February 8, 2009

Candied Spaghetti Squash

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candied with light-colored honey

candied with darker-hued chestnut honey

The giant Mallorcan ensaimada featured on the PBS show SPAIN On The Road Again with Mario Batali is filled with candied spaghetti squash which in Spanish is called cabello de angel (angel's hair). The baker says he cooks the squash with sugar, honey, and lemon zest into a paste. He stretches the ensaimada dough really thin just like strudel, spreads lard all over, places the squash on one long end before rolling tightly into a log, coils into a snail shape, and lets the coil rise for 12 hours. When Mario took a bite of the ensaimada and proclaimed it was the best pastry he has ever eaten I just had to make this sweetened squash.

I've cooked spaghetti squash before and I like that it does not get mushy, retains its vermicelli shape, and it stays a little bit crunchy even after it's cooked. Candied, it has a slight chestnutty flavor that is milder than kabocha. I used the light-colored candied squash as topping for Danish pastry and the second to fill the Mallorcan-style ensaimada I made a few days ago. I stretched the dough as much as I could which is not difficult to achieve resulting in an ensaimada that has a very flaky crunchy crust and the softest crumb. I agree with Mario, this ensaimada is delicious, so heavenly delicious. I love them more than the egg and butter loaded Filipino ensaimada which is closer to brioche than to Mallorcan ensaimada.

small size ensaimada

Danish pastry topped with a scoop of candied squash

Ensaimada adapted from THE CUISINES OF SPAIN by Teresa Barrenechea
Makes three 8-inch diameter coils

2½ teaspoons instant yeast
2/3 cup whole milk, heated to lukewarm
3½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
6 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for oiling rolling pin, work surface, and baking sheets
½ cup lard (do not use butter)
½ cup confectioner's sugar for dusting
  • In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1/3 cup of the warm milk and let stand for 5 minutes. In a bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, stir together the flour, salt and sugar. Add the remaining milk, eggs, olive oil, and the yeast mixture and mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Replace paddle with dough hook and knead on medium for 4 to 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic film, and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
  • Divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Oil a work surface, a rolling pin and 3 baking sheets. Roll out 1 portion into a 12 x 6-inch rectangle. Spread lard and fold in half lengthwise. Spread lard and fold again in half lengthwise. Roll again into a 12 x 6-inch rectangle and starting from a long side roll up into a tight 12-inch cylinder. Shape it into a snail-like coil. Repeat with the 2 remaining dough portions.
  • Place the coils on the oiled sheets, cover with plastic film and let rise at room temperature overnight or at least 12 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the coils for 30 minutes, or until they are airy and golden. Remove from oven and let cool on wire racks. Dust with confectioner's sugar and cut into segments just before serving.
Previous ensaimada entries are here and here.

February 5, 2009

The Bad Plus One Awful Vocalist

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FOR ALL I CARE The Bad Plus (with Wendy Lewis)

D- and A For Awful

I never thought I will ever write a negative review of a music cd by my favorite jazz band the bad plus. I own almost all of their albums and I love them all. Not this new release of covers of songs by Nirvana, Stravinsky, The Flaming Lips, Heart, etc. which I absolutely hate! The songs lack imagination and they sound lifeless, uninspired, and utterly boring. It is so puzzling to me that they allowed this crap to be published, as if they have a career death wish or something.

I was skeptical when I heard they will be joined by a vocalist but I am a die hard fan and bought the cd anyway. HUGE.DISAPPOINTMENT. She is awful, awful, awful. She can't sing, period!! I don't care if she is a friend of David King, the drummer, but they should have chosen someone with good pipes and style if they really want to add vocals. The reason I love them is because of the absence of vocals and I would probably have forgiven them if she has a decent voice and a singing style that suits their wild, unpredictable, and sometimes passionate interpretations of covers.

Out of 12 songs only 4 tracks are okay because I get a headache when she comes on and recites, yes, she doesn't sing, she mouths or mumbles lazily the lyrics. Her emo-wannabe style doesn't fit her age and the music of The Bad Plus at all. She single-handedly ruined the whole CD but hopefully not TBP's future.

Tracks with Wendy Lewis
1. Lithium - has the opposite effect, she drives me into depression
2. Comfortably Numb - uncomfortably numbing
4. Radio Cure - iPod curse
5. Long Distance Runaround - give her the runaround
7. How Deep Is Your Love - how mediocre is her voice
8. Barracuda - more like a fry or pupfish
9. Lock, Stock And Teardrops - I can cry a river
10. Feeling Yourself Disintegrate - feeling myself break down and pull my hair out

I am mad as hell for all I care. Oh, well.

February 2, 2009

Burnt Milk Fudge

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leche quemada: burnt milk fudge with fruits and nuts

One of the sweets I cooked for New Year's Eve was a Mexican-style fudge called leche quemada which means burnt milk. The mixture of fresh milk and sugar is cooked for more than half an hour while constantly stirring to avoid burning the bottom. I actually burnt mine a little bit which made the candies all the more yummy. Butter, candied fruits and chopped nuts are added after cooking and the candy block is chilled for 8 hours or air-dried overnight on the kitchen counter before cutting into 1-inch squares. I combined the recipes from the December 2008 issue of Saveur magazine called Jamoncillos and from gourmetsleuth using hazelnuts in place of pecans. Making the candies is labor intensive but it was well worth all the time I spent making them. These tiny candies are so delicious and super addictive. I love the hint of cinnamon and the combination of hazelnuts and pine nuts is perfect.

Leche Quemada

3 cups sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 cinnamon stick
½ cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup candied fruits, cut into ¼ inch pieces
1 cup chopped skinned and toasted hazelnuts (or pecans)
½ cup chopped toasted pine nuts
  • Butter bottom and all sides of an 8-inch square baking pan, line with parchment paper, butter paper. Set aside.
  • In a large saucepan, stir together sugar, milk, corn syrup, and salt. Add the cinnamon stick. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer on medium heat until the mixture thickens and a candy thermometer registers 240 degrees, stirring bottom to prevent burning. This will take about 40 to 45 minutes.
  • Remove pan from heat. Remove and discard cinnamon stick. Add butter and vanilla, do not stir. Let mixture cool to 180 degrees.
  • Stir mixture with wooden spoon until no longer glossy. Add fruits and nuts, stir to combine. Transfer into the prepared baking pan, smooth surface with a rubber spatula. Chill until set, about 8 hours, or leave on the counter overnight.
  • Turn fudge out onto a cutting board and cut into sixty-four 1 inch squares.
For a little bit of useless information. The word leche (milk) in the Spanish speaking world and in the Philippines is used as a mild oath or an insult, depending on context or inflection. In the Philippines people say the word leche when they are angry, frustrated, surprised, and sometimes as a greeting. If someone says with an angry intonation "ah leche ka", he/she is annoyed and dismissive, "naku, na-leche na" could mean something went wrong and he'll be in deep s**t. My mother-in-law told us a "leche" story involving my husband when he was a toddler. She was at home chatting with someone when he started saying mama leche, mama leche, mama leche. The woman she was chatting with asked my MIL why she was allowing her son to disrespect her. My MIL explained that he just got hungry and was simply asking for milk. Both my husband and I have no idea how the benign word leche became a cuss word in the Philippines, Spain, and South America. Anyone knows?:-)

February 1, 2009

Lasang Pinoy Sundays: Steamed

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One of my dad's and now my own family's favorite dishes is steamed fish seasoned with fermented black beans (salted soy beans called tausi), sliced ginger, scallions, sesame seed oil, and salty Chinese ham. This is one Chinese dish we never get tired of and always regard as something special. I love tausi whole when adding to dishes to savor its salty goodness.

Lasang Pinoy, Sunday Edition is a weekly photography meme hosted by SpiCes. Enjoy other "steamy" entries here.

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