Saturday, May 26, 2012

Who Knows Cream Cheese, Tangerine Juice and Brownie Mix So Well Together

Sipping a cup of velvety latte is such an indulgence (sighing in bliss). Furthermore, what's not to love about pairing coffee with a small piece of cheese cake.

One bite satisfies cravings for brownie and cheese cake
This is not your ordinary graham-cracker-base cheese cake. Instead, it is half brownie and half New York style cheese cake.

I got the idea from a blog, which I can't relocate despite all the digging in my history drop down list. The whole blog is about recreating boxed desserts. For example, the one I spotted was a three layer biscuit/cake. The bottom was Nestle's ready to bake cookie dough, flattened into the bottom of muffin tins. Next is a layer of store-bought Oreo cookies, pressed lightly into the cookie dough. The last layer is those add your oil and egg and mix-well brownie batter. After 15 minutes in a 350 oven give you a three layered cake with a crunchy crust in the bottom. It's such a party treat, and no one would blame you for serving something out of a box.

As much as I like the creativity part, I wasn't so found of the overly sweet and artificial flavor in boxed desserts. One bite of that devilish creation is essentially a mouthful of chocolate chip cookies, Oreo and brownie. I created my own version of mixed batter dessert, and the result was half brownie and half cheese cake.

Cheese cake with a brownie 'crust'

I was worried that the two batter would settle into one another and producing an ugly marbled cheese cake because both the brownie and cheese cake batter was very runny. In fact, more runny than when I make the full serving of either the brownie or cheese cake. Luckily I made a fortunate mistake. I made the brownie batter first and just let it sit in the bowl on the countertop while I made the other batter. When it came time to fill the muffin tins, the chocolate batter sort of solidified and was on the dense side. The ultimate solution was to pour the denser batter first then the lighter one. I thought the cream cheese batter would be heavier, considering how there was a block of Philadelphia, but with a little tangerine juice and two eggs, the batter had a light chowder consistency.

Nevermind how bad the batters were before baking because when I took the muffin tray from the oven, I was delighted to see a clear separation at the bottom.

A little note on the recipe above, notice how I listed 1 tablespoon of tangerine juice under the cheese cake ingredient list. I was too lazy to squeeze a lemon and zest the fruit, so I just pulled out my citrus juice from the fridge. The cheese cake had a less vibrant citrus flavor to it. Because the tangerine juice is much sweeter than lemon juice, the cheese cake was on the sweet side with a hint of orange. Feel free to use lemonade, orange juice, or simply the classic lemon juice for your batter.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How to Fry Dumplings or How to Make Gyozas

Gyozas are such delicate appetizers in Asian restaurants in the US. They always come in a small plate with no more than six. The small serving makes me crave for more gyozas...give me....give me more! What I forgot over the years is that gyozas are just leftover dumplings. My mom used to make hundreds of dumplings before Chinese New Year. What we don't finish on New Year's eve are pan-fried and served along other leftover foods.

A little history here on why some Chinese people eat dumplings for New Year. Flour-based dishes like noodle, pancakes, buns, and dumplings are part of Northern China's diet because no rice field can be cultivated in cold weather. A Southerner's diet would be rice because of the humidity and abundance of water source. My mom coming from northern part of China makes dumplings that shape like gold nuggets in the ancient times. The more dumplings you eat the more wealthy you will be in the coming in.

Along with the tradition of eating dumplings is randomly fold in a special filling into the dumplings. If you are the lucky one and chose the dumpling with a coin, then you will (again) be wealthy in the coming year. The Chinese are such money hoarders sometimes. If you get the dumpling with a date, you will have a baby girl; in addition, if you get a peanut in the dumpling, you will have a baby boy. The greater meaning here is that the more kids you have the more hands there are to make money, which further reinforces the importance of wealth in Chinese culture. All these fillings with their meanings are very yesterday traditions. Not a lot of people continued this tradition, and even if they do, whatever filling you get just symbolize good luck!

So back to gyozas. I was scared of gyozas as a kid. Imagine if you over stuff your stomach with over twenty dumplings hoping to find one lucky dumpling then seeing more of that stuff the next morning, yikes! Old people are really smart though. They know you wouldn't want to eat anymore boiled dumplings, so they fry them instead!

Today I want to share with you a quick tip on making your own gyoza. You need some drinking water, some frozen gyozas, a frying pan, and some oil.

First heat your frying pan on low heat. When the pan is hot, spray a thin layer of oil or brush a layer of oil.

Wait till the oil is hot before you put the frozen dumplings down. Don't worry about the dumplings not cooking through because we're defrosting the dumplings in hot oil.

Wait for about 4-5 minutes and make sure that the fire is small to medium and that the bottom of the dumplings aren't burnt.

Lift a dumpling up to see if the skin is see through with a bit of yellow crust. If not, continue cooking. If so, get the frying pan's lid ready.

Pour just enough water to cover the frying pan and put down the lid immediately. Don't lift up the lid, this will let the steam escape.

You will see a lot of water droplets on the lid. Just be patient and wait till all water have evaporated.

Lift the lid up and flip the dumplings to other sides. Then fry them on all sides till the crust is gold.

Place onto plate and enjoy with some soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce, or ketchup!

Here's how the cooking process look like:
frozen dumpling in hot oil on low-medium heat

add a small amount of water and steam with the lid on

the crust is crispy and the filling mellow

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bready Bagel

I took a little break from blogging to celebrate my graduation. Three years of on and off studying and procrastination have come to an end with a walk up the stage and a hand shake with the dean. College is just a wonderful piece of chocolate chip cookie. You don't realize you've gobbled the whole thing up until  you see some lonely crumbs floating in your glass of milk. Flipping through my Facebook albums (I can't remember when was the last time I developed photos), I realized how little I've changed in appearance yet I'm a different person.

My greatest accomplishment in college is to embrace my love for baking, and most important of all motivating myself to start Chez Ma Cuisine. In a month I would be moving ma petite cuisine to start my post-graduation life!

To commemorate my college life I decided to make bagels. Plain, simple bagels that accompanied me through countless mornings. They are everywhere on campus. You can find them in the cafeteria, behind glass boxes at every cafe. I couldn't finish a whole bagel back then. Everything in America is so HUGE. Bagel back in Asia are the size of my palm. I felt wasteful throwing away the bottom half of my bagel. But the top half is absolute heaven when I toast them slightly and spread a thin layer of cream cheese. That reminds me of how frightened I was of cream cheese. What kind of devil's food has both cream and cheese in it!

A filling breakfast on the go

I don't remember when I finished my first whole bagel, but those American bagels aren't so big after all. If it weren't for the bagels on campus I probably would have starved in many many boring ass classes.

I googled for bagel recipes online, and picked Sophisticated Gourmet's New York-Style Bagel Recipe. It's a one-day bagel recipe, so it doesn't require you to make a sponge. You start off by dissolving the yeast in water, then kneading the dough together. For some reason, my dough wasn't sticky at all. After I let it rise in the oven for an hour, I couldn't form little balls. The dough just push away from each other.

The end result was tasty despite having to work with some stubborn dough. I'm definitely going to try the two-day method to see if I can correct the dough this time. Once again homemade taste so much better than store bought.

Bagel's interior texture

This recipe produces a good interior texture as store bought ones. What it lacks is a bit of chewiness. The outer shell is hard and the inside soft. I prefer my bagel to be more chewy. If you like bready bagels then definitely try this recipe at the link above.

Cream cheese and tayberry jam

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Classic Eclair with a Vanilla Filling Coated with Dark Chocolate

Creamy desserts like eclair, mousse, parfait aren't my favorite. Sure I wouldn't mind a small glass of dark chocolate mousse, but among other things on a menu, I would rather pick sorbet (if it has to be a soft dessert). I usually skimp out on the whip cream in a hot chocolate and the frosting on a cupcake. I much prefer a naked cupcake--just the crumbly buttery cake alone is enough.

But eclair is my roommate's favorite, to die for, dessert. If tomorrow is the end of the world, she would devour as much eclair as possible and die on a happy stomach. I can already picture her laying on her back with her tummy bulging out, cheeks smeared with chocolate ganache, and holding two more eclairs in her hands.

Freshly glazed eclair on the rack
Eclair isn't hard to make. It takes up a lot of kitchen space and uses up a few pots, bowls, pipping bags, and pipping tips. The Pate a choux takes up one pot, and the pastry cream another. I used a small cast iron frying pan to melt some chocolate for the ganache, so there goes another pot. If you don't have a lot of spare pots like me, then prepare the pate a choux, pastry cream, and ganache separately. 

I would recommend making pastry cream first. When you're ready to assemble your eclair, make the pate a choux. While you're waiting for the cream puff to cool, prepare your pipping bag, tip, and chocolate ganache. That way the cream puff would stay crispy. I stored my pre-filled cream puffs in a ziplock bag and they got a little moist in the fridge. Before filling them I re-heated them in the oven at 350F for 5 minutes. To avoid the trouble of reviving their crispness, just make the pate a choux on the day you want to serve eclairs.

Make your eclairs in the sequence of these recipes:

Recipe 3: For the chocolate ganache, heat 1 cup milk in a saucepan till you get bubbles around the side. On a shallow bowl, place 4 oz of chocolate chunks, pour the hot milk over. Let the chocolate melt for 3 minutes before mixing them together. You should get a thick chocolate sauce. 

What you do first is fill the cream puff with pastry cream. The best pipping tip for this step is a bismarck tip. It leaves a tiny hole on the cream puff. For me I used a small 1/4 in round tip, and I try to find air holes on the cream puff or anywhere i feel it's easy to stick my tip into. I have large holes with creams pipping out. Or you can cut the cream puff in half; almost through but not all the way, so you have a 'lid' to fold over the pastry cream. 

Big holes on the side without a bismarck tip, but just look at the other side :)

After filling the cream puffs, make the chocolate ganache. Either brush or dip each cream puff about half way into the ganache. Let cool on a rack.

This time I took some pictures while I'm making the cream puff. That way before you start making your own puffs and cream, you can visualize the process, and know how the end result should look like.

First off is the cream puff. Picture 1, melt the butter and sugar in water. Heat till the water boils. To the right, mix in your flour all at once. The bottom picture is how your dough should look like. Notice how it's a rough looking bowl and the sides don't stick onto the side.

Here's how my pastry cream looked like before I sieved it. I think my paste was a little too thick. If you overheated your pastry cream, before you pipe your pastry cream, just whisk the cream a little to loosen the stiffness.