Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Biscotti

Merry Christmas Eve and Merry Christmas to others!! Christmas is upon us. The tree is up, the decorations fill the house with joy, and the food, oh the food...fills the house with that wondrous smell. So, get out those pajamas and those fuzzy slippers, find your cameras and video recorders, get off your diet and splurge a little bit, and get ready to have some fun.

Christmas is always full of fun but food preparation may be stressful but I can help with your desserts. Do you still need a last minute cookie recipe to fill up your cookie tray? Why not make a cookie with the colors of Christmas, red and green? Holiday Biscotti is the cookie that will round out your tray. Simple to make and rather quick to bake. Aren't you impressed with how they look? Well, I hope so! 

Once again, Happy Holidays everyone! Remember, it's not about the presents, it's about spending time with family and friends (and the food of course! :D). 

-When you form the dough into a log, I find that having it be about 1/2 inch thick created the best thickness after being baked.
-When baking for the second time, I like to flip the biscotti half way through the baking process.
-Don't bake the biscotti for too long. I notice that baking dried fruit for too long can cause it to become hard instead of chewy

Taste: The biscotti has a light lemon flavor with a nuttyness from the pistachios, a tart, sweetness from the cranberries and a vanilla flavor from the white chocolate.

Texture: The biscotti has a "light crunch" and not the "hard crunch" of store bought biscotti which is nice. The pistachios gave a slight "soft crunch", the cranberries gave a chewiness and the white chocolate gave a creaminess to tie the whole cookie together.

Holiday Biscotti (Makes 2 dozen)
Recipe by Giada de Laurentiis

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup dried cranberries
12 ounces good-quality white chocolate, chopped
Red and green sugar crystals, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl to blend. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended. Stir in the pistachios and cranberries.

Form the dough into a 13-inch long, 3-inch wide log on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until light golden, about 40 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.

Place the log on the cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2 to 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake the biscotti until they are pale golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer the biscotti to a rack and cool completely.

Stir the chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until the chocolate melts. Dip half of the biscotti into the melted chocolate. Gently shake off the excess chocolate. Place the biscotti on the baking sheet for the chocolate to set. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals. Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm, about 35 minutes.

The biscotti can be made ahead. Store them in an airtight container up to 4 days, or wrap them in foil and freeze in resealable plastic bags up to 3 weeks.

-Aaron John

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pandan Chiffon Cupcakes

Today is my favorite time of year for watching shows on the Food Network. It's the holiday episodes! Yes! I've been waiting all year for this. Is it just me or does all the food just look exceptionally delicious this time of year? I just want to make everything they make and then some. Boy, would that be a lot of food or what?! One day, one day it will happen... Here's to hoping! ha. Until then, I'll just stick to "Christmas-y" type desserts like this Pandan Chiffon Cake.

Have you ever used pandan before? Me neither! Using this ingredient was something extremely new to me. At first, I thought I never heard of it before. However, when I got to thinking, Filipino's have a dessert called buko pandan. I couldn't believe how I forgot about it. So, I got my pandan and got to making these little chiffon cupcakes. Look at that green color, just in time for Christmas! Can you believe all that color came from just one teaspoon of pandan paste? I was in shock! No food coloring here, just the natural pandan extract color.

-Before whipping your egg whites, wipe your bowl with a teaspoon of vinegar. It simply makes sure that your bowl is extra clean

-Fold in all the egg whites until white steaks are no more

Taste: The cake as a slight coconut flavor with hints of pandan flavor which is similar in taste to a vanilla, hazelnut and coconut combo. 

Texture: The cake was light and fluffy, what a chiffon should be like.

Pandan Chiffon Cake (Makes 1 10-inch tube cake)
Recipe from Kirbie's Cravings
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 Tbp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 tsp. pandan paste

6 egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350'F (175'C).

Combine (A) in a bowl. Stir well to blend. Add (B). Beat with an electric mixer until smooth.

Beat (C) (egg whites and cream of tartar) in a separate bowl until moist peaks formed. Gradually add 3/4 cup sugar, beating until stiff and shiny peaks are formed. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the egg yolks mixture, fold to mix and then add the rest of the egg whites. Fold gently but thoroughly, so no white streaks remain. Turn batter into ungreased 10" tube pan.

Bake for 60 mins or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Invert cake and cool completely in pan. Make sure oven has reached 350 F before putting cake in oven. When cool, loosen the edges and shake pan to remove

-Aaron John

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Blog Award!

Where has the time gone? Only 10 days left until Christmas?! Who's as shocked as I am? Wasn't Thanksgiving, like, yesterday? ha. I think I've lost track of time, being it was Finals Week at UW. Let's hope I get the grades I want. *Fingers Crossed* That would be the greatest gift of all...that and a dslr camera *cough cough*

Anywho, now that I'm on my winter break, I finally have more time for my blog especially checking out other blogs and responding to comments/emails (Sorry for being so delayed!). The first stop is this award a got a couple weeks ago from Michael of Me, My Food and I. Have you checked out his blog yet? His food makes me want to make more savory dishes. Here's to hoping!  He definitely has posts on sweets too! His blog really has everything, savory, sweet, simple and some dishes that will surely impress. 

So I guess I must pass this award along. Here's my top 5 blogs I love to check out everyday! Congrats you guys! :)

1. Korean American Mommy - Lisa of "Korean American Mommy" is one of my favorite bloggers. Her pictures of food are just mouthwatering and I love the blending of her Korean heritage in some of her dishes. I hope one day, my blog can be at the same level are her's. :)

2. swEEts by e - Evan decorates cakes like no ones business! I love the detail work in all of her cakes and how they look so professional! 

3. Becoming Lola - I love this blog because of the writing style that Letitia has. Sometimes, her posts make you laugh, sometimes her blogs make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. haha. With such great pictures on her blog, I can't keep my eyes off it. Not to mention, she loves the blogger community and loves to create events/challenges where us bloggers can interact!

4. Bittersweet - If you're looking for creativity, Rick's blog is the one for you! His food is creative and looks delicious! Not to mention, a lot of the recipes are simple!

5. Baking Serendipity - Another favorite blog of mine. I love how she is so creative with making pancakes! If you think Chocolate Chip Pancakes are the only kind of creative pancake, you've thought wrong! So many pancakes and other dishes. YUM!

-Aaron John

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Donut Muffins

This past week, I gave away "goodie bags" to 20 lucky friends since it is the season of giving after all. Boy, was that time-consuming. ha. It took me about 6 hours to fully complete the baking and about 30 minutes to package them all up. In the time leading up to these "goodie bag" giveaways, I had to decide what I was going to put in them first of all. I was going over all my recipes figuring out what would work best. I definitely knew I wanted some sort of a cake and cookie combination. Then, I had to choose exactly what. Well, for the cookie part of the bags, I wanted something that would last and not be affected by sitting over night. From this, I chose my Chocolate and Almond Biscotti and Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies. But what cake can I make?

When deciding the cake aspect, I had different ideas floating around in my head. Making whole cupcakes, mini cupcakes, cake truffles, cake pops, cake petit fours. The list went on and on. I narrowed down my choices to either Donut Muffins or Red Velvet mini cupcakes/petit fours. However, I had never made Donut Muffins before and I wasn't about to let my friends become guinea pigs.

So, these were the Donut Muffins I tested out. Sad to say, these didn't make the cut of my giveaway. Instead I made Mini Red Velvet Cupcakes. Overall, the giveaway was a success and was worth every minute of it. Too bad I didn't take pictures of the gift bags....I did take pictures of the Donut Muffins though! ha.

-Don't over-mix the batter. The batter will seem rather thick and not combined but a few mixes and it should be good to go.

-I used paper liners to bake them up simply for easier cleanup.

-I found that after the muffins came out of the oven and you are ready to cover them in sugar, dunking them in butter and letting them sit for about 30 seconds before dipping them into the cinnamon sugar worked best. It prevented clumps of sugar to accumulate on the muffin.

Taste: Actually tasted close to a cake donut with the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg. However, something seemed to be missing for me in these muffins.

Texture: The muffin itself was moist and the cinnamon-sugar topping gave a nice crunch. The muffin had a texture close to a coffee cake, not as dense as a real donut which is probably the reason why I felt it was "off"

Donut Muffins (Makes 12 Muffins)
Recipe Found Through The Pioneer Woman @ Tasty Kitchen

1 3/4 cup Flour
1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoons Salt
1/2 teaspoons Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoons Cinnamon
1/3 cups Oil
3/4 cups White Sugar
1 whole Egg
3/4 cups Milk

1/4 cups Butter
1/3 cups White Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon.
Combine oil, sugar, egg and milk. Add dry ingredients and stir only to combine.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a bowl. Combine the white sugar with the cinnamon in another bowl.
Shake muffins out while still hot. Dip muffins in butter, then into the sugar/cinnamon mix. Let cool.

-Aaron John

Saturday, December 4, 2010

7-Up Cupcakes

Finally, the last week of the classes is here! So excited. But, we all know what comes after the last week of the classes, FINALS WEEK! With four final's that need to be taken, I need to be on my game. That's why I have to start studying now. Am I the only one that has trouble studying? It seems as if I always can find ways to distract myself for random reasons. Whether, I get up to walk around the house or go on....Facebook, I just can't seem to study. Maybe I should just lock up my laptop until I finish Finals Week. ha.

Back to what we're all here for, Food! 7-Up Cupcakes to be exact. I first heard about this type of cake years ago while watching the Food Network. I don't exactly remember how 7-Up Cake came about but I do remember Giada de Laurentiis being in the episode judging. The cake read on.

-I followed the recipe exactly, including beating the butter and sugar for 20 minutes. I personally thought that 20 min was a bit much but since there's no leavening, you have to. I would assume you can add baking powder to this recipe. Maybe 1 tsp?

Taste: A lemon flavored cake that is sweet but not overly sweet. The lemon glaze added just the right amount of lemon flavor and extra sweetness the the cupcakes.

Texture: The cake was actually moist and not as dense as I expected. However, there was something about the texture of the cupcakes that I didn't like. I don't exactly know what it is but I think it may have been because there was no leavening agents used besides the carbonation from the soda and creaming the butter and sugar. The texture was off to me. Maybe it's just me...

7-Up Cake (Makes 1 Bundt Cake)
Recipe Found Through
3/4 lb butter, softened
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups flour
2 tablespoons lemon extract
3/4 cup carbonated lemon-lime beverage

Lemon Glaze:
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Cream butter and sugar together for 20 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Next, add flour and lemon extract. Fold in 7-Up.

Pour cake batter into a well-greased 12-cup Bundt pan or tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Make Lemon Glaze by mixing powdered sugar and lemon juice together. When cake is cooled, dribble with Lemon Glaze.

-Aaron John

Friday, December 3, 2010

And The Winner Is.....

You've waited a week and the results are in. The lucky number is.....11. That means the winner of a $45 Gift Certificate to CSN Stores is Pixie!! Congratulations Pixie!! I will contact you with your prize shortly. Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway and a special thanks to CSN Stores! Keep checking back on my blog. You never know what surprises are in store.

-Aaron John

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Giveaway Entrants And Your Numbers

As usual, I numbered the entries myself to make it easier in picking the winner through Look for your name and numbers and Good Luck!! The winner will be announced tomorrow!

Celeste: 1

Necinco: 2

Vindel: 3, 4, 5

Tim: 6, 7, 8

Mandy: 9

Pixie: 10, 11, 12

Claire: 13

Liz: 14, 15, 16

-Aaron John


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