you release the steam from inside the packet, you should get this heady scent of citrus with pepper and tea following meekly behind. That was what I got, but because there were no specific amounts of aromatics given, you may get a different perfume depending on how heavy or light-handed you were.

This actually had a accompanying sauce made up of ricotta cheese, sugar, honey and orange flower water. But I changed the orange flower water to vanilla because I didn't have any. I thought I could use cottage instead of ricotta cheese and I could have worked. I say could have because I never got round to sampling the sauce fully. My cottage cheese turned bad, to cut a long story short, and it tasted horrible. So I can't account for the taste. Although, the thickness of the sauce was just right despite the low fat substitution. 

i love eating out of jars these days

Because I'm not sure if I can repost the recipe here, I'm just going to give you a brief rundown of the ingredients. Anyway, the measurements given are not exact. So what you need are: apricots each cut into eights, 1 tablespoon of sugar per 16 slices, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per 16 slices (adjust according to taste), lemon zest, salt, pepper and tea (from a tea bag). Package each portion in aluminum foil or parchment. Bake in a 350F oven until the parcel is puffy. 

I hope you find this as interesting as I did!