Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Classic Chocolate Cake with Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cream

This chocolate cake is baked to award my two daughters. They helped in cleaning the house by tidying up their study room.  It feels good to spruce up and clean up the house to welcome New Year.

2013 has come to an end.   On one hand,  I am  full of anticipation for what New Year has to offer.  On the other hand,  I feel nostalgic as I reflect the past year.  I guess it's common for adults to have mixed feelings about New Year. As for kids, they are always so happy. A piece of simple homemade chocolate cake can put big smiles on their faces.


I am not a big fan of chocolate cake. That's why I have never blogged about a chocolate cake before.   I chose this cake to get started as it's so easy.  Just like baking a butter cake, all the ingredients can be processed in a electric mixing bowl.  No extra step such as melting chocolate bars.  However, the cake is smooth, melting and chocolatey. With peanut butter cream frosting,   it tastes especially luscious.   My daughters love it.
CLASSIC CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE AND PEANUT BUTTER CREAM
(Recipe adapted from Donna Hay)


Ingredients
  • 170g butter, softened        
  • 1½ cup (265g) brown sugar       
  • 2 eggs        
  • 1½ teaspoon bicarbonate of (baking) soda       
  • 1½ cup (375ml) milk       
  • 2¼ cups (335g) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted       
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder, sifted        
  • ½ cup (50g) cocoa, sifted
chocolate peanut butter cream
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 100g peanut butter (creamy)      
  • 2 cups (320g) icing sugar mixture, sifted
  • ½ cup (50g) cocoa, sifted
  • ¼ cup (60ml) milk


Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 160ºC (320ºF). Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Gradually add the eggs and beat well.
  2. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the milk and add to the butter mixture with the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Beat until combined. Spoon into a lightly greased 22cm-square cake tin lined with baking paper.
  3. Bake for 1 hour or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Cool on a wire rack.
  4. For the frosting, beat the butter and peanut butter until pale and creamy. 
  5. Add the icing sugar, cocoa and milk and beat until fluffy. Spread over the cake. 


Thursday, 26 December 2013

Korean Mixed Fruits Rice Cake Bars

Merry Christmas and Seasons Greetings to all my lovely readers!  Hope you are enjoying the holiday season!

Today is Boxing Day, a day for us to spend with family and friends and eating up the leftovers :).  I have 200g mixed fruits, left from baking two Christmas fruit cakes last week (one for my family, one for my colleagues. It was a hit in the office, everyone loved it). Have you tried flavorful Korean rice cake bars? 

Korean rice cake bars have wonderful coconut milk and fruity flavour. They are crispy on the outside, and chewy  gooey inside. Trust me, they are perfect party starters!

I love this recipe, it's so simple and the filling can be adapted to any choice of nuts and dried fruits. You can adjust the amount of sugar depends on the sweetness you desire. For me, I did not add sugar at all. The flavor came from the moist and juicy fruits!












KOREAN MIXED FRUITS RICE CAKE BARS

Ingredients
  • 200g store-bought mixed fruits (rum soaked)
  • 2 cup glutinous rice flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • ⅓ cup sugar (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • walnuts (coarsely chopped), dessicated coconut for decoration

Directions
  1. Combine and mix together all the ingredients for the batter in a large mixing bowl: glutinous rice flour, milk, coconut cream, baking powder and vegetable oil (The consistency will be similar to pancake batter)
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C
  3. Add the mixed fruits, mix until just combined.
  4. Line a 10x10 inch baking pan with non-stick baking paper. Pour the batter into the pan. 
  5. Top with walnuts and desiccated coconut. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Do a skewer test, if the skewer comes out clean, it means that the rice cake are cooked through
  6. Cool and cut into squares. Serve warm or cold.



Sunday, 22 December 2013

Mini Blueberry Cheesecake

Cheesecake is the most popular dessert in my family.  When we have cravings,  these individual mini cheesecakes are all we need to feel satisfied. Topped with fruit jam, they look elegant, and taste fabulous.


I always use my 6 cup muffin pan to prepare these mini cheesecakes.  With one pack of 250g cream cheese, they are just the right portion sizes for my family. 

Use crushed Oreo biscuits and butter as the base.
 Top with cream cheese mixture. 
Bake for 25-30 minutes at 160°C.
 Cool and refrigerate for a few hours. 
When ready to serve, top with fruit jam. 

It's quick and easy. Bon appétit !


MINI BLUEBERRY CHEESECAKE
(Adapted from Christine's recipe)


Ingredients

For crust
  • 120g Oreo biscuits, crushed into fine crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter (30g)

For filling
  • 250g cream cheese, softened
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 egg

For decoration
  • blueberry preserve
  • fresh blueberry

Directions:
  1. In a bowl, add biscuit crumbs and melted butter. Stir until combined. Divide the mixture between muffin tins lined with paper cups. Press down firmly to make crust.
  2. In a bowl add in softened cream cheese,  sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon juice. Beat until smooth. Add egg one at a time, beat well.
  3. Divide cream cheese mixture between the muffin cups. Fill almost to the top.
  4. Bake in the oven preheated to 160°C for about 30 minutes, or until center is almost set.
  5. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  6. Top with blueberry preserves and fresh blueberry before serving.


Friday, 20 December 2013

Christmas Cake - December Potluck at IHCC

One more week to Christmas. Can't believe it's end of the year again. Driving on the road, saw some cars decorated with reindeer antlers. They certainly make everyone smile while zooming around the city. 

The famous reindeer decoration is invented by Sue Valeri shortly after 9/11 happened. She envisioned the car flags , which were used on car windows to show patriotism, could be antlers at Christmas time, bat wings for Halloween and bunny ears for Easter.  These delightful decorations have since then gained popularity during holiday seasons all over the world.


The reindeer antlers are sold out in many supermarkets here. It's a bit too late to transform my car into a reindeer sleigh this year, but it's never too late to bake my favourite Christmas Cake.

Indeed, I always bake this cake a few weeks before Christmas.  Soak the mixed fruit in rum for a week before baking, and sprinkle a tablespoon of rum everyday to provide the moisture after baking.  The cake is rich, dark , moist and smells lovely.  I enjoyed preparing and baking the cake as much as tasting it.

The recipe is adapted from Donna Hay. The original recipe calls for brandy, I replaced with rum. I baked the whole cake in a Bundt pan, which brings more festival feelings.

It's Potluck time again at I ♥ Cooking Clubs, just in time for the holidays! Click the link and check out all the fabulous treats that everyone made.


CHRISTMAS CAKE
(Original recipe can be found from Donna Hay website)

Ingredients
  • 400g store-bought dried mixed fruits (raisins, sultanas, currants, papaya, lemon peels)
  • ½ cup (125ml) rum
  • 1 cup (175g) brown sugar 
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (227g ) 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 100g chopped nuts (almond, walnuts)
  • 4 eggs
  • 50ml milk
  • Icing-sugar for dusting       

Directions
  1. Place fruit mix in a bowl and pour over rum.  Cover and allow to soak for at least 8 hours and up for a week.  
  2. Preheat oven to 160°C. .
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Add egg one at a time, beat well.
  4. Add flour, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon powder, milk,  and soaked mixed fruits. Mix until just combined. 
  5. Spoon into a well greased Bundt Pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until cakes are firm. While still hot, splash cake with a tablespoon extra rum. Allow to cool.
  6. Dust icing sugar for decoration. 


Monday, 16 December 2013

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Do you know the coldest temperature ever recorded in Singapore? It's 20.6 deg C on 2 Dec 1964. That's amazing for a place situated near equator!   Though it happened almost 50 years ago, it's generally cooler in December with average highest temperature of 29.9 deg C.   On a cold rainy day like today, enjoy a steaming bowl of homemade soup, it not only warms the body, but also the soul.
 

After almost 3 months since I noted down creamy pumpkin soup recipe, I finally made it last Saturday.  I was surprised and delighted how inexpensive and savoury this creamy soup was. The wonderful thing is , it did not take too much time as I thought.

I used microwave to cook the pumpkin. Chop it roughly, put into a container with some water. Heat up for 10 minutes. The pumpkin chunks are cooked through and can be peeled easily.

In a saucepan, fry onion and garlic with olive oil until fragrant. Add store-bought chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Add cooked pumpkin, heavy cream and season with cinnamon powder, nutmeg, salt and white pepper.  Continue simmering for another 10 minutes, or  until it reaches a thick consistency.  Transfer to a food processor to puree until smooth.  Hearty delicious pumpkin soup is ready to serve!

To make it vegan, you can replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth, the heavy cream with coconut milk.  Make it as simple or as elaborate as you wish. Your taste buds will be grateful!
 
 
CREAMY PUMPKIN SOUP
(recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma)
 
Ingredients:
  • 500g-600g pumpkin, cut into chunks
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed 
  • 1 brown onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • white pepper, salt to taste
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • parsley leaves for garnish

Directions:
  1. In a microwave safe container, add pumpkin chunks and some water. Heat up for 10 minutes or until pumpkin is cooked through.
  2. Remove from microwave, peel the pumpkin chunks, and smash with the back of a ladle. Set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan, fry the onion and garlic with olive oil until fragrant. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add cooked pumpkin and heavy cream. Stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg, white pepper and salt.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, or until reach creamy consistency.
  4. Transfer the soup to a food processor, puree until smooth. Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with parsley leaves. Serve immediately.


Saturday, 14 December 2013

Fill the Tins with Blueberry Jam Sandwich Cookies

My cookies tin is empty now. The classic chocolate cookies I baked a few days ago went really fast.  Need to fill the cookies tin again.  Otherwise, Santa would  have nothing to snack on when he drops by my house on Christmas Eve :). 


These blueberry jam sandwich cookes are so adorable. Dust with icing sugar,  they remind me of  beautiful, glimmering snowflakes swaying to the ground on an icy day.  I start missing winter already...

Even though Santa loves chocolate cookies more, I am sure he would be delighted with these crumbly cookies as well. With a glass of warm milk, it would be a delectable treat on a moonlit night!


BLUEBERRY JAM SANDWICH COOKIES
(Recipe adapted from William-Sonoma)

Ingredients:
  • 2 1/4 cups (360 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup (180 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups blueberry or other fruit jam
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Directions:
  1. In a bowl, mix together the flour, cornstarch and salt.
  2. In another bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat together the butter and lemon zest until light.
  3. Add the granulated sugar and beat until completely incorporated.
  4. Add the whole egg and egg yolk and beat until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated. Gather the dough into a ball. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
  5. Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C).
  6. Roll out the dough 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. Using decoratively shaped cutter, cut out cookies. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets.
  7. Bake until the edges of the cookies are golden, about 10-15 minutes.
  8. Transfer the cookies to wire racks and let cool.
  9. Spread the jam on the bottoms of half of the cookies, spreading it lightly at the edges. Top with the remaining cookies, bottoms down.
  10. Dust the tops with confectioners’ sugar.



Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Fill the Tins with Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's said that on Christmas eve, children in the United States and Canada leave cookies and milk by the chimney for Santa Claus as he may get hungry while delivering all those presents. How sweet!  Wondering what is Santa's favorite cookies? Has his taste changed over the years?


During this jolly festival season,  no matter what our religious beliefs, we enjoy meeting friends with delicious food and gift-giving.  Cookies are perfect as a gift or as a snack to serve at gatherings.  To fill my cookies tins, I baked Shortbread cookies last week. This week,  I chose classic chocolate chip cookies made with butter and brown sugar.  Simple and flavorful. Could these cookies be Santa's favorite?  I am not sure, but my daughters, who are huge fans of  homemade Famous Amos Cookies, finished one batch of  them, hot freshly from the oven !

If you find it hard to get into the joy of the holiday,  make these easy cookies at home and fill a nice cookies tin. It is a delicious and a festive way to get in the spirit of Christmas!

In I Heart Cooking Clubs, we are busy Filling the Tins with Donna Hay's recipe. This chocolate chip cookies recipe is another good and foolproof one.  If you prefer soft and chewy chocolate cookies, add 2 teaspoons of cornstarch. That's the only change I made.


CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
(Recipe from Donna Hay)
 
Ingredients
  • 180g unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup (120g) brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups (300g) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons of cornstarch (optional)      
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder, sifted
  • 150g dark chocolate, chopped

Directions      
  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Place the butter, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale and creamy.
  2. Gradually add the eggs and beat well. Add the flour and baking powder and beat until a smooth dough forms. Fold through the chocolate.
  3. Roll 2 tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls, place on baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper and press to flatten. Bake for 12–15 minutes or until golden.
  4. Allow to cool on the trays.


Sunday, 8 December 2013

Oven-Baked Matchstick Rosemary Potatoes

Try this oven-baked matchstick potatoes. It's fast and fabulous!  I baked them this morning before preparing our Sunday brunch.  It's a great snack and a much healthier choice as compared to traditional french fries. With olive oil, you don't have to worry about the calories. Healthy and delicious!


I used 800g Holland potatoes bought from supermarket, peeled and sliced.  Tossed with olive oil and salt.  Baked for 30 minutes, added 2 sprigs fresh rosemary. Continued for another 5-10 minutes. Rosemary gives off herbal and subtly menthol fragrance, smells so fresh! Research said the smell could boost your memory and enhance the ability to remember events and to complete tasks at particular times. No wonder I texted a group of friends for the upcoming Christmas gathering, in the midst of baking these lovely matchstick potatoes! The memories of those days working in the training field kept flashing in my mind this morning :).

Let me share with you a few tricks before you start baking these potato sticks.

- Use parchment paper to line your baking tray, otherwise potatoes may stick to your baking tray and not easy to scrub them off.
- Do not toss the potatoes during baking so the side that’s touching the parchment paper will get nice and crisp.
-Turn on top grill for 2-3 minutes before take out the potatoes from the oven. This will make your potatoes nicely browned.  

Well, if you are familiar with Donna Hay, you would know her recipes are perfect for the busy cook, without any compromises in terms of flavour and good looks. Yes, matchstick rosemary potatoes is one of those fast and fabulous recipes. This week in I Heart Cooking Clubs, we are cooking a dish that is less than 30 minutes to make. Though this snack took a little longer than 30 minutes to serve, it actually took me only 10 minutes to prepare, and my oven did the rest of the "work" for me.

MATCHSTICK ROSEMARY  POTATOES
(Recipe adapted from Donna Hay)

Ingredients
  • 800g potatoes, peeled and sliced       
  • ¼ cup (50ml) olive oil
  • salt to taste 
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary 
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 220ºC (425ºF).
  2. Place the potato, oil and salt on a baking tray and toss to coat. Bake for 30 minutes, add the rosemary and cook for a further 5 minutes or until golden and crispy. Serve immediately.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Christmas Shortbread Cookies

If you like shortbread, this recipe is the one!  Compared to Scottish shortbread I made last year for Christmas, I had doubts these would be any good with only four ingredients. However, these cookies are just incredible. They taste like Chessmen cookies from Pepperidge Farm.

You've got to use really good quality ingredients, like SCS unsalted butter and real vanilla extract. Otherwise, the flavor maybe ruined.  I’d say these shortbread cookies are fantastic, but I have a confession to make. I inadvertently made a major change to the recipe. The recipe calls for 1 cup of butter. That means two sticks  (227g) of butter. For some reason, though, I was thinking it was one stick of butter. So I only used ~120g of butter. The cookies were still very, very good and were well received.  If you want a reduced fat version, try making it with just one stick of butter.  The dough is dry and crumbly, which made it easy to cut out with cookie cutters. With 2 stick of butter, I guess you would have to use cookie press as the dough would be sticky. After all, cookies like this is meant to be shared for a special occasion. They are crunchy on the outside with wonderful butter flavor.  After bake, I sprinkled with coloured sugar, which made them a blissful gift for Christmas!

 
I would definitely make again with some strawberry or bluberry preserves in the center. These cookies are great for decoration.
 
SHORTBREAD COOKIES

Ingredients
  • 1 stick (120g) butter, softened 
  • 1/2 cup (100g) white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F(180°C).
  2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in vanilla; add flour and mix well.
  3. Cut out cookies with cookie cutter, and place onto the baking sheet.   
  4. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly brown on the bottom .

Original recipe from allrecipes.com.


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Pâte à Choux (Cream Puff) with Custard Filling

Pâte à Choux (Cream Puff) is a luxury dessert that can be easily made at home.  Since I have seven egg yolks left after making "beauty" dessert, I decided to use them to make custard filling for Pâte à Choux (cream puff).   There is nothing like homemade creamy, milky and buttery custard to go with choux puff - it's so nice!   
 

I like to use microwave to make custard, very convenient and can save a lot of time.  Within 10 minutes, smooth and creamy custard is ready (see recipe below).  As for Pâte à Choux,  you will never go wrong with Michael Rulman's recipe. He blogged about Pâte à Choux twice in 2009, and the entries were posted in his cooking books, one of which is Elements of Cooking.  He applies his famous ratio into this recipe: equal parts water and egg, half as much flour and butter. That's it. 

For those who are not used to piping bags, I suggest you use ice-cream scoop.  It really works well.  Dip the scoop in the choux paste, and plop the ball on the baking sheet. You’ll end up with balls of choux paste all the same size with rounded top. They look much like tiny cabbage after baking. You know what, the word choux in French means cabbage :).  

 
These golden puffs are light and crisp. With delicious custard filling, it's a double treat!  They are easy to make and gone really fast.  A great dessert to serve your family and friends.
 

EGG CUSTARD (MICROWAVE VERSION)
(Recipe adapted here)

Ingredients
  • 250g milk
  • 50-60g egg yolk (~ 3 eggs)
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 10g cake flour
  • 10g corn flour
  • 20g butter (unsalted)  
Directions:
  1. Heat up milk in microwave for 3 minutes, or, bring to a boil.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix egg yolks and sugar. Add in cake flour, corn flour and mix well.
  3. Add boiled milk slowly to the flour mixture, stir well.
  4. Transfer to a microwave safe container, cover with cling wrap. 
  5. Heat up for 5 minutes (take out and stir every one minute) until reach desired consistency.
  6. Take out from microwave, add melted butter and mix well.
  7. Set aside.
Note: I doubled the ingredients to use up my 7 egg yolks.


PATE A CHOUX (CREAM PUFF PASTRY)
(Recipe from Michael Rulman)
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup eggs (4 large eggs)
Directions
  1. Bring the water and butter to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the flour and stir rapidly. The flour will absorb the water quickly and a dough will form and pull away from the sides. Keep stirring to continue cooking the flour and cook off some of the water, another minute or two. Transfer the paste to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or to a bowl if you're using a hand mixer. 
  2. Add the eggs one at a time mixing rapidly until each is combined into the paste. The paste will go from shiny to furry, slippery to sticky as the egg is incorporated. The pâte a choux can be cooked immediately at this point or refrigerated for up to a day until ready to use.
  3. Spoon  or pipe it onto a baking sheet . Remember to press the peaks down with a moistened finger.
  4. Bake in a hot oven (425 for 10 minutes, 350 for another half hour or so, is ideal) .
Note:  I  used ice-cream scoop at step 3.



Sunday, 1 December 2013

Coconut and Prawn Soup (Steamed)

Yesterday, we watched two movies in a roll. One is The Hunger Game: Catching Fire, chosen by my elder daughter. Another one is Frozen, chosen by my younger one. Initially, I tried to convince them to watch only one of the movies. However, they both preferred the one they chose, and did not want to give in. Since it's school holiday now, I decided to watch both movies, and really glad we did that. "Fire" and "Frozen" are equally fantastic and entertaining! No wonder they set worldwide box office record.
 

Speaking of entertaining,   I Heart Cooking Clubs also set Easy Entertaining as the theme of the week.  It's to cook a dish that is perfect for serving to guests but, easy to prepare.  

Coconut and Prawn Soup recipe from Donna Hay's website caught my attention as it calls for red curry paste. I bought a jar of red curry paste and cooked Thai Red Curry Fish not long ago.  Thought of cooking the same dish again to use up the leftover paste, but coconut and prawn soup sounds a better idea.  I whipped up the soup in about half an hour, easy and delicious! 

The soup is steamed in a large casserole dish. To serve your guests, you can divide the soup between 6 x ½ cup-capacity (125ml) ramekins.  Served with lemon wedges, the soup tastes fresh and sumptuous!

Here is how I prepared the dish:

Wash the prawns and peel them with tails intact. Place in a large dish.
Wash the oyster mushrooms, grate the ginger, chop the scallions.
Mix coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce, ginger and scallions.
Pour mixture into the dish, and steam for 15 minutes.
Serve warm with lemon wedges. 

Here is the recipe: 

COCONUT AND PRAWN SOUP
(Recipe adapted from Donna Hay)

Ingredients
  • 2 cups (500ml) coconut milk  ( *I used one cup coconut milk and one cup of evaporate milk as I only have 1 cup coconut milk left)      
  • 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 3cm piece (15g) ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 green onions (scallions), chopped
  • 12 oyster mushrooms
  • 12 green (raw) prawns (shrimp), peeled with tails intact 
  • micro herbs and lime wedges, to serve ( * herbs ommited as I don't have on hand

Directions
  1. Place the coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce and ginger in a large dish and mix to combine.
  2. Place the ramekins in steamer steam for 15 minutes or until prawns are cooked through. serve warm with lime wedges.
For original recipe, clcik here.


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Steamed Milk Pudding with Peach Slices

Steamed milk pudding is a popular Chinese dessert , which is famous for its silky smooth texture and nutritional effect for complexion. Serve warm or cold, it's a sweet treat to impress your family and friends! 


I used to drive all the way to a famous dessert house at Temple Street,  just to have a bowl of this "beauty" dessert.  Until one day, I decided to make my own milk pudding at home, which is much more economical.

The recipe is very simple (see my earlier post). It only consists of 3 ingredients: milk, egg and sugar.
However, getting it done to perfection is not as easy as it seems. I know everyone is busy, and we all like to follow recipes and succeed at our first attempts.  So, let me share with you some tips on how to make a perfect milk pudding at your first attempt.  It's Thanksgiving week now, there are so much to be thankful for.  As a food blogger, this is my way of saying thank you for visiting my blog!

There you have, my friends.

Tip No. 1 :  What milk to use? The recipe says whole milk, which contains 3.5 percent to 4 percent milk fat and about 150 calories a cup. Of course, it will give a rich taste.   However, if you are a health conscious adult, choose skim milk. Glad to tell you that , you can use most milk you bought from store. Pure milk, low fat milk, pasteurized milk, fresh milk. The taste only differs slightly. If you want pure milk flavor, follow Tip No.2.

Tip No.2 :  Remove some water from the skim milk through heating. Bring the milk to a boil, and leave it cool.   I use microwave to do the heat up for me.  Easy and fast!

Tip No.3 : Egg whites should keep fluid consistency. Beat slightly, about 30 seconds. Over beaten will create big bubble and egg white will become foamy.

Tip No.4:  Sieve the milk mixture 3 times to get rid of any egg white lumps and foam. This is key to a smooth texture.


Tip No.5 : Transfer milk mixture to a container, up to 2/3 full.  Cover with cling wrap properly. This will prevent water droplets falling directly on the milk mixture, or the cling wrap touching the surface during steaming.

Now, we've come to the most important step : Steaming.

Tip No 6:  Do not leave the milk mixture boiling for too long.  It will bubble up and destroy the smooth surface.  What you can do is, place the container into the steamer, bring the water to a boil under high heat.   Reduce to medium heat and continue steaming for another 15 minutes.  Leave it to cool for 5 minutes before open the lid and remove cling wrap.

That's all I have for rich and creamy milk pudding.  Perfectly steamed milk pudding should be soft enough to melt in the mouth , and firm enough to "hold" the toppings. I just had a bowl of homemade milk pudding after dinner. It tastes so goooood!

For detailed recipe, refer to my post Dessert for Beauty - Steamed Milk Pudding . To make the milk pudding shown in the above pictures,  I filled  a 9x13'' glass container with  one litre of pure milk, 7 egg whites and 4 tablespoons of sugar.   You can always adjust the amount of sugar to your likings.  


Sunday, 24 November 2013

Feta, Roasted Tomato and Chicken Sausage Pasta

During weekend,  I have been busy cooking, baking and pinning. It's so pinteresting!

My initial plan was to pin the most popular posts from blogs onto my Popular Foodie Posts board. After I started pinning, I realized it's not as easy as I thought. Firstly, not all the bloggers publish the popular list. Secondly, there are overwhelming posts out there. I browsed from one blog to another blog, reading, admiring and pinning. Sometimes, I stayed in one blog too long, and slowly drifted away by pining the popular post of my choice rather than readers' choices :).   It's tiring but rewarding. I've got to know many talented bloggers and their amazing posts. If you own a blog and have a Pinterest account, please drop me a note (mylittlejoyfactory@gmail.com) . I would be more than happy to invite you as one of the contributors to Popular Foodie Posts.

Feta, Roasted Tomato and Chicken Sausage Pasta was inspired by a pin board National Pasta Month created by Louise V. I participated the celebration of National Pasta Day in October this year, and have learned many delicious pasta recipes from this event.  Nowadays, I have been serving my family with different flavours of pasta.

My whole family are cheese lovers.  So, most of  my pasta has cheese in it.  Usually, I store grated Cheddar, Mozzarella and Parmesan in my fridge. Occasionally, I also buy small pack of Ricotta and Gouda cheese from supermarket.  This is the first time I used Feta cheese in pasta.  Feta compliments the roasted tomato beautifully, and adds flavor to the pasta together with Parmesan. Simple and delicious!








FETA, ROASTED SWEET POTATO AND CHICKEN SAUSAGE PASTA
(Original recipe from Donna Hay)

Ingredients
  • 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 400g Fusilli
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan 
  • sea salt and cracked pepper
  • 200g feta, chopped
  • 200g chicken sausages       
  • lemon juice and olive oil, to serve
  • Spinach leaves for topping

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF). Place the sausage, sweet potato and tomato, cut-side up, in a baking dish. Drizzle with oil and bake for 35–45 minutes or until the sweet potato is soft and golden.
  2. Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water until al dente.
  3. Drain and combine with the sweet potato, tomato, sausage, Parmesan, salt and pepper.
  4. Place in serving bowls, top with the feta, spinach and drizzle with lemon juice and oil to serve.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Passionfruit Syrup Bundt Cake (IHCC)

The weekend is finally here,  and it looks like it will be a beautiful one as I am "going" to a potluck party at I Heart Cooking Clubs!  This passionfruit syrup Bundt cake is the one I will "bring" to the party.

 
I started to appreciate passionfruit recently after I learned how to select ripe passionfruit. A friend told me that ripe passionfruit is the one with wrinkled, dimpled and dented skin, not smooth skin. What?! This is the first time I heard people perfer wrinkles :). Seems passionfruit is an ugly duckling. It tastes intensely aromatic, richly fragrant. No wonder it has an alluring Chinese name “百香果”, which means "fruit with hundreds of fragrances". Furthermore, passionfruit is rich source of antioxidants, vitamin C and fiber. I eat it every other day now. Can't wait for them to ripen.

For those who still don't know how to appreciate passionfruit, here is the secret : Choose passionfruit that looks plump despite any wrinkles. If your passionfruit’s skin is still smooth, ripen it for a few days at room temperature until wrinkles appear.

In this cake, sour cream adds richess to the classic buttery cake, and passionfruit syrup dresses it up wonderfully. The cake is moist,  and tastes slightly acidic with hints of vanilla. Delicious with a cup of coffee!

 
I am linking this post to IHCC November Potluck. To see what others bring to the party, click the link here.

I am participating  I Like Big Bundts 2013,  hosted by The Food Librarian. Same as Mary, the Food Librarian, I like cake and dislike frosting. Partially because of the warm weather here, partially because I am sensitive to sweetness. Bundt cake is so beautiful that it stands out even without frosting.


PASSIONFRUIT SYRUP BUNDT CAKE
(Donna Hay's recipe. My changes are in blue)

Ingredients
  • 150g butter, softened
  • 1 cup (220g) caster (superfine) sugar (* I cut down the sugar to 150g)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup thick Greek-style natural yoghurt (* I replaced with sour cream)
  • 2 cups (300g) self-raising flour, sifted (* I substituted self raising flour with 2 cups plain flour + 2 teaspoons of baking powder)
          passionfruit syrup (* I cut down the ingredients by half)
  • 1 cup (250ml) passionfruit pulp
  • ½ cup (125ml) water
  • ½ cup (110g) caster (superfine) sugar

Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC (320ºF).
  2. To make the passionfruit syrup, place passionfruit pulp, water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10–15 minutes or until syrupy. Set aside.
  3. Place the butter, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 10–15 minutes or until pale and creamy.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add yoghurt and beat until well combined.
  5. Fold through flour. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 24cm bundt tin and bake for 35 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.
  6. Remove cake from the tin and place on a serving plate. Spike all over with a thin skewer, drizzle cake with syrup and serve while still warm.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Pan Fried Chinese Pumpkin Cake with White Sesame
香煎芝麻南瓜饼

Inspired by tasty soups from Souper Sundays, a weekly blogging event hosted by Deb in Hawaii,  I bought a piece of butternut last week and intended to prepare a bowl of creamy pumpkin soup for my family.  One week has passed, the butternut still quietly lying in my fridge. Maybe we are really not a  "soup" family?  Nobody seems bothered to check with me about the soup.
 
 
Before the butternut started to rot, I decided to make my favorite Chinese pumpkin cake instead. I tasted pan-fried pumpkin cake for the first time during a trip to Shanghai few years ago. These small cakes were served as a dessert in a Chinese restaurant. They were orange in color, soft, chewy on the inside, and crispy on the outside. So delicious! 
 
I searched for the recipe immediately after the trip,  and found a good simple one. Made a few times at home, they are as nice as the ones I had at the restaurant.  If you like pumpkin and dish made with glutinous rice flour, this is a sweet treat that you don't want to miss!
 
 
 
 
CHINESE PUMPKIN CAKE WITH SESAME
(Recipe adapted here)
 
Ingredients
  • 600g butternut, steamed and smashed (from ~900g raw butternut)
  • 300g glutinous rice flour
  • 50g custard powder
  • 80g icing sugar
  • vegetable oil (for pan fry)
  • white sesame (for coating)
 
Directions
  1. In a medium bowl,  place smashed butternut , custard powder, icing sugar and mix to combine. 
  2. Add glutinous rice flour,  in two batches,  knead after each addition until the mixture is non- sticky and a soft dough is formed. No water is needed.
  3. Divide the dough into 20 portions and shape into balls.  Coat evenly with white sesame. Flatten slightly with your palm.
  4. Heat up a non-stick frying pan with some oil over low-to-medium heat. Cook, in batches, for 2-3 minutes each side, or until golden brown. 
  5. Transfer onto a serving plate lined with kitchen tissue. Serve warm.
I am submitting this post to these Fun Parties.
 

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Smoked Ham and Cheddar Quiche

November is known as one of the Monsoon months here in Singapore. It rains almost everyday, sometimes with thunderstorms. I hope it won't rain today as we have Family Day at Sentosa later in the afternoon,  an event organized by my company to promote family bonding.


This is the 2nd time we participated Family Day after I joined this company. The last time was in 2009, when we just returned from U.S after one year assignment in Utah.  Kids have grown up from preschoolers then to preteens now.  The years are flying by!  Whenever I look back, I do share the feeling that the days are long, but the years are short.  So, let's get the most of life and enjoy every moment with our family.

Right now, I enjoy myself very much in cooking and baking for my family, especially with friends from I Heart Cooking Clubs. This week, we are baking tarts and pies, which are a fantastic way to celebrate any occasion.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Roasted Balsamic Beetroot

Singapore is situated near Equator ,  no distinctive seasons. So, what's in season now?
 
 
When I Heart Cooking Clubs put In Season as the cooking theme for this week, I am rejoiced at the abundant choices I have.  With only raining season and dry season , everything seems fit for this theme.  However,  I chose to settle with Beetroot, which is a vegetable available all year round, but is totally unfamiliar to me. Hope I can learn a new dish and bring to my family.

Thai Red Curry Fish, Asian Food Fest

I am not used to spicy food even though I have been living in Singapore for a decade. Whenever I order food at hawker center,  I always tell the server to put less chili for me. That's the reason I seldom cook red curry dish at home. Its color gives me an impression that red curry should be very hot!  Well, since everyone in my family love the taste of curry, we choose Japanese curry roux (mild) instead. We often cook it with vegetables without any meat,  and everyone just can't get enough of it, especially eat with a plate of steamed rice. 
 
 
 
Last Saturday,  I chanced upon a Thai Red Curry Fish recipe from Women's Weekly magazine.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Fried Cheddar and Olive Finger Sandwiches

Egg fried bread is served in my family whenever we have leftover bread. Simple yet comforting,  it's a good way to start the day.

This morning, I decided to spoil my family by doing a little bit more to the usual egg fried bread, with an indulgent recipe from Donna Hay.

First,  spread the bread with delicious olive tapenade and top with a slice of Cheddar cheese. Sandwich with another bread. Dip the whole sandwich into the egg and milk mixture, then press into Parmesan.

To make a perfect fried bread, you've got to use butter instead of oil. Place the sandwiches on a thin pan over medium heat. Keep turning while frying, until they turn out golden with a crusty outside, and cheese is melting inside. Yummilicous!

I should thank Donna Hay for this recipe, which elevates our favourite egg fried bread to a whole new level. My family enjoyed olive tapenade for the first time, and it really enhanced the taste of sandwiches. I would explore healthy olive tapenade, and bring it more to our meals.

 
FRIED CHEDDAR AND OLIVE FINGER SANDWICHES
(Adapted from Donnay Hay's recipe)
 
Ingredients
  • 8 slices wholemeal bread, crusts removed       
  • ½ tablespoon store-bought olive tapenade
  • 4  Cheddar cheese slice      
  • 40g butter
  • 4 eggs      
  • ½ cup (60ml) milk
  • sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups (160g) grated Parmesan       

Directions
  1. Spread 4 slices of bread with the tapenade and top with the cheese. Sandwich with remaining bread and cut each sandwich into 2.
  2. Melt the butter in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Place the eggs, milk, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. Dip the sandwiches in the egg mixture and then press into the Parmesan. Cook, in batches, for 1–2 minutes each side or until the bread is golden and the cheese is melted.


I am linking this post to these fun parties.
 

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Caramelized Onion, Bacon and Cheese Brioche

Sandwiches are one of the simplest stables we have at home during morning rush hours. Grab two slices of bread, sandwich with one fried egg, one lettuce leave, and a slice of cheddar cheese. Heat up in microwave for 15 seconds, pack and go! When I Heart Cooking Clubs announced Sandwich Sensations as the theme of the week, it offered a good opportunity for me to prepare a "deluxe" sandwiches for my family.



The first step is to choose the bread. Since we always use store-bought bread for convenience, it's time to put in some effort and bake my own soft and rich bread.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Peach Brioche Buns

Peach Brioche Bun is one of the creations I made when exploring the classic Brioche. As you might know, Brioche is an enriched French bread that comes up often in bread pudding and french toast. It has high egg and butter content, which gives it very soft, golden crumb and rich, tender texture.

The method used to make Brioche is quite new to me. It starts with a yeast mixture by adding yeast into half cup of water and half cup of flour. Wait until this loose paste has risen, then add all the rest of the ingredients and knead into a dough. This is equivalent to three times proofing, whereas other bread I made normally requires only two times. Since it took time for the dough to proof,  I had plenty of time to think how to "design" a  lovely Brioche bun.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Potato and Rosemary Focaccia


Lately, Singapore has seen an explosion of new French/Italian restaurants.  I am lucky to have French and Italian colleagues around when looking for restaurants that serve good and authentic French/Italian food. These restaurants are tested and tasted by native people like my colleagues, offer really good deals.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Frittata with Roasted Vegetables, Sausage and Chicken

My family have always been a big fan of eggs in all their forms, steamed, boiled and fried. We consume almost 3 dozens of eggs evey week. The most common home-style dish is stir-fried eggs with vegetables such as spring onion, garlic chive, capsicum, tomato. We don't usually add cheese to the eggs except for omelette.


Frittata is an Italian omelette with cheese and vegetables with or without meat. It's partially cooked on the stove top then grilled in the oven. The idea of making a frittata at home came from Donna Hay's Roast Vegetable Frittata recipe. Since I don't have a pan that can be used on both stove top and in the oven, I decided to bake it in the oven.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Zucchini Tomato Casserole

When I first came across this zucchini tomato casserole recipe a few days ago , I realised that zucchini has not reached my plates for sometime.


Maybe because it's a seasonal vegetable, not commonly sold in the local market,  I simply forgot the existence of zucchini.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Chicken and Roasted Capsicum Pasta

Today, it's the last day of final semester exams for my daughters. Though there are 3 days till weekend,  and one month till year end school holiday, we are already in the holiday mood. So, what's for dinner tonight?

 

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Breakfast Bread with Egg, Bacon and Cheese

1-2 dishes and soup is the common way to serve our dinner.  Sometimes we get a bit bored , that's when my weekend cooking kicks in.  On Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, I would try to cook something different from the daily meal, such as dumplings, baozi (steamed buns), pizza, pasta, steamboat etc. In a more relaxed mood, we often have brunch and high tea instead of the normal 3 meals during weekends.


I made this delicious breakfast bread as our brunch last Sunday.  To me, it's similar to pizza,  but tastes more flavourful.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Chicken, Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta Salad

Today is Hari Raya Haji , a festival celebrated by Muslims.  It's also a public holiday in Singapore. I love holiday in the middle of the week, it makes me feel more relaxed than Saturdays cos there is no enrichment class for my daughters.  With alarm clock turned off, everyone just sleeps until awake naturally. Slowly get up, and then starts to think what's for breakfast. On this lazy morning, I chose Chicken, Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta Salad from Donna Hay's breakfast menu.


My family don't have the habit of taking salad in the morning. It simply gives me a "cold" feeling.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Sally Lunn Herbed Rolls

I was searching for herbed bread recipe, and discovered Sally Lunn rolls from Williams-Sonoma's website.  Intereting to know that, Sally Lunn buns are made from rich yeast dough,  and have a strong association with the city of Bath in the West Country of England.
 
 
 
The origin of Sally Lunn buns remains a mistery.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Baked Fish Fillets with Tomatoes

Fish fillets are quite popular in my house. My mom often uses "Happy Call" double pan to grill them, while I make breaded fish fillets occasionally.  Baking fish fillets in the oven is a wonderful alternative to fried or grilled fish. 

Donna Hay's baked fish fillets beautifully displays array of colors with tomatoes, garlic, lemon and capers. I have all the ingredients in my pantry except for capers. Well, it's not difficult to find it from local supermarkets like Fairprice Finest.
 
The healthy baked fish fillets taste so unique. It's an explosion of sweet, savoury and sour flavor that we have never tried before. I am glad that my family love the fresh taste. Through this dish, I get to know that capers have long been a favourite in the Mediterranean region. The small, green herb buds lend a piquant sour and salty flavor to salads, dressings, sauces, vegetables and a variety of main dishes.

It feels so good to learn and cook together with Donna Hay, the featured chef in I Heart Cooking Clubs. This week's theme is Pantry Magic , and now, I have added one more ingredient to my pantry - a jar of mildly spiced capers.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

My Best-Ever Chocolate Muffins

Ever since I baked my big blueberry muffins last year,  I have been using the same recipe again and again. What have been changing are the fillings and toppings,  not the ratio of the basic ingredients. To make sure the muffins rise beautifully, I always use self-raising flour.  Until I saw Joyceline's chocolate chip muffins a few days ago, I think it's time to give plain flour a "chance". 
 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Donna Hay's Apple Slice for Children's Day
苹果酥,儿童节

Yesterday was Singapore Children's Day. As a working mom, I did not take one day off to celebrate with my daughters.  Instead, I baked this Apple Slice early in the morning,  as a post-Children's Day gift :).

The recipe is adapted from Donna Hay's website.  I Heart Cooking Club  is introducing this Australia leading cookbook author as a featured chef . Members are encouraged to cook up her recipes for the next six months.

Both IHCC and Donna Hay are new to me.  Since I decided to bake something for my daughters,  I browsed Donna Hay's website and opened the category "For Kids". All her recipes look gorgeous with beautiful photographs.  My daughters happily chose Apple Slice .

I like simple recipes. Donna Hay's recipes are simply prepared, all the ingredients are easily accessible.  This Apple Slice tastes flavorful, absolutely a wonderful dessert to lighten up our Saturday morning! I will definitely cook up her other recipes soon.

 

Monday, 30 September 2013

Hokkaido Milk Buns with Sweet Purple Potato Fillings
北海道牛奶紫薯小面包

Have been to Hokkaido once, I was really impressed by the local diary products such as cheese, butter, chocolate and ice cream.  Even the fresh milk in Hokkaido also tastes smoother. So, when I heard Hokkaido Milk Bread is the theme of the month chosen by Free and Easy Bake Along event, I am more than happy to join the organisers (Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids, Joyce from Kitchen Flavours and Lena from Frozen Wings ) and bake along this savory bread!

 

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Soft Tuna Bread 金枪鱼面包

Last week, a colleague followed my simple bread recipe and successfully made her first batch of bread. She told me with excitement that the bread is soft and fluffy, smells so nice that her whole family love it! The best part is that the recipe is fool-proof, which gives her a lot of confidence. She can't wait to explore other recipes from my blog.  I am really glad for her,  and hope she enjoys herself in the wonderful land of baking.

Prior to her baking, she asked me a few questions, which are common among all the beginners. One of the question is how to convert cup to grams. Though the information is readily available all over the web,  it's quite troublesome to check one by one for all the ingredients used in a recipe.  That reminds me of this long overdue task , which is to consolidate the measurement conversions for the most often used baking ingredients into my blog.So, I created a new page namely "Conversion of Measurement Units". Currently, the page covers volume and weight conversions for flour, butter, sugar, salt and yeast. Will gradually update the list for the convenience of my readers, especially those beginners.
 My colleague's enthusiasm for bread inspired me of making my own bread this week. Instead of repeating my own recipe, I decided to try a different method from Frozen Wings, the so-called gelatinized dough method.


The bread is soft, which is similar to the one made with tangzhong method. However, I perfer this method more as the "starter" is easy to make, while tangzhong method has strict requirement for the temperature (65C).
 
SOFT TUNA BUNS

Ingredients A

100gm bread flour
70gm boiling water

Ingredients B
- 300g bread flour
- 100g plain flour
- 80g sugar
- 6g salt
- 20g  milk powder
- 9g instant yeast (I used 11g active dry yeast )
- 175g cold water
- 60g cold eggs (I used 1 large egg)
- 60g butter

Egg Wash:

- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon olive oil



Fillings:
- 1 can of Tuna chunks in mineral water (185g)
- 2 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes


Directions
  1. Add the boiling water from A into flour, mix until well blended to form dough. Cover and set aside to cool and refrigerate it at least for 12 hours.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in B until well blended. Add in the cold water and eggs and knead to form rough dough. Add in A and knead until well blended
  3. Add in butter till form elastic dough.
  4. Let it proof for 40 mins -1 hour until double in size.
  5. Divide the dough into 60g each and mould it round. Let it rest for 10mins and flatten it. Place 2 tablespoons of tuna filling in the center and wrap it up. Shape it into a ball. I used a loaf tin, so, I shape the ball into an olive shape.
  6. Place onto a greased pan. Repeat for the rest of the dough.
  7. Proof for 30 minutes or until double in size. Brush with egg wash.
  8. Place some grated cheese, sesame and bake at 200C for 12-15mins.


Recipe adapted here.
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