Taiwanese Red Bean Trifle


I was honored to have been personally invited by Ho Chie (of TaiwaneseAmerican.org) to create an “original Taiwanese American dessert” for the holidays…so here is what I came up with!

This is modeled after one of my favorite Taiwanese desserts… tzwah bing, or, shaved ice!  Actually, many cultures have their own variations on shaved ice desserts, but being Taiwanese, I’m afraid I will be forever biased and partial.  There are many different types of shaved ice you can get in Taiwan, and my favorites are the condensed milk with mango and condensed milk with red bean and those cute little Taiwanese puddings.  See the following:

YUM, right???
Now, some of you may not have be in Taiwan and have access to such a fine treat, or it is the middle of winter and you would rather not have an ice-based dessert…

But, that’s where this dessert comes in!  It is a heavenly cupful of almond cake soaked in milk tea, layered with condensed milk custard, lots of plump red bean, and topped off with whipped cream.

Every component can be as simple as you’d like, by substituting the almond cake with storebought pound cake or angel food cake, and the whipped cream by Cool Whip.  And the pudding layer is almost instant, using secret help from Jello Instant Vanilla pudding… but no one will be able to tell, since you’ll mix it with condensed milk, which I could eat plain from a spoon…  After you assemble the dessert (the only “hard” part of this dessert), let it sit at least overnight in the refrigerator, as it definitely tastes better and has a better texture after doing so.

I was actually a little scared about serving this to my mom’s co-workers, half of whom are Asian and the other Americans…  I wasn’t sure if it was too sweet for Asian tastes, and also the red bean too weird for American tastes.  But, fortunately, everyone loved it!  It’s hard to resist red bean…

In conclusion, you should make this dessert because:
1)  It’s really creamy!  (For some reason, I feel like holiday desserts are best when creamy…)
2) You can make it ahead! (In fact, is better when made ahead)
3) It makes a lot of servings with minimal effort!
4) Your family and friends (Taiwanese or otherwise) will be impressed and quite happy.

So, what are you waiting for?  Call out your inner pastry chef and construct this delightful dessert for the holidays!

For full step-by-step photos, check my flickr set!

Taiwanese Red Bean Trifle/Cake
Makes around 12 servings (at least it did for me)

Almond Cake
IMG_1225 by you.

This almond cake is from Alice Medrich’s book “Pure Dessert.”  I used almond meal (basically very finely ground almonds) that I got from Trader Joe’s (it’s located next to the almonds), which gives it a more uniform and smooth texture.  If you can’t or don’t want to get almond meal, then use the food processor method with whole almonds.
As I said above, you can replace this with storebought pound cake or angel food cake to cut down on effort/time.  However, I really liked the almond cake in the finished dessert (actually, it’s really good to eat on its own too, if you want a nice almond cake!).  It’s moist, dense, and deeeelicious. 

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into several chunks and slightly softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract  
3 large eggs  
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (4 ounces) whole almonds, or 4 ounces almond meal
1/3 cup flour  
1/4 tsp baking powder 

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick spray. 

Mixer method:
Beat butter on medium-high speed until smooth, then add sugar and beat until creamy and lightened.  Add salt and almond extract, and beat briefly to mix.  Add eggs one at a time, making sure each one is mixed in thoroughly before adding the next.  Add almond flour, flour, and baking powder, and mix on low speed only until everything is mixed.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake until cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick plunged into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack.

Food processor variation:
Place almonds, sugar, salt and almond extract in the bowl of a food processor and process until nuts are finely pulverized. Add eggs, butter and kirsch, if using, and pulse to blend thoroughly. Add flour and baking powder and pulse just until blended.  Proceed with above baking directions.


For the Condensed Milk Custard:
IMG_1233 by you.
1 package Jello instant vanilla pudding mix
1/2 cup milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup of whipped cream or Cool Whip (reserve the rest for topping)

IMG_1241 by you.Put the pudding mix into a large bowl, and combine with the milk.  When smooth, stir in the condensed milk and 1 cup of Cool Whip.

IMG_1242 by you.

Now, for the assembly! You can either make large or mini versions…and you can make it like a cake or a trifle.  All up to you!
My pictures show mini cake and trifles.

You will need:
One can (18.34oz) of sweetened red beans (My brand was “Ogura An”)
IMG_1231 by you.
You probably won’t use the entire can… I didn’t.  But, you can turn the leftovers into another Taiwanese dessert, red bean soup!  Simply boil it with enough water added to make it a soup consistency.  Add tang yuan or tapioca pearls if you have them.  Otherwise, instant dessert!

Milk tea
IMG_1249 by you. 

For the trifle:
Cut small cubes of the cake and put them on the bottom of your serving container, trying to make the cake press against the sides so it will make a nice visible layer.  
Drizzle/brush/pour the milk tea over the cake cubes so that they’ll be nicely soaked. 
Spoon on a layer of the red bean to cover the cake cubes, and again, try to make the red bean show on the sides of the glass.
Spoon a nice layer of your creamy custard on top.
Repeat as much as you’d like!
Top with whipped cream. 
IMG_1276 by you. 

For the cake:
Cut out pieces of cake that will fit your glass, or, just cut the cake into little rectangles.
Slice the cake pieces in half,  and soak the bottom piece with milk tea, spoon the red bean on top, add a layer of custard, and top with the other half of the cake.  Again, soak in milk tea, add another custard layer, or go straight to the whipped cream!
IMG_1263 by you.

Feel free to be creative with how you construct your dessert.
And most importantly, enjoy!! 

IMG_1281 by you.

Published in: on December 20, 2008 at 10:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

breakfast items: croissants and granola

In the past week, I made my own croissants and granola for the first time! Yes, two items on opposite sides of the breakfast spectrum… but both delicious! One being sinfully saturated with butter, the other being virtuously nourishing. One taking two days to produce, the other but 15 minutes at the most to measure and mix. Either way, both were fun and exciting, and most of all, yummy yummy.

Actually, although I usually eat croissants for breakfast (as I guess most do…), it worked out that it was most convenient to serve them during dinner time for my family. So that night, our dinner consisted of croissant, steak, and vegetables………stir-fried in lard. Needless to say, our arteries were hurting a little after. But, oh, the fresh and warm croissants!!!!! I was so scared to make my own croissants, I must’ve watched the Baking with Julia PBS video online like 5 times for each segment.

I actually used the Tartine recipe, because it gave quantities for active dry yeast, whereas the Baking with Julia recipe calls for fresh yeast. The Tartine recipe also seemed like it would provide a better flavor (don’t ask me exactly why I thought this, because I obviously don’t know the methods for making the most flavorful croissants…). That and going back and forth between two sets of instructions might’ve been the cause for the severe issues I had by the last turn and shaping of the croissants when my dough started to tear and butter peaked out everywhere…but I tried to suffocate the butter with as much flour as I could, and prayed that it all turned out okay.

But, what do you know! Out of the oven came buttery and flakey pastries that my family loves so much, with that great fermented croissant flavor. Actually, my family usually just buys a humongous tray of them from Sam’s Club…but hooray for me, they pronounced them as better than Sam’s. 😀 I still have half of the batch lying in my freezer, but I don’t know if I’ll make them again any time soon…but I did have to make them at least once!! Another summer baking project, checked off!

Now, onto the granola… it is Nigella Lawson’s “Andy’s Fairfield Granola” from Feast. (If you google, it will come up…sorry, too lazy to type it out right now) I wanted to make it as close to Nigella’s as possible, but alas, I wanted more to just make the granola and eat it. So, having no sunflower seeds, I tossed in some wheat germ instead, and instead of raisins, the last of my dried raspberries were used. I also used my new agave nectar in place of brown rice syrup. The applesauce gave it an amazing aroma while it was baking.. ahhh. All in all, twas a delicious granola, although it’s probably hard to screw up granola.

Published in: on May 26, 2008 at 9:43 pm  Comments (1)