I usually skip the baking section of most food magazines. Pies with flaky crusts, light and airy cakes topped with glazed fruits, rich and buttery cookies, macarons made exclusively for well-lit Instagram photos, mocking me with their all-knowing glossy stare: “You can’t bake for shit”. And to be honest, that’s mostly true. A co-worker once gave me a supposedly fool-proof recipe for sugar cookies with less than 5 ingredients and the whole mess looked more like a lumpy, rectangular Sicilian flatbread pizza instead of the homey, round circles of rustic sweetness they were intended to be.
And so I usually forego recipes that even involves yeast, rolling, or proofing for something…meatier, vegetable-ier, anything entree-ier! Until I couldn’t. I had promised to bring a dessert into work and I was running out of meringue-based, no-bake ideas and every food magazine I had subscribed to was extolling the virtues of a warm pie. In a fit of pie-ophobia, I opt for the cop-out solution: the Galette. No exacting crust pleats, no mishandled lattice tops, no possibility of fruit exploding through the top in a volcanic mess of burnt sugar…just a rough, quick, almost child-like creation of fruit in baked dough. Pair that with fresh whipped cream (all those meringue-based desserts trained my whipping arm well after all!) and the wrath of the Baking Harpies is assuaged for another day. Thanks Bon Appetit (with some tweaks)!
Early Spring is now a season I really look forward to with its promises of patio brunches, beautiful people watching, and the ability to wear something more flattering than a poofy jacket paired with chapped skin. But Spring during my college years wasn’t as…”Spring-y”. Most student groups plan their largest events during these months and for me, I somewhat dreaded spring as it meant back-to-back meetings planning event after event. However, Spring also heralded the start of Bake Sale season as groups sought to fund events and as an equal open diner, this was open season for all things carby. Sure there were the usual cookies and brownies (in varying shades of chocolate) but the real treats were the cultural delicacies: the orange, sticky Indian Jalebis that had to be washed down with tea, the Chinese Moon Cakes, the Arabic Baklava, and when you hit the jackpot and stumble on an all out ten item dessert buffet? Well…makes you forget the next five planning meetings on your calendar.
I used to hate sorbets. To me, a sorbet was nothing more than frozen water flavored with some neon-colored sugar water; an affront to ice cream. If the king and queen of desserts had a bastard child….it would be the sorbet. I mean, who could possibly love some icy, crunchy, cloyingly sweet sham of a dish? The inventor of the sorbet should be shot. There was absolutely nothing that was going to convince me that this shaved ice look-alike was worthy of as an after-dinner sweet. Nothing until I read this article from Serious Eats about the science behind the sorbet.
To an extent, I was right. The sorbet is nothing more than a pureed fruit sweetened with sugar and frozen. What I didn’t know was that the abominations I’ve had as a child were such because of two factors: 1) using fruits of a poor quality (or worse…some fruit “substitute”) and 2) incorrect proportions in terms of sugar. Intrigued by the author’s description of a “creamy” and “jammy” sorbet, I decided to give it a go, buying a few quarts of strawberries at Whole Foods. The process of making it was actually quite simple and so let’s keep this short and sweet (no pun intended).
Taking a break from working on my Philippine trip backlog to warm up to some winter weather comfort drinks. Yes…those who know me that whiskey of all persuasions comforts me whether it’s a beautiful, balmy summer day by a Minnesotan lake or the Apocalypse is descending upon us. But this weekend, I decided to give hot chocolate another try. You see, I’m not a big fan of the more popular Milo (in the Philippines), Nesquik (in the US), and/or Ovaltine (y’all remember this one fellow Saudi friends!?) drinks that my family loved on Friday mornings. They were too sweet, coating my throat with this sludgy film that no amount of water could wash down.
Except this time was different. I had spent an hour in Binondo, hunting for La Resureccion Tablea, the famed chocolate factory. A tablea is the Filipino chocolate disk. Dark, powdery, and melted down to create the thick Filipino-style hot chocolate, or tsokolate (pronounced “cho-koh-lah-tey”…I have no idea why we insist on changing the spelling of these things. It’s bad enough that my grade school books spelled “cake” as “keyk“), once popular but now replaced by the instant (though sometimes not always inferior) variety. The store itself looked like a rundown but clean electronics shop with only a few display cases half filled with the two varieties of tableas: unsweetened and sweetened. With a name that felt like it belonged on a Church and a logo that was borderline Masonic, the chocolate must’ve been that good. The old-school wrappers the store used made the tube of disks look like an oversized Haw Flakes package or a weird fire cracker.
These are Haw Flakes…props to you if you know what these are.
It took nearly a month of waiting and moving from suitcase to suitcase before I finally opened a pack here in New York to try with the roomies during a lazy Saturday night spent playing Call of Duty.
I just wanted to make 3 1/2 cups for us to try so I split open the sweetened pack:
AND HERE WE GO:
They’ve got it all wrong. You see, most Philippine travel blogs (not the ones written by rich balikbayans talking about their latest jaunt to the Mall of Asia or the ones who can afford to stay at Boracay Station 1 away from the unwashed masses at Station 3. Yes…that’s bitterness in my voice) romanticize, or at least politely edit, what one experiences in the Filipino countryside: the fresh breeze, the friendly farmers, the soft chirping of grasshoppers as you softly rock in a hammock…paradise, thy name is Rural Philippines.
And I can’t blame ’em. Every picture I took on our long-standing tradition of visiting my dad’s family farm in Antique was idyllic; worthy of the best travel mags. But they don’t mention:
I was raggin’ on a friend of mine for being a sneakerhead the other day. There isn’t a week that goes by that he posts a new special edition pair of Nikes. Not to mention that entering a shoe store reduces his mental function to that of a 2-week starved hyena.
Ironically, I’m the same way entering a cooking shop. The bright lights, the gleaming porcelain, the space age espresso maker, and the old school Japanese knives. It was then that I finally sympathized with my friend. Two months of wondering where my hard-earned dollars went though and I came to a conclusion: only buy a tool whose function you cannot accomplish with what you already own . No hand mixer? Build some damn forearm muscles and whip those eggs into submission! No spice grinder? Salvage the coffee grinder you found in the basement of your apartment.
At the top of my list was an ice cream maker. I mean…have you seen the crazy things the Iron Chefs have put out with those things? And to appease my bitterness and guilt for buying that hot new microplane a few weeks back, I decided to eschew the hundred dollar contraption for a pot, whisk, and bowl.
Making homemade ice cream is deceptively simple, requires very few ingredients, and is flexible enough to allow for an infinite combination of flavors.