most people aren't fully acquainted with the wonder of alfajor. I've been surprised time and again that they're not as widely known as I thought, even in the foodie capital that is LA. They're basically very soft, crumbly, and perfectly sweet cookies that sandwich a hefty dollop of dulce de leche. This variety, which is commonly covered in dark, milk, or white chocolate, is perhaps the "newer" kind since it differs from its counterparts of other South American alfajores--typically dusted in powdered sugar as in this recipe I shared a while back. Alfajores Marplatenses are, without a doubt, the most popular treat in Buenos Aires. Whether I J-walked right across to the kiosko in front of my house, or whether I visited the local neighborhood almacen (like a deli shop), I was always able to get my fix on in a heartbeat.Read More
This recipe is perfectly inspired by Doubletree Hilton's cookies which, I dare say, are one of the many reasons why people love to stay at their hotels (along their wonderful facilities and customer service). I have been asked for the recipe multiple times by different folks--those who've received them as a gift and those who saw them on my instagram posts just a few weeks ago...here is the breakdown of why and how these cookies have been achieved so wonderfully, why they boast that coveted crispy edge and outer crumb with a fudge-like inside, how to make them spread so perfectly as they maintain a chewy and notable height, and how they stay in the tupper ware moist and chewy for over a week. No slice of bread needed, as they say.Read More
These adorable snowflake cookies are lovingly made with all kinds of aromatic spices like cloves and cardamom to name a few. My goal was to make them somewhat reminiscent of pfeffernusse (peppernuts) cookies--a traditional German cookie that I've fallen in love with eight Christmases ago while I was visiting Greg's family in Kansas.Read More
In a world where we have the luxury of choosing between the perfect chocolate chip cookie and a good-enough-to-be-a-gourmet-thumbprint-cookie-so-I’ll-eat-several-thank-you-very-much variety, I always go with the latter. I do have my secret chocolate chip cookie recipe that I have shared with no one thus far. And yes, much to seasoned blog readers’ satisfaction I have spared the internet from yet another recipe. I’ve yet to hear about an offer I can’t refuse for it to be pried off my chocolate laden grips though, so you can bet that I’m hopeful to share someday, just hopefully not to your dismay.
Having said that, few things to me are as satisfying as thumbprint cookies. Well, we do have dulce de leche alfajores, caramel doughnuts with apple jelly, chocolate cupcakes paired with rum caramel, and the like, but having grown up on thumbprints like an American kid having lived off too many packets of Famous Amos, I’ve developed an utmost affection towards them. They’re truly pleasing to look at and an extravagant way to introduce a high noon tea party, an inexpensive way to make a thoughtfully wrapped Christmas goodie bag, or a simple delight to munch on during your drive home. Being well known for their buttery yet sensible texture, they render just the right combination of pliable crunch.
Now quince spread, otherwise known as dulce de membrillo in the Southern Hemisphere, is most delectable and aromatic in its unique signature way. While I wouldn’t say it’s anything like berries though the color suggests just that, I would loosely describe it as a concoction of dates, apples, currants, grapes, and orange all in one. Knowing that it is also one of Skye’s favorite flavors tickles my fancy, because after all, she is a kitchen goddess and I admire everything she does. A legendary in the field of curating flavors and story telling, if you will. And if she condones my profession of love for this underrated fruit then it can’t be too bad of a thing, now can it?
Of course, finding quince paste isn’t an ideal task if you don’t have a local Argentinean store in your whereabouts, but lucky for you, Food52 seems to have taken care of that! While quince is ideal for this recipe since it’s reminiscent of foreign flavors like the ones I grew up on, you are more than welcome to use regular fruit jams of your choice. Note that I chose to melt the paste with a small ratio of water to make it easy to spoon into the thumbprints, simply skip this step if you're using regular jam and you’ll be good to go.
Macadamia and Quince Paste Thumbprint Cookies
Makes about 36 cookies || Adapted from Joy of Baking
Time: 30-40 minutes including prep and baking time
Equipment: cookie sheets, large mixing bowl, stand mixer if desired
1/2 cup ground macadamia nuts
10 tbsp room temperature unsalted butter
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
zest of one orange (optional but preferred)
approximately 1 cup melted quince paste
2 tbsp water
Preheat oven to 350 F ( celsius). In a large mixing bowl and a wooden spoon, or in a stand mixer bowl with paddle attachment, slowly incorporate ground macadamia, butter, egg yolks, sugar, salt, and vanilla, for about 30 seconds. Add flour little by little, mixing on low speed very gently, followed by adding orange zest, and incorporate for another minute or so, or until mixture has come together. Make sure you do not over mix. Form dough into a square log and cut into equal cookie pieces. Place evenly on a cookie sheet at about 2 inches away from each other.
Meanwhile, or you can do this next step before working on the dough if you prefer, simmer quince paste with water until it's thoroughly melted. If you're using homemade paste or jam, you can skip this step. Press thumbprints into the middle of the cookies, fill with a little bit of jam or paste, and bake for approximately 14 minutes. The cookies will be slightly short of golden and the filling not completely set. Let it cool and when they're ready to eat, the filling will be chewy. Eat as is, or dust with powdered sugar alternatively.
Do you choose thumbprint and buttery cookies, or all-American chocolate chips?
What's your experience dealing with quince?
Courage, humility, some cake flour dust, and a whole lot of love. As cheesy as it sounds, these are the main ingredients when baking a cake for your loved ones because a--they really could turn out to be a flop in which case a lot of unconditional love is required from said loved one, and b--either way you have to get over your fears of baking cake. I know that was me prior to singing happy birthday to Selah with our church family, hah! I was so terrified they would hate it, I even contemplated to eat it all by my lonesome self to avoid any criticism. So sad, I know.
If you've ever tried to make chiffon cake from scratch, then you probably know what a bear it can be since it's sensitive in the strangest ways, but if you follow the rule of thumb of separating the eggs, keeping them at room temperature prior to using them, sifting your cake flour, baking the batter in an aluminum pan and not greasing the sides of the pan, then making chiffon cake couldn't get any simpler. That's right! Chiffon cake only responds to non-slippery surfaces and the only way to get a tall, moist, and extremely spongy crumb with the tiniest little holes so perfectly spaced out as shown in the picture below, is to use an aluminum pan. Surprisingly so, the slippery quality of non-stick pans or greased pans will prevent the cake from "riding" up the sides, if you will, keeping it from reaching its full height and consequently making it tough and chewy like rice cake.
As with many of my recipes, you can totally make some things ahead of time like the meringue layers and taro mousse. Make sure to keep the meringue layers in a dry place and that moisture doesn't build up from sealing them too tight. In fact, I even like to keep them uncovered and stored up somewhere like my oven (when it's not hot/warm!) because it's consistent in temperature, fairly clean, and keeps the critters away.
This variant of the regular sponge cake is one of my favorites! It always tastes gourmet and makes any celebratory cake a little more luxurious. Now, please keep in mind that the photos show the meringue layers combined with whipped cream, which was a huge mistake of my part. I suggest keeping the meringue away from liquid ingredients as they will soften up from moisture. I've also read far too many complaints of cakes collapsing when a tube pan isn't used, but here I show you how it's more than possible to get the same perfect results in a regular 8 inch cake pan. What works for me is to include butter instead of oil, and to immediately flip the pan onto a ventilated surface to ensure the springy quality stays intact. Not letting it cool completely and turning the pan right side up too early will undoubtedly cause your cake to collapse. Now let's get on this and make sure to watch the video for further details!
Chiffon and Meringue Layer Cake with Taro Mousse and Whipped Cream
Makes one tall 8-inch round cake || With help from Just One Cookbook
Time: About 1.5 hours, including baking time.
Equipment: Standmixer or electric beater, aluminum pan, parchment paper for bottom of pan
Ingredients for chiffon cake
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
1/4 cup white sugar
4 tbsp melted unsalted butter
5 tbsp room temperature milk
3 drops red+3 drops blue food coloring
3 large egg whites, room temperature
3 tbsp white sugar
1 cup sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Directions for chiffon cake
Keep eggs at room temperature ahead of time. If you're in a pinch, dunk them in hot water until the water becomes lukewarm (about 5-10 minutes).
Preheat oven to 350F (177C degrees) and make sure to use the rack at the lowest level or height in the oven. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, butter, milk, and food coloring. Set aside. In the bowl of your stand mixer with a whisk attachment, or an electric beater if you don't have a stand mixer, mix the egg whites on medium speed, raising it to the highest speed so foam starts to form. When you see bubbles, slowly pour in the sugar and keep mixing on high speed until you see stiff peaks.
In a separate large mixing bowl, sift the cake flour and baking powder in the mesh at the same time. This will help even incorporation of baking powder. Sprinkle salt. Add these dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with purple coloring and gently mix together until big clumps disappear. Fold in the egg whites into the mixture and until well incorporated, but without over mixing because that will cause the leavening to "die out". Cut parchment paper into a circle to cover the bottom of your pan, pour the batter in and bake for approximately 34 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean, top is golden, and the cake springs back up when you press it gently.
Immediately place a strip of plastic wrap across the top of the pan and make it cling to the outside. Flip the pan onto a ventilated surface as shown in the video, and let it cool for at least 25 minutes. It should be completely cool and when inverted to the right position, it shouldn't show the smallest sign of collapsing or shrinking. Unstick the side of the pan with a dull knife and invert cake onto a flat, clean surface. Slice into two equal layers with a serrated knife, brushing off messy crumbs.
Ingredients for meringue layers
|| Tools: Parchment paper ||
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Prior to making these meringues, make sure you thoroughly wash and dry the stand mixer bowl, or else the oils will affect the result. Turn down your oven to 300F (149C degrees). Mix the egg whites on high speed and when it starts to produce foam, slowly add the sugar and keep mixing until stiff peaks start to form. Scrape sides as needed, add salt, vanilla, and mix on high for a few seconds.
Draw two circles on parchment paper using the bottom of the cake pan as a mold (the top part might be too big because of edges). Spoon the meringue mixture on both circles and smooth out, making sure all sides are roughly even. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden and meringues are hard. Cool on parchment until ready to use.
Ingredients for taro mousse
4 small taro, washed and peeled***
water for boiling
1/4 cup white sugar
1-2 tbsp milk or cream
1 drop red+1 drop blue food coloring
Directions for taro mousse
Boil taro until soft and mashable. Transfer to a processor or blender and puree with the rest of the ingredients.
Ingredients for whipped cream
4 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Directions for whipped cream
In a clean, large bowl and a beater with whisk attachment, mix the whipping cream, sugar, vanilla, and cream of tartar in that order. Beat until it becomes creamy and thick, and a bit higher in volume. Keep refrigerated until ready to frost.
You should now have two layers of chiffon cake. Lay one layer on a flat surface with the top crust facing up. Spread with taro mousse until fully covered, leaving about 1/2 inch space near the edge. Spread some whipped cream on the mousse in the same manner, making the cream about 1/4 inch tall.
I hope I know a little about being Asian by now, especially if we're talking about the food. Mmmm, the food! But we'll get to that part in a little bit.
I can't say I grew up "in the kitchen" like some of the most talented cooks we know today. That is, unless you count opening the fridge every half-hour to look for a stale sandwich, apple juice, and then some cake which added to my "plumpness" as a child, then yes. I did grow up in the kitchen.
Other than that, I sometimes got to help mom chop vegetables verrrryyy slowly as I ooh'd and aahh'd at her envious Food Network worthy chopping skills. Thankfully though, I've lived half of my life in So Cal, which only happens to be one of the greatest foodie capitals in the US, and that means I can Yelp just about any cuisine and within a matter of 20 minutes, boom. I'm there. Little Tokyo LA is home to the most unforgettable, creamy udon-making little hole in the wall restaurant for example, which I can't wait to introduce to my friend Sarah before she becomes a mommy in less than 2 months!
Norcal isn't terrible either, you guys. Okay, it's beyond awesome! I'm still shocked I got to try Himalayan/Nepalese food during my bachelorette trip 3 years ago (by the way, many prayers for the beautiful Nepalese souls). And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Because even though I feast on Filipino food almost every Sunday at church, I still gravitate towards Asian flavors. You'd think the opposite would be the case, but lately all I want is to incorporate ingredients like green tea, taro, and coconut cream even in my baked goods.
These cookies perfectly describe what I was aiming for. They have a slight hint of coconut very much different from say, American macaroons. Coconut cream powder isn't the same thing as coconut flour. It's nothing like coconut flakes either, and it's definitely a far cry from canned coconut cream. It's more like the "what is it" flavor in Taiwanese yeast breads, and that sweetly mysterious "I have no idea how they make it so yummy and thick" factor in Thom Kar Kai soup.
These delicate tea cookies are like shortbread but less greasy. Keep in mind that the coconut isn't overpowering, making these a delightful pairing for a relaxing afternoon tea, even for those who can't handle the texture of coconut--like my husband who finished off half of it.
The Chao Thai brand seems to be the most popular brand and it's found in most Asian stores like Seafood City. My guess is that you can find it at most Asian markets except Korean and Japanese since coconut isn't a staple ingredient for the latter two. One thing I strongly suggest is freezing the dough for 45-60 minutes prior to baking. This will aid in keeping its shape. I ran out of time and took them out of the freezer way too early, making these look like drop cookies instead of shortbread. In the photos below, I'm rolling the white dough around the chocolate one but I highly suggest reversing the order as they might end up looking a little inappropriate, if you know what I mean! I didn't realize that until after I was done with the photo shoot. ;)
Coconut Cream Powder Tea Cookies
Makes approximately 18 cookies
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
6 tbsp coconut cream powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tbsp room temperature butter
3/4 cup confectioner sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Mix the all purpose flour, wheat flour, coconut cream powder, and salt in a large bowl. Separate this dry mixture into half and in two separate bowls so we can add cocoa powder to the other half. Now add the cocoa powder into one bowl and stir thoroughly.
In a stand mixer bowl with paddle attachment (or a beater and a separate bowl), cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla until well incorporated. Add half of this butter mixture into the bowl for the white cookie dough. Add the second half into the bowl with chocolate dough. Mix both thoroughly and seal with plastic wrap. Freeze for about 30 minutes.
Roll out the white dough into a log of about 10 inches long on a lightly floured surface. Then roll out the chocolate dough into a rectangle large enough just to cover the white dough. Encase the chocolate mixture around the circumference of the white dough so it becomes a log. Seal with wrap and freeze for 45 minutes.
Cut the log in 1 inch segments so you end up with about 18-20 cookies. Place about 2 inches apart from each other on a lined cookie sheet and bake for approximately 18-22 minutes, or golden on top and bottom. Let them cool as they will set into a crisp, but soft short bread consistency.
I'm curious to know! Is there a wide variety of ethnic cuisines where you live?