Rose Tea Cupcakes

February 14: Valentine’s Day

“Everything’s coming up roses” on Valentine’s Day! Make something sweet for someone sweet by baking some rose-flavored cupcakes. The ingredients include rose tea and rosewater and the cupcakes are topped with rose-shaped candies.

Roses have long been a symbol of love. Among roses lining the aisle, we were married at the Mystical Rose Oratory at Islander’s alma mater in Hawaii. The name of this chapel with a glorious view of iconic Diamond Head is named after the Blessed Mother Mary. Devotionals to her, the Mystical Rose, are done with a rosary.

Although there are different colors and varieties of roses, red is associated with romantic love. So on this day when love is celebrated, we chose vibrant red candy roses to decorate our lovely cupcakes.

Happy Valentine’s Day! May all our blog readers be blessed with lots of love!

Recipe

For the rose tea cupcakes

  • 2-3 teabags of rose-flavored tea (we used a jasmine-rose tea blend)
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 teaspoons rosewater
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt

Directions

Steep the tea bags in the boiling water and allow to cool at room temperature. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the egg. Stir in the rose water.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and pinch of salt. Gradually add this flour mixture to the above wet ingredients. Pour in the rose tea. Fold in the yogurt and mix until the batter is smooth. Scoop into 12 cupcake papers in a regular size muffin tin. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on wire racks to cool completely before frosting the cupcakes.

For the rosewater buttercream

  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon rosewater
  • pinch of salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • green food coloring

Directions

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and rosewater.

Add a pinch of salt. Thin to a desired frosting consistency with the heavy whipping cream. Frost the tops of the cupcake or pipe swirls (Wilton star tip 1M). Reserve a little frosting for the leaves. Tint with green food coloring. Set aside.

For the candy rose decorations

  • Red candy melts (Wilton brand)
  • Vegetable shortening (to thin, optional)

Directions

Melt the candy melts according to the package. Thin with a tiny bit of vegetable shortening, if necessary. Stir well and fill the rose mold. Refrigerate until firm. Unmold the candy roses.

Place in the center of the cupcakes. Use the remaining green frosting to pipe leaves (Wilton leaf tip #352) on the sides of each candy rose. Chill in the refrigerator to set. Bring to room temperature before serving the rose cupcakes.

Notes

  • Instead of rose-flavored tea in a cupcake, try rosé wine in a cake.
  • Rose water is a milder flavoring than rose extract. Be careful not to add too much to the recipe or it will be too fragrant and bitter.
  • Pretty in pink: Feel free to add a few drops of red food coloring to the cupcake batter and frosting to make a rose pink hue. Substitute red candy melts for pink ones as the rose topper. Use pink cupcake paper liners.
  • Try the apple roses recipe for another pretty presentation of puff pastry.
  • Search our blog for other Valentine’s Day recipes.

Big Easy King’s Cake

February: Mardi Gras Season

In our neighborhood grocery stores, king’s cakes—rosca de reyes and NOLA*-style knock-offs—have been on sale since Epiphany. Too bad they taste stale, look messy and are overpriced so we do not buy them for our celebrations.

We still like to serve something festive to our friends during Mardi Gras season. So we take the quick and “Big Easy” route by making a mock king’s cake using only a few ingredients: canned cinnamon roll dough (with the enclosed icing) and tri-colored sugars (gold represents “power”, green represents “faith” and purple represents “justice”). Everyone has fun wondering who will find the plastic baby in his or her slice of cinnamon roll cake!

Laissez les bons temps rouler! “Let the good times roll” and indulge in a simple, sugary “Big Easy” king’s cake on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) before observing the solemnity and fasts on Ash Wednesday and Lent Fridays.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2-3 cans of cinnamon roll dough (we used Pillsbury brand flaky layers with buttercream icing)
  • sugar sprinkles (yellow/gold, green and purple)

Directions

Line a baking pan with foil and mist with cooking spray. Open the cans of cinnamon roll dough and separate the pieces. Flatten slightly. Arrange the pieces in a ring. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, according to the package instructions. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Transfer the cake to a round platter. Insert a plastic baby among the slices. Stir the icing that came in the cans. Spread it evenly over the cake.

Generously sprinkle with the colored sugars, alternating among yellow/gold, green and purple. Decorate with plastic beads (optional). Serve immediately.

Notes

  • *NOLA = New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Some people bake the plastic baby in the cake but we think it might melt and be hazardous. So we place the plastic baby in the cooled cake before frosting and decorating it and let our guests know the tradition before slicing it. The plastic baby represents Baby Jesus hiding from King Herod. Whoever finds it in their slice of cake becomes the king or queen of the day, is blessed with good luck in the coming year and must host the next Mardi Gras party or provide the king’s cake next time.
  • Rosca de reyes is the Latino version of a king’s cake. It is a round, sweet bread decorated with colorful candied fruits. Galette de rois is the French version of a king’s cake. It is also round but varies within the country’s regions and can be filled with almond cream (frangipane) or apples. Try our easy recipe for the latter here.
  • For more recipes to observe the Epiphany-Mardi Gras season, see our list under Theme Menus.

 

Brussels Sprouts Soup

January 31: Eat Brussels Sprouts Day

Highlander grew up eating Brussels sprouts and likes them. His mom cooked the baby-looking cabbage as a side dish for some of their Sunday suppers of roast beef, gravy, potatoes and Yorkshire pudding (traditional English meal). But like a lot of people, Islander did not like the taste of Brussels sprouts and passed on them during their family get-togethers. Highlander encouraged her to try making healthy Brussels sprouts in different recipes but she still did not like them…until her college roommate, Champa S., shared one for Brussels sprouts soup (Champa never liked the vegetable before either). Islander was skeptical about the recipe but she gave it a try. She actually liked it! Not only was it easy to make, it did not taste as bitter as the other recipes. Now Brussels sprouts soup is one of the ways she will eat those little leafy greens. Can we convince the skeptics, too, to try this simple soup on “Eat Brussels Sprouts Day”? It is also an appropriate dish to eat as an end to National Soup Month in January.

Recipe

(Adapted from Food.com)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Brussels sprouts (or 1 ½ pounds)
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup cream
  • fried onions (optional garnish)

Directions

Rinse the Brussels sprouts to remove any debri. Chop the onions. In a large pot, melt the butter or heat the olive oil. Saute the onions until soft.

Mix in the Brussels sprouts. Pour in the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the sprouts are tender. Puree in batches in a blender.

Transfer the puree back to the pot. Stir in the cream and heat through. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with fried onions. Serve hot.

Notes

  • Find fried onions in the salad section of the grocery store.
  • Search our blog for other soup recipes.

Chocolate Croissants

(Pain au Chocolat)

 chocolatecroissants

January 30: National Croissant Day

Chocoholics like us will enjoy indulging in a chocolate-filled croissant for breakfast, brunch or snack time with a cup of tea or coffee. This recipe is so easy yet impresses our houseguests when they drop by for a friendly visit. Store-bought puff pastry is the key ingredient to creating the flaky-crisp layers. The chocolate croissant may be dusted with confectioner’s sugar but we drizzled ours with extra chocolate for a fancy finish. For National Croissant Day, prepare pain au chocolat with puff pastry.

 Recipe

(Adapted from Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry)

Ingredients

  • 1 package puff pastry sheets (we used Pepperidge Farm brand)
  • chocolate pieces (like Ghirardelli Squares or Baker’s brand chocolate bar)
  • 1 egg + 1 teaspoon water, beaten together to make an egg wash
  • extra chocolate for drizzling (optional)

Directions

Thaw the puff pastry according to the directions on the package. Unroll one sheet. Cut along the fold and then across the sheet to create six squares. Place chocolates in the center.

chocolatecroissantssteps1

Fold the flaps of the square. Press to seal the edges all around. Place seam side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with egg wash.

chocolatecroissantssteps2

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown. Remove from the oven. Let the chocolate croissants cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Melt some chocolate and drizzle over the pastries. Serve warm while the chocolate can still ooze out and is not solidified inside. Yield: 1 dozen.

chocolatecroissantssteps3

Notes

  • Handle puff pastry minimally so it does not stretch out too much. It should be kept cold as possible after thawing to ensure a good rise in the oven.
  • It is best to reheat puff pastry products in the oven instead of a microwave to maintain its flaky-crisp texture.
  • Use good quality chocolate, like Baker’s semi-sweet baking bar.
  • This recipe is prepared in a rectangular roll instead of the crescent shape that gives the croissant its French name.

 

Lamingtons

January 26: Australia Day

Happy Australia Day to our awesome Aussie blog readers! And Happy Anniversary to our friends, Gary and Girlie B., whom we met when we lived in New Jersey (they still live in the Garden State and we visit each other when we can). They suggested some recipes from Down Under, which we could try, such as Lamingtons, for our blog on this special day.

Our friends came from Sydney, but Lamingtons originated in Queensland and were named after Lord Lamington who served as its first governor from 1896-1901. These snack-sized chocolate-covered, square-shaped sponge cakes are rolled in desiccated coconut to give it its distinct texture and taste.

Lamingtons are the quintessential Australian snack and they are terrific during tea time and for celebrating Australia Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Chefs Jamie Oliver and David Lebovitz)

For the sponge cake

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar, granulated white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled slightly

Directions

In a large bow, mix together the eggs, sugar and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Gradually add this to the egg mixture.

Stir in the melted butter and mix into a smooth batter. Pour into a lightly greased 8×8 inch square baking pan (we lined ours with wax paper). Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes, testing cake for doneness.

Remove from the oven and cool completely. Square off the edges of the cake by trimming the sides (optional). Cut evenly into 2×2 inch squares (16 pieces).

For the chocolate-coconut coating

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (we used Baker’s brand)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3+ cups desiccated coconut

Directions

In a large microwavable bowl, melt the chocolate, butter and milk. Stir until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and cocoa powder.

Gradually add the sugar-cocoa mixture into the chocolate mixture. Stir until smooth. Carefully dip a cooled square cake into the chocolate mixture and coat evenly around the cake. Roll into a pie plate of desiccated coconut. Let set on a baking sheet lined with wax or parchment paper.

Notes

 

Gruyère Cheese Puffs

January 20: National Cheese Lovers Day

We previously posted a recipe for pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread), which is similar to Gruyère cheese puffs without the chewy texture. This French gougere recipe is soft and light—and addicting! Pop these puffs in your mouth and prove you love cheese on National Cheese Lovers Day!

Recipe

(Adapted from People magazine)

Ingredients

  • 8 ½ tablespoons water
  • 8 ½ tablespoons milk
  • 7 tablespoons salted butter (we used European style butter)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 ¾ cup flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 7 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated

Directions

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (see Notes). In a large saucepan, boil the water, milk, butter and salt over medium heat, taking care not to scald the milk and butter. Stir in the flour all at once and mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a smooth dough is formed.

Transfer to a mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Stir in the cheese until well mixed (the cheese will melt slightly).

Place dough into a pastry/piping bag and pipe our 1-inch balls on the parchment paper, leaving 1-inch spaced apart. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until the puffs have risen and are golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

Notes

  • We placed a 1-inch round macaron pattern underneath the parchment paper to guide us when piping out the puffs. Remove the pattern before baking.
  • Check out our other cheese recipes by searching our blog.

Filipino Chicken Curry

January 12: National Curried Chicken Day

We have cooked different chicken curries for our blog before. But Islander seems to have gone back to the basics with her family’s Filipino-style chicken curry recipe for National Curried Chicken Day. This tasty dish is sometimes served at Filipino buffets and fiestas.

The Philippines were ruled by the Indianized kingdom of the Hindu Majapahit, Khmer Empire and Buddhist Srivijaya for 2,000 years before the islands were colonized by Spain. There is still a big population of Indians in some areas. Thus, the Indian culture has influenced Filipino cuisine. This recipe fuses Indian curry spices with sour patis (Filipino fish sauce) to give this dish its distinct flavor.

For a Filipino fusion food, try this Pinoy-style chicken curry recipe on National Curried Chicken Day.

Recipe

  • 1-2 pounds chicken legs or thighs
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon patis (fish sauce)
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ – 1 cup baby carrots
  • 1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into large squares
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Prepare the vegetables by cutting the potatoes, onion and bell peppers. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large pot. Cook the potatoes on medium high heat for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally so they don’t stick to the pot. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. In the same pot, add 1 tablespoon of oil and lightly brown the chicken pieces. Add the onions and garlic to the chicken and sauté until the onions have softened. Season with patis (fish sauce).

Sprinkle in the curry powder. Stir well with the water. Add the carrots and potatoes. Cover, lower the heat to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the coconut milk. Mix in the bell peppers. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 10 minutes. Transfer to a large serving bowl. Serve hot with rice.

Notes

  • Bottled patis (fish sauce) may be found in the Asian section of some grocery stores or in Asian markets.
  • Search our blog for more chicken curry recipes.
  • Find more Filipino recipes under the ethnic section of our Theme Menus.