I was channel-surfing for a few minutes when I chanced upon the worst talk show in the world ever, Tyra. Her guest was, uh, some food celebrity with the initials "SL". I don't want his/her rabid fans searching for her name and ending up here. Some poor woman was being featured due to her inability to entertain, and now she was behind some horrid table where some magical yellow monster (SL, perhaps?) had vomited all over it. SL asked her, "Have you ever baked a cake?" Never, she said ("I get mine at Costco"), and while I thought this is where they'd finally teach Tyra how the cake starts from flour and eggs and ends up in her belly, SL instead says "You don't have to!!"
Oh, joy. SL got a gigantic sheet cake (still from Costco) frosted white, stacked a 9" round cake on top, and littered the surface with cupcakes, candy sprinkles, and star cut-out cookies. "They have the best cakes there! Taste the icing, isn't it great?!" Of course, the poor woman sticks her finger it, takes a lick, and exclaims, "Wow, that IS good!" Huh?!
I know kids will be kids. They will probably lose their marbles upon being presented with a white shit tower, but I've never known for a kid to be disappointed with a home-baked cake, for crying out loud. Just stick an action figure on top (and it would not cost you $60 to buy). Thankfully, my friend Genie isn't a kid, so I thought I'd come to her party with a cake in tow. A little embarrassed, she texted me that it's not really her party since her birthday was a month ago, but her brother was celebrating his graduation from college and they just stuck the parties together. Eep! With a paper cone and some more white frosting, I wrote in tiny letters all over the giant "Genie": "(Belated Happy Birthday,) GENIE! Congratulations, Chuckie! :P"
I was afraid that making a spice cake would just scream "senior citizen!!" to my friends, but I quite liked it and unless they're lying, they said it was super-delicious too. Despite the fact that my decorating skills left a lot to be desired (sue me, it's my first time to use a paper cone) and the seam of the two layers was showing (clearly not the best decorating frosting, this recipe), Genie was very appreciative. Well, she better!
The rockzing Food Rockz Man also tagged me to mention seven random facts about myself. Now, it couldn't possibly be random, unless I wrote everything about myself and picked them out of a hat.
Magic Spice Cake adapted from Birthday Cakes
Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Grease, line, and grease again two 9-inch round cake pans. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon onto a sheet of waxed paper and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy, about 30 seconds. Add the white and brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. If at any time the mixture looks oily, beat at high speed until it regains its creamy appearance. Add in a third of the flour mixture and fold in with a rubber spatula. Add half the buttermilk and stir until combined. Continue with half the remaining flour, the rest of the buttermilk, and the rest of the flour, folding until well-combined at the end. Divide the batter equally between the two pans and spin them around to flatten the top. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then unmold and let cool completely.
Maple Penuche Frosting
There's something wrong with this recipe. It's more like a glaze, and therefore, did not do a good job of hiding the seam of the two layers and didn't seem like an "American" cake at all, since it had no body. It does taste good (if a little grainy-- perhaps because I substituted maple syrup for corn syrup), though. If you want a neat appearance, especially on the sides, you might consider glazing the top and sides with apple jelly to smooth all around and letting it set in the fridge before giving it a final glaze of the penuche.
Combine all the ingredients except for the vanilla in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil briskly for 1 minute while stirring. Remove from the heat and let it cool to lukewarm, then stir in the vanilla and beat until thickened. Use it to fill the layers and pour it over the top of the cooled cake, smoothing with an icing spatula.
24 April 2008
17 April 2008
Poire Fondantes et Glace à L'érable et Caramel au Beurre Salé
(I promise it'll be a long time before I talk about medicine again-- I don't particularly like it actually, it just fits the theme. This is my entry to the "Taste of Yellow" blogging event in support of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.) I'm not sure if they ever warned us about this, but for many health professionals, the time comes that you will start to identify people by their disease. When you look after a ward of 30-100 people at a time (it's a government-owned hospital), I confess it's much easier. What are names, anyway, compared to "the baby who had pancreatic inflammation and was always asleep," "brain tumor guy who swore at everyone," "massive tuberculosis man," etc. Everyone knows who and what you're talking about.
My first patient ever as a young clerk was a breast cancer survivor, but it had returned to her lung. In that moment of stupidity and inexperience that you almost say "It's going to be okay," or something equally frowned upon, you're almost thankful that you're too choked up inside to say it. Through her own tears she said that she's willing to embrace whatever God has in store for her, and she won't ever lose faith. From that point on, there would be no more crying about my own worries, no more feeling sorry for myself. She apparently had faith and strength of spirit enough for the both of us, and I'm glad we met. In return, she kept on dropping my name on her subsequent visits, touting me as the "handsomest, kindest doctor ever" (she never told me that, I just heard it from other people who were wondering what the hell I did for her). Ahem. What can I say, she's quite brilliant.
I encountered the senior officer who helped me do the lung drainage on the patient. "(Patient's name)'s back, and she looked just fine." My senior looked at me like I was an alien and said, "WHO?!" "Oh, you know, the breast cancer patient whose lung we drained," "Oh. That's nice." Many patients you know by disease. Some you know by name. A few you know by heart, and I'm the luckier for it.
I just recently made this very elegant (and very decadent) take on a sundae. Everything works perfectly together-- maple, walnuts, pears, caramel, and salt. Have a treadmill ready.
I've seen several recipes for pears, some calling for a pinch of saffron in the water, lemons and oranges, vanilla, Sauternes, etc. But I didn't want to lose the other flavors in the ice cream (after all, maple syrup co$t$ so much), so I settled for this simple recipe. If you have very underripe pears, increase the sugar to 300g (1-1/2 cups) and the poaching time to 15-25 minutes, depending on how soft you want the pears. I just wanted them soft enough to melt in your mouth but still stand up on the plate. You can also use canned pears.
Using a small knife, take the core out through the bottom of the pear. Scour away at the seeds with the tip of the knife, but go no farther and leave the stem of the pear intact. Cut out a corona pattern (as shown in the picture) near the stem and strip away the rest of the peel using a vegetable peeler to retain the shape of the pear as much as possible. In a medium saucepan, combine the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and submerge all the pears (the drop in temperature will make it appear as though cooking has stopped, but don't turn up the heat-- it will start bubbling again in a while). Turn the pears at least once during cooking. I cooked mine for 12 minutes, or 6 minutes a side. Take out the pears into a deep container, then turn up the heat and boil the syrup for 10 minutes to thicken slightly. Pour this over the pears and cool completely. This keeps in the refrigerator for 3 days.
Maple-Walnut Ice Cream adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Leibovitz
Follow the instructions for making the base here, mixing in the maple syrup, salt, and vanilla extract at the end. Shortly before churning the ice cream, preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) and set a rack on the top shelf. Place the walnuts on an ungreased sheet pan in a single layer and toast them for 12 minutes. Let them cool completely and chop them coarsely until no piece is bigger than a chocolate chip. Churn the ice cream base and add in the walnuts a few minutes before churning is done, or fold them in to the soft ice cream. Transfer to a freezer container and let it ripen for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Salted Butter Caramel Sauce adapted from The Perfect Scoop
If using salted butter, add only half the quantity of salt. If using coarse or high-quality salt (Maldon, kosher, fleur de sel), double the quantity of salt.
Melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add the sugar and cook until it starts to smoke and is a deep golden brown. Before this point, the butter may separate, but don't worry. Remove immediately from the heat and quickly add half the cream and whisk it in (keep distance or wear an oven mitt as it will bubble up) until only a few lumps of caramel remain. Stir in the rest of the cream and the salt and whisk until dissolved. Serve warm.
To assemble: Level the bottom of the pear with a sharp knife and set it on a plate. Add a scoop of maple ice cream and drizzle all over with the salted butter caramel.
13 April 2008
As I've explained before, I'm currently studying for the US Medical Boards, so there won't be as many entries on here until at least September. But I'm still cooking every now and then. It feels a little weird to be restudying everything for the nth time in your life, but even after the thousandth patient encounter there are still some bugs you never get to see (things that can only be found in Western countries). You just read the facts and pray that it sticks to your head even if you don't have a reference point.
Although I've only been baking since last year, I feel extremely confident when taking on a new project, which is every time (no repeats, please). However, even when you play it safe with flavors (chocolate, berries, lemons, blah blah), out of the blue you will be hit by an unknown bug and turn out a complete dud. So much for learning, so much for confidence. That's what happened with this ice cream sandwich-- I adapted it from Chocolatier Magazine. It's supposed to be white chocolate poundcake with chocolate-raspberry jam ganache and peanut butter ice cream in between, but I made this before I had an ice cream maker and there's no such thing as peanut butter ice cream here. Gleefully thinking to myself, "I'm so clever!" I switched it around and made a half-ganache-half-peanut butter mix and used commercial strawberry ice cream. BIG MISTAKE. This is why they never compare the taste of ice cream and jam-- strawberry ice cream is extremely insipid, and has little of the sharpness, tartness, and bite of strawberry jam. Peanut butter and chocolate also do not always go together. For one thing, it tasted bitter and salty and just weird. Just.... Gross all around. Maybe I would have fared better if I used milk chocolate, but I've already learned my lesson. This combination deserves a natural death. Don't let that turn you off to the white chocolate poundcake, though: even if it's my first poundcake, it still worked like a charm and tastes pleasantly sweet and milky, with a dense crumb, like good poundcake should be. Use it for straight eating, or sandwich some jam in the middle.
White Chocolate Poundcake adapted from Chocolatier Magazine
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 160°C (325°F). Grease and flour a 9"x5"x3" standard loaf pan and set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (I just used a hand mixer of course), beat the butter until creamy, about 30-45 seconds. Gradually add the sugar and continue creaming until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as necessary. If at any time the mixture looks oily while adding the eggs, stop adding them for a bit and beat the mixture at high speed until it regains its creamy appearance.
Fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Take one cup of the batter and add it to the melted chocolate in a small bowl and stir in the vanilla until well-combined. Return this batter back into the mixer bowl and fold until well-combined. Turn into the prepared loaf pan, level the top roughly and bake until a skewer through the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 20-25 minutes. Do not open the oven door until the fissure appears in the center. I baked mine in a Pyrex loaf dish (we don't have metal ones of that size), so I ended up baking mine for 1 hour and 35 minutes-- just start checking early on for doneness. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then unmold and let the cake cool completely. Wrap tightly in cling film and then with foil if you don't plan on eating it immediately, but the cake is best eaten within a few days.
To make sliced ice cream for the filling, beat a quart of ice cream with the paddle attachment until softened, then repack into the loaf pan and freeze. When firm, slice into the desired thickness.
07 April 2008
I think it has rarely been hotter in Manila. Broadcast is a high of 35°C (95°F) and a low of 25°C (77°F), but my last measurement in the kitchen was 30°C (86°F, please stop using the Fahrenheit scale). Watching the snowstorms in London I couldn't help but wonder (wow, hello Carrie Bradshaw) if I longed for the sweet, sweet misery of Jack Frost biting my ass instead of being dehydrated. As even further proof of my kitchen addiction, I worried more about whether my new ice cream maker would still work. So, I made certain that I covered all the bases: I froze the canister for at least 24 hours, I chilled the base before churning, and I churned in an air-conditioned room: a comfortably cool 23°C (73.4°F)-- considered "warm" by many a pastry cookbook I own! As the custard base spun around loosely, my fears were beginning to build until: gradually, wonderfully-- magic! And I'm talking actual magic, not David Blaine magic.
Beautiful soft-serve ice cream, ready for ripening. Not bad for a $50 ice cream maker from Costco (Cuisinart CIM-60PC, identical to the Cuisinart ICE-30BC). I couldn't stop fingering (uh... spooning?) the delightfully frosty peaks, stealing a bite here and there.
This recipe is from David Leibovitz's The Perfect Scoop, which has been garnering praise all over the blogosphere, because it is just that awesome a book. I chose blackberry swirl ice cream because I chanced upon frozen blackberries at the supermarket (I think they import it when they feel like it) and I wasn't familiar with their taste-- I wanted to make flavors that could not be commonly found in freezers here (otherwise, what's the point?). It is quite simply one of the silkiest, most delicious ice creams I've ever had, and rivals Häagen-Dazs for a fraction of the cost. I knew it was really that good when my grandmother, who disappointingly describes my desserts in varying degrees of "it's sweet" said, "MMMM! (high pitched) It's SWEET!" Har har. (It's not excessively sweet, it is just perfect.)
Mr. Liebovitz has a great online presence and I didn't (and can't, because it's my first attempt at ice cream) adapt the recipe as of yet. So instead I'm giving you a short list of ingredients and a link to his blog, where you just follow his basic procedure for making ice cream. Also, buy the book if you ever plan on making great, memorable ice cream.
(Note: The Cuisinart ICE-50BC does not need prefreezing and can churn batch after batch because it has its own compressor. However, churning takes 60 minutes compared to the 30-BC's 30.)
Blackberry Swirl Ice Cream
The ingredients are: 250g milk, 130g sugar, a pinch of salt, 375g cream, 5 large egg yolks, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Follow the procedure here on how to make the ice cream base, then churn it as directed. To make the swirl, mash together 160g blackberries, 45g sugar, 1 tablespoon vodka, and 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice until a chunky soup remains. Give this a chill. As you pack the freshly churned ice cream into a freezer container, layer in the swirl. Ripen in the freezer a few hours.
05 April 2008
Usually I find a way to relate the food I'm blogging about to the prevailing mood in which I prepared it or some story about my life that's been on my mind. Unfortunately the thing that's been on my mind lately is how crappy my high school days were and wishing I could tell that little nerd that everything's going to be okay. Anyway, it's too dark, and while that hasn't stopped me before, I'm trying to focus on positive things. So instead, before this excellent recipe for sausage pizza that I picked up from Bon Appétit's "What America Eats" issue (if you have to buy only one issue of BA a year, make this the one), I'm going to answer two very short memes from my (physician) colleagues, Dr. Claire(bear) and Dr. Em Dy, MD. I won't tag anyone, because as you all know, No Special Effects is where tags go to die.
The first one from Dr. Claire is just a playlist of my favorite (or mix-tape-worthy songs). I think people misunderstood my previous post: while I do listen to the stuff, they are by no means my favorite group or even my favorite type of music. The thing is, I like all sorts of music-- I don't write off an artist or genre until after I hear a few songs. However, as a result my playlists are so disjointed. Here's my special Manggy-mixtape (links are to Youtube pages, except Chem 6A which is a download page):
Side A (oh, how archaic!):
Jenny Was a Friend of Mine by The Killers · You Already Take Me There by Switchfoot · Supermassive Black Hole by Muse · Speakerphone by Kylie Minogue · Raspberry Swirl by Tori Amos · Cruel Summer by Ace of Base
Chem 6A by the Vitamin String Quartet · You and I Both by Jason Mraz · Only Hope by Mandy Moore · Learning to Breathe by Switchfoot · From Now On by Basia (uh, that's not Basia in the video... And the guy is barely connecting to the song.) · Fragments of Memories by Nobuo Uematsu
Obviously I like listening to string quartets. I don't know why. And can you tell what my favorite band is?
The second one is from Dr. Em and it's the 123 Book Tag. I'm supposed to take the nearest book, turn to page 123, and post sentences 5-8. This is from the actual book I'm reading:
Additionally, there are several proofreading and repair mechanisms that correct mistakes that are made spontaneously or by environmental insult. Transcription of DNA into RNA occurs in the nucleus of eukaryotic cells by three distinct RNA polymerases, each synthesizing a different class of RNA. In eukaryotic cells, RNA is synthesized as a precursor that is converted to mature RNA in the nucleus by a number of steps collectively known as "processing". (From: USMLE Step 1 Review)Oh my God, I've killed you all with boredom. Sorry. To make up for it, I'm going to add another book, "Waking Up Just In Time" by Abraham J. Twerski, a therapist. It's an interesting and enlightening read.
We give lip service to other people's basic rights, but in the very same breath we say that what they are doing isn't right at all, so it is not protected by our respecting their basic rights. This is a very flimsy rationalization for our wish to dominate other people or, at the very least, coerce them to accept our values. If we took the "Live and let live" motto literally and without rationalizations, we would all be much happier.
Blogging whiplash: back to the pizza!
I prepared this last Valentine's Day together with the Sole Meuniére, Frasier, and some Potatoes Anna. Even without tomato sauce, it's still really good. My only regret is that I didn't cut up the sausages small enough, so they look uncomfortably chunky to me in the picture. As it turns out, rolling pizza dough with a rolling pin is not a bad way to go. It's not as fluffy and aerated as my previous pizzas but it does retain its shape better.
Sausage, Red Onion, and Wild Mushroom Pizza adapted from Bon Appétit Magazine March 2005 issue
Place a baking stone on the oven floor. Preheat the oven to 260°C (500°F) or the highest temperature your oven can manage. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the sausage and sauté until brown, about 5 minutes, breaking them in the process with the back of a spoon. Transfer the sausage to a bowl. In the skillet, sauté the onion until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add to the cooked sausage. In the same skillet, sauté the mushrooms together with half a teaspoon of rosemary for about ten minutes, or until the moisture from the mushrooms has mostly boiled away (I have a small skillet, sue me). Add to the onions and sausage.
Work with one ball of dough at a time (don't start with the second until you're done baking the first). Stretch out a ball of dough into a 6-inch round. Sprinkle with half the remaining rosemary, red pepper, and Piave cheese. Roll out the round into a 12-inch round (roll in all directions), pressing in the seasonings. Sprinkle with half the mozzarella cheese and half the sausage mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch plain border. Bake on the hot oven stone for about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.
01 April 2008
Crêpes au Bananes avec Lait Concentré Sucré
Not very long ago, I had a nice conversation with a friend (oh, he knows who he is) which went something like this:
Me: I am such a sucker for pop music!
Other Guy: Yeah, me too!
Me: I'm listening to the Spice Girls!
Other Guy: What the hell is wrong with you?
The truth is, I'm such a sucker for catchy tunes. Even songs that I want to hate in theory like anything of Fergie's creeps into my subconscious and out of nowhere I will suddenly be singing I hope you know, I hope you know that this has nothing to do with you.. And that is why I don't listen to the radio and rely instead on my iPod full of classical tunes and the other artists you're probably tired of hearing by now. If I didn't do that, my head would be filled with Sean Kingston and Fall Out Boy, and honestly who can study in that situation?
In the same way, I've avoided ordering the Tarzan crêpe of Café Breton because of the description-- bananas and condensed milk. Gosh, that sounds so cheesy (it is also one of the cheapest crêpes on the menu). A little kid crêpe. I always opt for more sophisticated-sounding crêpes like Cherries Jubilee, La Delice, and Crêpes Suzette. But in order to grow, you sometimes have to let the wall down and give in to your inner cheese. It takes courage to stand up and say, "HEY, WORLD! I LIKE PLAIN CONDENSED MILK! AND I LISTEN TO CHEESY MUSIC (AT TIMES)!" Because in reality, Tarzan is a really good, lick-the-plate kind of crêpe, screw sophistication. And it is the crêpe I honored by making for my friends when they came around for some post-exam unwinding and XBox.
I also chose to make crêpes for my friends because Faith and her sister Clara wanted to learn some culinary tricks, and it would have taken too much time to bake a cake and to wait for it to cool. I'm not sure if they would ever make it, though, as no amount of demonstration would convince them that wiping a pan clean with your hand down on the hot surface is almost completely harmless. I've made chocolate crêpes before, and I even have a demo. I've improved the timing a lot (I don't have to take it off the heat) by adopting this technique for flipping:
You will need brown butter for this recipe. Simply melt 3 tablespoons (45g) or slightly more butter in a pan over low heat until it turns a nutty brown color and smells of hazelnuts. There will be dark milk proteins settling at the bottom-- I included them in the recipe for an interesting flavor. If you're feeling confident with your microwave skills (which is the method I used), simply process 45g of butter in a microwave-safe bowl at 50% power at 30-second intervals until it reaches this point. It takes a little daring as the butter will be sputtering in a very hot and small container.
Crêpes adapted from Desserts by Pierre Hermé
Place all the ingredients except the flour in the container of a blender or food processor. Process until completely smooth. Add the flour and process until it is just incorporated, but you don't want lumps either. Pour into a container with a spout, such as a Pyrex measuring cup. Cover with cling film and chill overnight.
Before cooking, give the batter a short whisk. It should be the consistency of heavy cream; whisk in some milk, a drop at a time, if it is too thick. Follow the demo here for cooking the crêpes. For a high yield with very thin crêpes with slightly crispy edges (the way I prefer them), wait only one second, no longer, before pouring the excess back in the pitcher. For slightly thicker, more velvety crêpes (the way most crêperies make them), wait 4-5 seconds before pouring the excess back. Also, you don't need coalescing bubbles to tell you to flip: the top of the crêpe will look set and if you peek on the underside, it should be golden. It will take about a minute or more. Certainly crêpes that are on the brown side are tastier and more fragrant than pale, milky ones. As you stack the crêpes, sprinkle some additional sugar on top.
Bananas for filling
Allow one banana per serving. Slice the banana into 1/4-inch slices. In a skillet over high heat, melt a pat of butter and sauté the banana with half a tablespoon of sugar for about 30 seconds. Place in the center of a crêpe and fold into a neat package (browner side out). If you prefer, you may spread Nutella on the crêpe before adding the bananas.
Serve on a pool of condensed milk and/or chocolate syrup, and a scoop of ice cream on top. I used dulce de leche ice cream for this one.