Category: Sweets (page 1 of 6)

Chai Orange Scones

Hi! I may or may not have mentioned that since we’ve moved to Indiana,  I’ve been baking part-time for a nearby cafe. It has its ups and downs (downs mostly due to frustrations that are un-related to baking itself), but mostly it is fun and good. At work, when there is a little bit of downtime (waiting for something to bake or chill), I’ll peruse the shelves and see if I can find some inspiration, otherwise known as ingredients that haven’t been used for a while.

I made candied orange peel for a chocolate tart a few months ago, but I have just learned that candied orange peel stays good for practically forever. This is probably because there’s barely any water in it after all the cooking, drying, and sitting-in-sugar.

I saw cardamom on the shelf, partially ground, partially chunky. We have no mortar and pestle nor spice grinder at work, so it’s tough cookies with the food processor and sieving.

Anyway, I thought it would be cool to combine chai spices + candied orange + scones, so here are my apologies to Indians, and the recipe. Please read the notes- I address important candied orange peel issues! Haha…sounds so dramatic.

chai spice orange scone

Since this was for work, sorry that this is the only picture I got! Taken with my phone.

Chai Orange Scone

Adapted from this and that recipe

Makes 8 generous or 12 more sensible servings

Ingredients:

Scones:

2 3/4 cups (330 g) all-purpose flour

1/3 cup (75 g) sugar

3/4 tsp salt

1 Tbsp baking powder

2 tsp chai spice – halved from KAF

At least 1/4 cup of candied orange peel+’soaking sugar’, OR 1 Tbsp of candied orange peel tiny bits

1/2 cup cold butter, cut into some slices

~1 cup to 1 1/4 cup half and half (or milk or heavy cream- richness will go up or down)

Icings:

~1 cup powdered sugar

Orange Juice

~1 Tbsp orangey sugar from the candied orange peel

Chai spice

Instructions:

Scones

1) Preheat the oven to 375F.

If you are using homemade candied orange peel, continue to step 2. Otherwise, skip to step 3.

2) Using a food processor or clean spice grinder, blitz the orange peel and its sugar, until the orange peel is cut into tiny little bits. Transfer to a small bowl.

3) Mix together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, chai spice, and 1 Tbsp candied orange peel.

4) Use a pastry blender to cut butter into the flour mixture until small bits (pea-sized) form. (Alternatively, use a food processor)

5) Freeze the butter and flour until the butter is firm. It shouldn’t take too long, because the butter bits are fairly small

6) Add 3/4 cup of half and half to start, and fold the liquid into the flour-butter mixture. Keep folding and adding a little half and half each time, just until there are no stray dry bits left.

7) On a lightly floured surface, bring the dough together until it is one lump. For 8 servings, flatten into one circle and slice into 8 wedges. For 12 servings, form two circles and slice each into 6 wedges.

8) Bake at 375F until lightly browned, around 20 minutes. If you gently prod a scone with your finger, it should offer a little resistance, but shouldn’t feel like a rock 😉 To be exactly sure, break one open to test!

9) While the scones are baking, make the icings:

Icing

Orange: In an appropriate vessel/bowl, add orange sugar, if you have it, (about 1-2 tsp) to 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and thin slightly with orange juice. Water is okay too, but will give a less orangey icing, of course. Adjust for orangey-ness, and add more orange sugar if needed.

Chai: In an appropriate vessel/bowl, add a little bit of chai spices (1/2 tsp?) to 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and thin slightly with water.

Consistency of the icing should be really stiff, so that it will not melt/dissolve into the scone over time, and so that the colors will be vibrant. How stiff? It should not flow freely in the container, nor drip or flow off the fork quickly, if you hold it up. It should take some effort to scrape the icing from the bottom of the icing bowl. It should semi-crust over if you walk away for a few minutes, because you want it to crust over quickly after you pipe it on the scones.

Once the scones have cooled, drizzle with icing (I did chai first, then orange).

Chai Spice Mix

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp ground cardamom

3/8 tsp ground nutmeg

3/8 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground coriander

Makes more than necessary for the recipe. Store somewhere safe so you can make these scones again!

Substitutions/Notes:

-You will only have what I will call, for lack of a better name, “orange sugar” or the sugar the orange peel lives in, if you make your own candied orange peel. I used this  recipe for the orange peel, but you can use anyone that you like. It’s pretty straightforward- blanch orange peels, boil in simple syrup, then coat and dry. I know it sounds time consuming, but you can make a big batch and use it in food projects!

-I call for 1/4 cup of candied orange peel + sugar, because that’s roughly what I pulsed in the food processor at work. You technically only need about 2 Tbsp total, but I don’t think such a small quantity would work, unless you have a spice grinder, and I assume that more people have food processors but not necessarily spice grinders.

-These scones are yes, best enjoyed on the same day they are made. You can freeze the dough if you want to make the dough in advance, however!

-For a dairy-free version, I haven’t tried this yet, but I think you could substitute, 1:1, coconut oil (or shortening that doesn’t contain any trans fat) for butter, and coconut milk in place of the half and half/cream/milk.

Fresh Strawberry Tart

Thanks to the generosity of some new church friends of ours (Thanks, Wilsons!), we were able to pick strawberries in their amazing garden! These strawberries are the real stuff- I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to eat store-bought strawberries again :O

When we were younger, Marie Callender’s (read about another nostalgic Marie Callender pie here) would have an annual strawberry pie sale around May, and we would almost always get one or two. Chock full of strawberries and slathered with a goopy reddish sauce, this pie, lined with a cookie-like crust, was all about fresh strawberries.

Since I had strawberries that were surely even better than the ones of my Marie Callender-childhood, I made a tart that is an ode to fresh strawberries. If you’ve missed strawberry train, I think this pie would also be good with any other type of berry..

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Taro Paste- Yu Ni

If you find red bean paste too time consuming to make, try your hand at taro paste! I recently made ba bao fan (8 treasure sticky rice) for Chinese New Year, experimenting by using both taro paste and red bean paste, only to find that the flavors were in competition with each other, and that I should have just used one or the other. Thanks, Mama, for explaining!  (It still tasted preeeetty good though!)

If you have never cooked taro before, check out the post on how to prepare taro.

Taro paste, or yu ni, is basically cooked taro that is sweetened and lightened up with some sort of fat. Some people use milk powder, others might use milk or cream, but I just used oil because that’s what I had. Of course, you can always use more oil and you can use a food processor and/or sieve to make it extra smooth in texture, but I find that hand-mushed is just fine for our tastes.

What can you make with taro paste, you ask? Anything that you would put red bean paste in! You can do Chinese bakery buns with taro paste filling, make your favorite cinnamon roll or cinnamon swirl bread with taro paste instead, taro paste steamed buns, taro paste tang yuan, or just steam some with sticky rice and eat it. yuni

Yu Ni

芋泥

Taro Paste

Ingredients:

1 lb big taro, sliced thinly

1/3 cup oil (or cream or milk, or a combination)

6 Tbsp white sugar

Instructions:

1) Steam the taro until it is easily poked with a fork and is no longer speckled milky white. Use a fork or food processor to mush up the taro to the smoothness or chunkiness that you desire.

2) Heat a heavy bottomed pot, then add oil. Add the taro, and cook for 5-10 minutes, until you see a somewhat crusty film of dried-up taro on the bottom of the pan. That’s good- means that some of the water has dried up! Add sugar and stir until it dissolves. That’s it!

Substitutions/Notes:

-For baked applications of taro paste, I would suggest using something like 1/2 cup or more, to account for moisture loss in the oven). This is not so much an issue with steamed applications (sticky rice, bao zi)

-This recipe is suited to my taste, and you may find that you want more oil in yours, or more sugar. Definitely remember to make it slightly more sweet than you think it should be, so it can season/complement the plain carb (bread, sticky rice or bao zi) well.

-Depending on what fat you used, the shelf life will vary. You can always freeze it in ziptop baggies for later use!

 

Matcha Ice Cream

At some point before or around college, I developed an interest in matcha, or mo cha (抹茶), when I was in high school and college, and would make desserts for fancy occasions with the prized $6/1 oz matcha canister that I would get from Mitsuwa. When my sister got married in 2009, one of the cake tiers that I made for her was a lovely green tea chiffon cake with passion fruit mousse. When I was in college, I experimented with that same chiffon cake with a pomegranate mousse for Christmas- green and red! Boy, was I ambitious then 😉

Nowadays, I don’t dream about matcha as much as I did before, but I did see a great deal on matcha at Mitsuwa when we went to get ramen.  I’ll bet that no ‘Asian’ food blog is complete without at least one matcha item in it, so here is matcha in one of its simplest forms (besides just drinking it)- ice cream!

I looked and looked to see if I could find any information about ingredients used in this old school brand of green tea ice cream that I remember seeing in California grocery stores, but no luck..There was a picture of a snowy mountain on the container, with dark bluish and white accents for the snow? Maybe even light pink/coral background. I think it was some brand name that sounded rather Japanese, and I remember it was very bitter, and that at first I didn’t like it that much. Once I actually got over the bitterness and tasted it for its tea-ness, I enjoyed it. Sadly, I have no idea if that brand exists anymore, and have no recollection of the name. Please leave a comment if you can shed some light on this long lost ice cream brand!

Anyway, all this to say that nowadays, sometimes I am disappointed in green tea ice creams because I expect a kick of strong matcha, and it’s not..I set out to make a very strong

Disclaimer: This ice cream is very matcha-y, but does not like to form into an ice cream scoop very well. It is much easier to get thick shavings of. However…if you like hard or chewy ice creams, this one is totally for you!

 

matcha ice cream green tea Continue reading

Peanut Butter Pretzel Ice Cream

When Tim and I still lived close to a Ben and Jerry’s Scoop Shop, our favorite ice cream was without a doubt, Candy Bar Pie. Its components: peanut butter ice cream, pretzel dust swirls, nougat ribbons, and flecks of chocolate chunks. We loved its salty-sweetnes and nice balance of flavors, not to mention that it was one of the few ice creams not overwhelmed by chocolate chips. As you know, getting ice cream at Ben Jerry’s is not cheap, so I looked online for the ingredients, with hopes of re-creating it at home. It was still summer when I tried to do this the first time, and needless to say, the nougat I made was a humid sticky, too-sweet mess. Furthermore, the thought of making nougat, an ice cream base, AND melting chocolate is a bit much to do on a semi-normal basis. The chewiness of the nougat is nice, so maybe someday, but for now, it’s not indispensable.

Even though it’s winter, there’s no bad time for ice cream! This Peanut Butter Pretzel Ice cream is my version of Candy Bar Pie Ice Cream, but without the nougat. Someday, nougat, someday. I like this ice cream a lot because it is easy to make, you can save your eggs for breakfast, there is not too much chocolate, but just enough, and because it is salty-sweet. Sorry, any pretzels that are mixed in during the churning process will obviously absorb moisture from the ice cream and not be crunchy. Make sure you grind up extra pretzels to sprinkle on top right before you eat it!

I hope you will try this recipe out, because we love it!

peanut b utter ice cream

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5 Must-Try Fruits in Taiwan

pomegranate_min
WETMARKET——min

 

 

 

 

 

You cannot even dream of getting these fruits (and of these quality) in the United States, unless you forgot about that passion fruit in your backpack when it comes time to go through customs  =O

There are so many fruits that you should definitely try in Taiwan: papaya, dragon fruit, yellow watermelon, banana, longan and lychee, mango, starfruit, green skinned oranges, and pomelo, to name a few. I highly encourage you to pick as many different fruits as you can, and try them all! Depending on what season you visit Taiwan, there will be different availability of fruit. I’ll list my personal favorites here 🙂

For the best price, go to a market that sells only fruit, or only fruit and fruit juices, or a traditional wet market. For convenience, buy these pre-cut at night markets or wet markets, or wherever you may see them on the street.

Look for the word 水果 (shui guo / fruit) or 水果汁 (shui guo ji/ fruit juice).

You could ask the vendor,

Can you pick one for me that is ready to eat today?  ”可不可以幫我挑一個 今天可以吃的?” “ke bu ke yi bang wo tiao yi ge jin tian ke yi chi de?” Or just  Can you pick one for me  “可不可以幫我挑一個?” “”ke bu ke yi bang wo tiao yi ge?” (Of course, Google Translate can you give you the exact pronunciation. 


shijia_minCustard apple, sugar apple / 釋迦 / shi jia

Appearances can be deceiving. These are not very pretty on the outside. HOWEVER..They are probably the sweetest fruit that exists, and the inside is a creamy white filling. The texture towards the green knobby clusters are more similar to that of a, say, soft but grainier pear, while the texture inside is soft and velvety. My mom used to say certain fruits were ‘sour’ if they were not obviously sweet-tasting. She obviously held shi jia as the gold standard for fruit sweetness 😀 Oh yea, did I mention my mom LOVES shi jia?

I find shi jia very filling, probably due to the high sugar content. If you want to save room for other goodies, better to find some friends to share with!

How to Pick

They are ripe when they are very soft to the touch. You can buy some that are more firm to have for later, and buy some that are super soft, to eat now. However, once they are ripe…better eat up! They do not travel well.

How to Eat

it is so soft when ripe, that you can use your hands to crack the fruit down the middle to split it open. Then, use a spoon to scoop everything out. Without a spoon, you can also just pick out one green knob at a time, and devour the white filling.


guava_minGuava /  芭樂 / ba le(la)

Yummy. Pale green on the outside, white on the inside, these are just really good. Some like these soft, some like them crunchy (sprinkled with some sour plum powder- YUM!)

How to Pick

Again, others have bought these, so I’m not too sure. This can be another one for the vendor.

How to Eat

Some people cut out the middle section that contains the seeds, but I eat everything, especially because the flesh around the seeds is generally even more soft than the surrounding flesh.  To me, ba la taste best when they are sliced into wedges.


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Passion fruit /  百香果 / bai xiang guo

“白香“ translates to 100-fragrances, so that would mean that passion fruit is 100-fragrance fruit, and I cannot agree more. Hands down, this is my favorite fruit! It is slightly tart, sweet (if you eat a ripe one), and has nutty seeds that can be eaten, too. If you are unable to find the fruit, look for the Chinese words on drink menus- there will definitely be tea shops that sell drinks with real passion fruit pulp in them.

How to Pick

Don’t pay attention to what vendors may try to say to trick you (I fell prey to a sneaky vendor once)- These are ripe when they are wrinkly. However, if it is toooo wrinkly like a raisin, it may be not as juicy / somewhat dried out. Look for wrinkly ones, or ones that are heavy for their size, and only eat when wrinkly. There are the dark purple ones, as well as the lighter colored ones. The dark purple are more common, and I think I prefer the dark purple slightly more. The lighter color skinned ones have a more floral/ mild taste, if I remember correctly. I think of Madagascar versus Tahitian beans =o Both are good, though- try one of each to do a taste test!

How to Eat

If possible, hold the fruit steady from the top, and slice it in half with the knife parallel to the table. This way, the juices don’t just leak all over the plate, but they stay in the bottom half.

If you don’t have a knife, you can also use strong fingernails to make an incision in the top of the fruit, and tear the top open. Make sure you scoop everything out with a spoon!

passionfruit_drink

Try this drink at Ju Zi Gong Fang- Orange House. It’s a franchise, but I really enjoy their passion fruit QQ green tea!

orange_house

 

 

 

 

 

 


Papaya_minPapaya / 木瓜 / mu guacutpapaya_min

Are they named mu gua (mu is a radical for the word tree) because they are melons that grow on trees? Anyway, do not dismiss papaya as something you can also eat in the US.  Papayas in Taiwan > > > Papayas you eat in the US. I believe all the papayas we get are either from Mexico, other Latin American countries, or Hawaii?

Papayas in Taiwan are sweet, creamy, and do not have any weird stink to them. Mr. ABC Chef used to almost recoil at the sound of papaya, and could now also wax poetic about Taiwan papayas, like I do. If you can’t find papayas in the markets, papaya milk from a shop that uses lots of papayas instead of mostly milk (watch the workers before you buy) is next best.

How to Pick

Again, not really good at picking these, because most of the ones we ate were picked by friends. I think it’s safe to say that as long as the papaya is very soft (like a ripe avocado), it is ready for eating.

How to Eat

Because of the large size of a papaya and the need for a real knife, it’s probably easiest to eat it when you have a knife ready, or just buy it already cut. I think it’s best eaten when sliced up and eaten like a watermelon slice.


lianwuWax Apple /  蓮霧 / lian wu

These do not have a texture like an apple at all! They are definitely more juicy than apples, and are very crispy and refreshing. Unlike with shi jia, I feel you could eat a bunch of lian wu and still have some room for other food.

How to Pick

I’m not too sure, actually..Pick ones that look rosy red, not pale, and maybe ones that do not look cracked  on the bottom where the bell flares out. They also sell bigger ones that are more expensive and a shade of deep red (different variety, perhaps)? but I prefer the more normal sized ones, as I think they have better taste.

How to Eat

Wash and eat! Some people avoid the hairy part on the flared-out part (kind of similar to the hairy part on the bottom of an apple), but on the go (or on the train), I just eat it, too.

Hakka Style Mochi

My first memories and experiences of making mochi were in my junior year of college, with my best friend Jeska. You see, Jeska has an unfortunately long list of foods that upset her stomach, including an essential ingredient of most Western desserts: eggs. This meant that most of the baked goods that I made were, well, anti-Jeska food..

Fortunately, she brought with her to our new apartment a handwritten recipe for making mochi from scratch, given to her by her mom (Thanks, Auntie!) Shortly after, we commenced on a mochi-making experiment. About an hour later, we were covered with cornstarch, ouch-ing from the hot mochi mixture, but very happy with the results. We now had chewy, Jeska-friendly dessert that we made all by ourselves.

Maybe it was the fear of the thought of wrestling that hot dough, or the influence of my husband’s aversion to having food-coated fingers….But sadly, I only made mochi a few times on my own after that, despite my love for all things chewy and QQ.

While perusing Taiwanese cooking shows on YouTube, I found a recipe for hakka-style mochi. We tend to think of mochi as having a filling (red bean paste comes to mind first), but this hakka style mochi is made by showering the mochi bits with coating; usually peanut or black sesame.

This may not have the red bean paste filling, but the peanut and black sesame are no-fuss and simple to prepare. A pair of chopsticks is highly recommended for this recipe, as it helps shape the mochi and keep your hands dough-free.

mochi_good Continue reading

7 Ingredient Chewy Pecan Bars

Hi again!

Sometime before Thanksgiving, I was trying to decide between pecan pie and pumpkin pie..a very serious problem =O. So, I played the husband card and had Tim decide. Though he picked pumpkin pie, I also wanted to do something with the big bag of pecans from Costco. HMM…I remember seeing this recipe in my recipe binder of sweets, so I pulled it out. I’m glad I made it, because they are SO goood! If you need more reasons to make these, I’ll list 7:

1) No corn syrup. (I am not a fan of its gloopiness)

2) 7 ingredients only, including salt o.O

3) Super easy to make. Really. easy. No need to even buy leavening agents.

4) Has whole wheat flour, so you can say these are whole grain

5) Passed the co-worker test (Tim’s coworkers) with flying colors!

6) Have a great shelf life and stay chewy for a long time (if they stick around that long)

7) Are sturdy, packable and would be great for care packages for friends

It’s everything you want in a pecan bar- chewy, crunchy, nutty, sweet, and just a little salty. Best of all, I actually think that using whole wheat flour enhances the nuttiness, as it seems to be a perfect match for all that sugar and nuts.

chewy pecan bars Continue reading

PB&J Thumbprints

I loooove baked jam.  I love it in oatmeal bars and in cookies, because some of the water evaporates when it gets baked, leaving a chewy consistency that is quite nice.

Baked jam is even yummier when it’s on a cookie…Mr. ABC Chef said, “What if instead of peanut butter and chocolate, you did PB&J? And really, that stands for peanut butter and jam, because jam >>> jelly. Here is the result of his idea.  Oh yea, if you detest peanut butter (I actually know someone who does!!), you can be peanut-butter-free and still have your chewy jam, if you use this recipe instead.

peanut butter jelly jam cookies Continue reading

Frangelico Biscotti

You know how Starbucks and other coffee shops sell these by the piece, sold for something like $2 a pop? That’s outrageous! You probably have all the ingredients at home, so you should definitely try your hand at making these..

Why are these biscotti shown in a catering dome…? I made them for a wedding. Read about it here and here!

biscotti chocolate drizzle crunchy Continue reading

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