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.