July 24, 2015


I think my fascination for these traditional shell-shaped French tea cakes must have started with the pan :-) I've never had madeleines before and I've always wondered about their taste and texture. Thanks to the many recipes and information I found online, my first madeleine baking session turned out well.

The distinctive hump of the madeleine (shown above) that's supposed to appear in these petite cakes, slowly rose and formed as the madeleines baked in the oven.

The underside, as shown above, with the characteristic shell design became nice and golden brown. Sprinkle them with powdered sugar before serving.

The batter is a basic sponge cake mixture or genoise which may be enhanced with different flavors. I found the first recipe I tried on youtube from the Culinary Institute of America baking videos. I ran out of butter so I searched and found a recipe using canola oil instead. These madeleines turned out soft and light but still just basic in flavor. I have to try another recipe with butter next time which I found on the Joy of Baking website.

the madeleine pan that started it all :-)
I found the recipe and video for these Lemon-Grand Marnier Madeleines on youtube demonstrated by a chef from the Culinary Institute of America.

July 21, 2015

vegetables for pinakbet

It's not often that we're able to stop by a bigger Asian grocery and produce market so when there's an opportunity, we rarely miss it. I like to browse the merchandise along the aisles. There are so many interesting items and I always enjoy my time there. Fresh Asian vegetables are also available and buying some of my favorites has always been a special treat for me. In Manila, these vegetables are very common at the local market.

This unique mix of vegetables was exactly what I needed to make a Filipino dish called pinakbet. It's a popular vegetable dish in the Northern Philippines particularly the Ilocos region. There are many variations using different eggplant varieties and other vegetables. One of the key ingredients used to season this dish is bagoong, a type of salty paste made with shrimp or fish. I had to replace it with patis (fish sauce) so my husband will have no problem with the pinakbet (he's very allergic to shrimp).

It has crossed my mind many times that pinakbet, shown above and below, may be the Filipino version of ratatouille, a French vegetable stew that also uses a variety of vegetables.

I also bought a bunch of garlic chives, sold cheaper at this Asian market than at regular grocery stores. A good amount went into these Asian potstickers, shown below. I made them many times before without the chives, even if the recipe required it. They were not just expensive at the grocery but they were hard to find sometimes. The chives definitely added more authentic flavors to the dumplings.

Asian potstickers with garlic chives

our complete meal ~ pinakbet and Asian potstickers
served with steamed rice
For the recipe,

July 19, 2015

jam & jelly maker

With strawberries still at their prime this summer, it was time to finally test this new gadget. It was a project that has been on hold for awhile now since my husband gave me this Ball Jam and Jelly Maker last Christmas. We were surprised how big the actual pot was when we unboxed it upon receiving it. It comes with a stirring paddle attached in the middle which starts as soon as the jam or jelly button is pressed.

I have to say, this gadget will surely please any avid jam & jelly maker and seller out there. Jams & jellies always make great gifts for the holiday season, so this is a handy gadget for such projects. It was very easy to use with simple instructions.

fresh strawberries all washed & ready for the test
Wash and drain the strawberries. Hull them and carefully crush with a potato masher. For jam, I prefer the berries chunkier than totally pureed. Measure the fruit and set aside. The enclosed recipe has two options, traditional or reduced sugar. We chose reduced sugar that required more fruit. Add the pectin into the pot followed by the fruit. Press the jam button to activate the stirrer and the timer. Wait for the beep before adding the sugar. It will automatically stop when the jam is done. Proceed with the canning process next. Otherwise, the jam may just be refrigerated or enjoyed immediately while still warm.

The jam making process shown above (1) Ball Real Fruit classic pectin and a set of lids (2) strawberry huller gadget worked well and made the job easier (3) strawberries crushed with a potato masher (4) the crushed strawberries in the jam maker (5) adding the sugar after the beep (6) a sample of the strawberry jam (7) tasty with gluten-free scones (8) strawberry jam preserved in jars.

July 4, 2015

our 4th of July weekend trip

This was the second time we drove to the state capital to spend a quiet 4th of July holiday weekend. We live close to the beach and it gets busy every summer here. We don't venture there and just leave it for the sun worshipers and to enjoy.

Florida Supreme Court

beautiful old oak tree with branches extending to the ground
With the business district closed and the college students off to their summer break, we enjoyed the laid back and relaxing time.

June 20, 2015

troubleshooting hollow macarons

Whether using the Italian or French method for the meringue, I've never made a single macaron that's not hollow inside. Like these ones I baked recently, shown below. Although they may look almost perfect from the outside, I've always wanted to solve the issue.

After my macaron troubleshooting project recently using different recipes and oven temperatures, I finally found the answer. The single baking sheet I was using all the time wasn't insulated enough and the macarons were rising too fast creating taller feet and hollow interiors.

The solution: I just put one baking sheet on top of another and proceeded to line it with parchment paper. A cross section of the ube macaron is shown below. They're very delicate and finicky but I think I found the right combination of mixing technique and oven temperature that worked for me. The extra insulation underneath was crucial when baking them with parchment paper. I think with Silpat (a reusable nonstick liner) a single baking sheet will be fine. Silpat is much thicker than parchment paper and provides much better insulation.

finally...macarons that are not hollow inside!

June 12, 2015

summer cakes

My favorite past time this summer, staying cool while enjoying these light and fruity cakes :-) I'm still baking despite the seriously hot and humid days we've been having even in the early mornings. Instead of making regular banana bread, my over ripe bananas went into this banana chiffon cake, shown below. I found a good banana chiffon cake recipe at Chew Out Loud website.

One of the first chiffon cakes I learned to bake was pineapple chiffon cake, shown below. It has been my personal favorite for many years. The white mountain frosting may be optional but it just works so well with cake. I very seldom omit the frosting when I make this cake :-)

a slice of the light & fluffy pineapple chiffon cake

This Japanese strawberry shortcake version with a basic sponge cake base was just perfectly refreshing for summer. However, in Japan, this is called Christmas cake. It's traditionally made or sold during the Christmas season. I've seen pictures of other versions of it online. I also learned that the cakes in Japan are usually less sweet. The bakeshops get very creative with the fruit toppings. They use cantaloupe, honeydew melons and other fresh colorful fruits.

Japanese strawberry shortcake 

May 31, 2015

weekend sandwich idea

Every now and then, usually on weekends, I throw caution to the wind and just succumb to the most comforting guilty pleasure meal like this loaded BLT/clubhouse sandwich we recently had at home :-)

I've never turned down a BLT sandwich and I've never had one that I didn't like either. I have to admit, it's one of my classic favorites. This wasn't totally unhealthy with the addition of avocado :-) The sandwich was definitely an oversized stack of crispy bacon, mortadella, havarti cheese, tomato and avocado slices.

I had no problem finishing it :-) It was exceptionally good with chewy La Brea telera rollsNot available in grocery stores in our area, the rolls have always been a special treat when we get them.