Christmas Baking (Part Two of Three): Buttery Lemon Tea Cakes

Depending on which part of the world you’re in, small, dome-shaped cookies made with butter and rolled in spiced sugar may be called snickerdoodles, Mexican wedding cakes or Russian Tea Cakes. What they are is actually a much richer, moreish variation on shortbread. Traditionally, these are flavored with vanilla or almond extract and either nutmeg or clove. The cookies are then rolled in cinnamon sugar before baking.

My version of these cookies, however, tastes lighter than those made using traditional recipes. For one thing, the seeming heaviness of vanilla is replaced by the perkier taste of lemon. For another, I prefer to use nutty-tasting ground cardamom for both flavoring and rolling in. The lemon-cardamom combo is a wonderful contrast: a nutty tanginess that balances the buttery-rich sweetness of the cookies.

Heavenly Chocolates: An Evening of Nama Appreciation

The invitation came as a surprise last November 28th. Benjie Pedro, the chief chocolatier and main man over at Heavenly Chocolates, left a comment here on my blog to invite me to a Sachi nama tasting event over at the shop along Roces Ave. on the fifth of December. Being the major-league chocoholic that I am, who was I to say no?

The tasting was supposed to start at five, so I thought leaving the office at four-thirty was a wise decision. Of course, on the day itself, how was I supposed to know that every Tom, Dick, and Facundo decided to go home early and congested practically every street in the Diliman – T. Morato area?! I got in twenty minutes late; fortunately, most of the other participants also ran into traffic so we didn’t really get the party started till around six.

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Salmon Sinigang in Quezon City

Sinigang, that fruit-soured broth filled with good things, is one of the primary comfort foods of Filipinos who have pulled up their stakes and moved abroad.  There’s just something so soothing about it for them. 

Some expatriate friends of mine wax poetic about their mothers’ pork sinigang, a virtuous tamarind broth made sinful by chunks of meltingly tender pork belly.  (Yes, there is no substitute for liempo in pork sinigang.)  Other friends both here and abroad sing the praises of a sweetish sinigang na bangus [milkfish] made with ripe guavas (the pink-centered ones, not those bland Thai imports) or of boldly-colored sinigang na sugpo [prawns] made scarlet with cooked crustaceans and sauteed tomatoes.  Occasionally at our house, a highly savory sinigang made with beef kalitiran, string beans, and gabing Intsik (small, roundish taro roots) makes its appearance on our dinner table. 

As far as my dad and I are concerned, though, our sinigang of choice is a tad pretentious in the sense that the protein of choice comes from beautifully pink salmon heads and bellies.  As luck would have it, I chanced upon a little hole in the wall in Quezon City where the salmon head sinigang borders on the ambrosial.

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Espresso Pistachio Biscotti

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The name sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?  It doesn’t look like much: looks pretty much like any biscotti I’ve ever seen.  Take a bite, however, and you find yourself with a mouthful of crushed pistachios and some chopped-up coffee beans.  It’s the sort of cookie that begs to be dipped into a hot milky beverage (a vanilla latte or a Moroccan Mint tea latte).  I hope this goes on CBTL’s regular menu; I think my heart would break if this were just another seasonal thing!