This recipe meets all the criteria for the perfect banana bread as well: it is unbelievably moist without it being too oily, the texture is what I liken to a spongy cloud—dense and airy simultaneously—and just as importantly, it only requires one large mixing bowl. Minimal dishes means more weekend baking projects! Although there’s an abundance of banana bread recipes that are claimed to be “the best”, this one can certainly find its place in your next baking project…Read More
a Korean Pastry
a Korean Pastry
Known as sora-bbang (SOH-RAH-BBANG: transliterated into conch bread) by most, they are widely known to be of Korean origin, or so they say, but I highly doubt they didn't hail from the likes of Parisian bakers some centuries ago in Old France. That's just my speculation. The yeasty milk dough, glazed with a mixture of egg yolk and milk, is proof that a good yeast bread alone is quite matchless. Once it's stuffed with a hefty piping of homemade chocolate pastry cream, however, it becomes irresistibly moist and fluffy with sweetness oozing at every side. It's the kind of bread that no child could turn down--not even on a bad day.Read More
This cake is unfortunately not my idea, nor is it one uniform recipe because I have tried and tested it in different ways over the past few months. Parts of this recipe are gleaned from some amazing bits I have found online and the remaining are from my own experience of trial and error. It is originally known as the Kievsky Cake and is eaten all over Eastern Europe.Read More
You know it's been a long, a very long week when you experience tightness in your chest. That sounds kind of dangerous, I thought to myself the other day. And if you know me even a little bit you probably know I don't like to complain about miniscule things. I really try to stay away from doing so as much as possible--unless I'm experiencing a surge of extremely dry heat that is--because then you'll probably hear me go on and on about how my hair is turning into a dry haystack or anything obnoxiously repetitive like that. So I'll spare you the details for now. Just know that a certain two year old makes all the difference at times, and things around the house and the neighborhood haven't seen much of anything peaceful. At least nothing evident to our knowledge. Still, I'm learning ever so slowly that gratitude isn't a circumstance but a state of mind. There are so many lovely things in life that much sooner than I can complain about my inadequacy as a mother, I am reminded that my glass--or my soul if you will--is constantly half full whether I feel it or not.
Still, now that I get to sit down and actually take a breath as I type this up, I can subtly see that my extrovertedness is very, very well complemented by some introverted tendencies. Now more than ever, I'm ready to coop myself up in a rustic, private garden somewhere in Austria singing "The Hills are Alive", only not really because I need human interaction at least once a day, so more realistically, I think I'm ready to get back into the kitchen in the fiercest way I can. Ready to tackle non-existent recipes that I've been craving like nobody's business, then host a delightfully solitary merienda with no agenda to follow. Just me, my yerba mate, a good devotional read, and these cornstarch alfajores (ahl-fah-ho-rez).
Okay so, I tend to exercise my stress away and bake for the sake of my own sanity as ironic as it sounds. And these alfajores have already been made a few times in the past few weeks. Something about dulce de leche is intriguingly medicinal to me. Perhaps it has everything to do with good childhood memories and little to do with the velvety texture I get after smearing it on hot-out-of-the-oven cookies, or vice versa. Because let's be honest. Who has the patience to wait 15 minutes for the cookies to cool down? Exactly my point.
Argentinean alfajores come in a wide variety of styles and flavors; some are more akin to a combination of crumbly biscuit and cake, with two slices conjoined by a thick jam or quince paste commonly known as dulce de membrillo (so good!!!). They can be bathed in a thin layer of milk chocolate (I dipped some in Valrhona dark chocolate), but oftentimes you will see them naked like this. Pure and simple. Sought after by many Americans, and made by only a select few. Alfajores de Maizena are pretty much shortbread cookies sandwiching dulce de leche, coated in a fearless layer of powdered sugar. Shredded coconut also takes this to a whole new level so feel free to roll the edges on coconut flakes of your choice.
As you may have noticed from my gratifyingly obscene combinations in the past, I love distinct and daring flavors. One of my favorite seeds to use in cooking and baking is Star Anise (Anis estrellado) because it gives such a unique character to any dish, making it stand out among others. Think of it as upgrading from a kit dslr lens to a 35mm f/2 wide angle. You can immediately tell something is different even though you can't put your finger on it. :) Keep in mind that a little bit goes a long way, and although the slight licorice taste will undoubtedly make itself known to your taste buds, it won't be overpowering so long as you use only 6-8 crushed seeds. I hope you give these a try and enjoy! How has your week been, by the way?
Alfajores de Maizena with Star Anise
Makes approximately 8 alfajores
Time: About 30 minutes including baking time
Equipment: Rolling pin, parchment paper, cookie cutter (circular object)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or other fine/rough variety)
1/2 tsp salt
6-8 star anise seeds, crushed
12 tbsp very cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup white sugar (or 1/3 if preferred)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk
dulce de leche for filling
confectioner sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 375 F (191 celsius). Stir the cornstarch, wheat pastry flour, star anise seeds, and salt in a large mixing bowl. As for the seeds, I simply like to peel them off the whole star anise and crush them with my fingers. It's very easy to do and unevenly sized pieces shouldn't cause a problem. Grate the cold butter through the medium holes into the dry ingredients for best results. You can cube them but grating them makes the process much easier, swifter, and creates a tender cookie. Add sugar, vanilla, milk, and gently knead the dough with your hands, folding ingredients and incorporating without over kneading the dough. Form a ball or oval, seal with plastic wrap, and place in freezer for about 10-15 minutes.
Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Lightly flour a flat surface and roll the dough out with a rolling pin or something like it. Spread to all sides from the center towards the outside, making the dough about 1/4 inch in thickness. Cut out circles of about 3-4 inches and you should end up with 14-16 circles.
Carefully place on lined cookie sheet and bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until the tops are not-yet-golden (but almost), and shortbread cookies are firm but tender to the touch, and not crisp. Let them cool, fill with dulce de leche, and dust the tops with confectioner sugar is desired. Optional to roll the edges in coconut flakes, or to dip them in melted chocolate.
***I melted Valrhona dark chocolate in the microwave for 30-40 seconds in 3 or 4 increments. Any kind of dulce de leche may be used. Although my favorite brand is San Ignacio, you might find it easier to buy the Nestle cans at your nearest chain grocery store.***
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Have you tried alfajores? Which is your favorite variety?
What would you cook using star anise seeds?
As much as I'm loving the unexpected showers in LA, there's one tiny dilemma I'm currently dealing with as momma to an almost 2 year old. Rainy days do still prompt me to immerse myself in deep, profound thought as they always did pre-motherhood, but they also feel much much longer now and I do what I can do keep Selah happy within our walls. You can say that I'm completely pooped by the end of the day. But in the best way, of course!
Selah is an adventurous soul and she demands every bit of my attention at this stage. And by attention I mean, she's a busy bee running to and fro throughout the entire house and quite the chatterbox, I have to say. She constantly blurts out the cutest little phrases with the most adorable lisp, like "what deeeeez??" It's definitely not the easiest thing in the world but I cannot have it any other way because it makes those rare snuggles (when she'll actually stay still) that much sweeter! Doing the best I can to keep us entertained on rainy days via fort-making, crawling on all fours and pouncing like a ravenous lion (this momma gets her game face on), and making "Ghetto-Doh" which is really far from resembling actual Play-Doh, I also try to squeeze in some baking. Because what's a rainy day without some homemade treats?!
We both love baking "together" (insert quoting motion with fingers) and since scones are my comfort food and baking is therapy next to yoga-ing for me, I had an insatiable urge to make scones this week. I figure that if we can't go out and jump in puddles just yet, then the next best thing would be to make scones. I decided to go all in with the fats too. Instead of holding back on the cream and butter I followed my gut and fearlessly grated a cold stick o'butta (insert Paula Deen's voice) into the mixing bowl.
So how about that cheddar? First off, it is seriously the best ingredient to pair up with fruit! As I was (excitedly) contemplating on what flavors to use in this recipe I suddenly remembered Cynthia's mini cheddar brown butter apple crumbles. When she first wrote about these beauties, I immediately knew I'd be using them as inspiration for a future recipe of mine and voila. I couldn't have made a better choice.
Don't you worry about the texture or taste from the cheddar, either. It in fact adds a teenzy weenzy bit of tang to the scones, while making the crumb slightly chewy without it being gummy. The taste is equally as good because it helps bring out a sweeter, more robust essence from the berries. I urge you to try these scones because dare I say? They might be almost as good as the ones I tried at Neighborhood Grinds, and that's a very hard task. Enjoy and happy sconing, friends!
Cheddar Blueberry Cream Scones
Makes 5 large scones
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup white sugar
7 tbsp cold unsalted butter ***
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
10 tbsp cold whipping cream
1 cup fresh blueberries (or dried or candied)
1 whole egg+1 tbsp water for brushing
***Keep the cream and butter as cold as possible. Refrigerate until right before adding them into the bowl.*** Preheat the oven to 400F (204 C degrees).
In a large mixing bowl, stir together both flours, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Using a veggie box-shaped shredder on the side with the holes that are wide, more suitable for shaving into slices, quickly shave butter into the bowl and then add cheddar. Move swiftly because you want the butter as cold as possible. Use your hands to knead and break apart any huge butter chunks, but do not over knead of it will become tough after baking.
Make a slight well in the middle of the dough and pour in the whipping cream, gently folding the dough with the cream in intervals as you see fit. Once again though, do not over mix. Finally, add blueberries and gently fold them into the dough. On a lightly floured flat surface, flatten out the dough just a bit (I used a rolling pin) to even it out, into about 2 inches tall. With a circular item like a large glass (or cookie cutter), cut out discs and place them on a lined cookie sheet with parchment paper. Brush the tops with the egg+water mixture and bake for approximately 16-18 minutes.
Breakfast, breakfast...Is there anything more scrumptious than breakfast? Oh wait, there is. That would be dessert, but I'm beginning to think that breakfast can be its cousin, or more like a healthified knock-off, if you will, because of its extremely versatile and sweet nature. I know that many people actually prefer savoury flavors in the morning hours, but our household does best with sweet. Greg loves his breakfast extremely sweet though, which isn't normally my thing because I need that wholesome, healthy nutritional profile in order to keep my stomach satisfied and happy through the day. In case you're curious to know sometimes our kitchen conversation goes something like this:
Greg: "Oh no no, my french toast needs more maple syrup than that. It's because we're on rations, isn't it?"
Me: "Uhhh no? More like, I'm a nice human being and I care about your health? *smiles sweetly* You know you're going to sugar crash within the next hour."
Greg: "Haha...you and your 1 TBSP of creamer.
Me: "B--but! Look at how white your coffee is already. I think 1 TBSP is plenty."
Greg: "Here. Let me see that creamer." *dumps into perfectly brewed coffee*
Okay so that's just the gist of it! Thankfully we don't bicker to that extent. Honest! It's more or less like that every now and then but these are certainly some of the differences we've come to find and compromise on. Yes, we've learned to compromise on breakfast! And this baked millet dish is an example of how far you can go when you compromise on little things. It is inspired by the amazingly talented Marta of What Should I Eat for Breakfast Today, and although I took some of the main ingredients into this dish I also substituted the berries for lychee, as well as some of the flavors. Although Marta used uncooked millet to bake this beauty up, I wanted a softer and fluffier consistency and thus, cooked the millet in water ahead of time.
Now keep in mind that lychee is one of the most mild fruits out there, though its delicate taste shouldn't be confused with blandness. Nope, lychee is actually very flavorful on its own, but when added to other ingredients it tends to quiet down a bit and doesn't overpower the rest of the dish--which is what we want here. Since lychee is so reminiscent of Asian desserts (aka boba, or bubble tea to you east coast folk), I decided to pair it with ground ginger and a zesty yogurt to drizzle on top. This baked breakfast is mildly sweet yet satisfying like dessert! Only healthier, of course. :)
Baked Millet with Lychee and Lemon Yogurt Cream
Adapted from this recipe
Makes 6 servings or slices
Ingredients for baked millet
2 C raw millet
4 C water
2 large eggs
1 C milk (or almond milk)
1/4 C honey
1 C peeled and chopped lychee (about 10 lychees)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp lemon zest (skin of about 1/3 of the lemon)
1 C mixed nuts (raising optional)
Ingredients for lemon yogurt cream
1/2 C greek yogurt
1 TBSP honey
1/2 tsp lemon juice
4 chopped lychees
First preheat your oven to 375. Grab a medium pot and on medium heat, boil and simmer the millet in 4 C of water by occasionally stirring for about 15-18 minutes or millet has soaked up the water. Set aside to cool while you peel and chop the lychees.
Transfer the cooked millet to a large bowl and whisk the eggs in until well incorporated. Then add milk, honey, lychee pieces, salt, vanilla, ginger, and lemon zest. Top with mixed nuts and raisins. Stir thoroughly and bake for about 55-60 minutes. Let cool on a rack.
In a small bowl (or wash the last bowl you used) mix yogurt, honey, lemon juice, and lychees. Cut the baked millet and drizzle with yogurt cream before you serve.
What are some of your favorite breakfast foods?
-I love sweet breakfast like oats, healthy french toast, protein pancakes, but I would never say no to smoked salmon and cream cheese!
In what ways do your eating preferences differ from others around you?