Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sweet Tofu Pudding (Doufu Hua) 豆腐花

Doufu Hua or Sweet Tofu Pudding is something that I had relatively often as a kid. At pretty much every large family gathering, my grandma would make it as would my dad when he was craving some. For quite a while, my dad was less inclined to make it since the quality of the soybeans available weren't great thereby affecting the quality of the final product. The past few years though, we've come across some organic soybeans which have better flavor. The quality doesn't match that of my childhood, but it's the best we've found thus far. So, long story short, fresh soymilk and tofu pudding have been showing up a lot more often.
As I get older, I've really gained an appreciation for making more traditional Chinese dishes and desserts and tofu pudding is definitely one of those things that I've been wanting to learn. Tofu Pudding is something that seems very difficult to make and while it can be, the process is actually relatively simple, especially if you have the right equipment. Basically, we're making a very silky fresh tofu by adding a coagulant, gypsum powder, to homemade soymilk. The soymilk must be fresh, if not homemade because the recipe will not work with thin store bought soymilk. The resulting tofu pudding is served with sugar syrup, traditionally ginger sugar syrup, but even honey or maple syrup would work. It's definitely best served fresh, but it's also super refreshing from the fridge. I also recently tried a Filipino dessert that is basically the same thing but with tapioca called Taho and that was also super delicious.

My dad never used to measure anything when he made tofu pudding, so it was never quite the same each time, but the idea is to try to make it as flavorful but silky as possible. The thicker your homemade soymilk, the more flavorful it will be, but also the firmer your resulting pudding will be. For drinking straight, thicker soymilk has better flavor, but for tofu pudding, you need soymilk that is a little lighter. My dad and I have made it a few times with the proportions below and it's produced quite a silky, yet flavorful pudding. The quality of your soybeans does matter though, so I would use the best that you can find. We may still play around with the proportions to see if we can push it to that edge where the tofu pudding is just set, but for now, this is pretty close to perfect.

Sweet Tofu Pudding (Doufu Hua) 豆腐花
Makes About 6 Liters

1 lb of soybeans, soaked overnight in plenty of water with as many skins removed as possible
5 1/2 L of water
4 tsp gypsum powder
4 tsp potato starch

Drain the soaked soybeans. In a blender, blend the soybeans in about 4 batches or so with some of the water. Pour all the blended soybeans into a cheesecloth bag placed over a pot and squeeze out as much soymilk as possible. Pour some of the remaining water over the pulp in the cheesecloth bag and mix to rinse as much residual soymilk from the pulp as possible. Squeeze the soymilk from the pulp.

Repeat until you have used all the water. The soymilk will gradually get thinner as you continue to add water to the pulp. You may throw away the pulp or use it to make something else if you would like. Strain the soymilk one more time through the cheesecloth if you'd like to get it super smooth.

Set aside about 2 cups of the soymilk. Then bring the rest of the soymilk to a boil over medium heat. Just before it boils, whisk the gypsum powder and potato starch with the soymilk that you set aside. Pour this mixture into a pot large enough to hold all the soymilk. Once the soymilk comes to a boil, take it off the heat and pour in a continuous stream about 1 ft over the pot into the gypsum powder mixture. Quickly skim off the foam if you'd like or just do so after it has set. Do not mix.

Cover with a kitchen towel and lid and let sit undisturbed for at least an hour. Meanwhile, make the sugar syrup if using, or serve with honey, maple syrup, etc.

1 cup sugar, the type of sugar is up to you
1 cup water
A couple slices of fresh ginger(optional)

To make the sugar syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water, ginger if using, and heat over medium until the sugar is melted.

To serve, use a thin wide flat spoon to scoop the tofu pudding in a skimming motion making horizontal layers. Once you have scooped your desired amount, add some sugar syrup over the top and enjoy. Tofu pudding is best enjoyed the day it's made, but it can be refrigerated up to several days. Reheat in the microwave if desired.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Linzer Cookies

I won't even bother to tell you when I made these because it was more than a while ago, in fact more than several whiles ago. The motivation to attempt making these cookies stemmed from trying to recreate some delicious cookies from a local bakery that my sister's friend had gifted to us. They turned out to be sable cookies with nuts rather than Linzer cookies, but despite the error, I ended up with some delicious cookies. I decided to sandwich some of these with chocolate ganache rather than the more traditional jam and they made absolutely delicious nutty chocolaty sandwich cookies.

The recipe comes from Sarabeth's Bakery and they're just fantastic. Nutty, crumbly, buttery all in one. The recipe is a bit more involved than other cookies since you need to roll out the dough and cut the cookies out, but not much more. If you didn't want to cut them out with cookie cutters, you could also just cut the dough into squares or rectangles with a knife. I made tiny little sandwich cookies, so it took longer to cut them out, but you can make them however you like. The original recipe calls for hazelnuts, but I've also made them with pecans and they're delicious as well. The cookies stay crisp about a day or two after they've been filled, but will continue to soften as they sit, so don't wait too long to finish them.

Linzer Cookies
Adapted from Sarabeth's Bakery

3/4 cup(3 oz) hazelnuts
2 1/2 cups pastry flour or cake flour, sifted
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, beaten
Raspberry preserves or ganache, for filling

In a preheated 350 deg F oven, toast the hazelnuts for 10 min and remove the skins by rubbing them together in a kitchen towel. Cool completely, then place the nuts, and 1/2 cup of the flour in a food processor. Process until finely ground.

Mix the nut-flour mixture with the remaining flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat the butter and sugar in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or with a handheld mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 min. Scrape down the bowl and beat in the egg.

On low speed, add in the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, flatten into a rectangle about an inch thick, and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hrs.

When ready to make the cookies, working with half the dough at a time, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut cookies out with cookie cutters of your choice. Transfer cookies to a parchment lined baking sheet with an offset spatula.

Roll out and cut out cookies from the remaining dough. Gather up the dough scraps and repeat rolling and cutting out cookies. Refrigerate the dough before continuing to roll it out if it becomes difficult to work with. Refrigerate the cookies for at least 30 min to let them firm up.

Preheat your oven to 350 deg F. Bake two pans of cookies at a time, one on the top rack and one on the bottom rack, until they are lightly browned on the edges. This will take 15-17 min for larger cookies, 8-10 min for small cookies. Rotate the pans halfway through and switch from top to bottom. Let the cookies cool completely on the pan.

Sandwich the cookies with raspberry preserves or ganache. Let them sit for 8 hrs or overnight to settle and soften slightly. Store cookies in a covered container at room temp. for up to 5 days.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Healthy Brownies? Must make!


I've been wanting to make brownies for a while. I have to admit that while I like brownies, my favorite chocolate dessert is actually a simple slice of chocolate cake, any kind, I don't discriminate. However, I figured that it just wasn't right for this blog not to have a brownie recipe. I've tried brownie recipes now and again, but for some reason never got around to posting them, probably because they just weren't perfect yet. Recently, I came across a recipe for Fudgy Brownies using applesauce courtesy of @amandalolita on TwoGrand. You don't really taste the applesauce, it just lends some moisture to the recipe. A healthier but delicious brownie? I just had to give it a try. So, I got to work making some applesauce from the many apples I had.

These brownies come together super quickly and would certainly please any fudgy brownie lover. I've been loving using honey in my recipes lately, but if you don't really want to detect the taste of honey here, you could substitute with maple syrup instead. Whole wheat pastry flour instead of white whole wheat would also work or just go with all-purpose flour, you're not using a lot here anyway.

Applesauce Brownies
Recipe adapted from Jillian Michaels
Makes 16 Brownies

1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt, half the amt of fine salt
1 tsp instant coffee granules
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2/3 cup mild honey or maple syrup, warmed until runny
1 large egg
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Line an 8 inch square pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg well for about a minute, then mix in the applesauce and the instant coffee. Add in the honey, oil, and the vanilla. Add in the dry ingredients mixing until well combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 min just until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean with a few crumbs. Let cool completely before cutting. Store the brownies, covered, for several days at room temp. Freeze for longer storage.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Healthier Applesauce Cinnamon Bread


Recently, there's been an influx of fruit in my household whether it be from friends, family, purchases of our own accord, etc. Anyway, the point is that I had an abundance of apples, so I thought I could try out some new apple recipes. I'm always on the hunt for new recipes and lately I've been getting some great recipe recommendations from TwoGrand if you read my last few posts. I made some applesauce for an applesauce brownie recipe that will be up next week, but I thought I would try an applesauce bread with the remaining applesauce.

I've been loving quick breads and simple everyday cakes lately because they're just so quick and easy to make. They also make for a fantastic snack or breakfast. You could bake any of the quick bread recipes I've posted in muffin tins as well, but I like the crust to cakey interior ratio of a hearty slice. I wanted to go with a healthier applesauce bread, so I adapted this one from Taste of Home.  I reduced the nutmeg because I find it can be a bit too strong and I used three whole eggs because I hate having to use up leftover egg yolks or egg whites. I skipped the topping just because I don't think it's necessary and I used 1 tsp of cinnamon in the bread as in the original recipe, but since I skipped the topping, I would use the full amount of cinnamon next time.

I only had a heaping cup of applesauce left, so that's what I used, but the original amount of applesauce will make this bread even more moist. For the flours, you could certainly use all all-purpose flour or all whole wheat pastry flour. All whole wheat flour would probably make this a bit dense, but feel free to give it a try. For add ins, nuts would be great as would some grated or diced apple.

Healthier Applesauce Cinnamon Bread
Adapted from Taste of Home
Makes one 9x5 inch loaf

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt, half the amt of fine table salt
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup honey, warmed over the stove or in the microwave until runny
3 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tbsp. milk

Preheat your oven to 350 deg F. Line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with parchment or spray with a light coating of oil if it is nonstick.

Sift the flours, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg together in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs well for 1-2 minutes. Then, whisk in the oil, milk, applesauce, and honey, mixing well. Add in the dry ingredients, incorporating about a third at a time and mix until just combined.

Scrape the batter into your prepared loaf pan with a spatula and bake for 50-60 min until a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes before removing to cool completely. Bread will last for several days wrapped at room temp. Refrigerate or freeze in individual slices for longer storage.