Friday, September 25, 2009

Kindergarten Snack Box (Week 3)


The third week of school was good for Miss E. Her reading and maths abilities were tested and the feedback from her teacher was good. Although I don't say it often, I am really blessed to have a daughter like her, she may be sulking at times when she gets reprimanded for bullying her brother but overall in the outside world, she is pretty much very independent and able to adapt to different surroundings easily. She has learned all the names of her classmates and I myself had to ask her to tell me her other teachers' names before I run into one at recess with a blank face . Perhaps I am getting old, I am really bad with names but can only recognize faces these days! Or perhaps, too much early morning Bento to make and by noon, my mind and body kind of disintergrated into different directions and never absorbing but only flickering the remaining energy left!

Ironically, Prince D's week was terrible! He really let those tears flowed out like streams and I am second guessing on whether he is really suitable to go to preschool now. All of sudden, I felt the pangs of separation anxieties and the feeling is mutual. Raising boys is so much more difficult and sometimes I am really clueless. Perhaps it is myself who thinks too much and being the complex one rather than the boy who just speaks or rather in this case, cried out his thoughts! He is aptly named Mommy's Boy. Good luck next week.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Apple Walnut & Raisin Pie

It is Monday and I usually don't attempt any baking nor cooking any fancy stuffs on this day of the week. However, my hectic day is actually Tuesday now with both kids attending school when I have to start really early in the morning.

With plenty of apples sitting around, I thought of the easiest thing to bake and something that everyone will like to eat on a cool autumn night. Apple pies are very homey in character and the more rustic it looks, the better it tastes! I think the best apple pie should have both the characteristics of crisp and tender on the crust and soft but not soggy on the filling.

Although I am very keen in making complicated cakes, I still love the simplicity of pies. To me, I don't think you can make any pie look pretty or colorful but it can look scrumptious if the color of the crust is right and the fillings comes oozing out when the first cut is made.


For this pie, I used vegetable shortening solely which produces a more tender and flakier crust than butter. I maintained the oven temperature at 375F throughout a total baking time of 1 hour and 30 mins and opted for 2 types of apples for the filling, Gala and Red delicious. The apples cooked beautifully, retaining much of their sliced shapes and didn't turn mushy. Initially, I planned to use dried cranberries instead of the raisins as it will give a nice color to the browned pie but I didn't have much and like I said, this pie is something that I went baking on impulse and I just used up my kids mini boxes of Sun Maid Raisins.


The recipe for the pie crust can actually yield a 10 inch double crust pie and I had to save up some trimmings and probably 1/4 of the total pie dough for future use as I made an open sided pie in an 8 inch round springform pan. I was curious on how the apples will look like by piling them up to almost 4 inches high and baking them sandwiched between the bottom and top layer crusts only. The fillings shrunk alot during the baking and I was glad that I used 6 apples to pile it all up. The crust turned out perfect, slightly crumbly and crisp when cut into. The walnuts gave an extra crunch and the raisins added sweetness to the pie. I actually took the time to pile up the apple slices in a circular motion, hoping that it will give a beautiful presentation but by the time it was baked, the juice from the apples cooked with the sugar and formed a thick and gooey coating all over which rendered the apple slices unnoticeable from the sides. The amount sugar that I used here gave a tinge of sweetness and extra sugar may be added if the sweet tooth prefers.




Recipe:


Pie Dough
1 lb all Purpose Flour
10 oz Vegetable Shortening (refrigerated & cool but not cold)
1 tbsp Sugar
3 tbsp Cold Water
1 egg beaten (egg wash)
Extra vegetable shortening for greasing the pie dish


1)Sift the Flour and sugar together. Cut the vegetable shortening into small pieces and drop them into the flour mixture.
2)Using hands or food processor, rub the vegetable shortening into the flour till resemble very coarse crumbs. Ensure that all the flour is coated with the shortening, working on it no more than 5 mins.
3)Slowly add in the water and gather the dough to form a ball. Knead for 1 minute and place in a plastic bag and let it rest in the fridge for 30 mins.




Apple Filling:
5 to 6 large Apples (skin peeled and slice and quartered thinly)
1 tsp Cinnamon Powder
1 tsp Corn Flour
3 oz (75g) raisins
6 oz (150g) chopped walnuts
1/3 cup sugar


1)Mix and stir all the ingredients together till well combined.




Assemble:


1)Grease a 10 inch baking pan with vegetable shortening. (Or in this pie, use an 8 inch round spring form pan)
2)Take out dough and cut into 2 parts. Return 1 part to the plastic bag. Roll out the other dough and line the pie dish. (Or trace the bottom of the springform pan onto the dough and use a knife to cut around it and place the cut out dough inside the 8 inch pan).
3)Spoon the filling and distribute evenly onto the pie dish/cake pan.
4)Roll out the remaining dough from the plastic bag and cover the filling. (Or, roll out the dough and once again trace the bottom of the springform pan onto the dough and cut out and place on top of the filling and pinch the dough to the top sides of the pan to completely cover the filling).
5)Preheat oven to 375F and place rack at the lowest part of the oven.
6)Bake for 1 hour & 30 mins. Take out every 30 mins and brush some egg wash on the surface of the pie.
7)Remove from oven and let it cool in the pan on rack for 30 mins before serving.




Serves: 10 inch pie (8 persons)/ 8 inch pie (5 to 6 persons)


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Kindergarten Snack Box (Week 2)

The second week of school is more settling, well at least for myself rather than Miss E who already made herself at home in school on the first day! Making these Bento boxes was a test of my clumsy fat fingers but I relished it as it gets me on my feet every morning and bringing me back to a healthy life of an early riser again.

Previously I have no use for picks nor small compartment containers when I prepared proper lunch portions Bento but now, I find them indispensable when different snack items are packed. And of course because of snack sized requirements for the boxes, I am once again obsessed with mini food items that I can find at the grocery store to fill in. Lucky for me, clementines and tangerines are available now and they fit perfectly! Cheese Sticks come in plain and mixed hues now and cutting them up and piling them on a cute pick makes all the difference. Packing Bento has never been more fun than this!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cinnamon Apple Mousse & Raspberry Gelee Cake

The week flew by so quickly with both the kids going to school and I being left alone to figure the timing and scheduling of my waiting and car pooling time! Gosh, first I thought now that my kids are going to school, I will be more relaxed, on the contrary, I am more stressed! Sigh, Miss E and Prince D, you both better remember mommy's anxieties and sweat in doing all these rushing and planning! The whole week, I was ruled by the clock and have been looking forward to this weekend to slow down and what better way to de-stress than make a nice cake to indulge.

The apple orchards are open but sadly it was raining and wet yesterday and I had no choice but to run down to my grocery store to pick up some apples. Apples are the ubiquitous fruit and available all year long in the stores here and to be able to pick them ripened and fresh from their trees during the cool months of Autumn is a delightful activity. I like every type except for McIntosh and for this recipe, I used Red Delicious, which is sweet and absolutely beautiful in its dark red hue. The raspberry had to go in to give this cake a vibrant color, which came out very well with the apple slices that garnished the cake.

I finally got an 8 inch square baking pan with removable bottom! I am more prone to things with square and rectangular shape and to be able to mould the apple mousse onto the Cinnamon genoise cake and taking all of them out without any hitch made my day! Cutting was easy this time as I added more gelatin to the mousse itself and there was no smudging between the red raspberry gelee and the mousse.
As Autumn air is here, the cinnamon brings out the best in this cake. My genoise cake recipe is always the same, only this time I omitted any flavoring of vanilla or lemon juice and added 1 tsp of cinnamon powder. And I found out that there is really a difference between using large and medium eggs. I used 2 large and 2 medium sized eggs and the cake didn't rise as high as my previous genoise cake. But that didn't affect the taste or texture of the cake. One thing about genoise cake, they do shrink after baking and the gelee and mousse did overflowed at the edges, hence the corner and edge side slices didn't expose much of the cake part.



I used 2 cups of frozen raspberries for the gelee part and I find that frozen ones is better and actually exudes more juice when cooked. I added 1/2 cup of sugar to it with 1 tbsp of gelatin, dissolved prior to adding. For the first layer on top of the cinnamon cake, I used half of the amount of the cooked gelee and used up the rest on the top part. One thing that I haven't learn is how to estimate the height of the gelee and mousse part and wouldn't know how they form the layers until I cut up the cake. Everytime it is a guessing game!


For the mousse part, I used only 1 red Delicious apple and cooked it in milk to get the white clean mousse color. The apple was first cooked in a bit of water and then pureed before being added to the boiled milk with sugar. I didn't add anymore Cinnamon to this part as I wanted each layer of the cake to impart its own flavor. I whipped up 1-1/2 cups of heavy cream and fold it into the apple and milk mixture, together with 1-1/2 tbsp of gelatin, dissolved prior to adding. Mousse cakes needs at least 4 hours of resting period in the fridge and it always takes me 2 days to make one. But I am never tired or discouraged of making one as they are really lighter and healthier (so to speak) compared to buttercream cakes. For this cake, I only used 2 tbsp of butter in the Cinnamon cake and no more trace of added fat to the rest of the cake.


So far, I think I love this cake the most, partly because of its color. The other factor is of course the taste, as it incorporates the late summer taste of lingering raspberries and the incoming warm sweet smell of cinnamon and apples. A kind of transitional phase for the palate I guess!




Thursday, September 10, 2009

Miss E's Kindergarten Snack Box (Week 1)

Although it was only a mere 2 short months that I haven't made lunch boxes, it felt like so long ago since I last open up my Bento boxes and tools. It was difficult to get back into the groove of making things and stuffing them into those mini lunch boxes and when Miss E is allowed only to bring a snack sized box, I was bewildered for a while on how to do a smaller portions from the lunches that I usually make for her. Luckily Miss E can eat very fast and my ways of doing it is still maintaining alot of textures and colors but cut or divided into smaller fractions that she can finish within 10 mins. There are plenty of things in the groceries that I actually start to look out these days like little packages of crackers, yogurt cups and even Cheerios are useful when there is simply no idea for the day. But like any Bento enthusiasts, once we start doing it, we just cannot turn back to stuffing a packet of cookies or crackers only into our kids bags and we always have the urge to add more nutritions to the contents of the box and even though a snack box only, it can still be a good snack box!

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