Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge is What's for Dinner Tonight


(seafood pizza, lemon asparagus pizza, caramelized onion, mushroom and triple cheese pizza)

It's the time of the month again! Pizza is chosen as the October Daring Bakers Challenge, by our hostess Rosa's Yummy Yums. When the challenge was first revealed, I thought it was going to be a piece of cake. Why, I have made a few pizzas before, it's not the most complicated thing to make, if working with yeast doesn't intimidate you.

As I read on, I realize that, as part of the challenge, we have to attempt tossing the dough, and capture the moment. That would indeed be a challenge.

Unlike the pizza recipes I have worked with before, this recipe from Peter Reinhart takes 2 days. I am intrigued by the different in texture and taste developed from the prolong fermentation/resting. I must say that it's one of the best pizza crust I have made.

I don't have a pizza stone, so I simply use the back of the cookie sheet. The crust still turns out crisp. Instead of cornmeal, I use kamut flour, which I can't find other use after making a batch of kamut shortbread. Other than that, I follow the recipe provided.

seafood pizza

I make 3 pizzas from half a batch of pizza dough- Seafood Pizza, Lemon Asparagus Pizza and Caramelized Onion & Mushroom with Triple Cheese Pizza. As expected, the Seafood Pizza turned out to be the crowd pleaser. But the lemon asparagus pizza, which toppings idea I adopted from Elizabeth Falkner on is surprisingly delightful.

The three pizzas are what's for dinner tonight, and that makes me a very happy girl! Thanks Rosa's Yummy Yums for selecting this recipe as our October challenge. I am glad to have another great pizza dough recipe under my belt now. I can totally foresee myself making it again soon for brunch or lunch party, as my friend T not so discreetly hinted.

I tried the tossing method, a skill I really want to master, but just couldn't get it right yet. :( I am going to try that again when I shape the remaining dough.

Check out other mouth-watering pizza creations from my fellow Daring Bakers here.

Basic Pizza Dough
“The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread” by Peter Reinhart
Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled - FOR GF: 4 ½ cups GF Flour Blend with xanthan gum or 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1 ½ cup arrowroot, potato or tapioca starch + 2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast - FOR GF use 2 tsp
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar - FOR GF use agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.


2. FOR GF: Add the oil, sugar or agave syrup and cold water, then mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.


8. FOR GF: On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the number of desired dough balls from the refrigerator. Place on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with a gluten free flour. Delicately press the dough into disks about ½ inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil. Lightly cover the dough round with a sheet of parchment paper and allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.


10. FOR GF: Press the dough into the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough).

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.


11. FOR GF: Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.


12. FOR GF: Place the garnished pizza on the parchment paper onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.


13. FOR GF: Follow the notes for this step.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

To make Seafood Pizza
Toppings: 8 medium shrimps, 1/2 cup squids and 1/4 cup crab meat, cooked and cooled. parmesan cheese, provolone cheese.
Sauce: Smoked Salmon Cream cheese spread, leftover from my local bagel shop.

caramelized onion, mushroom & three cheeses pizza

To make Caramelized Onion, Mushroom and Triple Cheese Pizza
topping: Caramelized onion, see instruction here; sauteed mushroom, brie, parmesan, provolone cheese.
sauce: marinara sauce

lemon asparagus pizza

To make Lemon Asparagus Pizza:
topping: 1/2 pound of asparagus, cut into 1/4 inch piece on a diagonal, provolone cheese, parmesan cheese, 1 lemon, preferably meyer lemon, sliced thinly.
sauce: none. just brush the top of the dough with extra virgin olive oil.


Friday, October 24, 2008

My favorite Banana Cake

banana cake copy

I don't remember how it begins. I bake the same banana cake for all the short and long trips we take. Of all the recipes I have, I alway bring this banana cake on board. Sometime, I bake it for friends who are travelling too. Ask my friends G and M who have since moved back to Singapore. I baked this cake when they drove down to Memphis for a marathon, and when they flew back to Singapore for good. It's funny, because I have emotionally connoted this banana cake with travel, love and well wishes.

This is also the cake I baked for my friend ST when we met in NYC. She was surprised when I took out a cold brick, covered with aluminium foil from my luggage, and presented it to her. I kept it in the freezer, I told her. She was mildly amused, but accepted it politely. After our 5 days getaway, she brought the said cake back to London. How it survived the long journey with luggages packed full with new shoes and clothes perplexed me. But ST told me it survived. And she exclaimed that the banana cake tasted different when it was at room temperature. To that, I nodded knowingly. Isn't it wonderful? A cake that can either be eaten straight from the freezer, or at room temperature. Personally, I like it at room temperature though. :)

banana cake3

I have been wanting to share this moist and light cake with you for a long time. Perhaps you have made it or heard about it already. Or maybe it's also your go-to banana cake recipe? The recipe comes from Rose Levy Beranbaum. The author of "The Cake Bible","The Pie and Pastry Bible" and "The Bread Bible". I love the simplicity of the recipe, and the method of beating softenend butter into dry ingredients yield a light and moist cake everytime.

Recently, I snatched a pan with 4 mini loaf cakes capacity at a bargain price. It gives me an excuse to make my favorite banana cake again with some personalization. I make a batch of batter, and divide it evenly. The first one, I sprinkle walnut on top, chocolate chips are added to another, dollop of milk chocolate hazelnut spread is swirled to the next and the last one - with a bit of everything. It's a lot of fun! Although I kind of guessed which one OCT will pick. And he confirms it later, when he asks for the one with everything! For me, I like the loaf with milk chocolate hazelnut spread. ST lugged 2 jars of it to NYC, along with other goodies that she knew I'd enjoy. Biting into the loaf with my friend hand carry chocolate spread makes me feel so loved.

banana cake2

The cake can also be made in muffin pan or the normal loaf pan. The time for doneness will varies, so check your cake when the smell of banana cake first hits you. Often time, it's an indication that the cake is almost ready. Don't wait until you smell burnt, which I don't have to tell you what has transpired. :p

Have a good weekend everyone!

My Favorite Banana Cake
adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum's "The Bread Bible"

2 very ripe banana, peeled and lightly mashed (1 cup, 8 oz)
1/2 cup sour cream (~4 oz)
2 large eggs
grated lemon zest from 1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups (scant) bleached cake flour Or 1 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour (7 oz)
10 tablespoons granulated sugar(5 oz)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (5 oz)
a handful of chopped walnut and chocolate chips (optional)
Nutella or other chocolate spread (optional)

Heat oven to 350 F. In the bowl, combine the mashed banana and sour cream until smooth. Add egg, lemon zest, and vanilla, mix well. In a mixer bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low speed for 1 min. Add in all the butter and half of the banana mixture, beat on low until dry ingredients are moistened. Increase mixer speed to medium, beat for another 1 1/2 minutes, then add the remaining banana mix in 2 parts, beating well after each addition.

Pour the batter into a greased pan (you can use muffin pan or a loaf pan). Sprinkle your choice of toppings on the cake. As the cake bakes, most of the topping will sink. Bake for 20-35 minutes, if you are using the muffin pan, and 40-50 minutes for a loaf pan or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Grace's Vegetarian Turkey

oct 13 058

My friend Grace has many talents. On top of being a fantastic baker, cake decorator extraordinaire and photographer, she is also a terrific cook. Last July, I had the pleasure of partaking in a feast she whipped up for her birthday party. This vegetarian turkey was one of the dishes she served.

Grace's vegetarian turkey reminds me of my good friend K in Malaysia, who has been a vegetarian for more than 15 years. Whenever I am in town, I like her to bring me to her favorite chinese vegetarian restaurant and let her do the ordering. There will be a table full of mock chicken, mock ham, mock bacon, and mock roast pork, mock fish and vegetables. I find it fascinating that one can name any meat, and the restaurant will surely has a vegetarian version, make with the mock meat in which the ingredients are essentially soy bean and mushroom, flavored to mimic the real deal.

oct 13 056

I have not seen this kind of chinese vegetarian restaurants in the US, so I was excited when Grace served the vegetarian turkey. I knew I need to learn this dish. K will be impressed if I bring this to the next potluck party when I go home this Nov!

Grace uses an assortment of vegetables as filling/meat, and the beancurd sheet, which can be found at the freezer section of Asian grocery store, as the "turkey skin". That's our friend T, hiding behind the beancurd sheet.


Here's the step by step photo instructions I have taken while Grace was demonstrating the process. If you can read Chinese,check out the recipe on Grace's blog and other mouth watering creations she make. That woman is insanely talented, I miss her food.

step by step

step by step2

Here's Grace posing with the vegetarian turkey. She will be so proud to know that I finally made it last week on a rainy day. It is as good as my mentor's! ;)

vegetarian turkey

Grace's Vegetarian Turkey
see the recipe in Chinese here

1 pack of beancurd sheet (see the picture above)
1 medium carrot, finely shredded
1 cup wood ear mushroom, rehydrated in water, for 1 hour, and finely shredded
6 dried shiitake mushroom, rehydrated in water, for 1 hour, and finely shredded
vegetarian oyster sauce
soy sauce
1/2 cup vegetable broth
sesame oil
dark soy sauce

For the filling:
Add 2 tablespoons of oil in a nonstick pan, and stirfry the carrot and mushrooms. Season with 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, 1/2 tablespoon of vegetarian oyster sauce and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning according to your preference. Continue to stirfry until all the ingredients are soft and cook.

Remove from the pan and put the filling in a pan to cool slightly.

Make sauce:
In a small or medium bowl,mix together 1/2 cup of vegetarian broth with 1.5 tablespoons of vegetarian oyster sauce, 1 tespoon of sesame oil, 1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce,1/2 teaspoon of dark soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar.

To assemble the vegetarian turkey:
Remove 2 pieces of the bean curd sheets from the package,fold the sheets in half and cut with a scissor. You will have 4 pieces of half circle now. Using a pastry brush, generously brush the sauce onto a piece of half circle, cover with another half circle, and brush with the sauce. Repeat for 2 more times. You will have 4 pieces of overlapping beancurd sheets.

Put some of the filling in the center of the beancurd sheets, and fold following the step by step instructions above. Secure with a toothpick.

Heat a nonstick pan with oil, add in the "turkeys", and sear until both sides are lightly golden. Pour in th remaining sauce, the turkeys are ready when the sauce is almost fully absorb. Remove from pan, and cool.

At this point, you can keep the vegetarian turkey in the fridge and keep for up to 2 days. Cut when ready to serve.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nibby Buckwheat Cookies

sept 18 158

Do you have craving for certain type of food when the season changes? I crave for cookies this time of the year. The warm cookies, fresh from the oven, plated beside a cup of steaming hot coffee is a perfect companion while I read. There's an undescribable comfort in the process of baking cookies on a chilly day. Perhaps it's the endearing warmth radiated from the oven, or the heady aroma that wafts through the room when the cookies are almost done. Or the sense of satisfaction, having made something from scratch in a short span of time. Or the fake sense of self reassurance, of having done something useful (and edible) after hibernating for a long while.

The nibby buckwheat cookies is from one of my favorite authors- Alice Medrich's latest book- Pure Dessert. When I first read about it on Veronica's blog, I know I want to make it. But I sat on it longer than I should. I bought the required buckwheat flour months ago with the sole purpose of making these cookies, yet I procrastinated. Maybe I was hoping OCT's playmobils will come alive at night, while I was sleeping, and declared "let's make something awesome together, we can make the most delicious buckwheat cacao nibs cookies ever known to this household!" and the next morning, I was woken up by the smell of freshly baked cookies.That would be nice. That is exactly what those playmobils lying in the corner of my bedroom should be doing - be useful.

buckwheat cocoa nib cookies

Before you think I have gone crazy and shut this window close, let me say one last thing- make these cookies! They are awesome. Bake it, seriously.You can't buy them anywhere. And even if you have friends who are bakers, like me, forget about them. They wouldn't share with you, even if they have every good intention to. Like I did, I baked a batch, almost handed them to OCT lab, but I changed my mind after I slept on it. And guess where all the cookies went in the end?

If you don't want to buy the buckwheat flour, I find these cookies to be equally excellent. They are great with walnut, and I have made them a couple of times already. In case you are wondering about the fate of the remaining buckwheat flour, its destiny lies in the Nibby Buckwheat Cookies. Maybe I will try to share some next time. :)

Nibby Buckwheat Butter Cookies
adopted from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cacao nibs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whisk together all purpose flour and buckwheat flours in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, with the back of a large spoon or with a electric mixer, beat the butter with sugar and salt for about 1 minute, until smooth and creamy but not fluffy. Mix in the nibs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated. Do not overmix.

Form the dough into a 12 x 2 inch log. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight. Alternatively, you can freeze the dough, and slice the desired pieces to have fresh cookies when the craving strikes.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the dough log into 1/4 inch thick slices. Place the cookies at least 1.5inches apart on a baking sheet.

Bake until the cookies are just beginning to color around the edges, 12- 14 minutes. Cool the cookies in the pan on the rack. The cookies are delicious fresh, but get better with time. They can be stored in an airtight container,for up to 1 month.

make 48 cookies.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Green Tea Muffins

green tea muffins

I used to bake muffins a lot when we were in St Louis. Initially, they came from the premix boxes. And then, as I slowly got the hang on baking from scratch, I baked out of magazines and books. Nowadays, I draw my inspirations from all the amazing food blogs. In fact, my favorite Raspberry Chocolate Chips Muffins comes from here.

One day, as I was surfing for muffin ideas to bring to a friend's place, someone mentioned green tea muffins. Being a huge matcha fan, that piqued my interest, and I had to have it. Unfortunately there was no recipe accompanied it.

green tea muffins

Undeterred, I make a few tweaks on a recipe from my favorite online recipes source- and come up with my version of Green Tea Muffins. Because I see muffin as morning food, I prefer mine lighter and not too sweet. With almost 2 teaspoons of matcha powder, the green tea flavor comes through, but it may not be everybody's cup of tea. So adjust the amount of matcha powder to suit your preference. For sweetness, I add 1/2 teaspoon of sweetenend azuki beans into each muffin, and find them compliment each other really well.

As with many matcha recipes I have tried, the green tea muffins turn dry easily. We learn our lesson when we absent-mindedly let them sit uncovered for a few hours. I think an extra splash of milk or an additional tablespoon of melted butter should be sufficient to counter the dryness.But I need to try it again this weekend just to be sure.

green tea muffins

Green Tea Muffins
adapted from

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter
2 teaspoon matcha powder
canned sweetened azuki bean, (1/2 teaspoon for each muffins)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter muffin pans. Mix the flour, matcha powder, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the egg, milk, and butter, stirring only enough to dampen the flour; the batter should not be smooth. Spoon into the muffin pans, filling each cup about half full, dropping 1/2 teaspoon of azuki beans into each over and cover with more batter, until the cup is two-thirds full. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes each. Or until the cake tester inserted comes out clean.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Meal under 10 dollars

dinner less than 10 dollars

Amid the financial turmoil, many are keeping an eye on their grocery budgets. Even Rachel Ray the queen of 30 minutes meals, stressed the budget friendliness of one of the recipes in her recent episode. I think it certainly reflect the concerns of many audiences these days.I also notice that a few bloggers are talking about budget planning lately, so I decided to try and make a meal under 10 dollars and see what we could get.

Here's the result. For under 10 dollars, this was what we had for dinner last night- Hainanese Chicken rice (rice not shown in picture + chicken), Stirfry Shanghai Bokchoy and a claypot tofu with shiitake mushroom. And it's good for 5 servings. I has a sudden craving for mum's hainanese chicken rice after reading the Wednesday Chef's homemade hainanese chicken rice. So naturally, that was on the menu of the night. Although a side of stirfry shanghai bokchoy would round up the meal nicely, I went on to make a claypot tofu. I just wanted to try out my newly acquired korean soup pot.Lately, We are obsessed with tofu soup, and have been visiting the same tofu house for the past 3 weekends. But more about that in another post. Meanwhile, I know what you are going to ask- How did I do that for under 10 dollars.

chicken 250

Here's the breakdown:
rice- $2.40
Tyson Split chicken breasts with bones - $3.00 (it's going on discount at Kroger this week, with only 0.99/pd)
tomato (0.89/pd)- $0.60
Shanghai Bokchoy- $1.60
Tofu- $1.00/block
dried shiitake mushroom- $0.50
miscellaneous condiments- $0.90 (it is actually lesser than this, but I want to round off the figure to make it 10 dollars. At this point, OCT rolls his eyes)

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In case you are wondering how the plate of chicken is going to serve 5, there's one whole breast that was not shown in the picture. After the dinner, OCT packed the leftover for lunches, and he told me that they were enough for next 3 days. May I add that OCT is a big eater, despite his skinny frame?(life is unfair!)So take his words for it- 5 servings it is!

Authentic Southeast Asian meal for only 2 dollars per serving; and the smile on my satiated husband's face- Priceless.

No recipe for today, but we love the hainanese chicken rice so much that I think that I might make it again this weekend, (while the discount of chicken breasts last, of course). I will try to measure all the ingredients use next time.So, what's your meals stategy? Do you adhere to a budget? Let's share!


Monday, October 06, 2008

Plum, Hazelnut & Chocolate Tart

plum, hazelnut and chocolate tart

I love reading food magazines. However in the recent months, the few that I subscribe prove to be a stack of disappointment. They no longer inspire me or make me dashed into kitchen to get cooking. All the recipes seem repetitive and pretty much similar to what they have already published in the past. In short, I find them boring *yawn*. Quite frankly, I am comtemplating to discontinue some of them.

Just when I almost lost interest in food magazines, I found the UK food magazines such as Olive and BBC Good Food at Borders. Boy are they interesting and my desire to cook has been resuscitated! How did they escape my radar for so long?! The recipes and pictures are refreshing. Admittedly, there are certain ingredients that may not be readily available in the US, but their food photography and the recipes are amazing. Suddenly, I have many ideas to try out. Along with a few recipes I bookmarked from the magazines.

One of them is this Plum, Hazelnut and Chocolate Tart from September issue of BBC Good Food.

sept 18 021

I am sold when the ingredient list consist of chocolate and hazelnut. It's one of my favorite flavor combinations.(Nutella, anyone?)The recipe also features plum, which is abundant at the moment. The recipe just sounds too interesting to be missed.

sept 18 017

I substituted the self raising flour that I don't keep with all purpose flour and some baking powder; and the muscavado sugar with brown sugar. The end result tastes more like a cake than a tart, but is delicious nonetheless. It is not as sweet as the desserts we are accustomed to, perhap because I have omitted the glaze suggested. But I think it works well as a morning treat or as a tea cake in the afternoon. I would probaby drizzle some melted chocolate on top the next time I make it. Or you could brush the tart with the suggested jelly in the recipe. Either way, a delicious treat is promised.

Plum, Hazelnut & Chocolate Tart
adapted from Sept 2008 BBC Good Food magazine

175g butter , plus extra for greasing
500g plums
175g light muscovado sugar ( I used light brown sugar)
175g all purpose flour
175g ground hazelnuts
3 large eggs
1.5 tsp baking powder
50g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp hazelnuts
2 tbsp redcurrant, damson or plum jelly

Heat oven to 350F (180C). Butter and line the base of a round 8 inch cake pan. Halve and stone 4 plums, set aside for later, then roughly chop the remaining plums.

Put the sugar, butter, flour, ground hazelnuts, eggs and baking powder into a large bowl and beat with a wooden spoon or electric hand mixer for 1-2 mins, until smooth and light. Stir in the chopped plums and chocolate, then tip into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top.

Arrange the halved plums over the top of the mixture, pressing them down lightly, then scatter over hazelnuts. Bake for 40-50 mins until the top is golden and the cake feels firm to the touch. Cool in the pan for 10 mins, then turn out, remove the paper and cool on a wire rack. Heat the jelly, then brush over the top of the cake before serving.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Roasted Pear & Vanilla Bean Frozen Yogurt

roasted pear frozen yogurt1

One of my latest ice cream obsession is Häagen-Dazs's Caramelized Pear & Toasted Pecan. I have become an instant fan,literally on the first lick. Little did I suspected that caramelized pear would taste so delicious in ice cream. No wonder it has won the Häagen-Dazs flavor search in 2007. I couldn't get enough of it, and even though the weather has cooled down considerably- indication of time to put my ice cream maker to rest until next summer, I find myself churning out a batch of roasted pear & vanilla bean frozen yogurt. I couldn't help it. My favorite Greek yogurt is on half price and the gorgeous pears have just graced the farmer's stand, surely this is a SIGN!

Instead of caramelizing the pears, I choose to roast them along with the vanilla bean I found lying around. It was done while I was cooking dinner on a Sunday night. A few basting and 40 minutes later, before the season premiere of Desperate Housewives, the roasted pears were ready and left to cool at room temperature.

roasted pear frozen yogurt

On the brief advertisement break before Brothers and Sisters, I processed the roasted pears with one 17.6 oz container (2 cups) of Greek yogurt in the blender before churning the mixture in the ice cream maker. Although 1.5 cups of Greek yogurt might be a better ratio for the recipe, I was too lazy to measure that out. Plus I prefer my frozen yogurt on the tangy side. I think adding a tablespoon or two of honey may be a good idea if you like it sweeter. As with other icy dessert recipes, taste and adjust the sweetness according to your preference.Have total control and personalize- That's the beauty of homemade ice cream! Just remember to make it slightly sweeter than how you'd like it, as the chilling will dull the flavor later.

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I leave out the nuts because I don't have any on hand. And quite honestly, I am too lazy to roast and chop them, even if I have them handy. With the weather cooling down, my body is craving for soups, cookies and tarts. So watch out for those recipes in the coming months!

roasted pear & vanilla bean frozen yogurt

Roasted Pear & Vanilla Bean Frozen Yogurt

1/3 cup water
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
3 firm Bosc pears, peeled, halved, cored (about 1 pound)
1 vanilla bean
1 17.6oz (2 cups) Greek yogurt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Arrange the pears cut side up in an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Add the water into the dish and sprinkle sugar, butter and scraped vanilla bean on top of the pears. Bake until the pears are crisp-tender and beginning to brown, basting occasionally with the juices, about 35-40 minutes.

Let cool on a cooling rack. When the baking dish has cool down,cover with saran wrap and place in the fridge to chill for at least half an hour, or up to a day.

Using a blender, process the roasted pears, with its juice and the yogurt until smooth. Transfer to the freezer bowl of your ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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