Archive | baking

Chocolate Babka

If it were not for Downton Abbey, I wouldn’t have known that ironing newsprint sets the ink, leaving one’s hands stain-free. Then again, I have yet to test this method. My last newspaper print subscription ended more than half a decade ago.  J’s mom, on the other hand, still gets her daily Globe and Mail. I kind of miss it and I must admit, I don’t think I’ll mind having stained fingers. I miss reading the papers and holding them in front of me on a table, a guilty pleasure I still do at coffee shops and from my occasional  purchase. They remind me of simpler times.

I remember being six or seven, eagerly awaiting the newspaper and milk delivery guys on summer mornings at my grandparents’ home. My grandmother would usually be found watering the red, pink, yellow and orange daisies along the curved driveway in front of the house. I would sit on, what seemed to me then were, always impeccably-clean mustard-colored stone doorsteps. My grandfather would either be typing away in the office, or busy attending to some concerns in the community (he was the head of a theological seminary then).  The glass jug of freshly pasteurized carabao’s milk from the nearby dairy farm would usually arrive first and I would carry it straight to the kitchen. It’s a dairy treat that’s not just for drinking, but also for eating —  it’s poured over fried or steamed jasmine rice and sprinkled with rock salt, a delicious combination I tell you. As for the newspaper, I would take it to the dining table and everyone would have their piece of it once breakfast was ready. I took the comics section, with Garfield and Dennis the Menace. Breakfast conversations were a mix of chatter about the headlines, politics, crime, sports (oh, how Filipinos love their basketball), and everything and anything that’s going on with us and the community. Oftentimes, my conversational contributions were about my new jokes, new “inventions”, and a rough idea of where my friends and I will go that day, and what food we’re taking for the lunch. There were no table-side electronic gadgets that demanded attention then, so everyone talked and read.

W (J’s mom) shares her newspapers every now and then, when there’s something interesting to read (we don’t live close enough to share papers reguarly), like the 2-page spread of the different FIFA teams and the match schedules. She’ll sometimes bring a newspaper clipping of a recipe she thinks we’ll enjoy and would have otherwise missed, like this chocolate babka. She gave it to us on a Thursday night and after quickly going through it, I decided to make it the next evening. Saturdays being our cleaning days, I go for recipes I can make ahead on Friday nights. This fits the criteria perfectly.

Chocolate Babka

In the morning, all that was left to do were the egg wash and the crumble topping while the oven is preheating.

The scent of chocolate melting between layers of dough makes its way from the kitchen to adjacent rooms after the 30-minute mark. By the time the oven beeps and you’ve been intoxicated by the baking aromas, you’ll meet an impressive-looking golden brown loaf once you open the oven. It really is a stunner.

Sliced Chocolate Babka

However, don’t start calling every one  just yet. It is best to  delay (every)one’s gratification and let it cool for a bit to set the chocolate, or it would be oozing everywhere when you try to slice it. It is truly worth the wait and can melt any morning grumpiness.

If you want to take it one chocolate step further, spread Nutella on a slice. [And know what else this would be good for? French toast.]

The length of the recipe looks daunting, but just take a deep breath and read through it carefully. There’s nothing complicated and with a little bit of patience. you can do it. I’ve included a lot of photos below to guide you through the different processes, which I hope would help.

I like this tradition of passing on recipes, from J’s mom, to us, then to you. This turned out to be a lovely and special breakfast for us, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, too.

If you have any questions, you know where to reach me. :-)

Continue Reading

Posted in baking, bread, breakfast, brunch, chocolate, coffee buddy, featured, make-ahead, snacks8 Comments

Late Night Cravings: Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I get a lot of random late night cravings, anything from cherry clafoutis and fresh homemade margarita, down to the basics like fudge brownies. Alone in the house one night, going through unanswered emails, I had the strongest need for chocolate chip cookies. I had to stop what I was doing and bake some stat.

P1120221

I make different kinds all the time, but I tend to favor this recipe because the resulting cookies remind me of the palm-sized ones you grab from bakeries right before you pay–you just couldn’t resist getting them. Comfort me with big, chewy mouthfuls of chocolate goodness, please.

P1120229

I almost forgot to tell you that it takes under an hour to make and you don’t need any special equipment — just your able arms and a good-sized bowl and trusty spatula. It’s just perfect for those last-minute cravings.

Continue Reading

Posted in baking, cookies, dessert, quick & easy0 Comments

Filipino Pan De Sal

P1050219-g

There’s nothing more definitive of my childhood breakfast –and I guess, the same goes for many other Filipinos–than pan de sal. The steam escaping out of the brown paper bag from the freshly baked buns, the crumbs getting all over your fingers,  the hot, tongue-numbing first bite…I missed every bit of it when we moved here. We eventually found out about Aling Mary‘s where we could get them fresh from the oven, which I remember doing twice. Twice.

P1050354-g 2

Pan de sal and coffee is akin to butter and bread. Inseparable, and you couldn’t go wrong with that combination.

P1050356-g 1

As the years went on, I slowly learned how to cook and bake, and eventually baked my own bread. I yearned to make pan de sal. I tried making my own half a decade ago, but they didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. At the beginning of this year, I set out to give it another go. After trying many recipes I found, I STILL wasn’t satisfied the least bit. Some tasted like brioche, others were too dry, and they all basically don’t have the right flavor and texture. It was frustrating, there’s no question about that. I experimented a lot. I wasn’t as lucky creating the recipe as I was when I made another Filipino classic, the mocha cake. It took me more than 20 batches of pan de sal and a lot of eating before I was finally happy with it. [Huge thanks to the beau J and the kids for putting up with all the not-so-perfect pan de sal iterations!] Then I’ve had a lot of people outside of family taste it over the course of more than 6 months — both Filipinos and non-Filipinos love them. And then when I thought I arrived at my final recipe, I baked pan de sal almost every week, sometimes even twice a week, because we went through 2 dozen buns so quickly during the school weeks (they make awesome lunch sandwiches).   Continue Reading

Posted in baking, bread, coffee buddy, experiments, featured, Filipino dishes, make-ahead, original Gourmeted recipe, snacks1 Comment

Effortless Anytime Fruit Crumble

I wasn’t the type of person who kept frozen fruits in the freezer. A firm believer of eating everything fresh, I just bought what’s in season at the farmer’s markets. Shakes or smoothies weren’t my ‘thing’ either, preferring to masticate on my fruits and veggies to fill me up because I tend to snack throughout the day. It wasn’t until I lived with a smoothie-loving frozen fruit-stocking partner that I realized what I had been missing.

While I (still) rarely reach for a shock of cold fruit drink, except for two scorching-hot summer days every year, I appreciate those bags of frozen fruits now. They satisfy any last-minute cravings for fruit pies, especially for out-of-season fare. Whenever everyone in our household would have the patience to wait for a couple of hours, I would make pie–double crust and all– or tart, but a quicker substitute for our dessert-/sweets-loving family is this go-to simple crumble. This minimal-effort snack, dessert or breakfast treat requires only these 3 easy steps:

  1. Toss the fruits in sugar and flour. [I add a pinch of ground cinnamon and nutmeg sometimes.]
  2. Top with a layer of easy-mix crumble.
  3. Bake for half an hour or so. Do something else.

Then eat!

We love having this for dessert and I usually prepare this right after dinner. While it’s baking, the girls either do homework and we’ll catch up on some reading (or knitting) or we’ll play board game if it’s a non-school night. Easy peasy.

Berry Crumble

Continue Reading

Posted in baking, breakfast, brunch, dessert, fruits, original Gourmeted recipe, quick & easy4 Comments

Change, Rituals and a Go-To Recipe for Pate Brisee

Last Monday was Blue Monday, supposedly the most depressing day of the year, according to a publicity campaign from a travel company. This pseudoscience was based on a formula including factors such as weather conditions, debt level (i.e. debt from the holidays, I assume vs ability to pay), time since Christmas, time since failing new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and the feeling of a need to take action. Needless to say this is rubbish. Any day could be really bad for anyone, just as it could go stupendously well for another.

P1030562-500 1

Ground frost from our New Year’s Day walk in the park.

Continue Reading

Posted in baking, cheese, Meatless Monday, tarts, vegetables, vegetarian0 Comments

Welcoming the New Year and a Recipe for Banana bread with Pecan Streusel

How is it that we’re more than halfway through January? The three-week stretch before the holidays felt like the longest and slowest marathon of parties, get-togethers, preparation, shopping and errands and then Boom! time moves in lightning speeds.

It was lovely to spend some relaxing time with our loved ones once the flurry of pre-Christmas stuff settled down. The beau’s brother and his girlfriend flew in for the holidays, so it was quite a treat to have the entire family around the table on Christmas Eve. I remember when we were kids, my cousins and I were too eager and impatient for everybody to show up so we could eat then open our gifts. As an adult, one thinks about how to keep the kids preoccupied so we can enjoy each other’s company in peace. On the beau’s side, the girls are old enough that they engage in our conversations–they have very interesting things to say! We don’t have to give them toys and talk over the noise of their toys! Ha. On my side, my nephews are four and five, living and breathing dinosaurs, Transformers and Angry Birds.  They can be really blunt and honest, which make gift-opening around the tree hilarious. You never really know how they’d react or what they would say. Oh, I don’t like that!  [My gifting success average has been great so far when it comes to them. I pick items based on what I would like if I was a kid. Now what does that say about me?] Christmas reminds me of how fun it was to be very young and carefree, but then I’m glad I can sit back and appreciate the comfort of, and being with, family.

Living in a beautiful city–a prime winter destination at that–means getting a chance to repeatedly explore it like tourists whenever friends and family visit. The beau and his brother love skiing so a day trip to Whistler during their short stay was a no-brainer. Vancouver being Vancouver, it did take a bit of wrestling with weather scheduling, but in the end one should just go and prepare for the worst. It wasn’t a great snow day for our skiing companions, but the rest of us who roamed the village and took the leisurely gondola ride between Whistler and Blackcomb didn’t have much to complain about the view and the powder.

P1020809-600g

Whistler Mountain, by the Peak To Peak gondola

P1020852-600g

View from Blackcomb Mountain

Continue Reading

Posted in baking, bread, brunch, cakes, coffee buddy, dessert, quick & easy2 Comments

Versunkener Apfelkuchen (German Sunken Apple Cake)

I must admit that dating a German who loves to cook and bake–his mom and his mom’s partner are no strangers to the kitchen, too–has opened up a whole new delectable world for me, far beyond the usual Black Forest Cake and Strudel. It has been a process, though. It takes years for him to share recipes with me. My favorite beer-based chocolate cupcake that he makes? A year. And the scones? A few months more.

This Versunkener Apfelkuchen? Three years. Let that information slowly sink in like the apples on this beautiful cake. To be fair, he didn’t make this for us until now. Sometimes these revelations feels akin to a rite of passage, like winning an achievement badge in Foursquare: Relationship Edition. After he baked this the second time I just had to learn how to make it AND share it with you.

Versunkener Apfelkuhen (German Sunken Apple Cake)

I love how simple it is, requiring readily-available ingredients. It’s not too sweet, letting the apples be the star of the cake. It also keeps well in the freezer and can be transported without much fuss—sprinkle the powdered sugar when you get to your party and enjoy.

This has been a favorite this season. We’ve made it many times since Thanksgiving in Canada. It’s a wonderful fruity dessert alternative to heavy and creamy staples on the table, like the beloved pumpkin pie in all its variations. I love it, just absolutely love it. And so do family and friends who have repeatedly requested this cake for many different occasions.

DSC_2474-600g

The most time-intensive part of making this cake is preparing the apples—coring, peeling and slicing ever so carefully to look like an accordion (or Hasselback potatoes). It’s pretty much a breeze afterwards.

DSC_2457-600g

 

Continue Reading

Posted in baking, cakes, coffee buddy, dessert, featured, fruits, vegetarian3 Comments

My Go-To Pumpkin Pie Recipe

I feel like it’s okay to talk about Pumpkin Pie now. It’s the first of October and Our Canadian Thanksgiving is two weeks away. Pretty soon my inbox would receive a trickle of requests for a “foolproof” pumpkin pie recipe.

Well, this is it. This is what I’ve been making the past 5 years whenever the occasion calls for it. It has received nothing but praises and and an occasional whine when the last wedge has been taken. It has an enormous amount of spices, but you’ll appreciate them once you taste the finished pie. I promise it’s not overwhelming once it’s baked. This Fall favorite goes extra smooth and creamy, and is light. The understated  crust is up to the task of keeping its hefty boss intact and allowing it to shine. It’s flaky without being too buttery.

Make it once and you’ll make it all the time from thereon. I’ve baked one a week ago and I’m craving for more. Oh, dear.

DSC_1737_3-600

I wish I could say I concocted this recipe, but all the credit goes to America’s Test Kitchen and Cooks Illustrated. If you have yet to subscribe to that fine publication, I’m telling you now to do it. It has saved my kitchen dilemmas numerous times. I highly recommend the digital subscription because you’ll have access to their magazines and database of recipes.

Please enjoy the pie!

Continue Reading

Posted in baking, dessert, pies0 Comments

Don’t Waste Those Bananas, Bake Banana Bundt Cake

I have this thing about bananas: I like to buy them. I anticipate that someone else would eat them if it’s available at home, but it’s really just me. I’ve been conservative with my banana purchases lately, but even so, I end up with 4 out of 5 bananas getting too ripe to fast before I can consume them. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’m getting pretty tired of banana bread. Last week I looked for something else that’s fairly quick to make on a busy weeknight, because let’s face it–bananas won’t wait for you before they’re ready for the compost bin. And I really feel guilty throwing away food due to bad planning.

I turned to one of my go-to baking books, Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours, for inspiration. Sure enough, it saved the day (or evening) with an easy recipe for banana Bundt cake. It’s moist and light, almost like a teacake. The only ingredient change I made is with the sugar, decreasing it by a quarter of a cup. It was just the right sweetness for us.

Banana cake

All the ingredients for the recipe are readily available and you should be able to whip this up last minute. I used plain yogurt instead of sour cream (my preference of the two), which we almost always have except for that one evening. Oh, Murphy.

Making banana cake

If you are fast, you can get this in the oven in 15 minutes. I did it in 20, photography included.

Banana cake batter before baking

Once it’s done, the top will be shiny and moist, but a knife inserted in the middle of the cake would come out clean. Really try to control yourself from eating it right out of the oven.

Banana cake fresh out of the oven

We enjoyed this for breakfast, packed it for school and office snacks, nibbled on it while playing a board game and even gave a couple of slices to the out-laws. If you’re unsure of making this because of the size, I assure you, this will be gone in no time. Bring it to a party or to work and you will come home with an empty plate.

If you’re in Vancouver, baking this would be a great way to warm up the house and it’s a simple, yet delicious snack on this rainy weekend. I’d recommend it with a cup of tea and a good book.

Happy weekend!

Continue Reading

Posted in baking, cakes, fruits, quick & easy1 Comment

Flu-cation and Soggy Bottom-Free Blueberry Pie

It’s been an interesting week at home to say the least, with two kids suffering from stomach flu (three if you count the furry and whiskered middle child who had a couple of non-projectile episodes) and two adults fighting off something, including one who’s in varying degrees of undiagnosed pain at any one point (i.e. me). The girls’ virus is contagious and we are officially on flu-cation until we’re all symptom- and germ-free.

It’s a bummer to be stuck at home under these circumstances, but what can you do? I’ll just welcome the indoor time and go through my pile of unread magazines, continue knitting sock #1 of two, bake some bread and pie or tart, write letters with a pen and paper, edit photos from our cycling trips and post here some more.

Here’s another recipe I’d like to share with you and it’s a good one to try before the blueberry season comes to an end. It’s probably the quickest fruit pie I can make because there’s neither a need to peel and/or slice the berries or pre-cook them.

Blueberry Pie

It’s important to pick ripe and sweet blueberries so you don’t need that much sugar. If your berries are a bit tart, simply add more sugar (about 2 to to 4 tablespoons more).

Blueberry pie

Dreading the soggy bottom crust, some cook the berries to reduce the liquid. I prefer baking them fresh and keeping the globules intact, which is why choosing the right ripeness is crucial. I also use equal amounts of flour and cornstarch as thickener and an egg yolk as a binder. Yolk. You read it correctly. It works.

Blueberry pie

DSC_1185_2-600

Once cooled for serving, the pie filling stays intact. There’s no excess runny liquid and the fruits stay within the boundaries of the slice when cut.

Blueberry Pie

If you’re like me, sometimes craving overcomes reason. What waiting? I’ll slice the pie before it cools down. It’s great that there’s no excess liquid to soak up the crust. Goodbye soggy bottoms.

Blueberry Pie

I’ll make sure to bake another one or two of these before saying adieu to the blueberries this year. I hope you’ll do, too!

Continue Reading

Posted in baking, dessert, fruits0 Comments