October 31, 2010

Coffin Bread (棺材板)

One last Halloween post. Here is a delicious main dish type of recipe: coffin bread (棺材板). This is an actual dish originating from Tainan, Taiwan, the city my dad is from (so it seems appropriate that I should know how to make this). There, coffin bread is found served at the night markets along with all those other yummy Taiwanese dishes.

So what is coffin bread? Think of it as Tainan's version of San Francisco's clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. It's a crunchy golden toast "coffin" filled with a creamy seafood chowder. In Taiwan, the bread isn't actually coffin shaped; that's my own little Halloween twist/literal take on the name. Instead the bread is a fried, hollowed out toast block, the perfect vehicle for the hot chowder.

Graveyard Cupcakes

Happy Halloween! Anyone have any fun Halloween plans? Or a cool Halloween costume planned? I celebrated Halloween early with a party on Friday where I served all of these treats that I've been posting about here. It was quite fun, and in case you were wondering, I dressed up as Medusa with a black toga and snakes in my hair.

One of the desserts I served at the party were these Graveyard Cupcakes. The cool thing about these is that this decoration method can basically be applied to any cupcake/frosting recipe of your choice. All you need are some chocolate cookie crumbs and the tombstone cookies. I ended up making two types of cupcakes: pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and chocolate peanut butter cup cupcakes with peanut butter frosting (recipe below).

I wanted the tombstone cookies to look gray like stone, so I thought to make a black sesame shortbread cookie decorated with a bit of melted chocolate. And to make them easier to prepare, I sliced them from a log rather than cut them all out individually. I was also inspired by those kiddy crafts that use cookie crumbs as dirt, like potted flower cakes or dirt & worms. It turned out quite well with these cupcakes.

October 30, 2010

Almond Jelly (杏仁豆腐)

To continue with the Halloween theme, here's a recipe for a dessert that's easy yet quite impressive: ghostly almond jelly. This was my first time making almond jelly from scratch, but it turns out it's really simple. By making it from scratch, rather than from an instant powder, I could ensure that it was firm enough that shapes could be cut out without the jelly falling apart.

Isn't this cool? The jelly fluoresces under a black light. It's perfect for Halloween since it's ghosts are white, and it glows. The reason for this is that I replaced some milk with tonic water. Tonic water contains quinine, a bicyclic aromatic compound that fluoresces when exposed to UV light, emitting a blue light (my inner nerd is delighted by this, haha). Quinine is slightly bitter, but when it's not noticeable when diluted in the almond jelly. I can totally see this used for purposes other than Halloween as well. Wouldn't star cutouts be awesome for like a space-themed party, Pacman for a video game party, or maybe jellyfish for an under the sea/Nemo party :D?

October 29, 2010

Tomato Soup & Boney Grissini

The nights are getting longer and the weather's getting colder now that fall is finally making its official appearance (after all those randomly hot summer-like days). What better way to warm up than with a bowl of soup? And of course it's always nice to have something to accompany the soup.

I chose to cook up a pot of tomato soup since Halloween's right around the corner and the red-orangeness of the soup just seems to fit... evoking thoughts of blood and vampires. To accompany the soup, I thought it would be fun to make some bone-shaped grissini to further play on the Halloween theme. A bowl of creamy tomato soup with a dollop of creme fraiche accompanied by a couple of peppery bread sticks make a delightful way to enjoy autumn.

October 16, 2010

Domo TKOs

I'm not too sure why, but I find Domo-kun absolutely adorable. So, it was bound to happen that I'd bake something Domo-themed. In case you don't know who or what Domo-kun (どーもくん) is, he's the mascot of NHK, a Japanese TV station. He's a brown, fuzzy, rectangular creature with a perpetually open mouth who apparently hatched from an egg, and he appears in short stop-motion segments on NHK.

I got the idea to make some sort of Domo chocolate cookie, but it couldn't just be any old cookie. And then it hit me, why not Domo-fy TKOs? TKOs, Thomas Keller Oreos, are what I think of as a grown-up's Oreo. They're rich and decadent with salted chocolate wafers sandwiched around a creamy white chocolate ganache center. And so I did just that, giving a playful makeover to the fancy adult treat.

*Edited 1/30/2011: To all of you who want an alternative dough to work with, try Domo Icebox Cookies. The dough is easier to work with, and they aren't sandwich cookies. But, of course, they're equally cute!

October 03, 2010

Chocolate Orange Madeleines

So... I'm not very fond of oranges. I love all other types of citrus, but orange has never been my thing. I do have a few exceptions (orange zest, orange extract, and orange chocolate pairings), but any other form of orange is a no-go for me. Thus, these madeleines fit the bill perfectly; they combine chocolate and orange in such a way that even non-orange fans such as myself can't resist their charm.

Originally this recipe called for lemon zest, but I didn't have any lemons, so I subbed the zest of a whole orange instead. It was definitely a good move; chocolate and orange make a good combination (then again, chocolate seems to make everything better :D). This delightful recipe by Pierre Hermé was quite successful; it was one of those few instances where my cookies looked exactly like the cookbook picture. These madeleines are like mini cakes, with a tender crumb and distinctive humps, perfect with a cup of tea.