Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cranberry Vanilla Buckle Cake

It is unbelievable that 2013 is at its last quarter and I am very lacking in terms of my cooking and baking development. Throughout the past 6 months, I was very involved in my kids academic progress and also other activities and coupled with some orders for Fabric bags, the pots, pans and oven were left unchallenged and mostly sitting intact in their designated cupboards!
My life has entered into another stage of commitment and busy now, when time to spend over ideas of creating a pretty mousse cake or cookie is simply none in existence. These days I like to browse over the basics like pound cakes, fruit and meat pies and butter cookies. Nothing fancy but just plain old fashioned good.
With the cold weather coming, all I think about is heavy meat pies filled with wholesome goodness of chunky meat and vegetables, stuffed poultry cooked over its drippings, Biscuits and savory pastries with a good blob of butter! This time I might even try to make that pumpkin soup that I so wanting to try but no one in the family is keen about.
For a kickstart into Fall, I made this Cranberry Buckle Cake in 4 little Loaf Pans by using one recipe of the same that was meant for a 9 inch square baking Pan. I adapted this recipe from the book Rustic Fruit Desserts and anyone interested to have the recipe, please let me know. I don't copy and type out recipes from cookbooks in this blog for the ever blurry law of Copyrights.
I substituted Yogurt for the Sour Cream ingredient and the cake texture came out more dense. It is always best to use Fresh Cranberries for the best taste of the season and you won't have to worry about the content of additional liquid from frozen ones that will change the texture of the cake.  This cake definitely needs a sugar Crumb top to make it more prettier to give away and also adds a lovely crunch. Since I omitted the brown sugar part and only used white sugar for the crumb mixture, the topping looks yellowish rather than brownish.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Orange & Almond with Cranberry Mini Bundt Cakes with Strawberry Glaze

I adapted this recipe from here to try out the new 12 portions mini bundt cake pan that I bought on Mother's Day. I used all the ingredients except for the water stated and almond extract. I grated rind from 2 oranges and added chopped slivered almonds and dried cranberries, about 1/8 cup of each to the batter. The perfect oven temperature for baking is 350F for cakes this size and  for about 25 mins. Bundt cakes are crusty on the outside, hence able to bake into the pretty Bundt shape and soft in the inside. For the Glaze, I just pureed about 8 large strawberries and stirred it into about 1/3 cup of powered sugar. Instead of drizzling, I hand held each and dipped the the top part of the cakes into the Glaze, just like glazed donuts. 

Such a delight to eat :) for afternoon tea time.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Rhubarb & Strawberry Frangipane Tart

"Is that Red Celery, Mom?" asked my son.

That was how I really perceived Rhubarb when I first seen it in the grocery store 10 years ago. I have never heard nor seen one in Asia and little did I know what it tasted like. Its tart tasting crunch reminds me of biting into a fresh cranberry fruit, raw and crunchy. Definitely some ingredient to cook with but not eaten on itself!

Rhubarb is synonymous with the end of winter and emerging of Spring. Together with the Strawberries, they are like partners placed next to each other waiting to be scooped up together and to be brought home and whipped up into delectable treats. Together they present the most beautiful hue of red with a slight pop of pink which shouts that summer is very near and life should be enjoyed in the sun and outside. This tart is indeed great to bake for picnics and summer parties. There is not much difficulty in doing the filling, only that you need a very good tart base recipe that holds up and doesn't shrink during baking. You can substitute grounded hazelnut for the almond flour for a more fragrant and richer tart.


For Tart Base:
300g All Purpose Flour
150g Cold butter, diced
8 Tbsp Milk

For Filling:
150g Almond Flour
100g Sugar
50g Butter, melted
1/4 Cup Milk
2 Large Eggs. lightly beaten
250g Rhubarb (sliced)
250g Strawberry (sliced)
1 tbsp Sugar
2 tsp Cornstarch
1/2 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste

Make Tart Base:
1) Process the butter pieces with the flour till mealy.
2) Add in 4 Tbsp of the Milk and bring the mixture together. Add in the remaining milk to form a soft dough.
3) Shape into a disk and let it rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
4) Butter an 8 inch tart pan and cut out an 8 inch circle from a piece of parchment paper. Set aside.
5) Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick and line the tart pan. Leave some dough overhanging at the edges of the pan. Poke the bottom base with a fork.
6) Return this tart pan into the fridge for another 30 mins. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.
7) Line the tart with the cut out parchment paper and fill in with baking beans. Pop it into the oven and bake for 20 mins. Remove the parchment paper and baking beans. 
8) Reduce the oven temperature to 350F.

Make Filling:
1)Put the sliced Rhubarb and Strawberry pieces into a large bowl. Spoon in the 1 Tbsp sugar together with the cornstarch and Vanilla bean paste. Stir and mix together. Leave aside.
2)In another bowl, stir the Almond flour together with the 100g Sugar. Pour in the melted butter and mix. Then add in the beaten egg and stir to mix. Lastly, pour in the milk to mix into a creamy almond mixture.

To Assemble:
1) Spoon the Rhubarb & Strawberry mixture into the half baked tart case. Spread out evenly.
2) Spoon in the Almond Cream mixture.
3) Bake for 35 to 40 mins until slightly brown.
4) Remove from oven and let the tart cool in the pan for 15 mins and remove from pan.
5) Garnish with powdered sugar and serve warm.

Serves 6 to 8


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tofu Pan Fried

This is the simplest of all simple recipes! All you need is the extra Firm tofu, this Vegetable sauce , chopped scallion and toasted Sesame seeds. And about 2 to 3 Tbsp of cooking oil plus salt and pepper to season. The only waiting part is the pressing of the tofu to rid excess water. For this, remove the soaking water, place the tofu block on a large plate, place a small plate on top of the tofu block, the water will flow out after about 10 mins and fill the large plate. Discard the water and pat the tofu dry with kitchen paper towel.

Cut the tofu by the width into 5 or 6 pieces, depending on the size of the tofu block. Soft tofu will not work in this recipe! Season with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Pan fry each side of the tofu for 5 mins till slightly browned. Remove from the pan and spread some of the vegetable sauce on one side and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds and chopped scallion. That's it! For great presentation, serve with some salad leaves.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bento Days

I finally found the right size Stainless steel lunch box for my 6 year old boy. A bit pricey but fits the purpose. Kids go through different phases of appetite, probably in a period of 2 months, they eat alot and always come home from school asking for bigger snack portions and there are certain times that they just don't eat much, leaving portions for me to eat up!

I love Rice paper for the fact it is so easy to use. The water for softening the rice paper out of the packaging needs to be warm and if cold, the paper tends to break when you try to lift it. I do get bored with stir fried vegetables and so I cut up some carrot and cucumber, both sliced thinly into sticks and placed them on a bed of romaine lettuce leaf and wrapped into the rice paper. The Bento box looks neater and easier to arrange. Hoisin sauce for dipping is a must and I packed it in those little small sauce containers. This was also my first time using and mashing up a purple potato to make the decorative flowers. Once mashed, I patted them into small disk and used a flower cookie cutter to cut it out. This is best done when the mashed potato is just done or else if it dries up, it will be difficult to push it out from the cookie cutter. Other fillers are pork and corn meatballs and quail eggs. The rice is fried with a little tomato sauce to give it color and taste.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Spring Strawberry Cake

Ah...the smell of Spring air. Although the nights are still chilly, the daylight sun is just lovely everyday this week. Daffodils and Forsythia spouting out their vibrant yellows, iris and pansies proudly poking out in purple, trees finally regaining their branches with spots of green popping here and there. Migrating geese over and above in the skies, cardinals and frogs are busy with their rendezvous and I am on a baking mode! 

I followed this YouTube video Recipe to make this cake. Although it is named the X'mas cake, I think I have successfully adapted it and made it into a Spring day cake! Japanese recipes are practically right in sizes when you have a smaller crowd to feed and this cake was just the right size for my family of 4. It is absolutely necessary to have a 6 or 7 inches cake pan as this cake will look a bit flat when baked in an 8 inch. However, you can always put on more strawberry slices in the filling and pile up more on the cream. I used these gum paste flowers to mimic the color of the pansies and daisies, rosemary for the green grass and shaved chocolate for dirt/mulch. Here are the ingredients used for this cake :

Sponge Cake
150g /3 large eggs
100 sugar
90g cake flour
15g Butter
1 tbsp Milk

Soaking Syrup
1 heap tbsp Strawberry Jam
3 tbsp Hot water
2 tbsp Sugar

Filling and Frosting
400ml whipping cream
3 tbsp Sugar
450 g strawberries

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Morello (Sour Cherry) Clafoutis

I made these for a small pizza dinner party last week. Ramekins are very useful when there are more guests around and rather than baking in a large dish pan, I pour this recipe batter into 10 individual ramekins.  Trader Joe's Morello cherries in the jar is great for baking and I use them often. First I poured the cherries out from the jar into a strainer and let the juice drip off into a bowl. And then they were divided equally into the ramekins. The batter was easy to whip up and this warm flan and cake like dessert is best served warm.

I used this Recipe. Very easy and fast to make. So good for a cool spring night!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Ham & Chive Quiche with Thyme

One of my favorite dish to make during Spring and Summer is Quiche. Besides it being pretty with its bright yellowish and creamy egg and cream filling, it is also very adaptable and versatile with all sorts of other additional fillings, from summer vegetables of sweet pepper, asparagus to shredded chicken and ham. Whether taken out for a picnic or party or perhaps a little special treat for oneself in the lunchbox or on a lazy Sunday afternoon with a glass of white wine, Quiches fulfil the palate at anytime of the day.
350g diced & cubed Ham
4 large eggs
25g (1/3 cup) chives, snipped
Thyme, amount discretionary
250ml (1 cup) heavy Cream
125ml (1/2 cup) Milk
salt & pepper to season
Pastry base
300g All Purpose Flour
150g cold butter, diced
8 tbsp Milk
Prepare the Pastry Base:
1. Drop the butter pieces into the flour.
2. Use food processor to break the butter into the flour Or use hands to crumble the butter into the flour.
3. Once crumbly and mixed, add in 4 tbsp of Milk and mix. Gradually add in the rest of the milk till the mixture forms a dough. Form it into a ball and wrap with cling film. Let the dough rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 400F/200C. Grease an 8 inch quiche pan with butter.
5. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and lined the quiche pan with the dough, with a little overhanging over the edge of the pan. Put it back into the fridge and chill for a further 15 mins.
6. Line the chilled dough with parchment paper and baking beans and bake for 20 mins. Remove paper & beans and bake a further 8 mins. Remove from the oven and put aside.
7. Reduce the oven temperature to 350F.
Prepare the Filling:
1. Beat the eggs, add in the cream and milk and season with pepper and salt. Mix.
2. Mix the Ham cubes and chive in separate bowl and spoon into the baked tart pastry case. Spread out evenly.
3. Pour the egg and cream mixture into the pan. If desired, grate some cheese onto the top.
4. Bake at 350F for about 45 mins.  Turn up the heat to 375F and complete baking for another 10 to 15 mins, until the filling is lightly set and doesn't jiggle anymore.
5. Remove from oven and let the quiche cool in the pan for about 15 mins before serving.
Serves 4 to 6.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tofu Puffs with Minced Pork & Peas

As Spring weather is gradually taking over the left over tail of wintry nights, the appetite prefers more lighter dishes with lesser meat and thick gravy. Simple cooking is good and the lesser ingredients, the better.

There are many types of Soy products in the market. Tofu being the most versatile and comes in various texture from silky soft to very firm can be cooked quickly and served alongside vegetables or grains. Tofu puffs are almost hollow in the inside with strands of soy curd holding its cube shape and they have been deep fried prior to packaging. They can be stuffed with fillings of meat and vegetable or simply cooked in a stew and their main goodness is their chewiness and ability to absorb flavors. There are 2 steps to making this dish but nothing complicated. I love the gravy that coats the minced meat which is not watery.


20 Tofu Puffs
350g Minced Pork (Seasoned with salt, white pepper, 1 tsp corn starch and stirred to mix thoroughly)
50g Frozen peas
2 small shallots, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 cup of Chopped Cilantro, leaves and stalks

Sauce mixture: 2 tbsp Oyster Flavored Sauce; 2 tbsp Light soy sauce; 1 tsp Chinese Cooking wine; 1/3 cup water/beef broth; 1 tbsp Cornstarch; Dash of White Pepper

1. Heat 2 tsp of vegetable oil. Pan fry the Tofu puffs for 3 minutes, turning each every minute. Dish up and pat excess oil on Tofu with a kitchen paper towel. Set aside.
2. Heat 3 tsp of vegetable oil, saute the shallots, garlic and cilantro for 1 minute. Add 1 tbsp of water and add in the minced pork. Stir to break up the meat and cover to cook for 3 mins.
3. Add in the Sauce mixture and let the ingredients simmer for another 5 mins. If the mixture is too thick, add 1 to 2 tsp water to thin out or if too watery, dissolve another 1 tsp cornstarch with 1 tbsp water and add into the sauce. 
4. Add and stir in the tofu puffs and peas to coat and cover and for another 5 mins.
5. Dish up and serve hot with rice.

Serves : 4

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Coconut Cherry Brownies

I don't think I ever made Brownies from scratch but only from box mixes and everytime I did that, it always failed! It was either burnt or hard as a rock and I have no idea why. Melting chocolate is not a thing I like to do and so I put off ever making Brownie for any occasion.

That was until this Easter, I was short of time to prepare any dessert for my Easter dinner party and wanted something simple. And I found this lovely Recipe, much to my delight that uses Cocoa powder and no chocolate melting required. I reduced the sugar to 350g and the coconut to 50g while adding about 75g chopped Morello cherries from Trader Joe's to the batter. Maraschino cherries can be used if Morello is not available. The most important thing to observe in this recipe is when the beaten eggs are added to the warm cocoa and butter mixture. First, temper the eggs by pouring slowly some of the cocoa mixture into the eggs and quickly stir to avoid coagulation or scrambled egg mess. And pour this egg mixture into the cocoa mixture to combine thoroughly.
This Brownie tasted great, moist and dense. The coconut didn't overpower the richness of the cocoa taste and the cherries added a slight tart bite. Definitely a keeper recipe and a great treat to bake for anyone, anytime.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bento Lunches for March 2013

It is quite hard to kick myself back into cooking and baking mode again. Not that I was not cooking all this while but to create something out of the norm takes a bit of brainstorming these days. Or rather, my attention has shifted too much to sewing and there is just not much to entice me to spend time in the kitchen. I used to be able to multi-task but ever since I moved house to my current location and loaded with the kids activities and homework almost everyday, I kind of gave up on some of my interests without realising it! Life is moving on very fast these days and I feel that I am trying to catch up with the days, literally.

To start with, I went back to making Bento lunches for my kids this month. Bento lunches first caught my eyes when I was in Japan long time ago and it was the first type of food cooking and presentation that got me into writing and documenting my culinary journey in this Blog. Through it, I learned to use different ingredients and also introduced more healthier eating to my kids. It is indeed a very uplifting feeling to be able to put different food and ingredients into a small box and present it. Like Forrest Gump said "Life is like a box of Chocolates, you never know what you are going to get". Taking out the Chocolates, I think Bento is that fun and surprising too!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

2013 and Things to come

X'mas 2012 and New Year 2013 celebrations have all passed! What have I been doing away from my Blogs? I have not much recollection except the winter was harsh with so much snow that I couldn't find my Buried Shovel at times, and with weather going all down to -15'C, there wasn't much fun happening at my end. Every New Year, I make one wish of many Wishes that I always secretly hope.... the Winter months of January and February will go by so quickly that infact I am thankful that February has only 28 days! Although 12 years and counting living here in the States, my relationship with Every Winter season is just as slushy as the melting snow... all murky and nothing to love about!

As I write my first post here, I confess that I thought of ending the writing of my Blogs. When I first started, I didn't have alot of things going on for me except taking care of kids and their diapers and till today I still pick up their clothes littered everywhere in their rooms! And so, cooking, baking and blogging about it made the days more easy going. As the years pass, my energy and brain power are diverted or rather divided up everywhere and the attention to this blog wavered. Even my baking skills went down a bit. 

Anyhow, having moved to a bigger kitchen now, I guess I should do better and not let all my previous effort of writing and photography go to waste. Not mentioning my cookbooks collection. And also all the lovely people who constantly comes back looking and emailing me to discuss about recipes and ingredients. There are so many cakes that I haven't tried out yet and so many dishes that I want to create and I just hope Spring 2013 gives me the determination and inspiration to create and post again.

All the best to everyone in 2013!