Friday, January 22, 2010

A Bit More on Baking

Thank you for the comments! I'm so pleased that even though I'm a bad blogger in need of a kick in the ass, you guys will still come around when I muster the oomph to get a post done. So I got some suggestions and questions in the comments and thought I'd just add a bit more in a new post.

Weve asked for some recipes, so here goes!
Martha Stewart's sugar cookies are scrum, and mine worked out very well even without the fancy schmancy stand mixer she employs, or the shot of fancy liqueur she gulps from a mug during commercial breaks adds to the recipe. For a little article on sugar cookies and icing, go here.

And for the video and recipe for sugar cookies, go here.

The seriously moist so very delicious and excellent chocolate cake recipe can be found here.

A version that looks a lot like my mom's candy cane cookie recipe can be found here. And there's a couple other candy cane cookie recipes that look interesting there as well. One is dipped in a mixture of sugar and crushed candy canes after the cookie is baked. That sounds yummy, eh?

Here's a recipe for the mini cream cheese crust pecan tart things:

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 3oz. package of cream cheese*
1 cup all-purpose flour

Beat the butter and cream cheese until thoroughly mixed and then add in the flour. Using 24 ungreased 1 and a quarter inch muffin cups, press a rounded teaspoon of the pastry int the bottom and up the sides of each cup. Fill each pastry lined muffin cup with one heaping tablespoon of filling. Bake in a 325 degree oven about 30 min or until pastry is golden and filling set and puffy.

Pecan Filling: Beat together 1 egg, 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine. Stir in 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans**.

Lemon Coconut Filling:*** Divide 1/4 cup toasted coconut flakes between the cups. In another bowl combine 2 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine, 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Spoon mixture over coconut in each pastry cup.

*Where are there 3oz packages of cream cheese? That's not a very large amount. I had to convert ounces to grams and then try to divide the 250g container of cream cheese I had into appropriate portions to make up 3 oz. Seems to me it was about 2/3 of one half of the container. Math hurt head.

**I toasted the pecans, just a few short min in a dry pan over medium heat. Stay with them to supervise their roasting. If you turn your back for even a moment, or like, even glance at your watch - they'll burn.

***I didn't make these even though I had all the ingredients which are easy to get here. (Larger supermarkets will have coconut.) I haven't included the pumpkin or spiced fruit filling recipes because pumpkin sucks, and the other one required dried fruit which I can't remember seeing in Korea. Besides, isn't dried fruit what's in Christmas cake? Christmas cake sucks. No one likes dried fruit. Ick.

Weve, if you want, I'll send you an e-mail with the caramel brownie recipe and apple pie bars. Likewise, I can have a look around for the bread recipe (not pictured in the previous post) and I will do a soup post soon enough. I recently got one of those hand mixers, so I can liquefy things. Soup is so good isn't it?

I can't understand Mike's comment which I think has something to do with football? Or, he's dissing my post and cruising for a bruising sort of thing. (Anytime, pal!) Hee hee hee.

Mike asked if the Koreans liked the baked goodies (and also questioned whether they'd say so - which maybe means would they be honest about their opinion?) I can report that that Koreans who ate mah cookies LOVED them. Every single one of them made a point to search me out and tell me how delicious they were and I do believe they were sincere. I tasted everything, afterall - and can vouch for the goodness. At one point I was thinking I would bake an extra large bath of sugar cutout cookies and share them with the kids in my classes. Probably they would have loved them, but I remember way back when I made crepes with my winter classes and they didn't go over so well at all. As soon as one kid declared them inedible the rest of the students would "bahhhhh" in agreement and soon the garbage bin was filled with half eaten crepes. Those crepes were GOOD, man - so I didn't want to subject my fragile ego to the harsh and uninformed criticism of my students. If they had taken a bite of mah delicious cookies and made a face, I might have smacked 'em one good.

I brought a very large assortment of cookies to the very late dinner I went to on Christmas Day. (It was really Boxing Day, since the party didn't start until 2 am.) I thought for SURE I'd be bringing leftovers home considering the amount of food on offer at the dinner. Everyone gorged on pig intestines, thin slices of marinated beef, shrimp, and finally crab. After all that, the guests meandered over to where my cookies were laid out and tried them. I was so happy watching people's faces as their eyes got big and they agreed "Ohhhh! Mashita!" (Or mashinun?) And they'd come over and give me a thumbs up, "Jelly! Belly GUD!" Ha! And THEN they ran to the back of the restaurant and returned with a box of little plastic bags which they handed out and everyone stuffed as many cookies into their little bags as quickly as they could until everything was gone.

I hadn't even thought about that.
Damn, I hadn't even saved any cookies back at my house for me.

Having just returned from Japan, I now remember some differences between the two cultures. I'd forgotten about "hon'e" and "mie'e" - namely the way a Japanese person appears on the outside versus their true feelings on the inside. Had mah cookies totally sucked, I think it would be my Japanese friends who would graciously bow thankfully at me, for having made the cookies, and discreetly stow away the remains of the bit they hadn't eaten in their bag for later disposal. My Korean friend, upon tasting a bad cookie, would be more likely to fall over whilst pulling faces and making moans of agony, scraping their tongues off with their fingernails. Then they'd right themselves and throw the cookie to the ground, asking me why I was trying to kill them with my bad baking - as they jumped up and down on the offending cookie.

In my experience, Koreans are not shy at telling you what they think about anything, even if it might be rude. (Think, "You're fat! Why is your nose so big? Man, you're as hairy as a gorilla!")

So, yes. Long story short, mah cookies were a success. Baking - even bread is really relatively new to Koreans. It's catching on a LOT, as you might notice when you walk around and see Paris Baguette is as ubiquitous as Starbucks in the States. (Or Starbucks in Seoul? I don't know.) And occasionally they can make a very fine bread or bun here. (Seriously - I'll say it again: Cake? Not so much.) But they're also able to screw things up quite nicely as well.


Thursday, January 21, 2010


One cool thing I did before Christmas was to bake! You may think, "Well, what's so exciting about that? Just about everyone bakes before Christmas!" And yes, this is true. One of my favourite things to do before Christmas was to get together with my mother and help to make her repertoire of Christmas cookies. We'd spend a day or two mixing and shaping and rolling and decorating, and during the holiday season she'd visit the stack of Tupperware containers in the garage (it was cold in there) and assemble platters of cookies and bars for different parties and get-togethers. Every Christmas since I've been gone she always tells me that baking isn't fun anymore and she really misses me. I miss her too, and I miss the baking.

So this year I got it in my head that I was going to bake up some stuff for my friends and co-workers in Korea. It's the first opportunity I've had to bake in eight years! My friend moved to a posh new apartment building just down the road from me and her kitchen came with an OVEN! She's the only person I know in Korea that has one. Scratch that. My buddy John up in Seoul has one. I just remembered the last time I was there he made a scrummy blueberry cobbler to end off a lush roast beast lunch.

So I visited the big supermarkets downtown a couple of times to get supplies. I had to choose recipes that were compatible with what's available here, which was only a slight challenge. I think more and more Koreans are getting interested in baking. I'm quite sure that 5 years ago there was no baking section at the supermarket, whereas now there's a teeny tiny one. Since Tesco took over HomePlus, they'e got a lot of nice Tesco brand home products, and so I got a couple baking trays, a heavy square pan, and a mini muffin tray. I probably spent about a hundred and fifty dollars easily on Operation Cookies in Korea, and wished on a few occasions that I just hadn't bothered. Still, I had fun at my friend's place over three days, mixing and sifting and chopping and all that. Here are some of the results:

Sugar Cookies

I made a couple batches of these. One was a Martha Stewart recipe which turned out great, and another was a no-refrigerate recipe I snagged off the Internet.


I don't know which is which, but who cares?
These cookies are decorated with royal icing - a mixture of egg whites and icing sugar with a splash of lemon juice. I didn't tell the Koreans that I was possibly giving them salmonella for Christmas as well, but everything turned out fine.

This is a bad picture.


I remembered to take a photo of the last container of assorted cookies before they got all eaten up. Man, co-workers and friends would descend on the goodies like, well I can't make up my mind if they were more like hyenas or vultures. I just tried to stay clear and avoid all the sharp elbows. Pictured up there are mini pecan tarts with a cream cheese crust, caramel brownies, apple pie bars, and my mother's famous candy cane cookies - which are like melt-in-your-mouth shortbread goodness. I couldn't get the almond extract the recipe called for, so I substituted with about a cup of almond flour. They weren't quite like my moms, but I'm pretty sure the Korean folks didn't notice that.

Gingerbread and Cream Cheese Spirals

These were a refrigerated and roll out recipe. I couldn't make traditional gingerbread because I could not locate molasses in Korea. Oh well, I turned them into a spiced dough by adding cinnamon and cloves, and using a very dark brown sugar. I'm sure I could have gone a bit mental and added some gochu-garu (red pepper flakes) and it would have made them even more tasty and interesting. The recipe didn't call for the zig-zag of royal icing, but I thought the cookies could use just a little more sweetness. I think if I were to have a signature baking symbol, it might be the zig-zag. I imagine someday a posh woman bringing a box of treats as a housewarming gift, and the recipient - upon opening the box would gasp "Oh mah word! You have brought Treats by Jelly! I recognize that zig-zag anywhere! Why you have really outdone yourself, Lorna-Jean! You shouldn't have! It's too much!!!" My target demographic are rich Georgian socialites, I think. They talk in exclamations and would take their box of treats to munch on as they got sloshed on mint juleps.

Moving on.

I made a cake for The Princess (the manager,) whose final day at our school was on Christmas Eve. The day before, I secured a cake box from Paris Baguette. When I came into school with the box, The Princess spotted it and said "Oh! You bought a cake!"
"Nuh-uh!" I said, smacking her on the arm, " I MADE this cake for you!"

I kid you not,...she actually started to cry!

I think the whole baking idea came from my telling The Princess that I was going to try to make her a cake before she left our school. She had lived in Australia for almost a year, so she knew what Western cake is like. Moist and rich with some intensely sweet frosting, it is a beast that cannot be found on the peninsula. The Princess knows this because she has tried. At some point, Dunkin Donuts had a tiny overpriced cake that was kinda sorta almost but not quite really what she was looking for, but a few months ago they discontinued that cake. That's probably because Koreans weren't buying it because it wasn't like cake-uh should be, which is dry and airy and not overly sweet with a cuh-ream-uh topping. Use some sweet potatoes to make the cake-uh! Yah!! (They say "yah" but I say "BLAH!") So I went searching on the Internet for a recipe that I thought would produce a sinfully rich, moist, verrry chocolatey cake. I've just spent 15 minutes trying to recreate the magic combination of words I used to google my way to the recipe I ended up using. I think I have the website stored in a folder at work, so if anyone really wants it, leave a comment and I'll post it (or I'll just edit this and give the link tomorrow iffen I remember to.) I can recall the ingredients though: flour, sugar, cocoa, oil, baking powder and soda, vanilla*, sour cream, and hot coffee. The batter comes out very liquid-like and you might think it could never turn into a solid mass, but after about an hour in the oven it did!



The frosting recipe came from this thread and was pretty much cream, corn syrup, icing sugar, a pinch of salt, butter, and a bucketfull of chocolate. Rich, man. I didn't skimp, and along with a whole bag of Hershey's semi-sweet chocolate chips, I threw in a box of Lindt 70% cacao thin chocolate squares. And then, because it was insanely sweet and way too liquid, I threw in some flour. ("Flour?!?!" shouted my mother!) Yes, flour. Whatever. It wasn't much, but it helped to thicken up the frosting and ease up the punch-you-in-the-face chocolateyness <---totally a word. I still had to leave it out on the cold balcony for hours in the hopes that it would thicken up to a spreadable consistency. Score! It was perfect.

The Princess shared the cae with our co-workers and still had half of it to bring home. Before she boxed it up, I asked for a piece so I could bring it to my friend's restaurant to give them a taste. (They were the ones who loaned me the oven and their kitchen to work in. I also thanked them on the second night by baking them two loaves of sundried herbed bread and a massive pot of creamed roasted vegetable soup that I served up to them when they came home from work at 3 am.)

About a week after they tasted that cake I got a call from my friend. "You know how my husband loves chocolate? He can't stop talking about that cake you made. Ummm, could you come and make another one?" And so last week I re-visited their kitchen and made two more, one for them and another for my other co-worker and her Taekwomdo boyfriend. And, because that cake wasn't already just too much (in a very very good way, though) I added half a can of cherry filling to the middle of each cake. My god, it was goooood.

Let me just wrap up this far longer than I intended post by saying that I was really impressed with everything I made. I would have totally expected at least one dud, especially considering I haven't baked a thing in eight years, but no. Everything was fantastic. Actually, the top of the caramel brownies were just a little too done because my friend accidentally flipped the oven to "grill" but still, they looked a bit crispy but tasted great. I had a near-flop with the no-refrigeration sugar cookies when the dough turned out a crumbly un-rollable mess, but I googled how to rescue them with a little water and more kneading and they turned out fine. I had loads of chocolate frosting left over(my friend described that cake as "delicious cake with a chocolate bar on top) and decided to combine the best of everything into one pièce de résistance:

Sugar Cookie Sandwiches with Chocolate Frosting Centres and Royal Icing Stripes.

*Oh, vanilla. I can't seem to find vanilla extract, but they probably have it somewhere up in Seoul. I did get some "vanilla sugar," which was more like a cross between flour and sugar. When a recipe called for vanilla - and really, they all did - I just threw in a couple teaspoons of that stuff. Improvithse people, *clap clap!* improvithse!

Friday, January 08, 2010


Santa has gotten into the scotch again. He's so loaded he can't even hold his sax. He just blows pitifully into it, and it sounds like an injured goose.


There are lots of things to update, but being a better blogger wasn't on my list of New Years resolutions. Not making any resolutions was on my list of resolutions, so we're just going to have to see how it goes over here at I Got Shoes.

I came home last night to find my next door neighbour barely standing outside his door, much like poor 'ole Santa. It was a bitterly cold night and even though I was all bundled in layers and winter accoutrement, I hurried toward my door looking forward to turning on the ondol to toast my tootsies. I greeted my neighbour with a "hello" and he responded with "help-uh me." Turns out he was on his own - I guess his wife and 4th grade son have gone off to visit the grandparents while the kid is on winter vacation. Dad, still dressed in his factory uniform sans coat was so sloshed he was falling asleep whilst standing, and he had no keys. "Hmmm," I said, "You're in a real predicament, eh? She's a mighty cold tonight. What'cha gonna do?" Dad barely raised his head, having understood nothing I'd said, and slurred again "Help-uh me."

Inviting him in was out of the question. I could call a taxi and somehow coax him down the eight flights of stairs to it. I wondered if he had any money. I could pay for the cab. Tell the taxi driver to take him to a motel. I could pay for the motel. I could ring the neighbouring doorbells. It was barely midnight. We could all help-uh. Maybe there was a locksmith still open. Maybe one of them could shimmy over from my balcony to his. Maybe if I roused enough neighbours we could carry him down to the parking lot and fling him up to his 4th story balcony.

Or not.

"Don't freeze to death," I said as I slid into my now unlocked and open door. Inside I sighed as I felt the heat from the floor radiating into my tired feet. I had spent a long day at work, busy and very stressed out by the new manager who is quickly revealing herself as a moody bi-polar controlling bitch with an autocratic management style. I've been concentrating my efforts to leave the day's tension outside my door, and so I was relieved to be home again, solo, safe, and sober. The tension I'd left outside had now manifested into a cold, drunken adjosshi who was now alternately kicking my door and ringing the bell. Adding a simile to my alliterative status update, like a selfish shellfish I retreated into my head and popped in my MP3's earphones, refusing to let the problems on the other side of the door get a rise out of me. I checked a couple hours later, and my neighbour wasn't waiting for me in popsicle form, so I suppose he'd somehow managed to solve his own problems. Good news for both of us!

I think I mentioned it before, but one of the medications I'm (still) taking is called Enafon in Korea. It's amitriptyline, which is an anti-depressant - and I feel almost lucky that I've been prescribed it for the after-effects of shingles. Considering all the upheaval that's taken place in the last few months, it's really worked well; despite all the crap, I've been feeling alright. Something has to change at work, though. We can't carry on like we have been, so I've been trying to figure out how we can work together in peace. We shall see.

For a long time, my thoughts have been on my friend Kevin and his family. If you've been around the Korean blogoshpere for awhile, you'll surely remember Kevin from his Big Hominid blog. His mother passed away on Wednesday after a short battle with brain cancer. If you're so inclined, you could stop by and offer your condolences. I'm hoping his family can find strength in remembering Kevin's mom during happier periods of their lives as they go through these difficult days.

And for you,...yes YOU! I wish you a very belated Merry Christmas and a peacuful New Year.