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Friday, November 27, 2009

Daring Bakers' Cannoli

Interesting enough that the November DB challenge came with Cannoli that is pretty much about deep frying. So it is a baking challenge that doesn’t really require baking. More like cooking, but then it is also can’t be catagorized as cooking because it isn’t like making a dish. It is basically a dessert. So in that way, we can all call it a unique challenge – like something interesting every once in a while.

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

The look of Cannoli reminds me so much of the past Indian Dosas. Made some dessert dosas rolled and filled with Crème Patissiere and fruits. And they are both easy to make and surprisingly very delicious when they are matched with the correct filling. Frankly speaking, I said easy because basically I got ample guidance from the forum – failures and corrections that other members made and tips and advice provided. These are invaluable source of information especially for members who are very limited time in hand. So as I had followed through the forum almost every day or every chance I had no single problem making Cannoli. The shells puffed, blistered and tasted good.

And I didn’t even use Marsala Wine, White or Red Wine. I was using Fruit Wine with Rose flavor instead. Happened that it was the only wine available in my kitchen and some member had mentioned about using grape juice or something like that. Well, it turned out fine. I was so glad. I am so grateful to Lisa for hosting this challenge and introducing us to this Jewel of Sicily. And also lots of gratitute to the forum for lightening up the way to the Cannoli Heaven!

So pleased I managed to make Cannoli in many versions: cannoli original form, cup form with kiwi fruit and peach chunk topping, and millefeuille canolli with peach topping. Delicious, I definitely will make it again and again! Maybe next time will make the savoury cannoli.

Makes 22-24 4-inch cannoli

Most important equipment: Metal or wooden cannoli forms/tubes or anything with the shape of batong with diameter of 4 inch, 5 diameter cookie cutter and pin roll.

1. Shells

- 2 cups (250 grams/16 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
- 3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
- Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
- 1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
- Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
- 1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
- Confectioners' sugar

- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.
- Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.

- Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.
- In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

- Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.
- Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.
- Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

2. Filling

- 2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
- 1 2/3 cups cup (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
- 3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
- 2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange
- 3 tablespoons (23 grams/0.81 ounce) toasted, finely chopped pistachios

- Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.
- In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate, zest and nuts. Chill until firm.(The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

3. Assemble

- When ready to serve..fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer.

- Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.

Useful tips:
- The key to crispy and blistered shells is thin dough, so try to roll dough as thin as you can.
- Rolled dough circles will shrink. So if you are aiming for 4 inch circles, cut dough into 5 inch.
- While wrapping dough circles into the tube form, do not press too tight or else it will be difficult to slide it off after fried.
- Keep the right frying temperature. Not hot enough, the shells will not cook properly and turn greasy. Too hot, the shells will be burnt.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fresh From The Trees

It is wise to get to know someone from getting to know his friends. And I was just doing that when last September T brought me for a weekend trip to Kanchanaburi with his friends. There were 7 of them - young and energetic office workers in their 20s and 30s. The trip was remarkably fun because we were staying in a resort set in a natural environment next to River Kwai, a river flows in western of Thailand infamous for its Bridge over the River Kwai. Such a refreshing weekend getaway with good food, great friends and freshest air!

As it was our first trip together, I was so looking forward to it for the entire week. Located 130 kms west of Bangkok, Kanchanaburi is Thailand's fourth largest province that spans over 19,486 square kilometres, and borders Burma to the West. The comfortable 2 hours drive brought us to this province which is famous for its bridge, waterfalls, caves, national parks and reservoir.

Along the way, we had a chance to visit Rose Apple farm. It was so much fun watching all these beautiful fruits hanging on the branches and gaining knowledge about how this fruits grow and where to market them. The whole experience turned out to be a wonderful one as the farm owner let us pick the fruits right from the trees and eat them fresh. Of course we could only leave in content if we were allowed to buy some for friends and the loved ones at home. We also had the chance to visit a beautiful temple nearby and Amphawa floating market. Well, a trip can never be complete without buying local snacks and tidbits.

While other friends' fresh-from-the-farm rose apples mostly ended up right in the stomach, mine took a longer journey. And I was recalling my get-to-know-each-other trip with T, I left these rose apples as a present for you to enjoy.....

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Daring Cooks' Sushi

I love sushi, I always do. No problem with eating them but just couldn't bring myself to play around with sticky rice after my first attempt of making sushi some eight years ago. Despite a success and fun story back then, I thought I had enough.

So when recently I encountered the sushi challenge, my first reaction was being weary. To be honest this kept me off my kitchen for a while. Despite the fact that Audax and Rose had provided abundant guidance, I just had to wait until the last minute to jump in, didn't I? And that occasion doubled the challenge: I had to spend weekend in T's house and make sushi at the same time. That was my last chance. "Kris, pull yourself together! For once, make sticky sushi fun!"

There I was on a Friday night loading my sushi ingredients, cooking utensils or whatever I thought T wouldn't have in his kitchen, into my luggage. And of course my camera, tripod, and SD-cards. I and T jokingly regarded the weekend a camping trip.

On Saturday morning, I started making sushi rice early based on what I had read from Audax and Rose's notes. T was handy in helping me out with the rice preparation and he had a maid to assist with cutting carrots, cucumber and everything else. That was fun and they seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. So to speak, three of us learnt and practiced sushi at the same time. And oh yes, nibbled rice grains and filling bits too along the process.

Sushi turned out okay. Next I had to figure out how to set up for my photo-shoot in the front yard. No proper table top like in my studio. T managed to get an old bench instead. It had a rusty look which I really liked and I decided to use it for photographing sushis in his garden. Besides sushis I was inevitably distracted by the trees, flowers and water feature. I might have taken 50 shots of various plants there.

Thanks to Audax and Rose for hosting this month's Daring Cooks Challenge! November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge.

The challenge is in four parts:
Part 1: Making proper sushi rice – you will wash, rinse, drain, soak, cook, dress, and cool short grain rice until each grain is sticky enough to hold toppings or bind ingredients. Then you will use the cooked rice to form three types of sushi:
Part 2: Dragon sushi roll – an avocado covered inside-out rice roll with a tasty surprise filling
Part 3: Decorative sushi – a nori-coated rice roll which reveals a decorative pattern when cut
Part 4: Nigiri sushi – hand-shaped rice rolls with toppings.

For my own convenience I have made some adjustments to the recipe. For original recipe please click here.


- Rice vinegar > 5 tablespoons
- Granulated sugar > 5 teaspoons
- Salt > 1¼ teaspoons
- Japanese short grain rice > 2½ cups
- Water > 3 cups

- To prepare rice vinegar dressing, combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl.
- Heat on low setting. Stir until the mixture goes clear and the sugar and salt have dissolved.
- Set aside at room temperature. Meanwhile start preparing rice.
- Swirl rice gently in a bowl of water. Don't crush the rice in your hands or against the side of the bowl since dry rice is very brittle. Drain, repeat 3-4 times until water is nearly clear.
- Gently place the rice into a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid (if you have a loose fitting lid use a piece of aluminium foil to make the seal tight).
- Add water and bring rice to the boil.
- Reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this process. Turn off heat.
Let stand with the lid on, 10-15 minutes.

Excerpted from
- Moisten lightly a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon and a large shallow flat-bottomed non-metallic (plastic, glass or wood) bucket. Do not use metallic objects since the vinegar will react with it and produce sour and bitter sushi rice.
- When the rice is ready, immediately transfer it to a sushi bucket. while it is steaming hot. Try to drop the rice (upside down out of the pot) towards the center of the bucket.
- While the rice is still clumped together, evenly pour the sushi rice vinegar over the rice by using the rice paddle. The vinegar will drain through the gaps between the rice.
- Use the rice paddle, and at an angle of about 45 degrees, quickly flatten out the rice over the whole surface of the sushi bucket. Do not use too much force for it may smash or break the rice.
- While the rice is already spreaded out entirely, use the rice paddle, and gently run through it by making several parallel grooves length wise. Slowly rotate the sushi bucket and repeat running through the rice to make a grid pattern (one rotation should be enough).
- Starting from the edge of the sushi bucket, use the rice paddle to collect the rice over to the side of the sushi bucket. When doing this, use as many small motions as possible while ‘tumbling’ small amounts of rice each time. Do not try to flip big clumps of rice for it will not cool it evenly.
- Quickly flip the rice over with big scoops to flip the whole clump of rice. This is to bring the lower level of the other half of the rice that has not surfaced. Use the rice paddle to spread out the rice over the whole surface of the sushi bucket once again. Use several small motions to ‘tumble’ the rice.
- Use a fan and further cool the rice.
- Once again, flip small amounts of rice at a time to collect the rice towards the other side of the sushi bucket. Dampen a tenugui, or a wet cloth and cover the sushi bucket.

1. Dragon Rolls (Caterpillar Rolls)
Make 2 inside-out (uramaki) sushi rolls

- Japanese cucumber - peel, cut into lengthwise 6mm strips, salt, dry > 1/2
- Sushi rice > 2 cups
- Canned salmon steak - drain, smash salmon meat > 200 grams
- Ripe avocado - peel, half, pit, cut into 3mm-thin slices, fan out into overlapping pattern > 1
- Vinegared Water > ½ cup of water combined with a dash of rice vinegar
- Fish roe > 4 tablespoons

- Cover bamboo mat with plastic wrap. Place a sheet of nori shiny side down, lengthwise, on the edge the mat.
- Moisten lightly your hands in the bowl of vinegared water.
- Place one cup of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet.
- Flip the rice-covered nori over (so the bare nori is now on top) and place on the edge of the mat closest to you.
- Arrange salmon mess across the length of the nori, not quite centred on it but a little closer to you. Place half the cucumber sticks next to the eel.
- Lift the edge of the mat closest to you with both hands, keeping your fingertips over the fillings, and roll the mat and its contents until the edge of the mat touches straight down on the nori, enclosing the fillings completely. Lift up the edge of the mat you're holding, and continue rolling the inside-out roll away from you until it's sealed. Tug at the mat to tighten the seal.
- Slide a knife under one fan of avocado and transfer it onto the top of an inside-out roll. Gently spread out the avocado layer to cover the entire roll. Lay the plastic wrapped mat over the avocado-covered roll. Squeeze very gently to shape the roll.
- Spread about 2 tablespoons of fish roe along the entire top of the rice-covered roll. Using the plastic covered mat gently press the fish roe so it adheres to the rice.
- Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the roll. Slice the roll into 8 equal, bite-sized pieces, wiping your knife with a damp towel before each slice. Discard the plastic wrap. Repeat the above to make one more roll.

2. Spiral Sushi Roll
Makes 1 roll, cut into 8 pieces

- Sushi rice > 2½ cups
- Toasted nori - each sized 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm) > 2 sheets
- 3 assorted fillings consist of boiled asparagus, carrots, and ham strips

- Join 2 sheets of nori by moistening the adjacent edges and overlapping them about ½ inch (12mm).
- Place this double sheet shiny side down on a rolling mat.
- Using moist fingers place 2½ cups of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly, leaving ¼ inch (6mm) nori showing on the both ends of the sheet. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
- Using your fingers form six grooves (in the same direction that you will be rolling the mat) at even intervals across the bed of rice. Make the first groove about 2 inches (50 mm) from the edge of the nori sheet. Form the grooves by pushing the rice away. Level the areas between the grooves where you have pushed the rice.
- Place asparagus, carrot and ham subsequently in the grooves. Fill the grooves a little higher than the surrounding rice bed.
- Roll sushi up from the edge closest to you, this will form a spiral pattern of nori, rice and fillings inside the roll.
- Slice into 8 pieces with a very sharp wet knife. Serve.

3. Nigiri Sushi
Makes 14-16 pieces of sushi

- Sushi rice > 2 cups
- 2 assorted toppings - cucumber, crab sticks > 8 pairs.
- Nori > cut into long thin strips

- When handling sushi rice, make certain your hands are very clean. To keep the rice from sticking to our hands moisten your hands with vinegared water.
- Form nigiri sushi by scooping up a small amount (about 2 tablespoons) of rice with your forefinger and second finger of your right hand and placing it in your cupped
-Use the fingers and thumb of your right hand to form it into a long, narrow mound (about 2 inches x 1 inch wide or 50mm x 25mm) in your cupped palm.
- Press enough to make the rice hold firmly together. Place the nigiri on a damp cutting board flat side down. Don't let sushi touch or they'll stick to each other. At this point, you can cover the sushi with plastic wrap, and they'll keep at room temperature (not the refrigerator) for several hours.
- Place the topping piece on it. You may need to press the topping down lightly with your fingers and adjust the shape of the rice accordingly to form an attractive piece of nigiri sushi.
- Run a strip of nori (higher than the rice) around the nigiri to hold topping so it does not fall off.
- Serve.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Change is Inevitable?

Love is a wonderful thing, especially if one is blessed to experience it. Many look for it but not all find it. If love is a commodity, it is surely something priceless, like a rare diamond or a trip to the moon. When I was a child, I ever dreamt of becoming a president or a millionaire. That was priceless…… since I dared to aim that high. Later only time and experience proved to me that it was just a dream. Priceless dream! But love – I pray hard for it – is a priceless reachable reality!

3 months has passed by since I first met T on 7th August 2009. We shared most of our time together. A closed friend once told me the first 3 months are like the promotional period when everything is beautiful and sweet. So I should be aware that post 3 months things might slightly or harshly change? True colors finally come to the surface?? I hope not all things change, let the good ones stay the same. Like if we held hands while we watched movie in the theatre, I hope we still hold hands when we watch movie in the next few weeks or months or even years.

There is a proverb that says: “Nothing in this world is certain, only change is”. Well as change is inevitable, with my hope, efforts, and good intention, I wish things will change into something better.

I have been looking at my blog for like a few hundred times, I think it is time to change for a better look: bigger pictures, more presentable header, and a touch of purplish gray background. Hope you will like this change.

Makes 8 tarts

1. Crust
For ingredients and method please refer to Longan Cream Tart, click here

2. Banana Filling
- Egg yolk > 1
- Granulated sugar > 38 grams
- Corn flour > 15 grams
- Salt > 1/8 teaspoon
- Whole milk > 240 ml
- Whipping cream > 240 ml
- Vanilla essence > 1 teaspoon
- Salted butter – room temperature > 10 grams

- Beat egg yolk with a fork in a bowl. Set aside.
- Combine sugar, corn flour, salt, whole milk, whipping cream, and vanilla essence in a saucepan. Whisk constantly and bring to boil at medium heat. Continue cooking and whisking for 1 more minute.
- Pour half of this hot milk to the egg yolk. Whisk quickly to combine.
- Transfer back to the saucepan and bring to boil. Cook for 6 more minutes. Continue whisking.
- Remove from heat and stir in butter.
- Pour banana filling into a bowl or plate and cover with cling film. Leave to cool before refrigerating for 2 hours.

3. Assembly
- Ripe banana – peel, cut in 4mm thick rounds > 1
- Lemon juice > 1 tablespoon
- Banana - for decoration > 1
- Cinnamon – to dust > 2 teaspoons

- Toss banana slices gently with lemon juice.
- Fill crust with 1/3 portion of banana filling. Top with one piece of banana slice. Cover with 1/3 portion of banana filling. Press in another slice of banana.
- Fill the last 1/3 portion of banana filling in a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle. Pipe on top of pie as the top layer.
- Decorate with more banana and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Float Away

A festive occasion for the month of November - Loy Krathong. Celebrated nationwide, it is an event when people launch krathong - a beautiful lotus-shaped vessel composed of banana trunk and leaves, flowers, a candle, 3 joss sticks, and some coins - into the river, canal, lake or body of water. As it occurs on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month, this year's Loy Krathong fell on the 2nd of November.

Floating the beautiful krathong away is the main activity of Loy Krathong which carries the message of traditional ritual to pay respect to the Goddess of Water, show gratitude on the abundant use of water and ask for forgiveness for polluting the water. Prior to the launch of krathong, people would light up the candle and incense sticks and pray or make wishes. Gently placing the float on the water and letting it drift away marks the act of releasing misfortune and bad things in the past and anticipating good fortune in the future.

Despite falling on a Monday - a non-public holiday, it didn't stop people from going out and having fun with friends and their loved ones. It was afterall a ritual and a good occasion to strengthen relationship among family members and friends.

I and T prepared our krathongs one day in advance. We did them with a group of our building residents in a krathong-making session taking place in the entrance area of our building. My krathong for T(1st and 2nd pictures) was completed within an hour as I was rushing to go back and bake macarons. But T took his own sweet time to make this wonderful and meticulous krathong with multi-layered banana leaf petals (3rd and 4th pictures) and gave it to me.

Being through this session and launching krathongs together with T, I would say Loy Krathong is certainly something to be rememberred for both of us.