Saturday, November 12, 2011

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Leftover Makeover - Cake Balls

Earlier this month, I baked a buttermilk pound cake in order to use a bunch of buttermilk I had leftover from making pancakes and ended up with way more cake than I bargained for. Since pound cake tends to keep quite well, I decided to double wrap the leftovers in plastic wrap and foil until I could decide what to do with it.

This morning, I found myself looking at a picture of chocolate covered bonbons and had an epiphany. I could make cake balls! For the uninitiated, cake balls are simply cake crumbs, held together by frosting and dipped in candy coating. It's like a kid's birthday party in a bonbon. They're a great way to use leftover cake that may not have been ready for its closeup.

Here's some naked cake balls -- all formed and ready to be chilled again before being coated in chocolate...

Cake Balls

I cheated and used canned frosting but you could probably use your favorite homemade recipe that holds it shape but doesn't get rock hard when refrigerated.

Cake Balls

Michelle's Cake Balls
Adapted from this recipe from All Recipes
  • Cake (any flavor, any size)
  • Frosting (any flavor)
  • 12 oz bag of chocolate chips
Crumble cake in a bowl
Add frosting and mix with crumbled cake until it is the consistency of cookie dough
Let cake and frosting mix chill for 1 ~ 2 hours
Shape about 2 T portions into balls and place on wax paper
Freeze balls for about 2 hours until firm
Melt chocolate in double boiler
Dip frozen cake balls in chocolate until well coated and place on a wax paper surface.
Refrigerate dipped cake balls for 1 ~ 2 hours until the chocolate is firm and the cake is no longer frozen.

Best enjoyed with a glass of milk or coffee ;)

This recipe is totally simple and oh so customizable. For these cake balls, I used my buttermilk pound cake and white frosting with chocolate but other awesome combinations would be german chocolate cake and coconut frosting with white chocolate coating or maybe red velvet cake and cream cheese frosting with a white chocolate coating.

My original plan was to do this for a Halloween party. I was going to tint the cake/frosting mixture with some orange candy dye and sprinkle Halloween colored jimmies on the still wet coated cake balls. Alas, I was too lazy to go to the craft store for the specialty ingredients I would have needed. No big loss; it tastes just as good!

I found that using a scoop (I have one that is approximately 2 T) really helps to portion these cake balls. This dessert is REALLY rich so you only need a relatively small ball. Chilling and using latex gloves also helps keep the mess factor down since this is REALLY sticky with all the but I'm sure kids would love to help shape the balls if they were willing.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

7 Random Things About Me & Food

At the prodding of Cousin L who pointed out that I haven't updated since, oh, March... here's a quick food meme - 7 Things about Me & Food

  • I started cooking at 5 years old -- I made scrambled eggs seasoned with parsley.

  • I have always been a food show addict. After Saturday morning cartoons, I'd immediately switch to PBS which had all the cooking shows. I grew up with The Frugal Gourmet, Yan Can Cook, Great Chefs and all those old school cooking shows.

  • I was anorexic during high school but I still watched food shows religiously and cooked a lot. I just didn't eat what I cooked.

  • I can't seem to make risotto. I've tried to cook it several times and have never had it turn out correctly.

  • Pie crust is another enemy of mine. I'm so close to giving up attempting pie dough.

  • One of my favorite guilty snacks is cheddar cheese cubes dipped in sugar. Yes, I'm strange but it tastes so good.

  • I think Korean moon pies (ie. Orion Chocopies, Lottepies, etc.) kick American moon pies butt.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Iced Masala Chai

When I can't drink coffee, Indian masala (usually redundantly referred to in the US as "chai tea") is my drink of choice. In its simplest form, it is a sweetened spiced tea with milk. Hot or cold, it is a refreshing beverage to have at any time of the day.

Every afternoon, a bunch of my Indian colleagues will get together and brew a pot to share with whoever wants it. They use a coffee pot, microwave and a bunch of ingredients that they've got stowed away in a cabinet in the lunch room. Their chai is a thick and heady with spices including fresh ginger root. Inspired, I decided to make some of my own at home.

I make masala chai concentrate which is nice because each member of the family can sweeten their chai to their taste.

Iced Quasi-Masala Chai Concentrate
  • 4 bags of black tea
    You can use the equivalent amount of loose-leaf if you have it
  • fresh ginger root, 1" knob, sliced into 1/4" slices
  • 1 T peppercorns, whole
  • 1 T cloves, whole
  • 1 T allspice, whole
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Heat 8 cups of water to just under a boil. Add the black tea and the flavorings and steep for at least 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes at low or warm heat. Add vanilla and stir. Remove from heat and strain into a pitcher.

To serve (12 oz glass)
Pour 6 oz of the brewed chai into the serving glass. Add 6oz of milk (whatever kind you like) and stir. Sweeten to taste, adding ice if desired.

Spices in your local megamart (AB saying) baking and spices aisle are usually ridiculously expensive. $5 for a few measly cinnamon sticks? In the long run, it may be cheaper than getting $3+ chai lattes at Starbucks but is still hardly truly economical.

When buying spices for chai, I opt for ethnic markets or at least the ethnic aisle. I live in an area with a lot of ethnic and in particular Indian markets so I've got plenty to choose from. When in a megamart, though, I steer the cart towards the ethnic aisle where there are usually spices in small cellophane packets for less than a $1.50. Still not as great as if I were to get them from the Indian market but a lot better priced than if I bought them in the little glass jars.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Double Trouble Brownies

Double Trouble Brownies

Even though I'm a gestational diabetic, I can't help but make desserts whenever the fancy strikes. Here's my Double Trouble Brownie -- a dark chocolate brownie, studded with white chocolate chips and topped with a velvety dark chocolate ganache. These are very rich. My husband could only eat 1/2 of his; I could only eat 1/4! These would be excellent with a good strong cup of coffee. Enjoy!

* *

6oz bittersweet (70% cacao) chocolate, chopped
6oz unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 c sugar
1 c flour
1 T kahlua
6oz white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325F

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Stir in sugar and incorporate eggs one at a time. Add kahlua and then stir in flour. Once the flour has been incorporated, stir in white chocolate chips.

Spread in a 9x13 pan, lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes and cool completely.

Ganache Topping
8oz bittersweet (70% cacao) chocolate, chopped
8oz heavy cream
1 T kahlua

Heat heavy cream and pour over chopped chocolate. Let stand for two minutes and then carefully stir the cream and chocolate together. Once incorporated and smooth, stir in kahlua.

Let ganache cool to near room temperature and then pour over cooled brownies, spreading evenly. Place brownies in refrigerator for 1 hour to set topping. Remove from refrigerator and score/cut brownies into 3x3 squares while still cold. Bring brownies to room temperature for maximum yummy before eating.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Fair Style Sausage Rolls

I love historical Fairs. Come summer time, Renaissance Pleasure Faire calls to me with its knights in shining armor, jousting, crazy hats and what not. In the winter time, San Francisco's Dickens Christmas Fair beckons with its Victorian England streets, filled with Dickens characters and holiday merriment.

But more than all this, I love the food! British food is often times snubbed for being plain and flavorless which I simply don't think is the case. Ren Faire's medieval setting tempts the palate with its no utensils eating with things like thick cut bread, cheese and sausage (yum) and gigantic turkey legs. Dickens Fair often has wonderful selections of meat pies, pasties, afternoon tea and other delights.

One of my favorites served at both events is the humble sausage roll. As I know it, the sausage roll is simply a bit of sausage meat, rolled in flaky pastry. I prefer mine plain however there's almost always a huge jug of either brown sauce or ketchup just waiting to accompany it.

Sadly, sausage rolls aren't popular in the US as they are in the UK or Australia where they are corner store staples. Fair season is usually limited to late summer/winter here which means that a sausage roll craving can go unfulfilled for quite awhile during the year. And with admission usually more than $20/per adult and food prices also being expensive, it's a bit impractical to go to a Fair just to eat. (And that doesn't include gas, travel time and parking!)

In order to fulfill a particularly bad craving for sausage rolls in the springtime, I set out to recreate the rolls on my own. Working off the assumption that sausage rolls are nothing more than an over glorified pigs in a blanket, I found myself with a tube of ready made cresent roll dough and a pack of pre-cooked British style bangers. (Excuse me while my inner 12 year old giggles stupidly. Hehehe. BANGERS.)

The resulting rolls were tasty but still not quite what I remembered. The buttery cresent rolls were yummy and the bangers had the exact flavor of the meat in the Fair rolls. However the sausage to pastry ratio was simply too much for me and the rolls weren't flaky. Still, they satisfied the craving and I filed away my love of sausage rolls for another time.

A few days ago, I found myself poking through and the featured recipe of the day was for someone's British-style sausage rolls. The recipe called for premade, uncooked sage sausage wrapped in puff pastry. I realized that was where I had gone wrong with the previous attempt. It should have been puff pastry! Duh. Needless to say, on my next shopping trip, I set out to buy the ingredients to attempt the sausage roll, again. This time I'm happy to report that I've made terrific success and I'm happy to pass the knowledge along to others.

Fair Style Sausage Rolls
Makes 8

  • 1 box of pre-made puff pastry
  • 1 pack of pre-cooked British-style sausage (Bangers)
  • 1 egg, beaten

Preheat your oven to 400F

Cut your sausages in half lengthwise and remove the casing. Thaw your puff pastry as recommended on the box. When thawed, unfold and wrap each sausage half in pastry, pinching the edges to seal.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and then place pastry wrapped sausage onto the parchment. Brush the tops of the wrapped sausage with egg wash and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Cool for a few minutes before enjoying. These can be served warm or at room temperature.

To reheat refrigerated cooked sausage rolls: Bake at 300F for 20 minutes.

The rolls at Fair tend to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 ~ $5 each. This recipe will make 8 at approximately $1.30 each. Not bad, eh?

For reference sake, I used Pepperidge Farm puff pastry and Saags British Bangers. Saags are pre-cooked and come four to a pack. British style bangers aren't easy to find where I live so I'm pretty much SOL if I wanted to find raw sausages.

The Pepperidge Farm package came with 2 sheets of puff pastry and I was able to wrap four halves in each sheet but I had to get pretty creative when it came to wrapping the sausages. Pepperidge Farm puff pastry comes folded into thirds and the folds remain visible even when unfolded. There was lots of pinching and sealing to be had come the last sausage in each sheet as well as supplement patches of pastry, trimmed from the other sausages. In the end, I couldn't tell what got patched where and honestly, didn't care. After all, these are meant to taste good and not win any aesthetic awards.

This recipe is pretty flexible and can be used with other pre-cooked sausages. I haven't tried it with uncooked sausage myself though I'm sure it can be done. I just like the pre-cooked sausages because it prevents the grease from getting into the pastry. :)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Okonomiyaki Party


My favorite get togethers involve food especially when someone else is cooking! Despite never having had "real" Osaka-style okonomiyaki (ie. in Osaka or Japan) I love the stuff. I've also found that it makes for a great "make-it-yourself" party food. Just prepare the batter, fillings and toppings ahead of time, set out hot plates and instructions and just let your friends cook their own damned food!

For an okonomiyaki party, I provide:
  • Okonomiyaki batter
  • Eggs
  • Shredded cabbage and/or chopped kimchee
  • Various batter add-ins, meats, toppings
Here's a list of stuff I try to provide for okonomiyaki parties, budget and time willing. In addition to this, I also like to make up a batch of yakisoba so that people can make modern-yaki if they so choose.
Batter add-ins
  • Cooked bacon bits (optional)
  • Shredded cheese (optional)
  • Baby shrimps (optional)
  • Tenkasu/tempura bits (optional)
  • Bacon (thin sliced)
  • Beef (thin sliced)
  • Sausage (thin sliced)
  • Spam (thin sliced)
  • Okonomiyaki sauce
  • Kewpie Mayonaise
  • Aonori (seaweed flakes)
  • Bonito flakes
  • Chopped Green Onions (optional)
  • Shoga (pickled ginger)
  • Corn kernels
I confess: I use a ready made mix for the okonomiyaki batter. Just add water. Since I've always done okonomiyaki for parties, I haven't really had the opportunity to experiment with non-ready made okonomiyaki mix lest it come out icky. The most important ingredient in the okonomiyaki batter is the 山いも (yamaimo) or mountain yam. It is what gives the okonomiyaki its texture and taste.

When looking for okonomiyaki batter mixes in your Japanese grocery store, look for it in the section that has other ready made mixes such as pancake mixes. (Don't substitute pancake mix for okonomiyaki mix. It's the wrong flavor and texture for this.) I've discovered that more general Asian markets tend not to have it in stock but it's always worth a shot if you don't have a Japanese grocery store near by. Always make sure that the mix includes "mountain yam" or "yamaimo" in the ingredients list. Otherwise, you won't have the same texture or flavor that you should.

If you don't have access to a Japanese grocery store to find okonomiyaki mix, Kirk of mmm-yoso has a great looking recipe that includes yamaimo here:

I've found that most general Asian markets will have "nagaimo" or "yamaimo" in stock in their fresh produce section. Where I am, they're usually packaged in pre-wrapped, single packages and may have a covering of sawdust on them.

Fillings and toppings are very much up to everyone's taste. At the very least, I provide green onions, okonomiyaki sauce and kewpie mayonaise. I have an indecent love for kewpie, as evidenced by the many times I've asked for extra mayo at Izumiya in San Francisco and consequently have been given a bowl to dip my okonomiyaki in. It sounds gross but I love it!

For parties, I've found it's good to either demonstrate or (if you have the time/energy/want to) you could print out instructions or designate a short-order chef. What follows are the instructions I wrote up for my latest okonomiyaki party (but didn't get to use) ;) Feel free to change it to suit your party.

* *
OKONOMIYAKI お好み焼き literally means "Grill as you like"
Here it means: Cook your own damned pancake! :)

Often compared to pizza for its customizability, okonomiyaki has several styles, depending on where in Japan you're eating. We're going to do the Kansai style of okonomiyaki which is basically a savory pancake filled with cabbage and other yummy things.

Step 1: Mixing it up!
Scoop a ladle full of batter into the bowl
Add one egg
Add some cabbage or kimchee (or both)

You can also add all/some/none of the optional filling ingredients to the batter.
  • Bean sprouts
  • Chopped Green Onions
  • Cooked bacon bits
  • Shredded chees
  • Baby shrimp
  • Chopped fake crab
  • Tenkasu/tempura bits

If you find the mixture too thick and chunky, you can add more batter. It all depends on how much dough to filling you'd like.

Mix up the okonomiyaki batter, eggs and fillings in the bowl until well blended.

Step 2: Cooking It!

Oil up the ho
t plate with a good amount of cooking spray and spread the batter evenly.

While the batter is cooking, lay a few pieces of the meat (bacon, sausage, spam, etc.) onto the cooking pancake.

Let it cook on the first side for about 3 minutes and then flip (carefully) and cook on the other side for about 3 to 4 minutes to make sure that the meat is completely cooked. Feel free to squish the pancake every now and then to make sure it's cooked

Step 3: Topping it!
Once your okonomiyaki is cooked, remove it to a plate (I suggest meat side up) and start topping it.

Your choice of toppings are:
  • Okonomiyaki sauce
  • Kewpie Mayonaise
  • Aonori (seaweed flakes)
  • Bonito flakes
  • Benishoga (pickled ginger)
  • Corn kernels

For traditional Osaka-style okonomiyaki, top it with some okonomiyaki sauce and mayo and a sprinkling of aonori and bonito flakes. Watch as the bonito flakes start to move on their own from the heat. Oooh, spooky.

Otherwise, top to your hearts content and then pig out!

For the advanced folks - モダン焼き(modern yaki)
Fry up an okonomiyaki like you usually would

Next to it, fry up an over medium egg.

Remove the okonomiyaki to a plate. Top with a generous amount of yakisoba. Top the yakisoba with the egg. Top the egg with the various okonomiyaki toppings of your choice.

Pig out and then roll around in the blissful, carb induced coma that you'll find yourself in later.

Pork Adobo

Pork Adobo

Growing up Filipino, pork adobo was one of those foods I took for granted. Like it or not, it was one of those dishes that regularly showed up on the table. After I moved away from my parents home, I found myself craving adobo every now and then but couldn't stomach the idea of eating restaurant adobo. For one, it was often far too expensive for what it is. Furthermore, I am of the zealous opinion and that most Filipino food is far better cooked on the home stove than enjoyed in a restaurant though I am happy to report that more Filipino cooks are expanding into the restaurant business with great success, especially in the SF Bay Area.

Even so, adobo is one of those memory evoking dishes that most Filipinos are adamant about what it should be and how it should taste. Adobo, like many things, is a family recipe, handed down through the generations and jealously guarded. One family's adobo may be a straight forward dry stew of chicken and pork whereas another's may have sauteed onions and potatoes swimming in a rich broth. What remains constant amongst most Filipino recipes is the necessity for soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves. These are the main flavoring ingredients. The extras and cooking method are what varies greatly between families.

I often see adobo listed as a braised dish but that varies from family to family. Traditionally, braising calls for the searing of the meat and then being cooked slowly in an acidic broth. Many recipes for adobo that I've seen actually do this in reverse: first the meat is cooked in the vinegary marinade, removed from the cooking liquid, pan fried and then the sauce is returned to the pan to reduce. Some recipes ignore the pan frying all together and just cook the meat in the marinade and serve.

My perfect adobo with rich pieces of braised meat sitting in a deep mahogany broth. Chicken is fine and good but for me, pork is the ultimate adobo meat. When done right, the meat is full flavored and tender with the connective tissue and fat melted away into mouth filling bliss.

This is my version of this classic dish. It's quite a bit more work than the adobo my parents made while I was growing up. But the rich broth and meat make it totally worth it every second. Also note that adobo is one of those dishes that actually tastes better on the second or third day.

I also happen to like potato in my adobo, an addition I didn't know about until I had the adobo that my ex's mother made. Some people don't like potato because it's such an obvious filler ingredient but I love it because it soaks up all the cooking juices and tastes delicious. I omitted it here because I couldn't find my vegetable peeler today.

Pork Adobo
  • 2 lbs pork butt, cut up into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/2 c white vinegar
  • 1/2 c soy sauce
  • 1/2 c unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 2 tbsp whole pepper corns
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 bay leaves


Make your marinade by combining the vinegar, shoyu, pineapple juice, pepper corns, garlic and bay leaves. Pour over your pork butt and then marinate for one hour. Do not marinate too long as the acide from the vinegar and pineapple juice will begin to chemically cook the meat.

adobo-process02 adobo-process03

Pre-heat your oven to 325F. Remove your meat from the marinade and drain, reserving the marinade as this will also be your braising liquid. In an oven safe pot or dutch oven, heat about a tablespoon of oil at about medium high. Brown your drained meat in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan.

adobo-process05 adobo-process06

Once all the meat has browned, deglaze the pan with the marinade, making sure to scrape all the browned bits off of the bottom. Return the meat to the pan. Cover and cook in the oven for 30 minutes until the pork is cooked through and tender.

Serve with white rice.

Defatting the broth (optional)

If you're watching your fat/cholesterol intake (and who isn't?) you may want to defat your broth. Otherwise, you may have a copious layer of fat sitting right on top of your adobo broth which isn't appetizing at all.

Place meat and broth in separate containers and let cool for 15 minutes and then store in the fridge for at least 6 hours if not overnight to let the fat harden. Skim off the fat layer.


Want chicken adobo? Easy, just substitute the 2lbs of pork butt for an equal amount of chicken parts. Bok bok.

If you can't oven braise (because your pan isn't oven safe), just simmer the meat and cooking liquid together for 30 minutes on medium to medium low.

If you want a no-fuss version, this can easily be cooked in a crock pot. Just dump the meat and marinade in the crock pot and set on low for 10 hours or high for 4 hours.

About the Ingredients

My preferred soy sauce is Kikkoman because it's great as both a cooking soy sauce and an eating soy sauce so I always have on hand. Feel free to use your favorite brand of soy sauce. I'd advise using low sodium soy sauce. That stuff is just nasty but if you must, you must.

If you live in an area with a Filipino market, you can find Filipino brands of vinegar. Personally, I don't bother as I'm not too fond of the taste. I blame my American palate. I just use the regular distilled white vinegar you find in the local American megamart since this is what my parents always used when I was growing up.

The pineapple juice is a departure from traditional ingredients but is seen in some in Filipino-Hawaiian recipes. I like it because it mellows out the salty soy sauce and sharp vinegar. Some recipes include brown sugar for the same effect. I don't use brown sugar because it carmelizes too much during the pan searing process.

Could you use lean cuts of meat like pork tenderloin or chicken breasts for adobo? Of course. But in doing so, you'll find that your meat will be tender but dry. In order to stay moist, the meat should have some fat on it even if you don't eat it.

For chicken adobo, I use thighs and drumsticks with the skin on and then remove the skin after cooking. Remember that chicken has a membrane on it that keeps fat from soaking into the meat so peeling off the cooked skin is fine.

For pork adobo, I use pork butt, trimming the pieces that are obviously far too fatty.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Potato Bacon Frittata

As a young professional, starting out on her own, I didn't have much in the way of cookware. My first pot and pan were actually hand me downs from my husband's bachelor kitchen. His bachelor kitchen was comprised of what we call "survival gear." He had exactly one pot, one pan and one bowl. Plus a knife, a fork and a spoon and two plastic plates. No, he didn't cook much. I made him chicken parmigiana on that measly bit of equipment on the first night we actually spent time a good amount of time together.

Over the years, I've accumulated a few pieces of cookware. The first few years were pretty lean and about the best I could afford was whatever non-stick cookware happened to be on sale at our local Target. As they say, you get what you pay for and I must have gone through three or four sets of sub-par cookware in the last few years.

I've always longed for a good set of oven safe, stainless steel cookware but never could afford the All Clad that I salivated over. But serendipity smiled on me this summer. Thanks to a lovely anniversary gift certificate from my parents as well as a massive sale at Macy*s, I was able to get myself a great set of Cuisinart stainless steel cookware. It's my first set of stainless steel cookware and if the reviews are correct, this set is only second to All Clad. Over the few weeks that I've been using them, I've been very satisfied and I predict that my cookware and I shall make many happy meals together.

In the spirit of trying to use up some of the random leftover ingredients I have laying about, I decided to make a frittata for my lunch tomorrow. I'd never made a frittata before, mostly because I never had oven safe cookware. But now that I do have oven safe cookware -- and had a massive need to make some kind of edible lunch for work -- I decided to experiment.

  • 1 large russet potato, baked and diced into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 2 slices thick cut bacon, diced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese

Pre-cook your potato by scrubbing it and either boiling it, baking it or nuking it. Let the potato cool and dice into 1/2 inch chunks. Whether you keep the skin or not is completely up to you.

Preheat the oven to 350F

In an 8" oven safe skillet, fry diced bacon over medium heat until the bacon is crisp. Remove bacon from pan with slotted spoon. Sweat the shallot and garlic clove in the rendered bacon fat until translucent and fragrant. Add the potatoes and bacon back into the pan and stir to coat the potatoes in the bacon fat. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

In a separate container, beat the eggs and milk together. Stir in the parmesan cheese and season the egg mixture with salt and pepper. Add the egg mixture directly to the skillet. Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool and set for 15 minutes. Remove to plate and cut into wedges to serve warm.

* *

Overall, I'm pretty happy with how this little experiment came out. Like most things, it's important to season all elements of the dish well or else it will turn out bland. I was a little concerned that the eggs wouldn't release from the pan easily or would burn but the gratuitous use of bacon fat prevented that. If you're cholesterol conscious, you could pour off the bacon fat and replace it with olive oil or something but I'm a firm believer in the power of bacon to make just about anything better. However the bacon element does make this a little strong so I'll be eating this with rice. (Yeah, double starch. I know, I know. Carbs are the enemy... unless you're me in which case they're your bestest friends in the entire food world. YUMMY.)

Perfect Iced Tea

Iced tea is a staple in our household because it's wickedly cheap and it tastes good. We make it by the gallon and are usually out by mid-week. The beauty of iced tea for us is that there's always an endless store of tea to choose from since I'm a tea freak and almost always have the pantry stocked with various black and green teas.

As far as iced tea in the United States goes, it's a sad state of affairs. Most of the time, pre-sweetened iced tea is a fountain drink, reconstituted from cloyingly sweet syrup. YUCK! I'm firmly convinced that only the American South knows how to brew and serve a decent iced tea. "The table wine of the South" as they call it is the wonderful sweet tea. Why only the South serves it fresh brewed and sweetened, I'll never know. (Being that my favorite beverages are iced tea and Coca Cola, I was pretty happy with my beverages choices when we visited Atlanta this past summer.)

Practically anywhere else in the US that offers real brewed iced tea offers it unsweetened, with a side of lemon and a plethora of sugar packets to help you on your way. As many a novice iced tea or lemonade maker knows, a cold drink doesn't help dissolve the sugar. I've spent far too many meals waiting thirstily for my sugar to dissolve before being able to gulp down my beloved iced tea.

The answer to this problem is simple. Simple syrup, that is. It's just a one to one ratio of sugar to water, already dissolved. This takes the work out of sweetening your iced tea or any other iced beverage. I like to keep simple syrup on hand for iced tea because I make unsweetened iced tea. While I love sweet tea, I can't have it as often as I like and need to watch my sugar intake. My husband, on the other hand, hates unsweetened tea and needs his sugar fix. I keep my sugar syrup in a handy squeeze bottle for ease of use.

The beauty of simple syrup is that you can flavor it however you like. Add lemon or mint if you like those flavors in your tea. Simple syrup also takes the work out of making lemonade or limeade.

For a gallon of unsweetened iced tea
  • 8 tea bags
  • 8 c hot water
  • 8 c cold filtered water
Heat 8 c of water until just under the boiling point. Steep 8 tea bags in the hot water for about 15 minutes to make a very strong tea. Remove the tea bags and let cool for another 5 minutes. Pour half of your cold water into your gallon container and pour in your hot tea. Pour in the rest of your cold water and stir to combine. Refigerate for 3 to 4 hours or until cold. Serve as desired.

For a gallon of Southern style "Sweet Tea"
  • 8 tea bags
  • 7 c hot water
  • 6 1/2 c cold filtered water
  • 1 to 1 1/2 c simple syrup
For true Southern "Sweet Tea" try to find "Luzianne" tea and follow their directions.

Otherwise, follow the directions for unsweetened iced tea above, except adding the simple syrup in with the cold water.

NOTE: Depending on where you are in the South, Sweet Tea can mean "tea sweetened with sugar" or "sugar water that looks like tea" (ie. Georgia.) Adding the full 1 1/2 c of simple syrup errs more towards the latter definition than the former so unless you like your tea that sweet, try adding only 1 c of the simple syrup first and adjusting to taste.

Simple Syrup (makes 1 1/2 c)
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c water
Heat your water to boiling and dissolve the sugar in the boiling water. Let cool slightly and then add to your iced tea (for Southern style "Sweet Tea")


Cool completely and reserve in a serving container.