Karen Estuart Young of Karen’s Kitchen first delighted my taste buds with her sinfully rich chocolate ganache cake sometime in 2003.
Since then, her roster of specialty cakes has grown to include four that have landed on Inquirer Lifestyle’s “Best Desserts” list: chocolate ganache, red velvet, duchess apple pie and coffee Japanese cheesecake.
For a woman whose role in the kitchen when she was 12 years old was to be her eldest sister Joy Estuart Walsh’s extra hand (her job primarily was to hold the electric mixer in place), Karen has come a long way.
Thanks to my friend Vivian Go, who invited me to coffee at Young’s newly opened Kapitolyo Kitchen in Pasig City, I was able to touch base again with Karen.
As I walked past the flower-filled planter boxes and opened the door to Karen’s Kitchen, I saw chandeliers made from teapots, cups and saucers hanging from the ceiling. Displayed on the shelves were vintage kitchenware.
On one side of the function room was a little kitchen with an old, beautiful Detroit oven and stove; farther down, a gated mural of a garden in bloom. All the way to the restroom, every nook and cranny had elements for the eyes to feast on.
Being at Karen’s Kitchen was like walking into a page of a pop-up storybook—dreamy, whimsical.
I vividly recall how it smelled so good—all at once, a whiff of sweet (sugar literally) as well as of baked goods fresh from the oven and of coffee being brewed.
On the chiller, neatly displayed were Karen’s little cakes, all visually inviting.
What caught my fancy was the Sticky Toffee Pudding, and I could not have made a better choice. Every bite was a satisfying mouthful of sticky dates, soft, light and moist, straight out of the chiller. It was made more delectable by a thick layer of exquisite toffee that was buttery.
Imagine how delectable it would have been if slightly heated with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, with the toffee sauce flowing in a runny stream.
Served either way, this Sticky Toffee Pudding now belongs to my list of personal favorites. It is to die for!
Immediately after my visit, I had to give Karen a call. First, to tell her how delicious her Sticky Toffee Pudding was, how happy I was for her, and how I sincerely felt that her success had been well deserved.
She said her Kapitolyo outlet was God’s answer to her prayer on what to do with her life: “With my children off to university, I prayed for guidance to ask if this was what I should do when I entered my empty-nest season.”
There were many things Karen considered. She knew that she wanted an outlet somewhere northeast of Manila, but she was uncertain if she could afford to build a store, and more important, if she could commit time and effort to the business.
She repeatedly drove around the Kapitolyo area and found an old house up for lease. She checked the Bible and found a verse that she took as a sign from heaven. She rented the house and restored it.
The government permit was given finally on April 6, Easter Monday. She took it again as a good sign.
Karen considered Kapitolyo Kitchen “a visual reminder of grace, transformation and restoration.”
Karen’s Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 20-24 cookies
190 grams all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
170 g butter
150 g brown sugar
30 g white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
100 g bittersweet chocolate, chopped and divided into 70 g (for batter) and 30 g (topping)
100 g white chocolate, chopped and divided into 70 g (for batter) and 30 g
Chocolate for dipping:
100-200 g, bittersweet chocolate, chopped, melted over a double boiler bowl
- Preheat oven to 350 ºF.
- Whisk the flour, baking soda, cornstarch and salt. Set aside.
- Cream butter and sugars in a mixer at medium speed.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating 30 seconds after each addition. Then add vanilla.
- With the mixer on low, pour the dry ingredients in three additions.
- With a rubber spatula, incorporate the 70 grams each of the bittersweet and white chocolate into the batter. Chill the batter for at least an hour.
- Spoon (I use a 1.5 oz small ice cream scoop) the batter on a Silpat-lined baking tray, leaving a distance of 2 inches between cookies.
- Bake for eight minutes.
- Remove the cookies from the oven and quickly add the 30 g each of bittersweet and white chocolate by gently pressing the morsels into the half-baked cookies. Return cookies to the oven and bake for another three to five minutes or until golden.
- Let cookies cool on the baking tray for five minutes. Remove cookies and cool completely. Serve.
- Melt 100-200 g (adjust according to how thick you want your chocolate coating to be) of chopped bittersweet chocolate on a double boiler.
- Dip the chocolate chip cookie in the chocolate.
Karen’s Kitchen now serves hot meals but to assure quick service, reservations are suggested.
Address: 17A San Rafael and San Martin Streets, Kapitolyo, Pasig City. Tel. 6963332, 2345118 or 09175394968