Sunday, November 27, 2011

Alfajors with Coconut Milk Dulce de Leche (aka vegan caramel)




Alfajors are one of those amazingly simple yet delicious desserts popular in Spain and Latin America. I tried one for the first time when one of my friends came back from Argentina. After that, it seemed like these delicious caramel cookies were in every coffee shop coming alongside my espresso. It's funny how to are exposed to something for the first time and after that, you start to see it everywhere.

These cookies are different from the traditional alfajor because the lime zest cuts through the fat and sweetness of the caramel. Also, the coconut flavor adds an extra great dimension to the cookie. It tastes great on its own as an ice cream topping and is fantastic because it is essentially vegan caramel. I never thought I'd be able to find a vegan caramel sauce, but this is absolutely fantastic on sorbets and in these cookies.


Alfajors

Ingredients

  • ¾ cups butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla or zest and juice of 1 lime
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup dulce de leche

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla
  3. Blend in salt, baking powder and flour until dough comes together
  4. Shape dough into ¾ inch balls and press to flatten
  5. Bake for 11 minutes until firm. Let cookies cool completely and fill with dulce de leche


Coconut Milk Dulce de Leche

Ingredients

  • 14 oz coconut milk
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar

Directions

  1. Boil coconut milk, salt and sugar until thickened.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dark Chocolate Fudge




I have fond memories of a chocolate shop in Provincetown at Cape Cod when I was in high school. I ended up at the beach with a group of friends. The air was golden and the candy at the shop was plentiful and reasonably priced. They made a great dark chocolate and a particularly great peanut butter fudge. I remembered that's where my infatuation with fudge started. I can get the flavored ones like mint chocolate or orange or cheesecake other places, but I've never had a fudge I liked as much as the simple dark chocolate and this candy store.

I tried making my own and though it still needs work on technique, it was better than I expected for a first attempt. It occurred to me that the sheet pan I was using needed to be colder when I poured the chocolate onto it because the fudge ended up a little grainy. Overall, the flavor was bitter, not to sweet, and very creamy. It's perfect for either the holidays or a great day at the beach with the sand between your toes.

Fudge

Ingredients

  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 ½ cup whipping cream
  • ¼ cup corn syrup
  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate (at least 60% dark)
  • 6 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Directions

  1. Stir cream, sugar and corn syrup until dissolved.
  2. Stir in chocolate until melted. Bring mix to simmer until it reaches 235 degrees
  3. Remove from heat and pour into a cold bowl. Allow to sit undisturbed until mixture reaches 110 degrees. After, stir vigorously. Mixture should lose its gloss.
  4. Line 9 inch square pan with foil. Pour into pan and chill 2 hours.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Orange Cinnamon Monkey Bread



Even though I'd always seen monkey bread recipes in magazines for as long as I remember, I'd always put off making them because they involved frozen bread dough purchased at the store or pillsbury crescent rolls. There's nothing wrong with those versions, but I wanted something that felt a little more homemade. There's something so satisfying about working with your hands and putting effort into something. It's similar to the psychological reasons of how box cake mixes were highly unpopular when they were first introduced and all you had to do was add water. It only became popular with the "add and egg" instruction because it felt like one was actually doing work.

This recipe was a hit at my brunch (as seen from the photo. I didn't even have time to take pictures before people started eating it). Next time, I think I would put nuts or dried fruits in between the layers as well.

This post has been submitted to Yeastspotting


Orange Cinnamon Monkey Bread

Ingredients
  • 13 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 cups)
  • 4 3/4 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1/4 cup warm orange juice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons fat-free milk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • a splash of milk

Directions
  1. Proof yeast in a small amount of the warm orange juice and milk.
  2. Combine flours, salt, butter and honey with yeast mix. Mix until combined and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Let rise 1 hour
  3. Combine sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon in one bowl. Combine milk and butter in another bowl. Divide dough into 8 pieces (and each piece into 8 pieces). Roll each piece in milk/butter and in sugar mix. Place dough balls in bunt cake pan. Let rest for another hour until doubled in size
  4. Bake bread for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Let rest 5 minutes in pan before inverting onto a serving plate.
  5. Mix powdered sugar and vanilla briefly and pour over warm cake.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

English Muffins-- Complete with Nooks and Crannies




Doesn't everyone have fond memories of Thomas' English Muffins, purchased from the grocery store in packages of 6? They were chewy and brown on the outside. Best of all, they had those delightful nooks and crannies that soaked up more butter than you would ever think imaginable.

I've tried making english muffins in the past but I was never happy with the recipe. They were always too much like pan fried dinner rolls. This recipe (taken from Alton Brown) is a lot more like yeasted pancakes made into rings, but the use of powdered milk and salt gives it a greater depth of flavor (I used powdered buttermilk). I will, for sure, make this recipe again.

As always, this post has been submitted to Yeastspotting.

English Muffins

Ingredients
  • ½ cup powdered milk
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 T shortening
  • 1 cup hot water
  • ⅛ t sugar
  • ⅓ cup warm water
  • 2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 pack of yeast

Directions
  1. Combine milk, 1 T sugar, ½ t salt, shortening and hot water until dissolved. Cool to room temperature
  2. Combine yeast, warm water and sugar in separate bowl until dissolved.
  3. Add yeast to milk mixture. Add flour and beat with a spoon. Allow mix to rest 45 minutes before adding the remaining ½ t salt
  4. Preheat a skillet and spoon into 3 inch rings (canning lids, or a tuna can with top and bottom cut out). Cook 5 minutes on each side, making sure to cover the top of the can with a weight to keep the muffin from expanding too much.
  5. Split with fork to keep all the nooks and crannies.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Yuzu Wasabi White Chocolate Macaron


Until recently, I never knew the difference between a macaroon and a macaron. In my childhood, I got those American style coconut macaroons as an occasional treat. I never got French style macarons. I had never heard of them until 4 years ago when they started appearing everywhere in different colors and flavors. They were like the new cupcake, except cuter, more refined, and a lot more difficult.

I know my recipe is spot on for these macarons, but my technique needs work. I ended up with some hallow parts in the lids of my macarons and I needed work piping them exactly even. Yet the flavor was like any other macaron and the ganache was eye opening. None of the flavors overpowered the other. The yuzu hit you at the beginning and the wasabi flavor slowly appeared toward the end while the white chocolate, the most subtle flavor, mellowed out all the flavors on the finish.

But even though it is a refined dessert, if I'm being honest, I still think I prefer coconut macaroons in general. They're easier, more comforting, and what I crew up with. Can't beat that.

Yuzu Wasabi White Chocolate Macarons

Ingredients
  • 300 g almond flour
  • 300 g powdered sugar
  • 110 g egg whites
  • 75 g water
  • 300 g powdered sugar
  • 110 g egg whites
  • 5.5 oz white chocolate
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • splash yuzu juice
  • 10 g wasabi powder (or grated wasabi)

Directions
  1. Mix together 300 g almond flour, 300 g powdered sugar and 110 g egg whites
  2. In separate bowl, combine sugar and water until it reaches 244 F. Beat 110 g egg whites separately and pour hot sugar mixture over the top. Continue to beat until compact, shiny meringues form
  3. Fold meringues into almond flour mixture. Pipe small circles onto parchment and let rest 30 minutes to form a crust.
  4. Bake at 350 for 23 minutes, opening the door twice midway through. Let cool completely
  5. For ganache, heat yuzu juice and cream until simmering. Pour over wasabi and white chocolate. Stir until melted.
  6. Let cool and spread over macarons.



Friday, November 4, 2011

Mapo Tofu


I judge a real chinese restaurant on one dish, and it is always Mapo Tofu. A real, sichuan chinese restaurant should have this amazing dish, and it should be exceedingly hot. When I say hot, I don't just mean mouth burning hot like you get in thai and mexican cooking. I mean that face numbing, whole body feels warm and tingly kind of hot. After two months of living on the east coast and missing Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco, I knew I wanted to make my own mapo tofu (though I wanted to give it a little less star anise flavor than they have.

A lot of chinese restaurants make mapo tofu vegetarian. I assure you, nothing in real chinese cooking should be vegetarian. This dish should be filled with tofu, pork and plenty of chili. If you're looking for a dish to warm you up and clear your sinuses this winter, make this dish and serve it with rice. It's fantastic.



Mapo Tofu

Ingredients
  • ½ lb ground pork
  • ½ minced onion
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 Tbsp sambal chili paste
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 lb tofu, cubed
  • 1 tbsp garlic
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 6 dried sichuan chilis
  • small handful (2 Tbsp) sichuan peppercorns, ground
  • 2 finely ground star anise pods
  • chopped scallions

Directions
  1. Soak shiitakes in boiling water for 10 minutes and slice thin. Add soy, chili paste and corn starch to reserved liquid
  2. Sautee onions and pork together until pork is brown. Break apart large pieces and add garlic and ginger until fragrant.
  3. Add reserved liquid and simmer briefly with star anise, chilis and peppercorns
  4. Gently add tofu, and simmer until warmed
  5. Dress at the very end with sesame oil and scallions. Serve immediately.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Best Ever Banana Bread



I've been searching for a banana bread recipe for a very long time. This recipe is closer to a cake than your traditional banana bread, but I promise it will be a hit the next time you're looking for an easy weekend breakfast item.

Best Ever Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter, salted
  • 1 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
  • 2 cups mashed bananas (about 5 or 6 extra ripe)
  • 3 beaten egs
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp honey


Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cream together butter and sugar
  3. Add apple sauce, bananas and eggs. Mix until just incorporated
  4. Sift together flour, soda, salt and cinnamon. Do not overmix the batter
  5. Bake in greased 9 inch round for 35-45 minutes until set. Excess can be baked in mini muffin tins
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