World Peace Cookies

>> Sunday, February 27, 2011

[HEART] sunny
[EYES] It's A Wonderful Life
[EARS] squeaky violin
[HEAD] Sunday night blues...
[HANDS] fluffy soft bread

I'm sure most of you have heard of the amazing Dorie Greenspan - author of Baking From My Home to Yours and co-author of Desserts by Pierre Herme!

I first came across her recipes from reading those raving reviews of those who tried and tested her recipes.

This lady must be a cookie queen, I thought.

Then about a year ago, I read about her pop-up cookie store, called Cookie Bar, in New York City.

Big chunky buttery cookies perfectly placed on trays one after another.

That night, I couldn't sleep. I not only wanted to taste and make her cookies, but I wanted to open a cookie shop like hers. Pop-up or not. Before the next morning, I had the interior decoration and shop location all thought out (being my usual obsessive self!)

The next day at work, too excited to contain myself, I even shared my idea with colleagues.

It's going to be none of that Mrs Fields or Cookie Man from the malls, but each cookie will be made with some good old TLC.

I was on cloud nine for the next few days and envisioned myself working with butter morning til night. Oh the joys.

Whilst that small 'dream' of mine never really did come true as it was not mine to have, I'm happy as I am baking Dorie's cookies from my kitchen and seeing them bring smiles to people's faces when I do share them.

These cookies are called World Peace cookies. Which really tells you a lot about what they can do to you. Yeah, pretty powerful stuff.

Dark rich chocolate that crumbles and melt in your mouth with each bite. No wonder these babies have won the hearts of people from all over the world!

While I doubt we will ever have world peace as long as there are human beings on earth, I know that if you bake these and share, it will make your day just that much brighter and sweeter.

Try it and you'll see.

World Peace Cookies
adapted from Bon Appetit Sept 2010
makes about 36 cookies
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 5 ounces extra-bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 85% cacao), chopped (no pieces bigger than 1/3 inch)
1. Sift flour, cocoa, and baking soda into medium bowl.

2. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth but not fluffy. Add both sugars, vanilla, and sea salt; beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

3. Add flour mixture; beat just until blended (mixture may be crumbly).

4. Add chopped chocolate; mix just to distribute (if dough doesn't come together, knead lightly in bowl to form ball). Divide dough in half. Place each half on sheet of plastic wrap. Form each into 1 1/2-inch-diameter log. Wrap each in plastic; chill until firm, about 3 hours.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled.

5. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

6. Using thin sharp knife, cut logs crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Space 1 inch apart on prepared sheets.

7. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies appear dry (cookies will not be firm or golden at edges), 11 to 12 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.


Apricot Jam

>> Wednesday, February 23, 2011

[HEART] heavy...
[EYES] NZ earthquakes headlines :'(
[EARS] impatient fingers tapping
[HEAD] better is one day in Your court than a thousand elsewhere
[HANDS] scrubbing sink

I pondered while simmering a pot of golden apricots recently, whether there have been other women in my family to have ever taken part in this jam making activity.

It doesn't seem likely. Especially when I look back a few generations and I cannot imagine any of the women in their circumstances in life to do such thing (Many of them probably have not heard of such thing as jams before!)

I guess it also depends on how far I want to trace back on my family tree.

But it just hard to imagine that I have ancestors from the Netherlands who happened to live on a fruit farm and preserved their apricots every summer?

Anyways, I digress.

Apricot is one of my favourite fruit for jams, so when I saw a box of ripe apricots on sale I knew straight away that those would be used for me jam making session. I've always read about awesome people making awesome jams and it's one of those things on my 1001 things to do.

Some things I've learnt while researching for my first jam making experiment:

1. You need both pectin and sugar (and HEAPS of it...shudders) to make jams.

2. Pectin is a naturally occurring substance which thickens when heated together with sugar (which prevents the jam from being runny or soupy).

3. Pectin can be found in fruits like apples, plums, oranges and citrus fruits (their peels). However cherries, grapes and strawberries have small amounts of pectin.

4. So if the fruit you are using has very little pectin, you may add some other fruit(s) which are rich in pectin e.g. adding lemon juice/peel and their seeds (tied in muslin cloth to be taken out afterwards) into your your pot or you can purchase commercial pectin packets from the shops.

4. Underripe fruits have more pectin than ripe fruits. Who would've thought.

3. So basically I can't really cut the amount of sugar by too much even if I wanted to. Unless I want apricot soup.

And what I've read so far, it seems like the golden rule is this:

For every cup of the fruit puree that you make, add 3/4 to 1 cup of sugar.

I got to admit that I just couldn't bring myself to add that much sugar. I like my jams on the tart side. Sweet sweet jams just ain't my thing. So, I more than halved the amount of sugar than I know I should, because I tasted the jam after the addition of one cup of sugar, and knew that it was already sweet enough for me.

So yes, my jam is on the slightly runnier side which I don't mind at all since it tastes great on my homemade wholemeal bread.

Apricot Jam
Adapted from David Lebovitz

  • 2 pounds (1kg) fresh apricots
  • 1/4 cup (125ml) water
  • 6 cups (1kg) sugar (I used ~1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice + peels
  • optional: 1 tablespoon kirsch 

1. Cut the apricots in half and extract the pits. If you wish, crack a few open and put a kernel in each jam jar you plan to fill.

2. Place the apricots in a very large stockpot, and add the water. Cover the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until the apricots are tender and cooked through.

3. Put a small plate in the freezer.

4. Add the sugar to the apricots and cook, uncovered, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. As the mixture thickens and reduces, stir frequently to make sure the jam isn’t burning on the bottom.

5. When the jam looks thick and is looks slightly-jelled, turn off the heat and put a small amount of jam on the chilled plate. Put back in the freezer for a few minutes, then do the nudge test: If the jam mounds and wrinkles (as shown in the photo), it’s done. If not, continue to cook, then re-test the jam until it reaches that consistency.

(You can use a candy thermometer if you wish. The finished jam will be about 220ºF, 104ºC.)

6. Once done, stir in the lemon juice and kirsch, if using, and ladle the jam into clean jars. Cover tightly and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, refrigerate until ready to use.

Hope your week is going well.

Please keep the Christchurch people in your prayers too...


Brown sugar pavlova with banana cream and butterscotch sauce

>> Sunday, February 20, 2011

[HEART] still pumping
[EYES] Pleasant words are like honeycomb, sweet to the soul... - Prov 16:24
[EARS] swishing laundry
[HEAD] You are what you eat? Of course not!
[HANDS] useful 

I like to challenge myself to try something new everyday.

Last week, I allowed someone to pluck my eyebrows. Now one side is thicker than the other. (You can imagine the shock when I looked into the mirror).

The other day, I brushed my teeth with my left-hand. Standing on one leg. Ok, maybe I didn't. Hmmmm.

Last night, I overcame my fear of yeast and finally made a pizza dough from scratch.

Then today, I tried to make a pavlova with minimal sugar. I should've known better.

Because it failed.

Big time.

After over an hour in the oven, there were no signs of a cracking or crunchy looking exterior - the best part of the pav. It is just a huge brown marshmallow blob only just very slightly crisp crusted. My heart sank. Especially after waiting so long for it in the oven.

Sometimes, you just shouldn't try too many new things at once.

The thing is I do like pavlovas (and if you had met me 10 years ago, I'd tell you in my perfect kiwi accent that the pav is New Zealand born and bred!) but I just find them a bit sweet for my liking. Plus, I have been working to reduce my sugar intake lately (sugar addiction is a hard thing to kick I tell ya). So I reduced the amount of sugar to at least a 1/4 of what was stated in the recipe and just sprinkled some dark brown sugar at the end. The result is a pillowy soft/chewy pav. I don't know if it qualifies as a pav actually. Or maybe I just didn't whip up the egg whites long enough to be thick, glossy and smooth.

If anything amazing resulted from this incident, it's the butterscotch sauce that was whipped up in 5 minutes. You have to try it. It is so good, so simple. And when I think of butterscotch, I think of bananas (might be because of banana butterscotch pudding...yummm!). So I just couldn't resist adding some mashed bananas in with the cream.

The resulting dessert is still delicious sans the crisp crust. I'm sure you'll have better luck with this recipe than I have. Or have more sense not to omit so much of the sugar ;)

Butterscotch sauce
Adapted from SmittenKitchen
About 2/3 to 3/4 cup sauce
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons, 2 ounces or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (about 109 grams) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (118 ml) heavy cream (thickened cream)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) flaky sea salt (or 1/4 teaspoon regular salt), plus more to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (8 ml) vanilla extract, plus more to taste
1. Melt butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar, cream and salt and whisk until well blended. Bring to a very gentle boil and cook for about five minutes, whisking occasionally.

2. Remove from heat and add one teaspoon of the vanilla extract, stirring to combine and this is where, despite the simplicity of the recipe, you get to feel all “chef-y”. Dip a spoon in the sauce and carefully taste the sauce (without burning your tongue!) to see if you want to add additional pinches or salt or splashes of vanilla. Tweak it to your taste, whisking well after each addition. I ended up using a full teaspoon of flaky salt and the listed amount of vanilla to get a butterscotch sauce with a very loud, impressive butterscotch flavor but the strength of your vanilla and intensity of your salt may vary.

3. Serve cold or warm over vanilla ice cream, roasted pears or pound cake. The sauce will thicken as it cools. It can be refrigerated in an airtight container and reheated in a microwave or small saucepan.


Brown Sugar Pavlova with banana cream and butterscotch sauce
Makes 6 small pavlovas
  • 4 egg whites
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 120g brown sugar
  • 10g cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 400ml thickened cream
  • 2 banana, mashed
  • 2 small punnet blueberries
1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Whisk eggwhites with a pinch of salt in an electric mixer until soft peaks form, then with motor running, gradually add caster sugar. Whisk until stiff peaks form and mixture is thick and glossy. Add 70g brown sugar, whisk until sugar is incorporated and mixture is glossy. Fold in cornflour, vinegar and vanilla extract.

2. Spoon meringue into 6 9cm diameter mound on a baking paper lined oven tray and bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour. Turn off oven and cool completely.

3. Whisk cream and remaining brown sugar together until soft peaks form. Spoon on top of pavlova, top with the mashed banana, blueberries and drizzle with butterscotch sauce.


What's for dinner this week?

>> Thursday, February 10, 2011

[HEART] gratefulness
[EYES] The King's Speech
[EARS] Vienna by Billy Joel
[HEAD] where to, for lunch?
[HANDS] playing Angry Bird

Excuse me for the longish period of silence on this space (and thanks especially for your thoughtful e-mails/comments asking my whereabouts!)

I've been blogging telepathically (and rather often too!) just because I thought we have that connection between us by now. Uh... no? So it was just me then!

So I have been re-prioritising my life. It's almost a full-time job.

Not that I didn't know my priorities were before.

But it's one thing to know...and another thing to do. Don't you think so too? I'm learning. Head knowledge is nothing when there's no heart knowledge. Oui?

On the kitchen front, making dinner obviously takes priority over my love of baking.

Since I live by myself most of the time, people often ask me...

What do you cook for yourself each night? 

To which I reply...I cook whatever I'm in the mood for. If I am craving cereal and peanut butter sandwiches, please don't deprive me of that for dinner! :)

Last week, I had a thing for Italian (or rather, my take on Italian)...

I know that I rarely post about dinner (it has mostly been...desserts, something sweet and oh, more desserts!) - but I'm learning to be a better cook these days so I thought it'd be good to document and share those recipes here.

Here are the three recipes I've cooked in the past week:
  • Spaghetti Bolognese - this is a great recipe and it's perfect to store the sauce in the freezer in individual portions for those unforeseen lazy days ahead.
  • Brie, Chorizo, Caramelised onion and Apple Pizza - Love homemade pizza like no other. I ran out of apples one night so made another version with juicy mangoes and tomato slices! I love the flavour combination of sweet, tangy and salty.
  • Thyme, lemon and mushroom pasta - Simple yet flavoursome...good recipe for a meatless day!

Spaghetti Bolognese
Adapted from DaintyBaker
Serves 4-6
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil + 1 Tbsp extra
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 sprigs Thyme - remove leaves off the stem
  • handful of Basil leaves
  • handful of Oregano leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 can (800g) whole tomatoes
  • 500g pork and veal mince
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  • salt and pepper
1. Heat oil in a medium pot with onions, garlic and bay leaves until onions turn translucent.

2. Add the can of tomatoes to the pot and break up the whole tomatoes with the back of a fork, bring to the boil.

3. Once it has reached boiling point reduce heat, let simmer for about 40 mins - 1 hr until it is reduced. At this point, throw in your herbs, chilli (if using - you can turn the heat up or down to your liking by adding more or less chilli flakes) and wine and simmer for about another 15 mins. Remove bay leaves.

4. Whilst your sauce is simmering, heat the extra 1 Tbsp oil in a fry pan. Cook the mince until browned all over. Add the sauce to the meat and stir. Season with salt and pepper.

Spaghetti with mushrooms in a lemon, cream and thyme sauce
Adapted from CheekyChilli
Serves 3-4
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/2 red onion 
  • 1 tbsp thyme 
  • Lemon zest of 1 lemon
  • Lemon juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup porcini or wild mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup cream 
  • 2 sausage (optional), diced (I omitted this)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I omitted this)
  • 1/2 tsp orange flower honey  (use regular honey if you don’t have this)
  • Dried Spaghetti to serve 3-4 people
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan for grating over
1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti into the pot. Boil pasta as per directions on box.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a shallow pan on medium low. Add the garlic and fry until slightly brown.

3.  Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the thyme.

4.  Roughly chop the mushrooms and add to the pan. Mix to incorporate, then bring to a boil.

5. Add the lemon juice and zest and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the cream.

6. Reduce heat and simmer the sauce for a bit and let reduce slightly. Add the honey and mix it in.

7. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the sauce and toss together to coat the strands of pasta.

8. Serve with a fresh grating of Parmesan over each dish, along with some fresh ground pepper.

Apple, Brie, Chorizo and Caramelised onion Pizza
Serves 1-2 

Note: For the pizza base, either make it from scratch or if you're short on time like I was, make sure you buy it fresh (made daily) from a good pasta/pizza stall in your local market. You can freeze them too - just need to thaw for around 5-10 minutes.
  • 1 fresh pizza base 
  • 1 apple, sliced thinly (I used fuji) or 1 small mango, sliced
  • 100 gram double brie
  • 1 link chorizo
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • ~2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ~1 tbsp honey
  • handful of salad greens

1. Preheat oven to 220C (or 430F)

2. Cut apple (or mango) into thin slices. Layer onto pizza.

3. Cook onion in a pan until soft and slightly browned. Add a dash of balsamic vinegar and honey to taste. Layer onto pizza.

4. Add the brie slices onto the pizza on top of the onion.

5. Cook the chorizo in the same pan as the onion. Once cooked through, cut into many slices. Or alternatively, remove sausage from it's casing. Cook in a the pan, crumbling it up using a spatula, until it is crisp and browned. Sprinkle over the brie layer.

6. Put in the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes or until bottom of dough is starting to get brown.

7. Scatter the greens over the cooked pizza! Enjoy!

So, what have you been craving for this week?

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