Category Archives: dessert

Pumpkin Fudge and Pies/Tarts

I haven’t bought a can of pumpkin puree in six to seven years but I decided to make my first ever pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving, so I picked up a can. It was even on sale.

But before attempting the pumpkin pie, I made something that I haven’t tasted for even longer … pumpkin fudge. My first taste of that rather unique flavour came from the seasonal fudge that my brother made for my SIL’s chocolate store. It was an unexpectedly tasty candy and I hoped to be able to make something similar. My results weren’t bad but not as amazing as the one I remember. Of course, my cranberry fudge wasn’t as good as his either. Maybe one day.

Pumpkin Tart and Fudge

I made a couple of half batches (400-420 gm) of pumpkin fudge using this recipe. I over-cooked the first batch because I don’t have an accurate candy thermometer, so I had to use the soft ball test. It may have been a bit crumbly but it was tasty and I ate the whole thing in no time at all. For the second batch, I may have under-cooked it JUST a bit but some judicious stirring once I had poured the fudge into the pan and I got it to where it should be.

The half batch of pumpkin pie filling I made used Chef John’s recipe from Food Wishes, and filled a couple of mini pie crust shells (6 inch diameter) and two tart shells made in muffin tins.

And, lest you think that all I made with that pumpkin puree was desserts, I also made a batch of creamy red lentil and pumpkin soup using about a cup of the puree.

Pie Duo … Nectarine and Chess

Once you can make a pie crust/pastry, the possible fillings are endless.

I thought I’d include both a fruit and a custard type pie in this post.

Nectarines are delicious … sweet and juicy and a very good price in season. Instead of making a pastry top crust, I used a crumble. It’s something I’ve got to work on. Delicious but not as pretty as I would have liked. I didn’t bother peeling the nectarines.

  

I have no idea where the name of this pie comes from … there are many explanations for how Chess pie got its name. But however the name came about, the result is tasty. I used the recipe I found here. Half the recipe for the filling was enough for two mini (6 inch diameter) pies. I had some extra filling so I baked the custard in a small oiled ramekin.

  

Flaky, Buttery Pie Crust … Sweet and Savoury Fillings

Because you can never have ENOUGH pie crust recipes, I gave this one a try … half unsalted butter and half lard. The blogger who posted the recipe, used shortening, which I didn’t have, as she claims that using the two different fats takes advantage of the best characteristics of each.

Sweet Pie … apple and quince filling

I haven’t bought quinces in years and at the exorbitant price of the imported ones ($2.49 each), I wasn’t about to make a whole pie out of them. But, I was able to combine one perfectly poached quince (green bumpy looking fruit on the right in the picture below) with three Braeburn apples (on sale at $1.15 a pound) to produce a tasty filling to test out my latest pie crust recipe.

The pie recipe I used was based on this one with some changes. I’ve included it below so it’s all in one place.

Apple-Quince Pie – makes 1 9-inch pie, serves 6 generously or 8 more moderately

pie pastry, enough for a top and bottom crust

Poached Quinces

1-2 lg quinces, peeled and diced *
1 cup water
3-4 tbsp honey
pinch of salt

Rest of Filling

3-4 lg apples, peeled and diced**
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

* 1 quince (~250 gm)
** 3 apples (~675 gm), Braeburns

Poaching the quince/s

Combine the water, sugar, salt and diced quince(s). Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the quinces are crisp-tender, 8-10 minutes. Remove the fruit to a large bowl and let cool. Continue cooking the liquid, uncovered, until it reduces to about 1/4 cup.

Preheat the oven to 500 deg F with a rimmed baking sheet on the lowest shelf level.

Making the filling

In a small bowl, combine the sugars, flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Add the chopped apples to the bowl with the cooled quince. Sprinkle the sugar/flour/spice mixture over the fruit and gently stir in the thickened quince liquid. Pour the filling into the pie bottom.

Add the top crust, seal and crimp the edges. Cut slashes in the crust.

Place the pie dish on the preheated baking sheet, turn the heat down to 425 deg F and bake for 25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Reduce the heat to 375 deg F and continue cooking until the filling bubbles and the crust is golden brown, another 45-55 min.

Remove the pie pan to a cooling rack until it’s come to room temperature. Refrigerate for AT LEAST 2 hrs and preferably overnight before cutting into the pie.

Savoury Tart … spinach and paneer (cheese) tart

Because I’m a cheap frugal home cook, I rolled out the trimmings from the apple and quince pie to form a top crust for a spinach and paneer tart. For the base, I used a mini pie shell from the freezer. It was made with the leftover pastry from my PREVIOUS pie bake … a nectarine crumble.

I wasn’t sure how much filling I would need so I threw together something that came out pretty well.

Spinach and Paneer Tart – makes 1 mini pie, enough for 2 generous servings

pie pastry, enough for a bottom crust, divided in half

1/2 box (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (~64 gm)
140 gm paneer cheese, crumbled
2 large eggs
2 tbsp whipping cream, or regular milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg.

Preheat oven to 425 deg Fahrenheit. Adjust the shelf in the oven so it’s at the lowest position. Place a baking sheet in the oven so that it will preheat as well.

Roll out the dough for the base. Line a disposable aluminum mini pie tin leaving about 1/2 inch of excess pastry. Roll out the top so there’s about an inch of excess pastry.

Assemble the filling ingredients. Fill the base, add the top crust, folding over and crimping closed. Cut several slits for the steam to escape.

Place the tart on the baking sheet. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

REVIEW: I found that the pie crust recipe lived up to its name … it IS both flaky and buttery. It’s easy to make, tasty and will remain in my recipe collection. The fillings of both the sweet and savoury variations were delicious as well.

Picspam: Strawberry Dango and Mochi Pt. 2

Sorry for the picture overload but I didn’t want to make multiple posts and used as few pictures as I could to give an accurate representation of each confection.

The recipes I used were found on various blogs and Youtube videos. I scaled down the recipes and didn’t take good notes so until I repeat some of these projects, I’m not going to worry about sharing recipes or links.

An Overview … dango, mochi and daifuku

Strawberry Dango

For these strawberry dango I started by making a strawberry puree and using that as the liquid in making the dango ‘dough’. Then, I shaped the dango, boiled them and threaded them onto skewers. The cold dango were served with the strawberry puree as a sauce.

REVIEW: I was disappointed in the result. They were acceptable freshly made but, after refrigeration, the dango were gummy and kind of gross. I’m willing to blame the failure on my technique but until I can figure out what to do differently, I’m unlikely to try to make them again.

Ice-cream Mochi

Frozen ice cream balls are wrapped in a thin shell of mochi ‘dough’. I started out by spooning slightly softened ice cream (French vanilla ice cream) into an ice cream scoop, packing it down and then froze the balls. I had the choice of cooking the mochi paste/dough in a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave. Of course, I chose the faster/easier/lazier method. Unfortunately, microwaves are different and an extra 15 sec more or less DOES make a difference. I THINK I cooked it enough. But I’m not sure.

In any case, I dumped the cooked paste onto a bed of cornstarch, rolled it out using a rolling pin, generously coated with more cornstarch, and divided it into the number of portions needed. And then I ATTEMPTED to roll the paste snuggly around the frozen ice cream ball.

Sorry about the poor pictures. I started making these around 9 or 10 pm and my lighting was poor. I made enough paste to wrap around four ice cream balls.

The cornstarch on the outside of the mochi ball actually makes it look better than brushing it off, for presentation. Unfortunately, it’s tasteless. I suppose that I could have used icing sugar as some recipes recommend. But it’s not traditional … and that’s what I was going for.

Ignore the cut paper muffin paper in the picture below. The mochi shell/wrap was thin and soft as required but the bubbles were unsightly.

REVIEW: Seems simple but the result was just kind of sad … visually. Taste wise, they were fine. I would make them again when I buy more Mochiko flour. And get some more interesting ice cream flavours.

For the next two confections (the second is a variation of the first), I used anko (sweetened red bean paste). I had the choice of either smooth or coarse paste and chose the latter. A strawberry puree was used to flavour/hydrate the mochi dough.

Packages of Smooth and Coarse Anko

Strawberry Mochi

Strawberry Daifuku

These are very perishable confections as the fresh strawberry in the middle seems to ooze out liquid as the confection stands. The anko is wrapped around a whole strawberry and then the strawberry flavoured mochi is wrapped around that. I only made two of the daifuku and two of the plain mochi.

REVIEW: I enjoyed both the plain mochi and the daifuku but if I were to make one of them again, it would be the plain mochi.

Picspam: Mochi Pt. 1

An intriguing Japanese confection that I was introduced to via Youtube videos was mochi … I thought I’d try and make some. So I bought Mochiko flour.

And then I visited an Asian grocery store that’s been around for a number of years, for the first time, back in July. And came home with a few goodies.

So I decided NOT to make mochi.

Soft and squishy and delicious … in so many flavours. Like these strawberry mochi …

or this trio of anko (sweetened red bean paste), peanut butter paste or sesame seed paste filled mochi …

or this classic mochi flavour … matcha (green tea).

OK … I DID make some mochi. I’ll post pictures soon.

Dango, Mochi and Mochiko Flour

I thought I had it straightened out in my head … dango were Japanese confections in which (sweet glutinous) rice flour was mixed with water (and some sugar), kneaded and shaped into balls, boiled, threaded onto skewers in 3-5 pieces, and basted with soy sauce or topped with sweet red bean (anko) paste, as in mitarashi dango. Grilling the balls before topping was advised to get the maximum flavour out of what can be relatively tasteless, chewy balls.

Chichi Dango

Of course, there were exceptions like in the tricolour hanami dango (pink, white and green), which are served without a sauce to allow the colours to shine. Although one can use food colouring to get the respective colours, for the pink colour, strawberries pureed with sugar and added to the dango mixture adds both flavour and colour, while for the green colour, matcha powder serves the same function.

For dango, one of two particular types of rice flour may be used, mochiko and shiratamako. One of the blogs I read suggested that the latter was preferred but, since I could only get the former, that’s what I used for my experiments.

Mochi was more confusing. I read that the difference between dango and mochi was that the latter was made with cooked sweet glutionous rice which was pounded to make the mochi base after which sugar was added for flavour.

And then I ran across several recipes in which mochiko flour was used, for convenience. Cooking style varied as well. I’ve seen the mochi ‘dough’ cooked in a pot on the stove and, my favourite, microwaved mochi. There are many delicious Japanese confections called mochi, including the most traditional one in which cooked mochi dough is wrapped around a ball of anko paste. Other delicious fillings include sesame paste and ground peanut paste (NOT peanut butter). For a very special mochi, called “strawberry daifuki”, a whole ripe strawberry is covered with a thin layer of the anko and then wrapped in the mochi dough. The most recent, and likely westernized variation, wraps frozen balls of ice cream in the cooked mochi dough. When mochi ice cream started appearing in my local grocery store, I knew I had to actually try to make one of these confections.

I started with the simplest version of dango I found, a Hawaiian variation called “chichi dango” which is served for celebrations. I used a recipe that I found on the Youtube channel TabiEats for the dough but cooked it in the microwave using the power/timing suggestion on another Youtube channel, emmymadeinjapan. One of the chichi dango recipes I researched substituted coconut milk for the whole milk for added flavour. As I had some in my freezer, and only 2% milk in the fridge, I thawed the coconut milk quickly and used it in my recipe.

In the first picture, the dango ‘dough’ is mixed and ready to microwave. In the 2nd, the dango after 2 minutes in the microwave

Cooked dango turned out onto the cornstarch and patted out into a rough square. Then, the dough was flipped over before cutting with a plastic dough scraper, a freebie from my recent banneton purchase..

My cutting needs some work … oh well, there were lots of irregular scraps for sampling

Cooking: The video said to cook the mochi dough at 600 watts for 2 minutes, then to stir, and cook for an additional 40 seconds. My microwave power output is 900 watts at 100% power so I calculated that I should use 70% power (100% x 600 W/ 900 W = 67%) to achieve the same result. I stirred and ‘tasted’ the dough after 2 minutes. The ‘grainy’ texture and consistency led me to cook the dough for another minute. Although the consistency was better, the dough still tasted grainy. I ended up cooking the dough for a total of 5 minutes, which was probably too long on reflection.

REVIEW: The cooled and cut slices of chichi dango were a bit rubbery in texture but quite tasty and not too sweet. The chalky taste of the starch was a bit off-putting at first, but after brushing most of it off, I made my way through about a third of the dango, starting with the trimmings. I hope to leave enough to allow my nephew to taste it when he comes over some time next week. But that may not happen.

Craquelin Cream Puffs with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream

The basic cream puff may be dressed up in many ways.

In this post, I used Chef John‘s recipe for ‘crack’ cream puffs in which a crunchy sugar cookie type topping is placed on a larger than usual cream puff before baking.  I also made the vanilla bean pastry cream to fill the puffs but skipped the chocolate base for the puffs because, unlike my friend Dolly, from the ‘koolkosherkitchen’, I’m not that big a chocolate fan.

Cream Puff with a Craquelin Topping – Taste tested the freshly baked cream puffs filled with French vanilla ice cream as I hadn’t made the pastry cream ahead of time and it took several hours to chill and set fully.

Vanilla bean pastry cream

Preparation … craquelin topping made and the template drawn on parchment paper as a guide for piping the cream puffs.

Cream puffs with their craquelin topping ‘lids’

Baked cream puffs … I normally make a dozen cream puffs with the same amount of choux pastry.

REVIEW: Well written cream puff recipe with very good results. I did have some size issues with the puffs which were almost twice as large as I usually make. I prefer nibbling on a couple of smaller puffs with some time between rather than having to eat one giant puff at one sitting. Also, the crunchy/cracky topping gets soggy on thawing if you need to freeze any leftover cream puffs.

As to the vanilla bean pastry cream recipe … it was an easy recipe and not overly sweet which was good, but, as with many pastry cream recipes, I didn’t find it firm enough for my taste.

Dorayaki (Japanese “Pancake” Sandwich)

Dorayaki is a delicious Japanese snack or confection which traditionally consists of a sweet red bean paste (anko) sandwiched between two ‘pancakes’. Slightly different versions of the recipe may be found on several blogs but this is the first one I ran across some time ago, on Nami’s “Just One Cookbook” site. It uses the Mochiko (sweet rice flour) that I mentioned in the previous post though I HAVE seen a recipe which used all purpose flour.

I made a half batch of the recipe, and, even though I forgot to add the water, which I figured out after the fourth pancake, I still ended up with some edible, though misshapen early results. The final six pancakes, after I added about half of the amount of water listed into the remaining batter, were perfect.

Dorayaki with Sweet Red Bean Paste

The pancakes are easy to make though you DO have to be careful about the cooking temperature (medium-low is definitely advised) since the sugar and honey can burn quite easily if you exceed the temperature suggested. Moderation in the amount of filling is also necessary. Too much and you won’t be able to shape the pancakes around it and gently ‘pinch’ the edges closed. I used a ‘coarse’ sweet bean paste with some bean pieces left in it to fill the pancakes. Definitely use the plastic wrap to help in the shaping.

  

I used red bean paste (purchased) for the filling, because I like the taste, but if you can’t get it or don’t like it, and want to try something else, a thick pastry cream, crunchy peanut butter and Nutella and very lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh fruit are alternative fillings.

Newfoundland Jam Jams

This jam filled sandwich cookie is a copycat of a commercial cookie produced by the Purity Factories in Newfoundland. The same recipe is found on several web sites. The one I found first and used is here. Even though there’s no ginger used in the cookie dough, the finished cookie tastes similar to gingerbread cookies, probably due to the brown sugar and molasses.

I used some apricot jam inside the first tray I made.

For the second tray, I tried to emboss some cookie balls with a maple leaf. Sadly the design disappeared during the baking. They still tasted delicious.

The maple leaf ’embosser’ was lightly dipped in flour before being used. I found that I needed to refrigerate the dough balls before attempting to emboss because they softened quickly at room temperature and stuck to the embosser. I was quite happy as I placed the baking sheet into the oven.

Disappointing result … no design.

Review: Tasty and easy to make. If you don’t want to fiddle with a filling, you can just roll out and cut out the cookies. Or, shape the dough into one inch cookie balls and flatten with the tines of a fork before baking. You can also roll the cookie balls in sugar and use the base of a glass to flatten them.

Bread, Loco Moco, Tortillas and Ice Cream

PICSPAM WARNING

I’ve got a backlog of pictures that I wanted to share but couldn’t come up with a good way to tie these disparate items together, so I’m just going to lump them into one post, and let you sort them out.

Since I gave up buying bread at the grocery store, I have to restock whenever I run out of bread in my freezer. And, of course, pizzas are on the roster of regular meals at home or for work lunches.

Instead of making my usual two pizzas, I used half of the dough to make a foguasse, a sort of pull apart French bread. The shaping (leaf-like) is designed for easy tearing and sharing. Or you can just eat it all yourself dipped into a small bowl of herb, sea salt and freshly ground pepper infused extra virgin olive oil. I rolled it out a bit too thinly so by the time I slashed and opened up the dough, it got too thin in some areas. They got crispy rather than remaining puffy and being a sponge for the oil. But I dealt with the hardship.

I turned a small sweet potato, into a loaf of regular sandwich bread (700 gm of dough) and four small (60 gm, pre-bake weight) buns. Two of the buns were used for mini hamburger patties.

The hamburger patties for the buns were leftover from making loco moco. Loco moco is a Hawaiian dish consisting of a bed of hot steamed rice (long or short grain works) topped with a hamburger patty and beef/brown gravy. It is often topped with a fried egg, runny yolk preferred, and served with a side of pasta salad. Two slices of fried Spam may be served along side. I’ve made the classic burger loco moco and one featuring Spam served with eel sauce instead of the beef gravy in the past and it’s a delicious and easy meal to put together.

Loco Moco with hot sauce … runny yolk adds flavour to the rice along with the beef gravy

Flour Tortillas … a version with all purpose flour and masa harina

Chicken fajita with home made flour tortillas and Mexican rice

Top and bottom of tortilla

I wanted something sweet and had a bit of nostalgia for my mom’s favourite ice cream flavour. This was a boozier version than she ever tasted.

Rum and Raisin No Churn Ice Cream

Rum and Raisin No Churn Ice Cream – makes ~2 cups

1/3 cup raisins
2-3 tbsp dark rum
3/4 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Soak raisins in rum for one hour or overnight. Drain off the excess rum and add the raisins to the condensed milk and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the heavy cream in second large bowl. Fold the whipped cream into the condensed milk/raisin mixture. Pour into freezer container and freeze for at least 6 hrs or overnight.