Daring Bakers May 2010: If the choux fits,

Thursday, May 27, 2010

(Hi everyone, I’m still on holidays and hoping this post went up glitch free. See you all when I return in a couple of weeks)

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of  Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

The challenge looked a little bit intimidating at first, but each separate component was actually quite simple, so thank you Cat for pushing me to try my hand at this.

My first attempt at the choux pastry resulted in flat rather than round puffs.

That’s ok, I took a zen approach to it and filled them anyway.

I used defrosted blood-orange curd and topped the puffs with some chocolate ganache. I’ve discovered that curd can be frozen with only a minimal change in texture. But pastry cream should never be frozen. Trust me on this one.

Voila, my petite “Piece Monster”.

After consulting my kitchen guru, I found a very similar recipe that used only three eggs instead of the four in the challenge recipe.

 Happiness! Puffier puffs.

Half of these were filled with a simple vanilla pastry crème, and the other half with dark chocolate ganache. My tasters and I agreed that pastry cream was the tastier choice.

Of course, I couldn’t resist a food pun.

Get it?

Don’t forget to check out the sensational masterpieces created by the Daring Bakers, and visit the Daring Kitchen while you’re there. The challenge recipe can be found at the Daring Kitchen or our host's blog.

Malaysian Monday 37: Kuih Bom / Sweet Potato and Sesame Balls

Monday, May 24, 2010

(Hi all, this will be the last Malaysian Monday for a couple of weeks because I’m actually heading off on holidays. To Malaysia ☺. I’ll set up my Daring Baker’s challenge to autopost, and fingers crossed if all goes well, that should be up on the 27th. If time permits, I’ll try to post another pre-prepared item too but chances are I’ll be having too much fun. Keep well and I’ll be back in the first week of June to fill you in on my adventures, and to visit all of you. xo Shaz)

Now, back to our regular programme.

More balls on offer today, which should keep someone happy ;P

Kuih bom literally means “bomb” kuih. I think it’s because the dough has a tendency to explode when deep-fried. Luckily mine didn’t although the sesame seeds spattered alarmingly when I popped them into the oil.

Traditionally, these kuih are either filled with a sweet coconut filling or red bean paste filling. I’ve been trying to clear out the fridge so used the peanut filling from last’s week’s Malaysian Monday instead.

I found a very simple recipe in one of my Malaysian recipe books (a gift from aunty). The recipe makes use of 2 parts mashed sweet potato, worked into 1 part glutinous rice flour while the potatoes are still hot. Because I wasn’t quite sure how well tested these recipes were, I did a quick search through the blogs and found many, many Kuih Bom recipes which incorporated plain flour, sugar and water into the dough as well.

Instead of the usual orange sweet potato, I used a purple variety that I couldn’t resist getting when I saw it at the fruit and veg shop. This variety seemed to cook quite dry and powdery compared to the orange kind. The gorgeous purple colour survived the cooking process and the kuih looked really pretty on the inside.

These kuih are best eaten warm or it toughens up a bit. Revive them by heating in a low oven.

Have a great week ahead and I look forward to catching up with everyone when I get back from hols!

Kuih Bom
(a mash up of various recipes – makes about 9 or 10 pieces)

Filling of choice
about 220g sweet potato (about 1 medium), steamed and mashed
70g glutinous rice flour
50g plain flour
30g sugar
water for dough (I used about 1/3 cup)
sesame seeds for coating
vegetable oil for deep frying.

Sift the flour and sugar into a bowl. Mash the sweet potatoes and while still warm, work it into the flour. It will be quite stiff at this stage. Pour in water a little at a time, kneading very gently (do not overwork) with hands until the dough can be rolled into balls without cracking. Adjust water or flour as necessary. Make golf ball sized pieces of dough, flatten and place filling of choice in middle. Seal up very well (or filling will escape and sputter (or even explode), then roll the balls in sesame seeds until well coated.

My dough was quite dry so I had to moisten each ball lightly with a wet hand (stop sniggerin!!) before rolling in sesame seeds.

Heat enough oil in a deep frying pan or wok, then deep fry the balls over gentle heat until golden. I actually only filled the wok with enough oil to come halfway up each ball. Drain on kitchen paper and serve warm.

Craving cookie?

Friday, May 21, 2010

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just crave something to munch on with a cup of tea. (Settle down both you grandmothers, nothing to get excited about here). When I saw “compost cookies” over at Ellie’s blog (Almost Bourdain), I knew I had to try them out. These cookies contained all sorts of interesting add-ins, like potato chips and pretzels.

Not only did the name appeal, I was really intrigued by the method.  You need to beat the dough for about 10 minutes, which really sounds like overbeating. I remembered reading this post by Liz of Cake or Death, in which she explained overbeating would result in flat cookies.

Sure enough, my cookies were flatter than a pancake. Not only that, they spread so much they dripped over the edge of the baking tray and spilt onto the oven racks below. Ellie had mentioned the flatness factor as well.

Overbeating was probably one cause, but I think the amount of flour also played a part. I usually weigh all my ingredients, but used cup measures for the flour this time. At the back of my mind, I kept remembering this quote by Stephanie Alexander in the Cook’s Companion : “The main exception to preferring cup measures is that I weigh flour when the quantity required is more than 3 tablespoon…Depending on how firmly it is packed into a measuring cup, flour can ‘settle’ as much as 100g, which could alter a recipe disastrously”.

However, even though the cookies didn’t look aesthetically pleasing, they tasted great, if a little sweet. I added in some chocolate chips, crushed honeycomb bar (Crunchie), a few snipped marshmallows, potato chips and sweet/salty popcorn. I’m quite sure the marshmallows and honeycomb contributed to the spread of the cookies as well. I had to banish these cookies to Mr. Kitchen Hand’s office because they were too addictive.

He did raise an eyebrow when I explained what was in them, but no one at work complained and they went like hotcakes.

Which got me thinking…exactly what can you chuck into a cookie, and still get away with? How about some pickles? (I swear I’m not pregnant ok). And pickles made me think of peanuts/ peanut butter (readers of Sue Grafton’s alphabet series will understand why).

To boldly go where no pickle has gone before. (If you'd like to know how to take a floating pic, check out this link. I used my point and shoot camera)

Then I added some cranberries, to disguise the fact that there are pickles in the cookie. If someone bit into a pickle, they’d just assume it was another type of dried fruit. And to top off the cranberries, I added white chocolate.

After figuring out that the “Compost Cookies” were really similar in ratio and ingredients to a choc-chip cookie, I whipped up a batch of my “Cravings Cookie” .

As for the million dollar question…did it taste any good? I liked it, I really liked the peanuts in it, and I couldn’t actually pick that there were pickles in it. My only complaint was that it tasted a bit too salty.

MC Junior enjoyed it, and will happily eat more.

MC Senior ate half a cookie and said she didn’t’ like it because it was “too sweet”. (She’d just bitten into a hunk of white chocolate.) After I’d quizzed her about the flavour and whether she’d noticed anything about the cookie (which she hadn’t) , I revealed that there were pickles in it. To which she replied “I’ll get you for this!” ;P

Mister Kitchen Hand finished a whole cookie while I tried desperately to keep a straight face. His verdict was that they weren’t as good as the first batch, but he would eat another. That was until I revealed the secret ingredient. You should have seen the look on his face! Now he can’t bring himself to eat any more, which just proves sometimes we taste more with our brains than our tastebuds.

Judging from my very small captive audience, I can pretty much say that pickle would probably go unnoticed in a cookie.

Would I bother putting pickles in cookies in the future? Not really, because it doesn’t really add anything to it, and just serves to freak people out when they find out.

But it was fun while it lasted.

Cookie anyone? ;)

Cravings Cookie – Pickle, peanut, white chocolate and cranberry
(a half batch adapted from a basic choc-chip cookie recipe found in Jill Dupleix’s Old Food)

60g butter – softened at cool room temperature (soft but not melty)
60 g caster sugar
70g brown sugar
1 egg
125g plain flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
dash of vanilla extract
about ¼ teaspoon salt (would reduce, too salty)
1 cup off add ins – I used 2-3 tablespoons each of finely diced cornichons, chopped cranberries, chopped roasted/unsalted peanuts and chopped white chocolate to make up 1 cup’s worth.

Preheat oven to about 190˚C.
Whiz butter and sugars in a food processor until mixed. Scrape down sides if necessary, then add in the lightly beaten egg and vanilla extract. Pulse a few times until well combined. Add the flour in and pulse or whiz until incorporated, might need to scrape down sides. Do not overwork the mixture.

Tip into a bowl and stir in the add-ins with a spatula, mixture is fairly stiff.

Use two tablespoons to form “balls” and place on trays lined with baking paper. Bake until golden, leave to cool slightly on baking trays then remove to a wire rack until cold.

Have a great weekend :)


Cake for (and with) friends

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Friends – as beautiful as extra sprinkles on the cake of life.

I’ve met so many like-minded people since I’ve started this blog. Of course I consider you readers my friends - you put up with my occasionally inane ramblings, listen to my corny puns, then leave the loveliest comments.

A bit like my friends outside of blogland, the folks who keep me sane and add a bit of sparkle to my days.  Catching up over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine is a much anticipated treat. We eat (but of course), chat, share a laugh and the occasional tear.

Friends are the sort of people who aren’t afraid to call it as it is. Take the following “boobie cake”.  Yup, try as I might, I could not get this cake to look elegant or pretty, instead, I ended up decorating it with what looked like lots and lots of ..er…nipples (according to my friend S).

Luckily, it tasted much, much better than it looked. Plus it’s gluten free to boot.

And because friends share things, like cake, I’ll share the recipe with you.

Hazelnut meringue cake with choc-cinnamon mousse

(adapted from a recipe published in the ABC Delicious magazine. Original recipe from Cucina Nueva by Jane Lawson)

6 large eggwhites
2/3 cup (145g caster sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g icing sugar sifted
290 g hazelnut meal (or finely ground toasted and skinned hazelnuts)
5 g tapioca flour
15g glutinous rice flour
10g corn flour
(OR use 30g plain flour. I’m not that familiar with gluten free baking but I figured that the minimal amount of flour would let me get away with it.)

600ml thickened cream
1 tsp ground cinnamon (I definitely added more)
300g good quality dark chocolate, finely grated

40g icing sugar
2 tbsp good quality cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon

First make the mousse. Sprinkle the cinnamon over 1 cup (250ml) cream in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Scald the cream, then remove from heat and set aside to infuse for about 10 minutes. Strain into a clean pan, add the chocolate and stir until melted (reheat very gently if needed).  Allow to cool to room temperature. Whip remaining cream until soft peaks form, then fold the chocolate cream mixture through – I used a spatula. Cover and refrigerate until firm enough to spread (about 2 hours or so).

Preheat the oven to 140˚C and line three trays with baking paper. I used flat trays (cookie sheets) and drew circles on the reverse side of the baking paper, using the base of a springform pan as a template.

Beat eggwhites until soft peaks form (best to use electric beaters). Add the caster sugar and vanilla extract, a little at a time, and keep beating until stiff. In a separate bowl, mix the icing sugar, hazelnut meal and flours. Add about 2 tablespoons  of the beaten eggwhite and fold until well combined (I may have added a bit more because 2 tablespoons didn’t quite seem enough). Carefully tip this nut mixture back into the stiff egg whites, and fold very carefully to incorporate. Do not beat out the air.

Divide the mixture evenly between the three trays, smoothing out with a spatula to form a circle (in the original recipe, it is made as a rectangle). Bake for about an hour until dry on top. Let the meringue cool on the tray then very carefully peel off the baking paper. Careful, it cracks very easily.

Place one meringue layer on a serving plate or a cardboard cake round, then top with half the mousse. Cover with another meringue circle and the rest of the mousse. Finish off with a meringue circle. Wrap the whole thing with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. I really recommend leaving it for at least 6 to 8 hours because the flavours develop beautifully. We ate the cake about 5 hours after assembly, but the slice I saved for the next day had a much stronger flavour, and the texture felt a lot moister.

To serve, mix the topping ingredients well and sift over cake.
Store uneaten caek in the refrigerator, in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap.

Try not to mar the cake surface with the addition of nipple-like decorations.

Enjoy with friends.

Malaysian Monday 36: Peanut Filled Glutinous Rice Balls.

Monday, May 17, 2010

First off, I’m not quite sure what the right name for this snack is. We always called it “muah chee” (don’t ask me what that means) at our house, but when I started looking for a recipe, the item that showed up didn’t look very familiar. After a bit more searching, I discovered it’s actually called “Loh Mai Chee” (no idea what that means either).

No matter what it’s called (I prefer rice-ball thingy myself), this snack happened to be a hot favourite when I was growing up. We never made it at home, so when I phoned mum to ask for the recipe, she knew how it was made but didn’t have any measurements. “Why don’t you look on the blogs? ” was her sage advice.  This from a woman who was once a technophobe, Go Mum!

Then my aunty, who happened to be there when I called, chimed in:  “you can use the microwave to make it”.

After hunting around, I found two promising recipes, one at
Citrus and Candy
, and one at Lily’s blog. I made a mash-up using the two recipes, and here’s how it went.

First make the filling:

I used 1 cup toasted unsalted peanuts and 3 tbsp caster sugar. Blitz until medium fine, in the food processor. Tip into a bowl.

Add 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds to this mix. Stir and set aside.

This actually makes way more filling than needed, but it can also be stored in an airight container in the fridge. You can sprinkle it on stuff, maybe ice-cream?

For the outer “skin” , I used:
1 ¼ cup toasted glutinous rice flour (not all the flour is used in the dough, some is kept for dusting. Explanation further on)
1 slightly heaped teaspoon tapioca flour (I like the “chewiness” this imparts to dough)
1 scant teaspoon caster sugar
about ¾ cup water
about 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

First, toast the glutinous rice flour in a clean, dry frypan, one with deep sides is ideal. I toasted the flour over medium high heat for about 5 minutes. Jiggle the pan from time to time to make sure the flour is evenly toasted. Do not let the flour colour. We’re aiming for the flour to become lighter in texture, but not burnt.
L: Toasted flour (powdery texture), R: Untoasted

Place about ¾ cup of the glutinous rice flour, the tapioca flour and the sugar in a deep, microwave safe bowl. Keep the remaining glutinous rice flour aside for later. Add the oil at this stage (I forgot and had to add it halfway through the cooking process, not ideal). Add about half a cup of water, and stir well. I used a fork, then switched to a spatula to scrape all the dough off the bottom. Add the other ¼ cup water slowly. The end texture should be like a thick batter.

The next part really depends on your microwave. Heat for short bursts, on high power until the dough becomes slightly translucent and quite solid. It took me two 40seconds, and one 30 second cycle.

Careful, at this stage, the dough is very, very hot. Use the spatula to “stir” and mix it to check if done. Mine came away from the sides of the bowl and became a sort of ball.

Now comes the very tricky part. This dough is absolutely the stickiest thing I have ever handled. Assemble the bowl of filling, and the extra glutinous rice flour for dusting. First, I took a small piece of the dough, dusted it with the flour and tried to form a flat circle. The aim was to place a teaspoon of filling in the middle, then wrap the whole thing up like a ball.

In reality, it felt like I was wrestling a very small, very sticky jellyfish. I managed to get the filling in, but when I tried to wrap it up, it leaked out the sides. In the end, I just ate that sucker.

Then I washed my hands. And washed my hands. And washed my hands some more. Like I said, this dough is sticky!

Ok, it was very clear that I was an amateur at this.  I pulled out some reinforcements – baking paper, and my non-stick rolling pin. My next attempt, was slightly better.

"This one needs surgery!!"

Finally, at attempt number 5, when I was almost running out of dough, I got one that I thought would be good enough for a photo.

I scooped up the rest of the dough and tried to cut it into little portions, then coated this in the peanut mixture. Apparently, this is how “muah chee” is made. It should also have some fried shallots added to the mix, but it wasn’t something I felt I needed ☺

Because this was a bit of a test batch, I only made about 6 balls all up. Double or triple the dough measurements to get more serves.

The taste and texture of the ball was very similar to what I had as a child. MC Junior liked the outer dough but disliked the peanut filling, but MC Senior happily chomped through two.

I would definitely make this again, but I think I’ll just make the “muah chee” version rather than trying to form balls.

Have a great start to the week ☺

Cupcake Trials

Friday, May 14, 2010

Or should I say trial by cupcake?

Let’s start at the beginning shall we? In about a week’s time, I’ll be involved in a special little personal project. I’d rather not say anything else about the project until after it’s completed, but I can tell you it involves cupcakes.

So I thought I’d do some preliminary cupcake baking to test out the look and flavour of the cakes I’d planned to make.

First up, I made some simple vanilla cupcakes using the Perfect Pound Cake recipe from The Cake Bible. I added a filling of raspberry jam, some lime buttercream, then fondant icing to decorate - so far, so good, and very tasty too. The lime buttercream on its own is a bit sour but worked really well to complement the sweet fondant.
(I just use a very simple buttercream made from 1 part butter and up to 2 parts icing sugar depending on the consistency I’m after).

Then I made some chocolate cupcakes based on the All American Chocolate Buttercake recipe in The Cake Bible. What’s this? All the cake papers had started to peel off the cake. Not good! The flavour of the cakes were divine though, but I really needed them to look pretty as well.

 Keep your shirt on!

So I tried another chocolate cake recipe I found here. Hmm, I actually forgot to put baking powder in the first batch. Oops, try again.

At first, they looked fine and I thought I’d found my recipe. But after I decorated the cakes with some chocolate ganache and fondant, and stored them in an airtight container, they started nuding up again!

(It's not very obvious yet here, but see how the paper at the left side of the first cake is starting to peel? It got a lot worse after this) 

What was going on? The cupcake papers were professional quality, and I had no issues at all with the vanilla cakes, even storing them in the fridge. They acted like genteel cupcakes and stayed dressed.

Finally, I figured out that both the recipes contain a lot of moisture in them (boiling water for the first recipe, and a fair bit of milk in the second recipe). It would make sense then, that this moisture would turn to steam during baking and cause the papers to loosen from the sides.

Luckily, I remembered another recipe in The Cake Bible that I’d missed because it’s called Chocolate Bread. But in reality, it is actually a chocolate version of the pound cake, and involves very minimal water content.

Because it's a pound cake, it will peak and split - that's what icing is for.

Success at last! I decorated them, stored them in airtight containers and subjected them to vigorous testing – driving them around in the car and taking them on a picnic, and they stayed clothed, hurrah!

So glad I decided to do a trial run, with time to spare!

Have a good weekend everyone ☺

Quince, quark and quackers..err, I mean crackers

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How do you plan out food combinations? Obviously flavours play a big part in determining if a dish works or ends up a strange mish-mash. But sometimes, I can’t help but put things together based on the sound of each individual item.

For instance, I once made a pancetta, pea and pumpkin risotto, topped with pecorino.
(I’ll have you know I’m not the only person who loves alliteration. Just ask Grace ☺)

And of course, when I saw quince, I had to team it with quark. 


I thought a quark was something one encountered in physics lessons, but as it turns out, it’s a type of cheese. I first came across this cool ingredient over at Passionate about Baking, and then found a recipe at What's For Lunch, Honey?.

It sounded pretty simple, and it was!  Basically you let buttermilk ferment, then hang it in cheesecloth to drain it. Meeta’s recipe required the buttermilk to be left in a low oven overnight. I feel a bit funny about leaving the oven on when I’m asleep, so after much googling, I found a suggestion to wrap the buttermilk  container in clean tea-towels to keep it warm (sorry, I can’t find the link again).

I thought a combination of the two might work, so I heated the oven (about 80˚C I think, not too high or it will kill the buttermilk culture), poured a 1L carton of buttermilk into my very well cleaned casserole dish, bunged the lid on and wrapped the whole thing in a two clean tea-towels. I popped this into the oven and turned the oven off. After leaving it overnight, I tried pouring the mixture into a cheesecloth (muslin) lined sieve but seemed to be losing quite a lot of the milky fluid. So I poured it all back into the casserole dish, turned the oven on again (about 70˚C or so), and put the dish back into the oven for a couple of hours.

Then I poured the mixture back into the muslin-lined sieve. This time it worked, I left it to drain for a while then proceeded with the recipe that Meeta provided. The only thing I did differently was -  after hanging the cheese at room temp for a couple of hours  (when it had stopped dripping), I placed the muslin ball in a sieve, over a bowl, and placed the whole thing in the fridge overnight before removing the quark.

I was quite surprised to find only a small amount of quark produced from a whole litre of buttermilk. It tastes very interesting, almost like a yoghurt rather than a cheese, and the best part - low fat content. Get that creamy texture minus the guilt!

Paired with some stewed quince and store-bought water-crackers, the quark proved to be a winner. In fact, MC Senior thought I had actually bought the “special white cheese”, because it “tasted so good, I didn’t realise you made it” (what does this say about the rest of my meals?).

As for the stewed quince, I peeled, cored and diced two medium sized quince, placed them in a saucepan with about ½ cup sugar (I like it a bit tart, add more sugar to taste),  just enough water to prevent burning and sticking (about ¼ cup) and one vanilla bean. Then I left it to simmer on a very low heat for hours (at least 4 I think). Check and stir every once in a while, adding a slurp or two of water if necessary.

The long cooking time ensures that the quince becomes beautifully coloured. I used to think that some quinces became red while others only cooked pink, but according to Maggie Beer and Stephanie Alexander, long and slow cooking is what gives the quince its brilliant hue.

The aroma of the cooking quinces is just amazing. MC Senior kept begging to eat some. In fact, I actually ended up making two batches of the quince because the first lot got eaten before the cheese was ready!

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of quince: every book I’ve seen says that raw quince is unpalatable. I actually quite like the flavour and usually munch on a raw slice or two while getting it ready for the pot. I thought this was a bit weird until I saw a guy at the beach the other day eating a quince like an apple…skin and all! Strange but true.

Malaysian Monday 35: Kuih Apam* / Fatt Kueh (Malaysian Steamed Rice Cupcakes)

Monday, May 10, 2010

*not to be confused with the Apam balik. There is also another different kind of breakfast apam. Confusing, I know.
Subtitle: An experiment in fermentation

Hi all, today’s Malaysian Monday is a record of my experiment over the weekend, rather than a proper recipe.

This kuih (generic term meaning snack/cake) has many permutations. Some versions are made using Eno (antacid salts), while others make use of creaming soda as a raising agent. The hallmark of a good kuih apam is the “split” at the top of the cake, some refer to it as the “smile”.

(accidentally tipped too much colour in the mix- it was meant to be a soft pink!)

Mum had actually collected quite a few apam recipes in her handwritten notebooks, but I had bookmarked this particular recipe because the method really appealed to my inner nerd. The method involves fermenting cold cooked rice, then adding rice flour, sugar and water to this mix.

The recipe itself was a bit vague, so I kind of made it up as I went along. Here’s how it went:

Placed 1 cup of cooked rice (cooled) and about 1 teaspoon yeast (I used instant dried yeast) in a bowl. I also added a couple of tablespoons of water, just enough to moisten the rice. Covered with plastic wrap and left to ferment for about 48 hours (the recipe says two days).

After day 1: the bowl was slightly warm to the touch, a bit of moisture had condensed on the plastic wrap, but the rice still looked “ricey”. The mixture smelt yeasty but sweet. I wondered if the fermentation process was a bit slow as it’s autumn and the kitchen was quite cool.

After day 2: More pronounced yeasty smell, rice still in grains. Suddenly occurred to me that maybe the yeast was old (didn’t check it first). Looked at box and expiry date: 11 May 2010. *slapped forehead.* Never mind, I pressed on.

Blitzed the rice with about 250ml water, in the food processor. Water sloshed everywhere. Note to self: Use the blender next time!

Poured watery mix into clean bowl, added half a teaspoon of (almost expired) yeast, and half a cup of sugar. Left overnight (about 8 hours)

Day 3: Ah, this looked promising. Realised that not all the rice had been blitzed, so poued this mix through a sieve and pushed the rice through with a spoon. Long tedious process which earned me a blister.

Added 1 cup rice flour and another half a cup of sugar. Stirred it well, then covered and left for about 2 hours.

Next, I lightly oiled some teacups, half filled it with the mix and placed in a steamer. I steamed it until it was cooked (a skewer inserted in the centre came out with a few sticky crumbs, taste the crumbs, it should taste cooked. The cake itself is going to be sticky)

Only one of the cakes in this batch had a split.

Worked out that I probably needed to fill the cups a bit more. Tried again, and …eureka!

(That is MC Junior's finger - she' was laying claim to the one she wanted)

Happily, it was a pretty successful experiment, and best of all, the kuih tasted  close to what I remember from childhood. The texture of this kuih is slightly sticky yet spongy, almost like a cross between a mochi cake and a cupcake. Surprisingly, the mini-critics adored this, they called it “sticky buns” and kept asking for more. The kuih does smell a bit “fermenty” and can take some getting used to.

They are actually best eaten warm, and on the day they are made because they don’t keep well. If put in the fridge, the kuih go rock hard - although the texture can be revived with a very quick blast in the microwave.

I’ll definitely revisit this kuih again, maybe exploring some of the other methods.

 (Attempted some mini versions too, using a muffin pan. Again, I underfilled the cases, so not much splitting happened)

A quick note on the fermentation process: if the mixture smells “off” or looks strange, throw it out. Err on the side of caution, I don’t want to be responsible for sending anyone to the ER!

Have a great start to the week!

Stories shared sweetly

Friday, May 7, 2010

Picture this: a stifling hot classroom, an extremely boring maths lesson, an old-fashioned desk with a drawer recess you could secretly balance a book on. Angled just the right way, with the chair tipped back ever so slightly, a girl could just about finish reading her storybook without getting caught.

Fast forward many years later and the reading is no longer clandestine, but the compulsion continues. Staying up way past bedtime becomes a sacrifice to be endured. The extra dose of caffeine the next day a small price to pay for the satisfaction of finishing the last few pages.

This addiction seems to run in the blood. I see that bookworm from the past mirrored in my own little girl. The intense concentration, the furrowed brow, the rapid blinking as she emerges like a mole from yet another adventure in the land of words.

Already she has formed her own opinions and developed her list of “favourites”. I am secretly sad each time she rejects my recommendations but rejoice when she finds her way to the books I used to love.

Which brings us, in a very roundabout way, to this month’s Mactweet: STORYBOOK MACARONS. Deeba and Jamie set this challenge for us: “Our May Mac Attack challenge sends you forth to create a macaron inspired by a beloved childhood book, an extract, a character, something from any book from your childhood.”

I knew exactly which author I wanted to reference – Enid Blyton. Sure her ideas and plotlines may seem a bit old-fashioned, even un-PC, these days. But through her books, a world of friendly fairies, brownies, gnomes and talking toys opened up before me. And as I grew older, I went on adventures with The Famous Five and The Secret Seven, and thence on to boarding school at Malory Towers.

Ms. Blyton seems to have been preoccupied with food, her books are peppered with fairy cakes and Pop Biscuits, picnics and midnight feasts. A lot of the food she described were things I could only dream about in my tropical childhood – treacle pudding, wild blackberries, strawberries and cream.

My favourite Blyton series was the Faraway Tree trilogy, I longed to find that tree and visit the lands that appeared at the top. I wanted to hang out with MoonFace and Silky and the Saucepan man. Most of all, I wanted to eat Pop Biscuits and Google Buns.

I’d forgotten all about these until MC Senior started reading the Faraway Tree stories. We found this description:

“Soon they were all sitting on the broad branches outside Moon-Face’s house, eating Pop Biscuits and Google Buns. The buns were most peculiar. They each had a very large currant in the middle, and this was filled with sherbet. So when you got to the currant and bit it the sherbet frothed out and filled your mouth with fine bubbles that tasted delicious. The children got a real surprise when they bit their currants, and Moon-Face almost fell off the branch with laughing.” ch: The Land of Dreams, book: The Magic Faraway Tree.

Here’s our take on this magical treat: Google Bun Macarons. A currant sits atop the macaron shell and the filling is a simple lemon cream cheese frosting I found in the freezer. Home-made sherbert was pressed onto the sides of the macaron.

Surprisingly, MC Senior loved these. She doesn’t usually go for macarons because they are too sweet (she’s got a pretty savoury palate). The sherbert helps cut the sweetness a lot, which is probably why she liked them.

Or perhaps the sherbert and lemon reminded her of another favourite series…(10 points for guessing which).

I look forward to sharing many more books (and macarons) with both the mini-critics. And that is my cue to wish all you special mummies out there a very Happy Mother’s Day!

Google Bun macarons:

I tried a “newish” recipe this time. A science-based one from Ms. Humble, over at Not So Humble Pie. She’s a scientist who churns out delicious and sometimes hilariously funny creations, and needless to say I love her site. You can find the macaron recipe here.

I got feet but I STILL have hollows inside and overbrowned tops on my macs. I think this is something beyond my control, it’s possibly the oven. I’m still only baking with the top element working…I know I should get it fixed, but when I heard how much they wanted to just come and look at it, I pushed it on the backburner (cooking pun intended).

Ah well.

As for home-made sherbert, it’s really easy:

1 scant teaspoon citric acid
1 scant teaspoon baking soda
about ½ cup pure icing (powdered) sugar.

Double sift the ingredients and store in a dry container. The “fizz” is provided by the reaction between the acid and the baking soda when they get wet. The icing sugar provides the “flavour”. Adjust to taste as necessary.

I found that I could poke a hole in the bottom of my shells and fill it with sherbert. I preferred having the sherbert on the outside though, because I could taste it first. Sherbert on the inside kind of just melded with the filling and left a lingering aftertaste that couldn’t quite be defined.

Say Syllabub with me

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Syl-la-bub? Sy-lla-bub? Syll-a-bub? Such a funny little word, but I can’t seem to find any data about its etymology. My whole 3 minutes of google research pulled up no satisfactory explanation.

I did find however, some interesting information about this dessert. History buffs might like this link. Or just hop over to Wikipedia, where there is a quote on how to make syllabub in the old days: "place the bowl under the cow, and milk it full”

Apparently syllabubs used to be a drink made with frothed cream and wine (like a wine float? Or as we say in Oz, a wine spider?) . Then it evolved into a whipped cream dessert flavoured with wine. At least that’s what I think it’s supposed to taste like, having never actually tried the “proper” version before.

After looking at a few recipes, I based my creation on a cream to wine ratio of roughly 1 : 1/3.  Most of the modern-day syllabub recipes I came across paired the cream with some type of fruit.  Two almost-too-ripe guavas were languishing in the fruit bowl, so they were offered up as sacrifice. The syllabub deities were happy, and the Guava Syllabub was born.

The syllabub on its own was good, but so far, so whipped cream. Once the guava was added, the floral scented fruit really lifted this concoction to another level.

I used verjuice instead of wine in my creation because I wanted to serve it to the mini-critics. The end result even impressed Mr. Kitchen Hand, who gave it the “one-raised-eyebrow” seal of approval.

Guava Syllabub

(substitute with strawberries or other berries if guava is unavailable. Please bear in mind I use Australian measurements)

2 small guava, deseeded and diced
juice from quarter of a lime
1-2 tbsp brown sugar

Mix the guava with the lime juice and brown sugar and set aside. Can be left for a little while or even overnight in the fridge. I left mine overnight and was rewarded with a syrupy bowl of fruit.

For the syllabub:
1 cup pure cream
1 tbsp + 1 tsp sugar (1 tbsp=15 ml)
2 tbsp verjuice (or white wine)
lemon rind
Toasted slivered almonds to serve

Dissolve the sugar in the verjuice, stir in the lemon rind . Whip cream util soft peaks form, then carefully fold in the verjuice mixture. Spoon into glasses, add the guava on the side and sprinkle with toasted almonds.