Porg Rice Balls

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For May the Fourth I attended a Star Wars themed party, so of course I had to make something in-theme to contribute! I decided on these porg-shaped rice balls, which are rice balls rolled in crushed sesame, with nori accents and a chunk of cucumber in the middle for extra crunch. They turned out adorable, if I do say so myself, and were popular with party-goers, so I consider them a success!

While you can make these without any special tools, it’s a lot faster and easier to do if you have the right equipment. I used a nori punch for the facial features, and a rice-roll press to make my pieces evenly shaped and well-compressed. That being said, you can feel free to shape your rice by hand (wet hands make it easier) and to cut out eyes and mouths with scissors. I would definitely recommend using the parchment paper cutout to mask off the white parts of the rice during the sesame step, though!

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Pineapple-Coconut Muffins

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With the recent spate of wintry weather here at home, I decided to try to warm things up by invoking tropical flavors– pineapple and coconut! Since I make a batch of muffins roughly every two weeks and it was about time to make one, I started with my standard muffin recipe and loaded it up with crushed pineapple and coconut flakes, using the pineapple juice for good measure.

The finished muffins were light and tender, with nice bursts of flavor from the pineapple and a subtle coconut background. They’re not overly sweet, which I actually liked since coconut baked goods can often be too sugary. They also go well with tea, if you want to enjoy warm-weather flavors with a cold-weather beverage.

I will note that if I weren’t making these for my kid, I might have considered adding some rum to the batter, or making a rum/brown sugar glaze. Maybe you’d like to consider it if you try these yourself!

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Curried Butternut Pasties

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I was invited to a pumpkin-carving party recently, and wanted to bring some kind of snack to contribute. I usually bring desserts (last year I brought these pumpkin cheesecake bars) but everyone brings desserts to these things, so I decided to go in a savory direction this time.

Butternut squash seemed the perfect ingredient to focus on for a squash-theme party, so I started with that. I wanted to keep things handheld and relatively neat to eat, so I knew I’d be enclosing the filling in a pastry, and after that it was just a matter of adding flavors I thought would work. Best of all, the prep time was relatively low since the filling ingredients were roasted together on a sheet pan.

As for the outside, I revisited the hot water crust recipe I used to make Paul Hollywood’s pork pies, since I’d been struck at the time by its flakiness and great flavor. To cut down on leftover scraps I cut my pastry into squares, which were folded diagonally to make little turnover shapes– but I’m calling them pasties here because 1) they sound more savory than “turnovers,” which always evoke dessert to me, and 2) I’m kind of on a Harry Potter kick right now and these remind me of pumpkin pasties (which were probably intended to be sweet, but whatever).

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Spinach Cheese Puffs

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I think I may have mentioned before that I love appetizers and hors d’oeuvres. Just love them. My favorite kind of work event is one where they serve drinks and “heavy appetizers” or “passed hors d’oeuvres,” because I know that there’ll be something involving cheese, bacon, or some kind of pastry… sometimes all three. So naturally I like to have a few recipes for similar items in my repertoire for when I want to host my own delicious event.

This particular recipe was born out of the need to come up with something that I could make ahead of time and that would be able to survive for several hours in a hot car before being served at a casual barbecue. That meant most cheese- or meat-based items were out, and any fresh vegetables were similarly not going to work. I decided that the best option was something with puff pastry, and once I noticed the half-empty package of fresh baby spinach slowly wilting in my refrigerator, the decision was made!

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Candied Citrus Peel

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After making the panna cotta tart with all those different kinds of citrus, I had a bunch of peel left over, so of course I had to do something with it! And since I love candied peel, this seemed like a great opportunity. I had grapefruit, Cara Cara orange, and blood orange peel to work with (the clementine peel was too thin and the kumquats required a different technique).

While I’d made candied lemon peel before it hadn’t firmed up as well as I’d expected, instead staying kind of soft and soggy– fine for use in ice cream or baking, but not so great for snacking. I decided this time to try a different recipe from David Lebovitz, who has some great recipes both on his website and in his books. It was basically the same as the other recipe, calling for blanching the peels (three times this time since grapefruit can be bitter) and then boiling in sugar syrup.

Oddly, my grapefruit peels refused to turn translucent, staying stubbornly white while the other peels turned just fine. After boiling and boiling well past the estimated time in the recipe, I finally decided to just let it go and set everything out to dry together overnight. They turned out better than I’d anticipated– still soft, but not squishy or soggy.

Since I like my peel chewy rather than soft, I let these dry on the baking pan, coated in sugar, for a good 24 hours after the initial overnight drying period. They were much better after the lengthy drying time, and I couldn’t stop snacking on them!

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Potato Chip Cookies

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After a recent party, I found myself with half a bag of potato chips left over and no idea what to do with them. I didn’t want to just snack on them out of hand– that seemed boring and overly salty– so it seemed providential when a recipe for potato chip cookies appeared in my online feed. I’m always a fan of a sweet-salty combination, and since I had plans to bake one morning anyway I decided to take advantage of the stand mixer already on the counter and the preheated oven, to try them.

I was a little concerned about the low flour content and the lack of any leavening in this recipe, but once I tasted a cookie I was an immediate convert, as were all of my coworkers who got over their initial skepticism and tried one. These are great– crispy with a hint of chew to them, with a salty, slightly warm flavor that’s not immediately identifiable as potato chips but which people appreciate once the secret ingredient is disclosed. I’ll bet they’d also be great dipped halfway into dark chocolate…

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Stroopwafels!

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I first had stroopwafels in Amsterdam– I wish I could say that I bought them from a street vendor and savored them, still warm, as I strolled the moonlit streets taking in the sights and sounds of the city… but in reality I bought a pre-packaged stroopwafel and ate it on the train as I went back to my hostel for the night. It was still really, really good, though.

Sadly, packaged stroopwafels in the US aren’t quite as good as the ones in Amsterdam, and are much more expensive. I hadn’t quite given up on the dream of having one fresh from the waffle iron, so I decided to enlist the help of my trusty pizzelle iron to try and make my own!

I saw a few different types of recipes– some with melted butter, some with only softened butter; some with yeast and some with baking powder; some with more eggs and some with fewer. And there were a bunch of different recipes for the “stroop” (syrup) filling, involving brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, corn syrup, and “pancake syrup” in various proportions. Eventually I settled on a recipe and went full steam ahead!

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