27 February 2008

Jack Daniels Grilled Chicken

Jack Daniels Grilled Chicken (with title)
The concept of a Jack Daniels-flavored grill glaze (er, barbecue sauce?) shouldn't be unfamiliar to anyone who's been to a T.G.I. Friday's. The point of this whole blog when I started was to cook everything I loved. Since then, it's grown into a creative exercise (in terms of making new desserts) and a learning experience (since I make it a point to incorporate a cooking technique that's new to me every now and then). But I still haven't forgotten that this glaze is something I've wanted to try for a long time, as I love the pineapple and molasses-like flavors. The next best thing about it is that it has almost no fat at all (uh, it has a LOT of sugar, though), and if you pair it with particular meats (skinless chicken breast-- stay with me, fellow food lovers), you will have a substantial meal with barely a speck of fat in it. Not very inspiring, but it is freaking amazing to me. If it makes you feel any better, I had regular skin-ful chicken breasts that I filleted myself (don't know why I bothered, though), but feel free to use it on ribs (I did), salmon, or pork chops. It's served here with Joe's rice pilaf (with bell peppers instead of almonds), and grilled pineapple (spears, four minutes a side).

(I got tagged for a meme by Susan, I'll put in my answers once I have something to else share with it, like a sketch or a piano piece :)

I was talking to Graeme when I was reducing this sauce. He will attest to the fact that I got to him cussing like there's no tomorrow, as I tried to taste the sauce after blowing on the sampling spoon twice. By the time it boils over, I think the sugar has already caramelized (which is more than 160°C or 320°F), so be sure it's sufficiently cooled before giving it a taste.

Jack Daniels' Grill Glaze (adapted from Top Secret Recipes)

  • 1 small head of garlic (about 15g)

  • olive oil (scant amount)

  • 160g (2/3 cup) water

  • 240g (1 cup) pineapple juice

  • 75g (1/4 cup) teriyaki sauce (I used Kikkoman)

  • 15g (1 tablespoon) soy sauce

  • 267g (1-1/3 cup) brown sugar

  • juice of half a lemon (about 45g)

  • 1 small onion, minced (about 70g)

  • 12g (1 tablespoon) Jack Daniels Whiskey (don't spend too much, buy one of those $2.50 airline bar bottles)

  • 20g (1 tablespoon) crushed pineapple

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 165°C (325°F). Using a sharp knife, slice off about a quarter-inch off the top of the head of garlic. Don't be too concerned if the smaller cloves are still completely intact. Place in a ramekin, drizzle the top with a little olive oil, cover the ramekin with foil, and roast in the oven for 1 hour. (You might want to roast some more garlic together with this one for other purposes; just use a bigger roasting pan.) Let the garlic cool and set aside.

In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, combine all of the remaining ingredients (water to cayenne pepper). Squeeze out all the soft fleshy roasted garlic insides into a small container (just to make sure none of the garlic skins go into the sauce) and add it all to the saucepan. Give the sauce a stir and set it over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer (very low heat) and keep simmering, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes, or until the sauce is reduced to a third and is thick and syrupy.

This glaze doesn't need to be brushed over the meat before going on the grill (the high sugar content will cause it to char). Just brush it on the meat after it's off the heat. Serve on the side as well.

21 February 2008


Ray Ventura
Fraisier (with title)
Would you believe I made a whole cake just to get rid of leftovers? I had some pastry cream from before and someone gave us a box of Driscoll's strawberries, so rather than let the pastry cream spoil, I decided to make this cake I've been lusting after for a long time. The thing is, it only takes 10 minutes to put a génoise together. It was Valentine's day too, so I thought it would be the perfect end to a dinner of Sole Meuniére and pizza (don't ask me how an Italian got in there). The name "Ray Ventura" is also given to this cake, after a bandleader popular in France after World War II.

I think I've spoiled my family for exquisite cakes. They don't seem to realize that you can't get a cake like this for cheap anywhere (as there are a few options around-- hotels, Bizu, some "commercial" home bakers-- and you will have to pay more than a thousand pesos for one). Since the strawberries were free and flour and sugar are just lying around here, I only had to pay for good dairy and eggs. My whole family loved it, even my dad who's not fond of dessert. I'm firmly sticking to my resolution not to eat cakes made elsewhere, unless it's innovative and I've never tasted it before. I still do love me some cheap cake, but it's really not any good for me health-wise. If you're going to be eating a ton of sugar, make sure you at least learn something from the experience.

You'll notice that the cake is taller on one side. My oven heats unevenly and I totally forgot to turn the pan in the middle of baking. Oh well, it still tasted great.

Classic Génoise

  • 100g (3/4 cup) cake flour, or 78g (9 tablespoons) all-purpose flour plus 22g (2 tablespoons) cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 30g (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Place a rack on the lower third of the oven and preheat to 177°C (350°F). Grease, line the bottom with parchment, and grease again an 8" springform pan, 8" cake pan, or 8" cake ring over a heavy baking sheet lined with parchment. Sift together the flour (or flour+cornstarch as the case may be), 1 tablespoon sugar, and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper and set aside. Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl set over hot tap water. Add the 100g sugar and whisk for a few minutes, or until the eggs reach body temperature and no longer feel grainy when rubbed between the fingers. Transfer the bowl to a mixer and beat at high speed for about 5 minutes, when the eggs have tripled in volume and falls in ribbons from the beater that take a few seconds to sink into the surface. Since I have a handheld mixer, I just beat the eggs over the hot water bath for 7 minutes. Sprinkle a third of the flour mixture over the eggs and fold gently. Repeat twice more with the remaining flour mixture. Take a cup of the batter and fold it into the butter. Return the batter-butter mixture and vanilla to the rest of the batter and fold until just combined. Pour into the pan and bake for 25-27 minutes, or until the top feels spongy. Let it cool to room temperature.

Follow the recipe given here. Tint it with one drop of green food coloring and thin it with enough stock syrup to get the consistency of heavy cream.

Kirsch Brushing Syrup
  • 50g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 60g (1/4 cup) water
  • 2 tablespoons Kirsch

Combine the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and place over high heat until all the sugar is dissolved. Cool to room temperature then stir in the Kirsch.

Crème Mousseline
  • 240g (1 cup) whole milk
  • 14g (1-1/2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
  • 14g (1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) cornstarch
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 133g (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
  • 200g (14-1/2 tablespoons, or 2 sticks minus 1-1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

Bring the milk to a simmer in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until smooth and pale. Sift together the flour and cornstarch over the eggs and whisk in. Pour in about half of the hot milk, whisking constantly, then pour everything back into the saucepan with the milk and whisk thoroughly until blended and smooth. Turn on the heat to medium and bring the custard toa boil, whisking constantly all the while. Continue boiling for 1 more minute. Strain using a fine sieve into a stainless stell bowl and whisk in 40g (3 tablespoons) of the butter. Allow to cool, stirring occasionally.
Cream the remaining butter (using a flat beater if you have one) and gradually beat in the cooled custard. Continue beating for a minute more to lighten the crème mousseline. It can be used right away, refrigerated with cling film flush to the surface for a week, or frozen up to 3 months. If frozen, defrost overnight in the refrigerator and beat with a flat beater or spatula until smooth.

  • 600g (17oz) small to medium strawberries, hulled (I only had large ones so I sliced them all in half)

Cut a piece of matt board into an 8" circle. Place this at the bottom of the springform or cake ring if you used one, or directly on the serving platter if not.

Cut the cooled génoise horizontally into two layers and replace the bottom layer on top of the matt board. Brush with half the kirsch brushing syrup. Spread a thin layer of crème mousseline using an offset spatula.

If you used a springform or cake ring, cut a few strawberries crosswise and use them to line the circumference of the cake. If not, just decorate the border with strawberries. Fill the rest of the interior of the cake with more strawberries, making sure it is more or less even throughout. Spread crème mousseline over the berries, filling the gaps and covering them to make a layer of uniform thickness. Brush the cut surface of the top layer of génoise with kirsch brushing syrup and replace this cut side-down on the strawberries. Spread the top with a thin layer of crème mousseline and smooth the top with an icing spatula or straight edge to make a flat surface (I forgot this step, obviously). Refrigerate for at least an hour to firm the filling.

Stir the fondant over a hot-water bath to raise the temperature to between 38-40°C (100-105°F). Pour about 2/3 cup over the top of the cake and smooth with an icing spatula or straight edge. Let the fondant set. Refrigerate the cake until about 30 minutes before serving. Release the springform or slip the cake out of the ring if you used one.

19 February 2008

Winter, Winslet, and Being Worthy of Drool

Allen of Eating out Loud recently impressed me with his many talents, and it got me thinking about the last time I did anything crafty that didn't involve food. Sure, I got a design job again (will post about it sometime soon, when it's public), but it's been a while since I did some serious sketching. So I picked up my pencil and searched Google Images for pictures of one of my favorite (if not my absolute favorite) actress Kate Winslet (and boy, my girl is NOT too shy to show off her goods). I didn't use a transfer or grid, I just did the stare-at-computer-screen-sketch-on-paper method, so some proportions may be a bit off. I love the freedom anyway.

(Click to enlarge. If you like what you see, please check out my other sketches. You can also ask for a huge scan if you really like it.)
Er, what do you think? I hope I captured some of her essential features (full lips, great nose, chinniness). I knew of her since Titanic, but lordy did I hate that movie. I really took notice when she was in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which was enough goodwill to erase Titanic and even gave me the strength to sit through the big, honking chick-flick that is The Holiday (I mean, seriously, she's the only reason to watch that movie). Some of my other favorite actresses include Gillian Anderson (also weirdly chinny, not to mention she also has an English accent) and Ellen Page (and all of this is out of X-Men 3, I kid you not). It's a little difficult for me since I don't watch many movies and my other favorites have a nasty habit of signing up for horrible, boring projects (Uma Thurman, Meg Ryan).

Speaking of Ellen Page, Entertainment Tonight recently featured the cover of the new Vanity Fair Hollywood issue, featuring: "Anne Hathaway... Jessica Biel... Juno..." Excuse me? Her name is not Juno. It is Ellen Page. Morons.

Anyway. I was hoping to get this out before the ice melts:

Click here to listen to a digital recording of me playing Tori Amos's "Winter."
It's a song about a father's lesson to his daughter about learning to love yourself. I sang it and played solo piano for the graduation ceremonies of Class 2006 of UP Diliman Biology Majors (year above mine). I thought it was apt. My adorable friend Arnel told me once I'd finished, "So Manggy, when you gonna make up your mind?" Hahaha, he funny.

I've been meaning to do this for a while, but I don't think my presence in the blog world was prominent enough to name other blogs back when Anh from Food Lover's Journey awarded me with a "Droolworthy Blog(ger) Award" back in November. I didn't know many other bloggers at the time and I have to thank Anh for her part in my progress here; her linkage and good words have certainly helped me out. The award is for food bloggers who take great photos. I thought of awarding it only to men, but that might be highjacking the award and I don't want to be an ass (maybe I'll make the manly men food blogger award in the future, who knows?). I've refrained from including some very dear people who have helped me out big-time in the aesthetics department, but they are by now multi-awarded (not to mention with this specific award already-- specifically my bro in blogland Graeme of Blood Sugar and the lovely, lovely Jen of use real butter), so I thought I'd pass it along to other great blogs I've been loving recently. I feel a little funny handing this out as I'm not a pro and I use a semi-automatic camera for goodness' sake (my older brother's Canon Powershot G7).

Eating Out Loud with Allen. How did I find this blog? He linked to me and I found out via Technorati (he hadn't even commented on this blog yet, sneaky). I visited the site out of curiosity and it turns out he has a smashing blog of his own! Even if he just recently got a DSLR, his pictures are quite droolworthy already, and they really give you a sense of the imaginative home-cooking that is his blog's signature. Really a cool guy.

Spicy Ice Cream with Lisa. I'm not a designer (I just, uh, dabble), but Lisa is the real deal-- a young, vibrant pro designer. On her downtime she likes preparing food for her family in Australia, and I like her classic taste in food and uncomplicated style of cooking.

Cooking is My Passion, Baking Is My Adventure with Thip. This is a very young blog-- we're talking a month old, here. Already you can see great things in the future for the blog of this professionally-trained chef. I love desserts (NOOOOO. REALLY.), and even if she's just starting (?) her "adventure" in baking, I feel like she's been doing this forever, what with all the fantastic pictures and all.

La Vida en Buenos Aires y Afines with Sylvia. I promise that you will be very impressed with the amount of thought and effort she puts into each of her pictures. Sylvia has that magic touch-- she can even make black pasta look like fine velvet.

Fresh From the Oven with Mandy. I don't know why bakers in Singapore all have lovely photographs. Is it something in the air? Does the government give them a camera and studio when they start up? Ha ha ha. If you love desserts, your monitor will soon be violated by your tongue constantly licking the screen when you visit Mandy's blog. Everything really does look "Fresh From the Oven."

You can visit any of the other great food/food blogger links on the right. They're all on my RSS feed aggregator. I've removed food indexing sites such as Tastespotting from my feeds, because I really have to get a move on studying for the medical licensure exams. When it's all over, I'll put it back on. However, that also means less entries for this blog (not to mention I'll be making a short trip to California next month). Priorities! :)

16 February 2008

Sole Meunière

Sole à la Meunière
Sole Meunière (with title)
I'm not sure when it was, but it must have been around 1995 when I first had my taste of Sole Meunière, which was also one of the first (if not THE first) meal I had in my favorite restaurant, Uno (Scout Fuentebella, Quezon City). It was that first bite that told me, "This is LOVE." There's really nothing to it, but coincidentally, it's also the first meal that Julia Child had in France, with which she had a "culinary epiphany," when she knew that French food was IT and there would be no looking back. In many ways, it was an exciting revelation for me too, even if I was only 13 at the time and I didn't come around to really cooking until I started this blog 12 years later. But I had to keep coming back to Uno. Not to order the same thing (thank heavens they always change their menu every quarter and they have daily specials), but there's something in the sole that awakened my taste buds (NO, I will NOT make a pun about sole and my soul). A whole new world had been revealed to me. So, what meal was your culinary revelation?

Sole Meunière is absolutely divine, but it doesn't make an appearance on many blogs. Bloggers might say it's because it's too simple. Graeme might say it's because it's fish. Some might say it's because it's too old. Call it old, I call it a classic (which, come on, it is). And simple often produces the best results. It's especially great for boosting a newbie's confidence in the kitchen, as you can't fuck it up.

Sole Meunière
There are many variations of this dish: chopped parsley is a popular addition at the end, as are capers. Some use half-olive oil and half-butter for the sauce, which would minimize the burnt milk solids from the butter, but I like the taste and feel of an all-butter sauce. Your call. The recommended fish to be used are Dover Sole and Petrale Sole (actually not a true sole but a flounder), but I used Lemon Sole because that's the only fillet they had on hand and I didn't feel like filleting my own fish on Valentine's day (maybe for the future, as it's much cheaper, and I like a challenge). This is for any quantity of fish. If you have a lot of fish to fry and the butter is starting to smell burned, throw it away and use some new butter. However, I cooked three batches of fish without any problem.

  • Petrale/ Dover sole fillets

  • salt and fresh-ground pepper

  • all-purpose flour

  • 45g (3 tablespoons or 1/2 stick minus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, plus 15g (1 tbsp) for later

  • half a lemon

Make sure the fillets are thoroughly thawed. Season very lightly on both sides with salt and pepper.

In a skillet over medium-low heat, melt the 45g butter. As soon as the butter stops foaming, dredge both sides of each fillet lightly in flour; slap the fish around to get rid of as much excess flour as you can. Lay them out on the pan, being sure not to overcrowd the pan (maybe 3 fillets at a time). Cook for 3-5 minutes (5 minutes if you had thicker fillets like I did, but it really won't take long especially if you thawed them well), turning once during cooking. Drain the fillets and lay them out on the serving platter. Melt the additional 15g of butter into the now-browned butter in the pan and turn off the heat. Squeeze the lemon into the pan and stir together well. Pour the sauce over the fillets.

Before I added the lemon, in the butter I sautéed green beans cut at a steep diagonal (very acute angle, as I had no bean cutter) that had been cooked in salted boiling water for 3 minutes and shocked on cold water and drained. I also sautéed some potatoes that I had boiled for 10 minutes in salted water.

15 February 2008

Snowed Under, Stupid Things, and a Fact Meme

Those few minutes you spend in bed awake can be really hazardous. Much like Charlie Brown, sometimes I remember all the stupid things I've done for no reason. It just enters my mind and by myself, alone in bed, I become mortified and smother myself with a pillow (er, lightly). It's scary to compare yourself to Charlie Brown. Even if he is a perfectly likable character, in the strip, nobody likes him (save a few kids) because he's quicker than others on focusing on his flaws; he lets his insecurity consume him, and even makes an inventory at the end of the day. I think we toughen up once we realize that no one is perfect, we just have ways of dealing and covering up those flaws.

Click here to hear a digital version of me playing Keane's "Snowed Under." I turned on the metronome because no one will drum for me, heh.
It's even scarier to hear the worst things you fear about yourself said about you by other people. It's easy to get snowed under by other people's opinions of us, making you doubt yourself and be unable to move on. But in the end, it's all just a waste of time. Very few people get to where they are by the great deluge of compliments heaped upon them. If for nothing else, at least you save a few minutes at night and get the extra sleep (and oxygen from not smothering yourself).

I was tagged by Hélène of La Cuisine d'Hélène and Dana of Proof of the Pudding to share 5 facts about myself. I've been racking my brain to come up with 5 little-known (well, at least in the Internet world) facts about myself that are safe to read. Hah.

1. I've sung solo in public several times. The first time was a Church solo for the Gloria, in front of half of the 4th (?) grade batch. I sang a few times in front of my high school class (but that's not really public, is it?). The next time was in college, as part of a one-shot band for an alumni homecoming, when we did a cover of "So Young" by The Corrs (among other songs) and I was playing keyboards (I did one of the verses and backing vocals of course). The last time was also in college, playing "Winter" by Tori Amos while also on solo piano. I haven't been practicing so my voice now sucks, but it's okay because practicing only made my voice higher, which is a great source of insecurity for me.

2. I have a rudimentary (read: really crappy) knowledge of American sign language.

3. I used to collect comic books back in the 90's. My title of choice: Excalibur by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis (huh, I was an Anglophile back then..). My aunt used to give me and my brother sketchbooks, and I churned out my own comic books and "graphic novels" (48 pages, no less!) about "Excalifur", where I drew anthropomorphic animals in my own version (you know, Shadowcat is a cat, etc.). The stories were pretty incomprehensible and dumb, but it was more of an excuse to draw every superhero I could think of. Now, I'm glad they publish collected editions of comic books so I don't have to spend a fortune every month just to follow a story.

4. In the 6th grade (I think), I was part of a televised interscholastic quiz show called "Battle of the Brains." My brain was not yet full of medicine, food, and filth, so it had a lot of room for useless trivia (I have since discarded those facts, but I still enjoy watching Jeopardy! when I have nothing else to do). I survived to fight another week with my teammates, but we lost during our second time there.

5. I'm pretty good at table tennis. My dad taught me because he got tired of me reading and not moving much as a kid. In college, there was a table at my organization, but I didn't fight anyone unless I was really bored because I didn't like sweating in between classes. I'm not at an olympic level or even as good as the best players in my org, but I just watched "The Office" where Jim and Darryl are playing each other "intensely" and I thought, "That's it?"

I'm not tagging anyone as usual, but if you want to answer it from this link, just tell me in the comments and I'll link to you. ;)

11 February 2008

Crema de Fruta Tarts

Crema de Fruta Tarts (with title)
I don't know what happened to me. I am deathly afraid of saying those 3 words (apparently not of the other 3 more harmful words-- "more food, please"). I used to say them often. Now I can only say them in the context of a humorous statement. Even if I really want to, I need something to disguise it and the recipient is just left wondering how much of it I meant.

I know many of you will be piping in, "If you mean it, say it, or you'll regret it." Unfortunately, experience has shown me that it's when I do say it that the regret starts. The person in question feels pressure to live up to it, or I'm seen as too intense or borderline. The thing is, I admit it feels wonderful to be the recipient. But I know myself. I don't think I know many other people well enough to assume for them that it's a good thing to be loved by me. Maybe I'm just not that person. I would think that maybe I'm just selfish, but I like making people feel that they're loved somehow, like in the food I make or the cakes I bake. Just not in words. Maybe I should just make the rule now: if I've said it as a joke, I already meant it (the problem with that is I take it even more personally when people don't like the food-- oh, what a tangled web I weave..). These (hopefully) original tarts, patterned after Crema de Fruta, a now-classic Filipino dessert of layered chiffon cake, custard, fruit cocktail, and gelatin "mirror" is my entry to the Mini Pie Revolution 2: Small Tarts have Big Hearts food blogging event founded and hosted by my good online buddy Ann of redacted recipes and Karyn of Hot Potato..

While this doesn't have cake, there's never enough depth in a tart to include pastry cream, fruits, peach slices (no matter how thinly you slice them), and gelatin. So I scrapped the gelatin, except for a light brushing of gelatinized light peach syrup on top. It doesn't really add much anyway. I used "Good Cook" (a California-n brand) heart tins that measured 3-1/4" (8cm) on the septum, which sold for 3 at P150 ($3.75). One real (much shallower) heart tartlet pan with a removable bottom costs P280 ($7). Uh, no thanks.

Paté Brisée (good for 4 3-1/4" heart tins)

  • 130g (9 tbsp or 1 stick + 1 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 210g (1-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour

  • 50g (1/2 cup) confectioner's sugar

  • 1/4 tsp salt

Using a mixer with the paddle attachment if you have one, beat the butter until creamy and clinging to the sides of the bowl. Beat in the egg yolk until combined. Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt over the butter while beating. Stop when you have the appearance of fine crumbs (a few larger pieces of butter are fine). Gather into a log, pressing together well, and wrap in cling film. Let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Slice the log into 1/8" thick pieces, then line the tins with the pieces only slightly overlapping, pressing them well together to make them even and make sure there are no spaces in between (alternatively you could just tamp on a giant blob of dough, but I like the slice technique because it creates a very even crust throughout). Cut off the excess. Line with foil, making sure it goes over the sides, and freeze for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 190°F (375°F). Bake the crusts until light golden, about 18 minutes. Remove the foil and place on a rack to cool for 15 minutes, then flip them out onto the palm of your hand carefully. Make sure all the sides are supported by your palm so they don't fall apart (actually if you pressed them well together, it will be quite durable). Let them cool on a rack completely.

Crema de Fruta custard
Unlike pastry cream, this recipe has water, and is runnier, sweeter, lighter, and smoother. It's suited to tartlets because you don't have to slice them and worry about the filling running out. If you want to translate this recipe to a large tart, use a regular pastry cream instead.
  • 100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar

  • 23g (2 tbsp + 2 tsp) cake flour

  • 330g (1 cup + 6 tbsp) whole milk

  • 3 large egg yolks

  • 90g (6 tbsp) water

Combine all the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, until thickened and creamy.

To assemble:
  • 1 small can of peach slices in light syrup, drained very well

  • 3 single serves of fruit cocktail, drained very well

Spoon the tart shells with custard half-full. Spoon fruit cocktail into the custard, pressing it in so the custard flows to the top of the fruit. Slice each peach slice into 4 thin wedges, then decorate the tops of the tarts with the peach slices.

09 February 2008

Temptation Tower

Temptation Tower (with title)
Here is this month's plated dessert (hopefully I'll be able to make one more before the month is through). I was feeling pumped after my Maya Gold, but I didn't want to make another chocolate dessert, so I headed to the bookstores for some ideas. My definite inspiration for making this is the book Grand Finales: A Neoclassic View of Plated Desserts by Tish Boyle and Tim Moriarty. It all came from the apple chip on one of the desserts, which is one of the most deceptively simple garnishes you can make at home, plus it tastes great, unlike pulled sugar or plain puff pastry. Unfortunately, I can't afford the book as it costs P3000 ($75), so I had to think up my own components for my dessert. Thankfully I still had those damn magazines I bought on sale, one of which was a Pastry Art and Design, which had a recipe for Honey Spice cake, which I present here with a less intimidating approach. Pastry and baking are precise sciences, but not dauntingly so. Only the cake here is measured out; the rest of the components I just banged together on the stove, and guess what: this dessert is so incredibly delicious that I finished mine, apple chip and all, in a minute. I named it Temptation Tower from the apples I used to make it. Though some people say Eve offered Adam a quince at the Garden of Eden, I haven't tasted one before, so it's out of the question.
The thing is, I didn't have a mandoline that would create the very thin (think less than 1/16 inch) slices of apples I needed. I managed to buy a cheap Japanese one which was multifunctional to boot, for only P88 ($2.20). Granted, it'll probably dull after a few uses and that peeler is probably no good, but it's a lot better than shelling out thousands for a professional mandoline (maybe I ought to look into the Home Shopping Network). What I couldn't buy, though, is an extensive set of circular cutters, so I had to make do with my 2.5", 2.75", and 3" biscuit cutters. If I had smaller cutters, I would cut out the centers and make more dramatic compositions:

Ready? Let's make a Temptation Tower! (er... The dessert kind.)

Honey Spice Cake (adapted from a recipe from Finale, a Boston dessertery)
I was disappointed at first when I ate this cake fresh from the oven, since I found it to be chewy. However, after freezing it for storage and thawing it, it became very tender, and I quite liked it. Make sure to use good honey when making the cake.

  • 2g (1 tsp) ground allspice

  • 2g (1 tsp) ground cinnamon

  • 7g (1 tbsp) baking powder

  • 7g (1-1/2 tsp) baking soda

  • 334g (2 cups + 6 tbsp) all-purpose flour

  • 1g (1/4 tsp) salt

  • 167g (1 cup + 5 tbsp + 1 tsp) granulated sugar

  • 134g (3) large whole eggs

  • 63g (6 tbsp) neutral oil, such as Canola, Corn, or Coconut oil

  • 153g (7 tbsp) honey

  • 267g (1 cup + 2 tbsp) orange juice

Grease, line with parchment snugly, and grease again a half-sheetpan (12"x16"x1", but you can use a 10"x15"x1/2" pan as I did with no problems). Preheat the oven to 177°C (350°F). Place the allspice, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, all-purpose flour, and salt in a sifter and sift together onto a sheet of waxed paper and set aside. In a large mixer bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, oil, and honey at high speed until thick, pale, and no longer grainy when rubbed between the fingers, about 7 minutes. Sprinkle a third of the flour mixture onto the batter and mix at low speed for 10 seconds just to combine (alternatively you can just fold it in by hand), making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Fold in half of the orange juice until combined. Repeat with another third of the flour, the rest of the orange juice, and the last bit of flour. Pour into the prepared pan and even it out with a large spatula. Bake for 14-19 minutes (it took me 17 minutes, but if you have a bigger pan, it will be closer to 14 minutes), or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs clinging. Slip out of the pan onto a cooling rack and let cool completely for an hour. This cake may be frozen, wrapped twice in cling film then in foil, for a month.

Sautéed Apples
For every 2 individual servings, you'll need:
  • 1 large firm and tart apple, such as Granny Smith or Fuji

  • 14g (1 tbsp) salted butter (or use unsalted butter with a tiny pinch of salt)

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Peel, core, and cut the apple into 16 wedges. In a medium bowl, toss the apples with the cinnamon and brown sugar until well-combined. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then add the apple wedges. Keep tossing the apples in the butter (the juice will be released from the apples, then thicken) for about 15-20 minutes, or until tender. This can be chilled in the refrigerator for a few days; just reheat before use.

I could have bake this on top of the cake, but I didn't want to mess up the baking time, so I decided to keep it separate and heat it up later.
  • 115g (1 stick) cold salted butter (or use unsalted butter with a pinch of salt), cut into 1/2-inch cubes

  • 140g (1 cup) all-purpose flour

  • 2g (1 tsp) ground cinnamon

  • 70g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar or vanilla sugar

  • 70g (1/3 cup) packed brown sugar

Place the butter cubes in a large bowl and sift the flour and cinnamon over them. Add the sugars and work with a pastry blender or your fingers until crumbly. Chill until needed. You may also freeze it for a month, covered airtight.

Yogurt Cream
This cream is slightly sour, and achieves a great balance with the apples and streusel. If you don't like the taste of yogurt, simply substitute vanilla or caramel ice cream.
  • 250g (1 cup) unsweetened natural yogurt

  • 7g (1 sachet) powdered gelatin

  • 240g (1 cup) heavy cream, chilled

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

In a small microwave-proof bowl, place 2 tablespoons of the yogurt and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let sit for a minute, then microwave on LOW for 10 seconds, then stir to dissolve the gelatin completely. Transfer to a large bowl and fold the rest of the yogurt in and set aside at room temperature. In a large chilled bowl, place the cream and whip, adding the sugar gradually, until firm peaks are formed. Fold in the yogurt and set aside in the refrigerator.

Apple Chips
I made a mistake the first time and forgot to use parchment paper. The chips stuck to my nonstick pan, and I had to discard them. I'm pretty sure these would keep well in temperate climates in an airtight tin for a day, but to be safe, I prepared them the same day. They're really quite easy. Make sure there's no peel on the apples when you slice them, as they dehydrate at a faster rate, causing wrinkling. However, the peel makes it easier to slice apples on a mandolin, so you may want to follow my recommended procedure here.
  • 3 firm apples

  • 60g (1/4 cup) confectioner's sugar

Line the bottom of a sheet pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 94°C (200°F). Using a mandoline, slice the apples blossom side-down at the most 1/16" thick; you should be able to see through the slices. Using a set of circular cutters, cut out individual circles of apple slices, in the process removing the peel. Use a second smaller cutter to remove the core of the apple. Using a sifter, sprinkle the prepared pan with confectioner's sugar, then arrange the apples slices in various fashions, overlapping them for each individual garnish. Dust the tops of the slices evenly with more icing sugar (you do not have to use up all of the sugar; just return it when done). Dry in the oven for 40 minutes. If you've made wider rings as I have, you may need to dry them for longer. When done, peel the chips of the parchment and they should not bend.

Assembly: (makes about 12 servings)
Using a 3" cutter, cut out circles of the cake. Sprinkle the top with streusel (you may use the cutter as a guide so it doesn't go over the edge). You may place them all in a sheet pan and under the broiler for a few minutes to warm the streusel through, or just do as I did and place each individual serving on a microwavable plate and microwave on HIGH for 45 seconds. Arrange the sautéed apples on top slightly overlapping in a rose-petal formation. Top with a scoop of the yogurt cream and stand an apple chip on top like a tower or resting on the side as in the diagram I drew, on the right (use your imagination). Serve immediately as the cream will soften the apple chip and make it wilt in a few minutes.

08 February 2008


My PGH Barkada

I was going for a "Do you know where your children are?" vibe with that but there's only so much tone you can project with the written word (FYI: those are 7 very competent doctors in the picture, just so you're not confused). That's a picture of me with 6 of my closest friends (by no means all of them). I'm the third one from the left if you haven't figured it out. I've been feeling a little funny after reading a few comments about my appearance, which is a pretty standard reaction from me. I really am bad at taking it. I remember walking around campus in my ugly, ugly medical school uniform and a group of 3 young women passed by. After they passed me, one of them who thought I must have had ears made of mushrooms said, "Pwede na." (translation: "Acceptable.") The weird thing is, I heard the same thing again from a different group of people years later. I was laughing all the way home. I won't tell you the two stories of how some people flirted with me, because if I'm terrible at accepting backhanded compliments, I am far, far, worse when it's overt flirting. I'm more used to handling horrible comments like "You look like Gollum." Compliments are like a sneak attack. (Except when it comes to my food, wink wink.)
Torn Book
I tried to work whatever charm skills I had into getting this book at a discount (Desserts by Pierre Hermé, now very hard-to-find). It was originally selling for P1680 ($42) a National Bookstore, the Philippines' largest bookseller, but it looked like it had been attacked by rabid dogs on the spine and dustcover. I've been wanting this book for months two other things I am really, really bad at are haggling and hiding the fact that I am dying to buy the item in question. I asked a friendly saleslady if she could give me a discount as the book looked like ass on rat, and she was very helpful and went to management, who determined they could give a 20% discount! W00t! Granted, it's still pricey given its condition, but I didn't want to push my luck. I wasn't even aware you could ask for a discount at a large retail chain.

P.S.: Dottie's (2nd from left) shoulder makes it look like my shirt was unbuttoned to an uncomfortable degree. Just saying.

06 February 2008

Shrimp Scampi Pizza

Pizza di Gamberi alla Scampi
Shrimp Scampi Pizza (with title)
Today is Ash Wednesday, or as Tina Fey described it, "the day when Catholics creep out their co-workers." Which kind of made me chuckle, because 1) it is Tina Fey, and 2) the only real-life point of reference I have consists of people going, "Oh, crap! I forgot it's Ash Wednesday!" (paraphrased) It's a little unnerving to think about what it would be like to suddenly become the minority, and freaky that I will soon find out for real. For no reason, I researched how many Jewish people there were in the Philippines, since I knew none personally, and it turns out there are at the most 500, and probably none in my age bracket (I got to read a few touching/sad stories in the process), and only one synagogue (Temple Emil in Manila). You really take for granted being understood (by default), but it's the differences that make life exciting and learning possible.
Shrimp Scampi Pizza (close-up)
What does that have to do with a shrimp scampi pizza? Nothing, except for the fasting and abstinence that we (usually) practice this season of Lent. Though I think that to serve such an honestly delicious pizza would be missing the point, ha ha ha. Obviously I made this the same day as the maple-glazed pumpkin and blue cheese pizza, and I chose this flavor because it's one of my father's favorites at California Pizza Kitchen, and also one of the more expensive ones on the menu. Once again the toppings aren't traditional, except in the sense that it is a California-n pizza, where the only rule is there are no rules (please do not kill me for breaking out that annoying cliché, it really is appropriate in this case). On the other hand, true Neapolitan pizza has only fresh yeast, no oil, and must use a wood-burning oven, among other rules. Yeah. Not in this lifetime.

Follow the pizza link above for the recipe I used for the dough. I still used a 350g dough ball stretched into a 12-inch, er, oval. Again, make sure you have all the ingredients ready before dressing the pizza-- you should only take a minute at most to dress it before it goes in the oven.

Garlic Shallot Butter

  • 70g (5 tbsp) butter

  • 1/4 cup minced shallots (I used 1 small onion or 70g)

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme (I used fresh)

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • pinch white pepper

  • 80mL (1/3 cup) Chardonnay (I used dry white wine)

  • 15mL (1 tbsp) lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon chicken broth base or bouillon cube

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and melt 1 tablespoon (14g) of the butter. Add the shallot, garlic, and thyme and cook for a minute. Add the salt, white pepper, Chardonnay, and lemon juice, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring, until it is reduced to 1/2 cup. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the remaining butter. Once cool, this butter freezes well in an airight container (thaw before using).

Roasted Garlic
  • 1 head garlic, coarseley chopped

  • olive oil

Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F). Spread the garlic in a single layer on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil, tossing to coat. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the edges are starting to brown. Scrape up the garlic, redistribute it in the pan, and continue roasting for another 10 minutes or until light golden.

Shrimp Scampi Pizza
  • 100g (1-1/2 cups) mozzarella cheese, freshly shredded

  • 1 small onion, preferably white, sliced into 1/8" thick rings

  • 12 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut in half lengthwise/ sagittally

  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano

  • small handful Italian parsley, chopped

Place a pizza stone on the bottom of the oven. Preheat the oven to 260°C (500°F) for at least 15 minutes. Stretch the dough on your pizza peel (that has been liberally dusted with cornmeal) to a 12-inch round with a slightly raised rim. Spread the garlic shallot butter over the surface within the rim. Scatter the mozzarella over the butter. Evenly distribute the onions, garlic, and shrimp. Transfer to the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 220°C (425°F). Bake until the crust is golden, the shrimp is completely opaque, and the cheese at the center is bubbly, about 15 minutes. Take out the oven and sprinkle the oregano and parsley over.

01 February 2008

Bacon-Wrapped Baked Eggs with Cream Cheese Biscuits and Arugula

Bacon-Wrapped Baked Eggs with Cream Cheese Biscuits and Arugula (with title)
Although I really should, I don't eat breakfast. It's a bad habit I picked up in med school, when sometimes the best you can do is a granola bar or yogurt drink while walking to the hospital. It didn't really bother me as I don't have an appetite in the morning, but it got really bad when I had to assist an operation that lasted from 7AM to 4:30PM, and all I had was said tiny granola bar and water. It wouldn't have mattered, really, if only the surgeons didn't start dictating their lunch orders. Grr. Knowing me, I probably rushed to the nearest McDonald's immediately afterwards and pigged out on a quarter pounder. Right now, if I didn't spend the wee hours of the morning watching The/A Daily Show with Jon Stewart and designing stuff (PS: I hope the writer's strike ends soon, but that means no breakfast forever), I would wake up early for some beans and toast at least.
Cream Cheese Biscuits
So I thought I'd wake up at a decent, normal-person hour to make biscuits for the first time, but I failed again and ended up making a breakfasty lunch. The biscuits are something I conjured up from a mash of everything I've read about biscuits, plus the need to finish a half-package of cream cheese. The presentation is something I took from Bon Appetit magazine. The biscuits tasted and looked great, even though I FORGOT TO INCLUDE THE BAKING SODA. I have no idea why, but that should teach me to write stuff down. In any case, the rise was acceptable. The biscuits are ultra-moist and wonderful, if a bit on the salty side (the better to eat with jam, my dear) and something you must absolutely finish on the same day, since the next day, the moistness is gone and it's just... there. If I were to organize some fancy brunch, I would make these again... With jam, honey, or maple syrup on the side, just to be a bit more unhealthy but deadly delicious.

I do not know why all recipes for baked eggs call for 15-20 minutes. I don't like the yolks cooked all the way through (though I would understand health-wise why people would be concerned). These are my first baked eggs and I would definitely not bake them for as long as I did the next time, to make a more delicate and decadent dish.

Cream Cheese Biscuits

  • 280g (2 cups) all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached

  • 1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 55g (4 tbsp) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

  • 240g (1 cup) cold buttermilk, preferably low-fat (I used coddled milk, or 240g milk + 1 tbsp lemon juice, left to stand for 10 minutes)

  • 110g (4oz or 1/2 package) cream cheese, softened

  • additional 140g (1 cup) all-purpose flour

  • additional 30g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 260°C (500°F). Sprinkle a baking sheet with the additional all-purpose flour. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick spray. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda until well-combined. Scatter the butter cubes and cream cheese evenly over the mixture and cut into it with a pastry blender or rub it in with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal (alternatively you can process it in a food processor, with 8 1-second pulses). Add the buttermilk and stir with a rubber spatula until just incorporated.

Working quickly with the wet dough, use a 1/4 cup (60mL) measure to scoop out level amounts of dough onto the prepared baking sheet. You should be able to make about 12 evenly-sized mounds. Dust the tops of the mounds with flour from the sheet. Pick up a mound of dough and gently shape into a rough ball, shake off the excess flour, and place in the prepared cake pan as photographed above. Brush the tops with melted butter, taking care not to flatten them. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 5 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 230°C (450°F) and continue to bake until deep golden, about 14 minutes. Cool in pan for 2 minutes, then take out of the pan and break apart (I sliced them cleanly with a knife), and cool for 5 more minutes.

Bacon-Wrapped Baked Eggs with Cream Cheese Biscuits
For a single serving, you will need:
  • 2-1/2 thick rashers of bacon

  • a half of a cream cheese biscuit

  • a small handful (about 20g or 3/4oz) of sharp cheddar cheese, grated

  • a small handful (about 20g or 3/4oz) of Gruyere cheese, grated

  • 1 large egg

  • minced fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Heat a large skillet over medium heat and fry the bacon for about 4 minutes or until brown but still pliable. Drain on paper towels. Reserve the bacon drippings. Line the sides of a 1-cup custard cup/ramekin with 2 slices of bacon, forming a collar. Place half a slice of bacon on the bottom. Place a biscuit half on the bottom, then sprinkle most of both cheeses over the top. Crack an egg in the center and sprinkle with the remaining cheese, thyme, and fresh-cracked black pepper. Bake until the egg whites are almost set, about 20 minutes (though I would definitely prefer it on the rarer side). Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. Run a small knife around the edge of the cups, tilt on to the serving plate and slide the whole dish out.

Arugula with Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • 60g (1/4 cup) balsamic vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons bacon drippings from the baked eggs above

  • 115g (4oz) arugula (rocket)

Whisk the vinegar, mustard, olive oil, and bacon dripping together. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the arugula and toss lightly. Serve alongside the baked eggs.