When Life Gives You Lemons

It has been a while since I’ve done a food post. Well, after promising Jean Yves for months that I would bake him something. I finally got around to making these Lemon Cookies w/ Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting.

So, when life gives you lemons… don’t make lemonade — make lemon cookies. Have a great weekend everyone. 🙂

A New Pie Experiment

Here it is… the recipe for the new pie I’ve created: CranApple Crumble Pie w/ Warm Apple & Butter Rum Sauce. From the photos, it looks like a lot of work but it actually took only about 1-1/2 hour of prep and cooking time. I would say the difficult part of this experiment was the photo shoot. The lighting was difficult because there were no natural light available. Though, making sure to not burn the food while taking photos or getting the camera all sticky was the most challenging. This is when being good at multi-tasking comes in handy. I hope you enjoy the post and any comments or suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thank you… and Make a Great Day!

Peel and slice apples into 1/4 inch thick, then cut the slices to about 1″ pieces. For even cooking time, it’s important that the thickness of the apple slices are as even as possible.

In a large bowl, combine apples slices, dried cranberries, brown sugar, corn starch, cinnamon, nutmeg and white pepper. Gently stir until well mixed. And pour the filling into a prepared pie crust. Evenly sprinkle pie with streusel crumb topping.

How to make the streusel crumb:

1/4 Cup Butter (lightly melted: about 20 seconds in the microwave)
1 Cup Unbleached Flour
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1/4 Cup Rum

In a mixing bowl, combine butter, flour and sugar. Add rum and toss with a wooden spoon to make crumbs. Take a hand full of the crumb mixture and squeeze gently to make larger clump. Break the clump of streusel over the pie filling. Repeat using all the streusel. Do not press the streusel into the filling.

Bake pie at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes.

Cranapple Crumble Pie with Warm Apple & Butter Rum Sauce
Serves 6 to 8

I used a pre-made pie crust. It’s faster and less messy. For the apples, I used Fuji Apples — it’s sweet and juicy but hard enough for baking.

How to make the pie filling:

4 Cup Sliced Apples (I like using Fuji Apples for its sweetness)
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar (packed)
2 Tablespoon Corn Starch
2 Teaspoon Cinnamon Powder
1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1 Teaspoon White Pepper
2 Tablespoon Rum
1/4 Cup Butter

1. Peel and slice apples into 1/4 inch thick, then cut the slices to about 1″ pieces.

2. In a large bowl, combine apples slices, dried cranberries, brown sugar, corn starch, cinnamon, nutmeg and white pepper. Gently stir until well mixed. Set aside.

3. Melt butter and rum together in a small pot over medium high heat. Bring to a boil for about 30 seconds. Pour hot butter rum mixture into the pie filling mixture and stir gently — until all apple slices are well coated.

4. Pour filling mixture into a prepared pie crust.

5. Sprinkle streusel crumb evenly over the pie.

Bake pie in a 350 degrees oven for about 30 minutes. Check to make sure the streusel crumb isn’t too brown. Cover pie with a piece of foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Take off the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes. By now you should see thick hot pie juice bubbles out of the crumb topping. Take out the pie and let cool before taking it out of the spring-form pan.

Warm Apple & Butter Rum Sauce

In a large saute pan over medium high heat, melt butter. Add apples and saute for a few minutes. Make sure the heat isn’t too hot or the butter will burn. Pour in apple cider and add sugars, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Stir apple mixture and when it boils, turn the heat down to medium. Cook apple mixture for 20 minutes and add the rum.

How to make the Apple & Butter Rum sauce:

2 Cup Sliced Apples (cut into 1/2″ pieces)
1/4 Cup Butter
1/4 Cup Regular Sugar
1/4 Cup Packed Light Brown Sugar
1 Cup Apple Cider Juice
1/3 Cup Rum

In a large saute pan over medium high heat, melt butter. Add apples and saute for a few minutes. Make sure the heat isn’t too hot or the butter will burn. Pour in apple cider and add sugars, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Stir apple mixture and when it boils, turn the heat down to medium. Cook apple mixture for 20 minutes and add the rum. Make sure to stir occasionally. Continue to cook for an additional 15 minutes. The apple slices should be soft and almost translucent.

Assemble the dish:

Place a slice of pie on a plate and ladle a couple of tablespoons of the Apple & Butter Rum Sauce around the pie and top with whipped cream if desired. Enjoy!

Oh, For The Love of Rum!

I’m not much into drinking liquor but I love cooking with it. Thought I would try something different and make a recipe with lots of butter and rum. I decided to create a recipe for a pie. The result: Cranapple Crumble Pie with Warm Apple & Butter Rum Sauce; a sinfully delectable pie that would make Captain Jack Sparrow a very happy pirate — singing, Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum.

One of my favorite things to do besides cooking is developing recipes. And even though I owned over 100 cookbooks, I have a habit of not wanting to follow the recipes exactly. I find recipe development exciting and fun. It’s interesting experimenting with all the different ingredients and discovers new tastes. The difficult part about recipe development for me is keeping track the exact amount of the ingredients. I am one of those cooks who eye balls the ingredients instead of measuring. Though, I would say most of my recipe experiments have produced good results. There have been times where it even exceeds my expectation. And yesterday’s experiment was one of those great moments. The butter and rum add a luscious quality to the pie. It tastes savory, yet at the same time delicate and not overly sweet. And the aroma of the spices permeates your senses, creating a sense of warmth and comfort for the home. This would be the perfect pie to make for the holiday dinner. I will have the complete recipe with photos for tomorrow’s post. 🙂

It’s More Than Just A Cookie – part 2

“The cookies tasted terrible. They were hard and lumpy. Instead of the enjoyment I had envisioned; I was told not to make any more cookies. With tears in my eyes, I threw all the brown poop lumps into the garbage.”

I sat on the steps feeling dejected from my failed attempt at baking and was afraid that Tina would be disappointed with me. The next day, I went over to Tina’s as soon as I got home from school. And when she asked me about the cookies, tears welled up in my eyes as I explained about the failed cookies. Instead of being upset, she just smiled and comforted me. She explained to me the importance of the ingredients I had omitted. Then she went on to bake the cookies again with me so that I could see it done properly.

I’m happy to say, the cookie lesson paid off. Defying my dad’s order of never to make cookies again — I baked three-dozen gooey, chewy, mouth-watering cookies that forever changed the opinions of my family about my baking ability. As for Tina –to say she was a nice neighbor would be an understatement. Tina was the special “mom” to me for the next three years. And to this day, her many life lessons stayed with me.

 That’s why every time when I bake chocolate chip cookies; it is more than just cookies for me. It’s about someone showing love and kindness. And perhaps that’s why Chocolate Chip Cookies is the most popular. It’s a simple cookie — yet when you bite into it; the warm and fuzzy feeling you get is unexplainable.

So… here is the recipe to make these wonderful cookies. I hope they will make you feel warm and fuzzy…  🙂

Original Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Butter (2 sticks), softened
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 Large Eggs
2 cups Chocolate Chips (12-oz. pkg)
1 cup Chopped Nuts

Make Approx. 36 Cookies

Preheat: Oven to 375 F
Combine: Flour, baking soda and salt in small bow. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
Baked: For 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

The direction on the package seems simple enough. However, as I have discovered during my first attempt; the direction can be misleading for someone who is not familiar with baking techniques. Tina gave me some tips not listed on the package direction and that is to — scrape the bowl constantly during beating of the dough. This insures all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. So that the cookies will spread evenly during baking. And another tip is to not add all the flour mixture at once. It will save you a great deal of mess if you add about 1/2 cup at a time but also you would not lose any ingredients. As I’ve learned the hard way that even 1 teaspoon can make a big difference between success and failure on the outcome.

Here is a tip on how to get perfect, round, even size cookies  — the ice cream scoop. It is one of the must have cooking tools to have in your kitchen.

Have fun and enjoy!

It’s More Than Just A Cookie – part 1

I’ve eaten many varieties of cookie but none stirs my heart and soul as much as the chocolate chip cookie. That’s because this was the cookie that started it all — the cookie that taught me an important lesson about using the right ingredients — even if the amount seem insignificant.  Above all, it was the cookie that set the foundation for my love of baking. 

I still remember the day I discovered this wonderful creation and how amazed I was by it. I was in 6th grade and was my next-door neighbor’s official baby-sitter. When I showed up at her door that day, I was met with a delicious and wonderful odor. It was a smell completely foreign to me. And then Tina greeted me with a plate of chocolate chip cookies — fresh out of the oven.

At the time, I didn’t know what they were. I had only been living in the United States for about a year therefore, a lot of things were still unknown and very strange to me. When I took that first bite, I was hooked. The cookie was warm and the chocolate… oh my goodness… those amazing gooey chocolate morsels… pushed my taste buds into overdrive. I was familiar with chocolate but it was a luxury item for me. In Taiwan, chocolate was a very rare treat because it was expensive — an equivalent of five U.S. dollars for a Hershey’s chocolate bar and this was in the 70’s. Needless to say, when Tina showed me the Nestle Toll House chocolate chips package; my belief at the time that all Americans were super rich was confirmed. It was a stereotype image I was bombarded with while living in Taiwan. Of course, I later learned about the delusion of the stereotype — but that’s another story.

After devouring about half a dozen cookies, I wanted to learn how to make them. Tina gave me a pack of the chocolate chips and told me to follow the recipe direction on the back. She assured me the cookies were easy to make. Excitedly, I went home with visions of chocolate chip cookies and the enjoyment my family would have eating them.
The next day, I took out the package and read the recipe on the back. As I read the ingredients list, there were a couple of items I was unfamiliar with and didn’t have; baking soda and vanilla extract. I had no idea what these ingredients were and I didn’t even know how to pronounce vanilla extract. Since Tina wasn’t home, I couldn’t ask her. And my sisters and brother didn’t know either. Oh well… I thought…  and made the cookies without the two ingredients. My reasoning — it couldn’t have been important since the recipe asked for such small amount. Well, I learned the small amount was indeed very important when I took out of the oven; a tray of cookies that looked like lumps of brown poop — as my brother had commented. The cookies tasted terrible. They were hard and lumpy. Instead of the enjoyment I had envisioned; I was told not to make any more cookies. With tears in my eyes, I threw all the brown poop lumps into the garbage.

Strawberry Peach Cobbler

It’s peach season! When I saw these huge peaches at the produce stand, thought they would be perfect for tonight’s dessert: My famous strawberry peach cobbler. I used to make these for my little Gallery Cafe. What a great place it was; all 329 square feet of it!

Strawberry Peach Cobbler

Serves 6
2 Cups Diced Peaches (Make sure to use peaches that are ripe but still firm.)
2 Cups Diced Strawberries
1/3 Cup Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1 Tablespoon Corn Starch

1/2 Cup Oats
1 Cup Flour
1/8 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Melted Butter

  1.  Dice peaches and strawberry into 1/2 inch pieces. It doesn’t have to be exactly 1/2 inch but make sure all the pieces are similar in size so they will bake evenly.
  2. Add sugar, spices, and corn starch. Mix well and set aside.
  3. Combine Topping ingredients and mix until crumbly.
  4. Spray 6 – 7 oz ramekin cups with pan spray.
  5. Fill evenly the bottom of each ramekin with 1 Tablespoon of topping mixture.
  6. Add fruit filling to the top and cover with 1 Tablespoon of topping mixture.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes at 350 degrees. And voilà! The taste of summer… Yummy Strawberry Peach Cobbler. To make it even more decadent, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream just before serving.

Going Bananas!

It’s one of those weird taste quirks I have; I don’t like to eat bananas when it gets freckly. Actually, I like it best when it’s still a little green. Well, I bought this bunch last week and because of the warm weather, it got ripe quicker than I could eat. Since there were still many left, I felt guilty about throwing them out and decided to let them ferment longer so I could make them into my “TO DIE FOR…” (as my customers used to say)banana breads. I’ve sold many loaves of these delicious breads during my career as a baker/bakery owner. I loved everything about owning a bakery except for the crazy baker’s hours. I had to get up at 2 a.m., baked until 6:30 a.m. and deliver the baked goods by 9:00 a.m. to open shop at 10:00. I missed my little bakery… it was a fun place and a great learning experience. I learned the hard way about business failure; my hard work and fantastic baked goods couldn’t compensate for lack of cash flow… and…stupid mistakes.

Good news! You don’t have to get up at 2:00 a.m. to bake these… the recipe is very easy and once you make the batter, you can add different ingredients to it. Just make sure the bananas you use is very, very ripe; almost rotten but no molds. This is the secret to moist and great banana flavor that seem to lack in many other banana bread recipes. The smell is heavenly when you bake these breads.

Banana Bread Recipe

Makes 9 mini-loaves

1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup butter, softened
2 Eggs
2 Cup Mashed ripe bananas (4-5 medium)
1/2 Cup Buttermilk
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Cup Cake Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
3 Cup Assorted Berries

Place oven rack in the middle position and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Mix sugar and butter in a large bowl.
  2. Stir in eggs until well blended; add vanilla extract, and buttermilk.
  3. Beat until smooth. It is best not to use an electric mixer.
  4. Add baking soda, and flour. Mix until all ingredients are blended.
  5. Gently stir in the mashed bananas and mix well.

Streusel Topping:

 1 Cup Unbleached Flour
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Butter Softened

Cut butter into flour and sugar until crumbly.

For Blueberry Banana Nut Bread: 3 mini-loaves

Add 1 cup frozen(thawed) blueberries and 1/4 cup chopped walnuts to 2 cups batter. Stir gently or else the juice from the berry will make the batter look muddy. Scoop batter into the baking pan and topped with extra blueberries and struesel. I used a size 16 ice cream scoop for quicker and cleaner measurement but you can just fill the baking pan with about 3/4 cup of batter. Bake for 20 minutes; turn pan around and bake another 15 minutes; this ensures even baking if you don’t have a convection oven. The bread is done if a small knife or wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let sit and cool for about 15 minutes. Use a small spatula to loosen the sides and remove from baking pan. Enjoy!

Strawberry Banana Bread:

Direction same as for Blueberries but use 1 Cup chopped fresh strawberries instead.

Very Berry Banana Bread:

Direction same as for Blueberries. Use 1 Cup frozen mixed berries (raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries)


Very Berry Experiment

Cooking is so much fun, especially when the recipe turns out great. I had so much fun making the Very Berry Crepes yesterday. I’ve decided to experiment and bake something with the leftover berries. I had wanted to bake a pie but since there weren’t enough berries, I ended up making tarts instead. Normally, I would use a ready-made crust but since I didn’t have any on hand, I came up with the idea of making a lemon pepper crust. Black pepper in the pie crust?!! Hey, isn’t that what experiments are all about? :) When I cook, I normally don’t use measuring utensils. I am one of those types who just eye balls very thing and most of the time fairly accurate. So, I will not be able to post the Very Berry Tarts with Lemon Pepper Crust recipe today.

Overall, I thought the experiment was a success; the lemon black pepper crust is really interesting. It gives the berries a very nice added flavor. Although, the tarts tasted really good, I wasn’t happy with the photography session. In food photography, the cooking time for the dish is usually shorter so the ingredients still look good. Since the tarts were to be our desert, I had to bake it longer and the berries got over cooked. I’ll have to remake the recipe for food photography next time… and will include the recipe.

Make a Great Day! And have a fantastic weekend everyone. :)