Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Orange Olive Oil Madeleines

Today, something horribly wonderful happened.

Joss Whedon (yes, the actual Joss Whedon, Avengers-Buffy-Firefly-Toy Story wait- I didn't know he wrote the screenplay for Toy Story! That makes me love him even more than I thought I possibly could!) tweeted my string ensemble's arrangement and video of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog:

ahsdjfklaskjdhfjkadlskjdhfjdalskjdhfjkla WHAT IS AIR.


I suddenly had over 50 Youtube notifications in my inbox from within a single hour. We went from just over 4,000 views (and that was after a few "tumblr-famous" people had already reblogged our video) to over 15,000 views in less than a day. CRAZY.

And still, though the numbers seem impressive, my mind is still boggling over the fact that the venerable Joss Whedon, master of all things horrible and/or shiny in the 'verse, has seen our video, let alone that he liked it. Scratch that, loved it! A video with me in it! My quartet! Joss Whedon! Me!

Donna Noble: spirit animal

Yeah... so what does this have to do with food? Absolutely nothing.

But I did make more madeleines yesterday!

taken with my iPhone
I adapted the recipe I used previously for these lemon madeleines and came up with these orange olive oil madeleines! I actually think these are moister and fluffier than the previous ones, and now I don't have to smell that awful raw butter stench anymore! (I seriously don't know what's wrong with me, but I can't stand that smell.) Plus, I'm willing to bet that these are healthier!

Since most of the steps are identical to those of the lemon madeleine post, I won't spam you with the requisite amount of photos I usually include, and will just give you the instructions instead!

(Still freaking out about Joss Whedon.)


- 2 eggs
- ¾ tsp vanilla extract
- ⅛ tsp salt
- ¼ cup white sugar
- ½ cup AP flour
- 1 Tbsp orange zest
- ¼ cup olive oil
- (optional) powdered sugar for decoration

NOTE: The batter using olive oil instead of melted butter is a little more liquid-y, so it makes 28 mini madeleines (which probably translates to 14 regular-sized madeleines).

• Preheat oven to 375°F. (You may choose to turn on the oven a couple of steps later, after having beat the eggs/sugar mixture and grated/zested the orange peel, but it won't hurt to preheat early so that you don't forget.)

• In a medium to large-sized mixing bowl, beat the eggs, salt, and vanilla extract at high speed until light and slightly frothy, using an electric mixer or hand mixer.

• Beating constantly, gradually add the sugar, and continue to beat the mixture on high speed until it is thick and pale, and ribbons form when you lift the beaters. (Beating for 3 to 5 minutes was sufficient time in my case.)

• Sift the flour into the rest of the mixture a third at a time, gently folding in the flour after each addition.

• Add the orange zest.

• Now, measure out ¼ cup of olive oil. This is the point at which I prepared the madeleine molds, rather than right after preheating the oven. You can use some of the ¼ cup olive oil to grease the molds, using the very tips of a basting brush. Then lightly flour each mold.

• Now, use the rest of the ¼ cup olive oil, pouring it around the edges of the batter. Quickly but gently fold the olive oil into the batter.

• Spoon your batter into the molds; the batter should slightly mound above the tops. Again, the olive oil version is more liquidy, so the mounds won't be as prominent as they would be with a butter recipe.

• Bake for 14 to 17 minutes, or until the madeleines are golden and the tops spring back when gently prodded by your fingertip. (Mine baked in 15 minutes.)

• Let the madeleines cool in the molds, for at least 15 minutes. Pop them out of the molds carefully, and let cool on a plate.

I made these late at night, so the lighting is very different from usual!

I personally think these taste best when still warm - go ahead and test "a few" after they cool off a bit :P - but they can keep for a few days, and are even good beyond that when dunked in coffee or tea! Because the olive oil ones are moister, you may want to lay them shell-side down on a dry paper towel in a container.

(Another note: the grooves/shell patterning are more noticeable when using nonstick molds, rather than silicon. Nonstick pans also give a more golden coloring to the madeleines. However, nonstick cooking ware have chemicals, or so my mom tells me, and in any case, silicon is so easy to clean up at the very end!)

I brought these to work and also gave a few to friends (shoutout to Maddie and Marza!), and they all loved them! (And then Maddie told me that one of her summer course professors was raving about our video in class.)

Brilliant end to the day! (Or should I say... horrible?) <3

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies (gluten free!)

If I could only eat one type of cookie for the rest of my life, these would be it.

Flourless peanut butter cookies. That's right. No hands flour, ma!

I first made these when one of my friends found out she had Celiac disease. I think these were the cookies that launched my recent obsession with baking.

They are definitely that good. Since then, I've made them two more times within the past couple of months. And somehow, I've managed to make things harder for myself each time. The second time I thought- wow, how good would these be with bananas? Only to find out quite vividly the next day that fresh bananas turn brown (not shown... heh) when in contact with warm surfaces.

Doh. This time, I tried to make these in 85+ °F weather. I probably would have made it unscathed (well, the cookies would have- no Amy's were harmed in the making of these cookies!) if not for the fact that I stopped every other minute to take photographs.

By then, so much moisture from the humid air had seeped into the batter that it effectively messed up the ratio of wet to dry ingredients... resulting in cookies that spread way too much in the oven.

These cookies do spread out, but the humidity doesn't help. This could probably be solved by sticking the dough into the fridge for a couple of minutes before shaping them into balls, but even the thin cookies are very delicious! And it's a great excuse to keep all the cookies to yourself. Or, you could salvage them by forming them into smaller cookies using any type of cookie cutter (or even a bottlecap could do the job)!

The original recipe comes from Averie Cooks, who also has other variations of these cookies, including a chocolate chunk version! Yummy.

- ¾ cup white sugar
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 egg *
- 1 cup peanut butter
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- (optional) brown sugar and/or white sugar for sprinkling.
*I used a large egg.

Preheat your oven to 350°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine all the ingredients in one bowl! It may be easier to mix the sugars, egg, and vanilla extract first, and then add in the peanut butter, but you can also add everything in one go. I don't really need to provide a step-by-step process for this, but here are some photos:

(Admittedly, I did decide to replicate these cookies because I wanted to show you the neat manicure I did the other day! That, and I've received requests for the recipe from a few friends, which makes me really happy!)

Right. So, mix all the ingredients together!

Roll your dough into small spheres, about 1-inch wide. (You could just as easily make them larger or smaller, but adjust the baking time accordingly.) Optional: you could sprinkle some brown and/or white sugar on the top of the cookies. (You can tell that these particular cookies are already starting to spread too much.)

You could leave them in spheres, which is the easiest and most fool-proof option, or you could experiment!  Many peanut butter cookies have a distinctive criss-cross patterning, so you could use a fork to create that design.

(Lightly press the tines into the cookie dough, and drag it back and forth to deepen the grooves. You don't want the cookies to flatten out too much, because as I mentioned, they do tend to spread during baking.)

Or, you might try this cute button design that I randomly decided to make!

Press down lightly on the cookie to make a slightly flatter (plateau!) top.

I then used a cap from a bottle of water to create the circle.

Then use a toothpick to create four little circles!

(These looked really cute the first time I made them.)

Bake for 10 minutes, but keep an eye on the cookies. These bake very quickly, and could go from raw to burnt in a matter of a few extra minutes.

Mine usually bake quite well when I leave them in for 12 minutes, with a slight crisp to the bottom of the cookies, 10 minutes for softer, chewier cookies. I only left them in for 10 minutes this time, because by the time I stopped watching Confederations Cup coverage to check on the cookies, they had already spread out, and I decided to nip that in the bud the best I could.

I was just going to show you photos from the last time that I made these...

But I don't give up so easily! I realized that I had a nice heart-shaped cookie cutter, and since these cookies are quite soft, even after cooling for 20 minutes, they were nicely transformed into cute little hearts!

Perfect little snacks, and I just so happened to go out for dinner with a couple that work with my mom that just got engaged (that sentence had too many clauses, didn't it...), so it all worked out perfectly!

(Plus, the scraps from the cookie-cutting endeavor are great for snacking. Shh, don't tell my mom where I'm planning to hide the cookie container!)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Cai Fan - 菜饭 (Bok Choy Rice with Chinese Sausage)

This, to me, is comfort food.

Cai Fan (Cài fàn: 菜饭, sometimes also transliterated as chai fan, literally meaning "vegetable rice") reminds me of home, because I asked my mom to make it so often when I was younger. Even though it's not her favorite thing to eat, she has always obliged. (She's always said that when it comes to food, and basically everything else besides gender and height, I'm most like my dad, who also loves this dish. It's true: we're both Red Sox fans, both tend to procrastinate, and are both socially awkward penguins. Me more than him.)

Although I call it comfort food, it's not comfort food in a Paula "more butter!" Deen kind of way. In fact, this dish is healthy while still being hearty, at least in my opinion. Of course, how healthy it is tends to depend on how much you eat... and I tend to err on the side of eating my entire body's weight worth if I can get away with it.

In addition, it's gluten free! (Be sure to check that all the ingredients are actually gluten free if you're very allergic though. I didn't use any soy sauce, so that shouldn't be a problem, but also check the sesame oil if you're using that for an extra drizzle of flavor.) [EDIT] A commenter has informed me that Chinese sausage often actually has gluten/wheat products in it, so you'll have to substitute some other kind of meat (like salt-cured pork, which is actually a very tasty alternative) for the dish to be gluten free.

We tend to make this in a big batch, because it tastes just as good (if not better) the next day for lunch, and can be stored in the fridge for about a week. I say "if not better," because when heated in the microwave, the greens get mushier and gain an almost creamy consistency, blending well with the rice.

(By the way: did you know that "bok choy" is the English transliteration of the Cantonese pronunciation of "白菜," since the first British and American encounters of Chinese-speaking people were in typically in Hong Kong? In most of mainland China, in which Mandarin Chinese now predominates, "白菜," is pronounced "bái cài." Bai cai means "white vegetable." The bok choy I used is baby bok choy aka Shanghai bok choy, which is also referred to in Chinese as "青菜" which means "green vegetable." I believe that what "白菜" is called in America is Napa cabbage. Yeah. I'm confused too. Let's just stick to using "bok choy.")

This is a stovetop method of making cai fan, which is my favorite way because it's slightly faster and it yields guo ba (锅巴: Guō bā) the bits of browned rice that has stuck to the bottom of the pot and gained a deliciously charred flavor.

You can also make this cai fan all in a rice-cooker, but it won't have the guo ba. (Add the rice and water, then the Chinese sausage after you cook it in oil until the fat has rendered out, and then the bok choy on top. Turn on the rice cooker, and tada! A simpler way to cook cai fan! Still, the guo ba is worth the extra effort, and the stovetop version works for people who don't have rice-cookers.)

- bok choy (青菜: aka baby bok choy, pak choi, qīng cài)
- uncooked white rice
- Chinese sausage (also called 香肠, lap cheong) and/or salted meat
- vegetable oil
- salt and pepper
- (optional) sesame oil
- (optional) olive oil
NOTE: I haven't included any specific amounts, because it's really up to you how much and what ratio of ingredients you want. For me, it was approx. 1:2:2 with 3 rice-cups of rice, 5 Chinese sausages, & 6 bok choy bundles. But this is comfort food, not particle physics. Who am I to stop you if you want more sausage, or none at all?

Soak the rice in a rice-cooker bowl, or any large bowl if you don't have a rice-cooker, with water. Medium-grain rice works best. I used 3 rice-cups full (a rice-cup, which usually comes with a rice cooker, is approximately equal to 3/4 standard U.S. cup or 180 mL) of medium-grain rice and filled a rice-cooker bowl up to the 3-cup line with water, making it a 1:1 ratio. Let it sit while you're preparing the rest of the ingredients.

First, you need to wash the bok choy well. Break the bundles into individual leaves, although you can leave some of them on the stems. Cut off the tough ends of the stems. With the water running, place the bok choy leaves in a large bowl in the sink as you work to break down all the bunches into separate leaves, and let them soak in the water. A lot of sand and/or dirt will probably wash out, sinking to the bottom of the bowl.

Then, take each leaf out of the big bowl and wash them separately, to ensure that there is no grittiness left. I transferred the leaves to a large sieve. I then washed the big bowl that I used earlier, making sure to rinse out all the dirt collected at the bottom, and transferred the bok choy leaves back into the bowl, letting them wash and soak in some more water. This is probably the most time-consuming part of the whole process, but trust me, you don't want to ruin the vegetables with any dirt that might remain, because in my opinion, the veggies are the best part.

Then cut up the bok choy into smaller pieces. Line up similarly sized leaves for easier cutting. The leafy parts will shrink when cooked, so you don't have to cut them up very small, but the stem-pieces will stay pretty much the same size, so you can use your judgement for that (mine ended up being a couple of centimeters long, give or take - I didn't really measure them). Bite size pieces sounds equally inexact, but we'll go with that. As you cut them, move the bok choy pieces into a clean bowl (I just used the sieve from before) to set aside.

Now cut up the Chinese sausages. (Thanks to Dad for helping me with these shots, by the way!) Cut them on the diagonal, using one hand to make sure the sausages don't go rolling around the cutting board. Each pieces should be about a centimeter thick, I would say, but again, use your judgement. Whatever size you cut them will be whatever size they will be. Chinese sausages tend to be tougher than normal sausages (i.e. Italian or Polish sausages, hot dogs, etc.), so keep that in mind. I would compare Chinese sausages to something more like salami. You could also choose to use salted cured meat, something sort of like pancetta, I would suppose. My mom has made this before with both Chinese sausage and a salt-cured pork, and it's always delicious either way.

Throw the sausage pieces into a pot, with the stove on high heat. I used a cast-iron pot, but I'm sure any other sort of large pot would also work. (I should mention at this point that my mom took over the cooking so that I could watch and take photographs. But the steps that follow are simple enough that I'm pretty sure I can make this by myself next time!)

Anyways. Add some vegetable oil - maybe somewhere near a 1/2 Tbsp? Not really sure - again, use your judgement! It doesn't need to be too much. (Olive oil also works, but is more expensive and doesn't really affect the taste.)

Let the sausages simmer until the white (fatty) parts disappear. (Rendering the fat- see, I can be all fancy with culinary terms!)

Then add in your bok choy.

Add salt and pepper to taste. (These guidelines recommend 1/4 tsp of salt for every cup of rice, which sounds about right, but it is better to add less salt if you're not sure. You can always add more salt at the end if you need to do so, but there's no easy way to compensate for too much salt.) Let the leaves wilt, and stir it to let all the leaves get equally cooked.

Then you can add the rice, and the water in which it has been soaking, into the pot.

Stir it in with the bok choy and sausage, and allow to cook on high heat. Cover the pot with the lid and allow the dish to boil. When it starts to boil, turn the heat down to medium.

Stir once again. Taste the water to test the saltiness. Cover with lid, and cook for five minutes.

Turn the heat down to low, and let it cook for 10 to 15 more minutes, or until the rice is soft and the water has been completely absorbed. The bok choy will have become more yellow in color, and soft as well.

Add a drizzle of olive oil or spicy sesame oil for some more flavor, if you'd like!

Serve it up, and tuck in!

Mmm. Can't wait until I have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow!