Thursday, December 31, 2009

Spicy Caramel Popcorn

An easy new year's eve snack. I didn't put enough cayenne pepper for it to be noticeable right away. It left more of a light tingle on the tongue about 20 seconds after eating. And I couldn't taste the salt at all, but one of the tasters commented on it. However, he might have been the one to get one of the coarse salt bits. Based on a recipe from SmittenKitchen.
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 1/2 c popcorn kernels
  • 1 1/2 t soda
  • 1/4 to 3/4 t cayenne pepper
  • 2 c sugar
  • 2-3 T butter
  • 1/2 T kosher salt or 1-1.5 T coarse sea salt
  • water
  1. Grease 2 baking sheets or large serving plates, a large rubber spatula, and a large mixing bowl with a thin amount of oil.
  2. Pop the popcorn with 1 T butter (melt butter over med heat, add kernels, cover and shake until 2 sec between pops).
  3. Transfer to greased bowl, not letting the un-popped kernels go in.
  4. Combine cayenne pepper and baking soda in a small bowl. If your cayenne pepper is strong use less. If you like it spicy use more. I only used 1/4 t. Mine was very weak.
  5. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, butter, salt and 1/3 c water. Cook on high heat, without stirring, until mixture turns light golden-yellow or very light brown. About 5-10 min.
  6. Remove from heat and whisk in soda-pepper mixture.
  7. Immediately pour over popcorn. Don't worry about scraping all the caramel out - there will be plenty.
  8. Toss the popcorn with the spatula to coat.
  9. Quickly spread on greased plates. Spread out flat and separate into chunks while still warm.
  10. Cool to room temperature and store in ziplock bag or airtight container.
  • Add in 2 cups of peanuts, pecans, almonds or cashews.
  • No cayenne? Try paprika or chili powder - you'll need more since these are less spicy.
  • Bake the corn at 250F/120 C stirring every 20 min for an hour to let the caramel really ooze into the popcorn.
  • Shape into balls instead, wrap in plastic and tie with a ribbon for an edible ornament gift.
  • For a less sweet version, cut the sugar in half.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Golden Egg Braid

This bread was a lot of fun to make. Used a recipe for Braided Egg Bread and modified it for the bread machine. Moist and delicious.
  • 3.5-4 c flour
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 2 1/4 t yeast
  • 1 t salt
  • 3/4 c water (*use less b/c of extra egg, try 1/2c)
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 3 eggs
  • Topping: 1 egg, 1 t water, parsley flakes
  1. Combine non-topping ingredients in bread machine and set to dough cycle. Check on dough after 5 minutes and add flour or water to get the right consistency.
  2. Knead dough a few times on a floured surface.
  3. Cut off one third and set to side. With remaining dough, divide into 3 parts. Roll to 13" long. Place on greased baking sheet and braid. Tuck ends under.
  4. With remaining dough, divide into 3 pieces. Roll to 14" long. Braid. Place on top of shorter, fatter braid. Pinch and tuck ends under.
  5. Cover and let rise until doubled - about half an hour.
  6. Mix egg with water. Brush on dough. Sprinkle with parsley.
  7. Bake 190C for 10-15 min. Cover with foil and continue baking for another 15 minutes or until bread is golden and done.
  8. Remove from tray to cool.

Just braidedRisen with egg washBaked
  • Add another egg yolk to the dough for a more eggy taste.
  • Sprinkle with poppy seeds instead of parsley.
  • Fill braid ropes with filling.
3/7/10 Third time making this. Used 1/4 c sugar, 1/2 c water, 3 3/4-4 c flour. Put yolk on small bread, white on base bread. Topped with Italian seasoning. Would add a bit of coarse salt next time. Brought to Luke's and was gobbled up. Liked the ratio.

Halloween Mummy Bread

10/30/15 I used this dough to make two loaves of mummy bread. One small one filled with apple-almonds-cream cheese, and the other filled with spinach-ricotta-herbs. The first one I made was too long and skinny to really look mummy like. The next one I made much wider and wrapped the braids in different directions. Finished the breads with eyes - sliced olives on the savory one, cream cheese and raisins on the sweet one (not pictured).
Verdict: the larger (2/3 dough) one had too much filling and was undercooked. Next time divide it in half, and cover when baking. The smaller one (1/3 dough) filled with apples was perfectly cooked and tasted great!

    Thursday, December 24, 2009

    Gingerbread Muffins

    I've got that bottle of molasses to use up so I thought I'd make another go of a gingerbread treat. This time in the form of muffins. I modified a recipe I found online - increased the spices, reduced the molasses (I thought the upside down pear cake was molasses heavy) replacing it with more brown sugar, added raisins and made it in the form of muffins.
    • 1.5 c flour
    • 1 t ginger
    • 1 t cinnamon
    • 1/8 t cloves
    • 1/2 t salt
    • 1/2 t powder
    • 1/2 t soda
    • 1/2 c butter, melted
    • 1/2 c brown sugar
    • 1/4 c molasses
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 c water, very hot
    • handful of raisins
    1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
    2. Line 12 muffin tray with paper liners (or grease).
    3. In a large bowl, combine wet ingredients.
    4. Add dry ingredients to wet.
    5. Stir in raisins.
    6. Distribute among muffin cups evenly.
    7. Bake at 180C for 20-25 min.
    Next time, more ginger!

    Friday, December 18, 2009

    Chocolate Mint surprise muffins

    Modified a recipe for chocolate muffins to put a mint spin on them. Used a free candy cane from school (a mini peppermint one) and 2 kinds of Andes mints. Would have liked more peppermint but only had the one cane. Next time peppermint extract or more candy canes. Tasted delicious hot out of the oven - with the center coming out nice and gooey. Will see how they taste tomorrow in the cold. Original is on AllRecipes. Modified version below (with notes in parentheses).
    • 2 c flour
    • 2/3 c cocoa powder (increased)
    • 1 c sugar (reduced)
    • 1/2 t soda
    • 2 t powder
    • 1/2 t salt (increased)
    • 1.5 c milk (increased)
    • 1-3 candy canes, mini (added) [or mint extract]
    • 1 egg
    • 3 T vegetable oil (increased)
    • 1 t vanilla
    • 1 c chocolate pieces (semi-sweet morsels, Andes thin mints)
    • 12 Andes thin mints, mint on the outside (added)
    1. Dissolve candy cane(s) in milk.
    2. Combine flour, cocoa, sugar, soda, powder and salt in a medium sized bowl.
    3. Combine milk, egg, oil and vanilla in a large bowl.
    4. Add dry ingredients to wet. Do not overmix.
    5. Add in 1 c of chocolate pieces.
    6. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full with batter. Place green Andes on top. Cover with remaining batter.
    7. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 180C or until done. In a small oven, be sure to rotate muffin tray.
    Next time, either more peppermint sticks or peppermint extract to replace the vanilla. All Andes mints instead of half chocolate chips. Rotate muffin tray.

    Sunday, December 13, 2009

    Creamy Sweet Potato-Carrot Soup

    I used the Carrot Soup recipe as a basis but then used the ingredients I had on hand and the spice combination I wanted to try. I ended up with a delicious soup that was reminiscent of pumpkin pie. I probably put in a bit too much cloves and cinnamon. But it was still delicious.
    • 1 massive sweet potato, peeled and diced
    • 2 massive carrots, peeled and diced
    • 1 small potato, peeled and diced
    • 1/2 onion, chopped
    • 3-5 cloves garlic, minced
    • 6 cups water
    • bouillon cubes
    • cinnamon, cloves
    • ground cumin
    • black pepper
    • crushed red pepper
    • 4 T crushed red pepper
    • 1-2 c milk
    1. Melt the butter in a stock pot.
    2. Add the onions and fry until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
    3. Add the garlic and spices. I used about 2 t cumin, healthy dash of crushed red pepper, several shakes of strong cinnamon, and a couple dashes of cloves. Stir for 1-2 minutes.
    4. Add the potatoes and carrots. Stir.
    5. Pour in water and bouillon cubes. I used chicken stock.
    6. Bring to boil. Lower to simmer, until potatoes are cooked, about 20-30 minutes.
    7. Turn off heat. Reserve 2 cups of solids. Puree the rest.
    8. Add milk to make desired consistency. (Soup may be reheated, but do not boil.)
    9. Grate black pepper on top.

    Friday, December 11, 2009

    Apple-Pear Brie Bread

    This is delightful fresh from the oven - with warm, sweet pears balanced out by the savory brie, all wrapped up in fresh baked bread. I made this bread a bit too long considering the size of my oven (tiny) but it still came out. I only had 2 apples so I diced 2 pears to make up for the filling.

    • 1 c milk
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/3 c butter (75 grams)
    • 1/3 c sugar
    • 1/2 t salt (or less if using salted butter)
    • 4.5 c all purpose flour
    • 1 T yeast
    • 1 T butter
    • 4 c fruit (apples, pears), diced
    • 1/4 c brown sugar, lightly packed
    • 4 T sliced almonds
    • 4 oz brie (110 g), rind removed
    Topping (Optional)
    • 1/4 c brown sugar
    • 1 t flour
    • 1 T butter
    1. In a bread machine, combine dough ingredients. Set to dough cycle.
    2. Saute fruit with butter for 10 minutes on medium heat. Add brown sugar and continue stirring on low for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
    3. On lightly floured surface, roll dough to 12x15 inches or if using a mini oven to length of tray. Transfer to greased foil.
    4. Mix almonds with fruit. Spread mixture evenly down the center.
    5. Top with globs of brie.
    6. Cut sides at a diagonal to 1/2" from fruit, about 1.5" apart. Lift dough on alternating sides to lay over center as a braid.
    7. Let rise until doubled - about 1h30.
    8. Mix flour, sugar and butter. Sprinkle on top.
    9. Bake at 180C for 30 minutes or until browned.
    • The original recipe calls for Granny Smith. I used Fuji and two red pears.
    • Sprinkle some spices in for additional flavor: nutmeg, cinnamon, etc.
    • Use a different cheese - cheddar, mozzarella, your favorite, etc
    • Use a completely different filling. Check out this one with mustard, onions, pears, walnuts, cranberries and brie!
    • Don't use the topping - just spread melted butter on top before baking - or nothing at all.
    I was expecting the topping to melt over the bread - instead it stayed in clumps and came out as a strangely brown-spotted bread. Not the prettiest, but when you bite into it, it's a little crunchy, and of course sweet. So it does have its benefits.

    Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice

    This one's a no-brainer - get yourself some oranges, a juicer and squeeze away. Or if you're without a juicer, scroll down for directions on doing it by hand. Here are some facts about oranges in Taipei as I find out...

    Oranges in winter are super cheap in Taipei. They're everywhere and then disappear suddenly -- much like the seasons for mangoes and strawberries. So get them while you can. And 8-13 jin (9-14 lb) gets heavy in plastic bags so bring a backpack with you when you go.

    2009 Season
    12/5/09 spotted oranges on sale at the fruit market around the corner from the xiaonanmen/ximen Carrefour for 1 jin = 12 nt. That's 8 1/3 jin for 100 nt. Pretty good! We bought 50 nt worth. I squeezed it the next day to fill a 1.5 liter bottle and a full mug.

    12/8/09 spotted orange trucks at Fuxing-Heping intersection and on the SE side of Daan park while on the bus. Both had signs for 13 jin = 100 nt.

    12/11/09 found the Fuxing-Heping truck. 13 jin = 100 nt or 6 jin for 50 nt on one side of the truck. These oranges were all a little dark in color - spotted...what most would consider a little ugly. Seemed on average a little smaller than the other side, though they came in all sizes (tiny to huge). On the other half were 8 jin for 100 nt of oranges that were purely orange. Better looking over all. I asked him the difference (besides looks) and he said the tastes were about the same. I think the keyword is about. Had I brought a backpack I would have bought both kinds to do a side-by-side taste test. As it was, I didn't, so I just bought the cheaper ones. 13.2 jin for 100 nt. He said he's there on certain days (I forget now...but definitely Fridays) and at 7:30 pm he's at the Daan location on other days. Squeezed about 6 jin right away to make 1.7 liters of juice. It wasn't as sweet as the 12/5 batch but still tasty. Who's complaining at this price? On the way, I passed another truck selling pears, tomatoes and oranges - but these were a different variety - 1 jin for 30 nt. They were on Heping heading east, just before the Fuxing intersection. On the way back, on the south side of Heping at Long Quan St there was a truck selling 8 jin for 100 nt.

    Oranges at the market range in price depending on the type of orange, the size, and the quality. I recently got some juicing oranges, which were very small and very dark - so dark that squeezing them stained my nails. I no longer have an electric juicer so I was forced to squeeze the old-fashioned way - by hand!

    Hand Squeezed Orange Juice
    1. Squeeze each orange tightly.
    2. Rinse thoroughly.
    3. Cut in half. Remove seeds.
    4. Optional: Slice along the edge separating the fruit from the peel (about a half inch deep).
    5. Squeeze orange half over large bowl. Keep rotating and squeezing orange until there's no more juice.
    6. Transfer from bowl into juice container and refrigerate.
    • This method leaves a lot of pulp and some whole bits of orange.
    • I recommend wearing an apron so as not to spray your clothes.

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    Sweet Potato, Potato and Onion Casserole

    The onions absorb incredible flavor in this dish, but I had trouble getting the top layer of potatoes to cook through. Possibly because I forgot to cover it the first 30 min of baking or maybe because I didn't add enough water or because I added the cheese later. But it still turned out delicious and I would make it again.
    • 1 large sweet potato, thinly sliced
    • 3 small potatoes, very thinly sliced
    • 1 onion, very thinly sliced
    • 4 T butter
    • salt and pepper
    • 2 T flour
    • 3/4 c broth
    • 1 c shredded mozzarella
    1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease an 8x8 baking dish.
    2. Make a layer of potatoes. Place some onion slices on top. Dot with butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    3. Repeat, alternating layers of sweet potatoes and potatoes.
    4. In a small bowl, combine broth and flour. Pour over potatoes.
    5. Dot with butter.
    6. Sprinkle cheese over the potatoes.
    7. Cover with foil.
    8. Bake for 1 hour or until potatoes are cooked through.
    • Put cheese in with every layer.
    • Add breadcrumbs and dried parsley on top before baking.
    • Use a different kind of cheese: cheddar, Swiss, Monteray Jack, etc

    Sweet Potato and Vegetable Soup

    Now that winter weather is upon us, it's time to put my 14 qt massive soup pot into use. The first soup of the season comes from Vegetarian Classics by Jeanne Lemlin. Limited by both ingredients I can find in Taipei and the ones that I like, I made some minor changes. I served this at a potluck dinner party and everyone enjoyed it. Flavor improved by the next day - the sweetness of the potatoes seemed to come through more.
    • 1/4 c olive oil
    • 1 onion, (finely) diced
    • 5 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes, diced (or ready-cut diced)
    • 6 cups soup stock
    • 1 massive sweet potato (or 2 large), preferably dark orange, cut into 1/2" cubes
    • 1 (15 oz) can Fagioli beans (or small white beans, navy/Greath Northern), rinsed well and drained
    • 2 c diced fresh or frozen green beans
    • (1 t salt, if stock isn't salty enough)
    • freshly ground pepper, generous seasoning
    • a few pinches of cayenne pepper (if you like it strong, otherwise just a few dashes)
    • 1 T minced fresh basil
    • 1 large carrot, diced
    1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until tender and golden, about 5-10 min.
    2. Mix in the tomatoes and stock. Bring to a boil.
    3. Stir in remaining ingredients. Return to a boil, lower to a lively simmer, and cook until sweet potatoes are tender, about 20-30 min.
    4. Serve at once or reheat when needed.
    Add 4 c frozen corn instead of/in addition to the carrot.

    • The orange sweet potatoes, white beans, green beans, yellow corn, red tomatoes produce a colorful soup. Switching it to brown Fagioli beans and dark orange carrots mutes the colors a bit but it still looks quite nice.
    • Flavor improves with time. The potatoes seemed sweeter the next day.
    • Freezes well - just remember that liquids expand in the freezer, so leave a little extra room in your container.
    Frozen soup reheats nicely

    Upside-down Pear Gingerbread

    This is a good-looking cake but too sweet for my taste. I'd probably cut the sugar-butter base in half next time, reduce the sugar/molasses in the cake, and increase the spices. Actually, maybe I'd try to find a pear cake recipe instead. I was inspired to make this after seeing molasses for the first time, in the Wellcome (supermarket) near the Guting McDonalds. The recipe is from Jeanne Lemlin's Vegetarian Classics - slightly modified below.
    • 4 T butter (1/2 stick)
    • 1/2 c brown sugar (light or dark)
    • 2 ripe but firm pears, Anjou or Red
    • 1 c flour
    • 1 t baking soda
    • 1/4 t salt
    • 2 t cinnamon (if weak, use more)
    • 1 t ginger
    • 1/2 t allspice (cloves if you have it)
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 c brown sugar
    • 1/3 c unsulfured molasses
    • 1/2 c sour milk (milk + 1 T lemon juice)
    • 4 T melted butter
    1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter the sides of a 9" round cake pan.
    2. To prepare the topping, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the brown sugar and stir together until blended. Heat for a few minutes until it thickens slightly. Spread evenly into the cake pan. Note: When the cake is flipped over, this topping will infuse itself into the cake.
    3. Peel and slice each pear into quarters. Core, then slice each piece into 3 slices. Arrange the 24 slices evenly around the pan.
    4. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.
    5. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg, brown sugar, molasses, sour milk and melted butter. Pour into flour mixture and mix until well blended.
    6. Pour the batter over the pears. Bake 30-40 min or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
    7. Cool for 10 min. Invert onto plate.
    8. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    Saturday, December 5, 2009

    Refried Beans

    I finally spotted pinto beans here (at Carrefour) - so was very excited to try my hand at refried beans to go with the tortilla wraps (from Costco).
    • 1 15-oz can pinto beans
    • 1/4 onion
    • 2-3 cloves garlic
    • 1 T oil
    • salt + pepper
    • optional: cheese
    1. Mash the undrained beans in a bowl. Note: A potato masher is a lot easier than a fork!
    2. Heat the oil in a small pan.
    3. Add the onion and garlic. Stir until translucent.
    4. Add the beans. Continue stirring until boiling. Reduce heat to a simmer.
    5. Continue stirring until enough liquid has evaporated to suit your taste - about 5 minutes.
    6. Season as desired. Stir in cheese if using. Serve immediately!

    Variations and Notes
    Blend half the beans first.
    Add chili powder and cumin.
    5/29/10 Use one can of pinto beans and two cans of berlotti/fagoli/cranberry beans with 1 onion, 9 cl garlic, and 1 t? cumin. Put in 8x8 dish and topped with mozzarella. Good for burrito filling and as chip dip.
    ZhongXiao Fuxing Wellcome used to have pinto beans, but did not have any (nor gorbanzo beans) on the 5/29/10 visit.

    Baked Custard

    When I was growing up I often made custard with my mom. It was an incredibly simple recipe and my favorite part was sprinkling the nutmeg on top and watching it spread. I looked up several recipes and went with this one. However, it didn't really turn out right - which may be more my oven's fault, but then again could be a ratio difference. I prefer a deeper custard and a firmer consistency.
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 c milk
    • 1/2 t vanilla
    • 2 T sugar
    • pinch of salt
    • nutmeg
    1. Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl.
    2. Add the milk, vanilla, sugar and salt. Stir.
    3. Pour into baking dish. Sprinkle with nutmeg (amount depends on strength of your nutmeg).
    4. Bake 325F/165C for 50-60 min. You may need to rotate the dish part way to ensure even baking (such as in a mini-oven).
    5. Cool.
    6. Refrigerate.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Cocoa Brownies

    I still don't have any vanilla extract so I found this recipe which replaced it with almond extract. It also uses cocoa powder instead of chocolate which I thought would be easier to make. I had to tweak the original since I also still don't have a heatproof bowl, butter that comes in sticks, or any pecans or walnuts. The cocoa powder can be either kind since there isn't any baking powder in this recipe - it's the eggs that act as the leavening agent. The almond flavor is quite strong, and since I'm a big fan, I'm giving this 5 stars. However, if you don't like the taste of almond extract you'll definitely want to use vanilla instead. Here's an approximation of what I did.
    • scant 1/2 c melted butter
    • 1 c sugar (orig: 1 1/4)
    • 3/4 c + 2 T cocoa powder
    • 1/4 t salt
    • 2 t almond extract
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 c flour
    • small handful of semisweet chocolate chips (1/3 c?)
    1. Preheat oven to 165C. Line 8" baking dish with foil. Grease bottom.
    2. Combine butter, sugar, sifted cocoa and salt.
    3. Stir in extract.
    4. Add eggs one at a time. Stir until shiny, thick and well mixed.
    5. Sift in flour. Stir until not visible. Then beat another 40 strokes.
    6. Add chocolate chips and stir.
    7. Transfer to pan and spread evenly. Bake 20-25 minutes.
    8. Cool completely.
    9. Lift foil out and cut into 16-25 pieces.
    • Add 2/3 c pecans or walnuts instead of chocolate chips.
    • Use 1/2 t vanilla instead of almond extract.
    • Top with almonds.
    • Combine butter with other 3 ingredients and melt in microwave in 20 sec intervals.
    • Add a dash of cinnamon.
    • Other brownie recipes: Brunette, Peanut Butter, Regular