Dessert


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This is probably one of the wrong-est things I have ever made. And it will also be the last thing I make for the HHDD challenge for a long time. Or anything else in a kitchen for that matter. I will probably only have access again to one again around December, but more about that in another entry.

Suzanna of Home Gourmets, winner of the Tiramisu challenge, picked pancakes as the task for this round. To me, pancakes seemed quite a challenge! Sure it seems simple, but I think that is where the big challenge lies, making something so simple interesting and fresh.

While worrying about everything that needs to prepared for the next big move, I was racking my brain about what to do for this challenge. I thought I could try to draw some inspiration from where I live again, but I’ve done that for the Choux round.

On Thursday we went to Vanilla Industry for coffee and I decided to try the vanilla crepe cake. As I was enjoying the layers of pancake and vanilla spread I thought, maybe I will not exactly make pancakes, but make a cake out of pancakes! A Nutella pancake-cake covered in sweet and rich almond flavored cream. So there is a good chance I completely missed the plot here, but I had fun. And its very very decadent.

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Here’s what I did.

For the pancakes you need:

2 cups (250 g) plain flour, sifted

3 tsp baking powder, sifted

1/3 cup (85 g) caster sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 cup (375 ml) milk

75 g butter, melted

pinch of salt

For the filling you will need:

a jar of Nutella

2 cups whipping cream

2 cups caster sugar

1 teaspoon almond essence

The pancake process:

Mix together the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another, combing them in the end and mixing well. I made the batter a little thinner to create a more crepe-like pancake. I also added some brown food coloring to the last third of the batter to make some darker pancakes. Cook the pancakes in a heated pan, slightly greased, and let them cool.

The filling process:

I whipped up the cream, essence and sugar until it was thick enough to serve as ‘icing’ for the cake. The I spread Nutella on the lighter pancakes and layer two light ones topped with a darker one. Spread a thin layer of the cream on the this one and cover with two Nutella spread ones again. Continue with this process and top it with a dark pancake. Cover the rest of the cake with a thick layer of cream and carefully move to the fridge to set. When the cake has set, slice and serve.

A warning, not that it’s not obvious I think, but this is extremely rich and heart-attack inducing. I think I actually gained weight while making it. Enjoy!

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On a completely separate note. Yesterday, after coffee, Alexander and I were walking around Siam Paragon when a girl approached us. It turns out she is a reader of both our blogs! Thanks for saying hi, it meant a lot to us even though we were both so surprised that we did not even ask your name or chatted a bit more. And thanks for reading!

And thank you to Alexander for the pictures.

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Pudding seems to be a bit of a national obsession here in Taiwan. It’s something that I was only vaguely aware of when I lived here. Kids bringing little cups of pudding to school to snack on, pudding being added to milk tea, and pudding popsicles. But I never thought about it much until my ever-aware boyfriend pointed out how it is everywhere. Pudding drinks at 7/11, notebooks with pudding cartoon characters, pudding on shaved ice, pudding candy. It is literally everywhere!

So when I decided to bake some muffins inspired by something local I did not spend a long time pondering inspiration. It was going to be pudding muffins. Which turned out to be more like cupcakes, and they looked horrible to be quite honest. So I’m going to be very honest with you here, I did a lot editing on these in Photoshop.

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As I have not had time to bake them again and perfect my recipe I decided to only blog the images for now.

I used a lemon poppy seed muffin recipe, but did not add enough pudding flavoring, so they ended up being very plain. I also attempted to make brown food coloring for the tops by mixing red and green, or red and blue, I forget, and it came out looking rather gray. That is where the editing came in handy.

After baking and cooling the muffins I cut off the tops and turned them upside down to resemble the popular local pudding.

I know this is being very lazy of me, editing pictures, not posting a proper recipe and all that. But I promise I will make amends and bake them again and make them look real pretty and have everything ready right from the start and blog a decent recipe with un-edited pictures soon, maybe!

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It’s almost HHDD deadline time again, all things choux this time, and for a moment there I thought I was not going to make it. But here I am, right on the cut-off date again, with my entry.

As with the clafoutis this was a new challenge for me and one I really wanted to try. Every time I ever bit into an eclaire or profiterole I thought to myself that it must be a really tricky process to create something so decadent and rich, yet light and airy.

But Suzanne, decided to prove me wrong. Making the choux dough necessary for these kinds of pastries takes a little time, but the ingredients are really simple and easy to work with. I was pleasantly surprised to see the first batch taking shape in the oven and retaining their puff after I removed them. Well most of them, I became a bit to excited after a while and disregarded Suzanne’s suggestion to leave it in a little longer, ensuring they do not slowly deflate after being removed. Yes, lessons are being learned.

I decided to stick to the original Donna Hay recipe, as slightly amended by our host (adding about 3 additional tablespoons of flour) and create profiteroles. For the filling I took inspiration from some local ingredients and sweets.

Kaffir lime is a flavoring used in numerous Thai dishes. The leaves are used to flavor soups and salads, while the fruit’s rind gets used in the making of numerous curry pastes. The fruit yields no juice, oddly enough, so only the rind and leaves are used. Thai iced tea can be found at any coffee and tea stand on the streets of Bangkok and is a refreshing rich and sweet drink, creamsicle orange in color. Pandanus is a kind of palm leaf that is used a s flavoring in lots of Thai sweets and desserts. Some call it an Asian vanilla. A simple but fairly representative collection of regional favorites.

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To make the choux for the profiteroles you need only 4 ingredients:

1cup water

100g unsalted butter

3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons flour, sifted

5 eggs

For the filling you will need:

2 cups pouring cream, whipped

1/3 cup icing sugar

1/4 teaspoon pandanus essence

1/2 teaspoon grated kaffir lime rind

1/2 teaspoon instant Thai tea powder

The process:

Preheat the oven to 180C and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bring the water and butter to a boil over high heat in a saucepan. Slowly add the flour, making sure clumps do not form. Continue stirring over low heat until the dough leaves the sides of the pan. Pour this into a mixer or mixing bowl and mix with an electric mixer on high, adding the eggs one at a time. Make sure each egg is completely mixed in before adding the next. Keep on mixing until the dough resembles very thick mayonnaise.

Spoon the dough into a piping bag with a 12mm plain nozzle (if you do not have one, a Ziploc bag with a hole cut to size in one of the corners works just as well) and pipe about 2cm rounds onto your prepared baking sheets. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and puffy. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

While the baking is taking place, add the icing sugar to the cream and mix it through. Divide this into thirds and add a flavoring to each. When the pastry has cooled, cut open and spoon generous helpings of the flavored cream into them. Not all into one of course, that may be a bit too weird.

I added some simple icing as topping to the tea and kaffir lime ones. I mixed a bit of icing sugar and milk together, divided it and add some powdered tea to one half. Mainly for some color on top of the profiteroles. The rest I kept plain and brushed it over the tops of the lime roles with thinly sliced slivers of kaffir lime leaves on top. The pandanus ones I bound with thin strips of fresh pandanus leaf.

They tasted great. So said my only loyal taster (not that he has much choice). The puffs were firm, yet airy, and the creamy fillings subtly flavored in a few of the tastes of my current home.

Phew, in goes my entry for this edition- Choux!

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Note- Thank you again to Alexander for the great pictures of my baking.

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I was going to do a recipe blog of this fabulous and decadent South African treat, but between a cat lost and found oceans away from here, a bag that needed finishing and preparing for a visit and two days on Ko Samet I did not get to any of that. So for the recipe I followed, go visit Jeanne’s site, Cooksister. She did a fine job of blogging about it and to her goes all the credit for how great mine came out (my boyfriend’s words- not mine!).

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I made two tarts, but there was not enough dulce de leche for the second tart, so I whipped up some more cream and mixed in some peppermint essence and peppermint crisp for a truly sinful topping.

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Now we are off for two days on Ko Samet. All this holidaying recently have kept us busy and we need a break! I finally finished my sister’s bag that I’ve been promising her for about 7 months and will take it with for a shoot. Expect some pictures next week.

Where has the time gone? We’re leaving for Hanoi on Friday and somehow it feels like there are loads of things I still have to finish before then.

One of them is to mention that I received the sweetest prize package from Joey last week and have been experimenting with some adobo recipes. Adobo is the national dish of the Philippines, and I now know why. It’s delicious. There are a myriad varieties on the dish and you can make it using almost any kind of meat or vegetables.

I made one adobo with chicken and another with fish and what was fascinating is how some of the flavors were similar to those used in Thai cooking, yet it tastes completely different. Blending coconut milk in a stew with a little vinegar and some pepper is a sure winner!

Besides Filipino dinners I also tried my hand at some dessert. I made a crazy rich and creamy rice crispy ice cream which can easily be done without using an ice-cream maker. Very simple but really tasty!

I feel I should be sharing the recipes, but I also feel like my head is spinning with everything that needs to be done in the next two days. So I’m just going to share some pictures of…

…the coconut chicken adobo…

… the fish adobo…

… and the ice-cream. It looks a bit wobbly, but it was yummy!

In other news… I’ll be posting the roundup to HHDD on Friday before leaving. Even though entries closed on Monday I will accept some late entries until tomorrow 12PM my time (GMT +7 hours). Entries should be emailed to me at bordeaux76@gmail.com.

Here’s what we had for dinner.

Peanut butter curry with sweet potatoes, broccoli, and brown rice noodles. I’m not going to tell you how I made it though because (pick the correct answer):

a) It’s a family secret.

b) I actually have no idea.

c) I’m being selfish.

For dessert we had All-American Brownies (according to the recipe I used) and ice-cream. Usually I leave the task of making brownies to Alexander who is an ace brownie maker (he uses this same recipe that he got from his mom). Today, however, was the first time I made brownies, and because I cannot think of any good reason not to, I will share this recipe.

To make All-American Brownies, Bordeaux style, you will need:

1 quarter stick butter

6 (not 2) pieces of unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped into pieces

1 cup white sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

salt (which I forgot to add, so actually don’t bother with it)

2 small Toblerone bars

Make:

Preheat the over to 180C and prepare an oven pan or bread pan, I used a silicone bread pan. Melt the butter and chocolate over medium heat. Let it cool for a couple of minutes and stir in the sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time and mix. Add the flour. When everything is mixed, add some chopped bits of the Toblerone. Pour into the pan. Stick some Toblerone onto the mixture and bake for about 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out… clean! Cool, cut, gobble up.

The original recipe, as you may have guessed did not call for any Toblerone. So now you may ask why oh why do you always have to go and throw Toblerone into just about any sweet thing you ever make? The reason is simple, one can never get enough Toblerone. Never. I have a friend who does not care much for it. But I think she has problems. As for me, I love it.

It’s natillas!

Visiting Alexander’s family in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last year I got so excited about all the mouth-watering New Mexican dishes that for Christmas they sent me this exciting and instructive cook book with recipes from their home state.

It gives a history of NM cooking and includes a wide variety of recipes to reflect the state’s rich cultural heritage, from green chili to moussaka. Awesome! I started using it the moment I opened it and experimented with quite a few recipes like the signature New Mexican green chili (I love this stuff), chili rejenos, Navajo fry bread and green chili enchiladas. All lip-smacking goodness.

Yesterday I tried my hand at natillas, a custard dessert with a Spanish origin. Alexander told me he has a great aunt who used to make really delectable natillas, so I was a nervous about how my efforts would come out.

Oh, but no fear was necessary. It came out just lovely. A rich, pale yellow custard that begged to be savored and eaten in large quantities. Mmm, give me more of that!

So here is how you make natillas, and you really should try it. It’s decadent!

Collect:

500ml full cream milk

4 eggs, separated

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

nutmeg to garnish

Make:

Mix the egg yolks, one cup of the milk and flour well and set aside.

Pour the rest of the milk into a saucepan with the sugar and salt and scald, stirring constantly so the sugar dissolve.

Remove from heat and gradually stir it into the egg yolk mixture. Return to low and heat and stir constantly until the mixture is thick and creamy.

Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and set aside to cool. In the meantime, beat the egg whites until they are stiff, but not dry. Fold them into the cooled mixture. Pour it all into a bowl, sprinkles with some nutmeg and chill (it) before serving.

When eating, make sure you scrape your bowl properly to let none of this goodness go to waste.

Suggestions and tips for making natillas:

– The recipe book suggested it should take about 30 minutes for the mixture to thicken, but on our gas stove and in the wok it took about 10 minutes, so watch it carefully.

– You can decorate your servings natillas with some sprinkles or some more nutmeg and I am certain that dropping some chocolate shavings would add to the attraction.

My friend Nicole’s visit was sadly cut short by one day when she realized yesterday afternoon that she was off to Greece a whole 24 hours earlier than she originally thought. It was a pleasure entertaining her at our new home and exploring a new island while she was here.

We visited tiny Koh Si Chang last weekend. It was the ideal weekend getaway, only 3-4 hours travel by boat and bus, not at all frequented by loads of tourists, fresh seafood and and a perfectly relaxed island atmosphere. My highlight food wise was the fried squid and cashew nut. A satisfying mixture of sweet and salty flavors and chewy and crunchy textures!

Monday night we finally got around to Suan Lum night bazaar near Lumphini Park. After finding out how to dodge the tacky tourist stalls we all left with new wardrobe items- a new T and funky work shirt for Alexander, a fall jacket for Nic and a T-shirt for myself.

We traveled by public boats on the klong (Bangkok’s canals) to Banglamphu on Tuesday, where we had yet another pleasing and inexpensive meal at Roti Mataba and browsed around the stores and shops on Phra Athit.

For great pictures and some more about the past week, Alexander photographed and documented our trip to Koh Si Chang and Roti Mataba.

On to cooking. We planned to go out hunting for a mythical Ethiopian restaurant last night and then I would have cooked for Nic tonight, but we had to change our plans a bit and so I decided to cook last night before she left. I had been planning a bit of a menu throughout the day, so i just had to pick up a couple of items from the store and I was ready to start dinner.

Unfortunately for me we got hit by an enormous storm last night and preparing dinner did not go as smoothly as I had hoped. Having the kitchen on the open balcony meant that the wind kept on dumping buckets of rain over everything and I had to wait until it was less windy before I could do anything. But finally I did manage to get the cooking done, even though I still got a bit wet.

Our dinner consisted of a grilled tofu salad with cashew and cilantro pesto (my own creations!) and chicken kebabs on lemon grass skewers with a satay sauce. For dessert we had ice cream with crushed sesame and peanut brittle.

It all came out lovely, even if I have to say so myself.

Grilled Marinated Tofu Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Cilantro and Cashew Nut Pesto

There are kind of two recipes falling under the heading of this salad, first the tofu then pesto. In the end they all contribute to one salad. I’ll try not to make it too confusing.

Gather around:

a block of firm tofu

6 red cherry tomatoes

For the marinade:

juice of one lime

fish sauce

soft brown sugar

green lettuce leaves for garnish

For the pesto:

a handful of cashewnuts

3 small garlic cloves, minced

a bunch of fresh cilantro

olive oil

Make:

Slice the tofu into about .1 inch thick slices.

For the marinade- mix the lime juice, a teaspoon of sugar and a splash of fish sauce in a bowl or container (I believe it should be non-metallic) put the slices of tofu and toss to coat. Cover and refrigarate for about an hour.

While you are marinating the tofu, start on the pesto.

Put the cashew nuts, garlic and cilantro into a blender or food processor and chop lightly. Add a tablespoonful or so of olive oil and blend just a little more so you have a chunky pesto. Note that I made this on a whim and therefore did not take correct measurements into calculation. I just went with what I hoped would work and it came out pretty good.

Line a platter (or in our case a plate) with the lettuce leaves and slice the cherry tomatoes into rounds and set aside.

Remove the tofu from the fridge after an hour and grill quickly over low heat in a griddle pan, a couple of seconds on each side. Place the grilled tofu on a bed of lettuce, put one or two slices of the tomato on the tofu and top it off with a little pesto on each slice.

Not only did it look pretty, it was also very tasty and light.

Chicken Kebabs on Lemon Grass Skewers

This turned out to be a very easy dish, much easier than my first attempt using minced pork.

Collect:

500g chicken mince

1 long red chili

3 stalks lemon grass, trimmed to fit into a pan and halved lenghtwise

sesame oil

Make:

Seed the chili and thoroughly mince it. Mix the chili in with the chicken mince until it is well combined. Shape the chicken into 6 balls and place it on a cutting board, flatten the balls slightly and place the lemon grass stalks onto the balls, the chicken should be about at the middle of the stalks. Fold the chicken over the stalks and flatten the top slightly. Brush the chicken with some sesame oil.

Heat some sesame oil in a pan over a moderately high heat.

Put the kebabs into the pan and cook until ready to be eaten and serve on the lemon grass skewers.

What I love about this dish is that it is super simple and tasty, the meat really gets infused with the fragrant lemon grass.

Ice Cream with Chopped Peanut and Sesame Brittle

This dessert is really easy to make but tasted quite yummy. Sadly the ice cream was very soft, I tried to find a ‘harder’ ice cream at the grocer, but for some reason they were all really soft and not even my freezer helped.

You’ll need:

vanilla ice cream

peanut and sesame brittle

Make:

Break bits of the brittle off and throw it into a food processor or blender. Chop until fine but still a little chunky. Mix about 3/4 this with the ice cream and serve, sprinkled with the rest of the chopped brittle.

Yum.

Suggestions:

– adjust to your liking, add or subtract a bit here and there, have fun.

Bananas abound in Bangkok. Everywhere you go you can find giant fresh bunches of green and yellow bananas being sold. You can have it in pancakes, with French toast, peeled, skewered and barbequed on the street, in rotis prepared on the soi’s of Banglamphu, in desserts, shakes, muffins and bread.

Last weekend I found out that there are about nineteen banana varieties in Thailand, although I don’t want to be quoted on this as I may have heard wrong I could easily believe it. We even discovered plantains at the Klong Toey market we visited last weekend. I first had them prepared for me by Alexander in LA and am now looking forward to having it again now that we found it here.

Before we hop on the bus towards our weekend destination, Koh Si Chang Island, I thought of posting this banana dessert I prepared recently and thought a very decadent success.

Banana in Coconut Milk with Cinnamon

We prepared the very popular and seasonal fresh mango with coconut milk and sticky rice at the Thai Farm Cooking School in Chiang Mai and I decided to add some elements of this dessert plus one or two other ideas to my version of their bananas with coconut milk.

The original recipe calls for one cup of coconut milk, half a cup of water, one tablespoon of sugar, two ripe bananas- sliced into thick chunks, and a pinch of salt. Mine calls for some additional ingredients: an inch of cinnamon stick (thanks to Speedhakoo who supplies me with fresh sticks from Madagascar), half a cup of sticky rice, and vanilla ice cream.

Preparing the dessert is simple. Pour the coconut milk into a pot and heat it over medium heat until it begins to boil. Add the banana, sugar and cinnamon and cook until soft. Remove the cinnamon stick and add just a pinch of salt. Scoop some ice cream and a spoonful of sticky rice into a dessert bowl and pour some of the coconut milk sauce and banana over it and serve.

It turned out to be quite a decadently rich dessert, considering all the ingredients, but one has to go over the top every now and then.

Suggestions for making bananas in coconut milk:
– for two people I suggest halving the recipe, a whole cup of coconut milk could be a bit much.
– a splash of dark rum wouldn’t hurt!
– an attractive serving suggestion would be to add a piece of cinnamon stick to the dish.
– the sticky rice I picked up from a sweet lady selling Thai desserts in bags from a street side table on the way home. If finding sweet sticky rice is going to be tricky, you could probably also use tapioca.
– of course both the ice cream and sticky rice are optional, but it does add a little something to an otherwise very liquid-y dessert