Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gingerbread Cookie Cut-Outs

In case you were wondering if it's possible to substitute treacle for molasses, the answer is yes.  And, in case you're looking for a really good gingerbread dough recipe, the one from Cookie Madness is fantastic.  The dough is really easy to work with (a two year old and four year old were able to work with it no problem), hardly requires any chill time, and makes a really good cookie.  This recipe is a keeper.

The only modifications I made were:

1.  Substituting treacle for molasses (apparently they're pretty close and I couldn't find any molasses)
2.  Heating the egg for the royal icing over a double boiler.  I didn't have any pasteurized eggs, so I whisked the normal egg whites in a double boiler with a thermometer until they reached 145 degrees F.  I don't know if that means they're safe, but the eggs whites were starting to cook so I removed them from the heat.

Update:  The recipe from cookiemadness.net is listed below:

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 stick (4 oz) butter, cut up
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 to 3 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

Place sugar, molasses, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and allspice in a 2-3 quart
saucepan. Set saucepan over medium heat and bring mixture to a boil,
stirring often as it heats. When mixture starts to boil, remove from heat
and stir in baking soda. Mixture will fizz up and become very airy. Stir in
butter and allow mixture to cool for about 5 minutes.

Dump slightly cooled sugar/molasses mixture into a mixing bowl and stir in
lightly beaten egg. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, until mixture forms a
not-too-sticky dough. Form dough into two equal sections. Wrap tightly and
chill until ready to use, or use right away if you need to. The dough is
easier to work with after it's been refrigerated, however, it's manageable
without the chill period.

When ready to cut, pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F. Roll dough into 3/8 to
1/2 inch thick circles and cut out shapes. Bake on a Silpat or Parchment
lined cookie sheet for 12-14 minutes or until cookies appear done. The
cookies thicken during baking, so keep that in mind when you are rolling out
the dough.

1/3 cup Just Whites egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 cups confectioners' sugar plus extra as needed for thickening
Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until frothy. Add sugar 1 cup at a time, beating on low, until incorporated. Increase mixer speed and beat in vanilla. Add more sugar as needed to get the consistency for outlining.
Spoon a portion of the icing into a decorating bag fitted with a round tip. This thicker icing will be your outline.
With a tiny bit of water, thin the remaining icing and divide among cups. Dye the icing different colors using gel food coloring. Spoon it into decorating bags fitted with round tips. This thinner icing will be your fill.
Using the thicker icing, outline the shapes and let them sit on a cooling rack until the icing dries.
Fill outlines with colored icing by squeezing it in between outlines and using a toothpick to carefully brush it up against the ends.
This is an easy royal icing. I've tried versions made with meringue powder, but the flavor of this is better (especially if you use good vanilla).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

The Swiss Meringue Buttercream?  It is rich.  Very rich.  The first day I thought, "This is too much butter, even for me."  But I tried the frosting the next day and liked it so much better.  So if you want some really pretty really rich frosting, this recipe is for you.

Let's see.  Why did I make this recipe?  We had some fresh mint, and I wanted to use it in cupcakes.  I tried to make the frosting by steeping the mint when with the eggs.  Guess what?  It didn't work.  I tried whipping the egg whites for 30 minutes and they would not get stiff, so I had to start over.  And by that time, I didn't want mint anymore, so I ended up using almond extract.

The cupcakes are a favorite standby, the base from black bottom cupcakes.

The frosting is a version from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes.  I only made a quarter batch, it frosted about 12 cupcakes. 


3 egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (225 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put the sugar and egg whites in a bowl that can handle heat (I used the bowl of the Kitchenaid Mixer.) Put the bowl over a pan of simmering water, and stir until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.  (I used a candy thermometer and heated the eggs and sugar to 150 degrees F.  This is where I tried using fresh mint and it did not work!)

Remove the mixture from the heat, add the salt and beat the egg whites until they form stiff and glossy peaks, about 10-15 minutes.

Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes.  With the mixer on medium add the butter, one piece at a time.  Let the butter get incorporated after each addition. Don't worry if the buttercream appears curdled after all the butter has been added; it will become smooth again with continued beating. Add vanilla and almond and beat just until combined.
I didn't do this part, but the recipe suggests:  Switch to the paddle attachment, and beat on the lowest speed to eliminate any air pockets, about 5 minutes. If using buttercream within several hours, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature in a cool environment. Or transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator, up to 3 days. Before using, bring buttercream to room temperature, and beat on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sour Cream Chocolate Cupcakes

We had a lot of sour cream in the fridge.  It was either use it or throw it away.  And if I'm ever going to lose weight I'm going to have to stop baking.  But not today.  Instead I used the recipe from Cookie Madness for Sour Cream Chocolate Layer Cake.  I halved it and made cupcakes. 

The link is here.  These are some good, dense, chocolate cupcakes.

Niall's mom sent me some fancy frosting tips, so I'm giving them a go.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Triple Coconut Cream Pie

I bought some coconuts for props (because we're making a little video for church based on "Jungle Book".)  A friend is coming for dinner and said we should have the coconuts.  I've never used fresh coconut before, but decided to give it a try.  We have a lot of whipping cream in the fridge, so I decided to try this recipe from the Dahlie Bakery in Seattle.  I used the link from Family Friendly Food for the recipe.  (Clink the link for the details.)

I found this video was so helpful.  Since moving to the UK my grandma's never fail pie crust recipe hasn't worked so well.  I'm always on the lookout for how to make a decent pie crust and the video gave some great tips.  (Mainly to have everything, including the pie plate, very cold.)

The pie was good and rich.  But I made the crust a bit too thick!

I thought I rolled the pie dough thin enough but in hindsight I wish I would have gone thinner.

 And the tip about tucking the crust under around the top made it looked pretty.

Blind baked the crust, then made the coconut custard.

Cooled the custard and then poured it in the crust.

It took me ages to open the coconut.  I tried draining the coconut water.  Then a hammer.  Finally I just banged it against the cement step outside.  I cooked the coconut for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees, which helped to peel it.  But it was still difficult to shave.

Then I browned the coconut.

Whipped the cream and then topped with the shaved coconut and shaved white chocolate.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nursing Chair

It's not a recipe, but since someone asked, here's something I made.  We bought this chair at the charity shop. I really wanted somewhere to sit to nurse the baby that had a high back and arms. I loved the shape of this chair but knew it needed some work. Now that the baby is moving onto solid food, I finally got around to fixing it.

Piece of glass (from a broken bottle)
Sandpaper (4 A4 pieces of 60 grit)
Wood stain (Teak colored)
Danish Wood Oil
Screwdriver and pliers (to remove fabric staples)
Rags (to apply stain and oil)
Staple gun and staples
3 1/2 yards of upholstery fabric
Thread, straight pins and sewing machine
Needle and string (to sew on buttons)
3 buttons/button cover kit

Initially I just thought we'd reupholster the chair.  However, the arms were worn so I realized I need to work on the wood as well.

I really liked the dark finish, but didn't feel like I could only redo the arms and have them match the rest of the chair.  So I decided to strip the chair back and start from there.  I didn't want to use a chemical stripper.  A guy at the hardware store suggested a piece of glass, so I broke a bottle and took and used a broken piece that was about three inches long.  It was fantastic.  I used the glass to strip off as much of the finish as I could (I thought it might scrape the wood, but it only scraped up the lacquer), then I used sandpaper to smooth off the wood.

To remove the upholstery I used pliers and a screwdriver to pry out the staples.  I really should have used a specialized tool.  The inside of the chair is stuffed with springs and burlap (jute).  I didn't want to have to restring the springs so I left part of the old fabric attached.  Here's the stripped back chair.

The Eco Centre down the street suggested a water based teak stain.  I applied four coats with a rag, letting each coat dry for about an hour.  I really liked the water based stain because it did not smell.  I would have liked the wood a little darker, but the stain was starting to build up and I didn't want the finish to be too tacky.

I used a rag to apply the Danish oil as a seal.  I did two coats, letting the first coat dry eight hours and the second I left overnight.

I sewed a new cushion cover (reusing the zipper and stuffing from the old one) and reupholstered the chair, using a staple gun to apply the new fabric. I tried using regular staples.  But the wood was quite hard, so I switched to heavy duty staples and it made all the difference.  I didn't quite make the fabric tight enough in a few places, but here it is.

I covered three buttons and sewed them into the chair back and then put on the back fabric.  We might have been better off buying a new chair.  (The entire project cost about 100 GBP.  Chair-35, Fabric-50, Supplies-15.)  It isn't perfect, but I think overall we're pretty happy with it.  Niall sat in it last night without complaining.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Momofuku Cereal Milk with Chocolate-Hazelnut Thing (vegetarian vesion)

So, you know I'm not a great photographer, right?  Sorry about the shadows.

Anyway, I've never made panna cotta before, so this was fun.  I don't think I've ever even had panna cotta.  I modified the Momofuku recipe a little to make this dessert suitable for Niall. 

To make the Cereal Milk vegetarian I used agar flakes instead of gelatin.  I halved the recipe (and also used 2% milk instead of whole) and after straining the cornflakes I had almost two cups of liquid.  I poured the liquid into a pot, added the brown sugar and salt, and sprinkled two heaping tablespoons of agar flakes on top.  I heated the liquid on the lowest heat possible without stirring.  Once the liquid was piping hot (but not boiling) I stirred in the agar flakes and continued stirring until they dissolved.  Then I poured the milk into the molds. 

Niall (who has had panna cotta) said this was a little stiff.  It may be because of the agar but most likely it's because of who was making it.  Maybe the tablespoons shouldn't have been quite so heaping. Overall, this was pretty good.  Niall probably liked it more than me because I'm not a fan of hazelnuts.  The Cereal Milk on its own tasted like milk and cereal.  But adding the chocolate-hazelnut thing with the caramelized corn flakes added sweetness and salt.

The chocolate-hazelnut thing has a praline paste, which is roasted hazelnuts with caramelized sugar.  I poured the caramel into the blender with the nuts and almost broke the blender.  (The sugar hardened right away and stuck to the sides. Luckily Niall got it fixed and cleaned.)  Once we had the paste, I mixed sugar,  powdered milk, salt, butter and cornflakes and then baked them in the oven.  Then mixed together the bittersweet (okay, half semi-sweet half baking chocolate) with the praline paste and other ingredients.  The book calls for gianduja, but I cheated and just used Nutella.  I spread the mix on waxed paper and topped with the caramelized cornflakes.  I didn't do it fast enough and the cornflakes didn't stick. 

I put it in the freezer.  After it was cold, I broke it into pieces and sprinkled it on top of the panna cotta, which had been removed from the mold.  You're supposed to make an avocado puree as well, but I didn't.  We still have half of this left (it's in the freezer) so maybe next time I'll add the avocado.

Momofuku Sour Cream Ice Cream with Miso Butterscotch

Ice cream made from sour cream had me just a bit skeptical.  But it was delicious.  It reminded me of lime ice cream we used to have when I lived in Farmington, Utah.  Niall said the recipe may be in competition with my mom's strawberry ice cream.  (The strawberry recipe is Niall's favorite homemade ice cream.)

Sugar dissolved in water, sour cream, lime zest, lime juice, sour cream and an ice cream maker.  So simple and so good.

The miso butterscotch I didn't try because it has uncooked alcohol in it.  But Niall said it was tasty, it made it seem like there was a biscuit (cookie) with the ice cream.  The shiro (white) miso is baked almost to the point of being burnt, then pureed with equal parts brown sugar, slightly less mirin (that's where the alcohol comes in), some butter and a splash of sherry vinegar.  We have plenty left over if you want any.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Momofuku English Muffins

I live in the UK.  And you know what I miss?  English muffins.  Niall has just informed me that they're in all the shops, only they're just called muffins.  But I've lived here for 3 1/2 years and go to the store all the time and do NOT recall seeing them.  So, maybe English muffins are all over the place, but I was really excited to make these because I haven't had them in ages.

How amazing are the dough recipes in the Momofuku cookbook?  Seriously, the directions are so good for making dough.  The steamed buns recipe made a very stiff dough.  This recipe was one of the stickier doughs I've made.  It wasn't easy to work with, but was manageable.  And the dough really was pillowy and tender and delicate

The muffins I made weren't symmetrical.  But I was so proud of them!  I had never griddle baked dough before. 

We were supposed to make Bay Leaf Butter, but didn't get around to it.  I froze more than half the dough and will make these later with the butter.  Once the muffins are made, the cookbook suggested searing the muffins in a hot griddle, which I tried.  But truth be told, we liked them better from the toaster. 

Momofuku Shortcakes with Macerated Strawberries and Whipped Cream

I was in the local food market and English strawberries were on sale.   They looked so perfect and small.   So I bought them and made the Momofuku shortcakes.  I was worried that macerated strawberries would mean adding all these extra ingredients to the beautiful little berries.  But it was only a little sugar, which was divine.  The shortcakes are good and sweet and salty.  But my first attempt did not turn out well.  The shortcakes were flat. 

For the next batch I added more flour and made the shortcakes a little bigger.  The cookbook said to bake for 11 minutes.  But it was closer for 15 for me.  These shortcakes turned out much better!

I wasn't sure about the sour cream whip cream, but a day later...I'm sold.  The dessert is really filling, and less sweet than the strawberry shortcake I'm used to.  But I liked it and I'll have it again.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Momofuku Roasted Sweet Summer Corn

Brigham suggested this recipe as one of the easy-win vegetarian options from the cookbook, and he was right.  It took us a while to find shiro (white) miso paste, but now that we have it I'm pleased.  To make the shiro butter it's one part shiro paste to one part butter.  Easy!  And the corn at the the green grocer was beautiful.  Cut it off the cob, fried in a hot skillet with a little oil.  Then stirred in the butter, Roasted Onions, some Ramen Broth...added salt and pepper and some scallions and dinner's on! 

To keep it vegetarian friendly we skipped the bacon (I can only imagine how tasty this would have been with bacon.)  I added a few dashes of liquid smoke and topped with smoked tofu

Smoked Tofu

We had some tofu that was almost out of date.  And we just got a bottle of liquid smoke.  So I used the recipe from Vegan Yum Yum to make smoked tofu.  I followed the ingredients/directions on from the site except I didn't use the yeast, and used shiro (white) miso instead of red.  Also, I ended up cooking the tofu for about 30 minutes instead of 20. 

Niall and I both really liked this tofu.  It's certainly not a replacement for bacon (oh, I love me some bacon) but it was good.  We had it with roasted summer corn yesterday and in some ramen today. 

Momofuku Roasted Cauliflower (and Brussel Sprouts) with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

We usually make a scaled-back version of this dish.  But I decided to follow the recipe a little closer.  The exception, to make it vegetarian, meant I used veggie fish sauce.  I still couldn't bring myself to deep-fry the vegetables (stayed with the oven roasting-must tidier!) but did fry the cilantro leaves.  I also added the toasted puffed rice, which we've left off in the past.  This version takes longer to make, but Niall said it was worth it.  Every time we make this Niall talks about how it's the one dish that makes him like brussel sprouts.

Momofuku Ramen

Once you've done the hard parts (pickling, making the broth, poaching the eggs, making the pork (or grilling halloumi-which is easier), stewing the Bamboo Shoots)...you're ready to go. 

I'm pretty happy with the stuff that that gets cooked in three minutes and costs about a quarter.  But, this is some good ramen.  Definitely a filling meal.  And we've been going through nori (the dried seaweed used in sushi) like crazy.  It's so good when it gets soggy in the ramen broth!!

Momofuku Taré (and vegetarian version)

This stuff is good.  Supposedly it's a Japanese BBQ sauce and it's used in place of salt for ramen.  And fairly easy (you know, when compared to the Ramen Broth or Roasted Pork Belly).  It has a lot of alcohol, but doesn't it become Word of Wisdom friendly when you cook it out?  I mean, it simmers for about an hour. 

The meat version starts with chicken bones, which are roasted for about an hour.

Then you add 1 part sake to 1 part mirin to 2 parts light soy sauce.  Simmer for about an hour, then strain.

For the vegetarian version, I tried it two ways.  The chicken makes a fond-the fatty liquid caramelized on the bottom of the pan.   My favorite way is to use halloumi fond* (the juice/whey that the halloumi releases as it's frying  The other way is to use browned butter.


Either the "fond" from a package of halloumi or 2 tablespoons of browned butter**
1/2 cup sake
1/2 cup mirin
1 cup light soy sauce
Fresh ground pepper

Pour a splash of sake into the butter (or halloumi "juice") and allow it to bubble.  Stir and then add the sake, miring and soy.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer.  Cook for about an hour then add just a bit of black pepper.  It can be used immediately or refrigerated for a few days. 

*When the halloumi finishes frying remove it from the pan, but don't wash the skillet.  Use the leftover "juice"for the taré.

**Place the butter in a saucepan and heat it until it melts.  Continue stirring the butter, allow it to become nice and dark.

Momofuku Ramen Broth (and vegetarian version)

The Momofuku Ramen Broth has more meat than I've ever used in a broth! For ten servings it has ten pounds of meat (five pounds of meaty pork neck bones, four pounds of chicken...whole, and a pound of bacon). And it takes ages to make. (I think about eight hours total, but it ended up taking me a couple of days.)

Yeah, that's a lot of meat and a lot of broth.  I made the meat version first, to see what it tasted like.  (And then invited anyone who would come to help eat it.)

Making a similar vegetarian version is beyond my culinary abilities, but here's what I came up with.  (I mean, Niall's not going to know the difference, right?)  I used the Momofuku recipe where I could and then modified the broth recipe.  In an attempt to get a smoky flavor without bacon I used a bit of Lapsang Souchong (a smoky Chinese tea) and just a touch of Liquid Smoke. This version takes about six hours, which is still a long time.  But I like the broth enough that I'll do it again.  Plus it makes so much that it's easy to freeze extra. 


2 sheets of konbu (dried kelp)
3 cups dried shiitakes, rinsed
2 medium-size yellow onions, quartered
1 bunch green onions (white and green parts), cut crosswise into several pieces
1 head cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped
2 medium-size carrots, cut into chunks
1 head garlic, with the cloves separated and left unpeeled but cut in half
8 thin slices fresh ginger, left unpeeled (about 1 1/2 inches of garlic total)
1 Tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
1 Tablespoon Lapsang Souchong
Liquid Smoke (just a few dashes)

Pour six quarts of water in a big stock pot and put it on the stove on high.  Rinse the konbu and put it in the water.  Bring the water to a boil and then turn off the heat.  Let the konbu steep for about ten minutes.  Remove the konbu.  (It can be used in the Grilled Octopus Salad, which I haven't made yet.)

Turn the heat back to high.  Add the shiitakes and bring the water to a boil.  When a rolling boil is reached, turn the heat to low and simmer the shiitakes for 30 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the mushrooms.  (It's okay if you miss a few.  The boiled shiitakes can be pickled.)

Now add the remaining ingredients, except for the Taré and Liquid Smoke.  Gently simmer the broth and vegetables for 3-4 hours.  Add more water as needed.  I stopped adding water after about 2 1/2 hours and let the soup reduce.

Line a strainer with cheesecloth and pass the brother through the strainer.  You can use the broth now, but I put it in a container to store for later.

When you're ready to make the broth, it needs to be seasoned.  This is where the Taré and Liquid Smoke come in.  Heat the broth and add Taré and Liquid Smoke to your taste.  The cookbook recommends 2-3 Tablespoons per quart, but let your tastebuds guide you.  Be very reserved with the Liquid Smoke because a little can go a long way.  Add a dash at a time.  "Taste it and get it right.  I like it so it's not quite too salty, but almost.  Very seasoned.  Under-seasoned broth is a crime."  -David Chang

Friday, August 27, 2010

Momofuku Pork Buns

Assembling the ingredients for the buns is what takes the longest.  But, with the pork belly roasted, the buns made and steamed and the cucumber pickled, all you need is some store-bought hoisin sauce and sriracha sauce. 

Niall's vegetarian version (the lower bun in the photo above) had all the ingredients except the pork belly.  Instead, he had halloumi cheese grilled with maple syrup, which gave the cheese a nice brown and crispy shell.

Momofuku Pork Belly Ssäm with Mustard Seed Sauce

The pork belly ssäm photo didn't turn out, it was too blurry.  But trust me, we did have this recipe with the pork.  However, Niall had it with Halloumi to make it vegetarian.  (And so did I.  I liked the cheese substitute almost as much as the pork.)  What made it for me was the mustard seed sauce.  It's a little pickled cucumber, a few pickled mustard seeds, mayo, two kinds of mustard and green onions.  Fantastic!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Momofuku Ginger Scallion Sauce and Noodles

This was another easy vegetarian recipe.  And who knew a bunch of scallions+ginger+oil, soy sauce, vinegar and salt could be so tasty?  I bought so many green onions I thought I'd never use them all.  I was wrong.

And so much ginger.

But the scallion sauce really does make so many things taste better.  And adding the sauce to pickled cucumbers, bamboo shoots and noodles made a tasty (yet mostly green) meal.