johnny cakes

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A johnny cake is fried bread eaten in Jamaica as an accompaniment to spicy dishes. Ackee and saltfish or bully beef (corned beef with tomatoes, onions, and scotch bonnet pepper) are even more satisfying eaten with a fluffy chewy and hot johnny cake.

Johnny Cakes (adapted from Food 52)
Prep time: 45 minutes (includes resting time)
Cook time: 4 minutes per batch
Servings: Makes about 30-36 cakes

3 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 cup water
vegetable oil for frying

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Cut in the butter until it is the size of small peas. Mix in the water and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel and let rest 30 minutes. Roll out half the dough onto a lightly floured surface, about 1/4 inch thick, and cut into rounds. Repeat with the other half.

Meanwhile, heat about an inch of oil in a large skillet. Stick a wooden chopstick in the oil; when tiny bubbles gather round the stick, the oil is hot enough. Fry dough circles in batches of five. When one side is lightly browned, flip over on to the other side. Drain fried cakes on a plate lined with paper towels. Eat right away.

To reheat leftover johnny cakes put them in a 200˚F/100˚C oven for about 5 minutes. Never reheat them in a microwave as they become tough.

blueberry butter cake

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We’ve been in Calgary here in Canada for 4 days, and I’ve been looking forward to berries of any kind: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. So I dressed up my mother-in-law’s butter cake with 2 cups of fresh blueberries. It came out lightly sweet, just right for a summer cake, and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which was sweeter.

Blueberry Butter Cake

Have at room temperature:
1 pound butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups fresh blueberries
Powdered sugar for dusting, optional

Pre-heat the oven 325˚F/180˚C. Grease and flour one 9×13 inch baking dish or a 10-cup bundt cake pan. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and vanilla. Add the sugar all at once and cream until fluffy and light. Add the eggs one at a time until just combined.

In another large bowl whisk together the flour and baking powder. Add the flour in 3 batches to the butter mixture. Gently fold in the blueberries.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and tap the pan lightly on the counter to dislodge any air bubbles. Then bake 35-40 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the cake springs back when pressed lightly towards the middle.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack 15 minutes. It’s not necessary to remove the cake from the baking dish to serve it. Invert the bundt pan and remove the cake. Thoroughly cool the cake then dust lightly with powdered sugar, if desired.

breakfast bird’s nest

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Bird’s Nest

6 large eggs
12 slices Canadian bacon
white pepper to taste
1 stalk scallion, chopped fine
Sriracha sauce for serving

Preheat the oven 350˚F/180˚C.

Slit each slice of bacon 1 inch from the edge towards the center. Place one slice of bacon in one cup of a six-cup muffin tin, slit edges on the bottom. Overlap the slit edges so that the bacon slice fits the cup. The top of the bacon should stick up slightly over the top of the muffin cup. Place another slice of bacon in the same cup overlapping the slit edges to fit. Repeat.

Crack open an egg into each cup lined with two Canadian bacon slices. Sprinkle a little white pepper to taste in each cup—salt is not necessary. Sprinkle some scallion on top of each egg.

Bake in the oven 10-15 minutes—ten for a runny yolk, 15 for well-done. Using a thin blade, ease around the edge of each nest and scoop out of the muffin tin. Serve hot with Sriracha sauce.

chocolate meringue tower

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Called a vacherin glacé, a meringue tower is three layers of pavlova with a whipped cream sauce in between the layers. It is incredibly sweet.

4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/3 cups superfine sugar
1 cup toasted slivered almonds, ground fine
1 8-oz block cream cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup chocolate chips
chocolate syrup
toasted slice almonds, optional

Preheat oven to 300˚F/175˚C. Prepare 2 baking trays. Line them with parchment paper. On one parchment, draw two 8-inch circles about an inch apart. On the second piece of parchment draw one 8-inch circle in the center. Flip over and set aside.

Place egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl. With an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip on medium speed until soft peaks form (the tips curl over). Gradually add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high speed until stiff glossy peaks form (the tips stand up straight). Gently fold in the 1 cup ground almonds.

On the prepared parchment papers, mound and smooth the meringue inside the circles. Bake 35 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the meringues sit for one hour in the oven. Do not open the door. After one hour, take out the meringues and gently peel off the parchment one meringue at a time. If not using right away, wrap airtight and place in an airtight canister until ready to use. In Bangkok’s humidity this is an essential step.

One to two hours before serving, make the sauce. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the cream cheese and butter. Blend until smooth. Add the sugar and the cream. Exchange paddle for the whisk attachment and whip until soft peaks form (the tips curl over). This can be made ahead, in which case, cover and chill until ready to use.

To assemble, place one meringue disk on a plate. Spoon 1/3 of the sauce on top. Sprinkle 1/3 of the chocolate chips and toasted sliced almonds, if using, on top. Cover with another disk and repeat two more times. For the top layer, drizzle chocolate syrup over the top. Chill 1-2 hours. Serve cold.

Tish Boyle’s marble bundt cake

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This recipe is chocolate-y smooth and delicious. It can easily be halved to make a smaller bundt if you decide that a bigger one is too much. But I say you can never have too much cake.

Tish Boyle’s Marble Bundt Cake

Ingredients
• 340g unsalted butter
• 342g cake flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon Salt
• 500g caster sugar
• 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 5 large eggs, room temperature
• 120ml (1/2cup) whole milk
• 20g natural cocoa powder (e.g. Hershey’s)
• 90ml water

Method :
1. Preheat oven to 375˚F/ 190˚C. Grease the inside of a 10” bundt pan and dust with flour. If the pan has a dark nonstick finish, reduce heat 25˚ and check the cake to see that it is done 5 minutes before the baking time is up.

Cake Baker’s Note: I melted 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and added a heaping tablespoon flour to it. I brushed this mixture on the inside of the pan. It should stick to the sides, not run off. If it does, add a bit more flour. You want to generously butter the pan so that the cake will release.

2. Sift cake flour, baking powder and salt and set it aside.

3. In a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter at medium speed for 2 minutes until creamy.

4. Add sugar and continue to cream for 4 minutes at medium to high speed.

5. Add vanilla extract. Add eggs one at a time and mix at medium speed until well mixed.

6. Add sifted flour mixture in 3 additions and alternating it with 2 additions of milk.

7. Mix cocoa powder with water in a small bowl. Add 3 cups of the batter to the cocoa mixture and stir until blended.

8. To make the marble effect, you need to have thin layers alternating plain with chocolate, starting with the plain layer. Spoon 1/3 of plain batter into the prepared bundt pan and smooth it to an even layer. Spoon 1/3 of the chocolate mixture over the plain layer and smooth to even out. Repeat until all batter is used up finishing with the chocolate layer.

9. Bake for 60-75 minutes or until a skewer inserted near the center comes out clean. Or the cake, when pressed lightly, bounces back. Cool 15 minutes in the pan on a wire cooling rack. Then unmold the cake and cool completely. When it is cooled, dust some powdered sugar on top, if desired.

chocolate malt layer cake, version 2.0

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Chocolate Malt Layer Cake (adapted from Jennifer Farley @ Savory Simple)
This Malted Buttercream is lightly sweet but faintly malted. The malt flavor needs to be more intense to compete with the chocolate. Rather than add more malt, I added vanilla and almond extracts to ramp up the flavor. To be different, this time I pressed cappucino wafer rolls around the sides of the cake.

Chocolate Cake
10.5 oz. all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 oz unsweetened cocoa powder (by volume)
1 3/4 cup half and half (or 50% cream and 50% whole milk)
1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
9 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
21 oz superfine sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature

Malted Buttercream
1 cup superfine sugar
1/4 cup water
5 egg whites
16 oz. unsalted butter, sliced, cubed and at room temperature
1/3 cup malted milk powder dissolved in 2 tablespoons milk, e.g. Horlick’s
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Topping
1/2 cup malted milk balls, chopped, e.g. Whoppers (substitute:  Milo Nuggets)

Make the cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Place an oven rack in the middle position. Grease  two 9” pans.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Sift in the cocoa powder and whisk until the dry ingredients are evenly combined. In a separate small bowl, combine the half and half with the vanilla.
3. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on low speed 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to incorporate before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer still on low speed, alternate between adding the dry ingredients with wet ingredients, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Add one third of the flour mixture followed by half of the vanilla mixture. Continue mixing, adding half the remaining flour mixture then the rest of the milk mixture. Finally, combine the rest of the flour mixture in the batter. Scrape down the sides well, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl. Turn the mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds.
4. Distribute the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans, using an offset spatula to even out the tops. Tap the pans lightly on the counter to dislodge any air bubbles.
Cake Baker’s Note: I wrapped the pans with wet MagiCake strips which prevent a dome from forming on top of the cakes
5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, approximately 30-35 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pan on wire racks before removing them from the pans.

Make the buttercream:
1. While making the buttercream, chill the malted milk balls.
2. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid. Turn the heat on high and cover.
3. While the sugar syrup is heating up, place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until a soft peak forms, then turn down the speed to medium.
4. Once the sugar syrup is simmering, remove the cover from the pan and turn the heat down to medium high. Cook the syrup for 5 minutes or until it reaches a temperature of 235˚F on a candy thermometer. Fit the pouring shield on the mixing bowl and then slowly and carefully pour the syrup down the side of the bowl into the meringue while the machine is still mixing. Add the syrup very slowly to avoid scrambling the egg whites.
5. Once the syrup is added, turn the mixer back up to high and allow the meringue to cool as it whips. This can take up to 20 minutes.
6. Once the meringue has cooled to room temperature, slowly add the butter one piece at a time. The meringue will deflate slightly and it may look curdled, but keep whipping because it will come together.
7. Once all the butter is incorporated slowly drizzle in the malted milk mixture until the frosting is evenly combined. Add the vanilla and almond extracts. Frosts one 9” double layer chocolate cake or one 8” triple layer chocolate cake.

Assemble the cake:
1. Place the first layer of cake on a revolving cake stand and remove the parchment paper. Re-invert.  Placing a cardboard round below the cake is optional but it will make transporting the cake easier after it is assembled. Crush the malted milk balls in a food processor, pulsing to achieve a coarse crumb. Set aside.
2. Spread approximately one cup buttercream on the trimmed cake top and spread it around evenly with an offset spatula. Add more buttercream as needed to reach the desired thickness, about 1/2-3/4 inch. Repeat. Use an offset spatula to apply a thin layer of frosting to the side and top of the cake. Use a bench scraper to remove excess frosting. Discard rather than reuse because of the crumbs in it. Chill in the refrigerator 30 minutes to set this first layer of buttercream. This is called the crumb coat. Then cover the entire cake with a final layer of frosting. Top with crushed malted milk balls.
Cake Baker’s Note: To make a plain border around the malted milk balls, carefully set an 8” spring form pan lightly on top with the bottom removed. This will leave an inch border around the edges if using 9” layer cake pans. Sprinkle the crushed malted milk balls evenly inside the opening of the cake pan. Carefully remove the pan. Et voilà. Malted milk balls in the center surrounded by a plain border.
3. Cake is best when served at room temperature. Refrigerate leftover cake. Let cake come to room temperature again before serving, because eating cold buttercream is like eating just plain butter, only sweetened.

 

apple snow

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The heat wave finally broke with the rain this week. Still, I’ve been looking for cold desserts like this apple snow. Most North Americans might say this is a dessert to be enjoyed in the fall, but to my mind, it’s a dessert for any season. It’s light, tart, and just sweet with a refreshing hint of  apple.

Apple Snow (adapted from the Telegraph)
Prep time: 30 minutes
Chill time: 1-2 hours

9 small apples, peeled, cored, and chopped coarsely
75g superfine or caster sugar
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 egg whites
250ml whipping cream

Place apples in a saucepan with 40g of the sugar, the zest and juice of the lemon. Cover and simmer on low heat 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the apples begin to soften. Transfer apples to a food processor and process until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

In a mixing bowl, make a meringue by whisking the eggs and the remaining 35g sugar until stiff and glossy. In another bowl, whisk the cream until soft peaks form. Fold the meringue and the whipped cream into the cooled apples. Chill and serve.

Serving suggestions: Canned fruits, chilled and drained, such as long-an and rambutan or fruit cocktail and mandarin orange segments; and wafer cookies. In the fall, substitute ginger cookies to add a little heat and spice.

soy-glazed chicken

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This recipe is a family favorite. I found it in a cookbook whose title I forgot and over the years I’ve perfected it. This recipe never fails to disappoint for the juiciness and flavor of the chicken. Five Spice Powder is available from Asian supermarkets; it has a wonderful anise scent without being overpowering. It adds just the right amount of flavor to the chicken.

Soy-Glazed Chicken
Marinating time: 8-12 hours
Roasting time: 35-45 minutes

1 x 3 pound whole roasting chicken
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sweet dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon black pepper, coarse ground
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoons Five Spice Powder

In a small bowl, blend the soy sauces, garlic and onion powders, black pepper, oil, and Five Spice Powder. Put the chicken in a large zipper lock bag and pour the soy sauce mixture over the chicken. Close the bag and turn the chicken so that the marinade gets evenly distributed. Refrigerate for 8-12 hours, turning once half way through.

Preheat the oven to 450˚F/230˚C. Prepare a roasting pan with rack. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place it on the rack, tucking the wings back. Discard the marinade.

Roast 10 to 15 minutes at 450˚F/230˚C then reduce the heat to 350˚F/175˚C. This crisps the skin and the soy sauces caramelize it. Continue roasting for 25 to 30 minutes. At 25 minutes, test the thigh and breast with an instant read thermometer. The internal temperature of the chicken should be 165˚F. Be careful not to over cook the chicken or the breast will dry out.

Carve the chicken and serve it with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce for chicken (Also available at Asian supermarkets), and a spicy chili dipping sauce (recipe to follow).

Spicy Chili Dipping Sauce

2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
2 large cloves garlic
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons water

Put all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.

arborio rice pudding with rambutan and toasted almonds

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I had half a cup of arborio rice left over. Not enough to make a risotto but enough to make rice pudding. Arborio rice cooks up quickly and has a delicious al dente quality that makes this dish appealing.  I like to serve this with mandarin oranges but the season is passed, so I used tinned rambutan instead. This dessert is cool and lightly sweet, with a toasty crunchy slightly bitter flavor from the almonds, perfect for another hot summer night.

Arborio Rice Pudding (adapted from Food Network)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Cooling time: 10-20 minutes
Refrigerating time: about 1 hour to cool and set

Yield: 4-6 servings

1 cup water
1/2 tablespoon butter
pinch of salt
1/2 cup Arborio rice
2 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
couple dashes of cinnamon for sprinkling

In a medium saucepan, heat water, butter and salt until it boils. Add the rice and bring it to a boil again. Reduce heat to the lowest setting. Shake the pan occasionally and cook until the water is absorbed, 10-15 minutes. The rice will be almost al dente.

In another saucepan, bring milk, sugar and vanilla to a boil. Add the cooked rice and simmer over medium-low heat until rice absorbs most of the milk. The mixture will start to look thick and silky, about 15-20 minutes.

Transfer pudding to individual serving dishes and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until cold and set. Sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on top. Serve with cold fruit like rambutan or mandarin oranges. For convenience’s sake, I used tinned rambutan in syrup. Put a spoonful or two of the syrup on top of the rice and fruit. Sprinkle toasted sliced almonds overall.