Malaysian Monday 63: Pandan Chiffon Cake (attempt number one)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Happy Monday everyone.

Chiffon cake doesn’t sound particularly Malaysian does it? In fact, when I leafed through my Cake Bible, I discovered that the chiffon cake was created by a Californian named Harry Baker, in 1927.

But pandan (screwpine) flavoured chiffon cake is definitely a Malaysian bakery staple, and one of the earliest cakes I remember eating. The airy light texture probably goes down well in the tropical heat. It certainly feels tropical at the moment, we’re sweltering today! It looks like temperatures in the high 30’s will be here all week too (that’s about 90 degrees and climbing for you Fahrenheiters).

Enough about the weather, back to my attempt at chiffon cake. I say attempt because I’m quite undecided about the end result. I probably wouldn’t have posted this if I had something else up my sleeve, but it's the first day of school, and I got nothin’ I tell ya, nothin’.

Actually, the overall texture is ethereal, and when I opened the container the cake was stored in, a waft of gorgeous pandan aroma hit me, so no complaints there. But I think the recipe didn’t have enough flour or sugar in it. When I tasted a little bit of the cake as it first came out of the oven, I thought it was very bland, but like a lot of cakes, the flavour developed after standing (overnight in this case). To my tastebuds, it’s still not quite sweet enough. Also, it’s a little “eggy” which I don’t mind too much but it is noticeable.

Also, I didn’t have a “proper” chiffon cake pan, which is taller than the one I used, but this wasn’t really an issue.

Still, even though the cake isn’t as sweet as I would have liked, MC Junior and I are actually enjoying it a lot. “Like eating clouds,” she said.  Plus I’m telling myself it’s relatively healthy too (one can dream right?). MC Senior however, ate some, but rejected a second helping saying it “tastes like omelette.”

The recipe came from one of mum's notebooks. While I was looking, I found this book that I'd made for her to copy recipes down in. Can't remember how old I was, but I used an exercise book and stuck on photos I'd cut out of the newspaper.

I’ll definitely try this one again and tweak the recipe to see if I can get it perfect. I probably should have looked at the Cake Bible before I made the cake rather than after!

Anyway, I’ll tell you my ingredient list just in case anyone can figure out exactly what needs changing.

3 tbsp sugar (I’d already increased this from the original 2 1/2)
3 tablespoons SR flour (I used leftover home made cake flour, from the Daring Bakers challenge, and added baking powder)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
4 tablespoons thick coconut milk (infused with chopped pandan leaves)
about 6 or 7 frozen pandan leaves (probably need less if they are fresh) - the leaves are meant to be pounded and the juice extracted, but I still haven’t gotten around to replacing my broken mortar and pestle, so I choppped the leaves finely and infused them in slightly warmed coconut milk)
6 eggs separated
(the recipe also calls for cream of tartar but I didn’t have any)

Thanks for visiting today’s Malaysian Monday installment. If you’d like to join me and Suresh from 3 Hungry Tummies, send your entries to its(dot)sharon(at)gmail(dot)com. I’ll be hosting the round-up next Monday. To find out more about the Muhibbah Malaysian Monday blog event, click here.

And before I go, I’d like to send a wish out to all my friends who will be celebrating the lunar new year.  “Gong Xi Fa Cai!” , may you have a very happy and prosperous new year ahead.

Setting a pattern for procrastination? (Daring Bakers Jan 2011)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sigh, if January is anything to go by, my ability to meet deadlines for the rest of the year is looking rather slim. As you all know, the posting/ reveal date for the Daring Bakers challenge is on the 27th of each month.

Guess what I was doing on the 27th? If you’d guessed “just starting my challenge”, then you would be right.

Luckily, this month’s challenge looks tricky but is actually very simple to make as promised by our host. And with that, let’s cue the blog-checking lines.

 The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

A jo-what? An entre-why?

If, like me, your French is a little rusty, here’s what the challenge means (as explained by our lovely host.  

“A joconde imprime (French Baking term) is a decorative design baked into a light sponge cake providing an elegant finish to desserts/torts/entremets/ formed in ring molds. A joconde batter is used because it bakes into a moist, flexible cake. The cake batter may be tinted or marbleized for a further decorative effect.

Entremets (French baking term)- an ornate dessert with many different layers of cake and pastry creams in a mold, usually served cold.”

Ah, sponge cake I could do. And as mentioned earlier, it takes hardly any time to whip up. This sponge cake has an added decorative "layer" that eventually forms the base for the finished dessert.

 Decor paste : Piped onto baking paper
Slightly wrinkled finished sponge

Check out the recipe either at accro, or at the Daring Kitchen. A few modifications I made to the recipe:

1) I used 3oz of each ingredient/ 3 eggwhites for the decor paste, instead of 7 eggwhites. This still yielded a LOT of decor paste for my purposes.

2)I used baking paper as I don’t own a silpat, and it worked fine but looked a little “wrinkled”. Hardly noticeable in the finished dessert though.

3) The recommended baking time seems very long, especially at that high temperature. I only needed about 8 minutes for my sponge, but I did spread the batter really thinly.

(edit) 4) I made the decor paste first, then made the sponge batter while the decor layer was chilling in the freezer.

The decor paste ready to go.

Once the spongy outside is made, we needed to mould it and fill it. I decided to make 3 mini cakes, and since I was pressed for time, I went with a really simple filling using super-stabilised whipped cream (300 ml thick cream with liquid gelatin added, then whipped), a raspberry puree, mango puree and pistachio nut “paste”. For the fruit purees, I smooshed some fruit through a sieve and cooked over low heat with a bit of sugar until a thick jammy puree happened. (I was cooking on the fly here, so no measurements, sorry).

 As for the pistachios, I was aiming for pistachio butter, but could only find salted pistachios which are quite expensive. So I bought only a small bag, painstakingly peeled each one, then bunged the lot in the food processor, and added a couple of tablespoons of  honey to loosen. There weren’t quite enough nuts to be blended properly, so the resulting nutty paste wasn’t very smooth. But it was very yummy!

In fact, the whole cake was very delish and it’s something I would definitely do again especially if I wanted an impressive make-ahead dessert.

My last minute effort was kind of cute but hardly what I would term elegant. For beautiful versions of the challenge, do check out the other Daring Bakers, who started their challenge at a much more sensible time.

Have a great weekend! I’ll be using the time to procrastinate harder. Or maybe I'll just eat more cake :)

A passion for macarons

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I’m late! I’m late! I’m almost very late!

Squeaking in with a last minute entry for this month’s Mactweet #15 project.  Find some macinspiration, said Deeba and Jamie. “Combine or integrate your macarons into any dessert, making it a new part of an old favorite, or turn your macarons into your favorite dessert,” said the post.

Sorry, but inspiration don’t live round here no more.

Actually, it’s probably just gone on holiday along with the rest of my brain.

But wait, what’s this? It’s an Australian public holiday tomorrow - a day when pavlova and lamingtons will be out in force.  Well then, I think my pavlova inspired, passionfruit ice-cream sandwich macaron will feel right at home then.

The passionfruit ice-cream recipe is from The Perfect Scoop (by David Lebovitz). I’d been itching to make something from the book ever since I received it from my almost (just a technicality) sister-in-law for Christmas.  Even without an ice-cream machine, the ice-cream turned out beautifully creamy and oh-so-zingy. It was also very simple to pull together, I just needed to remember to beat it a couple of times so that it didn’t freeze solid. (You can find some tips on how to make ice-cream without a machine here).

For the macarons, I finally unwrapped my copy of the most recent Larousse Gastronomique (English translation). I’ve mentioned previously that I don’t actually buy cookbooks on a whim, but just couldn’t resist when I saw this one on sale for half price.

The first entry I turned to? Macarons of course. Oh wait, they call them macaroons here. I double checked, perhaps macaron came later? Nope, there’s macaroni, but no macaron. I read through the method. Yes, sounded like macarons alright.

Ok, so I’m no expert, but I thought macaron (single “O”) was the proper French term for these little morsels. There’s even been newspaper articles about it. And I thought macaroons referred to something else entirely  - those chewy coconut and egg white concoctions.

Feeling curious, I of course turned to Google, and found this very informative post about the book. Recommended reading if you’re thinking about buying yourself a copy.

My curiosity still slightly piqued, I decided to follow the given recipe to see what type of macarons they produced. Not wanting to waste 7 egg whites as required, I reduced the quantities to: 140g icing sugar, 80g ground almonds and 60g eggwites (based on the assumption that 30g = 1 eggwhite) and added a teeny bit of grated orange zest for flavour.

The instructions were very brief , to paraphrase : sift icing sugar and almonds together, beat egg whites till stiff, sprinkle the icing sugar over eggwhites and fold in. Pipe circles and leave to set for 15 minutes. No mention of lava-like flow, no mention of pulsing icing sugar and almond meal together in food processor, no mention of ageing eggwhites. (All of which I did anyway).

I baked the first tray at 150˚C as recommended, and ended up with frilly footed, browned macaron shells. Oops, I rechecked the instructions, and I’d missed the part where they recommended leaving the oven door ajar when baking.

Tray 1

For the second tray, I covered the rack above the tray with some baking paper, and slipped an oven glove in between the oven seal and the door for the duration on baking. This time, the feet behaved better and I had less browning.

The resulting shells were very, very delicate and slightly chewier than the ones I’ve made using the Italian meringue method. I’ve never been to Ladurée but I’m guessing these shells are what proper French macaron shells should feel like.



And here endeth my foray into the geeky side of macaron baking.

MC Senior didn’t really care what they are called, she just enjoyed sinking her teeth into them :)

Malaysian Monday 62: Butter Prawns with egg floss

Monday, January 24, 2011

Happy Monday everyone.

Apologies for the slack blog updating, we’re still operating in school holiday mode. Plus, we’ve had the added time-drain of having to pack up and completely empty the MC’s bedroom of furniture over the weekend. Long story short, we had a leak in that bedroom, and now it’s fixed, but the carpet and the walls were torn up and cut into. The very kind builders are now repainting and laying new carpet in there, so we’re trying to keep out of their way.

Luckily, I had prepared today’s Malaysian Monday offering sometime last week. It’s a restaurant dish I’d been craving for a very long time but didn’t think it was something I could replicate at home. But finally, I plucked up the courage and armed myself with a very good recipe from my cyber-friend Makcik Manggis (Aunty Mangosteen).

Apart from almost setting fire to a plate of prawns, the actual cooking process was pretty uneventful and not too difficult. However you will definitely need a wok for this because I don’t think a frying pan will hold enough oil for the egg floss, nor provide the right kind of heat for the actual cooking of the prawns.  My egg floss wasn’t quite as delicate or crisp as the restaurant version (because I didn’t use enough oil), but the overall result tasted pretty spot-on. Mr Kitchen Hand, who isn’t really a seafood kind of guy, makes an exception for butter prawns, and he declared them just as he remembered.

Careful of kitchen paper overhang when approaching gas burner and wok. Mr Kitchen Hand was urging me to toss the whole plate into the sink but no way was I losing the prawns! Luckily, I grabbed a damp tea towel and disaster was averted.

I’ll definitely be cooking this again, but only for special occasions (who wants to come around for dinner?) rather than an everyday dish because 4 egg yolks and half a kilogramme of prawns is rather extravagant for just the two of us :). We did save half of the prawns for lunch the next day and they came up surprisingly good after re-heating in the microwave. The egg floss did get soggy, but the taste was probably even better than the night before. I would also cook this outside on my barbeque, which has a wok ring on it, because the smell of cooked prawns and oil does linger a bit.

Thank you to all of you who’ve sent in entries for our Muhibbah Malaysian Monday #7, and a huge welcome to the newcomers. If you’d like to take part, there is still plenty of time, I will be hosting the round-up on the first Monday in February, so send your links to its(dot)sharon(at)gmail(dot)com. You can find out a little more about the event here, and I trust you  have “met” my wonderful co-host Suresh from 3 Hungry Tummies.

Have a great week, now I’d better hurry up and finish my Mactweet entry and my Daring Bakers challenge, busy, busy, busy. Of course I’ll give you the butter prawns recipe before I go :)

Usually I don’t repost recipes if they are already written out on another blog, but for the benefit of my non-Malay speaking readers, I’ve translated the recipe into English. I’ll give you the measurements that Makcik Manggis used, but I actually didn’t measure out the oil and butter, I just eyeballed them. I really liked that this recipe didn’t actually use too much butter and still tasted fantastic.

Butter prawns with egg floss
(translated and adapted from Makcik Manggis)
Prepare all your ingredients before hand and have them ready to go, because once you start, you can’t really stop to hunt for missing ingredients. Make the egg floss first, keep warm, then cook the prawns.

For the egg floss:
4 egg yolks
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I just eyeballed this measurement)

Prepare a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain the egg floss.

Heat the butter and the oil in a wok until hot (but not smoking). Carefully drizzle the beaten egg yolks into the hot oil, in a thin stream. When the eggs hit the oil, you need to stir it around so they don’t clump together. We’re aiming for fine strands here.

Cook until the egg floss is golden - this happens quite quickly, watch and don’t let it burn. Stir continuously.

My egg floss foamed quite dramatically so if you are trying to do this without a wok, make sure your frying pan has high sides, or do it in batches.

Remove the egg floss and drain on kitchen paper, set aside to keep warm, try not to think about cholesterol levels.

For the prawns
500g raw prawns - devein but leave the head and shells on
enough oil and a little butter for frying the prawns - Makcik Manggis used 3  tbsp butter and 2 cups of vegetable oil, but I didn’t need this much for the prawns because I did them in batches.

Prepare another kitchen paper lined plate.

I reused the wok after frying the eggs, I just drained the oil and wiped it clean. Heat the oil and fry the prawns in batches until just cooked or done to your liking. My tastebuds have changed since moving to Oz, and now I like my prawns just done/ cooked through. Malaysians tend to cook the prawns very well, and it will have a slightly tougher texture this way. Either way is equally delicious in my book.

The final step
 2 stalks fresh curry leaf
1/2 tsp butter (I added a touch of vegetable oil as well to stop it from browning and burning too quickly)
water if needed
2 small red birds eye chillies (cili api) - Makcik Manggis used 6 but I’m not that brave :)
3- 4  tbsp evaporated milk - I just eyeballed this too. I don’t think fresh milk will work, I think it would “split”.
1 tbsp caster sugar/ table sugar.
salt to taste.

Clean the wok thoroughly then heat the butter and oil. Toss in the curry leaf and chillies and stir until fragrant, add a dash of water if necessary - I didn’t need to. Add the milk, it will bubble and start to catch. Reduce heat if necessary and stir well. The milk should have started to reduce quickly, so add in the prawns and give it a good stir to coat in the sauce. Then add in the egg floss, give it a good stir, sprinkle with sugar and salt to taste then dish up.

Serve with rice and a quick stir-fried leafy green. Huge yum!

Twas brillig and the slithy toves*

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe
*(Jabberwocky, from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872, by Lewis Carroll)

It started with an invitation : Save the date! Don’t be late! There’s going to be a party in Wonderland for (MC Senior)’s unBirthday. Put on your party frocks and head down the rabbit hole to help her celebrate.

Milk based lollies found in Asian supermarket. Perfect eh?

It ended with the slaying of the Jabberwock.

The MCs helped make a pinata out of papier mache in the week before the party. At the end of the party, we sent all the guests out to "slay" the jabberwock. We kitted them out in a special helmet (colander) and sword (wooden spoon with a bit of foil on the spoon end). It was hilarious!

 After you successfully slay the jabberwock, you can wear it as a trophy

In between, there was a tea party with jam tarts, sugar cookies, snapdragonflies, bread and butterflies, currant buns, caterpillars (celery sticks with peanut butter, modified “ants on a log”) and humpty dumptys (hard boiled eggs).

We held the tea party outdoors. I don't usually do too much decorating but I've seen these pom-pom flowers on lots of blogs lately, and found a great tutorial here (Martha Stewart). They were so simple to make. I wired them onto some thin branches I'd save from pruning a shrub in the garden)

A sheet of muslin over the top acted as a canopy. I bought muslin (cheesecloth) because I figured I could always reuse it in the kitchen. Each child had a tea cup they could use then take home. I scoured op-shops (charity shops) for tea-ups in the lead up to the party. 

 Snapdragonflies - in the book, a snapdragonfly is described as an insect having the body of a plum pudding and a flaming raisin for a head. I made chocolate cake balls, decorated to look like puddings, used flaked almonds for wings, and a chocolate coated raisin for the head.

They made mad hats, played croquet, and various other “teacup” games. (There are some great ideas at this website).

Wanna play? A cardboard tube (from a roll of brown paper), an old sock stuffed with newspaper and coloured card make a great croquet mallet.

Can't be seen from this angle but the "hoops" are card men, bending over backwards. The ball is an old tennis ball with a face and hedgehog spikes drawn on.

To finish it all off, we had cake.


 and Cards

and dormouse

The mad hatter attended of course!

And just like that, my little baby is now an eight year old. I know it’s a cliche, but it really does go too quickly.

Malaysian Monday 61: Sardine Curry

Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy Monday everyone. How was the weekend?

We’re still enjoying our summer holidays which is great for the soul but not so great for the motivation. Meals are simple and quick affairs, pulled together after a day at the beach or the pool. Baking has taken a back seat, and I’ve only churned out some treats when “forced” to, for MC Senior’s birthday party on the weekend.

I even put off going to the shops for as long as possible, which is how today’s meal came about. While rummaging through the pantry looking for inspiration, I found a can of sardines. Aha! Dinner and Malaysian Monday sorted in one go, my kind of dish. Allow me to introduce the Sardine Curry.

 If you're lucky enough to have leftover roti, you can serve that with sardine curry too.

This happens to be one of my dad’s favourite meals, and I think Malaysians will have seen this dish in one form or another. It’s quick, simple and most importantly tasty.

Here’s my version of Sardine Curry:

1 stalk lemongrass (white part only, bashed with the back of a knife so it’s bruised)
Half a large spanish onion (or use a few french eschallots if you prefer) - slice into rings then dice, leave a few rings aside to add texture.
1 sprig fresh curry leaf (strip the little leaves off the stalk)
1 heaped tsp curry powder mixed with a little water to form a thick paste. (Technically, I should have used curry powder meant for fish, but I didn’t have any on hand, so I used all purpose curry powder)
1 can of sardines in tomato sauce (I used a 215g can)
enough coconut milk to taste (optional - I used about 2 tablespoons)
3 dried red chillies - or chilli powder can be used instead

     Heat a little oil in a wok or large frying pan, then fry the diced onions until soft and starting to brown slightly. Toss in the lemongrass, curry leaves, dried chillies and the onion rings. Fry until fragrant, keep stirring often. Add the curry powder paste, stir well, then add the sardines in, sauce and all, and the coconut milk if using. Reduce heat and simmer the sardines gently for about 10-15 minutes or so, until it “looks done”. When I say “looks done”, I mean that the sauce has changed colour from reddish to brownish, and thickened a little. Some oil may also rise to the top.

Serve with steamed rice and a side dish or two. Makes enough for 2 adults for one meal (or for 1 adult for two meals).

Another not very pretty dish I'm afraid.

Now I’m off to the beach, see you soon.

Before I forget,  I’m hosting Muhibbah Malaysian Monday #7. Please do join in and send your entries to its(dot)sharon(at)gmail(dot)com. Muhibbah Monday is a blog event that I co-host with Suresh from 3 Hungry Tummies, and you can find more info here.

Uninvited guests and Monsters

Thursday, January 13, 2011

This could have been a post about how my most recent cookbook purchase was completely influenced by food bloggers. It may come as a surprise to you but I don’t purchase cookbooks very often (food magazines are another story altogether). Mostly I get cookbooks as gifts, or in this case, a book voucher for my birthday. Thanks to Dessert Girl and Hungry Dog, I decided to snap up a copy of Baked: New Frontiers in Baking when I saw it at Borders.

But this will not be such a post.

This could have been a post about how much I loved the Monster Cookies from the book, and how I agonised about whether to post the recipe here on my blog. I did only make 3/5 of it and painstakingly converted all the measurements to metric (thanks to this site), but I didn’t think that counted as “adapting a recipe”. Posts like this one scared me, even though I wasn’t going to try and claim the Monster Cookie recipe as my own. I would be utterly mortified if I unintentionally committed the major food-blogging faux pas of not attributing recipes properly.

But this will not be such a post.

This could have been a post about how much I love peanut butter and M&Ms and how the Monster Cookie is probably the most awesomest cookie I have ever made because it contains both those ingredients. Actually it also contains oats and chocolate chips, making it a super-hybrid oatmeal, choc-chip, peanut cookie.

But this will not be such a post.

And this will not even be a post about why I have suddenly started calling biscuits/ biccies “cookies” instead. (Blame it on Sesame Street).

This post is about a Possum.

A very determined possum who made it his mission to eat as many Monster Cookies as he could when our backs were turned.

Actually, my back wasn’t even at home at the time. See, I had left a tray of cookies cooling in the kitchen, then dashed out the door for a girls night out.

Mr. Kitchen Hand’s back was having a bath (tmi? sorry), which is when the possum struck. It snuck into the kitchen, knocked over a bread bin and climbed onto the kitchen counter.

When Mr. Kitchen Hand decided to investigate the crash, he found the cheeky possum happily helping itself to as many Monster Cookies as possible. They stared at each other for a moment, then the possum nonchalantly went back to eating the cookie in its hand! It only ran away when yelled at.

But it didn’t stay away for long!

Twenty minutes later, when Mr. Kitchen Hand was watching television, our dear possum friend snuck back in and started wrestling with a clear container holding some cookies I’d made and put away earlier in the day.

This time, Mr Kitchen Hand had to wave a broom at it to get it to leave.

After I got home from dinner and had a laugh at the story,  I put it out of my mind and started checking email. Imagine my surprise when I heard a thumping on the glass sliding doors (which were now shut tight). Looking up, I saw the possum, up on two legs, flattened against the glass, like a kid with its nose pressed against a bakery window!

I tried to take a photo and this is the best I could do, but at least it shows you we didn’t dream it all up.

Monster Cookies, endorsed by possums everywhere!

And mini-critics.