Wednesday, June 27, 2012

THE DARING BAKERS' JUNE 2012 CHALLENGE: Going Batty for the Jubilee

I was thrilled when I found out that we were going to make a Battenberg cake for this month. It looks really pretty, it was one of those cakes that made me think "How did they do that?" when I was not into baking yet. Also it was a very nice gesture because it is the Queen's Diamond Jubilee...not that I am in the UK, far from it...but my parents were in London when it was her Golden Jubilee 10 years ago and it was really bittersweet watching the Diamond Jubilee on TV because my mother passed away last year and it just reminded me so much of her.

Mandy of What the Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge! She highlighted Mary Berry's techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.

So what exactly is a Battenberg Cake? Apparently the first Battenberg cake was made to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Princess Victoria to husband, Prince Louis of Battenberg.

Wow, so how's that for a cake's history? I will never look at another Battenberg cake without thinking of its royal and romantic backstory. We were given freedom by Mandy with flavors and with the covering (marzipan, chocolate plastique etc.) but I decided to follow the traditional recipe which she provided.


3/4 cups unsalted Butter, softened and cut into cubes

3/4 cups Caster Sugar

1 1/4 cups Self Raising Flour*

3 large Eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup ground Almonds (can be substituted with ground rice)

3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon Almond extract

Red food coloring (paste, liquid or gel)

To finish:

1/3 cup Apricot jam

1 cup (225) grams Marzipan, natural or yellow


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit.

2. Grease an 8 inch/20 cm square baking pan with butter

3. Line the pan with parchment paper creating a divide in the middle with parchment paper or foil

4. Whisk together the dry ingredients then combine with the wet ingredients in a large bowl and beat together just until the ingredients are combined and the batter is smooth.

5. Spoon half of the mixture to one side of the prepared pan

6. Add a few drops of the food coloring to the remaining batter, stir until the color is thoroughly distributed, add more color if needed.

7. Spoon the pink batter into the other half of the prepared pan

8. Smooth the surface of the batter with a spatula making sure batter is in each corner of the pan

9. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake is well risen, springs back when lightly touched and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (it should shrink away from the sides of the pan)

10. Leave to cool in the pan for a few minutes before turning out to cool thoroughly on a wire rack.

11. Once completely cool, trim the edges of the cake with a serrated knife.

12. Cut each colored sponge in half lengthwise so that you are left with four long strips of sponge.
13. Neaten the strips and trim as necessary so that your checkered pattern is neat and even as possible

14. Gently heat the apricot jam and pass through a sieve.

15. Brush warmed jam onto strips of cake to stick the cake together in a checkered pattern (one yellow next to one pink. On top of the one pink next to one yellow)

16. Dust a large flat surface with powdered sugar and roll out the marzipan (or in my case, the chocolate plastique), roll into an oblong shape that is wide enough to cover the length of the cake and completely wrap the cake.

17. Brush the top of the cake with apricot jam.

18. Place the cake on the marzipan/chocolate plastique jam side down.

19. Brush the remaining three sides with jam.

20. Press marzipan/chocolate plastique around the cake making sure the join is either neatly in one corner or will be underneath the cake once turned over.

*To make 1 cup of self raising flour=1 cup All purpose flour + 1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder +1/4 teaspoon Salt

200 grams good quality Dark Chocolate(70% cocoa content)

1/4 cup/60 ml Light Corn Syrup/Glucose Syrup/Golden Syrup


1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water, stir occasionally.

2. Once completely melted, remove from the heat and cool a bit

3. Stir in corn syrup/glucose syrup/golden syrup it will seize up almost immediately, just keep stirring until mixed and it comes away from the sides of the bowl

4. Transfer chocolate into a sealable bag, spread the chocolate out then seal the bag

5. Leave overnight or refrigerate for about 2 hours until completely firm

6. Turn out from the bag and knead on a surface dusted with powdered sugar, at first it will just break, but as you knead it will warm up and become pliable

7. Knead until it's pliable enough to roll out or mould about 5-10 minutes.

And there you have nice and pretty to look at but actually was quite easy to do. Thank you Mandy for this challenge, it's one of my favorites now! Do check out the other Daring Bakers' awesome Battenberg cakes, you won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Homemade Marshmallows

I've always been fascinated with marshmallows even when I was a kid...those unbelievably soft, mushy and oh so delicious cubes or balls of sugary goodness. Fast forward to a few months ago when I happened to watch Alton Brown making them on TV, I was suddenly eight years old again craving for them so when I found his recipe, I got the brilliant idea to make them at home.
3 packages unflavored gelatine
1 cup ice-cold water, divided
12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Non stick spray
Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer with 1/2 cup water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.
In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from heat.
Turn the mixer on low speed, and while running slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows:
Combine confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 x 9 inch metal baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.
When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for up to 4 hours or overnight.
Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
*I didn't use non-stick cooking spray on the pan, instead I lined the bottom and sides with parchment paper and coated it with the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch mixture. I just used an ordinary sharp knife for cutting instead of a pizza wheel and the results were alright.
So there you have easy and it was tastier than any store-bought marshmallows I've ever tasted. Plus imagine all the flavor variations possible!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Daring Cook's June 2012: Cannelloni

So excited about this month's Daring Cooks' challenge...why you may ask...well just because I made bacon for the first time and I wanted to include it in another recipe. And this month's challenge was perfect! I bought around 1.5 kg of pork belly skin on and followed this recipe. Manu from Manu's Menu was our Daring Cooks lovely June hostess and has challenged us to make traditional Italian cannelloni from scratch! We were taught how to make the pasta, filling, and sauces shared with us from her own and her family's treasured recipes!

100 grams (2/3 cups + 2 teaspoons) All-purpose Flour

1 large Egg


1. Put the flour and egg in a food processor and mix. When the dough looks like crumbs pour it onto the bench top sprinkled with a little flour. Knead well by hand until you obtain a smooth dough. Make it into a ball, wrap it in cling wrap and let rest for 10-15 minutes.

2. Now you are ready to make your egg pasta. Cut out a piece of egg pasta flatten it into a rectangular shape with your hands. Put a little flour on it and begin passing it through a pasta machine. Turn the dial to the widest setting (#1) and starting with one of the shorter sides of the rectangle, feed it through the rollers. Now fold one side of the piece of dough into the middle then fold the other side over to make 3 layers. Starting with one of the narrower sides of the dough feed the pasta again at the widest setting. Repeat the folding and and rolling technique on the widest setting for at least a couple of times.

3. Now you can start rolling it thinner by turning the dial to the next narrowest setting (#2). Roll the pasta through the machine without folding the dough between settings. Keep reducing the settings until #7. If the sheet of pasta gets too long, you can cut it in half with a knife. To make cannelloni cut out rectangular pasta sheets (10x15cm) or (4"x6").

*You can do this without a pasta machine, just roll the sheets thinly with a rolling pin and cut into rectangles.


2 cups (500 ml) Milk, hot

3 1/2 Tablespoons (50 grams) Butter

1/3 cup (50 grams) All-purpose Flour

1 pinch salt

1 pinch nutmeg


1. Put the butter in a non-stick pot and let it melt. Add the flour and whisk constantly until well incorporated: this is the "roux" let it cook for a minute or two.

2. Now start adding hot milk little by little, while mixing continuously until milk is well incorporated. Do not add more milk unless it is well incorporated, keep doing so until all the milk is incorporated.

3. Add salt and nutmeg and cook it on low flame for 10 minutes until it thickens.
I got Manu's recipes for the egg pasta and the bechamel but I made my own tomato sauce by sauteeing 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic, 1 minced red onion, 1/2 teaspoon of dried rosemary and 200 grams of whole peeled tomatoes (canned) for about 15 minutes. I seasoned it with a bit of salt and pepper. Then I filled my cannelloni with chopped bacon and mushrooms, rolled them and covered with bechamel and the tomato sauce and sliced mozzarella cheese and baked it in a preheated 350 degrees farenheit oven for 20 minutes.
And there you have it, Cannelloni from scratch! Thank you Manu for this month's Daring Cook's challenge, it was fun to make and delicious!

Please visit the other Daring Cooks and check out all the delicious varieties of Cannelloni that each one came up with, you won't be disappointed.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Lechon Paksiw

So summer is officially in the Philippines. But thankfully the rainy season has been flooding yet.

We took advantage of the last days of summer and visited a farm in Bulacan which is about 2 hours or so away from the capital. There was no traffic along the North Expressway, the sun was shining brightly and this was what greeted us...

Don't you just love the green green grass and plants and the blue sky?

This was my favorite part of the farm. the raised vegetable beds and the greenhouse a.k.a. baby plant nursery

Lest you think that this is just a vegetable farm, there were also goats, a few sheep, lots of chickens, some geese and of course native pigs. The people who run the farm are running it without pesticides, herbicides and artificial short, this is an organic farm. They use vermiculture (African night crawler worms) to fertilize the plants, they also do a lot of composting etc.

One of the people there told me we were going to roast a pig, not an ordinary pig but an organic native pig (they're black in color, have less fat and are generally thought of to taste better than normal pigs). So there I was, taking all these pictures while they were preparing the pig. They butchered it before we arrived so they were just cleaning it when I got there. The Filipino way of roasting a whole pig is on a spit over hot coals. The sun was shining and it was so hot but I wasn't going to miss any of it. They used an electric fan to get the flames going (literally "fanning" the flames). While this was going on, the pig was cleaned and stuffed with native bananas we call saba, crushed garlic, lemon grass and spring onions. While it was roasting they were basting it with a mixture of patis (fish sauce), Sprite (yes the soda) and soy sauce. It took about 2 hours for the pig to be fully cooked, and it was so worth the wait!

Roasting a pig the Filipino way

I went home not only with a full stomach but also with a goody bag of freshly roasted native pig! When they asked me if I wanted to bring home some of the left-overs of course I said yes...I already had something in mind for it.

I really love roasted pig or as we call it Lechon Baboy but actually, I love cooking it as Paksiw na Lechon the next day, it just gets better and better.

The traditional accompaniment or sauce of Lechon is called Sarsa, made of pig's liver, spices, breadcrumbs etc. But nowadays we just buy the bottled Mang Tomas Lechon Sarsa which is available in supermarkets. But we didn't use any lechon sarsa for the Lechon Baboy, it was that need for sauces, the taste was just perfect!

I used the Lechon Sarsa for the Paksiw na here is my recipe for one of my favorite dishes.

1.5 kilos cooked Lechon meat

1 cup Mang Tomas Lechon Sarsa

10 cloves of Garlic, peeled and smashed

2 Bay leaves, dried

1 teaspoon Black Peppercorn

1/2 cup Cane Vinegar

1/4 cup Brown Sugar

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Cut the lechon into 2-inch cubes. Put all ingredients in a pot and cover with enough liquid (water or stock) to submerge the meat, let mixture boil without stirring. When it is boiling, stir and turn down the heat, simmer until the sauce thickens.

Serve hot with rice :)

And there it is...the Paksiw na of my favorite dishes!

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Posting late for the May Daring Bakers' Challenge:  GUILTY, but I really didn't want to sit this one out just because it was hosted by Ruth of The Crafts of Mommyhood.  So here's my late post.
May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.
A brief historical introduction:
Challah is a bread of celebration in Jewish tradition. At a time when white flour was considered a luxury, its use was reserved for either the wealthy or for festive events. In Judaism, the Sabbath is a weekly holiday, and therefore is a festive occasion. It was around the 15th century when Jews in parts of Austria and Germany adopted an oval braided loaf from their neighbors to make the Sabbath special. These fancy shaped loaves made with white flour were seen as a fitting way to honor the Shabbat (Sabbath), symbolized in Jewish culture as a queen, therefore deserving of the finest one can achieve. In honoring the Sabbath as a day of rest, two loaves are traditionally put on the table. This is generally seen as a representation of the double portion of manna provided to the Children of Israel on Fridays during their wandering in the desert after fleeing from Egypt. This double portion allowed them to maintain the commandment to not do “work” on the Sabbath.
Another symbolic comparison to the manna eaten by the Israelites is the fact that challah is traditionally covered with a cloth prior to being blessed and eaten. According to tradition, manna was encased in dew to preserve its freshness. Covering the challah with a decorative cloth serves as another reminder of the special quality of the day of rest. There are other explanations given regarding why the challah is covered. The one which I always liked was that we cover the loaves so they will not be “embarrassed” by having to wait while the wine is blessed first. (A traditional Sabbath dinner begins with a blessing over the wine first, followed by the blessing of the bread, after which the meal is enjoyed.)

Easy Challah (from

4 cups (960 ml) (360 gm/20 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup (240 ml) warm water
1 package (2¼ teaspoons) (11¼ ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) package rapid rise yeast
½ (120 ml) (115 gm/4 oz) cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water

1. Measure flour, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl.
2. In a separate bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer) combine water and yeast, allow to sit 5 minutes until foamy.
3. Add 1 ½ cups of the flour mixture to the water and yeast mixture, beat until well combined. Cover with a dish towel, let stand 30 min.
4. Add two eggs to the dough, beat again.
5. By hand or with your dough hook knead in the remaining flour mixture. Knead approximately 10 minutes.
6. Transfer to oiled bowl, cover, let rise one hour.
7. Punch down dough, knead approximately 3 minutes.
8. Divide dough in two. Shape each half as desired (3, 4, or 6 strand braid).
9. Place loaves on parchment covered or greased cookie sheets, cover with a towel, allow to rise one hour.
10. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
11. Brush loaves with egg wash.
12. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees, bake until golden crust forms (about 25-30 minutes).
13. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Thank you for this challenge Ruth, I really enjoyed making Challah and I will make it again using the other 2 recipes you gave!
Do check out the amazing Challah bread that all the other Daring Bakers have come up with.