Monday, November 15, 2010

Much ado about a Chocolate Chip Cookie

I believe that your thoughts have the power to attract the events that will happen in your life. Lately, I have been addicted to watching Top Chef Just Desserts . Although I have no aspirations on baking professionally I saw a lot of food created in the show that inspired me to go right away to the kitchen and bake. And, since I am just a novice in baking I tend to gravitate on the traditional recipes. I use the word traditional and not simple because some of these recipes, inspite of being common, are far from simple to do.

Remember Eric Wolitzsky? The Pastry Chef of Baked in N.Y. that I wrote a fan mail to a couple of weeks ago? I even baked one of his recipes before in this entry. Well, needless to say he is my baking idol. Chef's are taught that we eat with our eyes, I will not argue that there's truth in the statement but at the end of the day its the flavor that we commit to our memory. If you follow the show you'll know that Eric's strength is not in the plating just as I found that presentation is not my strength either :) But, I know that my flavors are good just as  I can attest that Eric's recipes (at least the one's that I baked) were perfect.

Since we are on the topic of synchronicity and the law of attraction, ever since I wrote about him and have been going through the Baked cookbook, a series of fortunate and connected events happened. I then read Amateur Gourmet's blog about his interview with Eric. He even baked Eric's Chocolate Chip Cookies in here. In the show..there were 2 chocolate chip cookies, the one made by Eric on Episode 1 and the Chunky Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie made by Erica on Episode 3 (Glee/Bake Sale). The latter being a spin off of the former but from the same recipe.

I know that my inner geek is slowly coming out, so before I continue to blab on about how these 2 recipes vary and the difference it made to the output, let me just share with you the recipe and I will let you be the judge..(Scott couldn't resist the chewy chocolaty goodness and ate 2 big pieces before dinner and another 2 after, that's a high score in my book).

You will need:

340 grams butter
200 grams sugar
400 grams brown sugar
21 ounces flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon salt
2 eggs
2 yolks
21 ounces chocolate chips 



Directions:






1. Melt butter, cool slightly.
2. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the sugars with the melted butter just until incorporated (you don't want to work in too much air.)
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
4. Add the eggs to the mixer bowl slowly, one at a time, until they're all incorporated.
5. On very low speed, add the flour until almost fully incorporated and then add all the chocolate. Mix until just combined.
6. Using an ice cream scoop, mound the dough onto parchment lined cookie sheets and (this is my own technique) wet your hand and flatten the cookies slightly.
7.Bake at 325 for 14 minutes or until golden brown.




Sunday, November 7, 2010

Phuket here and there: Kan Eang @ Pier

There are a lot of good and not-so-good restaurants in Phuket but I thought since everybody can get all sort of different cuisine all over the world, I might as well just talk about places that offer exceptional Thai food (exceptional at least to my standards) that are here in Phuket. Well, Kan Eang for me is just about average when it comes to food. I mean it is tasty but nothing spectacular.The reason we always like going there is the view.

fishing boats


Chalong Pier



Frankly, we have not tried going there at night, I am wary of dining outside because of mosquitoes. But we have spent so many special occasions there. I like the casual atmosphere and that it is not pricey nor pretentious. You might get a group of Russian or Chinese tourist sometimes but if you are lucky, you can have the place all to yourself.

Scott's 33rd birthday

Sheila and Gibby's June '10 visit


Last August, my UP friends Gail and Aleth came for a holiday and also to study Thai cooking at the Blue Elephant. The visit coincided with Gail's birthday. They planned to go to the Big Buddha that day so we thought we might drop by for lunch at Kan Eang.

the celebrant at the restaurant's entrance







with the 'Kardashians'



the staff did a good job with the surprise birthday cake

Now, the food. Just to have a glimpse of what they have to offer.

stir fried duck with cashew

phad thai noodle

grilled pork

chicken pandan

fried chicken with thai herbs

som tam (papaya salad)

chicken soup with coconut and lemongrass

Friday, November 5, 2010

When life gives you lemons..

As I was cleaning our fridge just before Scott's parents arrival, I found 5 lemons that were forgotten in the refrigerator shelf. I thought of making a lemon tart or lemon chicken but I remember while browsing through an Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Cookbook that there was a recipe of Lemon Bars. The image of bright yellow goodness just reminds you of a happy day filled with bright sunshine.I think it was those lemon bars that wanted me to buy the recipe book but I ended up asking Scott to order it online. Having a poor memory, I forgot about the book till Scott's mum asked me if I wanted Craig, Scott's brother to bring me a book from the UK. I then turned to Scott asking if he ordered my wish list already, to which he reacted with a pained look on his face that it was supposed to be my Christmas surprise..bless his sweetness!!

Now, back to those 5 lemons on the fridge..because when life gives you lemons--you make lemon bars and here's how:

Barefoot Contessa's Lemon Bars


For the crust:

  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling:

  • 6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup flour
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.


Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.


Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners' sugar.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Boljoon "Run to Restore"

My mum is from this beautiful little town of Boljoon, Cebu. Apart from the funny bisaya accent, this seaside town is known for its century old church and a historical bell tower. The church as I remember, used to have the most impressive altar but unfortunate thievery and disrepair through the years caused a lot of damage on it. The town folks now are trying to restore the church to its former glory and they are doing a fundraiser run.


As I gather from (one of my favorite blogger) Market Man's call to all  runners in Cebu.."there will be a Boljoon “Run to Restore” 3k, 5k and 10k run held in Boljoon, Cebu on November 7, 2010. With assembly time pre-dawn at 5a.m. I understand half of the race is UPHILL and passing several hertigage sights..".


I hope those from Cebu who can read this will participate in the event for this very worthwhile cause and also enjoy visiting the scenic town of Boljoon.


My mum against the church backdrop in 1972





My brother Melon during my last visit

I am now a fan!



and this is how it feels! hahaha! super happy pala maging fan. The thing is, if Kristin Chenoweth told me to have fun singing I would have been encouraged to pursue my Broadway dream hehehe..But this is Eric Wolitzky telling me that I am so great! And he only happens to have an award winning bakery in New York! This really made my day :))



Saturday, October 30, 2010

Thai word for the Day: Kanom Chin

Kanom Chin means boiled noodles. If Northern Thailand have their Khao Niao or sticky rice the Southern Thailand have Kanom Chin as their distinct staple. They usually have a curry dish, with raw vegetable platter, some pickled vegetables, boiled eggs and dried anchovies to accompany it just like how most part of Asia would have their rice and viand. Funny, they call it Kanom Chin because their this noodles came from the Hookien speaking Chinese that traded and migrated to the Southern part of Thailand specially during the tin mining era..but apart from the noodle, there is nothing Chinese about this dish. Or, I would bet my life that you cannot find this kind of dish in China.

I noticed that in most special occasions Southern Thais would prepare their food with Kanom Chin. Such was the case when a driver in the office won the local lottery and he brought Kanom Chin and Chicken Curry to celebrate.Also, it was present in the recent house warming party that I attended. One night last week, Nat, our new help asked me what I wanted her to prepare for dinner and I said I would like a Green Chicken Curry. She then said she will prepare it with Kanom Chin. Now, I know that Kanom means snack so I thought she would also make some Thai dessert after. To my surprise, she made this..

Nat's Green Curry with Kanom Chin

It was alright but for a rice eater like me, it really needs some getting used to. But on hindsight, I ended up having 2 servings so I guess I adjusted well and fast :P

Kanom Chin with Chicken Feet


Or you can pair it with satay, a curry sauce and some raw vegetable


This chicken feet with tomato broth was also yummy


If you're curious how it would taste with curry, all you have to do is boil the noodles and here is a great Chicken in Green Curry recipe that I got from Chef Charles Buranasingha of the Blue Elephant Phuket that I know would go very well with Kanom Chin. Enjoy!


Chicken Green Curry
 (serves 2)


2 table spoons Vegetable oil
2 table spoons Green curry paste
½ teaspoon Roasted ground cumin seeds
and coriander seeds
1 cup Coconut milk
70 grams Chicken breast
(sliced into bite-size pieces)
2 pieces Eggplants aubergines
(quartered cut and optionally
soaked in the lime juice and water)
10 pieces Small eggplant (pea aubergine)
1 leaf Kaffir lime leaf (torn in small pieces)

Ingredients for Seasoning
1 teaspoon Palm sugar
½ tables spoon Fish sauce

Ingredients for Garnish

10 leaves Horapha leaves (Sweet basil leaves)
1 piece Fresh red chilli (thinly or angled sliced)
1 table spoon Coconut cream

Method

1. Cut all vegetable and meat (Chicken). Rip all sweet basil leaves.
2. In a saucepan on a medium heat: add oil in until hot.
3. Add the curry paste, coriander seeds and cumin seeds, and stir-fry for about 1 minutes or until an aroma is developed.
4. Lower the heat and add 3 times of coconut milk - 1 scoop each time - when the 1st scoop is added, allow it cooked and the oil extracted from the mixture, then add the second and finally the third. After the third scoop, allow the curry to simmer for about 1 minute.
5. Add the chicken and eggplant aubergines and small eggplant aubergines cook until cooked through.
6. Add the sugar, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves and chilli. Simmer for 5 minutes.
7. Add the basil leaves mix well, turn off the heat and Transfer the curry to a serving dish.
8. Garnish with coconut cream and tips of sweet basil leaves on the top of curry.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Baking Life

Between work, our dog and my baking, I still have time to play Baking Life on Facebook. And I just don't have one account, I play for Boo too. Baking Life is having this most beautiful bakery contest and I joined both mine and Boo's bakery. Most of the entries are totally out of this world..and I thought Boo and I will have a fighting chance in terms of layout and design coherence. hahaha! Yes, ! take this seriously!

Boo's Bakery



This one's mine

Just Desserts: Red Hot Velvet Cupcakes

I found this recipe a year ago when Sheila (Scott's mom) gave me a copy of O magazine. Featured there was a newly opened cafe in New York called Baked. After reading, I soon completely forgot about it then fast forward the present..I was cleaning the cabinet for Sheila's visit (cleaning cupboards and drawers would be her first order of business so I was trying to save her the work) and I found the magazine again. It must be synchronicity that I opened the pages that lead me straight to the article, because 1. now, i'm into baking 2. I was looking for a recipe that I would like to do for my friend Gail and Red Velvet was the flavor of his wedding cake 3. I got addicted to watching Top Chef : Just Dessert and I am secretly hoping that Eric Wolitzky, Pastry chef of Baked, would win because he seems to be the underdog and he is a baker :))

So, in honor of Eric and Gail I baked this Red Hot Velvet Number from the Baked cookbook.

You need:

1/4  c        dark unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp.       red no-taste gel food coloring
1/4  c         boiling water
6 tbsp.       unsalted butter, cut to small pieces and softened
2 tbsp.       vegetable shortening ( or veg. lard) at room temperature
1 2/3  c      sugar
3                large eggs
1 c             buttermilk
1 tsp          pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 c       cake flour
1 tsp          salt
1 tbsp        cider vinegar
1 tsp          baking soda


Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 325 C. Line 36 ( 2 1/2 in) muffin pan cups with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, food coloring and boiling water. Set aside to cool

chocolate and red coloring mix



2.In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and shortening until smooth. Scrape down bowl and add sugar. Beat until mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add egg, one at a time, beating well after each addition.




Stir buttermilk and vanilla into the cooled mixture. Sift cake flour and salt together into another bowl. With the mixer on low, alternate adding the flour mixture (3 parts) and cocoa mixture (2 parts) to the egg mixture. Beat until incorporated. In a small bowl, combine vinegar and baking soda and stir until baking soda dissolves, the mixture will fizz.

That's the baking soda  and vinegar although it appeared clear in the photo


Add to batter and stir until just combined.

3. Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full with batter. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven, transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 10 minutes. remove cupcakes from pan and remove completely.



AND VOILA!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Phuket here and there: Sunset Restaurant

This new series/segment will be featuring places that we usually frequent here in Phuket. Some cater to the locals and the others are a little bit touristy. Some have good food and there are those which only have a nice view:

Sunset Restaurant in Bangtao- located in Cherngtalay from the Laguna entrance, its on the left side right after Black Cat before the Police station. They offer delicious Thai dishes that are very affordable. The place have limited seats so make sure to go there earlier during busy hours.

My friend Gail helping himself @ Sunset


Chicken with cashew nuts

Phad Si Yu

Fish in green curry




Must reads

When I am not cooking, or baking, or walking the dog, or doing errands, I am reading. I have come across 3 wonderful food related literature this year.




1. UNITED STATES OF ARUGULA: HOW WE BECAME A GOURMET NATION
by David Kamp


It chronicles America's interest for food and how it learned to refine its palate. Along the way you will meet characters like Julia Child, James Beard and Jeremiah Towers. And names that you read every now and then like Alice Waters and Thomas Keller and familiar names that I remember growing up while watching TV like Mario Batali. Every one who cares about food have some memories connected to a meaningful meal, taken together this is America's trip down memory lane (and to an extent, the Philippines because we are influenced by American culture) and how it honed its taste buds, how it became cosmopolitan having been introduced to food from different cultures around the world like Italian, French, Japanese, Mexican etc..

2. MFK Fisher's GASTRONOMICAL ME

What got me hooked on food journalism/literature was Anthony Bourdain but the reason that the genre elevated in my eyes was MFK Fisher. She is a true artist. She writes beautiful stories that seem so rare nowadays. Her passion for food and life really stays with you after you close the last page of this book.

3. Ani Phyo  RAW FOOD DESSERTS

In my wildest fantasies, I am a health food freak. I even went to Ani Phyo's Raw Food Diet Workshop hoping that I could actually convert into a gluten free existence..to no avail.To get her recipes--WATCH THE VIDEO OF THE WORKSHOP HERE. If  that video gives a wide shot, we even have exactly the same Saucony shoes!!! hehehe..

I have 3 sneakers that I don't use to exercise :(

But there are some gems in her cookbook that is not just healthy but even a staunch carnivore like me would really love!

Just Desserts: Chocolate Cupcakes

I used to think that baking was not my thing because I was and still am not a very 'exact' person..precision was never my best quality. Having a mother that is one of the best cook that I know but who cannot bake to save her life did not also help. Until I realized how baking makes you exercise your focus and puts you in a zone when you are doing it did I appreciate the whole process. So, every Saturday for a month now, I have been doing some baking. My first ever cupcake is this Moist Chocolate Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Ganache..it is actually just a mini-me version of my Chocolate Cake since I was only trying to finish all the left over ingredients.The recipe is taken from the Martha Stewart's Devil's Food Cupcake.


Here is how to do it. You need:



·         3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
·         3/4 cup hot water
·         3 cups all-purpose flour
·         1 teaspoon baking soda
·         1 teaspoon baking powder
·         1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
·         1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
·         2 1/4 cups sugar
·         4 large eggs, room temperature
·         1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
·         1 cup sour cream, room tempt.

       Directions:


1.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

2.     Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the sour cream, and beating until just combined after each.


Dry Ingredients


Chocolate mix

The egg, butter, and sugar mixture



3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three- quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 15 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.


4. To finish, use a small offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting. Refrigerate up to 3 days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature and garnish with chocolate curls just before serving.


Thai word for the Day: Rad Na

Just when I thought that Thai food is all about spices and bold flavors, I was instantly proven wrong because Thai food can actually be subtle and sublime without always giving me the heartburn. Call it serendipity when I accidentally found my 'Thai comfort food' as I was exploring the old part of Phuket Town. This store with no name in Pang Nga Road serves Rad Na or noodles with gravy..




I so love the perfectly battered fish and the flat noodles with gravy that I brought my friend Gail when he visited me in July.


This is just a snack 555!!!


The fish was perfectly crisp and the soup devoid with any spicy flavor was a welcomed change and it just spelled comfort. And, I must have done something good because the heavens just abundantly poured some Rad Na bliss when we hired a new help that can cook. Really cook. Impressively cook.The first thing that I asked her to do is to teach me how to do my 'soul food'. And she made a wonderful twist to it my frying the noodle that added a pleasant crunch.


Our Crispy Noodle Rad na




When it rains it pours. The floodgates must have been opened up there when I recently got acquainted with Chef Charles Buranasingha of the Blue Elephant and I got hold of his Rad Na Moo recipe and to multiply my blessings tenfolds I am sharing this recipe with all of you.

That's me with Chef Charles


RAD NA MOO ALA BLUE ELEPHANT
(Fried rice noodle topped with pork gravy)

Ingredients
½ cup rice noodle
300 grams pork (cut into bite-size pieces) If you wish to change the meat, you might use chicken thigh, or mixed seafood like prawns, squid (they have to be un-shelled, devained and cleaned)... See More
2 stalks Chinese kale (cut into bite-size pieces, for the stem, they are thick and hard, peeled and sliced)
4 cloves garlic (peeled and finely chopped)
¾ cup chicken stock (or plain water)
2 tablespoons corn flour
4 tablespoons soy bean oil (vegetable oil)

Seasoning
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce (sweet flavored)
1 tablespoon fermented soy bean
½ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon white pepper

Method
1. If you use dried rice noodle, please use the big size noodle, soak in room temperature water about 10 minutes (or until noodle gets soft). And drain. Set aside.

2. In a bowl, mix pork with fish sauce (only 1 tablespoon), corn flour (only 1 tablespoon), and marinate at least 30 minutes. (Put in a refrigerator.)

3. In a wok on a low heat add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, add soft rice noodle Stir-fry for 3-4 minutes (or until noodle get cooked and soft), add dark soy sauce. Mix until the brown color go throughout noodle. Remove from heat. Set aside or prepared in dishes.

4. In a separate wok on a medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of soy bean oil, garlic. Stir-fry until an aroma develops, add pork (or other meats), stir until pork cooked about 80 %, add Chinese kale. Stir fry until the Chinese kale cooked, add chicken stock (or water) and fermented soy bean.

5. Wait until the stock boils, add remaining corn four which already mixed in cold water (1 tablespoon of corn flour mixed well in cold water). Add the flour water bit by bit, keep stirring while adding until the mixture gets thick like gravy.

6. Add seasoning: fish sauce, and sugar. Turn off the heat.

7. Top on the prepared cooked rice noodle.

8. Served with some condiments like – dried chili powder, vinegar with slice big chilies (sorono chilies) and fish sauce