Just Baked: Cream Puffs!!!

“Maybe  there’s no scientific evidence of desserts curing what ails you, but if you ask me, the jury’s still out on science anyway. ” ― Crystal Cestari, The Best Kind of Magic

Cream puffs are one of the treats Mom used to buy us when my sister and I were kids. Despite not being a frequent treat we received, I remember loving cream puffs so much because of the custard filling. I didn’t like the filling too sweet though. I wanted them just right.

When I eventually started working and had my salary, I used to buy cream puffs from a Beard Papa’s stall in Glorietta until one day, I noticed that the stall was no longer there. A few years later, just recently, I discovered that Beard Papa’s is reopening in Glorietta. This time, it’s not just a stall; it’s going to be a shop!

While waiting for Beard Papa’s to open though, I decided to attempt making cream puffs in my own kitchen. I looked for recipe after recipe until I discovered the recipe from Kitchen Conundrums with Thomas Joseph segment in Everyday Food’s YouTube channel. I also searched for the video on how to make the filling that they dubbed as the No-Fuss Pastry Cream. It was the perfect recipe for me because I did not have to think about tempering the eggs to make sure they do not scramble and all the “fuss” that comes with making pastry cream.

What I did find difficult though is piping the batter and the pastry cream. I watched a lot of YouTube videos where the baker pipes stuff out of a pastry bag without looking like he or she is struggling or exerting any effort at all! My hands and wrist hurt a lot after.

I was surprised at how much they puff up. They looked so tiny when I piped them out. I left them to bake while I piped another batch and ten minutes later, they were already big! I remember turning around to check my oven only for my eyes to almost pop out of my head when I saw how much they have risen.

I was very sure then that they were going to have this huge air pocket inside for the cream to fill. They were so light once out of the oven!

I may have gone overboard with some because I filled them too much that some pastry cream oozed out the other side. Nevertheless, I was so happy I finally got to make these! It was just one of the treats I would think about but not dare try. Not anymore! I was hooked!

Please do check out the links of the recipes I linked above. They really are beginner-friendly and taste amazing!

I still cannot wait for Beard Papa’s to open soon.

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A Merry Berry Breakfast

“One should not attend even the end of the world without a good breakfast.”  -Robert A. Heinlein

Last August 21, my country celebrated two holidays: Ninoy Aquino Day and Eid al-Adha. We were actually hoping for Eid al-Adha to be celebrated on the 22nd like the rest of the world, I think but even just one day of rest from work is already very much welcome.

I took the opportunity to go through the ingredients I had at home and realized that my whole wheat flour isn’t gonna last for long. I needed to bake it into something despite my and my mom’s lack of fondness for whole wheat bread. Initially wanting raisin whole wheat bread, I realized we only had dried cranberries at home. So whole wheat cranberry bread it is.

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It has risen!

I got the recipe from King Arthur Flour and just simply tossed in a handful of cranberries. The ingredients I used after tweaking are as follows:

  • 1 1/8 cups lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup powdered milk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons Himalayan salt
  • a handful of dried cranberries

I had a fun time kneading the dough using my handheld mixer with dough hook attachment. Eventually, I started using my hands to incorporate the cranberries into the dough. It looked so cute while it was proofing!

While waiting for the dough to proof, I decided to bake the frozen blueberries and strawberries that I bought on a whim. I discovered the Sunny Morning Muffins recipe the day before and just knew I had to bake a version of it! From the name alone, I was expecting the muffins to be as bright as the sunshine in deliciousness!

The ingredients I used after tweaking are as follows (2 batches):

  • 2 cups strawberries, chopped
  • 2 cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (the nuts I got were salted already so I reduced the salt by half)
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 2 cups chopped salted cashew nuts (the only one available at the time)

The muffins were fairly simple to make. You just combine all the ingredients and that’s it! No special method of folding or mixing. What took me long was filling my muffin tray (one that makes 24 mini muffins) and ensuring that each well will have enough berries and nuts.

For step-by-step procedures, you may click on the link to the original recipes.

After hours of baking, I had a large loaf of bread and about 5 dozens of mini muffins. What should have been the last dozen on mini muffins, I made into four larger ones.

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The whole wheat bread turned out to be really soft. It tasted pretty much just like plain bread; nothing extra special. The cranberries just added some tartness and sweetness to it. As much as I enjoyed making it though, I really cannot find it in me to love the texture of whole wheat bread when eating it.

But, the muffins! They were really, really good! They were soft but not mushy. The combination of strawberries, blueberries and cashews in one bite was awesome! The berries were not too sweet and were a just a tiny bit tart, giving balance to the sweetness from the sugar and the banana. Also, it was a good thing I used half the amount of the salt required due to the cashews already being salted.

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If anyone knows how to make whole wheat bread without the gritty texture in the mouth, please let me know! I’d be so happy to learn.

Just Baked: I Want to Marry You Cookies

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I’m not quite sure about that and currently, there’s no man whose heart I wish to worm my way through. All I know is that when I saw my cousin post about these cookies that she baked, I just knew I had to try making it too!

Well, that was three years ago, back in April 2015. She found the recipe from The Café Sucre Farine blog. However, instead of pecans, she wanted her fiancé to try them with hazelnuts. I am not sure why but maybe because he was more partial to hazelnuts than pecans? Judging by her post too, it seems as if he got to try it already before. Whatever! All I know is that they did get married. And, whether this cookie was one of the reasons he married her, I shall never know because my cousin is a pretty awesome woman anyway.

Okay, so back to the cookies. A little more research and I found out that this recipe was from Melissa Stadler. She entered the recipe in a contest by The Cooking Channel and eventually, she found herself filming for a segment for a show called, The Perfect 3, where she won the cookie category! Anyway, you can find her recipe and her story in her blog, Modern Honey. The original recipe though, unlike the one my cousin found, did not contain any nuts and called for less white chocolate chips.

Well, speaking of nuts, I didn’t have pecans or hazelnuts. I did have a small bottle of cashews though and I figured it should work. And, thanks to the gift certificates our boss gave out for a job well done a few months back, I was able to buy all other ingredients I would need without spending a dime! Ah, I love my employer! I did tweak a little bit though, depending on what was available in the supermarket where I went.

Oh! They smelled heavenly while they were in the oven!

Because I was making two batches of these, some trays of dough had more chilling time that the others. I found that those that chilled longer did not spread and brown as much as those that had less time in the fridge. Chilling does make a difference!

So, how did they taste? They were fantastic! Despite the amount of sugar and the chocolate chips in the recipe, they were not overly sweet. In fact, they were just right! Since I baked them longer than the minimum, I got cookies that were on the crispy side. Not hard like Chips Ahoy cookies but still with a crunch. Just how I liked my cookies!

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I do not wonder anymore why they are called I Want to Marry You Cookies! They were perfect! They also went great with a mug of milk!

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So, to give back to my team at work, I decided to bring most of the cookies I made to work for my colleagues to try. I hope they like these cookies as much as I did!


Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 ¼ cups dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats 
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cashew nuts

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter until golden brown in color, then add all the sugars. Combine well and allow to chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  2. After chilling, add the egg plus extra egg yolk and vanilla and mix well.
  3. Add the flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Mix just enough until there’s no trace of unmixed dry ingredients.
  4. Add in the chocolate chips and nuts. Mix well to evenly distribute.
  5. Using a small ice cream/cookie scoop, scoop the dough onto the baking sheets lined with parchment/baking paper, making sure to leave an inch or two between each cookie.
  6. Allow to chill for around 30 minutes.
  7. Pre-heat the oven at 325˚F.
  8. Take out the cookies from the fridge and bake them for up to 12 to 18 minutes or until fully baked.
  9. Allow to cool on the pan for a few minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Just Whipped: Pineapple and Coconut Ice Popsicle

It was supposed to be an attempt to recreate Gemma Stafford’s Homemade Disneyland Dole Whip. I had my ingredients ready: my coconut milk and my frozen pineapples.

It was my first time to try canned coconut milk. I was surprised that most of the canned coconut milk and cream in the grocery I went to were products of Thailand. It was weird to me because coconut production is an important part of the Philippine economy. Hmmm. Maybe it’s because we focus more on young coconut and its refreshing juice/coconut water?

Anyway, I had no trouble finding the ingredients. I got the canned coconut milk and it saved me from having to get it from fresh coconuts. Pineapples were not difficult to find either. We have loads of pineapples in the country!

So I froze my pineapples and chilled my coconut milk. Placed them in a blender and got ready to whip.

But for some reason, my frozen pineapples were not frozen enough to get the consistency I wanted. The summer heat seemed to be too much for the pineapples to take. Therefore, I ended up with a pineapple-coconut milkshake.

Of course I was disappointed. But, I refused to let my efforts be wasted. I remembered that I had popsicle molds in the house so I decided to freeze my concoction into ice pops!

Tada!!! It was so delicious and a perfect summer treat to beat the heat! I think it looked cuter too as an ice pop rather than if it had been a dole whip because my piping skills are non-existent just yet.

What are your favorite ice pop flavors?

Just Baked: Thumbprint Cookies

“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave ’em all over everything you do.” -Elvis Presley

For a country where majority of the people are Catholics, the Holy Week is a very important event. In the Philippines, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are declared non-working holidays. This means four days of rest and time to reflect on the meaning of lent and the sacrifice of Jesus.

Being someone who cannot be idle for more than two days though, I had to look for activities to do to keep me busy and to keep my mind from thinking about very serious stuff that will not change no matter how much I thought of them anyway.

After browsing the net for stuff to do, I came across a recipe for butter and jam thumbprint cookies from Food Network. I knew immediately that I wanted to make those cookies since all the ingredients were available at home. I decided to swap the vanilla for almond though just because I felt like it. I also just missed eating almond cookies so, make them, I shall. For the full list of ingredients and procedures, click here.

Except for using almond extract instead of vanilla and margarine instead of butter, all other ingredients I used were as instructed. I know, I know. I am stubborn that way.

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It was also my first time to try my pink sifter that I bought just a few weeks ago. I am in the process of building a new set of baking tools and I want all (if possible) of them pink! Despite the decision, purple is actually my favorite color but it’s difficult to find baking tools in that color so I am going for its cousin instead.

I sifted the flour, salt and baking powder together because I didn’t want any lumps in my dough from chunky bits of these powdery stuff. I then proceeded to whip the butter and sugar until they were fluffy. When they reached the fluffy stage, I added the egg and the almond extract and went back to whipping these all together until well combined. Once done, I mixed all my wet and dry ingredients together, making sure not to overmix so I do not end up with a tough cookie.

I dislike getting my fingers oily or sticky so I used an ice cream scooper and two spoons to help me form round balls of dough. I scooped and dropped them to a bowl with sugar to roll them in before going with the two spoons to make the dough ball rounder. Once placed on my cookie sheet, I used my ¼ tsp measuring spoon to make an indentation or a well in the middle of the cookie to place my strawberry jam in. I know that it’s supposed to be a “thumbprint” cookie but I think my thumb is way too fat to make a proper well in the dough.

Jam is in! They’re off to the oven! Ooooh they look so cute!

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Until… I know that in the comment section, some suggested to chill the dough first because they spread too much and the jam can leak to the bottom and burn. Chilling the dough will help it keep its shape. What happened to my cookies was that it spread a little and the middle part rose higher, causing the well to lose its depth. Some cookies had their jams spilling over instead. At least they did not leak in the bottom.

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Regardless, they were so cute! And yummy too! I was so glad I swapped the vanilla for almond extract because strawberry on almond cookies was heavenly!!!

I may have baked these cookies a little longer than the recipe called for but that’s okay with me because I did not end up with tough and rock-hard cookies. Instead, I got sturdier cookies that did not break or crumbled very easily.

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So, here! My “thumbprint” cookies that did not have my thumbprint at all! They’re chewy, sweet and the almond and strawberry flavors tasted the way I hoped for them too. It’s perfect to pair with tea for an afternoon snack or just have them anytime you want.

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I shall try to make them again next time using preserves, making sure that there’s a bit of preserve in the well of the chilled dough. Wonder how that will turn out.

Just Cooked: My Creamy Bacon and Mushroom Pasta

“Not only are pasta dishes delicious, but they are also great, easy options for a quick dinner during a busy weekday.” -Marcus Samuelsson

I recently made chocolate no-machine ice cream and it was a success! I have even used some of the ice cream to make chocolate milk shakes because summer is just so hot in the Philippines. Still left over from that attempt though was 550 ml of cream that I had nothing to use for because I was not planning to make more ice cream that would not fit my freezer anyway.

Because the cream I got is kinda a multi-purpose cream (whipping, pouring, cooking, etc. type), I decided to make my bacon and mushroom creamy past for dinner that night. This is my go-to pasta when I feel like eating pasta or have visitors coming over and we did not want to cook anything too complicated.

I am by no means a chef and my recipe was just based on what I think and taste is just right. I also do not know how to make this in a smaller batch because I have been used to always making this for at least five or more people.

Ingredients:

250 grams of honeycured bacon (or more! The more, the better!)

1 can of Campbell’s Classic Cream of Mushroom (I have never used anything else)

550 ml of cream (you may use full cream milk if you do not want it very thick)

1 bouillon chicken cube

1 small can of pieces and stems mushroom (add more if desired)

A pinch of salt

A dash of white pepper

A dash of garlic powder (I do not want real garlic in my pasta)

A dash of onion powder (I also do NOT want real onion in my pasta)

Dried basil and dried parsley (I used about a half to a full tablespoon of each, depending on my mood)

1/2 tablespoon of sugar

If I feel a little more indulgent, I also add bits of ham in.

I basically boil the bacon and then wait for it to fry in its own oil. Once crispy, I add in the mushrooms (drained) and add a dash of garlic and onion powders. I don’t let the mushrooms fry so much. I just allow it to cook with the bacon for a few minutes before going in with the cream of mushroom.

The cream of mushroom will be thick, at times like jelly. But, the heat will allow it to get to a runnier (but not too much) consistency. Then I add the cream, a pinch of salt, and a dash of white pepper. I let it simmer for a few minutes before adding in the bouillon chicken cube. I keep on stirring so my cream will not burn at the bottom of the pan.

I don’t let it get to a roaring boil but once it’s bubbling into a hard simmer, I add in the dried basil and dried parsley. I cannot have creamy pasta without basil! Once it’s gotten to a boil and the sauce has thickened to my desired consistency, I turn the heat off and move on to cooking the noodles.

I do not prefer mixing my cooked noodles in the sauce for some reason. I like to get some noodles on my plate and to pour sauce over it rather than getting them on my plate already combined. There’s something enjoyable for me about the pasta with the sauce and seeing the bits of cheese I earlier grated on top combine with the sauce and the noodles until I could not see or distinguish the cheese anymore. This evening though, I used store-bought Parmesan cheese.

So, there I have it. My favorite pasta. I am sure there are more delicious recipes out there but this is the first pasta I learned to do. Hence, it’s close to my heart.

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How do you like your pasta?

Just Whipped: Chocolate Ice Cream (No Machine)

“My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it’s on your plate.” – Thornton Wilder

Summer seems to be here in the Philippines! The sun’s hotter, there is not much rain, and the malls are now selling swimwear and sunscreen more than ever! It’s the season for buko juice, tan lines and ice cream!

I am not that into sweet foods but ice cream is something I have always loved. I got it from Mom. She can finish a pint in one sitting (we only have ice cream occasionally) and she taught me to sprinkle it with cornflakes to have something to bite into. Plain, smooth ice cream is not our thing. The chunkier, the better!

Despite my disappointment in my attempt with Gemma Stafford’s 3-ingredient coconut cookies (click here for blog post), I still think she has other lovely recipes up her sleeve. I saw her YouTube videos of no-machine ice cream using just whipping cream and condensed milk so I gave it a go. I found her recipe in her Bigger Bolder Baking blog and I decided to make a chocolate ice cream using her base.

I bought myself some whipping cream from Chocolate Lover‘s branch in Makati City as well as some small, white marshmallows. Then, I got myself some condensed milk, cocoa powder (transferred it into a jar already) and some mini chocolate chips.

I whipped up 2 cups of whipping cream until I reached stiff peaks.  It did not take long for the cream to get there.  Since I used a hand mixer for this one, I’d say about three minutes on high speed? I remember getting impatient because the cream was still too runny. I took my camera with one hand and turned it on and when I looked back, I had stiff peaks already!

Then, I added 14oz of condensed milk and 1/4 cup of cocoa powder. I lightly mixed with a spatula first before going back with the hand mixer because I did not want to powder my face with the cocoa powder. I stopped as soon as it was well incorporated into the whipped cream. It looks a bit light in the picture because of the lighting in the room but it’s actually more chocolatey than that. Reminds me of Wendy’s chocolate frosty though.

Then, I folded in some chocolate chips and not-so mini marshmallows. We want our ice cream chunky!!!

I originally wanted to make chocolate rocky road ice cream but I did not have nuts on hand so I had to look for something else to put in. No matter what, the marshmallows had to go in! I love those stuff.

Once mixed well, I transferred them to these super cute can containers I also found in Chocolate Lover. So festive! I figured that the can would make it quicker for the ice cream to freeze.

After freezing them for more than six hours, ta-da!

The verdict? It’s yummy but too sweet for my liking. I should probably use just two-thirds of the amount of condensed milk. My taste buds have changed over the years and I cannot finish the amount of ice cream I used to eat in one sitting as a child. I did remember Gemma saying she used a fat-free type of condensed milk because it was not as sweet. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing here in the Philippines.

There I have it! My very own chocolate ice cream that I whipped up myself. It’s sweet, very rich, and really cooling for a hot summer day! I am not planning to eat a pint in one sitting though. Hahaha…

I want to try making strawberry ice cream next. What other flavors would be nice?

Just Baked: Snickerdoodles!

“Baking cookies is comforting, and cookies are the sweetest little bit of comfort food. They are very bite-sized and personal.” -Sandra Lee

Snickerdoodle cookies are one of those I always have read about, heard about or watched in baking shows whether on TV or on YouTube. I have never tried it my entire life and so I kept on hoping for the day I will get to make it.

From the recipes I have seen, it’s simple to make but I was concerned with the cream of tartar being asked for. It’s very easy and cheap to buy cream of tartar here but the recipe only called for so little that I would not know what to do with the rest of the product.

The worrying has stopped. I decided I shall simply find other uses for cream of tartar so I can finally try making the cookies I have heard lots of good stuff about but have never tasted myself. Having no basis or expectation on how it should turn out, I will have an unbiased say whether the cookies turned out good or not.

You may click here for the recipe I used as a guide.

For the ingredients:

61742816_UnknownSugar – 1 ½ cups

I did not have white sugar on hand. I only had light brown sugar at home and it was exactly the amount the recipe asked for the cookie base/dough (whew!). For some reason, I also prefer using brown sugar to white sugar when baking. Despite that, I have no issues with using white sugar if it’s on hand.

All-purpose flour – 2 ¾ cups

Looks like a lot of flour but it’s all good. For me, it only means more cookies!

Butter – ½ cups (softened)

I think margarine will work too.

Eggs – 2 (size not mentioned)

I had large eggs on hand so that’s what I used. I felt it was okay given the amount of flour asked for. I also made sure they were at room temperature.

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Vanilla extract – 1 tsp

Cream of tartar – 1 tsp

Baking soda – ½  tsp

Salt – ¼ tsp

For cinnamon sugar mixture

Cinnamon – 2 tsps

Sugar – 2 tbsps (not in picture)

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The only sugar I had left in my kitchen was dark brown sugar so that’s what I used.

For the cookie dough, I combined the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Then I added in the vanilla and the eggs. One properly mixed, I then sifted and mixed my flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. I combined my dry ingredients to my wet ingredients, making sure to stop mixing as soon as my dough has properly come together to avoid a tough cookie.

I always sift the baking soda because I once had an experience when it clumped up instead of mixing with the batter of the cake I was mixing. It was not a good experience eating a piece of the cake and biting into clumped up baking soda. Ack!

The dough was not as dry as I expected it to turn out. Since I did not want to roll the dough between my hands, I used a small cookie scoop to drop the dough in the cinnamon sugar mixture and used two spoons to help me roll the dough into a rounder shape. After putting it on the cookie tray, I tried to flatten the dough into a disc shape.

Despite the recipe saying to bake it at 200°C, I found that it was too hot and the sides of the cookie was close to burning but the middle was not yet fully baked. So, I lowered it to just 175°C and baked the cookies for ten minutes.

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They looked so cute in the oven!!!

And they’re here! Browner than most snickerdoodles I see online but still very much loved! The dark brown sugar did A LOT of difference.

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The verdict? They’re super yummy! This is coming from someone who normally looks for flaws in the things she makes or bakes and is never satisfied.

The cookies were soft and not crumbly although there was a little bit of crisp on the outside (probably due to the sugar). The cinnamon taste was not very overwhelming and the sweetness was just right. There was a little bit of “tang” coming from the cream of tartar but it did not bother me so much to regret mixing it in my dough. These are my new favorite cookies!

61743440_UnknownHave you tried making snickerdoodles? What’s your recipe like?