Monday, July 28, 2008

Mario Badescu and Me

I have been using Mario Badescu products for about 2 months now; the Enzyme Cleansing Gel, Special Cucumber Lotion and Glycolic Foaming Cleanser. I am very sad to say that Mario and I just can't work out.

My face has gotten worse; whiteheads on my forehead, jawline and cheeks multiplied. It looks very bad. I'm very surprised at the result becasue I've read many good reviews about MB products and plus they use natural ingredients. I've stopped using it now (except for the Toner which I still use in the morning but I'll eventually stop using it) and started using another product line from another brand which I'm very happy to say is working so far for me (more on this miracle product soon).

MB products are not all bad, though. The cleanser is really good in removing makeup. It will leave your skin feeling soft and moisturised. Same with the toner. It doesn't have a very strong smell like some products do.

If you're thinking of using MB products, I highly recommend that you try the samples first to see if it's compatible with your skin instead of buying the full-sized products like I did.

Friday, July 18, 2008

How many countries could you name in five minutes?

Were you listening to your teacher when she was teaching geography? Prove it.....

Created by OnePlusYou

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dark Chocolate Cake with Caramel Meringue Buttercream

I have no explanation for everything I do.

Case in point: two days ago I just felt like baking a chocolate cake. So I did. It was a sudden urge that I had no choice but to follow. The next day, I was a little irritated with....oh, I don't know everything, so I did the unimaginable---I made Swiss Meringue Buttercream, or as popularly known in cake websites, SMBC. The dreaded SMBC. I've always been afraid to make this buttercream but yesterday, I was angry enough and I just did it. And it came out perfectly. Good thing it did because if it hadn't, I think I would have lost it. Somebody loves me. Anyway, here are the recipes just in case one day you get angry and you need something to calm you down...make this cake.

Dark Chocolate Cake
Makes: 1, 3-layer 9inch cake

2 cups boiling water
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 3-9 inch pans with butter or cooking spray OR you can line the bottom with parchment paper then grease that. Set aside.
(Note: This recipe can also be made with just two pans. Read below. OR, you can halve the recipe---it makes a lot.)

2. In a 2-cup Pyrex measuring glass or a medium bowl, combine the water and cocoa powder, mixing until the powder is dissolved. Let cool.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale in color and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after every addition. Add the vanilla.

5. Mix in the dry ingredients alternately with the cocoa mixture. To do this: Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the butter and mix for about 1 minute or until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Then add 1/2 the cocoa and mix on low, about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes or until incorporated. Scrape sides of the bowl. Repeat. You should end with adding the last 1/3 of the dry ingredients.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.
(Note: My oven can only accomodate 2 pans at a time. Of course, leaving the third pan out on the counter while the other two are baking can only end in disaster and tears. So, I poured 1/3 of the batter in one pan and 2/3 on the other. I placed the pan with 2/3 batter on the lower rack and the other on the upper rack. )

7. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on wire racks.
(Note: The 1/3 pan baked for about 35 minutes and the 2/3 pan for about 50-60 minutes.)

Do not over bake the cakes! (If you like dry, burnt cakes then ignore this.)
To check for doneness: Five minutes before the cakes should be done, insert a toothpick in the middle of the cake.
If it comes out with batter, bake 5 minutes more.
If it comes out with moist crumbs, it's done.
If it comes out clean, it's overbaked. You can still eat it, though.

To make 3 layers, cut the thicker cake into 2.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Makes 8 cups

2 3/4 + 3 tablespoons (20 ounces) granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) egg whites
2 1/2 cups unsalted butter, cubed and softened
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

I used a hand mixer to make this recipe. If you have a stand mixer, good for you!

1. In a bowl, whisk together the egg whites and sugar until well mixed. Set over a pot with boiling water. Whisk constantly until all the sugar crystals are dissolved. To test: Pick up a little of the mixture (careful, it's hot!) and rub it between your thumb and forefinger. If it's smooth then you're done. If it's grainy whisk some more and put your back into it! Do not overcook. Otherwise you'll have scrambled egg whites.

2. When it's done, put the bowl on your counter and start mixing on high until the mixture forms a stiff meringue. (When you slowly raise your mixer and the meringue forms peaks that does not fall over, it's stiff. Otherwise, continue mixing.) It took me about 15-20 minutes.

3. Add the butter a few cubes at a time while mixing on low speed. After all the butter has been incorporated, mix on medium speed until fluffy.

4. Add the vanilla and beat until the buttercream is smooth and creamy. It's ready to be used.

I added about 1/2 to 3/4 cup caramel topping to my mixture.

After you refrigerate the buttercream, you will need to reconstitute it before using. Heat 1/3 of the mixtue in your microwave until warm, not melted. Whip the remaing 2/3 for about 1-2 minutes then slowly add the warm 1/3 mixture. Beat until creamy.

My dog, longingly looking at the cake.
He wants a piece but knows he can't because he's on a diet.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Emu Oil as my Makeup Primer

I first heard about Emu Oil from this site.

Since I bought this product, I have been using it almost everyday as my moisturizer/primer. It helps my makeup last long, all day in fact. And I never retouch in the afternoon. In the evening when I come home my face still looks good---albeit a little less fresh looking but still presentable. I have an oily skin and EO(emu oil) does make it slightly oilier but, in my opinion, tolerable. You might be wondering how EO could make my makeup last longer when it makes my already oily skin oilier. Doesn't oil wash out your makeup? I have no explanation for this. All I know is that when I use EO I don't have to worry if my makeup stays put.

There are many primers on the market now. I've never tried any of them so I can't really compare them with EO. If you're planning to try this product, make a thorough research on the Internet first. There are a lot of sellers online that offer competitive prices.

(I also found that EO is useful for inflammed acne. Just put a small amount on the affected area and it it will help with the pain. Ditto with insect bites and burns. There are many, many uses for EO. If you research Emu Oil on the Internet, you will have no shortage of materials--1.08 million results from Google alone. You may want to sit on a very comfortable chair. There are now Emu Oil shampoos, lip balms, soaps, colognes (!)(Animal fat cologne? People actually buy this? Why would anyone want an animal fat colone?), body lotions, etc. Products galore.)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Danish Braid Recipe

This is the recipe I used for the Daring Baker's June 2008 Challenge -- Danish Braid.
Source: Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking

Note: I only made half of the recipe. The recipe that follows is full, not halved. There are 3 components to this recipe; the dough, the butter block and the filling. I suggest that you divide the work in 2 or 3 days because the work on the dough alone, will take you at least 2.5 hours. It's a lot of work, I know, but really worth it. I also know that reading the directions alone is like reading a novel, it's long. I noticed. But don't be intimidated. It's really, and I'm not kidding you, easier than it looks.

There's nothing like a warm, flaky and hard earned Danish Bread.

Component 1: DANISH DOUGH
Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

Ingredients For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

1. Combine the yeast and milk (Cold. Yes, cold.) in a bowl. Mix together then slowly add the sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs and orange juice. Mix well.
2. In a large bowl sift together the salt and flour. Make a hole in the middle and then pour in the wet ingredients. Slowly mix with your fingers using a circular motion, starting from the middle to the outside.
3. After all the flour has ben incorported, dump it on a lightly floured working area and knead for about 5 minutes or until it is smooth. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before

Component 2: Butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1. Combine butter and flour in a bowl and mix with a hand mixer until smooth, no lumps of flour visible. Don't foret to scrape the sides! Set aside. I refrigerated mine because it is hot in my kitchen.
2. After the dough has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle (if you can, but don't worry about it too much) approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. If the dough is sticking to the table or to your hands, dust it lightly with flour. Using a spatula, beat the butter mixture a little until smooth then spread it evenly on 2/3 of the dough (Center and right side. Look at the pictures I posted on my previous entry.)
3. Now, fold the dough into thirds like a letter; left edge (the side that doesn't have butter) over middle part only. Then right edge (the one that has butter) over the middle. That's the first turn. Three more to go. Remember to poke the dough with your finger so that you can keep count of the turns you make. After each turn, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Do not skip this part. The butter needs to firm up before you roll it out and fold it again.
4. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface with the open ends to your right and left. Repeat step 3. Roll, turn and refrigerate. This is the second turn. Do 2 more turns.
5. After the fourth (final) turn, refrigerate the dough (wrapped in plastic wrap) for at least 5 hours or overnight.

Component 3: APPLE FILLING
Makes enough for two braids

4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Combine all ingredients except butter in a large bowl.
2. In a pan, melt the butter until gently over low-medium fire (you wouldn't want to burn it, remember it has sugar). Then add the apple mixture and cook until the apples are tender and browned.
3. When done cooking, spread the apples on a bking sheet to cool.

To Assemble the DANISH BRAID (finally!)
Makes enough for 2 large braids

1 recipe Danish Dough
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves

1. Prepare you baking sheet. You can line it with parchment paper.
2. On a lightly floured table, roll out the dough to about 15x20 inch rectangle, 1/4 inch thick. Place the dough on the baking sheet. (Note: you can divide the dough into to to make 2 braids.)
3. Make 5 inch cuts on the dough. This will be your braid. (See pictures on my previous entry.)
4. Dump the filling in the middle part. Then start braiding; left flap over right flap, left flap over right flap until you reach the end. Tuck the ends inside however you want. just make it neat.
5. Brush the dough lightly with milk to help it brown nicely.

Proofing and Baking
1. Put an oiled piece of plastic wrap over the braid. According to Sherry Yard, at this point you should "proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch." I just left mine on the kitchen table for 2 hours.
2. About 15 minutes before your proofing is finished, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (Don't over look this part!), and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown.
4. Let cool for 5 minutes then serve and enjoy!

Just a comment: Yesterday I bought a Danish pastry from one of the most popular bakeries here. When I first touched the pastry, I knew immediately something was wrong with it. Bought it anyway. After I got home, I took my first bite into it and it was........crunchy?! It was crucnhy! Aaaaagggghhhhhhh!!!!