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When I was thinking of something to make a couple weeks ago, it dawned on me that despite studying french pastry and regularly working on ‘ethnic’ sauces at work, I had yet to really beef up my Filipino sweets-making skills. With the exception of a long ago attempt at sesame balls (oooh gotta make that again) I haven’t really done any asian desserts. How strange is that, given that I’ve been eating them for my whole life?!

With that in mind, I decided to make hopia. If you haven’t had hopia, it’s basically a Filipino pastry with filling, the most popular being sweet yellow mung bean and is most likely available at any Filipino bakery you run into. My all time favorite hopia was made at Balingit Bakery here in Chicago. They were perfectly sized, with a crunchy but delicate shell, generous filling and perfect shell to filling ratio (So many places have way too much dough for the amount of filling). Balingit also had my most favorite ensaymada but unfortunately they’re closed now :( I heard the owners retired so I decided now was the time to try to make my own hopia with Balingit’s as my gold standard.

After some researching, I decided to go with this recipe, mainly because it uses lard. Yes, lard. I know lard gets a bad rep health-wise but it does wonders for a flaky crust! And I wanted a Balingit flaky crust! Besides everything in moderation is ok, right? ;) Making hopia is a time consuming process so I think it’s best to allow 2 days to make all the components. Overall I was pretty pleased with the results ( I achieved the Balingit smell at least haha) but I next time I’ll be making changes, which I’ll note as we go along. Oh and oddly enough I think they tasted better a couple days after I made them, rather than straight out of the oven fresh. My guess is the extra time lets all the flavors develop and come together. But enough chit chat, recipe below!

Hopia
Makes ~18 hopia

Filling
14 ounces dried peeled split yellow mung beans
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Soak beans for at least 8 hours. Drain and rinse well.
Add more water to about an inch above. Boil until beans are mostly broken down and skim the scum as it arises.
Puree in food processor in batches (see the max capacity of your container).
Place back in saucepan and continue cooking. Make sure the bottom doesn’t burn.
When almost dry (looks like mashed potato consistency), add salt and sugar. Continue stirring to cook further until dry enough. You want it to be scoop-able at room temp but not crumbly.
Transfer to jars and refrigerate.
*Next time, I would add ~1/4 cup more sugar. I thought it tasted sweet enough on its own at first but in the finished hopia it didn’t taste sweet enough. I also cooked it too long. The filling was a little too crumbly for my liking when cooled to room temp so be careful. Also with this recipe, you’ll have more filling for the amount of dough you will make. Freeze the extra filling for future hopia making :)

Dough 1:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup pork lard

Mix together until crumbly. Use your hands.
Divide into 4.

Dough 2:
Mix together until crumbly (same as in dough 1):
2 cups flour + 1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup pork lard

Once thoroughly mixed, add 1/2 cup water to the above and mix with your hand. Divide into four.
Once the two are ready, proceed as follows for each part of the two types of dough (which you now have 4 of each):
Use cling wrap above and under dough 2 to make it easier to maneuver. Flatten with rolling pin and shape into a rectangle. Distribute dough 1 above. Roll the two together. Wrap tightly with cling wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

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With plastic wrap under and over each log, roll out each log into a rectangle about ~1/8″ thick. Place desired amount of filling for a single hopia on dough (I used an ice-cream scooper) and punch out enough dough to shape the hopia. This took a fair amount of trial and error for me so be patient. Shaping also takes patience if you’ve never done this before. I gathered the circle of dough and filling in one hand and pulled up the edges with the other so that the filling becomes encased inside. I then cut off the excess dough and turned them upside down (so the smooth side is up) and flattened the whole piece. Smooth out/ round out any edges. (I realize this sounds very confusing! The original author of the recipe used has very useful slideshows so do check them out for visuals).

When ready to bake, make an egg wash of 1 egg + 1 Tbsp of water and brush the top of the hopia.

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Bake at 350F until golden brown. My oven is screwy so I don’t have an exact bake time but allow at least 10-15 mins, keeping an eye on them later in the baking process.

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I know this sounds intimidating! But it’s very do-able technique wise once you get going. Good luck and I hope this helps anyone who was as clueless as I was when I started the whole hopia process :)

10 Minute Lunch - Mango Lassi

Another part of my Argyle haul mentioned before was a box of about 15 mangoes. Since it’s mango season, each one was perfectly ripe so everyday I was lucky enough to have a nice sweet mango as dessert after my dinners. By the weekend, I still had a few mangoes left but I was in the mood for something different… There was no way I was going to let perfectly good mangoes go to waste so I raided the refrigerator to see what my options were. When all else fails the quickest way I deal with super ripe fruit is to make drinks. So…milk? Check. Yogurt? Check. Leftover cardamom from last winter’s regular chai making? Check. We are all set for mango lassis!

The first time I had a mango lassi was right after school when my old ChE crew met up at Indian Garden on the stretch of Devon Avenue where there’s a bunch of Indian restaurants and businesses. If you’ve never had it, it’s got the sweetness of mango but is creamy and slightly tangy from the yogurt. I was sold and now it’s my staple drink when I eat out at Indian restaurants.

Prepping mangoes

Makes 1-2 drinks (more like 1 if you like mangoes like me ;) )
Approx amounts – adjust to your liking
1 Mango, sliced up – approx 1 cup
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup yogurt – I used Greek yogurt, half of a standard container
1 Tbsp sugar – will depend on how sweet your mangoes are
1 pinch of cardamom – optional but I think it rounds everything out nicely w/o tasting too ‘spicy’

Blend together and serve.

Dragonfruit

The last of my dragonfruit that I bought last week is finally getting finished up. I’ve had a long standing curiosity with this fruit because of its unusual appearance and hot pink color, that I figured I’d go for it when I spotted a crate of them in Argyle. Isn’t it purty? If you view my flickr stream, you probably have seen these pics before but I just love how the colors pop! There are even some varieties where the flesh is hot pink too.

Dragonfruit

As far as the flavor goes, it reminded me of a less intense kiwi since it wasn’t nearly as sweet or tart but had the same texture. However, since it was my first time tasting it, I can’t be sure that it was entirely ripe. If anyone can shed some light on how it should taste, please enlighten me! In the meantime I’ll have to try these out again soon.

Dragonfruit

Pecan Sandies

Growing up, Keebler Pecan Sandies were a regular cookie stocked in our kitchen cabinets. My mother loved them, although I didn’t particularly care for them because they were pretty plain tasting to me and Nutter Butters and Double Stuff Oreos were more to my liking. (Aren’t all kids that way?)

Somewhere along the line, I grew up and the tasting tables have turned. When I ran across this recipe on Smitten Kitchen I had to give it a try. This version is decidedly more grown up in flavor. It’s rich and buttery and because the pecans are roasted before use, the nut flavor really stands out.

Roasted Pecans

It’s also got slightly more salt than a cookie usually has so the light sweetness is balanced out with equally light saltiness and the turbinado sugar sprinkled on top provides a little crunch. Since these are so rich, the cookies were cut into 1 inch squares so as to not be so overwhelming when eaten. Add some cold milk you’re all set. I think these would especially hit the spot once the weather starts to get colder.

Pecan Sandies

Pecan Sandies
from The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern via Smitten Kitchen

Makes approx 12 dozen, one-inch square cookies (sounds like a lot but they will move FAST)

1 cup pecans
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons turbinado (raw) sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the nuts out in one layer on a baking sheet and bake them, stirring occasionally, until they are well browned, 10 to 13 minutes (they will smell toasted and nutty). Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool.

In a food processor, grind the nuts with 1/4 cup of the flour. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat well. Sift together the remaining 1 3/4 cups of flour, the salt, and the baking powder, and add it to the dough, mixing until just combined. Stir in the nut mixture. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Roll the dough between two sheets of wax paper to 3/16 inch thick (a rectangle approximately 10 x 14 inches). Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1-inch squares. Sprinkle the cookies with the turbinado sugar. Place them 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Prick the cookies with a fork and bake until pale golden all over, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Lemon Pound Cake
Truth be told, I actually made a couple of things this past Sunday. First I’ll mention what wasn’t to be (because after what happened I’m not going to remake them anytime soon :p) – chocolate banana empanadas. In theory, it sounded pretty appetizing and I was super excited to try something new. But everything went wrong. 1) I made the dough too dry so when folding it over the filling the fold cracked open, 2) the filling itself was too liquidy and oozed all over the place and 3) the darn things wouldn’t seal closed. But I pushed on, and got a batch of decent ones. I placed them all on a plate in the fridge to cool before baking only to have the plate and all the empanadas fall to the floor and shatter when I went to open the door of the fridge. There went 2 hours of work down the drain when I could have been out and about on a beautiful Sunday Chicago afternoon. Not happy!

But there was a bright spot – my glazed lemon pound cake, a old favorite from my culinary school days. It’s not particularly fancy or difficult, but it’s something that consistently makes everyone in the house happy. The cake isn’t overly sweet and has a just enough lemon flavor, all coming from lemon zest added to the batter. The glaze has lemon juice with a moderate tart kick that is a nice contrast to the denser cake. And it sure is pretty when the glaze gets brushed on in all it’s drippy glory. Soooo at the end of it all, thanks to my faithful pound cake, the day wasn’t a complete loss. What’s your go-to recipe? (P.S. I can’t give out the recipe since its from my school’s book but there are PLENTY of recipes on the internets. ;) )

Lemon Pound Cake

When it’s hot and steamy outside, all I want to do is drink, drink, drink. And the colder the better. My drink of choice this summer has been raspberry-mint smoothies made with apple cider and blended with ice – something about the mint just brightens up the overall flavor and cools you from the inside out without tasting of toothpaste. I first had one at the Seedlings stand at a Green City Market visit in late May and I’ve been making it at home ever since.

But last week, after sampling some summer perfect watermelons at Fresh Farms I just had to take a huge wedge home and try it out in a drink too. The one below has the watermelon mixed with some fresh lime juice and the sweetness is slightly tempered with a dash of salt. The lime functions much like the mint did in the raspberry smoothie, bringing out the freshness of the watermelon without being too obvious. When blending add a little cold water if the watermelon needs some loosening up and feel free to add some sweetener if the watermelon is a little under ripe. Serve over ice, find a shaded spot outside and sit back and enjoy.

Making a Watermelon Shake

Making a Watermelon Shake

Making a Watermelon Shake

I was going to write something COMPLETELY different but this had me laughing today. :D Keep in mind my mom’s Filipino accent.

Me:
Hey Nay (mom), did you know Gabourey Sidibe’s mom is on America’s Got Talent? You know, that girl from Precious? Her mom’s a subway singer.

Her: (Keeps looking at me, I can tell she’s thinking) ….You mean to say she’s… a beggar?

Me: Haha no she just sings in the subway

Her: Because…you know… those people ask for money.
(Continues to look at me warily) Why…she cannot sing anywhere else? Why does she have to sing by the train? This is a specialty?

Me: No she just likes to do it.

Her: (Continues to look at me skeptically, then turns to do dishes and says under her breath) I don’t know about that. Something isn’t right.

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