Monday, May 18, 2009

Cheesecake, S'more inspired


Have you had kitchen disasters? I have, countless of 'em.

If you like to cook, or work in a kitchen, I am pretty sure you have your share of fiascos, those good-intentions-gone-awry. It is inevitable and, if you ask me, it's an essential part of learning. If only we can share our stories over a cup of tea (or coffee), I am sure that we'll have a real blast listening to each other's narratives about our respective kitchen mishaps. Wouldn't that be so much fun?

When I talk about my unforgettable "duh!" kitchen moments, there is one incident that readily comes to mind. It is quite memorable for me, and may I say, hilarious too.

This happened 15 years or so ago. Back then, I was just beginning to explore the world of baking. I've always been interested in learning how to bake ever since the cooking/baking class I had when I was still in school. Sadly after graduating from college, my carreer took over and I'd never had a chance to really practice what I had learned in that baking class - until I got a scholarship in Germany for a long term training.

When I was in Germany, I spent most of my free time with a Filipino missionary family, so much so that they considered me as their "adopted" daughter. Their place became my home-away-from-home. The wife, Sarah, happens to be fantastic in so many ways, her cooking/baking skills included.
It was her who took me under her wing and mentored me, with the goal of molding me into becoming a good wife, a nurturing mother, and yes, an awesome baker. :o)

One day, I was helping her make a cake (forgive me, but I don't remember what kind it was). It all went very well in the beginning, until the time came for me to pop the pan into the oven. As it was my very first unsupervised baking endeavour, I eagerly picked up the pan from the counter, carelessly grabbing the pan by its rim.

Alas, the bottom of the pan gave way and to my horror, the cake batter flowed out from the pan and onto the floor much like a volcano angrily spewing its lava out --- all in a matter of seconds. Just imagine my shock and dismay! For a brief moment, I remained frozen on the spot staring at the blob by my feet. How mortified I was !!!

I think Sarah was just as shocked. But then, we quickly recovered and like a true Filipino, eventually found the whole scene comical. We laughed.
Thankfully, Filipinos are known to have the ability to laugh at themselves, to find something funny even in the most dire situation. Truly, this trait has served me well on occassions, such as this one.


Anyhow, that was my initiation to a unique baking tool, the springform pan. That experience definitely beats any classroom session on Lesson 101: An Introduction to Springform Pans hands down, wouldn't you say?

To commemorate that unforgettable experience, I bought my very first springform pan in Germany (Kaiser brand) which I love and still utilise to this day. It is the very same pan that we used to bake this S'mores inspired cheesecake in.

Springform pans are essential for cheesecake baking due to their removable bottom (boy, do I know this now!). This unusual pan has a fastener on the side that can be opened to remove the rim after the cake is cool, allowing the cake to remain on its base. It is a worthy investment if you love cheesecake and would like to try making one.

This cheesecake flavor, if I may say so, was actually concocted by Mr. J. For days, he had been wanting to make a cheesecake with his own flavor combination. So, like a good wife that I am (ahem), I let him have his way in "my kitchen". Hahaha. (Ok honey, it's OUR kitchen.)

After surveying what we have in our fridge and pantry, Mr. J came up with this one. (He does have his flashes of brilliance..**wink**) I'd say, this cheesecake is a combination of his favorite eats -- S'mores + coconut.

(NOTE: For those who don't know, a S'more is a traditional campfire treat popular in the United States and Canada, consisting of roasted marshmallows and a slab of chocolate - usually Hershey's milk chocolate - sandwiched in graham crackers).

Being that this cheesecake was done by Mr. J, I regret to say that I won't have any recipe to share with you. He has not had the time to write it down for me and if I were to wait, it would be a loooooong time coming 'til that happens. :o) But, I do encourage you to infuse your cheesecake with your favorite flavors. I'm sure that the result will be amazing, just like how this one turned out for us. Good job, honey! This one definitely goes to Mr. J's "future restaurant menu item" file.


And since this cheesecake was that good, I can't help but share this, first, with Sarah. Sarah, you are and always will be my epitome of a Proverbs 31 woman. Thank you for being such a good example of a wife, mother and friend to me. This blog is an evidence of the time and effort you've invested in me. I miss you.

Next, a slice goes to this week's Lasang Pinoy Sunday (La.Pi.S) - Slice It Up. Sorry for being the perennial latecomer - but hey, I made it :oD. If you want to know more about La.Pi.S, kindly check it out here.

Enjoy your cheesecake. Laugh a lot; life is too short.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Puto Maya (Sweet, Sticky Rice), Sushi-Style


“Ohhh.,… it’s mango season again!”

The words came out from my mouth almost like a song when I saw some mangoes being sold in the grocery that I go to. Adding to my delight was the fact that the mangoes are the ones that taste and look like those that come from the Philippines. I don’t see them often in the local grocery stores; I get them from the Asian markets all the time. I believe they are from Mexico. Naturally, I grabbed a box before they ran out.

This is one of the reasons why I love spring. Mangoes.

Mangoes are probably my most favorite tropical fruit. If you ask me, this is one of the food items that I miss most from the Philippines. I am especially partial to the mangoes that come from the city where I was born/raised – Cebu (Guadalupe). Those mangoes are so sweet; it is a dessert in and of itself. No kidding!

Philippine mangoes have none of that fibrous / stringy stuff, which is characteristic of those green/reddish mangoes that abound here in South Florida. They are pure, sweet flesh and the best way to eat them is by hand—yeah, peel off the skin and bite into it just like you would an apple (except that you have to remember, mangoes have huge seeds in the middle - you don’t want to loose a tooth). It’s a bit messy, but it’s totally worth it.


Having these mangoes is so timely. April was a crazy month for me, reason why I was MIA from the blog scene. For some reason, the past month was jammed with a lot of activities that ran from birthdays, baby showers to church functions. In the midst of all the helter-skelter, I began longing for something comforting; something that reminds me of home --- and this breakfast trio just hits the spot: freshly cooked "puto maya" (sweet sticky rice cooked in coconut milk), with ripe, sweet, golden mangoes and finished off with a hot "sikwate" (hot chocolate/cocoa drink processed locally in the Philippines). What is more comforting than something you grew up with eating?

So with my precious mangoes at hand, I was ready to tackle making the puto maya. Normally, puto maya requires soaking the rice for at least 6 hours. I believe this process lessens the liquid (in this case, coconut milk) needed to cook the rice in, at the same time, shortening the cooking period. However, I didn't have the luxury, nor the patience to wait for 6 hrs, so I decided to do my own short-cut method, hoping that it will yield the same results - more or less. And it did, thank God.

Mr. J likes the puto with mangga (mangoes, in our dialect) as well. As a matter of fact, it was him who suggested that I make sushi rolls out of it. He goes, “why don’t you make it like sushi? Form the rice into sushi, roll the rice in brown sugar to make them look like those sushi with fish eggs, and then put slices of mangoes on top of it!” (But I discovered later on that the turbinado sugar which I used melts easily that it didn't look right, so I ended up just sprinkling the rice with sugar as you can see in the photos.)

A popular Filipino breakfast served the popular Japanese way? A Filipino-Japanese fusion of sorts. Cute idea, isn't it? Now why hadn't I thought of that before?

“Oh, that is brilliant, Honey!” was my excited response to him. Not only is it brilliant, but it sounds like really fun to do (and it really was). Hey, who says we can’t have fun with our food? .. Which reminds me, one of my favorite bloggers, La Tartine Gourmande, did something similar to this but using rice pudding. Mind you, my hubby hadn't seen her post, so he thinks that this was a very original idea. I didn't have the heart to break it to him, so, let's just keep it a secret....ok??? SHHH...


This puto-mango-hot chocolate trinity is my entry to this week's Lasang Pinoy Sundays - Shades of Spring and Summer . La.Pi.S is a weekly food thematic photography meme, Filipino style.

Also, I'm sharing this to Iska of Iskandals for her Bloggoversary. Congratulations, Iska and here's to many more prolific years of cooking, eating and blogging!

Puto Maya
2 cups glutinous rice (sweet, sticky rice)*
4 cups thick coconut milk
3-1/2 tsps salt
1 cup sugar (or less, depends on how sweet you like it to be)
2-pcs ginger root cut into approx. 1", washed and smashed

1. Rinse rice and place in a 2-qt pot.
2. Add coconut milk, cover and let it come to a boil. When boiling, add the rest of the ingredients. Stir.
3. Turn heat to a lower setting and let mixture simmer for about 15 minutes or until rice is done. (I had to test the rice every now and then).
4. When done, scoop out rice, discarding the ginger root.Wrap rice in clean banana leaf, if available, and steam for about 30 mins.
5. If not, mold into cups and sprinkle with brown sugar if desired. Best enjoyed when warm, served with ripe mangoes and sikwate (hot chocolate).

Sikwate (Hot Chocolate/Cocoa Drink)
2 cups water
4 or more pcs tablea (pure dried cacao)*
1/2 cup brown sugar (or more, depends on your taste)

1. Place water in a pot. Let it come to boil.
2. Add the tableas and whisk vigorously by hand until tableas have melted.
3. Add sugar. Adjust sweetness to taste.
4. Serve with puto maya, while hot.

*NOTE: Glutinous (sticky) rice are available at Asian markets. Tablea is a Philippine product, so you might need to find a Philippine specialty store. Otherwise, you may use unsweetened cocoa powder as substitute.