February 05, 2012

Melting moments

When we were little there were these shaped cookies of lightly nutty crumbly shortbread cookies that just melted away in your mouth with a whisper of sugar and butter. Gwynie has been on a mission to recreate these cookies for a while. Her newest Christmas present- a cookie press, has been working overtime in the kitchen to perfect the recipe that captures this childhood memory. Many variations came out too tough or tasteless. This latest recipe from Christmas-cookies.com is a wonderful base, and I'm sure she will be using it as the standard for many years to come. The original makes a ton of cookies so she adjusted the recipe as listed below, which I recommend doing because you just can't stop eating them, they are that snacktastic. Freezes well, but should be warmed to room temperature before using with a cookie press.

Quick, easy and pretty...buttery and melt-in-your-mouth. Perfect texture for working with your cookie press!

Pre-heat the oven to 350oF

8oz butter room temp
1/2 C powdered/icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
pinch salt
1/4 C cornstarch
1 1/2 C flour

Use a food processor or stand/hand mixer to cream together butter, sugar, salt, & vanilla.
Gradually add cornstarch and flour. Whip until fluffy.
Load into a cookie press.
*Baking sheet should be cool and clean.
Space dough evenly allowing at least 1" since the cookies spread.
Don't worry- the cookies will bake off cleanly and lift easily with a spatula.
Traditionally decorated with a dot of jam or candied fruit but delicious plain.
Bake 12-15 minutes.
Let cool for 2 minutes on baking sheet
Remove to wire rack to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Servings: 40

It is not necessary to grease or flour since you want the cookies to adhere to the sheet.
Foil or parchment paper will lift with the dough and prevent a clean separation from the press.
If you don't have a cookie press you can create a log and chill. Once hard slice off thin rounds.

November 28, 2011

Pompkin Puddin'

Hi, Gwynie here!

A favorite blogger Joe Pastry mentioned how early settlers roasted pumpkins filled with cream, spices and honey. A sort of primitive pumpkin pie with out the pie crust which was probably really hard to procure in early times. Inspired, I bought a sugar pumpkin for the shell and cut up and roasted a kabocha squash for the filling.

Continue reading "Pompkin Puddin'" »

June 24, 2011

Escovitch peppers- Jamaican pickle mix

On Sundays Mummy would pack us into the car with a bunch of friends and we would drive out to a beach. I'm not sure how she picked each weekend, but one of our favorites was Hellshire Beach. A white sand beach to the east of Kingston, where the water was always turquoise blue and cool, with an onshore breeze. We'd play and swim all day, getting sandy and salty and a little bit crisp from the sun.

Mostly Mum would pack lunch and treats, but at Hellshire had tiny fish shacks that cooked the most delicious food. They fry over wood fires in large round pans of oil. A typical meal would be crunchy deep fried fish with vinegary hot hot escovitch peppers (so spicy it would make your lips & fingers tingle and burn), festival (slightly sweet cornmeal fritters) and bammy (cassava cakes). For the grownups Red Stripe beer of course, and kids had thirst quenching- fiery pepper cooling Ting (grapefruit soda).

I've been going through a canning phase again. My latest attempt is escovitch peppers. I looked online and found a bunch of different recipes. This is an amalgamation of those, but it's pretty simple.

I canned mine so that I don't have to store the bottles in the fridge, but it keeps in the fridge fine. Trust me it won't last too long. By most reports, it's finished as soon as you open a bottle. This time I did them in 1 C jars. Next time I plan to use pint jars. Now that I've found it to be easy, there's no need to buy the cans of peppers.

1 C water
1.5 C white cane vinegar
1.5 oz white sugar
2.5 Tbs kosher salt
1 Tbs spice chi or pickling spice (must include pimento & bay leaf!)

1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 Scotch bonnet pepper, pierced

1/2 -1 lb chilli peppers

Thinly slice all the vegetables.
Heat the vinegar, sugar, salt, spices, onion, garlic, and Scotch bonnet and bring to a boil. Add peppers. Simmer vegetables for 2 minutes. This allows you to fit more into a jar, otherwise it cooks down to about 1/2 cup during the canning step. Stop here and enjoy the crispy spicy pickles, or proceed to the canning step.

Pack bottles with vegetables, leaving ~ 1/2" headroom, top with the vinegar liquid.
Waterbath can for 5-10 minutes. Pickled peppers and onion become very soft, with a deep flavor that improves over time. Keep canned jars up to a year.

May 21, 2011

Jamaican Hot Pepper Shrimps

On the West side of Jamiaca in the parish of St Elizabeth, there is a famous spot called Bamboo Walk. Completely enclosed by arching stands of bamboo, it is a cool respite on the road. The river which runs close by has fresh water shrimps, that people trap and cook up in the spiciest pepper you ever tasted. They sell them by the road on Bamboo Walk, shouting "frash swimps, peppa swimps" and we always stopped to buy some on the way through.
The shrimp are so spicy that if you touch your eyes after eating them, you'll be cryin' fi true. (Also wear gloves when you are dealing with Scotch Bonnet- the residual burn is a reminder to me as I sit typing with tingling finger tips)

Last year I was searching for a pepper shrimp recipe and my friend Kiki rescued me with the standard Jamaican one. She posted on Facebook, but since I'm not sure how long FB will be around, and I'd like to keep this recipe, I've made a copy for the blog. So thanks to Kiki, here is her guest entry on Pepper Shrimp.


Pepper Shrimp (again, lovingly lifted from Masterchef Enid Donaldson)
by Kiki Marriott
5 lb shrimps (in shells)
1 cup salad oil
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp. salt
2 scotch bonnet peppers
2 tbsp vinegar

1. In a heavy dutch oven, put oil, garlic, salt and pepper to heat
2. Add shrimps and stir for 5 mins
3. Sprinkle on vinegar and cook for another 5 mins.

Cooks tip: 5 pints of everything may be used instead of oil- boil everything together, except shrimps, for 10 mins. Add shrimps and boil 10 mins more.

My tip: Last summer, I made these for the first time when my foody FB Andrews Girl friend made a distress call for a recipe, and I dug this one up from my Bible of Jamaican food, Enid Donaldson's The Real Taste of Jamaica. Hubby started craving them too, so I made them and I was amazed at how easy and good they were. When we finished them, we licked the pot!
I imagine that they use cane vinegar in Jamaica, I found cider vinegar tasted better than wine vinegar.
Next time, I plan to do the broth and throw in some corn. Yummm!

--(Good idea, I'll give that a try too./A)

May 19, 2011

Jerk Marinade Boston Bay style

Sorry got distracted by the party so neglected to capture the cooked jerk.

Back when we were little, a trip to the north coast of the island was not complete unless we stopped at Boston Bay for the jerk pork. Grilled slowly over a bed of charcoal, chopped quickly into juicy chunks and served wrapped in newspaper with festival, it was a welcome stop on the way. Man! The pepper so hot it burns the tongue and the pimento keeps the low heat on the lips, no amount of water will quench the flames. The meat is smoky and succulent. I've experimented over the years and here is the recipe that most closely resembles the rub from Boston Bay as I remember it.

4 tsp allspice
4 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbs dried thyme
2 Scotch bonnet peppers
1 onion
4 green onions
1 tsp crushed garlic cloves

2 tsp black pepper
4 coins of ginger

2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp molasses
2 tsp lime juice

2 Tbs cane vinegar
2 Tbs gold rum
2 tsp salt

optional additions (I use them to boost the umami)
2Tbs Hoisin
2 Tbs fish sauce

Toast the spices in small batches over medium low heat, shaking to avoid burning.
Grind until well mixed.
Depending on how hot you want- cut open Scotch Bonnet and remove the seeds and veins. If you are interested in super HOT jerk, you can use the whole pepper. But consider yourself warned...
Bloom ground spices in oil over low heat, add to food processor with chopped onion, garlic, crumbled thyme, salt, and pieces of ginger.
Add the olive oil and pulse together, blending well.
Then add liquid ingredients vinegar, molasses, hoisin, fish sauce, rum and lime, grinding all into a paste.

Store in a bottle for several days so the flavors can develop before marinading meat overnight. The proportions make enough to season 20lbs of meat. If you think it's going to sit a while before you use it again, you can sterilize by canning, since it's quite high acid (omit fish sauce if this is the case).

April 03, 2011

A blend of two cultures: Jamaican sweet potato pudding w/ purple Okinawan sweet potato

Ever since I found the colorful starchy Okinawan sweet potato, I've been searching for recipes that could showcase the ethereal floral fragrance and flavor. A childhood favorite is the Jamaican sweet potato pudding. Merle used to make one for the Sunday lunches at Connelly Ave, in Kingston, sweet and yielding with a moist tender center perfumed with allspice and nutmeg. I put a request out to all my Jamaican friends for a sweet potato pudding recipe. Sandy was kind enough to email me a recipe out of "The Real Taste of Jamaica" by Enid Donaldson which is an authentic compendium of classics. (Thanks Sandy! I really should get a copy...)
I adjusted the recipe so that I could make a small first attempt and also with what I have in the pantry.

1/2 lb sweet potato, grated
2 Tbs tapioca flour grated yam or cornmeal
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cranberries raisins
1/2 tsp baking powder
5 oz condensed milk evaporated milk + 1/2 C sugar
1 C coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup rum (I had a batch infused with peaches)
1 oz butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. Mix dry ingredients tapioca flour, flour, nutmeg, salt, and baking powder.
3. Mix condensed milk, coconut milk, grated potato, cranberries, vanilla, rum and butter.

I debated here whether to follow the recipe, since I like a more chunky style...
4. Pour milk mixture into potato mixture and beat until smooth.
4. Mix wet and dry ingredients.
5. Pour into a greased 6 inch pan.
6. Rest mixture and allow flour to hydrate about 1/2 hour.
7. Bake at 350 degrees F about 45 minutes until the centre is set..
8. Serve hot or cold.
Serves 6

February 28, 2011

Baking for One Banana Bread

I bought bananas recently and they so quickly turned that I had to contemplate what I wanted make with them. When we were little, the banana trees in the backyard were always bearing. Dad would gallumph out in his wellington boots and old t-shirt (banana sap stains black!), cut off a massive hand of bananas and bring it back into the house to ripen.

With constantly ripening fruit, Mum would make banana bread on a regular basis. I loved eating it hot and steaming, straight out of the oven. We got to take slices for lunch at school. I've been trying to cut down on sweets and make smaller batches so I can't go crazy with the portions. This batter will make one small bread loaf, perfect for 2-3 servings. To accommodate sensitive taste-buds, I've added a Tbs of buttermilk which should completely react with the baking soda, eliminating the metallic aftertaste, also giving the batter a good lift.

Did I say I love eating banana bread straight out of the oven? Nuff said, enjoy!

1 large banana, roughly mashed
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 fl oz rum

1/2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbs buttermilk powder
1/8 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup(s) all-purpose flour

Preheat oven at 350

Mash banana, melted butter and sugar add wet ingredients and mix. Adding the sugar in with the wet ingredients, allows the sugar to melt, and caramelize during baking rather than just adding sweetness.

Stir together dry ingredients then mix in with wet ingredients lightly, just incorporating (take care not to overwork the batter! there should be lumps). Pour batter into parchment lined small bread tin and bake for 40 minutes.

February 27, 2011

Okinawan sweet potato Haupia coconut pie w/ Almond shortcrust

My friend Doreen introduced me to the quintessential Hawaiian dessert over Christmas break-Okinawan sweet potato pie; just the creamiest crazy fluorescent purple filling perfectly accented by the very local Haupia coconut nestled in a Macadamia nut crust. Veronica made a special pilgrimage to Ani's Bakeshop factory on Iwaiwa St in Honolulu. It's in an industrial park and you'd never guess the store front was there. Apparently the only place to get the sweet potato version, which routinely sells out in the early morning. Wow what a great daughter! We loved it so much, there was only one slice left after breakfast.

Ever since then, I've been searching for ube at the grocery stores and recipes online to capture the dessert that represents the sublime vacation. Imagine my excitement when I spotted Okinawan sweet potato at 99 Ranch. I grabbed a couple of pounds to start the experiments. The beige skin hides the purple magenta jewelled colour of the flesh. When cooked, the super starchy sweet potato has an elusive floral bouquet akin to rosewater or kaffir limes (without the acid), ideal for dessert. As I investigated further I realized that Okinawan purple sweet potato (is not equal)!=ube ... My mistake- ube and Okinawan sweet potato are both purple tubers but ube is a yam (mostly used in Philippino desserts).

As overwhelmingly exhaustive as the interwebs have become, you can still search for days to find a recipe that looks reasonably documented and executed. I wanted an authentic Hawaiian recipe and was pleased to find a great blog OnoKineGrindz that covers the local HI food scene. Reid's archived Okinawan sweet potato pie recipe sounded exactly right Of course I never actually stick to the instructions, and amended the ingredients to what I had at hand in the pantry. So any failures in the outcome should be blamed on my ADD.

Almond Shortcrust (I didn't have Macadamia nuts & substituted almonds)

12 oz butter
4 Tbs sugar
1 1/2 C flour
1 C Almond meal
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine almond meal, sugar and flour in food processor. Pulse in butter until mixture is sandy. Use measuring cup to press dough into pie tin. Crimp edges, dock base and cover with strip of foil to prevent burning. Bake at 350°F for 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Set aside.

Okinawan Sweet Potato filling

1 1/2 C Okinawan sweet potatoes, steamed
8oz butter, melted
1/2 C granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 5oz can evaporated milk
1 t vanilla paste
1/4 t salt

Peel and steam sweet potato till tender.
With a hand blender whip together sweet potato, milk, eggs, melted butter and vanilla.
Mix in sugar and salt. To my dismay, the mixture became an unappetizing grey colour, all of the magnificent purple oxidized by the mixing :o( oh well I'm sure it still tastes good.
Pour onto crust and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
The brilliant purple colour returned! I was dancing with relief.

As luck would have it Gwynie made coconut custard for breakfast. So I used my half for the Haupia Layer

3 Tbs sugar
2Tbs custard powder or cornstarch
2 cups milk
4 oz coconut milk

Combine dry ingredients. Add 4 Tbs milk and stir until dissolved. Heat remaining milk and coconut milk on low until simmering. Be careful not to boil!

Add about 1 C of the heated milk to dissolved sugar/starch, mix well and return to pot stirring constantly (this helps prevent lumps), until coconut milk mixture thickens (about 5-7 minutes).
Pour over Okinawan sweet potato layer. Refrigerate until firm, about 4-5 hours, overnight is best.

Allow pie to warm to room temperature before serving with whipped cream!

February 19, 2011

Baked bananas

Growing up I took bananas for granted. We had a stand of banana trees in the backyard. The trees are actually stems that produces offshoots after the heart flower has fruited. They were honey bananas and much smaller than the typical Dole banana that we get here in the States. The sugar content was very high and the flavor ethereal. Dad would cut a hand down whenever we got close to finishing our last batch so that once off the bunch they would ripen. He had his banana cutting clothes as the sap stained terribly. Dad did not cook often but once in a while he would make dessert. This he cooked in the toaster oven and produced with great elan. I used to follow Dad around doing chores like cutting the bananas down, sanding the shelves or helping with the chopping in the backyard. I shadowed the making of these too and now give you the recipe. Enjoy Gwynie!

Baked Bananas
4 bananas
1 1/2 oz brown sugar
2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
5 tbsp rum
1/2 tsp all spice
1 oz butter (a smaller amount will work and is not totally necessary)

peel bananas and slice in 1/2 lengthwise or nice angled rounds
melt butter and place bananas in oven proof dish
sprinkle with sugar and all spice, pour citrus juice and rum over
Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes turning from time to time until brown
Dad notes that if it is too sweet use less sugar next time

February 10, 2011

Pickled Onions

My friend passed away recently and I wanted to post as a memorial to her. She was intensely private so I will not name her. Lets call her J.

J made pickled onions as a garnish for appetizers she brought to a party and I begged for the recipe. Since I have missed the moment of getting her recipe, I have looked up a few recipes on the web and I used this one Food In Jars

I didn't make the full amount. I sliced one red onion, boiled and drained. I made the brine with rice wine vinegar, water, sugar and salt, Zahrains gumbo spice and brought to a boil. I placed the onions into a large jar and poured the hot brine over. I didn't do any canning but put the pickles in the fridge for use. Its delicious! I add these to my chicken salad and on top of cheese and toast. On a side note I also use the brine for a dressing for sliced carrots which is also very fun. I'll miss you J! Gwynie

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