Chocolate Creme Brulee

So, even though I used the exact same recipe as I did the first time, it decided to not set on me – which is possibly the most devastating (I do realize that’s overly dramatic) thing that could happen when working with creme brulee. In fairness, it was probably my fault as I messed with the sugar ratio and texture by blindly adding melted chocolate chips. The only thing left for me to do – aside from trashing it all – was to of course muster all the common sense I had to tackle this issue. So then I thought about all the ingredients I used and figured out which one was most likely the contributing factor. Through trial and error, I finally added just the right amount of egg yolks in the mixture for it to set properly, after reheating everything on the stove and chilling it overnight, (an undesirable and time consuming process that you will now avoid should you ever encounter this problem. You’re welcome.) it resulted in the perfect consistency. I even topped it with some berries just for aesthetics :). I’m getting better at this guys.

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Strawberry shortcake… pizza shaped?

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Recipe is courtesy of the foodnetwork.
I went into this thinking it was a cake. After the mixture became more and more dough like I revisited the recipe and the photo resembled a stuffed scone. What do ya know it came out of the oven nothing short of a scone… well except for the shape.

I definitely recommend sticking to an actual cake recipe for strawberry short’cakes’. They’re meant to be simple so don’t try to overcomplicate it. That’s my advice. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still delicious I hardly ever pass up a piece of cake, even if it did turn out a different species.

Bye bye #2 On My Bucket List

I just want to cheerfully announce that I am now able to scratch/cross out/check off-whatever you want to call it-the 2nd thing on my bucket list! It may not seem like a big accomplishment but there’s this feeble warm and fuzzy feeling on the inside that lets me know I am taking small but necessary steps. The only time I have ever had a macaron was when I was down in Melbourne last year; and it is without a doubt THE food city of Australia. Every few steps you take, something delicious slaps you in the face. Every corner you turn, almost guaranteed you’re heading down another food alley of awesomeness.

My first thoughts on macarons:

1. “It looks plastic.”

2. “Why isn’t macaron spelled with double ‘o’?” (…I’m such a spelling freak. I’m still bothered by people who cannot tell the difference between words like their, they’re and there. But if I correct them I’m the asshole.)

3. “There are too many colours and flavours… great, now I’m going to spend forever here making a decision. It’s not a life changing decision…just pick something… wow I really do have a problem”

I chose vanilla.

Despite my first impressions on this little gem, I’m pretty sure an orgasmic food bomb went off in my mouth as I bit into it. From that moment on, I wanted to try as many flavours as I can and make my own someday!

Then I came back to Brisbane without the first clue on where to find macarons. Aside from Starbucks but I don’t exactly want to pay an astronomical amount for just one. Until recently, my friend Jackie told me there’s a guy in the city every week on market day that sells them! And to the city I went…

Coconut macaron

Oh, what’s this? Pistachio macaron? Why not!

I loved both flavours and all the other nutty ones! Although the fruity ones were worth a try, they were too sweet and not as refreshing. In case you guys are wondering why I specifically wrote coconut macaron on the list; it’s because I love coconut. There’s no story behind it. I’m sure the title of my blog says how much love I have for coconuts. Did I have high expectations before trying the coconut macaron? Yes, I have been anticipating it. Did it meet my expectations? You bet!

TTFN

Creme Brulee

The sole purpose of this post is to not make my last post seem so awkward since I promised to blog about my creme brulees. Just kidding. In all honesty this was probably the funnest food I’ve ever made. As a kid, I always found amusement out of playing with fire. Now I get the pleasure of torching the shit out of my food to make it what it’s suppose to be: delicious.

By the way, my new torch is pretty bad-ass. I’m not talking about an industrial torch, that’s unnecessary. Don’t go looking for this thing at like Home Depot or Rona. Although Home Hardware carries them, they’re a bit on the pricy side. Yeah, I did my research. I bought mine from a kitchen store and a can of butane from Canadian tire.

Pretty confident that I will be using this a lot in the future

So anyway, creme brulees are really easy to make, but it takes a few hours of your time. I used Alton Brown’s recipe. You know, the host of Iron Chef America. Do me a favour and not substitute vanilla bean for vanilla extract or vanilla essence or… no. Take this opportunity and use the real stuff. Ever since I used it in my wonderful concoction of mulled wine, it’s hard to step down. It might cost you a bit more but in the end you’ll notice a big difference. I got a pack of two beans from Bulk Barn. The recipe tells you to split and scrape them, I only split. I find that it’s too much of a hassle to scrape it because not only is it sticky, it’s hard to wash off your fingers too. It’s going to be swimming in a large pot of boiling cream, if that doesn’t extract the vanilla flavours then I don’t know what will! Then again, I haven’t done much research on vanilla beans, so if you think I should have handled it differently, comment away.

Submerging half of the ramekins in water. Don’t ignore this step as it will dry out your creme brulees!

So after those are out of the oven and have been chilling in the fridge for at least 2 hours and blah blah blah, we’re finally ready to use my new toy!

I mixed half a teaspoon of vanilla extract with some sugar – perhaps too much- and spread it over top. Let’s be realistic here, I wasn’t willing to spend another hour using vanilla bean to make vanilla sugar. Temptation was taking over at this point, thus shortcut will suffice 🙂

It’s hard to stop

I’m about halfway done here. Maybe subconsciously I purposely used more sugar to make the fun last longer

I was far too excited to take my first bite that I forgot to use my camera. Food photography is not easy sometimes! You get distracted a lot. I apologize for the unappealing sight of my licked spoon, but at the same time I wanted you to see how mouth watering this dessert looks. I would gladly describe the texture and taste of it all, but my comment box will probably be bombarded with sexual innuendos, (mostly from my closest friends, they won’t be able to pass it up) so I will leave it at that.

I believe this experiment was deemed successful and I am stoked to try different flavours. Would love a chocolate base next time with some fruit purees (still ignoring the accented e’s) to garnish. Or maybe a fruit “creme” with chocolate sugar. I dunno, whatever. Point is, I just wanna use my torch again. Oh, I can put it to good use on some meringue pies as well.

Last thing, just a tip with the recipe. Never add the yolk mixture to the hot cream, the eggs will probably cook and you will get a messy curdled brew. Slowly add the cream to the eggs.

Let me know what you think! This is only my first time attacking this recipe. I’m sure some of you have tricks up your sleeve, don’t hide it =P. Also, I always thought creme brulees are super rich and sweet, which I’m not a fan. Turns out they don’t have to be. If you don’t add as much sugar, it can be a nice and light palate cleanser. That’s all. 🙂

Stuff it good!

Stuffing food is great fun, it’s capable of sealing in a lot of food and flavours into a pocket that is, guess what, made out of more food. Get a grasp of this: you don’t need to bend over backwards in order to make something delicious. Exhibit A: strawberry stuffed cheesecake.

What fascinates me about stuffed foods: it’s kind of like eating an oreo. We all love it when life gives us options. You can (try) force the whole thing in your mouth, you can eat the cookie part first, or the filling! Whatever tickles your fancy. There are no rules. In a way, stuffed food brings out the kid in me.

It reminds me of this commercial…

Anyways…

Bite sized strawberry cheesecake

Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for this recipe. I googled it. I can briefly walk you through the steps. It was ingeniously simple and stupidly time-consuming.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the most time consuming part goes into carving out the centre of the strawberries. Tip: buy mutant large strawberries. The bigger the better in this case. Screw the “motion of the ocean” attitude. It really does make your life easier if you’re able to carve out a decent sized cavity without demolishing the sides.

So, you will need: Philadelphia cream cheese (light for me), softened. 1 tsp vanilla extract, about 2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar (adjust to taste), and crushed graham crackers (optional).

After all of the strawberries have been carved, whip the cream cheese, vanilla extract and confectioner’s sugar using a hand mixer until smooth. Yup, that’s pretty much the basis of all cheesecakes that you get at stores and restaurants. If they can do it, so can you!

Using a zip lock bag, I snipped the corner and spooned the filling inside. You know what to do next! For the complete cheesecake look, sprinkle crushed graham crackers on top.

For about 2 dozen strawberries… it took me around half an hour with my sister’s help (she carved most of it… muahaha).

May I now introduce you to my newfound love. Stuffed mushrooms, ladies and gentlemen.

After making the stuffed strawberries, I was really getting into the stuffing groove. I knew that mushrooms are awesome stuffers…because you can find “Stuffer Mushrooms” at the supermarket.

If you are a mushroom lover like me (we all love a fun-guy. Haha.. that one hasn’t gotten old for me yet), you need to try this.

I still consider this recipe pretty simple. I mean, unlike the strawberries, you will need more than 2 ingredients, but I promise it’s going to rock your taste buds.

What I used for the stuffing:

  • Handful of chives. Chopped
  • Spring onions. Chopped.
  • Garlic. Chopped.
  • Bacon. Cut into small pieces. (Easier to deal with if it’s partially frozen)
  • Mushroom stems. Finely chopped.
  • Bread crumbs. The Italian seasoned ones are the best!
  • Chili powder or red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Salt and pepper of course

Firstly, you need to clean and de-stem the mushrooms and lay the caps on a baking tray. Remember to save the stems! Bake it for about 7 minutes at 400F. The purpose of this is to extract as much of the juices so the end product doesn’t get soggy. When that’s out of the oven, lay them right side up on paper towels.

Sautee onions and garlic in just a tad of olive oil on medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for 10 minutes. The longer the crispier the better!

Then I added chives and mushroom stems and cooked for 5-7 minutes more. Seasoned it with some chili powder, pepper and a pinch of salt. When I say a ‘pinch’, I really mean ½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon. You know sometimes on TV how they throw in a good handful of salt as if saying that’s the correct definition of “a pinch?” Maybe I missed a website called foodurbandictionary.com but I normally try to cut down on as much of that stuff as I can; especially in this recipe where the bacon is already salty.

When you’re ready, remove from heat and stir in a liberal amount of bread crumbs. It’s important that you don’t cook the bread crumbs on the stove as it will burn.

Start stuffing the mushrooms! Grate some parmesan cheese on top and bake in the oven at 400F for 8-10 minutes. It’s good isn’t it?

My third dish…

Was a disaster.

It was mostly out of curiosity when watching Chef at Home one day. I am not at all against the combination of sweet and savoury. I believe that some things that wouldn’t normally SEEM to go well together can surprise me. So, I really wanted the idea of apples and pork to impress me. It was just not appealing in my mind. Nonetheless, I was excited to give it a real shot…

*sigh*

Essentially, I caramelized the apples and onions in olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Seasoned with rosemary, a bit of thyme, salt and pepper, and a dash of soy sauce. There were pieces of garlic in there somewhere too.

I marinated two slices of pork center loin and seared it in the pan on both sides. Instead of cutting a pocket out of a thick slice because that’s not the kind I bought, I sort of folded a pocket out of it and they were secured with toothpicks. I stuffed it and put it in the oven for 5-7 minutes at 400F.

I did not like it for a few reasons:

#1: Apples and pork did not impress or surprise me. It tasted just as unappealing as I had imagined.

#2: Meat was tough.

#3: I should have saved the apples for an apple crumble.

Say ‘Spanakopitas’ 10 times fast

This entry is inspired by the best Greek cuisine experience I have had to date. Two of my friends (Colin and Jimena) took me to a local restaurant a few weeks back called Mediterraneo. Although I responded with a slight skepticism at their suggestion initially, I would be batshit crazy to say ‘no’ to Greek food after that meal.

Spanakopitas are great appetizers but I find that they can be quite filling. Once you’ve had one, there’s no stopping!

You will only need a few ingredients, but of course, feel free to get creative with the filling.

First and foremost:

  • Filo/phyllo dough. If anyone tries to convince you that it’s pronounced “PHY-LOW” and not “FEE-LOW”, their name is most likely Colin. And he’s wrong (haha). You can buy filo at your local grocery store usually in the freezer section by the other frozen garbag-I mean–pastries. (p.s. if you’re skilled enough, you can try making your own filo. I am just not at that level yet)
  • Pastry brush
  • 1/4 cup of butter, melted. (You can substitute with cooking oil for this step. See instructions below)

For the filling I kept it simple because it was my first time doing it, and also I was going for the “less is more” philosophy.

  • Spinach
  • Feta cheese, crumbled. Try to get the low salt low fat kind. It still has a high salt content, trust me. I did not need to add ANY extra salt. The amount of cheese you need depends on how much you plan on making. Usually 1-2 blocks is enough for 3 handfuls of spinach.
  • 1 onion, chopped.
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped.
  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
  • Black pepper, ground
  • Salt (if you need to)
  • If you love the heat, red pepper flakes would complement the spinach well I hear. By the way, what’s your favourite herb/spice? And what do you use it in? 🙂

Let’s make some spanananakopitas!

Firstly, be sure to thaw filo in the fridge for a few hours before using.

Honestly, I don’t have a lot to walk you through the filling step. Sautee the onions and garlic on medium heat. Once that’s nice and brown, throw in the spinach and some black pepper and watch it wilt. BAM. Done. (Unless you had your own spices to add)

Let it cool then crumble the cheese in there and mix.

Here’s fun part:

Carefully lay one sheet of filo on a large cutting board. Have the pastry brush and melted butter (or veggie oil) ready. I opted for veggie oil for this step as it contains less saturated fats.

So basically you want to wet the filo with the oil but not soak it. Emphasize on the edges by making outward strokes.

Then, take another sheet of filo and lay it on top of the other. Do the same to that layer with the oil.

Now, get out a knife and cut it into four equal strips. I cut it into 3 at first but the spanakopitas looked like they were on steroids. Put a spoonful of the filling at the end of the strip and take one of the bottom corners and fold over to the other side.

Keep folding…

don’t start slackin’!

Look at that sexy triangle. Secure the flappy edge with oil to prevent it from falling apart in the oven.

Once you are about half-way through the batch, preheat the oven to 350F. Place the spanakopitas on a tray in the middle rack when you are all done. Set the timer to 30 min. It will probably take longer (maybe 45min) but I like to keep an eye on it so I take it out right when it starts to glow that golden brown colour.

Don't mind the burnt spilled filling. It happens!

Next time I will add some chopped dill and red pepper flakes to the filling. Spinach and cheese is an epic combination for comfort food. Enjoy!

Christmas tart

Ready for Christmas!

Thanks to my sister and Najin for having enough patience to cut and arrange the fruits on top! It is actually my least favourite part. I know this because I had to make another one the following week all by myself and boy is it tedious (especially peeling those kiwis). Even though the end result is totally worth it 😛

It’s not as complicated as it looks. I can assure you it’s a piece of cake (I had to).

For the tart shell you will need:

  • 1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup of butter. Slightly softened.
  • 1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar
  • Veggie oil (optional)

For the filling:

  • About 150g of white/milk chocolate chips (you can add more or less depends on how sweet you like it)
  • One package of Philadelphia cream cheese (I like using the light version. It’s better for you and I barely taste the difference)
  • 1/4 cup of whipping cream (18% cream worked for me too but it made the filling taste more like cheesecake)

For the topping:

  • Use any fruits you desire!

For the glaze:

  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons of white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • A “splash” of white wine (you can substitute with more lemon juice or leftover canned pineapple juice if you’re using pineapples for the topping. I got a little booze happy during Christmas though 🙂 )

Let’s get started:

Note: You can make the tart shell and slice up your fruits days ahead of time and store it in the fridge until ready to assemble and eat. This is very helpful if you’re on a tight schedule especially during the holidays.

  1. Preheat oven to 300F. In a mixing bowl, use your hands to mix confectioners sugar and butter until light and fluffy. I like using room temperature butter for this. Microwave the butter for about 10-12 seconds if it was refrigerated.
  2. Slowly add in the flour. It might be easier to do this on a board instead of a bowl. You really need to work it in with your hands. One way I can usually tell if it’s moist enough is when you grab a chunk of it in your fist. If it doesn’t crumble when you let go then it is ready to be molded into the tart pan! If it’s too dry, a bit of veggie oil will do the trick. Be careful not to go overboard with it.

    Have patience for this step! 🙂

  3. Place it on the middle rack in the oven for about 25min or until light brown. Then let it cool. If you want to store it in the fridge make sure you cling wrap the hell out of it!
  4. For the filling, empty the chocolate chips into a heat proof bowl and position it on top of a saucepan of simmering water at medium heat. Stir until melted.
  5. You will need a hand-held electric mixer for this step. Hulk-like biceps and a strong whisk would work too if you can’t afford the former. Add the cream cheese chunks at a time to the chocolate and beat until smooth and uniform. Then add the whipping cream and give it some more action until fluffy! Spread the mixture into the crust.
  6. Arrange the fruits on top in any pattern you like. Almost done!
  7. For the glaze, heat the lemon juice, sugar and corn starch on medium low heat stirring gently with a whisk. Add the wine and bring it to a bubbling thickened mixture. Remove from heat as soon as it’s boiling otherwise you will be cooking off a lot of the alcohol. Coat the fruits with a pastry brush once it’s cooled.
  8. Don’t say “just a sliver”. It’s Christmas! Enjoy a big piece 🙂

Note: This recipe is a derivation of Claire Darby’s creation on All Recipes.com