Archive for the ‘ Cooking ’ Category

Almond Pear Cream Cheese Torte

Let me just say this now – I really, really don’t like cheesecake. Not quite hate, but pretty darn close. I don’t know why I don’t, it’s just never appealed to me despite the  fact that it looks pretty. But despite the fact that this tastes somewhat like a cheesecake, this torte is DELISH, and that’s saying a lot. Shortbread crust, tangy but sweet filling, caramelized pears and crunchy almonds…nom nom, yes please!

I was flipping through a Kraft What’s Cooking magazine, salivating at their ridiculously mouthwatering photos (tell me I’m not the only one) when this caught my eye. First of all, I thought it looked really pretty. I LOVE it when things turn out exactly like the photo, which never happens when you’re as accident-prone as I am. Second, quickly skimming through the instructions left me thinking that, hey, this seems easy enough even for me to do! And it was, seriously. Despite the three different components, every part is super simple but the end product looks impressive. It tastes like you spent forever on it, even though the majority of the time was spent waiting for the darn thing to chill before I could nosh on it. Really, you can put it together in one hour or less, and the rest is just putting it into the oven and chilling.

I used pears, but you can use apples here too and it’d be just as yummy, I presume. The almonds don’t stand out here, but they do add a nice texture. Eh, I love almonds so I’d eat them by the handful regardless. ANYWAYS. The only somewhat difficult part is probably pressing the crust into the pan — that took awhile, but that was my fault because I kept on trying to make perfect edges, then realizing that the filling wouldn’t even go that high, and smooshing it back down. Really, if I’d just follow instructions…OH ME.

Almond Pear Cream Cheese Torte

Adapted from Kraft

Makes: 12 servings (1 9″ torte)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 pkg. (250g) brick cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 cups sliced peeled pears (about 4 medium pears – I only used 3)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Beat butter and 1/3 cup of the sugar in small bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add flour; mix well. Spread firmly onto bottom and 1 in. up side of 9-in. springform pan.
  2. Beat cream cheese and 1/3 cup of the remaining sugar in same bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Spread evenly over crust. Combine remaining 1/3 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Add to pears in large bowl; toss to coat. Arrange over cream cheese layer; sprinkle with almonds.
  3. Bake 10 min. Reduce temperature to 375°F; continue baking 25 min. or until centre is set. Cool on wire rack. Loosen torte from rim of pan. Cover and refrigerate 3 hours before serving. Store leftover torte in refrigerator.

Mango Popsicles

This’ll be a short post — this really isn’t much of a recipe anyways. I had a box of mangoes lying around rotting away, so I decided to pretty much improv a recipe. My mangoes were getting overripe, so there was about half of a mango that I had to just throw away, but these turned out REALLY yummy. All I did was chop up some mangoes, chuck it into a blender, add some water and sugar and froze it. Done! :)

Mango Popsicles

Makes 12 small popsicles

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe mangoes
  • 1/4 cup of sugar, or to taste
  • water, to thin

Directions:

  1. Wash, peel and chop mangoes into cubes. Blend with 1/4 cup sugar or to taste. Add water as needed to thin.
  2. Pour into small disposable paper cups. Put a popsicle stick into each and freeze until solid (about 4 hours). To remove paper liner, snip the edge of the cup and tear off.

Gingerbread Cake

I’m not exactly one of those people who long for fall or winter while it’s summertime. In fact, I’m anything but that. I LOVE summer and all its sunshine, picnics and barbecues, vacations and sightseeing and get-togethers. Heck, I even love the heat.

So I have NO idea why I decided to make this. Originally, I was planning on doing something with yeast, since I haven’t made anything with yeast in quite a long time and I miss kneading and rising and all that fun stuff. But then i decided last minute that I wanted to make something quick. I could have picked from a hundred different summery recipes, so I honestly don’t know what got me to make this.

But I’m glad I did! They’re very moist and fragrant, especially since I substituted some of the butter with oil to make it more moist and a liiiiittle bit healthier. Yeah. Sort of. I was pretty generous with the spices, since I absolutely love cinnamon, and I added in quite a bit of vanilla just cause. Don’t be afraid to add extra spices! And the TEXTURE…it’s crumbly, soft and fluffy, and as I said before, very moist. Also, moist is an ugly word and should be permanently replaced by another word…such an icky word to describe something nice :(

But I digress. LOL.

Anyways, the first time I made this was last Christmas (cue impromptu singing and dancing – I know you break out into song too), and it turned out perfect for the season. I made it in two 8″ square pans, so that it would take up less space when I brought it up to the ski resort, where we go yearly during Christmastime. If you do bake it in two 8″ square pans, just check on it a few minutes earlier and it’ll be fine. This time, I made it in one 9″x13″ glass pan, so I turned down the temperature by 25 degrees (to accommodate for the fact that the pan was made of glass) and baked it for about 40 minutes.

Om nom nom, so good. I cut them into small squares so that I didn’t have to feel guilty shoving one after another into my face. That is, until after three or four…or more…

By the way – random but true – in the shots that have a glass of “milk” in them, I didn’t actually use milk. I used whipping cream instead, and just poured it back into  the carton when I was done. I, uh, RAN OUT of milk. Yup, only in my family do we ever run out of milk. It happens quite a lot, actually! But when we do buy milk, we’ll buy extra and freeze that, then defrost it on the counter when we need a new bag. Yeah. So at any given time there’s probably a bag of frozen solid milk on the counter that could break a window and kill someone…yeah. JEN + CAROL, stop giving me those weird looks LOL.

Gingerbread Cake

Adapted  from Epicurious

Makes: 24 squares

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I upped this to 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger (I upped this to 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional; I like this combination of spices)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening (I used 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup oil instead)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I upped this to scant 3/4 cup sugar)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup molasses mixed with 1 cup hot water

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, spices and salt.
  3. Beat together shortening, sugar, and egg in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. In 3 batches, alternately beat in flour mixture and molasses mixture at low speed until smooth. Pour batter into a greased 9×13 inch pan or two 8×8 inch pans. Smooth top.
  4. Bake cake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean (30 minutes for 8×8 pans and 40 minutes for a 9×13 pan). Cool cake in pan on a rack. Slice into squares. Cake keeps covered, in pan at room temperature for 2 days.

Sifting together the dry ingredients.

Rest of the ingredients, other than molasses/hot water and vanilla. I’m not very organized, haha.

Mmm, perfect with milk! Now if only I had some, haha.

Lamingtons

I’ve never had a lamington before, but they sounded delish! They’re basically little cubes of sponge cake, covered in chocolate and rolled in dessicated coconut. After watching too much communitychannel, a.k.a. Natalie Tran, who is srsly bundles and bundles of awesome…and keeps breaking her promise to make lamingtons (angry face!), I decided I’d make some myself.

I HAD IT ALL PLANNED OUT. Or so I thought. The sponge cake recipe that I’d made before was amazing — soft, fluffy, delicious, pillowy and awesome. I bought some dessicated coconut on my hike to the grocery store. I had some amazing Ghiradelli cocoa powder that I LOVE, despite the fact that I don’t really like chocolate (blasphemy, my bad).

But for lamingtons, you’re not exactly supposed to use squishy, soft, perfect pieces of sponge cake; apparently this was a method to freshen up STALE cake. So the moment I dropped my first piece of of cake into the chocolate, the heavy chocolate TORE at the cake, leaving crumbs and often whole hunks of perfectly good cake in the once pristine chocolate sauce. While I was  thinking I’d be able to get maybe 16 lamingtons when I was finished, it turns out that I only ended up with 8 that were decent looking enough. CRY.

These were so soft and cushy that even when I set them on the cooling rack to set, the rack left deep indentations on the bottom of the lamingtons. Ah well, on the other hand, despite being ridiculously hard to coat, they were REALLY YUMMY. The cake is seriously good, whether by itself or made into lamingtons this way. The whole thing is very moist and chocolatey, especially since I cut my cake into very small cubes for lamingtons — these are about 1.5″ cubes or less. I love coconut, so nothing really to say there LOL. The only drawback, I’d say, in terms of taste, is that they were a little too sweet, probably because of the high coating to cake ratio I made mine into. I think if  they were bigger they’d lose their charm, though. Maybe I’ll just use less sugar and thin down the chocolate coating more next time. As well as find a sturdier cake to work with! No worries, I’d definitely make these again.

In any case, you HAVE to make this sponge cake. Or lamingtons. But not lamingtons using this sponge cake, LOL, unless you want to have a fun time fishing out cake remains from your chocolate. Just sayin’. I’d probably use Mowie’s recipe for the whole thing but halve it and bake them in two 8″ square tins instead.

I set them in small sized cupcake liners so that it’d be easier to handle, and I think they look a little neater that way too. Alright, onto the recipe! :)

This is ALL you need to make the sponge cake. The butter hasn’t been melted yet, though.

You might want to find a pound cake or sponge cake recipe that’s a little sturdier than this though, although this is DELISH with berries and cream :)

Lamingtons

Adapted from here (for the sponge cake) and here (for the coating)

Makes: 16 (in theory, if you’re VERY good at dipping without the cake falling apart on you, you’d get 16…I only got 8! You may want to double this recipe to make sure you get enough)

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 50g sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 40g cake flour, sifted (I don’t have cake flour, so I just measured all purpose flour, took out 1tbsp, and replaced it with 1tbsp cornstarch)
  • 30g melted butter
  • ~1/2 cup dessicated coconut
  • 130g icing sugar (I’d use 100g or less next time, since this was a little too sweet for me)
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 17g melted butter
  • 35 mL hot water (I ended up using more than this, just adding until I thought it was liquidy enough. Use this much to start with, though)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line one 8″ square pan with parchment paper.
  2. Fill a saucepan 1/4 full with water and bring to a boil. Beat the eggs with the sugar on medium high speed over the water bath until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and continue beating until thick, pale, and free of visible bubbles (ribbon stage). (I like using this method because the sugar melts and the eggs beat up fluffier when they’re warm)
  3. Beat in the vanilla. Incorporate the flour in three additions and fold carefully to not lose too much air.
  4. Fold in the melted butter until well mixed.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 16-20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Cut off all the edges and crusts. Cut into 1.5″ cubes or whatever size you would like them to be.
  6. For the coating: whisk together icing sugar, cocoa powder and hot water together in a bowl. Fold in the melted butter.
  7. Dip all sides of the sponge cubes into the chocolate mixture and then toss the cubes through dessicated coconut to cover. Allow to harden on a wire rack, then refrigerate to fully solidify.

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

I made these for the first time last summer, but I never posted about them. I tried making them again yesterday, and they turned out yummy! Crumbly and buttery, just like how shortbread should be, but brightened up with lemon. Mmm…

These took longer than I thought they would, although most of that time was spent waiting for the dough to chill to make the cookies easier to cut out. And doing dishes. Uh, and watching Fairly Odd Parents. >_> DUN JUDGE

Although shortbread can be left uniced, I decided I wanted to pretty them up with the simple sugar cookie icing I always use. I just mixed together half a cup of icing sugar, 1 teaspoon milk and 1 teaspoon of corn syrup, mixed it all together, and piped it on the cooled cookies. It hardens when it dries and when fully dried, the cookies can be stacked with no problem :) They also add a slight sweetness to the cookies, since the shortbreads themselves aren’t very sweet.

I ended up making quite a few — enough to fill a box for my parents to take to work as well as a box to keep at home to snack on, nom. I cut mine quite small, but if you used average sized cookie cutters you’d probably end up with about 2 dozen. I had at LEAST 3 dozen, mainly because I made a lot of those tiny hearts, hehe.

I threw in quite a lot of lemon zest to brighten up the flavours a bit, and also cause I LOVE LEMON. Honestly, I think one lemon would probably already do the job, but I couldn’t help it and had to throw in another. The third one up there in the photo wasn’t zested, it’s just up there for kicks. NAKED LEMONS OMG wut

Onto the recipe:

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Makes: 3 dozen+ small cookies, 2 dozen regular sized cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar (you could use granulated sugar if you wanted it sweeter, but icing sugar gives them a more delicate texture. I might use granulated sugar next time since they weren’t sweet enough on their own, or at least increase the icing sugar)
  • Zest of 1 large lemon (I used 2, but frankly, 1 should be enough)
  • 1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Combine flour and cornstarch in a bowl.
  2. Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl (about 2-3 minutes). Beat in vanilla. Add lemon zest and blend well. Gently stir in flour mixture until just incorporated. Flatten dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.
  4. Roll dough out until about 1/4″ thick. Cut with cookie cutters or a knife. Arrange cookies on baking sheet. (If at any time the dough begins to stick too much and gets too hard to work with, just put the whole tray into the fridge to let it firm up for maybe, 10, 15 minutes before taking it out to work with it again.)
  5. Bake for 12-14 minutes in preheated oven or until cookies or lightly brown. Cool on rack. Decorate if desired.

By the way, I don’t know if you noticed, but I tried a different style for this set of photos. I tried making the setup a bit more detailed, adjusted the exposure and in postprocessing, I tried a more “artsy” style. I think it looks a little more homey and less “overly clean”, I guess. I dunno if I like it more, since it’s obviously Photoshopped, but I think it gives a nice effect. :) Might do more of this instead.

Strawberry Tarts

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m automatically drawn to anything that comes in small, tiny portions.

That’s pretty much why, when I had a package of pie crust that needed to be used up, as well as a box of strawberries, I decided that I’d make these :) Though tarts of this sort normally have a shortbread crust, I was lacking a lot of ingredients, including absolutely no butter, cry. In my household, we almost NEVER buy strawberries except when they’re cheap, which is pretty much just once a year. So even though I’d gladly savour them as they are, I wanted to do something a little different and special.

These were really simple to make, especially since I didn’t make my own shortbread crust — it’s just a mix. The pastry cream is REALLY delish after it’s been chilled — cool, creamy, and best of all, not too eggy! :D It makes the perfect portion for these, which is just enough to fill 12 mini tarts. There’s really not much of a recipe to be followed  to make these, since you could use whipped cream or any kind of filling you want instead of the pastry cream. If anything, I’ll just post a recipe for the cream.

I didn’t take many pictures of  these since I was feeling uninspired the day I took them, haha. S’ALL GOOD.

Pastry Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 -1/2 cups milk (divided into 1 cup and 1/2 cup)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

  1. Whisk together egg with 1/2 cup of milk. Set aside.
  2. Mix the sugar, flour and salt in a small saucepan. Stir in 1 cup of milk and mix until  smooth.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil at medium heat, whisking constantly. Be careful of clumps. Cook another 2 minutes and remove from heat; the mixture should have thickened up dramatically.
  4. Combine egg and milk mixture with the mixture in the saucepan, whisking vigorously to combine. Return to heat and cook until it just starts to boil. Keep whisking until smooth.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly touching the surface to prevent any skin from forming.
  6. Chill for at least an hour in the fridge before using.

Coconut Ice Cream

I love making ice cream.

I don’t have an ice cream maker (still), but even churning it by hand is fun and often yields great results. I had a REALLY GOOD coconut ice cream (with coconut flakes that I didn’t put in mine) while I was in Vancouver, but that place, Kitanoya Guu at Gastown, was seriously expensive. By the way, I digress, but does anyone know how to make Taiwanese shaved ice? I had a RIDDDIIICULOUSLY good mango one at Aberdeen at Richmond, but I dunno where I can find a recipe for shaved ice. I think I have a really old school ice shaver that has Mickey Mouse and Pluto and all them good old cartoons on it, but that’s meant for kids. Probably. I’M A KID TOO :( I have this other one, that’s pink and white with Hello Kitties on them, but again, I dun think that’s gonna work. OK OK BACK TO THE TOPIC

So though the prices at Guu look reasonable at first, it’s a tapas bar so the portions are tiny. We ordered about 8, but we were only about half full…and the bill was like, what, $70? Then again, my brother and my dad did order a pitcher of beer…yea. This place was hilariously loud, with waiters and waitresses YELLING at the top of their lungs orders in Japanese, which was fun. It wouldn’t sound nearly as cool in Canto though, I presume…(WEI! YUU DAN LAI MEEN AH! LOL, oh Canto. Say that out loud if you don’t get it, haha. It’s a ref to McDull, who is made of awesome, no? :D!) Anyways, it’s really good if you like that kind of thing — Japanese bar food, essentially. I didn’t like it too much since most of the food was unlike what I’ve ever had before, but the coconut ice cream we had for dessert was AMAZING.

So when I went home, I made my own :)

The original recipe called for saffron as well, but since I don’t have anything ever in my kitchen, and couldn’t be bothered to buy things that I’d only use once, I omitted it. This ice cream was really fragrant all the same, which is awesome, since I love coconut to death. Despite being super creamy, it was light and refreshing, even though there’s, well, a lot of heavy cream in there. While the green tea ice cream I made several times last year was rich and creamy, this one was more on the light side, since it doesn’t contain any eggs and has less heavy cream.

This was unbelievably difficult to photograph — honestly, frig, how do you photograph something that’s melting before you can plate, style, and set up your camera? I ended up chucking the scooped ice cream in the fridge while I was doing all of that, but you can probably see it melting progressively as you read this LOL. FML

Those two leaves, by the way, aren’t mint leaves (no really? pfft). I never have things like mint around but I wanted a tad of colour so I just went outside and plucked two random leaves and stuck it in there. Actually, the leaves wouldn’t go in at first because I’d frozen the whole scoop solid by then, so I actually took a paring knife and carved two slits where I wanted them to go. IMPROV, YES! They’re not as light as I wanted them to be, but eh.

Coconut Ice Cream

(HEAVILY adapted from David Lebovitz, who adapted it from Delicious Days)

Makes: 1L

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/3 cups (320 mL) heavy cream
  • 2 cups coconut milk (I used only 400 mL instead of 500 mL, because my cans come in 400 mL sizes and I didn’t want to open up another can for the sole purpose of using 100 mL — it was coconutty enough)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar (I did use a little more than 1/2 cup since I was worried it wouldn’t be sweet enough when I compared it to my other ice cream ratios, although it isn’t necessary to increase it. Next time, I’d keep the 1/2 cup as is)

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat and gently simmer for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and chill the mixture thoroughly in fridge.
  3. Once chilled, put in freezer. As ice crystals start to form (45 minutes), remove, and mix well with a whisk, spatula, or hand mixer to vigorously break them up. Return to freezer. Continue to check the mixture every 30 minutes thereafter, beating with a hand mixer. Keep checking periodically and stirring while it freezes until the ice cream is frozen. It will likely take 2-3 hours to be ready.

Spoonful of melted awesome :)

AHH BLUE SPOON

wut

Also, I have another can of coconut milk about to expire…eheheh, I know what I’ll be making next!