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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

The boy is a huge fan of pancakes. While any form they might take will be greeted with glee, his favorite ones are the classic European sort (flat, eggy and eaten rolled up with jam). Just like his mother and grandmother make, obviously. Now, the pancakes I knew growing up were a bit different — while my mother didn’t really make any herself (our family’s idea of “breakfast” was never in tune with the American norm), we had them fairly frequently at school functions — fluffy, cake-like, and eaten in a stack with maple syrup and butter.

So the first time the boy asked for pancakes, I made the version that I was taught in my junior high home economics class — round, fluffy, and brown. While they were eaten in short order, I was later informed that they weren’t “real pancakes”, which led to a long discussion on the labels Americans give to various pancake-like dishes. After that, I ended up making crepes instead and those were close enough to silence any protests. That was, until my first trip to Finland, when T’s grandmother invited us over for a pancake brunch. What I saw on the platter looked pretty similar to my crepes, but had a completely different texture — there was a distinct bounce to them, probably from the large number of eggs that went into the batter. While I usually tried to avoid making my own recipe too greasy or eggy, I loved the springiness of those pancakes that was so lacking in mine. Alas, my pancake recipe would need to be tweaked once again.

This is the version that I’m currently most happy with — a buttermilk crepe that is both flat and springy, without getting to the point of being a sweetened floury omelette. It’s a combination of both of our ideal pancakes into one recipe. The buttermilk + baking soda helped to add a bit of loft (like they do in classic American flapjacks) while the crepe batter base keeps them from getting too fat to roll. While there are countless variations on this theme, this particular recipe is one that I’ve tweaked so much for the past few years that it no longer even closely resembles the three or four base recipes that got spliced together to produce it. I present it to you now for further tweaking, even as I continue to do so myself.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Okay, so this originally started out as an attempt to make the mango pudding I loved growing up. That didn’t quite happen. About halfway through the cooking process, it turned out that the coconut element I used was going to be far too overpowering, so decided to run with it as the main flavor. I’ll let mango star in its own dessert tomorrow.

So… yeah. I guess I accidentally made a coconut cream parfait. One that both the boy and I agree is refreshingly light and tasty, mind you, but it was an accidental parfait nonetheless. See, I promised I’d do a parfait post in the near future :-)

No real source here. Kinda eyeballed it with ratios that I’d previously used for gelatin-based desserts. Amazing how a sprig of greenery can pretty up just about anything, huh?

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Here’s the thing about a lot of East Asian cooking — it can be boiled down to what you put in the wok and what you put in the steamer. No, seriously, I think that those two categories probably account for about 95% of what my mother made. Which isn’t a bad thing — it’s a very healthy approach to eating and it’s very fast if you’ve done the prep in advance.

Here’s the other thing — when it comes to steaming, nothing works better than a big, old-fashioned rice cooker. Not those fancy-schmancy things with the electronic dashboards that can make 20 different kinds of porridge and come with a retinal scanner, I mean the big metal pot with only one button (ON). It’s a glorified hot plate with one key function — it knows when to turn itself off. That’s really all you need, though. The variety of things you can cook in that contraption are endless. Stews, porridges, vegetables, puddings, buns, cakes… Yep, we steam desserts all the time. It’s fab! No messing around with messy water baths, ramekins, and multiple temperature stages in the oven, just pop the whole thing into the machine and go check your email.

So yes. I had the family over this past Tuesday for theme dinner night, which happened to be Mexican. And what Mexican dinner is complete without a flan for dessert? I’ve made plenty of flans the “normal” way before, with either an improvised bain-marie or the oven water bath deal, but it’s such a pain in the rear to set up, monitor, and refill all those pots. Then I remembered that most of the Asian groceries I went to would always have gorgeous little steamed flans, which couldn’t be much harder to make than the other steamed custards I do on a regular basis. Problem solved!

Please forgive the little bits of custard messing up the glossy perfection of my caramel topping — I was plating and serving these on a schedule, so it was all I could do to grab the camera before this one was taken to the table. Otherwise I would have taken the time to style it prettier :-) Based on Kiss My Spatula’s mother’s recipe for Chinese Steamed Flan with only a smidgelet of tweaking because of ingredient availability.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Variations on a theme time. I am happy to report that the addition of 2 tablespoons (or more) of cocoa powder to the standard panna cotta recipe I’ve been using will indeed create a most excellent creamy, chocolaty (for real? that’s the correct spelling?) dessert.

Probably no need to smother it with extra syrup, but hey, I like to go whole hog when it comes to chocolate. I did have a few issues with getting the cocoa powder to dissolve thoroughly, so will probably whisk it smooth in a separate container of hot liquid next time before introducing it in the saucepan. Otherwise, a nice slant on a classic and favorite, especially when you don’t have any candy bars on hand and get cravings.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Growing up, rhubarb was always one of those things that we heard about but only rarely got to taste (usually in a highly processed form). It isn’t easy to grow the plant in Southern Cali because it requires a good chill each year to continue its life cycle — without a pronounced winter, they just kind of dwindle and shrivel away over time. So I got really excited when the boy’s mom showed me the ginormous field rhubarb (green stems with pink blush at the bottoms) plant growing in their backyard and invited me to help myself to however much I wanted. The boy, however, had some reservations because he had always found most rhubarb desserts to be too tart for him to handle. Of course, I saw this as nothing more than a challenge and set out to make… this!

Strawberry rhubarb cream pie! I’d have to say that it turned out a success, based on the reaction it got — after a few cautious bites, he tried to steal my plate. I used the AR Rhubarb Sour Cream Pie recipe as a starting point, with the Easy Pie Crust for the base. More babble behind the cut…

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

No, I swear, it really is. I love panna cotta — it’s so simple and versatile, yet so indulgently rich, all at once. In about the time it takes to make Jello from a box, you can have a creamy Italian custard that restaurants gleefully overcharge for. Plus, the variations on both the toppings and the custard itself are endless!

Classic panna cotta with strawberry jam. This particular batch has the distinction of being the first completely lactose-free fully-dairy dessert I’ve ever made in my life. I love you, Finnish dairy industry.

This is a nearly unadulterated version of a particularly excellent AR recipe. Considering how I can’t help tweaking even the very best recipes, the fact that I have done this one to the letter on several occasions probably says something for how happy I am with the results. Nomtastic.

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Bebe Tarts

May. 31st, 2010 07:00 am
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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

So here’s something that I rather expected to see more results on when I Googled it the other day — bebe tarts! They are cute little pink tarts about the size of your palm. Very much the sugar bomb, but so good with coffee. The boy would go through a box of them if he thought he could get away with it.

An outside shot. The bottom is a crisp pastry shell (like a tiny pie crust) and it is topped off with a thick pink icing and sprinkles.

It is filled with a layer of fresh strawberry jam followed by a layer of sweet pastry cream.

We’ve seen them at every bakery and they always show up at birthday parties or similar occasions. Considering the countless number of pages that obsess over sweet things, I can’t believe these guys haven’t really been mentioned anywhere! So here’s my drop in the bucket :-) Try one if you’re ever out this way!

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

The very first thing I made in the new kitchen, for when family was coming over for coffee. These bars turned out fantastically moist and made the whole apartment smell yummy. They probably would have gone beautifully with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some caramel sauce as well, but we didn’t have either at the time and they were still awesome on their own. This is definitely going on the standard dessert rotation here at the new Casa Kerfuffle.

Based mostly on the AR Apple Brownies recipe, but I’m sure you know by now that I never really follow anything exactly.

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

And sometimes, you feel like making a sugar bomb. Because really, there’s no excuse for using chocolate mocha cake, chocolate fudge frosting and caramel topping all in one dish other than to make your dentist weep. Except when you’re having certain monthly cravings.

Based off of AR’s Rich Mocha Cake, with a few tweaks and additional toppings.

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

This was one of those “gotta clear out the cupboards and use everything up!” recipes from a couple months before we moved. There are multiple reasons why this is an awesome recipe — it’s vegan, it’s great for those who can’t eat milk and/or eggs, and it’s easy to make even if you don’t have a very well-stocked cupboard. I don’t know if I buy the story about this recipe being from the Depression era, if only because I’m not sure they’d have had cocoa powder in lean times and all the similar recipes I’ve seen seem to be for chocolate cakes. But maybe they did! I certainly wasn’t around then to verify it.

Based on AR’s Crazy Cake recipe. The cake relies on the chemical reaction between the vinegar and the baking soda creating carbon dioxide to make it rise. There is no vinegar taste in the final product because the vinegar has already reacted and is no longer existent in its original form. Oh, right, and besides being a great science experiment, it’s also a moist, tasty cake in its own right :-)

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

So the topic of desserts came up a while back and the boy did me the grave injustice of not remembering all the different cookies I had made over the course of our time together. Given, my baking output has slacked a bit recently due to calorie-watching, warm weather, and less spare time, but the fact remains — I bake a mean batch of cookies. And lots of them. So it only seems right that I make sure this blog reflects that as well.

pbcookies09
Today, another classic: the peanut butter cookie. I typically use a tweaked version of this Allrecipes favorite and mix the whole thing up in the bread machine to save my arms the trouble.

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

So the topic of desserts came up a while back and the boy did me the grave injustice of not remembering all the different cookies I had made over the course of our time together. Given, my baking output has slacked a bit recently due to calorie-watching, warm weather, and less spare time, but the fact remains — I bake a mean batch of cookies. And lots of them. So it only seems right that I make sure this blog reflects that as well.

pbcookies09
Today, another classic: the peanut butter cookie. I typically use a tweaked version of this Allrecipes favorite and mix the whole thing up in the bread machine to save my arms the trouble.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

We here at Casa Kerfuffle are rather fond of princess cakes. (Sponge cake layered with jam and cream in trifle format and covered with marzipan, of Scandinavian origin.) Usually we buy them from the Viktor Benês bakery inside the local Gelson’s, since they’ve always made the freshest ones in the vicinity. So when the boy’s family was out here this summer, we thought we’d grab a cake to celebrate their visit. This is what the cake usually looks like:

princesscake

Alas, they were all out of the traditional cakes. They didn’t even have the ones with the pink fondant that I’m rather particular to. What they DID have was this:

turtlecake01

Yeah, I might have been a little horrified. Not only by the bizarreness of having a turtle cake, but at the prospect of having to chop off that smiley little turtle head at dinner that evening. Being a former owner of a very lovely pet turtle (cover her eyes, Keva!), it was also disturbing on that level. Imagine a cake in the shape of your favorite pet cat or dog, and think on that for a while.

So anyway, after the initial shock, the family had a bit of fun dismembering our poor green marzipan-y friend. I thought I’d share because, well, I’m giving like that ;-)

turtlecake02

turtlecake03

pierydys: (Default)

Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

We here at Casa Kerfuffle are rather fond of princess cakes. (Sponge cake layered with jam and cream in trifle format and covered with marzipan, of Scandinavian origin.) Usually we buy them from the Viktor Benês bakery inside the local Gelson’s, since they’ve always made the freshest ones in the vicinity. So when the boy’s family was out here this summer, we thought we’d grab a cake to celebrate their visit. This is what the cake usually looks like:

princesscake

Alas, they were all out of the traditional cakes. They didn’t even have the ones with the pink fondant that I’m rather particular to. What they DID have was this:

turtlecake01

Yeah, I might have been a little horrified. Not only by the bizarreness of having a turtle cake, but at the prospect of having to chop off that smiley little turtle head at dinner that evening. Being a former owner of a very lovely pet turtle (cover her eyes, Keva!), it was also disturbing on that level. Imagine a cake in the shape of your favorite pet cat or dog, and think on that for a while.

So anyway, after the initial shock, the family had a bit of fun dismembering our poor green marzipan-y friend. I thought I’d share because, well, I’m giving like that ;-)

turtlecake02

turtlecake03

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

This was posted in my main blog back in 2001, and I’ve been making them pretty much the same since back then. Since I’ve moved around a bit since 2001, however, I no longer have access to my mom’s industrial stand mixer. However, I found that my trusty bread machine did the same job just fine!

Based on the near-perfect Mrs. Sigg’s Snickerdoodles recipe. Soft, chewy sugar cookies coated in cinnamon sugar. There’s tons of good reviews there, for a reason. I’ve made these cookies for bake sales, pot lucks, as holiday gifts, for house warmings and parties of all sorts. They’ve never failed to please — a genuine classic.

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

This was posted in my main blog back in 2001, and I’ve been making them pretty much the same since back then. Since I’ve moved around a bit since 2001, however, I no longer have access to my mom’s industrial stand mixer. However, I found that my trusty bread machine did the same job just fine!

Based on the near-perfect Mrs. Sigg’s Snickerdoodles recipe. Soft, chewy sugar cookies coated in cinnamon sugar. There’s tons of good reviews there, for a reason. I’ve made these cookies for bake sales, pot lucks, as holiday gifts, for house warmings and parties of all sorts. They’ve never failed to please — a genuine classic.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

I posted the recipe for this to my main journal back in 2001. Have been making it for ages, so I suppose it’s about time I actually took pictures of these guys. A perennial favorite that even non-fans of ginger end up liking. And for those of us who *do* like ginger… well, it’s easy enough to pile on extra when making the dough :-)

This recipe was adapted from the AR “Big Soft Ginger Cookies” recipe which probably has more fans than most major recording artists. It’s one of the oldest recipes there and has more than 1500 reviews, the majority of them exceedingly positive. They live up to the name, too, unlike many cookies which harden after a few days. These will stay soft for over two weeks in a ziploc bag and still taste great — something I’ve used to great advantage when mailing out holiday care packages to friends in different countries. I’ve made quite a few little tweaks to the original recipe over the years, so my edited version follows.

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

I posted the recipe for this to my main journal back in 2001. Have been making it for ages, so I suppose it’s about time I actually took pictures of these guys. A perennial favorite that even non-fans of ginger end up liking. And for those of us who *do* like ginger… well, it’s easy enough to pile on extra when making the dough :-)

This recipe was adapted from the AR “Big Soft Ginger Cookies” recipe which probably has more fans than most major recording artists. It’s one of the oldest recipes there and has more than 1500 reviews, the majority of them exceedingly positive. They live up to the name, too, unlike many cookies which harden after a few days. These will stay soft for over two weeks in a ziploc bag and still taste great — something I’ve used to great advantage when mailing out holiday care packages to friends in different countries. I’ve made quite a few little tweaks to the original recipe over the years, so my edited version follows.

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

Lactose is the bane of my existence. Well, not the only one, obviously. But a significant one nonetheless when you’re severely intolerant to it, living in a country where it is omnipresent, and not given much choice in avoiding it other than turning to often off-tasting specialty foods or chain-popping expensive enzyme pills. Considering that 60% of the world has some form of lactose sensitivity and America is a country of immigrants, it really is rather silly that more thought isn’t given to this by food manufacturers. I don’t know how many times I’ve come across somebody asking for dairy substitutes only to have some ignorant lactose-consuming “expert” advise them to “use the real thing”, assuming that the person making the request is just being cheap or trying to lose weight. My usual response in these situations is to point out that “quality” is subjective, depending on the consumer. Especially when partaking of one person’s “quality product” will lead another person almost directly to puking and other unpleasant side effects. Leaving soapbox now.

At any rate, rich dairy products are especially hard to avoid when you have a fondness for cream-based desserts. Entirely soy-based ice creams tend to have a bit of a beany aftertaste and the only brand of Lactaid ice cream available in our area is plain vanilla. Born out of all this dietary adversity is my ongoing quest for the perfect lactose-free ice cream recipe. I don’t claim to have found it yet, but I have had quite a few trials that ended up as qualified successes. One of which I will talk about now.



The usual suspects. I decided to go for chocolate this time, since I didn’t have any handy fruit around and we had plenty of cocoa left over from my holiday baking bonanza. I’ve read through a lot of homemade ice cream recipes, but can’t say that this follows anything in particular. It’s in the same family, surely, but that’s about all I’m willing to commit to.


I started by scalding a cup of Lactaid milk and dissolving 1 packet of gelatin in it, to give the finished product some stability. I’ve made earlier batches without gelatin, which tended to melt much faster and turn liquid after being out of the fridge for a bit. I usually prefer agar because it’s what my mother always used in her cooking, but it’s not as readily available in most Western-style supermarkets. Next, half a cup of cocoa powder went in to be dissolved. I tend to prefer powder over solid chocolate because a lot of the solids have odd waxes that can give the boy a stomachache. I might try melting down a higher-end chocolate next time, though, for reasons I’ll expand upon later.


Whisked mixture until smooth. Took a quick taste-test and found that it was on the bitter side. Added 2/3 cup of sugar to sweeten it up, and let it all melt together completely.


The chocolate mix then got tossed in the blender along with 6 oz. (1 small tub) of plain greek yogurt, for its live cultures, dairy creaminess and an extra bit of tanginess. 2 squirts of chocolate syrup were added, mostly because I had it around and don’t believe one can ever have enough chocolate. It all got blended on a fairly low setting.


Finally, 8 oz. (one tub) of Cool Whip went in to lend its unique creaminess to the mix. This would be the space normally reserved for heavy cream of some sort. Despite the scorn heaped upon Cool Whip by would-be food snobs, it’s remarkably low in calories (25 cal per 9 grams) and delightfully lactose-free. It wouldn’t be such a popular and enduring artificial topping if it didn’t have some appeal, eh? I made the mistake this time of just popping it in the blender and mixing up the whole thing like a giant smoothie. In retrospect, I probably should have folded chocolate mixture into the Cool Whip in a large mixing bowl, to preserve the airy texture. I’ll be doing this next time.


Resulting mixture went into the freezer for a few hours to harden. Yes, I might have poked at it a few times to see how it was coming along :-)


When solid enough, it scoops like a gelato, rather dense but still very creamy. I shaved a few curls of chocolate over the serving for garnish. If allowed to thaw, it becomes a very decent chocolate pudding.

Taste analysis: I mentioned earlier that this was a qualified success. The reason for the qualification is because I believe it would have turned out better if I had used better ingredients. I happened to have Hershey’s products on hand, so I used them, but I would have probably been happier with a richer chocolate powder (possibly Ghirardelli or the like). A melted-down bar of good wax-free chocolate — a hunk of Belgian, or one of the many bars we brought back from Finland — would probably have worked, too. It would have probably also eliminated or lessened the need for additional sugar and syrup, which led to a strangely high-pitched sweetness in this particular end product. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it did rather taste like some of the cheaper ice creams that I’ve had as a child. It hits your palate at the wrong level for chocolate, and you can’t help noticing that artificiality. I’m certain this is more the fault of the chocolate than the Cool Whip because I’ve used the whip before to make a wonderful strawberry sorbetto that had no cloying taste whatsoever. The strange part? It only feels weirdly sweet in ice cream form. When thawed into pudding, it tastes amazingly similar to the very rich Belgian chocolate pudding that I’ve bought at Trader Joes… pretty impressive considering its low dairy content.

Texture analysis: I don’t have an ice cream machine, nor do I particularly feel the need to get one since my kitchen is already pretty cluttered. I also enjoy the denser iced creams, like gelatos and sorbettos, so the freeze-and-scoop method suits me pretty well. Those wanting a lighter product might do well to invest in an ice cream machine to inject more fluff into the finished product. As I mentioned earlier, though, I also suspect that if I had folded in the chocolate rather than blending the whip, I would have ended up with a fluffier product since the whip is very light to begin with. Future testing will probably confirm this.

Convenience analysis: Using mostly stuff that’s already in the kitchen or easily picked up at the grocer’s freezer. Minimal kitchen work involved, and a tasty result in hours which would have fooled most of my dinner guests. Not bad, not bad.

Financial analysis: This is iffy, since there’s nothing really similar on the market. Well, there’s the soy ice creams, which come in tiny tubs and are priced like the gourmet ice creams. So to that extent, this is a great success. As you can see I have a whole pan of the stuff, which would probably make two tubs worth at least. The ingredients are relatively cheap, even if I end up using the “good” chocolate. Doing a version out of fruit would also be a very nice alternative. Thumbs up all the way on this category.

PS. Why am I doing these food columns all of a sudden, you might be asking? A few reasons — 1) I’ve been cooking a lot more in the past year since I’ve moved into my own full-stocked kitchen. 2) I have a few friends (I’m looking at you, sassygurl) that I’ve been promising to help along in the culinary department for a while. 3) I need some blog entries and some “how-to” articles to put into my writing samples for some future employment. 4) I’ve missed writing :-)

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