Monday, October 28, 2013

Cream Puffs / Profiteroles

Cream puffs are choux ("cabbage" in French) pastry filled with whipped cream, pastry cream, or ice cream and they supposedly originated in Renaissance France and Italy. I looked around for the difference between cream puff vs profiteroles but couldn't find a consensus.

But for how fancy these look, these aren't hard to do (I know I say that about all these recipes, but these really look's French after all)

When choux pastry is cooked, it rises and should have a hollow center (no wet, unbaked batter). My batter seemed a little thin but they still puffed up nicely. It was easy to use a knife to cut through the pasty. With the dusted powdered sugar, it looks magical. I was going to top with with chocolate ganache, but mine seized, alas, so it wasn't photography worthy (but chocolate makes everything tastes better of course)
This recipe was supposed to more/smaller cream puffs, but that's not as fun...each of these cream puffs are GINORMOUS. Recipe from Joy of Baking

Choux Pastry (Makes 9 huge or 12 normal sized cream puffs):
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon granulated white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated white sugar, or to taste

Choux Pastry: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.

Place the butter and water in a heavy saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat; add the flour mixture and stir until combined to form a dough. With a mixer, beat on low speed to release the steam from the dough (about a minute). Once the dough is lukewarm slowly start adding the lightly beaten eggs and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick paste (dough will fall from a spoon in a thick ribbon).

Spoon mounds of dough onto the baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Continue to bake for a further 25 minutes or until the shells are golden brown and when split, are almost dry inside. Turn the oven off, poke a couple of holes in each puff with a toothpick and let the shells completely cool and dry out (important for preventing collapsing).

Whipped Cream: In a large mixing bowl combine the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and whip the cream until stiff peaks form.

Assembly: Split the pastry shells in half and fill/pipe with whipped cream. Place the top half of the pastry shell on the whipped cream and dust with powdered sugar.
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Friday, October 25, 2013

Watercress and Pork Rib Soup

The cool thing about food blogging is that you find all sorts of fun facts. I always thought watercress soup was one of mom's random home cooking, but it turns out that it's a Hawaiian dish too. I also saw interesting variations with dates and wolfberries, but this version here is foolproof combo of meat, veggies, and tofu. Another good one pot dish for the hungry/busy med student.
Boiling meat breaks down tough connective tissues between the muscle fibers. This results in the beef shrinking, tenderizing and soaking up the flavor and spices of the cooking liquid. Yum. And meat on bone is always the best. They say 'the nearer the bone, the sweeter the meat' - it's because the fat in the marrow escapes into the meat when you heat it. 

I'm terrible with cooking meat because of my impatience. Don't boil it too high for too long in an effort to shortcut the time or the meat will toughen; simmer on low for a long time to keep the meat tender. 

1 lb pork ribs
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 package firm tofu, cubed
1 bunch watercress, ends trimmed, then roughly cut

Boil pork ribs along with garlic and onions in large soup pot with enough water to cover the ribs in high for about 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Lower heat, add tofu, and simmer (with lid partially closed) on low for 60 min. Add watercress and simmer another 20 minutes. Serve with rice.
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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Boba Tea

Chef Uy: What do you think of when you think of boba?
Hans: Those "choking hazard, do not let children eat unsupervised" signs on the bags.

Well then, I suppose that avoids any lawsuits.

Anyways, I wanted to make boba for a potluck and remembered my mom used to make them. She just boiled them for 5-10 minutes and voila, easy boba! I bought a bag from Chinatown, which had zero instructions. You can see where this is going...
Excuse the scattered hematology/oncology and cardiology notes
Attempt 1: 
Chef Uy dumps pearls into pot of water as it's heating up. Chef Uy realizes the boba won't be tender and chewy for the potluck if they sit overnight. Chef Uy calls B in a panic "should I leave them half boiled and finish tomorrow... or boil them all the way and let them be hard?" B says "freeze them." Undecided, Chef Uy turns the stove off...then on...then off...

While Chef Uy confusedly pondering what to do, the pearls disintegrate and congeals into one massive pot shaped boba.

Attempt 1.5
Chef Uy tests "presoaking pearls." Pearls disintegrate in cold water into a powdery mess.

Attempt 2: 
Chef Uy realizes pearls needed to be adding AFTER water is already boiling. She adds pearls and gets ready for potluck party by showering. While on high heat, pearls on bottom burn to a crisp.

Attempt 2.5: 

Chef Uy removes burnt pearls. Chef Uy ultimately realizes these pearls are not instant, but the traditional kind which takes 2 hrs to cook. Chef Uy has to bring half cooked pearls to potluck and continues cooking at party for another 1 hr, stirring vigorously. Pearls are no longer round, but sheared like RBC shistocytes, because Chef Uy's big biceps stirred them too violently.

Attempt 3
Success... except pearls don't show up in photographs because they're clear.
Kawaii coasters are the roommate's (from Taiwan!)
Ahem, yes the straws are stolen from the local boba shop
Although during his ordeal, I swore I would only get instant boba next time, after eating the "real boba," you can't compare. As a bonus, this kind of boba seems to keep much longer and doesn't harden in the fridge for several days!

2 cups water
1/4 cup boba (non instant)
1/4 cup brown sugar / honey (to taste)

Boba: Add 2 cups of water for every 1/4 cup of boba in a pot. Add honey/sugar to taste. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the boba and continue boiling until they have expanded (~20 min)

Turn the heat to medium and cook the boba for 60-90 minutes. Add water if necessary and stir occasionally. When the pearls are clear (no more white starch) they are done. Turn heat off, cover, and let the pearls sit for another hr to continue cooking and cool.

Pour the prepared tea into a tall glass and add the boba.

Boba 101 Notes:
- Use a large and shallow is better for even cooking (so pearls are one layer)
- Even if the center isn't fully cooked all the way (still a white dot in the center), once the outside is really soft, you can stop cooking. The texture will be soft enough
- Stir as little as possible (just enough that they don't stick) to avoid
 breaking the boba
I- t's better to let the boba simmer for a long time rather than blast with high heat to speed up/shortcut the process. Patience...

Drink ideas
Milk Tea Boba: Prepare a strong cup of black tea. Add almond milk and honey.
Chai Tea Boba: Prepare a strong cup of chai tea. Add condensed milk, milk, and cinammon.
Green Tea Boba: Prepare a strong cup of green tea. Add honey and/or mint leaves.
Mango Shake Boba
Red Bean Shake Boba

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Pavlovas are a merengue dessert from Australia and New Zealand named after a famous Russian ballerina. Every time I hear the name, I think of Pavlov's dogs (psych anyone?). The fluffy texture is awesome, like a giant marshmallow. 

This is a pretty easy recipe (from Joy of Baking) but looks super impressive when assembled. One important tip is to let your eggs come to room temperature; when they're warm, they whip much faster. I made that mistake and had to beat my cold egg whites forever. The vinegar acidity helps stabilize the merengue. 
Do note that that baking time is long (>1 hr) because you're baking at such a low temperature to dry out the merengue, plus you have to let it sit in the oven even longer so plan accordingly.

4 large egg whites
Scant 1 cup superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar (or lemon juice)
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

Whipping cream

Pavlova: Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the sugar and beat until the meringue holds very stiff and shiny peaks.

Tip from Joy of Baking: Test if the sugar is fully dissolved by rubbing a little of the meringue between your thumb and index finger. The meringue should feel smooth, not gritty fro the sugar particles)

Beat in the vanilla extract, vinegar, cornstarch. Spread the meringue in two circles on the parchment paper.  Form a slight dip in the center of the meringue to hold the whipped cream and fruit.

Bake for 60 to 75 minutes until the outside is dry and a pale cream color. Turn the oven off, and with the door slightly open, let the meringue cool completely in the oven.

The cooled meringue can be stored in a cool dry place, in an airtight container, for a few days. Just before serving gently place the meringue onto a serving plate. Layer with whipped cream and fruit. Serve immediately (this does not keep well)
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Monday, October 14, 2013

Chicken Tinola

Tinola is a Filipino soup with chicken, fish sauce, and green papaya. And ginger. Lots of ginger. There's many meat and vegetable variations; but the one mom cooks has chicken, carrots, and tomatoes.

Green papayas are just unripe papayas (like green mango). Apparently papayas grow in Texas just fine since a family friend gave it to us. In this recipe you can substitute chayote, a similar squash, as well.

Fun facts from Wikipedia: 
"Both green papaya fruit and the tree's latex are rich in papain, a protease used for tenderizing meat and other proteins. "
"The latex concentration of unripe papayas are speculated to cause uterine contractions, which may lead to a miscarriage. Papaya seed extracts in large doses have a contraceptive effect on rats and monkeys, but in small doses have no effect on the unborn animals."

A one pot meal is efficient enough for any med student
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
4 chicken thighs, cut in pieces
2 tbsp patis (fish sauce) and/or soy sauce
3-4 cups water
1 green papaya, peeled and cubed
3-4 carrots

With the olive oil, saute the garlic, onion, ginger, and chicken in hot oil, cooking until chicken is browned. Add patis/soy sauce and water. Bring to boil.

Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer until chicken is tender, about 20-30 minutes. Add papaya and carrots about halfway in (15 min), which can be adjusted depending on how well cooked you want the vegetables. Add additional patis/soy sauce to taste.
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Monday, October 7, 2013

Baltimore Crab Cake

When I was younger, I never liked crab cakes much. But when I started going to fancy restaurants, they always had it as an appetizer and I thought I should learn to eat them to be fancy too. They're ok for me, but B adores them. During his birthday dinner when we ordered and got two tiny cakes, I decided, ok, I'm gonna learn to make them and save some money
Some commenters stated that real Baltimore crab cakes (whatever that means) don't have jalapeno, but I personally like the kick.

Shaping them into the patties and keeping them from falling apart can be a pain. Refrigerating them definitely helps hold the shape together better. Frying is tricky (I'm actually not sure if I cooked them all the way through, but I didn't want to burn the outside), so next time I may bake them.
Actually, next time, I may not bother shaping them period and just stir fry the whole batter. It tastes awesome regardless of shape.

I didn't have enough mayo, but some plain yogurt did the trick; I might sub that all the time from now on. This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit.

1/4 cup mayonnaise/ pain yogurt
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 lime, juice plus wedges for garnish
1 1/2 teaspoons seafood seasonings
1 jalapeƱo, finely chopped
1 pound crabmeat (canned)
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), divided
vegetable oil, for frying

Whisk first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add crab, then stir in 1/2 cup panko. Divide into 6 equal portions. Form each into 1"-thick patties. Refrigerate for 1 hr. Line a platter with leaves.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place remaining 1/2 cup panko on a plate. Coat cakes with panko. Fry until golden brown and crisp, 3-4 minutes per side. Arrange atop lettuce; serve with lemon wedges.

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Overnight Oats

To make overnight oats, you stir oatmeal, milk, and yogurt together and let it sit overnight in the fridge. I think it's a "thing" that exploded the past year; now it's all over Pinterest and Reddit. 
B first told me about ages ago because it's really a easy on-the-go, already prepared breakfast for when you're rushing to school. I told him that sounded gross and soggy. I despise soggy anything; the oats in my oatmeal are dry and practically raw when I eat it, and I always eat cereal and milk separately because even a few minutes of sitting on milk ruins the texture for me. 

Well, one year later, I finally tried this overnight oats thing, expecting gross, soggy slop. 

I was wrong. It's delicious and fluffy. You win this round, B.

1/2 cup steel cut oats
1/3 cup milk or almond milk
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
black sesame seeds
1/2 berries

Combine oats, milk,  yogurt, and cinnamon (adjust milk to desired consistency). Set in fridge overnight. The next morning, top with berries and sesame seed.
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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ice Cream Chocolate Birthday Cake

I was asked to bake a cake for a friend's birthday. I don't ever make regular cakes because they're not my preferred dessert, but I had begged this chocolate cake recipe from a friend since it made the moistest cake I had ever eaten, and this was the perfect opportunity to test it out. 

I didn't want to make plain ol' chocolate cake, though, and pondered how to kick it up a notch. B said make ice cream cake (as he said eloquently, "Cake good... ice cream good...  ice cream cake amazing!") Bingo!
I was always psyched at birthday parties when they served ice cream cake. However, I never liked the cake part, and the icing was always too sweet. So I actually removed 2/3 of any slice I got. Well, by making it myself, problem was solved!
The cake adapted and half batched from the Allrecipes version. It's rich and tastes almost like a brownie; no surprise, we quadrupled the cocoa powder. Though we were hesitant about the runny batter, it baked quite flat and evenly (no ugly dome top) and the texture was perfect for ice cream cake, holding up well while frozen.

This is easy to make, but just requires some planning for freezing time. I had a terrible quality springform pan that leaked, so I just lined it with foil. To make pretty swirls, I used whipped cream from a can, but that melts even faster than the ice cream so I didn't have time to take fancy pictures (plus 15 people were waiting to devour the cake)

Add some candles and you got yourself an awesome birthday cake!

2/3 cup white sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
scant 1/2 cup boiling water

1/2 gallon mint ice cream
Whipped cream (bought or home made)
Toppings (crushed oreos here)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Prepare springform pan.

In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed of mixer. Stir in the boiling water last. Batter will be thin. Pour evenly into the prepared pans.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the cake tests done with a toothpick. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, take ice cream out to soften.

Scoop ice cream on to cake. In springform pan, nearly filling it. Melt the remaining ice cream and pour on top to obtain an even top. Set plate over springform pan and saran wrap before placing in freezer overnight.

To decorate, add whipped cream and toppings.
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