Thank you for the amazing 8 years here at A Baked Creation, we can't thank you enough for the memories! But we've decided to move over to a new site - Sincerely, Syl. Please join us there for future posts on all the things you loved here!


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Mango Pudding

My parents came back from their trip to Hong Kong with cute little milk bottles. It looks like my aunts took them to Milk Top for desserts quite a few time. They tried mango and red bean puddings and I was envious! In turn, I found Sweet Note and tried their milk bottle desserts. They're delicious little treats and I was delighted to learn that we could keep the milk bottles! Well, I guess I have to try my hand at making some pudding then! It's one of my favourite treats and I always try to order one at dim sum.

I made the recipe below three times. The first time, I foolishly let the gelatin and water mixture cool as I was dicing mangoes and basically the solidified gelatin didn't incorporate with the rest. So they didn't set and Howard has been drinking them like shots. Ew.

The second time I found success and brought them over to my parent's house for Christmas dinner. However, the gelatin left surprise chunks in the pudding. I still needed to master a smoother gelatin mix. Third times the charm!
Mango Pudding
(Makes enough for 6 milk bottles)

1 fresh mango
1 package of gelatin (about 2 1/2 to 3 teaspoons)
3/4 cup of water
2/3 cup of mango pulp (or purée)
1/2 cup of evaporated milk
10 ice cubes
3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  1. Cut the mango in half and dice into small cubes. Set aside the other half to eat! Or if you'd like, you can save them to decorate the pudding by placing them on top after it has set.
  2. Put the hot water in a small pot and boil, reduce heat to simmer. Stir in the gelatin until dissolved. This step is important!
  3. Turn off the stove and remove the pot from the heat. Pour in the mango pulp, evaporated milk, and ice cubes. Stir until the ice has melted.
  4. Add in the sugar and the diced mangoes, mix until sugar is dissolved.
  5. Pour into the milk bottles or ramekins or molds. Place in the fridge to let it set overnight or for about 2 hours. 
  6. Decorate with the other half of the diced mangoes. Or pour a thin layer of mango pulp on top for decoration.
Finally, my best batch yet. Smooth mango pudding with dices of mango throughout.
And these milk bottles, so cute!!!
I'd love to know how to make red bean pudding or green tea pudding. I think flan would also work well in these little bottles. Something to try this week!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Skillet Cookie

Happy holidays everyone! We hope you had a great time and totally chilled this boxing day. I'm happy to say we haven't stepped out of the house yet to venture into the crowds. It's nice when there isn't really anything on your immediate shopping list. That's not to say that we don't have items on our wishlist, but nothing is urgent enough to warrant an early wake up to line up at the stores.

We spent Christmas eve and Christmas days with our family. Both of our parents hosted and made hot pot for dinner. Mmm: tofu, mushrooms, radishes, meatballs, fish, scallops, shrimp, and finely sliced pieces of meat.

This morning I made nachos with my favourite guacamole: avocados, tomatoes, shallots, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Tossed in some pomegranate seeds since I was feeling festive. Then a Dutch baby with sautéed apples. It failed. I've made this three times this year, twice it stayed flat and refused to puff up and give me the air pockets I desired. Once (when I actually had guests over) it did and was beautiful and impressive to my brunch crowd. Seriously, I stress over Dutch babies more than soufflés. How is that right? Why does the Dutch baby make me cry?

Well, at least this skillet cookie does not disappoint.
Skillet Cookie
(Makes six 5-inch skillet cookies or two 9-inch skillet cookies)

1 1/2 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup of granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of cocoa powder
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).
  2. In a microwave-safe bowl, place butter and chocolate in it, then melt on low power for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Whisk in sugar until smooth. Let it cool, if you don't the eggs will cook too fast when you put them in.
  4. Whisk in the eggs until combined.
  5. Add in the flour and cocoa powder. The mixture will be very dark, thick, and shiny (see the first photo).
  6. Scoop and place into skillet, about half full. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the batter loses the shininess.
  7. Cool for a few minutes and top with ice cream and sprinkles!
Don't over bake these, you want them to be soft and gooey. They're best when they're still warm. If you don't have enough skillets (who does?? Why would any of us own that many mini skillets?), you can use a small ice cream scoop to divide the batter and drop onto parchment paper as drop cookies.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Vietnamese Beef Pho

You guys! I made pho tonight!!! Well, about 80% of it since I didn't make my own beef stock. But still, it's been on my list of things to try and I can now proudly say I did it. I recently got The Kitchn Cookbook and The Slanted Door and I've been tagging a lot of the Vietnamese food recipes. I feel that I should learn some of the basics since my dad is from there and recently came back from a trip to Vietnam. Also, it might end up saving me some cash because I love going out for pho!

This recipe is adapted from The Kitchn a bit. Mostly made changes in the toppings and garnish since I really wanted to focus on the broth.

Vietnamese Beef Pho Broth
Makes enough to serve 4

2 large onions, peeled
4-inch piece of ginger, peeled
2 three-inch cinnamon sticks
2 pieces of whole star anise
3 whole cloves
2 teaspoons of coriander seeds
1800 milliliters of low-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
3 carrots, peeled and chopped

Peel and quarter the onions and ginger. Set on baking tray and broil for about five minute, flip and broil again for another five minutes. We just want a slight char, so if you have an open flame, that works too (use tongs to hold onions and ginger).

Put the cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, and coriander seeds in a large pot over medium-low heat. Dry-roast it a bit and stir to keep them from burning. When the spices are aromatic, add in the beef broth, soy sauce, fish sauce, carrots, charred onions, and charred ginger. Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover with lid, and let it simmer for 30 minutes.

After, take out another pot, place a strainer or sieve over it to separate the ingredients. Keep the broth hot in this second pot until ready to serve.

I prepared some scallions, cilantro, limes, and quickly cooked the bean sprouts in boiling water. I'm not going to specify quantities here, it's up to you! I always need limes with my pho, so I get 3/4 of the wedges while Howard uses 1. He'd probably not use it but I'm trying to convert him into adding lime juice to the broth. I feel that it tastes so much better with that sour note.

I didn't want to buy a whole pack of Thai basil, but that's generally something I add to my pho as well. As for the boiled bean sprouts, that's something my parents do and we ask restaurants to do it as well when we eat out. I think it has something to do with their preference of cleaning the bean sprouts in a quick flash of hot water.

For the meat topping, we purchased rib-eye beef that's intended for hot pot, but works beautifully here as well. After you cook the flat rice noodle (vermicelli), place the thinly sliced beef on top. Don't worry that it's still raw. If you kept the broth hot enough, it'll be cooked in no time!
See? Pour the broth over to cook the meat and this will also keep the noodles from sticking together. Garnish to your taste. You can see my bowl on the right already has two squeezed lime wedges in it. If you need some spice, add chili or Sriracha.
Verdict? The broth wasn't like the restaurant versions - we're guessing they use their own beef stock and cook that broth for hours. We found that this smelled great and wasn't greasy at all. But if you like it clean and not salty, this is the one for you. In fact, it wasn't salty enough, so we might throw in a pinch next time. We usually feel incredibly thirsty after eating pho out, but this one caused no such desires. But Howard did wish that there was a mango smoothie to end the meal with. Hmph!

Friday, December 19, 2014

American Thanksgiving with Korean Food

We celebrated American Thanksgiving this year with a homemade Momofuku Bo Ssäm. It was such a success that we might do it again for Christmas or New Years or Valentine's Day or St. Patrick's Day and you might want to, too!

We purchased an eight pound boneless pork shoulder from a local butcher and covered it in a cup of granulated sugar and a cup of salt. In a pan, we rubbed the sugar and salt all over, covered it in plastic wrap, and the meat cured overnight (or for at least 6 hours if you're strapped for time). The next day, we preheated our oven to 300°F (150°C), poured any excess liquid out of the pan, had the pork set fat side up, and popped it in the oven at noon. It baked for 6 hours, we basted every hour with juices from the pan.

A little alteration to the Momofuku cookbook's ginger-scallion sauce: 2½ cups of thinly sliced scallions, ½ cup peeled and minced fresh ginger, ¼ cup of grapeseed oil, 1½ teaspoons of soy sauce, 3/4 teaspoon of rice wine vinegar (instead of sherry vinegar), and 3/4 teaspoon of salt. Any leftover sauce we had, Howard used for the rest of the week. It is that good!

The ssäm sauce felt too oily for us, maybe reduce the amount some more? It's was a mix of 1 tablespoons of fermented bean-and-chili paste (ssamjang), ½ tablespoon chili paste (kochujang), ¼ cup rice wine vinegar (again substituted instead of sherry vinegar), and ¼ cup grapeseed oil. We'd try to reduce the oil in half next time.

We bought kim chi and lettuce. Made steamed rice, a cucumber salad, and rice cakes as well.

I love these roasted rice cakes! I urge Howard to make them every chance I get. First you make the Korean Red Dragon sauce. Boil ½ cup of water and ½ cup of sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and stir in 3/4 fermented bean-and-chili paste (ssamjang) until it dissolves. Add in 2 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of rice wine vinegar, and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil to combine. Set aside.

To make the final sauce that the rice cakes will be tossed in, use another small saucepan and boil ¼ cup mirin and ¼ cup of chicken broth on high heat for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add ½ cup of Korean Red Dragon Sauce and reduce on medium for 6 to 7 minutes.

Boil the rice cakes until they float. Drain the water. Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil when hot. Then add the rice cakes. Sear the rice cakes for about 3 minutes per side. They get sticky, so use tongs or chopsticks to help flip them over individually. Toss the crunchy rice cakes in the sauce until they're evenly covered (they magically un-stick here). Garnish with sesame seeds and sliced scallions. Eat them right away, they're so addictive and yummy!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Home Sweet Home

Today is the anniversary of our closing date. I would have missed it if Howard didn't remind me because we didn't actually move in until the new year. We spent a good amount of timing scrubbing the place clean and slowly moving pieces of our lives in, and then carefully choosing furniture. Yet, today feels like a momentous occasion to acknowledge. We're adults! We have more responsibilities! We have lots of bills to pay!
Even with the side effects of being in debt, I have had one of the happiest years of my life so far. I still crawl into bed (which I also purchased a year ago) with a smile on my face (that makes Howard think I'm a lunatic) because I feel so lucky and blessed. I have family and friends who are healthy, generous, and supportive. I have a warm home and a great job to go to every day. The luxury of a car and savings to go on small trips. And the best partner to do all of this with! Howard is there as my gentle reminder and backup so that I can go forward without worry. I can't wait for our wedding day next year.
Domo looks happy in his new home too. He has the best view of everything that happens in our place.

I don't even mind that our kitchen is 60 square feet. I've seen those who do more in their small kitchens online and know that my aunt and uncle in New York have an even smaller kitchen space. The stove, oven, fridge, and dish washer works. There's (some) counter space, a small sink, and a set of drawers. We just have to be super selective on which counter-top appliances, dishes, pots, pans, and pantry staples we need. This sounds like a good idea for a future post. I would like to share what works for us in our small space!
Then there are my books, my pride and joy. You'll be pleased to know that I put cookbooks where a DVD player (which we don't own) would normally sit on the media unit. We have one bookshelf that reaches 8 feet high and is pretty much full. I worry that it'll topple over from the weight and break the walls, but so far it has been safe to walk by. I probably have two more bookshelves worth of books still at my parent's house waiting to be moved.

It's a week from Christmas, so I hope you're all grateful for what you have and feel blessed and happy as well. It's been a learning experience and a test of patience for us, but I feel a little wiser and closer to our parents who are experts at all things home and garden. To family!