Saturday, February 28, 2009

Chocolate Valentino with Caramel Ice Cream

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

I've recently joined an online baking community called the Daring Bakers. About 70% of the food blogs i browse through are members of the Daring Bakers so I thought I'd join and see what all the fuss is about. Basically it's a community where bloggers/bakers get together every month and bake from the same recipe. You've got a whole month to prepare the assignment and there's also a forum where the bloggers can exchange tips and thoughts, guiding you step by step down the road of success. How could i say no to that, of course I was in! I finally have a forum to belong in... and can now leave JLo and his daily 3-hour NASIOC stare in peace. Lucky him =) .

My first Daring Bakers' challenge was a flourless chocolate cake (Chocolate Valentino) that contain only three ingredients, THREE! I was amazed at the final result, didn't know eggs could hold up so well. Still had some problems though; my cake was still wet and wobbly when the thermometer read 60C and had to bake an extra 10 minutes. The cake didn't set until it reached 85C. Hmm, dunno what happened there... i'll blame it on the crappy oven again, mehhh. Anyhoooo I'm not really a chocolate person so this cake wasn't for me. But for the die-hard chocolate lovers out there, this is definitely your slice of dense, fudgy heaven.

As for my first ice cream-making experience... I came to realize that ice-cream is just nothing but a big tub of FAT. I guess I've been in denial my whole life thinking ice-cream is just frozen milk... but when there's 3 cups of 10-30% cream sitting in front of you, you know you'll never enjoy a carefree, spirit-lifting scoop ever again. AHHHhhhh!!! I'm sticking to sorbets/yogurt from now on. =( But if you set the ass-doubling issue aside, being able to make your own ice-cream with a texture similar to the ones store-bought is gonna make you one happy person. Can't wait to experiment on more flavors, eeek!

Chocolate Valentino (Flourless Chocolate Cake)
a Daring Bakers' Challenge
  • 16 ounces (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
    (use milk chocolate for a sweeter cake)
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
  • 5 large eggs, separated

  1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often [picture 1, 2, 3].
  2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling, butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment [picture 4].
  3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls [picture 5].
  4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry) [picture 6].
  5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together [picture 7].
  6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate[picture 8].
  7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter [picture 9].
  8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C [picture 10].
  9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C [picture 11] (my thermometer read 85C when done). If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
  10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold [picture 12].
  • This recipe comes together very quickly with a hand mixer.
  • This is a very decadent cake that will sink a little as it cools but will still hold its shape.
  • The top forms a light crust, kind of like a brownie.
  • The cake will taste exactly like the chocolate you use, so use your favorite!

Flourless Chocolate Cake: Chocolate Valentino

Caramel Ice Cream (without a machine)
a Daring Bakers' Challenge and serving ice cream
  • 2 cups (473 ml) of half and half (or 10-18% fat cream)
  • 1 cup (237 ml) heavy cream (30% fat cream)
  • 2/3 - 1 cup sugar
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 (12 grams) tablespoon of vanilla
  1. Place the sugar in a saucepan and set over low heat until it melts and turns honey-brown (DON'T BURN IT!). Remove from heat [picture 1, 2].
  2. Slowly and carefully, add the 10-18% cream to caramelized sugar [picture 3]. Be careful- the mixture will splatter and the sugar will turn hard. Don't worry!
  3. Stir mixture over low heat until it becomes smooth again [picture 4].
  4. Mix in the heavy cream and stir until well mixed and smooth [picture 5].
  5. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool [picture 6].
  6. Once cool, chill mixture in the fridge for at least 1 hour [picture 7].
  7. Place the chilled ice cream mixture in the freezer for 30 minutes [picture 8].
  8. Beat ice cream mixture with an electric mixer until smooth (you can use a fork instead of an electric mixer, but the ice cream will be less smooth and creamy) [picture 9].
  9. Place ice cream in the freezer for 40 minutes- then beat with an electric mixer [picture 10].
  10. Repeat "40 minute freeze-then-beat cycle" 3 times. This should total 2 1/2 hours of freezing.
  11. You can choose to either beat your ice cream mixture every 40 minutes until frozen or let your ice cream mixture freeze on its own. Either method works fine. The more you beat it, the softer it will be. Total freezing time can take anywhere between 3-5 hours.
Caramel Ice Cream (without a machine)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Homemade Marshmallows

I wasn't planning on giving this marshmallow recipe an entry of its own but I didn't want to flood my next S'mores cupcake entry with too much stuff... so I'm gonna be quick and brief here. This recipe can either be used to make normal marshmallows or a marshmallow frosting. I've made them twice for cupcakes and they both turned out pretty well, just have to remember to frost right after whipping for easy handling. I made the mistake of waiting too long and had the worst time frosting with semi-set marshmallows. My cupcakes ended up looking like it was piled with lumpy cottage cheese... GAHHH!!! And I couldn't find corn syrup anywhere in POZ, so i made my own with this corn syrup substitute. Was gonna make them into different colors but it seemed like a messy job at the time. The actual marshmallows came out great though, soft and spongy-- perfect with a cup of hot chocolate ;)

Homemade Marshmallows
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (i used 1 cup)
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  1. Coat a 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray; line with parchment paper. Spray parchment; set aside.
  2. Pour 1/3 cup cold water into bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle with gelatin; let mixture soften, about 5 minutes [picture 1].
  3. Place sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/3 cup water in a medium saucepan. Cover; bring to a boil. Remove lid; cook, swirling pan occasionally, until syrup reaches 238 degrees.(soft-ball stage) on a candy thermometer, about 5 minutes [picture 2].
  4. With mixer on low speed, whisk gelatin mixture [picture 3], and slowly pour the syrup in a steady stream down the side of the bowl (to avoid splattering) [picture 4].
  5. Gradually raise speed to high; beat until mixture is thick, white, and has almost tripled in volume, about 12 minutes [picture 5].
  6. Add vanilla, and beat 30 seconds to combine [picture 6].
  7. Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet; smooth with a greased spatula. Let stand at room temperature until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight [picture 7].
  8. Coat cookie cutters with cooking spray to prevent it from sticking.
  9. Cut out as many individual marshmallows as possible; coat cutter with more spray as needed [picture 8].
  10. Lightly coat marshmallows with equal parts of cornstarch and powdered sugar [picture 9].
  11. Use marshmallows immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

Homemade Marshmallows

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Red Velvet Cupcakes

As promised, here's the update on my Red Velvet cupcakes. They didn't turn out to be dramatically red since I didn't have enough food coloring to go around. I was going to make 20 cupcakes and pass them out on Valentine's day... but had to cut the recipe in half since a 1 ounce/2 tablespoon bottle of red food coloring here costs almost 6zl!!! Sigh, i waited 4 years for PiP to start selling food coloring, and when they did, i don't even want to pay for them. Ah well... artificial coloring isn't good for you anyway. So these cupcakes were supposed to be topped with a cream cheese frosting but the Polish cream cheese i used just turned the mixture into liquid. It was already past 10pm so I had to improvise and made buttercream frosting instead... it was yummy nonetheless ;) What makes Red Velvet cakes different from the rest isnt just the color-- buttermilk is used instead of milk, which gives it a slightly tangy aftertaste, yum yum yummmm. I think I'll try making these again without the food coloring and with more cocoa powder...maybe even use strawberry buttermilk! If it turns out alright, it might even become the base of all my future chocolate cakes/cupcakes, woohoo! ...I'm so easily amused.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
makes 20-24 cupcakes
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 oz. red food coloring (4 tablespoons / two bottles)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar [i used a little less than 1 cup]
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature [maślanka in Polish]
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers.
  2. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside [picture 1].
  3. In a small bowl, mix food coloring and cocoa powder to form a thin paste without lumps; set aside [picture 2].
  4. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about three minutes [picture 3].
  5. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and the red cocoa paste, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go [picture 4, 5].
  6. Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beat well, then beat in half of the buttermilk. Beat in another third of flour mixture, then second half of buttermilk. End with the last third of the flour mixture, beat until well combined, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula [picture 6, 7, 8].
  7. In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda. Yes, it will fizz [picture 9]!
  8. Add vinegar mixture to the cake batter and stir well to combine.
  9. Using an ice cream scoop, fill cupcake cups with cake batter (they should be 2/3 - 3/4 full). (You may not fill all the cups, I ended up with 20 cupcakes) [picture 10].
  10. Place muffin tins on the middle rack of a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for approximately 20-22 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Check early and don’t overbake!
  11. Cool the cupcakes in their tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes then remove and allow to cool completely before frosting.
Buttercream Frosting
[since I'm not a frosting person, i cut this recipe in half and frosted 10 cupcakes with some leftover. If you like LOTS of frosting on your cupcakes, this original recipe should be enough for 12]
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, or less
    [add one 1/2 a cup at a time, sweeten to taste]
  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  1. In a bowl combine butter, sugar and salt. Beat till blended.
  2. Add the milk and vanilla and beat for an additional 3 to 5 minutes or until smooth and creamy. [add more milk to reach desired consistency]

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Sunday, February 15, 2009

貢丸 Chinese Bouncy Pork & Beef Balls

Happy (day-after) Valentine's Day!!
My valentine's day consisted of staying up all night the day before and cramming for the Lab Medicine final i had. I completely bombed that test... It turned out to be much, much, muchhhhhhh harder than one other people took last week. ARGHHHHHHH... should've taken the test earlier :'( I hate the feeling of doom during and after exams, makes me want to climb into a hot tub and slit my wrists. Sigh, i used up all my luck last year... 2009 isn't treating me so well.

Onto a brighter note, I made Red Velvet cupcakes for valentine's yesterday! But I didn't have a valentine to share the love with since JLo went skiing in Austria for 9 days. He wanted me to join but i declined. Having spent the first 18 years of my life in the southern hemisphere and on a semi-tropical island, I'm really not built for the snow/cold. So anyways, I should be posting about the Red Velvet Cupcakes to suit the occasion, but since I'm gonna have a 貢丸 [gong-wan]-making marathon with friends later, I had to post this up so that i'll have access to this on the Internet. I have hfng to thank for giving me the site for these bouncy meat balls, THANK YOU!!! I was so excited about this recipe that i went ahead and bought myself a food processor-- it became my best-friend ever since XD. I never thought I'd be having [gong-wan] in Poland and never knew it was THIS easy. I made Pork and Beef balls last time and I have to say, i liked the Pork balls better... but Polish meat has this "raw" taste to it even when cooked, so I might add a bit of ginger to it next time. I'm still a Gong-wan beginner so I don't really have any tips to give... But I'll update on any other variations later on (
fish balls, different additions, seasonings...etc), can't WAIT! My food processor and I are gonna have so much fun together-- SHE's my Valentine.

貢丸 Chinese Bouncy Pork & Beef Balls

from The Waitakere Redneck's Kitchen and Sinner's youtube
  • 500g pork or beef, cut to small pieces
    [just use the cheapest cut since it'll be turned to mush anyway]
  • ½ cup (125ml) icy cold water
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • ½ tablespoon oil
  • 2 tablespoons cornflour
  • 1¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper

  1. Mince the pork in a food processor until a paste is form. Add 5 Tbsp water (a Tbsp of water at a time) to get a smooth paste [picture 1, 2, 3].
  2. In a separate cup, mix together the remaining water, fish sauce, salt, sugar, oil, cornflour and baking powder.
  3. Remove the pork paste from the food processor and put in a big bowl. Pour the liquid mix to the pork paste and stir well slowly until the liquid is absorbed into the paste (use either your hand or a fork) [picture 4, 5].
  4. For the taste test, microwave or boil a teaspoon of the paste. Season to taste with more salt or sugar.
  5. Cover bowl with clingwrap and place in the freezer for 30 minutes [picture 6].
  6. Boil a pot of water. Once the water has boiled, remove the pot from the heat, set aside.
  7. Add pepper to the paste and stir to combine [picture 7].
  8. Scoop the paste onto your wet hand. Push the paste through your thumb and 2nd finger by making a fist [picture 8]. Use a wet spoon to scoop and drop it into the hot water [picture 9, 10]. To prevent the paste from sticking to your hand and spoon, wet the spoon and hand with water.
  9. Continue forming the pork balls until they form a layer in the water.
  10. Now turn on the heat but do not let it boil. Just simmer slowly without bubbling-- if not, your pork ball will not have the 'bounce' [picture 11].
  11. When the pork balls starts to float, leave for a few more seconds. (Cut one in half to see if it is cook. The inside should not be pink).
  12. Fill a big basin with icy cold water. Scoop out the balls and let it cool in the water [picture 12].
  13. After the pork balls have cooled, use as required or freeze.

豬肉貢丸 Bouncy Pork Balls

牛肉香菇貢丸 Bouncy Beef and Mushroom Balls

貢丸湯 Taiwanese Meatball Soup
  • Bouncy beef/pork balls
  • Chinese celery, finely chopped [picture 2]
    [i used normal celery. they're thicker and don't have that "crunch" Asian celeries have]
  • Vegetable/chicken stock
  • Fried shallots (optional)
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • Coriander (optional)

  1. Make 2 perpendicular, 1 centimeter slits on each bouncy ball (into a cross) [picture 1].
  2. Bring a pot of water/stock to a boil. Add in the bouncy balls and fried shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes until they start to float and the slits open up [picture 3].
  3. Season with salt and white pepper.
  4. Add in the finely chopped celery and turn off the fire to maintain the celery "crunch" [picture 2, 4].
  5. Garnish with chopped coriander (optional).
  • You can add noodles, vermicelli, or cellophane noodles to the soup with an egg drop.

貢丸湯 Taiwanese Bouncy Ball Soup

Monday, February 09, 2009

Key Lime Bars

So i found the limes. The day after i posted up the lemon curd mousse cake entry, i went to PiP and found them right there, sitting in the exotic fruits section. HMMMmm... did i just never notice them or were they coincidentally imported the day after my post? Haha, fishy fishy... I still haven't found a lime mousse cake recipe that i like, so I thought I'd postpone the lime-project for a few more weeks. But after the PiP lime discovery, every time i went grocery shopping I would just wander over to that section and take a good 10 second stare at them...they were CALLING MY NAME! So after my X-th visit, i gave in and got 7. The first lime dessert that came to my mind was a Key Lime Pie. Key lime is a specific type of lime most famous in Florida... and according to wikipedia, "It is smaller, seedier, has a higher acidity, a stronger aroma, and a thinner rind than that of the Persian lime ". Hmmm, i have no idea what type of lime i got, but tomaytoes tomahtoes... it shouldn't make a difference. I got a Key Lime Bar recipe from and they used 23 key limes to make 2/3 cups of lime juice. Okkay... how small were they?! Hand-squeezing 5 limes was already torture to my thumbs, i cant imagine squeezing 23. So i made the crust, baked the bars, blablabla... everything went quite well. But after i swallowed the first bite of my lime bar, i felt like it was gonna burn a hole through my stomach... 好酸喔!!! Ughh... I obviously used the wrong limes, grrrr!! So after 2 days, that plate of bars is still sitting in my fridge. I'll have to find some way to finish them quick. Can't give them to anyone cuz I don't want to be responsible for any gastric ulcers. Sigh, i was pretty disappointed because other blogs i visited had great results for this exact recipe. So if you're still interested and don't have access to key limes, my advice would be to add lime juice according to taste. Don't just dump in 2/3 cups like I did. From what I've tasted, i still see potential for this recipe... so if i ever make them again, i shall update. Back to studying now, ta-ta!

2009/02/09 1:40PM update: I JUST received a postcard from Florida KEYS! Talk about coincidence! :D

Key Lime Bars

  • 1 cup and 2 1/2 tablespoons finely ground graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large egg yolks (4 medium ones)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
  • 2/3 cup fresh Key lime juice (or to taste, depending on sourness)
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (*optional)
  • Limes slices to garish

Make Crust:
  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
  2. Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a small bowl [picture 1, 2].
  3. Press evenly onto bottom of an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Bake until dry and golden brown, about 10 minutes [picture 3, 4].
  4. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
Make Filling:
  1. Squeeze limes to make 2/3 cups (or to taste) of fresh lime juice [picture 5], set aside.
  2. Put egg yolks and lime zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment [picture 6]. Mix on high speed until very thick, about 5 minutes.
  3. Reduce speed to medium. Add condensed milk in a slow, steady stream, mixing constantly [picture 7]. Raise speed to high; mix until thick, about 3 minutes.
  4. Reduce speed to low. Add lime juice; mix until just combined [picture 8].
  1. Spread filling evenly over crust using a spatula [picture 9].
  2. Bake at 350F degrees, rotating dish halfway through, until filling is just set, about 10 minutes.
  3. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate at least 4 hours (or overnight) [picture 10].
  4. Cut into 2-by-2-inch bars.
  5. Put cream in the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment.
  6. Mix on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.
    Garnish bars with whipped cream and a slice of lime.
    Ungarnished bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Key Lime Bars

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Korean Spicy Chicken Stew (Taktoritang)

Here's a recipe for a soup I made on my feverish-coughing days: Korean Spicy Chicken Stew. Okay, now you're probably thinking, "Uhh... Drink spicy stew when you're coughing? What kind of doctor are you gonna be..." I know, I know! This probably prolonged my flu for another 2 days but what can i do, I'm a sucker for Korean food =) It was also a nice change from the Chinese mushroom chicken soup JLo always makes for me (that's like the only chicken soup we make, haha). Anyways, to make this stew, you'll need to buy a box of hot pepper paste (Gochujang) at your local Asian grocery store cuz that's what really gives this stew its flavoring (I got my box from Taiwan, don't think they sell it in Poland). So if you get the chance to come across any Korean pastes, don't hesitate and grab one of each... cuz there are just toooo many yummy Korean recipes that NEED them. I'm still kicking myself for not getting any bean pastes when I had the chance in Berlin last November =( So if you're lucky enough to live somewhere with an Asian grocery store, go get that box and try this soup! And know that I'll be freakin envious of you while i scrape out the last few teaspoons of paste from my box, grrrrr.

Korean Spicy Chicken Stew (Taktoritang)

  • 2 - 3 chicken thighs, cut
  • 3 large potatoes, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cups of water (or enough to submerge the chicken and vegetables)
  • Spring onions for garnish
For the Sauce:
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons hot pepper paste (gochujang) [picture 4]
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce

  1. Prepare the potatoes, carrots, and onions and place them into a large boiling pot [picture 1].
  2. Wash the chicken thighs and cut them into pieces [picture 2] (unless you prefer an entire thigh, up to you).
  3. Put the chicken thighs into your vegetable pot and pour enough water to submerge all ingredients [picture 3]. Turn the fire to medium heat and wait for it to boil.
  4. Get a medium size bowl and mix all of the sauce ingredients until there are no more lumps [picture 4, 5].
  5. When the chicken starts to boil, pour in the sauce and stir well [picture 6].
  6. When it starts to boil again, cover and reduce the heat. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes (stirring occasionally).
  7. When the soup is done, garnish with chopped spring onions.

Korean Spicy Chicken Stew (Taktoritang)