Blueberry-Pecan Galette

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)!

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Caramel Apple Turon (Filipino Apple Spring Roll)

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.

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Dessert Alert: Talenti Gelato Stand in Bryant Park

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(Talenti Gelato e Sorbetto is located in Bryant Park on 40th bet. 5th & 6th, open from 11:30 AM – 8 PM, only open through summer)

Fellow desk rats!  Short update since New York weather has been blessedly gorgeous as of late (not hot enough to plaster you in sweat, enough of a breeze to blow the smell of Wall Street back).  The stand previously occupied by Magnum Ice Cream Bars last summer has been replaced by Talenti Gelato e Sorbetto (bonus points: they’re from Minneapolis!).  I was initially disappointed seeing as the decadent and guilt-inducing Magnum bars were a solid pick-me-up on days I stared longingly outside between marathon Excel runs.  However, a quick look-see on the brand (which doesn’t seem to have a backstory on their website leading me to think they’re secretly owned by Nestle or some other conglomerate) shows plenty of ecstatic customers, enticing flavors, and a focus on proper ingredients and methods.

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The server said they rotate flavors every week and a half or so.  Great!  Since the flavors currently on sale skewed more towards the “warm” and “hearty” (think caramel, dark chocolate, peanut butter) vs. light, summery ones (the Alphonso Mango on their website sounds bomb!), I bookmarked the place for a 2nd or 3rd try.  Yes…I’m unabashedly using an excuse to go back multiple times.

A single scoop goes for $4.5 and a double goes for $6 (I think…the sight of frozen desserts usually short-circuits my capacity to remember important details).  The scoops are generous, they’re open till 8 PM, and they’re an official sponsor of the movie nights in the park!  The only downside is that some of the flavors had visible ice crystals on it, causing a slightly unpleasant “freezer-burn” feel to the Southern Butter Pecan scoop I got.

A second try perhaps?  Anyone in the New York area want to test all their flavors with me?!

Summertime Dessert: Fresh Strawberry Sorbet with Almond “Soup”

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).

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Kanin Club: When Filipino Food is Actually Done Right

(Side Note: maybe I should Instagram my pictures first before posting them here…or get a better camera :P)

I once read that you shouldn’t buy pizza in Italy.  That unless you’re in Naples, pizza in Italy is a far cry quality-wise from the deep dish varieties in Chicago or their $1 foldable cousins in Manhattan.  I wonder if that holds true for other cultures when eating out.

In the Philippines, it’s quite true (most of the time).  Sinigang (a staple of every Filipino household, a light broth soured with tamarind and usually accompanied by pork spare ribs or fish depending on your region) sprinkled with a scant few pieces of wilted lettuce and a few lonely radish slices.  Adobo (vinegar/soy sauce-braised chicken) that’s more gristle than meat.  Lumpia (incorrectly translated as “Spring Roll”) where there was more wrapper than filling.  I guess these are more a symptom of our economic circumstance than culinary prowess…but I digress.

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However, we were pleasantly surprised by a visit to the Kanin Club at the Ayala Triangle Gardens, an atmospheric green zone in the middle of bustling Manila where wait lists for the simplest cafes rivaled those of Michelin-starred powerhouses in Midtown New York.  A friend I had met at the embassy the other day recommended the place based on their focus on quality ingredients and not being skimpy on the food though the place has been open for some time now.

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Spiced Early Grey Tea Ice Cream

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.

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