chocolate totoro cookies

Dear Steph,

So it’s WAY past #totoroweek now, but I found this in my draft folder and thought what a shame I didn’t publish this! It’s actually closer to the date for this year, but I kept the scheduled date and hopefully everything below still makes sense!

Totoro Week 2018

I went with my favourite go-to brownie roll-out cookie recipe from smittenkitchen.com. They’re so easy to make and I love the thickness of them that gives you that nice soft chew when you bite into Totoro.

Howard ordered the Totoro cookie cutter for me from Amazon – surprisingly we haven’t been able to find one in Japan and neither have our relatives when they go travel. You have to be extra careful around the ears, but this dough holds together very well.

Totoro Week 2018

For the belly, I used the recipe from seriouseat.com‘s rolled sugar cookie. These could go as thin as you like since they puff up a bit after baking.

Totoro Week 2018

I don’t own cookie cutters for every size and shape, sometimes you have to improvise. Here I’m using the opening of a large piping tip to punch out the dough.

Totoro Week 2018

That’s right, I’m holding a Totoro belly there.

Totoro Week 2018

Stick them onto the chocolate dough and then bake as instructed at 350°F for about 10 minutes. Allow them to cool before you decorate.

Totoro Week 2018

I whipped up a tiny batch of vanilla royal icing. Got out my milk chocolate crispearls and got to work on the eyes, nose, and whiskers. After that, I dyed the royal icing black to create the belly marks (^^^).

Totoro Week 2018

I remember packing these Totoro cookies up in individual clear bags with twist-ties. Some very lucky colleagues at work go to eat (some said they would simply keep it as is) during their tea breaks.

Sincerely,
Syl

matcha dusted fudge brownies

Dear Sam,

Huzzah! It feels like Easter was many moons ago as I am very late in writing this post. I was like, who could I write this to? and you popped into my mind because you finally gave in and had chocolate just because I made these. To that, I am humbled and I also commend you on going 39 days without chocolate. That’s not an easy task. Even just today, I was poking around my kitchen looking for something chocolate to nibble on. I eventually gave in and opened my second box of Daim cake. And just to be clear, I would have made them again after Easter so you could have some!

These brownies are so addictive, but it was seeing a photo of the glossy and crinkly top that drew me into the recipe in the first place. Stella Parks is a dessert genius. If she’s reading this, I would love to know how to swirl the matcha onto the top (and just the top) of the brownie. Would it still achieve that glossy film?

Glossy Fudge Brownies
Recipe adapted from BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts
Makes enough to fill a 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan

1 cup all-purpose flour
1⅓ cup cocoa powder
3 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (the original recipe calls for dark chocolate bars, chopped)
2¼ cup white suguar
¼ cup brown sugar
1¾ teaspoons salt
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extra
(The original recipe also calls for instant espresso powder here, but it’s optional, and I didn’t have any.)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking pan with foil so that the bottom and sides are covered.
  2. In a pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. I dabbed a little of the melted butter with a brush to grease the foil in the pan. Increase the heat to medium and let the butter simmer until the butter is golden yellow and silent (there’s a lot of hissing and popping during the process).
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together.
  5. Using a stand mixer, whisk the white sugar, brown sugar, salt, eggs, and vanilla extract. Run it on medium-high until the mixture is thick and fluffy (about 8 minutes).
  6. Reduce the stand mixer speed to low and pour in the warm chocolate-butter mixture. Once it’s combined and you don’t see anymore streaks, add in the sifted flour and cocoa powder. Mix on low until the batter comes together. Be careful not to over mix here. Use a spatula to help fold if you think the stand mixer might be too heavy handed.
  7. Pour the batter in the pan and bake for about 25 minutes. The brownies should have a glossy film and still be soft to the touch.
  8. Here’s the hard part, wait. Let it sit and cool. It’ll be too gooey to slice if you don’t wait.
  9. Gently tug and lift the foil out of the pan. Cut the brownie into squares (or triangles). Store in an airtight container with wax paper between each layer. It’ll last for a week in room temperature. I also froze some to be mixed in with ice cream sundaes in the future.

Chocolate Brownies

Stirring the melted butter and chocolate together.

Chocolate Brownies

Sifting the flour and cocoa powder!

Chocolate Brownies

Pour that luxurious batter into the baking pan.

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Finally, it’s cool and ready to be sliced.

Chocolate Brownies

Oh my gosh, look at the center where it’s nice and dark. This is one moist and delicious brownie.

Liza, if you’re reading this, it’s time to look away.

Chocolate Brownies

Dusted some matcha powder on the top of my brownie square.

Chocolate Brownies

Yaasss! So ready to dig in.

Chocolate Brownies

The first bite, get in my belly!

Chocolate Brownies

Time for a second bite.

Sincerely,
Syl

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

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

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