Bone-boloni! A (dough)nutty Daring Bakers challenge.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Warning: This post may have been processed through equipment containing puns.

Avast me hearties, feast your eyes on this plate of bone-boloni. That be Italian style doughnuts in landlubber terms. That’s right, this month me merry crew of D-arrrr-ing Bakers went nuts. For doughnuts. Arrr…

Skull and crossbone-boloni

Okay, I won’t try to do the whole post in Pirate, and yes I know, talk like a pirate day is long gone, but little MC junior had been obsessing about having a pirate themed birthday party for almost a year now. Of course, like all good almost-4 year olds, she’s had a complete and sudden change of mind and decided she doesn’t want a pirate p-aar-ty after all. Her birthday is just over two weeks away.


Luckily, I’ve been a tad disorganised and her change of mind hasn’t really thrown a spanner in the works, but I needed to get the pirate out of my system, so bear with me.

Or not.

I’m tired, I’ve done this whole challenge in one day (thank you one-person cheer squad), so I think I will do less of the talking and more of the showing the pictures.

And before I forget and get kicked out of the gang, here is my international sign of the doughnut : The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

I made the Kate Neumann bomboloni recipe(halved portions) and as far as recipes go, it was a walk in the park. Apart from sticky dough (just dust with flour to counteract) the doughnuts were pretty straightforward to make. I did find that the bomboloni fried better if the heat was kept at medium low, I didn’t use a thermometer but when I noticed the doughnuts were browning too quickly, I’d move the wok off the stove to cool it down a bit.

See, I made some proper ones too. These were mini versions (I used a bottle top to cut out circles. Rolled in cinnamon sugar, yum!)

Filled some with blueberry jam

 Used a larger cutter, made a few bigger ones and filled with nutella (but of course)

To make the bone shaped doughnuts, I rolled a small sausage of dough from the middle so that it bulged at both ends like a set of dumb bells. then I flattened the whole thing. Worked a treat.

Don’t forget to visit our host to find the recipes, or you can find them at the Daring Kitchen, and do check out what the other p-arrr-ticipants made!

Doughnuts on a skewer. While playing with my doughnuts (*raised eyebrow*), I remembered that when I was a kid, we'd buy doughnuts like these from the bakery. Anyone else remember them?

Malaysian Monday 53: Cucur Udang / Prawn Fritters.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ah yes, well, it’s not really Monday anymore in my part of the world, but it could be in yours, right?

We had a great weekend camping, but getting back into our daily routine has been slightly challenging to say the least. The weather didn’t help either, we went from lovely warm sunny days to rainy, grey and cold (ugh!) on our return. With such miserableness  outside, I turned to something deep fried and warm for today’s, err, yesterday’s Malaysian Monday - the aforementioned fritters.

These snacks are actually quite easy to throw together, and there’s no hard and fast recipe, it all depends on taste. The usual ingredients include prawns, beansprouts (taugeh), chives/spring onions, chillies and tumeric. Flour, egg, water and salt are added to bind everything together. The ratio for each of these ingredients rests with the cook. You can even throw other sorts of vegetables into the mix if you fancy. When I went searching for recipes, I found recommendations for flour weights ranging from 150g to 500g, and for either 1 or 2 eggs.

What to do when faced with so many different sources? Cobble together my own version of course. Did it work? Pretty well if I do say so myself ☺

I ate these fritters dipped in sweet chilli sauce, but they are sometimes served with a spicy peanut sauce, and they also form part of a meal known as pasembor (a sort of warm noodle salad, slathered with a peanut and sweet potato sauce).

Do you like my kitschy cucumber serving bowl for the sauce? Just scoop out the middle of a halved cucumber and fill. Or use a halved capsicum. I remember these tricks from my school days. It paid to be a nosy parker who wandered through fellow schoolmates’ Home-Ec. classes. Those of us who didn’t do the classes would hang around outside the kitchens after our friends had finished a lesson. We’d look hungry and hope to get fed. Luckily, my ability to feed myself has greatly improved since then.

Have a great start to the week! Enjoy the fritters.

Don’t forget, if you’d like to participate in our Muhibbah Malaysian Monday, please send your entries in to (sureshchong[at]yahoo[dot]com) at 3 Hungry Tummies who’ll be hosting this month. Thank you!

Cucur udang / Prawn fritters
(makes about 12 or so depending on the size of your ladle).

Approx 1 cup flour
½ tsp baking powder (more often than not baking soda is used but I don’t like the taste. You can also omit the raising agent if you prefer).
Large pinch ground tumeric
Pinch of salt
Handful of bean sprouts- remove tails, break into small pieces, about an inch long
2 stalks spring onions- diced
12 prawns (give or take according to taste) – remove heads, devein. Leave 6 unpeeled, and chop in half. Peel the rest and chop into small pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten
Enough water to form a batter (I used just over ½ cup, but obviously it depends on your ingredients)
You can also add chopped chillies (I didn’t, just in case the MC’s wanted to try some fritter), thinly slice onions, garlic chives, etc.

Place the flour, tumeric and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the beaten egg, and slowly add the water, mixing as you go. Do not add the water all at once, just add enough to get a batter that will drop easily.

Add in the other ingredients – diced spring onions, beansprouts, chopped peeled prawns (don’t add the prawns with the shells yet) and mix well. Adjust water if necessary.

Heat enough oil for deep frying, place a metal ladle (I used a long handled metal salad server) in the oil to heat up. When ready, take the ladle out, drop some of the batter onto it, place a piece of prawn onto the top of the batter, then carefully lower the ladle into the hot oil. Careful, it may spit.

Fry until golden the remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Serve warm. Best eaten on the day they are made though I did refrigerate a few and they held up quite well when reheated in the oven.

Macattack 12: May you be in the pink…

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Did you know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month? I didn’t.  While I am fully aware of the pink ribbon (which has been around since the 90s apparently), I just didn’t realise there was a dedicated time-frame for awareness.

But the theme for this month’s macattack was Pinkarons for Pinktober, so now I know better.

To be honest, I’m kind of at a loss for words for this post. Everything that needs to be said about breast cancer has been done better by people far more qualified than I.

So, instead of boring you with flippant commentary and atrocious puns, here are a couple of links that may/ may not be of interest to you:
1) National Breast Cancer Foundation (Australia)
2) Think before you pink

And here are some photos of the macarons I made. Hazelnut and coconut macarons (tinted very light pink), with a salted caramel filling (using pink salt).

For the macarons, I used the Italian method and made it with hazelnut meal instead of almond meal,then replaced 30g of the nut meal with dessicated coconut.

For the salted caramel, I halved a recipe I found here. I used all caster sugar instead of a mix of Demerara and caster. The resulting filling/ sauce is VERY addictive, be careful ☺

And that is that.

(By the way, we’re heading off camping for four days, so if you leave a comment and it doesn’t show up, it’s because there’s no internet access or mobile phone reception where we’re headed. I’ll be back soon to visit your blogs soon, have a great weekend!)

Malaysian Monday 52: Mamak, Chatswood.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Happy Monday everyone. Today’s Malaysian Monday comes to you via Chatswood (a suburb of Sydney for you "rest-of-the-worlders"). This restaurant/café requires little introduction for those in the know, and the new Chatswood branch is more of the same so I’d only be preaching to the converted. But if you haven’t been there before, let me explain.

Mamak is a Malaysian café/restaurant that serves food usually found at a gerai mamak (mamak food stall). The word mamak originates from the term used to describe Malaysians from an Indian Muslim background. Unfortunately, over the years, the word itself came to be occasionally used as a derogatory slur. However, as far as I can tell, gerai mamak is a pretty neutral word. In Malaysia, the local mamak stall used to be literally a stall set up by the side of the road, and everyone went there to meet with friends any time of the day, to catch up on gossip and to just hang out. In fact, these stalls are so popular, a lot of them are no longer roadside, but have moved into larger digs and there are now mamak restaurants that are open 24 hours!

Back to Sydney, and over in these Mamak restaurants, you’ll find the requisite roti canai (fried flat bread) and nasi lemak (coconut rice), but they’ve also added satay to the menu (not usually part of the fare in the original mamak stalls). On top of that, you can find a small selection of Malaysian dishes comprising curries and vegetable stir-fries (you can check out the full menu on their website). I couldn’t tell you what these dishes taste like because we usually go for what we miss most - roti, nasi lemak and satay. And teh  tarik, teh-o-ais limau, cendol and ais kacang. ☺

Our Chatswood mamak experience started with a mini hunt to find the actual restaurant – it’s actually tucked into a corner of the new Eat Street area. Once you find it, it’s pretty obvious. I was actually looking for the long queue outside the front (a hallmark of the city based Mamak), but was pleasantly surprised that we were whisked off to our table within 5 minutes of entering the premises, even with two other groups waiting before us. Mind you, it was a Saturday lunch, we were earlyish (about 12.15), the restaurant is only a week old, and the weather was foul (icy cold winds). I’m willing to bet that the queuing will come, but I think this Mamak will be better equipped to handle the hordes as they have seating for 110 (or so I've heard). And as a testament to their popularity, the restaurant was almost full given the conditions I mentioned above.

 The exterior

 A photograph of the queue at the other Mamak. So postmodern ;)

As mentioned above, we ordered our favourites and the food didn’t disappoint. The rotis were flaky, the nasi lemak piping hot, and satays fragrant and delicious. And all very authentic, the flavours are like what you’d find in Malaysia. I love the satay sauce here, in fact I was eating forkfuls of it once the meat and cucumber had gone. Being only a week old, there were a few minor teething problems, some of the staff might still be learning the ropes. It took us three tries to get some water for the table and I observed a diner across from us try a few times to catch someone’s attention before he could successfully order.  But like I said, the place is still new, and it was pumping, so these minor hiccups were easy to excuse.

And while we still freak out at paying $5 for a roti (only because they cost about RM0.70 (70 cents) in Malaysia), overall value for money is pretty good too. Our bill for 3 rotis, 2 nasi lemaks with add-ons, ½ dozen satay and an ice-kacang came up to $50.  Sure beats the price of a plane-ticket! ;P

 Nasi lemak with chicken curry

  Nasi lemak with sotong (it's written as nasi lemak with calamari but the sotong is actually a dried  version of the squid, which is rehydrated).  This one was oh-so-soft! When handled wrongly, it's likened to eating bicycle inner tubes ("macam getah basikal" as locals would say).

Roti, how I love you

Beef satay and THAT sauce.

Ais kacang (Shave iced dessert - Mr. Kitchen Hand sat out this course)

 Because it contianed things like these red beans and "cincau" (herbal jelly)

We rolled out of there very happy and contented, and since it’s much easier for us to get to Chatswood than the city, it looks like we’ll be able to get our roti fix much more ofter. Joy!

Hope you have a great start to the week everyone ☺

Don’t forget, if you’d like to participate in our Muhibbah Malaysian Monday, please send your entries in to (sureshchong[at]yahoo[dot]com) at 3 Hungry Tummies who’ll be hosting this month. Thank you!

Mamak Chatswood
Shop P9, 1-5 Railway Street Chatswood 2067.
T: (02) 9411 4411.

When good cake pops go bad….

Saturday, October 16, 2010

How’s your weekend going friends? Have you been baking? Got any spare cake crumbs lying around? How about making cake pops? When will these questions ever end?

Yes, these yummy treats need little introduction, but just in case you’re not a compulsive food blog surfer, let me quickly explain that a cake pop is basically cake on a stick – hence cake lollipop, shortened to cake pop. (Actually, I assume this is why they’re called cake pops, please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).

If the cake pop isn’t served on a stick then it’s called a cake ball. And of course, if you’ve been around long enough, you’ll have met these cake balls at some point, the most common permutation being the “rum ball”.

Mummy! It's a cake pop!

I didn't mean to make them quite so scary.  I wanted to creat cute round eyes out of fondant, but found that piping some melted white chocolate on was so much faster, but much creepier.

Most cake pop recipes will tell you to crumble cake into a bowl then add cream cheese icing to get a moldable paste. I wondered why not use something else instead of cream cheese icing, which is how my Vanilla/White chocolate cake pops and Chocolate Peanut Butter cake pops were born.

Rub a dub dub, three ghouls in a tub.

There’s no real recipe because I used leftover defrosted cake from previous baking projects. For the Vanilla pops, I used 1 cup of Vanilla pound cake crumbs (I blitzed the cake in the food processor to get nice even crumbs), with slightly less than ½ a cup of white chocolate ganache (also leftover) to bind. Actually I found this was slightly too much ganache, so add your binding ingredient in small amounts and test often

For the chocolate cake pops, I used about 1 cup chocolate pound cake crumbs with about 2 tablespooons of peanut butter. I warmed the peanut butter first in the microwave.

Mix your cake crumbs and binding ingredient together until you get a sort of dough. Form into balls or shape into “skulls” like I did. If you want your cake pops/balls to be quite rounded, place them on a baking paper lined tray and refrigerate for a little while before inserting the sticks. I didn’t worry too much that my cake pop babies would have flat heads, so I stuck the holders in then refrigerated the whole lot. And if you’re wondering where to get the holders, here’s a secret: I used lengths of ordinary drinking straws because I wasn’t sure where to purchase the actual lollipop sticks.  As long as you don’t accidentally pinch them when holding, they’re surprisingly sturdy.

To make the skull shape, make an oval shape, then pinch near the base to form the "jaw"

Chill the cake pops for at least 10 minutes in the freezer, or longer in the fridge, melt some chocolate then dip the pops and decorate as desired. I found that the chocolate set quite quickly and found it handy to have a metal icing spatula on hand to smooth the chocolate and draw it under the base of the pop to adhere the cake to the straw. Refrigerate until ready to serve. This does cause condensation to form on your cake pop when you take it out of the fridge, but at least it eliminates the dreaded “bloom” (remember my last post?).

 To make mummies, after dipping - drag streaks of chocolate over the top of the cake pop.  I used a small metal spatula. No need to be neat, the more random, the better.

 Otherwise, drag a fork using short, sharp strokes over the pop to create a furry texture

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and thanks for sticking around. Do pop back soon!  ;P


Minding my temper – attempt number 1

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What can I say? I’m as likely as the next person to blow my lid occasionally, but not this time. Not even when things didn’t go to plan.

The temper in question is the process used to stabilise chocolate for making candy/ dipped chocolates. I’d never done it before and figured it was as good a time as any to try it out. Pushing myself for the sake of a story – ah, this is what blogging is all about ☺

I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and attempt a boiled fondant for the filling of my chocolates, as it was another thing on my “to try one day” list.

Looking good so far...

Result? Fondant = success, chocolate = tasty fail. Yes, the chocs ended up tasting fab and we hearted them (pun alert! pun alert!), but out of the twelve chocolate hearts I made, only two didn’t develop a bloom.

Wait, what's this?


There were so many variables during the chocolate tempering process, but I think the following points may have contributed to the bloom. Any chocolate experts out there care to help?

a)    useless sugar thermometer – many tempering methods I’d read recommended using an accurate thermometer. I’ve got an el-cheapo glass one that takes a little while to get up to operating temperature (pun catastrophe imminent). Perhaps it’s time to get a digital one? (Ahem, Mr. Kitchen Hand ?? Short of birthday present ideas? ;P)
b)    Poor quality chocolate? I did use couverture chocolate, but not one of any recognisable brand. I’d just picked up a bag from my local shops. Next time I think I’ll make the trek to a specialty store.
c)    I was using the “bowl set over hot water” method, and worried that the temperature would get too high if I left it there, I removed the bowl from the heat when I started dipping. I think this may have caused the temperature to drop too much, which is why the bloom occurred.
d)    All of the above?

Ah well, I’ll just have to try again to find out won’t I? I don’t think the rest of the family will mind too much!

 Never mind, I'll just close my eyes and eat you, yum, yum, yum

I attempted to temper my chocolate according to the very informative post by David Lebovitz, found here.

Here’s how I made the boiled fondant.

Almost-strawberry fondant
Adapted and halved from a Family Circle book : Sweets and Chocolates, Murdoch Books (1993).
¾ cup caster sugar
1/3 cup pure cream
2 tablespoons glucose syrup
(the recipe also called for glycerine, but I added a few drops of lemon juice instead)
To flavour  - I reduced the juice from 200g strawberries, but the flavour was too mild to compete with the dark chocolate. The recipe in the book suggested using essence, but I really dislike the aftertaste of fake essences. Extracts however, are a different matter, and next time I might have to see if I can hunt some down.
Food colouring if desired (I didn’t use any)

Start by filling a large heat proof bowl or the kitchen sink with cold water.

Place the sugar, cream, glucose syrup and a few drops of lemon juice in a heavy based saucepan and stir over medium/low heat (without boiling) until the sugar has completely dissolved. If you’re anything like me, this will cause a lot of the sugar to actually creep up the sides of the pan. Wet a pastry brush and clean up the mess. You can do the wet pastry brush thing as often as needed.

Bring the mixture to the boil and boil without stirring until the mixture reaches soft ball stage. To test, use a teaspoon to catch a bit of the mixture and drop it into a glass or bowl of cold water. The drop should settle into a sort of soft slumpy ball. If you can fish this out of the water and form it into a squishy ball, it’s ready. Careful not to burn your fingers!! The sugar mixture is very, very hot.

When ready, take the saucepan off the heat and dip the base in the sink/bowl of water to stop the sugar cooking. Add desired flavours and colours. Use electric beaters to beat the mixture until it cools and becomes opaque and crumbly. It takes a little while.

Turn the mixture out onto a work surface lightly dusted with cornflour and knead until smooth. I didn’t actually need any cornflour, I tipped my mix out onto a smooth wooden bread board and it didn’t stick after I kneaded it well.

Leave to cool completely, form into a ball and cover in plastic wrap. At this stage, I popped it in the fridge overnight, and let it come back to room temperature the next day when I wanted to use it. To use, roll out to desired thickness and cut into shapes using your favourite shaped cutters.

Dip in chocolate and set on a baking tray covered with baking paper.

Sending these hearts out to all of you in blog land. And speaking of blog love, this is a little late but I must say thank you to Jane from A Taste of Koko and Debbie from Little Red Said, for the lovely giveaways they sent my way. Big huge virtual hugs to you both. ☺

Malaysian Monday 51 : Black sesame dessert soup.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Monday all!  Yes, it’s time for Malaysian Monday again, and today’s offering is a sweet dessert soup called Chee Ma Woo/ Wu (that’s kind of how it sounds, the spelling is anyone’s guess). I think Chee Ma means black sesame, so I’m assuming the Wu would mean soup. Anyone? Anyone?

There are many sweet dessert soups in the asian home cook’s repertoire, and this one happens to be my Mum’s favourite. I personally prefer a sweet peanut soup (Fa sang wu), but still haven’t worked out how to make a non-cheating version that doesn’t use peanut butter.

I didn’t have a recipe on hand, so I searched and based my recipe on two likely candidates. What I did have however, was a secret weapon : black sesame powder. This really cuts the workload by half! I’d stumbled across this at the Asian supermarket a little while back, and had used it to flavour my Oriole macarons.

The whole soup making process was very simple, it involved soaking some rice , blending it with the black sesame, adding a bit of sugar and water, then cooking it until the desired texture was reached. Believe me when I say this recipe is extremely forgiving too.

Because it was so quick to make, I decided to add some glutinous rice balls to the soup too. Again, this is a super quick process.

But let’s get back to how forgiving the soup is. During the cooking process, I picked up some cooked glutinous rice balls, and when I went to put them down, they stuck to my fingers so I tried to get them off using the edge of a knife, then finally a chopstick. While I was busy shaking and scrabbling around with utensils, the soup had started to bubble furiously on the stove but I couldn’t stir it could I? Luckily, Mr. Kitchen Hand was home, so I yelled out and he came to stir and turn down the flame until I could get my hands free again. My hero ☺

Also, I like quite a thick soup, which is not too sweet. But when I tasted the soup, based on my estimated measurements, I discovered that the soup was actually a little too thick and needed more sugar. So I just added more water and sugar and heated it through again with no ill – effects.

What does it taste like? Well, if you like black sesame, it’s fantastic – full of that smoky, toasty flavour with just a hint of bitterness, and a rich mouthfeel. If you leave the soup until the next day, the bitterness disappears and the soup becomes richer and mellower. But like a lot of Asian desserts, this is an acquired taste and some might struggle with it…hmmm, let’s see, who comes to mind here? (Okay, I’ll let him off the hook for coming to my recue earlier).

Of course, I couldn’t resist having some fun with the soup. Perhaps you could “scare” your guests this Halloween and introduce them to some new cuisine at the same time? ☺

(Note: I stored my leftover soup in a covered airtight container in the fridge overnight. When I reheated it in the microwave the next day, it was much thicker in texture than the night before - the photos here are of the thick soup. At the end of the post is a photo taken at night of the thinner soup which I'd sieved, it is much smoother.)

It came from the black lagoon...

Have a great start to the week, and don’t forget, if you’d like to participate in our Muhibbah Malaysian Monday, please send your entries in to (sureshchong[at]yahoo[dot]com) at 3 Hungry Tummies who’ll be hosting this month. Thank you!

Black Sesame soup

Inspired by recipes found here and here.

1/4 cup rice (I used jasmine rice but I think any sort of long grain rice will do) – soaked for at least an hour. The rice should be brittle and crush easily when you rub them between your fingers. I used ½ cup water to soak.

½ cup black sesame powder (if you don’t have this, you’ll have to toast and grind your own, both the recipes I looked at have instructions on how to do it.)

Between 3 to 4 cups of water depending on your preference

About 5 tablespoons sugar (to taste) ( I used caster sugar because it melts easily. You can also use the more traditional rock sugar.)

Use a blender to grind the rice and sesame powder until fine – I added a cup of water to help. Once the mixture is as fine as can be, pass the mix through a sieve into a clean saucepan. If there are lots of bits left in the sieve, you might need to blitz that in the blender again. Otherwise, add the sugar to the mixture and about two cups of water to the pan and cook over medium heat until the mixture starts to simmer and thicken. Stir very often, continuously if possible when it starts to heat up because the rice acts as a thickener and starts clumping. Stir until smooth. If too thick add more water to thin down.

You can then dish up, or if you want a really, really smooth soup, pass it through a sieve again.

Serve warm.

Add a few glutinous rice balls to the soup if desired.

To make the rice balls, add enough water to some glutinous rice flour and knead until you get a pliable dough. I just eyeballed (heh, pun intended) my measurements, using about half a small bowl of flour and about 2 – 3 tablespoons of water (I think, maybe more).

(Sorry, night photo - if you sieve the soup, you get much smoothness)

Pinch pieces off the dough and roll into balls (or make any shape you like). Bring a saucepan of water to a rolling boil, drop a few balls into the water at a time, and when they float to the surface, scoop then out with a slotted spoon. Place on a slightly wet plate and set aside until needed. (I found that the wetness prevents the balls from sticking to the plate too much.)

To make the eyeballs, just use the end of a toothpick dipped in food colouring to put a little spot on each rice ball.