Monday, December 19, 2011

Peppermint Pinwheel Cookies

Like red and green, and red and gold, red and white are just one of those Christmas color combinations that were meant to be. I mean, it’s obviously pretty important considering it’s the color of Santa’s outfit and the color of candy canes.

The idea of Santa is charming. A man who gives out presents by the sleighload? Well, if only. I can’t quite remember when I stopped believing in Santa. It must’ve been gradual, since I don’t remember sitting down with my parents and having the talk. I’m not sure if my eight-year-old sister still believes in Santa. I guess I’ll continue to play the role the older sister is supposed to play and just wait for some 5th grader to tell her the truth. I hope my sister will realize that just because Santa only exists in the mind, does not mean he’s not just as magical, especially if he can get kids to work harder in order to get on his nice list.

Ever wondered about the relationship between peppermint and Christmas? I’m surprised I haven’t actually. It’s just one of those accepted flavors that have become part of the holiday season, so who cares why? The point is that candy cane tastes delicious, and is a great addition to hot cocoa, cakes, and cookies, like these pinwheel cookies.


½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 tbsp red food coloring

For the peppermint frosting:½ cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp peppermint extract
2 tbsp milk
1 crushed candy cane

1. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and beat until blended.
2. Combine flour and baking soda. Add to butter mixture, beating at low speed until mixed well.
3. Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Roll 1 portion of dough into a 12- x 8-inch rectangle on a piece of lightly floured plastic wrap.
4. Knead the food coloring into the remaining portion of dough. Roll the red dough into a rectangle like in Step 3. Invert the plain dough onto the colored dough. Peel off plastic wrap.
5. Cut dough in half lengthwise, forming 2 rectangles. Roll up each rectangle starting at 1 long side, using bottom piece of plastic wrap as a guide. Wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze for 4 hours.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
7. Cut dough into ¼ inch thick pieces, and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
8. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until set. Cool cookies completely.
9. Sandwich with peppermint frosting.

For the peppermint frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until smooth. Add the confectioner’s sugar and continue beating on low until combined. Mix in peppermint extract, milk, and crushed candy cane.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Sugar Cookies

With just ten days until Christmas, the countdown has begun! Listening to B101’s nonstop festive music through the day, it really does feel like Christmas is around the corner. So begins the Christmas baking…

Christmas baking and the holiday season come hand in hand. It’s a great way to bond with family and friends, make fantastic edible presents, and an excuse to eat more sugar than normally acceptable. This time of the year, so many online recipe databases (like are covered with shades of white, red, and green that it’s hard to resist not trying a few recipes to experiment with.

These Christmas cookies were made with a simple sugar cookie dough, and then decorated with royal icing. In addition to being gracious noms, these cookies also make delectable Christmas tree ornaments. Simply poke a hole in the cookie before putting it in the oven and thread some tinsel or ribbon through. Hang it around the house and on the tree for a shortbread scent without the risk of burning your whole house down.

With the help of my two elves (thanks Jamie and Patty!) all the cookies turned out very festive indeed. If you so desire, you can even act out a scene with these cookies. Be careful though, once you make your food come to life, it’s difficult to let go of them. Especially when you give them names. Not saying I did or anything of course.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year
There'll be much mistltoeing
And hearts will be glowing
When love ones are near
It's the most wonderful time of the year…”



3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder

For the royal icing:1 egg white
½ tsp lemon juice
1 ¾ cup confectioners sugar
Food coloring


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
3. Combine the flour and baking powder, then add to creamed mixture and mix well.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to ¼ inch thickness. Cut out with Christmas cookie cutters and transfer to lined baking sheets.
5. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely on wire racks. Decorate cookies with royal icing.

For the icing:In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites and lemon juice together, adding the powdered sugar until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Divide into bowls and add food coloring as desired.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Balls

So where have I been the past three months of my life? I guess you can say I’m been on a hiatus. Because while college certainly isn’t a cakewalk, it’s a break: a break from the high school days, a break from living with my parents, a break from seeing familiar faces everywhere I go, and a break from home-style food. College is different to high school (duh, my high school chemistry teacher said when I announced this profound fact to him). It’s more fun. There’s much more free time. People are nicer.

I think over the last three months and am reminded of the friendships made, the memories shared, the frat basements visited. Then there’s the screwed up hours of sleep, the ubiquitous complaints, the irrational demands, and the spontaneous acts. I think that Hanover must be magical. What other reason is there to explain how 1000 people will willingly run 115 (or rather, 15) laps around a gigantic bonfire? Or how strangers will pay for your meal because you absentmindedly left your ID back in your dorm? Or how the entire campus will have snowball fight at midnight in freezing temperatures?

I honestly thought I could keep up this blog during college, but to my shame and realization, I’ve pretty much neglected it. So now I’m in winter break with four weeks to do stuff. I’m going to try hard to make it a productive few weeks of catching up with friends, eating much-missed food, piano playing, leisurely reading, exercising, and visiting places. From this list, you can tell I haven’t really changed much. Besides a few pounds heavier (not quite up to the freshman 15 yet though…) and 3 classes more knowledgeable (in spite of the lost brain cells) I’m proud to say I’m still my old self.


1 cup pretzels
½ cup crunchy peanut butter
1 tsp oil
3 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
¾ cup semisweet chocolate
white chocolate (optional)


1. Put the pretzels into a plastic bag and crush into small pieces with a rolling pin.
2. Spoon the peanut butter in a medium bowl and stir in the oil. Pour the crushed pretzels in the peanut butter, add the confectioner’s sugar, and stir well.
3. Shape the peanut butter mixture into small rounds by rolling it in your hands. Place on a tray and put into the fridge for 30 minutes.
4. Melt the semisweet chocolate in the microwave or on a double boiler. Carefully dip the peanut butter balls into the chocolate to coat. If desired, melt some white chocolate and drizzle over the top.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rose Macarons

Ah… macarons. What makes you so special? What have you done to capture the interests of human beings? To take center stage in bakeries all over the world? To epitomize French sweets?

Sure you’re cute. But looks alone don’t get you anywhere in this world. Not today.

Macarons are indeed the daintiest of dainty lil fellas in the cookies category. I mean, a quick glance at one, and you won’t want to eat it and ruin its beauty. But then, one bite of one, and you won’t want to stop eating it.

The truth is though, I don’t even like them that much. Yes, I spent $6.75 on three quarter-sized macarons from a macaron café in NYC. And it’s true that I describe them like they’re my besties. And yes, I’m quite aware that I’ve blogged about mararons before. TWICE actually (the posts can be found here and here). But truth be told, I don’t think they’re worth all the fuss. I’d much rather indulge in a good chocolate chip cookie.

However, there’s just something about them that justifies spending 2 hours in the kitchen. Or maybe it’s simply that I’m never satisfied with the results. I know now for sure that the first time I made them, the texture was not right at all! But I did not let myself think that. Rather, I lied to myself, thinking that that was the way they were supposed to be. The second time I made macarons, the chocolate flavor was not quite rich enough. I also took a short cut by using marshmallow fluff to sandwich the cookies together instead of making a buttercream or chocolate ganache. And while I won’t say that I’ve nailed them this time round, I’m definitely improving. My macarons are finally starting to have “feet” and stay soft and chewy on the inside, while being crisp on the outside.

Be on the watch out though, for “Macarons, Fourth Time Lucky.”


Macaron batter:1 ¼ cups icing sugar
1 cup finely ground almonds
6 tbsps egg whites (approximately from 3 large eggs)
pinch of salt
¼ cup white sugar
red food coloring

Jam buttercream:2 tbsp jam (I used rose)
½ stick butter
2-3 cups icing sugar


1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Combine the ground almonds and icing sugar in a bowl.
3. In a large dry bowl, beat egg whites with salt until foamy. Increase the speed to high and gradually add in the white sugar, beating until stiff peaks form and the whites are firm and shiny. Add a few drops of red food coloring and mix the color in well.
4. Gently fold the icing sugar mixture into the eggs whites, until incorporated and the mixture leaves a ribbon on the surface.
5. Pipe the batter onto parchment lined baking sheets. Tap the baking sheet to remove air bubbles. Let dry for 1 hour to allow skins to form.
6. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, until the top is completely dry. Transfer parchment to a cooling rack.
7. When the macarons are completely cooled, sandwich macarons with the jam buttercream. Store in the refrigerator.

For the jam buttercream:
Whip the butter and jam together. Beat in small amounts of icing sugar, until the desired consistency.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Chinese Dumplings (Jiao Zi)

There is something about touching pen to paper that so many miss out on these days. I’m currently blogging, pen in hand, on the back of my college shopping list in the dentists office with cleaned teeth, waiting for my dad to get his teeth cleaned. Of course, by the time you read this, I will have typed it up as well.

Hurricane Irene is supposed to hit Philly (and a big area of the East Coast) tonight. While I’m definitely no weather master, I do keep up with the weather experts, and Irene is looking forbidding. I have to admit, it’s difficult not being scared with the Weather Channel on constantly. Yes, the TV is still running, although this might not be the case in a few hours. No fears though (well, maybe a little), Irene will come and go. I just hope it doesn’t leave a lasting impression.

So you say, isn’t this supposed to be a FOOD blog? Very well, let’s talk dumplings. As a Chinese, it is almost disgraceful that I have yet to share a recipe for Chinese dumplings. Dumplings are one of those rare traditional foods that have become prevalent in western Chinese restaurants. But no wonder, for how could anyone not love the chewy skin, soft (and sometimes crunchy) center, and adorable appearance? Every Chinese family has their own recipe for dumplings. Most variations are in the filling, but even the wrapper has alternative recipes. Some people buy wonton wrappers, white pastry wrappers, or egg wrappers. In my family, we like to make our own wrappers with a rough ratio of water to flour. Fillings not only deviate between families, but also across different regions across China. For example, people in two cities in the province of Shanxi generally prefer different fillings. People in Hejin enjoy white radish dumplings, while those who live in Taiyuan like cabbage dumplings. Many people in Northwest China prefer beef and lamb dumplings. The reason is due to the fact that many people in Northwest China are Muslim, so cannot eat pork. Another very popular dumpling filling is wine veggie (also known as Chinese chives—a long, dark green, grass-like vegetable), and eggs. Many Chinese eat dumplings with simply soy sauce and vinegar, but at home, we always make a special sauce, or dip, with soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, chili, and salt. The sauce just adds a whole new level of flavor to the dumplings. It’s unreal.

I hope everyone in the line of Irene makes it through safely. While you’re stuck at home for the next 36 or so hours, why not engage in some family bonding by making Chinese dumplings as a family?


3 cups all-purpose flour
around 1 1/4 cups cold water

1 stalk spring onion, sliced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 cup shiitake mushroom, finely sliced
2 cups white cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrot, shredded
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 egg


1. In a large bowl, slowly stir the cold water into the flour, adding as much as is necessary to form a soft, but workable dough. Knead the dough into a smooth ball. Cover the dough and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
2 While the dough is resting, combine all the vegetables in a large bowl. Spoon the salt on top. Heat the oil in a pan and pour it over the salt and vegetables. Stir well so that the oil is dispersed within the veggies. Crack the egg into the vegetables and stir well.
3 Knead the dough until it is a smooth ball. Divide the dough into 50 pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll each piece out into a circle around 3 inches in diameter.
4. Place 1 tablespoon of the filling into the middle of each wrapper. Fold the dough over to form a half moon shape and pinch the edges with folds to seal. This creates nice ridges along the semi circle.
5. To cook the dumplings, bring a pot of water to the boil. Drop the dumplings in carefully one by one. Cover with lid. As the water boils again, add in half a cup of cold water. Let the water boil again, and add another one half cup of cold water. When the water in the pot boils again, the dumplings will be ready. Drain and serve with soy sauce and vinegar.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lemon Square Bars

Kia ora! It’s been too long since my last blog post. I’ve been cooking, but I just haven’t been able to document my food adventures. Among other reasons, I had a well-needed vacation back to Aotearoa- the land of the long white cloud, or as most of us know it, New Zealand.

There is so much I miss about New Zealand-mainly the people-but also the environment, the food, and the lifestyle of kiwis. While I was born in China, New Zealand will always occupy a significant space in my heart. It’s where I first went to school; it’s where I caught my first fish, it’s where I touched a piano for the first time; and it’s where I had my first Tim Tam. It’s where I grew from an innocent 6 year old to a mature (at least I like to think so) 16 year old.

I was propelled to make lemon bars after seeing my beloved lemon tree back in New Zealand. I think it must be a kiwi thing, but most houses in NZ have fruit trees in the garden, the most popular ones being grapefruit and lemon. There is something special about going out to the garden, picking the brightest, juiciest looking lemon, taking it back into the kitchen and turning it into a dessert. In my garden we have a lemon tree, a tangelo tree, and a feijoa tree. Feijoa is one of the fruits that I miss the most. It’s somewhat similar to a guava, but so much better. Every autumn when the fruit is in season, families start to sell it outside on their front lawn, and mothers start to experiment with it, creating recipes like feijoa bread.

I wish I could’ve brought some lemons from my lemon tree back to the US, but customs would never have allowed it. No worries though, lemons are plenty abundant in the US too. Maybe these lemon treats aren’t quite as good as they could’ve been had I had my own lemons on hand, but they’re still pretty darn good.


1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup sugar
2 tbsp water
2 cups flour

4 eggs
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup lemon juice


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine the olive oil and sugar together. Add the flour, and stir until mixed well. Form into balls and flatten onto a 9x13 baking pan.
3. Bake for 15 minutes until slightly golden.
4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs well. Add in the sugar and sift in flour. Pour lemon juice in and mix well.
5. Pour onto the prepared crust and return into the oven for 30 minutes, or until set. Cool completely before slicing.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ham, Egg, and Cheese "Bruschetta"

Happy July 1st! Soon, we will be celebrating the 4th of July, and then one day later, July 5th, which is my mum’s birthday. At the beginning of every month I think to myself, ‘I can’t believe it’s already (insert new month here).’ The days, the weeks, the months go by so quickly, it’s hard to keep up! Which is why I resort to lists.

Lists, which I’ve recently become very attached to, help me stay on top of things, keep plans organized, and beat my short term memory loss. Today, I had a rather long list as it was my day off from work. My list mostly consisted of Dartmouth College prematriculation forms, cleaning, exercising, and blogging. Also on the list was to make a list of things to do this summer. After making that second list however, I realized that most of the plans I had were to dine at particular restaurants. Of course, this is no surprise as I do love to explore culinary delights. You would think though, that I had more on my mind than just food. Nonetheless, here are some of the food destinations I plan to (and WILL) visit before I head off to college next fall:

Sweet Green
Philly’s Italian Market
Artisan Boulanger Patissier


1 freshly baked baguette
2 eggs
4 ounces ham, chopped into small pieces
1 cup cheese of your choice, grated


1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2. Heat a non-stick pan on medium heat, and cook the eggs like you would an omelet. Tear into pieces.
3. In a bowl, combine the cooked eggs, ham, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
4. Cut the baguette diagonally into ½ inches slices. Put the baguette slices onto an oven tray and toast in the oven for about 5 minutes.
5. Take the tray out of the oven and spoon the egg/ham mixture on top of the baguette slices. Sprinkle cheese on top of the tomatoes. Put the tray back into the oven for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Chocolate Éclairs

Sometimes I’m just buzzing with energy. Like right now. It’s hard to explain, but when this happens, I cannot really control myself. I get this feeling now and then. It’s not too common though. But it does happen. When it does, I speak fast, I walk fast, I type fast (and make lots of mistakes and have to press the back space constantly), I blab on about nothing, and say things that I wouldn’t normally say, although I wish I did. And what does that even mean anyway???! See…basically I get lost. So right now, I’m engaging in some blog therapy, with the hope that it will bring me back down to earth.

Recently, I took up a new job. Actually it is my first official job (I delivered newspapers in NZ!). I am now a barista/vendor at Art of Bread, a new bakery and cafe in Narberth owned by the one and only Georges Perrier. It’s a pretty cool place, with pretty cool people. Chef Perrier comes by now and then (meaning everyday, at least for now) and checks that everything is running smoothly. The first day I met him was pretty scary. As soon as Chef Perrier walked in, I was told to clean up any messes, put dirty stuff away, and be extremely kind and cheerful. I have to admit, he was VERY intimidating at first. Man, that guy has so much authority! However, after a meeting with him the other day, I realized that he is actually quite reasonable and nice. I’m looking forward to getting to know him better over the next few months. He’s definitely a great connection to have!

I’ve always wanted to work at a café, so it’s very exciting that I’m finally able to do so. It can get extremely busy at Art of Bread, but I manage to have fun at the same time. Art of Bread has GORGEOUS French pastries. Like I mean, they look unbelievable. Believe me. They have what you would expect at a typical French boulangerie and patisserie such as croissants, baguettes, tarts, and danishes. All the pastries are made fresh in the back and the cakes and tarts are delivered from Le Bec Fin every morning. Wow. Art of Bread should pay me for this great ad. Really.

So. Chocolate éclairs. By now, you probably could’ve guessed that working at Art of Bread prompted my making of these French desserts. My friend Jamie got a chocolate éclair from Art of Bread while I was working there the other day. She had made them with her mom before and I have a special thing for them so, well, we just had to make some of our own! In New Zealand I would always make small chocolate éclairs, or profiteroles, for dinner parties. It was kinda my thing to make. A recipe to my profiteroles can be found here.

Sorry that this post is so long and convoluted. It’s what happens when, well, this happens.


100g butter
1 cup water
1 cup plain flour
3 eggs
Heavy cream
Confectioners’ sugar
Semi-sweet chocolate


1. Preheat the oven to 395 degrees F.
2. Combine butter and water in a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and quickly add the flour. Beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
3. Add the eggs one at a time to the saucepan, beating well with an electric beater after each addition. The mixture should be glossy. Pipe 3 inch strips of the pastry onto a greased oven tray and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until puffy and golden.
4. Lower the temperature to 250 degrees F and continue baking for about 15 minutes until dry. Cool completely.
5. Using an electric beater, whip the heavy cream until it has soft peaks. Add confectioners’ sugar to desired sweetness.
6. When the éclairs are cooled, make a slit one side of each pastry and fill with the whipped cream.
7. Melt some chocolate on a double boiler and smear over the top.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Pretzels

Pretzels are uniquely American in the same way that fortune cookies and chop suey are American. The first soft pretzel I saw was on Ellis Island when I was on vacation in the US four years ago. Prior to that sighting, I had only seen small packaged hard pretzels in the specialty aisle in New Zealand supermarkets. To be honest, I don’t quite comprehend the appeal of pretzels. It is just over-salted bread. Although originated from Europe, pretzels have become an integral part of the typical American diet, along with donuts and burgers.

It doesn’t take much to dip pretzels in chocolate. I wish I could tell you that I had made the chocolate and the pretzels. Now THAT would be impressive. I just really wanted to share the pictures; thus, this post became necessary.


Semi-sweet chocolate
Hard pretzels
Toppings (such as chopped walnuts)


1. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Dip the pretzels in the chocolate and place on wax paper. Sprinkled on any desired toppings. Wait until the chocolate has hardened before carefully peeling each pretzel off and storing in a sealed container.