Before POG was a game in the ’90s, it was an acronym for a juice blend invented in the ’70s on Maui. The tart yet sweet blend of passion fruit, orange, and guava juices is nostalgic for many — especially my Dad.
(Oddly enough, the game “pogs” is named after the juice — in ’91 a school teacher used POG juice caps to teach a modern version of a plantation-era game flipping ‘milk covas’ from the ’30s. My ’90s mind would have been blown!)
POG is relatively unknown on the mainland, and it is near impossible to find. I have only seen Aloha or Hawaiian Sun brands on the east coast, which are thick, syrupy, and lack freshness.
But, the POG experience can be re-created. For my sister’s rehearsal dinner in March we catered dessert from Taste of Aloha and the POG cupcakes were non-negotiable.
I asked baking kumu Amy if she would share her cupcake recipe so I could make it into a birthday cake for my Dad. Thankfully she obliged!
POG cupcakes from my sister’s rehearsal
The POG cake was a hit (again!). Since I made cakes instead of cupcakes, the baking time was much longer (~40 minutes), but the cake was still incredibly moist and flavorful.
I also opted for 2 different fillings since there were 4 layers of cake. Filling 1 was a tropical fruit curd which consisted of: peach-passion fruit juice, palekaiko tea, ginger, orange puree, li hing powder. Filling 2 was the incredibly creamy and smooth liliko’i butter from Kahuku Farms that I recently lugged back from Hawai’i.
I covered the cake in toasted coconut because I didn’t want to make candied orange peel, but in hindsight it would probably be quicker to make the orange peel!
For this month’s Secret Recipe Club I spent a long time perusing Susan’s Australia-based blog, My Whole Food Family, bookmarking recipes such as Cappuccino Brownie Bites, Palmiers, Pear Tea Cake, Christmas Cake, and Caramel Cheesecake. I had my heart set on re-creating this daring Bûche de Nöel and even bought a silicone mold for it, but time got away from me.
But then I remembered that over a year ago I had purchased a madeline pan from World Market and still had not used it. Additionally, I had all of the ingredients for these Earl Grey Tea Madeleines on hand, including a brand new tin of Cream of Earl Grey.
I took a batch of these over to our veterinarian as a thank you for all of their help during Leopold’s last days.
These madeline cake-cookies were the perfect treat for tea-time. The fruit zest is bright and the madeline texture is springy without being greasy. The tea flavor was lost on me, but it might have been the tea I used (even though I added more than the recipe called for) or the fact that my lemon zest was extra “zesty”. The original recipe calls for the zest of half a lemon, but the recipe printed in Bon Appétit lists only a packed half teaspoon, which I would recommend to have more balanced flavors.
If you are planning to make these, remember to allow the batter to chill!
Anything involving a candy thermometer is intimidating. I dipped my toe into the pool of candy-making with toffee, which I’ve now made several times. This holiday season wasn’t looking promising — I had planned on trying my hand at marshmallows for the first time but had just burned my first attempt at toffee. Was I doomed to melted sugar doom?
Thankfully the hardest part of making these marshmallows was getting them out of the pan after they had cooled overnight. Well, that and cleaning the corn syrup-gelatin-covered dishes (note to self: clean right away when the sugar is still warm).
It was amazing watching the clear sugar mixture drizzle down the side of the bowl, soon to be steaming, frothy liquid and then fluffy, magical fluff. After waiting for the sugar syrup to come to 240°, these candies are actually done after 3-5 minutes of whisking. Just pour into a greased and powdered pan, top with more powder and wait overnight.
The original recipe states to merely grease the pan that the marshmallow mixture goes into. On my second batch (this time absinthe marshmallows) I greased then sugared the pan with confectioner’s sugar. The removal of the marshmallows was much easier. I like to roll the cut edges in more confectioner’s sugar so they don’t stick together, then shake off the excess.
Homemade marshmallows are much softer, flavorful, and decadent. I’ve added them to coffee, cocoa, and lattes as well as plain. My brother picked up on the fact that I used vanilla paste instead of vanilla extract; he doesn’t like vanilla generally but approved of these. These are blank canvases for whatever flavor you’d like: coconut, cocoa, coffee, peppermint, or citrus. They also make great gifts since they travel and keep well.
I’ve been on a chocolate and caramel kick recently so I jumped at the opportunity to make Emily’s, of Life on Food, Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars for this month’s Secret Recipe Club reveal. I had a huge block of chocolate and an extra jar of fleur de sel caramel sauce that was itching to be used up so it was just meant to be.
The hardest part about these bars is pressing the cookie dough-like filling into all of the crevices of the pan. I found that if I took balls of dough and didn’t press too hard, I was able to fill most of the spots in one round. That being said, this was a super easy and great recipe. Everyone in my office loved them, marketed as Salted Caramel Blondies.
For this month’s Secret Recipe Club I was assigned Shirley from Enriching Your Kid, who is a clinical psychologist-slash-homemaker that chronicles her family recipes and cooking experiences through her blog. There were a few recipes I was thinking about making, especially Mint Chutney, Dal Lentils, and Chole Chana Masala. I had been itching to bake something so I zoomed in on pineapple jam. I was thinking about all the ways I could use the pineapple jam: pineapple cookies, swirled into banana bread, plain on toast, and pineapple cakes.
The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival was in the month of October so I already had Asian sweets on my mind. Pineapple cakes (sometimes called pineapple tarts) are all over Asia and each region has its own special format. The Taiwanese version is named s Fènglísū (鳳梨酥).
I really enjoy eating pineapple cakes, but the store-bought kind tend to be dry and the filling lacking in flavor. making your own pineapple filling allows you to control the texture, spices, and sweetness. I switched out the cardamom in the recipe for ginger and cut down the sugar, cooking it down until it was nice and thick.
The dough for these tarts comes together quickly and is ridiculously easy. There are only 3 ingredients: sweetened condensed milk, flour, and egg yolk. I busted out my wooden mooncake molds that I picked up in Chicago’s Chinatown years ago and brushed them with an egg wash mixture before filling.
Freshly baked cakes
Eaten warm, the dough is thick, buttery with a nice tender crumb. The filling is the perfect consistency that doesn’t ooze out when you bite into it but is soft enough to mix with the dough in each bite.