Friday, October 29, 2010

Lemon Cake With Lemon Curd Cream

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In my last post, I made Lemon Curd. I also mentioned that you could incorporate it into some whipped cream and make a Lemon Curd Cream. It tastes really awesome with plain cakes or scones or crackers. Just a dollop or two makes all the difference.

What you are seeing in my photos is lemon on lemon - Lemon Cake served with Lemon Curd Cream. :) The cake itself is buttery, yet not excessively rich, and the cold, luscious topping just completes it. They are soulmates.

Lemon Curd Cream
The recipe can be found here. After you have whipped your desired amount of cream to soft peaks, add in the lemon curd and fold to combine. Cover and refrigerate immediately.

It depends how strong you want your cream to taste of lemon but I would suggest a ratio of 1 part curd to 3 parts cream (approximately). It worked just right for me. I would also suggest that you consume the cream the same day you make it because it doesn't keep.

Lastly, I don't know if it works on non-dairy cream and I'll never know because I can't imagine eating non-diary in the first place, really.

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Lemon Butter Cake
(tweaked slightly from my Orange Butter Cake recipe)
- 195g all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 170g butter, softened
- 200g sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 tbsp lemon zest
- 8 tbsp whole milk

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1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees celsius. Butter and line an 8-inch cake pan.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder.

3. Using a mixer on medium speed, cream butter and sugar until fluffy for about about 2 minutes.

4. Beat in orange zest, then egg and egg yolk. If the mixture curdles, just add 1 tbsp of flour and continue mixing.

5. On low speed, add flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with milk.

6. Switch mixer to medium and beat for 10 to 15 seconds, just until batter appears uniform. The batter should look thick and creamy.

7. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top with spatula or knife.

8. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until it reaches a dark-gold color and an inserted cake tester comes out clean.

9. Allow the cake to cool before slicing. Serve with chilled Lemon Curd Cream.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Easy Lemon Curd

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I blogged about Lemon Curd once before, a long time ago, in my early days of blogging. I'm dedicating another post to it again for a couple of reasons.

One - and mainly this - I cringe at my old photos. Really. They are like ghosts of the past who occasionally come back to haunt me. Which is why I will not provide the link to that dreaded old post. Ha! But you can dig for it if you want, and you'll understand what I mean when you see it. So yes, laugh all you want, but quietly, OK? ;)

Two, this Lemon Curd tastes heavenly and is too good to be buried in the bowels of my blog. After tweaking the original recipe, I like this new version even more. It's a soft, delicate spread that's got a lovely balance between sweet and tart. Still, by all means, you can finetune the measurements further.

Three, to make up for the nightmarish photos the last time, I'm posting THREE beeeg beeeg nice ones today, never mind that they all look similar. Cos I'm movin' on, peeps ... movin' on.

Finally, some closure.

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- 50 to 60g unsalted butter (more butter will make it smoother, but at the same time, fattier too ... you decide)
- 200 to 225g sugar (depending how sweet or tart you like it)
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 120ml fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest, or more if you like (depending on how strong you want the flavour of lemon)

1. In a large bowl, whisk all the ingredients except the butter*. Mix well. Place the bowl over a bain-marie** (water bath) and stir constantly. The mixture may look curdled, but it will smooth out as it cooks.
* If you want a more subtle taste of lemon, do not add the zest at this stage. Set aside with the butter.

** I'll be honest - I usually cook directly in a saucepan, whether it's lemon curd or crème pâtissière or melted chocolate. It always works well for me. Obviously, I use a good quality, heavy saucepan, and ensure that my flame is small. And I never stop stirring/tempering with the heat. So, if you are confident enough (or gungho, call it what you want), by all means, cook under direct heat. At your own risk, of course!

2. Once the mixture thickens - it should leave a path on the back of a spoon - turn off the flame and add butter in 2 or 3 additions. If you have not added in your lemon zest, add it in now and stir to mix well.

3. Allow the curd to cool slightly before transferring to a clean jar or bowl. Make sure it is covered to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator. The curd will thicken further as it cools. Covered tightly, it will keep in the refrigerator for a week and in the freezer for 2 months.

If you like a Lemon Curd Cream, make your desired amount of whipped cream according to recipe, and then fold in spoonfuls of lemon curd to it ... a spoonful at a time, so that you can taste test the amount of lemon in your cream. I whipped about 100ml heavy cream, and then folded in 2 tbsp of lemon curd, as a topping for a cake I baked. But that will be for another post. Watch this space!

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Coconut Sweet Potato (Steamed) Cake

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Lavender in a potpourri, I can tolerate. Lavender in a scented candle, I can tolerate. But Lavender in my food ... that's where I draw the line.

That's why you'll never see a Lavender-anything in my blog. Unless it's "Lavender Street" hawker food. :)

So when it was announced that this month's International Incident Party's theme was Lavender, I decided to give it a miss. Until Penny kindly pointed out that I could think out of the box and make something the colour of Lavender. Ah, now we're talkin'!

Instantly, my mind ran through all things purple - grapes ... red wine ... beets ... eggplants ... gentian violet ... Barney. In the end, I settled on the beautiful Okinawan Sweet Potato (also commonly known as Japanese Sweet Potato).

Quite by chance, as I mulled over what to make, a friend loaned me a copy of Magic Steamed Cakes by Alex Goh. In it was a recipe for Coconut Sweet Potato Cake, using exactly this purple variety. Perfect!

So here's my contribution to the party ... a cake that is steamed, not baked ... and which, I'm sure, will be well-received by those not too fond of Lavender in their food. ;)

(from Magic Steamed Cakes by Alex Goh)

- 200g butter
- 120g sugar

- 1 egg
- 3 yolks

- 3 whites
- 80g sugar

- 300g flour
- 1 tsp double acting baking powder

- 100g coconut milk

- 300g sweet potato cubes (I used less, about 200g)

Don't the suspended bits purple sweet potatoes look like pieces of garnet? :)

1. Cream A till light and fluffy.

2. Add B. Cream till smooth.

3. Whip C till stiff peaks (in a separate bowl). Add to above batter and combine till well blended.

4. Add D (make sure you have mixed and sifted them well first). Fold in gently.

5. Add E. Again, fold in gently.

6. Add F.

7. Pour in greased lined pan.

8. Steam for approximately 50mins or until a skewer comes out clean.

Note: The above recipe is not quoted verbatim from the book. To be honest, I am not impressed by its overly-simplistic, oft hazy instructions.

Perfect for oyatsu, don't you think? :)
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Monday, October 18, 2010

Dry-Fried Long Beans (Szechuan Style)

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I used to abhor Szechuan food as a kid. I couldn't understand why my parents chose to lunch at the now defunct Meisan Szechuan Restaurant almost every Sunday. Do you remember that place? It used to be - I think - at the old (now also defunct) Holiday Inn Hotel. Anyone old enough in da house who can verify? ;)

My memories of that place are very hazy ... but I remember 2 things very vividly:

1. The dry-fried long beans which were served uncut, and which often made me gag. I wasn't too fond of that dish very much back then.

2. The chinese tea was always served in a white tea cup, on a saucer. Yes, very strange to serve chinese tea in an English tea cup. But that wasn't my gripe. I hated the design of the cup. The narrow handle was waaay too close to the side of cup, and when you slipped your finger in get a grip, you would inadvertently come into contact with the hot surface and get scalded. Whoever designed the cup was truly a neanderthal. Epic fail!

Of course, as I grew up and my palate started to develop, I realised just why my parents loved Szechuan Sunday brunches. It's a cuisine that is bold in flavours and packs a whole lotta punch.

So the other day, when I spied some really lovely long beans (aka string beans, yard long beans) at the market, I bought some to experiment dry-frying them, Szechuan style. This dish is mostly served with minced pork, but I made mine a meatless version, albeit with dried scallops (conpoy), which you can leave out if you really want it vegetarian.

(serves 2)
- 200g to 250g long beans, cut approximately 2-inches lengths and DRIED on a towel
- 1 handful dried scallops, soaked for 10mins in water (I used baby scallops)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red chilli, sliced thinly
- 2 tbsp sambal* or chilli paste
- Splash of kicap manis for colour (you can use dark soy sauce too ... use sparingly)
- Salt to taste
- Dash of sugar (optional)

* I tried using Sing Long brand nasi lemak sambal chilli for this dish and it was pretty good. Note though, that if you are making a vegetarian version, you have to use a sambal that doesn't contain dried shrimps (udang kering) or ikan bilis (anchovies). And of course, omit the dried scallops too.

I decided to cut the long beans just in case - heaven forbid - I really gagged on them. Heh. Some things never change.

The thing about dry-frying is, the beans must take on that wrinkly, blistered appearance. Remember, fine lines and wrinkles FTW!

1. In a skillet or wok, add about 3 tbsp vegetable oil. When it is smoking hot, add in long beans. This is when you'll regret not drying them as instructed because you'll be getting splashed with hot oil!

2. Fry the beans till them take on a wrinkly, blistered appearance. If your oil is smoking hot, this will be quick. Remove from the skillet and leave the beans to drain on a paper serviette.

3. In the same skillet, add in the garlic and chilli slices, and fry briefly. Add sambal or chilli paste. Add in softened scallops (not the soaking water). Stirfry briefly. Add a splash of kicap manis (or dark soy sauce).

4. Now return the long beans to the skillet. Give them a quick stirfry and add salt (and sugar, if using) to taste. Dish up and serve.

There! My humble take on this dish.
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Shrimp Samosas

The other day, I just didn't feel like a proper lunch, so I made these Shrimp Samosas to eat with Lingham's Chilli sauce. They are deepfried and greasy and utterly bad for you ... exactly what I wanted. Ah, what is life without small, sinful indulgences like these?

These Shrimp Samomas are so savoury and crispy and yummy, you'll find yourself scarfing down one samosa after another without realising. Which was what happened to me.

Trust me, you want to make a whole lot of these, because they are just not for sharing.

- 500g fresh prawns (shells on)
- 1 stalk spring onions, chopped finely
- 4 to 6 water chestnuts, chopped up semi-coarsely, in small bits
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 packet square wonton wrappers

- 2 tsp light soya sauce
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp Hua Tiao cooking wine
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp grated ginger (optional)

1. Shell and devein shrimps. Smash them with one side of a cleaver, on a chopping board. Do not chop them up. Slam them flat! This way, you will get a glue/paste consistency, which in turn, gives the 'bounciness' to the final product.

2. Put the shrimp glue/paste in a bowl and add in all the other ingredients and seasoning (except the wonton wrappers, of course). Mix to combine well. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

The raw ingredients, which have been mixed into a paste. I left it to marinate overnight in the fridge.

The wonton wrappers. Always keep them covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying out.

3. When you are ready to wrap the samosas, prepare a small bowl of water. Place a wonton wrapper on a clean, dry work surface. Using a spatula, spoon some of the shrimp filling onto the wrapper.

4. Dip your index finger in water, and then lightly run it along 2 edges of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half, forming a triangle. As you fold, gently and carefully press out pockets of air before sealing the edges tight. You do not want trapped air bubbles because they will cause the samosa to break open during frying. Not pretty.

5. In a wok or frying pan, heat up a generous amount of oil. Ensure a medium-high heat throughout. When the oil is hot, gently slot in a few samosas at a time, taking care not to overcrowd. Each samosa should have sufficient space to retain its shape as it cooks.

6. As soon as the wonton wrappers turn a nice golden brown, remove the samosas and drain on a cooling rack lined with paper towels. Serve hot, with your favourite dipping sauce.

Tadah! Ready to eat. And better yet, no need to do any food styling when you take such shots! I am such a genius.

Or maybe not that brilliant after all. See, I forgot - TOTALLY forgot - to take a photo of the samosa filling! *heavy sigh*

Another time, OK? You have to understand because, like I mentioned in my previous post, my blogging mojo did a Mas Selamat on me. So, excuse me while I look high and low for it. Oh wait! Maybe I should start searching at my neighbour's first, eh? ;)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mushroom Aglio Olio

I have been busier of late. A lot more tired too. And I am completely devoid of inspiration (to blog). My photos are proof of that - such lazy styling, if you can even call it that. But what the heck, whatever makes ME happy. ;)

Well, if you see my blogging mojo anywhere, please let me know. Till I find it again, here's a simple Mushroom Aglio Olio which I whipped up for today's late lunch. I made it with no recipe, but here's a rough guide. Yawn ...

- A few glugs of extra virgin olive oil
- Sliced fresh mushrooms, as much as you like (I used shiitake but feel free to use any variety)
- 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Sliced chili
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 serving spaghetti
- Small bunch fresh parsley, chopped
- Shavings of parmesan cheese

1. Heat a large pot of boiling water, add salt and add in spaghetti when it comes to a rolling boil.

2. While the spaghetti is cooking, prepare the other ingredients. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and add garlic. Ensure a medium-low heat to ensure that the garlic doesn't burn (it should not brown at all). Add sliced mushrooms and continue stir-frying till their liquid evaporates, and they start to brown a little.

3. Add more olive oil if it looks too dry. Throw in parsley and chili.

4. Drain cooked pasta and add to pan. Give all the ingredients a quick stir to combine. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.

5. Top with shaving of parmesan cheese before serving.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chocolate & Lemon Madeleines

Chocolate & Lemon Madeleines ... a recipe by the master himself, Pierre Hermé.

Pssst, you. Yes, you. Can you keep a secret? I have some confessions to make.

- One, I have never eaten nor made madeleines in my life. At least I don't recall. They just never appealed to me. Crazy, right?

- Two, Clare (Mrs Multitasker) very generously gave me a copy of "Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé" almost 10 months ago, and I only made my first dessert from it today. Crazy, right?

- Three, these madeleines were made using a mold that cost me all of two bucks. Crazy, right?

Well, what can I say? French desserts always unnerve me. They have these strange, quirky requisites, like feet for macarons, bumps for madeleines, no domes for financiers, height for souffles ... argh, the list goes on.

But after I made my first grown-up chocolate cake, I have become emboldened. Of course, seeing that lone madeleine mold at Daiso helped seal the deal. Come on, two bucks ... and Made in Japan. Pffft, it's a no-brainer.

That's my $2 mold in the background. :)

Now, you can't expect to get the deep, clear lines a proper - and very expensive - madeleine mold would give (and I suspect, the dark chocolate colour of my madelines doesn't help either). But at two bucks, I'll gladly overlook that. They are still Pierre Hermé madeleines, made with Valrhona cocoa no less. Aesthetics will have to take a backseat this time. ;)

(from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé, written by Dorie Greenspan)

*Makes 12 cookies.

* An overnight rest in the refrigerator is what gives these madeleines their characteristic bump in the center. If you're in a hurry, chill them for an hour - you won't get as pronounced a bump, but cookies will bake better for the chill.

* Madeleines can be kept at room temperature in an airtight tin for about 2 days or frozen for up to 2 weeks, but don't toss them away if they get a little stale - that's when they're best for Proustian dipping.

- 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp (70 g) all-purpose flour
- 3 1/2 tbsp Dutch-processed cocoa powder, preferably Valrhona
- 1/2 tsp double-acting baking powder
- 1/3 cup + 2 tbsp (90 g) sugar
- pinch of salt
- grated zest of 1/4 lemon
- 2 large eggs (at room temperature)
- 6 1/2 tbsp (100 g) unsalted butter (at room temperature)

1. Sift together flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Set aside. Put the sugar, salt and lemon zest into a bow and rub everything together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic.

2. Using a whisk beat the eggs into the lemon-sugar until the mixture is blended. Squish the butter through your fingers to create what is called a pomade and add it into the bowl. Still working with the whisk, beat in the butter just to get it evenly distributed. Gently whisk in the sifted flour mixture, stirring only until the flour is incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and chill it overnight before baking. The overnight rest helps the cookies develop their characteristic bump on their backs; if you don't have time for an overnight rest, try to give the batter at least an hour in the refrigerator.

3. When you are ready to bake the cookies, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425F (220C). Butter a 12-mold madeleine pan, than dust the molds with flour, tapping out the excess.
Note: I buttered but did not flour ... even though it is highly recommended in the book.

4. Divide the batter evenly among the madeleine molds. Place the pan in the oven, insert wooden spoon in the door to keep it slightly ajar, and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 350F (180C). Bake the cookies for 13 to 15 minutes, or until they are domed and spring back when pressed lightly. Unmold the cookies onto a work surface - you may have to rap the madeleine pan against the counter to release the cookies - then transfer them to a rack to cool to room temperature.
Note: I did not do the wooden spoon trick. I simply reduced the temperature to 200C when the madeleines went in.

Also, much thanks to my fairy godmother, Monique, for the adooooorable little cocktail picks. :) I love them!

Oh and before I sign off, here's yet another confession: this photo above was a test shot (for lighting), and one which I did not style, which explains why it looks different from the rest. But it turned out to be the one I liked best ... so I saved the best for last. ;) The stars must have been aligned. C'est la vie!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sambal Telur

I Eggs. I can't begin to tell you how much. If you have been following my blog, you would know. :)

I especially quail eggs! They are so cute.

Hmmm ... maybe they need some colour and spice?

There you go! I can't help it. I'm a spice girl. ;)

In many recipes, you'll find just the eggs in the sambal. In my version, I added crispy ikan bilis (anchovies) for crunch ... but in all honesty, because I couldn't be bothered to cook another dish! So it was really just this and rice for lunch. No complaints, though.

- 12 to 16 quails' eggs (hard-boiled and shelled)*
- 1 large red onion, sliced in rings
- 2 tbsp ketchup
- 2 tsp sugar
- Salt (if required, to taste)
- 1 handful ikan bilis
* Optional: You can choose to fry the hard-boiled eggs first, to get a golden skin ... very much like making son-in-law eggs. However, do remember to use a toothpick and prick the surface of the hard-boiled eggs all over. Just at the surface, not all the way through.

For the sambal (pound/blitz into a paste):
- 10 red chillies
- 10 shallots, peeled
- 5 cloves garlic
- 3 candlenuts or macademia, pounded
- 1 lemon grass (only use the pale-coloured portion), cut as finely as you can
Note: I used my own rempah.

1. In a skillet, heat 2 or 3 tbsp oil. Add in ikan bilis and fry till crispy. Set aside.

2. In the same skillet, heat 3 or 4 tbsp oil, and add onion. Fry till onion has softened. Now add the sambal and continue stir-frying over low heat until the oil floats.

3. Add ketchup, sugar, salt and taste test. Lastly, add the eggs and ikan bilis. Stirfry briefly to coat with sambal. Serve.

I am submitting this dish to Muhibbah Monday, hosted by 3 Hungry Tummies.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Chocolate Pound Cake By Tish Boyle

There are a few chocolate cakes that I have put on my must-bake list. This is one of them. I first saw it - a while ago - at Chubby Hubby. I looked at it, admired it, and then proceeded to attempt something more juvenile, like Steamed Moist Chocolate Cake.

*sheepish grin*

I was, after all, a newbie at baking then ... and I felt such a "grown-up" chocolate cake should only be attempted after I had earned my stripes.

Maybe it's a sign ... because after a year of active baking, I came face-to-face with this cake again. This time at food.recentrunes. I have never left a comment on Ivan's blog, but for some reason, that slice of cake drew me in, and I asked if he could share the recipe. Guess what? He (and Cheryl) pointed me back to Chubby Hubby! So what was I to do? Well, take it as a sign that the time has come. ;)

First thing though, was to get myself some Dutch processed cocoa powder. I found it at Sun Lik (Valrhona cocoa powder, S$6.50 for 200g). The instant I laid my eyes on it, I bade a hasty farewell to Mr Hershey and said "Bonjour!" to Monsieur Valrhona.

He was richer, darker and smoother ... yes, I'm that shallow.

My very first Bundt cake!

Truth be told, when I unmoulded the cake, my heart sank a little. It looked so ... unimpressive. Thankfully, I listened to my instincts and avoided committing sacrilege by dusting icing sugar over. The beauty of this cake is truly on the inside. When I sliced it, I was amazed by its velvety interior and the rich, deep, gorgeous colour of mahogany. In fact, the first thing that came to my mind was, "I actually made that?!" Sometimes, I surprise myself. Hur hur.

Certainly, its appearance is simple, but this is undoubtedly the most sophisticated chocolate cake I have ever baked. I realised too, that I had crossed the point of no return ... no more kiddy chocolate cakes from now (unless it's really for the kids). Perhaps it is a natural progression, but I'd like to think that I have finally earned my stripes. :)

Deep Chocolate Sour Cream Pound Cake
(from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle and seen at Chubby Hubby)

Note 1: For a cake like this, you need ze best quality ingredients money can buy. It's compulsory, otherwise you're better off making one of those other cakes. Yawn.

Note 2: Ironically, I did not use sour cream. Instead I used crème fraîche - sorry, not a fan of sour cream!

- 1.5 cups (181g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (57g) cake flour
- 1 cup (92g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 2.25 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1.5 cups (340g) unsalted butter, softened
- 2.5 cups (500g) granulated sugar (sorry, I just couldn't! I reduced this to 380g)
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup (242g) sour cream (or crème fraîche)

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease the inside of a 10-inch Bundt pan. Dust with flour.

2. Sift the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.

3. In a bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until very creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the sugar. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is well-blended and light, about 4 minutes. At medium speed, beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

4. In a small bowl, stir the vanilla extract into the sour cream. If your mixer has a splatter shield attachment, attach it now. At the low speed, add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream mixture in 2 additions and mixing just until blended. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

5. Bake the cake for 65 to 75 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Then invert the cake onto the rack and let it cool completely.