West Coast Pockets

Appetizer, Lunch, Snack

Seem familiar? They are a well known Cactus Club menu item and I just couldn’t come up with a different name so here is my homemade version of the Westcoast Pockets.  These were mine and my friend Nadines favorite appetizer at Cactus Club and a few years ago, when Nadine was still here in Vancouver (sadly for me and happily for her she lives in London now) there was a summer when we would head to one of the Cactus Clubs almost weekly just for some of these (and so Nadine could get a short rib beef dip).  These Westcoast pockets come in an order of three, which was a bit of a problem for us, so we would ask the server to make ours an order of 4 so that neither of us would have to quietly resent the other for getting two.  

The filling is basic enough – sushi rice, pea shoots, avocado, smoked salmon, and sesame but I was always curious about what these wrappers were really made out of… because without these sweet wrappers, these wouldn’t be pockets, and then they wouldn’t really be that special.  The menu card says tofu but these don’t look anything like the white blocks of tofu I’m used to.  

This brings us to a Sunday morning after a late night (which included dinner at Cactus Club English bay – which importantly does not have Westcoast pockets on the menu) when I woke up really early and couldn’t sleep anymore so I started searching how to make these at home.  I saw a few websites where people had bought the wrappers ready-made and simply filled them with the salmon and avocado, but I needed to know how to make the wrapper part (this is my sickness obsession – most people would be happy getting the ready-made wrappers – heck most people would be happy just going to cactus club but blessing or curse…I do not work that way).  So… I learned that the wrappers are made of aburaage – which is tofu (of course), so then my mission was to find out how to take tofu and turn it into aburaage, and then how to turn the aburaage into these incredible sweet and savoury pockets.  

Well…this is how…

The Ingredients

The wrappers / La envoltura

  • 1 block of firm tofu / tofu firme
  • Vegetable oil for frying / aceite vegetal para freír

Marinade / El marinado

  • 1 cup of water / taza de agua
  • 4 tablespoons mirin / cucharadas de Mirin
  • 4 tablespoons tamari / cucharadas de tamari
  • 4 tablespoons sugar / cucharadas de azúca

Sushi Rice / Arroz de Sushi

  • 1/2 cup sushi rice / tazas de arroz para sushi
  • 3/4 cups water / tazas de agua
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar  / cucharadas de vinagre de arroz
  • 1 tablespoon sugar / cucharada de azúcar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil / cucharada de aceite vegetal
  • Sliced smoked salmon /  salmón ahumado en rodajas
  • 1 avocado / palta o aguacate
  • Pea shoots / brotes de guisantes
This recipe makes 6 large Westcoast Pockets –  the equivalent of two orders at Cactus Club /  la receta va a hacer alrededor de 6 grandes “west coast pockets“.

The Instructions

  • First take a block of firm tofu and cut into 3 even slices / Lo primero es cortar en tres partes iguales el tofu
  • Place the tofu slices on a clean towel, top with a couple paper towels and then with a chopping block for weight.  The purpose of this is to drain off any excess moisture before they are fried  / Debe sacarle lo que mas pueda de liquido del tofu antes de freír, por lo tanto depués de cortar, poner toallas de papel y presionar sacando el liquido. 
  • Heat some canola oil in a saucepan, deep enough to cover one of the tofu slices – a few centimeters or so.  Use a thermometer, and once the oil reaches 130 degrees add one of the tofu slices and fry for 6 minutes, flipping once halfway through.  Remove after 6 minutes and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain excess oil / Calentar el aceite en un sartén el cual pueda cubrir el tofu. Usa un termómetro y cuando la temperatura alcanze los 130 grados poner un pedazo de tofu y cocinarlo por 6 minutos , cocinando los dos lados, depués remover del sartén y poner sobre toallas de papel para sacar el aceite extra.
  • Continue to fry the remaining slices of tofu and once they are all fried, increase the temperature so that oil is up to 180 degrees and then fry the tofu slices for a second time for 3-4 minutes each / De la misma manera freír las demás partes del tofu y después de esto aumentar la temperatura hasta que el aceite llege a los 180 grados y freír nuevamente el tofu, cada parte por 3 o 4 minutos.
To prepare the sushi rice / Para preparar el arroz del sushi
  • First rinse the rice in a strainer until the water runs clear and add to a saucepan with water.  Place on high heat until the water boils and then decrease the heat to simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the water is all absorbed.  Set aside to cool / Lo primero que debes hacer es lavar el arroz, luego poner a hervir con agua y bajar la temperatura a fuego medio alerededor de 20 a 25 minutos , dejar que el arroz absorva toda el agua.
  • Mix rice vinegar, sugar and vegetable oil in a small saucepan and heat just until sugar dissolves then set aside to cool / Mezclar el vinagre, azúcar y aceite vegetal en una pequeña olla y calentar hasta que se disuelvan los ingredientes y dejar a un lado.
  • Pour vinegar mixture over the cooked rice and stir with a wooden spoon / Agregar el vinagre al arroz y mezclar con una cuchara de palo.

  • Cut fried tofu in half, there will still be white tofu in the center.  Using a knife and a spoon, scrape out as much of the white tofu as you can.  This can be refrigerated and used for another purpose / Cortar el tofu que esta frito a la mitad, después que hagas esto verás que hay algo blanco en el centro, con una cuchara o cuchillo saca esto.
  • Once all the pockets are hollowed out, add to a colander and pour a kettle of boiling water over them, while leaving hot tap water to run on top of them for about a minute.  This is to pull out any excess oil from the pockets and to get them ready for the final step which is to marinade them in a sweet and salty broth made of Mirin, soy sauce and sugar / Después de que hayas sacado el execeso de tofu del centro, pon los “bolsillos de tofu” en un colador y  bañarlos con agua hervida y también con agua caliente del grifo por un minuto. Esto ayudara a sacar el exeso de aceite del tofu.
  • In a saucepan mix together water, Mirin, soy sauce and sugar and heat until sugar is dissolved, add tofu pockets and simmer for at least 20 minutes / En otro recipiente mezclar agua, Mirin, salsa soya y azúcar y calentar hasta que este disuelto, agregar el tofu y dejarlos en el agua por 20 munitos.
  • Separate the rice into 6 equal portions, add a piece of avocado and a slice of smoked salmon then slide it all into one of the pockets with a few pea shoots.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with pickled ginger (and tobiko – if you have it) / Separar el arroz en 6 porciones iguales, agrege un pedazo de palta y de salmón ahumado y poner adentro de los bolsillos de tofu, tambien agrege algunos brotes de guisantes. Ponga un poco de semillas de sésamo y gengibre en vinagre.
This one is for you Nadine!
 and the rest for us



Birthday Cake


Here is Fabio’s birthday cake from this year, it is a vanilla buttermilk cake, filled with lemon curd and strawberries, wrapped in dark chocolate and tied with a blue tinted white chocolate bow.  I got the idea for the wrapped cake design from dean and deluca where they make a wrapped cake like this for $150 and I just had to recreate it myself.  

The chocolate covering is made of modeling chocolate which I have learned is very simple to make.  All you have to do is melt chocolate, pour in corn syrup and stir until it firms up – allow the ‘dough’ to cool, knead a little bit and it’s ready to go.  I like how it’s a tasty alternative to using fondant to cover a cake and importantly the white chocolate can easily be dyed any color to suit any occasion.  I’m looking forward to making another cake with different colored stripes next.

The cake part of this recipe and the buttercream is from smitten kitchen and I will just link directly to the recipe as I don’t think I can add anything to it, I just followed the directions and made 3 – 8 inch square cakes for the layers.

The lemon curd is from the batch we posted last week and the combination of the fresh strawberries, vanilla cake, buttercream outer layer and thinly rolled chocolate really did work very well together – I am now just waiting for the next birthday so I can justify making this elaborate cake once again.  

The Ingredients

Vanilla buttermilk cake /  Torta de vainilla con leche de mantequilla

Lemon curd / Crema de limón

Modeling chocolate / Chocolate moldeable

1 lb chocolate (White, milk or dark) / libra de chocolate (blanco, de leche o amargo)

1/2 cup corn syrup (5.65 ounces) / tazas de jarabe de maíz (5.6 onzas )

If you have a strange amount of chocolate you can follow this simple formula (that I did not invent but that I read on a website that i did not bookmark) / Si no sabes cuanto chocolate tienes, puedes usar esta fórmula (la cual yo no inventé, lo leí en un sitio web el cual no guarde el link)

If you have 1/2 lb chocolate or .5 lbs then multiply / Si tienes 1/2 libras de chocolate, multipica:

.5 * 5.65 = 2.8

So with 1/2 lb of chocolate you would add 2.8 ounces of corn syrup / Por lo tanto por cada 1/2 libra de chocolate pon 2.8 onzas de jarabe de maíz.

The Instructions 

  • In advance, prepare the cake layers, lemon curd, and modeling chocolate (instructions below) / Antes de todo prepare con aticipación las capas de torta, crema de limón y el chocolate moldeable.
  • Melt chocolate in a double broiler or (like in our house) in a stainless steel bowl sitting over a saucepan of simmering water / Derrita el chocolate en baño maría.

  • Once the chocolate is melted, remove from heat, and pour in corn syrup.  Mix with a wooden spoon to incorporate the ingredients together, the mixture will stiffen up quickly and begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl, holding together as a soft dough after about 30 seconds /  Después de que el chocolate este derretido, agregar el jarabe de maíz, despues de 30 segundos la mezcla debera ser como una masa suave.
  • Pour the chocolate ‘dough’ onto a sheet of parchment to cool / Poner el chocolate en papel especial para hornear y dejar enfriar.
  • If using white chocolate – what you may notice is that as you stir in the corn syrup, a lot of the oil from the chocolate will start to release and separate.  This is normal, just stop mixing and set it aside to cool  / Cuando estes usando chocolate blanco vas a notar de que al poner el jarabe de maíz la masa se va a tornar grasosa (esto es normal), dejar a un lado y enfriar.
  • The white chocolate, if a lot of oil has separated off, will need some kneading, so pick up the dough in your hands and while holding it over the bowl, begin to squeeze the chocolate and fold the mixture over and over in your hands.  Try not to drain off the oil, if it seeps into the bowl that is fine, but you do want some of the oil to remain in the modeling chocolate, it will keep the chocolate from being grainy and brittle / Si es que mucho aceite esta saliendo del chocolate blanco este va a necesitar ser fusileado, por lo tanto toma el chocolate y trata de escurrirlo con tus manos, trata de no sacar todo el aceite pues luego necesitaras que el chocolate tenga este.
  • My first batch I immediately drained off all the oil and was left with a grainy mess that wouldn’t hold together, but the second time around I made an effort of re-incorporating some of the oil into the mixture and was left with a perfect mass of modeling chocolate  / Cuando hice por primera vez el chocolate blanco moldeable, saque todo el aceite y fue un error, pues se deshizo en pedazos y no quedaba junta la masa. La segunda vez lo hice diferente dejando un poco de aceite en el chocolate y fue perfecto para moldear.

Some useful tips for making this cake  / Algunos consejos para hacer esta torta

  • Freeze the cake after it is baked and cooled – this allows you to make the cake ahead of time – even a week or so – so that you only have to worry about the assembly on the day of / Congela la torta después de hornearla, puede ser por dias o semanas, esto ayudará a no dejar todo para ultima hora y tener mas tiempo perfecionar la torta.
  • Level the cakes with a serrated knife when the cakes have just come out of the freezer.  Trim the edges so that each cake is a perfect square with sharp edges for the box shape / Para que la torta tenga unas medidas perfectas, sacalas del congelador ponlas una arriba de otra, con un cuchillo corta los lados para que así sea una sola medida perfecta.
  • It will make it easier to move the cake around for icing and wrapping if you construct it on a cake board.  I made a cake board that was cut to fit right onto the serving plate we were using.  I used some strong cardboard from the back of a sketchbook, cut it into a square and wrapped it several times in wax paper / Será mas fácil  ensamblar y decorar la torta en el mismo plato el cual se va a servir o mostrar la torta, te recomiendo que hagas esto para así no trasportar la torta hacia otro plato ya que en ese proceso puedes dañar seta.
  • Begin to assemble the cake – On the base layer of cake spread a thick layer of lemon curd and top with sliced strawberries.  I also spread a thin layer of lemon curd to the bottom of the next layer of cake so that all the surfaces of the cake have the extra moisture and flavor of the lemon curd.  Repeat with the second layer of cake and top with the final cake square / Para ensamblar la torta – agregar crema de limón y frutillas sobre la primera base, tambien puedes agregar un poquito de crema de limon sobre la otra base de torta la cual vas a poner encima, repetir esto hasta que este todo ensamblado.
  • I covered the cake with a Swiss buttercream to hold the layers of cake together and to have something for the modeling chocolate to grip to / Para cubir la torta puedes usar el glaseado que mas quieras, yo use crema de matequilla suiza. Esto ayudara para que el chocolate moldeable tenga una base y asi quede adjunto.

  • Before covering the cake with the first layer of buttercream I measured a sheet of wax paper to cover the cake, as though it were wrapping paper, so that I would know exactly how big the sheet of modeling chocolate would need to be  / Otro consejo, mide la torta antes de poner el glaseado, con estas medidas corta papel para hornear, de esta forma cuando hagas el chocolate moldeable sabrás las medidas para hacer éste y poner sobre la torta.
  • I used a pasta roller to roll out the sheets of chocolate to the #4 setting.  I then trimmed each sheet to be a straight ribbon and placed them on the measured wax paper and continued rolling chocolate until the whole sheet of waxed paper was filled up with ribbons of chocolate / para moldear el chocolate usé una máquina para hacer pasta, de esta manera el chocolate va a quedar fino y largo.

  • All the ribbons of chocolate were slightly overlapping each other but they were not completely joined yet so to create the single sheet that I needed, I placed another sheet of waxed paper overtop and manually rolled them all together with a pin  / Pon el chocolate el cual moldeastes en la máquina para hacer pasta, junta todos los pedazos de chocolate y fusilea todos para hacer una sola masa.

  • This I then placed on a cookie sheet and put into the refrigerator for about ten minutes to firm up a bit  / Luego pon en el refrigerado por diez minutos.
  • I did two layers of buttercream, the first was just a crumb coat and the second was a more substantial layer so that the modeling chocolate would have a smooth surface to meld to / El glaseado en la torta tiene que quedar suave para que así el chocolate pueda adjuntarse bien.
  • Once the second layer of buttercream was finished, and the sheet of modeling chocolate had firmed up a bit in the fridge I took it out, peeled off the wax paper and positioned it carefully directly center over the cake and folded down all four sides of the sheet, making sure that the ‘wrapping’ covered all the icing and reached down to the base  /  Luego poner el chocolate moldeable sobre la torta, hacer esto con mucho cuidado, teniendo en cuenta de que el chocolate este cubriendo los cuatro lados de la torta
  • Now, just like wrapping a present, you will be left with triangles jutting out the four corners.  On two opposite sides of the cake fold these triangle flaps toward each other and seal in the middle.  It doesn’t have to look perfect in the center as you will be covering the seams where these flaps meet with another ribbon  / Ahora juega con el chocolate, comienza a envolver la torta como envolviendo un regalo.

  • Using the Blue tinted white chocolate I rolled out two long ribbons and placed them in a cross over the ‘present’ and then got to work on the bow.  I am sorry that I wasn’t able to take photos of the bow in progress but you essentially just take one wide and long ribbon, fold the ends toward the center, overlapping a bit, and then cinch the middle, leaving the folds loose and open on the sides.  The ribbons coming from the bow are simple, just bunch them up however you like and they will hold their position  / Usa colorante azul para hacer los lazos del la torta, de la misma manera como hicistes el chocolate oscuro haz el chocolate blanco con color azul. No te olvides de hacer un moño para la torta, este es el toque especial.

The night of…

and a piece the next day…

Filled Pancakes

Breakfast, Brunch

Filled PancakesThese are Danish filled pancakes – The pan you need to make them is called an ebelskiver pan and is sold as a ‘filled pancake’ pan at Williams Sonoma.  We picked up ours a couple years ago when we were trying to come up with something new for brunch.  The pan is not cheap (nothing at Williams Sonoma is) but the way I justify the cost is that each time we use it, the average cost per use gets less and less and now that we’ve used it 10 or so times it has certainly been worth the investment.  We probably use ours 3-4 times per year.    

Just like crepes, these filled pancakes can have endless variations and can be made to suit anyone’s taste.  When it’s just me and Fabio at home we often just use ready made fillings like jam, nutella, or apple butter but… for this brunch, we were having our friends Megan and Allan over and wanted to impress a bit so we prepared our favorite homemade fillings.  Here we have grated apple spiced with ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg (served with whipped cream, and cinnamon powdered sugar), lemon curd marscapone, dulce de leche, and for a savory option blue cheese and ham.

To get these right each time, it’s important to figure out the perfect temperature for the pan (on our stove that is a little below medium) and also to have your mis en place ready i.e. batter prepared, fillings prepared, spoons for the batter with a plate to place them on, butter melted with a pastry brush ready and the ebelskiver pan of course on the burner at that perfect temperature.  

We use chopsticks to rotate the ebelskiver over and we rotate them 3-4 times total, first tilting them up on the sides, allowing the batter to spill down into the well.  Once we have formed 3/4 pancake balls we add in the filling and spoon one more tablespoon of batter on top sealing the filling in.  Rotate just a couple more turns to complete cooking the pancake all around.

Remember to brush the wells each time with some melted butter and to keep that pan on a lower temperature otherwise you won’t have enough time to rotate them before they brown too much.  A bit of practice and you’ll get the rhythm down and they really are worth the effort for a unique breakfast or brunch menu… Just think of all the possibilities! 

The Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour  / tazas de harina
  • 1 tsp baking powder / cucharilla de polvo para hornear
  • 1/2 tsp salt / cucharilla de sal
  • 1 Tbsp sugar / cuchara de azúcar
  • 4 eggs separated / huevos
  • 2 cups milk / tazas de leche
  • 4 Tbsp butter (melted)  / cucharas de mantequilla derretida

Fillings / Relleno

Lemon curd and Marscapone / Crema de limón y queso Marscapone

  • Mix equal parts lemon curd and marscapone cheese together / Mezclar igual parte de crema de limón con el queso marscapone

Spiced apple / Manzana con especies

  • Grate one apple, add to frying pan with a bit of butter and over medium heat cook for a few minutes.  While heating, add some fresh grated ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon and brown sugar to taste /  Rallar una manzana y poner en un sartén con un poco de matequilla sobre fuego medio por algunos minutos. Mientras se este cocinando agrege un poco de gengibre rallada, canela, azucar morena al gusto y un poco de nuez moscada.

Blue cheese and ham / Queso azul y jamón

  • Crumble blue cheese and dice sliced deli ham into small pieces /  Deshacer el queso azul y cortar el jamón en pequeños cuadritos

The Instructions

  • In a large mixing bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together / En un recipiente grande mezclar la harina, polvo para hornear, sal y azúcar juntos.
  • Separate the eggs and put the yolks into a small mixing bowl and the whites into the bowl of a stand mixer to be whipped later /  Ponga la yema de los huevos en un pequeño recipiente y las claras en otro recipiente para batir luego

  • Beat the egg yolks, whisk in the milk and melted butter and then whisk the yolk-milk-butter mixture into the flour mixture until well combined / batir las yemas, agregar la leche y la mantequilla derretida y batir todo junto yemas-leche-mantequilla a la mezcla de harina y mezclar bien

  • Beat the egg whites in the stand mixer or with a hand mixer until stiff but not dry peaks form / batir las claras con una batidora o a mano hasta hasta estar firme pero no seco
  • In two additions add the whites to the batter and fold gently together / agregar la mitad de las claras a la mezcla de harina, envolviéndo la masa delicadamente, hacer lo mismo otra vez con la mitad de yemas que queda

  • Heat the ebelskiver pan to medium or a little under to start with, have your fillings ready, a couple tablespoons of melted butter with a pastry brush and a couple of spoons  / Calentar el sartén “ebelskiver” a fuego medio, tienes que tener tus rellenos listos, pon un poco de matequilla derretida al sartén y ten cucharillas a mano
  • Brush a bit of butter into each well then add a heaping tablespoon of batter using one spoon to scrape the batter off the other and into the well  /  después de agregar la mantequilla, ponga una cucharada de la mezcla  al sartén, es bueno usar otra cuchara para ayudar a colocarlos bien

  • Once all the wells are filled, give them a moment to brown a bit on the bottom then using the chopsticks to tilt the ebelskivers up the sides of the well so that they are sitting straight up and some of the batter can flow into and fill the bottom of the well / Después de agregar la masa espere a que cambien de color, luego con unos palitos chinos mover las bolitas “ebelskiver” quedando un poco paradas, un poco de la masa dentro se moverá para que así se cocine y ayude a cerrar la masa
  • Now add a good amount of filling to each ebelskiver.  With more solid fillings, like the spiced apples, or the blue cheese and ham you can stuff them quite full, with other softer fillings such as dulce de leche, the lemon curd marscapone, or jam and nutella, go a bit lighter with the fillings – the reason for this is that when you add the second half of the batter and start flipping the pancakess over, the softer fillings liquify quickly and seep right through the batter and can burn  /  Ahora agregar el relleno a cada bolita, con algunos rellenos mas sólidos como queso y jamón o  manzana con especies puedes rellenarlos mucho pero con los demás rellenos como nutella, crema de limón y marscapone y dulce de leche trata de rellenarlos poco – esto es porque estos rellenos se tornan líquido rapidamente y pueden quemarse

  •  Top each ebelskiver with another tablespoon or so of batter and rotate another quarter turn so that the new batter can start to cook sealing in the filling in the pancake  /  Agrege a cada bolita una cucharada mas de la masa y mueva la bolita un poco mas para que asi pueda cocinarse la masa que acaba de poner, de esta manera la bolita “ebelskiver estará cerrada
  • Rotate once more for the final seam of the pancake and remove to a warming plate in the oven until they are all finished /  mover una vez más para cerrar completamente y sacar del sartén hacia un plato para poner al horno y así mantener caliente hasta que acabe con los demás

Spiced Apple, Blue cheese and Ham, Dulce de Leche, Lemon curd MarscaponeSpiced Apple, Blue cheese and Ham, Dulce de leche, and Lemon curd Marscapone 

Spiced Apple Ebelskiver 

Dulce de leche Ebelskiver