Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sour Cream-Cherry Muffins

This is another of my favourite recipe from Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book, page 326, that can easily be made on the spur of the moment. I’ve always wanted to try out this recipe but we could never find dried tart cherries around town, finally one day, we came across a bag of dried tart cherries from Costco, it was jubilation! I’ve made a couple of dozen of these muffins since I found that bag of treasured tart cherries from Costco. Love these cherry muffins!

2 cups all-purpose flour, ½ cup granulated sugar, 2 tsp. baking powder, ¼ tsp salt, 2 beaten eggs, ½ cup dairy sour cream, 1.2 cup milk, ¼ cup cooking oil, ½ tsp finely shredded lemon peel, ¼ tsp almond extract, 1 cup dried tart cherries, ½ cup chopped almonds, lemon glaze.

Mix all dry ingredients and make a well in the centre. Mix together eggs, sour cream, milk, oil, lemon peel and almond extract and then add the mixture into the well and then stir until evenly moist. Fold in dried cherries and almonds and then spoon into muffin cups and bake for 12 to 15 minutes at 400F. Brush with lemon glaze (3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar and 2 tsp. lemon juice and 2 tsp. water.)

Source: Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book, page 326

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chocolate Cabernet Cupcakes

For once I didn’t need to use the Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book for a baking inspiration. The Artful Cupcake – Baking & Decorating Delicious Indulgences by Marcianne Miller is one of those books that I purchased just for the pretty pictures. It’s a collection of lovely cupcake designs and recipes created by twelve professional bakers and compiled and modified for the home baker by Marcianne Miller, the author. I was looking for a cupcake recipe and design idea that was simple, easy to make but interesting and this one recipe and simple design by Martha Vining on page 26-27 caught my eye. All I had to do was shift some all-purpose flour together with sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon, unsweetened cocoa powder (the usual suspects) and mix them together before adding the wet ingredients that consist of vegetable oil, vanilla extract, a couple of eggs, cabernet sauvignon wine and then mix all of those ingredients in a stand mixer starting at low speed and then gradually increased to high speed for a few minutes and then fold in some dried cherries, spoon the dough into muffin cups, bake for about 20 minutes or so at 375 F (1) and voila! Here’s one lovely and sophisticated tasting cupcake with whipped cream and cherry on top. Who would’ve thought that cabernet sauvignon could be used as an ingredient for sweet baked goods! All I can say is: Martha Vining, you’re genius!

(1) For a detailed and more accurate recipe see source: The Artful Cupcake – Baking & Decorating Delicious Indulgences by Marcianne Miller, page 26 – 27“Chocolate with Cabernet Cupcakes” design and recipe by Martha Vining.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mom’s Recipe - Sweet & Sour Fish

I finally tried out mom’s recipe for Sweet and Sour Fish but instead of corn flour I used all-purpose flour since it was the only flour I had. The fillet still turned out quite crispy not to mention quite tasty too, although I can’t say the same about the sauce. I must’ve missed a step or something because the sauce, although colorful and healthy, didn’t taste exactly the same as when mom made it. The sauce was a bit too sour and not sweet enough, I must’ve put too much vinegar and not enough sugar.

1) Fish Fillets, cut into small/bite pieces
2) Lemon juice from ½ a lemon
3) Worchester Sauce
4) Salt & white pepper
5) Fish Sauce
6) 1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine (Wong Chiu or Sau Sing Chiu)
7) A dash of white vinegar (to make fish crispy)
8) Egg white
9) Mrs. Dash, paprika, black pepper and “Old Bay” Seafood seasoning (optional)
10)Corn Flour (Mazena) or all-purpose flour

Heat canola oil in a pan on medium heat. Mix ingredients 1 to 7 together in a bowl and ingredients 9 and 10 together in another bowl. Dip the fish fillets into the first mixture and then dip into the egg white and then cover with flour mixture. Once the oil is hot, put each piece into the oil and fry until golden brown and set aside.

Sweet and Sour sauce
1) Lemon juice from ½ a lemon
2) Ketchup
3) Tomatoes (optional)
4) Red and green peppers, diced
5) Carrots, diced
6) 1 tsp. Cornstarch dilute in 3 tbsp. water
7) Sugar
8) 1 tsp vinegar

Stir fry all ingredients until cooked and pour over the fried fish fillets. Serve.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Salmon melts on toast

I’ve made this easy and healthy lunch/snack twice in the past two weeks, well, because it’s quick and easy, fresh tasting and delectable and best of all, no stove cooking required. Who knew a fish out of a can can taste so good?

1) 1 can Sockeye salmon
2) ¼ cup dice red onion
3) ¼ cup capers
4) ½ lime juice
5) Fresh dill (optional)
6) Black pepper, Mrs. Dash
7) “Old Bay” seasoning for seafood
8) 1 tbsp. light sour cream
9) Swiss cheese, slice or grated
10)Multi grain bread, lightly toasted

Place the canned salmon into a mixing bowl and break the salmon into smaller pieces with a fork. Add the rest of the ingredients (except cheese and toasts), mix together evenly and set aside. Put some grated cheese on the toasts and then place a spoonful of the salmon salad mixture on top. Bake/broil the toasts for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and then serve.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Pan Seared Salmon

I just discovered a way to pan-fry a salmon fillet without burning the skin and without crumpling it in the process. The trick, apparently, is to preheat the oil on high heat and then lower the heat once the oil is hot and then put the salmon in the pan, skin down and leave it to cook for a few minutes before turning it over. Elementary really, but it was a revelation to me (duh!!) I’ve ruined (and burnt) so many salmon fillets in the past when trying to pan fry/sear them in the pan because I either kept the heat on too high for too long or put the fish in the pan too early, before the oil is hot. No more burnt salmon for me from now on! The salmon fillet turned out perfectly this time, the skin was crispy and crunchy and the meat was delicious and nicely spiced. It was slightly greasy but oh, it was goo-ood!

1) Salmon fillet
2) Garlic, chopped
3) Shallots, diced
4) Sea salt, black pepper, Mrs. Dash
5) Canola oil

Heat canola oil in a (iron) pan over medium high heat and then sprinkle a dash of sea salt, black pepper and “Old Bay”/Mrs. Dash. Season the fillet with sea salt, black pepper and seafood seasoning. Once oil is heated in the pan, lower the heat to medium and place the salmon fillet, skin down, and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Turn the fish over and cook for another 3-5 minutes (or until cooked). Turn the fillet over once if more crispiness is desired and then set aside on a plate. In the same pan, stir shallots and garlic together for a few minutes or until shallots are cooked. Pour over the salmon and serve with salad.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Season's Greetings!

It's that time of year...

Happy Holidays to everyone and peace on earth!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Triple Chocolate Extravaganza of Double Chocolate–Orange Torte and Raspberry Truffle Cake

The Chocolate Experiment

My better half requested a chocolate cake for his birthday so I delved into my one and only favorite baking book - the Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book - for a special chocolate cake recipe (preferably one that I haven’t tried before.) I found two recipes that sounded interesting. One is the Double Chocolate-Orange Torte (1) on page 144, and the other one is the Raspberry Truffle Cake (2) on page 146. Hmmm…., decision, decision! Both seemed simple enough to make, and with a little decoration here and there, either one of them had the potential to become a sumptuous birthday cake for that special someone.

I decided to go with the Double Chocolate-Orange Torte (Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book – page 144) since it’s a layered cake that has orange marmalade filling in the middle and bittersweet chocolate icing on the outside, elements that make for a perfect birthday cake.

The recipe calls for an 8x8x2-inch baking pan and suggests a simple decoration of bittersweet chocolate frosting with chocolate curls pressed into icing on all four sides of the cake. Simple enough. But silly me, I decided to get creative and had an entirely different idea in my mind for the cake decoration. I have this pretty book called The Essential Guide to Cake Decorating by Whitecap books that I bought a few years ago that I like to browse through once in a while just to look at all the pretty pictures but never really follow through on any of the decorating ideas inside the book. This time, out of all the time in the world, I decided that I might just try one or two of the simpler ideas presented in the book: striped chocolate curls made of white and dark chocolate, on page 130, to be put on top of the cake and spotted collar (white chocolate dots on dark chocolate collar), on page 136, for around the cake. I also decided that instead of having a square cake, I wanted to experiment with having two-level round cakes, one bigger and the other smaller, with the chocolate spotted collars around the two-level cake and the striped chocolate curls prominently planted on the top level of the cake, wouldn’t that be pretty?

Things started well enough at the beginning. I followed the recipe exactly but instead of using an 8x8x2-inch baking pan, I switched to a 4-inch springform pan and a 6-inch baking pan for the two-level cake. While waiting for the cakes to bake, I did the preparation for the striped chocolate curls. I was in a good mood and was all excited to start decorating the cake, having a vivid picture of the pretty two-level Double Chocolate-Orange Torte - with the spotted collars and striped chocolate curls - in my mind’s eye.

And then this happened. Oops! Forgot to put a cookie sheet underneath that 4-inch springform and as a result, the dough spilled all over to the bottom of the oven and made this mess! There goes my two-level cake!

Not to be outdone, the chocolate that I was tempering to make the striped chocolate curls would not set properly, so no chocolate curls for now! This one was entirely my fault though, because I used a non-baking white chocolate, with a “smooth centre”, no less. So the chocolate didn’t set well. Lesson learned. Somehow this chocolate tempering session (3) still managed to produce some chocolate shavings that proved to be useful in the end.

Being the obsessive compulsive that I am, I just couldn’t make do with the one good cake that I had. I wanted to see my pretty two-level cake vision come to fruition, so I came up with plan B: bake another cake. But instead of baking the same cake twice, why not go with the runner-up this time: Raspberry Truffle Cake – page 146? (I was planning to try out that recipe right after the Double Chocolate-Orange Torte anyways and I already had all the ingredients, including the fresh raspberries and the seedless raspberry jam called for by the recipe!) Perfecto!! So I followed the recipe for the Raspberry Truffle Cake word for word, well, except for the 8-inch springform pan – I used a 7-inch one. I wouldn’t say that this process went smoothly either. I think I somehow overbeat the egg whites. Oh well!!

Because I didn’t have the right white chocolate and I was stuck with packages of baker’s dark chocolates, I failed to fulfill my vision of that perfect spotted collar made of white chocolate dots on dark chocolate collar. Instead, I finally got to utilize the never-before-used chocolate transfer sheets that I had hidden since I first bought them a year ago. And these chocolate transfer sheets turned out to be fun to use and pretty to look at! All was well in the end!

The Double Chocolate-Orange Torte was simply divine and the Raspberry Truffle Cake with a mix of raspberry and dark raspberry sauce was simply a chocolate lover’s dream.

(1) Source: Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book, page 144
Double-Chocolate-Orange Torte

For cake: 3 squares of unsweetened chocolate; ¾ cup all-purpose flour; 11/2 tsp baking powder; ½ tsp baking soda; ½ tsp. salt; ½ cup butter; 1 cup sugar; 4 eggs; 2-3 tbsp. orange liqueur; ½ cup water; 1 tbsp. shredded orange peel.
For filling: Cut cake in half horizontally and drizzle each half with liqueur mixture of 1 tbsp. orange liqueur and 1 tbsp orange juice; spread ½ cup orange marmalade on top and top with remaining cake layer.
For Bittersweet chocolate icing: 1/3 cup whipping cream; 1 tbsp. light-colored corn syrup; 6 ounces semisweet chocolate.

(2) Source: Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book, page 146
Raspberry Truffle Cake

For cake: 16 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut up; ½ cup butter; 1 tbsp. sugar; 11/2 tsp. all-purpose flour; 1 tsp. raspberry liqueur (optional); 4 eggs, separated.
For sauce and extra topping: 1 12-ounce jar seedless raspberry jam (I cup); sweetened whipped cream (optional); fresh raspberries (optional).

(3) Chocolate tempering tips from Chocolate Obsession – Confections and treats to Create and Savor by Michael Recchiuti & Fran Gage, page 28 - 29