Fluffy Chinese Bakery Bread (Sweet & Savory Fillings)

food

Bread is my rock. I can survive with bread and some butter (maybe cheese), and the beautiful thing about bread is that it comes in all shapes and sizes and is a staple in every single country. I believe in the it is said that bread brings people together, because people sit down, break bread, and just talk to create bonds and meaningful relationships.

As a result of my love for bread, it is also my favorite thing to make. The texture of dough is fun to work with and the science behind bread making is stunning. Every single bread I’ve made up to this date has been homemade because I have not yet invested in a stand mixer. It certainly cuts production time by about half, but whenever I consider buying one, I just know that I can do it all by hand, and why let a machine do something that I can do? Plus, kneading dough is a FANTASTIC workout, so why not burn a few calories while at it?

As I move on to discussing Asian bakery bread, in particular, from Taiwan or China, I just want to state that Asian bread rocks. It’s unique in that it much softer, butterier, and fluffier, and often filled with combinations of unique flavors such as 1.) mayo, corn, pork sung, and green onions 2.) pudding and sugar crust 3.) ham, onions, and garlic sauce 4.) Red bean and sesame paste…. The combinations are infinite and as bizarre as some sound, they all end up working well together. Asian bread is famous for using a tangzhong method, but I found that it’s not necessary to making fluffy bread. Simple ingredients and the proper technique can result in a successful bread.

_DSC0110

Ham, pesto, and cheddar loaf

I’ve failed in making bread a plethora of times before I fully understood the science behind bread. My failures were tough, but I want to post my tips below to ensure the proper bread is made.

My mistakes:

  • Must use lukewarm water: about 105 F. I always had my water too hot, and the yeast died, resulting in flat bread.
  • Always add sugar to yeast to activate yeast efficiently. A 1/2 tsp of yeast is sufficient.
  • Do not add flour to yeast mixture until there are plenty of bubbles. Takes about 15-20 min. This will help rising and ensure the bread is nice and soft.
  • Room temperature for rising is sufficient (around 80-85 F). BTW 83 F is room temperature for my family 🙂  I always killed my yeast by placing it in a warmed oven. Unnecessary waste of energy and resulted in failure.
  • Adding excess flour when the dough initially seems wet is a NO NO. I’ve dried out my dough several times because I was impatient to knead the dough more, and I added flour which dried the dough. If the dough is sticky, continue to knead and add 1/2 tsp flour slowly at a time until the dough is smooth. If the recipe is followed correctly, not much extra flour will need to be added. TRUST ME ON THIS! I’ve made bad breads too many times due to this mistake.
  • Hand kneading can take up to 30 minutes. Dough must bounce back, feel springy, and pass the windowpane test, otherwise bread will not be as fluffy! I cannot stress HOW important this tip is. It’s a must.
  • Patience is KEY. Most of my failures arose because I was impatient. I didn’t let the bread rise for 1-2 hours, I couldn’t wait for my yeast to activate, and I didn’t want to knead until the windowpane test was passed. My first successful bread took me 45 min to knead, but now that I have become more skilled, it takes me about 10-15 min, which is not bad at all. Just listen to music or watch a show, and time will pass by quickly.

Fluffy Chinese Bakery Bread (Sweet & Savory Fillings)

yield: 2 loaves

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/3 c. bread flour (loosely packed)
  • 3 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp softened unsalted butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 2/3 c warm milk (2% or whole milk works)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp yeast
  • egg wash: 1/2 beaten egg

For sweet taro filling:

  • 1 c. mashed taro
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar or honey
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tsp water
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp white sesame seeds for the top

For savory filling:

  • 4 slices ham OR turkey
  • 3/4 c. shredded mozzarella OR cheddar
  • 4 tbsp pesto sauce or tomato sauce
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp garlic bread seasoning for the top

NOTE: the filling recipes EACH make 2 loaves. Because I wanted variety, I did one sweet and one savory but typically most people would just make both loaves the same flavor. I’m just going for variety here.

Directions:

  1.  Grease two loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, yeast, and warm milk until completely dissolved. Let the yeast activate for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Pour in the bread flour, salt, and egg, and mix until sticky and combined. On a floured surface, pour out the dough and knead for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, add in the softened butter and knead for an additional 10 minutes OR more until the dough passes the windowpane test and springs back when pressed. The dough will temporarily separate due to the butter and seem like it won’t come together, but keep kneading and the dough will slowly incorporate.
  4. Lightly grease the bowl, place the dough (shaped into a ball) in the bowl, cover it with a larger pot or plate, and place in a warm area to rise for 1-2 hours. I placed my dough outside which was the perfect mix of heat and humidity.

    _DSC0096

    dough has tripled in size

  5. Meanwhile, to make the taro filling, heat a small pot on low and pour in the water, sugar or honey, and cornstarch in and whisk until simmering. Pour in the mashed taro and whisk until combined (about 3 minutes). Turn the heat off and set aside to let the mixture cool. Add purple food coloring if desired.
  6. Once dough has risen, pour onto a lightly floured surface and divide dough into 8 even pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll one dough piece into a long oval shape. The dough should be about 1/8th of an inch thick. Spoon the taro onto the oval dough and spread from top to bottom, but do not get too close to the edges. Roll the dough like you would a cinnamon roll and lightly seal the edges. The edges do not need to be completely sealed._DSC0098
  7. If doing savory, lay half a slice of deli meat, spread 1/2 tsp pesto or tomato sauce, and sprinkle some cheese and roll dough like you would a cinnamon roll.
  8. Repeat the process and place 4 rolled dough into each greased loaf pan._DSC0106
  9. Beat an egg well and use a pastry brush to brush the 2 loaves of bread with egg wash. Sprinkle white sesame seeds onto the taro bread and sprinkle garlic bread seasoning onto the savory bread. Cover the 2 loaves with plastic wrap and foil and let the dough rise for an additional 20 min.
  10. Preheat the oven to 340 F.
  11. After the second rising, place the dough into the oven and bake for 22 minutes, OR until the tops are golden brown due to the Maillard reaction. The bread is delicious right out the oven but will get softer once it has set for about 15 minutes covered.

As I have concluded that this is my best bread dough up to date, I’d like to experiment with different shapes and fillings. This was a simple loaf recipe but Chinese bread is known for its beautiful shapes, so until next time, Stay tuned :’)

Low Fat Lemon Poppyseed Cake (Vegan)

food, healthy

Experimentation comes with frustration, wasted time, and wasted money. When attempting to make non-conventional recipes, trial after trial is crucial to get the perfect amounts of ingredients since food is all about the science and measurements behind it. Vegan baking is particularly difficult since eggs aren’t allowed and the animal fats are not able to make the baked product moist. Instead, alternatives like plant oils are utilized, and plant based butter simply isn’t as fragrant as animal based butter. With that being said, I truly appreciate all the vegan bakers out there, in making delicious recipes that are harmless to animals and better for the body overall.

Today’s lemon poppyseed cake is a delicious dessert that typically would require eggs and loads of butter or oil, but not today. You have stumbled upon a much healthier recipe that you can indulge on day and night!


Low Fat Lemon Poppyseed Cake (Vegan)

yield: 1 loaf

ingredients:

  • 1 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. vegan yogurt
  • 3 tbsp. vegan buttermilk (recipe HERE) OR 3 tbsp vegan yogurt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 c.  + 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tbsp poppy seeds

For lemon frosting:

  • 1/4 c powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 355 F.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, poppy seeds, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, buttermilk, vanilla, and lemon juice and let the mixture sit for a couple minutes.
  4. Pour the flour mixture into the wet and whisk until fully incorporated. Do not overmix as this could result in a tough cake.
  5. Pour into a 8 x 4 loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Bake the cake for 25-30 min.
  6. Take the cake out of the pan and let it cool on a rack for about 30 min. Combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice and spread the glaze onto the cooled cake. Optional: sprinkle some lemon zest on the glaze.

 

lemon cake 2

The cake is best enjoyed after it is made, served with a cup of hot coffee or tea.

In making healthier dessert options, I’m hoping that more people can stop giving dessert a negative connotation. Dessert doesn’t have to be overly sweet and fattening. I believe that any store bought dessert tends to be far too sweet for my liking, which is why I no longer purchase desserts. I simply make them at home, alter it to cater to my tastebuds, save money, and have fun. It’s a win-win for me and I hope you all attempt to bake more at home.

Happy baking!

Tri Color Egg (A Taiwanese Specialty)

food, healthy

egg1

I could talk for hours after hours about my love for Taiwan; from its mountains and seas to its night market and decadent dishes, there is just something so impeccable about this island. Taiwanese snack foods have become a billion dollar industry all over the world, from bubble tea, to bubble waffles, from Asian bakery bread to braised pork rice… people of all colors love Taiwanese snack food. With that being said, there’s much more to Taiwanese food than bubble tea and bread. I’m ecstatic to share a Taiwanese specialty called “Tri Color Egg”. The three colors are black, yellow, and white. As you may have guessed, yellow and egg come from an egg (of course), but what about the color black? There’s a unique oriental egg called the “century egg” which CNN and many other news outlet report as one of the most disgusting foods ever. It’s such a wonder how tastebuds differ from people to people, because I think the century egg is delightful. Perhaps growing up with the egg in my cuisine has been an advantage, but it’s really not as foul as it sounds. It looks horrid, like something the devil would produce, with its translucent black outer skin and its gooey, vomit-like yolk, but I recommend everyone to be adventurous and try it!

egg2

century eggs

Perhaps you’ve been grossed out and don’t want to read anymore….. but tricolor egg is a beautiful dish that will WOW your friends and family. Come on, give it a try 🙂


Tri Color Egg

yield: (9 x 9 x 2 in circle or square cake pan)

Special equipment: steamer OR a large wok-like pan to steam, steamable plastic wrap, cake pan or casserole pan

Ingredients:

  • 10 eggs
  • 3 century eggs
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp michiu (rice cooking wine)
  • 8 tbsp water

Directions:

  1. Line the cake pan with steamable plastic to prevent the egg from sticking.
  2. Separate the 10 egg yolks from white. In the egg whites, combine 1/2 tbsp sea salt, 1/2 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp michiu, and 4 tbsp water. Whisk until combined, but do not whisk until too frothy. egg3
  3. Pour the whites into the cake pan. Cut each century egg into 8-10 long slices and line them in horizontal lines in the egg whites. Steam the egg covered on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until the edges have hardened and the middle is still jiggly.
  4. While the whites are steaming, whisk the egg yolks and add 1/2 tbsp sea salt, 1/2 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp michiu, and 4 tbsp water. Take a chopstick or skewer and poke small holes on the edges all around the egg whites to release some steam and  so that the egg yolk does not separate from the egg whites when poured in. Pour the egg yolk onto the egg whites and then let the eggs steam covered, on low for an additional 10-15 minutes. egg6
  5. Once complete, remove the eggs from the steamer and let it cool for an hour before serving. when slicing the eggs, you want to slice vertically or against the way the century eggs were placed. Since the century eggs were placed horizontally, cut the eggs vertically to get the bejeweled effect from the century eggs.

Tri color eggs are best eaten with rice or noodles, accompanied by vegetables and other dishes!

Handmade Ravioli (No machine)

food

rav12

Who doesn’t like pasta? It’s practically the noodle version of pizza, and if you dislike pizza, you should go get your tastebuds checked… like right now. Yikes! That was totally rude and I’m joking, but seriously!! As an Italian food lover, I prefer pasta over pizza in that the varieties of noodles and sauces are infinite. The Italians utilize different ingredients to create divers colors, flavors, and shapes of pasta and I am beginning to explore the world of noodles, by making them by hand.

I’ve only eaten handmade pasta noodles a few times, with my favorite, so far, being Patrizi’s , a hole in the wall restaurant in Austin, Texas. Handmade noodles are a game-changer. I disliked splurging on them because it’ll cost about $5-6 more and my mentality is driven by value. Thoughts in my mind may look like: “Buy store brand; same quality but cheaper” OR “why go to that restaurant when you get more bang for your buck at this one”. I balance value and quality, but when it comes to pasta, I have indeed concluded that handmade, fresh pasta is worth the extra bucks. Why? Well, for a few reasons that I shall note below:

1.) It’s chewy and tender, considering that it contains eggs and has a higher moisture content.

2.) It has more flavor because it absorbs sauces better and has a rougher texture that’ll trap sauces and seasonings in its minute crevices.

3.) It’s better for you; dried pasta comes with additives and preservatives to fortify the product. While the fortifiers aren’t fully harmful, I like to steer away from additives as much as possible.

Storing dried pasta in the pantry is difficult and it often gets chewed up by flour weevils. I no longer have any more dry pasta in the house, and am ready to make fresh pasta from now on. It’s cheap, simple, and the only tool you need is a wooden rolling pin, which I got from Chinatown for $1 🙂 Promise me, handmade pasta will change the way you eat Italian food.


Handmade Ricotta Ravioli

yield: 20 ravioli

Ingredients:

For dough:

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour PLUS approx 1/4 c. more for kneading and flouring surface
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. lukewarm water
  • 1/4 tsp egg

For Filling:

  • 3/4 c. ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 egg
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • pinch pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning OR 1 tsp fresh chopped Italian herbs (rosemary, basil, thyme)
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1/8 c. frozen spinach, thawed + pat dry

Directions:

  1. To make the filling, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix until incorporated. rav2
  2. To make the dough, pour all the flour onto a clean surface and make a well. Crack the egg into it and beat with a fork, carefully working in the flour gradually.
  3. Once the mixture is chunky and dry, gradually pour in the warm water and combine the mixture with your hands. Keep working all the water in until the dough is sticky and incorporated.
  4. Gradually dust board with additional flour, and kneading dough ball at the same time. Continue kneading for about 8 minutes until the dough is sticky, but not too sticky that it sticks to your fingers.
  5. Wrap in clingwrap or place in a bowl with a damp paper towel and let dough rest for 15 minutes.
  6. Once dough has rested, lightly flour a surface and cut the dough in half. Making the dough can be done in many ways, but due to limited counter space, this is how I did it: Roll one half of the dough using a floured rolling pin into a long rectangle, until it is thin, almost enough so the dough is see through, but just ALMOST. We don’t want the dough to break. Carefully remove the dough and place on piece of parchment paper of non-stick baking mat.
  7. Lightly flour the work surface again and roll out the second half of dough in the same manner and size. Dollop the filling, about 1 tsp onto the dough as shown below. Once finished, place the second rolled out dough sheet and place over the first dough and its filling. Seal the edges with your fingers. Seal tightly so the filling does not come out.
  8. Using a knife, pizza cutter, or a cucumber slicer (like I used), cut the edges of the ravioli to form the squares. Set the ravioli on a floured on non-stick surface and allow them to dry for 45 min. Excess dough can be re-rolled to make more ravioli, or thrown in as pasta.
  9. Once ravioli has been set out for 45 min, boil a pot of water with 1/2 tsp salt. When the water is boiling, throw in the ravioli and let them cook for approx. 6-8 min, or until dough becomes see through.
  10. Serve the ravioli fresh with your favorite pasta sauce and fresh herbs. I made a crema rosa sauce, which I will be posting a recipe tomorrow! Watch out for it:)

My Foolproof Cream Puff Recipe (Red Bean and Sesame Flavor)

food

These light, eggy, and airy puffs of joy can often lead to a kitchen conundrum, but I have one simple-to-follow recipe that results in the perfect crowdpleasing desserts at any dinner party! OR just a dessert that you can devour on your own :’). Typically a vanilla or custard cream is used to fill puffs, but I highly recommend taking an extra step to make a flavored cream such as oreo, chocolate, or strawberry. I followed a more Asian flavor and made red bean and black sesame cream.


Foolproof Cream Puffs

yield: 20 large puffs OR 60 small puffs

Ingredients:

For the sugar crumb topping:

  • 2/3 c. cake flour (I made my own cake flour; ratio= 1 c. All-purpose flour to 2 tbsp cornstarch)
  • 1/4 c, granulated sugar
  • 1/3 c. unsalted butter (softened)

For the puff:

  • 2/3 c. water
  • 1/3 c. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. cake flour
  • 4 eggs

For the red bean cream:

  • 1 tub store bought whipped cream topping
  • 3/4 c. canned red bean paste

For the sesame cream:

  • 1 tub store bought whipped cream topping
  • 1/4 c. black sesame paste (store bought or homemade)

Directions:

  1. To make the sugar crumb topping, combine all ingredients thoroughly with a spatula and roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper into any a square or circle (the shape doesn’t matter) until it is about 1/4 cm thick. Place in the fridge so the dough hardens. puff 5
  2. In a saucepan, melt water and butter until simmering. Then add the salt and flour and stir with a spatula until the dough comes together. Cook the dough for an additional 2 min. and then remove from the heat.puff 1
  3. Spread the dough out with a spatula in the pan so that it can cool faster. After about 10 minutes of cooling, crack in the eggs one by one, mixing them in completely with a spatula before adding another egg. puff 2
  4. Once the dough is smooth, completely incorporated, and a thick, viscous consistency, place in a piping bag or sandwich bag with the corner trimmed.
  5. Preheat the oven to 355 F.
  6. Pipe the dough onto a lined baking tray with parchment paper of a silicon mat. For large puffs, pipe a circle 2 in. in diameter and for small puffs, pipe a circle 1 in. in diameter. Remove the sugar crumb from the fridge and cut out either a 2 in. or 1 in. circle from the dough (depending on what size puff you are making) with a cookie cutter or a shot glass, or any circular device. Place the sugar crumb dough on top of the puff dough a gently press down. Repeat for all puffs and then place in the oven.
  7. Bake puffs for 25-30 min or until lightly golden brown.puff 8
  8. Once the puffs are done baking, cool for 10 min. Take the whipped cream and manually whip the red bean or sesame paste into the cream. Place back in the fridge.
  9. Using a piping bag or plastic bag with the corned tip cut, place the cream in. For each puff, cut a small half circle with a small knife and pipe in enough cream to fill the entire puff and then cover back the small half circle up. Repeat for all puffs and enjoy immediately or place in the fridge until ready to enjoy.

The puffs can last up to 5-6 days in the refrigerator. They taste best fresh out the oven with cream so I advise snacking on some after immediately baking! I’ve made these for a few parties and have received compliments from many many people so I guarantee that this foolproof recipe will be one for the books.

 

 

 

Green Goddess Salad (Vegan)

food, Healthy Lunch Idea

Kale is a difficult vegetable to enjoy due to its rough texture and odd flavor that resembles the dollar weeds thriving in my back yard. Sauteeing or transforming them into kale chips are great alternatives, but nutrients for kale are at its peak when eaten raw, but the problem lies there… I’ve eaten kale salads but the plethora of toppings and dressing to mask the weed-like flavor defeat the purpose of eating kale in the first place. However, healthy fats, vegetables, and dressings can can easily turn the high fiber vegetable into a decadent, protein-packed meal that’ll have you wanting for more. I experimented with ingredients I had at home and whipped up a delicious kale salad that is definitely one for the books. Topped with avocado, pumpkin seeds, roasted brussels sprouts, soy protein, and an almond butter dressing, I seriously think even non-salad lovers would enjoy the flavors and health benefits of this magnificent bowl.


Green Goddess Salad (Vegan)

yield: 2 servings/bowls

Ingredients:

For the salad:

  • 1/2 stalk kale, stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
  • 1 small avocado
  • 3 tbsp. pumpkin seeds
  • 8 large brussels sprouts, each one vertically cut into threes
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper to taste
  • 1 oz. soy protein like tempeh or tofu, I used a homemade soy product

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 c. almond butter
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened warm almond milk OR warm water
  • 1 tsp honey
  • salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  2. Toss the brussels sprouts with oil, salt, and pepper and bake in the oven for 30 min, turning the sprouts every 5-7 min.
  3. Pan fry the soy protein with salt or soy sauce.
  4. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour on top of the kale in a large bowl. Use bare hands to massage the kale for approx. 2 minutes to soften the kale and infuse the flavors.
  5. Toss the pumpkin seeds into the salad and combine.
  6. After the brussels sprouts have been baked, top them onto the salad or toss them in, along with avocado and soy protein.
green bowl

Green Goddess bowl

brussel sprouts

raw brussels sprouts

kale

dressed kale

On my journey to consuming less meat, this salad makes it difficult to not consume meat. While I know that I will never become full vegetarian since my parents do not permit it, it has been 2 weeks since I have eaten meat and it feels great. Additionally, kale is packed with fiber, iron, and has anti-inflammatory agents, so am definitely now a promoter of kale!

Short Film: A Winter Wonderland in Germany & Switzerland

travel

As I traveled through Germany and crossed into the most expensive country in the world (Switzerland), my already-prodigious adoration for mother earth grew even more. From sky-high snow caps to clear sheets of ice ideal for ice skating, the two countries had set the backdrop for cloud 9. Winter’s light and shimmering dust falling from a cloudy sky are things you dream of, and seeing the scene as reality was heart-warming. Thank you Germany and Switzerland for warming my heart in such an unforgiving cold.

Watch my highlights from my 10 day trip that wrapped up 2017 and rang in 2018. ❤

 

Featured Locations:

  • Mt. Titlis
  • Engelberg, Switzerland
  • Rothenburg, Germany
  • Titisee Neudstadt
  • Heidelberg, Germany
  • Luzern, Switzerland
  • Zurich, Switzlerland
  • Riviere-Nipissis, France
  • Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Have any questions about travelling in Germany and Switzerland? Leave comments below OR posts recalling my travels along with tips will be coming soong 🙂

Europe Day 1: Welcome to Frankfurt on Christmas Eve

food, travel

This post is long overdue, so flashback to 4 months ago and the date is December 24th, 2017; location: Frankfurt, Germany.

Eight hours had passed and only four prolonged hours remained until the crammed and chilly plane touched down on the runway of Frankfurt International airport. The sky turned from blue to orange, with a tinge of pink and yellow as the golden orb made its debut from within the clouds, scattering blinding light in all directions.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0994.JPG

Morning light

My head instantly swerved away from the window as I dodged the rays of piercing white light, an indicator that the breakfast cart was about to make its presence. What was for breakfast, I wondered while keeping my expectations quite low because United Airlines is quite sub-par when it comes to food. Indeed, a sad breakfast of a buttered croissant, strawberry yogurt, and juice on a tray was served and I instantly lost my appetite. I’m not generally a picky eater but the breakfast was heavy; full of carbs, fat, and plain sugar. Nonetheless, I managed to eat the croissant and drink some juice as I propped open my journal to scribble down my musings to pass time.

When the plane finally touched down at 11 PM, I was ecstatic to set foot in a new country and explore the architecture, culture, lifestyle, and most importantly, the food:) The day was bleak, windy, and 35 F without snow. The absence of snow lead to an assumption that it wasn’t very cold, but the windchill factor was crazy and I ran back into the airport to put on additional layers of clothing.

As I stood huddled in clothing in the near-empty and old airport, waves of fear ran through my body. It was Christmas Eve so everybody was huddled at home, my surroundings looked deserted, and I had absolutely no clue how to get around the city. And with a quick peak from outside, many homeless people lay on the streets, some yelling at others while newspaper clippings and plastic wrappers flew in the air from large gusts of winds. The desolate scene was quite intimidating, but the beauty of the infrastructure ensured me everything would be just fine. I purchased a Deutsche bahn (local train) day pass for only 6 Euros and hopped on and off at random stops to explore the city. All stores were closed and few people roamed the streets, but spectacular church steeples, the Main river, and Baroque and Renaissance architecture kept me intrigued.

bike

A deflated bike in Frankfurt

I didn’t view globally famous destinations such as the Brandenburg gate or Neuschwanstein Castle, but the simplicity of strolling for free without hordes of tourists is one of the best ways to fathom a country. After many photos and thousands of steps were taken, I realized it was well past 3 PM and I had not eaten since the sad croissant from the flight. Ideally, a grocery store would be in sight so that I could purchase a sandwich or a meal, but nothing was open, so I hungrily hopped back onto the tram and rode to the “Frankfurt City Centre” as I supposed this stop was probably the main hub.

The City Centre was quite packed, and I was grateful to see a good amount of people, happily enjoying Christmas Eve with their families. Furthermore, some restaurants were open so that truly made me happy. The time was 3:20 PM when I decided I would have an early dinner so that I wouldn’t be hungry anymore. The very first restaurant I saw was Zum Standesamtchen, a cozy and warm restaurant, with a spiral staircase and all wooden furniture. The interior was quaint with very little space, but very welcoming. I was seated at a corner table underneath the spiral staircase, and it was after this dining experience that reminded me of the difference of dining cultures in Europe vs. America. One, water is never free. Two, tax is already included in the price. Three, sometimes tip is included in the price so I honestly never knew when to tip, but the waiter here semi-rudely made certain that I tipped him…

liver dumpling

Liver dumplings

escalope

Wiener Schnitzel

Despite the semi-rude waiter who probably made me tip excessively, I had a good time here. I must say, Germany is not known for its food and that was certainly evident. We were served 3 entrees and everything was meat and potatoes and not a single trace of a vegetable besides the miniature side salad that accompanied the Schnitzel. Salty, meaty, and carby, my heart was warm and my stomach was full after consuming their Schnitzel with green sauce (a local special), roast pork leg, and liver dumplings. I don’t think I have eaten so many potatoes in one day, but in a hungry moment, that was all I could eat besides meat. After ordering a bottle of water for 8 Euros and changing my mind before it even came, the waiter told me that he had already put it into the system and that he couldn’t change it. This was perhaps the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard, I ordered a drink, changed my mind after a minute, and was told that I’d have to pay for it anyways… Well it was Christmas Eve and I was in no mood to be in a grudge and so I paid for the meal, paid for the water, and paid for 25% tip. 25% seems rather excessive, but the waiter said I must tip 25% and he watched me calculate and write the tip on the receipt. I don’t know why he was scrutinizing me like that, but like I said, I was in no mood to be in a grudge. With a warm and happy heart, I walked several thousand more steps until the sun had set, with which I rode the tram back home. Tonight’s home was Moxy Hotel, one of my favorite hotel chains in Europe. I had previously stayed at the Moxy in Vienna and was extremely happy to return to the hip, colorful, and lively hotel. I then went to sleep early in preparation for tomorrow’s greater adventure.

moxy

The Moxy Hotel lobby

moxy1

Moxy Hotel Frankfurt

 

Vegan Chocolate Lava Cake

food

I realized whenever people ask what my sweet craving is, my go to is chocolate lava cake. A warm chocolate lava cake with a gooey interior  that is so rich a decadent it puts you on cloud 9; YES HANDS DOWN THAT IS WHAT I WANT. I don’t want a regular chocolate cake, I want the LAVA!!! Now, I’ve been experimenting with lava cakes, trying to see if an alternative recipe can be made. Possibly a vegan one? Or low fat? Or gluten free? It has been difficult because the science behind the cake requires eggs, butter, gluten, etc. I’m still constantly experimenting, but I have come up with a glorious vegan recipe that is out of this world! I’m so excited to share it because it’s pretty darn good.


Vegan Chocolate Lava Cake

yield: 3 lava cakes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. all-purpose
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 4 1/2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp. margarine or oil
  • 1/2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c. cold water
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 squares of baking dark chocolate (I used Baker’s chocolate)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat  oven to 395 F. And lightly grease all all of the inside of 3 ramekins. Set them aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk sugar and water until completely dissolved. Add melted margarine (at a very slow rate and whisking rapidly to prevent chunks) OR oil. Add vinegar or lemon juice and lemon and whisk.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt into a bowl.
  4. Slowly incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry and fold or whisk gently until evenly incorporated. Pour batter into ramekins until 3/4 full and add 2 pieces of dark chocolate into the center of each lava cake.
  5. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes and cool on a cooling rack for 3 min. when finished baking.
  6. Dust lava cake with powdered sugar or a generous scoop of ice cream.
lava cake

Vegan Chocolate lava cake

The recipe easily serves 3 people with 3 scrumptious cakes, but I may have eaten 2 in one sitting, which I highly recommend against but I honestly could not control myself. And I’ve been craving a lava cake for so ages, so eating 2 in moderation is totally fine!

These lava cakes are the ultimate crowd pleaser and it’s difficult to fathom that they are vegan! What are you waiting for? It’s time to make this right NOW!

 

10 Days in Germany & Switzerland

travel

I spent 10 days in Germany and Switzerland, and experienced the European celebration of a New Year. We were surrounded by people in the cold streets, full of laughter and alcohol, and fun fact: people came up to my brother and I and asked to take pictures with us as if we were celebrities… lol. Maybe cause we were the only foreigners in the area. I was eager to leave 2017 behind because it was one of the roughest years of my life. With all that had occurred, being in the winter wonderland somehow gave me hope that 2018 could be much better. On the other hand, Mother nature never fails to impress and I witnessed the beauty of earth with my own eyes instead of pictures in a Nat Geo magazine. Well, with all that said, Happy New Year.

 

Blog posts of my travels in Europe coming soon….

 

Keep an eye out!