Mini Trails, Big Delights

And so it was on a beautiful sunny February day when we decided to hit the trails for the first time this year. A rather late snowfall has visited Vancouver mid-February so skiers and snowshoers have been congesting the more popular Cypress and Seymour trails. As one not too fond of crowded hike spots, we opted to check out what lesser-known North Vancouver trails would lead us. And we were not disappointed.

Featuring Kaidu, the Siberian Husky, and Kojin, the dachschund, it was a delightful intermediate hike to loosen those taut muscles for more challenging hikes this 2019, I hope. 🙂

Brioche Buns for Summer’s BBQ Fun

20200520_1547114549141774831241926.jpgYes! Barbecue season is here and what could be more satisfying than flipping those juicy patties on your newly-cleaned grill on the patio while sporting that one-pack with a cold beer? Well probably the thought that you’ve made your food from scratch—house-seasoned ground meat, those fresh tomatoes and onions harvested from the pot gardens you’ve labored over during the past couple of months, and that light, buttery brioche bun to make all those come together.

So while I’m grinding that slab of beef while being persnickety with my seasonings, let me share this very light version of a brioche bun recipe that I believe would give that extra yum for your homemade burgers!

Light Brioche Buns

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tbsps. warm milk
  • 2 tsps. active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsps. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups bread flour (see note*)
  • 1/3 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsps. butter (softened))
  • sesame seeds (optional)

*I ran out of bread flour and used APF for the entire batch and it turned out okay. Using this alternative might entail a longer mixing time though.

Procedure:

  • Combine the warm water, milk and sprinkle the dry yeast over to proof. Set aside.
  • Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Add softened butter, lightly beaten eggs and liquids.
  • Using a hook attachment, mix all the ingredients on low speed for 8-10 minutes. Don’t worry if the dough looks a little craggy. It will also feel a bit wet but that’s okay. (Mental note to self to take these messier photos for better visualization!) :p
  • Place the dough into a lightly-oiled bowl and let rise for 1-2 hours in  a warm room.
  • On a floured surface, divide the dough into desired sizes accordingly. I did mine for eight equal parts.
  • Flatten the cut dough using a rolling pin. Fold the sides towards the center, gently tucking the dough in to make a seam. Flip the dough over and shape into balls. (Again with those photos!)
  • Place pre-shaped dough in  a flat pan with parchment paper and let rise for 30-45 minutes or until the dough doubles in size.
  • Meanwhile, prepare your egg wash and sesame seeds while pre-heating your oven at 400°F. Place a pan with water at the bottom rack of oven for steaming.
  • When dough is ready, brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle some sesame or poppy seeds.20200520_1450566409314932596993134.jpg
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes while your caramelize those onions and munch on a pickle or two! 🙂

We tend to cut back on eating enriched bread especially when we have that summer bod in mind. But these brioche buns are so light and fluffy that the idea of an extra burger feels less guilt-free…ish. :p

Enjoy and happy baking!

Ube Keso Pan De Sal (A Recipe with Love) ♥

In the spirit of sharing amidst lockdowns and quarantines during this global pandemic, and as we productively while the long hours away by keeping our kitchens busy and our ovens warm, allow me to share a simple recipe that will hopefully bring some delight into your homes. From my oven to yours, from my heart to yours. Yes! 😉

I’ve seen bakers posting about the new craze of three Pinoy favorites put together—pan de sal (bread roll), keso (Eden cheese to be very specific), and ube (purple yam)—all rolled into a truly delectable and beautiful purple bun! I thought that was a brilliant play on flavors and I could not wait to make some. I’ve read a lot of recipes on this and after a couple of tweaking and several attempts later, it is with confidence that I share this one, my first, ever, yay! 🙂 Friends, I give you, this recipe with love. ❤

Ube Cheese Pandesal
Yield: 12

Ingredients
3 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Instant Yeast
1 tsp Salt
1 cup Warm Milk
2 tbsps Oil ( I use Canola Oil for a more neutral taste)
1 Egg
1 tbsp Ube Extract
1 cup Cooked and Grated Purple Yam
(or rehydrate 1/4 cup powdered ube with 3/4 cup hot water)
Cheese (cut into sticks)
Breadcrumbs

Procedure
* If using Ube powder, start by rehydrating. Mix the powder and hot water and let it sit.
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, yeast, salt).
2. Add in the warm milk, oil, beaten egg and extract.
3. Mix on low using the dough hook attachment until everything comes together.
4. Add the purple yam. Continue mixing until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.
5. Place dough on a lightly-floured surface. Knead for 6-8 minutes. (I tried doing everything manually and I had to knead longer as I was working with a stickier dough.)
6. Once you get a ball of smooth dough, place in a lightly-oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and proof in a warm place for 1-2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.
7. Gently remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 12 equal parts (approximately, 90 grams each).
8. Pre-shape into small balls then flatten with a rolling pin.
9. Insert cheese chunks/slices in the middle of flattened dough then fold the sides to tuck the cheese in. If you have extra ube, you can add some with your cheese inserts. *Do not be tempted to put a lot as it might cause underbaking.)
10. Roll dough balls onto the bread crumbs, just enough to lightly coat the surface.
11. Place coated buns into prepared pans, an inch apart from each other and allow to rise in warm room for another 30-40 minutes.
12. Bake in preheated oven (340°F) for 20 minutes.

It might seem like a lot of words but the process can simply be broken down to mixing, kneading, putting in a lot of love, proofing, shaping then baking. This recipe calls for a minimal amount of bicep work but yields a lot of gastronomical satisfaction, especially for the Pinoy palate.

Enjoy unleashing the inner bakers within us and keep safe everyone! ♥♥♥

Barefoot Chronicles: Batad, Banaue

As someone who grew up in a tourist town that boasts of stately natural landscapes, I have this rather obnoxious instinct to compare places of similar appeal. Such was the mindset I had when we set off to see the prominent Batad rice terraces and the Tappiyah Falls that was the highlight of the village attractions. But I ended up being tremendously awed. It was an entirely different experience.

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A “Bulol” (rice god) overlooking the grandiose rice terraces.

Batad is a village in Banaue, Ifugao. It’s a two-hour drive from my hometown, Sagada. Yes, we have several impressive waterfalls and the underrated yet majestic rice terraces (Kanip-aw, Kiltepan, Aguid) but I went there with the expectation that Batad would offer something equally grand, if not more rewarding. And I was not disappointed.

We met Ervin, our very friendly and knowledgeable local guide who was first in line in the queue of accredited guides enlisted for that day. Although my sister was positive that we could find the waterfalls ourselves so long as we follow the trails through the paddies, we understood the town regulations regarding acquiring local tour guides. And we come from a town that thrives on tourism too, we should know better despite overestimating our sense of direction. 😉

A short canopied walk to the village of Batad warmed up our already conditioned legs (or so I’d like to believe as we’ve done a couple of hikes back in Sagada prior to this). We were advised that we should pre-order lunch in one of the restaurants that had stunning views  that overlooked the rice terraces. They estimated that we’d do a 3-4 hour back and forth trek hence we’re looking at a late lunch.

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A narrow concrete path has been constructed all the way down to the falls.

The trek going to Tappiya Falls was a delight in itself. Although I have to be honest that the views were no longer new to a village girl like myself, but what made the experience different was all those village folks who we met along the way. Everyone was genuinely friendly and welcoming. They are like us, Sagadians, who wisely took advantage of the livelihood that tourism entails. The village people have strategically set-up small convenience stores and souvenir shops for the trekkers. And every stop was a welcome respite. We stopped for ice cold water, bananas, a souvenir or two, the occasional breeze or simply for the shade and the pleasant conversations that every villager eagerly engaged with.

I could rate the downward trek as easy but the heat was the main challenge. With no trees to serve as shade, it was no wonder our tour guide had thoughtfully brought his umbrella with him. Guess who used it? Haha!

92128260_524191381832795_1377643994648936448_nI’ve seen a number of waterfalls in this lifetime but I was not prepared by the beauty that awaited us. This hidden gem just behind a ridge of rice terraces artfully designed like an amphitheater made me feel like I was seeing one for the first time. It was magnificent. It’s imposing beauty towered over us as we waded barefoot towards its inviting pool. We basked in its beauty and its chilly waters before we halfheartedly got back to the same route towards the paddies.

The hike back was expectedly more arduous. The sun was already higher and those giant steps were a pain to the gluts! We were definitely not prepared for that! Whoever came up with the souvenir t-shirt design that read “I Love Tappiyah Falls, I Hate the Giant Steps” was on point.

We got back to enjoy the most fulfilling meal of chicken stew, chopsuey and pancit canton. Although our bold estimate to make the round trip within two hours time was off by a good half an  hour, our legs didn’t fail us against those treacherous meter-long stairs.

We did a couple of side trips in the beautiful town of Banaue before heading back home to Sagada. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening trip to a neighboring town that offered similar sights to what we have back home. But now I can say you can’t really compare. Each place has its own unique and identifying charm. The people’s warmth made the experience more gratifying.

A beginner could easily do the trek to Batad’s pride. Doing the trail back is a different story though. 😉 Lots of water, sunscreen, hardboiled eggs and bananas would be a good starter pack for this must-do trip up north.

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The Search for the Perfect Cake

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From Wayne Thiebauld’s collection of cake paintings

I fell in love with cakes at a young age. My childhood best friend had older sisters who would often bake what I thought were the most delectable creations. They would huddle over their dining room table with their mixing bowls and recipes and whip up the most amazing cakes that I could only dream of making. I thought they were all so beautiful and dainty as I witnessed them sifting and whisking and mixing. I adored them. And I adored whatever they made.

I was eleven when I summoned the courage to make my first cake. And that came with a lot of sneaky planning. My family was scheduled for a trip to the city and I volunteered to stay home to take care of the pets. I had everything deviously planned out. If whatever I make would turn out to be a disaster, I would just chuck it out. The evidence of my failure would be gone and I will not breath a word to anyone.

So the long awaited day came when it was just the cat at home to witness my first trial. I rolled my sleeves up and baked. It was good. And no, it’s not a biased conclusion of an 11-year old girl. It was truly good! It took  a lot of self-control to not finish the whole 9 x 13 inches of chocolatey goodness! I had to painstakingly wait for everyone to come home so they could taste it, be gobsmacked that I made something unbelievably good, (yes, I was that confident, haha!)  so that they will let me do as I please with the oven now that I’ve proven I could work with it. Boy was I so full of myself that time! 😉

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Because every cake is an achievement! 😉

I was not able to make cakes that were as good as that first one the next couple of times, or years for that matter. But I achieved my purpose then–for them to let me tinker with the oven and play with whatever ingredients I could find in the shelves. My love for pastry and baking grew as my search for the perfect cake began.

Cakes as we know them today have come a long way from the first ‘kaka’, believed to be of Viking origin. The ancient Greeks then popularized ‘plakous’ (meaning flat) which consisted of flour blended with honey, eggs and nuts. Now we have modern cakes, fancy entremets, multi-layered paves, and visually out-of-this world cake designs that I cannot even dream of conceptualizing. But throughout the years and a couple of unwanted pounds after, I realized that if I want to eat cake, I want to taste cake. By that I mean enjoying it with its wholesome basic elements–a flavorful base and just the right amount of frosting or not, no garnish necessary.

These days when I gave myself the opportunity to try out different recipes with whatever stuff I can find in the pantry, I realized that there are those I love to make and those that I hate. Some I could finish a slice and some I could not even bring myself to taste. I’ve grown a very discerning palate or sense of preference but it weirdly does not have anything to do with flavors but more of how a recipe speaks to me. I realize that I always delight in something that brings nostalgia.

Like with most foods and smells, our senses get excited more strongly when we can relate, and such associations are mostly founded on memories. In my case, I always go back to those days when every slice of cake regardless of what it was made me giddy with excitement.  To those cakes that were made by my best friend’s older sisters. My aunt’s banana cake with lemon glaze. My sister’s squash cake that was so delightful even without any frosting. My mother’s big, fat pancakes. And to that one fateful day that I schemed to bake for the first time.

I haven’t found my perfect cake yet. Because there probably isn’t one. But it is for this reason that I’m equally excited every time there is a new one to slice and try. It might just be that.

 

Kokujin Conquers Some Trails

The pack decided to revisit some trails down Lower Seymour a couple of weeks ago before summer totally ended. We love the numerous trails offered by the vicinity because they’re a combination of easy to intermediate in terms of difficulty. We do have to take into consideration that as much as our sturdy dachshund proves to be the leader of the pack, he has the shortest, stubbiest legs that render it impossible for him to go through some obstacles along the way without assistance.

I personally recommend this area for hikers with smaller dogs. It’s pet-friendly, terrain-wise as well. Next time we might bring some bikes as they do have some challenging and challenge-free bike trails that I’ve been wishing to try.

Sharing some clips of our gang’s little adventure in one of the many hiking trails of this beautiful city.

 

#HelloKelowna

At the Philippine Consulate a year ago, a kindly gentleman was awed when he read that my hometown is Sagada. He was so impressed with the place that he enthusiastically described the sites he has seen there when he went to visit. He went on to say I was lucky to live in a place away from the city’s daily hustle. Sagada, he says, is Vancouver’s Kelowna–that drive away from the urban where you could just enjoy the serene beauty of a quiescent place. Such was his description hence I was doubly excited when the opportunity came to have a day trip to the gateway of Okanagan Valley.

This sunny city boasts of pine forests, provincial parks, expansive vineyards and orchards, and a lakeside cultural district. Truly a day was not enough to explore most of the place’s highlights but we made the most of it. Sharing some snippets from this marvelous trip with equally awesome ladies.

We went home spent and full, not just with the beauteous sights but with the first pickings of Fall apples, peaches, plums and grapes. You are indeed a  nice respite Kelowna.

A year at a time…

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CTTO

A hatchling fell from its nest a couple of days ago and Dalifer brought it home with the hopes that we can nurture it back to health until it gets strong and old enough to fly that we can release it back to the wild. It was with us for two days then it dropped dead. That broke me. I grieved for it thinking we might have done better, or we thought we were doing what’s best for it but we managed the opposite. I consoled myself with the thought that it somehow knew we cared deeply, and that we tried.

What is it with passing away that leaves such a void in our souls? The chasm I still have in my heart almost a decade after my old man died is still as empty as it was that fateful day he left. People die, we grieve, and we ought to move on. But sometimes, no amount of toughening up, time and change,  is enough to say you’ve totally healed after your loss. I believe part of the misery comes with the regrets we harbor. The ‘what ifs’ and the ‘what could have beens’ make it harder for the soul to mend. Knowing you could have done better, done more, then maybe it won’t be as painful.

But we can only look back in hindsight. In my case, I allay my sorrows with the thought that I did not have the wisdom of age. But however way I look at it, there should be no excuses for me not having been kinder. And God knows I wish I’d been that–kinder. I wish I’ve been more forgiving. I wish I’ve been more compassionate and understanding. I wish I have been more.

I was not spiteful towards him. It’s just that I thought we had more time, and I knew time mended things. Time has the ability to make things better, and we can make our relationship better with time. But that was what escaped me, the fact that time was not something I had control over. It is not generous, it’s fleeting and we can only do so much. So now I can only live with regrets as I bear my grief, my loss, and my pain.

There’s truth in what they say that fate can teach you the hard way. And it did, I learned mine the painful way. So as I drink to my father’s memory today, I pray that even if I missed out in showing it, that he somehow knew he was loved until his last days. That to this day, I hope I made him proud.

Tintin the hatchling (yes we named the bird) was with us briefly before he succumbed to death. It took another bit of my heart away with his passing despite the short time we spent together. The bird flew to his final plateau. I pray he knew he was loved. I know we showed it.

But you, Dad, I hope you knew you were loved. Take it against me for not knowing how to show it, that will forever be on me, but you were.

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