Showing posts with label dessert. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dessert. Show all posts

Dragon jelly

Thursday, June 13, 2013

(Day 13  of the blogging blitz. If you’ve just joined us, I’m on a mission to get that ol’ blogging mojo back by attempting to post daily for 30 days.)

Or how to turn a fail into a win.

So, when I told you about the chocolate slice yesterday, I neglected to mention the not-quite-right dragon fruit sauce attempt. Unfortunately, I didn’t cook the sauce down enough and ended up with dragonfruit flavoured sweet water.

To be honest, I find dragon fruit quite bland and pretty much avoid it. MC Junior however loves it, I think more for the novelty value of having pink stained lips. The striking colour of this dragon fruit really adds a “pop” to fruit platters. I bet it would make a good addition to salsa too. But be careful when handling it, the juice can stain.

Ain't it pretty? There is a white fleshed version of dragon fruit. It's hard to tell from the outside because they look similar, best to ask the fruit shop person.

Since it was another sweltering day today, I decided to turn the fruit into a cooling agar dessert.

Basically it’s just “jelly/jello” made with agar instead of gelatin. I found these dried agar strands at the shops one day and just had to pick them up. These strands were what we used to make agar-agar throughout my childhood. When we moved to Australia, I couldn’t find these and had to use agar powder instead. I always thought the jelly made from that powder didn’t feel quite “right”. I’m not sure if it’s just in my mind or the strength of nostalgia playing tricks on my tastebuds.

Dry strands

Agar strands after soaking

Anyway, the jelly is super easy to make and requires minimal ingredients. If you can’t find dragon fruit, feel free to substitute with any fruit you prefer. And unlike gelatin, you don’t really have to worry about fruit like pineapple as can be seen in this post. I had read that vinegar could interfere with the setting of agar, so out of curiosity I placed a ladleful of the hot agar liquid into a bowl and added a teaspoonful of apple cider vinegar. It set with no problems at all. If you do have troubles setting the agar, chances are it wasn’t boiled enough or maybe more agar was needed.

Agar with vinegar. Set without a problem.


Agar with dragonfruit and orange - a simple guide, feel free to mix it up.

(This will give a fairly firmly set agar which is how we usually eat it. For something wobblier, you’d have to used more water. However, I don’t think agar and gelatin are comparable, they both have a different mouthfeel so I prefer to stick with the firm texture.)

approx. 10-12g agar strands (if using powder, check the ratios on the packaging)
5 cups water
1 cup caster sugar (adjust to taste)
3 pandan (screwpine) leaves to scent the water. If unavailable, you could use vanilla or ginger or any other aromatic
1 small orange, peeled, segmented and cut into small pieces
1/2 a red dragonfruit (cut into small pieces)
extra water for soaking the agar (this water will be discarded so measurements don’t matter)

Pandan leaves - I was given three "baby" plants for my balcony. Yay

Prepare some clean moulds for the finished agar, any heatproof container will do. I used some glasses and a round cake tin.

If using agar strands, wash lightly and soak in cold water. Boil the 5 cups of water and pandan leaves together and when simmering, add the drained agar strands. Stir well until agar dissolves. Bring back to the boil and simmer for a minute or two, stirring well. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.

Remove from heat, fish out the leaves and pour the agar into moulds. When slightly cool, add the pieces of fruit - keep an eye on the agar as it sets quite quickly Chill until firm. Tastes best when thoroughly chilled.


Sweet wishes

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Not many more sleep to go now! The MC’s are fizzing with excitement, counting down the days, willing them to go faster. They have been itching to pack their bags and begin the trip down to Nana and Pop Hand’s place for Christmas.

But I can’t leave without a Christmas greeting can I? And what better way to do so than with some sweet candy cane macarons. This month, the ladies behind Mactweets gave us a very fitting challenge. “Seasons and Holidays” - a theme we had free reign to interpret as we wished.

 Initially, I had lots of ideas, but time was against me. And since deciding to take a stand against the usual end of year franticness, I took it easy and picked a tried and true recipe (from Adriano Zumbo, found here at Gourmet Traveller). I did make a couple of changes - instead of dividing the batter and colouring one part red, I used the brush striping technique (as seen on my first Christmas macs a couple of years ago). The macarons were piped in the usual round shape instead of candy cane shapes suggested in the recipe. For the filling, I already had some chocolate ganache on hand, so I melted down a candy cane and added that to the ganache along with a drop or two of peppermint oil.

I do have to come clean though. The other reason I picked this recipe was the fact that it used the more stable Italian method. Usually, I prefer the French method, it’s quicker and yields more delicate macarons (I think). But having suffered a massive fail earlier when attempting to bake a large batch of macarons for Mr. Kitchen Hand to take to work, I needed a confidence boost! I must have calculated the ratios wrong with that batch because the trays of macs looked as if they’d been through an earthquake. for the hills!

Don’t worry, none of those failed macs went to waste. I took 250g of the macarons, blitzed them finely in the food processor, then mixed this with 1 egg, 70g plain flour, 90g butter, 90g creme fraiche and 1 tsp baking powder. Ta-dah! The “Failed Macaron Cake” was born.   To ice, I simply melted some white chocolate, let it cool a little, then beat it into butter and icing sugar. Sorry, no measurements, I was just flying blind.

The cake went down very well, and my dear friend K insists I find another name for it as she thinks “Failed Macaron Cake” doesn’t do it justice :) And speaking of friends, to all of you out there in blog land, however you are celebrating (or not celebrating) this Christmas, have a safe and happy holiday, may you be surrounded by the people you love.

See you after the break, I should be back (if all things work out) on Daring Bakers reveal day.

Gratuitous photo of the MCs. They'd decided they wanted freckles, if you look closely, they've given themselves some with the aid of a texta!

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night" 

Malaysian Monday : Who’s got the peanut?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Monday everyone. I was hoping my experiment over the weekend would provide the results I’d hoped for, but alas, third time unlucky.

But let’s start from the beginning. What was I attempting to make? A sweet peanut dessert soup we call  “Fa Sang Wu”. Every time I’ve asked for a recipe from my Mum, she’d tell me to use peanut butter. But being stubborn, I wanted to make it properly, from scratch.

So, for attempt number one, I patiently roasted peanuts, then blended them with some water, then boiled the mixture for over an hour with added sugar to taste. The result? Only passable soup. While the flavour was great, the texture was completely wrong. The soup I wanted to make should have been silky smooth, with no traces of lumps or grittiness.

Peanut butter soup on right

Texture fail

Out of sheer frustration, I made the peanut butter version. I melted 1/4 cup peanut butter in about a cup of hot water, stirred in enough sugar to taste, then simmered it on the stove to warm through, and added half a teaspoon of cornflour to thicken. This time, the texture was perfect, but the flavour was nowhere near the real thing. I’m a huge fan of peanut butter, but no way - this wasn’t going to cut it.

For the third attempt, I soaked a cupful of blanched peanuts overnight, then boiled the peanuts in about 3 cups of water for an hour and a half, then used the stick blender to blend it. I added some brown sugar and caster sugar to taste, and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, the texture was again a let down. Coarse and gritty.

Last attempt, not too bad but not really right either. Sigh.

As it turns out, making peanuts go all soft and silky isn’t that easy. Either chemical help in the form of alkali water (see this post at Lily’s blog), or mechanical intervention in the form of a pressure cooker (this post on Rasa Malaysia) is needed.  Ah well, I’ll stick to salted peanuts from now on then ;)

This is probably my last Malaysian Monday for the year unless I can rustle up something between now and Christmas. Thank you everyone for coming along for the ride. Remember, my friend Suresh over at 3 Hungry Tummies will be hosting the December Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up, so please send all entries over to sureshchong(at)yahoo(dot)com.

Keeping Cool

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ahem. So, Malaysian Monday was not just late, it was sort of non-existent. Actually, I was trialling something which didn’t quite work out but I do hope to try it again over the weekend. In the meantime, here’s a little something I prepared earlier.

I saw this layered ice-cream cake on the cover of the latest ABC Delicious magazine, and couldn’t wait to try it out. The visiting in-laws provided an excellent excuse even though the weather wouldn’t cooperate.

For something that looks so impressive, it’s actually very simple to make and requires no churning! I’m all for keeping it easy right now.  At the start of the year, there are always grand plans for getting really organised by December. Forget sugarplums, visions of perfect hand made gifts all wrapped and ready, dance in my head. A list of things I must. bake. this. year. grows and grows.

Then reality hits. Activities pile up, unexpected situations crop up (as they will), and I find myself getting really stressed.  And judging by the aggressiveness on the roads and in the shopping centre car parks, stress levels of the rest of the population are soaring too. I’ve seen too many harried, grumpy, rude people scurry around and decided - I want no part of this. What happened to “peace on earth and goodwill to all men”?

Why does everything have to be perfect anyway? It’s all a bit silly to get worked up about just one day, and lose focus on everything else. Like a bride so intent on the wedding day she forgets that she actually has the rest of her married life to work on.

So this year, I’ve adopted “Let it go, let it go, let it go” as my personal Christmas carol (sung to the tune of “Let it snow”). Didn’t get around to sending out thoughtful Christmas cards? Let it go. The people who care will definitely understand, and those who don’t, well tough. Didn’t get around to making a handmade card for the class teacher as I’ve done every other year? Let it go. A store-bought card works just as well, it’s the message inside that counts. Didn’t get around to fruit cake, or mince pies, or stollen. Let it go. At least we made gingerbread, and actually had fun doing it together.

Trees for the kindy teachers. Blinged up by MC Junior.

MC Senior had loads of fun making these. We used broken pretzels for the antlers, and pressed them into the gingerbread dough. (Idea from Bakerella). They tend to fall out during transport though, so try to keep them flat. The eyes are white chocolate and dotted with a food colouring pen, the nose is  a Jaffa stuck on with white chocolate. Word of warning though, if it is hot, use royal icing instead as the chocolate melts and the noses fall off!

That’s the upside of all that letting go. Extra time snatched to read, or sit and have a coffee, or  do craft with the kids, or catch up on much needed sleep. There’s extra time to do the really important things. Like hang out with precious friends at the beach, then stumble home in the dark way past our bedtime, and then deciding to stay up even later so we can drive around and look at Christmas lights.

It’s always the spontaneous, unplanned things we do that seem to leave the most lasting memories. And being spontaneous involves a lot of letting go. I can live with that :)

Instead of Christmas cards, MC Senior folded star-boxes for her classmates this year. Good instructions found here, and simple enough for an almost 9 year old to fold easily and quickly.

For our friends (who we hung out at the beach with), I folded these boxes with lids. Slightly too difficult for MC Senior, but quick and easy for older hands. Great info here on U-handbag.

Enjoy your weekend and keep cool. If you need some help chilling out, here’s Valli Little’s Ice-cream cake from the December 2011/Jan 2012 issue of ABC Delicious.

You’ll need:

1 small sponge cake for the base (I made mine using the recipe provided in the mag, but in the spirit of letting go, store bought should work just as well).
600ml thickened cream
395g can of sweetened condensed milk
1 vanilla bean (the recipe uses vanilla extract instead)
500g peeled, chopped mango (the recipe uses rockmelon/ cantaloupe instead)
125g raspberries (I used frozen)
1/2 cup caster sugar
Mixed fruit and mint leaves to serve. (I used a mix of dice mango, lychees, diced peaches, cherries, mint leaves and sweetened coconut chips. The recipe also includes pieces of honeycomb)

Lightly grease a terrine (I used a loaf pan), and line it with baking paper. Leave overhang to help with lifting out later. I actually double lined the pan so there were no gaps.

Whip/ beat the cream until soft peaks form, then slowly drizzle in the condensed milk and whip until incorporated and thickened (about 1 minute).

Divide the mixture into half, and stir in vanilla seed or extract into one half. I actually vagued out at this point and stirred vanilla through the whole lot, but it didn’t matter in the end.  Take the non-vanilla half of the mixture and divide evenly between two bowls, cover and stick it in the fridge until needed.

Take the vanilla mixture and carefully pour half of it into the prepared terrine or loaf pan. Place the pan in the freezer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to firm up. Cover the rest of the vanilla mixture and pop it in the fridge.

In the meantime, puree the mango and pass it through a sieve. You’re meant to only collect the juice, but I just squished the whole lot through. Fold the mango puree through one of the reserved bowls of cream in the fridge. The colour of the mango isn’t as pronounced as the rockmelon, and in restrospect, I should have added a drop of food colouring to boost the colour but I suppose au naturel is best. When the vanilla layer in the freezer has firmed up, pour the mango layer on and return the pan to the freezer for another 1-2 hours.

Puree the raspberries, sugar and quarter cup of hot water, then pass through a sieve. Let it cool then fold it through the remaining bowl of cream mixture. Pour this pink layer onto the firm mango layer and return to the freezer again for another 1-2 hours. Finally, pour the reserved vanilla mixture over the raspberry layer, and return to the freezer for about 30 minutes. Cut the sponge cake to size, and when the vanilla layer is just firm (but still a little tacky), press the sponge cake onto it, then wrap the whole lot in clingfilm and return to the freezer for at least 3-4 hours or overnight. (I left mine overnight).
To serve, soften the terrine in the refrigerator for about about 15 minutes, then carefully use the paper overhang to lift the cake out and transfer either to a serving plate or chopping board. Cut into slices, scatter the fruit artfully over the top and serve with love.

I know it sounds like a lot of time, but if you’re pottering around doing other things in between, the actual time spent on the assembling is very small. The only drawback with this cake is that it does get icy over time, but the solution is simple - eat it up faster!

Malaysian Monday 86 : Eye candy

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hi everyone,

First up, thank you to the most loyal of you for still sticking around. I do apologise for my erratic posting and the general slackness in following up comments. This month, life just kind of took over, I’m sure you know what I mean. In fact, I’m guessing a lot of you are probably in the same boat since the Malaysian Monday vault is looking rather forlorn. If you are toying with the idea of joining our Muhibbah Malaysian Monday event, this is the last week to make it for the round-up! I’ll be posting next Monday, so if you can get your entry in by Friday, I’ll add you on.

Now back to this week’s Malaysian Monday dish. It’s a super speedy one - I wanted to make something cool and refreshing, and I’d always wanted to experiment with jelly (agar-agar) decorating. Actually, instead of the more traditional agar-agar, I used konnyaku instead because it sets so clear, and because I like the “bounciness” when you bite into it.

Konnyaku sets really easily and the texture is sort of strange if you're not used to it. Set konnyaku can be peeled off the sides of the pan.

These jellies are really way too simple. The only ingredients needed are water, sugar and the setting agent of choice (agar/konnyaku). Add a dash of food colouring and use a fun mould, and you’ll be churning out lots of colorful eye-candy in no time. Most packets of agar-agar will have a recipe on it, and since that will tell you exactly how much water/ sugar to use, I won’t type out a recipe.

Since I’ve actually featured agar-agar before, I thought I’d show you another “trick” we sometimes use to make agar-agar more exciting. Beat an egg white until thick and foamy, then pour the hot agar-agar liquid into this meringue, keep whisking to incorporate everything evenly. This makes the agar-agar very opaque and imparts an interesting texture, although I suspect the texture would only be appealing to those who grew up with it. It does rather feel as if you’re biting into a sponge. Not a sponge cake, but a scouring sponge! Interesting but very different for most Western palates ;).

Thanks for sticking around, and do send in your entries for the Malaysian Monday round-up to its(dot)sharon(at)gmail(dot)com. My friend Suresh, over at 3 Hungry Tummies, definitely deserves a huge serving of thanks for keeping the wok fires burning while I was off gallivanting :)

Have a great start to the week, and enjoy the last month of the year!

Not to be trifled with.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hands up if you like trifle? Did I just see you pull a face? I’ll admit, the “traditional” trifle of sponge roll, jelly, cream, fruit and custard can be a bit cringe inducing. However, I do admit  having a soft spot for it since we ate it every Christmas.  My lovely aunt (hello Aunty G!) would make a big bowl of it and us kids couldn’t wait to dig into all the layers, especially the brightly coloured jelly (jello).

Now that I’ve grown up and my tastebuds have matured a little bit, I’ve been on the lookout for slightly more sophisticated trifle recipes. Bill Granger has a good Italian version , also known as Zuppa Inglese, that I’ve made a few times to much acclaim (and bowl licking!). I’d cut the recipe out of a newspaper article years ago, but there is a very similar recipe over here. However, this trifle utilises coffee and alcohol, which isn’t too kid-friendly, plus the MC’s have an aversion to custard. (Seriously I am still working out how this has come to pass!).

A few weeks ago, I spotted this Lemon Blueberry trifle recipe in a little pullout cookbook included with my favourite Delicious magazine. The method really intrigued me. The “custard” section is actually lemon juice and sugar, cooked with thickened cream and then set in the fridge. Plus there was lemon curd involved and I loooooove lemon curd. But I must admit I was a bit worried about the enormous amount of dairy involved - would it be too overpowering and cloying?

Since I had friends coming over for dinner, I thought it would be a good time to test the recipe out. (These are very good friends so I have no qualms testing recipes out on them ;) ). Because I wanted the trifle to be a bit special, I made my own lemon curd from scratch. ( This is my favourite recipe). I also made the cake from scratch, using Rose Beranbaum’s Golden Lemon Almond Cake recipe from the Cake Bible.

I put together two little jars minus the alcohol, and layered the rest of the trifle in a big glass bowl, subbing Cointreau for limoncello.

Oh wow! This is an amazing dessert! The tang of lemon definitely cuts through the richness of all that cream. It’s so, SO good. Although I’m not sure if it tasted so sensational thanks to all the home-made components. The golden almond cake is just delish on its own and of course, as mentioned, I love that lemon curd recipe. Anyway, I’ll definitely be making this again, maybe with lime curd instead. And mango. Oh the possibilities.

But Aunty G, if you’re reading this, please don’t stop making your trifle, that’s what memories are made of :)

Have a great weekend friends.

Feeling pink

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hi all! Missed me?

Do I have a good excuse for missing Malaysian Monday and for the rather lengthy silence? Not really, no. Last weekend, we had a rare and rather luxurious time at home where we did absolutely nothing. The weather was beautiful, and we slept in, ate, swam, ate and slept some more. That feeling of floating through the days sort of continued after the weekend, and oops, here we are at Thursday with not a lot to show for it :) But hey, if you can’t give yourself a couple of days off every now and again, where’s the fun in that eh?

So, even though today would have been a Daring Bakers reveal, I plead extreme laziness, and offer you some macarons instead. Rosehip macarons with a white chocolate and blood orange filling. The filling is pink as you will notice, and done in honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Jamie and Deeba chose the colour as the theme for Macattack #24.

Pink and blue hearts because breast cancer affects not only the ladies but men as well.

The macarons were originally going to be completely rosehip flavoured, and I attempted to make rosehip “ganache” using brewed rosehip tea. Unfortunately, I must have used too much tea and the ganache wouldn’t firm up at all.

Not wanting to waste another lot of (expensive!) white chocolate, Plan B was put into action. This involved adding the juice of one blood orange (reduced over low heat to about half the volume) to cream and white chocolate (can’t remember the ratios, I think about 50ml cream to 100g chocolate). I also added a few drops of red food colouring to boost the colour. When the ganache was almost cold, I whipped it up using my beaters.

Voila, a fluffy, sweet and slightly tangy filling that looked gorgeous. The macaron shells however, weren’t quite as gorgeous because I wasn’t paying attention when I baked them and some got a little bit too cooked. (For the recipe, I used the ratios given by Tartelette and added some ground rosehip tea to the almond meal).

And you know what? The first lot of failed rosehip tea and melted white chocolate didn’t go to waste. They were turned into blondies studded with dried cranberries and pecans. Perfect for sharing with Mr. Kitchen Hand’s friends.

Thanks for sharing your time with me today, and if you do get a moment, here’s another “pink” website that you might like to visit.

PS - My friend Suresh is hosting the round-up for the next Muhibbah Malaysian Monday slot so please send your entries in to him: sureshchong(at)yahoo(dot)com.