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Archive for May, 2011

Coming!

‘Pool night’ for the boys each Wednesday, it is time to bring out a plate of freshly baked goods, just to remind them all that a family is waiting for them back home, and we are all in this together, making the best of each situation.

What better choice than the ever trustable Spice Cookies.  It reminds us of Christmas time, ginger bread house making and children.  Here is my modify recipe.  It is called Shenyang Spice Cookies because I used local spices to make them all and they are slightly different in taste than back home, but still, the memory is there for each one of us…

Pile of cookies

Shenyang Spice Cookies

10 oz of flour

2 teaspoons of baking soda

½ teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of ground ginger

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

¾ teaspoon ground cloves

6 oz of animal fat or butter

6 oz of dark brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp almond extract

3.5 oz of white sugar (for rolling cookie in)

Preheat oven to 375F, mix together flour, baking soda, salt, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, cloves.  Set aside.

Mix together in a separate bowl, the fat, sugars (keep  1/3 cup of white sugar on the side to roll the cookies in), almond extract and egg.

Add to the first mix and use your hand to incorporate them together.  Put the dough in the fridge for 10 minutes or so.

Grease a cookie sheet.  Using two tablespoons of dough for each cookie make about 18 balls.  Roll them up in sugar and place on the cookie sheet.

Bake between 10 to 12 minutes and no more.  The cookie will appear not bake but it will harden as it cool off. 

Full view of Shenyang spice cookies

What I do usually, I bake only one cookie as a test, and let it cool, brake it apart and adjust my time of baking accordingly, because each oven and recipe are different, not to mention the cook that makes them.

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Sprite Sourdough Chocolate Cake

Sprite Sourdough Chocolate Cake

Becacine’ is ready to perform her first show in China on stage today.

Becacine in China

She has been practicing since April 10 or so, and her first performance will be one to remember.

For this very important occasion, Becacine is showing her knowledge in a ‘Sprite Sourdough Chocolate Cake’.

Here is the recipe:

8.5 ounces of ‘fed’ Becacine

8 ounces of Sprite (Sprite will act as if it were pudding put in a cake, the cake will be very light to the touch and to the mouth.  Everybody will ask for the ingredients what exactly did you use that has that ‘I don’t know about…’ in the cake!)

8.5 ounces of flour

7.5 ounces of white sugar

7 ounces of animal fat (I used here bacon grease because bacon gives a very nice ‘tang’ to chocolate, a salty yet sweet taste)

2 teaspoons of almond extract (almond and chocolate: it goes together)

1 teaspoon of salt

1.5 teaspoons of baking soda

2.25 ounces of cocoa powder

2 eggs

Combine Becacine with Sprite and flour in a large bowl, mix together and put aside, covered for about 2 hours.  It will expand and little bubbles will form.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease a baking pan.  Beat together sugar, fat, almond extract, salt, baking soda, cocoa by hands.  Add the eggs and keep on mixing.

Gently mix the chocolate mix into the ‘Becacine’ mix and combine well together.  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. 

I usually don’t glaze this cake but you could, with a dusting of powder sugar or by using the recipe of butter cream chocolate icing here.

Here is a photo of the cake with the icing on it, for those who just cannot have a piece of real homemade cake without the actual icing dripping on the edge or on the side of it…!

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homemade mayonnaise

Recipe for the homemade mayonnaise:

In a blender, mix 2 eggs yolk and 1 tablespoon of mustard.  Mix well.

Take olive oil, and using the top opening in the lid of the blender, drip very slowly olive oil, while the blender is working, VERY SLOWLY.  As it mix all together, pay attention to the sound of the mix.

 It will mix, ok, making a liquid sound and the entire yellow mix  going all over the place against the wall of the container, so far so good.  Keep on dripping VERY SLOWLY the olive oil in the small opening on the top of the blender’liq (about a quarter of a cup now). 

All of the sudden, the sound of the mix will change from a splashing to an actual thickening of the liquid becoming a very thick liquid, not splashing anymore but sounding more and more like a hollow sound.  This means that the mayonnaise is taking form and is getting very thick.  Stop the blender, take a spoon and look at the thickness of the mayonnaise here. 

You can either keep on mixing and adding more oil or just stop here if you have obtained enough mayo.  All in all, you will need about half to one cup of olive oil, depending of the size of the egg yolks used in the recipe. 

Once you have obtained the desire thickness.  Pour it in a separate bowl; adjust the taste with spices, sugar, etc… to your taste.  I usually just put a random of my spices, any will do, and it all depends with which meat the mayo will be served.  This mayo will keep well in the fridge, for about one week.

Now, don’t despair if the first time you try this, the mayo never takes the form of a nice thick mayo.  If it doesn’t, discard the whole thing (yes, I know…) and start all over again.  Start very small rather than with a lot of olive oil, just in case you have to redo it and waste a very good olive oil!

There is always a way with food.

Homemade mayonnaise

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Beef

dry aged beef

Well since I have arrived in China, I have been trying to get back into doing my dry-aged beef but to no veil. 

The problem that I have at the moment is that the meat does not want to dry-up in the fridge.  I am doing everything right but this morning, after having two big pieces of meat in the fridge for the last 9 days, drying up, one of them is not dry at all, and starting to sweat actually.

So what I came up as a conclusion is that the meat to start with, is not very fresh and maybe it has been left on a counter somewhere in the store… and re-pack again.  I don’t have any control over this, if it is the problem here.

That been said, and for been a person to never discard food, this morning my mission is to save this big piece of meat from the garbage.  

Ribeye roast

A big roast beef  is baking as I am writing those lines, another one big roast is slowly cooking in my ever trusting Crockpot (ceramic bowl, very important here) which will give me a very nice Boeuf au jus :

  • Au Jus is a French term meaning “with juice.” The term is used to describe the serving of meat, most often prime rib roast, surrounded in or served with a container of the natural juices that were produced as drippings while the meat was being cooked. It is not thick like a typical sauce or gravy.

and the other piece of meat is still drying up in the fridge, hopefully to maturity (11 to 14 days).

All these meats will be served with my homemade mayonnaise which is so easy to do, everybody should at least try it.

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Magic Jack

Presenting magicjack

First and foremost, I am not a sponsor of MagicJack nor do I get anything out of them by blogging about this little wonder.  That been written, here I go bla blating about it.

MagicJack is basically a little usb thing that I plug in an USB port on the side of my portable computer.  To that usb thing, one end is attached to the computer and the other end has a phone line attached to it.

Magic jack attached to my computer via usb port

So far so good, I am following myself in my explanation.  Magic Jack is basically a VoiP (voice over internet protocol) which is in a ‘stay at home lady language’, a phone line that works exactly like a regular home phone, but with the difference that it is using the internet as a phone line and not the phone line connected to a wall at home.

So when I travel, I take my magic jack with me and can connect my phone line wherever I am, that they have internet.  It works also in area where the ‘wifi’ is present.  I have the option to carry with me just this little toy or I can also carry with me, an actual physical phone to be connected to the other end of the magic jack and using the key pad of the phone to make calls.  If I don’t have the physical phone with me, I use the on-screen pad of the visual phone that I have as a program with magic jack.  I punch the number with the numbers on my key boards, and I am using the speakers of my portable computer to speak and to listen. 

With all that, comes a voice mail box that is always on, even when I turn my computer off.  The message is then, kept and I can listen to it, once I turn on my computer again or it is sent directly to my email.

I first heard about magic jack in 2006, 5 years ago.  At that time, I was using another VoiP system that gave me great service over the years up until I moved to China and it did not work well anymore.

So since then, I have purchased this magic jack and happily reporting that, on this side of the planet, it is working just fine.

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The bread with strawberry jam, Saturday morning...

I could see the inside warm buttercream chocolate dripping...

Let make bread today : chocolate breakfast bread that is!

First and foremost, one of the key step to do before anything else : proofing the yeast, meaning to bring it back to live, to see if it will perform well under tremendous tension and passion of a bread maker that is ‘me’! I got this huge bag of instant dry yeast at my local store.  It looks like nothing, doesn’t smell anything but… just dry coffee bean grounded… The minute I will open the bag, a ‘poof’ sound will emerge and the bag will fill up with air… a good sign that the inside has kept its freshness.
 
To proof the yeast, I mix my warm water with the desire quantity of yeast for the recipe, with the sugar of course and let it sit on the counter top, until it has double in size and just wants to get out of the container.
 

testing the yeast

 Mixing the dough for the bread : I used this recipe  for this particular bread.

first rise, before and after

 See the picture above, the mixing was done at 11h30 am and it had already double in size by 11h55am.  This yeast is very well alive inside the bread to be.

Now it is time to be creative.  I want to use my left over buttercream chocolate cake icing  I made this week.  So I divide the dough in about 3/4 and 1/4.  Put the 1/4 aside, and roll the remaining of the dough until you obtain a nice rectangle.  Spray the rectangle with the icing (you could use any kind here, to your taste), and roll the dough, starting by the shorter end, into a jelly kind of cake look.  Work as fast as possible here, the yeast is active and want to look good-by showing off!

Once I obtained a nice roll, I cut in it in half because the roll in one piece will be too big to bake in my very small oven.  By experience, I know that if I leave this roll baked without an envelope over, it will empty itself in the oven pan, leaving me with noting but a plain brown bread without much feeling left inside the bread.  So I will put an envelope over each roll, a kind of ‘diaper’, using the 1/4 dough I had put aside a the beginning of my never-ending project.

Now it is very easy to do, just roll the dough and cover the first roll with it, entirely and place it in a buttered pan, seams side down.  Do the same for the 2nd roll.  Brush both tops with egg yolk to give it a nice golden color.  Let it rise for a second time, but until almost double in size and no more.  The yeast is performing nicely here but you don’t want to kill it.  It needs to stay strong to rise up more, once in the oven.  Yeast has a time frame of rising and falling down and if I get all exited and over board here, I will just kill the athlete, not good anymore for the qualification of the olympic!

Here we go, the final result, it gave me two wonderful breads. 

The photo here is showing one bread, on the left, right out of the oven and the right photo is showing the same bread, once cool down a bit, the side of it.  I can see the chocolate filling trying to escape.  Oh, this one is going to be so good right out of the toaster tomorrow morning, with a nice cup of Joe!

still warm, had to cut a piece, the smell is unbelievably chocolaty

I could not resist.  I had to cut it, still warm, to see the inside and most of all, if it did bake all the way to the middle of it.  It is always a dilemma when making this kind of bread, because if the oven temperature is not right, the middle of the bread will not bake.  And the whole experience of making this wonderful chocolate breakfast bread would just end right here, right now..

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Chocolate Buttercream icing

cake icing made without icing sugar

After two hours of searching this morning, in three different groceries stores around me, I came back home empty-handed… no icing sugar anywhere.

Here goes my project of making banana bread out of the window, from my 26e floor, downtown Shenyang, located in the middle of one of the busiest city in China, pretty sight, looking at a banana bread dropping down below… without icing…!
 
With my back against the wall, in my kitchen with my 3 very ripe bananas, my memory came back.  Back in the old days, when I was living in the Klondike city by the Yukon river, beside Santa Claus’ house, I met a woman who was making her own chocolate buttercream icing without the actual icing sugar.  The taste was out of this world, more creamy and less sugary than the store one. 
 
Been the ever practical person that I became over the years, I kept the recipe somewhere in my filling system, on my very then, old Atari computer.  I still have the backup of all those files!
 
So here is the recipe, very easy to make, and it will set semi-hard in less than 5 minutes so work fast here (the cream will look like the Nutella).
 
1 cup of butter
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of milk
6 tablespoons of flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp of cocoa powder (if using)
 
Mix milk and flour in a pan and cook until it is almost impossible to stir anymore because of the thickness.  Remove from heat, and add the butter, sugar, cocoa and vanilla. 
 
Mix by hand until the mix looks very creamy, about 3 minutes.  Spread over your cake or keep in a jar in the fridge.  Very simple to do.
 

Banana bread with chocolate icing

 

The making of banana cake with chocolate buttercream icing

 This banana bread was made this morning, using a round pie plate and not the regular bread pan I use to make bread cake.  Why?  Because in this SOS kitchen of mine here, I use what ever I happen to have on hand to bake and to cook and to, basically, make the best out of almost nothing without always having to buy a new pan, everytime I have a great imagination to make something… which is almost every single minute!

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