Tag 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: 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.

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.

Dreaming of Strawberries

A while ago, I went shopping and came home with a nice clamshell of strawberries. They were on my list. They were even on sale. Trouble, was, I had forgotten why I bought them. (I must learn to write these things down … somewhere.) So there I was, staring at these very perishable fresh fruit while the clock was counting down. I finally came up with few ideas.

I had a lone banana in the freezer so I made this Banana-Strawberry Smoothie. I’m sure I wrote down the recipe somewhere and when I find it, I’ll be sure to add it.

I know that I used a half a cup each of milk and orange juice, about a cup of washed and hulled strawberries, 2-3 tbsp plain Balkan yogurt and a tbsp of honey for sweetness. And, of course, one frozen banana broken into chunks so as not to strain my blender. An ounce of Cointreau may have found its way in there. Just sayin’.

After a bit of searching on line, I found a recipe for a barely cooked, strawberry sauce. and stirred some into a batch of mini Strawberry Cheesecakes. Less is more, as in many things, and I actually liked the marbled version of these minis better. Just a touch of concentrated flavour, and the visual was more striking.

Strawberry sauce for Cheesecake

2 pkgs (10 oz/283.5 gm each = 567 gm) sliced sweetened frozen strawberries, thawed and drained
1 tbsp corn starch

Place strawberries and corn starch in a blender. Cover and puree until smooth. Pour strawberry sauce into a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook and stir until the sauce is thick and shiny, about 2 minutes. Set aside 1/3 cup and cool. Cover and refrigerate the remaining sauce for serving.

For a fresh touch, I chopped up some fresh strawberries into small pieces and stirred them into the still warm sauce.

Strawberry sauce over French Vanilla ice cream or spooned over the mini Cheesecakes

I DID eat some plain. Oh, and I finally remembered why I bought the strawberries. I was going to make a vanilla sponge/Swiss roll and add diced strawberries and whipped cream as a filling. One day, it WILL happen.

“Jiggly” Japanese Cheesecake… Trial 1

I’ve been curious about this cheesecake for some time and finally got around to giving it a try.

“Jiggly” Japanese Cheesecake

Since some recipes called for as many as 8 yolks and 12 whites, which I didn’t want to commit to the recipe, I looked for one which seemed more restrained in its egg use, and didn’t give complicated baking instructions involving adjusting the temperature during baking.

As a final complication, I didn’t want to make a full sized recipe.

I don’t have the 7 or 8 inch diameter springform pan (mine is a 9 inch) called for, in the first place, and, secondly, a full sized cake is too much for a single person. Based on the recipe, I used, I guesstimated that a full recipe, would make about 4-6 cups of batter. So, I thought that the batter from a half recipe would distribute nicely among three or four one-cup ramekins with room for souffleing. I prepared four, to be safe, and added four inch tall parchment paper collars to accommodate the expected souffleing. (The collars didn’t turn out to be needed.) I filled each ramekin about three-quarters full and baked the ramekins in a water bath for 40 minutes, at 320 degrees Fahrenheit. A wooden toothpick inserted into the middle of a cheesecake came out clean, at this point. Even though the top was as pale as when I put the cheesecakes in the oven, I decided not to bake any further and shut off the oven, leaving the cheesecakes in the oven for another 30 minutes to cool and set fully.

ETA (03/30/19): Refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours before eating. The cold temperature sets the cream cheese and improves the flavor and texture. Store any remaining cake in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. To freeze, wrap the cake tightly with plastic food wrap and then a layer of foil. Freeze for up to 3 months.

For aesthetics, I brushed some apricot glaze, made from stirring together 1 tbsp of apricot jam with 1 tbsp of warm water until smooth, over the top of the cheesecake.

I ate the first one warm because … well, I couldn’t wait until the next day to eat it cold.

Review: The recipe isn’t very challenging technique-wise, especially if you’ve ever made meringues or any cake involving folding flour etc into a fluffy egg white base to minimize deflating. It was very tasty warm, with just a bit of added sweetness from the glaze to contrast with the slight tang from the lemon juice and cream cheese. I liked the texture which was more similar to a moist pound cake than to a classic cheesecake.

NOTE: Refrigerating the cheesecake overnight transformed the cheesecake. It became more CHEESECAKEY and less ‘cakey’.

Easy Japanese Dishes Pt. 3 – Japanese Hamburger Steak (Hambagu)

The last post on the theme of easy Japanese dishes features a Japanese version of the classic Western hamburger, hambagu, or hamburger steak patty. I’m including a couple of miso soups, a vegetable side dish and some pudding (or purin, in Japanese) to finish things off.

The recipe for the hamburger comes from TabiEats and the result was meant to be used in a bento box. Instead, I used it as a topping for leftover Japanese mixed rice.

Hamburger Steak Mixed Rice Bowl

Hamburger Steak Patty – for 2 patties

100 gm /~1/4 pound ground beef or chicken
30-40 gm enoki mushroom base, shredded
1/8th finely diced onion (or 1 tsp fried onions)
1/4 tsp salt
few grinds of pepper

Ground beef and shredded enoki mushroom base

Mix all the hamburger patty ingredients together well. Shape into patty to get out the air. Divide into 2 and reshape into hamburger steak patty. Make a small depression in the center as the middle puffs up during frying. Pan fry over medium heat in 1 tsp vegetable oil for a few minutes on the first side and then turn and finish.

Since the burger on its own seemed a bit dry, I borrowed a recipe for a wine reduction hamburger steak sauce from Nami’s Just One Cookbook. Halve the ingredient amounts for the sauce, from the recipe below, if you’re only making two patties.

Hamburger Steak (Hambagu) – for 4 hamburger steak patties

1-2 tsp vegetable oil
4 hamburger patties, about 90 gm each
~1 tbsp red wine
1 tbsp unsalted butter

Sauce for the hamburger steak

3 tbsp red wine
3 tbsp water
3 tbsp ketchup
3 tbsp tonkatsu sauce (or Worcestershire sauce)

Heat a cast iron or non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the hamburger patties and fry 3-4 minutes on the first side. Flip, and add a couple of teaspoons of red wine into the pan.

After you flip, pour 2-3 tsp red wine into the saucepan and then lower the heat to medium-low. Cover the pan and cook for 5 minute, or until the inside of the patty is no longer pink. Take the lid off and increase the heat to medium-high to let the red wine cook off. When the pan is almost dry, remove the patties to a serving plate and reserve.

Combine the liquid sauce ingredients in a bowl. In the same pan in which you fried the hamburger patties, add the butter the and sauce ingredients and mix well. Lower the heat to medium low and let the sauce simmer for a few minutes to cook off the alcohol. With a slotted spoon, remove any meat bits or scum from the sauce so it’s nice and smooth.

When the sauce has thickened to your liking, pour it over the hamburger steaks.

Serve with vegetable sides and rice.

Shira-ae is a tofu ‘dressing’ made of ground sesame seeds/tahini, miso and tofu and added to shredded vegetables.

I used it to dress some blanched broccoli florettes and served it with one of the hamburger patties and a bowl of miso soup.

Two kinds of white miso soup … egg drop/egg flower and tofu or a clear soup.

To finish up … dessert. Cause you ALWAYS need to finish up with something sweet. (Ok, I like cheese and fruit and nuts too but they weren’t in my budget nor did I know any savoury Japanese afters.)

Dessert was pudding, or purin, in Japanese. Both these desserts were made with the same vanilla bean custard mixture. For the flan/creme caramel, I made a hard caramel and poured it into the bottom of the large ramekins. The smaller ramekins were turned into creme brulee and bruleed under the broiler.

Vanilla Bean Flan/Creme Caramel and Creme Brulee