chocolate rice krispie square totoros

Hey Steph and Lyndsay,

It’s one of my favourite weeks, even more than shark week, it’s finally #totoroweek! The weeks leading up to it, I’m always on the look out for round or circular food types that can be transformed in Totoro. But then I thought square Totoro is cute too! Let’s show him some love.

I recently made homemade marshmallows and since then I started craving Rice Krispie squares. This time, I tried a different marshmallow recipe and went straight to Stella Parks’ BraveTart cookbook. She offers quite a few variations, including an apple pie flavour, brown butter, coconut, malted milk, and peanut butter honey. I went with chocolate since it would provide the best contrast to the white royal icing.

Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares
Recipe adapted from BraveTart
Makes enough to fill an 8 x 12 x 2 inch baking pan

11 cups Rice Krispie cereal
⅓ cup cocoa powder
2 envelopes unflavoured gelatin powder
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup water
1 cup golden corn syrup
2¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter

  1. In a large bowl, fold the cocoa powder with the cereal until it’s evenly coated.
  2. Add Melt the butter and grease the baking pan. Set aside the extra butter.
  3. Mix the gelatin, ¼ cup water, and vanilla extract in a small bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a medium pot, combine the ½ cup water, corn syrup, sugar, and salt. Set over medium heat and stir until the mixture bubbles (about 8 minutes). I clipped on a candy thermometer, but I couldn’t get the mixture to reach 250°F in after 6 minutes. Might be time for me to get a digital thermometer. Either way, onward!
  5. Pour the hot syrup into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Let it cool for a bit and then add the gelatin from the small bowl. Using a whisk attachment, start on low speed and then increase to medium-high.
  6. The syrup will thicken and turn white and increase in volume. Reduce the speed to low and add in the remaining melted butter. Give it one last good mix on medium-high.
  7. Scrape the gooey marshmallow batter over the cocoa-powdered cereal and fold to coat. Transfer the mixture into the greased pan and gently press down to create an even and smooth surface.
  8. Cover it in foil and let it set in the fridge for at least two hours.

 

Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares

After the Rice Krispie is set, use a spatula to help pop the treats out of the pan and cut them into squares.

Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares

Use a piping bag with a small round tip and fill it with royal icing. Pipe an arch about half the size of the square and fill it in.

Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares

Pipe two medium circles for the eyes and push milk chocolate crispearls in for Totoro’s pupils. Pipe a small dot for the nose and v-shapes for the whiskers.

Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares

This is the part where your patience gets tested. Using brown jimmies to set over the royal icing belly. I used the tip of a knife to help shift some into place.

Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares

Finally, some lollipop sticks to make these treats easy to hold and eat. I couldn’t bear to bite into Totoro, so I had Howard do the honours while I ate the non-decorated ones. These chocolate Rice Krispie squares taste really good (and are super addictive).

Sincerely,
Syl

squishy ghost marshmallows

Dear Danielle,

We did it, we found a picture book and food project to collaborate on! I’m so excited we got a match, this really is the perfect fit with the both of us being fans of Rebecca Green and her debut book, How to Make Friends with a Ghost.

Rebecca’s ghost is so heart-achingly cute and you just want to eat it. And now I’ve made it possible. These homemade marshmallows are soft and delicate, but still firm enough for making s’mores or toasting for that lovely burnt flavor.

Dare I say they’re a bit tastier than store-bought ones? My ultimate taste-tester was my husband who loves marshmallows. Trust me when I say he does not give my cooking any bias, so when he said these were better than the ones from the grocery store, I was surprisingly shocked (and feeling pretty rosy inside).

Vanilla Marshmallows
Recipe adapted from Butter Baked Goods
Makes enough to fill an 8 x 12 x 2 inch baking pan

½ cup water
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
Unsalted butter, melted
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup golden corn syrup
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup water
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Icing sugar

  1. Using the bowl from your stand mixer, pour in the water and gelatin. Let it sit so that the gelatin can bloom.
  2. Brush the melted butter onto the base and side of your baking pan. Set it aside.
  3. Add the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and the other half cup of water into a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring it to a rolling boil and let it boil for about a minute. Then remove it from the heat.
  4. Fit your stand mixer with the whisk attachment and turn it on low to mix the water and gelatin that’s already in the bowl until it combines. Then very slowly and carefully, add the hot sugar and corn syrup mixture into the bowl.
  5. Still mixing on low, add the vanilla extract.
  6. When everything is in the bowl, turn the mixer to high and whisk for 10 minutes until the batter turns white and triples in size.
  7. Stop the mixer, using a spatula, scrape the marshmallow batter into the baking pan. Spread the batter evenly and do your best to level it. A bench scraper or off-set spatula can help.
  8. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, be sure not to touch the batter otherwise it’ll stick. Or use a lid if your baking pan comes with one. Leave the marshmallow to set at room temperature overnight or in the fridge.
  9. The next day, take the foil off and sprinkle icing sugar over the top. Cover the surface evenly so that it won’t be too sticky to handle. Run a knife along the edge of the pan to help loosen the marshmallow slab. Then carefully flip the marshmallow out onto a counter. Sprinkle icing sugar all over the marshmallow – don’t forget the sides.
  10. Use a knife to cut them into squares or roll a cookie cutter in icing sugar before using it on the marshmallow.

Ghost Marshmallows

You’re going to get icing sugar everywhere. But if you have a large baking sheet, it’s best to try to contain everything there. No promises of course, I still got sugar on the table, floor, and on my apron.

Ghost Marshmallows

Use your hands to pat the marshmallow down with icing sugar, it will make it so much easier to work with. This large slab felt like a really nice pillow for sugar fairies to sleep on.

Ghost Marshmallows

If you have a tulip cookie cutter, upside-down, it looks like Rebecca’s ghost. I tried to get one, but a few of the local shops weren’t carrying it. I ended up using my Totoro cookie cutter. I just had to snip the ears off using kitchen shears.

Ghost Marshmallows

So excited for how chubby these ghosts are going to turn out.

Ghost Marshmallows

Using black and red edible markers, I drew on the faces and blush. They actually bleed a lot, so try to use a very fine tip or gently draw the faces on and wait for the lines to thicken.

Ghost Marshmallows

One trick if you don’t want a solid red blush, I dipped the edible marker in icing sugar first so that the tip would be speckled. Then I gently tapped it onto the ghost’s cheek.

Ghost Marshmallows

You can sort of see the slight bump where Totoro’s arms/hands would be, but they work as Rebecca’s ghost has a similar look.

Ghost Marshmallows

“If you’re a person who is sweet, warm and kind, a ghost may come out and find you.”

Ghost Marshmallows

These little ghosts are pretty darn cute when wrapped up as gifts! If only I had some graham crackers on hand . . .

Play the video to see how soft and squishy the ghost marshmallow is!

Sincerely,
Syl

*Disclaimer: I work at Tundra Books and sent Danielle a copy of How to Make Friends with a Ghost by Rebecca Green for review consideration. All the while, Danielle and I were looking for a side project to collaborate with during the past couple months and it just so happened that I am the publicist for this title.

pineapple cookies

Dear Naseem,

You’re back!! I hope you had a great time watching Groundhog Day and hopping all over New York City.

It finally happened, I used those pineapple cake molds with the attempt to make pineapple cakes! About time since I’ve been dreaming about it since February.

Here’s how it went down: I saw pineapples on sale at the grocery store and bought them. I pretended that I knew how to pick the ripe ones because they were all smelling so good. Went home to wash the metal molds again because I couldn’t remember if I cleaned them when they were gifted to me. Then I rolled up my sleeves to get to work.

Pineapple Cookies
Recipe adapted from Sweet
Makes 40 small rectangular tarts and excess pineapple filling

Pineapple Filling
2 pineapples
1¾ granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 whole star anise

Shortcrust Pastry
2⅓ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup unsalted butter
Zest from 1 lemon
1 large egg yolk
4 teaspoon water

Pineapple Filling:

  1. Peel, core, and chop the pineapple flesh into 2-inch cubes
  2. Place the cubed pineapples in a food processor and pulse until it becomes a purée.
  3. Pour the purée over a sieve to let our the excess juice. Save the juice to mix with a can of ginger ale – it makes for a great drink while you work!
  4. Place the pineapple purée in a large saucepan and add in the sugar, vanilla extract, and star anise. Turn the stove up to medium-low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium and stir every 3-5 minutes to avoid burning.
  5. Depending on the remaining juice content and heat of your stove, this can take up to 30-40 minutes before the purée starts to thicken and turn a golden colour. You’re not making a jam, so you have to keep cooking until the filling holds it shape when spooned.
  6. When it’s ready, turn off the heat and remove it from the stove top. Let it cool for about half an hour before transferring to an airtight container. Keep this in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the tarts.

Shortcrust Pastry:

  1. Using the food processor again, sift in the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt. Cut the cold butter into small cubes and add it in with the lemon zest. Pulse to mix in. Whisk the egg yolk and water together, add it to the mixture and pulse until the dough comes together.
  2. Take the dough out wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Let it chill in the fridge for an hour. Take out the dough half an hour before you’re ready to assemble.

Pineapple Cookies:

  1. Brush the molds with melted unsalted butter.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  3. Scoop the pineapple filling into a piping bag, set aside.
  4. Lightly dust your working surface with flour and roll out the pastry dough. Using the mold, stamp out the shapes and layer it on the bottom of each mold.
  5. Pipe a dollop of pineapple filling onto the center of each rectangle.
  6. Using the leftover pastry dough, repeat by stamping out the shape of the mold. Each sheet will be placed on top of the pineapple filling. Tuck in the sides as best you can so that it seals the filling in.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let it cool before transferring it to a wire rack. Use a tong to pop the tarts out of the metal molds.

Pineapple Tarts

I somehow managed to get Howard to peel, core, and chop all the pineapple for me. I stood around waiting and snapped photos. There’s also something very satisfying about seeing a solid fruit get puréed into a beautiful sauce.

Pineapple Tarts

At this point, I did wonder if I should just pour this pineapple purée over some ice cream. Or look up a recipe for Dole Whip. But I soldiered on with the original plan.

Pineapple Tarts

Here’s the golden colour of the pineapple purée cooked for over half an hour. Wear comfy slippers or have a squishy kitchen mat while you stir this filling past the consistency of jam.

Pineapple Tarts

Alright, the filling is cooling in the fridge. Time to butter those molds so that the cookies pop right out.

Pineapple Tarts

I used one of the molds to cut out 40 rectangles and a bench scraper to help pick them up.

Pineapple Tarts

Here goes the bottom layer.

Pineapple Tarts

I used a piping bag since it would be easier to distribute each pineapple dollop onto the bottom layer of pastry.

Pineapple Tarts

I was pretty conservative as I didn’t want any to leak out – but of course, some did manage to escape after it was baked.

Pineapple Tarts

Okay, this again. Another 40 rectangles for the top layer.

Pineapple Tarts

I placed those gently on top and pushed down around the edges to seal the pineapple filling in.

Pineapple Tarts

When they were ready, I had them cool for a bit and used a tong to pop the cookies out of the hot metal molds. Then ate one while it was still hot – probably tasted the best then because who doesn’t love hot pockets?

They kind of look like Fig Newtons?

Pineapple Tarts

But after various taste-testers, I think the conclusion is that these aren’t pineapple cakes (my heart breaks), but they are amazing pineapple-filled cookies (my heart has hope again).

I think my least favourite part of this recipe is washing the molds after. Luckily, I only had to give them a quick scrub as they survived the dishwasher (just taking risks here and there).

I liked the filling but I’ll just have to find a different dough recipe for a more cake texture. I know we discussed maybe adding baking powder or baking soda? Although when you mentioned winter melon, I am intrigued on how to make the filling.

Also, this made a ton of filling, I could probably cut the recipe in half. Or enjoy the additional pineapple tart I would have to make each time.

Sincerely,
Syl

chocolate soufflé

Dear Howard,

Wooooooo, it’s been a year on this new blog! Not bad, not bad. To celebrate, I thought I would give the good old soufflé a try. Remember the first time we made it? We had no idea what we were doing and ended up with pots of mush. Now, I know what to do but I still don’t have photographic proof of it. Read on to see why.

Chocolate Soufflé
Recipe adapted from Sugar Rush
Makes 4 servings

Unsalted butter
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar
158 grams semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 large egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar
⅔ cup whole milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 large egg yolks

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Have a roasting pan ready.

chocolate souffle
First up, we have to melt the butter and brush it into the ramekins. Making sure it’s coated all along the edges.

chocolate souffle
Then take 2-3 tablespoons of granulated sugar and pour it into the first ramekin. Rolls the sugar around until it’s completely covered on top of the butter. Pour out the excess sugar and then repeat with the next ramekin.

chocolate souffle
The insides of the ramekins should look like this. Butter and sugar attached to it.

chocolate souffle
Using a stand mixer, add in 1 tablespoon of sugar to the egg whites, along with a pinch of cream of tartar (thanks for reminding me we had some at home when we were searching the store yesterday). Whisk on low speed.

Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips.

In another pot, heat the milk and cornstarch. Whisk until it comes to a boil and then take it off the heat.

chocolate souffle
In the stand mixer, add in another tablespoon of sugar to the egg whites and whisk on medium-high speed.

Add in the two egg yolks to the melted chocolate, stir until combined. Then add in the hot milk and continue to mix (even if the chocolate starts looking clumpy). The chocolate will take in the milk and combine (I mean, that’s how you make ganache after all).

chocolate souffle
Check on the egg whites. Add in the last tablespoon of sugar and whisk until soft peaks are formed. You can tell when it’s done when the egg white holds its’ shape. See the above photo where I left a “peak” for show.

chocolate souffle
Add in the egg whites to the chocolate mixture in thirds. Gently fold it together until no more white streaks can be seen in the batter.

chocolate souffle
The batter will turn from dark brown to light brown. But make sure you don’t over mix because you need the batter to remain airy from the egg whites. Pour the batter into the ramekins ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP. That step is pretty important.

chocolate souffle
Put the ramekins in the roasting pan and fill it halfway with hot water. Slide that into the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

When it’s done, open your oven door slowly. A rush of cold air might deflate your pretty soufflés. Carefully take them out and use tongs (or I was thinking some canning equipment) to lift the hot ramekins out.

chocolate souffle
So this little guy here is the reason why I don’t have beautiful photos of the soufflés in the ramekins. I had left over batter and filled in a mini glass dessert cup (it’s not a shot glass) and was ooing and ahhing over how cute it was when it came out of the oven. Look at that height! I snapped a few photos, turned around and saw that my ramekin soufflés were starting to lose their impressive height. Nooo!!

In the end, I guess it didn’t matter. Because this soufflé was damn delicious. It was so light and airy inside and perfectly textured.

chocolate souffle
Here’s to another year of blogging! I thought I would give a shoutout to the cookbooks that I’ve used the most this year for our meals. When we’re trying to be healthy-ish and economical by meal planning (always gets derailed somehow), I’ve been turning to these tried-and-true recipes from:

Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes
Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook: Eat Like You Give a F*ck
Sugar Rush: Master Tips, Techniques, and Recipes for Sweet Baking
Eat Delicious: 125 Recipes for Your Daily Dose of Awesome

Another book I want to mention is Draw Every Day, Draw Every Way (Guided Sketchbook): Sketch, Paint, and Doodle Through One Creative Year which has given me so much joy because it has gotten me into a habit of illustrating. Many thanks to Rebecca Green for this recommendation, you’ve inspired me to give this a try. So far I’m still in the pen and pencil section of the book, but there’s colour coming soon with the food prompts. Most excitedly, I’m ready to try some gouache painting as well!

Sincerely,
Syl

tropical garland

Dear Laura,

Hey sis, how’s it going? It’s been such a crazy month of June – some highlights with memories I’ll cherish forever and some bad news as you already know.

Thanks again for having your family help out for my mom’s 60th birthday party. I love that you love the parties I throw and you know that I love helping you plan the biggest party of your life. I think I’ve been pretty good at being patient and waiting for details bit by bit. Yup, my current texting volume about your wedding is on restraint level. But I get it, take your time and enjoy your engagement. Take time to pick and choose everything quickly. I’m not one to rush you since I took two years myself to plan.

Tropical Garland

I thought I’d dedicate this letter to you since you were the most avid user of this photo backdrop at the party. I love going through the photos from time to time and seeing you pop up with your cheery smile, it’s instantly infectious and makes me happy.

Tropical Garland

I saw this yellow balloons and leaves centerpiece on Pinterest and saved it to my tropical party board. There were some internal debates as to whether I should make it the centerpiece to go along the buffet or a garland for photos. Eventually I decided on the garland and started working on it a few weeks before the party.

I would come home from half-day Fridays (yay summer hours), put on Netflix (I think I was watching Girlboss at the time), and cut out all these leaves. I eventually got a tiny blister on my thumb because Howard’s large scissors were not a good fit for my small crafty hands. But it looked fantastic all laid out on the dark floor, the leaves really popped.

Tropical Garland

You can tell I’m such a novice because I built the basic layout of it on the wall. I used some washi tape to secure a thread across my bedroom wall. Tied on the honeycomb pineapples from PartyCity at both ends. Then used a tiny push pin to puncture a hole at the end of each leaf. Pushed a tiny thread through said hole and tied it onto the main string.

You know what have been easier? Building this on the floor!!! For some reason, I thought I needed to see how things would drape and fall, I mean, I guess I did to an extent. But still, this was tough.

Tropical Garland

I then had all these tiny yellow and teal (robin blue?) balloons that I was tying thread to in order to attach it and cover the ends of the leaves. By this point, the washi tape had reach its’ limit. I had to apply so many more to keep the garland up (I did switch to regular tape for the party, didn’t want this crashing down on a guest).

Tropical Garland

I’m trying to think if the garland took me longer to make or the pineapple birthday cake. Probably the garland!! Especially if I’m counting the hours it took me to cut out those leaves.

Tropical Garland

Well, like they say: be a pineapple, stand tall, wear a crown, and be sweet on the inside.

Hugs and kisses!

Sincerely,
Syl