Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Happy Boxing Day and....


Yes, it's a birthday, but not mine. One year ago on December 26th, this laboratory of mine was born :D

I loved to bake since my teenage years, all thanks to Home Economics class in secondary school. However there was a hiatus of several years before I started baking again, but this time with even more gusto.

I started this blog to record my experiments of baking and the occasion cooking, as well as any thoughts and experience which came with them. Each baking session brings about new knowledge and 'enlightenment'(as my good blogger pal puts it). How I love baking! I love my kitchen, my oven, my KitchenAid, my mixing bowls, and even the weighing scale, for they have helped me churn out fresh loaves of breads, pans of cakes and trays of cookies.

It is also through this blog that I 'met' many talented food bloggers. It is always a joy to read about their latest 'escapades' while feasting my eyes on their fantastic creations and excellent food presentation skills. There is never a dull moment and I have learnt so much from them.

As I celebrate the one year birthday of this blog, I'd like to take the opportunity to thank you all of you out there who has been supporting this little laboratory of mine. Your constant words of encouragement has helped shape this blog to what it is now.

For a little celebration, I baked some shortbread. My original idea was to make a cake. But then I thought, after all that feasting over the Christmas weekend, you probably cannot bear to look at another piece of cake? These are a little less 'sinful'(now who am I kidding here?). Well, just sit back and enjoy a nice cuppa with these fingers then :)

Each bite oozing with buttery fragrance

Friday, December 22, 2006

Season's Greetings!

May this holiday season be a joyous and wonderful one for you and your family. Happy baking, cooking and of course eating. Merry Christmas to all my readers and friends!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Is It Me?

Sometimes I like to have my lunch alone at work. The quiet one hour gives me some time to rest my mind from the work. After finishing my meal, I usually have about half an hour and I would head over to the bookshop to browse at the magazine sections.

Obviously I would be flipping through the food mags, and if I do come across any recipe which is of interest, I would input the recipe into my mobile phone. Of course if there are a few recipes I'd like, I'll buy the mag.

This is what I made from a "Reader recipe" in a magazine I saw recently.

Unfortunately, this recipe for Almond Fingers didn't really turn out well. Although I didn't change the recipe at all, the dough could not hold together at all without adding more flour and ground almonds. As a result, this supposed-to-be-crisp fingers turned out chewy and soft instead.

Don't you find it frustrating when these things happen? I know sometimes the recipe is not to blame, but the 'user' of the recipe instead. But I have also tried some recipes which would not work regardless of how many times I try. Oh well, irritating but c'est la vie(that's life)!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Long Time No See

Looking through my previous posts, I realized that I haven't posted about breads for quite some time. Why? Guess I have not been baking as much breads nowadays and even when I did, it's the same recipe, so nothing to write about.

I made this Walnut Couronne before I fell ill, so only had the chance to post now. Couronne means "crown" and it's shaped by first shaping the dough into a large donut, followed by using a long tin rod(I used a chopstick) to make four indentations, therefore producing a square within the round dough.

Unfortunately my shaping did not turn out very well, so the indentation lines kind of closed up during the second rise and subsequent baking. Nonetheless, here's a look at it:

This is actually modified from BBA's cinnamon walnut raisin bread. As I am not a big fan of raisins, I decided to turn it into a savoury loaf and used only walnuts(yes, nuts again :p).

Hmm... I realized that I still love bread making the most, among cakes, tarts and cookies. What about you?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Nuts? Fruits? Seeds?

Firstly, I want to say a BIG thanks to all of you who sent me get-well wishes for the past week. I truly appreciate all your concern and kindness. I’m still nursing a cold/flu/
whatever, but am itching to step into my kitchen for this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging.

Weekend Herb Blogging, which is started by our lovely Kalyn, has taught me a great deal about herbs, vegetables, fruits, flowers and the like. Actually I also want to thank a good pal of mine, Gattina, who is the one who ‘got’ me into WHB. With a beautiful herb garden and innovative food ideas, coupled with her excellent photography, Gattina produces the most stunning creations week after week for WHB. Who can be un-moved by her passion for WHB?

For this week’s WHB, hosted by Pookah of What’s Cooking in Carolina, I chose to use a nut- almond.

An almond is not a herb, or vegetable, you might be thinking. So how does it fit into WHB’s theme? True, almonds are neither herbs or vegetables. But almonds are actually the seeds of the fruits of almond trees. Almond trees belong to the same family as the apricot, plum and peach trees. The most striking difference is that while these trees bear fruits with the juicy and succulent pulp which we love so much, the almond tree has fruits with a brown hard shell that encases the almond ‘seed’ within.

I am a lover of almonds, I always snack on a handful of dry roasted almonds, au naturel. I love them for their rich, buttery ‘nuttiness’. Many people shun almonds(or rather nuts in general e.g. walnuts, peanuts etc) because of their high fat content. But do you know that the fats in almonds are actually the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats which have a role in lowering cholesterol? Besides that, almonds pack a bunch of beneficial vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, and anti-oxidants. But if you’re on a calorie-sensitive diet, it might be a good idea to eat almonds in moderation.

So what did I do with almonds this time? Friands is the answer. Friands are small cakes made from ground almonds, egg whites, flour, butter and sugar. Traditional friands are baked in special friand molds, but I just used the usual muffin cups, and they turn out fine too.

This is a quick recipe, which once again, I modified from Donna Hay’s Modern Classics Book 2. You just need a sauce pot for melting the butter, and the rest can be mixed with a whisk. Fresh berries can also be added into these soft and nutty cakes, though I chose to dress it up in black and blue.

Friand with chocolate sauce and sugared blueberries.

Quite messy to eat, but I hope no one’s complaining :p

Friands (adapted from Donna Hay’s Modern Classics Book 2)

Makes 5 regular muffin-size cakes

55g butter
90g sifted icing sugar
40g plain flour
55g ground almond
¼ tsp baking powder
90g egg whites

For serving (entirely optional)
Blueberries, or other berries you desire
Melted dark chocolate

1) Melt butter over low heat in a pot until completely melted. Continue to heat for another two minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes.
2) Combine icing sugar, flour, ground almond and baking powder in a bowl. Whisk to mix well.
3) Add egg whites to the flour mixture and stir to mix. Then add the cooled melted butter and mix until everything is combined.
4) Spoon into greased/lined muffin cups* and bake in a pre-heated 180C oven for about 20-25 minutes until a light golden brown. Be careful not to overbake.
5) Turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Serve.

Note: if you are using a 6-cup muffin tin, fill the last empty cup halfway with water before placing the tin into the oven to prevent the tin from smoking.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Not Good

My readers, sorry if I appeared to have disappeared for the past week. Work has been busy like hell, and I've been battling two infections since the start of the week. I hardly have energy to blog when I get home, so till I regain my energy, hope my archives will keep you busy, or visit the talented bloggers on the link list. Till then, take care!

Thursday, November 23, 2006


You know how accidents happen in the kitchen, be it burns from the oven, scalds from that hot pot of stock, or cuts from the paring knife. This is what I 'collected' from my cut recently....

Okay, I was just jesting. Don't hit me yet, read on for my post dedicated to Weekend Herb Blogging this week, which is hosted by Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once. Do also check out Kalyn's Kitchen, where WHB originated from.

The spoonful of liquid is actually the juice from the following fruit:

These blood oranges are from my neighbourhood supermarket, something unusual in a sense, since here we usually get 'exotic' fruits like raspberries and cranberries in the more 'up-market' supermarkets. So when I saw these blood oranges, into my shopping trolley they went. What's more, these are seasonal!

A comparison between these and the regular oranges.

Blood oranges are different from the regular oranges in that they contain a pigment called anthocyanin, which accounts for the deep red to purplish flesh. There are 3 types of blood oranges - Tarocco, Moro and the Sanguigno. They differ in size, the color and texture of the skin, as well as colour of the flesh. The ones I bought are pretty small, about 3/4 the size of regular oranges, has patches of red skin, though the flesh is not entirely blood red, more like uneven distribution of orange and purple.

Armed with my new recipe book Donna Hay's Modern Classics Book 2, I tried out the recipe for Lemon Curd, replacing the lemon juice with blood orange juice. After cooking, the colour of the juice 'mellowed' to a very light magenta. To serve this sweet yet slightly tangy curd, I modified the recipe(in the same book) for Macaroon Pastry cases and made some Blood Orange Curd Tartlets.

There are various other ways to use blood oranges. Use the juice for mixing cocktails and sauces, or cut into segments and dress up a salad. Or better still, make a marmalade with it for a glorious colour. Have fun experimenting while these are in season from November to about May.

Below are my modified versions of both recipes.

For tartlet base(modified from Donna Hay’s Modern Classics Book 2)

40g dessicated coconut
50g ground almond
40g fine caster sugar
1 egg white

1) Grease 14 x 2.5cm fluted tart tins*
2) Mix all the ingredients together.
3) Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for 15 mins
4) Divide the dough into 14 pieces. Press each piece onto the bottom and up the sides of the tins.
5) Bake in a pre-heated 160C oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
6) Remove from tins, cool and fill with orange curd. If not using cases immediately, store in an air-tight container.

* The original recipe calls for 3 x 10cm tart tins with removable bases. The reason became clear when I tried to remove them from the tins. These tartlets harden very quickly once out of the oven, making them difficult to remove, despite greasing the tins. What I did was to turn off the oven once the tartlets are done, but leave the tins inside. Remove them one by one. In this way, they are still slightly soft due to the heat, making them easier to pry from the tin. But removable bases would b most ideal.

For Blood Orange Curd(modified from Donna Hay’s Modern Classics Book 2)

60ml blood orange juice
35g butter
30g sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk

1) In a saucepan, heat juice and butter over low heat until butter is melted.
2) Whisk in the rest of the ingredients and over low heat, whisk continuously until mixture thickens, about 8-10 minutes.
3) Cool and refrigerate. Use to fill the pastry cases above.

* To prevent the tarts from turning soggy, it’s best to fill them just before serving.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Munch Munch

Just realized that I have not been baking breads for quite some time. I think my weekends have been pretty busy since I came back from my short trip. So searching through my recipes, I decided on making Italian Grissini - breadsticks.

This is my second attempt at these breadsticks, the first using a recipe from Ultimate Bread. For this round, it's combining BBA's recipe for Lavash Crackers and UB's techinique to make these crunchy sticks.

A look at the interior, which is slightly chewy due to a longer fermentation time.

These breadsticks are lovely to munch on its own, but I like them with soup. Here I serve the herb-flavoured with the Roasted Pumpkin soup which I made earlier(I froze a few portions).

I also made some mini pleated ones and dotted them with black sesame seeds. Cute eh?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Total Convert

Have you ever had the experience that, when you take a bite of something new, you swear that you will never ever touch that again?

That pretty much sums up my relationship with one kind of cake - carrot cake. The first time I tried carrot cake, it was a piece of hard, dry cake with an overpowering taste of cinnamon and nutmeg. You can guess why I have stayed far far away from ANY carrot cakes since. BUT, this is different:

I made these Carrot Cupcakes after a good friend of mine treated me to a piece of her birthday cake which is Cedele's Carrot Walnut Cake. It completely changed my mind about carrot cakes, and being me, I wanted to try and re-create this at home.

I searched the internet for some recipes, and finally decided on this recipe from FoodNetwork. According to some of the reviewers, this cake has the problem of difficulty in unmoulding. To avoid this, I made them into cupcakes and had no problem at all.

These cakes turned out really well I must say. It's very moist and soft, with a right hint of spices. They are not very sweet on their own, but when topped with the cream cheese frosting, the sweetness is just nice. The chopped walnuts also added a nice crunch to the soft texture.

By the way, can someone tell me why carrot cakes are almost always frosted with cream cheese? Every recipe I've searched pairs these two together. Not that I'm complaining though.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

'Powerhouse' Soup

Okay, I know it has already been almost a fortnight after Halloween, but I still could not resist buying a pumpkin when I was doing my grocery shopping.

The pumpkins in the supermarket are of the local variety, which has green skin with white strips/patches, a far cry from the orange versions used for carving Jack O’Lanterns. The orange flesh is also of a lighter hue, just like this:

Pumpkins are beta-carotene ‘powerhouses’, as evident from the color (think carrots and papayas as well). Beta-carotene is an important anti-oxidant, which is converted to Vitamin A in the body. Other than beta-carotene, pumpkin is loaded with other vitamins like Vitamin C and K, in addition to minerals like potassium, and depending on what is added to prepare it, pumpkins can be a low calories ‘diet’ food too.

So what did I do with the pumpkin I bought home? Well I made a Roasted Pumpkin soup. In addition, I would like to dedicate this as my first post to Weekend Herb Blogging, an event founded by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen, whereby bloggers are invited to write about plants, herbs, fruits or vegetables. For this week, WHB is hosted by Meeta, of What's for Lunch, Honey? Do hop over to Meeta's blog for a a re-cap of this week's entries which will be up next Monday and of course, check out Kalyn’s Kitchen if you are interested in joining too!

Roasted Pumpkin Soup (serves 3-4 persons as a starter)

You need:
Half a medium pumpkin, de-seeded, cut into chunks
1 carrot, peeled, cut into small chunks
1 potato(I used Yukon Gold), peeled, cut into small cubes
Half a yellow onion, diced
400 to 500 ml chicken stock, plus more if required
Olive oil

How to:
1) Place carrot and pumpkin chunks(skin side up) on a roasting tray. Drizzle about 1 tbsp olive oil over. Roast in a preheated 180C oven for about 40 mins, until both vegetables are soft. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Scrape flesh from pumpkins.
2) In the meantime, sauté onions in 1 tbsp olive oil until fragrant. Add potato cubes and fry for about 2 mins. Add in 400ml chicken stock, pumpkin flesh and carrots.
3) Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat until potatoes are soft.
4) Puree the vegetable soup in a blender (in batches if necessary) until smooth. Adjust consistency to your liking by adding more chicken stock. Pour back into the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5) Serve with a dollop of sour cream if desired.

There is no cream used in preparing in this soup. I used potato to act as a thickening agent. The result: a smooth, thick, sweet soup chockful of veggy goodness.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Part III - Sweet Endings

Okay, I'm finally down to the last part of my HK eating 'journey'. What would be better than to end it off with desserts?

You simply cannot go to Hongkong and leave without eating Tong Shui (meaning sweet soups). Okay, to me HK means Dim Dum, Siu Ngor and Tong Shui *grin*. In HK, people like to have a bowl of Tong Shui, which can be made from sesame seeds, walnuts, almonds, egg, milk to fruits like mangoes or papaya (paw paw). There is the belief that eating Tong Shui is beneficial to health, eg walnuts are supposed to be good for the brains, while black sesame seeds nourish the kidneys, or simply to achieve a ‘cooling effect’ for the body.

Let me walk you though my 'sweet notes'.

This Tong Shui shop is on my list each time I visit HK. It may not have a fanciful menu like the one next door, but the earnest shop owners produces some top notch conforting sweet soups.

This is Chilled Steamed Egg Custard. Sometimes this type of custards can have a overwhelming ‘eggy’ taste, but this does not. Instead it is very fragrant and smooth.

The following is a new addition to the menu. Interesting dollop of black in the middle of a white ‘ocean’.

This is one Tong Shui which impressed me the most this time. It is actually Chilled Steamed Milk Custard with Black Sesame Paste(cream). Yes, that black spot is Black Sesame Paste. What amazes me is the way they managed to keep the sesame paste in liquid form while the surrounding milk custard is solid. Digging my spoon into it resulted in an ‘avalanche’ effect:

We returned to the shop the next day(we loved it too much!), where we had some tropical fruit desserts. The first is Mango with Pomelo & Sago. It is essentially a thick ‘soup’ of mango puree, mango cubes, pearl sago with a dash of pomelo sacs. As you bite into the pomelo, the slight tartness is quickly neutralized by the sweetness of the mangoes. Heavenly!

Mango pudding is commonly available, even in Singapore. Here the pudding is served with a dash of evaporated milk.

It is less sweet than the ones I’ve had before, and the milk added a slight creaminess to the pudding, very refreshing.

On our last night in HK, after dinner, we were circling the Ladies Market area, looking ‘frantically’ for a shop that sells fabulous melt-in-the-mouth Tau Hua (sweet soyabean curd). We could not recall the exact location and hoped to find it based on memory. Alas, Lady Luck did not shine on us. Tired, and a little hungry from all that walking(okay, it’s just an excuse to eat), we were attracted by a dessert shop that ‘boasted’ a must-try durian cream dessert. Arh! Durian! In HK? Must-try!

This is the durian ‘pudding’ which the shop raved about. Durian pulp in a bowl of thinned-down cream, topped with pomelo(again), I think I still prefer the Durian Pengat from Merchant Court Hotel.

Being greedy, I also ordered the durian pastry. It consists of phyllo pastry encasing a filling of sponge cake and durian pulp. This is not bad, though I detect a faint taste of durian essence.

I’m coming to the end of my post, so bear with me. Just a few more pics of what I bought during my ‘peckish’ times.

Pai Pau – soft and fluffy sweet bread rolls from a bakery. A bread addict has to have her ‘fix’ :p

This is called Gai Dan Zai – loosely translated as little eggs. It’s made from a pancake/waffle batter poured into a special pan and cooked.

It’s fun to eat by picking and popping them into the mouth one by one.

Phew! It's another long post, hope you're still awake. It’s been a fun time eating in HK. Till my next craving comes, bye to the good food of HK.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Part II - Ready for Dim Sum?

Dim Sum (pronounced in Cantonese) consists of a variety of dishes, each in a small portion, and can be either steamed, fried or even baked. In Hongkong, Dim Sum is usually eaten from morning to early afternoon, although some restaurants serve it throughout the day. The most traditional way of serving Dim Sum would be in push-carts, where serving staff push these trolleys filled with little baskets of steamed delights or plates of crispy fried morsels. You can peek at what’s on the trolleys, pick what you like and have it placed on your table.

But nowadays, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find push-cart Dim Sum, most places use a sheet of order form, where you tick off the items you like, hand it to the serving staff, and everything arrives at your table. For my trip this time, it was pretty bad luck at my Dim Sum searching, as one of the restaurant which I had been to previously had closed down, and another two no longer existed as well. Guess this is HK, where things develop faster than you can blink.

I did manage to visit one Dim Sum restaurant for lunch – Luk Yu Tea House.

I only found out about this the day before I left. Located in Stanley Street, Central, this place has a very traditional feel, not surprising considering it has a 73-year history. In the one hour we were there, there were so many regular customers that almost everyone who came up the stairway were greeted by their surnames eg Mr So-and-So, Mrs So-and-So. So(no pun intended) let’s take a look at what I ate.

We ordered one basket of Char Siew Paus (steamed roast pork buns). Boy, were these huge!

White fluffy paus with a saucy meat filling. I just love the ‘splitting’ effect of these paus.

These Har Gows (steamed prawn dumplings) are filled with prawns and minced fish, my first time seeing this combination in a Har Gow. The skin is also soft, with a slight chew.

Another type of dumplings, Shui Gow, served in a bowl of soup. The chopped chinese black mushrooms help to provide a different contrast to the prawn filling.

Make a guess what this is?

Dessert? Pudding? Not quite. This is the first time I had Lor Bak Kow (steamed savoury radish cake) in a bowl. Most times we get it in square pieces which are lightly pan-fried on both sides. This Lor Bak Kow has minced fish in it too, together with Lap Cheong (preserved chinese sausage), which are the red pieces on top, as well as Lap Yuk (chinese waxed meat). That strand hanging off the spoon is the shredded radish.

The only sweet item we had was the Daan Tart aka egg tarts. The pastry belongs to the flaky family, not the shortcrust kind, and it just melts in the mouth. And the egg custard filling is simply divine, I can taste the freshness of the eggs used.

Have a cup of tea first, before the last few Dim Sum. This is Boh Lei, one of the most common tea in HK, according to the restaurant staff.

We wanted to go back to a Dim Sum place where we had visited two years back. Unfortunately it had closed down. But we found another one in the same building. Not as good, but still not bad.

Once again, Har Gows. These ones are larger and filled solely with prawns. Look at the lovely pink hue beneath that translucent skin. Sweet!

These Siu Mai (steamed meat dumplings) combines chicken, prawns and fish. Topped with a bit of fish roe, it’s a meaty piece indeed.

Ma Lai Kow is a type of egg sponge cake which are steamed. These Ma Lai Kow sandwich thin layers of custard in between. Spongy and not too sweet, these are very nice, especially when eaten warm.

That’s all for my Dim Sum ‘journey’ this time. I will have one last post on the food from HK. I wanted to consolidate everything, but Blogger starts going ‘haywire’ once I post a certain number of pics. Anyone has this problem as well?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

My Hongkong Getaway Part I

This is my third visit to Hongkong in 5 years. Why do I like HK so much? Many people love this shopping paradise, but for me, shopping is never a priority. Maybe because I always go at the ‘wrong’ time of the year, and always miss the summer sale. My sole reason for returning – FOOD. This is my first trip as a ‘food traveller’(can’t help laughing at myself for this description), so pardon the picture quality. Ready to go?

By the time we checked in at the hotel, it was almost 3pm. Luckily we stuffed ourselves silly before and on the flight (okay, I exaggerate here). So we dropped off our bags, had a quick rest and down we went for out ‘tunch’ (lunch + tea). There is this Cha Chan Teng(loosely translated as Tea Restaurant – chinese style cafés which are dotted all over HK) across our hotel. It serves pretty good hot food and snacks, and I love the name – Relax For A While – just what we need.

The restaurant was so cold that we needed some hot food. Here's a steaming hot bowl of Seafood Congee, with huge succulent prawns

Char Siew Cheong Fun (rice rolls with roasted pork). The best cheong fun are in HK, so soft and silky smooth, unlike the local hard and dry versions. The interesting thing is, they wrap lettuce in it too, so there is rice roll, meat and vegetable in each mouthful.

Next up is also cheong fun, but a different version. This one encased You Tiao (deep fried dough stick) in it, and served with sweet sauce and sesame paste, a change from the usual savoury black sauce.

The next two photos show our breakfast on our last day, from the same café. Such cute arrangement of the breakfast set.

My simple sandwich of egg and luncheon meat.

Finally we’re down to some main courses. We were just walking around aimlessly, when ‘nature called’. Since It was close to dinnertime, we decided to find a place to eat. In a nearby mall we found a restaurant named Hang Heung’s Kitchen. Hang Heung is famous for their Wife’s Biscuits(flaky pastries encasing a sweet winter melon filling), so we have confidence in this restaurant too. Judging from the steady stream of customers, it should be good, and it did not disappoint.

Sweeet and Sour Prawns – a lovely combination of tangy sauce with crunchy prawns. Once again, their huge prawns served put the puny ones we get here to shame.

Of course, a balanced meal must have some greens right? This dish of stir-fried French beans is chockful of fresh scallops and tender chicken, and full of 'wok hei', which is so important in Cantonese cooking.

Where are the meats, are you asking? Right here:

How can I leave HK without eating the Siu Ngor – Roasted Goose. Check out that juicy piece with glistening crispy skin.

Since we ordered a ‘twin combo’ of roast meats, the other meat which hubby would definitely choose would be the Char Siew. It’s his criteria of determining how good a roast meat stall/shop is. With a balance of lean meat and fats, and roasted to perfection, this char siew did not fail.

Alright, are you full? *burp* I’m going to stop here, for you to digest these mains first. Will be back with more :p