Saturday, June 28, 2008

Enjoy Your Flight

"Enjoy your flight!" That's what the staff would say cheerfully as we hopped on board the moving (very slowly) Singapore Flyer. Ordinarily, I doubt we would pay to go on such a ride, (adults pay S$29.50 and kids pay S$20.65), unless there was a good deal, eg, company's Family Day, etc.

My sweet 5-year-old niece had won a contest and the prize was 2 Singapore Flyer adult tickets. When her mummy asked who she would like to give the tickets to (as they have experienced the Singapore Flyer) she said "Pak Leong" (her daddy is my husband's younger brother). As the tickets were due to expire at the end of June, we had to go today.

As National Day is drawing near, we could see the rehearsal from the flyer. In fact, as we approached the Singapore Flyer, there was a flurry of activities at the Marina Bay Floating Platform. On our way up, the parade was formed up for the "President's" inspection. We also saw some navy vessels waiting for their cue to enter the performance area. My boy saw the cannons where the gunfire salute will be fired as well.

From the flyer, we saw where the pit stops will be when the F1 race comes to Singapore in September. Our family (other than my girl) are mild F1 fans. We would catch every race on TV whenever we can. We are mild fans as we won't even consider driving to Sepang to catch the race. We are not sure if we would bother to go down to Marina Square when the race comes to Singapore. I doubt very much as we can catch all the action on TV in the comfort of our home, without having to squeeze with the crowd. I doubt very much we would be able to catch a glimpse of any of the F1 drivers...

Back to our first ever experience on the giant observation wheel. For my girl, who confessed that she has a fear of heights (at 13, I guess I was afraid of heights too). Initially, she sat quietly on the bench but as the flyer ascended, she sat on the floor (to stay close to the ground). Even my dear husband's knees went a little wobbly. Now we know where my girl's fear of heights came from. My boy was busy snapping photos, and even got creative. He snapped through the lens of the binoculars! Check these out!

So, that was our first ever ride, er, flight on the Singapore Flyer. The experience gave me a chance to see everything from a very different angle/view. I now have my own photo of the Singapore skyline! Keep a lookout for special deals so you can experience the flyer too!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Stir, Pour and Bake

This has got to be the easiest banana cake recipe I've tried. I started weighing the ingredients around 8 pm tonight and I was able to sit down to watch Chef at Home at 8.30 pm. If I had cracked the eggs directly into the mixing bowl with sugar and oil, that would leave 2 mixing bowls and a hand whisk for washing. Talk about easy.

Even the mixing was the easiest ever, and idoit-proof too. From what little experience I had with baking chiffon cakes, I applied the technique of whisking egg yolks here. The lumps of flour miraclously disappeared with just a few whisk. I would do away with folding in flour when I next try this again. As a result of the initial folding in of flour, and whisking later, that probably caused the huge hump and crack.

I came across this from Aunty Yochana's blog, where she shared a real easy banana cake recipe. As my kids do not like having nuts in cakes, I omitted the nuts altogether. Instead, I added a little cinnamon, as Gina mentioned that cinnamon enhances the flavour of bananas. Unfortunately, I was a little cautious and added just a dash. I also mashed the bananas instead of slicing them.

I must say the cake is really soft but since I reduced sugar by 10g, the cake is not sweet enough for most people. I find it alright as I have reduced my sugar intake for some time now. It could also be due to the relatively "just ripe" state of the bananas. I shall try this recipe for another friend who recently requested for a banana cake. For my next try, I may use melted butter instead of canola oil. Try it today!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Yogurt Biscuits

This is an interesting recipe and since I have yogurt to finish up, why not? But I really don't like the taste of this yogurt after the chocolate ice-cream. I thought hard about what to add to give some flavour to the yogurt. I found a bottle of Heinz apple & mango sauce, which I bought as standby for baking cakes.

I first came across it on Kitchen Capers when Precious Moments posted her daily bake. The biscuits looked very fluffy and cute, which was what attracted me. Besides, I have been curious to find out what these western biscuits (actually quite bread-like) tasted like. My girl was also interested in helping as she loves to roll and cut the dough with cookie cutters.

I tried to be smart and bought many XL eggs. I had used 2 for this bake and the dough was simply too wet. The apple & mango sauce further contributed to the liquid and I could have added another cup of flour to the original recipe just to get the right consistency for the dough!

Yogurt Biscuits

3 cups plain flour
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup apple sauce
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsps baking powder

Soften the butter and mix in yogurt (done manually with spatula).
Sift in flour, baking soda and baking powder.
Knead briefly and turn onto a lightly flour surface.
Roll out the dough into 1cm thick sheet. Cut using cookies biscuits.
Bake in pre-heated oven of 180 deg C for 15 mins, or till biscuits turn slightly brown.
Best served warm.

Adapted from: My Kitchen

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pound Cake... Again

Ooh, I'm so happy with today's results. It's my second attempt at baking the Condensed Milk Pound Cake, and it turned out much better than my first try. I realised that I usually cannot achieve a good bake with non-metric recipes. Perhaps I'm not confident when measuring with cups and always gingerly scoop flour and sugar and end up messing up the whole recipe. Even when I try to convert to metric, it sometimes doesn't help. I would have to learn the trick or balancing the proportion of liquid to dry ingredients for a cake to work.

So, thanks to Rei she tried the same recipe from Simply Anne's and converted to something really convenient for me. I have always enjoyed working with Rei's recipes, as they usually turned out well for me. Also, she works out the proportion of the ingredients that almost always guarantees success. I also told her that her recipes are usually quite healthy, less fat and less sugar, I like!

If you like the smell of condensed milk and/or vanilla, you should give this a try. The fragrance filled the whole house and this time, I used Madagascar Pure Vanilla Extract and softened Anchor salted butter (the canned ones). I'm glad I used this butter, as the aroma and taste was perfect! The texture is much better this time as well, really soft and moist. I remember that the previous cake was fairly dense as well. Overall, I am very happy with this cake and will be sure to bake this again and again. I just have to get the low fat version of condensed milk. I haven't stepped on the scales for a couple of weeks, and I'm really afraid to find out the damage I've been doing to myself during this time.

Friday, June 13, 2008


What is a Biscotti?
The word "biscotti" in Italian is the plural form of biscotto, which applies to any type of biscuit, and originates from the medieval Latin word biscoctus, meaning "twice-baked": it is defined as biscuits baked twice in the oven, so they could be stored for long periods of time, which was particularly useful during journeys and wars. Through Middle French, the word was imported into the English language as "biscuit". (Source: Wikepedia)

Hope that answers your question, my dear son. He asked that question quite innocently when I first mentioned "biscotti". He has eaten these before, those from Olio Dome are his (and his sister's) favourite. I practised with two recipes so that I can present the best version to a dear friend of mine, W, who is entering her third trimester. Her little bundle of joy will arrive some time in September. Since she had requested me to bake biscotti, I think I should try.

These are not difficult to make, honestly. However, that does not mean they are easy as well. One needs a little patience. The almond biscotti looks paler as it contains egg whites and no butter (nor any other form of fat). I took the "non-stick" pan for granted and did not line it. Well, I wasted that favourite square pan of mine! I should have poured the batter out, washed the pan and lined it. Urgh...

I first came across the recipe at Aunty Yochana's blog. I skipped the step of letting the cake cool for a few hours in the frige. Once the cake has cooled enough (so that hands don't hurt when holding it), I started to slice it. I returned the slices to bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until they looked dry and hard. These tasted quite good and the children did not complain about the tiny pieces of almond slivers. It was very hard, just like how biscotti should be.

I subsequently came across another biscotti recipe at Amanda's blog. This one looked interesting as it has cornmeal and butter. As expected, the dough gave off a very fragrant aroma (butter mixed with 1.5 tsp of Madagascar vanilla extract) when it was baking. I added another half a cup of flour (making it to 225 g) as the eggs I used were fairly large (about 65g each). Still, I got a rather wet dough and it spread a fair bit in the oven.

As a result of the wet dough, the first piece was underbaked. I suspected as much when I removed it from the oven. As I cut, the "cake" got softer and wetter. So I baked the second piece for 20 mins, and it browned nicely and was easier to slice. I read that Amanda would slice it thicker on her subsequent attempt, so I sliced it thick. It was easier to slice it thicker anyway as I had used whole almonds. My kids said this version is very cookie like and hubs said that this biscotti is a little soft. I guess I didn't dare bake these longer as they were darker (due to butter?) than the egg white version.

The cranberry almond biscotti is definitely more tasty than the (egg white only) almond biscotti. However, I am positive that I had underbaked them as they are quite soft after a day or two. I'm sure giving them a slight toast would restore the crispiness. I shall explore another recipe before presenting you a version that I am satisfied with. Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Finally, I tried and successfully made it. Yes, the wonderfully cool and refreshing relieve for the incredibly humid weather we have here. Like many, I used to think that one would need an ice-cream maker to create these. That was until I found out from Kitchen Capers' forumers that it can be as easy as A-B-C. Oh, these are healthy too!

I selected recipes that did not ask for eggs to start off my experiment. Gina posted 2 amazingly healthy and easy to make recipes, both available at the Cold Room section at Kitchen Capers forum. All I needed was plain yogurt (for the chocolate ice cream) and Bulla thickened cream (for peach ice cream). However, I was not able to find the 1 kg pack of my favourite Swiss Premium plain yogurt. I had to settle for the other available brands as I didn't want to buy too many 100g packs. Perhaps I should have done that. This particular brand of plain yogurt is so SOUR and tastes so "yogurty", yucks! Since I have some non-dairy cream and yogurt left, perhaps I should try 2:1 proportion instead of 1:2 as stated in the original recipe. (Well, perhaps I have overlooked, the original recipe is known as Green Tea YOGURT ice cream...)

As it turned out, my chocolate ice cream tasted like yogurt, no matter how much sugar I added. While it appealed to the adults (thankfully), the kids didn't like it one bit. Even though I added Hershey's chocolate sauce to it, the kids refused to touch it. So, on the second day, I decided to add some melted marshmellows and another cup of whipped non-dairy cream. I then blended these with the chocolate ice cream and returned it to the freezer.

I tried it the next day, the taste of the chocolate ice cream had improved, somewhat. I could still taste yogurt, though, but it was as strong. My guess was right, more non-dairy cream and melted marshmellows helped. The texture of the ice cream improved tremendously as well. I checked with Rei and she said that if the ice cream is not blended again after the first freezing, the texture would like icicles.

As for the peach ice cream, I think the taste of Bulla thickened cream is most dominate. I mashed a whole can of peach halves and added that to the thickened cream, non-dairy cream and sugar. The original recipe used strawberries. My kids loved this ice cream so much, along with the icicle like texture. They won't let me blend it again though. Will experiment some more when the current stash has been consumed, probably one that uses egg yolks.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Nuts n Oats

Yes, it is yet another entry about bread. I did mention earlier that I was on a bread baking frenzy last week as I was on 2 days' leave. That gave me a long weekend, from Thursday to Sunday! We had to stay home as my boy underwent a minor surgery on Thursday. He is recovering well and will see the doctor for a review this week.

Several recipes from 孟老师的100道面包 caught my eye and I had a hard time deciding what to bake. I also had to take into consideration the ingredients that I had in stock. Having a 2-kg bag of Harvet King Gold Medal bread flour was a major factor that led to the bread frenzy. Also, have four full days at home was another factor. I've learnt that breads and chiffon cakes need time and patience and rush jobs always end with dissatisfactory results.

The only thing I had to buy to bake this bread was instand oatmeal. I had checked with my mom and they are out of instant oatmeal. She told me to use whatever I need and they can take over the balance. She was keen to try bread made with oatmeal as well. So I zeroed in on this recipe, Walnut Oatmeal Bread. Recipe asked for molasses, which I replaced with maple flavoured honey syrup. I suppose real maple syrup would yield better fragrance and flavour. I did not have enough walnuts so I used the remaining pecan nuts still sitting in my fridge (from the hummingbird cake).

I thought I should toast the pecans slightly longer this time as they did not release any flavour previously. However, I forgot that I was using my new toaster and the nuts were slightly over-toasted (which I'm guessing explains the colour of the bread).

This recipe uses the water-roux (汤种 tangzhong) method, oatmeal and milk is cooked to form a dough. This is then refrigerated for at least 60 minutes before it is added to the rest of the ingredients. As usual, I used the breadmaker to help me with the kneading. Thanks to experience with the earlier loaves, I got quite used to working with the machine. This dough turned out to be less sticky and I did not bother to wrestle with it.

As I was too sick of tasting breads, I still do not know how it tastes. I guess I should ask my helper for her verdict. As I did not finish using the pecan cream cheese spread from the hummingbird cake, I thought it would be a great combination. May be I should try a small piece some time ...

Pecan Oatmeal Bread

A (汤种 tangzhong)
20g instant oats
50g water (I used milk)

250g bread flour
20g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp (4g) instant yeast
20g milk powder
20g molasses (I used maple honey syrup)
120g water

20g unsalted butter
60g chopped walnuts (I used pecans)

D(mixed together)
25g chopped walnuts (I used pecans)
10g caster sugar

1. Heat ingredient A in a saucepan, over very low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula until the mixture resembles a soft, wet lump of dough. Cover with cling wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 60 mins.
2. Place ingredient and B in the pan of the bread machine (according to the sequence as stated in the instruction manual of your bread machine). Add ingredients from 1 above last.
3. Select Dough function of the bread machine and start.
4. After about 8 mins of kneading, add in butter. Let the machine continue to knead. After the kneading cycle has completed (20mins), add chopped walnuts (pecans). Restart and let the machine complete the whole Dough cycle (I removed the dough only after it had doubled in volume, ie, end of the entire Dough cycle).
5. Remove dough and give a few light kneads to release any trapped air. Shape into a ball and cover with cling wrap. Let the dough rest for 10 mins.
6. Flatten and roll out into an oval, about the size of 20cm by 15cm. Roll up, lengthwise, like a swiss-roll.
7. Place the rolled dough into a well-greased baking pan or Pullman tin. Cover the lid and let dough proof for 60 mins or until the dough rises to 90% of the height of the tin.
8. Brush the top of the dough with some egg wash, and sprinkle ingredient D on top. Bake in a preheated oven at 180-190 deg C for about 30mins.
9. Remove from oven and unmold immediately.

a) If baking uncovered, check the colour of the bread after 20 mins. If it has turned brown, cover the top with tin foil. (I baked it in a covered Pullman tin.)
b) There is no need to toast the walnuts (pecans). If desired, however, you may bake the nuts for 10 mins at 150 deg C.

Recipe from 孟老师的100道面包

Monday, June 9, 2008

Trio of Colours

This is another recipe from 孟老师的100道面包. Thankfully, Happy Home Baking has translated and tested the recipe, making it really easy for me to try it without having to plough through the chinese dictionary. Like the title of her post, I felt that I was playing with the dough when plaiting it.

For this dough, I tried to knead it further after the breadmaker has completed kneading it as it was really sticky and obviously didn't pass the window-pane test. But after wrestling with it for close to 30 minutes, I realised that I was probably not doing it right and left the 3 balls of dough to proof separately. Fortunately, plaiting the dough was the easiest part of the whole process. However, the uncoloured piece of dough broke away after the second proof.

The only disappointment was that the dough did not rise up the top of the pullman pan. I felt happy with the result especially after slicing it up. The bread is soft, with a hint of ocha flavour. The chocolate flavour is not obvious, that is just as well as this give the macha flavour a chance to come through. It will be a recipe that I will attempt again. It made me happy when I saw the finished product.

Prior to baking this tri-coloured bread, I baked another ocha flavoured bread. I did not take a photo of the finished product as it was not good looking at all. On the whole, it tasted quite unique as macha always goes well with azuki. I will try it again in future and post the recipe then. This was how it looked like before baking. I thought it wasn't a good looking loaf, and I would probably break up the dough and bake as smaller buns in future.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

All from One Book

What more do I need to say about this loaf? It's good looking and has chocolate. I first came across this bread when I saw Happy Home Baking's post. I then realised that I have the book where the recipe came from!

I stumbled on this book 孟老师的100道面包 while browsing at a bookshop. I would not have bought the book had it not come with a DVD. So I willingly parted with slightly over S$30 for the package. Intially, I was daunted by all the chinese characters. Thankfully, the author had devoted several pages of photos in the begining to the fundamentals of baking bread, from ingredients to shaping breads in various ways, among other things. All the bread recipes featured in it are interesting and what I would call "Asian". I bought another book on western bread making bread (mainly for breadmaker) but have yet to try a single recipe. I have tried 4 recipes from this chinese book over 3 days!

I revisited the water-roux (汤种 tangzhong) method for this bake. It was interesting and different from my previous attempt. This time, I had to add a slice of cheddar cheese to milk and some bread flour to make the tangzhong. If you are keen to learn more about this method, I would recommend that you check Florence's blog here.

If you are not a cheese person, don't worry, as the taste of cheese was not noticeable at all. On the whole, the bread was soft and very delicious with peanut butter (I did not have any chocolate spread at home). My boy asked for more chocolate chips if I were to bake this again.

I realised that I haven't been doing things "right" when baking bread. As the whole baking process is long, I tended to cut corners to save time. I have been very fortunate that the breads I baked previously turned out alright. Lessons learnt with the help of 孟老师's DVD:

- Check the dough (window-pane test) after removing from breadmaker.
- Not to add flour at own whim or even flour hands/work area when kneading dough :S
- Give time for dough to rest (10 to 15 mins) after the first proof but before final shaping (after dividing the dough to smaller portions, if necessary).

I won't profess that I am an expert at baking bread. In fact, I'm still wrestling with sticky dough and have yet to solve the mystery. I have not passed the window-pane test since I started checking for it. I definitely do NOT know how to knead the dough by hand. The learning journey with bread will still go on, more on the other 3 loaves soon.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


My girl has been asking me to bake cranberry bread lately. However, I haven't had time to bake bread and have been buying commercial ones for her. Finally, I found some time to bake yesterday as I was home to meet the new Chinese tutor.

I could not decide which recipe to use, it was a tussle between two recipes which I had tried previously: yogurt bread or brioche? As I did not have any "whole milk" (I forgot I could have used Nestle cream!) I went with the yogurt bread recipe. I followed the recipe exactly as posted on sweet-tooth's fiood haven:

Cranberry Yogurt Bread

100g yogurt
60g fresh milk
25g egg
250g bread flour
20g sugar
3g salt
2.5g dry yeast
30g butter
70g dried cranberries (optional)

1. Put all the ingredients except butter into bread machine according to the order recommended in the instructions manual.
2. Select Dough cycle and allow dough to be kneaded. After 10 minutes, stop the machine and add in the butter.
3. Start Dough cycle again, add cranberries when butter is fully mixed.
4. Remove dough at the end of Dough cycle.
5. Divide dough into 3 portions, punch out air and roll into swiss roll. Repeat for remaining 2 pieces of dough.
6. Place the dough in a lightly greased pan and proof again till it reaches 80% of the pan.
7. Bake at pre-heated oven at 180°C for 30 to 35 minutes.8. Unmould the bread immediately and let it cool completely before slicing.

This is a trust-worthy recipe always yielding ultra soft bread. Somehow, I like it better as "mini buns" (like my two earlier attempts) instead of a loaf. Since this is a request from my girl, I baked a loaf.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Hearty Bread

It's been a long time since I last baked a loaf of bread. As I had half a packet of wholemeal flour still remaining the fridge, I thought of kwf's self-created Mixed Herbs Wholemeal Bread. I've always loved the aroma of herbs but haven't had the privilege of my own pots of fresh herbs.

From my last attempt at baking wholemeal bread, I had learnt that wholemeal breads tend to be denser and shorter. Although the proportion of wholemeal flour to bread flour this time is 1:3, the bread was still shorter than usual white bread. Oh, I used the breadmaker completely from kneading the dough to baking the bread.

Everyone loves the lovely fragrance of baking bread. With the addition of mixed herbs, it gives another dimension to the aroma. It's also been such a long time since I last baked a loaf for my mom, this bread was baked for her in mind. That was why I cut down the amount of mixed herbs to 1.5 tsp. As I had ran out of olive oil, I used canola oil instead.

I'm sure olive oil would give this bread an even better aroma. As I didn't try this bread, I can't say how good it tastes. Other than the crust, the rest of the bread was fairly soft, given that it's a wholemeal loaf. I was surprised how "wholemeal" the loaf looked given that wholemeal flour accounted for one-third of the total flour used.

Will update on taste in due course. I will also keep in mind to bake this as individual rolls for the next dinner party. I would also have to think of suitable dishes to go with it as well. Any suggestions?

Mixed Herb Wholemeal Bread

Water 165g
Olive oil 30g (I used canola oil)
Bread flour 200g
Wholemeal flour 100g
Sugar 20g
Salt 5g
Milk powder 10g
Yeast 4g
Mixed Herbs 2.5 tsp (I used 1.5 tsp)

1. Pour the water into the breadmaker bucket. Add in oil and half the flour (bread + wholemeal).
2. Sprinkle with the salt, sugar and dried milk powder. Cover with the remaining flour.
3. With a finger, make a small indent in the centre of the flour, and place the yeast in the indent.
4. Fit the bucket into the breadmaker, and set to Wholemeal. Select the desired colour of the crust. (Choose the smallest loaf size.)
5. Add herbs when machine sounds the beep for raisins.
6. When the cycle completes, carefully shake the loaf out of the bucket and let it stand the right way up. Leave the loaf to cool for at least an hour before cutting and remove the blade/paddle if necessary.