tamales in winter

i’m going to try and resuscitate this site. wish myself luck. almost a year without a peep from me* and to be honest i haven’t missed it much. we’ve had a kind of rough 2014, ups and downs and downs and downs but we must turn the page and start out new and fresh and look forward to a bright and sparkling year. yey.
today is my babybaobao’s 9th birthday and i’ll be making us a cake and giving him a special toy and treats, but for now i just want to record how i made tamales, Filipino style. we don’t call it tamale in singular form, always it is tamales. though it is similar in name to the Mexican snack made of corn masa and fillings, wrapped in corn husks, it is really more like the Chinese zhong or jong with rice, pork, dried shrimp, etc. wrapped in lotus leaves. i’ve been wanting to make it for so long–a bit of nostalgia for the snack my Ma and i bought from a vendor at a rest stop in Pampanga 4 years ago. the rice and coconut and peanut flavors are really out of this world. mine came out rather nice. but i would still like to go back with my Ma to Pampanga.

just out of the steamer
Continue reading

layer up, it’s cold! or, the coffee jelly.

i made this chilled dessert a couple of weeks ago on a warm weekend. well, it was relatively warm at 50°F, and it was just so wonderful, i vowed to make it again so our daughter could have it when she came home for her spring break vacation. and guess what! it’s a 50°F day again. :)
we rarely see her; with all her school work and busy social calendar, one would think she studies at a university across the continent (she’s only 6 miles away 😛 ).

layers of espresso panna cotta and vanilla panna cotta, with a coffee gelatin in between and as a garnish, i can’t get enough of it! but i do put it away after a couple of bites. really. it was a lot of fun collecting the wine goblets from the charity shop nearby–footed goblets make this dessert really elegant and fancy enough for a special-occasion dinner party.

i’ve made something similar before, something nostalgic, in an improvised version. this is from “Desserts,” by Martha Stewart.

cheers! happy New Year!

we’re still here. this is BaoBao checking in for my human mama. she let 2013 slip by and 2014 splash down, with nary a peep.
grrrowl. i just want to report, she seems ok, though she leaves me at home a lot more. grrrrowl some more. she still makes a big mess in the kitchen, which i hate because the clattering pots and pans make a sound that really makes me run and hide.
when she comes home she smells like chlorine, or she smells like little kids spilled chocolate milk on her sleeves. it must be something to do with her new job.
at least when she plops down on the sofa i get a chance to sit on her lap and stare at her until she gives me my Greenies. droool.

she munches a lot on these maple cinnamon walnuts, i think she thinks they’re healthy. sshhh, i like their scent better than those garlicky peanuts she used to crunch.

apple crostata

i can’t say goodbye to September without this apple crostata. apples apples apples! i love munching on them–the dizzying arrangements in the markets are simply irresistible. and we really love them baked in pies and pastries and tarts. just reading the varieties: fuji, gala, honeycrisp, cortland, McIntosh, Baldwin… use your favorite baking variety, the kind that retains its shape and bakes up sweet yet not oozing all over the pie or cake or crumble: that would be perfect.
i used my favorite Golden Delicious because i like how tart it tastes while retaining its bite.
the pastry is easy to make especially with a food processor but a pastry cutter would work out well too. the surprise ingredient doesn’t affect the taste of the tart at all…it’s just terribly good.
this is the after.
this is the before.

apple crostata from the Boston Globe.

for the pastry:

1 & 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsps. sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut up
1 tsp. vinegar
1/4 cup ice water
extra flour for sprinkling

in a food processor, pulse flour, salt, baking powder and sugar to sift.
add the butter and pulse till the mixture is crumbly.
in a bowl, combine vinegar and ice water.
sprinkle the liquids over the flour mix, and pulse the dough just until clumpy but not forming a ball.
turn the clumps out into a lightly floured board, shape into a ball, flatten into a 4 inch disk. wrap in plastic wrap/cling film and refrigerate at least 20 minutes.

for the filling:
3 large baking apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 tbsps. flour
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. sliced almonds (optional)
1 tbsp. heavy cream or milk
sanding sugar for sprinkling (i used demerara)
confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling after baking

set the oven at 400°F. line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
in a bowl, toss the apples with sugar, salt, lemon juice, and flour until thoroughly coated.
on a floured surface, roll out the pastry disk to a 12-inch circle. lift the pastry onto a rolling pin and then lay out on the lined baking sheet.
heap the apples on to the pastry, with a 1 & 1/2 inch border at the edges. dot the apples with butter, then sprinkle with almonds, if using.
fold the edges of the pastry up and over the apples–it will pleat onto itself as it rests on the fruit. brush the edges with cream or milk and sprinkle with sanding sugar.
bake for 40 to 45 minutes, turning the sheet halfway through cooking time. the edges should turn golden brown and firm.
let it settle down for at least 15 minutes.
sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, if you like, before cutting into wedges.

honey oatmeal bread

#2son has re-dubbed this “Elvish bread” –remember the bread that Frodo and Sam were given as “baon”(provision) for their mission to Mt.Doom? (J.R.R. Tolkien’s works)
my boy says one bite could fill his tummy and keep him feeling full all day. this was his lunch today, filled with chunky peanut butter, and he’s too full to accept an after-school snack :)

the recipe makes two loaves. after i tucked it in to rise, the dough went up so quickly that i got a bit alarmed that it might spill out into the counter. i could see it growing right before my eyes. i think it must have been the wheat gluten–it must have contributed to the soft fluffiness of its texture. ahh, the sweet, delightful mysteries of bread-making. someday i’ll study the science of it.

the recipe, follows… Continue reading

peachy peachy cake

feeling peachy-keen?
definition:peachy keen adjective
chiefly US, informal : very good : fine or excellent

yes, peaches are in, and what finer way to enjoy them than this fruit-laden cake. i used to hesitate in using stone fruits for baked desserts due to the labor intensive instructions on how to properly peel, which all called for some blanching in boiling water then gingerly handling hot fruit while carefully peeling…
and then i got my hands on this spiffy peeler with the jagged edges.
i’ve made these twice in a week now! first my daughter did the assembling and we brought them over to their grandparents, dessert for a take-out dimsum lunch in their condo, the second time for home consumption.

the recipe is based on one for plum cake, from the Boston Globe food edition; i substituted firm peaches and i only changed the cinnamon-sugar sprinkle on top to mostly-nutmeg and demerara, with a tiny smidgen of cinnamon. lovely lovely flavors in this cake! when it bakes, the peach slices exude a juice that seeps into the batter in the best possible way. recipe follows…. Continue reading

chicken ballotine, Jacques Pepin’s recipe

chicken ballotine
i watched Jacques Pepin deboning a small chicken on his public tv show, and i was really mesmerized by the chef’s technique. and the result i already know is delicious–having seen a favorite chef post online about her daring challenge. i just had to try it for myself. (i love our Filipino version**, stuffed with meat, but this is a simpler, straightforward yet still bold and tasty stuffing..)
Continue reading

kua pao, gua bao

sadly, it is also sadly misrepresented as Chinese hamburger.
kua pao. gua bao. yum.
i watch a couple of cooking shows on Saturday mornings, and one of them featured this assembled bun, gua bao, or what we call kua pao in the Philippines. i got so nostalgic for it–the last time i ate it was three years ago, at my father’s wake, when my brother brought a big box of it to the inner sanctum–and back then i couldn’t eat more than a bite though as i was feeling ill. the sad situation got so much sadder.

it’s a wonderful snack composed of a soft white steamed bun. sort of shaped like a clam, that you slice and fill with a savory pork belly slice and top with cilantro, hot sauce and chopped peanuts. i promise, it is so good you can’t eat just one. i looked for recipes online, but then i coaxed my husband to look for a version in town to satisfy my craving in a snap.
kua pao of love
we went to JoJo Taipei, in Allston just outside of the Boston University line, and we ordered several Taiwanese dishes, dim sum style.
fried intestines
deep fried pork intestines, stuffed with scallions. if only they were stuffed with hot green peppers instead! still, a very welcome treat. i’m so spoiled :)
the special spicy beef noodles
my #2son proclaimed this a winner, but then again he’s a noodle monster…spicy beef and noodle soup.
it’s a treat to have a different kind of dim sum experience, no carts and not as much seafood choices, and to me, it’s very similar to Szechuan style dim sum like at Mary Cheung’s in Cambridge. i highly recommend the savory soy milk soup, dragon (soup) buns, and scallion pancakes, both plain or stuffed with beef.
overall, i love their gua bao though the sugar mixed into the ground peanuts was a bit startling for me. (they also sprinkle it on top of dessert steamed fried buns drizzled with condensed milk). i would definitely go back there for more, or ask my daughter to bring me home some, if she were so inclined to visit home and feed her poor old mother. 😉

tribute to a bicycle race from Paris to Brest: a choux pastry wreath filled with pastry and whipped creams

this looks really complicated but it really is NOT.
wow that sounds like a bravura statement from me, the one who hasn’t been baking as much as i’d like due to unforeseen circumstances. i miss baking so much that i’ve pushed myself to the brink!
this pastry is something i’ve been wanting to try to make ever since i heard about it from so many TV chefs and so many cookbooks. looking at it closely it’s just a cream puff, reconfigured. just make it in steps, and it won’t be so overwhelming. i think a lot of wanna-be pastry chefs start out with choux pastry–the same one used for cream puffs! as i did when i was in my early teens, ages and aeons ago–because it is so easy to work with.
for this, Paris-Brest wreath with praline cream, first make the pastry cream, then leave to chill in the refrigerator.
pastry cream, chilling
start the almond praline, which is a caramel poured over almonds, then left to cool and harden, before grinding.
almond praline, cooling off
almond praline, powdered
the praline will be blended into the chilled pastry cream.
make and form the choux pastry while still warm. can you tell i’m not an expert at piping anything? i kind of groan at the mess. i think i don’t like that there’s a lot of batter left in the plastic bag! i’m OCD like that….
choux pastry wreath
bake and cool, then split the wreath horizontally, scrape off excess dough, then fill with praline cream and whipped cream.
Paris Brest, not too elegant
“Suddenly feel like screen goddess in manner of Grace Kelly…
… though perhaps ever so slightly less elegant under pressure.”
–“Bridget Jones’ Diary,” Helen Fielding.

here are my cream puffs, and i always gladly share the recipe if anyone is interested.