felis pasgua, ungil kurismas, neekiriisimas annim, maligayang pasko, mele kalikimaka, and merry, merry christmas to all of you from all of us on the happy isle of guam. thanks for coming by, thanks for all your kind words and support. may your lives be filled with love and laughter, may your days be merry and bright!
deery is so cute and festive that even her crap comes out cute and festive (and wrapped to boot!)....
okay, i'm like, high on oven cleaner fumes. rocky road brownie bites, a recipe by gale gand. the only modification is that i pressed the marshmallow onto the top of the brownie immediately after baking them. the marshmallow softens a bit in the residual heat, adhering its spongy gooeyness to the chewy, nutty, chocolatey...
deer crap. wow. i gotta lie down now.
something from santos claus: mini pecan tarts--tender, yet nutty and only a little sweet. no comparisons to my character, please (i believe i am more like a chicken pot pie laced with battery acid). these are very simple to make, cobbled together from recipes from my cousin tinette and non-cousin paula deen. almost any nut will work--i've done these with macadamias, casoy (cashews), walnuts, and almonds, with no complaints. quite impressive in taste and in appearance, and a welcome addition to any dessert plate.
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsps butter, softened
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
a LOT of chopped nuts (about 2-2 1/2 cups)
preheat oven to 325˚F.
for the crust: cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. incorporate egg, then flour. pinch off balls of dough and place into each mini-tart pan. form crust around sides with your fingertips--the thinner the better, but be careful not to have any holes or tears. set aside.
for the filling: cream butter and sugar together. incorporate eggs, and vanilla and salt.
fill uncooked crusts halfway with chopped nuts. using a squeezy bottle, fill each tart to the top with the butter/sugar mix. sprinkle more nuts on top. bake for 20 minutes until lightly golden. cool in pans before removing.
makes 48 mini tarts
a few days ago, aun had a post extolling the wonders of martha stewart's baking handbook; as i commented there, i'm fascinated by her, i admire the accomplished staff that she has assembled, i've spent a lot of money on her products, but for me, her recipes suck. however, i seemed to be in the minority in that tiny forum; it was enough to make me think i should give another martha-approved recipe a try.
so, i picked up a copy of "martha stewart holiday cookies" magazine, and the one cookie that really caught my eye was the candy stripe cookie sticks. mostly because they are a good-looking cookie, but also because it's such an unwieldy name, although i personally can't come up with a nicer one.
it is basically a tuile recipe made into rectangles and then rolled into a cigar-shape. red batter is piped on before baking, which give the candy cane stripe. simple, really, just a little patience should do it. the batter is quite easy, and the directions clear enough. i cut out a template from a piece of cardboard, dug out the silpat sheet, and even found my offset spatula. preheated the oven. made the batter in just a few minutes. even managed to spread out the batter perfectly, and i only made two at time, as suggested.
fine. except not. i put the finely crafted first batch (omg, you should've seen the stripes on those! as close to perfect as i was going to get) into the 400˚f oven, and waited 8 minutes, like you do. and when i returned? smoking oven, with cookies the sort of tan the surgeon general told your gran to abandon in the seventies. not good. checked the oven. secondary thermometer said it was calibrated correctly, so i knocked down the temperature/time in various five degree/one minute increments. the result? a third of the batter wasted on unrollable cookies. i eventually settled on 380˚f for 5 minutes, although the cookie doesn't come out as dry as i think it should (however, it is infinitely easier to roll). also, the recipe says a tablespoonful of batter. that produced planks--it's more like 1/2-3/4ths of a tablespoon for a more manageable cookie. also, i used a standard small offset spatula, but it was slightly unwieldy for the prescribed size (3" x 6" rectangle) as it doesn't quite 'fit' as well as it could--perhaps another 1/8th-1/4th of an inch added to the width would make it easier for us mere mortals to make a smoother cookie with less fuss. and those stripes? let's not get into the ocd/meth hell that produced such perfection in the martha version. okay, back in the oven. five minutes later i learn there is a special tool that the recipe neglects to mention that is absolutely necessary: FINGERS LIKE ASBESTOS. THESE COOKIES ARE #$%^ING HOT!!! the recipe is correct in saying you really need to roll these immediately or fuggedaboudit. i found, however, that working directly on top of the oven on the ceramic cooktop helped keep the cookie pliable for a valuable five seconds more (if you have a separate or built in oven, roll them on the sheet you baked them on). rolling too tightly=bad. loosely=bad. rolling in a way that requires you to hold onto the burning cookie longer than you should=good.
actually, i sort of became determined to make it work. perhaps the spirit of cybill shepherd-as-martha was at work. and i think eventually, i got some nice cookies. but not nice enough. the worse thing? they were sort of boring tasting. anise or orange or >gasp!< maybe even peppermint so they'd be even more candy cane-like would have made them far more interesting.
clickety click tried them as well, and has a fantastic open letter to martha because of her trauma. so, sorry, martha. the recipes are still a no-go. i'm sticking to your hand towels for now.
it was exactly a year ago when i decided to answer the question i originally asked myself: just how many asian women have food blogs anyway? this many! i originally found 50, and now the list is at 176, and growing every day.
if you haven't seen the list, take a look--perhaps you'll find a new favourite. if you've seen it before, check it again and visit one you've not read lately. if you know of any others out there, let me know! the more the merrier.
i went to an elementary school here on island that was run by an army colonel cum chaplain and his very flamboyant wife. they did, however, have gentility coursing through their blood, and enjoyed certain rituals from their deep southern roots. they would host a headmaster's tea at the beginning of every school year to introduce the staff to the students and their families, and another event in the springtime known as the table fashions tea, where groups would compete by creating unique tablesettings with various themes. needless to say, this was guam, not england nor even savannah, and the whole thing was orchestrated by a belle of the ball who was less scarlet o'hara than dolores del rio--all bright and floaty in her muu-muus and flip flops, always with a bright flower behind one ear--so propriety was relevant to island life amongst the new colonials in the seventies, which is to say not very proper at'all. the 'tea' was actually a punch made from fruit juice, lemon-lime soda, and scoops of neon-toxic coloured sherbet, the tables would be groaning with congealed salads topped by miniature multicoloured marshmallows, boxed mix brownies, and tea sandwiches involving all manners of things mixed in with creamed or cottage cheese. but any reason to break out a punch bowl and petit fours was reason enough.
when the colonel retired in the eighties, the teas disappeared, as did the need for petit fours and sandwich loaves. however, the old school bakeries remain, and although you might be hard pressed to find a baker who remembers how to make a petit four, no one bats an eye if you ask for a tea sandwich loaf, which is a pullman loaf of bread, sliced lengthwise; they are equally unfazed by any tinting requests you may have for the loaf, so bespoke sandwiches may match whatever theme that may strike your fancy. try asking for *that* at la brea bakery.
i often think my love of fanciful dishware and plates must come from my childhood teas experiences, which probably also fuels my penchant for fanciful tea foods. i like understated and elegant, sure, but there are days when only things in aspic, sugary divinity, or the jammiest bakewell tart with a crown of white icing and glacé cherry nipple will do.**
anyway, i have been on a one-person crusade to return such sartorial resplendence to the party table, and was asked to make some sandwiches for a holiday soirée. i probably won't be asked again, but despite the colours, the fillings were rather nice: egg with capers and a smoky spanish pimentón, turkey with a cranberry-pecan-orange zest cream cheese, and cured salmon with an herby cream cheese and cucumber. slightly more sophisticated than the kitchen sponge exterior would imply; if i win the approval of stomachs, perhaps i may win the eyes as well.
**speaking of childhood and cherry nipples on the cake, i'm watching late night reruns on the soap opera network--when did rick springfield return to 'general hospital'??
my holiday baking has begun with a bumper crop of gingerbread--somewhere between 10 to 12 pounds of it to be inexact. there's something quite festive about the sweetly lingering scent of ginger, cloves, and cinnamon, which remains, despite the fact that i finished baking the last batch almost two days ago. and yes, these gorgeous mahogany slabs are gifts for others, i don't plan on eating all of it, as that would be more disgusting than you can ever imagine. i know someone who can attest to this.
the recipe is from marion cunningham's "the breakfast book"; the last time i was in la, i spent an obscene amount of money buying a not obscene amount of gingerbread from whole foods (or whole paycheck, as the delightful food nerd calls it), and i was wondering how i was going to sate this growing addiction once i was back on the isle. i checked out the ingredients label, and found that their cake was made with oil, not butter, so i set my sights on finding the right recipe. rather fortuitously, the first book i reached for was the marion cunningham book, and i am almost convinced it is the exact recipe that the supermarket uses (at least in los angeles). it is light in texture, deep in flavour, moist, springy, fragrant, spicy and delicious, and will keep for days, provided you can keep your greedy mitts off of it.
having said that, of course i couldn't keep my grubby paws off the fresh from the oven cake, and snuck a square or two out for my own personal consumption. it is another bridget jones and i love it just as it is, but it is also quite lovely with whipped cream, either just lightly sweetened or with a scraping of vanilla bean, or boozed up with a wee dram of whisky, bourbon, or insert amber liquor of your choice. i, however, opted for what was on hand, and that was a malted ice cream, made with malt powder whisked into a vanilla ice cream base before freezing. i have to recommend, however, that guinness stout added instead will produce a superior, stupendous maltiness that would probably knock this gingerbread block out of the park and into the stratosphere. i used this recipe for both the malt powder and guinness versions, substituting the same amount of powder for the booze. try it sometime.
i found a few old photos the other day, and there were several taken with friends at mealtimes. what struck me the most about these photos is that then, i obviously didn't care about taking photos of the food because there aren't any, and now, i absolutely cannot remember what i ate at any of these meals. come to think of it, i rarely do remember the food even if it's exceptional, if i'm in particularly fine company.
the photo above is of breakfast at dean and deluca, in their first café on prince street in soho, new york city (less than two bucks for an iced coffee! eek, this is older than i thought). malcolm is a newlywed here, having just married a dear friend just days before. i barely knew him at this point, but as you can see, we were destined to get on famously--several cameras on the table (not including the one i took the photo with), several beverages each, and he is actually photographing the food, predating my interest in food photography by several years. every time i look at this photo, i recall the slight chill in the air of that april day, the sharp tang of the lemon cake i ate, that funny odorous mix of slightly decaying produce, strong coffee and sidewalk i associate with every soho in the world, and the instanteous feeling of ease when you meet someone new whom you know you will be friends with for a very long time.
even if he was mumbling somewhat incoherently with that scottish accent, ordered a middling blueberry muffin, and made me see "arachnophobia". in the theatres.
a carrozza, in italian, is a carriage, and in this case, bread carries the softest, sweetest fresh mozzarella you can find, in this southern italian sandwich. all you need is white bread (any sort will do, even regular sandwich stuff), mozzarella (if you don't have fresh, this works well enough with the rubbery stuff--don't sweat it, sweetie), a little milk, flour, and egg. cut the crusts off the bread, and lay some slices of the cheese in the middle of bread, leaving a bit of space all around the edges. press the slices of bread together to hold the cheese in then dip both sides quickly into a shallow dish filled with milk, then dredge in another dish filled with flour, then finally in another dish with lightly beaten egg seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper. fry in a nice amount of olive oil until golden and melty and you can't stand it anymore and must consume.
i did things a little differently this year, and attended the annual autumn festival during the day, not at night, as in previous years. don't know what possessed me, but it was definitely a nice day for it.
the most noticeable difference was one: there weren't that many people in attendance, which was nice, and two: i wasn't very hungry, which was sort of annoying. i mean, 75% of the booths are food booths and 75% of the reason why i attend is to eat the food from the food booths, and if i'm not up for it, what am i going to do?
why, actually enjoy the games booths, displays, and performances. whoduthunkit?
that's not to say i didn't have some culinary treats, because when i say "not hungry" that doesn't mean "don't eat". of course, it should, but that's a whole discussion i'll save for someone else. the definite star of the day was the black sesame ice cream, which was creamy, light, and luscious. weirdly addictive, too.
also, the ice cream booth got major style points for being black and white, clean and crisp looking, with the most affable and cute servers (and chef!). buenas! y'all rocked the block.
you can find more food and festival photos in yet another flickr slideshow.
to tell you the truth, i'm not much for buffets. it's just an accepted form of greed and overindulgence over food that in retrospect, may not be all that good to begin with, and an open invitation for indigestion. even in really nice places, i always get suspicious over certain dishes on offer--why are there so many prawns? where's the sneeze guard for the salads? do they need to clear out the deep-freeze? what are they trying to hide under the velouté? how many people have double-dipped in the chocolate fountain?
however, i do see the usefulness of buffets. it's great for a large group of people who have no idea what they want to eat or have varied tastes, and often the atmosphere is rather casual and conducive towards conversation, even with people whom you don't have much in common--how's the beef? where'd you get that? do you like it? how many people are in line for tempura? it also offers convenient getaways once you realize you really don't care for your company--i need more dessert. it's time for the second round of entrees. don't talk to me, i'm eating. i can't talk to you, i've eaten too much and need to lie down under the table.
although we didn't celebrate thanksgiving, we did indulge in a celebratory feast by going to circles at the shangri-la hotel in makati. the shang is consistently rated as one of the top hotels in the city, and they had renovated their casual coffee shop/café sometime last year. i vaguely remember it as a tasteful but somewhat dull tropical-themed room with equally dull coffee shop food, but the new room is all dark wood, glass, and accent lights and orange accessories galore--clubby yet casual, slick yet inviting. of course, heavy on the circles theme, and lots of coordinating dishes and serviceware. the dish whore in me had a barbarella-meets-the-orgasmatron-like moment when i noticed all the appetizers and desserts in tiny, perfect portions in tiny, perfect porcelain, glass and ceramic plates, shot glasses, tiles, and tureens. soup spoons of half a cherry tomato with a dab of pesto and a single shaving of parmesan. a square shot glass of a saffron seafood creme. j's gorgeous tureens filled with savoury and sweet bread puddings. chocolate covered homemade marshmallows in a miniscule ceramic skillet. a saucer of single shot of almond gelatin, clinging gently to a whole lychee. to paraphrase meg ryan in "when harry met sally", this was me as i walked passed each food station, laden with all the service accoutrements: "yes. yes. YES, oh. my. god. YESSSSSS."
click on each square for details
the food has improved. i'm not entirely convinced that it's better than any of the quality establishments around town, but there are some definite strengths amongst the vast array of goods. of course, you'll just have to discover them for yourselves but personally, i found the appetizers lacking, the italian selections serviceable, the chinese/japanese/thai selections passable but unmemorable except for the roasted items and soups, which were very good. you could eat your weight in meat from the various carving stations, and die quite happily. there was also a good selection of vegetarian, vegan, and lowfat options. the desserts varied, but then again, were rather chocolate-centric, and i am not.
click on each square for details
so, my completely biased idea of what strengths circles buffet has: good selection of main dishes, well laid out food stations, attractive setting, attractive presentation, small portions of appetizers and desserts (they know you want to taste everything :)), food stays hot, rarely overcooked, high turnover/replenishment because it's so busy. plates are taken away in a timely fashion. staff is very courteous, helpful, and almost convivial.
what i didn't like: oy, people get pushy when they're hungry! appetizers not that thrilling despite presentation, serviceware/plates all at ankle level and blocked by lines of people, too many tables so it can be tricky maneuvering through a crowded room to your table if you are in the main room. however, the tables in the main room are better than the outlying tables. service staff has trouble keeping up with refilling drinks and taking requests at the table. you'll eat too much.
still, i'd go again, if i must buffet. the room and atmosphere are very nice, it's quite laid back and conducive towards lingering, yet still stylish enough with quality food to lend a sense of occasion if there for a celebration. most importantly, i can use up as many plates as i want and no one gets mad.
circles event café
shangri-la hotel, makati
ayala avenue, corner makati ave
(reservations currently absolutely necessary!)
i went back to bizu, and picked up more of their lovely macarons. this season's specials: orange passion, with passionfruit and orange zest cream, and caramel passion, a lovely duotoned number of one chocolate macaron nestled up against a cocoa-speckled caramel one, sandwiching a caramel cream. mmmmm.
i may have left the states to avoid a day of overwhelming overeating and conspicuous consumption, but did i escape it? oh ho, oh no. you can never run away from such things, my bloggy friend, never.
i don't know what the holiday decorated cakes are, but they were quite festive. the others: samba--milk and dark chocolate mousse layered between chocolate cake, tiramisu--coffee liqueur layered between chocolate cake and mascarpone cheese, chocolat saint honoré--a pyramid of baby cream puffs filled with chocolate cream and dipped in dark chocolate.
fresh mango chiboust (french cheesecake), nirvana--chocolate caramel mousse with pistachio cream on choco biscuit thingy, and sophia--a sugarless chocolate/coffee/vanilla sponge/mascarpone confection.
if there could be a star, it might've been this: caramel saint honoré--cream puffs filled with pastry cream, dipped in caramel, on a bed of dark chocolate truffle cake.
did i consume all of these? no. did i consume more? maybe. am i hanging my head in shame? are you kidding?! just running around a track, just running.
in case you're in my house
i've lost my portable hard drive with the majority of my photo archive. if you could send good thoughts this way that i find it, and find it SOON, i will appreciate it greatly, put you in my good books forever, and dedicate the next batch of cupcakes to you.
update: still lost. i have, however, found:
my wallet (only missing for 6 months!)
my japanese pompom maker (japanese maker, not japanese pompoms)
40 skeins of yarn (now i can make a pompom hard drive)
a leprechaun with a missing hand (is this a bad sign?)
updated update: FOUND!!!! i couldn't have done it without you, thanks for all your great tips and good mojo. i have some cupcakes to bake and some plans to make, so thankyouthankyou THANK YOU!!!!! you rock, don't forget it.