Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mango Sago Smoothie

It's the fifteen day of the eighth month, according to the lunar calendar. That's what my dad told me when I asked him to help me get a pomelo this morning. It's the day where sellers over charge for everything related to the Mid Autum Festival (中秋节), he said. I'm not sure how expensive the pomelo costed eventually as the deal was, if it were exorbitant he would not get any for me. I got one anyway. The way I see it, if they are left with so much stock, that won't make much business sense. So, it doesn't make sense for them to over charge on the actual day, I guess.

I searched the web for something appropriate to write on this auspicious day, and found the lyrics of a song, 月圆花好 by 周璇:


I won't try to translate that as I'm sure I'll be really far off. I'm sure the song is about how this is such a special day for couples, and everything is sweet and happy. Here's wishing everyone a happy and joyous time with loved ones.

As for me, I tried re-making something I ate a lot of during my trip to Hong Kong last year. I remember ordering this dessert 杨枝甘露, which can be called mango sago smoothie. I found that in Hong Kong, some stalls added coconut milk, something I don't especially enjoy.

My sister-in-law made something like this recently, and I thought I would try making it on my own version. I am glad that own concoction turned out pretty good. Room for improvement, of course, but not bad for my first attempt.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Black Sesame Delight

I was very curious when I first saw this post on Florence's blog. She had described it as a "sweet and delicate dessert". Click here for a more in-depth explanation of what blanc manger is.

I agree wholeheartedly that it is a very delicate dessert. Notice that I didn't even take it out from the mould? I had removed one and for some reason, it could not stand upright for long, and started to fall a little shorter in a short while. It didn't break, though, just looked really, stout.

I had followed the recipe closely except for the part about black sesame paste. I could not find any and so used a sachet of instant black sesame paste (芝麻糊) mixed with very little hot water. I supposed the version Florence used is much thicker as mine turned out looking very very light with almost no frangrance of black sesame at all. For the next try, I would probably use the whole sachet instead.

This dessert was so light and refreshing that my boy liked it so much. The two of us probably finished the whole batch of this blanc manger. It tasted very much like mousse, and I'm glad I had used non-diary whipping cream! So, I was very much guilt-less as I ate the whole cup on my own.

This will definitely be my number choice for an "elegant" dessert for the next dinner party. Besides, it is something that can be prepared well in advance. All I need is to find something equally elegant to serve them in. Perhaps I won't even remove them from the cups...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Banana Chocolate Cake

Surprise, surprise, yet another banana cake, you must be thinking. We don't usually buy bananas as fruit, as I am carbo-averse. Hubs, lets just say he has a sensitive stomach... my girl loves bananas, only found out this week though, when we had a overflowing (over-ripening flow) of bananas at home. In total, I had purchased between 15 and 18 bananas just to experiment with Nigella's Banana Rum Cake.

September seems to be a busy month of birthdays. My girl had her birthday on Monday and she asked me to help her bake a cake for her friend! I seem to have become the "official baker" and have to bake presents on her behalf too. So I got her involved, afterall, it was HER present for her friend, right? She made the stencil by cutting out the letters "Happy B'day XT" on a piece of paper. Ok, the words looked a little fuzzy :P I have since bought 4 wilton stencils for cake decorations to cope with such requests to bake birthday presents, erm, cakes.

This cake was easy to bake as well, just stir and bake. Of course, there was the additional step of melting chocolates and butter. My kids love this cake, that was what they said anyway. Next time I bake this, I would cover the top with a layer of ganache as it has lots of small holes all over. This is also a kids-friendly cake (read: no alcohol).

Banana Chocolate Cake


90g self-raising (SR) flour, 90g all-purpose (AP) flour
1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder, 170g butter
1 tbsp corn oil, 150g chocolate
100ml hot water, 80ml milk
170g brown sugar, 3 eggs
200g bananas (sliced)


  1. Grease and line 10cm x 32 cm baking tin. Preheat oven to 170 deg C.

  2. Combine SR and AP flour, baking powder, soda and cocoa powder in a mixing bowl.

  3. Melt butter, oil, chocolate, hot water and milk over low heat. Remove from heat, combine with brown sugar and eggs.

  4. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture together with banana slices until well blended.

  5. Spoon batter into prepared tin. Bake in oven for 40-45 minutes or until cooked. Stand for 10 minutes before turning on to wire rack to cool.

  6. Decorate with ganache, bananas and/or chocolate chips (optional).

Source: Easy Stir 'n Bake Cakes by Kevin Chai

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Banana Rum Cake

I doubt I would be baking any regular banana cake after this. Afterall, this is so easy to put together as well. A cyber friend in Hong Kong told me that she had baked a banana cake with rum-soaked raisins and walnuts. When I looked at her photograph, I couldn't help but want to try to bake it myself. Besides, I had received a copy of Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddes since last Christmas.

The recipe looked fairly simple and there are many resources, even videos, easily available on the internet. I didn't even need to use a mixer. It was so easy to make that I made it twice this week. The picture above is the improved version as the first one had a huge crack in the middle. My mistake with the first attempt was wrong oven temperature. The cake was dark and cracked, it also looked really dry. However, it was very soft and tasty, especially on the second day. I shared the first loaf with my group of tasters and they gave their "stamp of approval" saying that the cake was "nice and moist". That encouraged me to bake another batch for a dear friend, whom I'll be meeting tomorrow.

On VB's advice, I tented the pans during baking to see if I would get a better result. And I'm glad I did that, as the cakes turned out so beautiful -- without any cracks! For the second attempt, I even brushed the top of the cakes with some rum! I was determined to intoxicate anyone who consumes the cake! I can't wait to see my friend's reaction tomorrow.

Now, to show you version one, see the crack and difference in colour? It looked dry and hard too, but tasted great even on the third day.

Monday, September 8, 2008

She's a Teenager

What d'ya know? My first-born little girl is officially a teenager, she turns 13 today. I can't help but recall all the excitment that surrounded us while we waited for her arrival. She is the first grandchild for both paternal and maternal sides. That naturally meant she is eagerly anticipated by both sets of grandparents, and both of us.

Being people who do not like to be unprepared, we chose to have an induced birth on 8 September 1995, it was a Friday. This day is also the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Sister Ma at the Mt Alvernia Hospital told me that we had chosen a good day to have our baby. (Yes, we are Roman Catholics).

Most, if not all, mothers would agree that everything is pure anticipation for the first-timer. When my doctor told me that it was going to be a "long-haul" I wasn't quite sure what to make of his comment. It was then past 9.00 am and epidural had just started. It wasn't until 5.30 pm that we finally met her. And boy, did she look exactly like her daddy! (In fact, she still looks exactly like him!) I was told later by another mother, whom I met at the ante-natal class, that in Thai culture (she was from Thailand) they believe that if a little girl she looked like her father, then she would be really fortunate. With God's blessings, I'm sure she would be blessed with good fortune too.

Officially, I didn't bake her any cakes as she had requested for a chilled marshmellow cake. It had to be purple, no less. As I could not get any blueberries in time, I had to resort to using food colouring, as she had insisted as well. She cut the cake with 4 of her classmates, who came over on Saturday to complete some holiday projects. When a group of young girls get together, one can expect lots of giggling, chuckling and screaming. They happily ordered fast food by phone, while we were out. In all, I'm sure she had a really good time on Saturday.

We hosted a small get-together on Saturday night, as it was another friend's birthday. So we bought a chocolate cake to celebrate both their birthdays.