Pineapple tarts are little pockets of crumbly, buttery, pineapple-jammy goodness…… the quintessential Lunar New Year’s sweet treat in Malaysia and Taiwan. Making these cookies is a tasty little way to bring a little lunar new year celebration into your kitchen and makes for a fun collaborative cooking project to do with kids or friends. It’s true that they’re a bit time consuming to put together since you have to make pineapple jam in addition to the cookie dough, but all in all none of the steps are particularly difficult. Just make the jam and dough ahead of time and then gather your helpers for a cookie assembly party. Luca, who is 6 was able to assemble the cookies with only very little help from me — thanks to our trusty tortilla press. My little guy loved brushing the cookies with eggwash before they went into the oven.
Having delved into the world of pineapple tarts over the past weeks, I have learned that there are a variety of styles (Malaysian, Taiwanese, different shapes and decorations, filled, open face)….. which means with the basic dough and jam, you can experiment with making the shape and size that appeal to you. The kids and I started off making ovals (more of the traditional pineapple shape), but somehow decided we liked the look of round balls with pineapple-ish slashes on top, glazed with an eggwash enhanced with sweetened condensed milk to make the cookies super golden and shiny.
After making a small test batch of these, I brought some over to Simran and her family for a taste. I didn’t get nervous until I thought about the fact that Simran and her parents lived in Singapore for many years, are total foodies and would most definitely be familiar with this signature holiday treat…and I should probably also mention that they’re not afraid to call out sub-standard food when it crosses their path! So it was a bit like going in the lions den with this one. Luckily, they gave their thumbs up which means that you can feel free to make this recipe with a bit of street cred and that you really should bake some the next time you need to cheer up a homesick friend from Malaysia.
Here’s a zingy, zesty, candy-like, and totally unique gingerbread with an interesting history. It dates back to the mid 1800’s and a country baker named Sarah Nelson who sold her famous gingerbread out of a quaint stone cottage to Victorian tourists visiting England’s Lake District . If you’re lucky enough to be roaming the English countryside in those parts, you’ll find the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop still going strong after more than 150 years and offering up freshly made confections made from Sarah’s original recipes.
One of my faves, Jamie Oliver, loves Grasmere gingerbread and since he was not able to get ahold of the top secret recipe (it’s locked in the National Westminster Bank in Ambleside), he created his own version which he says is almost as good and “some of the best gingerbread you’ll ever eat”…. if that’s not enough of a recommendation to try this recipe yourself, I don’t know what is! Continue reading
I got interested in the idea of breakfast cookies one day when I came across a recipe while wasting time on my iPad. Cookies for breakfast? Yes please and a double yes please from my kids. I suppose it’s part of the psychology of eating that you can call anything cookie-shaped a cookie and you’ve automatically got most people’s interest. (Perhaps that phenomenon explains the growing number of circle shaped things with a hole in the middle masquerading as donuts.). I would classify the various breakfast cookies we’ve been experimenting with as not too sweet, “almost” cookies. They work from a healthy food perspective but somehow do not possess the soul of a cookie, landing somewhere between a true cookie; a soft, a crumbly granola bar; and a flat, squat muffin… but still close enough to be worth making.
While we wait to discover a true breakfast cookie, we’ll happily keep using these recipes because they turn out tasty “almost” cookies which the kids happily gobble up and they’re full of fruit, nuts and whole grains to start your day off right.
* Ellie Krieger’s breakfast cookies (pictured above) use bran flakes which we sometimes buy and carrot puree (more veggies is always good)
* King Arthur Flour’s recipe brings in a little peanut butter and some chocolate chips
* Bon Appétit’s “Almond, Cranberry and Quinoa Cookies” recipe makes use of leftover, cooked quinoa
Quince is a fruit my family is still discovering — we often miss it entirely during its short fall season — but the more we get to know it, the more we’re impressed by its swagger. It’s been popular since ancient Greek and Roman times, a symbol of love, fertility and life. In fact that “golden apple” that Paris awarded Aphrodite in the myth about the judgment of Paris was actually a quince. They do look a lot like apples and have a somewhat similar taste, although the flavor is a bit more floral and exotic. You might be tempted to just take a big bite, but it turns out that quince is totally inedible when raw — sour, woody and hard as a rock. When you cook them however, they totally transform: the color goes from a blah white to a gorgeous pinky-orange and they sweeten and soften and melt.
Last year about this time we experimented with quince by making Deborah Madison’s roasted quince with honey, butter and cinnamon sticks (yum!) but this year we thought we might try something to celebrate quince’s proud Grecian heritage. We cooked up a simple preserve called Glyko Kithoni (In Greek: γλυκό κυδώνι, pronounced ghlee-KOH kee-THOH-nee). It’s about the easiest kind of preserving project you’ll find — the abundance of natural pectin in the fruit means that all you need to add is water, a touch of lemon juice, and sugar to suit your sweetness preference… perhaps some spices if you like things jazzy. Throw it all in a pot and cook it until it turns a gorgeous, glossy shade of coral and becomes jammy and spreadable. That’s it! It’s so delicious as a sweet spread for toast or waffles, but we’ve also been loving it as a topping for Greek yogurt.
Glyko Kithoni (Quince Preserves)
Ingredients: 3-4 quince, 1 lemon, water, whole spices (optional) — makes several cups
- Peel your quince then quarter them and remove the seeds/core as you would an apple. Depending on the consistency you prefer for your preserves (chunkier or smoother) cut the fruit into medium dice, small dice or grate them. We made thin slices using a mandolin cutter then stacked the slices and cut skinny matchsticks.
- Place your chopped quince in a pot and add enough water to reach the top of the fruit. Add a squeeze of lemon. Bring to a simmer and cook until quince is tender (it took us about 20 minutes, but will take longer if your fruit is in larger pieces). It will still be pale and watery, but will start to take on a pink-ish hue.
- Taste the fruit and add sugar a little at a time (try 1/4 cup increments) until you like how sweet it is. You may also add a few whole spices such as clove, cinnamon stick or peppercorns or a few pinches of ground spices. Go sparingly with the spices so you don’t overwhelm the quince’s delicate flavor (a couple of whole cloves to 3-4 quince will do). The seeds scraped from a vanilla bean would be divine.
- Continue to simmer, stirring from time to time until the jam has deepened in color and has thickened (ballpark on timing would be 45 minutes to an hour). Taste and correct the flavor then follow your favorite instructions for canning, refrigerate and eat right away… or freeze in a freezer safe container.
Quickie Greek Amphora-Inspired Prints
The little guy and I made these prints using one of our favorite materials….scratch foam. This is loads of fun for adults as well as kids and would be an entertaining pit stop on a pretend play date trip to ancient Greece. Just google “Greek Amphora” and you’ll find lots of examples for inspiration.
- Trace an amphora shape onto the scratch foam and cut it out (an adult will probably need to do the cutting or at least assist).
- Using a sharp pencil or ballpoint pen, make designs. Be sure to press hard so that your printed image will be crisp — if little ones have a hard time doing this, you can go over their lines once they’ve finished their designs. Remember your print will be a mirror image of your inscribed design so you will need to write backwards if you are including words!
- Place your inscribed scratch foam on some scrap paper and “ink” the image using acrylic paint (you need a paint with a thick consistency so it can adhere to the foam). A cheap wide foam brush works well for applying the paint, a brayer works even better. Make sure you have a nice thin, even layer of paint over your entire design. Brush away any thick areas or globs.
- Carefully pick up your foam and place it ink side down on your paper. Place a scrap paper over the foam and press down evenly to ensure good contact between the foam and your paper. Make sure to press gently along the edges, too. Carefully peel back the foam and enjoy your masterpiece. You can make additional prints by repeating the same inking/printing process, rinsing and drying the scratch foam as necessary if things get messy.
Summer’s gone and school is back in session once again. As life keeps getting busier and busier and it seems like our foodie wanderings — those opportunities to just follow our tummies — are harder and harder to find. Ahhh… those lazy days of long walks with sleepy kids in strollers and copious hookey days from preschool are a thing of memory at least for my oldest. So on those precious days when we don’t have a lot going on afterschool, I find myself even more determined to keep on squeezing in little food adventures where we can. For me, those little moments of nibbling on something new and delicious with my guys are golden.
Last week, sunny weather and a random turn off onto Divisadero Street landed us at long last at The Mill. Simran and Ria are enthusiastic fans of Josey Baker Bread at The Mill (especially the cinnamon toast), but this gem of a bakery and coffee shop had somehow gotten stuck at the the top of our “to do” list and lingered there for way, way too long. It’s all about great bread made with lots of TLC here and the ambiance is pretty fun too. The room is big, open, and airy with cool art and long communal tables. We swooped into a fat slice of toasted wheat bread with a thick, glossy layer of homemade strawberry jam and refreshed ourselves with cold glass of milk (and a cup of Four Barrel coffee for me). Racks of deep brown crusty loaves are a happy sight on their own but in combination with a giant batch of strawberry jam bubbling away in a big copper pot — we were transported to toast and jam nirvana. As we fetched our snack from the pick up area we couldn’t help but pause an extra minute or two to take in deep, heavenly breaths of berry-scented air. I dare anyone not to smile and do their happy dance in the midst all that strawberry goodness. Under normal circumstances, I almost always prefer to eat my toast and jam in PJs but The Mill’s extra yummy version is definitely worth venturing out for.
The Mill, 736 Divisadero Street, San Francisco (www.themillsf.com)
Beautiful, summery, bountiful fruit. It’s no wonder we love this time of year. And no matter how much fruit we buy, it seems we always find ourselves wanting for more, more more! A big bowl of apricots, plums, cherries and nectarines is on it’s own the world’s most perfect dessert/snack/breakfast, but every once in a while we get a little more ambitious and bake up a little fruit pastry. Despite what Simran might tell you about her baking phobias, pastry dough is totally simple to make. It takes less than 5 minutes in the food processor (really!) and if you follow a few simple rules you’ll be golden. Just keep the butter cold and don’t handle the pastry any more than you absolutely need to. And since my food processor has gone on the fritz and we haven’t invested in a new one yet, I’ve been doing the dough by hand which is not much more difficult.
I like forming my pastries into free form galettes because it’s easier and because my husband is the acknowledged two-crust “pie guy” around my house, so I leave all those crimped edges to him. I also like the fact that you can make your galettes any size you like — mini baby ones to enjoy as individual desserts or big, pizza-sized ones to share with friends. If you find you have leftover dough, you can just wrap it tightly and freeze it for the next time. As for the fruit, just cut up what you have (stone fruits like peaches, apricots, nectarines cherries and plums are especially good) — and sprinkle with sugar to your sweetness preference. Wrap up your pastry and fruit, brush the top with a little egg wash (egg beaten with a little milk) and bake it on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet at 375 degrees F. Depending on the size of your galette it will need 40-60 minutes to bake.
- Tartine’s Flakey Pastry Dough – My go to recipe for flakey pastry dough is the one from the excellent Tartine cookbook, one of our favorite bakeries here in San Francisco, but your favorite pie pastry dough will do. You can also find Tartine’s recipe on the Seattle Times website.
- Pie Pastry Secrets from Thomas Keller and Sebastian Rouxal – I recently listened to an interview on “The Splendid Table” with Thomas Keller and Sebastian Rouxal, his pastry chef at Bouchon Bakery, about their “Pie Pastry Secrets” and it’s definitely worth a listen. Thomas Keller says the number one thing you can do to improve your baking is to get a scale and measure by weight (that is measuring by grams or ounces instead of cups).
- Converting Cups to grams/ounces – If you are interested in following Thomas Keller’s advice, here are two handy online calculators that will help you convert your volume measurements to weight measurements: King Arthur Master Weight Chart, Traditional Oven Baking Conversions
Even more than the crispy golden, juicy, warm-from-the-oven pastry on my plate, what I love about making fruit galettes is baking with my boys. No matter what they’re doing, the kids stop in their tracks and come running anytime they see me pulling out my big tub of flour. They wash their hands, drag a chair over and hang around until I let them help. It takes a lot to steal their attention away from their lego projects and hot wheels, so that’s saying something.
Searching around on the Internet for a nut-free Middle Eastern dessert to make at A Little Yumminess Around the World Summer Camp, I lucked into this wonderful recipe for Moroccan Basbusa cake. The recipe comes via a great Jerusalem-based food blog called Ari cooks (via a personal recipe from a Moroccan pastry chef who Ari works with). It brings together the irresistible flavors of orange juice, orange blossom water and coconut and has a wonderful texture from semolina and a fantastic lightness from beaten egg whites. This is the kind of cake that could be spongy and dense, but instead manages to be incredibly moist and light at the same time….. Did I mention the warm cake is also drizzled with simple syrup and sprinkled with more coconut? Are you salivating yet?
This kids made sure to ask every 5 minutes if it was cake time yet, and when it was finally time we all enjoyed our super yummy, hard earned dessert with fragrant cups of mint tea. This one’s a winner!
Mali’s Moroccan Basbusa Cake
(adapted from Ari Cooks, makes 1 cake in a 10″ diameter round cake pan)
- 3 eggs, separated
- 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup vegetable oil (you can substitute the full amount of oil with the oil of your choice)
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water (optional)
- 3/4 cups sugar (1/2 for step 2, 1/4 cup for step 3)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (and more for sprinkling on top if you like)
- 1/2 cup semolina
- 1/2 cup flour
- pinch of salt
for the syrup:
Simmer 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 water until sugar is dissolved. You could flavor the syrup with orange zest or orange blossom water if you like.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 10″ round cake pan with a piece of parchment paper on the bottom.
- Mix the egg yolks with oil, juice, 1/2 cup sugar and whisk. Add flour, semolina, coconut and pinch of salt until just combined.
- In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until foamy, then gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar while continuing to whip the whites until they have reached soft peaks.
- Carefully fold the whites into the batter (don’t over mix!) and pour the batter into your prepared pan.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until the cake springs back when you press it in the center.
- While the cake is warm, drizzle the syrup over the top, then let the cake cool and fully absorb the syrup before serving. Sprinkle the top with more shredded coconut.
This dessert would be a perfect end to a Moroccan dinner featuring another tasty favorite: Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives (“Djej M’Chermel).
I certainly wouldn’t call a shave ice maker a kitchen essential, but it sure is fun…. and it’s loads cheaper than a trip to Hawaii. We recently purchased this cheapie Hawaiian Shave Ice brand shave ice maker and finally got to to trying it out this week. I’m sure the more deluxe models out there have their advantages, but we were quite happy with the results this one produced. The ice was fluffy and machine was quick and easy to use — even my 5 year old was able to operate it (but there are sharp bits inside the machine, so supervision is key). I will admit to enjoying the intensely hued, artificial syrup versions from the shave ice shops in Hawaii, but for our own experiment we tried using more healthful pureed fruit, sweetened up with simple syrup and a little lilikoi jam we brought back from Hawaii. Our combination of raspberry and pineapple/lilikoi was spot on — fantastically bright and sweet enough to pass for the “real” thing. With our maiden voyage of DIY shave ice under our belts, our minds are going wild with visions of “shave ice innovations” in our future.
DIY, All-Natural Shave Ice (not so much a recipe as some ideas to get you started)
- Freeze your ice using the mold included with the shave ice machine using plain old water (this is what we did)……or infuse flavor into your ice by adding juice or condensed milk to your water. The condensed milk will give your shave ice a more Taiwanese Sno Ice twist.
- In a blender puree fresh or frozen fruit (bright, vibrant ones will give you that real shave ice feel). Try raspberries, pineapple, mangoes, blackberries, peach, watermelon, pink grapefruit….. Sweeten your puree as needed with a simple syrup (see below) or a dallop of jelly or jam. The final consistency should be pourable and syrupy. You could thin your puree with either juice or water, but be careful of watering your puree down too much flavor-wise. As the shave ice melts into your syrup the flavor will become more muted. [We sweetened our raspberry puree with simple syrup and gave our pineapple puree a little extra yum with a glug of lilikoi jam. We fitted some Pellegrino bottles with cheap bottle pourers to dispense our purees, but you could certainly spoon your puree right over your shave ice too]
- Optional – trick out your shave ice, Hawaiian style, with a scoop of ice cream at the bottom, a scoop of azuki beas or a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk or sweetened coconut milk.
Using a ratio of 1 part water to 1 part granulated sugar, add the water and sugar to a sauce pan and heat until sugar is fully dissolved. Your simple syrup will keep in the refrigerator in a sealed bottle or jar for several months. You can infuse your simple syrup with ginger, lemon, mint, spices or other flavors you like. Just add a generous amount of your flavoring (roughly chopped mint leaves, thick slices of ginger, curls of lemon zest, whole spices or etc) and let them steep in the warm syrup for about a half hour, then strain out the solids. An infused simple syrup is great for sweetening your iced tea too!
I have a little handwritten cookbook where I jot down recipes and details of tasty meals and if you were to flip through this little book you’d find that a contender for the most dog-eared page is the one that contains this biscotti recipe. I got the recipe from Tim’s grandmother who got it from her friend Ann, which means it has the “Italian nonna seal of approval” squared. I’ve made this recipe dozens and dozens of times and it has never failed to deliver perfect, dunkable biscotti which are wonderfully crisp but not so hard that you worry about breaking any teeth. They are great for little teethers, for grown up kids and especially for avid, obsessed coffee drinkers like myself. I love the classic anise flavor and never feel too compelled to experiment much beyond that, but it’s one of those recipes that can be a great canvas for improvisation which makes it a nice baking project for kids. Lend a hand with putting the basic dough together and then stand back and let the kids come up with their own creative (and hopefully delicious) dried fruit, nut and spice combinations…. I’m just guessing here, but I have a hunch Miss Ria’s biscotti concept would include a generous scattering of chocolate chips! Continue reading