In Which Two Desserts Make For an Intriguing Push-Pop…

Red velvet cake and cheesecake in a single push-pop

Red velvet cake and cheesecake in a single push-pop

Not too long ago, push-pop ice creams were all the rage here in the Philippines.  These treats featured two flavors of ice cream layered together in a plastic tube with a stick underneath that you pushed upwards to get the ice cream out.  These were, alas, short-lived as people vastly preferred old-school Drumsticks and ice cream cups.

These days, however, push-pops are getting a new lease on life.  But the new variants don’t have the eensiest smidgen of ice cream.  Instead, push-pops 2.0 feature mash-ups between cheesecake and another dessert.  Layers of cream cheese filling are sandwiched between small bites of cake inside plastic tubes; these are, of course, eaten in the same way as ice cream push-pops.

The Pink Food Shop, a small kiosk near the second floor landing leading from Glorietta to SM Makati currently features several variants: Oreo cheesecake, chocolate cake with blueberry cheese, and the nifty little number featured here: red velvet cheesecake.

I must say that they’re pretty good: the cake layers are none too sweet and have a bit of cocoa duskiness to them beneath the lush flavor of vanilla.  The sweetened cream cheese is perfectly balanced flavor-wise: salty and sweet with a wonted tang.  And the cream cheese layer is perfectly smooth and not gritty at all.

They’re a trifle pricey at P 125.00 apiece, but given that you can share this with a friend, they’re so worth it.  (And there’s the cuteness factor, too: the red velvets look like holiday firecrackers waiting to be popped in celebration!)

In Which One Revisits a High School Baking Project…



I have an issue with pinwheel cookies.  It’s not that I don’t like these swirly-patterned / bi-colored discs of buttery sweetness, though.   It’s an issue that stems from my freshman year in high school – the time my classmates and I had to bake them for a Home Ec. quiz.  As luck would have it, the dough for the cookies didn’t chill properly and the end result was a gloopy mess that wouldn’t hold together and the electric oven in the Practical Arts room short-circuited.

I had a classmate who, for some weird reason, hated me on sight since we were in fifth grade.  This girl was not above using sarcasm, a very loud voice, and an extremely aggressive personality to make a point.  And, in this case, her point was that everything that went wrong was my fault.  This, in itself, was very unreasonable: she was our group leader and never allowed me to do anything (on account that she said – and told everyone – that I was too clumsy and stupid to do anything).  What’s more, I was nowhere near the oven; we were also the last group to do the baking quiz.  When our teacher heard her accusations, she pretty much felt sorry for me and gave me a passing grade despite the fact that my group was unable to bake a batch of cookies.  When my loud-mouthed classmate protested, the teacher quelled her by saying, “It’s bad enough that she has to deal with you all the time, but for you to accuse her of being responsible for everything going wrong is just too much.”

That girl went on to treat me like a pariah throughout high school and pretty much made me feel very defective right up until the day we graduated.  I am grateful that I rarely ever see her these days and, even when I do, I pay her no mind; she never says anything nice to me, even now that we’ve all grown up.

But anyway, this brings us back to the subject of pinwheel cookies.  I couldn’t find my old Home Ec. workbook (yes, I kept it; it’s somewhere in the kitchen…), so I decided to play with Nigella Lawson‘s snickerdoodle recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess.

More like snails than pinwheels...

More like snails than pinwheels…

For this particular baking project, you have to make two batches of dough: one each for the plain and colored parts of the cookie.  You also don’t need to dredge these in sugar or add any spices; that’d make your end product a touch too distracting.  Chocolate and vanilla is the most common flavor combination used for making pinwheel cookies, but I decided to give mine an Asian twist by making a pale green and gold batch of pandan and almond cookies.

Appearance-wise, I’m still a long way off from baking perfect hypnotic circles; indeed, mine look more like snails than pinwheels!  Nevertheless, they’re quite delicious.  These are subtly sweet cookies that crumble beautifully when bitten into and they melt nicely in your mouth.  These are just the thing to eat with a cup of tea on a rainy afternoon and they’re pretty enough to give away as presents.  (And, as the Antipodean keeps telling me, these travel well.  Hint, hint, hint…)

I’ll be honest: not only did I bake these because I wanted to spruce up my baking repertoire, but I wanted to prove to myself once and for all that my bad-tempered classmate was wrong all along.  I’m not useless and I’m not unlucky, either.  Now that is something I can certainly be proud of.

Pandan and Almond Pinwheels

For the almond layer:

  • 250 grams all-purpose flour
  • 100 grams granulated white sugar
  • 100 grams soft margarine
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon almond flavoring

For the pandan layer:

  • 250 grams all-purpose flour
  • 100 grams granulated white sugar
  • 100 grams soft margarine
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon Ferna Flavocol in Pandan (Note:  It’s a flavoring extract that also doubles as a colorant.  If you can’t find it, use 1 teaspoon clear pandan flavoring + a few drops of green food coloring.)

Line two lipped cookie sheets with waxed paper or baking parchment.  Set aside.

Prepare the almond layer first.  Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy; then mix in the egg, baking powder, and flavoring till well combined.  Add the flour and mix until a soft, cohesive dough forms.  Press into an even-surfaced rectangle on one of the cookie sheets.  Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.  Repeat the procedure for the pandan layer.

Remove the cookie sheets from the fridge.  Press the pandan layer carefully onto the almond layer; remove the waxed paper sticking to the pandan layer.  Working from the long edge, carefully roll the layered dough into a log.  Cut in half; wrap both halves in waxed paper.  Freeze until ready to use.

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees / Gas Mark 4.  Grease a pair of cookie sheets;  set aside.  Unwrap the dough logs and cut into slices about a quarter of an inch thick.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove immediately from the oven and allow to cool for about 20 seconds before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 48 cookies.


In Which Lunch was a Korean One-pot Wonder…

Hello, hotpot!

Hello, hotpot!

Long-time readers of this blog know that bulgogi is one of my family’s favorite dishes – and it did get to the point that I ended up learning how to make it from scratch as opposed to ordering out or preparing what passes for instant bulgogi in the frozen deli section of the local supermarket.  (I swear: all the chopping, mincing, pureeing, and marinating makes the end result totally worth it.)

Sometimes, though, it’s pretty hard to scare up the energy to do all the work that comes with prepping a bulgogi meal.  Thank goodness for Korean restaurants like Kaya and Bulgogi Brothers; at least I know where to fly whenever a craving hits!  Kaya, in particular, has added a new bulgogi variant to its menu – one that pretty much pulls out all the stops and is perfect for feeding a hungry family: bulgogi jungol.

Jungol (joon-gol) is, essentially, the Korean term for a one-dish meal, somewhere along the lines of a hotpot.  It’s a close enough approximation of a familiar Japanese dish: sukiyaki.  Marinated beef, fresh vegetables, and mung bean vermicelli (sotanghon) are cooked on a hotplate at the table, basically stir-fried with some soy-and-sweet-rice-wine broth to moisten things up.

Kaya’s spin on bulgogi jungol features a mix of thinly-sliced prime beef, vermicelli, enoki and shiitake mushrooms, leeks, sweet white onions, and bok choy.  The resulting dish is good and hearty, slightly sweet with a deeply umami character with regard to the flavors.  It is the perfect thing to eat on a cold, rainy afternoon with one’s family.

In Which a Single Roll Gets Both a Sweet and Savory Treatment…

Goooooooood morning!

Goooooooood morning!

I have days when I wake up and find myself craving for something sweet or salty.  This, in itself, isn’t so bad.  It gets bad when I wake up feeling torn because I can decide between them!

The easy solution for this involves getting ciabatta, those soft, flour-dusted Italian rolls.  Split in half, you can use it to satisfy both your cravings.  Put the halves on a toaster oven tray and pop it into your toaster for a good three minutes.

For a salty, savory bruschetta , spread leftover pasta sauce – as shown above, I used a chunky ragu made with tomatoes, bacon, eggplant, and mushrooms – over one ciabatta half.  Dust it with plenty of Parmesan cheese and pop it back into the toaster for another couple of minutes.  Serve whilst piping hot.  If this little pizza-ish treat doesn’t knock down your cravings for something saline, I’m not sure if anything else will!

The other half gets a sweeter and simpler treatment: just slather generously with unsalted butter and drizzle over plenty of honey.  The rich butter works beautifully with the crisp, slightly nutty-tasting bread and the honey definitely soothes a maddened sweet tooth.  😉

In Which We Talk About Ice Cream Sodas…

Root beer, vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup

Three good things: very cold root beer, vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup

It is a beverage known by many names: a float, a spider (if you live in the ANZ zone), a cooler (particularly if you live in Boston), and a vaca or cow (color dependent on what ingredients you use.)  Regardless of what you call it, an ice cream soda goes down a treat at any time of the day and even in the chilliest weather.

This particular soda fountain offering is said to go way back (seriously way back) to the end of the 19th Century when a Philadelphia entrepreneur named Robert McCay Green ran out of cream to use for the flavored sodas his establishment was known for.  In a pinch, Green added vanilla ice cream to a tumbler of soda water flavored with syrup – and the rest is history.

Ice cream sodas came to the Philippines by way of the Americans prior to the Second World War, but only became more commonplace in the 1950s because of such establishments as the Botica Boie, the original Dairy Queen, and the old Magnolia Ice Cream House.  It never really caught on for some reason, but ice cream sodas have become quite hip of late, what with the return of the Magnolia ice cream parlors and the addition of root beer floats – the most popular variation thereof – to the Kenny Rogers menu as well of those of Yankee diner-type restaurants.

The most basic version goes thus: put a couple or so ice cubes at the bottom of a tall tumbler, add a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream, then pour over root beer or cola.  Root beer works best, in my opinion, because the somewhat medicinal, slightly resinous taste of the sarsaparilla is toned down by the soft, sweet richness of the vanilla.  If you live in Portugal or Brazil, this particular combination is called a vaca preta; in the United States, your counterman will most likely yell “Gimme a ‘brown (or black) cow’!”  Your cow becomes a “purple cow” if the soda jerk uses grape soda; plus points if he drizzles blueberry syrup or coulis over it.

There are as many variations on the basic formula as there are ways to tell any given joke.  In Boston, the classic Boston Cooler features ginger ale and vanilla ice cream.  Its Aussie counterpart, the spider, involves mashing a small amount of ice cream in a flavored soda (usually a fruit-flavored one; my friend, the Antipodean, however, insists on butterscotch cream soda), pouring in the rest of the soda, and floating a scoop of ice cream over the frothy mess.  There are even grown up versions featuring vanilla ice cream floating on Guinness or chocolate porter.

While I love classic tastes, I am of the opinion that ice cream sodas lend themselves well to improvisation.  So, if you want to add a twist to your soda, why not try the examples below?

  • Solid Gold  Tinned peaches or fresh, ripe mango chunks mashed in plain lemon or lemon-lime soda and topped with mango ice cream with warmed mango or peach jam drizzled on top;
  • Orange Creamsicle  Orange sorbet and vanilla ice cream in orange soda;
  • Ginger-Honey  Honey semifreddo or vanilla-honeycomb ice cream in ginger ale with a wee drizzle of dark honey;
  • English Garden  Dandelion-and-burdock soda (the brilliant purple stuff; Ben Shaws is a favorite);
  • English Rose  Rose syrup (Monin or get a bottle from an Indian/MidEastern grocery) diluted in soda water, vanilla ice cream, with rose macarons crushed over the top;
  • French Garden Same as an English Rose, but with lavender syrup instead of rose and tiny lavender buds sprinkled sparingly on top.