Cooking Chapbook

Notes from my kitchen in the D.C. area & beyond

Month: January, 2013

Champorado, Filipino chocolate rice pudding

Champorado, Filipino chocolate rice

Champorado, Filipino chocolate rice

Of all the Filipino foods I know so far – maybe 0.1% of the lexicon – the one that baffles me is champorado. I love chocolate. I love rice pudding. I love salty little fish. And yet …

Essentially chocolate rice pudding, champorado is thick, warm, deeply chocolate, and often served with salty, dried fish. For breakfast. Perhaps you can understand my confusion. Or perhaps you are in my sweetheart’s camp.

He loves it, adores it, craves it. We’re too far right now for his mother to cook up a delicious batch, so I thought I’d try to stir up a bowl for his birthday.

Ingredients for Champorado

Ingredients for champorado

His family had months ago given us cocoa tablets and a jar of tuyo, the tiny fish. They were sitting in the cabinet, watching the cans of tomatoes and coconut milk come and go, and patiently waiting for their day under the stove light.

Ingredients for Champorado

Cocoa tablets for champorado

My sweetheart thought I could use our everyday white long-grain rice, but none of the many recipes I checked out, including the one his mother kindly sent, mentioned ordinary rice. And this champorado would be like a birthday cake! It called for special-occasion rice: short-grain, sticky, sweet rice.

Rice cooking for Champorado

Rice soaking for Champorado

Sweet rice needs to be soaked for 20 minutes or so before you cook it. The nice part is no extra dish is required. I poured 1 cup of sweet rice in a small pot, covered it with 1 1/3 cup water, and let it sit.

Rice cooking for Champorado

I love the little designs the pebbles of rice make.

Then I cranked up the heat until the water boiled. Once it was boiling, I turned it down to the lowest setting, covered the pot, and let the rice cook for another 15 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, in another small pot, I boiled 2 cups of water. Then I added 3 tablets and 1/4 cup sugar. I let it bubble and simmer and break down while the rice cooked.

Once the rice was done, I mixed in the pot of chocolate into the rice to make a rich porridge.

Champorado

Champorado

I let the rice pudding simmer until it cooked down a little bit. You can cook it longer, if you’d like more water to absorb.

Eat it with dried fish, if you like. Some of my favorite people do.

Champorado, Filipino chocolate rice

Champorado, Filipino chocolate rice

Chocolate Scrabble

Chocolate Scrabble. Clearly genius. And the best White Elephant gift ever.

Chocolate Scrabble box

Chocolate Scrabble box

Yes, the pieces are chocolate. Let’s look inside!

Chocolate Scrabble, inside the box

Chocolate Scrabble, inside the box

Inside the box, you’ll find wrapped chocolates marked with letters. The “coin” in the middle is also chocolate, and the game’s designated reward for the winner. Yes, you apparently are only supposed to play Chocolate Scrabble once.

Take note of Chocolate Scrabble!

Take note of Chocolate Scrabble

Since it’s a one-shot game, the board is foldable slick paper. And Scrabble geeks may be in shock – there are no tile holders. You are, I can only imagine, supposed to keep your tiles in view of the other players. I know!

Five sample letters of Chocolate Scrabble

Five sample letters

The differences don’t end there. The directions direct each player to pick out five letters (rather than the usual seven), except each tile has a front and a back …

Five sample letters flipped

Five sample letters flipped

… so E on one side might be X on the other.

Chocolate Scrabble's blank space

Chocolate Scrabble’s blank space

Yes, there are blanks. But I was most aghast to find the Y letter worth 8 points. In usual English Scrabble, Y = 4 points. (Scrabble fans may have also noticed above that the W is 5, instead of 4.) What is happening?

Chocolate Scrabble is a European specialty

Chocolate Scrabble is a European specialty

You probably also want to know how the chocolate tastes. I confess, we have played the game twice, and I can’t bring myself to eat the tiles yet. I know we must. The time is coming. I’ll let you know …

And after the chocolate tiles are gone, I’m thinking it may be time to make a homemade edible Scrabble version, maybe with hard German cookies. Any ideas?

Printen cookies from Aachen, Germany

 

Like beer, cookies in Germany are regional. Each state has its own specialty, a delicious discovery on the end of a long autobahn drive.

Generally, in Germany, what we would call cookies are denser, richer, and less sweet than the fluffy chocolate-chip concoctions in America. For those with a hefty sweet tooth (teeth?), they can take a little getting to use to.

Earlier this chilly month, we visited Aachen, where German kings were once coronated.  Aachen specializes in a specific type of cookie, which can only be made in its region: Printen.

Printen are dense gingerbread-type cookies, sometimes dotted with nuts or fruits or what reminded me of crystallized ginger. They are often cloaked in rich white chocolate or dark chocolate, or a lighter icing, or decorated with nuts. And they are divine.

Printen cookies from Aachen

Printen cookies from the Moss bakery in Aachen’s old city.

Shops with “Printen” printed in the window are all throughout the old city, where most tourists end up visiting the Dom. The Dom – cathedral – is spectacular, especially the sparkling mosaics on the ceiling.

Printen cookies from Aachen

Printen cookies from Aachen, covered in almonds and white chocolate.

Each bakery supposedly has its own secret recipe. Printens are sold in big rectangles, the size of a large greeting card, or in chunks, like you see here.

Bag of Nobis Printen from Aachen

Bag of Nobis Printen from Aachen, about 5€

They reportedly can last a long while (not that they have lasted long with us), and like many German cookies, grow hard over time. Sticking a piece of bread in the cookie tin adds moisture and softens them up in a day.

I read, only later, unfortunately, that Printen is also an ingredient in a local beef dish, Sauerbraten! The gravy is supposedly concocted out of raisins, Printen and sugar beet syrup. I am so intrigued.

Cappuccino and Printen at Nobis cafe in Aachen, Germany

Cappuccino and Printen at Nobis cafe in Aachen, Germany

We tried a few kinds of Printen from two different bakeries: glazed with nuts, chocolate covered, iced, and the white chocolate, which were my favorite. (Side tip: Great article on white chocolate from Saveur magazine.) The creamy white chocolate matches up so well with the thick gingerbread. I’m tempted to try this recipe

American breakfast, Deutsch Frühstück

My favorite part of the morning is the cozy warmth under the covers, the haze of thought, the sleepy deliciousness of the body awakening, every synapse cloaked in soft woolen knit. I know some people spring from the bed alert as a crowing rooster, but I’ve never belonged to that kingdom.

Once I’m up, my second favorite part is breakfast.

American breakfast plate

Bacon, eggs, toast – as American as can be.

We live in Germany right now, and the breakfasts here – called Frühstück – are lovely in their own way. Freshly baked rolls, flaky croissants, jams and rich butters, gentle folds of salty ham, dense sheets of cheese. European breakfasts feel more like a picnic than a decadent celebration of a day anew. It’s rare to find French toast, pancakes or eggs any way but soft boiled on the menu.

Typical German breakfast

Typical German Frühstück, this one at a cafe in Heidelberg. I love the jam in the edible cup, like the base of a little ice cream cone.

In the States, we’ll have brunch routinely, but here in Germany, it took me awhile to realize that if I wanted an American breakfast, I needed to make it myself. Not that it’s hard, and it’s so much cheaper than eating breakfast out.

Jam and bread

Jam and bread

A hunk of baguette with a crackling skin, gooey marmalade with strips of citrus peel …

German eggs

German eggs

… and the eggs. Don’t get me started on the eggs. We’ll be here all day. Even the ones from the Rewe, the standard grocery store, are bright with flavor …

Toast in the oven

Warm and toasty in the oven.

… I toast the slices of baguette under the broiled, because we have no toaster right now. They are done in a jiffy …

bacon

Bacon.

… and bacon. Another thing you must do at home, because in Germany, the varieties of cured pork are all exquisite and nearly all sliced and cold. Brittle bacon must be an American invention.

milk

Coffee, please!

And then there’s the coffee, heaped with milk (the MinusL brand is lactose-free) and sugar.

Breakfast spead

One happy skillet of eggs for two.

Nothing complicated, but this breakfast tastes of home, an ocean away.