Monday, June 30, 2008

Daring Bakers June 2008 Challenge--Diary

Tuesday, June 10

2:52 pm - I'm making half the apply filling. I wanted to try other fillings made with local fruits, like avocados, bananas or mangoes but I thought it best to start with the original recipe first to see how it will turn out, then I can tweak it.

3:17 pm - I want my Dad who's diabetic and my sister who's watching her sugar intake to be able to enjoy this bread, too (provided it does not end in a disaster). So, I'm substituting the sugar called for in the recipe with Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking. We don't have lemons so I'm using orange juice instead.

3:23 pm - Mixed the cinnamon with the sugar instead of dumping it directly on the apples. This way it will be evenly distributed, no clumps. I hate clumps. All the ingredients are ready now. Will start cooking it.

3:29 pm - The smell of apples and cinnamon is filling the house....hmmmm...smells like home.

3:31 pm
- This apple mixture reminds me of Reuben's Apple Pancake. Yummy.

3:44 pm - Apple filling is done and cooling. I'm now debating whether I should make the Danish dough now or if I should make it tomorrow.

3:46 pm
- Okay. I'm making it today but I'll do the turning and rolling tomorrow. Found some green cardamom beans in our pantry. Now, how am I going to make this into powder?

3:47 pm
- Ding! Light bulb.

Yes, I used my rolling pin to pound the cardamom seeds. Don't tell.

3:53 pm - Pounding the life out of the cardamom seed's seed.

3:59 pm - Dad comes in the kitchen looks at the apple filling cooling on the counter and starts to complain how he never gets to eat anything I bake because it has sugar. Told him I used Splenda. He smiles and goes away.

4:02 pm - Still pounding.

4:04 pm - This had better be worth it.

4:05 pm - Cardamom is fairly powdery now and smells good. It is worth it.

4:33 pm - Mixed the dough. I'm now ready to knead it.

I mixed the dough in a large mixing bowl because I did not want a messy table.

4:47 pm - Just finished kneading the dough. It's now in the fridge, recovering from the massage I just gave it. It sort of looked spongy. And it's smaller than I thought! (I made half the recipe.) Will finish my Danish Braid tomorrow. Can't wait!

Wednesday, June 11

9:30 am - Mixed the butter and flour. Rolling out the dough. So, the instruction says to roll it out to a 18x13 rectangle. I don't think half a dough could roll out to that length so I'm making it into a 9x6 rectangle.

9:39 am - How do they roll it into a rectangle, anyway?! It looks more like an oblong trying to pass for a rectangle.

This is as rectangular as it is ever going to get.

9:55 am - Spreading the butter. That's a lot of butter!

9:58 am - First turn done. The dough looks like an omelette.

10:32 am - Second turn. Butter is oozing with a vengeance! I don't think there would be enough of it left in the dough!

10:43 am - Just completed the second turn. Oh my goodness---it was so messy! Butter was oozing out of the dough. And air pockets were bursting and butter would come out. I know it's butter but.......ewwwww. My imagination is working overtime. Sometimes I hate my imagination.

11:35 am - Third turn. Less oozing. Thank goodness.

12:07 pm - Fourth and last turn. Now for the 5 hour rest.

Thursday, June 12

8:40 am - Rolled out the dough, put the filling in the center and braided it. Proofing, 2 hours. looks so nice!

9:16 am - I'm looking at the picture I took and I realized I cut the braids on the left side on a wrong angle! No wonder it was a little weird when I was braiding it. I'm a little anxious now. My Danish Braid looks ok but what about the taste? I'll know in about 3 hours.

11:00 am - In the oven it goes!

11:11 am - Turning the pan as per instruction. Uh-oh. The braids came loose and the bread looks like a rib cage!

11:32 am - Kitchen smells wonderful and the bread is done! The braids are not braided. Oh, but it smells wonderful! I'm looking at the bread and it looks really flaky. I'm so happy. Now, to taste it...

Can you tell how flaky they are? The bread is just so warm and brown and perfect! Well, except for the braids coming apart!

11:44 am - At first bite, I was greeted by a mellow orange taste then by the sweet apples (they were not mushy, thanks goodness!). Orange and apples goes together pretty well. The cardamom gives it that taste/smell thatmakes people go, "What is it?". The bottom of the dough is crunchy and teh ends of the braids are very flaky. I can not get over how flaky the braids came out! They are just so puff pastry-ish!

12:58 pm - Family and I are enjoying the sweet fruits of my labor. My Dad is thrilled because it's sugar-free! (Well, mostly.) And Momi just loves how flaky it is. A sure hit! I can not believe I made this!

Questions and Answers:
So, will I make this again? Yes.
Is it hard to make? It's definitely not easy, it requires some skill but I wouldn't say it's hard either. I think amateur bakers can do it, just follow the instructions.
What did I learn from this experience? I should never be afraid of yeast because I'm bigger than they are!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers June 2008 Challenge: Danish Braid

Danish Braid

I first found out about The Daring Bakers in a forum, I think. I can't really remember now. It was mentioned casually and I thought the name was very interesting so I decided to check it out. The idea of this club is simple. The host for the month will post a recipe for all members to try (all members are expected to complete at least 8 out of 12 challenges in a year) and then on the chosen day, all members will post a write up about the challenge on their blogs. So, I made up my mind and officially became a member this month of June.

And now for my very first challenge...Danish Braid.

I know there's a reason why they called the monthly recipes to-try "The Challenge" but I just didn't think it would me this challenging. For me anyway. And not for my first challenge. A little background: I have an aversion for any and every recipe that calls for yeast of any kind. Why? Yeast hates me. Yes, they do. (Yeast are live organisms, you know. They have feelings just like we do and they hate me.)

Every yeast-based bread I tried to make failed. The worst one was the Dinner Rolls Disaster. I could not shape the dough at all because they were waay too soft. They were almost like batter. In fact, to bake them, I had to ladle them on to cupcake pans. The one and only yeast-based recipe that worked for me was the copycat of the Cinnabom Buns. I love Cinnabon and that was the motivating factor that pushed me to try the recipe. And in case you're wondering, no it was not a disaster. It had a happy ending. Despite that, my fear of yeast remained. And now for the challenge this June. I actually considered quitting The Daring Baker's club because I just didn't see how I was going to pull this one off. Then I remembered the saying that "the only way to get over your fear is to face it." So I decided to face my fear, my nemesis. Yeast.

I made the Danish Braid in 3 days. So how did it go? Well, they say a picture paints a bazillion-gazillion words. So, let's allow the little chatterboxes do the talking.

The yeast creatures and I have officially made up.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My favorite meal is Breakfast!

Bite me.
Yes, I will.
I lovelovelove breakfast. Best meal of the day for me. Sometimes I wake up in the morning just so I could have breakfast. now, I love the typical Pinoy breakfast---rice, fried egg, tocino or longanisa, atchara, danggit, ensalada, itlog na pula (salted egg), etc. Yummy. Every now and then I like to try Western breakfast options. Biscuits are on the top of my list. I seached for a good recipe and this is the one I picked. It it from the site. What I love about this recipe is how easy it is to make. No brainer. And you can dress it up by adding dried fruits, herbs and seasoning (like cinnamon, nutmeg or even basil, cheese, etc. if you want a savory biscuit), nuts, etc. Your imagination is the only limit. Will post pictures on another day.

Easy Biscuit Mixture

Making biscuits is easier than you think.

10 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup baking powder
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups shortening

In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 weeks.

This will make approximately 17 cups of mix. That's a lot, I know. You can scale it down by 4. I already did the math so you won't have to. (See how nice I am?)

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup shortening (I used Crisco)

This will make 4 1/4 cups mix. The weather is always warm where I live and I was concerned that the shortening in the mix will make it rancid overtime. So I out the mix in a plasctic container and stored it in the fridge.

To make Biscuits:
1. Preheat oven to 450F. Prepare an ungreased pan.
2. Use 2 1/4 cup biscuit mix then add 2/3 cup milk. Mix together until a soft dough forms. Then, on a lightly floured surface, knead 10 times by hand.
3. Roll out to 1/2 inch thick and cut with biscuit cutter. I didn't have a cutter so I just used a sharp knife and cut it into triangles/squares. Bake 10 minutes.

The tops of my biscuits did not brown at all. So next time I will brush the tops lightly with milk. I ate them piping hot with butter and they were yummy! I think it would pair better with jam, though. You can also use this mix to make pancakes, maybe even a pie crust. I'm going to use this as the pastry crust of Chicken Pastel. For more ideas, visit

You can also serve the biscuits with Honey Butter. To make, mix using an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy:

Honey Butter
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup honey

Spread on top of very hot biscuits and serve. You can dress it up adding cinnamon, nutmeg, dried fruits, etc. You can also use this to spread on bread, scones, even baked chicken, ham...experiment with it! Enjoy!

I'm off to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Save me Mario!

I have been having problems with my face lately. Whiteheads have decided to build a colony on my forehead, jawline and cheeks. I want to evict them.

And so, I have been on the search for cleansers and other products to help me. I've tried "The Regimen" recommended in't wok for me. Though, to be fair, I think it would have worked if I had followed it religiously. The Regimen requires you to use lots of Benzoyl Peroxide morning and evening and I was concerned that using so much chemicals on my face might have ugly side effects when I'm older. So, I started looking again. I tried many others but none really worked for me.

I've heard of the famous Mario Badascu Drying Lotion, touted as the "best" product for zapping zits. Then recently I read an article about the best products in the market and Mario Badescu was on the list. Since I already spent so much money on products, I thought, what's one more? So, I went to their website, took the Questionnaire and last Friday I bought the recommended products for me. This is what I got....

Enzyme Cleansing Gel

This non-foaming, gel cleanser thoroughly removes the day’s make-up, dirt and oil without drying the skin. Papaya Extracts are exfoliating Alpha Hydroxy Acids that help break down dulling build-up, leaving skin fresh and healthy.

Ingredients: Deionized Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Papaya (Carica Papaya Fruit) Extract, Grapefruit (Citrus Grandis Fruit) Extract, Monomide, Triethanolamine, Methylparaben.
Good for these Skin Types:All Types

Special Cucumber Lotion

Refreshing, disinfecting and deep cleaning astringent that is effective in drying up existing acne blemishes while preventing new eruptions. Sulfur and soothing Cucumber based, acne fighting formula that is non-drying and non-irritating.

Ingredients: Deionized Water, Isopropyl Alcohol, Sodium Sulfate, Cucumber Extract, Nonoxynol-9, Boric Acid.

Good for these Skin Types:Combination, Oily
I bought them in Rustan's and boy, they had better be worth every dime! I spent P1,690.00 on these two. The Enzyme Cleansing Gel was P745.00 and the Special cucumber Lotion was P945.00. I've been using them for 3 days now and, well, my skin still looks pretty much the same. At the end of a month, I'll be writing a review on these products to either warn you or convince you to buy these, too.
By the way, when I bought these at Rustan's, the salesman gave me a lot of free samples. So I didn't feel so bad about spending so much money. He gave me 3 samples of the Glycolic Foaming Cleanser, 3 Caviar Day Cream and 2 Ceramide Eye Gel.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

"The Annest of Annes!"

Have you every heard of the classic series of novels, Anne of Green Gables? If not, allow me the honor of introducing to you Anne Shirley and her her wonderful world of imagination.

A little background: The "Anne books" were written by L. M. Montgomery. And to save myself from having to write a short background-biography of Ms. Montgomery, the words of which I'll probably just paraphrase from an already existing short background-biography of the said author, I'll just quote directly from the book itself. On page 278 of Anne of Green Gables Series #2 it says:

"Lucy Maud Montgomery was born on November 30, 1874, in Clifton, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Although few women at that time received higher education, Lucy attended Prince of Wales College in Charlottestown, P.E.I., and then Dalhousie University in Halifax. At seventeen she went to Nova Scotia to work for a newspaper, the Halifax Chronicle, and wrote for its evening edition, the Echo. But Lucy came back to rural Prince Edward Island to teach, and lived with her grandmother at Cavendish. It is this experience, along with the lives of her farmer and fisherfolk neighbors, that came alive when she wrote her "Anne" books, beginning with Anne of Green Gables in 1908. first published as a serial for a Sunday school paper, Anne of Green Gables quickly became a favorite of readers throughout the world, so much so that L.M. Montgomery published six novels in all featuring Anne Shirley and family. Lucy Montgomery also wrote the popular Emily of New Moon in 1923 followed by two sequels, and Pat of Silver Bush in 1933 with its sequel. She and her husband, the Rev. Ewen MacDonald, eventually moved to Ontario. L.M. Montgomery died in Toronto in 1942, but it is her early years in lush green Prince Edward Island that live on in the delightful adventures of the impetuous redhead, the stories Mark Twain called "the sweetest creation of child life yet written."

I have just completed my collection of the Anne books recently. I've read all eight of them: Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne's House of Dreams, Anne of Ingelside, Rainbow Valley, and Rilla of Ingelside.

My favorite books from the series are the first three. The next two were also pretty good but in those books, Anne had already grown up. The sixth book is more about the adventures of her kids. She pops up in the story every now and then but in general, the story is not really about her. From the seventh book on, we see less and less of Anne and more and more about her children, the Meredith kids and her youngest daughter Rilla.

Of all the books, the ones that I enjoyed the best were the first three of the series. They were all about Anne Shirley and her adventures, or more accurately, her misadventures. What does Anne think of her misadventures? On book two of the series, she spies through the window of a neighbor and sees the plate she needs, impulsively jumps for joy and crashes through the roof of the duck house up to her armpits, unable to extricate herself from it, she says, "Oh dear this is a dreadful predicament. I wouldn't mind my misfortunes so much if they were romantic, as Mrs. Morgan's [an author she looks up to and just met] heroines' always are, but they are always just simply ridiculous. Fancy what the Copp girls [her neighbors] will think when hey drive into heir yard and see a girl's head and shoulders sticking out of the roof of one of their outhouses. that a wagon? No, Diana, I believe it is thunder." And then it rains. Hard. Lol.

Anne is hilarious. Things just happen to her, most of the time, bad. Many times I would laugh out loud reading the books, needless to say, I really enjoyed them and am already planning to read them all over again. It's one of those books that just doesn't get old. I think it's because when you read the books, you are reminded of your own childhood. We were all children once and remembering those golden days is pleasant diversion from the serious and sometimes rigid life of an adult.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

An Open Goodbye Letter

It was love at first sight for me.

I’m a very picky person, as you know. But the moment I saw you, I knew. You were the one, so I chose you. It’s funny how things work, don’t they? People spend hours weighing their options and choosing, but when the right one comes along….click. It’s so easy. That’s what happened to us. We just…clicked. We fit together so well. So I walked towards you and the rest, as they say, is history.

Three years of history. That’s how long it was for us. You walked with me and carried me all those years. You were a faithful companion. But now you can no longer go with me. You need to rest. I walked towards you that day, but today you’re walking away from me. I know you don’t want to but it’s not up to us to decide whether to stay or to go. Your final resting place is calling you, and you cannot refuse him. You must answer his call. But why? Why us? Why so soon? It’s not fair.

But now I know I need to let you go. Seeing you deteriorate a little everyday is worse than losing you. I’m sorry that I was selfish. I only thought of my own loss. But now I see things through your eyes and I finally understand what you were trying to teach me: For everything there is a place and time; a time to meet and a time to say goodbye.

It’s time to say goodbye.

Goodbye my favorite white pair of shoes. Rest well.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Kiddie Party Cupcakes Part 2: Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

Aside from the Devil's Food Cake Cupcakes I made, I also made Vanilla Cupcakes. They did not turn out as well as I hoped. The recipe I used made cupcakes that were lacking in vanilla flavor. Maybe I should have used better quality vanilla, I don't know. But next time, I'm using my tried-and-true Yellow Cake recipe instead.

The Vanilla Cupcakes looked good, though. And I think the buttercream compensated for it. And besides, you know how kids are. Serve them anything sweet and they'll eat it.

They look good, don't they?

Hmmmm....come to think of it, maybe I should give this recipe another try.

I took this picture in the fridge. I didn't have time to take proper pictures as the kids were already in the house and causing havoc. My hands were full.

I am so out of practice! But the colors came out nice. The pink looked nice and sweet, the yellow looked alive and perky.

Disaster. The color came out 'lacking' and the piping.....shame, shame, shame on me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Kiddie Party Cupcakes Part 1: Devil's Food Cake Cupcakes

We hosted a party last Saturday for kids and some friends. For weeks now, I've been itching to bake something, anything. And this party was the perfect excuse to tinker in the kitchen again. My family is not so big on sweets/dessert (gasp!). So whenever I do bake something we end up giving it away. And that's why I love parties. I get to bake anything I want and I know people will eat and love it and not rot away to oblivion in our fridge. The original recipe is posted in Cupcake Bakeshop's blog, click here.

Devil's Food Cake Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes (mine only made 23)

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup salted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs

(These are the original instructions. I don't have a stand mixer, only a hand mixer. And I don't think the poor ten-year old mixer could handle it. So I mixed it differently. See below.)

Original instructions:
Preheat oven to 350F. Measure out everything but the eggs directly into your mixer bowl. Mix on low speed just until incorporated. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Add eggs, beat on high speed again for 2 minutes.

Alternate Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare your pans, line with cupcake liners.
2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda together. Stir until it's evenly mixed. Mix in the sugar.
3. In a Pyrex cup mix the milk, vanilla and eggs.
4. Now, mix the butter with the flour-cocoa mixture.

My flour, cocoa powder and baking soda are mixed and the butter is in the bowl. The milk, eggs, and vanilla are measured. Ready to start mixing.

The butter is mixed in.

5. Mix in the milk-eggs in 3 additions. Scrape sides of the bowl everytime.

I'll just scrape the sides of the bowl and I'm ready for the last addition of the milk-egg mixture.

6. Ladle the bater in the pans.
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Let cool in the pan for a minute or two then transfer on wire racks.

These cupcakes are asking for it.

Chocolate Buttercream
enough to lightly frost 24 cupcakes

1 stick butter
1/2 cup cocoa
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup milk

1. Beat butter on high for about 30 seconds until soft.
2. Sift the cocoa powder and confectioner's sugar together and beat in 1 cup at a time of this in the butter. Alternately add milk. You may need to add more milk. I did. I think I ended up adding 1/4 cup more milk. Oh, I forgot to write. I added about 3 ounces melted chocolate to the mixture which made the frosting sort of fudgey. Yummy. This is probably why I needed more milk than the recipe called for.

Green cupcake liners look so pretty, don't they? I got a friend to help pipe the frosting on the cupcakes.

These cupcakes are really asking for it. I wonder if there'll be any left for the poor kiddies.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lemon Bars and Tea

One of my all time favorite snacks/dessert is Lemon Bars. I just lovelovelove the combination of tangy lemons and a sweet crumbly crust. Many of the store made lemon bars here, unfortunately, are sickeningly sweet. There's just a hint of lemon in the bars and you can mostly tell that it's a (surprise!) lemon bar because of the freakish yellow color. So I set out to find a "real" Lemon Bars recipe; one that captures the tangy-freshness of lemons, with a sweet crumbly crust that compliments it. I found just the recipe. Here it is:

Lemon Bars

PHOTO BY: deepoopsie


3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

6 eggs
1 3/4 cups white sugar
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar for decoration

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.

2. Combine the ingredients for the crust: flour, confectioners' sugar, and butter. Pat dough into prepared pan.
3. Bake the crust for 15 minutes. Take out of the oven.
4. Mix ingredients for the filling: eggs, sugar, flour, and lemon juice. Pour the lemon mixture over the crust and bake 20-25 minutes. Start checking at 20 minutes. Do not overbake unless you want it crunchy!
5. Dust with confectioner's sugar.

Lemon Bars.
These are store bought ones. Yes, I am quite aware of what I just said about store bought lemon bars -- their sickening sweetness and freakish yellow color. But when I get that craving for lemon bars and I don't have time to make my own, I give in and just buy from the store.

Lemon bars make me crave for tea, too!

Sunday, June 8, 2008


So, we just harvested some bananas from our very own backyard and oh my goodness...they taste really good. Very sweet and plump. There are a lot of variety of bananas here. For example we have lacatan (this is the variety that comes to mind when I think of bananas), senorita (really cute and tiny bananas), latundan (yummy!), saba, etc.

Saba. You need to steam or boil this first before eating. Yeah, they look but they taste good. In a bowl pour some cold milk add sliced saba and some sugar....mmmmm.

Latundan. They are small, usually only about3-4 inches long, they're round and fat. Very sweet and the meat is 'denser' in texture than your normal banana. Twin bananas are normal to this variety.

Senorita. They're so cute! Talk about bite-size. Many are no bigger than my pinky.

I could several of these...