Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chinese New Year and the Sacred Heart

Simplicity and creativity are two of my favorite things. This month's Daring Bakers' Challenge allowed me to indulge in both. The ingredients were simple, they came together simply and I could configure them in a myriad of shapes and sizes. I only scratched the surface of this recipe's potential in my initial baking adventure with Tuiles.

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angelique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles by Michel Roux.

This past Monday marked the beginning of the Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year celebrations are 15 days of traditions, revelling and dreaming of the prospects of the new year to come. It seemed fitting to make something in honor of the holiday. Tuile 'Fortune Cookies,' then, were a no-brainer.

2009 is the Year of the Ox according to the Chinese Zodiac calendar. People born in this year are purportedly stubborn, rather explosive when they don't get their way. They have fierce tempers that are only revealed when their buttons are pushed. Otherwise, they make good leaders and are dexterous with their hands. They possess an impeccable memory, so don't say anything to an ox you don't want them to remember 10 years from now! They are dogmatic, arguing their position from an extremely black-and-white standpoint. There is no room for grey in their world. They are also strong and persevering at a task placed before them.

I've always been fascinated by the animals of the zodiac calendar and their character traits. A poster of our zodiac animal was purchased for each of us children from a shop in Chinatown in San Francisco shortly after we were born. I still have mine hanging in my room. Every once in a while I like to read the short blurb on the bottom of the poster to assess whether I have lived up to my projected reputation.

1/4 c. softened butter
1/2 c. powdered sugar
dash of vanilla extract
2 egg whites
1/2 c. all-purpose flour

The dough for this recipe came together in about 5 minutes. The softened butter is mixed with the powdered sugar and a dash of vanilla extract. Then, whisk in the egg whites and slowly add the flour, whisking until the dough is smooth. You must chill the dough for about 30 minutes before attempting to spread it on the baking sheet. If it is not cold enough when you go to spread it, it tends to thin out too much and the butter melts in the oven, spreading out your design.

My first speed bump occurred when I placed the tuiles in the oven to bake. They were finished in about half the time estimated. I placed them in the oven, set the timer for 5 minutes (the shortest time stated on the recipe), and left the room to go check my email. When I wandered back into the kitchen about 4 minutes later, I could smell them burning. Oops. Plopped those into the garbage can and tried again. I had to grab another cookie sheet because it is impossible to spread the dough out when it is warm. Also, it is extremely important to keep your cookie sheet well-greased, otherwise they have a tendency to stick to the pan. Grease the pan each time it comes out or at least every other time if you have a dependable non-stick baking sheet.

I simply spread the dough for my fortune cookies with a spatula in a circular shape. I cooked two at a time because they cool very quickly and crack apart if you attempt to shape them once they have cooled down. It went quickly, alternating between baking sheets.

After removing the tuiles from the pan, I hid a handmade fortune (actually, I inscribed the little scraps of paper with some of my favorite quotes) inside each one, bringing the sides together and then folding the corners down. I placed them inside the cups of a cupcake pan so they would retain their shape as they cooled.

My second batch of tuiles I colored with a few drops of red food coloring. For some time now, I have wanted to make cookies in the shape of the Sacred Heart. I cut out a stencil from a piece of paper and spread my dough onto the sheet through the stencil. A few spread out a bit too much in the oven, so I did a quick rechilling of the dough in the freezer. It helped solve the problem.

Christ's Love is simple, like this cookie, but so rich in mercy that it needed something comparable supporting it. I whipped up a Chocolate Mousse with Grand Marnier, adorning each cup with my Sacred Heart Tuile.

My Mousse du Sacre Coeur....

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Breakfast Muffins

My fingers have been itching to bake now that I am able to bound around the kitchen again mixing, whipping, stirring, slicing, rolling. I spent too many hours browsing recipes and such while I was laid up in bed; now, I have about a gazillion recipes on queue to test out. I am anxious to get cracking...

Last night, I decided to get a jump start on the breakfast fare for the morning. A certain person I know loves plain, ol' oatmeal cookies so I wanted to find something comparable to make him as a breakfast treat. I searched for an oatmeal breakfast cookie but every one I found was 'tainted' with other flavors. Besides which, I feel almost guilty making 'cookies' for breakfast, as it was drilled into me when I was very young that there were 'No cookies for breakfast!' after I would request them each morning upon waking.

I moved onto the scone recipes but couldn't find anything that was satisfying. (Although an oatmeal scone recipe from Gourmet was placed on queue and probably will find its way into an edible format in the near future...)

The muffins finally gave me what I was looking for -- a simple oatmeal muffin with a hint of vanilla. Well, I added the vanilla but I nearly always feel impelled to add my own flair to a recipe.

Wouldn't ya know...those oatmeal muffins didn't satisfy my baking itch! I had to have more! I returned to my queue of muffins and decided upon a fruity option to add to the breakfast platter -- fresh strawberry muffins. It's not strawberry season so I cheated a little and used frozen ones. They actually work best in a frozen state as they then don't break apart when mixed into the batter.

Breakfast this morning was one of each, the oatmeal accompanied by a smear of peanut butter and raspberry jam. I preferred the strawberry. It was moist and had the perfect hint of sweetness riddled with juicy strawberries. The oatmeal was a little bland for my taste, hence, the need for peanut butter and preserves. It was made with buttermilk which gave it a slightly sour taste.

Perfectly complemented by a warm cup of Irish Breakfast tea....

N.B.: Another glance at my first photo made me realize these are definitely Ryan and Laurel Muffins. ;-) Okay, that was sort of my subconscious intention....

Oatmeal Muffins
adapted from

1 c. oats
1 c. buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter (I used 1/2 c. applesauce)
1 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 c. raisins (opt.)

Combine oats and buttermilk in a large bowl and let soak for about an hour. (I only let them soak 5 minutes due to lack of patience, but they turned out delicious and moist anyway.)
Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a dozen muffin cups or line them with paper cups.
Add egg, sugar and butter to oats and stir until combined.
In another bowl, combine dry ingredients and then add to oats mixture. Fold in raisins, if desired.
Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full. Place in the oven for 16-20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack for at least an hour before serving.

Strawberry Muffins
adapted from

1/4 c. canola oil (I used 1/4 c. applesauce)
1/2 c. milk
1 egg
1/2 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 3/4 c. flour
1 c. chopped strawberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease or line 8 muffin cups.
In a small bowl, combine oil, milk and egg. Beat lightly. In a large bowl, combine salt, baking powder, sugar and flour. Add chopped strawberries to flour mixture and coat thoroughly. Add to milk mixture and fold together carefully.
Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Cool for an hour before serving.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pie Day

Happy National Pie Day!

I believe our days eating Baskin Robbins ice cream cakes are over. Why be limited by the 31 flavors of their creations when one can mix and match endless possibilities of ice cream, cookies, and any other topping one desires in a cute, lil' ice cream pie?

This was supposed to be dessert tonight in honor of Pie Day but its irresistible lure was too much for my family and half of it disappeared last night. Oh well, I'll just have to make another.... :-)

Be sure to enjoy a slice of your favorite pie today!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Pie

"What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task."
~President Barack Obama, January 20, 2009

The carrying on of a legacy, the ushering in of a new era....

No matter which side of the political fence you stand on, whether you agree or disagree with the proposed policies and reforms of the party now entering our capitol, whether you are excited for or disappointed in the choice of our new president, yesterday was a moment to pause and reflect, to recognize that this nation is about to embark upon a new page in history, for good or for ill. And each and every one of us can and will take part in etching the blank slate that lays before us.

How can you live as a true, loyal American citizen linking our invaluable heritage with our emerging future, preserving what is good, eradicating what is deficient?

This momentous day in history deserved a special, commemorative meal. And, although, we did not eat on fine China like those feasting at the Capitol (in fact, Styrofoam as our dishwasher was uncooperative in washing the dishes all day), our meal contained all the pomp and circumstance worthy of such an historic day.

We feasted on baked brie wrapped in phyllo and topped with cranberry sauce, a dish of maple chicken with sweet potatoes and onions, Caesar salad, and sourdough bread.

But the highlight of the evening was the star-studded Inauguration Pie. The recipe comes from the annals of Pilgrim history, straight from the cookbooks of the original citizens of this great country. It was an apple-cranberry pie with cornmeal crust.

The crust from this recipe was the best I have ever tasted in a pie. The cornmeal gave it a slightly more earthy flavor than your basic pie crust, and a delightful texture. I've been brainstorming other fillings I could use with this crust and perhaps a sable-type cookie, capitalizing on some of the flavors captured in the crust. I'll keep you updated... :-)

Apples and cranberries were a winning combination for this pie. Truly, they perform a perfect duet for any autumn or winter pie. I used American Cameos. It was my first experience with the Cameo. They were a perfect choice for pie apples. They reminded me of Galas.

Inauguration Pie
adapted from Colonial Times Apple-Cranberry Pie with Cornmeal Crust on

2 c. all-purpose flour

3/4 c. yellow cornmeal

5 T. sugar

1 1/4 t. pumpkin pie spice

1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. plus 2 T. butter, cold

(recipe called for room-temperature shortening but I prefer real butter in my crusts)

6 T. buttermilk (roughly, I used a little more)

Mix dry ingredients together. If using butter, cut in diced butter and mix with your fingers. Add buttermilk by the tablespoonful slowly, mixing with your hands until the dough comes together. Divide dough into two discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in fridge for about an hour. (Can be made a day ahead.)


1 c. fresh cranberries

2/3 c. brown sugar

2 t. pumpkin pie spice

3 - 3 1/2 lbs. apples, peeled, cored and sliced (I used
American Cameos)
1/2 c. dried cranberries (or currants)

5 T. all-purpose flour

buttermilk for brushing on top of pie

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coarsely chop cranberries with sugar and pumpkin pie spice in a food processor. Place in large mixing bowl with apples, dried cranberries, and flour, and toss well.

Roll out one dough disc between two pieces of plastic wrap and place in the bottom of a deep pie dish. Fold extra dough under edge and crimp down. Roll out second dough disc and cut out with a 3-inch or so cookie cutter of your choice, such as a leaf, heart, or animal. I used a star cutter to keep with my patriotic theme.

Place the cut-outs around the edge and over the top, overlapping the pieces together. Brush the pastry with the buttermilk. (I wanted to place a bit of blue food coloring in some of the buttermilk to achieve a red, white and blue pie, but, alas, couldn't find any in the pantry... :-( )

Bake the pie 45 minutes. Then, cover the pie with foil and continue baking until juices are bubbling, about 35 minutes. (I missed this step as I went out for a walk which singed my crust a bit on the top... It was only in the oven a total of 65 minutes.)
Cool for at least an hour.

Adorn with a scoop of ice cream when serving. (The original recipe called for rum raisin ice cream. I managed to find some by Haagen Daaz but it wasn't very popular with the family. French vanilla was the flavor of preference.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009


I apologize for my long absence from the food blog-o-sphere. A horrible virus invaded my body a few weeks ago and will not surrender. I have hardly been able to stomach food, let alone create, think or write about any concoctions. I will return when my spirits and appetite have revivified....