Sunday, September 28, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Lavash Crackers

Holy Moly!! I swear I finished this challenge within the first week of September... but I was just so busy I guess I forgot to post yesterday. I guess it's because I completed the challenge so early in the month that it just slipped my mind when the posting date was. I usually remember around the 28th/29th... but this one was for the 27th! Pretty early if you ask me... but whatevs. Well, I've eaten and enjoyed my crackers and "dip" and there are no longer any remnants remaining in my house... so the task now is to attempt to remember how great these crackers were. They actually were very tasty, for my variations of the cracker's spices I used: paprika, sesame seeds, cumin and fennel seeds. And for the accompanying "dip" I decided to bring a taste of the Southwest to the Arabic flat-bread. Anywho, here's my entry for the DBs challenge...

Lavash Crackers & Southwest Beans and Corn

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

- 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour

- 1/2 tsp salt

- 1/2 tsp instant yeast

- 1 tbsp sugar

- 1 tbsp vegetable oil

- 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp water, at room temperature

- Choice of spices: Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings


1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.


2. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.


4. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

7. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Southwest Beans and Corn


- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 jalapeño peppers, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 15 ounce can of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 16 ounces of frozen corn, thawed
- 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 orange pepper, diced
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cumin, ground
- 1/2 tsp black pepper

Optional: Sour cream or plain yogurt; black olives

1. Heat oil in medium non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeño pepper and garlic; cook and stir for 5 minutes.
2. Add in beans, corn, tomatoes, bell pepper, chili powder, salt, cumin and black pepper to slow skillet; mix well. Cover; cook on low heat for 15mins.
3. Dish out into serving bowl; accompanied with with sour cream and black olives if desired.

The crackers were very tasty and oh-so-easy to make. I couldn't believe that I had finished making and baking these crackers within 40mins! For a Daring Baker's Challenge, I was surprised to have been started and finished the task in the same day :P Anywho, my dad (who's all into eating healthfully nowadays) thought that these crackers were delicious and nutritious. My mom liked the paprika portion of the crackers, but wasn't too sure about the licorice-flavor of the fennel seeds (I suppose it's an aquired taste). One of my sisters really liked the crackers with jam... not what I was expecting her to eat it with, considering I made the lovely corn-bean salsa/relish/dip/whatever you want to call it, but at least she was going back for seconds. My other sister (who is a little less adventurous) wouldn't go near them... she said they smelled funny... but in my opinion, the auroma was sensational.

I think I will definitely be making these crackers in the future. Way to go Daring Bakers!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cupcakes and Marshmallows

I was having much too much fun playing around with this month's SHF event. The theme for SHF #47 was ... duh, CUPCAKES! I wasn't quite sure what to make of the event, sometimes I can't think when I'm given a theme that's too narrow and allows for no creativity... but then other times I feel so overwhelmed with ideas that I find it difficult to pin-point exactly what I want to bake. My issue this SHF, was the latter. But thankfully, I figured it out in time for posting on September 26th... whew, cutting it close.

The flavor combination was a tricky one for me to churn out. I wanted something different, but also something that I knew my sisters would eat. And so, I settled on this...

Cookies & Cream Cupcakes with Strawberry-Marshmallow Buttercream

Cupcake Ingredients:
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1-2/3 cups sugar
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 3 egg whites
- 1 cup crushed oreo thinsations (or 10 oreo cookies)

- 1 recipe of Strawberry Marshmallow Buttercream (recipe follows)
- Pulsed/crumble praline pieces, to decorate

1. Set the oven to 350°F. Fill 24-muffin pan with with paper baking cups (or grease the pan).
2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add in sugar.

3. Add in milk, butter and vanilla; beat with electric mixer at low speed 30 seconds. Beat at medium speed 2 minutes.
4. Pour in the egg whites and beat for 2 minutes. Stir in the crushed cookies.
3. Pour batter evenly into prepared muffin cups, filling two-thirds full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely, on wire racks, before decorating.
4. Place 1/2 a large marshmallow on top of each cupcake.

5. Swirl the buttercream frosting ontop of each cupcakes; garnish with praline crumble.

Marshmallow Buttercream
1 1/3 cups butter, softened
2 cups marshmallow cream(7 oz tub)
1 tablespoon strawberry essence
1 teaspoon almond essence
1-1 1/2 teaspoon cream
2 2/3 cups confectioner's sugar

1. Combine butter and marshmallow creme till smooth.
2. Pour in liquid ingredients and continue to mix, until well blended.
3. Add in the confectioner's sugar and beat till smooth. (If frosting is too thick, add more cream)

I actually tried to decorate my first cupcake using one whole, large marshmallow. Low and behold, there was waaay to much frosting and the cupcake looked ridiculously hideous. So, I decided to cut the large marshmallow's into halves and only use 1/2 a marshmallow for each cupcake. I think the effect was much better. The frosting-peak was nice and tall, and didn't overpower the cupcake itself. Mmmm, looks delicious :P

I'd seen someone make a flower cupcake with marshmallow slices before, so I decided to make two of them. That's a chocolate flavored skittle lying in the middle (note the white "s") ain't it cute?!

For the list of the past SHF events, check out The Domestic Goddess

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Curry Puffs

Having been inspired by the tasty baked curry puffs I now purchase frequently from Satay Garden (a small Malay Cafe by my house), I decided that I would try my hand at baking my new favorite snack. I'd seen a lot of recipes on the web, and familiarized myself enough with the complex method of forming, rolling and shaping the pastry for the curry puff that I felt ready to try my hand at making the flaky, layered dough. Needless to say, that this small snack takes a lot of work to prepare. If you want to make the pastry nice and layered, you have to mold each piece of dough individually. This means you have to have a lot of time on your hands... luckily I did :)

Curry Puffs
Yields 20-24 puffs

- 1 recipe of potato and chicken curry filling
- 1 recipe of water dough
- 1 recipe of oil dough
- 1 recipe of egg wash
(all recipes are found below)

1. Make the filling
2. Prepare the dough and fill each piece of puff dough with your curry-potato-chicken filling
3. Brush on egg wash
4. Bake at 350F for about 25mins, or until the curry puffs are a golden color.

Potato and Chicken Filling

- 2 chicken breasts, grilled and diced into hashed brown sized pieces
- 3 potatos, skinned, boiled and diced into hashed brown sized pieces
- 1/2 cup frozen vegetables, boiled and drained
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp oil
- 2 tbsp curry powder mixed with 2 tbsp of water
- 5 tbsp canned coconut cream (the thick portion)
- 2 tsp sugar
- Salt and white pepper, to taste

1. In the wok, pour in oil and fry the onions and garlic until fragrant. Add in the curry powder mixture and the coconut cream.
2. Add in the cooked potatoes, vegetables and chicken pieces. Continue to fry until heated through.
3. Add in the sugar, salt and pepper as desired.
4. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Chill in the fridge until ready to fill the pastry.

Layered Pastry

Water Dough Ingredients:
- 3 cups flour + some extra
- 225 ml water
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp oil (or melted butter)

1. Combine ingredients for water dough together. Add more flour as necessary to create a dough that is soft and does not stick to the bowl or your hands. Set aside while preparing the oil dough.

Oil Dough Ingredients:
- 1 1/2 cup flour
- 2/3 cup lard (you can substitute butter, but lard makes the pastry flakier)

1. Combine ingredients for oil dough together. Kneading the dough until you gain a soft, non-crumbly dough.

Method For Making Flaky Pastry

1. Take out a portion of the water dough. Roll it into a ball and flatten into a circular shape, like a pancake. Place a portion of the oil dough, rolled into a ball, in the center of the water dough. Wrap the water dough around the oil dough, to enclose it.
2. Use a rolling pin to flatten the pastry dough into an oblong shape.

3. Roll up this oblong shape from one end, all the way to the other (like a swiss roll).
4. Use a rolling pin and flatten this "swiss roll" length-wise, until you have a very thing and long piece of pastry dough.

5. Once again, roll up the pastry dough like a swiss roll.
6. Cut this "swiss roll" into two equal pieces, and voila! You have 2 pieces of pastry, ready to be used in making 2 curry puffs.

7. Roll out the dough into flat circles, and fill them as you would a pierogie.

Egg Wash
Combine 1 egg white + 1 tsp milk. Use a pastry brush to brush this egg wash onto the surface of the curry puffs, just before baking.

Sadly, these puffs weren't as flaky as I would have like them to be; it was probably because I ran out of lard/shortening and had to use butter instead. But, next time I will definitely use lard.... mmm, animal fat :P Aside from the disappointing non-flakiness, I was pleased with lovely curry flavor. They did not compare to the puffs at Satay Garden, but I think that if I wanted to I could charge a pretty penny. My parents loved the puffs, and my sisters ate them up for lunch at school... hmm, I think I will be charging them $1.50 per piece :P Nah, they're family and anyways, I love to bake!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Plum Crazy!

So, I've got this disease... no, not a real disease... more of an idiosyncrasy. Like my mother, I've become one who is very annoyed by excessive amounts of anything. This sort of counters my dad's idiosyncratic habit of purchasing anything (even if we don't need it) as long as it's on sale/on clearance/is cheap/is free etc. In the past, this has led me to clear out the fridge of massive amounts of Costco-bought yogurt (by baking with it), get rid of grossly spotted bananas (by baking with them), and using up our hand-picked cherries (by, you guessed it, baking with them).

The title of this blog sort of gives away the big "guess the secret ingredient" but hey, it'd be easy enough to figure out. So, onward ho with the plums...

For my first plum-filled recipe... I opted for a nice Plum Cornmeal Cake. I love, love, love cornmeal. Corndogs are amazing (10x better than regular ol' hot dogs), corn bread is to-die-for and cornmeal pancakes are just plain yum... so this recipe jumped at me and I simply had to whip this up for dessert. The cornmeal makes this cake a little more dense than a simple plum buckle, and also adds a lovely "grittiness" to complement the mushy plum chunks.

Hmmm... after making the Plum Cornmeal Cake, I still had 4 softening plums left over. I decided to make a simple plum crumble. I really just whipped this together on a whim, but here's my estimated recipe:

Plum Crumble

4 plums, diced and tossed with 3 tbsp of sugar
1/2 cup sugar

1/4 + 1/8 cup flour
1/8 cup rolled oats

Pinch of ground cloves
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1. Divide the diced plums between two buttered ramekins
2. In a separate bowl, combine sugar, flour, oats, cloves and butter; mix well.
3. Sprinkle flour mixture over-top of the plums (do not pat down).
4. Bake at 350F for 30-40mins.

Needless-to-say, my mom was very pleased that I finished up all the softening plums before they reached the "discard-now!" stage. And my dad was more than happy to gobble up a few pieces of cake. My sisters couldn't care less that I'd used up the plums, but they happily ate up their fruits... they're good gals :) Now that the plums are all used up, I'll have to do something about the bag of apples sitting in our pantry... hmm...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mooncake Fever!

What could possibly be hiding within this beautifully crafted (cardboard) box?! Well, you've probably guessed it... I mean, what other Asian festival is around this time and makes people go out and spend exorbidant amounts of moolah on cute little artistic foods? It's the Mid-Autumn Festival!!! And the pride and joy of the mid-autumn festival... beautifully crafted mooncakes. Wikipedia has a whole write-up of interesting "did-you-knows" for the Mid-Autumn festival, so I won't bother you all with the details... just click here.

My pops picked up a package of mini-mooncakes from T&T. These ones contained a filling of longan, red-bean and salted egg yolk.

We also bought a couple of the full-sized mooncakes. This one had lotus seed paste and salted egg yolk.

Ooooo... look at the inside! I just love salted egg yolk. I could eat it all day, all by itself. But that'd be a very unhealthy diet :P

Snow-skin mooncakes are the only ones my sisters enjoy. This one was filled with mango and sago cream.

I can't wait until the Mid-Autumn festival draws to a close. We'll be eating mooncakes for at least 2 weeks after the festival... why? Because the day after the festival is also the day when mooncakes go on sale :)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Yay! Another Free online Cookbook from Pillsbury

This will be a very quick post. I just wanted to let all the people who read my blog to know: firstly, you're all awesome and secondly, there's another Pillsbury e-book online! Yay! I know how much I love free cook-books, so I'm posting the web-link for anyone who cares to click and be amazed by the amazing generosity of a big-corporation like Pillsbury to be providing their members with free recipes! Anywho... here's the link:

If you would like to get links to Pillsbury's past e-books, simply click here to link to my past post.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Homemade Bubble Tea

Just two weeks ago (when I was still enjoying summer-time bliss), the family took a 4-day trip down to Tigard Oregon. We did a little bit of relaxing and a whole lot of shopping. At the Woodburn Outlet we purchased a new blender for only $25... we'd been looking for a quality one that could blend ice chunks, and we finally found this one. It's a beauty and crushes ice into wonderful smoothies and shakes. Also in Tigard, we checked out this small Vietnamese Supermarket called Fubohn. In terms of the selection, it's comparable to T&T... and infact, it carried a lot of merchandise that T&T didn't have... like BUBBLE TEA POWDER! They were selling packages of bubble tea powder for $4.97 and carried flavors like Taro, Strawberry, Coconut, Honeydew and Red Bean. My sister and I are crazy about this Taiwanese drink (as are a lot of people I'm sure), so we couldn't pass up the opportunity to buy the powder and make us some home-made bubble tea.

We bought one bag of the Taro and one bag of the Honeydew... now looking back, I kinda wish I bought one of each flavor :( Oh well, maybe I'll find another place that sells the powder around here.

Here's the Taro Powder, ready to be thrown in the blender and become a great drink!

The finished product... complete with pearls! I wasn't expecting the powder to taste anything like the Bubble Tea we buy from Pearl Fever, but dang... it was pretty darn close.

Easy Bubble Tea Recipe

- 2 tbsp bubble tea powder, any flavor
- 2 tbsp non-dairy creamer
- 10-12 ice cubes
- 1/2-3/4 cups cold water
- 2 ounces (1/4 cup) sugar syrup (recipe to follow)
- 2 heaping tbsp of tapioca pearls

1. Combine all ingredients, expect for the tapioca pearls, in a blender.
2. Pulse until the mixture is smoothie like and no ice chunks remain.
3. Spoon the pearls into individual glasses and pour in the Bubble Tea Slush.

For Sugar Syrup
In a small pot, combine 1 cup granulated sugar with 1 cup brown sugar and 1 cup water. Bring mixture to a boil and continue to heat until sugar dissolves. Let cool to room temperature and use in the bubble tea recipe, or let cool and store in an air-tight container in the fridge.

My mom's always excited when we can make something that we usually have to pay for at home. She's your typical frugal asian mom... and I love that about her (infact, I think I'm starting to emulate her :P) My sister, the one who loves bubble tea, was so impressed with the authentic flavor of the slush that she could hardly tell the difference between our home made version and the one at the bubble tea house. She was ready for seconds, but sadly I didn't make enough pearls... no worries, next time I'll make a double batch of pearls and we'll try out the Honeydew flavor. Oooo I can hardly wait!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Candy Apples!

After pigging out on cinnamon candied apples at Playland during the summer, and blowing my hard earned money on Rocky Mountain candied apples in Oregon, I decided that enough was enough. But of course, enough to me does not mean "stop caving into your sweet-tooth" rather, means... "no more spending money on a sweet treat that you can make at home". I LOVE SUGAR!!! If it were possible to live off of sugar then I would be in sweet-heaven *drool*. But of course, we all need balanced diets of carbs, fats, proteins etc... but once in a while you have to treat yourself to a little something special.

So, on with the recipe. It's pretty basic, and involves apples, candy, various sweet snacks, sugar and anything that goes with apples and sugar!

Joanna's Simple Caramel Apples
(Yield: 2 caramel apples, and some extra caramel sauce)

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup condensed milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 wooden sticks

2 medium apples (I used one gala and one granny smith)

Topping Ideas:
- Chocolate chip morsels
- Crushed Graham crackers tossed with sweetened desiccated coconut
- Crushed nuts (I didn't use these, since my sis is allergic... but crushed peanuts would probably taste divine with these caramel apples)

1. Prepare apples by washing them, removing the stems and driving a wooden stick down the center of each apple. Combine the topping mixtures and set them aside. Cut out squares of waxed paper (large enough to place the prepared apples on).
2. Combine the first four ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat. Let sugar melt, and allow for mixture to come to a rolling boil. Continue to stir over medium-high heat until the mixture becomes thick and reaches 280 degrees F.
3. Remove mixture from heat and stir in the vanilla.
4. While mixture is still warm, roll the apples in the caramel to coat. Allow the excess to drizzle off, then roll each apple in the toppings.
5. Placed finished apples on waxed paper squares and let harden at room temperature.

This recipe made enough caramel sauce to coat two apples and still left me with some caramel sauce to nibble on. I experimented with this last bit of drizzly candy by dipping in some sliced bananas and adding in some coconut flakes. The flavor somewhat resembled banana cream pie! Yummers!

I would now call myself a connoisseur of the candied/caramel apple. Having tried various different types and flavors. My favorite so far has got to be the Rocky Mountain Apple Pie Caramel Apple. I attempted to re-create that apple by using the graham cracker/desiccated coconut mixture... and you know, it actually worked! I simply love the amazing apple-pie flavor of the granny-smith covered in caramel, crackers and coconut... but seriously, who wouldn't?!

Oh where has the summer gone? Fun ol' Picture Show

I'm sitting here trying to think about where exactly my summer has disappeared to. For some reason, it seemed as though the 2 months of freedom flew by at lightening speed, and now I'm hitting the books and working on assignments. I decided to rummage through a bunch of photos that I'd taken over the course of the summer, and, this may sound crazy but, it already brings back memories of fun in the sun. So, here are just a couple pictures that remind me of the great times of summer 2008.

Hanging out in Cali; Disneyland and Six-flags

PNE fun... rides, candied apples and mini donuts

Downtown at Yuk Yuks, and the best Durian Milkshake in Chinatown :)

Travelling to Whistler Village with Jacques... don't let your dog drive :P

Hiking through Lost Lake, and being confused by crazy signs

Treating ourselves to Rocky Mountain ice cream, eating straight from the tub!

Driving down to Oregon... but having to leave Jacques at the kennel :( Look at him trying to fly away!

Checking in to Embassy Suites in time for their Manager's Special... free alcoholic beverages and appetizers! Ooo... mushroom antipasto and sweet bread with balsamic vinegar

Going Outlet shopping in the tax-free state, and treating myself to a Rocky Mountain Caramel Apple! Of course, I had to stop by Le Gourmet Chef and take a look around

Late-night chinese take-out from Panda Express... I still prefer Manchu Wok better :P

Complimentary, hot-breakfast... complete with made-to-order omelets. Yum!

"If you build it, they will come"... somehow, us Asians always manage to seek-out the Asian Supermarkets in town. This Vietnamese market had loads of mooncakes on sale (of course we bought some... tax free remember!), and even bubble tea powder!!! And look at all the rice cakes *drool*

Being gangsta at Denny's... yup, the waitress thought we were strange but whatevs

Heading to the Night Market to indulge in more asian goodies. Stationary, stuffies and of course FOOD!

Albeit, I did way more this summer than just travel around from place-to-place and stuff myself full of their food and buy up all of their merchandise. I worked at KFC (and yes, I've tried the veggie burger... tastes like fish), did 12hr shifts at the hospital, hung out in Vancouver, walked the dog, ran 10k four times a week, cooked, partied, hung out with the sisters, watched a butt-load of HK films, went to the movies, dined in/dined out... and of course tried to sleep.