Puto Bungbong

Puto Bumbong is one of the things I miss the most about the Philippines. I guess it also has something to do with the fact that I miss Filipino Christmastime, and Puto Bumbong is the thing that reminds me the most of it. It is made of coconut milk, rice flour, and purple yam, called Ube in the Philippines, and steamed in the hollow of a bamboo reed (hence the name Bumbong, the word for bamboo reed.)

So imagine my delight when my friend prepared some puto bumbong for me, with enough left over to take home! She made it in her rice cooker, which has left me contemplating whether I should get one. As I said, I must be the only Filipino on the planet who is rice cooker-less.

East and Southeast Asian desserts, in general, are an acquired taste for Europeans because many are made of rice. The gooey, chewy texture is very weird for them. I completely understand! I guess it is one of those things you have to grow up with to love. My friend’s husband gave me the side-eye as I enjoyed my Puto Bumbong with grated coconut and muscovado sugar.

With my puto bumbong craving satisfied for the meantime, I think I’ll make more of these in the future!

 

Book Review: The Magnolia Cookbook


magnolia

Does America have a taste? The Magnolia Cookbook, comes from the former owners of what was probably the most in-demand pastry shop in New York during the ’90s.It has inspired many people to devote their lives making cupcakes, including I believe the people behind Cupcakeria. It basically covers America’s baked passions like cobbler and pecan pie, and none of the coffee-cake nonsense that German bakeries offer. We’re talking about major moisture and maximum fluffiness.

I spotted this at–where else? TK Maxx, and started with their blueberry muffins.Then I got cracking on their pecan pie. The muffins were really moist, but I wouldn’t call it extraordinary. The pecan pie was interesting, but it isn’t someting I would write home about. I haven’t tried anything of theirs yet that made me say, “Yes, this one is a winner!”

What I found most interesting about this cookbook is that they have devoted the beginning of the book to their set of very specific set of instructions regarding their baking and stirring techniques. That they always use room-temperature eggs, do not over-mix the  dough or batter, pie crust dough has to be sprinkled with ice water…and this for four pages. Learning about the process is what I find most fascinating, which is why I’m learning how to cook.

The techniques mentioned really do work! Ice water and vegetable oil make for a flaky pie crust, while buttermilk and ignoring lumps in the batter make for a moister cake. Just learning how I could prevent a cheesecake from cracking in the oven makes this book worth the money I spent on it.

Apfeltaler

I am generally a patient person. I couldn’t be an English teacher if I weren’t. However my friend Anne has got me beat. She is excellent in involving her kids in the process of cooking and food preparation. I tend to be perfectionist, and do get irritated when my kid doesn’t or can’t make it like Mommy does.

So last week we got together and made something wonderful out of two almost overripe apples. They are easy to make, and my son and his friends had a lot of fun making them. So what if they aren’t perfect? They taste divine just out of the oven, and that is all that matters.

The recipe comes from Backzeit, a baking cookbook sponsored by Swiss Milk Producers Association.

You’ll need: For the base, 200g flour, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, a pinch of salt, 3 Tbsp. sugar, 100 g cold butter, cut into small squares, and a scrambled egg.

For the toppings, 3 Apples (Cox Orange recommended, but not necessesary); cored, peeled and cut thinly lengthwise,  50 g melted butter, 2 Tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.

Pre-heat oven to 220°C. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Add the butter and rub it with your hands into the dry ingredients. Form a well, drop the egg, and mix only until well incorporated: DO NOT KNEAD. Wrap with plastic film and chill for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, you can peel and halve the apples. Remove the cores, slice the apples in quarters, then again into thin slices. Mix the melted butter with the sugar and cinnamon.

Pinch out a walnut-sized piece of dough and roll it flat. Alternatively, you can roll the entire thing flat and use a round cookie cutter 3 inches in diameter and punch out the cookie dough.  Place the apples on them accordion-style and brush them with the butter-cinnamon mixture. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and  bake for 15 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy!

 

Strawberry Torte Cake

So thanks to a bumper crop of strawberries from my in-law’s garden, I had two kilos of fruit that needed to be worked on, fast.

The thing about German berries is that time is of the essence. You can’t just leave them open for a few days. Like cherries, berries have to be either eaten or turned into something  within two days after picking, or else they go moldy or bad.

Now after turning a kilo of strawberries into chunky strawberry jam, I needed to do something with the rest. Thanks to a friend, she gave me her recipe for Biskuitboden, which needed a significantly lower amount of eggs from the recipe I found (two eggs versus six eggs!)

Her recipe is:

100 g butter or margarine, 100g sugar, 5g vanilla sugar, 2 eggs, 150 g flour, 1 tsp baking powder

Thoroughly grease tart pan with butter, and pre-heat oven to 180°C. Mix softened butter/margarine with sugar until creamy,add vanilla sugar then eggs, then flour. Bake 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

I was quite pleased with the results of the cake base, and I would like to experiment by adding a dash of lemon juice to add a bit of flavor.

And I still had a bowl of strawberries left over after that! I turned half of it into yogurt strawberry shake with muscovado sugrar and packed the rest for me and my kid’s lunch.

French Toast

These are a beloved childhood favorite. These are special treats made by my dear departed grandma when we had pan de sal left over from the day before. Her recipe was to dip the halved rolls in a mixture that consisted of  two eggs, a tablespoon of sugar, and a bit of evaporated milk whisked together, then fried in oil.

I still make french toast when I have too many pieces of toast left over to prevent them from going bad, which was the case last weekend. So in lieu of pancake Saturday, we had french toast 🙂 I’ve tried many recipes, but I’ve stuck with Nigella’s because 1) I am pretty traditionalist with my french toast;  and 2) the ingredients are all things I have lying around the house, and I don’t have to do extra shopping to whip up a batch.

The only thing I would change about Nigella’s recipe is her technique: I do not soak my french toast for five minutes at each side, since it soaks up too much egg and the bread slices break up when you put them in a pan.

They tasted as good as they looked. When was the last time you made french toast?

 

Obsttorte/Fruit Pie/ Crema de Fruita

Fruits, cake, and cream. It doesn’t matter where you are, this combination is always a hit. What I like about Germany is that if you want to cheat about “from scratch cooking,” you can and still get from scratch results.

This is my go-to potluck party cake if I am short on time. Get fruits from the grocery store, get a packet of vanilla pudding powder, get  glaze powder, milk, and prepared cake base.

Slice the fruits, prepare vanilla pudding according to packet instructions. Once cooled,  spread it on the base like pizza. Place the fruits on it. Prepare the glaze according to packet instructions. A total of 35 minutes and you’re done!

It isn’t really efficient to make your own base because you need SIX eggs to make it, in comparison to the cost of buying it at the supermarket (€1,79 at Rewe), but if I ever make it from scratch scratch, I’ll let you know.

Easy-Peasy Leche Flan

Now that asparagus season is coming up, which means that I whip up a batch of Sauce Hollandaise every time I make them, also means that I have to be creative with what to do with egg parts that are left behind.

Egg whites are not a problem. They can be frozen or chilled, and are in fact all the better for it, since cold egg whites are faster to whip than those in room temp.

But what to do with egg yolks? You can turn them in to flan, known in the Philippines as Leche Flan, which was introduced to the Philippines by the Sapnish by way of Mexico. Filipino flan uses only egg yolks. As a child, I was fascinated at the ceremony of making this dish. Making the caramel, straining the egg yolks, rubbing dayap (lime) rind, then steaming them seemed so complicated, I never thought that I’d get them right. And duck eggs! Purists always argue that duck eggs make the best flan. It is rich enough to give you a coronary.

Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Express saved me from all that trouble by giving me a flan recipe that is so easy, preparation time is 10 minutes, excluding the 45 minute cooking time.

zuckerrubensirupAnother time-saving product for me is Zuckerrübensirup, or syrup made out of sugar beets, also available in Australia as golden syrup. This saves me from making the caramel top of the flan, which I keep on burning anyway!

The recipe comes from Nigella Lawson, and instead of a traditional llanera, I use a round aluminum cake pan 8 inches in diameter. The recipe below is enough to fill the pan.

 

The flan requires: 1 340 g can evaporated milk (known in Germany, strangely enough, as Kondensmilch. I use one with 10% fat, which is the fat content of evap milk in the Philippines), 1 397g can of sweetened condensed milk, 3 eggs, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

Put enough of the golden syrup to completely line the bottom of the cake form. Add all of the ingredients of the flan in a bowl and whisk until well incorporated. Pour into cake tin.

Now there are two ways to cook the flan, both of them involve steaming. In Nigella’s recipe,  the cake tin should be placed in a bigger pan filled with freshly-boiled water, then place in a pre-heated oven, baking it in 170°C for 45 minutes.

I’m lazy by nature. I figured out that my cake tin fits snugly in my biggest cooking pot. Even if I have a double boiler, I have never used it for the recipe. I just half-fill the pot with water, place the cake form over it, then cover the form with the pot’s lid. Forty-five minutes later, I have flan! Always test the readiness of the flan by inserting a toothpick in it. If it comes out clean, then you know it’s done.

This flan is always a welcome pot-luck gift at Filipino parties. So every time I am invited to one, I always bring flan. Who has to know that it  also has egg whites in it?