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May 30, 2011

Almond Paste Made from Scratch

Almond paste bought in stores are either too sweet or too processed with fillers and preservatives, not to mention pricey. Making it at home requires a bit more of elbow grease but it's all worth it in the end. It tastes so much better. After all today, it is a badge of honor to be able to say, one make a culinary delight from scratch. The paste is such an important ingredient for a lot of pastries. Almond cream is made with this delicious paste or the favorite frangipane filling. It is I think the secret to making artisan-quality bakery goods in your own home.
Start with 2 pounds of raw almonds and pour boiling water into them for at least 5 minutes.
This should soften and loosen the skin and slide off easily when rubbed between your fingers.

Toast  the almonds until completely dry in a 250F oven for less than 10 minutes. Let cool and start grinding.  
Very dry almonds will grind very well in a food processor. Repeat the grinding until almost powder. Set aside and make the syrup that will sweeten and bind into a paste. For every cup of almond meal I put 1/4 cup of sugar and a tablespoon of light corn syrup.  Heat the sugar mixture about 235F until dissolved without stirring. Then add a drop or two of almond extract to the syrup if you wish. Return the fine almond meal into the processor and grind again incorporating the syrup slowly. Find a grinder that can make peanut butter if your food processor does not grind finely enough.
It's now ready to use or eat. It will stay firm but malleable at room temperature. This paste is perfect for making marzipan.
I took a piece to test and darkened it with a pinch of cocoa powder and pressed it on a mould dusted with  powdered sugar. The result was quite satisfactory. Every detail of the mould will come out really fine when the paste is made well, I have to say. 
I am sure you'll have much fun making this and other recipes with the versatile almond paste.

May 26, 2011

Zucchini Glasses for a Vegetarian Table

I always pick zucchini when they are small and tender but still find some that got away in my small garden and became giants. They are usually too tough to cook and lacking in flavor. I could not let these good looking veggies go to waste so I got busy carving. This time I made zucchini for your table to use as glasses. I hope you like them.


May 23, 2011

Kuih Pie Tee - Crispy Little Filled Hats from Malaysia

A friend who came from Singapore gave me a metal mold for making these "top hats" as they are called.  With it was a recipe of  Kuih Pie Tee, served as  hor d'oervres, snack or for teatime. I was also told that this is a favorite Malaysian treat. I wanted to try them right away so I made these and saved some for you. They are crispy, delicious and spicy. A chili sauce can be served on the side if  the filling is made milder.
For the hats

3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon rice flour
1 egg well beaten 
1/2 cup water
a pinch of salt
oil for deep frying

Make a smooth batter with the ingredients. Strain to rid of lumps. The batter should be thick enough to coat the mold. Dip the mold just below the brim and put gently into the hot oil. The batter should start to crisp and loosen a bit. Giggle up and down gently and the hat will slip off the mold. Let cook until slightly golden.

Set them on a paper towel straightaway to absorb the extra oil.  

 The ingredients for the filling are chopped shrimps, green onions, shredded  jicama, shredded carrots and some minced chili. All these are then sauteed with minced garlic until tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Fill the hats and serve.


May 20, 2011

Pistachio Financier

Financiers are delicious French tea cakes usually made of almonds. The dainty cakes are known for their   beurre noisette and toasted almond flavor. Used to come in gold bar shapes but now they are made in different forms too like small trapezoid shapes, tiny muffin tins and so on. I made these financiers this time with pistachio because I love its distinctive taste with this cake. Shell at least a cup of pistachios for this recipe. 
Pistachio Financiers

2/3 cup of unsalted butter
1 cup finely ground roasted pistachios
1/2 or less cup of confectioner's sugar
1/4 plus 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour 
3 egg whites

Melt the butter over moderate heat until lightly brown. pour the butter into a small bowl and leave behind any sediment in the pan. Set aside. In the food processor grind the pistachios again with the sugar and flour until powdery. Add egg whites and mix until smooth. Then add the browned butter and blend well. Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract if you wish but I omitted it in this recipe so as not to mask the delicate flavor of the pistachios. Put in the fridge covered to cool for a couple of hours.
When cooled fill the molds with 3/4 of a teaspoon and bake in a preheated 350F oven for at least 15 minutes or until lightly brown. They should come off easily from the trapezoid shaped silicon mold.
Serve them in any way you like or stack them like gold bars for their name sake.

Enjoy these with a cup of green tea if you wish.

May 18, 2011

Honeydew Melon Jade Carving

Honeydew melons these days are so sweet and usually have such beautiful shade of jade. We could not resist eating two but decided to save one for you. I thought of making a vase which I once saw somewhere. The fish is a Chinese symbol of plenty and abundance.  I hope you like it. 

May 15, 2011

Madeleine in a Cube

Madeleines are of course baked in shell shaped molds but baking them in cubes made from parchment paper is fun too. To do this, you would have to learn to make a simple cube with a 7 square inch parchment paper origami. Then fill each one a little more than half full with a basic madeleine batter.
Bake them in a 350 degree oven for at least 12 minutes. Then let cool before serving.
Here's one I'll open for you.


May 13, 2011

Citrus Cocktail Salad

Here's a refreshing dose of vitamin C in a cup full of flavor that will make the "medicine" go down without sugar. All these citrus tangy and sweet you can put together and make an incredible cocktail enjoyed as it is or add exciting flavors like chocolate mint, candied ginger and star anise. Steep any of the garnish in the juice of all the citrus and pour it in individual cup respectively. This way you can distinguish which one you like best.
Cara cara oranges, mandarines, and pomelo wedges are peeled and seeded. Juice is set aside for the dressing.
The tart ones like the calamondin oranges and kumquat are sliced thinly with the rind and put sparingly. The lemon and lime are cut without the rind and just put 1 thin slice of each for one serving.

Candied ginger, star anise or chocolate mint  are steeped individually in the juice of the sweet citrus.
Candied Ginger
Chocolate Mint
Star Anise


Art is in the Kitchen

Art is in the Kitchen
Arthur Escoto

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Napa, California, United States