Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Baker's June Challenge: Danish Braid

This was my second Daring Bakers Challenge and I was really excited to see what this month would have in store. Last month's Opera Cake was a very challenging task, and in comparison this month's task didn't seem too daunting... so I pressed on. In fact, I was so eager to complete this challenge that I started and finished it on the day the challenge was originally posted on the DB forum... this was awesome because it meant I could start the month off on a great note, but also sad because it meant I would have to find other good recipes/things to do with the rest of the month.

Anyways, on with the challenge, I was excited that I would be able to put my newly aquired yeast-baking skills to good use (I use to be hopeless with yeast, but now yeast and I have become very good friends :P). I followed the recipe exactly as posted, but seeing as how the braid dough would make enough for 2 braids and the DB recipe only gave one filling option, I was free to play around a bit with the spare braid. So, one of the pastries was filled with the DB apple filling and my experimental pastry was filled with blueberry preserves and cream cheese. Both of them were equally delicious, and my sister who is in love with blueberries really enjoyed the blueberry cream cheese filling.

The Danish Braid
So, this challenge entails making and working with yeasted laminated dough. The original recipe comes from Sherry Yard's "The Secrets of Baking" and is titled "Danish Braid"

Cool To Know:
• Danish dough is in the family of butter-laminated or layered doughs with puff pastry being the ultimate. Danish dough is sweet and is yeast-leavened, however, where as puff pastry is not.
• The process of making Danish dough is less complex than that of puff pastry, but equally as important to achieve best results, and a great starting place to begin to learn about laminated doughs in general.
• Danish dough is extremely versatile, and once made can be used for a variety of baked goods. The possibilities are endless.

• Laminated dough – is layered dough created by sandwiching butter between layers of dough
• Detrempe – ball of dough
• Beurrage – butter block
• Turn – each “fold & roll” of the dough produces a single turn in a 3-step process where the dough is folded exactly like a business letter in 3 columns. Each single turn creates 3 layers with this method.

Baking Notes:
• Use well-chilled ingredients. This includes flour if your kitchen temperature is above 70 degrees F (~ 21 degrees C).

• It is recommended that long, continuous strokes be used to roll the dough rather than short, jerky strokes to make sure the butter block is evenly distributed.

• The 30-minute rest/cooling period for the dough between turns is crucial to re-chill the butter and allow the gluten in the dough to relax.
• Excess flour accumulated on the surface of the dough after turns should be brushed off as pockets of flour can interfere with the rise.

• Yard calls for a “controlled 90 degree F environment” for proofing the constructed braid. Please refer to this chart to assist you in this stage of the challenge:
• When making cuts in the dough for the braid, make sure they are not too long and provide a solid base for the filling.

Additional Resources:
Julia Child: Lessons with Master Chefs (Video cut for a Danish Pastry Braid by Beatrice Ojakangas who is the featured baker of the Danish Braid recipe in Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.)

The Recipe

DANISH DOUGH (Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough)

Ingredients For the dough (Detrempe)
- 1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/3 cup sugar
- Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 2 large eggs, chilled
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Dough Directions:

1. With standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed.
2. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well.
3. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated.
4. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky.
5. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
6. Without a standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk.
7. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well.
8. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even.
9. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges.
10. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.

Butter-block Directions:

1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.
2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.
APPLE FILLING (Makes enough for two braids)

- 4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Filling Directions:

1. Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl.
2. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 - 8 minutes. Then add the apple mixture and sauté until apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. (Fuji apples will be caramelized, but still retain their shape!)
3. Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the braid. (If making ahead, cool to room temperature, seal, and refrigerate.) They cool faster when spread in a thin layer over the surface of the sheet.
4. After they have cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Left over filling can be used as an ice cream topping, for muffins, cheesecake, or other pastries.

DANISH BRAID (Makes enough for 2 large braids)

- 1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
- 2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see below)
- For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

Braid Directions:

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.

2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.

3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking
1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.
2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.

This challenge was really quite fun. It didn't take as long as I had thought it would, and the time spent waiting between turns of the butter-block passed by very quickly. The orange zest and the cardammom in the danish dough added a wonderful aroma to a very rich and flakey pastry. Even if there wasn't any filling, I would be content to eat the dough all by itself.

The additional resources really helped with the assembly of the braid. And after looking through the method, and reading about the steps it took no time at all to put the braid together. The puff pastry was nice and flakey and so very buttery. As for the filling, I think I could have chopped the apples into smaller pieces; it may make it easier to fold the braid without having apple chunks pop out. The blueberry-cream cheese filling was very smooth in texture and allowed for the braid to made quite tight, with no filling leakage.

Overall, this challenge was a success. I will definitely be making this recipe again, but will probably half it because two braids was way to much pastry for my family to consume. Hooray for DBers and congrats to all who completed this month's challenge!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pesto Pasta

A friend of mine gets a ton of free pasta from his friend, who supplies the big grocers like Superstore, Safeway, Save-on and Olivieri. My family doesn't normally buy the pre-made, filled pastas... we usually just stick to the dehydrated boxed spaghetti, rotini, fuscilli and linguini. So, when my friend told me that he was sick of pasta and offered me an entire box of tortellini I jumped at the offer. For dinner tonight we decided to try these filled pastas, but weren't sure what kind of sauce to pair it up with. My parents decided on a bottled Alfredo sauce, but I wasn't going to let this chance to be creative with pasta get away from me.

I had always wanted to try making my own pesto; and it looking at the ingredients list, it didn't seem too time consuming or too expensive. So I set off to gather all the ingredients necessary.

Pesto Pasta

- 700-750g box of filled tortellini
- 1 recipe of pesto (recipe to follow)
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 stalks of asparagus, chopped into 2-inch pcs and boiled
- 1 orange pepper, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
- 1 1/2 tbsp italian seasoning (or Mrs. Dash)
- 1/4 cup pine nuts

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, removing them from the boiling water about 1 minute before they are completely finished cooking. Drain pasta, set aside.

2. Meanwhile, fry garlic in olive oil and add in the boiled asparagus, orange pepper and mushrooms; fry but don't allow vegetables to become soft. Add italian seasoning to the vegetables continue to fry for 1 minute.

3. In a large skillet, fry the vegetable mixture and the pasta over medium heat; coat the pasta well with the vegetables and oil.

4. Add in pesto gradually, by the tablespoon, and stir to coat the pasta. Continue to add enough pesto to add a fragrant taste to your dish. Once the taste is as you like it, remove pasta from heat, place on serving plates and garnish with pine nuts.

- 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 2 cups basil leaves , roughly chopped
- 1/2 cups parsley, roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- salt + pepper to taste

1. Add garlic, basil, parley and oil to a blender/food processor and pulse until it forms a thick paste. Add more oil, or water if necessary to blend the ingredients.

2. Remove the herb paste from the food processor and combine it with the parmesan cheese in a small bowl; add in salt and pepper to taste. Set aside while you cook the pasta and veggies.

My parents were content with their alfredo tortellini, but I quite enjoyed this pesto dish. The pasta was fragrant, but not too strong that it over-powered the taste of the pasta. After eating my pesto pasta, I tried a little bit of the alfredo pasta and found it way too salty. My mom and dad were adventurous enough to sample my dish, but my sisters didn't find the idea of green pasta appetizing... oh, kids... so funny. I had some pesto left over from dinner and decided to save it for later use. I think I'll have some tomorrow, with some french bread or cheese and crackers... wow, so classy :P

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mochi Bread

I'm still searching for the perfect recipe for Baked Mochi Bread. After being intrigued by all the bloggers who have baked these chewy treats, I am really wanting to make some myself. Sadly, all of their recipes require a pre-mix which I am unable to find at my local grocery stores and I'm not sure if it's worth an arm and a leg to order the pre-mix from an online store. The best I can do is buy the Mochi-bread from my local market and enjoy the lovely taste and texture while imagining that I've made it from scratch.

I bought a bag of Baked Mochi Bread from Hannam, the local Korean grocer, and it was pretty pricey. 6 pcs for $4.50!! Wah, I guess that's because they don't have much demand for the bread, so they don't have economy of scale. Oh well, I was willing to shelf out the cash just to try this bread... and I'm glad I did.

The bread was crisp on the outside, while being fluffy and chewy on the inside. I quite enjoyed it, and the black sesame seeds added a hint of a nutty flavor.

Check out these blogs, that talk about baked mochi:

Baking n' Cooking
My Baking Escapades
Jagaimo Blog
Baking Fiend

Mmmm... Toasted Wrap

I don't usually plug food specials, but this one is a really good one. I work at KFC and the new Toasted Wrap is going to be our new promotion. I really think that this is one of the best deals on a snack-sandwich out there. There's the KFC snacker, which is kind of boring if you ask me (just a bun with lettuce, mayo and chicken); there's the Quizno's Sammie (which is actually pretty good for $2); there's the McDonald's Snack-wrap (which I'm not too fond of) and now there's the new KFC Toasted Wrap! It's basically a Snack-wrap, but with the tortilla nicely toasted. The toasting gives the tortilla a nice crunch and a more smokey flavor.

Being a KFC employee, I've had a fun time fooling around with different combinations of ingredients and toasting the wraps. The best combo I've come up with so far is a toasted wrap with: bacon, shredded cheese, lettuce, bbq bacon-ranch sauce and tomatos. I'm sure you can ask them to club your toasted wrap and use the bbq sauce instead of pepper mayo... go for it, it's soooo worth it :)

Monday, June 23, 2008

SHF #44: Mmm... Canada

June 10th:
When I learned what the theme for this month's SHF was going to be (What Does Canada Taste Like to You?) I was extatic. Being Canadian and a lover of all foods/bakes Canadian (yes, even moose meat), I am possed with the challenge of attempting to compress all-Canadian goodness into a single recipe. For the original post see:

Perhaps I will combine this month's SHF with my Father's Day brunch... I love killing two birds with one stone :)

June 23rd:
Okay, so since this SHF Blog Event required that the post be made between June 23-28 I've had to wait since Father's day to post my entry. It's been a hard and long wait, but I've gotten use to it (having to wait for the reveal date with the DBers and all). So, without further adieu... here is my Mmm... Canada entry

Maple-Bacon Pound Cake with Sweet Maple Glaze

- 2 cups all purpose flour

- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup bacon drippings, cooled
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup milk (could use sour cream/yogurt if you want it more creamy)
- 1 recipe for Maple Glaze (recipe follows)
- 3 slices of bacon, cut in half
- Demarara sugar to decorate (optional)

1. Pre-heat oven to 350F; prepare an 9x5 inch loaf pan (butter + dust with flour).

2. Prepare the bacon by cutting the 3 slices into halves, sandwiching them between 2 sheets of waxed paper and rolling them out into thin bacon sheets. Fry the bacon in a non-stick skillet until crispy, reserving the bacon drippings for the cake batter. Drain the crisp bacon on paper towel, allow to cool and crumble into pieces. Set aside

3. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

4. Cream together the butter, bacon drippings and sugar until fluffy, about 3mins. Add in the eggs and combine well. Add in the maple syrup and vanilla.

5. Add the flour mixture in gradually, alternating with the milk. Mix until just combined; scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

6. Bake for 35-40mins or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10mins, then completely cool the loaf on a wire rack.

7. Once cake is cooled, drizzle on Maple Glaze and decorate the cake with the bacon bits and demarara sugar.

Sweet Maple Glaze

- 2 cups confectioner's sugar
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp milk

1. Combine maple syrup and confectioner's sugar, mixture will be thick.
2. Add in the milk, in small additions, until the glaze is of a good "drizzling" consistency.

If this cake doesn't scream CANADA! then I'm not quite sure what would :P (perhaps next time I'll try this recipe using Canadian, but for now I think I'll give my arteries a fighting chance by not making this cake for at least a month). This recipe was very tasty and moist; the cake was perfect, and was not too bacon-y or too maple-y. You may think that this combination in a cake would taste very odd, but it was divine and my father really enjoyed it for breakfast. The salty-sweet combination really enhances the bacon flavor and creates a very enjoyable auroma in the kitchen. Instead of waking up to the smell of fried bacon, why not wake up to a Maple Bacon Cake? Try it!!!

Update: July 1st

Check out the Mmm... Canada Round up and other blogger's SHF treats Here!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ode to a Square Cookie

Today my other sister asked me to help her bake some chocolate chip cookies for her class party. This called for a really good recipe for my favorite cookies... these C-chip Cookies are the best, seriously... the best. For some reason, I can't stand the cookies from the supermarkets; they're always too crunchy, not soft and gooey, and are all crumbly and dry (only good for dipping in your espresso :P). Well, if you are like me and enjoy cookies that are soft, chewy and full of sugary-buttery-chocolatey-melt-in-your-mouth goodness then you'll love these cookies. Just don't be a silly "time-save" like me and try to squeeze all your 24 cookies onto one pan, or you'll end up with funny square ones!

Chewy-Gooey C-chip Cookies

- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp instant coffee granules, crushed
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350F
2. Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy; add in the egg and vanilla.
3. Combine remaining ingredients (except for the chocolate chips) in a separate bowl and then add to the butter mixture.
4. Mix batter until flour is well incorporated, then add in the chocolate chips
5. Flour your hands and roll 1 tbsp balls, and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Do not flatten the cookies, they will melt and be perfectly shaped.
6. Bake for 8-10mins for chewy cookies, 13mins for more crisp cookies.

These cookies are amazing, they melt in your mouth and are perfect for a bake-sale as everyone will want to try them. They taste almost exactly like the pre-packaged tollhouse cookies, but being homemade, you know exactly what's going into them is the best stuff :) I put my sister in charge of baking these puppies and she said that the recipe was so easy and the end result was just what she was looking for. Try it, you'll love it!

We had enough batter left over to make 3 very cute round cookies. Awww...

Here's mister squishy face

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ooo lala, Tiger Brownies!

What's great about the end of the school year is that the teachers always ask their students to bring some goodies to the end-of-year class party. What this usually means is that the parents (or the sister, being me :P) gets to dirty their hands in the kitchen and whip up some incredible treats for the youngsters to ooooo and aaaahhh at. My sister was asked to bring brownies to her class party, but I was bored/sick-and-tired of making plain ol' chocolate brownies and decided to try my hand and making some tiger brownies. These brownies were inspired by my love for brownies and blondies and my want to have them combined in a harmonious marriage of sweeeeeeett matrimony. Oh, too often have blondies been smothered and forgotten amongst the shadows of their more loved sister the brownie... but it's not the brownies fault. I tried to explain the "Tiger Brownie" recipe to my sister and she was thoroughly confused when I mentioned "blondie", she wasn't quite sure what that was.

Tiger Brownies with Shortbread Crust

Shortbread Ingredients:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled
- 1 large egg yolk

1. Combine flour, sugars and salt.
2. Cut in butter using pastry cutter, until mixture resembles course crumbs (pea sized chunks).
3. Add in the slightly beaten egg yolk.
4. Press 3/4 of the mixture into an 8x8 square baking pan (lined with foil for easy removal) and bake at 350F for 8mins.
5. Remove crust and let cool, while you make the brownie topping.

Brownie Recipe: I used
this recipe for the brownie topping. Follow the directions exactly, except omit the chocolate chunks & nuts (I'll explain why later) and it'll make enough for one 8x8 pan (but since we're using 1/2 this recipe and 1/2 a blondie recipe, you'll have extra... I used the extra to make a Yin-Yang 6-inch round Tiger Brownie pie!)

Blondie Ingredients:

- 1/4 + 1/8 cup melted butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup chocolate chips (do not add directly to mix... I'll explain later)

1. Combine butter and sugars, mixing until well incorporated.
2. Add in egg and vanilla
3. Mix in the flour and salt. (Note: mixture should be the consistency of softened butter cream. If too stiff, add in 1 tbsp light corn syrup and 2 tbsp milk)

1. Take finished shortbread crust and prepare to assemble the tiger brownies.
2. Place 1/2 the brownie mixture in a piping bag, without any fancy tips.
3. Place 1/2 the blondie mixture into a separate piping bag.
(Note: The chocolate chunks/chips/nuts were not added because they would clog up the piping bag tip, if youre chocolate/nuts would fit through the tip you may add them directly to the mixes)
4. Take the brownie bag and pipe a line of the batter directly on top of the shortbread crust. Now take the blondie mixture and do the same. The batters should touch and you should not see any of the shortbread crust.
5. Continue piping until the pan is full (all the batter will not be used up).
6. Use the excess batter for whatever you like!
7. Bake the Tiger Brownies at 350F for 30-35mins, or until fully cooked.
8. Remove from oven, cool completely and cut into bars. Makes 16 bars and approx 8 extra chunks if you bake the excess batter.

Here's my little 6-inch Tiger Brownie Pie... looks like Yin-Yang. This made those extra 8 chunks.

The Tiger Brownie Pie wedges were very cute, I just had to take a photo

My sister was quite impressed with the end result, as was I. After making this recipe, I had a whole lot of mess to clean up around the kitchen. Melted chocolate, sticky fingers from piping bag catastrophes :P (somehow I just can't pipe without the batter getting all over my hands... and in my mouth). The brownies baked perfectly, and the blondie portion was to-die-for. I will definitely make this recipe again. Yum... I can't wait until my other sister's class party.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tapioca Pudding

I know, it would have been just as easy and probably cheaper to head down to the grocery store and buy some Hunt's Tapioca Pudding... but I'm lazy, shiver at the thought of driving around on an almost empty tank, and just had to use up some of the ingredients hanging around my house.

Tapioca Pudding

- 2 tbsp cornstarch + 3 tbsp milk (thickening) slurry
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup condensed milk
- 2 1/2 tbsp dried tapioca pearls
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Combine cornstarch and milk in a saucepan and mix until conrstarch is dissolved.

2. Slowly add in the tapioca pearls and continue to cook them until just underdone (not fully transparent, and still slightly chewy)

3. Add in the salt and the condensed milk, continue to cook over medium-high heat until the mixture thickens to a "slightly thinner than pudding" stage.

4. Add in vanilla extract, continue to cook pudding until tapioca pearls are fully cooked. Remove saucepan from heat and let stand at room temperature until cooled and nicely thickened.

5. Serve warm or chilled.

The pudding was very sweet, almost too sweet... but truthfully, I love all things sweet... I could almost eat sugar as-is :P (Bad I know) This pudding, although sweet, was enjoyed by all in my household. The vanilla and milk, dilute the intense flavor of the condensed milk and make this one of the best tapioca puddings I had ever eaten. The recipe's so simple, I can't believe I haven't tried making it sooner. No more Kozy Shack Pudding for this family :P

Monday, June 16, 2008

Father's Day '08

Saturday June 14th

The tradition for celebrating Father's day in our household is to have the Father's day breakfast on the Saturday morning before Father's Day Sunday. That way, our stomaches are prepared for whatever brunch throws our way on the big day! (We're so smart that way :P)

My plan for breakfast was to make a one-plate simple dish that everyone could enjoy. The idea was to make a savoury "gruel" type of dish and what I ended up with was perfect. The main attraction was the creamy polenta, with andouille sausage, tomatoes, feta and cilantro. The combination may sound daunting, but it was quite delicious. To accompany the very striking dish, I decided to do a simple fried egg and some swiss chard... this combo was also very tasty.

My sisters loved the spicy andouille sausage, although one of my sisters decided that the sausage-feta topping was more tasty than the polenta and left that part aside :( And I thought that everyone loved corn.

To find the recipe for the creamy polenta and sausage click here!

Sunday June 15th

Continuing the tradition, the family went to Boston Pizza for the "Dad's Eat Free" special. Being the crazy asian gal that I am, I joined the Boston Pizza email club and got a coupon for a free entree, which I planned on using for our meal :P (It's tough to make money off of this family)

My Dad got the usual, the Boston Brute... A sandwich filled with bacon, salami, pepperoni, ham, mozarella cheese and marinara sauce usually $10.95, but for the special man, this meal was free! Woot!

This was my quesadilla, filled with chicken, cheese and green onions. Not too shabby, considering this was my free entrée! Woot!

My mom and I had originally wanted to try the Sante Fe Chicken Stromboli, but they didn't have any tomatos (due to the tomato recall) so we settled on this Thai Chicken Wrap. We scoured the menu for our BP favorite (the Thai Chicken Salad) but it was nowhere to be found :( the wrap was okay, came with a side of garlic toast (I'm not quite sure that it was the best side for this dish... Italian and Thai are not the usual combo) and was also $10.95

For $12.95, this Ham, Chicken and Bacon salad was pretty good. It came surrounded by slivers of tortilla chips (which I think needed salsa/sour cream) and a side of garlic toast. My sister really enjoyed this dish and ate everything (except the olives of course)!

My other sister can't get enough of pasta, especialy chicken alfredo/fetuccini. Give her any menu and she'll go looking for the pasta section. This dish was just so-so, we've had many delicious pastas in the past, and you can't really improve on pasta (I mean, carbs and buttery sauce... what could be better?). I wouldn't pay the $13.95 that they were asking, but hey... it's a special occasion.

Sidebar: This meal outing was the first time that I've actually felt the price increase on food hit me. I mean, I can't believe that my appetizer (which thank goodness, was free) woulc have been $9.95. I mean, It's an appetizer and basically a single tortilla with cheese and chicken (I could probably get it from taco time for 4 bucks... or free :P). And $12.95 for a salad was pretty extreme; $13.95 for pasta! WHAT! I guess we'll be feeling our hard earned dollar slowly having to stretch... especially us bakers, who will be paying much more for baking supplies! I just can't look anymore... first the gas prices and now food! Man, it's gonna cost a lot to live in this country :s

Aside from that, the celebration was a success. Although we felt really thirsty after the meal (must be all that sodium/MSG) we expended lots of pent-up energy by going to the park and playing a nice, long round of tennis in the beautiful sun. It was a lovely day to celebrate the greatness of dad!


Sunday, June 15, 2008

What do I do on My Day off?

I wasn't scheduled to work at KFC last wednesday, so what did I do? Well, the smart guess would have been "bake"... but technically I didn't really do that, but I applaude you for the wise guess. Instead I went to the Cloverdale Bakery, which is run by a Fijian man who, while currently on vacation, has left the store in the hands of my good friend. The store is usually operated by a one-person team from 9:00am-5:00pm... boy, if I were made to work all by myself I think I'd cry (well, either that or gorge myself on baked goods :P).

So, on my day off I went to the bakery and offered my friend some company. She was very happy to have company and showed me all around the little Danish Bakery, which despite the small exterior, was a maze behind the counter. I aided my friend in creating and displaying some of the sweets and then once we were really, truly done everything we made up and impromptu St. Honore cake.

When you have all the ingredients at your disposal (the profiteroles, whipped cream, bavarian cream, melted chocolate, vanilla sponge cake and sugar cookie base) the cake can be assembled in no time at all. Et voila! Here is my finished St. Honore cake. Okay, we couldn't find the roux ring that was suppose to go in the bottom layer, so we use profiteroles instead (which made the cake easier to cut), and we made it really, really small... but it was deliciously sweet and my friend and I were proud to call it our own.

Saffron Cookies

I had purchased some saffron from a local market the other day and wanted to give it a try. The saffron was a decent price and I was willing to splurge a bit on a new ingredient. Now I just had to find a recipe that would be worthy of the lovely spice. I searched the internet and came up with this recipe from pieKnits and decided that I would attempt these lovely cookies.

To tell you the truth, I was a bit disappointed with the results. I'm not sure if it was because of the ingredients, or that I only let the saffron infuse for 1hr that did me in but these cookies didn't have that "saffron-y" punch that I was looking for. There was a mild saffron taste to them, but not enough to make me go "wow!" Perhaps I will look for more high-quality saffron in the future and give this recipe another go, and then I will let the saffron infuse in the milk for a good 2-3hrs.

All saffron-less-ness aside, the cookies turned out to be a pretty good vanilla cookie. The texture was nice; not too soft and not too hard. In fact, these cookies shared almost the same texture as a Mrs. Fields vanilla sugar cookie. If I wanted to make another wonderful sugar cookie, I would definitely use this recipe

Monday, June 09, 2008

Kueh Talam

I was feeling a little hungry for some Malaysian goodies again, but wasn't quite sure what to make. Remembering that I had a bag of green bean flour just lying around, un-opened, I decided to put it to good use. Now... what Kueh could I possibly make that required green bean flour? I know... Kueh Talam :) and I have all of the ingredients at my disposal.

Kueh Talam
Ingredients (A)
- 70g (~3/4cups) rice flour
- 30g (~1/4cups) green bean flour
- 270ml water

Ingredients (B)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbsp pandan paste

Ingredients (C)
- 225ml thick santan
- 1 1/2 tbsp green bean flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 75ml water
- 1/4 cup rice flour

1. Mix ingredients (A) and set aside to soak for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Combine ingredients (B) in a small pot, until pandan paste is thoroughly distributed. Add in mixture (A) to the sugar and pandan. Cook over low heat and stir continuously until the batter thickens and becomes slightly translucent.

3. Pour the mixture into a greased 20cm cake tin. Smooth out the batter with a plastic spatula, and steam for 20-30mins.

4. For coconut layer, mix ingredients (C) together and soak for 10 minutes. When pandan batter is finished steaming, pour the coconut layer over the cooked green layer. Steam for another 10 minutes.

5. Cool the kuih well and slice into small diamond-shaped pieces.

The top layer of the kueh didn't need any sugar to be added, because the bottom layer was sweet enough for the entire dessert. My sister really loved the pandan layer, and told me that she could eat an entire bowl of it... maybe I'll make that for her b-day and she'll be more than pleased :P My mom commented that the pandan layer could have been a bit more gelatinous, as it was more gummy and mushy than what she was expecting. Perhaps next time, I will add more rice flour to the pandan mixture ... but overall, this kueh was very tasty.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

California '08 Picture Show (Part 2)

May 26, 2008

Awww... aren't we a happy looking bunch?!

Yeah! Pirates was opened this time :) ... sadly, I remember the ride being a lot more exciting as a child

Splash Mountain... always a good time. Boy did I get soaked!

Lunch-time: Spicy Beef Kabob from Bengal BBQ in Adventure Land

Onion Rings from Critter Country

Ham and Cheese BLT on Foccacia at Critter Country

Mmmm... Boudin Bakery Tour. Their sourdough samples are the best... I really enjoyed learning how sourdough is made, and I am now in search of the perfect sourdough recipe.

Late night candy-time on Disneyland's Mainstreet

May 27, 2008

I was really excited to go to Six-flags and was all ready to try every ride. But sadly, the bus came to pick us up late and we got to the park around 10:30am... aww, half the day was already gone :( To boot, the line ups were 3xs as long at Six-flags than at Disneyland. My friends and I waited in line for 90mins to ride the new X2 ride (totally worth it btw, but a serious time robber).

The line up for this one was about 1 hr, not bad for an amazing ride. I loved this one, it reverses you backwards until you are completely vertical, drops you and then takes you on a billion loops. Then, you climb up vertically and fall backwards, going back the way you came... explains why it's called Deja Vu!

The Riddler: You sit on something that looks like a bicycle seat, place your feet on the floor and have an overhead harness. It's kind of like you're squatting/standing on this ride. I could feel the blood rushing to my toes... weird

After a long day of thrill-seeking, we went back to the hotel for a late night dinner of Chinese take-out. Let me say that American Chinese take-out is 10xs worse than it's Canadian counterpart. Their wonton soup had only thin stringy noodles, chunks of pork and 3 pcs of bok choy. The chow mein was greasy, made with Shanghai noodles and a handful of bean sprouts. The only food to order from any Chinese place that starts with the name "Panda" (be it city, house, garden etc) would be egg rolls... which cannot possibly be made wrong.

May 28, 2008

Today we went on a Grand-Tour of Hollywood and the local hot-spots of Los Angeles. We started out at Olvera Street, passed Chinatown, drove and shopped through downtown LA, checked-out Grauman's Theater and the walk-of-fame, drove through Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, stopped off at Venice Beach, the Farmer's Market and the Fisherman's Village at Marina Del Ray.

Shopping local on Olvera Street

In front of Grauman's preparations were underway for the premiere of Don't Mess with the Zohan. Some people said that they saw Adam Sandler, but I don't know if he was actually there.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

California '08 Picture Show (Part 1)

May 25, 2008

A couple university friends and I decided that we needed a vacation and a way to celebrate completing 2 eventful (and stressful :P) years of study. What better way than to spend some of our blessed summer-time in the land of sun?! Yup, we were off to California, to enjoy the beaches the sun and of course... the mouse!

We left from Seatac Airport at aroung 4:30am. The drive across the border was actually not to bad. It was a Sunday so their was no rush of cars, and no morning commute traffic in downtown Seattle. Hooray! After 2 hours and 25mins... we are one step closer to reaching our destination.

I love these electronic ticket machines, so much easier and quicker than having to wait in long lines to get your boarding pass.
We had 1.5 hours to kill at Seatac and decided that we'd just relax in the food court. I of course had to have my java fix... my friends were more adventerous and tried Wendy's new breakfast menu.
Hmm... I dunno, it looks okay but my stomach may not be able to handle all that greasy goodness. It's almost like eating a cheeseburger for breakfast :P
And we have lift-off!

Happy to have landed safely in LAX!

After arriving in California, we were already making plans for the remainder of the day. Although our plans never really materialized (because we were just so exhausted from the travel), making plans always passes the time. We waited for our shuttle to take us to the hotel; we stayed at Cortona Inn and Suites... a pretty good hotel, in the hub of downtown Anaheim and within walking distance of Disneyland :)

After ditching our luggage at the hotel room, we decided that we should stock up on some much-needed grocery supplies. Hmm... bread? milk? fruit? water?.... Nah, those things can wait. In fact, I told the rest of the gang that we could probably grab all those things at the continental breakfast the next day (oh, my asian-ness comes out again).

One of the first purchases in California. You can't get this flavor in Canada! Although I expected it to be very boring, it was actually really good. Mmmm... fudge covered waffle cone pieces *drool*

May 26, 2008

Yup, what'd I tell ya... look at that continental breakfast spread. These danishes & donuts would be my staple food groups for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the theme parks :P

Ooo... carb-tastic. Waffles, and breads and jams... oh my!

Definitely not the name-brand stuff... but tasty none-the-less.

Silly, silly... my friend decided she liked her hard-boiled eggs hot. So, she stuck it in the microwave and yup... it exploded

Well, the beginning of our California adventure has turned out wonderfully (aside from the exploding egg). I can't wait to post pics of the rest of our trip... man, I really want to go back.