Messy Goodness

Geez louise, does that cover look good or what?? The title alone is composed of four of my all-time favorite adjectives: sticky, chewy, messy, gooey . . . well, uhh, four of my favorite dessert-themed adjectives, anyway. With a title like that, how can you go wrong? For more info on Jill O'Connor's newest cookbook, Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey, click here.

Honey and Thyme Roasted Pumpkin


It’s been raining a lot over here. Threats of typhoons, gloomy weekdays filled with the incessant patter of raindrops, grey skies, wonky dsl...the usual ways the rainy season makes its presence felt. Today’s different though...the sun is out (for now) where I live and I’m once again in a skirt and tank top, trying to keep cool.

Crazy weather. Determined to drive me mad. Lulling me into cozy thoughts of soup and stews, and then driving me headlong into the arms of fresh fruit and salad. Eating seasonally means a different thing every day over here, a challenge that is just a bit too much for me right now.

I seek refuge in the embrace of a very autumnal dish. Autumn is a season absent from our calendar and I find every opportunity to flout nature and enjoy it on my table, if not in my weather.

Crazy, perplexing, faithless weather. You deserve my rebellion.

The weather aside, I am loving the local farmers who have started growing butternut squash. I find it at the markets more often now, and I make sure to buy some when I see matter what the weather is like. In my favourite herb stall, at my Saturday market a while back, I found some gorgeous specimens. After much dithering about the size (I only have two mouths to feed after all) I finally succumbed to a 3-kilo beauty upon the urging of my friend M, who assured me that I could just cook and puree what I couldn’t use then freeze it for later consumption. Which is exactly what I did after enjoying the squash as a centrepiece on our dining room table (whole pumpkin is such a can keep it as decoration for the longest time while you ponder how you want to prepare it...not to mention the possibilities if you happen to have a fairy godmother!).

I divided the squash in half: Half I roasted and pureed, and stashed in my freezer for emergency butternut squash soup. This is what happened to the other half.

Honey and Thyme Roasted Pumpkin
(adapted from Maple and Thyme Roasted Pumpkin, Donna Hay Magazine, issue 38, page 100)

  • 4 wedges of butternut squash, about 700 grams total weight
  • a scant 1/4 cup honey
  • 70 grams butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup pili nuts, blanched and peeled
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

- Place the honey, butter, thyme, and nuts in a bowl and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste – it should have a sweet-salty flavour balance.
- Arrange squash wedges in a roasting pan, or any sort of pan where they’d fit. I used a pyrex pie dish and that worked fine.
- Pour the honey-nut mixture over the squash, dividing evenly between their little hollows.
- Roast in a 200C oven for 30-40 minutes or until tender.
- Serves 4 as a side dish.

The original recipe used golden nugget pumpkins (instead of butternut squash), maple syrup (instead of honey), and almonds and pecans (instead of walnuts and pili).

If there is someone out there who can resist a golden, caramelized wedge of butternut squash, softly roasted and topped with sweet sticky nuts...well, you are a stronger person than I. This dish was so divine that the weather made no hee-haw to me whichever way its inconstant winds wanted to blow. Rain or shine, wet or dry, sometimes you just need to close your window and do what you want.

Birds, Birds, and More Birds

Every time that I'm involved in the planning of baby shower, which seems to be quite often lately, I fantasize about serving these cupcakes!! I wish I was talented enough to recreate them. If you're good with a pastry bag and want to try your hand at assembling these little sweeties, you can find directions here, at Martha Stewart's Web site. And, because you know Martha is into the whole matchy matchy thing, you'll also find a recipe for some delicious looking Bird's Nest Cookies and another for a Hummingbird Cake. All the makings of an exclusively bird-themed shower, if you're so inclined. Frankly, I love birds, but it is possible to overdose on cuteness, so it's probably best to just pick one. A little cuteness goes a long way!

Plum and Nectarine Galette

Hello there! I am back! The meetings that I mentioned here went well and, although this is still a busy time for us at work, it’s a good kind of busy. They type that you know is pulling you and your team to bigger and better things, even as you wipe the sweat off your brow and wallpaper your aching back with Salonpas.

But enough work talk! I feel like celebrating and I’m doing it with pie! Well, with a galette if you want to be technical. A Plum and Nectarine Galette if you want to be specific. I found some nice plums and nectarines in the Sunday market across the street from me (yes, I live two steps away from a cute little market - another reason to celebrate!) so I bought a bunch with this in mind. I had been reading about Dorie Greenspan’s Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough from the enthusiastic Tuesdays With Dorie bunch and had been meaning to try it. When I saw Cenk’s gorgeous galette on (the equally gorgeous) Cafe Fernando I knew that as soon as I had a bit of free time I would be rolling out this dough.

I must say, the legions of Dorie fans out there are not mistaken. This pie dough really is good for almost anything! It’s tasty and flaky and a snap to put together. And getting pie dough flaky in my hot and humid kitchen is a feat in itself – Dorie I owe you! I used Cenk’s version though which only has butter and no shortening. I don’t have anything against shortening, and I know it is supposed to make the dough flakier, but I was too lazy to buy some ;)

I adapted the recipe slightly to make allowances for all the humidity and heat over here – lessening the water and adding more dough-chilling time. This recipe makes enough for a 9-inch double crust pie. If you make galettes you can make two 9-inch ones (one now one later)...and you don’t have to fiddle with a pie pan ;)

Plum and Nectarine Galette
(pie dough recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours as adapted by Cenk of Cafe Fernando, filling adapted from Cenk’s recipe)

For the pie dough:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 sticks of butter, cut into small chunks and chilled in the freezer for about 20 minutes
  • 1/3 cup ice water

    For the filling:
  • 300-400 grams fresh plums, pitted and sliced into eighths (I used 3 plums)
  • 300-400 grams fresh nectarines, pitted and sliced into eighths (I used 2 1/2 nectarines)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • Juice of half a lemon

  • 1 egg, slightly beaten (for assembly)

    - Pulse flour, sugar and salt in a food processor using a metal blade.
    - Remove butter from freezer, add it in the processor, and pulse until it resembles a coarse meal. Do not over mix! The pieces don’t have to be uniform. Dorie says some can be the size of fat peas and some the size of barley.
    - Add ice water little by little, pulsing once in between each addition, until the dough forms clumps and curds (I lessened the water from 1/2 cup to 1/3 due to the moisture already present in my air). Again, do not over mix! Chunks of butter in the dough are fine (yum!) :)
    - Turn the dough out onto a work surface and very lightly and sparingly, knead just to incorporate dry ingredients.
    - Divide the dough into two even balls. Flatten balls into disks and wrap individually in plastic.
    - Refrigerate dough for at least an hour (I refrigerated one disk and kept the other in the freezer for future use).
    - Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough between two sheets of baking parchment (you can roll dough directly on a floured work surface or between two sheets of plastic wrap but parchment works best for me) into a rough 11-inch circle. When rolling, turn dough over frequently and lift the parchment so it doesn’t form creases. Trim the edges to form a clean circle.
    - Place your flattened dough (covered in the parchment) back in the fridge for about 20 minutes to chill again.
    - Remove dough from fridge, peel of top layer of parchment, and transfer the dough, on the bottom layer of parchment, to a sheet pan or pizza pan (I used one of those pizza pans with holes on the bottom).
    - Mix 1/2 tablespoon of the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a bowl and spread on the bottom of the dough.
    - Toss plums and nectarines with the rest of the cornstarch, sugar, and lemon juice.
    - Arrange the fruit on the bottom of the dough, leaving 2 inches of dough left outside.
    - Fold up and pleat the dough (as best you can) over the top of the fruit, leaving the center uncovered.
    - Lightly brush the top of the pastry with the beaten egg and sprinkle both the dough and the fruit with sugar (I used Demerara sugar with large crystals).
    - Place the galette in 400F oven and cook for 40-45 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.
    - Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack immediately.

    I love how this turned out! All rustic and earth goddess goodness...uneven buttery crust, sticky-shiny filling, sweet juices bubbling over onto the parchment, hypnotic pie-baking smell filling my flat...and C, who is not a sweets type of guy, actually had it for dessert that night (and breakfast today), claiming that “I like this kind of thing!” Yet another reason to celebrate!

    More reasons to celebrate:
  • A wonderfully generous friend brought me back Fage Greek yogurt from her trip to Hong Kong, so I’ve been having very satisfied breakfasts :)
  • I discovered the most adorable earth-friendly soap stall at my neighbourhood’s Sunday market! She makes body soaps and laundry soap...the laundry soap smells so good (it’s made with herbs) that I want to dunk my head in the basin every time I wash! And I can! Because it’s safe for my skin! Joy! The best part? Unbeknownst to me at the time, she is the same girl who supplied me with all those tomatoes a while back!
  • 80 Breakfasts is mentioned as “click-worthy” in Rogue Magazine’s current (August 2008) issue – The Appetite Issue (piece by Wysgal)! Oh yay!!! My shameless thrill is as uncool and this magazine is cool. Thank goodness this blog managed to slip into its pages before any of them discovered how dorky I am ;)
  • Lemon Mascarpone Mmmmm

    My mom made this delicious Lemon Mascarpone Pudding over the weekend. It doesn't look like much in the picture, but trust me, it was sooo good!

    It features two of my favorite dessert components: a cookie crust AND lemon curd. Just add some mascarpone cheese and you've got the perfect summer treat! Oh, and my mom put it in a bowl, instead of parfait glasses, so everyone was free to scoop out as little . . . or as much as they wanted. For the complete recipe, visit Relish magazine's Web site.

    Mushrooms in Cream

    This is called “My bosses are in town and I have 2 big meetings this week to prepare for so I need something fast but delicious and comforting to eat at my desk and by the way I’ll be buried in work all week so see you next week Mushrooms in Cream”.

    I know I said I never give dishes fancy names but I thought I’d make an exception here as I don’t have the luxury of a long post to do the talking.

    I apologize for the hodgepodge, throw-together manner with which I’m sharing this recipe...but I am in the middle of a workstorm, and besides, that’s how this meal came together...and it really is good enough to share. Especially if you find nice portobellos in the market. I imagine it would be even better with chanterelles or morels but the chances of me finding those two forest beauties over here are slim to none (I have only seen fresh chanterelles here once).

    Here's what to do: Sautee 2 cloves of minced garlic and some thyme in some olive oil. Add 2 portobello mushrooms that have been sliced or roughly chopped into big chunks (or use whatever type mushoom you have available, enough to make one serving). Sautee until mushrooms are cooked and the liquid has all evaporated. Add some generous glugs of cream, season with salt and pepper, and toss until cream starts turning nutty brown. Scrape everything onto a plate, grab a fork, and get back to work!

    You can have this on its own, as a side dish, tossed with pasta noodles, or folded in an omelette. Or, as I like it, piled on toast :)

    Being buried in your work may sound like a less-than-ideal situation (unless you are her) but that does not have to be the case! If you take the right provisions down there with you, things will not seem as daunting :)

    Have a fantastic and productive work-week! I'll be "back" next week!

    It is my dream to one day meet this cake and I will work until I make that dream come true

    It's official. Bakery Bar is my new favorite Web site! For one thing, they are the creators of what has to be the cutest cake I have ever seen!! I stumbled upon it on Sunday and I can't stop thinking about it!! I mean look at it!

    How can you not fall in love with it?? Unfortunately, realistically speaking, my palate isn't quite so excited, given that it's completely covered in fondant. Topic: Why oh why can't someone invent a delicious tasting fondant?? Discuss.

    For more lovely, albeit fondant-covered goodies, check out their Web site. There's a whole lot more to see!