Feb 27, 2013

Taiwanese Pineapple Cookie

Check out my cute plate!! heehee =P I am a huge huge fan of Hello Kitty!! I am a bit of a closet HK fan because as a woman in her 30's, not living in Japan, it's a bit hard to broadcast my love (I'm sorry, HK, I know you deserve so much more!!) I spend more money than I should on HK products, but I rationalize it by buying HK home items. I stand by my $60 HK bread mold that I absolutely need for a healthy and balance diet!! =P

Anyway, on to the yummy cookies on the lovely plate. I grew up eating these Taiwanese Pineapple Cookies. They are unlike any American cookie and taste more like a flaky biscuit with a pineapple jam filling. I found this recipe from Cafe of the East. Her cookies are so pretty because she uses molds to make them, but I can't get mine to come out of my mold in one piece. I end up just shaping them with my hands. Even though they're not the prettiest, they are very tasty. I ended up using the pineapple jam recipe from Table for two or more. I love that I can control the amount of sugar in the jam to my liking. One less thing to buy from the store!! =P

Taiwanese Pineapple Cookies
from Cafe of the East and Table for two or more

Pineapple Jam
adapted from Table for two or more

1 large pineapple
1/2 cup of sugar (see note)
1 cinnamon stick

1. Cut pineapples into chunks. Do not discard the core.

2. Put half the pineapple chunks into a blender, add 1/3 cup of water and puree. Pour 80% of the blended pineapple into a pan or a wok. Use a pan with a large surface so that the pineapple puree can evaporate quicker.

3. With the remaining blended pineapple in the blender, repeat blending process with the rest of the pineapple. You should not need any additional water.

4. Pour all of the pineapple puree in a pan with the cinnamon stick. Cook on medium heat until it's very pasty, like thick oatmeal.

5. Add in sugar, it'll turn watery again. Turn to lower medium heat, and cook until it is very pasty. Stir once in a while.

6. Increase the heat to high. Don't stir and let the base take on some color. It will caramelize the jam. Stir once in a while to check on the color. Stop when it almost reaches your preferred color. Some pans will continue to caramelize even when the heat is off. It should be golden brown color. The jam will thicken after it cools, so don't overcook.

240g plain flour, sifted
60g vanilla custard powder, sifted
pinch salt
50g icing sugar, sifted
180g ghee
1 egg yolk

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Cream ghee and egg yolk briefly. Add sifted flour, salt, custard powder and icing sugar. Knead into a soft and pliable dough.

2. Divide dough into approximately 15 to 20g pieces and divide the Pineapple Filling into approximately 15g pieces, or adjust according to the size of your cookie cutter. Wrap each portion of the filling inside each piece of dough. Round into a ball shape. Repeat with the rest of the dough pieces and filling portions.

3. Use your cookie cutter to shape the wrapped dough pieces. Place the round dough inside the cookie cutter on an ungreased baking sheet. Press down with the heel of your palm to make the dough fit into the cookie cutter shape. Carefully remove the cookie cutter. Finish moulding the rest of the wrapped dough pieces.

4. Bake for about 18 minutes (also depending on the size of your shortbreads), or until the shortbreads are light golden brown. Cool on the tray for about 10 minutes as the shortbreads are very fragile at this stage. Then use a flat spatula to remove the shortbreads to a wire rack to finish cooling. Store in airtight container.


  • *I halved the original recipe and it was just right for the amount of dough I had. Go to Wendy's website for additional tips for a successful jam.
  • *The original recipe calls for one cup of sugar for one pineapple. I only used 1/2 cup of sugar because my pineapple was very sweet.  I made this once without adding any sugar at all. It all depends on the sweetness of your pineapple.

Feb 23, 2013

Strawberry Tart

I recently went to the afternoon tea service at Halekulani and I was so disappointed (gasp! who dares speak against Halekulani? Don't get me started on the brunch...all I have to say is run for the hills!) I was really excited about it, because it was a chance to hang out with my girlfriends and have yummy finger sandwiches and desserts. Let me tell you, most of the desserts were ehhh at best! The sandwiches were dry, and the scones were just okay! The tea was excellent though! If you are the type that can taste atmosphere, you will love Halekulani. It's pretty and relaxing, and a great place to spend an afternoon. But if you're there for the food (like i am), you would be happier elsewhere (any suggestions?). I thought for sure that they would have some type of fruit tart, but they didn't.

How can they not have fruit tarts? I love fruit tarts!! I love the contrast of fresh fruit with the creamy pastry cream all enveloped in a sugary buttery crust. Rarely do you get this when eating a fruit tart. The cream is often too gelatinous and the crust often soggy. If you're tired of these sub par fruit tarts, make this fruit tart yourself!! You'll love it!! It might look like a long recipe, but it's not hard at all!! The only thing you need to bake is the crust. I'm thinking I have to have my very own afternoon tea service at my house. Anyone want to make a reservation?

Strawberry Fruit Tart
adapted from Art and Soul of Baking

1 recipe Vanilla Shortcrust Dough (recipe follows)
1 1/2 ounces white or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 recipe Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream (recipe follows)
1 lb of strawberries
2 tbsp seedless raspberry jam
2 tsp water

1. Bake the shell: Preheat the oven to 375°F and position a rack in the bottom third. Line the chilled tart shell with heavy-duty foil, pressing the foil firmly and smoothly into the crevices of the pan. Fill the pan with pie weights. Make sure the weights reach up the sides to the rim of the pan (the center does not need to be filled quite as full). Bake the shell for 20 to 22 minutes, until the foil comes away from the dough easily (if it doesn't, bake another 5 to 6 minutes and check again). Remove the pan from the oven (hold the pan by the sides and not the bottom), close the oven door, and lift out the foil and weights from the shell; set them aside to cool. Return the pan to the oven to continue baking the shell for about 10 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven, close the oven door, and check to see if any cracks have formed. If you see a crack, very gently smear a tiny bit of reserved dough over the crack to patch it-you need only enough to seal the opening. Return the pan to the oven and bake 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the crust is a nice golden brown all over. Transfer to a rack and cool completely.

2. Moisture-proof the crust: Bring an inch of water to a boil in the bottom of the double boiler. Place the chocolate in the top of the double boiler off the heat. Then place the chocolate over the steaming water. Stir occasionally with the silicone or rubber spatula until the chocolate is melted and smooth. (Or, melt the chocolate in the microwave-safe bowl) Scrape the melted chocolate into the cooled tart shell and use the offset spatula to spread it into a thin layer across the bottom and about ½-inch up the side. Chill for 10 minutes to firm the chocolate.

3. Fill the tart: Spoon the pastry cream into the tart crust and spread into an even layer. Refrigerate while you prepare the fruit. Pour the raspberries and blackberries onto the baking sheet and pick out and discard any moldy berries or debris. These berries are usually not washed, as they absorb water quickly and turn to mush. Rinse the blueberries in the strainer under cold water and pat dry. In the medium bowl, gently mix all of the berries together. Transfer to the tart, making sure there is a nice balance of all the berries in each area of the tart.

4. Finish the tart: Heat the raspberry jam and water in the small saucepan over low heat until melted, hot, and fluid or, microwave on low in the microwave-safe bowl. Do not let it boil or it will caramelize. Brush just enough of the melted jam over the tops of the berries to glaze them a bit. You don't want to overdo it; simply touch the brush to the berries to give them a shiny look. Refrigerate the tart until ready to serve.

5. Place the tart pan on top of a large can (the 28-ounce tomato cans are good) so that the bottom balances midair as the rim falls to the counter. Use the metal spatula to transfer the tart to a serving plate, or simply leave the bottom of the tart pan under the tart for support. Slice the tart with a thin and sharp knife, cutting down in one quick motion rather than sawing. This tart is lovely all by itself, though a spoonful of raspberry sauce is a good accompaniment.

Storing: The tart holds beautifully for 2 days, but is at its prettiest the day it is made. Cover with plastic and refrigerate. After a couple of days the juices from the fruit begin to seep into the pastry cream, though the tart still tastes delicious.

Vanilla Shortcrust Dough
from Art and Soul of Baking

1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 to 3 teaspoons water

1. To mix the dough using a food processor: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 5 times to blend. Add the cold butter pieces and pulse 6 to 8 times, just until the butter is the size of large peas. In the small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon water. Add to the butter mixture, then process just until the dough begins to form small clumps, 5 to 10 seconds. Do not let the dough form a ball. Test the dough by squeezing a handful of clumps-when you open your hand, they should hold together. If they are crumbly and fall apart, sprinkle 1 teaspoon water over the dough and pulse several times, then test again. Repeat, if necessary. To mix the dough by hand: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the medium bowl and blend well with the whisk. Add the cold butter pieces and toss until they are lightly coated with the flour. Use the pastry blender or your fingertips to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs or crushed crackers. If at any time during this process the butter softens and becomes warm, place the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes before continuing. In the small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon water. Add to the dry ingredients and toss between your fingertips or with a fork 20 to 30 times to evenly distribute the moisture. The dough will still look very crumbly, but if the mixture is squeezed in your hand, it should hold together. If not, sprinkle another teaspoon of water over the top and toss to blend. Repeat, if necessary.

2. Finish the dough: Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and knead gently 2 or 3 times, just to finish bringing it together. Shape it into a disk about 6 inches in diameter. If the dough is still cool to the touch, continue on to the next step. If the dough is soft and sticky, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes before continuing.

3. To make the tart shell by rolling the dough: Make sure the dough is cool but malleable. If it has been refrigerated or frozen and is quite hard, let it sit on the counter for 10 to 12 minutes before rolling; otherwise, the dough will crack under the pressure of the rolling pin. Since it's difficult to remove this dough from the work surface without tearing it unmercifully, place the dough disk between two 14-inch pieces of waxed paper, parchment paper, or plastic wrap. Roll it into an 11-inch round, rotating it (and the paper) clockwise slightly after each roll to create an even round. Remember to roll from the center outward and to lift the rolling pin at the edge to avoid smashing the edge into the paper, which will make removing the paper difficult.

4. As you roll, the paper or plastic wrap will get wrinkled into the dough. When this happens, peel it off, smooth out the wrinkles and lay it back on the dough. Flip the dough over and repeat, if necessary, with the top piece. Continue to roll, flipping and smoothing wrinkles as necessary, until the dough is 11 inches across and between ⅛ and ¼ inch thick. If the dough is soft and sticky, transfer it to a baking sheet and chill it for 30 minutes. Peel off the top piece of paper or plastic. Leave the bottom piece attached-this will hold the dough together while you transfer it to the pan. Lift the dough by the exposed paper or plastic and flip it over and center it over the tart pan as best you can.

5. Peel off the paper or plastic. (If it sticks and won't come off, place everything on a baking sheet and chill for 30 minutes-the paper will then peel off easily.) Ease the dough across the bottom of the pan and up the sides, pressing it into the corners of the pan with your fingertips. If the dough breaks or cracks, just press it together again. Once the dough is even in the pan, fold the excess dough at the edge inward to create a double layer of dough along the wall. Press firmly with your thumbs to fuse the two layers of dough, then roll your thumb over the rim of the pan to remove any excess dough there. Save the excess dough in case a crack forms in the crust during baking. Refrigerate for 1 hour or freeze for 30 minutes before baking.

6. To make the tart shell by pressing the dough into the pan by hand: First, chill the dough for 30 minutes. Break the cold dough into small pieces roughly an inch or two in diameter and scatter them evenly over the bottom of the tart pan. Use the heel of your hand to press the pieces of dough flat, connecting them into a smooth, even layer. Press from the center of the pan outward, building up some extra dough where the bottom meets the side. Using your thumbs, press this excess up the sides of the pan to form the walls, making sure they are the same thickness as the dough on the bottom of the pan. Roll your thumb over the rim of the pan to remove any excess dough (save this for patching any cracks that might form during baking). Refrigerate for 1 hour, or freeze for 30 minutes before baking.

Vanilla bean pastry cream
from Art and Soul of Baking

1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) whole milk
1 vanilla bean (or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) sugar
1/4 cup (1 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) cold unsalted butter

Fill the large bowl halfway with ice and water and set it aside. Pour the milk into the medium saucepan. Use the tip of a paring knife to cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Turn the knife over and use the dull side to scrape the seeds into the saucepan, then add the pod. Heat until the mixture just begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and let steep for 30 minutes. (If using vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean, skip this step and add the extract later.)

Heat the milk to just below the boiling point and remove from the heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, and sugar until well blended and smooth. Add the flour and whisk vigorously until the mixture is very smooth. Pour about ½ cup of the hot milk into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to temper the yolks. Slowly pour the yolk mixture back into the hot milk, whisking all the while.

Heat the mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the flour from lumping, until it reaches a boil. Continue to cook and whisk for another minute, until the pastry cream is very thick. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter (and vanilla extract, if using). Strain the pastry cream through the strainer set over a medium bowl to remove any lumps or tiny bits of egg. (Save the vanilla bean: Rinse it thoroughly, allow to dry, then use it to make vanilla sugar).

Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream, then set the bowl into the bowl of ice water. Once the pastry cream has completely cooled, use or store in the refrigerator until needed.

Feb 15, 2013

Chocolate decadence cake

This amazing piece of cake is inspired by the Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory. As you can probably tell by the numerous cheesecake posts, I *heart* cheesecake. It's my favorite type of cake!! I love cheesecake so much I had a cheesecake as my wedding cake. Before I could make my own cheesecake, I used to like going to Cheesecake Factory for their cheesecakes. The other night while strolling through Waikiki, we decided to stop at Cheesecake Factory for dessert. We decided on the Godvia Chocolate Cheesecake. It was four layers of absolute chocolate decadence. The bottom is a flourless chocolate cake, topped with chocolate cheesecake, topped with chocolate mousse and finish off with a layer of chocolate ganache!!! It was soo good, I knew I had to make it!!!

I found this recipe online for the cheesecake. The first time I made it, I followed the recipe exactly. The recipe tells you to bake the chocolate cake and cheesecake together. When it came out of the oven, the cake enveloped the cheesecake, and it was just a big mess. I smoothed it out, and put the mousse on top. It was very delicious, but I liked having four distinct layers. This time, I decided to bake it separately, and the result was much better!!! It is an incredibly rich cake. If you're a chocolate lover, you will no doubt love it!!!

Here are some things you should know before you make this cake. The flourless chococlate cake listed below makes a very large cake. I wanted the layers to be even, so I ended up dividing the batter between a 9" cake pan and a 7" cake pan. It's a perfect treat for the cook!! I think I put about 2/3 of the batter in the 9" cake pan. I didn't use the original ganache recipe because it looks like way too much ganache for this cake. I ended up using a ganache recipe that's perfect portion for a 9" cake. Okay, now you're ready!! Here's the recipe with my adaptations.

Chocolate Decadence Cake
adapted from Recipe Secrets.net

Chocolate Mousse
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups heavy (whipping) cream, divided use
6 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate, chopped in small pieces

1. Beat the egg yolks with 1/4 cup of sugar in a small bowl on high speed until thick and lemon colored, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

2. Heat 1 cup heavy cream in saucepan over medium heat just until hot. (Do not boil.) Gradually stir half of the hot cream into egg yolk mixture then combine back into hot cream in saucepan. Cook over low heat about 5 minute, stirring constantly, until mixture is blended and thickens. Let cool for 10 minutes, then add chocolate to mixture and stir until thick, about 5 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, just until chilled.

3. Beat remaining 1 1/2 cups heavy cream in chilled medium bowl until stiff. Mix 1/2 of the whipped cream into chocolate mixture until blended. Fold remaining whipped cream gradually into chocolate mixture until well blended. Allow to chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.

For The Flourless Chocolate Cake
7 oz semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces (45-50 % cocoa)
4/5 cup butter
1 cup sugar, divided use
4 eggs, separated

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 inch and a 7 inch cake tin with grease-proof or other non-stick paper and grease the tins.

2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of almost simmering water, stirring once or twice, until smooth; remove from the heat.

3. Beat the yolks with 1/2 cup of sugar. Beat until the yolks turn a lemony yellow color and the volume nearly triples. Gently fold in the yolk mixture to the chocolate mixture.

4. Using a standing mixer or a handheld mixer, beat the egg whites until it becomes frothy. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Fold in the egg white mixture to the chocolate mixture. Gently fold the egg and flour into the chocolate until the mixture is a uniform color.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (the 7 inch cake make be done in about 15 to 20 minutes). The top of the cake will be dry and it will have doubled in size. Let cool on a rack. The cake will deflate slightly when it comes out of the oven. Once cool, put into the refrigerator until ready to assemble.

For The Chocolate Cheesecake
1 lb cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
4 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted

1. While the chocolate cake is baking, begin on the chocolate cheesecake. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of almost simmering water, stirring once or twice, until smooth. Remove from heat.

2. Using a standing mixer or a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar until it's light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, waiting for each egg to be incorporated before adding the next egg. Add the melted chocolate and beat until everything is incorporated.

3. Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes until the middle is jiggly, but set. Allow the cheesecake to cool for two to three hours before putting it in the refrigerator. Allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

Chocolate Ganache
from Epicurious

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
3 1/2 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped

1. Bring cream to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan and remove from heat. Add chocolate and let stand 1 minute, then gently whisk until completely melted and smooth. Transfer ganache to a small bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened but still pourable, about 20 minutes.

9" portion of the Flourless chocolate cake
Chocolate cheesecake
Chocolate mousse
Chocolate ganache

1. After the cheesecake has completely cooled and chilled in the refrigerator, gently remove from the pan and place in the pan with the flourless chocolate cake.

2. Pour the chocolate mousse on top of the cheesecake and level off with a offset spatula.

3. Pour the warm chocolate ganache on top of the chocolate mousse and spread with the offset spatula. Allow the entire cake to cool in the refrigerator. Enjoy

Feb 1, 2013

Portobello Mushroom Wellington

I love cooking for our friends and family and love having people over at the house. The hardest part is figuring out what to make! A lot of people have dietary restrictions nowadays, either preferences or allergies. I want to make sure my guests have something they will enjoy, but I also don't want to make a separate dish for everyone.

When people tell me they don't eat meat, I often turn to mushrooms. Mushrooms are filling, tasty and it's full of flavor. When talking to one of our non-meat-eating friends, I find out that she doesn't like mushrooms either!!! I was so shocked! She talked about not liking the woodiness of mushrooms.

I think the reason why she doesn't like mushrooms is the very reason I love mushrooms. Both Mr. G and I have a great love for mushrooms. I love mushrooms of every kind, I eat mushrooms at least once a week. It just goes to show that food preferences are so subjective. The best meal of my life could taste like complete crap to you. I love that! To celebrate diversity in tastes and preferences, I made these portobello mushroom wellingtons!

The recipe comes from Delicious Dishes. It's absolutely delicious (if you LOVE mushrooms). It is bursting with mushroom flavors. I love the little bits of mushroom and cheese with the meatiness of the portobello mushroom. It's so incredibly filling, I promise you won't miss the meat! Here's the recipe.

Vegetarian Portobello Wellington
from Delicious Dishes
Serves 4

4 medium-sized portobello mushrooms, washed and gills scraped out
4 cups crimini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 large cups tender baby spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced and divided
4 garlic cloves, minced and divided
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon Seasoned Bread Crumbs
1 cup freshly grated Gruyere Cheese
Pinch of Crushed Red Pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1 sheet of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry dough (or two, depending on how big your portobello mushrooms are)

egg wash: 1 egg whisked together with 1 tablespoon water

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees f.

2. Lightly brush the portobello mushrooms with olive oil and dust lightly with kosher salt. Bake the portobello mushrooms for 15 minutes cap side up and 10 minutes cap side down. Once done baking place mushrooms on a paper towel so all the extra moisture will be absorbed. Set aside.

3. In a large skillet, saute 1 shallot and 2 minced cloves of garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add the baby spinach leaves. Stir to coat the spinach and lightly salt and pepper to taste, once the spinach looks like it is wilting, add the balsamic vinegar. Once the leaves are wilted, remove from skillet and place contents into a bowl and set aside. In the same skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and saute 2 minced shallots and 2 minced garlic cloves. After about 1 minute, add in the chopped mushrooms and lightly season with salt and pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Continue to saute the mushrooms on medium heat until all of the moisture is cooked out and the mushrooms are soft. Remove from heat, add the mushrooms to the spinach mixture. Mix together and let cool. Once mixture is cooled toss in the bread crumbs, toasted pine nuts and Gruyere cheese. Mix well.

4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one sheet of the puff pastry. Cut into 4 equal pieces (if you have really large portobello mushrooms then you might need to use the extra sheet of puff pastry). Equally fill each portobello mushroom cap with the spinach and mushroom mixture. Place one piece of puff pastry over a filled portobello mushroom. Gently turn the mushroom over so the puff pastry is now on your working surface and the mushroom is upside down. Lightly brush the egg wash around the outer edges of the puff pastry. Place the opposite corners of the puff pastry to wrap around the portobello and then bring the other two corners up. Gently bring the sides up to completely cover the mushroom. Once all is secure, place the seamed side down onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Lightly brush the top of the wellington with a little bit of egg wash, lightly score the top and dust a little bit of salt and pepper on top.

5. Bake the wellingtons for about 25-30 minutes or until the puff pastry is nice and golden brown. Serve immediately.

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