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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Polenta with a Mediterranean Twist


Polenta; cornmeal cooked to a paste and can be served in a variety of ways. I cooked up some today, seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper before serving it with a poached egg, chopped kalamata olives, chopped mint leaves and crumbled feta with a drizzle of olive oil. I boiled mine in water, so my polenta is VERY yellow and not creamy looking...and thick :C I gotta add more water if I'm doing something like this next time but whatever is left will be good to experiment on (Polenta Fries!!)
This was fairly quick to prepare plus it was light and VERY filling...less is more? :)


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Broccoli-Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells


I absolutely love pasta and whenever I have enough time to make it, I really do go all out. As usual, all my cooking frenzies begin with a craving and, what do you know, I had a craving for pasta with ricotta. Usually, ricotta cheese would be a filling for my lasagnas but I did not feel like making the time-intensive dish so instead, I decided to use it as a stuffing for some pasta shells that I had in my pantry. I had a ridiculous amount of broccoli and spinach in my fridge which I decided to quickly blanch in boiling water, chop up and mix with the ricotta cheese, an egg and around 1/4 cup of Parmesan and some salt and pepper to taste. I also pureed a can of whole, peeled tomatoes, seasoned with more Parmesan, olive oil, pepper, a bit of my homemade hot sauce and of course, basil (dried because I couldn't find fresh, boo-hoo!)
I boiled up the pasta shells to al dente, filled it with the stuffing, placed into a casserole pan with the sauce, topped with shredded mozzarella and baked in the oven at 350 degrees C until the cheese melts and the sauce is bubbly.

Sooooo goood.



Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ube and Pandan Kaya Birthday Cake



Today was my mom's birthday and instead of ordering a cake, I thought I'd try my hand at one of the complex exotic cakes that is enjoyed in South/Southeast Asia. The cake is a fusion of Pandan Kaya Cake and Ube Macapuno Cake. Pandan is a tropical plant that is used as a flavoring for food and especially desserts. It gives off a green tone when used and is attractive in desserts. Ube is basically purple yam that is sweet and holds a magnificently rich, purple color. Macapuno is just young coconut meat that has been sliced and preserved in syrup. It is used as a filling paired with ube in Filipino cakes.
Since my mom loves pandan cake, coconut and the color purple, I fused the two together to create a green and purple-layered cake via an inspiration photo I found online. The layers of cake are filled with a buttercream and macapuno frosting. The entire cake is enclosed in "kaya," a solid, gelatinous casing made of coconut cream, pandan, sugar and agar-agar. Once chilled, the kaya keeps the cake moist and adds an extra bit of coolness to the cake to be enjoyed on hot days.
I decorated the cake with some whipped cream roses, which are hard as heck to make! I should have used a stiffer frosting or a stabilized whipped cream recipe but I didn't think of it...darn; next time.
This is also my first time to ever do any fancy-schmancy piping work on a dessert...so cut me some slack! Ahahaha! (I need to go get some lessons on piping >.<)

The cake took me two days to complete, with baking and chillin time or whatnot. Because I used preserved ube jam, the ube cake layers were too sweet for my liking, so I will get my hands on fresh purple yams for next time.
My mom was pretty stoked that I knew how to make this cake because it's always been a hassle to pre-order one.
I will try to make a taro-filled chiffon cake in the near future (which will be purple). :)

Makeshift mold extension for the kaya mixture.

Mommy cutting the cake!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hong Kong-Style Sausage Buns (Minis!)


I absolutely love making these! I had an entire bag of unopened cocktail smokies in my fridge and I did not want them to go bad. So I searched up a recipe for the Hong Kong-styled buns that the Chinese bakeries always sold because my brother loves to snack on them. The bread dough is a sweet, milk-based dough unlike the bread or pastry dough that pigs-in-a-blanket are usually wrapped in. The result is moist, sweet and yummy goodness!

They were so good the first time I made them, I decided to make a larger batch for a little Spring Party that I hosted at my house for the family. Recipe is an adaption of the recipe provided here.


Ingredients
  • 1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten and divided
  • 2/3 cups lukewarm milk
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 hot dogs or around 20 cocktail smokies
  • sesame seeds (optional)
Method
  1. In a stand mixer bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Add in 1 of the lightly beaten eggs and the milk, stirring until it starts to come together. Attach the bowl to the stand mixer.
  2. Using the dough hook attachment, knead on medium-low speed (#4 on my KitchenAid) for 5 minutes. Add the softened butter and knead another 3 minutes or until the butter has been completely and thoroughly absorbed into the dough. The dough should feel smooth, satiny, and not sticky. If it's sticky, add more flour in tablespoon increments until you reach the right texture. The dough should pass the windowpane test (you can stretch it out very thinly without it breaking). Knead until it does.
  3. Spray a good size bowl with cooking spray. Take the dough out of the mixing bowl and form into a ball, pulling the sides down so that it becomes taut. Place the ball of dough in the greased bowl, cover it, and let it rise in a warm area for about 90 minutes, until about doubled in size.
  4. Take the dough out of the bowl and divide into 8 equal pieces, .
  5. To form the poofy rolls, roll out one of the dough pieces between your hands until it's about 2 to 2 1/2 times the length of the hot dog. If you want the center to be bigger than the ends, make sure you roll your dough accordingly, so that the middle of your long piece of dough is bulkier than the ends. Wrap the length of dough around a hot dog; it should be enough to make 3 loops, with the tapered ends at the bottom of the hot dog.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the shaped buns on the paper, leaving enough room in between each for the dough to have a place to go while it's rising.
  7. Cover the buns loosely with plastic wrap or a clean cloth (you don't want to ruin the rise by having to peel anything off them). Let the dough rise again for another 90 minutes or so, until it's about doubled in volume and look nicely plump.
  8. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400°F.
  9. When the buns have risen, gently brush egg wash (the remaining egg) generously onto each, making sure to get the sides as well, and sprinkle sesame seeds on top, if desired.
  10. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350°F and bake for another 5-8 minutes, until the buns are an attractive golden brown
I find that if you will be using hot dogs, it is better to cut the wiener in half so that it is the perfect snack/appetizer size!



    The ones for the party!