Monday, September 18, 2017

Maple Raspberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Caramel Cheesecake Frosting

It's time we talk about flour.

It's such a common ingredient that it can be easy to look past it.

Flour makes up majority of the ingredients in most bakery recipes. It would make sense that the type and quality makes a difference on your baking.

All-purpose flour is favoured by most of us because it can be used in so many applications. Why keep 3 or 4 different flours taking space in your pantry if one flour can do it all?

I get it. I'm with you.

But... (you knew this was coming) there is a time and place for each one.

In this recipe here, and in most butter cakes or other high fat and higher sugar cakes (like pound cake and coffee cake or yellow butter birthday cakes) that are meant to be moist and dense yet still soft, then Hi-Ratio Cake Flour is extremely helpful. It's called "Hi-Ratio" because it is designed to perform even in recipes that contain a high quantity of sugar and fat relative to flour.

Not only does cake flour have a lower protein content and often a finer texture than all-purpose flour, but it is usually chlorinated or "bleached" which is what gives it special properties, although it doesn't sound so nice to eat bleached flour... I understand. (More on that farther down).

Chlorine has an effect on wheat starch molecules, allowing them to swell and absorb more water more readily so that the structure in the cake sets quickly despite all that fat and sugar than can typically weigh it down. This water absorption means a moist cake and a soft texture. The lower protein content also promotes a tender texture.

This cake, with that whole 1 cup of full fat sour cream and moisture-laden frozen berries, really benefits from using cake flour because, well there's a lot of fat and a lot of liquid! Fat gets in the way of protein cross-linking and starch gelatinizing which is all necessary to set the structure of the crumb. Bleached flour is powerful in that it can still set despite all of these obstacles.

You certainly can use all-purpose flour for this recipe (or a blend of each - my preference!) but such a hefty amount of batter in one pan and a slow bake (about 1 hour) could mean that the center might end up too dense and stodgy and even if it is slightly under-baked it can collapse in the middle. It is not uncommon to have dry edges and gooey middles with these types of cakes. Much of this depends on the accuracy and efficiency of your oven as well, but has a lot to do with how well the flour can handle the amount of moisture, fat and sugar in a recipe.

To overcome that, you could also make this as two smaller 8-inch layers and stack them up. Either way, you will end up with a dense yet soft, moist and totally moreish cake.

How to make cake flour at home?
Another trick that some home bakers use to mimic the effects of bleached cake flour is to substitute 2 tablespoons of corn starch or potato starch for 2 tablespoons of unbleached all-purpose flour for each 1 cup (142g) of total flour in the recipe. This serves to dilute the protein content of the flour component in the recipe and provides additional starch gelatinization. Both of these starches gelatinize (absorb water and set the structure) at a lower temperature than starch in wheat flour. Moreover, potato starch is much more effective than corn starch with its lower gelatinization point.

However, using this trick does not impart the enhanced water-absorption properties of Hi-Ratio flour. To do this, you can heat-treat the flour by placing it in the microwave for 1-2 minutes (depending on how much flour you are using) with frequent stirring. Steps to this method are laid out here.

How 'bout that Cheesecake frosting?

Well, it's called "cheesecake" and not "cream cheese" frosting for a reason. With no icing sugar (and very little added sugar overall) this luscious frosting is rich, dense yet airy and pillowy, and really does taste like creamy luscious cheesecake.

The trick to giving it that slow-baked caramelized taste is by using brown sugar - not icing sugar. Recipes for frosting typically use icing sugar because it is so finely ground that it dissolves easily and readily. With this recipe, which uses twice the amount of cream cheese compared to butter, there is enough moisture in it to dissolve the rather large granules of brown sugar. Cream cheese is about 35% fat, which means it is about 60% water.

And the best bit - the dulce de leche! It gives it a milky, caramelized and almost savoury flavour that mimics the taste of baked cheesecake and also lends a denseness and smoothness that makes it irresistible. You can also use cold thick butter caramel. The one from this recipe is a dream.

I normally recommend serving buttercakes at room temperature, but a slice of this cake straight from the fridge, with that caramelly cheesecake frosting set nice and thick is nothing short of pure pleasure.

Maple Raspberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Caramel Cheesecake Frosting
Makes one large 9-inch round cake or two 8-inch layers

For the cake:
7 tbsp (100g) soft unsalted butter
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60ml) maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cups (215g) Cake Flour or homemade cake flour (see above)
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 cup (237ml) full fat sour cream
1 cup (4oz/113g) fresh or frozen raspberries

For the frosting:
¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter
4 tbsp (60g) packed dark brown sugar
4 oz (113g) cream cheese
3 tbsp (45ml) Dulce de Leche or thick caramel
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp (15ml) 10% cream

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and flour the sides of a 9-inch round springform pan and line the base with a round of parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter and sugar until smooth and slightly pale, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times while beating. Mix in maple syrup and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.

In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the butter mixture alternating with sour cream in 3 parts, mixing on low between additions. Once all added, mix on medium-high until batter is smooth and creamy. Fold in berries then spread into prepared pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

To make the frosting, beat butter with brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in cream cheese a little at a time until very smooth. Add dulce de leche and vanilla and beat until creamy. Drizzle in cream to loosen mixture and beat until very smooth and fluffy. Dollop over cooled cake and spread it out to the edges. It is ready to serve!

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Chocolate-Coated Raisin Fudge Brownies!

Chocolate-covered raisins have been part of my life for a while.

Nonna always had a stash in the drawer below the microwave. She saved them just for me and I knew just where to find them.

A walk passed the self-service snack section at the University Center cafeteria meant a bag-full for study motivation. Dangerous yet delicious motivation.

And any run to Bulk Barn for some corn nuts, brown sugar or cocoa meant I'd also be buying chocolate-covered raisins. Inevitable is the right word here. 

I am particular too - I don't like Glosettes. What? I know. How contrary.

I prefer the no-name unbranded type. Glosettes have a sugary coating between the raisin and the chocolate that provides an unappealing and unnecessary grittiness. That shiny shellac interferes with the smooth melting quality of chocolate. The unbranded ones melt better and are texturally superior.

Then the supermarket by my old University started selling "Big Daddy's" in their bulk section and it was over! They were jumbo raisins (like the size of your thump tip). Plump, juicy and with a thick layer of chocolate. Studying was no longer an issue but fitting into jeans was. Freshman 15 was all over me.

I really love this combination and I have no idea why I never thought to pair them in my favourite chocolate dessert (BROWNIES!) until today.

If you like soft, if you like chewy then these are the BEST fudge brownies for you!

First up, soak the raisins. Feel free to add a splash of vermouth or whiskey.

Next, make the luscious dark chocolate batter and scatter the raisins on top.

These brownies are the perfect balance between soft and chewy. They have some of the softness that you would expect from boxed brownies but with an indulgent chew from solid dark chocolate. Please do not make boxed brownies to verify - just trust me since I used to create them for a living. I developed this one, and they are great. But trust no one else.

How do you make soft and chewy brownies?

You might find recipes that call for vegetable oil since oil is liquid at room temperature, therefore liquid = soft, and butter = firm. NO! Don't do this. Although it is technically true, using oil to make brownies is a disgrace and leads to oily, often rancid-tasting brownies. Oil is for deep-frying. Butter is for baking.

To get that texture, we want to use a good mix of chocolate and cocoa powder. I have made many (MANY) brownies in my time and often use a good dose of dark chocolate. Solid chocolate contains cocoa butter which is super hard at room temperature. That means it will make firm and chewy brownies. Replacing some of that chocolate with cocoa powder (but keeping the butter the same and making up for the sugar content) lends a softer texture. The beauty is that the softness comes at room temperature, but these babies are still sticky and fudgy from the fridge. The kind that you really sink your teeth into! It's the best of both worlds.

How to make silky ganache without cream?

Use a blend of butter and milk. Also, use chocolate (or a blend of chocolates) that have a moderate sugar content. I would avoid strictly bittersweet chocolate for this because the high cocoa content means that it is more tempermental. Here I use a blend of bittersweet and milk chocolate to provide sugar (and added milk solids) to help bind water from the milk and stabilize the liquid phase.

How to recover broken or separated ganache?

Ganache splits or looks oily because the cocoa butter separates out of the emulsion. It usually occurs when the fat phase is too grand. To bring it back, whisk in some cold milk a bit at a time until it tightens up and appears glossy and smooth. The gradual addition of milk provides room for the fat to suspend into.

Go ahead and add 1/2 cup of raisins. I thought 1/3 cup was just enough to add that juicy burst and intense dried fruit, almost fermenty/winey flavour without interfering with the texture or taste of the chocolate.

Everyone I shared these with enjoyed them so much more than you would expect since raisins tend to get an old-people rap. They asked "why haven't you put raisins in brownies before?"

I asked myself the same question. I'll be doing it again and again.

Big love.

Chocolate-Coated Raisin Fudge Brownies
makes 12-16 squares

For the raisins:
1/3 cup (50g) sultana raisins
2 tbsp (30ml) boiling water
1 tbsp rum

For the brownie layer:
3 ½ oz (100g) bittersweetchocolate (70% cocoa), coarsely chopped
6 tbsp (84g) unsalted butter
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
½ cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract or rum
3 tbsp (18g) cocoa powder
½ cup (71g) all-purpose flour

For the ganache layer:
3 oz (85g) bittersweetchocolate (70% cocoa), coarsely chopped
2 oz (56g) milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp (28g) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tbsp (30ml) milk
Pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a 8x8” baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang at each side.

First place raisins in a bowl and pour boiling water over top. Cover and let stand for a few minutes.

To make the brownie base, melt chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until smooth.

Whisk eggs with both sugars until thick and lightened by a shade. Add hot melted chocolate mixture and whisk until well combined and glossy. Whisk in salt and vanilla. Whisk in cocoa powder until incorporated. Then sprinkle flour over mixture and fold it through. Scrape the mixture into your prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Drain liquid from raisins and scatter over the batter, poking them in slightly.

Bake until puffed and the surface looks matte, about 20-23 minutes. Let cool completely in pan. To make the chocolate layer, combine chopped dark and milk chocolate in a bowl with butter and milk. Microwave on medium power in 30 second bursts, stirring until smooth and glossy. Stir in salt. If the mixture looks oily and separated, add a few drops of cold milk and whisk until it tightens up to a homogeneous silky ganache. Spread evenly over cooled brownies and refrigerate until set before slicing.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Best EASY 1-2-3 Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies are hard to beat. They never get old and don't need renovation. If there's anything I crrraaaaave, CCC's are up there with brownies and ice cream in the top three. It's that type of craving that stops everything - like I can not think, move forward or operate (semi-) heavy machinery until I get what I want!

The only thing that beats eating a warm homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie is knowing an awesome recipe that you can easily commit to memory and batch up as soon as you get THAT feeling.

These are called "1-2-3" Chocolate Chip Cookies for their easy-to-remember proportions by volume

1:2:3 = butter:brown sugar:flour

That is:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour

It's a one-bowl deal with this recipe. No sifting, no mixing dry ingredients in a separate bowl, no browning butter (but brown butter is delicious!). We get around this by the order of addition - mix the baking soda into the wet mixture before the flour goes in to make sure it is evenly blended.

Do you know the story about resting cookie dough? It's worth it. But, I get it. We want to eat cookies NOW, not 24 hours from now. The thing with me is that I get the same fulfillment making cookie dough as I do eating cookies. An opportunity to chop dark chocolate or dunk my fists in a pile of chocolate discs means an opportunity for me to eat as much as I want. And cookie dough.... let's face it. It's delicious.

As a Food Scientist, I have to mention that you need to realize the risks. Raw egg is not much of an issue as eating raw flour. There have been a few cases of E. Coli contamination in flour recently, so keep that in mind and eat at your own risk.

You don't need a recipe to make this recipe. Well, the first time you do but then you're cool. Your memory can handle this. It is easy.

How to make soft chocolate chip cookies?

Use some liquid sugar, baby. I like to use honey because it is acidic and helps to balance the sweetness slightly and reacts with baking soda. You could also use corn syrup or agave. The point is that these liquid sugars are humectants, meaning that they bind water and keep these cookies from drying out too fast. Also, don't overweigh the flour - 1 1/2 cups is 215 grams. If you are not using a scale, use the spoon & sweep method and do not pack the measuring cup. It's better to err on the side of less here.

How to make chewy chocolate chip cookies?

Sugar is the ordinary ingredient that makes cookies chewy - and it's the right amount of sugar that counts. Trying to reduce the total sugar in a cookie recipe will produce crisp and crumbly instead of chewy. Unlike making crisp sugar cookies that call for heavy creaming of butter and sugar, chewy cookies should take less of a beating. Just mix the butter and sugar together until they are evenly blended and the mixture looks like wet sand or a slightly fluffy paste. It should not be pale and very aerated.

Resting the dough and giving time for the moisture in the dough to thoroughly absorb the flour will also lend chewier cookies since less water can be lost during baking this way. A chilled dough is stiffer so that it won’t spread as aggressively while it bakes meaning that the centers will stay thicker and chewier.

How to make rich-flavoured and evenly golden brown cookies?

Let the dough chill out. Refrigerating cookie dough for several hours or overnight allows the dry ingredients, including flour and baking soda, to evenly marry into the dough and become hydrated. This leads to more even browning (enhanced by baking soda) during baking and thus a richer flavour overall.


Let's not forget the star of the show - the chocolate! Your cookies can only be as good as the 6 ounces of glory that you put in. Although we call them chocolate chip cookies, I never use chips. I prefer to chop up a block of quality dark chocolate which produces irregular shards and chunks, or use gorgeous callets, which are lentil-shaped discs of chocolate designed for melting and with a high cocoa butter content. It will melt gently into pools of molten splendor and coax the cookies to spread with cracks and crevices.

Chipits? Don't even. They contain a lot of sugar and milk solids to help them hold their shape during baking (ie. the don't melt nicely).

1-2-3 Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes 18-20 cookies

½ cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (220g) packed light brown sugar
2 tsp (10ml) honey
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ cups (215g) all-purpose flour

Mix together butter and brown sugar until smooth and creamy and somewhat fluffy using a spatula or wooden spoon. It should look more like a paste or wet sand than a very pale aerated mixture. Mix in honey and vanilla extract. Beat in egg until well incorporated. Mix in salt and baking soda. Fold in flour and chocolate chips just until evenly combined.

Cover dough in the bowl and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Bring the bowl out to room temperature 30 minute before using.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

oll heaped tablespoons of dough into smooth balls and flatten onto prepared baking trays. Space them 3 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes until evenly browned.

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Thailand's Street Food Travel Guide

A Guide to the Wonderful World of Thai Street Food

There's no denying that Thailand is home to the most epic street food scene around, and it's no wonder that CNN voted Bangkok as the city with the world's best street food. If you love food and love being surrounded by delicious smells and flaming woks with meals made to order for not much more than a dollar, then go there. Go to Thailand!

Let's take a peak at what there is on offer.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The BEST Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Smooth, creamy, silky... so light it barely lasts on your tongue despite all that butter.

This is how to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

It is my favourite of them all and it sits somewhere between American Buttercream and Italian Meringue Buttercream in terms of its difficulty.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

How to make Authentic Thai Curry Paste

I'm taking a break from sweet today and taking us "Scientifically Savoury".

Thai food is one of my favourite (if not my favourite!) types of cuisine. I adore the complexity and playful balance of flavours, the brightness, freshness, richness and colour. Like a carnival on a plate, I love it so much and I've travelled to Thailand 8 times (9 times? I've lost count) just to eat. I learned how to cook Thai food and now I can't stop. Lets begin.

There are several different types of Thai Curry pastes that are used to make several different kinds of Thai curries.

Some of the most popular include Red, Green and Yellow. They all begin with similar base ingredients, but certain important additions make them distinctively different.

Penang is another popular curry made using ground roasted peanuts in the paste. It adds richness and of course, a nutty note.

Massaman is a southern Thai curry dish, getting inspiration from its neighbouring border country Malaysia with Muslim influences. You will find most Muslim Thai people in the South of Thailand and the affect that their culture has had on the food is delicious!

If you've ever had the pleasure of visiting Thailand or dining at your favourite Thai restaurant, then you'll know that Thai curries are popular dishes and taste unlike anything else in this world! If you've ever wondered how to make it at home then stick around and learn how to make the most authentic Thai Curry Paste.
Ingredients in Thai Curry Paste

Clockwise starting with the dried chilis:
Dried red chilis, called "spur chilis" 
Coriander and cumin seeds
Thai (white) cardamom pods, star anise and cinnamon bark
Cilantro roots
Thai basil
Kaffir lime peel
Turmeric root
Shrimp paste

In this photo above you also see (counterclockwise from the lemongrass):
Krachai (also called finger root or lesser ginger; the latter implies it is inferior but that is very untrue)
Coriander root

Dried Thai red chilis are difficult to find in North America. The ones you find in Thailand are longer and larger than what I typically find here and they're more flexible. You can use fresh ones but the paste will be wetter and also the flavour will not be as rich. Dried chilis have a deeper, more robust and almost smokey flavour about them.

Thai garlic is much smaller than our garlic and you can use 10-15 per batch, no problem. The more the better in curry paste - I have never once used too much garlic. The skins are also thinner so you can smash them up without peeling them.

Kaffir limes are another thing that's hard to come by. Instead of being smooth and nicely round, these Thai limes are bumpy and mottled looking and they pack a bright punch of flavour. When I can't find this (which is often) I use very finely sliced kaffir lime leaves which are easy to find and store! You will want to use these lime leaves in the curry as it simmers anyway to impart even more fragrance. Kaffir lime leaves are inexpensive and they freeze wonderfully so buy a bunch and keep them in the ice box. Use about 6-10 per batch of paste. Remember to pull back the tough stem that runs through the center of the leaf before slicing them.

Coriander root. You're probably thinking. What the? But do it! The root holds a ton of cilantro flavour and we are so stupid to throw them out! Be like the Thai and wash them well. Chop them from the leaves when you are having taco night and then wrap them up and freeze them until you make this paste.

Galangal - some would say it tastes like ginger, but every Thai (and myself) would say that's wrong. Galangal tastes minty, almost medicinal (think vapo-rub) and has more of a bite. Having said that, you can use ginger because ginger tastes great too. It won't taste quite as authentic but it will still be damn delicious, and yes I have used ginger in its place many times. The trick is that you can use lots and lots of ginger in pastes and they only taste better, but galangal should be used with more restraint.

Turmeric root is easy to find at most Asian grocers, but if you can't then substitute with turmeric powder.

Krachai may prove difficult to find, and it will most likely be labeled "finger root" if you spot it at Asian markets. It has a distinct piquant, eucalyptus-like flavour that is hard to compare. One of my Thai cooking instructors also referred to it as ginseng, which is similar in flavour and appearance but still different.

What tools do I need?

A mortar and pestle. Look for a large, heavy stone or granite one. You want it big enough that the ingredients don't all run up the sides and spill out while you're pounding down.

Alternatively, a food processor. Unless you are making a giant batch of paste, use a small prep food processor so that the blades are in good contact with your ingredients at all times and scrape down the sides regularly. I use this one from Cuisinart. It's just the right size and I find it works better than any other one I've owned thus far.

For the most authentic and rewarding experience (and taste, in my opinion) invest in a mortar and pestle. Pounding up all of the ingredients bursts all of their cells and really lets the flavours marry perfectly. The oils from the chilis and lime peel release more effectively to create an intense flavour. I own this one and love it. Jamie Oliver also makes a nice one, and if you live in Canada check out this one or this one. It certainly takes a lot of effort, but it's worth it. A little sweat means you've earned it.

At home I love to make Massaman curry the most often because it is the one that can be replicated the best here in NA where it may be difficult or inconvenient to find the freshest Thai ingredients, mainly the red and green chilis.

Massaman curry is more of a sweet curry and the flavour of the spices predominates so that you are not missing out on the taste of those dried red chilis that can be hard to come by.


Use sweet paprika powder! To get the colour and flavour of thai curry pastes, you need to use a lot of chilis but if you can't find the right ones than it just wont turn out right. If you use too many of the wrong ones, the paste will be too watery and if you use to many dried ones (the ones I use), it will be WAY TOO SPICY. So I use the amount of dried chilis that I prefer and then add a bunch of paprika to provide the dried chili flavour and colour without the heat. It's a matter of control and it works so well!

How to prepare Thai Curry Paste:

First start with the dry spices. Pound them up to a find powder. For the chilis, any dried chilis that you can find is fine but make sure you are aware of their heat potential before you start adding 20 to your paste! Start with 3 or 4 and remove the seeds if you are unsure. If the chilis you find are very dry and brittle, you can grind these up with the paste. Some people soak them in water for 10 minutes to soften them, but there is plenty of moisture from the other ingredients to smooth it out so it is up to you.

If your chilis are softer and more flexible, then transfer the ground spices to a separate bowl and start pounding the chilis. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt while you are pounding in the first few ingredients, including lime peel/leaf, garlic, lemongrass and coriander root. It helps to make a smoother paste and break down the skins.

Add the remaining ingredients (galangal/ginger, turmeric, shallots) and pound away. Begin adding the dry spices, including paprika if you are using the hot paper chilis.

Roast the spices! If you can dry roast them in the oven, that gives incredible flavour. But it's a lot to ask to turn on your oven just for this. Toasting them through in a dry frying pan with frequent shaking of the pan (so they don't burn) works a charm.

How to eat Thai Curry Paste:

Pastes form the foundation of many incredible Thai dishes including soups, curries and stir fry's. To make a traditional curry, fry up the paste in some coconut oil (or other vegetable oil) to bring out the aroma and then stir in coconut milk. To this you can add an assortment of vegetables and meat. Try chicken thigh or breast, pork tenderloin slices or chunks of beef (particularly for massaman curry). For the veggies you can use whatever you'd like, but traditional items are thai eggplants, pea eggplant, long bean and red pepper. Feel free to use broccoli, zucchini and carrot. Sweeter curries, like massaman and penang, may also have potatoes, fruit (such as pineapple), boiled peanuts and even tomatoes. At the end, be sure to add fish sauce and palm sugar to taste. You will need almost equal portions of both to really enhance the flavours. Once everything is cooked through, dish it out into small bowls and serve with a side of steamed jasmine rice and fresh Thai basil.

To make a tasty quick dish, fry up the paste with minced pork, beef or chicken. Toss in some thinly sliced carrot, long bean and Thai basil and serve with rice.

Use the yellow curry paste as a base to make Khao Soi - a delicious northern Thai chicken noodle soup. I'll post about this separately.

Whatever you add it to, know that it will taste delicious!

The difference between the colours

Green Curry: this is the freshest of them all and sometimes has no dry spices. The dominant flavours are lime and lemongrass, with the refreshing licorice notes that comes from heaps of Thai basil. It gets its green colour from green Thai bird chilis that taste completely different to the red ones and there is no turmeric used here.

Red Curry: like the curry you are learning to prepare here, it is based on red chilis and often includes coriander and cumin seeds as well as black peppercorns

Yellow Curry: add Indian yellow curry powder (such as Madras) to red curry paste

Penang Curry: add roasted peanuts while making yellow curry paste

Massaman Curry: add aromatic sweet spices (cardamom, star anise and cinnamon) and some yellow curry powder (or more turmeric, cumin and coriander) to red curry paste

Jungle curry:similar to green curry, but made with both red and green chilis! It is spicy as ever - the most spicy of all. It is usually a chunkier paste and really is loaded with chili more than anything else. What also makes this curry dish hotter than others is that it is water-based, rather than coconut milk-based. Without the creamy, fatty and sweet coconut milk to cool and counteract the firey chilis, this curry can blow your head off if you are not used to it!

Watch the video below to have it all explained!

Thai Massaman Curry Recipe
Serves 4-6 people

It's very hard to give you exact proportions for this recipe because I always do it by eye. It's one of those things that completely loses its pleasure if you measure. The one tip I can give you is, there is never too much of most things in curry paste! More garlic - OK. More ginger - YES. More lemongrass - Uh huH! Just go easy with the galangal.

For the spice mixture:
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 star anise
one 1-inch piece cinnamon bark

For the paste:
4-6 dried red chilis, chopped
6 cloves of garlic
peel from one Kaffir lime (green part only), or 6 Kaffir lime leaves very finely sliced
1 stalk lemongrass, thinly sliced
4 cilantro roots, chopped
a 2-inch knob of galangal or ginger (if using ginger you can use more)
a 1-inch piece fresh turmeric root (or 1/2 tsp turmeric powder)
2-3 shallots (depending on size)
1 tsp shrimp paste

To prepare the curry:
2 cups pure coconut milk or coconut cream (for the ultimate dish!)
1/3 cup of curry paste (or all of the batch - it will make the best curry!)
1 lb sliced pork tenderloin, sliced beef or chicken
2 large potatoes, par-boiled and cut into chunks
any vegetable you like - I prefer pumpkin, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, eggplant or red bell pepper (just don't use anything too potent like green bell peppers which would change the flavour of the curry)
2 tbsp palm sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
salt to taste

First roast the spices. Place them in a dry frying pan over medium heat and shake the pan frequently (so they don't burn) until they smell fragrant and start to dark a tinge.

Place toasted spices in the mortar and pound them with the pestle to a find powder. Transfer the ground spices to a separate bowl and start pounding the chilis. Add garlic, kafir lime peel or leaf, lemongrass and coriander root with about 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt and pound away. Salt helps to make a smoother paste and break down the skins.

Add the remaining ingredients (galangal/ginger, turmeric, shallots) and keep pounding. Begin adding the dry spices, including paprika if you are using the hot paper chilis that don't give much flavour or colour. Finally mash in the shrimp paste. Keep pounding until the paste is buttery and smooth - it will take a good 15 minutes.

To make the curry, heat about 1 tablespoon of coconut oil (or other vegetable oil) in a wok and fry up the paste to bring out the aroma and then stir in coconut milk. The traditional way that I like to use is to heat about 3 tablespoons of coconut milk in the wok over very high heat until it boils and begins to break or separate. Once the oil separates out, you can start frying your paste. You need really high quality coconut milk to do this and I only and always use Aroy-D. It is the one and only brand you should use too - the best of the best I promise. 

Once the paste is fried up, add the coconut milk and bring to a gentle simmer. You do not want to boil at this point anymore. Add the meat and vegetables in the order they need to cook and simmer until cooked through. I usually add my potatoes and carrots at the beginning, add the pumpkin halfway through, and add zucchini and bell peppers right near the end with a minute left.

Finally season with fish sauce, palm sugar and salt (if necessary). If you can't find palm sugar, you can use honey but start with half the amount since honey tastes sweeter than palm sugar. I highly recommend you try palm sugar because it is delicious and produced from coconut palm trees. I buy the hard pucks and chop or shave off the quantity I want into small pieces. You can also buy it in a jar as a thick paste that is scoopable and easier to dispense and dissolve.

So much love people,
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Monday, May 15, 2017

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake Squares with Peach Preserves & Pecans

I'm moving! Again.

And I'm going out of the city, away from the gridlock, away from the road rage, away from concrete and away from insane car insurance prices. 

I love a city when it brings food culture to a high point. Example: Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Tokyo, Taipei, Seoul, pretty much anywhere in SE Asia. That means the streets are covered with tiny plastic chair and stools, and shotty steel carts dishing up steaming bowls of noodles - I prefer that over cars alone. Makes for a hectic (and possibly smog-laden) dining experience but I love it!

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