Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Daring Bakers! - Rosemary Flatbreads

 Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie was our February 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to use our creativity in making our own Crisp Flatbreads and Crackers!

At the beginning of the month, I was fully confident that I wouldn't be able to complete this challenge. Of course I wanted to – I had never made crackers or flatbread before. But it just wasn't feasible to do it in a toaster oven, and I didn't know anyone with a full sized oven. So I resigned myself to defeat and tried to think of new ways to combine chocolate, peanut butter, and oats into no bake cookies. 

On my weekend in Northern Ireland, I found out that one of my friends had an oven, and that I could use it whenever I needed! I was really excited, but at the same time, didn't want to impose. Maybe it's silly, but I hate the thought of being a burden to someone. It's something I've always dealt with, though it's gotten better with time. I'm so glad I finally convinced myself that it was okay to go (my guilt assuaged by the fact that I was sharing my baked goods with her). 

 The flatbreads turned out great. Bread is one of my favorite things to make, and really, nothing can beat a warm piece fresh from the oven. The DB challenge basically gave us free reign to do what we wanted, but I was attracted to this simple flatbread, brushed with egg, salt, and rosemary. I have a feeling that with olive oil and oregano, this would make an awesome thin crust for a pizza. Maybe I'll have to try it out :) 

Bring it on, Daring Bakers! 

Look at that awesome bubble!!

Rosemary Flatbread

1 cup (240 ml) warm water (about 110°F/43°C)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (2 ¾ gm) active dry yeast
3 cups (720 ml) (420 gm) (15 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, plus more for rolling
3 tablespoons (45 ml) of extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) sugar
1 large egg whisked with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) water, for egg wash
sea salt, for sprinkling
1/4 cup (60 ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) fresh rosemary or thyme

Place the water in a medium sized bowl and sprinkle the yeast. Let stand until the yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, oil, 2 teaspoons coarse salt, and the sugar. Stir until a dough forms.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 2 minutes. Use as much flour as necessary so it is not a sticky dough. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and roll the dough around in the bowl so that it is also lightly oiled on the surface. Cover with saran wrap. Let stand in a warm place until it doubles in volume, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. Divide dough into 16 equal portions and cover with plastic wrap. Roll out each piece to approximately 4"x10" (10cm x 26cm) on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with the egg mixture and sprinkle with sea salt and herbs.
Bake, rotating sheet halfway through baking, until crisp and golden, 18-22 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Storage and Freezing Instructions/Tips: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month. Prolong the freshness by freezing for up to 3 months.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

No Bake Cookies + A Lovely Day

Arrrrgh, I am so upset I left my camera at home! Guys, today was so unexpectedly exciting! A few weeks back I bought a ticket to attend a lecture on Chinese cooking by Julie O'Neill of Shananigan's Blog. Julie's son and daughter and law live in China, so she has visited many times and has wonderful insight on the importance of food in Chinese family life. After desperately searching for a printer on campus to print off my ticket before hopping on a bus into town (This was a surprisingly difficult task. Also, way to save things til the last minute, Rebecca), I arrived at Cooks Academy. Wistfulness swept over me as I looked over the well stocked demonstration kitchen. I hadn't been able to afford the cooking class on my college student budget, but I was thankful that I at least could go to the lecture. 

In other's me being silly on a hill.
 Imagine my surprise and pure elation when I found out that somehow, the cooking class and lecture has been combined, and I was going to get to make some Sichuan food! I couldn't stop smiling, and I kid you not, I was almost shaking with excitement. Call me crazy if you want, haha. I spent the next few hours in a spicy, ginger scented heaven, learning proper knife skills and attempting to make nicely pleated dumplings (and mostly failing. Hey, it's an art I haven't get mastered).  One of the dishes we prepared is called Fish Fragrant Pork Shreds, and man, was it delicious. Fish fragrant does not mean smells like fish, by the way. I believe it's referring to a way to season fish. Anyway, here's Julie's take on the recipe, for those of you who would like to make it at home ^_^ I feel like I gained so much today, both in new skills and in insight about myself. I still have so much to learn and should never think too highly of myself, because there's always room for improvement.

So, the post I had planned pales in comparison to my exciting day. But I made some cookies yesterday that have many names, but one of them is possibly the most disgusting/amusing name I have ever heard for a food since Kitty Litter Cake (UGH.) - Gorilla Poops. Try and say that with a straight face. Imagine the possibilities for awkward misunderstandings with a name like Gorilla Poops! "Hey, I'm starving, I could go for some Gorilla Poops right about now", or "My mom makes the best Gorilla Poops!". Anyway, these are incredibly easy to make and not at all pooplike, I swear. 

So maybe there's a slight resemblance?

No Bake Cookies, or if you prefer, Gorilla Poops
from Six Sisters' Stuff

Mix and bring to a boil:
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 T butter or shortening
- 2 T cocoa
- 1/2 cup milk
Cook for one minute

Take off burner and add:
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 3/4 cup peanut butter (crunchy or creamy)

Mix well until peanut butter is dissolved.

Quickly add 2 cups of quick uncooked oatmeal and mix. Drop from spoon onto wax or foil paper. Let cool before eating.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Belfast and Derry

Hello! Just another non-recipe post about my Ireland adventures. Hope that's okay! If, stop reading, I guess. I'll be back with the foodstuffs soon. Anyway, this past weekend I visited the somewhat mysterious to me land known as Northern Ireland. I went having a vague idea that it was a place filled with tension and divisions, but not much of an impression past that. Northern Ireland is so much more beautiful and complicated than I had ever imagined. Let me show you. 

Monument on the Catholic/Irish Nationalist side of Derry. Even the name is controversial...loyalists call it Londonderry and nationalists call it Derry. You'll see roadsigns with the London scratched off and vice versa. To this day, the Protestants and Catholics live on opposite sides of the river. 

A fairly traditional Irish breakfast. Finally got to try black pudding, which was...spicier than I expected. All in all, a delightful and calorie laden way to start the day. Huzzah! 

 The Giant's Causeway! Hexagonal basalt columns bursting out of the ground. It's an incredible place. Wish I could have stayed longer. If you're curious as to why it's called the Giant's Causeway, you can read the Irish legend here

 Delicious lamb shank pie at The Crown Bar in Belfast. Meat fell right off the bone. Apparently Anthony Bourdain ate here, which is mildly interesting I suppose.

This is where the Titanic was built! I actually had no idea the Titanic was built in Belfast, or how massive it was. It's difficult to conceptualize that. Standing in the bottom made me feel so small. Also, could not stop humming this.

The peace wall in Belfast, and me writing a message on it. A wall that separates the Catholics and Protestants. Many believe they're still necessary because of potential violence. Nearby residences have cages over their back gardens to protect them from missiles and other projectiles. I hope that someday all of them can be taken down.

It was a truly eye-opening weekend.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


(I have a I'm currently writing my post like this):

Happy Pancake Day! For some reason, instead of Mardi Gras or Carnivale, in Ireland, they have Pancake Tuesday. Apparently this is a thing in many cultures, but I had no idea. If I had the means to make a King Cake (So gaudy! So beautiful!) I totally would be all over that, but unfortunately, not go. Unless I make a really tiny one...anyway, pancakes. 

When they say pancakes in Ireland, they usually mean crepes or something similar. I do not consider that a pancake, but crepes definitely have their place! Also, I am not very good at making them. It's on my list. Pancakes are a very easy thing to make anywhere, since the ingredients are readily available and an oven is not required!

You might be wondering what all these weird pictures are and what the heck kaya is and how it is at all relevant. Well I'll tell you! I just like to ramble, that's all.  Last week while wandering the Asian Market, I came across an ingredient I've been searching for for a very long time: pandan leaves. You better believe I snatched up those leaves as fast as I could. Mm, okay, I'm trying to figure out how to describe pandan. In many parts of southeast Asia, the leaves are used to add a wonderful aroma to both sweet and savory dishes. It's hard to describe the smell...simultaneously floral, piney, nutty...almost vanilla but not quite? 

I wasn't feeling quite ambitious enough to tackle pandan crepes, but I realized that kaya would make an excellent topping for pancakes! Kaya is a coconut jam made with eggs, coconut, sugar, and pandan leaves. It has the consistency of lemon curd and is excellent spread on pretty much anything. Normally, kaya takes hours of constant stirring, but I found a recipe for quick kaya, and it turned out great. Pancakes slathered with butter and kaya made for a super rich, almost dessert like breakfast this morning. Try it out! If you can't find fresh pandan leaves, you can substitute something like this (but seriously, go on an ingredient adventure. Never know what you'll find!)

Quick Kaya 

6 tbsp sugar (90 g) If you want, you can use half palm sugar, half white sugar
200 ml undiluted fresh coconut milk
4 pandan leaves, cut in halves or third and knotted
4 egg yolks (make sure there's no egg white at all)
Cook 3 tbsp sugar in a pot over medium-high heat till light brown, swirling slowly. Reduce heat to low. Keep swirling till sugar is medium-brown. Add coconut milk (beware of steam), remaining 3 tbsp sugar and pandan leaves. Increase heat to high. Stir till sugar is melted and coconut milk is just starting to simmer gently. Turn off heat. Instead of caramelizing 3 tbsp white sugar, you could just put 45 g roughly chopped palm sugar in the pot, then add the coconut milk and 3 tbsp white sugar, and bring everything to a gentle simmer.
Slowly stir half of coconut milk into egg yolks. Next, pour all of egg mixture into remaining coconut milk in one go. Over medium-low heat, cook combined mixture till slightly thickened. Reduce heat to low. Continue stirring till mixture is thick enough to coat spoon thickly. Taste (ideally with a piece of bread) and add more sugar if necessary. Discard pandan leaves. Transfer to a bowl or bottle. Leave till completely cool. Cover and refrigerate. May be stored up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before serving if you want a softer, squidgy consistency.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Oat Bars

I am grateful for this internet age, where friends and family in any part of the world can hear about my travels and I'm able to keep up with what's going on at home. It eliminates a lot of culture shock transitions and homesickness. But right now, if my shift my eyes up from my computer to the bulletin board behind it, I'm greeted with letters and pictures from my loved ones. And there's almost nothing I cherish more than that. 

I mean, someone cares enough about me to sit down, shut the computer and actually handwrite something to me (sometimes even draw a picture, haha). How neat is that? That's pretty neat. 
Seriously, I really appreciate it. A physical, tangible reminder of a human connection. Can't get lost on the interwebs. These are what I'll remember years from now when I look back on this trip. 

If I could mail you some peanut butter chocolate oat bars across the sea I would, but for now, make them for yourself and think about me! They're incredibly easy to whip up and are perfect to satisfy a raging chocolate craving that comes out of nowhere around 8 pm. Not that I'd know anything about that....

Peanut Butter Chocolate Oat Bars

1 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup peanut butter 

(side note - I didn't use these exact measurements. Cups aren't a measurement here, everything is done by weight. Which is so much more accurate! So I messed around with my scale and tried to figure out how much each of these would weigh. Anyway, carry on)

Grease a 9x9 inch square pan.
Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and vanilla. Mix in the oats. Cook over low heat 2 to 3 minutes, or until ingredients are well blended. Press half of mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Reserve the other half for topping.
Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips and peanut butter in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently until smooth. Pour the chocolate mixture over the crust in the pan, and spread evenly with a knife or the back of a spoon.
Crumble the remaining oat mixture over the chocolate layer, pressing in gently. Cover, and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or overnight. Bring to room temperature before cutting into bars.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Man, I've seriously got to get baking. I just ate like, straight nutella. Not something I usually make a habit of doing. I'm trapped in this (not so vicious) cycle of being like, hey, I want to bake, aw man, don't really have enough baking chocolate, do I, oh well, I guess I'll just eat the! Ain't makin' no sense. Anyway. I'll try and post an actual recipe for you soon. 

I spent this past weekend in Cork County. It was lovely to get to see a bit more of Ireland. Here are a few of my highlights. 

My delicious toasted ham and cheese!

I seriously could have spent all day in the English Market in Cork City. So many beautiful, fresh ingredients. I would have loved to take some meat back with me to Dublin, but in practice, that would have been a terrible idea. Sigh.

This is Mizen Head, the most southwestern point in Ireland. Probably one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.  One of my roommates described being there as almost a religious experience, and I'd have to agree. Hard to put into words, you know? Another place I would have liked to stay for a long period of time. I would love waking up and being able to go outside and just write and contemplate with this landscape greeting me.

SUCH delicious hot chocolate at Jo's Cafe in Kinsale. Barely sweet and made with fresh milk and pure chocolate. That's it. Also, I love how there's unsweetened cream on so many things here.

Warm Fish Chili Salad at Fishy Fishy Cafe, also in Kinsale.  Love that name! I immediately knew that I wanted to splurge on a meal here. I haven't had a lot of fresh fish in Ireland, and this place was well known for it. The chef actually worked at the Huntington Hotel in San Francisco for a while, which is where I stayed this summer. Coincidence! Anyway, this meal was great not only because the fish was cooked to perfection and balanced out really well with the sweet chili sauce, but because I got to have a quiet, relaxing meal with my roommate, spent getting to know each other a bit better.

Yeah, I kissed the dang rock. I don't think my "gab" is any better than it ever was, but you'll have to let me know.