Sweets

APPLE FUNNEL CAKE W/ APPLE YOGURT SORBET

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The yellow bowl, my recent favourite for everything, is from Dishes Only.

I STARED HATEFULLY INTO THE FUNNEL CAKE LADEN IN CINNAMON SUGAR AND MELTED CREAM, THEN REACHED OUT MY TENTACLES AND TOOK ANOTHER “ONE LAST BITE”

I think we’ve all been there.  There, every year in the first week of June, when the temperature abruptly severs from the safe briskness that was Spring, and ready or not, takes a sudden dive into the skin-binding, armpit-greasing humidity and heat that lays the red carpet for the bikini-season to come.  When we realize that it’s already too hot to cuddle with the safety of our long-sleeves and sweatpants, but when we look down upon the masses that used to hanged so discreetly underneath the winter-coats around our waists, thighs and oh-fuck-everywhere, we see the rings of humiliations, as if in an awkward smile, still hanging.  And for the epic beach vacation forever in planning and the sleeveless dress that’s been waiting since 2005, that it is once again, all too late.

That moment came, or shall I say, ambushed me last weekend while I was spending an otherwise lovely afternoon on the patio of our favourite hang-out, The Taco Bar.  As usual, after an epic feast, we sat there rounding up the finale on their fantastic funnel cake with vanilla ice cream, which came in an oversized Chinese porcelain bowl as big as the size of our winter delusions, and all of a sudden, the sky clouded up and a low thunder roared deeply in the air (I’m not shitting you).  Right then and there, in a time-freezing moment amidst the pre-summer warmth, as shocking and hollowing as any unanticipated bad news, I felt the tip of my multi-rimmed belly and the surface of my bulging thighs behind the veil of the thin fabrics, unexpectedly… touched.  Yes, touched I said.  There are you who would either laugh this off completely as science fiction, the normal people.  Or there are you who would nod profusely in empathy, most of whom have been through a pregnancy of some sorts.  But me?  I’m just the f-word.  In the awakening, I stared hatefully into the funnel cake laden in cinnamon sugar and melted cream, but instead of pushing it away, I reached out my tentacles and took another “one last bite”…

That.  That was the moment when I realized… I had to come up with a version that is at least 5% healthier.

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THE PARADOX OF ICE CREAM-SPRING ROLL W GROUND PEANUT BRITTLE

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…BUT IT DOESN’T STOP THERE.  THE REAL MIND-BLOWING PART IS THE LAST DESCENDING SPRIGS OF THE UNIMAGINABLE… FRESH CILANTRO LEAVES

If you were those who like to travel to unfamiliar places, see unfamiliar pictures, eat unfamiliar things, chances are that for many times, you have been caught up in moments where I’d like to call – the encounters of food paradox.  Foods that don’t make sense, shouldn’t make sense, but the moment we put one in our mouth, the argument between logics and instincts all quiets down, and the only sensation left with any capacity for thoughts, is how defiantly delicious it stood against our prejudice.   It changes everything, on top of the very least, our palette henceforth, will never be the same.  This post, I hope, is about exactly that.

I have been longing to find a way, an accessible angle, to tell you about a thing called, ice cream-spring roll.  It’s a common street-food in Taiwan, not particularly flashy or groundbreaking.  In fact, among the immensely competitive and ever evolving Taiwanese street-foodscape, one may even argue, standard stuff.  But if you have no affiliation with the food-culture from this island proud for nothing but, the concept of this ice cream-spring roll, with its deceivingly predictable name, may just very well be your next big revelation.  Up front, what is expected surely is that there’s ice creams, most likely local flavours like taro or mango but could also include strawberry and vanilla, which are rolled inside a chewy crepe made with simply flour, water and salt.  No innovation there.  But to make things more interesting, a tall pile of sweet nutty and salty ” sandy streusels” is being shaved directly from a ginormous brick of peanut and caramel brittle, matching its proportion to the ice creams to almost 1:2.  The shaved/ground peanut caramel brittle alone, already completely push the texture and flavour of the spring roll to another dimension, but, it doesn’t stop there.  The real mind-blowing part, is the last descending sprigs of the unimaginable, the last to belong in the dessert isle, the controversially pungent… fresh cilantro leaves.  What?!  

You know I would describe it to you if I could.  I’d say it’s melty, creamy, sandy and crunchy all encased inside a film of chewiness.  I’d say that it’s sweet with pops of saltiness, the permeation of powdered peanuts and caramel and a whiff of herbs in the back-note.  But for the life of me, I cannot describe to you the immense confusion upon the impact of the first bite, then the gentle surrendering into the next, then a breeze of exhilaration on the last.  So I won’t.  You’ll have to try this one out yourself.  Because, that’s the beauty of a food-paradox isn’t it?  One that does and should be lived outside the limitation of words.  Maybe you’ll hate it.  Maybe you’ll love it.  Whatever it is, we will celebrate the forever-forward exploration that is eating.

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MOLTEN TRUFFLES MOCHIFFLES

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THE UGLIER IT APPEARS, THE BETTER THAT SON OF A MOCHI  TASTES.

I want you to do something for me, okay?  I want you to just… blindfold your judgement towards the bizarre appearances you’re fixated at, and forget the unfamiliarly gooey bias you have towards this thingy called mochi, and just… just do what you need to do, to head into the kitchen at your next convenience, and make these.  Okay?  I know, I know, I don’t wanna hear that I’m-not-a-mochi-person kind of self-doubt, okay, at least not in this particular case here.  Because listen, this is not tough, okay, and yes, it is chewy, but in the softest and supplest sense of a perfect liège waffle or a toasted warm brioche, okay?  It will be a game-changing, crispy-edged and bouncy-hearted hybrid between waffle and mochi that, oh man… so-carefully houses the scattered and irregular morsels of – you following? – molten chocolate truffles.  Yes.  Yes.  Oh god… the molten chocolate truffles… they melt, oh yes, and they become chocolate caramels, and then they hardenOkay?  Not loose like a fudge or blunt like chocolate chips, but what their low melting-point are creating here, so epically, are the eroded nooks and crannies of a candied porous surface, the volcanic rock-formations that embodies crème brûlée-like edges with sticky and thinly fudge-painted interior, okay?  What you’ll witness here, is the gloriously delicious aftermath in the death of chocolate truffles post-high heat, then the rebirth from caramel into candy, then encased inside a crispy and chewy waffled mochi called mochiffles!  Does that compute for you?!  Gah.. I mean… you know… just proma… promise that you’ll make them, okay?  I know sticky rice flour, probably not your forte, but just, just promise me that much, please, just let me have the comfort of knowing that when I’m gone from this post, into this world filled with darkness and injustice, that my dear friend you… will at the very least, have this.  Okay?  Yes?

  

Vibrant yellow bowl is from Dishes Only.

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YOGURT OATMEAL W BROWNED BUTTER HONEY + CANDIED PINE NUTS

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 I AM PERSONALLY NOT FOND OF BITING INTO NUTS IN ANY FORM OF FOODS…  I CONSIDER THEM AN OBSTACLE, LIKE FISH BONES.


The enamel mini casseroles are a durable and very affordable selection from Dishes Only.

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OK, quick post today, because I’ve got a whole day of shooting-blanks on writing something else (which, if you can imagine, is very time-consuming)(but Jaime, if you’re reading, everything’s going swell).  Today, I bring to you a wholesome and classy creation inspired by a great product, perhaps the most important humanitarian relief for all wo-mankind, that is… Activia.  Girls, you understand.  Without going further into the detailed records of accomplishment by this effective yogurt-brand, I would just like to say that the day it entered the direly needy market of China, that was a good day.

Just like any other international food brands, Activia offers different flavours depending on where it’s sold.  So I don’t know if this is available elsewhere, but here, it comes in the flavour of oatmeal and walnuts.  Weird?  No.  It is really good.  So good that I must turn it into a completely overblown and yogurt-purpose defeating extravaganza.  OK.. well.. maybe except that… I am personally not fond of biting into nuts in any form of foods, ice cream… breads, nothing.  I consider them an obstacle, like fish bones.  So the walnut has to go.  However my peeve does come with the one and only exception – pine nuts.  Pine nuts are not very nut-like, with its buttery and almost creamy texture, they don’t interrupt as much the pure pleasure of ice cream melting in my mouth, nor the soft and chewy progression of breads in between chews, nor in this case, the thick and creamy texture of a perfectly cooked oatmeal.

Oh no, not just any perfectly cooked oatmeal.  This oatmeal has two distinctive texture between soft and chewy (thanks April Bloomfield :), and that at the end of its cooking process when it gets as good as any, it’s further creamed with loads of thick Greek yogurt which adds not just body, but great flavours and a mild tanginess.  Oh wait, you thought I was just gonna throw some sad nuts over the top and call it a morning?  No, my friends, we are gonna coat these pine nuts in an almost-simple syrup, and then… and then we’re gonna fry them in a little butter.  You heard right.  This is not Paula Deen talking.  This is Brooks Headley with the James Beard thing.  So everyone just zip it.  And then since we already have that gloriously browned butter, it would be a complete shame if we don’t take a few tbsp of it, and make it a sticky sauce-thingy with honey, dark brown sugar and a good dose of salt.

See, it’s so good that I just couldn’t stop getting long and wordy with it.  OK now I really got to go.  I believe you have an oatmeal to attend to.

YOGURT OATMEAL W BROWNED BUTTER HONEY + CANDIED PINE NUTS

Serving Size: 2

Candied pine nuts are adapted from Brooks's candied pecans.

Ingredients

    CANDIED PINE NUTS:
  • 1/4 cup (47 grams) pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp (25 grams) sugar
  • 2 tbsp (30 grams) water
  • 1/8 tsp ground cayenne
  • Small pinch (about 1/16 tsp) salt
  • 1 tsp turbinado/raw sugar
  • BROWNED BUTTER HONEY:
  • 5 tbsp (70 grams) unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 tbsp (70 grams) honey
  • 2 tbsp (24 grams) dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • GREEK YOGURT OATMEAL:
  • 3 cups (700 grams) water
  • 1 cup (123 grams) rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
  • 1 cup (75 grams) quick oats (not instant)
  • 1 scant cup (180 grams) Greek yogurt

Instructions

  1. TO MAKE THE CANDIED PINE NUTS: Combine pine nuts, sugar, water, ground cayenne and salt in a small pot, then bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Cook and stir occasionally for approx 2 min, until the mixture is sticky and slightly thickened. Drain through a sieve to get rid of excess syrup, set aside.
  2. In a stainless-steel or aluminum pot (not non-stick), bring the unsalted butter from "BROWNED BUTTER HONEY" to a boil over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and stir gently with a fork to disperse. Keep swirling the pot during frying, until the pine nuts turn golden browned (any further they will be bitter). Drain immediately through a fine sieve, and reserve the butter. During the cooking process, the mixture will be filled with alarming burnt bits, but don't freak out. They will mostly stick to the side of the pot. Toss the fried pine nuts with turbinado sugar and another pinch of salt.
  3. TO MAKE THE BROWNED BUTTER HONEY: Discard 1/2 of the butter and leave the rest in the pot. Add honey, dark brown sugar, water and salt, then bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stirring constantly, and cook for 30 seconds until the ingredients have fully melted. Set aside.
  4. TO MAKE THE GREAK YOGURT OATMEAL: Combine water, rolled oats and sugar, then bring to a gentle boil. Cook for 5~7 min until soft, then add the quick oats, and cook for another 5~6 min. The mixture should be quite thick. Stir in the Greek yogurt, then cook only until heated through. Do not boil the yogurt. You can thin out the oatmeal with a bit of milk to your liking.
  5. Serve immediately with a good ladle of browned butter honey (may need to be reheated slightly to loosen), and sprinkle with candied pine nuts.
https://ladyandpups.com/2015/05/08/yogurt-oatmeal-w-browned-butter-honey-candied-pine-nuts/

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RE-CONSTRUCTED BANANA AND PEANUT BUTTER MASCARPONE PIE

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As seen on my Instagram, this vibrantly yellow bowl is from Dishes Only.

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I DON’T KNOW.  IT’S NOT A DESSERT.  IT’S THING.

When it comes to the awareness for Del Posto’s celebrated pastry-chef that is Brooks Headley, as well his critically acclaimed cookbook Fancy Desserts, I’ll admit, I was late to the game.  To start, I’ve never been to Del Posto, even for the time while I was still living blissfully in New York, I never.  I knew where it was.  I knew it was good.  But for the many times that I’ve passed it by, I dug into my dangling shallow pocket, and went for the Halal-truck parked around its corner instead, unregretted.  Then to further my negligence, I didn’t even give it the slightest consideration when their Brooks published his first, wacky and unconventional cookbook named – reeked of intimidations – Fancy Desserts.  I mean those who know me, from experiences perhaps too personal, already mourns my biological disability to even execute the dumbest-ass desserts, let alone, as if,  fancy.  The title only sounded slightly more appealing than watching a documentary on spaceship engineering.  But, my firmly footed ignorance all began to shake when my loyal advisor, The Piglet, out of many many other the-Gisele-Bundchen of cookbooks, named it The Best of 2015.  Finally, I sighed, I Amazoned, and I realized that for all this time…

I was so wrong.

Behind its unfiltered and seemingly unstudied photographs, is a smacking and dignified mockery to all the others who lack its otherwise overabundant substances.  I realized that a cookbook can only dare this level of anti-pornographic statement when it’s got nothing, absolutely nothing more to prove to us shallow pigs, than to say, I’m too good for pretty.  And it is.  This is the most honest, egoless and humorous cookbook I’ve ever read, but LOL aside, the book mercilessly attacks my mortal imagination with one-after-the-other daring recipes that completely defies logic, but wins intrigues if not hearts (throw in a James Beard Award for good measure).  I must, I murmured.  I must immerse myself in his teaching…

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BLACK SESAME MOCHI ICE CREAM FOR EM’S BB-SHOWER

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THERE IS AN UNUSUAL STURDINESS AND BOUNCINESS TO EACH BITE, AND DEEP NUTTINESS WITH EACH MELTING CHEWS

Hi Emily,

So, congratulations!  Wow, new baby huh?  I mean.. just.. WOW!  Ayee-um… Mandy, by the way.  Here, um, I sort of acted late on that race to the gift-registry and so I swear all I was left to choose with, was this leopard-print breasts-pump and a strange vampire binky…  But seriously, I swear, I am not weird.  Nor am I some random neighbour who’s trying to crash a party because she saw the sign “there will be cakes” on your lawn on her way to taking out the trash.  Really, I was invited.  But the truth is, you probably don’t know much about me.  And I guess the fact that this being a baby-shower and all, probably one of the top three must-be-perv-free environment there is (among dressing-rooms, toilets and etc…) , I should re-introduce myself a little bit.

My last name is Lee, with my birth-Chinese-name, Huei Lin.  When I was 11, in the month before my family immigrated from Taiwan to Canada, I picked out my own English first name, Mandy, from an English Names Guidebook that some idiot gave me.  It was probably one of the most regrettable mistake of my life, one that I now have to live with until I die.  I’m one of those whom you would call a “dog person” much more than a “people person”.  I don’t care who or how many people die in a movie as long as the dog lives, and which-ever movie violates that rule, sucks.  I Am Legend, sucks.  But having said that, if you actually knew me, I’m a good friend.  An overbearingly judgemental friend you might add, but that’s only because I think I care.  My favourite things in life are puppies’ tummies, eating, travelling for eating, eating with friends, last but not least, good conversations over eating.  I think whoever asks the question “what’s your favourite food?”, hates eating.  I don’t have a favourite food, because there’s too many that it can only be defined by categories.  Categories such as, carbohydrates, and proteins.  Vegetables… I don’t wanna talk about it.

But perhaps, the most important food-category of all that defines my entire existence, that trumps all other subordinate pleasures in life except for maybe rubbing a puppy’s tummy, so much so that I may not be able to friend you if you disagree… is anything and everything that could be described with the word – chewy.  Chewy is my Holy Grail on my culinary treasure-hunt, my kitchen baby unicorn, my ambassador of quan.  Chewy, completes me (and no, Jerry Maguire, doesn’t suck).  I want it in my bread, my brownies, my donuts, my cookies, I want it in places that it doesn’t even belong, and yes yes yes, even in my ice creams.  So I guess it’s only appropriate, since we’re on a roll of getting to know each other and all, that I introduce you to this closeted kink of mine – my black sesame mochi ice cream.

It’s not entirely mochi.  It’s not really ice cream, either.  This black sesame-blended mixture is thickened with just enough sticky rice flour, in order to land on that sweet spot where it’s too loose to be called mochi at room-temperature, but hardens just right when it is frozen.  It has an incredible resistance to melting, an unusually sturdiness and bounciness to each bite, and a deep and rich nuttiness that fills the palette with each melting chews.  It is almost unlikely to find a peer for comparison…  Think of the densest, zero-air/ice-molecule ice cream you’ve ever had – this is way beyond that.  Think of Turkish ice cream – well now you’re getting close.  It’s the same kind of stretchy and springy texture that make this recipe impossible for a typical ice cream-churner, and hence, must be done by working your post-baby biceps.  I mean is it too considerate on my part that I even calculated in a terrific solution for that last pound of baby-weight you’re physically but not emotionally attached to?  I told you, I’m a good friend.

So hello Emily.  Congratulations again.  You won’t be able to return that leopard-print breasts-pump because my dog ate the receipt, but this black sesame mochi ice cream, will more than making up for it.

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HOKKAIDO MILK BUNS AND PINEAPPLE CUSTARD

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These super gorgeous crochet-printed side-plates are from the lovely DishesOnly.

TO MY SHAMELESS AND UNDESERVING SELF I SAID, YES I’LL HAVE FOUR OF THOSE PLEASE

This post, on top of the rare fact that it’s the third dessert-recipe within two weeks, is also going to take a rather unconventional introduction.  Instead of my usual babbling on my, more often than not, unpleasant stories/inspirations behind a certain recipe, I’m going to gratefully credit this entire post to the unexpected blogging-perks that have been recently showering my life like a long-awaited rainfall.

First of all around 2 weeks ago, a mindfully packaged box from Italy oozing the kind of anticipation and excitement not even the strongest duct-tape can confine, quietly arrived at my doorstep.  Carrying with it, among other gorgeous sample-ceramics, were 4 beautiful crochet-printed plates that marked the exciting collaboration between me, and the lovely Italian ceramic company – DishesOnly.  In all honesty, calling this sort of thing a “collaboration” where I shamelessly ask for things without paying, sounds all too undeserving on my part because I feel like I’m taking advantage.  But when I saw these unbelievably delicate and understatedly elegant side-plates called crochet, I simply couldn’t help my greedy self.  The desire of having them among my now-seemed-comparatively-unattractive collection of plates, overrode any remaining ounce of self-consciousness.  So to my shameless and undeserving self I said, yes I’ll have 4 of those please.

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PEANUT BUTTER STICKY RICE BALLS IN GREEN TEA

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THEY COMPLETE ME

Sorry but I have to run off quickly today, and leave you with this traditional and wildly beloved Chinese dessert.  These little pretty purses called tang-yuan, meaning “soup-circles”, are very popular, if not mandatory, at all major celebratory event and holidays because of their literal implication for roundedness and completeness. The elegance of its name may be lost in translation but I assure you that the reasons for their popularity are not, if you would just invest 1 hour of your life to find out.

The recipe for sticky rice ball-dough is an update from an older recipe, which I thought had a couple unnecessary steps and confusions.  Then instead of making a peanut-filling from scratch, which would probably never be as smooth with my incompetent food-processor, I decided to use a mix of store-bought smooth peanut butter with a little coconut oil (to loosen the texture further) and brown sugar.  The sticky rice wrapper is slippery and chewy, like little delicious purses bursting with lava-like peanut butter filling that comes with a hint of coconuts.  It’s a mouthful of complimenting textures and flavours, chewy and runny, sweet and slightly salty, intensely nutty and rich but balanced with the subtle bitterness and fragrance from lightly honey-sweetened green tea.

More than just words, they’ll complete you.

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