Sunday, September 23, 2012

Pear Vanilla Cake

I have been wanting to bake with Pears for sometime but apples and berries seem to always overflow in my shopping basket and preferred by my family. The fact is we seldom eat pears and the only way we use it is by steaming it with yellow rock sugar for more than an hour to get it soft and sweet. This particular Chinese way of preparing pears takes time and patience but it is said to heal dry skin and good for reducing dry cough and taken before bed to have a good night sleep.

My favorites are Bosc and Bartlett pears. I find other pears less juicy and sometimes just hard to get it the right ripeness for eating. It can be hard and tastes raw in the mouth when not ripe enough and when ripen too fast, they are mushy and simply a mess to eat! Having said so, it won't be fair to leave the pears out from my bakings as they are lovely fruits and as with apples, they are versatile in pies, cakes and can be cooked with main dishes, poached and served with cheese and crackers too!

For this cake, I used Bartlett pears. They were left to ripe over a period of 4 days and peeled and cut into chunks before adding to the batter. Almond flour or grounded almond is my favorite ingredient to bake with as it gives any cake a denser cakey structure with a nutty flavor bite. The batter is thicker and needs to be smoothed out with a spatula after being spooned into the baking pan. This cake is rich in taste and perfectly delicious eaten warm on its own or drizzled with melted chocolate or whipped cream. Leaving it overnight will enhance the flavor of this cake and because of its high butter and almond content, the cake doesn't dry out and remains moist for 3 days.

140g flour
100g Almond flour (grounded from 150g toasted almond)
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
200g Soft Butter
120g Sugar
2 large eggs
125ml Heavy Cream
1 tsp Vanilla paste
4 Ripe Bartlett pears, 2 cut into small chunks and 2 sliced half and cored

1. Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Grease an 8 inch round baking tin with removable bottom.
2. Mix the Almond Flour together with the Flour and Baking Powder. Set Aside.
3. Beat the Butter and sugar till creamy. Add in the eggs and mix in. Lastly add in the heavy cream and vanilla paste.
4. Spoon in the flour mixture in 2 batches into the batter. Mix in till no more trace of flour.
5. Stir in the chunks of pears gently. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and place it into another baking sheet. Use the remaining cored and sliced Pears to decorate the top by gently pushing down but not wholly submerged into the batter.
6. Bake for 50 mins or till set, lightly browned and firm to the touch.
7. Remove from oven and let the cake cool inside the tin for 15 mins. Remove to a serving plate and cut to desired sizes. Serve warm with whipped cream or melted chocolate.

Serves 6 to 8

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Apple & Fig Cinnamon Sugar Tartlet

The Cool and crisp Autumn air is here and the joy of baking begins. Apples, figs and pears quickly overtakes the aisles of berries and peaches while hearty stewed dishes comes to mind and feed the palates. Saying goodbye to another summer can be hard but before we hit the bone chilling beginning of winter, autumn always promises a burst of warm colors from mums, pumpkins and foliage and also the fun of looking forward to the many celebrations and holidays that fills up each coming months.

As we settle into our new home, I find it slow to re-start my baking again as my priorities and daily commitments grow with my kids new school year and I barely have much time to experiment with new recipes when the unpacking is not complete yet.

With very little time, I made some simple tartlets with the apples and figs that I have around.  There is really nothing much to this recipe, only a freshly made shortcrust pastry shell and sliced apples and quartered figs. Sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and baked for 40 to 45 mins. These tartlets are best served with ice cream as an after dinner treat and eaten while warm. The best apple to use will be Gala which curves nicely after baking and the figs turns soft while still retaining its shape adds sweetness. The concept is similar to eating cheese on crackers, no jam, no syrup and no other soft filling. What tingles the senses is the warm smell of the cinnamon and natural sweetness of the season's best fruits. That is good and simple enough for now.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

BBQ Sauce Flavored Pulled Pork

Wow! How's everyone doing? What an absence and I can't believe my last post on this Blog was in December 2011! And now it is almost the end of the 3rd quarter of 2012. Guess I have to play some catch up and a new kitchen with some new tools and gadgets do get me going.

I have always loved using the Slow Cooker. Used to have one in Japan but its electrical connection was not compatible for use here. But now I have a new one and with enough countertop space to place anything, I am using it as part of my weekend and sometimes, weekdays life saver!

For the first dish, I made this Pulled Pork. I believe this BBQ flavored version is American originally. It is very easy to make and kids love them in tortilla wraps or with mini buns. For a wholesome dish, cooking it with pinto beans will be great too! I threw in some chunks of carrot together with 3 rashes of Bacon, red onion, garlic and dried oregano to give the meat a greater flavor. I recommend using at least a 4 lb piece of pork butt meat to ensure enough for second helpings. Once the meat is cooked down, it is infact not that much. There are so many different types of BBQ sauce that you can find in your grocery store but the Original one will definitely yield the best result if you are thinking of adding extra flavor into the cooking. Just like me, I love the smell of bacon!

3lb Pork Butt
3 Rashes of Bacon
3 Carrots, cut into chunks
1 Large Red Onion
5 cloves of Garlic
2 tsp Dried Oregano
Pepper and Salt
1 and 1/3 cup of Original Flavor BBQ Sauce
825ml Beef Broth

1. Heat some oil in a cooking pan, saute the onion (sliced), garlic cloves (minced) and Bacon for 5 mins.
2. Turn the slow cooker up to High.
3. Divide half of the sauteed onion, garlic and bacon into half and take one half and spread out on the bottom of the slow cooker pot.
4.Put the Pork butt meat (whole) on top. Take the other half of the sauteed ingredients and spread on top of the meat.
5. Slowly pour in the Beef Broth from the side into the pot to cover about half of the meat.
6. Pinch in the Pepper, Salt and Dried Oregano, close the Lid and let it simmer and cook on Low for 10 hours.
7. The meat will be tender but do not cut it. Remove it whole from the pot, drain all the liquid out of the pot and also the carrot, bacon and onion. This is the rich broth that can be used in other cooking.
8. Return the cooked meat back into the slow cooker, pour in the BBQ sauce and cover and cook for a further 2 to 3 hours.
9. The cooked meat will further fall apart, remove from the pot and using 2 forks, fork the meat apart.
8. Serve it on bread or wrap. Serve the carrot as side dish.

Serves: 4

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bento Days

School started last week. To get back into making Bento early in the morning is not easy and I started the first week with snack boxes and sent my kids buying lunches instead. The art of Bento has attained so much attention and interests these days and to browse for ideas and inspirations after a break of almost a year can be overwhelming. This year I will try to make simpler Bento designs that won't take up my whole morning to plan and create. Still, cuteness and color scheme are essential, just to get the kids interested ! :)

First Week Snack Boxes

First Grader and Third Grader Kids

Fishies Cheese, Oyster Cracker, Baby Tomato and Sliced Apple

Chick Cheese, Oyster Crackers, Kiwi & Baby Tomato

Turkey Ham, Baby Tomatoes, Ritz Crackers and Orange Slices

Second Week Lunch Boxes

Baked Chicken Dumpling, Boiled Egg, Fruits and Vegetable

Rice & Nori, stir Fried Chicken with Vegetable, Scrambled egg and Fruits

Rice & Nori, Stir fried Chicken & vegetable and Fruits

Hello Again

It has been about 6 months since I last posted and blogged. When I opened my Blogger account again this morning, it took me almost 3 hours to re-learn the whole concept and idea of blogging again. Yes, 6 months means half a year but not blogging, cooking nor baking for that kind of period of time resulted me in being rusty, almost to the point of losing patience re-learning the whole technology of digital photography, working through the many outrageous function and mode keys on the laptop and websites and finally trying to churn the brain for words to write about.

In the period of 6 months, I put everything on hiatus while my family and I went and searched for our next home. After walking through 50 houses and seeing the worst, bad and almost good ones, we have finally settled for one. When I first saw this house, I couldn't believe that it was real. After bouts of disappointment from seeing too many houses that didn't seem to match our needs nor liking and with major renovation work required plus the inevitable anxiousness that lurks in all new house buyers, I simply gave myself an ultimatum and took it then that I will never find my dream home! Until by chance, this particular house that opened its doors one Sunday for viewing and we decided to drive in and not expecting anything. As soon as I walked in, I knew this was the house that has been waiting for me. To some people, it is called a Gut feeling but to me intuitively, I just know, this house is calling me to come in and be its Lady in charge! It was exactly the same feeling when I first walked into our previous townhome.

I am very glad that I hooked up with the right Real estate agent and knowing how fussy I was, she patiently shown me so many houses. The whole process of buying my new house was long but made bearable by her and I am very thankful that once I decided on this house, everything moved smoothly, including the sale of my old townhouse!

Let's talk about the new house kitchen. It is double the size that I had previously and definitely more countertop space for me to shove things around. To motivate myself to get back into baking and cooking again, I have bought a portable Kitchen island to work on those rolling, mixing and stretching. So hopefully I will be able to spend more time now doing what I used to do before I moved house and continue to create delectable things for the palates. :)