Bakery/Pastry

CHEDDAR SNOW BRUNCH CAKE

  

GRATED WHITE CHEEDAR!  ON CREAM CHEESE FROSTING!!  ON TOP OF EGGY SPONGE CAKES!!!

Hey, what’s up?  I’m in the middle of my France cross-country road-trip!  But to make you feel good as well, here’s a cheddar snow brunch cake!  It’s got double layers of sponge cake, loads of cream cheese frosting, and yes!, avalanche of grated cheddar snow!!!

Gotta go now.  See you on the other side!

Kitchenaid mini mixer in the house.

  
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CHEDDAR SNOW BRUNCH CAKE

Roughly adapted from Vivian Pang

Ingredients

    SPONGE CAKE: adapted from Natasha
  • 1/2 cup (122 grams) milk
  • 6 tbsp (85 grams) unsalted butter
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1 1/4 cup (250 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (240 grams) cake flour, or all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp (10 grams) baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp (3 grams) salt
  • CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
  • 9.7 oz (275 grams) cream cheese
  • 6 tbsp (85 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup (75 grams) sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 tbsp (22 grams) powdered sugar
  • GRATED MILD WHITE CHEDDAR

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven on 350 F/180 C. Add milk and unsalted butter in a cup or pot, then melt in the microwave or over the stove until the butter has melted. Set aside
  2. TO MAKE BATTER USING MELTED SUGAR: Place the eggs and orange zest in a stand-mixer bowl, then whip on low heat until beaten. Set aside. Use a wide pot (the bigger the surface area, the more even the sugar will melt) and add the granulated sugar plus 1 tbsp water (the water is not in the ingredient list), then set over medium heat. Gently and slowly swirl the pot when the sugar starts to melt (too much motion will result in crystallisation). Once the sugar has melted, turn the stand-mixer on medium high speed, then slowly drizzle the hot sugar into the eggs. Then turn the speed to high and whip for 10 min or more, until the eggs forms ribbons behind the whip. The volume should have almost tripled. Add the vanilla extract and mix until incorporated.
  3. TO MAKE BATTER USING DOUBLE BROILER: Bring a small pot of water to boil, then turn off the heat. Add the eggs, orange zest and sugar (no water) in a stand-mixer bowl and let it rest over the hot water. Whisk vigorously until the egg-mixture are very warm to the touch and all the sugar has melted. Return the bowl to the stand-mixer and mix on high speed for 10 min or more, until the eggs forms ribbons behind the whip. The volume should have almost tripled. Add the vanilla extract and mix until incorporated.
  4. FINISH/BAKE THE CAKE: SIFT the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl (very important to sift). Fold the flour into the egg-mixture in 3 portions (don't whisk or you'll lose the air in the batter). Only adding the next when the previous addition has been evenly incorporated. Then slowly fold in the milk-mixture in 2 portions. Divide the batter into two buttered-and-floured, 8 1/2" cake pan. Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 min, until an inserted wooden skewer comes out clean. The original recipe says 35 min but the cakes were over-baked. I would check at 25 min. Let the cake cool down for 10 min, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  5. MAKE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING: Start with cold cream cheese and butter. Whisk the cream cheese and butter in a stand-mixer over high heat until creamy. Add the sweetened condensed milk and powdered sugar, and whisk until even. Set aside in the fridge until needed.
  6. TO ASSEMBLE: Smear a generous amount of cream cheese frosting in between the two layers of cakes (if you want more pronounced saltiness, you can add grated mild white cheddar in the middle layer, too). Cover the top of the cake with more cream cheese frosting, then loads and loads of grated milk white cheddar.
http://ladyandpups.com/2016/08/14/cheddar-snow-brunch-cake/
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ULTRA SOFT STRINGY, STICKY RICE BREAD

  

Is it going to be blue or purple, this wall, or perhaps, a minty green?  Should I tile the bathroom, covering it in organized shines, or leaving it as is, a rustic plaster of diffused grey?  Those clusters, years of emotional settlements that are solidified in actual physical forms, are bothering me, a lot, and I want to dump them all away and start over, as if it could work both ways.  Did I mention these walls here where I stand, damn it, made of fucking concrete, are mockingly strong and defeating and apparently, impossible to drill through by whatever strength and tools I have left.  What’s happened?  I used to be able to drill through lots of things, now apparently, not anymore.  Now I can only paint shit over.  Maybe there’s nothing wrong with that, that it’s just life bitch, but the mirror that came to us from an obliviously happy time of my life from a wholesaler in Jersey City, broad, reflective and inescapable, is now helplessly laying against the ground, catching things ruthlessly from a low and unnatural angel, a woman standing with her head cut off.  The mere wish to just to get it 3 feet up in perspective, to frame things, once again, rightly, seems now both realistically and psychologically, difficult.  I have been dragging my own weight for months, defended no longer by excuses because they, if I had any, are peeling off by now like old paints, revealing the raw surface that has always been behind, staring at me only through a thin mask of pigments that I couldn’t even decide the color of.  Perhaps the problem is not the color.  Perhaps these walls, damn it these fucking walls… have something to say.  And I gotta listen… listen bitch… before moving forward.

Blue or purple, or perhaps, soon hopefully, a minty green?

 

BEFORE YOU GUSH OUT UNGODLY THINGS LIKE “OMG, IT’S GLUTEN-FREE BREAD!”…

SHUSH, IT’S NOT.

  
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ZERO-FOLDING PASTEL DE NATA, A HYBRID

Ever since I came back from Lisbon, the question haunts me.

What is a perfect pastel de nata?

Well for me, now more than ever, that depends on who you’re asking.

If you were from the Asian parts of the world as I am, growing up, this wildly popular pastry since the 90’s actually came from, and have always been, more as a Macao thing.  Sure it’s known as the Portuguese-style egg tarts from Macao, the former Portugal colony famed for its many Portugal-influenced hybrid foods, but notice that it is NOT called pastel de nada, not even Portuguese egg tart, but ambiguously, “Portugese-STYLE” egg tart.  Style?  The name itself oozes deniability, suggesting that on one level or another, these tarts can’t be expected as a 100% identical replica of the originals, but a mere adaptation of some sort.  Therefore with time, as the popularity of these tarts swept through every bakeries in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and even KFC (yes, they sell these at KFC here…), the Portuguese association sort of fell irrelevant, and the gold standard on what is a great pastel de nata, in Asia at least, is set on however it is made in Macao.  And really, most people don’t have a clue on what the real thing is like.

But I’ve always wondered about this.  I mean is “Portuguese-style egg tart” even a thing in Portugal?  Do people even actually eat this stuff there or is it another freaky fortune cookie-phenomenon?  And if they do, the question isn’t if it was the same from Macao, because I know there was no chance in hell that they’re the same.  But the question is, how different?

So a couple months ago when I finally visited Lisbon for the first time, I was on a quest for truth.  I didn’t know what to expect, but almost as immediately as we landed at the airport, truth no 1 revealed itself.  Pastel de nada is definitely a thing in Portugal.  I mean, they were everywhere, as common as bagels in NY or surfers in L.A.  Well great, fantastic, because it allowed me to conduct an in-depth and thoroughly tasted investigation on truth no 2, which is, how different are the real things from Macao’s?  Well, this was where the troubles began.  They are, as expected, quite different on many textural levels, and now…

I’m completely torn.

I ASSURE YOU THAT THIS CONCLUSION, WHETHER YOU AGREE WITH IT OR NOT, CAME AFTER MUCH TORMENTS, SELF-REFLECTIONS AND EVEN SOME SOUL-SEARCHING ON WHO I AM AS A SENTIENT PASTRY EATER… (BUT THE ANSWER TO) WHAT IS ULTIMATELY A PERFECT PASTEL DE NATA?

WELL, A HYBRID

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London, barely, plus Yorkshire pudding and my Sunday roast

Some of you may have noticed, that this series of travel-diary/recipe-exploration on the three fabulous European cities I visited last month, is actually going in reversed orders.  Reasonable doubts would suggest that I’m saving London for last, but truth is… it’s because I’m struggling to remember any of it.

Before Lisbon, before Madrid, going backwards in sequence, we actually arrived in London first, this posh and thrilling British gentleman that I’ve always had a crush on from afar.  But turned out, we didn’t arrive alone.  Came with us, was a persistent, cunning and serpent-like seasonal flu which already found us to be very amiable hosts back in Hong Kong, then apparently, took an even deeper liking in the unpredictable and drizzling British weather and decided to extend its stay for our next several miserable days.  What is it that they say here?  Blimey, fucking wanker.  Yes, very well put.  Although, in the flu’s defence, it did embody a certain level of traveller’s enthusiasm and took us for a joyride to all the most notable drugstores that London had to offer (Boots, you’re a doll).  However, beyond which, it showed lacking interests in just about anything else.  Museums?  Charming little street?  No, flu wanted to stay home and suck fingers.  Bloody hell, you bag o’ shite.

(poetry, British profanity is poetry)

So I’m sorry, London (and the ones who fell ill on the tube going from West Kensington to London Bridge on Dec 22nd around 1 pm…  It was me).  Because I could only sort of remember you as a beautifully wetted city of yellow bricks and steels under an eternal overcast, or as least so you were every chance I looked, mostly up from a pile of tissue-ruins through my watery and bacteria-infested eyes.  Were you a bit blurry or was it me?

THIS THING THEY CALL, YORKSHIRE PUDDINGS… THE AIR BALOON-EQUIVALENT OF PASTRY… ONLY THAT IT IS EGGY, CRISPY, FLUFFY AND SO MUCH BETTER THAN I EXPECTED

I did see though, a couple of the important stuffs.  The Borough MarketDuke of York Square MarketSt. John Bread & Wine… made the pilgrimage.  And the more I scratched over the surface of all the excitements, wonderful smells of cheeses and seared meats, captivatingly unique architectures, and the deeply profound culture underneath it all that London has to offer, the angrier I was that I didn’t have the energy to explore further.  So much to see, so little life.  This isn’t an excuse, London!  You weren’t the best mate to help sort out a flu and you bloody well know it!

And here I am, one month later, flu-free and apologetic, I figure the least I could do is not to insult London by pretending that I have anything insightful to say.  In fact, the only tribute I could pay is to say this…  Regardless of the experience I had, immobile or even if it was well explored, I feel London is the kind of city that will always leave me feeling hungry for more.  More to eat, more to see, more to pry out of the maze of bricks and steels, and just when you thought you had it figured out, there it is, another discovery.

I hope I see you again, London.  I know, I will see you again.  But next time, summer perhaps.

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WEDNESDAY’S THROW-IT-TOGETHER TEXAS SHEET CAKE

I didn’t intend to sneak a cake recipe in between my travel-inspired posts, but this is the easiest-yet-delicious cake recipe I have yet to encounter, and I think you should do it.

Look, I’m not exactly a practician of 30-minute meals.  I don’t mind getting down and dirty with a recipe for the better part of my day and get disgustingly anal with minor details.  But for those who knows me, knows that when it comes to dessert-baking, specifically cakes and such, I then become what Nat Geo would call, a cake-sloth.  If the recipe, even at a glance, contains any mentioning of words like “softened/room-temperature butter (subtext: have my cake and eat it tomorrow)”, or “creaming (scrape till my ass split)”, or “sift (is Santa coming or I’m covered in blow!)”, or “beat eggs one at a time (zzzz… I’m sorry wah?)”…, I just turn around and start another 10-hours operation on my next ramen project.  The double standard is weird, I know, even to myself.  But for the entire lifespan of this blog, I’ve been maximizing all efforts on savoury recipes while, in contrast, cheating my way through various pastries such as this skillet cookie,  this dumpling wrapper cannoli, and even a no-churn mascarpone soft-serve (and even the more complicated stuff involved cheating).  Then, just a few days ago, this sloth has found a new tree.

Following the Monday-blue oatmeal cookie, here’s the Wednesday’s Throw-it-together Texas chocolate sheet cake.

How is it that this cake-sloth hadn’t heard of this fabulous food-source until now?  Because as far as the internet is concerned, the typical recipe for a Texas chocolate sheet cake, as I later found out, is no news.  There’s quite a lot of’em out there.  But when I saw it for the first time on Martha Stewart’s Living last week, it felt as if a whole new natural habitat was uncovered.  Since I have reasonable doubts that there are fellow cake-sloths out there being left out of the party, I thought, it can’t hurt to mention it again.

First of all, not only that there was no screaming creaming, sifting, waiting or any electricity-powered mixer involved, but better yet, the process was so crude and rough that it practically felt mannerless.  Sloth-like.

Basically, you boil everything in one big pot then you stir in the rest and bake.  Done.

The entire recipe was so easy that I, even I, felt the insecure urge to add a little something more like, for example, browning the butter instead of melting, and replacing water with strong brewed coffee, and substituting cocoa icing with ganache (which is just a fancy word for stirring chocolates in hot cream) for extra richness.  And as I stood there as a naturally suspicious species, wondering how on earth could a “pre-cooked” batter ever turn into an edible cake, a mere 22 mins of baking later, I was blown away again.

The cake rose beautifully, and was moist… soft… and dense with rich crumbs.  The entire project, including the chocolate ganache that lubricated through the already-moist crumbs, could be done in under 1 hour from start to finish.  You can literally bake this cake from the time your friend calls to say he/she’s putting on a pair of pants to head over your way, and have it ready before the door bell rings (ok, if you didn’t include the time it takes for the cake to cool but really, who does that?).

So yes, if you were like me, who needs something sweet to munch on in between the hours she spend on beating a roast duck into a pot of milky broth… this delicious cake is gonna save you some time.

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SANDY OLD MAN ON X’MAS

  

ONCE THESE PIPING HOT, LIGHT AND AIRY DONUTS HIT WHAT I CALL THE “CHRISTMAS SAND”, THE HOUSE WILL INSTANTLY SMELL LIKE SWEET, BUTTERY AND EGGY HOLIDAY SPIRIT.

Quickly leaving you today with something awesome I discovered in Hong Kong.  And it comes with a funny name, too, called Sandy Old Man!

I found it at a traditional Catonese-style pastry shop and thought to myself that it was just donuts, but as I bit into the sugar coated fried dough, this little fella instantly sank into an airy sponge with soft and almost custardy interiors.  After some much needed research, turned out that this thing which they call “Sandy Old Man”, are essentially pâte à choux donuts!  By frying this classic cream puff-dough, you get a slight crispier exterior with almost hallow interior, permeating a salivating aroma of eggs and butter.

Traditionally Sandy Old Man are only coated in granulated sugar, but come on, it’s Christmas.  Granulated sugar turns into light brown sugar, then festivity turns into a pinch of ground cinnamon, cloves and a slight sprinkle of salt.  Once the piping hot, light and airy donuts hit what I call the “Christmas sand”, the house will instantly smell like sweet, buttery and eggy holiday spirit.

I’ll take this sandy old man over Santa any day.

  
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UPDTAE 2015/12/14:  The original measurement of 1/2 cup of flour worked for me, but because many had commented that their batter was too thin, I adjusted the recipe to 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp.

UPDATE 2016/01/11:  About comments that mentioned the batter was too thin – I tested the recipe again (added some weight measurements in the recipe, too) and it worked great with me.  Please note the “dough” should actually resemble a very thick batter.  By the way, I also just found out from my trip to Lisbon that these actually came from Portugal originally, and are called “sonhos” there which sounds  a lot like “sandy old man” in Chinese!  All makes sense now… :)

SANDY OLD MAN ON X’MAS

Ingredients

    BATTER:
  • 1/2 cup (118 grams) water
  • 3 tbsp (42 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (87 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Canola oil for frying
  • X'MAS SAND:
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. In a small pot over medium-low heat, add water, unsalted butter, sugar and salt, then cook until the water is hot enough to melt the butter (it should not boil). Turn off the heat and add the flour all at once, and stir with a fork until it comes into a smooth and even dough. Transfer the dough to a stand-mixer or into a large bowl, and stir for another min to cool it slightly. Add 1 egg and beat it into the dough until completely lump-free and smooth, then add the second egg and beat until the batter is shiny and smooth.
  2. Add enough canola oil to a small frying pot over medium heat. The oil's ready when it bubbles up gently around an inserted wooden chopstick. Scoop up around 1 tbsp of batter with one spoon, then scrape it gently into the oil with another spoon. Turning constantly and fry until the batter has puffed up (ALMOST DOUBLED in size, and will probably form a crack on the surface) and golden browned on all sides. This should take about 6 min to happen. If the donut browns too quickly before it puffs up, then the oil is too hot, and you should adjust the heat accordingly. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
  3. Drain the donuts thoroughly and set aside on a paper-towel to cool for 1 min, then coat it all over inside evenly mixed X'mas sand. Serve immediately.
http://ladyandpups.com/2015/12/12/sandy-old-man-on-xmas/

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PUMPKIN SPICE COCNUT ICE CREAM IN A BLANKET

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I LIKE TO HIDE MY VEGETABLES IN ICE CREAMS

Starting this Sunday, we’ll leave Bejing for more than a month, traveling to Hong Kong (for work), then Taiwan, then maybe Lisbon… Madrid… St Sebastian… or who knows.  Traveling used to be a big part of who we are, but we haven’t done this kind of “long distance/large scale” travelling for 2 years now, you know, for personal reasons, and I’m finding that it’s taking a bit of practice to get our grooves back.

So today, I’m quickly leaving you a recipe that I made from some leftover pumpkins.  As you know, I like to hide my vegetables in ice creams.  And do you know that pumpkin and coconut milk are great pals?  We got that from Thailand.  And do you know that ice creams are so much better on a pancake-cone instead of a regular one?  Learnt that from Seoul.

And I can’t wait to find out more, out there, on this new journey.

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