Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dinner with Bruce Lee

As a kid, I remember being fascinated by Bruce Lee--how could I not be? He moved like a cat and always got the bad guys. As an adult, it was still fascinating and everytime I watch any of his movies on dvd it brings me back to my childhood. So when my sister (the real Bruce Lee fan)told me we would be having lunch at Bruce Lee's Kungfu, it was being like a kid all over again!
We ordered their set meals because we were really hungry--it came with soup (black chicken with goji berries-i think), vegetables (sauteed lettuce), rice and the viand (she ordered chicken with mushroom) and soda (Pepsi only).
I, on the other hand ordered the spareribs. The soup and the rice came with bowls that were lined so that they remained hot throughout the meal. Look at the cool cups with Bruce Lee on them. This was a fastfood joint so the turnover was fast. The walls were covered with Bruce Lee's likeness. I wasn't able to take a picture of my other sister's order because we were told that we can't take photographs! The food was very good though, Bruce Lee would've been proud!

Monday, December 29, 2008

December Daring Bakers' Challenge--FRENCH YULE LOG

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand
...Oh my!! My eyes almost popped out of my head when I read and re-read (I must've done that a thousand times for this challenge) the recipe and the instructions. It looked really hard and complicated that I almost gave up, I wanted to throw in the towel and say I was too busy and couldn't participate. But deep down inside, I wanted to prove to myself more than anyone else that I will not back down from any challenge. And so after visiting the daring bakers' kitchen obsessively and trying my hardest to understand the instructions, I rolled up my sleeves (again!) and did it. I didn't want to be too experimental with my flavors so I opted for "safe" variations. Just like in the other challenges, I made my own nut meal, we had a lot of cashews so I made mine cashew meal so that makes my dacquoise cashew flavored. I made my creme brulee with almond essence instead of vanilla, I also followed the instructions to the letter by baking it in a bain-marie even if I read that a lot of other DBs found that it took to long to bake and set. I froze it overnight and there was no problem when it was time to assemble the log. I used dark chocolate mousse (no variations). For the praline insert, I opted for the easier route and made mine coconut with cornflakes---I encountered some difficulty here maybe my white chocolate wasn't as good and I used too much cornflakes--still tasted great though. I also made dark chocolate ganache. For my icing I chose to make it white (I wanted it to have contrasting colors) I had to make triple the recipe for the icing for it to cover my two logs completely. Then I melted the left-over dark chocolate and drizzled it on top for an artsy-fartsy (channelling Jackson Pollock--lol) look. Here are the two logs I made: And here is a slice of heaven--I kid you not. The flavors complemented each other perfectly. I ate one slice straight from the freezer and it was like ice cream cake. After a week I ate another slice, this time waiting for 30 minutes after I sliced it...Yummy---tastes like heaven!! This is one complicated dessert but I would willingly do it again--it's well worth it!

Ingredients:2.8 oz (3/4cup + 1Tbsp / 80g) cashew meal
1.75 oz (1/2 cup / 50g) confectioner’s sugar
2Tbsp (15g) all-purpose flour3.5oz (100g / ~100ml)
about 3 medium egg whites
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
1. Finely mix the almond meal and the confectioner's sugar. (If you have a mixer, you can use it by pulsing the ingredients together for no longer than 30 seconds).
2. Sift the flour into the mix.
3. Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff.
4. Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.
5. Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.
6. Spread the batter on a piece of parchment paper to an area slightly larger than your desired shape (circle, long strip etc...) and to a height of 1/3 inches (8mm).
7. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden. 8. Let cool and cut to the desired shape

2.5 sheets gelatin or 5g / 1 + 1/4 tsp powdered gelatin
1.5 oz (3 Tbsp / 40g) granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp (10g) glucose or thick corn syrup
0.5 oz (15g) water
50g egg yolks (about 3 medium)
6.2 oz (175g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1.5 cups (350g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
1. Soften the gelatin in cold water. (If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the package.)
2. Make a Pate a Bombe: Beat the egg yolks until very light in colour (approximately 5 minutes until almost white).
2a. Cook the sugar, glucose syrup and water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 244°F (118°C). If you do not have a candy thermometer, test the sugar temperature by dipping the tip of a knife into the syrup then into a bowl of ice water, if it forms a soft ball in the water then you have reached the correct temperature.
2b. Add the sugar syrup to the beaten yolks carefully by pouring it into the mixture in a thin stream while continuing to beat the yolks. You can do this by hand but it’s easier to do this with an electric mixer.
2c. Continue beating until cool (approximately 5 minutes). The batter should become thick and foamy.
3. In a double boiler or equivalent, heat 2 tablespoons (30g) of cream to boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.
4. Whip the remainder of the cream until stiff.
5. Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in ½ cup (100g) of WHIPPED cream to temper. Add the Pate a Bombe.
6. Add in the rest of the WHIPPED cream (220g) mixing gently with a spatula.
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
4.5oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp/ 135g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
5 oz (135g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp (45g) unsalted butter softened
1. Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small saucepan with high sides. Heat over medium-high heat, watching it carefully as the sugar begins to melt. Never stir the mixture. As the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan occasionally to allow the sugar to melt evenly. Cook to dark amber color (for most of you that means darker than last month’s challenge).
2. While the sugar is melting, heat the cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil.
3. Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.
4. Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast (if you have a plunging mixer use it). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.
3.5 oz (100g) white chocolate
1 oz (1/3 cup/25g) shredded coconut
1 2/3 Tbsp (25g) unsalted butter
2.1 oz (60g) lace crepes or rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K

1. Spread the coconut on a baking tray and bake for 5-10 minutes at 375°F (190°C) to toast (a different temperature might work better for you with your own oven).
2. Melt the white chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Stir until smooth and add the toasted coconut.
3. Add the coarsely crushed lace crepes. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate. Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.
1/2 cup (115g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
½ cup (115g) whole milk
4 medium-sized (72g) egg yolks
0.75 oz (2 Tbsp / 25g) granulated sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1. Heat the milk, cream to just boiling. Remove from the stove and add almond extract.
2. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white).
3. Pour the almond-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well.
4. Wipe with a very wet cloth and then cover your baking mold (whatever shape is going to fit on the inside of your Yule log/cake) with parchment paper. Pour the cream into the mold and bake at 210°F (100°C) for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center
1.5 gelatin sheets or 3g / 1/2Tbsp powdered gelatin
3.5 oz (100g) white chocolate
2 Tbsp (30g) unsalted butter
1/3 cup (90 g) whole milk
1 2/3 Tbsp (30g) glucose or thick corn syrup
1. Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.
2. Coarsely chop the chocolate and butter together.
3. Bring the milk and glucose syrup to a boil.
4. Add the gelatin.
5. Pour the mixture over the chocolate and butter. Whisk until smooth.
6. Let cool while checking the texture regularly. As soon as the mixture is smooth and coats a spoon well (it is starting to gelify), use immediately.

Awfully Chocolate

I think I've found the best chocolate cake in Beijing! It's called Awfully Chocolate but there's nothing awful about it, it's the yummiest cake I've eaten here so far! They also have ice cream and it's served in a small take-away box. We almost walked by the store, it was small and white with a very discreet sign. The people serving there were also in white, how cute is that!
This is a slice of the Chocolate Banana cake, so moist and tender and chocolatey! It's just a takeway counter (I just don't know if their other branches have chairs and tables). The person behind the counter said all their ingredients were imported.
The cake came in 6 inch and 9 inch sizes. We just got the smaller one. The packaging was very tasteful, it was a white box with their sign and the price was very reasonable. We went home carrying the precious white box like a baby, and it was love at first bite! I'm in chocolate heaven--and there's nothing awful about it!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Rum Cake

I needed a cake that was easy to transport and had to keep well. So what better cake, than a rum cake? I rummaged through my recipe files and found one that I adapted from Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen. It was actually a recipe for pound cake which i divided by 4 and then added rum to the finished product. Pound cake was called as such because it used to be made with a pound of each ingredient, hence the name. After flying 4 hours and being kept for 4 days, it was still very good. This recipe is definitely a keeper!
BUTTER 333 grams
EGGS 6 pieces
CAKE FLOUR 333 grams
RUM 60 ml
Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit, grease and line a 9 x 5 inches loaf pan. Set aside. With the paddle attachment of the KitchenAid mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add vanilla extract. Add eggs one by one, making sure that one is absorbed before addding again. Pour in the flour, mix until thoroughly combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake for approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake for 10 minutes and pour the rum while still in the pan.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Kro's Nest

For the past three years that I've been coming to Beijing, I've always wanted to try the pizza at Kro's Nest. I don't know why but for one reason or another, we've never had the time or the inclination to go there even if the original branch is just in our neighborhood. This year, I promised myself I was going to have a pizza there. I told my sister I wanted to try the new branch at the Workers' Stadium( Gongti Beilu). We arrived at around 1130 and chose a table near the windows--the sun was shining inspite of the -2 degrees temperature.
The menu looks like a newspaper
The pizza was so big, we ordered Kro's Special and Greek Mama (half of each), there were 6 giant slices which my sisters and I ate all by ourselves.
A slice of my pizza
The final verdict? Yes, it's as good as they say it is. But more than the pizza, the place was what really got me, sunlight was pouring in from the windows and bathed everything in beautiful natural light. The price was reasonable, it was well worth the cab fare!

Beijing Duck

I arrived in Beijing to a freezing -12 weather. From 26 degrees in Manila to -12 is no joke, I felt like a popsicle while walking around. I had to have my Beijing duck to warm me and the best one is at Quanjude which was established in 1864 (in the third year of the Tongzhi, Quin Dynasty) meaning they have been serving for 140 years, how is that for history! It's so special that each duck comes with a certificate (see below)
My sisters and I ordered one whole duck to ourselver, here is one way of eating it, wrapped in lettuce leaves with red and green peppers, cucmber and hoisin sauce:
And of course the traditional way which is wrapped in paper-thin pancakes, with leeks, and hoisin sauce--my favorite way!
And here is the whole feast which we devoured within an hour. We came out of the restaurant, full and warm. Nothing beats Quanjude Beijing duck!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Marina Tuna

Davao in the south of the Philippines boasts some of the freshest seafood. And one of the best places to get is at Marina Restaurant along Lanang Street. The prices are very reasonable and the food is great. It's always full of hungry customers whether lunch or dinner. The place isnt somewhere you'd hang out but for someone craving fresh seafood this is the place to go! If only Manila had a place like this...
The freshest Salmon sashimi

Swordfish belly

Grilled Swordfish "panga"

Crispy Shrimps

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My First Macarons

Macarons are fairly new here in Manila and I've always been fascinated with the variety of flavors and colors that are available. The ones I usually buy from a very popular patisserie here is pistachio. I've also eaten some Paul macarons courtesy of a friend who hand-carried it from Paris and these were smaller in size than what I usually eat.
I also look at to gawk at her macarons. So now, that the holiday season is here I wanted to try making my own. I tried several recipes but Tartelette's was the best one, I just tweaked it a bit.
225 grams powdered sugar
125 grams cashew nuts
3 egg whites (about 100gr)
red food coloring
25 grams granulated sugar
In a food processor, process the cashew nuts and powdered sugar until the nuts are finely ground. Run through a sieve if needed. Whip the egg whites until foamy, slowly add the granulated sugar, until they are glossy. Add the red food coloring carefully. Slowly fold the nut/sugar mixture into the whites with a spatula. The mixture should remain shiny and flow easily.
Fill a pastry bag with the batter and pipe small rounds onto parchment lined baking sheets.
Let the macarons rest for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 315 and when they are ready, bake them for 12-15 minutes. Let cool, remove from the paper and fill with the ganache

60 grams bittersweet chocolate
2 pieces Hershey's mint truffle kisses
45 ml heavy cream
Coarsely chop chocolates. Heat heavy cream until boiling (this can be done in the microwave). Pour hot cream onto chocolate and add the truffles. Mix until smooth. Cool ganache until spreading consistency. Sandwich between two macarons.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Filipino Favorites--Tokwa't Baboy

I have always loved Manila, no matter where I am or how long I stay--I yearn for home, and everything about it, the traffic, the pollution (yes, it does grow on you!), the noise and most especially the food. And one of those that I crave when I'm away, is an appetizer called Tokwa't Baboy (literally Tofu and Pork). There are as many versions of this as there are cooks in the Philippines, some of them make it sweet, others really sour. I have heard of cooks using pig's ears but I prefer to use liempo or pork belly (which is readily available in the supermarket). So here is my recipe for my Tokwa't Baboy:
FIRM TOFU 1 block
PORK BELLY 1/4 kilo
GARLIC 3 cloves
ONION, red 1 piece
BAYLEAF 2 pieces
SOYSAUCE 1/4 cup
VINEGAR 1/4 cup
BROWN SUGAR 1 teaspoon
Boil pork belly in water, crushed garlic, bellpeppers and bayleaves until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and cool, at this point you can choose to refrigerate it overnight or just freeze it for 30 minutes until cold and dry.
Pan-fry cubed tofu in preheated pan with oil until crispy. Drain on papertowels to absorb excess oil.
Preheat a pot with oil (about 1 cup) and deep-fry cold porkbelly until crispy about 3 minutes on each side. Slice and cube.
To make sauce, combine vinegar, soysauce and sugar whisk until sugar is dissolved.
To assemble: Slice finger chili, mince onions. In a bowl, combine tofu, porkbelly, onions and finger chili. Top with sauce and mix well.
*Tokwa't baboy is sometimes served as an accompaniment to arroz caldo.

Sweets for Christmas--Cherry Pound Cake

This month, I'm going to test holiday sweets so I'll know what to bring for my sister in Beijing, she's been living there for a while and according to her, she hasn't tasted cakes that are as good as the ones here in Manila (I'd have to agree with that) or the ones that I bake. So she requested me to bring for her baked cakes when I visit her for Christmas, this will mean handcarrying the cakes on a 4-hour flight--not exactly what I was planning but for the love of my sister, I will do it. The first cake I tested was this cherry pound cake that I found on
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup maraschino cherries, drained and halved
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8 inch tube pan. Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla and almond extract. Beat in the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Dredge cherries in 1/4 cup flour, then fold into batter. Spread into prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 80 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

* I made it exactly as the recipe but I decorated it with poured fondant (powdered sugar thinned with milk and colored)
** I baked it in a bundt pan instead of a tube pan and the baking time was only 60 minutes.

The whole house smelled like Christmas while I was baking it and it stayed that way 2 hours after I brought it out of the oven. The cake was dense and the texture was great. I will definitely make this for Beijing. Yummy!

Monday, December 1, 2008

November Daring Bakers' Challenge--CARAMEL CAKE

The November DB challenge is here!! I didn't expect I would be late in posting this because I've been excited to start it as early as the first week--but then, life got hectic, and my oven broke down, I was like a ship without a rudder, I lost my interest to bake and to blog. But miracle of all miracles, the repairman came and fixed it. Now my oven is as good as new and I'm back on track.
The hosts of this month's challenge, Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity; Alex of Blondie and Brownie and Jenny of Foray of Food chose Shuna Fish Lydon’s Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting. I have to admit, I am not much of a caramel person, I had a very unsatisfying episode with caramel fudge from way back. But then I am not one to turn down a challenge, so I rolled up my sleeves (figuratively) and came up with my cake.
10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature
Preheat oven to 350FButter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.Sift flour and baking powder.Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it. Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy
teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste
Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light
(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)
*I halved the recipe for caramel syrup after reading the other DB's comments that they had a surplus of caramel syrup. I also did not make the caramels anymore.
**To break the sweetness of the caramel, I sandwiched the two cake layers between coffee-flavored whipped cream.