Easy Apple Tart

Baking, Dessert

I love fruit pastry. In fact, a lot of the baking recipes I’ve blogged involve fruits. Jeff and I would have these baked goods for breakfast with our coffee or as a snack with hot tea at night. So when I saw this recipe from Ina Garten, I couldn’t wait to try it. It’s unbelievably easy and delicious. All you need are apples, puff pastry sheets, a little bit of sugar, and unsalted butter.

As usual, I do a little tweak to the original recipe:

  • Instead of Granny Smith apples, I use Honey Crisp apples (since these tend to be sweeter than Granny Smith)
  • I put the pastries in the oven for about 30 minutes instead of 40. I think my oven gets super hot and I try to avoid charring the bottom parts of the apple tart.
  • I also prefer to go without using the apricot jelly and Calvados. I think the apple tart taste great as it is.

The warm, buttery, flaky, light, sweet and tart, and refreshing qualities make these apple tarts so inviting. What a nice fall treat!

Have a great weekend!

Mini Mascaporne, Hazelnut, and Honey Cup Loaf Cakes

Baking, Dessert

A good and descriptive storytelling could really captivate an audience attention and inspire her to try something new. My friend Leena and I would engage in a food talk once in a while. We’d discuss…well…good food, restaurants and their cuisines, and recipes. Recently, she talked about her favorite cupcakes in such great details that images of cupcakes started to float around in my mind. For days! And I wasn’t even a cupcake person. She’s really good, that Leena :). It was a sign for me to bake again.

So I studied a few recipes and combined the two that I liked the most. I wanted something that had a great combination and wasn’t too sweet. Inspired by Giada De Laurentiis’ Spiced Apple Walnut Cake (that she turned into a cupcake recipe in her Weeknights with Giada book) and Mascaporne Mini Cupcakes, I present my latest baked goods: Mini Mascaporne, Hazelnut, and Honey Cup Loaf Cake sans frosting.

Jeff and I simply love the firm and nutty texture of the cake. The aroma and taste of honey and hazelnut are just delightful. These little cakes make a perfect pair with morning coffee. Watch them disappear quickly from the tray 🙂

Here’s the ingredients list:

  • 8 ounces of Mascaporne cheese (1 cup)
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup of vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup of light brown sugar
  • ½ cup of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon of fine sea salt
  • 1 cup of chopped hazelnut (or Filbert)

Steps:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line two 24-mini muffin tray with paper baking cups.
  • In a large bowl and using a hand mixer, mix Mascaporne, eggs, and vegetable oil until they become one creamy mixture. Add brown sugar, honey, and vanilla extract. Mix all wet ingredients well.
  • In another large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt.
  • Mix the combined dry ingredients with the wet mixture. Fold the chopped hazelnut.
  • Using a spoon, scoop the batter to fill the mini cups well below the rim
  • Bake for 15  minutes. The cakes will have this beautiful light golden shade. (To make sure the cakes are done, I insert a skewer into the cake. When it comes out clean, I know the cakes are ready to cool down.)
  • Let the cupcakes cool down for 20 minutes before serving.

Make 48 mini cup loaf cakes

Hazelnut Shortbread with Mascaporne and Blackberries – Venturing into the Baking World

Baking, Dessert

I found and tried another amazing cookie recipe recently. It’s called Hazelnut Shortbread with Mascaporne Frosting and it produces these pretty little cookies with a taste of harmony. The nutty and crumbly hazelnut shortbread is nicely joined by this soft and creamy mascaporne cheese with vanilla beans and sweet and tart blackberries. Simply marvelous.

Beautiful recipes, such as this one, inspire me to get to know baking much better. That and a cookie monster named Jeff.

Thank you, Vegetarian ‘Ventures.

Click here for more baking inspiration

Almond Blackberry Cookies – Venturing into the Baking World

Baking, Dessert

I search for great flavor combinations in meals and also in sweets. I appreciate the creativity of balancing tastes, color, and texture in cooking and baking. Though I still feel more passionate about cooking and savory things, I say, “Why not?” to learning the art of baking. The way I see it: I already cook a lot, I might as well be able to make a few great sweets too :). So here’s my latest baking recipe trial that resulted in another favorite for Jeff and I.

Recently, I found this Peanut Butter Cookies with Blackberry Jam recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. The recipe is also included in her latest book, Weeknights with Giada (pg. 215).

I did a few little tweaks to this recipe to fit my preference:

  1. Instead of using ¾ cup of peanut butter, as suggested on the ingredient list, I used ¾ cup of ground raw almonds (that I ran through the food processor with 1/8 cup of olive oil). I blended the raw almonds and olive oil in a food processor until it became as grainy as possible. The almonds mixture did not have the same consistency as peanut butter of course, but I actually liked the chunky and grainy texture better.
  2. I also opted out of the step of rolling the dough in ¼ cup of sugar and went directly to form the doughs into little balls ready for the blackberry filling in the middle. (I also made the dough balls smaller than the ones in the recipe.)
  3. I used blackberry preserves, which I already had in my fridge, instead of jam.

Such delightful little cookies! I love the soft crunch, the subtle nutty almonds, and the sweet and tangy tastes of the blackberry preserves. I see them disappear quickly from our cookie box 🙂

Dark Chocolate Banana Bread – Venturing into the Baking World

Baking, Dessert

I used to avoid baking. It just seemed very complicated. The attitude changed when I found Baker Bettie. She bakes and writes fantastic recipes I actually want to try. Her creativity in flavor combination and in presentation makes baking look like fun. Now, I am inspired!

A novice in the baking world, I appreciate friendly recipes. In the past I’ve tried and written about one of Baker Bettie’s recipes: Soft and Fluffy Blueberry Lemon Cookie . Recently, I tried her recipe on Dark Chocolate Banana Bread with Cayenne…with cayenne! A girl after my own heart! The fine blend of dark chocolate, bananas, cinnamon, and cayenne worked wonderfully. Though quite subtle, the cayenne and cinnamon definitely gave a very nice spice hint to this classic bread. Simply delightful.

Pictures of my recipe trial result:

The Softest Lemon Cookies with Blueberries – Venturing Into the Baking World

Baking, Dessert

For a newcomer in the baking world, a successful recipe trial makes a positive reinforcement. It feels really good to open the oven, see the wonderful baking result, and take that first sweet bite. I’d always tell myself to bake more after that one great bite.

I found this wonderful recipe called Soft and Fluffy Blueberry Lemon Cookies by a fellow blogger, Baker Bettie. As the name suggest, the cookies come out soft, lemony, and blueberry sweet. I love the light and fruity taste of these cookies.

Another great recipe discovery. I hope to find more to try. Thanks, Baker Bettie!

Super Chocolaty Mini Brownies

Baking, Dessert, Recipe from Other Blogs

Doesn’t Valentine’s Day seem to get bigger each year? I see red and pink flowers, heart-shaped decorations, and of course … chocolate everywhere! Restaurant-review sites rave about best places to celebrate while cooking shows and food blogs suggest special dinner and dessert menus for the holiday. I allow the not-so-subliminal messages to get me into the spirit. I mean, why not? In the midst of this winter’s grey, snow’s blinding white, along with the blustery cold wind, I welcome a nice distraction. To me the holiday gives me an excuse to do something special like having dinner date on a Tuesday night and… making a chocolaty dessert. After seeing chocolate everywhere, on TV ads and cooking shows, at the market, and on food blogs I feel the huge urge to create something with the ingredient.

I found a Chocolate Bouchons (The New Double-Chocolate Brownie) recipe by chef Stephanie Izard (of the Girl and the Goat in Chicago) in my InStyle magazine’s January edition. Every food I have tasted at chef Izard’s restaurant has been incredibly delightful. So I got excited to try one of her recipes.

As usual, I deviate 🙂 Here’s a version adapted from chef Izard’s recipe:

We will need:

  • A 24-mini muffin tray
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup of cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 1 cup of Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips
  • 3 squares of Ghirardelli dark chocolate bar (I happen to have the 72% cocoa. Next time I’ll go with 60%.)
  • 1 tablespoon of pistachios (I happen to have them around)
Steps:
  • Melt the butter
  • Whisk eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl
  • Add flour, cocoa powder, salt, and melted butter. Do it slowly and one by one while keeping the whisking going. Mix well until all ingredients become one thick chocolate mixture.
  • With a food processor, chop the pistachios and the dark chocolate squares
  • With a spatula, gently mix the chocolate chips, chopped dark chocolate, and chopped pistachios into the mixture
  • Scoop the mixture to fill the muffin tray all the way to the top (or use a ziplock bag with one corner cut off )
  • Bake for 20-23 minutes in a preheated 350 degrees F  and let the brownies cool outside for 30-40 minutes. Mmm… imagine the wonderful chocolate aroma in the air. Oh…la…la…
The mini brownies come out very chocolaty. Intense! Each bite represents a combination of dark and milk chocolate and a little pistachios. The chocolate chips melt after being baked inside of the brownies. They give such wonderful texture to the tiny chocolate goodness. For sweet lovers, dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve with a scoop of vanilla or coffee ice cream. Jeff and I like ours without the added sweet just fine.
In the future, I’d like to mix either a raspberry, blackberry, or strawberry preserves into the mix (in lieu of using pistachios). Maybe I’d also melt the dark and milk chocolate. Mmm…many possibilities!

Unfortunately, I did not find chef Izard’s original recipe online so I could not link it here. But I found a similar one (click here) for those who’d like to get to know chocolate bouchons better.

Happy Valentine’s Day, readers!

Easy Fruit Pastry

Baking, Dessert

A foodie friend and I had a conversation about baking a few weeks back. Both he and I are cooking enthusiasts who are reluctant to bake. He suggested that our reluctance could have been caused by a “trust issue that we had toward the recipe, measurement, or the oven. I theorized that our disinclination to bake was due to our unwillingness to follow strict orders, which in this case were in a form of exact recipes and measurements. Wherein cooking we felt free to be creative and to use our senses to perfect the dishes we love to make.

After what felt like a little self-evaluation on our issues with baking (or maybe just in general) I thought that I should confront mine. I remembered thinking that maybe there was an art to baking I have yet to uncover. That once I found it I’d enjoy baking as much as I do cooking.

So I started to read more recipes on baking, watched the techniques on Food Network shows, and just basically entertained the idea of baking in my mind. Until one day an easy fruit pastry inspiration came. I think my brain was telling me that it had enough teasing with images of baked goods, that it was time to eat some pastries, and that it did not have the patience to wait for me to bake from scratch. Ha! I remembered the dough sheet I had bought for the topping of my chicken and mushroom pot pie the other day and realized that I had an extra. I also thought of the two fruit preserves that would be perfect to use as the filling for this pastry. So here’s what I did:

(Please keep in mind that this pastry is far from real baking (from scratch). But a girl has to start somewhere. I am planning to like this whole baking thing so I think a simple beginning might be a good idea.)

I prepared:

  • 1 Pillsburry Crescent Seamless Dough Sheet
  • Fruit preserves like Bonne Maman’s Apricot or Four Fruits (Cherry, Redcurrants, Raspberry, Strawberry)or fruit butter like American Spoon’s Strawberry Butter
  • 1 Egg for egg wash (beaten egg with two tablespoon of water)

Steps:

  • Preheat the oven to 375F
  • Spray the oven tray with a non-stick
  • Cut the dough sheet into 10 or 12 small squares
  • Add a half of teaspoon of the fruit preserves to the center of the square
  • Brush the edges with egg wash so they seal well
  • Fold each square’s corner to its opposite
  • Brush the top part of the folded pastry with egg wash
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastries look golden brown

The result was quite satisfying. I hope to try something more complex in the near future. Please let me know if you have any baking-from-scratch recipe recommendation. I’d be happy to receive more inspiration!

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

To Ro who still has to send me his no-knead bread recipe

Sharp Cheddar Baked Banana

Baking, Dessert

I think most people may have strong preferences over what food to eat. They may also have some reluctance to eat certain things. For an example, a good friend of mine is not crazy about cooked onion at all. But as long as it is finely mashed with the dish, she’d be fine. Another good friend is perfectly happy not eating eggs, especially hard-boiled eggs, while one other friend is content with not eating tomatoes. In my case, I love to eat done-up bananas, but not the plain fruit. Weird, right? I see all these disinclination toward certain food as one of many commonalities my friends and I share.

One of the street food I love back home in Indonesia is Fried Banana (pisang goreng). What these street vendors do with the bananas is basically cut them up into two or four pieces, dip them in a batter made of all-purpose flour, sugar, and egg, and then…deep-fry them. It is insanely good!  I’ve made fried bananas many times and though they’re really good, I wanted to try something else.

So here’s a very simple and good baked banana recipe that I made:

  • Cut four ripe bananas in the middle and halve lengthwise. I usually try to get bananas that still have a little green color on the end of the peel. They tend to be firmer and don’t get too soft after being cooked
  • Preheat the oven to 400 F
  • Place the sliced bananas on an oven dish and bake for 12 minutes
  • Add shredded sharp cheddar on the sliced bananas right after taking them out of the oven
  • Return to bake for another one minute until the cheese is melted

My husband, Jeff, says that the contrasting tastes of the sweet banana and the savory cheddar work so well together. I think this might be our favorite dessert (or even breakfast) yet!

(For JN, thanks for the inspiration)

Food Talk: Shepherd’s Pie

Baking, Beef Recipes

The conversation about Shepherd’s Pie seemed to have appeared out of nowhere when we were at the Rose Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden. It was one of those gorgeous days in September when the air was crisp and the sun was bright and warm—a sign of fall’s arrival. My friend Leena, her toddler, and I just had to take advantage of the beautiful weather and strolled around. The food talk went on for a while mainly because of the pretty distractions. We kept marveling at the beautiful flowers and sceneries, the very cool English Walled Garden, and the serene Japanese Garden. Before I knew it the image of the delicious dish haunted me for the rest of the day, into the next, until I decided to make one.

Maybe the food talk was inspired by the change in seasons, the chilly weather, or the butternut squash soup we had earlier that day at the garden’s café. No matter how the conversation came about, it was a great motivation to cook something I have never done before. One more thing to add to my recipe collection!

My version comes with a little curry and cayenne spice kick. This spice-infused meat and vegetable hot pie makes a great dinner choice during colder months.

Here’s how I prepare mine:

  • Boil three (peeled and quartered) smaller Yukon or Russet potatoes until fork tender
  • In a deep skillet add a tablespoon of canola oil and cook chopped garlic (three cloves) and onion (one) until they turn yellow
  • Brown half pound of ground beef or ground turkey in the skillet with the garlic and onion
  • Add a pinch of salt and pepper, one teaspoon of ginger powder, one teaspoon of curry powder, and one tablespoon of cayenne powder
  • Add a small bag of (thawed) frozen carrots and peas mix and chopped scallion to the meat
  • Turn the heat off
  • Mash the potatoes
  • Add one egg and two tablespoons of canola/vegetable oil to the mashed potatoes and mix well
  • Top the meat and vegetables with the mashed potatoes and place the pie into a 400F preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Broil to brown the potato if necessary.
Serve 4