Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Another Year!

How quickly time has flown by, it's another year. My cyber friend was surprised when I told her that I had to rush home to bake a birthday cake for my son. He turned 11 today and I baked him this super and wonderfully chocolatey cake. Admittedly, it is far too chocolatey for my daughter and I. Hubs and son both enjoyed the cake, though. On hindsight, perhaps I should have let it remain a chocolate banana cake or added something else, such as dark cherries, in the middle.

I am not complaining that the cake is too sweet, though. I had used Belgium couverture chocolate both for the cake, as well as the ganache. Perhaps that had contributed to the intense (son said it was bitter) chocolate sensation. I'm sure any chocolate lover would love this. To keep decoration to a minimum, I simply placed 2 Ferrero Rondnoir and 2 sticks of Bourbon cocoa crepe cookies at the top of the cake. For the sides, I broke up some chocolate transfer. It's also a small cake, just 6-inches in width.

I had learnt this from a baking class and I knew this was the cake for my son this year. Again, he had wanted a cake from the store but I managed to convince him to let mummy bake for him. Then I felt stressed, do mummies all feel this way? I'm glad it turned out ok.

In exactly 2 weeks' time, it will be my daughter's birthday. She had requested that her cake be "special", now, what happened to any cake baked by mummy would be special ... aren't children hard to satisfy these days?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pineapple Upsidedown Cake

Yet another attempt to practise making caramel. Sometimes I wonder why I bother practising when it is just sugar, which is not a big friend. It gets worse when the people who received the cake commented that it was too sweet. I had already reduced the sugar used in the cake and the caramel, let's just said it was a fraction of the original recipe.

Instead of making a big 10-inch cake, I made 3 loaves. I reduced sugar for the cake by one-quarter cup and made only half of the caramel. The syrup was then shared among the 3 loaves and it was still sweet for that friend. Guess her tolerance for sugar is way lower than mine, or have I began to accept more sugar now? :S The perils of baking, perhaps?

My brother, who also received one loaf, asked me to bake it some other fruit. I will bake him a Peach Upsidedown Cake, another day. Come tomorrow, I am committed to the community baking effort every other week. That would take away some weekend (home) baking time...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Working with Caramel

In a recent community baking event, I had the opportunity of making caramel on my own. After watching a few episodes (on cable tv) featuring caramel, I thought I could finally put that "knowledge" to test. However, I failed a few times. Thankfully, P and J were on hand to share their knowledge. Lo and behold, that attempt proved successful! It was such a joy to see the amber syrup. The downside of knowing this is -- I keep looking out for recipes that feature caramel! Gosh, it's nothing but sugar and butter ... I found this information really useful and close to what we did.

Since I've been wanting to try to make my family's favourite snack, I had invested in a packet of popcorn, the DIY kind, that is. From the instructions, it looked pretty easy. And it was! I didn't believe that the children would take the bland popped corn (while waiting for the caramel to be done).

I followed this recipe in making the caramel, which is slightly different from the method I had tried earlier. The popcorn didn't last very long, they were gone in minutes. One packet of popcorn will make many servings.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Refreshing Treat

For all of us living in this part of the world, we are accustomed to the humid weather. While the rest of the world has four seasons to cope with, we just have to deal with "summer". As the Chinese saying goes, 长年是夏,一雨成秋(summer all year round, with rain comes autumn). With the effects of global warming, it sometimes gets a little unbearable.

It appears that whole (young) coconuts are fast becoming an ubiquitous items in supermarkets. Even my regular vegetable stall at the market sells them. The stallholder even taught me a trick or two about them. To my dismay, I don't seem to remember any of the tips :( But I can always count on him to pick a good coconut for me.

I came across the recipe for coconut jelly a while back. With two coconuts in my fridge, I decided to give it a try. Afterall, I have a ready supply of agar agar (gelatine) packets calling out to me. As I had forgotten to get pandan leaves, I added a dash of pandan extract. That explains the greenish tinge.

This is one refreshing dessert, especially if it's served right out of the fridge. We had a family barbeque and I served this. It didn't go well with the children as fresh coconut is probably a new flavour to them? The adults enjoyed the coolness the jelly brought. The next time I make this, I must remember to get pandan leaves so that the jelly will remain clear and transparent.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ribs and Parties

My family loves ribs, especially succulent and tender ones. Guess it's due to tasting ribs from a certain family restaurant that sharpened our palates to this texture. I have since been trying to recreate this particular bite at home.

I will also admit that I am a cable tv junkie especially now with a hubstation, I can record whatever shows I like and my children are always chasing me to free up the harddisk space. One of my favourite shows (I could have mentioned it before) is Chef at Home. He makes cooking look so easy and he creates recipes on the fly! "A bit of this and a dash of that... " I'm not sure if I can agree with some of the creations (which I have tried, of course) but it's inspiring (to me) just to watch this series. What about the house they "live" in...

I made this Oven Baked Ribs for a family gathering a while back (yes, backlog of photos and posts). I wouldn't say I had achieved the desired "bite". But gosh the ribs were yummy and they were gone in no time! Fortunately, I made almost 2kg of it and there were enough "leftovers" for my two sisters-in-law to bring home.

Not one to give up, I tried making this ribs in a different way recently. I used a trusty, multi-purpose claypot and (semi) braised
the ribs. What d'ya know? I achieved the texture I was looking for and hubs agreed too. However, I realised that the tomato paste/puree made a big difference. I shall not use local brands for western cooking. On the cooking method, somehow baking meat for an extended period just doesn't sit well with me. Someone remarked "crazy... weather is so hot, bake in oven for one or two hours ... kitchen will overheat..." I'm glad I used the claypot.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Significant Day

I wanted to remember today with a post and a bake. What is so significant about today? Well, it's the total solar eclipse, a precious and special event. I'm not into astronomy or any scientific studies. But it is such a phenomenon, that the Sun, Moon and Earth are in a straight line. As I was at work, I could only rely on certain websites for updates. I'll catch the recording later.

As for the bake, I chose a "dark" cake that I had baked several weeks ago. I was tired of baking the same thing and someone highly recommended HHB's Chocolate Torte. Apparently, it's a form of "comfort food" for some, chocolate lovers, I suppose.

I like this cake, but my attempt was underbaked :( The sides of the cake caved in so I had to hide it. Most of the nice ribbons I have are too wide and the only ones (with suitable width) are all plain. Must invest in nicer ribbons (note to self).

I thought it tasted a lot like brownie, but better, and my son loved it. I had followed HHB's recipe closely but I added some cointreau for kicks. This is one cake I will bake again. Besides, I have all that chocolate waiting to be used, including some Belgium (couverture) chocolates. Yums!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I'm Back!

Yes I'm back to blogging, but not sure for how long. I've been baking all these while, just haven't updated this space due to a variety of reasons. Having nothing to blog about (at least "in public") was a major reason. The other reason is of course due to laziness and the lack of nice photos. Besides, I kept baking the same few recipes. However, I am continually inspired by the beautiful photos and wonderful experience by various bloggers.

Chiffon cake is one of my favourite to bake when I have time. I don't usually enjoy baking chiffon cakes at night as the cooling process takes too long, by which time I can hardly keep my eyes open. I'm home today as my son has fever. With news reports that say "1 in 2 flu cases is H1N1" don't necessary sit well with anyone. I was most recently a "close contact" of someone who tested positive and had to observe Leave of Absence of 7 days. During the initial days, I was rather worried that I may catch the virus. Not so much worried for myself but more for the children. What if they had to suffer as a result? Seeing my poor boy weak and sick yesterday brought on some strange feelings. He has grown significantly and he is not a small-sized child. He is big for his age and seeing him so weak made me feel helpless. He's no longer the tiny tot who relies on mummy for every little need. My boy has grown up.

His fever hovered between 39.1 and 39.8 deg C last night.Thankfully, after the first dose of medicine this morning, the fever subsided. He looked visibly healthy today, compared to yesterday. He was able to eat, which should be the case since he did not eat much yesterday. I took the chance to bake, on seeing that he was a little better. Since all I had were oranges, it would have to be orange chiffon. I have learnt that my weakness in the chiffon cake process was in "baking", ie, my cakes were mostly underbaked. I've recently discovered that for my oven, it would ideally need at least 55 minutes of baking time (at an average temperature of 160 deg C). I must have been muddled-headed today and forgot how long time has elapsed. I thought I had overbaked the cake but it turned out alright, thank God.

Looks like I have to seize whatever opportunity there is to keep practising chiffon cakes. For my next try, may be a rose or bandung flavoured cake. J had kindly helped me get a bottle of rose water which I have yet to try. Wonder what else can rose water be used for?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Anniversary Again

It's been a long time and there was so much going on in and around my life that I could not find time to blog. I have been baking very much the same cakes -- banana cake, blueberry yogurt cake -- that I find no meaning in writing nor posting photos.

I did, however, attend a series of baking classes in April where I learnt more about mousse and buttercream. So, I need to go beyond my comfort zone of just baking a cake. I have come to realise that the "limitations" are those I set in my mind.

For our wedding anniversary, I decided to try making lemon mousse to go with an almond sponge cake. The mousse was a bonus recipe which is really a simpler version of what we did in class. There was no Italian meringue to make, phew! The sponge cake recipe is a real delight and has become one of my favourite cake with nuts.

As expected, the cake is very "grainy" as I had used finely ground almond. I had tried the same recipe with walnuts and pistachios, all garnered good reviews with request for recipe. Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to share it.

With Mother's Day round the corner, I may just try to see if I can whip up another cake. As for photos of the cakes I did from baking classes, that will be in later posts, perhaps.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lemon Cream Sponge Cake

Rubik Cube Generator
A few cyber friends have asked about my absence this past month. First and foremost, I had been really busy at work. To unwind, I did bake, but the same pound cake recipe. Since I had nothing new to write about, I did not blog.

During this time, I also tried to practise baking Rei's sponge cake recipe. After a few practice, I am somewhat happy with this result. I'm sure I can still do better, as the cake can be softer and fluffier. I really have to thank Rei for her guidance, without which I won't have gotten it. She was so sweet to make me some of her lemon curd as well. So I used it all in between the two layers of cake.

The result? A very "lemony" cake. I must admit that the amount of cream is not enough. However, I feel that it is good enough for me. What's left now is for me to acquire some cake decorating techniques. I have to resist taking another slice and shared the "test" piece with my children.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Blueberry Cake

I would like to think that I am wiser with the another year added on but upon reflection, I still have my "off" days. Father JP said in his weekend sermon that teenage is the time when one seeks "identity" and in middle age, one seeks "purpose". While I have come to terms with my purpose recently, living it can be somewhat challenging on certain days. Those are my off days and I am happy that with God's grace, I am able to deal with it.

Enough about be philosophical. I did not intend to bake my own cake, no sir! But while complimenting Rei on her achievement, I told her that I am still trying to find a workable sponge cake recipe. She encouraged me to try out the sponge cake recipe on her blog (belongs to her sister, S). She suggested that I use the egg separation method where there is less likelihood of deflating the eggs.

So the idea came to mind, why not use the cake as base for my own cake? Besides, I have fresh blueberries and canned ones too. I have some problems trying the separate the eggs as 2 of the yolks broke! I had wasted 2 egg whites in the process. Other than that, the recipe is fairly easy to follow.

I must look for more ideas and practice when it comes to decoration, as well as improving my photographing skills. That sure are lots to work with ... With technology, namely Facebook, I had received more wishes than the past. I want to thank all my friends who sent wishes since I am not into writing on FB walls, neither am I "active" there.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Taste of Childhood

It's been a long time since I last fried bee hoon at home. I'm not sure why I stopped cooking this, perhaps I got tired of frying bee hoon and moved on... I'm glad I tried this one tonight, it's really easy and it could have re-ignited my interest in this dish. However, my boy had indicated that he did not enjoy bee hoon in general. He did have second helping, though.

I was inspired by this post to try my hand at fried bee hoon tonight. It was one ingredient in particular, canned stewed pork ribs, that struck me. I didn't use to enjoy the taste when mom cooked this but somehow, after seeing the photo on that post, I was determined to try it. I doubled the recipe and used organic brown rice bee hoon. I would need to do much more to improve on the presentation too.

With my girl doing Home Economics classes, I am hopeful that she will soon take an interest in cooking. She is definitely more keen in sewing, especially in this past year. She had actually put together two outfits on her own for her dolls! At least she takes after my mom in this area, while I try my hand in cooking and baking.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sponge Cakes in Paper

I wanted to have a post today to ensure that I remember the reason I made a particular decision. Yes, I opted for "status-quo" and the reason is I want no change to my lifestyle. Hubs told me that this is a good and valid reason and he would stand by me. To ensure that I can live with this decision for a long time to come, I would need to check my own attitude and "weather" daily. To my friends who know what I am referring to, please remind me to MYOB. That's truly a load off my mind and thank God for the direction.

I wanted to use this soft and spongy cake to signify the "light-heartedness" I feel right now. This is something that I had wanted to bake ever since I took up baking. I've seen several posts but most recipes use SP. Although I had bought a tub of SP, I had used it only once. Honestly, I don't feel it has done anything good to that particular cake and since it is nothing but chemical, I decided to throw the whole tub away.

The recipe is from this book and since the book is fairly affordable I feel it isn't very ethical of me to post the recipe. In fact, there are many interesting recipes in this book that I am keen to try. I got the book by mail order a long time ago!

Saturday, February 14, 2009


For chocolate, that is! I am not a fan of chocolate, at least not consistently. To me, chocolate is a "mood" thing, I've gotta be in the mood for it. Otherwise, I won't even bat an eyelid when faced with them. Of course, that depends a lot on what is being offered as well... it's a complicated relationship. Aren't most relationships, complicated?

I looked around for something appropriate to put up today. I heard a good sermon but I am unable to articulate it and I won't try in case I mess it up. Back to the brownie, my dear boy is a chocolate fan. Give him anything with chocolate and he's a happy boy. As expected, he enjoyed this most among all of us at home. Hubs as usual said this wasn't something he liked, he has a palate for chinese (and at most, Asian) food. By the way, he eats to live, so don't bother to be too fancy.

I followed HHB's Nut and Chocolate Chip Brownie (sans nuts) and I love it that it does not call for butter. I can indulge in the best chocolate and cocoa powder without additional guilt (and fat) of butter. One other thing which I had an overdose was the chocolate chips! I had definitely used more than what the recipe called for. The result was of course a really fudgy brownie.

I asked my girl if she would like to learn to bake this so she would have something to give to her friends. [Some had asked her what she would be baking for Valentine's Day and I asked her if they meant her or me!] She flatly refused as one of her classmates bakes really solid brownie. Looks like she has got this from me. For me though, I'm sticking to this brownie recipe most definitely.

Hope you had a wonderful Valentine's Day, celebrating love of any kind.

PS: I needed a cheer-up to clear my mind and mistakenly thought that chocolate would do the trick. It did cheer me up but my mind is still not clear. The "issue" is pushed to the back of my mind for now...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Blueberry Yogurt Cake

I've been lagging behind on blogging and taking photos. Many things have been happening especially at work. These are times when I wished I didn't have to work. In any case, I've come to terms with my situation at work and I will just do what I have to do. That was why I took up baking in the first place...

I have been converted to love Greek Yogurt and I could not resist not buying it when I spotted a 500ml tub of it at the supermarket just before Chinese New Year. I had not planned what to bake as I knew at the back of my mind I could easily bake a banana cake.

When cyber friend mentioned that NZ blueberries were in season at relatively low prices in Hong Kong, I couldn't help but pick up some when I saw them at the supermarket. The berries added an interesting twist to a very reliable pound cake recipe which I have always enjoyed baking. Unfortunately, it's not something that I can share, sorry.

This blueberry (greek) yogurt cake is currently my favourite cake (to eat). I'll share a piece with you anytime.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lunar Niu Year

What do you do when you run out of pineapple fillings and there is still pastry left? Since I had tried out a Cheese Stars cookie recipe recently, I thought why not add some shredded chedder cheese to the dough?

When I was first mixing the dough for this not so ordinary cookie, I had made a mental note to try adding shredded cheese should I have excess pineapple tart pastry. I must say that it was not a bad idea except that I was too conservative with the cheese. I should have gone with the gut feel of 100g of cheese instead of stopping at 50g. I had a block of chedder cheese in the fridge and so had to shred my own. You'll be able to guess why I stopped at 50g... it wasn't very hard work but the smell was getting to me. Ok, I was getting lazy and it was almost time to leave home for dinner at my parents' home too.

I like both versions very much. It seems that I am drawn to savoury cookies this year. Other than cheese stars there is keropok cookies. Of course, I made the usual dose of pineapple tarts and a few negligible and forgetable attempts at some traditional cookies.

I am so happy to be done with all the CNY baking! I would probably not be baking much cookies after this. Here's wishing all friends a very prosperous Year of the Ox.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"Wang Wang" Tarts

This is a record of all the pineapple tarts I have attempted since January 2008. I am so happy to be able to bake this, my all-time favourite snack. It's a real challenge trying to identify a good vendor for this snack. Everyone has an expectation of what it should be, ideally. Of course, it's hard to achieve one that satisfies everybody so I should be happy if I like it myself, right?

I absolutely loved the pineapple tarts that I baked last year. The pastry is of the right texture and taste. Since it was my first try, I used commercial pineapple filling. I tested another brand of filling this year and that turned out alright as well. I was sure one packet wasn't enough so I bought another packet which started my adventure in semi-making pineapple fillings. I shan't go into details but I've certainly learnt lots from this attempt. I can't say for sure that I will or won't be making my own pineapple jam next year, though. There is a certain sense of achievement if I get it right, I'm sure.

So, this picture below is this year's version of pineapple tarts. My earlier attempt was to crimp it so it resembles a rose, lots of room for improvement. As for the version below, I cannot say that there is a remarkable improvement in the appearance but what matters is the taste, don't you agree? I gave J some jam as I had too much and she kept praising it, so it can't be that bad. I had also learnt that pineapple tarts usually taste better the day after baking. Hubs and I have been munching on them every night, we'll have lots to pay back later...

If you are keen to cook your own pineapple jam, you may want to refer to Rei's post.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Lemon Melts

Don't these look great? I love the shape so much but the dough wasn't very cooperative. After I had used up almost 80% (after filling one big pizza pan), they just refused to form nicely. Perhaps I had pressed too hard and after banging a few times, the cookie broke. I had to use a polvoron plunger to mould the remaining dough. They are that soft.

I was keen to experiment with other flavours after the very successful (for me) cookie I had named Keropok Cookie. I toyed with the idea of adding lemon zest as well as ground almond. Finally, I had the chance to play with lemon flavour today.

I really like the aroma of lemon, especially when these were baking in the oven. What I like about this recipe is that it doesn't use any butter nor eggs! It's really healthy and good for people who are lactose intolerant too. May be I should try using orange zest next...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Biscotti Galore

I've finally delivered my promise to my friend W, she had asked me to try baking biscotti so that I could "teach" her how to make her favourite snack. I first tried it in June 2008, when W was going into the third trimester of her first preganancy. I am ashamed that I had forgotten about this until she sent me an sms recently.

So I quickly baked some and arranged to meet W as soon as possible. I'm glad she liked it and that encouraged me to experiment with another flavour: green tea and pistachio. While this flavour tastes quite unique, my girl and I prefer the original version.

In fact, my girl asked if I could just bake biscotti without the nuts! I told her that the nuts made the biscotti tasty, for me. So, I reduced the amount of almonds and added cranberries as requested by her. I found this a little too sweet for me but she absolutely loves this! She and hubs polished the whole batch in less than 3 days! Perhaps I should try baking it with just cranberries next. I've also decided that this will be one of the few items that I'll be baking for this Chinese 牛 Year.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Keropok Cookies

Can't help but let this post surge ahead of the rest especially after seeing J's post on her CNY2009 baking. Thanks so much for sharing this gem of a recipe and it's a welcome change to all the sweet cookies during this time of festivities.

However, this is not made with that particular recipe with J shared. It has been tweaked by Gina and it is something that will go on sale at Chef's Secrets. Thanks Gina and Amy for allowing me to be around during the "recipe testing".

All I can say about this version of the cookie is that it "melts" in the mouth! I am so happy I have achieved this by trial and error. After hubs tasted it, he said it tasted like keropok! That's why I have named it Keropok Cookies. This, however, is NOT the version that is available for sale at Chef's Secrets.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Caramel Croissant Pudding

I was attracted to this dish the moment I first saw it on a certain trailer on Discovery Travel and Living (Starhub Channel 16) promoting Nigella Lawson's show. In fact, I had bought croissants hoping to keep them a couple of days "stale" so I can try this recipe out. Unfortunately, my boy always beat me to them and I didn't get a chance until recently.

I must say, puddings especially bread and butter puddings, aren't something I would try. However, since this is made with croissant and rum, why not? I thought. I'm glad I did and next time I would go easy on the amount of rum. The kids won't even take a piece after test-tasting the first bite. Guess rum isn't a flavour favoured by kids. Rum, not rum essence, was added to this pudding.

To ease the guilt (if only!) I didn't use double cream and used Nestle's Pouring Cream instead. As I had a carton of no-frills Whole Milk around, I used that, talking about easing the guilt! As much as I liked it, I limited myself to one-third portion of the pudding. I am planning to showcase this dessert when I get the chance. Must remember to target friends who have either have "alcoholic" or "western" palate...

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy 2009!

Gosh, 2008 came and went in a flash! To some, it was probably not a good year so no love lost. I can't help but wonder how it was for me... well, another year older, that's for sure.

As usual, we hosted a small gathering (considering how big all the kids have grown, small is really an understatement) at our home on New Year's Eve. Hubs wants to host so he can drink as much as he desiers since to him, I am NOT qualified as a "back-up" driver. I always say that I am destined to be a passenger more than a driver, anyway.

The strangest thing this year was that almost everyone had dinner plans when he extended the invitation! I told him that perhaps he was very late in inviting, that was the reason. Everyone didn't want to take for granted that we would host the gathering again, but they didn't realise that Hubs is one who will offer to be host year after year ... that's him. I was glad to have the opportunity to focus on canapes and desserts, for once!

I tried to re-create a very delicious smoked salmon canape I had tasted not so long ago. I bought some sweet mini pie crust (to standby) in case the baked mini bread cups didn't turn out. In the end, it was the mini bread cups that won most support. I also goggled for help with bruschetta and did the most basic one.

I tried to make tzatziki to go with the smoked salmon so it won't be too dry. This being the first time I am making it blind (without tasting it before), I had to rely on how my tongue (and my kids') reacted to it. Well, to me, it played a quite role of keeping the canape moist and let the smoked salmon dominate. I am happy with the result as the kids kept asking for more!

For dessert, I made a Rum Peach Pie and a Chocolate Banana Pie. I also made Bubur Cha Cha, my very first attempt and a last minute decision. Thanks to the internet and KC forum, I found many ideas and recipes. How do you like the Rum Pech Tart, recipe thanks to HHB.