Jul 27, 2009

Milan Cookies-Daring Bakers

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

We could make one or the other or both. I didn't have the time to make both, so I decided to make the Milan cookies. I absolutely love Pepperidge Farm's Milano cookies and welcome the opportunity to duplicate it.

Was my attempt successful? Sadly, no. These Milan cookies are not like the Milano cookies from PF. To me they're more like tuiles. They spread a lot in the oven and came out very thin and delicate. They're very good tuiles though. Instead of making the chocolate ganache, I spread Nutella between the cookies and rolled it in some crushed hazelnut. In the end, it was a very satisfying sandwich cookie, full of hazelnut flavor, YUM!

Here is the recipe for the Milan Cookies. If you're interested in the Chocolate covered Marshmallow cookies, take a look at Nicole's blog.

Milan Cookies
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling (see note):
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.

2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.

3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.

4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.

5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 to 18 minutes (see note) or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.

6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.

7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.

8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).

9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.

10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

  • *Instead of making the chocolate ganache, I used Nutella for the sandwich filling.

  • *The original recipe says to bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, my cookies were chewy on the inside, not the texture I wanted. I had to bake it for another 5 to 8 minutes to get it to have the crunch I wanted.

  • *I only have two cookie sheets, so I had to make many batches. The cookie sheets should be cool before piping more dough on the cookie sheet. To cool the cookie sheets quickly, I run the cookie sheet under cold water and dry it.

Jul 26, 2009

Amish friendship bread

My coworker gave me a very special gift about 10 days ago. I would like to call it the baking chain letter, aka Amish friendship bread. Okay, let me explain. She gave me some Amish friendship bread in both vanilla and chocolate flavor. She also gave me a bag of starter. Apparently, the original starter comes from an Amish person. Every time you go through the process of making the bread, you get four other starters that you pass on to your friends.

I am very skeptical of the fact that only an Amish person can make the starter. So I did a little research via my favorite search engine for recipes, Food Blog Search from Google. I came across the recipe for the starter from Culinary Adventures of a New Wife. So if you're not one of the lucky four people that receive my starter, you can make it for yourself.

The results? It is very moist and very tasty. Make it yourself and make some friends. Instead of making the original cinnamon variety, I found a Lemon poppy seed version from a Taste of Home forum from Jenita. The cake came out really moist and full of lemony flavor. Here's the recipe.

Lemon poppyseed Amish Friendship bread
from Jenita at Taste of Home
makes 1 loaf

1/4 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup Amish starter
1 egg
1 pkg (3.4 oz) instant lemon pudding
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the lemon pudding, poppy seed, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and flour together.

2. In another bowl, mix together the oil, vanilla, applesauce, milk, Amish starter, and egg together.

3. Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and combine until smooth. Pour into greased loaf pan lined with wax paper. Bake about 45 minutes.

  • *For some reason, you're not supposed to use a metal bowl or any metal things to mix the bread.

Jul 23, 2009

Lime-Coconut chiffon cake

I will bake for a lot of reasons, sometimes for no reason at all. Today, I bake for Chinese drama!! I know Chinese dramas aren't as popular as Korean or Japanese drama, but I love them! My mom's friend supplies us with the current Chinese dramas from Hong Kong and as a thank you to her, I baked her a Lime-Coconut chiffon cake. I made a big one for her, and reserved a bit of batter for my baby chiffon cake pan so that I can have a taste. It's so light and airy. It's also very moist and has a really strong lime flavor with some chew from the coconut. Delicious!!

This chiffon cake comes from Baking Illustrated. It's similar to the Apple Banana nut chiffon cake I made earlier, with just a few tweaks. Here's the recipe.

Lime-Coconut Chiffon Cake
adapted from Baking Illustrated
total time: 1.5 hours

1 cup sugar (see note)
1 1/3 cups plain cake flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
7 large eggs, 2 whole, 5 separated at room temperature
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3 tbsp lime zest
2 tbsp strained lime juice
1 cup of lightly packed sweetened flaked coconut (chopped a bit with chef's knife)

1. Adjust the rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Whisk the sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk in the 2 whole eggs, 5 egg yolks (reserve whites), water, oil, lime zest, lime juice, and vanilla extract until the batter is just smooth. Fold in the coconut.

2. Pour the reserved egg whites into the bowl of a standing mixer; beat at low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Add the cream of tartar, gradually increase the speed to medium-high, then beat the whites until very thick and stiff, just short of dry (as little as 7 minutes in a standing mixer and as long as 10 minutes with a handheld mixer). With a large rubber spatula, fold the whites into the batter, smearing in any blobs of white that resist blending with the flat side of the spatula.

3. Pour the batter into an ungreased large tube pan. Rap the pan against the countertop 5 times to rupture any large air pockets. If using a pan with a removable bottom, grasp both sides with your hands while firmly pressing down on the tube with with your thumbs to keep the batter from seeping from the pan during the rapping process. Wipe off any batter that may have dripped or splashed onto the inside walls of the pan with a paper towel.

4. Bake the cake until a toothpick or thin skewer inserted int the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes (see note). Immediately turn the cake upside down to cool. If the pan does not have prongs around the rim for elevating the cake, invert the pan onto the neck of a bottle or funnel. Let the cake cool completely, 2 to 3 hours.

5. To unmold, turn the pan upright. Run a thin knife around the pan's circumference between the cake and the pan wall, always pressing against the pan. Use a skewer to loosen the cake from the tube. For a one-piece pan, bang it on the counter several times, then invert it over a serving plate. For a two piece pan, grasp the tube and lit the cake out of the pan.

  • *The original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of sugar, I decreased it to 1 cup. It was just the perfect amount of sweetness for me.

Jul 16, 2009

Cinnamon palmiers

These palmiers cookies are so easy to make...it's really ridiculous. I guess if you made them the right way, they wouldn't be easy..but I cheated and used the already made frozen puff pastry. These cookies are so yummy even with the frozen puff pastry dough, I bet they would be even more amazing with homemade puff pastry. One day I will be brave enough to make my own puff pastry..but today is not that day.

I used Sherry Yard's directions for Palmiers from her book The Secrets of Baking. I absolutely love this cookbook and can't wait to bake through all the recipes.

Cinnamon Palmier
adapted from The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard
1 sheet of puff pastry
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

1. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together.

2. On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll the puff pastry sheet to an 9x12 inch rectangle, 1/4 inch thick.

3. Cover the entire surface of the dough with a generous layer of sugar. With your finger, draw a vertical line through the sugar down the center of the rectangle, so that you see two 4 1/2 x 12 inch rectangles. Divide each of those sections into thirds by drawing four more vertical lines through the sugar. At the end you should have six sections.

4. To form the palmiers, fold each outside edge toward the center, until it touches the second line. Next fold the outside edges toward the middle again, so both edges meet at the centerline. Coat the exposed surface with more sugar. Using the rolling pin, press the sugar into the dough and lightly crease the folded edges. Now fold the dough in half, as if closing a book.

5. Freeze the log of dough for 30 to 60 minutes to ensure crisp, clean cuts. As this point, the dough can be frozen, wrapped airtight, for up to 1 week.

6. Preheat the oven to 35o degrees. Adjust the rack to the top of the oven. Line two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.

7. When the dough has firmed up, using a chef's knife, slice off 1/4 inch thick cookies. The cookies will be heart shaped. Sprinkle each cookie with more cinnamon sugar before placing them 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Open up the heart slightly to help ease expansion (see note).

8. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 10 minutes, or until they look as though they are starting to set and have colored only slightly around the edges. Quickly remove the sheet from the oven and flip each cookie with a metal offset spatula. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool completely on a rack before serving. Palmiers will keep at room temperature for up to 2 days in an airtight container. They can be frozen for 1 month.

  • *When you slice these cookies, you will think they're too long and thin. Make sure you spread the halves to make a "V" so that the dough can expand as it bakes.

Jul 10, 2009

Chocolate hazelnut mousse cake

I came across this recipe browsing through Epicurious. This cake got really good reviews so I decided to go ahead and make it for my coworker's birthday.

The base is a chocolate hazelnut shortbread cookie, topped with a chocolate hazelnut mousse, and finished with a chocolate glaze. When the cake was glazed...I saw an empty canvas staring in my face!! What to do..what to do...in the end I decided to attempt a henna pattern. The decoration is inspired by this henna pattern...not nearly as beautiful..but I tried.

The mousse cake was really good, it got great reviews from my coworkers!! yipee!! The combination of the chocolate glaze, the mousse and the shortbread crust worked really well together. I thought the mousse could use a little bit more hazelnut flavor. Some of the comments from Epicurious suggested putting a bit of Frangelico, a hazelnut liquor. I didn't have time to get the liquor, but I will definitely try that next time. The great part is this really wasn't too hard to make...a bit time consuming, but not hard. The only oven time involved is the cookie base which makes it a very summer friendly dessert. Here's the recipe.

Chocolate glazed hazelnut mousse cake
from Epicurious

For shortbread base

2 tablespoons hazelnuts, toasted and skins rubbed off
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Invert bottom of springform pan (to make it easier to slide shortbread base off bottom), then lock on side of pan and line bottom with a round of parchment paper.

2. Pulse hazelnuts with sugar in a food processor until nuts are finely chopped. Add flour, butter, cocoa, and salt and pulse just until a dough forms.

3. Press dough evenly onto bottom of springform pan with your fingers. Prick all over with a fork, then bake until just dry to the touch, about 10 to 15 minutes (see note). Transfer base in pan to a rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes. Remove side of pan and carefully slide out parchment from under shortbread, then reattach side of pan around shortbread base.

For mousse

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (from a 1/4-oz envelope)
3 tablespoons cold water
1/2 cup chocolate hazelnut spread such as Nutella (5 oz)
1/2 cup mascarpone (1/4 lb)
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3 tablespoons sugar

1. Make mousse while shortbread cools. Sprinkle gelatin over water in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. Heat gelatin mixture over low heat, stirring, just until gelatin is melted, about 2 minutes. Whisk in chocolate hazelnut spread until combined and remove from heat.

2. Whisk together mascarpone and chocolate hazelnut mixture in a large bowl. Beat together cream, cocoa powder, and sugar in another large bowl with an electric mixer at low speed until just combined, then increase speed to high and beat until cream just holds soft peaks. Whisk one third of whipped cream into mascarpone mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whipped cream until well combined. Spoon filling onto shortbread base in pan, gently smoothing top, then chill, covered, at least 3 hours.

For ganache

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.

2. Run a warm thin knife around inside of springform pan, then remove side (see note). Slide cake off bottom of pan and transfer to a serving plate. Pour ganache onto top of cake and spread, allowing excess ganache to drip down sides.

  • *The original recipes says to bake the crust for 18 to 20 minutes. I took mine out at 12 minutes because I didn't want to overbake the crust.

Jul 4, 2009

Chicken Satay with Thai peanut sauce

Happy 4th of July and Happy two year anniversary to My Food Affair. I can't believe it's been two years since I first started this blog. In the last two years, I have definitely improved as a baker. I have gone out of my comfort zone in baking, thanks mostly to Daring bakers, and became a better baker because of it. Here's to another great year!!

To celebrate, I'm giving you this wonderful recipe for Chicken satay with Thai peanut sauce. Both recipes are from All recipes and I made changes to the recipe based on sweetiesmj's suggestions. I've made this recipe twice now, and both times it was great. It's so easy to make and the result is wonderful. The chicken is moist and full of flavor. The peanut sauce is so easy to make and tastes great!! I think it would go great with some soba noodles too. Here are the recipes.

Chicken Satay
from Allrecipe.com

1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp hot pepper sauce
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 tsp lime juice
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp yellow curry powder
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp chili oil
2 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into strips (see note)
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp chopped unsalted peanuts
12 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 15 minutes
1 cup prepared Thai peanut sauce

1. In a medium bowl, stir together sesame oil, soy sauce, light brown sugar, hot pepper sauce, garlic, lime juice, coconut milk, ground coriander, salt, curry powder, fish sauce, and chili oil. Add the chicken breast strips, and stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Preheat an indoor or outdoor grill for high heat. Thread the chicken strips onto skewers (see note). Discard marinade.

3. Grill chicken for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until no longer pink. Time will depend on how thick your strips are. Transfer to a serving plate, and garnish with cilantro and peanuts. Serve with peanut sauce for dipping.

Thai peanut sauce
adapted from All recipes.com
half of the original recipe

3/4 cups creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup coconut milk
2 tbsp water
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp hot sauce
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger root
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. In a bowl, mix the peanut butter, coconut milk, water, lime juice, soy sauce, hot sauce, ginger, and garlic. Mix in the cilantro just before serving.

  • *The original recipe calls for 1 lb of chicken breast, I made 2 lbs and there was enough marinate for it.

  • *Soak the skewers for at least 2 hours before threading the chicken on them. This is to prevent the skewers from burning when you're grilling the chicken.

  • *The original recipe for the peanut sauce calls for an additional 1/2 tbsp of fish sauce and 1/2 tbsp of soy sauce. When I made the sauce the first time, I thought it was too salty, so I omitted those the second time around. It was much better without it.

Jul 2, 2009

Mung bean pastry

Growing up in Hong Kong, we ate a lot of different types of Chinese pastry. My favorite one is the one with a thousand year old egg in it (I know, you're grossing out). I couldn't find a recipe for that, so I decided to make this Mung bean pastry from Cafe of the East. Cafe of the East is a great blog!! Whenever I want to make an Asian desserts, I always search there first. It's no longer active, the new blog is Corner Cafe.

I have to warn you, this is a very time consuming recipe. I made the filling a few days ago, and didn't make the pastry dough until last night. The filling took me a long time to make. The hardest part was pressing the mung bean paste through the sieve. I must have been doing that for at least two hours!!

The dough itself was pretty straight forward. But it took a long time to create the combine the water dough and the oil dough. I guess you can call this procedure the Chinese laminated dough. =P

In the end, this labor of love was worth it. My parents raved about the pastry. It was very flaky and I was so happy to see all those layers. It actually reminds me of the lima bean manju from Maui. Next time, I will try the pastry dough with a red bean filling. Maybe one day, I will be able to make the thousand year old egg pastry, anyone have a recipe?

Mung Bean Pastry
from Cafe of the East
Makes 20.

Water Dough
100g bread flour, sifted
100g cake flour, sifted
70g lard (or shortening, or unsalted butter), softened
20g icing sugar
100ml water

Lard Dough
120g cake flour, sifted
60g lard (or shortening, or ghee), softened

400g Mung Bean Paste (see recipe below)

To Finish:
1 egg, lightly beaten for eggwash
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds, for sprinkling as topping

Water Dough:
1. Rub lard into the sifted flours, then add the remaining ingredients and mix to form a soft dough, you may need to adjust the amount of water depending on the water absorbency of the flour used. Knead until smooth. Wrap in cling film and set aside for 15 - 20 minutes before using.

Lard Dough:
1. Rub lard into the cake flour and knead until the dough has approximately the
same pliability/malleability as the Water Dough.

To make Chinese Puff Pastry:
Divide the Water dough and the Lard Dough respectively into 20 equal portions. Take one portion of the Lard Dough piece and wrap it inside a Water Dough piece. Roll the combined dough piece out into a thin flat sheet using a rolling pin. With your hand, roll the thin sheet up, Swiss-roll styled, into a cigar shape. Turn the cigar 90° so that one of the round ends faces you. With the rolling pin, roll it out into a flat sheet again. Then roll it up Swiss-roll styled again. Roughly round the roll-up dough piece into a ball. Repeat with the rest of the dough pieces until you get 20 combined dough balls (see note).

To make Puffs:
1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Divide the filling into 20 equal portions, 20g each.

2. Roll out or press each dough ball into a round flat disc, with the outer edges slightly thinner than the center. Wrap one portion of the filling inside each portion of the flat dough. Seal up tightly by pressing the edges together to enclose the filling. Place the puff, seal side down on a baking sheet. Repeat with the rest until finished.

3. Glaze the puffs with eggwash. Sprinkle a little sesame seeds on top of each puff. Bake for about 18 - 20 minutes, or until light golden in color.

Mung Bean Paste(see note)
adapted from Cafe of the East
150g skinless, split mung beans
37g lard, or canola/corn oil
1/4 cup shallots (or 1 medium onion if shallots are unavailable), sliced
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
1/8 teaspoon five-spice powder (optional)
80g white sugar (see note)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Soak mung beans in enough water to cover for at least 2-4 hours. Drain.

2. Place the drained mung beans in a large plate that can fit into the steamer/wok, spread out the beans into an even layer. Rapidly boil water in a steamer/wok, steam the mung beans until soft, about 30 minutes.

3. Remove beans from steamer and press through a sieve to remove any hard particles, this process will also produce a very fine paste.

4. Melt lard (or oil) in a wok, add sliced shallots and cook over low heat until golden brown and aromatic, about 10-20 minutes. Drain and remove the golden brown shallots for other use. Return the flavored oil to the wok.

5. Add sesame oil and five-spice powder, cook over low heat briefly until aromatic. Add the sieved bean paste, sugar and salt. Turn heat up to medium/med-high and stir-fry until thick and the bean paste can stand in peaks. Cool.

  • *Go to Cafe of the East for step by step instruction on how to make the dough.
  • *I made half the recipe for the mung bean paste, and it was just enough filling for the dough.
  • *I lowered the amount of sugar, the original was 90g. I thought it was just the right amount of sweetness.

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