Quick Post: On Pomegranates…

Fresh pomegranate (cross-section)

What I love best about pomegranates is the fact that each globular fruit is like an exquisite puzzle box that reveals cluster upon cluster of tiny, gleaming, ruby-like seeds for one’s pleasure.

Ooh, sparkly...

Whether you have the robust Persian Scarlet or a blushing Chinese Pink, pomegranate seeds add an anti-oxidant boost to salads – and are particularly fetching when dropped into a glass of chilled sparkling wine.  😉

Ensaimadas in Miniature

A fluffy, cheesy, buttery delight...

No; what’s shown above is not a tiny globular Lamington.  It’s cakey, yes.  It’s buttery, yes.  There’s cream involved, yes.  But that’s not coconut – it’s grated cheese.

Moreish, yummy, and - best of all - BITE-SIZED!

These are tea ensaimadas from The Aristocrat Bakeshop.  These are essentially miniaturized versions of the classic Malolos ensaimada: buttery rolls made with brioche dough, slathered in more butter, and sprinkled with lashings of cheese and granulated sugar.

In this particular case, butter-enriched and eggy brioche dough is rolled into balls and baked till golden.  The resulting globules are then dunked into rich cream and later dipped into a fluffy pile of grated mild cheddar.

These are elegant little bites, just the right size to fit onto the tiers of an epergne for high tea.  They are absolutely moreish: the soft buttery pillows tasting of rich cream and cheese just melt in your mouth but are – alas! – gone in a couple of bites.

Get a box or two, maybe more...

P 235.00 gets you a box of twenty and these make lovely gifts.  (My youngest aunts and my cousins were mad for these when they were here in July.)  But why share if you don’t have to?

Beef Cacao: Adding an Unusual Element to a Classic Beef Dish

Beef Salpi-What?!? Is that chocolate in the little tub?!?

I’ll admit: I never really get squeamish about food.  I have, on record, eaten snails (both French-style with garlic butter and Bicolano-style sauteed and boiled with coconut cream), horrendously malodorous cheeses (Have you ever had an extremely pungent Morbier?  Ah, ’tis a feast for the gods on toast!), frogs’ legs, stingray (!), and even snake (!!!).  So it really raises my eyebrows when people squirm when I tell them that chocolate goes well with beef.

Oh, and garlic, too.  And mushrooms.

Now, you may ask me what got into my head.  Well, first off: it wasn’t my idea but it’s something offered at Heavenly Chocolates: their savory Beef Cacao.

Beef Cacao

Beef Cacao (P 130.00 per serving) is one of the shop’s Cacao Claypot Rice Meals and was originally sold under the name Beef Salpi-CACAO.

Quite obviously, the name involves some cheeky wordplay on salpicao, a Spanish-inspired local specialty involving well-seasoned strips of beef tenderloin stir-fried with garlic.  The cacao element of the dish is actually the sprinkling of a small amount of broken dark chocolate callets into the meat upon serving.  The diner is then supposed to mix beef, chocolate, mushrooms, and rice together before eating.

Now, how did I find it?  It was delicious: the bittersweetness of the chocolate (I daresay the kitchen used Ecuador callets in mine?) works beautifully with the savory, almost metallic tang of the beef and the pungent garlic.  There was a rather floral hint of black pepper whose heat was easily tempered by the white rice.  This flavor combination will call to mind another savory preparation involving chocolate: Mexico’s mole poblano.

Truth be told, the Beef Cacao is an excellent way of introducing people to more exotic flavor combinations.  And really: if you think the Beef Cacao is unusual, I should immediately state here that HC also serves Pasta Montezuma (penne rigate with a chocolate-bacon sauce made heady with browned shallots) and recently began serving a chocolate pizza.  😉

The Birthday Post: I am STILL here and I am NOT Afraid!

Bring out the bubbly!

And so, I start the first day of my 34th year with another post here on SybDive

It was a fairly eventful year and much of it left me utterly bewildered.  And yet, despite the grim statements from a number of people who are decidedly more negative than I am, I’m still alive.

And I’m okay.

And my food adventures have gotten more than a little exciting over the past few months:

  • Perigord walnut tarts!
  • Learning how to make soup from scratch!
  • Doing experiments with all sorts of chocolate treats!
  • That purple-and-white Sky at Dusk cake!
  • And, just yesterday, ichigo nama daifuku!

I thank God for my family, for the real friends who stuck it out with me despite all the horrific moments.  I am grateful for my work though it drives me up the wall from time to time.  I thank God that I kept the faith and loved a certain Mr. W despite one now-enemy said a year ago.  (And damn he looks mighty fine!)

Though I do read the cards and do some scrying, I have no clear idea what the future may bring – but I intend to meet it head on, without fear, without qualms.

Ichigo Nama Daifuku: Mochi-coated Chocolate Bliss

Ichigo Nama Daifuku

I apologize if the little dumplings in the picture above aren’t exactly the prettiest; I still have a very long way to go where my sense of culinary aesthetics is concerned.  Nevertheless, these are a personal triumph, the result of a debate between me and my brother a few months ago.

Given that my birthday (tomorrow, actually) is right smack in the middle of this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival, I was toying with the idea of making snowskin mooncakes filled with one of my specialty ganaches for my friends.  There were, however, a couple of hitches:

  1. I went to Saizen over at Robinson’s Galleria to see if they had anything along the lines of tsukimochi (moon cake in Japanese; the Chinese words are yue bing) molds.  Alas, no dice; and
  2. I couldn’t find a decent recipe for snowskin – but I did find a reasonable alternative to it.  😀

The reasonable alternative to snowskin is actually mochi, that moreishly chewy Japanese rice cake traditionally served during New Year celebrations.

Mochi is not a new thing here in the Philippines because its Chinese counterpart – tikoy or nian gao – is traditionally served or given as gifts at Chinese New Year.  Traditionally, both mochi and nian gao are made by pounding cooked glutinous rice into a paste and forming it into cakes.  Of course, in this day and age – and particularly in urban areas – who would have the time, patience, strength, and equipment to do it that way?!

What people tend to forget that where there’s a will, there’s always a way – and when dared to go the extra mile, I won’t just go the extra mile but I’ll do the Grand Tour!

In this case, it meant tweaking a recipe that’s currently making its way though numerous food blogs for truffle mochi.  Now, just an FYI here: what is commonly known as filled mochi is technically known as daifuku in Japanese.  According to Wikipedia:

Daifukumochi (大福餅), or Daifuku (大福) (literally “great luck”), is a Japanese confection consisting of a small round mochi (glutinous rice cake) stuffed with sweet filling, most commonly anko, sweetened red bean paste made from azuki beans. Daifuku comes in many varieties. The most common is white-, pale green-, or pale pink-colored mochi filled with anko. These come in two sizes, one approximately the diameter of a half-dollar coin, the other palm-sized. Some versions contain whole pieces of fruit, mixtures of fruit and anko, or crushed melon paste. Nearly all daifuku are covered in a fine layer of corn or taro starch to keep them from sticking to each other, or to the fingers. Some are covered with confectioner’s sugar or cocoa powder.

Now, since I can’t do mooncakes this year, I may as well try my hand at making daifuku.  For one thing, it’s an auspicious treat to serve at Harvest Time.  For another, I could prove my brother wrong by whipping up the stuff.

Glutinous rice flour - non-negotiable

The trick to making this is using the right rice flour.  In this case, I was lucky to get a bag of Peotraco Ready-to-Use Glutinous Rice Flour.  It cuts down a great deal on prep time and actually leads to lovely, soft, chewy, yet sturdy results.

The other tip: adding alcohol in the form of vodka, rice wine, or flavored liqueur to the basic mix actually helps stabilize the texture.  It also adds color (if you’re using something flavored) but has no significant impact on the taste.

This recipe is amazingly easy to do, but it does demand a lot of patience on the part of the maker.  You don’t need an oven, of course; just a stovetop, a saucepan, a steamer, and a wet silicone spatula is all.  😉

For this particular occasion – Mid-Autumn Festival and my brother’s fourth year in the priesthood – I made these delicate pink ichigo nama daifuku.  The ichigo in the name actually means strawberry, but it’s a misnomer in this case as I used carbonated raspberry vodka to flavor both the ganache and the mochi.  Still, it is a pretty strawberry-pink treat.

Incidentally, this is one dessert where you need to plan ahead as you need to freeze the ganache a day ahead.

Ichigo Nama Daifuku

For the nama:

  • 250mL all-purpose cream
  • 300 grams dark chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons raspberry Vodka Cruiser

For the mochi:

  • 2 cups glutinous rice flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry Vodka Cruiser + enough water to make 1-1/3 cups liquid

Make the ganache by melting together the cream, chocolate, and raspberry vodka over medium heat, stirring until all the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.  Allow to cool for about five minutes, then transfer to a covered container and freeze overnight.  Once the ganache is frozen, spoon it out in 40 half-teaspoon measures.  Freeze the spooned-out portions until ready to use.

Prepare the mochi mix by whisking together the rice flour, sugar, and raspberry liquid until well-dissolved.  Cook over medium heat, stirring until the mix is thick and viscous.  Allow to cool for a couple of minutes.  Using a wet silicon spatula, transfer the mochi mix to a heatproof bowl.  Cover the bowl with aluminum foil and place in a steamer over medium heat.  Steam for 15 to 20 minutes.

Dust a flat surface  and a rolling pin with a generous amount of rice flour or cornstarch.  Ease the steamed mochi out of the bowl with a wet spatula and roll in rice flour; note that it will be very sticky, so you’ll need to keep dusting with rice flour.  Roll out the dough to about 1/2-inch thickness; split the rolled dough into forty pieces.  Flatten a piece in one palm and place a portion of ganache.  Fold it up, pinching the edges to seal; pinch together the edges to form a ball.  Place on a serving dish and repeat process with the rest of the dough and ganache.  Chill until ready to serve.

Makes 40; I should also warn you that these are so good that you can’t stop with just one.  :p