Tag Archives: ginger

Chocolate for change

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
~ Andy Warhol

I don’t like white chocolate. I have never ordered anything with it in a restaurant, and I have only ever bought it as gifts for others.

I have not previously understood how white chocolate could be described as “delicious” (quelle horreur!).

I didn’t buy this block, though reading this story and seeing that there were raspberries in it made me put my hand up for a sample (thank you, Whittaker’s!)

NZ readers may have heard about it, or seen the by-product on supermarket shelves: thanks to five passionate young students and the help of a favourite confectionery manufacturer, New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation will benefit from chocolate bar sales… :-)

Around 2,600 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in NZ, which doesn’t look like a big number but is astounding if you stop to think that each of these women is someone’s mom / sister / daughter / friend / cousin / neighbour / grandma / aunt. And while there are a million causes out there begging for support, and you can’t help all of them, you can make a few different choices – like what candy you buy – and help out a little bit at a time. Buy this chocolate instead of another white chocolate bar, for instance, and you will help NZBCF with needed advocacy, research and rehab (a part of what I understand NZBCF does).

So… on to my chocolatey moment of truth. I paused for a second after tearing open the foil. I silently broke off a bit of the chocolate, and popped it into my mouth.

And, you know, I wanted to eat a few more bits. I had to shove it back into the pantry whilst I cooked so I wouldn’t give in to temptation and have too little left to cook with later.

I’ll never like it the way I like dark chocolate, but I’ll concede that this white chocolate raspberry bar smells amazing (especially while you’re chopping it up) and tastes very nice indeed all on its own. (Perhaps I’ll even buy a few more…)

I decided to make something with this though, especially after my eye fell on David Lebovitz’s recipe for white chocolate and fresh ginger ice cream. Right now, I am waiting impatiently for the ice cream to set. Every 45 minutes it emerges for a whisk, and every 45 minutes I resist the urge to eat a bowl of half-set ice cream (I tried a teaspoon of the mixture… the flavour is sooo good!).

So, reading about these five students inspired me to think, once again, about the power of one – and the power of people getting together to make a difference.

It’s easy to focus on the painful things in life – I stopped reading / watching the news regularly a few years ago, because so much of it grieved / disgusted / paralysed me. The feeling of exasperation grew after I graduated, and in the first two years after that I got a small glimpse of the staggering scale of the world’s problems. Natural disasters, life-threatening diseases, would it end? Worse, it seemed that for every person working for good in the world, there were a hundred creating all sorts of stupid messes. I questioned my own choices and decisions – it was easy to think about people not pulling their weight, but what was I doing about it? I didn’t like my own answers…

And in more prosperous parts of the world, I saw a less physically challenging but still undeniable side of darkness: soul poverty that no amount of money can even begin to touch.

Yet, I have come to accept that yes, the world’s problems are not easily solved by man (the human race seems to be better at creating messes). But there are other people who are behind a lot of good. So often, positive things have started with one person, one decision, one voice… and as long as there is just one person who will not balk at the tangle that is life and just do one right thing at a time, there is hope.

And, as you probably already know, hope makes so much difference.

On that note, happy Blog Action Day (this year’s theme: “The Power of We”).

P.S. Get your friends together and buy some chocolate, won’t you.

P.P.S. Brandy snaps pictured above were made with this recipe. Not perfected yet, but perhaps that will come with practice ;-)

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Wake up and smell the cookies

I love reality. I love the world. I love the smell of it. I love it.
~ Andrea Corr

Bake these soon, won’t you? Preferably in the black of night. With the brightest lights in your kitchen switched on – and no competing smells in your kitchen (i.e. well after dinner time). Eat some* till two in the morning. With company, so the blinding temptation to eat them all doesn’t engulf you and make you very ill indeed.

* Slip the remaining “some” into a container, and leave them in a safe place. Away from prying eyes, teeth and fingers.

Your oven will sing with maternal pride as the little balls of dough stretch and change and become ready for consumption. The cookies will lead you into a happy drunken stupor, as your eyelids take on the world-slicing powers of a kaleidoscope and show you tiny identical wedges of cookiecookiecookie.

Your nose may tell you it never wants to smell anything else ever again.

When at last sleep clutches at your eyelids and happy brain, you will find that you sink into a deep spell of sleep and the richest of dreams…

* And in the way the best dreams go (when you wake and wish it weren’t just a dream), you’ll find a hidden stash of cookies in the morning that smell just like the ones in your dreams. You can still dream your Sunday away.

Thanks Kath for the recipe! :-)

I’m also submitting this entry for Sweet New Zealand, hosted this month by Arfi at HomemadeS by Arfi. Click here to join in the Sweet NZ fun!

Ready for cookies

I treat each cookie that I bake like a precious gem, which is especially important if you’re one of those people who are able to eat just one at a sitting… to me, each cookie is just as important as the one baking next to it.
~ David Lebovitz, Ready for Dessert

Some days call for moderation; others, for multiple batches of cookies. If you should choose to start your day by casually leafing through David Lebovitz’s “Ready for Dessert” like I did recently, then you may have to prepare for a not-so-moderate day.

How to resist falling prey to David’s recipes and photos? … c’est difficile à faire.

No one’ll look down on you for losing the battle with yourself to resist making something from David’s book or website, though. I promise.

So I have yet to attempt many of David’s recipes, but the few I have tried so far have made him one of my go-to people for inspiration and in times when I really want something to turn out well. The way I see it, most professional chefs can probably write recipes in their sleep – but not everyone can successfully write recipes for the home cook/baker who fumbles, can’t multitask that well and doesn’t have a gamut of equipment… and have him/her turn out good things at least 90% of the time.

Here are some photos of my attempt at making David’s “nonfat gingersnaps”.

I usually avoid baking recipes with “nonfat” or “healthy” in the title… what is nonfat baking? My approach is to eat salad sans dressing to be really nonfat, or bake real cake. I see no reason to avoid butter completely unless specific health reasons demand it (though I also loathe butter in excess).

When I saw the words “molasses” (never tried using it), “applesauce”, “candied ginger” and “black pepper” in the list of ingredients for these “nonfat gingersnaps” though, I knew I had to overlook its title…

So, attempt these I did. Dough clung to whisk like a pining lover; fragrance whirled around the kitchen in a style not dissimilar to how red wine tends to colour my face. And the muscovado, molasses, cinnamon and double dose of ginger caused magic to bubble in the bowl…

They emerged less crisp and “snappy” than I expected…

…but very nicely spiced, and on re-reading David’s recipe which says “such a soft, chewy texture”, maybe they aren’t TOO far off from what he first whipped up in his kitchen.

I might just have to keep working on it, though. Practice makes perfect, y’know? :-)

Next on the agenda was David’s “chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons” (not to be confused with macarons).

Eight egg whites are used in this recipe, but good news – there is no painful whisking (usually an egg white requisite) involved!

My nose kept hovering too close to the pot in the making of this one.

[Coconut, I like how you make things smell so nice!]

[I also like the fact that you like chocolate as much as, if not more than, I do…]

Though really… if you’re feeling lazy/not-in-the-mood-for-chocolate (it happens, right?) these macaroons are also pretty good on their own…

The recipe said the batter would generate 60 cookies, but somehow I ended up with substantially less than that amount, even taking into account the fact that I made them quite large. There were certainly more than enough to give away, so not complaining.

Enjoy your weekend, dear readers! And I hope you bake some cookies soon.

A sort of “tong sui”

It’s nice to eat a good hunk of beef but you want a light dessert, too.
~ Arthur Fiedler

Long before I fully awoke to the pleasures of raspberry brownies, crème brûlée and affogatos, I ate a variety of tong sui for dessert. Tong sui, literally translated as “sugar water”, is an inclusive term for sweet, warm soups or custards served as dessert in Cantonese cuisine. I still think Hong Kong is the best place to go for this, though I noticed many places selling this in Singapore on my last visit there too.

Supposedly, they are meant to help moderate your body temperature, cooling your body in summer and warding off chills in winter.

You can google “tong sui” for more comprehensive photos and descriptions of it, but common tong sui include a deep, rich black sesame paste, dou-hua (a satin-smooth tofu pudding), red bean soup, steamed milk custard, gui-ling-gao (I really don’t know what this is, but it’s a black jelly with a unique taste – probably not the thing to launch your tong sui experience)… all of these, I feel, are perfect when you don’t want something too sweet, heavy or rich (as decadent desserts in the Western world often are).

This morning, I awoke to the sound of heavy rain and decided to try making a simplified, impromptu version of something akin to a sweet potato and ginger variation of “tong sui” (hopefully not too far off from the real thing!)

    Ingredients:
    3 pandan leaves*
    1 small kumara/sweet potato
    Small knob of ginger
    2 tbsp light brown sugar**
    * or dried red dates, unsure of quantity
    ** or brown sugar slabs or rock sugar, unsure of quantity
    Method to my madness:
    In a small saucepan, bring water to the boil.
    Meanwhile, peel the ginger knob and kumara. Slice ginger, and chop kumara into bite-sized pieces. Wash and tie the pandan leaves into a knot.
    Add the ginger, kumara and pandan to the boiling water – leaving enough water to just cover the surface of the ingredients (approximately 1 cup?). Add in the sugar. Stir gently.
    Cook for 10-15 minutes, until kumara is soft. Discard pandan knot, and pour enough of the soup into a small bowl. This can be consumed hot or cold, I am having mine hot today as it is a cold rainy morning!
    Yields 1 serving.