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sugar cookie
Sometimes things happen in life that kind of knock you out of your regular routine, and it takes you a little bit to get back into the swing of things. Baking delicious things that simultaneously heat my apartment and make it smell like warm butter, sugar and vanilla is my way of getting back a sense of normalcy.

This recipe makes sugar cookies that are slightly crisp on the outside and soft in the middle. They are simple and not perfect, but exactly what I wanted to munch on while curled up with some tea and watching back episodes of Good Eats.

Ingredients:

  • 100g butter, salted, softened
  • 200g powdered sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 250g flour
  • 20g baking powder
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

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1. Preheat oven to 170C. In a medium bowl, cream softened butter and powdered sugar together until well combined, and until it lightens in color and is slightly fluffy. (use a stand mixer if you like)
2. Mix in eggs, one at a time until well combined.
3. Stir in vanilla extract, almond extract and nutmeg
4. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking power and salt, then add it to the butter and sugar mixture. Stir well.
5. Use a spoon or cookie scoop to drop roughly golf ball sized balls of dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are just about to turn a pale golden brown. Bake less for softer cookies, and a bit longer if you like your cookies crisp.

**while I tend to just eat these cookies as they are, I’m pretty sure they would be fantastic frosted, or rolled in sugar as well.

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Happy 2010! I can’t believe that another year has flown by so quickly. Foodwise, winter usually makes me think of baked goods and thick soups, fresh tea and oatmeal, you know, warming foods to chase away the cold that seeps into my uninsulated apartment and has taken over school hallways. >_<

For some reason, all I can think about today is this perfect skewer of sweet strawberries and grapes, dipped in molten red sugar and left to harden in the winter air of a Pusan street market. Candied fruit seems like an unlikely thing to associate with winter, but they make a regular appearance in Japan and China, as well as South Korea. In Japan, tiny apples and plums covered in hard sugar, or apricots and mikan in soft mizuame pop up at winter festivals on New Year’s Eve. In China, you can find tanghulu , the traditional sugar covered hawthorn fruit and foot long skewers of candied fruit from strawberries to kiwi and bananas, wrapped in a thin layer of rice paper to keep them from sticking to each other.

Since the ingredients of a candied fruit skewer are  just fruit, sugar and usually a dash of food coloring, it tastes sweet and fruity…but mostly just sweet. The draw for me is not the flavor so much as it is the texture. The crunch as you bite through the layer of hard sugar into the soft fruit is kind of addicting, and even as you complain that it is too sweet, or that the sugar has stuck in your teeth, you find yourself wanting another skewer the next time you walk past the stall.

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It’s finally autumn here in Yamanashi, and there are plenty of bright green kabocha pumpkins in the supermarkets. Kabocha is a little different than a normal pumpkin, it’s like a sweeter butternut squash, with a smooth texture like sweet potatoes. While kabocha can be prepared many ways, my favorite is simmering. It is super easy, and really great now that the weather is cooling off.

Ingredients:

  • Half of a kabocha pumpkin with the seeds removed, cut into 1-2 inch chunks
  • 1 cup of water
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dashi stock
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp mirin rice vinegar

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1. Place the pumpkin chunks at the bottom of a medium pot.
2. Add water, stock, sugar and mirin. Gently stir. The liquid level should be a centimeter from covering the top of the kabocha. If it is too low, add more water. Do not add too much water, or you will get kabocha soup.
3. Bring to a boil uncovered on high, let boil for 1-2 minutes.
4. Turn down the heat to low, and cover. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes.
5. Check if the kabocha is done by poking a piece with a chopstick. If the chop stick goes through the kabocha easily, it is done. If not, continue cooking til soft.
6. Try not to stir the kabocha, because it falls apart easily.
7. When done, use a slotted spoon to gently remove the kabocha and place into a bowl.
8. On medium heat, reduce the leftover liquids in the pot until it can lightly coat the back of a spoon.
9. Pour over kabocha.
Enjoy!!

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