Sunday, August 30, 2009

Eclair

I remember my first Pate A Choux. It was the first pastry that I made and blogged here one and half years ago. At that time, I was so inspired by the famous Sadaharu Aoki green tea eclair that is available all over in his famous Patisserie in Tokyo and Paris. Until today, Japanese Pastry Chefs' ways in perfecting the French and European pastries never fail to awe me and I am glad that there are several books and magazines that showcases all these beautiful pastry works. I once told a friend that baking is all about passion and cooking is about love, which she wholly agrees and everytime I look at beautiful pastries and cakes, I can only feel the love and passion that channelled from the baker's heart through his hands into the baked goods. Indeed, I have adopted that way of making my cakes and tarts these days and it feels sweeter with every bite!

Eclair's pastry is exactly the same as Cream Puffs, made from hot milk, flour and eggs. It is piped in a finger long shape and filled with custard pastry cream and dipped with a chocolate topping. To say it is difficult to make is not very true as I still find it easier than Macaron or even cookies. But it is true, the process involves alot of steps and all the ingredients must be ready before you start. Over these period of time, I have come to like to read a bit more on the pastry I am making and understanding on how the ingredients work surely yields a better result. After reading the recipes, I always like to re-write it out again and plan my steps in doing things, especially desserts like this that is made up of more than 1 component. Baking is indeed a passion thing but certainly not recommended to be done frivolously! I prepared the pastry cream filling earlier and let it firm up in the fridge while I proceeded to do the eclair puffs. While the puffs are cooling on the rack, I started with the chocolate glaze and white chocolate for the swirls. Planning is everything in this one and I find the dipping part of the chocolate top was the most time consuming as things get messier with the dripping chocolate.


Cooking the pate a Choux requires patience with medium low heat on the stove and a heavy mixer is definitely useful when the eggs are mixed into the batter. As the flour is first cooked in the hot milk, it must be cooled down a little before the eggs are being added to prevent coagulation and I used a trick to do this. Once I removed the flour & milk mixture from the heat, I transfer the mixture into the heavy mixer bowl and with a paddle attachment and turned on low speed, I let the the paddle churn the mixture for 20 seconds to release the heat and then added the eggs in 4 batches, decreasing and increasing the speed after every addition. At first, it looks like the flour mixture cannot blend in with the eggs well but as you increase the speed, the batter will become creamy like thick pastry cream. By the time I finished adding the eggs, the batter has turned heavier and thicker but able to drop from the spoon like butter cake batter. To save time , I recommend using the largest pastry bag of 16 inch with the special big round tip that is specifically made for this sized piping bag. I used a star tip to get a crinkly look and I piped a 3.5 inch length puff, with 2 layers, one on top of the other. I thought 1 layer will not puff up nicely for the filling. Instead of a piping bag, I used a squeeze bottle with a small tip to pipe in the pastry filling. Previously with my Matcha Eclair, I cut the puffs into half and spooned in the fillings but I think a proper Eclair does not expose the cream filling inside. After baking the puffs for 20 mins in a 400F oven, I took them out and with a chopstick, I poked each from the side all the way in but keeping the other end intact and returned them to the oven to finish up cooking for another 4 mins. This is to ensure the inside is baked through and also the cavity for the filling later. One thing about Eclairs and cream puffs, they must be eaten within hours they are made of else the pastry loses its slight crispness due to the moisture from the cream. After coating with the chocolate, I let them rest in the fridge for 30 mins to firm up .




Recipe :


Pastry Cream Filling
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
4 extra large egg yolks
2 tbsp cornflour
2 drops of vanilla essence


1)Lightly Beat the egg yolks with half of the sugar. Stir in the cornflour.
2)On medium low heat, boil the heavy cream with the remaining half of the sugar till dissolved.
3)Stir the egg mixture again to ensure that the cornflour has not sunken to the bottom. Continuing to stir, slowly pour half of the hot cream into the egg mixture till lightened and combined.
4)Pour the egg mixture back into the boiling pot that contained the rest of the cream and bring back to the stove on medium low heat and cook till bubbly and thick, keep stirring throughout. Remove and stir in the vanilla essence and place in a container with cover and immerse the container into a shallow plate containing cold water to cool. Put in the fridge till ready for use.



Pate A Choux Pastry
4 extra large eggs (yield 1 cup)
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter
1 cup all purpose flour
extra flour & butter for lining pans
2 tbsp of milk

1)Prepare tools. Fill a large piping bag with a round or star tip and let it stand inside a tall glass with the tip pointing inside. Lightly grease 2 large cookie pans and sprinkle all purpose flour, tapping out any excess. Preheat oven to 400F. Boil 2 cups of water. Contain this water in a shallow baking pan or bowl and place on the lowest part of the oven. This will ensure even baking.
2)Position 2 racks to the lowest of the oven. Affix the paddle attachment to the cake mixer.
3)Sift the flour and leave aside. Whisk the eggs in another bowl.
4)Pour the milk and water into a pot and bring to a rolling boil on medium heat. Add in salt. Remove from heat. Pour the flour into the pot and stir quickly to combine with the liquid. A heavy glossy dough will form.
5)Bring the pot back to the stove and continue to stir for 15 seconds, incorporating scraps from the sides. Turn off heat and transfer the mixture into the cake mixer.
6)Turn on the lowest speed and let the mixture churn for 20 seconds to release heat.
7)Pour 1/4 of the egg mixture into the mixer, slowly increasing the speed from low to medium to incorporate the eggs into the flour mixture (approximately for 30 seconds). Slow down the speed and continue with the next batch of the eggs, increasing and decreasing the speed everytime. The batter will slowly turn into a heavy like butter cake batter. Remove from mixer.
8)With a Spatula, spoon this mixture into the pastry bag. Position it on the baking pans and squeeze a long line measuring around 3.5 to 4 inches. Pipe a second layer on top of the first layer to ensure it will be puffy enough to contain the fillings. Space 1 inch from each other, continue to pipe and use up the batter.
9)Brush the piped out pastry batter with milk lightly. Bake for 20 mins, rotating the pan after the first 10 mins. Turn off oven and remove, the pastry will feel firm and expanded in size.
10)Using a chopstick, poke one side of the puffs all through inside and stopping just before the end of the other side. 1 hole only for each pastry. Return to warm oven for another 4 mins to finish cooking. Remove and cool the pastries on a rack, 1 inches apart to avoid building up of moisture from each other.



Chocolate Glaze
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 tbsp corn syrup
1 tbsp butter
4 squares of white chocolate


1)Sift the cocoa with the sugar.
2)Pour the heavy cream and corn syrup into a boiling pot. Turn on low heat, spoon the cocoa mixture into the same pot and stir to combine. Drop in the butter and stir till butter melts. Bring to a rolling boil and remove immediately from heat. Cover till ready for use.
3)Boil some water in a pot. Place the white chocolate squares in a heat resistance bowl and let the bowl sit on the rim of the boiling pot. The chocolate will melt. Once all melted, remove from heat.




To assemble the Eclair
1)Take out the pastry cream and stir. Spoon into a piping bag with a small round piping tip OR use a squeeze bottle.
2)Pipe the pastry cream gently into each puffs, holding it vertical. You will see the puffs slowly filled up to the tip nearest you. Continue with the rest.
3)Holding the puffs with your fingers and the flat bottom part facing downwards, dip the top part into the cocoa glaze till it covers the top part. Wiggle gently to drip off excess glaze and place on rack, with a catch pan below. Continue with the rest.
4)Using a toothpick or chopstick, dip one end into the melted white chocolate and trace the white chocolate horizontally across the dipped Eclair. Trace 3 to 4 horizontal lines on each pastry. Change the toothpick or wipe the tip of the chopstick after a few pastries.
5)Using a clean toothpick, point to the top white chocolate line of the eclair and drag down gently to the bottom to create the white swirls. Continue 2 or 3 times with each eclair.
6)Place the eclair into foil liners and arrange inside a plate and let rest in the fridge for 20 mins to set.


Makes 2 dozens small eclairs (4 inches)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Peach Clafoutis Tart

With peaches popping pink & peachy, marks the height of summer and end of the warm days soon. I am very happy that I have managed to pick all the summer fruits this year and used them in my baking. Blueberries are undeniably my favorite, strawberries and cherries added beautiful colors, raspberries yield an interesting bite and now peaches makes everything luscious and juicy. Autumn is my favorite season of the year with the change of colors and changes in appetites for more heavier and substantial baked goods and dishes. Summer always brings in the colors and enthusiasm and yet Autumn kind of settles down the mood with a more earthy tone and preparing for the cold to come. With today's drop in temperature to a cool start, I can already smell the presence of apples & cider with the beautiful huge pumpkins popping out in the fields very soon!

To end my summer fruits baking repertoire, peach and blueberry made up the colors for this Clafoutis Tart. Clafoutis is a French dessert comprising of fruits baked in a custard batter and I took the extra step in making a pastry tart to contain the Clafoutis to get the combination of firm and soft bites. I love my friends in Facebook, everytime I throw out the question on what to do in my baking, they will all give me feedbacks! And from their feedbacks, I get more inspiration on what to do and when I asked for something peachy, they were split even between tarts and pies. With this one, I think I managed to capture the pie idea that the fruit itself is baked into the filling and half of them are baked blind and exposed as with all fruit tarts.

The Clafoutis custard filling was very easy to make with a combination of eggs, flour, milk and sugar. Depending on the sweetness of the fruit, the amount of sugar is discretionary and initially I made up a batch of pastry cream to decorate the top of this tart which will add sweetness to it and so I skimped on the amount of sugar in the filling itself. Although I have baked alot of tarts before, each one never fails to surprise me. At first I thought that the tart case may not cook nicely and evenly if I bake it from scratch together with the custard filling and so I blind baked it first. The tart shrunk half inch in height and I could only used 1/3 of the custard batter quantity which did not cover the peaches wholly, leaving them popping out on the surface! Hence I will have no use for the pastry cream for decoration as the peaches themselves already lent a pretty presentation and color. I used 5 small peaches here and peeled the skin to reflect the beautiful yellow flesh. Even after baking, the color turned darker and the peach softer and exuded more sweetness than its original state. This tart should be served warm with a little ice cream or whipped cream on the side like a pie.


Recipe :

Pastry Tart
1-1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
6 tbsp butter (malleable & cold)
3 tbsp cold water
1 egg white, beaten

1)Cut the butter into smaller pieces and rub into the flour till it resembles coarse crumbs.
2)Add the water gradually and gather the mixture into a ball and flatten to a disk. Wrap up and let it rest in the fridge for 45 mins.
3)Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 7 inch tart pan. Roll out the pastry and line the pan.
4)Line the dough with aluminum paper and baking beans. Bake for 10 mins.
5)Remove the paper and baking beans, brush egg white on the bottom and sides of the tart and return to oven to bake for another 10 mins.
6)Remove from oven and turn the heat down to 350F.


Clafoutis Batter (Recipe Readjusted in view of the shrunk tart case)
4 to 5 small peaches (skin peeled & halved with stone removed)
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla

1)Beat the eggs with the sugar. Beat in milk and vanilla.
2)Stir in the flour till combined.
3)Arrange the peach halves in the baked tart case with the round sides facing upwards. Using a spoon, slowly pour in the clafoutis batter to the top rim of the tart. Place the tart pan in a large baking pan.
4)Bake at 350F for 40 to 45 minutes till the custard is set.
5)Remove from oven and let cool.
6)Garnish with blueberries, mint leaves and powdered sugar. Serve warm.

Serves: 4 to 5 persons

Monday, August 24, 2009

Meat & Salted Radish Angkoo

My Angkoo moulds were still out on the kitchen countertop after my friends and I made some 2 weeks ago. I wanted to make a savory/salty version this time and also to practise on my pathetic moulding skills. I thought perhaps the pressure was too much when I had to make it with the Mistress of Crafty Hands, Crazymommy last time and this time, I worked slowly and made sure that my turtle shaped kueh didn't fly out of the mould with too much pressure and no more overfilling till they bursts!

I saw this recipe in one of my Malaysian cookbooks and was enticed by its pictured color of black! The recipe used a type of leaf called "rami Leaf" which was processed and added to the skin dough of the kueh. I have no idea on what it is and went and search for something black to substitute and I thought of the dried Prunella grass that is boiled down to a black herbal drink that I usually make for my kids on heaty days. Prunella grass has a very nice subtle floral smell and I thought this may be an added distinct flavor to the kueh.

Well, the blackness of the prunella grass water that I added to the glutinous flour didn't turn out black but brown instead! And it blended in with the salted radish filling, how convenient. The dough recipe for this kueh is different from the last one, comprising only of glutinous rice flour, oil and water. The dough must be covered with wet kitchen paper towel at all time and while each Angkoo is being rolled and filled or else it will dry up and become brittle for moulding. To avoid drying, I made 2 batches of the dough, the second batch after I finished up wrapping the first batch. This filling recipe yields 16 small angkoos and you can reduce it to half to make 8 angkoos only by using one recipe/batch only of the skin dough.

The steaming process is very important too and the heat must be medium low and the timing is between 8 to 12 mins to retain a nice shape of the kueh. Oversteam it and the shape will be flattened out and the skin gets too gooey and lumpy. The filling was first cooked and cooled and the water that was used to make up the dough was hot rather than cold. I find that cold water speeds up the drying of the dough but hot water dissolves the glutinous flour really well. For a change, a salty/savory filling is very welcoming in my household and the kids loved it as much as the sweet ones. And so does Curry as this one has no coconut milk added. I like the crunchiness of the salted radish and it usually goes very well when cooked with pork meat.


Recipe :
Meat & Radish Filling
225g minced Pork
150g salted radish (soaked, washed & minced to small pieces)
2 tsp Dark Soy Sauce
1 tsp Soy Sauce
1 tsp Sugar
1/4 tsp White Pepper
1 tsp Sesame Oil
Extra White Pepper

1)Marinate the minced pork with the dark soy sauce, soy sauce, sugar, white pepper and sesame oil for 1 hour.
2)Heat 2 tbsp cooking oil in frying pan and saute the minced salted radish and minced pork together, distributing and mixing thoroughly. Saute for 10 mins. Sprinkle extra pepper. Remove from heat and let cool.


Skin Dough
200g Glutinous Rice Flour
150ml Hot Water
25 ml Cooking Oil

Others: Banana leaf squares, cooking oil & pastry brush

1) Mix the flour with the hot water. Combine well and add the oil.
2)Using hands, knead to a soft dough. Cover immediately with wet kitchen paper towel.
3)Roll some dough (weighing around 50gm each) in your palm, and using the other palm to slowly flatten out the dough. Spoon in some filling, gather up the sides and press into angkoo mould. Gently flatten the top part so that the bottom of the kueh will be imprinted with the pattern of the mould. With fingers, gently push in the sides of the kueh off the rim of the mould. Knock the kueh out onto an oiled banana leave square. Place in a plate, cover with wet kitchen towel and continue with the rest.
4)Prepare steamer and boil water. Turn down the heat to medium low and wipe away the steam droplets that accumulated on top of the steamer lid. Place the angkoo at least 1 inch apart from each other in the steamer and steam for 8 mins.
5)Remove the lid gently to avoid the steam droplets that accumulated during the steaming from dropping on top of the kueh. Brush the kueh with some cooking oil, close lid and continue steaming for another 3 to 4 mins. Turn off heat. Take out kueh and let cool to room temperature before serving.


Makes : 8 small angkoo (1 dough recipe & 1/2 of the filling recipe)
16 small angkoo(2 dough recipe and 1 Filling Recipe)


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Peach Rose Cheesecake

9 years ago, Curry and I got married and registered in Hong Kong. We were young, sometimes reckless, spontaneity rules in everything we did and the future was then left to the coming days to decide. 9 years passed, we are still together with 2 extras dangling to our hands everywhere we go and whatever we do, we are never left to mind our own business! All the fun inside both of us seemed to have channelled to the 2 little ones and we are like old folks who have seen the best and worst of each other with no more expectations of romantic getaways nor surprises to conjure up the sparks of love! All in all, I think marriage is a very funny thing, it started with excitement and slowly gets down to a monotonous daily life and the love which once belonged to 2 persons becomes a sharing piece among all in the family. Like the old people always said, all marriages have their flaws and we should always look at it in a good way. Curry and I do have our fair share of bad days and cold shoulders but in the end the problem always dispersed into thin air. Life is just too short, so never go to bed angry with the person sleeping next to you.

For today's celebration, I opted for cheesecake. When we first dated in England, I love cheesecakes and always went for the cheesecake slices at Marks & Spencer. At that time, I could easily wolf down a big slice and never minded the calories it packed. If Curry didn't mind my love handles, why should I worry then! But now, I am sometimes stressed out by the fact that he looks exactly the same like last time and yet I may have stretched at certain parts. Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite making all these lovely cakes and tarts, eating and complaining at the same time!


For the base, I baked a sweet pastry using the pate sucre recipe. Instead of a complete round cake, I used my 8' x 8' square Pyrex dish to bake and mould everything that builds up this cheesecake. Without a flexible removable bottom baking dish, I had to do some trimming on the sides before cutting them into neat square slices and the pie cutter that has a wider platform than the off set spatula was very useful in transferring these cakes from the pan to the plate. I find that using a usual butter knife to cut this cake was easier than any other sharp knives and the trick is to take one cut down and wiping the knife clean everytime. As this cake is creamy and less firm than mousse cakes structures, there was bound to be cream cheese smudging everywhere during the cutting. I just smooth the sides upwards with the same butter knife.


I love the rosebuds that I found at the Asian store, which originally was meant for making tea. I thought of incorporating them into my baking one day and this cake was perfect. At first, the dried rosebuds were steeped in hot water to release their subtle sweet smell. The liquid was then let cool to room temperature and used to dissolve the gelatin, which was then added into the cream cheese and sugar mixture. The buds were then dried in the sun again and reused as garnish. We picked alot of peaches over the weekend and for this recipe I used 7 medium sized ones. I think over ripened peaches are not suitable for this type of cheesecake as the juice from the fruit might dilute and add too much moisture to the cream cheese, hence affecting the firmness of the cake in the end. The heart shaped cookies were cut out from the sweet pastry left over. Putting everything together, this cake turns out fantastic in taste and appearance and on a hot day like this, it is cooling to eat a piece of creamy cool cheesecake. Happy Anniversary Curry! Many more years to come and may this cake brings back sweet memories of our past 9 years.


Recipe :

Pate Sucre/Sweet Pastry
175g All Purpose Flour
100g cold butter
35g sugar
2 to 3 tbsp cold water


1)Grease an 8' x 8' square pan or round pan.
2)Sift the flour and sugar together. Cut the butter into small cubes and scatter all over the flour.
3)Using hands, rub the butter pieces into the flour & sugar mixture till all flour is coated.
4)Starting with 1 tbsp of water and go gradually, add into the butter & flour mixture and gather the dough into a ball. Stop adding water as soon as the dough can be gathered into a ball. The dough should not be sticky but firm and slightly wet to the hand. Wrap up in aluminum foil and flatten a bit and let it rest in the fridge for 45 mins.
5)Preheat oven to 375F. Roll out the pastry dough, measuring 1/2 to 1 inches thick and to the size of the bottom of the baking dish. Line the bottom of the pan only with the dough, patting in and slightly overlapping up the edges as the pastry will shrink during baking. Prick with fork. Line the dough with aluminum foil and use baking beans to prevent bulging during the baking. Reserve left over dough for baking the garnish on cake.
6)Bake for 20 mins, remove the aluminum foil and baking beans and continue to bake for 10 mins. Remove from oven and let cool completely before filling.




Peach Rose Cream Cheese Filling
4 medium size peaches
2 pack of Cream Cheese (450gm)
150gm sugar (reduce to 100gm if using canned peaches in syrup)
1 cup fresh Whipped Cream
10gm (1 tbsp & 2 tsp) powdered gelatin
20 dried rose buds
1 cup boiling water


1)Wash and peel the skin of the peaches. Cut into slices and then small cubes. Put in the fridge.
2)Pour the boiling water over the rose buds and cover and let it steep for 15 mins. Remove the rose bud and lay them out in a baking dish and let dry. Cool the liquid to room temperature.
3)Beat the cream cheese and sugar till creamy. Get the whipped cream ready.
4)Dissolve the gelatin in 1/4 cup of the rose water. Pour into the cream cheese and sugar mixture and beat for another 1 min.
5)Remove the bowl from the beater and scatter the peach pieces into the cream cheese mixture and fold in. Lastly fold in the whipped cream till evenly combined.
6)Pour this filling onto the pastry in the baking dish. Smooth the top with spatula, cover with aluminum foil and let it set in the fridge for at least 5 hours.


Peach Glaze
3 medium size peaches
4 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp gelatin powder
6 tbsp lukewarm water


1)Remove the skin of the peaches and cut into smaller slices. Place in a cooking pot with sugar and orange juice. Cook on low heat till the sugar dissolves.
2)Remove from heat and place the peaches into the blender/food processor and puree.
3)Dissolve the gelatin powder with the lukewarm water. Add this into the peach puree and let it cool completely.
4)Take out the cheesecake from the fridge and pour puree over the top of the cake, tilting the pan to cover the whole surface. Cover and return to fridge to set for another 2 hours.
5)Cut to desired sizes/shapes and garnish with the rose buds and pastry cut outs.




Serves: 6 persons ( cuts up to 18 small squares pieces)




Friday, August 14, 2009

Basil Ham & Olive Muffins

My pot of Basil kept sprouting in the mixed of the rain and sun. I use them as often as possible in pasta and tomato based dishes but my Chinese cooking doesn't seem to blend well with this herb. Although peppery in smell, it lacks the stronger tastes of cilantro, chives and scallion that are more complementing to Chinese dishes.

Savoury muffins are very easy to make. While sweet muffins uses more fruits and various types of sweetening from plain sugar to honey, you can simply use or mix any meat, spices, herbs and vegetable together to make a good tasting savoury muffin. While you need to observe the liquid content in different types of fruits to yield the right textured muffin, most savory muffins' ingredients are usually already processed, dried and flavored in their original form. All you need is just a good basic batter recipe and choose the ingredients to be mixed into it to give it the flavor and taste that you want.

I made these muffins for a friend who has invited us over for a playdate today. Previously I always made something sweet and I thought a change will be good and afterall with summer around, I am sure there are bounty of sweet fruits stored in every household's fridge and a sweet muffin is not that special. I love canned black olives which is not as salty as the various freshly macerated ones sold in the deli and I think its color is a nice contrast to any salads. I used diced turkey ham and chopped up a 1/4 cup of the basil leaves. I didn't add any extra seasoning and spice except salt. The muffins smelled of basil with a soft inside embedded with chopped basil and turkey ham while the top part is firm with a cheese crust and decorated with olive rings. As with all baked goods, these muffins taste best on the day that it is baked and should be eaten warm.

This recipe yields small sized muffins that are just right for a quick tea time break or may be served in place of dinner rolls at supper time. Alternatively, it can be baked in a small loaf tin and cut up like bread slices.


Recipe :

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp melted butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup low fat milk
1/4 cup minced Basil leaves
3/4 cup chopped Turkey ham
3/4 cup canned Black Olives
grated mild cheese

Method:
1)Reserve 4 whole olives. Slice the rest into small bits. Slice the reserved 4 into small rings for the garnish.
2)Preheat oven to 375F. Arrange rack on the lower part of the oven.
3)Sift the flour, baking powder and salt.
4)In another bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Beat in the milk first and later the butter. Sprinkle the chopped basil into this mixture and stir.
5)Drizzle the egg mixture into the flour mixture and mix with a spatula into a rough mess. Sprinkle the ham and olive pieces all over the batter and fold in to distribute these ingredients.
6)Use paper liner or grease small muffin tins. Spoon in batter to fill up 1/2 of the case. Garnish with the olive rings and sprinkle with grated cheese lightly.
7)Bake for 30 to 35 mins till slightly browned. Turn off heat and remove from oven and cool on rack. Serve warm.

Makes: 10 small muffins



Thursday, August 13, 2009

Soochow Mooncake

The Mooncake Festival which is celebrated by all Chinese people every year will fall in early October this year. It came as a surprise to me as we usually celebrate it around mid September every year and October sounds so late! Anyways, I know nothing about the Lunar Calendar and absolutely not in a position to argue about the dates and I only know that I want to make mooncakes in my kitchen this year instead of forking out money for expensive packaging that adorns the imported mooncakes from Hong Kong and Taiwan that are sold in Chinatown.
This flaky pastry in Chinese biscuits and cookies originated from the Soochow cooking and the texture of this pastry is quite similar to the Western puff pastry, except that butter is not used in any of its formation. Lard is the most preferred choice in Chinese baking but modern cooking has shifted to a more healthier option of vegetable shortening or sometimes cooking oil. For this mooncake, baking at a lower temperature of 340F for 35 mins was required as the color of the pastry must remain white instead of the usual brown. The crisp clean white color of this pastry was the thing that made me curious to try out this recipe.

As with all Asian pastries, making these mooncakes requires a lot of patience and time. The pastry always comprises of 2 parts of dough, one with a combination of flour, sugar and oil and the other pure oil with flour. Vegetable shortening is the main fat content here and because of its high smoking point, it doesn't brown very fast under lower oven temperature, hence maintaining the whiteness of the pastry after baking. The result is a more tender pastry and the flakiness is really a test of skills in folding and rolling. I managed to get a thin flaky layer but I think the numbers of layers should be more as the main focus in these pastries is enjoying their flakiness which is light in the mouth and yet gives a lingering taste of bits and pieces in the corners of the mouth.

I adapted this recipe from the book titled Mooncake by Alan Ooi, which I believe is the best selling mooncake Recipe Book in Malaysia currently. Instead of the recommended red date longan paste and walnuts for the filling, I opted for a more simple lotus nut paste which I desperately needed to finish using before it spoils in the fridge. I am not sure how the mooncakes turned out so white in the recipe book itself as I already started to get a yellowish dough when I started to combine the doughs and rolled them out together. Even though cooked, the mooncake actually looked pale and easily dented if handled roughly when being removed from the oven. As always, I scaled down all the ingredients to yield half of the recipe and I was glad I did as the rolling and shaping part of the pastries took up alot of the time. Since this is only a trial run on one of the recipes, I figured I make a small batch or else everyone else will be so fed up with mooncakes even before October arrives!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Steamed Cake (Malai Kou)

Summer weather is spilling its vengeance this week. After all those rainy days and cool nights, this week is nothing but mucky and blazing hot! To think that I have survived this kind of weather when I was still in Malaysia sometimes amazes me. Now, I can barely breathe in the high humidity atmosphere and get all worked up and light headed when I have to stay in the sun.

When the day is hot, I don't like adding heat inside the house. So definitely no baking, all the blinds and curtain drawn to keep the heat out and plenty of iced water to keep cool. Although no oven in operation, I thought of this steamed cake and steaming takes less time with less built up heat! These days, I don't think I can live without cooking and indeed I was bored to death if I haven't had this hobby and this blog to use up my time being indoors. Even my kids went napping in the comfort of a high speed fan blowing up their faces and left me with nothing to fuss about !

Anyways, this steamed cake is a norm in Dim Sum restaurants. It is served plain with no icing or anything extra and good to have as an afternoon tea snack. Although it is very light and soft, the amount of eggs used to make it is not for the faint hearted. And for this version, the butter's presence is required to give volume and to produce the tender bite to it. I have no idea why it is called 'Malai Kou' in Cantonese as this is definitely not originated from the Malay nor Malaysia but a steamed version of the French developed sponge cake! Perhaps it shares a similarity with the other steamed cup cake version which is very popular in Malaysia, popularly known as "Fatt Kou". According to my father in law, this cake which is served in small slices in mini plates is one of the more pricey Dim Sum items in Hong Kong and I cannot understand why as it is very easy to make and needs little attention in the batter mixing to the steaming part.

The addition of evaporated milk adds a light caramel like smell to this cake which tastes very good. I adapted this recipe from a very old Hong Kong Dim sum book and reduced the amount of eggs, sugar and oil content. I used an 8' x 8' Glass Pyrex square dish for steaming. There are alot of different recipes out there on this cake and alot of different outcome and when I first read this recipe which added butter, I was a bit skeptical as most Chinese cooking only uses lard or vegetable oil. But I cannot deny that adding butter gives the cake a better texture and I was surprised that after steaming, there wasn't a trace of butter that you can discern, not even in the smell. The taste came out perfect and the texture soft and light and knowing that all Hong Kong people are critics in everything they see, eat and buy, my father in law just had to comment that the surface should look smoother. Hmm.... that is what I called 'Homemade'!

Recipe :

1-3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
4 oz / 1 stick butter (room temperature)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup low fat milk powder



Method:

1)Sift the flour together with the milk powder, baking powder and baking soda.
2)In a separate bowl, cream the butter with the sugar till creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time and beat till combine. Stir in the evaporated milk.
3)Fold in the flour mixture in 2 batches, incorporating all the wet ingredients thoroughly. Lastly, stir in the vegetable oil and mix evenly.
4)Prepare a steamer and boil the water. Grease lightly a square or round dish measuring 8 inches in diameter with vegetable oil.
5)Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with spatula. When the steaming water is ready, place the dish into the steamer. Steam on medium heat for 35 to 40 minutes.
6)Remove from steamer and let cool to room temperature before cutting.

Serves: 6 persons



Sunday, August 9, 2009

Angkoo Kueh

Angkoo kueh which means "Red Turtle" kueh is very popular in Singapore and parts of Malaysia. Originally, these type of kueh descended from the Peranakan Nyonya cooking which was made up of glutinous flour and mung bean filling. These days, varieties of colors and fillings are plenty and nothing can substitute for the distinct moulds that is used for these kueh, which is modelled in an oval shape resembling the turtle's shell with patterns and indentations inside to create the neat and pretty imprints on the kueh when steamed.

Thanks to my old friend, Claudine who bought and sent these moulds all the way from Singapore, my other friends and I managed to make this kueh this week. As I always said, my techniques with moulds are pure luck and these nice ones that I posted here are mostly moulded in the delicate hands of my friends, WLi (aka 'Crazymommy') and SMei while mine, were a bit over loaded or disfigured but luckily tasted good!


CrazyMommy made the traditional mung bean filling for the red one while I made up the peanut filling for the white one. Despite her protest, I won over choosing the white color for the peanut one. Maybe a bit inauspicious when offering it at the altar table in Singapore during festive occasions as the red ones are mostly intended, I think the white ones can mean well too, as when it is translated into Chinese which says "Pak", it can be playfully meant "100", meaning long life!


CrazyMommy got this recipe from her own mom and I had to make some adjustments to the peanut filling last minute to make it clumpy so as to easily proportion for each kueh. The chewiness of this dough is a result from the cooking of the rice flour with oil and water prior to adding this wet and hot mixture into the next batch of glutinous rice flour and coconut milk. The glossiness of the skin is definitely a result from the adding of vegetable oil to both parts of the flours mixture and to taste the best, these kueh must be eaten on the day it is made.


We made 2 portions of the dough recipe separately to ensure the right texture and amount. One recipe yields almost 24 to 26 small sized angkoo. A 2 or 3 tier steamer is efficient in getting all to cook at the same time.

Recipe:

A small bowl of oil
30 small banana leaves squares

Mung Bean Filling:
300gm mung bean/yellow split beans
180gm sugar


1)Wash the beans. Drain and mix in the sugar.
2)Spread out in a large plate and steam for 45 mins till very soft. Mash up.
3)Let cool completely and roll into ball portions fitting the preferred angkoo size.

Peanut Filling:
300gm raw peanuts
150gm sugar
2 tbsp peanut butter
4 tbsp vegetable/peanut oil


1)Turn on the oven to 350F. Set the timer to 20 mins. Lay out the peanut on a flat baking tray and bake till brown, but not burnt. The peanuts will turn crunchy and fragrant.
2)Take out and let cool. Remove the outer layer husks of all the peanuts and discard.
3)Process the peanuts till fine.Remove to a bowl and stir in sugar and mix thorougly. Spoon in the peanut butter and vegetable oil to coat.
4)Shape into ball portions fitting the preferred angkoo size.

Skin Dough:
Part A :
50gm Rice Flour
225ml Water
2 tsp oil


1)Dissolve the rice flour in the water. Stir in the oil.
2)Bring this mixture to a boil on low heat, stirring continously. Once it starts to thick to a starchy stage remove from heat immediately. Do not let it get lumpy.

Part B:
300gm Glutinous Rice Flour
225ml Coconut milk
3 tsp oil
30gm sugar
Food coloring of your choice


1)Mix the flour, sugar and coconut milk and stir to combine. Stir in the oil till combined thoroughly.
2)Pour in the cooked mixture of Part A and stir to combine. A soft dough will form. Knead in drops of coloring of your choice. Divide and roll into ball portions slightly bigger than the balls for fillings.

Method in making the Kueh:
1)Oil the working hand with some cooking oil. Take one portion of the dough, gently press and flatten a bit out on your palm.
2)Place a ball of filling in the middle and wrap up and gently roll it on your palm.
3)Gently fit the dough into the angkoo mould and pat to the bottom. Using one finger, push in the edges towards the middle as to fit inside the mould completely.
4)Dislodge the angkoo by knocking gently over the corner of a table with your other palm holding the banana leaves square. The kueh will fall perfectly onto the leaf. Place at least 1/2 inch apart in the steamer and steam for 15 mins. Remove from steamer and let cool to room temperature before serving.

Makes : 1 skin dough recipe yields 24 to 26 small angkoos
One peanut or one mung bean filling recipes each yields 24 to 26 small angkoos

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Raspberry Blueberry Walnut Pie

With the last batch of blueberries for this year, I couldn't resist picking another round of it yesterday and as usual, I ended up with more than I intended. The raspberries were beautiful, fully grown and plump and I couldn't resist picking a quart of them too!

As much as I love blueberries, I never thought of freezing them for future use. To me, when something is in season, you take and eat it instantly and sample other lovely things that nature intended for the next season. For this year, I am totally overloaded with anti-oxidants from blueberries and if I can keep myself healthy till next summer, I am on a good track!


To me, making pies can be complicated. Depending on the types of fillings and the amount of fat used in the pie crust, sometimes results can be disastrous. Despite being quite successful with tarts, pies are still half luck and half science to me. There were times I found that the base was not cooked while the top and side parts are evenly browned and the fillings soak to the bottom making the pie lumpy and cannot hold its shape. Most of the recipes uses vegetable shortening to produce the tender and flaky character that most sweet pies have. I find that using shortening solely lacks the "umph" factor in baked goods and it leaves a bland taste in the palate. I just had to use a combination of butter and shortening so that I don't feel like I am eating plastic and since both have different smoke points, I set the oven temperature to 375F for the first 25 mins of baking and reduced it to 350F for the remaining 15 mins.


I believe most people like raspberries for its color but nothing is spectacular about its taste when eaten raw. Compared to blueberries, raspberries lacks the juiciness and sweetness and my Aunt from Singapore said its texture is like snake skin! However, when baked or made into jam, raspberries exude all its liquid content and releasing all its seeds, making it irresistable. I added the chopped walnuts for a bit of crunch and a tablespoon of dessicated coconut to the berries prior to spooning them into the pie shell. Initially I did it for fun and curious about the tastes combination but I think it aided a bit in preventing a soggy bottom. And the amount was so small that I didn't even taste the coconut.


Recipe :

Pie Crust :
2 cups All Purpose Flour
8 tbsp butter (1 stick), cold
3 tbsp vegetable shortening, cold
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp cold water
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp sugar for sprinkling


Filling:
150 gm raspberries
300 gm blueberries
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp chopped walnut
1 tbsp dessicated coconut


Method:
Pie Crust:
1)Sift the flour and salt together.
2)Cut the butter and shortening to little pieces and scatter all over the flour.
3)Using hands, rub the fat into the flour, coating all flour. Food processor can be used.
4)The batter will feel oily and slightly wet. Add the cold water at 1 tbsp at a time, till the flour & fat mixture gathers into a ball but not sticky. Gather into a ball and wrap in aluminum foil and let the dough rest for 45 mins in fridge. At this time, proceed to do the filling. (see below)
5)Preheat oven to 375F. Take out dough. Lightly flour the rolling pin and countertop. Roll out the dough to fit an 8 or 9 inch pie pan, with overhanging edges on the rim of the pan. Slowly pat and tuck the dough into the pan evenly with your fingers and cut off the extra overhanging dough. Poke the bottom with a fork.
6)Brush the inside and sides of the pie shell with the beaten egg.
7)Spoon in the filling and distribute evenly. Cut out extra dough with your favorite cookie cutter
and scatter all over the top of the filled pie.
8)Brush these cut out dough with the egg and sprinkle some sugar lightly.
9)Bake at 375F for 25 mins and lower down to 350F and complete baking for extra 15 mins.
10)Let the pie cool to room temperature and serve with whipped cream or your favorite ice cream.


Method:
Filling:
1)Wash the blueberries and raspberries and soak dry with paper towel.
2)Combine the fruits with the flour, sugar, walnut and dessicated coconut. Mix thoroughly. The raspberries will start to mush as you stir.


Serves : 6 to 8 persons







Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Layered Kueh (Kuih Lapis)

Like the seasons, my tastebuds has a particular liking to something at certain times. This few weeks, I am drawn to the Local kueh that I can find easily back in Malaysia but have to shop for ingredients and make my own over here! Thank goodness I can find substitute in the form of canned coconut milk, dried grated coconut flesh, frozen pandan leaves and the list of Asian ingredients that is rarely printed in the cookbooks over here! I cannot imagine myself grating and cracking up a coconut, imagine the chaos it will do to my little kitchen and I will probably destroy my countertop with the cleaver while the coconut happily roll away.

It is very true that you only learn to appreciate things that you take for granted when they are not available. I remember eating this layered kueh when I was young, there were rainbow colored ones or simply 2 or 3 toned and peeling every piece off randomly and easily shoving them into my mouth was fun. But now I have to make it, I understand the labor intensive involved in layering and steaming it. So I appreciate it alot now and swear that I will never treat a piece of 'kuih lapis' as another simple thing in life!

The most difficult thing I find doing this kueh is positioning the steaming plate in my over abused wok and the steamer rack. And I used a glass pyrex loaf pan which was not wholly straightedged, so I had to bend and continously tipping the pan to a balanced state! Next came the dividing of the rice and tapioca flour mixture into 2 colors. To get a perfect quantity amount for each, I used the measuring cup to measure 100ml everytime and fill in 2 separate bowls till I got both even. I have heard stories of one color running out or uneven layers of colors and certainly if I have to do this, I will do it right once and for all! After dividing equal amount in 2 separate bowls, I colored one red or rather pink and started the steamer to medium heat. The trick to get the kueh to easily come out of the steaming pan after it is done is to wipe a small quantity of cooking oil inside the pan and put the oiled pan into the steamer while waiting for the water to boil. Next I used my measuring cups to scoop, pour and do the layering and for this recipe, I used the 1/2 cup size and 1/4 size, combined together to make 3/4 cup of each layer color. During the steaming, it is important not to drop the water droplets from the steam that has compiled inside the lid of the wok onto the kueh, therefore take care when removing the lid everytime the next layer is added. I wiped the lid dry everytime I open and replace it. Yes, that makes it 9 times wiping, layering and perhaps 45 minutes of steaming! No kids play and that is what I meant that I will never eat this kueh the same way that I did when I was a kid! Imagine each layer took 6 minutes to cook and perhaps just 1 minute to peel all of them off!

I was hoping the 9 layers will turn out perfect, but for a first timer, there is bound to be something amiss. For the 1st and last layers, you can see that these layers were thinner than the rest in the middle part as I was not sure when I started with the 1st and didn't have enough to finish the last! In all, I ended up with 7 perfect layers. In my hometown Malaysia, this kueh is indeed called "the 7 layered kuih" but in Hong Kong, I think they make the 9 layered one, for auspicious reasons I guess. Anyways, I am very happy with my success as the texture was right, not too soft nor wet, just the right chewiness and gooeyness with the right amount of sweetness which was not overwhelming and the kids and father in law loved it. Curry will have no say as he seems to dislike anything coconut! And of course, Missy E couldn't resist peeling the layers while Prince D found it intriguing that he can pull the slices apart and able to pinch and pull with his 2 little fingers. Sigh, there goes my 7 layers of hard work!
p.s.I adapted the recipe for this kueh from the Periplus Mini Cookbooks titled Malaysian Cakes & desserts. I reduced the water content to 300ml instead of the stated 600ml to get the perfect texture.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Meat & Cabbage stew

This is a Japanese inspired dish. Cabbage is a very popular vegetable in Japan and is eaten raw with any deep fried dishes or braised with meat till soft. It is also high in vitamins and very cheap in terms of price compared to seasonal vegetables.
Japanese dishes tastes sweeter than Chinese versions as they use sugar and Mirin, a type of sweet cooking wine in most of their cooking. Other than Miso, a soy based paste, I seldom see alot of cooking using soy sauce and the gravy and soup base are normally clear in color and emphasis is more on the original and basic taste of the meat or vegetable ingredients.

I used low sodium chicken broth for this dish which goes well with the pork shoulder meat. I always purchase pork shoulder/butt with the least fat for stew. The presence of a little marbling fat makes the meat more juicy and succulent after cooking. In total, this dish requires 35 to 40 minutes of cooking with medium heat. The cabbage and carrots were added in the last 15 mins so as to retain a slight crunchiness and yet soft enough to complement the tender cooked meat.



Recipe:
1-1/2 lb pork shoulder butt meat
1/2 of a medium size green cabbage
3 carrots, cut to chunks
1 large red onion
1 thumb size knob of ginger, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp Mirin/ Japanese Sweet Cooking wine
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 tbsp corn flour
2 cups chicken broth
Corn starch: 1 tbsp corn flour mixed with 4 tbsp water


Method:

1)Cut the pork meat into chunks, similar to thumb size. Marinate with the Mirin, salt, pepper and sugar. Sprinkle the corn flour all over and mix throroughly. Let sit for 1 hour in the fridge.

2)Peel off the outer green and tough leaves of the cabbage. Position the cabbage with its sides down on the chopping board with the stem part facing to the left/right of your cutting hand. Cut it into half. Lay this half on its cut flat side on the chopping board. Cut & slice vertically from top to bottom into thin piles. Loosen the leaves and wash and soak in cold water.

3) Position and cut the red onion in exactly the same way as the cabbage.

4)Heat 3 tbsp of cooking oil in a braising pot. Saute the onion, garlic and ginger for 2 mins.

5)Add in the meat and mix thoroughly. Cover with lid and cook for 10 mins. Pour in the chicken broth and let simmer for 15 mins, stirring occasionally.

6) Using the spatula, shift the meat to one side of the pot and drop in the carrots and lastly, the cabbage leaves on the other side. Close lid and let simmer on medium heat for 10 mins.

7)Stir the contents of the pot and slowly pour in the cornstarch mixture. Stir to combine and cover lid and simmer further for another 5 mins.

8)Turn off heat and garnish with shredded omelette. Serve with rice.


Serves: 4 persons




Saturday, August 1, 2009

Prince D's day

Prince D turns 3 today! In a way, I feel a bit emotional seeing his chubby cheeks and fat stumpy legs slowly disappearing into a more kid looked face and getting taller! Before he was 1, I wished that he grows up fast as he was quite a fussy baby and my past experience with Missy E didn't prepare me for him. Now that he is 3, I wish that time will slow down. The bitter sweetness of seeing your kids grow up I guess.
He was born in the night time and came out just exactly I had wanted and envisioned him to be. When he was born, I was ready to avoid all the extra 'good for you and your baby' advices from the nurses and attending doctors, particularly in terms of breast feeding. The first time, the nurses good intentions really reduced me to tears when Missy E didn't latch on and I was determined not to let the same issue get to me when Prince D was not co-operative too. In a way, Prince D allowed me to enjoy motherhood in a more relaxed manner despite the late night feedings as he was infact the second child and they do get less attention than the first one.
Three years forward, he has grown up to be a very lovable boy. He makes silly faces and blows me kissess everytime I stare at him, so as to melt my heart and make me smile instead of frown! Cheeky as he is, I can never bring myself to reprimand him long enough before he cuddle up in my arms and sulk away till he starts running around again. Boys will be boys and my boy is really my little man! Although not as advanced in speech as his sister and sometimes stubborn to the point in affecting his parents moods for the day, he is very precious. I know I might drop a tear or two in seeing him off to Pre-school next month but seeing him growing up well and knowing that he calls out 'MAMA' everytime he sees me, I am just happy to have such a cute little boy. Happy Birthday Prince D, Mommy loves you! Be good!

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