Saturday, September 1, 2012

Apple Cake Tatin' (Upside-down Apple Cake)

This cake is a hit in my family every time I make it. It is basically an apple upside-down cake. The tanginess of Granny Smith apples makes them the best type to be used here. The tangy and chewy apple slices will be coated with the sweet caramel - yum... truly amazing.
Recipe after the jump

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Chocolate buttermilk muffins (cupcakes) with tri-color buttercream frosting

I don't often trust the muffin recipes that tell you to mix dry and wet ingredients in two separate bowls then just combine them. That's because I tried that method for a few times and the results were always tough muffins. I have more confident in the recipes starting with creaming butter and sugar together. But now I've come to realize that maybe I was the one to blame. When folding wet ingredients into dry mixture, it seemed like I always overmixed, and I didn't stop before I got a very smooth batter. Apparently that's not the way. The key here is mixing until just combined, and it's completely fine if the batter is not smooth, because that's the way it should be.

This recipe for chocolate buttermilk muffins is a very good one and I'd like to use it again and again. The muffins are soft and fluffy with fantastic chocolate aroma. They all look cute and neat that they could as well be put in a box to gift someone. Surely the recipient will honestly love the little cakes.

There's one more thing I want to say. I wanted to make the red, white and blue frosting for July 4th. but this was the first time I made frosting and also the first time I used icing colors so my experience in this was close to none. And I also didn't want to use too much color. That was why my frosting didn't look blue and red, but more like cyan and pink. Someone in my family said the frosting looked more like Christmas instead of July 4th. Anyway, the frosting was so delicious that I guess I'll follow that recipe the next time I make buttercream frosting, and the next time, and the next time...

Recipe after the jump

Friday, June 29, 2012

Chocolate cherry muffins

Who can refuse the combination of chocolate and cherries? Absolutely not me. That was why I decided to make these chocolate cherry muffins right when I saw the recipe.
Recipe adapted from Calcherry.

Chocolate Cherry Muffins
Makes 12 medium muffins

• 8 ounces butter at room temperature (227g)
• 3/4 cup sugar (150g)
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 2 cups all-purpose flour (260g)
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (28g)
• 1 cup milk (240ml)
• 1 1/3 cups pitted cherries, halved
• 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


1. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Cream together the butter and the sugar until fluffy and light. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time, and vanilla extract.

3. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa. Add this to the egg mixture along with the milk and mix just long enough to blend the ingredients, no more than 20 seconds.
4. Fold in the halved cherries, no more than another 10 seconds.

5. Let rest 10 minutes, then fill greased muffin cups to the brim with the batter.

6. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.

7. Remove and let cool 10 minutes before unmolding.


1. I used Rainier cherries b/c that was what I had. The fresh cherries were so delicious on their own, but they tasted quite pale in the muffins :(. Anyway, they did add some freshness.

2. I baked the muffins @ 350oF. 400oF seemed too high and I baked for 35'.

3. I put the muffins in the fridge and the next day they tasted like brownies with cherries :). Good.

4. My muffins did not raise very much (so remember to fill the batter up to the brim), maybe that was why they tasted like brownies after staying in the fridge. I did not follow the time limit in step 3 and 4, i.e it took me longer to mix the batter. Maybe that was the reason why my muffins were quite dense?

5. Will I bake these again? Maybe yes, but I'll pay more attention to the time limit and I'll use red cherries. Rainier cherries really should be eaten fresh.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Indonesian sweet potato soup

I saw this recipe on a site, where the author stated that it was an Indonesian dessert. I tried it and all my family satisfied with the result, so much that I'm cooking it again and again but have never bothered to check if it's really from Indonesia or not :). No matter where its origin is, I still love it.
Sweet soup, [big] tapioca pearls and coconut milk
Recipe adapted from here.
• 2 medium potatoes, cooked
• About 75g tapioca flour
• 210-230g palm sugar
• 1 liter water

• Coconut milk and a pinch of salt (optional)
• Tapioca pearls (optional)


1. Cook the potatoes and mash them while they're still hot. Let cool a bit.

2. Add tapioca flour, mix to get a dough that's not sticky and not too dry.

3. Roll into small balls about 1-2cm in diameter.

4. Bring water to a boil, add palm sugar, stir to dissolve. Gradually and gently drop in sweet potato balls, stir to avoid sticking. The balls are cooked when they float. Bring to a boil again. Turn off heat. Let cool.

5. If you're a cautious mother (like me), you'll also boil coconut milk with a pinch of salt. Let cool. Store in a tight container.

6. If you have dry tapioca pearls, just follow the instructions. If not, you can make them this way: take some tapioca flour, add some water, a little at a time, mix until you have a non-sticky dough. Roll into very small balls. Boil some water, drop in the balls. They're cooked when they float. Spoon them out and drop them into a bowl of cold water at once to prevent sticking. When they're completely cooled, store in a tight container in the fridge.

7. To serve, spoon sweet soup with sweet potato balls into your bowl, add coconut milk and/or tapioca pearls as you want.

The [big] tapioca pearls

1. When you add tapioca flour to mashed potatoes or water to flour, always add little by little until you get a nice non-sticky dough. You may have to use more or less flour than the amount stated in the recipe depending on the type of potatoes you have.

2. If you make tapioca pearls yourself, roll them very small. I made them quite big and it took all day to cook.

The purple potato ball - it got its color from the purple sweet potatoes I used. Yellow potatoes will make yellow balls, which are pretty too.
I'm submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #20: Asian dessert buffet! (June 2012) hosted by Moon of Food Playground.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Lemon sour cream muffins with lemon icing

The first time I baked a sheet cake with lemon zest, I was so disturbed by the aroma that I promised myself not to bake with anything lemon-y ever again. I even wondered why so many bakers out there seemed to be in love with that scent.

But I seemed to be easily influenced. I saw many recipes, in which people wrote that lemon cakes/ loaves/ bundts were lovely. Even my elder kid said that he loved the scent of fresh lemon zest. Then magazines said that the citrus scent could help reduce stress. So I decided I'd give lemons a second chance. And believe it or not, now I'm one of those who would buy some lemons every time I see them in the supermarkets, because, honestly, I love the scent of lemon zest :).

What I'm trying to say here is, i believe in second chances.

This recipe for lemon sour cream muffins sounds really simple but it got many good reviews. Apparently everyone who has tried it loves it. I decided to add some lemon icing and it felt so right. So if you do give this recipe a try, I recommend you make some lemon icing too, as the muffins have just a small amount of sugar. The lemon icing is tangy and sweet, it goes perfectly with the muffins.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mission failed at a traditional bakery

A while ago, the local TV channel introduced an old bakery where traditional cakes were sold. Not being a fan of traditional cakes but I was interested in it, mostly b/c I'm interested in vintage things and I'm a foodie who always want to explore new places for food.

The first time I tried to find the address mentioned on TV, I failed. There were so many street numbers *the same* as the number stated on TV (strange, isn't it?) and none of them was a bakery. Mission failed, and I felt like I was fooled. Forget it, I told myself.

Recently I happened to hear about that bakery once again. this time I also got to know that it was in a small alley. Keeping my eyes wide open, I could find the bakery this time. Yes, the bakery was true to the words. Several kinds of traditional cakes are sold there. The older people must really like this place b/c there are the cakes that have been so dear to them since they were young, especially the cakes made from some kinds of leaves that the younger generation might have never heard of.
Here it is - the old bakery
Anyway, what I expected most from this bakery was not the cakes but some stories behind the cakes or behind the store. This bakery is much older than me. It was opened around 1940s so there must have been a lot of things to talk about.

When I first stepped in the bakery, what I heard was a old woman, who was the seller, yelling at the phone: "How many [cakes]? Where are you? Remember the delivery fee will be on you too!". Her voice sounded cold and angry and I never knew why b/c it was in the morning and the bakery was not so crowded. So what irritated a woman that early on the morning?
The irritated woman in her bakery
Many mini versions of traditional cakes, which are both cute and good
My donut balls with sesame seeds, 10 for 1USD
Western pieces of cakes. Prices are fair.
After she finished yelling, I said I wanted some traditional donut balls (donuts rounded like small balls with green bean filling) and with quick movements, she put them into a brown bag for me. Thinking this was my chance, I started: "I saw your bakery on TV and...". The irritated woman said nothing and her cold expression didn't change either, which was most likely to mean "I'm not interested, understand? Take your donut balls, pay then leave!". I did. I took some more small cakes, I paid then I left. I wasn't angry at all but I couldn't help but wondering why that woman became so annoyed at customers, whose money would become her salary. Angry - no. But disappointed - yes. So I didn't get any stories out of that woman. Mission failed once again.
The cup that the bakery got for its good quality
Anyway, the donut balls and cakes were good. I still hope that next time when I go to that bakery, I'd see someone else with better attitude who would spare a minute or two for some good old stories about such an old bakery. Or at least, a story about why that woman was so irritated - I'm even all ears for that :).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Movie review: "Another Earth"

What if there's another YOU out there? Like when you look at the mirror, it suddenly breaks and that YOU in the mirror just step out and you realize that "that YOU" has been a real human in another world all the time. What will you feel? Will you be delighted, or will you freak out? Then after those first intense reactions, what will you do? What will you say to that you? What advice will you give? Or will you just listen to learn from them? To me, the main idea of the movie is like that, but built in a much better story. Our Earth, the only planet we knew that supports life, has been duplicated sometime in its long, long history. Now we know, and even see, another planet, not too far from us, let's call it Earth 2, on which there's life. And what's more, there are us on it too. Everyone of us. There's you and there's me. Now do you want to go there and meet that you? Will it be a good idea or a bad one?

The whole movie "Another Earth" develops from that idea. The thing I don't like about it is that the story moves quite slowly that sometimes you will want to stop it. But if you have time, or you never mind the slow pace, or you're very patient, then you'll find some beautiful and interesting bits in it.

I like the part when the girl named Rhoda, played by Brit Marling, revealed to the musical composer John that she wanted to travel to Earth 2.
John: why do you want to go? You don't know what's out there.
R: that's why I wanna go.
R: if no one wanted to travel to the unknown places, then we'd still believe that we are the center of the universe, that the Sun revolved around us.
John: don't we now? We call ourselves earth 1 and them Earth 2. Do you think they [up there] call themselves number 2?
(the quotes above are not exact b/c I wrote just what I remember)

This part really impresses. B/c many times in life, we really still think we are the center, even w/o knowing it. We want others to play by our rules. We set our own standards and we trash others'. And we don't even realize what we are doing. And if we realize that, will we stop?

Another remarkable quote I've got from imdb:

Richard Berendzen: Within our lifetimes, we've marveled as biologists have managed to look at ever smaller and smaller things. And astronomers have looked further and further into the dark night sky, back in time and out in space. But maybe the most mysterious of all is neither the small nor the large: it's us, up close. Could we even recognize ourselves, and if we did, would we know ourselves? What would we say to ourselves? What would we learn from ourselves? What would we really like to see if we could stand outside ourselves and look at us?

Somewhere in the movie, they also said that we as humans actually are talking to ourselves all the time, every day, but we just don't realize that. But now, when that idea of talking to ANOTHER YOU becomes so visible, what will you think? What do you think you will say to that you? For me, I'm wondering if people see themselves as loveable people? Will they want to be friends with themselves? Maybe not many people can answer those questions honestly.

As I said, this movie moves quite slowly so if you are the kind who enjoy action-packed or fast-paced movies, you're not likely to love it. But if you're patient enough, then some gems will be revealed to you through out the movie. Some more information: Ms. Marling, who played the female lead Rhoda, is also the script writer and co-producer. And she's very young. A very admirable girl.

Watch this movie if you have time, and you'll find yourself reflect on your own image after that.

I guess I'll give this movie 7 stars out of 10.