Category: Sweets (page 2 of 6)

Nai Su Mian Bao- Milk Butter Bun


YIPES!!! I just realized that I may have made a big typo. I think I accidentally misconverted 4 Tbsp of milk powder to 120 grams of milk powder in the dough section. 100000s of apologies to whomever may have made it and polished off their year’s supply of milk powder.

I noticed this excessive amount of milk powder when I was making this recipe today for the first time since this post. I thought it was really strange but thought maybe I had a really good reason for it that I had since forgotten…unfortunately, I found out the hard way, after I had made my dough with the said 120 grams of milk powder. I started doing some research and was horrified to find the original volume measurements in my very first draft (thanks, WordPress, for saving that!) that read 4 TBSP of milk powder, which is more like 23 grams. YIKES! 🙁 🙁

I’ve verified that 4 TBSP (23 grams) of milk powder is indeed the correct amount….NOT 120 grams. Soooo sorry 🙁 Please find the corrected version below.

First off, here’s a quick Chinese learning guide:

niu nai = 牛奶= milk

nai fen = 奶粉= milk powder (dry milk)

mian bao = 麵包 = bread (also called ‘bao’ for short, especially by lots of Cantonese folk (sigh, what has Mr. ABC Chef done to me!)

nai su = 奶酥 = you’ll find out soon enough. Factoid about 酥(su)- the closest translation I can think of is flaky layers, or little crumbly bits of butter pastry? Black Sesame Pastry is a perfect example of something “su su”

When I came to the east coast for college, I think one of the things I missed the most (besides amazing California sunshine and weather) was Nai Su Mian Bao, which I would describe to deprived friends as soft bread with a milky creamy filling. It’s not like the whipped cream that Mr. ABC Chef loves in his Canto-style split buns with cream down the center, but this special filling is concocted of milk powder, butter and sugar (and some egg for binding). The milk powder gives it a concentrated creamy taste, and the butter and sugar (and egg) help the filling to melt in your mouth slowly. What’s not to like?


nai su bolo mian bao

A pastry brush is highly useful and recommend in applying the egg wash, to get an even brown polo..I had to use my fingers because my pastry brush got obliterated in the insink-erator!

nai su bolo mian bao Continue reading

Espresso Walnut Blondies

My friend Steph had a birthday in July, and I’d actually get to see her in person on her birthday because she was in town for a missions trip!

So, I thought, hmmmmm what can I bake her? It needed to be something that didn’t require refrigeration, because I was going to drive to see her after work, so it had to make the 1 hour+ car ride. Plus, I didn’t think she’d have access to a fridge where she was staying. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t do anything fancier like a cake or tart, but it turned out to be a good thing, because I learned how to be more creative.  Blondies and brownies came to my mind first. Everyone does brownies, right? But what could I do that would make them special? I wanted to avoid adding chocolate, because I feel that it’s a tasty but overused addition.

Steph loves coffee. So……..I opened my baking cabinet and spied my espresso powder. AHA! Espresso blondies. Peeerfect!

Chewy. Espresso/Coffee-y. Nutty. Crackly top. What else could you ask for in a blondie? These are pretty good, I have to say….please try them!

Oh, yeah! And when people ask you what these are, remember…eSpresso has no X in it 😉 ESpresso, please!


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Cranberry-Lime Popsicles

I love fruit, and unfortunately, some of the fruit that I love is only in season for a short time (eg cranberries and cherries).  Thank you God, for modern invention of the freezer that allows us to preserve goodies like fruits.

My best friend who lives in VA texted me a few days after my birthday saying that she was at the mall and that if I didn’t tell her what I wanted for my birthday, she would have no choice but to give me a Williams-Sonoma gift card, which is “so lame”.   I couldn’t think of anything, so I told her to get me a shirt because I rarely go shopping. Several hours later, a lightbulb in my head went off, and I texted her saying that I totally should have asked for ice pop molds instead! Oh well, I’m sure she had left the mall already, anyway…

Come Saturday, I saw her and voila, ice pop molds! Surprise, successful 🙂 Thanks, Jeska!

I didn’t have any appropriate ‘seasonal’ fruit, but  I did have a big bag of cranberries squirreled away in the freezer after stocking up around Thanksgiving time. Cranberries may not be in season now, but the ones I used were at least picked when they were pickled in the prime of their season! 🙂

Cranberry Lime Popsicles

Makes 6 4-oz popsicles (I have the Tovolo Groovy Molds)

cranberry lime pops

Ingredients: Continue reading

Tofu Pudding- Dou Hua

It is really hot! I’ve been trying to think of desserts I can make without having to use the oven. That being said….

In Taiwan, we had some really good food. One of those places with really good food was recommended to us by our Hualien-born friend, Ingrid. Thanks again, Ingrid, for all the food recs (all were amazing!). Cai Ji Dou Hua, also known by Ingrid+fam as ‘Ah Piao ShuShu’s’ (the name of the owner), is a dessert shop that serves goodies like grass jelly, tofu pudding, cooked pressed barley, along with add-ins like boba, sweetened red or mung beans, brown sugar syrup, whole milk, or condensed milk shaved ice. As I mention in this earlier post, this place was so good we returned the very next day, and in total had about 8 bowls of delicious desserts in 3 days 🙂

We loved the dou hua a lot, and when I was at Nan Men Market, I made sure to buy dou hua powder so I could make it at home when we returned to the US. The powder made some pretty good dou hua, but I noticed a slight bitter aftertaste to the dou hua, and thought maybe I was imagining things? A Chinese blogger confirmed my thoughts when she did a comparison of 3 dou hua powder brands; she also found the brand I used slightly bitter.

So, without access to Nan Men Market, no sightings of dou hua powder at the stores in Philly, and the determination to make dou hua at home, what’s a girl to do? Luckily my YTower Tofu cookbook had the answer!

What is this tofu pudding you speak of? Imagine if tofu had the smooth and creamy texture of a light flan, but the taste of soymilk; that’s how I would describe dou hua.  There is a sugar syrup that the dou hua sits in; either a sweet ginger syrup, or brown sugar syrup. Then, there are endless numbers of toppings/accompaniments that can go with it..

hong tang

Literally translated as black sugar, this can be found at some Asian grocery stores. This brown sugar is sooo good and resembles dark red dirt more than sand (what I think Western brown sugar looks like).


Sketchy source of gypsum powder. Few little information on this…I took a chance! Will be buying it from MySpiceSage soon.

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Sweet Red Bean Paste (Dou Sha)

Happy Duan Wu Jie! (端午節) I wanted to post a recipe for zongzi (Sticky rice and filling wrapped in bamboo leaves) because today is the Dragon Boat Festival or the DuanWu Festival, but I realized that most people don’t attempt these sorts of intense kitchen projects on a normal basis. I spent the good part of Saturday evening and Sunday morning soaking rice, soaking peanuts, boiling peanuts, soaking bamboo leaves, roasting peanuts, skinning peanuts, crushing peanuts, braising pork, dicing dried shrimp…and wrapping 30+ zongzi, all while fighting the splitting bamboo leaves (which had been soaked for several hours, too!) Whew! Just hearing the list makes me tired again.

(Oh, and zongzi are a traditional food eaten for Duan Wu Jie, which I believe involves dragon boat racing. Beyond that, I don’t know and am not curious to know more; I just take it as an excuse to eat more zongzi! )

Usually, big projects give me a boost of adrenaline, but this time was really tiring, and I feel like it made me burned out  and I didn’t feel like anything requiring too much brainpower the whole week..

So, all I have to share with y’all today is a simple recipe for what most people call Dou Sha 豆沙, or red bean paste. Red beans are cooked to an oblivion, then toasted until they are dry, and mixed with fat and sugar to make a smooth paste that is fit for desserts of all kinds. According to a can I saw at the grocery store, this can also be called hong dou sha (紅豆沙),because it specifically uses hong dou, or red beans, as opposed to black beans, which can also be used to make a sweetened bean paste.

hong dou sha sweet red bean paste

Our family always opts for the fastest/most rustic dou sha: chunky!

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Chocolate Chewies

These chocolate meringue cookies appeared in the LA Times Culinary SOS a while back, and I wrote them down in a notebook because I was intrigued by the title and lack of flour. The recipe sat in my notebook for a few years, partially because they required so many egg whites, but one day I finally decided to make them. When I did, I understood why they named these Chocolate CHEWIES. If you are looking for a flourless chocolate cookie that is chewy, look no further than this recipe! This is chewy to the max.

On crackly tops: I love shiny and crackly tops on cookies and brownies, and part of me thinks they taste better because of how they look. These cookies will yield crackly and shiny tops! As a scientist, I think about the whys of life quite often, most often to do with baking and cooking. Why crackly tops? How? I ascribe somewhat to King Arthur’s theory about crackly tops. My hypothesis is similar but slightly different; the shiny and crackly top is due to the sugar being well dissolved. Just as sugar that is on its way to caramelization has completely melted and is smooth and shiny, the sugar in this cookie is also dissolved well and starts to melt upon going into the oven. However, the sugar syrup is dispersed in stuff that gets in the way of that completely smooth surface, such as cocoa powder and/or eggs, hence the shiny and crackly top. Who knows if this is true? If you have a different theory, chime in, please!

Reasons you should make this cookie:

1) It is way less fattening than a brownie, and just as chocolatey, if not more

2) It has so few ingredients

3) The exec chef AND the owner (who apparently rarely eats dessert!) of the place I stage at tried and enjoyed them..the exec chef ate 4! Wee! Ultimate validation of cookie-making-abilities

4) Its super duper chewiness is not due to butter

chocolate meringue chewies

Now won’t you make some ? 🙂

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Lv Dou Tang (Mung Bean Soup)

Lv Dou Tang, mung bean soup, is a great healthy breakfast or light dessert. If you add rice (1/8 cup raw rice) and cook for a longer period of time, you’ll get lv dou xi fan, or mung bean porridge, my mom’s choice of accompaniment to cong you bing (scallion pancakes) or jiu cai he zi (chive boxes).

Hong dou tang (Red bean soup), its sister soup, is only served hot, and for hot days like today, it would probably just make you sweat more. Lv dou tang is best eaten cold, because it is great for helping you cool down.  So, make some lv dou tang, chill it in the refrigerator or add some ice cubes, and drink up for a refreshing snack.

Quick fact: Lv or lü (綠), means green, as in the color, just like hong (紅) means red (for hong dou tang). A direct translation of lü dou tang as green bean soup would sound very unappealing to those who imagine string beans in soup. Sweet green bean soup? Yuck! Likewise, red bean soup that is sweet, also sounds pretty strange, if you think of red beans and rice when you hear the word red bean. 😀

Henceforth…mung bean and adzuki bean, their more dynamic and non-literal translations.

Take advantage of lv dou tang’s versatility, and make some now. The version I’ll show you is a very, very basic version. Feel free to add extra goodies like lotus seed (lian zi) or lily bud (bai he)- a few tablespoons of each should do it!

lv dou tang lü mung bean soup

Pearled barley (left) and mung beans (right) make for a simple tasty soup

Lv / Lü Dou Tang
Mung Bean Soup
Makes 3-4 small servings Continue reading

Kahlua Cream Cheese Pie

I feel like San Gabriel Valley, with its streets dotted with Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Spanish, and maybe English signs, is not like most of the rest of America. In addition to having good Mexican and Chinese food whenever we wanted, we also had a good deal of Marie Callender’s pies.

A few months out of the year, Marie Callender’s would have pie sales where all the pies were a flat price, and during strawberry season we would stock up with strawberry pies for a special price, too. In retrospect, the bright red syrup that accompanied those pies probably had tons of food coloring in it. I have good memories of seeing the signature Marie Callender pie box in the fridge, and whenever we had some pie, I would have a slice for breakfast! 🙂

Our family had its favorites that we got all the time- lemon cream cheese and Kahlua, as we affectionately called it. I learned, much later on, that Kahlua was the name of the liqueur that gave it its flavor. The Kahlua  cream cheese pie, with its chocolate cookie crust and elusive filling, got me every time, and it was definitely my favorite! I remember often eating it layer by layer.

I would start with my least favorite part- the sour cream topping, then I would scrape at the cheesecake part to reveal the naked crunchy chocolate cookie crust for last. Sometimes, someone would make an imperfect slice that would leave some crust behind- jackpot.

The sour cream fudge drizzle topping was only okay to me at the time, but thinking back, its semi-tartness made it perfect to accompany the remaining cheesecake below it.

Recently, my sister called me up and asked if I had a good recipe for Kahlua. Not having tried to make it since my college days, where I only made the cheesecake part (who needs sour cream, anyway? Just kidding!), I told her I wasn’t sure but started hypothesizing about what re-create our childhood taste memories. We decided that we’d make it together when I visited her!

So, the first pie was a joint effort by the Tsui sisters, which was a bunch of fun! We worked side by side, each taking over a different task, and tasting and making judgment calls as we went along (I took notes on the recipe).

We didn’t have sour cream, so we used Greek yogurt. I think it is just as good with the Greek yogurt, if not better, but you can decide..After two versions, I am quite happy with the recipe. y.

Even if you have never had the sweet experience of eating a slice of Marie Callender Kahlua Pie, I guarantee you will be a fan of it once you taste this. So. Make some pie and eat it, too.

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Nuts about Peanut Candy

If you like nuts, this post is for you. If you like candy is that is just sweet enough to be dessert, but not so sweet that it makes your teeth hurt, this is also for you!

Meet peanut candy, Taiwan’s brilliantly concocted combination of peanuts and sugar! It tastes like peanuts with a unique sweetness and crunch, and is highly addicting..

The only special ingredient you’ll need is maltose, which is a very gooey liquid that you will have to wrestle out of the jar. My preferred method is to use a chopstick (or knife?) and dig into the maltose. Then, twirl the chopstick around and around until you have the right amount. The colder your measuring cup, the less likely the maltose is to get all gooey in it. Another option is to spray the measuring cup lightly with oil first.

mai ya tang
Find maltose in the section of the Asian grocery store where they sell types of sugar: I found this near the palm sugar, I think

Peanut candy is so delicious on its own, but it’s even tastier in hua sheng juan bing qi lin (花生卷冰淇淋), which is an ice cream burrito, if you will- a thin flour-based wrapped, stuffed with Taiwan-style ice cream (more similar to sorbet), shavings of this peanut candy, and cilantro (!? It’s really good! Trust me.)

My goal is to someday make this hua sheng juan bing qi lin, but the first step is to make a great peanut candy, which I feel I have done!

As with any recipe, but especially those involving caramelizing sugar(s), please read the entire recipe all the way so that you can have your mise en place.

First batch ever! 600 grams of peanuts

Tang Yuan – Stuffed Glutinous Rice Balls

Tomorrow is the Lantern Festival, which is called Yuan Xiao Jie (元宵節)in Chinese. I don’t know much about it, other than the fact that it tang yuan is traditionally eaten at this time. Hooray for an excuse to eat tang yuan!

So, tell me more about tang yuan, you say. Remember yuan zi? Tang yuan are basically filled yuan zi. I think there are actually savory fillings and sweet fillings, but my only experience is with sweet, so that’s what I’ll be featuring today.  A common filling that is also my favorite is black sesame paste, and other popular fillings include peanut and red bean paste


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