December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve 2008


cherry tomatoes, embutido, deep fried adobado Cornish hens
Brazilian cheese rolls, ube kalamay with latik, kuchinta
fried bilo-bilo with coconut sauce, queso de bola and grapes, silvanas

I have decided to continue making round shaped food for this year's New Year's Eve dinner. It's not because I came into loads of cash last year preparing and eating round shaped food, I just think it's fun to make them, and the 2 rounds of number 8 inspired me. Have a Prosperous 2008 to all!

2008 New Year's Eve menu:
  • Tomato Salad With Vinaigrette Dressing
  • Pork And Chicken Embutido
  • Braised Scallops
  • Deep Fried Adobado Cornish Game Hens
  • Brazilian Cheese Puffed Rolls
  • Kuchinta
  • Fried Mungbean-filled Bilo-Bilo In Coconut Cream Sauce
  • Sliced Queso de Bola and Red Seedless Grapes
  • Ube Kalamay
I'll post the photos and recipes of some of the recipes another day.

December 18, 2007

Hang A Shining Star...

This is one of the Filipino Parol (Farol or lantern) made of multi-colored capiz shells that I hang at the windows inside the house. They are very colorful and pretty when lit.

I will be back blogging before or after New Year's day. Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

Merry Christmas
Maligayang Pasko
Feliz Navidad
Joyeux Noël
Maupay nga Pasko
Fröliche Weihnachten
Mele Kalikimaka
God Jul
Buon Natale
Shinnen omedeto
Vrolijk Kerstfeest
Malipayong Pasko

Glædelig Jul
nga Pascua

December 10, 2007

Buco-Pandan Chiffon Cake And Kaya

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kaya on a slice of Buco-Pandan Chiffon Cake

I was going to make a round pandan chiffon layer cake with coconut milk-egg filling (kaya) but I and my Fil-grocer both ran out of pandan essence. I made a buco-pandan chiffon cake that I baked in a loaf pan, sliced the cake like bread, and smothered the slices with kaya. I have read about kaya at Anton of Our Awesome Planet and Lori of Dessert Comes First blogs. I looked for it online but couldn't find anyone that sells it. Our Asian groceries also don't have many Malaysian or Singaporean stuff. Come to think of it, I have not seen any Malaysian or Singaporean in my area, not that I am an expert in recognizing them. What I'm saying is there are few Asians where I live. I have one Vietnamese and one Indian neighbors but not one Filipino or any other Asian. *I wonder where they're at* That could be a reason why there are very few Malaysian/Singaporean food products available here, or maybe I'm not looking hard enough.

homemade kaya

I made the kaya last night which I thought at first was a total waste of time. The mixture curdled regardless of cooking on very low heat and with constant stirring, the result is a yellowish ugly lump, not the caramel colored jam. I advise you NOT to follow the recipe on the link, it's meant for professional kaya makers or people who have the patience to stir it for maybe 5 hours in a double boiler. Anyway, I saved the curdled jam by blending it with a little pandan water. I caramelized 2 T of sugar until it's really brown, added that to the mixture and voila! kaya that's so smooth and caramel colored and so delicious. Now I understand the appeal of this jam, it is practically a spreadable leche flan (eggs, coconut milk, caramelized sugar). And it is the perfect spread to go with the buco-pandan slices. I also had it on toast this morning for breakfast, with a sunny side up egg to complete the Malaysian/Singaporean treat, so yummy and may be addicting. The next time I make kaya I will temper the eggs first. If successful I'll post the complete recipe.

I love the light mint green color and subtle flavor of this Buco-Pandan Chiffon Cake

Buco-Pandan Chiffon Loaf Cake
1 cup flour
¾ cup sugar
1½ teaspoon baking powder
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup pandan water*
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon buco-pandan essence
4 egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon salt
  • Sift dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the next 4 ingredients and mix very well, set aside.
  • In a large clean bowl beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until stiff but not dry. Mix ¼ of the egg whites into the flour mixture to lighten. Add the flour mixture into the rest of the egg whites and fold gently. Spoon into a bottom-lined 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan. Smooth top. Tap gently on the counter to remove large air bubbles.
  • Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until cake test done. Cool for 30 minutes before removing from pan.
*To make pandan water, blend 12 well washed and dried pandan leaves with 2 cups water. Strain using coffee filter on a sieve. Refrigerate until ready to use.

December 8, 2007


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dark brown tikoy

Tikoy is a Chinese New Year's staple in the Philippines but in my mother's hometown of Sariaya, Quezon the very dark brown and very sticky tikoy has always been part of the Christmas season spread. Although I also like the white tikoy I prefer the Quezon Province brown tikoy. I like it for breakfast either with coffee, Chai, or jasmine tea.

Dark Brown Tikoy
16 ounces sweet rice flour
1½ cups muscovado or panocha
1/8 tsp salt
2¾ C water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 well beaten egg, optional
butter for frying
  • Mix sweet rice flour, sugar, and salt. Add 2 cups water, mix well. Slowly add the remaining water and vanilla extract. Spray a round baking glass with oil spray. Pour the sweet rice mixture and place on a steamer. Steam on medium heat for 1 - 2 hours. Refrigerate until firm. Slice thinly then fry in hot butter until soft, or dip in beaten egg before frying.
The steaming time is rather long at 2 hours but I did not mind the wait because I was busy putting up the Christmas tree and the lights on the front of my house yesterday while the tikoy was cooking. It was very cold and windy the past 5 days and as of yesterday there was still 3 inches of snow on the ground. It's hard to walk back and forth to drape the light netting on the bushes and small trees, the hem of my jeans getting cold and damp but I got it done. We are ready for Christmas.:-)

Update: 01/17/2008
White Tikoy
2 ½ cups sweet rice flour
1 ¾ cups water
1 cup sugar
  • Mix all ingredients until smooth. Line a bamboo steamer with cloth. Pour mixture into the lined steamer and steam for 1 - 2 hours, or until set. Cool completely. Wrap in plastic film and refrigerate overnight. Slice thinly, then fry in a non-stick skillet with a little butter, or dip in beaten egg before frying.

December 3, 2007

Cooking With Pandan

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Reading Ruy's blog got me drooling for chicken wrapped in pandan. This is a very popular appetizer which I had countless of times in Thai restaurants but have never cooked it because it seems tedious to prepare. It takes time to wrap the chicken pieces and I am not a deep-fry enthusiast but the finished dish is rewarding in its yumminess. Unbelievably, my 2 Thai cookbooks both don't have a recipe for this dish and searching on the web is frustrating because there are several versions of it. I used the ingredients that I like from 2 recipes and made my own marinade. It is so finger lickin' (and pandan-licking) good and does not need any dipping sauce. All you need is plenty of steamed rice.

Chicken Wrapped In Pandan
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, thinly sliced and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons finely minced cilantro with roots
2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
1½ tablespoons fish extract
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon palm or regular sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine
pandan leaves, thawed and well cleaned
peanut or grapeseed oil
  • Mix all ingredients except pandan and oil. Marinate for 1 hour or overnight in the refrigerator. Form pandan into little pockets and fill with 1 tablespoon of the marinated chicken, or simply wrap a few pieces of chicken with pandan. Fry in medium hot oil until pandan has turned brown, about 2 minutes on each side. Drain well and serve immediately.

finger and pandan-licking good

Pandan is used extensively in Asia: Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and I think, India. They all use pandan to flavor sweets and savory dishes. In the Philippines it is used to flavor rice cakes, chiffon cakes, ice cream, gelatin, hopia, polvoron, barquillos, and any sweets you can think of. My mother used to add a leaf in boiling rice for its fragrance and flavor. It also makes the house smell good that you want to dig in as soon as you get inside.

December 2, 2007

2007 Best in Fiction and Non-Fiction Books, Movies, And Music

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Most came out in 2007, a few in the 90s and 80s.

ANGELICA Arthur Phillips
AFTER DARK Haruki Murakami
MAKING MONEY Terry Pratchett
THE PRESTIGE Christopher Priest

THE WILD TREES Richard Preston


PROG (jazz) The Bad Plus
ARTIST IN RESIDENCE (jazz) Jason Moran
OCEANA (classical) Osvaldo Golijov -composer
TALK TO LA BOMB (electronica) Brazilian Girls
ONE MORE DRIFTER IN THE SNOW (Christmas songs) Aimee Mann

December 1, 2007

Christmas Movies on DVDs

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3 must-see Christmas movies on DVDs:
  • Raymond Brigg's THE SNOWMAN, a 1982 half hour no dialog animation from the UK about a boy who built a snowman who comes to life. The boy, James, invites the snowman inside the house, shows him around. They go back outside on the yard, ride a motorbike, then they go flying up in the air while the beautiful song WALKING IN THE AIR plays, and join other snowmen at Father Christmas' party. Play the You Tube video of Walking In The Air and you'll fall in love too.

A Charlie Brown Christmas>
A Christmas Story

The Top 10 Hilarious Lines and Scenes
  1. You'll shoot your eye out, kid!
  2. Flick's tongue stuck on the frozen flagpole
  3. Ralphie uttering Oh, fuuuuu** in front of his Dad
  4. I triple-dog dare you!
  5. Randy paralyzed by his snowsuit: aurnnm aurnnm (I can't put my arms down)
  6. The yellow-eyed Scotty Farkus affair
  7. You used up all the glue on purpose
  8. Be sure to drink your Ovaltine
  9. Ralphie in the pink bunny suit
  10. Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra

November 29, 2007


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Chocolate-Cherry Fruitcake sans nuts
David Lebovitz is always and inspiration to bake something including the most ridiculed and reviled (at least here in the US) of all Christmas season staples: the fruitcake. The on-going joke that somewhere there's a fruitcake being endlessly passed on from one person to another from generation to generation since the first fruitcake was baked could be true because people don't want to throw food away and "re-gift" the dreaded fruitcake. I remember getting one such cake many years ago, it came in a Christmas gift basket with all those beer sausages and cheeses. I felt so guilty when I threw the fruitcake away. Every year there is a fruitcake tossing contest because these people either really hate fruitcakes, have nothing better to do, or just love using their catapults. I can understand why they don't like fruitcake. The first US-made fruitcake we had was in my parents-in-law's house in Texas (the cake was probably a gift). We all hated it. It was bone dry, studded with tasteless hard fruits and nuts, with no cake (flour) visible, cloyingly sweet, and no hint of liquor either. My MIL used to make the darkest, moistest, most delicious will-make-you-tipsy fruitcakes in Manila and the US fruitcakes were a big disappointment.

Anyway, I made the traditional fruitcakes which I will inject regularly with brandy for the next 3 weeks and half a recipe of David's Chocolate-Cherry Fruitcake which was a semi-disaster because I did not add the nuts. I had the recipe in front of me but forgot the nuts were still in the toaster oven when I started mixing and spooned the batter into the pans without realizing the nuts were missing. Oh well, the cake is still very good and will bake another batch a week before Christmas. I sprinkled some of the toasted nuts on top of the sliced cake for the crunch and flavor.


3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ tsp allspice
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups snipped whole dates
1 cup dried currants or sultanas
½ cup chopped red candied cherries
½ cup chopped green candied cherries
½ cup candied pineapple
¾ cup candied citron
¼ cup candied lemon peels
¼ cup candied orange peels
¼ cup chopped candied ginger
1 cup chopped walnuts or almonds
1 cup soft butter
1½ cups dark brown sugar
4 eggs
¾ cup orange juice
¼ cup brandy plus more for brushing
zest of 1 large orange
  • Pre-heat oven to 300°F.
  • Grease three 8 x 4 x 2-inch loaf pans, line with parchment paper, grease paper, set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, mix fruits and nuts with ¼ cup flour, set aside. Sift the rest of the flour with the spices, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add sugar, butter, eggs, juice, brandy and zest. Mix for 2 to 3 minutes. With a large spatula mix in the fruits and nuts. Spoon into the prepared pans, smooth top. Bake for 2 hours or until cake test done (I use a small wooden skewer). Place on wire racks and let cool in pans thoroughly. Remove from pans and peel off paper. Brush all over with brandy and wrap in plastic film. Keep in a freezer gallon bag in the refrigerator. Moisten loaves with brandy every 4 days for 3 weeks before serving.

November 27, 2007

Tortellini And Grapes Salad


We have tons of leftover roast turkey because we eat like birds and it takes a looong time for us to finish a whole turkey. I kept about a quarter in the freezer and made some into quesadillas the day after Thanksgiving but there is still plenty of white meat in the fridge. The leftover seems to be growing instead of getting smaller. Of course we can't have turkey everyday but today I am forcing everyone to eat at least a slice with the salad I made today, Tortellini and Grapes. This salad reminds me of the Waldorf Astoria salad that has apples and walnuts and usually served with roasted chicken breast, the difference is the addition of pasta with cheese filling. I changed the dressing a little by adding 2 tablespoons of honey mustard and used roasted pumpkin seeds instead of walnuts. At first I thought it would be unusual to combine cheese and sweetish dressing but to my surprise I liked it a lot. It's very good with the roast turkey or just by itself as a vegetarian fare.

Tortellini And Grapes Salad
8 ounces tortellini with cheese or spinach, prepared according to package directions and chilled
2 cups red seedless grapes
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoonss honey mustard
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup toasted walnuts
1 teaspoon minced shallot, optional
  • Mix mayonnaise, honey, honey mustard, salt, and shallot. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss gently. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.

November 26, 2007

Movies on DVD Review

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My review of a 1981 French art-pop and 2 animated movies on DVD

Once again I find myself in the minority who did not like this much-loved animated movie about a rat who loves to cook gourmet food. My question to Disney: WHY A RAT? The symbol of all things foul and putrid: bubonic plague, sewers, garbage, and all sorts of diseases associated with it being dirty. AND WHY A MOVIE ABOUT COOKING WITH A RAT? Unlike cute cartoon drawn mice Mickey and Minnie the rats in this movie are so life-like with their gray fur and pink noses, paws and tails. Eww, eww, eww, yuck! The characters and script did not appeal to me at all. I did not laugh the entire time I was watching because all the characters are repulsive to me specially the young man, Alfredo Linguini, who is so painfully irritating and repetitive. Not a single character is adorable but rather it's full of cliched and overused personalities: the angry strong chick, arrogant critic voiced by a British actor, and the dwarf sinister dark skinned thin mustachioed villain again voiced by a British actor. And I really hated the first 10 - 15 minutes with the crazy woman shooting and destroying her own house. Not. Funny. I was wishing she would accidentally shoot herself or the chandelier would fall on her. There was very little cooking shown so what is the point. The ending was so disgusting with the rats having their own dining room at a mezzanine floor overlooking the main dining room. I do not like to see RATS that look like real rats and not cartoon rats in the same restaurant in a cartoon, ick!

I have enjoyed the first 2 Shrek movies and I was not totally disappointed with this installment. It is far from flawless, some of the jokes are a little too gross a la Austin Powers but I still liked the movie. Who can resist Puss, he's so cute. The High School scene is a little bit corny, I must admit, but tolerable. Although the movie is a little bit crowded with so many new characters, I love the addition of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Belle. What can I say, the animation and soundtrack are superb. Paul McCartney's Live and Let Die during the king's pond funeral and the women charging to rescue Shrek with Heart's Barracuda as background music are excellent choices and made me smile. Highly recommended if you don't mind a few flatulence gags.

I am wondering why I have never heard of this 1981 French movie before it appeared in our Netflix recommendation corner. It is such a gem, I love love love it. It has everything I like: comedy, action, suspense, fantasy, romance, bad guys, weird people, fantastic chase scene, and operatic aria.
This is not your average boy meets girl in the romantic city of Paris. It's much more than that. The male lead, a 19-year old postal courier Jules, is in love with an American soprano, the Diva of the title, who in her entire career refuses to be recorded. During her latest recital he recorded her with his expensive recording equipment so he can listen to her whenever he likes which is every time he is home. He managed to steal the dress the Diva wore at the recital, brought it home where there is a large poster of her, and holding the dress while listening to the illegal recording. I know, it seems creepy but I didn't see it in that sense, I can't explain why. Now come the bad guys, 2 sets of them: the hired thugs working for the corrupt Police Chief, and the Taiwanese businessmen who also want to have a bootleg recording of the Diva. One of the thugs is an awl wielding psycho, called Le curé, played by rubber-faced (or to Filipinos mukhasim) Dominic Pinon of Amelie, The City of Lost Children, Delicatessen, A Very Long Engagement, etc. He has very few lines which always start with I DON'T, car garages, Beethoven, elevators, etc. Jules also befriended the oddest couple in Paris. He is a 30-something male (who is also a master criminal or thief) and his female companion, a young girl, Alba, whose preoccupation is thievery, she stole a music record using photos of herself naked or in sexy poses to distract the store clerk. They live in a very large unfurnished loft apartment with just cushions to sit on, hammocks for beds, and a bathtub on one side of the apartment. But the guy is a gourmet of sorts, teaching Jules the art of making a baguette sandwich, i.e., using a knife that has the precise thinness, how much butter to spread, and so on. This weird couple helped Jules get rid of the 2 sets of villains all at once. All the characters, except the Diva who only has interaction with Jules, crossed paths when the mistress of the police chief placed an incriminating recording she made in Jules' delivery bag. I like the chase sequence which IMHO is second only to Bullitt's. Jules was riding a friend's motorbike going up and down stairs, in and out of the Metro, in and out of the train, the poor policeman chasing him was no match. Spoiler Alert: To make the story short, all the bad guys perished, he became friends with the diva (she sang Bach/Gounoud's Ave Maria and an aria from an Italian opera called The Wally) who forgave him for the recording agreeing to listen to it. I so love this very stylish plot driven movie that I watched it again the very next day.

November 23, 2007

French Toast Bites

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french toast bites with maple caramel sauce

There's always leftover bread in my house after the holidays and the perfect way to use them is making them into French toast (pain perdu) for breakfast or brunch. Old baguette, brioche, or challah is my bread of choice because not only are they delicious they also don't become soggy. This time I made them into small bites with maple caramel sauce and different toppings.
BTW, the Japanese duo Cibo Matto has a song Le Pain Perdu, about getting out (of a relationship) before it gets stale, check out the lyrics. I actually got the idea of making pain perdu when this song came on while I was preparing the turkey stuffing.:-)

Le Pain Perdu Lyrics

French Toast Squares
1 egg, well beaten
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoon flour
½ cup whole milk
2 cups 1-inch cubed day old baguette or brioche
powdered sugar, optional
  • Mix egg, sugar, flour, and milk. Soak bread for 10 minutes. Heat a skillet, add 2 T butter and fry bread until golden brown and crisp. Serve with syrup and fruits of your choice or top with Nutella, fruit preserves, or sweetened heavy cream. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Apple, Sausage, and Chestnuts Stuffing
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 medium onion, chopped
3 apples, chopped
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
10 cups cubed day old baguette
2 cups coarsely chopped roasted chestnuts
2 cups pre-cooked crumbled Italian sweet sausage
2 teaspoons salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 cups hot chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
  • Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven, add celery and onion and stir fry for 3 minutes. Add apples, parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary, bread, chestnuts, sausage, salt and pepper, cook for 3 minutes. Pour broth all over. Spoon into a large baking dish. Dot with butter. Bake, covered with foil at 350°F for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 20 minutes or until top is brown.

Spiced Cranberry Sauce

1 16-ounce bag cranberries
¾ cup sugar
juice and zest of 1 large orange
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 small piece thinly sliced ginger
  • Heat all ingredients in a medium stainless steel saucepan, bring to a boil, mix gently. Lower heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick and ginger before serving.
Pumpkin Pie

1 pie crust for 10 -inch pie, homemade or store bought
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons heavy cream
14 ounces pumpkin puree
¾ C sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
1 can evaporated milk
  • In a small bowl, mix sugar, salt, and spices. Line a pie plate with pie crust, crimp edges, refrigerate while preparing filling. In a large bowl, beat eggs well and stir in the heavy cream. Add puree and sugar mixture, mix thoroughly. Slowly add milk and stir well. Pour into the pie crust. Bake in a pre-heated 450° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and continue baking for 50 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Serve with maple syrup sweetened whipped heavy cream, if desired.

November 20, 2007

Via Mare's Pavo Embuchado (Stuffed Roast Turkey)

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I am posting this recipe adapted from Via Mare's Pavo Embuchado for a few Filipinos who are looking and asking for this particular recipe either for Thanksgiving Day or Christmas. I don't have a photo as I have not cooked our Thanksgiving turkey yet. I'm not using this recipe's stuffing because I plan to prepare it for Christmas, therefore I cannot give a review but with the amount of good stuff (mostly meat) in it, you can just imagine it will be scrumptious. For Thanksgiving I always make a simple bread, apples (or quinces), and chestnuts stuffing that I bake outside the turkey in a separate casserole.

Via Mare Stuffed Roast Turkey
1 15-lb turkey
3 carrots, washed, scrubbed, and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 onions, cut into chunks,
3 celery sticks with tops, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 pound ground pork
1 pound lean ground beef
½ cup grated Edam cheese
½ cup stuffed green olives, chopped
1½ cup Chinese or Virginia ham, chopped
2 pieces chorizo, chopped
1 cup chopped Vienna sausage
4 eggs
1 cup raisins, optional
  • Prepare the turkey: Wash and dry the turkey thoroughly. Rub generous amounts of salt and pepper inside and out. Leave in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours.
  • Stuff the turkey: Mix all the ingredients, fill turkey, then rub all over with olive oil. Arrange the vegetables in the middle of the roasting pan and place the turkey on top of the vegetables. Carefully add the broth along the side of the pan. Roast turkey in 325° F oven for 4 to 4½ hours. Transfer turkey to a slicing board. Add more broth to the roast pan, if necessary, to deglaze. Strain and use for gravy.
Note: I prefer to brine (water, salt, pepper, sugar, 1 torn bay leaf, and 2 cloves of smashed garlic) the turkey overnight or at least 4 hours. The result is a moist and well seasoned bird.


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laing stewed in coconut milk, prawns, and pork

Recently, I have been reading about laing as pizza topping in many Filipino blogs. Laing is a Filipino dish made with taro leaves stewed in coconut milk. I have never cooked it before and neither did my mother. She used to buy from an ambulant suki (a favorite purveyor of anything from food to house ware) who cooked her delicious laing wrapped in whole taro leaves. My mother preferred to buy rather than cook laing to help the hawker make money and because she did not want to do all the tedious work.

Occasionally, I would buy the canned laing but on my recent trip to the Filipino grocer I saw a package of dried taro leaves which has a recipe card attached to it, the laing served on a young coconut shell. What a great idea! I don't have a young coconut and put the laing in an empty mature coconut shell. It surely would have been better if you get bits of young coconut with every bite of the laing. I tweaked the recipe a bit by reducing the amount of dried leaves by half and came up with a tasty laing, not as delicious as those of my mother's suki but hey, it's good enough for me.:D

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
¼ cup minced prawns
¼ cup minced pork
2 tablespoons fish extract (patis)
1 14-oz can coconut milk
2 ounces dry taro leaves
¼ cup water, if needed
2 bird's eye chili, sliced
salt, to taste, if needed
  1. In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil and saute garlic, onion, and ginger for 3 minutes. Add the prawns and pork, stir fry for 2 minutes. Add the fish extract and stir fry for 1 minute.
  2. Pour the coconut milk, mix very well then mix in the leaves.
  3. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, checking if it needs water.
  4. Add sliced chili, taste and adjust seasoning, and dish up. Serve with steamed rice or as a side dish.

November 17, 2007

Shepherd's Pie

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I was watching last Wednesday's Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay who every week tries to diagnose and treat an ailing restaurant. The restaurant featured serves Irish food and is owned and operated by a father, his 2 sons, and a daughter-in-law. The chef is the younger son with a sous chef from hell. He picked up a chicken wing that fell on the floor and promptly put it in the fryer right in front of Ramsay and the camera saying all the germs it picked up from the floor will die from deep frying anyway, eww. The dishes they serve are less than below average. The clients complained of cold, dry, and simply tasteless dishes most specially the Shepherd's Pie, a very typical British dish. During the make-over period, Ramsay prepared a pie that he says is his own mother's recipe and after tasting his pie the restaurant owners and crew oohed and aahed. He then made them taste the son's pie and they all made faces indicating it is yucky. That hurt the chef, you could see it from his face and he did not show up in the restaurant for 5 days.

The reject pie brought me back to the day my son came home from school with a plate of shepherd's pie he made in school as a project when he was a student in a British School in Hong Kong. He proudly presented us the pie saying he made it all by himself, of course with the teacher's recipe and guidance. One bite of the pie and we nearly gagged, it was the most horrible food I have ever tasted in my life. The onions were raw and crunchy, the meat was dry and under seasoned with just salt, pepper, and nothing else. And the mashed potatoes was equally forgettable. But we couldn't tell him because we didn't want to hurt his feelings. We took a few more bites of the dreadful pie and I threw the rest while he was at school the next day. I can't remember if we ever told him that the pie was awful.

Well, anyway, back to the reality show. Ramsay was able to "save" the restaurant and the Shepherd's pie became its signature dish that everybody seems to love. I looked for his recipe online and prepared it today using beef in place of lamb. I don't know if this is the same recipe he gave to the restaurant but I don't really care because this pie is very very good.

Adapted from Gordon Ramsay's Shepherd's Pie
2 pounds lamb or very lean ground beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, grated
1 large carrot, grated
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1 cup red wine
1 cup chicken broth
2 tsp salt, or to taste
3 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese for mashed potato
  • Prepare the mashed potato, recipe here. Add 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese. Cover, set aside, keep warm while preparing beef.
  • In a large skillet, heat olive oil, stir fry beef until no longer pink. Drain off excess grease. Add onion, garlic, and carrot and stir fry for 3 minutes. Add wooster sauce, tomato paste, thyme and rosemary, cook for 1 minute. Add wine and simmer until wine has almost evaporated. Add the broth and simmer for 5 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  • Transfer beef to a deep dish. Spoon mashed potato on top of beef. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese. Fluff with a fork to create peaks. Bake in a 400° F oven for 20 minutes or broil until top is golden brown.
Click here for Gordon Ramsay's recipe.

November 15, 2007


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One of the many many sweets and snacks that Filipinos inherited (and made a better version of) from the Spanish is polvorones. The Spanish polvorones are baked after shaping by hand, they're not quite cookies nor shortbread, somewhere in between. The candy-like Filipino polvoron is never baked but the flour is also toasted before mixing with sugar, powdered milk and butter, then shaped using either a round or oval mold that are made in the Philippines and nowhere else (they can be purchased from Filipino groceries or eBay). I grew up eating plain polvorones and sometimes the ones with crushed peanuts or toasted sesame seeds but recently various flavors and add-ins have been popping up in the Filipino grocery: the ubiquitous buco-pandan, ube, langka, crispy rice or pinipig, crushed oreo cookies, and the latest, graham crackers. Well, why not join the crowd and here is my contribution: raw cacao nibs. They are so addicting! What's not to love: sugar, butter, milk, and raw crunchy bitter chocolate. Mmmmmm.

Peruvian raw organic cacao nibs

The package says they are nutritious and I think these are highly recommended by vegans who advocate eating raw food. I bought the cacao nibs to add to candies, baked goods, and to eat with cereals but I also love munching on them like peanuts. They are a teeny bit bitter, they are pure chocolate after all, but I love extremely dark chocolate anyway. Cacao nibs, a guilt-free and healthy super yummy snack.

4 cups flour
3/4 cup powdered milk
1½ cups super-fine sugar
1 cup very soft butter
  • Toast flour in a skillet or in a 300°F oven for about 10 minutes until light brown.
  • Into a bowl, sift toasted flour, milk, and sugar. Add the butter and mix thoroughly.
  • Fill mold and press lightly, unmold onto individual pieces of rectangular or square (depending on the mold) multi-colored or white tissue paper, twist ends of paper.
  • Tip: To prevent crumbling, refrigerate unwrapped molded polvoron for a few minutes or until set.
with cacao nibs, graham crackers, buco-pandan, and toasted sesame seeds

November 13, 2007

Caramel Apples


pumpkin pie granny smith, simple caramel crab apple, mint chips and milk chocolate chips fuji This is one treat during Halloween and/or Thanksgiving weekend that has never appealed to me *psst, because you're old*. I prefer to eat apples as a snack, not candy, with sliced Manchego cheese as dessert, or in grilled cheese sandwich. I am not so sure why these jaw and teeth breaking caramel apples are so popular here in the US and of all places in the Philippines. And why in the world would you coat the apples with so much chocolate, why???

Anyway, I have some leftover caramel and coated 3 apples to see what the attraction is and also to add the pictures to my flickr photos, heheh. I actually like the pumpkin pie coating which is a mixture of ground graham crackers, raw sugar, and pumpkin pie spice but is still not as appealing as, say, caramel enrobed in bittersweet chocolate. Anybody in my house is welcome to eat them, but I doubt if they will. I bet the apples will stay on the counter forever and ever.:D

coated with a mixture of graham crackers, coarse raw sugar, and pumpkin pie spice

You can use caramel candies available from the groceries, I think it won't make any difference in taste and go wild with your coatings: rice crispies and peanuts, mini marshmallows and chopped almonds then drizzled with melted chocolate, chopped butterfingers, white chocolate and butterscotch chips but don't make them look so gaudy. But then, maybe the gaudy ones on display shelves or on the dinner table are more attractive specially to children.:D

November 12, 2007


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I usually make this vegetable dish when I have leftover crispy fried pork belly. The pinakbet I made today is similar to the Ilocos style of layering the vegetables and cooking it just until the vegetables are al dente. I used half of a medium size bitter melon (ampalaya). I don't recommend the very small Indian variety because they are super bitter unless you love bitter things. To prepare bitter melon, cut in half lengthwise, scrape the seeds and the white soft innards until you can see the light green meat, slice into 1 inch pieces, blanch in salted water, rinse with cold water 2 or 3 times. This process is supposed to remove some of the bitterness but I'm not sure if this really works, though.

1 cup diced bagnet/lechon kawali (pork belly confit)
a 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup yard long beans (sitaw), cut into 1 inch pieces
1 Asian eggplant, halved and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large tomato, sliced
2 tablespoons sliced shallots
10 pieces okra
1 cup kabocha squash, cut into ½ inch pieces
½ bitter melon, prepared as above
¼ cup bagoong alamang (salted shrimp paste) mixed with ¼ cup water or ½ cup fish bagoong (may substitute 2 tins anchovy filet mashed in ¼ cup water and strained)
  • In a medium pot, arrange the pork evenly at the bottom, add the ginger on top of the pork spreading it evenly. Layer the vegetables, with the bitter melon either on the very top or if you want some bitter taste, in the middle. Pour the alamang mixture all over the vegetables. Cover the pot.
  • Over high heat, boil rapidly for 10 minutes. Do not mix while boiling. Serve with steamed rice or as a side dish.

2 ½ pounds boneless pork belly
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 bay leaves
1 ½ tablespoons sea salt
vegetable oil
  • Put pork in a large pot. Add bay leaves, garlic, and salt. Add water to cover pork. Boil for 1 hour. Remove pork, drain well, dry with paper towels.
  • Transfer to another pot. Add enough oil to cover pork, fry over very low heat for 1 hour to remove excess moisture. Remove pork and transfer to a large plate to cool completely.
  • When cooled, reheat the same oil over high heat and fry the pork belly until skin is golden in color and very crisp.
For flexi-vegetarian pinakbet omit pork.
For vegan pinakbet, omit pork and substitute 4 tablespoons soy sauce for the shrimp paste. Adjust seasoning with sea salt to taste.

November 9, 2007

Kabocha (Japanese Squash)

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At the Korean grocery, a bin of dark green, tough skinned squash labeled kabocha caught my eye and I remember seeing this squash in one of my Japanese cookbooks. They are smallish, ranging from 1 to 3 pounds. I am not particularly fond of squash or pumpkins, except for the annual pie for Thanksgiving and pumpkin butter. When I make pinakbet I put maybe just half a cup of diced squash. I can't say why it's not one of my favorite vegetables, maybe it reminds me of the mashed squash that my children ate when they were babies.

Because I am curious about this vegetable, I bought the tiniest one. My cookbook describes the vegetable as similar in smell and flavor, although not as sweet, as chestnuts. I got so excited with the mention of chestnuts, heheh (it really smells and tastes like chestnuts when cooked). The cookbook has 3 entries: steamed sweet cake served with sliced pears or persimmons, simply steamed with sea salt, and savory with chicken sauce. I prepared the simplest which is salt-steamed and sprinkled with more sea salt before serving. I am loving this vegetable! I made the steamed cake and I have fuyu persimmons that have been ripening on the counter for the past 3 days. They aren't fully ripe yet but already so sweet and pair perfectly with the steamed cake. My cake does not look pretty but it tastes absolutely divine! I must get more kabochas for our Thanksgiving pie and to make sweet filling for siopao buns.

steamed kabocha chips: healthier than fries and yummier too!

Kabocha Cake

1 12-oz kabocha squash
2 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½ tablespoons water
2 egg yolks, beaten
sliced persimmon or pear, optional
  • In a medium pot, heat ½ inch of water, put whole unpeeled kabocha, and steam for 3 minutes.
  • Remove the kabocha and cut in half. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Cut into chunks.
  • Steam in a covered steamer for about 15 minutes.
  • Remove the skin and mash the flesh in a food processor. Transfer to a mixing bowl, add the rest of the ingredients except fruits. Mix well.
  • Roll out a sushi mat, line with a piece of slightly wet muslin. Spread the kabocha mixture evenly. Hold the nearest end and lightly roll up the mat to the other end. Fold both ends of muslin to close.
  • Steam for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let set for 5 minutes. Open the sushi mat and cut cake into 1 inch thick slices. Serve with the sliced fruit.
steamed kabocha cake with sliced fuyu persimmon

November 2, 2007

Pâte de Fruits And Fruit Leather

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apple/apricot and apple/cranberry pâte de fruit and fruit leather

I have been looking for the perfect recipe for pâtes de fruits and quickly realized there's no such thing because while some fruits like cranberries, quinces, and most citrus have natural pectin, others need pectin powder and/or a little citric acid for the pâtes to set properly. I made the pectin-less recipe from my cookbook DESSERT CIRCUS AT HOME by Jacques Torres but almost got burnt by the blorp blorp blorping lava-like mixture. I did not want to spend an hour over the stove stirring while dressed in protective gear so I added 2 packets of liquid pectin. The paste set perfectly and after shaping and rolling in sugar, the fruit candies turned into these delightful little edible gems. I love the slightly chewy and crunchy (from the sugar) exterior and the soft incredibly fruity sweet center. The fruit leather recipe from the same cookbook is very good. I spread the cooked mixture a little bit thicker than fruit roll-ups. I love it too, specially the sweet and tart apple and cranberry which tastes like soft haw flakes. Hmm, what fruit shall I make into paste next, Philippine mango or raspberries?

If you have the time and the patience and have an obsessive personality like myself here are the recipes:

Apple Pâte de Fruits
3 apples, peeled
1¼ cup sugar plus extra for dusting
½ tablespoon butter
6 ounces liquid fruit pectin (2 pouches)
  • Line an 8 x 8 inch square pan with aluminum foil lightly sprayed with oil. Place apples in a medium sauce pan half filled with water. Poach apples for 25 minutes until soft, let cool slightly. Core apples and coarsely chop. Put in a blender and blend until uniform in texture. Pour the puréed apples in a medium saucepan, stir in the sugar and cook over medium heat stirring constantly for 4 minutes. Add the butter and continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Stir in the pectin. Immediately pour into the prepared pan. Let cool completely at room temperature or in the refrigerator.Cut into squares and roll in sugar. Variations: Use the same amount of sugar and pectin and procedure for 2 large quinces, increase poaching time to 45 minutes up to 1 hour until quince is very soft. Tint with red orange color paste, if desired. Replace 1 cup apple purée with 1 cup canned or fresh apricot purée or cranberry purée.

quince pâte de fruit

Fruit Leather (recipe adapted from DESSERT CIRCUS AT HOME by Jacques Torres)
1 cup strawberry purée
juice of ½ lemon
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup powdered pectin
  • Lightly spray a 16 x 24 inch piece of parchment paper with oil, set aside. Combine the strawberry and lemon juice in a stainless steel saucepan over medium-high heat. Combine the sugar and pectin and add to the purée. Whisk well to combine. Allow the mixture to come to a boil while stirring constantly and continue to boil for 3 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and pour into the prepared pan. Using a large offset spatula, spread the mixture evenly over the parchment paper. Set aside to cool. It cools very quickly and develops a skin. For fruit roll-ups, cut into preferred size and simply roll one end into the other.

strawberry fruit roll-up and mascarpone filled ravioli

October 29, 2007

The Bad Plus And Jason Moran Concert

I went to see a double bill performance concert last night in the Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C. First on was jazz pianist Jason Moran who did an excellent show. He was accompanied by a small band: alto and tenor sax, trombone, trumpet, tuba, bass and drums. His program was based on a 1959 Town Hall concert by Thelonius Monk. Before every song begins, a visual and audio of Monk being interviewed or talking with his band was shown on a screen behind the band. It was like a TV special with live music, interesting and entertaining. All the musicians are exceptional although in one instance I hardly heard the piano during the loud playing of all instruments specially the 2 saxophones. I did not expect to love it but I honestly did regardless of the sax. I haven't listened to anything with saxophone (thanks Kenny G for ruining sax for me and probably for everyone else on this entire planet!) but with excellent musicians playing avant-garde jazz style I might start liking the saxophone again.:=) Click on his name to check out the next two performances. I highly recommend his show.

The Bad Plus as usual did not disappoint and was LOUD when it was time to be loud. Some parents who accompanied their teenagers left the auditorium when they thought nobody was looking, I guess they didn't like tbp's music. Well, their music is not for everybody. If you like classical piano AND hard rock, you will probably like them but if you are into smooth jazz you'll probably hate their style of music which is hard to categorize, they are jazzy with a little bit of rock and a touch of classical piano playing. (One example is their cover of Black Sabbath's Iron Man, the tune is familiar but with semi-classical feel with the piano and bass sound, plus relentless drumming.) They played 4 new songs and 4 songs from their records. What I like is they vary their sound each time they play a song. And the last song they played, Silence Is The Question, from their first album GIVE (I played this song over and over for maybe 6 months non-stop) started very slow and soft, as it should be, for maybe 5 minutes then they gradually got louder, more forceful and the ending was magnificently heart pounding! I love tbp!

October 28, 2007

Nuts About Nuts!

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It's the last week of October which means party, party party! which will probably last until early next year. It also means you have to think of what food to bring to these events. Because I love nuts I recommend sweet or savory nuts. They are easy to prepare and to transport unlike cakes which can easily get squished or the quick to spoil macaroni salad. They can be served as appetizers or desserts or dinner/lunch munchies.

October 24, 2007

Mushroom And Wild Rice Soup

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Finally, it feels a teensy bit like fall. Usually by this time of the year I would be making soup at least twice a week but since the first day of autumn the temperature started rising and stayed at a summer-like 80°F until today. Actually it still isn't as cold as it should be but I'm in the mood for mushroom soup and because I have a container of assorted dried mushrooms: morel, porcini, Brazilian caps, ivory portabella, shiitake, oyster. I adapted the recipe on the container using vegetable broth and added fresh baby criminis and cooked wild rice. The wild rice is a wonderful addition because of its chewy texture not to mention it's good for you.

Mushroom And Wild Rice Soup
2 cups re-hydrated mixed wild mushrooms (cut big ones into bite size pieces)
2 cups fresh baby crimini
2 cups cooked wild rice
¼ cupbutter
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
8 garlic cloves, sliced
1/3 cup flour
½ cup dry sherry
6 cups vegetable broth
salt to taste
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, add oil, onion and garlic and saute until onions are soft and translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until all the moisture is mostly gone. Add the flour and stirring often, cook for 5-7 minutes until the flour looks and smells lightly toasted. Add sherry and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in vegetable broth and salt. Let come to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add rice, heavy cream, and thyme and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Serve hot with crusty bread or garlic bread sticks. Or top spaghetti noodles with this thick soup, it's incredibly delicious.

October 21, 2007

Marzipan Halloween Candies

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marzipan pumpkins

marzipan fingers

A large bag of almonds has been sitting in my freezer for I don't know how long. I had to use them up before they go rancid so I made marzipan. Making your own marzipan is time consuming but costs just a fraction of what you'll pay for several 7-oz cans of ready-made marzipan which will probably yield just a dozen of miniature fruits per can. The other advantage of making your own is you are sure there are no additives in your marzipan. And I had so much fun making the miniature pumpkins and "severed" fingers. This is a great project for children. Making fruits like bananas, cherries, and oranges is similar to working with clay, the difference is they are cute, edible, and yummy.

4 cups skinless almond meal
2 egg whites
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
powdered sugar for kneading
1 teaspoon almond extract, optional
  • In a large saucepan over medium heat, mix sugar and water, stir until sugar is melted. Add cream of tartar, bring to a boil. Cover pan and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover, attach candy thermometer and cook to 240°F. Turn off heat, stir until the mixture has thickened slightly. Stir in almonds and egg whites. Turn heat back on and cook for 4 minutes. If using almond extract, stir it in now. Transfer the mixture into a silpat-lined board or surface. Using a spatula, turn and knead until cool enough to handle. With gloved hands, knead until pliable, sprinkling powdered sugar if too sticky. Divide into 8-oz pieces, form into rounds, and wrap in plastic film. Refrigerate until ready to shape.

Marzipan Pumpkins
8 unces marzipan, homemade or store-bought
orange food color paste
dark brown food color paste
powdered sugar for kneading
  • Set aside about 2 tablespoons of marzipan. Sprinkle a little powdered sugar on a silpat-lined surface or large baking sheet, knead the remaining marzipan, add 1/8 tsp orange food color paste, knead well until uniform in color. Add more coloring if you want it brighter than the ones I made. Cut a small piece and shape into a 1-inch ball. Flatten the balls slightly. Using a toothpick, make vertical marks to resemble pumpkins. Set aside.
  • Add brown food color paste a little at a time to the 2 tablespoons marzipan until it is dark chocolate brown in color. Roll into a very thin long piece. Cut into ½ inch pieces. Using the tip of a Japanese plastic chopstick, make tiny holes on top of the pumpkins and insert the stems.

Marzipan Fingers
8 ounces marzipan
10 pieces whole almonds with skin
red food color paste
toothpicks or small food-safe brush
  • Divide marzipan into 10 pieces and form each into fingers. Using a toothpick, make marks to resemble fingers. Using your nails or toothpick fray one end. Using toothpicks or a small brush, dab color paste on frayed end. Taper the other end and press an almond. You can brush the almond the same red food color paste, if desired.

October 19, 2007

Stuffed Edam Cheese Ball

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I bought a cheap, at $6.00, domestic 2-lb baby edam cheese ball for the Via Mare recipe. The aged edam from the Netherlands that traveled to Manila before being exported here in the US (it went on a trip more than halfway around the world) is much too expensive to make into a vegetables and bread sticks dip.

October 16, 2007

Matcha Roll Cake

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I made this cake once before and I really like it. The green tea flavor is so subtle and the cake is not extremely sweet, is so soft and spongy, and with the clean taste of slightly sweetened heavy cream this cake is just so dreamy, mmmm. I will add more matcha next time or maybe food coloring to intensify the grassy green color.

Matcha Roll Cake
¾ cup cake flour
2 tablespoons matcha powder
¾ teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs, separated
¾ cup sugar
2 - 3 tablespoons milk
filling: beat 2 cups heavy cream until almost stiff, add 1 - 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
  • Sift together flour, matcha, and baking powder 3 times, set aside.
  • In a clean bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry, set aside.
  • In another bowl beat egg yolks until very light. Add sugar gradually and beat until light. Add flour mixture, stir on low speed. Add 2 tablespoons milk, continue stirring until mixed. Fold in beaten egg whites.
  • Spread mixture on a parchment paper-lined jelly roll pan. Bake for 8 minutes.
  • Trim edges. Using paper as guide, roll cake from short side, leave on a rack to cool completely. Unroll cake, spread the whipped cream. Re-roll cake, peeling paper as you roll. Refrigerate for 2 hours before slicing.
  • Note: Jelly roll cake recipes usually say to transfer the cake on a towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. It is not really necessary and the powdered sugar will make the outside of the cake whitish and of course add to the sweetness. The paper is better because it will remove the brownish surface layer of the cake and the result is a cleaner, prettier cake.
Check this out. They sell the cake and also has a similar recipe.

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