White Chocolate and Lemon Curd Tart + Candied Lemons

I’d like to live by the sea one day. I imagine a cloudy morning and I’m walking barefoot by the shore with sand in between the toes. The silent waves push and pull the sand away. I look out towards the horizon and I’m at peace.

When I was in college I attended this workshop organised by our university’s local peace institute. One by one, each of us from our small group would share his/her idea of peace. And that was my answer, brief but really hopeful. I was going through a rough patch during that time. And I would want nothing else than to escape and leave all worries behind. We’ve all been slaves to our hedonistic daydreams, maybe for a minute, maybe for a lot longer.

What I said was true, I’d like to live by the sea one day. And maybe I could throw in a nice house to go with the view. But more than anything else I’d like to divest myself of worldly problems. The assumption is by the time I do manage to save up for that dream, I’ve already swum with the sharks, climbed rugged mountains and danced on top of hot coals.

And almost every day I’d like to churn out beauties like these.
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I’ll share the recipe for the walnut and salted caramel tart soon. But for now, let’s feast:
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White Chocolate and Lemon Curd Tart with Candied Lemons

Not everyone can stand, let alone enjoy white chocolate per se. But when it’s tempered with a contrast in flavour, it becomes bearable, more often very very delicious, with the right amount of sweet and tart notes.

The recipe for the tart crust was adapted from Food Magazine’s April 2013 dessert issue – the vodka pie crust by Ginny Roces de Guzman. I have her cookbook, Bake Me A Cake, and I think it’s a beautiful labor of love. The lemon curd is just a standard recipe I got here.

  • 1 vodka crust
  • 1 recipe lemon curd (you will have leftover curd, but it’s versatile enough to be a fridge staple!)
  • White chocolate ganache
  • Candied lemons (you can do this ahead of time)

Make the white chocolate ganache

  • 300 grams good quality white chocolate, chopped
  • 150 grams whipped cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. In a pot, heat the vanilla and cream to a boil.
  2. In a heatproof bowl, combine the white chocolate and the hot cream. With a spatula, mix everything together until the chocolate has melted and it’s smooth.
  3. If there are still bits and pieces, you may need to place the bowl over a water bath, or microwave it for 10-second intervals until smooth. Set aside when done.

Make the crust (this recipe produces two crusts. You only need one for the tart, save the other one for inevitable use)

  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  1. Combine vodka and water and put into the freezer.
  2. In a bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups flour, salt and sugar. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter into grain-sized pieces. When the mixture gets a little pasty, add the remaining 1 cup flour.
  3. Sprinkle vodka water on the flour mixture. Use a rubber scraper to press and mix until it comes together to form a dough.
  4. Divide the dough in half. Pat each into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap  and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  5. When ready to use, let the dough rest on the counter so it will be easier to handle.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 F/200 C.
  7. Lightly flour your workbench and rolling pin. Roll out the crust to fit a 9-inch tart pan. Carefully transfer to the pan.
  8. With a fork, poke the crust. This will prevent it from being too puffy. Cover the crust with aluminium foil and add rice or pie weights.
  9. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375 F and continue to bake for 20 – 30 minutes. Let cool.

Make the candied lemons

  • 2 lemons, sliced thinly, seeds carefully removed
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup water
  • enough water to cook the slices in a small or medium-sized pot
  1. Heat water to a boil and lower the heat to a gentle simmer.
  2. Add the lemon slices and allow to cook for 30 minutes.
  3. Combine water and sugar in a nonstick pan. Over medium heat, melt the sugar mixture until it becomes clear and syrup-like. Carefully arrange the slices evenly on the pan. Reduce the heat to very low.
  4. Allow the slices to cook and the sugar mixture to slowly caramelise. The slices have to take on the nice amber colour of the caramel. Be careful not to burn the sugar mixture. This will take around 30 minutes to an hour.
  5. Remove from the pan and allow to cool on a tray lined with nonstick paper.

Combine everything:

  1. Remove the crust from the tart pan and onto a plate or cake board.
  2. Spread a thin layer of curd over the crust.
  3. Slowly pour the ganache over the curd.
  4. Top with candied lemons.
  5. Chill in the refrigerator until the ganache has set.

It has finally happened

The previous week bogged me down and left me with little energy to write, or at least think about what to write. Dawn until dusk I spent it in school working in the kitchen, preparing what needs to be done for the little cafe project that served as our final requirement. To capture the craziness that went on would be difficult, and this post isn’t really about that. It’s about a totally different kind of crazy that I thought wouldn’t really happen to me this soon, but apparently the universe knows how to throw a good curveball.

A few months ago Yedy approached me with an idea: submit a few recipes for a magazine she writes for and let’s see how it goes. Well, right now I can finally, finally cross one item off my bucketlist: see my name in print, on a real magazine.
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Gala Magazine isn’t exactly a food magazine. It’s really geared towards events, but beyond the niche, I especially enjoy the intelligently written content coupled with great photos, even if I’m not an alternative band fan or a runner, or a traveller. Wait, just how sheltered am I again?

But each month content is expanding and I’m really humbled and grateful to be part of that movement, even for just one issue.

So for its May issue you can read about (and hopefully make) my version of French macarons with buttercream and pan-fried salmon belly with mushrooms and lemon butter sauce! Gala is available around NCR, wherever there’s a National bookstore outlet, Starbucks, or fancy hotel (so I’ve been told).
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Lemon and Pepper Chicken

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If there was a battle between lemons and calamansi (the small native Philippine lime), I’d be rooting for the lemon. My friends think it’s strange that I don’t like calamansi, considering that I’m Filipino. Sometimes when we’re eating out, and we would be given tiny saucers so we can make our own dip out of soy sauce, vinegar and calamansi, they would grab my pieces without hesitation. What’s exactly my beef with this little defenseless humble lime? Well, I would always rationalize that this ‘loathing’ doesn’t have any rationalization. I just don’t like it. But maybe, if I need to give concrete insight, maybe the calamansi’s citrus scent doesn’t appeal to me, the way the fresh clean lemon scent does.

The lemon’s scent and acidity lend themselves well with chicken. I decided to make this on the fly because people were coming over (another story altogether, sorry if I’m being evasive!), and I was supposed to serve this to them, but the chicken ended up wrapped in foil for  them to take home. The first batch ended up pretty dry but still flavorful, probably because I left them too long in the oven. As soon as the chicken hits the one hour mark, that’s when my paranoia sinks in, because I still want the chicken to be moist. I think I achieved it with the second batch (the ones pictured), because it tasted just the way I imagined it to be  – the fresh tartness of the lemon absorbed by the meat, with delicate, paper-thin skin, and yes, it’s flavorful down to the bones.

But of course if you’re a calamansi purist, I see no reason why you can’t use it instead of the lemons. But if you do have lemons lying around, well, you know what to do.

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Lemon and Pepper Chicken (serves 6 – 8)

  • chicken leg and thigh, 6 pieces each
  • juice of 3 lemons
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • a generous dash of freshly cracked black pepper, around 2 -3 tablespoons
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons salt (or more, to taste)
  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold the chicken. Add in the chicken and marinate for at least an hour, preferably overnight.
  2. When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 200 C. Arrange the chicken pieces in a baking pan, preferably with a rack, with the bottom of the pan lined with foil to catch the drippings.
  3. Place the pan in the oven and bake for an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. flipping halfway. Bake until chicken’s skin is golden brown and the meat is done.
  4. When done, remove from oven and serve warm. Enjoy!

Ice Candy Duo: Lemonade & Milk Tea

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I had a lot of vivid memories growing up, spending lazy days at home, far far from the clutches of school – watching Dink The Little Dinosaur, flying kites with my dad, playing “tumbahang lata” with the neighbors’ kids, starting an aquarium more than once, all of which ended in massive extinction, and a particularly graphic scene of a little calamansi fruit, literally frying with the juice boiling on the concrete, under the scorching heat of the sun. Yes, summers are more fun in the Philippines.

My childhood summers are one of the sweetest moments of the life, particularly because I didn’t like going to school, and there was always something to do at home or outside. That was the good life. I didn’t care for anything else, except that I wanted to have fun. Going back to school  takes those golden moments away. It’s also a part of life (and a fact) that growing up pushes these memories aside, making room for new priorities, interests, and even friends.
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Moving on to happy thoughts…

Judging by the heat, the scorching  summer has definitely arrived. When I was growing up, summer also meant that ICE CANDY season has also arrived. Ice Candy, is basically any refreshing liquid of your choice, poured into thin, flimsy plastic ‘wrappers’ specifically made for ice candy, tied up and frozen. That’s it.
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How is it supposed to be eaten? You bite into and tear off a little piece of plastic from the bottom, then suck away. The heat from your hands will begin to melt the ice, and it’s a venerable treat to relish the liquid that’s slowly dancing in between liquid and solid. I can’t get any better than that.

Because I was a wee fledgling when the ice candy craze kicked in, making it involved teamwork. I would pour the liquid into the wrapper, and my Mama Eng would tie it all up and place it in the freezer. Sometimes, the neighborhood kids would help out as well. We’re tight like that. Then we would sell it for 1 peso a pop. One summer, the craze was so popular, every single household in our extension was selling ice candy! A classic ice candy flavor would have to be Milo. Fruits juices only ranked second.
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This month would mark my first attempt at joining Kulinarya Club’s monthly theme activity. I received confirmation of my membership around mid-February, and I’ve been looking forward to taking crack at the March theme: ice candy (thanks to Jun of Jun-Blog and Arnold of Inuyaki for this stroke of brilliance).

I put my own spin to this oldie-but-goodie by showcasing two flavors that I’ve fallen in love with recently: lemonade and milk tea.
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I’m not really a calamansi juice person, though I won’t mind if it’s liberally drizzled over a plate of palabok. There’s just something…cleaner and fresher about the smell and taste of lemons that takes me away from the humidity and unforgiving heat of the day. My mom’s lemonade ratio really hits the spot each and every time – the flavor of the tart lemons and the sweet sugar marries perfectly. I can finish a pitcher in one day.
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Milk tea has been a growing trend here in the Philippines and I’ve had my fair share of it over the past few months. But I’m proud to say that among the milk teas that I’ve tasted, Zamboanga’s own Zensonita (Zen-son-night-ta) is one of the best in my book. It shares the top spot with Gong Cha. That says a lot. Zensonita is unpretentious and serves it like it is, no gimmicks, no frills. Visit their store along Nunez extension and order all three bestsellers: original, tarik and strawberry. I tried to replicate their original flavor – basic black tea with a slurry of fresh and condensed milk.

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And as the song goes: “summertime, and the livin’ is easy”. Ice candy might as well be the songwriter’s muse, maybe even the perfect symbol.

Ice Candy Duo

Lemonade

  • 6 cups  cold water
  • 3 – 4 lemons
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar

Mix everything in a pitcher and allow to chill in the refrigerator.

Milk Tea

  • 4 cups water
  • 3 bag black tea
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup fresh milk
  • 1/2 cup condensed milk, or more to taste
  1. Boil water in a pot over medium heat. Once boiled, remove from heat and add the tea bags. Allow to steep for 10 – 15 minutes or until a strong tea flavor is achieved. When done, remove tea bags. When cooled, transfer the tea to a pitcher.
  2. Mix the fresh and condensed milk together in a small bowl or cup. Add to the tea and mix well. Adjust the taste to your preference.

Make the ice candy:

  1. If you’re working alone, it’s best to have a mug/cup with you. Place the plastic tubes/wrappers inside the mug with prop it in such a way that it’s resting on the rim of the mug/cup.Photobucket
  2. Use a small funnel to pour the liquid in, filling the wrapper a little over halfway to 3/4ths full. Take the excess plastic and tightly twist it to compress the liquid inside. Use your fingers to roll the excess plastic until it’s toothpick-thin, so it will be easier to twist.Photobucket
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  3. Twist the excess plastic around your finger, and loop it around to make a knot. Repeat the process until you have your desired number. Freeze until firm and enjoy!Photobucket

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    The 3rd one from the left is what you'll get when you won't twist the excess plastic enough

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Slightly Crepes Suzette

So after my less than stellar attempt at crepes last time, and no, I haven’t really tried Spam as a filling, I decided to try my luck with a sweet crepe recipe. I was perusing an old step by step cookbook my mom had lying around when saw this Crepe Suzette recipe that I’ve always wanted to do but I always end up forgetting to. I also wanted to make something before my dad leaves for schooling so consider me sentimental right now.

Crepes Suzette is basically crepes with a butter sauce made of melted butter, caramelized sugar, orange juice and zest and liquor, usually Grand Marnier. Now I enjoy alcohol as much as the next person but I don’t really have it lying around, so I opted not to add any alcohol to the sauce. The flambe would’ve been cool, but I’ll save that for another day.

And I know that we had oranges in fridge, because I was there when we bought them. But they were no where to be seen and I couldn’t really find someone to blame for that..yet, so instead of orange juice, I opted for lemon juice. I know that lemon juice is tarter than orange juice so I reduced the amount of juice needed.

But the combination of rich butter and the clean smell of the lemon just filled the kitchen with total awesomeness. Now I think the sauce could’ve been better; the flame wasn’t at its lowest when I wanted to melt the sugar. I think it melted too fast. So maybe next time I could be a little more patient, because I’m really not. But still, tasting the finished product – a crepe with sugar, butter and lemon just made my day. The taste still lingers in my mouth. I now after a few hours, I’m hungry as hell…again.

Basic Sweet Crepes (makes around 8 -10 crepes)

  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 3/4 cup cold milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup melted butter + 1/4 cup extra for brushing the pan (one butter block is one cup. 1/2 cup is half the block <1 stick> and 1/4 cup is half the stick)
  1. Combine all liquid ingredients in a blender. Add the dry ingredients and melted butter; mix on high.
  2. Stain batter. Let rest for 30 minutes
  3. Heat a nonstick 10 inch skillet over medium high heat. Brush bottom and sides of pan with melted butter.
  4. Ladle 1/2 cup batter into skillet and swirl to coat bottom evenly. Cook until lightly browned, about 1 – 2 minutes. Using a spatula or your fingers, flip the crepe and cook the other side until lightly browned, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  5. Transfer crepes to a platter. Layer crepes over each other with parchment paper in between.

Sauce

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
  1. Melt the butter in a skillet over LOW fire. Add the sugar and allow to melt. Be patient. Make sure that the heat is at its lowest. Add the lemon juice and mix well. Add the lemon zest.
  2. Add the crepes, 3 – 4 at a time and allow to cook in the sauce for 1 minute. Remove from the pan. Arrange on a plate and pour the sauce over the crepes and serve warm.