Monday, October 29, 2007

end of month in sight...

Usually, I'd be excitedly posting the monthly Daring Baker's challenge at this time of the month. Unfortunately, a recent existential/career crisis has catapulted my schedule into disarray, thus not allowing me to devote much time into my cooking/baking hobby (or really, anything else outside work). I'm kicking myself for missing this one out because it sounds like such a fun and delicious challenge, our Mary's Bostini Cream Pie! Sighs...

I guess all that I can do for now is to admire my fellow DBers' creations from afar and salivate over their pies. Check them out here!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

(Slightly) Devilish Angel Food Cake

A friend recently experienced a health episode that severely limits his fat intake. It doesn't sound that bad because most of us can and really should do that anyway, for health reasons. Being a bit of a chocaholic, it has been difficult for him to find a chocolate dessert that he can enjoy without giving him stomach pain. In order to help him out a bit and as a great excuse to bake, I made chocolate angel food cake!

I've made plain angel food cake before and it was perfect with a dollop of cream and fresh strawberries. However, I remember thinking that it was quite plain so adding some chocolate flavor to it will be quite awesome, no? Comprising of mostly egg whites, sugar and flour, angel food cake is a relatively healthy dessert. To make it, you start by beating 12 egg whites with sugar until it is stiff before folding in the other dry ingredients. It also takes quite a long time to bake: 60 whole minutes, but it is so worth it!
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My chocolate angel food cake turned out beautifully moist and had this crackly, crisp crust on the top that was so addictive! I wonder if I can bake angel food cake in a sheet pan instead so that there would be more of the crackly crisp crust? Have any of you done that before?
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Recipe for Chocolate Angel Food Cake

12 egg whites
1/4 teasp. salt
1 1/4 teasp. cream of tartar
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 confectioner's sugar
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teasp. vanilla extract

First, preheat your oven to 325 deg. F.

Mix the confectioner's sugar, cake flour and cocoa powder. Sift this dry mixture at least once.

In a large clean bowl, whip egg whites with salt and cream of tartar until slightly stiff. Continue to beat while adding granulated sugar 2 tablespoons at a time until egg whites are very stiff.

Fold in the flour/sugar/cocoa mixture until just incorporated.

Mix in the vanilla.

Bake for 60 minutes or until cake springs back when touched.

Bon appetit!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Brownie trio: PB, hazelnuts and plain Jane...

A friend hosted a totally awesome party this past weekend, where she made scrumptious pork-filled Filipino spring rolls among other things. It was a fun-filled event with a lot of horsing around the karaoke Magic mike, the Nintendo Wii console and hangin' out. I decided that any great par-tay needs chocolate, so I contributed a trio of brownies. As usual, I got the basic recipe from Allrecipes. I've tried the brownie recipe once before and it was immensely popular among my friends, so I used the same recipe again with slight modifications.

To make the trio brownies, I followed the recipe for the brownie batter. The modifications I made were only to the topping/filling. One-third of the brownie got a drizzling of creamy peanut butter on top before baking; the second third had chopped hazelnuts in the bottom and top of the batter; and the last third is plain jane!
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The brownies baked up beautifully and I left it in the oven for the lower range of baking time. I find that for cookies and brownies (especially brownies!), underbaking tends to yield better-textured goodies than overbaking. It gives the baked goods an ooeey-gooeeyer mouth feel that most people enjoy. Then again, there are some who prefer drier, snappier cookies but hey, to each his own, right?Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

For easy snacking during the party, I cut up the brownie trio to individual bite-size portions. Here's a shout out to Mark and Frances, the host and hostess with the mostest, for an uber-fun party, giving me an excuse to bake up this yummy brownie trio!
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Monday, October 8, 2007

Tofu snack bites

Living by myself is both enjoyable and somewhat precarious at the same time. I love that I answer to no one at all and that I can play any kind of music or watch any kind of TV program that I want without anyone piping in. Now, in theory, this also translates to my ability to cook/make/eat whatever I want. This is true, but it hasn't really happened to me. As a matter of fact, I used to cook/bake/eat a lot better when I had roommates! I feel that when I actually had other people to feed, I applied myself to actually planning a wholesome menu and making a nice meal. Now that I'm living solo, I feel like I don't have to make a special effort to make something nice to eat when it's just for me alone (especially after a hard day's work). The other contributing factor is the reality that food just doesn't taste or smell or look that good when it's enjoyed alone as opposed to when it's enjoyed with loved ones.

So anyway, a girl still has to eat, right? Thesedays, I've resorted to eating more conveniently. And no! I haven't been living off frozen TV dinners or disgusting canned veggies, thank the Lord! Instead, I have been eating convenient fresh things, like baby carrots and celery dipped in store-bought hummus (which seems to always be on sale when I'm shopping, yay!). Other indulgences include crunchy peanut butter and nutella, both of which I just eat by themselves, on a spoon. Indulgent, I know. Eating mostly veggies and chocolate spread is fine for the most part but my body needs more than that, especially since I started running on a regular basis.

I find meat to be a chore, what with living alone and stuff, so I've started eating a lot of tofu! Yep, yep, that good ol' delicious soybean curd. Prior to recent times, I haven't prepared tofu too much because it is rather unfamiliar grounds for me and I've never particularly found Asian-style tofu dishes too healthy. My recent trip to Japan changed that misperception. In Tokyo, there are many many types of tofu available, ranging from silky smooth to chunky and chewy. They also come in many flavors, my favorite being a sesame-infused chewy tofu served in a shallow pool of scrumptious soy sauce that we had at a shabu-shabu restaurant.
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I also bought a little basket of fresh, plain, silky tofu from a merchant at Matsuzakaya in Ginza. Enjoyed only with soy sauce, it was a simple, clean and healthy treat. The packaging might have been a little elaborate, what with the leaf wrapping and basket nest, but the flavor is simple and unadorned, the way good tofu should be eaten.
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The types of tofu one can get in the US is rather subpar compared to the delicacies in Japan (which is to be expected, as after all, Japan is like, the tofu capital of the world, in my opinion). I don't think the tofus found here can be enjoyed plain by itself. So anyway, I've been hunting for easy, delicious tofu recipes and to my surprise, even a generic recipe website such as Allrecipes has a few wonderful-looking options. So this past week, I tried the recipe for Baked Tofu Bites. I was immediately sold when I saw that one of the ingredients is sesame seeds *haha* Some components of the recipe sounds a bit weird, such as the addition of liquid smoke. Ew! In accordance with some of the other reviewers suggestions, I left that part out. I also did a lot of improvisation because I didn't have some of the main ingredients, such as ketchup, maple syrup and vinegar. Instead, I used the same amount of jarred pasta sauce, sugar and left out the tangy/sour component of the vinegar.
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Despite the multiple, rather un-kosher substitutions, the tofu bites turned out great! I expected them to be a bit crunchy but that might be because I piled the tofu cubes onto the baking sheet instead of spreading them out in a single, neat layer. I will definitely try to do this next time. They were delicious and flavorful and great as leftovers! Some future changes I might make to this recipe include using black sesame seeds in addition (or maybe, instead of) the white ones, adding a dash of sesame oil. Yeah, yeah, I'm a total sesame nut! Anyhoo, if you're delving into the adventurous world of tofu, this recipe is a perfect start: simple and delicious!

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