white rose cupcakes with rose butter cream

DSC04691I never did get around to making this cake from Butter and Brioche,  but I adapted the recipe to cupcakes. I recommend halving the cake recipe and only making 1/3 of the rose butter cream recipe. The result is light and sweet, though the rose flavor is not overpowering.

White Rose Cupcakes with Rose Butter Cream

Servings: Makes about 24 cupcakes

• 125g / 4 1/2 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature
• 250g / 9 oz. caster sugar
• 1 whole egg and 3 egg whites (90ml), lightly beaten at room temperature
• 225g / 8 oz. all purpose flour
• 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 180 ml / 6 fl. oz. whole milk, at room temperature
• 1 teaspoon rose flavoring
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Butter cream (measurements for 1/3 recipe in parens. at the end)
• 186g / 6.5 oz. unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 300g / .6 lb. icing sugar
• 75 ml / 2.5 fl. oz. heavy cream
• 1 1/2 teaspoons rose flavoring
• Pink food coloring (just a pinch)
• Crystallized roses for decoration, optional

1. Pre-heat the oven to 170˚C / 325˚F. Line 2  cupcake tins with paper cupcake liners. Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until light, pale and fluffy, roughly 4 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time, until well incorporated.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until just combined. Add half of the milk and the rose and vanilla extracts, continuing to beat, and then add half the remaining flour and milk. End with the remainder of the flour. Beating until just incorporated.
3. Scoop a spoonful of batter into each cupcake liner. Do not over fill. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the top of one cupcake is firm to the touch and all tops are lightly browned. Allow the cupcakes to cool in their tins 10 minutes. Once cooled, frost with rose butter cream.
4. While the cakes are cooling, make the rose butter cream. Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the butter until pale and creamy, roughly 4 to 5 minutes. Add the icing sugar and cream and continue to beat until smooth. Add the rose extract to taste.
5. Add just a pinch of pink food coloring to the frosting. Stir a few times or just until the frosting is streaked pink and white. Using a small spatula, frost the tops of the cupcakes.

no-alcohol fresh grape cake with demerara sugar

I changed up so many things in this recipe from The Kitchn that it’s half mine and half Sheri Castle’s, the writer-blogger of The Kitchn. I made it without alcohol, that’s one, I used extracts instead of citrus zest, and I used demerara sugar as a topping. I also switched up some things in the method; for example, coating the grapes in flour before adding them to the batter. I had read somewhere that this prevents the fruit from sinking to the bottom. They all did anyway.

DSC04670Because I used a 7-inch springform pan, I baked this cake in a slow oven for an hour instead of 40 minutes. Sheri Castle doesn’t recommend using a pan with a dark finish because dark pans tend to burn cakes. But you can. If you reduce the heat 25˚F and test for doneness 5-10 minutes before the recipe says it should finish, the cake should turn out all right. I find this cake sweet but not cloyingly sweet. The grapes add a firm juicy texture when you bite into one.

No-Alcohol Fresh Grape Cake with Demerara Sugar (adapted from The Kitchn)

Serves 8

187g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
169g (3/4 cup) superfine or caster sugar
113g (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided (85g + 28g)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
236ml (1 cup) apple juice
1 1/2 cups red seedless grapes
2 tablespoons demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Brush the inside of a 10-inch light-colored metal springform pan with olive oil. (If using a dark metal pan, reduce the heat to 375˚.) Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and then brush the parchment with olive oil.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl.

Combine 3/4 cup of the sugar, 6 tablespoons of the butter, and the oil in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Quickly beat in the extracts.

Beginning and ending with the flour, add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with half of the juice, beating only until the batter is smooth after each addition. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle a tablespoon of flour on the grapes so they won’t all sink to the bottom during baking. Then sprinkle the grapes over the top of the batter. (The grapes will sink as the cake bakes.)

Bake until the top is just set, about 20 minutes. Dot the top of the cake with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Continue baking until the top of the cake is golden and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes more.

Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes before removing the pan rim. Serve the cake slightly warm or at room temperature.


Instead of apple juice, substitute a dessert wine (original recipe). Or substitute 1/2 cup white wine+1/2 cup water+1/3 cup sugar

fresh grape pie: a labor of love or never again

I love it when  big shopping malls put on a farmer’s market–you never have to break a sweat in Bangkok’s heat and you can shop for fresh food just as if you were at the “real”  market. There were all these grapes on sale for cheap so we bought red seedless grapes and these clusters of tiny blue-black grapes. I wanted to make a fresh grape cake and a grape pie. But before I get to the cake, let me mull over the grape pie a bit. It took Andy and me two days to peel a kilogram of these tiny grapes. I’m glad it wasn’t more. So this is the first and the last time I will ever bake a fresh grape pie. So let us savor this moment.

DSC04673Before it went in the oven, I had a to make a double pie crust. I used America’s Test Kitchen’s Foolproof Double Pie Crust recipe, and foolproof it isn’t to this fool. So I decided to abandon the recipe and used my own judgment. Because the dough was too wet to roll out, I added another cupful of all-purpose flour. Then it was too dry, so I added the 1/4 cup chilled vodka but skipped the 1/4 cup water. The dough was so slick it wouldn’t absorb the vodka so I had to help it out by kneading in a cup of bread flour. In for a penny, in for a pound, I suppose. I divided the dough in half and rolled one half out between two sheets of parchment paper with a little flour on the bottom sheet. I tried lining a 9-inch pie pan with half the dough.  The filling wasn’t enough to fill the pan. So I tried again–this time using an 8-inch tart pan. Just for fun, I covered the top with stars. There was just too much liquid in the filling so I tried spooning out the excess. Still, I knew there would be boil-over so I put the tart pan on a baking tray and put the whole contraption in the oven.

DSC04676Forty minutes later, I got the result. It looked all right; lightly browned, and the grape filling had boiled over the sides as I expected. Two of the stars got stained by the grape juice but apart from the looks, the pie seemed to be okay. The crust looked edible but I didn’t know if it would be flaky after adding the additional flour.

Andy and I decided we had to have this a la mode, so he went out to the “corner store”–really the 7-Eleven two blocks away– and got some Bud’s vanilla ice cream. I cut into the pie and held my breath. Each slice released from the pan without sticking, and the crust was flaky as ATK had promised. But would it have true grape flavor?

DSC04680It did. The fruit was tart, because I only added 3/4 cup of sugar, so this played nicely with the sweet coldness of the vanilla ice cream. We savored every mouthful–not only because it was delicious but because we both knew I would never make this pie again. Too labor intensive for this foodie. The truth is I had never tasted a grape pie before so I didn’t know what it was supposed to look like or taste like. The recipes I consulted, before deciding on the Allrecipes grape pie recipe, never explained why it was crucial to peel each grape, save the peels and mash the pulp then put the two back together again. If I ever made this pie again, and I won’t, I wonder what would happen if I didn’t peel the grapes? What if I did peel the grapes but didn’t process and strain the pulp? These are not burning questions, folks.


Grape Pie a la Mode with Green Tea

Meet Gracie

DSC04663This is my brand-new KitchenAid mixer! A heavy-duty professional model.

I got it as an early birthday present from Mimi and Andy.  I’ve already used it to make Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Downy Yellow Butter Cake recipe from The Cake Bible. From Rose, I learned to do what America’s Test Kitchen called “reverse creaming” a method in which all the dry ingredients are combined then mixed with the butter and the other wet ingredients. Until I got my very first KitchenAid, Moby the Great White Mixer,  I never had a mixer powerful enough to do the reverse creaming without over mixing. But I had to give Moby away when I moved back to Thailand,  and now, thanks to Andy and Mimi, meet Gracie. And look what Gracie can do!


chef john’s pasta primavera


Chef John’s Pasta Primavera (allrecipes.com)
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Ready In: 45 Minutes

Serves 6

1 bunch fresh basil
3 cups chicken broth, divided
1/2 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic
1 pound (500g) fettuccine pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large leeks, white & light green parts only, chopped
1 large bunch green onions, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
2 zucchinis, diced
1 cup chopped sugar snap peas or 1 cup green peas
1/2 cup shelled green peas (if using sugar snap peas)
1 bunch asparagus, stalks diced, tips left whole
grated Parmesan cheese, optional

1. Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil. Hold basil bunch by the stems and dip basil leaves in boiling water until bright green, about 2 seconds.    Immerse basil in ice water for several minutes until cold to stop the cooking process. Once the basil is cold, drain well. Remove basil leaves from stems and discard stems.

2. Blend basil leaves, 1 cup (1/2 cup) chicken broth, 1/2 cup (1/4 cup) olive oil, and garlic together in a food processor until smooth. Cook the green peas, if desired.
3. Stir fettuccine into the same pot of boiling water, bring back to a boil, and cook pasta over medium heat until cooked through but still firm to the bite, about 8-10 minutes. Drain.

4. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir leek and green onion in hot oil until softened, about 5 minutes. Add jalapeno (if using) and salt; cook and stir until jalapeno is soft, about 5 minutes.

5. Increase heat to medium-high. Stir 2 cups (1 cup) chicken broth, zucchini, sugar snap peas, and green peas into leek-green onion mixture; bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add asparagus and continue cooking until asparagus is soft, about 3 minutes more.
6. Pour 1/4 cup basil-garlic mixture into zucchini mixture and cook and stir until heated through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

7. Place pasta in a large bowl; pour leek-green onion mixture over pasta and pour remaining basil-garlic mixture over the zucchini mixture. Spread Parmesan cheese over the top. Toss mixture briefly to combine and tightly wrap bowl with aluminum foil. Let stand until pasta and vegetables soak up most of the juices and oil, about 5 minutes. Toss again. Serve with extra Parmesan cheese, if desired. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve with garlic toast.

four-ingredient slow cooker pulled pork with corn-cabbage slaw


pulled pork with corn-cabbage slaw on whole wheat roll


pulled pork with caramelized onions on hamburger bun

DSC04562Allrecipes.com had this recipe that had only three ingredients in it: root beer, pork, and barbecue sauce. As root beer is a rather exotic animal in these parts, I substituted Leo beer instead. I had the beer in the pantry as well as two kinds of Beerenberg sauces that I combined–one for its tomato flavor and the other for its spiciness. So I guess you could say this is a “found” recipe rather like found poetry where you use whatever is on hand to create something new. I used pork tenderloin, which some cooks on the internet said couldn’t or shouldn’t be done as it would get dry and trashy. However, the good thing about using the tenderloin instead of pork shoulder is that the tenderloin is leaner. In addition,  allrecipes.com had already adapted this recipe for pork tenderloin and I found it quite delicious. The only special equipment needed for this recipe is a slow cooker.  Switch it on and forget it–well, almost!

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 6 hours

2 pounds pork tenderloin
12 oz Leo beer plus half a can more (original recipe: root beer)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (omit if using root beer)
2 300ml bottles Beerenberg sauces, any flavor (original recipe: barbecue sauce)
caramelized onions for serving, optional
corn slaw for serving, optional
8 hamburger buns or medium rolls

Put the tenderloin in the slow cooker and cover with beer. Add the brown sugar and mix. Turn on the slow cooker to low and let it cook for 6 hours. After 6 hours, remove the tenderloin and shred it with two forks. Drain the liquid from the slow cooker and return the shredded pork to the cooker. Add the sauces. Heat through about 15-20 minutes on low in the slow cooker. Serve hot on hamburger buns topped with caramelized onions or corn-cabbage slaw.

Corn-Cabbage Slaw
Prep time: 15 minutes

1 ear of corn, kernels removed from the cob or 2 cups frozen corn
1 small cabbage, shredded, about 4 cups
1 cup grape tomatoes
4 fresh garlic cloves, minced
1 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup cheese cubes (I used mozzarella)
1-2 jalapeños, thinly sliced on the bias, optional
salt and pepper to taste

Blanch the fresh corn in boiling salted water, about 30 seconds. Drain and rinse in cool water. Drain again. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix to coat. Refrigerate until ready to use. Top the pulled pork generously with about 1/3 cup slaw.

lunch: skillet pizza and sangria


Sangria is easy. Choose any kind of clear juice–apple, pomelo, or grapefruit. Then choose a red juice–pomegranate or grape. I really don’t like to use orange juice partly because of the pulp but mostly because it makes the sangria look “muddy.” Serve it over crushed ice as a non-alcoholic drink with a quarter cup of soda water or seltzer. But it really takes off with red wine. Here’s what you do:

In a tall jar with a wide mouth, add two parts pomelo juice to 1 part grape juice, and 1 cup of apple juice to sweeten. Cut up half an orange, half an apple, quarter a small lime and put all the fruit in the juice mixture–I like the jar better than a jug. Chill. To serve, pour a quarter cup red wine in a glass, top  up with sangria and fruit, and drop in some ice cubes. Drink.

The skillet pizza comes from America’s Test Kitchen. I’ve  made it before and it is really easy to make too. Because it’s ATK tested you know it will come out. I find this dough is tasty without the fuss of making a  pizza dough with yeast. The beer adds a little yeasty-flavor but it’s not required.

Pizza dough
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup beer or water
7 tablespoons olive oil

Pizza topping
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup diced grape tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded basil for garnis

In the workbowl of a food processor put the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Turn it on to low speed. While the motor is running, pour the beer or water down the food chute. Then add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Process until the flour comes together in a shaggy ball.

Remove the dough from the food processor. Wrap dough in plastic film and let it rest 10 minutes. Divide the dough in half and wrap the remaining half in the plastic while you roll out the other half on a lightly floured board into a disk that is roughly 9 inches in diameter. I don’t stress that it’s not a perfect circle; I like the uneven look of the dough–it looks home-made.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium high heat. When it is hot, add the disk. When it begins bubble, use a fork to prick the dough. When the underside begins to brown, turn the dough over. Add the tomatoes then the cheese to the fried top. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. It takes about 4 minutes to do the first side. After I add the toppings, I cover the skillet and turn the heat down to medium, letting the dough cook for about 2-4 minutes or until browned, so that the heat has a chance to melt the cheese topping. Repeat with the remaining dough. Garnish each pizza with shredded basil leaves. Makes two personal pizzas! Did I say pizza is great paired with sangria? It is!