A late Daring Bakers and a move to Sin City.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Well, hello there! Almost missed you amongst all the tumbleweeds :) Thanks for coming round, I’ve made some muffins for you.

The Daring Bakers challenge this month was a quickie, which was lucky since I’ve had hardly any baking time lately. Remember how I told you that I was starting post-grad study this year? Hoo-boy, has it started! The minutes have been chewed up with reading, forum discussions and worrying about impending assignments.

Any spare time I’ve had has been spent gearing up for a big move to Singapore. (Ok, so it’s the furthest thing from the Sin City of my title, but I had to get your attention somehow.) Mr. Kitchen Hand needed to move for work, and we were up for an adventure.  We leave in four weeks! And while we’re sad to leave Sydney, we know we’ll be coming back one day.

Now, back to the challenge.

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

(For those not in the know, Lisa and her friend Ivonne originally started the Daring Bakers in 2006. The “little baking group” went from the two of them, to goodness knows how many bakers today. If you’d like to read some DB history, you can find it here).

I was almost going to give the challenge a miss as we’re not really big fans of quickbreads or muffins. (Did you know a muffin is technically a quickbread? I didn’t.)  But, I just couldn’t resist a challenge that has this as a mandatory : “Can’t take more than 1.5 hours to prepare and bake through.”

Panela, yoghurt, rhubarb and ginger muffins

So I flicked through one of my favourite baking books, and a recipe caught my eye - brown sugar and ginger muffins. Oooh, I’ve been obsessing over panela lately. Panela is a type of brown sugar, the packet description is “evaporated sugar cane juice”.  The taste is gorgeous, with lovely caramel notes and quite a complex flavour. It tastes a lot like dark palm sugar, which I adore so I have to restrain myself from eating the panela straight from the packet!

I knew MC Junior would have issues with the chunks of crystallised ginger called for in the recipe though, so I swapped the ginger for rhubarb.  But I still wanted a mild ginger flavour in there, and used some of this ginger syrup, a gift from my mum in law that I’d stashed in the cupboard one day and forgot about. (Oh the things you find when moving!).

Next, I discovered I didn’t have any buttermilk handy, so I used some plain yoghurt instead. By this stage, I’d fiddled with the recipe so much, I was quite surprised the resulting muffins actually worked! Even more surprising was how much of a hit they were, even with the usually fussy Mr. Kitchen Hand and MC Junior.

I’m not tying the recipe here because it was such a random process I’m not sure how you’ll go trying to replicate it. But if I do find time to bake these again, I’ll double check all the measurements and share. Meanwhile, why not have a look at all the other goodies baked by my fellow Daring Bakers, you might find a few good recipes there.

Take care my friends, thanks for dropping by, I am still reading your blogs if not commenting as much and I’ll try and get back here very soon!

Malaysian Monday 90: Ghee Biscuits (cookies)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy Monday everyone! Pardon the long silence, there were just too many things going on at the Skewer House. In fact, I was almost going to write off today’s Malaysian Monday post until inspiration struck.

To be honest, I struggle a bit to come up with food to feed these posts because many Malaysian dishes either take a long time to prepare or won’t be eaten by the rest of the family. Often, only MC Senior will be game enough to taste the meals, and most times, I end up being the person who has to eat it all. Great for the taste buds, not so great for the health and waistline!

Luckily, today’s treat was very well received and I won’t be bearing the brunt of all the rich ghee (clarified butter) myself :)

I’m not entirely sure whether these biscuits actually originated in Malaysia but since Mum made these almost every year during the Christmas festivities, I’m claiming them as part of the Malaysian Monday repertoire.

The handwritten recipe gave rather alarming quantities of ghee, sugar and flour (2 pounds each of the ghee and sugar, and 11 ‘tins’ of wheat flour), so I had to recalculate to make a more acceptable quantity. Also, I worked on the assumption that a tin had roughly 330ml volume,based on a condensed milk tin which was often used to measure dry ingredients. Using a conversion website, I roughly worked out that the ratios of ghee/sugar to flour was about 1 to 2. After baking, I think I could have reduced the flour a tiny bit, but overall, the taste and texture reminded me of the ghee biscuits of yore.

My mum would sometime decorate these with glace cherries or raisins, or tuck a whole almond in the middle. I kept things simple and just made balls, but added a few cloves for decoration.

The biscuits are actually incredibly simple to throw together and require no special tools, just a bowl and a spoon (or a rubber spatula if preferred). Oh, and a set of scales of course, unless you prefer to use the empty tin method ;).

Thanks for joining me today, may your week be smooth sailing and don’t forget to send any Muhibbah Malaysian Monday entries to sureshchong(at)yahoo(dot)com. Suresh, from 3 Hungry Tummies, will be hosting the next round-up.

Ghee biscuits
(these are rough measurements, you may need to tweak a little to obtain the correct texture).

100g ghee
100g caster sugar
pinch of salt
about 200g plain flour

Preheat the oven to about 180˚C. No temperatures were given in the original recipe but I opt for 180 whenever I’m in doubt. Seems to have worked so far.

Line a baking tray/ cookie sheet with baking paper.

Mix the ghee and sugar together until smooth, I just used a metal spoon for this.

Add half the flour and stir well to incorporate, then add the rest in a few batches until you get a sandy sort of dough. May not need to use all the flour. Try not the work the dough too much, I found it handy to use a rubber spatula at this point.

Pinch off bits of dough and roll into balls. Arrange on the tray, spacing the balls evenly. Decorate with glace cherries, raisins or cloves if desired. Bake for about 10 minutes or so until lightly golden.

Cool on the tray then gently remove and store in an airtight container. The texture of the biscuit will be quite fragile, which is part of its charm.

Happy “Summer of Love Cookies” Day

Monday, February 13, 2012

Or Happy Monday. Or whatever day you wish. You know, like that certain day tomorrow when couples are supposed to spend an arm and a leg on flowers and chocolates just to show how much they care ;).

As you can probably guess, I’m not really into Valentine’s day, but when I saw the gorgeous heart cookies on Anh’s blog, I just had to make them. Then, as I was surfing for cookie recipes, I found oh-too-cute holiday ice box cookies on Martha Stewart. The recipe there mentions that the ice box cookies are just prettified sugar cookies, so I used my own go-to sugar cookie recipe (the recipe that came out of the box of Star Wars cookie cutters from Williams Sonoma).

In case you're wondering what those flecks in the cookie are, I replaced about 1/3 of the plain flour with wholemeal flour.

I can’t wait to experiment with more patterns and words, and one day hopefully when I haven’t got computer fatigue, I’ll even try to put together a tutorial on how I did the words. In the meantime here’s a rough drawing of how I did the letters “M” and “I” and hopefully you can figure out the rest.


Have a great start to the week and Malaysian Monday will appear soon (hopefully). My pal Suresh from 3 Hungry Tummies will be hosting the next round-up, so please send your entries to sureshchong(at)yahoo(dot)com.

Muhibbah Malaysian Monday Round Up 19

Monday, February 6, 2012

Happy Monday everyone and welcome to the first Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up for the year.  To be honest, I was really nervous around the middle of Jan because I’d only received one entry. Everyone was obviously busy with holidays or New Year preparations or getting back to school and work.

But I shouldn’t have underestimated you folks - much to my relief, there was a flurry of last minute entries, so thank you one and all for a stellar effort. You guys rock!

I’ve made a minor change in the way I lay out the entries this time. In the spirit of being truly Muhibbah, entries containing pork will have a “non-halal” title attached to it. Thanks for your understanding :)

So, let’s look at the goodies.

Oh dear, oh dear, I am so sorry to have accidentally missed out Kristy from My Little Space one of our staunchest supporters. She always sends in an entry or two, and actually this time, she sent in four! So, to make amends, I'm adding these to the round-up right now. Sorry again dear Kristy.

Kristy loves to experiment, and here is a very interesting "noodle" soup. It's actually a sweet dessert soup, and the "noodles" are flavoured with boysenberry and black sesame.

I'm sure you've heard of gnocchi before. Well, Kristy made Chinese gnocchi,  using sweet potatoes. Very interesting indeed!

You can tell this lady loves sweet potato, because the next entry is a snack made from the tuber : Sweet Potato Kuih.

And finally, she takes a walk down memory lane then whips up a Butter mushroom side dish during the Chinese New Year celebrations.

There were many Chinese New Year delicacies on offer for this round of MMM, and I loved the sound of these Savoury Chicken Crispies by Cheah of No Frills Recipe. These biscuits (cookies) contain a very interesting flavouring agent, see if you can guess what it is. (I’ll give you a clue, it’s not actually chicken!).

Vivian, from Vivian Pang Kitchen also used a couple of unusual ingredient’s in her MMM offering. These Golden Angkoo contains pumpkin and peanut cookies. Curious? Go check out her blog to find out more!

Our dear supporter Gertrude from My Kitchen Snippets contributed two tasty treats and has been blogging even without an internet connection in her home. She’s truly a trooper! These Oven baked five spice chicken look amazing.

And I’m craving these meaty spring rolls too!

Our friend Makcik Manggis (Aunty Mangosteen) joined us with three entries this time! Terima kasih (thank you) Makcik Manggis. Aunty blogs in Bahasa Malaysia, but I’m sure you can get the gist of her posts by using Google translate.

There are delicious Kuih Bahulu to be had, made especially for Chinese New Year.

Then feast your eyes on crisp
Goreng Pisang (Fried Bananas). It looks like she dips her fried bananas in spicy sauce on the side.

Or for something savoury, try the Kuih Cara. It sounds delicious.

Shannon from Just as Delish joins us again (*waves at Shannon*), also with three delectable goodies.

I can’t wait to try these   Black Sesame Snacks. Shannon calls them snacks, but they look like sweet, tempting candy!

Shannon also cooked (or well, uncooked, since it’s raw) home made Yee Sang. A must have dish during New Year celebrations. I didn’t realise how do-able it is at home. Thanks Shannon.

*non-halal entry* And then, feast your eyes on these  home made bak kwa, which is a kind of sweetish dried meat, also another must have for New Year. I admire this lady’s dedication to her food :)

Actually, aren’t we all dedicated to food?  I know my partner in this Muhibbah Malaysian Monday caper certainly is! Suresh from 3 Hungry Tummies fronted up with 3 amazing entries.

First a slightly unusual sounding dish called Marmite Chicken. It might sound a bit odd but definitely looks very appetizing.

He also made one of my favourite comfort foods ever: Hainanese Chicken Rice. Oh yum!

Actually he made two types of Chicken Rice, the first one being Nasi Ayam Panggang, or Roast Chicken Rice.

And if rice is not your thing, how about some Hokkien Prawn Noodles? Doesn’t it look good?

Thanks again lovely bloggers of the world for participating in our Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up. We cannot do this without your support. So keep those entries coming, and the next round-up (number 20) will be hosted by Suresh of 3 Hungry Tummies. Send your entries to sureshchong(at)yahoo(dot)com.

Take care and have a great start to the week!

It’s my party, and it’ll rain if it wants to...

Friday, February 3, 2012

What do you do when you’ve invited a dozen kids to an outdoor beach themed party, and the weather just doesn’t co-operate? If they’re a sporting bunch of 9 year olds, you carry on anyway!

This is exactly what we had to do for MC Senior’s birthday party a couple of weekends ago. Because we’re in temporary digs without a usable outdoor area, we hoped for the best when we sent out the invitations asking everyone to meet at the nearby beach. As the guests started to arrive, the first drops of rain began to fall and by the time everyone had turned up, the heavens opened up and we were soaked to the skin.

Beach bucket cake with  sugar cookie crumb "sand". The rocks and flip flops are built up from cake too.

I madly rushed around grabbing food and anything that needed to be kept dry, while Mr. Kitchen Hand marshalled the girls and started the games we’d planned.  As I trudged back and forth to our apartment with the rescued party fare, I heard shrieks of laughter from the happy bunch. There was SO. MUCH. SQUEALING! Unfortunately, it was too wet to take any photos, but take it from me, relay races are infinitely more fun when it’s wet. The beach bag relay turned out to be the clear favourite of the day. (I got the idea from here. We used adult sized board shorts, flip-flops and a hat. They had to run to a finish line, unfurl a beach towel, dress up with the items from the bag, sit on the towel then repack the beach bag and run back to the team).

After the games were over, the sodden bunch made their way to our apartment, towelled off and hit the party food. I have never seen so many cookies disappear so quickly! Then, to make sure we got enough sugar into them, we took the girls up to the ice-cream bar a few doors away and let them choose their own flavours. And just to round off the sugar high, we pulled out cake and jelly :) (In my defense, there were cheese sandwiches and some fruit on offer too, so the major food groups were covered ok?).

Beach ball cookies

Sea shell shaped meringues


Since it was a beachy/ tropical theme, I thought these ham, pineapple and cheese skewers would be fun. Great idea in theory but 9 year old girls just think it's a bit weird. Ah well, I tried. 

By this stage, we didn’t care a hoot about how wet it was, so we handed round water squirters and set them loose just outside the front door. Of course, as these things go, this is when the parents started to arrive for pick-up, and the kids took great delight in trying to soak mum or dad (or brothers).

Lolly boxes. I filled these with a few treats including bags of sea glass candy. The pattern for these great boxes can be found here


 Obsessive? Moi?

So, if you’re planning a party this weekend, don’t let the weather get you down. It might just turn into one of the most chaotic yet memorable parties you’ve ever had!

Have a great weekend :)