29 June 2008

Hidden Cherry Cream Cheese Torte

Hidden Cherry Cream Cheese Torte (cut view with title)
I have a bit of a bad mannerism whenever I say or hear the sentence "Life is full of surprises." I usually add, "most of them nasty." Comic book geeks will recognize the line from Uncanny X-Men #165. It certainly isn't reflective of my personality, as I don't think I'm a pessismist or overly guarded, but I do recognize that even as we are positive about the future, many things will come along to disappoint, and it never hurts to be prepared. If things do go well, then that's even better. Imagine my surprise when our little blogging community pulled through and the CLICK organizers were able to raise more than the $12,000 they projected for Bri in more than a month before the deadline.
Hidden Cherry Cream Cheese Torte
My entry for the CLICK competition - Yellow for Bri. Proper contest size is shown when the link is clicked- at 550 pixels wide, the whole image is not shown on this blog. Details: shot in natural light, using a Canon PowerShot G7 with no add-ons.
When life is beginning to be a drag, just remember that each new day has its own share of surprises-- and some of them are beautiful and awe-inspiring.

I actually took a different picture for the contest, but it was teh suck in a bad way, just ask Graeme. After cleaning the vomit off my computer screen, I checked my folder for any other possibilities. Thankfully I made this cheesecake the day before and while I didn't make it with CLICK! in mind, the finished product was so bright and sunny, I thought it fit the theme well. I realize there's plenty of incredibly talented photographers out there and I'm kind of a schmuck, but even if this doesn't make it past the first cut, I'm still glad to be able to participate and spread the message around.
Hidden Cherry Cream Cheese Torte (whole view)
I took the picture in a hurry before leaving for Pampanga (the countryside, an hour north of here) for my grandfather's first death anniversary. Just looking at his old cane, leaning against the corner, a few of the religious statues he collected, and pictures of his children and grandchildren he kept brought back a little sadness, but after a little bit of reflection, it made me realize that I'm glad that he was in my life even if just for a while. Each time we came to Pampanga (near-weekly when I was a kid), I used to be bored silly, but I suppose with age you come to appreciate the quietness and simplicity. That, and it gave me a chance to try working with my humble point-and-shoot camera and see if I can show you guys the beauty of my country home the same way Jen does. (Short answer is no, but I think it's a good effort.)
Trellis and Water Pump
Washing area, for dishes and such. Hut-style gazebo with auxiliary kitchen in the background.
Back in 1992 or so, my father's childhood home was decimated by mudslides from Mount Pinatubo. Every material possession was buried completely (thankfully no one was hurt, especially my grandparents). It's amazing how much has grown since.
Fishpond 1
Fishpond 2
The two fishponds on the property. The aquatic growth is Ipomoea aquatica, or water spinach (kangkong in Tagalog). The sky is all burned out. I'm crap.
Ducks preparing to swim
Ducks and Water Spinach
My grandmother's ducks, not wanting to be bugged by me
Bending Papaya Tree
A papaya tree that's inexplicably bent.
Shed among the trees
Walking past the ponds, there's a reasonably densely wooded area. I don't know what the shed is for.
Swampy Sanctuary
A quiet area in the shade.

Hidden Cherry Cream Cheese Torte
from Baking: From My Home To Yours, recipe I snatched from here with some revisions.
I don't like really tall, obscene cheesecakes, and it's only partially for health reasons (if it were for health reasons, I wouldn't be having cheesecake at all). Tall cheesecakes have a tendency to pall halfway through. This cheesecake, even though it's half-cottage cheese and lighter than usual, is still quite decadent and rich. It's pretty much foolproof, even without a water bath, so I'm quite thankful for that. I find that the amount of jam can still be increased a bit, maybe even twice as much.

  • 245g (1-3/4 cup) all-purpose flour

  • 100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar

  • 165g (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

I made this dough by hand. To make it using a food processor, follow the link to the recipe above. Spray with baking spray and flour (with excess, not from the recipe of course) a 9-inch springform pan. In a large bowl, stir the flour and sugar together to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the surface and using a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour until it resembles a fine meal. If it's sufficiently cold (and so are your hands), you may also rub the butter in with your fingers. In a small, separate bowl, beat together the egg yolks and the vanilla lightly just to break them up, then add it to the bowl of flour and use a fork to stir it in, making sure every bit of flour is moistened. The mixture will look like loose curds. Press it evenly into the prepared springform pan, making sure it comes up at least 1-1/2 inches up the sides. You might have a tendency to make it thicker on the corner-- avoid this as it will make the crust tough to eat at this point. Refrigerate the crust for at least 30 minutes or freeze it for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Fit a piece of buttered aluminum foil butter-side down on the surface of the crust and fill it with rice, dried beans, or pie weights. I used ineffective coins (as there's a rice shortage), but the crust came out fine anyway. Bake for 20 minutes, then take it out of the oven, remove the weights and foil (gently pushing down any part that has puffed up) and bake for another 5 minutes. Place on a rack to cool and lower the oven temperature to 175°C (350°F).
  • 120g (1/3 cup) cherry jam

  • 255g (9oz) cream cheese, at room temperature

  • 240g (8oz or 1 cup) cottage cheese, at room temperature

  • 150g (1-1/2 cups) sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 2 large eggs

In a food processor or blender, process the cottage cheese until no large lumps remain (it's virtually impossible to liquefy every last curd). Add the cottage cheese and process until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, salt, and eggs and process for 30 seconds longer, scraping down the bowl at least once-- it will be quite liquid and should be lump-free by the end. Using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the cherry jam evenly over the bottom of the crust, then pour in the filling. Bake for 60 minutes (mine was probably done at about 55 or so minutes) or until the surface is uniformly puffed and does not jiggle. Don't shake the pan too violently as the surface will crack, but any tiny cracks I caused disappeared when the filling settled into a thin layer as it cooled. Allow to cool completely at room temperature. If any part of the crust appears to be stuck to the springform, run a blunt knife between them. Release the springform. Chill the torte until serving time.

To remove the edge of the crust extending above the cheesecake's surface, I find a good tool to use (as I was obsessive about not cracking the crust) is a very sharp pair of poultry shears. Use a small piece of parchment to protect the cheesecake's surface from crumbs as you go around the circumference.

Nutrition information:
Serves 8 very generously (I was able to serve many more than that)
Per serving (prepare yourself):
587 calories
64g carbohydrates
32.4g fat (50% calories from fat)
10g protein
DO serve 16 people with this, not 8.

25 June 2008

The Blog Rounds 15th Edition Call for Entries: Sex And The Clinics

It's my great pleasure and an absolute honor to host the 15th Edition of The Blog Rounds, a blogging event for the Filipino medical community organized by Dr. Remo of The Orthopedic Logbook. The topic I've chosen for this cycle is "Sex and The Clinics." No, it's not as plain as it suggests; I just wanted a snappy title. And I didn't choose it because I'm a perpetually tumescent 26 year-old man (haha). But I did excited when I saw that the previous blog rounds have not yet touched on gender issues in medicine. I remember when I was still in my fourth year of college, there was a lot of apprehension among my female classmates because of a perceived strictness in candidate selection for medical schools. This, along with several issues and curiosities I encountered during my 5 years in medicine, were all things I pondered on but could never really grasp. Until now, that I am asking you guys to write about it.

There are so many possible topics to talk about:

  1. I once heard that in the applicant interview for females, they ask if they have a boyfriend, presumably so they could weed out girls who might get pregnant and drop out of med school. Is this true? Do you think it's appropriate? Do you think it's unjust?

  2. It seems that some specialties turn out to be boys' clubs while others appear to be sororities. What do you think of "gender-neutral" specialties? What is the equalizing factor in these fields? Do you think some specialties are inherently for men while others are for women? Or do prevailing traditions among each batch of residents that graduate perpetuate the fallacy? Are you a doctor who is in the "minority?" How has the experience been?

  3. Do your patients expect their doctors (gynecologists, pediatricians, urologists, orthopedic surgeons) to be a particular gender? Have people encouraged/discouraged you from entering a particular specialty for this reason?

  4. Do you find that many male/female patients are uncomfortable with doctors of the opposite sex examining them? Do they ask for chaperones like they should? Or do some patients actually prefer the opposite sex?

  5. Do you think that men/women in the medical field are treated better/worse than the other sex? Do you sense preferential treatment or abuse? Is there a particular mentor/colleague who has exemplified equality for you?

  6. Are you a gay/lesbian doctor? Do you think that being out has changed the way patients or colleagues perceived you?

These are just hints; please don't limit yourselves to these topics. The only prerequisite is you talk about a general or specific gender issue in medicine. Heck, it could even be about that naughty video that your colleague's ex has spread (just kidding; don't do this, though I will say that it happened to a poor soul back in my school).
Guidelines below:

  1. Please link back to Dr. Remo's post on The Blog Rounds
    and to this announcement.

  2. E-mail me at manggy (sa) gmail (tuldok) com with your preferred name and the URL to your blog post by Monday, July 7, 2008 11:59PM Philippine Time. Please also indicate if you want to be included in the well-moderated mailing list (just for announcements) if you are not already.

I'm looking forward to your entries!

General guidelines for writing entries related to medicine:
So far in The Blog Rounds, everyone has been wise about patient confidentiality, so that's good. Remember that your entries are your own responsibility; no one is forcing you to write something you don't feel comfortable with. Always maintain a critical eye to the names and places you mention if the matter is a delicate one; hide them well and do not allow others to bait you into revealing them. Leave those commenters alone as they are making trouble. After finishing your piece, give it a run-through once (after any passion/ impulse has passed) and see what needs deleting. Make your entry an enjoyable one, but most importantly it must be enlightening.

22 June 2008

Spicy Prawn Cakes

Spicy Prawn Cakes
Less than two months ago my good friend Allen of Eating Out Loud surprised me with an entry on his new nutrition-related health woes. My comment on the site may seem a little cheery (a little?) but honestly I was just trying not to get him down at the time. Now that everything's evened out and (hopefully) he's in the health groove, I can say that at the time I did feel bad and I sorely wanted to help out by searching my 3-1/2 feet stack of food magazines and cookbooks for recipes that looked good and were healthy. (Flashback to my high school days, when, every time I would ask my friend Fabian where he'd like to eat, he'd ALWAYS say, "Somewhere nutritious and delicious." I think there were times that I told him you can't have it both ways.)

The problem was, it seemed as though my constant answer to Fabian is a pervasive theme in food. Allen's new diet, at least by my deduction, should be one low in calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Do you know how difficult that is?! It means salads with watery dressings (or mustard or yogurt) and thick fillets of chicken, fish, or lean pork with scarcely any flavor in the middle. I've checked. It's relatively easy to make bearable low-fat food these days, but it's always the salt content that does a dish in. I got out my trusty calculator and click-clacked away with a pile of magazines beside me. Our savior for today? Good Food Magazine, published by the BBC.
I highlit this nice little ad from the magazine. I've heard of people who were bad at math, but this is just taking pandering to the extreme.

Shrimp has had a bad reputation as being high in fat and cholesterol-- in fact, even my family believes so and eat it in moderation as a result-- but the truth is, shrimp is quite healthy and can be a part of a low-fat diet. Actually, I was quite impressed by the fact sheet in the link above-- if only it weren't so expensive! That's good news for me, since shrimp is one of my favorite foods, ever (I know I say the same thing about pork, chicken, scallops, certain fish, and crabs, but trust me, eating shrimp prepared well is an absolute joy for me).

So, here's the nutrition information for this dish:
Serving size: 3 cakes
Serves: 4
Nutrition per serving:
Calories: 136 kcal
Protein: 18g
Carbohydrates: 12g (Sugars: 5g)
Fat: 2g (Percent calories from fat: 13%)
Saturated Fat: 0g
Fiber: 0g
Salt: 0.85g
If you have to limit yourself to 1.5g of sodium a day due to a hypertensive diet, then that's not too shabby a figure up there! Best of all, it tasted absolutely wonderful (my dad gave it a thumbs-up, because he couldn't talk as his mouth was stuffed)-- the curry gives it a real kick. I think I might amp up the spice some more next time by adding crushed dried chilis, just for the heck of it.

Oh, and by the way, Cooking Light is the number one food magazine in the States for a reason. Good Food magazine is also extremely health-conscious (just watch those desserts by Gary Rhodes and company). Crap magazine? Taste of Home's Light and Tasty (I think it has been replaced by "Healthy Cooking Magazine"-- I hope the quality has been improved, and then some). The food doesn't look good, is mostly loaded with low-fat substitutes like low-fat mayonnaise on every other recipe (who wants to eat that much mayo, even if it's low-fat? News flash: mayo doesn't taste that great. If it disappeared tomorrow I wouldn't miss it). The low-sodium recipes listed on the index are also mostly side-dishes. Very disappointing.

Spicy Prawn Cakes
This is mainly a starter, but I served it as a main course with a little white rice. It's also great with greens on the side. The original recipe called for peeled frozen tiger prawns, but I've had packaged frozen prawns from the States before and they are dreadfully bland. Nothing compares to fresh shrimp, even if I have to decapitate, peel, and devein 30 of them.

  • 200g (7oz) raw peeled tiger prawns (I used about 30 medium shrimp)

  • 200g (7oz) skinless, boneless white fish fillets, roughly chopped (I used cobbler)

  • 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

  • 4 spring onions, sliced thinly

  • cooking spray

Place the prawns, fish, curry paste and cornstarch in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Stiry in the spring onions then chill the mixture for 30 minutes. Using your hands, shape the prawn mixture into 12 small cakes (it will be about only 2 inches across). Spray a large nonstick frying pan with cooking spray and place on medium-high heat. Cook the prawn cakes, 2 minutes on each side, until browned and firm (I let them go for about 3-1/2 minutes a side-- the texture will not be too adversely affected).

Dipping sauce:
  • juice of 1 lime

  • 4 tablespoons sweet chili dipping sauce

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander

Mix everything together. Ta-da

18 June 2008

Sausage and Apple Sauté

Sausage and Apple Sauté (with title)
(Yay! We have a couple of new food blog indexers to fill in the void left by Tastespotting. Please visit RecipeMuncher and FoodGawker and fulfill your daily quota for food pornography.)

Here we have part of the lunch I prepared last fathers' day. It's a hash (you know, a mix of meat and cubed vegetables) from Fine Cooking magazine, and it's not only extremely easy, but also surprisingly good. So easy, in fact, that I turned the heat on too high at the start and totally incinerated the onions. Sigh. The mistakes you're still able to make after more than a full year of learning cooking. BLEAAAGH. My parents had a laugh, though, and my mom said, "sunog na yung sibuyas, masarap pa rin!" (the onions are already burned, yet it's still delicious!) Ah, well. Can't argue with the results. What's also great about it is that I was able to use up a few things sitting in the fridge which I had to use ASAP (apples, sausage, thyme). High marks all around. (recipe WAY below)

Lovely Jen of Use Real Butter invited me to answer a meme. Now I am totally insecure because my answers really aren't up to par with others', haha!
1) What were you doing ten years ago?
I was 16 and just starting college, having fun with Anton and Bulit. On my first day I met my still close frenemy JC (oh, shut up JC-- not like you're reading this, even if I've told you a million times to read my blog).

2) What are five non-work things on my to-do list for today?
1) study (is that work?)
2) work out
3) buy some (sweet-related) groceries
4) finish this post
5) watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report

3) What snacks do you enjoy?
1) Salt and Black Pepper Kettle Chips (Crisps)
2) Doughnuts
3) Burgers and Fries (Chips), milkshakes
4) Chocolate
5) FINE, fruit! I'm not totally unhealthy, you know.

4) What would you do if you were a billionaire?
1) set up my own production company and host a cooking/traveling show. That specific enough? Maybe even a talk show! Watch out Tyra, I'mma getchu!
2) Build a school and a hospital

5) Where have you lived?
1) Quezon City (2 different places here), Philippines
2) Manila (3 different places there, one year with roomies, 4 years alone)

6) What jobs have you had?
1) medical intern (for those of you who don't think it's a job... We're not friends anymore)
2) math tutor
3) research assistant

Sweet Deeba of Passionate About Baking also tagged me. She was very apologetic about it, and I don't know why since I'm not averse to answering memes, I just am afraid what you guys think of me answering them (probably why I don't tag anyone either).
3) FAVOURITE BOARD GAME? Scrabble/ Backgammon
4) FAVOURITE MAGAZINE? Print, Creative Review, Dish, Australian Gourmet Traveller (Sorry I can't decide)
5) FAVOURITE SMELLS? Mild vanilla in custard, fresh flowers, trees, bread
6) FAVOURITE SOUNDS? To quote Deeba: "The chirping of birds early in the morning, the pitter-patter of rain..." Ditto. The piano also ranks.
7) WORST FEELING IN THE WORLD? That I've wronged someone
9) FAVOURITE FAST FOOD PLACE? McDonald's. Come on now.
10) FUTURE CHILDS NAME? I'm naming them after my blogger friends. I can't wait for little Tartelette Manguerra to come out. Kidding. I usually think about normal names like Kate, Alex, Jason, Sarah, but it's all up in the air, as expected.
11) FINISH THIS STATEMENT—’IF I HAD A LOT OF MONEY I’D’ See above! (No, that's not what I'd do, I meant read what I said above)
12) DO U DRIVE FAST? No!!!
14) STORMS–COOL OR SCARY? Cool, but I do think about the poor people on the street that need a roof over their heads.
15) WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CAR? Uh, they're all my parents' cars.
16) FAVOURITE DRINK? Water (boring!). Raspberry iced tea.
21) FAVOURITE SPORTS TO WATCH? Martial Arts, Ice Hockey, Figure Skating (through the spaces between my fingers)
22) ONE NICE THING ABOUT THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? One of the nicest, kindest bloggers in the blogaverse
23) WHATS UNDER YOUR BED? Free weights
25) MORNING PERSON OR NIGHT OWL? I like to do different things, both of which I enjoy. Cooking/ photographing in the morning. Studying/ writing at night.
26) OVER EASY OR SUNNY SIDE UP? Sunny side up. But I do cut out the yolks most of the time (boring!)
28) FAVOURITE PIE? Any kind. Probably not apple, as I'm sick of it.


Sausage and Apple Sauté
This recipe originally called for an added 1-1/2 lbs (700g) of cubed russet potatoes to be added with the apples, but I didn't have any on hand and we had plenty of starch in the rest of the meal, so I skipped it.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped

  • 450g (1 pound) Italian sausage (bulk, or links with casings removed)

  • 1 large apple, such as Rome or Braeburn, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

  • 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup

  • 2 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat half the oil in a large skilleto ver medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the sausage and onion and cook, breaking up the sausage, until the sausage is golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Park the sausage and onions into a separate dish.

Add the remaining oil in the skillet, then add the apples. Cook until the apples are golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the ketchup, mustard, thyme, parsley, and water in a small bowl. Return the sausage and onions to the skillet and stir in the ketchup mixture. Cook until the hash has browned nicely, about another 5 minutes. Season to taste with more salt (which I didn't add) and pepper (which I did) before serving.

15 June 2008

My Father's Spaghetti

My Father's Spaghetti
Whenever I tell somebody that it wasn't my dad who was the breadwinner and my mom who stayed at home but the other way round, I've heard a lot of responses but usually they are fascinated or think it's cool. Of course, I never thought it was because it was just a matter of fact-- our family's natural state. Certainly for a long while it didn't do a lot of good for my self-esteem as a geek to have my father, who was popular in school and probably a jock (I have no idea if such cliques were formally present) nitpick my every motion. Don't slouch. Why don't I play more sports? Walk tall. Stop reading and play outside. And he was there for me all. the. time.

Eventually as a teenager these things pile up and I began to feel a little resentful of it-- almost like we both could never accept that we were so different from each other. Like any annoying teenager, I sounded it off to a few people who could stand my angst-ridden speeches, and one of them was my computer teacher in 3rd year high school. I think he was beginning to tire of it when he said, "You know, it's not easy being a father. And I'm not just talking about the monetary aspect."

Even now I think about those words. What kind of father would I be? How would I feel when I first see that helpless pink lump, crying and reaching hungrily for anything to satisfy him/her? Would he be like me? Would he like to throw a ball around? Would he be ashamed of his dad once the other kids laugh at him when his dad throws a ball like an uncoordinated giraffe? How would I protect her from all those cruel boys who just want to hurt her? How would I scold other children to stop teasing them? How would I teach them to be strong? How could I always be there for them when eventually they will not want me to, because it's for their own good? Would I ever be good enough?

I think every father is afraid that if they hold on too tight to that screaming mass of flesh, they will break. Fathers don't know their own strength-- they say and do the things they do only with faith, that if they do it with love and only good intentions for their kids, it'll be just fine. My dad was probably afraid that I might grow up to be weak and friendless. It's not so much that I wouldn't be in his image, but that he wouldn't always be there to fill the gaps. I think he'll be glad to know that I'm neither weak nor friendless. (Too headstrong for my own good, he probably thinks. I love it when I amaze him.) I don't resent anything he told me. Being a father is difficult, and I can only hope I'll do half as well as he did, eventually.

The picture above is my dad's "signature" recipe for a spaghetti meat sauce (every Filipino family has one, with the common features being hotdogs, ground meat, spaghetti sauce, which is really just a seasoned tomato sauce out of a can, and grated pasteurized processed cheese food). I don't know the recipe yet, but I'm sure he will pass it on eventually (I know it is LOADED with cracked black pepper, which is my favorite feature). I know there are probably more than a few pasta purists who'll bust a gut with this pasta, but my dad knows that we love it, and honestly I'd sooner have a plate of his than anyone else's.

11 June 2008

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake (with title)
I'm feeling a little bluesy today. I began to think about the last time I undertook a real creative endeavor. I think it was high school, which is sad. That's about the time I had one sketchbook after another, filled with fair maidens, knights, monsters, forests, and seas. The latest sketchbook I have is being flipped at the slow rate of one page every 4-6 months, and it's only to sketch a face of a real person-- not very creative.

My hand also hurts a little from playing too much Guitar Hero (on a controller-- no guitar. I was thinking I can save up for a new WACOM Tablet, but what use is it if I've no ideas to bring to life, heh). Anyway, I'm really getting into the music (Heart, Cheap Trick, Foo Fighters, Kansas) and I appreciate the talent that went into each of the songs. The problem is, I'm finding my current piano playing to be bland. It's certainly not as expressive or meaningful as I want it to be. I was supposed to insert a "Strawberry Fields Forever" Piece here but it didn't cut the mustard.
Strawberry Shortcake (slice)
I also noticed that my food photographs of late have been repetitive(ly poor). Often I have a grand idea of how the shoot should play out, but I either don't have the power to realize it as a stylist or what I see with my naked eye doesn't match the meh pictures I capture. You guys might recognize that the topmost shot is almost exactly the same as the Fraisier-- another strawberry cake-- I made. It's a shame because I'm not able to communicate the excitement I feel with regards to the food.

The fundraiser for Bri is steadily still raising money; I wish I could combine my skill in watercolors now with my vision when I was younger. Sigh. I could have contributed a really good painting for the raffle. Right now when I try to visualize something fantastic, I only see a cacophony of colors, and I'm not into making abstract art. I bought an excellent book by Shirley Trevena called Taking Risks With Watercolour; hopefully it'll be enough inspiration. Maybe someday I can produce something with a greater value than I put into it, haha :)

Strawberry Shortcake
Classic American Spongecake adapted from The Simple Art of Perfect Baking

  • 100g (1 cup sifted) cake flour (I used 78g all-purpose flour and 22g cornstarch)

  • 170g (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar, divided in 2 (85g or 7 tbsp)

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 7 large eggs at room temperature

  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 150°C (300°F). Line the bottoms only of 2 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper. Don't grease the pans.

Sift the cake flour (or combination all-purpose flour and cornstarch) if you haven't yet onto a sheet of waxed paper. Separate the eggs, placing all the whites in a stainless steel mixing bowl and the yolks in a medium-sized deep bowl. To the yolks, add 85g sugar and the vanilla. Beat at high speed for 5 minutes, when ribbons that fall from the beaters take a few seconds to dissolve on the surface. Beat the egg whites with clean beaters on low speed for 30 seconds, then add the cream of tartar and 1 tablespoon sugar. Beat at medium-high speed for 4-5 minutes, or until the whites appear velvety and stiff but not dry or granular. Pour the yolks onto the whites and sprinkle half the remaining 85g sugar onto the surface. Fold the yolks into the whites with a few strokes, then sprinkle all the remaining sugar onto the surface and fold to fully incorporate the yolks, the whites, and the sugar. Fold in the flour in 3 additions until each addition is just incorporated.

Gently pour the batter into each of the cake pans (they will each hold about 340g batter, if I recall clearly). Spin the pan around on the counter to level the top of the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes (switching the positions of the pans halfway through baking) or until the top springs back slightly when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (if it doesn't, you can bake it for 5 minutes longer until it does).

Invert the pans onto a cooling rack (if your pans are shallow and the cake has risen beyond the rim of the pan, support the rims only by using 8 glasses), cool for an hour, then turn the pans right-side up and cool for 30 minutes longer. To free the cake, simply hold the side of the pan in one hand and slap the side of the pan for the entire circumference; you will see that the cake will separate from the pan cleanly. Invert onto a platter then invert right-side up onto another platter. Repeat with the other cake.

  • 750g (3 cups) heavy cream, chilled

  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatin dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water (optional)

  • 200g (7-1/2 ounces) small-medium sweet strawberries, washed and hulled, 8 perfect ones reserved, and the rest sliced

Using a chilled bowl and chilled beaters, add the sugar to the cream and whip the cream until it just starts to hold stiff peaks (it will thicken further as you pipe it, so don't overdo it or it will be chunky). If using, place the gelatinized water over a double boiler or in a microwave on LOW for 10 seconds to dissolve. Fold the liquid gelatin into 1/4 cup of the cream, then return this cream to the large bowl and fold everything together. Load 1/2 cup of the cream onto a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip.

Place the fuglier cake layer on the bottom of the serving platter and spread some whipped cream on top. Pipe a dam of cream on the circumference, then fill the interior with sliced strawberries. Cover the top with more whipped cream. Place the other cake layer on top then frost all over with whipped cream, smoothing with an icing spatula. Pipe 8 rosettes of whipped cream on top, then place an inverted strawberry in each. Chill for at least 2 hours. Serve as soon as possible, especially if you did not stabilize the whipped cream with gelatin.

05 June 2008

Korean Barbecued Chicken

Dak Kalbi
Dak Kalbi (with title)
Okay, for all of you who love it when I tell my stories, I promise this one is a doozy. I would've told you sooner on Yahoo!IM, Graeme, but I wanted to preserve your reaction right here in the comments section (that hopefully won't be distilled to "You IDIOT!"). This may very well be the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me, erasing all previous records set. The reason I feel comfortable sharing it with you guys is because, well, it's you guys, and I found myself laughing about it a little later. When it comes to self-deprecation, I am king. I don't mind since I kick ass 95% of the time anyway. (uhh... kidding)

As I'd just finished my exam last week, I was looking forward to some shopping. I planned on getting a wireless guitar for our XBox 360 so I can see what all the Guitar Hero fuss is about. I thought one place may have been selling it for P1900 ($43), but they no longer had any so I took the rail to another shopping mall so I could meet my friend Vany (she comments here occasionally) to possibly watch a movie and pick up books for my next exam. I don't know what the HELL I was thinking, but I misstepped the gap in between the sliding door of the train and the ledge, and my heel went over the gap, my foot slipped, and my WHOLE LEG WAS STUCK IN THE GUTTER.

(Diagram of what the fiasco looked like.)
Here's a transcript of what happened:
Time 00:00.10 Me: SHIT! FUCK!
Time 00:00.20 Two young ladies on the train: EEEEEEEE!
Uh, that's about it. I don't shout or panic, because that's not me (except if you throw a rat or cockroach at me). Here's thoughts I made up now that I could've been thinking had I not been concentrating on getting my leg the fuck out of there.
Time 00:01.00 God, I knew those leg presses would be my death one day!
Time 00:02.32 How come no one's pulling me out of this sinkhole?
Time 00:03.57 There's no way this train will run, as my body will prevent the doors from closing... Crap, that's gotta be doubly embarrassing if I get crushed by the doors with my leg stuck here!

Eventually, my other leg was enough leverage to free me when I put all my strength into one push (hey, leg presses kind of saved my life!). Then I proceeded to hold one of the rails as I checked my new jeans for any traces of grease, rust, or dirt. Everything okay. Then I checked my leg. Everything functioning. Some nice foreign man who looked like Santa Claus asked me if I was okay, then I laughed. "Probably more embarrassed than anything." YES, I laughed. He commended me for my quick reaction, saying if it were him, he'd still probably be down there. "Something to tell your grandkids!" I'd rather not, I said. I think the other people, while I was carrying on this conversation, were still in a state of shock and thinking WTF?
Porny, huh?
It didn't hurt immediately after but after a few hours of shopping with Vany, it became really sore, and true enough, there was a huge hematoma and some muscle swelling, but not enough to compromise circulation in my leg, so I just applied warm compresses.
Shopping Bags
You're probably wondering if some of my circuitry is outta whack since I checked my jeans after that 5-second ordeal, but it was really just my pride kicking in in front of my "audience", plus my leg felt fine for the most part. I'd just bought them 2 weeks ago when I was getting stir-crazy studying intensely for my test which was a week away, so I escaped for an afternoon at the mall and bought the jeans on sale from Topman (one doesn't walk away from 50+% off on jeans at Topman empty-handed), a shirt from Buffalo (a Canadian brand) I'm excited to wear, a slick tie and belt from Topman, and some cooking supplies. The Springfield bag is another sale purchase a few weeks back.
Mess in My Room
Maybe I should be cutting back on stuff... This is one corner of my room last week. Shopping bags, hockey equipment, cooking magazines, cookbooks, study materials, and songbooks. It's cleared up now, except for the cooking magazines.

Last Sunday my mom surprised me one morning and said, I've bought chicken breasts. Can you cook them for lunch? Okay, it was not a great surprise, and in my head I was thinking, "You gotta warn me in advance! I need vegetables and spices!" Thankfully, I already had something I've wanted to make for a long time that I prepared for in advance-- by buying a tub of Gochujang.

Korean cuisine is one of my favorites, if only for their fearlessness in the spice department. My absolute favorite dish is Dak Bulgogi (here, since we have big chunks of chicken, it's more correctly called Dak Kalbi), but it has to be prepared a certain way. Definitely red and spicy, perfect with rice. The whole family loved this dish, and I'm looking forward to cooking it a lot, especially when I haven't prepared anything in advance! The recipe is adapted from My Korean Kitchen-- I wasn't able to follow it exactly as I had few vegetables and I wanted a spicier, saucier version. I just threw this together so the measurement aren't exact, but it's hard to screw up.

Dak Kalbi

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or skin-on chicken breast, butterflied and pounded flat for Dak Bulgogi)

  • 2 tbsp Shao Hsing cooking wine

  • 1 tsp powdered ginger

  • 1 tsp crushed dried red pepper

Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes (or leave whole for Bulgogi). Mix with the other ingredients well and leave in the fridge for 15 minutes.
  • 6 tbsp Gochujang (Korean red pepper paste, very easily found in any respectable grocery selling Korean products. If not, they should close already.)

  • 2 tbsp chili powder

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce

  • 2 tbsp dark brown sugar

  • 2 tsp Korean yellow curry powder (I didn't have this on hand, so I used turmeric just for the heck of it, which didn't do much except tinge my chicken yellow. I'd skip it.)

  • 2 cloves garlic, grated

  • 1 medium onion, grated

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients. Take 1/4 of the mixture and add it to the chicken pieces, stirring thoroughly until all the pieces are coated. Set the chicken aside in the fridge for an hour; set the remaining sauce aside as well.

Preheat a wok or large nonstick skillet over high heat and add in about 3 tbsp vegetable oil. Stir-fry the chicken pieces until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. (If using whole butterflied chicken breasts, you may instead use a grill pan or barbecue. Baste with a bit of the remaining sauce as it grills.)

In the still-hot wok, pour in the sauce you set aside and let it boil for 15 seconds. Pour over the cooked chicken and toss to coat. Serve hot with rice.

01 June 2008

Passionfruit Vacherin with Blackberry Sauce

Vacherin aux Grenadille avec Sauce aux Ronce Commune
Passionfruit Vacherin with Blackberry Sauce (with title)
A lot of recent occurrences have once again reminded me that health and happiness are extremely fragile and fleeting. Briana Brownlow of the wonderful food blog Figs with Bri (friend to me and my blog and yet another victim of my incessant KIDDING!s and weird comments) has been diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer, only two years after her initial treatment for her newly-diagnosed breast cancer, for which she endured surgery and chemotherapy. When she broke the news on her blog a few months after a hiatus, my heart sank. Just yesterday we were laughing, and now, very suddenly, the skies have darkened.

I'll tell you about a belief of mine. I believe that all human beings are born with an enormous capacity to do evil, selfish things. It's only with that first caress to a mother's breast, or a warm embrace from a kind stranger as the case may be, that a seed of love is planted in the heart of an infant. And with learning about the world that exists outside your own sphere, the friendships we form, and undertaking the crises that we face together, the seed grows into caring, and genuine goodness and concern for other people. You might think I've suddenly gotten all Phoebe Buffay hippie on you, but I'm not at all naive about human nature. It's so easy not to care for others, effortless to be selfish. It's much more difficult to be a good person, something I struggle with everyday.

That's why even with the temporary nature of health and happiness, goodness and kindness are not quite so easy to destroy, because it takes a lot of hard work to be there for others. Three very kind bloggers have taken the initiative to raise funds for Bri's treatment, Jai and Bee of Jugalbandi and Manisha of Indian Food Rocks. From their efforts, several other bloggers have followed and put up fantastic items as raffle prizes (I want so many of them, and I want to win one so bad!). This month's Click Food Photography event hosted as always by Jugalbandi is for Bri, and the theme is yellow. This isn't yet my entry, as I want to come up with something that can really stand a chance among other really fantastic and experienced photographers. You may also visit here to find out how to contribute.

Passionfruit Vacherin with Blackberry Sauce
Hardheaded me insisted on making meringues in 32°C (90°F) heat and amazing humidity, so their stability suffered as they held on to moisture as long as they could. But flavor- and texture-wise, they were still very good. It's the local passionfruit (here, they're baby shit yellow instead of purple) that disappointed me most. I took a heaping spoonful, preparing to be taken aback by undeniable tartness, but crap, it tasted like butter, eggs, and sugar. I might as well have put water in it. I couldn't taste even a little bit of passionfruit-ness! I am never buying these again. I wish I had made lemon curd instead. I also planned on making chocolate fans on top, but I wasn't using my head, and apparently melted chocolate will NEVER set with an ambient temperature of 32°C (90°F). Duh!

Vacherin Shells

  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature

  • 150g (3/4 cup) superfine sugar

  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 120°C (250°F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a stainless steel mixer bowl, beat the egg whites on low speed until frothy. Add a third of the sugar and all of the cream of tartar and beat at high speed until it becomes opaque and no longer grainy when rubbed. Add another third of the sugar and continue beating until it holds soft peaks, then add the rest of the sugar and beat until it holds stiff, glossy peaks. Load into a large piping bag fitted with a 1/4" plain tip and pipe 3" filled circles of meringue (I was able to make 12). Pipe two bands of meringue stacked on top of each other on top of the circumference of each round to form a nest. Bake in the oven for an hour, then open the door for a second to let the steam out, then close the door, turn the oven off, and leave the nests in the warm oven to dry for at least an hour.

Passionfruit Curd
  • 120g (1/2 cup) passionfruit juice, from about 10 passionfruit

  • 100g (1/2 cup) sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 112g (1 stick or 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

In a heatproof bowl set over a pan filled with simmering water, combine the passionfruit juice and the sugar. Whisk together until all the sugar is dissolved. Add in the eggs and whisk thoroughly until combined. As the mixture thickens, add the butter pieces in one at a time, whisking after each addition and waiting until the last is fully incorporated before adding the next. Continue cooking for 4 minutes, when the whisk starts leaving a trail as you stir. Take off the heat and let cool at room temperature, then place cling film flush against the surface and store in the refrigerator.

Blackberry Sauce
  • 225g (1/2 pound) blackberries

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 90g (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) water

  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until combined. Pass through a fine sieve to remove all seeds and debris.

To serve, have 120g tempered dark chocolate on hand (instructions for tempering using a hair dryer are here-- the temperatures to follow are to cool between 27-28°C (80-84°F) then take it back up to 30-32°C (86-90°F)). Load it into a small plastic bag or cornet, then snip off the tip and pipe out designs onto parchment paper. Allow to cool (obviously I did that in the fridge as I had no other choice). Pipe an enclosed design onto the serving platter then pour raspberry sauce into the design a little bit at a time, using a spoon to guide it into the dam formed by the chocolate. Place a vacherin shell on top then pipe in some passionfruit curd, then finish it off with a chocolate design.