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Lemon poppy seed cookies

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I’ve only ever had lemon poppy seed muffins or scones before. So when I came across a cookie the other day at a cafe, I had to try one. They were really good, and although you lose the poppy seed’s contrasting crunch (like in a muffin), the lemon flavor was enhanced in a cookie somehow. I looked for recipes online and found one called Hungarian Lemon Poppy seed Cookies. Not sure what’s so Hungarian about this cookie but it turned out deliciously tart and wonderfully crisp, and might I say, really pretty too. Have a whirl with them!

Cookie dough:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbs grated lemon peel (use fresh lemons!)
  • 1-1/4 cups self-raising flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 tbs poppy seeds

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 5 tbs lemon juice (freshly squeezed!)

Melt butter and mix in granulated sugar till a creamy, light yellow mixture is formed. Stir in the egg and grated lemon peel. Mix salt with flour and stir into butter mixture. Add in poppy seeds and stir to distribute evenly. Dough should be sticky but able to hold a ball shape. Drop teaspoonfuls onto a lined cookie sheet and flatten them slightly using your thumb. (You can also leave them ball-shaped if you prefer a domed cookie). Bake at 350 deg F for about 10 minutes or until slightly browned.

In the meantime, mix powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. The consistency should be a little like glue, gooey but fluid. Drizzle this mixture on your cookies when they are completely cooled and let the glaze set for about 10 min. Enjoy!

 

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Vanilla bean cream tartlets with summer berries

ImageThis place is as close to a recipe book as I’ll ever get to so today’s recipe has to be logged in. It’s been awhile since I had some time to get my hands dirty with baking, and boy did they get dirty.. I must have dropped whisks and splattered mixtures a dozen times today, clumsy me. The perils of getting older and more complacent. But enough about me, on to the recipe at hand. These came about due to over-enthusiasm at peach picking last weekend, leading to more peaches than we could eat, which were getting more and more ripe by the minute. And I got carried away buying berries at trader joe’s haha. So a google search revealed many recipes to pick from and I adapted two (roostblog.com and joyofbaking.com) to the ingredients I had handy.

Tartlet crust:

1-1/2 cups almond flour

1/4 tsp salt (I got distracted while doing this and they ended up a little salty so be careful!)

1/2 tsp nutmeg (I did without this but I’m sure they add a little depth to the tart taste)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 unsalted melted butter

1 tbs water

Vanilla cream filling:

1-1/4 cup milk or half and half

3 egg yolks

1/4 cup white sugar

2 tbs all purpose flour

2 tbs corn starch

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

To make the tartlet shells, simply mix the dry and wet ingredients separately before combining them together. Press the mixture into greased tartlet molds and bake for 15 min at 350 deg F. Remove and cool in the fridge until needed.

For the vanilla bean filling, first boil the milk on medium heat. While doing this, whisk egg yolks and sugar together, making sure to avoid lumps. Add the flour and corn starch in and continue whisking. When milk has boiled, remove from heat and add slowly to the egg mixture, whisking continuously. You want to avoid cooking the eggs and forming lumps. After all the milk is added, pour entire mixture into pot and heat on low until it boils and thickens to a creamy consistency. Keep whisking throughout and for a minute after mixture has boiled. Remove from heat immediately and add vanilla paste at this point. Transfer mixture to a bowl and place plastic cling wrap onto cream to prevent a skin from forming over it. Place in fridge to cool.

Assembling the finished tartlets is really up to what fruits you have available. Simply spoon cream filling onto the shells with a spoon and arrange whatever fruit is handy. I used berries and caramelized peaches (peaches, 1 tbs butter, dash of sugar on low heat in pan).

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Muffin mania

So.. it was a weekend of muffins, inspired by various recipes I found on Pinterest. To start things off on a Sunday morning, I made breakfast muffins with a basic biscuit dough and topped off with egg, sausage and cheese. These didn’t turn out very well, probably due to the high ratio of dough to filling and needs a little tweaking, both in the recipe and execution. Will post when I have a better handle on this. Next up, a basic muffin recipe, with a little added twist of a cream cheese filling. I used this to make two different types of muffins – carrot cake and blueberry – both of which got rave reviews by my housemates and were consumed within the day. Glee!

These aren’t great-looking muffins as you can tell from the pictures below. Most suffered an internal explosion of some sort, either with the cream cheese filling bursting forth volcano-style or with a pop of juicy blueberry goodness. But if you ignore the messiness and just bite into one fresh out of the oven, you will be rewarded with a warm, moist, subtly sweet muffin that’s sure to hit the spot. Seriously. I couldn’t believe how good they turned out. This recipe is a keeper for sure.

Recipe:

Cream cheese filling: 8 oz package of melted cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla essence. Mix together.

Muffin:

2-1/4 cup unbleached whole wheat flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup tightly packed brown sugar

1-1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

2 large eggs

3/4 cup water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Above is the basic muffin mix. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and the wet ingredients separately. Pour the egg, oil and water mixture into the flour mixture and stir until a smooth consistency is reached. I divided this mix into two, one part for making carrot cake muffins, the other for blueberry muffins. For the carrot cake ones, add 1 tsp of ground cinnamon, a handful of chopped walnuts and 1/2 cup of grated carrots (I find that baby carrots work best for this even though grating them is a pain). For the blueberry muffins, add 6 oz of fresh blueberries. Preheat oven to 400 deg F. Line muffin pan with muffin cups. Spoon muffin mix into cup about halfway then spoon in about 1/2 tbs of cream cheese filling. Top off with more muffin mix. This is optional but sprinkling a little brown sugar on top gives it a nice color and crunch. Bake for about 10-12 minutes. I think ideally to avoid explosions, less than 12 minutes is sufficient.

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Peanut butter chocolate chip cake

It’s been awhile since I’ve set my hands to baking anything and it’s strangely comforting to come back to it after so many months of absence. Getting reacquainted with my bags of flour and sugars, combing grocery store aisles for obscure ingredients, the wonderful smells of warm melting chocolate… how did I ever leave baking for so long? I bake as a stress-reliever, for the fact that however screwed up work gets, I can spend one day in the weekend getting my hands dirty making something that although doesn’t always turn out fantastic, is at least satisfyingly successful. The process is a veritable balm for frayed nerves and failed experiments at lab. And of course, sugar helps. Which is why this weekend after another draining Sunday at lab, I came home and found myself in need of creating the sweetest and most sinful-looking dessert I could find online. Ladies and gentlemen, I present Death by Chocolate, the perfect way to go.

 Recipe:
2 ounces unsalted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup tightly packed brown sugar
3 ounces creamy peanut butter
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 deg F. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix melted butter, sugar, peanut butter and eggs separately and add to flour mixture. Stir in yogurt, hot water and vanilla essence until batter reaches a smooth and even consistency. Add chocolate chips. Spoon batter into a greased pan (9×9 works well) lined at the bottom with parchment paper. Bake for about 25 minutes.

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If possible..

I understand the intentions of people who are concerned, and I would be too, if I were in their shoes. But try to understand the person who is me, who would rather not be the recipient of sympathies and consolations, because all these would only serve as reminders of the failures that I’m trying hard to put aside. I don’t want to talk about it, because it’s not going to help me move on and would only keep me mired in misery, misery that is already hard to endure without having to contend with pitying eyes and hollow words as well. I am grateful for your concern and prayers but please, don’t treat me like I am helpless without them. I just want to get on with what needs to be done and in time, I will bare my soul. For now, just please understand that I need to put up a shell around this mess of myself and would rather not talk about it nor let it be the subject of talk.

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A dishing, a dashing.

It doesn’t take much to bring my confidence down to its knees. I’m trying, world, but if every time I take a step, someone so casually and easily knocks me down, is it any wonder that I stay hidden and reclusive? The worse thing is that it’s so unfair.

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Processing

Is it a bad thing if you can predict with pretty good accuracy what someone will say in a given conversation? Like the conversation becomes some sort of weird monologue with what you expect the person to say happening in your head before the person actually says it. And if this happens very often, what does it mean? That the person is boring? That you’re too smart for your own good? That you have ADD, are easily distractible and bored by people who don’t mentally stimulate you? Sometimes I think education and science has ruined my life because now even everyday, normal life gets filtered through some kind of analytical lens, making me unable to relate to people who are on a different plane of reference. Ugh am I thinking too much? Yes. Sigh. I should just make myself dumb.

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Surrealism for the child-at-heart

bright and vivid, quietly waiting.

Recently came across an article in the NYtimes (here) profiling Shaun Tan, artist/author of several books that you can call children’s books or graphic novels or picture books or whatever. His works don’t fall readily into any particular genre. But wonderful things they are. Just this one picture from The Red Tree speaks volumes.

Sometimes you just don't know who you are meant to be

The accompanying sentences in the book provide just the right amount of perspective and context, while letting the images speak for themselves. And in The Arrival, there isn’t even any text, just 128 pages of gorgeous sepia-toned illustrations that tell a succinct story yet still allow your mind to wander and linger and reflect. These books strike me much in the same way as The Sandman series but with less of the gore and shock. Perhaps sort of innocently insidious.

The arrival - Four seasons

All this just made me think about the way people see the world. Two people could read these stories and one could be completely transformed while the other is just like ‘meh’. Or two people could watch Big Bang Theory and one would find it hard to grasp the humor while the other can’t stop laughing her stupid head off. But there is no right or wrong, right?

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Racing against the sunset

Chasing, running, racing? Towards or away?

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