Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween Themed Sugar Cookies

Halloween is literally in a couple of days! Because of this, I decided to make Halloween Themed Sugar Cookies and film a youtube video while doing it! Enjoy!

Halloween Sugar Cookies Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9LDTPOu8WI

-Aaron John

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pan de Sal

No video this week. Instead, it's back to good ol' fashioned pictures and stories. Pan de Sal is a filipino dinner roll. Growing up, we always had Pan de Sal in the house. If we didn't have "tasty", which is what my parent's called regular sliced white bread, we had Pan de Sal.

There's a filipino bakery that's maybe 10 minutes away from our house where we always would get Pan de Sal. I loved going there when I was younger because I was always able to pick one item for myself. Whether it was a chocolate cupcake, black forest slice or a sugar donut, it would just make the weekend that much better. That bakery always brings me back to those memories and what it's like to be a kid again.

To this day, my parent's still go to that bakery and they still get the same three things. Pan de Sal, Pan de Leche and "Butter Bread". However, for some odd reason, they didn't go to that bakery and we didn't have bread for the week. Well, being the baker of the family, it was time to make my own Pan de Sal!

Recipe by Axille's Corner

1/2 warm water (110-115 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 packet or 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
3 cups plus 3 tbsp unbleached bread flour or all purpose flour
1/2 cups plus
1 tbsp pure cane sugar or plain sugar
1 tsp fine sea salt or regular salt
1/4 warm water (2nd cup)
1/4 cup vegetable oil or canola oil

Dissolve the yeast in warm water (between 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit). Add sugar and stir, make sure that the yeast is well dissolved. Place it in a warm area of the kitchen.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt then give it a good stir with a wire whisk or a spatula.

Mix the vegetable oil into the second cup of warm water, stir and set it aside.

After the yeast had been activated and foamy, mix and fold it into the flour. Add the water and oil mixture next but in 2 to 3 batches so it will incorporate evenly into the flour mixture. Once the flour starts to stick together, start kneading (I prefer kneading it in the same bowl but you can use a cutting board or a kneading board) Knead the dough for about 5 to 8 minutes until the dough is somewhat smooth. ***TIP: if dough is too sticky, dust it with a tablespoon of flour at a time. I would recommend no more than 2 tbsp as this may make the bread dry and tough. If the dough is too dry, add a tablespoon of warm water and the same rule as the flour applies.***

Once the dough becomes slightly smooth and elastic, place it in the same bowl and cover it with a plastic wrap, an extra cover and towel will help the dough to rise. (Brushing the the bowl with oil will keep the dough from sticking but not really necessary, using a spatula will also help with scrapping it off the bowl). Let the dough rise for a 1 to 2 hours or until it doubles its size. ***TIP: make sure to place it in a warm area.***

 After the dough had risen, place it on a cutting board or a clean surface and divide it into 16 pieces. Divide the dough in halves to have even size portions. After dividing, take one of the dough and start pinching the opposite ends of the dough together, do a half turn and pinch the ends again. This will help smooth out the uneven sides and helps form it into a ball. You may leave it the way it is or knead the dough with the heel of your palm into a circular motion while cupping to control the dough, this will form the dough into a smooth and firm or tight ball.

Place the dough balls into a baking sheet lined up with parchment paper. This will help the bottom side of the dough from sticking and burning. You may use bread crumbs or corn meal to dredge the dough to have the traditional effect (I prefer to eliminate it completely because it is not necessary if the only purpose is to keep it from sticking on the baking tray and for less cleaning).

Put a plastic wrap gently over the dough then cover it with a kitchen towel to help the dough rise. Let it rise for 1 to 2 hours until it doubles its size. ***TIP: This is the most important part of the proofing process so make sure it rises and doubles its size, otherwise, your bread will not be as fluffy and airy. Check the dough after 1 hour, if it hasn't doubled its size, let it rise for another 30 minutes to an hour. Slow rise is very common during the cold season when there's not enough warm air and humidity in the room. Dough rises quickly and easily during the warm seasons, so factor in these types of conditions when making a bread.***

Once the dough has risen, preheat the oven at 375 degrees. ***TIP: Only remove the towel and plastic wrap once the oven had been preheated, otherwise this might deflate the dough depending on the temperature of the room.***

After the oven's temperature had reached to 375 degrees, place the baking sheet in the middle rack or center of then oven and bake it for 8 to 10 minutes. ***TIP: Depending on the quantity of the dough balls, if it was divided into 12 pieces or less then bake it for 10 to 12 minutes, if 16 pieces, then bake it for 8 to 10 minutes. Use a timer and set it at 8 minutes then keep watching till the bread starts to turn brown. It's better for the color to be light golden brown as this will continue baking even after removing from the oven.***

Place it on a cooling rack and wait for 5 minutes before serving. Serve it with your favor spread or eat it plainly and enjoy.

-Aaron John

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cinnamon Roll Pull Apart Coffee Cake with Pecans

I think I'm just slightly obsessed with cinnamon rolls. Maybe it's the cinnamon sugar? Maybe it's the cream cheese frosting? Maybe it's the bread? Maybe it's an excuse to eat something sweet for breakfast? Either way, who can resist a cinnamon roll? I know I can't.

In about two weeks, I'll be headed to San Diego and a part of me is looking forward to buying a Cinnabon cinnamon roll at the airport before the flight. Those oversized cinnamon rolls are so freaken' delicious! The smell alone is just so badass! Please...can I just have one now?

It's been years since I've made cinnamon rolls but I didn't want to make a cinnamon roll. I'll leave that up to Cinnabon. But I still had a craving for it, two weeks is way too long of a wait. I just had to have something cinnamon-y. Therefore, this Cinnamon Roll Pull Apart Coffee Cake with Pecans will do!

If you are a fan of the innards of a cinnamon roll, this is for you. Innards is probably not the best word to describe something so delicious, but who cares. It's fluffy, sweet and reminds me of the center of cinnamon rolls. The pecans give it a little somethin' somethin' to cut through the sweetness and give a little crunch. Don't like pecans? Leave it out or substitute it. I'm not one to judge what you do in your kitchen. Either way, it will be delicious!

Cinnamon and Lemon Pull-Apart Coffee Cake
Original recipe by Flo Braker
Makes a 9″x 5″ pan 

Sweet Yeast Dough
About 2 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (2 1/2 fluid ounces) whole milk
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Cinnamon Sugar Filling
1/2 cup golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4-1/2 cup chopped pecans

2 ounces unsalted butter, melted to be spread over the dough

Tangy Cream Cheese Icing
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup (1 1/4 ounces) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Make the Sweet Yeast Dough
Mix two cups (nine ounces) flour, the sugar, yeast, and salt in a medium bowl with a rubber spatula. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan or in the microwave, combine the milk and the butter and heat until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat, add the water, and let rest a minute until just warm (120 to 130°F [49 to 54°C]). Stir in the vanilla extract.

Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and, using a rubber spatula, mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Attach the bowl to the mixer, and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition just until incorporated. Stop the mixer, add 1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) of the remaining flour, and resume mixing on low speed until the dough is smooth, 30 to 45 seconds. Add 2 more tablespoons flour and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 45 seconds.

Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough gently until smooth and no longer sticky, about one minute. Add an additional 1-2 tablespoons of flour only if the dough is too sticky to work with. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place (about 70°F [21°C]) for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size. An indentation made with your finger should keep its shape.

Meanwhile, make the cinnamon sugar mixture by combining the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Set aside.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan.

Gently deflate the dough with your hand. Flour a work surface and roll the dough into a 20″ by 12″ rectangle. [I suggest using a ruler and getting this as accurate as possible, for a prettier loaf that will fit better in the pan. I also suggest making sure both sides are floured, so that the dough will be easy to lift up later.] Use a pastry brush to spread the melted butter evenly and liberally over the dough.

Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough crosswise in five strips, each about 12″ by 4″. With the dough sliced but still together, sprinkle the dough lengthwise with the cinnamon sugar mixture, followed by the pecans. Take each rectangle and top one over the other. Continue to top with rectangles, so you have a stack of five 12″ by 4″ rectangles, all buttered and topped with the cinnamon sugar.

Slice this new stack crosswise, through all five layers, into 6 equal rectangles (each should be 4″ by 2″.) Carefully transfer these strips of dough into the loaf pan, cut edges up, side by side. It might be a little roomy, but the bread will rise and expand after baking. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place (70 °F [21°C]) until puffy and almost doubled in size, 30 to 50 minutes. When you gently press the dough with your finger, the indentation should stay.

Bake the loaf until the top is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the cream cheese icing. Beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon until smooth, then add the milk and lemon juice. Stir until creamy and smooth.

The recipe recommends you tilt and rotate the pan while tapping on a table to release the loaf. I just carefully ran a knife around it. Flip the loaf over onto a cooling rack, then flip onto another rack so that it’s right side up. Spread the top of the warm cake with the cream cheese icing, using a pastry brush to fill in all the cracks.

-Aaron John

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Guacamole and tortilla chips...soooo freaken good! It's weird, avocado on it's own I have issues with, but guacamole is a whole different animal I can eat all day. Give me guac and tortilla chips and it's crack to me.

It may be the only green "condiment" I would gladly gobble up. Remember when they used to make colored ketchup in green and blue? That was disgusting. Why? Probably because it was just an unnatural color of green or blue. Guacamole on the other hand is the most delicious green color you may ever see in a dip.

Creamy, chunky, spicy from the chiles, burst of red color from the tomatoes, freshness from the cilantro and a slight tang from the lime juice...oh lawdyyy...don't leave me in a room with guac and chips. So easy to make and so delicious!

Recipe by Me

2 ripe Hass Avocados
1 lime, juiced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded, deveined and finely diced
1/4 white onion, finely diced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 roma tomato, diced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

With a fork, mash together the avocados, lime juice, garlic, jalapeno, salt and pepper until smooth yet still chunky. Add in the onion, cilantro and tomato and mix until combined. Chill for about 1 hour so the flavors can mingle.

-Aaron John

Sunday, August 3, 2014

"The Hundred-Foot Journey"

This past Wednesday, I had the pleasure of attending a screening of "The Hundred-Foot Journey" with friends, before it is released on August 8th. It all started when I was contacted by the Publicity and Promotions Coordinator for Disney in Seattle asking if I would like to attend. Of course my answer was 'Yes!' This was the first time being on the VIP list for an event and let me tell you, it felt AMAZING. Having my name on reserved seats at a movie theater...when does that happen? For all I cared, that could've been the Oscars.

This movie was heartwarming, funny and reminded me why I love food so much. The basic premise was a family from India moves to France, establishes a restaurant and competition ensues with the restaurant next door. For me, this movie was about never being afraid to venture out, despite the obstacles that are present. New journeys will always contain times of triumphs and failures but at the end of the day, true success will occur when you are not only happy about the success you have achieved, but how you've achieved your success and who you've become along the process. You'll never be truly happy unless those factors come together and form you into the person that you are today. This is true to my life right now. Oh man, now I'm getting teary eyed. Ha!

I did not read the novel so I don't know how accurate it is the the story, but I really liked this movie. One of my friends that went read reviews before we watched it and thought he wasn't going to like it. Turned out, he liked it! If that isn't a good sign, I don't know what is.

-Aaron John

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lengua de Gato (Butter Cookies)

Oh you know, I'm still on that Filipino dessert phase. Next up is Lengua de Gato! *Cue the streamers* Remember how I had my graduation/23rd birthday party weeks ago? Well, it's not a filipino party unless there's Leche Flan. Thus, after buckets of eggs yolks, you can only imagine the amount of egg whites there was. So, what the heck did I make out of those egg whites? These cookies. Move over angel food cake, ain't nobody got time for that.

These cookies are childhood to me. Not in the sense my family would be pumping these out the oven but in the sense that whenever my grandparents would go back to the homeland, they would always bring these cookies in a clear, cylindrical container with a screw top. These cookies would be perfectly displayed within and I would just eat them endlessly.

They are flat, crunchy and sweet cookies with a hint of vanilla. These become addicting so be careful. One becomes two, which becomes three, and well, you get the idea.

Look, look, look! Don't you just want to grab it and eat like a bajillion?? I know I do!

Lengua de Gato
Recipe by Panlasang Pinoy

1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup superfine white sugar Whites from 2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cream the butter using an electric mixer then gradually add the sugar. Continue mixing for another 2 minutes. Stir-in the egg whites gradually and mix for about 3 to 4 minutes more. Add salt and vanilla extract. Gradually stir-in the flour. Continue to mix for about 2 to 3 minutes more or until the mixture is well incorporated.

Get a piping bag and install a round tip. Place the mixture in the piping bag. On a baking tray lined with wax or parchment paper, begin piping the mixture. Each piece should be about 2.5 to 3 inches in length. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and place in a cookie rack until the temperature cools down.

-Aaron John

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Two weeks ago I had my graduation and 23rd birthday party!! After many recipes that were tested to go on the dessert portion of the buffet table, this recipe made the cut. It's called Palitaw. I know what you're thinking, "Finally!! A Filipino dessert!!" and yes, you are right!

So what is Palitaw? Well, it's a rice cake that is cooked by boiling, drained and dipped into grated coconut that you can find in the freezer section of most asian grocery stores. From there, you dip the coconut covered rice cakes in a sesame seed and white sugar mixture. Some people dip the rice cakes immediately and place them on the party platter but for my party, we served the sesame seed and sugar mixture on the side.

Palitaw is chewy and soft, has great texture from the coconut and is given a slightly nutty and sweet flavor from the sugar mixture. These are one of my favorite filipino desserts and can become very addicting!

Recipe by Panlasang Pinoy

2 cups glutinous rice flour
1 cup water
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup sesame seeds, roasted
1 cup grated coconut

Combine glutinous rice flour with water and mix until a dough is formed. If the dough is still dry, add more water. Scoop about 2 tablespoons of dough then mold it into a ball-shaped figure. Flatten the ball-shaped dough using the palm of your hands.

Boil water in a cooking pot then put-in the flattened dough. When the flattened dough starts to float, remove them from the pot and set it aside allowing water to drip. Combine sugar and roasted sesame seeds then mix well. Dunk the rice cake in grated coconut and arrange on platter. Serve with a bowl of the sugar-sesame seed mixture to dip in on the side.

-Aaron John

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Raspberry Crumble Bars

Well, well, well, it looks like I'M BACK! After five years of homework, studying, projects, essays, labs, quizzes, midterms and finals, I am officially a graduate of the University of Washington with a double degree in Biochemistry & Chemistry and a minor in Diversity. It has been a long road full of triumphs and failures, but I did it! Now the question is, what's next?

When I started my journey at UW-Seattle, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I jumped from different ideas, from pharmacy, to business, to just wanting to drop out and go to culinary school. People always say, "Do what you love", even my friends say that. But growing up, when you have to work for everything you've ever owned, where nothing is handed on a silver platter, where every time that tuition statement comes out, you hate to tell your parents about how much tuition was raised, doing what you love didn't really seem like an option. If I wanted to live out my dream whether that be a bakery, cafe or some show on the Food Network or Cooking Channel, I needed a backup plan and that was my two degrees.

After all is said and done, I still don't know what I want to do with my life. What I do know is that I'm going to take a year off of school, apply to pharmacy schools in the fall and look for jobs in the meantime. If I find a job god enough, maybe pharmacy school isn't necessary. But, that's what this next year is all about, figuring out my next step in life.

Until then, there is one last thing to do before I figure out my life, and that is my joint graduation and 23rd birthday party! Can I just say, I haven't had a party like this since grade school so this is kind of a big deal. This past week, I've been testing out recipes on what desserts I need to make and this was one recipe I tried out. These raspberry crumble bars were fantastic. My only criticism would be to bake the bottom layer for about 20 min or until lightly golden brown before adding the raspberry preserves. I found the bottom layer to be a bit soft and failed to hold together if that's not done. Other than that, this may be an option for the party!

Raspberry Crumble Bars
Recipe by Anne Thornton

2 sticks butter, softened, plus more for the pan
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup Raspberry Preserves, recipe follows

Raspberry Preserves
1 quart raspberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 3/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.

Add the flour, both sugars, oats and salt to a bowl in your stand mixer. Add in the butter and egg and beat at low speed. Stop the machine and scrape the bowl down a couple of times. Keep processing until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Keep 2 cups crumb mixture aside.

Press the remaining crumb mixture on the bottom the prepared pan. Spread the Raspberry Preserves over top, leaving 1/2-inch border. Crumble the rest of the oat mixture over the preserves.

Bake until lightly browned, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Raspberry Preserves:
Put your raspberries and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat. Once it's at a simmer, partially cover and cook 8 to 10 minutes. Pass the berry mixture through a food mill and measure the liquid that remains. You need 3 1/2 cups. Add more water if there isn't enough.

Put the berry liquid into a new saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer again. Once it simmers, start adding your sugar in 1/2 cup increments. Give it a stir to incorporate and bring it back to a simmer before adding of the next 1/2 cup sugar. Once the last 1/2 cup is added, bring the liquid to 216 to 218 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Stir constantly. Let this cool to room temperature prior to using. If not using right away, refrigerate for up to 1 week

-Aaron John

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Ariadne Pure: Raw Honey with Hazelnuts Review

About a month ago, I was contacted by Tasos of Ariadne Pure asking me to review one of their newer products, a raw honey with hazelnuts spread. A quick look at their website www.ariadnepure.com allowed me to learn a little more about Ariadne Pure. Ariadne Pure specializes in Greek centered products whether it be Extra Virgin Olive oil, wines or organic raw honeys. So, when asked if I would be willing to review their raw honey with hazelnuts, I happily obliged. Not to mention, it's also organic.

First of all, when I opened the package and pulled out the jar, I was impressed with just how it looked. It was simple, yet elegant at the same time. There's just something about putting a simple piece of decorative paper with twine, a long with a label, that just makes things look as if they took the time and effort just to make sure everything looks as good as their product tastes. Simply, it just shows that they believe in their product completely.

Now for the taste. Before I even opened the jar, I had preconceived notions of what it was going to taste like. Think Nutella without the chocolate, and replace that with the floral sweetness of honey. I also thought it would be chunky from the hazelnuts, giving it a crunchy textural aspect.

What did it actually taste like? It was sweet with those hints of floral notes from the honey and the flavor of the hazelnuts came right through. However, unlike what I thought about the texture before, this raw honey with hazelnut spread was completely smooth which surprised me. It was legitimately like Nutella, without the chocolate, and really allowed the honey to shine with hints of hazelnut flavor. Cool right? But, be careful with this product, a little goes a long way. Remember, this is honey! It would be a no-no to take a spoon and eat it straight out of the jar like Nutella. But hey, who am I to judge?

I would love to try this product on biscuits, bake it into corn muffins, or make cakes out of it! Given that the texture is smooth, this can be used directly in recipes that call for honey. This honey will give added flavor from the hazelnuts, which will add more dimension to recipes. Not into hazelnuts? Well, head on over to www.ariadnepure.com and check out their other honey spreads with almonds, peanuts and so much more!

I want to thank Ariadne Pure for allowing me to review their product. This is the thing I love about being a food blogger. It has allowed me to venture out and try products that I wouldn't normally go out and try, because I don't have knowledge of every single company out there. Before being contacted by Ariadne Pure, I had no clue it existed! Now that I know about them, so can you all!! So, get out there and try their product and let me and them know what you think of their stuff!

-Aaron John

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Sinangag (Filipino Garlic Fried Rice)

Sinangag or how I like to say it, Sina-na-na-nag. Growing up in a Filipino household, it was rare to have a "Diner-type" U.S. breakfast. You know, the kind with eggs, bacon, hash browns and pancakes? That kind of a meal was a special occasion kind of thing. Most of the time we had this, Sinangag or garlic fried rice. 

You see, Sinangag is the main component of the typical Filipino breakfast. Spam and Sinangag. Longaniza sausage and Sinangag. Daing (Milk Fish) and Sinangag. Toyo (dried fish) and Sinangag. If it's breakfast, you best believe Sinangag is going to make an appearance.

When you make Sinangag just right, you can eat it all by itself. Sometimes I get seconds of just rice. No joke. There's something about the garlic rice that's delicious and with just the right amount of salt, it makes it so good! So, take a stab at the filipino breakfast and start with this simple Sinangag!

Sinangag (Filipino Garlic Fried Rice)
Recipe by Me

3 tbsp olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 egg
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice, cooked
1/4 tsp salt

In a wok or medium sized skillet, add the oil and heat it on the stove on medium high heat. Once hot, add in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Don't brown the garlic! Crack in the egg and puncture the egg yolk. Allow it to cook for about 1 minute before disturbing. Once somewhat cooked, begin to break up the egg and mix with the oil and minced garlic. Once the egg is fully cooked, add in the rice and mix to even disperse the egg, garlic and oil. Season with salt and cook for another 3-5 minutes until any residual moisture from the rice has evaporated.

-Aaron John

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies

After receiving loose leaf teas from "The Tea Company", the search was on for what to do with them. A post on instagram got my friend J to suggest I make Tea Cookies. Honestly, I've never heard of them before. I mean, Tea Cookies...with actual tea leaves in them. Really?

A bunch of questions ran through my head and the primary question was "Can you eat tea leaves?" I mean, it's not like I think tea is poisonous, we can drink it after all. But, can we digest them? You know how you can use bay leaves in things like beef stew and such, well, you don't eat the bay leaf now do ya'. Well, "Can you eat tea leaves?"

But, if a recipe says to put Earl Grey Tea leaves into the cookie, I assume tea is edible. If not, Claire Robinson would be arrested. But look, I'm still alive! 

I used "The Tea Company" Earl Grey Creme which gave the cookies a slight anise flavor. This recipe used powdered sugar which gave the cookies this crackly outer cookie which was unique. So, who knew you can eat tea leaves? I sure didn't.

AJ's Secrets
-Instead of pulsing the flour, salt and tea together, I pulsed the tea in the food processor first before I added the flour and salt. This just ensured there weren't too many large pieces of tea leaves.

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies
Recipe by Claire Robinson

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, tea, and salt, until the tea is just spotted throughout the flour. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and butter. Pulse together just until a dough is formed. Place dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, and roll into a log, about 2 1/2-inches in diameter. Tightly twist each end of wrap, and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice the log into 1/3-inch thick disks. Place on parchment or silpat lined baking sheets, 2 inches apart (2 probably needed depending on size of sheets). Bake until the edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool to room temperature.

-Aaron John

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Tea Company


A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Ben of "The Tea Company" asking if I would review some of their loose leaf teas. Of course, I happily accepted. You see, as a college student, you would think I'm a huge coffee drinker, but nope...I prefer tea. For me, it has a much cleaner taste, less bitter and well, I just prefer it. The only time I will drink coffee is if it's heavily sweetened. Tea is just the healthier route for me.

When the package came, I was excited about the teas I received. There were three, Moroccan Mint, Earl Grey Creme and Hibiscus Madness. I was most excited to try the Hibiscus Madness not only because I know about the fantastic color it has, but also because of how I loved the "Hibiscus Nectar" drink at one of Seattle's Food Trucks, Maximus/Minimus. So...let the review begin!

First up, Moroccan Mint. Upon opening the package, it had the aroma of spearmint gum. One of my favorites. After steeping according to the instructions on the package, it had a light green hue to it and the mint aroma mellowed out while still maintaining that distinguishable "mint" smell. It had a nice clean and fresh flavor leaving your mouth feel as if you just went to the dentist. Ben suggested steeping this in cream and using it in chocolate truffles. Mint-tea chocolate truffles? Yes please!

Next up was Earl Grey Creme. When I opened up this package, it had an aroma I smelled before but I couldn't pinpoint it. After sitting for 30 minutes drinking and thinking about this tea, it hit me. It had a deep flavor with hints of anise notes to it. It reminded me of biscotti I used to buy at the grocery store. Dipping those biscotti into this tea would be a double whammy of anise-y flavor. My friend J suggested I make Tea Shortbread Cookies with this, and that post will come soon.

At long last, the highly anticipated Hibiscus Madness. The tea leaves have a fruity smell to it, almost like fruit punch. At some points I smell grapes, at other points I smell apple. When steeping the tea leaves, the red hue from the hibiscus made it's way into the hot water turning it a light red color, a little lighter than fruit punch. This tea was definitely my favorite. It had those fruity notes and was tangy at the same time. Add a bit of sugar to it and it's perfect.

I want to thank The Tea Company for allowing me to review their teas. They were all fantastic and had something unique to each one of them. If you're a tea lover, head over to their website at https://theteacompany.com/ and check it out. They have a wide variety of teas, different equipment to use in your tea making and are always willing to help if you have any questions about tea. One thing I learned from Ben is that tea is not just limited to drinking. You can make things from truffles, cookies or even something savory like a roast with them. It may seem like you can only steep tea, but the possibilities are endless. So, thank you The Tea Company!

-Aaron John

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cake Donuts

First of all, sorry for the blurry pictures. When you live in Seattle, the lighting isn't always picture perfect for these kinds of things. Oh well, who cares when you're eating donuts.

Anyways, I've expressed my love for donuts once before and I'm here to do it again. I'm obsessed with donuts!! Fried dough with a sweet coating of some sort from glaze, to chocolate, to maple to plain ol' sugar, these things are damn good.

This recipe and I go way back. I was in the seventh grade when we were offered an opportunity for extra credit by making bread of some sort from our culture. I can't quite remember what bread had to do in our lesson plan but all I remember was we had to make cultural bread. When I got home that day, I told my parents about the project and they had no clue what to do because they aren't bakers. In fact, I can't remember them baking anything, ever!

What I can say is that filipinos love to fry. Let's be honest here, everything is better when it's fried and so filipinos know some good food. I remember coming to the conclusion to just make donuts because it would be relatively easy and well, it's fried, my parent's expertise.

Let me tell you, these were the days of dial-up internet and I remember it taking forever to find a recipe but I got one from Tyler Florence who was my favorite TV-Chef back in the day. Now remember, this was supposed to be a cultural bread and this cake donut recipe was far from a cultural bread of the Philippines.

After all the donuts were made, my parents just said to say that they were "Bitsu-Bitsu" which I guess is a filipino version of donuts. I mean, no one would know what they really were in my class of 12 year olds.

No one even questioned what they were and at the end of the day, everyone loved them and I got my extra credit so who cares if these aren't the true filipino Bitsu-Bitsu. They can't take away my extra credit anymore! 

AJ's Secret:
  • The directions indicate to refrigerate and roll out the dough. However, I've never seen cake donuts rolled and cut like yeast based donuts. Donut shops always have those cool contraptions that plunges dough into the fryer in the shape of a donut. Thus, I simply used a 1-ounce ice cream scoop, scooped out the dough and dropped the dough into the fryer. I fried it for about 5 minutes, or until the inside is cooked.

Cake Donuts
Recipe by Tyler Florence

3 1/2 cups (1 pound) cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fat for frying, such as canola oil
*Variation: for chocolate donuts, melt 3 ounces of unsweetened chocolate along with the butter and continue as directed.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the eggs until foamy, gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until thick and yellow. Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat and combine with milk and vanilla extract. Stir the milk mixture into the egg mixture until blended. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix just until incorporated. Chill for 30 minutes to make it easier to roll and cut.

***See my secrets above!
Roll or pat the dough out on a heavily floured surface to about 1/4-inch thick, the dough is somewhat wet. Cut with a floured doughnut cutter, saving the holes. Transfer to a sheet of waxed paper and allow to air dry for 10 minutes. The dough will form a slight crust and absorb less fat when fried. 

Heat 3-inches of vegetable oil or shortening to 375 degrees F in an electric fryer or deep saucepan. Fry doughnuts until golden, about 5 minutes each side. To keep the oil temperature constant, fry 3 at a time. Fry the holes separately and drain on paper towels.

-Aaron John


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