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This cake roll is light and refreshing thanks to the lemon whipped cream filling. I find the rolling part is fun. If rolling up the large cake size is too intimidating for you, cut the sheet cake in half then roll them up separately. This way it’ll be much easier to handle, plus you’ll have two cake rolls instead of one!
Cake Roll with Lemon Whipped Cream

Cake Roll with Lemon Whipped Cream

Cake Roll with Lemon Whipped Cream (makes 16-18 slices, 1-inch thickness each)

Ingredients:

Egg yolk mixture:
7 egg yolks
4 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp oil
3 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup plus 5 tbsp cake flour
4 tsp hot water

Egg white mixture:
7 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
6 tbsp sugar

Lemon Whipped Cream (whip cream and powder sugar first, add lemon juice then whip a little more to blend. Can be made ahead and keep chill in the fridge ):
1 cup whipping cream
5-6 tbsp powder sugar
4-5 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Method:

  1. Line a large baking pan (12″ x 17″ x 1″) with parchment paper. Position oven rack at upper half of the oven (about 1/3 to the oven top). Preheat oven to 350 degree F.
  2. Add egg yolks to a large mixing bowl. Use a ballon whisk to break the yolks before adding sugar (this will prevent sugar from sticking to the surface of the yolks and ensure dissolving of sugar). Whisk vigorously until it turns fluffy, pale yellow looking and increases in volume, several minutes.
  3. Add oil, milk and salt. Whisk again to blend well.
  4. Sift in cake flour in 3 batches. After each addition, whisk to combine until no dry flour and the batter is smooth. Use ballon whisk to scrap off flour on the side of the bowl. Add hot water and mix well.
  5. Whip egg whites in a separate clean mixing bowl on high speed, until bubbles are small and no visible clear egg whites. Add cream of tartar and continue whipping on high speed until the mixture turns white completely. Add in sugar, one tbsp at a time, and use a spatula to scrap down the bowl. Continue whipping on high speed to a “sheen” stage, then reduce to low speed for another 1-2 minutes (to remove any big bubbles, thus produces a more delicate fine texture). The egg whites is ready when it has a soft peak (soft curl at the tip when lifted the whisk).
  6. Gently fold in 1/3 of whipped egg whites to the yolk mixture, turning the bowl while folding in the egg whites, until all blended. Do not over work or you will burst all the air bubbles and result in dense cake. Gently fold in another 1/3 of egg whites. The batter should be lighter now. Pour yolk mixture to egg whites bowl. Fold in gently until all incorporated.
  7. Pour batter onto baking pan ad spread evenly with a spatula. Slightly drop pan on a surface a couple of times to remove any big bubbles. Bake in preheated oven for 20-22 minutes.
  8. Remove cake from the oven, then slightly drop pan a couple times. Transfer cake with parchment paper onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
  9. Prepare a sheet of parchment paper larger than the cake size. Put it on top of cake then flip cake upside down. Carefully peel off the liner paper. Spread lemon whipped cream evenly on the cake, then roll up like a jelly roll lengthwise. Wrap up the roll with the large parchment paper and chill for at least 2 hours. Make sure the seal side faced down.
  10. Cut cake roll to 1-inch thickness and serve. Sprinkle powder sugar if desired.

Pecan Macaroons

I hardly eat or use pecans in my baking, maybe because my impression of it stays in sticky pecan pie, which is awfully sweet to me. A while ago I tried out a bakery in Castro Valley called Karin Johnson, and bought a couple of pecan macaroons due to rave reviews on Yelp. Those small size pecan macaroons were not cheap, and they also changed my mind on pecans. The macaroons were chewy, and full of pecan flavor. Too sweet? Very much so! However, I liked the pecan flavor that much that I was willing to give in to the awfully sweetness (which is not a typical me), nibbling the macaroons a little at a time.

I guess I like pecan more than I expected– enough so for me to search up pecan macaroons recipes online at a later time. I looked at all the foodie pictures online and the range is wide. Finally I had my eye on this recipe by deb’s pots— it’s the closest to what I had from Karin Johnson. I bought pecans. I kept the online recipe opened on my iPad for months. But pecan macaroons never happened in my kitchen, not until Christmas time annual new cookie tryout. You see, the timing was finally right— I had egg whites leftovers from making my Christmas tiramisu giveaway, and I didn’t have to look further for new cookie tryout (which is a thing for me!) for our Christmas bake at home.

Pecan Macaroons

Pecan Macaroons

Pecan Macaroons, a bite into chewy pecan heaven.

Pecan Macaroons, a bite into chewy pecan heaven.

Pecan Macaroons– adapted from Pecan Macaroons by deb’s pots (makes 50 pieces)

Ingredients:
6 cups pecans– lightly toasted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup egg whites (4 egg whites)– see note below
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line baking pans with parchment paper.
  2. Grind pecans in a food processor for 1 minute. Add in sugar and process until all blended. Add in egg whites, vanilla extract and salt. Process until mass forms around the blade.
  3. Use a small ice cream scoop, scoop batter (tablespoonful, leveled) onto lined baking pan, leaving 1 inch apart. Bake for 25 minutes, turning halfway of necessary (depending on your oven). Let macaroons cool in the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Regina’s Note:

  • Sugar: The amount of sugar is kept the same even I doubled the amount of pecans from the original recipe. The macaroons were still sweet, but not over the border. Next time I’ll try cut it down to 1/3 cup.
  • Egg whites: I suggest not to add in all egg whites at once. The batter should be thick enough (like a thick pecan paste) to form a shape without spreading out too much. Don’t worry if your batter turns out too runny, just add more grind pecans (1 cup at a time) until it reaches the right consistency.

I found out I like lemon more and more, especially the Eureka variety that really has a very refreshing lemony fragrance. Unfortunately, for lemony baked goods I get from stores, it’s usually too sweet and not lemony enough for my liking. I want to taste the tangy flavor… with this mind I created this cookie recipe to try for our annual Christmas cookie bake at home.

The results? I like it a lot. The coconut flavor is there but subtle compared the sunny cheery lemons. These cookies give a refreshing change to the typical sweet cookies around Christmas holidays. The glaze is a MUST!

May your Christmas as joyous as these lemon shorties!

Coconut Lemon Shortbread Cookies. Before glaze. Look at the yellow specks of lemon zest!

Coconut Lemon Shortbread Cookies. Before glaze. Look at the yellow specks of lemon zest!

Coconut Lemon Shortbread Cookies, after glaze.

Coconut Lemon Shortbread Cookies, after glaze.

Coconut Lemon Shortbread Cookies (makes around 50 Cookies)

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut– grated and toasted to light brown
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh lemon zest (about 5 large lemons)– see note below
1/2 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter– softened

Lemon Glaze (mix until smooth):
1 cup powder sugar, plus a little more if needed
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients (except butter) in a large bowl. Mix to blend well.
  2. Add butter and use finger to rub butter into the flour mixture, until it forms a dough.
  3. Place dough on parchment paper. Shape the dough into a log and roll it up tight (using a rolling pin if you feel comfortable with this method, see note below). Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours until harden.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking pan with parchment paper.
  5. Cut dough into 1/4 inch thickness and place on baking pan, 1 inch apart. Bake for 20-22 minutes, turning halfway during baking. To prevent cookies from spreading out too much in the oven, keep unbaked dough in the fridge at all times until it’s ready to bake.
  6. After removing for the oven, let cookies sit in baking pan for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Once cookies are completely cooled, dip the cookies top into lemon glaze then let them dry for 1 hour. When the glaze is dried, you can stack the cookies and store in airtight container.

Regina’s Note:

  • Lemon zest: To help lemon zest mix into flour mixture better, I washed lemons and dry completely with paper towel to keep the zest as dry as possible.After zesting, I finely chopped instead of grating lemon peel from straight– I found grating will break out the lemon oil in the peel and form little lumps, which is hard to break up in flour mixture.
  • Lemon glaze: Even with 1/2 cup of lemon zest in the cookie dough, the unglazed cookies still don’t have a prominent lemon flavor to my liking. Lemon glaze really brings out the soul of that bursting refreshing lemony flavor. Take care of the ratio of lemon juice and powder sugar, thicker glaze results in sweeter instead of tangy flavor. Thinner glaze creates more rundown which means thinner layer of glaze, resulting less prominent lemon flavor.
  • Grated desiccated coconut: always toast to light golden brown (in a dry clean frying pan, low heat stir constantly) to bring out the aroma of coconut. I like to use unsweetened coconut because it doesn’t stick together after grating and toasting, making it easier to mix with flour mixture. If sweetened coconut is used, reduce amount of sugar.

The orange zest really gives these rich chocolate muffins a bright, fresh flavor, and they taste just like orange dark chocolate candy. Better yet, these muffins freeze well for a quick orange chocolate indulgence.

Merry Christmas, from my kitchen to yours!

Dark Chocolate Orange Zest Muffins

Dark Chocolate Orange Zest Muffins

Chocolate Orange Zest Muffins– adapted from Moufflet 100 Gourmet Muffins by Kelly Jaggers (yields 12 muffins)

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 4 large oranges
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, plus extras for topping

Method:

  1. Line muffin pan with paper liners. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, and brown sugar.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine sour cream, milk, eggs, oil, vanilla extract, and orange zest. Whisk to blend well.
  4. Make a well in the center of dry mixture. Pour in wet ingredients all at once. Use a spatula, gently fold in the ingredients until it is almost combined. Then fold in 1 cup of chocolate chips. Do not over work the batter.
  5. Spoon batter into lined muffin cups. Dot the tops with extra chocolate chips. Bake at preheated oven for 20-22 minutes, or until the muffins spring back when gently pressed in the center. Cool in the pan for 3 minutes the transfer to a cooling rack. Muffins are best when served warm.

Regina’s Note:

  • Sour cream and milk: this recipe was created using whatever leftovers I had in my refrigerator. Use 1 cup of sour cream or plain yogurt if available. My general rule around this flexibility on liquid is that when it’s whisked with the eggs the consistency should be slightly thicker than heavy whipping, or just like a creamy salad dressing.
  • Orange zest: original recipe uses 1 tbsp of orange zest, but don’t think it will have much orange flavor. I used zest of 4 large oranges (roughly 5-6 tbsps) and the flavor was very nice.

Fish with Spicy Black Bean Sauce 香辣豆豉魚片

Ingredients:

2 lbs Basa fish fillets (4 fillets)– see note below
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp corn starch

Sauce:
3 cloves garlic– chopped
5 red hot peppers– chopped
2 stalks green onions– chopped
2 tbsp cooking oil
2-3 tbsp fermented black beans 豆豉
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce

Method:

  1. Defrost fish fillets, then cut each fillets into 4 pieces. Boil water (enough to cover the fish) in a pot.
  2. Right before putting fish into boiling water, marinate fish with fresh lemon juice, fish sauce and corn starch. Mix to coat well.
  3. Gently lay fish pieces into boiling water, piece by piece so it doesn’t break apart. Cook until the fillets float up. Gently remove fish with a strainer scoop and arrange on a plate.
  4. To make the sauce, heat up a wok with 2 tbsp cooking oil, sauté garlic, peppers, black beans and green onions until aromatic, add in soy sauce and oyster sauce. Stir to blend well. Please note this is not a watery sauce and it’s kind of dry. Spoon the sauce over the fish.

Regina’s Note:

  • Basa fish fillets: it is usually a product from Vietnam and comes in individually frozen fillets. You can find it in Asian grocery stores in frozen seafood section.
  • Marinate fish right before cooking them, or else the acidity of lemon juice will ruin the texture of the fish.
  • The black bean sauce can be made ahead of time.

Happy 4th to all of you that are celebrating! Did you fill up with all delicious grilled meats and enjoy the fireworks?

During the week of July 4th there is always a meat sale in every grocery store, so it’s a good time to stock up some of your favorite meat in the freezer. I used to buy pre-marinated tri tip at Costco that comes in vacuum sealed pack. Then my local Safeway store was having a BOGO deal on tri tip. I bought some and started making my own marinade. It’s actually quite easy to prepare– just mix all seasoning together and marinate the meat in a ziplock bag. Besides playing around seasoning ingredients for different flavors, you also have control on amount of salt in the marinade. Many times I find pre-marinated meat are too salty.

Beef Tri Tip Roast (serves 5-7 people)

Ingredients:
1 piece (about 4 lbs) beef tri tip

Marinade:
4-5 tbsp fresh lemon juice
6 tbsp honey
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp sweet mesquite seasoning– I used Kirkland brand from Costco
1 tbsp granulated garlic
1 tbsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp chicken powder– optional
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin

Method:

  1. If your tri tip is untrimmed then trim off excess thick fat, but do keep a thin layer of fat as it will keep the meat moist during roasting and adds flavors to the meat.
  2. Mix well all marinade ingredients in a bowl. Place meat in a ziplock bag and pour marinade in the bag. Coat well and push out as much air as you seal the bag. Marinate overnight in the fridge.
  3. Remove meat from the fridge and let it sit in room temperature for a while (at least 30 minutes) before roasting. Preheat oven to 375F degree and position the rack in the middle of the oven. Place tri tip in a deep roasting e with fat side up, roast for 40-50 minutes.
  4. Remove the meat from the oven. Cover tri tip with foil and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. Slice and serve. Pour any dripping from the roasting pan (after spoon off the fat) and meat juice (from slicing the meat) over the sliced meat to add more flavors and moisture to the meat.

Regina’s Note:

  • Flavor: I used sweet mesquite seasoning so my tri tip has a sweet smoky and slightly tangy flavor. Feel free to play with your favorite seasoning. Because tri tip is a thick cut of meat, so marinade is a preferred method to get the seasoning penetrated to the meat. Dry rub seasoning only gives flavors to the surface of the tri tip but not the center of the meat.
Sausage and Shrimp Penne Pasta

Sausage and Shrimp Penne Pasta

Sausage and Shrimp Penne Pasta (serves 6-8 people)

Ingredients:

1 lb penne pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
6 cloves garlic– finely chopped
1 lb spicy Italian sausage– pull to form small pieces, see note below
1 lb raw shrimps
6-10 white button mushroom– trim off the stems and cut into pieces same size as sausages
2 cups of baby spinach leaves
15 oz. (1 jar) of Classico Creamy Alfredo pasta sauce
1 tsp chili flakes
Salt to taste
5 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese

Method:

  1. Cook penne pasta as directed from package instructions. Reserve some pasta water.
  2. Heat olive oil in a big frying pan over medium heat then add sausages. Stir a few times to loose up the meat.
  3. When the meat is half way cooked, add garlic to sauté until aromatic. Add mushrooms and stir several times.
  4. Add in shrimps. Stir until shrimps is half way cooked. Scatter in spinach leaves and make a stir.
  5. Turn heat to medium low. Add in cooked penne pasta. Stir to combined thoroughly. Stir in Alfredo sauce, followed by chili flakes, salt and grated Parmesan cheese. The pasta should have some sauce. Add pasta water if necessary. Serve hot immediately.

Regina’s Note:

  • Pasta: I like al dente texture, so when the pasta is half way cooked (or more on the raw side), I turn off the heat and let the pasta sit in the pot. It will continue to cook in the hot pasta water. Meanwhile I work on the sautéing other ingredients. When I’m ready to transfer pasta to the pan, I scoop (scoop with holes at the bottom for straining) pasta quickly, carrying some pasta water to the pan, and thus producing creamier texture. The pasta water helps bind pasta and the sauce together and is considered liquid gold for pasta chefs.