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
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

happy birthday, mom!

Dear Mom,

Happy birthday!

This mother’s day, I saw a lot of “omg, my mom was right about everything” posts circulating online. I’m reminded of this every single day. You were right about everything and I only have myself to blame!

But then, I got a small “win” this time. You said you didn’t want a birthday party this year while I insisted that I was going to host one. Granted, a part of me felt a tiny bit guilty because it wasn’t what you wanted. But sometimes your daughter knows best.

Then came the day of the party. You were constantly smiling and laughing when you saw people that care about us show up and you ended up having a great time at the party. We got to catch up with relatives and friends we hadn’t seen in a long time. So next time, trust me when I say I’m going to throw you a party.

For your tropical themed party, I made a chocolate cake, filled it with matcha buttercream, and decorated it to make it look like a pineapple. I’ve been wanting to make a pineapple cake in so long, ever since I saw Lyndsay‘s on Coco Cake Land. Of course, mine ended up looking nothing like her’s, but I had wanted it to! I ended up using a different star tip (by accident) to pipe. And then I really over-thought the leaves, I meant to do the simple leaf cut-out and stick, but went and tried something different. Regardless, Lyndsay inspires my cake creations a lot!

Pineapple Birthday Cake

I used my go-to chocolate cake recipe (as I did for Jackon’s birthday) because it stays incredibly moist and delicious even when I make it ahead of time.

Matcha Buttercream
Makes enough to fill a 6-inch cake

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3-4 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons matcha powder
2-4 tablespoons milk

  1. Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and icing sugar together.
  2. Add in the matcha powder and mix until combined.
  3. Work on the consistency of the buttercream by adding milk, one tablespoon at a time until it is smooth. If you accidentally make it too runny, just add more icing sugar to balance it out.

Pineapple Birthday Cake

I then made a vanilla buttercream and coloured it yellow. I piped on a thin layer to create the crumb coat. Got to cover that Frankenstein.

Pineapple Birthday Cake

Then used a star tip (1M) to pipe all over it.

Pineapple Birthday Cake

It ended up looking like ruffles than stars!

Pineapple Birthday Cake

But that’s ok, it still created a nice texture over the cake.

Pineapple Birthday Cake

Pineapple Leaves
Makes 1

1 sheet green foam
1 small plastic cup
tacky glue
elastic bands
1 pen or marker

  1. Give the sheet of foam a rinse. Because I bought it from the craft store, there was some glitter on it, plus, there could have been dust and dirt, so it’s always a good idea to wash something that is going to come near food. Lay it out to dry on a clean kitchen towel.
  2. Place the plastic cup upside down. Wrap the foam sheet around the top, mark it with a pen or marker where the sheet forms a complete circle. Cut out spiky shapes (unfinished triangles) to the place where you marked it.
  3. Add a line of glue to the bottom of the spiky crown you just cut out. Carefully place it around the top of the cup. Loop an elastic band around it to hold it into place while the glue dries.
  4. Measure out the circumference of the cup about half an inch down. Again, mark it with a pen and cut out the leaves. Attach it with glue and hold it in place with an elastic band. Repeat until you’ve covered the entire cup and when you reach the base. Set it aside to dry.
  5. Once the glue has dried, carefully remove the elastic bands.

Pineapple Birthday Cake

I ended up using new elastic hair ties because to my dismay, I only had one elastic band at home.

Pineapple Birthday Cake

There it is, in it’s crowning glory.

Pineapple Birthday Cake

I decorated mine by adding a green ribbon around and tied it off with a bow.

Pineapple Birthday Cake

I hope you have a great birthday, mom. I can’t wait to spend it with you today!

And I know you’re worried, but we’ll get through this week.

Pineapple Birthday Cake

Love,
Sylvia

not quite blackout cake

Dear Jackson,

Happy belated birthday!

Your dearest mom asked me to make you a birthday cake, since I did the same for your sister when she turned two. Between you and me, I think your cake turned out way better. That’s a win for being the second child, trust me. And it’s all due to the fact that I didn’t have to work with fondant – yay! Your godmother is a bit rusty working with fondant now since the cake trend moved away from that sugary dough.

When your mom showed me the image of Blaze and the Monster Machines, I was like hmmm why couldn’t you be into something simple like Pac-Man? That I can easily make. Luckily your mom came to the rescue and bought two Blaze toys and candied rocks for me. All I had to do was repay her kindness by making her favourite cake combination – chocolate and peanut butter. I then pitched the idea of making the outer later a blackout with crumbs to continue with our outdoor soil and rocks theme. She was all for it.

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So that is how I ended up baking the night before your birthday party. Three delicious chocolate cake layers cooling on the rack. The next morning, I whipped up some peanut butter buttercream (and perhaps did lots of taste tests with a spoon) and assembled your cake.

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake
Recipe from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes
(Makes three 9-inch layers)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
1 cup sour cream
1 ½ cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Have your three cake pans ready, line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  2. This creates a lot of batter, so make sure your bowl is big enough or use an electric stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine.
  3. Pour in the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually add in the water. Then mix in the vinegar and vanilla extract. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended.
  4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes. Take them out and let them cool completely on a rack. These cakes are very soft, so use extra care!

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Peanut Butter Frosting
Recipe from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes
(Makes enough to frost a two 9-inch layered cake)

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups icing sugar
⅔ cup smooth peanut butter

  1. Make sure your cream cheese and unsalted butter are at room temperature. Leaving it out for 1-2 hours will work too.
  2. Using a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until combined.
  3. Add in 2 cups of icing sugar, mix well. Add the remaining 2 cups of icing sugar and mix until combined. Add in the last cup of icing sugar and mix. Doing this in portions helps prevent the icing sugar from flying everywhere.
  4. Finally, add in the peanut butter and mix until the frosting is smooth.

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Jackson, when you’re older, you should make this for your mom. Just take the first layer of the cake and place it on a plate. Add a layer of peanut butter frosting on top, about 1-2 centimetres thick. Carefully place the second layer of cake on top to sandwich it. Again, top it off with frosting. Then add frosting on the sides of the cake and frost until the entire cake has been covered. The best part is that it doesn’t have to look perfectly smooth because it’ll be crusted with crumbs after.

To make the blackout crumb, take that third cake layer and put it in a bowl and use an electric whisk to break it apart. Stop when it looks like soil and gently pat it onto the sides and top of the cake.

Totally worth it. You were so thrilled with the toys on top of the cake. And you seemed to enjoy the cake, but I know your first love is JELL-O. Just like your godfather!

Sincerely,
Syl

festive lime cake

Dearest Diana,

Happy birthday!

I know that I didn’t make this cake specifically for your birthday – but you did get to eat it because it was for a party you threw! Thanks again for inviting us to your annual holiday party. DIRT came early this year, I remember we used to celebrate your birthday at midnight when the party was winding down (or still going).

02_festivelimecake

I decided to go with a lime cake and frosting because I figured most people would bring chocolate desserts to your potluck. And also because I had a lot of limes to use up (just like how you do now from the amount Kurt bought). As much as I love chocolate cake, the lime flavour would help cut any heaviness from the carbs, cheese, fried food, and other delicious treats we were consuming that night. The frosting was so smooth this time, I was quite pleased with it, but the clear crystal sprinkles coated on the outside of the cake gave it a crunchy texture.

03_festivelimecake

I saw this simple decorating trick from a blogger I follow, Style Sweet CA, and knew that I had to replicate it. I mean, how easy is that?!

Okay, giving the cake a smooth finish wasn’t easy (still need Santa to bring me that bench scraper) and I think my cake is a little slanted, but it’s totally going for that rustic look on purpose (shhh). Making the sprinkles stick to the sides wasn’t easy either, I really need to read up on that because I had sprinkles all over the floor after. But you know what was easy? Sticking five rosemary sprigs on top. That I can do without any problems. I gave the rosemary a wash, dried them thoroughly, and then plucked off a few leaves so that I would have a stalk. Gave the “trees” varying heights and tried to look for ones with a thicker stalks.

04_festivelimecake

I love how the rosemary look like Christmas trees – even though they go against what I was taught. In grade four, our teacher made us all draw pine trees, he then gathered them and at the front of the class look at each page and made a really large “no” pile. Because as fourth graders, we all drew the pine trees as Christmas trees, with the branches angled down. Interesting teaching method, no? It’s something I never forgot!

I mean, I guess I could have inserted the rosemary twigs the other way, but this was just too darling to be corrected.

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Lime White Cake
Makes three 6-inch cakes or 18 cupcakes (as intended from the cookbook)
Recipe from Butter Baked Goods: Nostalgic Recipes from a Little Neighborhood Bakery

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
¾ cup whole milk
¼ cup lime juice, freshly squeezed from 2 limes
Zest of 4 limes, save the 2 other limes for the frosting
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of your cake pans with parchment paper. Or line your muffin pan with cupcake wrappers.
  2. Using your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until it’s light and fluffy.
  3. Add in the eggs one at a time, scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
  4. In a bowl, whisk together the milk, lime juice, two-thirds of the lime zest and vanilla.
  5. In another bowl, lightly mix the pastry flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
  6. Back to the stand mixer, add a third of the dry ingredients in and mix on low. Pour in a third of the liquid ingredients. Do this two more times, scraping the side of the bowl as needed.
  7. Fill the cake pans about three-quarters full (same with cupcakes). Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a wooden skewers inserted into the center comes out clean. If you’re making cupcakes, you only need to bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven, transfer to wire racks and let it cool completely.

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Lime Buttercream

4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
¼ cup lime juice
⅓ lime zest

  1. Using the stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until combined. Add in the lime juice and zest.
  2. It’s tricky to write an accurate recipe for buttercream, I often tweak it depending on the consistency I want. If I want it softer and smoother, I add more lime juice or water, if the buttercream becomes too runny, then I add in a little more confectioner’s sugar.

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I remember making you birthday lime cupcakes with little fondant EVEs from WALL-E. How times have changed since then! I’ve watched you grow from student to graduate to employee to wife and now mother of two. It’s been a lot of birthdays and I’m so glad we’ve had the chance to celebrate many of them together.

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Have a great birthday and festive holiday. Hope to see you in our traditional new year’s eve get together!

Sincerely,
Syl