Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's Final

Some of you might have noticed that this blog of mine had been locked for the past few weeks. Thanks to all of you who have sent me comments and emails to check if I’m alright. The truth is, I put my blog on hold to stop and think about the fate of this blog.

Since a few months back, my work has been zapping my energy throughout each working week. The current projects are underway, but my boss keeps having new ideas. So the workload piles up, but the manpower remains the same, and I end up working for 10 hours on some days. As a result, I hardly have time to even visit some of my favourite blogs, not to bake mention bake during the weekdays. When the weekends come around, all I want to do is to catch up on some rest. Even when I do bake, I have absolutely no mood to fuss around with what ‘setting', ‘backgound’, ‘lighting’, ‘utensils’ etc etc to use to take pictures. All I want to do is to cut and eat whatever came out of the oven.

What has happened? To be honest, I guess I have lost my enthusiasm for blogging. I don’t know about others, but taking and then editing pictures, followed by research on the post, and finally till the actual write-up, takes up a substantial amount of my time, something which I don’t have a lot of nowadays. I am rather particular about my pictures, but my photographs still turn out lousy each time. Even after two years, I still suck at them. That’s another disappointment for me.

After writing so much, it's time for the conclusion - I am putting this blog on hiatus indefinitely. I don’t think I will return to blogging anytime soon. But there’s no saying that I won’t, maybe when the blogging ‘bug’ bites again, you’ll see me around again. Before I say goodbye, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you – my readers, who has been visiting this blog for the past two years. I truly appreciate your constant encouragement and support. I will leave the blog open, in case anyone is interested in any of the recipes I have posted. Once again, thank you and take care!

Monday, September 24, 2007

It's Nice to Bake Again

Since it has been some time since I last baked, I thought I might just start with something simple, but my favourite - bread.

This time I made some buns - some filled with tuna and some with kaya(coconut jam). I used this recipe - halved the recipe and got nine buns.

The tuna ones - made with my own 'concoction' of tuna plus cottage cheese plus lots of freshly cracked black pepper :p

The kaya ones were simple, just pop open a bottle of kaya and fill the bun

This Hokkaido Milk bread recipe is very very good, the buns taste as soft as those store-bought ones, but without the bread improvers and preservatives. It's also suitable for both sweet and savoury fillings. This time I used light cream by the brand President. The end result is exactly the same as single cream, but much cheaper.

P.S. Pardon the lousy pictures - it was pretty late by the time these buns were ready for photo-taking, after a busy Sunday....

Monday, September 17, 2007

Rock and Roll!

A big thanks to Ida of Baking Fiends, I found that I have bagged an award! The Rockin' Girl Blogger award originated from here, to give us girl bloggers a pat on the back. On my part, I'm going to pass on this award to two of my best blogger pals:

Anh from Food Lover's Journey - for her source of inspiration with wonderful sweets and desserts, and dishes that reflect her heritage

Gattina from Kitchen Unplugged - for her constant encouragement and support throughout my blogging 'life'

Besides this, I've also joined The Foodie Blogroll. There are many wonderful food blogs in this blogroll, shared by foodies who have a passion for food. So, please, visit these sites, I'm sure you'll enjoy them. Better still, join us in this blogroll by simply clicking on The Foodie Blogroll icon on the left of the page. Happy browsing!

I've been busy as hell over the past month or so. Made an overseas work trip to Taipei, followed by a company retreat, and more work back in the office. Did some simple baking over the weekends just to get myself back into the baking mood. Hopefully I'll be able to blog about food soon!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hey My Dear Readers!!

How have you been? It's been some time since I posted anything. Oh well, I've been kind of busy - recuperating actually.

I just underwent LASIK (Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis) to correct my myopia and astigmatism two weeks back. My myopia were not very bad to begin with, but because I've been wearing contact lenses for over a decade, my eyes are starting to 'reject' them - I get headaches and dry eyes whenever I wear contact lenses. So after doing my research about LASIK, I decided to take the plunge and had my surgery done by an excellent surgeon at the Singapore National Eye Centre.

Right now, my vision is 6/6(or 20/20) on my right eye. My left is not as sharp yet because my myopia and astigmatism were higher to begin with, but it's improving. I am also having dry eyes now, which is pretty common after LASIK, but should settle within the next 1-3 months. But life is great without having to fumble with glasses or contact lenses :)

I'm sorry for the lack of food-related posts, simply because I have not been baking since the surgery, and also trying to spend less time before the computer to allow my eyes to recover properly. But I promise to come back with more bakes in September. Wait for me, okay? :p Also, a big thanks to those of you who had sent me your well-wishes, appreciate it!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Short Break

Hi all, sorry to have neglected my kitchen for quite some time. Work has been busy, and there's something else on my plan(non-food related) currently. I hope all goes well and will update you guys. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What a Boule!

Since my cookbook buying spree a few weeks back, I have been trying out different recipes from the various bread books I now have(though I don't have time to write about all these attempts yet) . The latest book is The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, which I bought from Harris during their closing down sale(Orchard Road branch). The discount was too attractive for me to let this chance pass, since this is one of the bread books on my to-buy list anyway.

I have browsed through the book for several times, but could not decide on a recipe as I realized most of her recipes called for long rising times, sometimes stretching a few days. Finally with some nudging from a good pal, I picked an alcoholic bread - Beer Bread.

This is a pretty straight forward recipe, where the beer replaces the usual liquids like milk, water etc. If you are wondering if there is any 'beery' taste in this bread, the answer is no. In fact, the beer imparted a mellow 'wheat-y' flavour to the bread, one that you would love if you are a fan of rustic breads.

The recipe called for the usual shaping of the loaf into a boule(ball), and leaving it to rise on the baking sheet. However, I had always been 'mesmerized' by the beautiful imprints on some of the rustic loaves I have seen, mostly imparted by the use of banettons. Banettons usually refer to round or oblong willow baskets from France, but a plastic colander lined with clean kitchen towels can also be used. For me, I used my plastic colander, dust it heavily with flour and set my dough inside for the final rise. Once well risen, I inverted the dough carefully onto a baking sheet and off it went onto my baking stone in the oven.

Despite the slight deflation when inverting the dough out, it rose nicely in the oven, thank goodness! Most importantly, the flour imprints came out beautifully too. A golden brown crust, soft-and-slightly-chewy crumb coupled with the fragrance of walnuts, this is one flavourful loaf which I would love to make again!

Beer Bread (adapted from The Bread Bible)

5g active dry yeast plus 10g water
12g sugar
350g bread flour
30g whole wheat flour
240g dark beer*
7g salt
70g chopped walnuts(optional)

1) Sprinkle yeast over the water, set aside for 5-10 mins, stir to dissolve.
2) Whisk together the flours and sugar. Add in the yeast solution and beer. Using the paddle attachment of the mixer, mix on low speed until a rough dough is formed, about a minute or so. Cover the bowl and let dough rest for 20 mins.
3) Add the salt and knead the dough with the dough hook until a smooth, elastic and soft dough is formed, about 10-15 mins. Then gently knead in the walnuts.
4) Round the dough into a ball and place into an oiled bowl. Cover with cling wrap and let rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
5) Shape the dough**. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and press it gently to flatten it slightly. Round the dough into a ball and set it(seam side down) on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with oiled cling wrap and let rise until dough has doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
6) While the dough is rising, pre-heat the oven to 230C, and set a rack to the lower third of the oven. If you have a baking stone, place it onto the rack and pre-heat at the same time.
7) Once the dough is ready, slash the dough and mist it slightly with water. Place the dough into the oven. After 30 secs, open the oven door and spray the dough and sides of the oven (avoid the light bulb) and close the door quickly. Repeat this two more times and bake for 10 mins.
8) Lower the heat to 200C. If you use a baking stone, slide the dough(parchment and all) to bake directly on the stone for another 10-15 minutes. If not, just let it continue baking on the baking sheet for another 10-15 mins. The crust should be a dark brown colour, and the internal temperature of the bread register 95-100C.
9) Transfer the dough onto a wire rack to cool completely.

* The recipe called for dark beer like Bass or Beck's, but I bought Baron's instead, which is white. If you use dark beer, the crumb will be a dark golden colour(according to Ms Beranbaum).

** This is the shaping method as in the book. For me, I used a plastic colander (8 1/2-inch diameter), flour it heavily(very important), set the dough in it(seam side up). Once the rising time of about 1 1/2 hrs is up, and the dough has risen to about 1 inch from the top of the colander, gently invert the colander onto the lined baking sheet. It will deflate slightly, but it is okay. Then slash, mist and bake as Step 7 onwards.

*** Baking stones can get really hot, so be careful when manipulating the dough on the stone.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sci-Fi Food?

I found this peculiar-looking fruit during one of my supermarket trips.

I couldn't really walk away without buying this. So I went home to do some 'background check' on this fruit. The Horned Melon belongs to the cucumber family, and is grown in New Zealand and California. Due to it's intriguing appearance, people are often attacted to it. I'm certainly one who did.

Cutting through the fruit revealed the following:

The interior is filled with numerous jelly-like 'sacs', each of which encases an off-white seed. I tried eating a few of these seeds. The sacs taste surprisingly sweet and tart at the same time. The seeds pops out of its sac easily, and although the seeds can be eaten, I find them to tough to bite and swallow.

To be honest, this is one fruit which I wouldn't just scoop and eat, simply because it has too many seeds which I'll have to spit out. I guess it might be more suitable as a garnish. Or use the fruit as a decorative element on the dining table.

It's a pity I didn't like this fruit, but I guess the consolation is that I finally knew now how adventurous I can be with food :p (I would never have thought such a spiky, weird, UFO-like fruit can be eaten). Of course, I hope this could be a post for Weekend Herb Blogging too, which is hosted by Astrid of Paulchen's Food Blog this week. Do head over to check out the round-up, and also to Kalyn's Kitchen for more details on WHB.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Goodness of Red

After a few weeks break from Weekend Herb Blogging, I’m back to participate with a post on beans – adzuki beans to be exact.

Adzuki beans, also known as red beans(a more general term), is commonly used in sweet desserts in Chinese and Japanese cooking. They can be cooked with sugar into a paste-like consistency, which is subsequently used as a filling in Japanese sweets such as daifuku(glutinous rice cake), or an-pan(sweet bread filled with red bean paste), The chinese also uses them to stuff tang yuan(glutinous rice balls) or the more familiar mooncakes.

Here I made a sweet ‘soup’ comprising of adzuki beans, lotus seeds and orange peel. This is a very common dessert available dessert stalls in hawker centres and food courts, as well as being the almost-ubiquitous ‘finale’ at a Chinese wedding banquet.

There are so many variations of this recipe, depending on personal taste and preference. So just take the recipe below as a guide.

300g adzuki beans
2 litres water
1 packet of fresh* lotus seeds, rinsed
1 piece of dried tangerine peel(available in Chinese medicinal halls)
4-5 blades pandan leaves
Rock sugar or caster sugar to taste

1) Cover adzuki beans with sufficient water and leave to soak overnight(this will cut down the cooking time substantially)
2) Drain the beans. Place them in a slow cooker(it’s also fine to cook them over the stove) and add 2 litres of water and orange peel. Let the beans boil until they just begin to turn soft and break up.
3) Discard the orange peel. Drain the cooked beans and reserve the liquid. Place half of the beans into a blender. Add some of the red bean liquid and blend to a very smooth mixture.
4) Pour this mixture into a pot, add the un-blended beans, slowly add in the red bean liquid until the consistency you prefer. Add in the lotus seeds, pandan leaves and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and then for simmer for about 10 mins. Discard the pandan leaves.
5) Serve hot. Or if you like, this can also be served chilled, and especially refreshing with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

Note: Some people do not blend the beans, I do as I like it smoother, but at the same time I want some bite, so I blend a portion. Similarly, if you prefer, you could also blend all the beans for a totally smooth soup. It’s really up to your personal taste.

*If you fresh lotus seeds are not available, dried ones can be used. Just make sure to soak them in water overnight, remove the bitter germ in the centre and steam to soften them.

Rachel is hosting this week's WHB, so don't forget to head over to Rachel's Bite to check out the round-up. Of course, Kalyn's Kitchen will be where you'll find more details on WHB.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Have a slice of cake......

Or is it?

Actually, the above is bread baked in a cake tin, and so the ‘cake-like’ wedges. After baking a few sweet breads, I thought it might be a good change to make a savoury loaf. I think I still prefer something more saltish and hearty for breakfast, since that’s usually my ‘heaviest’ meal of the day.

The recipe for this Casatiello loaf is from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, currently my most tried-and-tested bread book. Casatiello is a traditional savoury Easter bread from the region of Campania, Italy. It’s loaded with lots of cheese and pieces of meat, usually salami, and traditionally made with lard. According to Mr Reinhart, the Casatiello is best described as the savoury version of the panettone, which is also very rich and buttery.

I totally agree with him. Even during baking, the aroma of the cheese and salami wafting through my kitchen is sufficient to make me hungry. About baking for half an hour, I could see the little pockets of cheese bursting into brown spots on the surface. Slicing through the bread reveals a moist crumb studded with salami pieces and melted cheese. You really don’t need any more accompaniments to this bread, because each piece is a great sandwich on its own.

Casatiello(adapted recipe)

Makes one 8-inch loaf

Sponge ingredients
30g bread flour
6g active dry yeast
115ml fresh milk, or buttermilk(see note 1)

Dough ingredients
260g bread flour
½ tsp salt
½ tbsp sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp olive oil(see note 2)

85g coarsely grated cheese(use Swiss gruyere, provolone, Gouda or Cheddar)
100g salami slices(see note 3)

1) Make the sponge first by combining the flour and yeast in a bowl. Add in the milk and whisk to make a pancake-like batter. Cover the bowl and let ferment at room temperature for one hour. The sponge will foam and bubble.
2) In the meantime, pan-fry or toast the salami slices until crispy. Drain off the oil and crumble into smaller pieces.
3) Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and add in the egg and sponge from (1).
4) Using the paddle attachment of the mixture, mix on low speed until the mixture starts to come together in a ball. If it appears too dry, add in small amount of water so that there is no loose flour. Cover the dough and rest it for 10 mins.
5) After 10 minutes, add in the olive oil and mix until incorporated. Then switch to dough hook and knead on Speed 2 until soft and elastic, about 10 mins. Add in the salami pieces and knead(or mix) until evenly distributed. Then add the cheese and gently knead(or mix) until it is also evenly distributed. The dough should be soft and elastic, but not sticky.
6) Round the dough into a ball and place into an oiled bowl. Cover with cling wrap and let rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
7) Punch dough down and shape into a ball. Cover and rest for 10 minutes.
8) Line the bottom of an 8-inch round tin and grease the sides. Flatten into a disk shape and place in the centre of the prepared tin. Let rest for 5 mins. Using your fingertips, gently push/stretch the dough out from the centre until it touches the side of tin. If at anytime the dough resists stretching, let dough rest for 5 mins before continuing. Cover with cling wrap and let rise until dough has risen to the top of the tin, about 50-60 minutes.
9) Bake in a pre-heated 180C oven for about 35-40 minutes until evenly golden brown and cooked through. Turn the bread out onto a wire rack to cool at least one hour before slicing.

(1) I make my own buttermilk by combining ½ tbsp lemon juice with enough milk to make 120ml. Using buttermilk will impart a slight tangy-ness to the loaf.
(2) If you like a richer version of this bread, use 85g unsalted butter(at room temperature) in place of olive oil at Step 5, as in the original recipe. Mine is a ‘leaner’ version.
(3) Besides salami, pepperoni, bacon or chorizo can also be used. Just be sure to cut into smaller pieces, then sauté them to crisped them and release the fragrance.

This bread is at its best served slightly warm, where there’ll still be pockets of melting cheese. But if you need to store them, toast them lightly the next day and they will still be delish.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Another Variation

Hmm...actually I dont have much to write in this post(kind of having 'mental block' these days) Just want to share with you another flavour of my favourite butter cake recipe. This time it's durian - the King of Fruits.

Durian Cupcakes

100g plain flour
125g cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
200g unsweetened plain yogurt
160g durian flesh*
85g unsalted butter
180g sugar
2 eggs, beaten

Almond flakes for sprinkling(optional)

1) Grease or line 12 muffin cups. Preheat oven to 180C.
2) Sift flours, baking powder and baking soda. Combine yogurt and durian flesh, mix well.
3) Cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Dribble in eggs slowly, about 1 tbsp at a time, beating constantly for about 2 mins.
4) On LOW speed, beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture until just combined. Beat in ½ of the yogurt mixture. Then beat in 1/2 of the remaining flour mixture, followed by the remaining yogurt. Finally beat in the remaining flour mixture.
5) Divide mixture between the muffin cups, sprinkle almond flakes on top, and bake for about 20 to 25 mins or till skewer inserted comes out clean.

I use a stand mixer for this, which can ‘fold in’ the flour and yogurt gently on its lowest speed. If you cream the butter manually or with a hand-held mixer, after the eggs have been incorporated, use a spatula to gently fold in the flour and yogurt.

*To obtain durian flesh, pass them though a sieve to remove the fibres, then measure out 160g.

These cupcakes does not have an overwhelming durian taste/smell. Instead it is subtle, but yet distinct. I used a combination of flours these time, and obtained a nice moist crumb that does not fall apart easily.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

My Favourite Seeds

After making the Por Lor Pau last week, I attempted them again as I was not very satisfied with ‘pineapplle skin’. However, this batch didn’t turn out any better. Disappointment aside, something did turn out well – the bread.

Once again, I used the Hokkaido Milk Loaf recipe, but adapted it to make a black sesame loaf. I have always been fond of using sesame seeds in my baking, so when I bought a bottle of ground sesame ‘powder’, I wanted to see what I could do with it, and this bread recipe came just in time.

Below is my adapted recipe. Click here for the original recipe from Schneider.

Black Sesame Milk Loaf

270g bread flour
30g cake flour
15g milk powder
40g sugar
4g salt
2 tbsp ground black sesame
5g active dry yeast plus 20g water
Half a beaten egg(about 26g)
70g single cream
110g fresh milk

1) Dissolve yeast in water. Set aside for 5-10 mins, stir to dissolve yeast.
2) Mix flours, milk powder, sugar, salt and sesame in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and add in yeast mixture, egg, cream and milk.
3) Using the paddle attachment of the mixture, mix on low speed until the mixture starts to come together in a ball. Switch to dough hook and knead dough on Speed 2 until soft and elastic, about 10 mins.
4) Round the dough into a ball and place into an oiled bowl. Cover with cling wrap and let rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
5) Punch dough down, then cover and rest for 10 minutes.
6) Shape dough into a loaf and place in a greased/lined 8” by 4” loaf tin. Cover with cling wrap and let rise until dough has risen to about double the height, about 45-60 minutes.
7) Bake in a pre-heated 180C oven for about 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Turn the bread out onto a wire rack to cool.

The above method is based on using a stand mixer. If you’re kneading by hand, at Step 3, mix everything with a wooden spoon to form a slightly stiff dough. Then turned onto a floured worktop and knead until smooth and elastic. Proceed as for Step 4 onwards.

If you like asian-style breads, this would be the recipe to try, for it's soft and moist, and its softness lasts beyond 2 days, which is pretty good considering this is made without any commercial bread improvers.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Where's The Pineapple?

Por Lor Pau (read in Cantonese), when translated, means ‘pineapple bun’. Por Lor means pineapple, and Pau refers to bun. But there is actually no pineapple in this bun. What it consists of is a soft bread bun, topped with a crisp pastry ‘skin’ that looks like the surface of a pineapple.

Por Lor Pau is a very common bun found in Hong Kong ‘cha chan teng’(lingo for local tea cafes/eateries), where locals like to have it with a slab of cold butter sandwiched in between. Imagine sinking your teeth into a hot piping bun with melting butter oozing out? Decadent? Yes. Unhealthy on the waistline? You bet!

I’m ‘into’ these buns lately(minus the butter slab of course), after buying some from a pastry shop specializing in Hong Kong style pastries and buns. I thought ‘why not try making them myself?’ So I went to read up and made these buns by combining two recipes.

The buns are made based on this recipe. After reading several raving reviews on this Hokkaido Milk Bread, I decided to give a whirl, since I had some single cream in the fridge. I must say this recipe truly lives up to its name, the buns turned out super soft, with an aromatic milk taste to it.

As for the pineapple skin, I used the recipe at Jo Delibakery. I find that my Por Lor skin didn’t turn out as nice as I had wished. It’s no fault of the recipe though. I should have made the skin thinner and cover the entire bun before the last proof. As a result, the bun ‘peeked out’ at the bottom. The ideal would be to have the entire bun surface covered with the skin.

Nonetheless, I would make these buns again, because I like the combination of the crisp, slightly sweet topping with the pillow-soft buns. If you like Por Lor Pau too, do check out both recipes. Just note that I halved both recipes, and got about 8 buns, with some skin dough remaining as well(the bread dough to skin dough ratio is 2:1).

Friday, May 25, 2007

New Again!

Recently my work in the laboratory (I mean my real workplace, not this kitchen laboratory) has been keeping me busy like a bee. Starting early and finishing late has become quite the norm. I’m an ‘early person’, and I function best in the morning, and my brain power slowly dips throughout the day, until about 5pm in the evening, when my system starts to ‘auto-shut down’. But now I have to try to stay alert, or rather awake, way past 5pm into 6-7plus. It’s difficult, but I’m trying my best.

To release this tension/stress, I’ve been in a purchasing mood lately. Within 3 weeks, I’ve added 3 new cookbooks into my collection. In the past, I used to consider for a really long time before I decide on a purchase. Sometimes I ended up not buying at all. But I don’t know what got over me these days. I just went into Kinokuniya, headed straight for the items and paid up at the cashier. A method to de-stress? Maybe. A stress on the wallet? Definitely!

Anyway, one of the new books is Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours. I’m quite sure this book needs no introduction. It has been on the food blogosphere since last year I think(sorry, I’m usually quite slow to catch on the latest ‘trend’), and I first came to know about this book from Brilynn’s. Since then, I seem to see Dorie’s recipes everywhere I blog-hopped.

Armed with this new cookbook, I decided to try out a simple recipe first. Hence this Marbled Bundt Cake was baked.

I made quite a few amendments to the original recipe for the Mocha-Walnut Marbled Bundt Cake. The resulting cake was very moist, soft and buttery, with a tight crumb. Serve with a nice cup of java, a perfect afternoon tea.

Marbled Bundt Cake

125g all-purpose flour
25g ground hazelnut(or walnuts)
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
110g butter
135g sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
120ml buttermilk*

15g butter
85g bittersweet chocolate(I used 70% chocolate)
25ml coffee
10ml Irish Cream**
½ tsp instant coffee granules

1) Generously grease a 7-inch bundt pan. Preheat oven to 180C.
2) Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda. Add in ground hazelnuts and salt. Whisk to combine.
3) Melt butter and chocolate over a double-boiler until completely melted. Cool slightly. Whisk in coffee Irish Cream and coffee granules. Stir to combine.
4) Cream the butter for about 1 min to soften. Gradually sugar and beat until light and creamy. Dribble in eggs slowly, about 1 tbsp at a time, beating constantly for about 2 mins. Beat in vanilla.5) On LOW speed, beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture until just combined. Beat in ½ of the buttermilk. Then beat in 1/2 of the remaining flour mixture, followed by the remaining buttermilk. Finally beat in the remaining flour mixture.
6) Transfer slightly less than half the batter into the bowl with the chocolate mixture. Fold to combine completely.
7) Drop alternately spoonfuls of the two batters into the prepared tin. Swirl a thin knife/spatula through the batter once.
8) Bake for about 35- 40 mins till skewer inserted comes out clean.
9) Cool in pan for 5 mins. Unmold and cool completely.

* I make my own buttermilk by using ½ tbsp lemon juice and topping up with fresh milk to 120ml. Stir mixture, and set aside for 15 mins before using.
** I added in Irish Cream just for fun. The taste was not pronounced at all after baking. It can be omitted and replaced with 10ml coffee.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

All Set

The weather in Singapore has been kind of wreaking havoc on our health. It can be hot and sunny on one day, and the next we have torrential rains causing fallen trees all over the island. It certainly doesn’t help that there is a flu bug circulating. Most of my colleagues have been ‘taking their turns’ to fall ill with flu, sore throat and fever that lasts longer than usual.

I have not succumbed to the bug, at least not yet *touch wood*. But to ‘take precautions’, I boiled some herbal tea using chrysanthemum flowers this weekend.

In traditional chinese medicine, chrysanthemum tea is said to be a ‘medicinal’ tea which has a ‘cooling’ effect on the body, thus helping in the recovery from sore throat, cough etc. For myself, although I don’t believe in this totally, I do like chrysanthemum tea mainly because it’s a refreshing drink.

There are several varieties of chrysanthemum which can be used for making ‘tea’, and they are usually dried. This is the 杭菊 (pronouce Hang Ju), which I used.

Besides drinking the tea on its own, I also made some agar agar jelly. Agar agar is a gelatine extracted from seaweed, with similar effects to gelatine obtained from animal-by products. But its biggest advantage is that agar agar can set at room temperature, without the need for refrigeration. It is also more commonly used in Asian cooking, and as a substitute for gelatine for vegetarians/muslims.

To make these chrysanthemum tea jelly, you’ll need to make the tea first using:

40-50g dried chrysanthemum flowers, rinsed with some water
2.5 litres water

Place flowers and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and steep(leave lid slightly opened) for 30-45 mins. Turn off heat and sieve out the flowers(press on the flowers as they would have absorb some liquid). What is left behind should be a light yellow tea, about 1 to 1.5 litres

For the agar agar:

1 litre chrysanthemum tea
1 packet of agar agar powder, unflavoured (I used ‘Swallow” brand)
Sugar to taste

I just prepared the agar according to the instructions on the packet. Then I poured them into jelly moulds and left them to set overnight in the refrigerator. Just a note, I find that it is better to add slightly more sugar than required, because then the jelly would turn out just right. Mine were not sweet as I did not add enough sugar.

These jellys make a light, refreshing dessert after a heavy meal. I’m contributing them to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Rinku of Cooking in Westchester. Do head over to her place for the re-cap, and also to Kalyn’s Kitchen to find out more on WHB’s rules and who’s hosting for the week.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Savoury éclairs

I was sorting out the photos in my PC, and found out that I had made these some time back, but haven’t posted them yet.

This mini éclairs are made using Florence’s choux pastry recipe. After making the durian cream puffs, I liked the pastry so much that I made them again a few days later. But I wanted something savoury this time. Digging into my pantry, I found a can of tuna, together with a tub of cottage cheese in the fridge. So I made a simple tuna cheese filling for these éclairs.

Do check out Florence’s site for the choux pastry recipe. The filling is very simple to make too. Basically just prepare according to your taste and liking, there’s no rule to this. I just mix one can of tuna(I used tuna in olive oil), about half a tub of cottage cheese(or more if you like), add juice from half a lemon, some freshly cracked black pepper, and you’re ready to go. I also added in some spring onions(scallions) as well.

This is my first time using cottage cheese, and I’m surprised at the creaminess it imparted to the filling. It’s like mayonnaise, but minus the fats, and makes a good substitute, in my opinion. It makes a great sandwich filling too.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Rolling Good Buns

This week Weekend Herb Blogging returns to the home of its founder, Kalyn's Kitchen. For this week 81 of WHB, I chose a recipe from the book – Bread by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno.

This is my first time using dill. Why did I wait so long to try out this lovely herb, when it has such a clean and crisp taste? Maybe I’ve been too obsessed with my long-time love, rosemary, that I’ve turned a blind eye to the other herbs out there. But I’m glad I finally picked up a bunch of dill from the supermarket.

I understand that dill pairs well with fish dishes, potatoes, cream sauces, as well as mild cheeses. Maybe that’s why this Swedish Dill Bread turned out excellent. Pairing cream cheese, onions and dill, this trio produced the most wonderful aroma when the bread rolls were baking. The rolls turned out moist and soft, with the fresh scent of dill, sweetness from the onions and a mild cheese taste ‘in the background’.

I guess the only ‘grouse’ I have would be that I would prefer a more salty taste to them. But if you’re pairing these with smoked salmon(suggestion by the book’s author), or serving them with a bowl of hot comforting soup, then there’s no problem at all. Of course, the simplest way would be to slap some nice creamy butter on top, now that’s what I call indulgence.

Don’t forget to head over to Kalyn’s for a re-cap of this weeks’ posts. Coincidently, while writing this post, I hopped over to Sher’s blog(yes, I multi-task a lot :p), only to find out she had also baked two wonderful loaves of Cottage Cheese Dill Bread. Go check out her post too!

Swedish Dill Bread (recipe adapted from Bread)

2 tsp active dry yeast
125ml water
500g bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
100g cream cheese, softened
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 tbsp olive oil

1) Mix softened cream cheese with chopped onions and blend well.
2) Measure out 2 tbsp water from the 125ml and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside for 5 mins, stir to dissolve yeast.
3) In a mixing bowl, mix flour, salt, dill and whisk well. Make a well in the centre, and add in onion-cheese mixture, egg, oil, yeast solution, and the remaining water.
4) Using the paddle attachment of the mixture, mix on low speed until the mixture starts to come together in a ball(if mixture seems too dry, add 1-2 tbsps more water). Switch to dough hook and knead dough on Speed 2 until soft and elastic, about 10 mins.
5) Round the dough into a ball and place into an oiled bowl. Cover with cling wrap and let rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
6) Punch dough down, then cover and rest for 10 minutes.
7) Shape dough*. Cover with cling wrap and let rise until dough has risen to the top of the pan, about 45 minutes.
8) Lightly sift some flour over the top(optional step). Bake in a pre-heated 180C oven for about 30-60 minutes(see *notes below) until golden brown. Turn the bread out onto a wire rack to cool.

* In the original recipe, the author uses a 1-kg capacity loaf tin, and baking time will be about 45-60 mins.
For me, I divide the dough into 15 equal pieces, shape them into rounds, and fit 10 pieces into 8-inch round tin, with the remaining 5 pieces as individual rolls. Baking time is about 35 minutes.
Looking at the dough, it should be able to fit two 8” by 4” loaf tins, just watch the baking time.

The above method is based on using a stand mixer. If you’re kneading by hand, at Step 4, mix everything with a wooden spoon to form a slightly stiff dough. Then turned onto a floured worktop and knead until smooth and elastic. Proceed as for Step 5 onwards.

Serve the warm rolls at the dining table.....and let everyone have fun pulling them apart, until the last roll left standing.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sometimes It Does Work!

Being a huge durian fan, I am more than happy to make another dessert using this fruit. This time it’s durian AND chocolate!

Okay, some of you might be going “Ewwwwww! That’s gross!” Well, actually not at all, some things you’ll never know until you try. The ‘star’ of this is not the durian, but the lovely chocolate crust, recipe from Ilva of Lucilian Delights.

I first came across this crust recipe over at Gattina’s(which is why I also adapted her method), and I’ve been wanting to make them for a long time. Finally the chance came for these Chocolate Tartlets with Durian Filling.

I absolutely love the chocolate crust. It’s buttery, chocolate-y, not too sweet, and ‘shortcrust-y', everything I would like in a tart crust. Cocoa powder tends to be a bit ‘drying’, but this is not so at all. Besides making these tartlets, I also used them for cut-out cookies, which turned out highly addictive. If you’re looking for a great chocolate tart crust, this is it!

The good thing about this combination is, neither the crust nor the filling overpowers the other. Although durian has a strong taste, the chocolate actually managed to ‘tame’ it down, allowing the slight bitterness of the crust to come through.

Here’s my adapted recipe for the crust:

145g plain flour
25g unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
100g butter
80g sugar
2 egg yolks

1) Sift the first three ingredients to combine.
2) Cream butter and sugar until creamy. Add in egg yolks one by one, and beat until well combined.
3) Add in dry ingredients, mix to form a smooth dough. Divide dough into two pieces, shape into a disk, wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
4) Working on one disc at a time, roll out to about slightly less than 0.5cm. Use the tartlet tins or cookie cutter to cut the dough to fit the tins. Cover the lined tins and freeze for 10 mins.
5) Bake in a pre-heated 180C for about 20 to 25 mins. Remove from the oven, cool for about 2-3 mins before gently easing the tartlets out of the tins. Cool completely before filling.

* I only used half of the dough to make about 9 tartlets (6cm diameter) plus some cut-out cookies. For the other half, I just wrapped it well and popped it into the freezer.

For the durian filling, simply remove the flesh from the seeds, and pass through a sift to remove fibres. Chill until ready to fill the tartlets.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Legend of the Dragon?

I just realized that I’ve been posting about fruits for the past two Weekend Herb Blogging. Well, these lovely fruits seems to be taking turns to appear on the supermarket shelves. It’s really difficult to walk past them without transferring one or two packs into my shopping trolley.

This week’s WHB is no exception (sorry, I guess the above is just an excuse for my lack of ideas). Hosted by our lovely Sher this week, to entice her (hopefully), I thought a glorious-coloured fruit might do the trick.

Here I present the dragonfruit – also known as pitaya and 火龙果.

These are fruits of the cactus species, and the ‘scaly’ skin encloses a soft flesh studded with many black seeds, similar to those in a kiwi fruit. There are three varieties - pinkish skin with white flesh, pinkish skin with red-purplish flesh, and the last is yellow skin with white flesh. Dragonfruits are native to Mexico as well as Central and South America, but are also cultivated in asian countries now, with Vietnam being a major exporter of the fruit(Anh, correct me if I’m wrong :p).

I didn’t like dragonfruits at all previously, because I find the taste too bland for my liking. That was until I tried the red-fleshed variety. It was sweeter than the white-fleshed fruits, and I began to appreciate the subtle sweetness of this fruit, and the crunchy black seeds too.

The best and easiest way to enjoy this fruit is to cut it into half(chilled it well first), scoop out the flesh and enjoy it by the spoonful. But that’s so ‘not-interesting’ for this post right? So digging into my fridge ……………..I found kiwi fruit…..wait wait…..and pineapple. Okay, cube these fruits and pile them into the ‘shell’ left behind from the scooping. So here is my colourful Dragon Boat.

Please don’t forget to visit Sher for the re-cap of all the entries, and of course hop over to Kalyn’s Kitchen for more details on WHB.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sweet and Simple

It's time for Weekend Herb Blogging again. For those who would like to join this weekly blogging event, whereby bloggers write about herbs, fruits, vegetables or even flowers, don't forget to check out Kalyn's Kitchen, where it all started. This week, the guest host is talented Haalo from Cook (Almost) Anthing At Least Once.

I picked up a packet of Seckel pears from the supermarket. Seckel pears are also known as sugar pears. As you might have guessed from the name, these pears are very sweet, and juicy as well. Another characteristic of these is the blushes of maroon on the green skin. They are also smaller in size than the usual ones such as Anjou or Bartlett.

I polished off two pears in one sitting. With the rest, I decided to poach them. With the recipe for Classic Poached Pears from Donna Hay, I made this:
Below is my recipe, which is a pretty major adaptation, because I changed the wine from red to white. As I do not like red wine, I didn't want to spend on a bottle of wine to be used only for this. That is also the reason for the light pink shade of these pears instead of the deep red hue.

Poached Pears
250ml sweet dessert wine (I used Muscat)
250ml natural red grape juice
50g sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 clove
5 Seckel pears, peeled, leave stalks intact

1) Heat all ingredients except pears in a pot over medium heat, until sugar is dissolved. Turn heat to low and simmer this liquid for 5 minutes.
2) Add in the pears. Over low heat, simmer the pears, covered, for about 30 minutes.
3) Remove from heat, let cool. Refrigerate the pears in the syrup overnight before serving.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

"Food Thoughts"

Recently my blogger pal Gattina made a pasta dish using cuttlefish ink spaghetti. It is a very pretty dish, but Gattina had some thoughts – since squid ink neither enhances the taste, nor the colour of the spaghetti, why add it in in the first place? Yes, why? Perhaps for novelty? Or to make a more interesting dining experience?

It also set me thinking, though on a slightly different mode, how you ever wondered how some foods can be ‘offensive’ in their own ways? Yet we cannot resist their charm and simply adore them to bits. By ‘offensive’, I mean the smell in particular. Just think the widely-eaten cheese(especially blue cheese), or the Chou Dou Fu a.k.a ‘smelly beancurd’ commonly sold in Hongkong and Taiwan, and natto – fermented soyabeans, Japanese style

Of course, one man’s meat is another’s poison. Afterall, taste is a very personal thing, and also changes with time. Like myself, I used to hate cheese, but over these few years, I’ve learnt to appreciate them, though blue cheese is still one that I can’t stomach.

Before I digress further, I better come back to this post, dedicated to Weekend Herb Blogging. This week’s WHB is hosted by the talented Anh, who never fails to amaze me with her creations, especially those reflecting her Vietnamese heritage. Of course, don’t forget to check Kalyn’s Kitchen for more details on WHB.

Okay, here I present a really smelly fruit – durians. A tropical fruit with a thorny husk, durians are very popular in Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysian and Thailand. Used in a variety of desserts such as cakes, puddings and ice creams, durians represents a true ‘love-hate’ with many people. You would either love it or hate it, there is no ‘in-between’. This of course stems from the pungent odour from durians, which have been described in various colourful terms – garbage truck, unwashed sneakers, rotting fish etc. But if you can get pass the smell barrier, the flesh of durians is actually very rich, creamy and sweet (some varieties have a slight bitterness, which helps to enhance the taste).

I managed to buy some pre-packed(flesh removed and packed) durians from the neighbourhood supermarket, and hence I don’t have a picture of the whole fruit. For a look at the thorny fruit, click here.

A look at the seed:
Using the cream puff recipe from Florence, I made my first batch of puffs. Yes, so many years of baking and I’ve never attempted choux pastry. It was interesting to see these baking in the oven, because they amazingly puff to almost thrice the height, and yet they are hollow in the centre.

Instead of cream, I filled these with durian instead. I just removed the flesh from the seeds, pass them through a sieve to remove the fibres. I did not add any cream or milk, so it’s pure, unadultered, creamy durian in these light-as-air puffs.