I am just a very rotten insomniac, and by rotten I mean I occasionally indulge in the most sinful of habits at midnight, hmmm…
If I am not feasting on a buttered toast that is unashamedly dipped into a soft boiled egg flecked with sea salt, I am either caught red handed fishing green olives straight out of a jar or reheating a slice of chocolate and cinnamon bread pudding which I dribble with a freshly made vanilla glaze and chocolate syrup. And as if I cannot be more awake still at an ungodly hour I still end up eating the cinnamon roll-like indulgence with a huge cup of coffee… this happens 2-3 times a week.
Maybe my sinful midnight habit will haunt my daytime consciousness and challenge my resolve to bravely check my numbers on the scale the next day or by the end of the week, but then I also resolved to live a little and not deprive myself so much of the simplest yet most important part of human existence and that is living to eat and eating to live a “fuller” life. - jm (via phone)
I’ve always been in love with dinner or butter mints. It is that refreshing taste of peppermint and the spontaneous disintegration of it the moment I pop the candy in my mouth are the reasons why I am quite addicted with these.
I also have fond memories of dinner mints in my childhood. I remember one time I was babysitting my 2 year old cousin all alone (I was 11 years old that time) and I got hungry, well not that dinner mints can satisfy hunger, but I was looking for something to occupy my mouth as well as needed some energy booster to keep up with a bouncy toddler. So I happened upon a flat and round tin of dinner mints my aunt kept inside her China cabinet. I was only supposed to eat 3 small pieces but I got hooked with the melt-in-the-mouth sensation of those mints that I realized I ate more than half of the contents of the tin. Anyways, I was babysitting pro bono back then (yes, I was already a cousin-babysitter since I was 7 years old so I was actually already a professional by the age of 11, though it was always pro bono babysitting jobs for all my aunts and uncles) and so my aunt just ended up giving me the whole tin as my reward.
Last week, I was browsing through my disqus comments because I occasionally receive comments from other food bloggers from different platforms. And Blogspot’s Wilde In The Kitchen posted a lovely comment on my bread pudding post.
I am always very grateful whenever other food bloggers stop by to visit my blog, and so I also make an effort to visit their blogs whenever I can.
I adapted her recipe which she originally sourced from the book Sweet Confections. I think the recipe is simple, fool-proof and very kid-friendly that families can make this candy recipe over the weekends and just have fun rolling minty sugar dough and forming it into any tiny shapes.
I did a bit of adjustment with the original recipe, reducing the amount of butter in half because the weather where I am is too hot and humid and there is no way these mints will ever dry up the way I want them to be if I put the specified amount of butter required in the recipe. And I must say, these mints turned out equally great and melts in the mouth just the same, though you can always follow this recipe from Vicki’s blog.
Pretty In Pink Dinner Mints
4 1/2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup softened unsalted butter
1 teaspoon peppermint extract (I used peppermint oil)
1 drop of red food color (or whatever color you prefer to make two-toned marbled mints)
In a mixing bowl, mix together sifted confectioner’s sugar, heavy cream, butter and peppermint extract. Mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until it forms into a soft dough.
Divide the sugar dough into two, one half will be tinted with a drop of red food color to produce a pink colored dough and the other half will remain white.
Individually roll out the white and pink sugar doughs then place the pink rolled out dough over the white one. Fold into thirds like a book (left, middle and right), fold the right side over the middle then fold the left side over the right. Roll the now two-toned dough into a fat cylinder and cut into 3. Roll each third into 3/4-inch (diameter) ropes then cut into 1/2-inch pieces to which you either shape the pieces into pillows, squares or balls.
Place the shaped dinner mints on a baking tray and air dry overnight.
Store in tins or loose lid jars.
Tip: I placed the mints on a baking rack to dry so that the air can also circulate from under making the candy dry out evenly.
Basking in the warm summer sun and relishing the sweetness of Orange, Maple and Walnut Pudding
As I’ve mentioned a few times now, I love shooting food in natural light. Not only do I capture food in its natural beauty but it saves me a lot of time with the editing process.
These days I am shooting food either by the window or outdoors (not necessarily in direct sunlight, but somewhere nicely lit at the same time shaded).
More than the number of times I mentioned my fondness for shooting in natural light is the number of times I declared, and announced quite proudly, my absolute love of stale bread. I mean of course freshly baked bread is always the best to appease most people’s discerning carbohydrate cravings, but for me, I can do much more delicious dishes and make much more humble uses for stale bread other than smearing butter or pb & jam on slices of its fresh-out-of-the-oven counterpart.
With stale bread I make breadcrumbs (even better, I make my own seasoned breadcrumbs) to use as binders and extenders for meatloaf and meatballs, as breading for deep-fried dishes like schnitzels (scallopine) and to make crunchy toppings for baked mac and cheese, potato gratin and casseroles.
If I am not blitzing the semi-dry bread into crumbs, I occasionally end up making croutons and butter and sugar snack toasties (my mother’s fav to eat with coffee). But of all the possible and palatable things I can make with stale bread, making it into bread pudding (with dozens of varieties/flavors) is my most looked forward and much more pleasurable plan that is always already mapped out anytime my house is over-stocked with bread.
I found a page from my all-time favorite book Simple Pleasures : Soothing Suggestions & Small Comforts for Living Well All Year Round. The topic is about Comfort Foods and specifically how a most humble Bread and Butter Pudding can caress a most homesick heart.
"Bread pudding may be the all-purpose comfort food that is easiest to reproduce. It has inspired everyone from Leon Lianides of New York’s legendary Coach House restaurant to Marion Cunningham, who updated The Fanny Farmer Cookbook. (Cunningham pointed out that bread pudding was a "great pacifier" for boarding school students for generations- sometimes the only decent dish in the dining hall.)" - (Spring Chapter : Friends and Family, p.41)
8 slices Egg & Milk Loaf bread (can also use brioche), sliced into triangle halves
4 large eggs
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup half and half (1:1 milk + cream)
1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
zests of 1 orange
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup light brown sugar + 1 teaspoon cinnamon (to sprinkle over bread pudding before baking)
- Preheat oven to 350’F. Brush butter onto an oven/baking dish.
- Layer and overlap the bread slices in the buttered baking dish.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs, maple syrup, sugar, half and half, melted butter, vanilla, orange zests, salt and walnuts.
- Pour the egg mixture over the arranged slices of bread in the baking dish. Let the bread soak up the egg mixture, about 30 minutes.
- Mix the light brown sugar and cinnamon together. Sprinkle the mixture over the unbaked bread pudding. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until bread pudding is puffed-up and golden.
Contrary to how sinful this sandwich looks like, it is actually not too sweet but yes, quite decadent for a midday/midnight snack because really it’s almost the same as eating a piece of cake, only you call this a sandwich which makes you still sound like you are still sticking to your daily dietary allowance.
My original evil plan was to whip up honey roasted peanut butter (from a jar) with orange marmalade (also from a jar) and schmear an unapologetic amount of that on slices of this banana-walnut bread, but when I opened the cupboard and saw the big jar of Nutella… well of course I instantly abandoned the jar of marmalade! I mean, what can be better than Nutella?… well, maybe a tub of melted Godiva milk chocolate to dip your whole self into.
"Anything is good if it’s made of chocolate" - Jo Brand and I concur and add, A banana bread was always a wholesome baked good until peanut butter was introduced to it, followed by Nutella. And the innocence and wholesomeness of this quickbread were lost forever. But oh my goodness, Elvis would’ve been so proud of this sandwich.
Pavlova with Whipped Lemon Curd, Cream and Balsamic Macerated Strawberries
Pavlova is a meringue basket or case, the best being of beautiful in appearance, with a crisp and soft texture, filled with cream and fruit. This is the national dessert of both Australia. The meringue is made from egg whites whisked with vinegar and a little cornflour (cornstarch) as well as sugar to give the crisp crust concealing a marshmallow inside. The whipped cream filling is topped with sliced or diced fruit, including peaches and kiwi. Passion fruit seeds ornament the top.
The dessert was named for the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova on her visit to Australia in 1929 and honors her most famous role as the dying swan. First winning a newspaper prize in New Zealand, the recipe was perfected by Bert Sachse in Perth. (Source: Larousse Gastronomique 2007 Edition)
Now my version which I have here kind of strayed a bit from the “official/traditional” ingredients used for making a Pavlova (Aussies and New Zealanders… please don’t slap me with a lawsuit) only because when I do my own desserts, I always allow myself to be more creative and even a bit of a rebel combining ingredients that I know in my heart and palate will work deliciously together.
I know for a fact that sugary-sweet desserts should always be balanced with something fruity and tart. That strawberries when jazzed up with lemons becomes more brighter and well, more strawberry tasting. And lastly, beautifully and richly aged balsamico when added to strawberries makes the fruit more sweeter at the same time imparting a regal and mild tartness as well as a glorious crimson color when the berries are macerated in it.
There are two fillings for this pavlova; whipped lemon curd and whipped cream. The bottom of this crunchy (outside), soft and chewy-marshmallowy (inside) Pav will be the side to which the fillings will be layered.
For the Meringue Base
4 egg whites (from large eggs)
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons raspberry or sherry vinegar
2 Tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)
* half of a lemon (unsqueezed, to rub the mixing bowl with before whipping the egg white, makes the egg whites aerate better)
- Preheat oven to 400”F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Start with a very clean, grease-free mixing bowl. Rub the lemon along the inside of the mixing bowl. Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the mixing bowl. With an electric mixer (hand or tabletop) whisk on medium speed until egg whites form firm peaks.
- With the mixer still running, gradually add the confectioner’s sugar. turn the mixer speed up to the highest setting until the meringue is white and glossy (5-7 minutes).
- Decrease the speed of the mixer and mix-in the vinegar and cornflour until well incorporated.
- Place all the meringue on the prepared baking sheet lined with parchment. Make an 8-inch round, 2 1/2-inch thick mound and smooth the surface of the meringue with an off-set spatula.
- Bake at 400’F for 12-15 minutes or until meringue puffs up and gets lightly browned on the outside. Then decrease the oven temperature to 350’F and bake for 20-25 minutes more. Turn off oven and leave the meringue inside until the oven gets cool (the baking at high temperature for the first 15 minutes of baking time and leaving the meringue inside a turned-off oven is crucial so that the outside is crunchy and the inside to be soft and marshmallowy).
For the Lemon Curd
4 egg yolks (from large eggs)
1 cup granulated sugar
juice of 2 lemons
zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
- With the exception of the butter, put all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk.
- Place the mixing bowl with the egg yolk-lemon mixture over a double boiler. Make sure that the bottom of the mixing bowl does not touch the boiling water under it or else you will scramble the eggs. Add the cold cubes of butter while whisking the lemon curd.
- Whisk until the mixture thickens (8-10 minutes) and becomes light yellow in color.
- Place the bowl of lemon curd over a bowl of ice water. Continue whisking the mixture until it cools and becomes whipped. Chill in the fridge. Just before assembling the Pavlova, whip again with a wire whisk.
For the Whipped Cream Topping
4 cups whipped cream
For the Macerated Strawberries
4 cups sliced strawberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
- Combine all 3 ingredients and let the strawberries macerate in the the balsamic vinegar and sugar.
To Assemble Pavlova
- Turn the meringue upside-down.
- Spread the well chilled whipped lemon curd on the bottom. Then spoon and spread the whipped cream.
- Top with the balsamic macerated strawberries. And garnish with whole strawberries.
I believe that Al Fresco dining shouldn’t be reserved just for an intimate group of family or friends nor only just for two people to share a meal together.
I am all for practicing self-love once in a while and a dinner for one outside, with a good glass of wine to go with a single serving meal is as romantic a treat as we can possibly give ourselves most specially when about to face the dreaded Mondays of our regular lives.
Although I know that meals in the summer must be light and refreshing, I also know that to treat oneself like a king or a queen for a day, we should also give in to our ultimate inner food cravings also known as our comfort food.
My comfort food and one of the dishes that unabashedly gives comfort to both my tummy and summery bright disposition (only when I know I’ll be eating in 5 minutes) is Stuffed Baked Potatoes… never mind the fact that it is only politically correct to eat it only during the months of October to January, for a potato meal, I’ll gladly be a bear in the summer heat.