Wednesday, June 19, 2013
I hope you all had a wonderful Father's Day celebration. We spent the weekend at my In-Law's place and we had a blast. Maybe I'll share a few pictures with you in a future post. For now, let's check out today's recipe.
Red bean paste and I go way back! It’s a popular Chinese/Asian ingredient that you’ll find in many traditional desserts. I think it’s safe to say that we have a love-hate relationship with it. How? I’m glad to tell you this love-hate relationship is less complicated than a love story involving a real person. I simply love red bean paste in certain desserts, and hate it in some others. Isn't it quite extreme? Maybe after all, it’s not the problem of the red bean paste, but “other” ingredients in certain dessert that made me hated it? I thought I would never know why....
So, my conclusion is that it’s not the red bean paste’s fault. I guess I do love it after all. It’s a wonderful addition in many desserts, such as these Coconut and Azuki Glutinous Rice Cake 椰汁紅豆糯米糕 that I always make duirng Chinese New Year; Black Sesame Macarons with Black Sesame Buttercream and Adzuki Beans; or for these Snow Skin Mooncake 冰皮月餅. The red beans I used here are the Azuki beans (see picture above). They are slightly bigger than the regular red beans you might find in American markets. So, if you’re make this recipe, you might want to get the Azuki beans from the Asian markets or online here. Otherwise, your cook time might be less if the size is smaller.
Another key ingredient in this recipe is the Chinese Cane Sugar (片糖), see picture above. I know, somehow the English translation said “brown sugar” (in pieces?) on the package. But as the ingredient said, they are really “cane sugar”. So, just make sure this is the type you use. Or else, you can substitute with turbinato (raw) sugar. They taste pretty much the same.
This is how the cane sugar “pieces” look (see picture below)! Don’t you just love all these translations? I always have so much fun with them.
Back to the recipe. Here’s how I make these red bean paste.
1) Place Azuki beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water at least an inch above the top of the beans. Cover with plastic wrap and let them soak overnight.
2) This is how they look after soaking for a night, all plumped up and ready to go.
3) Transfer the beans to a strainer and rinse under cold tap water. Discard soaking water.
4) Place bean in a large pot and add just enough water to cover the beans. Cook on medium high until water comes up to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5) Taste a bean and it should be tender. Then, add the cane sugar and salt and turn up the heat to medium high. Cook uncovered and stirs constantly with a wooden spoon until water is almost all absorbed by the beans.
6) This is how the bean paste should look like. Remove from heat, let cool and store in the fridge until ready to use. Or, you can wrap them individually in small portion and store in the freezer for future use.
Pretty simple right? Of course it is. There are many ways to use these red bean paste other than the recipes link I shared above. I’ll share more recipes using this red bean paste in the near future.
Of course, you can always buy ready made canned ones. But I really adore the homemade version because I can adjust the sweetness in mine. The canned ones are always a little too sweet for me. With this less sweet homemade version, you can really taste the earthy flavor of the red bean. This red bean paste is really starchy, slightly creamy, and with the perfect amount of sweetness, like all good beans paste should be. Yes, I eat it by the spoonful too! They are that good! Please don’t judge. You might do the same if you make these goodness.
So, the mystery of my love-hated relationship with the red bean paste was solved ever since I made my own paste at home. It was the quality if the paste that made me dislike it with certain desserts. I'm so glad that we have mended our relationship. After all, red bean paste is something that I don't want to miss in my life.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
I grew up with many Japanese confectioneries and treats when I was living in Hong Kong. After moving to the States, I’m happy to find that many of those treats that I enjoyed so much are available in the Japanese or Asian markets around me. One of the treats that I always get whenever I visit the Asian market would be Matcha Ice Cream! That is, before I got my ice cream machine last year. Do I feel bad that the market lost my business? Not really, that’s because I think my homemade version is better than the packaged ones you can get. At least, my Hubby say so (and he’s my toughest food critic around the house)!
Matcha (Japanese Green Tea) refers to finely milled or fine powdered green tea. The Japanese tea ceremony centers on the preparation, serving, and drinking of matcha. Nowadays, matcha is also used to flavor foods such as mochi, soba noodles and a variety of Japanese confectionery. It has a deep, grassy and slightly bitter taste. It’s extremely earthy and could be an acquired taste if you haven’t tried it before. If you like this Japanese Green Tea, then you’re going to love this dessert.
The ice cream base itself is creamy and slightly sweet as I don’t like dessert that is overly sweet. With the subtle bitter flavor and strong aroma of Matcha, this Matcha Ice Cream (抹茶雪糕) is simply irresistible and got the perfect balance in both flavor and texture.
Ready to check out how I make the Matcha Ice Cream? Come on into the kitchen with me. (See pictorial below)
1) In a medium sauce pan, heat the milk, salt, sugar, and matcha powder on low heat until simmer. Whisk until mixture is well incorporated.
2) In a heat proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks. While whisking constantly, gradually pour the milk mixture into the yolks. Scrape the warmed yolks mixture back into the saucepan. (note: this is the step where I wish I have 3 hands, one hand to pour the milk mixture, second hand to whisk the yolk and the third hand to capture the picture for you! Luckily, you only need two hands to make this recipe!)
3) Continue to cook the mixture over low heat and stirring constantly with a flat bottom wooden spatula. Cook until the custard thickens, able to coat the spatula, and reached 170 degree F. (That’s the magic temperature when salmonella bacteria in the egg yolk is killed, if any. Woohoo… Oh, sorry folks, don’t know why I’m getting excited.)
4) Place the cream in a large mixing bowl with a strainer on top. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir in vanilla extract and vodka, and refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight. (By the way, the vodka is used here to enhance the ice cream texture because alcohol lowers the freezing point. The ice cream stays creamier and smoother as it does not freeze as solid and is less likely to form ice crystals.)
5) Churn the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Mine takes as little as 25 minutes. You can enjoy the ice cream at this point as soft serve texture. Or store in a freezer safe container and freeze until the texture is harder.
Pretty simple, right? Of course. Now, I can enjoy Matcha ice cream at home whenever I craved for some, which is quite often especially in this Southern California hot weather. I hope you enjoy today’s recipe, tips and tutorial. Stay cool and have fun churning!
Note: Matcha is available in most Asian markets. If you can't find it, you can get it online here. And click here to see the ice cream machine that I use.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
Aren't these Peonies gorgeous? Not only they looked great, they also made my whole living room smelled wonderful too. The smooth and velvety petals were soft to the touch, like baby's skin. Every time I walked into the living room, the elegant, sweet floral aroma simply filled the air. I couldn't helped it but took deep breaths and inhale the sweet scents.
Mind you, I haven’t receive flowers for many years. So, let me dream a little and admire these pretty buds for the time they last in my vases. It’s kind of a “silent agreement” between my hubby and I that I don’t want him to buy me flowers, even on special occasions. I rather receive something edible, or more practical. I know, I think I’m a very unromantic person. hahaha….But I guess that’s the case when you earned the title of “Mommy”. I rather save the money for kids’ college. So, where did these gorgeous Peonies came from? Of course, they were from my sweet Mother-In-Law’s garden. It was a pleasant surprise from her.
Update: Many of you corrected me in the comment that these flowers are actually Gardenia, and not Peonies. Hehe...this once again proof how little I know about flowers and gardening. Thank you so much you all for the information.
She was on her way to my area the other day. So, she called to meet up after I picked up the kids from school so we can all enjoy an afternoon tea together. And she made this very special delivery for me. That’s so sweet of her. Of course, she knows me so well and include something edible, too.
These prunes are straight from my In-Law’s garden too. I got this huge basket filled with these sweet little gems. So good! I’ll make some pastry with them and share the recipe, that is, if we don’t finish them before that happens.
I also got a basket full of tangerines. So sweet and lovely. These will be all gone before I have a chance to “transform” them. But that’s okay, they are super good as the way they are.
Last but not least, I got the very last crop of Loquat (枇杷). These are the fruit I grew up eating. They have a thin, hairy skin (that you remove before consuming), the flesh is also orange in color, very tender, sweet, juicy and has a hint of floral tone. The seeds are brown color and quite big. My kids don’t care too much about these loquat (just yet). But I’m so happy I got to enjoy them. So, thank you again for all the goodies. I sure did enjoyed them a lot.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Mango Pudding (芒果布丁), it’s a nostalgic dessert to me with many childhood memories. I grew up having this dessert quite often. Some restaurants in Hong Kong used to serve this as a complimentary dessert after a meal or you can at least order one. But seems like the complimentary option is a thing in the past. The last time I went back to Hong Kong for a visit, none of the restaurants we visited gave out this dessert anymore. However, mango pudding is still quite popular in dessert specialty stores or cafes.
In Asia, the Ataulfo Mangos, also known as Manila Mangos or Champagne Mangos, are far more popular than the Tommy Atkins Mangos. In fact, I didn’t even know about the Tommy Atkins Mango until I moved to the States. The Ataulfo mango is skinnier, with bright orange/yellowish color skin and flesh as shown in my pictures on this post. The skin is rather thin and the seed is quite flat. The flesh from the Ataulfo mango is very tender and smooth. It’s very refreshing, sweet and have a pleasant floral tone. On the other hand, a Tommy Atkins mango is bigger in overall size, the skin is a combination of red and green, even when fully ripen. The skin and the seed are thicker compared to Ataulfo. Also, the flesh is more fiber-ous and firmer. So, for a smooth and tender mango pudding, I used the Ataulfo mangos, just the way it’s supposed to be.
Traditionally, the mango pudding is enjoyed with a splash of evaporated milk on top, maybe a few diced mangos as well (see picture below). But that’s totally optional. My kids preferred it with a little freshly whipped cream (as shown in picture above). So, the option is totally yours.
Click here to see the silicone mold I used for the mini puddings as shown in the picture below.
This Mango Pudding is a very quick dessert to put together and it’s perfect for the hot summer days. There are only 4 ingredients on the list. Sometimes, I think simplicity is the best. Just let the ingredients shine on their own. This Mango Pudding needs a little chilling time so it’s totally perfect to make it the day before, so it’s a wonderful party dessert. Another good news is that the Ataulfo Mango is now in season (from march through December). I hope you’ll go pick up a few of them and make this refreshing treat.
What are some of your nostalgic treats from the childhood? Were you able to re-create them at home like I did? I hope you enjoy today’s post and recipe. Until next time, please take care.
Sunday, June 2, 2013
I can’t quite believe the last time I post a gardening update was already more than two years ago! Chick here to see the post. Since then, I've added quite a few more herbs and plants to the family. Yes, I considered my herbs my family too, since I don’t have any pets. And yes, I guess I’m weird like that. But with someone like me, who got the biggest “brown thumb” (which means cactus died under my care, more than once), it’s a project to take care of a little herb garden and I’m proud it’s doing pretty well lately. With my current “yard” situation, I can only plant them in pots, many different pots and not on the ground like I wanted to. But hey, it’s better than nothing. I love using fresh herbs in my cooking, so these plants had been fantastic for me.
In the picture above, the one on the left is mint. They are the strongest growing thing and really can spread everywhere. Can you believe the one I originally had almost died on me (too)? So, as an insurance policy, I got another one. But somehow, the first mint plant survived my “brown thumb” so I have two now. The one on the right is Rosemary, the very first herb plant that I've got since 3 years ago. Chick here to see how small it was when I first purchased it.
The picture above is a pot of 3 different herbs. They are tarragon (on top with a little yellow blossom), spicy oregano (on the right) and thyme (on the left). I just got them this Spring as the previous one were “murdered”.
The picture above is the parsley. It was in the “ICU” (intensive care unit) during winter…but somehow, it survived and growing stronger than ever. So the saying of “whatever doesn't kill you would make you stronger” was right.
I have the sweetest neighbors. About a month ago, she shared some cherry tomato seeds with me. This picture above shown how much they've grown in just a month. Can’t wait to go tomato picking with my Baby Girl in my very own back yard!
This picture above is a chili plant. See the little white flowers blooming? I can’t wait to cook up something spicy food when the chilies are ready.
I love Thai basil and use them in my Thai dishes from time to time. But usually a recipe only calls for a small amount. I've purchased Thai basil in Asian supermarkets many times and often using not even one third of a package and have to throw out the rest as they turn brown rather quickly in the fridge. So, adding a plant of Thai Basil to my herb family (picture above) is just a natural thing to do as I can simply just cut whatever I needed. Isn't the purple and white blossoms beautiful? I love them. They smell amazing too!
This one is Italian sweet basil (picture above). I use this to make my own pesto and pasta dishes very often. It's growing gorgeous.
These last two pictures are from the front area of the house. See how the lovely flowers are blooming at their best? That’s because they are taken care of by my neighbor! hahaah…you didn't think my brown thumb turned green, right?
Thanks for reading. So, what are growing or blooming in your garden? Do you have herbs plants like I do? Is there any other herbs that you would suggest me to add to the family? Please share.