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Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Best Ever Rhubarb Jam


Smile! You've preserved a bit of your hard-earned labor!

I always secretly laugh at what seems to impress others the most when it comes to kitchen stuff. I guess it makes me feel like I've got a special little secret to keep, when the truth of the matter is that I just happened to be fortunate enough to have learned this over so many years of working in professional kitchens with amazing individuals that have been kind enough to share with me over the years. It brings me joy to be able to do the same for all of you.

Preservation is the next skill that you must acquire to live out your Cottagecore dreams. Many can bake a good sourdough loaf, sure, but pickling your own produce, freezing green beans en masse, and simmering the soft fruits of your labor over a low flame while soft afternoon light streams in your kitchen window are the pieces of stuff that Ghibli film dreams are made of. What's even better is - with the right amount of knowledge and skill, you can make any fruit into jam. No, really! The perfect master recipe for jam - and by 'perfect' I mean it works every single time - is to use this ratio:

60% sugar

Sorry, I'm sure that seemed anticlimactic. It really is just sixty percent sugar to whatever amount of fruit you have, so long as it is measured in the metric system. It's much more accurate this way and you're guaranteed success each time. All you do is weigh the amount of fruit - or vegetable, in this case -  you have and then multiply that by (0.6) to get the amount of sugar you need. This is an exceedingly good thing to know considering you won't always have the option to buy exactly (X) amount of any rhubarb at any given moment. I think it's much better to have an understanding of mathematical ratios for this so you can adjust it at any given moment.

Let's say you have 500 grams of raspberries. 

500 * 0.6 = 300. 

Or let's say you have 738 g of currants? 

738 * 0.6 = 422.8 

In this case, it's better to round up to the nearest whole number. The amount of sugar you would need would be 423 grams. 

Finally, if you have 525 grams of chopped and cleaned rhubarb, like I did, you would only need 315 grams of plain white sugar to make the jam. You can add a pinch of salt to whatever you do, of course, but it's all to your taste. I always add a pinch of salt to everything I make, especially for something like this.

No matter the amount of fruit and sugar, the idea with this application is that you want to draw out as much moisture as possible. In a perfect world, you would chop or crush any fruit you have and toss it in the sugar, cover it with clingfilm, then leave it - at room temperature - overnight. You would naturally give it the occasional stir, if possible, but it isn't absolutely necessary. One thing that is necessary to your canning success is a good candy thermometer. 

I prefer this kind, as I've had one in my drawer since before I met my husband and it has yet to fail me!


With a candy thermometer, all you have to do is stick it on the side of your pan and wait until your jam simmers enough to have reached the magical 220 Degrees F, which is the perfect temperature for jam. There are a couple of tricks to getting the right consistency without a thermometer, but I say "why be half-safe when betting on saving and savoring a whole seasons' worth of work and growing?" Don't. 

As I mentioned in my Spiced Rhubarb Pie recipe, rhubarb grows in the fall as well as in the spring. The kind I have now is not the pretty red I usually get in the spring, but it's just as tasty so I don't really mind the green color. To tell you the truth, I think it's a little funny to surprise people with a visual trick of green jam and having it end up being sweet, tart, and oh so delicious. 

Best (and Easiest) Rhubarb Jam
yields 2 small jars

  • 525 g rhubarb, cleaned and chopped
  • 315 g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
As mentioned before with the method above, the best practice is to clean and chop the rhubarb into small dices and toss with the sugar and salt before covering and leaving it overnight. I put mine in a saucepot to sit, just because it was one less dish I had to clean, and left it for an hour on the counter. Since I was making this for a cake that I needed today, I saw no problem in rushing the process a little. 

When ready, begin cooking on a low flame, stirring often, until you hear little bubbles singing around the edges of the pot. Scrape the bottom and edges with either a wooden spoon or a spatula to ensure that no bits of sugar crystalize on the sides. Rhubarb smells a bit vegetal, according to my husband, when it cooks so don't worry too much about it if you're sensitive to that sort of thing. 

Fit your thermometer to the side of the pot and allow the jam to cook, low and slow, until the mixture reaches the magical 220 degrees F. Don't forget to stir occasionally! The rhubarb will shred and lose all of its original shape and turn this greenish hue. I realize that it's not as appealing as your usual red, but don't let the color fool you. Looks can be deceiving, which is why it's of great importance to label your jam jars when you pop this in the fridge.

When ready, turn off the heat and stir well once more. Pour into your prepared jars. If you're curious about canning and prepping jars, give this blog a quick skim and see if it answers any questions for you! You don't have to waterbath can these jars, as it can go straight into the fridge for up to 3 months without turning. If you do decide to process the jars, however, they'll keep for up to a year in the pantry.

I used this jam to fill a lemon cake for my baby's Isang Buwan party, which is a small celebration to mark that they are now one month old. Next month, I'll make another small cake, and another the month after that. I'll make a small cake or pie or some sweet something every month until their first birthday party, which will be a BIG bash!

I love using jams as fillings for cakes, as I often dislike buttercream as a general rule. It's not that buttercream is bad, necessarily, it's just that - by and large - it tends to be oversweet and I always seem to have the curse of making either too much or too little. I also think it can be a big mess, so when I make a cake for myself I tend to make a jam, curd, or ganache to fill it and a fondant style glaze to cover it, and then finish with candies or sprinkles, usually whatever I have in the cupboard does just fine. 



I hope you save this master recipe and refer to it as you need, or at least write down the ratio on a sticky note and then keep it somewhere on the inside door of one of your cabinets. When you know how to preserve your food that you've spent so long and so much effort growing, it makes a world of difference when it comes to the satisfaction of your eating experience...and you'll impress your friends by making them think you have your stuff together when you casually mention that you made the jam yourself when offering them a slice of cake, toast, whatever! 

Thanks so much for spending a piece of your day with me. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Friday, November 5, 2021

Dump-It Blueberry Muffin Loaf

 


The secret ingredient: mayonnaise! 

I've been super into mayonnaise lately, ever since my mom came to visit a couple of weeks ago to help me with my new baby. I wanted to make a tuna salad but we were out of mayo, and she offered to go buy some. I said we didn't have to worry about it, that I would just make some. Her eyes went wide - she had no idea you could just make mayonnaise. She watched in awe as I took some olive oil out of the cabinet and whipped up some fresh mayo with an egg yolk and a slightly warmed bowl. It was the first time I felt good about what I could do that had nothing to do with the baby since I came home from the hospital. Now that I'm a couple of weeks into the thick of life with a baby, I'm definitely making shifts.

I'm attempting to make life easier for myself by training it to be harder - as in, I'm doing a lot of baking at home to keep myself busy and active to help me both lose the baby weight and keep my energy up with lots of carbs...all while caring for and carrying a newborn in my arms! To be fair, I'm actually wearing him in a sling while I bake. This should credit the ease of this recipe - you can make it while wearing a fussy newborn in a sling - and you can take that one to the bank!

Dump-It Blueberry Muffin Loaf

  • 1 1/4 c or 8.75 oz granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c full-fat mayonnaise
    • I like Hellman's but you can use whatever you have as long as it isn't the low-fat stuff.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c almond milk
  • 1 tsp good vanilla
    • I like this brand because it's inexpensive but still very good!
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 c or 10 oz flour
  • 3 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 c fresh or frozen blueberries, crushed lightly
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and prepare a loaf pan by rubbing it with oil and a sprinkle of both flour and sugar. I love this method because it adds a special little extra crust to the outside! You can also simply line the sides with parchment paper if you like, but I generally don't tend to do that with loaves. 

Measure out all of your dry ingredients into one bowl, as well as the semi-crushed blueberries. Give them a toss in your dry ingredients to coat. Add your vanilla to your measured-out milk. Cream together the mayonnaise and sugar until light and fluffy using the paddle attachment of your standing mixer for 3 minutes on medium. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and alternate adding in your dry and wet ingredients, half at a time until everything is just incorporated. Lumps are okay! Seriously, when it comes to muffins: lumps are absolutely okay to have in the batter.

Allow your batter to rest for at least 15 minutes before adding to your pan and baking in a 375 oven for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the loaf cake pulls away from the sides and springs back when it's touched. Allow it to cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. I'd let it cool completely before slicing and serving, but I certainly can't stop you if you can't resist. I wouldn't even blame you for it, either! Let's chat for a sec while you're waiting for this to either bake or cool...

I had no idea that mayonnaise got such a bad rap from my fellow Millenials, nor did I have any idea that we killed the mayonnaise industry. Admittedly, I didn't buy and use a ton of mayo except for making sandwiches and the occasional bound salad. The news that my generation had added mayonnaise to the throes of our killing spree along with golf, diamonds, and divorce was honestly a little surprising to me. I always thought that the jar of mayonnaise in my fridge was like an old but good coat, always there in the back of the closet where and when I needed it. I'd never wear it out to anywhere like a party or to temple or brunch, but I'll wear it to the grocery store or to go buy gas or to go to work, certainly. It's a warm and good coat and it's never let me down, even though it's not as pretty as my others.

The article goes on to explain that mayo is likely just getting pushed aside in favor of some more show-stopping condiments with bigger flavors, which makes sense. After all, thanks to the global rise of the internet with Millenials being at the forefront of this frontier, it only makes sense that we're the first generation to be truly globally curious about new flavors. This is going to just be a simple byproduct of living in a more multicultural world, which I think we are all excited about!

Speaking of things to be excited about, can we talk about the no-waste movement when it comes to leftovers? I would never think that we could make Netflix shows or hashtags from leftovers, but Hellman's Mayo has joined the fight against food waste.  I cannot tell you how exciting this is for me, as somebody who at one point made a living out of transforming leftovers while working at a non-profit hunger relief network. I fed 500 people per day using leftovers and donated food that would have otherwise gone to waste. The takeaway from this is that while mayonnaise is a good condiment, it's an even better ingredient for cooking and baking. It helps you produce a wonderfully moist chocolate cake or roast chicken. Give it a shot and see what you can come up with using mayo! Your muffin loaf should be ready for slicing, by the way...

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I love this recipe because it's a wonderfully reliable thing to have for a breakfast staple or mid-afternoon snack. It's light enough to pass for a dessert, but it's not too sweet to have with a cup of coffee before you do your morning yoga. I'm super into carbs lately because they help you produce breast milk (or so it has been explained to me) and I've got a very hungry baby at home with me that's getting bigger by the minute. I need to keep up and adequate hydration will only take you so far! The additional vitamins of the blueberries certainly don't hurt, either...

Thank you so much for spending a piece of your day or night with me. Please don't forget to follow me on social media and to have an awesome time making this. Happy cooking and happy eating!



Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake for a New Friend


Will this chocolate cake make me a new friend? Will it help my mental state? Will it help me prove to myself that I'm a person, not 'a mother'? Well...

Like so many other uterus-owning humans that have birthed other humans, I'm having a bit of an identity crisis since the birth of my own offspring. Therefore, I'm trying to get back into a big piece of what made me who I am as a cook, which is my voice on this blog. Don't worry, I'm not going to turn into one of those completely annoying bloggers that need to tell you my life story before I give you a recipe. I'll just give you a paragraph or two and explain why I made this cake when I did, and continue on with a story in the middle of the recipe so you can read it while you're waiting for the cake to bake...

My husband has been on parental leave for the last two weeks, to go with my six weeks of maternity leave. I cannot stress enough how much of a perfect partner that he has been, and I'm so grateful to his family as well for helping me while I wrestle with my PPD and PPA. His mother was kind enough to come over the other day and just hold the baby for a few hours while I clean the house, get a break, and make a cake for a person that was visiting later that afternoon, who happened to be one of my husband's coworkers, dropping off some samples for a big project he's working on. I was determined to make the house presentable for them and send them off with a sweet treat or two as a thank you for being such an awesome individual to my husband since he's come to his company. I could think of nothing better than a moist and delicious chocolate mayonnaise bundt cake. 

Chocolate Mayonnaise Bundt Cake

  • 2 1/4 c or 17.5 oz granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c full fat mayonnaise
    • Please don't use the diet stuff
  • 2 3/4 c or 13 oz oz AP flour
  • 1/4 c or 2 oz cornstarch
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp espresso powder or instant coffee
  • 1 1/2 c boiling water
  • 1 c or 3.5 oz good cocoa powder
Boiled frosting
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 1 oz or 2 Tbsp butter or vegan butter substitute
  • 2 Tbsp almond milk
  • 2 Tbsp good cocoa powder
  • 1/4 c full fat mayonnaise
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a bundt pan with pan spray and flour, unless you have a nonstick kind, in which case...just leave it. We're going to make the frosting first! Simply combine the first four ingredients in a small saucepot and bring to a boil. Allow it to simmer for 1 minute, stirring often, and then remove from the heat. Give it a nice stir and set aside to cool. When it's at room temperature, stir it again and add the mayonnaise to combine. 

Combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. I know it's seeming excessive, but whisk to combine and then whip on medium-high for 4 minutes. During that time, boil your water and pour it into a bowl with your espresso powder and cocoa powder. Give it a quick whisk and set aside while you gather the remainder of your ingredients.

This is called 'mise en place' and you should make it a priority.

When your 4 minutes is up, scrape the bowl with a spatula and give it one more quick whip, no more than 10 seconds or so, just to make sure that absolutely everything is incorporated. Add in your mayonnaise and whip for another minute or so, until back to its original fluffy state. 

Add in your dry ingredients, one third at a time, alternating with half of the chocolate mixture, until everything is combined without any lumps. Give the bowl a quick scrape with a spatula, especially on the bottom, and ensure that you've got every little bit of this batter homogenous. Pour into your prepared bundt cake pan and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the cake pulls away slightly from the edges of the pan and that the top of the cake springs back when touched. 

Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for about 20 minutes in the pan before turning the cake out onto a cooling rack and cool completely before finishing with the icing. Now, let's have a little story, while we're waiting for whatever we are waiting for. Maybe it's for the cake to bake? Maybe it's for the cake to cool? Either way...

One of the reasons that I made this cake is because I felt well enough to do so, but also because I had a wonderful support system at home with my husband's amazing mother coming over to help me with the baby. I wouldn't say my baby is difficult at all - but they do like to be held quite a bit. Since you can't spoil a baby, I try to give as many hugs and cuddles as I can, but I'm still learning to wear the baby with my baby sling while I cook. I've resolved to cook something at least twice per week while wearing the baby in the sling until I get better at it or until I figure something else out. I didn't wear the baby while making this cake; my mother-in-law got to cuddle the little Lemon while I got to bake this cake and give myself a breather. I know it's likely a little strange to want to bake a cake immediately after giving birth, especially if you're struggling with Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety, but what made me so happy the day I was able to make that cake was the fact that I accomplished a task that had nothing to do with my baby and that made me feel incredibly fulfilled.

A note: if you have a friend that just had a baby, please don't ask them "how can I help you?" Just go over to their house and clean something. It doesn't matter what it is or if you do it perfectly - just run a load of laundry, empty and fill the dishwasher, or take out the trash for them. Help her keep their sanity by taking one thing off her plate. Heck, even just shooting them a Venmo for enough for dinner for two would be a nice treat. I know that, for me, the thought of delegating and dictating exactly what I need during this postpartum era of my life is just as exhausting as the actual act of doing whatever it is I need to do. And you know what? Your dear friend will feel loved and will remember that. Big thanks to my friends that have helped me, as well as my family!

As for the reasoning on why I chose this cake recipe in particular: it's one of the easiest cakes to just throw together with a few readily available ingredients that's also incredibly indulgent and moist. I have been a fan lately of ease and convenience when it comes to cooking, especially with things that I can use from just whatever is in the pantry. Building up a good reserve of things instead of going to the shops every day is a much more sustainable way to live, even outside of Quarantine which is where I picked up the habit. Making your own fun at home isn't so bad, and I'm grateful that I've learned that last year. 

When my husband's coworker came to the house, my mother-in-law had already left and the house was so much cleaner than I would have had it otherwise. It wasn't that it was dirty, necessarily, just well lived-in. I felt so relieved to welcome a new friend into a relatively clean home and to send them off with a big slice of this chocolate cake. They even noticed the recipe for Spiced Rhubarb Pie on the fridge and asked about it, so of course, I had to send them home with a slice of that as well. I'm told that my husband later received a text or two asking how I got the cake to be midnight black. The answer, of course, is the right kind of cocoa powder.

Dutch-processed cocoa is going to be a fairly standard item you'll find in most grocery stores. If you want beautifully dark cakes and cookies, however, you're going to want what they call 'double dutch' cocoa powder. It's much darker than your standard cocoa powder and will have a richer flavor as well. If you can find triple-processed cocoa powder, all the better and all the darker! I would love to tell you where I got my cocoa powder but the truth is I bought a 50 lb bag some years ago from a friend whose bakery was going out of business and I'm still working through the giant tub I've got in the bottom of my pantry. (I threw the bag away a long time ago.) 

Are you done, yet? Did you ice the cake and finish it? To eat it, I highly recommend serving chocolate cake at room temperature. You can absolutely have this cake by itself, but I love my cake with a glass of ice-cold almond milk, even in the winter. You'll want to have chocolate cake at room temperature because the fragrance of the chocolate will only come out if it's not cold. This cake is criminally moist, just a little tangy from the mayonnaise, and not overly sweet so it's much easier to eat than a standard chocolate cake might be. So hey, have two slices! I think you've earned it...

I hope this has inspired you to make some cake and give yourself a little win for the day. If nothing else, you can make a nice little bit of cake for yourself to enjoy. Thank you so much to my amazing family and friends for their incredible support during my postpartum period. Thanks so much for spending a piece of your day or night with me. Happy cooking and happy eating!