17 October 2018

Pink Pearl Apple Custard Tart

Pink pearl apples might be the biggest highlight of the fall season for me. It wasn't until two or three years ago when I found my first pink pearl apple but since then it is what I look forward to most every fall. I had to travel quite a distance to find last year's pink pearl apples. When I did get my hands on them I bought many of them and made many treats with them, including:

- and a few iterations of the above treats

This year I was able to find pink pearl apples at my local farmers market. They are a bit lighter in colour than the ones I found last year, but I love these ones just as much. I showed some self-control and only bought a few apples, just enough for what I wanted to make. There was no apple-hoarding behaviour. I wanted to use these pink pearl apples to make something simple, something that would let the apples shine. I remade the tart that many of you love on this blog. This pink pearl apple tart is a slightly updated version of that rose apple tart. I have made it many times since that first iteration, and each version is better than the previous one. So here is my latest and hopefully greatest version of my rose apple custard tart starring pink pearl apples, of course. If you don't have pink apples readily available, I promise this tart will taste just as good when made with your favourite type of apple. If you are keen on having a pink apple tart, a little hack to creating your own pink pearls with normal apples is giving them a light hibiscus tea glaze or cooking them down in hibiscus tea.

Pink Pearl Apple Custard Tart
Yields 9-inch tart

Pâte Sablée
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Beat the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy.

Beat in the egg yolk and mix until fully combined.

With the mixer on low speed, beat in the salt and flour just until the dough comes together and there is no more visible flour. Careful not to over-mix.

Remove dough from the bowl and press the dough into the tart pan, making sure it is evenly distributed.

Using a fork, prick the bottom of the tart shell to prevent the bottom from puffing up when baking.

Wrap the pan loosely in plastic and chill 30 minutes.

Bake the tart shell at 350F or until the crust is a light golden brown (approximately 13 minutes).

Remove carefully from oven and let rest on a wire rack.

Vanilla Custard
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean 
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Combine milk and cream in a small saucepan.

Using a sharp knife, split vanilla bean in half lengthways and scrape out seeds. Add bean and seeds to milk mixture.

Place mixture over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until hot (do not allow to boil). Remove saucepan from heat. Remove vanilla beans from milk mixture.

In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks, cornstarch, and sugar.

Slowly stream the hot milk mixture over egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.

Return mixture to saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 10 - 15 minutes or until custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

Apple Roses
5 - 6 large apples
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter

Over medium heat, combine orange juice, sugar, and butter in a medium-size pot. Remove from heat once mixture boils.

Peel, core, then cut apples in half. Using a very sharp knife or mandolin, slice apples paper thin, roughly 1/8-inch in thickness.

Place the sliced apples in the hot sugar, butter, and orange juice mixture. Leave apples to soak for 10 minutes, or until they are pliable.

Remove the apple slices from the liquid and pat with paper towel if too wet. Lay the apple slices on a plate.

Start with the smaller apple slices first (the centre of rose), roll apple slice so that both ends of the slice overlaps a little. Taking a slightly larger slice, build a second petal on the exterior of the first rolled slice. Continue until you have a fully "bloomed" apple rose. 

Arrange apple roses into the custard-filled tart. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

6 October 2018

Pecan Pumpkin Pie Bars

The debut of a pumpkin pie on this blog means I have committed to fall right? It means that I cannot go back to rhubarb and sweet summer berries until next summer? This could have easily been a pumpkin pie recipe. It could have been a full 10-inch pie with cute leaf-shaped cut-outs but I chose not to do that. I chose to make pumpkin pie bars because it sounds much less committal than an entire pie. Bars are easy. They are portable, they are a great snack, and they feel less like an ordeal than a whole pie. I will also feel less guilty finishing a few bars than an entire pie myself.

I never had pumpkin pie growing up. The first bite of pumpkin pie I had was when I was 16, working in a grocery store as a cashier. The grocery store's employees' lounge was always filled with day old baked goods. Day old apple strudels and Nanaimo bars always made an appearance. When fall came around, there were pies. Apple pies and pumpkin pies. I decided my first bite of pumpkin pie would be a day-old (but probably two-day old) grocery store pumpkin pie, retail price of around $4.99. I took a small sliver from the aluminum tray of "real butter" crust pumpkin pie. Hm. It was okay. I did not love it but I did not hate it. After that first bite of pumpkin pie I have had many more slices of pumpkin pie. Not necessarily of the $4.99 day-old variety but more of the worth-your-calories variety. I think the reason why I was never keen on pumpkin pie is because I never really liked the texture, or lack there of. So if I were to make pumpkin pie myself, it would be a texture bomb. A rich buttery shortbread crust, classic pumpkin pie filling, topped with the most textural pecan and hazelnut streusel. It is nutty, it is creamy, it is fall. These bars are extremely easy to make and you can whip up a batch real quick, just in time for your Thanksgiving dinner. Cut them up into squares or even triangles and serve à la mode.

Pumpkin Pecan Pie Bars
Yields 12 - 16 bars

Shortbread Base
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
½ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

Pumpkin Pie Filling
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 (15 oz) can pure pumpkin purée
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Pecan Hazelnut Topping
½ cup pecans, chopped
¼ cup hazelnuts, chopped
¼ cup brown sugar

Shortbread Base
Preheat oven to 300°F. Line the bottom and sides of 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving overhang on all sides.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter, sugar, vanilla and salt. Add flour and mix on low speed until everything is combined. Press the mixture evenly into prepared baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes, until dry to the touch. Reserve for second baking with filling.

Increase oven temperature to 350°F.

Pecan Hazelnut Topping
In a medium bowl, combine nuts and brown sugar. Set side.

Pumpkin Pie Filling
In a blender or food processor or large bowl, combine all filling ingredients and blend until smooth.

Evenly pour filling over the baked shortbread base and smooth top with a spatula.

Bake at 350ºF for 20 minutes. Sprinkle reserved pecan hazelnut topping an bake for additional 15 - 20 minutes, until pumpkin pie filling has set.

Remove from the oven and cool for at least 1 hour at room temperature. Lift the parchment out of the pan using overhang, and transfer onto a cutting board. Cut into 12 to 16 bars or squares.

Happy baking!

4 October 2018

Mermaid No-Bake Blueberry Cheesecake + The Food Gays' New Book!

I can't remember how I first met Adrian and Jeremy of The Food Gays, but I am sure it was the same way the most people find them — by find their colourful and seasonal dishes and inspired food styling on Instagram. When you meet Adrian and Jeremy in person, they are as wonderful as all the things they post and you become not only a subscriber but a friend right away. Whenever I see Adrian and Jeremy, they always encourage me to chase my blogging dreams and they are the perfect example of what happens when you put 110% into it. It has been so exciting to them turn an online collection of recipes into a physical hardcover cookbook. Cooking in Color was recently released and I am so happy to finally have this book in my hands. The book is not only a collection of colourful and easy-to-follow recipes, but also a great food photography guide. Adrian and Jeremy notes all the camera settings they used for each photo so you can learn the best settings to shoot different types of dishes.

Among all the recipes, the one I knew I needed to make first was the boozy no-bake cheesecake. Even though summer came to an end not too long ago, it doesn’t mean the season of no-bake desserts is over. The cheesecake is a dreamy cream cheese, mascarpone, and condensed milk situation with a bright blueberry and lime purée mixed in. Both the blueberries and lime added a nice brightness to the cheesecake, not to mention a beautiful purple colour. The recipe calls for 1/3 cup of tequila so you know it is going to be a fun cake. Adrian and Jeremy kept it classic and placed fresh blueberries on top of the cake.

I used wild blueberries for my cheesecake which gave it an extra vibrant purple colour. I had these mermaid cake toppers (hellooooo holographic tails!) that I was saving for something special and this cake was that special kind of cake I was saving them for. I piped some cream along one side of the cakes as 'waves' for my mermaid and topped the cake with some multi-coloured sprinkles for good measure.

This no-bake cheesecake is the perfect canvas cake — it would be a lovely casual after-dinner dessert, Sunday morning treat, or birthday cake. In my case, this cheesecake was a celebratory cake because this cookbook is definitely something worth celebrating. Congratulations Adrian and Jeremy on your wonderful new book. I can’t wait to try out all the recipes.

No-Bake Boozy Blueberry Cheesecake
Yields one 6-inch cheesecake

1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoon icing sugar
1 package (1/4 oz) unflavoured gelatin powder
2 tablespoon water
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoon graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoon butter, melted
1 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 package (9 oz), room temperature
1/2 cup condensed milk
1/3 cup tequila

In a blender, combine thawed blueberries, lime juice, and icing sugar, and blend until smooth. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine gelatin and water. Let gelatin bloom for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a shallow pan of water to a simmer. Place the small bowl over the simmering water and mix until gelatin has liquified.

In another bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Press mixture in the base of a 6-inch spring form pan. Refrigerate the base for 30 minutes until firm.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together mascarpone and cream cheese. Add condensed milk, and mix well. Add liquified gelatin, tequila, and blueberry purée, and mix well. Spread mixture evenly over top of the graham cracker base. Refrigerate for 18 - 24 hours until set.

When ready to serve, run a knife under hot running water, dry it and carefully run it around the inside perimeter of the cake. Remove the metal ring around the cake. Garnish with fresh blueberries or cake toppers of choice.

You can find Cooking in Color at your local bookstore or online here:

Happy baking!

24 September 2018

Taro Coconut Snowy Mooncakes

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! I did not intend on making more mooncakes this year after making the baked taro and purple yam with salted egg yolk mooncakes last weekend. I had so much taro leftover from the previous week and I found two other sets of mooncake molds, that it only seemed appropriate to be extra festive and make more mooncakes this weekend. Even though it might be a bit too late to share this recipe (though I highly encourage making these the day of Mid-Autumn), it is too good not to share.

Unlike traditional mooncakes, snowy or 'snow skin' mooncakes are not baked. Snowy mooncakes can have similar fillings as traditional mooncakes but their wrappers have a soft and chewy mochi-like consistency rather than the consistency of a pastry dough. The wrapper dough takes on whatever colour you want it to be. A teaspoon of matcha powder could be added to make a beautiful green mooncake and beetroot powder could create many shades of pink. Next year, I will make snowy matcha mooncakes filled with custard, please hold me to that. 

For the mean time, I have these little gems for you. These snowy mooncakes are filled with a velvety taro and coconut mixture. The filling is encased in a soft and chewy wrapper that I coloured pink and purple to match. To achieve the marbling effect for the wrapper, simply add different types of gel food colour to the dough and mix lightly. Mix the dough until the desired marbling is achieved. Working with glutinous rice flour can be tricky because it tends to stick to all the surfaces and your hands. To make the dough more workable, a light dusting of rice flour will do the trick. 

Lastly, I have the recipe written in grams for you instead of cups and teaspoons. Mooncake measurements are finicky and I highly recommend using a scale to weigh out your ingredients for the best mooncakes.

Taro Coconut Snowy Mooncakes
Yields 8 mooncakes

Taro Coconut Filling
340 g taro
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup unsweetened full-fat coconut milk

Snowy Mooncake Wrapper
50 g glutinous rice flour
35 g rice flour
20 g tapioca flour
45 g icing sugar
180 g unsweetened full-fat coconut milk
15 g vegetable oil

1/4 cup toasted rice flour, for dusting

Taro Coconut Filling
Wash and peel taro root with potato peeler. Wearing gloves for this step is helpful because raw taro can leave skin feely waxy and itchy. Cube taro into 1 inch cubes. 

Place taro into a steamer or steaming basket. Steam until tender to the fork, roughly 30 - 40 minutes.

Remove taro from steamer. Using a fork or potato ricer, mash the taro into a smooth paste.

Add salt, sugar, vegetable oil into mixture. Mix until well combined and paste is smooth. 

Add coconut milk to mixture and mix well. Adjust the consistency of the paste by adding more or less coconut milk.

Set aside and let the filling cool. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Snowy Mooncake Wrapper
In a measuring cup, combine milk and oil

In a separate bowl, whisk together glutinous rice flour, rice flour, tapioca flour, and icing sugar.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix well, making sure no lumps remain.

Strain mixture through fine-meshed sieve. 

Over medium heat, steam the mixture for around 30 minutes until it becomes slightly transparent.

Remove the bowl from the pot and stir the mixture with chopsticks for several minutes until the mixture is glossy and smooth.

Transfer dough to a plate and cover with saran wrap. Knead  for several minutes until the surface becomes oily.

Form the dough into a disc and refrigerate for at least two hours before assembling the snow skin mooncake. A warm dough is too sticky too handle.

Weigh out eight 75-gram scoops of taro filling and gently shape each portion into balls. Set aside.

Divide and weigh the dough into eight 35-gram pieces.

Dust the mooncake mold with toasted rice flour.

Wrap the taro filling with wrapper dough and seal completely. Shape into an oval shape, so it will easily slide into the mooncake mold. Dust the bottom of the mooncake ball with more toasted rice flour.

Press on the mooncake mold to shape the mooncake. Carefully remove from the mold. If any sides of the mooncake is too tacky, brush on toasted rice flour.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!


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