29 December 2007

Somewhere Over The Rainbow/ Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Somewhere Over The Rainbow ("Over The Rainbow" to some) is the first song I heard Tori Amos Play way back in 1997 when I said to myself, "WOW, that is good." Then I bought my first Tori Amos album and the rest is history. Later in my high school life, my friend Fabian gave me the Tori Amos Unplugged Songbook, and since I barely knew how to play, it was an appreciated challenge. Of course, I had to be able to play my favorite song from it.

Click here for a digital recording of me playing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". Some of the parts are already improvised, Tori plays it a lot better.

I was suppose to mash it into a medley with "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," also played by Tori on earlier concert tours but not available on a songbook. It pretty much sounds like Over The Rainbow (remix), so it would have been a great medley, but I was a little confused so I settled for this. Besides, not everyone celebrates Christmas.

Click here for a digital recording of me playing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." It's improvised so I hope it's not too terrible.

Happy Holidays everyone!

28 December 2007

Roasted Porkloin Stuffed with Dried Plums and Arugula

Roasted Porkloin stuffed with Dried Plums and Arugula (with title)
My DSL exploded (okay, not quite) for a few days so I've been keeping on the DL for a while (oh, that did not fly). But I'm back! Happy Holidays to all!

I do like doing the grocery shopping. Obviously I haven't always; as a kid it pretty much bored me. There are a few instances where it becomes less than enjoyable: one is when I'm asked to buy a twelve-pack of toilet paper, which when I buy with 2 pounds of unsalted butter and a liter of cream makes me look like the world's unhealthiest serial wanker; and the other is when I'm told that, oh yeah, there's a party in two days and someone donated a kilo and a half of meat, could you do something to it? But basically the latter is what happened last Christmas, again with my former culinary Waterloo, the Hunk of Meat That Is Too Big to Taste of Anything in the Middle. Also, my brother was desperate for something to give away to his colleagues as a gift. Thankfully, I'd already experimented with flavoring meat a few weeks earlier.
Rosemary-Roasted Pork Tenderloin
That is a 700-gram Pork Tenderloin, marinated for an hour in Maggi liquid seasoning (hydrolyzed vegetable proteins or liquid aminos) encrusted with cracked black pepper, olive oil, plenty of chopped rosemary leaves, chopped garlic, and salt. I roasted it for 40 minutes in a 205°C (400°F) oven with new potatoes, scrubbed clean and tossed in the coating of the pork. It was lovely and I thought it tasted fine, but my dad and my brother were not fans of subtlety, so they were looking for a sauce, despite the black pepper adding a lot of spice and flavor. Grr. So, I took what I learned when my aunt donated a 1.6kg frenched pork loin roast for Christmas.

Red Velvet Cupcakes 2
Red Velvet Cupcakes for my brother's friends, done according to my previously posted recipe, which makes 18 regular-sized cupcakes baked for 25-30 minutes. Fill the cupcake liners to the very top to get a good dome on the cake.

Anyway. The first step is to make sure you have a thoroughly thawed pork loin. You really can't go wrong if you follow the basics of roasting a large cut of meat:

Step 1: Brining. The purpose of brining is not to make the meat salty, which it will barely accomplish (bringing flavor to the middle of the meat), but certain alterations in the osmotic pressure of the muscle cells brought about by the hyperosmotic salt solution makes it moist and tender even after long periods of roasting. I just tossed these together:

  • half a cup of salt

  • half a gallon of water

  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed, skins on or off, doesn't matter

  • ten peppercorns

  • a medium onion, cut into eight pieces

  • a splash of white wine

Take note I wasn't following a recipe: I just put together what I thought would be good base flavors. But the salt and water always has to be there. Celery or celery seed would also have been a good addition. Use your imagination. Usually this is boiled and cooled before the meat is soaked in, but I didn't bother. Make sure all the meat is submerged and leave in the fridge for 24 hours.

Step 2: Stuffing. If you really want to make sure that the meat has some interesting flavors in the middle, you should stuff it and remove all doubt. Snip the butcher's twine off and unroll your hopefully spiral-cut pork loin. If it isn't, no matter: just make a spiraling cut from the circumference towards the center. I made mine a reverse-S shape. Score the fat on the outside. Sprinkle some salt and pepper throughout the cut surface and stuff with whatever you fancy. What I picked up from the grocery that day:
  • two handfuls of dried plums (that's prunes for you uncool kids), chopped

  • a bunch of arugula, leaves picked and chopped

  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped

I should probably have squeezed all the water I could out of the arugula, so the stuffing doesn't slip and slide around when I cut the meat. Or I could have cooked and cooled it beforehand. But no matter: It still tasted great (herby and fruity). I just squeezed it into a loose mush in my hands and laid it all around the cut surface. Have fun with the stuffing: I would have used dried cranberries or cherries if they weren't so expensive. You could also use dried apricots. Use raisins if you're feeling loopy. Sage, walnuts, tarragon, spinach, and onions could also be used. You really just can't go wrong if you use your head. Roll up the cut meat back to its original state and use strong white twine to hold it in place.

Step 3: Encrusting. My personal favorite is black pepper. It could be all that's outside for all I care. But since we're going for something different, I just ground up the following in a mortar and pestle:
  • a handful of black peppercorns

  • a tablespoon of salt

  • a tablespoon of cumin

Pat the outside of the loin dry with a paper towel, then smear it all over with a thin layer of Dijon mustard. Press the spice mix all over the surface generously.

Step 4: Roasting. Preheat the oven to 205°C (400°F). Set the meat in a roasting pan with 3/4-inch cubes of potatoes or whatever vegetables you like roasted: here we have carrots and a few garlic cloves as well, tossed in a tiny bit of olive oil and salt (hey, if you want to humor your guests, throw in some more black pepper). Onions, parsnips, and sweet potatoes are also good. Try to get them in a single layer at the bottom of your roasting pan, but it's okay if they overlap a lot, as they'll shrink anyway. Roast the entire monster until the thickest part of the meat registers 66°C (150°F) on an instant-read or meat thermometer (it took me 75 minutes in all). The tip of a metal skewer inserted at this point and taken out will be quite warm on your lip.

I made a gravy from the pan drippings: After taking out the roast and vegetables, set the roasting pan on medium heat and throw in two tablespoons of flour, whisking well to incorporate the fat and the flour, then pour in some stock (I used chicken as that's all we had). Bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.

The best part is, the meat was bursting with flavor that no one lookd for the sauce. Success!

22 December 2007

Twelve Months

This is a simple meme from Dr. Claire I've elected not to pass because... Uh, never mind. If you decide to answer it anyway, tell me about it so I can read it, I'm always interested to learn about other people. My birthday was just last December 10, so I guess it's fitting that I examine this.

Now, I've never really believed in Astrology, but I always thought the coincidences with regards to personality traits were fun. Horoscopes are not, because they are always so broad and generally make you pay attention to a particular aspect of your life, which is not wise. The point of this meme was to go over a list of types related to your birth month and highlight which ones applied to you.

DECEMBER: Loyal and generous. Sexy. Patriotic. Active in games and interactions. Impatient and hasty. Ambitious. Influential in organizations. Fun to be with. Loves to socialize. Loves praises. Loves attention. Loves to be loved. Honest and trustworthy. Not pretending. Short tempered. Changing personality. Not egotistic. Take high pride in oneself. Hates restrictions. Loves to joke. Good sense of humor. Logical.

By the way, I thought "not egotistic" and "take (sic) high pride in oneself" was contradictory. I would have said "sexy" because I often like to joke about it (ditto "fun to be with") but I guess it's all a matter of perspective. There are just some questions you can't answer yourself. Am I, folks?

I don't think I'm impatient. My gentle demeanor in the hospital often has the senior residents asking, "Are you from PGH (Philippine General Hospital)?" And my (JOKING) reply is "Yes, I'm just nice." I think I have a higher threshold for awful people than most. But I do like to move quickly and cover a lot of ground.

One personality trait I've always seen related to December is "wise." I do like to give a lot of unsolicited advice which may probably make me not fun to be with. I'm keeping it under control these days. Also a common trait I see is "wandering." Which I think is apt.
The Rest of the Twelve Months:

JANUARY: Stubborn and hard-hearted. Ambitious and serious. Loves to teach and be taught. Always looking at people’s flaws and weaknesses. Likes to criticize. Hardworking and productive. Smart, neat and organized. Sensitive and has deep thoughts. Knows how to make others happy. Quiet unless excited or tensed. Rather reserved. Highly attentive. Resistant to illnesses but prone to colds. Romantic but has difficulties expressing love. Loves children. Loyal. Has great social abilities yet easily jealous. Very stubborn and money cautious.

FEBRUARY: Abstract thoughts. Loves reality and abstract. Intelligent and clever. Changing personality. Attractive. Sexy. Temperamental. Quiet, shy and humble. Honest and loyal. Determined to reach goals. Loves freedom. Rebellious when restricted. Loves aggressiveness. Too sensitive and easily hurt. Gets angry really easily but does not show it. Dislikes unnecessary things. Loves making friends but rarely shows it. Daring and stubborn. Ambitious. Realizes dreams and hopes. Sharp. Loves entertainment and leisure. Romantic on the inside not outside. Superstitious and ludicrous. Spendthrift. Tries to learn to show emotions.

MARCH: Attractive personality. Sexy. Affectionate. Shy and reserved. Secretive. Naturally honest, generous and sympathetic. Loves peace and serenity. Sensitive to others. Loves to serve others. Easily angered. Trustworthy. Appreciative and returns kindness. Observant and assesses others. Revengeful. Loves to dream and fantasize. Loves traveling. Loves attention. Hasty decisions in choosing partners. Loves home decors. Musically talented. Loves special things. Moody.

APRIL: Active and dynamic. Decisive and hasty but tends to regret. Attractive and affectionate to oneself. Strong mentality. Loves attention. Diplomatic. Consoling, friendly and solves people’s problems. Brave and fearless. Adventurous. Loving and caring. Suave and generous. Emotional. Aggressive. Hasty. Good memory. Moving. Motivates oneself and others. Sickness usually of the head and chest. Sexy in a way that only their lover can see.

MAY: Stubborn and hard-hearted. Strong-willed and highly motivated. Sharp thoughts. Easily angered. Attracts others and loves attention. Deep feelings. Beautiful physically and mentally. Firm Standpoint. Needs no motivation. Easily consoled. Systematic (left brain). Loves to dream. Strong clairvoyance. Understanding. Sickness usually in the ear and neck. Good imagination. Good physical. Weak breathing. Loves literature and the arts. Loves traveling. Dislike being at home. Restless. Not having many children. Hardworking. High spirited. Spendthrift.

JUNE: Thinks far with vision. Easily influenced by kindness. Polite and soft-spoken. Having ideas. Sensitive. Active mind. Hesitating, tends to delay. Choosy and always wants the best. Temperamental. Funny and humorous. Loves to joke. Good debating skills. Talkative. Daydreamer. Friendly. Knows how to make friends. Able to show character. Easily hurt. Prone to getting colds. Loves to dress up. Easily bored. Fussy. Seldom shows emotions. Takes time to recover when hurt. Brand conscious. Executive. Stubborn.

JULY: Fun to be with. Secretive. Difficult to fathom and to be understood. Quiet unless excited or tensed. Takes pride in oneself. Has reputation. Easily consoled. Honest. Concerned about people’s feelings. Tactful. Friendly. Approachable. Emotional temperamental and unpredictable. Moody and easily hurt. Witty and sparkly. Not revengeful. Forgiving but never forgets. Dislikes nonsensical and unnecessary things. Guides others physically and mentally. Sensitive and forms impressions carefully. Caring and loving. Treats others equally. Strong sense of sympathy. Wary and sharp. Judges people through observations. Hardworking. No difficulties in studying. Loves to be alone. Always broods about the past and the old friends. Likes to be quiet. Homely person. Waits for friends. Never looks for friends. Not aggressive unless provoked. Prone to having stomach and dieting problems. Loves to be loved. Easily hurt but takes long to recover.

AUGUST: Loves to joke. Attractive. Suave and caring. Brave and fearless. Firm and has leadership qualities. Knows how to console others. Too generous and egoistic. Takes high pride in oneself. Thirsty for praises. Extraordinary spirit. Easily angered. Angry when provoked. Easily jealous. Observant. Careful and cautious. Thinks quickly. Independent thoughts. Loves to lead and to be led. Loves to dream. Talented in the arts, music and defense. Sensitive but not petty. Poor resistance against illnesses. Learns to relax. Hasty and trusty. Romantic. Loving and caring. Loves to make friends.

SEPTEMBER: Suave and compromising. Careful, cautious and organized. Likes to point out people’s mistakes. Likes to criticize. Stubborn. Quiet but able to talk well. Calm and cool. Kind and sympathetic. Concerned and detailed. Loyal but not always honest. Does work well. Very confident. Sensitive. Good memory. Clever and knowledgeable. Loves to look for information. Must control oneself when criticizing. Able to motivate oneself. Understanding. Fun to be around. Secretive. Loves leisure and traveling. Hardly shows emotions. Tends to bottle up feelings. Very choosy, especially in relationships. Systematic.

OCTOBER: Loves to chat. Loves those who loves them. Loves to take things at the center. Inner and physical beauty. Lies but doesn’t pretend. Gets angry often. Treats friends importantly. Always making friends. Easily hurt but recovers easily. Daydreamer. Opinionated. Does not care of what others think. Emotional. Decisive. Strong clairvoyance. Loves to travel, the arts and literature. Touchy and easily jealous. Concerned. Loves outdoors. Just and fair. Spendthrift. Easily influenced. Easily loses confidence. Loves children.

NOVEMBER: Has a lot of ideas. Difficult to fathom. Thinks forward. Unique and brilliant. Extraordinary ideas. Sharp thinking. Fine and strong clairvoyance. Can become good doctors. Dynamic in personality. Secretive. Inquisitive. Knows how to dig secrets. Always thinking. Less talkative but amiable. Brave and generous. Patient. Stubborn and hard-hearted. If there is a will, there is a way. Determined. Never give up. Hardly becomes angry unless provoked. Loves to be alone. Thinks differently from others. Sharp-minded. Motivates oneself. Does not appreciate praises. High-spirited. Well-built and tough. Deep love and emotions. Romantic. Uncertain in relationships. Homely. Hardworking. High abilities. Trustworthy. Honest and keeps secrets. Not able to control emotions. Unpredictable.

20 December 2007

Dark Chocolate Soufflé Cakes With Espresso-Chocolate Sauce

Dark Chocolate Soufflé Cakes With Espresso-Chocolate Sauce (with title)
Here is another recipe that Noah was "challenging" me to make. He wanted a soufflé, but for the heart of it to melt, like a lava cake. Undercooking a soufflé won't work since the lack of heat will cause it to quickly deflate (since the heat hasn't set the egg yet), and the foamy structure of the egg white too quickly absorbs the heat of the oven, so the window between egg white foam and soufflé is too small. There's only one solution: the heart shouldn't be made of egg white foam at all. This is chocolate dessert guru Alice Medrich's recipe, and it fits Noah's description so exactly it still makes me grin till now.
Dark Chocolate Soufflé Cakes With Espresso-Chocolate Sauce
The thing is: I think soufflés are overrated. I was served one in renowned restaurant Le Soufflé in Baguio, and I thought it tasted too much like an egg. I thought adding more strawberry coulis would fix it, but it just tasted like a jammed-up omelet. Okay, that's being harsh, but anyway: neither is it difficult to make. The best thing about this recipe is that it does chocolate justice (with both bittersweet chocolate and cocoa in the recipe), doesn't taste eggy, can be prepared in advance (! a definite plus for the annoyingly a la minute dessert), and is completely foolproof: I made it once before (long before I started blogging) and it worked flawlessly the first time. Don't let the pictures fool you: even refrigerated for 2 days, this soufflé has definite rising power; just bake it in a very hot oven and don't pull it out too early. Plus: that warm surprise waiting in the center is a sure crowd-pleaser.

The soufflés will naturally deflate over time, so ask 25 minutes in advance if your guests want one. You could serve them directly from the oven onto a heatproof surface, but warn your guests that it will be searing-hot in the middle.


  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder (I just used 2 tsps instant coffee)

  • 2 tbsp warm water

  • 225g (8oz) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

  • 85g (3oz or 6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

  • 2 good pinches table salt

  • 2 tbsp unsweetened natural cocoa powder

  • 3 large eggs whites

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar

  • additional softened (not melted) butter and sugar for greasing ramekins

Put a metal or Pyrex pie plate or cake pan in the freezer. Lightly butter 6 6-oz (180mL) ramekins or custard cups, then coat inside with sugar and tap out the excess.

If baking right away, position a rack on the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 205°C (400°F) In a small bowl, combine the coffee powder with 2 tablespoons warm water and stir to dissolve. In a medium heatproof bowl over a pot of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter until smooth. Alternatively you can use the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds. If only small chunks remain, use the residual heat of the container to melt the remaining chunks to avoid burning the chocolate. Add the salt and stir together well. Take 5 tablespoons (85g) of the chocolate mixture and stir into the espresso well. Pour the espresso mixture into the chilled pie plate and freeze until firm, about 10 minutes (avoid freezing it longer as it will turn too icy). Meanwhile, whisk in 2 egg yolks and the cocoa into the remaining warm chocolate mixture.

Take the pie plate from the freezer and use a teaspoon to scrape it into six rough balls and set each onto the center of each prepared ramekin and refrigerate in the meantime.

In a clean, dry bowl, add the 3 egg whites and sprinkle in the cream of tartar. Beat on medium-high speed until it mounds gently. Gradually beat in the sugar and beat until the whites hold medium-stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted (the tips of the peaks curl but the whites are still glossy, moist, and flexible). Using a rubber spatula, fold a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate to lighten it, then scrape the remaining whites into the bowl and gently fold until well-combined, taking care not to deflate the whites. Divide the batter evenly among the ramekins and level the tops gently with the back of a spoon. (At this point, you can refrigerate the soufflés for up to 2 days. Cover the tops of the ramekins collectively or individually with cling film.)

Remove the cling film from the tops of the ramekins (if prepared in advance) and bake in the preheated oven for 11-14 minutes, adding a minute or two if they were refrigerated (I find they can take 20 minutes with no problem if refrigerated, plus you'll get that rising-over-the-rim action of a classic soufflé). The soufflé cakes should be puffed and possibly a little cracked on top. Let cool a few minutes before serving.

17 December 2007


L'Opera / Gateau Clichy
Opera (with title)
Continuing from my previous post about the first French-style pâtisserie I went to (pardon the misinformation-- the first true pastry shop I went to was Dulcinea, a Spanish pasteleria), let me take you back once again when we (5 or 6 of us, I think) were there, sampling each other's cakes to maximize the experience. Now, I could have sworn one of the cakes was famous, I just didn't know which one it was. Since people still believed I was a better baker than I was and I was very much a cocky bastard, I told my friend Ads that one day I'd replicate whatever classic cake that was. I soon learned I was talking about the Opera cake, which is made of almond joconde (biscuit, not in the English, American, or Filipino sense of the word) layered with coffee buttercream and ganache, then finished off supposedly with ganache. Now, that is probably a bundle of 14 skills I haven't yet performed in the kitchen. When I learned, however, that blanched almonds cost P160 per 100g ($4 or £1.60), I balked, because you're never quite sure if the finished product will ever match what they prepare in the professional pastry shop for much less.
Opera (whole)
But my birthday came up. I'd made cakes for Genie's, Clara's, Faith's, and Graeme's (though he wasn't around to eat it, heh) birthdays, and I needed something grand to culminate the year of growing dessert-skill-wise. Also, it's good for conquering your fears. I was going to make this classic cake for the first time and serve it to my closest friends, gulp! And to add to the number of skills I could try my hand at, I subbed in glacage (mirroire glaze) for the ganache on top, as many pastry shops might do, but the original creators of the Opera might sneer at. Guess what? It's easier, looks smashing, and some even say it's their favorite layer. I adapted this recipe from my unofficial blogging "mentor", Clement at A la Cuisine!, who in turn adapted it from Dorie Greenspan's Paris Sweets, who in turn adapted it from the Dalloyau, one of the pastry shops credited with its creation way back in 1903. The price of a slice of this cake at the Dalloyau is €5 (P350, $8, or £3.50), and a slice of this at Bizu is P150 ($3.60 or £1.50). Ready to conquer your fears? (Okay, just mine?) Here we go!

I did buy 225g of ground almonds from Tobi's house of nuts, which are guaranteed to be fresh (I knew, because they let me taste the slivers). Don't bother buying them pre-ground from Santi's, which I love, but I doubt the nuts are freshly ground and rotated out of the shelves (I once got ground hazelnuts from their shelves. OLD!). Grinding quickly makes the nut oil rancid. I don't have a food processor so I used a blender (if you're going to do this, make sure the blades are sharp and you're skilled at taking the blender apart and back together in a flash). Making sure the appliance is completely dry, load half the nuts with 25g of the icing sugar you'll use in the recipe. Pulse repeatedly, scraping down the sides of the bowl or pitcher if some nuts stick to the sides. Empty into a coarse sieve over a bowl and lightly tap the sieve to leave only the large unprocessed pieces in. Return this to the appliance and keep repeating until no large pieces are left. Do this with the other half of the nuts and 25g more of the icing sugar (you'll incorporate only 175g later, since the other 50g are in the nuts). Yes, I spent an hour doing this, but it's totally worth it.


  • 45g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted

  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature

  • 30g (2 tbsp) granulated sugar

  • 225g (2 cups) almond flour or finely ground almonds

  • 225g (2 cups) icing sugar, sifted

  • 6 large eggs

  • 70g (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour, sifted

Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F). Spray two 12-1/2 x 15-1/2-inch sheet pans (jelly roll pans with raised edges) with nonstick spray, then line with parchment paper cut exactly to fit the bottom and sides (fold at the edge to get a neat box-shape). Spray the parchment with more nonstick spray, making sure all corners are coated. I only had 10 x 15-inch sheet pans, so my joconde came out thicker than normal.

Whip the egg whites on low speed in a clean bowl until foamy, then switch to medium-high speed until it holds soft peaks. Switch to high speed while gradually adding the granulated sugar. Continue beating until the eggs whites hold stiff, glossy peaks.

In another bowl, using a mixer with the paddle attachment (I don't have one so I used the regular beaters), beat the almond flour, icing sugar, and eggs on medium speed for 3 minutes or until light and voluminous. Sprinkle the flour on top and beat at low speed until it just disappears. Gently fold the egg-white meringue into the batter using a rubber spatula. Take a cup of the batter and fold it thoroughly into the melted butter in a small bowl. Pour this back into the batter and fold with a rubber spatula until just combined. Divide batter between the two pans (I used a scale to make sure each got the same weight of batter) and spread evenly with an offset spatula.

Bake cake layers for 5 to 7 minutes, or until lightly browned. As my layers were slightly thicker, I had to bake them for about 10 minutes. Let them cool for 15 minutes in the sheet pans, then slip them onto a cooling rack and let them cool to room temperature. They may be wrapped airtight and frozen if you have a big enough freezer for a month, but as the wrapping and stuffing into the freezer may deform them, I suggest that you go ahead with assembling the cake.

Coffee Syrup
  • 125g (1/2 cup) water

  • 65g (2/3 cup) granulated sugar

  • 7g (1-1/2 tbsp) instant coffee powder

In a small saucepan, combine water, sugar and coffee powder, and bring to a boil while swirling the pan to dissolve the ingredients. Remove from heat and allow syrup to cool. You may transfer it to a small airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week.

Coffee Buttercream
  • 10g (2 tbsp) instant coffee powder

  • 30g (2 tbsps) boiling water

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 100g (1 cup) sugar

  • 60g (1/4 cup) water

  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

  • 200g (14 tbsps or 2 sticks minus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

In small bowl, combine coffee powder and boiling water and stir until dissolved. Set aside.

In a mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg and egg yolk on high speed until pale and foamy.

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water, and swirl the pan over high heat to dissolve the sugar until it comes to a boil. At this point, stop stirring and cook over medium heat until it reaches 124°C (255°F or the hard ball stage- a very firm but sticky ball can be formed with your fingers from the cooled syrup). Without delay, dump the sugar syrup into the center of the egg yolks and whisk madly until combined, then turn the mixer on at medium-high speed and beat for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is thick, satiny, and at room temperature.

Beat the butter with a fork or whisk until it is soft and creamy, but not oily. Start beating the egg yolk mixture again at medium speed and add the vanilla extract, coffee syrup (prepared in the first step above), and butter to the egg yolk mixture in 2 tablespoon chunks. Raise the mixer to high speed and beat the buttercream until it's thickened and satiny. At some point the buttercream might look curdled or separated-- don't worry and just continue beating at high speed; it will come together magically. Transfer the mixture to a container, then cover with cling film and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until it is firm enough to spread. You may freeze this in an airtight container for up to a month or refrigerate for up to a week, but let it come to room temperature before using and beat at high speed until it regains its satiny texture.

  • 240g (8oz) bittersweet chocolate (70% or higher), finely chopped

  • 125g (1/2 cup) whole milk

  • 60g (1/4 cup) heavy cream

  • 60g (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. In the microwave or a small saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a boil, then pour over the chocolate all at once. Let the chocolate melt for 30 seconds, then gently stir in widening concentric circles with a spatula (being careful not to create bubbles) until smooth. Let the chocolate cool until just barely warm (60°C or 140°F). While the chocolate is cooling, work the butter in a small bowl with a spatula or fork until smooth and creamy. Add the butter to the cooled chocolate in 2 or 3 additions with a spatula. Don't worry if it looks very liquid at this point. Cover and refrigerate until it's firm enough to spread. You may freeze or refrigerate as with the buttercream, but if frozen, let it thaw in the refrigerator, then stir until smooth.

Measure out the length of the smaller joconde (if they unfortunately did not come out the same size, but if they did, hurrah) and very cleanly cut a third of it off. You will get a roughly square piece and a rectangular piece. Cut off the same length from the other joconde sheet.

On a 10" square cake board, lay one of the joconde squares on top. Brush evenly with the coffee syrup, using about 3 tablespoons. Spread half the buttercream on top with an offset spatula, making sure it's very even. Carefully place the 2 joconde rectangles side-by-side, cut edges adjacent, on top. It will be roughly the same size as the joconde square below it. Brush evenly with the coffe syrup, using about 3 tablespoons. Using an offset spatula, spread all the ganache very evenly on top. Place the second joconde square on top and moisten again with coffee syrup. Freeze the cake for 20 minutes to allow it to firm. Spread the remaining buttercream on top with an offset spatula, making sure the surface is as even and smooth as you can manage. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or freeze for 20 minutes.

Chocolate Glacage
  • 120g (1/2 cup) heavy cream

  • 150g (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) water

  • 180g (1-3/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons) granulated sugar

  • 65g (1/2 cup plus 2-1/2 tablespoons) Dutch-processed cocoa powder, preferably Valrhona

  • 6g (1 packet) gelatin granules

  • 30g (2 tablespoons) water

In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan or in a microwave-proof bowl, combine the cream, 150g water, and granulated sugar very well and bring to a boil over high heat or microwave on HIGH until it boils (I think it took about 3 minutes, watch carefully). Whisk in all the cocoa and return to a boil. Take off the heat. Rap the bottom of the container on the counter to remove large bubbles. Using a small teaspoon, gently plunge it into the center and stir slowly and gently in widening concentric circles while lifting the spoon gradually out into the surface. Once it reaches the surface of the glacage, lift the spoon out and repeat (this isn't an official technique as I just made it up to coax bubbles out of the glacage while stirring any undissolved cocoa into it). Cool the glacage to 43°C (110°F)-- this will take a very long time, be patient. While the chocolate is cooling, sprinkle the gelatin over the 30g of water in a small bowl and leave to absorb all the water. Once the glacage is cool enough, microwave the gel on LOW for a few seconds until it dissolves (or over a pan of hot tap water). Stir the gel into the glacage gently but thoroughly-- it should have no problem as both mixtures are warm. Cool the glacage to 24°C (75°F)-- since I live in the tropics, once it cooled to room temperature, I placed it in the fridge and kept a close eye on it. Once it's sufficiently cool, pour it through a fine-meshed sieve placed close to the surface of the cake until the whole top is covered. Place in the refrigerator to set.

Once set, take a long, clean, sharp knife and cut about half an inch off all the sides to reveal the layers, making sure to wipe the knife very clean in between cuts (eat the sides as your reward). Chill until serving time, then cut into squares and serve. I decorated it with a poorly-made melted chocolate G-clef and Guylian marbled chocolate shells. The traditional decoration is the word "Opera" in script, gold leaf, or other musically-themed stuff.

14 December 2007

Oh Christmas Truth

Note to all: For those pissed that blogger removed support for website URLs for non-members in comments, you'll be pleased to know they now support OpenID: so that means TypePad, Wordpress, and a lot of other services can be used to log-in. Yay!
Sorry there's not a new food post, but I just finished my birthday cake, and I'm on a high as it incorporated a lot of new skills which turned out surprisingly well on my first try. I promise you'll be blown away after I throw my party. If you're not, you must be one of them "haterz." Anyway. This is today's newspaper, which was a few meters thick and had several "Special Project" inserts. Someone had the bright idea of producing a "Christmas Shopping 2007" feature with the subtitle "In the air there's that feeling of buying... and giving." How weird, non-catchy, and awkward. A feeling of buying and giving? I wasn't aware they were feelings.
Buying and Giving 1
However, the designer, who had an even brighter idea, took it upon himself to resize one of the photos on another page to a very hip overlapping of the top margin. And in the process, gave the feature a new subtitle, revealing an awful Christmas truth.
Buying and Giving 2
Yikes. I don't want to "feel" that way at all. Right now, Anton, Arunee, and I (that I know of) are thinking up clever ways to give our families gifts on the budget of an unemployed doctor. Who unsurprisingly enough earns about as much as an unemployed rooster (maybe the rooster earns even more, who knows?). I just finished baking 20 boxes of lemon squares for my mom for her to give away to her friends, and I don't even have a food processor/ electric citrus juicer. And I only have 4 8x8 pans. I wonder if that's enough? (Mom: "No.")

11 December 2007

Ring of Fire

WARNING! Animated depictions of mature themes in the following film. Parental discretion is advised, especially since this is an animated film, children may be attracted to watching it and you will have to explain a whole lot of stuff that you are not yet prepared to explain.

"But much more, we waited for beauty to touch us from somewhere way beyond."
This is the animated short Ring of Fire from respected German animator Andreas Hykade. It was released in 1999 and won 11 international animated film awards. It's quite artistic, not in the way that word is thrown around to mean annoying and deliberately confusing, but rather it allows the viewer to discern between true beauty and what may seem attractive but really will tear your soul violently to shreds (dramatic enough for ya?). The story is thankfully straightforward. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
Part 1: (5 minutes)

Part 2: (10 minutes)

09 December 2007

Chocolate Linzer Tart

Schokolade Linzertorte
Chocolate Linzer Tart (with title)
It's funny how saying goodbye to someone can give you cycling flashbacks on how your relationship evolved. That's what happened a few days ago when I said goodbye to one of my friends from medical school. I thought I'd be able to see her again, so I made this tart, which reminded me so much of the restaurant adventures we went through during our time as classmates. By now you will have inferred that I was making the tart to impress her (not a good idea then, that I made it for the first time-- but my culinary exploits have made me cocky). The fact that I was enamored with her was probably the one of the worst-kept secrets of my medical school life. You're probably wondering why I tried to keep it a secret at all. Yes, I know it sounds dumb. But at the time, I never actually thought I was good enough. The clincher is, even after years of personal growth and building my confidence, I still don't quite think I am. Certain people can really make you feel that way, as if you've never quite outgrown the first time you met-- when she thought you were incredibly haughty, a little weird, and (mistakenly) intimidatingly smart. The way your jaw dropped when you saw her perform onstage for the first time (and how it kept dropping every single time after that). When she introduced you to your first patisserie, when she gave you part of a cake she baked, and how you were tricked into a belated birthday surprise, which is how she saw you in boxer shorts with ducks all over it.
Chocolate Linzer Tart sliced
I know all that sounds idealized and misty-water-colored, but if I wanted to, I could remember everything bad that happened between us. But for now, it's time to say goodbye: the ship has sailed. It's a new life ahead of me, and a new year. Maybe I learned a lesson and from now on will say exactly what I mean without fear of ridicule (probably won't, for fear of getting a massive heart attack). The silly thing is, she might be reading this (if she doesn't know any of it already, that's pretty strong denial for you). Anyway, the people you meet in your life are worth more than the lessons you've learned from them. After all, having friends who care about you is not a very bad thing indeed.

Chocolate Linzer Tart (adapted from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé)

  • 14 tablespoons (2 sticks minus 2 tablespoons or 200g) unsalted butter at room temperature

  • 5 tablespoons (50g) confectioner's sugar

  • 5 tablespoons (30g) Dutch-process cocoa, preferably Valrhona

  • 2 hard-boiled large egg yolks at room temperature, pressed through a fine strainer

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 2 teaspoons dark rum

  • 1/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

  • 1-1/2 cup (210g) all-purpose flour

In a food processor or mixer, process the butter until creamy, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the confectioner's sugar, cocoa, egg yolk, cinnamon, salt, and rum and process until smooth, scraping the bowl as needed. In a sifter, combine the flour and baking powder and sift it into the mixture. Pulse (or continue mixing) until thoroughly blended. The dough will be very soft. Scrape onto a piece of cling film and gather it into a ball and press into a disk. Let it chill for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days (alternatively you can freeze it for a month).

Grease a 8-3/4 inch (22cm) tart pan with a removable bottom (the sides are ideally 3/4 inch high). Roll out the dough to a thickness of a scant 1/4 inch (7mm). Since the dough becomes very soft quickly as it warms to room temperature (and quicker still once you've started rolling it), I recommend rolling in between two sheets of parchment paper/ cling film, cutting the giant disk into quarters, laying the quarters out on the tart pan, and pressing the cut edges together. The dough is very forgiving. You can also pat the dough into the tart pan without rolling, but keep in mind the thickness should be even throughout. Roll over the top of the tart pan with a rolling pin to make the edges neat. The excess dough can be shaped into a log, cut into circles, and baked as cookies.

Cover the prepared crust with aluminum foil and fill the foil with dried beans or rice. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Bake the pastry for 18-20 minutes, then remove the foil and beans and bake for 3-5 minutes more, until firm. Cool to room temperature.

  • about 3/4 cup (240g) raspberry jam (I used store-bought; see below for making your own)

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons gelatin (optional)

  • 8oz (230g) bittersweet chocolate (I used a mixture of Lindt Dark and Meiji Black)

  • 1 cup (250g) heavy cream

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 60g) unsalted butter at room temperature

Make sure the jam is not too runny. If it is, microwave or boil in a saucepan for a few minutes until it thickens sufficiently. Take note that it will thicken further as it cools. Sprinkle the gelatin over the jam and stir it in. Microwave on HIGH for 15 seconds or set over very low heat, stirring until the gelatin is dissolved. Let the jam cool for a minute and spread it in an even layer over the bottom of the crust. Set aside in the refrigerator.

Chop the chocolate finely and place in a medium bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in the microwave or in a heavy-bottomed small saucepan, then pour over the chocolate quickly, but trying not to create bubbles as you dump it in. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir in a widening concentric circle from the center, being careful not to produce any bubbles as you stir; be patient as eventually the heat of the cream will melt all the chocolate. Let the ganache sit for a minute and cool while you work the butter in a separate bowl until very creamy. Add the butter in two additions, stirring gently as before. Let the ganache cool until it is just slightly warm to the touch but still pourable. Pour it over the jam just until it reaches the top of the crust. Refrigerate until set. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Homemade Raspberry Jam
  • 1 pound (450g) red raspberries

  • 1-1/3 cups (270g) sugar

  • about 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the berries in the workbowl of a food processor and process, turning off the machine for a while if it gets too hot, processing it for a total of 5 minutes. Transfer to a heavy-bottomed casserole and stir in the sugar. Bring to a rollicking boil, stirring occasionally, and boil for 10-15 minutes until the jam thickens slightly and the bubbles look clear. Stir in a teaspoon of the lemon juice and scrape the jam into a heatproof jar. The jam can be kept in the refrigerator for about 1 month.

05 December 2007

Peach Salad with Farmer's Ham, Walnuts, and Gorgonzola

Peach Salad (with title)
I realize I've been taunting my friends overseas like an ass with the availability of some summer fruit here. You will take comfort in the fact that they usually don't taste as great as they do when they're in season. However, I've wanted to make a peach salad for the longest time, but they don't seem to appear these days in the special fruit stand. At the risk of being beaten with sticks by my peers, I opted to use Dole sliced peaches in light syrup. It's the closest, I guess, to fresh fruit, which is firm and not overly sweetened like the Del Monte ones in heavy syrup (mushy and sugary). I highly recommend it. And this was the perfect opportunity to use up my leftover cheese.

The thing is, it's so easy to forget this holiday season that just because it's cold out, it doesn't mean we need all that extra insulation. I can't count how many times I took advantage of a feast and ended up feeling shitty the next day. So in between those feasts, be good to yourself and eat healthily-- but well. (Recipe follows)
You could use a yogurt-based dressing here: honey dijon is just my preference (as you may have read before).

Honey Mustard Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon dijon-style mustard

  • 2 tablespoons honey

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • 3/4 cup safflower oil

Thoroughly combine all the ingredients except the oil in a medium bowl. Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking madly until well-emulsified. I suppose you could use a food processor to do everything, but I don't have one.

  • 1 fresh peach, cut into 1/2" wedges or 8 peach slices in light syrup

  • Mixed greens (Romaine, Lollo Rossa, Rocket/ Arugula, Curly leaf lettuce, Frisée-- go crazy.)

  • 4 thin slices Parma ham, Farmer's Ham, Parma Ham, or Guanciale

  • 50g (2oz) Gorgonzola cheese

  • Few shavings of Pecorino Romano cheese

  • A handful of walnuts, chopped

If using peaches in syrup, drain them very well and pat slightly dry between paper towels. On a very hot grill, lay down all the peach slices for 2-3 minutes, or until they get dark grill marks, then set aside. Arrange the mixed greens in a bowl and wave the ham decoratively among them. Top with the peach slices, cheeses, and walnuts, then drizzle the dressing over.

04 December 2007

Meme, Myself, and I

Coincidentally enough, Marvin of Burnt Lumpia tagged me for another meme. I thought instead of putting this off, I should just answer it now to make this "meme day." :) I'll make this short so my precious recipes won't be too invisible :p
What were you cooking/baking 10 years ago? I was just 15-16 years old then, and not at all very interested in food. I would be graduating from high school and content to eat cafeteria pasta day after day.
What were you cooking/baking one year ago? This would be about the time I'm making chocolate chip cookies. That's it. Oh, and maybe fusilli.

Five snacks you enjoy: 1. Kettle's Brand chips (Salt and Black Pepper or Honey Dijon), 2. French fries with a strawberry shake (preferably McDonald's), 3. Burger of any sort, 4. Spicy noodles, 5. Cake. I'm hungry now.

Five recipes you know by heart: 1. Pâté a choux and Crème Pâtissiere, 2. Broccoli and Sun-Dried Tomato Fusilli, 3. Stuffed Mushrooms, 4. Pesto, and 5. Katuson.

Five culinary luxuries you would indulge in if you were a millionaire:
1. Eat my way through Italy.
2. Eat my way through France.
3. Renovate my kitchen (preferably taking up the living room, haha)
4. Set up a vast garden.
5. Own a deli.

Five foods you love to cook/bake:
1. Cake. Nothing like it. (Plus all the decorations that go with it)
2. Pies.
3. Making fresh pasta.
4. Spicy Chinese food.
5. Roasts and grilled meats.

Five foods you cannot/will not eat:
1. I can eat raw fish (and it's okay), but I am sensitive to it and the reaction is very unpleasant. I'd rather not.
2. Feet of any animal. Those toes and tendons often ick me out.
3. Fresh coconut. Hate it.
4. Insects
5. Can't think of much more. Probably some organ meat.

Five favorite culinary toys:
1. Spatula
2. Pastry bag
3. Vegetable peeler
4. Electric mixer
5. Tart pan

Five dishes on your "last meal" menu:
1. Kung Pao Chicken
2. Tiramisu
3. Pork chops
4. Tempura
5. A marvelous sundae/soda fountain treat. I don't care, it's my last meal.

Five happy food memories:
1. Making the silk handkerchief pasta for the first time
2. Making classic fondant for the first time
3. Eating the Nanking Beef (Crispy Beef strips in Spicy Sauce) for the first time
4. Throwing an all-dessert party for my friends
5. Cooking a birthday feast for my mom.

I'm tagging the people I've tagged below, but as always, of course there's no obligation nor hard feelings if you don't. :)

03 December 2007


Dr. Em of Pulse tagged me as a blogger to answer five questions. (Sorry, it's so late-- wait for rare moment of me writing in Filipino-- nagkalito-lito kasi yung DSL). So... Here I go!
How long have you been blogging?
Believe it or not, I set up a personal website for my various sketches and essays waaay back in (wait for it) 1997. I recall there was also space for me to write about restaurants, food, music, and TV shows. Its original name was Flights to Fantasy, as I was a huge Final Fantasy fan then. I learned HTML for that! The design I felt was quite impressive for someone in 3rd year high school-- back then. It underwent several redesigns after long periods of me not writing (coding in HTML was long, thankless work) before I renamed it and settled on A Simple Life (coding in Dreamweaver), then I took a long hiatus for med school and killed it. This current blog you're reading started this year, after I'd imported my also-killed Friendster blog (as Friendster blogs blew chunks) in May 2007 (not April, but I did date my sketches with false dates to put them in front).

What inspired you to start a blog and who are your mentors?
Up until after I graduated, the only things I've ever baked were cookies, brownies, and cake out of a box. Somehow it led people to believe that I was a better baker than I actually was, but somehow I got cocky due to the sheer volume of cooking shows I've watched in my life and would think to myself when we ate in a pâtisserie, "I can do that." I joined the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts and Letters in 2006. They are WILD in there. The photography of Patrick and Joe (Graeme was not yet posting pictures at the time) blew me away and I wanted to replicate how they communicated deliciousness through the photos. But my inspiration for actual blogging is Clement of A la Cuisine. Anyway, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and start a blog to push my limits on how many different cooking skills I can learn, and as a bonus, to be able to make every single dish I love. Which is a lot. So, I really only started to learn to cook when I graduated med school.

Are you trying to make money online, or just doing it for fun?
No way. It's all fun and games here. I think my main reason for losing steam in my old websites was the lack of feedback.

Tell me 3 things you LOVE about being online.
1. I love learning. I get bored disturbingly easily. To see what other people are up to around the world excites me. It helps in being fearless with the world and yourself. It helps in opening your mind to new people and new experiences. It helps to cope with failure and gives you the courage to try again.
2. Friendship. It's been said about friends at work:

The people you work with, are people you were just thrown together with. You don’t know them, it wasn’t your choice. And yet you spend more time with them than you do your friends or your family, but probably all you’ve got in common, is the fact that you walk around on the same bit of carpet for eight hours a day.

It's not true for everyone but it's a little true for me. Now we're not together anymore, I have to content myself with seeing them once every two weeks for the usual dinner and drinks. And I rarely want to talk medicine. However, I've made great friends online and I pretty much have something to look forward to everyday.
3. Well, it's great to be appreciated. If the people around you don't eat dessert or only want to eat the same thing all the time, it can be very lonely indeed!

Tell me 3 things you STRUGGLE within the online world.
1. Your efforts falling flat on their faces. I remember one of the first things I made I was proud of-- Terrine of Almond Panna Cotta and Pineapple Gelée. I thought, since the folks at the eGullet forums are so tough, maybe it's my "in." Nobody said anything for a long while, and I felt like shit. Graeme was first and the only one who liked it, and it was great to have finally made a good friend. But if he hadn't, I might have punched a hole through my monitor.
2. Cliques. For some reason, the same way that friendship translates over the internet, so do cliques. Some people will just never give you the time of day because they don't want to know who you are.
3. Since I can't think of much else, I'd say self-censorship. But this is pretty much an issue in real life, isn't it? Being nastily fun is okay in my book (even if I dial it down a lot so as not to freak out gentler readers), but I try to stay away from hostility and revert it back to a pleasant atmosphere, because the flipside is, if you tell people that they are rude and just generally awful, they will rip your ass to shreds and you will flame each other forever. I'd rather slip away and not give them the traffic. (Right, G? :) He has read how deep my distaste can go.)

Who to tag next? Graeme, Ann, Dhanggit, dp, Aloy.

Religieuses Framboises

Raspberry Religieuse
Religieuses Framboises
(Disclaimer! That subtitle is not meant to imply that desserts are beneficial to your health! Do exercise and eat vegetables.)
It's been a while since I've made a true pâtisserie-style dessert. I've wanted to make these relgieuses for a long time since I saw them on Cake Chef and pictures of the Ladurée. They are cream puffs with delicate fillings, stacked with eclairs and other pâté a choux shapes that somewhat resemble a nun's habit (gotta love the abstract). Mini-religieuses are composed of just two stacked cream puffs. The thing is, religieuses are topped with classic (poured) fondant (different from rolled fondant, or "sugarpaste").

Did you ever think to yourself, "There's no way this is going to work. This'll fail for sure. I don't know why I'm doing this. What am I--- OMFG IT TOTALLY WORKED HAHAHA WTF?" And you end up grinning the whole day because it totally worked and it was a lot of fun in the process. That's what making classic fondant for the first time is like. If you're wondering what the advantages to making true fondant is compared to a glaze of confectioner's sugar and water, here they are:

  1. It only requires plain sugar, if you don't have icing sugar on hand.
  2. It's smoother and is never grainy if made correctly
  3. The gloss is unbeatable for professional-looking desserts.
The drawback to making religieuses is it's a little painstaking-- four components (buttercream, choux pastry, filling, and fondant), but thankfully I had spare buttercream on hand. However, I'll definitely want to make fondant again. Ready? Let's make religieuses! (Recipe follows)

Making Fondant
Classic Fondant (from The Simple Art of Perfect Baking by Flo Braker)
  • 2-1/4 cups (1 lb or 450g) granulated sugar

  • 1 cup (1/2 lb or 240g) water

  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Sprinkle a brushed aluminum (to prevent coloring the fondant gray) large sheet pan or smooth (marble) working surface with water.

Pour the water, corn syrup, and sugar in that order into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Swirl the pan to moisten the sugar. Place over low heat and stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved (5-7 minutes). When no grains are visible, stor stirring and increase the heat to medium-high. Boil until it registers 235-240°F on a candy thermometer (113-115.5°C, about 5-7 minutes-- reaches the soft ball stage: sticky and viscous like a thick pancake syrup, loses its shape when pressed). Wash down any crystals that form on the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water.

When the correct temperature is reached, dip the bottom of the pan immediately into cold water and pour the syrup into the marble surface or sheet pan. Wait a few minutes until it reaches 110°F (43°C) or warm to the touch.

Using a bench scraper or spatula, manipulate the outside portion of the syrup toward the center. You'll see air bubbles start to get trapped in the syrup. As it thickens and lightens, massage it back and forth, kneading with the scraper. Stop when it's smooth, creamy, and opaque. Scrape into a container, place a damp towel over the surface, and put a lid on it. Allow to ripen for 12 hours or refrigerate for up to a year.

To thin the fondant for pouring and glazing, use stock syrup:
  • 5 parts water by weight to

  • 8 parts sugar by weight (I used 15g water and 24g sugar, or 3-1/2 teaspoons and 5-1/2 teaspoons respectively)

Place the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until it boils: by this time all the sugar crystals have dissolved.

Place a bowl over a larger bowl filled with hot tap water (140°F or 60°C). Place your fondant in the smaller bowl and work with a rubber spatula constantly but gently until melted. Add your desired coloring and flavoring-- here I used 3 drops red food color. Take as much stock syrup and mix it into the fondant gradually to produce a thin glaze. All in all I used about 2 tablespoons stock syrup.

Pâté a Choux
Use Pichet Ong's recipe as I posted here. The difference is, you should pipe out 1-inch (top) and 2-inch (bottom) spheres. Use a wet finger to smooth out any tips sticking out the top before baking. You should be able to make at least 16 tops and 16 bottoms.

Raspberry Diplomat Cream (adapted from Pierre Hermé)
There are several ways you can approach this ingredient. If you have raspberry syrup for use in iced tea and milkshakes, I suggest that you use it in the milk and continue with the recipe as directed. If you have fresh raspberries, blitz them a bit and fold into the finished product. Use your imagination!
  • 2 cups (500g) whole milk

  • 1/2 cup (140g) frozen raspberries, at room temperature

  • 6 large egg yolks

  • 1/2 cup (100g) sugar

  • 1/3 cup (45g) cornstarch

  • 3-1/2 tablespoons (50g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 2 cups (500g) heavy cream, chilled

Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and water, and set a smaller bowl on top and place a fine-meshed strainer on it.

Bring the milk to a boil over medium heat or in a microwave oven. Pour in the raspberries. In another medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch. Slowly drizzle in a quarter of the hot raspberry milk, whisking all the while, and pour the rest of the milk in a steady stream while still whisking. Place than pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously and without stop. Bring it to a boil and keep at a boil while still whisking for 1-2 minutes. Scrape the pastry cream through the strainer into the small bowl. You can push the raspberry bits through the seive if desired. Cool the pastry cream to 140°F (60°C), and stir in the butter. Set aside until completely cool.

In another bowl, whip the cream until firm peaks form. Take a third of the cream and mix it into the raspberry pastry cream, then fold the lightened pastry cream into the whipped cream until well-combined.

Milk Buttercream (from Flo Braker)
Follow the recipe as I posted before here. You'll have a lot of leftovers. Actually, I used leftover frozen buttercream to make the religieuses. I just whipped it really well once thawed.

Load the diplomat cream into a large pastry bag fitted with a quarter-inch plain tip or slightly bigger. Poke a hole through the bottoms of the choux pastry (if you haven't already through the drying process) and fill all of them with the diplomat cream. Dip the top halves of all the choux pastry into the fondant and set aside. Load the milk buttercream into a small pastry bag fitted with a 1/8" plain tip or slightly bigger. On the 2-inch choux pastry spheres, pipe a circle about 3/4" in diameter of buttercream pearls. Set the 1-inch choux pastry spheres on top (using buttercream if the fondant has set too much to allow them to stick). Pipe pearls of buttercream on top of the 1-inch choux pastry spheres and set a nontoxic silver dragée on top of each.

01 December 2007

Red Hot Ribs

Red Hot Ribs (with title)
I was kidding again with Graeme that people who don't like spicy food are no good in bed. I suppose that's just one of those things chili fiends say to taunt those with sensitive tongues. I really have no way of telling. Maybe someone can take a poll. In any case, you can hypothesize all you want on my "abilities" (or not), but I am madly in love with spicy food. I don't, however, have a chili fetish. I acknowledge that sometimes food can have so much spice that you can no longer pay attention to any flavor (often, it will taste metallic). This is not one of those dishes, though you may be fooled by the amount of spicy things that go into it. My spice rack is now full off all sorts of heat enhancers: cayenne, Tabasco, pepper flakes, paprika, Sichuan peppers, dried peppers, and Shichimi Togarashi, so I'm always looking for new ways to use them.
Ribs before grilling
This is a pretty straightforward recipe, and I was pleasantly surprised on how tender the ribs came out. I was never in doubt on how flavorful it was going to be, however. I daresay it's a perfect way to warm up your insides when it's raining out, if you're not a soup person. It's patterned after the "Top Secret" recipes for Tony Roma's ribs, so if you're one of those people who think good old-fashioned ribs are crass, oh my God, you're on the wrong website.
These baby back pork ribs cost P175 per kilo ($4 or £1.80). For some reason they still all have the vertebral bodies, which is weird because I've never seen them still intact in restaurants, and they interfere with lying the ribs flat on one of the sides. So I have triangular ribs.

Red Hot Barbecue Sauce

  • 1 cup (300g) tomato ketchup

  • 1 cup (240g) vinegar (I used a combination of red wine and cider vinegar)

  • 1/2 cup (150g) dark corn syrup

  • 2 tablespoons molasses

  • 2 teaspoons sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced

  • 1 medium onion, diced very fine

  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika

Combine all of the ingredients very well in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat. Let it come to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Let it cool to room temperature before using as marinade.

Red Hot Ribs

1.6-1.8kg (4 lbs) baby back pork ribs (probably 2 full racks)

Have the butcher cut each full rack into 2 half-racks of about 4-6 ribs per piece to make them more manageable. You'll get 4 half-racks in all. Cut out a piece of foil for each half-rack about 6 inches longer than the meat. Coat each rack completely with barbecue sauce ideally 24 hours before cooking and wrap each piece in foil completely. Leave in the refrigerator until cooking time.

Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Lay each of the wrapped ribs on one of the oven racks, and place a sheet pan on the oven rack underneath to catch any drippings (just to save you time cleaning the oven). Bake the ribs for 2-2.5 hours, or until you see the meat shrink back from the cut end of the rib by about 1/2 inch, as seen in the picture above.

Preheat the grill to high (you shouldn't be able to stand hovering your hand over it for 10 seconds). Unwrap the ribs and coat each with more barbecue sauce liberally (you needn't worry about cross-contamination at this point as the ribs are already cooked through). Grill each rack for 2-4 minutes per side, or until you see spots of charred sauce.

Heat the remaining barbecue sauce through and serve with the ribs. Excellent.

25 November 2007

Honeycomb Canneloni

Alveolare di Canneloni al Forno
Honeycomb Canneloni Pasta (with title)
There was an article by Mark Bittman in the New York times wherein he argues that it doesn't make sense to barely moisten pasta with a scant amount of sauce. He does make a lot of sense, but I am usually (turncoat!) a member of the pasta contingent, not at all saucy. I don't like being overwhelmed by flavors, and which is how I probably ate more than my fair share of carbohydrates, which is how I got to where I am now, sadly. Well, if you're on team Bittman, I have the perfect pasta dish for you. It's once again (again) from Jamie Oliver's book Cook With Jamie, and this recipe just popped out at me while I was browsing in the store that I had to have the book. It has a beautiful recipe for this mushroom ragù that I will now share with you, with some modifications.
Honeycomb Canneloni
I think we are not an overeating lot at my house. This dish can easily serve 12 or more people here. I dare you to come up with a more gimmicky presentation for canneloni. Granted, it could stand to be more beautiful, but I ran out of sauce to fill it all the way to the top. Why? I forgot to put the carrots in. The result was a very strongly flavored sauce. D'oh. In any case, it looks smashing served in its own pot (a flimsy all-aluminum pot that I bought for P150). Highly recommended. I also made this kind of complex recipe over the span of a few days so I don't overwhelm myself. The freezer saves the day again! (Recipe follows)Honeycomb Canneloni, half-done
Jamie Oliver's Honeycomb Canneloni

Special equipment: ovenproof dish/ casserole 5 inches deep. I used a pan that was 8" in diameter.

  • 400g fresh spinach, washed very well and stems discarded

  • nutmeg for grating

  • olive oil

Roughly chop the spinach into manageable pieces (1-2" or so). In a saucepan, heat a small quantity of olive oil and add the spinach, tossing a few times and leave to wilt. Season with salt, pepper, and a grating of nutmeg. At this point you can leave it to cool, then pack it in a ziplock bag and freeze for a week if desired.
  • a small handful of dried porcini (I used Chinese white pearl mushrooms with good results)

  • 1/4 cup (60mL) olive oil

  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced finely

  • 4 ribs celery, trimmed and diced finely

  • 1 large red onion, peeled and diced finely

  • 1 leek, trimmed and outer leaves discarded, diced finely

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced finely

  • 5 medium Portobello mushrooms, chopped

  • 70 oz (4 lbs 6 oz or 2kg) good-quality canned plum tomatoes, roughly chopped

  • a large bunch fresh basil, leaves picked and stems finely chopped

In a small bowl, add the dried porcini and enough boiling water to cover and leave to soak for 5 minutes. In a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil, carrots, celery, onion, and leek. Cook for 10 minutes, then add the garlic and Portobello mushrooms. Drain the porcini, reserving the liquor, and add the porcini to the pan. Cook for 5 more minutes until all the vegetables are tender. Add the porcini liquor and 1 cup (250mL) water and allow to reduce for about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chopped basil stalks. Season with salt and pepper, then bring to a boil. Simmer for up to 45 minutes or until you have a very thick ragù. Tear in the basil leaves and give it a stir. At this point you can cool the sauce to room temperature and freeze for up to a week; however, upon defrosting you'll have to heat it up until it is actually hot (not just liquid but cold).
  • 1 cup (250g) double cream or heavy cream

  • 1 cup (250g) sour cream

  • 4 anchovy fillets in oil, drained and finely chopped

  • a handful (about 60g) of Parmesan cheese

Stir everything together, then season with salt and pepper as desired. I just added pepper as the anchovies were sufficiently salty.
  • 18 oz (500g) canneloni tubes

  • Parmesan cheese, for grating

  • olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). In your ovenproof pan, add in 1/2 of the white sauce and sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Top with the spinach evenly. Ladle in about half of the mushroom ragù and stand the canneloni tubes in it. Press down on the tubes until the bottom reaches the spinach. Spoon the rest of the ragù over the tubes and smooth it over the holes. Pour over the rest of the white sauce, sprinkle with more grated Parmesan, then drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes until golden and bubbling.

24 November 2007

Lemon Squares and Key Lime Bars

Lemon Squares and Key Lime Bars (with title)
There isn't much of a story to these bars. I saw the lemon bar in Lemon(i)Café in Boracay. I fantasized about it. I made some. I made "Key Lime" Bars for variety. They were excellent. The lemon square recipe is from The Baker's Companion (brought to you by King Arthur flour) with a few adjustments. I have to say that I didn't truly use Key Limes. In fact I may not even have used a Lime. I bought green lemons that my parents assured me were limes. I cut one up and hello, it was all yellow inside. So this recipe was delicious, but not what I had in mind, obviously. For my readers overseas, I hope to GOD you have the appropriate citrus fruits where you are. I cannot keep track of what grows where at any given time (obviously we do not usually think about such things here on the islands, except for some fruits like mangoes, avocados and strawberries).

Lemon Squares (adapted from The Baker's Companion)

  • 1-1/2 cups (175g) all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 cup (30g) confectioner's sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup or 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and chilled

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line an 8"x8", 9"x9", or 7"x11" pan with aluminum foil that is slightly longer than your pan, so you have overhangs to lift the bars out with. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and sugar and whisk to combine. Scatter the butter over the flour mixture and using a pastry blender (what I used), your fingers, or a mixer with the paddle attachment, work in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press the crumbs into the prepared pan, making sure it is roughly an equal thickness throughout (I made the mistake of not paying attention to the sides and corners, so the crust was much thicker there). Bake the crust for 20 minutes or until light brown. Cool on a rack. Don't be concerned if it cracks or is imperfect. Don't turn off the oven.
  • 4 large eggs

  • 1-1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest (from 2 large lemons)

  • 1/2 cup (120mL) lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)

  • 1/4 cup (30g) all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • confectioner's sugar for dusting

In a medium bowl, rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers; it'll turn pale yellow. Beat in the eggs, then the lemon juice. Sift the flour and salt over the surface and stir them in. Pour the topping over the hot crust and continue baking for 25 minutes or until the top appears set (it won't slosh around). Dust with confectioner's sugar before slicing into 16 squares and serving.

Key Lime Bars
  • 5 oz (140g) animal crackers or Marie biscuits

  • 3 tablespoons (38g) packed brown sugar

  • pinch of table salt

  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons or 55g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line an 8"x8" pan with aluminum foil that is slightly longer than your pan, so you have overhangs to lift the bars out with. Place the crackers in a plastic food bag but don't close it; instead twist the top loosely to avoid the crackers falling out. Smash the contents with a rolling pin or similarly heavy object until fine crumbs remain. Whisk in the salt and brown sugar to combine, then toss in the melted butter with a spatula until all the crumbs are moistened. Alternatively, in a food processor, pulse the crackers until fine crumbs remain (10 1-second pulses), then add the sugar and salt and pulse again (10 1-second pulses), then drizzle the butter over and pulse unti evenly moistened (10 1-second pulses). Press the crumbs firmly and evenly into the pan, taking care not to make the sides thicker than the center. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool on a rack. Don't turn off the oven.
  • 2 oz (60g) cream cheese, at room temperature

  • 1 tablespoon grated lime zest, minced

  • pinch of table salt

  • 1 14-oz (400mL) can sweetened condensed milk

  • 1 egg yolk

  • 2 drops green food coloring (optional)

  • 1/2 cup (120mL) fresh Key Lime or lime juice

In a medium bowl, stir the cream cheese, lime zest, and salt together until smooth and creamy. Add the condensed milk and whisk vigorously until no lumps of cream cheese remain. Whisk in the egg yolk and food coloring (if desired). Whisk the lime juice in gently. The mixture will thicken slightly. Pour into the crust and thwack on the counter to even out (use a spatula to reach the corners if needed). Bake until set and the edges start to pull away from the sides, 15-20 minutes. Cool for 2 hours at room temperature, then chill until serving (at least 2 hours). Cut into 16 squares.

22 November 2007

Fresh Greens with Strawberries and Grilled Kesong Puti

Fresh Greens with Strawberries and Grilled Kesong Puti (with title)
Right! So, my Jamie Oliver hiatus did not last long. It didn't help that I caught a glimpse of his newest show while I was in Boracay, Jamie at Home. The idea is that we ought to pay real attention about how we get our food and what's the best way to get them. Planting your own vegetables, or getting them organic, buying free-range eggs, paying attention to how the animals you eat are farmed, and paying attention to what's in season-- all subjects covered on the show. It also has an accompanying book with fantastic photographs by David Loftus, an artist I greatly admire (you may have read about Graeme's influence, Ted Tamburo). Loftus prefers shots that are high-key, with a shallow depth of field, and I try to achieve his natural looks.

Here's the theme song with lyrics (used my own ear, pardon if it's wrong):

My World by Tim Kay
I'll show you what it takes to feed my mind
While you go through reading all my signs

It was a lovely day
When everything was everywhere
And our love came into season

I didn't know you, life's little dreams you pushed aside
Can we take two to see those eyes we love to hide

At night alone in bed
With someone else's head
And our love came into season

Take time to make yourself feel good
And you do whatever you want
'Cause you can now in my world
Making up for losing so much time
'Cause you can now in my world

We want to take a little walk down this route you know
I'm not scared to, 'cause we get back, we can take it real slow

Another lovely day
When everything was everywhere
And our love came into season

Take time and make yourself feel good
And you do whatever you want
'Cause you can now in my world
Making up for losing so much time
'Cause you can now in my world

I'm gonna make you feel all right
I'm gonna make you hold on tight

Hold on tight

Take time to make yourself feel good
And you do whatever you want
'Cause you can now in my world
Making up for losing so much time
'Cause you can now in my world

Granted, Tim Kay kind of looks douche-y here and the video is all sorts of weird, but the song is quite relaxing to listen to (and I hear Tim Kay is actually a nice guy). It pretty much gets me in the mood to roll up my sleeves and start planting my own relatively rare crops, like strawberries, arugula, beans, and some flowers. Till I remember the dumb labor we went through in Plant Physiology class, sterilizing buckets of soil (to remove any pathogen that might kill the plants), making mineral mixes, and waiting forever for flimsy plants to grow. Yikes. So for now, I'm content browsing through numerous groceries for whatever's fresh. And when I saw these local strawberries for cheap at Unimart, I knew exactly what to do with them after watching one of Oliver's shows.
You will need:
  • 200g (8oz) fresh strawberries

  • balsamic vinegar

  • olive oil

  • 100g (3.5oz) kesong puti or any soft cheese, like halloumi or goat's milk cheese

  • a small handful of basil leaves

  • a small handful of mint

  • mixed fresh greens

  • half a lemon's juice

  • a few rashers bacon, speck, or thinly sliced prosciutto, Parma ham, or pancetta-- I dunno, go wild!

Trim and slice the strawberries into halves (quarters for larger ones). In a small bowl, toss them with a generous splash of balsamic vinegar and leave to macerate while you prepare the salad.

In a skillet, fry the bacon (in its own fat if you have a nonstick skillet) over high heat until just lightly browned-- you want it to still be flexible. Set aside. Cut up the cheese into thick slices (I made 4 slices from 100g) and press a basil leaf into the face of each. Set them face-down onto the hot pan you've fried the bacon in. Wait one minute, and the face should be nice and browned and the leaf fixed to it. Flip them over and brown the other side. Set the cheese slices aside.

To the strawberries, add a splash of olive oil and lemon juice. Add the greens and toss to dress them.

To plate it elegantly, arrange the cheese slices on a plate and mound some strawberries in the middle. Tear a few basil and mint leaves on top of the strawberries. Arrange a few greens on top and drape a slice of bacon around the top artfully. Top with some more greens. You can weigh it down with a strawberry if the leaves keep flopping around. Drizzle with some more balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Fresh and easy!

20 November 2007

Boracay Trip (November 2007)

Boracay - Boats in Aklan
(Conversion rates: P43=$1, P96=£1) I've said before that I'm not a "beach-y" person. It's all that sun, sticky, sweaty, sand, and heat that turn me off. Plus, I can't swim and I'm very self-conscious. BUT, it doesn't take a whole lot to make me smile, so even with all those things I dislike, I found myself quite enjoying Boracay (in a wholesome way). The breathtaking atmosphere somehow melted my icy insides. All it took was P6,500 for a round-trip ticket from Manila to Aklan, which took all of 35 minutes on Seair. After that, there's about P90 for various fees and a boat to take you to the island of Boracay. From boarding the plane to stepping on the resort, that's 1.5 hours.
Boracay - me on a boat
That's me on a boat, wearing flip-flops and shorts outdoors, without my contact lenses, without any product on my hair. Super-rare.
Boracay - 2 Seasons
The first hotel we stayed in was The 2 Seasons. It's a relatively new resort and I was extremely impressed by the amenities. In the family rooms, as you'll see in the upper-right corner, a door opens directly into a shallow pool, perfect for kids. The television has Discovery: Travel and Living, so I enjoyed a tiny bit of Jamie at Home. Haha. This is really the kind of hotel you can spend the whole day in just curled up in bed, but of course that's not the point of Boracay. Anyway, they must not have ironed up the kinks in the kitchen, because breakfast took forever to arrive and wasn't even anything spectacular. Family room rate at the time was P13,000 a night. That's four queen-sized beds, so you can bring your spouse, 4 small kids, and both sets of grandparents. There are smaller rooms for less of course.
Boracay - 2 Seasons transition
Here's part of the dining area that transitions into the beach.
Boracay - D'Mall
Here's D'Mall, where you'll find the market, the grocery, various beach-oriented shops if you've forgotten to pack trunks or something, and restaurants of every persuasion. The grocery was weirdly stocked-- imported items that are extremely rare in Manila, like Bird's Custard, canned Spotted Dick, and Marmite. It even has 2 delis for any resident gourmets.
Boracay - Dining set-up
The restaurants nearest the beach transition into it like this, but we'll get to the food later. I imagine this is what those resort towns in Jamaica might be like (the Jamaican influence on the design of the island is very obvious).
Boracay - Fake "Kiss"
Here's a re-imagined "The Kiss" by Klimt at one of the shops. I think it cost P22,000. Why?
Boracay - The Tides
This is just after the reception of The Tides, a resort located within D'Mall. I didn't go in any of the rooms, but it looks good enough...
Boracay - Willy's
Here's Willy's, the second hotel we stayed in. Not as decadent as The 2 Seasons, but as far as hotels named after penises go, it's quite a hoot. Just kidding. It's perfectly fine, but we get a few very short power outages during the day for some unknown reason. I think it taxes the air conditioner.
Boracay - Willy's room rates
Here's Willy's very reasonable rates. Probably a benchmark for the rest of the businesses.
Boracay - Sands at Discovery Shores
Boracay - Sands at Discovery Shores menu
Now time for DA FOOD! This is the Sands Restaurant at Discovery Shores hotel. I'm quite embarrassed so I didn't want to go all-out despite the fact that someone treated us. I ate a crabmeat ravioli in a light tomato broth, which I didn't publish the picture of because food under ambient light looks like shit. But it was very good considering I pigged out at a buffet earlier and didn't want to overeat again.
Boracay - Hawaiian BBQ
Boracay - Hawaiian BBQ menu
We had lunch at Hawaiian Barbeque. The sauce was of course pineapple juice-and ketchup-based, and really good and hearty. The prices are reasonable too.
Boracay - Real Coffee
We had dessert at Real Coffee, a small cafe managed by an American woman. The Calamansi (Philippine lemon) cupcake costs P45. It's a very fragrant butter cake which is deceptively light. Beware, figures.
Boracay - Jonah's shake
All my friends told me I had to drink a fruit smoothie at Jonah's Shakes. The prices are P75 for simple shakes and P90 for more complex ones. This is one of the simple Banana-Chocolate shakes. Yum! A complex one, for example, would be Banana-Chocolate-Peanut.
Boracay - Lemon(i)Cafe
Boracay - Lemon(i)Cafe menu
My brother and I had brunch (without breakfast or lunch) at Lemon(i)Cafe since I was feeling stuffed by eating one meal after another. Consequently, I had a tuna sandwich with egg curry. My first instinct was to have a steak sandwich. They gave me a choice to have it well-done or just seared. Unfortunately my allergies deterred me from eating rare fish, which I bet would have tasted better. I'm not even a fan of tuna, I was just tired of eating meat. Regardless, I still enjoyed the sandwich and my brother obviously enjoyed his big breakfast platter. They have a good-looking dessert tray which we did not dig into. Giant lemon bars! I must make those one of these days.
Boracay - the beach
Sooo.... That is a short summary of my trip in pictures. If you have any more questions about Boracay, don't hesitate to e-mail me, though I'm obviously not an expert. I can ask other people, you know. It was definitely one of those things you had to do when you're in the Philippines, and I don't regret it one bit (thank you, Coppertone sunblock!). And this is coming from a beach-hater.
Boracay - my feet on the beach
My gloriously hairy shins in the water.
I guess every now and then, you have to get something in between your toes.