Tuesday, February 26, 2013

not much (coconut.berry.bread)

"not much" ... i stumbled on this motivating recipe blog around three weeks ago, this gurl, literally had no oven or baking ware and yet, her recipe is a really scrumptious pastry bread. i would say (pertaining to baking) if pastries, breads, menus of today are mainly based on those from before, where hi-tech gadgets were really not yet built, then it is very possible to bake just as good (or cook). i'd like to say, if there's "not much" it is still possible to make something good (and on rare occasions) something really really good (i'd like to say, same goes with life too, what do you think?).


for this one, i made some few changes, by reducing the sugar, and instead of using chocolate, i decided to use berry preserves (click on this link and scroll down for the berry preserve recipe).

i decided to layer this coconut bread, after mixing the batter, pour in a portion of the batter into your baking dish, then top with your berry preserve/jam, the cover with the remaining batter, then top again with the berry preserve/jam, i gave the top layer a bit of "swirl"   =)

and it turned out just really good. just to mention, i don't have a rectangular baking dish, so i use a baking bowl instead, so, for this one, its cylindrical.

well, not much to say really, her blog explains it all Baking and Mistaking : Marbled Coconut Bread. as for me, there a lot more recipes to learn.

Monday, February 25, 2013

days (raspberry.ricotta.coffee.cake)

it is frustrating when wrong information is disseminated on a public information system which society has deemed "reliable" and then when a correction is requested, the representative (of that company/system) cannot even provide a timeline of how long the customer will be receiving an update, correspondence and confirmation that the correction has been made and to note that the customer cannot coordinate with a person. what makes it worse, is that (at least with my experience this morning) all that is uttered by the representative is "sorry that you cannot locate the form" (instead of providing the immediate direct link to the form itself). it is either terrible customer service training and/or management or simply a bad attitude (anyway, the form got sent into the system, and still no confirmation email). that is how today started.


and then there are some few good situations, right now, some really very few good ones, one of them is learning to bake. this cake turned out moist, it took a little longer for me to bake though, around 40-45 minutes.

i made some changes when i baked this coffee cake.

- lessened the sugar
- used 1/4 cup light brown sugar on the (topping/crumble) instead of cream cheese
- used homemade mixed-berry (preserves) as the topping over the crumble (instead of raspberry jam)

mixed-berry preserves: ( i used this berry preserve as the topping in-between the crumble)

- 1/4 cup black berries                        
- 1/4 cup blue berries
- 1/4 cup raspberries
- 1 tbsp lemon juice (add more if you prefer more acidity)
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar (add more if you prefer more sweet)

a. slightly mash all berries into a pot (don't puree, unless you want the mixture to be fine)
b. pour in the lemon juice and sugar (mix together)
c. boil the berry mixture in the pot (5-10 minutes) depending how reduced you would like your jam to be
d. let it cool down (chill if need be) the jam/preserves should thicken when it cools down.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

unfortunate (hot.milk.sponge.cake)

yesterday was unfortunate ... more than half way into the parking spot, the driver opened his driver's door, and it hit the fog light bumper of my car, there is now a small dent ... (for reasons i don't want to put into detail here) i literally could do nothing ... yesterday was like salt over open wound ... negatively, i asked myself  as i stared at the dent "how much worse is coming?" i was pissed and really really angry, but bursting into impulsive actions won't fix anything at that specific situation (if my situation was different, i would have  done something to justify what was done) ... and so, with utter reluctance and anger, i brushed it off my shoulder and headed into the grocery store ... the driver also headed into the store, and seeing him was making me disgusted to the pits of my stomach (i really wanted to vomit straight into his face, if technicalities were set aside, he would have paid for fixing that dent). i made sure i didn't cross paths with him in the store. 

anyway, yesterday i really wanted to do my grocery, so, i went about grocery shopping, trying my very best to distract myself from what happened. choosing some really good limes and lemons for zesting, some not-so-ripe plum tomatoes, fresh scallions, my two favorite basic spices garlic and onions, picked up some nice italian parsley, some mushrooms (whose price has gone up), carrots, one of my favorite vegetables called chayote, some brussel sprouts, ginger, lettuce, avocados, grapefruit, tofu, cereal, oranges, bananas and some nice citrus kiwi. (i wanted to bake, but my golly was i really really angry inside, the feeling of pure anger is very ugly.)

that evening, i made use of the brussel sprouts, by blanching them shortly, and sauteing them with thinly sliced  carrots, over some chives, basil, oregano and fennel seeds, adding some soy sauce and half a cube of beef bullion, then adding some freshly chopped scallions, and finishing it off with fresh lemon juice (about a table spoon). fennel has a really distinct flavor, kinda nuttish-herbish-with-a-very-small-hint-of-sweet? (was that a good-enough-description?) i paired this with some warm white rice which i mixed with some of the chopped scallions.

woke up late this morning, still on the "trying-to-brush-off" feeling but still pissed. so, i decided to bake the hot-milk-sponge cake (again, so that i get it right this time).


for this one, i made two batches, one was baked into pastry cups with a slices of ripe blue berries and another was simply the hot milk cake itself. again, i made some changes on mine, since i try to bake with less sugar, and more of the core ingredient. 

changes are:
- used 1/3 cup sugar
- ripe blue berries (sliced in halves)

- 2 tbsp dark.chocolate
- 1 tsp dark.cocoa.poweder
- 2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp butter
- 4 tsp milk

i made a dark chocolate glaze instead. heating up the milk and letting the butter, dark chocolate, sugar, dark cocoa powder melt while mixing them. it was not thick at first, but as the mixture cooled down, it thickened, but more of a glaze consistency. i chose to bake one batch into pastry cups, but since i don't have a muffin tray, simply fill a small glass plate (about one and half inch deep) with the pastry cups, putting them as close to each other as possible, so that when the batter expands, the pastry cups would lean against each other and still hold their shape (at least those are my thoughts).

filled the pastry cup with a thin layer of the batter, put in the sliced blue berries and covered with another layer of the batter (i learned that you should not fill the container all the way to the top, because the batter will rise). the recipe calls for a baking time of 35 minutes, mine was actually done by about 21 minutes, then letting it sit in the oven for about 3-5 minutes (my oven is not state of the art technology, just to mention). so far, i would say i'm getting closer, the cake turned out light, with that that touch of sponge, but not yet really a sponge cake (which has a totally different recipe) also, looks like the pastry cups maintained its shape.

half of the cake in the pastry cups i simply dusted with confections sugar, and some i topped with a little of the dark chocolate glaze.

after making these cakes as pretty as i can ... (don't you think they look a wittle pweety?) gave a fresh batch of the ones in the pastry cups to the neighbor, the kids says they really like it and that it tastes good, however, i think i need to work more on it (hopefully i am not becoming too cynical on myself etc.) also, chatted a bit with the neighbor regarding parking situations, rules, suggestions etc. by the time i got back into the apartment, it was a little past 2:30'sh in the afternoon, so, heated up some espresso, cut me some slices of the cake with a thinly topped dark.choc glaze, sat down and ... gobbled them up all together like a starving person (kidding) ate them all though.

there is a song whose album is titled "waiting for my rocket to come" (if i'm not mistaken) then again, there is a saying called "making it happen" and then there is a saying "not everything or every situation has an instant result" - anyway, i'm reading about making puff pastry from scratch, so far, i am getting more and more acquainted with the different types of doughs (and learning the process along the way).

Thursday, February 14, 2013

valentines (mix.berry.bread.pudding)

well, it is valentines, one of those few occasions observed with that extra dash of "heart" (are you sighing?), anyway i decided to bake baguette again today, make it a little more crisper this time, it would take several hours with intermittent waiting, so far, it turned out nice and crisp in the outside, while still being firmly-soft inside (updates on the baguette are here).

i chatted a bit with the neighbor (as i asked for the baking dish) and asked if they enjoyed (or liked) the banana.dark.chocolate.pastry - fortunately they did "delicious" is their feedback.

so there are some left-over hot-milk-cake-bread, blue berries, black berries, raspberries and left-over mix-nut streussel, i thought of making bread pudding. again, i have never made bread pudding before, browsing the internet for the basics of creating this delectable pastry, guess what, this site came up with a recipe i had to try, and it is dated 2 years ago (on valentines day) la bella vita.


this morning though, i woke up with some progress on my bills (grateful for some good news *sigh*), anyway, lets get back into the details of this pastry. i made some changes on mine.

- did not use heavy cream (instead whipped butter and milk and sugar)
- did not use egg (just the milk, butter, sugar mixture)
- lessened the sugar
- did not use panettone (instead used left-over home made hot-milk-cake-bread)
- and i added as a topping left-over mix-nut-streussel (with a little hint of dark-cocoa-powder)

so, following the recipe, i chopped the bread into cubes, chopped the berries in halves, just so the juices of the berries actually melt into the bread. for the wet ingredients, simply mixed up 1 tsp butter, milk and sugar and whipped it until it formed a foam. for the streussel, it was a mix of chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, shaved coconut and pistachios), 1/4 tsp dark-cocoa-powder, sugar, butter, all purpose flour. your measurements should be based on the serving size your planning to bake. for the berry-mixture, simply mixed the berries with freshly squeezed lemon (that's it) no sugar.

you'll have to grease your baking container (i used a glass baking bowl) then lay a portion of your bread as the first layer then top with some of your berries, then top with another layer of your bread and top again with your berries (you can decide on how many layers you want, as long as it bakes), pour in the milk (or cream mixture), you'll have to let the bread soak-up the mixture, then i topped mine with the streussel, because i wanted some crunch over mush-bread (the streussel did form a crust on the edges of this pudding). for the bread to soak-up the liquid, you'll have to press the bread a bit, and let the pudding sit on room temperature for about 30 minutes.

two days ago, i tried to bake a hot-milk-sponge-cake, i made a mistake by putting in more baking powder, it turned out to be a cake-bread (it was good though), and this is what i used for this pudding.

and then there was some milk left, instead of letting it expire, i made a pasta-sauce out of it, with parsley, italian seasoning, basil, oregano, chives, rosemary, lemon juice and lemon zest, reduced it and added some corn starch for the thickening agent, below is how the sauce looked like, it turned out to be really aromatic (i'd say because of the rosemary) and savory, especially when i sauteed this sauce with some ricotta.

i am mentioning this because, as i read the background of "bread pudding" it is one of those french desserts classified under "the art of baking stale bread" (though my bread was only 3 days old) learning how to make something new and flavorful out of left-over ingredients is actually a good thing (you just don't throw food away), how about ... "the art of not wasting food?"

Monday, February 11, 2013

bills and breads (french.baguette)

and so, my week will be about having a sit-down with bills to pay ... *ah-yay-yay* still applying for jobs, still have that "oh-boy-am-a-get-that-job" feeling, which is better than feeling depressed and hopeless (i do feel frustrated though, every time the "technical" reasons come into play)

yesterday, i actually decided to bake french baguette (aside from the banana.dark.chocolate.pastry) it took me several hours and the ingredients are the same as that of the italian bread, most (if not all) staple breads have the four essential ingredients (water, flour, yeast and salt) that's it! and then you can transform the bread into different flavors by incorporating additional ingredients, such as herbs, oils, cheeses, seeds, spices etc. and that is how these basic breads are "dubbed" into different flavored-typed breads, but underneath it all - its all the same four essential ingredients, without these four-essentials, there basically won't be bread!

foodnetwork : the baguette
update: showing photos of baguette baked 25-35 minutes

my oven seems to be working with me (pretty much) despite the fact that i do not have the right baking utensils. again, these baguettes were baked using a roasting-pan (uh-huhh, the one you use for roasting your turkey!) i simply put a lightly greased parchment paper. also, i had to form my baguettes into 6 inches in length, because it would not fit into the roasting pan (baguettes, by default should be around 24 inches in length) and just to note again, these breads should be baked using a baking stone (for better results of course). "ahhh ... should we call these compromises or adjustments?" (well, i gotta make do noh?)

i do not have a bakers lame for "scoring" the bread (or making those "slashes" you see in breads), so, i used a bread knife, which is not the best tool for making a really sexy "slash" for your baguette. as you can see (below) my slashes needs lots of "improvement" - whether you have a lame or not, you need to find a way to make those "slashes", it helps your bread from "bursting" (here are some good explanations for the need to score your bread "scoring bread dough (food52)" its also mentioned here "Janes Sweets & Baking Journal".

however (despite my-not-so-sexy-slashing-skills), these baguettes turned out crisp outside, and firmly-soft inside within a 15-25 minute baking period (if i baked my baguettes about 25-35 minutes) the crust could be a little more crisper (then again, this my first time baking baguettes) 

so far, i'd like to learn baking different artisan breads. the two types of breads that i'd like to bake on a regular basis (so that i get them right) are the italian and the baguette, just because i actually like oils and herbs and plain baguettes. below is how my baguette looks like (sliced) fresh out of the oven.

i chose to freeze these baguettes this time around, to see if i really baked them correctly. the following day, i thawed the baguette in the afternoon (which turned out actually good), topped it with my regular herb mixture and shredded pecorino and toasted them (as i recently have been doing) - well, the baguette maintained its texture (it was crisper, because i toasted them, see below)

it looks like i'll be baking these breads on a regular basis, wherein they can be consumed within a one to two day period, so that i can make a fresh batch of baked bread more often, this should help me learn to bake them  just the "right" way. 


for now, here is a snippet from the artisanbakers:

bread is like wine or cheese.
taste all the different varieties available 
and take the time to appreciate the differences in where they came from, 
what types of ingredients and fermentation were used, 
how much time was put into making them 
and the different characteristics of taste and texture and color, 
just as you would with wine or cheese. 
Your effort will not only be educational but deliciously rewarding."

Sunday, February 10, 2013

getting better (banana.and.dark.chocolate.pastry)

despite unemployment and other unfortunate circumstances taking its toll, i should acknowledge the few that are getting better ... such as ... stiff neck is getting a lot better, still a little ache, it should be completely healed in another week (i must make it heal), so far, baking is better than when i started, needs a lot more baking though, hopefully what's ahead is better too.

also, his feedback so far for the italian bread was, "its good" , however, when i got back at the apartment, i chose to leave the bread on the counter (room temperature) on a winter season, the bread was moist and soft for about two days, i intentionally left two slices for the third day, unfortunately, it was hard the next morning, and inedible. it is actually advisable to freeze bread, and then thaw it at room temperature to lengthen shelf life of the bread (i just felt bad freezing bread that took me several hours to prepare for baking).

regarding the reason behind putting a bowl of water on the last layer of your oven, well, i stumbled on a website "artisanbakers" that explained the technical reasons (it is actually the steam that makes the inner of the bread moist and soft while the crust becomes crisp), read through this website, it gives straight forward facts (so, that did not take several years!)

and so, i decided to use my time on a sunday baking banana.and.dark.chocolate breadish-pastry, based on Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal - Banana Cake-Bars with Dark Chocolate Chips (and Spelt Flour!) - but made some minor changes on mine.

the changes i made were to use:

- self-rising flour ( instead of spelt flour and all-purpose flour, that's why i called it "breadish-pastry" )
- only 1 cup of light brown sugar ( not too sweet )
- 1 tsp of white granulated sugar with the chopped dark chocolate
- baking bowls (i don't have baking pans)

using self-rising flour gave this pastry a light-breadish texture (but a little more moist) but not like a cake either. i also noticed that with the oven i am using, putting a bowl of water on the bottom layer actually leads to better baking results, so, for this recipe i also used a bowl of water for steam, the crust of the pastry was lightly-crisp and inside was breadish-moist. that's right, i made two batches, and gave one freshly-baked-batch to a neighbor, while the pastry was warm and really moist! hopefully they like it! (i'll know once i ask for my baking dish back =D)

i took a slice while it was still fresh out of the oven, below is how it looks like when it's sliced. warm, with melted dark chocolate on top! with freshly brewed espresso! (on a chilly afternoon!)

although i know baking is not the profession for me, it is essential to learn even the basics (that goes the same with cooking!) and i find it very beneficial, therapeutic and fun, my greatest respects to those who are naturally talented and have the passion for the culinary arts. by the way ... i watched a show called "iron chef america" and just wanted to note that, tomato sauce with tuna and pasta layered over fresh ricotta is really very savory and has this mild cheese flavor, a very sumptuous spin instead of using the common parmesan (though i use pecorino)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

learning to bake bread (italian.herb.and.olive.oil.crust.bread)

sunday morning, i woke up with a .... (holy immaculate cannoli!) stiff neck! ... first thing that came to mind was "great, i'm unemployed (fifth month now btw), broke and ... has a stiff neck!" - that morning was not great at all! i could not turn my head sideways nor could i bend my head downwards! simple activities like changing clothes, tying my hair into a pony tail, brushing my teeth, taking a nice warm bath, washing the dishes or picking up something from the floor was like torture. following typical home remedies, the iced-peas, the heated patches, the ointments and gentle neck massages those remedies helped - for a little while - and then the pain starts again. googling the web i stumbled on the website 3 Simple Ways to Heal a Stiff, Sore or Injured Neck it provided three different not-so-typical remedies, the second one, called acupressure, reminded me of my "gramma" we call her "lula" - she'd sit on any random time of day, massaging something in her hand - one time i asked her what she was doing, and she explained by giving me the same massage, (as a kid, i did not like massages), of course now, massages are like vacations!

anyway, after 75 minutes of intermittent acupressure and gently moving my head and neck "taddah!" i can completely bend my head downwards, and turn my head side-wards! i can rotate my shoulders and do my normal swimming-warm-ups! (though, there is still some ache and will keep on doing acupressure, till fully recovered) - meanwhile, i can now enjoy learning to bake!

after a chilly weekend, and a quick and good recovery from a stiff neck, i decided to learn how to bake bread!

i find baking (just like cleaning and cooking) therapeutic (yah, i know, doesn't sound right noh? but it works for me) - and by the way - i am learning all those things - i meant cooking and baking (cleaning i can do with my eyes closed) - but with cooking and baking (lets say) even with eyes both open, i'd still draw the pony's tail on its head (i meant, i need a couple more tries to get it right). i hope i understood the recipe correctly, i did put the dough in greased bowls (i had to use two, because i don't have a big bowl) and covered it with greased plastic and covered it with dish towels.

oookay, just to straighten things out - you need to bake this bread using a baking stone - myself (who does not really bake) does not have one ... sooo ... i used parchment paper ... on top of a rectangular roasting pan  (warning : do not follow this, unless you're like me, who really really does not have the baking equipment!) i baked the bread in the roasting pan in the middle layer of the oven, underneath (bottom layer), i put a bowl of 4oz water, this should somehow mimic the functionality/purpose of using a baking stone (maybe in about five to seven years of regular baking, i can explain this "technically", for now, it seemed to work).

also, it is important that i should note, to immediately remove the bread from the parchment paper after taking the bread off the oven. this is because, the parchment paper will stick to the bottom crust (mine almost did)

the bread (above) might look dry at first (then maybe that's because i've never baked bread before, so how should i know?) - but, after the bread bakes, remove it from the oven, and let it cool a couple of minutes, brush with more of the herb & olive oil mixture - and it should look golden and delicious! (mine did) - i got it right the first time! (i meant, first time i baked bread!) then again, i need a second opinion ... however, a cup of nice hot espresso and a slice of this warm toasty bread, was a definite on a chilly late afternoon.

(below) is how my bread turned out after a couple of minutes of cool-down and brush ups of that herb mixture. (of course, the herb mixture, you can choose your types of herbs, i added some rosemary and powdered garlic on mine)

tomorrow morning, i'll check how my bread is doing (i'm not gonna freeze it though), for now, here's another quote to share.

" i'm selfish, impatient and
a little insecure.
i make mistakes, i am 
out of control, and at times
hard to handle.
but, if you can't handle me
at my worst, 
then you sure as hell
don't deserve me at my best. "
- marilyn monroe