Diary · Honduras

Egg-mageddon Profiteroles 

Home for the holidays, big dinner party tonight, let’s bake a dessert, shall we? What could go wrong?

Everything, apparently. I decided to make profiteroles since they’re simple, don’t require any weird ingredients and are not so fancy that people won’t like them.

 Simple they may be, but easy they’re not. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. It took 3 trials, 2 sticks of butter and 7 eggs to get the perfect profiterole shells. I could hear Chef Moss in my head: “overcooked panada”, “paste too runny”, “needs longer to dry out”.

Sure, baking with a different oven with different measurements (having no digital scale here, I had to settle for using imperial measurements) and different ingredients will make a difference. You definitely need to know your oven and hob, my mom’s hob definitely heats up faster than mine back in London. I think even the medium temperatures are hotter. So definitely a learning curve.

Fail #1 Overcooked panada

Stage 1 of profiterole making is called the panada, adding the flour to water and melted butter that’s been brought to the boil and then cooking for a bit. Basically, I realized the hob was too hot, too late. The dough didn’t look too overcooked, just a tad too shiny (meaning the butter was starting to leak from the dough). However, once in the oven smoke began to come out as the shells baked. Took them out and discovered dark bottoms. Definitely a butter leak. I was reminded of a Creme de la Creme episode where they had to bake croissants and one team of pastry chefs screwed up their lamination and ended up setting the oven on fire due to the butter leaking. At least that didn’t happen!  
Fail #2 Too much egg/liquid

The first time I tried, I had doubled the recipe, for round two I just did half just in case I screwed up again. This time I also did it all by hand instead of using my mom’s stand mixer. I’m not really sure what went wrong this time, maybe the panada wasn’t cooked enough on the hob, so there was still a lot of water in it. I didn’t add all the egg in but still ended up with a very runny mixture that half-assedly puffed up. 

Third time’s the charm, right? 

Last trial, if I screwed up this one, I was officially done with profiteroles. This time, no issues after stage 1. I incorporated the leftover runny dough before adding the eggs. This time the paste was stiff, but pipeable. Probably had like 1 1/2 eggs in there but I didn’t want to use up all of the eggs in the house. Plus I figured it was good enough. 

And it was. Hallelujah! 

 

Now that was just getting the pastry shells right… I also had to make the filling and chocolate sauce! 

Suffice to say, cream is a foreign notion here. There’s sour cream and cream with added salt. We bought some so called cream and it tasted like soap (Honduras, how??). Thankfully you can buy a chantilly cream mix to which you only add milk or water. 

Since I went through the trouble of getting a certificate in patisserie, of course I had to make my own sauce, especially since I was already cheating with the chantilly cream (out of necessity, but still). Too bad I couldn’t make the one I learned at the college, but no way was I using that soap-cream. I just used James Martin’s recipe on BBC Food, converting the measurements from metric to imperial (metric is the way to go people, please catch up). After scrounging up enough chocolate for it, it turned out well. 

So without further mishap, dessert was finally ready. Haha, I wish.

It turned out that the chantilly mix yielded less than a cup, enough to fill maybe half of my shells. In a bold move, I mixed the chocolate sauce together with the meager amount of chantilly. The end result was like a chocolate mousse, decent enough to be piped into the shells. 

Finally done!

UK

A very Potter Halloween 

After being sorted into both Houses, I am now calling myself a Huffleclaw.

Today I slaved away in the kitchen, much like a Hogwarts house elf. It’s been 20 years since Philosopher’s Stone was first published and almost 16 since I first fell in love with it. Halloween is such a big date in the wizarding world, it seemed appropriate to do something Potter-related. So Halloween the Hogwarts way it was. I got some inspiration from this Buzzfeed post, though the recipes I used were found elsewhere.

 

The Main: Roast beef

Not an ad for Lidl.

I didn’t spend too much time on this, to be honest. I just put everything on a tray and chucked it in the oven (the other stuff took up most of my time). What’s more, I picked up an already seasoned roasting joint from Lidl that had some kind of horseradish melty thing on top (the shame!). Considering I made everything else from scratch, I wasn’t feeling that fussed about the roast. It tasted good though.

 

Drink: Pumpkin juice

Thanks Pumpkin Potter for the juice.

Originally I had wanted to make butterbeer, but fearing a sugar overload decided against it. Best to leave it for the cold of winter. Today I made pumpkin juice from scratch. I used this recipe as inspiration; I used an actual pumpkin rather than butternut squash since it was smaller and could be juice raw (I wanted to carve the pumpkin). I also couldn’t find apricot nectar. In the end this is what I used:

  • 1 small pumpkin (yielded about 1/2 cup flesh)
  • about 1 cup of water
  • 2 cups apple juice
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 60g light brown sugar (less than the 1/2 cup sugar in the original)

It was a pain to scrape out all the flesh from the inside of the pumpkin (not sure how I forgot about this; I went through the exact same thing a year ago making pumpkin pasties). That done, I blended the flesh with the water and popped it in a pan on the stove. From this point, I followed In Literature’s directions, simmering the juice together with all the other ingredients. It tasted really good chilled! So much so I tried to make it a cocktail, using some fancy Irish whiskey I got in Belfast. It was okay at first but it won’t become a thing. Both things definitely taste better on their own.

 

Dessert: Treacle tart

I think Harry would approve.

All these years after reading the books, I never bothered to find out what treacle was exactly. I just assumed it would be good. Behold my surprise on finding Mary Berry’s recipe and discovering it is basically…sugar. Golden syrup (sugar) mixed with lemon juice, zest, and breadcrumbs. The most complicated part was the lattice design I chose to do on the top. I spent more time on the top than on the pastry and filling altogether. But it was worth it, I am very happy with the result. As for the flavour, it’s alright, actually. Sweet like caramel almost, but citrusy, the pastry almost flaky (at least the baking course has paid off…gone are the days of bad shortcrust!). I think something rich, like lightly whipped cream would go really well with it (creme fraiche was also suggested in some recipes).

Overall a successful (though puny) Hogwarts feast. I don’t know how those Hogwarts kids can eat so much.

 

 

 

Taiwan

Game of puddings

 

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10 years ago I landed in Taiwan

When I first moved to Taiwan 10 years ago one of the first things I ever tried was egg pudding, courtesy of my Korean roommate. Packaged in a plastic cup, it was silky, smooth and sweet with a dark layer at the bottom (caramel? Not really sure). It was the best thing I had had so far in Taiwan (I had a very big sweet tooth when I was younger).

I was never allowed to be a picky eater, but one thing that helped me take to Taiwanese food with enthusiasm was having people around me that ate it and loved it. One of my first friends in Taiwan was a girl from Chile who had lived in China previously; she was familiar with the style of dishes, so I just followed her lead. I know of a few people who struggled in the first weeks, not knowing what to buy, what to try so they just stuck to McDonald’s or KFC. So in a way, first my Korean roommate and then my Chilean friend opened the doors to food heaven.  Now, had this same roommate not told her classmates (of which one was my Chilean friend) that I was messy (seriously? At least I didn’t leave a banana in the fridge until it was solid black, nor did I tell everybody about it), we might have become friends. As it was, it was downhill after that pudding.

Taiwan’s National Day is quite soon, which made me eager to try a Taiwanese recipe to get this blog back on track. I found a simple recipe on Taiwan Xifu’s blog, which has been a good source of information in the past. The only thing I would change about this recipe is the jelly layer. I don’t have access to Taiwanese dark sugar (黑糖), which gives it a much darker color. I used plain brown sugar, but I wasn’t really happy with the result. Not enough jelly to make a substantial layer and it was quite hard to scrape from the bottom. Maybe I’ll stick with caramel. The custard, once set, was spot on: silky, smooth, sweet enough.

 

Can you handle this?

The custard itself was easy to make, having done creme caramels before. Almost the exact same process, except the Taiwanese ones have gelatine mixed in and are set in the fridge instead of being baked in a bain marie like creme caramels are.

Throwback to my exam creme caramels

Considering how easy creme caramels are to overcook, the Taiwanese alternative is basically foolproof. Also, considering the Taiwanese egg pudding uses only milk and no cream, it’s a slightly healthier alternative for dessert (less rich anyway). I will say, though, that caramel goes better with custard than jelly. Since creme caramels are unmoulded, the caramel “juice” oozes down the sides, making it all come together. Whereas with the Taiwanese egg pudding (at least the ones I made), stay in their pot (so I can take some for work, yay!). Jelly wouldn’t ooze anyway, if unmoulded (or at least it shouldn’t).

I don’t think you ready for this jelly

For me, the clear winner is the Taiwanese egg pudding with a different topping, mostly because it’s a quick and easy fix for a dessert which doesn’t require keeping an eye on the oven. It’s definitely a dessert I can tweak, from using alternative milks to different flavours in the custard to different toppings. This pudding is my oyster.

Angels should be singing in the background
Diary · UK

A much belated update (and pancakes)

It’s already been a month since I finished the patisserie course. I know I passed the last practical exam, but still haven’t heard about my final marks taking into account the written assignments. I guess it’s just a matter of waiting, like everything else in the UK.

My favorite exam: raspberry bavarois!

In the meantime, I’ve kept busy with my ABA home programs, which make up my full-time job. The fact that it’s so enjoyable to work with the kids makes it that much harder to dip into patisserie when the time comes to actually try it out. Change is so scary, I totally see how it can be a cause of problem behaviour. 

After months of bringing back loads of sugary treats and buttery goods, my baking time is now devoted to more practical things, like muffins or pancakes. I’ve worked out how to do a single serving of a German pancake (the first couple of times I’d just eat the whole thing…), I’m still working on my muffins, trying to find the balance between treat and healthy (my last batch was bad; protein powder made them very dry and expired baking powder didn’t help matters).

However, I’ve struck gold with pancakes. A couple of weeks ago it suddenly struck me how nice it’d be to mix yogurt into pancake mix. A Google search confirmed this with lots of different recipes for yogurt pancakes. Using the first link as a base, I now have a second foolproof pancake recipe under my belt.

Fluffy tower of pancakes

Today, for instance, I had a hankering for chocolate banana pancakes. Yogurt pancakes are so much fluffier than the original recipe I follow, so it’s a good candidate if you’re putting toppings in the pancakes. I’ve always halved the recipe on Taste of Home, which yields 6 pancakes, which I then separate into portions and freeze.

This is what I’ve used:

  • 1 cup plain flour (-2 tbsp), about 96g
  • 30g chocolate protein powder (I just used the scoop that comes with it)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) plain yogurt (I used a mix of skyr and Alpro vanilla soy yogurt, 4oz of each one)
  • 1/4 cup water (this I kept the same because I assumed the mix would become quite stiff, I even had to add a little bit extra)

Making pancakes is pretty straightforward: mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls, then add wet to dry, mix and cook. Easy peasy.

I was going to top them with bananas, as I’ve had success with raspberries and blueberries. Alas, bananas have a mind of their own. Maybe if I had mixed them directly into the mix they would have cooperated. Since I just placed them on the top of each pancake, they stuck to the pan after I flipped the first pancake. The second one’s bananas came straight off the pancake, so the rest of the batch was banana-less. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have keep the banana as a garnish and let the pancakes do the talking.

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Breakfast sorted
Diary

A full circle

For a few days now I’ve had a hankering for a German pancake and despite the surprising wave of heat we’re having now, I decided to bake one. Together with a super iced coffee, it should make a nice afternoon treat.

The first time I ever had a German pancake was during a family visit to the USA.  My aunt and uncle were living in Albuquerque at that time with my great-aunt Irma. She was the one who, closer to the German side of the family, had a recipe which she made for us once. It was like nothing my sister and I had ever had before: gloriously puffy, golden and crispy all at the same time. Served simply with icing sugar, it was one of those things you love straight away.

Since then, I’ve only tried to make it once before.  Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly what recipe great-aunt Irma used at the time and it’s too late to find out now. But the Internet is resourceful; recipes for German pancakes (or Dutch babies, as they’re called, as well) can be found easily. The one I’ve used is this one, and it produces the puffiest pancake you can imagine.

In making this pancake, newfound curiosity for my family’s background led me to ask my mother a few questions. I thought I knew the story, but actually I missed a few details. I always thought it was my great grandfather who settled in Honduras, but it was actually a generation further than that. Both my great grandfather’s parents were German while he was born in southern Honduras. And while I know my great great grandfather was a consul in Amapala, that just raises more questions than it answers.

I find it interesting how a few generations later, my family has done a full circle. Specifically, my sister in Germany and me in England; each living in a country that contributed to our existence today (funnily enough, my English great great grandfather used to live in south London).

Back to the pancake… In my anticipation, I miscalculated how hot the oven should be and probably raised it a bit higher than recommended, as the pancake got quite brown too quickly. The pancake then had a second stage of baking where the temperature was lowered and left to bake a further 13-15min. I, thinking it must be quite done, took it out a couple of minutes early (mistake number 2). So, because of my impatience, I was left with both an overdone and underdone pancake! Too brown outside and slightly doughy in the middle. Oh well. I still enjoyed it; iced coffee goes well with anything, even the sad version of a German pancake.

Diary

Practice buns

It’s been some time since my last post, quite a bit has happened since then: I finished the Level 1 course with a Distinction (super happy about it!) and got an additional tutor role to fill out my work days. From here on until August, my days are set.

 

Creme caramels from Level 1 exam

 

I also started the Level 2 Patisserie course a few weeks ago and this Friday will be the first practical assessment. We will be tested on bread and it will be much more intense than Level 1 ever was. We will need to produce and present brown plaited rolls and Belgian buns (4 of each). Both of these will be tasted and assessed as products in a proper bakery would be.

 

Brown plaited rolls from class which failed to be recreated at home

 

Since today I had the morning off, naturally I decided to practice. The Belgian buns were easy enough since I had frozen the dough leftover from class. I only had to defrost it, let it rise and shape the buns. I did have to improvise, however, due to having no sultanas or raisins in the house (also no fondant for glazing). I did without the dried fruit and decided to try a chocolate glaze since that’s what I had in the cupboard. The only thing I cared about in terms of the glaze was the actual skill (getting it as even as possible), otherwise I’d have done without it too.

 

Pre-glaze Belgian buns

 

The buns looked great straight out of the oven and brushed with bun wash (sugar syrup). The chocolate glaze was a tad thick so the buns’ spirals got a bit lost.  Hopefully I can manage a thinner, even coating of fondant on Friday’s test.

 

Chocolate glazed buns

 

I had no wholemeal at home, so decided to just make plain white dough to practice the shaping of the plaited rolls… Big fail! I still haven’t quite got the conversion of fresh to dry yeast so whenever I try to recreate the course’s bread recipes they almost never work out. And today was no different… I guess the fact that I halved the recipe didn’t help either. The end dough was too soft; I tried plaiting one roll and gave up. The dough was too soft to hold the shape (I was also running out of time as I had to leave for work), so the rest of the dough ended up as plain rolls. Not even good rolls…they were over proofed in my makeshift prover. I can only hope that Friday will see better rolls (very likely given the proper ingredients and the professional equipment). Wish me luck!

Honduras · Switzerland · Taiwan · the Netherlands · UK

A taste of five pancakes

Before moving to London, I never knew about Pancake Day. Despite growing up in a Catholic household, there never was any change in our diets before, during or after Lent. We’d go to church, maybe eat more seafood during Easter, but never try to consume all the rich foods before Lent. Also, culturally pancakes are foreign to us. We eat both American-style pancakes and crepes but pancakes themselves are not part of a typical Honduran diet.

I love pancakes: blueberry pancakes, chocolate chip pancakes, thick pancakes, thin pannekoeken or crepes, you name it. So it was only natural for me to tackle pancakes on such a special day. I’ve been making pancakes with my mum’s recipe for years, though adapted to yield one portion of pancakes. To challenge myself, I tried to make different pancakes for each country I’ve lived in. It was fun to brainstorm though I spent 2 hours making said pancakes.

For reference, this is my mum’s recipe (which she got from my grandmother and who knows where she got it from…basically it’s the Motz family pancake recipe):

1 cup flour

1 cup milk

1 egg

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp butter (which I’ve always omitted, never changed the end results)

1 tbsp sugar (again, optional, especially if adding sweet toppings)

All the ingredients are mixed into a batter. Scoop batter onto pan with the teeniest amount of butter (which has been wiped around the pan with a paper towel), unless you’re doing Dutch style pancakes (pannekoeken) which do need a healthy nob of butter to cook in. A tip to keep them fluffy: don’t press down on the pancakes with a spatula while cooking.

 

Now, here are my five-country variations:

Honduras (family recipe, served just with maple syrup)

These are my mum’s pancakes, which I’ve eaten my whole life. We would usually have them with honey or, my personal favorite, Hershey’s chocolate syrup. However, I ran out of honey and I don’t have Hershey’s syrup either, so maple syrup it is. I actually like the taste of it more than honey’s.

 
Taiwan (pineapple pancakes)

So I tried the pineapple cakes before and I thought I could adapt the recipe into pancakes. I made the pineapple jam and mixed it in with the batter, to which I also added a spoonful of milk powder to evoke more of the pastry flavor. They were tricky to shape into circles, but they tasted nice (very sweet, though).

 
the Netherlands (pannekoeken with brown sugar or hagelslag)

One of the things I miss about the Netherlands and Belgium was their style of pancakes, thin as crepes but laden with goodness. I always had pannekoeken with either cassonade (brown icing sugar) or hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles); savoury pannekoeken I’ve only had here in London at My Old Dutch Pancake House (really tasty, but enormous things!). So that’s how I had my small portion of pannekoeken (I thinned out the batter with milk to get the crepe-like pancake): with brown sugar and lemon, and hagelslag.

 
Switzerland (pancake fondue)

For this one, I cheated a bit. The pancake itself isn’t anything Swiss; I just cut up my mum’s pancakes into bite-size pieces. But I did make a chocolate sauce for dipping as you would with dessert fondue. Definitely more of a snack than a meal!

 
UK (digestive pancakes)

I know ‘digestive pancakes’ sounds hilarious but when you find out that Britain’s favorite biscuit is the digestive biscuit (essentially, a cookie with oats and brown sugar) then it all makes sense. I attempted to recreate the biscuits in pancake form. I ground a couple of tablespoons of oats and added them to the batter, along with a tablespoon of brown sugar (instead of the original tablespoon of sugar). These came out alright, though I would probably add more oatmeal in future batches or just mix ground digestive biscuits into the batter. I spread some of the chocolate sauce on top, just as digestive biscuits sometimes have a layer of chocolate.

Unsurprisingly, I had a lot of pancakes. At least I’ve got breakfast sorted for the rest of the week!