September 15, 2008

Gone Fishin'

I'll be back the second week of November.:-)

Six-Layer Lemon Chiffon Cake

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I will be taking a break from this blog and will be back the second week of November.

Before I go on "vacation" here's a sweet treat for you which I made last Saturday for my daughter's birthday: the most delicious melt-in-your-mouth Six-Layer Chiffon Cake with Cointreau flavored buttercream frosting and served with red-tinted crumbled toffee crunch. The recipe is adapted from a Filipino recipe called Seven-Layer Toffee Crunch Cake (FOOD magazine Special Recipe Collection issue). This is a very easy cake recipe to make and I can assure you it is the best cake I had in over 15 years, the cake literally melts in my mouth.

Seven-Layer Toffee Crunch Cake With Strawberries And Cream
for the lemon chiffon cake
2¼ C sifted cake flour
1½ C sugar
1 T sifted baking powder
1 tsp pure lemon extract
zest of one lemon
1 tsp salt
½ C vegetable oil
¾ C water
5 egg yolks
8 egg whites
½ tsp cream of tartar

for the toffee crunch
1½ C sugar
¼ C light corn syrup
¼ C water
1 T well sifted baking soda

for the whipped cream
8 ounces cream cheese
2 T orange liqueur
3 C heavy cream, whipped
2/3 C powdered sugar

for garnish
fresh strawberries
  • Make the lemon chiffon cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of four 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine flour, 1 cup of the sugar, lemon extract, lemon zest, salt, oil, water, and egg yolks. Beat with a wire whisk until smooth. Set aside. In a bowl of an electric mixer, combine egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat until frothy. Gradually add the remaining ½ cup sugar while continuing to beat on medium speed until stiff but not dry. Fold in 2 cups of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Fold into the rest of the egg whites until mixed. Divide among the pans. Bake for 20 minutes or until cake tests are done. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. When cool, slice the cakes into halves.
  • Prepare the whipped cream frosting: In a bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese to soften. Add remaining ingredients and continue to beat until fluffy (I did not make this icing recipe, I used Italian or Swiss meringue buttercream frosting because I can't stand the sandy tongue-feel of powdered sugar).
  • Prepare the toffee crunch: Generously grease an 8-inch square pan with butter. In a thick large saucepan, combine sugar, syrup, and water and heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Clip a thermometer on the side of the pan. Allow to boil on high heat, reduce heat to medium, and cook to 300 degrees. Remove from heat and quickly stir in baking soda. Pour into the buttered pan. Allow to set completely before breaking into small pieces with a small knife and fork.
  • To assemble: Secure a cake layer on a serving platter with a little of the frosting. Frost in between layers, the sides, and top of cake. Garnish the sides and top of cake with the toffee crunch pieces. Decorate top of cake with whole strawberries.

September 11, 2008

Hokkaido Milky Loaf

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aah, I love the scent of freshly baked bread
I have previously written about my love for Japanese breads and buns specially the soft milky sliced loaf that I used to buy still warm straight from the oven. After writing that post I realized we have been eating mediocre white bread from the grocery for so many years. I am so glad and grateful that I found Angie's recipe and have been baking them and have not had store-bought white bread since. These are the softest tastiest white bread ever and they don't get crushed or flattened like store-bought when you smear them with peanut butter and jelly. They toast beautifully and I like them with a little butter and fruit preserves for breakfast and Manchego cheese, fig preserves, and sliced apple grilled sandwich for lunch.

with butter and orange blossoms preserves For my loaf breads I use two 8 x 4 x 4 Pullman bread pans that I got from eBay. I prefer using these to the 13 or 16 inch long pans available online at Amazon or (King Arthur Flour) The Baker's Catalog because the shorter bread loaves are easier to handle and to store. I like that the pans make perfectly square loaves and very thin crust when they are baked with the pans' lids on. Sometimes I bake the loaves without the lids for taller slices like the ones here that I baked a few days ago (with the brazo meringue). The bread loaves are as soft although not as tight crumbed as those baked lidded.

the busiest bakeware in my kitchen: 8 x 4 x 4 Pullman loaf pans
This is my entry to this month's Tasty Tools Event (Bakeware) hosted by Joelen's Culinary Adventures.

September 8, 2008

Brazo de Oggi

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Two months ago a Filipino reader left 4 of the same long comment in 4 different entries (the subject is not worth discussing). She accused me of racism and I was a tad annoyed when she said something about Filipinos having flat noses as being offensive. Now why would Filipinos be offended by it and I replied that I AM PROUD OF BEING FILIPINO AND YES OF MY FLAT NOSE. In the Philippines I knew of a few friends and acquaintances who had nose jobs making Vicki Belo a household name. Although I take good care of my outside appearance, I have never been a vain person, never had and will never consider altering my face or body, and never ever have been or will be ashamed of my Filipinoness. However, I must admit there is one part of my body that I am very conscious of that I try to hide as much as possible, they are my fat-ish arms. They started getting plumper after my second childbirth and it seems that whenever I gain a pound or two, they go straight to my arms and stay there even after losing the weight gain. Other people complain of their thunder thighs, jelly belly, or hippo hips, my beef is about my ficeps. I whine about them all the time and my daughter kept assuring me they are not THAT HUGE and I always dreaded summertime when I could not wear sleeveless garments. But I have recently changed my attitude and am "accepting" the fact that I will never have anorexic arms again. And as an homage to my fat arms*kiss kiss*, I made Brazo de Oggi (Oggi's arm) which is my version of Brazo de Mercedes, a very popular egg roll cake in the Philippines. Its origin is the Spanish Swiss roll cake called Brazo de Gitano (gypsy's arm), a very thin sponge cake with custard or whipped cream filling. They are also sometimes called Brazo de Monja (nun's arm). Their arms were probably really plump to inspire such a rich dessert.

I made Brazo de Mercedes a year ago but my daughter thought it was too rich and eggy, maybe I undercooked the meringue or I missed adding an ingredient. A reader suggested I add vanilla extract to the egg whites to lessen the egginess. Then I saw a recipe adding ube (purple yam) to the egg yolk filling which I think is a brilliant idea, and then Maricel, who sent me the recipe for the Coffee Mangosteen Cake, also gave me the recipe for Frozen Brazo de Mercedes which has a layer of ice cream filling. It is very rich and has high sugar content but I want to indulge just one time. After months of portion control and low carb diet, I think I and my arms deserve the treat.:-)

I made a few modifications to the recipe to make it less unhealthy (no butter and less sugar and egg yolks). There were also some mishaps while making the dessert. I didn't expect the meringue will rise so high and it got caught in the grills of the rack above it where I have 2 loaves of bread baking. It was not so bad, only the middle portion got stuck. When I finally put the finished cake in the freezer a small container fell on one side of the cake and squeezed out a little of the ice cream filling. The cake looks a little funny which I don't mind because the cake is so very yummy. The good thing is we have already changed our minds about Brazo and are now fans of this dessert. Thanks again Maricel for being so generous.:-)

the accident-prone Brazo de Oggi

Frozen Brazo de Mercedes

2½ C (250 gm) crushed graham crackers
½ C (112 gm) melted butter
1/3 C (85 gm) sugar

288 gm egg yolks
255 gm butter
60 gm sugar
2 gm vanilla extract
1 can sweetened condensed milk
½ gallon mantecado ice cream or your favorite ice cream

300 gm egg whites
150 gm sugar
pinch of cream of tartar
1 gm vanilla extract
  • Prepare the crust: Mix graham crackers and sugar and stir in butter. Press into a 10 x 14-inch glass dish. Bake in a 350 degree oven until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
  • Prepare the egg yolk filling: In a glass bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and condensed milk. Cook in a double boiler until of spreading consistency. Turn off heat and add butter and vanilla. Leave to cool.
  • Prepare the meringue: Grease and line a 12 x 17 x 1-inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Grease paper. Set aside. Whisk egg whites until foamy, add cream of tartar and a pinch of salt. When soft peaks form, gradually add sugar and beat until stiff. Spread meringue on the prepared pan up to the top. Pass a cake comb to make a design. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 1 hour until golden in color. Let cool in pan. Loosen sides, dust top with powdered sugar. Invert into a piece of parchment paper. Remove paper lining.
  • To assemble: Spread cooled filling on the crust. Beat ice cream until of spreading consistency. Spread on top of egg yolk filling. Freeze. When frozen, invert the meringue on top of ice cream so that the golden side is on top. Freeze until ready to serve. Alternatively, you may use two 8 x 8-inch glass pans (I halved the recipe as it's quite big).

September 7, 2008

Edamame Salad

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We don't have AC since Friday and it won't be fixed until tomorrow. Yesterday was a tiny bit comfortable because of the rains and cooler temperature but today it is warm making me lethargic and not willing to lift a finger or I will sweat an ocean. Cooking an elaborate meal or going out to eat doesn't sound appealing. Lunch was rescued by frozen edamame (soy beans) which I boiled and made into a refreshing salad and paired with vegetable gyoza. Simply delicious!

Edamame Salad
1 package frozen (or fresh) shelled edamame
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons wasabi paste, more or less to taste
1 cup shredded well chilled cucumber or daikon radish
1 sheet roasted nori, torn into small pieces
salmon or lumpfish red caviar
  • Boil edamame according to package directions. Drain and rinse with ice cold water.
  • In a medium bowl, mix soy sauce and wasabi. Add nori and cooked edamame and mix well.
  • Divide into 4 individual bowls. Top with shredded cucumber or daikon and sprinkle with roe. Serve cold.

September 4, 2008

Gargoyles, Grotesques, Dante's Inferno, Roasted Egg(?)

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I started reading a new fiction book I borrowed from the library, THE GARGOYLE by Andrew Davidson very late Saturday night and was only able to finish up to page 106. To my surprise when I resumed reading the book the next morning, the next 3 pages are all about delicious food, not recipes, just food that the main characters are having.

Let me explain why I was surprised: the book is not a travel or food memoir. It is the story of a male porn star driving while drugged and drunk who got into a fiery car crash burning most of himself. His skin reconstruction procedure was described in a graphic stomach-turning manner that you could almost feel his pain. He started planning his elaborate suicide which was quickly abandoned when a fellow patient, a multi-tattooed schizophrenic sculptress of gargoyles and groteques, from the psychiatric ward came to visit him claiming they were lovers in medieval Germany, that they met when she was a nun and scribe in the monastery of Engelthal, and he was a badly hurt and burned mercenary. In her daily visits she told their story à la Sheherazade and several tales of deathless love in Japan, Italy, Iceland, and England.

I love everything about this book which reminds me a little of Umberto Eco's THE NAME OF THE ROSE and my most favorite fiction THE HEAVEN TREE TRILOGY by Edith Pargeter (Ellis Peters of Brother Cadfael fame). I also love the parts where the burnt narrator travelled to hell like Dante, and his ultimate redemption. For a 463-page book, it's quite an easy read.

THE GARGOYLE A++pages 107 - 108

Marianne Engel had previously brought me snacks, but it was obvious that this meal was far more substantial. she opened the hampers - one for hot items and the other, packed in ice, for cool - and started to lay out the food. There was a freshly baked round of focaccia, still smelling of wood smoke, and bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. She danced a swirl of of black across the surface of the yellow, and then dipped a chunk of the focaccia into the leoparded liquid. She said the familiar prayer before she lifted the bread to my mouth: "Jube, Domine benedicere."
She'd also brought cheeses: Camembert, Gouda, blue, Iranian goat. She asked my favorite and when I picked the goat, she smiled broadly. Next, some steaming wraps that looked like crepes but had a bawdy smell. Gorgonzola pancakes were not for everyone, she explained, but she hoped I liked them. I did. There were cantaloupe balls wrapped in thin slices of prosciutto, the fruity orange peeking through the meaty pink.

She continued to excavate the hampers. Bastardly plump green olives, fat with red pimiento stuffing, lounged contentedly in a yellow bowl. A plateful of tomatoes soaked in black vinegar with snowy nuggets of bocconcini. Sheaves of pita and cups brimming with hummus and tzatziki. Oysters, crabs, and scallops drowning a wonderful death in a marinara ocean; little wedges of lemon balanced on the plate's edge like preservers waiting to be thrown in. Pork sausages with peppercorn rims. Dolmathes, trying hard to be swarthy and look macho in their little green suits, scented with sweet red wine. Thick rings of calamari. Souvlaki shared skewers with sweet buttered onions and braised peppers. There was a shoulder of lamb so well cooked it fell apart if you only looked at it while thinking about a fork, surrounded by a little family of roast potatoes.

I sat trapped under the culinary avalanche, unable to move for fear of tripping a plate over. "There's no way we can eat all this."

"Finishing isn't the point." She pulled a bottle out of the chilled hamper. "Besides, I'm sure the nurses will be happy to help with the leftovers. You won't tell them I was drinking alcohol, will you? I like retsina because you can taste the earth in it."

We made a determined effort, but it was predestined that we'd never be able to finish the meal. We gave up, she brought out a slim metal thermos and poured Greek coffee into two demitasses. It was chuggingly thick that it took a good thirty seconds to pour out. Then she brought out the dessert: baklava so honey-dense that it oozed like a charitable beehive. Tricolor gelato, green white red. And of course bougatsa, her dog's namesake - light brown pastry with custard between layers of phyllo.

page 136

I noticed the dried blood clinging around the edges of her battered fingernails as she took food from the coolers. Fish n' chips, bangers n' mash. Prime rib with pudgy Yorkshire puddings. Finger sandwiches: ham and eggs, cheese and vegetables. Scones with strawberry jam. Kaiser buns. Garlic and onion bagels. Herb cream cheese. German butter cheese , Swiss, Gouda, smoked Gruyère, and Emmenthal. Fresh cucumber with yogurt sauce in a delightful bowl adorned with images of Hänsel and Gretel. Chunky red potatoes, quartered to show their white interiors; chubby green stems of asparagus, sweating butter; a plump eggplant's fecund belly pregnant with stuffing. There were fat mutton slices piled up in an obscene monument of arterial schlerosis. A lonely pile of sauerkraut that seemed to have been added at the last moment only because someone had thought there weren't enough vegetables. Roasted eggs, even though who the hell eats roasted eggs? Then, an abrupt culinary turn towards the Russian states: varenyky (pirogies in layman's terms), cavorting with candy-blackened circles of onions, and holubtsi (cabbage rolls, fat with rice) in tangy tomato sauce.
Marianne Engel popped an egg whole into her mouth, as if she hasn't eaten in days, and devoured it in a manner that was almost bestial. How could someone this hungry not have sampled the meal while preparing it? When she has tamed the worst of her hunger, she announced, "The story of Vicky Wennington has great storms, vigilant love, and saltwater death!"I settled in, anxious to hear it, and took another bite of the holubtsi.

It was coincidence that I was making New England Baked beans last Sunday when I came across the roasted eggs which according to several websites are on the Jewish seder table but curiously and oddly are not eaten during seder. They symbolize something, I forget what. I put one egg in the oven and after an hour and a half this is what the egg looked like:

the roasted egg has a slightly smoky roasted flavor which I really liked

6 Quirky Things I Do

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I got tagged by Ning and Ruy to make a list of 6 quirky things I do. Thank you both.:-)

Here is my not-so-quirky list:
1. can't stand being sockless and wear them all year round (at home only)
2. don't use wet/damp tableware and drinking glasses, must always wipe them dry before using (a friend was puzzled about the drinking glass)
3. love fresh strawberries with flaked sea salt
4. iron all my clothes including those for doing yard work or gardening
5. wash/scrub fruits and vegetables with soap and water, rinse with tap water, then rinse twice with filtered water, then dry thoroughly with paper towels before peeling or slicing
6. load dishwasher according to pattern and color of dishes and rearrange them to my liking (need a hobby or get a life)

I'm not tagging anyone but feel free and have fun playing the game.

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