Friday, December 15, 2006

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Christmas is just around the corner, and I feel like its passing me by. The past weeks have been so frantic that I didnt realize I was behind with my gift-shopping until its already the Little Bee's start of Chistmas break. I suddenly bolted to reality when I still didnt have gifts for her teachers. And since I vowed to give homemade food-gifts this year, I set out to do the task ahead. So last night, I slept so late making these cookies to make it in time for the Bee's morning class. These cookies are chewy, though a bit greasy for me. I will ease up on butter the next time around. I would have wanted the peanut butter to be a bit more pronounced. But overall, I'm happy with the results - its chewy and crunchy at the same time and I can imagine it's best paired with warm milk just before tucking in for the night. There's something about these cookies that just evokes warmth - could it be the Yuletide season?
Peanut-Butter Chocolate-Chunk Cookies
Freely adapted from
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup tightly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chunks, coarsely chopped (I used Callebaut mini dark chips)

Heat the oven to 350F. In an electric mixer, cream butter, peanut butter, and sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and mix on medium speed until well-combined. Sift flour and baking soda together, then add to the butter mixture, beatinf just to combine. Fold in chocolate chunks.

Using a spoon, scoop out 1 1/2 ounces of the cookie dough to an ungreased baking sheet. Press down slightly to flatten. Bake until golden brown, 18-20 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Can be stored in an airtight container up to two weeks.

The first batch I made was so lousy coz I placed a big scoopful and didnt leave enough spaces between each cookie. This certain cookie dough can spread too widely in the sheet, so be careful with the spacing. Also, I found that waiting 18-20 minutes resulted in a burned bottom, so I suggest taking it out at 15 minutes instead. The original recipe says it makes 14 cookies, but on double-recipe I easily whipped out some 50 pieces.

I found some tin cans in Christmas colors, which came in handy for the packaging. I sure hope the teachers were happy with it :)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Royce' Chocolates!

Royce Chocolates!!! I can't contain my excitement when this was sent to me by an uber-thoughful couple who are also my clients. It's the first time Im tasting this much-talked about confection, which is considered the Rolls-Royce of chocolates. Japan is actually not only known for their high-tech inventions, but for their chocolates as well - and Royce' is considered to be the best.

It came in small squares wrapped individually, apparently to keep the chocs from sticking together as they are very sensitive to heat and melts easily. I grabbed one, and immediately was captured by a cocoa aroma so strong it feels like the purest of chocolates. The texture factor was the best, it simply just melts in the mouth in the most delightful way. And the taste lingers long after you've finished a piece.

The fact that it's not available in Manila makes this all the more appealing. I know of people hoarding this whenever they go to Singapore or Hongkong, although I didn't and frankly it's only because I didn't know any better back then. On my next trip, I will definitely be one of the hoarders. Now, if only someone will gift me with their chocolate-covered potato chips, my Christmas will be super! *wink wink*

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Guyabano (Soursop) Jam

Guyabano is also known as soursop or guanabana. It is a delish fruit that grows only in the tropics. Its green leathery spiky skin belies the white fleshy pulp that lies within, at once sour and sweet. Having seen a Mangosteen Jam available in the market, I thought a guyabano might make a wonderful jam too - knowing that its is fleshier than mangosteen.
I was wandering through the market early Saturday when I spied this and immediately thought of making jam. I had to wait 3 days though before I felt that its ripeness is ready. When I opened, i found it was too sweet with not enough tartness a jam should have. Luckily, I had some lemons which came in handy.

Guyabano Jam
About 3 cups guyabano
2 cups white sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Remove flesh pulp from the skin and place in a big pot. Add sugar and lemon and mix well. Put to a boil, and then to a rolling simmer for about 30 minutes. I actually did the saucer trick from the Domestic Goddess book of Ms. Nigella Lawson, which is to put a sacuer in the freezer before you start - then check for jam doneness by putting a little in the cold saucer. Ms. Lawson said if it wrinkles, then its done. Didnt work for me though, I was too impatient I think to wait for it to be done. In the end, I had a jam that looked so pale but tasted great nonetheless. With butter and toasted bread, my breakfast this morning was simply delicious!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Plum Crumble

Plum crumble is one of the favorite things I like to bake. The gurgling redness of the baked plums is so irresistibly attractive and yumm. I also trick myself into thinking it is a healthy dessert, being fruit based and baked. Add to that it is so incredibly easy to make, with very little washing to do after. I brought this to a potluck Christmas party with friends I have known all my life. Being friends that long means I can never get away with criticisms with my cooking/baking, no matter how constructive they are. But this particular one, they like it to bits! One comment was that it is not cloyingly sweet, and has some tartness to it that's just so appealing. Another friend has been asking the whole night what went into the crumble.

Although we didnt have some that night, this is best eaten with vanilla ice cream and still fresh out of the oven. Whipped cream would be great too, though I can imagine the calories would be too noticeable to ignore. I also finally was able to use my baking dishes as shown, which I got for a song at the outlet store.

Plum Crumble
From Marketmanila, adapted from Martha Stewart
1 kilo plums
Half a lemon
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tbs cornstarch
butter, for greasing
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups cold butter, cut into small squares
1/2 cup old fashioned oats (I used rolled oats)

Cut plums into eighths and place in your greased oven-proof bowl, pitted but with skins on. Spritz with lemon and add 1/2 cup of white sugar and the cornstarch. Toss gently.

To make the crumble, mix together flour, 2 sugars, cinnamon and salt. Mash the mixture with the cold butter until it resembles an uneven crumble. Do not overwork the butter or it will melt. Mix in the oats.
Sprinkle the crumble over the plums unevenly. Make sure to put it evenly or a little bit heavier on the sides as it might sink in the middle. Bake at 375F until the juices are gurgling and the crumble is golden brown. Mine took about 40 minutes.

I will try this with another fruit next time, perhaps some peaches as Marketman suggests, or pears. The crumble is a winner by itself, so any fruit you fancy I'm sure will work well with this recipe. Definitely a keeper :-)