Sunday, November 29, 2009

Daring Bakers' Cannoli

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.
Once again i'm doing everything at the last minute: studying at the last minute, doing the challenge at the last minute, and even posting at the last minute (and still late). So this is going to be a super quick update since i'm running out of study time for the upcoming Neurology finals. Arghhh! This month for the Daring Bakers' challenge we were to make Cannolis. I have never heard of them until our host gave us a brief description about it: "The cannoli is a fried, tube-shaped pastry shell (usually containing wine) filled with a creamy amalgamation of sweetened ricotta cheese, chocolate, candied fruit or zest, and sometimes nuts." With no idea how these should taste, i decided to stick to the original recipe provided by Lisa Michele instead of going crazy with variations. The biggest problem i had were finding replacements for the frying Cannoli tubes... i saw other daring bakers using sawed off broom-sticks, cannenoli pasta shells, and crumpled aluminum baking pans. I was so lazy that even those simplified-to-the-max replacements seemed too much of a hassle to prepare. Instead of using their suggestions, i went ahead and used... my stainless-steel Ikea can opener! Yep, after searching through all my cooking utensils, the round handles on the can opener were just the perfect size for the cannoli tubes, LOL. But hey, they worked magically! Frying them one by one in my little metal cup took about an hour but at least i saved myself some money with this ghetto little trick! The cannoli shells turned out great but i wasn't a big fan of this dessert itself... i thought the ricotta filling tasted a bit odd with the combination of chocolate chips and orange zest. If i ever make this again (or more like, if i ever buy myself some cannoli tubes), i'll probably use mascarpone cheese instead and leave out the orange zest. I only ate 2 cannolis and had JLo finish the rest. Yay for unpicky boyfriends!

Cannoli Shells
INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 cups (250 grams/8.82 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
  • 3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
  • Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
  • 1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
  • Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
  • 1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
  • Confectioners' sugar
DIRECTIONS:

  1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt [picture 1]. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough [picture 2]. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball [picture 3]. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight [picture 4].
  2. Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little [picture 5].
  3. Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, oiled..lol). Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little [picture 6].
  4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.
  5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil [picture 7]. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly [picture 8].
  6. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.
  7. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough [picture 9].
Cannoli Filling:
INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 2/3 cups cup (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
  • 3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
  • 2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange
  • 3 tablespoons (23 grams/0.81 ounce) toasted, finely chopped pistachios
DIRECTIONS:

  1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight [picture 1].
  2. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy [picture 2]. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth [picture 3]. Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate, zest and nuts [picture 4]. Chill until firm.(The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated) [picture 5].
ASSEMBLE THE CANNOLI:
  1. When ready to serve..fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer.
  2. Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.
Cannoli

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Tiger Bites Pig" 虎咬豬 Taiwanese Braised Pork Belly stuffed in Sliced Buns 割包

Anyone who calls him or herself a true Taiwanese should be no stranger to today's dish. Though the more common street name for it is "Gua Bao (割包)", they are also referred to as "Ho Ka Ti (虎咬豬)" in the Taiwanese dialect, which literally translates into "Tiger Bites Pig". But before you let your imagination run wild, let me just clarify that there are no illegal tiger-eating involved here. This dish rather got its distinct name by the shape of its bun. Instead of cutting a regular Mantou in half, sliced buns are customarily made to be used for Gua Bao. The two bun flaps resembles the mouth of a tiger, and if you are gifted enough, you should be able to see a tiger biting a piece of pork. Cute, huh? The traditional Gua Bao is stuffed with braised pork, sweet peanut powder, pickled mustard greens, and a huge bunch of cilantro. But since I had no access to 3/4 of the condiments, i improvised and made my own peanut powder (or more like granules) and sprinkled it with chopped spring onions instead. My Guao Bao may not be 100% authentic... but for a taiwanese food-deprived person like me, i couldn't even tell the difference! It's really that piece of slowly braised pork belly (which simply melts down your throat) that plays the key role to this celebrated Taiwanese sandwich. With the excess oil and fat melting out of the pork during the long braising/cooking hours, 'greasy' would be the last word you use to describe Gua Baos. So don't let that fatty piece of pork scare you away, give it a try... it's the best part!

Part #1: Sliced Buns
from 美食美景紐西蘭美女的家
makes 14 sliced buns
INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 cup water
  • 40 grams (6 tablespoons) white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 500 grams high-gluten flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2.5 teaspoons active dry yeast
DIRECTIONS:

  1. For Bread Machine: place all ingredients in the listed order into your bread machine. Set the mode to "Knead and Rise" (this took around 1 hour and 20 minutes on my bread machine).
  2. If kneading by hand, you can also place all ingredients in the listed order into a big bowl and knead for 15 - 20 minutes until the dough forms a smooth ball [picture 1]. Put the dough in a bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size [picture 2].
  3. Remove the dough and separate it into 50 gram pieces (around 14).
  4. Form the dough into a ball and with a rolling pin, roll it out into a long oval shape [picture 3].
  5. Light brush one surface with vegetable oil and fold the dough in half [picture 3, 4]. Place the dough on cut-out baking paper or a cheesecloth to prevent sticking. Let it rise for another 30 minutes, covered, in a warm place [picture 4].
  6. When the dough has risen after 30 minutes, place them inside the metal or bamboo cooking steamers that you are using. Make sure they do not touch, about 1 inch away from each other.
  7. Turn on the stove to high heat until the water starts boiling.
  8. Once the water has boiled, turn down to medium heat and steam for 10 minutes.
Steaming TIPS:
  • Avoid opening the lid too soon-- the buns will collapse when met with cold air.
  • Make sure the water on the steamer lid does not drop onto the buns, as they will create rough surfaces.
  • If the buns harden up after leaving them out for too long, just quickly steam them again and they'll be soft and fluffy in no time.

    Part #2: Tiger Bites Pig 虎咬豬
    from ytower.com
    INGREDIENTS:
    • TAIWANESE BRAISED PORK BELLY:
    • 600 grams skin-on pork belly, cut into half inch slices
    • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
    • One Bunch of spring onions, cut into 3 inch segments (or 1 whole onion)
    • 5 slices fresh ginger
    • 2 red chili peppers (more if desired), sliced
    • 1 Chinese spice bag
    • 50 mililiters rice wine
    • 3/4 cups soy sauce
    • 3 to 4 cups water (enough to submerge the meat)
    • 1/3 cups brown sugar
    • Hard boiled eggs, peeled (optional)
      (To utilize your sauce to its fullest, you can add in some eggs to make another dish: Taiwanese Stewed Eggs!)

    • TIGER BITES PIG:
    • Steamed sliced buns (recipe above)
    • Braised Pork belly
    • Sweet peanut powder
      (or pulse peanuts and a little bit of powdered sugar into a powder with your food processor)
    • Pickled mustard greens (酸菜)
    • Fresh coriander (香菜)
      (replace with chopped spring onions if you don't like coriander)

    DIRECTIONS:

    1. To help the pork maintain its shape during braising, pan sear the sliced pork in a saucepan on medium heat, for about 1 minute on each side [picture 1]. [I pan seared the pork without adding any oil, but you can add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil if you'd like].
    2. In a medium pot, make the braising sauce by adding garlic, onions/spring onions, ginger, chili peppers, Chinese spice bag, rice wine, soy sauce, water, and brown sugar. Add in the pork belly and eggs (optional) and bring to a boil over high heat [picture 2].
    3. Once it starts boiling, turn down to low heat and let it simmer and braise for 1.5 - 2 hours [picture 3]. Feel free to adjust the sauce to your liking but remember that the sauce will thicken as it cooks so don't go too crazy with the seasoning!

    4. Once the buns are steamed and the pork braised, assemble the bun by adding the pickled mustard greens, braised pork, peanut powder and garnish with coriander [picture 4].

    "Tiger Bites Pig" 虎咬豬
    Taiwanese Braised Pork Belly stuffed in Sliced Buns 割包

    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    Daring Cooks' Sushi Challenge

    The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge.

    When i first found out that this month's challenge was Sushi, i was like, oh crap, i'm gonna have to sit this one out...how am i supposed to enjoy making something i don't like! Ok, the thing is, i don't HATE sushi-- i'll eat it... but i just prefer anything else over it. I've always considered sushi to be more like appetizers / snacks instead of a meal. Having sushi for an afternoon nibble is acceptable, but i will not be satisfied with a plate of cold, bit-sized spirals of fish with rice for dinner. Give me a bow, l of steamy noodle soup or a casserole buried in smoldering cheese-- you and I will be BFFs for eternity. But after much contemplation, I came to the conclusion that the only 3 legitimate excuses to forgo a challenge would be 1) having absolutely no time on my hands, 2) having no access to the ingredients, or 3) having no access to a kitchen. But with all 3 criterion going for me, i just couldn't sit this one out with a good conscience. It probably took me twice the normal amount of time to finish these because I've never been good at rolling them. I remember my mom used to re-do all my sushi rolls for me cuz they were just too painful to look at, hahaha... i'm glad i have officially moved on from that stage. So thank-you Audax and Rose for hosting this challenge. I can now show these to my mom and let her know that her daughter has just reached another milestone in her life: rolling up presentable sushi!

    PART 1: SUSHI RICE
    (makes about 7 cups of cooked sushi rice)

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 2½ cups uncooked short grain rice
    • 2½ cups water
    • For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water

    Sushi vinegar dressing

    • 5 Tablespoons (75 mls) rice vinegar
    • 5 Teaspoons (25 mls or 21 grams) sugar
    • 1¼ Teaspoons (6.25 mls or 4.5 grams) salt

    DIRECTIONS:
    Rinsing and draining the rice

    1. Swirl rice gently in a bowl of water, drain, repeat 3-4 times until water is nearly clear. Don't crush the rice in your hands or against the side of the bowl since dry rice is very brittle.
    2. Gently place rice into a strainer and drain well for 30 minutes.

    Soaking the rice

    1. Gently place the rice into a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid (if you have a loose fitting lid use a piece of aluminium foil to make the seal tight).
    2. Add 2½ cups of water and the dashi konbu.
    3. Set the rice aside to soak for 30 minutes, during this time prepare the sushi rice dressing.

    Preparing the Rice Vinegar Dressing

    1. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl.
    2. Heat on low setting.
    3. Stir until the mixture goes clear and the sugar and salt have dissolved.
    4. Set aside at room temperature until the rice is cooked.

    Cooking the rice

    1. After 30 minutes of soaking add sake (if using) to the rice.
    2. Bring rinsed and soaked rice to the boil.
    3. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this process. Turn off heat.
    4. Let stand with the lid on, 10-15 minutes. Do not peek inside the pot or remove the lid. During this time the rice is steaming which completes the cooking process.

    Turning out the rice

    1. Moisten lightly a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon and a large shallow flat-bottomed non-metallic (plastic, glass or wood) bowl. Do not use metallic objects since the vinegar will react with it and produce sour and bitter sushi rice.
    2. Remove the dashi konbu (kelp) from the cooked rice.
    3. Use the spatula to loosen gently the rice and invert the rice pot over the bowl, gently causing the cooked rice to fall into the bowl in one central heap. Do this gently so as not to cause the rice grains to become damaged.

    Dressing the rice with vinegar

    1. Slowly pour the cooled sushi vinegar over the spatula onto the hot rice.
    2. Using the spatula gently spread the rice into a thin, even layer using a 45° cutting action to break up any lumps and to separate the rice. Don't stir or mash rice.
    3. After the rice is spread out, start turning it over gently, in small portions, using a cutting action, allowing steam to escape, for about a minute.

    Fanning & Tossing the rice

    1. Continue turning over the rice, but now start fanning (using a piece of stiff cardboard) the rice vigorously as you do so. Don't flip the rice into the air but continue to gently slice, lift and turn the rice occasionally, for 10 minutes. Cooling the rice using a fan gives good flavour, texture and a high-gloss sheen to the rice. The vinegar dressing will be absorbed by the hot rice. Using a small electric fan on the lowest speed setting is highly recommended.
    2. Stop fanning when there's no more visible steam, and all the vinegar dressing has been adsorbed and the rice is shiny. Your sushi rice is ready to be used.

    Keeping the rice moist

    1. Cover with a damp, lint free cloth to prevent the rice from drying out while preparing your sushi meal. Do not store sushi rice in the refrigerator leave on the counter covered at room temperature. Sushi rice is best used when it is at room temperature.

    * Tip: To make sushi rice: for each cup of rice use 1 cup of water, 2 Tbs rice vinegar, 2 tsp sugar, ½ tsp salt and 1 tsp sake. For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water when cooking the sushi rice since the weight of rice can vary. Weight of 2½ cups of uncooked rice is about 525 grams or 18½ ounces.


    PART 2: Dragon Rolls (aka Caterpillar Rolls)
    Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice
    Cooking time: about 5 minutes (grilling the eel)
    Yield: 2 inside-out (uramaki) sushi rolls

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 1 sheet 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm) of toasted nori (dried seaweed sheets), cut into halves
    • 1/2 Japanese cucumber
    • 2 cups of prepared sushi rice
    • Glazed Barbecued Eel (ungai) (about 3½ ounces or 100 grams)
    • 1 Avocado (i used a cucumber)
    • Vinegared Water – ½ cup of water combined with a dash of rice vinegar
    • Various small amounts of sauces to use as the flames of the dragon (or legs of a caterpillar)
    • 2 tablespoons (25 grams or 1 oz) Fish Roe (Fish eggs), optional

    DIRECTIONS:

    1. Cut cucumber into strips ¼ inch (6mm) x 7” (175mm) long, then salt, rinse & dry the strips.
    2. Grill (broil) the eel for about 2-5 minutes until bubbling. Cut into two lengthwise strips.
    3. Halve, pit and peel the avocado. Cut the avocado halves into thin even 1/8 inch (3 mm) slices. Fan out the cut avocado into a 7 inch (175 mm) overlapping pattern.
    4. Cover bamboo mat with plastic wrap. Place a sheet of nori shiny side down, lengthwise, on the edge the mat.
    5. Moisten lightly your hands in the bowl of vinegared water.
    6. Place one cup of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
    7. Flip the rice-covered nori over (so the bare nori is now on top) and place on the edge of the mat closest to you.
    8. Arrange one of the eel strips across the length of the nori, not quite centred on it but a little closer to you. Place half the cucumber sticks next to the eel.
    9. Lift the edge of the mat closest to you with both hands, keeping your fingertips over the fillings, and roll the mat and its contents until the edge of the mat touches straight down on the nori, enclosing the fillings completely. Lift up the edge of the mat you're holding, and continue rolling the inside-out roll away from you until it's sealed. Tug at the mat to tighten the seal. If the rice doesn't quite close the roll add more rice in the gap and re-roll using the mat to completely cover the inside-out roll. Place the roll on a damp, clean smooth surface.
    10. Spread about 1 tablespoon of the optional fish roe along the entire top of the rice-covered roll. Using the plastic covered mat gently press the fish roe so it adheres to the rice.
    11. Slide a knife under one fan of avocado and transfer it onto the top of an inside-out roll. Gently spread out the avocado layer to cover the entire roll. Lay the plastic wrapped mat over the avocado-covered roll. Squeeze very gently to shape the roll.
    12. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the roll. Slice the roll into 6-8 equal, bite-sized pieces, wiping your knife with a damp towel before each slice. Discard the plastic wrap. Repeat the above to make one more roll.
    13. Arrange the cut pieces on a serving plate with the sauces so the finished dish appears as a dragon breathing fire and flames (or a caterpillar with many legs).
    * Tip: The most common mistake is having too much filling the golden rule is less is more when it comes to making sushi it is easier to roll an under-filled roll than an over-filled roll.
    * Tip: Dampen your knife with a moist lint-free towel before every cut – this prevents the sushi rice from sticking to your knife.

    PART 3 : Spiral Sushi Roll
    Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice
    Yield: One Roll, cut into 8 pieces

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 2½ cups prepared sushi rice
    • 2 sheets of toasted nori, each sized 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm)
    • Six assorted fillings, each filling should be the size of a pencil (see note below)

    DIRECTIONS:

    1. Join 2 sheets of nori by moistening the adjacent edges and overlapping them about ½ inch (12mm).
    2. Place this double sheet shiny side down on a rolling mat, part of the nori will extend beyond the mat.
    3. Using moist fingers place 2½ cups of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly, leaving ¼ inch (6mm) nori showing on the both ends of the sheet. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
    4. Using your fingers form six grooves (in the same direction that you will be rolling the mat) at even intervals across the bed of rice. Make the first groove about 2 inches (50 mm) from the edge of the nori sheet. Form the grooves by pushing the rice away, do not mash or squash the rice, leave a loose one grain layer of rice in the bottom of the grooves. Level the areas between the grooves where you have pushed the rice.
    5. Place your fillings in the grooves. Fill the grooves a little higher than the surrounding rice bed.
    6. Then roll the sushi up from the edge closest to you, this will form a spiral pattern of nori, rice and fillings inside the roll.
    7. Slice into 8 pieces with a very sharp wet knife, wiping the blade with a damp cloth after each cut.
    8. Place the pieces on a platter and garnish.

    PART 4 : Nigiri Sushi
    Nigiri sushi is the type of sushi most often made in sushi bars. In Japanese, nigiri means “squeeze”.
    Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice
    Yield: 14-16 pieces of sushi

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 2 cups prepared sushi rice
    • 8 pairs of assorted toppings, 200 gms/7 ozs total of fish, meat or vegetables (see note below)
    • 1 tablespoon Wasabi (paste, reconstituted powder) or any other paste to adhere topping to rice

    Optional

    • Garnishes such as Ginger (pickled), chilli strips, vegetables flowers etc
    • Thin strips of nori or vegetables (for tying topping on)

    DIRECTIONS:

    1. When handling sushi rice, make certain your hands are very clean. To keep the rice from sticking to our hands moisten your hands with vinegared water.
    2. Form nigiri sushi by scooping up a small amount (about 2 tablespoons) of rice with your forefinger and second finger of your right hand and placing it in your cupped left palm.
    3. Use the fingers and thumb of your right hand to form it into a long, narrow mound (about 2 inches x 1 inch wide or 50mm x 25mm) in your cupped palm.
    4. Press enough to make the rice hold firmly together. Place the nigiri on a damp cutting board flat side down. Don't let sushi touch or they'll stick to each other. At this point, you can cover the sushi with plastic wrap, and they'll keep at room temperature (not the refrigerator) for several hours.
    5. Smear a thin line of wasabi on top of the rice and place the topping piece on it. You may need to press the topping down lightly with your fingers and adjust the shape of the rice accordingly to form an attractive piece of nigiri sushi. If your topping is very loose like fish roe you can place a strip of nori (higher than the rice) around the nigiri and form 'battleship' sushi. The cavity that the nori forms holds the topping so it does not fall off.
    6. Garnish as desired and use strips of nori (or vegetable) to tie the topping to the nigiri if needed.
    7. It is customary to make nigiri sushi in pairs, so make two of each variety.


    Daring Cooks' Sushi Challenge

    Thursday, November 05, 2009

    Tiramisu Cupcakes

    Today marks the first day of snowfall in POZ this year. I was completely unaware of it until i finally opened my curtains as i was about to head out around 3pm. It would've been a nice surprise if my curtains opened up to a picturesque view of powdered trees and buried rooftops... but thanks to daylight saving and the premature weather, all i got was gloomy skies, wet sidewalks, and frosted grass. To make it worse, POZ becomes pitch dark after 4:30 pm-- which means there is not enough sunlight for the average person who wakes up at noon during her week off from school, arghhh!!! So with the depressing 13 hour darkness in POZ, the only thing i can do right now is to remind myself of the better things in life with a cupcake update. This is one of Martha Stewart's recipes from her cupcake book that i've been wanting to buy since forever. I actually made these Tiramisu cupcakes twice... once for my brothers' birthday, and the 2nd time for JenJens'. But unfortunately, i made the same mistake of under-basting them with coffee syrup on both occasions. The cake should be soaked to the core with coffee but all I got was a thin line at the top :( There would've been prettier pictures to show had i spent a little more time brushing up the entire half cup of syrup. But despite my little setback, the cupcakes still tasted great. I mean, for goodness sake, it's Tiramisu baked into a cupcake! There's just not much you can do to screw up a heavenly match like that. Enjoy!

    Tiramisu Cupcakes
    INGREDIENTS:
    • 1 1/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 cup milk
    • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved
      [or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract]
    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
    • 3 large whole eggs
    • 3 egg yolks
    • 1 cup sugar [i used a little more than 1/2 cup]
    • Coffee-Marsala Syrup [recipe below]
      *or 1/2 cup Bailey's Irish Cream
    • Mascarpone frosting [recipe below]
    • Unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
    DIRECTIONS:
    1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.
    2. Sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt [picture 1]. Set aside.
    3. Heat milk and vanilla-bean podand seeds (or vanilla extract) in a small saucepan over medium heat just until bubbles appear around the edge. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter until melted, set aside and let stand 15 minutes [picture 2]. If using vanilla pods, Strain milk mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl, and discard vanilla-bean pod.
    4. With an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk together whole eggs, yolks, and sugar. Set mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water, and whisk by hand until sugar is dissolved and mixture is warm, about 6 minutes [picture 3]. Remove bowl from heat. With an electric mixer on high speed, whisk until mixture is fluffy, pale yellow, and thick enough to hold a ribbon on the surface for several seconds when whisk is lifted.
    5. Gently but thoroughly fold flour mixture into the egg mixture in three batches [picture 4].
    6. Stir 1/2 cup batter into the milk mixture to thicken, then fold milk mixture into the remaining batter until just combined [picture 5].
    7. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each 3/4 full [picture 6].
    8. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until centers are completely set and edges are light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes.
    9. With a fork, poke holes all over the cupcakes so the syrup can be absorbed [picture 7].
    10. To finish, brush tops of cupcakes evenly with coffee-marsala syrup (or Bailey's); repeat until all syrup has been used [picture 8]. Allow cupcakes to absorb liquid 30 minutes.
    11. Dollop frosting onto cupcakes [picture 11]; refrigerate up to overnight in airtight containers.
    12. Dust generously with cocoa powder just before serving [picture 12].
    Coffee-Marsala Syrup
    • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh strong coffee (or espresso)
    • 1 ounce (30 mL) marsala wine
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    1. Stir coffee, marsala, and sugar together until dissolved. Let cool.

    Mascarpone Frosting
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 8 ounces (230 grams) mascarpone cheese, room temperature
    • 1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
    1. With an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk heavy cream until stiff peaks form (be careful not to overbeat, or cream will be grainy).
    2. In another bowl, whisk together mascarpone and powdered sugar until smooth.
    3. Gently fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture until completely incorporated. Use immediately.
    Tiramisu Cupcakes