Archive by Author

almond cake

29 Mar

So excited to finally bake this cake.  I’ve been planning to make almond cake since winter break but didn’t have enough time.  After studying Mourad Lahlou’s and David Lebovitz’s recipe, I only found two slight differences in their recipes: Lahlou uses more flour and Lebovitz uses more baking powder.  But they are pretty much the exact same recipe with the same amount of butter, eggs, and sugar.  Technique wise, Lahlou foundues the butter, which I highly recommend, in order to make a lighter batter.  Just whisk  the butter over low heat until it is thick and creamy.  I use the same approach when I make my date and walnut bars and it definitely makes a difference.  I basically doubled Lahlou’s recipe to make a 9 inch round layer cake.

Almond Cake
Adapted from Mourad Lahlou’s New Moroccan

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, fondued
7 ounces almond paste
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven at 275 degrees.  Grease 9 x 2.5 inch round cake pan.  Line the bottom with a parchment paper and grease the bottom again.

Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, set aside.

Beat the almond paste with a mixer until it is soft and until it has broken into little pieces.  Add the sugar and mix to combine.  Gradually add the butter and mix until light and fluffy about two minutes.  Add eggs one at a time and make sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one.  Add the extracts and continue mixing until light and fluffy another two minutes.  Fold in the flour.  Do not overmix.

Pour the batter into the pan.  Tap the pan to get rid of air bubbles.  Spread batter evenly with a spatula.  Lahlou says to bake the cake for about an hour.  Mine were done after 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Keep checking after an hour.

Notes:

  1. Baking tips: use the middle rack of the oven, turn the pan halfway through the baking time, ingredients such as eggs and butter should be in room temperature unless indicated otherwise.  You need cold butter when making pie crusts.
  2. I find that most readily available cake pans are too shallow.  I highly recommend investing in this taller layer pan.  No spill, no batter overflow.
  3. I noticed the Lahlou’s oven temperatures are always lower than normal when it comes to baking resulting in longer cooking time.  However, I find that they are always perfectly baked, no burnt edges, perfect golden brown color, etc.  Still trying to find some sort of scientific explanation why, will let you know once I find out.

Lahlou’s book calls for a plum sorbet, cardamom infused yogurt, and toasted almonds to be served with the cake.  It’s not really plum season yet and I still have to invest on an ice cream maker so that will have to wait until next time.  I also didn’t quite get it together to make cardamom infused yogurt.  The cake can be served as is, with fresh or macerated berries, or even a raspberry coulis with honeyed whipped cream as shown above.  This cake is amazing!  Moist and full of almond flavor.  I’ll definitely make this cake again with the cardamom yogurt.  But everyone loved it plain.  Yes, I love anything almond flavored.

almond cookies

23 Mar

It’s spring break!  Yay!  I realized that I still have all these grandiose plans of cooking through Mourad Lahlou’s New Moroccan.  Lahlou’s Aziza remains one of my most favorite restaurants in the city.  I celebrated my 25th birthday at Aziza a couple of years ago and experienced their tasting menu.  Each dish was absolutely amazing.  It was expensive but so worth it.  I still haven’t been back since, so I’m really excited to know that I can try to recreate his dishes at home.

I’m working through his book, cheating, starting first at the back with the desserts.  I’m still deciding whether I really want to roast and grind my own spices.  I totally agree with his take that spice is a verb, it’s really what you do with it, and most importantly, one should really toast and grind spices as needed.  Store spices whole and untoasted.  However, I don’t have the money to buy all the spices to make my own el ras hanout from scratch (his mix has 24 different ingredients!) and a spice grinder.  I know this thought is sacrilegious to Lahlou, but maybe I’ll just use store bought and already ground spices.  But I really like the idea and challenge of making my own spices from scratch.  Maybe I don’t have to make my own el ras hanout, since a basteeya and kefta doesn’t need it.

In any case, keep checking back and see my cooking adventures with Lahlou this spring break.  I’ll write a review of his book as I cook my way through it.  Here’s the second second recipe I tried, I’ll post the first one later.

Almond Cookies
Adpated from Mourad Lahlou’s New Moroccan

1 tablespoon egg white
1/2 tespoon pure almond extract
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 ounces almond paste
3/4 cup skin-on whole almonds
3 tablespoons sugar (original recipe calls for 3 1/2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of kosher salt
powdered sugar

Preheat oven at 325 degrees.

Combine egg white with the extracts and set aside.

Combine the almond paste, almonds, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor until finely ground.  Add the egg white mixture and process until everything comes together.  I used a blender and processed everything little by little since I don’t have a food processor.  It worked fine.

Form dough into round balls by scantly filling a tablespoon. Roll dough into powdered sugar.  Bake for about 14 minutes, middle rack, don’t forget to rotate the pan halfway.  He says 12.  But mine actually took longer so just keep checking until the cookies are cracked and they have some color.  Weirdly, I baked another one of his cookie recipe and the cooking time was also off. Perhaps, I also need to invest in an oven thermometer.

These cookies are really good but also rich.  They are great with tea or just a piece to end a meal.  My mom and aunt loved them!

P.S.  My spice grinder is now on its way, we are on for a spring break of culinary adventures!

sauteed mung beans

19 Mar

This is my personal version of ginisang mungo or sauteed mung beans.  Perfect for the cold weather!

Rinse two cups of mung beans.  Pour water over it, about four inches above the beans depending on how soupy you want your dish to be.  Simmer with a ham hock for about an hour or so until tender.  The ham hock will give the dish that smoky flavor.  I’ve seen recipes where they add chicaron or smoked fish with the dish.  You can even add small pieces of sauteed pork butt or shrimp.

On another pot, sauté crushed garlic, diced onions and tomatoes.  This is the base of most everyday home cooked Filipino food.  I think it’s called a sofrito.  But the use of tomato depends on the dish you are making.  Once the tomatoes are done, pour in the contents of the other pot with the mung beans, ham hock, and the broth.  Slow cook for another half an hour.

Instead of bitter melon, I added baby spinach at the end.  Add as much as you want.  I would add a little bit of vermicelli noodles too but I didn’t have it on hand.

Season with either sea salt or fish sauce and some pepper.  Smells and tastes so good.  Not bad for my first time cooking this dish.

Lunch is served on top of brown rice!

I know, this recipe is not thorough, I really don’t measure when I cook Filipino food.  Feel free to leave a message and ask me a questions.

I’ve heard too many people criticize how Filipino food is all meat.  That’s actually wrong.  Here, in the US, it’s become all about meat because it’s cheap.  In the Philippines, meat is expensive and most everyday home cooking are actually vegetable dishes with a very small amount of meat that they sauté before the sofrito for flavoring.

skillet chocolate chip

18 Mar

Friday night was spent grading final papers and baking whole wheat chocolate chip skillet cookie.  Never thought I’d say this ever, but I actually enjoyed reading almost all of my students’ papers.  Graded all of them in one sitting!  Reading these papers and getting nice e-mails from students are the only things that keep me going these days.  It feels really nice to see that most of them have a good grasp of hard theoretical concepts.  More than what I understood when I first read those materials in undergrad!  Guess the burn out from teaching is worth it.  Oh, baking and cooking non-stop has been helping too!

Back to the cookie.  Thanks to 101 Cookbooks for the recipe, which I followed completely.  No modifications except for using chocolate chips than chunks.  So the first time I tried these cookie, I was not impressed at all.  I was looking for that caramelized  taste.  But this cookie actually get better with time.  It’s so good a day or two later.  Made with whole wheat flour.  It’s almost healthier than the regular kind and the whole wheat flour brings in a natural nutty flavor without the addition of nuts.  Next time, I might caramelize half of the butter first and do the America’s Test Kitchen approach in making chocolate chip cookies.  By the way, America’s Test Kitchen recipe is the best chocolate chip cookie recipe I have ever made so far.

I love my cast iron skillet!  Not only is it affordable but it is a total workhorse.  I have made the perfect ribeye, pizza, pancakes, etc.  I can make almost anything with it.  The only part I don’t like about my skillet is that I have to clean it right away after using or it will rust.  Here are some awesome tips on how to use it and how to take care of it.

thank you

14 Mar

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This awesome cookbook arrived in the mail today.  I was totally surprised since it has my name and address on it only I never ordered the book in the first place.  There was no receipt, no inscription, nothing at all to let me know who it came from.  It took me all day, a lot of text messages, and even several phone calls to finally figure out the culprit.  Good one.

But the thought and act of kindness that came with this surprise couldn’t have come in a better time.  It’s the end of winter quarter.  I’m burnt out and my spirits are starting to get low.  Dearest mystery person, thank you for making my day today.  This gesture means a lot to me.

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Guess this means we’ll be taking up the cookbook challenge come spring quarter. Quickly browsing through the recipes so far, it feels like my advisor just told me to read Of Grammatology in one day and take another day to write a ten page analysis of it.  I mean this is a serious cookbook that tells you how to make your own ramen broth from scratch.  Did you know making your own broth takes at least 16 hours?  And it involves making your own bacon.  I think I’ll start with the fried chicken.  But then again a 16 hour broth sounds better than a nine hour qualifying exam.

It’s going to be so much fun, I’m excited!  I think humanities doctorate programs should start handing out dual degrees–one on an academic subject and another one on cooking.  Seems like so many academics become really great cooks to cope with the intellectually demanding lifestyle of academia.

whole wheat pancakes

12 Mar

Few years ago, a friend of mine made me pancakes when I was visiting her and her family.  She made these delicious pancakes that she said she got from Alton Brown.  Since I bought this huge bag of whole wheat flour to make the coconut muffins, I thought of experimenting with mixing whole wheat and all purpose flour together.

This recipe turned out really well.  Nice, fluffy, and tasty.  Although, I made  a slight mistake of putting a little too much more salt and baking powder than the recipe calls for.  I really shouldn’t be doing math in the morning when I just woke up.

This is a great basic pancake recipe that one can create wonders with such as adding chocolate chips, blueberries, etc.  Maybe one can even add macadamia nuts, unsweetened shredded coconut, and even substitute coconut oil instead of the butter?  I’ll have to experiment with this idea next time.

Whole Wheat Pancake Flour Mix

Recipe adapted from Alton Brown

4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar

Mix all together.  Keep in a well sealed container.  Use within 3 months.

Pancake Batter Recipe

2 eggs separated
2 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups of the Pancake Mix above
butter to grease the pan

Beat the egg yolks and buttermilk together.

Beat the egg whites and melted butter.  Make sure the butter is slightly cooled.

Combine the buttermilk and melted butter mixture together.

Combine with wet and dry ingredients together.  Do not over mix.  Cook over a buttered skillet or griddle.

green tea mochi cake

11 Mar

I’ve been on a baking roll because I need to feel that I am accomplishing something right now.  I’ve been wanting to try this recipe but it makes a huge pan of mochi and I actually don’t like eating what I make.  I made these for my students for our last section and they seemed to enjoy it.  I think adding unsweetened coconut on the batter would work well.  Even better would be a plain mochi with macapuno filling.  Espresso flavored mochi would work well too.  I wonder if ube flavored mochi would taste good?

Green Tea Mochi Cake

Adapted from Gourmet via New Asian Cuisine

1 lb box of mochiko flour or 3 cups of sweet rice flour
2 1/4 cups of sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 tablespoons of matcha powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 14 oz can of coconut milk
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
5 large eggs
1 stick of butter melted and slightly cooled

Preheat oven at 350 degrees, grease a 9×13 pan.

Stir together rice flour, sugar, baking powder, matcha powder, and salt.

Mix together coconut milk, milk, eggs, and butter.

Combine wet and dry ingredients together.  Pour in the pan.  Don’t forget to tap the pan in the counter to get rid of air bubbles.

The recipe says bake for an hour and a half but mine were done in an hour.  So make sure to check after 50 minutes to avoid overcooking.  Then again our oven is from the turn of the century and tends to cook things quickly.  I ended up having to cut out all the edges because they were almost burnt.  With minor modifications such as adding more green tea powder and adding less sugar, this recipe turned out well and the mochi was tasty.

triple coconut muffins

8 Mar

When I get annoyed, cranky, and stressed out, I bake or cook then I feel so much better afterwards. I was having one of those days and in academia those days can be pretty often. Cooking and baking are instant gratification. Ideas and papers take a long time to come together while a muffin is done in an hour or less!  The more complex the idea I’m working with or the more stressed out I am, the more labor intensive cooking I do.

I’ve been planning on making these with friends but I couldn’t wait.  Sorry!  These muffins turned out amazing.  None of that cloyingly sweet fake coconut taste.  It’s light, fluffy, moist, and full of coconut flavor.  As already pointed out at Smitten Kitchen, this recipe is very versatile and can be modified in so many ways, one can add semi-sweet chocolate chips or even macadamia nuts.  I love it plain and simple since coconut is already rich.

Recipe with my mess

Batter.  Silicone spatulas are awesome, from baking to cooking, won’t scratch your cookware!  Very versatile and practical.

Before

After

Lightly golden brown.  Baked perfectly!

Coconut Muffins
Adapted and modified from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup virgin coconut oil melted
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup and 1 tbsp. sugar
1 large egg at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven at 375 degrees.

Mix coconut oil, egg, vanilla, and coconut milk.  Make sure the coconut oil is cooled before you mix in the egg otherwise it will cook the egg.  To quickly turn an egg to room temperature just dunk it on warm tap water for a little bit.

Stir together flours, salt, baking powder, and shredded coconut.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients together.  Do not over mix.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.  Mine took a little bit longer to bake so just keep checking.

Happy baking!

beef short ribs adobo in coconut milk

26 Feb

Seasoning and pan searing the short ribs until golden brown.  Get the beef plate not the English cut short rib.

Short rib on top of Jasmine rice and sautéed kale courtesy of MF (aka Octavia)

Octavia: “We have no footmen to serve the dinner!”

Beef Short Ribs Adobo
Adapted from Memories of Philippine Kitchens

3 Tbs. canola oil
3 lbs. beef short ribs, cut in equal pieces
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. pepper
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 head garlic, cloves peeled, separated, and smashed
3 bay leaves
3 whole birdseye chiles or red pepper flakes (optional)

Season ribs with salt and pepper and pan sear. Transfer ribs to a plate and pour off the oil. Return ribs to the saucepan add all the rest of ingredients plus the remaining 1 tsp. of pepper. Bring mixture to a boil then slow cook until the meat falls off the bone about 3 hours. Skim excess fat as you cook. Take out ribs and reduce the sauce until thickened.

This dish was absolutely delicious but I think the vinegar came out too strong for my taste and overpowered the creaminess and sweetness of the coconut milk.  For next time, I’ll only include 3/4 cups of sherry vinegar.

Tamarind Martini Cocktails
by HM (aka Hotdish)

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Can there be anymore perfect cocktails for the night?  I absolutely loved the chili powder and sugar on the rim.

Homemade Coconut Ice Cream topped with Coconut Flakes
by AK (aka Maplescone)


One of the best coconut ice cream I’ve ever had hands down.  As Octavia aptly puts it, “it has a very sincere coconut taste.”  The coconut flakes add a nice texture and balance to the smoothness of the ice cream.  I didn’t care if I lost and came in third.  The ice cream made up for it!

Nothing beats good food, good company, and a game of scrabble.  Hope you all had a great Saturday evening.

-FM (aka Flamin’ Fritzie)

dry roasted baby back ribs

21 Feb

Pan searing the baby back ribs since they ran out of short ribs at the store.  I love my new cast iron pan but it is hot and heavy!

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Finished product.

Roasted Pork Short Ribs
Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc

Short Ribs
Sea Salt
Pepper
Canola Oil

Make sure the meat is at room temperature. Generously season the meat with salt and pepper. Let stand for at least 20 minutes for the meat to absorb the seasonings otherwise the salt and pepper will just end up on the pan. Pan sear the meat until golden brown on all sides. Roast in the oven, 350 degrees for about two hours. Let the ribs rest somewhere warm for at least 30 minutes. Longer resting time will yield more tender meat!  I’m now waiting for my dinner to finish resting.

In the meanwhile, I made some enselada as a side salad and dipping sauce: vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, red onion, and tomatoes.

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