Recipes


Like these Eggnog cookies we baked the other night. They were a big hit in this house, as the fast-emptying cookie plates can attest.  They are real easy to make and fast too as the dough does not need any refrigeration.Which means we did not have to wait around for hours but could satisfy our cravings almost immediately.

To make these tasty treats you need to get together:

2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

a pinch of salt

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup eggnog

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large egg yolks

3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature and cubed

1 and 1/4 cup white sugar

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 300F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl beat together the sugar and butter until light and creamy. Mix in the egg yolks, eggnog and vanilla on medium until nice and smooth. Gently fold in the remaining ingredients until everything is just combined.

Drop teaspoonfuls onto the cookie sheets about 1 inch apart. You can sprinkle some ground nutmeg or cinnamon over the cookies if you like. Bake it for about 20 minutes and remember to rotate halfway through. Remove from the oven and transfer the paper to a wire rack to cool. The cookies are very soft when removed from the oven, but they set a little more once removed

Alexander created an eggnog frosting the next day to drizzle over our second batch of cookies for some added decadence. Just cream a little softened butter with powdered sugar and mix in a little eggnog, then drizzle over cooled cookies.

These cookies has a delightful chewy texture and are great on their own or accompanied by some warm milk or hot chocolate.

Told you I was going to get into the season. I found this recipe for cranberry and oatmeal cookies on Martha Stewart’s website and Alexander suggested we bake it to serve with the pumpkin pie as part of his dad’s late Thanksgiving dinner for the family (we were stuck in Thailand for the holiday).

As we’re back in a house with a fully stocked kitchen there was no need to rush around trying to find ingredients and I got to work right away. Sweet!

For the cookie dough you should collect:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons milk

2 large eggs

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 cups oats

1 cup dried cranberries (I used half a cup cranberries and half a cup chopped almonds)

The process:

Start the process at least 2-3 hours before you want to bake it as the dough needs to be refrigerated.

Whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and soda in a medium-sized bowl and set aside. Whisk together the milk, eggs and vanilla extract in a small bowl and set aside. Combine the butter (cut into smaller pieces) and the sugar in a mixing bowl with the mixer on low (if you use a mixer without paddle attachment) or medium (if you have the paddle attachment) until it is light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, gradually add the milk mixture until well-combined. Next add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Finally stir in the remaining ingredients and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours.

When it’s time to start baking, preheat the oven to 350F (yes I am in the US now and trying to convert). Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape 2 tablespoons of dough into a ball and place them about 3 inches apart on the cookie sheets. Martha suggests flattening them with the bottom of a glass, but we used the spoon to kind of flatten them, which gives them more of a home-made look me thinks.

Finally, bake the cookies for about 16  minutes (or less, my first batch burnt a little on the underside). Remember to rotate the baking sheets halfway through so they bake evenly. When baked, transfer the cookies with the paper to wire racks to cool and serve.

As I only remembered to start baking halfway through the fantastic turkey dinner, the cookies were still warm and fresh when they were served along with the pumpkin pie. In retrospect I found that I added double the cinnamon and salt! Luckily it did not ruin the cookies and they tasted pretty good, in fact, I thing the extra cinnamon made the cookies even better.

And they were even better the next morning with some soy nog!

Oh! My efforts to get more seasonal was rewarded this morning with the first snow of winter. It did not exactly stick, but it looked pretty drifting down and had me quite excited.

I am a bit of a Grinch. The season usually does not appeal to me and I’ve spent numerous holiday seasons grumbling about Christmas music, television commercials, red everywhere and family gatherings. My friend Nicole, who is a slave to the season, has tried to convert me while we were living in Taiwan and came pretty close in 2005. Since then I spent one Christmas in warm and sunny Hoedspruit and another in hot and polluted Bangkok, so I did not see any reason to celebrate.

This year, however, is different. I am spending Christmas in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Outside it is all wintry and freezing cold. There is the promise of a little snow. We drink warm drinks and dress up snuggly. All the colors of Christmas seem right. Alexander loves Christmas, so I am trying to get into the spirit. A little reluctantly, but it’s coming on. To help me get into the spirit, Alexander suggested we attempt a variety of Christmas baking and cooking. Smart Alexander.

Friday evening we had dinner at his sister’s and they decided we were going to make peppermint bark. Something I’ve never heard of before but it sounded good. I started off assisting in the process, unwrapping candy canes, but got distracted by X’s fourteen month old niece, so the first of our Christmas-cooking was done by Alexander and his sister. This recipe belongs to the two of them.

To make peppermint bark you need to pick up:

1 pound white chocolate for baking (get good quality white chocolate!)

12 candy canes

The process:

Crush the candy canes into small pieces, about a 1/4 inch. Cut the chocolate into chunks and melt in a double boiler. Turn off the heat and stir in most of the candy cane bits, reserving some for decorating. Pour the chocolate mix onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Sprinkle the rest of the candy cane on top and refrigerate for about 40-50 minutes until set. When it’s all set, crack it into pieces and serve. Heaven!

We enjoyed several pieces each and had a hard time restraining ourselves not to eat all of it in one go. And I am already getting more excited about Christmas, thinking of other things to make. Yes, my Grinch-heart is slowly warming to Christmas. If only someone could get the stores to stop playing Winter Wonderland.

Months ago now, when we were still living out of built-in-closets in our own apartment, I baked some mocha brownies. The recipe came form a brownie book I got from my friend Nicole for my birthday this year. It was the kind of gift that had both Alexander and myself pretty excited, full of varieties on the standard brownie and beautifully illustrated.

Alexander took some pictures for me, so that I had something baking-related to blog about while on the road, or on the seas actually. I completely forgot about them though, until I was going through some old pictures yesterday and happened upon the folder containing these pictures. It made me miss the kitchen and long for a home with an oven and a pantry shelve with tins containing sugar, flour, salt, baking powder, chocolate chips, sprinkles, vanilla… you get the idea.

I wish I were able to share the recipe with you, as these brownies were terribly delicious with a slight crust and fudge-like layer inside, but the book is in some box, either in South Africa, or already there. If it is not in the box that may be lost. Blah!


It’s actually really easy to make mocha brownies though. Take any regular brownie recipe and mix in a small amount of strong black coffee, about a tablespoon. I also made a chocolate sauce mixing cream, dark chocolate chips and another tablespoon of black coffee. I like my brownies crunchy on the outside and gooey inside, so I always increase the amount of chocolate and make sure I remove the brownies from the oven once the crust seems hardened. Easy!

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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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After a bowl of muesli with yogurt and fresh fruit, my favorite breakfast meal is danbing. Its something I discovered when I first came to Taiwan and fell very much in love with. Danbing literally means egg-pancake and it is, literally, an egg pancake. An egg is fried on a hot griddle, almost like an omelet, a crispy pancake is added on top and then flipped over to grill the pancake. A filling of bacon, cheese, tuna or chicken is often added before the whole thing gets rolled up and served with thick soy sauce. Delicious!

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The pancakes for making danbing can be found at just about any grocer in Taiwan, and so I decided to try my own version for breakfast I chopped up some tomatoes, garlic and mushrooms, wrapped it up in aluminum and cooked in the oven for a few minutes. In a bowl I mixed eggs, salt and pepper and some shredded basil leaves and then fried it, like an omelet, before placing a frozen pancake sheet on top and flipping it all over. I let the pancake grill for a few seconds, added the filling, rolled it up and served it.

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Simple, easy and tasty. Now if only I could find a place in Cape Town who sold the pancakes!

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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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