Archive for December, 2011

December 29, 2011

Lavender Butter Cookies

by tina

I was addicted to earl grey tea cookies. I probably baked it every week since the first batch and had an endless supply (5 batches in total?), so I thought it was time to change it up and try something new. :)

I’ve always wanted to make lavender cookies, so I experimented by changing a few things from the earl grey tea cookies recipe. They turned out surprisingly well!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup brown sugar*
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar*
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup good quality unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon lavender, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon water

(yields 2 dozen cookies)

*The brown sugar to confectioner’s sugar ratio is 1:1. I use a little more than 1/8 and a little less than 1/4 cup for the brown and confectioner’s sugar.

For the lavender, finely chop them with a knife.

I wanted to infuse the fragrant smell and flavor of the flower more in the cookie, so I came up with the idea of straining the flower first: Place all the chopped lavender in a tea strainer, boil some water and strain it once. Empty the water in the tea pot and let it sit/dry a little while you prepare the other stuff.

For the lemon zest, I peeled the lemon and used a knife to chop the skin into very fine pieces.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugars, salt) together with a spatula. Make sure to smooth out any sugar clumps and mix evenly.

Mix all the wet ingredients (butter, lavender, lemon zest, vanilla extract, water) in the stand mixer’s mixing bowl. (level 2/3) Mix this well.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix at low speed (level 1/2) for a few minutes. Then turn it up to low medium (level 2/3) for a couple minutes. Stop occasionally to make sure everything stuck at the bottom and on the spatula is mixed in. Once it looks like the picture below, you can stop.

Use your hand and press all the little clumps together to form a mound. It’s a little difficult at first, but once your hand starts to semi melt the butter, it becomes more cohesive.

Take it out of the mixing bowl and mold it into a packed circular log. Feel free to slap/pound it a little to pack it together very well and then roll it for the circular shape.

Once molded into shape, use saran wrap to completely cover the log and smooth out the surfaces. Place this in the freezer for 40 mins.
Freezing the log solidifies it and makes it easier to hold its cookie shape when it is sliced later.

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Slice cross section pieces that are about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick.

Place the slices on a silpat on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-12 mins or until the bottom edges are light brown. Let it cool for 10 mins on the silpat.

Place them on a cooling rack. Cool for 30 mins to 1 hr.

December 27, 2011

Asari Sakamushi (Sake Steamed Clams)

by tina

I’ve had this before at a Japanese tapas restaurant and it tasted simply delicious. I randomly decided to try to make this when I saw that the live clams were on sale at my nearby grocery store. Can’t go wrong with live clams–They turned out yummy.

Ingredients:

  • 15 – 18 clams (about 0.8 lb. I used live Manila clams)
  • ~15 slices of ginger (cut in strips)
  • ~15 pieces of lemon zest (cut in strips)
  • 2 – 3 pieces wakame Or 1 large piece of kombu
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup sake
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 green onion (cut in thin vertical/longitudinal strips aka julienned)

Soak the clams in water with a little salt for ~4 hrs or overnight. We want the clams to spit out the “dirty” water and/or sand in their system.

After they have been soaked, scrub the clam shells down (I used a toothbrush).

Picture of the ingredients (and the kind of sake) I used:

Place the water in a (smaller) pot and turn the temperature to high and bring it to a boil. (You could start with a little less water in case it’s too diluted for your taste). With the water boiling, place the ginger, lemon zest, and kombu/wakame in. Let them boil for 30 secs. Then add in the clam. Add the sake. Add the salt (start with 1/8 teaspoon). Let it come to a boil, for about 3-5 mins or until the clam shells open. If the soup is not salty enough for you, then add a little more salt at this point. Boil for another minute.

Turn the temperature down.

Transfer into a large bowl and garnish with green onions on top.

December 23, 2011

Snowballs~ Mexican Wedding Cookies

by tina

Someone at work had brought in some mexican wedding cookies and they were so good. It triggered me to find a recipe and try to make them myself. I followed this recipe. It calls for pecans, but I used walnuts instead. They do require a good amount of butter, but it turned out not too overpowering in the cookies.

They kinda look like snowballs.. kinda hehe. or I must be seeing things ’cause it’s been so cold and it’s almost Christmas!! :P

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened (sit in room temperature for 1-2 hours)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (plus ~3/4 cup more for dusting cookies in the end)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

(yields approx. 50 cookies)

Here is a picture of the ingredients I used:

Finely chop the walnuts with a knife. I tried using a food processor at first, but it cut and ground up the nuts too much. I’d rather taste the pieces of walnuts in my cookie than have a walnut flour cookie..

Preheat the oven to 350F. Beat butter, powdered sugar and vanilla in the mixing bowl. (copied from the recipe)

Use the paddle attachment and mix at level 3/4 (medium) until light and fluffy.

Gradually add the flour and walnuts. Mix at level 2 (low speed) after each addition until they are well blended.

The dough should eventually look like this.

Make 1-inch balls with the dough and place them about 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. I placed them closer because I wanted to fit all 50 cookies on one baking sheet. It wasn’t a problem because the cookies dont flatten and get in each other’s way.

Bake for about 16 mins or until bottoms of the cookies are light brown. Cool 10 mins on baking sheet.

Pour the 3/4 powdered sugar in another cookie sheet/baking pan. Roll the warm cookies in powdered sugar and evenly coat them.*

*This part was the most difficult for me.  It was hard to acheive the powdered soft look since the powdered sugar kept melting on the cookie. You actually want some sugar to melt on it a little, but not too much, which is the tricky part. You also don’t want to put too much sugar coating that the cookie turns out too sweet. If you find that the sugar is melting way too much/too fast and your cookie no longer looks powdery, then I’d wait 5 more mins for the cookies to cool down a little more.

Place the cookies on the wire racks and cool completely. I made these in the evening and let them cool overnight and they tasted so much better the next day. Store in airtight tupperware and they could sustain their freshness for a week.

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December 21, 2011

Stir-Fried Japanese Mushrooms

by tina

Ingredients:

  • 1 pack king trumpet mushrooms (Eryngii)
  • 1 pack white beech mushrooms (Bunapi)
  • 1 pack beech mushrooms (Buna Shimeji)
  • 2 stalks green onions
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • thai chili peppers (optional)

All the mushrooms in their packaging:

Wash the mushrooms (although they’re actually pretty clean looking already) and green onions. Slice the trumpet mushrooms into thin pieces. For the beech mushrooms, slice off the bottom portion (and throw away) and separate the mushrooms with your hands. Slice the green onion into wide pieces. Mix the sugar, rice vinegar, and soy sauce together to make the sauce. Mix the corn starch thoroughly with the water (for thickening. not pictured).

Place the pan on stove and turn temperature to high. Pour in the oil when the pan is hot. Once the oil is warm, place in all the cut and separated mushrooms. Stir fry the mushrooms for 1 min. Add the green onions (and chili peppers, optional) and stir fry for 1 min. Add the sauce. Stir and mix it evenly with the mushrooms. Let it cook for 3-5 mins, with in between stirrings.

Turn the temperature down to medium low. Have the corn starch mix ready. When the dish has simmered down a little more, add the mix all around and stir. (It is crucial to have it simmer down because the corn starch mix may become lumpy at high heat). Stir and cook on medium low for another 2 mins.

These mushrooms are so good AND healthy for you. http://www.hokto-kinoko.com/health.html
According to the site, they also cultivate Maitake mushrooms, but I have yet to find that one in the grocery stores near me.

December 14, 2011

Red Bean Mochi

by tina

Making these mochi balls from scratch is sure a sticky process, but well worth the freshness. I followed this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup mochiko
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • kinako for dusting (Shirakiku brand)
  • prepared whole red beans (Shirakiku brand)

Mix the mochiko, water, sugar, and salt all at once.

Pour into a glass tupper ware (about 5″ x 7″)

*I didn’t have pam spray, so I coated the tupper ware with a thin layer of vegetable oil. I don’t think it makes much of a difference–still really sticky. I must warn you that this stuff gets super sticky and may be frustrating the first time you make it.

Microwave 3 mins on low, 3 mins on medium, and 3 mins on high. Total 9 mins.

I waited 5 minutes for the mochi to cool a little in the microwave. Then cut it into 18 pieces.

Once it’s cool enough to handle (you don’t want it to cool too much or it’ll lose its stickiness. stickiness needed in order to seal mochi), coat the hand that you’ll be handling the piece of mochi with kinako. Scoop a piece of mochi onto that hand.

Flatten the mochi. Place some red bean in the center. Pinch and seal the opposite ends first, to a center point. Then seal the rest to the center point.

If you mess up–if a hole appears here and there, no worries! Pinch the mochi to seal them, or if there’s simply no more hope.. Eat it! It’s quite fun eating everything you mess up on.

Flip the completely sealed mochi so that the ugly side is on the bottom. Dust the whole mochi in kinako.

One done, and a whole plate more to go. =]

As you can see, I messed up on about 6 of them. haha. I might’ve eaten a few on purpose so that this plate of mochi would be even numbered for the photoshoot. :P

Store in cool area. Enjoy by the 2nd day after you make this! It doesn’t taste good anymore after that.

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