Sunday, May 31, 2009

Late Spring

Upclose and Personal!

Our first radish from our own mini garden!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chocolate Pudding Poppy Seed Tart

I was so ready to go on a Hiatus and reading week till I picked up a baking book. Gosh...if there is a seasonal addiction that I have, it must be baking. And my kitchen oven is the hardest working appliance in my house, beating the dishwasher anytime.

Perhaps it was the lingering effect from all those Easter chocolate, my sweet tooth for chocolate has not subsided and looking back, I haven't done much with chocolate for fear of messiness and over indulgence. So instead of a chocolate cake, I thought of chocolate pudding but knowing my eagerness, I won't contain the pudding in a cup. And so, I thought a tart case will look nice and with the extra berries sitting in the fridge, what better way to use them up on a simple chocolate tart.

Of all my bakings, I love making tarts the most. I just think it is easier to make than cake and less complicated than pastries and doesn't require much time like bread making. As much as I like to make savory tarts, sweet ones seem to be more appealing and versatile in ingredients and colors. I would like to incorporate more ingredients that enhance the flavor of the tart crust itself and perhaps add coloring to it besides the usual baked brown. Tarts can become as interesting as any decorated cookies or cupcakes and I am looking forward to make more of them in future.

At first I thought of making a chocolate custard filling but thinking of the number of eggs and yolks used for custard, I skipped the idea. And just when I thought I had enough left over cream from the macaron making last week, I only had 1/2 cup left and had to substitute and improvise with milk instead. Fearing that the chocolate might be too runny, I added a little gelatin to the chocolate pudding and the filling did firmed up a little and flow out like the chocolate lava in molten cakes.

I have used rice flour in my Asian desserts but never in my baking. I gave it a try this time with these tarts to see on what is the difference by adding the rice flour to all purpose flour. The tart case was firm and less brittle than the usual all purpose flour made tart. When cut into, the tart case doesn't disintegrate but rather separate in a firm chunk and I think this crust is very suitable for a soft filling like chocolate pudding. I always apply egg wash after the baking beans are removed from the half baked tart shells before finishing the baking for another 15 mins. This will seal the crust bottom and sides and avoid the usual sogginess that we usually get from store bought fruit tarts. The poppy seeds added color and texture and maybe I rolled the dough a bit thin which fitted the 4 inches tart pans nicely but shrunk a bit after the baking and looked roundish and a bit flattened. There was still some strawberry mousse left from the pink macarons last week and I piped some to get the color contrast with the chocolate and berries.

Ingredients :

Poppy Seed Tart:
4 oz butter, slightly cold and almost room temperature; 1 cup all purpose flour; 1/2 cup rice flour; 1 tbsp sugar 1/8 tsp salt; 4 tbsp cold water; 1/2 tsp poppy seeds; 1 egg, beaten

Chocolate Pudding :
1 egg; 4 oz semi sweet chocolate bar; 1/2 cup heavy cream; 1/2 cup milk; 1/2 tsp gelatin powder mixed in 2 tbsp water.

Method :
Poppy Seed Tart :

1) Sift the all purpose flour, rice flour, sugar and salt together.

2) Cut butter into small chunks and using hands, rub into the flour mixture till resemble coarse crumb. Sprinkle in the poppy seeds.

3)Starting with 2 tbsp of the cold water and adding 1 tbsp continuously till the dough comes together and is not sticky but malleable. Pat into a round block and wrap in plastic, rest it in the fridge for 1 hour.

4)Take out and roll the dough to fit into the tart pans. Prick the bottom with fork and return to the fridge to rest for 15 mins. Preheat oven to 375F.

5)Line the tart shells with foil paper and put in baking beans on each. Bake for 15 mins.

6)Remove from oven and reduce the heat to 350F. Remove the foil and baking beans and apply the egg wash with a brush to the bottom and sides of the inside of the tart crusts. Return to the oven and bake for further 15 mins. Turn off heat and let the tart shells sit in the oven for further 5 mins. Remove and cool on rack.

Chocolate Pudding :
1)Heat the heavy cream and milk together over the stove.
2)Break the chocolate bars into smaller pieces in a bowl and pour in the cream mixture. Stir till all the chocolate is melted and dissolved.
3)Use the egg from the egg wash. Slowly pour some of the chocolate cream mixture into the egg and keep whisking and then return the whole mixture back into the remaining chocolate cream mixture. This is the tempering process. Pour the whole mixture back into the pot and keep stirring for 5 mins on slow heat. Turn off heat and let cool to room temperature.

To assemble :
1)Use a spoon to spoon even quantity of the chocolate filling into the tart cases.
2)Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and garnish with fresh cream or berries.

Makes : 6 of 4 (four) inches tarts

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Macaron: Green Tea & Pink

Made these Macarons for CrazyMommy and a playdate. Now I understand what was the big thing about making these little cookies about. At first, it didn't attract me but once I started making it and after a failure here and there, the determination to get it right was so great that I am very eager to make it every week for any reason possible. Perhaps it is the psychological feeling on mastering the art of handling the egg whites or the temptation of so many possibilities of colors, flavors and fillings that makes these French pastry cookies so exciting to make, enticing to the eyes and of course delectable to eat if the fillings are good!

I am a die hard fan of all things small and individually sized and these macarons sure fit into my baking interests. Making Macarons is something that needs practice on a constant basis and at this time, I have failed 3 times and succeeded 3 times too! I think I have passed the first hurdle and most definitely the one that determines whether the Macarons succeed or not which is the beating of the egg whites. My 1st attempt, the egg whites were still a bit runny, hence the cookies spread but didn't rise. And then the 2nd failure was when I added too much green tea powder to underbeaten eggs resulting soft cookies that didn't rise and finally the last failure was because I overbeaten the egg whites to stiff peaks and the cookies rise, and was firm like meringue cookies and had no feet!

The first successful one was the Black Sesame flavored macaron with Cream Cheese Filling of which I proudly paraded in my other blog. I managed to reduce the content of the powdered sugar and still got the cookies rising with little feet. Using the same recipe, I substituted with green tea powder and the cookies were disastrous! No kidding, making Macarons has its time and mood and I must have been too excited over the first success.

I made the green tea version 3 times and I find that green tea must have an effect on the Macaron as my successful one didn't rise as much as I wanted. Whereas the pink one, rose beautifully without any hitch. I am still unable to get a very firm outer shell and mine were easily cracked if I didn't handle them carefully. Perhaps it is the heat of the oven or period of baking that resulted this or even the way I pipe the Macaron which is yet to be mastered to a consistent size and quantity.

All I can say is that I like the challenge of making these cookies. Tartelette is the best website for Macaron recipes and her picture illustrations published in Macaron 101 in the Dessert Magazine gave me full insight into making a Macaron successfully. Hopefully mine gets better everytime and gives me more prospect into concocting new flavors for the fillings.

For the green Tea Macaron, I whipped up fresh cream and added red bean paste to get red bean cream filling. As with all my other baking and cooking, I love Asian ingredients and this Macaron is very Japanese in nature! For the Pink Macaron, I pureed strawberries and cooked it with sugar and added gelatin and whipped cream to make a mousse like filling. These type of cream filling will perhaps be more appropriate during the cool months and a firmer buttercream type will be better for spring and summer weather.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

May Bento Days (5) & (6)

I was so hooked to Dancing with the Stars last night and didn't do much prep work for today's bento Boxes. The intense steps and moves of the remaining contestants were nail biting and undeniably, this season was the best as you can really feel that the participants were neck to neck in skills and desperate to get the winning trophy!

Got up earlier than usual to make up for whatever I have not prep last night. Perhaps I have been doing this Bento thing for some time now, I find that I can get them done very quickly and within 1 hour I was all done. But still, if I have to do this everyday of the week, I cannot do it. Maybe if there are no more shows worth keeping me up at night anymore, I will resolve to go to bed earlier and build a better Bento everyday!

Missy E wanted a bento with all her school mates faces and I told her that she is asking too much! No way I am going to make 8 little faces out of rice balls, all with different features and hair colors and I swear, I will never want to make a Bento anymore after that! I had no theme for this week but I remember how she envied the pig faces that I made last month for Prince D and resorted to make a Panda face for her Bento today. And also, it was the easiest thing to do, white rice and black nori only!

Contents of Missy E's Bento Box :

Rice; Chicken Patties with mayo dip; Ham; Berries; Tomato & Broccoli.

I have managed to get the face punches, all flown to me from Japan! They were definitely clumpsy looking tools compared to my other punches that I got from the craft stores here but still, they save me alot of time making up all the faces features of any character that I want to make. Now I look at this Bento in picture, it looks more like a dog than Panda!
Contents of Curry's Bento Box :

Rice with Peas; Chicken Patties with Mustard Dip; Stir fry cabbage; Ham; Tomato & Broccoli

I ground up chicken thigh meat and marinate it with soy sauce, sugar, mirin, pepper, egg and cornstarch. Carrot pieces and Bread crumb were added last to hold the meat together and refrigerated overnight till firm. The patties were pan fried and a little water was added to the pan to sizzle and steam for the last 5 minutes. This gives a better color to the patties.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pistachio Berries Cupcake

The baking itch has been bugging me since last week. After another attempt at macarons which turned out half successful, where the cookies turned out 'skirtless' or more known as 'no feet', I was a bit disheartened throughout the week! After a first success followed by a second failed attempt, it will be a lie to say that my determination wasn't dampened a bit!

After a whole week of sulking and pondering, I am ready to try again on those little temperamental cookies again very soon. With 2 dozens of eggs in the fridge, all it takes is another gut feeling to whip up those ever so difficult to master egg whites and make the macaron again.

Till that determination is back in full force, I will just have to stick with other things. Like I mentioned before, spring and summer makes me want to bake, be it simple or complicated, plain or decorated, any cakes or cookies recipes seem so enticing. Maybe it is the psychological effect of the good weather and abundance of fresh fruits available, I just want to eat something sweet and nice all the time.

Blackberries and raspberries were on sale this weekend and I couldn't resist the temptation to grab one box of each. Frankly speaking, these berries only taste really good when they are used in baking or eaten with a dessert like custard or ice cream. I seldom eat any sweet ones and rather pick strawberries than raspberries and blackberries which have small spiky thorns on their plants. However said, their colors are beautiful and not using them when they are in season will be a waste.

The appearance of these cupcakes are not fancy but their taste is really good. Besides fruits, I also love to use nuts in baking and one of my favorite is pistachio. Its vibrant green just reminds me that summer is here to stay and the subtle nutty and floral smell it has makes it good to eat on its own and adds texture to baked goods. The only thing is shelling them takes a bit of time and grinding them in a processor takes longer if a fine ground is required.
I looked into a recipe in the Good Food magazine and was curious to amend the required ingredients and reduce the volume of the ingredients so that I don't have to end up with 1 dozen of large cupcakes and trying to understand on how I should minimize or maximize the quantity of baked goods. With only 2 very young kids and myself and a husband who prefers cooked dishes to cakes and sweets, making small batches of everything is always my top priority when looking at recipes. Baking is always a science and like maths, all ingredients must complement each other in quantities or else the cake might rise too much or sink and cookies simply too soft or too hard after baking. So far, my baking and quantities adjustments have resulted pretty good results and these cupcakes are better than my previous attempts in terms of texture and taste. The coarse pistachio grains were visible inside the cake and the berries added moisture and their seeds gave a fun bite to the cupcakes. I drizzled lemon sugar glaze on the outside to retain the moist texture and it is definitely lighter than a buttercream or whipped cream icing. These cupcakes are one of those little things in a bake shop that looks simple and yet pretty and tempting to your tastebuds.

Ingredients :

120g cake flour; 100g softened butter; 120g sugar; 1 tsp baking powder; 2 eggs; 2 tbsp milk; 50g pistachio, processed to fine meal; 50g of mixed fresh raspberry & blackberry.

Lemon glaze: Juice of 1/2 of a lemon; 1 tbsp sugar.

Method :

1)Heat oven to 375F. Grease small/medium muffin tin or use paper cup liners.

2)Sift flour & baking powder.

3)Beat the butter and sugar till creamy. Beat the eggs and milk together with a fork before adding to the butter and sugar mixture. Continue to mix.

4)Fold in the pistachio. Squish the berries with a spoon till slightly mushy. Fold into the batter.

5)Lastly, mix in the flour. Fill the muffin tin/paper cup liners till half (1/2) full. Bake for 25 to 30 mins till the cakes are slightly brown. Remove from oven.

6) For the glaze, stir the sugar in the lemon juice till dissolved. Use a teaspoon to drizzle onto the warm cakes.

Makes: 8 medium size cupcakes

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

May Bento Days (3) & (4)

It is the middle of the week and I am exhausted! And Curry turned off the alarm clock before bed last night and thankfully the spring sunlight woke me in time to do these Bento boxes. While I am finding that the days go by so fast and I barely have enough time for anything and completely tired by the end of the day, the kids and Curry seem to be always so energised and Prince D is definitely in the Terrible 2 mode! And going on Terrible 3 soon!
Didn't have much of an idea and I resorted to the cookie cutters for help. Missy E is into insects and everything that is creepy crawly in the garden and I love her school for exposing her to bugs and caterpillar as she was squemish in the past but now she is just like any other kid, bending down and looking at bugs and telling her brother all that she knows.
One thing I don't see often here are snails & slugs. My mom's garden in Malaysia used to have plenty of them and the neighborhood boys loved to crush them with their steps! Of course I never do it but I see Prince D going down that path, judging from the strength of his little feet now and how he loves to step on everything!

Contents of Missy E's Bento Box :

Chicken pieces, marinated in mirin & soy sauce; ham; rice; cheese; broccoli; grapes.

This Bento Box looks a bit bland without the usual red tomato or strawberry. I completely forgot to pick up some at the grocery store and used up the strawberries for my fruit tart! The chicken released vapor of steam when I put it into the box and this in turn made the snail looked wet and slimy in appearance. Very brilliant idea although incidental!

Contents of Curry's Bento Box :

Plain sushi Rice; Pan fried tofu stuffed with minced meat; Chicken pieces; Broccoli; Baby Carrot; Grapes; ham & Peas.
I pan fried the tofu and cut it in the middle where the meat cavity was and the pattern turned out very clean cut, as if the meat was blended and embedded into the tofu itself. The sauce is contained in a separate container and the plain rice was garnished with nori strips.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Strawberry & Kiwi Cream Cheese Tart

Happy Mothers Day 2009! To all the mommies that I know, I hope you had a wonderful day and your kids cherish you more day by day and your hubbies give you all the credit you deserved of bearing this very demanding role for a human being. To my mom, I can only promise to make you this tart when I go back to visit end of this year and you shall have all the respect and love from me and your grandkids!

My motherhood life started almost 5 years ago and thinking back, I have come a long way of learning to be one. And even today, my kids still never fail to surprise me with unexpected questions, tantrums, embarassing moments and proud achievements. In contrast, I have nothing to surprise them anymore with my occasional meltdown, funny laughs, sofa queen and the one who prepare all their meals and pick them up on the dot of the hour at school! And also one more.... the only one that their daddy fears!

My yearly Mother's Day always start with a simple breakfast in bed with a card that is scribbled by my kids with the help of Curry. Next I will get to plan the whole day on what to do, which is really no different from my daily days! Well, like they always say, once a mother, you are a mother Forever.

For today, I made a very nice fruit tart with a sweet cream cheese filling and stuffed with the beautiful colors of kiwi and strawberry. Curry and I have differences in almost everything but we always agree on one thing.... fruit tarts. We both love it and one big fruit tart can never last in the fridge for 2 days. Instead of the usual custard cream filling, I went with cream cheese and sugar flavored with lemon juice and zest.

Of all my bakings, I think I make tarts the most. And I think they are my favorites during spring and summer with the abundance of berries and the open face concept of it always makes it look light and luscious. And of course, the freshness of a good tart dough with buttery crunch texture that doesn't turn soggy overnight is the best part of a tart. I always use the same recipe for the tart base and I prefer to mix the butter with the flour with hands rather than the food processor as that way ensures that all the flour is coated with bits of butter and I find that adding egg to the dough makes it too moist at times and rather leave it out completely.I always start with 2 tbsp of cold water and adding by one tablespoon at a time and when the dough is like a store bought cookie dough consistency, that will be the best time to let it rest in the fridge. Applying egg wash to a blind baked tart dough at the last few minutes of baking will ensure that the bottom part of the tart will not turn soggy after the filling is filled in.
I was lucky to get a pack of strawberries that were uniform in sizes and with a few big ones, they fitted perfectly into the 8 inch tart shell. I cut up some to fit in the remaining gaps with the kiwi fruit and glaze the fruits topping with syrup mixed with a little gelatin to make them glisten and look nicer on the plate.
The cutting part might be a bit tricky when there are so much quantity of fruit but I find that cutting them after letting them rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour was easier as the fruits tend to harden a bit and a good pie cutter surely helps with a good cut and scoop.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Black Sesame Macaron with Sweet Cream Cheese

French Macarons were the buzz cookies to bake and make during these past few years. Every magazine or website I visited, everyone was trying to concoct the sweet thin cookie that represents their tastes. Lavendar, pistachio, strawberry and simply anything that makes it more unique and desirable. I actually tried making it last year but ended up with a very flat cookie instead of which I turned into a sandwiching cookie for a durian cream filling! This year I wanted to try and attempt it again and with the craze having receded but not diminished wholly amongst all the other food bloggers, I feel at ease to really study the best recipe online and test my baking skills on this meringue based sweet that has swept the world by storm!

One thing that puts me off is any baked goods that requires alot of sugar. I didn't grow up eating alot of candies nor chocolates but rather rich and creamy stuffs like cheese and butter. However said, I haven't tasted Macarons before and I have some extra sweet cream cheese left in the fridge and the best reason was we were having a playdate and I can spread the sugar and fat around! Wicked me but I am sure the playdate moms are happy to try it out!

Unlike last time, I sifted the almond flour with the confectioner sugar and grounded black sesame seed powder together this time. I made sure the dry ingredients were totally free from lumps and finely sieved. The egg whites were separated from the yolks hours earlier and let sat in the mixer bowl for 2 hours before I proceeded to whip them up to soft peak. As long as they hold a peak and stable enough to stay on the whisk itself without dropping back to the bowl, it is ready. In the past, I always get very nervous when dealing with beaten egg white, especially when the folding in of the dry ingredients is concerned. But after numerous practices on cakes, I think I overcame that fear of deflating the egg white by learning to fold in with minimal and gentle strokes. The trick is to scatter the dry ingredients all over the egg meringue and fold in with a few big strokes.

Next came the piping part. I used a smaller sized piping bag as I find the big 16 inch one was too cumbersome for my hands and I didn't mind the numerous refilling of the bag with the macaron batter as long as I get all the sizes of the piped rounds uniform, or at least not overtly out of shape! For garnish, I sprinkled black sesame seeds on each one and let them sat and rested at room temperature for 45 mins. The batter does spread a little, so piping them within inches away is a good idea. I retained a constant oven temperature of 280F throughout the baking, and like all cookies, once removed from the oven, the cookies will still feel soft and the cooling period is very important to firm it up. Some of the cookies were sticky on the bottom when I tried to remove them and yet some, just came out easily with a little thumb pushing underneath the underlying parchment paper. Whatever it is , these cookies are rather delicate and the slight crisp dome part can puncture easily if not removed gently. I tried a piece and was terribly put off by its sweetness and wonder what the hype was all about... it was like eating a piece of baked sugar lump!

However, after putting in the filling, the sweetness was toned down and balanced with the tart of the lemon juice that I added into the cream cheese filling and the light whipped cream added to the cream cheese, made everything a perfect fit in terms of taste and texture. I think the type of filling is very important to this cookie, something rich and creamy and yet not any more sweeter than the cookie itself will be the best. I am happy that my mommy friends were pleased with the result and the whole plate were finished up so that I don't have any leftover to munch by myself, or else I will die of a fattening sweet sin! Having said so, I don't mind experimenting with other ingredients to make these cookies again.

Ingredients :

1/2 cup almond flour (grounded almond/Trader Joe's Almond Meal)

1/2 cup confectioner sugar

1 tbsp sugar

3 egg whites (room temperature)

3 tbsp black sesame seed powder (grounded black sesame seeds)

Method :

1)Line baking pans with parchment paper.

2)Sift the almond flour together with the confectioner sugar and black sesame seed powder. Make sure there is no lumps.

3)In a mixer, whip the egg whites to foamy stage and add the 1 tbsp sugar and continue to beat till soft peaks. The color needs to be glossy white and the beaten egg white can hold its shape.

4)Fold in the almond flour mixture in 3 batches and work fast but with less strokes. The batter will become slightly heavier.

5)Spoon the batter into a piping bag attached to a round piping tip and hold the piping bag 90' vertical, the piping tip barely touching the parchment paper on the baking tin. Squeeze gently and count to 3 and stop. Separate each one at least 1 inch and continue piping in the same motion to get uniformed sizes. This recipe should yield around 35 to 38 shells.

6)Let the shells rest at room temperature for 45 mins and sprinkle black sesame seeds on all of them. Preheat oven to 280F.

7)Bake the shells for 25 mins, rotating the pan once. Look out for the 'skirts' on the bottom part of each shell, this is a sign that the cookies is rising well. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 to 15 mins. Slowly remove each shell and let them cool completely before filling.

Cream Cheese mousse Filling:

6 oz of cream cheese

1/4 cup sugar

2 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp gelatin powder dissolved in 1/4 cup water

300 ml whipped heavy cream


1) Beat the cream cheese with the sugar till creamy. Add in the lemon juice and beat for extra 10 seconds.

2)Stir in the gelatin. Fold in the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Let the filling rest in refrigerator for 2 hours before filling.

Makes : 15 to 18 macarons

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

May Bento Days (1) & (2)

I said : "When you are off to full time school, I am not able to make so many cute funny faces for your Bento". "Why? Mommy I want all my lunch to be cute!"; so said Missy E! Yikes..... if I had to do Kyaraben everday, I think I will give up very soon. My addiction has not gotten to that point yet that I want to dedicate my whole morning to creating a beautiful lunch box and give up on my own much needed fix me up haggard looking face & hair!

After so many Bento, I think girls tend to appreciate the Kyaraben more than boys and when it is Prince D's turn to tag along a lunchbox to school, I shall just tone down and resolve to use the cookie cutters entirely.

Last night's rain totally washed out the budding Darling Buds of May outside. The tulips were overloaded with water, tree blossoms were scattered all over the neighborhood street and the Hyacinths totally dispersed into bended individual stalk rather than their original grouping. Although it looks gloomy, I like rainy days. Sometimes, it takes a heavy rain to remind me on how peaceful it is to stay home with a 2 year old rather than rushing here and there on a fine sunny day wanting to do so much and yet exhausting! Even Prince D is having a fun time learning to sing the song 'Rain rain Go Away'.

For today's Bento Boxes, I didn't give it much thought for Curry's box while I emphasized more on Missy E's one. Still, despite all the thinking, the ladybug and ant Bento didn't turn out perfectly right as I had a hard time putting the crab meat on the rice to form the ladybug's body. I just used the red part of the imitation crab and to peel slices out from the white part was not easy as they tend to tear easily. Hence, my ladybug looks like a 'cracked' bug! The ant was wholly punched out nori and I just love their head part of which I punched a hand shaped nori and cut off all the 3 middle fingers to form the 2 remaining antenaes. Sometimes, Target store has very interesting things at its pantry part and I found this 2 toned colored cheese of which I cut into flower shapes. Now I think of it, it will make a very good giraffe spots!

Contents of Missy E's Bento Box :

Sushi Rice; Crab meat; Beef franks; Cheese;Tomato;Peas;Brocolli; Strawberry; Salad leaves.

To keep the crabmeat in place, I used mayonaise to stick it to the rice. The nori ants sticks to the warm rice easily and I only filled the cheese in the last so that the warm of the rice doesn't melt its shape. Missy E loves sushi rice for its stickiness but I think sandwiches and bread will be a better option for the coming hot months. I don't flavor the rice at all and let all the other ingredients blend in with taste and color.

Contents of Curry's Bento Box :

Soba stir fried with shallot; ginger chicken drumstick with mirin, rice vinegar & soy sauce; romaine lettuce & tomato; beef franks.

I am a chicken wing person and there will definitely be no fight for the drumsticks when I make a chicken dish! I was hoping to find the small drummets instead but there were none for sale and Curry just have to get his hand sticky & messy with this big drumstick!

Bon Appetite! While Prince D & I will just feed on hot soup noodles for lunch while listening to the rain drops.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mango & Sago Smoothie

It was another of those moments '2 for $1' thing! Frugality is just something that a housewife learns automatically throughout her trials, errors and tries when grocery shopping is concerned. However said, I am more of a person who would stretch her dollar, literally. I don't go buying things by bulks but rather think of buying more varieties of things using the same amount of money! And $1 dollar for 2 mangoes seemed to be a very sensible buy and although they were no way near ripe, I thought it was a bargain and no harm letting them ripen in my kitchen, which took them almost 2 weeks!

If I had my way, I would have made a mango cheesecake! But that will definitely make me penny wise but fool on the pounds isn't it? And so I opted for something lighter that is equally creamy with a touch of cream and tropically sweet and scented with the mangoes and added texture of chewiness with sago. It is an Asian version of the fruit smoothie we get here and I got the idea from the mango and sago in coconut juice and cream dessert that is widely available in Hong Kong. As the weather gets warmer, this is a very good dessert that kind of refreshes the palate and cooling to the body.

Sago is an ingredient that never seems to be used up and is mostly used in the making of local Malay sweets or 'kueh' in Malaysia and Singapore. I like the pearly effect it gives to the appearance of any dessert that is made with it and the texture itself adds more character to the overall of the taste of the dessert. It doesn't have any taste to it and the quantity used each time is usually little. Recently I have seen colored sago instead of the original white one and perhaps they will look very pretty in a plain white dessert made from coconut milk. For this recipe, I used the plain white ones, which was first washed & rinsed prior to boiling them in water till translucent and rinsed again under cold running water. They thickened the mango smoothie slightly and better served chilled than at room temperature.

Ingredients :

2 very ripe mangoes
2 oz white sago
2 cups water
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup syrup (boiled sugar & water)
3 slices of kiwi fruit for garnish

1)Peel the skin of the mangoes, cut 1/2 from one and cut into chunky cubes for garnish. Coarsely cut the remaining mangoes and put in blender and puree to thick consistency.
2)Rinse the sago and put it into a pot with 2 cups of water and bring to slow boil for 10 mins, till they turn translucent. Remove from heat and rinse under running cold water and let the water drain,
3)Add the syrup water into the mango puree and stir to combine. Stir in the cream next and add in the sago last. Distribute evenly into the mango mixture.
4)Pour into 3 stout glasses and garnish each with mango cubes and kiwi slice. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

Makes : 3 glasses

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sweet Potato Bao

Everytime I buy a sweet potato, I have nothing in mind on what to do with it. Perhaps it is the bright orangy color that attracts me, I always think that there are alot of things I can do with it and yet it normally sits inside the countertop basket with potatoes and onions for weeks, ever so patiently waiting for me to find the right recipe!

I have attempted Chinese steamed Buns or Bao in the past but using the special Bao flour that I got from the Asian store. Those were the days when I believed that a specialty flour can do magic instead of really studying the recipe itself to produce the best result of my cooking! These days, I tend to use my brain more and try to concoct recipes with more understanding of the ingredients in hand and rely less on ready made or ready mix ingredients.

Bao can contain savory or sweet filling and it is the bread of the Chinese people, steamed and not baked. There is a plain Bao with no filling and white in color called 'ManTao' and usually available in Shanghainese restaurants, served in place of rice with meat and vegetable dishes. Although it has not much taste in it, its soft texture inside with slight chewiness on the outside makes it so good to eat on its own and also complements dishes with sauces. The good thing about these Bao is that they can be frozen and re-steamed anytime for a quick snack and low in fat and good for all! My kids are always looking out for tea time and they love any types of Bao, bought or homemade.

This recipe is very easy and the sweet potato can be omitted wholly if a plain Bao is preferred. The only thing with working with this sweet potato dough is that gets very sticky and wet during kneading and extra flour is required to dust both the hands and kneading surface. At first I thought of a 2 tone colored spiral shape by rolling the white dough and orange sweet potato dough together. It looked successful during the rolling but after the steaming, the whole of the Bao turned orange! But the 2 toned color effect was still visible inside the Bao, although not spiral but in patches! The taste of sweet potato is subtle and the Bao is not sweet, similar to plain white bread.

Ingredients :
2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
6 to 8 oz mashed sweet potato (steamed & mashed)

1)Sift the flour & baking soda together. Stir in the yeast and sugar.
2)Stir in the water to mix. Add in the vegetable oil. Mix into dough ball.
3)Add in the mashed potato. Dust hands with flour and mix the dough thoroughly. Sprinkle more flour to get a firm dough but still feel wet on the hands and no longer sticky. Knead for 3 mins. Shape into a ball and let it rest in a deep bowl for 2 hours.
4)Cut 8 to 10 pieces of 3'x3' square from parchment paper.
5)Lift dough out and work on a floured surface. Roll the dough into a long log and cut into 8 to 10 pieces. The dough will expand during steaming.
6)Shape each piece of dough into round balls and gently press down to flatten the dough slightly. Put the dough ball on a piece of the parchment paper and continue with the rest.
7)Boil water in pot and prepare steamer.
8)Put the individual Bao into a big steaming plate, at least 1 inch apart from each other. Steam on high heat for 25 mins. Steam in 2 batches.
9)Remove from heat and serve while hot. Can be frozen and re-steamed.

Makes: 8 to 10 medium size Bao